Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Pacific Remote Islands Marine Monument

Mr. Obama’s Pacific Monument

It’s safe to assume that most presidents have big ambitions and visions of lasting Rooseveltian achievement. Though, in recent history, the millstones of Washington’s pettiness and partisanship usually grind such dreams to dust. There are exceptions, which happen when presidents discover the Antiquities Act.

This is the law, used by Theodore Roosevelt and many successors, by which the executive can permanently set aside public lands from exploitation, building an environmental legacy with a simple signature and without Congress’s consent. This is how President Obama last week, in addition to everything else on his plate, created the largest marine preserve in the world.

He used his Antiquities Act authority to expand the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument from 87,000 square miles to nearly 500,000 square miles, a vast change. The monument is not one area but the ocean surrounding several coral-and-sand specks of United States territory that most Americans have never heard of and few will ever visit, like Wake and Johnston Atolls and Jarvis Island. The ocean there is relatively pristine and now will stay that way. Commercial fishing, seabed mining and other intrusions will not be allowed.

The monument is not as large as it could have been; Mr. Obama chose not to extend its boundaries out to the full 200-mile territorial limit for all the islands within it. Still, environmental groups are uniformly praising him for going as big as he did and for defying opposition from Hawaiian fishing interests whose loyalties lie with the producers of canned tuna. That industry has other places to fish; it will not suffer. But, at a time when the world’s oceans are threatened by rampant pollution, overfishing and climate change, the benefits of Mr. Obama’s decision will be profound, particularly if other countries now follow the United States’ excellent example.

Few of us will see these benefits directly. But out there beyond Honolulu, living in splendid isolation, are sharks, rays and jacks; coconut crabs; moosehorn, staghorn and brain corals; humpback and melon-headed whales; green and hawksbill turtles; bottlenose and spinner dolphins; and untold millions of boobies, curlews and plovers. All these, and countless other living things, will be better off.

Republicans will complain, but they should remember that it was President George W. Bush who created the monument. Mr. Obama only expanded it. Building an environmental legacy is an idea with bipartisan appeal.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Paluman Marianas #2: I Sihek

Eight years ago on my blog, I started a series titled "Paluman Marianas," meant to feature different native birds of the Marianas and my drawings or paintings of them. I only did one, for I Tettot or the Marianas Fruit dove, and never got around to posting another one. I have plenty of drawings and paintings that feature Guam's birds, in fact with my daughter Sumahi, I've added quite a few more. Sumahi loves to draw in general, but I've tried to teach her as much as I can about the native birds of the Marianas. She can name many of them, probably more than most kids nowadays. But sharing this part of our heritage with her reminded me of my long forgotten series of Paluman Marianas. I wanted to add another one today, #2: I sihek, the Micronesian Kingfisher.


Micronesian Kingfisher - Guam
Information courtesy of

The Micronesian kingfisher (Halcyon cinnamomina cinnamonina) is one of the world's most endangered bird species. In the 1980s, the Philadelphia Zoo took part in an emergency rescue operation to save the last 29 wild kingfishers from extinction on Guam and bring them back to the United States. The species is now extinct in the wild. The only remaining kingfishers-58 in all-are in United States zoos.

Today, the Philadelphia Zoo and several of its staff members play important roles in the conservation of the kingfisher. Beth Bahner, animal collections manager, is the studbook keeper for the Micronesian kingfisher (the studbook is the record of the history of the captive population). She is also the species coordinator for the AZA's Micronesian Kingfisher Species Survival Plan (SSP). In these important roles, Ms. Bahner helps manage the captive population of Micronesian kingfishers, deciding which animals should mate to keep the very small population as diverse and healthy as possible. Dr. Aliza Baltz, the Zoo's curator of birds, is the SSP's vice-coordinator and Barbara Toddes, director of nutrition programs, is one of the SSP's nutrition advisors.

The Zoo's work with the kingfisher dates back to 1983, when the Guam Bird Rescue Project was launched. The Philadelphia Zoo played a major role in the rescue and identification of the brown tree snake (Boiga irregularis) as the primary culprit in the demise of Guam's birds. Philadelphia also took the lead in the development of a captive-breeding program for the Guam subspecies of the Micronesian kingfisher (Halcyon cinnamomina cinnamonina), one of three bird species removed from the island for captive management. All but one pair of the 29 kingfishers captured on Guam between 1984 and 1986 came to the Philadelphia Zoo for quarantine and acclimatization.

At the time, no known record existed of this species in captivity. Thus, the Zoo's husbandry techniques had to be developed based on limited information about their natural history and past experiences with other unrelated species of kingfisher. Fortunately, initial efforts proved successful, and the program got off to a good start. The first captive hatch occurred at the Bronx Zoo in 1985 and the first successful parent-reared chick was hatched at the Philadelphia Zoo later that year. Taking advantage of the fact that we knew the origin of all of the wild-caught birds, Beth Bahner became the official AZA studbook keeper for the Micronesian kingfisher in 1986, compiling and tracking the history of the population for purposes of demographic and genetic management. In 1988 the program was elevated to an AZA Species Survival Plan (SSP), and by 1990 the population had grown to 65 birds in 21 institutions.

In the winter of 1990-1991, a freeze in Florida left zoos unable to obtain Anolis lizards, the mainstay of the captive diet. That year brought high mortality, including the loss of eight breeding-age females, which temporarily halted population growth. It remains unknown whether or not the absence of lizards contributed to this decline. The coincidence, however, led to an evaluation of feeding practices and nutritional analysis of the diet. Since then, the program has continued but at a slow pace, with hatches and deaths effectively canceling one another out. Population growth has been stymied by high mortality in birds in the two-to-six age class, with no one cause predominating. As of December 2002, the current population consists of 58 birds in 11 institutions.

The Micronesian Kingfisher SSP is now working with the United States Fish & Wildlife Service to update the Endangered Species Act Recovery Plan for this species. The primary goal of this program is to reintroduce this species on Guam (that is, release captive-bred birds back on the island). This depends, however, on our ability to maintain a captive population capable of sustaining such a reintroduction and having adequate controls in place to limit predation by the brown tree snake. The plan now is to return birds to Guam in 2003 for captive breeding, in the hope that the birds' natural environment and foods will help resolve some of the problems plaguing this population.

Despite the setbacks, staff members of the Philadelphia Zoo's animal department still hope one day to see the return of Micronesian kingfishers to Guam. The Philadelphia Zoo now holds five male and three female Micronesian kingfishers, all ranking within the top 10 most genetically valuable birds for each sex. The birds are currently housed in off-exhibit facilities in the large and small greenhouse propagation facilities, built specifically for the Guam Bird Rescue and the Hawaiian Bird Projects.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Between Chinese and Japanese

October 2, 2014 12:00 am JST

Yamaguchi dies at 94

YASUNOBU NOSE, Nikkei senior staff writer

Yoshiko Yamaguchi © Kyodo

TOKYO -- Wartime actress Yoshiko Yamaguchi, who later served 18 years in the upper house of the Japanese Diet, died of heart failure at her home in Tokyo on Sept. 7, her family announced. She was 94.

     She grew up in Japan-occupied Manchuria, which is now northeast China, and debuted under the Chinese screen name of Li Hsianglan (Ri Koran in Japanese) in 1938 as a member of the Manchuria Film Association. She broke out in Japan with the 1940 film "Shina no Yoru" ("China Nights"), starring opposite Kazuo Hasegawa. The song "Soshu Yakyoku" ("Suzhou Serenade"), which she sang in the film, also became a big hit.

     When she held a concert in Tokyo in 1941, there was famously a line for tickets that circled the theater more than seven times.

     After the war, she appeared in several films credited as Yoshiko Yamaguchi, including "Akatsuki no Dasso" ("Escape at Dawn") and director Akira Kurosawa's "Shubun" ("Scandal"), with actor Toshiro Mifune. She was also in several American films and stage productions.

     In 1951, she married Japanese-American sculptor Isamu Noguchi, but they divorced about four years later. In 1958, she married a Japanese diplomat and temporarily left the entertainment scene. She returned in 1969, hosting a TV show, on which she reported on current affairs such as the Vietnam War and the Palestinian issue.

     In 1974, she was elected to Japan's upper house as a Liberal Democratic Party candidate. She served three consecutive terms until 1992, during which she held several portfolios, including parliamentary vice minister of environment.

     Among her books are autobiographies "Ri Koran wo Ikite" ("My Life as Li Hsianglan") and "Ri Koran -- Watashi no Hansei" (Half My Life as Li Hsianglan), the latter of which she co-authored. Both books tell of her life growing up with two homelands -- Japan and China -- during turbulent times, and were adapted into TV dramas and a musical.

Many stories, one life

Yamaguchi said her first memory was of a Chinese person being beaten to death by a Japanese soldier next to her home in the Manchurian city of Fushun, and served as an ominous precursor to the era of war in which she would grow up.

     Born in the Japanese puppet state of Manchuria, she became a singer for Mukden radio station before working in movies. Behind her early life loomed the national policies of militaristic Japan.

     She remembered that in those days she already felt guilty about having to pretend to be a Chinese actress named Li Hsianglan. "It was agonizing, really agonizing," she said about that time.

     In China after the war, she was put on trial as a traitor to China due to the belief that she was Chinese. She was able to prove that she was Japanese, and narrowly escaped execution. These struggles early in her life likely translated into her on-screen performances, often characterized by a calm demeanor and penetrating gazes.

     She maintained her captivating, starlike beauty even after leaving the stage and screen. She was known for her clear, lyric soprano voice, and her frequent laughter. But those who talked with her could not help but feel that she was also full of conviction and strength.

     Her home was filled with books on Manchuria and the history of the Showa era (1926-1989), which she said she read from time to time. Last year, when I spoke with her, she asked about herself, "Am I Japanese or Chinese?" Throughout her life, she never shied away from her position as someone torn between two lands.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Nightmare in Malesso

The article below comes from the Liberation Day commemorative booklet published in 1994 on the 50th anniversary of the retaking of Guam by American forces during World War II. It covers the story of the men of Merizo/Malesso' in the south, who fought and killed the Japanese in their own village, liberating themselves prior to the US return. For the past six months I've been working with one of the last survivors of this fight against the Japanese, Mr. Jose Mata Torres, featured in the article. Hopefully in the next few weeks we'll be publishing his memoirs of the war titled Massacre at Atate. Until then, here is the article telling the story from a slightly different perspective, written by the late PJ Borja.  


Men escape nightmare in Merizo


So near, yet so far.

In July 1944, the ships of the U.S. Navy could be seen off Merizo, almost as close as the waves rushing over the reefs that fringe the southern village.

For Juan Atoigue Cruz, just 16 years old then, those ships were the stuff of dreams.

"I would think about, make this idea for myself, for me to swim out to the ships, maybe go out there in the dark. Then I'd think, they'd never see me in the dark if I swam out ...," he said in a recent interview. At that time in the occupation, Cruz was a slave laborer for the Japanese troops in Merizo preparing defenses against an American invasion force.

Little did he know that his wish to be aboard one of the ships would come true. On July 21, 1944, led by the late Jesus Barcinas, Cruz would be in a canoe paddling to one of the Navy ships off Merizo. With them were Jose Mata Torres, who is still living, Juan Meno Garrido, Joaquin Manalisay, and Antonio L.G. Cruz.

The men were escaping from Japanese soldiers who were becoming more and more brutal to the people of Merizo - Imperial Army troops all around the island were brutalizing Chamorros as the American forces prepared to retake the island. Women were being taken from villages and raped; beatings were more frequent.

But the soldiers, their brutality turned more evil. In Yigo, 51 men were killed in two different incidents; at Fena in the interior of southern Guam, a dozen Chamorros were executed; at Tai, in early July, three men were beheaded, soon to be followed by the Rev. Jesus Baza Duenas and his cousin Edward.

Merizo was not spared its share of tragedy. On July 15 at Tinta, 13 men and three women were massacred by Japanese soldiers; 14 people survived but only because soldiers who were tasked to kill the wounded were caught in a heavy downpour in the hilly area and they decided to return to their encampment. They were chosen for death because they were former members of the Insular Guard Force, or considered pro-American or rebellious to the Japanese.

A day later at Faha, 30 Merizo villagers were massacred by Japanese soldiers using grenades, machine guns and bayonets. There were no survivors.

The Faha victims, Cruz said, were chosen solely because of their physical size. He remembers one of them quite well: Vicente Acfalle Champaco, who was 6-foot, 7-inches tall or more. "They called him 'Carabao'," he said. Champaco was the owner of the canoe that would take Cruz, Torres, and other Merizo men to freedom.

Meanwhile hundreds of villagers were ordered to march to Manengon where the Japanese were incarcerating Chamorros to prevent them from assisting U.S. forces. in Merizo, people gathered their belongings and the Japanese made them leave food and other items at Tintinghanom.

After about three days' march, villagers were encamped for the night at Atate, up the Geus River valley.

Torres, Cruz and other boys earlier that day were sent back to Merizo to forage farms for chickens, pigs and vegetables; whatever they found, they were to bring them to Atate, Torres said.

Meanwhile, Jose Soriano Reyes and other men were ordered to go to Tintinghanom to also retrieve some food for the people at Atate. But at Atate was a large pit that villagers were earlier forced to dig. "My God, it was big - 50 feet by 50 feet square," said Cruz. "I was forced to work there one day and I helped dig some of that hole."

Reyes, who had heard through the grapevine the massacres at Tinta and Faha, was convinced that the pit was for the Merizo people now at Atate. He recruited about five men, some of whom were very scared, to attack their guards at Tintinghanom.

Despite being unarmed, they succeeded in killing the guards and taking their weapons. Shortly afterward, arriving at Tintinghanom were Cruz, Torres and other boys carrying food from the village's farms. "When we arrived there, we saw a guard they had killed, killed by Joe Reyes, and then Joe shot and killed the one guarding us. He was a big man, that guard," Torres said.

Killed by the same shot was 16-year-old Gregorio Santiago. "The bullet that hit the Japanese went right through him and hit Gregorio," Cruz said. Injured in the brief fight was Jose Garrido, who received a slight bullet wound on one of his elbows.

That fight over, they traveled toward Atate. Just before the camp, Reyes stopped the men and boys, who numbered about 15 or 16, and began planning the attack, Cruz said.

"He was telling us, assigned us to different places, to what place and what part of the camp, and then to kill the Japanese guarding there," Cruz said. Key to the attack was seizing the rifles of the guards after they had stacked them.

At the sound of a signal, with only Reyes armed with a gun, the men attacked the camp with sticks and crude clubs. "We fought them with our bare hands, but we killed them," Cruz said.

They managed to kill maybe eight guards but not before one of them shot at Reyes, Cruz said. "He had his rifle behind some boxes, and he shot Joe (Reyes)."

The shot missed Reyes. Unfortunately for the guard, at the time he was trying to shoot Reyes, the leader was hurriedly showing another man how to load and shoot a rifle so it could be used in the fight. "He was still behind the boxes but Joe just picked up the rifle he had and shot him. I think he shot him in the heart."

Torres said the attack on the guards at Atate was something they just had to do despite their fear. "We had never done anything before, until we thought they were going to kill us, kill us all - it's either them or us.

Only one Japanese guard survived, the civilian teacher of the village called "Wasi Sensei", Cruz said. He fled into the jungle.

After the fight, the Merizo men regrouped. Jesus Cruz Barcinas, a village leader, was in the jungle gathering food but hurried back to the camp when he heard shots. He was told that the reason for the attack was because the Japanese were thinking of killing all of the villagers there - thus the reason for the pit. "Sus (Barcinas) then asked for volunteers to go out to the ships, so we could get help for the people in the camps," Cruz said.

Cruz volunteered - for a very basic reason. "You know, in that time, you don't think about much - I just wanted to stay alive. If we didn't kill the Japanese, they were going to kill us."

Barcinas and Antonio L.G. Cruz had kept a canoe ready for such a situation for a year and a half. Though owned by Champaco, the boat was confiscated by the Japanese who gave it to Antonio so he could catch fish for them.

Always thinking ahead was Barcinas; he had anticipated a Japanese invasion of Guam in 1940 and had his children practice evacuating their home as though under attack. When Barcinas learned that the Japanese had given Cruz a boat, he told the man to take care of the canoe - it would be needed someday.

That day had arrived, but Barcinas and the volunteers still had to hike over hills and through jungle trails to reach the canoe. The boat was located at A'an, in the area where Naputi's Store is now, about 100 feet toward the Inarajan side of the village, Cruz said.

Torres said the attack at Atate ended about 5 p.m. on July 20, and it took the men until 1 a.m. to reach the shore.

The journey was like a bad dream - being chased in the dark by an unseen enemy. Torres said the experience that night was fearful. "Here we were, we had already killed some Japanese, and we didn't know how it would all end. There was a lot of trauma, and sometimes you don't want to think about it. I was scared the whole time."

Once at the coast, the men had another obstacle - a camp where the Japanese stayed in the village, about 100 feet from the canoe. To get to the boat, the men crawled on the ground, careful not to alert the 75 or so soldiers nearby, Cruz said.

Once at the boat, the men lifted it and took it to the shore, their task in evading the Japanese assisted by darkness. But their voyage to freedom was to be delayed. "Oh, it was a very low tide, we had to carry the canoe maybe two hundred feet out to the water," Cruz said.

He noted it was a big canoe - "it can carry maybe 15 men" - perhaps because of the size of its owner, the 6-foot, 7-inch Champaco.

Once in the channel, the men paddled furiously to Cocos Island, where they spent the night, waiting for the dawn so they could see the ships outside the Merizo lagoon.

Cruz said during the night - actually it was the morning of July 21 - the men kept busy. There was no time for sleep or dreams.

Four of the men went about the island checking for any Japanese presence and found none. The group also gathered coconuts to eat at sea.

Torres also noted that the boat was looked over. "We spent some time fixing the boat, fixing the outrigger. It had been unattended for a bit, and we had to make sure, see if it was sea-worthy."

Torres said that during the night, the men also watched something to the north. "We saw that there were these flashes of light, like lightning. We didn't know what they were, but now we know that it was the Navy (shelling Japanese positions in support of the Marines)."

A little after dawn, with the tide high, the men pushed off Cocos and their voyage to freedom continued.

They approached what appeared to be a destroyer, but their attention was captured by a plane. "When we started going out there, there was a plane behind us, and then it started going down, down, down, and I knew it was going to shoot us. So I took out my two feet and put them on the side of the canoe and when the plane is still coming, on top of us, I threw myself down and stayed under the canoe," Cruz said.

When the canoe got to within 50 feet of the ship, the vessel steamed off, sailing toward Orote Point. "Oh, that made me feel bad. But with what we did, we had made up our minds that we weren't going to go back, go back to Merizo again. We were going to continue, to go out in open ocean, regardless if they don't pick us up," Cruz said.

"We weren't going to turn back, nai, because the Japanese were going to kill us if we turn back to Merizo," he said.

There were other ships, though, plenty of other ships, the men said. Torres said it seemed that there were hundreds and hundreds of ships; Cruz watched the first ship sail away, but taking its place were ships of every size and shape. "That one went to Orote, but there's a lot of ships. You can almost walk on the ships and reach the harbor, the harbor in Sumay."

Determined, the men paddled toward another ship, and this time, the vessel approached. Once near the ship, its crew seemed to hesitate to pick them up, but then someone, probably an officer, issued an order and the men were allowed to climb onto a net and then aboard the vessel, the USS Wadsworth. It was about an hour and a half since they had left Cocos, Cruz said.

"It's hard to say how I felt," Cruz said. "But when I saw that ship coming, I guess I'm lucky I didn't have a heart attack - I was just so happy - and I knew that I was going to be free; I was going to be a free man."

On board, the crew of the Wadsworth was anxious to get information from their counterparts aboard the canoe. "When we got on the ship, they were asking us, 'Did you see the Marines?'," Torres said. "We said, 'What Marines?'. They told us that the Marines were landing." The men sailed aboard the Wadsworth and were soon transferred to the USS Clymer, a transport ship.

The men, who were under-nourished, were checked by Navy doctors, fed, given a hair cut, and issued dungarees. Sailing off Agat, the men stayed aboard for about four or five days, helping the Navy staff with information about the island, Japanese defenses and the areas were civilians were located.

On the 22nd, the Navy had picked up a second canoe and five more men from Merizo - Jesus Cruz Anderson, Tomas Tajalle, Felipe Santiago Cruz, Jesus Cruz Castro, and Joaquin Cruz Barcinas, who was the youngest brother of Jesus Barcinas. All, except Castro who joined them later, survived the massacre at Tinta.

Days later, after the two groups were taken ashore to the secure Agat beachhead, four more Merizo men on a canoe were rescued - Frank Anderson, his son John, Joe Mansapit, and Joe Quinene.

The four men from the second canoe had lived to tell about the massacre at Tinta, but those in Jesus Barcinas' group did not know anyone had survived the attack. "Sus Barcinas was shocked, because he knew his brother was at that cave ... in Tinta. He didn't know his brother was alive," Cruz said.

"He looked down and he saw his brother Joaquin on that small boat, you know, by the side of the flagship, he was just... "He didn't know that his brother was still alive. He was crying and when his brother got up top, they started hugging, crying."

Yes, the stuff dreams are made of.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Typhoon Dependency

In this picture, former Governor of Guam Manuel Guerrero is seen talking to US Navy officers during the rehabilitation period following the devastation caused by Typhoon Karen in 1962. Typhoons Karen and Pamela were not only devastating in a physical sense, in that they caused a great deal of damage, they were also devastating and transformative in a social sense, in that the island that was rebuilt after them was very different than the one that had just been obliterated. After both of these typhoons, the US Federal government assisted in rebuilding, even to the point where not only did people start building concrete homes, but new division through new subdivisions were also formed. The days of wooden homes and tin roofing was over for many people after these storms as the reconstruction money allowed them to build new and sturdier homes.

But the changes from these typhoons goes even further. When Chamorros receive aid from the US, it helped to reaffirm a particular type of relationship that Chamorros felt they had and have to their colonizer, a wholly unequal one, where one suffers and the other liberates. Just as the Chamorro suffering in Mannengon in 1944 is liberated by the US Marine, the Chamorro suffering in the wake of Pamela or Karen is also liberated by Uncle Sam, albeit in primarily financial ways. The aid that the Federal government offered during the rebuilding of the island following these typhoons helped to both solidify this subordinated relationship, but also help it to evolve and take on new more relevant forms. It is not so much that Karen or Pamela were like the Japanese pummeling the poor Chamorros into submission. It was more that whatever particular problem Chamorros had, Uncle Sam had the answer, and the solution was always to be found through more dependency. 

In 1962, most of the programs people on Guam take for granted today were not offered to all people on Guam, including Chamorros. While a discourse already existed that insisted that the United States was responsible for the freedom of Chamorros, there wasn't yet that irritating idea of Chamorros constantly suckling on Uncle Sam's teat. The US Navy had loved to promote that idea prior to the war in right afterwards, but Chamorros themselves still saw themselves as being self-sufficient and robust. Typhoons and war changed all that and we have what we exist in today, pervasive, depressing notions of crippling Chamorro dependency. So much of it start in innocuous ways, with Chamorros getting help from the Federales after a typhoon, and then naturalizing this acceptance and naturalizing this relationship.

It is sort of strange to be talking about typhoons like this when we haven't had a very serious typhoon in 10 - 12 years depending on how you rank the most recent typhoons we've had. So many of my students have no conception of what a typhoon is or what it was capable of.

My students seem to think that typhoon means, you get a day off from school. They seem to think it is a day when their grandparents freak out and make everyone come over and put up shutter and taken down tarps. They seem to think that typhoon means the governor takes pictures talking to Naval officers while wearing a windbreaker.

I wonder everytime we get a scare like we did recently over Vongfong, how the island would handle having a typhoon nowadays. 

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Vince Diaz on the Salaita Case

From Vicente Diaz
University of Illinois, UC


Some of you asked for my comments delivered before the Senate on Monday. i couldn't attach it so I paste it here:

My name is Vicente M. Diaz. I am an Associate Professor in American Indian Studies and Anthropology. I am also an affiliate faculty member in History and Asian American Studies. I represent American Indian Studies; in fact, I co-chaired the search committee that recommended the hire of Steven Salaita.

I’m here to express moral indignation and outrage at the BOT’s denial of Prof. Salaita’s hire. Far from over, and even further from correct, our leadership’s decision is a wrongheaded and misguided action that has tarnished our university’s reputation among academics who know and understand how academia is supposed to work. It has also put us in actual harm’s way, some of us more than others. Above all, this administration has willingly placed political expediency and possibly money over academic matters. Indeed, academics is the biggest casualty of our leadership’s dereliction of its duties.

This casualty is most clearly visible and palpably experienced when viewed from our vantage point in American Indian Studies, the originating unit, where the proverbial rubber meets the road.
I begin by addressing a particularly insidious rumor of the sort that can come only from the kind of toxic environment that Chancellor Wise has created and maintained right down to her comments today. It is a rumor that I’ve already had to lay to rest twice in private emails, namely, that our unit Director, Prof. Robert Warrior used his influence and power to hire Salaita, who was a student of his years ago at another university. Warrior did not ask me to do this and is not even aware that I’m doing so.

In fact, Warrior maintained his distance from Salaita’s candidacy, and shame on those of you who are spreading this rumor in order to delegitimize him and my unit.

The fact that I even have to state in public that we did our due diligence, that our process and findings were affirmed at the college, provostial, and even by the Chancellor’s own Vice Chancellors, is itself a shameful testimony into just what kind of environment our leadership has plunged us.
Simply put, this case was a routine academic hire, properly vetted all the way up to where substance matters, and because it concerned tenure, it received additional vetting at the national and international levels.

Contrary to the accolades about her courage and bravado, the only courage that Chancellor Wise needed was to simply tell those donors and lobbyists that the case had been properly vetted and that she stands by the academic process. Period.

For it was actually she and President Easter and the BOT who opened the floodgates by, in effect, capitulating to external pressure to block Salaita’s hire, whether or not she based her decision on their interests.

The simple fact is that she involved herself on non-academic grounds and made a decision on the most unscholarly of approaches and in the most clandestine of ways, with the blessings of the Board and the President – or was it at their behest? – to indeed block Salaita’s hire on decidedly non-academic terms. Of course, it is precisely the contention of the thousands of scholars and dozens of academic organizations, departments, disciplines, that the real casualty is academic excellence itself.

The chilling effects are now upon us. And this is on the Chancellor, not on Salaita.
Three weeks ago, I received an email from an individual, unknown to me, inviting me to “discuss” the Salaita case at some undisclosed venue in Danville.

Even a cursory read of the letter reveals it to be something other than a genuine interest in civil dialogue, as for instance, when its author addresses me – addresses me -- as “foaming in the mouth” in support of a “rabid” Salaita, who is further described as “anti-Jewish” in a sentence that also conflates Palestine with Hamas.

Contrary to a well-orchestrated and financed smear campaign aimed at stopping his hire, it is in fact reductive to equate Salaita’s anti-Zionist stance with anti-Jewish or anti-Semitic ideology, or to equate Palestine with Hamas. Apparently, he has also been charged with siding with ISIS even if he had condemned that group in the same period in which he decried Israel’s military assault on Palestinians. Had Salaita only tweeted about Isis, I dare say that I would not be standing here today, that he would not have been mistreated so.

There was something especially disturbing in that letter's urging me to bring to the meeting (way over there in Danville), “some of the Palestinian students” from UIUC. The targeting of this particular group of students should not be trivialized given how the author equates Palestine with terrorism. Nobody can read this letter and conclude that it intends anything other than something sinister passing as an invitation to dialogue.

I received this letter for no other reason than my public defense of Salaita and my disagreement with the University on academic terms. Precisely because the University musters all of its authority and resources so, we have now arrived at the point wherein to publicly disagree with the University is to be virtually cast as a supporter of terrorism, if not a terrorist.

Neither I nor Prof. Salaita are rabid dogs who hate Jewish people. The preponderance of the evidence show him to be not only a stellar, but also a beloved teacher, one fully capable of subordinating or bracketing his politics in favor of student learning and real critical thinking. Passion, of course, is a prerequisite for compassion, and when combined with the demands and rigors of dispassionate analyses, they become ingredients for cutting-edge scholarship.

My claims here are best grasped on academic grounds, and in view of the negative consequences when academic regulations and sensibilities aren't adhered to. Also, and quite tellingly, the Chancellor has yet to look us in the eye and explain her actions to us in particular.

I seriously doubt that she would ever have taken such an action were this a case of a hire in one of the STEM fields, or even in one of the traditional disciplinary departments, rather than American Indian Studies. I do believe she'd have done it to a partner Ethnic Studies unit.

I also think she saw us as collateral damage, but underestimated just how damaging her actions would be for the Humanities and the Social Sciences, which probably accounts for her expressions of regret. But these expressions are way too little and way too late.

In closing, like the heads of the 16 departments, I still don’t have confidence in her words, much less on her abilities to safeguard academic integrity.

And sure as the saying goes, that “an attack on one is an attack on all,” the other side of the coin rings even more true here: that what is good for American Indian Studies as an academic unit is also good for the entire institution.

This principle of unit autonomy is the bedrock of shared governance, which is key to proper academic governance, whose ultimate objective is to safeguard academic integrity and excellence. All other concerns must serve this mission because that is what we do and who we are.

And so, when the Chancellor and her supporters on campus urge us to pick up the pieces and move on, their words ring as vacuous, as hypocritical, and therefore as outrageous as the administration’s reasons for targeting and pre-empting Salaita’s academic hire in the first place, and then doubling down by using civility or teaching unfitness as the excuse.

Thus I call upon the Senate to rise and express moral and, if I may coin a term here, academic outrage at the administration’s decision to place political and other considerations above academics.
And if, under this new regime, civility be the condition for expressing academic freedom and excellence, then let the appropriate expression be that of civil disobedience.

Move on? No. Colleagues, the work of reclaiming this university from those who would sell it to the highest bidder under the suspect mantra of civility has only just begun. Stand up, stand up like Trustee Montgomery, who had the audacity to look at the evidence, and admit he was wrong in initially supporting the Chancellor. Stand up for academic integrity and the academic excellence that is staked on it.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Sand Creek

I just finished reading a collection of poems by Simon Ortiz titled "Sand Creek." I've read quite a bit of Native American poetry, but this collection felt the most relevant to me and to the Chamorro experience. There are some ways that the Native American experience in all its variations connects to those of Chamorros. The ecological spirituality can be nice, but also feels very abstract and very disconnected from the present at times. The family ties and closeness to the land carries the same beautiful, but sometimes abstract weight. The centuries and layer of oppression and injustice also hit home, so do contemporary feelings of loss and cultural erosion. What made the difference in Simon Ortiz's volume was the scattered mentions of militarism and its role in Native American culture today. Military service has married itself to Chamorro culture over the past century, but the same can be said for different tribes across the US. From marganilized, infantilized and feminized positions within US colonial society, Chamorros and Native Americans signed up for the military in order to reclaim a feeling of power and masculinity. They also did so in hopes of improving their lives economically, getting opportunities they felt were impossible otherwise. Both communities generally celebrate the positives. After all from mess attendants, to cavalry scouts, to Navajo Codetalkers to nowadays generals and admirals, it is pretty exciting to think how from such tortured and despicable and violent histories native peoples have accomplished so much. But these narratives do so much damage as well. They gloss over historical marginalization and also deny contemporary forms of it. They create false feelings of inclusion, for example, for Chamorros, the fact that they serve in the military so much, and wear the uniform and "fight for freedom" does little to nothing to solve the colonial status of their islands. 

Below is one of the poems:


Busted Boy

By Simon J. Ortiz
He couldn’t have been more than sixteen years old,
likely even fifteen. Skinny black teenager, loose sweater.
When I got on Bus #6 at Prince and 1st Avenue,
he got on too and took a seat across from me.
A kid I didn’t notice too much because two older guys,
street pros reeking with wine, started talking to me.
They were going to California, get their welfare checks,
then come back to Arizona in time for food stamps.

When the bus pulled into Ronstadt Transit Center,
the kid was the last to get off the bus right behind me.
I started to cross the street to wait for Bus #8
when two burly men, one in a neat leather jacket
and the other in a sweat shirt, both cool yet stern,
smoothly grabbed the kid and backed him against
a streetlight pole and quickly cuffed him to the pole.

Plastic handcuffs. Practiced manner. Efficiently done.
Along with another Indian, I watch what’s happening.
Nobody seems to notice or they don’t really want to see.
Everything is quiet and normal, nothing’s disturbed.
The other Indian and I exchange glances, nod, turn away.
Busted boy. Busted Indians. Busted lives. Busted again.

I look around for the street guys going to California.
But they’re already gone, headed for the railroad tracks.
I’m new in Tucson but I’m not a stranger to this scene.
Waiting for the bus, I don’t look around for plainclothes.
I know they’re there, in this America, waiting. There; here.
Waiting for busted boys, busted Indians, busted lives.
Simon Ortiz, “Busted Boy” from Out There Somewhere. Copyright © 2002 by Simon Ortiz

Friday, October 10, 2014

A Political Storm is Coming

Driving around the past few days was surreal. It wasn’t because of the change in the air due to the storm. It wasn’t because of the eerie clouds that have been hanging around lately. It was because of something that for a day or two largely disappeared from the island’s landscape, political signs. Si Yu’us Ma’ase to all the candidates who pulled their signs down during the most recent storm warning. It is one thing to have people use your signs as plywood after an election is over, it is another entirely to have your signs appear on Facebook or Instagram after one of them was thrown into someone’s windshield by wannabe-typhoon-force-winds.

After months of watching these signs multiple faster than rhino beetles and brown tree snakes put together. After months of watching these signs, like gladiators bravely clash at street corners, in neighborhoods and in empty fields, using cut up American flags, partially hidden Guam seals and plenty of platitudes as their weapons, they all seemed to fall, vanquished. Some were whisked away, others dropped and tied to the ground. At the command of Emperor Vongfong, the election year seemed to disappear from the average driver’s eyeline. 

I’m in the mood for writing about political signs because each election year on island I give out my “Guam Political Sign Awards.” Prior to the election I travel around the island taking pictures of every single sign my eyes can find, taking note of the different types of signs that candidates have and the ways they use words and images and colors to appeal to voters. There is an art to sign-making and sign-placing. Some signs exemplify this political astuteness very well. They are the end result of ideological alchemy, taking a series of symbols and statements, which on their own which don’t amount to much, and transform them into visual-vote-getting-gold. Most signs however don’t show much of this. In fact most signs simply combine two flags in the background with a candidate smiling in front of them.

There is no rigorous scientific method to how candidates win my political sign awards. There is no panel of judges, no real criteria, in truth I make most of them up, and sometimes others will submit recommendations. There is no real set list of awards, they are created to match the signs that are offered each election year. The awards can comment on anything related to the signs. They can comment on where they are placed. They can comment on the imagery that is used, the visage of the candidate. The slogans used or other information that is sometimes ingeniously or randomly plastered on signs.

I often like to comment on the use of Chamorro in signs, especially since Chamorro elements are becoming less and less a part of general political campaigning on island. Traditionally, as part of each election there is at least one candidate who utilizes the Chamorro network of family names or clan nicknames in their signage. It is still common for many candidates to use this on the ballets, reminding you at the last possible second that you could be related to them. But in by-the-road-signs they are becoming less and less common. In 2010 I gave Joe Shimizu San Agustin the “Family Reunion Award” for being the candidate who most visibly invoked his clan lineage. In his larger signs he made sure to mention his membership in the Candido, Queto, Lencho and Kacha clans.

In 2012 I gave Adolpho Palacios the “Best Family Award” for his use of family photos in his ads. Many candidates will have pictures of them with their spouses, with their children, in settings that range from glossy glamor photo shoots to casual beachcombing. In my column two years ago I explained my rationale for giving him the award as follows: “His family of five is dressed in beautiful red, white and blue Hawaiian print shirts. They are smiling and warm and appear to not just be a Senator’s family, but also perhaps a musical family from the 70’s that drive around Guam in a red, white and blue van and perform at village fiestas! In their spare time I imagine them solving mysteries as well.”

Over the years I’ve also given awards for the following, to the following: The Mirror, Mirror Award (Bill Taitague and Dennis Rodriguez), The When I Grow Up I Wanna Be an American Flag Award (Doug Moylan), The Two Wrongs and One Right Don’t Make a Right Award (Javier Atalig), The Senator in a Box Award (Frank Blas Jr.), The Sedfrey Linsangan Award (Jose Santos Servino), The Guam ID/Heavy Equipment Operator License Award (Don Weakley) and The Mafnas Award (Tom Ada).

The Bromance Award I give to all male Gubernatorial teams that uses images of both candidates in their signs and creates the best sense of synergy between them. So far this year most of the signs for Gutierrez/Gumataotao don’t feature the candidates themselves and those that do aren’t very visually interesting. For their signs, Calvo/Tenorio has the two candidates looking in two different directions in a way that makes them look more like a poster for a 80’s kids movie about Guam being visited by friendly aliens, than a political team. We shall see if anyone can create a true bromantic visual statement in last month of campaigning.

I’ll post my awards for this year after the election. In the meantime there are plenty of candidate forums to attend this month. I’d like to plug a Female Candidate Forum that is being organized by the Women and Gender Studies Program at UOG and co-sponsored by the Chamorro Studies Program. This forum will take place on Tuesday, October 21 from 5:30 – 6:30 at the CLASS Lecture Hall at UOG. You can learn more about it on the UOG Women and Gender Studies Program page on Facebook.

Monday, October 06, 2014

Maher v. Affleck on Islam

Fired-up Ben Affleck clashes with Bill Maher over Islam


Ben Affleck’s publicity tour to promote Gone Girl took a detour on Friday night, when the outspoken liberal engaged in a heated debate with author Sam Harris and HBO’s Real Time host Bill Maher over their criticism of Islam. “They’ll criticize Christians … but when you want to talk about the treatment of women and homosexuals and free-thinkers and public intellectuals in the muslim world, I would argue that liberals have failed us,” said Harris. “We have been sold this meme of Islamophobia, where criticism of the religion gets conflated with bigotry towards muslims as people. It’s intellectually ridiculous.”

Affleck, who frequently expressed impatience and outrage at Harris’ more measured explanations, was offended by the message. “[Your point of view] is gross, it’s racist,” the actor said. “It’s like saying, ‘Oh, you shifty Jew!’”

“We have to be able to criticize bad ideas, and Islam at this moment is the motherlode of bad ideas,” said Harris, who’s written several books about world religions.
“It’s the only religion that acts like the mafia—that will f–king kill you if you say the wrong thing, draw the wrong picture, or write the wrong book,” Maher finally said.
“What is your solution? Just condemn Islam?” fired back Affleck. “We’ve killed more Muslims than they’ve killed us, by an awful lot. We’ve invaded more Muslim countries than they’ve invaded ours, by an awful lot. Yet somehow we’re exempted from these things because they’re not really a reflection of what we believe in. We did it by accident, that’s why we invaded Iraq.”
The show’s other panelists, Republican Michael Steele and journalist Nicholas Kristof, mostly stayed out of it, though Kristof calmly backed Affleck to a certain extent, questioning whether Harris’ point of view lacked the necessary amount of nuance.


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