Monday, November 30, 2009

For The Rights of All Premieres on Alaska PBS TV Tuesday

For the Rights of All: Ending Jim Crow in Alaska, a film about the struggle for full recognition by Alaska's Native people, will have its statewide Public Television premiere Tuesday. In Anchorage, it will be carried by KAKM TV (Channel 7) at 8:00 p.m.

The film centers upon the lives, during the time of World War II, of Nome resident Alberta Schenk Adams, and Juneau resident Elizabeth Peratrovich, two iconic figures in the ongoing struggles for civil rights in Alaska. It also contains much documentary material about other aspects of what was a very segregated society here in the 1940s and earlier.

Produced by Jeff Silverman, directed by Phil Lucas, written by Diane Benson and narrated by Peter Coyote, the film is dedicated to Alberta Schenk Adams, who passed away midway through production.

Anyone who doubts that the issues covered in the film continue to be relevant need only read Diane Benson's stirring account of her 2001-2002 battle against institutionalized racism at Anchorage's University of Alaska Anchorage. Printed for the first time in Alaska at Progressive Alaska, on Sunday, Standing Up Against the Giant is a poignant account of Benson's 21st century battle against stereotypical treatment of our First People in institutions of higher learning, and in the media.

It is richly ironic that at the same time Diane Benson was undergoing harassment and indignity over the libels of Indian Girls, she was writing the earliest stage version of what became the core, unifying idea of the remarkable film to be aired here Tuesday.

images - Elizabeth Peratrovich; Diane Benson and Alan Hayton as Elizabeth and Roy Peratrovich

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Saradise Found - Chapter 19 - The Crazy Woman's Chief Rival Implicated (indirectly) in Tacoma Mob Hit - Updated

Looks like ex-Governor Mike Huckabee may be dead meat:

As a general matter, I think there are far too few uses of executive clemency, commutation and pardon in our current criminal justice system. But here's a case of one gone awry that may end up having real political ramifications.

You may have heard that four police officers were murdered in what under different circumstances would look like a mob assassination in Washington state coffeehouse this morning.

The man local police are seeking for questioning is Maurice Clemmons, 37, a man with a lifetime history of violence, burglary, aggravated robbery, theft and rape.

Clemmons was serving what was essentially a life sentence in Arkansas before
having his sentence commuted by then-Gov. Mike Huckabee.

"This is the day I've been dreading for a long time," Pulaski County prosecutor Larry Jegley told the Seattle Times when told Clemmons was a suspect in the quadruple murder.

Whatever you might think, say or write about this now, if Clemmons is indicted, the fact that Huckabee pardoned this guy is going to be played by Palin's supporters like the Willie Horton affair on steroids.

Of course, she'll keep her hands off of it.

Update - 8:30 p.m: The CW has now tweeted the following:

While in Washington State today my heart goes out to the WA police officers gunned down so tragically&senslessly. God comfort the families.

C4P has a post up. We'll see how the comments roam...

And, along with Palin, my heart truly does go out to these public safety professionals' families.

Update - 8:40 p.m: from C4P:

Scratch Huck. Now the Evangelicals will be looking for a candidate to unite behind. Could it be Jeb Bush? Tim Pawlenty? Mitt Romney?


That's HIS gameplan and conventional wisdom. He's a Minister. I think Sarah can clean up the Evangelical vote AND the Catholic vote (I'm a Catholic). Even without today's events I think she would have won Evangelicals, but Huck could have made inroads, maybe split off enough of them to throw it to T'Paw or Romney. I doubt it though.


Husckers has his "Willie Hortan" moment (heard that he might not run in 2012)
Romney is polling just below 50%
Sarah is looking good now :)


I posted this at Ace about Huckabee commuting the killer of the 4 cops.

Sanford - Appalachia Argentina
Newt - Scozzafava'ed
Cheney - Bush baggage
Mitt - Romneycare, coward
Huckster - Horton'ed out
Jeb Bush - Bush name
Petraeus - Apparently no interest
Jindal - too young, nerdy, and said he's out
Barbour - old, white, gray-haired Southerner
Crist - oh, please
Huntsman - Obamabot
Gary Johnson - Who?
Pawlenty - He of half a testicle and moderation

Who is left?

Thune - Who? VP? maybe if he behaves
Santorum - ? Be good and you get Veep spot

Who is left?

The Commonsense Conservative who walks the talk, and is fearless.

Palin/? 2012

She'll get 55% of the vote, pull the 2004 states of Bush and pick up Wisconsin.

The only question is her Veep.


If anyone has time, post at Race42012 on latest Huckabee thread. Their attacking Palin, because, obviously this could be significant for her. Some idiot supports Jeb Bush, but he's a pretty nasty Palin hater.


[referring to Huckabee's newly issued press release on the shootings]

And it omits an explanation of why it mentions commutation - what does that have to do with Huck? - it doesn't say.

It seems to try to shift blame without accepting any responsibility, and to say that someone should be tough on the man in the future.

What man? It doesn't say.

Weird and inept.

It reminds me of Ted Kennedy's explanation for the famous event in his life. I was stunned at how poorly he "explained" that. I expected something less inept.

This statement by Huck's team is inept.


PA Arts Sunday - Part Three - Standing Up Against the Giant

--- by Diane E. Benson

[This article first appeared in the American Indian Quarterly's Winter/Spring 2003 edition, published by the University of Nebraska Press. This is the first time the article has been made available to the general Alaska public. It is reprinted here with full consent of the author, as a response to inaccuracies and omissions from an article that appeared in the Saturday edition of the Alaska Dispatch, titled Censored on Campus?. Some formatting changes and HTML link additions have been made by PA]

Standing Up Against the Giant

The Anchorage Daily News' top three headlines on the front page on December 12, 2000, read "High Court Ruling Awaited" (regarding the Florida recount in Bush vs. Gore), followed by "Top School Post Goes to Comeau," and, finally, centered lower on the page, in equally large font, "Student Attacks Professor's Poem." The subtitle read, "'Indian Girls' described as racist, insulting." Two primary photos on the front page garnered attention, the larger being that of Elvis impersonators shoveling snow for a hockey game promotion. The other photo was the beleaguered look of a challenged local university professor postured amongst her books.

Somehow, what seemed like a rather normal school semester and typical enough poetry class ended with a tidal wave of divisive controversy and inflamed a community already teetering from volatile race relations. I was central to the controversy. I was the student.

We Tlingits have a story about the Cannibal Giant who at one time preyed on the people when they were weakened. The Cannibal Giant was once a woman but through evil became a monster. Even when she was seemingly destroyed by fire, the flame transformed her carnivorous essence from cannibal to mosquito, and thus she continues to plague the people to this day. Some say it is a metaphor for those things that would devour our sanity or our spirit. A University of Alaska classroom became another breeding ground of racial tension, an ostensible haven to a literary cannibal that feeds on the weakness of racial hatred. Like the young hunter, upon shoving the cannibal into the fire in an attempt to save the people, I watched with dismay the spread of stirring lies--the mosquitoes we must swat in futile swings of reason.

I had the audacity to defend my tribal clan through e-mail by directing the attention of family and friends to a published poem I found particularly insulting if not libelous. Much to my surprise, a reporter from the Anchorage Daily News (ADN) contacted me two days after I sent the email. Therein began the very public battle I would have for a year with the University of Alaska-Anchorage (UAA) and with my Department of Creative Writing and Literary Arts (CWLA) poetry professor. The entire experience would cause me to postpone my long sought after master of fine arts (MFA) degree and the complete and painful alienation from my classmates. In addition would follow a public protest on campus; grade retaliation (prompting further disputes); a flurry of newspaper articles, endless letters to the editor, online hate mail, and threats; spurious charges by national, extreme right-wing, anti-multicultural media; a futile human rights grievance; and, ultimately, not only a complete change of my thesis committee but an agonizing self-evaluation and question of self-worth.

I shall detail some highlights of the experience and comment about its impact and what I learned from it. As I wrote at the end of my MFA thesis, entitled "Witness to the Stolen":

For many of us artists, art is not for art's sake. I have learned instead that I must be a thoughtful and responsible writer always speaking to truth to create my art. I have learned in spite of institutional adversity and all that took place in my apprenticeship and, due to the support of my own people, I am a better poet and better human being for it. My responsibility, as a writer, as a poet, as a human being, is to find the speech that will speak the truth and will uplift a nation. My nation. To write for any other reason is, for me, an empty choice.

It is in this spirit that I tell this story now.


The setting of the "Indian Girls" drama was primarily the university, where the visibility of Native life at the UAA College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) is conspicuously minimal, discounting the cursory annual Native cultural and diversity celebration allowed once a year on campus. Although many Native students quietly attend the university, the lack of Native students in the fine arts, the lack of Native professors, and the absence of Native-influenced architecture, including any permanent Native art displays, are indicators of the embodiment of inequalities in UAA academia.

The university does not reflect the reality of the demographics. Alaska Natives, the largest minority group, conservatively make up 16 percent of the state's population. While serving on the Alaska Native Student Services Advisory Committee, I learned that Natives make up less than 5 percent of the total workforce employed at the university, and this has been the case for thirty years. When the controversy broke in December 2000, only two Alaska Natives were staff professors, and neither of these well-educated professors had made tenure. Women, on the other hand, jumped from a handful of professors in the early 1980s to making up the majority of those employed in full-time positions at the university. Not surprisingly, only one of these women was Alaska Native. It is dumbfounding to consider the effort it must take to exclude a Native population with a high number of master and doctorate graduates applying to teach each year. It is incomprehensible why such disparities exist in a state where successful Native-corporation contributions, and other monies earmarked for Native education and research, heavily supplement the university's economic foundation.

Probably the most insidious and immeasurable evidence of inequity is the level of fear harbored by all students and staff alike and the unspoken but clear messages that deter them from complaining. For example, the university clearly will not tolerate sexual harassment, and every catalogue specifies how to file any complaint of discrimination, based on gender or disability, to the Affirmative Action Office on campus. When I called for help, however, I was passed from office to office only to learn that no defined procedure for grievances involving racism complaints existed. Furthermore, the Office of Civil Rights contact address provided in the UAA fall 2000 catalogue was old and incorrect. The listed Seattle office address changed eleven years ago! Apparently, Native students and other students of color were not only expected to remain invisible, but their complaints of racism were to remain silent and unheard.

There were other factors contributing to my own sense of alienation that I tried to ignore, as I merely wanted to get my degree. In the years with CWLA, I was never encouraged to submit to anything but Native American publications, such as the "special" Native writers edition of the Alaska Quarterly Review (Spatz, Partnow, and Breinig 1999). (I must add, this is a wonderful text.) I was discouraged outright by one professor from submitting to non-Native publications, and as with another Native student in the CWtA poetry program, from applying for a teaching assistantship. This unexplained treatment was dispiriting. The other Native student switched programs, and like my pursuit of a bachelor of arts degree in theatre, I became the only Indigenous person in my classrooms throughout my creative writing apprenticeship.

Unlike my MFA program, the university's theatre department did not limit me to Native projects, a good thing since there generally were not any. While pursuing my bachelor of arts degree, I was, for the most part, provided the same opportunities as the other theatre students, with only occasional references to my race, that is, being called "Pocahontas" by a professor, being told to lose the "accent," and often considered "too exotic" for some acting roles.

Nevertheless, without overly compromising my own identity, I enjoyed the intense discipline of the field and the expectation of excellence. As a result, I developed a confidence and style evident in my many years of diverse theatre employment--having been hired by Native and non-Native theatres alike as an actor, playwright, director, and educator. I prefer to work with Native theatre; I am not limited to Native theatre. Therein is the fundamental difference between my theatre apprenticeship experience and my MFA apprenticeship.


The CWLA 690 Form and Theory graduate poetry workshop in the fall of 2000 contained fifteen students, all, with the exception of myself, easily identified as white. Two were attorneys, over half were women, and probably four were actual MFA poetry majors. A few students came from other states, and the rest were Alaska residents. A seemingly polite class, we were expected to share opinions and analysis of the work studied, and that is what we did.

The course was entitled "'Left Out': Four 20th Century Poets." The poets were Thomas McGrath, Eavan Boland, Jimmy Santiago Baca, and Edna St. Vincent Millay (their works include Baca 1977, 1986, 1992, 1999, 2001; Boland 1995; and DesPres and DesPres 1992). "Left" implied that these poets leaned politically "left" or were otherwise separated from the mainstream and as a result of their boldness were somehow denied their just dues. I enjoyed all the poets, and the works of Jimmy Santiago Baca particularly resonated with me. Besides taking regular quizzes and doing one oral presentation, we were to write "response papers" about each poet. I received As on all papers. When I wrote my initial response on Baca, however, something I had chosen to write to Baca directly, my paper was rejected. The note written on the ungraded paper read:

Diane, I'm sure you realize that although you have every right to write to this or any other poet, this letter misrepresents my work and my current CWLA 690 class. I find it offensive. I think other students would as well, and perhaps should be asked. Do you expect to make me put a grade on this? It seems to me that you used my obligation to this assignment not to do the work but to disrespect me.

I was stunned. What had I done? Baca's poems had torn away scabs of horrible past wounds, and I was confronted with my own demons--demons that dared me to recall a horrific rape and pursuit by a gunned white man in my youth. I had chosen to write to Baca in daring truth about it. I knew he would hear the words I dared not speak. It seemed fitting. The response papers had no set criteria, and others' response papers had demonstrated such. So I told Baca in an eight-page paper about how his work provoked me, about how I needed to write, and about how I could relate to some of his terrible experiences and his subsequent growth in spite of them. But it was a tiny section of the paper that seemed likely to have set the fire:

I am to write a paper, a "response" paper as we do on each of the four poets. But in this case, I could not write. I could put nothing to paper. For a week tears instead of words came. I tried to pull myself up by my mature and controlled academic fingers out of this darkness but to no avail. Part of this comes from an overload of sitting in an all "Anglo" classroom at an institution that has a shameful record of alienating Alaska Native students. Part of this is painfully finding myself a hard fought for voice become curiously voiceless, and listening mute as an alien in my own land to ethnocentric opinions of others who would assume to know your intent. In class "discussions" of glass ceiling notions of economic class, of writing from poverty, of "prison writings" lascivious peeks at your work through feminist lens', questions of whether you are "self-realized" or "matured" and other such terms that seem to me blank and empty words.

I continued this outpouring of torment and frustration:

No matter how I try to fight it, this poetry class eats at my Poetic insides latching on to my senses like poisonous jellyfish burning my skin. The only way to get away is to get out of the water.

If it wasn't for reading your writing, your most passionate embrace of life, survival and community, I would succumb to the weight of these humped over shoulders labored by grief and inadequacy. Your words bring my head up. I know in the deepest dark of my heart I am a poet.

These words, instead of being discussed productively in class, were used to foster dissention. This was particularly unfortunate since after an in-class discussion of a classmate's paper about race (a subject that reading Baca easily incites), I had apologized to the class ifI had offended them in any way and expressed my enthusiasm for openness. Writers face truth, I figured. I was ready for it. I was seeing an opportunity from this as a pathway to a meaningful dialogue. The professor saw and chose another path.

The last three weeks of the semester became unbearable--the professor focusing more and more on issues of "identity politics" (as she called it) and race and Marxism theory rather than poetics. Body language, rolling eyes, and ignored questions made it clear to me and the one student who attempted to speak up for me that we were outsiders. We had crossed a line.

Treatment in the classroom became a subject of contention when the article broke in the Anchorage Daily News. Fellow students claimed that tensions had been brewing between the professor and me. This was true but not something easily situated. I was as baffled as they were as to why. Maybe they had a better idea about it. I cannot help but wonder about the students - what it would have been to be a white student in that classroom, or worse, a student with a little blood of color and unidentified as such. Why could they say nothing in class? Why could they (let alone the professor) not confront me, speak to me themselves about their thoughts or their concerns? What was it with them? Did fear rule the day? Did fear of one's grade, one's status, one's future, one's income, one's social pressure, one's own demons, or one's prejudice, perhaps, play a part? How could seemingly friendly colleagues turn in unison, like a pack of wolves spotting prey, on a fellow classmate? I think fear came to play a part in its shape-changing ways, and, after all, how could it not? Look what happened to me for speaking up about a poem.


As a published poet and speaker, I do readings and public speaking from time to time and usually open with a distinct introduction in Tlingit and English:

Lxeis' yu xat duwasa'akw.
Lxeis' is my [Tlingit] name.
Diane E. Benson yu xat duwasa'akw.
Diane E. Benson is my name. Yell Naax xat sitee.
I am from Raven people. T'akdeintaan iya xat.
I am T'akdeintaan (Sea Tern clan) Ax hiddi Tax' Hit.
I come from the Snail House.

I come from the Snail House. My Tlingit name comes from Hoonah. Xunah Kwaan means "Tribe of People from the Direction of the Northwind." It is from this place that the Tax' Hit, Snail House, originates. There are not that many of us who come from this house. The Snail crest for Tlingits is much like a clan crest is to the Fraziers or the McQueens of Scotland. It is not only part of one's identity; it is also the dan's intellectual property. There are over two hundred house crests under the Tlingit Raven or Eagle moiety. Many Tlingits do not even know of the Snail House.

It is amazing that the author of "Indian Girls" a self-identified Irish descendent raised in Lynn, Massachusetts, and a recent immigrant to Alaska, chose this specific house crest out of all the house crests to speak about chiefs molesting the young. It is indeed remarkable that she did not discuss her choice of crest with the only Native student in the poetry program--a Tlingit who came from the Tax' Hit, the Snail House.

The use of my tribal house crest was my initial and personal complaint about the poem. It was on December 5, one week away from the last class for the semester and seven days before the front-page story ran, that I was shown the poem "Indian Girls" published in the winter 2000 issue of Ice-Floe, a publication founded by a former classmate, Shannon Gramse. The poem speaks of Native "girls" fleeing Native villages to get away to the city, away from the sexual abuse of their villages only to "swagger out of the / Avenue Bar at midnight with / some tonight's Honey?'

It describes Native women as wearing:

cowboy boots worn to
the cardboard heels
and their hair wants

The second stanza named my clan:

Many clans, tribes
the Snail, the Raven
many complexions, the thick
black hair. They learn
they are not my sisters.

I read the poem and thought of my clan sisters beautiful, dignified.

And I cried.

The Snail House mentioned in the poem, the suggestions that Native chiefs molest and that Native girls are mere victims, all prompted angry letters to the university leadership from my family and others, who felt directly insulted. My oldest brother's wife wrote a letter to the university emphatically stating, "My husband is no molester!"

One of my normally quiet brothers was so hurt by the words of the poem that he wrote the Anchorage Daily News on December 15, 2000, conveying the love, dignity, and decency of the men in our family in contrast to the "slanderous poem" adding, "I resent 'Indian Girls' not so much because it maligns my Tlingit forefathers but because McCarriston is using my 'sisters' as a vehicle to launch a fresh war on men."

James Brouillette, a member of the Thunderbird Clan and an officer in the Alaska Native Brotherhood and University of Alaska graduate, wrote that the university had "failed" and that he questioned the value of sending a Native student there, saying “I, at this time, would have a real hard time doing so, just because of this one issue."

The Chickaloon village chief showed up at the protest at the university to make it clear to the press that "[chiefs] are not molesters." He has since gone on to publicly promote positive images of tribal men. At a 2001 Alaska Native Brotherhood and Sisterhood Presidents Meeting in Kake, Alaska, distinguished Tlingit women leaders personally felt the insult and literally cried when they read the poem.

The reality of the social climate in which this poem appeared deserves mention.

As a Native community, we were reeling with grief over the fifth (unsolved) murder of a Native woman in the area when the poem hit the bookstands. Furthermore, our town managed to catch national television attention during the controversy due to white boys from the high school in my neighborhood videotaping themselves while randomly attacking Natives on the street by shooting them with a paintball gun. Tensions were understandably high since the only one who went to jail in the ensuing months was one of the paintball victims! The city was in a panic, and the mayor's office organized a statewide, televised panel discussion on racism. The police chief, myself, School Superintendent Comeau, and other public figures served as panelists. After the televised forum the attendee's found the parking lot littered with flyers. I pulled one off my car that read, amongst other things, "no multi-racial society is a healthy society." This was courtesy of a prominent hate group in America.

"Indian Girls" exploits the victimization of Indian women and positions Indian women as merely victims of their own nations. Furthermore, the poem draws focus to the Native villages as breeding grounds for sexual abuse rather than speaking to the epidemically high incidents of violence against Native women and men in urban areas. Unlike the victims in the poem, I did not escape to town from the village to get away from sexual abuse. In my life experience, I was abused when I came to the city, not the other way around. Like so many of my generation, I was abused when I was taken from my family and placed in unmonitored foster care. This is not to say there is not a problem with sexual abuse in rural Alaska. There is. But sexual abuse in Alaskan tribes is not "preserved as the oldest charter."

Oyate, a Native American literary organization evaluating education materials out of Berkeley, California, pointedly identified the racism they saw in "Indian Girls." In a three-page letter submitted February 15, to the university's chancellor, the College of Arts and Sciences dean, Native Student Services, and even to Northern Light (the UAA student newspaper) they wrote:

This poem is outrageous, revolting, scandalous, insulting and racist, and it was irresponsible for Ice-Floe to publish it. Had professor McCarriston written a poem called "Irish Girls," used her own name instead of Snail House and Raven Clan, and portrayed Irish women-as a group--as dirty, submissive, helpless victims of a sexual abuse that is traditional in Irish families, we doubt that this poem would ever have seen the light of day. This is not, as [the professor] maintains, an issue of free speech. It is an issue of unreconstituted racism.

Northern Light shared none of the comments from Oyate in the newspaper, however, even though it published lengthy articles about the poem, and the protesting, "drum-beating" Natives produced a full spread about the founder of the journal in which the poem appeared, and wrote hearsay and other classmates' feelings about my so-called disruptive classroom behavior. I was not interviewed. Their primary focus was whether the professor had the right to write the poem.


Perhaps to the dismay of the educational institution, I was not willing to be an Indian girl silenced by a poem or by a classroom. This yearlong experience with protecting myself from ridicule for speaking up for myself as a living Native woman, not willing to be objectified even by my professors, has been revealing. Native women speaking against "Indian Girls" never got to enter the debate about ideas or even free speech because neither the author of the poem, nor the university, nor the media, pursued honest dialogue with them. One would be hard pressed to find in the many published articles on the issue where the media allowed me to present my side of the story, for example. This treatment led me to conclude that true free speech is in jeopardy, if my experience is any indication, and that "academic freedom" is too often a buzz phrase meaning freedom for ladder-climbing bigots only.

The pandering to white paranoia that took place by my opponents in this issue about the haves and the have-nots, the distribution of goods in America--the fear that Natives, due to corporations or bingo, might have more--is at the least unsettling, and truly destructive. Racism, I believe, is not only an act of power but also an act of fear. Much of the bantering that took place over the poem was about fear over who had more.

Disturbing as it was, the literary academic community and the good people of the community were complacent and silent about the continual outcry. The more vocal easily dismissed the literary malpractice as Natives being oversensitive to hard "truths" I was appalled by not only my professor's carelessness but also the personal violations, the lack of ethics, and the invasion of privacy. This trusted mentor even used confidences I shared with her to flesh out her poem.

I agonized over the troubling sociopolitical implications involving abuse of knowledge and power within the assumed safety of the creative writing apprenticeship. In the end, a vicious and lengthy university administrative hearing, supposedly to settle my grade dispute complaint (the only grievance that could be filed), only spurred more character scrutiny and made-for-television drama. There were no cameras, however, and unlike the professor, I had no lawyer and was allowed no witnesses outside of fellow students. Students, with their own grades on the line, begrudgingly provided meager testimony to the "discomfort" I supposedly caused them in the classroom. It was this subjective qualification of class participation that dictated for the committee a finding in the professor's favor. Eleven hours worth of testimony by witnesses selected by the professor and her heavily armed counsel (including a high-profile constitutional rights lawyer and a union representative) resulted in this important finding. I was a "disruptive" student.

These things all contributed to my rationale for filing a complaint with the rather impotent federal Office of Civil Rights. They could make no findings of racism.

Meanwhile the local media, in tune with the university, did not find value in extending me the same opportunity provided the professor to present a full "opinion" in the Anchorage Daily News. Later, I was featured in a Life Section special on the condition that I not discuss the controversy. You take what you can get sometimes. It is not unusual, however, for Natives to be excluded from the discussion if not the literary canon. Greg Young-Ing, a Canadian Cree and manager of one of the few Native publishing companies in the world, Theytus Books, relevantly explains the dichotomy:

In some regards, this has been more damaging than marginalization in other sectors because it has been the effect of silencing the Aboriginal Voice paving the way for a rash of non-Aboriginal writers to profit from the creation of a body of literature focusing on Aboriginal peoples that is based on ethnocentric, racist and largely incorrect presumptions. This has led to a situation where incorrect images, ridiculous stereotypes and highly problematic academic paradigms have created perceptions of Aboriginal peoples that are entirely based outside any reality or truth. (Armstrong 1993, 181)

In my experience with the university system, I have come to see that the onus is on us, the Other, to reform. It is expected that we shall change our language, our thinking, and our behavior to suit the mainstream, to suit the classroom. It seems it is never on the academy, the faculty, the institution, or colonial Euroamerica in general to learn about other cultures, beliefs, or ideas in order to change. Even so, I would stand up again, and again, in the face of such giants who would trample on the dignity of a people. My most important lesson was finding that when speaking for greater good, we do not stand alone.

A letter from the Alaska Native Sisterhood, Camp 87, dated May 21, 2001, stated:

We of the Alaska Native Sisterhood Camp 87 are writing this letter in unanimous support of a fellow sister, Diane E. Benson member of Camp 87 Anchorage, and former member of Camp 4 Sitka. We would like it to be known that we are stating this support to dispute the claim that Benson "is not supported by her own people."

We hereby publicly, spiritually and politically support Diane E. Benson ... and support Benson's effort to protect her civil rights. No person should be denied equal, fair and just treatment or subjected to harassment, retaliation, or accusation for speaking their truth. We write this in the spirit of our history as ANS and ANB fighting for dignity and equality for Tlingits and all Native people.

Furthermore, we support and share in Diane E. Benson's concerns regarding the insult to the Snail House and the harmful misrepresentations of Native people through the poem, "Indian Girls" by Professor McCarriston. As we strongly defend the rights under the Constitution of the United States of America, we do not advocate censorship of the poem, or censorship in any form but neither do we support harmful ignorance and intolerance.

I believe, no matter how difficult, we must speak to the truth of experience, as truth is a fundamental clement of writing and of intellectual growth. Furthermore, if any group of people is effectively driven out of the classroom or any room and separated due to hate, intolerance, or objectification, we are eroding voice and thereby eroding the genres of literature and the foundations of society and national history that rely on the stories of truth and experience. We all lose.


Armstrong, Jeannette, ed. 1993. Looking at the Words of Our People: First Nations Analysis of Literature. Penticton BC: Theytus Books.
Baca, Jimmy Santiago. 1977. Immigrants in Our Own Land & Selected Early Poems. 5th ed. New York: New Directions.
--. 1986. Martin & Meditations on the South Valley. 8th ed. New York: New Directions.
--. 1992. Working in the Dark: Reflections of a Poet of the Barrio. Santa Fe: Red Crane Books.
--. 1999. Set This Book on Fire! Mena AR: Cedar Hill Publications.
--. 2001. A Place to Stand. New York: Grove Press.
Boland, Eavan. 1995. Object Lessons: The Life of the Woman and the Poet in Our Time. New York: W.W. Norton and Company.
DesPres, Reginald Gibbons, and Terence DesPres, eds. 1992. Thomas McGrath: Life and the Poems. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.
Spatz, Ron, Patricia Partnow, and Jeane Breinig, ed. 1999. Alaska Quarterly Review: Alaska Native Writers, Storytellers and Orators. Anchorage: University of Alaska.
COPYRIGHT 2003 University of Nebraska Press

PA Arts Sunday - Part Two - On "Censored on Campus?"

(Alaska Pacific University president Doug North's contribution to art)

Alaska Dispatch writer Maia Nolan has posted what may be the most estimable article in years on the reactions of two Alaska universities to the tests that come from provocative art productions. In the article, Nolan gives a fairly complete list of productions since 1992 that underwent some degree or another of criticism, hassle or censorship. In a sidebar alongside the article, Nolan lists:

Campus art controversies

Tony Hamilton, UAA student
Sculpture of a Ku Klux Klansman removed following an angry showdown between the artist, his professor and a group of African-American students and staff, some of whom threatened to remove the sculpture on their own if the university didn't. Professor Ken Gray removed eight other students' work at the same time, arguing that no one artwork should be singled out.

Rene Dolan Haag, APU
After receiving complaints about the content of three graphic photographs in an exhibition by Haag, APU trustees decided three photos would be removed on days when ACT's production of "Alice in Wonderland" was performed. Haag responded to the decision (which she called censorship) by removing the show entirely.

Matthew Chmielarczyk, APU
Photo removed from exhibition after APU received complaints from parents attending a violin recital. Five months later, "Untitled #1," which featured a female figure wrapped up like a piece of meat, received an honorable mention in "Rarefied Light," a juried art show at the Anchorage Museum.

Art students, UAA
Poster board used to cover gallery windows in the UAA Student Center following complaints about student art; acting student activities coordinator Cricket Watt said the center had a longstanding policy of "shielding potentially offensive art from general traffic" (Anchorage Daily News). The UAA Student Center also houses a day care center. Student artists posted a statement that read, in part, "Censorship is broader than the act of banning."

Linda McCarriston, UAA
McCarriston accused of racism by a graduate student after the publication of her poem "Indian Girls." After the student's complaints were referred to administrators, university president Mark Hamilton issued a statement supporting the University of Alaska's commitment to free speech.

Art students, UAA
Nude sketches covered at UAA's fine arts building during a middle school solo and ensemble festival; faculty said it was to protect the art, but students called it censorship.

Anson Tsang, UAA student
A phallic sculpture was damaged (and subsequently removed) when it was moved and covered up by parents of children using the fine arts building.

Philip Munger, UAA
Composer canceled the premiere of his cantata "The Skies Are Weeping" after student musicians were threatened. The work memorialized International Solidarity Movement member Rachel Corrie, who was killed by an Israeli Defense Forces bulldozer in 2003 as she protested the demolition of a house in the Gaza Strip. News of its proposed performance was met with fierce opposition from a local Orthodox Jewish rabbi.

Mariano Gonzales, APU
University administrators decided to move the installation because of profanity in public comments. Artist chose to remove the installation rather than relocate it to a venue he felt was inappropriate.

That's pretty comprehensive, but not entirely accurate. I can't write on behalf of the unnamed art students, Tony Hamilton, Rene Dolan Haag, Matthew Chmielarczyk or Linda McCarriston. Mariano Gonzales was interviewed for the article.

One of the two most glaring shortcomings of the article, though, was its one-sided and prejudicial coverage of the dispute between a UAA faculty artist and a student who was also an artist, in the McCarriston dispute with Diane Benson over what Benson regarded as libelous content in McCarriston's poem "Indian Girls." Progressive Alaska will be posting Diane Benson's article, Standing Up Against the Giant, later today. It will be the first time the article, originally written in 2003 for the American Indian Quarterly, in 2003, will have been published locally.

I responded to the inaccuracies involving my 2004 experience at UAA in a comment appended to Nolan's article. Before printing that here, I should note that I didn't feel slighted by Nolan's Dispatch article. Additionally, Nolan, like every other reviewer of my music in the Anchorage press over the years (with the sole exception of Len Frazier, who rarely had a kind word for any local artist), has been very fulsome in praise for my musical work in her reviews, and even when she was not positive about some aspects, I've been in total agreement with her views.

Here's my Alaska Dispatch comment:

Posted By: Philip Munger @ 11.27.2009 12:52 PM
Maia Nolan's estimable article here is flawed by a few inaccuracies, one of which involves my relationship with UAA at the time of the withdrawal of "The Skies are Weeping" from possible performance there on April 8th, 2004.

1) Although I had deep concern for the safety of student performers already rehearsing parts of the work, none had been directly threatened, as their names hadn't yet been published or circulated. One of the threats I received by email was that should I go through with the performance, the student performers' names would end up on the DOHS "no-fly" list. There were other email and phone threats I received that implied a danger to the students.

The only people who had received direct threats at the time of cancellation were the proposed soprano soloist and me. I don't believe I've ever indicated otherwise.

2) Regarding my friend Steve Haycox's view that "[Haycox] thinks the university should have more vigorously defended composer and adjunct faculty member Philip Munger in 2004, when Munger canceled the scheduled premiere of his controversial cantata "The Skies Are Weeping" after student musicians received threats," Maia Nolan might have served this article better had she bothered to get my own viewpoint on this important subject.

The decision to cancel the UAA performance was solely mine. My supervisor and the staff of the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences were very supportive, and tried to talk me out of canceling. I have never suffered any workplace retaliation for having written the work, which, though performed in the UK, has yet to receive an American rendition.

3) I have dealt with or spoken with just about every person mentioned in this article, except APU president Doug North: I dedicated my 1993 work, "Shadows" to Rick Steiner, and have written more articles about his current situation than perhaps anyone else; Linda McCarriston wrote one of the lyrics for "The Skies are Weeping," which was initially dedicated to Gen. Hamilton; I performed "Shards" at the opening and closing of Mariano Gonazales' APU exhibit; and I have spent almost 1,000 hours volunteering for Diane Benson between 2006 and 2008, writing dozens of articles about Benson as civil rights pioneer, public figure and artist along the way.

Why Nolan chose to interview neither Diane Benson nor me for this article is a bit bizarre, to say the least.

PA Arts Sunday - Part One -- Steve Covers the Upcoming AIFF

Steve at What Do I Know? has been writing about the upcoming Anchorage International Film Festival, in a series of nine articles - so far. In some of them he either links to or embeds important material about the presentations at the festival. His articles give the films and their categories a lot of context.

I meant to mention Steve's AIFF coverage at PA yesterday, in the Alaska progressive blog roundup, because some of the films at the festival are about science areas important to Alaska.

Steve covered the important movies, A Sea Change and Tapped, on Wednesday. Here are the trailers for both films:

Sea Change


Steve has posted the schedules for all the films he has covered. The combination of elements presented in Steve's essays are a great example of what a serious web page can bring to the table when it comes to informing people about important upcoming events.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Saradise Lost - Book 4 - Chapter 19 -- Curse the Liberal MSM!

That's not her. This is:

Or maybe this:

Or this:

Or this:

Saturday Alaska Progressive Blog Roundup - Science vs. Faith

"Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge: it is those who know little, and not those who know much, who so positively assert that this or that problem will never be solved by science." --- Charles Darwin, from the introduction to The Descent of Man.

Max Blumenthal, in a New York Times editorial that came out at the same time as his recent book, Republican Gomorrah, noted that President Eisenhower wrote:

[D]ictatorial systems make one contribution to their people which leads them to tend to support such systems — freedom from the necessity of informing themselves and making up their own minds concerning these tremendous complex and difficult questions.

I. The far right, nationwide and in Alaska, are pushing for ballot initiatives that seek to declare single-cell embryos people, with all the same legal rights that you and I have:

The ballot measure [initiative sponsor Christopher Kurka] sponsored seeks to put in law that "all human beings, from the beginning of their biological development as human organisms, including the single-cell embryo ... shall be recognized as legal persons in the state of Alaska."

What this guy wants may be one thing, but if this idiotic initiative becomes law, anytime somebody suspects a woman's miscarriage was intentional, that woman faces a government investigation, perhaps indictment, trial, incarceration and execution (remember - these same whackjobs want to re-institute capital punishment in Alaska). In other words, a huge growth in the power of government in peoples' lives:

Attorney General Dan Sullivan did suggest the petition include a disclaimer: that it "would not amend or repeal existing state law regulating abortion, but could impact some areas of the law, including criminal law, to extend rights and protections prior to birth." Campbell added that wording and certified the measure so sponsors can go to get the signatures needed to get on the ballot.

Kurka has a different view than the attorney general. He said if his initiative passes and Alaska recognizes the unborn as "persons," they would be entitled to the same legal protection from crime as anyone else. So abortion would be considered murder, or at least manslaughter, he said. Kurka said he'd likely go to legislators if the initiative passes and ask them to change penal codes to reflect it.

The ACLU is going to try to stop this bizarre initiative in its tracks. These bible-based initiatives often use aspects of science to advance what is basically an anti-science agenda. This is just one of the most recent and egregious examples.

Gryph at The Immoral Minority covered this Saturday morning:

Here we go again. This 22 year old kid, Christopher Kurka (A Mike Huckabee supporter in the last election), is introducing an initiative that will inflame the passions of the church going sheeple who receive their information about reproduction from the pulpit instead of the science book. And they will of course turn out en masse to defend the rights of a potentially Christian microorganism.

The idea of a single cell being considered a human being would be laughable if it were not so potentially destructive to the rights of women. Look EVERY SINGLE CELL IN YOUR BODY is a potential human being.

Tetraploid blastocysts are produced by jamming mouse zygotes together so that they join to create cells that have twice the DNA of normal cells. The pre-implantation embryos composed of tetraploid cells and iPSCs can develop to term after being transferred into the womb of a surrogate mother. In other words, mouse skin cells can be transformed into mouse embryos. There is no reason to believe that this would not also work for human skin cells.

This development has prompted a biologist and a bioethicist to take on the argument that the "natural potentiality" of human embryos to develop themselves means that they must be accorded the full moral respect we give to adult human beings.

In other words, with a little manipulation it is possible that a skin cell, scraped off of your forearm, could potentially be an exact duplicate of you. A loving thinking human being, unrecognizable, in a room full of people, as being different in any way.

So would skin cells be afforded the same protection under this initiative? I highly doubt it as these people are not much for scientific quandaries. They can only entertain emotionally charged, intellectually starved arguments that inflame the passions of those who choose to belief over the opportunity to think.

Many have observed nationwide what the people behind this movement will make inevitable - should these initiatives lead to new laws - every woman's body becoming the property of the state. And they won't be happy until that "state" is a Christian one - their version of "Christian."

II. This week's Moore Up North (airing today at 4:00 p.m. Alaska time on KYES Channel 5 Anchorage) with Shannyn Moore will feature a panel discussing science and education. The panel is composed of Ethan Berkowitz, who studied science at Harvard and Cambridge Universities; Steve Heimel, who has done some of Alaska's most outstanding science reporting for decades; and University of Alaska science professor, Rick Steiner, who failed to politicize his science in the approved direction - toward rampant mineral development.PA covered the taping of Moore's show earlier in the week, and The Mudflats covered it yesterday.

III. Yesterday, PA reprinted an article written last winter by Jim Lovgren, called The Best Available Science - or Politics? Each week, the progressive Alaskan blogosphere runs at least a couple of excellent articles questioning the paradigms of over-fishing, resource depletion, climate change and the role of science in education and our daily Alaska lives:

Tholepin: Trawler Greed Destroys Halibut Stocks, Robs Other Gear Types Permanently

The Ester Republic
: cheesy question

No Trawl Zone
: NOAA Releases Draft (Unbelievable) Pollock Stock Assessment

Alaskan Librarian: Film Review: A Crude Awakening The Oil Crash

The Mudflats: Coal and Cook Inlet

additionally, The Alaska Report carried Stephen Taufen's excellent article, Alaska Fishery CDQ Group Suffers as Tightly-Closed Fraternity

image - Moore Up North science panelists by AKM

Friday, November 27, 2009

Fish For Friday - The Best Available Science - or Politics?

--- by Jim Lovgren

[This article was written back in January, and forwarded to me by John Enge. It is being reprinted here now because as the White House Oceans Task Force comes closer to completion of their final report, questions continue to arise on the ability of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration to truly separate science from politics.

[I'm not in agreement with all of John Enge's assertions in the article, but much of what he says is quite viable, based on years of practical experience.]

Much has been made of the Bush administration’s disdain for science, especially in cases where environmental concerns could have an effect on a wealthy campaign contributing corporation’s bottom line. From the butchering of the EPA’s report on global warming, to the interior department’s political interference on endangered species rulings, the Bush administration has shown an almost total disdain for the environment and the creatures that inhabit it, with one glaring exception, the Ocean.

The administration has bent over backwards to curry favor to a well-financed group of ocean advocates, primarily funded by the PEW Charitable Trusts. The National Marine Fishery Service [NMFS], has conducted its own campaign of politically motivated advocacy science, except in this rare instance the administration has seemingly been trying to protect the environment.

So, lets look a little closer at what’s been going on behind closed doors. First thing to realize is that for the last 8 years “Big Oil” has occupied our White house, and that they will do anything to advance their “obscene profits” agenda. No science is safe, since through the machinations of multi-national corporations, and their controls of virtually all forms of media, Global warming can be dismissed as a slight annoyance. Politically, wars can be justified by false accusations of weapons of mass destruction and not the oil reserves that were the real prize. In the case of U.S. fisheries, it appears that the Administration has attempted to atone for their gross contempt of terrestrial ecosystem concerns by placating the environmental industry by saving the oceans. In reality they are just reducing the monetary liabilities of the oil companies by putting the fishing industry out of business.

If you were the leaders of a multi national oil company that wanted to drill on the US East coast, how would you do it? Obviously you would have to remove the impediments to drilling, the fishermen, and the environmentalists.

First, you need to establish a seemingly unbiased funding mechanism to promote your goals. That’s where the PEW charitable trusts come in, a multi billion dollar non-profit, with a seemingly spotless reputation, that was established by Joseph Pew. Coincidentally, Joseph Pew was the founder of Sun oil company, and that is where all the foundation money came from.

PEW claims that they have no connection to big oil anymore, they are just a public policy advocacy group. They don’t mention that half the Board of Directors are Pew family members, and you can bet their investment portfolio is heavily invested in oil stocks. To say that the PEW foundation has no relation to big oil is like saying the Swift boat veterans group were not funded by Republicans.

Using an octopus array of splinter groups to disguise the true source of the funding, Big oil has funded Swift boat attacks by a myriad of ethically challenged “environmental groups”, [ who were only to glad to grab the money], to target overfishing, using PEW funded advocacy scientists who will say anything for a dollar. They also pay a very efficient publicity firm to spread the “news” to the media.

Next, to add some real punch to the plan create an Ocean advocacy group and engage a diverse group of mostly uninformed “experts”, and write an all-encompassing paper describing the global threats to the ocean ecosystem, but conveniently relegate the disastrous effects of oil drilling and spills, to a tiny afterthought, despite thousands of pages of otherwise excellent material.

But if you really want to put fishermen out of business, use the government to do it.

The National Marine Fisheries Service is located in the outhouse on the hill behind the Commerce Department building. They will march to whatever orders come from headquarters. Since the Bush Commerce Department was dominated by multi-national industry concerns, political agendas have driven science. In this case, that agenda was to allow oil drilling on the U.S. continental shelf, in area’s that have been off limits to drilling for over 25 years.

In the waning days of the administration they have gotten their wish, the drilling ban has been lifted. Soon the oil companies will be free to despoil the marine habitat of the U.S. east coast so that they can recover the estimated 600 million barrels of oil beneath it. Did I mention that this year those same oil companies exported over 600 millions barrels of U.S. produced oil to foreign nations? Seems to me that we wouldn’t have to drill here if we kept our oil reserves in our own country.

Besides the potential damage to the fishing industry, and the ecosystem that oil spills and drilling muds would cause, the East coast tourism industry would be devastated. Despite one of the largest coastlines in the continental U.S. nobody goes to Texas to enjoy the beaches, who wants to walk on tarballs? Is this what east coast states want?

Now, here’s where your connections in the Commerce department come in handy. Have your PEW funded minions lobby congress to change the National Marine Fishery Service from an agency that worked to promote a healthy and sustainable fishing industry, into an agency that wants to turn the ocean into a petting zoo. Get the Science centers to create biological targets that are higher then anything ever observed for each species, and then demand that those targets be reached by each species at the same time, a biological impossibility.

The scientists know this is an impossibility, yet they claim it can be theoretically accomplished. If you spent eight years in college to get a masters or doctorate degree in fishery population dynamics, you would say anything the government told you to say, because they are your only chance at employment in that field.

It has been clear to any commercial or recreational fisherman on the East coast for years that the government wants to totally control every movement he makes.[VMS, and AIS tracking devices, overzealous enforcement agents, fishing licenses, etc.]. Part of this can be attributed to the job justification of government workers, the more government workers there are, the more they have to justify their jobs by controlling real workers who actually produce a product that benefits society. History has shown that there is a value to regulation, [ie, “The tragedy of the commons”].

But regulation can go too far, and become far worse a menace then no regulation at all. Especially when that regulation is based on politically influenced science.

As both a fisherman, and a fishery manager, I heard for years fishermen complaining about what they believed to be unjust regulations, because the science was created by people who had no clue about how many fish were in the ocean, they just biannually made their random survey tows, at the wrong time of the year, with obsolete fishing nets, and out of whack towing cables, and then let their mathematicians prove whatever the Department of Commerce wanted proved.

So how bad has the science coming out of Woods Hole, [Northeast Fishery Science Center] been in the last eight years? I’d personally love to subpoena a few scientists and see what they think under oath, because some of the science is so bad that the scientists are either incompetent or they have no integrity. It is so bad in the North East that the fishing industry has had to hire their own scientists to develop alternate science to dispute the government’s findings.

In each of the three fisheries in question, Scallops, Monkfish, and Summer Flounder, the government’s science was found to be sadly deficient. These three fisheries are among the five most valuable Fisheries on the East Coast, and the mismanagement of them has cost the economy hundreds of millions of dollars already. NMFS has a huge annual budget, you would think for the money they spend that they could create accurate science to manage a multi-billion dollar fishing industry in a sustainable way.

Sadly with less then a million dollars of capitol, the commercial and recreational fishing industry has proven how poorly the science was for three critical species. Woods Hole has gone from being the most respected marine science center in the world, to being a joke, a bad one at that.

So lets look a little closer into just what exactly, the NMFS and its partner in crime the NEFSC has been up to in regard to helping their parent agency and its wealthy benefactors in their quest for oil. Ecosystem management has received much attention in the last decade as efforts to rebuild fish stocks have taken on increased public awareness.

The carrying capacity of an ecosystem is the total amount of animals that can be biologically sustained within that ecosystem. There are natural highs and lows of different marine populations, usually caused by environmental conditions, and there are also man-made highs and lows such as the well-documented Groundfish/elasmobranches regime change on the Georges Bank. One thing is certain about ecosystem carrying capacity, there is an upper limit to how much biomass can be sustained, and this is predicated on how much food is available. The composition of the species can and will change, but they cannot exceed the carrying capacity without causing a collapse.

Our management system is based on biological targets that are set for each species that our councils manage. These targets are formulated by the fishery science centers using various complex mathematical equations to come to an educated guess of how many fish of each species should be in the ocean.

The problem is that it is physically impossible for any ecosystem to sustain the rebuilt populations of every fish species at the same time, unless of course, the rebuilding targets are realistic and account for the natural fluctuations of nature. In the case of the Northeast region’s fisheries, the biological targets of many of the managed species are based upon the three-year moving average of the highest observed populations of these species based on the annual trawl surveys. Ask any scientist at the NEFSC if they think it is possible to have all of our fish stocks recovered to the present Biological targets at the same time, and they will tell you that it is impossible.

Yet this is what we are trying to do. There are presently over a billion pounds of spiny dogfish swimming around off the US east coast, three times more then were present in an unfished population in the 1960s, yet we are forced to “rebuild” the population to a level that is unsustainable unless other stocks are not allowed to rebuild. By law that is impossible, the stocks must be rebuilt within a certain time frame or fisheries must be shut down.

This whole system ignores the basic tenet of ecosystem carrying capacity. There simply would not be enough food to feed all of the fish that the NMFS insists should be in the ocean according to their unattainable biological targets. If it’s a consensus opinion of the scientists about the inability to have an ocean full of every species at the same time, then we are not dealing with management by science, but with management by policy.

NMFS insists on ignoring best available science when it comes to biological targets in relationship to ecosystem carrying capacity, yet they are required by law to use it. That is National Standard #2. The fact that they insist on attempting to reach all of these targets at the same time without acknowledging their impossibility or attempting to figure out rational targets in relationship to ecosystem management, and the corresponding carrying capacity of the ecosystem shows a complete disdain of the fishing industry that must suffer the economic consequences of this policy.

This is also ignoring a National Standard, and that is National Standard #8, "Conservation and management measures shall, consistent with the conservation requirements of this act [including the prevention of overfishing and rebuilding of overfished stocks], take into account the importance of fishery resources to fishing communities in order to {A] provide for the sustained participation of such communities, and {B] to the extent practicable, minimize adverse economic impacts on such communities."

So lets look at NMFS poster child for criminal mismanagement, Spiny Dogfish. Using the NMFS' own science, we know that the total biomass of dogfish on the US east coast was around 150,000 MT in the 1960s, and this was as close to a virgin population as you can come by. By the early 1990s the population had increased to over 500,000 MT [over 1.2 billion pounds], as Dogfish and skates replaced the overfished Groundfish stocks on the Georges Bank.

The displacement of the valuable groundfish species was documented by the NEFSC own Steve Murowski. He stated in his paper, Multi species size composition: A conservative property of exploited fishery systems? “Given the current high abundance of skates and dogfish, it may not be possible to increase gadoid and flounder abundance without “extracting’ some of the current standing stock”.

This paper was written in 1992 and a highly effective dogfish and skate fishery developed. [I might add that the little skate population also tripled from 1978 to 1990, and the biological target was set at the highest level for this species also, although they prey on the same food stuff as many groundfish species, including groundfish]. The fishery that developed targeted primarily large females, those dogfish over 80 cm. long, as they were most desired by the market.

During the 1990’s the spawning stock biomass,[SSB, mature females] of Dogfish dropped from 200,000 MT to 50,000 MT causing a chorus of howls about the imminent extinction of Spiny Dogfish. This although the total biomass remained above 400,000 MT, twice that of the 1960s, while the SSB was actually at the unfished level of the 1960s.

At the council level when creating a biological target was discussed, [there still is none], NEFSC brazenly omitted the population levels from the 1960s and told the councils that the population was always at the 1980s level. The council was also told that dogfish eat primarily jellyfish.

When I pressed that issue they admitted that they ate a few fish. Almost every study known to man shows the dogfish to be a voracious predator of bony fishes. [ up to 80% of their diet]. Even as recently as this summer, at the spiny dogfish forum a NEFSC scientist told the audience that the dogfish population was always at the high level it is now at. This is not only providing misleading information, it is outright lying.

Also at that forum Dave Pierce’s presentation brought to light not only how extensive dogfish predation was on other fish species, but also by implication how NMFS has hid the information from the management councils. In a paper by J.S. Link, L.P. Garrison, and F.P. Almeida, called “Ecological interactions between elasmobranches and groundfish species on the northeastern U.S continental shelf: Evaluating predation” published in the North American Journal of fisheries management in 2002, it was disclosed that dogfish predation was almost 20 million summer flounder [ages 0 to 1] for the year 1998. That is close to half of the average annual recruitment of that species. Never once was that figure disclosed to the Mid Atlantic Fishery Management council, despite the controversy surrounding the potential shutdown of that important species because of the stock not being able to reach its 2 times larger then ever observed Biological target.

Yet every year, NMFS was at the management table claiming that retrospective analysis showed a large unaccounted for summer flounder mortality that must be blamed on commercial fishermen’s illegal landings or discards.

Over and over again managers heard how Dogfish were the most studied shark in the ocean, and that due to the depletion of the SSB dogfish would not recover for more then a generation. The most optimistic projections, using zero fishing mortality showed the earliest the stock would recover would be 2018. Most projections put the year to be at least 2030, one even showed never.

Yet here we are in 2008 and the stock has miraculously been rebuilt in 7 years despite a continued fishery, and discard mortality of 20 million pounds a year. Conveniently ignored was the well studied case of the Northwest Pacific Dogfish which was intensively fished to depletion in the late 1940s, yet was healthier then ever by 1960. Scientists there discovered that the population would double every 8 years.

Around 2003 the NEFSC put a new twist into the dogfish dilemma, There was no recruitment of pups, and they are smaller then normal,, OH MY GOD THE SKY IS FALLING! Totally ignoring density dependence science, [maybe the stock knows there are already too many of them, so they slow their reproduction so they don’t compete against themselves], Armageddon projections showed the stocks collapse and close to extinction within our lifetime. Although fishermen, argued that the trawl survey was missing these fish since they spend most of their early years in waters deeper then 100 fathoms, and the annual surveys only made a handful of tows in that water, this unfounded science became part of the rebuilding plan.

I could spend hours pointing out different cases of bad science causing bad management, but Dogfish is the best example, it’s so blatant. How many examples’ can you think of? How can scientists be so wrong? As I said earlier, it’s either incompetence or no integrity.

I believe that criminal actions have been taken by the NMFS to destroy the commercial and recreational fishing industries on the East Coast. When science is doctored to fit a political agenda, wreaking economic devastation to the industries that depend on that science, that is Criminal. These people that have orchestrated this fiasco should be prosecuted.

If you feel this way, then send or deliver this article to your congressman and senator, and tell him you demand justice. With a new administration coming in, it is important to know if they really want the truth about fisheries, or if they will continue the Bush/big oil agenda.

Early returns with the appointment of a recipient of large amounts of PEW oil tainted dollars to the head of NOAA are not looking so good.