Monday, March 31, 2008

Widget begone

That little window on the left is gone, in case you didn't notice. You probably already knew your IP address, your operating system, country and browser. That stuff's no use to me, I was just making a point about not expecting privacy on the internet.

Besides, all of those gadgets and gizmos slow your browser and I like my pages to load fast.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Smoke and mirrors

(That's not my doctored photo. As penance, I refer you to Brand Obama: Would You Buy a Used Democrat? (Radical Left) It's an interesting piece. They're, well, pretty radical.)

The Hotel Association of the Northern Mariana Islands (HANMI) supports Rep. Justo S. Quitugua's anti-smoking bill, but wants the number of smoke-free rooms to be voluntary.
Saipan Tribune Huh? What have they been smoking?

Why create a ban and then start carving out exceptions? Some of them have banned smoking already, according to HANMI chair Lynn Knight. That was easy, wasn't it?

I have mixed feelings about this. My wife and I have talked about smoking for years. A lot of customers say they don't like going home smelling like an ashtray (Especially if they told their significant other they were someplace else). I smoke, and when we ran Saipan's own 19th Hole I never felt that suicidal urge after 11 pm on Fridays and Saturdays. I constantly tried to improve ventilation, without success.

Blowing smoke

You can't divide a room into smoking and no-smoking areas. That's almost impossible unless you design it from scratch. Air is very democratic. The only foolproof method is to create a pressure difference with the smokies at the low end.

Even I notice the wretched smell when I first enter a room, unless someone is smoking a good cigar. Nobody touts the health benefits any more (wasn't that an interesting episode?)

Smoky Mountain high

Others say they need to smoke when they drink. A surprising number only smoke when they drink-- Ed Stevens always gave me a shiny quarter for every lung bullet; he didn't want to buy a pack.

Why should anyone tell me where I can smoke? Well, they already tell me I can't slap anyone. Second-hand smoke is an incremental assault. You can get me to admit it when I'm not in the throes of my addiction.

My youngest son has asthma; another reason I don't light up in the house. That actually started when my wife became pregnant. It wasn't a problem before, because she usually starts puffing when she doesn't have 'boo' (buuch, pugua, betelnut) or quits chewing.

Bottom's up

But the bottom line is that it's the bottom line. I'd bet that all of those managers spend at least four figures a year cleaning up after smokers. We do.

That's what those boring economists call an externality, like being downwind of a coal-fired plant or paper mill. It's your cost, not theirs. Somebody still pays.

Air conditioners have to be pulled and cleaned, frequently. Filters constantly need cleaning. Walls are washed and painted more often. Or not, and customers start noticing. When my wife worked at PIC, normally self-effacing Japanese would sometimes ask to change rooms because theirs were permeated with a garlic odor. Non-smokers have a similar gripe.

Smoke on the water

It's worse for a bar. Try the 'sweat test' the next time you're out. Just wipe the outside of your glass, can or bottle with a napkin to moisten it and dab the corner of a nearby mirror. I guarantee you'll get a disgusting yellow or brown residue, even if the glass is cleaned often.

Those pretty glasses and bottles on display? The ones that aren't used much have to be cleaned every few weeks to remove the sticky tracks of smokers past. Adding insult to injury, tobacco products generally have the lowest profit margin.

But nobody wants to be the bad guy, and what if somebody goes to your competitor? So let's blame it on the government.

It's easy to give up smoking. I must have done it a hundred times -- (not Mark Twain)

Friday, March 28, 2008

Sea Park

I'm intrigued by the proposed National Park of the Sea surrounding Maug, Asuncion and Uracas Islands. I've never been that far north in the Marianas, but I know a few people who have fished there. They sure didn't do it to make money; it doesn't work economically these days.

I seem to remember that some people thought the Olwol might have been in that area when it went missing with 13 fishermen in 1986.

Oh, and there was the Captain of one of the prepositioning ships who supposedly lost a ridiculously expensive anchor while fishing on Maug.

But really, I don't know any traditional or commercial reasons to fish there. If there are, I'd like to hear them. Otherwise, it seems like a Fine Thing.

So I've been reading, and over on Malaria, Bedbugs, Sea Lice and Sunsets mention of government opposition and the quote "Hmm, I wonder who might not want to see fishing limits in CNMI waters?"

Who indeed? In my NetTreks, I've run across Luen Thai Fishing Venture, a wholly owned subsidiary of Luen Thai International Group, an affiliate of Tan Holdings Corporation. They had some unpleasantness with Greenpeace about shark fins.

What was tickling the back of my brain was this quote from the Company Profile: "Having established its name in the Pacific tuna fishing industry, LTFV is now gathering momentum to develop its non-tuna commercial fishing in the Central Western Pacific region."

Now then, this may have nothing to do with the proposed monument. I don't even know what 'Central Western Pacific' is supposed to mean. It's just that the companies have such a close relationship with the CNMI: "1983 Luen Thai made its first venture in the apparel business through a sweater facility in Saipan." (Luen Thai 'milestones' page)

Term limit

Governor Benigno R. Fitial's campaign slogan didn't quite work out, but would there be “better times” if someone else had won the 2005 CNMI election?

I don't think so That's been on my mind for a couple of years now, and Brad Ruszala brought it up in some comments over on Middle Road. He took a lot of flak, but it's a strong argument.

Saipan has always been the engine of the Commonwealth economy, and the collapse of the garment and tourism industries has been devastating. The tradewinds of change are an outside force that no Governor can stand against.

This mess has been coming for a long time. When Juan N. Babauta took office I was telling anyone who would listen he needed to start a Reduction in Force in his first six months. The obvious answer was that he didn't want to be a one-term Governor. He didn't, and he was anyway.

Fitial was the House Speaker, of course. If Babauta had said 'green', his answer would be 'yellow'. Now he's the Governor, and it's time to bite the bullet. He's only going to have one term anyway.

That's not even criticism. This all peaked on his watch, and he gets the blame. For a year or two, I heard from a lot of folks who said Lt. Gov. Tim Villagomez was working on getting them a job. They don't say much now. Something had to give, and there are only so many supporters of the previous administration who can be shunted aside.

They didn't hire enough, and they didn't fire enough. So it goes.

The problem, of course, is that there is no safety net. Rather, the government is the safety net. There's no unemployment insurance and very few private sector jobs pay a living wage. That's a structural problem that won't be fixed anytime soon.

You heard it here first: the next Governor will only serve one term.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

No news is bad news

Another Saipan garment factory is shutting down. (Marianas Variety), but that's not really news, is it? Let's see, 154 people will lose their jobs. And if 13 are residents, the percentage is...? 8.44%.

There are extenuating circumstances, maybe, but the low percentage isn't news either. My friends (mostly contract workers) in the Human Resources departments of various big companies* tell me they're having a hard time getting twenty percent, never mind thirty percent.

I played a friend in my pool league a couple of weeks ago. He was glad to see me, because he was hired by JAL on Guam and was leaving in a few days. That's not news, I've had the same conversation about once a week for more than two years.

I've talked to two local job-hunters this week. They sounded desperate. Nothing new there.

What's wrong with this picture?

What about the hundreds of high school kids who will be dumped on the street in a couple of months?

No names, please; just say they have more than one vote in the Saipan Chamber of Commerce and leave it at that.

To be continued

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Alien Nation

Am I the only one who suspects Howard Willens, Gov. Benigno R. Fitial's volunteer legal counsel, was asked to 'find something wrong with Article 12'?* Article 12 of the CNMI Constitution was meant to stop alienation of Commonwealth land by limiting ownership to those of Northern Marianas Descent (NMD).

No luck so far, but the Governor wants the Commonwealth Election Commission to stop registering Northern Marianas Descent voters.** A pretty obvious move: you don't want those with a vested interest in Article 12 being the only ones voting in 2011.

The Administration has led an increasingly vocal campaign against Article 12. Their main argument, which has merit, is that it discourages long-term investment. Who's going to spend money with five or ten years left on the lease? And, who but a few of the wealthy can pick up the 60 percent of mortgages that are in default.

Shell game

A lot of tricks and end-arounds have been tried. There was a fashion for leases that would magically turn into sales 'if the laws ever changed'. Some investors gave their money to a 'more cooperative' person who then bought land and leased it to them. You'd see local attorneys cut out the middleman and 'buy' land themselves. That's a no-brainer; it costs you nothing and you can give the land to your heirs. Who loses?

There's an argument, and I've even heard Tina Sablan make it, that Article 12 encourages fly-by-night investors. Does anyone really think Saipan's garment factories and their camp followers would have acted any differently if they were owners? And, with no property tax, there's no penalty for just abandoning the land.

An article of faith

Personally, I don't like Article 12. I never have. Then again, it's the law of the land and nobody ever hid that fact. Guam is only 100 miles away. The intent, to keep ownership local, is understandable.

In practice, it hasn't done much for the average person. The rich get richer, only it's the NMD rich. Still, I wonder how much worse things would be now if anybody could buy land in the boom years.

Blind date

The definition of NMD is arbitrary too; the Governor's got a point. Chamorros and Carolinians who were off-island on the magic date don't qualify. Non-indigenous people who were here do.

Article XII: Section 1: Alienation of Land. The acquisition of permanent and long-term interests in real property within the Commonwealth shall be restricted to persons of Northern Marianas descent.

Article XVIII, Section 5(c): (c) In the case of a proposed amendment to Article XII of this Constitution, the word "voters" as used in subsection 5(a) above shall be limited to eligible voters under Article VII who are also persons of Northern Marianas descent as described in Article XII, Section 4, and the term "votes cast" as used in subsection 5(b) shall mean the votes cast by such voters.

Source: Original provision (ratified 1977, effective 1978); amended by Second Const. Conv. Amend. 39 (1985); new subsection c) added by Section 1 of Senate Legislative Initiative 11-1 (1999).

Hey there Red Riding Hood

With Japanese condo commercials like these, maybe we could keep Article 12.*

Crazy Japan Ad - Little Red Riding Hood -

*If you're not familiar with the Northern Marianas, Article 12 of the CNMI Constitution limits land ownership to those of Northern Marianas Descent. Condominiums are excepted.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Cause without a rebel

I've stayed away from this whole Miura thing. Just grist for the Japanese tabloid/Fox News mill. I might have joked about Saipan's extra tourists and the free publicity, but everybody thought of that. Finally, the reporters moved on to the next hot story.

Some people just never give up. Local businessman Keizo Ishida is trying to bring them back and make a few bucks on the side. He's selling t-shirts and plans to split the profit with Miura. Good, honest shameless self-promotion.

I thought about jumping in, but my best slogan was 'My other wife is a corpse'. Not quite as catchy, but I'd share the loot with social service groups.

Kazuyoshi Miura may be facing double jeopardy (being tried twice for the same crime). Heck, he might even be innocent. That's up to the California court(s). But this is a murder charge, serious stuff. Saipan's just a sideshow,an extradition.

I don't watch Law and Order and I don't like seeing cases tried in the media. We knew where this one was heading when Mark Geragos galloped into the scene.

But we should be used to it. I'm amazed that Tony Glad's lawyer hasn't told him to just shut up. I'm sleazed out with all of the Malite estate charges and countercharges in the media.

If you're not familiar with those last two, search the files of the Marianas Variety or Saipan Tribune. I don't want to encourage this garbage.

Gaining something in translation

A Russian woman just told me she came from Vladivostok City. Nothing special, just small talk about Saipan's weather being better than the cold place she came from.

Only, it seemed odd that she had to add 'city'. I guess I thought Vladivostok was on the short list: if you've heard of Russia, you've heard the name.

Then again, North Americans and, in my experience, Marianas Americans are abysmally ignorant about geography. I was probably hearing a conversational short-cut to avoid, sigh, having to explain it. Again.

About ten years ago I met a Russian who said he was from Novgorod*. City. Now, 'gorod' means 'city' in Russian. He knew that, obviously, but thought I wouldn't.

This in turn reminded me of blithely talking about North and South Vietnam, when, roughly, ‘nam’ means 'the south'. So we were helping South Vietsouth fight North Vietsouth. Sometimes words gain something in translation.

* Actually, it's Veliky Novgorod, The Great New City, or was about a thousand years ago.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Who's listening anyway (Immigrate Expectations Part II)

S.2739 is in the news bigtime. Locally. I challenge you to find a story in the national media that mentions Saipan or the CNMI and the bill.

The U.S. economy is melting down, Iraq is a mess, and the presidential campaign is in full swings(sic).

OK sure, immigration is part of the national debate and a lot of businesses want a guest worker program. Some states don't want to wait, but we're not the poster child for how to do it.

Has a single Senator or Congressman spoken up opposing U.S. control of CNMI immigration ('federalization')? I don't think so, but correct me if I've missed one. That's understandable, we're the Typhoid Marianas because of Jack Abramoff, Tom Delay, Mark Zachares, et al. The petri dish has been contaminated. I'll let you be the judge of whether the ten-year, er, delay was worth it, but who's going to stick their head up now?

I don't even think they're paying attention to our local media. A few congressional staffers, maybe. We hear from them occasionally, but it always sounds like they've been asked for comment. They defend what's already proposed.

So why all of these stories from local politicians, businesses and business organizations? Who are they trying to influence? Each other?

Oh, and contract workers? I've heard for more than twenty years that there might be a path to naturalization 'someday'. I always thought it was wishful thinking. I still do. It's not about the numbers, that's a drop in the bucket nationally. It's the precedent--which makes it a controversial provision that was dropped from the legislation. It's not about fairness either. Sorry. For most national politicians it's about politics.

Realistically, a retreat on the minimum wage law is much more likely. Again, I'm not talking about fairness, but politics. Republican administrations are always against minimum wages*. I'm amazed any one was surprised when OIA came out for a freeze.

Democrats hold the majority in both houses of Congress, of course, and they are the minimum wage party. Only, I still wonder about that six-month Oldaker Biden & Belair contract. They did some "minimum wage" work back in the Abramoff days, too.

*Case in point: Kansas Republicans blocked raising their state minimum above $2.65 per hour. Surprised? I was (Lawrence Journal World & News)

I also wondered about David Cohen's resignation from the Office of Insular Affairs. The timing is awfully close. Pulas' line about not wanting the job because it's political gets a new twist. While I still think he was just trying to beat the rush of lame duck Bushketeers waddling to the unemployment line, it's at least a possibility.

Two immediate thoughts: 1) He might have disagreed but not wanted to be disagreeable or, 2) He might have agreed, but not wanted to spoil his image as the godfather of the poor and dispossessed. We'll probably never know unless somebody like TPM Muckrakers gets hold of some emails.

Indian nation

How is the Commonwealth like Indian Country (reservations)? How is it different?

I boarded this train of thought when I ran across an article on H.R. 5608, The Consultation and Coordination with Indian Tribal Governments Act. Rahall Introduces Bill Upholding Federal Trust Relationship with Indian Country (Native American Times)

We know what the federal government thinks: the CNMI is under the Office of Insular Affairs and not the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The National Indian Gaming Commission didn't jump in when yet another casino was proposed on Saipan; it left Rota and Tinian Casino proposals alone.

But the proposed government to government consultation? That sounds like Section 902 of The Covenant to Establish a Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands in Political Union with the United States of America. The Covenant, after all, is essentially a treaty.

Land alienation? Yup, very similar, except First American lands are really messed up. Technically, most of them are really owned ('held in trust') by the U.S. government.

Yet, I'm sure I remember articles from time to time that say the CNMI is eligible for some Indian grants and programs.

Really, I have no opinion on this. I'm just curious, and a little confused.

Oh, as an addon. How about these quotes from Indian Country Today?
Similarly, Native Hawaiians are beneficiaries of many congressional legislative acts along with American Indians and Alaska Natives. Yet, Native Hawaiians are not federally recognized as an ''Indian tribe'' the way that many Alaska Native villages are.

Should Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, indigenous peoples from the Pacific territories, also be classified as ''Indian tribes'' for the purposes of the Constitution and law? Did the Constitution's framers mean ''indigenous peoples'' when they used the more politically, culturally and historically limited expression ''Indian tribes''?

Sunday, March 16, 2008

A Howard Hills story

Thinking of Howard Hills, since he's in the news again.

Howard was a real pest back when he was pushing Marshallese nuclear claims. Now, I was always willing to do a story on the victims of U.S. nuclear tests. If it was news. If it wasn't, I couldn't have gotten it by my editors at the Pacific Daily News anyway.

He never gave up. I mentioned this to PDN's Mark Cook and Margaret Sizemore when they were on Saipan for a visit. We'd gone to the Nikko Hotel's coming-out party at the Hyatt Regency* Hotel, and he just wouldn't leave me alone. They were having the same problem, and said he probably started bugging me because everybody on Guam tried to avoid him.

As the night wore on, and the drinks kicked in, he left us alone. And then, behold, there he was in the entry. Asleep on a stuffed chair. In his stocking feet. We hid his shoes.

*The best feed I ever got as a reporter, and I went to a lot of events with/for food. Something Beach Brad forgets to mention when he writes about the 'bennies' of being an underpaid news dweeb.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

(Reality) Check, please

Everyone on Saipan is excited about the Marines moving from Okinawa to Guam. Billions of dollars, and some of that money is bound to trickle down (oh, you've heard that one before?) to local businesses. There's even talk of having a warm base on Tinian.

Not so quick, folks. There's an interesting article on With limited power, Guam delegate faces daunting obstacles on Marines transfer.

It seems we've been hearing the Pentagon spin and it's not a done deal. Madeline Bordallo has been working the House and she's got a lot of friends. Still, she only votes in committees and has no say in the U.S. Senate. In fact,
“Everybody on the committee will look out for her,” said (Hawaii Rep. Neil) Abercrombie, adding that he could only hope that Hawaii Sens. Daniel Inouye (D) and Daniel Akaka (D) would act as her surrogates in the Senate. At this point it is unclear whether the two senators will champion the issue, though Bordallo considers Inouye her mentor on Capitol Hill.
It's interesting stuff, but I was more intrigued by another Abercrombie comment:
“Be careful what you wish for. Guam will become one giant base. Guam is a tiny, little place.”
Which brings us to Tinian. Most Marines probably wouldn't vote locally, but even a small staff would likely influence elections that are usually only decided by a few votes.

Saving the best for last

Most telling, for me, were a couple of comments unrelated to the proposed base. For instance "The average member would not know much" (about Guam), according to Mississippi Rep. Gene Taylor. Georgia Rep. John Linder chimes in: "I know where it is located, I know what it used to be, but I don’t know what it is now." I wouldn't be surprised if they knew more than their average colleague.

That's bad news for the CNMI. If Guam, with a hundred year relationship, is that far off of the Congress radar, what kind of attention are we going to get, even with a non-voting Delegate? Well, maybe they've heard of our garment industry.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Jack's back

The (elected) Guam Attorney General has indicted Jack Abramoff, court administrator Anthony Sanchez and the Greenberg Traurig law firm for some backdoor lobbying payments.

The story popped up in the Pacific Daily News, U.S. News and World Report, and The Miami Herald. Sorry, no PDN link; they want to charge you to look after a few days. I don't work for Gannett no more.

A Guam Grand Jury indicted them on allegations of a series of $9,000 payoffs totalling $324,000 to lobby the U.S. Congress. Sanchez and attorney Howard Hills were indicted previously.

There have also been allegations that Abramoff influence led to the firing of U.S. Attorney Fred Black The Nation.

If you're interested, here's the amended indictment.

Fighting Bird flu

What if they took your rooster?

I’ve been pondering that ever since I read the bulletin board outside of the CHC x-ray room while waiting for my son. I’ll read anything when I’m bored.

There was a memorandum about the Avian Influenza plan. As usual, I immediately thought of roosters. I know what to do when you find bird flu: first we kill all of the chickens*. Slaughter them for miles around. Burn or bury them. That doesn’t leave much room for error on an island the size of Saipan.

The memo didn’t say this, but that seems to be standard practice. Can you imagine the reaction to that reaction? Cockfighters have a lot of time and money tied up in their birds. They’re hard to replace, given that the sport is illegal in the U.S. except for the Marianas. (Somebody might have to correct me about Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and American Samoa.)

We’re probably on borrowed time. I thought of this again because I saw some feathered friends today who seem to be migrants. Because of our location, they’re probably Asian tourists.

Let’s just hope sick birds get reported. I’m a little worried that someone might just get rid of the carcass to protect the rest of his roosters. We might not learn about it until there’s a human case, and the mortality is high. At least the hospital would catch it quickly. They’ve got a plan.

*Apologies to Shakespeare, and lawyers.

Just browsing

You might have noticed the new top link on the left. That's just a gentle reminder that it's easy for a website to 'know' what browser you're using, and what version.

You'll have fewer nasty surprises if you keep it updated, automatically if you have to. That goes for your firewall, anti-virus, spyware and etc. too, of course. For me, automatic updates always seem to happen when I'm in the middle of something, and they cause problems sometimes.

This would be a good time to ask what you think about browsers, if I didn't already know 80 percent of you use Internet Explorer. So instead I'll ask, why?

Blogger is pretty vanilla and well-behaved, but when I was doing my own web pages I had to test them with all of the popular browsers. I had to learn cheats and tweaks just for IE. It was the worst at following standards. Although IE7 seems better, it still crashes at least once a week. OK, so I like a lot of tabs, and windows off of those tabs, but it doesn't happen in other browsers.

The wife and kids use IE, probably because it's on every computer they've ever used and it comes with Windows. OK, I still use it a lot, just for a quick glance at MSN's headlines before I surf. If I was the only user, there'd be a different home page.

Firefox is better by far. It seems faster and it loads with Google's search engine. That's still the standard, though MSN is pretty good these days. This isn't an anti-Microsoft rant, it's just my personal experience. Hey, Bill Gates has fallen down the billionaire list; he could use your help.

I like Opera well enough, it's light and fast. I just never seemed to feel comfortable using it. Netscape's end was no loss. If I was into a bunch of social networking sites, Flock would probably be the way to go. I've dabbled with it for a couple of months now and it's got great features. I noticed my new toy thinks it's Firefox. I've used SpywareBlaster ever since it was recommended by the Spybot folks, and it now supports Flock.

Macusers are on Safari, of course. There's been a Windows version for awhile, and it's good too.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Four XTERRANS and a funeral

Saturday wasn't a good day for running errands.

First it was XTERRA. Drivers were gawking and gaping as dribs and drabs of competitors passed by. Yeah, I know, they get strung out after awhile so you can't see them all at once.

For me, it's worth the hassle and the $150,000. That's a lot of publicity for Saipan and the CNMI, and positive for a change. Well, except for our lovable boonie dogs getting half of the Saipan Tribune story. I didn't get it from the Tribune's website, folks. It was number two on a 'Saipan' news search I have set up.

Then, around noon, I got caught behind a funeral just as I got to Fish and Tackle. That used to be the bottleneck before we had traffic lights. Ah, the memories, and since I didn't have anything else to do for awhile I wallowed in them.

It might be hard to believe today, but traffic snarls made people nicer back then, not meaner. If you had been stuck at a stop sign for awhile, you could count on somebody stopping to let you out. Sometimes they'd let everybody out. That got irritating, especially if they were the hot-rodders who zipped behind Mt. Carmel Church (it wasn't a cathedral) and the Nauru Building to cut ahead of line. I mean, why reward hyper people?

Luckily, I lived in the north and only the occasional all-night adventure or early appointment got me stuck there in the morning.

You'd even get stuck behind the occasional carabao cart, just until they found a place to pull over. It sure would be nice if people could remember the good old days when the traffic lights go out.

I have a Japanese car radio and public radio wasn't my cuppa tea. An ancient U2 and an older Jimmy Buffet tape were all I had. If you haven't memorized the lyrics, you can't understand them. That left me with my imagination and three tweens who don't much like my music anyway. So I thought about tourism.

But that's another story.

BTW: No letter-writing please. XTERRANS may be aliens, but they're not trying to stay.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Emmanuel III

Only 27% of Xavier College graduates passed the licensure exam of the California Board of Vocational Nursing & Psychiatric Technicians in 2006.

Why should we care? Xavier College has been touted as the sister school of our own Emmanuel College. Take this Saipan Tribune press release for example.

I'm trying to be fair, because I think the college is a great idea. We always need nurses and foreign students would be a boon to the economy. They're basically long-term tourists with minimal impact on the community.

Emmanuel College's instructors are from the CNMI, according to the press release. Recently we've heard that it's using Northern Marianas College to provide, umm, accredited English instruction to foreign students. That's a plus for NMC, too.

I hate to keep harping (Mean sheets) and carping (Decena redux) on Sedy Demesa. I'm sure she's a nice person.

After all, it's the graduates who take the test. Only, Xavier doesn't stack up very well against the other institutions on the list.

During the run-up to Emmanuel's approval we were papered (especially by the Pacific Times) with glowing depictions of Xavier and the connection with Pleasant Care.

I was happy to finally see a newspaper finally ask about Pleasant Care Corporation: Palau may send students to Emmanuel College (Marianas Variety). Well, once anyway. It's problems were obvious for years with a simple Google search. Here's a summary. Ms. Demesa told the Marianas Variety its bankruptcy was to "save jobs, retain assets and the company’s engine of profitability.” No questions about the deaths, fines and lawsuits, I guess.

There's no connection to Emmanuel, she told the Variety. According to the reporter: "She said she will continue to pursue her investments in the CNMI and that her investment plans — existing and future —are independent of Pleasant Care, and will not be affected by anything that concerns the California-based company."

So, what? The benefit of the doubt? No doubt. They're halfway through the first class. I truly hope this works, for the students, for the company and for the CNMI.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Immigrate expectations

I love debate. Back-and-forth, refuting, attacking and defending, marshaling facts to back the opposing sides. It's even better when I haven't made up my mind.

That's where I am on the 'federalization' of immigration. Saipan's a mess, with too many contract workers grabbing for the brass ring. Rota and Tinian too, but not nearly as bad. Local jobseekers are feeling hostile and left out. I'll give you that. However, is U.S. control the best way off of the merry-go-round?

Have its proponents done their homework? Really, the bureaucracy, the backlogs, the leakage and the outright failures should give you pause. Somebody please convince me that the U.S. system, as it stands, doesn't need to be changed. I really want to hear that story.

Meanwhile, the higher minimum wage is percolating through the economy. In the long run, that's what's going to encourage local employment. It already has. The new labor law, whatever you think of it, is also having that effect.

I've read and heard complaints about how Saipan is pictured in Nobodies: Modern American Slave Labor and the Dark Side of the New Global Economy by John Bowe. The book doesn't paint a pretty picture, but it's basically fair. The critics overlook the first three-quarters of the book, written about abuses in the U.S. It's cynical and hypocritical to sip your Florida orange juice and criticize the local system.

The Department of Labor was a cesspool when I used to write about it. Immigration wasn't much better. I'm not there every week any more, but I don't see that today. I do see abuses being reported by the local government, by various federal agencies and by NGO's. I see that in mainland papers, I see it regularly on Guam in the Pacific Daily News and the Marianas Variety.

Okay, tell me a fair system can never be administered locally. We'll have a debate.

Some employers are evil. Everywhere. The only answer is to whack them with a big stick. In our part of the world we have another problem. Some of our investors just don't know about the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Fair Labor Standards Act. Ignorance is no excuse, of course, but they need to be educated when they move in. To me, that's at least as important as the briefing new contract workers are getting now.

Saipan Chamber of Commerce President Jim Arenovski and his
'4 reasons why S.2483 won't work for us' (Saipan Tribune) got me started on this again*. His and/or Lynn Knight's arguments about the lousy “H” worker system had me nodding in agreement.

All right, so I was looking around for someone to hoot and holler with when I read that the bill would “artificially cause the CNMI's population to decline over the next four and a half years”. Nope, there's nothing artificial about local unemployment while half of the workforce is contract labor. But that's what happens when you try to add one more argument to bolster your cause.

I love Russian tourists. They've got money and they're repeat customers if you treat them right. They usually stay for weeks, not for days. I like the Chinese. That's where the proposed legislation worries me most. Tourism in the U.S. has taken a big hit since 9-11. Surf the internet and you'll see how much. We need new markets, not new roadblocks.

Education looks promising, but tourism is basically it. Schools would have the same visa problems in the federal system.

Factories are just a fantasy on an island with limited population. What's your competitive advantage? Resources? Sea, sand and coconuts, good for a tourism factory (aka hotel) and a small, sustainable fishery. Location? Ha. Low wages, or a temporary loophole? We've been there, and done that.

Here's a challenge for you: try to find out about the Commonwealth on the U.S. Department of Labor website. The
Minimum Wage Laws in the States for instance. Other than the minimum wage poster and a few reports, I found nothing. Now tell me the U.S. immigration law will be fine-tuned if it causes problems here.

Coming soon, the debate I've never heard: how much development, and for who?

*Well, there were four in the second paragraph. The body of the article has “First off” and “Secondly” but gets kind of muddled in the end. It probably needs some editing.

Here it comes

Just a short follow-up to George Bush attacks Washington insiders.

The Democratic National Committee claims Gov. Bob Riley's endorsement of John McCain payback for withholding link to discredited lobbyist, according to The Birmingham News in Alabama. Here it comes. The market for glass houses is tanking too.

Jack Abramoff: the gift that keeps on giving, a saying supposedly first used in re phonograph records(those are antique machines that were once used to play music recorded on vinyl). It's been said that Abramoff loved to squirrel his emails away, so it's a nice twenty-first century update. (Have I said this? Gift means poison in German)

If you were thinking diamonds, here's one for you. There's a proposed settlement in the class action suit filed against some companies in the DeBeers Group. Here's your page if you bought diamonds between January 1, 1994 and March 31, 2006.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

99 percent of everything is crap

That's been used so often in writing about Science Fiction that I don't remember who said it first, or whether they copped it from someone else.

There was some carping about the music at 97.9 FM over at must be the humidity Monday. I jumped in with a verse of my own, but didn't post it. It was too long to shoehorn into a comment so I decided to use it here.

Radio is crap. It always has been and it always will be. Even a station that plays your favorite genre will limbo until they get to the least common denominator.

I asked for Lawyers, Guns and Money on 97.9's request line awhile back. A dig at someone who I knew was on the road and listening to the station. You know: Warren Zevon; Z – E – V – O – N. “Never heard of him, but I'll check the library.” Werewolves of London came on. I get it: lawyers, werewolves. Cute. His biggest commercial hit (I think) with a couple of cute lines. Not his best song.

Just for fun, I called a few days later and tried to get the DJ interested in The Stooges.

Ask for the Kinks and here comes Lola. Mmm. Okay, but that's not what I meant. Not Dirty old Town or I Wouldn't Ever Change A Thing but Maggie Mae or Hot Legs. On and on, but you get the idea.

I never thought much of America (the band). They always seemed generic to me, with derivative music and forced rhymes that would embarrass a third grader. (Exhibit A: A Horse With No Name). Now they're a classic on stations like “The Rock”, a staple of the AARP set. (I knew I was on the far side of the hill when the American Association of Retired Persons sponsored “Hippies” on the History Channel)

Hot 98 is okay (is it still hot?), it will probably always be okay. I love some of the songs they play and will never like others. For me, they're doin' good if their batting average would get them into the Major Leagues.

Hey, even Power 99 comes close. I don't understand why some people get stuck in the sixties, the seventies or the fifties. There was good music then and there's plenty of good music now. Rap and hip hop isn't bad, styles just change. Nothing but talent challenged performers doing lousy songs that sound the same? I've been saying that about the music on every station since I first listened to the radio. My parents' generation sure said it. I still hear funk and ballads on 99 that are right up there with my favorites.

I loved Rehab the first dozen or so times I heard it and wondered if Amy Winehouse could keep it up. I'm still waiting to find out. So far, she's just giving 'one hit wonder' a whole new meaning. That's just an example, I don't want to start a shopping list of recent songs. BTW, Jeff Healy just died. Too bad, and too soon. I hope 97.9 doesn't notice, they'd dig out Angel Eyes. Ugh.

Once there was a garage band playing In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida at a county fair. Their guitar cut out and we were subjected to hours of the bass riff while they fiddled with the amp and connections. The rapper hasn't been born who can waterboard me like that.

I'm just saying that no radio station has hit my sweet spot more than half of the time since I was listening to Wolfman Jack on a pirate station out of Mexico. I don't expect it. Obviously, you're reading this on the internet. Take a few minutes and create your own station; it's easy. In your car, keep hitting the scan button or carry some road CDs. (Snide aside: most business and government computers have a CD burner; make your own. I can guess why my traffic is highest on weekdays during working hours.)

Radio Radio

I was tuning in the shine on the light night dial
doing anything my radio advised
with every one of those late night stations
playing songs bringing tears to me eyes
I was seriously thinking about hiding the receiver
when the switch broke 'cause it's old
They're saying things that I can hardly believe.
They really think we're getting out of control.

Radio is a sound salvation
Radio is cleaning up the nation
They say you better listen to the voice of reason
But they don't give you any choice
'cause they think that it's treason.
So you had better do as you are told.
You better listen to the radio.

I wanna bite the hand that feeds me.
I wanna bite that hand so badly.
I want to make them wish they'd never seen me.

Some of my friends sit around every evening
and they worry about the times ahead
But everybody else is overwhelmed by indifference
and the promise of an early bed
You either shut up or get cut up

Monday, March 3, 2008

TSA training tool

It took my breath away. Whatever happened to playing doctor? All searches must be supervised, kids.

Wouldn't you know it, Playmobil (Geobra Brandst├Ątter) is a German company. I don't think their market research was very good on this one.

The reviews on Amazon are pretty funny, though they say they "don't know when or if this item will be back in stock." Oh, and they claim 60 or so of the people who bought it also grabbed an L. Ron Hubbard book. Maybe that's some strange crosscurrent since the German government has been harrassing Scientologists for years.

3172 Security Check-in Every single smuggler is caught at the security check-in. With a modern X-ray machine every item not allowed on board is detected. At the same time, the passengers have to pass the passenger check-in under the watchful eyes of the security staff. Only then can they start in their hard-earned vacation.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Move away from the bus

Hormonal politics make me nervous. I'm the one you'll see laughing nervously and edging away.

Which brings us to Barack Hussein Obama. Dignified and measured in speech like William F. Buckley (RIP), as charming and as photogenic as Ronald Reagan. 'There you go again,” again. Teflon. Yes We Can. Oh, and issues, too. What those two did for conservatives, he's doing for liberals. That is, making them palatable to the mainstream.

Bill Clinton doesn't count. He always played the left-of-center good ol' boy. Just Billy Carter with brains and a testesterone imbalance.

Oh, Obama's liberal. The Senator with the most liberal voting record according to one of those groups that does ratings. I'd Google it if it was up for debate. Many, if not most, of his supporters back him because of his positions. But they sure go down better with a dose of corn syrup.

If he's elected, there's going to be a lot of anger when the sugar high wears off. Because, really, how's he going to clean up influence peddling with Harry Reid leading the charge? We always come back to the sad fact that the parties are more alike than they are different and they're both beholden to lobbyists.

Getting us out of Iraq? Sure, but when? Armies are like trains; they don't stop on a dime and it takes just as long to get them moving in the opposite direction. I seem to remember Richard M. Nixon's campaign promise to get us out of Vietnam. He kept it, but only after a few 'surges'. Before we got “peace with honor” it became “Nixon's war”.

That's not to say it doesn't matter who's elected. President Obama would push the Democrats’ agenda, albeit with the usual success rate.

My main worry is that he might be Jimmy Carter with style points: such a nice guy that he's ineffective. He must be tougher than he shows publicly to rise this high, and I'm sure that his public persona is calculated and fine-tuned. It's just that I remember a friend from Trust Territory days bemoaning Carter's policy toward Chile and Pinochet during his 'State Department' posting there. He thought we'd gone soft and that had encouraged the hostage-takers in Iran.

Of course, Obama's got to get past Hillary Clinton first. She's changed so much from the church girl who worked for Barry Goldwater and became a social worker that I don't have a read on her, but I've never understood women anyway. It's like men are from Arkansas and women are from New York(?). She's down, but I wouldn't count her out yet.

McCain will be waiting, draped in a full-length flag.* Doing the Giulani doesn't look like a sure-fire winner this election cycle, but the military has been a huge part of the Republican base for quite awhile. He's also got to blow some smoke to calm the fundy Hucklebees.

Obama versus McCain? It'll be an interesting match when we know their tag-team partners, especially since McCain has a few positions like global warming that usually belong to Democrats. Most independents don't have a clue about his voting record. Some even say Ralph likes him.

The Obama campaign? You can dance to it, Dick, so I'll give it an eight.

Oh, and the picture? I’d bet that the Obama campaign or one of its friends leaked it to Drudge. He’s such a dweeb he’d believe it came from Clinton’s camp. The setup is just too perfect: release it before someone else does and get some sympathy points at the same time.

* Standard McCain disclaimer: this in no way belittles his sacrifice for our country or the character he showed as a prisoner of war.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

George Bush attacks Washington insiders

Bonus points if you can guess which presidential candidate he's going to accuse of using Washington double-talk.

Post post (the next day)

There's an interesting dengre* Diary alleging that McCain is “managing” a mountain of Jack Abramoff documents, partly as payback against George Bush and company and partly as a sword over their heads.

True or not, that's one explanation for the disconnect between the first statements on the video and the last. It could also be politics as usual for Bush Jr. He's not running against John McCain this time around.

* dengre disclaimer: Before you flame me, the link does not mean I buy into all of his conclusions and pet theories. I particularly don't like misplaced personal attacks on people I know who he's never met. He does his homework and links to good facts, so I visit fairly often. That's why his link is handy on my main page. I can draw my own conclusions.