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.”
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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.
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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)


Jeff said...

I think you assign far more importance to the CNMI than it merits. In the global scheme, it is less than irrelevant.

As someone now paying for the CNMI's dole from this side, I'd love to seem them walk the walk and become truly independent and give up all the American welfare it lives for. The anti-fed stuff makes for good local politics. The leaders bluster about independence like a five year old threatening to run away from home, and should be taken about as seriously.

Federalization amounts to tough love. That place will never fix itself based on a model of make work government jobs without a private sector that offers a living wage. The transition will be harsh, but is long overdue.

Bruce A. Bateman said...

Jeff says, "I think you assign far more importance to the CNMI than it merits. In the global scheme, it is less than irrelevant."

Other than in the US military eyes as it retreats from the Asian continent and needs a new strategic stronghold you are right. We are a pimple on a gnat’s ass in US eyes. We provide no income to them and don't even provide any votes.

So what do you think the reason is? Why would they want to dip their net here? Personal vendetta is as good a guess as any which is why I said "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." in the article.

Actual Purpose, if any, unknown.

I also agree with you that the CNMI would be far better off (as would the US taxpayer) if she scuttled the current relationship and opted for independent nation status. That option grows more remote, however, with each child taught by a US trained teacher using a US based curriculum.


Have you had the chance to take the family driving around the state yet? A close and fun drive is to go up the “Black Canyon” interstate 17 to Cave Creek road. Turn right (east) and drive over to the cave Creek/Carefree area. Nice places, good restaurants for the family. Then you are close to Bartlett Lake recreation area or you can go north on the unpaved road a few miles to 7 springs.

Jeff said...

I get some time in October and will do something then. Right now, not really easy to pull off.