Thursday, February 26, 2009

335. Another "in case you missed it"--this time the Valentine's Day Show

In case you missed the Friends of the Arts Valentine Show at PIC (on both 2/14 and 2/15), here's a clip of one of the opening songs.

Ingrid Sanchez and Leo Goode.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

334. In Case You Haven't Seen It

You might want to check out this Daily Kos-Dengre post from 2/19/2009. All about our Governor.

It's going to offend some, so be warned.

And don't miss the bit on Alaska's Rep. Young-which also relates directly to the CNMI.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

333. Umm--hypocrite? Federalization

Here's what the CNMI says in its latest filing in Governor Fitial's federalization lawsuit:

Finally, many of these lawfully admitted workers have resided in the CNMI fo ryears, and have U.S. citizen children or spouses entitled to stay in the CNMI. The CNMI has the right to protect the integrity of its social fabric and protect these individuals, who have committed no crimes, from removal as "illegal entrants."

And here's what he said when he opposed giving them permanent status through the federalization bill he now challenges:

In a significant departure from current immigration policy, H.R. 3079 declares which non-U.S. citizens will be given permanent legal status and permitted to stay in the CNMI or move to any part of the United States. H.R.3079 expressly grants a form of amnesty to nearly 8000 alien workers in the Commonwealth by granting them this nonimmigrant status, comparable to that enjoyed by Micronesians from the freely associated states. The bill's drafters chose to ignore that such an enhanced status was not permitted or contemplated when these workers elected voluntarily to come to the CNMI many years ago to enjoy the economic opportunities available in the CNMI.

The drafters of H.R. 3079 seemingly have no concern about the impact of this provision on the integrity and vitality of the indigenous Carolinian and Chamorro peoples in the Commonwealth. Permanent legal residence status permits such individuals to bring children and other relatives into the community where the status-holder elects to live. Consequently, the impact on the local CNMI community might be far greater than anticipated if most of these new permanent legal residents elected to stay in the Commonwealth and bring in children and other relatives not presently allowed to reside in the CNMI. However well-intentioned this proposal appeared to its drafters, its consequences already have seriously affected the quality of life in the CNMI. The proposal has generated unrealistic expectations among the guest worker population in the Commonwealth, stimulated boycotts of businesses because their owners have opposed this provision, and contributed to increased divisiveness between guest workers and the indigenous peoples of the Commonwealth. We recommend that the provision be eliminated from H.R.3079.

Originally, the CNMI was given control over immigration because it was thought that the CNMI would want to keep the number of alien workers lower than would be allowed by US immigration, as a means of protecting the small, indigenous populations' cultures and social fabric.

But the CNMI decided a better way was to bring in lots of foreign workers and just keep them powerless.

So, we want alien workers, but we don't want them to have rights to permanent residency, and we especially don't want them to have any political power. But trust the CNMI to be the one to protect them?

Exactly what kind of protection does the Governor have in mind?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

332. Cupcakes and Commerce

Click title for full story on cupcakes...

and watch here for commerce...

331. Kilili's First Bills: H.R. 934 and H.R. 935

Our new delegate, Gregoria (Kilili) Sablan, has introduced his first two bills into the US Congress. I'm very glad they are simple, direct, needed and fair pieces of legislation.

The 3-mile EEZ proposal (H.R. 934) would put the CNMI on par with most other coastal states. The CNMI has turned down the 3-mile EEZ before, when litigating for the entire 200 mile EEZ. Kilili's statements in support are more humble than the CNMI's prior stances. I'm glad to see him saying we need to get something, and then we need to join other coastal states and argue that all of us should have larger areas of control.

The proposal (H.R. 935) to increase the number of CNMI nominations to service academies is also modest--to give the CNMI and America Samoa the same rights as other states.

I like these two bills. I like that they are designed to align us with the rest of the states and territories. I like that they address issues of fairness and equality. I like that they introduce us as reasonable, responsible, and careful--not strident, not reckless, not seeking political ends as much as due consideration and fair treatment.

I also like that Kilili is working with others. He's started building the natural alliances, the easy alliances with Guam and American Samoa. He's taking small steps, in the right direction.

To me, this is a good way to start, a good way to approach the awesome power and responsibility of being part of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Friday, February 13, 2009

330. Still Need a Commerce Secretary...

Judd Gregg has withdrawn from the nomination for Commerce Secretary.

You can watch a news video on this from the Huffington Post.

I'm not too sad about the news. You can see my concerns, expressed in my earlier post on the nomination.

Thanks to Ken for the news.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

329. Impeach the Lieutenant Governor

I know. It's too late. Our Legislature has voted against such action.

But just as an exercise in futility, I've got opinions about this subject.

I wrote a response, hopefully informative, to the letter written by "Cristy Sablan of San Antonio," and my full response is posted at the Day In Court blog.

I'm frustrated by the ignorance of our Constitution and the willingness of people like Ms. Cristy Sablan to spout off nonsense, well, more aptly non-sequiturs, as if they were some logical argument against impeachment. Better if she simply said she likes the Lieutenant Governor and doesn't want to see him impeached.

But Ms. Cristy Sablan is presumably an ordinary citizen, so her failure to grasp the finer points may be excusable. (I don't know her and am not attacking her personally, just her expressed "argument" against impeachment.) Her confusion should not confuse the rest of us. So I deal with that in a nice manner, with legal cites and information to clear the air.

But I have more thoughts, less informational, more personal, more opinionated, that I'll ruminate on here.

What really frustrates and upsets me is the ignorance and LAME EXCUSES of our legislators.

LAME EXCUSE # innumerable--

Diego Benavente: "We will taint the trial."
Well, don't you think a lot of yourself. And don't you think very little of the voters who will be jurors. Do you really think we are incapable of understanding that there's a difference between criminal charges and the charges for impeachment? I have more faith in the ability of the average citizen to understand. I have more faith in our prosecutors and defense counsel to make sure the jurors grasp this distinction. Do you, as a Legislator, benefit from confusing and obfuscating issues and making sure the public really is as ignorant as you hope? Do you really think that what you do is so compelling that jurors are going to stop thinking, stop paying attention in a trial, and just follow your lead.

This fear that a Legislature doing what it should do to investigate an elected official for possible serious dereliction of duty and impeachable offenses is just bullshit. It's an excuse to keep on doing nothing.

LAME EXCUSE #beyond infinity--
Ralph Torres: “There's a reason why you're innocent until proven guilty,” said Rep. Ralph Torres. “Let's respect the Judicial Branch,” he said, adding that it's not a matter of turning away from the issue but respecting the system.
If you really respected the system, you'd know that what works in our government is EVERYONE doing their job. When our Legislators fail to do their job, we have a system that is not respected, not working.

As noted above, the judge, the prosecuting counsel, the defense counsel, and the jurors are very capable of understanding the finer issues, of thinking for themselves. Obviously, our Legislators have greater difficulty with this.

Tim Villagomez is innocent until proven guilty; but what does that have to do with whether the Legislature will take up the matter of impeachable offenses? He can still be guilty of impeachable offenses to the standard the Legislature uses and be found not-guilty beyond a reasonable doubt on the criminal charges. He could be guilty in both places. He could be not guilty of everything.

But Legislators CANNOT and SHOULD NOT abdicate their jobs to let the feds and the judicial system do all the heavy lifting. This is Lame Excuse nonsense, and simply put--cowardice.

LAME EXCUSE # same-old,same-old--
Joseph Deleon Guerrero: "Deleon Guerrero said he realizes that if the situation occurred in the States, the Legislature would more than likely proceed with such an investigation.

“I'm glad cultural sensitivities are still important,” he said. “It's not our culture to beat someone who is already down.”

Is it our culture to turn a blind-eye to wrong-doing by elected officials? If it is, perhaps we need to change our culture.

Is it our culture to never criticize someone accused of a crime? I hadn't noticed that when the criminal is poor, so perhaps our culture just employs a double-standard? Do we want that?

Is it our culture to consider that doing your job as a Legislator who investigates wrong-doing is "beating" someone up? If our Legislators are too timid to stand up for what is right, why did they take their jobs?

I realize that there are cultural issues that lurk beneath the surface of many things here. But I also believe that we do a disservice to real cultural issues when we use this word to cloak every decision we make.

So from my p.o.v., this is another LAME EXCUSE.

In the CNMI, in Saipan, we know people. It always seems "personal" when we talk about matters that involve real people. But we can move beyond this by thinking of principals, by examining things from a more philosophical point of view.

If our CNMI Legislators are not going to investigate an elected official for possible impeachment when federal authorities have obtained felony indictments against him for crimes that relate to honesty and integrity in office, when exactly will they think something is bad enough to investigate for impeachment?

Tim Villagomez exits federal court. Photo from Wendy's blog.

If Tim Villagomez is found guilty, will they then not want to impeach because he's going to jail anyway?

Where is the line?

We need a line.

We need a Legislature that does its work and stops making lame excuses.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

328. Fiscal Matters

Today's headline is that Governor Fitial vetoed the budget again. Of course he did--it doesn't give him what he wants. He wants unlimited reprogramming authority. He wants austerity Fridays. He wants as little oversight as possible and as much power in his hands as he can get.

The current situation gives him room to maneuver. He can claim severe economic crisis to deny those he doesn't like, and still pay huge attorney fees for a federalization lawsuit, manage subsidies for "volunteers" and do other perky things.

A real budget, backed by a legislature doing its job and keeping tabs on how the money is spent, could be a set-back.

Will our Legislature have the intelligence and back-bone to override Governor Fitial's veto? Senator Frica Pangelinan seems supportive of an override. Her comments shed light on some issues and help decode some of the political statements--the Legislature's budget does make cuts, but in a more thoughtful way, a more specific way, than across the board austerity Fridays.

Representative Tina Sablan seems ready, too. Her comments point to the hypocrisy of the current situation, where some agencies continue to have fluff jobs at an endless rate of growth, for friends of the governor.

But this Legislature contains many of the same men who have failed to protect our resources, have failed to pass a budget for several years, have failed to find a way to stave off the spread of third-world conditions here.

This is the same Legislature that failed to override the veto in January 2009.
Voting against the override in January 2009:

David M. Apatang
Oscar Babauta
Joseph James N. Camacho
Francisco Dela Cruz
Raymond D. Palacios
Justo S. Quitugua
Ramon A. Tebuteb
Stanley Torres

And not voting (absent)
Edwin P. Aldan
Victor Hocog

You can verify the list at J.J. Camacho's website--just look for the override vote on HB-16-169.

We need to AT LEAST take one step at a time, in the right direction. We need to do what is right.

I applaud the Saipan Tribune for its daily front page ticker on how long we've gone without a budget. I applaud the 10 Representatives who voted to override the veto last month. I applaud the Senators who speak out on the issue.

This is a very important issue. We need a budget. We need a budget. We need a budget.

We need our Legislature to override the Governor's veto, if that's what it takes to get a budget. And that is what it takes. Otherwise, the "budget" the Governor wants is nothing more than carte blanche-not a budget but a free rein.

Some of our elected leaders are making noises that they may actually override the veto this time. But of course, others still want to support our Governor! What about supporting the people? What about doing what is right? What about having some guts?

I agree (for once) with the comments by Heinz Hofschneider. We need a budget more than we need endless debate on the benefits and detriments of austerity Fridays.

Override the veto.

(And if you want to fix the US budget problems at the same time, try this budget game and learn something, too.

Friday, February 6, 2009

327. Learning About

Dr. James R. Hein will give a talk at PIC this Sunday, according to the Saipan Tribune.

Photo from USGS.

He's coming at the invitation of our Governor and will talk about ocean mining, so I was skeptical. However, he has an impressive resume.

He's also given similar talks in other venues, to positive reviews.

(I also like that his bio photo has him wearing a plain white tee shirt.)

This seems like a good chance to hear some real science and learn about more about our ocean.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

326. Obama's Nomination for Secretary of Commerce

Well, the reports were wrong. Not John Thompson or Padrasmee Warrior, but Judd Gregg.

Photo from Getty Images

I don't like this nomination much myself. He's got a poor track record on environmental issues, and scores a puny 43% approval rating from the League of Conservation Voters 2006 scorecard. The LCV is fairly middle-of-the-road among environmentalists. For example, they approved the nomination of Ken Salazar for Department of Interior Secretary (after giving him only a 71% approval rating on his 2006 scorecard) while many wilderness organizations were disappointed. If the League gives a poor approval rating, there are definitely reasons to be concerned.

Gregg is a staunch Republican and as a U.S. Senator, has voted more than 77% of the time with the Republicans.

No doubt, President Obama selected him to undermine Republican opposition to his economic policies. But on the environmental front, it looks bad.

On January 8, 2009, he co-sponsored a bill with Senator Inouye about acquiring coastal resources to "protect them" and after a quick glance at the bill, I think it seems fine. But Senator Inouye is strongly aligned with Wespac, and I wonder if I'm missing something! I hope that someone with more knowledge will comment on this.

And this is likely to be our new Commerce Secretary, the one who will have some important voice in the creation of our Monument plan, starting with having to approve nominations to the advisory council.

He, himself, once tried to kill the Commerce Department, voting for its abolishment in 1995, according to this article. It doesn't seem like he would be all that chuffed about our Governor nominating Wespac-influenced opponents of the Monument to the new Monument Advisory Council.

And if all that weren't enough to cause concern, Wendy notes in her recent blog post that Kevin Koonce, one of the men somewhat ensnared in the Abramoff scandal net, worked as Legislative director for him at one point.

Monday, February 2, 2009

My Most Recent Book Review Column

The Marianas Variety has now posted my most recent book review column on-line. You can read it here. It's about "old world authors" in a new world of reading. And it will only be posted about one week, so if you missed it in Friday's hardcopy newspaper, you might want to read it here while it's available.

I review J.K. Rowling's TALES OF BEEDLE THE BARD

and Kevin Brooks' THE ROAD OF THE DEAD.