Sunday, December 30, 2007

The year in this blog

Angelo did a yearly blog recap, so I figured I'd do the same as it might be fun.


I didn't really blog then, so I can't remember much. The Colts beat the Patriots that month. That was fantastic. Let's hope history repeats itself.


I notice Angelo, Brad and others are blogging, and figure I'll join in as well. I make this my first post. There are posts before this, but they were second homes for the stuff I'd written for the Marianas Variety, which is all I ever expected this blog to be and where this blog might ultimately end up. A mere 255 people showed up that first month.


I went to the Philippines for my sister in law's wedding. I meet her family and they are supercool. They are a tight knit, fun loving bunch. I went to Baguio, which is a long bus ride from Manila to the "countryside," yet still crowded and polluted. It's supposed to be the summer capital, but I'm not getting the draw for the reasons noted. I find it wildly overrated. I went to Cebu, which has a lot of what Manila has without the horrific traffic. I also go to Bohol, which was nice, but seemingly lacking something. I am impressed with the Malate section of Manila, which reminds me a bit of New York City with all the bars, restaurants and bohemian young people.


The federalization debate really heats up. The CNMI hires a lobbyist both to remind people they once hired Jack Abramoff and to screw over a few Filipinos who have lived here a long time. I blast them while sitting in a computer room in Manila. I was the first to do so. PSS folks have to do the dance on whether they are getting the funding needed to function even moderately properly. I turn 35.


This is the month I did my best writing on this blog. There were a lot of good posts that month, toot toot. It was fun then, it was taking off, and there were big topics I still hadn't addressed. Dengre calls Bruce Bateman "the Drunken Face of Evil" in his headline, which is still the world's greatest headline. I didn't know Bruce too much at the time, other than column Bruce, who comes off as quite the dick on occasion, but I heard enough good things to add some balance to the debate. I find out liberals don't like shades of grey.


School ends. I go to Palau and relish a few days hanging in the coalition of the willing. I also put together my Variety profile on CNMI bloggers. Carl and Clarence become Carl and Alexander Turbitt and my legal kids. I get a Virginia teachers license, go on Harry Blalock's show to discuss blogging and a couple of us do a dive on Bruce's boat. I wrote what I think is my best post blasting Guam airport. Every week a disgruntled traveler googles Guam Airport and reads my post slamming them. This will deservedly go on into perpetuity. Cheers for my pea shooter. I head to the states to avail myself of urban pleasures like MLB games, Cuban food and museums. I meet my newborn niece Samantha Lynn, see Rush and the Dave Matthews Band in concert and visit a good friend in North Carolina. This was a great month.


Tao Tao Tano blows its credibility with its "Go home protest." I definitely was the first to blast them writing from the states as soon as those stories hit the website. Many others did as well. The sexiest and best blog contest rages. Angelo tries to cheat with a proxy server, but still loses. Brad and Harry win. The campaign was nasty, with Brad Ruszala getting the Nambla endorsement.


I get switched from senior to freshmen English and am not happy. Classes are wildly overcrowded. Cynthia gets her green card. I get offered a Marianas Variety column. I'm embroiled in the Korean tourists enrolling in PSS shitstorm.


I find out Cynthia is with my child. Distinction made so I don't have to slap Angelo. The blogger trolls come out finally and in force, largely because of Brad Ruszala's endless arguments with them on Middle Road. I was surprised it took that long.


PSS starts its bimonthly maybe we can't make payroll or keep school going talk. The Red Sox win another World Series as George Bush finishes Ph.D dissertation on Greek philosophy and Brad Ruszala practices monogamy. I dive a lot -- a real lot.


From 255 visitors in February, I'm now over 3,300 in November. In every month, until this one, traffic goes up. The CNMI has elections and goes for change by inserting all the people who lost the last election to do presumably the same things that didn't work last time. Tina Sablan and Galvin Guerrero win to provide some hope. I seek refuge in humor writing rather than focusing on our lousy government.


We find out Cynthia is having a girl. While waiting for her ultrasound, some guy wheeled in by ER folks and looking half dead picks his head up, smiles at me and says, "Love your column, man." Ambrose Bennett sets record for using the phrase "Common Sense" in a single calendar year for letters to the editor no one reads. Harry Blalock quits blogging -- for real this time. I hang out with friends during Christmas break and have fun.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Steffan Lessard of the DMB Watchtower Prelude

Other than Geddy Lee, Steffan is by far my favorite bass player. He gets his bass to sing. I saw him play slide bass, which I've never seen before, in the Folsom Field video for Two Step. This is a bass tune with lots of effects. The DMB Central Park concert is staggering.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Achilles Last Stand - John Paul Jones

Not that you can tell that John Paul Jones is even in the band from this video, but his pulsing 1/8 notes on bass, the foundation for a lot of rock, together with John Bonham's maniacal drums, drive this song, which might be the last great Zeppelin tune.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

A new blog on the scene

The blogging world has a new entrant. Brady Barrineau is now on the scene. Since his debut in the commenting world, it appears Brady dislikes Bruce Bateman even more than the other dedicated anti-Bruce sites, but I don't think Brady will become the third.

The confused Tao Tao Tano's latest propaganda film

There are two new videos out. This one and something about Dekada Boni. I sent Greg this letter.


People leading a group of working class poor people shouldn't have other poor people as their enemy and their demon.

The government you want to have such control bloated your labor supply, kept your wages low, wasted money on junkets, didn't maintain the power plant or plan for the inevitable rise in oil. Those things screwed up this island, not the contract workers. The government took $10 million dollars plus of your tax money and gave it to a corrupt lobbyist to keep your wages at $3.05. There is virtually no private sector business paying living wages, only a bloated, inefficient, unsustainable government bureaucracy without priorities on health, education or public safety.

Your beloved government brought in so many contract workers that guest workers outnumbered indigenous 2 to 1, not the feds. Free trade destroyed the garment factories, and the federalization you so oppose will have the guest workers you so loathe out of here in less than ten years Your government will just continue to bloat the labor supply if given control. It's basic economics Greg, a large supply of anything depresses the price. Are you concerned with the non-connected ordinary person or the government bureaucrat?

How could you not have sympathy for a bunch of poor people and make them the enemy instead of the government for the reasons above? Criticizing this lousy government isn't insulting indigenous people, it's pointing out the obvious.

I can't even begin to understand your motives unless you are just blinded by racism.


Marcus Miller bass solo

Here is some serious slapping, popping and grooving with bass wizard Marcus Miller.

Saipan Scuba Diving - Best of 2007

Brad Derksen continues to put together some great underwater videography. Check out Brad's blog here:

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Happy Holidays

Happy Holidays to all my friends and readers. This blog will be slow, but probably not dark, for the next two weeks with holiday stuff going on and about.

I've always been curious about my readers not from Saipan. I'm always shocked when I get them. Feel free to comment on what brings you here, or to the other Saipan blogs, if you aren't living in Saipan. It would be appreciated.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

CNMI dive sites re-ranked

I'm re-ranking my list of my favorite dives in the CNMI to reflect my Rota experiences. This list can and will change over time and with my own further experience. I haven't done multiple dives at all these sites, so I might have caught a bad day in certain circumstances. The two sites I really want to do that I haven't yet are Goat Island and Forbidden Island. Of the three islands, I would say Saipan, Rota and Tinian are the islands I would dive in order. If seeking out an English speaking dive guide, I would recommend Richard Sikkel. For a Korean dive shop, and as a place to rent tanks, I recommend Mr. Lee at Dive Saipan/All American Divers.

1. The Grotto
2. Bonzai Cliff
3. Rota Hole
4. Wing Beach
5. Bird Island
6. Chinsen Mauru
7. Wing Arch
8. Spotlight Cave
9. Tinian Grotto
10. Lau Lau Bay
11. Emily the wreck formerly known as B-29
12. Ice Cream
13. Shoen Maru Rota
14. Fleming Wall Tinian
15. Twin Coral Tinian
16. Senhanom Wall Rota
17. Naftan
18. Dimple
19. Eagle Ray City
20. Tinian Dump Cove

Friday, December 21, 2007

James Jamerson on What's Going On

James Jamerson has to be one of the most melodic bass players there ever was. He had a '62 Fender P Bass named the Funk Machine and played on more top ten hits than even the Beatles as a Motown sideman.

Quick thoughts

We're now about 75 percent sure that Cynthia is carrying a girl, at least that was the doctor's confidence level. She's very happy. There were no signs of a penis on the ultrasound. There's a joke there, but I'll let one pass for a change.

Bree and Doug Reynolds are leaving. I'll put this real plain: This is a crushing blow to CNMI education, and this is a school that can scarcely afford such a loss. If you want to see the net result of our underfunded schools, go check out Hopwood. Nowhere else is it more obvious and more harmful.

I went to 360 for lunch. I'm becoming a big fan, and the daytime view is outstanding. The food is both good and reasonable in price.

Adults shouldn't put words into the mouths of teenagers. There is not even a slight chance a high school student wrote this letter. If you want to offer your thoughts, show some guts and offer them, don't put them upon a high school student. We went through that crap when MPLA was disbanded.

I've had two people tell me recently they hate "the blogs." Not necessarily my blog, just "the blogs." Both said they read the blogs daily, and both have been known to comment from time to time. There is a simple response to that feeling, don't read them. I hate most network television, so I simply don't watch much of it. Probably eighty percent of blogs in the world indeed aren't very good, but the concept isn't going away, they're democratic and they're helpful. I call Angelo's Master List a blog graveyard for good reason, most of them are dead. Blogging takes work. The better ones offer an array of hyper specific information that has long been otherwise unavailable, and the existence of which are indeed a great service. I find blogs very useful when I travel or research unfamiliar locales.

Walmart and Circuit City screwed up family presents by trying to send things Fed Ex when Fed Ex doesn't deliver here -- at least the branch of Fed Ex service those bozos picked. You guys suck.

KAP finished hibernating and made some comments on the blogs today. The blathering got old he said in explaining the long slumber. Boy did he pick the wrong time to come back.

I watched Talk to Me on dvd the other day. It was a good though hardly great movie, but Don Cheadle is a fantastic actor.

I saw the Magic Show last Christmas Eve at the Hyatt, and it kind of sucked. I might go again this year for the different show. Advice appreciated.

As much as I loathe the Boston Red Sox, I think I hate the New England Patriots even more -- at least right now. The league is watered down, and I just don't' accept that this team belongs with the Packers of the 60s, the Steelers of the 70s, the 49ers of the '80s or the Cowboys of the 90s. They have a Hall of Fame coach and qb, and no one else of that caliber, at least until Moss came around. The coach is a humorless, cantankerous SOB. Please let them lose in the playoffs.

Things learned in Rota from Bruce Bateman:

WWII was started by Franklin Roosevelt, not Hitler or Tojo.

Bruce goes to bed at like 8:00 pm and it's not because his mom makes him.

Bruce has no qualms of driving 30 mph backwards on dirt roads because he's capable of doing 70 backwards. Not with me in the car you're not.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The apocalypse is here

There are things that let me know the world is falling apart that are obvious such as the Bush Administration, karaoke, global warming and the palpable excitement over a Taco Bell in Saipan. Then there are things that make me think humans aren't worth saving anyway, and that could be best demonstrated in Angelo's traffic. A thousand plus hits over an ugly French chick named Laure Manaudou who had a sex tape. How original. And did anyone check the news today. The only thing under heaven and Earth more vapid than Britney Spears is any front page news regarding 16 year old Jamie Lynn Spears getting knocked up. Equally horrid are some out of focus titties of 42-year-old ex Chilean beauty queen Cecilia Bolocco. The only thing about Chili I care about is that no one makes a good one here in Saipan.

Amy Polumbo doesn't get enough attention as Miss New Jersey, so she pulls the oldest trick in the bar and kisses a girl or something, or was that Katie Rees. I feel sick that I know this much about this bullshit and that thousands of people are stupid enough to Google this crap.

Haven't we seen enough celebrity sex tapes? Isn't that a bit old? To have a celebrity sex tape don't you have to at least be a celebrity and hot? I'm taking this dispatch from the Saipan Blogger as a sign of the apocalypse because she's not a celebrity and she's not hot, and even if she was, who gives a shit!

"Laure Manaudou is the hottest name on the Internet right now. I had never heard of the girl until I opened up Technorati this morning, but variations of Laure, Manaudou, Manodau, and Manoudou take up 7 of the 10 ten most searched items today."

I've got nothing against sex or naked women. I happen to be a pretty big fan of both. The Internet is awash in these things. Does it really matter that they swam, were among the countless names you can't recall from these dated pageants or are the sister of an unhinged has been who was never really all that great.

If I were going to live vicariously through the sexploits of others, I'd buy Brad Ruszala a beer and let him tell me about his weekend, not Google this shit.

On the next BOE Rep

Update: There was a meeting to debate, discuss and vote on this matter, and naturally less than six people showed up, and none of the people who made the fuss. I told Betty I had it with ACT months ago, but I went tonight for her. Another waste of time.

This post won't be of much concern to non-teachers, but in that group a debate is raging about the next teacher representative to the BOE.

The worst kept secret is that a lot of teachers don't like Ambrose Bennett and haven't liked him for a long time. I am actually not one of those people, though I think he hasn't even been trying as teacher rep for a while. Teachers were trying to get him out of office since he got into office. Last Spring that effort intensified again. ACT comes and mostly goes largely based on whether Ambrose has pissed off many teachers.

Last year was a non-related come. As a result of salary cuts related to Praxis at the beginning of last school year, some teachers wanted to be heard. Given that teachers never did anything for years, there was no organization to assist them. Some small momentum had ACT going again, and then kept alive later on almost entirely via the efforts of Betty Miller. Some members wanted Ambrose out right away, and there was an effort to that effect put forth that never went very far. This effort was not Betty's idea, but she was the person people wanted to replace him. Now Bennett's term is really ending and he is putting up a major fuss because Betty is also serving as acting Vice Principal, he blames Betty and he needs something to write three letters per week about. He related today how he is a well known constitutional scholar and the Constitution is in peril over this nonsense. You heard it John Marshall, Oliver Wendell Holmes and Ambrose Bennett. Here is Ambrose's statement: "Furthermore, I have been recognized by the U.S. Congress as a Constitutional Scholar and only people with "Law" degrees are considered to have a better understanding of our Constitution - meaning the "lay" interpretations that ACT is creating to address the Constitution don't carry any weigth nor will the be considered as a "qualified" opinion."

About six or seven people are out opposing Betty Miller on grounds that she is now serving as an administrator. Anyone interested in this debate can check the ACT blog. Here is my take on this fiasco.

James Yangetmai makes some good points in his email, and if this were a union and we were really doing collective bargaining, his argument would be even stronger. However, this isn't the U.S. mainland, ACT isn't a union, and regarding this statement: "The credibility of our organization and teaching profession are at stake, and I believe that’s what all of us would want to protect," we have no credibility because so many people have sat around and done nothing for years that all ACT is now is Betty Miller trying to herd a group of disinterested cats. No one even wants to run for crying out loud. How sad a statement is that? The last election there was no campaign, no one voted, and we've since had four years of many people being angry that Ambrose won, so they just sit it out. It's only nonsense like this that brings people out of the woodwork.

Remember how last year the salaries were cut over Praxis and people were now upset and they had nowhere to turn? That was because there was no ACT in reality, and even a few months after it was reformed with all that paycut mojo, it has officers that don't show up to help, a membership that doesn't show up at meetings and virtually no one, in ACT or not, that could be bothered to show up at a Board of Education debate and other educational debates that Betty spearheaded.

Betty Miller has gone to those board meetings, actually represented teachers in a fair and professional manner and tried to make something of ACT while 99 percent of you sat on your ass, and now because she got promoted a few people don't want her to be teacher rep and turned this into some Supreme Court procedural argument. It's sad.

And for Ambrose's edification, it was other parties, certainly not me and not Betty, who wanted him removed from office last Spring, so don't take it out on her now, which is obviously happening. And even if you cling to the argument that Betty can't be in that position, the lone alternative isn't retaining Ambrose. There are other choices. The issue is do you trust Betty to relate the views of teachers and watch and relate those interests on the board and back to teachers, and we all know she can. Can we please stop the dramatic Constitutional Convention and show some real world awareness of what we are (a fledgling organization at best) and are not (a union).

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Rota is a great place to chill out, MV 16

Seasoned travelers often cite a lack of other travelers as the standard of purity and desirability in a location. So talk like "Bali was great before all the tourists arrived" becomes typical travel boilerplate. If people really mean it when they cite unspoiled as a draw, then they'd do well to spend time in tranquil Rota as I recently did.
Rota felt calm and relaxing from a Saipan resident's chilled out mindset. For someone from Tokyo or Seoul, it must be an oasis of uniminaginable peacefulness. I've lived, worked or traveled in those bustling cities and firmly believe those overworked people would relish the opportunity to be somewhere without any pollution or traffic lights, and more importantly, few people and beaches all to themselves. To get to the East Coast Korean beaches from Seoul in summer involves hours of traffic to get to a wildly crowded beach where you have enough room to lay out and relax if you fit on a book of postage stamps. Korean beaches in high season are about as comfortable as a intercontinental flight in coach between two flatulent Sumo wrestlers. To our core travel market, Rota should feel like a VIP pass to the Playboy Mansion, not the 200 meter crawl over glass shards they’re used to undergoing in order to cool off and relax.

My friends and I pretty much had the whole Coconut Village to ourselves, which was a clean, nice and reasonably priced lodging site near the Rota swimming hole where I took a late night swim and saw a small meteor shower over a night sky that redefined spectacular.

My primary draw to Rota was the clear, pristine underwater environment, so I hauled my dive gear over and did a few dives and saw what sure looked like the world's largest moray eel. The Rota Hole, the best of the four dives, offered a spectacular backdrop of light and dark through underwater cracks in the earth. The reefs appeared healthy and lightly taxed given the small population and the water warm with its famous visibility indeed a reality. As a diving location, Rota offers three wrecks, as well as walls, drift dives and the aforementioned Rota Hole. If nearby Rota doesn't get some spillover from the lousy yet burgeoning Guam diving market, as well as general Guam tourism, there is a major marketing and advertising debacle going on in a place that seems to be extremely poorly marketed. The recently passed Rota Casino Initiative hopefully won't harm Rota’s prime virtue -- its calmness.

Sandra Atalig, an administrative specialist at the Rota branch of Marianas Visitors Administration, said that island serenity is still the main lure to the island. "We want to promote the tranquility. We want people to enjoy the relaxation. It's about coming here and just relaxing. Tourists are really into exploring the beach side and the friendliness of the people, as well as the peacefulness and lack of traffic. Tourists are not worried about being robbed -- they feel safe." Atalig noted that arrivals have been up slightly of late with the Rota fiesta and triathlon. However, it is hard not to notice that business in Rota is suffering terribly. Abandoned houses and businesses are prevalent. Downtown Songsong makes the Paseo de Marianas look like a Hong Kong shopping district.
I made one other trip to Rota a few years ago when the Attorney General's Cup was held there, and thought the place had a distinct cultural feel to it. All the public events were conducted in both Chamorro and English, which makes the place feel a lot different from Saipan. Rota probably isn't going to attract bacchanalian twentysomethings, but for older travelers who want a place to relax, read, swim, fish, golf and explore the underwater world, Rota is a wonder.

After sitting idle for nearly 18 years, the revolving 360 Restaurant at the Marianas Business Plaza is now operational. I visited Friday night and thought it pretty good. They are also now open for lunch. Associate Manager Rick Jones said the restaurant has gotten good support so far and jogged the memories of patrons who remember going there in the 80s. Jones described the food as "American style with an international flair" and said the investors thought it was a unique business opportunity, noting the 360 Saipan panorama offered to diners. "The view during the day is fantastic. At night you don't see the ocean, but the atmosphere is stylish,” Jones said.
This column, not necessarily this blog, will go on Christmas break for two weeks. I wish all my readers Happy Holidays.

Jeffrey C. Turbitt is the language arts department chairman at Saipan Southern High School, as well as an avid scuba diver and traveler. He offers more thoughts in his blog Hypercritical Thought at: He welcomes feedback, tips and story ideas at His column appears regularly on Wednesdays.

Cinta's reaction to the "leave" quote

I asked Cinta about the quote in the Variety this week, and this is her description of the entire event:

The December 12, 2007 edition of the Marianas Variety MISATTRIBUTED the following quote to me: "THE principal sponsor of the bill that is now Commonwealth Employment Act of 2007 says foreign workers who can't stand the local labor system can leave."

For the record, I NEVER made the above statement that was MISATTRIBUTED to me. Since I didn't have a tape recorder the day that I had this impromptu interview with Gemma -- though she did -- I'm going to relate to you what was said to the best of my recollection. And, by the way, if you want to verify any of this, why not ask Gemma for the taped interview? If she can't or won't give it to you, there were several other witnesses to this interview: Rep. Joseph Guerrero, Rep. Ramon Tebuteb, Toni Apatang from PTI, Nace from the Governor's Office, and other Legislative staff. These people were only a few feet from us and observed the whole heated discussion that went on.

Rep. Ray Tebuteb, who went to sit by Joe Rep. Guerrero, invited me over to speak with him right after we recessed from one of our sessions. As I walked up to him, I heard Rep. Guerrero telling Gemma that he wanted to wait and see how PL 15-108 works out before making any amendments to the Law. I'd heard and read several reports that Tina Sablan is talking to other lawmakers about repealing PL 15-108 once they get in, so I inferred that Gemma was asking Rep. Guerrero this very question when I joined Rep. Tebuteb. Her next response was "What about the six-month periodic exit?" I heard Rep. Guerrero say, "That's why we put in the 10%..." and as he was saying this, he looked over and motioned for me to jump into the conversation. I picked up where he left off. "Ten percent key employee exemption." "That's all?!" was Gemma's retort as she turned and headed towards me and Rep. Tebuteb to put the tape recorder down in front of us. "And you're going to send everyone home?!" She posed this question and successive questions to me in a challenging, confrontational way, rather than the normal tone she used to use to pose questions to me BEFORE I introduced HB 15-38, which has now become PL 15-108. I kept holding my hand up to indicate to her that I wanted her to stop interrupting me and to allow me to speak and finish what I was saying before she continued with her questions.

I said, "Gemma, you know that the 10% key employee provision is there because we don't want to jeaopardize the businesses. It was intended to make sure that the key employees of a business remained on the job to run the business with other employees while the employer staggers the periodic exit for the rest of the employees!" Her follow-up retort was: "With what skilled employees are you going to replace them with?!" I said to her, "Come on, Gemma! You mean to say that we're ALL unskilled and uneducated? And are you saying that we'll be unskilled and uneducated forever? How many educated and skilled locals have left these islands because they couldn't get jobs here?! ," I exclaimed.

"Have you seen the Public Auditor's Jobs Study Report?", I continued. This Report came out in May 2007. She claimed she saw the Report. I began discussing the Report when my staff handed me a copy of the actual Report. I read an excerpt from page 6 which talked about a one-year study that the OPA Jobs Study Group conducted. The one-year study that ended in August 2006 found that the Department of Labor renewed 800 job applications for "nonresident workers" who are making $10 an hour on up to $20+ an hour . Her retort was "Well, that's a small number. That's what... only 10% of the population!" I was stunned by her reply. I said to her, "Gemma, this may ONLY be 10% of the much larger Filipino population, but for the much smaller local population, that's A LOT of jobs!" I continued: "We have 400 government employees who will be losing their jobs at the end of December. I'm sure there's a lot of them who are skilled and educated!"

Gemma then said "The nonresidents came here and built the economy...." I said to her, "Let's go back and examine that statement. The foreign national workers were brought here to build our economy? Did you come to the CNMI to 'build our economy' or did you come to the CNMI because you needed jobs and we needed workers, so we opened up the opportunity to you? Now, I know some employers did not pay their workers, and that's unfortunate, but for most of the workers, did they not get paid for their work?"

I continued, "Ever since the enactment of the Nonresident Workers Act in 1983, the law established that we were to only bring in the workers to supplement our Labor workforce where needed -- not to replace our local workforce. We have that right to decide how many workers to bring in." Gemma continued to insist that the number of foreign workers displacing local workers from jobs is merely a small number. I vehemently disagreed with her and, at this point, Rep. Joe Guerrero jumped back into the conversation and said, "The number's not the important thing here. The important thing is that IT has already happened."

I then said to Gemma, "Do you think that we could go to the Philippines and do the same things that you all are doing over here?" She said "No; you can't compare the two places because they're different!" I said, "Why?" Her response was "Because they have a bigger workforce! It's a different situation there." "You know, Gemma," I said, "there are many components to PL 15-108 than just the "Exit" provision or the removal of the consensual transfer. Why is it that you (Gemma and the Variety) only print negative things about the Law and none of the good things I put into this Law??" Gemma said, "I'm just an employee. I'm just telling you what they're saying." Rep. Tebuteb said "And she has an editor who also edits the stories." Gemma nodded her head in agreement. I continued, "Why don't you report the good things I put in the Law, such as the mandatory orientation which even the United States law doesn't have? This helps foreign national workers know what their rights are upon arrival in the CNMI. There's also the mandatory insurance provision which protects workers from a bad employer who may force the worker to pay his or her own medical expenses and possibly forcing the worker to forego seeking medical attention? We all know that the CHC is broke. It has had all these problems with employers who don't pay their bills." I said, "I tried to educate the public on this bill, but you guys (the Variety) have been boycotting me for months! Her response was, "Well, I'm interviewing you now!" I said, "I've sent you guys at the Variety educational materials to publish about this Law, but you've REFUSED to print them! In fact, rather than print what I send you, you go out instead to find someone to interview who just happens to be hostile to the bill who hasn't bothered to read the bill. Your reporting is not balanced. All we ask is that you be balanced in your reporting!"

In the heat of this "debate," Gemma started complaining about the $3.05 minium wage that was the prevailing rate in the CNMI for years. She said, "There's a lot of anger about the minimum wage being so low. What could you buy for $3.05 an hour?!" At this point, I was indignant. "Come on, Gemma! If it's so bad here, then why is it that we have such a hard time getting anyone to leave?" [Jeff and anyone else who reads this: Notice that this statement is different from the quote above that was attributed to me.]

I said to Gemma, "It's not just the foreign national workers that were paid the $3.05 an hour minimum wage. The locals were paid the same amount. What I didn't point out at that time was that despite being paid the same minimum wage amount, the locals were a lot worse off because the employers did not provide them with the same 100% medical coverage that they are mandated by law to provide their foreign national employees. Other benefits factored in for the foreign national workers, such as food, transportation, and housing. As a matter of fact, when Rosemary Cowan, a high official of U.S. Labor visited the CNMI last year. her take on this was that it was reverse discrimination! In this interview with Gemma, she threw in a side question which was: "Do you think the Labor Law cost you the elections?" I replied that I'd be a fool to think it had no effect. Of course, it did! But if my losing the elections resulted in waking up the government officials to do something about the fact that many locals are now unemployed or will be unemployed and we have more foreign national workers in the CNMI than we have jobs, then I didn't mind losing. At this point, Toni Apatang of PTI stood up to leave and said to Gemma, "I hope you put in the article everything she said!" as she gestured towards me. Gemma said, "I can't put everything in," and Toni said, "Then put in the important things."

Representative Tebuted remarked again about the editor's role. As the interview winded down, Gemma sat down and we were able to have a quieter conversation. I was stunned to hear her admit, though with the tape recorder off, but with Rep. Tebuteb still sitting with us that (1) The abuses in the Philippines are a lot worse than those that have been reported here in the CNMI; (2) that in the PI, the employers employ workers for six months and then, after that, they just let them go and hire replacements easily from the large pool of surplus workers.
The next morning, all the Variety reported was the side question Gemma asked me about whether I thought the Labor Law cost me the elections. It wasn't until the December 12 article came out that had some substance of the interview in it. Unfortunately, and perhaps not surprisingly, of course, Gemma's lead-in sentence LITERALLY put words in my mouth! There was also no attempt to use the OPA Jobs Study Report, a copy of which I gave her, to provide support for the information provided in the interview that there are a number of jobs that are being held by foreign national workers who aren't being paid the typical $3.55/hr that critics of PL 15-108 always cite.

As to your observation that I should have involved the Chamber ealier, I don't know how much earlier I could have involved them when they were part of the Task Force from DAY 1! The Task Force first met in April of 2006. Alex Sablan represented the Chamber and he received every meeting notice and updated version of the bill as drafted by the Task Force members. He is also a signatory on the OPA Jobs Study Report which came out in May 2007 indicating that there is a large number of jobs paying a minimum of $10/hr that are currently being occupied by foreign national workers! I assure you that the Chamber was HEAVILY involved. In fact, they asked for a private consultation before we conducted a public hearing so they would not have to give their comments publicly. Task Force members met with the Chamber prior to the public hearing at the Legislature. One of the compromises reached with the Chamber to address their concern about the exit provision was the 10% key employee provision which was incorporated into the version that the JGO Committee reported out of Committee. Hence, despite their request for an earlier PRIVATE meeting, the Chamber and HANMI presidents still appeared at the public hearing and testified anyway. Lynn Knight even urged the Committee not to report out the bill until after the OPA Jobs Study Report had been published. The Committee heeded this request and waited. It adopted the OPA Jobs Study Report findings within one week after the Report's publication.

The Task Force continued to meet with the Chamber again after the public hearing. The Committee remained opened to suggestions -- reasonable suggestions that is. Some suggestions were adopted; others were not. Even after the House passed HB 15-38, several members of the Chamber, including Harry Blalock, trotted up to the Senate to see Senator Pangelinan and Senator Reyes. I understand that some of the Chamber members were somewhat embarassed when she pointed out that having taken the time to read the bill section by section, Senator Pangelinan found that the House Committee had, in fact, accommodated the Chamber quite a bit! That was part of the problem -- some of the members never bothered to read the bill and relied on a small group of people to give their opinion about the bill. Yet, they were some of the most vocal critics of the bill. I understand that the former Chamber president even admitted to one of the Task Force members that he never read the bill because it was too thick, yet he remained a very vocal critic of the bill. So, to correct your assumption, Jeff -- one of the things I've got to make clear is that I may have been the principal author of HB 15-38, which is now PL 15-108, but there were MANY, MANY fingerprints on this bill, INCLUDING those of the Chamber folks!

Another thing that want to say to those who say we don't need a new Labor law; we just need to enforce the old ones. They forget that the Labor Law that was on the books prior to the enactment of PL 15-108 had been piece-mealed together and was easily circumvented. My challenge as we drafted HB 15-38 was to gather all the bills that that the House and Senate members introduced during the 15th Legislature and CONVINCE THEM to allow me to incorporate them into HB 15-38 and into the Labor Regulations where appropriate. Believe me -- this was no easy feat, let me tell you! Anyhow, the notion that we should just go out and enforce the old law was impractical in that years ago, Judge Munson struck down several of the enforcement statutes. Those statutes remained worthless until PL 15-108 rehabilitated them. Besides, it is very important to bear in mind that PL 15-108 has MANY components to it -- not just the parts that critics of PL 15-108 write about and complain about on tv.

As to my friend Zaldy Dandan's accusations that PL 15-108 is really about removing all the foreign national workers from the CNMI and returning to a much simpler time, this is Zaldy's interpretation of this Law, not mine. PL 15-108 is not a deportation act, which bars you from returning to the CNMI forever. We recognize that we will always need foreign national workers to help us and that's fine as long as they are not displacing our local workforce from jobs, which is the unfortunate current situation right now. And I don't mean the $3.55/hr jobs only either! Contrast that to the U.S. House Bill which recently passed which states that the number of foreign national workers will be reduced to ZERO within five years (2013) unless the transition period is extended for another 5 years. In addition to this, a whole host of benefits for the workers were also given up. Now, which part of this House Bill are the Unity March leaders and marchers celebrating?


Sunday, December 16, 2007

The labor bill was not marketed well

I like Cinta Kaipat a lot for all the reasons I described here. I don't agree with her on everything. She did a lousy job convincing the public this bill was helpful, and from what I read of it, it sure doesn't look helpful. I pay attention to local politics pretty closely and the first time I heard about this bill was when Zaldy Dandan tore it to shreds. She, and others, should have been out in front getting her message out before the business community and the opinion makers tore it a new one. She should have gone on Harry's show early on, and she should have convinced the chamber. She didn't. They balked. She staked her re-election on this bill, and it damaged her reputation as a progressive. Worse, it didn't get her re-elected and may have actually damaged her chances -- plus this bill is 1/3 of the way to being bye bye already.

It pains me to see this attributed to her in her final days in office: "The principal sponsor of the bill that is now Commonwealth Employment Act of 2007 says foreign workers who can’t stand the local labor system can leave." I asked her about it, and she says it is inaccurate and she was misquoted. It wasn't a direct quote, so the author might not have captured the meaning quite as she intended. She is putting together a statement, and I will include that here when it is completed. She has long claimed to have her differences with the Variety, and that story was principally her reaction to media coverage of the bill, which has long been critical.

I can understand where Cinta is coming from right now on an empathy standpoint. She takes her integrity very seriously. Thousands of people were out protesting her signature legislation. Her bill has been attacked vociferously. The business community doesn't like it, the guest workers don't like it, and the locals seem mostly indifferent. If it was designed to ward off the feds, it doesn't seem to be working. It also doesn't address the biggest issue: low private sector wages.

Zaldy captured this point and made another good one in his Friday column. "My main argument, however, against the local labor law’s latest, well, reincarnation is its proponents’ claim that it will “allow” more locals to get private sector jobs. As if “loopholes” in the law were the reasons why a local family man doesn’t want to work eight hours a day for $3.55 an hour. Private sector jobs require actual work for low pay. In contrast, CNMI government jobs mean way higher pay with little or no work required. I guess what I’m saying is that the proponents of the new labor law should just come out and say that it’s not really about the “economy” and “self-government,” but about their desire to return to those simpler, guest-worker-free days. It’s more honest and, for me, perfectly understandable."

A sick child is a real bad feeling

If there is a worse feeling in the world for an adult parent than the crying of a five year old who is sick and in pain, I don't know what it is. I had a slight fever the other day that Alex must have caught. I know getting sick is part of life and natural and all, but God is it horrible to see a five year old feverish and ill. He had chicken pox last month and really suffered with it as well. I can't even imagine the pain of parents with small children with serious illnesses like cancer and such. I just don't see how they both handle it.
For any teacher with those lousy Gateway silver laptops PSS purchased a few years back, remember to back up your data. Those things are awful. I had my second crash with one this weekend. I only lost a bit of data this time.
The revolving 360 Restaurant at the Nauru building is pretty damn good. I went there Friday night. They are opening for lunch next week, which I also look forward to. That must be a spectacular view in the daytime as well. The food is very good and very reasonable in price, and Rick Jones wears a tie and seems to be a lot busier than he was at Java Joes. Go Rick.
Harry Blalock shaved his goatee and looks like he could enter the witness protection program, as he is damn near impossible to recognize now. Cynthia thought it might be him at 360, I took three looks said nah it isn't him, but only the sight of Kelli, blocked at first by angle from where I was standing, gave it away.
Taco Bell has people lined up out the door. I can't believe the clamoring over this place, but it does show there are investments that can work in Saipan. The early returns have that place doing big time business. It does taste similar to the Bell in the states, which I never thought the case to be with KFC here. I wonder if KFC will improve now as well. Shelly's Pizza changed locations to Susupe now. I believe they are next to Ebisuya now. I'll have more options than my not so beloved Subway.
I finished the second season of HBO's Rome series. That was one heavy show that presented an amazing take on the Ancient world. Even in the wealthiest, most successful empire of antiquity, life really was lousy back then -- unless you were in the aristocracy, and even that had issues as well. I was just astonished by this series.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Guy Berryman of Coldplay plays Daylight

This is my favorite band to come around in a long time. Clocks is my favorite tune of this decade, and this is probably my second favorite tune. Guy Berryman plays a Fender P Bass, which I think is the best bass around and the one I own as well. I'm partial to Ampeg Amps. Guy is also the only one in this band that looks cool. This has to be the most successful band where 3/4 of the band looks like dorks. I like the slide guitar in this tune as well.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

New Rule Greg Cruz

New Rule. Both local newspapers need to see what it is like to publish a paper without the thoughts of Tao Tao Tano Greg Cruz. You couldn't get a greater assault on grammar and writing if you had Ambrose Bennett ghost write a Bush State of the Union. Cruz makes as much sense as the black KKK member on the Chapelle show-- a worker's rights advocate fighting tooth and nail for our local government's right to continue to bloat the labor supply and keep his people's pockets emptier than the Paseo De Marianas. The day I need Greg Cruz's thoughts on dentistry with my morning java is the day I need to sign up for a seminar with Professor Brad Ruszala on the virtues of monogamy.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

A conversation with Judge Kenneth Govendo, MV 15

By Jeffrey C. Turbitt

The branch of government that gets the least attention is the judiciary. I had a conversation with Family Court Judge Kenneth Govendo, a CNMI resident for 31 years, and he offered his thoughts on sentencing, the evolution of jurisprudence in the CNMI and the day to day life of a judge.

JCT: Like a lot of people, I read the sentences handed out to people whether it is for domestic violence, copper wire theft or other things, and frankly they are exceedingly light. I don't know if you follow the blogs, but some people have gone bananas on you, and other judges, over this. Is this the usual CNMI has no money thing, and basically why does this happen?

JG: I don’t read the blogs, but I am assuming it is “light” sentences that are driving the bloggers bananas. This is an important area so I appreciate the opportunity to try to educate. In criminal felony cases, judges order pre-sentence investigative reports that are prepared by the Office of Adult Probation. In this report the probation officer investigates the defendant, his family, employment history, life and record.

Often a sentence is suggested. I have told probation officers doing reports for me that I am also interested in the victim and what the crime has done to the victim physically, mentally and financially. Sometimes at sentencing hearings, testimony is taken. After considering all these things, the judge imposes a sentence. Each judge has the ability to sentence independently of what other judges have done in similar cases. The newspaper stories reporting sentencing do not report enough detail about the sentence because reporters are usually not present at sentencing. The public reads about the crime and the sentence after the reporter has read the judgment and conviction order and written the story.

Sometimes a reader can come to the conclusion that the sentence is too light. In most cases there are no trials -- cases are resolved by plea agreements. In almost all cases where a plea is taken followed by a sentence, neither the reporter nor the reader is present in court. Simply stated, after reviewing written documents and hearing things in court, a judge can conclude that some people deserve a second chance or leniency and some don’t. If a reader actually went to court for a sentencing and listened (or heard what was said) he or she would have a better idea about the reasons for the sentence.

I sentenced one domestic violence abuser to five years in jail, no parole. There was a serious beating involved. I have given others one or two days in jail for a first offense provided there were no serious injuries involved. I have also issued stern warnings that another offense would be dealt with much more harshly. Each sentence is different and a lot of discretion is left to the judge, but the judge has the benefit of the prosecutor who represents the general public’s and victim’s interest and the benefit of the defense attorney who represents the defendant’s interest.

JCT: In terms of issues that you face first as an attorney and later as a judge, how have these islands changed in terms of crime, legal issues and just as a place to live in the thirty plus years you've been living and working in this area of the world?

JG: In terms of crime, the most serious change in the last 30 years is that we now have a lot of multi-ethnic organized crime here. In my opinion, the only thing that will give us an opportunity to save ourselves is federalization of immigration. Under it, we would have a chance to get rid of organized criminals and keep them from coming back. It is impossible to keep bad foreign elements out of the states; it is not impossible here since no one sneaks in.

The legal issues here have always been interesting and are often unique. We have a relatively sophisticated body of law which we continue to refine. We seem to be making progress in most areas of law and we are now starting down the road to protecting human rights. We are weakest in protecting our public land due to our panic about the economy and our inability to think in the future.

As a place to live, I have been living here for over one-half my life and I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. It was love at first sight! I have believed from day one that this place is worth fighting for and I believe it to this day more than ever. I am depressed about the number of locals who are leaving the islands and our main emphasis should be in getting them back here to work in the private sector for livable wages.

On the positive side, we don’t have drive-by shootings, gangs, car jackings, auto theft and kidnappings and a lot of other bad things found in the states and elsewhere. Since we know what some of these things are, we have the opportunity to keep them from happening here. On the negative side, the waters around Saipan are no longer pristine. We have settled for less in the name of economic development when we could have had both.

JCT: This is a small place. Everyone seems to know each other. How does that fact impact the rule of law?

JG: The smallness of a place should not impact at all on the rule of law. Judges have to be sensitive about the fact that everyone seems to know or know of each other. Most readers are aware of the word, recusal. Recusal takes place when a judge voluntarily takes himself out a case involving a family member, close relative or former business associate. This is done so the public won’t think someone is going to get a favor from the judge. Judges also have a duty to hear cases. That’s why we became judges. So we just can’t recuse ourselves from every case because we know a party. If the facts and the law warrant me to decide against someone I know, then I do it.

JCT: I've seen judges attacked and criticized in the press a lot more here than I've seen in other places. Why do you believe that happens?

JG: Judges deal with many people who have big egos. Even though the present judiciary is recognized by the public as being a pretty good one, the CNMI is in the beginning stage of its development in terms of respecting its judiciary. The judiciary is going to have to start “defending” itself and not be dependent on the bar association to do it for us. We need a public relations person to explain why things are done and work closely and continually with the media. It will go a long way here and show people why we are a separate and independent branch of government.

I am not saying that judges should not be subject to criticism, but it must be done in an ethical way by members of the bar. Members of the bar know how important an independent judiciary is to a society and how important respecting that judiciary is. For that reason they are obligated not to demean the judiciary.

JCT: What is the day to day life like for a judge on the bench? Is it a lonely life? Do you get to go out and have a drink with friends like regular people, or do you have to severely curtail your private life and social relationships because you never know who might appear before you in court?

JG: I am in my office signing documents before court starts at 9:00. I then take the bench where I spend more hours per day than in my office. I go out for lunch, come back and handle the afternoon calendar. I leave between 4:30 and 5:00. Family court can be very tense and emotional and requires a judge to stay focused and concentrate at all times on what is happening in court, especially in domestic violence matters and cases involving children. Sometimes, when I leave, I’m very tired mentally.

Socially, I choose not to associate with attorneys unless it’s at some kind of function. I definitely miss more extensive socializing with attorneys and I am sorry to have missed the opportunity with many of our newer attorneys who will always know me as Judge Govendo. The thing I miss the most since becoming a judge is writing letters to the editor! 2007 was a banner year! All our friends are regular people, so we are not lonely.

In court, there have been occasions where I have advised attorneys or one of the parties that I know the party on the other side. I explain the relationship and most the time both sides want me to preside over the case. If it’s former client, then I recuse myself.

Jaco Pastorius - Third Stone from the Sun

This is Jaco Pastorius, the man widely considered the greatest bass player ever, doing a take on Jimi's Third Stone from the Sun. Jaco plays a fretless Fender Jazz bass -- '62 I believe. He famously ripped the frets out the night of a Weather Report gig. His hands were enormous, and he invented the use of bass harmonics for all intents and purposes. Jaco, like a lot of geniuses, became a manic depressive, self destructive drug addict who died young. My one question when I met Geddy Lee was about whether he had heard Jaco and he said he did and was amazed.

Diving in Tinian on the Aquajet

My friend Brad Derksen is doing some great underwater videography. He captured a bit of a dive I put together to Tinian last month. There was a shark and an octopus and of course lots of colorful fish.

I also just finished a weekend diving in Rota, so I've now hit Saipan, Tinian and Rota. I'll have more to say about Rota later on. The Rota Hole is outstanding, and I saw the largest eel I could imagine on another Rota dive.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Short break

This blog will be on hiatus until the middle of next week.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

More New Rules for the CNMI, MV 14

Bold is Beautiful

By Jeffrey C. Turbitt

By popular demand I offer a second installment of New Rules for the CNMI.

New Rule. If locals are going to continue to talk with their eyebrows, someone needs to write an eyebrow dictionary for us confused haoles. When I ask a question, and my local friends respond with eyebrow movements, I'm never quite sure if they are saying "yes," "no" or "want to come to a barbecue." My eyebrows have the muscular development of a baby chick stumbling out of the shell, so I can't eyebrow respond, not that I can speak eyebrow anyway. I'm just assuming option three from now on. If you see an unfamiliar short, stocky, bald man on the weekend with your crew at Kilili Beach, please pass me a plate of ribs and be confident that this translation tool hasn't been published yet.

New Rule. Saipan gas stations must stop charging separate prices for self service and full service gas when both pumps are really full service anyway. It's bad enough that fueling a mere Toyota Echo nowadays feels comparable in price to fueling an aircraft carrier, but with all the motorists clamoring to the self service pump like a pack of boonie dogs on a live one in heat you're just insulting us now. Since Bush was installed into office you people at Shell and Mobil have lived it up better than an Enron Executive on expense account in the clubs of Manila, so do us this small favor and stop wasting our time and half of your pumps. There are no people with money to burn at the higher priced pumps in Saipan. Didn't you hear Arod is staying in New York, not Saipan, for $300 million?

New Rule. The police can't be obsessed with me wearing a seat belt if they are going to just smile at the idiot sitting ten feet high on the "Leaning Tower of Patio Furniture." Sitting in a pick up truck ten feet high going down that hill next to NMC is slightly more dangerous than a Sunday stroll in the Sunni Triangle wearing a Bush/Cheney shirt while eating a bacon sandwich. My lack of a seat belt is just not that bad in comparison. Focusing on the seat belt situation when that goes on is the police equivalent of our lawmakers spending their time renaming streets and trying to exile its citizens in a time when two households making toast simultaneously causes an island wide power outage.

New Rule. Joeten Motors must offer a lunar rover to dive enthusiasts trying to get out to the Lau Lau Bay dive site. Buried somewhere in those holes is my transmission and I think an axle. I lost my tackle box fishing in those pothole lakes along that thing suggestive of a road as well. People on vacation should feel relaxed and comfortable, and a drive to Lau Lau or Obyan feels more like the opening plane crash sequence in the Lost pilot. They must be half expecting to meet the Others before seeing the Lau Lau pipe underwater.

New Rule. Anyone who gets stuck behind the avalanche of humanity crossing the street in front of the Saipan Garment Manufacturer's Association in San Antonio at 1:00 pm gets a second lunch hour. I read about General McCarthur's plight at the Yalu River in history class, I don't need to see a re-enactment -- I'm just trying to get somewhere for lunch. You couldn't get a bigger crowd than that on this island if you had a free betelnut and beer barbecue hosted by the bikini babes from Beach Road Magazine.

New Rule. The business community must make one giant store and stop the scavenger hunt that is grocery shopping in the CNMI. Any mildly complex food preparation means going on more trips than the folks following the Snoop Dogg Tour around the country. This isn't North Korea. "Nothing" isn't an appropriate answer when I ask what aisle I can find chicken or a lemon.

Victor Wooten and Steffan Lessard

Caesar was said to have wept after contemplating Alexander because the latter had accomplished so much at such a young age. The sound in this clip isn't great. The CD captures this tune much better, and it's one of my ipod staples. It is also extremely rare to have two bass players in one band, but it's pulled off here with Steffan Lessard and Victor Wooten, doing a DMB guest spot. At 6:48 Victor goes on full blown space flight. My jaw drops at the mad chops of Victor.

More ethnic scapegoating and a mea culpa

Last February when Stanley Torres was putting up a fight against some of the worst Fitial proposals, I included him as my best legislator in my Saipan Superlatives. That was a big mistake, as this demagoguery and race based invective makes clear. I feel pretty confident Tina will take that mantle, which I'm leaving empty for now. As the economy gets worse, I expect more ethnic scapegoating George Wallace style, as is the mode for Greg Cruz today, which needs no retort. Its ignorance speaks loudly enough!

Monday, December 03, 2007

Why the blogs are great free entertainment

Glen D finally broke the last leg on Greg Cruz's rocker. These blogs are a great place for free, priceless entertainment.

Adam Clayton - New Year's Day

The video is naturally focused on Bono, who is a pretty cool cat, but the groove of this classic tune comes from bassist Adam Clayton. He lays down a root to the minor third riff that drives this tune. This was filmed at a Castle in Ireland, so it was quite an enthused crowd. This event also happened after a huge soccer game, which is a thing the world gets that Americans like me tend not to. Here is a cool wikipedia account:

U2 Go Home was filmed on Saturday September 1, 2001, just moments after Ireland secured its place in the 2002 FIFA World Cup with the only goal of the match, scored by Irishman Jason McAteer. The match was shown to the football-crazy Irish crowd at Slane Castle prior to the concert, adding to the already festive air. Bono mentions the goal during "Beautiful Day", singing 'Beautiful goal' at the songs closing. Later, he kicks a blown up ball off the stage symbolizing the historic kick. During "New Year's Day", Bono drapes himself in the Irish flag, something he has seldom done — preferring the white peace flag — asking the crowd to imagine he's Jason McAteer. Bono also added to the emotion of the song by removing his trademark sunglasses at the beginning of the first verse, a gesture he repeated almost every other time the song was performed on the Elevation tour. The crowd was in a frenzy for most of the night, making this concert video one of the band's most compelling live recordings.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

A call for funny people

David Khorram started this fire about doing a standup comedy show, and it is indeed taking off. So far, other than David, Brad Ruszala, Rick Jones, Angelo Villagomez, Galvin Guererro and I have committed. We've also expanded it to include sketch comedy. If you are interested in doing a 10 minute standup monologue or writing a sketch, or know someone funny who would be interested, please help spread the word. There should be a meeting this week at Java Joes to discuss this event, which is tenatively set for February at we hope American Memorial Park.

Going one louder to 11 this month

I'm talking it up to 11 this month and paying homage to some four string axemen that I find to be particularly influential. My friend Ernie Wiggins writes an entertainment based blog and comes up with a theme each month on some underappreciated actor, musician, writer, etc. I'm going to follow his lead this month, as if it weren't already obvious, on the most underappreciated folks in music: bass players.

Baba O'Riley

Here is more youtube gold. I never saw footage of The Who in their prime with Keith Moon and all. This is some great stuff. John Entwistle looks like Derek Smalls from Spinal Tap and his trebly bass is distinct.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Geddy Lee Bass Solo (Driven)

As long as it was under general anaethesia and all, I would give my left nut to be able to do what Geddy Lee is doing right here in this exact scenario he is doing it. This is not being facetious.

Black Sabbath - War Pigs

There are a still a few bands that actually play instruments and stuff, but we live in a modern Dark Ages for music as far as I'm concerned. No one one value new seems to have come along in ages. Coldplay might be the exception for me. The biggest tours are from bands in their 50s or 60s.

Growing up in New Jersey in the late late 80s, rap and hip hop were nowhere to be found. Long hair and heavy metal were huge. Even as a teen, it seemed like a lot of those bands Metallica, Slayer, Megadeath and all that stuff Randy Steele likes were just based on being fast, loud, extreme and offensive. I suppose there is something to be said for loud and offensive. I took more delight in dissecting Neil Peart's Rush lyrics or playing my father's old Beatle records. I was also quite the Cars fantatic. The Cars were my first concert in 1982.

In my late 20s when I started playing bass, I listened to a lot of stuff I never paid much attention to. Just a couple years ago I probably really listened to War Pigs by Black Sabbath for the first time. I was amazed at how deep the lyrics were. I've used them in class. Naturally, Ozzie rewrote them to make them completely vapid. The pendulum swang post Vietnam and anyone who wasn't chomping at the bit for war became a traitor, so that is perhaps why Ozzy rewrote the lyrics, and also why we have the catastrophe that is Iraq. This is heavy stuff, and just classic heavy rock with amazingly literate lyrics:

Generals gathered in their masses, just like witches at black masses.
Evil minds that plot destruction, sorcerers of death's construction.
In the fields the bodies burning, as the war machine keeps turning.
Death and hatred to mankind, poisoning their brainwashed minds.
Politicians hide themselves away. They only started the war.
Why should they go out to fight? They leave that role to the poor, yeah.
Time will tell on their power minds, making war just for fun.
Treating people just like pawns in chess, wait till their judgement day comes, yeah.
Now in darkness world stops turning, ashes where the bodies burning.
No more War Pigs have the power, Hand of God has struck the hour.
Day of judgement, God is calling,on their knees the war pigs crawling.
Begging mercies for their sins, Satan, laughing, spreads his wings.Oh lord, yeah!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Greg Cruz acting like a sore loser

It's not a lot of people and agencies that clearly stand out for their competence, trustworthiness and going above and beyond in the CNMI government. From what I saw over the last few months, Election Commission Executive Director Gregorio Sablan is one of those rare people. He managed the circus that was the CNMI election with great aplomb as supporters tried to violate the polling place space rules. He communicated extremely well with the public about the complicated district changes and the no means yes Casino Initiative disinformation campaign, as well as other matters. He provided useful information on the blogs as well. Tao Tao Tano Greg Cruz got trounced in the election, is acting like a sore loser, and he is out trying to malign this man. Cruz is wrong. This seems like a fair story and it is obvious that there is no issue here. Sablan is doing a great job.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Torres resolution not a hit with white people

This might be a record. There are three letters in the Variety today blasting that lame "go home Ron Hodges" resolution. The most well written one is from Jane Mack. All three I believe are from us disrespectful outsiders.

Today's Variety also had the predictable headline of the century: Taotao Tano slams CUC

Other candidates for predictable headline of the year:

Angelo Villagomez runs out of hair gel

Brad Ruszala compared to boonie dog

Blogger doesn't agree with Lil Monkey Picture, accused of being sell out in spawn with Satan

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The schools need help, MV 13

By Jeffrey C. Turbitt

At the beginning of the school year, results are released detailing the performance of schools, principals, teachers and students via the SAT 10 scores. The infamous No Child Left Behind Act, and school rivalries, puts everyone under a lot of pressure to achieve higher scores. Apparently deficiencies in scores on this test are a result of "bad proctoring" by the teachers if comments from the associate commissioner and a tirade from my own vice principal at a recent, testy staff meeting are to be believed.

I've proctored these tests for four years, and there are many problems with education in these islands and these tests in particular. Proctoring is the least of the problems. First, the test is exceedingly long. It's a three day plus affair. It doesn't affect the students' grade or their ability to graduate. They know that.

Regular student attendance is always an issue in the best of times. I found it astonishing to see this quote in the paper from the associate commissioner. “Across all schools, we have a good attendance rate. Among the high schools, two recorded a 98 and 95 percent rate." There is that old saying about lies, damned lies and statistics. Here is the reality I've seen for five years now: Students disappear for weeks at a time in the high school for vague and I'm sure usually not very good reasons. To achieve that rate, these habitually absent students must be removed from the rosters to achieve that inflated attendance number. The students tend to come back later as if nothing happened with little or no explanation. One of the better reasons for absence, a death in the family, can mean twenty days of student absences. That's not something that can be easily overcome, and with large island families, there can be quite a few deaths in the family. The never ending war on betel nut on campuses leads to suspensions, as do other violations of school rules.

The SAT 10 tests are on grade level and the material more rigorous than students are used to, so they can be overwhelmed. Very few students take the even more difficult, and even more important SAT college admissions test, either. PSS classes, especially in the high school for the non-honors students, are not taught on grade level because so few students are actually on grade level. In four years I saw a staggering number of seniors, the near finished product, write essays lacking capital letters, punctuation, subject/verb agreement or using multiple paragraphs. That isn't something that can be glossed over, so I had to incorporate this largely grade two or three materials into grade twelve, which is not the type of thing that helps to prepare for SAT 10, but it does help in being educated on a basic level.

The SAT 10 test is also late in the school year when motivation decreases anyway. Beyond that, the SAT 10 test and the Standards Based Testing come within weeks of each other, and it leads to test fatigue. I’ve made this point to PSS leadership before. Some students simply just fill in answers at random or draw a picture of Bob Marley. I personally give stern admonitions on this issue. I've seen the scores for students who I knew were near grade level, yet their tests indicate they were six or seven grades behind, which makes for an inaccurate assessment. When I confronted the students, they admitted not taking it seriously, so I would agree student motivation on the test is an issue, but I don’t think teachers downplayed the test, as the scores reflect on the teachers. I once saw a student close the book within minutes. I reiterated to him the seriousness of the test. He went at it a few more minutes and quickly gave up and told me he just had no idea. I later had this student in class, got to know him, and understood why the test so overwhelmed him. He was about six grade levels behind.

There are two main victims to the fact that these islands have given short shrift to education since time immemorial. The student well behind grade level who can't get the academic intensive care he or she needs in classes of thirty plus, and the non-honors student at or slightly above grade level who gets a curriculum that isn't challenging enough and becomes bored.

There are real consequences to the fact that each year more and more students enter public schools that are less and less funded. Platitudes like "bear with us" or "be creative" are what get uttered to say something in this situation. I prefer those to verbal abuse -- especially since education is a partnership between teachers, parents, students and community leaders, but all the blame gets dumped on teachers. As a parent of two and soon to be three, I hold myself as the one primarily responsible for the education and development of my boys, not their teachers.

This news report also noted that elementary schools have better participation in the tests. This is hardly surprising. Parental involvement is much higher at the elementary school level. Kids tend to succumb to more negative influences as they get older. It doesn't help that the middle schools are wildly overcrowded, and Hopwood in particular is in a shocking state of disrepair. There is a large administrative and teacher turnover all around related to all kinds of reasons as the islands' economy continues to implode. My personal opinion is that many of our elementary schools are on par with decent schools in the states. Things fall apart at the middle school level, and the first two years of high school are more like middle school. Educational research shows this isn’t just a CNMI problem, either. Research shows there are problems at the middle schools as a whole, as this is the place where learning slows down. Staffing research also shows that teachers tend to prefer to work in elementary schools or high schools, and not middle schools. The New York Times had a large feature on this issue recently.

I have a child in San Vicente Elementary School, and I've always been happy with that school, and I've heard good things about other elementary schools. However, my sons would never go to public middle school on this island, and that isn't a knock on the good people who work at those schools, but a comment on the area that I believe is most harmed by the CNMI's longstanding unwillingness to fund its schools. The impact of poor facilities, overcrowded classrooms and demoralized staff doing their best with students at a precocious and vulnerable age is most evident in our middle schools, and the situation there and system wide needs attention, not excuses.

Jeffrey C. Turbitt is the language arts department chairman at Saipan Southern High School, as well as an avid scuba diver and traveler. He offers more thoughts in his blog “Hypercritical Thoughts” at: He welcomes feedback, tips and story ideas at His column appears regularly on Wednesdays.

New Rule Subway Restaurant

New Rule. Subway Restaurant must stop asking me if I want a meal with my sandwich. Your sub par sandwich is my revolting meal. I don't need to gorge myself on 24 ounces of sugar water and a cookie to complete this horrid experience. Why not just ask me if I would like my feet amputated or if I want a side order of "insulin plunger?" I guarantee Jarred wasn't making it a meal. It's upsetting enough that I eat that disgusting slop once a week because it is a bit less awful than the high school cafeteria at six times the price, but the fiftieth "do I want a meal" inquiry, like an email about an ex-girlfriend who drops twenty pounds and gets a boob job, only reminds me that I left good sandwiches 10,000 miles away in New Jersey and I'm stuck with the horror that is Saipan Subway.

New Rules are Meant to be Broken

New Rules are meant to be broken, so Hafa Adai, Si Yu'us Ma'ase and all that happy island stuff.

All the road signs were named this week

Apparently there wasn't a street to name this week, as our august legislative body is busy writing resolutions to condemn a high school teacher's letter to the editor and urge him into symbolic exile. This is still the states, right? We don't have anarchy here, we just have a lousy government. It's not just locals who recognize that. Where were the resolutions against Danny Aquino for his white people/Filipino bashing letters to the editor? I will consider any lawmaker who panders to this crap and votes for a meaningless resolution to be on my lame list.

There is precedent for this type of thing. Here was Rep. Candido Taman a few weeks ago in a kiss ass letter to Greg Cruz of Tao Tao Tano fame.
"With all due respect, please do not be obsessed with the word TRANSPARENCY
because we have nothing to hide here. Incidentally, the more you use this word
the more you contribute to the glory of those disrespectful outsiders who are
very critical of our islands, our people and our government. Mr. Cruz, I
humbly invite you to please work with us and not against us. Come sit and share
with us your ideas so that together we can start healing this painful episode in
our history."

REPRESENTATIVE Stanley T. Torres and eight other members of the House of
Representatives have pre-filed a resolution condemning a Public School Teacher for “accusing” local residents of “enslaving contract workers.” The House resolution stated that “this…type of comments should not be tolerated.” It added that Hodges
“should be held accountable in the strongest terms…(and he should) not avail
himself of island living anymore….” Although Hodges has a right to freedom of
speech, the resolution stated that his comments aim to “foment anarchy” in the
CNMI, and these comments “infringe upon the civil rights of other innocent
residents in the island community.” In the past, the Legislature has adopted
similar resolutions declaring various statesiders who were critical of CNMI
policies “persona non grata.”

Caption Contest Three

I've had two caption contests, and I haven't been happy with the entries in either. For the last contest, I'm declaring Big Sox Fan the winner. I think my entries were the best, but what can I do. The previous entry should have gotten more abuse as well. I'm declaring Brad Ruszala the winner of Caption Contest One, but I think I trumped him as well. Today I offer the latest installment. Three bloggers and tempest in a teapot/diver/PAWS spokeswoman Rose Callier.

"Hey Angelo, did Bruce pee on his mesh bag before the picture?"

"These bags will be great for collecting all of Rose's lost at sea dive gear."

"Mike, we'll need bigger bags to store Bruce's hate mail."

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Moving up the Variety list

Cynthia and I made the Variety list for the third year in a row. Three years ago we were sixty something, then fifty six last year, and now we're in the 30s. I think Cynthia and I can take Pizza Hut and Diet Pepsi out next year.

I'm inspired by the Variety's List, so I'm creating my own list of things I'm thankful for.

Scuba gear - for keeping me sane

Bruce and Olive - for the poki, kelaguen and mojitos at Porkies and for having a personality

Marianas Coffee - we need little luxuries

Kuya Vikes - for everything

Living in a great diving environment -- for making all the other island bs more tolerable

The non-anonymous bloggers and commentators - for having balls

Shelby - for making me smile at least once each day for 12 years now

Katie - for your passion and for giving a damn about the animals

The Republic of Palau -- for being an escape

Zaldy, Harry, Angelo and Tina -- for telling it straight -- even if you all don't see eye to eye I appreciate you all

Dr. Norma Ada - for inspiring confidence in my and my clan's weaker moments

To my dive buddies, especially Marty Dalsaso and Rose Callier -- for looking out for me

Dave Matthew Band -- for so many times

Boni G and Betty M -- For your dedication to the craft that helps me in my darker moments in this job

My students -- those of you who get it especially make it worthwhile

Only 14 months of George Bush left -- the world can start healing

The breakfast at Wild Bill's -- been great for years

Brad Ruszala -- so I can laugh and smile at your charmed existence

Real Time With Bill Maher -- for not talking down to me and making me laugh

The people at BBQ's who don't know me who invite me anyway -- a great thing about this island

Tony Romo - for making the NFL interesting to me again

The Ipod - that I've discovered podcasts has been an upgrade in idle, down moments that make up each day

Cinta - for being a good person who cares

The internet -- for allowing me to explore my own niche interests and not be sucked the empty vacuum of pop culture.

Mom and Dad - for always being there

Cynthia, Alex, Carl and the inevitable Baby Ashley - for giving life a higher purpose

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Cinta Kaipat's loss is CNMI's loss, Marianas Variety 12

By Jeffrey C. Turbitt

A few years back when the idea for the austerity holiday came about, I was more aghast than usual by the latest government scheme. I did not know many of our elected leaders personally at that time, but I got the sense though her media statements that there was something different about then newly elected Congresswoman Cinta Kaipat, so I sent her an impassioned email about my concerns on the proposal. We ultimately did not agree, as she voted for the bill, but a friendship was forged. During her two year term, I sent her at least three or four more of those emails. Sometimes she agreed with me and brought my viewpoint out into the debate, sometimes she didn't, but she always tried to at least consider my and other people’s viewpoints. She just plain stood out to me as being more honest, more forthright and just plain caring more about doing the right thing than most of our elected leaders.

A few weeks back I was talking with some people who follow local politics closely, and they were skeptical of her chances for re-election. They turned out to be right. She didn’t campaign as well as she could have, and apparently she has been a thorn in the side of enough people eager to mine pozzolan on Pagan that it hurt her in this last election. But given the choice between backing a well financed, corporate interest, and the interest of the voiceless little guys from a poor, remote island, she chose the more difficult, less career enriching path of the little guy. That's what makes her different to me.

She also has taken a bit of a hit with the recently enacted labor bill that has become law and has her name on it. Business leaders have vehemently opposed it. Contract workers are opposed to it, and everyone else seems indifferent to it at best. One thing I do know about it is that Kaipat worked in the Department of Labor long enough to have some insight into those issues. The media reports I've read on the bill make me skeptical on it as well. My point is not to say that Kaipat was right about everything, or that everyone should agree with everything she did, but that she is great for this community, and it is sad and unfortunate that she is not returning to office.

With negative headlines and an absolutely depressed mindset island wide, she helped put this island on the right path by being one of the founders of Beautify CNMI, a group that has galvanized the community by cleaning up beaches, raising environmental awareness, our real bread and butter, and getting people to learn to take charge of our island without government assistance, which is a mindset that needed to be established. Those efforts were an influence on the creation of the We Love Saipan network, a CNMI website that offers a much more balanced view of these islands than was previously available online. Said website creator Walt F.J. Goodridge, “The We Love Saipan idea was firmly in the spirit and mood of activism that was kicked off by Beautify CNMI.”

Some of that influence could also be seen this weekend when the Marianas Dive group, a private organization trying to promote and improve the CNMI's underwater world as a tourist draw, had at least thirty members cleaning up Sugar Dock above and below water. Kaipat didn't do all these things of course, but she helped set the mood and change the mindset.

Those efforts weren't lost on PAWS President Katie Busenkell, who expressed heartfelt appreciation for Kaipat's role in animal welfare. "PAWS would like to thank her for lending a sympathetic ear and taking action to improve the quality of life for humans and animals alike. More specifically, we thank her for educating herself about animal-related problems and solutions, introducing the PAWS anti-cruelty bill and lobbying for its passage, for talking with us openly and honestly about building a shelter and available funding, and for helping us find a way to help others be more responsible pet owners. Perhaps most importantly, we thank her for acting in the best interest of the people of Saipan . She is a pillar in this community."

MINA Executive Director Angelo Villagomez was there with Kaipat from the beginning as one of the key figures in Beautify CNMI, and he had this reaction: "Cinta Kaipat IS Beautify CNMI. It was her vision, her idea, her name, and she's the one who recruited the first active members (everybody in the CNMI is a member, even if they don't know it yet). She's involved in every aspect of Beautify CNMI, from planning, to execution, and everywhere in between. She goes out every weekend and she participates. She picks up trash and she digs holes for trees. She's been a tremendous asset to the CNMI over the last two years. We've earned national recognition with the EPA and USDA under her leadership. I'm disappointed that she didn't win, but I'm sure it is just a bump in the road for her. She's still Cinta Kaipat. She was very successful when she was with labor, she was very successful in the legislature, and I'm sure she'll be successful with her next endeavor whatever it is. She'll continue to fight for the little guy, she'll continue to work with Beautify CNMI, and she'll continue to give back to the community in other ways."

Jeffrey C. Turbitt is the language arts department chairman at Saipan Southern High School, as well as an avid scuba diver and traveler. He offers more thoughts in his blog “Hypercritical Thoughts” at: He welcomes feedback, tips and story ideas at His column appears regularly on Wednesdays.

Angelo Villagomez and Bruce Bateman, the Lennon/McCartney of the Saipan Tribune

According to Middle Road, Angelo Villagomez is about to become a Saipan Tribune columnist. First he joined a secret satanic pact with the world's most evil woman, Katherine Harris, see below, then he joined a Neo-Nazi fraternity, now he is going to team up with his co-worker Bruce Bateman, sometimes referred to as the drunken face of evil or the world's worst person, to prove Ronald Reagan's adage that trees cause pollution and ketchup is a vegetable. Congratulations Angelo, and in the immortal words of non-Academy Award winning actor Dolph Lundgren as Ivan Drago, "I must break you!"