Saturday, November 29, 2008

News Flash- Bush Will Never Pardon Ted Stevens

"Bush" or the Justice Department that is made in his image, went after him in the first place
Scuttlebutt has always centered on a certain Native Corporation that Uncle Ted helped to get a no-bid contract to supply cell phones in Iraq. The phones were second hand Fisher-Price Big Bird models that would only connect you to Elmo, or some such. At any rate Phonegate added to a pile of embarrassing contractor scandals in Iraq, and it was one of the only ones in which Cheney wasn't involved. Add that to Stevens' "Don't pet me, I bite." charm, and we find a Republican Mr. Bush is quite happy to see the J-Dog clamp onto.. Bush let the beast off its leash in the first place.
So don't look for a Presidential pardon for Uncle Ted. W. has himself to worry about.
A complete look at the pillaging of both Iraq and the US taxpayer by contractors and their Congressional enablers, including Ted's Big Cell Phone Adventure:

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Sword Over Bristol Bay's Head

A corporation is a one eyed slobbering beast that will chase a dollar over a cliff. Sure, they have their uses, like the trolls in the Lord of the Rings. But you should not put them in charge of long term planning..

Case in point: the impending ruination of the vast watershed that feeds the Bristol Bay.

Alaskans failed to pass a referendum this year that would have simply required mines to not poison groundwater. As a result a lake of poisonous sludge held back by one of the earth's biggest dams will be poised at the headwaters of the Kvichak, keystone river of the Bristol Bay red salmon run, so that the Pebble Miners can dig one of the biggest holes in the world. (Click illustration at bottom)

Now the BLM has decided to open a million acres of the wide river drainage downstream, effectively tearing down the last fences that protect a run of fish that is perhaps the world's most fantastic renewable resource. Millions of pounds of the finest food imaginable comes back every year, unless we poison them, which, apparently, we will. (Click story below)

I grew up in California's Sacramento River valley. One hundred years ago they were where Bristol Bay is now. Mining moved in on a salmon run that filled the rivers. After a couple of dams and a whole lot of extraction the fish are down to a trickle. Today, after Herculean effort, the winter run of king salmon on the Sacramento river is finally coming out of single digits, at an expense to the taxpayer of forty thousand dollars per fish. (Click story below)

Ah, yes, the Iron Mountain Mine. Like Pebble, it was seen as an economic boon to the region. They dug deep into the rocky hills at the headwaters of the Keswick. Today, even as we speak, it is exuding a smoking acidy poison that defies description. It may never stop leaking out, not in human memory. The strange bacteria that survive there have been used by scientists to show that life might exist on other planets, where "life as we know it" could not.

Will we learn from the past, or just grunt, put our heads down, and follow that dollar?

Here's a chart of the area, courtesy of the Anchorage Daily News:

Monday, November 10, 2008

Senator Elton Says It All

I was going to blog rhapsodic on how much Alaska's political circumstances have suffered since our Governor's recent tour throwing gravel encrusted slushballs at every one who is now in power in Washington DC.
But Alaska's State Senator Kim Elton has already written it, much better than I could. Link on the piece below for a thoughtful look at our new reality:

Friday, November 7, 2008

Crab Ratz Problems Well Known Before Implementation

Almost Five Years Ago---The Northern Fish Council Ignored Working Fishermen Then, Too
Here is the naively worded testimony I provided the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council in early 2004, before implementation of Crab Ratz. The fact that none of the socially destructive aspects of Crab Ratz have been addressed to this day is a sad commentary itself.
North Pacific Fisheries Management Council

First of all, I would like to thank you, the North Pacific Fisheries Management council, for waking me up. I had been asleep, and the cold bucket of water that was your crab rationalization plan left me blinking, sputtering, and drenched in outrage.

Because, to me, the rationalization behind rationalization isn’t rational. As a guy who first crabbed in 1984, who has banged and shoveled many tons of salt water ice, hooked and pulled through thousands of buoy setups, pushed, tied and clambered over hundreds of stacks of pots, and dealt on a personal basis with processors, skippers and boat owners, I felt I might be in a position to point out certain errors in the plan’s most basic logical underpinnings.
To wit:
The awarding of permanent buying privileges to a limited number of processors is not justified. If the vessel buyback program is sufficient compensation for the overcapitalization of boat owners, then a similar one time buyback program should suffice for the overcapitalization of processors. To step into the arena of the giving and taking away of freedoms, rights and privileges in a free society should not be the job of the Council, only the management of fisheries. To award buyer’s privileges to these entities is, I think, best understood in terms of the stripping the right of everyone else to buy fish. To extend this thinking logically everyone in the industry should be frozen in place, from cannery workers to deckhands, skippers and owners. Is it the intent of the Council to create a permanent caste system? I don’t think it is, so the Council must reconsider this awarding of the market to an anointed few.
Since the days of the daring Dutchmen in what was then New Amsterdam, free trade has been the engine that powers America. To create Lords of Commerce in the fishing industry is to apply a medieval solution to a modern problem. The Justice Department has numerous reservations about Processor Shares and has predicted a sticky goo of lawsuits. I must concur.

The elimination of consideration for crew, and the minimal consideration offered to skippers is not justified. Every argument offered to support the awarding of shares to processors applies to skippers and crew, who pay, on average, 40% of a boats daily operating expenses plus the cost of their own equipment, and the investment of many hours of labor, for what is only a chance to make money. If they were wage earners, with the owners taking all the risk, making all the investment, and therefore taking all the profit, there would be no claim. But they aren’t. Fishing is a venture, undertaken by contractually linked businessmen, three quarters of which are skippers and crew. The Justice Department hasn’t studied this aspect of rationalization, but surely a similar sticky goo of lawsuits is lurking in the wings for this, too.

I’m an old man, nearly 43, and I thought the sight of me, bent over my cane as I shuffle painfully up the long stairways to attend the meetings might engender a sympathetic ear on the part of the Council. What I have come to learn is that the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council is not so much a forum of the minds as an advocacy platform. In its well meaning desire to defer to the wishes and concerns of the industry, the Council has formed policy based on the interests of those groups most forcefully represented in the hallways, at the breakfast tables, and in the seats of the Council itself.

I expected to find fire breathing dragons and evil wizards at work when I first began attending Council meetings. To my surprise I spoke to a continuous stream of pleasant, intelligent, engaging people who were doing nothing more or less than their jobs, which was to represent their own interests and those of their employers. Processors, well-informed, well-funded, and well represented on the Council, mounted an impressive campaign, and are now a driving force in the process. Fledgling Skipper/Crew groups like the Gulf Groundfish Fisherman’s Association, the Crewman’s Association and the swelling Deep Sea Fisherman’s Union will probably grow up too late to join the big boys on the field before the game is over.

Still, the potential for backlash is enormous. Every lawsuit, every protest, every disparate group with an axe to grind at the Council’s table has the potential to further slow a process that can be tracked by counting the rings in its trunk. I therefore suggest these two changes:

1. That the number of processors allowed to buy fish in Alaska not be limited. A simple buyback program, in which excess processors would be bought out by those remaining, would be better still.

2. That a “Buy Back My Back” program be implemented to compensate long term participants in the industry:
A long term participant is defined as a skipper or crewman who fulfils his/her full seasonal contractual obligations.
The fund would have two tiers: one for Skipper/Crew participants during the qualifying IFQ years, and one for ongoing participants in the rationalized fishery.

Qualifying participants in the first tier would be assigned one point for each of the IFQ qualifying years in which he fulfils his contractual obligation. Acknowledging that Skipper/Crew often move from boat to boat while requiring contractual fulfillment for qualification recognizes the fluid nature of skipper/crew employment dynamic, while also recognizing the importance of dependable professionals. Qualified participants would receive a one time payment, amount depending on number of points, funded in a way similar to the vessel buyback program. This purpose of this payment would be to enable excess Skipper/Crew to leave the industry, or for those wishing to remain to buy into the industry.

The second tier would be comprised of present day contracted skipper/crew. Upon fulfilling his seasonal contract, he would be signed off by the boat owner and would receive a yearly dividend. The creation of a subsidized health insurance program as an alternate to a dividend could best bring permanent long term benefits to the community of fishers.

Such a program would address issues of equitable distribution of the resource to all stakeholders in the industry as well as fostering a stable, professional pool of contractors for the industry. I strongly urge that these changes be seriously considered as you refine the alternatives for GOA Groundfish and implement the BSAI crab rationalization plan.

I’m sorry I won’t be able to join you for this meeting. I know you’ll miss me. Right now I smell so strongly of squid juice that the automatic doors at Safeway open 25 feet before I arrive. I therefore officially support the efforts of Mr. Kwatchka of the GGFA, Mr. Soma of the DSFU, and the testimony supplied by Mr. Branson of the Crewman’s Association.
Thank You, Terry Haines
Almost five years ago, and the same issues sit on the table while our fishing communities suffer.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Red Faced State

Alaska Says: "No We Can't!"

It turns out Don Young is right. Alaskans are the dumbest people on the planet.
And Mr. Young is going back to Washington.
McCain/Palin also easily carried the state, even though the twitchy Mr. McCain often seemed more like a contestant on "Deal or No Deal" than potential commander in chief, especially when he opened the Sarah Palin briefcase. And Mrs. Palin, who seemed to be doing a fine job as governor, didn't seem very presidential lying on the canvas at the feet of the pixieish Katie Couric.
McCain/Palin employed the classic Republican 72 hour blitz strategy. Knowing that the opposition has little time to respond, the candidate saves the most outrageous and gut wrenching ads for the three days just before the election. But, to his credit, I think Annakin McCain was conflicted to the end, and seemed to hold back the worst dogs in his kennel. Mrs. Palin certainly chaffed at her restraints. Alaska's rogue diva whipped chanting and booing crowds into a foamy frenzied meringue that now amounts to a national fan club.
Mrs. Palin has come to to relish the roar of the crowds, and is less conflicted. She will come back to Wasilla not a lame duck, but a restless one.
Don Young's 72 hour blitz was more effective. "I know Alaska." the grizzled grump said, and I guess he's right. Bombing the voters with a last minute ad campaign that claimed Berkowitz would immediately institute a 190 percent tax increase and become Nancy Pelosi's butler, the old warhorse has cruised over the finish line buoyed by the flow of panicking sheep.
Mr. Young's problem is in two years he has to do it all over again. As he continues to channel hundreds of thousands of dollars of campaign contributions to DC lawyers, desperately challenging a sea of Justice Department evidence line by line, he has to be wondering if the contributions can keep up. He is no longer chairman of anything, and many Republicans resent the King of Earmarks for tarnishing the brand.
Maybe its right that Young and Stevens return to Washington to face their peers and the prosecutors and the press. But its not good for Alaska. The Senate majority leader has promised ethics hearings for Mr. Stevens, should he return, and even senior Republicans are predicting he would be booted out. In that case a special election will be held to replace him.
Now hang on.
I know Mrs. Palin can't appoint herself as Uncle Ted's successor, but surely she can run for it in the special election.
Senator Sarah?

Thursday, October 30, 2008

"I am Oz the Um, Great and Uh...Powerful..."

How many of the citizens of Oz wanted to lynch Dorothy when she pulled down the curtain and exposed the Wizard?

Let's face it, the illusion had been working pretty well.

Here in Alaska Palin the Great and Powerful had the people praising her and the Legislature on a leash. Likewise, Uncle Ted, the Wizard of Washington, conjured up golden earmarks for the grateful peasants.

These days there is a definite mood of Dorothy hatred wafting through the state.

Did we really want to know about the governor's efforts to sell herself nationally using an east coast PR firm, paid for by the state? Or that she has charged Alaska a daily fee to work from home? Or that she charged the state to fly her kids around with her to events and put them up in hotels so they could act in "official capacity" such as drawing a raffle ticket, and sometimes just popping up with kids in tow, like that friend who obliviously shows up at an adult party with her children: "Hi! What do you have for the kids to do?"

No. Nobody really wants to know about that stuff, and its embarrassing that the whole world knows, too. Its hard to not resent the McCain campaign for luring her out into the spotlight.
On the other hand truth is good. A big wave is going to roll through Alaska politics, and we will see which boats stay afloat.

Uncle Ted's troubles amount to a second wave of change. He has pointed an angry finger his prosecutorial Dorothys for their bumbling, and some foolish minor obfuscation. But even if you judge the case by what uncle Ted himself admitted on the witness stand, well, let's face it, he accepted gifts and merchandise and did not write them down on the form. Case closed.

Even if reelected he will return to the US Senate nicked as no Senator before him, to a Democratic controlled Congress and a fractured Republican minority that has largely turned its back to him.

Hopefully the majority of the electorate will see the wisdom of sending Begich in. The old quarterback has had his day, and taken too many hits lately.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Good News! The Rest of the World is Even More Screwed Up Than Us!

Dollar Steers World Economy into Telephone Pole--
But Is Only One Wearing Seat Belt
Don't start converting to euros yet.
In an ironic twist to the global financial crisis it looks like the the good old greenback is back on top. We got the world hooked on bindles of high risk head rush real estate derivatives. But now that the inevitable telephone pole of reality has jumped in front of the car we have our financial Betty Ford Clinics already built. The rest of the world does not.
We've been there before. FDR and friends had to nurse the financial system back after it had gotten way too high and crashed hard in 1929. The first couple of tough love years that followed saw a third of Americans lose the money in their bank accounts and a 25% unemployment rate. Like today's Europe and Asia they had no net. The FDIC and other "socialist" institutions FDR built to dry out a wasted economy are still in place, thankfully. But the rules that hold the European Union together specifically restrict the kind of emergency "injections" we are giving our junkie banks right now. Their Ad Hoc solutions directly challenge the system which is the basis of their currency. And Asian markets are still learning how to drive the capitalism car out of a ditch. Once again everyone wants dollars.
So we are saved by our own schizophrenia. We tossed out all the rules so we could snort up all the subprime mortgages we wanted, but we never moved out of Mom's house, so she can clean us up and put us back on our feet now that we smashed up the family car. But where does that leave us? Do we go right back on a bender as soon as our strength returns, or stay safe in Mommy's arms?
Greenspan the freemarketeer is humbled now. It turns out you do need some rules after all. And Galbraith the "socialist" is correct to point out that our system of "wealth distribution" is the net that will save us from 1930 happening all over again. But let's hope the bailout doesn't turn us into a lockdown economy, with federal intervention at every step. And let's hope we learned, along with Greenie, that even a free market needs some rules.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Details of the Halibut Split

Charter Gets Capped and Triggered
Here is the link to the NPFMC Newsletter explaining the new caps on charter halibut catches in areas 2C and 3A.
Scuttlebutt says it will be challenged in court.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Joe Sixpack Hates Commies

The McCain/Palin campaign is furiously pressing hotbuttons now, trying to get voters to turn off their brains and run to the polls with a fire in their guts.

Last week they hammered on one of mine: "redistribution of wealth". This week they added two more to the stump speeches: "socialism" and "welfare state". They know very well that free market yee-hah John Wayne capitalists like me hate and fear those words and the intrusive and expensively bureaucratic European style government they bring to mind.

But of course that's not what we're talking about. Obama is in favor of rescinding the Bush era tax cuts for the more successful among us, and would in fact give a tax cut to the other ninety five percent. McCain has described this shifting of the tax burden as redistribution of wealth. But neither like to talk about the real point:

We're broke, baby.

It's not about a fair and equitable tax rate that allows all Americans to prosper and does not punish success. We all want that. It's about the fact that the United States of America is mind bogglingly deep in debt and if we can't start paying some of it down China is gonna send someone over to repossess the country.

And the simple truth is the "middle class"-- neck deep in charge card debt, with their retirement suddenly shrunken and kids in college on credit, is pretty well squeezed out. Its not that we wouldn't like to get more out of them. But Joe Sixpack is as broke as the government.

And, I can't help but think that we just bailed out the millionaires when they needed help. The USA needs a bailout now. Maybe if Exxon Mobil and Bill Gates would take a just little less in tax cuts America's stock could rise too.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Palin's Stump Speech


GOV. PALIN: Thank you so much. Thank you so much. Thank you so much. And Senator Lieberman, thank you for that kind introduction. And it is so good to have all of you here today. As Senator Lieberman just said, he's never seen so many people up so early and we thank you for making that sacrifice. (It's nine AM.)
(Applause.) (Now comes the pander-fest: mention location and sport team.)
Thank you so much for that very, very warm welcome to the state of Florida. You take my breath away. Thank you, Florida.
The flags are beautiful. Thank you for that also. God bless America. You guys get it. Thank you.
It's great to be here in the home of the Tampa Bay Rays, too. (Applause.)
I know that earlier some of the experts this year are kind of tough on the Rays. I've been there. But what a difference a season can make. And now the Rays are in the playoffs for the first time ever. Florida knows a little something about turning an underdog into a victor, and together that's what we can do.
How about it Florida? Let us do that for Senator John McCain.
So the last time that our campaign came to Florida it was up in the villages and it was so much fun. Thousands of people out there. Golf carts everywhere. We got such a kick out of that, that was cool. Thousands of people out there to hear our message of reform and positive change. And they came there like you today because the people of Florida are ready to shake things up in Washington. (What? How long before you actually say something?)
So John McCain and I, we are taking our cause and our case for reform to every voter of every background in every region of America. Whether you're a Republican or a Democrat or an Independent, (Alaska Independence Party?) maybe you don't belong to any party at all, we're asking for your vote. And it's going to be a hard fought contest. Right here in Florida it's going to be a tough contest. With your support, though, we'll win Florida.
We'll win for you.
(Applause.) (Still waiting for you to say something.)
So, I wanted to come here a couple of days earlier but I had an appointment in St. Louis that just wouldn't wait.
And so on Thursday night I had a little debate with Senator Joe Biden.
Joseph Biden is a decent man, he is. And I enjoyed meeting him for the first time. I was so proud, though, to get to make the case for the next president of the United States, John McCain.
(Applause.) As I explained to Senator Biden, John McCain is the only man in this race who will solve our economic crisis and not exploit it. And he's the only man in this race with a plan that will actually help our working families, and cut your taxes, and get our economy back on track.
(Applause.) (By Mr. McCain's own admission the economy is his weak suit.)
He's the only man in this race who talks about the wars that America is fighting and he isn't afraid to use the word victory. (Our own commanders in the field don't talk about "victory", but about "success".)
Our opponent gives speech after speech about the wars that America is fighting and it sure would be nice if just once he'd say that he wants America to win. (Succeed?)
See our opponent voted to cut off funding for our troops even after saying that he would never do so. (Misleading. Voted against one of two competing bills. Voted for the other, and ultimately, of course, supported the funding. McCain did the same thing, for the other version.)
And he said that our troops in Afghanistan are just quote, "raiding villages and killing civilians."
(Boos.) (Out of context. Was commenting on a specific case. Everyone else also agreed the soldiers in question were in the wrong. It's war, it happens.)
And that's not what our brave men and women in uniform are doing in Afghanistan. The U.S. military is fighting terrorism and protecting us and our values.
And they're building schools for children in Afghanistan so that there is hope and there is opportunity in that country. That is what our troops are doing and they deserve our gratitude and they deserve our support. (Obama supports a major increase in our presence in Afghanistan.)
See, John McCain is a different kind of man. He believes in our troops and their mission. And as the mother of one of those troops that's exactly the kind of man I want as commander in chief.
Man, some of your signs just make me want to cry. Thank you so much. I love you guys.
(Applause.) Thank you.
(Applause.) (Sniffle. Now let's see how many times I can say "Florida", and pander to veterans.)
Senator McCain -- Senator McCain served our nation in uniform for 22 years, five and a half years he was a POW. In fact, it was after graduating from the Naval Academy, he was stationed right here in Florida. That's where he learned to do what he does, here in Florida.
And Florida, it was in your skies that he trained to become a naval aviator. And Senator McCain is proud to have been part of Florida's strong tradition of military service. And today, we're proud of all the Floridians who have worn our country's uniform. Your state is home to millions.
Florida is home to millions of our veterans and many of our nation's active duty soldiers and airmen. And they continue to keep our nation strong and secure. And I know that here in the audience there are veterans, there are those who are serving today. Would you do me the honor, raise your hand, let us applaud you? Thank you, guys.
We thank you and we love you guys. Thank you -- and gals, thank you.
(Applause.) ( Hang on. Has she actually said anything yet?)
Florida, in just 29 days it will be the time for choosing in this election. And here's how I look at the choice that we face. In politics there are some candidates who use change to just promote their careers. And then there are those leaders, like John McCain, who use their career to promote change. (The writers worked all night on that one.)
This is a moment when principles and political independence matter a lot more than just the party line, as Senator Lieberman just told you. It matters a lot more than just the party line. John McCain is his own man. He doesn't run with the Washington herd. And he and I don't just talk about change, we're the only candidates in this race with a track record of actually making change happen. (Lieberman was McCain's hands down choice for VP. McCain was convinced by hardliners to run with the herd and choose a "base" candidate, Palin.)
As mayor and as a governor, I reminded people that government is not always the answer. In fact, government too often is the problem. So we got back to basics and we put government back on the side of the people.
As mayor, I eliminated taxes on personal property and I eliminated taxes like small business inventory taxes. Those burdens on our small businesses, we got rid of them. Property taxes were too high. Every year that I was in office I reduced that (mill levy ?). (And built a gigantic, publicly funded, sport complex.)
And as governor, I brought the same agenda of positive change on a state level. I came to office promising to control spending, by request if possible, but by veto if necessary. And today, our state budget is under control and we have a surplus. And I put the veto pen to nearly half a billion dollars in wasteful spending. (She actually vetoes the entire budget, then has the Legislature come to her in small groups and lobby for each individual road or school.)
We suspended our state fuel tax and I'm returning a chunk of our surplus money right back to the people of Alaska. It's their money and they can spend it better than government can spend it for them. (Of course Alaskans don't pay state taxes. Its the oil tax money she's spreading around. Redistribution of wealth? Not that I'm complaining.)
Imagine that. Imagine that, having that principle. And that's what we're going to bring on a national level also. That principle of knowing that -- no, the people, our families, our businesses they know best so let them keep more of what they earn and produce and not have this government take trying to quote, "solve" all the problems for our families and our businesses. No, we're not going to do that. (Huh? Hang on, I think she's trying to say something of substance. She just compared giving oil company tax money directly to the people with letting companies keep "more of what they earn" and not expecting government to solve our problems. Oh wait, that doesn't make any sense)
I've always known that I was accountable to the people who hired me. There, it was the people of Alaska. (Which is why she promised to serve out her term just before she accepted the VP nod) And in a McCain-Palin administration I promise you that we will never forget that we'll be there in D.C. to work for you the people of America.
So one mission of a McCain-Palin administration will be to set this nation firmly on a course of energy independence. (Drill, baby, drill! Drill, baby, drill! No? Not yet?)
Across Florida and all across America, high gas prices is making a full tank at the pump seem like a luxury. And the cost of living, of course, is going up. And the cost of groceries is going up. Everything is going up, but the value of your paycheck is going down. (So let's here it for tax cuts for rich people!) And that's because of high energy costs. (Oh. I thought it was because I work at WalMart) So, to meet America's great energy challenge we're going to need an all of the above approach. And that, in a McCain-Palin administration, will mean developing new alternative energy sources. And it will mean requiring to build more nuclear power plants. And in Florida, it means alternative sources of energy like wind and solar. God has so richly blessed you here.
(Applause.) (Drill, baby, dr...not yet?)
Look at these sources of energy here in Florida that are still sitting untapped. And we'll tap into them, along with environmentally friendly off shore production. We do need to drill here and drill now. Now you can chant the drill baby drill.
(Applause.) (Yes! Now, how many time can you say "American"?)
It's as simple as this, Florida. In a McCain-Palin administration we will achieve energy security for our country. It is a matter of national security and economic prosperity. That means American energy resources brought to you by American ingenuity and produced by American workers.
And we're also going to bring tax relief to every (rich)American and cut taxes for businesses so you business owners you can hire more people. That's how jobs are created. (Thanks for clearing that up.)
Here again, John McCain is the real reformer. In this election, he is the real reformer and he can do this and he has a record to prove it. And so do I, as a mayor, as a governor who cut taxes for the people of Alaska. You know, in this campaign, in this election, I think the phoniest claim in a campaign that's been full of them, is that Barack Obama is going to cut your taxes? (That's right its only for ninety five percent of us.)
I mean, think about it. He's built his whole career on doling out tax money, first as a Chicago politician, and then raising taxes as a senator. He's voted 94 times to raise taxes. (McCain voted to spend the money, but borrows from China to get it. We owe over $400,000 per person right now. Painful as it will be we gotta pay for it someday, somehow.)
Even on middle class every day working Americans making $42,000 a year, he voted to raise those taxes. (Not true) And he tried to waste a million dollars a day just on his requested earmarks. (As mayor and Governor, Palin was a fervent fan of earmarks.) And now, he's committed to almost a trillion dollars in new government spending. And yet, he never bothers to explain where all that's going to come from to pay for all of that. (China?) And dog gone it, no one seems to be asking him how is he going to pay for the huge government growth that he wants. No one is asking him. So you all, just do the math. Either do the math or just go with your gut. In either way, you're going to come up with the same conclusion, Barack Obama is going to raise your taxes. (Actually if you do the math Obama will cut your taxes. For our purposes here, better go with your gut.)
So, there's a pattern here of a left-wing agenda that is packaged and prettied up to look like mainstream policies. And everybody knows that this country has got to be put back on the right track. But the problem with our opponent's agenda is that higher taxes and bigger government and activist courts and retreat in war, that's not the right track for our country. That's another dead end. (Let's see, if you borrow from China instead of raise taxes, and recognize that we retreated in Afghanistan to go to Iraq, those are all the Bush policies that McCain still supports.)
We have that plan to put our country back on the right track. Okay now Florida, evidently there's some interest in what I've been reading lately. And I think that this comes from -- it's a result of a probably less than successful interview that I had recently with kind of mainstream media. (Just the kind of clear speaking that served you so well in that interview.)
Yet, you know what, in response to critics after that interview what I should have told them was I was just trying to keep Tina Fey in business, just giving her more information. (True, she gets laughs by quoting you verbatim.)
Job security for SNL characters. All right. Really in that interview I was just getting really impatient because I was so convinced that Americans want to hear about the issues that are so important in your life: how to win the war, how to get the economy back on track, public education, accountability in our schools, more choices for our parents with education. Those things. (It all comes to her, now.)
So, I do have to apologize, though, for being a little bit impatient, a little bit annoyed. But anyways, so one of the questions about well what do I read everyday? (Cereal boxes?) And my answer was sort of flippant, (Actually you could not name a newspaper that you read.) Well, I was reading my copy of the New York Times the other day, okay.
And I knew you guys would react that way, okay. So I'm reading the New York Times, though, and I was really interested to read about Barack's friends from Chicago, as the New York Times (put it ?). (Cue appeal to fear.)
Now it turns out one of his earliest supporters is a man named Bill Ayers.
And according to the New York Times he was a domestic terrorist and part of a group that quote, "launched a campaign of bombings that would target the Pentagon and our U.S. Capitol."
And then there's even more to the story. Barack Obama says that Ayers was just someone in the neighborhood, but that's less than truthful. His own top adviser said that they were quote, "certainly friendly." In fact, Obama held one of his first meetings of his political career in Bill Ayers living room. (Just plain not true.)
And they worked together on various projects in Chicago. (School reform, on a Republican sponsored board.) And, you know, these are the same guys who think that patriotism is paying higher taxes. (We all know patriotism is making your kids pay higher taxes.)
(Boos.) (OK, now let's talk about how afraid we should all be.)
Remember, that's what Joe Biden had said. And I am just so fearful that this is not a man who sees America the way that you and I see America, as the greatest source for good in this world.
I'm afraid this is someone who sees America as imperfect enough to work with a former domestic terrorist who had targeted his own country.
(Boos.) (Great! You made it sound like Obama is bombing the Pentagon. I am very afraid. Now throw out a Reagan reference, and bring it home:)
This, ladies and gentlemen, has nothing to do with the kind of change that anyone can believe in, not my kids, not for your kids. What we believe in is what Ronald Reagan believed in, and that is America is an exceptional nation.
(Applause.) (Everybody chant!)
(Chant of USA) Remember Ronald Reagan used to talk about America being that shining city on a hill for all mankind to see and that America is a good and honorable nation. We are not a perfect nation but we learn from our mistakes. And individually, no we are not perfect; but collectively together America represents a perfect ideal. It's freedom. It's tolerance. It's respect for equal rights. It is those things that our military men and women have fought and died for, and freedom is worth fighting for. (Yay! Individually we ain't much, but as a howling mob, we're perfect!)
So look at the contrasts. On November 4th, you'll have that choice, the contrasts. The only man who can take on Washington is Senator John McCain.
Okay, so Florida you know that you're going to have to hang onto your hats because from now until election day it may get kind of rough. (We might for instance start calling Obama a terrorist.) That's all right. You're going to hear our opponents still go on and on about how they're going to fight for you. But since he won't say it on his own behalf, I've had to kind of make it my business to say it for him. (?) There is only one man in this campaign who has ever really fought for you.
He has the courage to go on fighting for you. That man is John McCain so God bless you for supporting John McCain. Thank you, Florida. God bless you and God bless America.
(Applause.) (Um, did she ever really really tell us what they plan to do, if elected? Oh well, I'm stoked. Let's go to a bar and beat up a gay.)
Thank you.
(Torches and pitchforks will be available as you exit.)

Friday, October 17, 2008

Senator Stevens Sin: A Fall from Faith in Democracy

As Uncle Ted takes the stand today in his own defense he will claim to be so obtuse that he was unaware of the existence or value of gifts laid at his feet. It is red faced grass kicking lie, like that of a boy caught by his mother breaking rules he thinks are stupid. The barely concealed current running through the recorded phone conversations between Stevens and former pal Allen is that the rules are wrong, not them.

Because Stevens is a fallen angel.

His faith in the messy, loud and inaccurate system of government that is a democratic republic has been bleached out of him in his long years wrassling laws in the Senate. He is like the Catholic priest whose long years in a cynical system have made him forget the goodness that still sits in the pews.

His implicit motto is the famous quote from Men In Black:

"A person is smart. People are dumb panicky animals, and you know it."

I can understand this, to a degree. Here in Kodiak our quest to build a new police station has been a study in the inefficiencies of democracy. A City Dictator, conferring with a few of our prominent citizens, could have decreed a new station site despite the howls of the ignorant masses that it is in the wrong place. Could have saved us a couple of million dollars. Of course the station would have gone where the citizens didn't want it. But citizens are like children. They don't know what they really need.

Uncle Ted truly believes that it is better to confer with the Captains of Industry than to sift through the clamor of the masses. This is his true crime--his every action as a Senator is guided, not by the needs and wishes of his electorate, but by a close contingent of confederates and associates that he has come to trust.

Perhaps Mr. Begich will one day be worn down from dealing with the dunderheads of democracy. At that point he should quit, as Uncle Ted should have, long ago. Because swimming in the sea of the citizenry is what a public servant does. It is not a job you can do sipping champagne on the shore with your homeboys.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Senator McScrappy Wrong Skipper for Ship of State

Both candidates for the US Presidency were looking up-all-night haggard as they gave their early morning comments to the press about the cartwheeling stock market on the day of their final debate.

Obama suggested some short term life rings, including letting the cash strapped middle class dip into their retirement money without penalty.

McCain said "I'm a fighter" and flew into a flurry of furious chest beating pro wrestler pronouncements. He would "take on" the profiteers of Wall Street as he had members of his own party in the Senate. This is a central theme of McCain's campaign: the scrappy fighter who will battle on in Iraq, combat spending in Washington, butt heads with Russia and drop veto bombs on the Democrats in Congress. He is the raging bull of this election.

In sharp contrast, Obama's talent is in forceful negotiation. From his days heading the Harvard Law Review to his time in the US Senate he has shown himself adept at bringing combatants to an area of common ground and compelling them to cooperate based on mutual benefit. Lincoln amazed pundits of the time when he kept his fiercest rivals close by giving them high level cabinet posts. Forced into the same room with a man of Lincoln's talents, the men (including Seward, a patron saint of Alaska) became a very effective team at a time in history when we needed it most.

I appreciate McCain's tenacity, and I think I now have a clearer view of the Senator's role as a volatile and passionate spur to that sometimes sluggish body. But his combative nature and admittedly impulsive style of decision making are not what this nation, or this planet, needs right now. We need a skipper with a steady hand.

Because the nature of the skipper determines the culture of the boat.

Some skippers tear around town in their pickups without a plan, quickpatching the equipment, yelling at the crew, leaving the dock at the last minute to arrive on the grounds just in time to overload the boat on the port side and nearly roll over, but you barely get all the fish down without sinking and head back to town where you will do most of the gearwork before the skipper shows up to tell you he wants to change out all the hooks so you'll have to do the gearwork all over again but he just got a tendering contract so you can do that and paint the boat while you pack salmon unless he sells the boat next week. These people are exciting to work with and can even be successful, right up to the moment they sink the boat.

John McCain is that kind of skipper: hot-headed, impulsive, driving without a compass. Early on his campaign squandered its first twenty four million dollars, fired its staff and rolled into New Hampshire listing badly. Since then he has been tearing around the nation in his pickup- without a coherent message, but catching enough votes to make it pay. Straight talk was junked for Bush style win-at-any-cost politics. He has patched together a crazy coalition of independents who used to like him and hardliners who used to hate him (Republicans seem strangely caught between self-loathing and loathing for everyone else.)

In contrast Obama's campaign has been the height of cool efficiency. Again he has attracted a coalition of talented and dedicated people united by their common ground, its bounds so well articulated by Mr. Obama. He is a skipper who inspires confidence, and hard work.

At the debate McCain wants to fight. Fidgeting and grimacing in his chair, he throws his haymakers-- invoking the "anger" of the public over "redistribution of wealth" and "sitting down with terrorists". Jake LaMotta has his head down and is punching furiously. He's swinging wild. In the end he looks frustrated.

Obama has his head up. He has stepped easily away from McCain's charge. He is looking into the camera. He seems to be looking beyond Mr. McCain. He's talking to us now. Articulating the common ground where we can all meet, and fix this country.

Monday, October 13, 2008

State Paid For Palin's PR Consultant

National Media Blitz Powered By Gas

Did you wonder why Sarah Palin was suddenly in the national spotlight just before John McCain started casting around for a VP?

Give the credit to Marcia Brier, a Massachusetts based public relations expert hired by the state of Alaska to promote the Governor. The state paid $31,000 to Brier, who pushed Palin in prepackaged stories like "Big Oil Under Siege", which painted Palin as a firebrand maverick who singlehandedly defeated the oil companies and drove through the gas pipeline package.

In a story linked below, Washington Post reporter Kimberly Kindy reveals the Alaska Department of Natural Resources hired Brier to sell Palin so she could in turn sell the gas pipeline. Brier hammered the media with prewritten stories, or "pitches" that characterized Palin as the single driving force who backed down the oil companies, tamed the Alaska Legislature and gave birth to the gasline all alone in the Wasilla wilderness.

This would no doubt come as a surprise to the many Alaska statesmen who drew a line in the tundra and refused to buckle down to the old guard and their oily masters--Berkowitz, LeDoux, Ramras, is Alaska's Legislature who has the dirt of the pipeline under its fingernails, and deserves most of the credit. Meanwhile "Where's Sarah?" buttons became common in Juneau as the Guv became increasingly obsessed with courting the media. She had already shown a distinct distaste for the capitol, preferring to rule from Wasilla and collect a per diem for working away from J-town. And for the time she spent meeting privately with executives of ExxonMobil and Marathon Oil in early 2007.

After the Legislature passed the gas pipeline incentive plan the media campaign really took off. Suddenly Brier had takers for her Palin stories. But the media pieces had much less to do with gas than with the selling of Sarah. Stories in People and Fortune magazines, the New York Times, the Washington Post, Fox News, 60 Minutes and the Wall Street Journal all focused on Palin's person, not the pipeline.

And the minute she was picked as VP candidate the contract with Brier was terminated.
"We'd achieved our objective with getting the national attention," said Palin staffer Kurt Gibson said. "There was no need anymore to use state money to achieve that."

Uh-Huh. What was that objective again?

Thanks for Ruining Our Governor

Trying to close the Troopergate after the Facts have Escaped

Hubris. Its a disease. A swelling of the ego that blocks all other brain function.

Why did Governor Palin accept the VP nomination? She must have known that there were dozens of GOP politicians better qualified for the job. She must have known that it directly contradicted her promise to serve out her term as governor.

And she definitely knew about Troopergate.

It's outrageous that the McCain campaign spent money trying to quash the Alaska Legislature's report on Troopergate. I remember reading ADN's well reported headline story on Troopergate just after Monegan was fired. We now know officially what we all learned way back then. That the governor had allowed surrogates to lobby for the firing of a trooper who happened to be the guv's ex-brother-in-law. Head Trooper Monegan refused to fiddle with their stonefaced system of review. Head Trooper Monegan got fired.

The trooper sounded like a terrible cop. I think most Alaskans assumed she had good reasons to want the trooper fired. And they realized that she is Monegan's boss. She can fire him if she wants. But it was pretty obvious that she had made a rookie mistake by not reining in those who would act on her behalf, outside the bounds of government. I think most of us figured she would get a meaningless but well-intended investigation into the matter after which the legislature would harrumph about refining the ethics rules and the trooper would be fired quietly in the background. And so it should have ended, the Governor's first scrape with scandal and a lesson learned all around.

Then the VP nod pushed her, and all Alaskans, into the national spotlight. We haven't been doing very well in the spotlight. Governor Palin has been giving speeches laced with fear and fury all across the country, smiling on as roaring crowds yell out "Kill 'im!" and "Terrorist!". Next stop the Munich beer hall circuit. And the topper- having to watch smirking news analysts play footage of her contradicting nearly exactly the findings of our meaningless but well-intended investigation.

Darn it, she was playing her role just fine up here. A kind of Wasilla Ice Queen that the noblemen of the Legislature approached with a sweeping bow and a budget in hand.

You big city folk just had to tempt her with your bright lights and fancy stylists.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Flip This Economy

I can tell you the first person who knew in his guts that something in this economy was terribly, terribly wrong.
He was slumped over the wheel on I-80, stuck in a gridlock, halfway into the two hour daily lemming run into the city.
All around him, far as the eye could see, were people just like him. Blinking in traffic next to empty latte cups, idling away gas they couldn't afford to get to jobs they might lose, vainly trying to keep up with expanding mortgages on houses a hundred miles away from where they work. All because every single converted clothes closet in the city was going for a million bucks.
As he sat there looking over at the shadow faced driver in the lane next door, nodding, like himself, to the "Dink and Dork in the Morning Show", he must have thought:
"This can't be right. How much can one crappy apartment in San Francisco really be worth?"
Somehow, in between the "Flip This House" type TV shows and the late night no money down infomercials, we were convinced that selling real estate back and forth to each other at exponentially increasing prices qualifies as an industry. The entire ponzi scheme is based on the idea that someone even stupider than you will come along with a bigger wheelbarrow full of money and cash you out. That guy then paints the porch and waits for a bigger idiot, perhaps someone in a clown suit driving up the driveway in a shiny dumptruck full of money.
Yes, it was glorious. A balloon payment, fee encrusted, high interest, high profit gold rush--all paid for by the next guy. But if all those real estate players had no jobs, no credit ratings and no cash, then where exactly did all the money come from?
Enter woolen skinned men in tall glassy cubicles. Specifically AIG, the investment wizards to whom the US taxpayers are now handing our wallets. Only recently they liked to brag that they invented the investment vehicle by which both their fantastically wealthy clients and the banks where we all put our money made unbelievable profits on the real estate idiot chain. All you had to do is bundle up the "risky" high interest home loans (often mixed with safer stuff like your municipal bonds for schools and sewers). Then you just keep pouring money on them, kind of like gasoline on a nice toasty fire. Just put enough loose money into the hands of clowns pulling dumptrucks into the driveways of recently remodeled McMansions and the whole system works wonderfully. The money you dump onto the idiot chain comes flowing back to your investors from the unbelievably high interest rates on the loans. Meanwhile fees and consultation services and sales commissions can keep a company like AIG in the spas six months out of the year- good spas too, where young girls whip you with eucalyptus branches while they recite lines from "The Art of War".
Yes the whole system works beautifully until that last clown never comes up the driveway. You don't want to be the last idiot in the idiot chain.
Like every pyramid scheme it finally collapsed under its own weight.
If there's anything to be proud of in all this it is that we apparently suckered the entire planet in. Yep, its the biggest scam of all time.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

McCain Can't Catch a Wave, Uncle Ted for President

Did you know that Alaska's Senator Ted Stevens was a pioneering surfer?
Say what you will about Alaska's Senior Sourpuss, the man knows when to sit on his board and when to paddle. Since before statehood he has shown the knack for recognizing a rising groundswell and riding it well. Even now, sitting on his board in federal court with shoals of evidence all around him he is waiting for the right moment to start paddling. Sure enough, his prosecutors have bumbled him up a wave of mistakes. He may ride out of this one yet.
John McCain, on the other hand can't catch a wave. Eight years ago he tried "straight talk" and was obliterated by the Bush sleaze machine. This time he went to the dark side only to be swept off his board by a wave of hope and honesty. Whether its the war in Iraq, the economy, drilling our way to energy independance, or the idiocy of picking Governor Palingate, he always seems a day late, a dollar short.
Is it too late for the Republicans to run Uncle Ted?

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Mr. Terry Goes to a Meetin'--Chapter Four

I'm sitting at the Sheraton sushi bar feeling angry and depressed.
St. Jude is slumped beside me. Even he seems a little put off.

The Fish Council's Advisory Panel, its members only too aware they are being carefully watched by bankers in sweat stained suits, crumpled the Crew Quota Proposal and kicked it under the table. The majority of the A.P. officially signed off on the Crab Ratz Program, saying "the crab program is achieving most of its objectives and that many of the major changes identified in the Council's April Motion would de-stabilize the harvesting, processing, and community sectors and are not necessarily based on the findings of the Council's 18 month and 3 year reviews."

The real truth is jammed between those lines like the sweet greasy middle of an Oreo cookie.

De-stabilize means nervous bankers.

Most of the resistance to making reasonable tweaks to the program lie in the fact that so many owners have "doubled down": using their initially allocated quota as collateral to borrow money to buy more quota. Banks extended the "priviledge" of using quota as collateral because halibut and pollock quota has been such iron-clad investments. What the bankers now know is that the law gives no guarantee of rights, and in fact explicitly states they can be taken away at any time. Any proposal that might redesignate even a small portion of the quota changes the numbers for the crunchers and that makes them nervous.

This is, of course, a terribly short sided view. The real danger to the program, and to every fisherman, banker and processor with a stake in it is in not fixing it. Its easy enough to fend off those of us who come to the Council and engage in the process in good faith. Looming clouds of lawsuits based on the program's parentage are the real danger. Crab Ratz was hatched because Senator Ted Stevens sat on it, in a nest built by his son, Ben, and a flock of cronies. Dissenting voices were ignored. Even the former Council Chair admitted, after Ratz was pushed through, that unresolved crew issues were her greatest concern. The Senator's system of marking ears for corporate lobbyists who hired his son has cast a shadow across the industry from Adak to the Southeast salmon grounds. A slight alteration of shares over time is a far cry from having the whole shebang thrown out in a federal court. A real effort to correct the program could pre-emp this by making it a moot point.

Four members of the Advisory Panel deserve recognition for their minority opinion, "that it is premature to assert that the Crab Rationalization Program fully meets its original objectives, conservation goals or community protection needs...we recommend that analysis of the 90/10 split continue, while additional analysis on crew shares, WAG issues and ROFRs be initiated."
Signed: Beth Stewart, Michelle Ridgeway, Chuck McCallum, and John Moller.
And is is worth noting the Fish Council is a near autonomous body. They are no more bound to listen to the Advisory Panel than they are the President of Somalia. Or me for that matter.

Meanwhile the ongoing struggle to keep Ratz unchanged (Ratus Quo) is centered on Data Suppression. At the direction of the Fish Council and NOAA General Counsel, a number of studies are in progress that tend to confirm evidence that Ratz has had quite dramatic consequenses for working fishermen and their communities. Owners groups like the Alaska Crab Coalition have spend a great deal of time and money begging the Council to ignore the data, on the basis that it is still being gathered and analyzed and because such a poor job was done gathering Socioeconomic data prior to the implementation of Ratz that there is nothing with which to compare it. I tried to answer this lame circular argument in my official comment to the Council, below:

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

At the North Pacific Fisheries Council Meeting

The Charter Vs Commercial Halibut Update

An army of fishermen and lobbyists stormed the latest meeting of the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council, all with a common word on their tongues: Halibut.

At issue: should increasing harvests by recreational fishermen be allowed to gobble up quota pounds from commercial users, some of whom have mortgaged their entire lives to purchase what they thought was a reliable share of the catch?In the end the Fish Council cleared its slate and concentrated its efforts on this single issue.

The eye of the mosh pit is in commercial area 2C, at the center of Southeast Alaska's tourism boom. Slower accounting methods on the Charter side caused them to overharvest by a million pounds, a number that must be accounted for in assessing next years quotas. This is alarming for commercial harvesters who have bought quota in 2C, often on credit, with the reasonable expectation that an unregulated Charter fleet will not be allowed to use this back door encroachment to draw an unlimited amount of the harvest into their camp.

In the end the Council set a cap on the amount of halibut that can be taken by charter vessels from areas 2C and 3A (with the assumption that charter pressure may well spill over into 3A, the larger halibut biomass on earth) as well as instituting a standard of "triggers" which would limit or increase the amount of fish taken per day by charter boats according to stock levels. Overall the Council took a well-measured view and acted decisively on an issue that has stumped former Councils for decades.
The Motion:
Wesley Loy on the subject:

Questions to ask include whether the accounting system can be upgraded in time for next year, and whether enforcement tools will be effective.

My Comment to the Council on the Crab SAFE Report:

Mr. Chairman, Members of the Council:
My name is Terry Haines I am a member of the Kodiak City Council and longtime commercial deckhand. As you know the City Council and a large number of our citizens have long voiced concerns about the effects of Crab Rationalization on our communities, working fishing boats, skippers and crewmen.

The SAFE (Stock Assessment and Fishery Evaluation) document is a testament to this Council’s continued commitment to responsible management of our stocks.

It is very relevant, however, to recognize what is not in the document, namely work that is still in the meta-data process that looks at the effects of rationalization on skippers, crew and the ability of working vessels to continue to provide an economic base in their homeports.

Don’t lock that data in the SAFE until next year’s report.
While recognizing the need to put data in the wider context, and to verify it, where data might be reasonably used to further measures being developed to help working fishermen and their communities, it should be used.

Where data can be replicated by parallel studies and reasonably put in the broader context they should be made available to the people who have, at the direction of this Council, been working very hard to take a rational look at the social impacts of rationalization.

Because if I see an elephant across the creek and everyone else standing there sees an elephant, it might not be necessary to build a boat and row it across to poke the elephant before we start making some phone calls to see who lost an elephant.
(Laughter and Applause)
Thank you.

Saturday, October 4, 2008


Palin Proves Unpresidential

Alright I'm just going to say it. If you don't know the word "nuclear" You should never be president. As Sarah Palin said nu-cu-lar over and over in the recent Vice Presidential debate I saw the grinning grey ghost of George Bush hovering behind her, and I shuddered. It's hard to imagine a governor less qualified to run a country than "W". And yet, there she is.

This is rather painful for me.I was an early and enthusiastic Palin supporter. When no one gave her a chance to win the governor's race I was torching off Op-Eds and webshakers pronouncing her the most honest and uncorrupt candidate (I also supported Berkowitz until he dropped out).

My wife respectfully disagreed. Sarah's inability to specify disturbed her, along with her apparent hostility to her own sex.

To give my wife credit she forgave my pro Palin posture after hearing Bill Clinton (Doesn't he seem nicer since Hillary lost?) explain that sometimes one important issue can dominate a person's politics to the extent that he (or me) will support a candidate on the basis of a single vital issue, ignoring the candidate's more troubling stances. And Sarah has a coherent policy, if not direct knowledge of, resource issues.

But that first step down from there is a doozy.

Listening to the debate I can hear the familiar buzzphrases that have been drilled into her head by former Bush operatives (just glad to have a job, I'm sure). But when she wanders away from the script her inability to simply form a coherent sentence is appalling. Is it really too much to ask that a potential cheif executive have the knowledge and ability to express herself clearly? The "Ya"s and her habit of leaving the "G"s off the end of "ing" words sounds like condescending baby talk. Even Hockey Mom and her husband Joe Sixpack don't need to be talked down to. Shades of Bush again, with his affected Texas accent, non-existant syntax and willingness to trade thought for faith.

As she flashes her plastic smile (Someone in the McCain camp must be yelling "Smile!" all day long) I can only hope the shallow puddle she's standing on doesn't lead people to think she's walking on water.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Red Headed Step-Crew

I'm sitting next to Dr. Fina in the hotseat. The twenty or so members of the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council's Advisory Panel are looking at me like a semicircle of angry bears. It is nearing five o'clock in what has been for them a long afternoon chewing tough flavorless staff reports and gulping unwise amounts of keg coffee. My proposal is in their packet--a scheme that would take something away from many of them, at least on the surface. I look down at "The Proposal" a single page in Mark Fina's vast binder (It is the same as the one below). The Advisory Panel members seem to find it a bit confusing. Hell, I find it a bit confusing (though no more confusing than most of the paper that passes through this panel).
But it will work.
I drift back in time --Branson and I showing up at the meetings before Ratz was implemented wearing sweatpants and rainboots, hand scrawled demands in our hands. Just look at me now--wearing slippers and jeans and the magic hat, with printed up demands right in their packets. We asked for all manner of things back then- (I put in one for a quota pool that would fund health insurance for fishermen) anything, really--value was obviously being carried away from the fishery like furniture after a fire and deckhands were sitting on the soggy lawn like confused stepchildren. Skippers were at least given a ratty folding chair...
Whoops my mind wandered a bit there.
To my left Panel member Mike Martin is fixing me with a flat emotionless gaze. I like Mr. Martin (damn that weakness!) He has a talent for details and is a hounddog for clarification. Later he will grill me like a king salmon steak.
I read the proposal aloud, mouth suddenly croaking dry. Nevertheless I stop with irritating frequency to expand on points (I am a terribly self important blowhard) and the bears begin to shift in their seats, realizing I will be seriously challenging their five o'clock quittin' time.
The Chairman opens the panel up for questions. I hold my breath. As nervous as I am the worst possible thing that can happen right now is that no one asks any questions. Its like hearing "Next!" as you begin your audition.
I needn't have worried. The questions fly, despite the lure of beer and sushi one mere circular flight downstairs. Mike starts. His list of questions is longer than santa's naughty list. Then more questions from the right and left. They bounce back and forth like a Williams sisters tennis match. With a voice like a Death Valley frog I try to answer.
The idea, I say, is to distribute the benefits of rationalization among stakeholders in a way more reflective of the pre ratz distribution.
"If the intent of the Council when they created the program was to privatize access to a public resource so that a small group of stakeholders can extract the maximum value from the resource to the detriment of other stakeholders, and that they be allowed to do so forever, without any investment in the industry, then I question that intent. If such was not the Council's intent then it is their responsibility to fix the program."
"Crew Quota would be unowned and simply harvested by working fishing boats without the onerous lease fee."
Lots of doublespeak has been written about crew compensation. Here's the bottom line: if you charge working fishermen a seventy percent fee to fish King Crab but tell him he can harvest more, that's like telling the McDonald's guy you have to bust him from ten down to three dollars an hour. The good news is you get to work lots more hours.
Gee, thanks mister!
In the end the Advisory Panel seriously looked at all the crew proposals. And that, my friends, has never happened before. Do I dare to hope?
Hope is good. Work is better. I'd better get back downstairs and see if I can't corral Denby or Duncan. And ask them questions.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Plane Crashes Outside My Window

Just after I finished writing the post below a Cessna 206 crashed off the end of Merrill Field. I did not witness the accident, but immediately noticed the column of black smoke and the firetrucks streaming in from all directions. Its amazing how many Anchorage drivers ignore sirens until they are almost run off the road. My condolences to the families.
And maybe its worth keeping in mind that you could be walking down the street in downtown Anchorage and have a plane fall on you.
Life is short. Don't forget to live it.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Sea Change at Fish Council

Tuesday, September 30--Anchorage Alaska

I run up the circular stairway to the Sheraton's second floor where the Advisory Panel for the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council is reconvening.

Growling halibut fishermen are settling into hard back chairs as the AP members reluctantly sit back down in front of their vast ring binders full of recomendations and analyses compiled by staff. The fishermen will soon be telling them all the different ways the binders are wrong. The Advisory Panel is a non paid group of industry spokespersons. The Council may listen to them or completely ignore them.

I am hesitant to go inside so I loiter in the hall. Strategic loitering is a big part of effective advocacy. Stephanie from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game is there, listening intently to an effusive baseball cap clamped down over the red face of a longliner. I do a shark circle around her, browsing at the documents table, picking out the stuff I might be able to use and slipping them into my faux leather zipper binder.Palming my Kodiak City Council business card with my cell number and the address to this blog written on the front I hover closer, trying to be silently insistent but not overtly rude. I'm hoping to slip her the card and head back to my room--its naptime for grandpa. She is too quick for me. "I'll call you in a while. I want to talk about your proposal."

Stephanie is a front line soldier, the face of the Department's new philosophy under Commissioner Denby Lloyd--to use their Council seat to look out for the citizens of the State, rather than their former role of throwing bloody steaks to the lions of the industry.

I grab a double breve and retire to my room. I've shmoozed my way onto the fifteenth floor, looking straight down the runway of Merrill Field and at the mountains beyond. I grab the desk chair and balance it on the heater unit so I'm sitting window level at the top floor as I sip the breve and watch the Beech Bonanzas and Cessna Citations climb right at me and then bank away from the window at the last minute. There's a lesson here somewhere.

Picking through the papers I took from the governmentese document buffet table I start writing notes like "Ha!" and "?". Then I look down and see the Mammoth Music store across the street.

"Harmonica!" I shout to myself as I jump up and run for the elevator. I have forgotten to bring a harmonica on this trip and I never travel without one. (Be sure to tell the TSA guy about harmonicas in your carry on. They look like gun clips or something in the X-ray--it freaks them out.)

Coming out with a blues harp in "E" I see Jeff Stephen from Kodiak at the curb. Jeff is a boat owner rep and compulsive community servant: he serves on the thankless School Board, for instance. I like him (I like most people- a terrible weakness).

We visit and he mentions my new role as Kodiak community representative to the Council. I leaped at the chance to be the comrep. I have a hard time saying no to a profitless challenge. He mentions something I will hear later from another boat owner rep-that is, whether I can advocate for crew issues and communities at the same time.

"Heck yeah. Crew is part of Community. What's good for one is good for the other."

Stephanie calls and I run off. We go over my Crew Quota Proposal (reprinted below). She has many questions. (So do I, truthfully). She is a deadly serious person, intent on doing her job well and not given to frivolity (or smiling).

I soberly explain to her that the idea is not to sell or give quota to crew- a misapprehension shared by many. "The problem with the program now is that it privatized a public resource, allowing owners to set up a tollbooth in the ocean that charges working fishermen 50-70% for access..."

She stops me. She has heard this from me before.

"How would it work?"

"That's what I'm here to find out."

NEXT: The Council Comes to Town, I Play Bar Trivia with the New York Times and Why the Trial of Ted Stevens Matters to the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council

Monday, September 29, 2008

Mr.Terry Goes to a Meetin'

Starting Tuesday September 30th
Follow Your Intrepid Blogger as I Attempt to Represent at the October Meeting of the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council
In their clenched hands will be a copy of a Proposal that could change the very face of the Deadliest Catch:

Preliminary Crew Quota Proposal for BSAI Crab Committee,
NPFMC Meeting, September 2008

Problem Statement

What is wrong with Crab Rationalization as it is presently structured?

The program has created an unnatural imbalance in the most basic economies of fishing communities by focusing access rights into the hands of a very few, allowing them to charge lease fees that extract the maximum possible value. The result is less money in fishing communities and less opportunity for fishermen.

How can these problems be corrected?

Skippers and crew, that is, boots on deck fishermen, will be allowed access to a portion of the quota equal to their traditional share on a yearly basis with no ownership rights. Quota owners will be required to have a significant stake in the industry at a time certain or they must divest themselves of their held quota. Meaningful vessel caps will be implemented, allowing more opportunity for traditional users.

Purpose and Need Statement

To restore traditional balance in the industry a redesignation of a portion of the TAC equal to the traditional share taken by skippers and crew will occur. This redesignated quota, or Crew Quota, will be accessible to BOD (Boots On Deck) fishermen without landing restrictions on a yearly basis based on past participation. In this way the entry level fisherman will be able to work his way up, working boats will be relieved of the burden of heavy lease fees, and the cash value of the fishery will be distributed in a more traditional manner, with fishing communities benefiting from more money in more hands.


Quota would be redesignated in three ways:

1. All increases in TAC will be designated Crew Quota.

2. All holders of crab quota will be required to show a significant investment in the industry, or to divest themselves of said quota at a time certain. At the time of transfer a share of the transferred quota will be redesignated as Crew Quota.

3. A portion of existing “A” and “B” shares will be immediately redesignated as Crew Quota.

BOD fishermen will then be encouraged to form a Regional Fishery Association as defined in MSA:

The term Regional Fishery Association means an association formed for the mutual benefit of members--

A) To meet social and economic needs in a region or sub region;

B) Comprised of persons engaging in the harvest or processing of fishery resources in that specific region or sub region or who otherwise own or operate businesses substantially dependent on a

This document is meant to be a starting place for discussions which will result in a formal presentation to the NPFMC at its October 2008 meeting in Anchorage Alaska. All interested parties are encouraged to contact the Crewmen’s Association to help refine the proposal.

Terry Haines, CA representative, 907-942-0365,
Anyone at the Meeting (At the Anchorage Sheraton first week of October) can contact me through this site or the phone number above for an official meeting at Humpy's.