Thursday, September 21, 2006

3 more squads of FBI in D.C. and a wedding

"Two years ago, only 400 agents worked on public corruption cases. Now, 615 agents nationwide — including 30 in New York — are trying to nail public servants for betraying the public trust in 2,200 ongoing cases. A recent FBI search of the Alaska Statehouse was a first of its kind."

A DEC approved salmon processing module made using a 40 foot container.

"In Washington, agents conducted unprecedented searches of the offices of the CIA's third-ranking executive and the House office of Rep. William Jefferson, D-La. Both stemmed from bribery allegations. Agent Burrus wouldn't speculate about why there is so much graft, but said, "We have to pull the whole weed up or it's just going to grow back again.""

Right about now, the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council should be pulling in it's horns on more give-away action in the fisheries. Just because Ted Stevens says it's all right and "trust me, nobody is going to be able to stop us," it doesn't mean that the FBI might not follow a trail out to the Council, with National Standards or other laws in hand. Or bank records and e-mails. And not to forget, one Gubernatorial candidate in Alaska, in past years, dropped out of the race at the last minute without an explanation.

It's obvious that Alaskans are "mad as hell and not going to take it anymore." Their disgust with the status quo of Alaska politics was exemplified by the landslide victory of Sarah Palin in the primary election for governor. Sarah has an overriding principle, just follow the State Constitution. Not one other candidate cites the Constitution. It's like the Constitutions of the State and Federal Government are just a suggestion. Like, "yeah, those yellow and red lights in the intersections are just a suggestion."

All you survivalists can come out of the woods now. They aren't after you anymore. They are after the folks who are undermining the very fabric of government in the U.S. Namely the crowd who are displacing the people's inherent authority, with that of the big corporations. Of the 100 largest entities in the world now, 51 are corporations and 49 are nations. This is obviously threatening to old law and order institutions like the FBI. They aren't blind. They can see coroprations putting their business strategies into the law of the land. After the rest of the fishing ports dry up, downtown America disappears, family farms are a thing of the past, are the law and order institutions next?

It's our own fault for not putting restrictions on the corporations. But, just like a dishonest politician can win, one voter at a time, corporations can win, one legislator at a time. One thing you can do is look for integrity in your local politicians first, then you can be confident that you and the candidate are looking at the same star on the horizon.

You've heard me talk about Rep. Pombo, who is spearheading the work on a House Bill to reauthorize the Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Management and Conservation Act. And how both his and Sen. Stevens' versions will privilege the very largest fish companies at the expense of small fishermen, small to medium fish processors, potential investors in seafood processing infrastructure, the businesses of all the fishing communities, and the ability of Shirley Ann, of Reedsport, to have a decent computer in her eighth grade classroom. All along the coastline of the United States, not just Alaska.

So take a look at a web site by folks in California who are "sick and tired of Pombo and aren't going to take it any more." His challenger looks good, but Pombo is raking in the drug company money it seems. Even a few bucks thrown the challenger's way would help all U.S. fishermen. If you think Katrina was hard on fishermen, try life under Pombo! With a natural disaster, fishermen can rebuild. When Congress gives away fishermen's fish through the Councils, there is no way to rebuild a fishing business.

As Dennis Zaki, the web-master of AlaskaReport, goes on a vacation, I'm going to take the opportunity to sneak away for a honeymoon. We're going to jet down to Ashland from Medford for a few days then back to writing for an up-and-coming fishing device web site until Dennis gets back. The ocean model is coming out soon, which I'm itching to try. These things will really spread your lines out, and don't forget your WD-40. I'll tell you what I know about it on Robin Moulder's site. Here's an article in today's Mail Tribune about it. But I have to say, a jet boat pilot for one of the tourist boats out of Grant's Pass was sailing past a good hole on the Rogue River recently and six out of six fishermen at the hole had the Bank-Ease Planer to hold their Kwik-fish or egg clusters in position in the river. So put that in your pipe and smoke it!

I have to tell a little story about the fish we're going to have at our wedding Sunday. Shawn Dochtermann came through here after fishing Bristol Bay this summer and found out we were going to have chicken at the wedding. Some guys in Alaska didn't want to chance sending their fish on Alaska Airlines. Shawn was flabergasted, bamboozled and otherwise shocked. "No way," he said, "was the fish blogger going to have KFC at his wedding." So he jetted back to Kodiak for some more fishing and getting a couple of coolers of salmon together. (The 150 pounds of kings, silvers and reds finally made it to Medford from Kodiak after being bumped three times.) (Did I hear they fired all the union baggage handlers?)

The story actually gets better. When he was here I lent him a couple of books on the founding days of the commercial salmon industry in Alaska. They had been suggested to him just days before in San Francisco, so was he surprised I had them. So he took them fishing halibut in the Bering Sea in early September, keeping them in his waterproof dufflebag when he wasn't fishing, on wheelwatch, sleeping or reading. Well, 30 miles short of the unloading dock on St. Paul Island, the boat took a rogue wave on the stern. He was dilligent to abandon ship with the duffle bag in tow, and a day later when he called, he first assured me my books were safe and sound. I'm pretty sure now the saying was supposed to be "Loyalty is next to Godliness."

Saturday, September 16, 2006

The frying pan or the fire: Sen. Stevens or Rep. Pombo

When Sen. Stevens of Alaska said he was throwing out "net neutrality," the Internet turned blue with people all over the world commenting on Alaskan's choice of a Congressional representative. As fair as that attack on Alaska's cherished Senator may be, one could also say the same about the folks who elected Sen. Richard Pombo of California.

Harold Lee highlined for halibut with the "Vesta" out of Petersburg, AK in the early 1900s. Notice the troll pit at the stern. It beam-trawled for shrimp in it's last days for Dave Ohmer.

Pombo is the son of a successful realtor, who capitalized on his father's name to launch into politics, having not been good at anything else apparently. Now he appoints himself as "savior of the world's seas," like he knows anything about being a sailor? And mucks that up good too, as arbiter of a bill to reauthorize the "200 mile limit law." Thank goodness some reason remains in Washington D.C. and he couldn't get support to advance the bill on the fast track to wreck the free enterprise system in the fishing business, and to the wanton waste of billions of dollars worth of fish a year. (Forget all the hype and spin you hear about the good management of the North Pacific. The bottom trawlers still can get away with hauling up a trawl full of halibut, pick out a few targeted cod and throw the halibut back dead. If Alaskan fishermen caught AND marketed those dead halibut, with undersized ones counted this time, it would probably put many hundreds of millions of dollars a year into the Alaska ecomony, with the multiplier effect accounted for.) (You won't get any U of A folks doing a study of this.)

But Pombo was appointed chairman of the House Resources committee wasn't he? It's not like he volunteered. He was called to the front for being patient, and not made to sit in the back by being a self-promoter. Well, maybe. Anyway, look who promoted him to the front - Tom Delay, who was thrown out for malpractice himself. How many times does a Congressman get kicked out? Not often enough in my opinion.

All that to set the stage for looking at the personage that is writing one of the most important pieces of "law of the land" that fishermen will see in their lifetime. You want this person of dubious character setting the stage for who is going to get rich and who isn't in fisheries? If you can't imagine yourself being this guy's friend, you would probably lose your fishing business if he had his way. I just hope California voters have some compassion on the average fisherman and get rid of him, because you know fishermen aren't ones to fatten HIS campaign coffers.

If you've been following this blog, you'll know the winners under Pombo will be the multi-national seafood companies. Sen. Stevens Senate version of the Reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Management and Conservation Act is principally the same, it gives life to an evil called "rationalization." Webster says it is "to ascribe (one's actions) to causes that seem reasonable but do not reflect true..........causes." and "to invent plausible explanations for actions that are actually based on less acceptable causes."

I hear Californians are seeing a lot of highjinks by Pombo besides fishing law highjinks. I talked about the corruption in Alaska fish politics and got called "inflamatory." Then the FBI showed up in force in Alaska and proved me right, so now I don't know what I'm being called. If I'm being inflamatory regarding Pombo, then I guess a lot of rational people in California who are questioning their choice of Pombo fall under that heading. Pombo's Democratic challenger in the following piece is one of them, and looks to me on the surface like a good replacement for Pombo, however inflamatory he might be. You know how those Phds in mathamatics can be. LOL.

These are the worst of times I've seen in politics and no time to stand on party platforms, if the two parties in Alaska can even elucidate one. Fox News says that the National Dems are talking of using corrupt Republicans as a platform. What a backfire that would make. Neither party in Alaska wants to put a plank in called "anti-corruption," otherwise neither party in it's current form would know where to get any money. (Sarah had the honesty about her to go to the people and they responded. That should be a lesson for other honest candidates.)

There have been jokes made of the Republican Party bosses in Alaska heading for the brush in the big FBI sweep. Better to take a chance with the grizzlies. Was that a dust trail to the brush from Trident Seafood's "Oval Office" on August 16, when Con Agra's Pres and Ceo of their poultry division came to Seattle to take over from Chuck Bundrant? There was also some talk of ill health. Heck, I get ill just thinking about all the fishermen he and the other processors have done dirt to. Read that also, put out of business. It's like the processors' creed to each other is "There's only room for the two of us in this business and sometimes I wonder about you." Now that's really chicken poop, no pun indended regarding the new Trident president.

"And certainly VECO executives have been happy with the climate created by committee chair Pombo. They've shown their satisfaction by donating somewhere in the neighborhood of $17,000 dollars to the Tracy Republican since late 2004. And they weren't the only ones. Other Alaskan oil interests have shown their appreciation for his efforts. They also have donated many thousands.

Political pollster Marc Hellenthal, who said he was interviewed Friday afternoon by two FBI agents from Sacramento, said agents told him what they are looking for "goes back longer." Some Alaska press reports say VECO executives are also known for prowling the Capitol halls and even passing notes to lawmakers on the floor to influence votes.

Alaskan Democrats say the investigation points to what's wrong with the Legislature and the powerful influence of special interests. Eric Croft, D-Anchorage, calls it, "... just a culture of corruption," saying, "Lobbyists writing bills. Special interests, not only funding campaigns, but hiring legislators as consultants. A line between a consultant who does not do any work and a bribe is hard to define." Most likely this is a reference to $242,000 paid to Senator Steven's son Ben for consulting services to VECO.

Democratic congressional candidate Jerry McNerney, who is challenging Pombo for his seat stated, "I think all these questions underscore the need for stronger ethics rules in Congress, and reform of our campaign finance laws. A first start in that effort would be for Congressman Pombo to return the money that he received from VECO. It seems like every week there's some new scandal or rumor coming to light about Congressman Pombo's behavior. If we want people to believe in their government, we need a new direction in Congress. The people in the 11th district and the country expect and deserve the highest ethical behavior. They can expect that from me."

Jerry McNerney is a nationally recognized expert in wind engineering and renewable energy, with a PhD in mathematics. During his career in wind energy, McNerney's work contributed to saving the equivalent of approximately 30 million barrels of oil, or 8.3 million tons of carbon dioxide-the main greenhouse gas-as well as other harmful pollutants. The Democratic nominee for California's 11th Congressional District, Jerry has been married for 29 year and has three grown children."

Friday, September 15, 2006

Bad boy, bad boy, wa'cha gonna do when they come for you?

I thought I might share some interesting recent newspaper stories that might explain some of the extreme panic that I understand is currently happening in more offices than you would think. First is from McClatchy News:

If you are in the "inner circle" of fishermen in the North Pacific, this is what your boat would look like. If not, you are lucky to have a 58 footer that isn't wood.

Vernon L. Jackson, the man that bribed Rep.William Jefferson (remember the $100,000 cash in the freezer) has already been sentenced to 7 years 3 months in prison, this is extraordinary considering Rep. Jefferson Has Not Yet Been Charged With a Crime...

The U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis said, "Public corruption is the worst kind of a virulent and malignant cancer" and "The rule of law only makes sense if our public officials are not corrupt". In sentencing Jackson, who could have received nine years under federal sentencing guidelines, Ellis acknowledged Jackson's role as a church person and community leader."You are a decent person, but you made a decision to bribe a public official," Ellis said.

The number of people in the Seafood Companies and their lobbying groups that have been channeling very large amounts of money (millions) to Ben Stevens and his partner Tervor Mcabe is more than a dozen. The lists of legally questionable, and without a doubt morally reprehensible, actions of Ben and former aides of Ted Stevens, branch out in every direction.

From the government Ted-directed bail-out in the Seward Sealife scandal, the allocation of Pollock quota in Adak, to Ted creating the Alaska Fisheries Marketing Board, there reeks the stench of corruption. As if this was not enough, Ted then earmarked a huge (40 million dollars) appropriation from taxpayers, putting his son Benand and his former staffer Trevor in charge, to give away money to Seafood Companies of their choosing.. As crazy as this sounds, Ben and Trevor gave free "grants" to these multi-national conglomerates so these same companies could turn right around and give consulting fees back to both these guys directly.

I am not a lawyer, but I believe that meets the definition of money laundering, or at least it does for those who are not elected officials in Alaska. Funny thing was, no one was complaining about the original Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute doing a bad job. It has been in business for years promoting seafood. I didn't hear whether the Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation was doing poorly either. If there was a serious issue with these 2 long-time seafood promo groups, why not fix them? Oh, I forgot, Ben and Treveor didn't control them.

There was nothing wrong with them. Why Ted would, on his own, create and fund a completely new Agency/ Board to duplicate ASMI-AFDF is simple: by putting his son and Trevor in charge of giving away millions every year, they would be set for life both in the fees they get back, and in the power they would have over these large companies.

For example, Trident can get free money to go to shows or develop a new product, but some new guy is ignored (or worse) and has to compete with these giants. If he did have a new and unique idea to bring to AFMB, AFMB was only a phone call away with that idea to their real partners, onced they denied funding to him and he was out the door. And although ASMI is listed in the phone book, try and find AFMB's phone #. I guess Icicle and Trident have a private hot line to Ben and Trevor.

This is not new information, but since the FBI has finally showed up, they seem to be focused on the Veco/pipeline corruption scandal, which is easy and fairly classic. Veco hires Ted's son, and Ted hires the head of Veco's son. Now money starts flowing from Veco first -consulting fees, campaign donations, etc, to get the pump primed, then when very favorable tax breaks, grants, etc start to flow, it all comes full circle.

Over the years Ted has been the target of people trying to give him, or should I say the "Ted Stevens Foundation" or his PAC, "Northern Lights", large sums of money. And every summer one of these events is held at the El Capitan lodge in Southeast Alaska. All the heavyweights that have pending business in front of one of Ted's many Senate Committees show up in their jets (again not new info.)

But what is really interesting is the lodge's web site where guests can show their off their daily catches. It used to show Ted's catch of the day along with his special guests, like Veco's Allen, Chuck Bundrant, John Iani, and Mr. Roberts of Comcast. Since the news of FBI raids, I went to look and these pictures are now gone, why the coverup?

Again I have written before about this, but a lot of recent news has been about the basic question, when is a large sum of money given to arelative of a Senator or his son's business partner NOT A BRIBE? In Alaska, because of the strange lack of rules or lack of interest in the rules by the Alaska Public Offices Commission, apparently the answer is NEVER. Even repeated volations of unreported income nets only a $150 fine. Hopefully this too has been noticed by the FBI, and asks the question - who chooses the APOC members?

It would be too ironic if Ben Stevens, as head of the Senate Ethics Committee, is in charge of choosing them. How about Republican party Chairman Randy Ruedrich sending out emails to his politicians saying "if you have been contacted by FBI you need to call me". Does that not sound like someone making sure everyone has the same story? Innocent people do not need to compare stories to get them straight before talking to law enforcement.. Maybe the head of the Senate Ethics Committee Ben Stevens helps them get the right story.

This is why the second, recent news article in the Wall Street Journal also caught my eye. The FBI is now investigating Tom Delay's relatives, including his wife, for receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars without "earning it". One firm paid her over $144,000 just to make a list of her husband's favorite charities.

Wouldn't it be funny if the Ted Stevens Foundation was on it? My guess is, the people in Alaska that are in the center of these scandals are burning documents, throwing away computers, losing call records, and booking long vacations in Mexico.These 2 articles seem to show that the people who did the bribing might be doing hard time before anyone else, and the FBI might be harder to fool than some people are now praying. Let it be so.

Monday, September 11, 2006

The day the music died: MSA reauthorized - A novel

I saw it on the news on my web host this bright spring morning at 5:30. The Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Management and Conservation Act had just been reauthorized, in the form it was back in September of 2006. Sen. Ted Stevens was gushing about how great a day it was for American fishermen and the survival of multitudes of fish species; the usual camouflage.

Trollers, especially, like to just drag these places in peace and leave the politics to others, much to their detriment.

To quote a recently-made-famous New Zelander who hauled in a 700 + pound blue fin tuna, "I didn't know whether to laugh or cry really. I walked round like a stunned mullet for a while then had a beer. I was knackered."

But this wasn't a good kind of tired, it was a sudden and utter hopelessness and fear for the future that comes with a cancer diagnosis. Or the news that Tutsi rebels were on the outskirts of your village. You knew that people didn't know enough about the arcane business practices and mafiaesque way the reauthorization process had yielded up it's bounty of special priveledges for a small group of rich fish mongers. There had been no militia strong enough to resist the well armed band of lobbyists and third-world style generals.

My son was still in Iraq, daily risking his life for these people, with the hopes of returning to Alaska to raise a sixth generation of Alaska fishermen. I could picture him coming into a R&R center from a couple of months in the desert sleeping on the hood of his Humvee to keep the scorpions at bay. Then finding out that the possibility of a fishing career had been dashed in the pleased look on the face of the Senator from Alaska on the television screen. There would be no security in the fisheries anywhere in the country from now on. A bank wouldn't lend you money for a boat or fishing gear because nobody would know when the slightest whim of the processors' association would eliminate another group of fishermen.

Large blocks of the fleet had already disappeared; the Bering Sea crab fishermen, many hundreds of salmon seiners, gillnetters of all stripes, and fleets that weren't, but could have been. Bureaucrats didn't want to incur the wrath of the powerful Alaskan Congressional delegation and the immense Japanese and Seattle-based seafood conglomerates. Fishermen had been cowering speechless in fear of reprisal from their "business partner," the local fish processor.

Whole communities had slid into the numbness and apathy of knowing that they were putty in the hands of this cabal, and community leaders readily catered to their every whim, or were conspicuously silent. And of course, the former Governor had sold out to them long ago and had helped their cause by making dozens of appointments to key positions that aided and abetted them.

Most of us who were sensitive to these issues, and had studied them, had left Alaska. We had been troubled by the steady march of privatization starting in the '70s and for awhile excused the heavy handedness of the big fish buyers as "some ruthless, good businessmen."

But when the politicians in Washington D.C. and Juneau, and now Oregon, ganged up on us, that was just too much. Already 200 salmon seiners had been given their pink slips by the processors in Southeast Alaska, and another equal number in Prince William Sound. And not a peep from the press. I had seen one article about guys dropping off the key to their boat and house with the bank and catching the ferry south. Reminded me of the mid-eighties in Anchorage in the real estate crash. People were streaming across the U.S.-Canada border by the thousands and thousands, and the economist for Key Bank kept saying everything was fine. Finally the Anchorage paper pulled his column after the fall of a half dozen Alaskan banks. He had spun the facts well and hidden the problem for maybe a year or more, so he was rewarded with the job of running the economic development corporation for Anchorage.

I was serving as a fisheries bank economist at the time, and did I get an education on what economists do to make a living. And now, the economist from Pullman, Washington, whose college recieved many hundreds of thousands of dollars from large fish mongers, and who just happened to write a tome to try justify giving the fish resources in Alaska to the processors. And of course the governing bodies in Alaska readily plugged his papers into their well greased machine to further exclude fishermen and communities from the bounty of Alaska's marine resources.

My son is really going to be pissed. It's hard over there. I had to talk to him for an hour and a half to calm him down when he hit the R&R center in Kuwait on his first tour of duty in Iraq a couple of years ago. I don't want to hear what he is saying watching the face of Alaska Senator Ted Stevens right now. I'm sure a terrorist never got such a tongue lashing from him as Stevens is now getting.. He knows the ramifications of those not-so-well-hidden passages in the new MSA, from hearing me preach to him over the years.

Now a sergeant, I can visualize him whipping up his platoon into a frenzy of animosity toward this lone U.S. Senator. Would that more political peers of the Alaskan politicians had the backbone my son has. They wouldn't have qualified for one of the three kick-ass platoons that went over the Tigris River with the Special Forces boys to get Saddam Hussein, but they could have raised their hand in protest to this slap in the face of freedom of the marketplace.

These young guys are forming ideas about which political parties are good for the country too. Right now Sen. Stevens is giving the Republican Party the biggest black eye it may have ever gotten. What with single-handedly standing in the way of the Bill to make Government spending (earmarks in his Appropriations Committee included) transparent, and trying to squash Internet neutrality. He is bucking the main stream of American thought and Washington is letting him get away with it. He is affecting everyone, not just robbing the Alaskan resident fishermen, who aren't that organized or knowledgeable anyway. He figures, from past successes, he can get away with anything now. Just like some run-amok general of a renegade African nation, you don't know who he's going to go after next.

My thoughts finally turn to the e-mails that are starting to flood my in-box, with tales of woe from fishermen all over. The first one is from Glochester, thanking his lucky stars that the good Congress had met so late in the night as to evade a demonstration. Passing something that still gave the New England fishermen the right to over-rule the maschinations of their fisheries management council, in regards anything but the science part of management, would keep fishermen in the game. He offered his condolences.

"It just doesn't seem like freedom anymore, he said." "Isn't there an Equality Clause in the Constitution that makes all citizens of the U.S. equal under the law?" "So, why can't 2/3 of the fishermen in the other regions of the country say "nuts" to getting a pink slip like we can," he wrote. "You know good and well that a 2/3 vote by the fishermen is the only thing that will protect you guys over there from being forced out." "Company boats are next, like before limited entry in the salmon fisheries."

My mind went back over thirty years to a brief discussion about limited entry on the main street of Petersburg. I knew why Floyd was passionate about the evils of the pending Limited Entry Law before the Alaska Legislature. His father had been a gillnetter on the Stikine River for so many decades that we called the middle arm of the river Strand Slough. And now his father wasn't going to get a permit under the new law because he hadn't fished enough in the qualifying years.

I had spent some time in my formative years playing in Floyd's dad's warehouse on the beach in front of their house, marveling at the antiquity of the old retired outboards and hiding in the gillnets with their wooden floats hanging from the rafters. He started going out on his dad's boat before I went out on my grandfather's. But not by too much, but certainly before statehood. We had remained chums all through school in Petersburg and now he was interning at the hospital for the summer. He was a lone voice of dissent that summer after graduating from high school, not that I would have argued, since I was on a path to become a fish monger.

It wasn't until much later, after becoming a bank economist, a project manager for a state capital project in fisheries, and now a fisheries writer, that I saw how flawed privatization of a resource held in common really was. And I remembered the vitality of the ports and fleets before the privatization mentality became so pervasive. And now like the proverbial frog in the kettle of boiling water, privatization of fish resources had spread to the shore plant owners as well.

"Who would be the next bully to come along and take the harvesting rights to the resources away from them," I thought. "Maybe the RAM Division?" Certainly in 1970 nobody would ever have imagined a processing plant owner having harvesting rights. "I'm sure the intermediate step will be to hire recent immigrants to man their boats at rock bottom wages," I thought as I looked at dark scenarios looming like icebergs in the night.

"A beer really would be good," I thought. "I've never drank a beer so early in the morning." "If I can just hold out until noon." "Well, it's a good thing I'm in a town that doesn't rely on commercial fishing." "These guys that invented the Planer for holding a bait or lure in moving water are asking for help, so maybe that's it for my advocating for a better commercial fishing environment."

The sound of my cell phone jars me from the increasing RPMs of the gears in my head. "John, did you hear the news?" "I'm sure you saw it right off, but did you see in the Seattle Times where the Council met at Trident's offices yesterday to decide who is going fishing?" "You can bet I'm not going to be on the list." "I was speaking at meetings this winter to help the RSDA folks."

"Look, Rick," I said, "hang onto that assistant harbormaster job.I don't know what is going to happen, but it looks like it's over the edge now. You could moonlight as a caretaker for the guys' boats while they start taking some of those mining jobs over in Bristol Bay. Those jobs will keep them away from home for six months at a time a least."

"Maybe you can even get in on brokering some of the boats to the Russian Far East or Barents Sea crab fisheries. The big boys will give a few small boats some of the cod to make it look like they want to keep the towns alive, but not enough to make a living at. Your bigger boats won't be needed by them. They just need a few to bottom drag the whole place for all the species at once. Just like the foreigners did in the '60s in the Gulf of Alaska. Look at the by-catch allocations wording in the MSA. You can bet that's just the start. Just one big hole in the deck and down it all goes, fins, feathers and all. Except this time they will be smart and sort it all out and process it by specie in many forms to make the most from it, something they couldn't do until they starved out the fleet."

"They don't have to pay anyone any landing fees for the stuff, and they got all of you kicked out. Now they just have to worry about that new Governor. She may be new to Juneau, but not new to politics. And like they say, it's not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog."

To be continued:


Could you repost my piece. Too many people thought it was just too real. Like when Orson Wells read War of the Worlds on the radio in New York on halloween 1940. Tens of thousands of people were streaming out of NY and jammed the highways. Well this time they just jammed the airwaves. People are just too serious about this subject to make light of it I guess, at least on AlaskaReport. I hope it is recognized as fiction now, albiet, based on fact.


Friday, September 08, 2006

Cleaning up the house

Got a little straightening up to do before starting a new format Monday. I think it will be as useful as before, at least it should be more entertaining.

Contrary to popular belief, rank and file fishermen can work together. (S.E. seiners will recognize this shot as being in Seymour Canal waiting for the roe herring fishery to start in about 1976)

We'll just have to see. We also have a major retraction from the last article I did, using a contributor's e-mail. He wrote today with this to say:

"On Sept 4th I sent you important info. on seafood companies and Sarah Palin. Most of this is 100% correct and will repeat the important issues after I point out my error on blending Terry Gardiner and John Garner (where I said he was"sent") by Chuck Bundrant to help Tony.
I called a couple friends before sending this whole email out to you and apparently because both last names sound similar on a bad cell phone, this statement is not a fact.
This why there was a little confusion: John Garner was a principal in the fish company, Norquest. He moved over to become executive director of North Pacific Crab Assn, and after Norquest was gobbled up by Trident, he returned to head up Trident's division under the Norquest label. Terry did sell out, almost the last independent Seafood company left, so he did get the benefit of cashing out after jamming thru this Crab Ratz without having to worry about it effects.
My info. about Chuck being in a panic is absolutely true, and if anyone knows Chuck, if you are working for him like John Garner, he would not have been a "policy adviser" without being ordered to. Chuck is famous for having Bart Eaton sleeping on a cot in his office, etc.
I am very sorry that I thought Terry was still on Trident's payroll, please pass that on if you can."

I have to say I was a little surprised that Terry was back in the fire, having launched out on the good life of volunteering like myself. Not that this is exactly the good life for me considering that when you do what I, and fellow columnists on AlaskaReport do, you see some pretty strange things. Like attack dogs on your front porch and gunshots when you pick up the phone. As I've said before, it isn't worth doing if you can't make it all as accurate as possible. It would just be a lot simpler if a whole bunch of people would come clean, but you know that'll never happen.

On a lighter note, and to make today kind of a punctuation mark in my blogging, I want to let other folks read what you have sent to me that probably keeps me going. Going in the hole too. LOL

As a long summer on the water winds down, I'd like to convey to you the heartfelt thanks so many of us feel for your keeping the independent fishermen's torch burning while we were gone. Speaking out with your natural style and understanding of fishing and Alaskan politics has been of incalculable value and a great comfort to those of us who know, in a general way, what's going on, but don't have the opportunity to be heard or get the latest information.
And let's face it, If you and Stephen Taufen and the Alaskan Report weren't speaking up, who would be, and where would we be right now? Only a handful of you are speaking the truth for fishermen, and yet the positive effect you've had creating choices for new directions is amazing.
It was through your writing that I first learned about Sarah Palin's gubernatorial campaign, and I have to tell you, at first I thought you'd gone out on an impossibly slim branch endorsing her. It just didn't seem realistic to expect a nearly unprecedented unseating of the incumbent ex-Senator/Governor with all his big-bucks backing, but we did it. The rest of us can take pride in saying "we", but you and a few others should be especially proud that you accomplished this yourselves through shear optimism and a commitment to the truth. Thanks for speaking for us and showing us what's possible, John."

"Hi John,
Here's something I got from the contact form on the webisite. I get compliments to you all the time. Dennis"

"Right ON! That is a most articulate description of the fish politics in AK. I am so grateful that you are shedding light on the abuses of the Stevens family and their connections to Chuck and the broader industry. Keep up the great work you are doing, it is causing quite a buzz in the industry."

"Great Columns, John. After having been slid out of the only commercial fishery I ever cared about, I am surviving in the tug boat industry where I always have an eye out for a bag and flag. Interesting that now Big Bob is the old guard replacing the former, like APA, New England and the like. I will be checking into Alaska Report occasionally so don't change the side you have your stripe on.
...and boo to Little (or young) Bobby."

"Dear Mr. Enge:

The Center for Regulatory Effectiveness, discussed your recent commentary article regarding bycatch as the lead RegWeek article on our website (with a link back to I noted that the testimony regarding the Data Quality Act (DQA) was from July 2005 with additional testimony on marine conservation from May 2006. I was wondering if there are any more recent developments of which you were aware. CRE was the leading proponent of the DQA.

Bruce Levinson
The Center for Regulatory Effectiveness"

"John, That was a quick and sweet article! Saved me time and you used some very crafty words... and it got the PDF posted and available,
too. Great!"

“I assume your new life requires a mazel tov for a new marriage.
I am tied down in Mendocino then but if you are down this way, give a call

I really enjoyed your blog pieces. I have become rather republican after 911 on a lot of issues. The CBCs in Juneau really crack me up. Keep up the good work John. In the esteem of those who know you, it has already reaped you a fortune.”

“Your latest articles on AR are fantastic!”

Congratulations on your numbers. I'm not surprised, you're BIG in Seattle. I talk about your articles frequently with my friends. We all like the convenience, detail and versatility of your reporting. I'll bet you're the homepage for hundreds of Seattle and Alaska fishermen. Can you imagine what will happen when you get on Google? Stand by for your IPO, young man! Especially when you become an online Bering Sea-GOA multi-species brokerage!

P.S. I asked for your mailing address so I could send you a couple of Alaska short stories ( one at a time) that I've written for your critical, no bullshit, call-em-like-you-see-em criticism. I don't want to waste much time writing fiction if I suck at it. So be candid and pull no punches please.”

Monday, September 04, 2006

Red at night, sailors delight

We are well on our way to seeing a beautiful sunset for the Stevens(the two of 'em)/Murkowski cartel in Alaska. Take a look around real quick and make a mental note of who their friends were. Once they are gone, we sure don't want similarly feathered birds (no pun about jail-birds intended) to just fill in the holes in government and other industry groups.

Keeping an eye on depeloping new fish product forms and ways to market them, with attendent higher profits, will help visualize new ways to get there.

Now take that last word: industry. I knew a processor who was shaken down by the other processors for $32,000 in annual dues to their "influencing group," the Pacific Seafood Processors Association. Under the aforementioned cartel, these people have been able to put their lobbyist on the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council twice. And not just as members, but as Chairmen. That's a lot of years the offshore fisheries in Alaska have been run by special interests.

I'm not ever going to be able to paint the whole picture, and the solutions, in just one of these posts. Keeping up here is the best thing going. If I knew where else to steer you, I would. We are getting the picture in pieces all the time. I profusely thank contributors like the one below. I takes time to do this. Some of us just stopped our lives to do this because it needed doing. It's going to take more time to sift ideas like the Grange system or the Guild system, and others, for nuggets that we can use to manage our fisheries for the maximum benefit to the public. Voters have finally gotten hip to the fact that our leaders were managing our fisheries for the maximum benefit of themselves and their friends. Hence this letter of warning about Tony Knowles and friends.

I had a talk yesterday with a long-time Alaskan who is trying to help educate folks in supply-chain matters(which the "establishment" doesn't like). She had gone to Ireland in a delegation and they showed her how the Government is on the bottom of their fisheries organizational chart. We have a basic way to do that now: the RSDAs. The trick now is to educate fishermen as to the potential, which this Administration won't do, and clear out the opposition to letting the 99%, the fishermen and communities(the voters), direct the industry.

"John, as someone who has been in the Alaska Fish business for 30+ years, I was witness to an unbelievable shift away from fishermen having a majority input into the NPFMC and State of Alaska fishing industry; guiding the process to benefit the fishermen and small communities of Alaska.

Now the lobbyist/lawyers are in complete control of the process, from the top on down. Huge changes now can and do happen overnight, without warning. More shocking is the obvious willingness by the Alaskan US Senate and US House Delegation to sneak in under the cover of darkness (cigar filled rooms in Washington, DC) and actively help one company over another, or worse, actually changing the basic core principles of free enterprise.

I was ready to give up on Alaska. Now for the first time in my life I hear people talking seriously about who might run against Ted, and more incredibly, about which Republican candidate to run against Ted. These are not the 20yr old college kids, but mainstream blue collar Alaskans, which is why Trident Seafoods' Chuck Bundrant is in a panic. His efforts to back Frank the Bank by supporting dirty tricks vis-a-vis the ironically named Unitied Fishermen of Alaska (UFA), and Bobby Thorstenson, are now widely known.

Bundrant(Trident Seafoods President) has now come out of the closet by sending Terry Gardiner, (former president of the once-independant Norquest Seafoods) to be policy adviser to Tony Knowles. The public will soon find out that all the seafood processing giants (mainly Japanese and Trident ) are going to back Tony Knowles - they have to. This group benefitts $500 million a year only through Ted's and Don's largess and protection.

Terry Gardiner, remember, was a big proponent of processor shares - he repeatedly testified at numerous NPFMC meetings that Norquest "needed them to survive against the likes of Trident" - yet he sold out to Trident before the shares were even issued. (A not-too-subtle payback for Gardiner, along with a new high paying job.) This then begs the most interesting question: what is the Don Young and Ted Stevens' plan, since they are the beneficiaries of the millions of dollars that flow from these companies PACs, and groups they also own like Pacific Seafood Processors Assn.(PSPA)?

Will Republicans Don and Ted really support viable Republican candidate Sarah Palin? Or will they try to undermine her, so Tony would win and close ranks with the groups that have poured money their way for 20 years? Likewise these groups have received untold riches from the Young and Stevens manipulations of the laws of this country.

Reportedly, Chuck and Ted are very close and spend time together at events like the annual August retreat at El Capitan Lodge, a ($1000/day) "benefit" for the Ted Stevens Foundation, (whatever that is), the Boston Seafood Shows, etc, etc. Chuck has also shown his affection for Ben Stevens, making sure the various Seafood entitys send their required monthly consulting checks to him without fail, while Ben makes sure the Federal and State money flows to the giants at the expense of the citizens of the State of Alaska. Perhaps Chuck will start raising funds for his legal defense, or maybe Ben already had that as a provision of his "consulting" contract?

No stranger to the world of corporate high life, Don Young has enjoyed the use of American Seafood's private corporate jet, and might not want to see this company, that was once disparagingly called the "Microsoft" of the fishing industry by Ted, (see AFA) have to give up that jet. Or worse, have to give up his yearly flight to Desert Canyon (in Orondo, Washington) from Washington D.C. for an Al Chaffee-organized golf tourament, at which his wife has reportedly been extraordinarily lucky, winning a very expensive diamond jewelry "raffle prize" at least 2 years in a row during 2001- 2002. (I wonder if the FBI might be looking at that too.) It is common knowledge that Al Chaffee has also been very helpful to some of Don's relatives in Alaska in real estate deals - see Bridge to Nowhere. (FBI ?)

If Tony does not win this time, I think it is clear that he will be running hard for Ted's seat, with this just the start of what is likely to be at least a couple of years of FBI poking around at Ben's (and presumeably, by association, Ted's) business, no mater what he will say to spin this. It is clearly not in Don and Ted's interest to have Tony free to run against them. Tony has already shown he will play ball, by his past help as a Democratic Governor, in securing Ted's son a seat in the Alaska senate instead of blocking it, as a normal opposing party would have done.

Along with helping Ben, we also know that Tony helped push an (even at that time) very controversial component (processor Quota shares) of Crab Ratz into law.
What we do not know is, What Did He Get From Ted For His Help?
But they do know that if the Alaskan voting public gets wind that they are anti-Palin, and traitors to the Republican party, that is even a bigger problem. Outside-based seafood and oil companies can create large PACs, but they have not yet figured out how to create voters.

Last but not least, is the fact that so many (20 yrs worth) dirty secrets are out there. If a new Governor started to unwind just the most grievous of these, along with the most recently-passed anti-competitive laws, we might find even bigger skeletons, ones that VIPs counted on staying hidden forever. Interesting times we live in."

Until the Election for Governor is over in November it's going to be hard to concentrate on solutions. We have the RSDA system going for inshore and small boat fisheries, but the North Pacific Council still needs guidance on the larger fisheries. We have to help them or we'll end up with the processors' and big boat Seattle fleet solution: "just keep deeding us the fish." The Magnuson-Stevens 200 mile limit law is still being tinkered with in D.C. and is not cast in concrete yet, and the NPFMC marches on with it's phalanx of Stevens/Young/Murkowski collaborators.

On a final note, the Bush Administration was smart to get the FBI going on all the racketeering in Alaska. But the job is not over yet, and they might do well, in the fall competition for control of the House, to finish the clean-up job quickly. They need to make a major statement for the benefit of the voters' confidence in the Republican Party. To at least have one thing they can point to that says to the voters, "we are with you." (Labor Day is an appropriate day to write this, I guess.) The National Republicans might have to say, "we gotta cull that (cash)cow in Alaska, otherwise we're gonna lose the herd."

Friday, September 01, 2006

Senator Ted Stevens' Air Force

When you have a branch of government all your own(Appropriations), you have to have an air armada to go with it. I wonder if Sen. Stevens has a navy too. Oh I forgot, he does, the Coast Guard, who he gets great awards from.

Alaskans that pack heat while picking berries can, and often do, get their winter moose meat or some ducks too, this time of year.

If I go off the air one of these days, you'll know he has an army too. He doesn't have to run for President, he has more fun just manipulating the system like some high level Mad Max. Forget the Tasmanian Devil on his ties, this is worse. This letter from a reader got me going today I guess.

If anyone had any doubt after the Internet "tubes" debacle, they might read today's Anchorage Daily News story about Ted Stevens' reasons for Frank Murkowski losing the race for Governor. Ted blamed the loss on Frank's late announcement of his candidacy.

So Ted is saying that over 8 out of every 10 voters who voted for anyone but Frank did so because they were confused or stupid? The guy is the sitting governor, we know who he is! How about after 4 years of seeing his antics up close, combined with his 22 years as senator, voters sent a clear message against arrogance, cronyism and nepotism?

Here are some possibilities voters might conclude about Ted:

1) He believes this, which means he must have an advanced case of dementia.

2) He does not care what the voters think. All his years of double-speak training in D.C. has him thinking that by spinning this he can keep his loyal rat pack from considering what it might mean if voters continue to clean house. Just think about how many family and friends and friends of friends have jobs solely based on Ted's fiefdom.

3) He does not want to think of what this means, because of the impact on him:
If voters were backlashing against the new jet bought by Murkowski on state funds, what happens when they find out about Ted's almost continuous use of such jets? Consider the recent event at El Capitan Lodge at $1000/day. What if the Alaskan press asked him at every event, how did you get here? They did this with Frank when he started showing up everywhere in Alaska. Will it become apparent that he is scheduling "convenient" (read "necessary?") hearings so he and his friends can fly in style in the same way that Frank's official State business just happened to coincide with fund raising events in remote Alaska towns?

And if people are repulsed by the fact that, as airline travel becomes a horror show for the rest of us, the corporate elite are flying around in tax free privacy with world class chefs, how would they react to know that nobody has purchased more executive jets then Ted? One of the best keep secrets is the huge increase in political VIP travel in the governmental transport system. Thanks to Ted's chairmanship of the Senate Appropriation Committee thirteen Cessna Citations ($10 million each), two Gulfstream Vs ($45 million each) and two 737 executive jet ($52 million each) were added to the governmental fleet in 1999 alone. That's at a cost of over $272 million, in addition to the already existing fleet of hundreds of jets. Do we really want our government bureaucrats flying around in a invisible government airline at times like this?

In 2000 Ted funded for, the head of the Coast Guard (James Loy), a new Gulfstream VIP transport (C-37). Shortly thereafter Ted Stevens was awarded the first annual Commodore Ellsworth P. Bertholf Award for his "long-term vision and leadership while making substantial contributions to the Coast Guard". I am not making this up.
Add to this all the private jets purchaseed by the seafood companies as a result of the profits derived from the monopoly Ted created.

Or worst case - what if people started to think about the fact that to get pork you have to give pork, and no one in America has given away more money for more wacky, wasted spending then Ted. That's how he gets pork for Alaska. You want to earmark a highway extension in Florida? Agree to one of Ted's earmarks. Ted helped Trent Lot to pork up the Katrina Relief Bill to the tune of $100 billion, which includes a vast array of projects unrelated to the actual victims. One only has to read the Wall Street Journal to see the scope of the misdirected funds on this bill.

Maybe voters will really start to see this man - Mister Development of Resources Everywhere, that is unless his friend has a lodge down river. Note that he has a rewrite pending on a Coast Guard bill to exclude windmills from lifelong opponent Ted Kennedy's back yard, I wonder what that cost Kennedy? This is the man who complains that Alaskans who spoke out against bridges to nowhere are "embarrassing Alaska", and that anybody with a different opinion is Greenpeace, tree hugging, anti-oil, and anti-Alaska.
Time for a change."

Alaskan voters won't be able to fix what's wrong with Congress, but it sure can fix what's wrong with it's Congressional delegation. And by the way, we all need to help repair senatorial road rage here. Can anyone keep ahead of his rampage? See also the recent AlaskaReport article on Ted's blocking of a plan to make federal spending transparent.

(Now we have some interesting news that goes with this draft post from a few days ago.) About now his staff might need to get real scarce before the FBI comes knocking there, like they did yesterday at a residence in Girdwood, AK. That wouldn't be Ted Stevens' house/office would it? Even though right now the FBI is just cleaning out his son Ben's various hangouts looking for evidence of one or the other white collar crimes people have been accusing him of. We'll have to see if any of the fallout will land on Ted.