Sunday, December 28, 2008

Plenty of time to gripe later.




Saturday, October 25, 2008

Come and Enjoy

As you have probably noticed, I have not been very active blog-wise for the last several weeks. That will probably continue for the foreseeable future. Certain monkey picture creatures and similar cretins are probably ecstatic since they can preach to their choir without serious objection to their idiotic pabulum now. All six of you will just be sick with worry.

You may or may not know that I have taken on the responsibility for marketing Saipan, Tinian and Rota to our major markets, Japan, Korea, China, Russia and the US. I am working with the MVA team to try and develop new markets while growing the existing ones.

Since we are a one-legged economy now, it is especially important that we keep that leg active and growing. Any gout symptoms in that last remaining leg will leave all the hangers-on without anything to hang on to, so we are working extra hard to keep tourism alive and well in the Marianas.

I’m having a good time and the task is both interesting and challenging. Come by or call/email MVA headquarters with your ideas, comments, questions or challenges. I’ll be happy to listen and take the best you have to offer and try and apply it to the task at hand.
The Emerald is back in the water and running well after an annual refit/preventative maintenance check. If you are interested in weekend diving, snorkeling or fishing give me a call. Unlike the anonymous blog assholes, I am in the book.

Monday, October 13, 2008


The world is full of coincidences, a few real, some imagined, most staged.

Miura, after 7 months in the Saipan hoosegow, volunteers to waive extradition when a California Judge correctly rules it would be double jeopardy to retry him for the murder of his wife after the high court in Japan already ruled him innocent. Now that he is almost sure to get let out on bail after sitting in the CNMI can for 7 months, he decides freedom is just too much responsibility and kills himself in an LA jail cell. Right.

I’m believing that one about as much as I’m going for the coincidence of US DEA storm troopers harassing 147 out of 187 Chinese passengers aboard an inaugural flight from Shanghai with tourism officials aboard “just because it’s their job”. Strange that they never performed their job that way before. Strange that they ‘didn’t profile’ but chose as their victims of intimidation and harassment 100% Chinese citizens. The nazi-like DEA stormtroopers claim they were ‘tipped off’ to a drug smuggling operation. Of course having found no, repeat no illegal drugs on the flight or in any of the bags which were checked three separate times, or on any the 147 persons whose underwear they checked and whose private parts they fondled repeatedly leaves one wondering about just who tipped them off. I say try checking Allen Stayman, or one of his henchmen. There is your likely ‘coincidence’. Find the ‘informer’, you will find the motivation for the outrageous harassment episode.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

It’s a Pinto
Drug needle
I have heard several folks criticizing local and federal law enforcement for their failure to stop the importation of drugs found in a Chinese garment worker’s car recently. I do not agree. Trying to stop this kind of thing at the border seems almost impossible.

While 176 grams sounds like a lot (and is a lot if it is being used by a relative who is destroying his family with it) it is really a tiny amount size wise. About 6 ounces of anything, illegal drugs, shredded carrots or beach sand is a pretty small package and could be hidden most anywhere.

Before finding fault with DEA or FBI or CPA or DPS think about how difficult it would be to find that needle in a haystack. Interdiction of large quantities is probably possible because of the physical size of the contraband package. How on earth would you expect to find something that small on a regular basis? I’ve heard of drug smelling dogs but would that work on something sealed airtight and really tiny in size? My guess would be probably not. Any experts in the field willing to give an opinion?

So it seems that solving the problem by reducing demand or by curbing illegal usage would be a far more profitable use of DPS/FBI/CPA/DEA personnel time than trying to find that tiny needle in the haystack of incoming people, baggage, merchandise, ship and air cargo.

Congratulations are due to the patrol officers who were observant enough to catch this guy during a routine traffic stop and get him and the drugs off the street.
* * * *
Up the wrong tree

Recently a group of people assembled at fishing Base to vent their frustrations at the power outages that have plagued our island for the last few months. Why the leaders of the event waited to protest until after the problem was temporarily solved by the Aggreko generators is a mystery only they know the answer to.

What they want is reliable and affordable power. That is a laudable goal. The way they want to do it is a throwback to the failed mechanisms of yesteryear. Individually and collectively they are calling for and insisting that ‘affordable’ power is a right assured to everyone. It is not a right; electric power is a commodity and has a price like any other good or service.

They are asking for a regression to the old days that they themselves in the next breath call for an end to. Then as now the local government owned and operated the power plants. Here on Saipan there used to be relatively reliable power and it was affordable as well, it was cheap in fact based on what it actually cost to produce it. It was cheap because the rate paying customers were not charged as much as it cost to make the power. The difference was made up for by government subsidies. They took all the money paid by the ratepayers into the system and used it for operations, plus they took more funds wrested from other sources and threw them in on top to keep the lights on. Little or nothing was spent on a decaying infrastructure as we all know and now it has come home to roost. They kept rates artificially low and that was the problem, not the solution. So to call out now for artificially lowered rates is irresponsible and won’t work this time any better than it did last time.

We should look to someone other than our government’s Administration, this one or any other one, to come up with answers to the affordability question. Likewise we should look elsewhere to find a professional operations company if we don't want to see this emergency fiasco repeated endlessly into the future. Rate setting and reliable operations should be done by a responsible and professional third party company or co-op, not the government. Let’s leave upside pricing oversight to a well trained Public Utilities Commission and downside pricing to real costs and reasonable profits. We will all pay less and have the reliability we all want to boot.

Privatize CUC with a completely open, no strings attached bid process. Then we have a chance for reliable affordable power. Begging another government group to take the reins from this government group is begging for more of the same.
* * * *
Which color horse?
Last week’s Sour Grapes had a section about the importance of consistency of purpose between the local Administration and the new Officer we are about to elect called a Non Voting Delegate. As a side issue in that piece I wrote, “Our elected Washing Rep is still in office though he is running for another office and the Constitution says he should resign.” Pete, and a couple of other people have sent me emails offering a different interpretation and claiming that he need not resign. Pete had a copy of that email printed as a Letter to the Editor citing his reasoning. Hopefully you read it.

Pete claims that the new federal law that mandates the new NVD office was written so as to define his old job to be the same as the new job he hopes to be elected to even though they are completely different. Maybe that is true.

Note that Pete A. currently works for the CNMI and is paid by the CNMI treasury. His title is “Resident Representative to the United States”, he is an elected and paid lobbyist for the CNMI. The new position he hopes to be elected to is the “Delegate to the House of Representatives”, a different animal entirely. Whoever wins will be paid by the United States Treasury. This is clearly a different job with a different title, different responsibilities, different authority and a different paymaster. To say he is running for the same office is not factual and at best constitutes semantic pandering. Note also that the office term of Washington Rep does not even expire until 2010. Maybe the reason for the language calling an apple an orange is so there are not two representatives from the CNMI floating around Washington at the same time, and not so the current Rep does not have to resign before running for a different job.

So it is a matter of interpretation whether the current Resident Representative should resign to run for the Non Voting Delegates office. However, the time frame is so short now that I guess it doesn’t make much difference so I won’t continue to beat this different colored horse of an argument any longer.

One other point deserves mention. Some think I bring this up because I don’t like Pete A. Nothing could be further from the truth. I like and respect him. In fact I find him to be an engaging man with enough intelligence and diplomatic capability to do the job if he is elected by the people of the CNMI. I don't agree with his new philosophical position nor do I want to personally back someone who has 'flipped' positions, but he is certainly capable if elected which is also true for most of the other candidates.

Anyway Pete, good luck and thanks for reading Sour Grapes.
* * * *
Quote of the week:
When you point your finger at the moon, you want others to look at the moon, not your finger. Zen Homily

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Copy tax

Light or dark
Everyone who lives here has been impacted by the power outages of the last few months. Let’s face it though, it was an inconvenience, not a life threatening situation. I was frustrated, you were frustrated, they were frustrated, we all wished we had 24/7 power. Life hasn’t been as convenient as it could have been, but no one was in danger, no one lost their life, no one’s house was washed out to sea.

I have noticed that those who wailed the loudest for “something to be done”, continue to wail once something has actually been done. Apparently the something was not what the wailers would have done so like children who didn’t get it their own way, they continue the tantrum. A temporary solution was decided on by bringing new rental power generators to the island to restore full power while repairs are made to the main engines. This sounds like a reasonable solution to any reasonable person who wants to see the power turned back on 24/7, but the griping continues, and even increases. I would pose the question: would you rather sit in the dark and bitch or would you rather have the power on while you find fault with the solution?

If all you are trying to do is discredit the current managers so you can try to become the Executive decision maker yourself then I suppose you would prefer that the rental generators not be here so you could gripe in the dark…it makes a better case for you. If you really want what you say you want, the power back on and a plan to keep it that way, then you should be happy to be sitting in that air conditioned room googling on your electric computer. Power outages are bad for business but so is never ending public media dissention. That keeps public confidence down and that keeps discretionary spending down and that keeps investors away and existing businesses from growing.

I might recommend that if you don’t like the decisions made by CUC managers that you either go get an electrical engineering degree and spend a few years working in the power generation field or that you back a process that aims to hire an already trained Power Plant manager. The other (and better) option is to sell, or give, or pay someone to take the current power plant off the government’s hands who will then run it privately. A coop of local ratepayers could own it, or a private company could own it, or a public stock company could own it. Either way, someone who benefits from making it run efficiently owning it is the best long term solution to reliable power. Getting another government to run it is just a recipe for more failure.

Meanwhile, I for one am pretty darned happy to have the freezer on and the little LED lights on my computer winking merrily away as I sit here bathed in a blaze of fluorescent splendor. Now show me the long term plan and the means to achieve it and I am a happy camper…an electric camper.
* * * *
Don’t vote - for the same thing
Our elected Washing Rep is still in office though he is running for another office and the Constitution says he should resign. He is once again of a different mind than the also elected Governor of the Commonwealth and is, once again, presenting a different message to Washington than the Administration. That rift causes confusion and lessens the likelihood that either message will be taken seriously.

Until we elect and send a Non Voting Delegate (NVD) to the US House, we will continue to rely on a very expensive, but often not very effective lobbyist; namely, the Washington Representative. The problem over the last couple of years after the current Rep changed his position and decided to bow down to the new power elite in Washington to gain his ends, is that his position was at loggerheads with the Commonwealth’s elected leader, the Governor. That difference of opinion cost us dearly, in terms of presenting a non united front to the US government. It also cost us dearly in that it necessitated the hiring of expensive lobbyists to do the work that could have been done by our already extremely expensive WashRep lobbyist (1.3 Million a year). In the future, let’s hope that the newly elected NVD not-votes for the same things that the Governor wants to not-vote for whatever that is. If both are on the same page it will save a lot of grief and a lot of money. We might even make some progress if both are asking for the same thing.

At least we won’t be paying for it anymore, whichever way it works out; mainland taxpayers will foot the bill for the NVD as they do with real honest-to-goodness voting Congressmen.
* * * *
Charge a fee tax?
The fees charged for all government offerings should be set at a level that pays for the service or regulatory requirement. Charging more in order to later ‘reprogram’ those monies into the CUC coffers for fuel subsidies, or to buy more equipment for some other Department is taxation plain and simple. Come on legislature, if you want to raise taxes, have the gumption to come out and say “we are broke, so in future we will be taking a bigger tax bite from you personally and from all the companies you do business with.” That would be the honest way to approach this shortfall.

The one I agree with most is the marriage license fee increase. It should be pegged at $5,000 and a rider fee of $100,000 should be required for each new child born (a birth license fee) to make up for the cost of government services the kid will surely use over his lifetime. Kidding here…that could be just a bit much and entirely too fair for a government to consider. Getting reelected after passing that one would prove pretty difficult. Divorce lawyers are not likely to be happy about the $5K marriage certificate either as it would cut into business. Paternity attorneys would be happy as clams though.

* * * *
Quote of the week:
A cynic is not merely one who reads bitter lessons from the past, he is one who is prematurely disappointed in the future. Sidney J. Harris (1917 – 1986)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Dive Deep
Excellent new business
We are a one legged economy right now…tourism. That leg is showing some signs of wear as it hops along trying valiantly to keep the CNMI afloat without much aid from any other sector. Just like a family needs income to survive, so does a country. Tourism and alms from the US bring the only significant income into the CNMI right now. MVA works hard to bring tourists here but needs our help every day to give them a quality experience during their visit. A satisfied visitor replaces himself many times over. A dissatisfied one keeps hundreds of other potential visitors away.

Many of our visitors come here to scuba dive in our fantastic dive spots. They are likely to be repeat customers if they have a good experience. That is why I am so stoked that a new outfit is willing to invest their time, effort and money here. Since I am a scuba diver myself this may seem more important to me than to others, but I ask you to think about the value of this to our Islands even if you are not a diver.

A new business is starting on Saipan. It is a dive charter boat. Built in the US the Newton 46 foot special built dive boat is a welcome addition to the fleet here on Saipan. An outfit called Saipan Sun Company headed by Eric Lister has commissioned this boat at a cost nearing one million dollars and has had it shipped out here to the Marianas. The boat, named the Sun Rider will act as a platform for local dive companies, interested individuals and other divers who want a fine dive experience. Dive motivated tourists are sure to love this boat

We should not forget the other dive boats here like Captain Fred’s outstanding Dolphin Quest and Scott’s orange semi inflatable ‘No Limts’ boats. Many other great dive boats ply the waters here but the new Sun Rider deserves mention as being a notch above in size and load capacity. Plus she is brand new and still smells of fresh fiberglass.

I tried her out the other day and found the boat to be stable, fast and very accommodating in terms of space, amenities and ease of entrance/egress even for older divers like me. The crew is new but learning the customer service ropes. The captain is experienced and good at the job. I had a blast.

I for one wish the new venture the best of luck as they cater to our tourists who come here to dive the crystal waters of the Marianas. Please join me in welcoming these folks to Saipan.

Saipan Sun – Sun Rider Reservations: 287-7802
Dolphin Quest reservations: 287-6533
No Limits reservations: 233-8633
(I will happily give equal space to other dive charter boat’s contact information if owner/operators will forward it to me :
* * * *
Who controls our success?
There are those among us that by implication and by direct actions show that they believe our lives as citizens in a free society are controlled by the actions of government. They blame the current or past administrations here and elsewhere for the success or failure of our economy. They are wrong. Successful economies depend on entrepreneurs willing to take financial risks and work hard now in order to make gains later. It also depends on workers and managers and professionals willing to work hard and dedicate themselves to the success of the company they work for in return for a share of the gains made. Governments neither control nor even guide this process. They only benefit from it by skimming enough off the top of the monies produced by others to sustain their own existence and provide some generally needed (and a lot of completely unneeded) services. Government policies can help or hinder this progress but cannot control its destiny. Only we can do that. Only we as individuals do, do that.

We as citizens and workers, investors and businessmen control that economy. It is influenced far more by our collective and personal attitudes than by the nudging and siphoning actions of government. We are all personally responsible for its success or failure. The concept that a government entity shoulders that responsibility for us and that we are dependant upon them for our daily bread and existence is not just wrong, it is immoral and leads relentlessly to a self fulfilling prophesy of an unfree and completely regulated society doomed to failure. It suggests we should abrogate our rights and responsibilities to an entity, which at its heart, produces nothing at all.

Governments worldwide only exist by using force to siphon off wealth from those workers who produce it. It is a parasitic relationship. The best of them allow citizens enough freedom to keep the economic engine turning and producing so they can take some and share it around with their friends. The worst and greediest try to take more than the producers can produce and go down the totalitarian tubes eventually.

If you have been convinced by those who believe government controls your economic life that, well government controls your economic life, I’ve got good news for you. You and your neighbors are in control and have been all along. Take off and sail your ship to success. Chart your own course. Don’t wait on some government wand to ‘improve the economy’, you’ll wait a lifetime…for nothing.
* * * *
Quote of the week:
Desire! That’s the one secret of every man’s career. Not education. Not being born with hidden talents. Desire. Bobby Unser (1934 - ).

Thursday, September 4, 2008

But CUC told me so
I will mention only two brief items about our power provider this time.

First, someone has coined the term “power innages”; this pretty much describes the state of our infrastructure right now. Second, I see there is a ‘countdown to Agreko’ in the newspaper right now. Let’s hope there is some semblance of accuracy about the date those 15 temporary megawatts are going online.

I was thinking since the official (but usually unheeded) schedule now calls for 3 three- hour blackout periods for all of us it behooves us to come up with a term for the 15 hours per day our power is officially on, versus the time that it is actually on. Say ZEN Power time versus ZAP Power time.

The difference can be readily discerned by a competent appliance technician. When a toaster is connected to a household outlet, if toast is produced you are Zap time, if your reflection on the side of the toaster is all that is produced, or if only slightly stale bread comes out of the slot, you are on Zen time irrespective of official CUC pronouncements about the schedule. You can test this system yourself by sticking your finger into any handy electric outlet, but I don’t suggest it.

So standing around the water cooler at work the conversation might go something like this: “Hey Bob, what’s the weather for tomorrow? Gosh, I dunno, my house was on Zen time all morning while I was having breakfast so I couldn’t watch the news. How about you? Me too, that’s why I asked. Maybe we could talk to Joe Boy, he has two gerbils running in a cage that produce more power than our CUC hook ups, maybe he caught the weather report this morning. Don’t count on it, his wife Martha invited Betty and I over for gerbil stew the other night. She said something about the price of rice being higher than her car payment. Anything else cooking? Only my son, he got confused and stuck his finger in a socket during a non-official innage and found out the hard way we were on Zap time. Yeah, I know what you mean, my kid got 2nd degree burns from the toaster the other day while using it as a mirror.”
* * * *
To sue or not to sue.
It’s not about whether ‘federalization’ will be good for us or not (although I, like many, think it will be disastrous). It is about whether the US can run roughshod over the CNMI and abrogate its commitment via the Covenant to assist the NMI in its efforts to be self governing. The initial NMI negotiators were foolish enough to give away their right to control their own immigration, but that is water under the bridge. What they did not give up is the right to control their own labor laws or to govern themselves internally as they, not an unelected US bureaucrat or US elected politico, sees fit.

What is happening right now is the US is pushing against the Covenant as hard as they can to see how much we are willing to let them get away with. Purpose: unknown. Perhaps they want to vastly expand their military presence here and turn this into a military economy again with them pulling the strings once more. Maybe it is something else entirely different. For sure they are making noises like they want to take Pagan as well as Tinian and use them for military ‘training’ and have mentioned several other islands as well. An ‘environmental’ monument that encompasses the northernmost three islands and forbids most uses is proposed but coincidentally excludes the US military and allows them to do as they wish. Maybe that is innocent, maybe not. Perhaps there are other, more personal forces at work or maybe it is just the relentless leaning of the big on the small as seen throughout history. Whatever their intent the pressure against our freedoms is intense and seems to be growing.

As I see it, the proposed suit will try to make a line in the sand and state for all to see that the CNMI is trying to be something other than a US colony, a lackey to be tossed the occasional bone when the mood strikes and to be given the short stick the rest of the time. A pat on the head and a few dollops from the petty cash drawer as they have their way with us are supposed to pass for the right, yes, right, to self rule as stipulated in the governing document, the Covenant. Four Hundred Thousand, or whatever the Freedom Suit costs, is a paltry sum when compared to the loss of those rights. I must admit that since the government is running short of cash, choosing where to get the 400K is not easy. Critics will gnash their teeth and say it will come from the baby’s milk fund. I’m sure Legislators can find a little pork to trim by four hundred thousand if they look hard enough. The children and grandchildren of the CNMI will thank them for finding it.

The spin we are getting from the disaffected left (meaning those who believe that government control trumps personal freedom and responsibility) is that we cannot sue the federal government to try and protect what is left of our right to self government and from their encroachment on it and at the same time ask for disaster aid or other aid from FEMA or Insular Affairs etc. This is a clever ploy but absolutely incorrect. This pro federal propaganda move makes it sound like the US Fed is a homogenous single entity, a person in short, who acts and reacts as a unit. Nothing could be further from the truth. Each of these behemoth organizations inside the fed grinds along doing it’s own work based on entrenched regulations and self interest not on whether someone is suing some other part of the fed for a redress of grievances.

The 50 States sue the feds regularly for perceived encroachment into their rightful spheres of influence. The Federal government is not like some little child (or naïve lawmaker) who, if you confront them with a wrong, throws a fit or refuses to dispense required services or voluntary aid. To claim we have no chance of receiving FEMA or other assistance because we are suing to cure a breach of a contractual obligation is nonsense and shows both a lack of understanding and a huge disrespect to the concept of a freely self governed Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands.

Sure we need to keep an open dialog going with each of the four US bureaucracies that will wield authority over labor policy here if the suit fails to protect our rights. Sure stakeholders and leaders should not just help but go out of their way and even demand if necessary that they be part of the regulation drafting process. This does not mean we can’t sue simultaneously to protect our contractual rights and the right to internal self government.

Everyone who opposes this is not evil incarnate. There are many who think the US Congress’ slam dunk is a done deal and no amount of suing will win the point. Count my wife among the majority who think it is just a waste of time and that the 400 thou could be better used elsewhere. Several political leaders like Diego Benevente have called for talking instead of litigation. While I respect the views of these folks, I still think we can do both. At the same time we are talking and trying to help write the regulations we can be trying to mitigate some of the damage the labor takeover would cause. The only way to do that is to get the US Justice Department to curb some of the excesses created by the US Legislature. Then we can have the best of both worlds.

This is a question that needs desperately to be addressed by the courts and it needs to be done immediately. I hope the legislature, at least those responsible adults in the legislature, respond by appropriating the requested funding immediately. This is probably the most important priority we have at the moment. Lack of electric power is an inconvenience; lack of freedom is a crushing blow to human dignity and future progress. Once the burglar’s pry bar is stuck in the door you can either push it back out and call for legal help or you can let him break open your door and take your rightful belongings. If he sees something he likes, you can bet he will be back for more later.

Far from being a ‘waste of money’ as some contend, it is the sworn responsibility of the legislature to uphold the Constitution and the Covenant. This cause needs their positive action to uphold that pledge. Elected Public Representatives, please appropriate those funds.
* * * *
Quote of the week: For in reason, all government without the consent of the governed is the very definition of slavery. -Jonathan Swift, satirist (1667-1745)

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Peace, Love, Flower Power
Some years ago there was a movie produced called Network. One of the characters, a TV newscaster, Howard Beale, said, “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this any more”. He called on his viewers to go outside and shout that slogan in unison, partly as protest, partly as catharsis. In due time he got millions of his viewers to stand outside and chant that slogan. It brought people together in a common cause and it announced their message to the powers that be. He claimed that getting mad was the only answer to their many problems.

In the spirit of that film we, the residents of Saipan, could do something similar. Now we could go outside and vent our anger and frustration about power outages but everyone is pretty much doing that already with no success. So I suggest we try something in a positive vein. We could go outside at noon tomorrow and shout out “Keep trying CUC, we know you can do it !!”. Why might we want to do that instead of continuing to carp? Because as individuals we are helpless to do anything about it short term except give moral support to those trying to get the job done. (Unless you are a billionaire philanthropist and want to donate a power plant). There are long term solutions we citizens can help with but shouting revolutionary slogans will not get the job done.

Several people have written or spoken recently about how CUCs woes have been caused by poor management, bad planning etc. and are not the fault of the day to day workers, the linemen or the plant workers or the secretaries in their offices all of whom simply take their orders and carry them out as best they can. They too go home to find they can’t cook dinner or finish their homework because the power is out. They too are in the middle of a shower or ready to flush about the time the lights dim and go out. I agree, and what’s worse it can’t be easy to keep up employee morale in a place where the prime mission, delivering reliable electric power and water, is not working too well (okay is failing miserably).

Lack of money, lack of a coherent plan, lack of leadership, skyrocketing petroleum costs, lack of training, engines and delivery infrastructure worn out from wear and neglect. This is the mantra we’ve all heard chanted repeatedly as the cause of the electric power emergency we find ourselves in today. Collectively, they are the reason you can’t watch TV tonight, or make toast tomorrow morning.

So how do we get out of the mess? Marching, suing or shouting in frustration isn’t going to help. The temporary solution they are trying now is to rent some reliable generators and use that power to try and tide us over until the main engines can be repaired. I’m sure they would rather just go down to the generator store and order up a new power plant but our credit card is maxed out and the cash in the till won’t even pay current expenses, not to mention make a major purchase.

Maybe we can get Uncle Sugar to help us out. Maybe we could get the US military to help us out. Maybe we could apply for a loan at the World Bank or the IMF or the Asia Development fund or Household Finance Company or from Sam the Shark. The thing is, if we had that help in hand right now, today, it would be two years down the line before we saw new engines or a new power plant or new alternative energy producers shining in the sun. Unless we can get the Electric Power Fairy to wave a wand over Lower Base and fix it all overnight, the strategy of using a temporary patch on the flat tire of power generation seems the best solution short term.

Once the temporary generators are in place we need to work like the dickens to fix those broken main engines so the power can stay on while other plans are made. Meanwhile we need to develop a long range plan of action and decide once and for all what direction to go in the future. Maybe we could order three of those new generation nuclear power plants, one for each island. Maybe we could convert to coal like most of the rest of the world uses. Maybe we should opt for more of the same and buy a new petroleum based power plant even in the face of rising fuel costs. There are other alternatives too, but the point is we need to look at the options and make a firm decision and then carry that plan out if we are ever to really solve the power problem that stares us in the face. To get there at all we need to go to the private sector to get the job done and not rely on the government anymore. The alternative to planning and execution is to get used to cooking over a wood fire and going to bed at sunset.

Why bitch when it accomplishes nothing? Let’s get on the ‘we’re behind you’ bandwagon and give as much support to the hundreds of hardworking CUC employees as we can. These Worker Bees are all that stands between us and the real world of lives without electricity right now. We and our businesses and institutions have evolved too far and gotten too soft to live without it anymore.

Getting mad about it may have worked in the movie mentioned above but here in reality land we just need to help all we can, plan the best we can and then execute our plan without quitting. Divesting CUC from its government overlord is the first step in the healing process. As we have seen, you can’t legislate your way out of the problem and you can’t cure it by executive fiat. Let’s approach the problem like grown ups, responsible for our own actions.

In closing I will relate what my 4 year old said just after the power went off the other night. Standing in the yard shaking his fist at the sky he said “____ing CUC !! (expletive deleted). It seems that the outage interfered with Pooh while he was explaining math skills via DVD. When the power went off, so did my son. I can’t imagine where he heard such language.

Quote of the week: "Government never furthered any enterprise but by the alacrity with which it got out of its way." -- Henry David Thoreau (1817 – 1862)

Saturday, August 23, 2008

A New Blogger Etiquette

Well, it looks like the, even the slow witted nonys like lil knucklehead have begun to figure it out after a few months so I guess it is time to stop experimenting with them, fess up and propose:

A New blogger etiquette

While sitting at home enjoying an evening with your family an unwashed crazed looking man with a ski mask over his face to conceal his identity runs up to your house gesturing wildly and begins to pontificate on social and political issues of the day, claiming to be the messiah of information and the guru of opinion. He hurls insults at you, spouts inanities and nearly wets himself in rage if you express an opposing view. Or maybe you are standing around a picnic table down by the beach and along comes an unwashed, stinking bum demanding that you owe him an explanation for something or other. To top it off, Mr. Malodorous Intruder is wearing a mask to deliberately hide his identity. What do you do?

1. Laugh uncontrollably
2. Sic your dog on him
3. Listen thoughtfully to his rantings, and beg to sit further at the feet of the master.
4. Call the police
5. Explain to you children why it is not a good idea to talk to or listen to strangers.
6. Offer him a beer and let him sit next to your kids.
7. Tell him what an idiot you think he is and send him on his way.
8. Punch him in the face, then tell him to go away as he lays there on the ground.

The analogy to be drawn here is that the crazy acting masked man on the beach or in your home has precisely the same level of believability, the same level of trustworthiness, the same aura of sleazy, hide in the grass cover up quality as an anonymous blogsite and its motivation hidden author have. None. Credibility: likewise none.


In the blogsphere we find a handful of these crazed crackpots; identities masked to hide their real affiliations and who is paying them to spout their drivel.

The point ? These are not people, they are thugs, liars and crackpots hiding behind a mask. They try to hold you hostage to a courteous and traditional system of communication while refusing to take part themselves. They don’t have the courtesy to even introduce themselves yet they make claims on you to respond politely to their raving rants. You owe them nothing. To offer them civil discourse in exchange for their lies and treachery simply eggs them on. Just say no. Or just say screw you.

They do not deserve to be treated as persons because they are not. They are unpersons, perhaps non persons. They are only phony facades and like a like a movie stage set, there is no substance behind them. No reality. Just a thin veneer of doggeral over the recently used toilet bowl of their existance.

I suggest we just say no to conversing with them. Or if we choose to say yes, we treat them with the contempt they deserve every time honest people respond to them. Towit:

I propose a sliding scale of civility for responding to bloggers and blog comment section entries. On a scale of 1 to 4 where 1 is the most civil attitude response, 2 is neutral 3 is decidedly uncivil, and 4 is glaringly nasty. I propose the following:

1 is reserved for people who fully identify themselves and who post on their own blogs and comment on others blogs with reasonable courtesy and consideration. They can certainly be direct in their comments and can declare and defend any position no matter how unusual or farfetched as long as they identify themselves and maintain moderate decorum. “You know, Bob, I hear what you are saying but think you are in error because of X, Y and Z.”

2 can be used for occasional, infrequent or 1 time anonymous commenters and for those identified blogers who are just crabby natured. “Geeze, Bob, (or Listen up Nony), that is the same line of crud you were trying to feed us last week. It didn’t fly then and is not likely to now. Here is why you should at least rethink that position.”

3 is for anyone so ashamed of his or her ideas and comments that they hide behind a rock of anonymity and run out to squat and pee their comments or their posted blog entries, then scuttle back behind their moldy rock. Also itching for a 3 rating are those who constantly harp the same disrespectful and tired messages day after day, week after week. “We grow tired of your hogwash Dildo Breath, that line of reasoning is about as convincing as your Mom’s sales price.”

4 Especially earning a trash job are those who would be character assassins while hiding their own identities to avoid retribution or having their true motivations exposed. (Perhaps there should be a 5th level for these scum). Also deserving a level 4 response would be the ‘pontificating anonymous crackpot’ (PAC) with an opinion about everything and a snide comment about everyone else’s opinion. Feel free to imagine an appropriate reply, like “Jane, you ignorant slut, (sorry SNL) May the fleas of a thousand camels infest your HIV infected underwear. My dog could argue the point better than you do, asshole. So go fuck yourself, as no one else is likely to.”

In General: The sliding scale of civility would have us respond to those four ‘types’ with roughly the same level of courtesy and forthrightness they display with additional points docked and insults added for cowardly anonymity, a la the eye for an eye rule.


I further propose that those #3 and #4 folks have ‘floating names’. By that I mean that any anonymous commenter or blogger should be called whatever comes to mind when responding to them since they are afraid to provide a name themselves. Example: “What are you using for evidence to support that contention Lame Brain?” …as opposed to “What are you using for evidence to support that contention, Bill?”, where the italicized nomen is rotated at the responders whim and indicates the identified responders level of agreement or disagreement with the anonymous coward’s viewpoint. Severe disagreement would lead to “What are you using for evidence to support that contention, Shithead?” etc. Maybe the most egregious offenders should be verbally trashed whenever they peep out from under their rock. Something like: “Sorry shit-for-brains, if you want to identify yourself we don’t mind listening. If not, get the fuck off my blog, dirtbag.”


I’ve been practicing this on a limited scale for a time and think there is some merit in confronting the scum instead of mollifying them. I won’t claim it makes the pitiful anonymous clowns any less clownish, but I do submit that it makes me feel better to confront their cowardice with every turn of the screw, especially if there are deep seated philosophical differences. On the other hand, a competent shrink might think I have gone off the deep end. Either way, I am enjoying it and suggest you too climb on board the Raspberries to Nonys train. You may be amazed at how good it feels to return the thumb of the nose they give you when they respond anonymously to you.

So go ahead, be openly hostile, feel free to be insulting, talk bad about their mothers. There is no reason to be polite or even minimally courteous to someone who hides their identity. They deserve your derision. They deserve your contempt. They deserve to be crapped on.

Like terrorists, bandits and criminals, there is a reason they hide. They fear you will find their real connections and laugh out loud at their silly arguments once you know who they actually represent. If you know one, out him. If you don’t, trash one at every opportunity. Remember they are sniveling cowards and most are also blogging at work and thus stealing time and money from their company or from the government (meaning you) with every post they make. Why else do you think they hide?

An intelligent observer I know notes “Craving attention anonymously, what a concept”. In a short sentence he distills the essence of these pathetic jerks.

Well, it has been fun playing with them, especially the child molester who pretends to be a mom, lil knucklehead. Even the Pusillanimous Putz, Mr. Playdoh, has returned to the blogsphere, enthralling us with his verbosity. (Read tickled us with his childish posts). It must be admitted that he may just be the copy, paste and spam king of the blogs. If only there was some substance.

So pile on. Stick it to ‘em. Any attention you give them, helps them sublimate their tired, hidden lives, so even if you are nice at heart, you are helping them by giving them some of the attention they so desperately crave, but are afraid to ask for. Be nice, flip ‘em off. Anonymous bloggers, you too should pitch in and ream another nony.

You don’t have to be crude or use swear words as I have done in the above examples, but there is no need for you to be polite to these cretins either. Remember that at the heart of every anonymous blogger is unabashed dishonesty. So treat them as you would any other extortionist, mugger, rapist, sneak thief or bank robber.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Sensation Sells

What the heck is it?
Rydlime, like all chemicals in its category, uses powerful acids and other agents to dissolve ‘rocks’. When calcium or other hard water mineral deposits build up in cooling towers or system radiators they either have to be dismantled and ‘rodded out’, an expensive process, or they need to be ‘descaled’ chemically. Chemical descaling is usually cheaper and if done right can be very effective.

The use of purified water in these systems vastly reduces the buildup, but descaling or rodding still needs to be performed if the cooling system is to continue doing its job. Just like the engine in your car overheats and eventually stops if the radiator fails and the motor gets too hot, so a large engine in a power plant stops or even destroys itself if allowed to overheat. A utility with lots of cooling systems to treat and a high mineral content in its water source could use vast quantities of a descaling agent.

Rydlime, the chemical at the bottom of the current CUC/Lt. Governor flap, is a legitimate product with a good reputation for doing what it is designed to do. Many utilities and other companies around the world use it and other similar products to good effect.
Why would you buy so much?
Chemicals, like other commodities, are subject to price rises over time so companies, including utilities, often buy large quantities of a chemical and stockpile it to hedge against the coming price increases. As an example, if CUC bought 8000+ gallons of Rydlime as reported in the newspaper and used all but 1400 gallon over 10 years they saved a lot. The savings would amount to several times the original cost.
Or pay so much?
Sole sourcing to ones sister may not be the legal, but chemical pricing at 400% is not uncommon. Want to guess how much that three dollar bottle of Joy dishwashing liquid you bought last week actually cost to make? About 15 cents. Do your own math. That detergent bottle and most of the other bottles sitting under your sink and in your laundry have mark ups far greater. In fact, the plastic bottles and labels cost more than the chemical inside by far. You pay a much higher markup than 400% every time you go to the store.
Rumor or truth?
There is speculation that some of the product was actually disposed of rather than used. If true that is a terrible thing. I have even heard a rumor that CUC personnel were actually ordered to dispose of the product. But a rumor is just that. It is a story without proof. Stories like that are usually from a hidden source and often with a hidden agenda. It is easy for someone with a grudge against someone to make up a story. It is much harder to make that phony story hold up under the scrutiny of an open court trial. Let’s wait and see what actually comes out in court. If that unfounded rumor is true, heads should roll at CUC and above. If false, the rumormongers should be tracked down and their heads should roll instead.
Guilty or not?
My friend Harry Blalock reminds us on his radio show that ‘just because you are decreed not guilty in court does not mean you didn’t do it” because a good attorney can find a way to get you off. I would remind Harry, and you too, that just because a sharp prosecuting attorney accuses you of something does not mean that you did do it. Remember it is the job of the prosecuting attorney to ‘get you’ whether you did it or not and it is the job of the defense attorney to ‘get you off’ whether you did it or not. Again, let’s wait and see the real evidence as offered under oath in court.

So there is nothing wrong with buying Rydlime if you need it and there is nothing wrong with buying lots of it and stockpiling it for future use. In fact it is the smart way to do it. There is also nothing unusual about large markups over cost of chemicals or most other products. There is definitely something wrong with declaring an emergency purchase and then buying enough of a commodity to last a decade. There is definitely something wrong with sole sourcing a contract to close family members and depriving the agency of a chance to source the same or similar product at a lower cost benefit ratio. But are these accusations true? One last time I will call for us to wait and let the court system do its job before a man and his reputation are sullied by gossip and allegation. There is plenty of time to vilify him if proven guilty in court…or to apologize if the accusations prove untrue.
* * * *
Temples – not Shirley
Ruth Tighe , in talking about the new Buddhist Temple to be built along the roadway in previously unspoiled Marpi says we need to ‘hoard our public lands’ as one our most important natural resources. I agree. Don’t build on it she says. Keep it forever she says. She then goes on to say in the same article that we should give away the northernmost three islands in our terribly scarce land resource by ceding them to the US Federal government for all time. I point out this inconsistency not to be mean, but just to say that supporters and advocates of one project or another sometimes can’t see the Forest for the trees (or the Temple in the trees). Sometimes the horrible details outweigh the puppies and babies feel-good rhetoric about saving the planet. Sometimes not.

The Temple might just improve the looks of the tagan tagan bramble thickets up there…and maybe not. Lets see the plan. Then we can approve it or not based on real evidence. Sort of like we should first see the plan for the PEW proposed Northern Islands Monument. Why on earth would we want to approve it first, (or allow the federal government to force approval of it on us) and only then bother to look at the actual plan. Does that sound like putting the cart before the horse? Yes it does. Worse, it sounds like having the cart, horse and all shoved down your throat, then a guy comes along and says, hey, your throat sure looks sore, if you are a good little boy I’ll give you some salt water to gargle. Then it will be all better. Maybe it will be better and maybe it will be a lot worse. Shirley (sorry - groan) we can do better than that. Let’s negotiate the details first, then decide whether to declare a monument and give land and ocean to the US national parks system for all time. It may be a wonderful plan, it may suck.
* * * *
Quotes of the week:
Human beings are perhaps never more frightening than when they are convinced beyond doubt that they are right. -Laurens van der Post, explorer and writer (1906-1996)

The sky is not less blue because the blind man does not see it – Danish Proverb.

Friday, August 15, 2008


Wetback labor?
I’ve noticed that Mr. Delano from Camacho, California has found his typewriter while rooting through the attic. It seems we are to be blessed with some of his 14 page diatribes once again during this election season. He seems to appear as if by magic when the charming candidacy signs sprout by the roadside. I’m wondering if it is the campaign fertilizer (BS) that gets him going. I can’t help but be impressed with a guy that doesn’t live here and has no stake in the place caring so much and having so much profound advice to offer. Will he swim over from California to visit us?

Now where is Holani Smith when we need him?
* * * *
Bored with education

Now that Board of Education has unanimously chosen Rita Sablan as the new Commissioner, will Ambrose Bennett, the competing candidate for the spot, sue the Board to keep the entertainment factor going? Ms Sablan has agreed to drop her suit alleging injustice in choosing Mr. Borja as the last leader. That suit has kept headlines going for the last couple of years so it seems the least Mr. Bennett could do to help keep the reading populace amused is to hie on down to the nearest attorney and sue claiming discrimination.

All kidding aside (and I was kidding above) the parents of the CNMI have high hopes and high expectations of competent action from the new Commissioner. School systems throughout America have funding woes. They always have and they always will. Some manage to win through to victory and provide excellent educations to their students even in the face of insufficient funding. Other systems seem content to complain that the money is not enough. It is a key function of leadership in any school system to see that educational opportunities are there for students whether the coffers are full or not. It can be done and it is the responsibility of leadership to see that it is done.

Ms Sablan has opted to come out of retirement and take on a very tough job. While we applaud her spirit and energy, parents will also be watching closely to see the results she brings to the system. Welcome aboard, now get to it please.
* * * *
As the world turns
Tina Sablan has recently accused Cinta Kaipat of being biased against foreign workers and implies she should not hold a position of responsibility at the Department of Labor. Could Cinta turn that around and accuse Tina of being biased toward foreign workers and favoring them over her own local constituents in Precinct 1? Should Tina Sablan be recalled and lose her seat in the House of Representatives? Should Cinta Kaipat be fired from the Department of Labor? If personal bias is bad for the goose is it also bad for the gander?

Both these women feel strongly about particular causes and how the people of the Commonwealth are affected by labor and immigration laws whether enacted from within or imposed from outside. These two former allies now find themselves at loggerheads as they each try to champion a different group of working people. Does it have to boil down to local residents against foreign contract workers with their respective adherents jousting for a win? No it does not. Accommodation is possible. I think they are both seeking justice, not bias.

Many believe that the current Labor law tries to balance the forces of worker abuse with the forces of the workers themselves abusing or ‘playing’ the system. Others think that the law goes too far, or not far enough depending on their viewpoint or their own self-interest. Treading the fine line between maximizing opportunities for citizen employment while providing a foreign workforce large enough to sustain a country’s economy is a task faced by Countries all over the world. The CNMI is not alone in trying to balance the needs and aspirations of these two groups. Across Europe, the Middle East and back in the USA the quest for fairness and firmness goes on. While it may not be possible to make everyone happy it probably is possible to reach reasonable compromises. One thing is for sure. Having people who are here and really care about what is going on make those regulations is a lot better than having some bureaucrat’s assistant from Washington do it without knowing what is really happening here.
* * * *
Judging the traffic
Several folks have offered up their opinions on how traffic fares at controlled intersections when the power is out. Recently a couple of letters complained of unsafe conditions and possible fatal consequences. I find those views to be held by very few individuals I’ve talked to and I would question the driving skills of those complainers.

My own experience is just the opposite. First, traffic seems to flow more smoothly with few or no cars backed up when the power is off and the traffic signals are not functioning. Not only does traffic flow more quickly and smoothly, there seems to be a great deal more consideration shown to other drivers than when the power is on and a machine is controlling traffic as opposed to when human drivers are in charge. Since traffic actually flows better and the situation is safer with the stoplights off I would suggest that we leave them off all the time and save the electricity.

I would recommend taking a driver’s education course for the nervous nellies, the worriers and those not comfortable with their own decision making skills while behind the wheel. If you are not comfortable, you are probably not competent either.
* * * *
14 hour blackouots

Well, it finally happened. On Saturday, August 9th. we had more hours without power than with it in our Village. By our count we had 10 hours of electric power and 14 hours without.

While this may be good for our power bill as it promotes conservation (okay forces conservation) it is doubtful that the benefits outweigh the penalties. Sweating one’s way through another sweltering evening while trying to sleep or having any gainful work be constantly interrupted when the power goes out for the 6th or 7th time makes it seem a doubtful advantage. It sort of reminds me of being drug through a sand burr patch in order to get rid of the weeds by making them stick to your skin and clothes. There are probably more pleasant ways of getting the job done.

Happily, Sunday came and went without a single outage. Someone may have been asleep at the “OFF” switch all day. As I pen this, there have been two more outages causing a couple of expletives to escape my lips and a delay in getting this and other projects done. You? A while back one of the local vocal bloggers posed the question, ‘when will the power go off for 24 hours straight for the first time?’ The answers ranged from immediately to next year sometime while the consensus seemed to think it would occur sometime during 2008. We are not there yet, but we are not far off either. We seem to be on the downhill slide, and gaining speed.I’m glad I have a magnesium fuel cell to generate a little electricity.
* * * *
Quote of the week:
Be not too hasty to trust or admire the teachers of morality; they discourse like angels but they live like men. -Samuel Johnson, lexicographer

Sunday, August 10, 2008


Well, it finally happened. Yesterday, Saturday, August 9th. we had more hours without power than with. By our count we had 10 hours of electric power and 14 without.

A while back Glen D posed the question, when would the power go off for 24 hours straight? We are not there yet, but we are not far off either.

I’m glad I have a magnesium fuel cell to generate a little comfort.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Premature Ejaculation

The papers are reporting on who the "official Candidates" for Non Voting Delegate are. Polls (you know, the ridiculous, unscientific, internet/blog type polls) are springing up with the list of supposed candidates.

The truth of the matter is that we don’t really know who the certified candidates are until September 20th. The last day for the Election Commission’s “action on nominating petitions and candidacy documents.” Meaning, the last day for the signatures on the nominating petitions to be verified and the last day for the EC to determine that all the other candidacy requirements have been met by the applicants... not to mention making sure that their checks didn't bounce.

September 20th might be a pretty good day to start a results-are-likely-to-be-wishful-thinking-while-preaching-to-the-choir poll found on local blog sites.

Think premature ejaculation.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Riding up the Hill

Hell’s Coconuts

Motorcycle clubs don’t have the best reputations. What with sex and violence biker movies starting in the fifties and hitting a real stride in the seventies and continuing to today is it any wonder that popular culture sees the Harley rider as an anti social and even criminal element. In these films, and there have been scores of them, nomadic groups of
armed thugs do drugs, commit serious crimes and indulge in wanton revelry at every turn.

There may well be (or once have been) groups that deserved such a reputation but today’s biker, individually or in groups tends to exhibit a quite different persona. At the annual gathering of the Harley tribe in Sturgis, South Dakota you are far more likely to encounter a high dollar lawyer or a successful middle aged businessman robed in that biker jacket than you are to find a wandering misfit with a rap sheet. This year’s rally to celebrate the Harley riding lifestyle is the 68th annual event and will play host to about a half million aficionados (as opposed to desperados).

Part of the reason for the move to ‘upscale’ bikers is cost. These motorcycles don’t come cheap and by the time you have bought one, customized it and outfitted it with the latest geegaws you have ten’s of thousands invested. While 15 thousand might buy you a basic model it takes 10 times that amount, 150 thousand, to ride one of the themed customs that come out of the top design shops around the country. For a hundred miles and more surrounding Sturgis the air resounds with the ring of cash registers working overtime during rally week. Riders spend literally millions on entertainment, lodging, bike stuff and biker stuff. It takes a fair amount of cash to attend the rally and it takes a lot of the green stuff to ride a Harley as a hobby, even if you stay in your own hometown.

Here on Saipan we have a group called the Taga Riders, composed of motorcyclists from an array of different backgrounds. The club is small as biker groups go numbering maybe 20 or so. Don’t expect to see them ravaging a local malt shop, terrorizing the womenfolk or robbing the Bank of Guam, however. These guys and gals will be found gathering toys for an annual toys for tots Christmas event, or securing donations for the needy at the CHC hospital, helping the man’amko or doing lots of other positive community services they volunteer for each year. You will see them riding proudly at the Liberation day parade and you will see them around the island from time to time just riding for fun.

The Taga Riders spend part of their Sundays cruising up the sun dappled shady roads in Marpi or gliding the curves on Isa Drive (cross island road). You can see them stopped to enjoy a cold refreshment at one or more local watering holes on any given Sunday afternoon. You can hear the distinctive sound as their Harleys rumble past your Village on their way to enjoy the day with the wind blowing their hair and the sights, sounds and smells of Saipan Island droning past them.

They say you can always tell a happy Harley rider by the bugs on their teeth. This year from August 4th through the 10th in Sturgis there will be plenty of need for toothpicks if the joyous gatherings of years past are any indication. While our club members here on Saipan won’t have the opportunity to ride to Sturgis (unless they are sporting around on the new submarine version of the Electra Glide) they will be there in spirit, I’m sure.

So smile, honk and wave at the Bikers you see as they burble past your windshield. Even if they are off to work instead of riding for fun, you will probably see a great big smile on their faces as they ride the roads of Saipan Island. There are a couple of places to rent bikes, big and small, in Garapan so that rider you smile and wave at just might be a tourist enjoying our fair island by touring on two wheels. They like to be waved at too, so indulge yourself in a friendly gesture of welcome if you please.
* * * *
A cut above
I see where Washington Rep Pete Tenorio and Senator Louis Crisostimo both turned in their petitions and other paperwork to be certified candidates for the watching-but-unable-to-vote position of Non Voting Delegate to the US Congress last Friday. I also noticed that neither man resigned their current elected office. The ranks of those coveting the $170,000 per year job are swelling and now include the above two plus John Gonzales, Juan Lizama, Chong Won, David Cing, John Davis and Gregorio Sablan. The others who held public office or government jobs have resigned as the law stipulates. Are Messrs Tenorio and Crisostimo above the law or are they reading a different rulebook?

There is still a bit of time before the August 6th deadline for turning the official documents in to the Election Commission office on Capital Hill so don’t be surprised if another candidate or two shows up on the doorstep wanting to get in on the largesse available to congressional delegates. Can we get to 10?
* * * *

Quote of the Week:
Crime is contagious. If the government becomes a lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for law. -Louis D. Brandeis, lawyer, judge, and writer (1856-1941)

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Capitol Punishment
So there I was, about to get my drivers license renewed in record time, when …you know what happened, don’t you? Sure you do, the power went out. That of course brought the whole process to a grinding halt.

Careful research had indicated the correct day and hour to make that trip to BMV so the line would be at its shortest. With the proffered renewal application firmly in my sweaty grasp I was off walking to the Guma Hustisia building next door to pay my now-doubled fee and to get a traffic clearance from the Department of Justice computer. I walked. I paid. The recipient smiled.

I walked on over to room #1 and lined up to get that computer generated, hand-stamped-with-the-big-official-seal document that proved I had not been caught doing anything wrong while driving. I made it to the front, handed over my receipt and my application with the old license now dutifully stapled to the top. The nice man smiled. He hand entered the info into his computer console and just at the moment when the printer was about to spit out my form……….bzzzzt bzzzzzztt, zap, click,….dark.

A few seconds later the back up generator came on and …. flash, bzzzzt, bzzt, lights on, blink off, flash again, lights on. Funny clackity noises emanated from around the room as fax machines and other electronic gee gaws reset themselves. It’s pretty familiar to all of us now. It usually happens just when the shampoo is running into your eyes, or when the soufflé is just about to reach maximum altitude.

Now comes the fun part. Some 10 to 15 minutes pass while the now punch drunk DoJ computer tries to reboot and bring itself back to full electronic consciousness. In the embarrassing silence I talk to the now not smiling man about the state of the long suffering populace and the much abused computing machines. I ask the obvious question, why should that computer have to reboot….isn’t it hooked to a battery backup and surge protector? Yep, sure is, but the back-up is broken from so many black-outs and no longer functions. I ask the next obvious question the answer to which is that there is no money forthcoming to replace the battery back up boxes. Hmmmm. Let’s see, a computer costs $1500 and a battery box that keeps the computer from melting down costs $100. So the answer is…you guessed it.

Further queries around the Guma reveal that most of the building’s many computers are not properly surge protected. The IT staff wants and asks for the proper machinery, the DoJ working staff wants and needs their computers to function properly so they can help provide judicial services to the people of the Commonwealth. No money arrives, no batteries are bought, the computers and other gear go unprotected until the day arrives when they go up in flames from neglect. Your tax dollars are not at work, they are on vacation.

After a decent mourning period, the machine comes back to life and grinds out the needed form. The friendly but frustrated man stamps it and hands it over. I don’t need the form just yet as the main BMV building has no generator so is in darkness until CUC removes the handcuffs and lets them get back to work. Once their power is back on the friendly, smiling folks at BVM process my papers, snap my photo and produce the brand new license quickly and efficiently. All is well for 3 more years of driving by which time the topic of conversation in the license renewal waiting line will be Article 12 land alienation and why we are still having power outages for the six people left who can afford $20 per KwH electricity.
Some observations: First, let me say that while I could certainly use the exercise that short walk provided, it seems a bit counterproductive (as in slide the dollars over the counter) to remove the Cashiers Window from a known revenue generator like the Bureau of Motor Vehicles. It would also make a great deal of sense to have the BMV computer be able to talk to the DoJ computer located right next door since it contains the information they need to renew your license to motor-vate. A simple piece of coaxial cable and voila!

Second, it seems the old adage “penny wise- pound foolish” never got transmitted to the good folks who dole out the ill-gotten government cash to the subsidiary agencies. To withhold a hundred which is almost certain to cost the eventual expenditure of $1500 is not the action of a rational human.

So unsqueeze that purse string Mr. Scrooge and let go a few pennies to buy those battery backups for each necessary government computer. One less round trip first class airfare aught to pay the bill nicely.
* * * *
Performance gap

While we are talking about airfares, let’s call up Philippine Airlines to come and take over that empty office at Saipan International recently vacated by Continental. I’m betting they would be happy to fly some full airplanes back and forth between Manila and Saipan. They might even be persuaded to make hops to Honolulu or Seoul or Hong Kong or Narita or Shanghai or Hagatna or Houston from here too. Maybe PAL could use Francisco Ada Saipan Airport as its US entry port and near Asia hub for flights to and from the US. These callous connies aren’t the only kids on the block.
* * * *
Blue Lagoon?
Has anyone else noticed that in the Outer Cover Marina there are no trash cans? There are plenty of new signs telling you not to litter, but no trash barrels to put the litter in. Maybe the enforcement arm of the US Parks Department got its check from Uncle Sugar before the maintenance department. There are plenty of tourists that use that docking facility and there are plenty of local boaters that use it to accommodate the tourists. All could use a place to toss the day’s trash. Form the signs into a trash bin??
* * * *
Quote of the week:
Patience is something you admire in the driver behind you, but not the one ahead. Bill McGlashen

Thursday, July 24, 2008

More CUC - but different

I was reading Boni's blog for the first time in a couple of weeks. She was ranting about CUC. We are all ranting about CUC. A nony in the comments section points out, rightly, that all the griping in the world does nothing...what we need is the money (and I would add, a plan to spend it). Ed jumps in to say even if we had the money, what he calls the OBN would waste it.

Here is my take on it:

Let's use OPM, other people's money.

Why? Because Marching is a waste of time. Suing ourselves is a bigger waste of time, because if we win, we lose since we are the ones who have to pay.

So here is a solution that will actually work: get the activists/advocates/to spearhead a Popular Divestiture Petition that if passed by the 2/3rds majority needed, forces the gov't to divest itself completely of CUC and allow a competent private firm to come in and do what is necessary to get the power on reliably.

Forces, as in an immediate order to sell at whatever (if anything) they can get someone to pay for it. There are small population power producers that specialize in just our dilemma. One or more will want to come into this market and make a buck. If this is backed by a competent PUC to oversee the monopoly and prevent it from abuse, we have our wish come true: we don't have to think about the power any more and we can get on with the important things that need to be done.

The rest of the rant: Why bother to read the published outage schedules? You know there is a 50/50 chance that it will occur on or around the published time anyway. You may bet your bottom...err bottom on the fact that you will also experience one or more other unscheduled outages as well. I agree with Ken, most of expect one of these days the power will blink a few times, switch out and just not come back on for days or weeks. I hope we are in time to do something before that happens.

Popular Petition forcing divestiture. It will work. But only if we force it to happen.

Roadside Pleas(e)
Thou shalt not give
I see an odd contradiction in the fact that many of the same people ranting indignantly about how unsafe it is for groups to stand by the road to solicit funds for some cause, seem to be perfectly happy with groups of people standing by the road to protest some policy of CUC. Apparently it is only unsafe if the complainers have to shell out a couple of bucks for a cause. Apparently it is only unsafe if the complainers are not the ones standing there beside the road themselves showing their ‘solidarity’ with some other protest group with a sign waving campaign.

It is both common practice and traditional here to use the ‘traffic method’ of fund raising for everything from cancer awareness to baseball clubs. Sometimes roadside fund raisers are trying to generate money for the catastrophic personal illness of a loved one or friend so they can have a chance at life. Sometimes it is students trying to get money for a field trip or for some extracurricular sports activity that PSS has no funds to support.

In those rare cases where there really might be a safety violation, there are plenty of applicable rules on the books that DPS can use to quash unsafe roadside activities. We do not need laws on top of laws to micromanage our lives and the lives of those who simply want to get a message out or to try to raise a buck for a good cause.

Making a law that forbids this practice based on the assumption that “someday” someone may be hurt standing beside the road is an intrusion into the rights of every citizen to gather and state their case. Spending time making laws against this kind of benign behavior is simply a waste of time and effort. There are plenty of important things for our lawmakers to focus on. This is not one of them. This is a prime example of a proposed regulation that inhibits our freedoms while pretending to save us from ourselves. We can take care of ourselves thank you. Parents can decide for their own children whether this is a practice they want them to engage in. We don’t need another law to restrict our choices.

Whatever the reason a group has for roadside fundraising, be it serious or flippant, do they not have the right to ask for your support? You can then decide whether to help their cause or not. Do you need a law that forbids you from donating? I submit that you do not.
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Party crasher
I dropped by the home of a friend that was doing some work for me to discuss the strategy of repairs. When I drove up there was a gathering of folks sitting around tables under a tent obviously enjoying a party of some sort. In US culture it would be considered rude to invite yourself to a party, so I was about to drive off and come again some other time. Luckily here in the Marianas, close to Asian culture and with centuries of welcoming tradition by the indigenous islanders, I was welcomed; no I was commanded to join in the festivities. This was a birthday party thrown by Filipinos but only the language being spoken and some food variations differentiated it from the many wonderful Chamorro and Carolinian gatherings I’ve been invited to join. The welcome was the same.

I was helped to embarrassing quantities of delicious food and was ‘forced’ (yeah sure) to drink some beer, chat happily and enjoy fellowship with the group, most of whom I had not met before. It was a refreshing and fun experience. One that I have had repeatedly here and one that I hope to repeat many times in the future. What a wonderful experience it is to meet new people and share their ideas. Celebrating life is one of the best things we humans do. It helps to make up for the times when we do harm to each other.

The point is that in the rush to be more American, to assimilate that financially successful culture and make it part of local island life, it is possible to lose some of the core beliefs that make this culture unique. The ‘separate individual’ culture nurtured in the US where people often live for years in an area where they do not know or associate with their neighbors is not something this place should emulate. I am not suggesting a return to full communal life, but I am sounding a warning that taking on the mantle of change offered by those who come here from afar or from those who leave here to be educated elsewhere is not always advisable. That mantle of change can be protective, and it can also be destructive. In the midst of all the technical things that need improvement here resides the reality of a wonderful place to live. I for one am thankful to be here, power outages or not.

When I first came here many years ago I was happily surprised by the welcoming nature of the people’s who call these islands home. I still find myself enthralled by the giving and friendly nature of the Marianas population. Carolinians and Chamorros hosting Filipinos, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Thais, and even a few US mainlanders, Russians, Bangladeshis, Europeans and others who all manage to get along pretty well here. Better than most disparate populations get along, that’s for sure. The level of mutual assistance and reciprocal aid is refreshing too.

For all our faults and petty grievances, this is still a great place to be, and a traditional party is a great way to express our joy. Now where did I put that abs toning machine?
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Post Toasties
Note to Postmaster Medina:
I read your letter in the Saipan Tribune. My latest ‘lost’ package arrived. It took a month to get here by Priority Mail, and had been smashed, dashed, crashed and hashed enroute. It had been cut open; I suppose to check on the suitability of children’s clothing and a package of yellow rice being used as fodder for terrorists. Usually when a package goes missing, that puppy is gone forever. This one at least arrived. Thanks for tracking it down...and thanks for reading Sour Grapes.
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Quote of the week:
You only have to bat a thousand on two things; flying and heart transplants. Everything else you can go 4 for five. Beano Cook (1931 - )

Monday, July 21, 2008

B-52 Bomber crashes off Guam

HONOLULU - The Air Force says a B-52 bomber carrying six crew members has crashed off the island of Guam.
Coast Guard says two people have been recovered from the waters. Their condition was not immediately available.
Rescue crews from the Navy, Coast Guard and local fire department are searching for the others.
Officials say the crashed occurred about 25 miles northwest of Apra Harbor.
The accident is the second for the Air Force this year on Guam.
In February, a B-2 crashed at Andersen Air Force Base in the first-ever crash of a stealth bomber. The military estimated the loss of the aircraft at $1.4 billion.
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The above is off the AP wire a few minutes ago.

Looks like all the airplane activity around Guahan is causing some pilot rust to show through. Lets hope they find the other crewmembers safe and sound.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Fishing for Bombs
Let’s eat tomorrow too
Fishing requires only three things: Fish plus the skills and equipment to catch them. Well okay, water is helpful.

Right now we have an abundance of fish around most of the CNMI but we have one place that is losing fish populations on a daily basis. The Saipan Lagoon is over fished and “subsistence” fishermen are killing the resource. Many more fisherman are fishing and most are using modern technology to make their catches, making it easier for them to strip the waters.

Responsible catch limits on numbers and size of fish taken can allow fish stocks to replenish themselves inside the Lagoon so Saipan families can continue to be fed far into the future. That is not happening now. Those who will be leaving may not care.

Hoards of fishermen, hundreds every day, ply the waters of the Lagoon taking every thing that lives. Every fish, no matter how small, every shellfish, every invertebrate, every crustacean; all are taken. When all, including the babies and the breeders are taken and eaten too few survive to breed and sustain the fishery.

Indigenous peoples sustained large populations in these same islands solely by the use of local resources. They did not import food or other commodities. They managed to sustain themselves through internal regulation. Chiefs and elders strictly controlled fish takes. They even had ‘no take’ zones such as we see today. It was forbidden to fish in some zones altogether and others were regulated by fishing only at certain times or seasons. All zones were restricted to members of certain groups. Others fished there literally on peril of their lives. In short, they made fishing rules and enforced them stringently. That indigenous system is no longer in place and needs to be replaced with another.

The fishing license proposed by some is a start. Then we know who is fishing. It would also give any new size/take regulations some enforceable teeth. No License, no fishing. Regulation offenders could be barred from the waters for a time or have other punishments (short of death) meted upon them.

As times get tougher many, local citizens and foreign nationals alike, are turning to the Lagoon to provide extra food for the table. The problem is too many are taking too much for the fish to survive. We must remember that the Lagoon acts like a nursery for fish and other aquatic life of all kinds. Sea life outside the Lagoon abounds and thrives but close in fish populations will crash if over fishing continues. The Lagoon will die, not 50 years from now, but soon if unregulated, ‘scorched earth’, take everything fishing is allowed to continue. Already, the catch is fewer and fewer…smaller and smaller.
* * * *
Attention CUC Protesters

Standing around with a protest sign will not get your power turned back on or fix the generators or make the cost of fuel go back down. At best it is an exercise in futility, at worst it is a waste of your time and money.

Here is a suggestion. Here is something you can do right now, today, that will actually have an effect. Take your business elsewhere. It’s that simple, just unhook yourself from the CUC grid and do without that electricity. Build yourself a small fire in the back yard to do your cooking on, or buy a gas stove.

Get a generator, buy a flashlight and a big box of candles. Use them daily. Put a catchment tank on the roof and use gravity to feed water into your house. Then there is no need to support CUC by buying water from them either. Now you are really doing something that counts. Now you have some punch behind your protest. Get your friends to join you.

We electric users are all aggravated by the continuing outages and ultra high bills, but protesting just doesn’t feed the bulldog. Standing at the side of the road will net you a soggy sign if it rains, and not much of anything else. This may be the reason so few of you showed up.
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Another Suggestion

Advocates, protestors, carpenters, kings and just about everyone in the Commonwealth has an interest in power production, its reliability and its costs today. The newly formed Public Utilities Commission met this weekend to discuss just what to do about the problem. Want to guess how many interested advocates and revolutionaries cared to show up? None. Thanks Ken.

Electricity users, if you really want to be part of the solution instead of just another voice in the kilowatt wilderness, make it a point to attend the PUC meetings, the CUC board meetings, the public addresses by CUC and the Legislative committee and other meetings where allowed. Find out what is being done. Make a reasonable suggestion if you have one and have the opportunity to speak. You might just make a difference that way.
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Since I seem to be harping on electric power again, it seems only right that I point out we had our first outage in over a week on Sunday. It was of mercifully short duration. Thanks CUC, something went right seven days in a row. I’m grinning.
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Effete war mongering

An article in the Wash Post last week was headlined “Pentagon to opt for less deadly bombs”. That caught my attention. The upshot of the unsigned Associated Press article was that Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. thinks our bombs work too well, but not always. This sounds like your tax dollars at work all right. Hey instead of those dastardly cluster bombs that go around killing people, maybe they could start using cardboard boxes filled with Styrofoam ‘shrapnel’? To really teach those military foes a lesson we could print “BOOM” on the side of the box. That would show ‘em who’s who. I’m not sure if that bit of nastiness would pass muster with the Geneva Convention folks though.

Speaking of Geneva, several of our NATO allies also call for the US to stop making these deadly explosives. Are these the same Europeans who were quite happy to have dear old Uncle Sam come over and slap that nasty Mr. Hitler around a few years back? Why yes, I believe they are. Now they would prefer us to smack ‘em around with powder puffs and silk blouses.
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Quote of the week:
A critic is a gong at a railroad crossing clanging loudly and vainly as the train goes by. Christopher Morely (1890 – 1957)

Friday, July 11, 2008

Justice is Expensive

I spent the morning on Capital Hill in the House Chambers inhaling the Chief Justice's State of the Judiciary speech.

In a nutshell, as you might guess, the majority of the time was spent in pursuits other than speechifying. A 2 hour time block netted a speech lasting about 45 minutes in which a direct message of perhaps 5 minutes was given inside of which there were nearly 45 seconds of actual hard data delivered.

Here is the crux of the biscuit: Times are tough, the judiciary is important, we work hard, please don't interfere with us, please don't cut our pay or our budget. We'll give up 10% without a fight. Applause, cookies & water.

Such is the state of formalized grade-card announcements. Demapan gave as good an address as you normally find under such circumstances and better than a lot I’ve heard.

I enjoyed talking with everyone afterward.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Package Deal
Snail Mail
Something happens to mail on Saipan. Much of the time it works well, considering we all live thousands of miles from the nearest sizable hub and even more thousands away from the US mainland, our mail manages to get here most of the time. True, a Priority Mail envelope takes a week or 10 days or two weeks to get here, but it does get here, most of the time. But not all the time.

Everyone I have talked to about the ‘disappearing’ mail seems to have experienced it. In casual conversation it has come up many times. That tells me it is a significant percentage of loss, one worth talking about. After you read this, start asking around. I’m betting you will find most everyone you talk to about it has either sent mail that did not arrive or has waited to receive mail that never got here, multiple times.

I have noticed that a package sent from the States to be received here has a much greater chance of being ‘lost’ that one being sent the other way. I’m not sure why that would be, but it is noteworthy. I have noticed that a package sent “insured” for any amount has a far greater chance of being received than one that is not. Insurance provides not just a financial buffer against possible loss but also a mechanism for tracking. Perhaps the tracking capability is what causes the successful delivery ratio to rise.

Missing mail is not just an inconvenience; it is a crime…and a Federal crime at that. Mail that goes missing is almost unheard of in the US, maybe that is because the penalties for stealing it are so severe. A recent case in North Carolina turned out to be an inside job where a USPS employee was stealing mail that looked like greeting cards. She would keep any cash, then destroy all the checks and the cards themselves. She kept quiet about it but still got caught because of internal security systems in place. Those systems don’t seem to be working too well on the route that gets mail out here.

The above is a rare event Stateside, an inside job doesn’t happen all that often. Mail is sometimes stolen from corner pick up boxes (which we don’t have here) or from exposed multiple outside mail delivery boxes near apartments or office buildings (which we also don’t have). Those mail thieves are usually caught and do severe prison time. We had a case a while back where someone broke in and stole mail from the Capital Hill post office branch and was caught fairly quickly.

I think it is more than distance, more than coincidence, more than a logistically complex path of mail delivery. I think there is a security breech somewhere up the line and that someone inside USPS internal affairs needs to take a hard look and find the cause of Saipan’s “Missing Mail”. Since it travels via commercial air carrier, maybe that is the source of the leaking mailbags.

Missing or not, we should count our blessings about having access to one of the best, most efficient and even with all the increases, one of the cheapest forms of mail and package delivery on the planet. It is a pretty darned good deal to send a letter from here to Omaha or Boston, for the same price it takes to send it to Chalan Kanoa or Guam. I would just like it to arrive more often.
* * * *
Own-lee fie dolla
I see in the news where ex attorney general Pam Brown is ringing in with her negative opinion about whether or not our government should sue the US government to get the Federal Court’s opinion about the legality of interference with our local labor laws.

Is this the same Pam Brown who has remained conspicuously absent from public scrutiny since her foray into paid ‘philanthropy’ a couple of years back? Pam’s ‘last great hurrah’ as attorney general was a regulation change snuck into the Commonwealth Register public record under a phony cover name so it would hopefully not be discovered.

Her scheme to kidnap Vietnamese hookers, bring them to Saipan and 'rehabilitate' them for fun and profit was a low point in CNMI history and rightfully drew mass public criticism when Ruth Tighe (perhaps the only person who actually reads the Register) exposed the sordid affair. Ms. Brown didn't even show up at the 'hookers for hire' public meeting, she was so embarrassed at being caught.

Right…her’s is an opinion I sure want to give a lot of credence to. Not.
* * * *
Ace of Spades
On a more important note, the legal question posed above is an interesting one. It is a question I would like to see answered, and one that many other residents and business owners and a good number of attorney’s and scholars in the CNMI would like to have answered. Does the US Constitution trump the CNMI Covenant when the only reason the US Constitution has any sway here at all is through the enabling provisions inside the Covenant itself?

The answer to the question may well determine the fate of ‘local self government’ as promised in the Covenant and as promised to the people who voted to accept the help and assistance of the US as they transitioned from a public ward to a free people. A promise was made to the world. Will it be kept?
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Quote of the week:
The right of voting for representatives is the primary right by which all other rights are protected. To take away this right is to reduce a man to slavery, for slavery consists in being subject to the will of another, and he that has not a vote in the election of representatives is in this case. Thomas Paine, patriot and philosopher (1737 – 1809)
Put another way: He who’s representative does not have a vote, has no representative. That person and that nation of persons without representation are slaves and colonists, not free men. Bruce A. Bateman, pundit and curmudgeon. (1918 - )