Tuesday, October 30, 2007

It must be the cupidity

Well, it’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve blogged, and I obviously missed a lot. In a brief cruise around the neighborhood I see that Harry has had numerous dives and posted some cool photos. Jeff has been blasting away with a lot of interesting topics. Angelo has traveled all over SE Asia. Even Randy Steele has posted a couple while I’ve been gone. I made 2 points over at Deece’s place. Brad is zero’d in on Luis Chrisostimo. And some asshole hiding behind the Pompously Phony name of Phlegmatic Playdough, working as a hack writer for his boss the Poker Prince thinks its cute to boycott Porky’s.

Apparently this jerk thinks I owe him some kind of answers to his one sided anti-casino diatribe. Here it is in a nutshell, whacko: I have written voluminously about this issue, and have covered all the ground that needs covering. I participated in an open, public debate during which I fielded any and all questions put to me regarding this issue, so where the heck were you if you had questions?

Listen up Pubescent Playschmo. If you want to hear my views on the casino issue come on over and let’s sit and hash it out. I have neither time nor inclination to recover the ground by typing reams of redundant responses for your particular benefit. If, on the other hand, all you want to do is play games and f--k around with me then be advised it will be my pleasure to track you down like a dog and explain it to you in a very personal way that I think even a wedge head like you will be able to understand. Any Questions?

As for me, I’ll be spending a portion of the next few days reading blogs and blog comments and responding where I think it makes sense to toss in my two cents worth. My opinions will be easy to spot; they have my name on them unlike the Perennial Putz.

By the way, a cursory look around the local blogsphere from a pace or two back having not seen the blogs for a couple of weeks leaves me with the impression that the best blog going right now seems to be Twinkletoes’s offering. He seems to have an everyday interesting mix of topical tidbits and I like the way he wields his PhotoShop program to manipulate photos etc. I just popped over there to see what the real title of his blog was and see that he has put up a poll on whether the Pansy Pugilist should boycott Porky’s. Answer, the idiot has probably never been there anyway. Thanks though, for the free publicity.

Sour Grapes for Tuesday, October 30th

Photo Caption: At the Lockheed factory, Don Fowble has his hand up into the battery cage. Left to right: unknown, Don – electrical, Eddie Cruz – engines, Fred Hash – conduits, Amelia Earhart - aviatrix. Don Fowble photo, 1936.
Old and New
Recycled History
I saw a photo on the front page the other day that made me think of our CNMI history and how we are losing it. The picture was taken of ‘trash metal’ being recycled and it included images of WWII artifacts of which there are fewer and fewer left now.

Archeologists look at what we call dumps or landfills as treasure mounds because even the things thrown away in a bygone era can tell tales of wonder about the people and events that happened long ago. They often ‘dig’ these mounds or tels to discover vital information about past cultures or events.

We have some dumpsites here on Saipan, and on the other islands that are repositories of a lot of interesting, and sometimes dangerous, old pieces of memorabilia. I know where a couple of them are and have walked over the ground looking in amazement at the detritus of a violent conflict ended 60 years ago.

Over the last couple of hard, lean economic years others have been doing more than walking and looking at these sites; they are looting them for the copper, steel, brass and other metals to be found there. They might be able to retrieve these artifacts and sell them for far more as a legitimate historic item, but they throw them instead into a pile with other similar metals and sell them for pennies to scrap dealers who ship them off to China and elsewhere to be made into cheap geegaws, or maybe rocket motors. There are Historic Preservation laws to prevent such occurrences but they are little known and even less enforced.

These laws are often the cause of destruction of the very artifacts they are designed to protect. The laws make it illegal to gather this stuff on public, or even private lands, and sell it, so the diggers secret it away to the back lot of a scrap metal dealer. The folks who are digging and plundering these sites see themselves as miners busily engaged in the legitimate process of feeding their families with the money obtained from these scrap dealers. If the law allowed these ‘miners’ to take items to a central clearing house, say the HP office down by the airport, turn them in and be paid some equivalent compensation at least the items would be saved for posterity. Better yet would be for the HP staff to outfit an expedition to survey, catalog and correctly excavate these items so as to preserve them and their provenance.

While you are reading this someone is probably out there right now digging up an old rifle or a canteen or a stack of WWII helmets or one of a thousand other items to be found there. Next month you may buy it back now melted down and remade into a cheap toy covered with lead based paint so your kids have something for Christmas. Wouldn’t it be nice if those kids had their historical heritage instead?
* * * *
Yes means a chance
I am in agreement with Bishop Camacho that gambling is neither moral nor immoral. I disagree with him, however that the wealth and positive benefits that can come from a stable gaming industry should be held as a monopoly by the island of Tinian. The Bishop calls for a no vote for Saipan and Rota’s attempt to try and revitalize their economies but says nothing about the already existing casinos on Tinian. So the no vote he espouses has the effect of leaving Tinian with the monopoly. While this may please the short sighted on Tinian and while it may please the Bishop to have the monopoly continue, it is simply not in the best interest of all the people of the Marianas to keep this potential cash generating business located only on an island with little current infrastructure and a very small tourist base.

Several other church folks have come out opposing the Saipan Casino Act on supposedly ‘moral’ grounds. I have noticed that these naysayers only seem to be opposed to this particular brand of ‘immorality’. I don’t see them decrying bingo gaming in their own churches, I don’t see them making an outcry to have the Legislature stop poker room gaming. I don’t see them complaining about betting on sports or cockfighting or the Super bowl. I don’t see them calling for all casino gaming to stop on Tinian. I see them only opposed to casino gaming on Saipan, for rather dubious and obscure reasons. What I sense is hypocrisy, not morality.

We should vote Yes on this initiative to allow casino Gaming also on Saipan, where the infrastructure is already in place, where there is an international airport already built and ready to handle the increased traffic, where nearly a half million tourists already come to rest, explore and recreate. Tinian’s tourist traffic will increase as will its infrastructure as new resorts are built there and as Saipan casino customers travel on to Tinian to see the sights there. When the Saipan Casino Act passes casino gaming will be allowed to continue unabated on Tinian. There is no indication that the new casino resort projects currently in the works there will stop, in fact they should blossom. Rota too will see itself revitalized.

The Saipan Casino Act has the potential to finally realize the full prosperity that was the shining beacon for passing the Covenant in the first place. This may finally enable the indigenous people here to take control of their own destiny for the first time in several hundred years. The United States has not, will not and in fact doesn’t want the CNMI to become economically independent or to have the promised self government. It will be left to us to fend for ourselves and find the best way to a prosperous future. Time is running out.

When it comes time to mark your ballot inside that closed voting booth, you must vote for those persons and initiatives that have the best chance to improve your lot in life and that of your family and country. No, doesn’t improve anything. No is just a blind cry against change. I will vote Yes for the Saipan Casino Act because I think it is in my families best self interest to have a better economy. I believe it is in your families best self interest to do so as well so I ask you to please vote Yes this coming Saturday.
* * * *
A couple of months ago I wrote a short article about a Council for the Humanities sponsored lecture concerning one theory of the disappearance of famed aviatrix, Amelia Earhart. In response, several people from around the world have contacted me with information about other theories. After sifting them around and looking into them I find myself intrigued with the work of the authors of a book I’ve been reading called The Hunt for Amelia Earhart. Their method is to publish only first person accounts from those people who were actually there in 1937 searching for Ms Earhart, and adding to that interesting viewpoint with hundreds of previously unpublished and very interesting photos. I won’t spoil your fun by telling you what their conclusions are. I will just say that they seem to be objective in their desire to research the mystery and will give you this website address and contact information so you can go and see for yourself: www.SpecialBooks.com
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Quote of the week:
In this or any other election, do not vote for the candidate you think is the best person for the job. Vote for that candidate that you think will do the least harm while in office. Bruce A. Bateman (curmudgeon, 1923 - ).

Sour Grapes for Tuesday, October 23rd

Flying First Class
High Anxiety
Whoever said getting there is half the fun said it before paranoid airport security tsars began to believe that your shampoo and toenail scissors were terrorist weapons. (Parry, thrust, rinse, repeat). Getting anywhere on airplanes is a time consuming and frustrating process these days. If the distance is not long, say 500 miles, we are probably better off driving, or taking a train or a bull cart.

There are places that don’t have the luxury of alternate transportation. We are one of those places. Being 1500 miles from anywhere with a major population and being an island nation means that we are dependant on air transportation to get us back and forth to anywhere other than where we are right now. Today’s fast pace rules out the old way of spending a week or two on a sailing canoe getting to that business meeting in Hong Kong (plus it makes a mess of your 3 piece suit). Also out is using the train to get to Honolulu to visit a sick relative.

That brings us to our current airline predicament. Continental Airlines used to be a mainstay providing reasonable service at reasonable rates to the Marianas. That was when Northern Marianas proponent Larry Hillbloom owned large chunks of Continental’s stock. Those days too are long gone and what we have now is an airline that grudgingly provides sporadic service in small, aging airplanes at outrageously high prices. Apparently Afghan Bruce didn’t skim enough off the top of the Hillbloom casket to afford to buy a large chunk of Continental like his dead, unwilling benefactor did so Aunt Connie decided to disinherit Saipan, Tinian and Rota. It is not just a coincidence that Continental’s most profitable route is out here in Micronesia. They want to keep the biopoly going as long as possible.

Northwest, Connie’s code-share partner, was the only other game in town until Asiana stepped up to the plate and began bringing ever increasing numbers of beach hungry Korean tourists to our shores, thank you. That’s it. That’s all. Other than privately arranged charter flights to and from Japan and China we are at the mercy of Continental and Northwest who don’t care if we sink, swim or row a boat to Bali.

Now comes the part where we talk about a solution to this aerial quagmire. There are two that I can think of and we should be working hard to promote both with all due speed.

First, we should do everything in our power to get an open skies policy here in the NMI. That means opening up our airways to any airline that wants to come here and bring passengers. Let the marketplace decide who comes and goes and at what price. Right now the big American airlines forge under the table and over the table deals with the FAA to restrict competition so they can strangle the last dollar out of our wallets. What if Philippine airlines could bring passengers, tourists and medical referrals direct to and from Manila or Cebu? What if regional and flag carriers could bring in folks from Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and Australia? What if we could fly to all those places for business and pleasure direct at reasonable rates? What if regional carriers from the massive Chinese and Japanese markets could fly in whenever they wanted to, unrestricted by some bureaucrat in DC with his hand in the corporate air travel till?

The answer is we would be far better off than we are right now. Convenient, frequent and price competitive flight schedules are the key to increasing tourism here in the CNMI. These are also the key to Marianas residents having open access to business and pleasure locations around the region and around the world. Restricting flights pushes ticket prices sky high, which of course, is why Continental and Northwest wants to keep the current restrictive system in place. We need to fight like cats to get an open skies policy established. It should be pursued on an emergency basis because we are facing an economic, life threatening emergency.

Second, we should actively promote the formation of a flag carrier, an airline based in and named after our market. Saipan Airlines or Marianas Air or Pacific Paradise Airways could be a reality if we actively pursue investors with a viable, professional business plan. We could task MVA to develop such a plan or better yet we could go to an aviation savvy business consultant to generate such a plan. Then we need a competent salesman to go out there and hawk the plan until we find a buyer or a group that will work the plan for a profit.

Trying to start a flag carrier as a government run or government subsidized program is a recipe for failure. This needs to be a private sector process from the word go. Some government involvement to facilitate licensing, CPA airport access, preferred status for a home based carrier etc is okay, but for goodness sake let’s not fall into the trap that Nauru, the Marshall Islands and others have snared themselves with. Governments, ours or any others, are notorious for running airline companies into the ground (sorry, bad visual). A government just doesn’t have the profit motive or the lean, success driven, industry specific workforce necessary to make a go of this hard and very technical business. We want Tropical Airlines not Air Hysteria, so lets work hard toward developing, aiding and promoting a privately owned and operated flag carrier with it’s base of operations right here on Saipan.

Once we have Open Skies and a Flag Carrier working for us you will see airfares drop, schedules become far more convenient and overall seat availability improve radically. That means more tourists able to come here and more of us can travel when we want to.

* * * *
Speaking of High and Mighty

I notice that the most vocal anti casino folks like Pelligrino and Bennett always sign off their diatribes with references to God Blessing us all for voting no. As if They have some direct pipeline to God. They try to sneak in an implication that God is on their side and it is ‘Godly’ to keep yourself and your Nation broke, barefoot and pregnant so be sure to vote no for something that might bring back prosperity or disturb their friends in Tinian. Last time I checked God was willing to help those who help themselves. May I suggest that you help yourself by voting Yes for the Saipan Casino Act?
* * * *
Speaking of flying
I’m reading an interesting book about the search for Amelia Earhart. Next week I’ll share it’s interesting message with you briefly. Please tune in for the disappearing mystery act.
* * * *
Quote of the week:
Aerodynamically the bumblebee shouldn’t be able to fly, but the bumblebee doesn’t know that so it goes on flying anyway. Mary Kay Ash (1915 – 2001)

No flying machine will ever be able to fly from New York to Paris… [because] no known motor can run at the requisite speed for four days without stopping. Orville Wright (1871 – 1948)

Monday, October 29, 2007

Catching up

Well, I’ve been off line for about 10 or 12 days and when I come back to blogging I find I am way behind. I left Angelo in Laos coming down the Mekong. Now I’ll want to spend a while following his trail down to Vietnam and beyond. GlenD wrote me an email letting me know I was Missing In Action, and I suppose I will need to spend a couple of hours going over the 250 posts he has put up in that time (:-)) . I’m not making any points over at Deece’s WWII contest. Same is true for Jeff and Boni and Mr. Outer Mongolia and Harry and Troglodyte Sherman and the 15 or 20 other blogsites I visit from time to time. I haven’t even read my own blog’s incoming comments. I suppose it will take me a few days to catch up on all this.

Should be a lot of fun. Plus it looks like I’ll get to do some fragging too. Stand by for action.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Sour Grapes for Tuesday, October 16th

Cross Dogs
Continuous stalling

It is surprising that with all the admonishments by the Legislature, and rightfully so, to remind the Governor’s Office to send them a balanced budget on time that they would now sit on it without any apparent action for over a month.

There was precious little time left to work on the budget when it was turned over to them so you would think the Legislature would jump on it like a duck on a june bug in order to get it finished before the fiscal year ended. Instead, they wasted those precious few weeks and now have languished for another couple of weeks into the new fiscal year. Why? Because they already got paid, that’s why. Their own large quarterly allotment checks got written even though they did not do their job. Their own paychecks came through without a hitch. Why? Because the continuing resolution lets them get away with it, that’s why.

Readers, don’t you wish you could just not show up for work, or just sit there and do other things instead of your assigned work and still get a nice fat paycheck and an even bigger expenses allotment check? You need to ask your boss for a ‘continuing resolution’. Good luck. More likely you would get a pink slip.

Come on Legislators, please face this difficult question and pass a balanced budget. While you’re at it find that 8 million bucks that will keep the lights on over at CUC, please. We know it is election time. That should not be an excuse not to do your jobs. In fact, it should be an inducement to work even harder so we will elect you next time. Please do the work we hired you for, even though it is not easy.
* * * *
PAWS, the folks who care about animals and try to get the rest of us to care more too, held a ‘Kids Night Out’ rally recently and managed to raise $335 for the PAWS cause.

During the four-hour event the children played video games, interactive games, made Halloween cats, and watched a movie. The parents got a break and probably enjoyed those four hours as much as the kids did.I you would like to have your kids join them next time contact Melissa Simms at melissasimms56@hotmail.com to pre-register for the free event. The next Kids’ Night Out will be held on November 16, 2007, from 6:00 p.m. until 10:00 p.m., at the Fiesta Resort. No fleas allowed.
* * * *
A cross marks the spot
Outside the reef on the North West side of the island is a site where some US military equipment was dumped years ago. It is a widely scattered debris field with bits and pieces of old landing craft, chucks of unidentifiable metal rusting away, the detritus of a bygone era now home for fish and coral.

Among all this stuff, these scattered pieces of our island’s violent history, lays a cross. Made of concrete or stone about 4 feet long it appears to be placed beside two rusted hulks that used to be landing craft. It is unknown what these craft were doing up there since those were not invasion beaches. No one seems to know why the other material is there and it is likewise unknown who placed the cross there or why. Perhaps it is just a cross shaped piece of structural material, or perhaps it has a more spiritual meaning.

A group of interested divers from the Marianas Dive club is currently researching the remains and is interested in finding the answers. If you have any information, anecdotal or fact based, please contact this author at the email address listed below or call the Saipan Tribune and leave me a message.

Marianas Dive is a group dedicated to promoting scuba diving as wholesome recreation and as a major reason for tourists to come here to the Marianas to visit. Marianas Dive also acts as a clearinghouse and bulletin board for local divers who like to get together and dive for fun whenever possible. If you have an interest in improving tourism in the Marianas or if you just like to dive or would like to learn, go to http://www.marianasdive.com/ and check them out. Their next meeting is this coming Wednesday, Oct. 15th at 6:30PM.
* * * *

Easy to say no
Economies on the decline sooner or later reach a ‘tipping point’ beyond which recession turns to depression and getting back on the road to recovery becomes increasingly difficult. Outright crashes can occur. Our economy is nearing that tipping point and we need to do something to bring in fresh revenue or the consequences will be dire. You can see the effects all around you right now. The government is broke, businesses are failing, people are leaving the island. A family whose breadwinner loses his or her job needs to find another one quickly in order to keep the family fed and housed. The same thing goes for countries. If the income stream dries up another must be found. Tourism is declining and the Garment industry is or soon will be, dead. We need to find and implement a new income source and we need to do it soon. Nickel and dime small business ideas won’t make a big enough difference or do it in time to save us.

Casino gaming here on Saipan is the only workable solution that has so far been proposed. There may be others but so far no one has proposed one. There are a few people, however who say that possible negatives outweigh the obvious advantages. This or that is wrong with it and it can’t work they say. My guess is that most of the No’s have a vested interest in another business or industry or they just plain fear the change back to a prosperous economy.

It’s easy to say no to this initiative and to change in general. It is far more difficult to come up with a rational, workable course of action that will accomplish positive change. Many fear change and worry excessively about how that change might negatively impact them instead of trying to find real solutions. Oh my gosh the sky is falling. Yeah, it is, but what are you going to DO about it? The naysayers simply have no viable alternative to suggest. Just saying no, doesn’t cut it. Generalizations and ‘there is no magic bullet’ pronouncements hide the simple fact that they have no positive agenda, no solutions, not even a piece of a solution to the overwhelming problems we face.

May I please recommend that you vote Yes, on this important initiative? This measure gives us hope once again that all our Islands people can live in a prosperous and growing environment instead of one that is dying.
* * * *
Quotes of the week:
When a dog runs at you, whistle for him. Henry David Thoreau (1817 –1862)

You can’t cross the sea merely by standing and staring at the water. Rabindranath Tagore (1861 – 1941)

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Free Medical Help

Okay, since it is Breast Cancer Awareness month and since I have an all encompassing desire to aggravate those few extra-sensitive female readers who might peruse this page, I tender the following:

Yes, we men are pigs. Outwardly some will profess sensitivity, but in a blind anonymous test, I'm betting 90% plus would put their head in that box and await customers. (:-))

Sour Grapes for Tuesday, October 9th

Fire me up

Utility Rate scam
The recent passage, veto and override of the as yet unnumbered law capping residential utility rates at 17 cents per kilowatt hour will come back to haunt us and very soon. If you are deceived into believing that your lawmakers have done you a favor, it won’t take long for you to figure out the truth.

The 8 Million dollar shortfall that this will create will have to be taken care of in one of two ways. Either shut off the power in rolling blackouts (you remember how much fun that was, right?), or charge government (which doesn’t pay anyway) and businesses the difference. Since government doesn’t pay most of the time that leaves charging the 8 Million loss to business. Fine you say, they can afford it and I can’t. Sorry to disillusion you but YOU will be doing the paying and it will cost you even more than before. If these charges are passed on to businesses they will have to pass them on to their customers plus some. Every time you buy something you will be paying that power rate increase plus a hefty margin. You will pay out more in higher prices than you were paying for the power rate to begin with. It is a lose/lose/lose proposition.

Lets look at an example: If your power bill is now about $200 per month you will save roughly $60 per month but the cost of goods and services you have to buy to survive will be going up by much more than that. A medium sized grocery has a power bill of $10,000 or more now and that will be going up by the same 30% that your residential bill goes down. So that $3000 extra plus a margin will mean that grocery store will be charging you much more for all your groceries. To net an extra $3000 at the very slim margins a grocery operates on they will have to generate nearly $100,000 more in revenue. I repeat, they will have to make one hundred thousand more gross revenue to net that extra three thousand profit so they can pay the higher power bill. YOU will have to pay for it.

That is just groceries, what about all the other things and services you must buy each month? I project you will be paying at least double and possibly triple the $60 you saved. So bottom line, you will be spending about $150 extra per month in order to “save” $60. You lose, I lose, all businesses lose. Only the government wins as it sucks extra gross revenue tax from the businesses that have to charge more to survive. Thanks Legislature, we really appreciate it. Remember that long term you too will lose as pushing the rate increase onto them, some of those businesses will close down causing a reduction in taxes instead of an increase. By then it will be too late, the harm will have been done.
* * * *
I read with astonishment an article last week in which the author claims that the boost provided by a vibrant new industry, poised on the brink of revitalizing our way of life here is ‘not worth the money’ because social problems may arise from it.

We are already experiencing huge social problems as people, businesses and the government go broke and large portions of the population leave the island because our sources of income are drying up. Any social problems generated by casino gaming would be small in comparison to the deterioration we see around us every day. Any social problems would be more than offset by the removal of the Poker rooms from our neighborhoods, and hundreds of private sector jobs being created. Many more people would gain than might possibly be harmed.

It is understandable that those who own competing businesses (poker rooms and Tinian casino operators) would want to maintain their respective monopolies and would pour some funds into the ‘no’ campaign. It is understandable that those who are on the receiving end of those funds would be happy to do their bidding, for a price. It is more puzzling why others with little to lose and the possibility of a whole new era of prosperity to gain would be so vocal in their opposition.

Those who are already ‘set’ monetarily and those who fear change seem to be the primary opponents to the idea that we can attract money and jobs to our economy by allowing tourists already coming here to spend some more of their money having fun with casino games before they leave. If these ‘no’ folks really thought about the needs of the population, especially the indigent, they would want to see the economy blossom and thus see their quality of life improve. That means they would be in favor of an initiative that finally brings meaningful amounts of money back into the economy instead of against it. Maybe they just don’t care. Maybe they care but just haven’t thought it through.

Those already wealthy can afford to stay here. Those on the middle and bottom rungs are getting to the point where they cannot. Many of our local families are not making ends meet. This Casino Act offers the means, which with hard work and proper oversight, can give the economy the boost it needs to keep families together and to get the CNMI back on the road to recovery after 10 years of languishing.

Please consider the option of continuing to do nothing new to help ourselves. The results of doing the same things we are already doing are pretty obvious. Just look around you. Please consider voting Yes for a chance, a hope, a ray of light in an otherwise bleak economic landscape.
* * * *
We dodged another bullet over the weekend as contractors working with CUC repaired a damaged section of the one mile pipeline that carries oil from Lower Base to the storage tanks at power plant #1.

This is the third time in a year we have been lucky. Only a few gallons of diesel were leaked thanks to a fast cleanup response by CUC and its contractors. One of these days we will not be so lucky. An ecological disaster awaits when that pipeline is struck and broken open by one of the big trucks plying the road within inches of the pipe daily. Think thousands of gallons of oil being spilled. Think a raging fire that engulfs the port and maybe even the Lower Base storage tanks. Think disaster.

Compared to that scenario, the few hundred thousand dollars it would take to build a barrier in front of the pipeline would be chickenfeed. Need I say more?
* * * *
Quotes of the week:
I find the great thing in this world is not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving: To reach the port we seek, we must sail sometimes with the wind and sometimes against it, but we must sail, and not drift, nor lie at anchor. Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809 – 1894)

Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays instead of serving you if he sacrifices it to your opinion. Edmund Burke (1729 – 1797)

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Naftan Point

Bev, Rose, Jeff and I went diving today. We had a good time with plenty of laughter and convivial conversation. The dive conditions were excellent.

The first dive saw us moored at Naftan Point buoy where we slipped the surly bonds of earth (okay we fell backwards into the water from the boat) and went into the underwater world for some peace, quiet and adventure. The wall dive was interesting with some nice corals but limited sea creatures. The most unusual part of the dive was when a pair of large (2 foot+?) triggerfish were found and Bev began photographing them. This apparently pissed off the partner fish which began to act very aggressively. He attacked Bev, Jeff and Rose eventually viciously biting the latter two while I bravely backed off about 15 feet to watch the melee. The rest of the dive was anticlimactic.

After a surface interval spent snorkeling, cavorting and posing for silly pictures while tied to the buoy at Boy Scout Beach we dove down to explore the fascinating coral gardens there. It was like swimming through a miniature medieval landscape. The spires and accretions of coral reminded me of fairy tale castles and Salvador Dali-esque twisted buildings. The hour or so we spent there was memorable.

The boat ride was a lot of fun coming back with some nice high seas especially as we rounded antenna point. The rollers were big all along the reef line and the view of the island as we motored home was impressive. The boat crew of the No Limits II was very helpful and friendly.

We unloaded our gear at the fishing base dock and headed over to Porky's for Mojitos, beef tinala and Jeffs favorite, chicken keleguen.

I didn't take a camera but will post some pictures when Bev makes me a copy disc of the ones she took with camera #3.

A good time was had by all.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Sour Grapes for Tuesday, October 2nd


I’m banking on it
Banking rules here tend to be anything but customer friendly. Some bigger, full service banks flaunt US banking law because they can get away with it out here. Lack of regulatory enforcement means the customers, you and me, suffer poor and delayed service from some of them.

I must say, to be fair, that the local personnel behind the counter and in the local administrative offices always seem to offer a smile and offer the best service they can. It is their bank’s home office that sets the draconian style for second-class service out here on Saipan.

Their corporate home offices are off island and that is where most of the CNMI’s money goes too. These banks have little interest in reinvesting here locally. They prefer to send nearly every dime to other far off pacific islands and do their investing there. They send our money offshore electronically, usually the same day it is deposited.

These corporate offshore banks get money from other banks the same way, electronically. Meaning usually the same day or within 2 days of the time it is requested. In violation of US banking law they then rub salt in the customer’s wound by delaying credit to that customer’s account by as long as three weeks. Meanwhile they have had the use of your or your businesses’ money for free all that time. Nice deal, for them. Rotten rip off for you, the customer.

You have probably experienced it. You deposit a check from another FDIC bank with corporate offices on the same island a few thousand miles from here, but the deposit is not credited to your account for 5, 10 even 15 ‘working days’ (meaning 1, 2 or 3 real time weeks). How long do you suppose it took the bank to get the money from the check issuer’s bank account? Minutes usually, a couple of days at most, even for ‘off island’ checks.

US banking regulations instituted a few years back took notice of the instantaneous nature of money transfers and posited rules about how soon banks are required to post credits. Those rules are flaunted by some banks out here. Those rules are adhered to by other big and small banks out here that have corporate offices a lot closer to home. Where you bank is up to you. Might I suggest you bank with those that follow the banking rules designed to protect your rights as a customer.
* * * *
McCoys and Hatfields
PSS and DCCA are fighting over some public funds wrung out of taxpayers somewhere in Idaho or Oklahoma that is supposed to fund child care here in the CNMI.

I think the 1.7 Million windfall should be split evenly between the twenty new incoming House Representatives. Think of the bushcutters and barbeques this would buy. All manner of popular entertainments could be devised and a nice batch would still be left over to fund that new Escalade each has had his or her eye on. There will even be a few Congresspersons who will want to fund local childcare with their share.

I say the whole idea of public childcare is counterproductive. What do 14 year old girls do for pocket money if all the babysitting jobs are publicly funded? A hulking bureaucracy, chewing up the funds and spitting out rulebooks is also unlikely to provide meaningful childcare no matter who is at the helm or who is spending the loot. Lets keep childcare in the private sector.

Alternatively, divvy the loot up among all 14 year old girls. Hello Kitty stock would get a boost and babysitters would never be better dressed. Each gal (or guy) has to perform x hours of Babysitting Duty weekly to stash a share of the federal cash.
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Continuing revolution
Here is a simple solution to the no budget is passed after an Administrations first year in office problem. Let’s change the rules so that the government has to shut down if no budget is passed by the fiscal year funding deadline. Period. No extensions, no excuses, no ‘continuing resolutions’…it just comes to a grinding halt.

The fire Department and the Police Department get to draw directly from the Treasury to fund their operations. Everything else stops. No paychecks, no programs, no services, just nothing. Autonomous agencies like CUC that provide their own funding keep on trucking as before but everything else ceases until a budget is passed.

I’m betting this would stop the continuing resolution dance in its tracks. This would stop the overspending that always occurs under a continuing resolution. I’m betting that the Administration would submit and the Legislature would pass a budget on time every time. Why? Because their biggest fear would be for you, the citizen and taxpayer, to find out that you can do very well without them for the most part. Plus the hardworking government employees would not stand for the stoppage and other citizens would not stand for it either. Moms with kids in tow mobilizing on the Legislature’s lawn because the schools are closed? How long do you think that would last? Ever read the Lysistrata?

I believe this solution would require a citizen’s initiative as no legislature would ever pass a bill or produce a legislative initiative to alter the Constitution or the funding rules to make themselves fully responsible. Where is Tina Sablan when we need her?
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Still Yes
Another reason to vote Yes for the Saipan Casino Act: As the US military pulls thousands of troops away from Okinawa and puts them in Guam, we will want to attract them to come to the Marianas as tourists for R&R.

Properly regulated, clean and well lit casinos in some of the major hotels and resorts will attract those soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines to come here. Once here they will find the many other charms the Marianas have to offer. These thousands of potential GI tourists tend to have a lot of disposable income they like to spend on pure fun and recreation. They also can be a repeat source of income for CNMI businesses and government. If we can make ourselves attractive to the Military personnel on Guam, new and old, they will come to visit us over and over again. Professionally run casinos and the entertainment they will attract will add a big draw tempting them to come here over and over for “getaway weekends”.
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Quote of the week:
A man may learn wisdom even from a foe. Aristophanes (450 BC – 388 BC)

Monday, October 1, 2007