Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Walt's not lost, he's on Isa Drive!

walt lostLost fans are scouring the Internet trying to figure out what happened to Walt from LOST. Well, I found him on Isa Drive!

******
Those are the two newest blogs on the Saipan scene. Remember when the Saipan blogosphere exploded in 2007? Then Jeff Turbitt outed Lil' Hammerhead and Bruce Bateman outed Pragmatic Plato and the blogs died (I think the rise of Facebook and microblogging had something to do with the demise of blogging, too).

In three short years, however, the people of Saipan effectively increased by 100 fold the amount of information about Saipan appearing on the Internet. Visit We Love Saipan and the Master List for links to nearly 200 blogs and websites about Saipan.

Remember when there was just one?

Good job, everybody.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Grownup Walt LOST on Saipan

walt from lostWith the finale of LOST only two hours away, the question on everyone's minds has to be, "What the hell happened to Walt?"

He moved to Saipan!

The two hour pre-finale show is beginning right now.

Woot!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Joe Camacho: Disrespectful to War Heroes

joe camacho for congressIn 1944, 2,949 young Americans soldiers sacrificed their lives during the invasion of Saipan. Another 10,364 were wounded.

Nearly 66 years later the Covenant Party held a campaign rally for their candidate for United States Congress, Joe Camacho, in the national park dedicated to those war heroes. After their rally the Covenant Party didn't clean up after themselves and left behind empty beer cans and a mountain of trash that took park rangers nearly two hours to clean.

Some, including Senior Judge John C. Coughenour of the U.S. District Court, would call this a sign of "disrespect."

saipan angeloI am still amazed that Joe Camacho let this go to court. His campaign manager, the individual actually charged with the crime of littering, should have plead guilty, apologized profusely, paid his fine and then he could have moved on with his life and the campaign. Instead they decided to enter a plea of not guilty.

During the trial Camacho claimed that the campaign rally was nothing more than a family gathering, but the prosecution was able to counter that claim with photos the Camacho campaign had posted on Facebook. It speaks to one's character how they behave when they get caught in a lie. Camacho continued to lie. In a statement to the media Camacho said, "“We presented our case that we were invited guests to a family gathering at Micro Beach and that it was not an official campaign activity and unfortunately the court did not find it in our favor."

Yet the online album with the photos on Camacho's Facebook has this:
Surrounded by hundreds of family and supporters, Governor Fitial spoke first asking all to join him in supporting and voting for Joseph Norita Camacho, Covenant Candidate for U.S. Delegate. Other speakers at the gathering were Lt. Governor Eloy Inos, Covenant Party President Gregorio “Kachuma” Camacho, Committee to Elect Chairman Felix Nogis, Vice Speaker Daling Ogumoro, former Speaker Pedro Deleon Guerrero, and Office of Carolinian Affairs Angie Iginoef Mangarero.

“We need a Delegate that can work with the local leaders of the CNMI” said Delegate Candidate Joseph Camacho “The Delegate should be working closely with the Administration, the Legislature as well as the Municipal governments to fully understand what is needed from Washington DC.” Camacho added that “When the Delegate spends his time taking credit for work he didn’t do or when the Delegate attacks the administration in a silly attempt to garner votes, all these unproductive actions only waste time instead of working towards making the lives of the people better.”
While families were there and this was undoubtably a gathering, Camacho's words and the photos on Facebook sure make this "family gathering" look like a campaign rally.

Would it have been so hard to have a cleanup committee? For a rally in a national park? Dedicated to the American war heroes who liberated your island from the Japanese during World War II?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Transformers 3: Worst Movie Ever

Because this is my blog I am allowed to skip around from the environment, to immigration, tubby politicians and on to Transformers 3.

So I know the volcano in Iceland is shutting down airports again and Greece is still a mess and people are dying in the streets of Bangkok and the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico continues to get worse every day and Sarah Palin keeps on saying "you betcha," and the stock market is down 500 points from its 30 day high, but a real tragedy was announced today.

Megan Fox has been dropped from Transformers 3.

megan foxLook, I know she sold me the Worst Phone Ever, but I'd be willing to look beyond that if she made another film where her main role is to run away from Decepticons in high definition super slow motion.

Now that that isn't going to happen, there is absolutely no need for Michael Bay to make Transformers 3. He should end production right now. Nobody is going to want to see a stupid movie with crappy graphics and even worse story line if Megan Fox isn't on screen every few minutes. Why anybody would want to watch a movie about Transformers if Megan Fox isn't running away from them is beyond me.

I may have to start a petition or a boycott or something.

Broken Promises

Dear Editor,

Please reprint this letter to the editor that was written by my father, late Justice Ramon Garrido Villagomez. This letter was published in 1998, ten years before President George W. Bush signed PL 110-229, the Consolidated Natural Resources Act of 2008.

To the readers of my father’s letter, please pay special attention to the nine promises the CNMI government made to the United States government in 1998. Not a single one of the promises was kept. These broken promises explain why the federal takeover was necessary and probably should have taken place a decade ago.

Also note how the CNMI government was fully aware in 1998 that allowing guest workers to become long-term residents without gaining the right to vote was immoral and unfair. If the situation was wrong then, logically it must be even worse twelve years onward.

Despite the latest protests that the federal government is violating our indigenous rights and self-determination, the fact remains that promises were made and promises were broken. There was a time when the CNMI’s arguments for continued control of immigration had merit. That time has passed. It is now time to move the Commonwealth forward. Looking backwards is counterproductive.

The contract workers who have lived on Saipan more than five years have earned the right to petition for United States citizenship. I stand by my father’s words and offer my support in helping the long toiling contract workers become the newest members of the American family.

Angelo O’Connor Villagomez
Winter Park, Florida

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Fish Will Die

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has closed 46,000 square miles of the Gulf of Mexico to fishing. Readers of this blog should be familiar with the Mariana Trench Marine National Monument. The area closed to fishing in the Gulf of Mexico is four times as large as the area closed to fishing in the Northern Mariana Islands.

Fishermen are understandably upset and expect that they will have to travel further out to catch the same amount of fish they are used to catching. A commercial fisherman is quoted on CNN as saying, ""The fish will move. They have fins. They will travel."

I disagree. The fish will die.

What is Joe thinking?

joe camacho for congressSo Joe Camacho, the beefcake pictured above, is running for Congress. He's the Covenant Party candidate. A few weeks ago he threw himself a birthday party at American Memorial National Park and didn't clean up afterwards. He just left all the trash on the ground. His campaign manager, Felix Nogis, was the one who reserved the space and was the one cited for littering. Oh yeah, photos are posted on Facebook, too.

The littering took place in a national park, so it is being prosecuted in federal court. The first hearing was yesterday. Camacho was the attorney representing his campaign manager, Nogis. Nogis entered a plea of "not guilty."

Camacho's public relations strategy is to claim that Nogis is innocent until proven guilty. That's a great defense. Timothy McVay, Jack Abramoff, and Charles Manson were also innocent until proven guilty. And then they were proven guilty. Now that I think of it, Fitial's Lieutenant Governor and Secretary of Commerce were innocent until proven guilty, too. And then they were proven guilty of conspiracy, theft, and wire fraud.

I have some free campaign advice for Joe Camacho and Felix Nogis. If they had any brains they would follow these simple recommendations:

PLEAD GUILTY AND APOLOGIZE. AND THEN APOLOGIZE AGAIN.

The longer this is dragged out the more it is going to harm Camacho's campaign.

Since most Covenant party members do the opposite of what would be smartest thing, I expect Camacho will try to drag this out past the election.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Angelo Villagomez: Orlando Writer

Uh oh, somebody googled me. Somebody in Florida googled, "Angelo Villagomez Orlando." I decided to see what the results were for that particular search and found that one of the top results led to a link to all the letters to editor I've ever had published in the Orlando Sentinel. How cool is that?

The most recent letter was published while I was living in Japan. Sheri McInvale had just switched from the Democratic party to the Republican party and I let her know what I thought about it.
Refund vote instead
January 17, 2006

On Sunday, the Orlando Sentinel reported that state Rep. Sheri McInvale, who recently fled to the Republican Party, has pledged to send a letter to all of her Democratic contributors offering them a refund. Although I didn't contribute to her re-election in 2004, I was one of the 3,054 unfortunate people who voted for her. Forget about the contribution refunds; I don't care about them. I want my vote back!

Angelo Villagomez
Orlando
The second letter was a response to a letter to the editor written in support of the Bush Administration.
Considering Source
April 25, 2005

I'd like to thank H. Terrell Griffin for his enlightening "My Word" piece Friday about the difference between truth and opinion. He wrote that it is a fact that the United States invaded Iraq in 2003 and that everything else is just opinion. Well, here are a couple of additional facts: Iraq did not possess any weapons of mass destruction, and the 9-11 commission determined that Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with 9-11. So when you are putting the facts together to find the truth, whose opinion are you going to trust -- the highly educated college professor with no ties to big business or the vice president who was paid $194,852 by Halliburton in 2004?

Angelo Villagomez
Orlando
My first letter to the editor ever was published during the 2004 election. Florida had just been hit by two hurricanes:
Real Meaning Of Disaster
September 10, 2004

Leave Florida over a hurricane? Not a chance. Only a real disaster, like the re-election of George W. Bush would make me want to pack up and leave. The trail of devastation left by Hurricane Charley and Hurricane Frances are trivial compared to the Bush administration's unwavering assault on our environment (not to mention our economy and our reputation). In fact, if I had to choose between a third hurricane or four more years of George W. Bush, I would tell the storm to bring it on.

Angelo Villagomez
Winter Park
One of these days I'm going to look back on everything I wrote in my twenties and early thirties and laugh at what a burning liberal I was.

Friday, May 14, 2010

CNMI violated the Covenant with the United States

Ruth Tighe's weekly column laments:
The Indigenous Affairs Office will be holding hearings for Chamorros and Carolinians to express their views about the Department of Interior's report on the future status of foreign workers in the CNMI. And who will provide a forum for the haoles on island?
I have a pet peeve with mainland US citizens who call themselves haoles. To me it is as disrespectful and self-denigrating as the African Americans who continue to use the word nigger. The word doesn't even have any roots in local culture; it was borrowed from Hawaii. The word is also racist on several levels. Primarily it is used to identify someone from the outside, but more specifically it is usually used to describe someone who is white. One wouldn't normally call an Asian-American or an African-American a haole; they would be Japanese or Black. So when someone says, "how come no one asked the haoles?," they mean, "how come no one asked the white people?"

There. With that paragraph I just pissed off half the haoles on Saipan.

It is nearly impossible to have a rational debate about immigration reform on Saipan with someone living on Saipan. One side argues that human rights have been violated and anything less than immediate citizenship for the hard working foreign contract workers on Saipan would violate the values and ideals of America; the other side claims that this whole thing was started by mainland labor unions and neo-colonialists who are trying to keep the indigenous Chamorro people from practicing their culture, and enjoying the freedoms of economic independence and self-government. There isn't much middle ground.

I can remember my father telling me that the Chamorros from Saipan were the smartest people in all of Micronesia. The deal they had negotiated with the United States had led to an economic boom and there were 10 jobs in the Northern Marianas for every Chamorro who wanted one. There were so many jobs and so much economic activity that the businesses had to bring in foreign workers just to fill those jobs.

The lesson would continue with him telling me that the reason for this economic miracle was that the Northern Marianas controlled their own immigration. This situation had to be guarded at all costs, and not just to protect the economy. If the federal government were to take over immigration, within five years there would be foreign voters. Before you knew it, there would be foreign congressman, foreign mayors, a foreign governor, and Article XII would be overturned.

This lesson was imparted in almost every indigenous household, too, or at least every household that read the newspapers. I was not the only recipient of these lessons; my father wrote them out in several letters to the editor:
(W)hen (not if) the US immigration laws are made applicable, guest workers would be able to become US citizens and be able to vote and run for office. When that happens, the number of non-Chamorro and non-Carolinian voters might soon become the majority of the voters. As the majority voters, they could remove from office all Chamorro and Carolinian Senators, Congresspersons, Mayors, Governor and so on and so forth. They could amend the Constitution and kill Article 12. When all these have occurred, what would happen to the self-government that the people of the CNMI negotiated and acquired for themselves under the Covenant, in the exercise of their right to self-determination?
This explains why every single elected official in the Northern Marianas is opposed to granting US citizenship and voting rights to the foreign contract workers: The command to keep foreign workers disenfranchised is as engrained in their brains as the dogma of the Catholic Church.

In the 1990's the Northern Marianas government made many promises to the United States government. Specifically, the Northern Marianas promised that in order to end the situation where more than 50% of the population consisted of guest workers who were "unable to vote, politically powerless and (were) subjected to abuse" they would:

(1) put a moratorium on the hiring of guest workers
(2) cap the number of guest workers in the garment industry and the size of that industry
(3) weed out corruption in the labor and immigration offices
(4) prosecute employers and closing down businesses who abuse guest workers
(5) prohibit the number of guest workers from exceeding the number of US citizens in the CNMI
(6) allow guest workers to transfer from one occupation to another and from one employer to another
(7) allow illegal aliens to become legal under the amnesty law
(8) expedite the deportation of illegal aliens
(9) limit the number of years that a guest worker may stay in the CNMI.

None of these promises were kept. It was the CNMI who violated the Covenant, not the United States.

The CNMI recognized that allowing guest workers to become long term residents without gaining the right to vote was immoral. In one of his letters, my father wrote, "the CNMI leaders have to make a difficult choice. Either they effectively control immigration, which means slower economic growth, or do nothing and have the US apply its laws, which means voting rights for the guest workers and lost (sic) of political control for the Chamorro and Carolinians."

In 1998, the Northern Marianas tried to make the claim, "It appears that the CNMI leaders have opted to control immigration, stop the abuses of guest workers and avoid the application of US immigration laws in order to keep control of their economic and political destiny."

From the vantage point of 2010, it would appear the opposite was true.

It appears that the CNMI leaders did NOT opt to control immigration, stop the abuses of guest workers or avoid the application of US immigration laws in order to keep control of their economic and political destiny. They made a deliberate choice to carry on with the status quo knowing full well what the consequences would be.

The elected leaders of the Northern Marianas traded Chamorro and Carolinian political and social control of the islands for a decade's worth of economic gain for a few. Governor Benigno Fitial was one of the the architects of that failed social experiment and was one of the largest beneficiaries, making millions off the back-breaking work of people less fortunate than he. From high atop his mansion on Mount Tapachou he now looks down upon the economic disaster which he created.

The leaders of the CNMI government know that any foreign contract worker who has lived in the CNMI for five years is morally and ethically, if not legally, deserving of permanent residency and being put on the pathway towards US citizenship. They may not like it or want it, but past statements have revealed that they at least know this to be true. For too long justice was denied to thousands because of the likes of Jack Abramoff, Tom Delay, Richard Pombo, Tom Feeney, and John Doolittle. Now justice is finally coming.

What also needs to be determined is what to do with the contract workers who have been in the CNMI for fewer than 5 years. My recommendation is to lump them in with all the other contract workers. Give them residency in the United States and put them on the pathway towards US citizenship. If they qualify for citizenship, they can apply. If they don't want to become citizens, then at the end of their residency they can return to their home countries.

Provided residency and creating a pathway towards citizenship is fair for both the legal foreign contract workers and the indigenous Chamorro and Carolinian locals. The leaders of the Northern Marianas knew that this would happen if they did not do something about the immoral state of affairs and now the United States is making good on their promise to fully implement the Covenant.

Making Threats on American Soil

In this day and age you have to be really, really stupid to issue threats to Americans in America via the Internet. Yes, the First Amendment guarantees you the right to Freedom of Speech, but that is limited to actions and words that convey a message like, "I disagree with what you have to say." Once you cross the line and threaten to cause harm because of what other people think, you're going to have a problem.

And so the threats have begun against the advocates for immigration reform on Saipan. The Marianas Variety carries a story about the protest rally to take place this weekend and anonymous commenters are making non-specific threats against the participants:
saipan1haole 2010-05-14 12:38
Your parade is a foolish idea. Do not be surprised when people show up and let you know what they think about you. A guest who suddenly act like he is the owner might not receive a warm treatment any longer. There may be signs you may not appreciate. And I certainly hope that no one decides to shower your parade with food donations of tomatoes or eggs. Your public gloating may bear fruits that you might not appreciate. One should wait until you have your green card in hand before you aggravate the islanders. As they say, it is not over until the fat lady sings.
Too bad the First Amendment doesn't give you the right to violate somebody else's Civil Rights. Another threat made on the website:
primerabesis@gmail.com 2010-05-14 15:03
An explosive situation awaiting just a tiny spark. We know our people and if something goes wrong, please don't say we didn't warn you.
If something were to happen this weekend I hope that the perpetrators are prosecuted for committing hate crimes.

This is how to respond to threats: somebody threatens you in the hopes of making you too afraid to show up. Now you have to show up. If you were waffling on whether or not you were going to go, now you have to go. Now it is about more than immigration reform. It's about Civil Rights, Freedom of Speech, and Freedom. Never, never let some one shout you down to shut you up.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Defining a People

Two days ago Glacier National Park celebrated its 100th birthday. News of the celebration appeared within the pages of the Billings Gazette:
One hundred years ago, on May 11, 1910, the people of the United States set aside 1 million acres of their finest federal land, protecting the tremendous mountain scenery of Glacier National Park.

And no one noticed.

Nearly a week later, the Daily Interlake ran the following story: “There has been some local inquiry as to whether the Glacier National Park bill had been signed by the president.

An inquiry sent to Associated Press headquarters brings back the reply that the bill was signed on May 11th.”

Two sentences, buried at the very bottom of the page.
I think the creation of Glacier National Park 100 years ago relates to the creation of the Mariana Trench Marine National Monument last year. So how are Glacier and Mariana Trench alike? I imagine that 99 years from now when Mariana Trench is celebrating its 100th birthday, a story will be written like the one that appears in the Billings Gazette and quotes will be taken like the following:
“and you can see how the locals’ relationship to the park has changed,” said Michael Ober, librarian at Flathead Valley Community College. “Today that park is a big part of how we identify ourselves. It’s literally who we are.”
The people of Kalispell, Montana define themselves in relation to Glacier? Will the same be true of the Marianas in 99 years? When people ask, "where is Saipan?" will the answer hence forth become, "next to the Mariana Trench?" Yes!

Another quote:
“People of that time had no idea of what Glacier could be in the future,” said Joe Unterreiner, head of the Kalispell Chamber of Commerce.

What it could be, it turns out, is an economic engine, a marketing brand, a reservoir for wildness, a natural laboratory, a playground and a link, Unterreiner said, “to the past and to the future, too.”
99 years from now will Mariana Trench be an economic engine, a marketing brand, a reservoir for wildness, a natural laboratory, a playground and a link to the past and to the future? In the immortal words of Sarah Palin, "You betcha!"

When the Saipan Tribune endorsed the monument in July 2008 the editorial board used the example of Kalispell to paint a vision of how Mariana Trench could anchor the Saipan economy. They were almost prophetic.

I've said it before and I'll probably say it for the rest of my life, everyone who helped support the creation of the monument deserves a big thank you. If history is any measure of what the monument will become, you've done nothing less than to help define the future of a people. Wow.

That long term process and the benefits that have been brought by the monument continue to accrue. Next month, Outside Magazine will release their July issue which is dedicated to water. Last year's 10 day expedition the Northern Islands will be featured in a 5000 word spread.

What does this mean for the Saipan and the rest of the Marianas? Well, how much would it cost for the Marianas Visitors Authority to purchase 12 full pages of advertising space in Outside Magazine? That question is easy to answer because Outside Magazine publishes their advertising rates.

A twelve page spread featuring the Northern Mariana Islands in Outside Magazine is worth $937,860. The Pew Environment Group and the Friends of the Mariana Trench Monument and their supporters deserve a hearty thank you for helping to provide this benefit to every single person living in the Marianas.

Makes one wonder what will be next? James Cameron drawing inspiration for Avatar 2 from his upcoming dive to the Mariana Trench? The discovery of a new species during this summer's research expeditions to Maug, Agrigan, Pagan, Alamagan, and Sarigan?

Monday, May 10, 2010

Walt Disney World Magic Kingdom

cinderella castleI took Kevin and Catie to Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom on Friday afternoon. Back in March Jim bought us all 4-Day Dream Passes, which are good for four one day visits to any of the four parks at Walt Disney World. The tickets expire at the end of the month, so we need to use them or lose them.

Any visit to one of Disney's theme parks begins with parking lot rid. After parting with $14.00 you get to drive around a parking lot bigger than anything you've ever seen and then take a ride on the tram. Don't forget what aisle you parked in, either. We parked in Goofy.

The Magic Kingdom is different from the other theme parks at Walt Disney World in that the parking lot is not in front of the park; there is a huge man-made lake between your car and Cinderella's Castle. To cross over you either have to swim, take a ferry, or take the monorail. We opted for the monorail.

People were lining up along Main Street, USA for the 3 O'Clock parade when we arrived. I performed in the parades at the Magic Kingdom for five summers and I could not believe how few people there were. Early May is a great time to visit the parks.

We decided to skip the parade and went straight for Tomorrowland. Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin is one of my favorite rides and I wanted to do it first. There was a long line when we got there so instead of waiting we got Fast Pass tickets.

Fast Pass is an option that Disney has for some its rides where you get a ticket to come back and go to the front of the line for a ride at a later scheduled time. While we waited for our window we went on Stitch's Great Escape (the version of Alien Counter that help Disney sell more t-shirts) and the Tomorrowland Transit Authority.

disney parking lotCatie was very excited to finally be tall enough to go on the scary rides.

After I got the high score on Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin, Kevin and Catie wanted go on the Carousel of Progress. The ride broke down while we were riding it. So much for progress.

Kevin and Catie were in need of nourishment, so before heading over to the spinning teacups on the Mad Tea Party I filled them up with chicken nuggets, french fries, and soda as we listened to the smooth sounds of Sonny Eclipse at Cosmic Ray's Starlight Cafe.

From there we walked over to Toon Town where we took the Walt Disney World Railroad over to Frontierland. The Frontierland Train Station sits right next to Splash Mountain, so we picked up Fast Pass tickets and went for a walk.

Our first stop was Tom Sawyer's Island. I was pleasantly surprised when Kevin told me it was his favorite place in the park.

Tom Sawyer's Island is more of a playground than an attraction. There is a suspension bridge and a bridge made out of barrels. There are also two caves to explore and a frontier fort.

I re-lived my childhood days and pretended to shoot the trains on Thunder Mountain Railroad.

Kevin, a child of the 21st Century, did the same, but used his cellphone to take pictures of himself doing so.

After Tom Sawyer's Island we wandered over to Adventureland where we rode Pirates of the Caribbean and trekked through the Swiss Family Robinson's Treehouse.

aladdin rideWe also went on the new Aladdin ride. It was my first time trying it out.

Before we headed back to Splash Mountain, I made Kevin and Catie follow me to the center of the park to take a picture of the castle. They sat on a bench and told me to go on ahead; they'd wait for me there. I had to bribe them with a promise of ice cream to get them to take the picture at the beginning of this post.

Splash Mountain was great. That and Buzz Lightyear are my two favorite rides in the park. After that Kevin and Catie took a nap while I watched the Hall of Presidents, then we went on the Haunted Mansion, and finished our day up at the Tomorrowland Indy Speedway.

I let Catie drive.

By then the park was gearing up for the fireworks. Instead of watching the fireworks from Main Street, USA, we watched the fireworks from the ferry heading back to the parking lot.

We've got two days left on our passes. I hope to go to Animal Kingdom this weekend. Stay tuned!

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Barnum & Bailey Fat Man

barnum and baily fat manThis is the Fat Man from the Barnum & Bailey Circus, circa 1900. One hundred years ago people would pay money to gawk at this guy. No commentary necessary.

Option Four Fails; Operation 'Junk Shot' Considered

BP has announced that the plan to lower a giant dome on top of the gushing oil well in the Gulf of Mexico has not failed. It just hasn't worked. CNN reports that the giant dome has become encrusted with hydrates, a compound that results from the chemical reaction between oil and water (no, not like salad dressing). Hydrates are lighter than water and float. The encrusted hydrates have made the dome buoyant and are also clogging up the plumbing that would make pumping oil to the surface possible.

In the words of my twelve year old brother, Kevin, Option Four was an EPIC FAIL.

BP is now considering attempting a "junk shot," which according to the Internet is...nevermind, I'll let you look that one up.

Regardless of the popular definition, CNN reports that a junk shot would "take ground-up material of various types and try to inject it into the blowout preventer at the bottom of it and it will flow up and plug it up."

I know this is totally off the subject, but if you were the PR guy working for the company responsible for the worst environmental disaster of the 21st Century, would you speak in all pronouns or would you be more specific? Using the word "it" four times in their description of the junk shot plan makes me wonder if BP really knows what they're doing or if they're just flying by the seat of their pants.

Anyway, BP chief operations officer Doug Suttles compares a junk shot to stopping up a toilet, which I must say is a wonderful analogy choice for describing an oil spill. I know BP wants to make the everyday American know what they are planning, but is there not an industrial application that would have been more appropriate? Might he have said, it is like filling a drainage pipe with sand? Filling an old well with cement? What are the American people going to think when BP's plan for stopping the oil spill was inspired by a clogged toilet?

Friday, May 07, 2010

Angelo Villagomez: International Male Model

Kevin, Catie and I spent the afternoon at Walt Disney World today. Back in March we purchased the 4-day Dream Pass and we've only used it once. It expires at the end of this month, so we went after they got out of school to use up one of our remaining three days.

I literally cannot remember the last time I went to the Magic Kingdom. I haven't worked for Disney since 2002 and it may be that long since I've been there. However long it has been, we had a great time today.

I'm too tired to write a long post or upload photos. This photo of me acting like a goofball on Tom Sawyer's Island will have to suffice for now.

angelo villagomezAnd yes, that is the fabulous man bag (It's a satchel! Indiana Jones had one!) from the Great Indochina Loop.

Casino Jack and the United States of Money


Casino Jack and the United States of Money hits theaters today. Governor Juan Babauta, Governor Froilan Tenorio, and Federal Omsbudman Pam Brown are among the people interviewed for the documentary. Look for cameos of John Joyner, Governor Ben Fitial, Governor Pedro Tenorio, Senator Tom Villagomez, Diego Benavente, Oscar Babauta, Felix Mendiola, Herman Guerrero, Joe Ayuyu, and even Rabby Sayed in the trailer posted above. Check out Fandango for movie times and locations.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Motorola Devour Worst Phone Ever

motorola devourDo not purchase a Motorola Devour. I bought one two months ago and I hate it. I know that hate is a strong word, but I truly mean it. This phone sucks. Do not buy it.

The battery lasts all of 24 hours before it dies. If you forget to plug in your phone before you go to sleep, guess what? You have no phone in the morning. The stupid thing also shuts off anytime I flip open the keyboard or bump the phone. What kind of crap is that?

megan fox super bowlI am very upset at Megan Fox over all this. She told me in a Super Bowl commercial that I should buy this phone. She didn't tell me what a piece of crap it was. Thanks, a lot Megan. Now I'm stuck with this horrible phone for 22 more months.

Thank you for your letters

I have great news! Last February you wrote letters to the United States Congress in support of H.R. 3511 to authorize a Mariana Trench Marine National Monument Visitor Center in the Northern Mariana Islands. All of your letters and emails were entered into the record and your voice was heard because yesterday the House Natural Resources Committee approved the bill by voice vote. The bill now moves to the House of Representatives.

The Northern Mariana Islands are one step closer to realizing the construction of a Mariana Trench Eco-Discovery Center and Monument Headquarters. There is still work to be done and you will be called upon again, but today should be a day for celebration.

Unfortuantely, there is also some bad news. The House Natural Resources Committee also passed Representative Madeleine Bordallo's H.R. 4493. The Bunitan Tasi bill would place a visitor center and headquarters on Guam, not in the Northern Mariana Islands, and would give Guam a role in managing the marine resources of the Northern Mariana Islands.

Although I am not speaking for them, the Friends of the Mariana Trench Monument testified on both these bills and are opposed to H.R 4493. The Mariana Trench Marine National Monument does not protect any marine resources within 400 miles of Guam's shores. The only marine protected area within the monument is contained within the Islands Unit surrounding the islands of Uracas, Maug and Asuncion. Those are waters that belong to the Northern Mariana Islands and Guam should have no role in how they are managed. H.R. 4493 is nothing more than an attempt to impinge on the sovereignty and right to self-government of the Northern Mariana Islands.

Furthermore, placing the visitor center and headquarters on Guam would violate the promises made by the United States government to the leaders of the Northern Mariana Islands leading up to the designation of the monument. It would transfer the social and economic benefits of a monument from the Northern Mariana Islands to Guam.

H.R. 4493 also violates Guam Public Law 23-24 which "prohibit(s) the Government of Guam from entering into cooperative agreements with respect to the so-called (Guam National) Wildlife Refuge...and to prohibit the use of Government of Guam resources and personnel in any manner that could be construed as supporting continuous federal holding of such properties." Guam Public Law should be amended before Bordallo's bill is entertained.

It is shameful that Representative Bordallo would continue to advocate for H.R. 4493 after scores of people living in the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam and the mainland United States made her aware of these issues.

But that is how it goes in a democracy. The fight to bring home the promises of a Mariana Trench Marine National Monument continues. Thank you for all that you have done to bring us to where we are now and don't be surprised if I ask for your help again in the near future.

******
A response:

Greetings Angelo,

Thank you for alerting everyone to the Natural Resources Committee’s approval of H.R. 3511, my bill authorizing a Mariana Trench Marine National Monument Visitor Center in the Northern Mariana Islands. The bill received the unanimous consent of the Committee on Wednesday. Like you, I am very excited to see it moving forward.

Unfortunately your post contained some incorrect news, and I would like to ask you to post a correction.

You reported that the Committee also passed Representative Madeleine Bordallo's bill H.R. 4493 and that it would place a Monument visitor center and headquarters on Guam, not in the Northern Mariana Islands.

What really happened is that during the Committee meeting, Chairwoman Bordallo offered an amendment to her original bill. The amendment removed language authorizing construction of a facility in Guam for purposes related to the Monument. And the amendment was adopted by the Committee.

I believe these two actions, approval of the NMI Visitors Center bill and amendment of the Guam bill, completely clarify that congressional intent is for the Monument Visitor Center to be located in the Northern Mariana Islands.

Now, I look forward to getting H.R. 3511 passed by the House and the Senate and signed by the President – significant legislative steps, which require continued support from all those in the Northern Marianas who have been behind the Monument from the beginning. So, please keep up the effort.

I should also let you know that in addition to the $220,000 I earmarked for NOAA in this fiscal year, which can be used by the CNMI for scoping the uses, users, and appropriate sites for our visitor center, I have requested an additional $1,000,000 in seed money for the coming fiscal year. No guarantees there, but, as you can see, I am aggressively pushing to get the visitor center going.

Regards,

kilili

******
My response:

The amendments do not go far enough to ensure that the social and economic benefits of the monument accrue to the Northern Mariana Islands.

Tartan

My brother and sister are both students at Lake Highland Preparatory School in Orlando. Back in February I helped my mother with one of Catie's girl scout meetings (I guess she's Catie's mother, too) and we planted about a dozen shrubs along the shore of Lake Highland. Like most things I do, I wrote about the planting on this blog. I also posted some pictures.

Last month I was asked by someone at Lake Highland if they could use one of the photos from that blog post for a story about the girl scouts in an upcoming issue of Tartan, the school's quarterly magazine. The latest issue arrived today. Here it is, from the bottom of page 46:

lake highland tartanThe first thing I thought when I saw this was, "great, I just wrote two political posts."

Mom is really proud that I made the pages of the Tartan. In fact, she seemed more excited about my being in the Tartan than when I was quoted in the New York Times in March. You see, in this Lake Highland household, appearing on page 46 of the Tartan is about on par with being featured on NBC Nightly News during Earth Week (and, yes, that is me with the mohawk).

Congratulations to the girl scouts for making the pages of the Tartan. I look forward to our next tree planting.

2010 Delegate Race – 6 months to go

Disclosure: I am a member of the Democratic Party and will be supporting the Democrat in this year’s congressional election. Jesse C. Borja is a family friend who worked with my father on the Supreme Court and who I worked with for about a year when he was the Chair of the Mariana Islands Nature Alliance. Jesse was also the keynote speaker at the first Beautify CNMI anniversary celebration.

Six months from now, for only the second time in our history, the voters of the Northern Mariana Islands will elect a delegate to represent them in the United States Congress. So far four individuals have announced their candidacy: the incumbent, Gregorio Camacho Sablan is running as an Independent, Juan Nekai Babauta is his Republican challenger, Jesse Camacho Borja is his Democratic challenger, and Joseph Norita Camacho is his Covenant challenger.

In 2008 Representative Sablan won 24% of the vote in a nine-way race. Assuming that everyone who voted for him last time votes for him again (which is a bad assumption), 76% of the vote is still up for grabs. Sablan is now in a four-way contest, so my initial take is to put this race in the tossup column.

However, if I were a Las Vegas odds-maker and was forced to pick one, I’d put Sablan as the front-runner. In my opinion this race is his to lose, not the others to win. If Sablan can convince voters that he did a good job representing their interests during his first two years in office he should have no problem getting reelected.

I think he can make that argument; how successful he is in making it will be up to him (and the people that attack his record as the campaign proceeds). If I were Sablan I’d point to all the ARRA funds that have come to the Northern Mariana Islands in the last year and a half. I’d point to the introduction and passage in the House of Representatives of the submerged lands bill and the introduction of the Mariana Trench Visitor Center bill. I’d also point to the public meetings on each of the inhabited islands where he took questions from anyone who wanted to ask one.

On a personal level, I have appreciated the fact that Sablan has listened to my concerns as a voter and environmental advocate. He participated in the island wide cleanup that I organized in April 2009 and he and his staff have given me their time in his district office, in his Washington, DC office, over the phone, and via email. I cannot say the same thing for other elected officials in the Northern Mariana Islands. Some officials have refused to be involved in my environmental efforts because of the involvement of other elected officials with other political stripes; others still refuse to meet on issues pertaining to the Mariana Trench Marine National Monument. Sablan may not always follow my advice, but he at least has the decency and respect to meet with me. When we can work together, we do; when we can’t, we don’t.

If the election were held today I believe that Sablan would win. As for the other three candidates, if one of them is going to defeat Sablan they are going to have to convince voters that Sablan has not done his job and that they would do a better job of representing the interests of the Northern Marianas.

I think that that argument can also be made. If I were a challenger to Sablan I would argue that the ARRA funds had nothing to do with him. It was the Fitial Administration that applied for and received millions of dollars in federal grants; Sablan is just taking credit for other people’s work. I’m not saying this is true; I’m just saying it would make a good stump speech.

I would also accuse Sablan of never wanting to take any sides, which is worse than being wrong or being a flip-flopper. He hasn’t taken a side on the immigration debate, whether or not the territorial waters surrounding Uracas, Maug, and Asuncion should remain a part of the Mariana Trench Marine National Monument once submerged lands are conferred to the Northern Mariana Islands, or which island in the Northern Marianas should be home to the Mariana Trench Visitors Center. As I campaigned against him I would say that now is not the time for indecision. The Northern Marianas need someone with a backbone, not somebody who is wishy-washy (I’d figure out a word that means wishy-washy in Chamorro and use it).

I would also accuse Sablan of not standing up for the interests of the people of the Northern Mariana Islands. I don’t really know how I’d make that charge, but I’d make it. Maybe you could say that he’s not standing up to Guam’s attempts to steal the social and economic benefits of the monument; you could also make baseless accusations about giving up our right to self-determination. There’s also the never fail accusation that he wants to give Filipinos US citizenship, destroying our culture and our economy in one fell swoop. A large percentage of people in the Northern Marianas are hard-wired to accept accusations of a federal takeover. You wouldn’t have to prove your charges to them either; they’d stop thinking as soon as you said the words, “federal takeover.”

I have personally never campaigned negatively, but I would not be surprised if all of the issues I just listed were brought up in the letters to the editor sections of the newspapers. The candidates themselves won’t make the charges, but the individuals that speak ahead of them at political rallies will.

As scary as it sounds, I think that Joe Camacho will have an easier time pulling votes from Sablan than the other two challengers. There is a certain segment of the voting population that will flock to Camacho once he starts spewing the anti-American rhetoric of the Covenant Party. Whether or not his loyalty issues counterbalance that is yet to be seen; Camacho campaigned for Sablan in the last election and has professed to believe in three different political philosophies in as many years.

Camacho will also have the support of the incumbent Fitial Administration. Government workers in support of Camacho are bound to be vocally supportive, while government workers supporting other candidates will shy away from their campaigns for fear of losing their jobs. I predict that the most vocal supporters of the other three candidates will either be unemployed, retired, or work in the private sector.

Never in a million years would I cast a vote for Camacho, but he at least meets my minimum requirements for the job. He is a practicing attorney and from all accounts is an intelligent person. I just disagree with his political philosophy (whatever it is this year). I predict that Camacho will get the fewest votes on Election Day (if nobody else enters the race).

Juan Babauta is an interesting candidate. I first met him when I was still in college and when he was the Resident Representative for the Northern Mariana Islands. His term as governor was just ending when I moved back to Saipan and I felt the public sentiment back then was that he was the worst governor the Northern Marianas had ever had. This was, of course, before Benigno Fitial was able to prove himself as the worst governor the Northern Marianas ever had.

When Babauta ran for governor last year I did not think him a serious candidate. I was shocked when he received 2984 votes in the Republican Primary. And yes, one of those votes was mine. I voted for Babauta because of his support for the Mariana Trench Marine National Monument and because of his choice for Lt. Governor, Galvin Guerrero. I would have voted for Heinz, who was actually a stronger supporter of the monument, but his selection for Lt. Governor, Arnold Palacios, gave me half a head of gray hair during the monument ordeal. I made it up to Heinz, however, for voting for him and Arnold during the regular election and the run-off election.

In this race I think that Babauta is a serious candidate, especially if he gets the support of the Republican Party (read: Ralph Torres). I would be content with a Babauta victory. Although I think that if the election were held today Sablan would be the winner, on Election Day I think the race is going to be a tossup between Babauta, Sablan and Jesse Borja.

Jesse Borja is the most credentialed of the four candidates. He went to the best college of the four, went to a better law school than Camacho, sat on the Northern Marianas Supreme Court, was a one-term lt. governor and is the most successful of the four.

Jesse has been out of politics for about a decade, which will be a hindrance. Sablan, Babauta, and Camacho have all run for office in the last two years and are starting off with more organization and a better grasp of their supporters. In this election Jesse has the support of the Democratic Party, but the party is not very strong and no democrats currently hold public office. Even so, I will be supporting Jesse and will ask my supporters to support him.

With six months to go the race is shaping up to be an interesting one. I wouldn’t be surprised if more candidates threw their hat into the ring, either. I expected John Oliver Gonzales, who placed third in the 2008 Election, to make another run and I’ll be shocked if no ego-driven candidates (i.e. Juan Demapan for Mayor 2009 and Felipe Atalig for Delegate 2008) enter the race.

The worst-case scenario for the race would be a Covenant victory; that would be disastrous. The Covenant Party and the governor have zero credibility in Washington, DC and Joe Camacho and the interests of the Northern Marianas would get steamrolled in the name of Jack Abramoff. Neither the Democrats nor the Republicans would allow Camacho to caucus with them; the Northern Marianas would not belong to the majority or the minority. We’d be hung out to dry like everyone else associated with the corruption scandals that destroyed the careers of Tom Delay, Richard Pombo and John Doolittle.

That’s just my opinion, though.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

No Empty Promises, Except for this One

joe camachoA few years back I organized about two dozen volunteers to clean up the trash left on Mount Tapachou after the Good Friday celebration and picked up about 1000 Joe James Norita Camacho water bottles. Joe was running for the local House of Representatives at the time and was handing out free bottles of water at the bottom of the mountain. As people walked towards the summit they threw the bottles on the ground. I picked most of them up and have been harboring a grudge ever since.

Yeah, Mr. Litterbug, I'm talking to you!

The reason I bring up this story three years after the fact is because the Saipan Tribune and the Marianas Variety both carry stories about Joe defending his campaign manager, Felix Nogis, in federal court for littering at American Memorial Park last Sunday. The way the story was written didn't make it sound like it was a big offense. The Saipan Tribune reports that "it was determined in the follow-up investigation that the table used for the party had been reserved by Nogis." "The table" to me means one table. I read it like Felix went to the beach with his family and left a trash bag or two next to a table.

That's not exactly what happened.

joe norita camachoThe trash that was left was from a campaign rally celebrating Joe's birthday. Hundreds of people were in attendance, including the governor, other elected officials, and most of the cabinet. This wasn't a case of littering; it was illegal dumping!

And there are pictures on Facebook proving their guilt! I lifted just a few and reposted them here:

litter bugillegal dumpingbad congressmancovenant partyThat is so disrespectful! What kind of person would dump garbage at a national park?

When I first saw the story I had to wonder why Joe was defending a litter bug. I mean, the guy is running for Congress. Doesn't he know this is going to cost him some votes? Joe might save his friend from paying a fine and doing some community service, but at what cost?

Thousands of people have participated in cleanups on Saipan. In fact, three days before his campaign manager was cited for littering over 2000 people participated in an island wide cleanup. I'd be pissed if the guy who wanted to represent me in Congress was dumping garbage on the same weekend I was cleaning it up.

******
She's going to hate me for saying this, but the Covenant Party should have run Cinta Kaipat as their delegate candidate. Cinta was barely 300 votes shy of becoming a senator in the last election, is widely respected for the work she has done with Beautify CNMI and is a loyal supporter of the Covenant Party. Joe, on the other hand, has loyalty issues. He has professed to adhere to three different political philosophies in as many years and actually campaigned for the incumbent two years ago.

BP Scientists inspired by Simpson's Movie 'Trappuccino'; Choose Option 4

In the 2007 film The Simpsons Movie, Homer Simpson creates an environmental disaster when he dumps a silo full of pig feces into Lake Springfield. The head of the EPA presents President Schwarzenegger with five options to deal with the catastrophe; the president chooses Option Four. Springfield is encased in a giant glass dome and plans are made to blow up the city.

trappuccinoHilarity ensues.

Two weeks ago an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico operated by BP exploded and sank. Every day since 200,000 gallons of crude oil have poured into the Gulf's marine environment.

The federal government and BP are doing everything they can do minimize the damages; BP has hired 700 fishing vessels to place floating barriers around the oil and the Coast Guard is on the scene. Even so, they are finding it very difficult to stop the oil from gushing out of the oil well. Remotely operated vehicles have been dispatched to the site of the three separate leaks and are feverishly trying to close down the leaks.

Meanwhile, BP has come up with a plan: they are going to go with Option Four. That's right, ladies and gentlemen, they are going to drop a giant dome on top of the leak:

gulf of mexico domeThanks to Al Jazeera for the video and graphic.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Earthquake on Saipan!!!

We live in an amazing world. I am sitting at a computer desk in Winter Park finishing up the final edits to my first book.

As I was typing I got an email from my friend Walt on Saipan to let me know that there had just been a big earthquake on Saipan. Seconds later, Edz messaged me on Skype with the same news. Edz turned on the video chat and told me she was ok; there was just some shaking for a few seconds.

I jumped on Facebook and Heather Elise, Boni Pangelinan, Laurie Peterka, Josephine Togawa, Lisa Mary Kelly Fredrickson, Shorty Duremdes and Yeng Camacho (all women, what's up with that?) had posted about the earthquake.

I quickly jumped over to the USGS website to see how big the earthquake was. It was a 5.4 and was centered 19 miles SSW of Saipan.

Go back to bed.