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Monday, October 24, 2011

FASTER THAN A SPEEDING TELETYPE


James Bruggers is not just a journalist, he's a warrior in the movement to protect our planet from the scourge of man.

He’s one of a number of virtual superheroes from the left, armed with their magic blogs and Tweeting I-Phones with which to help beat back the demons and demigods who attempting to destroy our planet.

He’s more powerful because he’s got ‘local motive.’

“I cover a beat – the environment – that has taken huge hits at newspapers across the United States,” Bruggers said about himself in formal letter to the University of Louisville which hosted a symposium in early October. “As far as I know, I am the last one of my kind working at a newspaper in Kentucky.”

Bruggers said that “everything is different now” in the print industry where he’s been writing for the Kentucky-based Courier-Journal, there in the heart of black coal country, since studying journalism, forestry and environmental studies at the University of Montana over 10 years ago. “Newspapers are no longer just newspapers,” Bruggers wrote in his letter, explaining how his newspaper is “increasingly focusing our news delivery online, through smart phones and through social networking, including Facebook and Twitter.”

And able to leap tall buildings in a single bound too!

Bruggers’ is a fairly standard response from many reporters today, particularly those in the freelance game. Many newsroom journalists are losing their jobs to attrition, cutbacks and corporate merger, while some of the ancillary op-ed writers, sports personalities and ‘bloggers’ have been kept around to keep a local slant on things – inexpensively at that - while newsrooms are being thoroughly decimated. In response, many longtime columnists have seen a burgeoning opportunity – in years past, their articles were significantly scrutinized, regularly cut, sliced, diced and edited down by experienced copy editors, managing editors and even fully engaged publishers who understood the difference between opinion pieces and balanced reports.

Today’s ‘beat’ freelancers have little editorial scrutiny in what they provide, as most copy ‘chiefs’ are too focused on keeping Section One copy flowing through rapidly shrinking paper real estate to worry about the Section Three sport reporters and Section Five environmental ‘beat’ reporters. Since this new breed of reporter has been given carte blanche ability to post their stories directly to personal blogs and Twitter accounts without submitting through the proper chain of command, “fair and balanced” has been effectively replaced in the 21st Century by “quick and cheap.” It’s ‘fast food nation’ for the rip and read set, as print professionals, once born, bred and trained in newsroom nerve centers have been removed from their post, while pure subject matter experts – the anointed ones – have been given the front door key to the newspaper by being allowed uber access to blog site, Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Clark Kent sadly was laid off from the downtown office. But don’t despair, James Brugger is still blogging to the world from his home office in Kentucky (“he’s everywhere, he’s everywhere!”)

“Science is only part of what I do. Environmental journalism often involves a variety of disciplines – for example, politics, religion, economics and science,” Bruggers explained to the Kentucky academia in his recent blog titled, appropriately enough, Covering Science and the Environment Between the Tweets.

“Journalism professors I know are producing a whole new generation of specialized science and environmental journalists who are taking an entrepreneurial approach to their careers,” Bruggers wrote in his Jerry McGuireish treatise to the symposium, adding “And membership numbers in the Society of Environmental Journalists, which I helped lead for 13 years, remain strong.”

The Society of Environmental Journalists (SEJ) met this week in Miami, where Bruggers and other anointed bloggers and Tweeters kept active by reporting in 140-charcter blips from the SEJ panel events. One blogger Imelda Albano, President of Phil Network of Environmental Journalists, Inc. said of the event via the SEJ Twitter feed, “an excellent venue for env't journalists from West and South to learn from each other in making our society a sustainable one.”

Meanwhile Emilia Askari of the Detroit Free Press Tweets “want $ fr knight fndtn to fund your news venutre? talk to knight biz consultant ben wirz @ entrepreneurs pitchfest sat 9 a.m.” That’s Tweet speak for “hey folks, if you need some venture capital to fund your news reporting you can meet with representatives who helped fund this event, the James L. Knight Foundation, and they’ll explain how to get you some money to report to the masses.”

Earlier, Askari posted how “the Internet gives back power given that was taken away by the mass media, just by its massiveness.”

Or perhaps it’s a need for balance that has held the movement back.

Nicole Lampe, Senior Program Director for a non-profit communications group called U.S. Resource Media shared one of the more popular Tweets of the day from University of Washington scientist and Pew Fellowship award winner Dr. P. Dee Boersma who said “I don't want balanced reporting when it comes to science.”

Welcome to the environmental movement, where journalists meet to discuss ways of funding their cause, leading the charge to ensuring a more sustainable world through reliance on political, religious, economic and scientific reporting, free from the confines of traditional media scrutiny.

It should be noted that the Miami conference of environmental journalists was hosted by the University of Miami with financial assistance from groups including John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Other SEJ financial supporters include the Everglades Foundation, Curtis and Edith Munson Foundation, Turner Family Foundation, Keith Campbell Foundation for the Environment and Environmental Defense Fund.

Not every Tweeting member of the SEJ was strictly a journalist mind you. One blogger named Clint Wilder of the research and advisory firm Clean Edge, Inc. noted the striking similarities between Occupy Wall Street and environmental movements, Tweeting they “share fighting ‘the imposition of large risks by the very few on the very many.’" At its website, Wilder’s Clean Edge, Inc. describes itself as a company which “companies, investors, and governments understand and profit from clean technologies.”

Freelance journalist Cristina Santiestevan of Virginia is one of the first Tweeters to announce the opening comments of NOAA Fisheries Chief Dr. Lubchenco in a panel discussion on October 21, noting "Catch shares work. They end overfishing.” Posting under the online handle of Redbugmedia, Santiestevan describes how she is “Listening to Jane Lubchenco describe her job, ‘I fight for fishermen, and for fish.’”

Caroline Behringer, Media Specialist at World Wildlife Fund adds “Lubchenco uses Slurpies to explain catch shares to science reporters,” to which Jaime Jennings, Publicity Manager at Island Press responded “awesome!”

Behringer adds “Now contraceptives enter the Slurpy analogy to explain catch shares.”

"Who knew that birth control and 7-11 would come up in a fisheries panel," noted Juliet Eilperin, moderator of the SEJ panel called Opening Plenary — Fish Fight, which featured Dr. Lubchenco, her brother-in-law Dr. Steve Gaines, Pew Fellowship recipient Dr. Daniel Pauly, along with commercial fishing representative Nils Stolpe and the Recreational Fishing Alliance’s (RFA) Jim Donofrio representing the voice of the angling community.

“Here we go…” Wilder posts after Donofrio steps up and calls NOAA a 'job killer' explaining how the recreational fishing industry is 'getting regulated out of existence.'

“We're tripping over red snapper in Florida, but it's very restricted. Why? Lack of good science,” Tweeted Forbes clean tech blogger and freelance writer/editor Amy Westervelt of Donofrio’s comments.

“We have plenty of fish, so says one panelists,” a blogger called the Apocadocs Tweets sarcastically of Donofrio’s comments, asking wryly, “really?”

Freelancer Allie Wilkinson posts a quote from Lubchenco that seems to back Donofrio’s scientific analysis, noting “We simply do not have the resources to do stock assessments for every single fishery, every single year.”

Behringer then posts the theoretical question for Twitter followers to view, “Are marine protected areas good for commercial fisheries,” promptly answering herself in the affirmative in a Tweet directed at the fishermen in the front of the room, “Hey, panelists, the answer's ‘yes!’"

Lampe Tweets Gaines as saying “we've protected less than 1% of ocean, 10 to 15% of land,” noting how “MPA’s harbor fish as they breed and grow, helping nearby fisheries.”

The fishing representatives on the panel try to point out how notable scientific gaps in reporting through NOAA have left fishermen suffering not from science but by lack of science; they then explain to SEJ attendees that fish don’t exist upon every square inch of the ocean, and the 5% to 15% of oceans that some environmental groups would like to make off-limits to fishermen through creation of no access, no take marine reserves are actually the prime areas of oceans where fish congregate around productive structure and habitat.

Look, up in the sky….

“Fisheries lobbyist demonstrating he's completing unreasonable, opposes any restrictions on commercial fishing,” Tweets Brad Johnson, ThinkProgress Green Editor at the Center for American Progress.

“Big science crush on Daniel Pauly,” Westervelt Tweets.

“Me too,” gushes Jamie Jennings of Island Press.

Westervelt reports that Dr. Pauly is “Keeping it real with NOAA and fishermen on fish fight panel.”

Word to your mother.

Pew Environment Group’s Dave Bard says “fixing overfishing benefits everyone.” His former coworker from Pew now employed as Dr. Lubchenco handler and media spokesperson through NOAA Fisheries said of the Fish Fight panel, “a whole lot of agreeing going on. When it comes to catch shares, MPAs, science, etc, design matters most.”

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.

Cassandra Profita of Oregon Public Broadcasting posed the Tweeted question, “Catch shares: Best economic, ecological fish mgmt or xposing fish to 'corporate greed', 'speculation' like subprime mortgages?”

Blogger Michael Casey of Dubai, a sports and environmental reporter who writes mainly about water shortages and the sport of cricket in the Middle East quoted Donofrio as saying of catch shares "is huge political issue, not as simple as drinking from one Slurpy cup."

DC-based Matt Farrauto, a self-professed “political hack who’s gone full panda,” said “All this fish talk makes me want a slurpee.”

“Don't assume, just because I'm yawning, that I'm disinterested,” Farrauto said later.

Pittsburgh’s Jeanne Clark describes herself as “Doing my best to piss off the right wing for over 60 years,” but was unable to attend this year’s event in Miami but Tweeted a “Big shout out to my peeps at #SEJMiami. Raise lotsa $$$!”

It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s a trial balloon!

“Which I were there,” Clark adds, Tweeting “Too cold & not enough drinking here.”

David E. Guggenheim, himself a marine scientist and Senior Fellow at the Ocean Foundation Tweeted from the conference a quote from Daniel Pauly that “Many fisheries in the world are afloat only because of subsidies."

Guggenheim went on to quote Pauly as saying how “fishers” (that’s politically correct 21st Century green speak for fisherman or fishermen) are fishing for jelly fish, and monk fish.

The Courier-Journal’s Bruggers Tweets back, “Jellyfish? Really? Ick.”

Hmm, kryptonite and crystal jellies do seem a lot alike.

Following the fisheries panel, Farrauto Tweets “Heading to the Balmoral Room where he will fight the Balrog,” a fictional middle-earth demonic being created by JRR Tolkien in his science fiction epic, Lord of the Rings.

Even superheroes have to break for lunch.

Hey James, watch out for those peanut butter and jelly sandwiches!

“Ick!”

Monday, October 17, 2011

RFA TO US SENATE - TEAR DOWN THE PEDESTAL

Going fishing too often usually puts me on the hot seat with the folks at home, especially during the fall run.

Paradoxically, a woman named Jane Lubchenco is on the hot seat with those of us in the fishing community; has been since the day she was chosen by President Barack Obama to take the position of NOAA Administrator back in March of 2009.

From day one when recreational and commercial fishing community became aware that this Pew Fellowship award winner, Director/ Trustee of SeaWeb and Environmental Defense, Trustee Emerita of the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and 8th Annual Heinz Award in the Environment award winner would be in charge of future angling access, we’ve been able to fish a whole less than we did 10 years ago.

Now after 2-1/2 years of Administrative hostility and disdain, it appears as if the proverbial chickens may have come home to roost.

On Monday, October 3, 2011, a Senate Subcommittee Field Hearing was held in a packed Massachusetts State House. The highly-charged hearing was chaired by Senator Kerry (D-MA) and focused primarily on NOAA’s controversial catch share program, the embattled NOAA Administrator Dr Lubchenco, and NOAA’s troubled Office of Law Enforcement which officials claim misused fines and legal fees paid by members of the commercial fishing sector.

Other coastal legislators who participated in the hearing included Senator Mark Begich (D-AK), Senator Scott Brown (R-MA), Congressman Barney Frank (D-MA), Congressman John Tierney (D-MA), Congressman Bill Keating (D-MA), and Massachusetts State Senate President, Therese Murray (D-Plymouth).

As elected legislators attempted to take the top government appointee to task for failing to work with coastal stakeholders, the chief bureaucrat turned the tables on those elected officials, prompting one stark headline from an organization called Americans for Forfeiture Reform, NOAA Blames Congress

According to policy analyst Scott Alexander Meiner, Dr. Lubchenco gave “a series of meandering evasions” which prompted a rather sharp response by Rep. Frank. “Why can’t you give me a straight answer. Just give a straight answer. It could be yes. It could be no. You don’t have to hire someone to take the SAT for you,” Rep. Frank said.

“Most agencies are at least somewhat advocates of the industry they regulate… I can think of only two that hold their industry guilty until proven innocent- the DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) and NMFS,” Frank continued.

“We will commit to clarifying what we can and cannot do,” Lubchenco answered.

“Will you commit to expediting the return of legal fees?” asked Rep. Tierney.

“I will commit to looking into that,” Dr. Lubchenco responded.

In another volley, Sen. Brown shot back “what does it take to get fired at NOAA?”

The NOAA Administrator coolly and calmly explained that NOAA cannot discuss personnel matters due to federal regulations governing the treatment and privacy of federal employees. It would be nice to know just what kind of action would get someone fired within the government, but thanks to Congress there’s no way for the American people to really know how such a process would be enacted or followed.

Federal laws enacted by our own legislature to protect federal employees; when a recent top enforcement officer committed the inappropriate and illegal act leading to many of these New England Subcommittee hearings, nothing was really done in terms of punishing the staffer, nor can any subsequent actions even be made public.

In other words, these New England Members of Congress were searching for answers but getting none, mainly because of rules and regulations which they helped pass that protects the government itself from most types of regulatory oversight and control, keeping appointed bureaucrats insulated from charges brought against them by members of the public.

The same thing as with catch shares and burdensome regulation stemming from the 2007 reauthorization of the Magnuson Stevens Fisheries Conservation and Management Act that was passed by Congressman Frank and Congressman Tierney in 2006, the legislators set a restrictive speed limit and now they’re grilling the top trooper for ticketing so many of their constituents during the past 4-1/2 years that the speed traps have been in place.

However, while Frank, Tierney and Brown have become more vocal about the possibility of seeing Dr. Lubchenco removed from her position as NOAA Chief, Sen. Kerry has remained more general, perhaps vanilla, in his criticism.

As reported by Meiner, “Senator Kerry crafted a more inclusive approach, asking for Dr Lubchenco to treat the most harmed fishing areas as disaster zones. Lubchenco indicated a willingness provided the regional fishing councils would provide her the data which she noted had not been done. Senator Kerry then initiated a plan to convene a private meeting with Dr Jane Lubchenco, NMFS officials, concerned legislators, and fishing industry stake holders in a closed session presumably to flesh out steps forward and to air grievances. Kerry was able to elicit Dr Lubchenco’s acceptance of an invitation.”

Sen. Kerry of course was a member of the Senate in 2006 who willingly accepted a vote of unanimous consent of the Magnuson Stevens Fisheries Conservation and Management Act, the very same law which has given NOAA so much authority in denying fishermen access to rebuilding fish stocks while ramrodding a program of catch shares through upon the angling public. In other words, it was Kerry who helped hand deliver the congressional edict for the top cop in charge of writing traffic summonses along the intercoastal highway!

“This clearly threatens the future of small boat fishing in Massachusetts, which has been a way of life for generations of our families,” Sen. Kerry warned the good Doctor about the rapid spread of catch shares implemented by NOAA throughout the fishing community. “I want you to know that their way of life will not end on my watch,” Kerry said.

Arguably, catch shares and no take areas of ocean through a network of marine reserves would in fact negatively impact life as we know it along the coastal United States, particularly for those who make their living on the water – which is that makes Sen. Kerry’s comments so unique.

Consider for a moment that on March 12, 2002, Dr. Jane Lubchenco officially received a Heinz Award for the Environment. In her acceptance speech, the NOAA chief to be told the world “The reality is that we are not just using oceans - we are using them up. If we truly want to be able to use them tomorrow, we have to do a better job of protecting them today. A powerful new tool that is emerging and that is being talked about much more seriously is that of a network of marine reserves - not unlike national parks or wilderness areas on land. A marine reserve is an area of the sea that is completely protected from extractive activities. They are also called "no take areas" - no fishing, no mining, no drilling, no dumping. These fully protected marine reserves have been shown quite definitely to be extremely powerful in protecting habitat in protecting biodiversity and protecting the essential services provided by marine ecosystems. And in some cases, they are also helping to replenishing depleted fisheries. At present, far less than one percent of U.S. water is fully protected. So we have some real opportunities to make a real difference with this new solution.”

The chairman of the Heinz Family Foundation and the Heinz Endowments which helped promote Dr. Lubchenco’s lifelong efforts to restrict the rights of coastal fishermen is Teresa Heinz, the wife of Sen. John Kerry.

When U.S. Congress put forth the 2006 reauthorization of the Magnuson Stevens Fisheries Conservation and Management Act, it was passed through the Senate by unanimous consent, meaning there was no debate on the floor as to the laws vices or virtues. Pushed by primary sponsor Ted Stevens (R-AK), the bill had seven Democratic sponsors including Sen. Kerry, and six Republican sponsors including the law’s namesake, Sen. Stevens. By clearing the legislation through Senate by an up-and-down vote with no discussion, it memorialized very restrictive definitions, deadlines, and requirements which have since been used by NMFS to beat down the recreational and commercial fishing industry.

Efforts to amend the Magnuson Stevens Fisheries Conservation and Management Act to incorporate some management flexibility allowing fisheries management discretion to keep fisheries open to fishing access in situations where the stocks are showing improved stock biomass have been introduced by both the House and Senate, however, Sen. Kerry has refused to support the bill, neither has his wife’s friend Jane.

“Would you support a law that would allow more flexibility rather than rely on the most recent study,” asked Rep. Keating of the NOAA Chief at the October 3 Senate Subcommittee Field Hearing.

“No,” replied Dr. Lubchenco.

So much for evasive answers.

On September 23, 2011, Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) along with Rep. Barney Frank co-sponsored a piece of legislation designed to amend the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act to extend the authorized time period for rebuilding of certain overfished fisheries while providing fisheries managers with limited flexibility to keep fishermen fishing when stocks are healthy enough to support it.

The appointed head of NOAA doesn’t support it; but that’s no reason why the senior Senator from Massachusetts shouldn’t. After all, it’s not up to a federally appointed, anti-business, agenda-driven environmental zealot to decide upon the will of the people.

U.S. legislators are quickly realizing that their constituents are angry about the direction of the country, the burdensome regulatory process, overly restrictive bureaucracy and wide scale contempt of those appointed to serve towards the people who elect legislators to serve their interests.

The singularly most important issue to the American voter right now is jobs, and if government continues to cut private sector jobs because of bureaucratic defiance, then someone in the public sector will have to pay.

Dr. Jane Lubchenco and her eco-warrior cohorts must be removed from the Department of Commerce immediately. If our elected officials aren’t able to remove the anointed ones, then it’s time for the electorate to find newly elected officials who can.

It’s time for Sen. Kerry to risk a few days on the couch at home in support of our fishermen – stand up to the administration, in standing against the job killing efforts of the NOAA Administrator. Take a stand for reasonable access to rebuilding fisheries by supporting bipartisan coastal legislation to fix the proverbial speed limits, thereby getting unreasonable enforcement off the backs of coastal businesses.

And once and for fall Mr. Kerry, stand up to your wife on this one – Ms. Heinz may have helped put Dr. Lubchenco upon a pedestal for the president to admire, but you can help bring her down and put Americans back to work again.

Tell your wife you’re going fishing Sen. Kerry!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

HIS LIPS MOVE BUT I CAN'T HEAR WHAT HE'S SAYING


This week, President Obama will address the nation about what he is doing to spur economic growth and create jobs. While the head talks, let’s take a look at how the rest walks.

The U.S. Department of Commerce promotes job creation, economic growth, sustainable development and improved standards of living for all Americans by working in partnership with businesses, universities, communities and our nation’s workers. Its wide range of responsibilities includes the areas of trade, economic development, technology, entrepreneurship and business development, environmental stewardship, and statistical research and analysis.

To drive U.S. competitiveness in the global marketplace, the Commerce Department works to strengthen the international economic position of the United States and facilitates global trade by opening up new markets for U.S. goods and services. Here at home, the Commerce Department promotes progressive business policies that help America’s businesses and entrepreneurs and their communities grow and succeed.

The Commerce Department also provides effective management and monitoring of our nation’s resources and assets to support both environmental and economic health. Through critical weather monitoring, weather forecasts and resource preservation, the department protects not only public safety and security but also our oceans, coasts and marine life while assisting their economic development.

The Secretary of Commerce leads this department’s efforts, overseeing a $7.5 billion budget and nearly 47,000 employees worldwide. On August 1, 2011, Rebecca Blank took over as Acting Secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce, having spent approximately 8 months as Acting Deputy Secretary. Blank, a Missouri native, is filling a temporary position left by the departure of former Commerce Secretary Gary Locke of Washington State to the position of U.S. Ambassador to China. Recently, President Obama announced that John Bryson of California was being tabbed to be the next Commerce Secretary, a nomination which has since been stalled in Congress.

According to published reports, Republicans have vowed to block Bryson’s nomination until President Obama submits free-trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia, and Panama to Congress. Obama has refused to do that unless Congress agrees to expand upon an assistance program for U.S. workers who lose their jobs due to international trade.

More troubling to many private sector business owners is that Bryson is probably best known as co-founder of the radical activist group Natural Resources Defense Council, and as CEO of Edison International, parent company of giant electric utility Southern California Edison.

Bryson is also trustee of the California Institute of Technology, a director of the California Endowment and the W. M. Keck Foundation, and serves on the advisory board of Deutsche Bank Americas. Previously Mr. Bryson served on educational, energy and environmental boards, including as a trustee of Stanford University, a member of a United Nations advisory group on energy and climate change, and head of California’s Public Utilities Commission and its State Water Resources Control Board.

“In the years ahead, a key to achieving our export goal will be promoting clean energy in America. It’s how we’ll reduce our dependence on foreign oil,” President Obama said of the appointment. “And that’s how we’ll encourage new businesses and jobs to take root on our shores. John understands this better than virtually anybody.”

The President believes that going green is gold, and while many Americans support cleaner and more sustainable energy options, banking on environmental business to sustain a collapsing national economy has proven to be a treacherous course.

Case in point, the recent bankruptcy declaration by solar-panel maker Solyndra, a politically connected California-based manufacturer. In 2009, Solyndra was able to secure a $535 million loan guarantee from the U.S. government to expand its operations, and just one year later got a visit from President Obama who hailed it as a symbol of the U.S. commitment to the expanded use of renewable energy.

In August of this year, having borrowed almost all the guaranteed loan money, Solyndra said it was bankrupt, and was immediately shutting its operations and laying off 1,100 workers. At about the same time, two other U.S. solar firms, SpectraWatt and Evergreen Solar, also declared they are bankrupt, with taxpayers undoubtedly left to foot the bill for unpaid federal loans already received.

Bloomberg Financial reported in August that SpectraWatt owes creditors $38.7 million and is planning to auction almost all of its assets, which the Hopewell Junction, New York-based company valued at $33.9 million in a filing with U.S. Bankruptcy Court. In their August 19th filing, the company said it was forced to seek protection from creditors because of increasing competition from Chinese rivals and deteriorating prices in the solar industry. Evergreen Solar, which owes creditors upwards of $486.5 million, cited similar reasons for its August 15 bankruptcy filing soon after the state of Massachusetts had committed $23 million in grants in support of high tech manufacturing and job creation.

“United States-based manufacturers are under a great deal of stress because of the emergence of manufacturers in China, who receive considerable government and financial support,” SpectraWatt’s Chief Restructuring Officer and Chief Executive Officer Brad Walker said in the filing. “This support, coupled with China’s inexpensive production costs, have created a competitive advantage for Chinese manufacturers and allowed them to become price leaders within the industry.”

After Evergreen laid off their 800 U.S. workers in Massachusetts, the Chinese government effectively swooped in with a multi-million dollar loan to assist in the relocation and construction of a new overseas manufacturing facility. Born in America, raised overseas, it’s the story about the promise of 21st Century green jobs in the global market, whereby green jobs developed in the U.S. are ultimately outsourced to China to be produced by less costly labor.

The Washington Examiner reported recently that Commerce Secretary delegate appointee John Bryson began his career by creating an environmental litigation group, the Natural Resources Defense Council. He parlayed this gig of suing governments and businesses into top appointments in the late 1970s by California Governor Jerry Brown. After a three-year stint as president of California's Public Utility Commission, Bryson cashed out in 1984 to California's largest public utility, Edison International, parent company of Southern California Edison.

Bryson is also chairman of the board of directors for BrightSource Energy, a California-based green corporation which designs, develops and sells solar thermal power systems that deliver reliable clean energy to utilities and industrial companies.

Jump ahead to February of 2010, when BrightSource announced that it had received a commitment from the Department of Energy for a $1.37 billion loan guarantee to build out BrightSource’s Ivanpah solar project, set to be the first new solar thermal power plant built in California’s deserts in 20 years. Over the next several months, BrightSource would another $176 million in equity and options according to filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, with new investors including the Russian government.

The project is said to be about 15% completed thus far, and expected to go online in 2013.

In the early summer of 2011, President Obama said “I am pleased to nominate John Bryson to be our nation’s Secretary of Commerce, as he understands what it takes for America to succeed in a 21st century global economy.” Of the BrightSource chairman of the board, the president would add “John will be an important part of my economic team, working with the business community, fostering growth, and helping open up new markets abroad to promote jobs and opportunities here at home.”

In an August 12, 2011 piece in the New American by Rebecca Terrell, David Bier of the Competitive Enterprise Institute said of the Commerce nominee, "Bryson helped create a regulatory structure that fixed utilities' profits at a percent of costs. As a result, the utilities make money not by bringing costs down and selling more electricity, but by raising costs with unnecessary, expensive and redundant projects." Bier charged Bryson for helping secure several government bailouts for Southern California Edison during his tenure there that saved the utility from bankruptcy and funded his $65 million retirement package in 2008.

Senator James Inhofe (R–Okla.), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, described Bryson as the "founder of the radical Natural Resources Defense Council, a left-wing environmentalist organization, which in the name of global warming, seeks to increase drastically the price of electricity and gasoline across America.”

While Bryson served as legal counsel for Natural Resources Defense Council during the early 70’s having founded that group with other Yale Law graduates, he has since spent much of his career managing public utilities, a service which consumers often have very little choice in terms of providers. The sad fact of the matter is that Bryson has no substantial experience in the private sector.

At a time in this country when commerce is stymied by a 9.1% unemployment rate and ever-tightening noose of regulatory controls, we need a Commerce Department leader who truly feels the plight of the nation’s private sector, and understands what’s needed to create jobs. Taking federal subsidies to start-up public utility operations, only to watch them fail while outsourcing jobs overseas may be a retirement plan for some, but it’s certainly no business plan for the health and well-being of the greatest nation on earth.

Think about that while the president’s lips are moving on Thursday night.

Monday, February 21, 2011

New York Metropolitan Legislators Vote To Cap & Trade Coastal Fisheries

Last week, President Obama unveiled his FY2012 budget request proposing a new National Catch Share Program calling for approximately $17.4 million in catch share funding to be moved out of Fisheries Research and Management Programs and Cooperative Research. The President's budget defines Catch Share as "a general term for several fishery management strategies that allocate a specific portion of the total allowable fishery catch to individuals, cooperatives, communities, or other entities."

Those entitled to receive Catch Shares are accountable to cease fishing when specific quota is reached, and the President's budget also cites other programs like limited access privilege (LAP), individual fishing quota (IFQ) programs, and exclusive allocative measures such as Territorial Use Rights Fisheries (TURFs) that grant an exclusive privilege to fish in a geographically designated fishing ground. The key word used in defining Catch Shares of course is “privilege” as the entire scheme is dependent on selecting a few “privileged” individuals or entities to control catch and harvest of our coastal fisheries, regardless of commercial or recreational designation.

One conservation group in particular outlined their plan for implementing Catch Shares across both the commercial and recreational sector through use of fish tags, whereby harvest privilege gets assigned to those who possess tags to affix to harvested fish. Regardless of whether or not one chooses to sell their fish or take it home for personal consumption, a fish tag would be required, and according to this particular plan, a capped number of tags would be offered for any particular species, available for purchase through state entities or via public auction.

Those unable to get access to individual tags or unable to afford the bid would be precluded from participating in any particular fishery. Currently as they work in the commercial sector, once a share of the fishery is owned, it’s theirs to keep unless traded or sold at the discretion of the share owner. The Catch Share program in place in some commercial only fisheries today ensures that no new participants may enter a fishery. Imagine the concept being grandfathered in to being allowed to fish!

Fishermen call the Catch Share scheme the privatization of a public resource, though it’s also being referred to as 'social engineering' and coastal sharecropping as well. By design, Catch Shares cap fishing participation and trade ownership of our fish stocks amongst the privileged few. At a time when vital coastal fisheries like fluke, black sea bass, porgy and red snapper are being closed down due to lack of science and data collection, it’s staggering to think that the President would again cut important fisheries research funding from the NOAA Fisheries budget to offload to this restrictive Catch Share program. This is the second FY budget in which President Obama has reallocated millions away from science towards science fiction created by preservationist agenda.

The worst part is that New York legislators are helping ramrod the Catch Share manifesto down the throats of the coastal fishing community. On February 19th in the early morning hours, North Carolina republican Congressman Walter Jones introduced an amendment to the President’s FY2012 budget to prevent funds from being expended by NOAA to enact new limited access fishing programs. The Jones amendment (#548) to H.R. 1 was cosponsored by Rep. Barney Frank (D-Massachusetts) and Rep. Frank Pallone (D-New Jersey), and limits NOAA from being able to spend important research and science funding on developing or approving new limited access privilege programs for any fishery under the jurisdiction of the South Atlantic, Mid-Atlantic, New England or Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Councils. This bipartisan amendment to the budget passed the United States House of Representatives on a recorded vote of 259-159 at 1:43 a.m.

In total, 51 Democrats joined 208 Republicans voting in favor of the Amendment, in support of coastal fishermen. Catch Shares will only cost more American jobs and lead to the outsourcing of our seafood industry to those foreign nations with no concern for quotas or conservation principles as held by American fishermen. This privatization scheme is being sold as a method to end overfishing when all it really does is end open access fishing by placing our nation's marine fisheries into the hands of a select and privileged few. The public does not want catch shares, recreational charter boats do not want catch shares, the majority of commercial fishermen do not want catch shares, and both republicans and democrats within our coastal communities have united in bipartisan form to help stave off this coastal sharecropping scheme to sell off our public resources to the highest bidder.

However, the following New York legislators voted against their coastal constituents, siding with the minority of Congressional representatives who believe that cap and trade is a good policy for coastal fisheries management. Our local fisheries in New York like black sea bass, fluke and porgy are healthy and rebuilding, and no overfishing is taking place on any of these species. Individual anglers and coastal owners of coastal businesses like tackle shops, marinas, party and charter boats and even seashore restaurants which rely on healthy coastal fisheries should take note that the following coastal democrats in New York voted against the Jones Amendment – and a vote against the Jones Amendment is clearly a vote against the fishermen of New York!

If you fish in the Port Washington area along the North Shore of Long Island, Rep. Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-5th Congressional District) voted in favor of privatizing your public resource on Long Island Sound.

If you depend on the party boat industry on City Island in the Bronx, Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-7th Congressional District) wants to cap the number of anglers able to fish the Sound.

Those of you who like to drift for fluke off Coney Island in the summer can thank Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-8th Congressional District) for voting against efforts to protect your right to fish!

Sheepshead Bay fishermen who’ve been in contact with Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-9th Congressional District) for help on fishing limits should know their Congressman supports limited access privilege.

In Manhattan, Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-14th Congressional District) and Rep. Charles Rangel (D-15th Congressional District) both agree that fishing should be restricted to those with privilege.

The fishermen of Port Morris in the Bronx might want to ask Rep. Jose Serrano (D-16th Congressional District) how a public auction of fish tags will be made available in the future.

Hudson River anglers should know that Rep. Eliot Engel (D-17th Congressional District) also believes that access to our fisheries should be capped.

Finally, for charter boat captains out of Port Chester, and Mamaroneck, Rep. Nita Lowey (D-18th Congressional District) believes it’s okay to trade away ownership of fish stocks to the highest bidder.

My Member of Congress, Rep. Weiner, will be receiving his letter in the coming days - I hope it's not the only one!