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.