Tuesday, July 03, 2018

Na'lå'la': Songs of Freedom Vol. 2

Imagine a Decolonized Future for Guåhan at Independent Guåhan’s “Na’lå’la’: Songs of Freedom Vol. 2” Concert on July 4th.

For Immediate Release, June 20, 2018 – Each July 4th the island commemorates the independence day of the United States, despite the fact that Guåhan remains its colony. On that day last year Independent Guåhan organized the concert “Na’lå’la’: Songs of Freedom,” which was attended by more than 600 people. Independent Guåhan is proud to announce Volume 2 in their concert series, to take place on July 4th from 3-6 pm in the front field at Adelup. This event is free and open to the public.

Independent Guåhan is an organization that is committed to educating the island community about the importance of Guåhan’s decolonization and the possibilities should it become an independent country. The organization has spent the past two years organizing General Assemblies, village meetings, teach-ins, petition drives, coffee shop conversations and podcasts. The Na’lå’la’ concert series represents another strategy for educating the people of Guåhan about their political future, through the use of art, poetry and music.

A dozen young artists and bands will be performing under the theme of “Music, Poetry, Knowledge and Freedom.” Confirmed performers include Ben “Lamlam” San Nicolas, Maseha Håfa, Andrew Gumataotao, Trey Cunningham, JDinnaWAVE, Primitiva Muña and others. Each performance will connect to the overall theme of freedom, liberation and the working to create a better, and more independent future for Guåhan. In addition to the live performances, there will be informational booths, providing educational materials from various community groups.

This Fourth of July, Independent Guåhan again invites the island community to come together to not celebrate the independence of another, but rather reflect on the need for our own decolonization. 


Saturday, June 23, 2018

IG June 2018 June GA

Independent Guåhan will honor the legacy of Richard Flores Taitano and discuss reforming local government in June GA

Independent Guåhan (IG) invites the public to attend their June General Assembly (GA) on Thursday, June 28, from 6:00 – 7:30 p.m. at the Main Pavilion of the Chamorro Village in Hagåtña. The educational focus for the evening will be on how Guåhan’s government can be radically reformed in an effort to provide more checks and balances and participation for the island’s residents.

Media coverage and social media chatter provide regular reminders of Government of Guam corruption and malfeasance. Many feel that the levels of corruption are so high that they provide an obstacle to ever achieving independence. In this month’s GA, Independent Guåhan will discuss ways that the government of a decolonized Guåhan could be reformed to reduce corruption and also provide more means by which people can participate in the functioning of their democracy. Models from other Pacific Island nations and indigenous groups in the Americas will be discussed as providing possibilities that would enable the government in an independent Guåhan to be more closely aligned with Chamoru cultural values.

At each GA, Independent Guåhan honors a maga’taotao: a notable figure that has helped guide the island and the Chamoru people on their quest for self-determination. This month, IG will be honoring the legacy of the late Richard Flores Taitano who left a lasting mark on island politics. Taitano was a member of the postwar generation of leaders who helped guide Guåhan to what it is today. He was well known from a young age for his intelligence and articulation and this served him well as a six-time senator, a pioneer in Democratic Party strategy and politics and the first Chamoru to ever work as the director of the Office of Territories of the Department of the Interior. As a senator he introduced a bill that created the Micronesian Area Research Center (MARC), and after his death, it was renamed in his honor. Dick Taitano dedicated his life to the promotion and preservation of Chamoru heritage, and Independent Guåhan is proud to honor his legacy.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Ma ayuyuda i manåmko'

Some images I took from the Ayuda i Mañainå-ta Dos event last month. There is a full album available on Independent Guåhan's Facebook page. I was glad to be able to help so many elderly people with their war claims forms, but I could not help but feel upset over my own grandparents not being eligible as they passed away in 2013 and 2015.


I have spent the past few weeks meeting with people who are running for political office here in Guam this year. Some for senator, some for governor. This year promises to be an exciting one in terms of campaigns and candidates. With five teams running for governor (4 Democrats and 1 Republican). More than 80 packets for senatorial candidates have been picked up, with only 15 possible seats in the legislature. Mampos meggai na månnok manmalålagu gi kånton guma'!

What is different this year however is not just the amount of candidates, but also the diversity in terms of their background. More and more, people are running for office who haven't been in formal government service before. They haven't worked in a political machine. They are outsiders, activists, educators, working class people, lawyers, professionals, veterans, journalists and more. The question remains however, and I will acknowledge from the very start of the conversation, that there is nothing intrinsically better in terms of electing insiders or outsiders. Those who come from within a system can have knowledge to keep it running well or reform it. Those who come from without may have new ideas or not be enamored or bogged down with institutional loyalty or dependency. But at the same time, outsiders struggle to navigate systems they may have disdained before or just wish would evaporate and insiders may not even be able imagine past the limits into which they were born.

Insiders or outsiders, both have things to offer, your support for one or another may have alot to do with where you see yourself in relation to larger structures of power and society. For example, many white uneducated Americans may have voted for Trump, wanting to send an outsider to Washington D.C. to destroy the swampy system of the federal government. But in truth, their perception and identity as people outside of the system has little relevance to their relationship to that system. In truth, far more than any other group, those white Americans are greatly served by the existing system. It supports them and privileges them far more than any others. We saw this in terms of Republican attempts to destroy Obamacare. While most of Trump's supporters felt that system was against them or hurting them, in truth it helped make sure that more poor Americans got access to health care and couldn't be denied health care because of pre-existing conditions.

In thinking about this issue, I am drawn back to my freshman philosophy discussions on what makes someone ethical or moral. I still remember when I first took a philosophy class and read ancient Greek philosopher such as Socrates and Plato and their discussions. All cultures have these discussions, and while within the West, we are supposed to look to those thinkers as crafting the thoughts that became the glue to hold together the foundation of universality, but that's all bullshit really. As any historian can tell you, even within just the East - West paradigm, you find intellectual trajectories that run parallel in these civilizations even if they weren't actively talking to each other. If anyone thinks that the Greeks invented democracy, they simply don't know much about the history of the world at all. But nonetheless texts such as this represented my first steps into really thinking about those philosophical issues. I was intrigued them and remain interested in the notion of a "philosopher-king" especially in the time of Trump.


The Republic “The Philosopher King”

Inasmuch as philosophers only are able to grasp the eternal and unchangeable, and those who wander in the region of the many and variable are not philosophers, I must ask you which of the two classes should be the rulers of our State?

And how can we rightly answer that question?

Whichever of the two are best able to guard the laws and institutions of our State--let them be our guardians.

Very good.

Neither, I said, can there be any question that the guardian who is to keep anything should have eyes rather than no eyes?

There can be no question of that.

And are not those who are verily and indeed wanting in the knowledge of the true being of each thing, and who have in their souls no clear pattern, and are unable as with a painter's eye to look at the absolute truth and to that original to repair, and having perfect vision of the other world to order the laws about beauty, goodness, justice in this, if not already ordered, and to guard and preserve the order of them--are not such persons, I ask, simply blind?

Truly, he replied, they are much in that condition.

And shall they be our guardians when there are others who, besides being their equals in experience and falling short of them in no particular of virtue, also know the very truth of each thing?

There can be no reason, he said, for rejecting those who have this greatest of all great qualities; they must always have the first place unless they fail in some other respect. Suppose, then, I said, that we determine how far they can unite this and the other excellences.

By all means.

In the first place, as we began by observing, the nature of the philosopher has to be ascertained. We must come to an understanding about him, and, when we have done so, then, if I am not mistaken, we shall also acknowledge that such a union of qualities is possible, and that those in whom they are united, and those only, should be rulers in the State.

What do you mean?

Let us suppose that philosophical minds always love knowledge of a sort which shows them the eternal nature not varying from generation and corruption.


And further, I said, let us agree that they are lovers of all true being; there is no part whether greater or less, or more or less honorable, which they are willing to renounce; as we said before of the lover and the man of ambition.


And if they are to be what we were describing, is there not another quality which they should also possess?

What quality?

Truthfulness: they will never intentionally receive into their minds falsehood, which is their detestation, and they will love the truth.

Yes, that may be safely affirmed of them.

"May be." my friend, I replied, is not the word; say rather, "must be affirmed:" for he whose nature is amorous of anything cannot help loving all that belongs or is akin to the object of his affections.

Right, he said.

And is there anything more akin to wisdom than truth?

How can there be?

Can the same nature be a lover of wisdom and a lover of falsehood?


The true lover of learning then must from his earliest youth, as far as in him lies, desire all truth?


But then again, as we know by experience, he whose desires are strong in one direction will have them weaker in others; they will be like a stream which has been drawn off into another channel.

He whose desires are drawn toward knowledge in every form will be absorbed in the pleasures of the soul, and will hardly feel bodily pleasure--I mean, if he be a true philosopher and not a sham one.

That is most certain.

Such a one is sure to be temperate and the reverse of covetous; for the motives which make another man desirous of having and spending, have no place in his character.

Very true.

Another criterion of the philosophical nature has also to be considered.

What is that?

There should be no secret corner of illiberality; nothing can be more antagonistic than meanness to a soul which is ever longing after the whole of things both divine and human.

Most true, he replied.

Then how can he who has magnificence of mind and is the spectator of all time and all existence, think much of human life?

He cannot.

Or can such a one account death fearful?

No, indeed.

Then the cowardly and mean nature has no part in true philosophy?

Certainly not.

Or again: can he who is harmoniously constituted, who is not covetous or mean, or a boaster, or a coward--can he, I say, ever be unjust or hard in his dealings?


Then you will soon observe whether a man is just and gentle, or rude and unsociable; these are the signs which distinguish even in youth the philosophical nature from the unphilosophical.


There is another point which should be remarked.

What point?

Whether he has or has not a pleasure in learning; for no one will love that which gives him pain, and in which after much toil he makes little progress.

Certainly not.

And again, if he is forgetful and retains nothing of what he learns, will he not be an empty vessel?

That is certain.

Laboring in vain, he must end in hating himself and his fruitless occupation?


Then a soul which forgets cannot be ranked among genuine philosophic natures; we must insist that the philosopher should have a good memory?


And once more, the inharmonious and unseemly nature can only tend to disproportion?


And do you consider truth to be akin to proportion or to disproportion?

To proportion.

Then, besides other qualities, we must try to find a naturally well-proportioned and gracious mind, which will move spontaneously toward the true being of everything.


Well, and do not all these qualities, which we have been enumerating, go together, and are they not, in a manner, necessary to a soul, which is to have a full and perfect participation of being?

They are absolutely necessary, he replied.

And must not that be a blameless study which he only can pursue who has the gift of a good memory, and is quick to learn--noble, gracious, the friend of truth, justice, courage, temperance, who are his kindred?

The god of jealousy himself, he said, could find no fault with such a study.

And to men like him, I said, when perfected by years and education, and to these only you will entrust the State.

Friday, June 15, 2018

The Politics of a Language Not Being the Language of Politics

I have spent untold hours in the collection of the Micronesian Area Research center going through stacks upon stacks of newspapers looking at ads of those running for political office in Guam. Although I don't mention it much, when I began my masters thesis at the University of Guam in Micronesian Studies, my initial topics was actually political campaigns in Guam and analyzing Chamoru discourse in campaigns. I conducted around 50 interviews over several months, with a wide range of people. My intent was to reveal what role Chamoru "culture" or "language" or "identity" played in the organizing of political campaigns, the outreach, the strategizing or rationale.

My own motivation for taking on this project was tied to the 2002 Guam gubernatorial campaign. I was a young Chamoru grad student, who had started learning speaking Chamoru the year prior and was functionally, albeit awkwardly fluent in Chamoru. I was spending most of my free time in MARC doing research and interviewing older Chamorus with my grandmother. For the first time in my life I had a sense of being Chamoru and was excited about what it meant. At the time I even wrote a poem called "Loincloth Envy" which was about my gratitude for older Chamoru activists accepting me and allowing me to sit down with them and talk to them and learn from them.

In 2002, Felix Camacho and Robert Underwood were competing to be the next Governor of Guam. I wasn't active in the campaign at all, but I was very much an Underwood supporter, as was most of my family. I had read lots and lots of articles and speeches by Underwood and already considered him to be the Godfather of Chamorro Studies, for his work in articulating the critical turn in the self-examination of Chamorus.

That for me also represented a shift in the community around me and one that threw me off. As I was becoming more and more Chamoru in my own consciousness, Felix Camacho defeated Robert Underwood and became the first elected governor of Guam who could not speak Chamoru. I was a student in Rosa Palomo's intermediate Chamoru class at the time and helped organize a Chamoru language forum between the candidates, where Felix Camacho read a statement in Chamoru, but largely answered in English. I felt insulted that Felix Camacho wanted to represent the island but couldn't take the time to learn to speak his own language. I thought others would feel the same way, but more people felt threatened or felt intimidated by Underwood's ability to speak Chamoru.

When Felix Camacho won, I realized that for the first time in Guam's gubernatorial politics, a candidate had been elected because they were less outwardly Chamoru and that the ability for Underwood to speak Chamoru and speak intelligently about Chamoru history and culture, actually hurt him at the polls. Other factors were an issue of course, but as we can see in the time since, Eddie Calvo was elected who also can't speak Chamoru, and unless Carl Gutierrez or Frank Aguon wins this year, the next governor won't be fluent in Chamoru either (several of the gubernatorial and lt. governor candidates can understand Chamoru, but couldn't give a speech in Chamoru for example).

Because of my experiences watching that campaign, I decided to conduct my thesis research on Chamoru campaigning. I interviewed a long list of people who had long been involved in campaigns on Guam. I sat down with former Governors Ada and Calvo. I sat down with newly elected Congresswoman Bordallo and former Lt. Governor Frank Blas Jr. I sat down with the late Speakers Tony Unpingco and Ben Pangelinan. I only made it halfway through my list before I eventually decided to change topics for my thesis.

One reason I decided to change topics is because of a massive disconnect that I began to experience in my interviews and in my archival research. For people long involved in campaigns on Guam going back to the Popular and Territorial Party days, they painted their memories and their descriptions of campaigns with a heavy dose of Chamoru nostalgia. For them, these pocket meetings and rally were like Chamoru rallies. Everyone spoke in Chamoru, best speakers were always the Chamoru speakers. They had the best jokes and since they were speaking in Chamoru, people gave them more leeway to say mean things about the opposing party. People also said that the Chamoru culture and the clan (for better or worse) was the backbone of the party machine in those days.

But the disconnect for me was that in the campaign materials, the ads and the pamphlets that they produced, the Chamoru language was usually not used at all. The language would appear in snippets or friendly and unoffending fragments like "bota" or "håfa adai" or "Si Yuus Maase" but rarely anything more than that. Candidates would rarely have road signs or yard signs in Chamoru. They wouldn't have newspaper ads in Chamoru. Eventually some candidates would start to have parts of their platform translated into Chamoru, but this was also accompanied with them translating parts into Tagalog as well.

This was depressing because it represented yet another example of what I later called (with my former student and now colleague Ken Kuper) un gefpågo na dinagi, a beautiful lie. One of those comforting narratives that in a way covers over a massive gap, in this instance, the fact that while political players talked about how amazing the deck chairs were on this Chamoru såkman, they weren't paying attention as it was clearly sinking. And worst of all, they weren't seeing the role that they were playing in ensuring that politics would be an increasingly English game on the island, and that Chamoru would be increasingly minimized and tokenized.

I've collected as many ads as I can over the years that use the Chamoru language. Most of them appear around Mes Chamoru or Chamoru month. Other than that, few candidates every really use or engage with the Chamoru language. It is my hope that through my own work and advocacy, we can start to change that.

In the meantime, below is the text from the ad that is featured in the image in this post. It is from Robert Underwood when he was running for the US Congress in the 1990s.


Para I Taotåo Guåhan

Tåya’ mås empottånte yan guaguan na direcho gi sesteman i pulitikåt i tano’ kini i uputunidåt para ta ayek håyi para u giha mo’na i tano’-ta.

Kon dångkolo na respetu, para i minaolek i taotåo-ta, para i adilånton i ikunumiha, Para u ma abånsa i idukasion i famagu’on-ta, Para i pruteksion i lina’lå’-ta yan kotturå-ta.

Hu gågagåo ta’lo i boton-miyu gi mamaila na ileksion. I konfehånsan-miyu yan i respeton-miyu mås takhelo’ para guåhu.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Trump Visits Guam

Donald Trump will be on island for a few hours tonight, following a summit with North Korea's Kim Jong Un in Singapore. Although there had been rumors for months about a Trump visit, it was only really confirmed earlier today when the local media got a chance to look at the White House schedule this week. Pundits are trying to figure out what the meeting means, and how much credit Trump should or shouldn't receive for his haphazard and sometimes confusing attempts at diplomacy, but we shouldn't be too distracted by that discussion in Guam.

Regardless of what decisions may come from this meeting, Guam remains a territory of the US and not a sovereign player in any decisions regarding security in this region. So long as we remain a colony, genuine security will always remain outside of our reach. Decolonization is the only way to ensure greater security for our people and that our island becomes more than just the tip of America's spear.

Friday, June 08, 2018

Hale'-ta Hike: Pågat

So far this year Independent Guåhan has organized two Hale'-ta Hikes; the first to Laso' Fouha or Fouha Rock, and the second to Hila'an. Our third hike is set for later this month to Pågat.

I have written in several articles recently about how important this type of outreach has been in terms of developing community resistance to US military plans in Guam. Taking people into the areas that may be affected, contaminated or closed off to the public, and allowing them to forge their own personal and eventually, hopefully, political connections was essential, especially in the case of Pågat.

This is one reason why things have been different recently with regards to Litekyan. The fact that when you take people on hikes there, you are walking not through "public" or "local" lands, but instead federal property makes it difficult for people to imagine a strong connection to the lands and their meaning. Instead it feels like more of the stolen lands, stolen spirit of the island that we may never get back.

Friday, June 01, 2018

Paulette Jordan for Governor

She Hails from Tribal Chiefs. Now She's Ready to be Idaho's Governor.
by Jennifer Bendery
Huffington Post

WASHINGTON ― When you think of political dynasties in American history, you might think of the Kennedys or the Bushes. You’ve probably never heard of Paulette Jordan’s family.
Jordan, an enrolled member of the Coeur d’Alene tribe, comes from thousands of years of intergenerational leadership in Idaho and the Pacific Northwest. Her grandfathers were chiefs. Her grandmothers were chiefs. Some of her ancestors were very prominent, like Chief Kamiakin of the Yakama-Palus Nation. In 1855, when the territorial governor of Washington forced Kamiakin to sign a treaty of land cessations, Kamiakin later banded together with 14 tribes and waged a three-year war against the U.S. government.
“They could lead as chiefs and fight as warrior chiefs,” Jordan said of her grandmothers, one of whom was tribal chair of Colville Confederated Tribes. “They taught me the way.”
But Jordan, 38, has her eye on a different kind of leadership role. She’s running for governor of Idaho, and if she wins, she would make history as the first female governor of the state and the first Native American governor in the nation.
That’s not even the most unusual aspect of Jordan’s candidacy. A two-term state legislator, she is running as a progressive Democrat in a deeply red state ― and doing remarkably well. Ahead of the May 15 primary, a March poll by Idaho Politics Weekly found Jordan leading multimillionaire and Boise school board member A.J. Balukoff, her Democratic opponent, 41 percent to 27 percent.
The same poll showed no clear front-runner in the general election. Among all voters, Jordan was backed by 15 percent, while top GOP candidates Raul Labrador and Tommy Ahlquist were at 16 percent and 15 percent, respectively. Balukoff was backed by 8 percent.
The obvious question is how a Democratic woman can win a governor’s race in Idaho, a state that’s never been led by a woman and one where Republicans control the state legislature, the governor’s office and all of the state’s seats in the U.S. House and Senate. The last time Idaho chose a Democratic governor was in 1990.
It’s a question Jordan gets over and over again. “Does it just baffle you that I’m running for office?” she said. “The world is asking.”

To this Idaho native, connecting with voters isn’t about party or gender. It’s about understanding the rural way of life. She talked about her grandfather’s pride in ranching 1.5 million acres across eastern Washington and teaching others how to ranch, effectively teaching people how to be independent and provide for their families. Idahoans are deeply rooted in this culture, she said, and she wants to preserve it.
“It’s more than just the process of ranching and being part of the ag community. It’s what it means to be a rancher or an agriculturalist,” Jordan said. “It’s sustainability. It’s defending your family and your way of life. When I talk about protecting my future generations, that resonates. When I talk about protecting the land, that resonates.”

Jordan grew up on her family’s timber and farmland in northern Idaho, where she now lives with her two sons. After graduating from the University of Washington, she came home and ran for a seat on the Coeur d’Alene Tribal Council in 2008. She won, becoming its youngest member, and went on to run for the Idaho Legislature in 2012. She lost that year, but ran again and won in 2014 and 2016. In the last election, she was the only Democrat in conservative north Idaho to win in a district that President Donald Trump won.
She announced her run for governor in December, vowing to tackle the state’s broken tax system and education system that she says doesn’t support teachers. Between the historic nature of her run and being a progressive in a GOP state, it wasn’t long before Jordan was in the national spotlight. She’s been endorsed by Planned Parenthood, Democracy for America, People for the American Way, Our Revolution and Indivisible. Locally, she has support from unions, community leaders and Add The Words, an Idaho LGBTQ group.
Cher ― yes, Cher ― is also a fan. The two crossed paths in January at the Women’s March in Washington, D.C., and then met again at a Women’s March rally in Las Vegas. They chatted backstage about Jordan’s run and Cher was won over. Soon after, she tweeted to her 3.6 million Twitter followers that she was endorsing Jordan’s campaign.
“I did not expect the tweet,” Jordan said with a laugh. “I did not ask for anything.”
Local news stations went bananas, Jordan said, and some Idahoans were not sure what to make of it. Some were mad that Cher would try to influence a state race and vowed not to support Jordan because of it. Others, particularly younger people, thought it was amazing and pledged to support Jordan because of it. Jordan said she’s not sure if it hurt or helped her campaign overall, but she’s honored that Cher would try to help her out.
“My mom is one of her biggest fans,” she said. “It made her world to see us together in photos. ‘Cher is endorsing my daughter! This is so cool!’”

But Jordan has more pressing challenges than celebrity endorsements. A number of Democratic state legislators and former Idaho Democratic Party leaders are siding with her opponent, Balukoff. He ran for governor in 2014 and got crushed, after spending $3.6 million of his own money on his campaign. What’s different this time is that the governor’s seat is open, as current Gov. Butch Otter (R) is not running for re-election.

Balukoff, 72, shares some of Jordan’s policy views. They both support expanding Medicaid. They both say education is a top priority, despite having different stances on charter schools (she’s a fan; he’s not) and guns in schools (she’s opposed to arming teachers; he says local leaders should decide). But Jordan is clearly to the left of Balukoff. She supports legalizing marijuana. She is a forceful advocate for LGBTQ and women’s reproductive rights. Neither is true for Balukoff.
Their backgrounds are also vastly different. Jordan was raised Catholic and grew up in a rural community. Balukoff is Mormon, grew up in San Diego and used to be a Republican. He has donated thousands of dollars to GOP candidates over the years, including former Idaho Sen. Larry Craig (R) and former GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
They are financing their campaigns differently, too. Jordan isn’t taking any PAC money and is relying on grassroots support; Balukoff is largely self-funding his campaign. Jordan has raised about $300,000 in total. Balukoff, who is worth as much as $50 million, has spent about $800,000 on TV ads alone.

Balukoff boasts about the endorsements he’s picked up from state Democratic leaders ― including from some of Jordan’s colleagues in the House, which is a slight to Jordan. He has said he thinks Jordan is a fine candidate but needs to wait her turn.
“I think I bring more experience this time around and had leadership roles that Paulette hasn’t had,” Balukoff said in March. “I think people should stay with me this time around. She may be what we need the next time.”
That sentiment did not go over well with Jordan, who fumed about the “older establishment” biases at play in her state party.
“People just aren’t used to thinking that a woman of color, or a woman period, can win,” she said. “Even people in the Democratic Party, they aren’t used to envisioning a woman at the top. Yet there are Republican women who know we can get there. There are progressive women in our state who know we can get there. Being young and vibrant and fresh, that plays into a new, bold vision and strong leadership.”

Jordan’s candidacy comes amid an explosion of progressive grassroots activism in response to Trump’s presidency. Democrats, many of whom are women and people of color, have been running for local and state offices at record-breaking levels all over the country. And many are winning, even in GOP strongholds. Jordan’s platform is a natural extension of a Democratic base that’s been demanding change and taken to marching in the streets ― and right past their party’s establishment.

In Idaho, the establishment is clearly siding with Balukoff. What’s weird is that lawmakers typically avoid making primary endorsements ― and if they do endorse, it’s usually to throw support to a colleague. It’s hard to overlook the influence of Balukoff’s money.
HuffPost reviewed Balukoff’s Federal Election Commission reports, along with state campaign finance data, and found that many of the Democratic officials endorsing him have gotten money from him.
Take, for example, the 12 Democratic state legislators that Balukoff touts on his campaign site as supporters. Eight of them have received campaign money from him.
“AJ Balukoff has the smarts, the common sense, and the know-how to be a great champion as governor,” says state Sen. Mark Nye, who has received $4,000 from Balukoff since 2014.
“When A.J. reached out to me for my support, I didn’t hesitate,” says state Sen. Maryanne Jordan, who got $1,000 from Balukoff in the 2016 election cycle.
“Idaho students and teachers could not ask for a better candidate,” says state Rep. Hy Kloc, who got $950 from Balukoff between 2013 and 2016. ”That candidate is undoubtedly AJ Balukoff and I wholeheartedly endorse him in May and in November.”

Balukoff has given more than $551,000 to the Idaho Democratic Party since 2009, including $11,000 that he and his wife donated after Nov. 2 ― the day he announced his run for governor. That means he’s been financing the party at a time when it’s supposed to stay neutral in his campaign. And that’s on top of the $3.6 million of his own money he poured into the 2014 gubernatorial race. A year after that, he became the party’s treasurer.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with Democratic officials taking lots of money from a wealthy donor. Jordan herself got $500 from Balukoff in 2014. (She said she’s donating it to charity.) But when you look at the spread of Balukoff’s donations over the years between local and state leaders, and to the party itself, he’s had an outsized influence on the system that he’s now leaning on to help him become governor.

Shelby Scott, political director of the Idaho Democratic Party, emphasized that “a large amount” of the money Balukoff has donated to the party went toward his 2014 campaign’s payroll and making sure campaign workers had access to health care.
“We want to make sure that we’re living our values,” she said.
Scott acknowledged that Balukoff has been “important to helping elect Idaho Dems” in a state where Republicans have a financial advantage. She referenced the $500 he gave Jordan’s campaign in 2014.
Balukoff’s campaign dismissed the idea that Democratic legislators are endorsing Balukoff in the primary because they get money from him.
“A.J. is proud of the support he’s received from people and organizations that care about boosting Idaho’s education system, making sure all Idahoans have access to health care, protecting public lands, and ensuring equality in the workplace,” said Balukoff spokesman Andy Bixler. “He’s racking up endorsements because it’s become very clear to voters that A.J. is the right pick to lead Idaho.”
Jordan stopped short of saying Balukoff is trying to buy the election, but lamented the effect money is having on Idaho’s democratic process.
“It displaces young people and people of color from being able to rise into the party in Idaho, and then people who are poor, and all the rural communities,” she said. “This is why the Idaho Democratic Party is really hurting. Everyone should have a voice at the table. They don’t.”

A week out from the primary, Jordan said she’s been thinking a lot about her great-great-grandfather, Chief Kamiakin, and what he would make of her working for the U.S. government. He spent his life fighting the government’s efforts to wipe out his community, take its land and exploit its resources.

“I always wonder if he would be proud of me,” she said. “He defended me and my existence from a government that was encroaching on the freedom of the people here, for their own manifest destiny and because of greed. It was pretty tragic.”
But for all the wars he waged, Kamiakin was trying to make peace, she said. And he didn’t give up, even when U.S. military leaders repeatedly killed the people he sent over to broker a peace deal. That’s where Jordan sees herself following in his footsteps.
“My grandmother always said, ‘You will always fight. The next generation will have to hold the line and fight for the same things,’” she said. “I am always going to continue that legacy of fighting for freedom, peace and justice. I think it’s a good thing for me to work internally to try to make things better.”
Jordan paused. “I know he’s proud of me.”


Thursday, May 24, 2018

IG May GA - Historic Preservation

Independent Guåhan will discuss the need for stronger historic preservation laws at May General Assembly

Independent Guåhan (IG) invites the public to attend their May General Assembly (GA) on Thursday, May 31, from 6:00 – 7:30 p.m. at the Main Pavilion of the Chamorro Village in Hagåtña. The educational discussion for the evening will focus on how an independent Guåhan can create stronger policies around the preservation of historic sites and cultural properties.

Guåhan has a unique and rich cultural heritage that manifests in the island’s food, historic locations, artifacts, buildings, landscape, and oral history. On an island that is becoming increasingly modernized and militarized, having strong laws for historic preservation is essential in protecting the unique identity of this island, that which makes Guåhan Guåhan. While many think that improvement must come at the cost of preservation, in reality, strong policies that promote and protect the island’s cultural resources will enhance its economy while also strengthening its sense of identity. The presentation will provide preservation policy models from Papua New Guinea and Palau that an independent Guåhan could draw inspiration from in its own efforts.

At each GA, Independent Guåhan honors a maga’taotao: a notable figure who has helped guide the island and the Chamoru people on their quest for self-determination. This month, IG will be honoring the exploits of Monsignor Oscar Lujan Calvo, “Påle’ Skåt,” the third-ever Chamoru Catholic priest, whose legacy looms large over recent Guam history. Ordained as a priest just months before the start of World War II, as a young man, he became an island leader during one of Guåhan’s darkest moments. In the postwar years, Påle’ Skåt facilitated dialogue between Chamoru and Japanese communities working to heal the wound of World War II, taught some of the first Chamoru language courses at the college level, and led a protest at the Pacific Daily News over their English-only policy. Påle’ Skåt dedicated his life to the promotion and preservation of Chamoru heritage, and Independent Guåhan is proud to honor his legacy. 


Thursday, May 17, 2018

Setbisio Para i Publiko #37: The 2000 Plebsicite

2000 was the last time that Guam had a significant and focused conversation around political status. There had been campaigns, big and small, around commonwealth or constitutions. Each time there were discussions, community events and also sometime of plebiscite. 2000 was the last time that there was a big community push around the issue, as that was the year a plebiscite was scheduled and some funds made available for public education. This came after commonwealth had died or stalled in the US Congress, and it was decided to start the process over by having a new plebiscite to help determine the direction of future political status negotiations. This new start to the process never really came. The 2000 plebiscite was delayed several times and never took place.

I recently went through more than a year of the Pacific Daily News to get a sense of that time, and came across dozens of letters to the editor and articles dealing with the plebiscite and the three status options. Some of the letters to the editor focused on supporting a particular status option, more however were focused on the framework for the discussion and a good portion lamented there not being enough information available to make a decision. A small percentage focused on supporting or challenging the idea of restricting who could participate in the plebiscite.

Almost 20 years later we are at a new sort of phase in the discussion. Much has changed, although some elements remain the same. Now, just as before, there is apathy in the community and in the government. There are concerns that there isn’t enough information available. There are worries over the framework. One key difference now is that there is a court case that is currently being appealed, over who is eligible to participate in the self-determination vote.

As part of the educational efforts, the Pacific Daily News published editorials from each of the political status task force chairs. They provided them with space to put forth their best argument about their status. The arguments are similar to the ones we make today. The faces are familiar, with some notable differences. In 2000 the task force chairs were Antonio Artero Sablan, Jose Ulloa Garrido and Eddie Duenas. Sablan and Garrido have stepped down as chairs, whereas Duenas has not.


“Vote is the right of the people”
by Antonio Artero Sablan

“What more do you need to know?” depends on how much you already know. Everyone must know something, and maybe enough to vote tomorrow. Why, then, are some folks still so confused?

We have seen no less than 30 years of Guam initiatives, from the first Political Status Commission and constitutional convention to the Guam Commonwealth Act and today’s Commission on Decolonization, to improve our political status from that of an unincorporated territory. Our libraries, filling cabinets and brains are so full of this matter, we need only recall.

Nonetheless, four task forces are compiling information for the commission’s educational campaign-one each for independence, free association, statehood, and other a panel studying the potential economic impact of those options.

This new compilation will be presented to the public in upcoming months. Meanwhile, the Colonized Chamorro Coalition, Organization of People for Indigenous Rights and Guam Statehood Association are activating their troops. Some members have gone to Puerto Rico, Hawaii and Fiji for research on related issues. The Independence Task Force has launched an essay contest, begun preliminary village meetings, and been the subject of radio talk programs and in chat rooms on the Worldwide Web.

Status quo is not an option because decolonization means reversing, if you will, the colonial status of a place and people. When the U.N. Charter was signed in 1946 one-thirds of the worlds population lived in non-self-governing territories like Guam.

Today, those former colonies make up more then two-thirds of U.N. membership. The Philippines Islands, a former U.S. territory, is now a republic. Out of the Pacific Islands have emerged four distinct political entities, island nations.

 Non-U.S. territories in this part of the world have asserted their sovereignty recently, including New Caledonia and East Timor. Guam’s colonial status, hundreds of years old now, is NOT decolonization. The Guam Commonwealth Act was our honorable attempt to safeguard the Chamorro right to self-determination and secure our relationship with the United States with a mutual-consent proposition. But we have had no response in the period of time for which that proposal was made.

The so-called Chamorro vote - only the start of this process - is the right of the people of this place that’s been ruled by American colonial policy for the last century. It is a political definition, NOT “Chamorro-only” That’s an irresponsible shortcut; “self-determination,” and especially “Self-determination for Organic Act citizens” have proven much too long.

The facts remain. We’ll have a vote soon, and we all want a safe, clean democratic island home called Guam for all her people.

Support independence for a better Guam, Biba Chamoru!


“Statehood is the best option for Guam”
by Eddie Duenas

It is imperative that those who will be voting in the July plebiscite be provided with factual information on the three options – statehood, free association and independence. The plebiscite is a political process to remove Guam from the United Nations oversight.

In a nutshell, statehood will fully “integrate” Guam with the United States as a state of the union. Independence and free association will “dis-integrate” Guam from its present relationship with the United States and will turn Guam loose to chart its own destiny.

If statehood should not prevail in the plebiscite, and Congress accepts and acts on the results, Guam’s status quo as we know it today would be repealed and Guam would no longer be a U.S. territory.

This, consequently, would force the discontinuance of all federal assistance, aids and grants for social, economic, education programs as well as highway and infrastructure funding.

Persons who got their U.S. citizenship by virtue of the 1950 Organic Act of Guam run the risk of not enjoying their full benefits while living in a non-U.S. Guam.

Under the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1962, a native-born or naturalized U.S. citizen could lose his or her citizenship by taking an oath or making affirmation or other formal declaration of allegiance to a foreign state or a political subdivision thereof. And their descendants born on Guam also could run into problems with their citizenship since Guam would no longer be a U.S. territory.

Statehood is the only option that can guarantee not only your U.S. citizenship but also that of your descendants and the generations to come. And Guam will continue the status quo until statehood is attained.

As a state, Guam would acquire state sovereignty and have full control on all state matters. The people would have full protection and permanent citizenship under the U.S. Constitution, vote for the president and vice-president and have two senators and one representative in Congress.

Guam would also write is own state constitution, set up a state government (three equal branches – executive, legislative and judicial) and have equal access to federal revenue sharing programs, grants and entitlements available to all states. This will increase Guam’s level of federal assistance.

Social Security Supplemental Income and the Earned Income Tax Credit would also be available for Guam. These programs will certainly provide millions of dollars to our SSS recipients and low-income wage earners.

Having two senators and a representative in Congress should enable Guam to get more federal dollars in appropriations, grants, aids and entitlements than it’s currently receiving as a territory.

After living for more than 100 years under the U.S. flag, Guamanians have assimilated the American way as part of their lifestyle. Their loyalty to the United States is unquestionable, even in the darkest hours of enemy occupation during WWII.

Their desire to remain in the American family was well documented in the two previous plebiscites conducted.


“Free association – best of both worlds”
By Jose Garrido

In envisioning a brighter future for Guam, the people of this island should bear in mind two essential facts in our history – both as a United States territory and our far longer ancestral history as a Chamorro nation.

Free association will create a government which acknowledges both ingredients of this history. With free association, Guam would be recognized internationally as a sovereign nation with control over its political affairs.

At the same time, we would also maintain a defined association with the United States, specifically in the area of defense. Free association would allow Guam to achieve sovereignty in partnership with the United States.

Free association presents us with an opportunity to control Guam’s land, air, seas and natural resources for our benefit, rather than for another country. The United States would still maintain its military presence, but would provide financial assistance to Guam in return for the military use of land.

Based on research and comments from a U.S. congressional representative, our citizenship status would not be affected by a change in political status. Guam citizenship would also be granted. Bearers of a Guam passport could retain rights to travel freely within the United States, establish residency and work there, and volunteer in the U.S. armed forces without being drafted.

These rights are already enjoyed by existing free associations between the United States and the Federated States of Micronesia, and the Republics of Belau and the Marshall Islands.

Free association offers optimism for greater economic development through changes such as the removal of the Jones Act, control of our Exclusive Economic Zone and all of the ocean minerals and resources within and the return of excess land to landowners. Free association gives us the autonomy to be creative in developing our island economy, making decisions with the best interests of Guam in mind.

With free association, Guam would be eligible to participate in programs offered by the United Nations, the Pacific Community and other international bodies catering to sovereign nations. Guam could tap into the programs of international agencies such as the Asian Development Bank, International Monetary Fund, South Pacific Forum Fisheries Agency and many others, helping us improve education, fisheries health care and banking.

Four thousand years ago, Chamorros managed their resources, governed their clans and provided for their futures. Today, we have knowledge skills, creativity and competence to manage our resources in the new millennium. We have survived wars, typhoons, earthquakes and more. We can surmount the challenges ahead.

Free association provides us with a confident future – sovereignty for Guam in association with the United States. Free association, the best of both worlds.


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