Monday, April 28, 2008

Ten thoughts on life of late -- not just baby stuff

1. My wife is just ten days removed from major baby surgery for the third and final time, and she's looking pretty hot to me already. Her diet and exercise habits are even worse than mine, but she somehow has this ability to bounce back.

2. I don't know if it's all babies, as I really don't know a damn thing about babies yet, but mine really eats a lot. So far she is actually pretty easy to deal with. She sleeps a lot, gets very red when upset, and really is only up one time each night.

3. Feeding a baby here is outrageous. It's at least $30 a week for formula, and we're only using formula as supplemental to breast feeding.

4. Having this baby has brought Cynthia and I even closer.

5. Even though she's a big baby, I still feel like I'm going to break her. She seems so fragile.

6. Leadership is essentially risk management. The OPEC president sees a possibility of oil at $200 per barrel. Our leadership is focused on the PUC board to shift the blame of the titanic increase on power that needs to occur. In short, they aren't managing the risk at all. Ed Propst is quite justified in his anger on his blog.

7. Ken Kramer wrote the best letter to the editor I've seen in a while. It's a funny and sarcastic look at the decision making process by the morons heading up this island and their latest fiasco, the idiotic anti-marine reserve resolution. Speaking of absurd, how I wish this marine park could include a chance for divers to get up there as Joe Cabrera imagines in a letter today, but there won't be any dive boats or fishing boats making that 300 mile trip under our runaway fuel costs.

8. There has been a week long respite, so now we have the fun over scrambling to buy fuel to keep the power on. School is a month delayed next year so expect a graffiti and vandalism supernova this summer, the movie theater has closed, $200 per barrel oil is being envisioned, which would translate to approximately $7.50 per gallon gas, the power is going up a lot along with everything else -- this will be a very different island next year -- one with a lot less people and a lot fewer familar faces.

9. I really have no use for soccer in general, but the men's and women's team put on a hell of a show. I didn't catch the women's game Saturday unfortunately, but I showed up on Sunday about midway to cheer on number nine and fourteen especially. I don't know if the CNMI coach heard me, but I yelled out as the game was locked at 2-2 for a while in the second half, "If you need someone to score, choose Ruszala." I was then informed by a friend that once removed a player can't return, and Ruszala played the first half. Didn't know that rule, and add one more reason I don't really dig soccer.

10. Between the soccer games and the Flametree Festival, Susupe was really rocking this weekend. It was almost like there was life and optimism for once.

Bonus: Bruce Bateman hasn't gotten his boat in the water since Harry's Ass steered it in August, he also hasn't been diving at all since God knows when, but he has found time to join a women's knitting and croshee society and no one has abused him about it yet on the blog. Did I mention he's been spending a lot of time with sailors as well.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Not a bad way to spend an afternoon/why I live here

I did two Grotto dives this afternoon -- the first ones in a very long time. Marty Dalsaso captured it with his wide angle lens. It was definitely not a bad way to spend a Saturday afternoon, and at a cost of only $4 bucks for tanks and probably three days of sore muscles from those stairs.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Douchebag of the century title awarded

The century might be young, but I have a feeling that Supreme Court Injustice Antonin Scalia can retain the title for the next 92 years of "Douchebag of the Century." This guy was the ringleader who installed the worst president in U.S. history against the will of the voters, but we should "get over it." You don't need to go to Yale Law School to know that "halting" the recount is an affront to justice. And when all the Republican appointees, including some appointed by the installed's father do the dirty work on a direct party vote, the rest of us in the sane world are supposed to act like this wasn't the biggest disgrace since the Dred Scott decision.
Scalia repeated his earlier statement that people should "get over" the court's
ruling in 2000 that halted Florida's vote recount, giving the presidential
election to Republican Bush over Democrat Al Gore. "I say nonsense," Scalia
said, when asked about critics who say the 5-4 ruling was based on politics and
not justice. "Get over it. It's so old by now."

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Stuff for sale

I have some dvd box sets for sale. All original of course, all in excellent condition. Email me at if interested:

The Wire Complete Season One $35
The Shield Complete Season One $20
24 Complete Seasons One and Two $20 each
NYPD Blue Complete Season One $15
Entourage Complete Seasons One, Two, Three Part 1 $40 for the three sets

Also I have Polanski's The Tenant and Rosemary's Baby, as well as the original Halloween from John Carpenter. Hitchcock's The Man Who Knew Too Much, Secret Agent and the Lady Vanishes, all on one disk. Each of the four are $5 a piece.

I have a Digitech BP 200 Bass Effects Processor for sale. While this is designed for bass and that is of course its ideal purpose, I'm sure a guitarist could get some cool sounds and use from it as well. $95

I have a small army of books to go. I think I played a small role in the revitilization of Amazon stock in the last five years. I'll call them $5 each. Check Amazon for the summaries.

Armed Madhouse, Godzilla versus Bambi: On the Nature, Purpose and Practice of the Movie Business, Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, Into the Wild, Hey Joe, Plato and a Platypus Walk into a Bar: Understanding Philosophy Through Jokes, Going Postal: Rage, Murder, and Rebellion: From Reagan's Workplaces to Clinton's Columbine and Beyond, Don't Try This At Home: Culinary Catastrophes from the World's Greatest Chefs, Deep Descent: Adventure and Death Diving the Andrea Doria, Chuck Klosterman IV: A Decade of Curious People and Dangerous Ideas, Classic French Cooking, See No Evil: The True Story of a Ground Soldier in the CIA's War on Terrorism, Imperial Ambitions: Conversations on the Post-9/11 World, Them: Adventures with Extremists, Killing Yourself to Live: 85% of a True Story, The Education of a Coach, Now I Can Die in Peace: How ESPN's Sports Guy Found Salvation, with a Little Help from Nomar, Pedro, Shawshank, and the 2004 Red Sox, The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century, Gasping for Airtime: Two Years in the Trenches of Saturday Night Live, The Mad Dog 100: The Greatest Sports Arguments of All Time, The Culture of Fear: Why Americans Are Afraid of the Wrong Things, Psychology for Dummies, Year 501: The Conquest Continues, The Schools We Need And Why We Don't Have Them, Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know, Kill Your Idols: A New Generation of Rock Writers Reconsiders the Classics, Milk It!: Collected Musings on the Alternative Music Explosion of the '90s, Ted Williams: The Biography of an American Hero, The Great Unraveling: Losing Our Way in the New Century, Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media, Not Fade Away: A Backstage Pass to 20 Years of Rock & Roll, Understanding Power: The Indispensable Chomsky, Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel, Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right, Big Lies: The Right-Wing Propaganda Machine and How It Distorts the Truth, Babe: The Legend Comes to Life, The Koreans: Who They Are, What They Want, Where Their Future Lies, So What: The Life of Miles Davis, Water and Light: A Diver's Journey to a Coral Reef, The Best and the Brightest, The Moral Animal: Why We Are the Way We Are: The New Science of Evolutionary Psychology, Practical Pentatonics: An Introduction to Pentatonic Patterns, Theory & Usage, The Fortune Tellers: Inside Wall Street's Game of Money, Media, and Manipulation, Walden, Fatland: How Americans Became the Fattest People in the World, Ugly Americans: True Story of Two Ivy League Cowboys Who Raided the Asian Markets for Millions, Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, Anne Frank The Diary of a Young Girl, Politics Lost: How American Democracy Was Trivilized, Don't Eat This Book: Fast Food and the Supersizing of America, The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists, Bush at War, State of Denial, The Survivor: Bill Clinton in the White House, The Scuba Diver's Travel Companion, Grammar the Easy Way.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Ashley Lynn Turbitt makes her world debut

This is Cynthia on Thursday 4/17. She's got almost ten pounds of baby in there and lots of fluid.

Cynthia's load has been seriously lightened today, 4/18. This baby has some seriously chubby cheeks on her.

I was in the operating room. It was over pretty quickly. The worst part for Cynthia on day one was the itchy feeling from the anaesthesia. I cut the cord earlier, and I've seen her eyes open all of about 2 seconds to date.

Update 4/19: She has some blueish grey eyes. She finally opened them for me. Cynthia really only got to see her today because Ashley's respiratory rate and blood sugar was being closely monitored in the ICU. Ashley's blood sugar is ok now, but her respiratory rate is still a bit high. The doctors aren't too concerned about it, but I'll feel better when it's exactly where it should be.

Update 4/21: Mom and baby are home now and doing well. Hell yeah! Now starts the first day in a long process of teaching Ashley to bash the right wing, scuba dive, play electric bass and avoid men like Brad Ruszala.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Will we still have a movie theater?

Beachboy Brad broke this story that our only movie theater is closing. I called them up to find out the story. I asked the person who answered the phone if there would be movies this weekend, and she said "maybe." I asked her if she could explain that, and she said "she's not at liberty to say" and told me the name of the manager to talk to, who naturally wasn't available. Something is going on, but it might not necessarily be the end. Zaldy told me the theater cancelled their advertising for the weekend. No one is confirming anything right now. Their website shows a gap and then something playing at the end of May. There is a lot of capital in that place to just write off. There hasn't been a big hit movie in a while, which might be a factor that along with our lousy, expensive power works to kill the place. My guess is that they don't completely vanish, but may open only on the weekends or something. That's just speculation. I've been to a few 4:00 pm shows over the years where I've been virtually the only one there. That has to be a money drainer. I would imagine the Indiana Jones movie next month creates some buzz. We'll see.

Do our leaders even care about this power crisis, MV 30

By Jeffrey C. Turbitt

I sit here penning this piece on Monday morning at Java Joes -- one of the few businesses on island that seem to be aided by the fact that on a perfectly calm and clear day, there is no power on the south side of the island, and perhaps the rest of the island as well. I'm not sure at this point. It's a school day, but students have been sent home early. The school year will now be extended one day. No power leads to no water and that is a sanitary "no no," so parents must scramble to find arrangements to pick up and then supervise their children for the rest of the day.

On the drive over I notice the ghost town we are becoming -- a bevy of places where businesses used to exist. The survivors and the brave newbies sit in darkness this morning. The traffic lights are out creating a public safety hazard on the roadways. That fact led to a close call for me a few days ago. After I arrive, I chat with a friend on the cell phone -- a right wing businessman. Strangely, a proud liberal like me has mostly right wingers as friends. Some of my fellow lefties are a bit uptight and dull I've found through recent experience. He relates that the power at his place on the island's north side was out four times yesterday.

I order a coffee and pick up Monday morning's edition of this paper. The lead headline reads: "Governor exploring 'options' to fight federalization." I sit here and wish I still had hair so I would have something to pull out. I contemplate whether the leader of a place that can't keep the power on and may not be able to keep the schools open is seriously planning on taking on the federal government after the 91-4 stomping he just took in the United States Senate. If Governor Fitial can take on the U.S. Congress, maybe I can take my flabby tail and try for the Ultimate Fighting Championship. In both cases I imagine the result will be painful, expensive and bloody. No one disputes that the Covenant clearly states that the federal government can take over immigration, and Congress strongly feels the time is now and the president agrees. This might be the first time in almost eight years President Numbnuts gets it right, though in his case it will be for the wrong reason. The right sees federalization as a national security issue.

A friend of mine, another longtime businessman on island, idles by my booth and we chat. He relates intelligence he's heard that the lobbyist we hired is so inept that he is one colorful set of clown shoes away from signing on with the circus. Speaking of clowns, I note today's letter from circus ring leader Greg Cruz, who is once again enraged that the foreigners he despises won't be entering the islands with such free abandon, and the local people he so adores will have more job options and better pay as the labor supply is set to be reduced. The fact that this bill includes the CNMI congressional delegate everyone has been screaming for apparently is of little comfort. Cruz insists the local government that I wouldn't trust to make ice correctly remain in control of steering these islands into that iceberg dead ahead. Further comment on this guy is pointless. I just wonder if when Cruz breaks Ambrose Bennett's all-time letters to the editor record, will the record book show an asterisk and will it be tainted like Barry Bonds' home run record. Cruz clearly has a team of ghost writers decoding his thoughts -- that is unless the ghost writers are the ones pulling his puppet strings. I wonder when KSPN is going to do an ESPN style "Behind the Lines" show on this issue. I say put in the asterisk. It's "common sense."

Like George Bush who attacked the wrong country, the one that had nothing to do with 9/11, and who is the driving force behind this $3 trillion dollar folly in Iraq that could have been used for good such as reducing the deficit, fixing the broken down education system or helping the 46 million Americans without health insurance, I wonder how much better things would be here if our governor put as much passion into fixing the power plant as he does in keeping the poorest people poor through this absurd federalization and minimum wage fight. Last week's news was that CUC could only come up with two weeks of gas to fuel one month of power, yet we hear barely a peep from leadership on this issue. That's kind of like heading to the emergency room with your arm falling off and the doctors decide it's time to change careers and become mimes. Where are even the empty promises about fixing the power plant? The resident representative recently said there was federal money that could be used to do this. Where is the follow up? Where is the sense of responsibility to be a leader? Where does the buck stop? The governor seems like a nice guy, but I expect he will be completely trounced if he follows through on his recent promise to run for re-election. He has certainly been more fiscally responsible than his predecessor, but he over promised in the campaign and has under delivered in office, and his lack of focus on the power plant is unforgivable. The only thing our leaders seem to manage around here is the blame.

Wouldn't it be nice if the governor could focus on something everyone wants: a stable power system! The fact that power is expensive is an unfortunate result of global factors and an economy of scale issue that is not in our favor -- plus we didn't maintain the plant so it's inefficient. But unreliable as well as expensive is just not acceptable, and even more irritating is that he doesn't seem concerned. Federalization and minimum wage seem to be all he cares about. Even if he were able to win a reprieve on federalization, the issue would still be out there and it's not going away. Business hates uncertainty and uncertainty is what could be accomplished at best.

Part of me wants to add a few more paragraphs blasting the leadership, but that absolves others culpable in our demise: the voters. An enormous number of voters fell for that election season gambit of lowering the power rates to take that issue off the table -- the one issue that had people really angry. Angry people tend to "throw the bums out." Now that the election season is over, the rate reduction no one planned to pay for is soon to be no more, and that rate reduction was a prime factor in why CUC can't buy enough gas this month. You, the voter, returned the same people to office, and some of the people you kicked out last time. Did you expect them to magically change their ways? People need to be more cynical.

The most cynical view says "we get the government we deserve," and sometimes that view is right. For the last several years most people sat silent or indifferent to the daily mismanagement. The attitude seemed to be as long as it didn't impact me personally, it doesn’t much matter. Now there is a huge problem with this power plant. It depresses people's spirits, it kills business, it wastes money and no one has a hint of a solution. The perks of office are so great that no one, other than Tina Sablan it seems, cares to take the risk to propose anything bold or take a principled stand.

Too much fixation on this government is bad for the spirit. I decide to leave and grab the lunch special at the new 360 Restaurant, go for a snorkel in the Grotto and bask in the sun at the Mandi Spa. There are some things about this island the politicians can't screw up, and those are the things that keep me and a lot of people here.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Short takes

Yikes, I suppose this happened last year the day after my birthday, but today I'm officially closer to 40 than 30, and I'm not really happy about that. Cynthia noted this fact in today's Marianas Variety. Getting older beats the alternative I suppose. I hope this doesn't mean I'm going to lose my hair or anything.
I think Cynthia is at maximum glow with only nine days until baby. I'm glad it is a girl because that is what she wanted, and I'd hate to have the battle over naming a baby boy Geddy Lee Turbitt or Dave Matthews Turbitt. I'm not Panamanian enough to seriously suggest Mariano Rivera Turbitt, which might be my third choice.

Alex is starting to get braver in the pool. I taught Carl, at age seven, to swim in about three days. Alex is younger, and I'm making headway, albeit slower.
We spent a night at the new Palms on Easter Weekend. We got a great room with a fabulous view.
The sunset behind a cloud in my front yard isn't too shabby, either.

I sense a high level of exasperation among most everyone with the power crisis -- especially when combined with the forthcoming austerity measures, the inability of CUC to buy gas for the power plant, possible PSS furloughs and the legislature's intransigence on perks like cars, cell phones and bloated discretionary budgets during this crisis. On some levels we deserve CUC. People returned failed politicians to office in the last election apparently buying into the rate reduction scheme a few weeks before election day. While millions were spent on Abramoff to keep easy immigration and cheap labor, what percentage of people seriously balked and urged that the money be used on routine maintenance at CUC and other essential services instead? How many people vote on family alliances and not only tolerate, but accept as the norm, waving, free beer and picnic tables as a platform? How much money is spent on unnecessary jobs that should be spent on critical services? People here were bought off cheaply and now the price is being paid.
The Ipod is most definitely my favorite invention since Al Gore created the "internets" that George Bush is so enthralled with. I've downloaded quite a few podcasts on things like sports, history, comedy and news, and those things fill in the downtime really well waiting in doctor's offices, or on line at the bank and other places. Having easy access to my vast music collection also means I hear more music. Just this weekend I got reacquainted with a killer album I hadn't listened to in a while: Alice in Chains Jar of Flies. What a great band that was -- as ephemeral as they were.
I have a gut feeling that this new Indiana Jones movie coming out next month is going to be pretty good. I'm looking forward to it, and I can't remember the last time I went to the movies let alone looked forward to a release.
The second meeting of the cranky club took place on Friday. Ken, Bruce, Zaldy, Mike Ernest, both Brads -- Ruszala and Derksen and I solved many of the world's problems in a robust dialogue.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

A conversation with Lucy Blanco-Maratita, MV 29

By Jeffrey C. Turbitt

I opened my Monday morning paper this week and saw the headline: "BOE approves PSS furloughs, shutdown," and small vapors of steam started coming out of my ears. I decided to do a little of my own investigating before getting completely upset, and I found out that the school system does indeed have a severe financial problem on its hands. However, no concrete decisions have been made yet. A set of unpleasant choices exists should members of the central government continue their longtime policy of supporting education during the campaigns and then giving it short shrift upon being elected.

The fact that the most basic services of government such as energy, public health and education are left to flounder, while our elected officials remain defiant and refuse to give up or even reduce perks of office like government paid vehicles, government paid cell phones and a large discretionary budget, simply boggles my mind. I peppered CNMI Board of Education Chair Lucy Blanco-Maratita with several questions about PSS’ financial predicament, and she explained the choices the board has and their consequences, as well as ways to avoid those problems.

JCT: According to a conversation I had with your board colleague Galvin Deleon Guerrero, as things currently stand, PSS is looking at a projected deficit this fiscal year of $3.3 million largely due to greater utilities costs and $2 million that was "borrowed" from PSS in Fiscal Year 2006, which has not been returned to PSS. What are the options the board is considering to deal with this problem?

LBM: The first option, of course, is to secure a budget for FY'08 from the legislature that puts us over the current continuing resolution budget of $35.48 or at least get the $2M from the administration returned to PSS --- and that still will not be enough to meet our $50M budget to operate our schools. The second option will be to close our schools completely from mid-June and delay the opening until September 1st. This will reduce our utilities and we can then use the funds for operations. A third option that we may be forced to consider is furlough of employees for one month. This is not something that we want to do because we don't want the ill effects that would have on our student achievement gains and the livelihood of our staff. But, if we do not have the funds to last until the end of the fiscal year, we may be forced to consider it.

JCT: What impact will those options have on students and teachers if implemented?

LBM: If you are talking about furlough, we stand to lose our teachers and staff as they may decide to leave and we will definitely experience a slippage of the gains we have made with our student achievements.

JCT: My understanding is that these are just options right now and no course of action has been definitively decided upon by the board. Is that correct?

LBM: Yes, those are just considerations that were being discussed at the time the reporter was there. The reporter left before the end of the discussion in which the board decided to send a message to the legislature to pass a piecemeal budget because we may be forced to consider such drastic measures.

JCT: I also understand you will be sending a letter detailing these possibilities to the legislature. The underfunding of education in the CNMI can't be news to them. What have they communicated back to the board of late about these issues?

LBM: They have told us they are supportive of education, but we need to see more --- perhaps more funding. I think they (legislature, governor) have to just put their foot down and make a policy call that their focus is truly on education and fund it as the schools see as adequate.

JCT: It seems like the BOE has had a number of financial issues in the past, and some people will view this as "crying wolf" or gamesmanship with the legislature and the executive branch. How are things different this time?

LBM: I don't believe in threats, "crying wolf", etc. I believe in laying it all out for everyone to see and make informed decisions. We also need to plan ahead and try to foresee anticipated consequences so that we can plan and deal with those consequences before they happen. This is why it's important for the legislature and governor to understand what we see facing us so they can help us avert those unwanted consequences.

JCT: What can parents, teachers and students do to help the board manage this crisis?

LBM: Students: Continue to focus on your studies; let the adults deal with these issues. The job of our students is to learn what they can so they can be prepared for the futureTeachers: Continue teaching our students effectively and do your part in helping our system conserve energy so those funds will be available for your classroom rather than for CUC, albeit we do need utilities. If you have the opportunity to share information with our elected leaders, by all means please take the opportunity to share our need for adequate funding every day, for repairs of our schools, etc., but the best thing you can do is to continue to teach our children well with the dedication and commitment that you all have. Let us know how we can further support you in doing your job well.Parents: Continue to be involved with your children's education, communicate often with your child's teacher so that a strong partnership is forged between home and school. We can work together to encourage our elected leaders to truly make education a priority for funding and support. But the best help you can give is to be involved in your children's education, to help us meet their needs.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Say it aint so

Bush is still president, the power here is dodgy to say the least, the economy here and in the mainland is falling apart, and the barrage of bad news continues to branch out to new and unexpected territory:
"If you're a fan of flaunting "the girls" with plunging necklines and pushup
bras, you've got a challenge in store with this season's biggest trend: sky-high
necklines that leave everything to the imagination - with no glimpse of
cleavage. Spring is the time, girls, to burn our Wonderbras for good. "

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

No column this week

I find myself intellectually removed and stunningly bored with this place right now. I just don't have anything at all to say, so I didn't even write a column this week. I don't want to milk it with fluff under my name in the hopes that this will pass. The old me would probably write about the Hocog Initiative this week and give a well deserved blast to Stanley Torres, but I don't even have the stomach for the BS that would follow that right now with my first baby due in two weeks and my general indifference of late to the daily nonsense. This place seems just so hopelessly screwed up, and I don't want to depress myself and others by bitching about it. The story tonight on KSPN about these nitwits not being able to pay for this month's gas at the power plant is absurd, and that's with near daily power outages and sometimes multiple outages. Beyond that, my health was bad during Spring Break and is still not great, and I didn't do a damn thing interesting in my time off. Cynthia is very big and extremely uncomfortable in these last two weeks, so I worry and try to help her, and I still feel a bit of the hangover from Shelby's death. She was usually able to cheer me up. Saipan has been very good to me, but it feels like I've been here long enough and I'm ready for something new.