Thursday, January 31, 2008

I just don't get it

Let's say you were one of those people who think contract workers are taking our jobs and that the indigenous people are the people of the land and they should be given preference and you'd just rather have things as they were back in the day. Lots of people think that way I'm sure.

What evidence has there ever been that the local government won't continue to flood the labor force and the island with workers from economically deprived countries? Who brought them here in the first place? Who is trying to make damn sure you, the person not in the bureaucracy, won't make more than $3.55, and fought tooth and nail to keep it at $3.05 for years? What is it about a local government that can't maintain a diesel engine power plant that makes you want them in control of anything?

If you are a business owner, all that makes sense. It's probably nice to hire accountants and engineers for $4.00 or less. If you are the average local working person, local control makes so little sense for you as to be absurd -- the bureaucracy has to shrink. The CNMI budget is down more than 25 percent in two years -- $60 million dollars less than the Babauta days and it's going lower. It gets estimated even lower every quarter. People will have to get private sector jobs and the local government simply isn't on your side. It wants you to make $3.55, and it wanted you at $3.05. Repeat, the upgraded immigration status for the foreigners thing is dead. Start using your heads and look at who is really on your side. It sure isn't the local government doing its best to see you don't get a .50 cent raise.

I'm sick of even having to write this, but it gets blasted in the news each day and the stance people take against their own interest is so ridiculous I want to scream.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The taotao tano blog

I get most of my Taotao Tano news from the newspapers and their breathless daily updates, but tonight I checked out the TT blog and had a few chuckles. Back in July Brad Ruszala got the NAMBLA endorsement for Saipan's Sexiest Blogger. Taotao Tano gives Angelo Villagomez its continuing endorsement for "Saipan's Best Blogger." Look in the links on the left.

The funniest thing on the Taotao Tano site was a headline about "Out of Control" contract workers, and to illustrate the point they showed a newspaper picture of workers holding hands and the newspaper headline says "Hundreds join prayer vigil." Prayer vigil, now that's my idea of excess. If you look closely there were a bunch of empty Jagermeister bottles -- not really.

On this survey of sites I haven't seen, I also visited Steve Woodruff's overview of the blogosphere where he described my blog as sometimes "offensive or annoying." At the same time, the ball sack/penis poll blog is "lively . . . distinctive point of view . . . energetic . . . creative . . . concerned." That's ok, I enjoyed your dull and prissy blogs, Steve. Thanks for the reminder on why I'd rather hang out with Bruce Bateman than walk on eggshells around depressing politically correct liberals -- perhaps the one group more loathsome than the neo-cons. Here are some adjectives you forgot for that other blog: "cowardly ... predictable ... whiny ... a clear example of what is possible when boredom, fixation and jealousy meet long term unemployment ... dull ... routinely mean spirited ...gutless... focused on other bloggers to the point of obsession ... clearly has a crush on Bruce Bateman."

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Let them eat cake

I love this message. The commonwealth can't handle poor people making a little more money. It's even worse journalism because it only gets the perspective of rich government bureaucrats bought and paid for by business interests. Those annoying poor people don't have much of a spokesman, so it's "unanimous" that a .50 cent increase is a bad idea and the commonwealth can't handle it. Go walk around Kobler, San Antonio and Dandan Agnes Donato and see if it's unanimous there instead of the lazy way and just reporting this administration's viewpoint from some email they sent you -- an administration that barely got elected two years ago and whose party just got massacred in the last election.

Is it really so much better to have the highest food, gas and medicine prices in America on the lowest wages in America? Here is one thing this government can't sustain: $500,000 to the Rota Mayor to dole out to friends for this casino when the commissioner of education is saying they don't have the money to open schools next August or make payroll past June. Let's see if Taotao Tano Greg Cruz blasts this one. My bet is no.

As to the part of population declines, good. This place doesn't have the infrastructure (load shedding anyone) to handle the population it has, and God forbid we lose some of those $3.55 per hour jobs. Don't run off with all those Mcjobs, please. The $16.50 thing I suppose is some kind of nonsense about percentage increase. Yes, because our minimum wage was so scandalously low before and for so long. Essentials like food, power, medicine and gas aren't cheaper here -- they're more. If anything, our minimum wage should be higher than the mainland to account for that fact. “I think any major stakeholder in the wage issue will agree that the next increase should not be implemented, " the Governor's Press Secretary Charles P. Reyes, Jr. said. Again, go ask the broke parents of my students from Dandan, Kobler and San Antonio. They're not major stakeholders, so I guess they don't matter, but I don't think it is quite so unanimous among the working or non-working poor.

'Suspend further wage hikes'

Armed with the federally prepared wage hike impact report, the Fitial administration vows to lobby intensely against the next scheduled increase in the local minimum wage.

“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,” press secretary Charles P. Reyes Jr. said yesterday.

In its report submitted to Congress last Friday, the U.S. Department of Labor 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. 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

A conversation with Jim Arenovski

When Bill Clinton was running for president in 1992, his senior staffers had a sign in campaign headquarters famously reminding them "it's the economy, stupid," to keep the campaign focused on the big issue of the time. Here in the CNMI, the collapsing economy continues to be the big issue. To get a longtime businessman's viewpoint on economic issues, I interviewed Jim Arenovski, the newly chosen Chamber of Commerce president. Arenovski is president of Delta Management, which manages service stations here in the CNMI and in Guam. Arenovski gave his own personal thoughts on economic issues surrounding us, and is not speaking on behalf of the Chamber in this interview.

JCT: What is the most important thing the local government can do, or not do, to help foster economic development on the islands?

JA: The Chamber has been invited to sit on the recently formed Commonwealth Economic Development Study Committee. The study is required in order for the NMI to receive federal grants at all levels, and this plan is reviewed every few years. One part of the process is getting input from the business community about what projects we feel most likely would aid economic recovery. Although we have not begun to gather such information yet, I will speculate that securing and implementing a plan for reliable power at a fair per-kilowatt-hour rate will be on most of our members’ lists. A sound infrastructure, especially power, is necessary in order to attract, and keep, investors.

JCT: What specific feedback do you get from Chamber businesses on exactly how the unstable and expensive power on island is impacting business?

JA: From personal experience and discussion with member businesses, there is a high level of frustration. Paying such exorbitant rates and still having outages; all among a strained economy is devastating for some businesses. Where there is a shrinking number of people (customers) dining out or shopping to begin with, restaurants and other establishments (especially those without generator power), see lower numbers of customers and a loss of business. Power outages hurt this situation even more. Many of our members have invested in power generation systems and see some opportunity, since many residents venture out of their houses to establishments that have power, when there are outages. But even this is affected by the cost of driving to the restaurant or shopping location (not to mention the cost of running the generator itself) and the fact that residents simply have less money due to the high cost of CUC power.

Many companies struggle with essential equipment for their operations, which is strained by “load shedding,” scheduled or unscheduled, that causes problems with the efficiency and longevity of the equipment.

One of the intangible aspects of expensive and inconsistent power is the negative effect on the morale of both private citizens and business owners, which causes a variety of other business and social problems.

JCT: Do you think there will be a day when there will be a vibrant private sector paying wages somewhat comparable to the mainland instead of this government job model that, to me at least, sure looks broken and unsustainable? Can island economies really work given geographic isolation, lack of economy of scale and a seemingly endless up tick in the cost of fossil fuel?

JA: I do think there will be better wages in the NMI, but that comes at the end of a number of changes. Getting investors into the NMI and finding additional industries is key, but to do this we need better infrastructure, and a review of our property laws, Articles 11 and 12. Will we ever be able to sustain a minimum wage as mandated by the Federal Government? I think once the studies come out we’ll have better qualitative and quantitative data to make that determination. I know that now, in this economy, many small businesses will find it hard to generate the sales revenue increases necessary to be able pay such wages.

JCT: Other than revamping the tourism industry, do you see another industry that can potentially come in and replace the rapidly decreasing garment factories?

JA: I am not an economist, nor do I have a crystal ball, but I find it hard to believe we will find another single industry to replace the tax revenues and “trickle-down” benefits brought in by the garment industry. I think this is why we fought so long and hard to keep that industry here. My personal hope is that any future industry be required to be compatible with our beautiful islands and not negatively impact our tourism industry.

Education could possibly be one aspect of a “new industry.” We already see students from Korea and elsewhere coming to the NMI for education and I have heard discussions about promoting education tourism. This is an industry that is environment-friendly, but it does not nearly match the financial impact of the garment industry.

JCT: What is Guam doing right that we can't seem to duplicate and why?

JA: I have businesses in Guam and there are strains there too. Guam has indeed done some things right, but they have their share of ups and downs. They have retirement fund issues, sizable deficit issues, taxation problems and an increasing drug and crime problem. Some have said if it was not for the impending military build-up there would be more reason for concern in Guam. Others have indicated that this build-up could bring more ills to Guam. Certainly the build-up has caused housing prices to skyrocket from just a few years ago and businesses, even some from the NMI, are positioning themselves to benefit from the estimated $14 Billion in projects and the estimated 20,000 additional people on Guam.

One thing to remember, in the early and mid 90’s Guam was infamous for GPA’s “load shedding.” There was a real power crisis at the time, and they came out of it with the help of a public/private partnership, among other factors. I believe the NMI can do the same as long as we have the vision and the resolve to make sure it is fixed.

A Magical Saipan Experience, MV 20

A few weeks ago I had one of those magical Saipan experiences. I made my first hike to Forbidden Island. This memory sits in stark contrast with this other idea I'm having about who is going to come see this beauty we have when word spreads about the violent attacks on tourists that are becoming a common headline.

First, the good news. I don't always appreciate how unique the landscape here is and how much beauty there is to see if I put the effort in to seek it out. Sometimes this place is so gorgeous that I can just step onto my balcony and see beauty in the spectacular sky above me -- all without much effort. This hike made me think of how long I've been here and not seen this amazing vista and how it should be trumpeted to all our visitors.

I'm definitely not in great physical shape. I'm on the wrong side of thirty with that train heading toward forty, but I'm not broken down enough just yet to turn down the invite from some friends who are trying to make a Forbidden Island hike a New Year's Day tradition. I brought my ten year old son on the hike, and safe to say it was a lot easier for him than me. I took the slow and safe route down, as I had no eagerness for any damaged body parts, and I wanted to appreciate nature and the beauty that was all around while avoiding a heart attack.

Upon arrival after the steep climb down, it didn't take me long to enjoy that crystal pool of blue water, which feels all the more relaxing after the journey down. There was no shortage of colorful fish to be seen through my mask, though I remained aware that there was indeed a bit of ocean current. Mindful of the deaths of some Korean hikers a few months back, I kept my distance from any cliff lines or anywhere a wave could sweep in.

After that swim and some snacks, we went to check out the Forbidden Grotto, which looks a lot like the famous Blue Grotto in Marpi only with a much lower roof and much smaller. A light shines in that creates a near mystical, other world, ethereal scene. A pinkish rock sits in contrasts to the various shades of blue accented by the changing angle of the sun's rays over the clear water.
Near the Forbidden Grotto is a half water filled cave system, not particularly deep, with a breathable surface. The water is perfectly still inside, at least when we were there. There are many unusual rock formations with the usual diversity of color and shape found in most caves. An oblong triangle gape in the cave lets a swimmer look out at the crashing waves and ocean. Outside this lookout is a ledge where some people lost their lives, so it was not a place I was eager to go out and explore. Saipan is an island that requires caution, a lesson I learned with two near death experiences in my first six months on island. I have had none of those problems since I learned that scary point.

Forbidden Island offers the type of scenery we must amplify and highlight. A small percentage of tourists ever make it out there. Some of that is due to the fact that it is a bit physically taxing I'm sure, but it is still quite a place to see and it should be seen -- ideally on guided tours.

In contrast, with the barrage of bad news that seems normal for this place these days, I'm not sure people quite understand that this recent series of violent attacks on tourists have the potential to be cataclysmic and completely destroy our tourism industry worse than any JAL pullout -- quickly. The CNMI doesn't have a reputation for being particularly exotic or high end, but it does have the reputation for being safe. In no time in this age of rapidly spreading internet information, that reputation can change and a country like Japan that has an extremely low violent crime rate simple won't tolerate it. Already a Japanese blog is spreading the word that the Eagle Rays are no longer to be found in Eagle Ray City. A law was recently passed to protect the Eagle Rays after several reported poaching incidents. These are man made actions in which we are doing harm to ourselves.

Nature has given us a beautiful island we should boast about, enjoy and be proud of, but it won't take too many greedy criminals to destroy this gift we've been given. We should get out and take advantage of the beauty around us, and at the same time, we should come down hard on those people trying to damage what we have been given.

Superbowl parties

I heard a story that the NFL somehow is cracking down on the hotel Superbowl parties in Saipan, so we won't be seeing much of that this year. I don't know 100 percent that this is the case, but the person who told me said many people told him that was the case. I don't quite get that or how that is different from a sport's bar, but whatever. Doug Stanhope does a bit on how this is the most boring generation ever with everyone following the safe and responsible mantra awash in the corporate landscape. I tend to agree. Even this giant corporation, the NFL, is cutting down on people's fun -- needlessly.

I've only watched the game at a hotel once, and that was for the lousy game last year. I do know for sure that the NFL wouldn't let people purchase the online video system to watch the games. I have one for MLB, and it costs like $100 for virtually all the games for all the teams. I have had that service for years. I will look forward to not getting up at 4 am to watch football when I leave this place. The internet makes it a lot easier to be an expat with a 15 hour time difference and still waste incredible amounts of time watching sports.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Play in March

I wrote a piece for this play, and if I can get it together, will have my acting debut. Barbara is an impressive woman with tremendous theater knowledge. I'm looking forward to working with some of the folks involved, and I would encourage others to assist in this production.

The theater group Voices of the Marianas is coming back with a new show in March 2008. This year's piece is called “The Play Buffet: A Little Something Everyone's Taste.” It is a follow-up to “In Transit: Stuck in an Airport,” which played to sold out audiences last year.

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 performance is scheduled for the first two weekends in March and will be at the American Memorial Park's Visitors Center. Tickets will cost $5 each.Sher invites people to volunteer and be part of the production. “Although much of the play is set, we are still open for new pieces, actors and crew,” she said. Those interested may email Sher at barbara.sher@gmail.com.

“In Transit,” the first production by the Voices of the Marianas, was an original piece written by the actors. It took place at the airport where the passengers-all from a variety of cultures-were stuck because of a typhoon warning. To pass the time, the characters told stories of their experience in the islands.“We were hoping, during rehearsals, that we would get, at least, our friends to come see our show", recalled Sher, “so we were surprised and delighted to have sold out performances every night and standing ovations.”

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Missing my jersey people

Here is why I miss my Jersey people. I didn't write this, but I might have. People give away stuff on Craig's List when they move. This might bring out some strange folks. This guy captures the frustration perfectly.


To the Crazy-bat--lady who picked up the free fridge
Date: 2007-11-30, 10:06PM ESTDear Crazy-As-Bat-Shit-Lady

: I am honored that you chose my ad for a mini fridge out of all the ads you could have chosen. It makes me feel good that my mini fridge will be supplying you with the ice cold beverages you've obviously become accustomed to.

Next time you answer one of my ads, please note the following:

1. I am not Home Depot. If you travel thirty minutes to pick up a bulky 40-pound object, please come prepared with the necessary items you'll need to secure it to your vehicle. Yes, I have rope. I have a lot of rope. I have many different colors and sizes of rope. No, you can not have my rope. The ad said I was giving away a fridge, not a fridge with rope. Nor was I offering a fridge with padding so that the pleather seats on your piece of crap 89 ford pinto with no hub caps car don't get marked up.

2. What part of ' must pick up' in the ad was confusing to you? Yes, I have a vehicle. No, I don't want to haul your fridge all the way to East BumbleF on the coldest day of the year. No, I'm really really sure I don't want to do that. No, really. I'm sure.

3. Please call me only once with ALL your questions. I left for the day, and had 5 messages on my answering machine, the last one was at 11:30 pm. Frankly lady, you were sounding a bit too crazy by the end of the day. It's a fridge. A small metal box that keeps s*** cold. I don't have the fridge's family tree. For all I know the fridge's was conceived by a slutty young Maytag that graced some hillbilly's side porch. I don't know the exact age of the fridge. I bought it a few years ago, I used it for a couple of months, ok, I lied, I used it a whole year. The fact is, you're not buying a race horse, you're buying a used fridge.

4. No, I will not throw in a couple bucks of gas money to pick it up because your anal retentive eyes picked up the ittiest, bittiest hairline scratch with a microscope so it wasnt completly described. I'm not making judgements on you, but I'm pretty damn sure Donald Trump didn't send you across the state to pick up a used fridge for Trump Towers. Though I'd wager the whole concept of the mini-fridge bar is a familar one to you.

5. Yes, you can unplug a fridge without any harm to the fridge. Believe me, the fridge is fine. The manufacturers have figured out a way to extend the life of a fridge that has been unplugged. Yes, I'm absolutely sure of that. No, you did not have to leave 2 messages about your concerns with the fridge being unplugged, and frankly it was a little embarrassing having the same conversation with you in my driveway where my neighbors could hear.

6. No, I don't have the operating instructions. I can write them down for you though: Plug fridge in. Open door. Put crap inside. Take crap out when it's cold. Eat or drink crap.

7. I am not a fridge pimp. I don't have any more fridges at that price.No i dont have one in a diffrent color to match your other appliances, No, I don't know where you can get another fridge just like this one for your friend. Yes, I know it's in great condition, and I'm sure you'd like your other crazy-as-bat-s***-mini-fridge-finding-friends to have one just like it, but this is all I have. Here's a thought, there's this online classified ads website. Yeah, you may have heard of it, it's called CRAIGSLIST. I dunno, maybe, just maybe, in this great land of ours, there's another mini-fridge being advertised there.

8. Please remove my phone number from your address book. I think our relationship is over. Oh, and if you've added me to your AIM Buddy List, please delete me. Please. I beg you. Yours truly, the guy that gave you the fridge

· Location: jersey
· it's NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests
PostingID: 494903542

Friday, January 25, 2008

More PSS woes

Here are the LAST four graphs of the PSS story in today's Variety:

The school system’s FY 2006 budget was cut by $2 million which the
administration promised to restore. “We can’t add personnel, we can’t even
replace some positions, and this may affect the regular opening of schools in
August,” Borja said.PSS has a current budget of $37.2 million of which $35
million is available for personnel following the across-the-board budget cuts
caused by the government’s declining revenue collections.“That’s already a
shortfall of over $2 million,” Borja said. “With the present number of personnel
actions that we have processed, we will have a shortfall in pay period 18 or
sometime in June.”

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Dennis Miller before the fall

There was a time when this guy was funny. It was just a long time ago.

Movies, sports, babies, delivery problems, gas prices, junkets and ESL

Lost returns next week. That should rule. Love that show. Bill Maher's show returned last week, but is a bit limited with the writer's strike still going on. The strike might effect the Lost season as well.

***
I'm a pretty big NFL and MLB fan, and in particular I've long been a Yankee and Cowboys fan. I kind of like the NBA, but the referees seem to influence the game too much and defer to stars to an extreme. I'm not sure Michael Jordan ever didn't get a foul called in a big spot. Both the teams I really care about had seasons that ended with utter disappointment, and that's been the case for a long time for those teams. The joy of following these teams seems kind of fleeting with the really lousy ending, yet I've often wondered why the movie industry doesn't take something from the realm of sports -- the element of surprise. That's what gets people to keep coming back.

Who would have thought the Giants would be headed to the Superbowl with three games on the road? Who saw a broken down Chargers team beating the Colts? If the Giants do somehow beat the Patriots, and lord I hope they do, it would be the biggest upset since Joe Namath's Jets upset Don Shula's Colts with Unitas as the back up until late in the game. The overwhelming majority of movies are completely predictable, and I think we're in as big a movie Dark Ages as we are a musical Dark Ages. The movies that most stick with me had surprise to them: The Usual Suspects, The Player, The Sixth Sense and Pulp Fiction come to mind.
***
Walking in a baby store, after 35 years on Earth without the need to do such a thing, or seeing a bassinet in your apartment, thanks Boni Gomez, to be filled soon is a really strange and nice feeling. In some ways, the fact that I'm about to be a father to a newborn still hasn't sunk in, despite my wife now being in her third trimester.
***
Blockbuster all of a sudden started charging my credit card if the movie isn't back on time. They say they will refund it, but it's still annoying. On the subject of annoying, I ordered Cynthia an ipod for Christmas from Circuit City, who sent it Fed Ex Smart Post, which doesn't deliver here. Two months since I ordered it and it isn't here. When I complained a few weeks ago, they told me it would come in through the post office. Sure doesn't seem that way. Wal Mart did the same with part of my order. The stuff sent the simple way through the post office arrived long ago. Why they had to complicate matters is beyond me and extremely annoying.
***
The price per barrel on oil dropped about 10 percent in a week as the U.S. economy continues to fall apart. If the reverse happened, Shell and Mobil would have raised their prices already. Let's see how long until they drop the gas price, or even if they do at all.
***
Lots of people talked to me about my last column. One person noted seeing government vehicles in the rally. Did anyone else see that? Given the nonsense going on, with Bill Weiss pointing out the CPA junket, I'm not sure if that even rates on the outrage scale.
***
PSS doesn't have ESL classes. I continue to have a large influx of Korean students with zero knowledge of English mixed into a class that is designed to get students ultimately ready for college level reading and writing. These students need ESL classes. I have no faith it will happen.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Casting the lure, MV 19

There were a lot of things I thought quirky about the anti-federalization rally held over the weekend. The tone at first was typical of Greg Cruz, which was to make little practical sense and imbue the message with a dash of racism against contract workers. "The peaceful rally will follow the political activism of the CNMI's nonresident guest worker population clamoring for federalization to secure improved immigration status, " Cruz's first description noted. When more respectable people took part in the rally, the tone became nicer with this statement being issued: “we do not oppose any national group from seeking U.S. citizenship." Sure you don't. The one thing accomplished by the thousands of dollars in lobbyist fees recently spent by the broke government was the killing of the provision to upgrade the immigration status of long time guest workers.

First, how absurd is it in an age of global warming and a war based on fossil fuels, which are now up around $4.00 per gallon, to have a car rally. What kind of message does that send? It's also counterproductive in that it discourages those people without cars. It would be so much physically healthier and democratic to have people out walking while holding placards and actually saying what they want to say without being filtered through Cruz. The car rally idea might have been hatched to make the event look larger than it really was. The Tribune had the number at 150. The Variety quoted Cruz as saying the number was in the thousands. Several bloggers disputed Cruz’s numbers and were justifiably critical of the Variety going with Cruz's number in its headline rather than giving its own on-scene estimate. Blogger Tamara Hunter said, "I counted exactly 105 cars coming out of fishing basin, plus three police escorts," while fellow blogger Glen Doutrich counted 65 cars.

Regardless of how many participated, other than being against federalization, the message morphed each day. The improved immigration status some people dreaded is out of the bill, but organizers handed out this misleading statement: "We oppose the manner in which the federal government seeks to grant permanent residency and citizenship to aliens/foreign nationals working in the CNMI using out of the ordinary established immigration procedures and channels at the expense of the people of the CNMI by compromising the provisions of self-government found in the Covenant.” Since that immigration provision is out of the bill, what exactly is the point of saying that other than to lure people who don't follow the news closely enough to know it's out of the bill? Who exactly rallies against improved status for their fellow man anyway? The new approach was self government and a fake no representation argument.

Leading up to the rally, there was also this misleading statement from Cruz: "This event is an opportunity for all of our residents to join together against Federalization without representation." Like the phony improved status lure, the no representation lure is another distortion. This bill actually provides representation, and the new representative job pays around $160,000. There will be a mob scene of waving/sign holding politicos clamoring for that position. If representation matters, a logical person should support the federalization bill. This was another method to lure in those who don't follow the news closely.

Finally there is the whole anti-federalization idea that has been ingrained for years. People trumpet the doomsday scenario about how it will lead to the destruction of our economy. Our economy is already destroyed, and the continued total lack of a viable private sector paying living wages won't help revamp it. As long as the local government is allowed to bloat the labor supply, wages will still be stuck at the meager amounts they have been for years.

I spent a weekend in Guam a few months ago, and there were countless times I heard "Hey, Mr. Turbitt." It was ex-students who were now living and working in Guam where they are paid better wages. These young people voted with their feet by leaving the CNMI. More will continue to do so until we have a private sector that will pay them. The local government has failed at that miserably. I doubt federalization can make the situation worse. Don’t be lured in with only half the story.

Sam Kinison The 9th Annual Young Comedians Special

One of the most revolutionary six minutes in comedy history. Another Hendrixian loss.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Name that person contest

I've inserted some pronouns to retain the "mystery," but this is a mere sampling of some of the comments posted over the weekend here and here. Two of the posts were removed from the latter site. Try to guess if the subject is Osama Bin Laden, Jeffrey Dahmer, Adolf Hitler or Angelo Villagomez.

There are people in the world and this island I'm not too keen about. Never would it occur to me to hurl this kind of personal psychobabble and invective at a specific individual, which is self demeaning. The closest I probably came is with Richard A. Pierce, and that's a guy who is paid to try to make the garment factories look good, and I later said I was wrong. Is there a single idea in there? The Saipan blogs are falling apart. It was fun while it lasted I suppose. The only new blog to come along in months of any value is Tamara. Many others have either died, and virtually all of the older, better ones simply aren't as good as they used to be. I would include my own in that description.

When rhetoric like the below becomes the norm, as it is now heading, perhaps that death is a good thing. Also note that the group responsible consists of about two to five people at maximum who say something nasty, and then three derivations of the same idea under a different name to create the illusion that others feel the same way. No doubt the below will be replaced with my name in the next 24 hours. C'est la vie.

Clue Number 1

He is the spawn of the devil. He is the epitome of ignorance, the jack of all trades and master of none, the poster child for birth control, the midget without a widget. He is an American-educated, self-centered, egotistical, spoiled, rotten-to-the-core, sorry excuse for a human being. He hurts people on a daily basis and enjoys it, and then cries when someone insults him. In short, he is what is wrong with humans. Hopefully he will shoot blanks for the rest of his life. We don't need more hell spawns in the world.



Clue Number 2

The amount of time you've been here has nothing to do with the fact that you are an asshole.p.s. - thanks for linking me

Clue Number 3

I do not believe he is a narcissist; rather, he is a troubled soul who has a severe inferiority complex, most likely brought on from a painful childhood or a traumatic experience while growing up. The only way he feels bigger and better about himself is to gnaw at people's feelings, as a rat would do with cheese.

Clue Number 4

It all started when he was born. Too bad the condom leaked. He is a very sad and lonely little boy. He has no real friends and never recovered after Tina Sablan rejected his attempts to win her affection. Apparently she never dates guys shorter than her, and uglier than a toad's ass. Aside from that, she was with Glen Hunter. Could you imagine any woman choosing him over Glen Hunter? Did you know that they named a TV Show after him? It's called "The Biggest LOSER."

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Even More New Rules for the CNMI, MV 18

It is the new year, so it seems appropriate to bask in the absurdity all around us. Alas, I offer even more new rules for the CNMI.

New Rule. If you let your pre-teen shoot off fireworks over the holidays, you earned a nomination for worst parent of the year regardless of whether junior escaped the event without blowing off his testicles. Kids are supposed to do do stupid things, which are even more prevalent when they are handed over cheaply made explosives. The "pretty colors" aren't worth the price of a couple fingers, not to mention the public nuisance being inflicted. You the parent are supposed to stop your kids from doing these dumb things, not enabling them. Junior is not that far removed from trying to eat bugs and not being able to dress himself. Handing your kids cheap fireworks from China -- a place where people think a good business proposition is borrowing thousands of dollars or several times your net worth from a loan shark to hand over to a recruiter for the right to work for $3.55 in the dying CNMI garment factories -- probably isn't very wise.

New Rule. When boonie dogs are lying in the middle of the street either indifferent to death or actively seeking suicide from the incoming traffic as they are now, it is time to stop talking about it and actually get the dog shelter built. Man's best friend is treated worse here than the Gimp in Pulp Fiction with a resident even opening fire on one like it is a rival rapper, yet the anti-animal cruelty bill and dog shelter languishes like broccoli at a movie theater concession stand. Here is a radical plan, do the job you have the money and have had the time to do.

New Rule. The burgeoning graffiti artists must learn to spell better. It's bad enough juvenile delinquents are tagging the island while others are trying to clean up the place, but the hoodlums can't spell simple three letters words. They're an offensive to English teachers the world over. There is a phrase criminals who can't spell need to learn, and it goes like this: "Would you like fries with that, sir." If and when the graffiti artists are caught, the judge should require remedial English classes after their jail sentence. Ron Hodges can't be the instructor.

New Rule. Stop building office space. Who do you think is moving in here, the Pentagon? Haven't you seen what happens to dormant space at La Fiesta Mall? That albatross around all our necks is as hairy, overgrown and messy as a pack of French travelers stuck for three days in an airport snow storm. Do we really need more office space? The empty space inspires as much investor confidence as CUC.

New Rule. If you are a tourist escaping northeast Asian winter, maybe you should actually embrace the sun you flew hours to feel and not wrap yourself up in enough towels and blankets so you look like you just joined the Taliban. It's called sunbathing, so try taking a little of it in. I wouldn't travel to the Great Wall and put on a blindfold.

New Rule. People driving on Middle Road need to stay in their lane and stop bouncing around like they are playing a real life Frogger video game. The average person here hasn't gotten a brake job since there was a coherent Bush in office, so maybe speeding along and jumping lane to lane isn't such a good idea. This is Saipan, there aren't that many places to go, and there aren't too many urgent meetings to get to, so just chill out there Mario Andretti and let's get home in one piece.

New Rule. Both local newspapers need to see what it is like to publish a paper without the half baked thoughts of Taotao Tano dental adviser Greg Cruz. The local papers are covering this man's scientific take on fluoride in water. Huh? Cruz in general makes as much sense as the black KKK member on the Chapelle show-- a worker's rights advocate fighting tooth and nail for our local government's right to continue to bloat the labor supply and keep his people's pockets emptier than the Paseo De Marianas. And memo to Greg, there is a body that chooses whether Tina Sablan should be one of their leaders, and it's called the voters in Precinct One, not you.


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

Delurk 2008




Boni Gomez is urging everyone to leave comments on any and all Saipan blogs. She's the principal, so she can be intimidating. Plus, her blog can stop computers in their tracks. I'd especially like to know who is reading me in Kalibo, Philippines, so if you've never checked in before, please do so.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Bill Maher - Rap Translation

I'm not sure Bill Maher is a great standup, though he is brilliant on his talk show Real Time, which started this weekend. However, I love this bit where he "translates" rap lyrics.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Triumph the Insult Comic Dog ridicules Star wars nerds!!

This is one of the greatest comedy acts I've ever seen, as well as the best of the forwarded email vids I've ever seen. It never lulls for 10 minutes.

My memories from the olden days of 2003

No one asked me, maybe because I've only been here five years, but here are my memories from yesteryear.

Brad Ruszala driving and owning that power blue Mustang Convertible that those two Japanese ladies first had and drove on that relentless commercial with Uncle Ben on the old Visitors Channel.

When I both was young and energetic enough to be at Dai Ichi, now Fiesta, on Thursday nights for TGIT, which I went to a lot when I first got here as it was the place to be.

When you could actually drive in the area that is now the Paseo, and during my first week on island, never having lived in a small place, and at that time being very much single and childless, chatting up the ladies at Mermaid when a pick up truck full of my seniors drove by, saw me and yelled their encouragement. I got the message I was in a small place.

When I would hang out with Shelly Storelee, Renee Semik, Chad Griebenow, Jon Smith and Jason Gay at the old Sam's, now Wild Bills, and saw the Big Beats play like three times a week. Mark and Lovely are now gone from that band. Those friends are also all long gone from Saipan, but I'm still in contact with all of them. Only Brad Ruszala remains from the people I hung out with there. Jason Gay is teaching in Borat's country.

When power was included in my first apartment, and didn't cost $200 per month to run one air conditioner in one small room with the hot water heater turned off 90 percent of the time, not to mention the power would stay on for the most part, especially on nights like last night without any sign of wind or rain -- yet there I was last night making dinner to candlelight and I wasn't trying to be romantic. Those were the days.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Times Change, so must we, MV 17

By Jeffrey C. Turbitt

When I first arrived here I wondered why the CNMI is so strongly in the Republican camp. Historically it was the Democratic Party starting with Franklin Roosevelt and continuing on later with Lyndon Johnson that followed the John Maynard Keynes inspired notion of creating government jobs in the absence of private sector opportunities and set up social welfare programs such as food stamps that so many people here rely upon for important things like eating. D.C. Republicans, on the other hand, have been trying to dismantle these programs for years and have never been sympathetic to the poor in any fashion. This CNMI party preference is especially peculiar because the CNMI has an enormous number of poor people. The last census had that number near fifty percent.

The answer, I'm pretty sure, is that CNMI Republicans have little to do with D.C. Republicans, and for that matter, I'm not sure any of our elected leaders have any political philosophy other than the spoils system of giving public money and government jobs to political supporters. The second reason is that national Republicans have aligned themselves with the Religious Right, and the CNMI has a strong Catholic influence. And reason number three is that the demonized George Miller is a Democrat and he has been made the boogieman for years for his pointed criticisms of the CNMI, and his desire to federalize and reform the excesses in these islands that would necessitate a change in our economic model when we don't have a plan for a new model.

I'm now wondering why so many local people are against federalization of immigration. Put simply, it is this local government that has bloated the labor supply here for years to the point where there is still virtually no private sector paying living wages. I can understand why the Chamber of Commerce and business owners are against federalization as they'll have to pay more for labor, which means less money in their pockets. They are at least acting in their own economic interest. But why would a group like Tao Tao Tano be on the local government's side in an issue like this when this local government has treated people like Greg Cruz so poorly, and will continue to leave locals with only the $3.55 option as the garment factory money to fund the nonsense jobs continues to dry up. If the labor supply weren't bloated, there would be better options than $3.55.

The answer is that the average citizen here is being bamboozled by emotional issues, much like the average person in the mainland votes against their own economic interest because they are blinded by the use of the God, guns and gays non-issue in campaigns. D.C. Republicans have used prayer in school, gay marriage and gun nut pandering to get elected, start wars that drive the price of gas to $4.00, allow HMOs to keep sick people from seeing doctors and cut taxes for mega millionaire CEOs. As this is happening, costs for child care, college tuition and housing continue to skyrocket. But hey, we have a "moral" president that is against gay people kissing, which is more important than the cost of gas, housing, child care and medical care -- at least more important if you're a nitwit that can be easily manipulated by non-issues that don't really impact your life, which sadly makes up a large portion of my fellow Americans.

Same nonsense is going on here. Protect our right to "self government," fight the "federal takeover," "it's colonization" and other loaded terms make it sound like armed vandals are storming Garapan. These tactics tug at people's patriotism and emotions and away from their sense. It's good propaganda and a lot of people are buying it that shouldn't be. The Tao Tao Tano group is posting numerous videos on youtube.com with a generally derisive take on contract workers and federal government officials for their role in the Unity March and the nearly completed federal takeover of immigration. Other end of days proclamations went out for a $.50 cent increase in the minimum wage, normally something positive for the average worker that gets favorable public opinion, yet oddly it was other relatively broke people aghast at this turn of events.

Lost in all this loaded rhetoric is that a federal takeover is good for the average worker because it is the federal government that will actually clamp down on the supply of contract workers, and this reduction in labor supply will drive wages higher and motivate local people to actually work in the private sector, which needs to happen to have a functioning economy. The local government will continue to do what it has always done: Provide a steady stream of contract workers. It's what they've always done and always will do. The old model of using garment factory taxes to finance make work government jobs is broken, and there is no fix for it. There will be less government jobs each year. People will have to turn to the private sector, and who wants to work for CNMI private sector wages -- we know the answer to that and it isn't by and large people with American passports. The CNMI once had an economic model that mostly worked for local people, but it was rightfully derided around the globe for its immorality. That model is forever lost because the local garment factories can't use the U.S. tariff laws to its advantage any longer. The factories are closing and will continue to close. The sweatshops can make their clothes in Vietnam or China cheaper now and not pay a tariff. That's the consumer beloved free trade system, which isn't quite as appealing if you're a worker.

People haven't quite wrapped their heads around the fact that the old way is finished, and it was the tariff law change, not the minimum wage or federalization that ended the old system. Ordinary people are taking their cues from leaders who still seem to think that meager private sector wages using third world labor can still work. The governor went out of his way to malign Interior Deputy David Cohen, and he ignored the Washington Rep., who saw the writing on the wall on this issue. The cheap labor ship has sailed. It's time for everyone to face it and stop blaming contract workers, the federal government and liberal haoles. We need to reinvent ourselves and use what we do have: a beautiful island, strong families, a vibrant history and an American stability near the large, wealthy or growing economies of Japan, Korea and China. We can not put our future in the hands of an unimaginative government leadership that can't adjust to change, not to mention keep the lights on or the hospital stocked with basic supplies and staff. The old model just doesn't work any longer. Times change and so must we.

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

Monday, January 07, 2008

Mitch Hedberg - The Dufrenes

Mitch Hedberg's early passing was a Hendrixian loss. I think he was by far the best to come around in a long time. He is a real inspiration. Check out his cd Strategic Grill Locations.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Doug Stanhope on Religion

Last month I hightlighted bass players, and this month I'm focusing on another group I find incredibly underrated: comics. Doug Stanhope is vulgar, edgy, honest and not for everybody. This isn't his funniest bit, but it captures the brutal honesty of what I like about great stand up comics. Stanhope is unique.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Mike Hukabee --- huh?

On the front page of the New York Times under Associated Press stories is this headline: Police Are Called to Spears Home. This kind of nonsense is worse than Angelo Villagomez attracting borderline pedophiles to his blog looking for naked pics of Vanessa Hudgens. Whatever happened to smart people interested in sophisticated things? Do so many people have to be such rubes and simpletons?

And speaking of simpletons, is it just me or even given the low standard of Republicans, isn't it a little bit difficult to believe that a goober like Mike Hukabee just won the Iowa Caucus? He's an ordained minister, for the surge and the war, against abortion rights, for unlimited guns for all those people with small penis issues who are so drunk on fear they need two dozen guns to feel safe, he's for the death penalty and thinks he is God's choice to be president, which explains his political turnaround in his peculiar world view. Great, a messiah complex. He's George Bush, but even more stupid and misguided. Do we still have that many unsophisticated people in America? And even if you believed all that Christian evangelical nonsense, how does the death penalty and the war fit into that? The Christians came out and supported the guy who wants to kill people. That makes total sense. If he's even the nominee after eight years of Bush, I want to trade my passport for most any western European passport, throw up my hands and yell "no mas."

Brokeback my ass


Brokeback Saipan

Angelo, who clearly has too much time on his hands, put some bullshit together ribbing Brad and I. Brad and I planned on a measured response, but we have been too busy with day to day life. The pic above should be considered my response to this.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Forbidden Island amazes

I hiked down to Forbidden Island yesterday with Brad D., Angelo, my son Carl, E.J. and others. Brad D took some amazing photos. Forbidden is a spectacular place, and this was my first hike there in five years now of island living. Climbing back up was rough. I'll steal one of Brad's pics to get the point across on its beauty. Angelo wrote a nice description of this place as well. My lens fogged up and my pics didn't come out too hot. There is a funny video of Carl swimming and not getting too far in the current. We stayed in safe locations only.

This blog will be on a break for a week.

video