Brad Derksen is taking some cool underwater video. If you like Harry's blog, Brad is starting out a video version similar to Harry's blog. This is the "Why are there two daddies" video when my four year old saw Harry Blalock's bald head next to mine. Great work, Brad. http://ahobbitsholiday.blogspot.com
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
"I'm 23, I have double D's, I love older guys and I don't lie to the people I chat with online I swear."
You won't lose your shirt in a Saipan casino.
The only one who should be boycotting this is Olive!
By Jeffrey C. Turbitt
Political life here and elsewhere is such a charade of phoniness that voters often find themselves choosing the lesser of evils. The last governor’s election in particular felt like something out of the Saw movies where the choice was to slice off your own leg, extract your own eyeball with a hot poker or put on a wetsuit drenched in a vat of acid. Honest people have a hard time offering the platitudes required to win dumbed-down elections, so voters usually get choices like those in the Saw movies. I was encouraged when Tina Sablan burst on the scene speaking about actual issues in a progressive fashion, and I was even more encouraged when she decided to run for office. Her candidacy, I believe, is a referendum on whether people really want to change things in the CNMI or just keep doing the same failed things. I had a conversation with Ms. Sablan this week. The following are her unedited answers. Brevity was encouraged given the space restrictions of the print media.
JCT: You suddenly became fairly well known after your manifesto was published. How did it feel to suddenly become so prominent?
TS: I still feel like me. Not much has changed except that now I find myself spending a lot more time talking about politics with people pretty much wherever I go. It's refreshing to observe that citizens are talking more freely now about the issues than they used to.
JCT: You're a fairly unique candidate in that you have no lawn signs; I don't see waving campaigns and horn honking campaigns for Tina Sablan. You've also been pretty open with your viewpoints. Do you think this is a campaign trend that will catch on? Is it a conscious effort on your part to move campaigns away from what many think is a silly, yet seemingly ingrained waving/lawn sign model?
TS: Lawn signs, waving, horn honking and so forth are all elements of a campaign style that has traditionally been run here. Voters are familiar with that campaign style, particularly those who want to be able to publicly show their support for their chosen candidate. I understand that it works for many people, but in all honesty, it has never really worked for me. When I decided to run for office, I felt that it was important to be as true to myself on the campaign trail as I would be in office, and to run the kind of campaign that I have always wanted to see -- simple, honest, frugal, and focused on the issues and on promoting dialogue in the community. This campaign has been based primarily on letters, community forums, house visits, online and telephone communication, and word of mouth.
There is another reason I am running, though, that makes the style of this campaign incredibly important to me, and it is that I want to help open the door for new candidates in 2009 -- for individuals who care about the community, but who don't think they would have a shot at public office because they wouldn't want to raise a whole lot of money, be part of a party, or do any of the things that are associated with a traditional campaign. If I can get elected without having run a traditional campaign, or if I can at least come close, then perhaps more new citizens will begin to seriously consider throwing their own names into the 2009 election. I would encourage them to do so.
JCT: What is your main message in this campaign and do you think it is it getting through?
TS: The message I come back to again and again is the need for good governance in the CNMI. Good governance means open and honest government, accountable leaders, sound and stable policies, and empowered citizens who take responsibility for improving their own lives, and their community. I feel that we are at a real turning point right now in the CNMI -- people are beginning to open their eyes, cast away their fears, and finally speak up and get involved. I truly believe that this is just the beginning of a long-term process of changes for the better in our Commonwealth.
JCT: The casino issue seems to be dominating the debate of late. What are your thoughts on that initiative?
I am voting no on the Saipan Casino Act because I think the initiative itself is seriously flawed and is likely to bring greater costs rather than benefits to the community. I'm not even talking about the social ills that are associated with gambling, nor am I morally opposed to gambling or afraid of change, as some pro-Casino Act folks might imply. I'm talking about taxpayer dollars wasted on the creation of a questionable casino commission that would be prone to corruption, about a perpetual monopoly license given away to a for-profit corporation of middlemen with no experience in the casino industry, and more public land squandered for special interests. These are the elements in the Saipan Casino Act that concern me, and I am urging citizens to take the time to read the Act for themselves before they head to the polls on November 3.
JCT: What was your reaction to the CUC rate pullback? Would you have voted to do so yourself? Why or why not?
I thought it was terribly irresponsible of the Legislature to arbitrarily roll back the rates without a plan for subsidizing the inevitable shortfall that CUC would face. On the other hand, I also thought it was terribly irresponsible of the Administration and CUC to increase the rates as suddenly and as dramatically as they did without any improvements in service whatsoever, and without adequate public education and involvement -- and then, of course, for the Legislature to do nothing for a year while businesses shut down, homes lost power and water, and people moved away. The whole thing, frankly, has been a mess.
JCT: You've been very critical of the government. If elected, do you think you'll be able to persuade your elected colleagues to, shall we say, change their ways of doing business here and enact some of the reforms you detailed in your manifesto?
TS: I shouldn't have to persuade my colleagues to follow their conscience and do the right thing for the good of all people in the CNMI. I would expect it of them, and they can expect the same from me. Citizens should expect that much at a minimum from all their elected officials, and make their views known if they feel they are not being properly represented.
JCT: You're the youngest candidate in this election. Does your youth help or hurt you as a candidate? If you are not elected, do you plan to stay in public life?
When I first began to think about running for office, part of my initial reluctance was admittedly a result of me being overly conscious about my age. Since filing my candidacy, though, I haven't thought about it very much at all. I'm sure some people see it as an advantage, and some see it as a potential liability; my age doesn't matter to me either way anymore. I think that citizens of all ages can contribute immensely to this community. I will remain an active and vocal citizen regardless of the election results.
JCT: You're for federalization and for a minimum wage increase, which are both things the government is and has been aggressively fighting for years. I'm not sure I can think of any elected official that has those positions. Is there a silent majority of voters out there in support of these things?
Actually, we have had elected officials who have publicly supported federalization of immigration and minimum wage hikes. Senator Frica Pangelinan and the Washington Representative, Pete A. Tenorio, come to mind. I think there are many people who support an increase in minimum wage and also support federalization of immigration, and many people who fear and oppose these reforms -- particularly immigration reform -- for their own reasons. Having not done any kind of scientific poll, I can't say for sure if there is a silent majority or not. What I can say for sure, however, is that throughout the years, when our elected officials have bickered with the federal government, paid millions to crooked lobbyists, and defended a harmful status quo against all reason, they were never representing me. And I don't think I am the only one who feels that way.
Today I sat with the "suits". They are a curious demographic, constantly pacingI feel I must help, so I offer the following advice. If there is a black helmet, a red light saber and heavy breathing it's a Republican. Sometimes a cape and pitchfork can be found as well. Other signs: Being extremely well fed, driving the environmental catastrophe that is the Hummer or tapping their foot to Tony in the men's restroom.
and on their cell phones. They live mainly on Starbucks. I still cannot tell the
democrats from the republicans off the bat, but I am observing them carefully.
If anyone knows a quick litmus test for this, please let me know.
If they've got a kick me sign on the back of their jacket, or they're hunched over for lack of a backbone, it's a Democrat. Other signs, Birkenstocks, driving a Toyota Prius or if you hear someone yelling, "Thank you sir may I have another."
Is this new NMC President Carmen Fernandez a control freak, dicatatorial whack job or what. She fired Howard Cole, the 2004 NMC instructor of the year, for telling the truth, that she's trying to close NMC's academic programs in Rota and Tinian. He has worked there for ten years. When precious NMC money is lost for the inevitable lawsuit, I hope it comes out of this witch's pocket. I've never met her or Cole, but memo to Miss NMC, you're not George Steinbrenner in the 70s. Get real and I hope they fire her before she pisses more money away with lawsuit inviting tactics like that.
I went diving with Axe Murderer Tours President Harry Blalock a few weeks back. I had a brain fart and stirred up some sand and killed Harry's nudibranch photo efforts. Brad Derksen was on the scene and took video, drawn by the image of the two white guys with no hair. Last night Cynthia is checking out blogs with our son, and clicks on Brad's underwater video. Seeing the two bald, white heads underwater, my perplexed son asks, "Why are there two daddies?"
Monday, October 29, 2007
"Since you insist on knowing my true birth name in order to stop fixating on theUpdate: Turns out Plato just admitted he lied. Lying to illustrate a point, he says. I'm not surprised. A lying statue who impersonated a friend and is afraid to stand behind his own opinions wants you to boycott Bruce Bateman, but it doesn't matter who he is because you'll just make it personal, but "boycott Bruce Bateman" he says. Gotta love the crackpots the internet brings out.
anonymity factor then so be it. I am Greg Marshall. I was not born on Saipan. I
am, just under 50% NMD. I was raised here all my childhood to early adult life.
I moved off island after graduation for college. "
"No. I am not Greg. I knew him well while I was growing up here, therefore I am
sure he will not mind me using his name to illustrate a point (I did your name
justice Greg :-)). "
Here is his other quote from Plato about Bruce. Remember, he's anonymous "to keep it on the issues not the person": "GO TO HELL! YOU MONEY GRUBBING SCUM!"
I asked someone in the know about all the construction going on given the tons of empty space already here, and he said it was a rush to beat federalization and the rising minimum wage. Plus, land lease prices are so depressed it is a buyer's market. I have to wonder if all this empty space will just rot away unmaintained like La Fiesta Mall right now. Based on visual evidence alone, what investor is going to see all the dead space on island and be encouraged to invest here. Garapan is a similar situation. I seldom find myself there, and if I am it is at Godfather's so I'm not in the thick of it, but I was there a few weeks back walking around for one of the few times and the message that place sends is is that it is all about hostess bars and scantily clad women enticing karaoke patrons. Garapan is decidedly not family friendly. This is not to say that these places shouldn't exist somewhere, but the heart of the tourist district is just not the place.
Are these karaoke bars just straight up prostition rings or not? Do people see a young woman in the high heels and miniskirt and promptly say, "I sure would like to sing with her," and then leave happy only having exercised their vocal chords? I find that hard to believe.
Sunday, October 28, 2007
Saturday, October 27, 2007
Thursday, October 25, 2007
With all those issues, I find it peculiar that every day in the papers is another back and forth on the casino. This place essentially exists for the connected few to squeeze every last drop of money they can out of the public tit. This is an art George Bush and the Republicans have mastered on a much higher scale than could be previously imagined over the last several years. I'm surprised, and I suppose encouraged, that people still care about that type of thing. I'm astonished at the resistance to this casino given the seeming indifference to the more pressing problems mentioned above. I thought this casino act would pass in a landslide. For one of the few times in my life, I think I wasn't cynical enough because this act was crafted so poorly that people as economically desperate as they are here can't even vote for it. The greed and arrogance in how this was written up surprises even me. The votes aren't cast, but it sure doesn't look like it will pass now.
I strongly think there should be a casino in Saipan, and I said so here. I still hold to all of those reasons without any retreat. I find the "keep Saipan family friendly" signs laughable. This place is a gambling den with the worst type of seedy poker rooms. The early arguments about crime, prostitution and other things I still find absurd and not convincing. Ricky Delgado has the same take on this as I do.
Since those days, a lot of people have shed a lot of light on this particular act. One of them is a bonafide a**hole in that Plato person, who now says he is someone named Greg Marshall and is trying to start a boycott of Bruce Bateman's bar because Bruce argued for the casino. Regardless, this cartoon character's arguments tend to be good on this issue. I'm not going to go into all the reasons why this initiative is bad because I think others such as Lil Hammerhead hit it spot on here. Jane Mack, also not my favorite person in the world, gave a lot of good reasons here. Dr. David Khorram, someone I like and have great respect for, wrote a great piece on the reasons this act is bad here. The supporters haven't rebutted the criticisms because there is no rebuttal for some of the public theft and intrusion written into this act.
So, to reiterate, I disagree with people against a casino, but this particular casino is indeed a poorly crafted proposal. Check the above links for the specifics on why.
Zaldy Dandan has a great op-ed on why people should vote for Tina Sablan. I mentioned on her forum that I think her "animals" letter probably hurts her chances. She's being exceedingly open and honest with her views. She stands for something, which is more than you can say for 99 percent of the candidates. Her candidacy is pretty much a referendum on whether people want change here, or do they want to stay on the disastrous path they're on. My column next week is a Q and A with her on various issues.
There are four candidates in this election I enthusiastically, unabashedly support. Tina, Galvin Guerrero for Board of Education, Cinta Kaipat and Clyde Norita for Senate. Galvin is also exceedingly bright and progressive, and he knows education, as he is the Mt. Carmel principal. Cinta is also exceedingly bright and should be re-elected for her work with PAWS and Beautify CNMI alone. She is also smart, open minded, cares, is a born leader and listens. I'm not crazy about her labor bill, but I don't think that will matter in the end. Clyde isn't as formally educated as the other three, but he is also very bright. His part time legislature idea makes obvious sense. Someone needs to be arguing to reduce the size of this government and amazingly only Clyde is doing so. I listened to him at the education forum and there wasn't anything he said that didn't make sense. He also seems to have legitimately broken from the current administration, so he won't rubber stamp lousy ideas like the new austerity holiday.
From what I saw moderating the education forums, Diego Benavente is the most polished politician. You can tell he has been in the room for important meetings. He has baggage from the Babauta Administration that might be a problem. Rep. Joseph Deleon Guerrero made a positive impression in that he is proposing a rebate reduction, and he suggested it be used for the schools. I've known Roman Benavente for a while on the Board of Education, and I like him also. I'd love to see Fred Deleon Guerrero win because it would be nice to have an educator and someone who understands education on the hill. I met with Absalom Waki with a bunch of folks at Bruce Bateman's bar and he seems like a straight up, fiscally sane man.
Ray Dela Cruz lost my vote by supporting the new austerity holiday proposal. He wants to violate teachers' contracts by not paying them on holidays even though they have 190 day contracts when those holidays don't apply. I can't get over how he feels a threat, endorsed by the governor's press secretary, about not paying teachers for work already done isn't a big deal and seemingly not a public issue. There is a lot I like about Greg Cruz, but that Dekada go home protest was a colossal mistake that is hard to overlook. It goes without saying that the most divisive candidate is Danny Aquino, who writes openly racist letters to the papers with great frequency. Aquino winning would be an embarrassment.
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
You meet at the dock in the sleepy haze of morning feeling that slow, inexorable march of the tropical sun warming the Earth. Stepping onto the boat you hear the buzzing of plans solidified between buddies, tanks clanking, gear being loaded and motors roaring. You soon find yourself gliding over slightly bumpy, luminescent tropical waters of azure. The birds are hovering – out on the prowl for their fish breakfast. A school of dolphins might on occasion be your escort to the day’s chosen reef. Land becomes more distant over the horizon. You prepare yourself mentally to make that transformation from land dwelling mammal to sea exploring adventurer. The John Stockton like assist of modern underwater gear makes this act simple, reliable and above all else: possible. There is a tenor of anticipation for that first moment below water -- that contrasting explosion of color, light and water coupled with that indelible feeling of water eradicating summer's constant companion -- sweat. This is a morning that doesn't happen in Brooklyn, Beijing or Berlin, it is a morning unique to the tropics on a dive boat -- a unique joy of living here in Saipan that allows a brief escape from all life's stress above water. Scuba diving is a pleasure that far too many people exclude themselves from due to simple intimidation and misplaced fears.
Sea Fans are perhaps my favorite coral. They grow on walls, which are a common place to go diving.
To the unitiated, diving probably looks complicated with all that dive gear. That apprehension is iced with an irrational fear of sharks inspired by one too many Jaws movies. Scuba diving is shockingly uncomplicated actually. A dive course can be completed in a week, and while that doesn't make you a crackerjack diver just yet, it gets you started. There are only a few inviolate rules to diving such as make a slow, controlled ascent from the deep, do not hold your breath underwater and keep a close watch on your air supply and depth, which is limited to 130 feet for the recreational diver. There are only three pieces of gear the diver needs over the snorkeler, a regulator that ensures the right air supply, a buoyancy control device that helps hold the tank in place and helps provide proper buoyancy, particularly useful at the surface, and a weight belt to help the diver sink upon entry, which is sometimes integrated with the BCD. Diving opens a lot more opportunity to explore the underwater world over snorkeling.
This coral is only seen at night. Night dives in particular open up a world unavailable or hiding during the day.
Saipan in particular has some especially good diving. I've traveled to many places throughout Asia largely with diving on my mind, and our very own Grotto is perhaps the most unique dive site I've ever explored -- including many in the rightfully exalted Palau . There is a sharp contrast between light and dark with that blue enclosed backdrop that blends together creating a staggering underwater seascape. That combination of light and dark works in a way far better together than it could alone -- much like McCartney and Lennon are better together than alone or crispy bacon is far better with a thin pancake drenched in Maple Syrup.
Mike Tripp is a licensed pharmacist, an underwater videographer who released a DVD called the Underwater World of Saipan and president of the newly formed Marianas Dive Group. The underwater world is what lured Tripp to Saipan and away from a more lucrative day job.
“To me if you have to wait to go on a dive vacation for that feeling of peace that diving instantly brings, then you’re, or at least I am, in trouble. What's more soothing then being immersed in a big warm pool? Had a really stressful day? Go for a dive, there's one only 15 minutes tops away from anywhere on the island. Here we are lucky because if you miss the boat, you can still jump in and get wet.”
Crusing around on a dive boat in Palau is a heck of a lot of fun. There is some great scenery.
As a scuba instructor Tripp deals with the anxieties of novices. “Dive gear can still feel a little heavy for some on land sometimes, but once you're in the water, you're weightless. That's right, it's like walking on the moon. Not that I've ever walked on the moon, but that’s what they, who have, say about SCUBA. So even if it looks a little complicated, which it really is not, it's a lot less complicated than jumping in the space shuttle.”
A turtle is always a welcome sight. This turtle, among others, appears at the Grotto from time to time.
Divers might also get more of that moon feeling here in Saipan because driving to the Obyan and Lau Lau dive sites is a lot like driving on the moon with all the craters in the road. But getting to those sites is indeed worth the trouble
The next major hang-up to entry to this sport tends to be fear of sharks; a fear that Tripp notes is not particular based in reality. “By and large the types of sharks we see in these waters are the reef sharks, white tip, black and gray reef sharks. They are unlikely to swim anywhere near you and if you are lucky enough to see them close up, you'll quickly see they are quite happy to look at you and then get the hell out of there if you look like you want to get too close. It's also important to note that when it comes to shark attacks, they get a lot of media attention, but in fact they are extremely rare and as I say, always involve someone on the surface. I cannot go on record to say that there has never been an attack on a scuba diver during a regular dive (i.e. not a shark feeding experience) but if there has been one, I have not heard about it. Either way, it is much more likely you will be hit by a car crossing beach road a hundred times than diving a lifetime in these waters. They are amazing to see and well worth overcoming a fear Hollywood has created!” These little reef sharks aren't all that scary. Most sharks really aren't. I've seen these sharks at the Grotto many times.
With some of the common fears allayed, there is one reaction I hope people now have, get trained, gear up and get wet already.
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: www.turbittj.blogspot.com/ He welcomes feedback, tips and story ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org. His column appears regularly on Wednesdays.
Sunday, October 21, 2007
What can I say, Bill Maher is my idol.
OCTOBER 8--An Alabama minister who died in June of "accidental mechanical asphyxia" was found hogtied and wearing two complete wet suits, including a face mask, diving gloves and slippers, rubberized underwear, a head mask and had a dildo in his anus according to an autopsy report. Investigators determined that Rev. Gary Aldridge's death was not caused by foul play and that the 51-year-old pastor of Montgomery's Thorington Road Baptist Church was alone in his home at the time he died while apparently in the midst of some autoerotic undertaking.
Friday, October 19, 2007
Please send your request by email to: email@example.com
The Commission is presently housed at the multipurpose center and is operating on dial-up, analog internet access. So, all requests will be entertained either early in the morning or early evenings when it can be forwarded by dsl.
Also available are the two (15-1 and 15-16, SD1) initiatives for anyone who requests them. The group is working on the Rota Casino Act of 2007.
Thursday, October 18, 2007
"I was introduced to the "no-bullshit principle" when I was finishing college back in the mellow '70s. I ran into an acquaintance after a year of not being in touch, though I'd promised I would."I've been meaning to write," I said with what I hoped was a convincing amount of contrition, and expected him to say, "That's fine."Rather, he smiled and said, "People do what's important to them. I accept that." And he walked on."
At the same time, Betty Miller has been breaking her chops trying to get something done with ACT. I don't see her getting any support from teachers or her officers. As Betty's friend, I must advise her to put her energy into her own family and her own school because simply put, the mass of teachers here isn't worth her time or a warm bucket of spit, but Betty is more generous than me so she probably will continue working without any help. Betty didn't say anything to me about this, and these aren't her thoughts. I just wanted the officers to know that at least one person noticed you ran, got elected, and aren't doing anything at all.
"We are proposing that all 14 holidays for FY 2008 be unpaid holidays. Only those government employees who work on a holiday will be paid. We expect savings of $6.5 million as a result of unpaid holidays. The participation of all government employees — including NMC, MVA, PSS — is a must. No exemptions,” said the governor.
Here is what the bill's sponsor said on 10/18, note the word all:
According to Senate President Joseph M. Mendiola, Covenant-Tinian and sponsor of the bill, by suspending salary payments to all civil servants for 14 holidays, the government will save $7 million.
Here is House Speaker Oscar Babauta on 10/18 via the Saipan Tribune:
"House Speaker Oscar M. Babauta allayed Borja's fears, saying that teachers and teacher-aides would not be affected at all since the unpaid holiday bill would cover only legal holidays.“I believe there are no schools during legal holidays,” he said, adding that the teachers and teacher-aides are not required to come to school during these holidays."
Here is the follow up question that was never asked that should have been:
"Speaker Babauta, the goal of this proposal is to not pay government workers for holidays. Of course there is no school during holidays. That's the point of this bill, not to pay on holidays. The governor said there are "no exceptions including PSS." Did you discuss this bill with him? Are you unwilling to do what the governor, the leader of your party, wants on this austerity bill?"
Both papers do not ask the obvious follow up questions, and in fact, I might start a regular feature in this blog called "where is the follow up question."
What does Babauta's statement even mean? Is there anyone on the same page up on the hill?
During last night's Board of Education round table discussion, I asked the candidates about the payless payday threat. In fact, I asked all the candidates about this issue in the three forums I moderated. Ray Dela Cruz, the only candidate in all the forums to turn me off and to specifically ensure I wouldn't vote for him and would discourage others from voting for him, acted like it wasn't a big deal. He termed it "speculation," which happens to be the nature of all threats. Dela Cruz is clearly the Administration's candidate and supports their hair brained Austerity Bill, the only Senate Candidate to do so.
Current Board of Education chairman Roman Benavente told me that PSS planned to close down school that Monday after the payless threat, and he said the governor didn't want PSS to say anything about a payless payday unless the governor specifically said there would be one, even though the governor's spokesman gave "no assurances" they would make payroll that day.
Again, I'm convinced there is just no communication and no planning on Capitol Hill.
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
By Jeffrey C. Turbitt
Lots of things are going on in the CNMI of late, many of them with little scrutiny, as the casino issue seems to be taking up everyone's energy on both sides of that debate, which is becoming overblown and tiring with the exaggerated rhetoric on both sides. The issue with the most scant debate is the Fitial Administration's latest "austerity holiday," which seems designed to avoid difficult decisions about the bloated bureaucracy and to keep political cronies fully employed at the expense of docking the pay of teachers, doctors, lawyers, nurses, police officers and other essential services that have employees who do more meaningful, necessary, harder to staff work.
In teachers' case at least, the PSS contract pays teachers for 190 work days. In order to give the government more time to come up with the money for salaries, the paychecks are spread out over the full year. No big deal. But now the cash strapped government, apparently not strapped enough over the last year to avoid taking junkets to Hawaii, hiring a new lobbyist, funding MVA with millions even though it can't put up a respectable CNMI website, hiring a public relations firm and paying off Dr. Jesus Camacho to the tune of $4,000 per month for all the letters to the editor he wrote during the campaign, wants to not pay everyone for 14 holidays unless those employees actually work that day -- something possible for nurses, doctors and police officers, but not for teachers. So teachers and others are a house vote away from having their contracts violated and losing 13 days pay, not to mention being treated like convenience store clerks instead of the college educated professionals they are.
Teachers and others are putting up as much fight as a sea slug after electroshock therapy on this issue, which is perhaps a normal reaction given the daily barrage of bad news everyone is accustomed to hearing. With limited funds, I'd probably stick it to the teachers too given what zombies they are and how little political price there is in robbing them, but that is what is happening with little awareness or concern about what is close to happening. PSS doesn't want to take a position on this bill, I asked them, and neither did several teachers I asked. It’s sad how little will there is to enforce the tax code via collections, an issue brought up by candidates in the Wednesday Roundtable discussions at San Vicente Elementary School each Wednesday at 7:00 pm including the Board of Education candidates tonight, consider a new tax on those that can most afford it such as those property taxless mansions on the hill, or just cut out more waste rather than rubber stamp this lousy new version of the ill named “austerity holiday.”
In other recent matters, the legislative override to lower the residential power rates wasn't much of a shock, and the power has been suspiciously unstable more than usual since the override. The governor was being honest and prudent, not expedient, in vetoing the bill. I’ll give him credit there. CUC, like most things on this island, is run ineptly.
It seemed like there were at least fewer power outages with the higher rates as people conserved. I would expect more outages now, and that will drive businesses away and further our economic collapse. Driving to the Red Cross 200 on Saturday, I noticed Garapan started the big night in darkness.
There was no business reduction in the power rates, so the businesses still have the high rates and can expect more outages as well. This is an election year gambit. There is no plan in place to fund the financial shortfall this will cause, and this override is another signal to any possible firms who would run a privatized power company that the politicians will do whatever is politically expedient. CUC needs close oversight for waste, abuse and corruption, not candy thrown to voters a month before an election.
Half the problem is our Jurassic and economy of scale requirement to have a diesel engine power plant, which no one thought wise to maintain. It is interesting to see this debate over nuclear power, which will require elected officials to spend a lot of time doing their homework and making a wise decision on the viability of a nuclear plant – a prospect that is hard to imagine.
On a positive note, people who went on this past Saturday night saw a rare thing for at least one night -- a booming CNMI economy. The Red Cross Club 200 brought out lots of Saipan celebrities and raised money for a good cause. I booed heartily as the word Joeten went out for the Grand Prize winner, who did then generously donate the money back to the Red Cross, who chose a new winner. I haven’t received any thanks from Margaret Muna for the subtle pressure that helped get her the $15,000 grand prize on the second chance. Everyone was in a festive mood at this well organized event, and people were out having fun and boosting the economy in various locations after the event. For one night there was a palpable sense of optimism on island, and it was nice to see.
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: www.turbittj.blogspot.com/ He welcomes feedback, tips and story ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Monday, October 15, 2007
Strangely enough given how close and easy it is, I did my first dive at Obyan this weekend, and this dive completes my tour of all the major dive sites in Saipan, which I'm going to rank VH1 style. I pretty much did Grotto Dive after Grotto dive for a long while, but I've now made it most everywhere since May, and I'm glad to have done so. The diving is probably the thing that keeps me calm when school and my kids get too taxing, and even better are dive trips to other locales that really rejuvenate. I'm hoping to get a group to dive in Rota on the Friday after Thanksgiving, which I've been wanting to do for a while.
I have been diving a lot of late with Rose Callier, who apparently isn't sunbathing topless at Wing Beach anymore since news of this event hit this blog and her Midwest conservatism kicked in like a doctor's tap on the knee. Neither of us were that familar with Obyan, so I placed a call to Axe Murderer Tours President Harry Blalock and he led a bunch of us, Brad Derksen, Mary McGee, Rose and I to this dive site, which I really, really loved.
I found it much better than Lau Lau, the other nearby easy dive, and thought Obyan had an even simpler entry that was not bad at all to my boat diving tastes. Obyan has great visibility, lots of different landscapes, and best of all, I didn't see this SOB triggerfish that viciously attacked Rose and I last weekend at Naftan. I've never seen an aggressive fish on the probably 300 dives I've done, but this sucker was hell bent on an Italian meal nipping Rose good, then me, then going for Bev's fin, though Bruce Bateman was apparently far too sour tasting as he was the only one completely unscathed in that group. During our surface interval Rose was joking about getting a fish std, but I informed her that lunch with Bruce Ruszala was probably a greater threat than this fish. Sorry Brad, I do break your chops even when you're not around. I know you're not too surprised
Naftan last week, also a first on my tour, was thoroughly lame in my opinion. Boyscout, the second dive was far more impressive with a coral bed that stretched almost endlessly, though there were shockingly few fish considering the massive amount of coral out there.
So, while I haven't done all these dives numerous times, I'm ranking them as I see them. I place a high value on visibility, strange and unusual sightings, and I'm not talking about Bateman hitting the water sans fins, I am talking about atypical sea life and an occasional change up by seeing something different like a turtle or an octopus. I am big on clear, blue water and cool and unusual underwater seascapes.
Here is my list of preferred Saipan dive locations in order:
1. The Grotto
2. Bonzai Cliff
4. Wing Beach
5. Bird Island
6. Chinsen Mauru
7. Lau Lau
8. Spotlight Cave
9. Emily the wreck formerly known as B-29
10. Boy Scout
11. Ice Cream
14. Eagle Ray City
These are the two most important women in my life right now, and both can't look at me, at least in this picture. Cynthia is to the right, and Dr. Linden, who will be delivering my child in April, is to the left. Maybe they are both making a wish that Cynthia has a girl, which Cynthia desperately wants. I'm just hoping for ten fingers, ten toes, good health and that the child doesn't inherit my hair or my Crohn's Disease.
Snoop Dogg called and asked Ben Wood for his hat back, but the CNMI goalie/swiss cheese slice won a prize for the dance competition. Kidding Ben.
Thursday, October 11, 2007
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
Senate President Joseph Mendiola is the latest on the federalization case -- a case that makes no sense whatsoever. He is urging the Bush administration to persuade the U.S. Congress to amend the federalization bill’s non-immigrant status provision for long-term guest workers, saying it will “drain” the CNMI of its workforce. The idea that he thinks the CNMI is entitled to alien labor is bad enough, but now he proceeds with having it both ways when he estimates that 15,000 migrants may benefit from the proposed non-immigrant status program and may bring their relatives to the islands. "The CNMI would almost immediately see an increase in population of 45,000 additional aliens," Mendiola said.
First it's going to drain our workforce, but at the same time it's going to overwhelm our infrastructure with a population explosion. Which one is it? They're all going to leave, or they're all going to stay and bring their desperately needed labor. I really don't know what I should be trembling about.
Saipan Chamber of Commerce President Juan T. Guerrero made the same ridiculous argument in late July. "These lawful nonimmigrants and their families would prove an immense burden on the local infrastructure in a way, and to a degree, that was never contemplated by-nor allowed-under the Commonwealth's existing guest worker program."
He also offered the possibility that, "They could simply move to the continental United States in search of higher-paying job opportunities, thereby depriving the vast majority of CNMI employers of the qualified and experienced labor pool that they have, for years, paid and treated fairly in accordance with CNMI law under the provisions of the Covenant."
For my part, I will make a prediction bolder than “definitely rain or shine tomorrow.” My best guess is that $3.55 per hour, overcrowded schools for their kids, and a power plant on Saipan that doesn't allow two people to make toast simultaneously won't draw the now liberated masses away from Guam or the mainland. I see and hear of people leaving in droves. I know people who have been looking for most any job for months in this dead economy. I imagine people who now have a choice will leave for greener pastures. The decrease in labor supply will bring salaries above the minimum wage for once, and the countless underemployed or unemployed resident workers will have job offers in the – gasp – private sector. The population reduction should assist the islands’ taxed infrastructure as well.
And on the subject of asinine arguments by political figures, I'd be remiss not to point out what the most divisive candidate in this election, Danny Aquino, had to say in insult to U.S. soldiers hailing from the CNMI. "I would like to request our Washington Representative to demand that our local boys pull out of this conflict because it's not our war and to have them placed in the United States under a support unit or border control for their illegal immigration problem."
Does the CNMI now have an army, or does the U.S. military have a branch for "local boys?" If North Korea were to invade the CNMI, would the U.S. military defend these islands or just the non-existent CNMI military or the equally non-existent local boys wing of the U.S. military? Locals are U.S. citizens, the U.S. is their country and “them” is “us.” They are not lesser citizens or different soldiers. Incidentally, people from Washington D.C. don't have a voting delegate in Congress, either. People who don't want to be U.S. citizens can renounce their citizenship, which is an option Aquino might want to consider.
Saturday, October 06, 2007
The fact that people exploit patriotism for political gain is more offensive than Obama's lack of lapels. Bush flying in with the flight deck with the Mission Accomplished banner like Caesar when he was ducking Vietnam is gross. Rudy with his endless 9/11 photo ops even when he put his command center in the WTC when everyone told him not to is revolting. This Obama episode is the kind of phony, media bullshit issue that distracts from serious issues: the oil addiction, being ranked twentysomething in education and health care, our leading role in emissions that cause Global Warming, our global unpopularity brought on by our wretched president and his expensive, endless war, and a massive debt financed by an oppressive government in China. That's what the conversation should be about, not this crap --- again.
Damn teachers. W isn't Bubble U anymore. The teacher at my son's daycare taught Alex the right way. I thought it was too cute to correct for now. If color yeah o becomes yellow, the second shoe will have dropped.
Friday, October 05, 2007
Thursday, October 04, 2007
Of course it's the wrong direction, it's a civilized direction, and probably not a single child works for Haliburton, not a single child is a defense contractor needing to line their pockets, not a single child is an HMO chief with a $30 million compensation package, and they can't even vote. Nine million children in America lack health insurance. “I mean, people have access to health care in America,” said Bush in July. “After all, you just go to an emergency room.”
A little more than sixteen months left in this reign of terror.
Tuesday, October 02, 2007
It gets depressing and boring to focus on our lousy government or things we don’t have, so I have ten random thoughts on life in the CNMI on my mind as the tonic for the government and the ridiculous lawn signs that continue to spring up like weeds.
1. One of the strangest experiences on Saipan is picking up a package from the older gentleman at the Chalon Kanoa post office, Bob Powers. The man has his own system, and I’m never quite sure I have all the rules down pat – even after five years now. He is a nice guy with a soft spot for kids who must seemingly establish some very rigid order for handing over a yellow, marked card and receiving a package in return. I don’t quite understand how that act became like calculus in the Marine Corps, but it did.
2. Why do our island youth wear winter ski hats each day in a place hotter than a box of Tinian peppers? They’re wearing shorts, zorries and a tea shirt. I don’t get the ski hat completing that list. A person doesn’t wear a winter parka and a speed-o bathing suit in Alaska , and I remember MC Hammer making those fashionable for a while? Why would a ski hat ever be needed in the CNMI? That ranks up there with the all time confusing question from Steven Wright: Why did Japanese kamikaze pilots wear helmets?
3. Do the ants here have an email distribution list? How can I put some food down, stop in the restroom and by the time I’m back, the ants have gathered faster than folks to a spontaneous super sale on Budweiser at Joeten.
4. How much do these Mormon Missionaries here spend on ties and sunscreen, and given the ties, are they now working for the Fitial Administration, or are they more concerned with Mitt Romney’s U.S. presidential chances?
5. How much ink could be saved if editors deleted the words "common sense" and "I've been saying this for years," from Ambrose Bennett's Letters to the Editor? I like how Bennett agitates, but please stop with those two phrases AB.
6. In a similar vein, was Jaime Vergara one of the Navajo Code Talkers during World War II? Vergara knows a lot of words, I think I do as well, but I almost never have any idea what Vergara is saying.
7. MHS Teacher James Yangetmai claims his niece “never heard of or even cared about PAWS” like many people on the island. Earth to James, come in. Are you aware we’re surrounded by ocean? I feel I must check. Did you miss the hundreds of references to PAWS in both papers, the radio, television news, the internet, the various community events and word of mouth? PAWS is about five or six people who in their spare time away from family and career see the animals in unbelievable distress and don’t just ignore it and drive away “like many people,” they actually try to help, but hey, your niece didn’t get rewarded by a private individual for returning a lost dog to her neighbor, so good idea to tarnish them. I definitely believe the part where you said people don’t care about PAWS. Your letters were the most revolting thing in the newspaper since the “Filipinos Go Home” protest.
8. What kind of person thinks walking down the steps at the Grotto in high heels is a good idea? Isn’t that place dangerous enough without doing something that asinine? Why not just use a pogo stick to go down next time, which is a slightly better idea than the monorail. I’ve seen this high heel adventure countless times and I hope to not see it anymore.
9. Are the people collecting money at the various traffic lights getting ready for a dodge ball tournament in Mad Max’s Thunderdome or something? I’m all for raising money for good causes, but kids dodging in and out of traffic and laying guilt on people stuck at a rarely working traffic light is a bad idea.
10. Some of our schools have digital multimedia projectors in every classroom, wireless internet, an absolute plethora of computers, plasma screen televisions and other goodies, yet no toilet paper and thirty plus students per class in run down termite infested facilities. Does this strike anyone else as being absurd and an only in the CNMI situation?
The overwhelming majority of the visits are from here in Saipan, but there is a long list of countries that have shown up. I'm always astonished when someone from a place like Brunei or United Arab Emirates checks in, but it happens once in a while. I find it a little weird to see people Googling my name every day, but that's happening a lot, too. The Department of the Interior, and other Washington folks, check in sometimes. That's a little weird.
I started this blog back in February 2006, and I only intended it to be a second home for the letters I had been sending to the Marianas Variety. I never promoted this blog back then, never knew any other bloggers, and no one much read that stuff here until February this year when I jumped on board in earnest. Angelo really jump started this whole thing, and now it is very large and growing community -- and factionalized. The once tight knit nature of this community has fallen apart. Last Wednesday as far as I know there was no monthly meet up at Java Joes. I think there were like 40 plus people in June. That's unlikely to happen again. I've made a few good friends from this venture, and a few enemies, but it has been a net positive overall.
Monday, October 01, 2007
"Heck of a job, Brownie."
But don't worry about any of this because Senate President Joseph Mendiola is on the case -- a case that makes no sense whatsoever, as he guarantees every coin flip will come up heads or tails.
SENATE President Joseph M. Mendiola is urging the Bush administration toMr. Mendiola also offers the same absurdity as the Chamber President. First it's going to drain our workforce, but at the same time it's going to overwhelm our infrastructure with a population explosion. Which one is it, Houdini? They're all going to leave, or they're all going to come. I really don't get it.
persuade the U.S. Congress to amend the federalization bill’s nonimmigrant
status provision for long-term guest workers, saying it will “drain” the CNMI of
My guess is that $3.55, overcrowded schools for their kids, and a power plant that doesn't allow two people to make toast simultaneously on the island won't draw the liberated masses away from Guam or the mainland. I see and hear of people leaving in droves. I know people who have been looking for most any job for months. I imagine they'll leave for greener pastures, so the first idea is probably correct, not the contradictory second part.
He estimated that 15,000 migrants may benefit from the proposed
nonimmigrant status program and may bring their relatives to the
islands.“Assuming 15,000 nonresident workers qualify for the nonimmigrant status
under Section 6 of S. 1634 (60 percent of alien work permits issued in 2006),
and assuming each of these qualified aliens has one spouse and two children, the
CNMI would almost immediately see an increase in population of 45,000 additional
aliens,” said Mendiola.“This would certainly put a tremendous burden on the
CNMI’s already strained Public School System, public health system, public
safety services, courts, and numerous other community services that the CNMI
government is currently pressed to provide at this time,” he added.
Here is the dessert in case all of the preceding is not convoluted enough.
Mendiola said the nonresident population which stands to benefit from the moveThe nonresident population has exceeded the number of local people for years -- by far. What is this guy talking about? Is he trying out for the Bush appointment to the Supreme Court or something?
will eventually exceed the number of local people.