Saturday, January 30, 2010


Friday night at the Multi-Purpose Center saw an interesting blend of western and Asian cultures. The SSHS Manta Band performed. First the advanced band 1 played 2 pieces, Arirang and Caprice. Most of these students have been playing music for just 1 1/2 school years, yet their performance was enjoyable and enthusiastic.

Then the Manta advanced band 2 played 3 pieces. The first was a piece by John Chance that they will perform at Central Park in NYC this April. The other two, which will be played at Carnegie Hall in NYC in April, were more familiar--Invincible Eagle by John Phillip Sousa and a Duke Ellington piece.

Their performance was greeted with much applause from the crowd, which was sold out and standing room only (with people standing in the back!).

After a short break, the audience watched a group of Korean dancers drum and march; then a dance called "yard of drums;" and then three acts of a Korean dance/story. I loved the gongs in the first piece. The women drumming in the second piece were mesmerizing. And then the rest of the show was swirling skirts, graceful movement, strong rhythms and an enchanting, but slightly eerie music.

I couldn't help but realize how little I know culturally of this type of dance and I wonder how much I missed. But even from my very limited point of view, it was a beautiful and impressive performance.

When it was over the two groups exchanged greetings and offers of friendship and posed for many photographs.

Manta Band and Korean dancers.

The Korean dancers, who had arranged and scheduled the entire show, donated the proceeds to the Manta Band for their April Carnegie Hall trip.

Joseph Jang and Craig Garrison with the donations box.

The Korean Dance group also gave a $1,000 donation to the Manta Band. SSHS Principal Craig Garrison expressed thanks and was all smiles throughout the evening. The generous donation from Mr. Park and the entire Korean Dance group will be used for the Manta's Carnegie Hall trip.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Odds and Ends

Saturday--beautiful ocean: deep blue, peacock blue, light (seafoam) green, and purple. very quiet and smooth. Sky: sun shining, cloud cover about 50%, with black bottomed cumulus clouds (but after a brief rain midday, it cleared).

Sunday--morning glories along the road between San Vicente and Airport Road. Rain midday. Plumeria in bloom. Beautiful pink sky after sunset.


Greg Baka leaves island on Tuesday.

He was a lightning rod for criticism as an acting Attorney General during the Fitial Administration's first term (after Matt Gregory resigned). I disagree with him politically and was very disappointed in his positions for Fitial (opposing the Open Government Act request of Tina Sablan, for example). But I like Greg and recognize his many talents and positive attributes, too. Greg contributed a lot to Saipan during his years here. He was an assistant public defender; a law clerk for Judge Munson, and an assistant US attorney, serving many years in each of these capacities without controversy and doing many needed and important jobs. His wife, Cheryl, is personable and extremely hard-working. They have two handsome and smart sons, who attend Mount Carmel School.

Greg is always interesting in conversation, and sincere and intelligent. He will once again be working for the U.S. government (in San Francisco, this time).

I wish him well.


Thanks to P. F. Kluge for elevating us out of the muck of the latest controversies and focusing on the beauty and value of stories. His book discussions are continuing--now on Monday and Wednesday evengings at 6 PM and Saturday mornings at 9 AM, at the American Memorial Park. We've finished with TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD; next up OLD MAN AND THE SEA.

And thanks to the Humanities Council for sponsoring this discussion of literature.


Prayers for Wally Guerrero and the family he's left behind. There's something comforting and immortal in hearing the rosary and litany prayed and the songs sung during the nightly lisayu. No matter who dies here in the CNMI, this tradition is an integral part of the community response--in support of the family and as a recognition of the deceased.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Just When It's About to Clear...

Rain, gray skies, and very cool temps all week; the ocean has been slate gray, too. Today, there's some blue and green in the water, the sun is starting to glare through the clouds, and the rain has stopped (although it was still cool this morning).

If Governor Fitial had only kept his mouth shut one more day, the story of Chinese Take-Out / Massage-gate would have been off the front page and possibly not even in the news at all. (Well, except for the Tribune, which seems to be running its stories days late, now telling us today they "learned" about Cheng's legitimate job at Yu Yu Spa--They probably learned about it from reading Wendy's Blog!) But the Governor is keeping the story alive and fresh, and he says now that he did not "order" the "release" of the federal detainee, Qingmei Cheng.

This statement sounds like the semantics game that President Clinton tried (and lost) when he said he didn't have "sex" with his intern. As if a blow job was not sex.

And for Fitial, as if a "request" to an employee who "serves at the governor's pleasure" and can be sacked at any time by you, and who knows you will not hesitate to terminate her employment, is anything other than an order.

It always makes me nervous when the Governor throws out a smelly bone and the media hounds go chasing after it; I wonder whether that is to distract the media and public from something else, something worse.


It's also quite clear this (massage-gate) incident is not an isolated incident, either from the Governor's side or from the Department of Corrections side.

The Governor previously rescued this same "masseuse" from arrest for loitering, making this at least the second time she's been brought by police/correction officials to the governor's mansion to give him a massage.

And DOC's Dolores San Nicolas has (allegedly) at least once before ignored a court order about detention of a person with court-ordered conditions. She allowed her husband, after the court sentenced him to jail without release, to visit the crime scene ostensibly to retrieve a gun (!), and that place happened to be the home of his victim.

Dolores San Nicolas has her hands more than full. Wally Deleon Guerrero died in his cell at DOC, an apparent suicide. Wally was being held on domestic violence charges.

Condolences to Alice Guerrero and family.

And now to the political side of this tragedy: why doesn't DOC has sufficient measures in place to prevent this?

And will the next "apparent suicide" be Qingmei Cheng?

DOC does not sound like a safe place.


Friday, January 15, 2010

3 days down; 362 days to go

The Saipan Tribune has today, Friday, published this as news: Fitial in pain.

This news report is predominantly spin, with some very lame excuses:
1. The DOC chief Dolores San Nicolas takes responsibility. She tried to reach the AG and a U.S. Marshall first, but couldn't.
2. Fitial was in severe pain.
3. His wife was present throughout.

On #1
Of course Dolores San NIcolas is responsible for her role in this. But her job security depends on the Governor, and he called her and "asked" for the prisoner to be brought to him. He is also responsible.

Both should face consequences for their actions. Those consequences should include both employment discipline /loss of their jobs and criminal contempt/other charges.

Also, the veracity of their statements should be thoroughly tested. I hope the Feds get the communications records to confirm whether San Nicolas made such phone call/attempts to the AG and the US Marshall. Can records show this?

On #2
It makes no difference how the Governor felt as to the abuse of power. You don't get to use prisoners for your personal needs because you have personal needs and are the Governor.

Also, is this believable in light of his conduct public appearances on that day and the next? The Governor has had medical problems; and those do relate to his back, which means he could be in pain. It's plausible. Yet there are no reports that he seemed in any way to be slower, in pain, uncomfortable on the days leading up to this or the next day.

On # 3
It makes little difference what his wife did to the Governor's abuse of power. The abuse is getting a federal prisoner out of detention for your personal services. I'm sure in the public's eye that massage is less scandalous than prostitution, but both are equally weak as legal support for the Governor's actions.

There there is the question of whether this is believable. Quite frankly, I'm having trouble believing it. But I wasn't there, and don't know. But then I keep going back to the photograph of the first couple, and the anger and unhappiness in the faces of Josie and Ben. At the inauguration, when they should be celebrating.

Just makes me skeptical.

So what do we call this scandal? I've seen "rub-a-dub-dub gate" but I don't much like that, because it makes me think of bathtubs not massage. Other ideas? "Chingching gate" or "Pain-Relief-gate"?

You can watch the KSPN news on this story here.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

2 Days Down, 4 Years 363 Days to Go...

Governor Fitial has been in office on his new term for 2 days. And today's news is staggering--both entertaining and awful.

The Variety reports that Governor Fitial had DPS bring over a federally-detained prisoner, held at DOC by federal court order because she was deemed a flight risk. Why did she visit Governor Fitial? To give him a massage.

I wondered why the CNMI'S First Lady was looking so angry and why Governor Fitial looked like he was stone-walling in this Inauguration Day photo in the Trib by Haidee Eugenio:

Now we can guess!

Okay--so you already know. The comments on the Variety site and on Wendy's blog are great (and numerous).

But just in case those forums aren't enough for you to vent your feelings, feel free to comment here, too.

Some thoughts:
1. The feds really do need to get their own detention facility. The CNMI DOC is not safe, secure, or free from influence and pressure.

2. I always thought Governor Fitial was smart. I don't like him as a Governor; I disagree with his policies, politics, and priorities, but I thought him intelligent.

3. Was this the stupid mistake that a smart person can make? Was this done because he's in pain and really does depend on this massage therapy? Was it a stupid weakness and desire for some relationship? Or was this an excuse to meet with this woman for some other reason? Is he involved in her legal entanglements? Or worse, involved with her in some illegal activity?

4. The Governor seems to be surrounded by suspicious and criminal or corrupt people: his former lieutenant governor Tim Villagomez is in federal prison for corruption related to the utilities company; his former driver was just sentenced on a federal charge related to ice/methamphetamine; and now his masseuse has been arrested for attempting illegal entry into Guam.

5. We need information. Suspicions are poison. Some of us will believe the worst of Governor Fitial (despite Joaquin Romolor's pleasant letter). Some of us will defend him, no matter what (and probably because we're depending on him for a paycheck or favor). But no matter which side we're on, we need information so that we can be honest, make informed opinions.

and that gets me to this question...

6. Why didn't the Tribune report on this matter? At least as hard news, to the extent that the Federal Court asked for a report from the AG on why the governor did this, or what happened, etc. The Trib has its bent in favor of Fitial, but it usually at least includes the real news.

7. And one last comment. The federal government's motion language, as reported on Wendy's blog, seems mild. They want to "determine whether any prejudice was caused thereby." I guess they're letting the facts speak for themselves.

It is always interesting in Saipan; news is entertainment! Politics is side-splitting funny.

Too bad we need to laugh to keep from crying.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Latest legal news.

The 9th Circuit issued a decision in a civil rights/discrimination case against the DPS. You can read about it on the MLSC blog here.

It's good news.

And it will help to shape up our police force. The basic idea--you can't discriminate for locals or against Koreans or other non-locals in delivery of government services.

It would be good if all of our government offices got the message.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Ruth Tighe

Thank you, Ruth, for all you've done for the CNMI. You deserve the honor you were given earlier this week.

Zaldy's editorial -variations- on the subject and in tribute is very good.

I would add --Ruth plays bridge. You can never have too many bridge players.