Monday, September 10, 2007

Sour Grapes for Tuesday, September 4th

Crash in the Dark
The hole Ti bang
I attended the Amelia Earhart lecture at AMP the other evening and came away with the impression that these folks are milking a ghost cow.

While Thomas King, an archeologist of some standing was well prepared and presented his material well, there was just not much real material to present. The data was nebulous and fuzzy at best and a real stretch much of the time.

The TIGHAR group, a lost aircraft hunting society, now theorizes that Nicumaroro island in Kiribati is the lost landing place of Ms Earhart back in 1937. The problem is they have no substantial evidence to prove it. Even calling the evidence presented ‘circumstantial’ is a stretch. It consists mostly of might be’s, could have’s and didn’t finds.

I wouldn’t run out and volunteer to help fund their next $600,000 per trip venture to the tiny atoll if I were you. On the other hand I did learn something valuable from the lecture: Kiribati is not Keer-uh-bot-ee but Ker-ee-ba-she. Ti is pronounced she.

Okay, Dr. King so where is ti really?

PS: It has just been brought to my attention by an anomymouti source that the Ti in Gilbertese is actually pronounced S, just S, not SH or SHE. So the true pronunciation should be Keer-ee-bas or Kee-ree-bas. Meaning the above, already seedy (tieedy?) puns will have to be reseeded, or better yet, thrown out. Looks like its back to the Pun Mines for me. My take on the lecture, however, remains the same no matter how you say it.

Here is a link to someone with a different idea: . There may be scores of other hypotheses too, but so far, no Amelia.
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Blackjack vs Blackout

In a discussion with a candidate for public office recently, an amazing fact was revealed to me. The candidate has been canvassing door-to-door for some time and has entered and talked with more than 500 households representing more than 3000 CNMI residents. What he has found is astounding. He estimates that on average, one household in three in his election district is without electric power and by default, also without water because they cannot afford to pay. He said in some poorer neighborhoods the number is much higher, up to 90 percent without utilities.

Please bear in mind this is not a controlled, scientific survey, but a dedicated house by house straw poll. Even though we can’t deduce from these findings that all of Saipan or all of the CNMI is in such dire straights, we can and should be aghast that such deprivation exists anywhere in our Commonwealth.

Think about it for a moment. While it might be fun to go camping on Managaha over he weekend and ‘rough it’ without power and water, think how unpleasant and how unhealthful it would be to live that way all the time. Unsanitary conditions must prevail where no fresh water is available. Kids must have a difficult time doing homework in a house that goes dark when the sun goes down. Moms with newborns must have a difficult time keeping conditions sanitary. The list of negatives range from the merely inconvenient and uncomfortable to the dangerous and even epidemic producing. Disease, including the dreaded Cholera, follows those with no access to treated water sources. We all have to have water to live, so when the public utility cuts off a household’s power and water those families have to obtain drinking, cooking and cleaning water somewhere. Those untreated sources can and probably someday will, cause serious and even devastating health consequences for large portions of the population.

There are endless discussions about alternative energy and eco friendly methods of producing power. For the future those methods are something to shoot for, but right now, today, this afternoon, we had better figure out something to remedy the problem staring us in the face. It’s easy to discuss alternative energy from the viewpoint of an air conditioned meeting room filled with folks who arrived, well showered from a comfortable, sanitary house after a drive in an air conditioned car. It is pretty tough to buy a windmill generator, however, when you can’t afford to pay the $200 power bill or the $300 reconnection fee.

I don’t know about you but I think something needs to be done pretty quickly. Hopefully a dialog will begin and other possible solutions will come from responsible citizens and leadership. I don’t claim to know the only answer to this large and growing problem, but here is one possible cure:

What if a full blown casino was started, the proceeds of which were dedicated to one purpose and one purpose only. Subsidizing our public utility and its production of water and power. It is well known that casino gambling can generate a lot of cash and can do it quickly. If such a casino was started using a preexisting facility and positioned to draw primarily tourist patrons, we could generate enough money to subsidize utility payments for those too poor to afford access starting almost immediately. We could afford to buy parts, technical assistance and professional services to repair and maintain our current power generation and delivery systems over the mid term. We could make enough money to replace our aging powerhouse with a modern, high tech facility over the next few years. We could generate enough funding to buy, try and test various renewable energy systems as backups and maybe even as potential long term replacements for conventional power production. We could do all the above and more using mostly other peoples money and we don’t even have to pay it back!

I am not volunteering to head up this project myself, as I don’t look too good in orange. I’m not even sure how best to organize it. Should it be government owned and run? Should it be a private sector company? Should it be a 501C company so that all proceeds are untaxed but audited to ensure they benefit the named beneficiaries? Those questions as well as the ones relating to just who is qualified to run the business or department and just who is honest enough to oversee the whole project are up for discussion. The idea could definitely work. Every person who lives here would be benefited by such a venture. This one source of funding could ultimately pay for all the utility bills of all the businesses and individuals in the CNMI. It would provide some much needed jobs for our local citizens and would finally free CUC up to focus on generation and delivery of utility services instead of having the specter of world oil prices and budgetary shortfalls hanging over its head. Whether you like gambling or not, lets think seriously about using its proceeds to further our own ends and supply our basic needs.
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Quotes of the week:
He who dares not offend cannot be honest. -Thomas Paine, philosopher and writer (1737-1809)

If the world should blow itself up, the last audible voice would be that of an expert saying it can’t be done. Peter Ustinov (1921 – 2004)

PS: Those of you who have read this far have noticed that the Hole Ti Bang section was previously published here on the Saipanuvian in slightly different form, then again in the Tribune. Thanks to the author for allowing it to be reprinted. (:-)) Also, I suggest you click on that link in the article and go read the theory of David Billings of Australia. It has some very interesting plot twists. He may be on to something here; at least he has some interesting evidence in hand and has put together a possible and completely different version of what happened back in July of 1937.

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