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.