Friday, November 27, 2009

Guam's media doesn't get it

Guam’s media is having a righteous indignation festival over Sen. Matt Rector’s failure to disclose a 25-year-old misdemeanor conviction. Kuam and Guam News Factor are already cranking up their own versions of overheated, high-minded outrage.

Rector raises important questions about Guam’s economy, the impact of the build-up on wages and cost-of-living, and brings an important perspective at a critical time to the political process. He’s passionate, idealistic and recognizes that the military build-up will bring new hardships to many on Guam who will be hit with a higher cost of living and not necessarily better paychecks.

Rector is hard-charging, somewhat confrontational and appears to have doubts about the fairness of mainstream media. No surprise here. Rector is a longtime union leader, and union leaders tend to suspect that news outlets are inclined to favor management.

Rector has alienated local media and that means that his explanation for not citing a 25-year-old misdemeanor burglary case on the election form is unlikely to get anything close to a fair analysis. Some of the reporting is beginning to appear a little heavy handed. Kuam seems to relish pointing out that “the senator continues to refuse to answer calls or do interviews with Kuam News…” There’s a difference between refusing to give an interview to Kuam and not having to give an interview and I’ll explain why in a bit.

Rector's political viewpoints have ticked some people off, but his defense of this long-ago charge deserves dispassionate consideration. He may have had every reason to believe that the case had been sealed. If he was deliberately hiding a past conviction why then apply for a weapons permit, which involves a background check and fingerprinting? Why risk exposure?

The idea that Rector deliberately misled the electorate isn’t supported by his actions. It just isn’t. It would have made zero sense for him to have applied for gun permit if he was consciously trying to hide his past.

Moreover, the Guam Election Commission also required a “police clearance” as one of the necessary documents, along with a financial disclosure statement, from candidates seeking office. If a candidate had believed that a prior record had been sealed or expunged wouldn’t a “police clearance” have given added peace of mind that any police record had been erased?

The Guam Election Commission can’t remove Rector from office so the real test of this will likely rest with the legislature. Hopefully lawmakers will separate any political grievances they may have with Rector and look at this for what it is, a misunderstanding about the status of a long ago record and of no consequence to the job the voters have awarded him.

But the political leadership is already hanging Rector. The Pacific Daily News reports:

Sen. Adolpho Palacios said he believed burglary is considered a crime of moral turpitude, even if it is a misdemeanor. Sen. Frank Blas Jr. said he believed any acts of burglary committed under California law is a felony.

In Washington, my wonderful home, whenever a politician uses the term “moral turpitude” (which is rarely because they know better) the usual response is a snicker. And why did Sen. Blas see the need to up this to a felony? Can you feel the love?

While Rector can expect little support from local media, his defense may get fairer consideration on the social networks.

Rector has more than 1,800 friends on Facebook and has one of Guam’s larger Twitter networks, with over 500 followers, the 6th largest on Guam according to Twitterholic. Rector is arguably emerging as the media’s counter insurgency, and I have to suspect that some of this bitter media angst stems from his natural social networking ability and the growth of his networks. He has a knack for it.

In or out of office, Rector is certain to remain an influential voice as social networks expand, which is something for everyone to think about.

Rector is responding via his social networks and he is clearly in his right to pick and choose his forums. If Rector "refuses" to speak to the local press, what of it? That’s got to bother the heck out of the local media outlets, who ought to be asking themselves whether Rector has more influence and means to connect than they do.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

History of earthquakes on Guam

The U.S. Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), prepared for the military buildup, has some great summaries about Guam's environment. Most of this information reported is in the public domain and can be pieced together, but the EIS does a nice job of creating a narrative that gives some sense of the historical flow.

One source of information about Guam's earthquake history is the
United States Geological Survey

Here's the EIS summary:

Guam experiences occasional earthquakes due to its location on the western edge of the Pacific Plate and near the Philippine Sea Plate. In recent years, earthquakes with epicenters near Guam have had magnitudes ranging from 5.0 to 8.7.

On October 30, 1936 (October 29, Universal Time), a magnitude 6.7 shock occurred about 80 mi (125 km) southwest of Guam. Walls were cracked and plaster and tile fell.T he seismic observer at Guam reported 25 tremors during the day of October 30. Another earthquake originated in the same area as the 1936 shock on September 16, 1970. The magnitude 6.2 tremor caused minor damage on Guam. A similar occurrence on November 1, 1975 (magnitude 6.2) produced damage on Guam that reached $1 million. The earthquake was felt strongly in many parts of the island.

On January 27, 1978, a magnitude 5.2 earthquake centered near the east coast of Guam caused considerable damage on the island. On August 8, 1993, the largest earthquake (magnitude 7.8) recorded on Guam occurred south of the Mariana Islands, injuring 48 people on Guam and causing extensive damage to hotels in the Tumon Bay area. Many landslides and rockslides were reported, mainly in the southern half of the island. The estimate of loss from damage to commercial buildings was placed at $112 million and loss from damage to private residences estimated at several million dollars.