Sunday, September 28, 2008

Is it that time already?

Senators Dianne Feinstein, Bob Bennett, Harry Reid and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi driving in the 'first nail' of the Presidential Inaugural Platform. Insert joke about coffin and the current administration here.

Best line on the ceremony goes to the Washington Times: "Other preparations include the repaving of Pennsylvania Avenue to rid it of potholes." Woa, I knew the Highway Trust Fund was broke, but...

Define bipartisan

I've been amused-- black humor I'll admit-- by the way the Robber Baron Bailout is being marketed.

A Republican administration proposes a no-oversight blank check.

House Republicans insist on their alternate plan.

We're told that a bipartisan bill should include both.

Now why would Democrats suspect they're being played?

Strangely, unlike a few days ago John McCain doesn't think he needs to be present, according to spokesman Mark Salter: "Because he can effectively do what he needs to do by phone."

It really was that boring.

I'm interested in this day-to-day nonsense, and still almost gave up on the debate several times. From my perspective, both sides got what they wanted and the viewers got very little. I don't like drawn chess games either.

Honestly, putting the spin aside, I saw very little difference in their foreign policy except on Iraq. Both sides are trying to put semantic lipstick on what are really minor differences. McCain got points on experience, Barack Obama some on lost opportunities.

Give Obama an edge on the economy, he sounded Presidential with proposals he connected to the middle-class. McCain came off more like a Senator running for re-election, though he scored on earmarks and Obama's proposed spending.

McCain's dislike of Obama came through; he wouldn't even look at his opponent. Still, I wouldn't make any big deal out of Obama using 'John' 25 times while McCain never used 'Barack'. Animosity aside, you know he'd be hammered by the pundits for trying to paint Obama as 'the other'. He was in a no-win situation.


Yep, to me he was. I don't think 'you don't understand' ever won a debate. Still, calling the faux flap about Spain "horseshit" was refreshing and appropriate.

Chris Wallace, the Fox ferret, tried to draw Joe Biden out with a snarky leading question about how he could avoid being condescending to Sarah Palin in next week's Vice Presidential debate. Biden gleefully replied that he wasn't going to be like McCain.

Sarah Smile

Biden was all over the airwaves. Where was Palin? Evidently, at an Irish bar in Philadelphia.

You can observe a lot just by watching. Yogi Berra

Saturday, September 27, 2008

As others see us

From Robert Burns, you might remember. The last stanza of the poem To A Louse he saw crawling on a lady's head in church:

O would some Power the gift to give us
To see ourselves as others see us!
It would from many a blunder free us,
And foolish notion:
What airs in dress and gait would leave us,
And even devotion!

The lice are in Garapan, of course. I thought of the line when I saw more bad Saipan exposure at tripadvisor:

We (family of 5) just visited Saipan a couple of weeks ago. Like you, we live in Japan. We stayed at the Hyatt and found it to be very nice. There were some kids at the pool, but that's about the only place. However, the area outside of the hotel is very, very shabby, almost third-world like. Very cheap looking karaoke places and hostess bars. Japan has these kinds of areas, but the ones in Saipan were much more sleazy. Since JAL stopped flying about a year or two ago, the economy has apparently taken a nose dive. As we drove around the island one day, it seemed that at least half or more of the places of business were closed up. There are certainly some interesting historical places and the Hyatt is very nice. But, I think that if you're looking for some nice nightlife, you're going to be very disappointed.

I wasn't going to mention it, but there's a story today about a new resort. There's been a lot of talk about lipstick on pigs lately. Sadly, if tourists won't leave their hotels, that's my reaction.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Hank and Ben's fail safe

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke as the butt of an internet joke.

Visit FAIL Blog. 'Nuff said.

Non sequiter (Serves them right, though)

An item with no connection to the above: Search for Brad Pitt on the internet and you have a one-in-five chance of hitting a malware site. Other danger names for your gossip needs: Beyonce, Justin Timberlake, Heidi Montag, Mariah Carey, Jessica Alba, Lindsay Lohan, Cameron Diaz, George Clooney, and Angelina Jolie.

It used to be Paris Hilton. I guess she's too much of a heavyweight since John McCain made her political.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Welfare reform

Buffett Deal at Goldman Is Seen as a Sign of Confidence blares the New York Times headline. But is Warren Buffet confident in the company, or in former Goldman-Sachs CEO Henry Paulson?

"An open, competitive, and liberalized financial market can effectively allocate scarce resources in a manner that promotes stability and prosperity far better than governmental intervention, Paulson told the Shanghai Futures Exchange 18 months ago, according to The Chinese weren't buying it then, and they're certainly not buying now.

"It's ironic Paulson has become the manager of many large financial institutions," said Wang Jun, a finance specialist at the World Bank in Beijing. "He will have to ask the Chinese leaders about their experience of managing state-owned assets."

He's off to a good start, asking Congress for $700 billion --more or less-- with no checks and balances. Or, rather, checks from Main Street to balance Wall Street's books. Evidently, Paulson was sent up the Hill because he had more credibility than President George Bush. Isn't that setting the bar a little low?

What a difference a decade makes. As Bloomberg rudely notes: "Thailand, South Korea and Indonesia were urged to let unviable banks fail during the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis."

Now, according to another Bloomberg article "Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke signaled that their priority is shoring up the nation's banks even if it means they don't get taxpayers the cheapest prices for the devalued assets the government buys."

It's nice to have friends.

But it looks like the Democrats and Republicans will insist on bipartisan oversight. Something like the House and Senate committees who have ignored the problem for years while raking in contributions-- in a bipartisan fashion.

At least that dooms the proposal's section 8: "Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency." The Chinese would appreciate that one.

Oh, and what Bernanke and Paulson were saying last year

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

It hurts to laugh

A joke email I found in The Nation. I've nothing to add; send it to a friend.

Dear American:

I need to ask you to support an urgent secret business relationship with a transfer of funds of great magnitude.

I am Ministry of the Treasury of the Republic of America. My country has had crisis that has caused the need for large transfer of funds of 800 billion dollars US. If you would assist me in this transfer, it would be most profitable to you.

I am working with Mr. Phil Gram, lobbyist for UBS, who will be my replacement as Ministry of the Treasury in January. As a Senator, you may know him as the leader of the American banking deregulation movement in the 1990s. This transactin is 100% safe.

This is a matter of great urgency. We need a blank check. We need the funds as quickly as possible. We cannot directly transfer these funds in the names of our close friends because we are constantly under surveillance. My family lawyer advised me that I should look for a reliable and trustworthy person who will act as a next of kin so the funds can be transferred.

Please reply with all of your bank account, IRA and college fund account numbers and those of your children and grandchildren to so that we may transfer your commission for this transaction. After I receive that information, I will respond with detailed information about safeguards that will be used to protect the funds.

Yours Faithfully Minister of Treasury Paulson

PAC woman

More cleverness from Hillary Clinton. She's the "Honorary Chair" of, a Political Action Committee "Not authorized by any candidate or candidate's committee".

That gives her the freedom to control her own exposure and message, to prove her support for Barack Obama/Joe Biden and to pile up a mess of markers from candidates she helps in the swing states. You never know what's going to happen in four or eight years. Contributors will be in "her" database, not anyone else's.

That's my cynical take, anyway. My first impression, that some of the money might go to paying off her primary debts, appears to be wrong; apparently only $5,000 can directly go to any candidate.

According to the website "We are going to be focusing on key battleground states including New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio, Virginia, Nevada and more to help Democrats this fall." That can only be helpful to Obama, and the expenses won't be on his dime. It won't hurt Clinton's standing as a power broker in the party either.

Hey, tell them Hillary sent you.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Road trip

You might go a little batty if the William Tell Overture-- okay, okay, the Lone Ranger Theme -- played outside of your window all night.

That's the trick Honda pulled in Lancaster, California. They engineered road grooves like those on vinyl records* to play the tune if you drive at exactly 55 miles per hour. Faster or slower and you've got a karaoke car; it's out of tune.

There are at least a dozen videos on YouTube. Here's one:

It's days are numbered, according to BBC News. "I think it's terrible because it keeps me awake at night," Lancaster resident Donna Martin told the Daily Breeze newspaper. I can sympathize.

It's supposedly been tried in Japan, South Korea and the Netherlands.

Any suggestions for Saipan? More original than "We're not gonna take it", please.

* An archaic 20th Century recording technology

Follow the money

While burnishing her foreign policy credentials by traveling to Vienna Ohio, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin proposed putting the government's checkbook online.

A bold move, Governor. Will that be something like You know, "Google for Government", the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006 sponsored by Senators Tom Coburn, Barack Obama, Tom Carper and... John McCain. Or maybe S.3077, the Strengthening Transparency and Accountability in Federal Spending Act of 2008, sponsored by Barack Obama with co-sponsors Thomas Carper, Thomas Coburn and... John McCain.

To be fair, I didn't know the site has been up-and-running since December either. Then again, I'm not looking to preside over the U.S. Senate come January. It's definitely not a wedge issue between the candidates.

What's it to you?

Naturally, now that I know it's there, curiosity led me to looking up the Northern Marianas.

It's obviously a work in progress: there's no 2007 data on food stamps, for instance. If the 2005 and 2006 figures are any indication, 2007 should eventually show about $127 million. (It appears about $4.5 million in California assistance was mistakenly listed under the CNMI, but that's probably due to growing pains of a new database.) Chunks of disaster and FAA money seem to account for much of the jump in 2004.

Still, $878 million from fiscal years 2000-2008 is a goodly chunk of change. I've been playing with the site for almost two hours, and I'm still trying to figure out the different ways it can be used.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Bipartisan fun

Your favorite politicians as the Golden Girls, just to take a break from all of the bickering:

Less funny

I ran across the video on Race Card Politics Watch, where I was looking for the Mississippi Supreme Court decision on some election shenanigans. Governor Haley Barbour is trying to hide Trent Lott's old seat on the bottom of the ballot to hold on to the Republican seat.

The court decided that the ballot was illegal, but they wouldn't force him to change it.

Here's the decision:

Read this document on Scribd: Barbour v. Berger Order

Don't bore me with facts

I've been mildly supportive of the proposed Marine Monument surrounding the northern Northern Mariana Islands; thinking it was more appropriate for people like David Sablan, Ike Cabrera, Agnes McPhetres and Karl Reyes to comment. I don't want opponents like Gourley and Joyner to muddy the waters by twisting it into 'outsiders telling us what to do'. After all, I've only been here for 25 years.

Still, I was surprised when I was polled about my opinion. It was obviously a survey of attitudes toward the monument-- and toward the military's presence in the Marianas-- but in no way was it a "sales job thinly disguised as a “phone survey” with Saipan residents as the target." I don't know whether Stanley Torres actually participated in the telephone survey, but I totally disagree with his assertion that "By using leading questions, ambiguous questions, and questions skillfully designed to hype their proposal they want to infiltrate every home on Saipan and try to sell their fairytale version of what this Bush Monument will mean to the children of the Marianas."

His letter sounds like a pre-emptive strike to discount the results if they don't favor his side. Not satisfied, he quickly slips into active paranoia: "There are favors being traded at very high levels and huge sums are at stake in this takeover bid." Whew, take a deep breath. Who is going to gain huge sums from a marine monument?

For myself, the questions clarified how important the issue is to me: not a deal-breaker, but certainly something I'll consider when I vote. Then again, I guess he was talking about me when he earlier wrote that "It’s not their ‘public land’ that would be given away should this [marine monument] be enforced by [President] Bush." Oh, wait, the 'public land' is the islands that are already protected by the CNMI Constitution. I guess the monument would be in the surrounding waters so that nasty federal government will be grabbing control... from themselves.

"How dumb do they think we are?" he asks. Let me rephrase that: how dumb do you think we are?

No worry, Representative Torres, I supported you for years because you were opposed, albeit ineffectively, to a lot of the CNMI government's mis-steps. That stopped a couple of years ago because of your increasingly vitriolic personal attacks on people you disagree with. I take it very personally that you are continually setting up 'statesiders' and 'mainlanders' as bogeymen.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Bush whacked

President George Bush seems to be trying a Texas two-step to get John McCain elected. Nationalizing Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, massive borrowing to prop up other failing banks; that should get us through to the November election. More stop-gaps until January and it's someone else's problem.

Look at today's financial meltdown. Lots of attacks, but where's the beef?

McCain and Barack Obama to the rescue? Why am I cynical?:

Merrill-Lynch: McCain $394,300; Obama $229,100
Bank of America: McCain $177,500, Obama $263,500
Lehman Brothers: $117,500, Obama $370,500
AIG: McCain $103,000, Obama $82,600

Sure, they're two Senators out of 100, but they've been burnishing their Presidential credentials instead of dealing with the problem.

Blame Bush for lax regulation, with the help of both parties. Both candidates say they're going to fix that. Meanwhile, I'd suggest looking at their economic policies as a whole. This issue looks like a wash.

They say in the stock market…buy stock in a business that’s so good that an idiot can run it because sooner or later one will. -- Warren Buffet

Monday, September 15, 2008

A boy named sue

Nobody should be surprised that Gov. Benigno R. Fitial has filed his lawsuit against the federal government -- the move's been obvious since he first proposed it in his State of the Commonwealth Address and he consistently ignores anybody but his dwindling inner circle.

Former Office of Insular Affairs Deputy Assistant Secretary David Cohen puts it succinctly in the Saipan Tribune:
Moreover, while the lawsuit “tries to argue that the CNMI is being singled out with special restrictions that do not apply to any other community in the U.S,” the truth “is exactly the opposite. The CNMI is receiving special benefits that no other community receives under U.S. immigration law.”
I've written that before, but the Counselor does it so well. Another of my points he says better:
The governor, he added, “is essentially asking the court for protection because he’s afraid that the federal agencies will, in the future, ignore their duties under the new law and not implement it properly. Any court worth its salt would tell the governor to wait and give the feds a chance to do their jobs properly. You can’t sue public officials in advance for possible future misdeeds. You have to wait to see if those misdeeds actually occur.”

This Lone Ranger approach is arrogant enough, but the Governor evidently has such contempt for the Legislature that he's going to use funds that have not even been identified as resources:
In his Sunday statement, the governor says he “will not use any funds currently available for public services for this case” yet his spokesman, Charles Reyes, acknowledged in an interview that money obtained through government settlements will pay for it

“The governor is not prepared to get into all the technical details at this point. Of course, we'll want the Legislature's blessing,” Reyes added.

Amazing, and how exactly do you put the genie back in the bottle if the Legislature disagrees? Then again, when all of the chittering is done, Rep. Diego Benavente tells us the likely outcome:
Although lawmakers acknowledge the governor's authority to sue the federal government and to transfer funds for the suit, he added, they believe the litigation will be costly and counterproductive

With all (due) respect, and granting that the Legislature has abdicated its responsibility by giving the Governor virtually unlimited reprogramming authority, this is evidently money that has not been identified or appropriated. That attitude (again) raises the question Why do we need a Legislature?

Oh, and a quibble for the reporters; the Saipan Tribune and the Marianas Variety don't even tell us who's being sued, though the Tribune implies it by saying the suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia "which is often the venue for challenges to federal regulations-against the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Labor."

"Hey listen. Don't you think you're bounding over your steps ?" -- Arthur Stanley Jefferson (Stan Laurel)

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Aggreko tragedy

Welcome to the Third World.

With a flip of the switch, Gov. Benigno R. Fitial added Aggreko's generators to Saipan's dilapidated power grid. Aggreko is the Dial Rent-to-own of the power industry, with booming sales in developing countries. I ran across this fascinating Newsweek piece after sorting through pages of Google listings on Aggreko contracts.

It's a proposal that has come up in neither President Nicolas Sarkozy's energy plans for France, nor President Vladimir Putin's power diplomacy for Russia, nor Britain's debate over nuclear plants. But then, it's hard to imagine temporary electric generators' being held up as a viable national energy plan.

In fact, that's exactly the plan in much of the developing world, as governments coping with inadequate infrastructure and the galloping energy demands of growing economies try to keep the lights on, whatever the cost. The portable-generator business is booming—already, temporary electric generators (not too far removed from what rural homeowners in the West might have in their basements) light towns and factories from Yemen to Venezuela, Sri Lanka to Mongolia. In Africa, diesel engines supply 50 percent of the power grid in Uganda, 10 percent in Kenya and similar proportions in Mauritania, Angola, Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of Congo. In nearly every market, the No. 1 provider of this power is a little-known British company called Aggreko, which makes electricity generators in Dumbarton, near Glasgow, and rents them to energy-hungry clients all over the world.
So, unlike many others, I think it's entirely possible this was a straight deal with no hanky-panky. Still, my BS detector blipped when Aggreko sales director Steve Dunlop was quoted as saying "It's been three years in the making." Hmm, the dusty Request For Proposal used for this contract was announced on Sept. 19, 2006. The following statements added more blips:
Aggreko was contracted to initially provide 10 megawatts of power today, but Dunlop decided to add 13.

“I realized the situation on the island, and I was quite keen to add more to help,” he said.
Well, it's nice Dunlop is civic-minded, but I'd still rather have someone else make the decision. From the Newsweek story:
"What politicians don't want are people complaining that the lights won't go on … so if you're Aggreko and you're on a six- or 18-month project, that often gets extended because of the dynamics of demand. Once you're part of the grid, you're part of the grid," says Wayne Gerry, an analyst at Dresdner Kleinwort.
It appears that, after lengthy consultation with, uhh, someone Fitial has decided that "a private company should do the power generation and CUC should continue with the distribution." Can you say "line loss"? How about "management"? There should be public discussion of the options, not closed-door discussions with the "experts" who got us into this mess. Those are probably the same experts who led him to this conclusion: "We don't need to wait for the engines to be totally rehabilitated,” he said, adding that most are unable to be repaired. Yeah, let's just move on to independent power producers.

If a private company is responsible for island power, it can make its decisions in private. Public decisions should me made in public.

Meanwhile, Agrekko stock keeps climbing on London's "Footsie" stock exchange. With rental power costing about three times more than permanent power, I'd still advise buying.

Italics in this blog are added for emphasis.

Oh, just got back to Frederick Prosser's excellent letter to the Saipan Tribune. While I disagree about privatization-- if it's complete and transparent-- he has three questions that must be answered by the Legislature if it hopes to keep a shred of its remaining integrity: "There have been three decisions made that have hurt CUC. First was the change in fuel from heavy oil to diesel. We all know who made that decision. Second was the removal of the electronic reclosures from the power distribution system. This left the power plant without any protection. Now every time there is a problem with any part of the distribution system, it is going to trip the power plant offline and we have “islandwide power outage.” It also increases the risk of damage to a generator (Who made this decision?). Third, the use of non-treated water to cool the engines in the power plant. The water used to cool those engines is supposed to be purified water that will not let slag deposit in the engines blocks, the pipes to and from the radiators and the radiators themselves. OK, what is slag? Take a pan and fill it with CUC water. Let most of the water boil off. All the white deposit on the inside of the pan is slag. That is what is building up in the cooling systems in the power plant every day now. (Who made this decision?) We need to know who made these decisions and hold them accountable for their actions."

Thursday, September 11, 2008

A pig in a poke

It's common knowledge that John McCain really wanted his good buddy (and prompter) Joe Lieberman as a running mate-- but it would be too much for the Republican base. Still, I can fantasize about the (imagined) outrage defending the Senator from Israel if Barack Obama made the same 'lipstick on a pig' remark that so 'outraged' Sarah Palin supporters.

In any case, has a nice video summing up this tempest-in-a-teapot:

Campaign Contributions 96950

Now that we've got a CNMI contest with federal election law applying, let's take a peek at

I've been looking forward to this, but it looks like only Pedro A. Tenorio supporters have gotten into the act with $3850. It's early in the game since none of the Washington Delegate candidates were officially certified until two weeks ago. It will be fun to watch anyway.

It's interesting to note in passing that Governor Benigno R. Fitial popped for $1,000 to the Republican National Committee a year ago; I wonder if he's having second thoughts.

More incongruous: an April $1,000 donation to House Democrat George Miller from Saipan Tribune Publisher Lynn Knight.

It seems contributions from this zip code reached their peak in the wild 'n wooly Abramoff days. In this cycle, Sen. John McCain appears to be leading Sen. Barack Obama in Presidential contributions that are over the reporting threshold-- I'm lazy today; I'll have to get back to you on what that is.

I'm supposed to give credit to the Center for Responsive Politics; here you go and I'll do it again soon.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Hot fun in the summertime

More great stuff from NASA and the National Snow and Ice Data Center. We haven't fallen below last year's low, but you can now sail around the North Pole in the Arctic Ocean.

Maybe we'll have to rename the ice cap-- beanie? Yarmulke?

I've subscribed to NASA's Earth Observatory. Great photos, Google's new satellite can't top this.

Bonus! Ike invades Cuba!

I'm not making this up

Rep. Victor Hocog wants to write a check to Gov. Benigno Fitial and let him decide how to spend it.

Seriously, this was actually in the Saipan Tribune and it's obviously not April Fool's Day.

Finally, a way to pass a budget on time after years of failure: do nothing.

According to Hocog, "the governor may be the best to determine how the money should be distributed to the departments and agencies."

Reductio ad absurdum

Good start, but the governor may be the best to determine how to run the departments and agencies. Who needs a legislature?. Think of the savings.

This was foreshadowed last week, when Sen. Maria Pangelinan groused about those agencies: "They cannot even respond to a simple request to confirm the positions in their department."

And, evidently, the Senate can't force them to comply.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The Britney trap

It looks like John McCain is hooked on getting rock star treatment again.

The aging fighter pilot used to obsess about Barack Obama's celebrity treatment. 'Kids these days are superficial,' he'd petulantly tell the hundreds folding-chaired into his town halls, coming off more like a jealous faded beauty in smeared make-up than a Presidential candidate.

What a difference a week makes. With Sarah Palin drawing the numbers he couldn't, he keeps postponing the date when they'll go their separate ways on the campaign trail.

He's no longer playing second fiddle to Obama, but there's a real possibility that he'll be in the third chair-- with Obama and Palin drawing more people. What a dilemma for his handlers.

McCain (did I tell you again he was a POW?) has already folded the 'more foreign experience' hand, what's next?

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Hot news flash

Karl Rove, Bill O'Reilly, Dick Morris and Nancy Pfotenhauer are two-faced when it comes to Sarah Palin. I'm shocked.

(Warning, more often than not, these Daily Show embeds don't work; you'll probably have to go to the website)

Where eagles sour

Now we know why Tom Ridge was dropped from George McCain's list of potential Vice-Presidents.

This video works fine on You Tube, but gives a 'Not available' message here. Dunno why, tho they say they're doing site maintenance. Here's another version:

Hmm. Same thing. Try this or this

Friday, September 5, 2008

Cabinet storage

Amazing, KSPN-2 reported that Lt. Gov. Timothy Villagomez was at Gov. Benigno Fitial's first cabinet meeting of the year.

The economy is in tatters, the CNMI government is essentially bankrupt and the Covenant Party seems doomed to become a memory, yet he hasn't gotten his Department Heads together to talk about it?

KSPN only asked about the Lt. Governor. Hard to believe, so I was going to double-check the 8 p.m. replay. Alas, the Commonwealth Utilities Corporation had other ideas. The story hasn't been posted on their website yet.

Their line of questioning isn't surprising, I suppose, in fact I wrote the first sentence to imply I agreed with it.

I'd be surprised if he didn't attend, and I certainly don't expect him to resign. How would you get a fair jury on an island the size of Saipan if you essentially admit guilt before the trial starts?

The mob howling for his resignation or impeachment needs to slow down and take a deep breath. The media frenzy has pretty much slammed my thought processes shut too, but I'm still willing to let him have his day in court.

Meanwhile, what's up with this government and what did the cabinet talk about?

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Palintology: You left the mike on again?

So I was over at, because that's where I flee when I want to unwind the spin that's spun, and I ran across yet another "hot mike" moment.

Check out these comments on Sarah Palin that NBC caught when the cameras were supposedly off. Pundit Republican consultant Mike Murphy and Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan are publicly in her corner. Didn't they learn anything from Jesse Jackson? I borrowed the You Tube link from Ben Smith's blog.

Palin's speech was pretty much what I expected, but she has a timber and a delivery that grates on my cheddar. I had to force myself to sit through the whole thing. I'll read her speeches in the future or nibble on sound bites.

This is going to be fun. How can the Democrats attack Affirmative Action and diversity.

When I hear a statement like that coming from a woman candidate with any kind of perceived whine about that excess criticism, or maybe a sharper microscope put on her, I think, 'Man, that doesn't do us any good, women in politics, or women in general, trying to progress this country-- Sarah Palin

(Another version, found at You Tube They seem to be having problems with embeds right now.)

Crosstown traffic

Is it going to take a fatality for the Department of Public Safety to man intersections during power outages?

Sure, there's usually an officer at the Microl Intersection-- since Judge Govendo specifically mentioned it in his month-old letter.

In fact, there were "at least five" police vehicles there when three vehicles played bumper car a few blocks away in Susupe, according to the Saipan Tribune. This tidbit was amplified by a comment to the Marianas Variety article: "What they did not tell you in the story, there where 8 cops with their cars sitting at the Microl intersection chewing beatle nut and watching one cop directing traffic while this accident happened at the "Naru" intersection. So much for short supply of personel."

Sure, there are traffic rules at intersections we (should) know during outages. That's fine for unexpected outages that don't last long. A judge shouldn't have to shame DPS into protecting public safety at all controlled intersections when we know the power will be out for hours.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

CAPTCHA Cops and Robbers

The spammers and nefarious internet marketers are winning another round, and it doesn't even bother me much.

CAPTCHA's-- you know, those pictures of goofy distorted letters that ask the troubling question "are you human?"-- are being farmed out to India and Bangladesh at a rate something like $2 for a 1000 solved. Cheap labor plus computers will always trump computers alone.

I hate all of that unwanted junk, but despise CAPTCHAs equally. Some of the new ones are so unreadable it takes me two or three attempts to solve them. I'd be a failure in India.

Your move, cops.

Melting the ice

I see that Benigno Sablan has been reappointed to the Western Pacific Fishery Management Council. I assume Marine Monument supporters wouldn't be pleased because members are nominated by the Governor, but I've liked Ben since he was my Congressman.

Really, I wouldn't even bring it up, except that the press release from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (This is the Saipan Tribune after all) states that "NOAA understands and predicts changes in the Earth’s environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and conserves and manages the nation's coastal and marine resources." You might guess from my added emphasis that I consider that a boldface, um, overstatement. How about understanding and predicting the Arctic Icecap?

North by Northwest

The Northwest Passage is open for business. Dust off your history books and you'll recall that a passage to the Far East drove generations of early American exploration. Even Columbus was aiming for the "Indies".

So far, I've only run across an Australian who sailed West-to-East, but if it continues to open, and for a longer season, shippers are sure to follow. A beefed up oil tanker was tested before the decision was made to build the Alaska Pipeline.

The extent of sea-ice is approaching last year's record low. Global warming? Probably, maybe, but that's irrelevant in the near-term. The icecap has been shrinking for the 30 years we've had satellites to peep at it and for the last 10 years particularly.

We can argue about where the Highs and Lows park during summer and winds pushing the pack ice in the 'wrong' direction, even throw in global currents and post-ice-age isostatic recovery. We know that the 'new ice' from last year melts more easily and that open ocean absorbs more sunlight than ice, but we're ignorant puppies about events on this scale and our supercomputers will be happily humming for years. Climate change is about decades or centuries, not years.

Chill out

Why should I care way off in Saipan? Well aside from living near sea level and liking to think about ice when I'm sweltering in the dark, Russia has been pretty assertive lately.

There are bound to be disputes; Russia has tried to claim the North Pole and is building nuclear-powered icebreakers, Canada is still trying to assert control over their sea-lanes, and we're stumbling along with three aged icebreakers (one's for research and one's in the shop).

Yep, you got it: the icebreaker gap. It's not just military/political; ice-free doesn't mean, well, free of ice. Depending on who's defining, it means less than 15% ice. So ships can get stuck, they can get holed, they can sink. Big ships. Tankers. Enforcement and clean-up crews are going to have to function in that environment.

Also, submarine cousins from the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans are going to be increasingly likely to meet, and to invade each other's territory.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Get well card

The new version of Firefox recommended this as a story I might want to revisit, and, since for some reason I thought of Glen when reading it the first time I'll dedicate it to his recovery.

Briefly, some prosecutorial busybody pulled up behind this offending license plate and immediately reported it to Florida's Motor Vehicle word police.

Okay, I guess, but where does it end? It's an archaic word; I doubt if I've ever heard it said and am mostly sure I haven't used it. A few writers dredge it out for shock value or Henry Miller style points.

There's definitely a snigger involved, but to U.S. Marines that's an acronym for Tactical Wire Assault Team. I'll give them this one, the Republic will not fall.

Askant I look at this lady; her previous association with prosecuting O. J. Simpson suggests she's no stranger to baying with the publicity hounds.

I'm reminded of a cartoon in Paul Krassner's Realist. A television talking head has just said "Frankly, I don't give a ****." Back home, granny, grandpop, mum, dad, the kids-- I think there was a dog-- are all shown gathered around the hearth-tube with balloon thoughts filling in the blank.

Much ado over a small thing, including my writing about it.

On the other hand, I couldn't find the picture until I disabled Google's filter.

Since, during the last power holiday, I just finished re-reading Fierce Invalids Home from Hot Climates, whose protagonist would be enamored of the word's etymology, I leave you with Tom Robbins: "Peeple of zee wurl, relax!"