Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Sex, Drugs, and Losing Your Shirt

Bruce Bateman and Jeff Turbitt wrote editorials this week supporting the latest incarnation of what is being called the Saipan Casino Act. Jeff is a Yankees fan, but he's still a good person. I've mentioned in a previous post that Bruce has a really great wife.

I respect both of them, but I take issue with their reasoning.

First off, let me make a confession: I have no problem with casinos and gambling in general. I had a great time taking Harry Blalock to the cleaners at the Rotary Club fundraiser and I went gambling at the Tinian Dynasty last April.

I've got a few issues with casinos on Saipan, though, and even more issues with the way this latest piece of legislation is written.

This proposal is being pushed as our salvation; our economic savior. If this passes, we are told, manna will fall from heaven and every man will receive six virgins...seven if you are of indigenous heritage. The proposal to legalize marijuana is no different...as is the as-yet-to-be proposed proposal to legalize prostitution. They all promise an end to the bitter times.

Legalize it. Regulate it.

That's the mantra.

But you know what?

Is this honestly the best we can do?

Do our children have to be drug dealers, pimps, and bookies to make it in the 21st Century? Is there no other economic activity that can exist on this island to support our people?

It is sad that no one thinks we can do better and it is depressing that no one thinks we deserve better.


Jeff said...

I support a casino. I didn't endorse this act specifically by any stretch, and it isn't a savior, it is one piece in the pie.

bradinthesand said...

this act sucks by the way. i heard their presentation and the people putting the thing together sound clueless.

as for me, i'll keep getting my haircut at kiana's in san jose for $6.

when you want a haircut (or all of them) it's the only place to go.

aside from the $3 chinese places on beach road in chalan kanoa, it's the best deal in town.

you can take that to the blackjack table and bet on it.

The Saipan Blogger アンジェロ・ビラゴメズ said...

I don't know about that. When I was a kid I used to go to Gene's on Middle Road.

They only do one style, but they've been doing it for 15 years.

It doesn't matter how you tell them to cut your hair; it always comes out the same way.

The Saipan Blogger アンジェロ・ビラゴメズ said...

I don't know how much Gene's cost though, but I remember that the price hasn't gone up in a decade.

bradinthesand said...

well you always rag on me about having the same hairstyle from the 90's so that should be the place for me

The Saipan Blogger アンジェロ・ビラゴメズ said...

I am outraged and disgusted that you would leave a comment like that!

The Saipan Blogger アンジェロ・ビラゴメズ said...

Have you been hanging out with Jane?

Jeff said...

Screw that, I know the haircut joint, and it's called the Gilette Mach 3.

The Saipan Blogger アンジェロ・ビラゴメズ said...

Who are you trying to kid? You haven't needed to shave your head since college. God did it for you.

...your comments only hurt our children. Why, Jeff?

bradinthesand said...

who cares about the children? their haircuts are half off! unlike yours jeff, which are all off!

Rotanese said...

Casinos in Saipan isn't a good solution to the economic woes that's plagued the island for the past few years. Supporters of this initiative are just looking for a "quick fix" without fully understanding all possible effects this could have on the people of Saipan and the rest of the CNMI. I'll bet that the main supporters of this initiative have some special interest on this initiative because they'll probably be the ones benefiting, should this pass.

It's a shame that it's come down to this. But hey, there are other solutions out there. Saipan can offer other products than just gambling. Sell Saipan for what it is...its uniqueness, beauty, natural environment, hospitable people, culture, geographical location, etc.

We're not gonna climb out of this sh*t hole tomorrow or in the next couple of years. But slowly, we can improve the economic situation in Saipan and the CNMI. We just need the cooperation of the people and get the government to WORK.

I'll feel bad for Tinian if the Saipan casino initiative passes...As a commonwealth, we're suppose to help each other and do what's best for the people of the C.N.M.I. Have we thought about the kind of effect this initiative will have on the people of Tinian? Our brothers and sisters will lose their jobs and the island of Tinian will lose their main source of income. Do we want this?

Saipan does not need a casino! Maybe we just shouldn't just sell Saipan as a destination that will attract high-end travelers to come and gamble. Instead, we should concentrate more in selling the C.N.M.I. as a whole package. We should be saying, "Visit the C.N.M.I....Shop in Saipan, gamble away in Tinian, then relax and enjoy the natural beauty of Rota!" (we could of course change the wording a bit, but I'm sure you know what I mean).

Anyway, sorry this is quite a long post...I just felt like throwing all my thoughts together...til nest time...Adios.

The Saipan Blogger アンジェロ・ビラゴメズ said...

What do you think is better:

The Little Mermaid or Jaws?

John said...

bruce and jeff have not seen the destruction poker has had to the people of the Saipan.. if they think casinos will be different they are kidding themselves..

The Saipan Blogger アンジェロ・ビラゴメズ said...

OK Brad, it looks like we are getting some serious comments. Maybe we should stop our little game.

Care to take guesses on the true identity of "John?"

I vote: Ed Probst

Saipan Writer said...

The Saipan bill calls for a Casino commission that we pay for. How much will we be paying for those officials?

The Saipan bill calls for a Treasurer, whose salary is the same as the casino commission's executive director. The CNMI Legislature pays the bill.

The Saipan bill designs a system where the commission that oversees the licensed casinos is then dependent on the revenues paid by the licensee for their salary. How independent would such a commission be? How could they regulate their sugar-daddy?

The Saipan bill allows only one license to an investment corporation. The Corporation must be NMD--Northern Marianas Descent--which the act defines as meaning the incorporators, directors, officers and shareholders shall be NMD. No other U.S. citizens allowed in the profit sharing. Never mind equal protection.

What do we get? The application fees, license fees, permit fees, fines and penalties, and gross revenue taxes. The license fee is $300,000 to start and then annually. The permit fee is $250,000 and then annually. The gross revenue tax is 1%.

The Saipan bill says the license is not transferrable, but the NMD investment corp. with the license may contract with another person for management of the casino--and again there's a HIRING preference for NMD's. (Have we not heard of the equal employment opportunity act?)

The Saipan bill MANDATES that the CNMI give public land for the casino, at $1.00 per year in perpetuity.

If this Saipan bill passes, how much will be spent in legal fees defending these provisions?

I'm not convinced the Saipan bill for casinos here provides an economically viable solution to anything. It seems like most of the money will be eaten up by the administration of the casinos.

I think the provisions that exclude citizens from participation in casino investment and employment based on their ethnicity are unconstitutional and bad policy.

I think Saipan has a lot more to offer than casinos.

(And I prefer gamling when it's sponsored by the Rotary Club and other non-profits getting as a fundraiser.)

Bruce A. Bateman said...

Angelo writes: Is this honestly the best we can do?


It is sad that no one thinks we can do better and it is depressing that no one thinks we deserve better.

My question is: What is your solution, Angelo? Sit and wait for the last of the water to drain out of the tub?

You must see that there is a crying need for some kind of new income producer in this Commonwealth. What do you suggest that will generate money and do it before the lights go off?

John said...

(my name is John not Ed)I agree with the Saipan Blogger, we do not need casino gambling to promote the CNMI. It isn't the only solution as pegged by the organizers of the Saipan Casino Act.. We need to clean up our island (including zoning), teach all to respect and welcome visitors, enhance the visitor experience with culture and arts, charge visitors decent/reasonable rates.. and if all that is said and done correctly (w/quality in mind) then the organizers might have an argument to make... Lets not lose Saipan in the biggest gamble of our lives... remember to vote "NO" on the Saipan Casino Act....

Melissa said...

Whoa.... is it really possible that Saipan Writer and I agree on something? I'm right there with you, Jane... I think there are some serious legal issues with the whole thing. Certainly equal protection, for one.

The Saipan Blogger アンジェロ・ビラゴメズ said...

Dang it, John. I was hoping Brad and I could have some wild speculation before you shot us down!

Bruce, you ask me about my solution?

Well, first, let's stop going with these pie in the sky, lottery payoffs. Why are we shooting for million dollar payoffs? Sure, we might get lucky and have some investor dump 300 million on the CNMI, but how likely is that?

Why not focus on making $100 today, $100 tomorrow, and $100 the next day. Stop trying to make a million before you make a thousand or even a hundred.

For starters, there are tons of ecotourism opportunities on this island.

What if someone took a traditional canoe down to the Laulau dive site and charged tourists $30 for a 30 minute ride between dives? You've got to be above water for an hour, so why not do something cultural. They could open up a coconut for them while on the boat to make the experience that much more special.

They could make $100 per hour and there would be no overhead as long as the boat was paid for and the person giving the rides was the owner.

or how about my homestay hostel idea? Create an extra bedroom in your house, outfit it with some nice stuff, start a website in basic english or japanese, and wait for tourists to sign up. Most of the Bed & Breakfasts in the US rely on word of mouth or Internet for their business. Once you had your first customer, you'd be in business.

how about if locals were the plumbers, electricians, refrigeration guys, mechanics and so on? Those guys can charge $60/hour in the mainland. We'd have to convince 20,000 people to leave this island first, though, before wages got that high.

How about if locals owned their own shops? Why is it possible that a Korean can own a shop, but not a Chamorro?

How about if you made websites for companies in the US? You could charge half of what the US businesses charge, and still make a pretty good living. You can email out your work.

How about applying for grants to restore historical structures. The grants would pay for administration and construction jobs.

How about you make necklaces and sell them at the street market on thursday?

How about you start a website and put ads on it?

How about if you go get a college education and a medical degree, then work at the hospital. If we had 20 local doctors, we wouldn't have to constantly worry about off island doctors. Same goes for lawyers, teachers, and every other profession that requires more than a bachelors.

There are a million things people can do to make money. Look at you, Bruce. You have an auto shop and a bar.

You don't need drugs, prostituion, and gambling to make money. Stop trying to make it sound like they are the only things left.

Jeff said...

Jeff has seen it and read about it from his students. People go to casinos with friends. It is an entertainment business. They go to seedy poker rooms alone, no one is there, and their very nature encourages the bad type of gambling.

I happen to think this casino initiative is naturally messed up, but that doesn't mean a casino is a bad idea.

Saipan Writer said...

A writers colony or retreat (a lot of people who come here want to write; it's a natural "get-away" for creative prospects).

"Summer" camps that teach English to foreign tourists. "Winter" camps for tennis, swimming, baseball.

A local business called "the lunch counter" that sells low-cal food on or near the beach path and promotes a healthy life style.

(I love the bed & breakfast vision--a Saipan, a CNMI promoting island cultures.)

The Saipan Blogger アンジェロ・ビラゴメズ said...

The English tour idea is golden. Japanese pay upwards of $50 per hour to learn English in Japan. Imagine coming to an english speaking country only 3 hours away for only a few hundred dollars.

The could get here for 3 days and depending on the year and where they stayed and what they ate, spend less than $1000.

That is 20 lessons at home, probably about 20 hours, but here they'd get full emersion for 72 hours, plus they'd be in Saipan.

The Saipan Blogger アンジェロ・ビラゴメズ said...

...and I wrote already that I'm not against casinos. I'm against THIS casino and I'm against the idea that the only economic activity available to us is gambling.

...and if some rich gambling casino person wants to buy me off, the price is $150,000 cash.

I will delete all comments that are against gambling and write about the joys of gambling addiction and prostitution.

The Saipan Blogger アンジェロ・ビラゴメズ said...

...better make that $250,000. In small bills.

bradinthesand said...

well the casinos will not cater to the local crowd. just ask the planners. if you went to the latest chamber of commerce meeting where they presented their vision of the new casino, they hesitated when asked about whether locals would be allowed to enter.

btw, don't expect the casino to provide jobs for locals. there's only two indigenous people employed at the casino across the channel.

lil_hammerhead said...

I don't like the legislation the way it's written either. But this highlights a larger issue as far as I'm concerned. That is, personal freedoms and our right to not have the government control what we choose to engage ourselves in. If I want to gamble... that should be my choice as a citizen. The same goes for drugs and prostitution.

Jeff said...

Not if Angelo is in charge. He'd have us hugging trees, picking up garbage, rooting for the Red Sox, hating freedom, egging on anonymous commentators at Middle Road and taking pictures of EJ.

The Saipan Blogger アンジェロ・ビラゴメズ said...

don't forget the part about putting softcore porn on my blog...and I'd make Auntie Connie's Chicken Kelaguen the official National dish of the CNMI.

...and Brad would only be allowed to date fat chicks...because they're so much fun!

bradinthesand said...

if i'm in charge we'll have a lot more fun and make a lot more money. i'd turn pagan into a pagan paradise

first, i'd kill all of the flies.
second, i'd kill all of the mosquitoes (no jeff, not mojitos. they can stay).
third, i'd send robert downey jr. there to snort up all of the pozzolan so we don't ruin the place with strip mining.

then i'd turn the island into a naked wonderland where people could run around all day and night on the african-american sand beaches wearing nothing but their smiles.

how cool is that?

and that's just the start...

The Saipan Blogger アンジェロ・ビラゴメズ said...

How does Paris Hilton fit into this plan?

bradinthesand said...

i don't know. i thought i only get to date fat chicks...

Saipan Writer said...

I've looked at the Saipan bill a little bit more. Some other interesting stuff:

The commissioners are appointed by the Mayor and must be NMD also. Their maximum salary is $4,000 per month; their minimum responsibility is 15 days of work/meeting per month. Assuming each work day is 8 hours (and there's no requirement for that), the compensation would be $33+ per hour.

There are 7 casino commissioners. For a total cost of up to $336,000 per annum.

Plus costs for the executive director, treasurer and "such staff" as the executive director may hire for his/her office.

I'm not even sure now that the licensing fee and permit fee will cover the cost. And that means there's a lot of pressure on the gross revenue tax to make up for the shortfall and produce some money to be spent by the CNMI Saipan Legislative delegation for the benefit of Saipan.

What would those benefits be?

Brad, the Saipan bill says first preference for hiring must be to NMD residents. (We have a "local" hiring preference in our CNMI law, but local is defined as any US citizen and citizens from the FSM, Palau and Marshall islands--and that law is routinely ignored. This law might be ignored, too.) But the pay must be U.S. minimum wage, which is now over $7.00 per hour, along with benefits for health and dental, sick and vacation leave. So I think it's a possibility that a casino under this bill would result in a more resident workforce at the casino than on Tinian. I don't think that possible benefit counters the negative aspects, though, and the whole idea that you can ignore other U.S. citizens and prefer Chamorros and Carolinians just based on their ethnicity is repugnant to me.

The Saipan bill also requires "training" of NMDs only for supervisory and management positions.

More restrictions based on ethnicity: appropriations from the casino fund are limited to local purposes: for almost all social programs funding, this means that money may be appropriated only for the benefit of NMDs, including training and scholarships, youth and elderly development, medical referral, disability programs, social programs, cultural programs, indigent programs like health insurance, mortgage assistance, food and nutrition, transportation and other welfare programs, low interest home loans, commercial loans. Sorry, but under this bill, Harry, there could be no benefit from social programs to any U.S. citizen who is not an NMD (except, of course, the tangential benefit that money paid for NMDs would free up other funds for the rest of the community, possibly).

The Saipan casino initiative is seriously flawed. Even if you supported casinos in Saipan, this would not be the way to do it.

It is nothing but an attempt to provide a government monopoly to one local investment corporation with free public land and to restrict every bit of possible benefit from the casino whether from ownership, shareholding, control, employment or the government's social program spending of money generated by the casino to people who are Northern Marianas descent only, and not the rest of the community, whether U.S. citizen or not.

Saipan Writer said...

Sorry, I hadn't noticed the turn in the conversation to fun stuff.

The Saipan Blogger アンジェロ・ビラゴメズ said...

Brad and I talk like that even when we are talking about Darfur. Just our personalities.

John said...

Those in support of the Saipan Casino Act need to hit one of the local poker joints (the one with the hot machines ready to royal) so they can see the reality of gambling in the CNMI... they will find the following:

- the guy staring in a daze at a machine who has lossed everything waiting for a miracle from God to send money pouring out of the machine.
- before they enter, they will see the player who is offering a good deal on a tv set, watch or dvd player attempting to liquidate his assets to get more poker bucks..
- they might even see the lady/guy so desperate that they would exchange a little massage in exchange for some $$$
- don't forget to check the cars outside, there might be a couple of hungry kids inside waiting for mom/dad to hit the big one..
- might also bump into a couple of non-resident workers playing their lifes savings at a chance for the big one..

-- what you won't find "a tourist"..actually not entirely true, there are a few from Guam who do like spending a little time on the piano..

- will definitely find a lot more, but too many scenarios to list..

suggestion: visit one of the poker establishments.. then think about how many people will hit the casinos trying to hit the "big one"

bradinthesand said...

i think any fur is murder...

but i still wear leather belts and shoes. that's totally different.

bradinthesand said...

...oh and funny you mentioned people selling things outside. my friend bought a "poker car" a few years back for $250. it still runs like a champ.

Bruce A. Bateman said...

Angelo, you listed a lot of nice things that will make a PERSON some money (some of them are crack pot ideas - some are crack pipe, some are really good - thanks Walt) but you mention nothing that makes a country's economy take off. Those are mostly small scale endeavors not suited to building an industry that generates large scale dollars.

Garments are dead meat except for a niche here and there, tourism is declining and we need to do something to not just bring it back but to really make it take off. Kayaks at Lau Lau won't be bringing in thousands of people spending thousands of dollars.
But hey, sign me up for a kayak dive. In fact, I have a Kayak.

The only other options around here are to have an Uncle on the board so you can get a job. And that's not taking us anywhere is it?

To recap...we need an industry, not a small business loan candidate.

Saipan Writer said...

Why can't education be our industry?

Or marine biology and research?

Or medicine?

Or even law? (Hell, we have enough lawyers to have our own law school.)

Why can't we couple tourism with sports, environment, culture?

It would not be a quick fix. It would take hard work. But those are the kinds of solutions that work for the long run.


John said...

tourism industry? hmmm.. yep, tourism is an industry.

and yes I know that is currently our largest industry and is declining due to our inability to make the changes that would help move forward.. imagine the possibilities if we start making those changes today..

bradinthesand said...

tourism industry, eh? why not make a tourist industry? yes! now that's the solution!!! all we have to do is change out the "m" with a "t" and there you have it!

we can turn all of the out of work garment specialists into tourists and export them to foreign countries.

everyone's always looking for tourists. why not make some and ship 'em out?

(rubbing fingernails on my chest) yep, pure genius.

we could make a fortune! i call the patent on chinese people. beware of counterfeits!

saipanboonieman said...

i have furry underwear...... but i dont remember them being like that when i bought them......(shrugs)

Boni said...

So gross, yet so ...gross!