Food For Thought 9-12-08
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.
A healthy discussion on the issues is usually a good thing; it allows both sides to see things from a point of view they may not have realized previously. That’s provided that both sides base their arguments and point of view on facts and not lies and distortions. If you have to make things up to defend your point of view, that should tell you that maybe you’re on the wrong side of the issue right away. But for some people it’s not about figuring out what the right thing to do is or what makes the most sense, it’s about fighting the issue because your boss is against it, or because of political pressure.
I have listened to those who are opposed to the Marianas Marine Monument, and I consistently hear a couple of either misconceptions, distortions or just outright lies. They keep trying to tell people that the federal government would own those three islands and would not allow anyone to go up there to visit them. The fact of the matter is that this monument is about protecting the water surrounding the islands, and has nothing to do with the islands themselves at all. The islands would remain under the control of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands; we would still own them and make all rules pertaining to them. A marine preserve deals with the water and all the creatures living in the water, the laws would pertain to what is allowable in the waters; it has nothing to do with the land on the islands in this instance. But the opponents don’t want you to realize this, they want to keep you confused about the issue, believing it is really about the land on the islands, and is just one more instance of the federal government coming in and taking over our land and pushing their laws on us. Think about it for a minute though, if it was really about the islands themselves, why would Wespac be fighting it so hard? They are a fishing organization; they are concerned with water, not land.
I also found it quite ironic that in their resolution they passed against the proposed monument, one of the reasons the legislature listed for being against it was that the federal government wouldn’t allow local people to go up and visit those islands. This is ironic because our local legislature has already designated those three islands as Sanctuary islands, meaning they are already off limits to visitors. You might recall the case several years ago when a group of lawmakers took a boat on a joyride to some of the northern islands supposedly to look into the possibility of establishing a school up there. I kid you not, that was the listed purpose of the trip. So they chartered a private boat, and went up on this “fact finding” trip. One of the lawmakers at the time had a private zoo, and wanted to capture some coconut crabs for his zoo, so he got a permit from Fish & Wildlife to capture 5 coconut crabs from the island of Pagan and bring them back to exhibit in his zoo. But for whatever reason, this group of lawmakers, and their friends decided to go to Asuncion Island instead. Asuncion is a sanctuary island and we were told they were not even supposed to step foot on the island, not to mention that it was blatantly illegal to capture coconut crabs on the island. This group of lawmakers turned lawbreakers decided that the laws were for other people, not them, and they proceeded to capture over 20 coconut crabs and had a big feast of them. That attitude by lawmakers is nothing new obviously, and it is still alive and well.
That was the first time I found out that under our own constitution, you are not even allowed to step foot on a sanctuary island, they are totally off limits. So while this bunch of meatheads, I mean honorable meatheads, passed this resolution blaming the federal government for not allowing them to go to the islands if the monument was signed into law, the truth of the matter is that they did it to themselves long before the Marianas Marine Monument was ever proposed. By the way, there were 3 legislators who voted against that moronic resolution; they were Heinz Hofschnieder, Tina Sablan and Edward Salas. So the rest of them all willingly distorted the facts and made it look like one thing, when the reality of the situation was that they themselves were the ones responsible for the situation they were supposedly trying to avoid.
The other major issue that they don’t really want to admit is that the C.N.M.I. currently has no ownership or jurisdiction over the waters surrounding our islands anyway. Most people seem to think that we own and control 3 miles out from each of the islands, however that is simply not true. You may remember a couple years ago when we were fighting with the federal government over how far our ownership and control of the offshore water extended, Governor Fitial was demanding that we fight for 200 miles. I remember at the time there were those that told him that he should be more realistic and only ask for 3 miles, since that is what most other states and territories have. But our Governor, as seems to usually be the case, thought he knew better than everybody else and insisted on fighting for 200 miles. The case wound up going to the U.S. Supreme Court and we wound up with nothing. We didn’t get 200 miles, or 20 miles or 10 miles, or even 3 miles, the federal government said that they owned and controlled all water right up to the high water mark. That’s what happens when you get too greedy and try imposing yourself on the U.S., you wind up with nothing if you’re not willing to be reasonable and compromise.
So since we don’t own or control any of the water according to the U.S. government, what do we really risk giving up? It’s not ours to give up, we don’t own or control it now anyway, we just keep trying to convince everyone that we do. I’ve heard several people say that they are hesitant to support the monument because they haven’t heard how much control we’d have to give up or what we’d lose the rights to. They don’t have to wonder anymore, that question can be easily and truthfully be answered right now. We wouldn’t have to give up any land or rights to the islands at all, because this isn’t about the islands, it has nothing to do with them actually. And we wouldn’t have to give up any mining rights, fishing rights or rights to the water either, we don’t have any! According to the U.S. government, they currently own right up to the high water mark, and the only way I can see that changing is if we were somehow successful in pulling away from the U.S. and declaring ourselves independent. But that probably wouldn’t be a very smart thing to do if we expect to keep getting financial help and handouts from the U.S. Once you understand the truth about these 2 fairly simple issues, it takes a lot of the confusion over the issue away and makes you wonder why all the fuss if we really don’t seem to have anything to argue about anyway?
So if this isn’t really about those 2 major issues, then what is it all about? Could it be that Wespac just doesn’t want to lose that potential fishing area? Is part of their funding dependent on the size of the area they cover? Is this just a jurisdictional thing with them, and are they fighting over turf? Is Wespac behind the reluctance of the lawmakers to support this? Has Wespac been making some big campaign donations? I don’t really know the answers to any of these questions, but I think they are all worth looking into, and I’d like some answers to them.
Is the real reason that the Governor and his “yes men” oppose the monument just because they are still mad at the U.S. government for forcing them to finally raise the minimum wage here? Are they still mad about the takeover of our immigration system, and this is just too close to those events? Is it a spite thing? Are they trying to block it just because they think they can? Are they trying to show the U.S. how big and tough they are and impress them by standing up to them? Have your representatives asked you what you think about the proposed monument? Have they told you they would represent your ideas and attitudes since they are indeed supposed to be representing you?
Or could it be that they really don’t understand the facts themselves? Do you think they really are that misinformed that they believe this is really about the islands? Were they sleeping when the decision was handed down that we don’t own or control any of the water surrounding our islands? Do you think they are under the mistaken impression that the Governor actually won that challenge and we own and control 200 miles out? Do you think it’s possible that these leaders we’ve elected could really be that misinformed about everything, and not have bothered checking into the facts themselves before issuing a resolution? Surely they wouldn’t do that, would they?
Can it be that they really believe that rot about what a good job we’re doing managing our own resources and patrolling our own waters? They don’t even want to open that can of worms and look at just how dismal their record really is in that matter. This commentary isn’t meant for our elected leaders, I don’t believe they have the capacity to understand it anyway. This commentary is meant for you, it’s about using common sense and reason and basing your opinion on the facts, not on misinformation, deceptions and lies. It all boils down to these two basic facts, the Marianas Marine Monument has nothing to do with the islands, and we don’t own or control any of the water anyway. When you establish those two very basic facts, it makes their arguments against this whole thing look very silly and inappropriate. Amazing what a difference a little thing like the facts makes!
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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.