Friday, April 25, 2008

Who Are Our Legislators Really Representing?

Food For Thought 4-25-08

Hi friends, this is Harry Blalock; General Manager for radio stations KZMI & KCNM. It’s that time once again to take a look at the issues of the week, and to offer some Food For Thought.

No matter how hard I try to ignore the legislature and not talk about them, they just continue to make fools of themselves and beg to be criticized for it. The only real dilemma here is trying to decide where to start this week. I guess the latest attempt by the legislature to legalize gambling on Saipan is the most logical place to start. I know this may come as a total shock to some of you, but gambling is illegal on Saipan. Then why are there more poker places than Tinian has cows you ask? The answer to that is both simple and complicated. The simple side of it is because we have corrupt and moronic lawmakers who had their hands out looking for “campaign donations” when the idea of slot machines was first introduced years ago. Now comes the complicated part, when the slot machines were first introduced they were for “entertainment” purposes only, and you could only win credits on them, no cash. But that wasn’t good enough, some of the gullible citizens thought they could strike it rich if only they could actually have a chance of winning a huge cash jackpot. At least that’s what they were told by the machines owners and operators. So again, the poker industry pimps went up and had a discussion with the legislature and they decided that gambling only involved games of chance. And because there is a certain amount of thinking and reasoning that goes into playing poker, it then became a game of skill, not a game of chance, and therefore was not considered gambling. Seriously, this is the reasoning they incorporated! And thus was born our non-gambling poker industry.

I always thought that gambling was when you bet money or other goods on the outcome of some sort of game, and you had a chance of increasing your initial bet depending on the odds and the outcome of the game. I decided that maybe I should find out what someone else’s definition of gambling was, so I checked Wikipedia to see what their definition of gambling was. According to Wikipedia, “gambling has a certain economic definition, referring to wagering money or something of material value on an event with an uncertain outcome with the primary intent of winning additional money and or material goods.” That’s basically the same thing that I said, only it sounds like it went through a legal department first. So whether you call it a game or skill or a game of chance, it’s still gambling as long as money or material goods are wagered or used. So it’s not exactly a quantum leap to figure out that we do indeed already have gambling on Saipan. But for some, that’s not enough, they figure they could take a lot more of your money if they could take it at blackjack tables, Texas Hold-em tables and a few other select games.

We saw a group gather signatures and put this issue on the ballot in the last election, whether to allow indigenously owned and controlled casinos to operate on Saipan or not. The initiative was soundly defeated. You can argue that people weren’t necessarily against gambling, they just didn’t like the indigenous only angle, but I think it’s a moot point. It was shot down, the people had spoken. Our lawmakers weren’t paying any attention to what you had to say though; either that or they just thought they knew better than you once again. They tried introducing a bill that would seek to legalize certain games of chance for Saipan, to have limited casino operations. Most people were outraged that the idiots on the hill hadn’t paid any attention to the last election, and the Senate promised to kill the bill anyway, because of course Rota and Tinian don’t want any competition from Saipan to their thriving casino industries, and I said that with my tongue firmly planted in my cheek. The first time they tried to pass the bill, it was killed, no big surprise.

But I have to admit that even I was surprised when the issue resurfaced again recently. Congressman and former Speaker Oscar Babauta tried introducing it again, with a slightly different spin, saying it would be the economic salvation for Saipan. It might be the economic salvation for someone, but it would probably just be the casino owners and whoever he had to pay off to push the process through. The House voted on the measure this past Thursday and it was soundly defeated once again, 16 voting no, 2 abstained and 2 voted yes. I think it might be worth pointing out who the two Congressmen were that voted for its passage though; they were Oscar Babauta and Stanley Torres. The two abstentions were Ray Palacios and Justo Quitugua. So congratulations on re-electing these two who are obviously so in tuned with what the community wants. I don’t know whether it’s that they don’t listen, can’t remember, don’t care or just aren’t smart enough to read the writing on the wall. But once again they are wasting your money by introducing and supporting legislation that has absolutely no chance of passage whatsoever. The truly sad part is, that you obviously didn’t learn your lessons in the last election, and you’ll forget these lessons before the next election once again, and these two will probably be re-elected once again, although for the life of me I can’t figure out why anyone would want them representing them.

I read where some of the freshmen lawmakers are getting fed up with the way things are done in their illustrious body; I can only imagine their frustration level. And it is my understanding that the House deliberately kills discussion and won’t allow recommendations or amendments from a certain female freshman lawmaker. Do they really believe they’re collectively better off by not allowing her to be heard or to participate? Do they really think that they are the only ones with all the answers? Aren’t they the ones who got us into all of these messes in the first place? Do they think it’s more important to continue recycling defeated legislation than it is to listen to new and fresh ideas? If our hope truly rides on the actions, thoughts and plans of the legislature, we are indeed doomed!

And that brings me to the other monumental show of ignorance recently by this self-important body. The House of Representatives voted Thursday by a vote of 17-3 approving a resolution asking President Bush not to unilaterally declare a marine sanctuary around the islands of Uracas, Maug and Asuncion. The 3 who voted against the resolution were Representatives Tina Sablan, Heinz Hofschneider and Edward Salas. The Senate unanimously adopted the resolution earlier in the week. I realize there are people on both sides of this debate and issue, but honestly those who have come out against it have motives that are more than a little suspect, and their track records are less than stellar when it comes to the environment. I believe it is always a mistake though to take sides on an issue before thoroughly familiarizing yourself with it. After all, how can you vote on something if you haven’t bothered to educate yourself on it? Do you really think that reading a few letters to the editor in the newspaper qualifies you as being properly educated? Did the lawmakers bother to actually find out how the public actually feels about this proposed marine sanctuary? Did they hold any public hearings on the matter before issuing their resolution? Or do they think they have some kind of ESP that informs them automatically what the majority of their constituency thinks about any particular matter at any given time? Again, these supposed “representatives” of the people decided they already knew what you wanted and thought, and therefore they didn’t need to ask you, they would just go ahead and speak for you, whether it represented how you truly felt or not. In my mind the most prudent thing to do at this point would have been to hold public hearings, do some more investigation into exactly what this would mean for the CNMI, and maybe find out how the marine sanctuary in the northern Hawaiian Islands has been working out.

I guess the thing that really upsets me about this is that once again, they didn’t bother asking you what you thought, they didn’t care. If they really wanted to know, they could have found out, and could have given everyone with an opinion a chance to share it with them. But they once again feel they know what is best for us, and that they don’t need or want your input into the matter.

I guess at this point in time I would have to ask, do you really feel you’re getting your money’s worth out of our legislature? Are they worth all the money we spend on them every year? Are they accurately and properly representing you and how you feel about things? Are they introducing and supporting bills and concepts that are important to you, that you feel will improve the quality of life in the CNMI? Are they spending their time productively and showing positive results for it? Are you happy that nearly every legislator, some of the legislative bureau staff and other government employees take numerous hours out of every week to attend every funeral that comes along, whether they knew the person or family or not? If an employee in the private sector wants to attend a funeral, it is usually on their own time, the employer doesn’t usually pay them when they are out on personal business, so why should government employees be allowed to go and then collect their full pay? After all, we all know the real reason they are there is to buy some goodwill and hopefully your family’s votes in the next election. I even heard a Saipan Senator told a colleague that the best way to get votes was to attend every single rosary and funeral that came along. Is that really what we elect them for? Is that what’s important to you? The next time you see them at a funeral, tell them they work for you and to get back to work, this isn’t included in their job description.

Food For Thought is now available online at and if you want it by e-mail distribution please send me an e-mail at

I’m Harry Blalock, thanking you once again for giving me a generous slice of your valuable time, and allowing me to share my Food For Thought.

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