Monday, December 31, 2007

177. Santa Claus Congress

The CNMI House voted to give Rota $500,000 dollars for start-up costs of their casino. Merry Christmas!

But I'm feeling decidedly like Scrooge. $500,000 is a lot of money that could do more good used elsewhere, like at PSS or DPS or CHC.

The large majority of people in Saipan voted against casinos. And the CNMI's overwhelming majority of population is in Saipan.

So if the people of Rota want a casino, which THEY voted for, let them pay for it themselves. Bah Humbug!

Friday, December 28, 2007

176. Waves of Migration

This article from HALFWAY DOWN THE DANUBE is interesting to ponder as it discusses the assimilation of Chinese in the Philippines. We have an increasingly diverse population, with more Koreans and Chinese calling the CNMI home than ever before. So it makes sense to look at how our neighbors have assimilated foreign-born residents. We're not the only ones with waves of migrants.

On a similar note: While in Hawaii a few years ago, I went to the public library, which had a whole series of pamphlets in the children's section, entitled things like "Japanese in Hawaii" and "Chinese in Hawaii" and "Portuguese in Hawaii." These each told the story of migration of people from a foreign country into Hawaii, where they came from, the circumstances at the times of migration, and their contributions to Hawaiian life.

I'd like to see our Humanities Council undertake a similar project for the CNMI.

Friday, December 21, 2007

175. A List to Consider

Thanks to Samatakah (Princess Always Learning) for noticing this list on another blog. Attributed to "Cole" (but I don't know who that is).

Bold indicates what you've done. Or you could, as Smatakah has done, comment and explain and discuss and analyze. And have fun.

01. Bought everyone in the bar a drink
02. Swam with wild dolphins
03. Climbed a mountain
04. Taken a Ferrari for a test drive
05. Been inside the Great Pyramid
06. Held a tarantula
07. Taken a candlelit bath with someone
08. Said “I love you” and meant it
09. Hugged a tree
10. Bungee jumped
11. Visited Paris
12. Watched a lightning storm at sea
13. Stayed up all night long and saw the sun rise
14. Seen the Northern Lights
15. Gone to a huge sports game
16. Walked the stairs to the top of the leaning Tower of Pisa
17. Grown and eaten your own vegetables
18. Touched an iceberg
19. Slept under the stars
20. Changed a baby’s diaper
21. Taken a trip in a hot air balloon
22. Watched a meteor shower
23. Gotten drunk on champagne
24. Given more than you can afford to charity
25. Looked up at the night sky through a telescope
26. Had an uncontrollable giggling fit at the worst possible moment
27. Had a food fight
28. Bet on a winning horse
29. Asked out a stranger
30. Had a snowball fight
31. Screamed as loudly as you possibly can
32. Held a lamb
33. Seen a total eclipse
34. Ridden a roller coaster
35. Hit a home run
36. Danced like a fool and didn’t care who was looking
37. Adopted an accent for an entire day
38. Actually felt happy about your life, even for just a moment
39. Had two hard drives for your computer
40. Visited all 50 states [No, but I did try, and got a pretty big lead.]
41. Taken care of someone who was drunk
42. Had amazing friends [Still do!]
43. Danced with a stranger in a foreign country
44. Watched whales
45. Stolen a sign
46. Backpacked in Europe
47. Taken a road-trip
48. Gone rock climbing
49. Midnight walk on the beach
50. Gone sky diving
51. Visited Ireland
52. Been heartbroken longer than you were actually in love
53. In a restaurant, sat at a stranger’s table and had a meal with them
54. Visited Japan
55. Milked a cow
56. Alphabetized your CDs
57. Pretended to be a superhero
58. Sung karaoke
59. Lounged around in bed all day
60. Played touch football
61. Gone scuba diving--I don't swim, so despite the lovely location, I haven't done this. But I've snorkeled at Managaha, in the 80's, 90's and 2000's, which I've been told by some is better than diving in many places in the world!
62. Kissed in the rain
63. Played in the mud
64. Played in the rain
65. Gone to a drive-in theater
66. Visited the Great Wall of China
67. Started a business--well a not-for-profit day care.
68. Fallen in love and not had your heart broken
69. Toured ancient sitesMany, but my favorite being Nan Madol.
70. Taken a martial arts class
71. Played D&D for more than 6 hours straight
72. Gotten married
73. Been in a movie--do Dad's home movies count?!!
74. Crashed a party
75. Gotten divorced
76. Gone without food for 5 days
77. Made cookies from scratch
78. Won first prize in a costume contest
79. Ridden a gondola in Venice
80. Gotten a tattoo
81. Rafted the Snake River--no, but I've rafted the Cheat River!
82. Been on television news programs as an “expert”
83. Gotten flowers for no reason
84. Performed on stage
85. Been to Las Vegas
86. Recorded music
87. Eaten shark
88. Kissed on the first date
89. Gone to Thailand--not yet.
90. Bought a house--no, but I built a house.
91. Been in a combat zone
92. Buried one/both of your parents
93. Been on a cruise ship
94. Spoken more than one language fluently
95. Performed in Rocky Horror
96. Raised children
97. Followed your favorite band/singer on tour
98. Passed out cold
99. Taken an exotic bicycle tour in a foreign country
100. Picked up and moved to another city to just start over--well, not really to "just start over" but that was the effect.
101. Walked the Golden Gate Bridge
102. Sang loudly in the car, and didn’t stop when you knew someone was looking
103. Had plastic surgery
104. Survived an accident that you shouldn’t have survived
105. Wrote articles for a large publication
106. Lost over 100 pounds--I've probably done this, but not all at once!
107. Held someone while they were having a flashback--not flashbacks, but hallucinations
108. Piloted an airplane
109. Touched a stingray (cheating-at an aquarium)
110. Broken someone’s heart--maybe.
111. Helped an animal give birth
112. Won money on a T.V. game show
113. Broken a bone
114. Gone on an African photo safari
115. Had a facial part pierced other than your ears
116. Fired a rifle, shotgun, or pistol
117. Eaten mushrooms that were gathered in the wild
118. Ridden a horse
119. Had major surgery
120. Had a snake as a pet
121. Hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon
122. Slept for more than 30 hours over the course of 48 hours I've been that sick.
123. Visited more foreign countries than U.S. states
124. Visited all 7 continents
125. Taken a canoe trip that lasted more than 2 days
126. Eaten kangaroo meat
127. Eaten sushi Hasn't everyone?!
128. Had your picture in the newspaper
129. Changed someone’s mind about something you care deeply about
130. Gone back to school
131. Para sailed
132. Touched a cockroach
133. Eaten fried green tomatoes
134. Read The Iliad - and the Odyssey
135. Selected one “important” author who you missed in school, and read
136. Killed and prepared an animal for eating I'm assuming fish count.
137. Skipped all your school reunions
138. Communicated with someone without sharing a common spoken language
139. Been elected to public office
140. Written your own computer language
141. Thought to yourself that you’re living your dream
142. Had to put someone you love into hospice care
143. Built your own PC from parts
144. Sold your own artwork to someone who didn’t know you
145. Had a booth at a street fair
146. Dyed your hair
147. Been a DJ
148. Shaved your head
149. Caused a car accident
150. Saved someone’s life

Thursday, December 20, 2007

174. Holiday Cheer

I can't believe it's already December 20th!

I'm not ready. I haven't written my Christmas cards yet. I haven't decorated the tree (although I did get the lights strung onto it last night). I have no presents. I haven't yet BAKED!

I haven't been this behind for the holidays in years. Everything will be wonderful, I'm sure. So I'm not stressing about any of this--too much.

From my many years of experience with these holidays and especially my extensive experience with being behind on the preparations and fun, I do have a few tricks up my sleeve (well, it's the tropics, so no sleeves, but you get the idea). So at the end of the work day today, I'll be off to buy some "starter" cookies. And cheese and crackers, olives and other appetizer/party goodies.

I already have the wine. :-)

Happy holidays, everyone. And here's wishing for peace on Earth.

Monday, December 17, 2007

173. The New CNMI Labor Law (P.L. 15-108)--part 2

I'm still tracking through the new labor law, and I'm still on the purposes. (Part 1 is posted at Post # 160.) There are some good statements in the purposes with which I agree, and a few more subtle assumptions with which I disagree.

On the good side, these statements:
"...a minimum wage rate may not be sufficient to attract citizens and permanent
residents to take a job for which they are qualified."

And this:
"Wage rates will not rise so long as cheap foreign labor is available."

And this:
"The Commonwealth has the responsibility to provide fair employment conditions
for foreign nationals, to use their labor for the purposes of economic growth
and stability for which it was intended, and to regulate labor practices in
order to protect against potential abuses."

But then the law seems to eschew the most obvious means of addressing these issues: 1) a higher minimum wage; 2) a real and enforced moratorium / limit on the number of foreign workers in the CNMI; and 3) application and enforcement of all federal labor laws; promotion of unions; and, most importantly, treatment of all workers equally.

The purposes section promotes the idea that locals need to have less competition to get the jobs they "should" have, and those jobs should be the ones for which they are "educated"--the management and professional jobs.

Some of the problems in this part of the purposes section:

"The Commonwealth's goal is to establish a regulatory environment so that jobs
are available for its qualified high school, college, and graduate school

The market place generally favors the more educated worker with higher wages, but the under-educated (those who have dropped out of school before getting a high school diploma) can contribute valuable skills and labor to a healthy economy. They should not be ignored. The policy of the government should not continue this prejudice against blue-collar work!

Another problematic statement of purpose:
"If the job is reserved for citizens and permanent residents, then the
competitive economy will cause the wage rate to rise to a level that citizens
and permanent residents find acceptable."

The CNMI Labor Department has failed to classify jobs for the past 25 years, and has allowed employers to hire foreign workers at minimum wage for jobs like accountant and engineer! We do not need to "reserve" jobs for the CNMI local residents to push up the wage. We do not need to perpetuate a two-tiered system of labor-with local workers in designated (high-paying) segments and foreign workers in the other (low-paying) jobs. This type of system invites abuse. The preference for U.S. and permanent resident workers is legitimate and needs to be enforced. But we need to enforce that preference in all job categories, and not create a two-tiered system of labor. We need our work force to work together, not separately.

There is another way of addressing the issue of artificially depressed wages in professional, management, and skilled jobs. Besides increasing the minimum wage-which encourages greater participation by everyone in the labor market, the CNMI Labor Department can set ranges/brackets of reasonable wages that must be offered for certain types of jobs if foreign workers will be used. This is less problematic on an equal protection basis than barring foreign workers outright from jobs. If our minimum wage is 50% of the U.S. minimum, then the range for an accountant's position could be 50% of what accountants earn in the U.S. When the job is advertised, resident workers can see the potential for greater earnings than minimum wage. This doesn't make us competitive or on par with the lure of the U.S., but is does provide for a balanced and consistent wage structure. And this benefits everyone. Many people who live here want to stay and willingly earn less than in the U.S. in exchange for the many beautiful and beneficial offerings the CNMI offers. The resident work force that is attracted to the higher paying jobs in the local economy can get these jobs if they want.

And yet another problem in the statement of purpose:
"The overall guiding policy with respect to foreign national workers is to
provide for a stable work force and protect due process rights without creating

It is that last bit--without creating entitlements--that I find troublesome. Our government has let in a huge number of alien workers over the past quarter century. They are not automatons, robots, who work and earn their pay and have no human life. They are people, with relationships, children, ties to our community. This bit of the purposes ignores the reality that has already occurred from the decisions of our leaders to allow this long-term alien population in the CNMI. Their children are U.S. citizens, born here. The children have entitlements that are shared by all U.S. citizens. These children, upon reaching 21, can petition their parents into the U.S. for green card (immediate relative) status. These children will vote in CNMI elections.

The fear that our local island population will be over-run by a "foreign" resident population is misdirected at the alien population. Our leaders have ensured this result by their decisions of the past, despite warnings, despite encouragements to have moratoriums on hiring foreign workers. It it too late to take back the CNMI from the natural consequences of the decisions CNMI Chamorro and Carolinian elected officials have made.

When I first arrived in the CNMI, we had a "permanent resident" law included in our CNMI code. It was repealed, on much the same thinking as now proposed in P.L. 15-108--the idea that the way to protect a cultural heritage is to deny others equal political status. This does not protect culture of any worthy kind. It only promotes evil.

One last bit before I close this long post:
"It is the intent of the Legislature that this Act shall not apply to persons
admitted to the Commonweatlh as tourists, or to persons employed illegally, i.e.
without the approval of the Department of Labor, or to those persons employing
others illegally in the Commonwealth unless specific provision has been made

The CNMI government is painfully aware that we have a human trafficking problem. Despite their repeated efforts to cover up current abuses and their insistence that the problem is a thing of the past, we keep seeing this. Especially in the sex industry--today's story is Club Jama. We've had the Red Heart Lounge, and the StarDust and Star Light nightclubs and others--all in the last two or three years.

When girls and women are trafficked into the CNMI they are almost always brought in as tourists, and then forced to dance naked or prostitute, kept locked in barracks or escorted everywhere they go.

Before P.L. 15-108, these girls and women could file labor complaints. And the Labor Department was fairly good at investigating. Now trafficking victims can't get this help. I think this is just another means the CNMI government is using to hide the reality of human trafficking in the CNMI. Workers, whether lawfully employed or tricked into unlawful employment, or foolish enough to agree to unlawful employment, are still laborers and deserve the protection of labor laws. It's not enough that the government may take up the case for the trafficking victims. They need easy access to a complaint mechanism that other workers have, too.

I'm not impressed by the purposes of P.L. 15-108. A law built on this foundation cannot be a good labor bill for the CNMI.


Friday, December 14, 2007

172. SCROOGE 2007 on stage

Here are a few of my photos of the SCROOGE performance from 12/13/2007:

It's not too late to catch this seasonal favorite. Last show is set for Sunday at 3 PM at P.I.C. (Charley's Cabaret). Tickets are $15 for adults; $10 for students and includes a dessert selection during intermission. If you are member of Friends of the Arts, tickets are $12 for adults (no discount for students). Student thespians can get SRO tickets for $7. All paid tickets will be stamped and are good for a 25% discount for dinner at the Magellan (same day). And FOA members are invited to dine at the Magellan for just $15 (instead of the usual $34).
'Tis the season to be merry!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

171. The Myth of the Lazy Local

Donald (sorry for earlier mistake) Cohen hints at it in his letter today. Anthony Pellegrino included it in the assumptions made in his column earlier this week. We hear it all of the time--islanders, that is, the Chamorros and Carolinians of the NMI, don't want to do the work that has been handled by the foreign workers, because they're lazy!

I beg to differ.

This is a stereotype like the "shiftless Negro" of last century, or the siesta-taking Mexican--both prominently featured at times in America. It's a false icon that has worked its way into the dialogue and needs to be challenged.

I've been here 23 years. I know people in most segments of the community. I work with Chamorros and Carolinians in my office on a daily basis. They're not the exception. They represent the excellent quality of workers that exist in the local community. And although I work in an office, it's not all paper work. There are times when we all pitch in to haul water, clean the office, repair our dilapidated surroundings. In the past we've moved locations. And everyone, especially our local staff, has worked hard at these jobs, too.

We've all seen islanders sweat and endure hours and hours of hard work on their local farms, or preparing for fiestas and other events. This is real work. We know Chamorros and Carolinians who have moved in droves to the mainland U.S.A. for better jobs.

There is no lazy gene in the local talent pool. When the motivations are there, islanders work as hard as anyone else.

The problem is the issue of motivation. What U.S. citizen wants to work for a mere $3.55 / hour? (And that represents a raise from the $3.05 that prevailed as minimum wage until July 2007!) If islanders value their work at a higher rate than $3.55 / hour it doesn't make them lazy; it just means that they are fortunately not as desperate as the impoverished foreign contract workers who will accept any low pay. If the local islanders are moving to the mainland for jobs (which they are), they're not expecting to laze about. They're working hard, but getting higher pay that their work deserves.

I've heard complaints from Saipan employers about their local staff taking off for funerals and family needs. I've known locals who gave up their jobs for these types of reasons. All to whom I've spoken at these times seem ignorant about the federal law, the Family Leave Act. We could do with some better education on this law and the protections it affords. We could use a local law that extends this act to all employers, including the small ones. Then there would be fewer problems with these personal issues.

Just because foreign workers have fewer rights, less status and are more vulnerable, they complain less. That doesn't mean the local worker is a bad employee.

Of course there are some who will not work no matter how high the pay or good the opportunities. These people exist in all cultures. But they are a small minority.

So let's stop assuming that Chamorro and Carolinians do not want to do the hard work, the construction jobs, the farm work, the cleaning and service jobs. And let's stop pretending that it's all about "training." There is some training needed, especially for construction, but that can be met with voc-ed classes and on-the-job training the same as in the mainland.

We don't need special rules to get locals into the workforce. We don't need special opportunities and more expensive "training."

What is lacking is "motivation." And motivation could be instantly supplied with a higher minimum wage, one comparable to that in the mainland U.S.A., exactly what has lured hundreds and possibly thousands of locals to the mainland in the past few years.

What we have instead of sufficient motivation is this foolish, slow adjustment of minimum wage that is designed for failure. It's designed to cost employers just enough to cause problems and not provide enough boost to workers to make a difference--so that it can be shut down and stopped, and the further increases can be scuttled. And it is designed so that suppressed wages at the horribly low amounts can be continued.

With higher wages in the private sector, the local population will step up and WORK! Employers will be less tempted by cheap foreign labor, which won't be as cheap any more. Those foreign workers who remain in the CNMI will be treated better, too, at least economically, with higher wages. And everybody will win. Those earnings, in whole or in part, can be spent here, or saved here, and help restore our economy.

So please, everyone--including our elected leaders here, and our community and federal leaders-- stop assuming that locals do not want to work in real jobs. Stop assuming we need labor laws that grant special privileges to our local population. Our elected leaders especially need to stop pushing for desk jobs and management positions for locals. Let's honor all work--not just with "labor day" and recognition that the leader of our Christian community was himself a carpenter. Let's honor it with a living wage and the courage to treat people who have blue collar jobs as important, contributing members of our community.

We have a diverse community, and a range of talents, skills and interests even among our local populations. Let's embrace this diversity. Let's provide the motivation for work by everyone, in whatever jobs are needed to be done. That motivation would be higher wages, decent wages, a "living wage."

And then let's see who is "lazy."

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

170. SCROOGE dress rehearsal

The full cast donned costumes and did a full dress rehearsal Monday.

Here's one photo from the dress rehearsal (featuring Anna Rose, along with others). This is a scene shown to Scrooge by Spirit of Christmas Future, where his belongings, having been filched, are sold to Joe the Pawnbroker, and this is the most happiness Scrooge has brought into the world.

First performance was Tuesday, and went very well. There should be photos in tomorrow's newspapers, thanks to the photog who came to the performance.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

169. Bah Humbug!

It's that time of year again, when the demands for holiday revelry ramp up and productivity at work plummets. You can say "Bah Humbug" with the likes of Scrooge, or you can just enjoy the moment!

To help decide where you might fall on the cranky meter, and to push toward the light-hearted and much more enjoyable seasonal spirit, I encourage you to take advantage of the many opportunities on stage this month.

A sampling (and by no means a complete listing):

The MHS student productions (sophomore class project and MURDER WELL REHEARSED) will be staged at the drama studio (D 101, on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon). Cost is just $1.00 and is open to all.

Glushko's Academy once again hosts the NUTCRACKER, on stage at the Nikko Hotel, with dancers from Russia, Japan and Korea, along with Saipan students.

Music concert (Saipan Winds?) at PIC on Sunday afternoon.

And SCROOGE--the musical, an FOA production, will be on stage at Charley's --Pacific Islands Club (PIC) on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday--12/11, 12/12, and 12/13 at 7 PM. Cost is $15 and includes a dessert buffet. Or see it for the cost of a canned good donation on Friday at the Kagman Community Center (also at 7 PM). If your evenings are booked, you can catch the final performance, a matinee on Sunday, 12/16 at 3PM at PIC (also $15 with dessert buffet).

After the intensity of the past few months, and the demonstration against the recently-enacted labor bill (the march is set for Friday 12/7 at 4:30 PM from Minatchom Atdao / Kilili Beach), a little light-hearted fun is just what we'll all need.

Saturday, December 1, 2007


MCS Theatre Club staged an innovative version of THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS, the Tim Burton story of Jack Skellington's ambitious attempt to move away from his job as Pumpkin King of Halloween Town, and take over Sandy Claws' duties for Christmas. The MCS version was amusing, entertaining and showcased the diverse and impressive talents of the students.

Some photos (which are not as impressive as the show, sorry).

167. The Cybils Awards 2007-part 1

It's time for the Cybils Awards. These are awards for children and young adult books nominated by the internet community for awards, and then short listed by a committee. Then we may get to vote on the final award--that's still coming up.

I'm too late posting this to encourage any of you to nominate your favorite books of 2007. ( I did slip under the wire with a few nominations of my own.)

But if you click the Cybils in the side-bar, you'll find out what books others have nominated and how you can participate in voting.

It's also a great place to look for Christmas presents for kids in your life. These are books recommended by readers. The lists, in a variety of categories from fantasy to fact, poetry to picture book, include a wide array of selections. While I'm familiar with some (or have at least read reviews of them in Horn Book or other places), there are some new discoveries, too.