Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Lay off Anatahan

Anatahan has been getting all of the blame for our poor visibility, but let's give the volcano a break. Or, as the National Weather Service put it:


Oh, winter-time soot from Asia "that typically affects the local area once or twice a year in the late winter and early spring." Just our normal weather folks, pollution from China following their gewgaws our way, or maybe the Indonesians and Malaysians are still burning their forests. At least nobody's found a reason to do that on Saipan yet... except for a few places where they want to hunt our toy deer.

Probably not Indonesia now, though, their problem has been flooding, and deforestation has nothing to do with that.

The kids were cute this morning, trying to say they shouldn't go to school until EMO
updated its website. Clever. They were in the room last night when I was saying there wouldn't be word until eight or nine in the morning--the working stiffs arriving at 7:30, fixing coffee and working on recommendations for when the decision-makers showed up. They were shattered when I said 'the sky looks blue' and herded them toward the car.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Decena redux

Here's what I don't understand.

As far as I can determine, Ms. Sedy Demesa first popped up locally in the
Saipan Tribune as President of Willis Management, Inc. Reporter Aldwin Fajardo (soon-to-be Editor of the Pacific Times), quoted Demesa as saying "NMC and Willis Management have joined forces to “recruit, educate, graduate and assimilate” individuals into the nursing profession". Remember the "Global Education Strategic Initiatives"?

You might also be interested in this story (I couldn't reach into their archives):
CNMI: Health Care Firm Willing To Provide Scholarships
By Ulysses Torres Sabuco Variety News Staff
(Marianas Variety, 2/21/2005)

A California-based health care industry executive says her company is willing to provide scholarships for qualified local students. Sedy Demesa, the vice chairwoman of Willis Management Group Inc., is also proposing a partnership with Northern Marianas College through a “Global Education Strategic Initiatives Nursing Program.” Willis Management wants to recruit students from Asia for NMC’s nursing department. Gov. Juan N. Babauta said NMC should “take advantage” of this proposal from Willis Management which, he added, is in line with his administration’s plan to make the CNMI an “education hub” through the Pacific Gateway Project. “NMC should get moving because there are a lot of opportunities knocking at their door. They have to take that opportunity,” Babauta told Variety. Demesa said under their proposed partnership with NMC, one scholarship for a local student will be made available for every 10 international students enrolled in the Global Education Strategic Initiatives Nursing Program. Demesa said they can start the “accelerated” nursing program in the fall semester this year. She said they are also in the process of finalizing the criteria for their proposed local scholarship program. NMC President Deleon Guerrero was unavailable for comment when reached by Variety last week. Press Secretary Pete A. Callaghan said the proposed Global Education Strategic Initiatives Nursing Program is an “indirect result” of the Los Angeles business conference that the Department of the Interior hosted for the insular areas. Over 50 Filipino doctors who want to work as nurses in the U.S. have already expressed a strong interest in signing up for the accelerated nursing program this fall, Demesa said. “We have shifted our marketing efforts to a higher gear in order to spread the word around Asia, particularly China, Korea and the Philippines, that American education is now only about three hours away,” she said, citing the “very strong demand” for licensed nurses in the U.S. and Europe. Financial assistance will also be made available to local students wanting to pursue a career in nursing under Willis Management’s proposed program, Demesa said.

Decena then pops up in the road show (pdf) "Department of the Interior’s first Business Opportunities Mission to Palau, Guam, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands" from May 12-20 1995. Within a week, we had Volume 01, Issue 01 of the Pacific Times. The Top Story, "Commerce Chief: The best is yet to come" featured this New Outlook: "Taken in the light of the Secretary's words, any entity or individual that is quick to weave negative spins against Governor Juan Babauta ought to first go back to his primary school Arithmetic that he may, at least, be fair with his judgments." Note that these are the reporter's words.

Now if her Pleasant Care Corporation is the $224 million behemoth it's advertised to be, why would she start up a newspaper in California to mix into CNMI politics? Hmm, also in Issue 01: GOP reveals 2005 candidates.

Ooh, this just in: I had only begun googling
Pleasant Care. During a break from that arduous duty, I found one answer on Middle Road. Well, you know, people die in any nursing home. They're old.

Ah, well, I'm getting there too, time for bed and this was just getting interesting.

Smoker's lament

Not many stars
Can you smell the air tonight
Anatahan cough

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Mean sheets

Okay, so I like to make fun of the Pacific Times. After all, nobody really takes that dreck seriously, do they? Hmm, maybe I'm wrong.

I was meandering through
The Saipan Blog and noticed the uproar caused by Libra Mae Sparks' monorant and decided to pay more attention. So I asked my wife to grab a copy when she went by Winchell's. They didn't have it and told her to check the next day, when they said the same thing. Now I'm wondering if it's actually widely distributed. Maybe because it's so hugely popular, and free, copies just fly off of the shelves as the CNMI spreads economic wings (Pacific Times)*.

That's the Top Story this week, in case you weren't able to pick up a precious copy. Strangely, the article says absolutely nothing, but says it pretty well if you've got the proper attitude. Well, actually it does say that Praxedes Sedy Demesa is working to have the Board of Regents approve Emmanuel College in the CNMI. That's not really news, though; that story is in every edition of the Pacific Times. Okay, then, "Another California-based investor, the Loyola Medical College Foundation, Inc., has decided to revisit its previous plan to establish a medical/nursing school in the Northern Marianas." Strangely, I thought the Foundation was based in the Philippines, and I vaguely remember their plan involving government funds, not investment.

Emmanuel College is obviously the burning issue here, because there's another story saying Over 30 students on waiting list for new nursing program(Pacific Times)*. It's advertised as a sister school of Xavier College in Stockton, California, which just
graduated its first class. It looks like we'll have to wait a few months to see how it did on the exams.

But the Times can't wait, and neither can we darn it: Higher ed body proposed(Saipan Times)*. According to the Times "This is in line with the Fitial Administration's plan to centralize government operation as a way to eradicate bureaucratic processes for businesses and investments." OK, I can see that adding a new office would do that.

But hey, we can't blame Demesa for touting
one of her companies, can we? Actually Aidem, the publisher of the Times, is a clever joke: media backwards.

Ah well, let's save the rest for another blog. I've got to reheat a potroast and do some real work.

*I've given up on linking to their stories individually; it's a lost cause. For future reference, the stories are in Vol 02 Issue 40 Feb 2007

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Posturepolitic dreams

Movers and shakers in the Capitol probably scan the headlines in the Washington Post and that Moonie newspaper, maybe a hometown paper or two. It's not likely they devote the same attention to the Marianas Variety and the Saipan Tribune, so I wish our movers and shakers would worry less about Messages to Washington.

I noticed two today, so they're just examples; I don't mean to cut anyone out of the herd.

Senate president urges feds to see CNMI with fresh eyes (Saipan Tribune) is pretty obvious. So two of the guys who actually do follow the Commonwealth are going to be convinced by your plea instead of the testimony they've heard and their upcoming meetings? And he's not even up for election this time.

The Governor was much more subtle; he just couldn't resist slipping "I hope that the federal government is looking at the sacrifices that our boys are committing to fight for freedom and democracy" into the reception ceremony for Corporal Lee Roy A. Camacho. I'll check again, but I don't remember the Vice-President mentioning it when he was on Guam.

PS: I'd agree with the Senate President on one thing at least if he'd let me add one little word: "...the CNMI's economic problems do not (only) stem from labor and immigration policies.

Friday, February 23, 2007


The Saipan Tribune had an interesting article suggesting differences between Washington Representative Pete A. Tenorio and Saipan Chamber of Commerce President Juan T. Guerrero on labor and immigration policies.

For some reason, it reminded me of when former Governor Juan N. Babauta was Washington Rep. While everybody on Saipan was being defensive and doing their best Sergeant Schultz ("I see nothing"), Babauta said it was time to admit we had problems and to do something about them. That doesn't sound very radical now, does it?

Why would an elected official serving in the nation's capitol have a different view than Saipan-based officials? Could the Washington Representative be:

1. out of touch with the islands, or
2. more realistic about the political reality in Washington D.C. and our ability to affect it, or
3. trying to stall the Washington politicos until they move on to other issues, or
4. some or all of the above?

I'd try a fun little poll, but there's no time to install a voting widget on the website.

Thursday, February 22, 2007


I've got this fixation on bad writing. I think it's curable, and I hear there's a vacancy in Brittney Spears'* rehabilitation center. Meanwhile:

The Saipan Tribune probably can't be blamed for
Size of govt on the decline. It's obvious that some rogues from the PSS Central Office hacked into their computer and substituted education-speak for Government getting smaller.

Note to file: Unless you're talking about a streaker, your mind is in neutral when you use bared in a headline:
Names of candidates for NMC presidency bared

Of course educators in the classroom have to worry about communicating. While it's always great to use local papers, I wouldn't recommend using the Tribune with students learning English as a second language without screening its headlines:

Scarlet gourd-chomping insect now number a million on Rota Insects or numbers please. I'm just glad I didn't have to count them.

We've got a double in
2 former tour boat crews sue ex-employers! Do you really have to put former and ex-employers in the same sentence? Was each man a crew? I don't even want to get into the story. "Employees of a tour boat" indeed. At least the paper tried to talk to them, but it was speechless, I guess.

We can't neglect
Wiseman finds probable cause vs 4 men in copper wire theft". Now, abbreviations should be avoided when possible anyway, but especially when you don't know what they mean. It's possible Judge Wiseman has already made up his mind and a trial really isn't necessary, but I don't think so. After all, the paper did say that the men "were charged for cutting and stealing the Commonwealth Utilities Corp.'s power lines on Jan. 17, 2007." Sounds like a slam-dunk to me. Or, there's a new Attorney General named Probable Cause who filed the charges.

* Lawdy, somebody has got to keep razors away from that girl. Why first she shaved... Well, don't mind me. There I go carrying on again.

Sign of the time

Ah, spring is coming. New birds passing through, petitions budding and renaming of everything that doesn't move. It must be an election year.

Representative Attao was a fine man, and he did many wonderful things. This isn't about him. Everyone else is nuts.

Sure he was always a top vote getter, and the demagods on Mt. Olympus can't agree on much else, but I feel like I'm lecturing the kids about My Space: 'Haven't you got anything better to do?'

Let's see, there's never been a budget for the Mayor to maintain the street signs we've got, so naturally many are missing after a few years. We'll just start replacing the ones that are left. It shouldn't cost more than a few thousand dollars and maps are easy to rewrite.

I've got it! Keep a list of the streets with the most signs missing and rename them first. No arguing about the 'parking order' of who gets a prime route.

It's going to be a sad day when we run out of streets, but that's somebody else's problem. The road in front of my business is only a block long, suitable for former Liberation Day Queen candidates or Municipal Council members.

This money thing is darn inconvenient, though. Hmm. We could try the
Hungarian solution, and just auction names off. That's pretty much a one-shot deal, but we wouldn't have to do it until they're dead and we could always change our mind.

It's probably better to run a street-naming lottery. Just write the name on a ticket and enter as many times as you wish. There could be a Saipanda Street! Every year we throw a big party on November 4 and gather the finalists around a bonfire. There have to be finalists, of course, because some of the names will be umm, inappropriate.

And that requires appointing a permanent street-naming Commission. They'd have to have an office and a director to ensure continuity. An assistant to be the acting director during his/her absence. An administrative assistant for phones and filing, but that's it, tops... unless you need street-naming enforcement, but that can be dealt with later.

The whole thing probably wouldn't go much over $250,000 in start-up money, but after a year money will be pouring in for shiny new signs and fresh paint. Just think about it. There could be a surplus going to the general fund.

The Legislature doesn't have to be cut out of the picture. We could always keep one Billboard Boulevard for the most popular idea of the year. It could be approved directly or referred to the voters.

You're going to tell me that isn't practical, and you're right. Nobody uses street names anyway. We still say turn left past the big mango tree, or the pink house, or the Mobil Station.

I wrote a press release when the signs were new and proudly gave the location as Asusena Avenue and Lester Street. Nobody laughed at my joke, but a few people did ask where the heck that was. So I told them "turn left at the Mobil Station..."

We need the names anyway, the U.S. Postal Service said that would get us home delivery. Didn't they?

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Fill in the blanks

Let's have a little fun with names: "The (edited) has "a culture replete with a lack of accountability" and at least a half-dozen major management problems that have festered for years, federal officials testified Friday.

Those officials were Inspector General Earl Devaney and Robin Nazzaro, natural resources and environment director at the Government Accountability Office at an oversight hearing of the House Natural Resources Committee.
Throughout the (edited), the appearance of preferential treatment in awarding contracts and procurements has come to our attention far too frequently, and the failure of (edited) officials to remain at arm's length from prohibited sources is pervasive," Devaney said.

The article I'm quoting says that "Devaney's office still has 10 of its employees dedicated to the investigation of jailed lobbyist Jack Abramoff." If he pops up, can Rep. George Miller be far behind?
"Something's very, very wrong in this (edited)," he said.

Some more from Nazarro and we'll know the answer, unless you've skipped ahead.
She noted that GAO officials testified at a similar broad oversight hearing in 1993 that (edited) faced serious challenges. "Unfortunately, almost 15 years later, my testimony today is very similar... And (edited) lacks adequate controls over management of grants and contracts, so it cannot ensure that millions of dollars were used appropriately, she said.

So who are we talking about? The CNMI or some other island government? Nope, as you probably guessed by now, it's the Department of Interior.

So were they asleep at the wheel or more actively involved in our current mess? Stay tuned. The quotes came from
House panel hears of management mess (The Casper Star-Tribune).

Interior urged to do more in assisting insular areas (Marianas Variety) also gives good coverage, but the Star-Tribune is more rambunctious.

Nisei for a new century?

Somebody please tell me I'm wrong.

I just pulled up the Pacific Times on the internet, realizing I keep forgetting it's around. It's easy to do, because I can't take that rag very seriously. You know, the people who thought things were Pretty Darn Good before the gubernatorial election and let the voters convince them that they were Pretty Darn Better instead. It seems a broadsheet can make an excellent weathervane.

But if you want to know the Covenant Party Line there's probably no better place in print.

The headline
'America will be just'* caught my eye. Normally I don't pay much attention to politicians' speeches at a soldier's funeral. They're meant to be a comfort to the family, and I hope they are. And, of course, no one is cynical enough to try scoring political points:
"Our boys will continue to fight and die for American policy objectives in Iraq and around the world, wherever they may be called into action. And I do know that our local community will continue to support our troops as loyal and patriotic Americans, in much the same way that second generation Japanese-Americans served during World War II," Gov. Benigno R. Fitial said in a speech during a solemn mass held at the Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Cathedral.

The emphasis, of course, is mine. Did the U.S. declare war on the Commonwealth? Maybe I'm reading too much into that. Or maybe not:
He added, "And in the end, I believe America will be just and that the sacrifice of our boys will not have been in vain."

Is this where the administration is headed on labor and immigration issues?

*Sorry, you have to navigate to it through the Local News tab, none of the stories link. Well, Maybe they do. One of my browsers helpfully shows a choice of titles like 'most read story' with an identifying number, but that looks like the sort of thing that's temporary.

Monday, February 19, 2007

All the news that fits

It seemed like old times when I plopped down in front of the Saipan Tribune and read "GOP meeting ends in shouting match As leadership railroads proposed amendments".

I had to glance at the masthead to be sure I wasn't reading the late lamented Commonwealth Examiner. (I also checked for JJ Cruz in the letters to the Editor, but couldn't even find Holani Smith.)

The story, headline included, was so slanted I'm surprised the words didn't slide off of the page.

Now, from the little I know, I'm inclined to sympathize with the Precinct IV club (club? nevermind), but my BS detector went off so loudly that dogs a block away started barking.

So, some questions for someone, anyone, who was there: Was former House Speaker Rasa given as much time as the other speakers? Were there other people waiting for a chance to speak? How and why did Mr. Pangelinan "cut Rasa short"? What did Mr. Camacho say when he "spoke in defense of the amendments". "Several others" spoke, but what did they say?"

Enquiring minds want to know.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

An unpacific truth

The U.S. policy toward Micronesia is driven by military and strategic concerns.

Nothing new there, but it's never stated so baldly. Let's don our red-white-and-blue glasses and peer at labor and immigration issues in the Commonwealth, particularly Saipan.

A mid-level garment executive was a fellow guest at a dinner. Somebody, it could have been me, asked him if he was a member of the Communist Party. "Of course," he said. He was surprised at the question, and I had been naive. How else would you get ahead in China Inc.?

It's no secret that prostitutes rode in on the wave of Chinese immigration. They're working class, of course, and unlikely to be card-carrying members. But they're vulnerable, trying to make money illegally in a foreign country, and they have family members back home. Those are pressure points, and cause concern to anyone planning a military buildup. As they say, "loose lips sink ships".

There are thousands of Filipinos, some of them Muslim. Hundreds of Bangladeshis, and those that I know are Muslim. To the best of my knowledge, these are fine God-fearing, hard-working people who have caused no trouble. They also come from poor countries, the sort of places that breed radical Islamists. This should trouble military planners and State Department policy wonks.

They wouldn't be doing their jobs if they weren't looking hard at all of those facts. They're not the folks running with the election cycle. These are career civil servants, military officers and Congressional staffers whose stay in Washington is longer than most Congressmen. The people who make up the government's institutional memory.

They work behind the scenes, don't make speeches and seldom make the headlines, unless it's through something leaked to a reporter. I wonder what they're doing now.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

It's been brought to my attention that my comments may be too negative. That's not my intention, but I understand someone could think that.

Let me explain. I like Saipan, and I like the people of the Commonwealth, or I wouldn't have stayed here all of these years. A few folks are a little, er, insular. You know, suspicious of outsiders. That's understandable and much like the small towns where I grew up.

The islands are beautiful. I burned countless rolls of film when I first came here. Now I have a tendency to shrug and think 'oh, another gorgeous sunset'.

I'm wary of government, any government. They were invented to help us, to control us, to do things to us. I don't like that, even though it's necessary. So I criticize (you might say mouth off) sometimes. It's not the people, it's the system I'm criticizing.

I like Governor Fitial. He's smart and capable, and has always been charming and funny when I've seen him in small groups.

The Administration is reducing the size of the government. Some news reports show that the process is not perfect, but the trend is in the right direction. The current problems are not all of his making, they have just come to a head now. I say not all because he is a former Speaker of the House.

Many of these problems were evident when Governor Babauta was elected. I remember telling friends that the CNMI was headed for disaster unless the governor began a Reduction in Force or took other steps. The usual reply was that he couldn't because he didn't want to be a one-term governor. I guess there's always a danger of that happening.

It appears
CUC will be privatized. I think that's a good thing, and overdue.

I'm following a lot of Jack Abramoff's doings, and not just concerning the Commonwealth. That sort of thing fascinates me, but I'm not on the sidelines cheering for any particular outcome.

I'll even try to be positive about the garment industry: though I think it should never have come here, I have to admit that our shipping has gotten better.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Don't look behind the curtain

Thanx to the Marianas Variety for my laugh of the day.

Evidently the governor's Press Secretary responded to a question about the FBI coming here to follow the trail of Jack Abramoff by saying "Why not investigate how they can help Gov. Benigno R. Fitial save this small and fragile economy for the 70,000 people that live here?"

So we change the name to Federal Bureau of Invigoration?

I get the impression he thinks the 'federal government' is a person who can't walk and chew gum at the same time.

An arm of the Justice Department is investigating, well, something. They haven't told me, but the newspaper says it's Abramoff.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Congress is revisiting labor and immigration provisions of the Covenant between the CNMI and the U.S. The tree is the same, but different branches are addressing different issues.

Note: When saying Abramoff is not important, past history and nobody cares, try not to mention his name a half-dozen times. You don't want to draw too much attention to such a nonissue.

What do I know, but a simple 'we see nothing wrong with Mr. Abramoff's efforts on behalf of the CNMI and will cooperate with any investigation' would seem to dispose of the matter. Then again, if he hadn't mounted the soapbox I'd probably still be in a bad mood.

The dearth of the middle class

Saipan really doesn't have a middle class. Have you noticed?

It's less true on Tinian and Rota, but still true.

The incredible success of the United States has been credited to abundant resources, to the political system, to the economic system, to the mix of people, or to all of those. Whatever the reason, it has led to a huge middle class compared to the rest of the world.

That's something I look for whenever I'm studying a country. It's a pretty good indicator of a lot of things including whether an oligarchy runs the place and the degree of social and economic mobility. I think of it as a sort of flywheel keeping a society running straight.

It seems to me that countries without a strong middle class are more unstable, more unfair and generally less developed. In Lebanon and Iraq you read that things are so bad the middle class is packing up and leaving. Uh, oh.

It's easy to get bogged down in definitions. They vary from country to country. You could say it's only shopkeepers, professionals, clerics and white collar workers. I say I know it when I see it. To me, carpenters, plumbers and other skilled workers are now part of the middle class. That's in the mainland; it would be a joke to say that here, and that's why I'm thinking about the subject.

Walk down a street and enter the next ten shops you pass. Please note, who is the owner? That's who runs the economy. I'm not attacking the Koreans, the Filipinos, the Chinese, ah whatever, it's a long list. They were allowed to start businesses and they did it. If they were hyphenated Americans, e.g. Korean-American, I would say no problem. But where are the local companies?

I'll bet that you were listing off local businesses while you read that, and some of them are very successful. There are also a lot of middle class workers in the private sector. I'll also bet that the lists aren't that long.

Look at the problems Fiji has had in recent years, and look at the cause. From my reading, Fijians felt that they had lost control of their economy, and many couldn't deal with the idea that the Indians would also control the government.

But some local businesses have prices set too high, or are run poorly. That's simple, they'll fail, as most new businesses do. The owners will learn some lessons, pick themselves up, and many will try again. Read some books by successful entrepreneurs and you'll usually see stories of early failures.

You may have noticed I haven't mentioned government workers. There's a reason: they don't have any economic mobility. Nobody's going to quit Finance tomorrow and find an equivalent mid-level private sector job. Sure, they're middle class by income, but realistically they're working class like every contract worker.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007


I hate to be an enabler, but I can sense the desperation behind his plea for votes. I refuse to get involved in the sordid details, but if you're interested, go to his website

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Left holding the (garment) bag

Here's news. Cohen: Most CNMI bonding firms are insolvent(Saipan Tribune)

Except that, as the enterprising reporter reminded us, the Washington Representative flagged this problem two years ago and last year the Secretary of Commerce said the industry was a joke.

I wonder if our local spokespeople came right after him in the hearing when they explained that labor and immigration was under control, thank you very much for asking... and if they kept straight faces while doing so.

I also wonder what it would cost to bond a garment worker. It seems to me it would be something like trying to get workmen's compensation insurance for a 7-11 clerk: possible, but with a high premium.

Well, if the bonding companies can't pay, the government will have to step in. Since money is tight, maybe the parking meter revenue could be tapped.

BTW, do any of those factories have unresolved billing disputes with CUC? What about the companies that have already left? It sure would be hard to collect once they've moved to Vietnam or China.

Let the market decide

A proposal for those who are against raising the CNMI's minimum wage:

Don't have a minimum wage, and

No transfers, no renewals, no new contract workers.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Following our lead?

"I don't want my 17-year-old son to have to pick tomatoes or make beds in Las Vegas."

That's Karl Rove talking about immigration reform, according to
The National Review. Whew.

OK, the CNMI is not mentioned directly. But in giving Rove the slam he deserves for that one, Mark Krikorian did say "It would do all that, of course, but most importantly it would change the very nature of our society for the worse, creating whole occupations deemed to be unfit for respectable Americans, for which little brown people have to be imported from abroad."

Bad choice of words, but the sentiments are good and that's what's happened here.

I accepted employment applications at the CNMI Personnel Office a few times, just helping out because I worked in the same office.

One young man told me that what he really wanted was a supervisory position. This with a high school diploma and no experience. It immediately became one of my favorite jokes. The second time that happened I stopped telling the story. I tried to provide them with a reality check, because obviously no one had told them about the working world.

There may have been changes in recent years, but a percentage of labor fees used to be earmarked for vocational education at Northern Marianas College. On paper, using those fees to develop local skilled labor is a great idea.

In practice, the majority of students were aliens. Any local student who did graduate was dumped into the marketplace to compete with a practically endless line of more experienced foreign workers willing to work for the bare minimum wage.

The choices became: line up for government work, do something else, join the military, or go to one of the states. Most people I talked to chose one of the last two options.

We've had several maids over the years, and let them all go for basically the same reason. The kids acted like bosses, and they didn't know the difference between a maid and a servant. 'Make me a sandwich' and 'get me a glass of water' drive me crazy when they come from a healthy person. Most normal people can at least find their way from the table to the sink with a dirty plate.

BTW: I picked fruit at that age, and Rove pissed me off. Of course, even back 'in the day' I was working alongside Chicanos and Mexicans, Cholos and Indios. (Be very careful how you say cholo)

Lawyers, drugs and money

After reading dengre's diary (see my previous post), I started to think about Senator Tester's allegations.

Anybody who has been paying attention at all knows that ice has been a serious local problem since the mid-eighties. Users are pretty obvious if you have a passing knowledge of its effects. It's also a national problem.

What concerns me is the implication of the Commonwealth, and Saipan in particular, as a trans-shipment point. Could this be true?

I only remember arrests and convictions for fairly small amounts of methamphetamine. But those are the mules, not the studs, you might say. It's certainly possible. You'd think that sort of enterprise, particularly when fueled by that drug, would leak information eventually. Competitors, disgruntled underlings; that kind of thing.

Money laundering? I heard snide comments about a former owner of the Bank of Saipan and similar shots have been taken at the Tinian Dynasty. I considered them jokes, not even dignified enough to be rumors.


Hmm, a bank subject to local laws, a casino being regulated by newbies, huge remittances flowing out. It's backwards, but opportunity and motive are there, so is the crime?

Law enforcement types obviously aren't going to tip their hand, but has anybody heard anything about this? I'm just curious.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Another side to the Immigration hearing

My brother just emailed a link to this diary from the Daily Kos to me. Some of you may have linked to dengre before from The Saipan Blogger.

This is the take a lot of Democrats (Democratics?) will be getting, and guess who's running the show in the U.S. Congress? I don't think this is going to be pretty.

What the heck, since this is a short post, how about a link to
A report from the districts of Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands to the U.S. Attorney's Office on security and immigration.. It's a nailbiter.

The last link was broken for awhile. Sorry.

Power to the people

Here's the thing: I strongly believe that the problems at CUC can only be solved if it becomes a truly public utility with an elected board* or if it is completely privatized. So strongly that I wrote a letter to the editor, and that's something I try to avoid. Direct accountability, either to voters or to shareholders, is the only hope for efficiency.

The only answer, if it was addressed to my letter, was from a politician I used to support saying that privatization might cost jobs and those nasty folks would want to make a profit too. Well, sorry if that's true, but that is no answer. Except, of course, that I understand how many voters are employed by CUC. The idea of an elected board is never considered, because that would take influence away from the Executive and Legislative branches.

I don't think the linemen, tradesmen, trades helpers, meter readers, power plant operators and customer service people have anything to worry about. Their jobs aren't going away and their pay is reasonable if not low for what they do.

Whose jobs are we talking about then? Oh, the people who plan and budget capital improvements, schedule maintenance and procure parts. You know, parts like the defective photocells on the 24-hour streetlights.

Obviously, the administration thinks the answer is to privatize the first group and put the second group under the direct control of the Lieutenant Governor so he can correct the problems of previous mismanagement.

My mind boggles.

*Wouldn't a recall petition be fun?

Friday, February 9, 2007

Tom Paine or a pain?

Since I've been chomping on newspapers lately, I guess I should mention the letter writers. Our country has a proud history of griping in print, but Tom Paine had a specific point when he wrote and he proposed solutions.

Politicians and government, why they're Really Bad, and well, you know, like they should Stop Being That Way. That felt good.

It feels even better when I meet an elected official in a store, in a business or at a party and, gasp, say what's on my mind. I'm not shy about this. The Senators and Congressmen I've met are always polite, receptive and willing to discuss issues. They may not agree with me, or do what I want them to do. Hey, I can always talk to one of their colleagues. Why, I could even write a letter.

I just called one of my Representatives this week. I had a question for him, and the question brought up a problem, one that could be solved with a simple amendment. First he was at a speaking engagement, then there was a House session. Now I know he's not spending his time at the farm. The woman offered to take my number, but I wasn't sure where I'd be when he returned my call.

On the third try a woman answered, identified herself cheerfully and politely, and put my call through. Better service than I could get from most businesses on Saipan. A brief chat with his employee, and I was speaking with the congressman in thirty seconds or so.

He seemed interested and curious about the issue, and promised to get back to me. What more could I ask?

There is no point in saying that politicians aren't listening, or that they don't represent you, if you've never bothered to tell them what you want.

Dirty little secret They have to listen. Anyone who runs for office has a pretty good idea of his or her base vote: family, friends, whichever party they are in this week. Independent voters are the wildcard, as they are throughout the country, unless the candidate is hugely popular.

Increasing numbers of Carolinians and Chamorros are voting for people and ideas instead of for familia. Other Micronesians, Filipinos, Koreans and Chinese are getting the vote. There is a large group of statesiders of different hyphenations. Those are swing votes, which makes them more important than you'd think by looking at the numbers.

If you tell them and they don't listen, vote for someone else. Write your letter while you're waiting for the next election.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

He's Baack

Our friend Alan Stayman, another U.S. Senate staffer and an attorney from Homeland Security are coming to Saipan February 27, according to the Marianas Variety. I sure hope their minds aren't made up about immigration when they meet with Governor Fitial.

The gift that keeps on giving That sucking sound you hear from the direction of Guam is another indictee being drawn into the whirlpool surrounding Jack Abramoff. Hasn't happened in the CNMI. The bolded 'Jack Abramoff' used to be a link to a Marianas Variety story about the court payoff. Sorry, the story just... disappeared. I'd link to the PDN, but they charge for access after a week. Gannett newspapers always make money

Business Opportunity Some good news:
EMO will identify new evacuation areas for tsunami warnings. Just throw some coolers in the back of a truck and I'm in business.

Eyes wide shut How about that
Jed Horey letter in the Marianas Variety and Saipan Tribune? The Covenant is very clear about what the Commonwealth was getting into. To me, he's throwing a red herring.

Into the sunset I've seen several letters in the press mourning Ben Concepcion and I'd like to add my two cents. His death is indeed a loss to the community, the marine tourism industry and his family.

Caught in the headlines I thought there were disability laws against this:
Pensions of deficient retirees being examined. Also a quibble: to my tin ear 'Our Commonwealth submits petition to Congress' sounds better than Our Commonwealth petition submitted to Congress. The verb is active and it's easier to understand who is doing what.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Opinion, finally

It seems I've been ragging on local reporters lately, so I decided to calm down for awhile. Then I saw

After more than a month-long delay, the NMI Retirement Fund will finally choose this week a third party administrator to handle the
government's newly created defined contribution plan.

in the Saipan Tribune. If I'd been reading it online, I would have spewed coffee all over my keyboard. There is no source in the article for the words in bold. How can the public be expected to know the difference between opinion and factual reporting if reporters don't get it?

That got me started again, but I was determined not to write about the dozens of errors I found in just a few stories. The newspapers have Editors, after all, don't they?

Enter the Marianas Variety with the headline 182 Tinian employees to get retroactive pay, finally. Arrgh, it sent me into a Lewis Black frenzy.

All right, sometimes I let little things upset me too much. In fact, why not get rid of editorials and columns? Just put the word finally at the end of every headline. Let's see what we'd get with the Variety's Local News:

Democratic Party seeking candidates for Legislature, finally
MVA has 1-year supply of gloves, bags for cleanups, finally
Red flag at South Laulau Beach, finally
Tinian lawmakers push reprogramming of $3.9M for airport landing system, finally
Garment industry opposes wage hike so it can survive, finally
182 Tinian employees to get retroactive pay, finally, finally
GOP may amend rules governing precinct clubs, finally
Man on probation arrested for assaulting girlfriend, again, finally
Ex-MPLA chairwoman testifies in Deleon Guerrero’s lawsuit vs gov’t, finally
26 homesteaders face revocation, finally
Woman loses purse, money to snatcher, finally
Bush proposes $403.8M for Insular Affairs, finally

Those other headlines and writing errors? Maybe later, I've got to take a nap.

Party favors

Is the Republican Party trying to self-destruct again in this election?

GOP may amend rules governing precinct clubs in the Marianas Variety and GOP leadership allegedly wants to control selection of precinct bets in the Saipan Tribune.

Looks like there might be a crowded ballot in the General Election. Oh well, maybe we can get yet another party out of this.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

But was he wearing a copper wire?

All Right. The Marianas Variety and the Saipan Tribune both got the story of a police sting of a recycler. From the court, and evidently from a few officers who were there.

Huzzah for the police.

The reporters, I dunno. Neither one thought it necessary to ask whether the transaction was caught on the legally required video, if it was installed. They didn't mention the required paperwork. They didn't bother to follow up on yesterday's Tribune story where one recycler alleged his competitors weren't following the law.

I'll flip a coin (a copper penny) to see who goes first. Okay, the Tribune then. The reporter could have been in court to witness Judge Wiseman's actions. Otherwise, except for one "according to court papers" and two "police said"s (I wonder if the 'police said' it together or one after another), none of the allegations in the newspaper are attributed to anyone. That's just sloppy.

The Variety reporter seems to be allergic to the word alleged. There is one "The police affidavit stated" (a 'talking paper', I guess) and one "It added". The rest of the allegations are repeated as if they were facts. That's just dangerous--to the newspaper.

Hint to reporters: if you want to have a better story than competitors, do more than stand around the courtroom. What the heck, another freebie: has there been any noticeable shortage of pennies on island? I don't think so, but who knows? The copper in them is probably still worth more than a penny. But nobody here would melt pennies; the U.S. Mint passed rules last month outlawing the practice. Who would want to break the law?

Monday, February 5, 2007

Read the Covenant, please

I've seen more nonsense spouted concerning the Covenant lately than I can handle, from all points of view.

Please spread the word: The document is available online at the Law Revision Commission website. Marianas Printing used to have booklets, but that was years ago, so I'm not sure any more.

There's a lot of other neat information there, but for public laws, I've found the
CNMI Legislature site loads faster.

To load this stuff, you'll need the
Free Acrobat Reader or something else that reads Adobe files.

A Word to the Wise. This program always tries to be one of my startup programs, and tries again every time I update it. I heartily recommend that you download Winpatrol first to stop this. If you try to open a PDF file, Acrobat will still open, and meanwhile it hasn't wasted any of your resources. 'Scotty' is the best dog I ever owned.

Where's the coppers?

Congratulations to the Marianas Variety for following up on the Recycling Reporting Act which took effect November 6.

Their source says only one of the six recycling companies is complying after three months. One company said they don't handle copper anymore.

If the law is just going to be on the books, it should be rescinded and we can recycle the paper it was written on.

They deserved it

With fans like these, who needs fans?

I'm typing this because I don't want to drive today. I think the Saipan roads might be a tad more dangerous than usual. All you can drink at nine in the morning? Shiver. The reason I used to stay home on government paydays.

You'd think these hotels would provide a bus service with their party hoopla. I'm sure there are a few drivers standing idle.

Not that I hate football. It's a great social lubricant: getting to know somebody new or changing the subject after a heated debate. This is the first Super Bowl I've missed since we started getting them live. I forget when that was, but it's probably repressed because of the 'can't even beat the spread' Bills.

Most true fans are knowledgeable, to boot, unless they follow the Cowboys, the Trojans or the Irish. Sometimes you have to admit there's just no hope. Strangely, I find myself giving even those teams another chance if they've been lucky enough to beat truly deserving teams like the 49'ers or the Ducks. It makes it that much more satisfying when we stomp them the next year.

But, over the years, I've found that you have to be a True Believer to wake up at three or four in the morning. It doesn't help that cornflakes taste lousy with beer.

I'd rather catch the score and highlights, then watch the replay at a civilized time with a beer in front of me. With any luck some newbie will want to bet on the game.

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Chamber music

A friend asked me if I was a member of the Saipan Chamber of Commerce. Nope, I have not and probably never will join that organization. They don't really represent my interests.

That's not criticism, just knowledge of reality. The Chamber gives more power to the largest businesses: the hotels, the garment factories, the Duty Free's and the Joeten's. To be fair, those companies have to pay much more money to get that power.

Here, as well as nationally, the Chamber is not really opposed to big government, as long as it benefits them. They're a lot like these new-fangled Republicans we've seen in the last ten years. They should be, there's a lot of overlap. Again, I'm not throwing rocks, just stating the case.

I'd much rather have companies use the Chamber to influence the government openly as a body than see them glad-handing individual legislators. Of course, they do both.

Some twenty years ago, I shared an office with Cisco Uludong. I was trying my hand at PR, he was trying to put together a small business association. I thought he was on to something, but at the same time I doubted it would ever happen. He never really got over the first hurdle: answering the question 'What's in it for me?'

Obviously, the answer is the influence of speaking as a group instead of individually. The time wasn't right, but it was a great idea.

Saturday, February 3, 2007

Blue pencil

My Journalism professor would be proud, my sixth-grade English teacher ecstatic. I tried to read the Saipan Tribune Friday morning, but all I could see were mistakes.

What does this headline tell you? Listen to Senate hearing on NMI immigration Not much, the information is there but it's weak. Come on, make me want to read the story.

What is the word specifically doing in the second paragraph? Is the Tribune paying by the word?

And The Commonwealth is sending a group of government and business leaders to testify in the hearing. That Commonwealth, always ordering people around.

Weak lead, muddled writing, indifferent grammar (a testimony?)-- C- Rewrite.

Taipei-NMI flights revived Really? Did they use CPR? How about restart, coming back, restored...

Marianas sisters share kidneys Not bad, except you could use the same headline for some nuns giving away free lunches. And why Marianas? It sounds out of place in the headline.

Two sisters, the daughters of long-time Tinian resident Don A. Farrell, do not merely share the same DNA-they now also share kidneys is a repetitiously redundant lead. Drop the first two words and you get the added benefit of losing the commas. 'Do not merely' is clunky and unnatural. How about not only?

That's just the first page. Before you say "so what", think about why people write: to communicate. If your thoughts aren't clear, or clearly presented, people will just move on to something else.

The layout was pretty good, by the way, in a USA Today sort of way and I always like the way they treat photos. It wouldn't do to be negative about everthing.

Out of fairness I looked through the Marianas Variety also, much later because I read it online. Maybe I had a few quibbles, but I didn't start grinding my teeth.

Their kidney headline was exactly the same. Ugh.

Senate passes bill to prohibit non-Palauans to drive tour boat, bus, taxi obviously doesn't work, maybe they should have tried 'from driving' or something like that.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Elect AG and CUC

House passes elected-AG measure, according to the Saipan Tribune. What a great idea. I hope it makes it to the ballot and gets enough support. I know, I know, some will claim it makes the AG 'too political', unlike the system we have now.

Next, I hope they act to elect the CUC board. Wouldn't that be fun? Talk about accountability.

Poor CUC was in the news again: Mathis' car stolen, including copper wire inside. My headline would have been Copper theft evidence is stolen. Oh well, but mine could have gotten the wires to pick it up for one of their 'weird and odd' stories.

BTW, how does a car get stolen in front of Java Joe's at lunchtime? That's not Bird Island or the Grotto. Was the door unlocked? Key in the ignition? Question answered on MCV, or ESPN: Ms. Mathis left the aircon (ergo the car) running while she popped in.

Antique thinking?

I was just flipping through the Saipan Tribune when I saw the article Urgent upgrading needed for DoA's 'antique' tractors.

Nothing unusual there, until it struck me: why should the CNMI be in the tractor business? Couldn't farmers buy their own tractors? If that's too expensive, couldn't someone rent tractors?

Maybe it's too hard to compete against the government.

Update According to the "Marianas Variety "Some of the farmers complained that the $15 fee for renting agricultural equipment, like tractors, is “too high.”