Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Saipan notes

Every November when I write during National Novel Writing Month, I set my stories in the CNMI, and I realize how limited my imagination is. The weather in my stories always seems to be whatever it is at the moment; the environment is always November; etc. So I'm starting a "notes" file where I put in bits and pieces about the current weather of the day, the environmental /seasonal notes, and any other bits.

Today's "headline" news is that they tore down the Round House in San Vicente. Bulldozed out of existence. (Noticed this yesterday on the way home from work.) This was an iconic hangout for the neighborhood teens and a bus stop shelter , as well. They're also surveying the roads and it appears we're in for road widening--newspaper says cross-island road. Wonder if they're going to be paying for the land taken in the road widening.

Loads of tangerines on the trees. Plumeria blooming. Today's weather--sunny, bright white puffy clouds--too many, covering the sky, giving a heavy oppressive feel, but cool breezes.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Another Chance to Help

In case you missed it--there's another chance to help the families of those who died recently in the tragic shootings at Kannat Tabla.

The Pacific Winds is giving a holiday concert tonight (Tuesday 12/22/2009) at Pacific Islands Club (P.I.C.)-Charley's Cabaret. All proceeds will go to the families of those who died. Cost is just $5 and show starts at 6:30 PM.

A "marketing representative" for the shooting range, who had been a garment worker, went on a shooting spree, killing innocent men and children. This tragedy has so many proportions to it, and it will effect many people for the rest of their lives.

This concert is a small chance to help, to remind us we are still waiting for answers on how and why this could happen, and to share with the families some of the love of the season that they so desperately need to heal.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Building A Community of Workers

This blog post is a response to a letter in today's Tribune, with the nice (but inapt) headline "Impartial Hiring."

The "logic" (and I use that word loosely) of Jose Hinaro Lim, the letter-writer, would have us tied to cheap, foreign labor forever because that provides greater profits for private businesses. Hidden beneath the very sound idea of hiring based on qualifications is the message that we want our cheap, foreign labor force and should be entitled to keep it, and that federal laws to the contrary are bad. Hidden beneath the rhetoric is the concept that profit is the only consideration that counts.

But greater profits for private businesses is not the sole consideration in building a community; it is not even a preference. What we should be aiming for is a community that is self-supporting. We want a community where equal opportunity exists for everyone. We need a community with wholesome enterprise and a political scheme that respects the civil rights of all, preserves the environment, and provides equal access to justice.

Employers should be careful before embracing the suggestions of Jose Hinaro Lim--to do so could violate our laws and cause employers to face civil and criminal sanctions. In choosing an employee, the first consideration is competence--not MAXIMUM or BEST competence, but identifying all who meet the minimum criteria that are legally needed for the job. (The argument that employers would be forced to hire incompetent employees is nonsense. There is no law that ever requires that.)

Employers do not get to pad the requirements for the job. You can't require two years experience for unskilled work. You can't tailor the requirements to meet just the one candidate you really want to hire. This is what the concepts of job categories and prevailing wages address.

If there are competent lawfully resident workers--regardless of race, ethnicity, or citizenship--these are the people who get the job. It doesn't matter that you may prefer a foreign worker because he's cheaper, or has a better education or more experience. If employers can hire a resident worker who is competent to do the job, then that is what the law requires.

And that makes sense. We want to build the competencies of our own community. We want the income earned to be spent here as much as possible, and not be forwarded out to a foreign country. We want to be able to lure back our youth, when they get educated, with jobs and opportunities here.

So NO, Mr. Lim, it is NOT good for our community to have a policy that employers should be able to hire the best foreign worker for the cheapest price, regardless of the availability of resident workers. That's NOT "impartial." That's a practice that abuses both the local worker and the foreign worker by depressing wages here, and forcing resident people to leave their homes, and takes advantage of poor people who have left their foreign homes and have no political power. That's not "impartial"--it's destructive of our community and perpetrates a system that is not good for workers at all.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Christmas Chorale!!!

The Friends of the Arts presents a Christmas Chorale on Monday, December 14, 2009 at 7 PM at Charlies' Cabaret, P.I.C.

The price of admission is whatever donation you'd like to make--all proceeds and canned goods to Guma Esperanza. This will be the third show for the volunteer group--the first an ad hoc rehearsal at Duty Free; the second was last week on December 8. Andrea Stafford plays piano to accompany the choir, led by Ruthi Fruit.

I saw the second one and was impressed with the beautiful harmonies and fabulous music. They're performing a Christmas Cantata about the birth of Christ; the music is glorious and the voices equal to the music. The show is really nice.

There will be one more show, but with recorded rather than live piano accompaniment, on December 20 at the American Memorial Park.

Thursday, December 10, 2009


I'm such a Luddite, but I do like seeing this stuff.

Friday, December 4, 2009

"Where Is Our Great Wall" said

This excellent comment was buried in one of the threads, and I think it deserves a lot more light of day.

I agree with you Jane regarding the romantisizing of our recent past. I left this island nearly 20 years ago and just recently returned.

I don't even see anything close to the Great Wall or the Pyramids (other than the empty GIG that was once a thriving disco that rivaled anything in the region). The La Fiesta was not dependent on cheap labor and has been empty for years while we had access to cheap labor.

What I did see upon returning has been eye opening and far from anything I would revel in and consider great development and a prosperous economy. I found destroyed reefs and barren lagoons (in comparison to 20+ years ago). I found empty shells of 30 plus garment warehouses. I found empty strip malls. I discovered that around 70% of those I grew up with and went to school out here with no longer live here. They have families elsewhere. I saw that nearly 90% of the waitstaff, front desk clerks, bartenders,etc were guest workers (I was a waiter 25 years ago and my pals were front desk and housekeeping). I noticed that all the Mom and Pop stores that had once been owned by me and my friends Moms and Pops were now owned by foreign investors. Diego's Mart, Pop's Store, Morgans Mini Mart, Carmen Safeway, Tenda Store, Aldan's Gas Station, Farmers Market, etc. Same with the bars and restaurants like Ship Ashore, House of Chang, Chamorro Village, Town & Country, Chamorro House, etc are all replaced with foreign owned businesses. I noticed the streets that used to be filled with Japanese Tourist were now empty. The golf courses designed 20 years ago by Jack Nicolas were now unkempt. The hotels that used to average 90% occupancy now ran at around 50%. The Jets that used to fly between here and Guam are now prop plans. Direct flights to Japan that used to fly in and out 3 times a day down to 2 twice a week.

Where is our great wall? We had none. 30 years ago we could have built something great.

We had geographic edge with Japan only 2 hours away. We had great resorts and golf courses that were maintained and rivaled those in other areas of the pacific. We had relationships with agents and airlines that secured set routes and put us int he position to be the HUB for the Pacific region. We had locally run businesses and local workers at all levels that kept the money in our economy and didn't funnel it all out. We had a solid foundation birthed of the Covenant to maintain all of this and grow to be prosperous.

What happened?

We got greedy and we got led by some terribly short sighted leaders.

Our downfall is not to blamed on federalization of immigration. It is blamed on our own doing. We embraced garment. We spent millions on lobbyist. We exploited foreign labor and used guest workers to replace local labor rather than filling gaps and instead replaced our local workforce. We pulled in foreign businesses at the expense of local entrepreneurship. We doled out public land to foreign investors instead of catering to local investors. Our leaders did this because they could negotiate kickbacks and become middlemen in the schemes. Do land swaps and make millions overnight.

3 days ago the federal government took control of immigration in the CNMI; 27 years ago we destroyed this economy.

December 1, 2009 2:11 PM

I like this comment, not because it starts out by agreeing with me, but because of the specifics. It makes me sad, though, to contemplate the lost opportunities. Still hoping that--yes, we can--make it right.

Some Thoughts on Blog Rules and Comment Moderation

I don't have my own written site disclaimer or blog rules, although I have given thought to this on numerous occasions and have developed a fairly clear (at least to me) idea of what I'm willing to tolerate and what I will delete.

Recent comments, though, led Greg (and others?) to offer up some unrequested suggestions on how I should deal with my blog.

I've done some more thinking on all of this, and have decided I'm not changing much of anything. I like this "site disclaimer and comment policy" from Whatever. I also found great stuff in this article about spammers and trolls and things the author has learned about comment moderation. It's pretty clear moderation isn't rocket science.

So basically, comments are allowed without preview (unless added to older posts). I reserve the right to delete comments. I'll try to be "fair" about it. Enough said.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Sleeping Beauty Ballet

I'm selling tickets for the Glushko's Academy of Performing Arts holiday ballet. Yes, Anna Rose is now taking ballet lessons and will be on stage on Fridy and Sunday, along with the other students, and the visiting ballet professionals. On Saturday night, only the professionals will perform.

Sleeping Beauty ballet 7 to 9 PM at the Palms Resort (San Roque).
Friday and Sunday tickets: $15 adult/$10 child (ages 3 to 12)
Saturday tickets: $35 adult/ $15 child (includes 1 cocktail)

The Saturday tickets charmingly announce that there will also be a "ruffle" :-) in case you're interested.

If you are interested in buying a ticket, contact me (leave a message here or via e-mail. See my profile.)

Saturday, November 28, 2009

November 28-Day 1 of U.S. Immigration

It's almost the end of the day. I've been out and about--to the post office, the store, Garapan, now Java Joe's.

Nothing seems any different.

The world did not end with the federalization of the CNMI's immigration. The world did not magically improve either.

We'll have to wait and see how things develop over the next few years. This will be a slow process.

Friday, November 27, 2009

50,000 words


I've written 50,000 words during November 2009. I'm an official "winner" in the NaNoWriMo challenge!

I have a first draft novel and a complete story, although the last 20 pages are just outline. And I will have a lot of work to make this novel into a readable story, because it is very messy with lots of continuity issues.

On the other hand, like my other novels before it, it was great fun writing. My characters revealed surprising things about themselves that I didn't know. They insisted on doing things about which I have no knowledge (so research was required and more is needed). And I experienced the real thrill of writing when I uncovered motivations I didn't know existed, found bits of humor that played out in surprising ways, and even found a use for the timeline in the affirming resolution of the story.

Oh yeah.

I wrote a novel in November. So what did you do this month?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Printer Ribbon

We can send Howard Willens to Washington, D.C. the minute we hear that the Court has dismissed the initial 2 counts of the case fighting federalization of our CNMI immigration.

But we are helpless to obtain printer ribbon to issue permits to the people here trying to renew their entry permits.

For about 2 weeks now, our office has been hearing how CNMI Immigration doesn't yet have the renewal permits ready because they're still waiting on printer ribbon. Yeah. Right.

NaNoWriMo-A Little Encouragement!

From InkyGirl:

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

NaNoWriMo--Elsewhere::Micronesia --heading into week 4

We have some new names coming up on the Scoreboard! We are writers!

Based on the official tally, we've written 486,000+ words-nearly half a million! If you added in the word counts from those who have not officially set their home region, we'd be over that line!

If you know those who have word counts who have not yet homed with our region, please encourage them to do so.

Edit: Photo courtesy of Brian a/k/a Applejuicebri (with edits per request)

Leo Babauta: 82,556
ekatlyte: 72,811 (not homed) EDIT: now homed with us!
Sea Phoenix /Shannon Giel: 42,562
Applejuicebri: 41,322
Cjcarino/ Carlo: 44,300
Lickmydisaster: 41,002
Samwriterchick: 37,463
Twerksie: 13,053
Itchy671: 8,357
Sunne: 5,213 (not homed)
Maddiemaer: 3,842
Roott: 3,379
Pandaluv: 1,638 (not homed)
Tenshi-bozu: 1,180
T_Tell: 337
Patty-watty: 308 (not homed)

Saipanwriter/(me): 45,877
Lisswain/ Lis Swain: 33,083
Anna Passion/Anna Rose DLG: 25,061
Josemango/Joe Race: 17,989
Roseanna/ Roseanna Sablan: 8,537
Darkangel: 1,969
Wheaty2008/Matt Wheat: 1,762

Undisclosed Location:
Aomiles: 36,727
Rice: 7,003
Ahimes: 2,084
Cl832: 001

We are 385/484 in total words.
We are 216/484 in donations.
We are 134/484 in average words per wrimo!

Go Elsewhere::Micronesia writers!

For a look back--where we were last week, see this post.

Five More Years... and other news...and some thoughts.

1. Fitial is being re-elected Governor of the CNMI. He's ahead by 500+ votes, and it seems unlikely (although not impossible) that the absentee ballots will change the outcome of the run-off election.

My previous post on the elections included these:
2009-11-02 The candidates
2009-11-19 On the Spoils System

2. Fitial's lawsuit has been dismissed. It challenged the federalization of the CNMI's immigration, claiming the Consolidated Natural Resources Act violated the Covenant by infringing the CNMI's right of self-government.

Some of my previous posts on this subject, including analysis of the merits of the lawsuit, are here:
2008-12-17 A brief recap of the pending motions
2009-03-11 On the amicus brief

I want to say bad news (Fitial's re-election), good news (dismissal of the federalization lawsuit), but I am reminded of the Chinese story about tao.

What I see as good is that we had an election and we will have a Governor chosen by more than 50% of the people.

What I see as good is that we have a system of justice where anyone can make their claim and have a judge review it, based on written laws and principles.

Who knows? Perhaps it will take 5 more years of Benigno Fitial for us to learn a bit more about the spoils system and what its harms are.

We will have the same 5 years in transition to U.S. immigration. We'll see how it unfolds.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Candelight Vigil

You are invited and urged to attend the "Saipan For Peace Candlelight Vigil" for the victims of yesterday's horrific shootings.

This event is to be held this Sunday (tomorrow) at 6PM, tentatively at American Memorial Park (if the location changes I will post an update).

It is an ecumenical and multi-cultural event of various faith-based and community coalitions and all are invited. This needed event is non-political and spiritual leaders of all religions have been invited to speak.

The healing begins as soon as possible for as many as possible. Join us to denounce this violence coming to our paradise. Evil has no border, but together, as a movement of "one voice, one people," we can affirm that it is not welcome here.

Please join all of Saipan as we hold the victims, their families, and our community in thoughts and prayers.

Friday, November 20, 2009

The News in Saipan--Condolences

Edits (saturday): For a more reliable and detailed account, see the Saipan Tribune, Saturday edition.

Edits based on 6 PM news.

My condolences to the families of those who were killed today.

In Saipan, we're so used to safety that we are completely thrown off course by unexpected and unprecedented violence. Today we had a random shooting spree, in Saipan.

This blog post is cobbled together from bits and pieces. Some is confirmed, some is just reports coming in from talk.

At least one man shot several people, including a 5 year old child, in Kannat Tabla; and at least one or more died. The news also includes the death of a 2 year old child, and an adult male.

There is also an unconfirmed report of a shooting at Herman's Bakery, where a Korean man was shot in the leg or foot by a drive by shooter. No mention of this at all on the news.

At least one man shot several Korean tourists at Banzai Cliff and also may have been shooting at the Last Command Post and further north and then turned the gun on himself and shot himself. Confirmed.

It is believed that the shooter in all cases is the same man; Governor Fitial said in a radio statement that the man is believed to have been an employee of the Kannat Tabla Shooting Range, and a Chinese national.

The reports I've heard have varied--from five shot to nine shot to eighteen shot; from one dead, to five dead, to 10 dead. Still discrepancies--the Tribune says 5 dead, 8 shot; the 6 PM news says 5 dead, a total of 12 shot (including the shooter).

The first name I've heard is connected to the 5 year old--a child of Jenn Celis (grandson of Attilong and Phil; nephew to Keiko del Rosario). Possibly also shot Enrique Naputi and DELETED (obviously inaccurate) and their child (There's a report that two adults have died--confirmed.)

We're still waiting to hear more on this entire incident.

The report of the shooting spread quickly; well-perhaps not. The news reports the shootings as happening "in the morning." By about 1:20 P.M. the schools went into lockdown and parents were called to come and get their students. The early reports suggested that a gang of Chinese were the shooters. The governor was on the radio about 2:00 or 2:15 PM reporting that it was believed to be just one man and that the shooter had killed himself.

KSPN news flash here.

This is a very sad incident. I sincerely feel for all who have suffered. My condolences.

EDITED: 5 dead, 8 more shot, according to the Tribune.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Has the Spoils System Spoiled the CNMI?

"...to the victor belong the spoils..."
William L. Marcy

The CNMI electorate has its eyes on the coming run-off gubernatorial election, set for November 23, 2009. But before we vote, I think we need to step back and take a longer view of issues, of where we've been and where we're going.

I look back on the elections I've participated in--every one since 1985--and see a disturbing trend. Party politics has something to do with this, but not everything. Politicians switch parties enough to make me think that it is not the parties that decide the course of the government, but the politicians themselves.

The trend I see is away from a government that has room for selection and advancement based on merit and toward a government that rewards campaign supporters. It seems less likely now that we will, for example, have another personal secretary who serves for decades successive governors of different parties or different factions within the parties. It seems less likely now that we will have continuity among any of the upper- or even mid-level management government officials in any government office or department.

We have a small pool of talent to begin with, because of our size, and the practice of our various political winners drawing their political appointees and new hires from among their supporters means that only a portion of our small talent pool is available to any one administration.

When a political party comes to power, its leaders tend to place many of their faithful followers into important public offices. The use of public offices as rewards for political party work is known as the "Spoils System."
U.S. History.com

The Spoils System has been seen around the world and throughout time. It has been problematic in the U.S. at times, too, especially in the 19th century, when the U.S. fell far behind other nations in civil service standards of ability and government administration. It has been addressed in large part in the federal government by the Civil Service laws.

In the CNMI, we use the Spoils System. Although we have a civil service system, we have so many jobs of all kinds that are "contract" or "excepted service" that our civil service system does not protect us against the Spoils System.

One of the first political expressions I heard when I got here was the saying: "Live by the sword, die by the sword." It was applied to the employee who had a political job in one administration and then lost it in the next. The person who made the comment was rather amused about the gamesmanship of politics.

The Spoils System in the CNMI is reinforced with the immediate profit of close family members being among the rewarded. They then vote again for their meal ticket.

What is wrong with this concept? Why wouldn't you vote for the politician who is going to give you something back, something like a job for you or your family? What is the harm in using the Spoils System?

I've got some thoughts on that subject.

* The Spoils System narrows the talent pool so that we don't have enough qualified individuals in jobs that are important. What do you do when the loyal supporter isn't getting the job done? Do you replace him with the most qualified person? Or do you ignore the problem and wait until he returns to work? Do you turn a blind eye to the repeated warnings of qualified personnel about a critical problem in an essential service? Or do you do something? The Spoils Systems puts loyalty above competence and quality of job performance. If you are a person who needs someone in the government to do a good job, you might prefer the merit system.

* The Spoils System changes the focus of politicians from addressing issues to keeping their supporters happy. If you're a politician, what do you do when the government's revenues are dwindling. Do you increase your government workforce by 1,000 workers? Or do you find a way to restrain the size of government to fit more closely to the budget? If you're in the Spoils System, you hire more workers to reward them and because you're going to need their support in the election. If you have a system based on merit, you restrain the size of the workforce, and make sure you have the best workforce you can get.

*The Spoils System makes it easier to cross the line into illegal kickbacks and other criminal activity. Do you purchase, at government expense, what isn't needed so that your family has a lucrative contract because you have power and position? Do you think your job, connections to the Governor, or family name will protect you while you traffic ice or coerce a bribe?

*The Spoils System adds a coercive element to government employment, and stifles free and open public debate on issues of importance. What do you do if you're a political appointee and there is an issue about your department. Do you support those who protest and rally? Or do you follow the administration's line, and try to stop the protest, despite the merits and your own opinion, because keeping your job depends on your loyalty? Do you show up for a legislative oversight session or worry about what might happen if your testimony casts a shadow on your boss?

When we vote on Monday, November 23, 2009, we can take the short view of what is going to get us "the most"--which candidate has promised us a job or has "helped" us out financially. Or we can take the long view, and ask which candidate is going to use merit and not the Spoils System when he gets elected?

For me, it's a matter of degree. I see that what we presently have with the Fitial Administration is a very strong Spoils System. I'm voting against that. I'm hoping that Heinz Hofschneider will be better. He's a politician. He has, no doubt, paid back some political debts at time. But he seems to be much less inured to the Spoils Systems and much more likely to listen and consider the merits of any proposal.

I hope he gets the message, if elected, that the voters really do want change, do want honest government, do deserve a government that fosters open access to information and decision-making, public debate, and the best qualified employees in essential jobs.

If he doesn't get elected, I hope everyone is ready to live with the decline in government services and the problems that the Spoils System will continue to bring.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Angleo Endoreses Heinz for Governor.

You can read the entire post at Angelo's blog:

I am voting for Heinz Hofschneider in the gubernatorial runoff election. I fully endorse his candidacy and ask that you vote for him on November 23.

While Ben Fitial has been a supporter of Beautify CNMI, a campaign I hold very close to my heart, I cannot in good conscience vote for the man that refused to meet with concerned citizens for nearly two years concerning another very important issue, ocean conservation.

Instead of meeting with us to hear what we had to say, instead of engaging us to understand our intentions, instead of hearing our pleas to just listen, he ordered his administration to carry out a campaign appealing to the worst side of our local people. And this was not the only island issue in which he did this. And we were not the only targets of his vindictiveness.

My experience with Heinz Hofschneider was the reverse. He took the time to listen to us. He made a point to educate himself on the subject. He sought out experts that knew more about the subject than himself. And after careful consideration he made his decision.

Heinz is the type of man I want leading our people. I humbly ask you to support his bid as our next governor.

I like this endorsement because it gives specific facts and opinions, and I agree with the values expressed.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A Useful Discovery!

Okay, in Saipan and the tropics in general not everyone wants warm or hot water, but some of us do like a hot shower.

And lots of people like to drink beer.

So now there is a way to get these people together! The beer-bottle-solar-water-heater.

It's all about re-using and recycling! Eco-friendly. What's not to love about this?

Monday, November 16, 2009

National Novel Writing Month--Region: Elsewhere::Micronesia

We've now crossed the half-way mark of November and of National Novel Writing Month. In one crazy month, we novelists crank out a brand-new novel draft of at least 50,000 words. Well, that's the challenge!

This is the second year that we have had an "official" region as part of NaNoWriMo and our region is called "Elsewhere::Micronesia." It embraces all of Micronesia, so although regions are typically "municipalities" and our NaNoWriMo-designated leaders are called "Municipal Liaisons," it's quite obvious that our region is a bit, um, more spread-out!

In the past, there have been writers from the Marshall Islands and Palau, as well as Guam and Saipan. This year, we've got writers only in Guam and Saipan, but wow! We have a lot MORE writers, and we are writing a lot more words! There is a ton of story-telling going on just now.

So for a quick run-down, here's the scoreboard for those who have posted word counts (by user name or real name, and word count), as of the close of November 15, 2009. I know these writers are part of our region, because they've set Elsewhere::Micronesia as their home region, or they've put some detail in their personal profiles from which I could place them here.

Leo Babauta: 47,044
Sea Phoenix /Shannon Giel: 32,460
Applejuicebri: 30,556
Cjcarino/ Carlo: 30,019
Lickmydisaster: 26,500
Samwriterchick: 25,111
Twerksie: 13,053
Itchy671: 5,728
Maddiemaer: 2,712
Tenshi-bozu: 1,180
T_Tell: 337
Patty-watty: 308

Saipanwriter/(me): 32,518
Anna Passion/Anna Rose DLG: 20,159
Josemango/Joe Race: 17,989
Lisswain/ Lis Swain: 17,231
Wheaty2008/Matt Wheat: 1,762
Roseanna/ Roseanna Sablan: 1,003

Undisclosed Location:
Aomiles: 23,339
Rice: 7,003
Ahimes: 2,084
Cl832: 001

As you can tell, we are really writing up a storm!

Three of us have "won" NaNoWriMo before--meeting the challenge of writing 50,000 words in November: Me (4 time winner), Joe Race (3 time winner) and Leo (1 time winner). I think we'll have more "winners" this year than ever before!

I am really, really happy to see so much novelling going on in "Elsewhere::Micronesia."

Friday, November 13, 2009

On the CEC

It takes some courage to admit you were wrong, especially in the face of lots of publicity. The CEC is apparently willing to reconsider its decision on what is meant in our CNMI Constitution by the phrase "votes cast" and change its mind.

Where it said before that "votes cast" included all ballots, whether a vote was indicated for the legislative and popular initiatives or not, it has now concluded, according to Tina Sablan's report (and Lani Walker on KSPN news?), that the phrase "votes cast" means actual votes on the initiatives indicating a yes or no.

Thank you.

This preserves our CNMI Constitution.

I don't like the results of the election as to some of the initiatives, but what else is new?!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A Very Long Ramble on "Votes Cast" and the Initiatives

I know--this is too long and rambling, but still, this is how my mind sometimes works. So fwiw:

“Votes Cast”—a question of law, not politics.

The Commonwealth Election Commission has certified results from the election held November 7, 2009. It has included in its certification 1) a call for the run-off election between two governor/lieutenant governor teams; 2) a determination that none of the legislative initiatives to amend our CNMI Constitution passed; and 3) a determination that the popular initiative to change our statutory law did not pass.

Note that the newspapers immediately reported the need for a run-off election and initially reported that the legislative and popular initiatives all passed.

However, the CEC has certified results that none of the initiatives passed. Each of these three certifications depend in part on the CEC’s assessment of the number of “votes cast.”

You can see the raw numbers on the Saipan Tribune’s website: here

The Run-Off Election

There were 13,536 votes cast for governor/lieutenant governor candidates. These candidates run in teams, pursuant to our CNMI Constitution. It's very clear no candidate got more than 50% of the vote.

P.L. 16-43, codified at 1 CMC § 6509, became law in July 2009, to effectuate the House Legislative Initiative 15-16, S.D. It provides as follows:

“...a runoff election for governor and lieutenant governor is required if no candidate receives a majority of the votes cast and counted for that office.”

This language is very clear: it speaks of votes, it describes the votes as both cast and counted, and it limits the votes to those made for “that” office (meaning the offices of governor/lieutenant governor).

What are votes? When is a vote cast? When is it counted? These are the questions that seem basic and easy to answer.

A vote is generally described as an elector’s choice in an election. It is distinguished from the “ballot” which is the means or method for making the vote known. “Ballots” can be paper with ink or pencil or punch holes or they can be mechanical or electronic signals given from voting machines—and the purpose of the “ballot” is to signify or express the “vote,” which is the choice of the voter/elector.

The United States Supreme Court discussed the difference between votes and ballots in the case of Gutierrez v. Ada, 528 U.S. 25 (2000), which arose out of an election contest in Guam. The Court took the case to resolve the different interpretation that the 9th Circuit had given to the phrase “votes cast” , reading it to include the number of ballots cast in the general election, and not just the votes in the Governor/Lieutenant Governor race; the 3rd Circuit had interpreted the phrase as it applied to the Virgin Islands elections in Todman v. Boschulte, 694 F.2d 939 (3rd Cir. 1982) as limited to votes actually cast in the race, and not to the total number of ballots.

In Gutierrez v. Ada, the U.S. Supreme Court looked at the Guam Organic Act and its language calling for a runoff between the top two gubernatorial slates if one did not get a majority of the votes cast. The U.S. Supreme Court said that:
“It would be equally odd to think that after repeatedly using “votes” or “vote” to mean an expression of choice for the gubernatorial slate, Congress suddenly used “votes cast in any election” to mean “ballots cast.”

This case was decided before we passed our CNMI Constitutional initiative and the enactment of P.L. 16-43.

It helps us understand our law, which includes not only the same phrase “votes cast” but adds the specific language “and counted for that office.” It is clear that in the CNMI, for our run-off election, our law only includes the votes cast in the governor/lieutenant governor election; that votes that are not counted –because they are over-votes or the voter is disqualified, for example—are not part of the equation in determining whether a candidate has reached the 50% mark. For those who do not select any candidate in the race, their under-vote is not added into the equation either, as not being a “vote,” or not being a “vote cast,” or not being a “vote cast and counted.” It doesn’t really matter for this law, which particular reason keeps their vote out of the exchange.

Constitutional amendment by Legislative Initiative

The Saipan Tribune election results show that
9,412 votes were counted on the House Legislative Initiative 15-3, of which 5353 were YES.

9,708 votes were counted on the House Legislative Initiative 16-11, of which 5644 were YES.

9748 votes were counted on Senate Legislative Initiative 16-11, of which 5476 were YES.

Article XVIII, section 3 of the CNMI Constitution provides the means for changing the CNMI Constitution by Legislative Initiative.

“The legislature by the affirmative vote of three-fourths of the members of each house present and voting may propose amendments to this Constitution. ..."

After the Legislature passes a proposed constitutional change, the people vote on it. Article XVIII, section 5.

“a) A proposed amendment to this Constitution shall be submitted to the voters for ratification at the next regular general election or at a special election established by law.
b) An amendment proposed by legislative initiative shall become effective if approved by a majority of the votes cast...”

This has been part of our CNMI Constitution since it was ratified in 1978, and the language pre-dates the U.S. Supreme Court decision of Gutierrez v. Ada.

These provisions use the term “votes cast” but do not have the added clarifying language of the P.L. 16-43, specifying that the votes must be countable and in the election in question.

So the analysis starts with what is a vote.

The CEC seems to be saying that our CNMI Constitution, using the phrase a “vote cast” in the context of the legislative initiative is synonymous with a ballot cast in any of the races, contests, issues of the election held.

The CEC cites no authority for its opinion. Although there are some old cases from other jurisdictions that have held similarly, those cases are based on the unique situations of those jurisdictions. They are old. And they were considered unpersuasive by the U.S. Supreme Court in the Gutierrez v. Ada case.

In a follow-up case in Guam, the Guam Supreme Court decided that over-votes were no more an expression of a vote cast than absent votes. Underwood v. Aguon, 2006 Guam 17, 2006 Guam LEXIS 18. This case also cites Bush v. Gore, 121 S. Ct. 525 (2000), where the U.S. Supreme Court considered what constituted a “vote” under federal election law.

“In certifying election results, the votes eligible for inclusion in the certification are the votes meeting the properly established legal requirements.”

The CNMI uses one ballot with all the election contests and races and issues on it. The CEC informed me prior to the election in response to a question I had posed that it is its policy to count votes on each ballot as much as possible. If a voter over-votes in one race, the CEC will not count those votes, but will read and count the remainder of the votes on the ballot in the other races. If a voter under-votes in a race, the CEC will count the under-vote and the votes in the other races/contest/issues correctly made on the ballot. If a voter does not vote at all in a race, the CEC will count the remainder of the votes in the races, contests, issues where votes are cast.

In other words, the CEC generally is counting votes, not ballots.

So a “vote” should mean a clear expression of an opinion on an issue or candidate; and to be “cast” it needs to be clear, legible, and submitted to the CEC during the election process.

It seems that legally, a ballot is not a “vote cast” but is rather just a ballot—a means for getting the vote cast and transmitting that information to the election officers.

The inclusion by the CEC of all ballots in the equation is the same as the CEC casting a “no” vote for every voter who did not indicate a choice on the ballot on the initiative.

Popular initiative to change the statutory law

9644 votes were counted on the Popular Initiative on the Open Government Act, of which 6597 were YES.

The CNMI Constitution Article IX provides a means for people to change the statutory law. Section 1 (d) reads:

“An initiative petition that proposes a general law for the Commonwealth shall become law if approved by two-thirds of the votes cast by persons qualified to vote in the Commonwealth.”

This provision looks a lot like both the run-off provision and the constitutional amendment by initiative provision, except it is worded slightly differently again. This time, the “votes cast” is modified by the phrase “by persons qualified to vote in the Commonwealth.” This phrase makes it clear that votes of those disqualified are not put in the equation for determining the 2/3rd passage. But it doesn’t answer the basic question of what are “votes cast.”

The same analysis used above applies, I think.

Votes cast must be votes submitted in the election. The phrase “votes cast” also helps us understand that it doesn’t mean votes not cast, so that votes by those who choose not to vote, but may be registered voters, are not part of the equation.

But still the question is what is a vote? The cases cited above strongly suggest that a vote is not a ballot; a vote is an expression of choice on the candidates, race, contest, issue in question. Votes must be actual votes, and not ballots.

I disagree with the CEC’s determination.

But I also think that this issue is a legal issue, not a political issue and should be decided by our courts here.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Election Results?

The Saipan Tribune is posting results here.

I personally find these results very hard to believe.
I don't believe Jacinta Kaipat could get more votes than Tina Sablan for senator. I don't believe it.

I also find it very difficult to believe that Heinz and Benigno are in a neck-and-neck race.

Either we have voters who are just clueless about the real nature of our politicians and what they are doing to our Commonwealth, or we have corruption that has become rampant.

I don't think all of our voters or even the majority of them are clueless. And that leads me to question the integrity of our election commission.

I'm disappointed with the results from Precinct 5 and the mayor's race. I can believe these results, although they are hard to swallow.

This is really, really bad.
We need United Nations monitors at the run-off election.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Election Disconnect

This is a short post and small rant.

I voted today.
There was only one candidate for Board of Education.

We hear slogans and promises all the time. Children are our future. Education is important. We value learning. But when it comes to action, we get nothing. We do nothing.

9 candidates for mayor of Saipan and 1 for BOE.

This hurts my heart.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Voting on Initiatives--one by one-#3.

Public Initiative to extend the Open Government Act (OGA) to apply to the Legislature. I don't have a link to the full text. If someone has that, please let me know.

This is the initiative spearheaded by Rep. Tina Sablan.
It changes the law as follows:

1. deletes the exception for the Legislature in the OGA
2. that means, the Legislature will have to prepare agendas, give notice 72hours in advance of sessions, allow public comment, and respond within 10 days to requests for public records;
3. there is an exception to the 72 hour notice requirement for emergencies, provided the reasons for calling the session emergency are stated in writing, 2/3 of the members agree it is an emergency, and there is an emergency agenda, etc. that eventually gets filed in the public record.

The pros are obvious--we get a more transparent government and greater ability to participate in our democracy.

There seem to be no cons in my opinion.

The OGA originally applied to the Legislature; there seems to be little reason it can't apply now.

The CEC brochure on the OGA initiative lists some cons that I'll address.

* The 72 hour notice would require new notice if discussion is continued over to another day. Really? I don't think so. I don't know of any legal opinion that supports this interpretation. In courts of law, when notice is required, if it's given and the matter is conintued, no new notice is generally required.

* If the Legislature mistakenly fails to give proper notice the act is null and void. Yes. This is not a con--this is good. We want all of our Legislators in on the process; we want the public to know about it. We want to stop secrecy and lies and quick deals behind closed doors that do not face public scrutiny.

* The 2/3rds rule may be hard to obtain in times of emergency. I think this could be true, but I also think that this rule is designed to prevent false "emergency" declarations--like we're seeing all the time from the executive branch. To me, this is not so much a "con" to the amendment as a reason to do some planning. I think the Legislature can and should prepare some contingency plans for dealing with emergencies, having participation by cell phone, etc.

* Requiring notice will decrease the likelihood that legislators will meet outside of committee members to discuss matters. This is pure B.S. The rule applies to official meetings--not informal discussions between legislators.

* The legislators and their assistants will have bigger workloads. Another piece of B.S. Paper or electronic notice is not significantly difficult; and the potential input from legislators who are prepared because they got notice, and from the public, means that we'll have a better chance to have good laws that won't need amending every few months.

For me, this is a really clear and very much needed amendment--This is a vote yes on the public initiative to extend the OGA to apply to the Legislature.

Voting on Initiatives--one by one-#4

Yes, I know. I've skipped #3 (the Open Government Act initiative). I haven't gotten to it yet. But thought I should post what I can.

Senate Legislative Initiative 16-11 (S.L.I. 16-11) has the same number as H.L.I. but is entirely separate and different. Not to be confused by the 16-11--be sure to check out the pre-fix.

S.L.I. 16-11 amends Article VIII, section 1 of the CNMI Constitution.

It makes the following changes:

1. It changes the day of elections in the CNMI from Saturdays to Tuesdays.
2. It sets all elections in only even-numbered years.
3. It adjusts terms of elected public officials to make sure the respective positions are filled until the next election in an even-numbered year. It does this by adding a year to terms, where necessary.
4. The next regular general election would be in 2012. The next governor's election would be 2014.

As noted in the CEC pamphlet on pros and cons, this means the governor we elect in this election, will have a 5 year term, the legislators will have 3 year terms, senators will have 5 year terms, and mayors will have 5 year terms.

It also means that we will not be having elections every year; will save money on the cost of elections; will not be hearing election "music" every year; and will have our elections more closely to the same time as elections in the U.S.

I do prefer Saturdays for elections. I think they provide greater opportunity for people to vote. But nothing in this Constitutional provision prohibits the Legislature from passing some type of law that mandates that all employers give at least one hour (or more) during the work day to their employees for the purpose of facilitating their ability to cast a ballot in the election.

And the cost savings, along with less election hoopla, seems to me a real bonus.

I'm pretty sure the even years were chosen because of federal elections, and now that we have a federal delegate, this will also enable us to coordinate CNMI elections with that election as well.

(I may regret this, especially if Benigno Fitial or Juan Pan wins the governor's position, but) In general, I would vote yes on this S.L.I. 16-11.

Voting on Initiatives-one by one-#2

House Legislative Initiative 16-11 (H.L.I. 16-11) Amends Article III, section 9 (a) of the CNMI Constitution. Introduced by Diego T. Benavente, Joseph P. Deleon Guerrero, Ed Salas and Ray Yumul.

It makes the following changes:
1. deletes the language that provides for budget allocation at the same level as the previous year when no balanced budget is approved before the first day of the fiscal year.

2. provides that no money shall be drawn for government operations without a budget;

3. makes an exception to the no money rule for "certain government services and employees ...as provided by law... essential to the health safety, and welfare of the people... and to protect against damage to and destruction of property."

4. mandates that the Governor submit a balanced budget proposal to the Legislature by 4/1; and suspends his salary if he doesn't and until he does'

5. suspends the legislature's salary if they don't pass a balanced budget by 10/1 until they do pass one.

I've got to admit to having mixed feelings about this proposal. And to feeling that this type of issue is beyond my ability to figure out. Liberal minds differ on the need for this type of "balanced budget" requirement for state governments.

It seems extreme. It would also require quick legislative action to determine what essential services would remain in effectin the absence of a budget.

Is maintaining property a call to keep DPW workers on staff? What about parks and rec people? And the guys who hang out at the Multi-Purpose Center, sweeping the parking lot and making sure the building is clean?

Would the need to meet the deadline add more pressure for Saipan Senators to cave in to demands from the minority populations on Tinian and Rota?

It seems we have money problems, but don't we need more open government and transparency to see where the money is going, how much we've got from all sources, and some prosecutions for mishandling of funds? Would these tools provide the benefits we need?

Or do we really need this more drastic approach.

Part of me thinks the salaries should be held when people aren't doing their jobs. But what if the decision to vote against a proposed budget is made in good conscience?

I'm undecided on this H.L.I. 16-11.

EDIT: There is no link to the CEC pamphlet on pros and cons in this blog post because the CEC site doesn't have it up; their link is mistakenly tied to S.L.I. 16-11, not H.L.I. 16-11. But you can find the pros and cons for this H.L.I. 16-11 in the CEC's Voters Manual, at page 3.

Voting on the Initiatives--one by one-#1.

If we're going to muck around with amendments to a document as important as the CNMI Constitution, we surely should know what we're voting on.

So in an effort to educate myself, I'm posting about these initiatives here. feel free to comment and add your own perspectives.

House Legislative Initiative 15-3. Introduced by Justo S. Quitugua. Passed in the house on 5/16/2007; in the Senate on 8/16/2007.

This changes Article XV of the CNMI Constitution as follows:
1. adds the language "high school student" as a defining criteria for one of the non-voting ex-officio members to the BOE.

The effect of this change is to exclude NMC students from the position. Is it better to hear from a high school student or an NMC student? I can see value in both. Without the language, either could be appointed. With it--only a high school student can be appointed.

2. deletes the language to select a teacher member from "an exclusive bargaining representative" within the "Department of Education" to just selecting one teacher from PSS; and adds that the selection process shall be established by law.

The effect of this change is to the selection process from one in the control of the teachers to a political choice. Presumably the Legislature could decide that the Governor should appoint the representative; or that the Commissioner of Education should do it; or that only former Teachers of the Year are eligible for the post. or any number of selection criteria could be included, including speaking indigenous language (I think this unlikely) or residency on island for a certain number of years or who knows what.

If the reason for having a teacher on the advisory board is to hear their perspective, it makes a lot of sense to let teachers have a voice in selecting that representative. It makes no sense to make it a political choice.

3. adds term limits to the elected board members. This means that no BOE board member may hold office for more than two terms. It's not clear if this means only 2 consecutive terms or two terms all together.

The effect of this change is to require new blood on the BOE; it also means that the voters have less choice because we can't vote for someone who has experience and is doing a good job if they've already served 2 terms.

4. adds that the budget shall be made "through an annual appropriation."

Duh. Do we need a constitutional amendment telling the Legislature that they have to do their jobs? And assume we had only a continuing resolution budget--if it provided for the 15% or greater amount called for by the Constitution, why would we need an appropriation? What is the constitutional value in this?

What about the PROS and CONS listed on the Commonwealth Election Site? It's quite obvious to me that niether the pros nor the cons actually address the CHANGES being proposed or deal with them in a deep, meaningful, or analytical way.

The pros?
The first pro-about guaranteeing 15 %--that's already part of the Constitution and nothing in the Legislative Initiative changes it or adds to it.

Term limits as a means to encourage new ideas and public involvement? They don't necessarily have that effect.

Giving responsibility to youth and getting their perspective? That's already possible; as noted above, the actual language forecloses choosing a college student, whose views may be equally valuable and needed.

The pros say the HLI ensures that one member is a public school teacher, but that's already assured. What is actually changed is the selection method.

The cons?
15% might not be enough? The Constitution as written provides for at least 15%, but not prevent more. Nothing in this part is changed by the HLI.

Limiting terms limits choices: agreed.

Requiring DOE rep to be a teacher may not take into considerations administrator issues. Um-the existing Constitution calls for a teacher rep; and so does the change. The only difference is in the selection process.

The change leaves the selection process undefined. agreed.

On the whole, I think this H.L.I. 15-3 is not in the interests of the CNMI, not necessary, and should be a NO vote.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Bullshit Feminism

I'm a feminist. I promote equality and women's rights. When I went to law school, less than 1/3 of lawschool classes were women. I've protested against the values and practices that keep women out of political and economic power.

And I HATE it when women use feminist propaganda to promote anti-feminist practices.

Jacinta Kaipat is so outrageously wrong (saying that the regulation that we can't bring in foreign workers as personal maids is anti-women) that I can't think of a "punishment" bad enough.

1. Keeping women in low-paying jobs like maids is not a value of feminism. That women all over the world, and especially desperate women in third-world countries, hire themselves out as maids does not mean having maid jobs is a goal to aspire to.

2. Women can get into the workforce and be valuable and productive without personal domestic help.

3. The new regulation that would prohibit bringing in foreign domestic workers as personal maids does not mean that you can't have a maid. You can--just hire a U.S. citizen, a citizen from one of the Freely Associated States, a permanent resident. Of course, these people will expect to be paid at least minimum wage.

4. The new regulation respects the transition--if you have a maid and you aren't ready to join the rest of the world in the modern era and want to hold on to the past, renew her contract for 2 years. That will give you time to wrap your head around the reality of life.

5. Or you can incorporate and hire your maid through the CNMI-only worker program.

Wendy has a good discussion on all of this, too.

Of course, the community does seem to know that Jacinta Kaipat's opinion is utter nonsense, or, as one commenter at the Variety said, "pure drivel."

Monday, November 2, 2009

Election Choices? The Candidates.

We have an election to vote in this week. The field is less inspiring that many of us would like. Nonetheless, it is important to vote, to choose the lesser of evils, the more capable, the more likely to lead.

The following are my OPINIONS only.

I've been in Saipan for nearly 25 years (that anniversary comes 11/30). I've voted in every election since I got here.

I hate it when any U.S. citizen who lives here talks as if she has no interest, right, or responsibility to vote in local elections. I hate it even more when they claim ignorance. (These are mostly haoles, like me.) It's important that we exercise this freedom, that we educate ourselves. And it's the lowest form of arrogance and lack of commitment to community that leads eligible voters to slack off and fail to vote. I guess, I feel more disgust toward the non-voters than I do toward even our worst candidate.

I also hear a lot of reasons from various people about what influences their decisions. Some try to guess in advance who is likely to win--they want to be part of the winner's circle. They want to back a winner. I think this is stupid and irrational. This is not a horse-race. It's not a popularity contest. And deciding to vote because everyone else is going that way is not much better than not voting at all. I think every voter should make up his or her own mind and follow his or her own conscience in choosing whom to vote for.

There is a strong pull to vote for family members. I understand this. Family members are people we love, people we know, people to whom we owe family loyalty and devotion and respect. And candidates do need to know they have family support, or they'll never be able to withstand the pressures and temptations of public office. So I don't think this concept should be discounted completely. But I do think it is just one factor to consider and shouldn't be the only factor, or even the most important factor. If all other factors were equal, then I could see choosing the closest family member.

But it's rare that all other factors are equal. What are those factors? This is a difficult list to comprise. I like intelligent and honest candidates; but I also want those who tend to lean in the same political direction that I do (which is toward the liberal side that respects civil rights, promotes equality, relies on education, and protects the environment, and places these considerations above personal wealth, which is often wrapped up in the name of the "economy," and ahead of personal ambition).

So my assessment of some of our candidates for office?

Governor-Lieutenant Governor:
Fitial-Inos. (Covenant) I see Fitial as intelligent but less than honest. He's in favor of shutting off public access to information about the workings of government. He elevates the needs of individual businessmen above the rights of workers. He has an angle with a profit motive for every problem. I don't see him as a leader so much as a profiteer who wants the power and position to increase his own wealth and situation. He would be at the bottom of my list for Governor; and there is nothing about Inos that makes me want to vote for the ticket.

Juan Pan Guerrero-Camacho. (Independent) Juan Pan is another businessman who has been very willing to take from the CNMI government whatever he could. His recruitment deals for his company Paras Enterprises have been riddled with questions, both for public agency deals and private recruitment scandals. His contributions to the Red Cross do not cancel or outweigh his history. I don't see him as friendly toward rights or equality or the environment. Running-mate JJ Camacho is smart and educated and has a public record of voting. He's been very good at sharing information and making the House record accessible, and this is his great contribution. But I disagree with nearly every vote he's made. He's a backer of Fitial's agenda. To me, a vote for this team is the same as a vote for Fitial-Inos. And that would be a no.

Ray Guerrero-Borja. (Independent) Uncle Ray is family. That said, in all honesty, I don't think he's got the imagination or ideas to address the challenges of the office. Recycling his old slogan is an example of how worn-out he seems. Borja is a bright spot on the ticket. I think he's intelligent and capable. But he's not enough. I'd rather see this ticket prevail, though, than either Fitial-Inos or Pan Guerrero-Camacho, despite the extreme unlikelihood of that happening.

Hofschneider-Palacios. (Republican) Heinz has been in the CNMI Legislature a long time and we don't have all that much good to show from his work. Same for Arnold. Heinz has brains, but often fails to listen to other intelligent voices. Arnold cares little for the environment and would just as soon see his own interests take precedence. Despite the weaknesses of this team, though, I think they offer the best of a bad lot. I think Heinz appreciates the need for open government; and both could work hard to balance the extremely divergent interests of our community.

Senator from Saipan We're supposed to vote for two:

CAMACHO, Paul William (Independent) I know very little about this candidate. Most notably missing from his webpage bio is his education. We need smart, educated public officials. Even his experience is a bit thin. I'm not impressed. This is a likely no for me.

CRUZ, Gregorio Sanchez (Independent) Greg has gained notoriety of sorts for his Taotao Tano. I admire his willingness to stick his neck out, to complain, to demand answers, to be a loud mouth. But there's also some question whether his opinions are his own, or whether he's just the puppet. And again, what educational qualifications do we have here? This is a likely no for me.

SABLAN, Christina Marie Elise (Independent) Summa cum laude from College of Santa Fe. A term of experience in the House. The ability to articulate issues and generate discussions on hot issues; the ability to listen as others speak; the ability to open doors and documents for public view; the desire and attention to public rights and the environment. We are so lucky to have Tina as a candidate. I hope she wins by a landslide. YES, YES, YES. (Can I give her both of my votes?)

TEREGEYO, Ana Sablan (Covenant) She's on facebook, but mostly she's from a generation that has retired. I respect Ana Teregeyo and know she's intelligent. I disagree with her politics and even where I don't, I think she's not going to bring the energy and vision we need to the CNMI Senate. For me-a no.

KAIPAT, Jacinta Matagolai (Covenant) She's educated (holding a law degree) and intelligent, and cares about the environment. She's on Facebook and has a unique grasp of both modern technology and the best of our cultural history. But she also supports Governor Fitial's vision of a segregated work-force, with foreign workers consigned to low pay and no rights--a two-tiered system that is a violation of civil liberties and an evil. And she's blind to the problems of this labor system. I can't support her candidacy.

QUITUGUA, Justo Songao (Democrat) He's intelligent and educated, and has been an educator himself. He has experience in the House and has authored bills promoting different kinds of education reform--a mixed bag in my opinion. The good being to promote vocational training in our public schools; the less good to give money to Tony Pellegrino for his private business ventures to do similarly. He failed to support the national marine monument; and he hasn't been much in favor of civil rights. He's a Democrat in name, and we could use a few more of those in our local politics, but I'm on the fence here.

REYES, Pete Pangelinan (Republican) He's intelligent and values education, giving us his intelligent and educated children. He's also been in the Senate a very long time, so knows the ropes. On the other hand, his very experience also counts somewhat against him--we need change. We need a different kind of leadership that depends less on entrenched politics and more on deep thinking and analysis. I'm on the fence here, too.

TORRES, Ralph Anthony Deleon Guerrero (Republican) Aack. He's young, intelligent, and educated--and more caught up in the old-boys network and hardening-of-the-arteries thinking than most of the old-timers. I see nothing positive from his time in the House and nothing that makes me think he's a leader. He's got a well-oiled machine, and there is nothing good I can say about that kind of politics. For me-a definite no.

Mayor of Saipan.
CAMACHO, Antonio Muna (Independent) Old style politician. Pleasant and friendly and smart. But too long out of the loop. Not my choice.

TENORIO, Lino Sablan (Independent) A lackluster career at DPS. Not my choice.

BENAVENTE, Roman Cepeda (Independent) Smart, friendly, and caring. A history of public service. If Angelo weren't in the race, I'd consider him for the job.

SANCHEZ, Jose Deleon Guerrero (Independent) I know little about him. He's a former educator, so I'm guessing he's intelligent, but not my choice.

DEMAPAN, Juan Sablan (Independent) Supports casino gambling in Saipan. Too much baggage of questionable nature. (I couldn't find the link to the Tinian school construction debacle.) A definite no.

TAMAN, Candido Babauta (Independent)Good singer. Opposed the national marine monument. I think he supports Fitial. We need a different kind of voice, imho. No for senate.

TUDELA, Marian Deleon Guerrero (Covenant) Intelligent. Director of Upward Bound; but bound to the Covenant party and Fitial's views. That would be a no for me.

VILLAGOMEZ, Angelo O’Connor (Democrat). Intelligent, educated, and dedicated to environmental concerns. He's got loads of energy and vision. He's done a lot to organize people and protect our environment. This would be a big YES in my book.

FLORES, Donald Glenn (Republican) Intelligent, educated. I sometimes like his letters in the newspapers. But I'm worried that he's going to promote business interests, not human interests. There's a difference. I'm not against business--but I think we need government to be on the side of people, or, at the very least, neutral when it comes to the differences between business interests and human interests and needs.

House-Precinct 5: Vote for 2
MENDIOLA, Joseph Muna (Independent)--I don't know much about this guy. He doesn't seem to have a lot of education or a track record that makes me want to go out and vote for him. Any one else have more details?

DELEON GUERRERO, Frederick Peters (Independent) He's too close to Covenant for me.

QUITUGUA, Daniel Ogo (Covenant)--Not my party. That would be no. And to be clear, I don't usually care what party a candidate is. I'll vote for whomever I think is best. But I see the Covenant party members as lining up behind Fitial's agenda, and I disagree with that so vehemently, I can't support any of these Covenant candidates (or the independents who are Covenant in disguise).

BASA, Ramon Sablan (Covenant)--Not my party.(See note above) That would be no.

BRUNDIDGE Jr., Willie Lee (Democrat)--He's got a job now. I see no reason to want him in the House.

TORRES, Jesse David Jones (Democrat). I love his letters to the editor in the newspapers and his support of community projects. I think he's got the brains, education, energy and values that I want in a Congressman. That would be YES!

DEMAPAN, Jose Sablan (Republican). Did he buy a counterfeit diploma from a Spokane diploma mill? I'm not otherwise sure of his background. DPW-right? I'm hesitant to vote for him.

SANTOS, Rosemond Blanco (Republican) Rosemond is definitely smart and educated. I'm disappointed in her performance this past term. Too many absences from voting sessions. Nothing much I agreed with, except her vote for the budget.

Well, express your opinions here--or at the ballot box where it really counts.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

2009 Humanities Awards

The Governor's 2009 Humanities Awards were given out last night (Friday). The lifetime achievement award was given post-humously to Dr. Rita H. Inos. (I wonder why she never received this during her lifetime.)

The Humanities Teacher award was given to Harold Easton. He teaches at MHS and NMC and is the man behind the success of the NFL, NJFL, PGFC and Thespian organizations in the CNMI.

Congratulations! and a heartfelt thanks.

Friday, October 23, 2009

STAGE DOOR-tickets on sale!

The student Thespians of the Western Pacific Islands will be presenting the play "Stage Door" at PIC Charley's Cabaret on Tuesday and Wednesday, October 27 and 28, 2009 at 7 PM.

The play is a 1930's comedy, written by George S. Kaufman and Edna Ferber. (Another of their plays--The Royal Family-- is on Broadway now, in a new revival. And one of Kaufman's plays--Once In A Lifetime--is being presented this month in Los Angeles on stage and through radio theatre. So the Saipan students have a play that is very much in vogue. )

Tickets are $7 for adults and $5 for students. I'm selling. Leave a comment --PLEASE-- and I'll get the tickets to you.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Umbrella Permits-WIP

There's been a lot of talk about umbrella permits, and lots of flak in the newspapers and on blogs. Opinions vary.

I want to weigh in on the subject. I want to be intelligent and perceptive about it. But it is impossible to do so because the legal basis for the "news" and the full terms of the Umbrella Permits are still a work-in-progress.

There is a CNMI "protocol" written by Howard Willens. I do not think this protocol has the force and effect of law; it is more like a guide or roadmap to help everyone understand how the CNMI administration is proceeding as to the transition to federal immigration.

The protocol, available at the CNMI Department of Labor's site does not mention the term "umbrella permit." Each of the immigration entry classifications is described, and a catch-all "other categories" classification is also included. None of these match up with the description of the "umbrella permit" as given so far verbally by Deanne Siemer.

And there is the whole question about Labor issuing permits that have any effect as entry permits.

I am studying it all. I am also awaiting the regs or whatever it is Attorney General Ed Buckingham is working on.

And I will have opinions, as well as analysis.

But I'm not going to give an opinion on the hot air that has been blowing all over Saipan. [EDIT: By this, I mostly mean Deanne and Maya's rah-rah talk. Wendy is just fanning it back as a means of getting some relief.) The hot air means nothing.

Let's wait for the fine print. Then we'll have something to talk about.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Blog Action Day--Climate Change

Today is blog action day.
In the CNMI, what is supposed to happen according to our laws, is that once a person owes a debt and the court renders a judgment in the creditor's favor, then the creditor can execute on the judgment either by getting a writ of attachment of particular, identifiable, non-exempt property, or the court can enter an order in aid of judgment based on ability to pay.

If the debtor has non-exempt property to satisfy the debt, there are no problems. The real issues come up when the debtor doesn't have property or income to pay off the debt.

The court is supposed to fashion an order to pay based on a debtor's ability to pay, which, under our statutes, recognizes that people need to be able to keep whatever income is needed to support themselves and their family.

And in fact, there are debtors who do not have the ability to pay--either because they are unemployed, have jobs paying low wages, have large families to support, or face a combination of these factors.

What our Courts assume is that every person who works has the ability to pay, regardless of income and regardless of size of family and responsibilities of support. This directly undermines the Legislative balance of creditor and debtor rights and creates onerous orders for poor people to pay.

A legitimate debt does not cancel the law that protects a debtor's income for the purpose of supporting himself and his family. But it does in the eyes of the Courts.

And we need a climate change in the courts to recognize that debtors' rights exist, and some do not have the ability to pay.

Another issue, even more serious, is the repeated efforts by the court to order unemployed debtors to get work; and to make these orders under threat of jail. If an unemployed debtor doesn't go look for work to the court's satisfaction--usually 10 applications every reporting period, which could be a month or 2 or 3 (even if he's looked for work for years!), he will be put in jail for contempt.

You can read some good posts on MLSC's recent work trying to stop this practice at our DAY IN COURT blog.

It's all about climate change. It's about a change in attitude and mindset that recognizes the fundamental beauty of the U.S. Constitution's protections of liberty and freedom from involuntary servitude.

Should people be working? Yes. Should they look for jobs? Yes. But should the power of the state be used to enforce private interests and lock people up because they don't work? No.

Small encroachments lead to bigger encroachments. There is no good reason to be ordered to work to pay off creditors: this is debt bondage and it needs to be stopped.

We also need a better climate for employment that provides jobs, provides incentives to work, and balances human dignity and rights with economic gain and activity. Ordering people under threat of jail to go get jobs because they owe money won't take us in the right direction.

It's all about climate change.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

NaNoWriMo CountDown!

National Novel Writing Month begins on November 1, 2009. All around the globe, writers and wannabe novelists are getting ready to write.

And here is an inspirational cartoon from Debbie Ridpath Ohi.

And some rules of writing from William Safire:
Do not put statements in the negative form.
And don't start sentences with a conjunction.
If you reread your work, you will find on rereading that a
great deal of repetition can be avoided by rereading and editing.
Never use a long word when a diminutive one will do.
Unqualified superlatives are the worst of all.
De-accession euphemisms.
If any word is improper at the end of a sentence, a linking verb is.
Avoid trendy locutions that sound flaky.
Last, but not least, avoid cliches like the plague.
~William Safire, "Great Rules of Writing"

Now go sign up at NaNoWriMo.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Legal Scuttlebutt

The word going around the legal community is that Kevin Lynch was fired from the CNMI Attorney General's Office on Friday (October 9, 2009).

I have no other information. Don't know why. Perhaps he actually resigned.

He's been with the AG's Office a long time. I think this will not be pretty.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

EMO issues tsunami watch for CNMI--well cancelled

Our office received this notice. I don't know anything more, but it's a heads-up and means we need to be paying attention.

The original notice says to expect waves about 1:23 PM local time. But this new bulletin from the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center cancels that alert.

You can follow up for more information at the PTWC Pacific region site.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Books on my wish list

We're heading into the end of the year already, and I'm thinking of all the books I want to read but haven't yet, and starting that great wish list in the sky, just in case the fairy godmother of Christmas (or the Twilight Zone) wants to send some lovely books my way.

So I accidentally come across this on Art Blog by Bob--the second time in a week my Google search has led me to Bob's blog, where I have gotten distracted to the point of forgetting what I was even researching to begin with!

Um, yeah. I write young adult fiction because I love reading it. Call me immature. So... I want to read it!

(I'd also take any of the recommendations on Art Bob's list here.)

Thursday, October 1, 2009

20W -Melor

Tropical Storm Melor (a/k/a 20 W) has been up-graded to a Typhoon.

Different tracking methods put it either between Saipan and Rota, on target for Saipan, or heading just north of us.
It looks like it's due to hit us about Saturday morning.

There's an excellent sidebar with advice, terminology, and a guide to storm conditions at the Guam PDN story on the storm.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Get Ready for Halloween with a ...WRITING Contest!

WrittenWyrdd is sponsoring a writing contest. 1,000 words of horror (but not slasher stuff). A pile of green if you're the winner. Read details at the WrittenWyrdd blog.

Or you could try to win the $10,000 lottery at Gena Showalter's site, promoting the book INTERTWINED. That seems like a lot of money to give away to promote a YA book.

A stormy Pacific

Wendy's been doing a good job blogging about Ketsana (a/k/a Ondoy), the typhoon that caused devastation in the Philippines.

Today Ken is blogging about a tsunami that washed over American Samoa as we slept last night. Western Samoa also got hit. Reports put an earthquake between 7.9 and 8.3 on the Richter Scale-and if I got this right, time would have been about 7 hours ago for the quake, a bit later for the tsunami.

Several people are already reported as dead or missing, and an entire village may be underwater, with more reports of greater damage and loss expected.

There was a Pacific-wide tsunami alert (already cancelled now), but no one I've talked to knew about it. We need a better warning system.

Angelo is tracking Tropical Storm Melor-heading this way.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Saipan-A Blogger's Paradise!

Saipan is an interesting place to live. It is also a blogger's paradise! Lots to chat about in today's news.

You can read a good blog post at Ken's SOS site on Fitial's plan to take over DPH by declaration of a state of emergency. And Doctor Cornett's very small hammer rant(they're still not getting it) at the Tribune.

Fitial extends the state of emergency at CUC. He's had the state of emergency in effect since May 2008--that's 1 year and 4 months already.

This new emergency declaration seems to contradict earlier reports.

When the Aggreko generators were turned off, we were told CHC was in much better shape, that CUC's power generation could definitely replace what Aggreko had provided.

The Saipan Tribune reported, on September 1, 2009, as follows:

“Today, we can safely pronounce that the Saipan power production crisis is over,” Gov. Benigno R. Fitial said in a brief ceremony in the main control room of CUC's power plant in Lower Base yesterday.

And the entire reason for the state of emergency declaration in the first place was all about that power generation issue, wasn't it? Well, that was the original excuse, but in August 2009 Fitial said it's also about hiring adequate personnel.

Of course, CUC needs to hire adequate personnel. What or who is adequate personnel? The Legislature is trying to wean the CNMI government from its dependence on cheap foreign labor; and Fitial is addicted to cheap foreign labor.

So because he disagrees with the CNMI Legislature's policies and decisions for the CNMI (which limit how many foreign workers an agency or department may have), he declares a state of emergency at CUC?

We are all captives. Fitial is determined to prove that we need our fix; we have a right to cheap, foreign workers who are underpaid and get no permanent rights and are kept forever powerless. And we're all going to suffer power black-outs and worse if we don't buy into Fitial's view of the situation.

I have no problem with hiring technicians from foreign countries; I just think we need to pay them on scale with what we would pay for local/US hires. And then maybe there will be a greater incentive, a real incentive for our residents to enter the workforce, get skills, and do the work. And we'll be treating our foreign work force with the respect they deserve.

In the meantime, we're still in a state of emergency-which is to say that Governor Fitial refuses to follow the procurement laws, the hiring laws, and whatever laws the CNMI Legislature passes. First CUC, next CHC. Those "states of emergency" are convenient for grabbing power, neh?

Then there's the bit about how the OPA has referred cases for more than $2.6 million dollars in misspent tax money for collection to the AG's Office.

1. $739,346 from Tinian Casino Gaming Control Commission to UNNAMED CONSULTANT. (Why the hell don't we name names?)

2. $195,971 from Tinian Casino Gaming Control Commission to "3 other individuals". (Why the hell don't we name names?)

3. $392,178 from Tinian Casino Gaming Control Commission to ??? themselves??? for questionable travel expenses in 1996 to 2001.

Perhaps it should be called the Tinian Casino Gaming No-Control Commission?

4. $1.3 million from CNMI to "different professional service contractors." (Why don't we name names?)

5. $100,000 improper payments from CNMI??? to "a surveying contractor on Tinian." (Why don't we name names?)

6. $75,000 misused by former Finance Secretary (1995-1997). (Who was that?)

7. $$$ double payments from (now defunct) MPLA to "officials of...MPLA" for per diem, etc. 1992-1994.

8. $40,000 misspent by CPA.

9. $$$ unspecified overpayments to former officials of CUC.

NEARLY ALL of these are past the statute of limitations. The AG has said so specifically about #8 and #9. But the same can be said for #3, #6 and #7. So now we have to ask, when were these violations of law first reported to the Attorney General's Office? Why does the AG not proceed with diligent action (or are they always getting the cases too late to recover the funds)?

Why does it take so long for the OPA to find these misappropriations and misspent accounts?

And why aren't we at least identifying who is behind the problem at each instance, so we have names? And why do we want casinos when the Tinian Gaming Commission is one of the biggest drains on our limited tax resources?

Patrick Calvo
Found guilty on charges of sex abuse of a minor. His defense was that his 14 year old daughter was lying. This might work in some cases, but she's been a model student and otherwise fine person, and his other daughters came forward and testified against him also. For those victims from the earlier 2000 case who did not see justice when the case against Calvo was dismissed, this must be a small victory, too.

This is, after all, SaipanWriter! Walt Goodridge held a writer's workshop on Sunday, September 27, 2009.

Joe (Mango) Race brought up National Novel Writing Month! Yay! Interested in spending a month noveling? It's happening here in Saipan, as around the world, thanks to NaNoWriMo. Sign up. We write in November. (I'm the municipal liaison. If you need more information, contact me.)

And then there's Swine Flu in Yap
It must be bad, because the schools have now closed for 3 weeks.

But what's not in the news? the Philippine disaster-typhoon Ketsana. Thanks to Wendy for highlighting this story for the past 2 days.

And my own little off-topic "flashback" contribution:
I just found this bit about George W. Bush's favorite painting. This is such a laugh! As Art Blogger Bob says--narcissistic and stupid.