Thursday, June 26, 2008

The CUC Blues
Creative power outages
Part of our disaffection with CUC in recent months is a simple lack of communication. Ever since Pam Mathis left we have been experiencing dismal and unimaginative reporting of errors, gaffs, natural causes and bugaboos that are associated with our frequent power outages. What we need is a new Public Information Officer over at CUC.

Now if I had that job you would read something like this in your morning paper: ALIENS LAND, sap power from feeder 7. Ufologists have gathered to touch the saucer shaped object in awe saying “See, We’ve been saying it for years!!” Power is expected to resume in the Marpi, San Roque and Tanapag areas as soon as repairs are made to the zirconian crystals aboard the craft. Captain Ffleebwoofzip, from Altair 4, apologized and said it was simply ‘common sense’ that we should allow him to use a little of our power to jump start the craft and get his spaceship going again. -- Now that kind of story would make us all feel better about the rotting meat in our powerless refrigerators.

The next day we could have something like this: TORNADO downs power lines in Chalan Kanoa – flying debris from Lil Knucklehead’s trailer house seen careening into Hopwood Junior High injuring several students and shutting down power in the southern part of the island when portions of his bowling ball and used condom collection crashed into local power transformers. Power will be coming back on in a day or two as cleanup of drivel and slime from the demolished trailer continues day and night. -- See, that beats the heck out of: “Engine #4’s radiator caused overheating and had to be repaired for the 29th time this week.”

Your aircon may still have melted down during the 12th outage of the day and your fax machine may still be smoking from the last power surge but by golly you wouldn’t you feel a lot better about it if the excuse had a little zip to it? Sure you would. So please CUC, get someone to fill that PIO spot, and make sure they use a little imagination in those press releases. I can be reached at 670-28-Crank. I’ll be glad to help.
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Try not to help so much
Let’s hope that Rep.Tina Sablan’s latest endeavor at public activism turns out better than her last one. Last time between petitions and law suits she and Cinta managed to force gerrymandering of voting districts to make government smaller, but forgot to do her homework. The result? Bigger government instead of smaller. Now, thanks to her direct intervention we have 20 congressional representatives for a diminishing population, instead of the 18 we had before she “helped” us. The cost to taxpayers is nearly a half Million a year in extra payments to supernumerary lawmakers, not to mention the redistricting costs and the added election costs incurred. On the other hand, she ran and got one of those extra congressional seats herself, so I guess all was not lost, at least from her standpoint.

Now she wants to “improve CUC” using a similar tactic. I’m not sure we can afford to have her help us anymore than she already has. This time she may be costing us millions and her interference may cause just the opposite of what she intends, again. Can you imagine the power outages getting more frequent and the costs escalating even more as a result of this round of meddling? Well can you imagine those extra two lawmakers sitting up there pontificating right now at your expense? They are.

A recent anti CUC rally held at the Multipurpose Center to gain support for Sablan’s demands is a case in point. While their 5 “demands” seem mostly reasonable except for an over reliance on the legislature, their methods to force the action they seek sound expensive and counterproductive. Notice also that a freshman member of congress wants congress to oversee CUC. Is this the same congress that has passed innumerable pieces of legislation “fixing’ CUC over the years? Now we are led to believe that it will all be better because a freshman congressperson with 6 whole months of experience will be writing the bill? Ridiculous.

The five “demands” (think Moses and stone tablets –1 broken): 1. That a competent, certified utility management specialist should be hired to run CUC. Spot on. The sooner we do it the sooner the pain will stop. 2. That legislative ‘oversight’ is necessary to make CUC successful and responsive. Ridiculous. The legislature has passed, unpassed, repealed, re- repealed and repassed uncountable bills about CUC for years. Results…nothing. 3. Privatization. Great idea. Been around for 2 decades. Simple to accomplish, if we keep the politicians out of the equation…all of them. Just put out a totally open bid request for someone to buy CUC outright. Then rely on a competent PUC to oversee and do watchdog duty over the successful bidder/buyer/owner/operator. 4. An Energy Summit where government types will decide what is best for us ornery citizens and make 200 page rule books explaining it to us. Probable farce. Possible incubator of some great new ideas. 5. Correct our water problems – easy, spend the effort on getting the power on 24/7 so the water pumps can operate full time, then put Diego Benevente back on the job as our Water Task Force guy. We seemed to be making progress during that period. Focus on the electric power first, then bring all the guns to bear on the water problem, not before.
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Can we make it worse? Yes
Of the methods suggested at a recent rally to attempt to force positive action on CUC the organizers, Cristina Sablan and Ed Probst, suggest a class action law suit and/or mass billing disputes as a way to ‘get the attention’ of the folks at CUC. Either or both will use personnel resources and cost CUC a lot of money. Lawsuits cost a lot of money, time and aggravation. Who do you suppose will pay for it? You will pay for it. Yes you will pay for those extra expenses as part of your power bill. Even if an award is won, someone has to pay that award. They will either tax you to get it or they will increase your power bill to get it. You will pay, not CUC, not the government, You will pay.

As for mass disputes where people frivolously refuse to pay their bills and cause CUC not to collect enough to pay for the fuel, who do you suppose will have to pay for that? Right again. You will pay, of course. This is 60’s flower power activism at its’ worst masquerading as sound policy. Hogwash. You will pay, and pay dearly for the feel-good BS spread by these 200 interlopers refusing to pay their bills. You will pay for their bill and yours too. Ready to cheer them on? Break out your wallet.

Their third method, a favorite of theirs a ala last December’s futility march, is a demonstration at capitol hill to expose the electric users, the legislature and the Administration to the idea that there is a problem with CUC that needs correcting. No kidding. Do they think that no one has noticed there is a problem? How quaint. How ridiculous. At least it will not cost us electric users anything more for them to pat themselves on the back as ‘public advocates’ and pretend to make a problem, already widely known, known. March away. March happily. Lets hope is does more good than the last debacle where we found those who will be thrown out of work and sent home by the Feds, marching to get them to do it. There is certainly nothing wrong with Departmental accountability and transparency (the favorite buzzword this season) but marching does not get you there. Plenty talk. Plenty self aggrandizement.
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Quote of the week:
Did you ever see an unhappy horse? Did you ever see a bird that had the blues? One reason why birds and horses are not unhappy is because they are not trying to impress other birds and horses. Dale Carnegie (1888 – 1955)

Sunday, June 22, 2008


Obama, who has been running strong, may have hit a major snag in his campaign this week. Al Gore, inventor of the internet, regional high priest in the church of global warming, and perpetual loser/second banana has come on board to endorse Obama and vows to ‘help him’ get elected. Obama should run – not walk – to the nearest exit before the ooze rubs off on him.
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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Fly Me to Goat Island
East China Air?
Saipan to Manila direct flights have been cancelled by our friends at Continental. Citing a diminishing NCLEX clientele they have decided to abandon a route that typically flies fully loaded. CPA and the Fitial Administration should actively seek a replacement airline. Perhaps Philippine Airlines or some other carrier would want to pick up the twice weekly non stops between capitals.

While the flights are infrequent, there remains a constant market for workers plying back and forth and the occasional tourist wishing to make the trip. It seems prudent to go out and actively solicit a replacement by letting several alternative airlines know that the route is available and offer them an attractive deal and a chance to make some money.
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Weeding the racetrack
Patrick Calvo announced his candidacy for the position of delegate to the US congress last Tuesday. By Friday he was being accused of a new rehash of some old long since dismissed charges from a decade ago. Call me cynical if you wish but the timing on these new charges seems a bit more than coincidental. Sounds like someone may have called in a favor to try and reduce that field of candidates by one more. A little smearing goes along way during a campaign.

Thursday evening also saw the Republican Party tap Pete A. as the horse to back in the coming race after two other candidates voluntarily stepped aside allowing him to run unopposed by any other sponsored Republican. It also saved the Party the cost and aggravation of a primary election. Both candidates, Ray Yumul and Vince Torres, had meetings with Pete A. prior to backing down. I would have liked to be a fly on the wall during those meetings. Rep Yumul cited the possibility he will be called back to active military duty. If so will he stay on the Legislative payroll again this time?

There are still plenty of ponies in the first-ever running of the CNMI Delegate Derby and plenty of time to get those bets down.
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It is nice to see Tinian getting some infrastructure improvements. The paving of ‘Route 202’, a two lane road from Broadway down to the port, is finally underway after several delays. Many of the roads on Tinian are potholed and in need of repair. Problem is, at 2 Million dollars a mile, not many of them will be getting much attention. Yep, that is how much this project is costing. Divided island, limited access freeways built to Interstate Highway standards cost less to construct than this little 2 lane side street.

With so many roads and sidewalks needing work there is seems a shame to spend so much and get so little. I’m sure that road, less than a mile long, will be a real beauty. At that price it aught to be. For that kind of cash they could have repaved every road in San Jose. Every one in town, except the tire dealer, would probably like to see that happen. Maybe the Governor’s CIP task force, given credit for getting the current project underway, will again hit Federal Highway Administration paydirt but spread it around to many smaller projects next time.

Hey, I’ve got a friend who lives out in the Marpo Valley who needs a high ground clearance HumVee and a tow truck just to get home the road is so bad. Several of Tinian’s tourist attractions have access via roads that might be better called an obstacle course than a highway. So there is lots to do and the long suffering folks over in Tinian deserve to get some of the federal loot buttering their bread. Just spread that butter and jam a little further next time, please.
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Gambling Festival
This year the AGs office sort of took the Constitution seriously and banned some forms gambling at the Liberation Festival at Fishing Base. You can still play “Instant Massive Bingo” so I guess that must not be gambling. Let’s see, in Blackjack you place your bet, you win or you lose money. But in Bingo, you place your bet and you win or lose money. See the difference?

At other venues for other causes, gambling is okay. Depends on what color your collar is or whether you are wearing a tie I guess. Being an AG is hard. So many definitions to choose from.

Last year the last minute rule change tricks played on the booth operators caused many of them not to return this year. Last year promises were made and rules involving sales of alcoholic beverages were outlined during several pre festival meetings at the mayor’s office. Then on the day the Festival opened, they changed the rules drastically causing many booth operators to lose money during the event. Several considered suing. Wonder why there are fewer booth operators this year? A little grape just told you.
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Nude Goats
Last week’s column on nudity caused one reader to write me and suggest that nude tourism could be a big seller. It got me thinking about the fact that we need a new tourist draw in the worst way. Casino gambling, the fastest way to stimulate tourism, went down to a 5 to 3 defeat from the Puritan Purist vote back in ‘06. Maybe this nude suggestion, if properly hidden and isolated would gain the approval of those folks. On the other hand, nothing in the Constitution bars baring ones buns so we wouldn’t have to take this to the voters. All we need is a place and an investor.

We could designate a nude only beach site and have the unclad from all over the globe come here to disrobe and get a bit closer to nature. Goat Island would be the perfect venue for this ‘back to basics’ kind of eco-tourism. “Let the bees see your knees” could be the new Goat Island motto. Signs warning the tourists to “Bend over Carefully” and “Caution Goat Crossing” could be placed around the island to promote safe nudity. Sunscreen vendors would come flocking. The prospects for jocularity are endless.
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Quote of the week:
I believe I found the missing link between animal and civilized man. It is us. -Konrad Lorenz, ethnologist, Nobel laureate (1903-1989)

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Backside candidacy
Who’s on first?
To dispel some rumors about who is and who is not running for the soon to be hotly contested and unquestionably too highly paid Non Voting Delegate seat here is the list.

As of last week there were 10 people who had picked up a candidates validation packet at the Election Commission Office. This is the necessary first step to tossing one’s hat in the ring. Here they are:

Greg Sablan
Ray Yumal
Pete Tenorio
John Gonzalez
Juan Lizama
David Attao
Luis Chrisostimo
Paul Wm. Camacho
Juan Guerrero

I think there will be plenty more where those came from.

We won’t know until deadline day, August 6th, who has actually turned in their paperwork and voter petitions and will even be trying for validation. We won’t know who has actually succeeded in being placed on the ballot until September 20th, which is the final day for the Election Commission to act on and validate nominating petitions and candidacy documents.
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Draft David M. Sablan
Noted author and economist, William Stewart, has proposed David M. Sablan as the best candidate for the new post of Non Voting Delegate to the US Congress. Uncle Dave has a track record consisting of a highly successful business career coupled with 40 years of meaningful community service, and is one of the CNMI’s brightest and most talented people. He has the moxie to recognize the crooks in DC and not be steam rollered by the politically powerful as would most of the other candidates currently interested in the job. So I tend to agree with Bill Stewart, Mr. Sablan would be the best man for the post.

Problem is: why would he run? A successful election would probably result in a pay cut for him. His various business interests here would suffer in his absence. He is smart enough to see the futility in a lackey’s 2nd banana position as a delegate without a vote. Where he now enjoys almost universal popularity, as a politician he would of necessity make a lot of enemies no matter what his actions were. For these reasons and many others, I don’t think we could talk him into running. We could draft him, but he would probably be smart enough to head for Canada.
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Pete Z
Pete A. Tenorio should change his middle initial to Z for Zorrie. As the flip-flop king, he should take on the correct identifying moniker. When elected he stood for CNMI self governance and used to play golf with the pro Commonwealth labor lobbyist, now not his friend anymore-so there, Jack Abramoff. When the political guard changed a while back he dumped all the above and jumped on the pro federalist bandwagon. His price? A non-voting delegate seat outside in the hallway next to the bathroom of the US Lower Congressional House is all it took. He didn’t have the skills to get the seat on its, or his, own merits so he sold himself, his country and his constituents for it.

Now he wants to run for the office he sold us out to get. What ideology do you suppose he will switch to if we are foolish enough to elect him to not-vote for us in DC?
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Yearning to be free

Certain freedoms are allowed children that just aren’t available to the adult population. My son aged three likes to run outside sans clothing and sometimes cannot be persuaded to see the ‘civilizing influence’ that wearing pants, as an example, confers upon him. Why Dad?

I’m not sure where he acquired the phrase ‘naked butt butt” but acquire it he has. It aptly describes his favorite mode of dress. He has no time for embarrassment. He has no patience with convention. He has a direct and obvious self-interest position: it’s cool and comfortable. Nothing needs to match anything else color wise. No pants leg to tangle in the bicycle chain. No fear of parental retribution if the shirt gets snagged on an inconveniently placed tree limb and rips.

I am a bit surprised that Mom’s don’t climb on this naked butt butt bandwagon. Think of the hours of laundry it would save if all the children just un-dressed for success. You don’t need to iron an arm or a stomach. Collectively, jillions of hours could be saved just on getting kids dressed and off to school each day. There are other obvious advantages.

What brings this line of rumination up is power outages. Never-ending, inconvenient, uncomfortable and untimely CUC induced power outages. It came to me in a flash the other evening as I tried to sleep in my 150° F oven-like concrete house during the 14th power outage of the day. I could get up and go sit on the porch and enjoy the cooling breeze, butt butt just think how much more comfortable it would be sitting out there with all those skin pores exposed. Nature set us up with a natural evaporative cooling system which we inhibit by wearing clothes. We sweat; the moving air evaporates the moisture and cools us down. But when we wear clothing, we sweat; the cloths become soaked and we swelter.

While a three year old can enjoy the freedom and comfort that nudity confers, we adults would only run afoul of a puritanical, European based legal system that prohibits allowing nature’s cooling system to function unfettered by clothes. No shoes, no shirt, no service. No pants, no serape and it’s off to jail for ‘indecent exposure’. Just which part is the indecent part? Before the Spanish came along and conquered this place with canons and muskets 400 odd years ago, there weren’t any indecent parts. That traditional system of un-dress makes perfect sense when your body is located 15 degrees above the equator and temp/humidity heat index makes it feel like it’s a hundred ten degrees outside instead of only 85. While reading to my three year old from the excellent CNMI textbook “History of the Northern Mariana Islands” by Don Ferrell, we learned about the smart indigenous solution to hot, humid, tropical weather…nudity. See, Dad?

There may be one saving grace in sending us off to jail if we adults are caught without all the politically correct items of clothing: it’s cool inside there. As a local assistant attorney general has pointed out, we would not want to inconvenience our prisoners so they have a taxpayer paid generator to keep that A/C humming and those TV’s a clamoring when CUC flubs the power yet again. It’s the least we can do for thieves, child molesters, murderers and …nudists.
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Quote of the week:
No drug, not even alcohol, causes the fundamental ills of society. If we're looking for the source of our troubles, we shouldn't test people for drugs, we should test them for stupidity, ignorance, greed and love of power. -P.J. O'Rourke, writer (1947-)

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Sour Grapes for Tuesday, June 3rd., 2008

Planetary maps
In perhaps the most important piece of news in a long time the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena has successfully landed a remotely controlled robotic explorer on the surface of our near orbit neighbor, Mars. For the first time in over 30 years we have achieved a soft landing like the one future astronauts will need to use when arriving to explore the surface of the red planet in person.

Maybe they will find useful minerals; maybe they will find it possible to terraform part of the planet for human use. They might find it basically unsuitable and then the focus should be on another planetary candidate or a moon to explore. Right now, though Mars seems to be the best candidate.

Like other advocates I dream about what the space program could have done with the hundreds of Billions we have spent on Middle East and other wars. Socialists think of the welfare checks it would have bought. Ranchers think it could have put a buffalo in every pot. Too late for all of that, the moolah has long been spent and at least we got some interesting new technologies for our money. What we can do is allocate more funds in the future and make space exploration a higher priority than we have. To do so a worthy and singular goal is needed. Finding a new place to go and inventing a way to get there is such a goal.

Finding new planets to colonize and/or mine for resources should be a high priority for a species which appears likely to breed itself into abject poverty or even extinction on this mud ball we call Earth. There are only three cures for overpopulation: Reduce the birth rate, increase the death rate or find a new place to live. All but China seems willing, even eager, to continue the population explosion, so reducing birth rate is not likely. Famine, war, disease, and euthanasia are about the only real population reducers…none are too popular. That leaves us with sooner or later finding a new place to live. The faster the species breeds the sooner it will need that liebestram, that new place to park the extra human population. If we don’t find a suitable planet or moon to move some of the excess people to, we will have to resort to one of the extremely unpleasant alternatives listed above.

Conservatives, which is what environmentalists really are, seek to save or conserve as much of the natural wealth of the planet as they can. That strategy simply cannot keep up with the ever increasing birth rate. Rapid technical advancements have helped improve farming, ranching and fishing efficiency but all have limits. The sad truth is that humans can reproduce faster than their own food supply.

We humans are a long way from reaching the goal of finding and learning to colonize other planets and it seems likely that famine or some other unsavory force will beat us to the punch and kill off a large segment of the population first. But we can try; and space seems like the place to find more resources and maybe even a new place to live.
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Redraw the PEW map
One of the sticking points of the proposed PEW monument seems to be that PEW came along and drew an arbitrary blob on a map without consulting anyone locally whether that was an appropriate area for conservation or not. Further, the PEW proposed boundaries cover 3 islands belonging to the NMI but bills itself frequently as the ‘Marianas Trench Monument’ yet the monument they envision only includes a tiny fraction of the Marianas Trench.

Maybe if PEW backed off it’s somewhat ham handed initial approach and asked for local cooperation in redrawing the boundaries of a proposed monument, all parties could be assuaged and an agreement could be reached.

Here is my idea for a possible alternative to discuss with NMI stakeholders when redrawing the boundaries. If we redraw the borders of the proposed park to include a swath of ocean that narrowly bounds the actual Marianas Trench much like the boundaries of the oft compared Grand Canyon Park do, it would not involve taking any land from the CNMI.

The deep parts of the trench (The Challenger Deep) are not near the NMI’s northern islands anyway but lie well south of Guam. A park might start at the extreme northern limit of US/CNMI controlled waters directly above the Trench. The park could be a narrow10 or 20 mile wide J shaped strip that runs north and south out in the ocean on the east side of the CNMI well offshore, that then curves back west below Guam and extends to the end of the US jurisdiction. There is not likely to be interference with fishing in that deep water and there is not likely to be any mineral extraction even possible in those ultra deep waters so potential conflict with commercial uses is avoided.

There is no need whatsoever for the park to encompass any of the CNMI islands if it is to be a ”Marianas Trench Monument”. Stick it out in the ocean where the Marianas Trench actually is. Sounds like a great idea but notice that I too did not consult the real stakeholders, I just made up something that sounded reasonable. The above is just one possibility.

Don’t like that one? Here is another possibility. Make that monument a no take zone within 50 feet of that big red Hawaiian mango tree in my backyard. Only 3 mango jam specialists and myself are to be allowed in there to munch those juicy mangos. Damit we owe it to our posterity to ensure those mangos will be there in a thousand years. See that sounds reasonable. What would not sound reasonable is if I designated the mango tree in my neighbors yard then told him he couldn’t get those mangos anymore, only I and a few select mango specialists could access the now “saved” mango tree area in his backyard. I might be happy, but the neighbor probably would not. If the neighbor and I both sat down and jointly decided which mango tree to save, if any, the controversy would probably end. Either way, I like my neighbor and I like those mangos too.
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I will resign
Just in case you were wondering. Yep, I’m willing to resign from whatever it is I should resign from in order to run for the Non-Voting Delegate slot. It’s a bit easier for me since I don’t have a government job to begin with nor am I an elected official. But hey, I’ll resign from something if necessary.

It seems that some potential candidates would rather not resign from their current government jobs as the Constitution dictates before declaring themselves a candidate for the NVD job. Others, with just as much to lose have already done the right thing and resigned their posts in order to run as the law stipulates. The saying goes: You can’t have your cake and eat it too. (Although the author of that tidbit may not have been so well connected as some). Resign already if you want to run, it’s the ethical thing to do. Besides, it’s the law.

So here is my promise: I will resign, but I will not vote. You can pinch me or punch me, I still won’t vote.
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Quote of the week:
An act has no ethical quality whatsoever unless it be chosen out of several, all equally possible. William James (1842 – 1910)