Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Something rotten in the state of Saipan

I love how unelected lawyers who essentially work for the people, and then often write the laws and dramatically influence policy and legislation, can't talk to the people, only their clients, the Senate. The Senate is the people's representative, so their lawyer should be a client of the people, or am I so naive in this "amnesiac for a U.S. attorney general Alberto Gonzales times" that it is the people, not the politicians, who matter. Of course, leave it to a lawyer to come up with some ridiculous argument when confronted about sticking it to open government, accountability and citizen oriented democracy.
"A Senate legal counsel refused to explain why he advised the senators to
substitute a watered down version of the bill that would have applied the Open
Government Act to the Legislature. Mike Ernest told citizens advocate Tina Sablan
to discuss the matter with her elected representatives or get a copy of the
Senate journal — once it has been transcribed. “As an attorney, I am loath to
discuss client matters with non-clients and there are established rules which
govern those discussions,” he told Sablan. “I am prohibited by Rules of the
Commonwealth Supreme Court from discussing information obtained by the course of representing clients without their permission.”
Ernest, inappropriately named by the way, might be loath to talk, but his ducking this issue is loathsome. This quote below is either taunting someone about the essentially corrupt advice he gave legislators on how to protect their own asses by watering down the Open Government bill, damn the people and keep your checks coming, or he is slyly saying to keep pushing because it is so wrong -- kind of like a conflicted Watergate source confessing to Bob Woodward. Ernest is definitely providing political cover because the politicans will just say that "counsel advised it." For that alone, he should hang his head in shame.

He might be aghast morally at what he just did, but rationalizing is what lawyers, and people like Richard A. Pierce, do. I wasn't there, so I can't read his body language.
"Ernest said the “only rule of law of which I am aware that would permit such a
disclosure is the Open Government Act, made applicable to the Legislative
Bureau, of which I am an employee.”
It's one thing for criminal lawyers to use technicalities to service their private clients, but it is a different and altogether more horrible thing for public lawyers on public money hired to act in the public interest only to act in the politicians' interest, as Ernest seems to be doing here. Corrupt, partisan, career oriented legal advice might be good for you personally, look at the disgrace who got the top legal job in Washington, D.C., but it is still wrong. Right and wrong don't seem to matter much to a lot of lawyers. These kinds of tactics are why respect for government could not be lower among people who pay close attention to its workings.

This whole story is Exhibit A on how corrupt, secretive and disgusting our government is. This is exactly something the Bush Administration would do because they could create enough confusion to get away with it. This is a complicated issue, and even someone as interested in government as I am, haven't taken enough time to sort it all out. Tina Sablan is doing a good job holding the legislature's feet to the fire on this issue. She's probably going to lose this one, but at least someone is finally putting up a fight. Well done Tina. As for Mike Ernest. Why don't you go work in private practice in the mainland. At least there you can at least sell out for a six figure salary and be a classy escort, not the streetwalker type on wages the typical CNMI government lawyer gets -- that old $500,000 MPLA lawyer definitely excepted.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Taste of India working out the kinks

I made my first trip to the new Taste of India the other night. They are still working out the kinks. First, I seem to recall the old version being open pretty much always. We were hungry as hell at 5, so we showed up then, but no go. They open at 6. We got there at 6 and it took a full 45 minutes plus to bring our order. There was only one other small table with customers. They were very apologetic and nice about it, but hopefully the kitchen is operating smoother in the future. Forty five minutes with two kids is a nightmare in a restaurant, though Alex wasn't too nuts.

I got my usual Chicken Curry, which is the best I've ever had anywhere and it was as good as always. I ordered the Fish Tikka, and there was a sauce for it that I swear tasted exactly like mouthwash. It was the worst sauce I've ever tasted, but the fish itself was ok. The old guard of friendly folks is all gone. They have relocated to the Guam location. Good for them, but their now absent good natured presence takes away from the place.
***
Cynthia won a free night at Fiesta Resort. The pool there is atrocious. Dirty and so heavily chlorinated as to be unpleasant. The kids' pool was always closed. The buffet was generous, lobster at a $20 buffet, but not especially good. I've been to their teppenyaki restaurant and have liked it.
***
I ate out a lot on my trip to the states. One thing that has changed, at least in wealthy New Jersey, is that people eat out every night of the week now. It used to be just weekends. Places were packed on a Wednesday. In contrast, I went to Tijuanas here in Saipan on Saturday around 8. Not a soul in this place. That place isn't that good really, but our economy absolutely blows.
***
Tomorrow is the last day of summer vacation. Yecch. I'm as uneager to return as the students right this second. The key to being a teacher is to survive the first three months with your sanity. There are hardly any holidays in that period. After that, there are a ridiculous number of days. I suppose I'll feel better once I get in the flow. Being switched from seniors to freshmen with no notice does not help.
***
I met this guy Travis while diving in Palau. He was more interested in paddling and camping than diving, but he is a cool dude and I like hanging with him. He lived on one of the rock islands, often alone, for a month -- pretty much living off the land. He wrote about it here and it is pretty interesting. He had some other good posts, but blocked them for some unknown reason. I asked him why in an email just now. Definitely worth a read.
***
For more serious, adult minded movie fare, I recommend a film on DVD, strangely enough, called Little Children. It has four main characters, an emasculated man, a woman in a loveless marriage, a child molester (Kelly from Bad News Bears many moons ago, and very weird looking) and an ex-cop obsessed with making the now free child molester's life hell. The coldness and bitchiness of suburbia is well represented. It is definitely not a dopey action movie. It is probably my favorite movie since The Illusionist.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Top Ten List

Top Ten Reasons to Vote for Me

10. If Brad wins again, nobody can stop him.

9. Right now I'm tied for fifth place, I haven't seen judgment this bad since O.J. was acquitted.

8. If you're Chamorro, I doubtlessly taught one of your relatives at SSHS.

7. If you're Filipino, I married one, adopted two and supported all politically when few others did.

6. If you're a Democrat, I abused Republicans relentlessly.

5. If you're a Republican, forget it I've written off your vote. I am friends with Bruce Bateman, though.

4. I've hardly ever mentioned my cute dog, cute kids and great wife, like all the other blogs.

3. You're either with me or with the terrorists.

2. Angelo will be really pissed.

1. My competition, Harry, Bruce, Brad, the Doc, the Undercover journalists, Boni, "missing person" Bree, Cinta and Angelo -- links to this guy. What a nasty campaign.

The Tokyo subway and a CNMI classroom

The education commissioner takes a lot of heat. I don't know enough about how he does things to offer my thoughts on him personally, I'm not a principal, but he has always been cordial with me and open to my thoughts. I think he's doing his best and what he thinks is right. It's public record that two of the board members don't like him and didn't vote for him to be in that position. The Variety editorial page has been harsh with him -- too harsh in my opinion -- and repeatedly. He has instituted some policies that not all principals like -- so I've been told. He is also in an impossibly difficult situation with the state of the island's economy, and more so, the island's cultural aversion to accountability. The implementation of Praxis could have been handled better, but ultimately, don't you want your teachers to pass a basic skills test like doctors, nurses, lawyers, accountants and other professionals? Doreen Tudela admitted stealing thousands of dollars as a school principal and hasn't been fired yet. That is what I mean by accountability.

Right now some fairly radical plans are being implemented by the PSS administration. Principals will be teaching classes. There are 86 fewer teachers than there were two years ago. That is a staggering reduction, especially since there are more students as many have transferred from the private schools. Coordinators and specialists are teaching classes as well. Naturally, I suspect principals and coordinators will be getting the best students in the best classes with the least disciplinary problems. Principals are overworked and essentially exploited here, this isn't a knock on them. However, it is wrong to push veteran, entrenched teachers aside and out of their classes to make room for this plan, as I know and suspect is and will be happening. A coordinator is being brought in to teach AP History and AP Government at my school. I know him, I like him, he's a good man. I'm sure he is a good teacher, but he shouldn't be taking all the AP classes. After four years with seniors, I'm being forced to teach freshman -- something I find appalling. A new teacher was brought in to teach my seniors. This lack of respect for seniority is vulgar. If conditions allowed, like if I found out about this last year, I'd quit -- or at least transfer. Another veteran teacher at my school is being pushed out of his chemistry class for a newcomer. These things send a terrible message. They destroy already low morale and they are simply unfair.

A news story indicates the student/teacher ratio is 24:1. That number is no doubt technically accurate. It is also misleading. The typical CNMI classroom is more crowded than the Tokyo subway at rush hour during an Ichiro Suzuki autograph session. I doubt most of us have as few as 24 in our class. I had 32, 32 and 27 last year in language arts classes. It has been like that most every year. That 24:1 ratio is skewed by special education, which has a very low ratio, and perhaps things like computer classes. In addition, some schools, like GTC, are significantly less crowded, while some schools are significantly more crowded-- notably the middle schools. My experiences as a teacher and parent with a child in the schools tell me that the massive overcrowding in the middle schools at a difficult age causes immense problems. There are inequities between schools. My colleague Angie Wheat wrote about this issue in the new teacher's blog at http://www.actnowcnmi.blogspot.com/.

Education isn't valued here at all. I routinely see parents try to stop their kids from going to college, which boggles the mind. Parents and students all over seem more concerned with "passing" than learning, which is why college degrees -- even graduate degrees -- have been demeaned and diminished. In fact all education is grade focused, not learning focused. People will find out eventually if you're competent. Your diploma won't convince them otherwise.

The economy is in shambles with our flawed model, so none of this is surprising. In today's world in a first world economy, being educated isn't a luxury, it is a necessity for any type of quality of life. There simply is no excuse for cramming your children like sardines into dilapidated facilities, while we have an obscene abundance of elected officials with too much discretionary money, other wasteful bureaucracies that don't need to exist like the municipal councils, and a ridiculous public relations firm and lobbyist being paid thousands of dollars for things we could do ourselves or shouldn't be trying to do at all. We are all to blame for this depressing mess. We are failing our children as a community and we should be embarrassed about that.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Thirty pieces of silver and a blogging poll

Negative campaigning in now a way of life. Here is the classic example, and this is why I can't stomach John McCain's sucking up to George W. Bush through the years after this was done to him.

Bush's campaign strategists, including Karl Rove, devised a push poll against John McCain. South Carolina voters were asked "Would you be more likely or less likely to vote for John McCain for president if you knew he had fathered an illegitimate black child?". They had no interest in the actual percentages in the poll, the goal was to suggest that he had. This was particularly vicious since McCain was campaining with his adopted Bangladeshi daughter. The sight of the little dark skinned girl made the seed planted earlier grow and John McCain lost South Carolina, effectively ending his run for the presidency.



Yesterday, Angelo rocked our tight knit blogging community by going all Judas and denying all knowledge of Harry, Bruce, Brad, the Doc, the Undercover journalists, Boni, "missing person" Bree, me and even his beloved Cinta -- by removing all links to us. Even Cinta! Would Angelo have removed his mom's link if she was on the ballot? Perhaps the better example is Mike Tyson biting Holyfield's ear in a desperate attempt to hang on to his faded glory. Either way, this campaign is even more negative than I hoped. I suggest to my fellow candidates that we take the high road and continue to link to Angelo Villagomez, the Saipan Blogging turncoat, as I will continue to do.

Angelo Villagomez.

Untrustworthy!


Blogging pariah!


Hates everyone's mom!





"I'm George Miller and I support Angelo Villagomez."

Friday, July 27, 2007

Harry is leading

Harry is taking a commanding early lead. Just for the record, Bree is missing right now. An enormous scuba tank was seen outside her apartment with a large bowl of crab dip. No one has seen her in at least a week. Harry runs a tour company called Axe Murderer Tours. Something to think about. Not that I'm suggesting anything or any way to vote. Remember, negative campaigning is encouraged.

Who has the best blog

Making fun of Brad the last time was so much fun, so I've decided to provide another opportunity. Negative campaigning is ok. Making fun of Brad is wildly encouraged. Outrageous statements from Bruce "Lincoln was the worst president" Bateman are expected. I couldn't include a lot of great blogs as hard as I tried. Ten is the max. Winner gets a margarita on me at Porky's -- unless Bruce wins, in which case he can comp me a margarita in thanks for his title. I'm not as cheap as Angelo with the "winner gets nothing" prizes.


Thursday, July 26, 2007

Others noticed Juan Pan's contradictions, too

Sen. Pangelinan said the same thing I said about Juan Guerrero's testimony. Saipan Glen did as well. Today, Zaldy Dandan emphasized the contradictions as well in his column. His comments on Fitial's testimony were hilarious.

But like the chamber president’s testimony, the governor’s was bewildered
and bewildering. He said without local control over immigration “there is no
more reason for me to exist.” Akaka should have replied, “But governor, federal
immigration law applies to the 50 states, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and
Guam — and the governors there still ‘exist’ and their local governments still
run their jurisdictions. So what the hey are you talking about?”At this point,
here’s what the governor should have said to make himself clear: “Senator,
without local control over immigration, investors would stop wining and dining
CNMI officials. Local politicians will lose a bottomless and reliable source of
campaign donations and, you know, other forms of ‘assistance.’ I myself can no
longer promise anything to fly-by-night investors — you know, the sort of
‘businessmen’ that feds would not even allow to step on the tarmac of Guam’s
airport. But with local control over immigration, investors have to be very
kind, very very kind, to the governor and key lawmakers. All we want is to have
our cake and eat it, too. Never mind the alien workers. They breed like rabbits.
When their kids are 21 years old they can ‘petition’ their parents anyway. Soon,
you’ll see local politicians speaking Tagalog with a ridiculous American accent,
like Guam’s Gov. Carl Gutierrez, in an election year, on MCV. So right now, let
me have immigration control because I still have a lot of Chinese and Korean
investors to talk to.”Hey batter batter.


It's amazing to me that the Chamber couldn't come up with logical testimony. For that matter, someone should ask whose dime Juan Pan flew and stayed in D.C. on -- was it the Chamber itself or the government. I hope it wasn't the latter? Ron Hodges , who is in the Chamber of Commerce, apparently is being hassled for his criticism of the Chamber's position. He noted there was never even a vote on federalization. Someone is apparently investigating whether he went to a meeting on government time. How about an investigation into how much government money has been spent on the Chamber. Something tells me the Chamber didn't pay for all these trips to D.C., but perhaps they can clear that up.
***
This guy's "Unnamed Diatribe" was hilarious. I'm not the angriest person anymore on this island, I'm convinced. I might not even be close.
***
Best line of last night's blogger meet up: E.J. discussing Bruce Bateman's blog. "One time he scared me." Only one time Bruce, can you raise the level a bit. Cmon. You have a reputation to protect. E.J. was referring to a pic of a scantily clad woman on Bruce's most sexist blogger post.
***
PSS has apparently handed out a last minute directive to purge more payroll. Great thing to do a week before class starts. The principals don't seem too happy. There is apparently a big pow wow on this topic on Saturday at PIC. I don't know all the mechanics on this one, but I have wratched up my expectations for how ugly this year will be. People who were hired may find themselves not hired all of a sudden. Students will be packed into classrooms like sardines, demoralizing both them and the teachers. All the chickens are coming home to roost for years of mismanagement.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

161st and River

This is the House that Ruth Built, otherwise known as Yankee Stadium. I've made the journey here many times. I'd guess at least sixty. I've been intellectually aware of the fact that they are building a new Yankee Stadium across the street. It never hit me that it is really happening, and it won't be long until this building is knocked down, until I paid a visit this past Saturday. Next year the All Star Game is in Yankee Stadium to say good bye to this legendary stadium. In 2009 they will be in the new stadium. I probably said my good bye this past Saturday.
This is the house that a lot of overpaid stiffs require: Carl Pavano, Kei Igawa, Johnny Damon, Bobby Abreau, Kyle Farnsworth and Mike Mussina make up about $80 million in wasted money that require a new stadium with corporate luxury boxes to pay for Brian Cashman's bad decisions on that pantheon of bums. This is the in progress house that those bums are requiring.

Roger Clemens isn't exactly a likable guy. The kids were out there screaming for Roger and Mariano Rivera -- both legends. Mariano gave them the occasional wave, Roger nothing. I expect Clemens to be aloof. To watch two of the best pitchers ever just talking shop presumably from up close was quite a thrill. Mariano is in my top three of all time favorite Yankees with Don Mattingly and Paul O'Neill.


The Rocket got his throws in the bullpen. These bleacher seats cost $5, which is a real bargain considering that the nosebleeds in the upper deck are like $50. I sit in the bleachers a lot and it is a great deal. Hideki Matsui hit a three run home run that landed about ten feet from me. Alex Rodriquez hit one into right center. AROD is having the best season I've ever seen of any player.
At 17-5, I decided to call it a night since I had a long ass flight back to Saipan the next morning. The Devil Rays were battered and abused this night. I wonder if this was my last time in Yankee Stadium.


Someone willing to set the over/under on obnoxious comments from Angelo on this post? We get it, the Yankees won the AL East 10 times in 11 years, the Red Sox none in that time, but right now the Sox are 7.5 up. Congratulations.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

I'm back, the Chamber and the real Holani Smith

I'm back. My Monday vanished into a time warp. I left Sunday at noon, and all of a sudden it is Tuesday morning. This flight went smoother than last year's flight, and it is good, albeit humid, to be back home. Gas prices are up yet again, and the hideous political signs are out en masse. Lots of fired up rhetoric in the CNMI. I've never seen things this animated. There were lots of ridiculous arguments thrown about in Washington, DC. I loved this line from our governor regarding Jack Abramoff: “He did what he was paid to do — which was to prevent a federal takeover of immigration in the CNMI." At least Fitial was honest. The government hired Abramoff to rig the game with government money and the mission was accomplished.

I also love how the Chamber is on both sides of this immigration imbroglio. First, the workers are going to leave and deprive businesses of their God given right to cheap labor, but not if they stay and bring their IR's, which harms the CNMI.

“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,” the Chamber official said.

Why would they leave if you paid and treated them fairly? Is it perhaps because you are lying? And what makes you think you own these people, that you're entitled to their labor? Pay them a globally competitive rate and they'd stay. What audacity is in that sentence.

"Besides, nonresident workers are treated fairly in general in the Commonwealth and that their work here is only temporary."

If it's temporary, then why are you concerned they'll leave. This should be expected. Beyond that, maybe the workers want something more than to be your "temporary" solution.

He said allowing almost 8,000 individuals “to remain-and to immigrate immediate
relatives to join them, for the long-term-are profoundly negative for the
Commonwealth.”

Do you want them to stay or go? You're all over the map. First you're worried they'll leave, now that they'll stay and bring workers you so desperately need it's "profoundly negative."

“These tens of thousands of lawful non immigrants would be given the same
preference for local jobs that this Senate has repeatedly claimed to be
attempting to protect for United States citizens. These lawful non immigrants 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 said.

First off, we all know with the "who you know" policies of this island, no Filipino is getting the do nothing government job, they'll get the jobs that require actual work. Secondly, first you say they'll leave, and now you are worried they'll stay. Your real worry is that they, like the locals, won't be interested in working for a mere $3.55 with a blue passport.

"The Chamber wants U.S. Congress to do a comprehensive impact study before it
legislates federal control over the islands."

In English, put this off a couple years until we come up with some other excuse. By the way, not everyone in the Chamber feels that way. Read what Ron Hodges wrote. According to him, the Chamber never even voted on this issue, and he's not for oppression of contract workers. More from Juan Guerrero:

"These workers have, for the most part, elected to remain in the Commonwealth
and work for wages, and under conditions superior to other alternatives they
have."

And here you are actively trying to limit their options to work elsewhere for better wages. If you paid one of those starving kids you see on tv from some third world slum 50 cents an hour, they'd take it, it would be their choice and it would be even better than their other options, but it would still be exploitation. So everyone please stop with the "they want to stay here, it's their choice" for people who come from a seriously messed up, corrupt country and have no real choice by virtue of where they were born. Yes, $3.05 is better than some of these other places, but it still sucks. Stop rationalizing that point. Beyond that, the system is so bad that the locals not in the bureaucracy are left without an option of a living wage. Half the people here live in poverty, but the government wants cheap labor for businesses to pay taxes to create make work, inefficient government jobs for the politically connected. It is a model that is immoral, unsustainable and inefficient.
***
This isn't a question debated intently as who was Deep Throat and all, but I've been told by a very good source that the fictitious Holani Smith is actually someone named Lou Piliwale, a Hawaiian and longtime CNMI resident. If someone named Lou Piliwale gets a contract for $4,000 per month to "consult" like Jesus Camacho, you'll know why. Lou Piliwale, aka, Holani Smith, writes letter after letter suggesting Governor Fitial practically walks on water. Why the Tribune lets this happen is a good question. Angelo wrote a good post on these letters a few weeks ago.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Dick Cheney to become President today -- not a joke - fill up your tank, take cover

This is frightening on many levels:

Vice President Cheney will assume the presidency on an acting
basis today when President Bush undergoes general anesthesia for a routine colon
examination, the White House said yesterday. Bush will transfer powers under the 25th Amendment, which permits the president to voluntarily hand over authority
when he is unable to perform his duties. The White House said Cheney will
probably be in charge for about 2 1/2 hours while Bush recovers from the effects
of the sedative.

First off, how is Sean Hannity going to react when some unknown doctor has a microscope peering into his front window?

Second, can you start a war with Iran and wire transfer all the federal treasury to Haliburton in a mere 2.5 hours?

These are the questions that need asking. Amazing that Bush not being president for 2.5 hours is this scary given the 25th Amendment.

I wonder if Cheney will give the executive order to track down Brad Ruszala, given his support for Al Qaeda, hatred of freedom, NAMBLA endorsement and all the dog fights Brad attended at Michael Vick's house.

Turbitt protects babies while Ruszala protects Al Qaeda

Baby Samantha Lynn endorses her favorite uncle for Saipan's Sexiest Blogger at a recent Chicago rally.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Slinging BS for money -- on the public tab

Back in the day I went to journalism school. To me, journalism really means one thing: newspapers and newspaper writing. In journalism school, the "news-editorial" wing was actually a minority of generally smarter, definitely scruffier, less physically attractive news junkies. Given the prevailing influence of television, many people prefer to be broadcast journalism majors. I happen to think our local broadcast journalists at KSPN do a great job. Morgan Rose went to the University of Missouri Journalism School, which I know to be the best in the country. Chris Nelson has been in the business for years and asks a lot of tough questions, and I have great respect for Gin Gridley and Bob Coldeen as well.

National broadcast journalism I find to be a disgrace. A steady media drumbeat of sensationalism, trivial celebrity fluff and a shocking lack of depth is what I see there. I pay it scant attention and put all my news energy into the New York Times and the Washington Post and other sources.

Even worse than broadcast news is public relations. Lots of journalism majors specialize in Public Relations, or as I call it, "Slinging Bullshit for a Living." These are the people who come up with euphemisms like "pre-owned" instead of used, or "collateral damage" instead of, we hit the wrong target and blew up a nursery school. I spent a weekend with one of my old journalism professors and he has been saying PR should be out of journalism schools, but lots of students sign up for PR, its lucrative, less controversial, more business friendly and somehow PR executives don't have a worse reputation than actual honest journalists, so it stays entrenched there. I find people who lie or put a shiny, fake coat of paint on reality appalling, so the whole business of PR doesn't sit well with me.

Today, the cash strapped government hired a PR firm for $15,000 or so a month. Here is the first piece of bullshit Holt Strategies slung in the CNMI's behalf:

Terry Holt of Holt Strategies said, “Too often the only time policymakers have heard about the CNMI, it's been in the context of the Jack Abramoff story. It is time to move on. Northern Mariana Islanders are American citizens and we share an important history, forged in the battle for the Pacific in World War II. And their place on the map makes them a significant national security asset. It's time people hear about some of these facts too.”

If someone paid me $15,000 a month, I'd think it was time to move on also. PR people are opinion whores, hence my unabashed revulsion at people like longtime CNMI PR guru Richard A. Pierce. They get paid to take a position, doesn't matter what it is, and then they promote that position. A lot of legal work happens to be the same by the way.

Holt notes D.C. folks "heard things in the context of Abramoff." Perhaps they did since it was the biggest lobbying scandal of the past twenty years. Type in Jack Abramoff on Google and see how many entries there are. He was convicted on felony accounts of bribing public officials. The CNMI paid him $11 million in taxpayer dollars. It's easy for you to move on at $15,000 per month. It's not so easy for the people kept down by Abramoff's bribes or outraged at the corrupt unfairness of what was done.

Next there is an irrelevant attempt at faux patriotism about the CNMI's role in WWII. "We share an important history with them." So does Gettysburg, so does Palau, so does Normandy, so do a lot of places. What does this have to do with anything going on now?

"They are a significant national security asset." The left wing wants to change our immigration because of past abuses and because our system now is immoral, not "revenge" as I've seen said eight million times. When Bush gets the opportunity and installs a Right Wing Supreme Court Justice to sodomize the Constitution, is it revenge or the normal politics of someone sticking in his guy to do his thing. Was this war revenge because Hussein tried to assassinate W's daddy. This Stayman guy wanted this changed before, Abramoff bribed Delay, he lost that round. Times change. if you read Zaldy's column today, Stayman wasn't alone. Security is why the Right Wing is seemingly going along with federalization. With troops entering Guam, the Feds want a little more say into who gets in over here.

There will be a lot more BS forthcoming at 15K a month. Be sure of it. If you want to improve the CNMI's image, send some of that money to Beautify CNMI. They have, and will, improve the CNMI's image infinitely more than the overpaid, unncessary and demonstrably ineffective lobbyist, or the equally unnecessary, unaffordable PR firm.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Federalization, Noam Chomsky and Bruce Bateman

I know there are scads of people on these islands opposed to Dekada, opposed to federalization of immigration, and just generally concerned with the idea of contract workers getting green cards because they think it harms them. I personally have this gene that just always associates with the underdog. It is always personally beneficial to service the interests of the rich and powerful. Dengre describes how doing so was pretty good for our governor. The governor is hardly the only example. I'd probably have more money in the bank if I just kissed the ass of the rich and powerful. I just can't and still respect myself.

I've traveled the Philippines enough to see how hard those people work for very little money. My mother in law has five children. Four of them live and work outside the Philippines. The employment pages there are all about jobs outside of the PI. There is wealth there, but the system is unbelievably corrupt, so the people suffer. There is a growing gap between rich and poor in this country and throughout the world. People accept it because they think they'll be rich, too.

Right now there are many people who have lived here for years as guest workers. Many support families back home out of their $3.05 per hour paycheck. They are often separated from their children. Some have American citizen children and they are a family divided. I can relate. I have two American children and a Filipino wife. She still has not met my parents, and we've been married two and a half years. She can't get into the states -- at least yet. Her paperwork is in process, and it should be done soon enough, but the fact is, we are kind of a stateless family right now. We obviously aren't going to leave her. We can't go to the Philippines free and clear, and she can't go to the states. There are many people in this situation. I've seen how hard these people have worked. Many have suffered abuses. How many stories do we see in the paper about people who still haven't gotten their wages. I know some of these people, and they are model employees -- Cal Ripken like in showing up to work every day. I think they deserve a break, and if this harms the CNMI in the short term, that's life, we don't own these people. They are not indentured servants tied here to our meager minimum wage that we paid Jack Abramoff millions to bribe Tom Delay to keep.
***
The corporate influence on global policy is enormous. If you haven't spent some time reviewing and examining the thoughts of Noam Chomsky, you are doing yourself a serious disservice. His opinions on American foreign and domestic policy aren't flattering, and neither are his thoughts on the media. Many just can't handle what he says, can't think about it, can't even consider it. That is a shame. His work is well documented with countless footnotes, and he is in many ways a living Aristotle.
***
According to Angelo's Blog and Middle Road, the call is out to boycott Chamber President Juan Guerrero's places Herman's Bakery, Western Union and Mita Travel because of his stance on federalization. If you ask me, it is about time the contract workers stood up for themselves. Danny Aquino has a stick up his ass about white people and Filipinos, the exact makeup of my family. I appreciate the fact that he is open in his racism. I'm also not sending another nickel to his daycare center Little Darlings. I would hope Brady Barrineau's family would do the same there, but that is their call. Juan T is free to do his thing, and Dekada is free to do their thing. I will say this, if Filipinos can stay away from Jolibee, as they did with the Yumul bill, Herman's Bakery and the others will be a walk in the park.
***
I've been out of blogging circles until the last day or so, and I've gone around, and basically argued with Bruce Bateman on many a post. I have to admit, there was a time I only knew Bruce from his column, and I didn't like him based on that. Things have changed. I really like Bruce a lot and I'm glad to have him as a foil. He's funny, not PC, a genuinely nice guy and a good writer. We see the world very differently, but we are out there arguing with each other with respect and without personal animosity. We are strangely alike, yet different, a blogging paradox. We are both hyper-opinionated, non-pc, hypercritical, distrustful of government (albeit for different reasons), we both like mojitos, diving and the Blue Ridge Mountains. We both have Filipina wives and children. If I didn't know him personally, I might have gone off on him like Dengre did. I kind of did once. I'm really glad to have gotten to know him better.

Harry mentioned this the other day:
"I am not who most people think I am. They have a preconceived idea of who I am
and what I'm like from my radio presence. I do have some definite thoughts and
opinions about things, but if you think you know me from the radio, you're
mistaken."

The same goes for Bruce, Angelo, me, lots of us. When we offer our opinions, sometimes we misspeak and sometimes we are misinterpreted. I feel like my words were mangled here and here. My wife's office workers had a debate on whether I was saying all Chamorros were racist in my criticism of the Taotao Tano protest. The word Chamorro wasn't even in the piece, and all my comments were directed at the signholders. I wasn't even saying they were racist people, just that it was a racist display. There is a difference there. I found Mr. Cruz's defense to be pretty weak and lame. He'd have been better to have apologized and gotten back to the work he was doing before that revolting protest.

I have, to my great shock, not encountered much hostility to my critical public comments. Some doubtlessly don't like me because I'm critical of our system and our government, and I wasn't born here and I'm not "local," yet I have a lot to say. I respect people like Cindy Sheehan and Michael Moore, Harry Blalock and even Dennis Green who often times suffer personal attacks for expressing their opinions. I think everyone should be respectful of the risks they take if the speaker is honest.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Bald is beautiful

If we're going to base this election on hair and abs and height, I'm smoked, so let it be known that I can cook pretty damn well. I've been known to crack a joke or two. I'm kind to animals. I work out once in a long while, and I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinski. I'm not even lying on that last one unlike Bill Clinton. Tagalog voters should know from reading this blog that I have defended my friends in the Pinoy community more than most native born Filipinos.

Don't vote for Angelo since that freaky looking SOB called me fat. I must praise EJ for being above looks in picking a man. We know for damn sure that Brad will take the female winner Boni to Jolibee, and she's already sworn off Yum Burgers. I'll do better than the Bee as hard as that sounds. Bruce is running for Saipan's Most Sexist Blogger so he might take Boni to Chicago or something, and I'm not talking about the city. As for Gus, we know musicians can't be trusted. The Doc might pass along pink eye from a patient and bring down Garapan Elementary School. I can't think of anything to dig Walt with. He's too nice to win. Let's go with that. Any of our elected officials should feel free to hire a lobbyist on the government dime to support my candidacy for Saipan's Sexiest Blogger. If you can't find it in your heart to vote for me, vote Harry, since bald is beautiful.

Seven Random Facts Redux/Post 100

My favorite movies, I won't pick just one, are Pulp Fiction, Shawshank Redemption, Apocalypse Now, the Player and the Usual Suspects.

I pretty much can't bring myself to read fiction. Try as I will, I just can't get into it. I'm too concerned with reality. This isn't to say Shakespeare et al aren't great, they are and I love movies, live acting and plays, but I just can't get into reading fiction whatsoever. This is reason A I need to stop being an English teacher and switch to social studies, as is the plan. My lit selection is very real. I'm not exactly proud of this, but I am honest. I also don't think this is such a bad thing, though the intellectual establishment would make you think it is.

I picked my college location when I was in eighth grade, the University of South Carolina. I kissed my first girl, a Southern belle, in Hilton Head on a family vacation, was sold on the Southern belles at that point, and decided I'd be back. I was. I also picked my major, journalism, as a senior in high school, and never wavered on that, either. I was a bit too intense for the belles, though. I also pretty much decided I'd marry a Filipina after my first trip to the Philippines. There was something beguiling about them that I loved, and it wasn't just the normal good fortune young, single, white Americans in the PI are prone to encounter. I was right on that idea, too.

I'm both a dog and a cat person. I had a cat for 18 years and a dog for 11. Both have their virtues and vices. I'd probably stick with dogs, though.

When I first got interested in politics at 17, I was a rabid Republican who subscribed to Bruce Bateman/Ayn Rand/uber laissez faire capitalism. I was pretty much everything I despise now politically. I even took a pilgrimage to Ayn Rand's grave site in Valhalla, NY. I also walked about 8 miles, and took a day off from school, to attend a Bush 41 rally when he was VP. It didn't take much longer to see the light. I excuse myself with the fact that I was 17.

I emotionally divested myself of my Catholic upbringing when my CCD teacher, at age 10 or so, told me my cat couldn't go to heaven with me. I went through the motions to the limited extent my parents' forced me, but I haven't been back to Church since I was forced to go to confirmation circa 1986. I suspect I would have been a heathen anyway, but why would an old woman tell a little kid attached to his pet that his cat wasn't allowed in heaven. Would there have been any harm in saying yes? It's not like she knew for sure anyway. I don't believe in forcing religion down my kids' throat, either. If that is what they choose down the line, good for them, but I'm not going to allow it to be pushed on them now before they are prepared to think about it critically and make their own choice.

I can't bring myself to drink beer. Nothing moral here, I just think it tastes wretched. Always have and I suspect always will feel this way. I'm astonished by beer's popularity. I'm a mojito/margarita/sangria kind of guy.

Monday, July 16, 2007

I've been tagged

Not quite sure of the rules on the "lasts" tagging, but perhaps there aren't any. I'll offer mine:

Last Movie I saw: Sicko. I wrote about this already. Michael Moore rules.

Last Book I read: Strangely enough, I never read much Hunter S. Thompson, so I'm taking on his opus on his journeys with the Hells Angels. So far, so good.

Last Meal: My sister in law Margie, who like all my sisters-in-law is wonderful, cooked me lasagna, as I'm spending the night at her house near Chicago.

Last spin in my Ipod: I went to the Rush concert last week and it kicked major ass. I wasn't into the latest album, Snakes and Arrows, too much, but the concert improved my appreciation for it. The song Armor and Sword is a great take on modern religion that fits my sensibilities.

Last phone call: Naturally my wife. I miss her a lot. Absence makes you appreciate what you have.

Last email: To Betty Miller in praise of her great job rejuvenating ACT and getting teachers to have the voice they should.

Last time I was infuriated: Either when the airline lost my luggage today or when Bush pardoned Scooter Libby. I kind of took the luggage in stride. I was really more frustrated than infuriated with that. Libby was prime evidence of how Bush just doesn't give a damn about the rule of law or what anyone thinks.

Last really great day: Hmm, as good as this trip has been, that day I went diving with Bruce, Harry and Angelo was a pretty great day. Maybe that day in NYC I wrote about. Can't decide.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

North Carolina is cool

I'm visiting an old friend for a weekend in Asheville and Charlotte, North Carolina. Both places are way cool. Asheville is a majorly bohemian town that is far more liberal and hippie than even New York City. I can't believe I'm in the South. There are a lot of folks in need of a bath. The mountains are gorgeous. There are lots of outdoor sports and great restaurants. I was supposed to go rafting, which would have been great, but it fell through. Asheville isn't too hot, it isn't too cool, it's some damn good porridge. I can see myself here.

Charlotte is a bit more urban and less progressive, but still pretty nice. I went to Carowinds and rode a lot of roller coasters, which I haven't done in a while. Carowinds has a massive number of coasters, including one you lay down on. I felt like Superman on mushrooms. It was weird. I got to eat at Waffle House twice, which always kicks ass. They have some killer chicken sandwiches, and of course, the waffles are king. I always miss the House. I had a brick oven pizza in Charlotte with fresh mozzarella at a place called Bricks that was fantastic.

While in Charlotte I saw Michael Moore's Sicko. It was a staggering work where MM slays all the boogeymen: hatred of the French, Cuba, the "evils" of socialized medicine et al. I love the man's balls, not literally, and there is scant material to coherently argue with in the movie. The backlash will doubtlessly be "Michael Moore hates America" or "Michael Moore wants socialism" woooo boooo raaah monster ahead or some other not very good scare tactic masquerading as argument. The state of American health care is sad. Last year I had Pacificare and was going to pay out of pocket to see a gastro last summer, and an initial consultation was $500. Thanks for that. This movie shows how and why and where health care is better. People like my man Bruce Bateman will have a heart attack at the ideas in this movie, but Bruce probably has a good medical plan post heart attack. Many don't.

I saw a guy in the airport as I was waiting to come here, and he was doing yoga and sticking his head between his legs doing all kinds of crazy stretching exercises. I had two thoughts: First I'd prefer not to see someone that in touch with himself at the airport. Second, it is a good thing I never did yoga or got that limber as a teenager. I might not have left the house.

I'm going back to Chicago tomorrow to see my sister in law, and I'll be going to Wrigley Field on Monday. I miss my family terribly.

Also, reading the local papers has me very depressed about what I expect to be a rough year in Saipan with the state of the economy.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Three more reasons this week why W is loathsome

Last week we had Scooter Libby's get out of jail free card, but this week we have three more reasons to loath George W. Bush. I'll give him this, he is Dimaggio like in his consistency in doing awful things. He can always be counted on to screw up. It is quite an effort to keep up with how awful he is.
"Rebuffing Congress, President Bush on Tuesday said he would not give in to
ever-mounting calls to start drawing U.S. troops home from Iraq."

Since Bush knows everything, why listen to anyone else? The war is going so well, and it is so cheap at $12 billion a month, so why change anything. Imagine the constructive things that could be done for $12 billion a month, and $620 billion since he invaded the wrong country post 9/11. Next there are more attempts at hiding the truth.
"The first U.S. surgeon general appointed by President George W. Bush accused the administration on Tuesday of political interference and muzzling him on key
issues like embryonic stem cell research."

"The problem with this approach is that in public health, as in a
democracy, there is nothing worse than ignoring science, or marginalizing the
voice of science for reasons driven by changing political winds. The job of
surgeon general is to be the doctor of the nation, not the doctor of a political
party," Carmona added. Carmona said Bush administration political appointees
censored his speeches and kept him from talking out publicly about certain
issues, including the science on embryonic stem cell research, contraceptives
and his misgivings about the administration's embrace of "abstinence-only" sex
education.

The central problem with W is that he thinks he owns everything in the government, that it exists for him, not the people, and that loyalty to him, not the people, is priority one. How else to explain trying to make the people's doctor, the surgeon general, beholden to his stupid ideas and not the truth. Here is another simply awful move: Refusing to let a doctor be a doctor, and trying to turn him into your partisan hack. Let's forget the unpopularity and stupidity of blocking stem cell research, loathsome enough alone, but to muzzle the nation's top doctor, like they muzzled the top climatologist on global warming, is just so contemptible. Let's put it the way it is, they not only censored the top doctor, they tried to stop a scientist from speaking on an issue, climate change, that eventually could lead to the literal end of life on this planet. They are pro-global genocide in today's political speak, and they think they are above oversight, as is evidenced here:

President Bush directed former aides to defy congressional subpoenas, claiming
executive privilege and prodding lawmakers closer to their first contempt
citations against administration officials since Ronald Reagan was
president. It was the second time in as many weeks that Bush had cited
executive privilege in resisting Congress' investigation into the firings of
U.S. attorneys.

Forcing your underlings to be in contempt of Congress to hide the fact that you fired prosecutors who wouldn't file bogus charges against political adversaries is truly disgusting. It was bad enough that the Republican Congress investigated Bill Clinton's Christmas Card list, but not Halliburton's profiteering or the lies used to justify this war, but now that there is someone performing actual oversight, they are trying to shred the Constitution. There is indeed more to being president than not getting a blowjob, and more to voting for a president than "can I have a beer with him" or will he bash gay people enough or offer some phoney pious comments on "faith."

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Musings on Chicago and elsewhere

Wow. I said in my letter in the Variety and my blog post that I hoped the Bishop would say something about that Taotao Tano protest. Today he did. I'm sure I'm not the reason, but this is great news and it is encouraging to see. Add the bishop to that long list of Taotao Tano protest critics I posted and continue to update here.

Rep. Ramon A. Tebuteb is also a new member on that list. It should be noted that an apology is now in order from Taotao Tano so they can get back to the good ideas they started out with and have some meaning as a civic group.
***
I'm guessing there must be more vice principals than principals and that would explain this: "Of the 20 principals, seven are now considered highly qualified for passing Praxis 1 and 2. Among the vice principals, 15 have already passed both tests."
***
I went to two concerts over the weekend: Rush and the Dave Matthews Band. This was the 11th time I saw Rush and the second for the DMB. The Rush concert was great. They played a lot of songs they seldom play. They showed great humor in their video clips, and the light/stage show was great. The playing, of course, brilliant, and the theater designed for such an event. It was fantastic in every way, and worth the relatively cheap these days ticket price of $100. I paid $20 less than face for a good seat. The Police are charging up to $300 in their reunion tour. Concerts are pricey as hell these days.

The Dave Matthews Concert was disappointing. Some of his song choices left something to be desired. He didn't have much of a stage show at all, and the Toyota Park Stadium in Illinois, a soccer stadium, wasn't designed for a concert and it was obvious. Naturally, they made it difficult to go to and from my seats, and being not all that tall, it was hard to see much much. It is also basically in a residential area, and the roads aren't designed for a stadium. Dave mumbles a lot to the crowd. Interaction is something I usually like in a concert, but I didn't know a word he said. It wasn't that loud, either.

The DMB gets a much hotter looking crowd than Rush, which is a total sausage fest of frustrated musicians and people who actually read the lyrics and generally know something about the instruments. The DMB are every bit the virtuosos Rush are, and that is saying something, but the DMB gets a crowd of college girls in full Bacchanalian mode. Normally, I would think this a positive since I thought I missed out in college because I was actually studying and being serious and stuff, and now I remember why I did what I did instead of getting drunk and laid more like everyone else. Yeah, maybe that's why I still have an edge. The obsession and fixation with drinking mass quantities of beer was and is such a juvenile turn off that I couldn't put up with it even then, even with the carrot of proximity to hot young coeds. Seeing that again yesterday for the first time in a while reminded me how vulgar it is.

I told my wife Cynthia recently I would be Carl's roommate, our ten year old, when he goes off to college, but he will have to get a real college roommate now. I'm sure he'll appreciate that. She starting crying at the mere idea that Carl would grow up one day, leave us and go off to college. My promise to go with him wasn't a factor in the tears.

There was this guy named Rusty who lived in the dorms with us then young folks at the University of South Carolina circa 1993. He was like 45 years old, grey hair, on like his fourth degree and putting off the real world like the plague. I remember distinctly him saying this to me of the girls in the dorm, "Man, these girls come up to me for advice like I'm Yoda or something, but I just want to get in their pants. They see me as their dad." Rusty seemed pretty cool back then, and he was a good ally for putting a good word in for you with the women, since he knew them all, but I won't be that guy.
***
Out in Illinois bikers are not required to wear helmets. They seem to take this freedom to the limit, as no one wears a helmet. It would seem prudent to wear a helmet, you know, just in case, and now that you "don't' have to" and no one does, you don't have much to rebel against other than your own stupidity. Sure enough, I've seen tons of bikers and not one helmet. A brain trauma ward doesn't seem like such a fun place or a fair trade, but I guess I'm getting old.
***
I drove my sister's car to the DMB concert and the front lights come on automatically. I thought this meant they all did. They didn't. The rear lights were off. I get pulled over by an Illinois cop, he asked for my license, said he was going to give me a ticket. The thought of taking off for a drive in a mall like Jake and Elwood was tempting, but not practical. He went back to his car, probably realized booking a ticket for a Saipan license was going to be a hassle, like we can't order stuff online because MP is missing half the time, so he let me off. Cheers for my Saipan license.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Musings on Guam Airport revised and revisited

I sent this to a few of the edgier journals out there, and a tamer version to a few others. I was greeted mostly with silence. I don't have national media contacts, and certainly don't have the patience or slavish demeanor to beg them to run something I know is better than 2/3 of the safe, dull, middle of the road stuff they print. I also don't have the published writer's requisite skill of dealing with rejection or indifference very well. If you can link to this from some type of webzine with an audience that likes edgy, humorous stuff with a political bent, please link to this, as I feel it deserves a wider audience. Jeff

Out in Micronesia, just a small radar blip in the Pacific, sits Guam International Airport. Like many airports, it is a vast, packaged, neon vestibule of unhealthy, overpriced fast food, the mind boggling curiosity of duty free shops, and a more common currency: aggravated Asian travelers. One notable difference is that Guam is an America much closer to Hong Kong and Tokyo than New York or Los Angeles .

Guam is a full blown U.S. territory like Puerto Rico and a common transfer hub for Asian travelers to Hawaii, Australia and other locales. Guam has two well known monikers. Fiscal conservatives noting the federal dole that Guam, and other Pacific Islands survive on, say Guam stands for Give Us American Money, while retired military expats familiar with the more lascivious, neighboring locations of Thailand and the Philippines say Guam stands for Give Up And Masturbate.

A traveler doesn’t have to visit Guam, a popular beach vacation site for Japanese honeymooners, to feel the hysteria post 9/11. A mere transfer will suffice for this dog to bite as America continues to expand global alienation on a more personal front: airport security. I speak from recent personal experience.

I get off the plane in Guam after getting a quite thorough screening at Palau International Airport. Palau is one of the most renowned scuba diving locations on the planet, its main tourist draw and the one that brought me there, and is in Free Compact of Association with the United States, which basically means Palauans can enter the United States without visa issue, and the U.S. provides them with economic aid. The U.S. in return gets a claim on a place that is famously part of the “Coalition of the Willing” from Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11.


The first thing I have to do in Guam right off the plane from Palau at 4 am: Welcome to the United States. “Take your shoes off sir, belt, all metals, and are your nuts still attached, if not, please place them in this basket for inspection.” I might need them, so they are staying connected, sorry, use the wand, and tickle a little bit since it's 4 am, I'm on the redeye from hell, I'm stuck in your shithole airport and I need a cheap thrill. I just got off an airplane, I didn't go anywhere near an unchecked civilian, so this begs the obvious question of why do I have to go through the shoe routine again, not to mention another x-ray, take off your belt, shave your pubes routine in case you're hiding some well placed plutonium in your sac region? Why again!!!! Is Guam security so much more thorough than the last TSA manned airport? One idiot tried something with his shoes years ago and people the planet over have to go through these shoe theatrics without end in sight. Please. I've had times when there have been three shoe checks for one trip. The only real threat my shoes offer is the one they hold to pleasant smells. I saw one Transportation and Security Administration (TSA) officer examine my flip flops with the wrapt attention of Howard Carter opening King Tut's tomb.

Leaving Palau, the existence of shaving cream in my checked, not carry on, luggage caused a literal ten minute investigation. I might be the only one with a toothbrush coming from Palau, but I can't be the only one who shaves. Throughout Micronesia locals suffer massive dental issues from their love of a tree fruit called betel nut, which is generally stuffed with cigarette pieces, mixed with powdered lime to break it down for easier chewing, and wrapped in a pepper leaf to provide a nice buzz. There are probably more cigarettes chewed than smoked in Micronesia. Betelnut is a common addiction in Micronesia and has similar health, dental and aesthetic issues as chewing tobacco.

The war on terror, I mean hygiene continues, though. I had deodorant in my carry on, which is legal, but that still entailed a Nuremberg type deliberation since somehow Old Spice equals Al Qaeda. At some point someone needs to snap and say, “Use some sense, you soulless automaton!” I’m convinced they must electroshock all vestiges of independent thought and common sense out of these people at TSA Academy.

After the foiled UK plot a few months back, the liquid and hygiene situation is the latest overreaction. The silliness over water continues unabated. If you can drink it, and demonstrate that it isn't some Mission Impossible liquid bomb, let it go. It's water, like 80 percent of the human body. Chill out Nurse Ratched. We don't examine most any cargo coming into the states, but three shoe checks and no water, so we’re supposed to think we're safe. What a bunch of babies we’ve become, not to mention that this American airport in Asia is as welcoming as a punch to the stomach.Then Guam security sets up this rope to subdivide the airport and actually block you from your gate. This is designed so they can give the new arrivals the stare for the Battan style march to the slaughter at the pointless Guam immigration check in counter, and if you, the already harassed, step on the wrong side at the wrong time, they threaten you with a fresh round of shoe checks, X rays and quite possibly a trip to Guantanamo Bay. Even an American traveler like me feels cowed from asking the obvious question of why do I have to clear immigration in Guam when I am not staying there, or not be able to head to my gate yet because others need to go through this ridiculous routine? Doesn’t my name go down on the easily identifiable “previously manhandled” list?

With all this security you’d think Guam International Airport would be a hub for all travelers, but nope, they won't let Filipinos, and others from less prosperous countries, transfer through without a full blown U.S. Visa.

It is still the middle of the night, I've got a long layover in Hades, and there is hardly anyone in the place, so sleep seems in order. I'm not expecting the Ritz Carlton, just to sack out in peace on their mangy carpet. Naturally, sleep is hard to come by with a blaring announcement over the loudspeaker every fifteen minutes not to leave your bags unattended and to report any suspicious activity to the Guam Gestapo.

These security pros clearly find travelers annoying, so they briefly held me hostage on my initial layover. I couldn't exit without a Continental representative to walk me through immigration like it was my first day of kindergarten. I ate at the lousy food court, so I wasn’t exiting completely within the allotted time. Since this was inconvenient to security, I had this bozo airport cop on a power trip interrogating me on whether my green tea in a cup was beer. What am I twelve, what if it was? His invented regulation: “You can't take green tea out onto the streets of Guam sir.” I'm sure the teeming masses of Guam appreciate that kind of protection. I was going to mention that I saw one guy with an apple, and if he could stop him, he might get a Homeland Security appointment in the Bush administration, but I really wasn’t in any mood to undergo extraordinary rendition and be re-routed for less comfortable questioning in Syria, so I merely smiled and sheepishly surrendered my $3.00 beverage before heading out of the Taliban’s new headquarters.

Guam Airport is the United States government in microcosm: reactionary, bullying, lacking common sense and self-important. The terrorists have already won since we are a bunch of drunk on fear ninnies, alienating both Americans and citizens of the world’s fastest growing economies with our bullshit.

Proud of the response

I was a little worried no one but me would react to that racist display by Taotao Tano the other day, but this community has really done the right thing and I believe this group has been marginalized, deservedly, in a matter of days. I'm not sure I've seen this type of rebuke on anything before. Angelo said it well, they have a lot of good ideas, but they ruined it with racism. Today a bravo goes out to Roselle Calvo, the young NYU I believe, student who is quite the fireball. Here is what she said today:

"Calvo said she decided to leave the group not because it did not support the recall petition but because of “its racist agenda and dictatorial way.” She said she was disappointed with the street protest on Saturday when Taotao Tano members waved placards denouncing Dekada, a group of alien workers who have been in the CNMI for over five years now. “I do not want to be a part of the group of people who act first before they think,” she said. She added that she does not like to be involved in a group with a “racist agenda.”

Beyond that, Boni let them have it, as did Angelo, Bree, The Colonel Alexander Sablan, Harry Blalock, Jose Dela Cruz , John Del Rosario , Bishop Thomas Camacho, Rep. Ramon Tebuteb and Roselle Calvo resigned and blasted them today. Ambrose Bennett resigned the other day as well. Bravo to everyone really. Racism deserves that kind of rebuke.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Stepping into the time machine

I originally set it up a storage shed in Pennsylvania, where it's cheaper, "for a year" when I went to teach English in Korea in 2000. I've been paying on this SOB for almost seven years now -- yikes. I have all kinds of things in there from my previous life -- everything I own really -- a ridiculous number of baseball cards, books, cds and photographs, my high school diploma and numerous other things.

I paid my annual visit today. Going there is like stepping into a time machine. I have mail and papers from 2000 sitting on my old furniture. Mementos of things past galore. My high school yearbook was funny because people said things that were pretty relevant and true today about me being political and opinionated and a muckraker and that type of thing. I was that way -- even then. The hair on Jersey girls in the 80s was even more frightening than one would imagine.

I picked up a bag that has letters from the time I was 15 to 24. I haven't seen these things since God knows when. I read some of the letters from old girlfriends back in the day. My jaw dropped. Apparently I was not a nice guy back then. Some would say I'm not now. Ha ha. I get it. From my main college girlfriend, the good to bad letter ratio was about 1 to 3 or worse. I don't remember it being as bad as those letters made things sound, but apparently it was.

I was so shocked I sent her an email and told her if we'd met today, I'd have been a nicer person, and apologized for being harsh in those years and that I'm glad we're both happily married to other people.

This time machine experience got me thinking about a lot. Leaving the states was a hard decision, and my family did their level best to stop it. It was quite the bone of contention for a while. I remember wrestling with this issue for a long time. It was the hardest decision I ever made. In hindsight, I'm damn glad I did it. The places I've gone and the things I've done overseas have enriched my life dramatically

My twenties, in particular those six years after college were an incredibly tough time. I had three career changes, a series of bad relationships and poor health. I found the corporate culture loathsome, and I expected more immediate success after doing well in high school and college. I developed a disease then that is still a thorn in my side. My fitness level was even worse, and I looked at pictures today, and I look significantly younger now than ten years ago. That is mostly a product of being bald instead of balding, or maybe it is just the aura of being much happier now.

Anyway, this time machine brought me to a place that wasn't too good, and it made me realize how fortunate and happy I am now. I have a great family, a good education, a great community, a decent job, one that isn't really serious enough or intellectually challenging enough, but it is one I can and do make a difference in. Other than my family, the thing I'm happiest about is that I have a wealth of life experiences that traveling and living abroad allows from scuba diving in Palau to seeing the museums of Paris to eating great Thai food in Bangkok.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Scraping Rock Bottom

Today is another new low in the corrupt assault on justice and the constitution by President Shit for Brains. Today, without a Justice Department review, he commuted the sentence of Scooter Libby, the one time Chief of Staff for Cheney who took the fall for the Dark Lord, who had his cronies out CIA undercover agent Valerie Plame because her husband, Joseph Wilson, called these corrupt people out in a New York Times column on their bullshit story about Iraq trying to get nuclear weapons material in Niger.

Wilson was the guy who went there and investigated this issue and said it was BS. Cheney used the issue in the run up to war to scare everyone, and W put it in the State of the Union without proper vetting. The Mushroom Cloud Joseph Wilson debunked was the main point of fear mongering this administration used to let them start this war and give oil companies record profits. These people ended the career of someone leading a double life for the CIA, really fighting the terrorists, because they were mad at her husband. That's essentially treason. Not even the Mob goes after your family, but that is what the Bush Administration did, and now they let this convict off with a slap on the wrist.

This is from the New York Times editorial: "Within minutes of the Libby announcement, the same Republican commentators who fulminated when Paris Hilton got a few days knocked off her time in a county lockup were parroting Mr. Bush’s contention that a fine, probation and reputation damage were “harsh punishment” enough for Mr. Libby."

The best defense the Republicans can come up with is "Clinton did it, too," which is irrelevant, and for the record, Clinton was acquitted by the Senate, not convicted like Libby, whose punishment was "too harsh," yet Clinton was impeached and the country brought to a halt because he hid the fact that he got a blowjob so his wife wouldn't find out in a ridiculous civil case that was thrown out of court. Even more absurd, and who better than David Brooks for inept Republican spin is this: "As Joe Wilson was an absurd man with a plain name, Scooter Libby was a plain man with an absurd name. "

The sound of his name is plain. Are you kidding me? What's absurd about him, that he isn't a dickless suck up to the powerful like the grotesque David Brooks . This is the guy whose retort to Al Gore's book is that he is a Vulcan devoid of emotion. I know the Times needs a Republican stooge to fill out their editorial page, but can't they do better than him.

The end result is so much for equal justice -- not if you are a White House official doing the dirty work for a dirty administration. Another new grab at rock bottom for the worst president in U.S. history. There is no blowjob involved here, so it won't be around the clock news like Monica Lewinski, just treason, corruption and a bending over of lady justice. The fault lies with all of us, not just the jackass dwelling in 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Most of America will blow this off and watch American Idol or obsess about Paris Hilton. That's why Bush is a direct implication of our mangled priorities and not something we can dismiss and think we have nothing to do with.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Revolting

After seeing a picture of multiple people holding signs saying, "Go home, this is our land," I just felt sick. I was trying to let that picture go, but it is just too revolting to let slide without comment. I wrote about Taotao Tano the other day and was trying to be charitable. Taotao Tano's agenda is much clearer now, and Ambrose Bennett's two letters on that subject make complete sense. I'd like to say to those sign holders: Filipinos didn't do anything to you. They are churchgoing folks who live here, raise children and do their best, usually without much money, like most people here -- probably a lot like most of you holding those signs. They fix our cars, teach our children and care for us in the hospital. I bet all of you go to church here, this is Saipan after all. I wonder if you found "Go home, this is our land" in your bible. Somehow I doubt it. I'd love to see the Bishop say something about this immoral act. If you, the signholders, continue to go to church with the attitudes expressed in those signs, you are hypocrites to your faith. The bible talks about loving your brother, not "go home, this is our land."

Why are you picking on these people and trying to make them scapegoats for the islands' many problems? It isn't their fault the government people like you the signholders empowered, flooded the labor pool with workers, kept your minimum wage low for so long, and hired lobbyist Jack Abramoff, now a convicted criminal, for more than $6 million of your tax money to keep it that way. The "cash strapped" government is about to renew the contract of another lobbyist to try to keep it going, yet you are mad at people who did nothing to you. This is not the spirit of the Saipan people I have come to know over the years. You have also limited your role as a civic group because anyone putting their name with you now is putting their name with this kind of disgusting, racist display. You should be ashamed of yourselves!


"The members of Taotao Tano staged a rally on Saturday against a group of alien workers seeking to improve their immigration status.Taotao Tano president Greg Cruz was joined by over a dozen other individuals during a protest action
at the Microl intersection on Beach Road that started at 10 a.m. Most of them held placards denouncing Dekada, a group of nonresidents who have been in the CNMI for at least five years."

Sunday, July 01, 2007

New York New York

Anyone who knows me, reads my blog, or has seen my gut, knows I love to cook and eat good food. They also know I find a lot of what American culture has become is embarrassing, and the political culture and leadership is beyond embarrassing -- more to the point of reprehensible and abysmal beyond mere partisan differences or varying opinions. The dark side is openly subverting what it means to be an American and what makes this country different, unique and better. No, I'm not offering another full blown anti-Bush rant today, I'm merely setting a premise fo my amazing day yesterday, where we are, and where we could be.

I can't believe we now live in a country that allows this moron's goons to spy on Americans without a warrrant, torture people or ship them off to countries that torture, shove religion down our throats and hire high ranking justice department officials from Pat Robertson's diploma mill law school, hold suspects without charges or access to a lawyer, spend billions to invade a non-threatening country on false pretenses, run up a $9 trillion debt yet cut taxes for rich people while starting that same war, take four days to get water to disaster victims in the Superdome, manage to leave 46 million without health insurance, stonewall Congress, which never investigated or provided oversight on anything for years anyway since the majority was in the same party as the executive branch, fire prosecutors for not trumping up charges against political adversaries, allows the AG to essentially perjure himself by obviously feigning memory loss, allows Dick Cheney to claim he's not even in the Executive branch to avoid Congressional oversight, and allows this administration to do all this without even really getting elected in the first place.

On the general culture front, celebrity gossip culture runs rampant and sickening fast food is about every ten feet -- making us fat and unhealthy. The mad dog consumer culture is equally ubiquitous with Ipods now in vending machines. Being well educated is a liablilty because you're an "elite." Most television programming is incredibly dumb with people eating disgusting things for my entertainment or quiz shows at the fifth grade level. No one really reads anymore, and if they do, it tends to be more celebrity bullshit or whatever Oprah likes. Movies are remakes, sequels or ninety minutes of mindless explosions and violence. Music scarcely requires an instrument and popular songs are also remakes. I feel so disappointed in what we've become that it wears on me. I'm not all that proud to be an American anymore. Yes, I enjoy and appreciate the advantages being an American offers, but I have higher standards for us, and we don't live up to them anymore.

I spent the day yesterday in Manhattan. I'm not from New York, I'm from New Jersey. People from New York tend to look down on New Jersey -- and most everyone. They radiate a "we're better than you" attitude that is unbecoming. With that said, they are kind of right. Manhattan in better. However, New Yorkers should be gracious enough not to act that way. However, New Yorkers aren't unfriendly people. I've always thought that was a misconception. I asked for help on directions and struck up conversations a handful of times and it was always fruitful.

I've been to a lot of big cities: Paris, Rome, Seoul, Osaka, Tokyo, Chicago, Atlanta, San Francisco, Bangkok, Manila, Beijing to name some. Manhattan isn't the best city on Earth, as they often claim. I would grant that title to San Francisco, which has everything Manhattan has, and is significantly more beautiful, but Manhattan is an amazing place. I was walking around the city yesterday, and it just offers so much as to be overwhelming. I took a stroll through Central Park, and it is an enormous natural oasis in a sea of concrete and skyscrapers. It is a welcome respite that is civilizing and reminds you that people actually live here, not just work or come in for the day like us Jersey folks.

I roamed the Metropolitan Museum and gazed at amazing Impressionistic paintings, Ancient Greek pottery and armor, the Egyptian Book of the Dead in original papyrus scroll strung across one long corridor, as well as numerous Egyptian sarcophagi. I saw Ancient Roman coins, busts of Caesar Augustus and others, and quite a bit of impressive American art.

I want to a comedy club and heard relative novices spin out witty and wry observations. I ate at a Cuban Restaurant called Sophies that kicked so much ass I can hardly contain my enthusiasm. Simple rice and beans dressed up with their jalapeno sauce staggered beyond belief into a gourmet feast. The Cuban Sandwich I ate with this exploded with exotic peasant flavors, notably because of the flat crusted Cuban bread. After walking around some more, I had a Masala Tea in an Indian take out place, which had a great looking French Restaurant and a Thai Restaurant next door. The food options stagger. The food is great because most everyone is an immigrant here. They bring their global influences to bear.

In Manhattan, I'm not the oddball I am in Saipan and most places. I'm not even the most blunt guy anymore. It has been a long time since that happened. Most everyone there is cynical, edgy, smart, liberal, political, ethnic, comedic, artistic, competitive, ambitious, interested in culture, food and general quality and competence. I love this about New York. They aren't drunk on fear ninnies who never go anywhere, don't know anything and have nothing to say. I hate to say this, but the vast majority of people are boring. They feel little obligation to bring something to the social table beyond common courtesies and trivial small talk. This New York spirit is what is lacking in other places if you ask me. Yesterday, for the first time in a long ass while, I felt like I was surrounded by people like me, kindred spirits galore.

Manhattan restores my faith in America. New York was the principal target of "the terrorists," yet very few people believed in George Bush's bullshit very long, not that many people do anymore, but they were early to that party. John Lennon sang that great line about people being kept doped on religion and sex and tv. New York isn't doped on religion and tv that's for sure, sex probably. New York is different there, too. People stay out late to party, eat, talk, hear jazz, see live theater, go to comedy clubs, shop, have kinky sex, catch a baseball game, whatever. The women that roam the city are gorgeous, stylish and sophisticated. This is not the case in the Jersey suburbs or even most places.

You can walk the streets and everyone is from somewhere else. You can hear French, Italian, German, Arabic and most any language being spoken. I didn't look, but I bet I could find a Chamorro restaurant -- probably the only place in America a person could do that, and no one cares if you are gay, straight, transgendered, existentialist or running dog revisionist. It is a live and let live place, yet it is also blunt and aggressive.

New York is what the Democratic Party should be, but isn't. Smart, edgy, live and let live, yet blunt, direct and bold. Liberals can do this, they just don't, and that is why they lose and the dark side has run amok with Caligulan abandon. It was a good day and one that made me feel better about this country.