About Saipan

Saipan is an island in the Western Pacific Ocean. It is the principal locality of the U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. Saipan and its neighboring islands are close to Asia, on the Pacific Rim. They nonetheless share little of the culture of Asia or the U.S. Traditionally run by families, the "society" models its government after that of the United States -- to a point. However, unlike in the U.S., none of its legislators (in the CNMI House of Representatives and Senate) is a lawyer. When asked about this, a Mainland lawyer who has lived there for years laughed and said, "Hell, most of them are not even high school graduates."

Nepotism rules on the islands. Fueled by money paid by American taxpayers and diverted to the far-off territory, politicians run for office primarily for the sake of being in a position to appoint their relatives to high-paying sinecures. Politics in the CNMI is a blood sport. In an election year – which includes nearly every year, since there are primaries when there are no general elections – campaigning starts on Memorial Day, with political signs littering the roadsides. During the interminable election seasons government employees commonly take leaves of absence or sick time from work and dedicate all their time to getting either themselves or their relatives elected. And what do the campaigns consist of? Nothing more than photographs of the candidates with their family names exploding on the landscape. One candidate for U.S. Washington Representative, for example, was known by her married name throughout her career as president of the local community college. She was married to a Mainland American. Suddenly as a candidate she became a local, returning in her campaign posters to a long-ignored family name blaring from the middle of the name she had used professionally for years. Her campaign posters, like all the others, screamingly appealed to nothing more than indigenous racial and family interests.

Campaign platforms are non-existent. Political campaigns in the CNMI are less sophisticated, if this can be believed, than a typical high school student council election in the Mainland U.S. They are popularity contests -- family popularity contests and nothing more. Candidates are a conduit for their relatives' government employment. One Senator regularly runs for reelection under the slogan "Why not!" Why not, indeed? There are hundreds of reasons why not. Ignorance and illiteracy are two. The candidate offers not a single reason why he should be given anyone's vote. He is routinely reelected.

Another Senator complained in the local media that because the Legislature keeps passing laws, modifying and then rescinding them, the legislators look like they don't know what they're doing. He has a point: they don't know what they're doing.

The "success" of the Legislature is measured solely on the number of bills introduced and laws passed, regardless of their constitutionality or their ultimate demise.

One member of the Legislature, for example, introduced a bill during the Summer of 2002 to amend the CNMI Constitution to prohibit anyone other than persons of Northern Marianas descent from running for political office. Of course, the prohibition is innate, since nobody else has the slightest chance of being elected. This politician was rightly assailed in the media (by non-indigenous island residents, of course) first of all for racism, but also for having no concept of the CNMI’s obligation to recognize the United States Constitution, which was endorsed and accepted as part of the Commonwealth’s deal with America. Of course, assuming the politician had an even passing familiarity with the Constitution (a dubious proposition), he was speaking plainly for the rest of his ilk for whom the “law” is little more than what the English refer to as a “dodge.”

“It’s odd,” notes P.F. Kluge in his excellent book The Edge of Paradise: America in Micronesia. “The other islands chose leaders who were exceptional, one way or another. . . . In the Northern Marianas they elected men who were most like themselves, typical rather than special.” And “typical” in the Northern Marianas is anything but special, unless one considers rapacious greed and racism to be special.

The only question in any election is which candidate will be given his turn to steal the money pouring in from the United States government.

In early 2003 two CNMI senators faced trial on federal indictments charging them with official corruption for “employing” the other’s family members in high-paying, phantom positions. Because each senator is allocated $500,000 per year for “office expenses,” theft is laughably easy. Apparently not content to “employ” illiterate family members to sit behind a desk from time to time and chew betel nut, one senator allegedly “employed” another’s daughter pursuant to three separate contracts – not letting the fact that she was a full-time college student living 100 miles away in Guam stand in his way. Witnesses testified that the daughter never appeared for “work.” Of course, the other senator reciprocated. Theft, like sex, is much more fun when it’s done with a friend.

Locals vented their opinions in letters to the newspapers. If you think they were outraged about their elected representatives stealing taxpayer money and paying it to their families, think again. Their principal concern was that the senators were being unfairly prosecuted and they should not be called to account, since it is common knowledge that “they all do the same thing.” Of course, Nazis supporting Hitler and American fascists supporting Bush all spout the same line: “they all do the same thing.” (Another implicit worry was that this prosecution and others of its kind might upset the gravy train.) One defendant, in fact, up until the time of trial, professed bewilderment at his prosecution. So psychologically ingrained is the culture of theft that, even facing jail, he considered the practice to be no big deal.

The trump card of every local politico or public official brought to trial is the jury. Defendants know with certainty that they or a friend will have a relative or dependent government employee on the jury. Faced with blatant intimidation by defendants’ supporters glaring at them from the gallery – even the governor showed up recently in the trial of some local drunks who shot to death a 7-year-old girl at a family barbecue, since the local drunks were family members of the lieutenant governor (guns don’t kill people, assholes with guns kill people) – jurors commonly acquit even in the face of overwhelming evidence of guilt. They know which side their bread is buttered on.

Amazingly, in spite of all the protections available to him, the first senator tried was convicted. Pending his incarceration he was actually suspended from the senate. It was unknown whether the presiding senator – a relative of the convict – suspended his pay as well. Indications are that he did not.

One reason the federal government is prosecuting the case against the senators is that their offices and positions – like everything else in the CNMI government – are funded exclusively by federal money. This is federal taxpayer money at issue and the “citizens” of the Northern Marianas – like most people on the dole – pay no federal taxes.

Another reason the federal government is prosecuting the case is that the local government is the biggest crook in the Pacific, and it can’t really be expected to prosecute itself.

An anti-nepotism law in the CNMI might simplify the election process: it would weed out virtually all the candidates, with the probable exception of the perennial gubernatorial candidate who was the unabashed pawn of the garment industry.

That candidate, late in the 2001 election, was shown to have paid a prospective voter $550 by check drawn on his campaign organization. A photocopy of the check was published in one of the two Saipan newspapers – not the one owned by his sponsor and former employer. The candidate's spokesman answered the charges. Unable to deny the allegations of vote-buying, the spokesman defended the practice – claiming the payments were an "accommodation" and that such payments are made out of the kindness of the candidate's heart. They represent "the island way." (He actually said that. You can't make this stuff up.) At least one other payment was disclosed later, also drawn on the candidate's campaign organization and similarly defended. Vote-buying, therefore, is openly argued to constitute acceptable conduct. And where did this candidate's money to buy votes come from? From the garment interests, of course. Because garment workers are paid nearly slave wages, the factory owners are able to amass enormous capital both to pay off United States Congressmen to maintain the CNMI's political status quo and to buy votes for their local candidate.

Bribe-taking by governmental officials in the CNMI is also so common as to be hardly newsworthy. It's "the island way."

Additional garment industry money was devoted to paying for television campaign commercials and print advertisements featuring "conservative" Republican U.S. congressmen (read "whores") supporting a candidate they may never have met but whose sponsor can be very generous.

Partly because of the electorate's resentment of the well-publicized abuses perpetrated by the garment industry, its candidate lost. Knowledgeable observers and islanders themselves also understand that a major consideration in the minds of the voters – and perhaps the controlling factor – was that the candidate's wife is from the Philippines. The prospect of a Filipina as their First Lady was repugnant to most of the locals, who see themselves for some reason as racially superior to everyone else, especially people from the Philippines. A third, unexamined factor possibly leading to the candidate’s loss was his physical ugliness and mean-spiritedness, which were not outweighed by his sponsor’s money.

The new Governor in 2002 appointed the head of his Attorney General “search committee” to the position of Attorney General, presumably on the committee’s recommendation. The new Attorney General had little experience in civil law, having previously been a public defender before entering private practice and representing the government-owned utility company for a short time. One of the few locals to have filled the position, he lasted seven months and resigned, reportedly because the Governor refused to follow his recommendation to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate and deal with the Governor’s own violations of CNMI law. This caused quite an uproar in the CNMI. The head of the AG’s Criminal Division threatened to resign if his personal choice of a successor – another Assistant Attorney General (who was the criminal lawyer’s “rabbi”) very weak on experience but very strong on family connections and even stronger on arrogance and sense of entitlement – were not named the new AG. Rumor has it he also threatened to hold his breath until he turns blue. He ultimately made good on his threat and submitted his resignation when the local newspapers called his bluff. After his rabbi was named and confirmed as AG, she rehired him as her deputy.

Less than one year later, the Attorney General, apparently having acquired enough legal experience, was nominated by the Governor to the CNMI Superior Court. As a local, she was confirmed without any difficulty.

The Governor elected in 2001 proved to be so inept that he actually managed to lose the 2005 election – to the garment manufacturers’ candidate. In fairness to the new governor, he did find himself running against an incumbent whose administration was characterized by nearly constant absences devoted to first-class world travel on junkets calculated to improve the image of the islands. Still, there was competition. Of the three candidates, only 200 votes separated the first-place from the third-place finisher.

The big news in paradise as of late June 2003 was that certain senators were boycotting the confirmation vote for the newly nominated attorney general.  Let’s call her, uh . . . Ms. Brown. Ms. Brown is a lawyer who worked for a time as federal "ombudsman" – a post that required her to listen to complaints of garment workers and other people challenging the CNMI's labor and immigration policies and decisions.  Brown then went on to work for the local satellite office of the Mainland law firm Milberg Weiss and was reputedly paid $250,000 for six months, federal income tax free.  Milberg Weiss was the law firm representing the plaintiffs in a highly publicized class action lawsuit challenging sweat shop conditions of CNMI garment factories that hold lucrative contracts with well known Mainland design and manufacturing companies. 

Apparently some of the local apologists for the garment interests decided to delay Brown’s nomination to the extent they can, hence the boycott.  An interesting sidelight is that the senate president is reportedly considering allowing the senator who was suspended after his conviction on federal corruption charges to vote on the nomination, just to get it through.  The convict remains free pending incarceration. The theory is that once he is transferred to his new home in a mainland federal prison, his suspension will be converted to expulsion. In the meantime, there is still plenty of political corruption that he can participate in.

Aside from government employment, the only significant sources of employment on Saipan are the garment industry and tourism. The garment factories import workers from China, Thailand, the Philippines and other poor Asian countries and pay them the CNMI's minimum wage --$3.05/hour. The workers are glad for the employment, since they earn considerably more than they could in their home countries. (The average full-time worker in the Philippines earns $68/month.) They also work substantial overtime and get time-and-a-half for hours worked over 40 per week – provided, however, they keep their heads down and hew to the company line. If they display the slightest hint of individuality, or if they dare to assert any rights taken for granted by people in other regions of the U.S., overtime is out of the question.

Most of the garment workers are young women, some as young as 18 years old. Many work seven days a week and send home what they can, after their housing and food costs are deducted from their paychecks. The majority of the garment workers live in "barracks" – factory-owned housing facilities where it is common for them to be housed eight to a room. Privacy is an unknown concept to many of these hard-working people. Food is also provided by the factories, at additional cost in the form of wage deductions.

Until recently the garment workers were prohibited from leaving their barracks after work hours, essentially held captive on the factory grounds. One young Chinese woman was assaulted and beaten by a factory manager and actually had the temerity to assert her right not to be beaten. Her story was reported in Time Magazine (see February 12, 1998 issue) when the Saipan garment industry abuses first came to light in the late 1990’s. She was granted the right to leave the factory and to apply for work elsewhere. Luckily, she found a good lawyer willing to represent her against the factory and her case was later settled for an undisclosed amount.

The reason the garment industry is allowed to flourish in Saipan is that U.S. minimum wage laws do not apply and there are no U.S. import tariffs for goods manufactured in the American territory. Many high-priced American clothing companies (e.g., the Gap, Polo, Abercrombie & Fitch) have contracts with Saipan garment factories. They charge as much as $100 for a garment purchased from a Saipan factory for eight dollars.

Two champions of the Saipan garment manufacturing industry are U.S. Congressman Tom DeLay (Cockroach, Sugar Land) and his long-time cohort Jack Abramoff (Scumbag, District of Columbia), now under grand jury and U.S. congressional investigation. In exchange for millions of dollars of CNMI money (read, U.S. taxpayer money), Abramoff hooked DeLay up with Willie Tan, the principal Saipan garment manufacturer. A 1999 segment on the TV news magazine 20/20 revealed Tan’s own impression of the importance of his relationship with DeLay when Tan was shown on tape boasting to the undercover investigator posing as a potential investor that there would be “no problem” with Saipan maintaining its favorable relationship with the U.S. because of DeLay’s protection. That protection included preserving the $3.05 minimum wage and local control over immigration, which permit Saipan to import Asian garment workers and pay them what are essentially slave wages. And because the CNMI is an American territory, manufactured goods could be imported to the Mainland with “Made in the United States” tags, thus (mis)leading American consumers to believe they were actually buying items made in the U.S. and, in theory, subject to U.S. wage and labor laws. Notwithstanding the efforts of California Congressman George Miller and others to resolve the abuses blatantly being carried out on U.S. soil, DeLay had assured Tan and Abramoff that any such odious legislation would never see the light of day.

It hasn’t.

For more on DeLay (Cockroach, Sugar Land) and Saipan, take a look at the following web site, published on May 15, 2005 . .

In fact, the CNMI “guest worker” program is thought to be the model for Bush’s proposal that the United States implement a federal guest worker policy, providing people from Mexico, Central and South America the rare privilege of working in the U.S. with no benefits, no rights and, inevitably, no hope. Slavery is alive and well in America, and in the dreams of greedy exploiters throughout the land. If the CNMI model is any indication, the U.S. guest worker program will subject vulnerable immigrants to the absolute control of ruthless employers. Rather than controlling immigration itself, the government will cede control to employers, who will have the power to subject workers to deportation merely by terminating their employment. The Bush regime, made up of sworn enemies of government, have destroyed every vestige of good government in the Mainland in their quest to prove once and for all that government does not work. They can learn a lot from the corrupt miscreants in the CNMI.

As noted, United States immigration laws do not control in the CNMI, the U.S. having ceded this authority to the Commonwealth in its deal with the devil. Workers from Asia who relocate to the islands to make a better life – unlike immigrants to other parts of the U.S. – have no right to apply for permanent residency and, ultimately, citizenship.

One news report indicated in 2001 that the garment factories were under Federal investigation for importing and furnishing their employees with methamphetamine hydrochloride (also known as "speed," "ice," "meth," "crank" and "shabu") to enable them to work long past the normal limits of human endurance. The powerful garment interests vehemently denied the accuracy of the report and the Federal Drug Enforcement Administration – as all Bush agencies do when challenged by corporate contributors – did an about-face. Still, the "ice" problem is a serious one in Saipan. (Of note, history indicates that it was methamphetamine that helped fuel the fanatical Japanese war machine of the 1930's and 40's. It’s also making inroads as an American military “tool,” as the friendly fire accident involving Canadian military participants in Afghanistan makes clear.)

The anticipated Federal "takeover" of immigration and minimum wage laws is a source of terror to the islands' natives. Their principal fears appear to be that (1) Asians granted U.S. citizenship will suddenly have rights and will deprive the locals of their superior social and economic status and (2) locals may consequently have to work. There are approximately 15,000 people in the CNMI who have the right to vote. Over 60,000 live in Saipan alone. The predominant nationality in Saipan is Filipino, and Filipinos have no right to vote or even to work without immediate relative ("IR") status or an employment contract. Many of the monied locals in Saipan employ Filipinas as maids, essentially indentured servants. Filipinos, however, are the most talented and hardest-working people in Saipan, as they are in most of Asia. Indeed, since the majority of locals have no facility with English (and since they refuse to work anyway), the newspaper reporters for the two local dailies are mostly Filipino. And, although they come from a country infected with governmental and social corruption, Filipinos are assertive in their own way. Reporters commenting on this web site were careful to include in their reports the page's URL in order to enable readers to access it. To paraphrase a famous line from a well-known movie, "Subversion, for lack of a better word, is good."

A good article on the conditions in the CNMI appeared in the Spring issue of Ms. Magazine. It contained little new, most of the revelations making up the article having been published before. But because the situation remains bad and never gets better – and because once they believe nobody is paying attention, the locals devolve into the most reprehensible conduct imaginable – it is a story that must be told and re-told until the corruption of the Marianas is cured or until the United States picks up and goes home.

Tourism in the CNMI caters mostly to people from Japan and Korea. Tons of dollars of U.S. taxpayer money are spent annually on constant junkets to Japan and Korea by the Marianas Visitors Authority, legislators and other government officials, including the new Governor. (The MVA was headed until recently by the former Governor's aloof and lazy son who decided, after a new governor was elected, that he could find a more secure place on the public tit if he went to law school. Of course, based on the “racial superiority” of the local Pacific Islanders, he would overcome his lack of education and intelligence by relying on affirmative action for admission to law school.)

Partly because the CNMI is in the business of gouging Asian tourists – charging them substantially more than "locals" for identical goods and services – the tourism industry has fallen on hard times. The struggling Asian economy is blamed by the CNMI government. But the real culprit may be the greed of the islands' residents for money from wherever it can be got. Tourism and U.S. Government handouts are what keep the economy afloat and the local politicians and government officials awash in graft. They're also what keep the local people from having to work in order to support their flaccid lives. Japan, traditionally the CNMI’s main tourist market, reportedly continues to send large numbers of tourists to Hawaii, China and other Asian destinations, Europe and the mainland United States. They have learned to stay away from the Mariana Islands in droves. As Yogi Berra once said, “If they don’t want to come to the game there’s no way you’re gonna stop ‘em.”

When Magellan landed in the Marianas in 1521 he named them "Las Islas de los Ladrones," or "Islands of Thieves." Nothing has changed. Theft begins in the government, but doesn't end there. On the other end of the spectrum, burglaries are so common that some people reportedly bolt their furniture and appliances to their floors. Dishonesty and thievery in the Mariana Islands have been elevated to an art form. Far from being the object of scorn or criticism, personal and public dishonesty is admired – as long as the perpetrator profits from his or her activity and gets away with it. When a police captain was convicted recently of stealing federal money from a federally funded confidential informant fund, scores of his fellow officers signed a petition requesting leniency in his sentencing. (“There but for fortune go you or I.”) His need to steal was attributed, in part, to his drug problem – he was a speed freak – and not to his cultural affinity for theft. By island standards, he was a good cop. After serving his time in federal prison, the convict will probably follow in the footsteps of other convicted wrongdoers and return to a high-paying government job in the CNMI – maybe as police commissioner.

Racism in the CNMI is rampant. Laws are passed granting specific legal benefits to members of the indigenous ethnic groups, Chamorros and Carolinians. Local preference laws cover everything from land ownership to employment. "Locals," in any disagreement with U.S. mainlanders, will disparage them with epithets like "haole" and "goddam American." Of note, the locals all hold U.S. passports and depend for their lives and livelihoods on local preference laws and federal government handouts. Many, having stolen vast amounts through corruption and graft, own houses and property in the U.S. Mainland, while other Americans are prohibited by law from owning land in the CNMI.

Although they have profited mightily from their relationship with the U.S., the locals almost uniformly despise Americans for their stupidity in supporting them. Evaluating local political candidates and aspiring political appointees, Mainland Americans with an independent streak (and with a personal interest in owning land some day in Saipan – every interest is self-interest) will try only to assess the subjects' degree of racism. It's not whether they are racist – they all are – the question is how racist they are.

On a more mundane level, the murder rate in Saipan is striking in view of the small population. Over the course of several months in 2001 several Chinese women were murdered. The extent of the police "investigation" into the murders was limited for the most part to identifying the victims by name. This usually takes several days or weeks, after which the investigations close. The police have done their jobs. Unsolved murders in the tiny island community have grown in such numbers that a "cold-case" task force was assembled some time ago to pretend to solve more than 20 of them. No progress was anticipated to be made, but the hope was, apparently, that there would be an opportunity to use the existence of the "task force" to extort more money from the Federal government. [Update: more than one year after the “task force” was established, not one cold case has been solved. The police remain, as before, clueless.]

In late July 2002 a Japanese woman working as a travel desk agent disappeared in Saipan. Her body was discovered several weeks later. The police arrested an employee of the Marianas Visitors Authority, the government tourist bureau, and charged him with the murder. He reportedly stole the woman’s ATM card and was videotaped using it after he killed her. Amazingly, the sole reaction of the press and politicians to this incident was to bemoan the adverse effect the incident was sure to have on tourism. Trips by the Governor to Japan followed, in a bald effort – against all the evidence to the contrary – to persuade Japan that the Marianas are safe. Government officials and the Fourth Estate demonstrated they were as callow and insensitive to the horrific implications of the cheapness of life in the islands as the run-of-the-mill thieving murderers who live there.

Back in the early 90's the murder victims were mostly Filipina housemaids. According to people who were in Saipan at the time, their employers, unable to fire them, would have no choice but to kill them. There really was no other way to get rid of them, and the consequences of murder were non-existent. (See cold case task force, above.) In 1995, partly in response to the problem, the Federal Government issued a regulation prohibiting U.S. Welfare recipients in the CNMI from employing housemaids. You read that right: welfare recipients employing housemaids.

There is arguably more incest and familial intermarriage in the CNMI than anywhere else in the U.S. Spousal abuse is also common. Stories of sexual child molestation appear regularly -- almost daily -- in the local papers. A teacher charged with sexually molesting as many as 19 school girls (mostly third graders) was arrested in Hawaii in 2001 after fleeing Saipan. The teacher was apparently one of the transplants from the U.S. Mainland who go to the Marianas for the sexual adventurism that is one source of the islands' attraction. Serial sexual molestation of 8- to 10-year-old girls, however, is a little over the top – even in Saipan.

Other male "adventurers" use Saipan as a home base for trips to Thailand and the Philippines for sex with Asian women. One government lawyer from the U.S. Mainland travels regularly to Thailand, where, he boasts, he pays an extra five dollars ($15 rather than the normal $10) to prostitutes to have sex with him without a condom. He is rumored to have returned to Saipan with a case of genital warts. Another high-placed government lawyer, the chief “public defender,” operating on the home front, reportedly waits outside one of the garment factories for Thai girls, arranged by a contact, to meet him for sexual assignations. When the contact told him she no longer wished to participate in this activity, he threatened her with deportation. (Now – in 2005 – his office is recruiting lawyers from the Mainland at a salary of approximately $42,000/year. It’s likely that in any interview, the PD will refer to other “perks” of island life. In an effort to educate prospective recruits about the pitfalls of life on this corrupt island, someone has distributed the URL of this web site to members of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.)

For more information about the degeneracy of middle-aged American male weirdos in Saipan, one might want to look into the case of Larry Lee Hillblom. Hillblom died in a plane crash in the islands in the mid-90's. One of the founders of DHL Worldwide Express (he was the “H”), Hillblom was an accomplished sexual adventurer. He would travel to the Philippines and Vietnam and other places to locate attractive prepubescent girls, then pay the girls' mothers to contact him after their daughters' first menstruation. Then he would return and – manly man that he was – deflower the children. He liked virgins. Young virgins. The girls are known as "Cherry Girls" and the practice is and was not limited to Hillblom. The mothers are paid for pimping their daughters and some of the Cherry Girls, as was the case with Hillblom’s, wind up having children of their own.

Hillblom left an estate of approximately $600 million. Claimants – unacknowledged out-of-wedlock children and their mothers – converged on Saipan from all over Asia and Micronesia seeking a piece of the pie. The legislature promptly passed a law (the “Hillblom law”) calculated to cut the Cherry Girls and their children out of the estate, since the politicians saw themselves – of course – as being first in line. (Although they may not have slept with Hillblom they had been figuratively in bed with him for years.) But the courts, in an act of boldness that still has them shaking their heads, declared the new law unconstitutional based on its retroactivity and its clear intent to exclude rightful heirs.

The Hillblom case made many lawyers in the Marianas filthy rich. As a result, L'Affaire Hillblom remains a source of pride to the local legal community. In fact, apparently unable to find a worthier pedophile, the CNMI judiciary in 2001 named the courthouse law library after Hillblom. If there were knighthoods available in Saipan, the decedent might now be known as the Late Sir Larry.

Hillblom founded and invested in the Bank of Saipan, which was purchased by several new investors in 2001, including a former manager of the Marianas Retirement fund, who promptly looted the bank of most of its assets. Federal indictments followed along with more corruption, including oversight by former Hillblom judges, lawyers and others of his cronies. The principal depositors in the Bank of Saipan were Asian garment workers, along with the CNMI government. Guess which depositors got their money back? (Hint: not the ones who worked for it.)

Many local mothers in Saipan have children by more than one father, never having bothered to marry any of them – or possibly one, since they are averse to divorce because of the influence of the Roman Catholic Church in Micronesia. Fathers commonly have children by numerous women. Child support, on the other hand, is uncommon. This is explained by apologists as part of the Micronesian culture and is not to be criticized or commented upon.

The recently deposed Governor, in fact, who traveled constantly to Japan and the Philippines with his “special assistant” for Federal affairs – a former television news reporter with no qualifications for the position other than an apparent willingness to continue her career as “the island bicycle” (everybody gets to ride) – reportedly has given new meaning to “federal affairs.” The special assistant, married for professional purposes to a reputedly gay, Guam-based airline executive, reportedly became pregnant with the Governor’s child. This is not the first such adventure for the Governor who, during his long stay in the U.S. as the CNMI’s Washington Representative, is reputed to have had a child with another Saipan luminary who was later appointed to the judiciary. The Governor’s wife and children are said to remain happily oblivious to the paternal shenanigans.

[This Governor, in spite of the fact that he was acknowledged to be happily presiding (albeit in absentia) over the meltdown of the local economy, devoted a certain amount of energey to planning the construction of a mansion for himself. Apparently, for security reasons, the mansion – actually referred to variously as “the palace” or “the castle” – is planned to be built on a hill, with a 360-degree view. (It is anticipated that once the palace is built, it will be surrounded by armed militia or national guardsmen, and the U.S. will be expected to pay.) As one commentator has rightly pointed out, the purported concern of this official for security is absurd; far more extensively than his predecessors, he traveled the world incessantly, accompanied only by his toadies, with no concern for “security.” His real interest, of course, was gratifying his sense of self-importance. One anticipated that after he got his palace he’d seek a new title – maybe “king” – then discard his western attire in favor of loincloths. (Could this finally be the death of pretense?)]

Businesses in the CNMI employing more than a small number of people are required to hire locals to make up 20 percent of their work forces. The locals, however, are employed mostly in no-show or do-little positions, collecting income based simply on their "local" heritage. They are not expected to work and they do not work. Many of these “employees” are on the payrolls of the garment factories.

Americans from the U.S. Mainland relocating to Saipan face high prices for everything from gasoline to food. Gasoline is priced on average at approximately 70 cents a gallon higher than in the U.S. Mainland. Food is largely imported from Asia, Australia and the U.S., since the farming industry in the CNMI is minuscule. You can get local eggs, however, at a cost of approximately $3/dozen. Saipan chickens work hard. (Imported eggs are reasonably priced, but they’re designated “Grade B” and, where date stamps are inadvertently left on the cartons, it is clear that they are sold as much as three months past their expiration dates.) Fresh milk costs about $7/gallon. The cows work hard too. In spite of its location, in fact, the CNMI could be the perfect banana republic – if only the people could be persuaded to grow bananas or anything other than betel nut.

Although one would imagine that because of its location the CNMI would have a thriving fishing industry, commercial fishing – other than by Japanese and Korean trawlers outside territorial waters – is virtually nonexistent. Fishing, it appears, requires effort.

The educational system in Saipan is abysmal. If you are a U.S. Mainlander who has children, a move to Saipan would be disastrous for your kids' education. High school graduates taking English courses at the community college – in a locality where English is the official language – frequently are grouped with women from China who are amazed by the lack of English competence of people who have lived in Saipan all their lives. The public school system is bad enough. The private schools in Saipan pay their teachers barely a subsistence wage, while charging high tuitions. Although people paying good money to send their children to private schools in Saipan claim the education afforded is equivalent to that in the U.S., they – like Mainlanders who justify their own children's poor schooling options – are deluding themselves. Although the schools get what they pay for, the children and their parents do not. The Northern Marianas traditionally ranks at the very bottom of any list of students taking standardized tests. (Students were reported to have given “smart-ass” answers in a recent standardized social studies test, pointing out some of the absurdities of the islands’ “culture” and political system discussed here. What’s this? Independent thought? Could this be evidence of a growing dissatisfaction on the part of the islands’ youth? Is there hope for the future?)

In spite of the fact that there are only approximately 10,000 children in the CNMI Public School System, the annual "education" budget is around $50 million. Of course, as little as possible of the money goes for education. Politicians' supporters and relatives, first and foremost, have to be rewarded. And then there are the school construction projects, which provide a constant source of bribes and kickbacks, and the constant travel of school administrators to the U.S. Mainland for the purpose of padding their incomes with per diem expenses. The children do not enter into the equation. Meanwhile, in the library of the high school opened in January 2002 there were no books. Teachers who still give a damn are so desperate for books that they will borrow library cards from their friends and acquaintances in order to give their charges something to read. The ones who can read, that is.

A 2001 news report revealed CNMI Board of Education testing had determined that public school children were proficient in neither English nor their native language, Chamorro. The question to be debated was: "Should bilingual education be abandoned?" It's an interesting question in view of the fact that all education was abandoned long ago. (Of course, there is no "bilingual" education in the CNMI, but rather ESL – English as a Second Language. But don't expect the "educators" to know the difference.) Still, the schools and the officials continue to go through the motions, and continue to rake in the federal money. Somebody, after all, has to pay for all the luxury cars and first-class world travel.

“Higher education” in Saipan is a bad joke. Because entrepreneurs and outright rip-off artists can claim that Saipan is part of the United States, the economic scams perpetrated on the island are not limited to the garment industry. A new institution, the eponymous “Saipan College” advertised in China, was the idea of a Korean scam artist named Park Soong. For a mere $8,000, the advertisements claimed, workers in China could improve their lives by studying in America, i.e., Saipan. In addition to pursuing their education, they would also be permitted to work, earning substantially more than they could make in China. After three years, they were told, they could become U.S. Citizens. Eighty-eight people – all with good jobs in China – bought into the enterprise. When they arrived they were surprised to learn that there was no Saipan College, no books, no teachers, no jobs and – guess what? – no right to stay or work in Saipan. All they were entitled to was a one-way ticket back to China, a process known as deportation.

Transportation in Saipan is essentially limited to hitch-hiking or ownership of an automobile, although some bus service is available. When one American moved to the islands in 1999 a friend asked whether there was a subway on Saipan. The answer was that there are hardly roads. (Actually, there are two Subways on Saipan, along with a McDonald's, a KFC and a Pizza Hut. Wendy's closed down in 2000. But there is talk that a Taco Bell might be coming.)

Inefficiency is such a part of the life that the following anecdote, passed on by a visitor to this web site, cannot be other than true: "A friend of mine told me a story about a store here that kept running out of a certain product. He finally asked the store clerk when they'd be getting more in. The answer: 'Oh, we kept running out, so we stopped ordering it.'"

If you are one of the Mainland professionals offered a contract to work in the CNMI, the advice of some former American CNMI residents is "STAY HOME." It is not uncommon for contracts to be breached, leaving people many thousands of miles from home in an economy that cannot accommodate them. Persons in positions of "authority" (for want of a better word, since nobody accepts "responsibility") casually, even sadistically, terminate contracts – or, worse yet, refuse to execute contracts after people from the Mainland relocate based on promises of employment. For example, in 1998 a couple from Virginia was promised professional employment with the CNMI Department of Public Works. They were professional engineers who retired from the military for the sake of taking the positions offered them. They sold their house and their car. When they arrived in Saipan with their children, no contract was signed. Promises, however, abounded. They worked for several months without pay before giving up and moving back home. They ultimately sued the CNMI and obtained a substantial, although undisclosed, settlement.

The bitterness of certain former Saipan residents from the Mainland who have visited this site and shared their experiences with us is remarkable. See the contest entries below, which represent only a small fraction of the response.

Professional employees working in Saipan who are victimized by breached contracts and wrongful termination will be offered sympathy and understanding by people who call themselves "friends," but not one person will come forward publicly to criticize the illegal conduct for fear of reprisal. Cowardice is taught and quickly learned in the CNMI. The fear of reprisal dominates the lives of all but very few. It is an essential reason the institutional corruption continues to flourish.

A correspondent whose application for employment with the CNMI Attorney General's Office was pending for eight months inquired as follows: "My friend thinks of [the then-Attorney General] as an honest and straightfoward [sic] person -- but the 8-month delay in making ANY decision on my application, set against his own admission of 'turmoil' in his office, gives me strong doubts about remaining available for employment or accepting an offer . . . . Please tell me what you think is the real cause of the delay! It will be very important in making MY decision on what appears . . . a charade."

The only answer the authors could give is evident in the page you are reading, which prompted the reader's inquiry: Everything on the islands is a charade. The Attorney General in question, like many of his predecessors, was from the U.S. Mainland. Few "local" lawyers want the job since they would be required under the law to prosecute their thieving, murdering relatives. A former assistant attorney general expressed the opinion in a newspaper letter to the editor, in fact, that the AG in question knew little – and cared less – about the law and was motivated during his tenure solely by his own sense of self-importance and his bizarre obsession with self-aggrandizement. No decision under this official's tenure, the writer argued, had anything to do with the law, only with accommodating political interests, currying the favor of the local establishment, and – primarily – gratifying the AG's (unearned) sense of self-importance.

If you are told there are no snakes in Saipan, don't believe it. There are hundreds of snakes, and they all have two legs.

The attitude by employers in the CNMI, including the government, appears to mirror that of the garment industry. Toe the line, agree with every irrational whim of the arbitrarily appointed decision maker, or you may be cut loose. The general attitude controls all employment, from the government to the garment factories, which hold their employees virtually hostage to the dollar. Local government department heads – primarily family members and political supporters of elected officials --, because they are not qualified to do their jobs, are shadowed by U.S. transplants in "special" jobs (e.g., special assistant, special advisor). The "specials" are people who have, for the most part, embraced the "island way" and given up their dignity along with any hope of doing their jobs properly. The prospect of being without income or employment so far from civilization has neutered many idealistic transplants, engendering compromise and debasement of the quality of any talent they might have brought with them to the islands. Accommodation is king, with many long-time U.S. transplants becoming apologists for, and an active part of, the corrupt society. It's "the island way."


The only good thing about Saipan is the golf. The golf courses are first-rate and accessible, due to the decline of the tourist industry. But be advised: if you're looking for a tee time and there are Japanese tourists on island, you will go to the bottom of the list. The abject catering to the Japanese – who occupied the islands before World War II and who enslaved and abused the local people and actually forced them to work – is striking. But they pay. Some call their payments "reparations:" Japanese pay on average five to seven times more for golf than locals.

The beautiful waters of the lagoon and Pacific Ocean are typically polluted with organic waste, since the governmental officials charged with waste management have never learned the fine points of their discipline. Visit some of the CNMI’s promotional web sites, where you will see photographs of Saipan's lovely beaches, where you can swim, snorkel or SCUBA if you don't mind swimming in shit. Many of the beaches are “red-flagged,” closed due to pollution, every day of the year.

The tap water in Saipan is undrinkable. Although there are between 80 and 100 inches of rain a year on Saipan, the fine art of maintaining a potable water supply has completely escaped the island. Most residents interested in continuing to survive rely on bottled water processed by local desalination companies. Many others rely on beer. In most areas of the island power cuts out several times a month, sometimes several times a day. The power plant contract awarded to a mainland firm for upgrading the obsolete system could not be consummated. The reason appeared to be the inability of local officials to negotiate effectively. Perhaps payoffs by the contractor were either not forthcoming or were insufficient. Amazingly, the selected contractor was Enron, the most accomplished corporate scam artist of the 1990's. Even Enron, however, was no match for the CNMI, who managed to out-scam the champion.

The overall institutional attitude on Saipan is emphatically "us against them," them being the U.S. Federal Government and anyone else the CNMI is obliged to deal with.

Government officials eager to line their own pockets are able to pressure the Legislature to program funds (donated by U.S. taxpayers) for wasteful and frivolous projects by appealing to the local voters' profound sense of entitlement. A legislator's vote in favor of waste translates directly into votes for his reelection.

One governmental official, who wasted hundreds of thousands of dollars in frivolous pursuits against the Federal government, pursued his campaign to have $2 million more appropriated to prosecute a lawsuit against the U.S. Government purporting to seek the environmental clean-up of one of Saipan's many polluted districts, which was already promised (for free) by the United States. Per-diem payments for unnecessary travel served to increase this official's income by tens of thousands of dollars. He was desperate to keep the Golden Goose alive. Legislators hungry for votes, as usual, fell all over themselves for the honor of sponsoring and supporting more wasteful appropriations. And when the CNMI runs out of money, Uncle Sam can be relied upon to come to the rescue. He always has.

If you think you can move to Saipan and do some good, think again. The inefficiency and corruption infecting the Marianas are monumental. People who moved there years ago have learned they cannot do other than to live on their knees. They make accommodations. But the accommodations they make are those no self-respecting person should be required to make. Some of the most corrupt, ignorant and self-satisfied officials on the islands are long-time U.S. transplants who have embraced "the island way."

So cynical are the people in the CNMI that on a local internet message board one local had the gall to gloat over the local government's success in scamming the U.S. out of $1.2 billion (B) in "Covenant" funds over the years. He attributed it to his perception that "we are better negotiators." It appears, rather, that they are accomplished parasites, producing nothing and taking whatever they can. But such is the sense of superiority of the indigenous people that the U.S. is blatantly recognized as stupid for supporting them. In this person's view, they really "put one over" on the U.S. One can only wonder how many hundreds of millions of American taxpayer dollars skimmed off the top line the pockets of the local elected officials and their families, many of whom now live in luxury on the Mainland.

In addition to Covenant funds, an additional source of Federal handouts is money earmarked for capital improvement projects ("CIP's"). In response to the local government's constant pleas for more and more money, tens of millions of dollars are sent by the U.S. annually to the CNMI for such purposes. There is so much CIP money floating around that one subject of political debate is what to spend it on. The costs of capital improvements are presumably calculated based on equivalent costs in the Mainland U.S. Although Saipan is a virtual ghetto, roads are, in fact, repaired. However, the people actually doing the work are invariably Filipinos. They are paid at approximately the local minimum wage, $3.05/hour, nowhere near the U.S. minimum wage. Do the math. There's a lot of room for skimming off the top, which is exactly the way they like it in the CNMI.

Recent reports appear to suggest that the CNMI may be a center for the laundering and worldwide dispersal of money by al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations. Because of the lack of Federal control in the CNMI over immigration and labor, anyone from anywhere (e.g., Pakistan, Afghanistan, the Philippines) can gain entry to the U.S. territory simply by having an employment offer from a local company. Several local companies are in the business of transferring money between the CNMI and the Philippines and elsewhere. Although the "remittance" companies serve a valuable purpose in facilitating the transfer of workers' money back home to support their families, they appear to be completely unregulated – not through the absence of laws, but through utter lack of enforcement. Yet it is no secret that the Philippines is an unofficial host to terrorists associated with bin Laden and other upstarts. In fact, some American officials fear that, because of its unique status, the CNMI is one place under the U.S. flag where terrorist organizations bent on the destruction of the U.S. can operate in the dark with impunity. The pressure on Congress to impose Federal control over territorial immigration, labor and air travel is reportedly mounting. The change, in our view, cannot come soon enough.

STOP THE PRESSES!!! It appears the Saipan Tribune, a media outlet owned by the Tan Holding Company or one of its divisions or persons (the major garment industry interest in the CNMI), was close at one point to identifying the authors of this web site. A front-page article in the Saipan Tribune under the headline "'Saipan Sucks' author known" reported, contrary to the headline's suggestion, that "investigators" were trying to determine who is responsible for this masterpiece. The goal was reportedly to create a "defamation" suit, the investigators -- from the Attorney General's Office? – apparently never having heard of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. They must have been absent that day from law school. Is it possible the "investigators" don't actually read the papers, where vicious personal and political sniping among and between government officials is reported daily? Is it possible the investigators don't recognize political and social commentary when they see it? Is it possible the investigators can't even read? Finally, is it possible the authors may one day actually have the honor of being voted "Personae non gratae?" (This actually happens in the CNMI, where an official of the U.S. Department of the Interior, Office of Insular Affairs was voted PNG not too long ago for daring to point out some of the abuses discussed here.)

The plot -- and the plotting -- sickens.

This from Bruce Lloyd Media Services: "Apparently, the CNMI is incapable of stopping the meltdown of its economy, sky-rocketing crime and various other ills, but we've got government investigators from some unnamed government agency investigating a web site critical of Saipan. The allegation is this site – which many would concede contains more than a grain of truth – amounts to libel/tort damage against the CNMI. One hopes this investigating agency isn't the Attorney General's Office."

Another American chimes in:


Note: Although the majority of people responding to this web page have offered positive comments and recommendations (which the authors have tried to incorporate), more than one person has responded with an accusation of racism. Indeed, the owner of an on-line weekly commentary, crying "racist," appears to offer the opinion that anybody who condemns nepotism, graft and bribe-taking is "ethnocentric" and "immature" because these "qualities" are part of the local culture. This rings familiar. It reminds us of the enlightened minions who, after the end of the U.S. Civil War, claimed that former slaves should continue to live and work on the plantations because that was the way of life they were accustomed to and they were happy there; besides, the argument went, they could not assimilate the values of the dominant society. Hmmm. Should cannibals continue to engage in their traditional cultural peculiarity after voluntarily joining a society that condemns cannibalism? To deny them the right to eat human flesh is unquestionably ethnocentric, maybe even immature. Yet how can somebody say with a straight face that condemnation of bribery, graft and nepotism is racist because bribery, graft and nepotism are cultural traits? Excuse me? Isn't the real racism the overweeningly colonialist attitude that people are not capable of living up to the legal and moral values of a society they willingly chose to join? Isn't it racist to propose that a group of people is incapable of adhering to normal, accepted rules of civilized society? Going even further, in an era of globalization where investors (governmental, institutional and private) refuse to invest in corrupt developing countries like Indonesia and the Philippines, is it morally acceptable to claim that bribery, graft and nepotism in the United States are beyond reproach because they are part of the indigenous culture? Such evils are subject to condemnation everywhere else in the United States, but apologists and accommodators claim that discussing these issues in the CNMI is somehow racist.

Where is the real racism here?

On September 12, 2001, the day after the World Trade Center disaster in which thousands of Americans and people from many other countries were killed in New York, the then-CNMI Washington Representative, a candidate for CNMI Governor, appeared on the local news to express his concern that no CNMI resident was killed or injured in the terrorist attack. This person had spent years in the U.S. portraying himself and the people of the CNMI as "Americans" in the islands' endless quest for dollars. Where was his empathy on September 11 for his fellow Americans? Where was the sense of solidarity expressed by the entire civilized world? What the politician did not acknowledge in his craven plea for votes is the fact that the most ordinary New Yorker is worth more than any CNMI native obsessed, like him, exclusively with family and ethnic identification. Such acknowledgement would not help him in his quest for votes.

In view of the enormity of the September 11 tragedy, the opinion here is that it should not have been used for local political gain in the context of a totally corrupt sub-society. The person in question should have been chastised for his ugly renunciation – solely for local political and personal gain – of the people and society who have enabled him to prosper at their expense.

Instead, he was elected CNMI governor. You know, the guy planning the new palace, the guy impregnating his legislative assistant, the guy on the junket train.

As for the authors of this essay, our days in Micronesia have ended.  Neither will we visit nor will we relocate to Polynesia, Indonesia, Melanesia or any other nesia.  In all likelihood we shall remain happily for the rest of our days ensconced in anonymous Longnesia, suffering, with a little luck, from a selective am-nesia.  Hence our name – Forgetabilia.

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