Sunday, December 31, 2017

Why I Can't Take My Eyes Off Ezra Klein

In genera the website Vox is like a hundred breaths of fresh air each week. The videos that it puts out each week are enjoyable and informative, bumping up against critical political and cultural issues (ranging from borders, to hip hop, to even the infamous worst movie ever The Room). But on a regular basis, the voice that I appreciate the most is that of its co-founder and editor-at-large, Ezra Klein. His articles are well-written and often help bring together my diffuse and disparate thoughts about the new list of scandals from the Trump administration. They help articulate thoughts still fuming and forming in my mind, with a welcome clarity, at a time when it seems so difficult to be politically sane.

His most recent piece on Trump's impromptu interview with The New York Times at his golf club, helps bring together so many troublesome issues about the Trump administration, and connects them to the man at its core, where there is increasing evidence each day, that he may not be mentally stable. The piece is below. Si Yu'us Ma'åse Ezra Klein para i tinige'-mu siha!


Incoherent, Authoritarian, Uninformed
Donald Trump's New York Times Interview is a Scary Read
by Ezra Klein
December 29, 2017

The president of the United States is not well. That is an uncomfortable thing to say, but it is an even worse thing to ignore. 

Consider the interview Trump gave to the New York Times on Thursday. It begins with a string of falsehoods that make it difficult to tell whether the leader of the free world is lying or delusional. Remember, these are President Donald Trump’s words, after being told a recording device is on:
Virtually every Democrat has said there is no collusion. There is no collusion. And even these committees that have been set up. If you look at what’s going on — and in fact, what it’s done is, it’s really angered the base and made the base stronger. My base is stronger than it’s ever been. Great congressmen, in particular, some of the congressmen have been unbelievable in pointing out what a witch hunt the whole thing is. So, I think it’s been proven that there is no collusion.
It almost goes without saying that literally zero congressional Democrats have said that there was no collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign during the 2016 election. Zero. 

What key Democrats are actually saying is closer to the opposite. On December 20, for instance, Sen. Mark Warner, the vice chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee and thus the Senate Democrat leading the investigation into collusion, said, “despite the initial denials of any Russian contacts during the election, this Committee’s efforts have helped uncover numerous and troubling high-level engagements between the Trump campaign and Russian affiliates — many of which have only been revealed in recent months.”
Nor is Trump’s base strengthening, or even holding steady. In a detailed analysis of Trump’s poll numbers, FiveThirtyEight’s Harry Enten concluded that the president is losing the most ground in the reddest states:
In states where Trump won by at least 10 points, his net approval rating is down 18 percentage points, on average, compared to his margin last November. In states that were decided by 10 points or less in November, it’s down only 13 points. And it’s down 8 points in states Clinton carried by at least 10 points.
The fact that Trump has lost the greatest number of supporters in red states is perhaps the clearest indication yet that he is losing ground among some form of his base, if you think of his base as those who voted for him in November.
CNN took a different angle on the same question and also found slippage among Trump’s base. It looked at the change in Trump’s approval ratings from February to November among the demographic groups that formed the core of Trump’s electoral coalition — in every group, there’d been substantial declines. Trump’s numbers have fallen by 8 points among Republicans, by 9 points among voters over 50, by 10 points among whites with no college, by 17 points among white evangelicals. “It has become increasingly clear that even his base is not immune,” CNN concluded.

As for Trump’s contention that “it’s been proven that there is no collusion,” it’s hard to even know how to begin responding to that. In recent months, Trump’s former campaign manager and national security adviser have both been charged with crimes by Robert Mueller, and the investigation is not just ongoing but apparently widening in its scope and ferocity. Yet here is Trump’s take:

I saw Dianne Feinstein the other day on television saying there is no collusion. She’s the head of the committee. The Republicans, in terms of the House committees, they come out, they’re so angry because there is no collusion. So, I actually think that it’s turning out — I actually think it’s turning to the Democrats because there was collusion on behalf of the Democrats. There was collusion with the Russians and the Democrats. A lot of collusion.
Sen. Feinstein has not said that she, or any of the ongoing investigations, has concluded that there was no collusion. What she has said is that investigators believe Trump may have obstructed justice in his efforts to derail inquiries into collusion:

The [Senate] Judiciary Committee has an investigation going as well and it involves obstruction of justice and I think what we're beginning to see is the putting together of a case of obstruction of justice.

It speaks to Trump’s habits of mind, to the sycophantic sources from which he prefers to get his news, that he heard something Feinstein said and has come to believe she has absolved him — yet misses the actual thing she said that threatens him. 

It would be comforting, on some level, to believe that Trump is simply lying, that he is trying to convince us of what he knows to be untrue. It is scarier to believe that Trump is delusional, that he has persuaded himself that Democrats have said things they’ve never said, that his base has strengthened when it has actually weakened, that it’s really his opponents under investigation for collusion, that his campaign has been cleared of wrongdoing when the circumstantial case for collusion has only grown stronger.

But that is far from the end of the interview.

Trump: “I have absolute right to do what I want to do with the Justice Department”

A few paragraphs later, for instance, Trump offers this chilling comment when asked about Hillary Clinton’s emails (which, amazingly, we are somehow still talking about in December 2017):
NYT: You control the Justice Department. Should they reopen that email investigation?
TRUMP: What I’ve done is, I have absolute right to do what I want to do with the Justice Department. But for purposes of hopefully thinking I’m going to be treated fairly, I’ve stayed uninvolved with this particular matter.
Read Trump’s phrasing carefully: “I have absolute right to do what I want to do with the Justice Department.” It’s a statement that speaks both to Trump’s yearning for authoritarian power and his misunderstanding of the system in which he actually operates. 

And it’s followed by something yet scarier. “For purposes of hopefully thinking I’m going to be treated fairly, I’ve stayed uninvolved with this particular matter,” he says.

Here, Trump offers insight into his own thinking. He appears to believe that he is engaged in some explicit or implicit quid pro quo with the Department of Justice: He doesn’t fire Jeff Sessions, demand prosecution of his political enemies, or whatever it is he imagines doing with his “absolute right,” so long as they treat him and his associates “fairly,” which likely means protecting him from Mueller’s investigation. 

Imagine reading this comment on transcripts from Richard Nixon’s tapes. It would be the kind of comment that would leave us glad Nixon was forced from office, chilled that such a man ever occupied the presidency at all. 

The interview, of course, is not done.
TRUMP: It’s too bad Jeff recused himself. I like Jeff, but it’s too bad he recused himself. I thought. … Many people will tell you that something is [inaudible].
NYT: Do you think Holder was more loyal to …
TRUMP: I don’t want to get into loyalty, but I will tell you that, I will say this: Holder protected President Obama. Totally protected him. When you look at the I.R.S. scandal, when you look at the guns for whatever, when you look at all of the tremendous, ah, real problems they had, not made-up problems like Russian collusion, these were real problems. When you look at the things that they did, and Holder protected the president. And I have great respect for that, I’ll be honest, I have great respect for that.
Read that again. Trump’s premise in this section appears to be that President Obama engaged in a wide array of criminal, undemocratic, and negligent behaviors but his attorney general protected him from justice. And Trump’s conclusion is that Obama’s attorney general did his job well. To Trump, the attorney general doesn’t serve the country, or the Constitution, but the president.

Trump does not know what he doesn’t know, and he overestimates what he does know

At this point, the interview moves towards policy topics, and Trump relaxes into self-flattery:
I know more about the big bills. … Than any president that’s ever been in office. Whether it’s health care and taxes. Especially taxes. And if I didn’t, I couldn’t have persuaded a hundred. … You ask Mark Meadows [inaudible]. … I couldn’t have persuaded a hundred congressmen to go along with the bill. The first bill, you know, that was ultimately, shockingly rejected ... I know the details of taxes better than anybody. Better than the greatest C.P.A. I know the details of health care better than most, better than most. And if I didn’t, I couldn’t have talked all these people into doing ultimately only to be rejected.
In psychology, there’s an idea known as the Dunning-Kruger effect. It refers to research by David Dunning and Justin Kruger that found the least competent people often believe they are the most competent because they “lack the very expertise needed to recognize how badly they’re doing.” This dynamic helps explain comments like the one Trump makes here. 

Over the course of reporting on the Trump White House, I have spoken to people who brief Trump and people who have been briefed by him. I’ve talked to policy experts who have sat in the Oval Office explaining their ideas to the president and to members of Congress who have listened to the president sell his ideas to them. I’ve talked to both Democrats and Republicans who have occupied these roles. In all cases, their judgment of Trump is identical: He is not just notably uninformed but also notably difficult to inform — his attention span is thin, he hears what he wants to hear, he wanders off topic, he has trouble following complex arguments. Trump has trouble following his briefings or even correctly repeating what he has heard. 

This is all perfectly evident if you listen to Trump discuss policy in public even momentarily. For instance, in this same New York Times interview, he tries to explain how he’s changed Obamacare:
So now I have associations, I have private insurance companies coming and will sell private health care plans to people through associations. That’s gonna be millions and millions of people. People have no idea how big that is. And by the way, and for that, we’ve ended across state lines. So we have competition. You know for that I’m allowed to [inaudible] state lines. So that’s all done.
Now I’ve ended the individual mandate. And the other thing I wish you’d tell people. So when I do this, and we’ve got health care, you know, McCain did his vote.
... We’ve created associations, millions of people are joining associations. Millions. That were formerly in Obamacare or didn’t have insurance. Or didn’t have health care.
Millions of people. That’s gonna be a big bill, you watch. It could be as high as 50 percent of the people. You watch. So that’s a big thing. And the individual mandate. So now you have associations, and people don’t even talk about the associations. That could be half the people are going to be joining up. … With private [inaudible]. So now you have associations and the individual mandate.
I can, with some effort, untangle what Trump might have been trying to say here, but it’s so incoherent, so suffused with half-related ideas and personal obsessions (why did Trump feel the need to bring up McCain’s vote?), that it’s hard to say for sure. 

At best, Trump is saying something that is comprehensible but incorrect. He signed an executive order making it easier to form association health plans, which are health plans formed by groups of small businesses, and making it easier for those plans to skirt Obamacare’s insurance regulations and to contain small businesses from multiple states. 

As of now, and Trump doesn’t seem to realize this, it’s just an executive order — the rules defining and implementing it have not been written, so it is not yet happening, and we don’t know how it will work in practice, much less how many people may eventually sign up. Nor does the order get rid of the prohibition on selling insurance across state lines for most people — it’s only for this one kind of plan which can include members in multiple states, and which will only serve a tiny minority of the health insurance market.

Whatever Trump is saying, it does not reveal much familiarity with health policy, or even with the status and limits of his own actions. And yet Trump believes himself, on policy, to be the most informed president in American history. As the Dunning-Kruger effect suggests, he doesn’t know how much he doesn’t know, and that, combined with his natural tendency toward narcissism, has left him dangerously overconfident in his own knowledge base.
Speaking of narcissism:
We’re going to win another four years for a lot of reasons, most importantly because our country is starting to do well again and we’re being respected again. But another reason that I’m going to win another four years is because newspapers, television, all forms of media will tank if I’m not there because without me, their ratings are going down the tubes. Without me, The New York Times will indeed be not the failing New York Times, but the failed New York Times. So they basically have to let me win. And eventually, probably six months before the election, they’ll be loving me because they’re saying, “Please, please, don’t lose Donald Trump.”
What is one even to say about this? Is it a joke? If so, why is Trump taking this opportunity to make it? Is it an attack on the media? Is it Trump finding another way to compliment himself, to give himself credit for the media’s success? 

Imagine how we would react to literally any other president speaking like this. Trump has bludgeoned us into becoming accustomed to these kinds of comments but that, too, is worrying.
This is the president of the United States speaking to the New York Times. His comments are, by turns, incoherent, incorrect, conspiratorial, delusional, self-aggrandizing, and underinformed. This is not a partisan judgment — indeed, the interview is rarely coherent or specific enough to classify the points Trump makes on a recognizable left-right spectrum. As has been true since he entered American politics, Trump is interested in Trump — over the course of the interview, he mentions his Electoral College strategy seven times, in each case using it to underscore his political savvy and to suggest that he could easily have won the popular vote if he had tried.

I am not a medical professional, and I will not pretend to know what is truly happening here. It’s become a common conversation topic in Washington to muse on whether the president is suffering from some form of cognitive decline or psychological malady. I don’t think those hypotheses are necessary or meaningful. Whatever the cause, it is plainly obvious from Trump’s words that this is not a man fit to be president, that he is not well or capable in some fundamental way. That is an uncomfortable thing to say, and so many prefer not to say it, but Trump does not occupy a job where such deficiencies can be safely ignored.



Friday, December 29, 2017

Adios Travis Coffman

Travis Coffman, a notable figure in Marianas media over the past few decades passed away recently. He was best known for his role in talk radio in Guam at K57. And as such, he was someone that I would interact with quite frequently. I went on his show several times to be interviewed about various topics. He was always respectful to me in public, and I would sometimes see him at anime, manga and nerd conventions on the island. But for many Chamorro activists, they saw him as someone who could frequently be anti-Chamorro in his statements on the air. I definitely heard elements of that when he would be on the the radio, and I would sometimes get text messages or emails, telling me to listen to what Travis was saying today. When I say anti-Chamorro, what it usually boiled down to was being dismissing of Chamorro issues and Chamorro concerns, but not necessarily someone who would ever say that Chamorro culture sucks. But someone who would use his position to belittle activists fighting for certain issues or amplify the voices of some, such as Dave Davis, who are very anti-Chamorro in their rhetoric and actions.

This position though wasn't unique to Coffman. It is a very common one that is taken by media figures in Guam, even if they are Chamorro. It is tied to the larger role of media in a society and then how media is supposed to function in a colonial society. The role of the media isn't simply to report stories or investigate, it also has a function of promoting values and promoting ideals and norms. In a colonial situation, this often results in the media, both individually as members of it or institutionally, feeling compelled to defend the colonial status quo, to promote the greatness of the colonizer and promote an identity of unity with the colonizer, which may not really exist.

We see this in the media landscape in Guam today. Guam isn't a state of the United States, yet the media functions in such a way as if Guam is just like any other part of America. You can replace certain words in your average story, and suddenly it'll be in Arkansas or Kansas. This does a disservice to those who read and consume that media, as it promotes a misrecognition or a misreading of their reality. It encourages them not to recognize the truth of our relationship to the United States, but proposes patriotism and pride, as being appropriate responses to living in a contemporary colony. A wishful fantasy becomes the way we see ourselves in relation to the colonizer, nothing even close to the actual relationship.

It was interesting to see in the case of certain media personalities that came from off-island, such as Coffman or even Joe Murphy the former editor and publisher of the Pacific Daily News, how they experienced in small or large ways, a shift in consciousness. How early in his time on Guam, Joe Murphy was very resistant to engaging in discussions on political status or decolonization (like most everyone on Guam). Because for him and for most, the problems with Guam were all local. Slow government, corrupt government, Guam being hot and faraway. Locals not being modern or civilized enough.

But as they became more integrated and informed, they shifted. Murphy himself went from pretty much blaming everything on local people, to later in life, using more critical language when talking about the federal government's treatment of Guam and in some cases Chamorros. He even, in a Washington Post article in 1994 used the term colonialism to describe what the US federal government was doing in terms of Litekyan. I saw traces of a similar shift in my conversations with Travis Coffman as well.

A Q and A from the Guam Daily Post with him is pasted below.


Q and A with Travis Coffman
by Mar-Vic Cagurangan
Guam Daily Post
February 28, 2016

“It feels like we live and die in the moment every afternoon,” said Travis Coffman, the “King of Afternoon Drive,” who is back on air after a 17-month hiatus.

After his stint as a TV journalist and public relations specialist on Saipan, Coffman was recruited by Jon Anderson to join Newstalk K57. He came to Guam in November 2001 to host The Big Show, which has since become a brand name on local radio.

After more than a year of enjoying domestic life and reading books about the perils of junk food, Coffman is back on the mic.

How does it feel to be back on air?

It's a complete and total rush! Truly there's nothing like it. I feel so fortunate to get another turn at the most enjoyable job I've ever had.

What did you miss most when you were off the air?

The callers, the conversations. News comes and goes but the connections you make with callers stay with you.

What did you do when you were “on leave” from radio? Did you acquire new hobbies?

I worked as news director for PNC for a bit, really only to help the existing crew take charge. I helped a bit with the direction and the look but I think the best thing I could have done was to leave and make what they were paying me available to the company to give everybody else more money. After that I spent some time traveling, getting reacquainted with my kids settled into a new place. I learned a thing or two about housework and how to live a little healthier, too.

What books did you read?

I read a couple of books about food. “The Dorito Effect,” which is about the manipulation of taste by the food industry and one called “How Not to Die,” which is about whole plant nutrition as it relates to the 15 major illnesses. Great books that really helped me start eating better and ultimately feel better.

Are you changing the show’s format?

The show has a format? Since when? Kidding! I feel like the combination of information, conversation comedy and the occasional confrontation works to keep people engaged entertained and informed. I have a good time, too!

What are your most memorable moments on the radio?

I don't know if there is a particular show, but I can tell you that my favorite shows without exception have been the ones where I get to open the microphone for someone who has never been in a studio or on the air. Something magical happens when someone hears their voice over the air for the first time. I love to see what happens next.

The most glorious moments?

Getting answers or satisfaction for someone that can't seem to get the time of day from a business, elected official or government agency. I know what it's like to be ignored and I really get a kick out of chasing down people who feel like they don't need to be accountable.

The most embarrassing?

Screwing up someone's name. I try really hard to remember everyone, but it happens and I always wanna kick myself especially when it happens on the air.

Who is your favorite radio caller?

The ones that teach me something new or make me laugh. My favorite caller of all time is a lady known as "Auntie Pumpkin.” She was my very first caller when I sat in with Jon Anderson the very first day on Newstalk K57. She asked me what I really thought of the Marianas Public Land Commission, and for whatever reason I delivered a blistering scathing review of what I felt its shortcomings. Auntie Pumpkin listened to the entire tirade and said something like, “Okay, I was just wondering, thanks.” I was stunned; she just took what I said at face value. I was hooked instantly.

Least favorite?

The people who express the sentiment that Guam can't do anything right. I don't believe that and I don't have a lot of patience with that line of discussion.

What do you love most about your job?

The living breathing real-time flow of information, the conversation of facts, fiction, fantasy and family. It feels like we live and die in the moment every afternoon. It our very own human drama, where everyone has a say and everyone has a part to play. And what I love most of all is that the people of Guam share their lives with me. It's an honor and a privilege. It's a responsibility that I take very seriously.

What are the changes you’ve seen in the radio/media landscape since you started your broadcast career?

Social media have made people more active in providing information. It also makes it easier to reach viewers and listeners. The desire for reliable info about food, fun, traffic and taxes keep people tuning in.
What are your regrets—if any?

I'm having a pretty good run it’s hard to complain.

Did you do some reflections?

As much as I love my job at Newstalk K-57 and work in general, over the years I finally realized my most important job is taking care of my family. My children, of course, are the ones who help me realize this and have been pretty patient waiting for me to come around. I've also discovered that I think about my coworkers, as well as all the callers and listeners as part of my extended family. So it makes sense that I would have missed them as much as I did and how happy I am to be back home.

Your favorite OOG moments?

Having people I've never met walk over thank me for caring about Guam, for saying something they wanted to say or just making them laugh. That always makes me happy.

What do you consider the most over-rated virtue?

Moderation. Never been great with moderation, lol.

If there is a zombie apocalypse, where will you hide?

Nope. I'm not hiding. Bring it.

What did Donald Trump share with you when you had a drink with him last night?

I gotta see the hairline. I just gotta!

5,000 Days of Protest in Okinawa

5,000 days of protest in northern Okinawa. In truth, the protests there go much further back, but 5,000 is a nice, big, profound number. It represents 5,000 days of continuous protest, of daily, symbolic and direct resistance to US militarism and militarization in the island.

I have been fortunate enough to visit the protest camps in Okinawa on several occasions since 2011. I have spoken to scholars, to activists, to students, to elders, to farmers, to fishermen and even to paddlers and scuba divers. It does make me wonder, at one point the level of militarization or of consciousness about militarization in Guam will come to a similar point. There have been outbursts, periods of direct action, protest, there has been a great deal of counter-hegemonic activity, trying to make it more possible for the community to engage in critical discussions about Guam's military presence or purpose. But nothing similar to what we see in Okinawa. Will the plans for a firing range at Litekyan bring out this type of resistance? During the recent round of public hearings some people proposed taking actions similar to those in Okinawa to block construction or training, but it remains to be seen if that passion will persist after some time passes.


Okinawa sit-in protest against Futenma relocation hits 5,000 days
The Japan Times
December 27, 2007

A sit-in protest by citizens opposed to the planned relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps’ Futenma air station in Ginowan, Okinawa Prefecture, to the Henoko coastal area in Nago, reached its 5,000th day Tuesday.

On the same day, a protest rally was held in front of a gate of the U.S. military’s Camp Schwab, which straddles Nago and the village of Ginoza, bringing together 500 people, according to its organizer.

Nago Mayor Susumu Inamine, who took part in the rally, said that the city’s mayoral election in February 2018 will be a “must-win” race.

“My resolve not to allow the construction of a new base in the sea off or on the land of Henoko has not changed at all,” said Inamine.

Yoko Akagi, 65, from the Okinawa village of Kunigami, said she hopes that “the mayor will be re-elected and a new base will not be built so the sit-in protest will not reach the next 5,000th day.”
Citizens started the sit-in protest on April 19, 2004, on the coast close to the planned Futenma relocation site, opposing a related geological survey off Henoko by a central government agency. In July 2014, they also began protesting in front of the Camp Schwab gate.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

First Lady of the Revolution

I followed the recent special election for Senate in Alabama, far closer than anyone on the other side of the ocean probably should. Given the past tumultuous year under Trump and looking ahead to 2018 and what might possibly be different, especially with mid-term elections on the horizon, this election, as so many have written about, representing an important event in terms of scrying what lies ahead. Things look very good for Democrats in the Congress, as Trump ends his first year with historically low approval ratings.

Amidst all the coverage of the Alabama, this one article struck out at me, and not for any Alabama related reason really. It is about a 99 year-old Alabama woman, who lived a very interesting life, especially in terms of her at one point being the First Lady of Costa Rica and being referred to as "The First Lady of the Revolution."

This sorts of article are common media frames. You take an older person, with unique experiences or with some symbolic relevance, and then you follow them through some contemporary political context. They generally resonate with me, because of my own experiences interviewing older Chamorros, who lived interesting lives, and seeing the changes over time from their perspective. Reading this piece, I couldn't help but think of my own grandparents, Joaquin and Elizabeth Lujan, and what they went through, politically, during their time on earth. I wish the local media did more to draw out those stories, especially when you think about how the oldest generation was not born as US citizens and only became US citizens via an act of Congress. And furthermore how residents of Guam have only able to vote for their own Governor since 1970.


An Alabama Voter, 99 Years Old, Makes Her Way to the Polls and Hopes for a Democratic Win
Deborah Barfield Berry
USA Today
December 12, 2017

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Henrietta Boggs-MacGuire grabbed her black purse Tuesday and carefully made her way to the car that would take her down Magnolia Curve to the polling site here where she’s voted the last 28 or so years.
The 99-year-old — who was once the First Lady of Costa Rica — was determined to get to her polling place at Huntingdon College early to cast her ballot for what she called an important election.
“This could be maybe be a turning point, I hope, in the country’s rejection of what seems to me an administration that’s destructive on too many fronts," Boggs-MacGuire said as the car pulled into a parking spot.
Once inside, Boggs-MacGuire pulled out her ID card and bypassed the line of would-be voters. A sign offered front-line access for voters over 70.
Boggs-MacGuire, who calls herself a Yellow Dog Democrat, has always voted for Democrats. That didn’t change Tuesday.
She voted for Doug Jones in the Alabama Senate race. Jones is in a tight race against Republican Roy Moore for the seat once held by Republican Jeff Sessions.
Boggs-MacGuire said it’s hard to predict whether Jones will win.
“We all have a tendency to hear what we want to hear," she said. “Since most of my friends, of course, are Democrats I hear maybe we have a chance. So that’s what I’m holding onto. Maybe we do, except that Roy Moore has never lost a race."
“Anyway," she added. “Keep the faith."

Most of her Democratic choices over the years have lost to Republicans like George H. Bush, George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan. She called the election of Democrat Barack Obama “transforming."
“But this one has the potential probably to be a turning point. Maybe that’s why we’re all so excited about it," she said.
Boggs-MacGuire, who prefers to simply be called Henrietta, said she’s never missed an election when she’s lived in the United States. “Never, never - heaven’s no," she said.
Boggs-MacGuire was glad to see the long line at the site. She attributes it to all the national attention the race has garnered.
"It means that people are trying to turn out and be good citizens and show off,'' she said.
Antony Leigh, senior vice president at Huntingdon College, welcomed the crowd and held the door open for Boggs-MacGuire.
“It’s a great day for us to welcome our whole neighborhood to our campus," he said.

Boggs-MacGuire, has seen much in her nearly 100 years. But she’s worried about the future of the South with race relations still a mess and education and health care programs under attack.
“We’re in a tragic period,'' she said.

She is not new to political unrest.
Her life is the subject of a documentary, “First Lady of the Revolution,” which premiered earlier this year in Montgomery.
The documentary focuses on her life, including her marriage to Jose Figueres Ferrer, who led a revolution in Costa Rica in 1948 to overthrow the government and led to reforms, including voting rights for women.
Boggs-MacGuire, then Henrietta Boggs, had gone to Costa Rica to visit with her aunt and uncle when she met and later married Ferrer. She served as the First Lady in the 1940's.
The two divorced in 1955. Boggs-MacGuire later lived in New York and Paris but eventually returned to Alabama moving to Montgomery where she married Dr. Hugh MacGuire.
Boggs-MacGuire is also the author of her 1992 memoir, “Married to a Legend: My life with Don Pepe.”
These days, Boggs-MacGuire can be found working part-time at River Region Living Magazine, a glossy life-style magazine she helped start about 30 years ago.

With voting done early Tuesday, MacGuire prepared for her afternoon schedule.
There was an interview for the magazine with a museum curator and her a board meeting for the Booker T. Washington School for the Performing Arts.
“What is more interesting than to be involved in a community instead of laying on the sofa?" she asked. “How awful to let life trap you like that."

Monday, December 25, 2017

NTTU Saipan

Since the start of the year I have been working on an article about militarization in the Marianas Islands. It is for a special edition of Micronesian Educator edited by Tiara Na'puti and Lisa Natividad. I'm excited at the prospect of writing it, but my schedule over the past year has been tough, in addition to family drama and other setbacks. I've been coming back and forth to it in my notebooks every month, but until now I haven't been able to really try to finish it. I spent Christmas Day typing up my scattered notes and drafts.

The article is an attempt to talk about militarization, military increases, military strategy in a Marianas wide context, and the ways it divides, unities, takes and stimulates. One of the most interesting sections is on the CIA training that took place in Saipan from the late 1940s to the early 1960s. The facility was known as the Naval Technical Training Unit or NTTU and it trained anti-communist operatives to destabilize and sabotage regimes that were communist or suspected of going communist.

Below are two articles about it and other covert-Cold War related activities in the Trust Territory from The Saipan Tribune.


Cold War covert activities on Saipan, elsewhere in the region
by William H. Stewart
The Saipan Tribune
December 21, 2004
Part 1 of 2

I have been interested in the history of the Northern Marianas and especially a period in the ‘50s and early ‘60s for which very few specifics are known. This was the period on Saipan when the Central Intelligence Agency under the cover of the U.S. Navy operated a facility known as the Naval Tactical Training Unit or NTTU. Physical verification of their presence is still very much in evidence on Capitol Hill (then known as Army Hill) such as the administration building, service station, staff housing, bachelor officer quarters, snack-bar, barber shop, post office, a theater—auditorium and the recreational facility “TopaTapi” night club.

The entire Marpi area from what is now the vicinity of the Nikko Hotel northward and the Kagman Peninsula were among the areas on Saipan where access was restricted to only NTTU personnel and their trainees. At Kagman the organization operated its own airfield for transporting personnel to be trained. Portions of the landing strip can still be seen in the vicinity of the Lao Lao Bay Golf Course.
The cost of this infrastructure in 1951 dollars was approximately $30 million. The replacement cost today would exceed $221 million. With the exception of the housing—all serve different uses today from those of the Cold War/NTTU era.

If you were born after 1950 and lived in the United States you probably recall the survival drills conducted at your school. It was a time when the Cold War turned hot with the conflict on the Korean Peninsula, with saber rattling extending throughout that decade and into the ‘60s when, in 1961, President Kennedy inherited the CIA’s planned invasion of Cuba. It was a period when the Berlin Wall was erected and when the U.S.S.R. detonated a hydrogen bomb. By 1962, the Cuban missile crisis had brought the world to the brink of atomic war and elsewhere in Southeast Asia the number of U.S. military advisers to Vietnam was rapidly being increased.

The United States was involved in unconventional-warfare (UW) in Southeast Asia and the training base on Saipan was vital for that mission. This is evident in excerpts from a memorandum (1) from Brig. Gen. Edward G. Lansdale, Pentagon expert on guerrilla warfare, to Gen. Maxwell D. Taylor, President Kennedy’s military adviser, on “Resources for Unconventional Warfare, SE. Asia.” Copies were sent to Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara, Secretary of State Dean Rusk and his brother Allen W. Dulles, Director of Central Intelligence. The memo was in response to a request for information on unconventional-warfare resources in Southeast Asia and was compiled within the Department of Defense and the CIA. It stated: “CIA maintains a field training station on the island of Saipan located approximately 160 miles northeast of Guam in the Marianas Islands. The installation is under Navy cover and is known as the Naval Technical Training Unit. The primary mission of the Saipan Training Station is to provide physical facilities and competent instructor personnel to fulfill a variety of training requirements including intelligence tradecraft, communications, counter-intelligence and psychological warfare techniques. Training is performed in support of CIA activities conducted throughout the Far East area.

“In addition to the facilities described, CIA maintains a small ship of approximately 500 tons displacement and 140 feet in length. This vessel is used presently to provide surface transportation between Guam and Saipan. It has an American Captain and First Mate and a Philippine crew, and is operated under the cover of a commercial corporation with home offices in Baltimore, Maryland. Both the ship and the corporation have a potentially wider paramilitary application both in the Far East area and elsewhere.” (1)

Long time Saipan resident and former NTTU employee John Wilson recalled the vessel, Four Winds, was eventually sold to one of Saipan’s leading businessmen.

At the height of the Cold War, the United States constructed military bases extending from South Korea and Japan through Taiwan, the Philippines, Thailand and throughout Europe. The United States had thousands of overseas military installations, which circled the Soviet Union and China.
Considering the confrontation and clash of national objectives between the differing ideological participants of the Cold War during the ‘50s and ‘60s, it’s not too difficult to look back at what might have transpired in the region from the point of view of covert activities—at least on the part of one of the national competitors. Saipan provided the United States with an ideal location for covert training in the black art of sabotage and insurgency. The island was isolated and access was easily controlled and limited only to the military—plus the island was close to Asia—the region of interest and the source of recruits to be trained. These elements made the island a natural choice for locating the secret training activity. One couldn’t ask for better circumstances from which to carry out a covert project away from the prying eyes of any adversary, the media and Congress. Saipan’s extreme distance from the United States in the 1950’s was a mind numbing, bone crushing propeller flight of 9 and 1/2 hours from San Francisco to Honolulu; Hawaii to Wake: 9—1/2 hours; Wake to Saipan: 8 hours.

In those days the local population was exhausted by war and had little interest or knowledge of the world beyond the horizon. This added to the attraction of the island for NTTU’s clandestine purpose. Short wave radio and the Voice of America were the principle windows on the world for the local population. Indeed, less than 10 years after the NTTU packed up and left the island in the early ‘60s, black and white taped CBS coaxial televised news with Walter Cronkite was still 10 days late in reaching the island by air.

While I have no proof of the following, it has been alleged that during those uncertain years Washington was accused of supporting a revolution that brought the authoritarian regime of General Sukarto to power in Indonesia. The Agency helped break the power of the leftist Huks and was successful in helping elect Ramon Magsaysay president of the Philippines and later embrace Filipino dictator Ferdinand Marcos. During the Eisenhower administration, a puppet government was established in South Vietnam. After Mao’s revolution it was alleged the CIA trained rebels to infiltrate China, Manchuria, and Tibet in an attempt to destabilize the region.

Paraphrasing John Prados’ comments in his book, President’s Secret Wars (2), the United States provided military aid to French Indochina and placed Diem in power and ran operations in the Far East in the 1950s which involved covert operations against communist insurgents in Thailand and the Philippines.

To be continued

Sources: (1) “The Pentagon Papers”, Gravel Edition, Volume 2; (2) Prados, John, “President’s Secret Wars”, William Morrow Company, New York, 1986; Mr. John Wilson, Sr., NTTU-1959—‘62 and various unidentified sources from internet web sites including:;

Editor’s Note: During the 1955—‘67 period of the Cold War, the author studied the “economics of national security” at the Industrial College of the Armed Forces (now National Defense University) and is the recipient of the Cold War Certificate of Recognition from the Defense Department for service with American embassies in Africa and Asia. He later served with the Trust Territory and CNMI governments and is an occasional contributor to this paper.


Cold War covert activities on Saipan, elsewhere in the region
by William H. Stewart
The Saipan Tribune
December 22, 2004
Part 2 of 2

Nationals from several Asian countries were trained covertly on Saipan by the NTTU. The Marianas, as part of Micronesia, was only one group within the eleven United Nations’ trusteeships that had evolved out of the flames of World War II and, as such, technically fell under the purview of the U.N.
Unlike the other ten trusteeship areas, the Northern Marianas and the rest of Micronesia were administered by the United States through the Security Council where the U.S. not only had veto power but could conveniently observe the Counsel’s monitoring efforts of American stewardship of one of its several wards.

One might wonder what the U.N. had to do with the issue since some would consider United States presence in the islands following VJ Day the undisputed privilege of the victor in war. Simply and basically stated, the U.S. point of view was: You can’t take something from someone if you never recognized they owned it in the first place.

This reasoning resulted from the fact that the U.S. government never recognized the islands as a permanent possession of any nation since they were taken from defeated Germany by the allied powers during World War I. Subsequently assigned to Japan under a mandate from the League of Nations, the islands’ status did not change after they were occupied by U.S. armed forces in 1944. Indeed, since their purchase by Germany from Spain in 1899, and their assignment to Japan for administration in 1920 by the League of Nations, the Northern Marianas had no political identity among the countries of the world.

From the time of Germany’s loss of the islands they were never regarded as a permanent colony within the exclusive sovereignty of any nation, except of course, by Japan when it left the League before the outbreak of war—but the U.S. never acknowledged Japan’s sovereignty.
At the conclusion of the war in the Pacific, the United States, not desiring to appear as having annexed the islands by virtue of “victor’s rights,” placed the islands under the supervision of the Security Council since the Marianas where considered to be within a strategic area of the western Pacific they were to be overseen through the Security Council where the United States had the power of policy rejection (i.e., interference).

This must not have been not lost on the CIA, also known as the “Company,” which eventually arranged for the construction of a base where trainees were later flown to Saipan at night by aircraft operated by Air America. As John Prados describes in President’s Secret Wars, the arrivals were blindfolded before being transported to the base and had no idea as to where they were and therefore could tell no one where they had been trained.

At the time the accommodations of the NTTU staff on Saipan resembled a transplanted California suburb. These accommodations are still very much in evidence. Compared with the standard of living and style of construction on the island 50 years ago, Army Hill’s (now Capitol Hill) facilities of concrete, typhoon-proof houses bore little resemblance to the rest of Saipan where the majority of structures were of wood and rusted corrugated metal roofs, many of which were situated along pot holed coral roads.

There were occasional crisis for the CIA personnel when NTTU activities had to be temporarily closed or disguised for the visits of United Nations trusteeship’s visiting inspection delegations. When they left, training was resumed and once completed, personnel would be returned to their respective operating stations for mission assignments. These included sabotage strikes at selected targets and commando raids according to what limited information that’s available.

During the 1950s a number of people were assigned to Taiwan to provide guerrilla training, engage in radio broadcasts and propaganda. The CIA operated in Taiwan under the cover of Western Enterprises, a front company.

Several thousand guerrillas were trained to carry out raids and acts of sabotage in China. Their aircraft dropped millions of anti-communist leaflets.

It has been alleged that in the early 50s, Chinese agents were also trained on Saipan and then parachuted into several Manchurian provinces to attempt to encourage Manchurians to revolt. While CIA-trained rebels were believed by some to be operating in China, the agency began focusing its attention on Tibet in 1956 and actively backed the Tibetan cause with arms, military training, money, and air support. The American Society for a Free Asia, funded by the CIA, attempted to gain American support by lobbying against the Chinese occupation of Tibet. In October 1957 the first of numerous two-man teams of CIA-trained Tibetans parachuted into the mountains of Tibet. After China annexed several Tibetan provinces, an uprising failed in 1959, and the Dalai Lama escaped to India.

In 1993, CIA Director R. James Woolsey told Congress that the files on the agency’s activities in Tibet and several other of its covert operations during the Cold War would be opened. But the CIA has so far failed to do so.

In 1997 during the 50th anniversary of founding of the CIA, the organization’s former director, (the former President) George H.W. Bush stated: “To those who say we no longer need a CIA, I say you’re nuts. To those who want to dismantle CIA or put it under some other department…you’re nuts, too. And to those who feel the right to know takes precedence over legitimate classification of documents, or over protecting our most precious asset, our people, the same to you. You’re nuts, and so’s the horse you came in on.” (William H. Stewart)

(1) Prados, John, “President’s Secret Wars”, William Morrow Company, New York, 1986. Mr. John Wilson, Sr., NTTU-1959 – ‘62 and various unidentified sources from internet web sites

Editor’s Note: During the 1955-‘67 period of the Cold War, the author studied the “economics of national security” at the Industrial College of the Armed Forces (now National Defense University) and is the recipient of the Cold War Certificate of Recognition from the Defense Department for service with American embassies in Africa and Asia. He later served with the Trust Territory and NMI Governments and is an occasional contributor to this paper.

Respect the Chamoru People Rally Recap

On April 7, 2017, more than 800 people gathered in the field in front of the Ricardo J. Bordallo Government Complex in Adelup, Guåhan for the “Respect the Chamoru People Rally.” The event, organized by a grassroots collective of volunteers, aimed at celebrating the culture of the island’s indigenous people, the Chamorros, and at helping remind the Guam community about the need to maintain a respectful relationship to them in their island homeland. The event was non-partisan, backing no political candidates or agendas.

Over the course of the event’s 2 ½ hours, 15 speakers shared stories of the struggles of Chamorros in the past and the need to protect their island and heritage for future generations. Cultural groups offered blessings. Poets and musicians delivered inspiration through powerful words and melodies. Community organizations manned tables providing information on the military buildup, decolonization, and cultural preservation. The Håya Foundation, which seeks to preserve and promote the practice of traditional Chamorro healing, had a table that featured not only pamphlets and brochures, but also samples of medicinal teas. The canopies, chairs, and tables for the event were all generously donated by Kevin Susuico, the mayor of Hågat.

As a colony for centuries, governments, militaries, and missionaries have all challenged the place of the Chamorro people here in Guåhan, their homeland, in the name of strategic interests or religious imperialism. This rally was meant to be an open space where all who call Guåhan home could celebrate the Chamorro struggle and journey while supporting them in their efforts to protect their heritage and drive for self-determination. The rally was organized in response to recent forms of disrespect against the Chamorro people; most prominently, the decision of the U.S. District Court ruling the decolonization plebiscite as unconstitutional and the threats to the Chamorro Land Trust as being discriminatory.

The rally began with emcees Shannon McManus and Hila’an San Nicolas welcoming the crowd, which at the start of the rally consisted of more than 100 people. The sun was bright in the sky, although a cool breeze moved across the field. Shannon McManus sang the Fanohge Chamorro and Lino Rosario sang Gi Talo’ gi Halom Tåsi. Master of Chamorro Chant, Leonard Iriarte, offered an ancient style blessing, calling for all to respect the Chamorro people, who are descended from the great navigators who settled the islands of the Marianas, thousands of years ago. Påle’ Eric Forbes offered a Catholic blessing for the event and prayed that the cries of the Chamorro people be heard and the justice they have long awaited finally arrive,

“Ekungok i katten i taotao-mu ni’ un pega guini na isla komu taotao tåno’. Ma tatanga i hustisia yan tininas ni’ apmam na tiempo ti ma ekstende para siha.”

The first speaker of the afternoon was Bob Pelkey, current President of Inetnon Lalåhen Guåhan or the Young Men’s League of Guam. The YMLG is the oldest Chamorro organization, first established in 1917 and celebrating its centennial this year. Pelkey spoke of the origin of his organization, which was formed in response to the racism and segregation of the prewar Guåhan Naval era, and only exists today because of the protests of Chamorros of the past. He called on the Chamorro people to unify in the face of the challenges of today,

“Dedi di hit på’go ta fanohge Chamorro! Ya ta fandanña’! Mungga hit ta fanmumu.”

The cultural arts group Inetnon Gefpågo, under the guidance of Master of Chamorro Dance, Vince Reyes, performed a medley of songs and chants aimed at moving the growing crowd. The medley began with the chant Fakmåta, a call for Chamorros to wake up and prepare themselves for whatever forces the world has marshaled against them. It then ended with their newest song Sen Guaiya Hao Guåhan, a serenade to the island of Guam and a contemporary promise to treasure this island we call home.

Former Senator Carmen Artero Kasperbauer spoke as an elder, connecting her experiences as a child surviving World War II to the struggles Chamorros face today. Her family lost massive tracts of land to the U.S. military’s land takings after World War II. However, even after losing so much, her father had nonetheless instilled in her a connection to the island as being deeper than deeds or property.

“Ti tano’-hu este. Tano’-mu. Lao ti tano’-mu lokkue’. I tano’ i famagu’on-mu!...Rikuña hit na råsa anggen ta adahi i tano’. Go’te i tano’ para i famagu’on. Mungga hit na ta fanriku put salape’ yan kosas.”

Singer Stacia Guzman followed Senator Artero Kasperbauer, but prior to performing, she welcomed dozens of dancers from different Pa’a Taotao Tåno’ houses to the side of the stage. They performed a chant inviting all the villages of the island to come together and unite.  

“Fanhita, fanhålom ya fandanña’ mañe’lu-ta. Ta usa i galaide’ ya ta gosa lina’lå’-ta.”

Once the chanting was finished, Guzman performed the song Hågu i islan Guåhan, calling on the old to teach the young their culture, and for the young to protect their island home.

            “Mungga mana’falingu i hinenggen i guelo. Fa’nå’gue ha’ i famagu’on-mu!”

The emcees kept the crowd excited between speakers and performances, most notably by offering free “Fanohge” t-shirts, donated by Ene Wear Clothing Co., to those who could, for example, tell the crowd what the word “mattingan” meant or whoever was wearing a flower in their hair.

Jamela Santos, a social worker, spoke as a non-Chamorro ally in the Chamorro quest for decolonization. Although she is of Filipino heritage, Guåhan is the only place she has ever called home. And even though that’s the case, she argued it doesn’t mean she can’t also support the Chamorro people in the protection of their homeland. It rather means that she feels an obligation to help. She recounted that the Chamorro people once lived in balance with the world around them, but colonization had taken this from them. In their fight for self-determination she said, “I believe the Chamorro people just want to find that balance again.” She ended her speech with a plea to her Filipino brothers and sisters to stand in solidarity with the Chamorro people.

Nichole Quintanilla, a poet and undergraduate student at UOG, performed the poem Maga’håga, which she had co-written with Arielle Lowe. Her poem reminded us of the ancient strength that persists in the Chamorro people and their culture, primarily through the power of women.

“The Maga’låhi and Maga’håga once stood side by side like mountains…Today we are still trying to understand how our matrilineal ancestry was lost. Making us venerate founding fathers, while forgetting our foremothers. The strong Maga’håga who braved through the tides of change.”

Matthew Sablan, a well-respected singer, performed the song Decolonize, and stirred the crowd with his message of Chamorro survival and resilience. 

“Make the call, stand up tall, indigenous Manggåfa, tomorrow we roll! Decolonize!”

Catherine McCollum and Josephine “Ofing” Jackson spoke on behalf of Nasion Chamoru and invited those gathered to reflect on the work of two deceased Maga’låhi from the group: the late Senator Angel Santos and the late Ed Benavente. Jackson read excerpts from Angel Santos’ 1991 manifesto proclaiming the “Birth of a Chamoru Nation.”

“Chamorus know who they are. They are born, raised, and proud to be Chamoru. A Chamoru is allowed to keep his clothes, American car, a concrete home, and government job and still be a Chamoru. It is not an immortal sin to be a Chamoru.”

McCollum is the current Maga’håga of Nasion Chamoru and shared the experiences that had brought her into the conversation on decolonization. Her family’s ancestral land is at Litekyan, a sacred historical site, taken by the U.S. government years ago, where the U.S. military plans to build a firing range complex. As a young woman, she saw her parents protest and fight to get that land back, and in time they had passed on the responsibility to her. As she fought back tears, she recalled her elders standing in protest lines and passing on to her stacks of documents connected to the land. “It is the land that ties us all together.”

Josette Quinata, a poet and social worker, took the stage along with Eva Aguon Cruz. They both read poetry aimed at connecting ancient strength and skills to our lives today. Quinata highlighted in particular the need to remember the skills and values taught to us by our elders,

“Rooted in the land. Surrounded and grounded by the sea. Connected to our roots. United in our hearts…Together we weave this beautiful design. We create a basket…which has been passed down to us. The art of weaving has been taught to us. We are guided by our manåmko’, our saina.

Robert Underwood, former member of the U.S. Congress, current President of the University of Guam, and founding member of OPI-R (Organization of People for Indigenous Rights) was one of the final speakers for the day. As someone who has been involved in the fight for Chamorro self-determination for decades, he expertly summed up many of the themes expounded upon by previous speakers and performers. He joked that the Chamorro people should thank Dave Davis, as his racist rhetoric and actions helped bring everyone out to Adelup field that afternoon. Underwood closed out his thoughts by reminding the crowd that respecting the Chamorro people comes down to respecting the connection between two words, “Guåhan” and “tåno’.” He cautioned the crowd that

“When you separate Guåhan from tåno’, you separate Guåhan from taotao tåno’. Respecting the Chamorro people honors that relationship. That’s why this is the time for the Chamorro people to reclaim their God-given right…to determine the relationship between the people of the land and the island of Guam.”

Melvin Won Pat-Borja, an educator and founding member of the group, We Are Guåhan, delivered a powerful poem dedicated to Chamorro human rights attorney Julian Aguon. It was Aguon who had been the attorney defending the rights of the Chamorro people in court against the legal onslaught of Arnold “Dave” Davis. Melvin matched the fire which Julian Aguon brought to his argument with his poetry on the Adelup stage.

“You can’t make us second class citizens and then cite the Constitution…Because on Guam the constitution only ever really applies when it affects some white guys…But this is not new and we are not surprised…Let us never forget that we have been here for thousands of years. We are the descendants of Fu’una and Puntan. First people, our blood is thicker than Federal waters. Our roots deeper than development.”

            In his concluding verses he called on Chamorros to stay strong and unify, but also on non-Chamorros to reciprocate the respect and generosity that Chamorros have given them in their homeland.

“We gotta put our heads together and get outta this rat race. If you aren’t Chamorro but call this place home, ask yourself, why even though you got no family here, you’re never alone. It’s because the native people of this island have made you feel welcome. Those people need support, will you ignore them or help them?”

Amber Benavente-Sanchez, a Chamorro teacher and one of the main organizers for the Respect the Chamoru People Rally, was the final speaker of the event. As the daughter of the late Ed Benavente, former Maga’låhi of Nasion Chamoru, she spoke emotionally about the site of the rally to the 500 still gathered after more than two hours. At 12 years old, she had joined her family and dozens of others, and camped out in protest, eventually compelling the Government of Guam to implement the Chamorro Land Trust Act. Because of their sacrifices, the consciousness of the Chamorro people had been opened and transformed, and thousands of Chamorro families were able to lease plots of land and have a chance at a better life.

After paying tribute to the elders who had fought for Chamorro rights in the past, she called on the young people present. She asked them to remember the Inifresi, the Guåhan pledge that tens of thousands of children recite each day. She asked that all who call Guåhan home, but in particular those who were Chamorro to remember that the elements that make life beautiful and possible on this island must be protected and be defended or they can be taken away from us.

With the sun finally setting, Pa’a Taotao Tåno’, led by Master of Chamorro Dance Frank Rabon took the stage. The hundreds of people remaining all gathered together, in a giant circle, holding hands, as more than a hundred dancers chanted I Hinatsan i Latte around them.

As if to reinforce the theme of the rally and leave all feeling unified and inspired, Pa’a Taotao Tåno’ closed the event by leading all in the singing of Uno Hit, a song which emphasizes that the Chamorro genealogy is intimately intertwined with all aspects of the island.

“Este na estoria, estorian i isla, islan taotao tåno’ giya Marianas, Luta, Tinian, Saipan yan Islan Guåhan…Uno hit yan i tano’, i tasi, åtdao, yan i langhet.”

Friday, December 15, 2017

Adventures of Akli'e' Book Launch

Local children's book launches tomorrow
by Andrew Roberto
The Guam Daily Post
December 15, 2017

Local author and activist Michael Lujan Bevacqua, through his publishing group The Guam Bus, hopes his latest project can get young and old readers alike to think more profoundly about Guam's culture.

Titled "The Adventures of Akli'e'," the new bilingual project is one book made up of two stories: In the first story, the titular character spends a day with his great-grandfather, a master blacksmith, and imagines what it would be like to use the tools his great-grandfather forges every day. In the second story, the young Akli'e' listens to his great-grandmother's tales of CHamoru history and legend, bringing the stories to life in his imagination.

Bevacqua said he took inspiration for the tales from his own life. The main character is named after his son, and his own grandfather is master blacksmith Joaquin Flores Lujan. Bevacqua said, growing up, he often spent time listening to the stories of his grandmother. The book project came about as a way to invigorate the way CHamorus approach their culture.

"When me and my brothers were young, there was one CHamoru children's book in the house," Bevacqua said. "There wasn't much to really look at and think, 'Man, so this is where I come from, these are my roots.' There's nothing to look at and think, 'Man this is kind of exciting, the culture that I come from is cool.'"

Bevacqua and his brother Jack Bevacqua, an illustrator, hope that "The Adventures of Akli'e'" changes that.

"The goal is to give them something which connects enough to the world around us in a creative, sometimes funny way, but also gets them to think about certain things," the author said.

The "certain things" Bevacqua mentioned include problematic areas of CHamoru identity, as well as Guam's relationship with the United States.

'Difficult and complicated things'

"A children's book doesn't have to avoid difficult and complicated things," Michael Bevacqua said, adding that this isn't going to be a politically centered story. "You want to make it critical, but you don't want to make it so critical that people say that this is an activist book."

Instead, the author hopes the book opens up a space for children and parents to start having conversations about what happens on Guam every day.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

A Year of Great Columns

For all of the damage that Donald Trump can do, he definitely helps bring about exciting renewals and rediscoveries as well. Much has been made of the competition between major newspapers for "scoops," but I would also like to mention how Trump's behavior and his regular, often mindless assaults on the norms of governance, provide great fodder for columnists and editorial boards as well. I've pasted below an editorial from the editorial board for USA Today. I never thought I would ever save an editorial from that newspaper, but with Trump's behavior, even they ended up making an articulate and impassioned case against his behavior.

One of the downsides to a year of Trumpsanity, is that the news is constantly happening and evolving, whether through strategy, stupidity or insanity, and there just isn't enough time or energy to write about it or comment on it. That is one thing I've found about this blog for instance, is that I would frequently find myself glued to cable news or hypnotized by my social media feed, it would be hard to carve out time between my visits to the Special Counsel Oracle to write up my thoughts.

Let's hope I can find more time for that in the coming year. But in the meantime, here are some columns I enjoyed from the past year of Trumpcraziness.


The Hijacked American Presidency
by Charles Blow
July 3, 2017
New York Times

Every now and then we are going to have to do this: Step back from the daily onslaughts of insanity emanating from Donald Trump’s parasitic presidency and remind ourselves of the obscenity of it all, registering its magnitude in its full, devastating truth.

There is something insidious and corrosive about trying to evaluate the severity of every offense, trying to give each an individual grade on the scale of absurdity. Trump himself is the offense. Everything that springs from him, every person who supports him, every staffer who shields him, every legislator who defends him, is an offense. Every partisan who uses him — against all he or she has ever claimed to champion — to advance a political agenda and, in so doing, places party over country, is an offense.

We must remind ourselves that Trump’s very presence in the White House defiles it and the institution of the presidency. Rather than rising to the honor of the office, Trump has lowered the office with his whiny, fragile, vindictive pettiness.

The presidency has been hijacked.

Last week, when Donald Trump attacked two MSNBC hosts, people were aghast. The condemnation came quickly and from all quarters.

But his words shouldn’t have shocked. His tweet was just another pebble on a mountain of vulgarities. This act of coarseness was in fact an act of continuity. Trump was being Trump: the grossest of the gross, a profanity against propriety.

This latest episode is simply part of a body of work demonstrating the man’s utter contempt for decency. We all know what it will add up to: nothing.

Republicans have bound themselves up with Trump. His fate is their fate. They have surrendered any moral authority to which they once laid claim — rightly or not. If Trump goes down, they all do.
It’s all quite odd, this moral impotence, this cowering before the belligerent, would-be king. A madman and his legislative minions are holding America hostage.

There are no new words to express it; there is no new and novel way to catalog it. It is what it is and has been from day one: The most extraordinary and profound electoral mistake America has made in our lifetimes and possibly ever.

We must say without ceasing, and without growing weary by the redundancy, that what we are witnessing is not normal and cannot go unchallenged. We must reaffirm our commitment to resistance. We must always remember that although individual Americans made the choice to vote affirmatively for him or actively withhold their support from his opponent, those decisions were influenced, in ways we cannot calculate, by Russian interference in our election, designed to privilege Trump.

We must remember that we now have a president exerting power to which he may only have access because a foreign power hostile to our interests wanted him installed. We must remember that he has not only praised that foreign power, he has proven mysteriously averse to condemning it or even acknowledging its meddling.

We must remember that there are multiple investigations ongoing about the degree of that interference in our election — including a criminal investigation — and that those investigations are not constrained to collusion and are far from fake news. These investigations are deadly serious, are about protecting the integrity of our elections and the sovereignty of our country and are about a genuine quest for truth and desire for justice.

Every action by this administration is an effort to push forward the appearance of normality, to squelch scrutiny, to diminish the authority and credibility of the ongoing investigations.
Last week, after a growing list of states publicly refused to hand over sensitive voter information to Trump’s ironic and quixotic election integrity commission, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders blasted the pushback as a “political stunt.”

But in fact the commission itself is the political stunt. The committee is searching for an illegal voting problem that doesn’t exist. Trump simply lied when he said that he would have won the popular vote were it not for millions of illegal votes. And then he established this bogus commission — using taxpayer money — to search for a truth that doesn’t exist, to try to prove right a lie that he should never have told.

This commission is classic Trump projection: There is a real problem with the integrity of our last election because the Russians helped power his win, but rather than deal with that very real attack on this country, he is instead tilting at windmills concerning in-person voter fraud.

Last week, CNN reported:

“The Trump administration has taken no public steps to punish Russia for its interference in the 2016 election. Multiple senior administration officials said there are few signs the president is devoting his time or attention to the ongoing election-related cyber threat from Russia.”

Donald Trump is depending on people’s fatigue. He is banking on your becoming overwhelmed by his never-ending antics. He is counting on his capacity to wear down the resistance by sheer force.
We must be adamant that that will never come to pass. Trump is an abomination, and a cancer on the country, and none of us can rest until he is no longer holding the reins of power.


 An Incoherent President Trump
by Michael Cohen
July 20, 2017
The Boston Globe

President Trump’s interview with The New York Times earlier this week should be required reading for every American, because there is perhaps no better example of Trump’s basic incapacity to carry out his duties as president of the United States.

Let’s start with the fact that Trump openly talks about committing presidential abuses of power.
First he threatens special counsel Robert Mueller by suggesting that if his investigation were to delve into Trump family finances that would be a “red line” for the president. Next, he again rails against Attorney General Jeff Sessions for recusing himself on the Russian investigation. “If he was going to recuse himself,” said Trump, “he should have told me before he took the job, and I would have picked somebody else.”

That’s right, the president is complaining that his pick for attorney general failed to give him a heads up that he wouldn’t obstruct justice on his behalf.

In non-bizarro America, this would be a national scandal. In Trump’s America, we call it Tuesday.
But the more consequential takeaway from Trump’s interview is his ignorance and incoherence.
Here’s Trump talking about health insurance: “Because you are basically saying from the moment the insurance, you’re 21 years old, you start working and you’re paying $12 a year for insurance, and by the time you’re 70, you get a nice plan.”

That is a near-unintelligible description of, I think, life insurance. A man hell-bent on repealing Obamacare doesn’t seem to have any clue how health care works.

Here’s Trump talking about Napoleon, whose tomb he visited during his recent trip to Paris: “His one problem is he didn’t go to Russia that night because he had extracurricular activities, and they froze to death.”

This sounds like an answer to an essay question about Napoleon that might appear on a sixth-grader’s history exam.

Trump says President Emmanuel Macron of France is a great guy who “loves holding my hand” because Trump’s entire judgment about foreign policy seems to be predicated on whether a foreign leader likes him.

The piece de resistance, however, is Trump talking about foreign policy:

“Crimea was gone during the Obama administration, and he gave, he allowed it to get away. You know, he can talk tough all he wants, in the meantime he talked tough to North Korea. And he didn’t actually. He didn’t talk tough to North Korea. You know, we have a big problem with North Korea. Big. Big, big. You look at all of the things, you look at the line in the sand. The red line in the sand in Syria. He didn’t do the shot. I did the shot. Had he done that shot, he wouldn’t have had — had he done something dramatic, because if you remember, they had a tremendous gas attack after he made that statement. Much bigger than the one they had with me.”

To call this incoherent babble is an insult to incoherent babble. Trump jumps from one idea to another like a frog leaping from lily pad to lily pad. He regurgitates snippets of information that he appears to have gleaned from watching television, with no apparent sense of how they are connected to each other. It’s like taking a word salad and throwing it against a wall.

The fact that a man so stunningly ill-informed is president of the United States should be a national scandal.

Yet, Trump’s staff, his enablers in Congress, and even many in the media treat his behavior as being within the very realm of normality — and not as evidence of his total unfitness for the office he holds.
Indeed, Donald Trump is likely to remain president for his full term. He might even get four more years.

But no matter what happens we should never allow ourselves to believe that any of this is normal. Quite simply, it’s not.


No, Trump Can't Pardon Himself. The Constitution Tells Us So
by Laurence H. Tribe, Richard Painter and Norman Eisen
Washington Post
July 21, 2017

Can a president pardon himself? Four days before Richard Nixon resigned, his own Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel opined no, citing “the fundamental rule that no one may be a judge in his own case.” We agree.

The Justice Department was right that guidance could be found in the enduring principles that no one can be both the judge and the defendant in the same matter, and that no one is above the law.
The Constitution specifically bars the president from using the pardon power to prevent his own impeachment and removal. It adds that any official removed through impeachment remains fully subject to criminal prosecution. That provision would make no sense if the president could pardon himself.

The pardon provision of the Constitution is there to enable the president to act essentially in the role of a judge of another person’s criminal case, and to intervene on behalf of the defendant when the president determines that would be equitable. For example, the president might believe the courts made the wrong decision about someone’s guilt or about sentencing; President Barack Obama felt this way about excessive sentences for low-level drug offenses. Or the president might be impressed by the defendant’s subsequent conduct and, using powers far exceeding those of a parole board, might issue a pardon or commutation of sentence.

Other equitable considerations could also weigh in favor of leniency. A president might choose to grant a pardon before prosecution of a person when the president believes that the prosecution is not in the national interest; President Gerald Ford pardoned Nixon in part for this reason.

Or a president may conclude that even if a person may have committed a crime, he was acting in good faith to protect the national interest; President George H.W. Bush pardoned former defense secretary Caspar Weinberger in the Iran-contra affair in part for this reason.

In all such instances, however, the president is acting as a kind of super-judge and making a decision about someone else’s conduct, the justice of someone else’s sentence or whether it is in the national interest to prosecute someone else. He is not making a decision about himself.

Self-pardon under this rubric is impossible. The foundational case in the Anglo-American legal tradition is Thomas Bonham v. College of Physicians, commonly known as Dr. Bonham’s Case. In 1610, the Court of Common Pleas determined that the College of Physicians could not act as a court and a litigant in the same case. The college’s royal charter had given it the authority to punish individuals who practiced without a license. However, the court held that it was impermissible for the college to receive a fine that it had the power to inflict: “One cannot be Judge and attorney for any of the parties.”

The Constitution embodies this broad precept against self-dealing in its rule that congressional pay increases cannot take effect during the Congress that enacted them, in its prohibition against using official power to gain favors from foreign states and even in its provision that the chief justice, not the vice president, is to preside when the Senate conducts an impeachment trial of the president.
The Constitution’s pardon clause has its origins in the royal pardon granted by a sovereign to one of his or her subjects. We are aware of no precedent for a sovereign pardoning himself, then abdicating or being deposed but being immune from criminal process. If that were the rule, many a deposed king would have been spared instead of going to the chopping block.

We know of not a single instance of a self-pardon having been recognized as legitimate. Even the pope does not pardon himself. On March 28, 2014, in St. Peter’s Basilica, Pope Francis publicly kneeled before a priest and confessed his sins for about three minutes.

President Trump thinks he can do a lot of things just because he is president. He says that the president can act as if he has no conflicts of interest. He says that he can fire the FBI director for any reason he wants (and he admitted to the most outrageous of reasons in interviews and in discussion with the Russian ambassador). In one sense, Trump is right — he can do all of these things, although there will be legal repercussions if he does. Using official powers for corrupt purposes — such as impeding or obstructing an investigation — can constitute a crime.

But there is one thing we know that Trump cannot do — without being a first in all of human history. He cannot pardon himself.


 Will Trump's lows ever hit rock bottom?
The Editorial Board
USA Today
December 12, 2017

With his latest tweet, clearly implying that a United States senator would trade sexual favors for campaign cash, President Trump has shown he is not fit for office. Rock bottom is no impediment for a president who can always find room for a new low.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Tuesday dismissed the president's smear as a misunderstanding because he used similar language about men. Of course, words used about men and women are different. When candidate Trump said a journalist was bleeding from her "wherever," he didn't mean her nose.  

And as is the case with all of Trump's digital provocations, the president's words were deliberate. He pours the gasoline of sexist language and lights the match gleefully knowing how it will burst into flame in a country reeling from the #MeToo moment.   

A president who would all but call Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand a whore is not fit to clean the toilets in the Barack Obama Presidential Library or to shine the shoes of George W. Bush.  

This isn’t about the policy differences we have with all presidents or our disappointment in some of their decisions. Obama and Bush both failed in many ways. They broke promises and told untruths, but the basic decency of each man was never in doubt.  

Donald Trump, the man, on the other hand, is uniquely awful. His sickening behavior is corrosive to the enterprise of a shared governance based on common values and the consent of the governed.
It should surprise no one how low he went with Gillibrand. When accused during the campaign of sexually harassing or molesting women in the past, Trump’s response was to belittle the looks of his accusers. Last October, Trump suggested that he never would have groped Jessica Leeds on an airplane decades ago: “Believe me, she would not be my first choice, that I can tell you.” Trump mocked another accuser, former People reporter Natasha Stoynoff, “Check out her Facebook, you’ll understand.”  Other celebrities and politicians have denied accusations, but none has stooped as low as suggesting that their accusers weren’t attractive enough to be honored with their gropes.

If recent history is any guide, the unique awfulness of the Trump era in U.S. politics is only going to get worse. Trump’s utter lack of morality, ethics and simple humanity has been underscored during his 11 months in office. Let us count the ways:
  • He is enthusiastically supporting Alabama's Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore, who has been accused of pursuing — and in one case molesting and in another assaulting — teenagers as young as 14 when Moore was a county prosecutor in his 30s. On Tuesday, Trump summed up his willingness to support a man accused of criminal conduct: “Roy Moore will always vote with us.”  
  • Trump apparently is going for some sort of record for lying while in office. As of mid-November, he had made 1,628 misleading or false statements in 298 days in office. That’s 5.5 false claims per day, according to a count kept by The Washington Post’s fact-checkers.
  • Trump takes advantage of any occasion — even Monday’s failed terrorist attack in New York — to stir racial, religious or ethnic strife. Congress “must end chain migration,” he said Monday, because the terror suspect “entered our country through extended-family chain migration, which is incompatible with national security.” So because one man — 27-year-old Akayed Ullah, a lawful permanent resident of the U.S. who came from Bangladesh on a family immigrant visa in 2011 —  is accused of attacking America, all immigrants brought to this country by family are suspect? Trump might have some credibility if his criticism of immigrants was solely about terrorists. It isn’t.  It makes no difference to him if an immigrant is a terrorist or a federal judge. He once smeared an Indiana-born judge whose parents emigrated from Mexico. It’s all the same to this president.
  • A man who clearly wants to put his stamp on the government, Trump hasn’t even done his job when it comes to filling key government positions that require Senate confirmation. As of last week, Trump had failed to nominate anyone for 60% of 1,200 key positions he can fill to keep the government running smoothly.  
  • Trump has shown contempt for ethical strictures that have bound every president in recent memory.  He has refused to release his tax returns, with the absurd excuse that it’s because he is under audit.  He has refused to put his multibillion dollar business interests in a blind trust and peddles the fiction that putting them in the hands of his sons does the same thing. 
Not to mention calling white supremacists "very fine people," pardoning a lawless sheriff, firing a respected FBI director, and pushing the Justice Department to investigate his political foes.
It is a shock that only six Democratic senators are calling for our unstable president to resign.
The nation doesn’t seek nor expect perfect presidents, and some have certainly been deeply flawed. But a president who shows such disrespect for the truth, for ethics, for the basic duties of the job and for decency toward others fails at the very essence of what has always made America great.

USA TODAY's editorial opinions are decided by its Editorial Board, separate from the news staff. Most editorials are coupled with an opposing view — a unique USA TODAY feature.


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