Saturday, January 31, 2009

4-day Work Week?

Governor Fitial is proposing across-the-board cuts in government employment. He proposes a 4 day work week, which he wants to get with Legislative approval, but which he will implement in other ways, if he doesn't get such sanction. Without congressional support, the cuts would likely effect fewer employees than with it, but the cuts will definitely be felt.

Ed has already published a critical post on his blog, Marianas Pride.

I do not think our Governor has ever given us the full picture on revenues, so that our Legislature cannot realistically assess the situation and plan a proper budget. I say this because, despite the dire situation as insisted by our Governor, he had no difficulty coming up wiht $400,000 for the federalization lawsuit. That is not chump change.

I suspect the money comes from class-action settlements, or some other source of revenue that has not been disclosed in the projected CNMI revenues for Legislative use in budgeting.

I think our Legislators should be actively supporting Tina Sablan's efforts to find out how the federalization lawsuit is being funded. And they should be demanding an accounting of all money, no matter how it finds its ways into the government till. And I think the Governor should not be able to spend money without Legislative authorization.

But all of that said, I think we need to assess the idea of a 4-day work week independently of the proponent, independently of the professed reason for it. I'm not fan of Governor Fitial, but that doesn't mean I am going to automatically disagree with everything he says and does.

For example, in the U.S., about 16% of city governments have 4-day work week options. City government agencies in Maryland, Indiana, Oklahoma, Washington state,and Arizona have started using the 4 day work week. Utah has recently mandated the 4-day work week on a state-wide basis, according to a July 2008 USA news report. Closer to home, Hawaii has also experimented with the 4-day work week.

What positives come from a 4-day work week? When utilized on a large scale, the effect is staggering. The most notable is an improvement in our "carbon footprint" as fewer people are commuting to work. You can read some of the math computations and information in this article about 16 reasons in support of the 4-day work week.

What about the personal loss of income from reduced hours? Some of the 4-day work week programs still provide for 40 hour weeks, just divided up into 4 days-so workers would work 10 hours/day rather than 8. But some of the proposals, on the table or implemented, reduces hours and contend that 4 days/32 hours produces the same amount of productivity over time as a 5-day week of 40 hours, because workers become more productive with the freedom to have time off. And greater productivity, greater savings on energy, means that employers can actually pay more per hour.

For sure, there is not universal acclaim for the 4-day work week. The federal OPM opposes the notion. And in Oregon, there is strong objection to a 4-day work week being used in the public school system.

But the 4-day work week is a very happening topic now, with both private businesses and small governments opting for this choice, despite the concerns.

While the debate over a shorter-work week raged in Europe in the 1990's, it's being discussed and implemented now in New Zealand, and Great Britain and elsewhere around the globe. It's even made it to you tube!

Should we jump on the bandwagon? Well, no. But should we consider and research and discuss the idea seriously?

I think so.


Friday, January 30, 2009

The Abramoff Net

There's another man recently indicted in the on-going Abramoff investigations. Wendy has a good post with some great links about the recent indictment of Todd Boulanger.

For another look at Todd Boulanger, you can also watch this hilarious video from The Daily Show.

It makes a great point, not directly related to the matter of corruption. But where corruption attempts to distort the political system with gifts and kickbacks, the use of these political pundits distorts it in a just as insidious manner.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Obama's Secretary of Commerce-still waiting?

We're still waiting on President Obama to name someone to the position of Secretary of Commerce. Recent reports show two names have surfaced in the pool of possibilities: John Thompson, a Symantec CEO; and Padrasmee Warrior, CTO of CISCO. According to Reuters' report, John Thompson has the edge right now. According to CBS, he's got the job.

Other past rumors of contenders for the post included wealthy Penny Pritzker.

The CNMI needs to pay attention because the Secretary of Commerce has duties that directly impact on our situation here, including (but not limited to) a leading role in the National Marine Monument.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Wespac and FOIA

President Obama has issued a directive calling for a presumption in favor of disclosure when Freedom of Information Act requests are made.

But Kitty Simonds is still in charge of Wespac (Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council).
Kitty Simonds & Mr. Evans. Photo courtesy of KAHEA.
So Honolulu conservation groups have sued Wespac, NOAA and others to enforce their rights under the FOIA to information about funding and budgeting of the agency.

The complaint is interesting. According to the allegations, Wespac failed to respond to FOIA requests. The conservation groups (Lost Fish, Kahea, and Hawaii Conservation Council) then filed an Administrative complaint with NOAA/Commerce, which also went unresolved, despite a regulation calling for findings and orders within a specified number of days.

So now the matter is in Court. It will be interesting to see whether the new administration follows President Obama's directive.

Pacific Gitmo?

Ray Yumul has proposed that the CNMI seek to be the new home of prisoners in Guantanamo Bay's facility, according to today's headline news in both the Tribune and Variety.

Gitmo is the detention facility where the US has kept suspected terrorists in conditions that have garnered international contempt. Gitmo is where the US has sunk to the levels of the terrorists themselves, with the US using torture and other illegal investigative means. President Obama has ordered the closing of Gitmo within one year.

So the question becomes what should the US do with the men who are presently imprisoned at Gitmo? Our illustrious legislator, Mr. Yumul, suggests that prisoners who will be detained after the facility's closing be transferred to the CNMI.

There's been negative comment on the proposal already. Not surprisingly. I also think the proposal has that crazy, desperate, ridiculous feel to it.

From the US's point of view: It would be expensive to send all of those men here. The CNMI has no facilities at present, meaning an expensive building plan and costly development of infrastructure. Note that the CNMI does not even have reliable power generation. This would all take time. The CNMI has inadequate manpower in both numbers and abilities. The CNMI's immigration will be newly federalized only starting 6/1/2009, so that protections and procedures will not be at their best, and existing populations will have entered without having been subjected to American immigration screening. The US is not looking to recreate the Guantanamo experience somewhere else. Distance makes oversight more difficult. The CNMI is closer to Asia, and especially to possible terrorist elements in Mindanao and Indonesia--security might be more problematic.

From the CNMI's point of view: We are desperately in need of a new image-but is being a federal prison the image we want? We have an opportunity to develop our face to the world as a place of natural physical beauty, pristine environment, rare geological features-we have a national marine monument designation to help us. An image as a new Guantanamo is strikingly at odds with that possible image. Housing terrorists isn't likely to improve our only reliable industry-tourism. We are so small that any problems with such a prison project could have huge ramifications. Our people are having a difficult time qualifying for jobs as immigration officers, how many would qualify as high-level security cleared officials in a Gitmo-like prison?

Nothing about the suggestion resonates. It all reeks. Even if Pennsylvania's John Murtha thinks it's a good idea to send them there.

What is more interesting to me, though, in the whole context of Gitmo, is the accountability of US officials for the situation. What will Obama do? What should he do? There are many ideas, but this discussion seems particularly good to me. The US must not only decide how to deal with the prisoners, but how to deal with the "leaders" who brought us to this point. And allowing war crimes to go unpunished just seems wrong to me, even if they were committed by Americans in the name of security.


What's Happening at CUC?

Wallon Young will arrive and be the new deputy director at CUC, according to the Saipan Tribune. He'll earn between $156,000 and $180,000 per year.

In December 2008, American Samoa news reported that Wallon Young's business, Quantum Pacific, has a three month contract with the CNMI's CUC for $250,000, to act as consultants--unusual consultants in that they are to implement their proposals as well.

This seems to be part of the plan described in the Marianas Variety, also in December 2008--a $5.5 million plan.

Will it all work? Will we be able to end our one-year contract with Aggreko at exorbitant rates? And more significantly, is there a plan in place for routine and necessary maintenance when everything is repaired?

Here's hoping that something will work out right.

Friday, January 23, 2009

318. A Response to Lino Olopai

I read Lino's letter in the Saipan Tribune with some reluctance and hesitation. I like and respect Lino, but I often find myself at odds with some of his philosophies. I don't think this is because I'm "American" and he's "Indigenous Carolinian." I think we just think differently.

So I read it and found it interesting. Here is the letter with my responses and comments.

Friday, January 23, 2009
A done deal I took this to mean recognition that the Monument is now a reality. I think, after reading the letter, it was meant to suggest that it was always going to happen and we just didn't know that. I don't believe it. As a supporter, I know that we were on tenterhooks about what would happen. I sat in on phone calls from Pew representatives Jay Nelson and Matt Rand where we were scrambling for more strategies and ideas on what else we could do to campaign for the monument designation. I never had the sense that anyone at Pew Ocean Legacy or in Friends of the Monument felt the decision was "in the bag." In fact, towards the end, I was completely convinced that Bush would designate only Rose Atoll and Palmyra Islands and delete the Marianas from the proposal.

I am not surprised to learn that President Bush approved the marine monument. I've always suspected from the beginning that the monument is not for conservation, but for homeland security, military use and the enhancement of President Bush's image. None of us know why President Bush decided to sign the designation. I do not discount these possible motivations. The last, I think, might have improved his approval rating among the public from 12% to 13% where it ended when he left office. EDIT: actually President Bush's lowest rating was 20%; it ended at a 22% approval rating.

I especially do not believe the statements of Council of Environmental Quality chair James Connaughton and President Bush that the native islanders' (Chamorro and Refalawash) concerns will be protected. I think this might depend on what those concerns are. CEQ chair is a politician-we must be skeptical about what all politicians say. OTOH, the Hawaiian monument Papahanaumokuakea has many features in its regulations that address indigenous rights and concerns. I think we'll see some of this, too.

The marine monument was a done deal from the beginning. Pew was only used, for over two years, to pave a pathway for President Bush to approve the marine monument. Chairman Connaughton and his group knew of Pew's propaganda, but were never present to lend a helping hand, not until just a few months ago. It's a very well executed plan! See my comment above. I disagree. I don't think there was some grand conspiracy. I think Pew's Ocean Legacy thought it would be a good plan, wanted it, and promoted it. But Bush is the "decider"-haha!- and also unpredictable, in my opinion. I don't think we would have seen the division between Cheney and Laura Bush is this was some well-orchestrated predetermined plan.

I also do not believe Pew and their proponents when they profess that designation of the monument is in the best interest of the native islanders, and that we shouldn't let it pass us by. “A win-win situation, job opportunities, we will be known all over the world, become rich and famous,” etc, etc... I've heard these types of remarks from “salesmen” too many times before! I also know that it has misled lots of people, including our leaders, both local and federal. I'm not a "Pew proponent" but a Friend of the Monument. I do think this opportunity is good for the CNMI, including native islanders. The CNMI has already given constitutional protection to the three northernmost islands. Unfortunately, because of the court rulings on the EEZ, the CNMI could not give the same kind of protection to the waters surrounding the islands. This designation does that. There will be some benefits. We've already had an enormous amount of free publicity around the world. We will see scientists coming here. We will get a Visitors' Center paid for by the US Government. We will get a boat that the CNMI will use for northern island trips. There will be some jobs created by this. We will NOT all become rich and famous-and I don't think any Monument supporter said that. And it won't happen overnight, because it will take a couple of years before we even have the Monument plan completed and put into effect.

I am equally disappointed by our elected leader's lack of a strong united stand in protecting what is rightfully ours. Here, I think Lino means Fitial, Arnold Palacios, Pete Reyes all in the end "agreed" to the Monument. For me, this is a sign of intelligence, to be able to change your mind. But I can see this from Lino's POV also. Like I said above, when dealing with politicians, remain skeptical.

A third of our ancestral land and ocean represents a big chunk that has been taken away from our already small islands. This seems to be saying that the Monument took 1/3 of the CNMI's ocean and land. If so, this is a misstatement of fact. As noted above, the waters and submerged land were held by Court decision to have passed to the US by virtue of the Covenant. The Court held that the transfer happened decades ago, although the decision was only recently issued. You may disagree with the court decision. There are a lot of court decisions I disagree with. But we live with them. They become the law and the reality. Even if there were no Monument, this water and submerged land would be "owned" or "controlled" by the U.S. Also, no "ancestral land" is involved in the Monument. No island land is part of the Monument. It's only the water and submerged land.

Perhaps we have forgotten the teachings of our ancestors that the land, ocean, and our people will always be our most precious natural resources. Our islands are but a grain of sand in the middle of the ocean, and our resources are different from those of the continental United States and other big countries. The exploitation of natural gas, oil, minerals, diamonds, gold, etc., are contrary to the teachings of our ancestors and these activities contribute a lot to global warming. They even kill and destroy each other for such things! This is the statement I find most puzzling. I completely agree with it. Nothing in this statement supports opposing the Monument. In fact, it is the very unique nature of the Marianas Trench and eco-systems that abound here that make this place worth preserving and protecting with the maximum amount of law and help possible. The Monument designation will help prevent the damage that greed and exploitation would cause.

Is it true that the federal government will return our submerged lands should we agree to the marine monument? Actually, the US Department of Interior has been offering to support legislation that would give 3 miles EEZ to the CNMI since before the Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court's holding that said the CNMI owns nothing. Support of the Marine Monument was not a condition for this proposal, although, as I understand it, the offer was renewed in the context of the Marine Monument discussions.

Returning something that is ours in exchange for something that is also ours? I once represented a family that had used land according to a "partida" for 40 years before the Court held there was no effective partida. I completely thought the decision was wrong, but it was upheld on appeal. It took another decade for the family to finally come to grips with the fact that they would have to accept the court ruling as the way it is going to be. But here, it doesn't seem that Lino will ever accept the court ruling on the submerged lands. I understand that sentiment. But it undermines the argument somewhat when the premise-that the CNMI owns the submerged lands and waters-has already been ruled in Court to be false.

Did our elected leaders fall for this, or is it the same old federal government's pathetic attitude where they made themselves believe that one size shoe fits the whole world? It seems to me like, “in search of weapons of mass destruction.” Same comment as above.

The 1906 Antiquities Act that President Bush utilized should be stricken from the book. It's an outdated and very inhumane Act. I still can't bring myself to believe that, with a stroke of the President's pen, an area will become a monument without consultation or due regard to the people there, especially to those that will be affected the most. Needless to say, human rights, be it native islanders, American Indians, or others, must be respected. This is a very legitimate concern. The Antiquities Act is a very strange law that puts a lot of power in the hands of the President, with very little checks and balances. I say very little, because of course Congress does have the power to repeal or modify the law. I think that Kilili would find some support in the Legislature for a bill that said the President could make no further declarations of Monuments in the Pacific without Congressional approval. That's been done regarding other states that already have a lot of Monument acreage. All that said, though, the "worst" that is done by an Antiquities Act declaration is PRESERVATION, protection of the status quo. And that's not a bad thing.

The manner in which the marine monument proposal was presented to us has been especially insulting for me, to our traditional leaders, and was very disrespectful to the Association of Pacific Island Legislature, Micronesian Chief Executive Summit, Guam Fisherman's Co-op, 29th Guam Legislature, Rep. Madeline Bordallo, and others that stood firm with us in our belief in protecting what is rightfully ours. I do not believe that the Native Islanders are so arrogant not to share whatever small resources they may have. I believe that all we wanted to say was which resource should be shared and how much. I'm very sorry that anyone was offended. I'm not quite sure how things could have been done differently, in the framework of the Antiquities Act. An idea was presented, and Pew Ocean Legacy people sought local support immediately by first contacting Diego Benavente and Jacinta Kaipat. Diego-with his ties to Wespac-had no interest in supporting the measure. Cinta-coming from her experience in the Northern Islands and with Beautify CNMI-did. Lots of public information was handed out. Meetings were held. VERY high ranking US officials came to the CNMI to hear what we had to say. Some people will be offended whenever their opinion doesn't win the day.

BTW, It's not too late for indigenous input. Regulations will be drafted-stay tuned and comment. Indigenous matters will be decided-stay tuned and monitor what is going on, speak up. BUT ALSO, recognize that 6,000 real people signed petitions in support of the Monument. People here in the CNMI. People of all ethnicities, including LOTS of indigenous. Do not offend them by acting to speak against the Monument as if there is only one indigenous opinion.

Our relation with the United States under the Covenant is that we're neither a state, union, territory, but we are in a “political union” with the United States. Um, actually, we are a territory. We have a different legal underpinning than other territories, but we're still a territory. Yes, we're in political union with the U.S, but funny, how people touting the Covenant forget to mention that the Covenant itself says we are "under" the sovereignty of the U.S. as well as being in political union with it.

Does the 1906 Antiquities Act apply to us under this relationship since we are not a territory of the United States? It does. The Covenant itself provides a formula for determining what federal laws apply here. Generally, if it applies in Guam, it applies here. And as noted above, the Antiquities Act applies to land within the U.S's ownership and control. The EEZ here falls within that definition.

I guess whatever questions we may ask, our plans for our islands will no longer be valid since they're in the hands of the federal government. Wrong. The plans will be forged by various agencies working together, including the CNMI Government.

Perhaps the new administration will listen to our concerns. We all have hopes for the new administration. It is going to be better than the one we just had. We just don't know how, yet.

Lino M. Olopai
Chalan Kanoa, Saipan

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Three Dozen Years

It's the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision that recognized a constitutional right to privacy regarding reproductive freedom and struck down state laws that interfered with the right by criminalizaing certain conduct.

The effect of Roe v. Wade was to make abortion legal in most regards in the U.S. And the effect of that was to create a national divide between those who agree with legalized abortion and those who oppose it.

I was raised Catholic and grew up when world events swirled around me with a decidedly feminist air. The conflict in beliefs and perspectives between these influences has made me think about this issue in various ways at various times in my life.

I can't help myself, but I now accept the Catholic notion that life begins at conception and abortion is a mortal sin. Like murder, and other such repugnant actions, abortion moves us in a direction that is less holy, less noble.

I fully recognize the right of the Church to make drastic rulings in support of its teachings, like its automatic excommunication of Catholics who procure or obtain abortions.

But I also am schooled in law and the American ideals that value separation of church and state. What I believe as a matter of faith does not have to be the law that my government embraces, as long as that government allows me to practice my faith. Not every mortal sin must be a crime. We have decriminalized adultery. We allow divorce. There is no law against couples living together without benefit of marriage.

And I can't help but recognize that women may have moral reasons for wanting abortions, have their own religious or ethical reasons that differ from mine--that pregnancy and birth may threaten a woman's life and choosing her own life is a moral decision; that having an unwanted child may be as immoral as having an abortion; that the decision to have a child you can't afford has an ethical dimension to it.

I think the government should not be in the business of compelling one moral choice over another moral choice, unless that is necessary for a just society, for health and safety, for order and peace. I think the last three dozen years has shown that we can live with abortion rights.

And recognizing abortion rights does not necessarily lead to more deaths than making abortion illegal.

The latest information shows that fewer women are getting abortions now than at any time since 1974. There is a good blog post with facts about reproduction and family planning services at this slow-loading site. (Don't be put off by the blog header, either, please.)

Although the numbers and rate of abortion are at their lowest, the rate of decline has slowed. And a trend in reduction of family planning services has had a particularly negative effect on the poor.

And this gets me to the point I always come back to when thinking about the abortion debate. All those who support making abortion illegal are really supporting making abortion illegal for poor women. Rich women, even if abortion were illegal, will have access to abortions. They'll fly to where they are legal. They'll pay the high price of expensive doctors. And poor women will be the ones effected by the restriction; they will suffer birthing babies conceived from rape, or conceived by teenagers without access to contraceptives, or conceived unwanted and unplanned.

I remember before 1973 when abortion was illegal. I knew fellow college students who flew to New York or had the inside information on where to go if you needed an abortion. And I also knew poorer women who had "connections" to the seamier side of the community where back-street butchers offered to get rid of unwanted pregnancies.

As long as there are unwanted pregnancies, there will be abortions. Because women will rather get rid of their unwanted pregnancies than face the prospect of birth and adoption. We can hope for change, we can work on adjusting attitudes about this, but we must also acknowledge the situation as it presently is.

Making abortion illegal will not stop abortions. It will only return us to a time when there were MORE abortions, and when the effect on poor women was even greater, when illegal backstreet abortionists maimed and killed the women getting the abortions as well as the unborn babies.

In the summer of 2006, Senator Hilary Clinton said that Americans should

"unite around a common goal of reducing the amount of abortions, not by making them illegal as many are attempting to do or overturning Roe v. Wade and undermining the constitutional protections that decision provided, but by preventing unintended pregnancies in the first place through education, contraception, accessible health care and services, empowering women to make decisions…."

I agree with this.

In my opinion, the government does not need to decide the moral issue for women on whether abortion is right or not. We're perfectly capable of making that decision ourselves. We each have our own faith to guide us.

The government needs only to ensure that information about reproduction is available, that contraception and family planning options exist, that health care and services are affordable and safe. And then women can make moral decisions and take responsibility for their reproductive choices.


Dr. King on the Likelihood of a "Negro" President

Amazing BBC newsclip here.

OTOH, MLK was wrong. It took us longer...

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Senator Obama Is Sworn In As President of the USA

He's so eager. He can't wait!

Obama has his hand raised before the Chief Justice. He starts his recitation before Chief Justice Roberts has finished his first phrase.

And then his excitement gives him that momentary brain-freeze, from which he recovers quickly and smoothly. Well, it seemed like that to me, but the Washington Post says it was Chief Justice Roberts who messed it up.

Obama is a real person, an endearing man. Wow!

And then there's his inaugural speech.

Worth reading.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Some Thoughts on our Marine Monument

The Marianas Variety recently announced that Governor Fitial has named his three candidates for the Mariana Monument Advisory Council. Nominated: Benigno M. Sablan, a member of the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council; Joaquin P. Villagomez, a former member of Wespac’s advisory panel; and Sylvan O. Igisomar, the director of the Division of Fish and Wildlife.

I can only say how very disappointed I am in our Governor for nominating three people who opposed the creation of the national marine monument here.

Note, the Variety would have the three men already in these positions, reporting incorrectly in its headline that Governor Fitial appointed them to the posts: Governor Fitial does not appoint the members of the Mariana Monument Advisory Council. He nominates them for appointment, which will be done by the U.S. Secretary of Interior and the U.S. Secretary of Commerce.

Both Angelo and Lil Hammerhead have good posts on the subject. I agree with Lil's sentiments, but I like Angelo's less-emotional, more dealing-with-reality-as-it-is thinking.

Angelo's take (paraphrased by me):
The nominations should be based on principals, not personalities.

Principals could include designating people in key positions related to the monument. Yes, even Sylvan Igisomar, who, as head of DFW, holds a relevant governmental office.

Principals could also include nominating people who are excited and energetic about the national marine monument and who would work tirelessly to make it the best it can be. That's not likely to be any of the three named.

Principals could even include nominating the Attorney General, since the first order of business will involve legal work and drafting regulations, etc.

But picking political supporters who backed you to the hilt in your uninformed (some would say wilfully ignorant) opposition to the creation of a monument--that's not principaled, that's just cronyism and personal politics.

And there is that small bit that two of the three are not "officials of the government" so do not technically qualify for nomination, per the original designation of the Monument. See page 6 of this official Federal Register publication of the designation. (Sorry, the page loads slowly.)

So, the actual appointment will by the Secretaries of Interior and Commerce-new Obama officials. As to the two people who will make the final decision about the Mariana Monument Advisory Council, we have some information to process. President Obama has already announced his choice of Ken Salazar for the post of Secretary of Interior. We don't yet know who will be chosen for the Commerce position in the Obama Administration.

I have no opinion about Ken Salazar, although the reports are decidedly mixed when asking conservationists about him. It may be likely that Governor Fitial's nominations will be approved, but until that happens, we need to stay tuned.

More monument news:
The other news in today's paper about the monument was that out-going Secretary of Interior Dirk Kempthorne designated the Division of Fish & Wildlife as the lead agency in managing the monument. This is different than the management procedures for Papahanaumokuakea Marine Monument, where NOAA Sanctuaries has the lead.

I'm still trying to get a line of what this will mean.

At least it means Wespac will not be the lead agency. :-)

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Environmentalist Award Goes To...

The EPA is accepting nominations according to this Saipan Tribune article for EPA's region 9 awards. The Tribune article isn't quite correct though: EPA seeks to honor environmentalists outside of EPA (not outside of the US). Anyone here in the CNMI or elsewhere is eligible.

You can nominate your choices here. The categories for nominations include 1) Environmental, community and non-profit; 2) Federal, tribal, state, or local government; 3) Individual; and 4) Business, industry, trade or professional organization.

You'll need the full name, address, and phone number for any nominee, and be willing to give the same information about yourself. You'll also need to write 500 words in support of the nomination.

I can think of many, many people who should be recognized here for outstanding contributions this year--all related to promoting the designation of the Marianas Trench National Marine Monument.

My short list for individuals:

Angelo O'Connor Villagomez

Ignacio Cabrera

Ken Kramer

I could add more: Jay Nelson and William Aila, as well as many of the hard-working supporters here in the CNMI like Lauri, Agnes, Chailang, Cinta, Ruth, Andrew, Ed Salas, Tina, Captain Carl, Kimberly, Brian, and more. But my short-list remains as above.

On my list for community organizations:

Friends of the Monument

Deadline for submitting nominations for the EPA Region 9 awards is 2/8/2009.

Biba Monument!

Photo Credits: Angelo O. Villagomez, Brian Jones

Monday, January 12, 2009

Federalization lawsuit-1/12/2009

Both the Saipan Tribune and the Marianas Variety report today on the CNMI's responses to the US Defendants' filings in its lawsuit challenging federalization of immigration here.

Both articles parrot the content of the CNMI's response, and give no analysis of the situation. For that, you need to check out Wendy's Unheard No More blog reports here and here.

There are two motions pending: the CNMI's Motion for Preliminary Injunction and the US Defendants' Motion to Dismiss.

For me, there is no legal merit in the CNMI arguement that control of alien labor is a matter of "local self-government" under the Covenant. It's hard to imagine that anything could be less "local" than a foreign work force.

I also find no legal merit in the repeated blathering that the US is breaching its contract with the CNMI by extending immigration here in the way it does. The Covenant is so crystal clear that the US could extend its control of immigration here, and do so by US Congressional action in a way it deems appropriate, that it's inconceivable how any respectable person would argue that to do so violates the contract between the US and the CNMI.

I can only hope that the federal court decides to dismiss the action and the CNMI attorneys are slapped with sanctions for filing a legally frivolous lawsuit.

Let us get on with the real task at hand--drafting regulations that will improve the situation here.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

The Campaign for a Monument-in Links.

The environment is not a partisan issue whose politics should divide us, but a shared legacy whose preservation must unite us.

from this Jane Lubchenco profile

I imagine there will be more interest in the CNMI and our newly created national marine monument now that President Bush has made the official designation. Here are some links culled from past discussions on various topics.

There are some gaps. These are just some of the links available with relevant information. Enjoy.

Designation of the Monument
Text of Monument Proclamation

The President's Speech

Governor Fitial's Statement. This includes his completely unfair stab at Pew Charitable Trust, which did not wage a divisive campaign but was attacked by John Gourley in HIS divisive campaign.

Who's Going to Be in Charge?
The Designation says Commerce through NOAA and Interior, with co-management by the CNMI. The big question is whether it will be NOAA Sanctuaries, or NOAA Wespac. Some information to help sort through the matter.

Obama's new NOAA pick . A scientist. Perhaps we'll see what difference it can make to have a scientist at the helm, one who is very aware of the problems caused by over-fishing (and possibly the problems with Wespac power).

Jane Lubchenco. A brief review. Last bit on a national ocean service (like national park service) is especially interesting.

Wespac problem--illegal & costly meeting.

Wespac under investigation. Worth reading because Wespac has a lot of power over what happens here.

More on Wespac.

Illegal fishing in proposed monument area. This talks about problems with illegal fishing in the area originally proposed for the monument. It's unclear whether these fishing boats were in the area now actually designated, but they were still within the US EEZ.

What is it like in the Monument waters?
Beautiful. Unique. Amazing...

About Maug. One of the three northernmost islands where the monument includes the surrounding nearshore (50 miles)waters.

Uracas. The nothernmost CNMI island whose waters are included within the boundaries of the monument.

Asuncion. Another of the three northernmost islands, whose waters are included within the monument boundaries.

Amazing creatures of the Trench from Lil Hammerhead.

Mammals of the Monument from Lil Hammerhead.

Woods Hole to explore Marianas Trench. Something to look forward to.

Undersea eruption. This is a sea vent near Rota, not in the boundaries of the monument as originally proposed, but protected by the actual monument, which included these types of small miracles.

NOAA video from the Ring of Fire. Smokers, liquid carbon and other wonders here.

Ocean Legacy. Tons of information about various aspects of the Marianas Trench and the national marine monument.

Visitor Attractions
The Monument will draw attention to the CNMI. We will have more to offer to our tourist visitors.

Coral Spawning. A natural attraction for tourists and residents alike.

Mike Tripp on coral spawning. More great information.

Sant Ocean Hall. Gives an idea of what we can do in the CNMI with our visitor's center.

Hawaii's Visitor Center. Here's another version of possible visitor's center.

Safety first-Emergency First Response. Some reassurance for those diving in the CNMI.

The Economy
We hope for improvement, and the attention a national marine monument will bring us could help.

What jobs were created by Papahanaumokuakea Marine Monument . Relevant to give us an idea what new jobs we might see here.

Iverson Report. On the possible economic impact of the Marine Monument.

The Scientific Support for Conservation

Olson's Emptied Oceans--video Why we need marine monuments.

Scientists' Consensus Statement in Support of Marine Reserves. Brilliant.

The Concept Behind the Proposal.

Links to many articles and reprint of David Suzuki's interview.

On fishing.

Grave peril.

On the Current State of Our Oceans.

COMPASS on the state of our oceans. COMPASS has Jane Lubchenco as one of its founders, so this is especially interesting since she will be our new NOAA head (if confirmed by the Senate).

On Jane Lubchenco. This has great links to the decline in our oceans and collapse of fisheries caused by fishing pressure, and expresses hope in our soon-to-bo NOAA chief executive.

Graphic evidence of harm from fishing.

Some History of the CNMI's marine monument
There's more than shown here. But this gives the gist of the situation.

Mike Tripp's summary-10/20/2008. There is a lot of good information on Mike's blog in general, as well as at this particular link.

The Community Meeting in Saipan.

Please Make It Stop. My lament about some of the stupid comments from our elected leaders during the course of the campaign to have the monument designated.

Low down shenanigans.

A list of links to letters-pro & con --9/8/2008.

CNMI Department of Fish & Wildlife Opposes Monument.

More local opposition to the Monument-outrageously in the name of conservation.

NPR story-All Things Considered-5/23/2008

About the Law
Looking at Marine Monument Law.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Monument Map

Thanks to Angelo, Pew Charitable Trust, and Friends of the Monument for the campaign to have a national marine monument designated in the CNMI. It's now official.

Of course, nothing in life is perfect.

1. The declaration doesn't specify that NOAA Sanctuaries will be in charge. While both Interior and Commerce/NOAA have responsibility, the repeated reference to "fisheries" looks like the declaration leaves the door open for Wespac to run the show. As if that could possibly be a good thing for environmental protection.

2. The Advisory Committee will be 3 CNMI government officials recommended by the Governor, along with two selections by Defense and the Coast Guard respectively.

There is NO room for indigenous or environmental advocates on the Advisory Council! Who will the Governor nominate? Fitial only agreed in the end and his "support" is untested. Besides, it seems as if his choices for appointments are limited to those working for the government, so people most qualified, like Angelo Villagomez and Ken Kramer and Ike Cabrera are not "eligible" for advisory council positions. People who ardently opposed the monument, like John Joyner and Sylvan (Igisomar?), however, are.

3. I've got no problem with allowing sustenance and traditional indigenous fishing, but... Recreational fishing? Allowed per the declaration, despite the overwhelming evidence from other marine reserves that show that recreational fishing is also destructive of habitat and, of course, marine life.

Well, that's all I can say for now

I'm sort of happy--we got a national marine monument. I'm sort of happy--it's fairly large. I'm sort of happy--we did it!!!But I'm sort of worried, too. It's not quite right.

But for now, we can bask in the tons of positive press--perhaps a first for the CNMI! (Many of these are the same AP wire news release we read in our own local newspaper.)

White House Press Release

USA Today


National Geographic


New Zealand

Los Angeles Times

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Mother Jones

Taiwan news

China Daily

Honolulu Advertiser


Science Magazine

Sydney Morning Herald

Reuters South Africa--I'm not sure about this link--sorry.

London Times

World Fishing Today

Guam PDN

The Times of India

France International

Qatar Tribune

There are loads more of local newspapers in the US carrying the story--from Cleveland to Miami, from Bellingham to Raleigh, etc. On the world front, Angelo reports stories also in Pakistan and Zimbabwe newspapers, but I didn't find those.

Edit: Ah, I found it. Know you've been waiting for this:

Pakistan news