Monthly Archives: January 2004

Tax Forms – Check

Well one thing about living here on Guam: I am increasingly anal about filing my taxes earlier than everyone else. It’s not even the end of January and tax-filing season is already under way. I downloaded the forms from the IRS website yesterday, and I hope to prepare them tonight. That’ll be a new record for me. I usually file in mid-February, but that doesn’t even seem to get me a refund any sooner. And yes, I already changed my withholding for this year so I don’t have to worry about this again.

Notorious Guam, Gateway To Southeast Asia

The PDN broke a bombshell this morning when they picked up a story that aired on Dateline NBC this weekend. An exposé on the sordid world of Southeast Asia’s child sex market turns up a surprising number of American “tourists” engaging in pedophilia with small children. In fact they caught one American doctor on videotape explaining the process and places to go to an undercover reporter. And where was this doctor from? That’s right – Guam. Granted he was only here for a short contract, filling in for a local radiologist, but this kind of behavior is far from uncommon on the island. There is a whole subculture on the island that lives here because of the close proximity to Southeast Asia and the opportunities our location offers for sex tourism, especially with young women. Larry Hillblom, founder and owner of DHL courier service and a longtime resident of Saipan, was notorious for his sexual adventures. Frankly this latest bottom feeder Dateline NBC caught on tape seems like small potatoes compared to some of the other pederasts that inhabit Micronesia.

Frosty Old England

Another unexpected outcome of global warming; Europe could freeze over in a matter of decades. Global warming could plunge Britain into new ice age within decades, claims research. Seems that the heating of tropical waters by global warming could cause the Gulf Stream to collapse, ending the warm and temperate climate Europe enjoys. Once that happens, Western Europe could quickly come to resemble Labrador, a frosty, treeless tundra with long bitter winters.

It’s a good thing George W. Bush told us that global warming doesn’t exist. For a moment there I was almost tempted to believe trained scientists who have spent a lifetime studying this so called phenomenon. I bet they feel pretty silly now.

Woman’s Skin Falls Off, Miraculously Lives

Christ, this is just unbelievable. A woman started taking an antibiotic for a sinus infection, but she developed an allergic reaction to the Bactrim that caused all her skin to slough off, all of it. Every square inch of skin on her body and the internal lining of her organs. Sweet Jesus. Doctors called her reaction an extremely rare condition called TEN – toxic epidermal necrolysis. Apparently this condition is almost always fatal (duh!) but she miraculously lived. Sheesh.

Mars Rover Landing Site Imaged

Here’s a cool picture:
Spirit landing site imaged from orbit
The Mars Global Surveyor satellite successfully imaged the Mars rover Spirit and the landing site in Gusev Crater on January 19. The two white spots in the upper left are the discarded parachute and backshell of the rover while the large white splotch below center is the highly reflective lander. The crippled rover was not imaged in this photo, but it should be just below the lander, spewing garbage data and frustrating scientists at JPL.

When Pigs Fly

Annan calls for development push according to the BBC, and he wants to get business involved. “Business… has a powerful interest in helping to prevent the international security system from sliding back into brute competition based on the laws of the jungle,” he told the Davos forum.

But he also tossed in a jab at making trade fair for most of the developing world. Part of the problem, he said, was “dwindling investment in those parts of the world where it is most needed, and trade talks which have left in place “egregious biases against developing countries”.

Aljazeera echoes that sentiment, they also stress the anxiety the UN chief feels about the current global political climate:

Annan’s speech reflected continuing concern over fallout from the Iraq war and the aggressive posture adopted by the United States since the September 11, 2001 attacks.

He said the prevailing economic, security and diplomatic climate had “become far less favourable to the maintenance of a stable, equitable and rule-based global order.”

If global terrorism threatens peace and can heighten communal tensions, “the war against terrorism can sometimes aggravate those tensions, as well as raising concerns about the protection of human rights and civil liberties.”

The United Nations and the system of collective security are under “severe strain,” Annan said.

“In just a few short years, the prevailing atmosphere has shifted from belief in the near-inevitability of globalisation to deep uncertainty about the very survival of our tenuous global order.”

Perhaps some people realize that violence only begets more violence.

I read a fascinating article last night in a back issue of Utne Reader. Amory Lovins, co-founder of the Rocky Mountain Institute gave a speech two years ago about fostering Genuine National Security. He states that a modern, open, free society cannot effectively guard itself against terrorism. There are too many vulnerable points; water supplies, wastewater treatment plants, telecommunications, power and financial infrastructures, and interdependent transportation systems. Crippling any of these widely dispersed grids could render large urban areas uninhabitable.

Instead of locking down the free society and changing it into a police state, Lovins suggests focusing instead on the ‘tripolar society’ that now dominates geopolitics.

The new world order consists of governments, global corporations, and civil society. Approaching national security issues based on the outmoded assumption that governments are the axis of power in the is he says, ‘dangerously incomplete and obsolete.’

Prevention is the only lasting and effective defense against the hatred that fuels anti-American terrorism, Lovins adds. It’s the only strategy that requires no threat of violence and; and it’s the only one that actually saves taxpayer dollars.

The crux of Lovins’ approach is the belief that a world without hunger and poverty is a safer world. The UN estimates that the cost providing clean water, sanitation, basic health care, nutrition and education to every person on earth is $40 billion a year. That’s less than a tenth of the United States’ defense budget and less than half of what has already been appropriated for Iraq reconstruction. “Such a modest investment – applied to nations equitably and without political strings attached – would go a long way toward calming social and political unrest throughout the world, and toward mending America’s battered reputation.”

But let’s face it, this is a pipe dream. It will happen when pigs fly. Creating true, lasting, positive change in the world is a difficult and thankless business. It is a lot easier to blow shit up with billions of dollars of high explosives and technology. Not only does it take care of recalcitrant dictators, but the global corporations that promoted the attack can reap the benefit of lucrative restoration contracts in the aftermath. Plus violence has the added benefit of cowing the more restive populations in the world with the threat of fire and bombs falling from the sky. Or at least that is what Bush and Cheney and their buddies at Bechtel and Halliburton would have us believe.

So why do I hear a voice in my head saying “Those who live by the sword, shall die by the sword.” Perhaps because the cycle of violence is so hard to break. One look at the horrible mess in Israel and Palestine should provide ample evidence of that. The creed that blood demands blood leaves everyone mortally wounded. Someone has to step back from the edge and say “No more violence.”

Of course those words about living and dying by the sword came from a noted radical that was executed by the authorities for promoting his simple idea: “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.”

Where’s My Money You Bums!

I had a momentary thrill this evening. I retrieved my mail from the post office box and I discovered an envelope from the Guam Department of Revenue and Taxation. Oh my god – my 2002 tax refund, a year late! I breathlessly opend the envelope and discovered… a W-2 form from Rev & Tax stating the interest I’ve earned on the tax refund they have yet to disburse to me. You know, so I can put it on my 2003 tax return.

Ugh. I wish the government had money to pay out the tax refunds. It sucks that they feel the need to take my money, then refuse to give me back what is rightfully mine. And whenever some loose funds appear in the government coffers, they are promptly distributed to government retirees.

More On The Power Outage

Explosion causes outage. Power was restored in Yona when I got home last night. Seems a breaker blew up in Mongmong causing the entire island-wide grid to go down. Kudos to GPA for restoring power quickly. It’s a far cry from the days of rolling blackouts because the island didn’t have enough generating capacity. Power outages have become uncommon – not rare, but uncommon. Still a great deal better than the daily occurrence they used to be.

Quick News Roundup

  1. Duenas enters plea: Vincent Duenas returned to Guam last night after entering his plea before the US District judge in Saipan.
  2. No takers for $20M credit line: GovGuam can’t find any bank willing to give them a $20 million line of credit for typhoon Pongsana repairs. Not even the local banks are willing to take on such a bad loan.
  3. Powers out: Island-wide power outage around 13:00 today. Almost forgot about how often these outage used to be. Thankfully we got generator power here at the office.

Space Elevator

Seems some folks are writing about the space elevators in the wake of George W. Bush’s announcement to go to the moon. It is certainly a compelling idea and it could radically lower the hurdles to get into space.