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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!