Friday, November 12, 2010

Zombie Prom

We've had some spectacular rainbows, and rainbow mist. I've been sick with flu for 2 weeks--seesawing between abject misery and mere fatigue.

Monday, October 11, 2010

From the North Star

I read this "viewpoint" in the North Star (the CNMI's catholic newspaper), published 10/10/2010. At first I thought it was written by someone in Saipan!

Then I hit the phrase "spending money on doughboys" and wondered if this was from the WWI era.

But no...from the bottom of the column, I learned it's from a 9/30/2010 Rhode Island Catholic newspaper. In Rhode Island,
"doughboy" is defined as "No relation to the Pillsbury softy, the Rhode Island doughboy is typically a big square of pizza dough that's deep-fried and dusted with sugar."

Change this phrase out to sashimi platters or cases of Bud, and the "viewpoint" hits home!

I've heard tell from various people about Jesus Borja campaigning at a funeral in Tinian and Juan N. Babauta at a recent funeral here in Saipan. I'm sure that the other candidates may be tempted to engage in this conduct, too.

I just wonder if any of the candidates actually read the North Star--and will have the decency to desist.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

No Budget-Essential Services

The relevant constitutional provision of our CNMI Constitution reads:

If a balanced budget is not approved (by the legislature) before the first day of the fiscal year, no money shall be drawn from the General Fund, provided that certain government services and employees shall remain available as provided by law, in order to deliver services essential to the health, safety, and welfare of the people of the Commonwealth and to protect against damage to and destruction of property.

The exact contours of this provision are now being tested by our current situation. And the limitations and protections of this provision seem to have already been stretched beyond reason and good sense in service of political motives.

1. The Saipan Tribune reports that Attorney General Ed Buckingham has used and is using public funds to hire a private attorney to represent him in the OPA investigation into his use of public office to support federal election (House of Representatives) candidate Joe Camacho. The hire of attorney G. Anthony Long occurred on September 17, 2010 --so predates the constitutional restriction on expenditures of public funds. But now the question becomes whether the continued services of Mr. Long can possibly be considered "essential services" during this government "shut-down." The answer seems obvious--NO! Legal services to cover Mr. Buckingham's ass in the investigation are not vital to "health, safety, and welfare OF THE PEOPLE."

No time that Mr. Long puts in from October 1, 2010 to the enactment of a budget should be billed to the public or paid for with public funds.

2. The Marianas Variety reports that Deputy Police Commissioner Ambrosio Ogumoro told DPS supervisors during work hours in a meeting to have their subordinate police officers bring food to a political gathering for US House candidate Joe Camacho. Almost worse than this political pressure is the report that police officers, while on duty, "delivered picnic tables, cut fish and helped in the preparation" for the political gathering.

Not only is it a violation of law for state government workers to aid in a federal election campaign as part of their state government work, we are in a SHUT-DOWN and only essential services are to be provided and paid for.

Helping on a political campaign is not essential service for the "health, safety, and welfare of the people of the Commonwealth."

We need a full investigation of both of these. We may need a lawsuit challenging expenditure of taxpayer funds in derogation of the Constitution. And for this, we need leaders to take the lead. They must step up and insist on behalf of all of us that the tyranny end; that our rights be protected; and that our government remain and return to democratic principles.

Friday, September 24, 2010

2010-Government Shutdown?

After several days of grey skies and rain, it's finally clearing. Hot and humid, as expected.

Although the weather is clearing from the dark skies, there is no light in the forecast for the political atmosphere.

The CNMI is facing a looming disaster--the shutdown of the government.

How did this happen?
Last November 2009, the voters passed an initiative HLI 16-11 to amend the Constitution. You can read some information about the original initiative at the MLSC Day In Court Blog. The pros and cons that were provided for voter education at the time are here.

But the best information is to read the actual HLI 16-11initiative that was approved by the voters. This shows the relevant language that was adopted into our Constitution, the language that is now the governing law of the CNMI.

This amendment requires a balanced budget by October 1 and, in its absence, prohibits funding government operations by continuing resolution. Rather, only "essential services" are to be funded until a balanced budget is passed. Those "essential services" are to be determined "by law." And the most telling provision is that the Legislators' salaries are to be suspended starting October 1 until they pass a balanced budget.

Who is responsible for this fiasco?
The initiative to amend the CNMI Constitution was introduced by Congressmen Diego T. Benavente, Joseph P. Deleon Guerrero, Edward T. Salas, and Ray Yumul.

I don't know who in the House voted for it, but it was passed by the House.
I don't know who in the Senate voted for it, but it was passed by the Senate.

And then it went to the people for a vote in the general election.
I don't know who voted for it among the general population; I only know I didn't vote for it. But it passed.

Why didn't our Legislators pass a balanced budget?
This of course is the big question.
The Legislative highlights on the Senate page was last updated 4/16/2010 (as of this writing) and it shows that Senator Pete Reyes had, by then, introduced a resolution SR 17-12 asking the Governor to convene an economic summit to avoid a government shut-down come October. I have no idea what happened to that resolution.

Other action at the time included a resolution to honor Bishop Tomas Camacho and opposing a proposed casino in Saipan.

The House website hasn't been updated since March 26, 2010 (as of this writing). Nothing on it even mentions budget concerns. There was, however, a standing committee report on a bill to amend the CNMI law about immigration. The report was adopted by the House.

On August 18, the House finally passed a budget bill--one that increased their discretionary spending while dishing out a 16 hour/payday cut to most other government workers. HB 17-96.

There was an instant uproar and silent protests. House Speaker Froilan Tenorio told the Senate it would be okay to change the budget if they increased his leadership account. He also urged them to pass the casino legislation.

On September 6, the Senate voted a budget that amended the House version--cutting discretionary spending and restoring 8 hours of the regular workday to government employees.

On September 14, the House rejected the Senate's amendments of the budget bill.

The House and Senate picked their respective teams for a conference committee, with just 10 days left to resolve the budget crisis. But the Senate walked out of the conference committee efforts because the House negotiating team is insisting on using the need for a budget to get the Senate to approve the casino legislation. They Senate is willing to reconvene, with 5 days left before October 1, provided the House returns in good faith, takes casino legislation off the table, and agrees to open the sessions to the public.

From all of this, I conclude:
1. The House delayed passing a bill until it was very late. The fact that the budget bill is the 96th bill introduced, instead of the first, shows that the House does not have its priorities in order.

2. The House leadership is pushing for casinos in Saipan. They don't care about a balanced budget. They don't care if the people suffer. Someone wants to get some graft and kickback into their pocket. Even the provision to up their discretionary funds and the demand to increase the leadership account are plain abuse of fiscal responsibility. It's all about corruption and greed.

3. The Senate is trying to do the right thing. They have been paying attention, even though appropriation bills must originate in the House. But they can't do it alone.

We're not going to have a budget anytime soon.

So what happens now?

The government operations can only pay for "essential services" as those have been determined by law. Although the Governor wants to be "the law" it seems that the Constitution actually calls for law in the usual sense. So the bill passed by the Senate defining what is "essential services" is another step in the right direction. A House bill has also been introduced, but no action taken on it. Given how irresponsible the House has been in the budget process, it doesn't seem likely it will be be enacted. The Speaker Lang Tenorio is noncommital on the proposals about "essential services", meaning nothing is going to happen.

Another thing about the effect of the constitution, neither the House nor the Senate members should get any salary at all after October 1 until a budget is passed. The Constitution suspends payment to them. Even if they declare themselves "essential services" they can't override the Constitution. It is clear:

"...if the Legislature does not pass a balanced budget by October 1st, the Legislators' salaries shall be suspended until such time that a balanced budget is passed by the Legislature."

This is small comfort to all of the people who will be out of work and without pay. The House and Senate members deserve the lack of payment; no one else does.

What can we do?
It's not too late for the people to do something. We can't write and pass the budget ourselves, but we can demand that our representatives do their jobs.

It is far more responsible to have only 8 hour cuts for workers and reduced discretionary funds for the Legislators than to have 16 hour cuts for workers and an INCREASE in discretionary funds for these politicians.

So: Tell your House members to come to their senses and agree to the Senate amendments. Call them at work; call them at home; visit them personally. Put the pressure on.

Or else, come October 1, it will be a difficult start to FY 2012 for all of us.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Stories from Wild Bill's

WANTED: Writers from the Northern Mariana Islands

Saipan, CNMI – A quartet of local writers from the Northern Mariana Islands is accepting submissions for an upcoming anthology of local writers they are tentatively calling Stories from Wild Bills Cafe: Life, Love and Spicy Tofu in the Northern Mariana Islands.

“A number of local writers have been throwing around an idea to create a compilation of local work for years now,” said Angelo O’Connor Villagomez. “A group of us have been meeting together over spicy tofu and chiliburgers at Wild Bills these last few months and we’ve finally decided to put it together.”

When asked how long the anthology would be and how many writers would be included, Villagomez said that the book would be “about 200 pages, which will probably fit about 15 -20 writers.”

The editors of Wild Bills Café are Jane Mack, Joe Race, Jaime Vergara, and Villagomez.

The inspiration for the name of the anthology comes from Wild Bills Café on Beach Road in Garapan.

“I talked to the owner Bill about the name, and he’s allowing us to use it,” explained Race, a local novelist and former police officer. “Our idea is to focus the attention on a physical place to ground all the stories.”

Race also said that the book would promote the Northern Mariana Islands and might even turn Wild Bills into a destination for tourists, readers, and writers.

“Saipan, Tinian and Rota are home to several dozen newspaper reporters, bloggers, novelists, poets and amateur writers,” said Mack, a novelist and lawyer. “There are also a number of writers from the Northern Mariana Islands living and working abroad, but who write about home. These are the people we want to include in this first edition of Wild Bills.”

Writers interested in submitting work for the anthology can contact the editors at Submission guidelines are available upon request. Writers whose work is chosen for submission will receive two (2) copies of Stories from Wild Bills Café.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Student Auditions

This is a reminder to all students in grades 6 through 12 about auditions for ZOMBIE PROM!!!

Directors (including assistants and stage manager): audition/sign up TODAY 9/9/2010 from 4 to 6 PM at MHS D 101.

Actors (actresses): audition on Tuesday, 9/14 or Thursday 9/16 from 4 to 6 PM at MHS D 101.

Techies (includes everything from set and costume to SFX and performance crew): sign up Tuesday, 9/14 or Thursday 9/16 from 4 to 6 PM at MHS D 101.

Marketing (promotion, sales, programs): sign up Tuesday, 9/14 or Thursday 9/16 from 4 to 6 PM at MHS D 101.

Musicians (we need a rock band!!!): pick up audition sheet music Tuesday, 9/14 from 4 to 6 PM at MHS D 101. Audition (indivually or as a band) on Thursday, 9/16 from 6 to 8 PM.

Join the fun!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Approaching the CNMI's Problems

Hot days. A rainbow this morning in the western sky. A few scattered sulphur butterflies. And a travesty of cut-down trees along Beach Road at MHS. (sigh)

The CNMI is in a deep, deep rut. We are facing payless paydays of government employees. The private sector is eating dirt and unable to even get to its knees. And the mood in the communities is bleak.

We have technological problems with water, sewer and utilities. We have a community college on academic probation and facing revocation of its accreditation again. We have a retirement system that has lost millions of dollars and given away perks and double dipping benefits and now can't pay its obligations to its members.

We have increasing crime but a criminal justice system that is riddled with flaws--police who forget about the use of warrants, prosecutors who fail to work with the police to get the evidence and then lose cases, worse yet--settle for puny crimes and miniscule sentences unrelated to the real crime, and worst--dismiss cases or face the court's dismissals instead of prosecuting them.

We have extreme and serious problems and no workable solutions on the table.

Our re-tread legislators peddle the same tired proposals--1) casinos (which have not brought prosperity to Tinian in a decade of operation; have already cost us money in Rota without profit); 2) hitting businesses for more (taking away qualifying certificates, increasing fees); or 3) begging for help from the Federal government, while we continue to strut and profess our indigenous rights and refuse to cooperate with them on immigration and federal enforcement of drug laws.

Most people in the community are impatient and only want money in their pockets (or as Zaldy Dandan reported earlier-the only kind of change people are interested in is the kind that jingles in their pocket).

So if and when elected officials "look" for solutions, they look for short-term, immediate "fixes" which do not address the underlying problems and only tend to delay and worsen the situation. Pension-obligation-bonds are an example. The idea is that we will borrow to "fix" the debt we owe...

Finding long-term solutions means examining what we've done wrong. Some people in the community view this analysis as "unpatriotic," meaning it's anti-CNMI. Others do not have the patience to sift through the details. Still others want to re-write the past and insist that known facts are actually something else. (For example denying the truth that the Department of Interior did consult with the Governor before issuing its report on alien labor.)

And unfortunately, long-term solutions provide no immediate remedy. The people vote out politicians (like Tina Sablan) looking for them, before such proposals can be put into effect or before their effect can be felt. And so we change course, losing ground in the process.

There is a solution. That solution: we need a shared vision of how to approach the problems.

We have spent so much time on thinking of where we want to go, and then we end up arguing about how to get there.

Instead, we need to focus on how we want to act; how we want to build our community; how we think we should engage with one another. We need an ETHIC, a shared ethic.

And that ethic must be based on moral values that support our cultures, all of them in their varied beauty.

We must find the Community Ethic that can nourish all of us, without placing any of us at the expense of others. We are in the same boat, and we will sink together unless we work together to save ourselves. Throwing some off the boat is not going to keep the boat from sinking. Obeying a captain who will share what little wealth is left with only his loyal followers is not going to keep the boat from sinking. Hoping for a miracle is not going to keep the boat from sinking.

God helps those who help themselves. And it is time we help ourselves.

My recommendations for our ethic:
We need an ethic that promotes industry, meaning work. There is value in labor. We need to promote this. We cannot promote the benefits of hard work if we cling to the notion of hand-outs, the gamble, the luck of the draw.

How this ethic might look applied to some of the issues we have before us: Casinos should be out because they promote the idea of easy winnings. Discretionary funds for politicians should be out because they are unrelated to work. Borrowing money (pension obligation bonds) should be off the table because we haven't yet tried to earn our way out of our problems. Immigration benefits should be handed out to those who worked a long time or are working now, but denied to those who got here, did little, and now are hoping for the lucky ticket. ALL government jobs should be civil service--based on competence and merit as demonstrated by competitive exams--and protected from political hiring and firing.

A work ethic includes getting paid on time. It includes a fair wage for work done, commensurate with the skill and level of the work. It includes reasonable profit for businesses and rational restrictions, taxes, and licensing.

A work ethic could re-balance the CNMI and keep the ship afloat.

Another possible ethic: Our ethic could be environmental harmony. We live in a beautiful place. The natural environment is our precious resource. Wasting or harming it is counter-productive to our own physical, psychological and emotional health. We ourselves must insist that everything we do is good for where we live.

We can do simple things like keeping our own yards and streets clean. (and yes--I have room for improvement here myself!) We can learn from Tinian and Rota and look to our elders who were especially neat and clean and handy with a broom. We can be grateful for the end to personal maids because it led us to be lazy about our own efforts at keeping our environment clean. We can return to our roots and make our environment cleaner.

At a local government level, there are many things we can insist on. Kill the rats. Amp up our Zoning Board to focus on environmental concerns and don't license what disturbs the beauty and calm of our islands. Insist that cars and buses have proper mufflers and stop spewing pollution into the air. And thank our current Saipan mayor for properly addressing the dead animal problem we had endured for years.

Our ocean is our legacy. We need to insist that everyone obey the fishing restrictions and respect protected areas. We need to reward the efforts of those in the community who are cleaning up our litter. We need to stop tour guides from encouraging our visitors to disobey regulations like feeding fish at Managaha.

We also should be promoting conservation and working with those outside the CNMI who do so, including federal agencies. We need to push for more action on the Marine Monument. We need to create a co-managed sanctuary with NOAA to get their education and other benefits here.

With an environmental ethic, we can build on programs in our community like CREES, and encourage our students to study science. We can promote eco-tourism and demote ideas like casinos. We can develop green business ventures. There is potential to save us from shipwreck and live in harmony with the world about us.

There are other worthy ethics we could embrace. Kilili has been touting the value of education and critical thinking--critical meaning careful evaluation and judgment, not carping and negativism. (To my knowledge, he's the only political leader in generations who has approached our problems with a stated goal for a community ethic.)

This is a good value and one that could be a worthy Community Ethic. A commitment to education as an ethic can include promoting vocational education (and work); it can strengthen our basic institutions with reliance on facts and information; it can replace politics with reason. There is a chance to repair our ship with learning and knowledge.

Whatever ethic we choose, our ethic should direct us, and come before politics and greed and personal agendas.

Family ties
In the past, we have confused politics with our love of our family. Strong family loyalty and the ties of kinship are also an ethic. But we have gotten confused by this ethic. We have embraced teen pregnancies in the name of family, when this is not good for our teen children who are having babies or for the babies born to them. We have allowed our little children to stand on street corners and beg for money in the name of family--for politicians, for school organizations, for personal needs. We have overspent our personal budgets, digging ourselves into debt in the name of family obligations from funerals to birthdays. We have turned a blind eye to nepotism in government jobs because of our acceptance of "family first." We have even called on family to give us jobs, expecting ties of kinship to overbalance other considerations like education, experience, competence. We have voted family members into political office despite their poor past performances and lack of leadership skills. When we have so twisted our value in family that our practice no longer actually serves the benefit of the family, we are doing something wrong.

And our community is now in peril because we have failed to think through our actions and decisions. We have brought ourselves to this mess.

We need to re-think our ethic when it comes to family and how we practice this ethic. Family is an important value in our society and one that underlies all cultures. We should work for our families, but not at the expense of other values. We should ensure our children's safety and education. We should share our religious beliefs with our children and families. We should protect and enjoy our family units. But we should not distort our loyalty to family into a corruption that destroys our other ethics to hard work, the environment, education, and other worthy ethics like honesty and mutual respect.

In this time of strife and difficulty, we need to think harder. We need to decide. We need--not a plan of action, but--a shared value of HOW we want to build our future. And then we need to begin by letting those values and ethics direct our choices.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Pension Obligation Bonds --HLI 17-1

The proposed amendments to our CNMI Constitution includes HLI 17-1, to allow Pension Obligation Bonds (POBs).

I've written a fairly neutral evaluation of the proposal, posted it at MLSC's Day In Court Blog.

Having started my study of the subject with no pre-conceived notions and being open to the proposal, I'm surprised that I am now completely opposed to this amendment.

I've read a lot of what Bill Stewart has written on POBs and on the NMI Retirement Fund. I've also read news articles by proponents and checked a bit on other jurisdictions that use these.

THE NMIRF: I feel for the retirees and those still working but in the retirement system who have actually worked hard and given good service to the CNMI. They are at risk of losing their retirement because of the mismanagement of the Fund. Whether you blame the Fund managers directly or the Legislature for its faulty design of the system, or the Executive branch and autonomous agencies that have failed to pay their contributions as mandated by law, it's clear that the Fund is not adequate for the purpose of pensions for all those who are in the system--part of the DEFINED BENEFIT PLAN (DBP).

The problem will be limited in time, however, because new hires of the CNMI government are not in the system. They are now essentially on their own, with the option to create their own IRAs. Eventually, the last member of the NMIRF Defined Benefit Plan will die and the pension system will cease to exist.

In the meantime, however, the unfunded portion of the NMIRF's liability to its members can grow because some are still working for the government. As the government continues to fail to pay all that is needed to cover its contributions for such workers, the unfunded gap widens. As events cause inflation and other problems, the unfunded gap can widen. If the Fund loses on its market investments, the unfunded liability can grow. Even the miscalculation on the estimates of the liability--if retirees live longer than expected, for example--can mean the unfunded liability will grow.

The need to address this situation for those CNMI employees who have already retired as well as those still in the pipeline is critical. While there are and have been do-nothing employees who have gotten the benefits of the NMIRF, there are real people who have done their civil service honorably, too. The fiscal soundness of the NMIRF is important to each of these workers for their future. It is important to the CNMI for its integrity.

Nothing in my opposition to the proposed constitutional amendment denies my recognition of the importance of the CNMI in meeting its obligation to its retirees.

Pension Obligation Bonds: The problems I have with the POBs is that I think the benefits from POBs are significantly less than the costs. They will not fix the retirement fund problem completely, but they could bring the CNMI to the brink of bankruptcy and most certainly would weigh down the next two or three generations with staggering debt.

The proposal bandied about says $200million in POBs, but the constitutional amendment imposes no such limit. Anyway, the $200million figure would leave about 25% of the NMIRF liability still unfunded. And the pressure to use POBs for the rest would be great.

While the amount of the unfunded liability can be estimated right now, it can also grow. But more significantly, the constituitional amendment is written in terms of what the CNMI owes the NMIRF (not the real "unfunded liaibility" which is what the NMIRF owes its DBP members). There is no ceiling on what that debt can become. If the CNMI fails to pay again and again, that debt rises; and then there can be greater amounts of POBs. And the CNMI will owe so much on the POBs, and nothing will be protected.

In balancing the needs and rights of the retirees with the needs and rights of future taxpayers of the CNMI, I just can't support the POBs.

I can't trust either our Government or the NMIRF to be fiscally responsible with a tool as dangerous and powerful as Pension Obligation Bonds when the past shows that both have been reckless and irresponsible with basic powers.

Even now, the Legislature keeps offering perks to retirees like double-dipping and early withdrawal without penalty. They have an interest themselves, as they want to get these benefits.

No--our children will already have to face the debts created by the government and NMIRF. If the Legislature thinks the POBs are a solution, they will do nothing to change. And the problem will not only continue, it will get worse, especially when we can't pay the obligation on the POBs.

We don't need to make our CNMI fiscal problems worse by borrowing money that MUST be paid back ON TIME. We aren't going to successfully borrow our way out of the NMIRF debt.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

November 2010 Election

I'm passing on the following informative message (below) from our current representative to the US Congress, Gregorio (Kilili) Sablan.

Besides the election for his position, there are also three CNMI Constitutional amendments on the ballot. You can get some information about them from the MLSC blog, Day In Court. They are HLI 16-13, HLI 16-18, and HLI 17-1 (post pending).

On Tuesday, November 2 the people of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands elect their Delegate to the United States House of Representatives. It is an important election you should not miss.


Exercise your right to vote. Here’s how:

You are a registered voter if your name is in the voter list of the Commonwealth Election Commission. Click here.

Absentee Ballot
If you are registered voter who resides outside the Commonwealth, you must apply for an absentee voter ballot. Download the application form here. Then mail the completed form to:

The Commonwealth Election Commission
P.O. Box 500470

Saipan, MP 96950-0470

There is NO need to notarize your completed form. Your ballot will be mailed to you. This is important: Be sure your application includes the address where you want to receive your ballot. The ballot cannot be forwarded to another address; and the Election Commission cannot provide a replacement ballot if you change the address you put on your application.

You must be registered to vote; and voter registration ends September 3, 2010. If you have never registered or did not vote in the last election, you need to register. On Saipan go to the Commonwealth Election Commission in Susupe (formerly the U.S. Passport Office). Bring a copy of your birth certificate, current United States passport, or naturalization documents. The Election office is open Monday to Friday, from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. and from 12:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. Click here to download the Affidavit on Application for Voter Registration.

On Rota register with Ms. Lelanie I. Manglona or Ms. Josepha A. Barcinas. Tinian residents may register with Mr. Jose P. Kiyoshi or Mr. Donald M. Hofschneider. Residents of the Northern Islands register by contacting the Election Commission via the government radios maintained by EMO.

To register you must:

1. Be at least 18 years old on or before November 2, 2010;
2. Be domiciled in the Commonwealth;
3. Have resided in the Commonwealth for 120 days prior to the day of the election;
4. Not be serving a sentence for a felony conviction;
5. Not have been declared by a court to be judicially insane; and
6. Be either a citizen or national of the United States as defined in the Northern Mariana Islands Constitution.

For more information contact the Election Commission at 670-664-VOTE(8683) or

Remember: let your choice be counted.

Thanks, Kilili, for the clear and timely information.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Student Contest-Marine Protection

More details and contest rules are available through the Saipan Tribune's article here.

You can learn about the education and protection efforts of Guam Coastal Management Program at their environmental education website.

Monday, July 26, 2010

CNMI's Sex Offender Registry

The CNMI's Sex Offender Registry is now on-line. To get to a listing of sex offenders in Saipan, you take these steps:

1. agree to the terms of use
2. click on geographic search
3. type in the verification code that appears
4. in the geographic search area type in zip code (96950 for Saipan; 96951 for Tinian, 96952 for Rota) and click on the button to show within zip code
5. presto-a listing appears

I would encourage everyone in the CNMI to check out the listing.

If you are a parent, watch out yourself and show these to your children who may be vulnerable (provided they are mature enough to understand).

If you are dating, avoid these men. [I know-perhaps there is a gem in there who has recovered, but... We haven't yet learned how to address sexual offenders--we don't know the causes of their problematic conduct; we have limited-to-no success with rehabilitation; we see a lot of recidivism among this category of criminal offender. And sometimes there are years between episodes of criminal conduct.]

If you are a teacher, care-giver, concerned citizen, member of this community--watch and pay attention.

It's good we finally have a listing and some photos to go with it, and some publicity about this development. It isn't perfect--there are listings without photos; lots of listings where the criminal offense is missing [Hattori, Hernandez, Ikesil, Ilisari, Kaipat, Kosam, LImes, Lizama, Omar, Rabauliman, Reklai, Rios, Marce Romolor, JR Sablan, Santos, Sikyang, Taisacan, Taivero, Tamag, Tarkong, Valdez, Wisewell, Yamut). In the geographic search, Bamba shows up on the Saipan list, but he's in San Jose, Tinian; Iano an dAtalig show up on the Tinian list, but they're in Rota. --Kinks in the data input.

Some of the offenders are listed as "absconded"--meaning they have failed to register and there present whereabouts are unknown. They could be here or have left.

No doubt, also, there are other sexual predators who are not on this list, so there is no room for complacency.

Still, we are making progress in protecting our community and this on-line listing is one step in the right direction.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Liberation Day Parade

I've lived in Saipan for more than 25 years, and I've been to approximately three Liberation Day parades, before today. I don't much like crowds and heat, and the 4th of July festivities usually involve both. Today, I went to support Anna Rose and the rest of the Saipan members of the Pride of the Pacific marching band. Anna Rose plays trombone in the SSHS Manta Ray Band (advanced band 1).

The parade hasn't changed much in the 25 years since I've been here. There is still a shanty-town of plywood booths for the "festival" across the way. There is the temporary parade stand (elevated platform resting on old barrels) in bunting (typically plastic now, rather than palm and pandanus). The police lead off with motorcycles, a color guard and cadets. But there is no longer a bull pulling an oxcart.

This photo by Junhan Todeno, Marianas Variety

This summer, students from all levels of the Manta band, including those already graduated from school and now "former" members, and musicians from the Pacific Winds joined forces with Guam musicians to create an ad hoc band to march in the parade. Approximately 25 musicians from Saipan participated in the parade performance, including Atsuko Eck (on the small saxophone), who blended in with the students!

Ten musicians (all students, I think) came from Guam, along with Jayke Mafnas (Guam Territorial Band leader, UOG music major and marching band guru, drum majorette, etc.). Will DeWitt of SSHS and Max Ronquillo of Guam's George Washington High School directed the music preparation.

The musicians marched along beach road in the parade route from Saipan Office Supply to Kristo Rai Church. It rained at 10 AM, the parade scheduled start time. Then the sum came out and created a scorching steam bath from the water just dumped by the passing clouds. It was hot!

The band sounded great. When they got to the shaded platform for dignitaries and did their little special marching drill and playing, they maintained their formations, kept beat, and just did a great job.

Afterwards, they posed for some photos, cooled off in the shade and drank a ton of water.

The performance was the first time a "home-grown" marching band has performed in the Saipan Liberation Day parade.

They had learned their marching drills in about 3 days time--working from 7:30 AM to 6:30 PM, practicing their formations at the SSHS parking lot.

I'm reallly glad Anna Rose and the other students had the chance to do this. Thanks to Will deWitt, Max Ronquillo, and especially Jayke Mafnas for working with our students on this new endeavor.

And back at the parade grounds--I didn't stay for the rest. I had seen the color guard, the police cadets, and the JROTC. The Neighborhood Watch, in their green shirts, followed the band, and were waiting to get into the shade. As I was leaving, I heard the Falun Dafa group, with their gongs and music. But it was hot, so I headed for some air conditioning and a nice, tall glass of iced tea.

Happy Liberation Day. And happy Fourth of July.

EDIT/ADDENDUM: A big thank you, dangkolo si yuuse maase, ghilisou, to the Beautify CNMI team who cleaned up.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

A Need To Know

Freshening breezes and some real rain (a downpour Sunday night/Monday morning and some passing cloudbursts since). Could be the approach of rainy season.

With the arrest of Angel Jess Santos, one of the alleged perpetrators of the rape of the Kagman girl, there's been a demand for more information, more accountability on what's being done by law enforcement here in Saipan. The other two alleged perpetrators remain at large. We have heard nothing yet on arrests for the rape of the girl in CK. We are waiting on other cases, too.

There is no internet access to the names on the sex offender registry; DPS only posts general information about this supposed enforcement tool. Wendy discusses the need for this to be made public and available to all in a recent blog post. We should be demanding better response from our DPS on this.

Without the registry, it's hard for the public to keep track.

This would be an excellent topic for a series of articles by the newspapers. They could list the names of all arrested for sex abuse, sexual molestation, statutory rape, rape and assaults with intent to molest or rape--by year, giving the charges made. They could let us know who was convicted, what cases are still pending, and what cases are over without convictions. They could let us know if cases were mishandled or dropped or dismissed. They could do a study of sentences handed out to those convicted. They could tell us who's still in jail and who is out--and what role parole played in the release of sex offenders. They could focus on sex abuse of minors. Or they could feature different types of sex abuse each day. We've got plenty to go around here in Saipan.

They could talk with experts about what parents and teachers should do to teach their sons to respect girls and women; what they should do to help girls stay safe and demand the respect they are entitled to.

They could talk with CHC officials about what a victim may experience once at the hospital. And tell us if the rumors that there are no unexpired DNA kits in Saipan is true or not. Besides getting evidence and taking care of physical injuries, what help is available to the victim?

There's a good start on the names of Saipan's pedophiles and alleged perpetrators/pedophiles at the Isa Drive blog. It only included 52 names. In April 2009, DPS said they had 122 names on their sex offender registry.

But we need investigative journalism. The 4th estate is essential to preserve our liberty. And being able to be a child and be free from molestation, to be a teen and walk to and from school without being raped, these are are essential aspects of liberty.

If you start clicking on the names from Isa Drive's blog, you'll find many, many of them are reports of arrest; if you try to find out what happened (do a search on the newspaper archives, e.g.), you get nothing. The newspapers are reporting arrests, and not following up.

It also seems that Isa Drive's list omits some names including Angel Palacios, Salden Manuel and Daniel Johnny, Denmar Malabanan, Geoffrey K. Cabreraand Michael J. Dodd (although he's left the CNMI).

And another news report from 2007 told us about two sex offenders from Guam who moved to the CNMI and failed to register. This is why we need a sex offender's registry. We the public can't keep track. We don't know who was convicted; we don't know who is still here and who has left; we don't know who has moved here from elsewhere.

And we need to know. Before more bad things happen.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Free Thespian Showcase Tonight

FREE SHOW! Please come.

Besides the play, the Team CNMI Thespians will present their individual event pieces for their competitions in tonight's showcase.

(Nice write-up in the Variety.)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Bad News, Good News

Morning birdsong. The scent of plumeria in full bloom (just in time for graduation leis). Flame trees turning from orange to green.

Bad News: Another high school student assaulted. This time a teenaged girl on her way to morning classes at Kagman High School. I don't know the extent of the assault, except that the girl was taken to the hospital. Although this crime happened yesterday (Tuesday) morning, it was not on last night's news and is not reported in today's papers. My Kagman staff were discussing it this morning. One suspect was apparently brought in and released already. Another is being sought.

(EDIT: There is talk that the situation is like that of the girl in CK--a white pick-up truck, bashed on the head, raped. I haven't been able to verify.)

It's becoming extremely worrisome when teenaged girls are attacked in daylight near their schools, in public places.

It's also troublesome when the news isn't promptly reported.

(Thursday Edit: Now reported in the Marianas Variety and Saipan Tribune. Not much information released by the DPS, though.)

Good News: Also about students. Fifteen area students from grades 6 through 12 will once again be attending the International Thespian Festival at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. They will attend workshops and plays, participate in college and scholarship auditions, compete in individual events and stage their own one act production of Pullman Car Hiawatha by Thornton Wilder.

They will showcase the stage play and their individual competition pieces (which also include technical theatre presentations in costume design, scenic design, and film) Thursday, June 17 at 7 PM at the American Memorial Park auditorium. The community is invited to support these students by coming to watch. The show is free.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Out Sick

Mangoes and mangoes and mangoes and avocados, too. A hint of coolness in the morning air today, after stifling heat.

I've been too sick to think, much less post a blog entry. There's a cold (cough, congestion, exhaustion) going around Saipan. It seems wrong to get sick like this in Saipan, where it's warm and sunny year-round. Just wrong...

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Numbers 15:13

All the native-born shall make these offerings in the same way, whenever they present a sweet-smelling oblation to the Lord. Likewise, in any future generation, any alien residing with you permanently or for a time, who present a
sweet-smelling oblation to the Lord, shall do as you do. There is but one rule for you, and for the resident alien, a perpetual rule for all your descendents. Before the Lord, you and the alien are alike, with the same law and the same application of it for the alien residing among you as for yourselves.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Another Manta Band Concert

Slight mist this morning, and half-a-rainbow in the southwest sky.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Commitment to Citizenship

On Friday, May 21, the evening moon was a faint crescent low in the western sky. By Monday, May 24 it was a cheshire cat smile. There's a floral smell on the air--ylang ylang? The Flame Trees are not hinting now--they are screaming their brilliant oranges and reds and the island appears to be in flames. It's still dry and there are actual fires at times--one Friday night behind Price Costco; another more recently in Chalan Kiya with choking smoke blanketing the highways. And it's mango season. Tons of mangoes-ripening so quickly they're going to waste.


The discussions in the community, the rally, the comments on the Variety, and William H. Stewart's recent editorials in the Tribune have been mushing around in my brain. When I read Bill's first editorial part, I thought he might be headed where I have been going in my thinking. He's doing a great job and setting out important facts to consider in understanding the situation.

Bill Stewart's column is excellent reading.
Part 1,
Part 2,
Part 3,
Part 4,

Part 5 will likely be in Friday's edition.
Part 5

From part 1:
Now almost a quarter century after citizenship was bestowed upon qualified islanders by presidential order it should be kept in mind that at that time some people of the Northern Marianas, unlike other nationalities seeking U.S. citizenship, were not required to possess comprehensive knowledge of American history or appreciation of the principles of democracy as most Americans perceive them to be. Most foreigners seeking U.S. citizenship must study a variety of subjects related to American history, pass an examination, and swear an oath of allegiance. This was not required of the people of the Northern Marianas.


...It is probably safe to state that some people of the Northern Marianas did not clearly understand what they voted to support when the plebiscite was held in June 1975 to accept a negotiated Covenant with the United States. Certainly they were aware of some of the tangible benefits that would flow from the U. S. Treasury such as better health care, social security, educational assistance, etc.

However, there was probably little knowledge or appreciation of the extent of the full ramifications of an association with the American judicial system and the federal bureaucracy with its myriad of laws and regulatory agencies administering everything from environmental protection to occupational health and safety in the work place.

This is the take-off point for my thinking lately. When I first came to Saipan, I remember one Chamorro woman saying to me that now that she had electricity and a refrigerator, the Americans could leave. Her point of view at that time was that America was only supposed to be in the CNMI to provide support, but not for any other purpose. America was the great big free store, where you could go for what you wanted, and then leave when you got it. The NMI's relationship with the US has been colored by this type of perception.

Americans for the most part understand that citizenship is both a benefit and a commitment. In the states, there are populist movements against the federal government because it is huge and monolithic and reaches into private lives. These movements, however, are usually fringe efforts--like the unabomber and the cult movement of the extreme fundamentalist latter day saints. The current challenge by Arizona to the US on the immigration issue is also a bit of a fringe movement--although it is an entire state government, it is only one state of 50. (And note that Arizona's efforts cannot be seen as an indigenous rights movement, however. It's more like an Aryan brotherhood movement, like the Nazis. Stop and interrogate any brown person. It has gone so far as to outlaw ethnic studies, including studies of Native American cultures--the very people who are indigenous to the region.) Most American communities/states, large businesses, and a vast array of citizens have spoken against the Arizona laws. The commitment to the US Constitution and the core American value of equality is part of the bedrock of America--at times very imperfectly practiced, but still the goal.

The NMI population chose to become US citizens, too. Our local population has had no problem with some of the commitments of this citizenship. For example, CNMI young men register for the military and join voluntarily in great numbers proportionate to the population.

But our local population has not always embraced American values. It is confusing to understand these values, because the NMI negotiated for some important exceptions. We have an exception to American constitutional protections for trial by jury (although we have jury trials, we draw the line in a different place as to when the "right" is triggered). We have an exception regarding ownership of land. (Article XII limits long-term interests to US citizens of NMI descent only). We have an exception to the fundamental "one man, one vote" rule. (Our Senate is apportioned like the US Senate, but we only have 3 islands, and 2 have very small populations, so we have a guaranteed rule by the minority).

If these exceptions can exist within the American system, is it any wonder our local population does not embrace other values, values they would want an exception for as well. The most significant of these is equality. The local population wants to be top dog in the CNMI. They want to hold on to their hegemony. This is "their" place and as indigenous, they want not only "local government" but local government that secures to them the goods and benefits they want and denies to other people in the community those same things.

They want to have a foreign workforce legally present for decades; a labor force that can be paid extremely low wages; and one that can be permanently excluded from all political rights.

The CNMI Governor wants to have complete control over who is prosecuted, who is let out of jail, who is searched, who is free from search. He does not want federal law enforcement DEA to act on an indictment of a local police officer; he doesn't want federal officials to search incoming passengers; he wants to be told ahead of time when federal officials will arrest his driver. And it isn't only this governor. Before him, for example, our local governors didn't want the US auditing expenditures and taxes.

And what is misunderstood is how these actions, these goals violate American values.

When the CNMI opted for the Covenant, they opted not only for the benefits of association with the US but for the commitments to citizenship as well. And this is the rub. There is tension between the local way of thinking and of doing things and the American values embedded in our Constitution.

When our local population reached out to grab the brass ring of American citizenship, they may not have realized that it was only available with the entire package of commitments. The continuing undercurrent of discontent and malicious (and usually false) accusations against the US government all come back to that first decision. By choosing US citizenship, by choosing to have the US be sovereign (as is specifically stated in the Covenant), by accepting the application of much of the US Constitution and the process for legislation by US Congress over the CNMI, the local population here set its course. And now it is beginning to see that the course is not entirely or even mostly within their control. The CNMI is on board the US ship; it may be able to arrange its room however it wants, but the ship is going in the direction that the US decides.

I feel for those in the local community who find this scary and alarming. They don't want equality. They didn't realize what equality would mean. They didn't realize when they voted in the plebiscite that equality would mean the possibility existed of other "non-locals" out-voting them in their elections. They weren't prepared for the change. And now they don't accept the change.

They want to protect and favor their own population. They weren't prepared for the US to enforce laws against high-ranking locals; they rankle at the US enforcing its laws at all.

They think of what they have negotiated away--some of their island land; all of the submerged lands; control over so much. And they take the benefits for granted, an entitlement now. So all they can do is keep asking for more at the same time they complain about the federal government stepping on their rights.

There is a lesson in this for the foreign workers.

When I went to the rally in support of long-term status for the foreign workers here, I was disgusted with some of the things that happened. No one in the massive crowd sang the US national anthem except for the few US citizens. None of the wannabes bothered, perhaps didn't know the words, and didn't particularly show respect.

These foreign workers want to be granted status and some want to stay in the CNMI. Yet the CNMI national anthem performance was a sorry thing. I found it extremely offensive that the organizers did not provide the right music to the students who sang the CNMI national anthem (the version they provided had changing tempos and the students didn't know what to do); the organizers didn't know how or when to stop the music (and cut it off in mid point); and then the emcee was so ignorant he didn't realize that the Carolinian verse had already been sung (he said something like and now we'll have the Carolinian anthem). In fact the emcee was so ignorant he didn't realize that there is no "Carolinian anthem"--there is only one CNMI national anthem and it has verses in both Chamorro and Carolinian.

If our foreign workers want to be US citizens, they, too must come to realize that this is a commitment and not just a benefit. The foreign workers should start a dialogue with our local population so they don't also make the same mistakes and later regret it.

Because becoming a US citizen requires that you stop being a citizen of another place. (Edit: yes, I know about dual citizenship...) You can practice your religion freely. You can speak your language, but you will also have to learn English properly. You can eat your ethnic foods and wear your ethnic clothes. You can even hold to some of your ethnic beliefs and pride. But you will be expected to also adopt and practice some core American values.

For our foreign workers, you need to know that sexism will have to end. The male prerogative is allowed in the home, but not the workplace. Free-wheeling enterprise is restricted by a myriad of laws-from business licensing to tax filing to employment laws, etc. There are rules and laws about almost everything.

And you must also understand that your children will be more American than you are, and in a few generations they will hardly (if at all) identify with your country of origin and ethnicity.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

My Latest Letter to the Editor

It's May. The termites are swarming. ugh.

My latest letter appeared in both the Variety and Tribune today. I like the Tribune's formatting better, but the Variety allows comments.


What: “Yes to Improved Status” Unity Movement Motorcade & Assembly
When: Sunday, May 16, 2010 starting at 2:00pm
Where: From Kilili Beach to American Memorial Park
Who: All members of the community are invited
How: Wear White. Show up early (in your car, or ready to ride with someone else). No littering.
Why: To show support for the U.S. Secretary of Interior’s recommendations of long-term status for legal aliens who have resided in the CNMI for five years or more, and to urge U.S. Congress to act quickly on the recommendations.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

A bit of color

Just a few photos of the trees in the American Memorial Park parking lot. Beautiful blossoms and a beautiful day.

Let's hope the scene inside the AMP, a meeting about foreign workers' future status, will be just as pleasing in its own way.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Some Photos from NYC

The sky is opaque white-a mass of clouds. It's seems stifling today. There's a smell of smoke in Chalan Piao from the garment factory fires. The grass everywhere is wheat-colored and dry.

I've been swamped with work and not getting much else done. So I haven't attended to my blogging. Such is life.

Here are photos from the Manta Band in NYC-some taken by Anna Rose. All from Mr. Garrison's camera. Enjoy!