October 4, 2006
An Axis of Weasels: Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld Lie Their Way to a Better Tomorrow
Mr. Goebbels advised Mr. Hitler that if you're going to tell the public a lie, tell them the Big Lie. His reasoning was this: If you tell a lie that's close to the truth, it's too easy to compare them, and to see which is the lie. If you tell a whopper that is miles from the truth the listener is forced to squint his eyes to see that the elaborate lie is a mirage:We had no warning that Osama Bin Laden was about to attack. There is no connection between the Vice-President and the billions of dollars in no-bid contracts awarded to Halliburton. The war in Iraq is all about making us safer. Peace can only be achieved by waging endless war. Freedom can only be preserved through secret wiretaps and secret torture prisons and the sacrifice of our liberty.
Its funny how politics is the same wherever you go. Here in Alaska our war is about who should control our natural resources. And the Big Lie is everywhere. Whether it's the new tax structure which puts the State at the mercy of oil company CPAs, or my favorite issue, the privatization of America's fish:
We had no warning crab rationalization would be devastating to coastal communities. There is no connection between Ben Stevens and the millions of dollars in ASMI grants awarded to processors. Outlawing the free market is all about making fishermen safer. Bycatch reduction can only be achieved by endless bottom trawling. The resource can only be preserved through secret Rockfish deals and secret payoff schemes and the sacrifice of our communities.
Of course it was tougher for Goebbels to sell his lie when the bombs were pounding Berlin into powder. Our contemporary Big Liars might think about heading for their own bunkers. Americans, with chunks of the ceiling falling on their heads, seem to be waking up. Here in Alaska the governors race is being led by maverick Republican Sarah Palin, whose biggest selling point has been to point to former governors Murkowski and Knowles and simply say: "I am not them." Murkowski, overloaded with taint, crashed and burned in the primary. Knowles, hands red with rationalization, is in the tricky position of touting his experience without seeming linked to the system of "consultants" and corporate lobbyists that has dominated our fates for so many years.
Ben Stevens is a consultant. Talk about a Big Lie. The person who sets up the servers for E-Bay is a consultant. Someone who tries to show Shaq how to make a free throw is a consultant. A guy who lets you into Daddy's office is a doorman. Ben just gets great tips.
Lobbyists are at least more blatant. Like lawyers, their job is to work to the advantage of their clients. Right or wrong, good or bad. In Washington its Abramoff and McKeever. Here in Kodiak, its Kozak and Bonney.
When Sarah Palin made what will likely be her only pre-election visit to Kodiak, she looked to Linda Kozak to make many of the arrangements. After all, Ms Kozak had been a vocal supporter and willing volunteer for the campaign. And why not? Aside from her own preferences, she has her job as a lobbyist for a fishing vessel owners association to think about. It can't hurt to get close to Sarah, who looks more and more like a winner. Sarah enjoys wide support among local fishermen, who see her as independent, and not yet encrusted with consultants and lobbyists. Many would have been happy to meet with her. Ms Kozak instead chose to ask some of her clients to fly up and pose as locals. Most were on a plane back down south within a couple of days. The evening fundraiser was held at the home of one of her clients. It is a beautiful home, with large luxurious windows, dark for much of the year, waiting for the rare visit by its owner. Now, I have nothing against her clients having a voice.
But this is how it begins. A friendly hand at the elbow steering Sarah gently toward the outstretched hands of the "right" people. A lobbyist in sheep's clothing, earnestly explaining the issues on behalf of her bosses.
One of the right people Ms Kozak chose was Julie Bonney. Ms Bonney lobbies on behalf of a number of big fish processing companies, and the vessel owners to whom they have promised the world. Julie was allowed over an hour with Sarah. The City Manager got twenty minutes. I was horrified to hear Sarah's recorded voice on the radio the next day as we came in from fishing, speaking words I have heard Julie utter so many times. About bringing the fish to shore locally, and addressing issues of quality and bycatch. Nothing about outlawing the free market or privatizing a public resource. She ended by saying the issue was very complex, and difficult to understand.
That's funny, because this is a song Ms Bonney would sing a few days later to the Kodiak City Council when they made their decision to not support the extension of the "Pilot" rockfish Program. This big ball of wrong was originally tacked on as a rider to a federal spending bill by our Senator Ted Stevens along with the Crab Rationalization Plan. A sneaky effort to extent the program behind the scenes was discovered by local fisherman Shawn Doctermann, who brought it to the attention of a stunned Kodiak City Council. Questions were raised as to why City Manager Linda Freed told Fisheries advisor Joe Sullivan (Man of Many Masters) explicitly to not mention the extension in his report to the Council. The letter the City drafted to the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council opposing the extension decries the "end around" tactics used. The City Council, feeling a sense of urgency after watching towns like King Cove shrivel from Crab Ratz, has educated itself quickly on the workings of the Management Council. Mr. Dochtermann, between fishing seasons, and sounding tired, quietly thanked them. After an exasperated sigh, Ms Bonney implied that the City Councils decision could only result from their lack of understanding. She offered to bring them up to speed if they can spare "about half a day." What arrogance! A man sitting next to me as we listened on the radio said "Half a day! Well hell, I could explain it in two sentences. The owners want to own the fish forever and the canneries want a monopoly. And they both want to turn bycatch into catch." I had to agree, it didn't seem very complicated. Unless you want it to be. Unless you're telling the Big Lie.
Well, we don't believe it anymore. A piece of the ceiling called Crab Ratz just fell at our feet. We see the truth. It is not about safety, or ecology or community. It is a money grab at the expense of honest working fishermen.
I saw a short tailed albatross during the last fishing trip. They are extremely endangered and whenever I would see them on the water, one or two at a time, paddling between rafts of black-footed and Laysan's albatrosses I used to think "These guys don't stand a chance." They always kept apart, and seemed unwilling to fight with their more numerous cousins for food. But as I watched this one, I started to feel more hopeful. He was in there scrapping, shouldering blackfoots and fulmars out of the way to stick his gigantic pink schnozzolla into the middle of a floating pile of fishguts. And I thought "That's right buddy. Don't you give up."
Terry Haines is a Kodiak deckhand and representative for Fish Heads, an advocacy group dedicated to preserving the vitality of Alaska's fishing communities. Contact Terry Haines