Saturday, June 11, 2005

Canning our salmon

A few years ago, then-Congresswoman Helen Chenoweth (R-Idaho) made headlines when she dismissed salmon-recovery efforts by saying: "How can salmon be endangered when you can buy them in cans in supermarkets?"

The Bush administration, it appears, is intent on making just that kind of wingnut vision into our all-too-stark reality.

The P-I's sterling environment reporter, Robert McClure, reported the other day that the Bush administration plans to massively expand salmon farming in offshore waters of the Pacific:
Calling fish farming a potential boon for consumers and the economy, the Bush administration yesterday proposed to massively expand the practice to waters as far as 200 miles offshore.

Supporters in Washington, including a state senator who advocates for fish farmers, urged Congress to bless the idea. They said a likely result -- if fish-culturing methods can be perfected -- would be a cheap source of ocean-grown delights, such as black cod, in the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

Critics answered that the aquaculture build-up is a get-rich-quick scheme destined to leave taxpayers subsidizing an industry that would pollute the ocean, serve up substandard fish and, ultimately, center its economic activity in Third World nations.

It's important to take note of what environmentalists are saying, because it's entirely accurate -- and, if anything, understated:
Environmentalists and commercial fishermen say the legislation is too broad and gives the Department of Commerce, the parent agency of the Fisheries Service, total discretion on environmental regulations.

"Any time you have a confined feedlot operation, you're going to have disease and pathogens and parasites, so you're always medicating for your weakest animal -- whereas in nature, that animal would die and become part of the food chain," said Anne Mosness, a Bellingham-based crusader for the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, a national research and advocacy group.

"It's the equivalent of having a hog farm in a city park flushing its wastes into the street," she said.

Mosness, who fished for salmon in Alaska for 28 years, worries that producing enough salmon in fish farms will give politicians an excuse to discontinue environmental-protection efforts designed to make Northwest rivers more welcoming to salmon.

In essence, the presence of gigantic fish farms will supposedly relieve pressure to ensure the survival of wild salmon stocks, as a federal judge just ordered the administration to do. (No doubt he was merely an "activist" judge.)

So now Americans won't have to worry about endangered salmon. Hey, they can get it right from the can!

Er, well, and pay no mind to what you're getting in that can.

Most of you probably already know that when you buy farmed salmon, that nice "pink" color is faked. It would be naturally grey except for the dye they feed the fish:
Another difference in farmed salmon: their flesh would be light grey if they weren't fed ad additive to give them their salmon colour. Farmers can pick the colour they want their fish to be from a 'SalmoFan,' something that resemble a collection of paint chips.

And, when it comes to eating them, farmed salmon have notably higher levels of toxins contained in their meat. Oh, and did we mention that they're high in delicious and nutritious PCBs too? In addition, the live fish are constantly fed a chemical diet of antibiotics (more per pound, in fact, than any other kind of livestock).

As it happens, those antibiotics are spread openly to the open sea, since some 75 percent of it, spread into the pens, actually escapes. This introduces into the wild marine environment new strains of resistant diseases that can devastate whole populations, both farmed and wild.

That's not all they're spreading into the wild. The salmon pens are also spreading sea lice and other diseases to wild salmon.

And then there are the farmed salmon themselves, which often escape, usually in larger numbers than the industry will admit. These are Atlantic salmon, an alien species. They are also notoriously aggressive toward the salmonids of other species -- that is, they selectively pursue and eat them. (This is probably why, in the Atlantic, there is only one species of salmon, compared to the five species that naturally prowl the Pacific.) And, in the wild, these Atlantic salmon have begun to breed and displace the wild Pacific salmon stocks.

Worst of all, the salmon farms are driving traditional fishermen out of business -- and destroying native salmon stocks.

It's looking as if it's only a matter of time before you won't be able to buy wild salmon in the stores anymore, for anything other than exorbitant prices (see, for a preview of this, the ridiculous gouging that now occurs for Copper River salmon). And all those jobs that used to hum out of the Fishermen's Terminal just a couple of miles from my home -- especially the North Pacific fleet -- will be gone, replaced by a relative handful of jobs running the cages at offshore farms.

Once upon a time, conservatives were supposed to be about preserving our traditions. The bottom line now is profits, at the expense of everything else. Not least, at the expense of our natural environment and our health.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Orcinus on tour

I've finished arranging the first round of bookstore appearances in association with the recent release of Strawberry Days: How Internment Destroyed a Japanese American Community:
July 8: Village Books, Bellingham, 7:30 p.m.

July 12: University Book Store, Seattle, 7 p.m.

July 15: Ravenna Third Place Books, Seattle, 7:30 p.m.

July 19: Elliott Bay Book Co., Seattle, 7:30 p.m.

These comprise just the first round in western Washington; I'm arranging appearances at others in the area as well. I'm also hoping to do a West Coast tour late in August, taking in Portland, Eugene, San Francisco/Oakland, Los Angeles and San Diego. I'm still arranging those. Readers in those cities should drop in to their local bookshops and tell them you'd support an appearance (and refer them to this site if they're interested further).

I'm also planning a relatively short tour to the inland Northwest (Boise, Missoula, Helena, Bozeman, Spokane) later on.

If there are other towns (especially in California) and bookstores that you think would be receptive or good bets, please drop me an e-mail ( and I'll see what I can work in.

If any of you happen to be in the vicinity when I'm in town, you should drop by and say hi.

Friday whale blogging

This is a female orca and a calf (likely mother and child) I shot last Thursday (June 2) in Haro Strait, part of a spectacular appearance by the J and K pods that morning, complete with lots of breaches and tail lobs. Unfortunately, I was slow hitting the water, and this was the only decent shot I got. Not quite sure who these two individuals were.

Terror at home

Well, we can now add the New York Times editorial page to the list of people who are gradually recognizing that the Bush administration's handling of domestic terrorism is increasingly leaving Americans vulnerable to very real violence:
A draft planning document from Homeland Security obtained by Congressional Quarterly includes a survey of domestic threats notable for an excessive focus on extremist groups on the political left -- miscreants committing crimes in the name of the environment or animal rights. It specifies the Animal Liberation Front and the Earth Liberation Front as potentially violent activists, along with the familiar array of Islamist militant groups. Glaringly omitted are the militia fanatics, white supremacists and other violent groups at the other end of the spectrum -- antigovernment groups like Aryan Nation and anti-abortion extremists with a proven appetite for murderous violence.

... Homeland Security officials say their planning document was not intended to be inclusive and that right-wing militants will never be neglected. A scarred nation can only hope so.

The source of their concern, a Congressional Quarterly report, has actually been around a few months. I blogged about it back in March. But give the NYT credit for at least recognizing that there is a problem afoot.

A former FBI agent named Mike German, quoted in the CQ report, has been active in trying to create public awareness of the problem. I've discussed German previously, including his rather impressive field work in busting the Washington State Militia, and his later efforts in raising concerns about how the FBI handles domestic terrorism.

German recently had an excellent op-ed piece in the Washington Post explaining that one of the real problems with the way we treat domestic terrorists is by dismissing them as "isolated incidents," when in fact the underlying ideology and its spread plays a decisive role in these acts:
The fact that these individuals, after being exposed to extremist ideology, each committed violent acts might lead a reasonable person to suspect the existence of a wider conspiracy. Imagine a very smart leader of an extremist movement, one who understands the First Amendment and criminal conspiracy laws, telling his followers not to depend on specific instructions.

He might tell them to divorce themselves from the group before they commit a violent act; to act individually or in small groups so that others in the movement could avoid criminal liability. This methodology creates a win-win situation for the extremist leader -- the violent goals of the group are met without the legal consequences.

Actually, there's no need to imagine this. Extremist group leaders produce a tremendous amount of literature, including training manuals on "leaderless resistance" and lone wolf terrorism techniques. These manuals have been around for years and now they're even available online.

"Lone extremism" is not a phenomenon; it's a technique, a ruse designed to subvert the criminal justice system. McVeigh did act as a lone extremist, as the FBI says. He was trained to do it this way. But his act of lone extremism was part of an ongoing conspiracy that continues to inspire violent attacks to this day, and to close our eyes to this conspiracy is to deny reality. It's a matter of connecting the dots.

Subsequently, German led an e-mail discussion at the Post Web site in which he discussed the issue in greater detail, particularly with the helpful perspective of a longtime insider:
I think the problem is a lack of institutional knowledge about how these groups operate, and too much routine turnover in FBI Headquarters to build it. Heaquarters supervisors turn over after about only 15 months in a particular job. That's not long enough to learn about the terrorism problem- domestic or international- and develop effective strategies to counter it.

... Domestic terrorism investigations are regulated by Attorney General Guidelines meant to prevent abusive investigations into unpopular groups. The AG Guidelines required the FBI to initiate investigations of domestic groups only when there is a reasonable indication of criminality. As a criminal investigator this was my focus anyway, but FBI management often overstated the amount of evidence needed to find a "reasonable indication" of criminality and stymied investigations unnecessarily.

Domestic Terrorists are also often underestimated. Their beliefs are so unusual and abhorrent that people mistakenly believe they are stupid, which they are not. They are very organized and very dangerous. Besides, it doesn't take a genius to make a bomb. Again, there's a lack of good intelligence about what these groups are all about.

... Numbers are hard to come by because these are clandestine groups, so most of what they do is secretive. Many people in the movement have military training, and there are a lot of publicly available training materials for terrorists. Especially online. A large part of what these groups do on a day-to-day basis is to train each other, either based on their own experience or these materials. I don't believe the government needs to be spying on these groups. The FBI should be conducting well predicated, proactive criminal investigations like mine. The focus needs to be on the real criminals, not just people whose message we don't like.

... I think it's important to keep the focus on criminality rather than ideology. We all have a first amendment right to speak out, but we don't have a right to force people to listen. Terrorism, whatever the ideology, is about forcing people to listen to your message. There are plenty of legitimate ways for people in this country to get their message out, but violence- for whatever cause- is not one of them.

And I found this inquiry (and response) spot-on:
Chesapeake Beach, Md.: Freedom Fighter, Terrorist, Tree hugger, Environmentalist....yada yada...

Has the FBI a specific working definition that they use that "elevates" a potential threat into the sphere of "counter terrorism"? Or is it only when violence ensues (or is likely to ensue) that someone becomes a terrorist?

Mike German: I think you point out a real problem that clouds every discussion of terrorism. "Terrorist" is always what we call the other guy. The FBI definition of terrorism refers to the "criminal" use of violence or threat of violence, and I think that's an effective definition for the FBI because it is essentially a crime-fighting organization. But when we start calling all of our enemies "terrorists" and granting our government special powers to go after "terrorists" we are on a slippery slope(especially if the government is allowed to exercise these powers in secret).

This kind of thoughtfulness can save both lives and forestall totalitarian abuses. But someone has to be listening for that to happen.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Bush in a China shop

I've been remiss in failing to post my friend T.M. Sell's recent op-ed in the Seattle Times:
Keeping the train rolling in China's Kaching! Dynasty

Terry is a former colleague from the old Valley Daily News who wrote the definitive text on Boeing a few years back titled Wings of Power, which happened also to be his PhD thesis. We last happened to work together during the 1993 APEC conference in Seattle, when we were both working as Asian economic beat writers. After the doctorate, he got himself a nice teaching gig down in Des Moines (the Seattle suburb) and has been spending the past few months as a visiting prof at Shanghai Jiao Tong University.

As he explains, we've been hearing a lot of tough talk out of Republicans over the years regarding China, who seems to be the scapegoat du jour for the increasing economic mess wrought by those record deficits. And it's been intensifying recently:
Congress has its knickers in a twist because the home folks are losing manufacturing jobs to cheap imports from China (Wal-Mart gets 80 percent of its goods from China), and is threatening tariffs on Chinese goods if something isn't done.

Meanwhile, the Bush administration dithers because China isn't Iraq so its "straighten up or we'll bomb you" approach to foreign policy is rendered inoperative. That leaves the occasional tragic but loyal soldier, such as Treasury Secretary John Snow, in the unenviable position of trying to simultaneously stall Congress and the legions of yes men who people the current administration.

But even Snow is now saying China must do something "significant" about exchange rates, or else.

However, even if we could get China to raise the value of the yuan relative to the dollar, it wouldn't bail out our economy. The change would be marginal at best, as 70 to 80 percent of our economy is not trade-related and China represents only 10 percent of our trade deficit.

The rest of the piece offers sound advice for the Bush administration for handling the Chinese. Not that they're likely to listen. As he puts it:
The list of economic steps we might take is long; doing something about the budget deficit and something meaningful for displaced workers would only start the list. And how about making it easier for all the Chinese scientists and engineers who want to come to America to get visas?

But what we have, at the moment, is a Bush in a China shop, and what he breaks, we get to pay for.

And pay for. And pay for.

How exactly did these people get to call themselves conservatives?

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Harassing the harassers

I've been contemplating the activities of the folks organizing the SWARM the Minutemen campaign, which is essentially a legal harassment campaign against the Minutemen. It poses something of a thorny ethical issue.

I briefly mentioned the campaign awhile back without endorsing it, noting that tactics like these seem somewhat questionable when it comes to effective change. Among them, as you can see from perusing the suggestions for action section of their site, are such tactics as bombarding them with faxes, e-mails, letters, and phone calls, as well as showing up at border-patrol sites and making lots of noise.

Now, some of my commenters have called this "terrorism," which reveals how little they understand that phenomenon: terrorism always involves crimes committed with a terrorist intent, and these are neither crimes nor are they terroristic. Every individual has the right to place such faxes, phone calls, e-mails, and letters, so long as they are not threatening in nature.

Still, I've always been an advocate of constructive engagement and more positive approaches to dealing with these problem. Harassment campaigns seem not only futile in the long run, but counterproductive in terms of holding the moral high ground. I've never approved of shouting down or interrupting and heckling haters, and I strongly disapprove of pie-throwing (I think it's battery).

However, I was struck by a couple of statements on their Website, including a spot-on description of the nature of the Minutemen:
The MinuteMen are a non-governmental group of people vowing to patrol the US/Mexico border with guns in order to stop migrant people from crossing the border. They represent an intensification of the trend of violence towards migrant people and people of color that has increased since 9/11/2001. While they claim that they are not violent, their very use and display of deadly weapons is a violent act in itself. How can guns be used to detain people without being violent? Already there have been numerous reports of people being forced to lie on the ground by the MinuteMen and being forced to have their pictures taken with MinuteMen volunteers, recalling Abu Ghraib style dehumanization.

Even more striking to me was their "Group Statement":
While the MinuteMen publicly claim to be non-violent, we here at SWARM know a different face of the MinuteMen. We've received numerous death threats and threats of violence filled with racial slurs. We plan to publicly release these soon to let everyone know the exact kind of hatred the MinuteMen are acting as a lightning rod for, attracting it and focusing it towards migrant people.

Just as important though, the MinuteMen are a clear result of the violent, us-versus-them mentality promoted by the Bush administration.

We are intervening into and dancing with the communication systems of the MinuteMen because along with the physical violence they are creating, they are extremely conscious of the violent power their messages have and they had any measure of success thanks to the complicity [of] the corporate media. Their communications are a critical part of their mission to send a message to legislators that more militarization of the border is necessary. Their images and words can't be separated from the violence of their guns, and both must be stopped.

I've been saying all along that the Minutemen represent a kind of right-wing extremism whose purpose is not, as Lou Dobbs and Michelle Malkin have asserted, to give voice to legitimate concerns about immigration, but rather to harass and intimidate Latino immigrants, legal and illegal. Their innate nature is violent, not civic, and their successful adoption of the mantle of mainstream media and governmental approval has presented the white supremacists who form the core of their support their first real foothold of official support in years.

It is not an exaggeration, either, to claim that racists and other extremists indeed are the core of the Minutemen's support. While the project no doubt has attracted some people of good will with genuine concerns about immigration -- and not just about filthy Latinos bringing crime to their fair havens -- the activist, working ranks of footsoldiers are riddled throughout with Aryan Nations members, supporters of the Klan, and vicious anti-Semites.

If you're looking for evidence of this, you need look no further than the comments on the boards for this blog. We've been infested lately with a regular hodgepodge of extremists, particularly those writing in defense of the Minutemen -- outright white supremacists whose response has not been to deny their presence or the fact that the project is a full manifestation of their agenda. To the contrary; they have argued, essentially: "Yeah? So what?"

The most verbose and straightforward of these commenters has been a fellow calling himself Border Ruffian, who has identified himself as a participant of Billy Roper's anti-immigrant White Revolution work in the South. (Roper is a former National Alliance leader, and Border Ruffian has exhibited a thorough acquaintance with and affinity for that group's ideology.)

One of his earliest posts came, predictably, in defense of the Minutemen:
The US Government is Overthrowing the People and Electing a new one through Immigration.

Illegal immigrants aren't "ordinary citizens" by any definition.

Californians voted Si to Prop 209 and Prop 187, and they will vote for border control every time.

In an avalanche, every beautiful snowflake pleads not guilty.

The only solution to hunger is birth control.

He then followed that up by declaring:
Good riddance to the Republican Party. There is no more Right Wing or Left Wing, but only the Jew-Wing of Amerikwa.

And then topped it off with this:
I am opposed to the Iraq war too, but no amount of protesting in front of the White House is going to stop that.

However, the Minutemen have lit a fire under the politicians.

I remember when it was possible to make a decent living in America. No more, thanks to the match made in Hell between the multiculists Left and the plutocratic Right.

There's plenty of 401c tax exempt organizations representing Asian, Latino, African American and Jewish people.

But what organizations represent the interests of White Gentiles? Dr. William Pierce tried to found a Church of Cosmotheism, but it was denied 401c status. Matt Hales Church of the Creator was sued out of existence on a ridiculous "trademark" case -- the Te Ta Ma foundation is an ADL connected fraud that trademarked the name for the sole purpose of attacking Hale's organization. This happens to no other church in the world.

But Whites are in fact waking up, and realizing that in a multicultural, multiracial nation, they better get organized to fight for THEIR INTERESTS, because everyone else is feeding off of the dying carcass of White America. Whites are demonized as the villains of history, while every other race is made out to be a bunch of noble, angelic victims.

Had enough, Whitey? What if America was controlled by Americans instead of by Jews?

Then he was joined by a fellow named Observer, who apparently is a young Seattleite living in the Capitol Hill area, who first wrote in to spew anti-gay hatred when I posted on the demise of a bill to include gays and lesbians in an anti-discrimination bill in the Washington Legislature. Over many subsequent posts, Observer has made clear his antipathy to multiculturalism as well as a certain affinity for anti-Semitic and racist beliefs, not to mention a predilection for crude stereotypes.

This was on display again when Observer chimed in to support Border Ruffian by proceeding to blame a recent local murder (committed by an apparent illegal alien) on illegal immigration. (Funny, that: Didja ever notice how guys like Observer never seem to want to blame serial killers like Gary Ridgway on the presence of white factory workers?)

Border Ruffian chimed in with numerous other racist rants, including one in which he insisted that he and his compatriots were fighting for a "white living space". ("And we are going to get it, whether you like it or not.") His terminology, it should be noted, replicates Hitler's demands for "Lebensraum."

Observer caps it off with this rejoinder to one of my Jewish readers:
I am loyal to my people, just like you. The only difference is that you, evidently, would resent me for that, and I would admire loyalty (also known as patriotism) in another people. That is a serious character flaw on your part, and it shows a deficit of tolerance. Or perhaps it is simply an ethno-cultural distinction, which from my ethno-cultural perspective shows your culture to be flawed, and morally lacking.

Please inform me whether we Christians of European descent, from your Jewish perspective, are entitled to the same feelings of loyalty toward our own people that Jews are. I would ask you to be honest; would that be a futile request?

As for your assumption that I live in a "white-trash hell," that is a reflection of your own prejudice, hatred and intolerance for my people. I am happiest amongst my people. I love them just as they are. My anger is not that I must live with my people, but that they are treated poorly and spat upon by the likes of you and Neiwert.

Rather than wanting to leave them and ridicule them as your wife does, I want their condition to be bettered. You people, on the other hand, have nothing but hatred and blackness in your hearts when you think of us. You prove it over and over again. That is why my people are beginning to see what you call "liberalism" as a hate-cult dedicated to our destruction. Neiwert, that morally flawless individual, is doing his best to further this perception.

The funny thing about this is, I think "my people" are pretty much the same people as Observer's version. I come from a lower middle class family, and we had more than our share of immediate family who were classic white-trash trailer-park dwellers. I worked my way through college by hauling irrigation pipe on farms, working as a welder in a farm-machinery plant, and doing road construction (mostly chip-seal operations), which was the line of work my mother's family was in. As you can imagine, I tend to view "go back to your trailer park" responses rather dimly.

Still, nothing makes me angrier than seeing working-class people suffer, as they seem to do in places like Idaho, where the right has been in control for decades now. The most disturbing feature of this is the way it is self-inflicted; conservatives wrap themselves in these people's "values" in a way that convinces them they're operating on behalf of their best interests, when policy after policy demonstrates exactly the opposite.

To me, the real slap in the face is seeing the good will of working-class people being used, manipulated cynically for alterior purposes: for profit, for political gain, for spreading divisiveness and ill will. Xenophobia (racial, religious, and otherwise) has been fanned for generations to make scapegoats to cover the real root of the problems that plague the working class -- namely, economics and class.

Working-class whites are in this fight not against other races, but with working-class blacks and Asians and Latinos. Jews, Muslims, and gay people aren't their enemies. Their real enemies are the snakes who come hissing lies into their ears to make them blame their black and Jewish and gay neighbors for what's wrong with the world. I've seen the havoc these snakes can wreak among families and communities, and it can be devastating.

The right of the past two decades, as a clear tool of the wealthy class, has been about widening those divisions, in a kind of divide-and-conquer strategy that, sadly, has succeeded too well. And now the real extremists of the right are pouncing, eager to take the reins as so-called "mainstream conservatives" relinquish them.

We're being warned that immigration is going to be Republicans' big re-election issue in 2006, which means we're going to be seeing a lot more of this. A lot more Nazis coming out of the woodwork, emboldened by the realization of their longtime hopes and dreams. They see the political momentum heading their way -- and so far, they may be right.

Which makes me wonder how liberals are going to respond, particularly on immigration and the way the right seems intent on linking immigration to crime. So far, I haven't detected much of a glimmer.

At some point, progressives need to stand up to the Minutemen and what they represent, recognizing them for the potent threat they are about to become. It can't be nicey-nice, either; take a gander through Border Ruffian's ruminations here and it becomes clear what we're dealing with.

These aren't people you can negotiate with or engage constructively (though people like Observer, it should be noted, are not as far gone as dedicated racists like Ruffian); they only view your decency as a kind of weakness. The best you can do, really, is shove their fists back in their faces. It's the only language they understand or respect.

So, you folks at SWARM: Go get 'em. Do your best, as long as you keep it legal. Swamp their operations. It may not be effective in terms of stopping them, but it at least reminds them that there are many thousands of their fellow citizens who do not support or approve of their "project."

Because you're right. There's no point in playing nice with Nazis. And someone needs to start shoving back on those fists somewhere.