Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Fish Story

So.....after going off at my Representative to Congress' staff about illegal salmon sales.....I finally got through to a human on Tuesday: an intern who specializes in ''fish issues'' (say that three times quickly....): Letise Houser in Sam Farr's Washington office. She seemed sympathetic, and promised action.

Eventually, the local staffer called me back. He apologized for not getting back to me for five months, and then proceeded to defend his office manager: "No, she wasn't defending the crook; no she used to do business with him.....not now; no, she didn't hang up on me. No, she didn't call the crook the second she hung up on me.


Turns out, according to this guy.....selling farm salmon as wild salmon isn't even against federal law. Selling non-organic tomatoes as organic is illegal, misrepresenting meat is illegal....but not fish. Hmmmm. He had never heard of any law requiring the notification that there is dye present in food.

When I suggested this was a bad thing, he actually said: ''Well, that would require a bill, and that is really hard and takes a long time."

What?!! What the fuck??!! What the fuck else is Sam supposed to be doing back there? Don't legislators write laws? Or didn't they used to? Maybe that was an eighties thing, like Oingo Boingo.

And, supposedly.... the local District Attorney is still investigating this thing. Right, this is the guy that didn't even know salmon was farmed....and couldn't really figure out why I was upset. So, taking a leaf from Scott McClellan....I should shut up while there is an ongoing investigation.

Here is a fish story for you. Well, I wish it was a fish story, because fish stories are usually wonderful lies. This is unfortunately true.

Sunday night we did a quick party for my friend Margarite. Quick as in.... she kind of forgot to tell me about it until 11 a.m. that morning. No worries. We had stuff....even a wild salmon I paid $86.50 for wholesale (eleven pounds). Red Gold...but she is worth it. Margarite that is. Well, the fish, too.

After the party I for some reason thought I needed champagne, so I rolled down to the convenience store in the Village, and got some gas for $3.65 a gallon. There was a pickup truck parked by the pumps with a huge commercial ice chest in back, and a young woman sobbing next to it.

She was a commercial fisherman (fisherwoman? fisher? fisherperson?). Fisherlady. She had gone out that day, starting off by putting $300 worth of diesel into her tank on her boat.... on credit. She caught two fish all day....worth a hundred bucks at $4.50 per pound. She had to sneak past the diesel pier on her way in.

She has three kids, and was trying to get home. She only had rolls of pennies left and needed gas for her truck. She stopped at Mid-Valley Valero, and the illegal alien behind the register refused to take the penny rolls. He said that teenagers put slugs in the pennies, and sometimes only put in 49 pennies instead of 50. Let's see: gas is $3.65 a gallon, and he is worried about being a couple of cents short to an exhausted single mom? And he is not supposed to be here to begin with!

The fisherlady dug around in the truck and came up with $1.10 in silver change. This bought a couple of quarts of gas, just enough to get to Kasey's, where I found her sobbing next to the pump.

I gave her the bottle of champagne.....and all the cash in my pockets and wallet.

For dramatic effect, I should end the story here....but I am too mad.

O.K. kids.....why are there no fish? Well, nobody wants to risk $300 worth of diesel for two fish. She has to catch more than seventy pounds of least break even on just the diesel. Forget the maintenance, the license, the depreciation on the boat, the lost interest on the money it took to buy the boat to begin with....and god forbid she should lose a rig. So, fewer fishermen and fisherladies even go out after the fish that might be there.

And, of course, there are fewer fish. The season didn't even open until May 1, and it will be a short one. Why? The Klamath River salmon run has been destroyed.

What happened to the Klamath salmon? Can you believe it....I am not shitting you: Ask Karl Rove!!!

The Klamath River drains Tule Lake and all those wetlands along the California/Washington border. (Well, there used to be wetlands). There is something called the Klamath Irrigation Project that set up a series of canals and dams to drain all that and create 225,000 acres of farmland. The farmers grow hay, wheat, oats and potatoes where the swamp used to be. And, in a really weird quirk, because the government had to build dams to get water to the farmers and because dams generate electricity, the farmers get super cheap power, subsidized by eveyone else in Oregon with a power meter. Weird. Caterers need a union like this. Pay me not to make lavash.

In 2001 there was a drought, and the farmers screamed bloody murder when, by federal law and common decency, the flow in the Klamath riverbed was maintained to sustain the salmon run and other quaint downstream activities. Like Native American food and culture, red neck recreation, the entire West Coast fishery.....Dumb stuff like that.

It will come as no surprise to you that the farmers are Republicans. Their screams were heard in Washington, and the USGS, Fish and Wildlife, etc were dispatched to the scene. The verdict from USGS: the fish are worth eight times more than the hay and oats in terms of jobs, commodities, food, etc. Fish and Wildlife: endangered species are protected up, down and backwards. Oh, and the fish were here first. The first farms came in about 1930. Oh, and the farms were probably illegally destroying crucial wetlands for migratory birds, etc, etc etc. Turn on the water.

The response from our beloved President? Gail Norton flew out for a photo-op with the farmers. She actually said that when the wetlands were there the water used to just evaporate uselessly!!
So, Karl Rove personally intervened with the Department of the Interior, quashed the scientific reports from the two agencies, and diverted the flow of water from the river to the hay, oats and wheat. Oh, and by the way, many of the farmers were diverted water to maintain farmland that they were being paid NOT to farm because of an overabundance of crops elsewhere in America.

Here is the way the economics shake out:

An acre of farmland in Oregon in 2002 generated between $150 for wheat (not farmed), $195 for hay, and $210 for oats. Call it 200 bucks an acre.... times 225,000 acres which equals 45 million dollars. At the Rusty Cunningham corruption rate of 1%, I would predict the farmers donated about $45,000 to the Bush campaign. Their organization (Klamath Water Users Association) claims 1400 members, which I would expect includes wives, children, migrant workers and in-laws in other states. There are maybe 300 farms.

Did I mention PacifiCorps...the company that runs the dams with healthy tax breaks from the fed? No matter.

On the back side of this deal..... 50,000 fish were killed in 2002. As you would expect, like at Auschwitz, you kill the parents and you get no babies for a while. According to Fish and Wildlife, the effect lasts at least six years. other problem. Continued reduced river flows lead to raised water temperatures in the riverbed......shallower water, slower water is warmer water. This has led to the proliferation of two salmon-related parasites which now have bloomed in the Klamath and kill 60% of the few small salmon that manage to be born.

So, Karl Rove personally intervened and countermanded two scientific studies by his own government agencies, and personally destroyed an entire fishery, and affected the everyday lives of everyone on the West Coast who has anything to do with salmon: fishermen, Native Americans, white man wholesalers, cannery workers, fish stores, retail stores, restaurants, consumers, sport exchange for $45,000 and a few hundred votes.

And.......have you read anything about this? No, because an aggressive media was a 70's Fleetwood Mac.

There is an Interior Department internal investigation into Rove's inappropriate action.

Be still my heart. I am so sure Justice will out.


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