Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Monday, September 29, 2008

277. Monday Blues

I strongly encourage you all to visit Shazam's blog and read the two posts from Sunday, 9/28.

Enough said.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

276. The NaNoWriMo Mantel

Okay. I've taken the plunge and applied to be the NaNoWriMo Municipal Liason for Saipan (or the CNMI, or Micronesia--however they decide to designate the region). If you are interested in writing your novel this November, feel free to contact me. I'll schedule some write-ins and other events.

National Novel Writing Month started in 1999, the inspiration of Chris Baty, with encouragement from his friends. That first year, there were 21 participants and 6 winners. From that humble beginning, NaNoWriMo has grown to a vast, international undertaking enjoyed by thousands! In 2007, 101,510 participated (I think that means signed up). A record 15,333 writers crossed the finish line, cranking out 50,000 words or more in the 30 days of November.

This year, NaNoWriMo holds it big tenth anniversary write-in. Now is a great time to join. Any later, is much too late! If you make it into NaNoWriMo during the first 10 years, you'll get special bragging rights that others will envy!

I've participated in NaNoWriMo 3 times so far, in 2005, 2006, and 2007. I crossed the 50,000 word winner's line each year. Finishing the novel has proven harder. In 2005, I just wrote notes on the last few chapters and finished the writing in January. In 2006, I managed a full novel, with beginning, middle, and end. In 2007, I got lost in the plot and made the wordcount, but I still haven't written the ending.

Still, it's satisfying to enjoy the wild, intense writing spree of November; to get a first draft on paper that can be edited later; and to share with others all over the world the joys and triumphs, the frustrations and fears of writing your own novel.

So, just head over to the NaNoWriMo site and sign up. Join me as a friend in your profile (if you like). And watch for postings here and in hard-copy notices around Saipan for further information.

BTW, there are kids in elementary school who participate in NaNoWriMo! School classrooms can sign up at the Young Writer's Program and get a free teacher's kit. There are also novelling workbooks on line at the YWP site, which I suggest adults use as well! They are helpful.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

275. Oh phooey.

I spent my birthday on mundane things like sleeping and chatting with friends and taking down laundry and scolding my daughter for not doing her homework. I didn't get ANY work done on research or planning for November (National Novel Writing Month). And that's what I really wanted to do. Waaah!

Guess I'll go eat some cake.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

274. Most Ludicrous Argument

Lil has a cute caption contest at Must Be The Humidity. Ken has a funny spam posted at SOSaipan. Ed still has Harry's fairy tale as his top billed story (too funny). It seems to be time to enjoy a moment of light-hearted silliness.

So, I'll just say that this comment in today's paper made me laugh.

"We're a Christian community and we don't need this kind of negative thing." Ray Tebuteb on the ground-breaking suggestion first made by Pew Charitable Trust for a marine monument here.

God forbid that some outsider (like Jesus himself) should come here and propose anything! How un-Christian!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

273. The Concept Behind The Proposal

Jim Davies, in today's Tribune, writes that he has yet to see "Pew supporters offer any substantial proof to the concept behind the project."

1. We're not "Pew supporters." We're Friends of the Monument, supporters of marine conservation, people who want to preserve and protect our natural world.

2. The concept behind the project has been written about extensively--it's marine conservation. Some people have obviously missed all of the information that has been circulated about the benefits of marine conservation throughout the CNMI--not just recently, but for years. We have a lot of information, both from scientific studies and from our own experiences with the ocean.

3. The Marianas Trench Marine Monument project is essentially a project to have the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) waters around Uracas, Maug, and Asuncion declared a Monument, making them a federally protected marine sanctuary. The CNMI Constitution has already made the islands themselves a CNMI land sanctuary. The proposal, if adopted, would extend the same type of protection the CNMI has given to the islands into the waters, and provide for both CNMI enforcement and federal enforcement and funding.

Photo from Loling Manahane's blog.

Here's a very brief synopsis of the "concept behind the project":

The world's oceans are in rapid decline. (Read the transcript of Dr. David Suzuki from the movie Empty Ocean, Empty Nets, available at habitat media online.)

It's likely to get worse: 77% of our oceans fisheries have already been fully exploited, overfished, or exhausted, based on information from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization; and estimates by an international team of university research scientists over a 4 year period conclude that by 2048, 90% of all (edible)marine life will be gone. (Reported in Science journal, and by many popular media like USA Today.)

Overfishing is the main reason that our marine ecosystems are depleted.

The vast majority of scientific consensus is that the main agent of change in the oceans as far as fish populations is concerned is fishing.

Dr. Carl Safina, National Audobon Society's Living Oceans Program

(Read about the problems, history, and potential solutions by the noted fisheries expert Dr. Daniel Pauly and others at the independent resource, overfishing.org.)

Overfishing continues to deplete our oceans, despite the regulations and enforcement by WESPAC and other U.S. federal (and other nation's) agencies.

Regulations at present are still too weak, faulty in their premises, and poorly enforced because of politics, underfunding of science, and other problems. (Read the film transcript of Dr. Vaughan Anthony from the New England Fisheries Management Council on how politicians get in the way of science and frustrate fisheries management; how regulations in the past weren't enforced; how our current regulations still don't create inefficiencies and tie-the-hands of fishermen enough.)

We need our marine life, and it's not inexhaustible.

There is an end to a resource. There's no unlimited supply of fish. You keep nibbling away at it, eventually you're going to get 'em all, or almost all of them. So you've got to be very careful.

Edwin Fuglvog, commercial fisherman, Alaska

Fixing the regulatory system will help, but it is not enough alone. (This is the concept of not-putting-all-your-eggs-in-one-basket that Mike Tripp has written about.)

One of the few proven methods of species recovery is the creation of no-take ocean reserves (sanctuaries, monuments). (Read the film transcript of Callum Roberts, the Harvard University Marine Conservation professor.)

The proposal is to create a no-take marine reserve around our three northernmost islands, and still allow fishing around all of the other islands--meeting our commitment to the Micronesian Challenge, and doing our part to help ourselves, our future generations, and the world.

The Marianas Trench is a beautiful, almost pristine, and unique eco-system that is worth protecting. Designating the waters around Uracas, Maug, and Asuncion as a National Marine Monument will make it a protected marine conservation area under NOAA sanctuaries program.

And voila! Because there already is a tremendous amount of scientific evidence that protected marine areas help conserve, preserve, and restore marine eco-systems, we can expect that our Marianas Trench Monument would have the same ecological, environmental effect.

That's the "meat" of the proposal and the "substantial proof" of the concept behind it.

All other potential benefits--global recognition that will act as free advertising for our tourism industry, federal funds coming in here for a Visitor's Center that could enhance the tourist experience, scientific research that will add to our knowledge of our unique Marianas Trench, spillover education benefits from scientists present in the CNMI, etc.--are gravy. They appear to be logical and likely consequences of designation of a Monument here.

But in essence, saving our ocean life by creating a marine sanctuary that is a well-documented means of preserving and restoring healthy eco-systems--that is the proven concept behind the proposal.

Monday, September 22, 2008

272. Thinking about the News

Today's Tribune has the headline announcing Matt Gregory's resignation from the post of Attorney General. There have been occasional cries of discontent over Matt's handling of the post. There have been occasional rumors that Matt was being canned by the Governor. But mostly, there's just been Matt being very quiet in the job.

And I was surprised by the news of his resignation. The Governor has another 18 months in office. There doesn't seem to be any pressing reason to change Attorney General.

I read the news story looking for clues about the story behind the headlines. Matt's basic reason is a desire to return to private practice. Not every lawyer likes public service; and private practice is generally more lucrative. So this reason seems to cover the decision to resign completely.

But wait--in addition to this, Matt's statement announcing his resignation apparently mentions three specific topics:

1. the AG Office's commitment to fighting corruption (and their close working relationship with the feds in the case against Lieutenant Governor Tim Villagomez).

2. the AG's success in winning a lawsuit against the IRS and bringing in a "major monetary award" of $33 million.

3. the likely increase in tourism soon with an increase in flights, and the relatively small negative effect of federalization.

I find it interesting that Matt chooses these three particular items to highlight in his resignation statement. To me, it hints at stress and disagreements with the Governor.

The first --anti corruption--could almost be a white-wash. This government isn't any better at stopping corruption than any other has been; and in fact it seems wedded to the same corrupt practices of perks and nepotism that we've seen before. But Matt's quote on the bravery of his staff, who fight corruption "at severe career risk" suggests something else. It suggests a reality that the AG's office really is committed to enforcing the law and faces some pressure against doing their jobs.

The second tells us exactly what we've been asking--how much money is the Governor hiding from the CNMI Legislature in his budget projections? It seems that the Governor is funding the federalization lawsuit with public funds, and that he's not put those funds in any budget projection, but has them squirreled away, having received them as awards from litigation. Appropriations, however, are a congressional job, not an executive privilege. This money needs to be reported to the Legislature and subject to Congressional appropriation. Matt's mention of these funds is ammunition for the Legislature to use in getting control over all CNMI public funds.

The third is the most telling of all.
"While federalization has the capacity to damage the economy of the Commonwealth, we have increasing tourism numbers and you'll soon find out there is going to be a significant increase in flights. I believe we may see 19 additional flights in the next few months. So it's a couple steps forwad and one step back. Federalization is a negative but there are positives developing in parallel."

In other words, the doom and gloom disaster that Howard Willens has predicted isn't exactly an accurate portrayal of our likely future, from Matt's POV. And just the fact that Matt would suggest that federalization isn't the evil bogeyman that will send us into a tailspin from which we can't recover makes me think his resignation ties in to disagreements and stresses with the current Admininstration.

Of course, I could be wrong.

Now, I'm wondering who will be the new / next AG?
My predictions: AAG Greg Baka, AAG Tom Gorman, or Howard Willens.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

271. Latest 9th Circuit Case

The latest 9th Circuit case, Chicanos Por La Causa, Inc. vs. Napolitano is very interesting in light of our CNMI Governor's lawsuit against the U.S.

In the CPLC case, the Arizona Legislature passed a licensing law that revokes licenses of businesses that hire illegal aliens. The law requires that Arizona employers verify employment on-line using the federal website system.

The 9th Circuit said that federal immigration law pre-empts state law as to sanctions for recruiting and hiring illegal aliens, pursuant to 8 U.S.C. sec. 1324a(h)(2), except that states retain rights over licensing and similar matters.

In this case, the 9th Circuit held that the state law that requires revoking the license of a business for employing illegal aliens is within the state's rights, and not pre-empted. It held that the state could require employers, for its state licensing, to use the federal employee-status verification system. It cautioned that its holding was limited to the facial challenge, and indicated that when the law is actually implemented, it could be subject to challenges as applied.

I find this interesting because one of the claims raised in the lawsuit by Governor Fitial is that P.L. 110-229 pre-empts our local "labor" laws. Federal immigration laws directly impose limits on recruitment and hiring of foreign workers. Clearly, under federal immigration law, federal immigration measures are permitted to pre-empt even states' laws (in some instances and to some degree), except for local concerns like business licensing.

The Fitial administration, in its complaint, likened States' rights under the U.S. Constitution (Articles 1 and 10) to our local self-government over internal affairs under the Covenant, but that doesn't seem to bolster the claim that application of federal immigration laws here violates those self-government rights.

This case is a 9th circuit decision; and the Administration's suit against federalization is filed in the Washington, D.C. district court, part of the 2nd Circuit, I think. So this case isn't binding precedent, but it's still informative of how the federal courts view the relationship of U.S. immigration law to state's rights and laws.

In my opinion, it doesn't seem to lend any support to the Fitial lawsuit challenging federalization of our immigration here.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

270. I Believe

269. CNMI vs. U.S. Case 1:08-cv-01572, 2nd installment

Today's newspaper headlines from the Tribune and the Variety suggests that the CNMI may suffer negatively in its relationship with the U.S. because of filing the lawsuit. The Governor's public relations aide, Charles Reyes, tries to spin this concern as "discrimination" by the U.S. Nice try, but there's no suggestion anywhere that the U.S. plans to retaliate against the CNMI simply because it filed suit.

The Variety clearly exposes this concern as specifically related to drafting the regulations to implement the law. How can the CNMI administration cooperate in designing these regulations when it is challenging the underlying legislation? There is no doubt that the lawsuit will affect the CNMI-U.S. relationship as it concerns implementing P.L. 110-229.

More thoughts on the lawsuit:

The complaint is premised on several assumptions, mentioned in my previous post. It is also based on intentional disregard of certain facts and legal points.

1. No mention of U.S. sovereignty. The complaint speaks of the "terms of affiliation" between the CNMI and the U.S. as expressed in the Covenant.(Complaint paragraph 1.) The complaint repeatedly references the Covenant provision for the CNMI's right to self-government of local matters found in Section 102, and mentions this is the "core" of the Agreement. There is no corresponding concession or mention that the Covenant, at Section 101-perhaps even more fundamentally, clearly recognizes that the CNMI is not only in political union with the U.S., but also is "under the sovereignty of the United States of America."

2. No mention of the massive support for federalization from the foreign worker community. The complaint speaks of the impact of federalization on the foreign workers in the CNMI, characterizes those effects as solely negative, and paints itself as the champion of distressed foreign workers here. No where is there any mention of the massive support for federalization among the foreign workers here.

More ironically, some of the negative aspects of federalization that the CNMI complains of are the result of the legislation having been stripped of benefits for the alien workers at the insistence of the CNMI administration! Specifically, the complaint laments the effect on long-term workers, but argued to Congress against grandfathering these workers in with permanent residence.

3. Guam is hardly mentioned. In trying to portray the CNMI as isolated and remote, the complaint mentions the mainland and Hawaii, but ignores how close we are to Guam. (Complaint paragraphs 1, 14) It offers no explanation of why Guam can have a decent economy with U.S. control of immigration and the CNMI can't.

Besides omissions, there are some distortions presented in the Complaint. One could argue that the entire complaint-- where it calls our foreign labor workforce "stable" and predicts the doom & gloom for the CNMI future as if it were a certainty--is itself a distortion! But here are some other specific ones:

4. The Complaint makes a claim that the U.S. has violated Covenant section 105, but glosses over Sec. 105's opening text. That section starts as follows:

The United States may enact legislation in accordance with its constitutional processes which will be applicable to the Northern Mariana Islands, but if such legislation cannot also be made applicable to the several States the Northern Mariana Islands must be specifically named therein...

The only limitation on this broad power is the right of local self-government. And so the complaint tries to force the CNMI's desire for unlimited access to foreign workers into this exception.

Section 105, and the rest of the Covenant, grant as broad legislative power to the U.S. Congress with regard to the CNMI as it has with the rest of the States and Territories. Nothing in the Covenant suggests that the limitation of "local self-government" means something different here than it does in the rest of the U.S.

The Covenant expressly extended federal laws that were in existence at the time that applied to Guam to the CNMI (as they applied to the States) (Covenant sec. 502), with very limited exceptions. The Covenant expressly permits the U.S. to legislate for U.S. control of immigration (Covenant sec. 503(a)), and to extend minimum wage laws here (Covenant sec. 503 (c)).

5. Our lack of voting rights is claimed as a violation of the U.S. Constitution. The claim is that the political process by which P.L. 110-229 was enacted was defective and violated the U.S. Constitution, Article.

This is by far the most interesting claim. It has emotional appeal. It resonates with our history lessons--no taxation without representation. And I imagine that every U.S. citizen here would support the push to give us voting rights in federal elections (especially the Presidential election).

Note this claim is not saying that the political processes of the Covenant (Section 902 talks) failed to occur or were not available. It is challenging the basic fact that the CNMI had no voting representative in the U.S. Congress.

The problems, as I see it, with this argument are two-fold: 1) This argument would mean that all U.S. laws enacted for the CNMI are defective (including budget appropriations and other help we are relying on). And 2) the Covenant itself expressly designed our relationship with the U.S. to exclude our representation in Congress! It gave us only a "Resident Representative." And it gave us a mechanism for negotiation and dialogue with the federal government through our CNMI government. (Covenant sec. 902.)

Attacking the political process by which P.L. 110-229 was enacted and applied to the CNMI is an attack on the basic, fundamental cornerstone of the COVENANT. If this were to succeed, it would likely wipe out the whole Covenant, or at least cripple it so severely we'd be back at the beginning of our negotiation process.

I doubt that any court in the U.S. would buy this argument.
It is especially ironic that this argument is raised in the very legislation that finally gives us a voice (however faint)-a voting representative/delegate to Congress.

6. Although the complaint says that it is aimed at the defective political process by which P.L. 110-229 was enacted, most of the verbiage is aimed at showing how wrong Congress was in its decision to extend immigration here. But in one of the court cases cited in the complaint, the court has this to say:

...nothing...authorizes courts to second-guess the substantive basis for congressional legislation.

This is the heart of the matter. Our administration has leveled an attack on legislation it doesn't like, arguing how very wrong it is, how very bad it will be for the CNMI, how the U.S. Congress had miscalculated. But Courts simply don't get to change or stop legislation because they think Congressmen were uninformed.

(Too bad--we could challenge so much of what our CNMI Legislature does if this were the case!)

7. My favorite ridiculous claim in the complaint is that no other community in the U.S. is subject to the same level of federal restriction.

The very essence of P.L. 110-229 is to apply U.S. immigration law to the CNMI. The basics of this law apply to all of the U.S. The restrictions imposed here will, in fact, be more sensitive to our community and special needs, giving us benefits other U.S. communities do not have. These include the continuance of CNMI-Only permits for some foreign workers, so that we are allowed to have contract workers in job categories who wouldn't be allowed to work those same jobs in the U.S.

Summarizing: The CNMI's economy does not operate in a vacuum. It is tied to the U.S. economy, as well as being influenced by world events. When we suffer economically, we look to the U.S. for help, so even our "local" economic conditions have a greater effect beyond our borders.

Immigration and foreign labor are not "local" matters.

We've agreed to the CNMI in political union and "under the sovereignty" of the U.S. and have expressly acknowledged the power of the U.S. Congress to pass legislation that applies to the CNMI.

Nothing in P.L. 110-229, or in the way it was enacted, intrudes on our very limited right of "local self-government" over internal affairs.

A Last Comparison:

An Excerpt from "Slavery in the Light of Social Ethics," by Chancelor Harper, printed in Cotton is King, and Pro-Slavry Arguments: Comprising the Writings of Hammond, Harper, Christy, Stringfellow, Hodge, Bledsoe, and Cartwright, on This Important Subject, E.N. Elliott, ed. (Augusta, GA: Pritchard, Abbott & Loomis, 1860):

... But let us suppose it [emancipation] to be brought about in any manner, and then inquire what would be the effects.

The first and most obvious effect, would be to put an end to the cultivation of our great Southern staple. And this would be equally the result, if we suppose the emancipated negroes to be in no way distinguished from the free labourers of other countries...Even if it were possible to procure laborers at all, what planter would venture to carry on his operations under such circumstances? I need hardly say that these staples cannot be produced to any extent where the proprietor of the soil cultivates it with his own hands. He can do little more than produce the necessary food for himself and his family.

And what would be the effect of putting an end to the cultivation of these staples, and thus annihilating, at a blow, two-thirds or three-fourths of our foreign commerce? Can any sane mind contemplate such a result without terror? ...

COMPLAINT paragraphs 7 and 71 (portions):
"Finally, if left unchecked, P.L. 110-229's forced removal of two-thirds of CNMI's existing employment base and its projected devastation of the local economy by 50% or more would violate constitutional rights of due process and equal protection of CNMI's people, employers, and property owners.

P.L. 110-229 will strike a devastating, and perhaps fatal, blow upon the Commonwealth's economy by prohibiting the CNMI from ensuring an adequate supply of labor for local residents and businesses."

An end to slavery...Thanks to P.L. 110-229.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

268. CNMI vs. U.S. 1:08-cv-01572. Ruminations--installment 1.

Thanks to Wendy's link directly to the Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief, I've been reading up on the CNMI's lawsuit against the U.S. The case seeks to stop implementation of P.L. 110-229 in the CNMI.

I've put up a brief, fairly neutral assessment of the lawsuit at the MLSC's DAY IN COURT blog. The analysis here at my personal blog,Saipan Writer, is more opinionated!

The case is assigned to Judge Paul L. Friedman, who, interestingly enough, has had a small part in the Abramoff litigation.

The complaint is signed by David W. DeBruin of Jenner & Block, with William M. Hohengarten and Sharmila Sohoni, also of Jenner & Block listed as additional counsel.
Howard P. Willens is listed as "Special Legal Counsel to the Governor."

I've been trying to understand both the factual and legal claims, as well as the "vision" that the Fitial Administration has for economic recovery of the CNMI, which is ostensibly the motivation behind this lawsuit.

There are some basic assumptions that act as the underpinnings for the factual and legal claims. These are not typically stated overtly, but are embedded in the rhetoric of the complaint. In my opinion, none of these assumptions are true.

1. The CNMI cannot be self-sufficient. It must exploit the availability of cheap, foreign workers in order to maintain its economy. In fact, in the CNMI "labor" means foreign labor.

The complaint does not identify new and viable future economic development for the CNMI. It claims that federalization will harm any chance at recovery, but the complaint simply looks to the past to describe those economic prospects.

The complaint mentions both the tourism sector and the garment industry. It first complains at paragraph 32 of economic limitations imposed by the Trust Territory government; and then touts the CNMI past under its new control as a model of good economic management and development. At paragraph 41, speaking of the past, the complaint says "The Commonwealth also began systematic efforts to encourage foreign investment in the visitor industry and to bring tourists to the islands in substantial numbers...These efforts were successful." It then describes some of the setbacks from the Asian economic crisis, the SARS outbreak, the terrorist attack of 9/11, and even the pull-out of the garment industry after rule changes by the WTO.

Then it makes this startling statement:

"The Commonwealth's economy can be resuscitated only through a renewed influx of foreign investment and the presence of a stable workforce able to support construction and new economic development."

When it speaks of labor, it means only foreign labor. It complains at paragraph 70 that the federalization of immigration will "pre-empt" CNMI labor laws. Inherent in this statement is the assumption that we have no labor laws that apply to the local work force, that all our labor laws relate to foreign workers, because the federalization of immigration does not change anything as to local workers.

According to the administration, we must turn back the hands of time. We must be allowed to do again what we did before. This is the program Governor Fitial suggests as the road to economic recovery.

This approach ignores that the past policies resulted in only short-term benefits that made some (like the Governor) rich, but did not provide sustained economic growth for the CNMI, and led to our current predicament.

2. The CNMI has a right to depend on foreign workers for its economy.

The complaint makes the following unequivocal statement: "The Commonwealth cannot grow its workforce by attracting American labor." Implicit throughout the complaint is the insistent whine that the CNMI MUST HAVE foreign workers in order to have an economy. It is reminiscent of the argument of white plantation owners in the South who insisted they needed slavery in order to have an agricultural economy, and thus argued that slavery should be allowed.

Could we have a prosperous economy from our own sweat? Hidden in the text of the complaint is the information that the local population/U.S. citizen base has doubled since the Covenant went into effect. One obvious option that the Commonwealth could use to grow its workforce would be encouraging a business climate that keeps its local workers happy so they don't migrate to the U.S.

Furthermore, we live in a mobile world; if the CNMI truly becomes part of the American economic community, then there is no reason to believe that American labor will not be attracted to employment opportunities.

As it is now, though, the underlying assumption of the complaint shows the current administration wants to keep the third-world status of our economy, keep us depending on cheap foreign labor, easily exploited and without civil rights.

In addition to the subtle, unstated bigotry in the rhetoric of the CNMI's right to have cheap foreign labor to ensure its own wealth, there is an express element of racism in the complaint. At paragraph 48, it reads: "American workers also may be deterred from moving to the Commonwealth by the Commonwealth's unique culture, its ethnic and demographic makeup, and the higher cost of living. To an ordinary American worker, moving to the Commonwealth will feel more like moving to a foreign country than moving from one part of the mainland to another."

First of all, it suggests that "American workers" are not Chamorros and Carolinians. U.S. citizenship makes one an American, but the repeated phrasing in the complaint about American workers seems to refer only to U.S. citizens coming from the mainland U.S. It ignores the American status of those living here. It ignores the great diversity that exists among Americans from Guam, Hawaii, Alaska and the contiguous 48 states.

3. The use of foreign workers in the CNMI is not an immigration matter but a labor matter; the entry and departure of foreign workers into the CNMI and use of them for labor is a "local" matter only.

There is a repeated refrain in the complaint that our Covenant guarantees our right to local self government over internal matters, and that regulating our use of foreign workers falls within the ambit of this protection. At paragraph 61, the complaint alleges that, by regulating the admission of foreign workers to the CNMI for employment, the law "preempts local labor laws."

"No other community in the United States is subject to such massive federal intrusion into matters of local concern."

It seems obviously wrong to say that contracting for services of citizens of foreign countries is a "local" activity. It definitely involves international communication and commerce. It involves working with foreign governments. It effects the American image in foreign ports.

And it seems obviously wrong to say that no other community in the U.S. is subject to such "federal intrusion" when in fact EVERY community in the U.S. is subject to the same U.S. immigration control!

4. The CNMI has already addressed abuses of foreign workers that caused the U.S. Congress' concern with immigration, and there are no longer any problems.

The complaint says at Paragraph 2 that "To address issues that had existed in the past, local CNMI labor laws currently provide extensive protections for these foreign workers while they are employed in the Commonwealth."

There are two parts to this assumption. One that the CNMI has better protections for foreign workers in place now and so Congress made a mistake in its reasons for federalizing immigration now.

And two, that our wonderful our new law provides primary preference in employment for citizens and permanent residents, and this will address the issue of building a better local base for the economy. (Paragraph 54.)

Neither of these tally with reality.

The CNMI has always had some form of protection on the books for non-resident workers. The CNMI law has always had a preference for local hires. It fails to mention that there is nothing to suggest that the CNMI will be any better at enforcing the protections or preference now than before. And it ignores the real problem--that the assumption that we MUST have foreign workers to have an economy will always undermine development of our own talent pool.

5. The U.S. taking away the CNMI's cheap foreign labor market fundamentally violates the Covenant relationship between the CNMI and the U.S.

We are addicted to cheap foreign labor. The U.S. federal government is taking away our drug. This changes our relationship to the U.S. It requires us to grow up and act responsibly--on our own, with an economy built on our community resources.

We want our drug.

Did the Covenant build in a right for the CNMI to be addicted to cheap foreign labor? Are we entitled to have slaves?

The complaint calls the U.S.'s federalization of immigration "paternalistic" and claims that there was no call for the U.S. to intervene. But shortly after that it alleges that the U.S. must help the CNMI with its economy under the terms of the Covenant.

The Covenant says that the U.S. will help the CNMI join the American economy:

"the Government of the United States will assist the Government of the Northern Mariana Islands in its efforts to achieve a progressively higher standard of living for its people as part of the American economic community and to develop the economic resources needed to meet the financial responsibilities of local self-government."

The complaint alleges that this section 701 of the Covenant means that we are entitled to our drug-cheap foreign labor, and the U.S. has to help us get it and keep access to it.

But I read this very differently. To me this says the CNMI will become part of the U.S. American economic community--and that means following the same kinds of rules and recognizing the same kinds of rights that workers must have.

To me, the development of economic resources means OUR OWN economic resources, not exploitation of the teeming hordes of impoverished Asia. And local self-government means governing ourselves about matters that are ONLY local concern--not involving interstate or global commerce, or other matters of larger scope.

In the next installment, I'll ruminate on some other aspects of the complaint--obvious omissions, more contradictions, and the legal claims.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

267. Our Illustrious House

Our illustrious House has once again voted in support of a resolution AGAINST the Marianas Trench national marine monument proposal. You can read about it here or here.

This would be funny if it weren't so tragic.

1. They're complaining that this would be federal acton without local input. But under the proposal, based on what was done in Hawaii, the CNMI would be at the table with the federal government, helping to craft enforcement and other regulations.

2. They're complaining that this would stop fishing, mining, and other extractive activities in the area and prevent this in the future. Yes, it would. That's the whole point of CONSERVATION. (As my daughter would say, DUH!)

But right now, there are NO local fishing, mining, or extractive activities going on. And there don't seem to be any economically feasible activities from the CNMI for this in the near future (this according to past reports from WESPAC and others). All we have are some Taiwanese fishing boats poaching in our waters. So we're going to turn down an opportunity to SAVE our marine environment on the off-chance that sometime in the future we might want to join the exploiters and ruin it?

3. "We're not shutting the door here," he (Tebuteb) said. "What we're saying is hold on now. Couldn't we have at least afforded a couple of years?" A COUPLE OF YEARS?!!! Because you couldn't read up on the crisis of our oceans in a day or two? You couldn't think about this issue before, say, next month? You need YEARS?!!!

4. Representative JJ Camacho claims that the majority of the people of the CNMI are against the proposed monument. I have no idea how he came to that conclusion (well, yes, I do. He says he got it from talking to some people at rosaries, etc.) But has the Legislature held hearings? I've been talking to people,too. I've been out collecting signatures. There is no doubt that some in the community are against the proposal, but many, many, many people support it, including the business community, those interested in protecting the environment, kids and their parents. And the people who oppose it generally labor under some blatant misconception. (For example, one person had heard that it included Pagan and Alamagan and all islands north of Saipan!) It's amazing to me how many people do support it.

All I know is that I'll be looking to vote AGAINST all of the legislators in the House in my precinct, except for Ed Salas. (Heinz and Tina also support the Marianas Trench monument, or at least did not agree with the proposal against it.)

266. Blame it on the Weather

Lame Excuse # ________ (Sorry, I've lost count.)

Tony Muna has assured us for a while now that the Aggreko generators would be up and running and providing us power by September 16. The Governor wanted PSS to postpone classes because, after all, we were going to have reliable power by September 16.

So today's headline in the Saipan Tribune:

Yes, that says "Bad weather hampers installation..." Bad weather?

This brings the definition of "bad weather" to an all time new low. It's rained a bit, that's all. Do you think rain is unexpected at this time of year? Do you think that Tony Muna, who has lived in the CNMI most of his life, couldn't have predicted that we'd have some rain at some time during the months of August and September?

So now Aggreko says they're having problems with the installation because of the "bad weather." And Tony Muna has kindly passed that word on to us, so we can know that it's seeming a bit questionable that Aggreko and CUC will meet the promise of September 16.

I can hear Tony singing "Don't Rain on My Parade," only he's a bit out of tune.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

265. We Shall All Bow Down

We shall now all bow down in homage to the great King Fitial. Anyone who defies his wishes shall be banished from the kingdom. We shall follow his lead, whereever he shall take us. He is our King, and may he declare emergencies, issue proclamations, and assume the rightful command of all lesser agencies, departments, and beings, for lo, he is most powerful.

Governor Fitial, an elected official, asked the Board of Education, elected officials, to postpone the start of classes from September 8, because of the problems the government/CUC is having with providing electrical power.

The BOE, after due consideration and input from teachers and concerned citizens, decided to open schools as scheduled. They had already postponed the start of school by ONE MONTH because of the increased costs in power.

And our Governor, who is not one to respect other elected officials, looked for any way he could to

Ah, yes, the reason--excuse given: The Division of Environmental Quality tested the water a while ago and found e coli. That could be a basis for closing schools. Never mind that each of the schools already addressed the problem by cleaning their water tanks. Never mind that some of the schools replaced the bad water FROM CUC (yes, the same operation that can't provide reliable electricity to the schools, businesses, and residences in the CNMI) with CLEAN water from a private vendor. Never mind that the water in the tanks is either reserve water in case of emergency, or used simply for the toilets.

And never mind that DEQ had not yet returned to test the water, a situation over which PSS has no control, so we don't know whether there is any on-going problem.

King, I mean Governor Fitial issued an urgent order on the night before schools opened shutting down 3 schools and 1 head start.

You can read reports at the Marianas Variety or Saipan Tribune. They show our new Commissioner and the BOE scrambling to handle the situation as professionally as possible, with the students' interests in mind.

The Governor's action, in stark contrast to the BOE and PSS, is disgusting. I'm very glad my daughter is not attending MHS (but is rather at SSHS). I'd be tempted to sue.

Tina Sablan has it right when she characterizes the Governor's actions as blatant and outrageous abuses of power. But what worries me more is the comment made in response to the MV article--that PSS better watch out. The Governor might issue an emergency directive and take over it, too!

Monday, September 8, 2008

264. Gearing up for November

While others are all excited about November because of elections, I'm gearing up for November for an entirely different reason. November--National Novel Writing Month!

Not much is happening right now at the NaNoWriMo main page. But there is interesting news hidden in the folds: Like the news that the NIGHT OF WRITING DANGEROUSLY is scheduled for 11/15/2008. There's no way that I'll make it to Seattle, Washington in November, but it's possible we'll have our own 24-hour writing session in Saipan. (I'm thinking Shirley's Coffee Shop.)

Other news that I've come across: the Young Writers Program (open to any kid age 12 and under, and any organized class from kindergarten to grade 12) will have a snazzy new website design.

Just looking at this crazy page makes me want to be a young writer. Well, at least I'm young at heart (on a good day!).

So now it's time to find some young writers here in Saipan and encourage them to join the NaNoWriMo madness.

And anyone else who's out there still thinking about writing a novel, don't delay. Sign up at the NaNoWriMo website now. And in November, join the small, but growing, pod of island writers pounding out a NOVEL!!!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

263. NYT Editorial on the proposal for a Pacific National Marine Monument

You can read it here. The NYT endorses creation of the national marine monument here, and in Rose Atoll and the Line Islands (Palmyra, etc.)

What I loved most in the editorial was this bit, speaking of WESPAC's opposition to the proposal:

Wespac is notorious among environmental groups as a chronic enabler of reckless commercial fishing.

Wespac’s executive director, Kitty Simonds, is condemning this new idea as punishment of the “brown and yellow people” of American Samoa and the Northern Marianas. In fact, her agency’s customary attitude — fish here, fish now — ignores the strong local support across the Pacific for farsighted stewardship of imperiled oceans, a resource that belongs to future generations as much as it does to all of us.

The only thing I'd change in that quote is the last line: a resource that belongs to future generations as much as it does to any of us.

And to be fair, it isn't only the U.S. and WESPAC that promotes fishing recklessly.