Tuesday, October 30, 2007

154. A Question about the Saipan Casino Act

I hope that the Saipan Casino Act will not get the 2/3rds majority of qualified voters' votes in the upcoming election.

But I have a question about the mechanics of the Act. Call it professional curiousity. I haven't been able to figure out what is supposed to happen in regards to the stock if the proposal becomes law. The proposed law, as written, seems confused and incomplete.

Article III, Section 2 says:

(a) The commission, upon this Act becoming law, shall issue the casino license only to the Northern Marianas Descent Investment Corporation (NMDIC). The license shall be perpertual.

(i) The NMDIC shall be a profit corporation established in accordance with the laws of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.
(ii) The incorporators, directors, officers and shareholders of the NMDIC shall be persons of NMD.
(iii) NMDIC shall issue shares of common stock duly subscribed in Five Hundred Dollar (US $500.00) par value per share and preferred stocks duly subscribed in one dollar ($1.00) par value per share to natural NMD persons only.
(iv) No natural person of NMD shall own more than one (1) share of common stocks and twenty-five thousand (25,000) of preferred shares.
(v) Any natural person of NMD, who is eighteen (18) years of age or older may subscribe to only one share of common stock and not more than twenty-five thousand (25,000) preferred shares of NMDIC, and pay for such share in an installment amount to be determined under a share subscription agreement with NMDIC. Each common stock shareholder shall be entitled to one vote during shareholders meeting or other events and business of NMDIC. However, for the purpose of computing, declaring and paying dividends per share to be paid, it shall be based only on fully subscribed and paid share.
(vi) Authorized Stocks. NMDIC shall authorize number of capital stocks to meet the current and growing NMD population in the Commonwealth pursuant to this Subsection.

So my first and basic question is what happens to a person's stock when he or she dies? Can it only be inherited by someone who is also NMD? What if all heirs already have their own one share? Or there is no NMD heir? Is it bought back and the money paid for it inherited? Does the share disappear?

The whole thing about the number of stocks also seems financially troublesome. Is there a fixed number of shares, open for purchase, or is it that all NMDs have a right to purchase one share of common stock?

It seems as if any and all NMDs have a right to buy into the NMDIC. It seems as if the number of shares will constantly fluctuate and increase with population. But if that's the case, then as NMDs reach age 18, they can automatically purchase a share of common stock, constantly diluting the shares of those who already have one.

Or will it be that as fewer and fewer people meet the 25% NMD blood requirement that there will be fewer and fewer who are eligible to own the stocks?

On a different note, and issue: the people who control the NMDIC can let friends and family have a share without paying, to give those friends and family a vote at (important) meetings. Do they have to let all NMDs have the same access to an unpaid share? Isn't it interesting that people can vote without paying for their share?

Anyone with ideas, feel free to clue me in.

153. Love is warm puppy breath!

Thanks to Betty Miller and Angie Wheat, who are sending around a list of descriptions about love, written by little kids (ages 4 to 8). This one comes from the list:

'Love is when your puppy licks your face even after you left him alone all day.' Mary Ann - age 4

If you need a little more love in your life, I can help. I have six adorable puppies up for adoption. They were born on October 1, 2007, are certified Saipan boonie dogs, and need good homes.

Contact me here (or use my e-mail in the profile). I'll try to post photos, just in case you need a little more convincing.
P.S. These cute little puppies have all been given away now. And surprisingly, I'm missing them. (I thought I'd just be happy to have less to clean up, less demand for feeding and keeping them from getting roughed up by the bigger dogs. Wrong.) But I am glad they've found good homes, elsewhere than my own!

Monday, October 29, 2007

152. A Word from our Election Commission

Greg Sablan sent me this with a request to post on the blog. So here goes.

The Commonwealth Election Commission has received reports that there are individuals informing our citizens and registered voters that a “yes” vote means “no” for some of the questions on the November 3, 2007 general election ballot.

There are seven (7) questions for Rota and for Saipan and the Islands North of Saipan, and six (6) for Tinian and Aguiguan, that require a yes or no vote. The questions are all found on the right-hand side of the ballot and they are for the four (4) judicial retention questions and the two (2) House Legislative Initiatives and the Saipan Casino Act for Saipan and the Islands North of Saipan and the Rota Casino Act of 2007 for Rota.

For the record, a “yes” vote means that a voter is approving the question, whether it is for the initiative or for the retention of the judicial officers. A “no” vote is a vote in opposition, a disapproval, of the question.

Thus, if a voter votes “yes” on the Saipan Casino Act, for example, that voter is voting to approve the initiative. A “no” vote means the voter is not in support of the initiative.

The same goes for all the questions on the right-hand side of the general election ballot.

Anyone having more information about this issue is asked to please report the matter to the Office of the Attorney General, the Public Auditor or to the Commonwealth Election Commission.

Sincerely yours,


Executive Director



Whoever is spreading the nonsense (about a yes vote meaning no) must not think our CNMI voters are very smart. Or else they're just desperate. I trust that most (all?) blog readers already know this, but just in case, or in case you find someone else asking about this, you can say you've read the official answer--yes means yes and no means no--and give a straight answer (without thinking it's a joke).

Thursday, October 18, 2007

151. Blogging for a Cure--Robert's Snow Event

Children's writers and artists are collaborating to raise money for the Dana Farber Cancer Institute. More than a hundred well-established and new artists have each created a snowflake art piece for this year's event, and each snowflake will be auctioned on-line starting November 19, 2007.

You can read more details at Jen Robinson's blog here.

The art reminds us why children love picture books, and how a little bit of beauty can work wonders.

Here are a few samples from the many lovely choices. Whether you like dogs or cats, traditional snowy holiday scenes or tropical treasures, amusing or serene, there's a snowflake for you!

This Chillax might be my personal favorite!

But of course, I love Paddington Bear, too!

I hope everyone in Saipan with any cash to spend for the holidays will participate in this on-line auction. The treasure is not just the art, but the gift of giving.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

150. To JacketFlap Readers & other notes

I received an e-mail today that my blog is now featured on JacketFlap. I signed up for that months ago when I was doing a lot more with the "writing" part of Saipan Writer and less with the Saipan part. With election season and interesting local issues in the forefront here, I've all but forgotten the writer part of my blog duties!

But I just finished reading a mid-grade novel, RICKSHAW GIRL by Mitali Perkins and will be reviewing it in my monthly book review column.

And NEXT MONTH is NANOWRIMO! That's national novel writing month--a crazy time when you crank out a 50,000+ word novel in just 30 days.

This will be my third year participating in NaNoWriMo. Joe Race is planning on joining again this year. We both finished last year, as others fell by the wayside, left eating our dust! If anyone else in Saipan is interested, let me know. Last year, we held weekly write-ins and it worked well.

And just for some humor, thought I'd pass this on. An ordinary pack of Pokemon cards sold for more than $140 on eBay--thanks to some great writing. Read it here: A funny story on why this Mom was selling Pokemon cards on eBay. (Thanks to WryttenWyrd for the news flash!)

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

149. A Day Late

So Angelo encouraged all of us to post a story about the environment on October 15. I'm a day late (well, it's the 15th in parts of the world still).

And I'm just posting this link: NPR Story on the Philippines. I heard this broadcast this morning and thought it worth repeating.

I like the concept of stewardship of our earth.

Monday, October 15, 2007

148. FYI-Saipan Casino Act

One last --easy-- post on the Saipan Casino Act initiative.

EDIT: I haven't found the Saipan Casino Initiative on-line and can't link to it. But if you want a copy, let me know. I'm willing to make a few copies and pass them along.

At the debate, I complained that there was nothing in the bill that provided for INDEPENDENT regulators. Paduna said I was wrong (well, he SHOUTED that I was wrong, wrong, wrong). See if you can find any of these things:

1. a requirement that the commissioners NOT have any interest in the license-holder, casino operators or other gambling/casino interests.

2. a requirement that the commissioners NOT come directly from employment at the casinos.

3. a requirement that the commissioners NOT be able to go directly from their job as commissioners into the casino industry.

4. a requirement that the commissioners NOT have close family members with an interest in the license-holder, casino operators or other gambling/casino intersts.

5. a requirement that the commissioners NOT have close family members working in the
casino industry.

You won't. The SCA would invite the casino industry into Saipan WITHOUT INDEPENDENT REGULATION. And without independent regulation, the casino industry will be more likely to be corrupt, have illegal and unethical practices, and fail to pay over the benefits we're supposed to reap.

At the debate, the pro side insisted the Saipan Casino Act does not create a monopoly. They did this in two ways--1) saying because all indigenous could buy a share in the license-holder, there was no monopoloy; and 2) saying the indigenous compnay was only a "regulatory" monopoly.

1. See if you can find anyplace in the the SCA that permits a second company of all indigenous people to hold a separate license and operate casinos in competition to the first license-holder's casinos.

2. See if you can find anyplace in the SCA that says the indigenous company that will hold the license will be for regulation only and not for profit.

The SCA will grant THE EXCLUSIVE, and perpetual, PRIVILEGE by law to one and only one investment company for the license to operate casinos in Saipan. The company will be a business operating FOR PROFIT. This is a monopoly.

Monopolies do not have the usual market forces to help keep them in line. So not only will there be no independent regulation of the casino industry in Saipan, there will not even be market forces operating to make sure the casinos stay above-board.

There seems to be a growing notion that the appearance of casinos in Saipan would end the proliferation and prominence of poker arcades in our community. I'm not really sure how this is supposed to happen. (It was repeated over and over that casinos would be well-lit and our local people wouldn't go in there. I'm not sure the reasoning behind that analysis, either, but it would be inconsistent with the idea that demand for the poker-machines would be diverted to the casinos.) The closure of poker arcades hasn't happened in Tinian.

1. Find someplace in the SCA that changes our poker-machine laws.

One of the lures of the casino industry is the promise of wealth. But the casino industry does not create wealth--it doesn't take some natural resource and make it into a valuable product. It just packages gambling as fun and redistributes existing wealth. For the casino industry to "generate" income, people have to lose. The entire casino industry is premised on this simple fact. The machines and tables and games are all set up so that there are consistently more losers than winners.

One of the myths of the casino promise is that wealthy people play at the casinos and lose income they can afford to do without. This myth isn't entire false, which is why it is so attractive. There are wealthy people who play games at casinos and lose big money.

Will those wealthy people choose to gamble at casinos on Saipan or Tinian, rather than Macau or Singapore? I mean, really, if you were wealthy, where would you choose? I love Saipan and all of the CNMI, and I love it the way it is. I can't see casinos and neon-light as an improvement. And I can't see us ever getting to the point of being legitimately competitive with Macau and Singapore for those wealthy gamblers.

And then there are the others, not so wealthy gamblers, losing money at casinos that they can't afford. These might be tourists or residents. They might be our soldiers and sailors stationed on Guam. Casino income is a reverse or regressive tax--taking money from those most desperate to try their luck.

And while casino owners and operators usually make profits (with the notable exception of the Tinian Dynasty), people in the community don't necessarily see an improved lifestyle. This is reflected in the increase in bankruptcies in communities with casinos. This is reflected in the fact that Las Vegas has the highest rate of home mortgage foreclosures in the country right now, and a depressed housing market.

Just be sure you realize there's NO GUARANTEE in the Saipan Casino Act.

Proponents of the SCA hype casinos as "the only alternative" that Saipan has to get out of the economic slump. This is a lie. Other communities in the past--going back for centuries--have had times where they faced economic hardship. They didn't have to turn to casinos to recover. We don't either.

And just because other communities have chosen to have casinos is no reason for us to do the same. We aren't lemmings. We have a unique culture and beauty that we can develop.

We should work on building the community, rather than just building the economy. The community encompasses economic aspects, but it looks at the larger picture and works from there. I agree with Tina Sablan that we need honest government and an investment in our people and culture as a basis for promoting our fledgling economy. We should stop looking for the one-trick pony to ride (like the garment industry, EDIT-a certain kind of tourist-EDIT, casinos) and start promoting initiatives by our resident population for small and medium-sized enterprises that will build a solid base for happy community life.

Friday, October 12, 2007

147. Educating Kids about Gambling Math

I'm so glad to be finished with the official debate on the Saipan casino initiative. (And I dread seeing myself on local television!)

In a bit of follow-up research, I found this nifty site that offers a curriculum from Harvard Medical School for middle school kids on mathematics, probability and gaming--to help educate them about gambling and risk. FACING THE ODDS.

I like the bit about helping kids make the transition from "magical thinking" to "mathematical thinking." I'm not in middle-school, but it's been a long time since I took "probability and statistics" in college, so even I would like to be a student in this class!

(And now I hope to turn my blogging back to writing--and getting ready for NaNoWriMo!)

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

146. Scammers at Casinos

A letter in the newspaper today suggested that we educate ourselves about casinos. Good idea!

Good, clean fun? Better watch out.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

145. Another Casino Reflection

I blogged about my initial thoughts and analysis of the Saipan Casino Act here.

I've heard many other concerns since I wrote that article: concerns about unregulated greed and potential dishonesty; organizational, administrative, and technological incompetence; and unintended, harmful consequences on local businesses.

I share all of those concerns.

But one of my biggest and newest concerns deals with the effect on the traditional mwarmwar. I mean, what if we end up with headgear like this?

Monday, October 1, 2007

144. Surprising Agreement-Counting Blessings

I rarely agree with Anthony Pellegrino. I've gotten to the point where I usually read the first paragraph of his columns or letters and move on. So I'm surprised to read his column today and find that I agree with all of it.

I was here before the Covenant became "fully" effective, when people in the CNMI were "interim U.S. citizens." The choice to become U.S. citizens and have a Commonwealth in political union with and "under the sovereignty of" the U.S. was still being embraced as a great deal, the right choice, a happy beginning to a new era.

As with all new ventures, when the honeymoon is over, reality seems worse than it really is. We've learned that "local self-government" is not the same as total control and sovereignty. We've come up against some demands and limitations that some among us don't like. But we don't need rose-colored glasses to appreciate the benefits that come from being a Commonwealth in political union with the U.S.

A benefit Tony forgot to mention: our U.S. citizens here can move freely to the U.S. and live, work, attend school and participate fully in life (including voting). While our neighbors from the FSM, Palau and Marshall Islands can live and work in the U.S., they cannot vote, cannot have a voice, and are perpetual "guests."

BTW, our U.S. passports are dark blue, not black, I think. Whatever the color, though, the benefits that go with our citizenship are enormous--not just sharing in the fiscal pie, but having a set of rights that include freedom of press and freedom of religion and other rights that some nearby neighbors in Asia do not enjoy. And with those benefits come some responsibilities--not too onerous, not back-breaking, spirit-sucking responsibilities, just ones that include a bit of respect as we question authority, a bit of recognition for all that we've got as we decide whether to reach for more or share the wealth, and a little effort to live up to the promise of our constitutional freedom.