Tuesday, October 30, 2007

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?
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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.
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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 - ).


Pragmatic Plato said...

Yes, that is the response I had expected from you.

Love your great column today. Helped me reach a decision.

Thanks Porky.

Boycott Porky's!


Bruce A. Bateman said...

Why sure, your mind was just an open page before that column.

bigsoxfan said...

On a more constructive note, one mans trash is anothers treasure. saipans historical heritage is somewhat unique. I always had a little thrill out on Naftan point, standing in an old gun emplacement and imagining how the defenders felt, when they looked out and saw the bombardment fleet sailing offshore. Too damn bad, Flags of our Fathers or the like wasn't set in Saipan. Saipan is more accessable to the history buff than the more remote islands, so the lure will always be there for the more serious history buff. Selling our history for its scrap value isn't ever a good trade.

Bruce A. Bateman said...

There are several spots on this island that conjure up that feeling of 'wonder what it felt like?', Mark. Naftan is a good example. Lots of stuff out there just lying around.

That ammo storage building near the gun emplacements is an example of something we might take tourists to. Let them feel the same emotions. Wonder what happened to the big guns from those emplacements?

bigsoxfan said...

There is still one gun, that I've seen, down towards the end at the right fork. My favorite scooter ride. The rest of them? One of us probably shaved with them this week.

Bruce A. Bateman said...

I haven't taken that boonie two track road in a while, Mark. Thanks for the reminder. I'll head out there next week. Sometimes you have to have a machete to get through , other times that road has enough traffic to be easily passsable. Yep, shaving with it. Sadly.