Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Guam's legislators are living too large

The Pacific Daily News is recommending that Guam's legislature become part-time. This will mean likely mean a cut in pay. Senator salaries are now at $55,000. They've been as high as $85,000, according to this editorial.

Guam, population 165,000, doesn't need a full-time legislature. And I bet the lawmakers know that. Why else vote to reduce your salary?

But $55,000 for Guam's lawmakers is still a full-time salary in the minds of many.

The National Conference of State Legislatures did an analysis of state legislatures in 2014. It's worth a look.

Only three states -- California, New York and Pennsylvania -- have full-time and well-paid legislatures. The average compensation for these full-time lawmakers is $81,000. (This may help explain why Guam's lawmakers cut their high salaries.)

Six states are part-time. The lawmakers in these states earn an average of $19,000 and spend about 54% of their time on the job. These states are Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming. All have populations larger than Guam.

The other states fall somewhere between part-time and full-time legislatures. The lawmakers in these states spend about 70% of their time on the job and are paid $43,400, according to this study.

The $19,000 salary for 50% of your time, and $43,400 for 70%, are relatively low wages for people who can earn much more in the private sector. I'm sympathetic. Those wages do require a big sacrifice, but the PDN is right to recommend a move to a part-time job.

Monday, December 5, 2016

And so the military buildup on Guam begins, now bigtime

Sunday, November 27, 2016

The Trump presidency and Guam's militarization (Bad news for Pagan)

Outside the White House, 2014

I
 have great respect for solo protesters. They usually aren't protesting something. They are there to warn. It's prudent to take them seriously because they may be seers, people with ability to sense a future. 

People with prophetic ability exist but we don't know how to recognize them and usually ignore them. They operate in a different place.


To understand what President Donald Trump will mean for Guam and the region, for now, requires a seer. 

Trump's defense rhetoric is loud, oversized and shallow. In a very short, less than 30-second, video, he released during the campaign, Trump says a number things, including: "I’m going to make our military so big, so powerful, so strong, that nobody — absolutely nobody — is going to mess with us,” said Trump.



As president, Trump will be told by by the Pentagon that Guam and CNMI, in particular Pagan and Tinian, are critical to establishing military might in the region. Somehow, I can't imagine Trump exploring the impact of this increase militarization on the indigenous people of Guam and CNMI, but for now, let's give him the benefit of doubt.

While we don't know what Trump will do, there are several things that Trump may take quick action that may signal how he will treat Guam.  

The first early indicator is this: How will Trump treat the Native Americans protesting the North Dakota Access Pipeline? Some 5,000 people have established three camps to protest this pipeline, and tensions are likely to remain high. The U.S. has ordered the protesters to leave by Dec. 5, but they have vowed to stay. This will remain an issue for the Trump presidency. 

In Arizona, Native Americans have been fighting mining development on land, Sacred Oak Flat, sacred to the Apaches. A rider in a 2015 legislation opened this area for mining development, but the protest appear to have succeeded in putting this project on hold. Will Trump open this area to mining?

Many Native Americans, as well as many people worried about climate change, have opposed by Keystone Pipeline. Citing climate change, President Barack Obama rejected the Keystone pipeline. 

These projects are, for President Trump, questions. Will Trump hear the concerns raised by the pipeline and mining protestors or the business interests? 

If Trump approves these projects, over the concerns raised by Native Americans and environmentalists, it's probably fair to say that he will give little, if any, attention to people of Guam and CNMI over militarization. 

The person with the signs above was in front of the White House in 2014. This was well before the age of Trump. I happened by and took some photos, but don't remember what he said.

But his sign includes severals quotes, carefully lettered in black ink on cardboard. The photos only show the first two.

"I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. Corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow and the moneyed power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed." - Abraham Lincoln. 

The second was from Franklin Delano Roosevelt: "The liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is fascism—ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power." 




Sunday, August 7, 2016

Pagan Island, the worst place ever


Credit: NASA. Astronaut photograph acquired on March 6, 2012, with a Nikon D3X digital camera using an effective 1200 mm lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations experiment and Image Science & Analysis Laboratory, Johnson Space Center.
The U.S. wants Pagan Island, all of it, to conduct military training using real bullets and bombs as large as 2000 lb. If Pagan Island sounds to the Western ear like a bad movie name, well it is. It is the title of a 1961 film about a shipwreck survivor who ends up on an island populated by women. More accurately, it is a “Secret Island Ruled By Natures Own Exotic Young Maidens.” Adults Only. Go see the movie trailer to discover more.

Ok, you’re back.

The U.S. intends to turn Pagan Island into its own “Secret Island” for training troops. The entire island, from shore to shore. And that will be it for Pagan Island. It will disappear into an Area 51-like fog of conspiracy theories.

If you have no experience with Micronesia, Guam or Geography, Pagan Island may sound like something Donald Trump thought he saw in a video. You have no idea, basically.

Let’s start with a couple of the essentials. First, Pagan Island is bigger than you think. It’s about the size of Hartford, Connecticut, or about 18 square miles. Unlike Hartford, it has two volcanos.

The Volcanoes

The volcanoes erupt from time to time, and one did in 1981. The Mount Pagan eruption was serious enough to force the island’s complete evacuation.

There were about 300 people on Pagan at the time. Technically, the island has been uninhabited since the 1981 evacuation. But a very small number have returned, according to various accounts.

The evacuation was a very unfortunate thing for Pagan Island. By clearing the island of its population, it opened the way to some strange ideas for reusing it.

The Opportunists

A few years ago, a team of Japanese investors proposed mining Pagan for its pozzolan, a byproduct of volcanic activity and a material used in cement. And if mining the island for its pozzolan weren’t enough, the Japanese also wanted to use Pagan island as a landfill, a dump site for debris from the 2011 tsunami. Can you imagine? No one else could, either.

But now comes the U.S. plan to take the island over.

Before the U.S. does something big, it undertakes an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), which provides a detailed description of the island habitat.

The Wasteland

There is no McDonald’s on Pagan Island. Or electricity, sanitation, WiFi or roads of consequence, notes the EIS.

There are two lakes, and one is 65 feet deep. Imagine. A palm tree’s fronds move gently and you feel a soothing, warm breeze on your face. You stick a straw in a coconut and see yourself swimming in the deep, cool lake waters. Sounds nice. Then you wake up to read the EIS some more.

The water is brackish and not fit for drinking, says the EIS. It goes downhill from there.

“The barren lava areas provide a dark gray or black landscape,” the EIS, diligently notes. “The western shoreline of North Pagan is dominated by a large black sand beach and contiguous brackish water lake just inland from the shore.”

“The island’s forests and grasslands have been ‘severely overgrazed’ due to the abundance of feral cattle, goats, and pigs that have done considerable damage to island vegetation. This overgrazing has resulted in large open areas susceptible to soil erosion,” says the EIS.

The EIS gives the impression that Pagan Island is the worst place ever. A wasteland. Bombing it would be doing it a big favor. Thank you very much.

No Warning Label

The U.S. is lucky that no one is officially living on the island. In 1946, the U.S. wanted to use the Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands for nuclear weapons. Unfortunately for the government, there were people living there.

The U.S. told Bikini’s leaders, a population mostly cut off from civilization, that allowing the government to blow up large nuclear weapons on their island, repeatedly, would be a big help to, guess who, mankind. Of course the islanders immediately agreed to leave their homeland, according to U.S. officials.

In appreciation, the U.S. gave Bikini’s leaders several gifts, including “a pipe, cigarette holder, matches, a carton of cigarettes and a complete set of photographs of the atomic cloud over Bikini,” reported the New York Times. Just priceless. If the radiation didn’t damage their health, the cigarettes certainly would.

The EIS is a list of environmental findings, conditions, observations and measurements. It can’t describe what the island means. It has no concept of “sacred,” which is how indigenous population describes their islands.

The EIS knows nothing of the discontent arising over the increasingly militarization over this part of the Pacific. It’s a useless document in this respect.

The Unacceptable Alternative

Pagan Island is part of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Island (CNMI) a U.S. insular area. Its residents are U.S. citizens. It is a territory of the U.S.

The CNMI government produced a rebuttal to the federal EIS. It says the military’s plans for Pagan, and Tinian Island (part of which will also be used for training and target practice), will “prevent the recovery of a number of threatened or endangered species.” It will displace wildlife and hurt them with noise. Wetlands will degrade.

Of “grave concern,” will be the overall military presence, said the CNMI. If the U.S. succeeds with its plan to expand military training operations in this island chain, it’s leased landholdings to 24 percent of all the land.

CNMI’s response is incredulity and disbelief.

“The military's intention to hold nearly one quarter of the CNMI land base under lease as excessive and unreasonable, and the restrictions on the people's access to their own natural resources unacceptable,” wrote officials.

In a 130-page analysis, CMNI tears apart the various assertions made by the U.S. The government takeover of the island will foreclose, forever, any possibility that Pagan’s former residents will be able to return to the island

The loss of so much island land -- on Pagan and Tinian (which raises a different set of issues to be explored in a separate piece) of CNMI to the military finds expression in the chart below. CNMI calculated what the loss of 24 percent of the land area would mean for four states, and included this diagram in the map.



The Most Beautiful Island

Pagan Island is drop dead gorgeous. No kidding. Volcanic islands are shaped by magma and violent explosions. There are large rock outcrops, cliffs, King Kong Island-type vistas, relatively high elevations and plateaus.

Scroll down this summary of CNMI’s response and look at the photo of Pagan Bay. It’s just incredible. And watch this short video of the island.

Pagan Island is also part of the culture of an indigenous people, and they are fighting to save it.

Empathy for this island and the people of Micronesia ought to be within easy reach. Just imagine if the U.S. was proposing something similar in a part of the mainland U.S.

A Militarized Wasteland

On July 27, the Tinian Women’s Association, Guardians of Gani, PaganWatch and Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit against federal authorities, challenging their plans for Pagan and Tinian.

“Families who formerly resided on Pagan would be forever banished from returning to their home island, which would be turned into a militarized wasteland,” the lawsuit says.

The “rebalancing” of the U.S. military to the Pacific is bringing with it an unprecedented buildup. Guam now has missile defense systems, and the island is slowly moving into the “duck and cover” mentality of the 1950s.

There is an indigenous movement that is pushing back, but it faces so much. The people of Guam and CNMI have little political power. In the U.S., stories about Guam tend to marginalize the island and treat it as an odd curiosity.

People have no idea CNMI is a U.S. territory, and fewer still understand this: Pagan Island does not deserve this fate.

Notes:

Careful EIS readers will note the government has made plans to protect the native island wildlife. For instance, consider the protections for the fruit bat. “The proposed 0.5- mile (0.8-kilometer) buffer zone around each (Fruit Bat) colony will significantly reduce the potential for aircraft strikes of fruit bats.” [Emphasis added] ES-72.

The homepage of the U.S. Environmental Impact Statement. See this page for documents.

Facebook group opposing plans for Pagan and Tinian: @AlternativeZeroMarianas

@OurIslandsAreSacred - a Facebook group devoted to this issue.

Scientific American report on proposal to use Pagan Island as a dump.

Sierra Club, “Pagan Island -- Too Beautiful to Bomb.” Many photos.

The complete 130-page analysis by CNMI of the U.S. Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).

Earth Justice, which is participating in the July 27, 2016 federal lawsuit, details the effort.

For a beautiful reading about Pagan Island, and to hear how it is pronounced, see Lehua Taitano’s Save Pagan Island Video.




Saturday, July 30, 2016

The best defense against ‘Guam killer’ missile strikes

How China sees itself areas of interest. Source: U.S. China Economic and Security Review Commission. 

China has developed missiles that can strike Guam, the U.S. recently reported. The missiles are called the “Guam killer.”


Guam, in various news reports, is described as a “U.S. interest,” a place with “U.S. assets” or a home to military bases. Guam is not reported as a U.S. territory whose residents are U.S. citizens and no different (except for some voting rights) under law than the citizens of Kansas.

It’s as if Guam isn’t a part of the United States.


What would an attack on Guam represent? An attack on the U.S., similar to an attack on Kansas.


The U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission report that describes China's missile capabilities makes an important point missed in the news reports. The commission argues that defending Guam requires making sure that China understands that Guam is definitely part of the U.S.


“Clear statements by the United States that an attack on a regional U.S. base, particularly one located on U.S. territory inhabited by U.S. citizens, would be viewed as an attack on the United States itself and have broader strategic and political implications could help prevent Beijing’s capabilities from altering its risk calculations in such a dispute,” the report notes.


What will the news media report when it's announced that China has missiles capable of reaching Hawaii and California? Will those missiles be dubbed, as well, the Hawaiian Express or LA Killer? Probably not.

The use of the term "Guam killer" is just another illustration of the ongoing absurdity facing Guam. It is part of the U.S. but it isn’t recognized as such by anyone, including China.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

A Guamblog glitch, something of a repair, and hopefully ...

This blog was knocked offline for period of time of about two or three months. Totally inaccessible. No idea why.

It seemed as it might be a domain issue, but no changes were made to the domain. And no changes were made to the Blogger template.

But there were some issues with the template. I could not delete the custom domain, Guamblog.com, and go back to the original Blogspot domain. The intent was to go back to the original Blogspot domain and then try again.

Two outstanding people at Google Domains spent a significant amount of time trying to troubleshoot the problem over long chat sessions. I really appreciated their help. Eventually, it was decided the problem was with Blogger. But Blogger support (reached through the product support forums) seemed similarly mystified. Their advice was to start fresh.

I created a new blog on Blogger. The backup/restore from the earlier blog didn't work, so I had to copy and paste the earlier blog post (going back to 2006). I ended up only migrating those posts that seemed to still have value today, especially the ones that looked in depth at the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) over the military buildup.

This migration probably broke all the RSS links to this site, it wiped out comments, and the people who so graciously followed the blog. So, in this sense, what I'm now doing is similar to starting fresh.

I created new template art (which I'm not certain about), and will gradually return the links to useful bits of information and good reads about the island.

There's good, sometimes, in starting fresh.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Guam's political clout is a footnote

The one thing to know about Guam is this: Its residents can't vote for president. Despite the fact that one-in-eight of its residents have served in the military.
There are about 45,000 registered voters on Guam.
Guam does send delegates to the national party conventions. Guam Republicans just selected its delegates. For that reason, the national candidates pay attention to what Guam does.
Guam will send nine Republican delegates to the convention. There will be 2,472 delegates at the GOP convention, which means Guam makes up .4% of it.
But in a close contest Guam is important enough, delegate wise, to have prompted Donald Trump to phone into the Guam GOP convention and make a pitch for support.