Monday, May 26, 2008

In the interest of justice

My buddy Bruce Jorgensen copies me in on his vitriolic emails. This one was addressed to the Marianas Variety, Saipan Tribune and Pacific Daily News. Since I haven't seen it in their Letters to the Editor....

21 May 2008

For Publication

Dear Editor:

Given that there is no CNMI institution singularly more responsible than the CNMI Judiciary for the CNMI's demise among investors over the past two decades, it is curious to read the groveling drivel by which several CNMI Bar Association members publicly intimate that the best and brightest have served as CNMI jurists and those presently serving should not be subjected to salary diminution as the general CNMI citizenry starves.

After all, it was the CNMI Judiciary, was it not, which in lieu of promptly disposing of baseless and greedily-motivated Article XII land claims originating in the 1980's, opted instead to needlessly create the CNMI Supreme Court to divest jurisdiction over those claims from the U.S. District Court's then-existing Appellate Division, and to thereafter perpetuate those legally baseless claims for years until final disposition by the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals?

Which, of course, is in turn why investors from Japan and elsewhere correctly deemed the CNMI an investors' nightmare as this nonesense persisted, by CNMI Judicial ineptness, into the mid-1990's or so.

Followed, soon after, by the departure of Japanese luminaries JAL, Tokyo Marine, and others. See, e.g., Nikko Hotel.

It was the CNMI Judiciary, was it not, which thereafter, in tandem with their legislative counterparts, orchestrated the enactment of legislation compelling the CNMI Retirement Fund to loan to the CNMI Judiciary the $10 million or so used to construct the CNMI Judiciary's temple-to-itself, grandiously labeled the "Guma In Husticia", in the shadow of the nearby, decrepit, high school so desperately needing repair to educate the CNMI's most valuable gift, its youth?

And it was the CNMI Judiciary, was it not, which thereafter, in tandem with their legislative counterparts, orchestrated the unlawful enactment of legislation by which the CNMI Judiciary designed to keep for itself the many hundreds of thousands of dollars in Hillblom Estate interest income, as this CNMI Judiciary simultaneously was entrusted with the duty to protect estate assets for the claimants, until this law was successfully challenged and declared unconstitutional in the U.S. Court? This challenge, of course, emanating not from a single member of the CNMI Bar Association but, instead, by a non-member.

Fast-forward to present, and let this CNMI Judiciary disclose to the econimically suffering CNMI public, if it will, just how much of the $10 million loan from the Fund has been repaid? Why might the word "zero" come to mind? Interest payments?

Or, just why must CNMI judges/justi8ces be furnished with publicly-funded vehicles and gasoline when they are paid to be at work in the Guma In Hustician and, while there, to work at work? Why does the word "gluttonly" come to mind?

As for the CNMI Judiciary's relationship with the seemingly-soon-to-be-bankrupt CNMI Retirement Fund---well, gee golly Gomer, how many retired judges/justices are receiving how much in the way of hefty six-figure annual payments from the Fund whose assets were seemingly bilked to build the Guma In Husticia in which these judges/justices hung out?

And now we've got the specter of the Chief Justice urging the Legislator not to cut CNMI judges'/justices' salaries?

Hmmm, let's ponder: perhaps instead it might suffice to simply slash 50% of their salaries for reprogramming in payment to the CNMI Retirement Fund?

Investors want stability in tandem with functioning public institutions possessing integrity and competence. In the CNMI Judiciary they've gone wanting over the course of the 1980's and 1990's with the result now in the 21st Century readily apparent by way of the CNMI's economic collapse the result of failed investor-competence causing wholesale investor-flight.

Meanwhile that tail-between-the-legs-boonie dog---the three legged one, with one eye, deformed ear, and recently castrated??? He's the CNMI Bar Association's mascot.

Goes by the name "Lucky".

Luckily yours,
Bruce L. Jorgensen aka Chillili aka Mr. Sunshine

c/o Angeles City Wellness Center

Demapan: Don’t cut judicial salaries
SUPREME Court Chief Justice Miguel S. Demapan is urging the Legislature not to “politicize” judicial salaries in reaction to the CNMI’s economic pro read more...

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Raise the local minimum wage?

How many people are still getting the Commonwealth's minimum wage of $3.05 an hour-- or less?

Sure, by U.S. law the local minimum will be $4.05 on May 26. That is, unless the business makes $500,000 or less. That's a lot of employers, including some of our large foreign investors who spin off subsidiaries. We'll talk about whether they could use local firms some other time.

Farmers and fishermen, historically screwed over by federal wage laws, are also exempt. I haven't kept up, how much is that a month?

Minimum effort

The CNMI Department of Labor helpfully flagged these exceptions in a press release published in the Marianas Variety and the Saipan Tribune. As you can see, DOL didn't attempt to estimate how many workers might be affected. The papers just ran the release and I'm not holding my breath until they do a follow-up.

Everybody has been assuming the Northern Marianas is out of the minimum wage game. Not true, we have the same rights as states to set wage rates as long as they don't conflict with federal laws.

The Legislature could look into this, of course. After all, there was a belated attempt to do something to head off the U.S. minimum. Then again, only contract workers are likely to be affected. No votes there.

Abraham, Martin and... Barack?

Jeez, Hillary, you've gone too far this time.

Hillary Clinton brought up Robert F. Kennedy's assassination as one of the reasons she should stay in the race for the Democratic Presidential nomination. The remarks were made to the editorial board of South Dakota's Sioux Falls Argus-Leader but the
New York Post (Who else would it be?) is making sure they get wide play.

"My husband did not wrap up the nomination in 1992 until he won the California primary somewhere in the middle of June, right? We all remember Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June in California. I don't understand it," she said, dismissing calls to drop out.
It wouldn't surprise me if someone took a shot at Barak Obama, because there's been a determined campaign to paint him as 'the other'. You know: 'not one of us'. The sort of dehumanizing a nation uses against its enemies when it goes to war. So the thought crossed my mind.

That's me, I kept it to myself and I'm not a national figure anyway. She should keep that sort of thing inside too, even if it pops up in guilty 3 am dreams.

And it's a hard life, it's a hard life
It's a very hard life
It's a hard life wherever you go
And if we poison our children with hatred
Then the hard life is all that they'll know

(Abraham, Martin and John, Emmylou Harris)

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Bucking the trend

Our air service glass is half full. That's the impression I get after reading Airlines’ Cuts Making Cities No-Fly Zones in the New York Times.

Sure, Continental has pretty much abandoned Saipan for Guam. It was probably bound to happen once Larry Hilbloom's plane crashed (cue the irony). Like it or not, Guam's the Micronesian hub for a lot of businesses. We still get some flights, charters and the Continental Connection to Guam through Cape Air.

Asiana Airlines, and Kumho Asiana in general, is moving in. The Marianas Variety says
Northwest to double Saipan flights. All in all, we seem to be in better shape than most areas.

The article surprised me. I didn't know
Cape Air was in the Northeast U.S., Florida and the Caribbean too. According to sometimes-reliable Wikipedia, it's the largest independent regional airline in the United States.

They seem to be pushing Rota, though. From the website: "Travel between the beautiful islands of Guam and Rota in under an hour, with more to do and see than ever before." Now that's a Continental Connection.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Party lines

I'm not a party goer, but CNMI politics fascinate me. The local Republican Party, despite the best efforts of peacemakers, appears to be divided down the middle. The Covenant(s?) are mainly split-off Republicans. The Democrats' factions have pushed them to the brink of extinction. A lot of politicians, especially on Saipan, have given up and call themselves Independents.

Not that it matters: the popular style on all fronts is to talk like a Reagan Republican and act like the stereotype of an anti-business, pro-entitlement Democrat. Personal and family ties and animosities seem to matter more than political platforms so there's constant movement from one label to another.

So what's going on with the Covenant(eers?)

Power play

From the outside looking in, Gov. Benigno R. Fitial and Lt. Gov. Tim P. Villagomez appear to be at odds. Villagomez, a former Commonwealth Utilities Corporation head, was overseeing the administration's efforts to salvage that hapless agency. Now that long-time Fitial business associate Antonio Muna has been installed as Executive Director, he seems to be out of the loop.

I'm a faithful reader of the Marianas Variety and Saipan Tribune, but the Covenant(ans?) don't air their laundry in public. Imagine my surprise when I read in the 'whoever's in power' mouthpiece Pacific Times that the Lt. Governor hasn't made up his mind about running for another term. Earlier media reports made it sound like a done deal.

Subtext messaging

A realignment, purge would be too strong, seems to be happening. I have to rely on the problematic PTimes again, because I didn't see anything in the local papers, but apparently the Covenant Party elected new officers April 11, with Finance Director and Fitial associate Eloy S. Inos as chair.

The Governor's recent takeover of the Commonwealth Ports Authority just makes it more interesting. Board Chairman Rex Palacios had installed himself in an office at the airport to micro-manage CPA: check out Department Public Safety Director Clyde K. Norita's parting shot when he resigned from the CPA.

Ah, politics

The takeover shouldn't have come as a surprise; the Governor laid out his plans in his last speech as House Speaker (Saipan Tribune):

"The lieutenant governor (Timothy P. Villagomez) and I have agreed to share responsibility. He will practically run the government, while I focus on seven major agencies that impact the economy," the outgoing speaker told his fellow lawmakers during the last session of the 14th House of Representatives Friday.

These agencies, according to Fitial, are the Commonwealth Ports Authority, Commonwealth Development Authority, Marianas Visitors Authority, Marianas Public Lands Authority, and the departments of Commerce, Labor, and Finance.

CPA and MPLA have been focused; look for the Commonwealth Development Authority to be the next autonomous agency in the executive portfolio.

The Commonwealth has always had a strong executive branch, but this administration is pushing the envelope. The Governor has fought for almost unlimited reprogramming authority and that now includes the CPA. Well, according to the Variety, the Tribune doesn't seem to think that's very important.

Building a better wheel

The Legislature has been in full retreat, but seems to be digging in on the rash of CPA Executive Orders. The House, anyway, Senate President Pete P. Reyes has been 'slow' to react.

Enter House Majority James Norita, with a legislative initiative to "prohibit any governor from using his or her emergency powers under the CNMI Constitution or commonwealth law to declare a state of emergency over a government agency simply because such agency is experiencing financial difficulties or hardship." (Marianas Variety)

Fine sentiments, Counselor, but why is it necessary? The CNMI Constitution is very specific: "Section 10: Emergency Powers. The governor may declare a state of emergency in the case of invasion, civil disturbance, natural disaster, or other calamity as provided by law, and may mobilize available resources to respond to that emergency."

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Indiana Jones and The Wilhelm Scream

Quick, who's been in the most Hollywood movies? My money says the record goes to Sheb Wooley of Purple People Eater fame. Nobody's can prove he screamed for the soldier grabbed by an alligator in 1951's Distant Drums, but he had a bit part and did some dubbing.

It's called the Wilhelm Scream, from Charge at Feather River, the first movie known to have copied it. Since then it's been in classics, B-movies, cartoons and television shows including all of the Star Wars movies and the Indiana Jones franchise. The list goes on and on; it seems endless.

The movie is long forgotten, but the scream lives on. It's become a Hollywood inside joke.

Watch, or listen rather, for it in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. The Wilhelm Scream is back.

Washington posts on immigration bill

Well, the Washington Post did a piece about PL 110-229 (S.2739), which included the CNMI immigration legislation. Okay, so it was a gossip column.

A mention's a mention and it probably has more readers than straight news:

Would Abramoff Have Ordered the Crow?

What's that line about revenge being "a dish best served cold"? There was some gloating on the menu Wednesday at D'Acqua, where about 20 human rights activists and Hill types gathered to celebrate the passage of a bill extending U.S. immigration laws -- and their protections for foreign guest workers -- to the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. Why D'Acqua? Well, because the Penn Ave eatery holds a spot on the D.C. scandal tour as the former home of now-defunct Signatures . . . the restaurant owned by imprisoned ex-superlobbyist Jack Abramoff. . . who spent years blocking the legislation for his island factory-owner clients. "We said, 'Let's gather and raise a glass' -- but where? Well, it was obvious," said Dennis Greenia of anti-sweatshop organization Co-op America. "We had the sense that if these walls could talk . . ."
You might know Greenia as dengre. Small blessing: please note Saipan wasn't mentioned.

The search for a McCain impersonator is worth reading about too, 'my friend'.

Show and Tell

Studying stupidity in all of its forms has made me what I am. No surprise then, that I avidly read about drug tests for Public Utilities Commission nominees.

You'd have to be as hopeless as former Miami Dolphin Ricky Williams to schedule your bottle-filling and get caught. Maybe that's the point.

I roll my eyes when some politician offers to bare his/her bladder. Sometimes I think they're all on drugs, but that's a different blog.

It's an invasion of privacy, always has been. It crept in legitimately: bus drivers, train engineers, public safety personnel. (Woops, careful where you point that gun.) Who can argue with that? Not me.

Generally, it's nobody's business what you do on your own time when you get over our society's schizophrenic views on drug use. Besides, marijuana camps in your system like a deadbeat relative; ice and other amphetamines flush through you like bad party food. Goofy beats psycho any day.

Public safety? I'll buy that, but even there, the important testing happens after there is an incident.

Testing, one, two

A boat captain I know was heading back after a successful fishing trip. He was tempted to dip into the cooler for just one beer. Good thing he didn't, because a passenger keeled over through no fault of his and the Coast Guard wanted his donation.

Get past that, and you're talking about a performance issue. If somebody isn't cutting it write 'em up. Warn them. Fire them. Drugs are one possible cause, it could be staying up all night on the internet visiting porn sites or SOSaipan. Deal with the issue and don't go into someone's private life unless you're invited.

Newly-whelped Commonwealth Utilities Director Tony Muna meant something like that when he said: "I think whether it is drug use or laziness or they can't get out of bed or they can't get to work on time, I think we don't expect those folks to meet performance standards". More stupidity for my collection actually, but the reporter led him on and used the quote to imply more than he was saying. Still, gee whiz, that's not how you build a team.

Oh, and an effective testing program costs money. I'm assuming that's why CUC stopped.

For the curious, I don't do drugs-- any more. Some biofuel like ethyl alcohol, nicotine and caffeine with a little taurine on the side maybe, but they don't count.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Short takes

I read to be entertained, and the local newspapers have outdone themselves this week.

There's Governor Benigno R. Fitial's Commonwealth Ports Authority takeover, of course. I can't keep up. The Marianas Variety had two stories about board action and one about the first executive order superceding it in the Wednesday edition--by two different reporters. Two more executive orders in quick succession and the House of Representatives Resolves to oppose them.

"Something is terribly wrong," said Rep. Heinz Hofschneider. Yep, but it's better than television. When's the next episode?

But who's counting?

I could have sworn the CNMI Constitution says no more than 15 offices, agencies and instrumentalities under the Executive Branch. So, the Commonwealth Ports Authority makes...? I'm confused here, though. Is the Commonwealth Utilities Corporation still technically under Public Works so it doesn't count?

Tom Paine he's not

How many if Ambrose M. Bennett gets his way? After an unusual sabbatical of at least a week, the prolific letter writer is back with yet another 'common sense' proposal: an ├╝ber-governmental Education Department or agency. That elected school board just isn't representative or accountable, he says. Yup, Ambrose, things just aren't the same since you left.

Are you going to eat that cake, too?

Immigration Director Melvin Gray fought 'federalization' tooth and nail, while complaining that the Immigration and Naturalization Service wouldn't train his troops. Maybe they didn't know where to send the check. Umm, you mean you didn't provide for training with all of those fees?

Another Gray area

Earlier, he wondered how many local employees would be able to qualify for the federal agency. Well, he's the one who was hired as an expert on INS, but a layman like me would expect the same test I assume he took all of those years ago.


Oh boy, did I come up with a sarcastic post when I read “Vacationing alien workers, including those who have work permits in their possession, are now required to notify the Department of Labor about their exit.” (Saipan Tribune) Then I realized it wasn't about workers sneaking in on tourist visas. Oh.

Hollywood's walk

It's nice to hear the Hollywood Theater will be back in operation. If the higher-ups want to save a few bucks, they might tell their local manager he's not running a meatlocker or government office. That refrigeration is expensive.

I like Mike

It's too bad Public Auditor Michael Sablan is stepping down, though it's a positive that he doesn't want to be a career bureaucrat. I'm not the only one who wondered about the Joeten connection in a Pedro P. Tenorio administration. I was wrong. He's by far the best we've had.

Is the $5 million check still missing?

Not in the news, but I thought my attention span was short. That's good bumper sticker material, though.

Cheap shot

Our local reporters are uh, , less than conscientious about digging through campaign finance reports and I haven't checked them out personally in years. The federal rules that kick in for the CNMI Delegate race should be educational.

Section 10: Emergency Powers. The governor may declare a state of emergency in the case of invasion, civil disturbance, natural disaster, or other calamity as provided by law, and may mobilize available resources to respond to that emergency.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The real Bill

So my brother was telling me about Newshounds. Motto: "We Watch Fox So You Don't Have To." He said he stopped because, well, it was just like watching Fox News.

It will fade for me too, I'm sure. Meanwhile, how about Bill O'Reilly and Geraldo finger-wagging each other over immigration? They could almost be on Saipan, discussing S.2739, now PL 110-229.

BTW, it reminds me of the younger Geraldo who crawled over walls to report on mental institutions. I liked that guy.

The younger O'Reilly? Let's travel back to Inside Edition. It's alright, he says it's okay to rummage through people's past like this.

Update with a sigh: the following O'Reilly rant has been pulled by You Tube for the second time that I'm aware of. Instead of constantly cutting and pasting new links, if it disappears again I'll just refer you to the fine folks at RatTube. This is the Year of the Rat, after all.

A lazy blog; I've got four or five Real Important Things on my mind. But no bloviating, because I'm also short of time, tired and a little burned out by the CNMI's continuing trainwreck.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Press Release reporting

I chuckled when Governor Benigno R. Fitial's press release on the signing of PL 110-229 (S.2739), the CNMI immigration bill, was published as an opinion piece in the Saipan Tribune. The end of an era indeed.

I first ran across the 'letter to the Editor' when I stopped by Unheard No More. I couldn't resist commenting that “I don't get it. Who is the press statement aimed at? The issues are settled and he's still arguing against the legislation." *

Oh. Question answered; it was for local consumption. The 'run against Washington' thing.

Please release me

You see, I'd expected to see it run, word-for-word, as a news story. That's the pattern with the Saipan Tribune. The Marianas Variety and the Pacific Daily News did do what you'd expect: they quoted from it extensively and added background.

I understand what the Tribune is doing. First, of course, is the need for fewer reporters. That's even more important now that profits aren't padded with pages of imaginary job announcements. (It's interesting, and a little scary, to see how few real job offers are being advertised now that openings for guest workers aren't included.)

I don't even mind for Public Service Announcements and that sort of thing—though it's boring to see identical stories in both local papers (and, yes, I'm aware of the Pacific Times. They make the old Commonwealth Examiner look like the pre-Gannett Detroit Free Press.

Persons of (self) interest

On the other hand... persons or organizations they agree with are often allowed to use the news-hole as a soapbox. Reporting, done properly, is supposed to temper exaggerations and add information the writer doesn't necessarily want included. You know, all of that noble Fourth Estate stuff.

The Tribune is part of Tan Holdings, of course. There's nothing wrong with that and it's well-known locally so there's some built-in skepticism. Still, the practice troubles me, particularly because the Tribune dominates in Saipan and CNMI stories on the internet. “Outside' readers are missing that datum. Do a search and you'll see what I mean.

Some stories in the Variety just never show up in the Tribune, but I don't really think reporters are told what to write.

Read between the deadlines

It doesn't have to be that overt. Any employee knows who writes their check. That would easily explain the few biased stories I've read with a by-line. It's easier, and easier on reporters' credibility, to just run press releases.

It's personal preference, of course, but I think Assistant Editor Mark Rabago is the best reporter working on Saipan right now. I've ragged on malaprops in Agnes Donato stories a few times, but she's improved tremendously. It's not about the reporters to me.

The spice of life

But that's a system I don't trust, which is why I hope the Variety survives our current troubles. It's a different voice, valuable even when I disagree with some antediluvian views. And have no doubt, the Tribune is meant to destroy the Variety. That's competition, but Willie Tan once told me he was going to start his own newspaper to “put (Publisher Abed) Younis out of business.”

The conversation was about poker machines, and a Variety story that claimed the limited number of machines allowed then were allocated to government officials or their families. I was teasing a current and a former Department head about the piece.

Internet buzz?

That's all swimming around in my head when I read the Tribune. I usually buy both papers so I can read the ads. On the internet the Tribune is a good source, plus the Variety is unwillingly and hesitantly entering the internet age. Links, sometimes stories, disappear and the server is easily overwhelmed. They don't seem to 'ping' the aggregators when they publish.

Bad planning, in my view. Very few small communities have 2 ½ newspapers. Big-city U.S. papers are cutting staff and shutting down. Cutting-edge companies are looking for internet revenue to make up for falling sales, one has even quit publishing on paper.

I mentioned this to Variety Editor Zaldy Dandan and he said they were published for a local audience, adding that some of the Tribune's bells-and-whistles were too expensive. I hope he's right.

*I agree with some of his arguments, just shake my head at others. But they're moot, so there's no sense in wasting our time on that is there?

Friday, May 9, 2008

Natural Resources (Oh, yeah, the CNMI too)

S.2739 was signed, by Pres. George Bush. Hello U.S. immigration control. No time to check for his comments yet. Later

It's later

I should have left it at that. The White House press release:

On Thursday, May 8, 2008, the President signed into law:

S. 2739, the "Consolidated Natural Resources Act of 2008," which designates the 106,000-acre Wild Sky Wilderness in Washington State; designates three new National Heritage Areas; expands several national parks; authorizes funding for specified water projects; modifies two existing energy programs; applies U.S. immigration law to the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands; and grants the Commonwealth a non-voting delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives.

That's it. No additional comment. The only news report seemed to come from the Associated Press. The same story or an abbreviated version was in a dozen papers or television stations I checked. That includes papers who have done investigative pieces on Saipan and the Marianas like the New York Times and the Washington Post. The Wall Street Journal had nothing.

Chinese investors

But the search wasn't a total loss. I ran across this story from Radio Australia. Amazing, some Chinese investors are looking for business-as-usual at this late date:

Luo Xiadong, director of the Chinese Economic Development Association, says some investors from mainland China want to do business in the Northern Marianas.

But he says they are holding off their plans pending the move to federalise the islands' immigration system.....

He says the investors want to bring in more Chinese workers to the islands.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Bad Grief!

Evil is not a word I throw around loosely, but what else do you call people who attack the Epilepsy Foundation website with flashing animation?

As you'd expect, it caused some seizures and headaches. Luckily, there are no reports of serious injuries. I just don't get where these griefers, hackers or whatever are coming from.

I actually saw this post on a web forum: "Wow, you guys have no sense of humor, thats damn funny. It might be morally reprehensible, but its freaking funny."

Hilarious, since nobody bit off their tongue or was killed. I found it chilling, like watching Richard Widmark in The Kiss of Death. But that was fantasy.

Speaking of fantasy, this is reprehensible, but funny:
"Some girl who played World of Warcraft died in real life, and those horrible failures of human beings planned a funeral for her... RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF A PVP ZONE! They posted about the event on the messageboards and urged people not to bust it up.

I don't think I need to explain what happened; the video speaks for itself."

Small grin

Now, hacking into Barak Obama's website and redirecting visitors to Hillary Clinton's, that's just good dirty fun. I'd say it's fifty-fifty whether "Mox" is even political. Except... Netcraft warns that there are still vulnerabilities that could lead to something nasty.

For some reason the comment link keeps disappearing on the main page. If that happens, just click on the headline if you have something to add, then go to the bottom for the comment link. I don't know what's going on with Blogger.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Dirty internet politics

If you get your politics off of the internet, you might want to read this story about security from Kiplinger. Experts at Symantec are expecting email attacks and phony websites this campaign season.

Even legitimate sites aren't safe. Did you read about Al Gore's inconvenient link about six months ago?

But I'm sure you keep up on your security updates, so no worries. Ha, the kids have infected my computers three times in the last month. They don't know whether to say accept or deny to the warnings.

That's just viruses and trojans. I clean trackers every day.

Canned tuna

Pew, something smells. No, I'm not talking about the Pew Charitable Trusts, I'm talking about the opposition to the Marine Monument proposed for the waters around the Northern Islands of Asuncion, Maug and Uracas.

Now Gov. Benigno R. Fitial has joined the fray, asking President Bush to reject the proposal (Ahem, I think he means if a proposal is submitted). Hands down. No discussion necessary.

According to the Saipan Tribune “The governor argued that the Commonwealth is looking at fishery as an economic growth engine to replace the declining garment and tourism industries.”

I guess I missed that meeting, but I'm sure there will be public discussion. Later. Maybe that's why he refused to even meet with Pew, reportedly giving them five minutes notice: 'I've got visitors', or something like that. Kind of rude, but that's just me.

“We rely on fishing as a source of food and jobs,” Fitial wrote. True enough, but from those islands? That's why I've been hoarding my two cents worth about the proposal; I've been waiting for local fishermen to state their case. On the face of it, that's too far north and too expensive to fish, but I could be wrong.

Large scale commercial fishing? Maybe, I don't know. What's up there? Sorry, I haven't caught Angelo Villagomez' road show, but I've heard Pew doesn't have much information yet. I can't afford to hire John Gourley to give me his estimates.

I'm not opposed to fishing (I love canned tuna, and I'm too old to get pregnant), but I don't see any local economic benefit. No local fees, because fishing in those waters is controlled by the Federal Government. That kind of undercuts the anti-federalization argument, doesn't it?

Luen Thai, the largest company with local connections I'm aware of, does its trans-shipping out of Guam. No jobs for us there. Other companies tried, and failed, on Tinian years ago.

Back to the future

Maybe the plan involves canneries. Sorry, those factory ships sail off to China or Thailand*. Because of cheap labor. That industry is hurting on American Samoa, and their “Special Industry Wage” is a big reason they joined us in being blessed by federal Minimum Wage legislation.

Of course Saipan has plenty of power and water for canneries, but the nineties are over. The days of imported minimum wage labor are over.

So where are these jobs coming from?

Willam McCue's catch-and-release argument is more nonsense. Those 100 jobs he invented are a pipe dream. Again, it's too far north. Maybe the diesel fumes have gotten to him.

I've seen personal attacks on Pew and Angelo, but precious little solid argument. The whole 'federalization' thing is a (pardon me) red herring, sheer demagoguery meant to shut down all critical thinking. 'Outsiders' in the federal government are making those decisions now. The submerged land issue was fought, and lost. It's time to get out of the nineties and quit wasting money on more litigation.

Any agreement on the monument would be negotiated between the U.S. and the CNMI. It's nonsense, and more demagoguery, to say Pew is going to decide anything for us.

So where's all of this local opposition I keep reading about? The Letters to the Editor have been overwhelmingly supportive. And no, Mr. Gourley, four letters do not count as four people.

* I've read that Norwegian cod are shipped to China and then re-exported to Norway.

NB: Saipan Writer had a similar reaction to the letter. More anger and less sarcasm in Please Make It Stop

Sunday, May 4, 2008

The Wright stuff

Hoo boy, was I wrong. Like most people I've been following the media wisdom about the Reverend Jeremiah Wright.

After all, when everybody from the New York Times to the Fox News pundits agrees...

But then I actually read Wright's speech to the National Press Club. A question and answer period followed. This isn't the cartoon figure, the anti-American firebreather I've been reading and hearing about.

Plenty radical, but no more than I lot of people I know. Here's a taste:
And I said to Barack Obama, last year, "If you get elected, November the 5th, I'm coming after you, because you'll be representing a government whose policies grind under people." All right? It's about policy, not the American people.
I've heard wingnuts say the same thing.

Obama edging away from any association? 'That's what politicians do'. But he's upset with excerpts and sound bites--can't imagine why--so read for yourself.

It's very interesting, educational, funny in places and really, really long.

Effect without cause

I'm fascinated by synchronicity, what I suppose you'd call coincidence that's meaningful. Thinking of someone just before they call you on the phone is usually used as one example.

I went through a Jungian phase where I read up on it a lot. Jung theorized that it was an ordering principle like cause and effect, but that we couldn't figure out how to study it. Or something like that. Whatever.

But I'd just posted this comment before I stumbled across the Wright speech:
I don't trust reporters. I doesn't matter whether they're from the Washington Post or the (Moonie) Washington Times. The Wall Street Journal doesn't deserve any more or less skepticism as it tabloidizes like Murdoch's Post and Fox News.

I've seen them cheat, across the political spectrum, by cherrypicking facts and quotes. So I check their sources if I can and if I've got time. Sometimes I post the links while I've got 'em, in case anyone's interested.
Exactly what I was talking about, but what's going on here? Why are Wright's words getting so twisted?

Dubbing Iwo Jima

I tried to watch Letters from Iwo Jima on the American Movie Channel last night. It's an excellent flick, kind of depressing, but I was surly and out-of-sorts so it matched my mood.

I gave up after five minutes. The English dubbing was distracting; it was like watching a low budget kung-fu movie.

Okay, it's not accessible in Japanese, and who wants to pay attention to television by reading subtitles. The Lowest Common Denominator thing. But Eastwood made it that way, and for me that's an important part of the experience.

It's not like colorizing old movies; I never got too excited about that. Well, except for a few that were intentionally made in black and white for cinematic effect. Other than that, no big thing. In fact, my wife doesn't particularly like B&W movies; I couldn't get her to watch Casablanca until there was a colorized version.

But these people would colorize the beginning and end of The Wizard of Oz. I didn't need to blacken my mood even more by participating in the dumbing down of our culture.

You're probably thinking it's really not that important in the grand scheme of things. True enough. Maybe you're chuckling about my elitist attitude. Sure, call me an Obama.

So you probably won't mind when they colorize this movie too. After all, the muted color is too much like black and white.

(And yes, next time I'll rent the video-- not a pirated copy either)

Saturday, May 3, 2008

I tip you not

American Airlines says skycaps, those fellows who carry bags, at Logan Airport in Boston can't take tips.

A tip for a tat, because they lost a $325,000 lawsuit for tips lost when they started charging for the service. The whole spat is tied up with the minimum wage.

"To me, this is retaliation for the fact that we stood up to a big corporation," another American Airlines skycap, Ritson Desrosiers, said yesterday, moments before officials from G2 Services and American Airlines told him not to speak to a reporter.

Ya think?

Friday, May 2, 2008

Child left behind

If you're interested in the much-touted No Child Left Behind program, there's an interim report out from the Department of Education on Reading First.

It didn't work.

Wade through the foreign languages--a mix of Education-speak and Statisticianese--in the first link or try the article in the New York Times. (I know, I know. I'm getting carried away with this liberal rag, but their email headlines are my newest toy.)

From the report's Executive Summary: "On average, across the 18 participating sites, estimated impacts on student reading comprehension test scores were not statistically significant."

Congressional Democrats must agree; they cut funding from a billion to 400 million dollars last year.

A 2006 report (PDF) from John Higgins, DOE's Inspector General, might have influenced them. From the article:
The Reading First director, Chris Doherty, resigned in 2006, days before the release of Mr. Higgins’s report, which disclosed a number of e-mail messages in which Mr. Doherty referred to contractors or educators who favored alternative curriculums seen as competitors to the Reading First approach as “dirtbags” who he said were “trying to crash our party.”
I'm just shocked and amazed that President Bush allows such things on his watch, and on his pet program.

Some excerpts from Doherty emails are in the Comments (No The Pet Goat jokes, please)

Remit me not

The Inter-American Development Bank estimates that three million Latino immigrants have stopped sending money home.

I thought of Saipan immediately.

According to the
New York Times "As a result of the difficulties, among immigrants who had been here less than five years, 49 percent said they were thinking of returning home, while 41 percent said they planned to remain in the United States."

Looks like times are tough all over.

Really, I wonder what those figures would be like here.

After thought

The above was a quick post as I was headed out the door.

The article caught my eye because it agrees with what I've been hearing on the street locally. Whipsawed by rising prices, a lot of our visiting workers are having a hard time sending money home. It's a double whammy because the strong Philippine Peso (Bush Dollar) means their families are asking for more.

Maybe a reporter will do another story on CNMI remittances.

Too many people are chasing too few jobs, so there's no security. As in the article, a cushion is needed, and that's another factor in holding back.

The imminent signing of S.2739 is no panacea. That's immigration legislation, it won't affect the job market.

Hope springs eternal

A lot of guest workers are hanging on because they hope long-term employees will get immigrant status. A chimera, in my view, but hey, it never hurts to ask.

Someone who's been here less than five years (or any arbitrary number of years) doesn't even have that hope. That's why I plucked the quote from the story. It matches what short-term employees have been telling me:

“If things don't get better...” (they won't)

“If I can't find another job...” (probably not)

U.S. problems are caused by a recession. We passed that milestone locally a long time ago.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Here it comes

Who'd have guessed it? Hard on the heels of S.2739 being sent to President Bush, the Governors of American Samoa and the Northern Marianas are asking to put off this month's minimum wage increase--or for $15 million each.

S.2739 would extend U.S. immigration and some labor laws to the Commonwealth. The CNMI and American Samoa minimum wage will jump fifty cents to $4.05 on May 25.

The money's a good idea, if they can get it, even if it's frittered away as usual.

But really, I'm amazed they're still trying to block the minimum wage. Now they're on the other side, particularly in the Senate. They not only need a majority, they need a large majority to make any changes. It just...won't...happen.

Maybe it's in their contracts with the Saipan and American Samoa Chambers of Commerce.

And they have to bring up that tired, worthless Department of Labor report again.


Lesbians sue lesbian group

A man and two women from Lesbos have taken the Homosexual and Lesbian Community of Greece to court. They want the group to drop the word 'lesbian'.
"My sister can't say she is a Lesbian," said Dimitris Lambrou. "Our geographical designation has been usurped by certain ladies who have no connection whatsoever with Lesbos," he said.
Seems a little late to be complaining. You can't put that genie back in the bottle.

Ah well, it's all Greek to me.