Thursday, February 28, 2008

Play Buffet debuts March 7

I wrote this story for Friday's Marianas Variety.

By Jeffrey C. Turbitt

Last year the public jammed the American Memorial Park for the original theater production "In Transit," which united the disparate stories of several individuals "stuck in an airport" into a common theme. The public's reaction was so positive that the company responsible for that production, the Voices of the Marianas, put together another incarnation of original theater on a similar theme. The new production is called The Play Buffet: A Little Something for Everyone's Taste, and it debuts Friday, March 7 at 7 p.m. in the American Memorial Park with followup performances March 8, 13 and 14.

The cast includes a list of veteran actors, including two drama educators in Harold Easton and Nahal Navidar, as well as high school students and general island gadflies such as Donald Cohen, Brad Ruszala, Elizabeth Henke, Susan Fishman, Richard Hamilton and others.
Like its precursor, the new play is a variety of original stories. “Some are taken from people's real lives, some from their imagination,” said producer and director Barbara Sher. "The idea is to have original theater in which people from different cultures, walks of life and ages can have an opportunity to tell their stories. In the show we have ten pieces that run the gamut from a Hollywood 40's type piece to very personal epiphanies. As I said, a little something for everyone. It's about life. That's why we called it the Play Buffet because life is a buffet, the good, the funny and the yucky. We hope to entertain, enlighten and delight our audience and perhaps inspire them to want to express their voice for the next show."

For Navidar, an accomplished actress with a degree in theater and English who has a piece about discovery of self and God in this play, theater is a means of expression. "Theater satisfies my soul. For the community and the world at large, theater is one of the most effective ways to make people question, and perhaps recognize, a piece of themselves in the characters and situations presented. Barbara Sher's passion for this project is contagious and I love working with her."
PTI Marketing Associate Brad Ruszala isn't a theater veteran exactly, but his interest in the craft became reignited when he played Patrick in "110 Flights" opposite Navidar last year. "I became interested in live theater as a senior in high school when I was cast in a musical. I've always wanted to participate in on-stage productions ever since. This play is special because it will give the audience an intimate view into the real lives of some of the performers. I was moved watching my friends and neighbors display their creativity in rehearsal. It'll definitely be a treat for everyone who comes to watch the show. It gives me the opportunity to get on stage and have a little fun acting out a part. It's a wonderful opportunity to enjoy another aspect of our culturally diverse community and the play offers another avenue to making new friends on Saipan."

Tickets are available for $5 from cast members, at the door or inquire via email at

School might start in September, more bad ideas abound

I got word yesterday that PSS is contemplating changing the school calendar to start school in September instead of the usual August date. This is, surprise, surprise, a fiscal scheme designed to skip a month of paying teacher salaries. They'll still have to pay the same amount and have the same number of school days, but doing this buys them a month to come up with the cash. I would expect a lot of teachers, many of whom through bad financial planning live paycheck to paycheck, will bail on this place and going this direction will merely create a staffing problem, but here is apparently the latest bad idea being kicked around. A three month summer vacation should at least help get people to paint the island, spray paint that is.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

More New Rules for the CNMI, MV 24

By Jeffrey C. Turbitt

It always warms my heart to delve into satire and unabashed ridicule of the strangeness all around us. Thus, I offer more new rules for the CNMI.

New Rule. Enough with the morning radio traffic report in the CNMI. We don't have traffic here, at least as the term is commonly known, we have traffic predicaments. Stuck behind a school bus is the most common traffic predicament. No wonder we have a juvenile diabetes problem on this island because apparently kids can't walk more than ten feet to their house judging by how many stops and bizarre U-turns the school buses make. I'll have to take a pass on the stuck behind a funeral procession predicament, but the next most common problem, stuck behind the hideous and ridiculous political rally convoy is most worthy of vitriol. At least this one is seasonal. How much does gas have to cost before people decide to get out and walk to support their candidate or cause? If I wanted to see an endless stream of cars polluting the environment, moving slowly and making a statement, I'd just move to Manila where the statement is: "Yes I can fit my 6 foot wide taxi in a non-existent lane 6 feet 2 inches wide. Look out and watch me!” Incidentally, none of those predicaments involve a "Mitsubishi Outlanderrrrrrrrr!"

New Rule. People need to start buying their own picnic tables and tents. If everyone had their own barbecue equipment, we could stop being bought off so cheaply and allow the army of lawmakers we overpay to have their focus and foresight, two dirty F words apparently, on the lousy power plant, the college that might have useless degrees or the hospital that can't retain physicians or supplies. Besides, being a real islander means being prepared for a barbecue. I’m from New Jersey, and I wouldn’t give my representatives there my vote if they let the colleges, hospitals and power plants fall apart, but tried to make up for it by loaning me the Bruce Springsteen box set.

New Rule. Complaints about single, middle aged white guys with hot, young Asian girlfriends need to cease. The dollar falls more often than a sorority girl doing Bacardi 151 shots, gas is higher than Bob Marley ever was, prostate cancer research gets a pittance of breast cancer research dollars and the NFL games come on here at 4 a.m. Cut these guys some slack. The ability to get a girlfriend half their age isn't ridiculous, it's the carrot that got them to risk life and limb in the military or to spend vast amounts of time on a merchant marine ship with a bunch of sweaty dudes. A young Asian girlfriend is one of the few remaining perks to being an American in the CNMI.

New Rule. Both newspapers need to stop writing stories about some random contract worker that was ordered to leave the CNMI. Everyday there are several hundred people leaving the CNMI on a large airplane -- probably because they ordered a hamburger at Hard Rock Cafe and blew their entire vacation budget. Newspapers don't write about those people. I don't really care that contract worker XYZ was ordered to depart the CNMI. Get back to the important news such as telling us what Greg Cruz’s ghost writers want him to think.
New Rule. If you're going to have your picture in the newspaper every week, you need to submit one that doesn't make you look like the left fielder on the Sunday morning beer league softball team. In the newspaper business all the pictures and graphics are referred to as "art." Something tells me this stock photo of Tom Pangelinan, who I'm sure is a nice guy, won't be hanging in the Louvre with all the other "art," yet this is the image repeatedly offered on all the Republican stories in this paper. Maybe the committee should buy one less picnic table and invest the savings in a photo shoot. Drop the "up all night jack and coke look," and at least for the press shot, dress like a real Republican -- wear a suit and tie, and don't forget the accessories like the pitchfork and cape, and show those horns and the long tail prominently. Remember, you'll be at the Republican convention this summer to cheer on calls to repeal social programs that feed half the island. It's important to "look the part" of someone heading up the local contingent of a national party that has absolutely no use for most of the people on these islands.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

A great weekend full of talking, relaxing and diving

I had a very good weekend. Friday night I put together a group of five hyper-opinionated writers: Brad Ruszala, Zaldy Dandan, Ken Phillips, Angelo Villagomez and Bruce Bateman -- as well as one unabashed and equally opinionated Republican lawyer in Mike Ernest -- for a free wheeling four hour discussion over alcohol on all kinds of world matters from abortion to local politics to sports to Iraq and back again. Bruce pushed his bed time to almost 9. That is indeed p.m. Toward the end of the night there was one funny moment, one of many truly, when we realized that 3/4 of this remaining cabal had been called "racist" by Jane Mack and the fourth, Mike Ernest, had been called "a shit" by her. The overall discussion was open, honest, from all over the political spectrum, most decidedly not just small talk and I think everyone had a good time. I certainly hope and plan to do it again.
On Saturday, I spent the afternoon at the Mandi Spa with my very pregnant wife. We now have less than two months to go in this new baby production, though I really should say she, since Cynthia is most definitely the star of that show. I'm the assistant coach at best I suppose, but I will try to model myself on Winston Wolf and "fix problems." As I mentioned in my Best of Saipan post, Mandi Spa is the nicest, most underutilized location on the island. Drinking white wine in a hot tub with that view for the price I paid is pretty good living. I joined up again with the spa on the teacher's plan, and it has been a joy -- especially since I hadn't been doing any diving yet this year, which leads me to Sunday.

I hopped on the Saipan Aquajet with my buddy Brad Derksen and we dove the Shipwreck and Ice Cream. Conditions on the north side of the island are still a little rough and there are few if any trips available there until April, but this was a nice, easy relaxing morning dive, and one of the great things about living in Saipan. The joys of this kind of morning I tried to capture in this post.

I saw three Eagle Rays and one very active eel roaming around. I also saw a bunch of very large fish, as well as the usual bounty of small and colorful fish. The clearing of my head during these dives gave me two ideas for books I'm interested in writing. That idea circulating in my head may very well be my project for next year, and it will be another thing I've wanted to do for a while, but have put off. This play in two weeks, and the comedy show perhaps a month later being two others. I also even came up with a possible business to put up here. Every year I've been here there has been a big project. The first was just living on a tropical island and getting acquainted. Years two and three were working on my master's and getting married. Years four and five dealt with getting Cynthia's green card, adopting kids and having my own child. Every year has integrated travel, writing and meeting new and interesting people. It was a great day and a great weekend.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

I don't get why beer is so popular

I don't get beer. Simple as that. I understand very clearly why I don't like most popular things, like 80 percent of current tv and all the popular music in this musical dark ages -- those things simply suck, but beer seems reasonably cool. Lots of interesting people drink it. I'm not sure if it is the cheap price, the drawn out ritual of the suds or the harshness and intensity of hard alcohol as the second option, but lots of people love the stuff. Many try to be friendly and offer me one, and I feel like a dillhole saying "no thanks" all the time simply because I hate the taste. I have nothing against drinking, especially if it's a margarita, mojito, sangria or Seagrams seven and seven, I'm not being critical of beer folks at all, but I'm curious to hear from you beer devotees, what is the attraction for you?

New Rule Tom Pangelinan

New Rule. If you're going to have your picture in the newspaper every week, you need to submit one that doesn't make you look like the left fielder on the Sunday morning beer league softball team. In the newspaper business all the pictures and graphics are referred to as "art." Something tells me this stock photo of Tom Pangelinan won't be hanging in the Louvre with all the other "art," yet this is the image repeatedly offered on all the Republican stories in the Marianas Variety. I doubt Nick Nolte uses this shot to elicit studio interest in yet another 48 Hours movie. Maybe the committee should buy one less picnic table and invest the savings in a photo shoot. Drop the "up all night jack and coke look," and at least for the press shot, dress like a real Republican -- wear a suit and tie, and don't forget the accessories like the pitchfork and cape, and show those horns and the long tail prominently. Remember, you'll be at the convention this summer to cheer on calls to repeal social programs that feed half the island. It's important to "look the part" of someone heading up the local contingent of a national party at least that has absolutely no use for most of the people on this island.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Blogger to blogger assistance for live theater

Two weeks from Friday, March 7, is the opening of the Play Buffet in the American Memorial Theater in the Park. Nahal Navidar, an amazing actress, is in it. Brad Ruszala has a part, I have a piece, as do a bunch of other cool people. To help promote live theater on the islands, I'd appreciate it if my fellow bloggers would post this image on their blogs until we conclude the run in three weeks .
In other theater news from Saipan Bev, Real Christian Theater will be putting on a dinner show called The Mystery of the Kiss Kiss Diamond. It will be a one time performance on Sunday, March 9. The time will be announced later. The tickets are $15 for adults.

A link to check out.

Over at her website, there is a great piece of writing by Tina Sablan about money requests from the public. Tina has some interesting and important points about the wrongness of the legislators' discretionary budget.

In other news, oil broke $100 per barrel for the first time, which of course isn't good for the CNMI. Obama won his ninth straight primary. Sure looks like Hillary is going down and that's probably not a bad thing. If this is her argument, she deserves to be trounced: “This is the choice we face: One of us is ready to be commander in chief in a dangerous world." What exactly makes her ready?
I got some, of course, anonymous comment today that was something to the effect of, "hey bald asshole, comment moderation is so antiquated, if you don't post this comment, I won't comment here again."

That's kind of like saying "if you won't let me be a douchebag, I'll stop being a douchebag, but please encourage my gutless douchebaggery." That was an easy click of the reject button.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

College should be rigorous and a priority, MV 23

By Jeffrey C. Turbitt

Against a backdrop of Northern Marianas College fighting to retain its accreditation, the distinction that determines a valuable college degree versus a worthless piece of paper, stories about classroom overcrowding and the high failure rate for NMC's admissions test appeared in the local media this week.

Let me preface my thoughts by saying that for all the educational problems on the islands, compared to all the systems in the area and most definitely Guam and rural Hawaii, we are the most successful system in the region. The problem with that line of thinking in that commonly made point is that we live in a globally competitive economy, so being better than the rest of Micronesia just isn't good enough, and we should not want our local college to lower its placement standards.

For all the noise about PSS, there are two issues that dominate all others that I see. The first is that several schools are falling apart from a simple construction and facilities standpoint. The second big issue is that many classes are wildly overcrowded. Kagman High School is listed as having an average of 29 students per teacher. For a core class like language arts those numbers are usually higher. An art, music or computer class is usually much smaller than 29, so when the average says 29, there are usually more than 29 students in math, science or language arts classes to make up for those smaller elective classes. At SSHS, the freshmen pre-honors language arts class has 35 students. Three of my four classes are above 29 students per class.

As for the entrance exams, the criticisms of NMC have been somewhat ridiculous. College is supposed to be rigorous. Every college has admission tests generally in math, language arts and a foreign language. I had to take two remedial math classes myself when I entered college for the simple reason that my math skills weren't at the college level, which made it harder to graduate in four years, but it was still done. The argument that NMC is using this as some kind of money raising tactic is hokum. It could simply raise its already very cheap tuition fees if money was the prime focus.

This comment from a letter to the editor from Ivan Propst defending the NMC admission tests was interesting: "And for those whom the placement system indicates a need to improve their English skill development prior to entry into English 101, a far greater percentage require writing skill development than require further work on their reading skills."

This isn't very surprising. The high schools have a four period block schedule. A real world average of about 33 students times four eighty minute classes means 132 students. A two page writing assignment turns into 264 pages for a teacher to review. A five page paper would be 660 pages. Perhaps that is why a Hopwood teacher recently wrote a letter to the editor requesting help on this from other language arts teachers in the same boat. The simple fact is no one can do those in depth writing reviews more than once or twice per quarter, especially considering the no preparation time and wildly disparate skill levels in the classroom that are a fact of life in the public schools. In each class there is probably a minimum of two students who should be in an ESL class because they have absolutely no understanding of basic English. PSS has no ability to implement these classes because they lack the classroom space and the staff. It also just doesn't seem to be a priority.

Beyond that, while the local government has not funded education properly, an even bigger problem is that many parents have not instilled enough focus, will and urgency on their children to get that bachelor's degree, which is the admissions ticket for any serious hope at a decent middle class lifestyle. During my four years teaching seniors, I was staggered by the frequency that some of my best students told me their parents flat out told them not to leave the island to go to college. As expensive as college is these days, and it's astronomical, not going or taking the slow route is far more expensive. Median U.S. weekly earnings for a college graduate age 25 and older are $962. For a high school graduate the number is $595. That means it costs $19,084 per year not to have finished college in median earnings differential. That number might be even more dramatic in the CNMI. Very few students here avail themselves of federal financial aid loans that are easy to get, have low interest rates and flexible repayment schedules and instead hold out hope for the scarce "free college money," try the slow way by working low wage jobs to finance the degree or worst of all, "take a year off." That year costs a lot, and the longer it takes the student to get that four year degree, the more it costs in foregone potential earnings. Many other parents encourage direct military enlistment instead of going immediately to a four year college, joining college ROTC, entering the military with a degree as an officer and having far greater career and earning possibilities in the military while still receiving the college financial benefits the military offers, not to mention all that is offered by the college experience.

The CNMI is in a well documented financial crisis. There seems to be little will among our leaders to make hard choices. The temptation is going to be to continue to give short shrift to education as educational benefits are far off and the need to keep voters employed is immediate. Going that route would be a mistake. To obtain a college degree and to achieve a high level of intellectual ability should be a paramount skill and value we instill in our children. We should not look to diminish college standards because we are too cheap to do what we should be doing for the schools.

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

Sunday, February 17, 2008

My state of the union speech

"You never hear in the news, 200 killed today when Atheist rebels took heavy shelling from the Agnostic stronghold in the North."
- Doug Stanhope

America for too long has been run by the religious right and corporations. The former makes us judgmental about people, chides most everything fun, touts this precedent for faith as an ethos that leads us to both not question authority and subscribe to a lot of absurd fairy tales (Noah, Jonah and the whale, the Earth's creation took seven days) that are incompatible with critical thinking skills. The latter makes the country's landscape homogenous and dull, the people tired, boring and stressed out from working excessively in lust for all the latest toys that also pushes them to escape into a world of things like televised sports, reality tv or celebrity bullshit that distract them just enough for the corporations to rob the store blind. Iraq is all about corporations on a financial feeding frenzy on the government teet and the debate sponsored by the corporate media is still bogged down into whether you "support the troops." Exxon just posted the highest profits in human history. Read about the military contractors here. Read about the celebration of mass idiocy in our culture here.

I've spent a lot of time, too much time really, studying how the system works and what I've discovered only depresses me. There are people angry about it, but not nearly enough. Writing and reading about reality is a form of catharsis. Useless perhaps, but it helps ease the pain, though at other times it just darkens the mood. Others don't really recognize what is going on, but just focus on themselves intuitively. This is a large group and the group that most needs to change its ways in order to change the world. Another group, the most befuddling one to me, doesn't know, doesn't care, has no interest in knowing or caring and aren't really even taking the steps to "get theirs." The group I most loathe is the one that knows the game is skewed, but it is skewed to their benefit so they make the phoney arguments that take the real debate off the table. The "You hate America" crowd of Sean Hannity and other charlatans. Anyone who throws around the world liberal, which essentially means critical, in derision is especially awful.

America, and the CNMI for that matter, are great places, but they are also so disappointing because they could be so much better if there were a collective pulling of heads from asses.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Hawaii Bar and Grill very good, very reasonable

I visited the Hawaii Bar and Grill in Garapan, which is specifically located across from the Hyatt on Hotel Street. Former Rep. Andrew Salas, as well as a partner I didn 't meet, recently opened the place. It is brightly lit, attractively decorated, the food is very tasty and it has extremely reasonable prices. The menu seems pretty Japanese to me. Cynthia and I had a grilled Mahi fillet, chicken terriyaki and a poki appetizer along with non-alcoholic drinks. Our bill was $24. I never even heard of Poki until several months ago, but it has become a favorite. The only downside to the place is that it was badly understaffed on the waitstaff front. Table service is pretty wretched across the board in Saipan, but this case just seemed to be a factor of being spread too thin, not incompetence. The place is also a little small and they're using take out boxes instead of plates. I'd change that, but I can't complain given the prices. I definitely expect to be back and very soon. Andrew was also a friendly and gracious host.

On Valentines Day Cynthia and I availed ourselves of the $29 couple special at Bruce and Olive's place Porky's. For $29 we had a local pumpkin soup, caesar salad, a chicken in wine sauce with mushrooms main course for each of us and a delicious banana and ice cream dessert -- along with a glass of champagne. Given that Cynthia is with child, that meant I had two glasses of champagne. Parker provided the live music. The food was great and extremely reasonable in price, which is always the case there. Porky's has the Filpino and local based dishes that my wife likes, and things like poki, kelaguen, grilled fish, burgers and mojitos that I like. Olive and Bruce are also fantastic hosts.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Vegans and poseur Dems

"Vegetarians and their Hezbollah like splinter faction the vegans are the enemy of everything good and decent in the human spirit.”
- Anthony Bourdain, Kitchen Confidential

I read a couple of interesting things today. There is a story in the New York Times about differing views on diet choices impacting modern dating relationships. The story used the above quote from Anthony Bourdain, a personal pantheon member and author of just about my favorite book this decade: Kitchen Confidential. I dated a vegan for a short while once, against my own better judgment, and my tolerance for the vegan mindset lasted even less time than I expected. When she turned down Jimi Hendrix for a second time that was the final assault on good taste, so I ended the relationship on the spot. This piece reminded me of my recent thoughts on humorless liberals and liberals I have no use in being around in general. Vegans are real high on that list, at least pushy vegans. I suppose there are right wing vegans out there somewhere, but none I've ever heard of. Arin Greenwood is the lone exception I can think of to that rule. She is the more tolerable branch, a vegetarian.

Also, Matt Taibbi has a great story on how the Democrats have mastered the art of looking like they're against the Iraq War, but haven't done anything close to a serious effort on doing anything to actually stop it. This piece doesn't even expound on the Democrats failure to conduct any real oversight on the various assaults on the Constitution or to impeach the SOB.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Help needed

As should be obvious by my content rich, design poor blog, my speciality is in content, not design. I'm on the media team for the new "Play Buffet: A Little Something Everyone's Taste," which will be debuting on March 7. If anyone would like to assist the Voices of the Marianas with poster design, it would be appreciated. Help is needed ASAP. Email

Right versus left

One thing I've contemplated of late is why right wingers I know, Bruce Bateman, Harry Blalock, Mike Ernest and even Richard Pierce come to mind, are way cooler people to hang out and talk with than the left wingers I agree with so much more. I think it boils down to humor, and the left's apparent lack of it. Angelo, pretty liberal himself, has had his spats with lefties Wendy Doromol, Ed Propst and Dengre. I've gotten it from lefties Jane Mack, monkey picture and a touch of it from Steve Woodruff. As usual, Matt Taibbi captures this phenomenon in a quote I just read.
As for why the left's writers are dull, that's probably the reason —
anybody who's doctrinaire is also always going to be dull. If I know what your
opinion is going to be on any subject, why should I bother reading you? Plus,
most of the left's writers are like Democratic politicians in general — always
worried about offending somebody. And they're always trying to stay on message.
There is something there left over from the old communist dictum about art for
art's sake being dangerous and unorthodox. What's most infuriating about this is
that humor is the most subversive force there is. If you can become the place
where people go to laugh at the system, you will attract all the dissenting
energy in the population. But the American left has no sense of humor and no
sense of fun at all. And so the would-be revolutionaries all avoid them like the
plague, go into day-trading and shit like that.

A conversation with Dr. Edgar Tudor, MV 22

Dr. Edgar Tudor has been a private care veterinarian in Saipan for seven years and is the owner of Paradise Island Animal Hospital. He spent time as a boy living in various Micronesian Islands, though not in the CNMI. His time in this region and a long career in rural veterinary practice influenced his decision to set up his practice in Saipan. Dr. Tudor also served in Vietnam as a member of the U.S. Marine Corps. In this conversation he offered some candid comments on the state of pet care in the CNMI, the importance of preventative care, the costs involved with those pursuits and other issues.

JCT: What are some of the unique issues and problems pets and their owners face in the CNMI?

ET: The main challenge we face in the CNMI is that most of the people out here have grown up without the services of a small animal veterinarian. Because of this, many people here honestly have no idea what their responsibilities are to their pets. It's as simple as that. Keep in mind this is how I grew up.

JCT: If I am a pet owner with a limited budget like a lot of people here, what are the most important and cost effective things I can do to give my pet a better quality of life?

ET: The very simple answer is to remember that owning a pet is an option. No one forces you to have a pet. Taking care of that pet is not an option, it's an obligation not only to the pet, but to your family, your neighbors and your community. God gave us dominion over the animals and this means he gave us responsibility for their care. When we run into problems with this is when we try to sidestep our responsibility and make someone else responsible for our lives, or pets, as the case may be. So if you're truly unable to care for a pet, don't get one in the first place. It only leads to headaches, heartaches, and very bad feelings of guilt. Once you choose to bring a pet into your home and your heart, you need to jealously guard that pet from disease and this means preventative health care. It costs little to prevent disease, and much to treat the same disease, not to mention the emotional toll that a sick pet takes on the family. Before you get a pet, call the veterinarian and get an idea of what the likely cost will be. My wife Susan wants me to write an article titled, "How much does a FREE puppy cost?" Good point.

JCT: What advice would you offer the local government to deal with the problem of the large stray dog population on island? Also, do you have any thoughts on the anti-animal cruelty bill that seems to be languishing in the legislature?

ET: Very simple, enforce the laws that are already on the books. Prosecute those that steal and abuse pets. I know of no society that turns a blind eye to theft or destruction of private property, even if it's a dog or a cat. Enforce the laws equitably. More laws isn't the answer to unenforced laws. There are already an abundance of applicable laws that could be enforced but aren't. When the people of Saipan want an anti-cruelty law they'll pass one, but in the meantime, enforce the laws that are already on the books.

JCT: If the animal shelter is actually built, are there dangers that the dogs living in close contact could pass disease to each other, and if so, how can that be prevented?

ET: Very good question. This is my greatest fear if a shelter is forced through before the government is truly committed to its upkeep. Shelters tend to become cesspools of disease if not properly managed, and I see little commitment on anyone's part to actually run a shelter the way it should be run. Besides that, Saipan already has a shelter. It's called Paradise Island Animal Hospital , and it costs the government of Saipan, and the people of Saipan, nothing to run it. It is financed by those that bring in their pets for care, that is, those that do, not just complain. Not many in the government know about it precisely because it costs them nothing, and it doesn't show up on anyone's budget -- except mine.

JCT: Please explain why spaying and neutering is important, and is there a way with medical advancements that the indigent people here would be able to do this in a cost effective fashion that might even help diminish the large stray population?

ET: Spaying for female dogs and neutering for male dogs is part of preventative medicine. Spaying prevents breast cancer, uterine infections and prevents unwanted puppies and kittens. It also keeps us from losing our favorite pets during the birthing process, which happens quite a bit on Saipan to non-spayed females. Neutered male dogs tend to stay home, tend not to get hit by cars and get injured in dog fights, which keeps the pets healthier and the owners happier because they aren't spending money they don't have. Spayed and neutered dogs also tend to live much, much longer with a better quality of life than their non-spayed and non-neutered cousins because of the above. We spayed more dogs and cats last year than in any previous year -- all without the aid of subsidies. We have expanded the services offered by Paradise Island Animal Hospital way beyond what it was when I got here and this has been based purely on demand for more and better services by my clientele.

The best way for me to save people money is to stress preventative care, not to provide cheap, ineffective care. If the dogs and cats are vaccinated, they don't get sick so the owner doesn't have to worry about not having enough money for the treatment. If the dog or cat is examined once a year and checked for parasites and other problems, any health challenges that are found can be caught earlier and treated easier and cheaper than by waiting until the pet is sick. People know that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. What they don't know is that an ounce of prevention is lighter than a feather, while a pound of cure can be very heavy to bear.

JCT: What is it like to be the vet, in terms of the emotional highs and lows, of a place with an animal population in such distress?

ET: Relative to "an animal population in distress," I don't see that. I've seen nothing but positive change in the seven years I've been here. It is a daily improvement and that keeps me high on what is happening on Saipan. When I got here the best pet owners were the mainlanders with the "locals" barely showing up on the radar screen. What a lot of people didn't know however, was how much these people wanted good veterinary care for their pets. Now the best pet owners are my Chamorro and Carolinian clients, followed closely by the Japanese and then the mainlanders. People here don't necessarily do as much prevention as I would like, but they never give up on their pets when they bring them in for care. In that respect it's much more rewarding practicing out here than on the mainland. People are gradually learning about the benefits of preventative health care for their pets. People out here love and care for their pets the same as on the mainland. The ugly story that "locals" don't take care of their pets is just not true. The numbers of neglected pets per capita on the mainland is much higher than out there. On the mainland, the local animal control keeps unwanted pets off the streets and puts them to death to accomplish this. We don't have this option on Saipan, so when you look at the number of strays vs. the numbers that would be running loose on the mainland without animal control continually removing them, we are doing much better out here than they are on the mainland. Our problems are just more visible. Millions of dogs and cats are put to sleep every year on the mainland due to rampant neglect of pets. How can we think that we are qualified to lecture anyone else on how to take care of their pets when we can't manage it in our own country?

People on Saipan want better care for their pets, not cheaper, lower quality care. Jesus made the comment that "The poor will always be among us". Our benchmark should not be the poor, or neglectful pet owners for they will always be among us. Let's benchmark our efforts based on the behavior of the responsible pet owners. This number is growing rapidly on Saipan and it has little to do with financial ability. To be sure, we will never be totally free of stray dogs and cats, and this is where the local government will need to step up at some point with a leash law (already on the books but unenforced) and a decent shelter (already on the books but not provided), but not before the commitment is there. Saipan can become a model for good pet ownership throughout Micronesia with very little effort.

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

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Steroids in baseball

In perusing ESPN and, the breathless coverage over steroids in baseball draws out one distinct thought in me: Who gives a flying F***?" As comedian Doug Stanhope says, "You paid to watch balls fly around, who gives a damn what makes them go." Congress still hasn't held any hearings on the Justice Department attorney purge, you might remember the folks who wouldn't indict political enemies (Democrats) on dubious grounds. Congress also hasn't found the time to look into war profiteering in Iraq, yet they are concerned about overpaid jocks who stuck needles in their asses five years ago. Are you kidding me? Above all else, the whole topic is boring. Move on, I think Britney just got sprung from hanging out with McMurphy and Nurse Ratched. There's a story.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Blog reviews

Here are the five blogs I will review, as per Angelo's request, and I will say what I think is good and bad about them. Time, will, the factor of a small island and the conservativeness of most people getting older and afraid to upset anyone keeps most blogs either short lived or dull.

Angelo's Saipan Blog - Angelo takes a lot of guff, probably because he's so ubiquitous I suppose, but I don't think he is very controversial. He's not all that political, and a lot of people don't get his humor. It's really a northeastern style, so I get it. He has great pictures, videos and I like his humor. He can write well. Not all his topics are up my alley, but some are. I find the celebrity porn aspect annoying, and I wish he'd censor himself less, but he has his reasons.

Ken's SOS Saipan - I thought he was one of the best, and then he disappeared for a long time. I'm surprised he's back and hope he stays. He's bright, knows how to write and chooses important topics.

Bruce's Saipanuvian - I almost never agree with Bruce, and he puts very minimal effort into his blog, but I like to read his nutty opinions. As I've said before, column Bruce can seem like a dickweed, but the real Bruce is a great guy and a good friend.

Matt Taibbi is a journalist for Rolling Stone and one of my heroes. He is doing what I hoped I'd be doing if I stayed in journalism full time. He has been on Bill Maher's show of late, and that is like a Lennon/McCartney combination.

Marianas Dive - This isn't a blog exactly, and even with 10-15 contributors, it's light on content and dead and/or dull for stretches at a time, but I like diving and there are some things of interest here from time to time.

Honorable mention to Brad Ruszala not for his blog, but for his comments on other people's blogs, which he has always put more effort into than his own blog.

I'll tag Galvin, Cinta and Mike Tripp, three people who have a lot to offer the community and should post more.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

We print what people tell us, MV 21

By Jeffrey C. Turbitt

There is an old saying in journalism that notes, "We don't print the truth, we print what people tell us." Nowhere was that on greater display than in the local media over the last few weeks.

Last week a story in the Saipan Tribune offered the headline: "Wage hikes harmful to NMI." The rest of the story followed that line completely, noting that a "U.S. Labor report said that raising the local minimum wage to the federal level would have adverse impacts on employment and lead to additional population declines in the Commonwealth."

Quoting press releases and writing one source stories with cherry picked report quotes from a local administration hell bent on keeping its poorest citizens poor is easy. Taking the time to read the actual report to get the full story and canvassing the community to get a broad range of opinion is harder.

What was completely omitted from the news was this caveat from the actual report about the recently enacted wage hike: "The Department’s research was limited by two significant factors: 1. Short Time Frame. The reporting time-frame specified in the legislation – no later than 8 months from the date of enactment (May 25, 2007) – did not provide sufficient time to observe actual effects of the minimum wage increases. The period following the initial increase was too short for significant observable effects to materialize. Adjustments of employment arrangements and of patterns of living standards typically do not occur instantaneously following a change in a key economic parameter. Immediate changes may be too small in scale to observe, and it may require the passage of many months before cumulative effects become large enough to observe."

Translated into simpler English, this statement above is code from academics to other academics that means the report does not have any reliable data, is speculation, has no merit, but it was requested by their bosses so they have to come up with something -- and please don't slam our lame research in any academic journals because we need to get a professorship somewhere when Bush leaves office next January.

This same story states, "Increasing the CNMI wage to $7.25 an hour, the report said, is comparable to raising the U.S. minimum wage to $16.50 an hour. No further explanation is given, notably this part from the report: "The scheduled increase in the minimum wage to $7.25 (by 2015) will likely affect at least 75 percent of wage and salary workers in the CNMI. By comparison, in order to directly affect 75 percent of U.S. hourly workers, the minimum wage would need to be raised to $16.50, the 75th percentile mark for wage and salary workers who are paid hourly rates."

All that means is most everyone here in the private sector makes meager wages. To affect 75 percent of the the U.S. population, the minimum wage would have to go to $16.50 because people in the mainland make so much more than us now. We're also talking about 2015. That statistic is hardly an argument against the increased minimum wage, but it sure looked like it.

Economics is hardly an exact science, so without data, these Bush Administration folks followed the usual Right Wing party line, which is to support anything that aids big business to the detriment of the working poor. Remember, this is an administration that kept its surgeon general from giving his honest opinion on stem cell research, tried to muzzle its top climatologist from speaking out on global warming and amplified sketchy intelligence in a State of the Union address to create an atmosphere for war. I'm sure the message came across to the economists who wrote this report to follow traditional Right Wing economic dogma about wages. Blogger Ken Phillips provides an excellent, detailed critique of the report at

The lack of the complete story wasn't the only lousy reporting by this reporter, Agnes Donato, who did a much better job than this paper's reporter on the federalization rally a few weeks ago. Continuing the one source, press release format in a separate story, she quoted the governor's public information officer Charles P. Reyes, Jr. as saying: “Just about everybody is in agreement that the Commonwealth cannot sustain additional increases to the minimum wage. We will do everything in our power to communicate this message to the U.S. Congress." Nowhere in the story was another viewpoint presented.

Really. Just about everybody. The local people not in the government bureaucracy making $3.55 are satisfied with those wages and don't want a raise? Where was Taotao Tano Greg Cruz's voice, a voice we hear daily and even discussing things like dentistry and medicine, who I presumed was the person who spoke up for the average working local?

Not once in five years of reading papers and discussing these types of issues with students and their parents did I hear anyone oppose a higher minimum wage. I can't recall hearing anyone not in the government leadership or the business community oppose a higher minimum wage. Some in the business community even acknowledge the shame of our wages. In fact, I would say most everyone not in the government leadership or business ownership community supports the higher minimum wage. Any reporter who walks around Kobler, San Antonio, Dandan or elsewhere would find out pretty quickly that it isn't so unanimous, but those folks don't write many press releases.

Real journalism is hard. It requires research and work. Writing one source stories from a press release from an administration that didn't win the most votes in Saipan while barely getting elected at all and whose party was massacred in the last election is easy and not very good.

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

Monday, February 04, 2008

Final word on the monkey picture

I haven't read monkey picture's blog and could not give a shit less. I never will read it again. It's shallow, trivial, juvenile and nasty, and it always was. She-he is indeed dead to me. When she-he comes out of her gutless anonymous closet, maybe we'll discuss fairness. I don't know what she-he is whining about and don't care. Anyone who would believe a monkey's picture is probably not someone I'm concerned about. She-he is too embarassed to put a name to what she-he says, and it's not like she-he has any job to be concerned about. She-he is never appearing here, ever. It's not that I can't handle she-he's challenges, we're talking about someone pretty stupid after all, it's that unlike she-he, I have a job and a life, and she-he is so unhinged nothing productive could possibly come of it. Obsess all you want in your blog. I'm not paying attention. I don't have time for you. This is the last time I will ever discuss you. Go find a good therapist.

What a game

Sometimes following sports is worth the time suckage. Today was one of those days. I'm from New Jersey. I'm not a Giants Fan, but I was rooting hard for them. I would have rooted for the Nazis against New England, but I'm glad a Jersey team did it. The Giants have played in New Jersey for thirty years. The Patriots are great, but not as great as people thought. I'm glad someone showed that. This was the biggest upset I've ever seen in the Super Bowl. The sack escape by Eli and then that catch by David Tyree in that spot to catch and hold onto the ball. Wow! Maybe the best part of this is the slap in the mouth to Bill Simmons, ESPN's the Sports Guy, who writes a great column, but is obnoxious as hell when Massachussets' teams do well.

Performance enhancing drugs don't enchance everyone's performance

If performance enhancing drugs are such a blight on the integrity of baseball, why did Chuck Knoblauch start to suck as soon as he was traded to the Yankees and allegedly started taking them?

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Quote of the day

This had to be the funniest quote of the day.

"Odd relationship with bradinthesand, whom he repeatedly links with NAMBLA (see here and here)."
- Steve Woodruff

It's not all that odd really. Brad is one of my oldest and closest friends on island. What better way to show brotherhood than to publicize the link between Brad and the North American Man Boy Love Association. Doesn't everyone torture their friends like this, or is it just a northeastern thing.

Blogger etiquette

Steve Woodruff was kind enough to give me a new write up on his overview of the blogosphere. Blogger etiquette requires me to do the same.

In a world where lawyers have the esteem usually reserved for child molesters or sophists in Ancient Greece, Steve is a lawyer I genuinely admire for his unwavering support of contract workers. As a blogger he describes himself as someone who doesn't teach writing. Steve's "never dull or prissy" blog is a celebration of free speech as long as it isn't the "offensive or annoying" kind that offends his sensibilities -- such as when people poke fun at cold movie theaters, the poor quality of Subway sandwiches or the confusion haoles face when they encounter eyebrow talking. Steve enjoys the "lively" blog of lil hammerhead, the inspirational musings of an alleged woman who found an outlet for her anger over long term unemployment by channeling that rage into obsession about every statement made by a bar owner, a teacher and an environmentalist who won't pay enough attention to him/her or help him/her escape his/her desperately lonely world. Steve links to links of Japanese girls engaged in group sex, and is reviled by "thousands" of people who protested federalization.