Thursday, July 31, 2008

Baby factories

There's an interesting piece on "pregnancy packages" at Unheard No More!.

Apparently package tours to have a U.S. citizen on Saipan are old news in Korea and the coming thing in China. I missed that one.

Hmm, thats interesting "development" but I don't think the Commonwealth Health Center can handle any more customers.

I went to the New American Media website but there's no additional information. The World Journal link there doesn't help much since the article was in Chinese. I couldn't find it in their English version. (Not a waste, since I got a new headline for my collection: "Residents urged to keep Flushing clean")

I'm pretty blase' about nonresidents having babies if they're here legitimately. It's legal, and who's to blame them?

"Sex result tours" are another matter. That's a potential problem if the numbers are large and it would be hard to catch people if they're good at covering their tracks.

Order please

Gov. Benigno R. Fitial seems to have picked up some bad habits during his time in the House of Representatives.

The Governor issued an Executive Order yesterday amending his Friday Executive Order giving the Commonwealth Utilities Corporation borrowing authority. That's the kind of ad hoc legislating that's given the CNMI a black eye for years. I lost count; were there three or four Executive Orders before he got it right when he took over the Commonwealth Ports Authority?

Ah, well, from the Saipan Tribune story, at least the amendment drops the unconstitutional provision letting one house of the legislature approve the deal. (The Marianas Variety doesn't seem to think either order is newsworthy.)

Technically, it's not legislating of course, though EO's have the force of law. I tried to look it up instead of depending on the Tribune but the information isn't readily available.

That amazed me. The CNMI Law Revision Commission website has the Constitution, the Covenant, Public Laws, the Commonwealth Register and lots of court stuff. (Click on "Legal Documents" in the sidebar of the Home page.)

Go to Executive Orders and you get this helpful advice: If you need a copy of an executive order or information regarding an executive order, please contact Programs & Legislative Review at (670) 664-2286/2288 / (670) 664-2313 (fax).

Not good enough by half. You shouldn't have to guess whether there is an Executive Order affecting you. EO's, like laws and regulations should be listed publicly. Actually, the Commonwealth Register is pretty lame too, unless you want to fork out 100 bucks for a subscription. The Attorney General link is broken. Don't try to get in through the Governor's Office, you'll end up on Saipan.Com, though the browser will tell you it's http://www.cnmiago.gov.mp/.

How about an Executive Order requiring that Executive Orders be published?

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

I'm just saying

The Saipan Tribune is reporting that Gov. Benigno R. Fitial wants to let the Commonwealth Utilities Corporation borrow as much money as it wants.

According to the Tribune, "the executive order includes a clause allowing the plan to be effective immediate upon being approved by one house of the Legislature." Is there another clause suspending Article X, Section 3 of the CNMI Constitution?
Public Debt Authorization. Public debt may not be authorized or incurred without the affirmative vote of two-thirds of the members in each house of the legislature.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

This is Cuil


There's a new search engine in town. A bunch of former Google people have formed Cuil. (That's supposedly an old Irish word for knowledge, pronounced like 'cool')

I've just started playing with it, but it's pretty cuilable. Competing with Google? Hmm, hasn't that been tried before?

Update already: when it hits it's a new way of looking for info. I like it, I think. It misses a lot. It doesn't look like I could get back to this site by just typing 'sosaipan'.

Roadrunner taxes

John McCain is pandering when he tries to use repealing the federal gasoline tax as one solution to high gasoline prices. I know roadrunners are native to Arizona, but they've got to be taxed too. Maverick isn't alone, of course, Hillary Clinton tried to saddle the same horse during the primaries.

It's a use tax, plain and simple: 18.4 cents on diesel and 24.4 cents on gasoline. A small part of your gasoline bill that goes straight into the Highway Trust Fund. There have been wild-eyed proposals to raise it to European levels and force conservation, but we all know that's impossible politically in this country.

Higher prices mean less driving. According to MSNBC, Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters "said in a statement Monday that the drop in driving miles demonstrates that the federal gas tax is no longer sufficient to finance the nation's transportation infrastructure."

Maybe everyone's forgotten that bridge in Minnesota already. In fact, the National Conference of State Legislatures just called for a tax increase.

A little rationality in the campaign, please.

Chevy's volts-wagen might get us off of the oil road

The Chevrolet Volt will probably do more to get us off of foreign oil than all of the politicians' promises put together.

I really hope they hit their 2010 goal of a car that runs only on electricity. No Prius this, a small gas engine will only be used to recharge the batteries if they run down.

That could eventually make oil just another electrical source. Eventually, because those old gas-guzzlers will still be sold and they last for a long time.

Kudos to General Motors for taking the plunge, apparently risking the company in the process. According to the Atlantic author, "focus groups liked the company’s cars better when the logo was removed." That's pretty close to my opinion of the 100 year-old company before they announced this last year.

Even if they end up with Microsoft-like delays in hitting their deadline, they're pouring money into battery research which will help us in countless areas.

Also, other companies have to follow when the largest, er maybe second largest, automaker makes a commitment like this. Toyota, for instance, used to dismiss electric cars as impractical. According to the article:

At the 2008 Detroit auto show, Katsuaki Watanabe, the president, announced that Toyota would produce a lithium-ion plug-in car of its own, and would have it on the street in test fleets “not at the end of 2010, but earlier than that.” Toyota was talking about a few hundred experimental cars in a controlled setting, not tens of thousands of cars in dealer showrooms, a much less ambitious goal than GM’s. But Toyota is famous for under-promising and over-delivering.

In February, Tesla, the Silicon Valley company, announced plans for an electric sedan with a gasoline-powered generator, like the Volt—but set to arrive a year earlier, in late 2009. In March, BMW said it might produce an electric car for the U.S. market, and in May, Nissan said it would have one in test fleets in 2010. The drumbeat seems likely to continue. Simply by announcing the Volt, GM has attracted a bevy of competitors, bringing the electric car’s mass-market advent from over the horizon to around the corner.

Back to the tabloid roots

Psst, Saipan Tribune, there's something on your shoe.

Nope, it smells and it's still there.

Gossip is not news. I don't know how you can justify putting a nasty rumor about Lt. Gov. Timothy Villagomez on the front page. The Commonwealth won't fall if you wait for at least one source.

Press Secretary Charles Reyes was too kind when he called the "allegations and hearsay" troubling. He should have been meaner, particularly to the Tribune.

What makes a tabloid?

A short newspaper refresher: Historically, tabloids were about half of the size of the 'broadsheet' papers. Paper was cheaper and they could use smaller presses. They were scurrilous scandal mongers looking for sensational stories with little regard for the truth or the people they wrote about.

Believe it or not, modern descendants like the New York Post and the National Enquirer have actually raised their "standards" somewhat over the years. They deserve no credit, it's our legal system at work.

Tabloid means bad credibility; that's why network news shows were called tabloid when they moved into sleaze and sensationalize territory.

I've always given the local papers a pass: it's purely economics and they've had pretty good standards. (Besides, it's easier to hold a tabloid when the wind is blowing.)

But this one, and I'll throw in the reporting about Patrick Calvo, is classic tabloid journalism.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Mainstreaming

I've been struggling with the term "mainstream media" (ablogviated as MSM) for the last few days. It's used different ways, and the assumption is always that we know what is meant.

Maybe the writers are like Justice Potter Stewart, who couldn't define pornography "but I know it when I see it..."

From leeward we have enraged pundits accusing the MSM of being soft on John McCain, the latest being CBS News for editing out an answer that was just plain wrong and substituting another from the same interview. Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting likes to use the term "corporate media", which I think would be an accurate view of their MSM definition.

Windward, McCain has dusted off the 'liberal MSM is out to get me' chestnut, claiming that Barack Obama gets more coverage. The Fox News echochamber and friends have joined in, which is stunning, since Fox is stabled with the Wall Street Journal and New York Post in Rupert Murdoch's media barn. That's pretty mainstream.

Buying and selling out

I think the answer is less sinister in some ways, more in others. Pack journalism is alive and well in the media business. At the top of the mass media pyramid, a half-dozen papers compete with broadcast television, Reuters and the Associated Press. They want a scoop, but they're always looking over their shoulders at competitor's stories. It's competition: 'you snooze, you lose.' Watch the few minutes of actual news Fox slips into and between its opinion shows and you'll see they're part of the pack.

I suppose that's about as close as you're likely to get to a definition of MSM: a dozen or so media giants competing with each other. Other sources have to get their attention for other stories to be heard. The insidious part: how do you suppose smaller newspapers decide which national and international stories to feature and/or run? A partial answer is that wire services like the AP helpfully send out advisories of what's going to be on the front page of, say, the New York Times.

Islands in the stream

Saipan causes an interesting eddy in the mainstream. While the local newspapers seem to follow AP's Top Stories, an artificially large number of people seem to get their outside news from Fox. CNN and MSNBC are soporific and the local cable demi-gods only choose to give us week-old network news. (The Aussies on channel 53 are actually quite refreshing.)

That's not a bad thing for those who have access to the internet. We're able, forced actually, to go out and find the stories that interest us. Still, I miss having the opportunity to shake my fist at people like Katie "Legs" Couric.

Diss me Kate

Couric is still in trouble, desperately trying to keep her job and to haul CBS News out of last place in the network news pageant. Her latest ploy? Painting herself as a victim of sexism. There were lots of sources, but I picked this article because I love the term 'newsreader': a sardonic Brit reminder of what makes her worth $15 million.

Yes I'm biased. Network news is fast food: headlines and sound bites. That's fine for pointing me toward a subject I might actually want to learn about elsewhere, otherwise just show me some interviews. Oh, and please don't edit the answers to change their meaning.

A little cutting room

Yes that was our Katie. Still, I have to give her points for asking a question I wanted answered. In the same interview, Couric asked McCain You have said, quote, "I know how to win wars." Which war, Sen. McCain, are you referring to?. Zing.

Equal rights

Obama got a few good questions too, particularly about the 'surge'. An example: But yet you're saying … given what you know now, you still wouldn't support it … so I'm just trying to understand this..

Non sequitur

Dealing with the media is more difficult than bathing a leper
--Mother Teresa

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Going solar


Is the $17 Solar Cooker an answer to CUC bills?

Or, what's a good substitute for yak wool?

Classic Coke Meets Roundup

The New York Times has a fascinating piece on how evolution is constantly happening around us.

Even more fascinating was a link to the U.S. government's cocaine war.

It seems that cocaine plants are becoming resistant to Roundup, our preferred herbicide in Columbia. We follow Joshua Davis as he tries to find out whether genetic engineering or natural selection is at work.

On the way, we get a review of how companies like Monsanto industrialize agriculture by engineering herbicide-resistant soybeans and canola. (I've read elsewhere that the patented strains are bred sterile-- once they've got you hooked...) He finds a geneticist who was offered $10 million by a cartel to do the deed for coke plants.

I hate to spoil the ending because it's such a fine detective story, but the dumb peasants turn out to be smarter than the U.S. and Columbian officials who hold them in such disdain. It seems they sell cuttings of the resistant plant to other farmers, making it another income source from their cash crop.

A crop they claim to have no choice in growing, because the herbicides kill everything except the resistant cocaine.

Davis says the U.S., which understandably doesn't want to advertise the new strain, is quietly trying to convince the Columbian government to switch to "Fusarium oxysporum, a plant-killing fungus classified as a mycoherbicide."

A problem, he notes, because while denying its use in 1999 the Florida Department of Environmental Protection said "mutated fungi can cause disease in a large number of crops, including tomatoes, peppers, flowers, corn, and vines."

It doesn't sound like natural selection, even aided by the peasants, can get around that one.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Labor deficiencies

Score one for CNMI Labor. They've announced that notices of application deficiencies or denials will be posted on their website.

That's great news for the contract workers who have been victimized by employers who say 'don't worry, start working; your papers are being processed'. That's been a big problem since the beginning of the Commonwealth program.

I still think the site, by itself, is a bad idea because jobless locals and aliens are among those least likely to check the Labor bulletin board every day or to have internet access.

Which brings me to a more ominous note in the public notice: "an austerity budget that requires it to use the most efficient legally permissible means possible to deliver notices." That sounds like visit us or our website to me.

But you can get it by email too, now, with the lawyerly cavil that you're still responsible for checking the website or bulletin boards.

What the heck, in the spirit of these Austerity Times and to see how I'd do on a typing test these days, the complete notice will be in the comments section. (It's easier to read if you click on the headline instead of the 'comments' below)

CUC crime spree

It's just silly superstition I guess, but I didn't want to mention crimes caused by power outages until they happened. Beware sympathetic magic; don't tempt fate.

I'm sure it's not a first, but the Marianas Variety is reporting an assault in San Vicente Monday.

Evidently it started as shoplifting during an *unscheduled* power outage, but the owner's son chased five teenagers into the street. (Yeah, that's not a wise move, but I've done similar things in the heat of the moment, only to realize 'lawdy, I'm outnumbered'.)

He was conked on the head with a beer bottle-- let's not talk about that teenage issue here.

You can't blame the Department of Public Safety for this one. How can they protect all of the stores and houses without lights, especially when they don't know where and how long the outages will be?

Security cameras aren't much good unless you've got backup power. Let's just hope burglars using darkness as cover snatch CUC-kill items.

We could also hope the Variety keeps after DPS for follow-up on this case. It doesn't sound too hard.

The kids are all right


Just to balance the yin with the yang, I'll give teenagers and CNMI Space.com a plug. An online Variety ad caught my eye yesterday so I checked it out.

It's not my crowd, but Charlie Atalig has a good idea. I hope it works for him. Lessee, somebody... aha Walt Goodridge wrote about it. I've peeked when my son and niece played on Myspace and it can get a little creepy.

As a parent, I'd be happier with them using this place in virtual space. MMMuuahh...the kiss of death.

A couple of things even caught my interest, like the videos and the joke I'll never tell. If you can't figure that out, think about why Jesse Jackson can use the "n" word but it's not okay for me.

iSLaNdErS isn't bad either. It could be cut by half to tighten it up or reduced to a 'ten reasons' list, but that's just personal preference.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Tax remittances

It was interesting to see Del. Jonathan Isechal's proposal to begin taxing remittances from Palau.

People have talked about using taxation as a penalty to keep money circulating locally for years, and I've always thought of it as unfair double taxation. States like Texas and Arizona explored the subject, but evidently backed down after predictably strong opposition by the Mexican government.

The Philippine government? Well, they seem to be doing some skimming on their end with a new tax.

Isechal's bill has some merit, just from the standpoint of policing possible criminal activity and funding the government's supervision. There are a lot of other noble goals stated in the bill, but it's obvious the real motive is revenue generation.

That's where I have a problem: "This will not impact majority of the citizens of the republic," Isechal said. Well, yeah, because by definition the people affected are not likely to be voters and can't fight back.

Ain't got nobody


A parallel came up a few days ago when I rhetorically asked on another blog why the local government hadn't raised the CNMI minimum wage above $3.05 an hour. Most people ignored the question, but one fellow said it was because the federal minimum here was $4.05 and nobody was affected.

Exactly. Nobody who is likely to vote fits into the many exceptions. That's the response I was fishing for, not because I expected any results, but just to provide an uncomfortable reminder.

And most people ignored the question.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Playing doctor


The buyer should always beware, especially in paying for something as expensive as a medical degree, but I'm afraid the University of Loyola at CNMI is just going to give the Commonwealth another black eye.

Governor Benigno R. Fitial's goal of making the CNMI an educational hub is laudable. The international schools being established are great low-impact economic development. With reservations, I even think Loyola's and Emmanuel College's nursing programs could be positive. (Let's wait to see what students' NCLEX scores are like)

But a Doctor of Medicine sanctioned by the CNMI has no standing in the United States. Evidently, Loyola has not even applied for accreditation. They're not listed on the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education website.

I wonder how those "degree" programs are being marketed overseas, and sincerely hope no local students enroll in them.

Hafa Adai

I haven't seen her byline yet, but evidently Kristi Eaton is a new reporter at the Saipan Tribune.

Kitty porn

PETA sure knows how to grab attention.

A People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals ad showing in a few large cities has a father urging his daughter to nail everything in sight. The parents are saying pregnancy isn't a problem to make PETA's point about spaying and neutering.

Who could argue with that? It's edgy and effective (in large cities) but nowhere close to this oldie I found looking it up:



Whew! For some reason, most television stations wouldn't run it. Oh, the ad I was talking about? Here it is:


Learn more about PETA's ABC campaign at PETA.org. That's their link, I left it in.

Crockpots

No that's not my opinion of them, they're giving Crock-Pots away. I don't know how green that is, but you only have to agree to a possible publicity release. For myself, telling them what I'd cook in it would probably set me free.

Maybe they are crackpots. Like many organizations that start with great goals, they just kept going until they were so over-the-top I wouldn't touch them.

That 'animals are people too' argument sets my teeth to gnashing. Genocide, slavery, teen-age girls; they're just bad analogies.

Let my puppies go

Let's take their argument to its logical conclusion: you shouldn't be neutering and spaying pets, they're exercising their choice. In fact, free all of your pets. That is slavery. More extreme animal rights groups (not PETA) should be running around turning all domestic animals loose.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

What’s in a word?

I really shouldn’t read the newspaper when I’m eating breakfast. It seems George Bush and Nouri al-Maliki are talking about a “horizon” for withdrawing more troops from Iraq. As an "aspirational goal", of course.

Cough, sputter, choke. What an optimistic, happy meal, word. “Deadline” is just so negative. I could almost believe Karl Rove hadn’t left for Fox News’ witless protection program. But objects transfer spin, and I’m sure his trained minions are carrying on despite the computer hard drives he shredded on his way out of town. (Whew. Maybe that Red Bull wasn’t such a good idea, but my power went out at 6:30.)

Back to the Bush.

What’s going on here? Facts on the ground? Sure, it’s reasonable to reduce our occupying troops as the “surge” (Oh, Karl.) appears to be working, or is it the Sunnis who switched sides? In either case, there are a lot of Iraqi politicians who don’t want to defend our presence. And downsizing makes as much sense as, um, talking to Iran and “surging” into Afghanistan.

Those are all reasonable actions based on the current situation. Barack Obama was castigated for being na├»ve when he suggested them. Except the Iraq surge, of course, that’s John McCain’s baby.

I’m always pleasantly surprised when George Bush flip-flops based on reality.

Zori wars

Unfair words, you say? Times change, people change, somewhat. Well, McCain and Obama have marshaled armies of pundits to police their opponent’s positions and play gotcha!

I’m less concerned, within limits. Speaking of reality, these are politicians running for President. You’re looking at the trees instead of the forest when you concentrate on the minutiae.

Obama needs to ‘center himself’; show he’s no Jesse Jackson, if you will. That’s much easier than McCain’s unenviable task of holding the center while showing his base he’s really one of them.

Maybe they should both give Rove a call and get some buzzwords.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

email antidote

I don't get many phony opinion pieces attributed to celebrities and scurrilous 'somebody told my aunt' rumors in my email these days. That may have something to do with my tendency to shoot back at the sender with snarky remarks about their gullibility.

When they come, snopes.com is a grand place to check them out. Obviously, most aren't worth the time. (BTW, why are there so many about Barack Obama while John McCain gets a free ride?)

I subscribe to their newsletter to see what I've missed, but handle it with care. Once I get started it takes me an hour to sort through the interesting and funny rumors. Every page leads to another.

"Don't blame me"

George Carlin got me going this time. I never could resist the man's humor, and the fake views on aging even have his voice. That led to how he felt about this garbage: i.e. "sappy load of shit". It's a short jump from there to his home page, naturally.

Then there's that Larry Miller guy. Being mistaken for George Carlin and Dennis Miller is a neat trick, something like mixing oil and water. Worth checking out, I thought. Waste of time, that: there's no there, there.

Still, you get the point. For me, it's another time-trap. Happily, I got another favorite out of the exercise:

Make the Pie Higher!

(Attributed to George Bush)

I think we all agree, the past is over.
This is still a dangerous world.
It's a world of madmen and uncertainty
and potential memory losses

Rarely is the question asked
is our children learning?
Will the highways of the internet become more few?
How many hands have I shaked?

The misunderestimate me.
I am a pitbull on the pantleg of opportunity.
I know that the human being and the fish can coexist.
Families is where our nation finds hope, and where our wings take dream.

Put food on your family!
Knock down the tollbooth!
Vulcanize society!
Make the pie higher! Make the pie higher!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Good things about the energy crisis?

Resident Representative Pete A. Tenorio deserves some props if he's indeed the one who got 12 mile CNMI control of submerged lands into proposed offshore drilling legislation. Sigh. It was in the Saipan Tribune and Marianas Variety yesterday but I can't find a link. Maybe that's because they both just reprinted his press release. The resrep link seems to be broken. Update: here we go, their website was intractable, but I found it on the net

According to the press release, Congressman Don Young of Alaska included the provision in H.R. 6108. I particularly liked its headline: "CNMI could benefit from energy crisis".

I have some problems with that, but not where the Commonwealth is concerned. Because of looming energy problems Japan and France decided to push nuclear power years ago; Germany is going solar. At this late date, when it hit the fan again, some geniuses think offshore drilling will help us a few years 'down the road'.

On the bright side, even if the bill doesn't pass, Young has shown the ability to slip pet provisions into other bills after they have passed.

On the road again

Our flirtation with 55 mph speed limits didn't take, but it appears gas price increases save lives. Who knew?

Calorie counting

Closer to home, the Commonwealth Utilities Corporation has forced many people to give up the '24 hour rice cooker'. You know, keeping it going 'in case anybody gets hungry'. That's a good thing nutritionally too; the gloppy over-refined stuff that's preferred here is hardly a healthy snack.

Between CUC and rice price increases (thanks for the ethanol subsidies, Congress) we've been eating more of the three T's: tapioca, taro and 'taters. Yum.

That's very timely, with that conference on lifestyle diseases just wrapping up.

Hmm, I wonder if restaurants should list the calories of menu items like New York City? (They just banned trans-fat, too.)

Quote of the Week

And the winner is... disqualified.

Some outrageous quotes, like “we had to destroy the village to save it”, are so timeless, so absurd, so wrong that they define the genre. In that spirit, I give you the genesis and namesake of Saipan's CPR Quote of the Week:

“This administration has not added to the deficit,” said Charles Reyes, the governor's spokesman. We have come in and tried to curtail it.” (Saipan Tribune)

No worries, Business Editor Stefan Sebastian was having a good day. In an accompanying article on agencies that missed the deadline for the government-wide audit, we get this tidbit:

Bound for glory


“However, Mark Aguon, administrator of NMIRF, said his office did submit the information required well ahead of the deadline. OPA officials, however, did not accept it because the statement was not properly bound.” (Saipan Tribune)

That would be a sure front-runner, except it isn't a direct quote. Besides, I'm pretty sure Aguon added a few choice words, and some of them may have been printable.

But the week is young, and nominations are still open.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The joke's on us

The Commonwealth Utilities Corporation has published one of those Good News/Bad News jokes, but like most victims of jokes my laughter is forced.

The good news? CUC is advertising for an "Engineering Manager for Power Generation" and for "Engineer (Mechanical, Electrical, and/or Civil Engineering)" at "VARIOUS DIVISIONS, SAIPAN".

Yup, you guessed it, that's the bad news too. How long have these positions been needed?

Geez, I hope one of them can write. Every time there's a story about alternative energy we get 'there's a law promoting it but CUC hasn't written the regulations yet'.

It sound's familiar. About 20 years ago, give or take a Board member's term, Sen. Herman R. Guerrero pushed through a law authorizing a revolving loan fund to build water catchments. You know, so maybe we wouldn't have to put up with water hours.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Bush is being lame. Duck!


Is George Bush losing it? The goofy dance steps at some of his appearances lately have been pretty strange, but I cut him some slack because he's been attending these 'socials' for seven years. I can think of worse ways for a lame duck President to get attention.

Saying " Goodbye from the world's biggest polluter" as he left the G-8 summit, for instance. And...punching... the air... while grinning widely? (His rah-rah national pride is admirable, but he may have gotten that wrong, too. It appears China may have passed us in Carbon emissions. Tsk, George, you let it happen on your watch.)

Pawing German Chancellor Angela Merkel was odd enough, though maybe in some kinky way it's connected with her keeping Barack Obama away from the Brandenburg Gate.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The war that nobody came to

That Public Utilities Commission meeting Saturday could easily have turned into a zoo. I'll bet the Commissioners were wondering whether the Chamber of Commerce conference room was large enough.

Nobody came.

I take that back. There was a quorum and a couple of people watched, but where were Greg and Ed and the countless others who have been after the Commonwealth Utilities Corporation?* Why, it might even had made a nice filler story for the media.

Legislative oversite is fine, but this is the agency tasked with setting the price of your power. Its meetings have a lot more to do with dealing with CUC's problems than standing on some government lawn with a sign.

I know. Meetings are boring, like wading through the newspaper ads announcing them.

But there is important information in the ads; it's why I still buy newspapers instead of reading them online. Besides, I don't want to miss the occasional gem, like the CNMI Department of Labor announcing that Labor Case 02-274 will be heard at 11 a.m. July 18. "Not on file" has a claim against "Not on file". I expect the wisdom of Solomon in this one, with nobody winning and nobody losing.

Check Monday's second notice: the time and date may change.

* Covering my glass house: Saturday is a work day for me. I wanted to go, but couldn't break loose.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Steal this book

Abbie Hoffman would be proud. Steal This Book is available online. Free, of course.

There are about 1.2 million others, according to the World eBook Fair. Not including A Boy and His Dog, which I was trying to find for my brother. I needn't have bothered, he tells me, he'd run across some filings that showed Harlan Ellison is extremely protective of his copyrights.

Ah well, I downloaded 1984 just to see how it worked, though I detest reading anything long on a computer.

I got there through Project Gutenberg. It's an interesting site; you edit a scanned page and it's reviewed by others. Eventually there's another book in the collection. I tried it, and I'm deciding whether I can deal with another internet time waster.

The Fair runs from July 4 to August 4.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Who reads any more?

Jane Mack's post on my post got me thinking. (And how incestuous is the internet?)

I've been reading dire predictions of the demise of books since I learned to read. Publishers have figures to show it-- I won't Google the stats this time-- and an amazing number of people tell me they don't read books.

A little elitism here. So what? An amazing number do read. Every American can vote, except for President, and about half do. That's about how many read literature. (There's probably a lot of overlap, but no, I don't necessarily think they're the same people.)

The need to be distracted, amused, entertained is deep-rooted in our psyche. I read a Buddhish guru years ago who said Americans even need to read in the bathroom because they don't like to be alone with their thoughts.

Our distractions of choice are television and the internet. It doesn't have to be a bad thing. There are great TV shows and the Librarian of Alexandria would envy what's available on computers. Trashy reality shows and trashy web sites are there because someone expects them to draw people. Que sera, I don't read Romance novels.

OK, the reading decline is steepest for young folk, and that's bothersome. I was reading a biography of Red Smith, and in his foreword New York Times sportswriter Ira Berkow said he hadn't read much of anything in High School. Knowing that, and reading his book, I feel safe in saying he will never match Red Smith. It's difficult for me to imagine a good writer who isn't also a reader.

I would expect a lot of people to return to the book fold for one reason or another, just as (hopefully) their online adventures will progress beyond My Space and World of Warcraft.

Also hopefully, beyond the world-wiki-web. Motto: If it's wrong today someone will correct it tomorrow.

Myself, I'm revving up for Dave Attel's revival of the Gong Show on Comedy Central. I've often said I'd only run a karaoke bar if you could make them stop doing that.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Guam tomorrow?

The Marianas Variety says National Geographic names Guam one of the 'last colonies'. Sure enough, June's Last Colonies article doesn't say much, but Guam's on the list.

In fact, the author refers to 'the committee that deals with the issue', he can't even tell us it's the Special Committee on Decolonization, also known as the Fourth Committee. Here's a pretty up-to-date blog.

The Committee wants wants "non-self-governing" territories to settle their status by 2010. Not likely since the controlling countries, particularly the United States and the United Kingdom, view the Fourth Committee as a relic of the Cold War. The name doesn't help in nixing that impression.

I've never understood why the U.S. doesn't just finally deal with the issue. Guam deserves a vote, whatever the outcome.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Proper English

Oh, joy. I just ran across two sites, The Phrase Finder and World Wide Words that love the English language. International, British English, but that will do (suffice?). The Brits are good at this sort of thing.

WWW even collects newspaper mistakes. Of course I'll be back. One example:
The media, print and online, have recently widely quoted Karl Rove talking about Barack Obama (Peter Weinrich saw it in the New York Times): “Even if you never met him, you know this guy. He’s the guy at the country club with the beautiful date, holding a martini and a cigarette that stands against the wall and makes snide comments about everyone who passes by.” Contemptuous cigarettes — what will they think of next?
What could I add, except 'not if Karl Rove is on the membership committee'.

He said she said, or so she said

I didn't run down the Rove quote. That's the downside of the internet. It gets so caught up in commenting on comments that you may never see what caused the hullabaloo in the first instance (See? Those insidious Beefeaters are influencing me).

I found those sites through boingboing.net, which reviews reviews a lot. Like the piece I'd just finished about the Gatling Gun. Scrolling down the page, this quote for you New York Times fans caught my eye:
The most effective use of Gatling guns during the civil war, Keller writes, was by the New York Times, which lined them up outside its offices to scare away a mob of anti-conscription activists upset with its editor's outspoken criticism of them. They were far more successful among police departments and factory owners than as actual military weapons — as intimidating as they were ineffective, they made perfect security theater.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Segway racer

I expect to see Ed McMahon peddling these to retired folks-- he could use the money too.

Nope, a quick Google will show that police departments are going for Segways big time. The latest being a Chinese SWAT team, though Counter-terrorist police exercise on Segways is an unfortunate headline.

Wouldn't that have looked neat in the July 4 parade? Maybe someday, all it would take is a grant through the Criminal Justice Planning Agency. I'm not pressing, I like Saipan's bicycle patrols.

Here's another example. That guy looks like he could use a bicycle. I love the humiliation factor: having to tell your cellmate 'some cop on a Segway ran me down'.

Running Scared

To save you the trouble, I went off on an internet tangent and found that most people could probably manage 15 miles per hour, theoretically outrunning the 12.5 mph Segway. An adrenaline push might add a little more speed. That's full-tilt, and obviously our batteries will run down before the Segway's.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Obama monkey business

I watched CNN for half an hour because of teasers for this story:



My first reaction was just like the Muricans in the story: There you go again, as Ronald Reagan would say. Sometimes Japan just doesn't get it.

But wait a minute. It's the company's mascot and monkeys are cultural icons. The guy saying 'Ahhhh, Obama-san' doesn't look like he's even made the connection. Maybe it says more about us than them.

It reminds me of the Darkie toothpaste I used to find on shelves when I first came to Saipan. No big thing to the Chinese, but I was mailing tubes off to the States. That is, until I realized I was buying into the hand, kind of like CNN.

Colgate-Palmolive sure didn't make that mistake: as you can see the brand is Darlie now that they've picked up the company. No bad taste toothpaste in that corporate empire.

That's furriners. What's the t-shirt guy's excuse? He claims no racist intent, that he just thought Obama looked like Curious George. Uh-huh, and what caused that connection to leap into your mind?

I'll admit I can even see it now that it's brought up. But criminy, anyone who's lived in these United States knows the baggage you claim by portraying blacks as monkeys. Maybe that's his problem: these United States. Part of our baggage.

Here's a clip on the t-shirt, in case you missed it:

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Leg godt (Play well)

Speechless, but I've got a keyboard. Realistic, functional (though they don't actually shoot) weapons made of Legos have landed in my inbox.

Ah, America.

BrickGun apologizes that orders may be delayed because of "a huge amount of press which is sending our sales through the roof." Not my first thought, but close: when does the first kid get blown away because he's packing plastic? Right behind that: is it legal in Legoland?

I shouldn't say Legos, the company would sniff, it dilutes the trademark. They're Lego bricks, patented 50 years ago.

I never liked their kits, but this might be an exception. Structured play my patootie. Over the years I've learned to sit on my hands and let kids build what they want. If they want my visions of grandeur they'll ask.

There's nothing finer at a certain age than sitting in the middle of a mess of Lego bricks, racing to finish your castle-- and to get more Lego bricks than your playmate.

Build your kit in a bottle, that would impress me. Otherwise, what's the point?

The folks at Boing Boing would disagree. They're positively obsessed with the little 'bricks'. Though they've twitted the Lego Group for making thousands of models over the years, at the same time you'll get "about 31,000" results if you Google Lego on boingboing.net