Monthly Archives: April 2010

Lee comes up strong, but Seattle offense comes up lame

    SEATTLE – The Mariners had to be nothing but heartened to see Cliff Lee make his debut Friday night against Texas such a gem – seven shutout innings, three hits, no walks and no runs.

    But Seattle had to be nothing but discouraged at the rest of their game. The offense did absolutely nothing for nine innings against Colby Lewis, then squandered back-to-back bases-loaded opportunities in the 10th and 11th innings before losing in 12 innings to the Rangers 2-0.

    Texas went without a hit from the sixth inning through the 11th, but a 60-foot chop single by Elvis Andrus started reliever Brandon League off on the wrong foot in the 12th, and the next batter, Michael Young hit another chopper that backup shortstop Matt Tuiasosopo fielded and threw wildly past first base.

    With runners now on second and third, League threw a wild pitch to score one run and was touched for an infield out by Julio Borbon for a second run, and that was it for the Mariners on a day when by all rights they should have walked off the field feeling good about themselves.

    Lee pitched great, no question about it. Ditto for Mark Lowe and David Aardsma, too. And League was untouchable in his first two innings, too, but because the offense was so miserable he had to pitch a third inning, and that wound up being the one that broke the Mariners’ backs.

    “It was exciting, being out there for the first time,’’ Lee said. “Things went really well for me, not giving up any runs like that. But I’d rather give up a couple if it means we would have won.’’

    Catcher Adam Moore said Lee was a pleasure to handle. Of Lee’s 98 pitches, almost 75 percent were strikes. The ones that weren’t didn’t miss by much.

    “It’s a lot of fun catching a guy who has that kind of command,’’ Moore said. “Every pitch is right there.’’

    What wasn’t fun was watching the Seattle offense. It was one thing to watch Colby Lewis throw a nine-inning shutout at them – Lewis has reinvented himself and has baffled the American League so far.

    But the Texas bullpen has been troubled all April, and twice in extra innings the Mariners loaded the bases after Lewis was out of the game. The first time pinch-hitter Mike Sweeney grounded into a double play.

    The second time manager Don Wakamatsu put a squeeze bunt on and the batter, backup outfielder Eric Byrnes, inexplicably bluffed at a bunt, but pulled his bat back. The runner coming from third base, Ichiro Suzuki, was out even though catcher Matt Treanor had trouble picking up the ball.

    “I don’t know how to explain that,’’ Wakamatsu said. He didn’t get a chance to talk to Byrnes during the game, and Byrnes dressed in a hurry, picked up his bicycle and pedaled away from the clubhouse in a hurry after the game. In the process, he moved past general manager Jack Zduriencik, who couldn’t have been too pleased.

    “We’ll talk (Saturday),’’ Wakamatsu said of Byrnes. “But that one mystifies me. That game should have been over right there. It was a good pitch (to bunt).’’

    The decisive rally will look good in the box score, but the Rangers scored twice without ever getting the ball out of the infield. The rally started with two infielder choppers for hits, the second of which Matt Tuiasosopo fielded and threw wildly past first base.

    That put runners on second and third. Brandon League, the reliever who by this point was in his third inning of work, threw a wild pitch as one run scored and an infield out brought the other run home.

    The Mariners are now back under .500 at 11-12. Had they won, the Mariners would have moved into first place.

    “It’s the same shoulda, coulda, woulda,’’ Wakamatsu said. “We’ve got to do better.


John Hickey is a National Baseball Writer for AOL FanHouse (; Twitter: @JHickey3

An open letter to wounded Israeli soldiers visiting Seattle

From Larry Johnson’s blog: Looking for Trouble.


 (The background on this letter is that the Seattle-based group, Living Judaism, is bringing wounded Israeli soldiers to Seattle in May as part of an ongoing “Hope for Heroism” program.)

I don’t know much but I know this . . . if the cause is not good, then all these guys with their arms and legs chopped off, all these wounded—the king is to blame for that shit.

–Lt. Col. Al Gill, US Army


Dear Brothers and Sisters:

As American Veterans for Peace we welcome you to Seattle this May. We understand you are visiting here as wounded combat veterans. We regret that you were wounded. Based on our experiences we believe it is right and natural for a soldier who has been injured in war to question whether the price paid was worth the reasons given in justification for risking life and limb. Additionally, there are the mental and psychic wounds one experiences by inflicting harm or even death upon another human being.

We have good reason to believe your hosts in Seattle wish to instill or reinforce in you the sense that the wounds you received were for a good cause–to protect Jews in Israel and here from an existential threat. From the safety of Seattle, far from the battlefield, they want to bolster your morale so that you won’t go too far with your questions. They would like you to bury those questions deep down in the recesses of your mind but please consider a letter in the United Nations archives from rabbis of the “old yishuv” in Jerusalem. It is July 1949, less than two years after the proclamation of the State of Israel and less than nine months after the conclusion of armistice agreements. Jerusalem is still divided with the Old City, Gaza, and the West Bank under Arab control. Yet, who do these orthodox Jewish rabbis complain about and appeal for protection from? Not Arabs, not Christians or Muslims, but Zionists and the Zionist state–Israel.

We have learned that in every war wounded and traumatized soldiers return home and the people who start and perpetuate wars worry that those returning soldiers will arrive at the awful truth about war. They worry you will start telling the awful truth to others who are fodder for the meat grinder of modern warfare. They fear you will expose their game. In the simple words of one of America’s most decorated Marines, Major General Smedley Butler: “War is a racket. It always has been. It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious.”

Our message to you is simple: Your wars against the Palestinians and other people in the countries near Israel are wrong, just as wrong as the wars American troops fight in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. As you fight because of the poisonous ideology of Zionism, Americans go to war because of the poisonous ideology of Empire. Physical courage in battle is noble but it is no substitute for the ethical courage that is required of veterans and all of us to end the killing. The self-interested fawning praise of others far from the battlefield will never bring real healing to you for the things you have done and experienced in combat. We bring a message of real hope and healing — not a false “Hope for Heroism” — but hope and healing through reconciliation and understanding.


Michelle J. Kinnucan

On behalf of Veterans for Peace, Greater Seattle, Chapter 92

Asian Pacific Islander Kidney Health Fair

Seattle Film Guide April 30-May 6 National Film Festival For Talented Youth at SIFF Cinema

Seattle Film Guide April 23-29

Opening this Week

No One Knows About Persian Cats  Read Bill White’s Seattle PostGlobe Review

Nightmare on Elm Street  After two decades of sequels, the franchise starts again from square one, this time free of the noxious presence of Robert England, whose increasingly campy dominion over the pictures (as Freddie) turned an initial horrifying story into a taffy pull.

Furry Vengeance “People do bad things to the planet.”  Robert Wilonsky, Seattle Weekly

Limited Runs

Lord Love a Duck (Grand Illusion, April 30- May 6) Read Bill White’s Seattle PostGlobe Review

Songs for a Revoution (NWFF, April 30-May 5) Read Bill White’s Seattle PostGlobe Review

Mid-August Lunch (Guild 45, April 30- May 6)  Read Bill White’s Seattle PostGlobe Review

When You’re Strange (Grand Illusion,  May 1-2, 3pm, 5pm) Read Bill White’s Seattle Post Globe Review

Typeface (NWFF, May 4-5)

Fresh (Central Cinema, April 30- May 6) “another fine but hardly original call to arms about sustainable food” Aaron Hillis, Seattle Weekly

Teza (Columbia City Cinema, April 30-May 13) “While occasionally weakened by some impressionistic flourishes that the director isn’t quite imaginative enough to pull off, Gerima’s film stands as a richly expansive portrait of a man caught between an untenable exile and the terrible consequences of his homeland’s violent past.” Andrew Schenker, Seattle Weekly

Special Programs:

NFFTY  (SIFF Cinema, April 30-May 2) National Film Festival for Talented Youth (NFFTY) is the largest and most influential film festival for young filmmakers (age 22 and under). NFFTY occurs each spring in Seattle, Washington and includes 100+ film screenings, filmmaking panels, concerts by youth bands, and opportunities for young filmmakers to network with industry professionals and each other. Young filmmakers from around the world submit feature-length and short films in narrative, documentary, animation, music video, experimental, and international categories. 

Now Playing:

Ajami  “All that one can hope for is that tomorrow will be a brighter day.” Charles Mudede, The Stranger 

Alice in Wonderland 3D   Bill White reviews it for Seattle PostGlobe

The Back-Up Plan Jennifer Lopez meets a potential human donor on the day of her scheduled artificial insemination.  

The Bounty Hunter  Bounty hunter is hired to bring in his  ex-wife.

City Island  Bill White Reviews it for Seattle PostGlobe

Clash of the Titans More thrilling 3D excitement

Date Night  “a jumble of genres, tones, and styles, Date Night ultimately strains to be a serious movie about marriage, with one joke” Karina Longworth, The Weekly

Death at a Funeral American remake of 2007 British comedy featuring an African-American cast

Diary of a Wimpy Kid   From the best-selling illustrated novel  

Exit Through the Gift Shop Bill White Reviews it for Seattle Post Globe                              

Formosa Betrayed “educational thriller set in early-80’s Taiwan” Nicolas Rapold, Seattle Weekly

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Bill White Reviews it for Seattle PostGlobe

Ghost Writer  Roman Polanski directs this   thriller based on the novel The Ghost by Robert Harris about a ghostwriter who, while completing  the memoirs of former British Prime Minister,  stumbles onto  a dark secret.

The Greatest  “an uneven but often affecting film that requires its gifted cast to push hard against the script’s schematic plotting to find moments of real emotion” Chuck Wilson, The Weekly

Green Zone   When is Jason Bourne not Jason Bourne?  When he is Roy Miller

Greenberg    “Greenberg changes very little over the course of the movie but the audience’s perspective on him changes quite a bit.”  Alison Hallett, The Stranger

Hot Tub Time Machine “A fundamentally lazy comedy that will probably make you laugh like an idiot.” Dan Kois, The Weekly

How to Train Your Dragon Put on your 3D Glasses and take careful notes. 

Kick-Ass  “a mess of random source cues and progressively brutal action set pieces”  Karina Longworth, Seattle Weekly

The Last Song  Based on best-selling novelist Nicholas Sparks’ forthcoming novel, The Last Song is set in a small southern beach town where an estranged father (Greg Kinnear) gets a chance to spend the summer with his reluctant teenaged daughter (Miley Cyrus), who’d rather be home in New York. He tries to reconnect with her through the only thing they have in common—music—in a story of family, friendship, secrets and salvation, along with first loves and second chances. Directed by Julie Anne Robinson

The Losers  “a busy, unsatisfying comic thriller, poorly acted by a grab-bag of new faces” Dan Kois, Seattle Weekly

Oceans “a jaw-dropper as a visual travelogue” Michelle Orange, Seattle Weekly

The Runaways  

Shutter Island   Bill White reviews it for the Seattle PostGlobe

A Single Man 

The Square    Bill White Reviews it for Seattle Post Globe

Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married Too?  Click here to read my 2005 Seattle PI review of that film.  


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Film Reviews: These “Persian Cats” Might!3{2}Remind You Of the Buskers in “Once”

There  is a little of the fiction and a little of the fact in  “No One Knows About Persian Cats,”  a  tale about two Iranian musicians looking for band-mates, visas, and passports so they can play a gig in London. When director Bahman Ghobadi was unable to find any actors in Tehran capable or willing to play musicians, he followed the lead of John Carney’s runaway hit “Once,” and let the musicians play themselves.

The film is definitely not  the “exuberant look at Tehran’s youth and underground music scene” its publicists have proclaimed.    Several bands appear in the film, their styles ranging from rap and heavy metal to indie-rock and jazz, but Ghobadi  is more interested in using them dramatically than simply showcasing their music. The film’s weakest moments come when the director cuts away from the performing musicians  in favor of some music video imagery that usually involves high-angled shots of heavy traffic.

Those looking for a good documentary on rock bands in the Middle East are advised to seek out  “Heavy Metal in Baghdad,” Spike Jones’ informative  film about the life and death struggles of heavy metal musicians in Iraq. Compared to that, “No One Knows About Persian Cats” is a cute little picture, recommended for those who gravitate more toward something like “Once.”  There is plenty of music here, including  six songs by “Take it Easy Hospital,” the indie rock band fronted by the film’s protagonists, Ashcan and Negar, but their music is secondary to their characters and the story.

Not that the film is devoid of political content, but none of the encounters with the police seem that serious.  When one guy is busted for selling bootleg DVD’s, he talks his way out of the fine.  When a secret rehearsal studio is repeatedly raided, it turns out to be a prank by one of the neighbor kids. The most  political moment in the film comes when the police pull Ashcan and Negar over for having a dog in the car, and forcibly take the animal away from them.  As an example of Ghoobai’s often sloppy film-making, the  scene comes to an abrupt stop  before it is said what has become of the dog.    

Ashcan and Negar are not  as charismatic as were Glenn Hansard and Marketa Irglova of “Once.” Neither is the romantic subplot played up to make the audience root for their survival as a couple as fetching as the real life love affair played out in the earlier picture.  What is so endearing about these reticent songbirds  is their belief in impossible dreams, their trust in likable scalawags, and their perseverance in making their music, even when  risking prison to do so.    Today, both are living in London, where  they record demos and continue to dream of success in the Western world.

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State’s public records law on trial

Today was a big day for Attorney General Rob McKenna, Secretary of State Sam Reed, and supporters of the state’s public records law. The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case of Doe v. Reed. The controversy focuses on whether the signature petitions to overturn R-71 are public records and can be disclosed.

Here are details from McKenna’s press release:

Laws granting access to government records are constitutional, and the public’s right to double-check election officials and signature gatherers should be upheld.

That’s part of the case Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna took to the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday, as he defended the latest challenge to Washington state’s Public Records Act.

“Access to government information, including referendum petitions, allows Washingtonians to trust – but verify – their government’s work,” McKenna said. “The public’s right to government records is an overriding state interest and shouldn’t be pushed aside because of one controversial ballot campaign.”

McKenna added that locking up petitions invites fraud that can’t be uncovered through a simple public records request. The state’s brief cites petition fraud cases from several other states, including Arkansas, Montana, Oklahoma and Nevada, as well as the District of Columbia.

McKenna and Washington Secretary of State Sam Reed also put the case in context of widespread attacks on open government laws.

“The petitioners have launched more than 25 cases to reduce disclosure and transparency in elections,” said Secretary of State Sam Reed. “This is a national effort to challenge open record laws around the country.”

Reading the tea leaves it looks like the state’s public records law will prevail. Here are the transcripts from the oral arguments

Justice Antonin Scalia wins first prize for his numerous zingers. Here is a sampling:

” . . .the people [of] Washington evidently think that this is not too much of an imposition upon people’s courage, to — to stand up and sign something and be willing to stand behind it.”

“You know, you can’t run a democracy this way, with everybody being afraid of having his political positions known.”

“. . . in light of the fact that for the first century of our existence, even voting was public — you either did it raising your hand or by voice, or later, you had a ballot that was very visibly red or blue so that people knew which party you were voting for — the fact is that running a democracy takes a certain amount of civic courage. And the First Amendment does not protect you from criticism or even nasty phone calls when you exercise your political rights to legislate, or to take part in the legislative process. You are asking us to enter into a whole new field where we have never gone before.”

Also note this exchange with McKenna:

JUSTICE SCALIA: It — it may be an issue in which his administration has taken a particularly firm stand and the public may not trust the job that the Secretary of State does.

GENERAL McKENNA: That goes to the heart to the Public Records Act, Justice Scalia, trust but verify. The people did not leave to the State the idea that, well, we will let you know what you need to know.

JUSTICE SCALIA: Trust but verify, I like that.

We’ll know later this summer if a majority of the justices also like that argument and vote to uphold the state’s public records act.

Jason Mercier is the director of the Center for Government Reform at the Washington Policy CenterHe serves on the Executive Committee of the American Legislative Exchange Council’s Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force and is a contributing editor of the Heartland Institute’s Budget & Tax News. Mercier also serves on the board of the Washington Coalition for Open Government and was an adviser to the 2002 Washington State Tax Structure Committee.

Income tax on the wealthy offers sensible path to tax fairness for everyone

We all patronize our local small businesses. Owned and operated by our neighbors, they provide our coffee, sandwiches and the small things to fix up our homes. They fix up our cars, and sell us bicycles and books. Most of all, they create the web of neighborhoods and community.

One thing that irks small businesses is the business tax. It is not a high rate, but it is onerous: You have to pay it even when you lose money. The large corporations have figured out tax loopholes and avoidance schemes so that their proportion of state and local taxes is about half that paid by small businesses.

So if you run a small business, and you are offered an exemption from paying the business tax, would you turn it down?

This time is the time of year when the semi-annual property tax bill comes due. Property taxes are crucial for public services, for fire protection, public safety, schools, roads, and most of the things we take for granted because we don’t pay for them directly. But these taxes weigh heavily on homeowners and businesses, especially in the middle of this great recession. So as a property owner, if you were offered a cut in your property taxes, would you reject that?

If you are a parent and your kids are in public school, you are probably worried about the cutbacks in education. Class sizes are going up, courses in high school are disappearing, and you’re wondering if your kids are getting shortchanged for their future. If you have lost your health coverage, you are probably hoping that the funding for Basic Health will increase, so that you can get coverage before something bad happens. So if you were offered a way to decrease class sizes and expand health coverage, would you look the other way?

In all three instances, you might. That would be a bad case of ideological blindness trumping common sense. But it does seem too good to be true. How could we exempt four-fifths of all businesses from the business tax? How could we afford an across-the-board cut in the property tax for homeowners and businesses? How could we come up with the extra money for education and health?

It’s possible because in our state we have excused the wealthy from paying a fair portion of their income to support public services. While middle class families pay about 11 percent of their income in state and local taxes, and low income families pay about 17 percent, the families in between the 95th percentile and 99th percentile of income pay less than 5 percent and the top 1 percent of families pay only 2.6 percent. That means middle class families pay quadruple the tax rate of the very wealthy.

Can we put all these pieces together to create a common sense solution? The people behind Initiative 1077 [since refiled as I-1098], and I am one of them, think so. What does this initiative do? It cuts property taxes. In Snohomish County, that means on average a $127 cut in property taxes for families and a $445 cut in property taxes for businesses. The initiative also eliminates the business tax for the vast majority of businesses, leaving the current tax in place only for the top one-thirteenth of businesses.

It brings in $1 billion of new public revenue, dedicated to education, expansion of Basic Health, public health and long-term care for the disabled and elderly.

Where is the magic?

The magic is in the beginnings of a fair tax structure. Initiative 1077 puts in place an income tax on the wealthy, the top 3 percent of families in our state, those with incomes in excess of $400,000 a year. It is not a big tax. For a family making $500,000, it amounts to $4,382 in net taxes, or less than 1 percent of their income. For a family making $1 million, it amounts to less than 3 percent of income. Put all these contributions together from the wealthiest 3 percent of families, and we have enough for the property and business tax cuts and expansion of education and health care.

So this may be a good idea, but can it win? A poll by KING-TV showed 66 percent support for this approach. We’ll see how that holds up.

We can put on our ideological and no-can-do blinders and dismiss Initiative 1077, or we can engage in a vital discussion for our democracy. I am rooting for the latter.

Art House Beat: Lord Love a Duck, It’s a Soundtrack for a Revolution & a Mid-August Lunch

Soundtrack for a Revolution (NWFF, April 30-May 5)

The soundtrack, while it strongly contributes to  “Soundtrack for a Revolution” is not the primary component of this dynamic look back on the events, inspired by the non-violent rules of engagement as espoused by Dr.  Martin Luther King, leading to the end of segregation in the American South.  Directors Bill Guttentag and Dan Sturman have done  an admirable job of  blending living testimony with archival history to  tell the story of those who, beginning with sit-ins at the Woolworth lunch counters and culminating in a face-off with the local police on the Edmund Pettus bridge, took the first steps towards bridging the country’s racial divide.   The film is a tribute to those people, both living and dead, as well as to Dr. King,  whose spirit informs every frame.

The music of the civil rights movement is heard both in its original context and in revival by contemporary musicians.  There are some odd selections, such as Wyclef Jean performing a Bob Marley-inspired take on Phil Ochs’ “Here’s to the State of Mississippi,” which serves only as a lead-in to a segment   on the battle for civil rights in Mississippi.   Och’s song never was a street anthem, and had little to do with the church-based music from which the anthems developed.  Some of the best scenes explore how the particular songs developed from general gospel songs to ones with a specific political intent.  One qualm is the somewhat questionable practice of underscoring some sickening scenes of police brutality to uplifting church music.  It is one thing to hear people sing “We Shall Overcome” while being arrested, but quite another to hear it tacked onto a newsreel of children getting brutalized.

Still, “Soundtrack for a Revolution” is a stirring, important document of a time showing our country both at its best and at its worse.  In the end, it plays like a monument to Dr. King, which, in its way, is fitting to the time and the place and the struggle.  But there were other black heroes who should also be remembered, including  Harriet Tubman, Paul Robeson, Malcolm X, Eldridge Cleaver, and Fred Hampton, who once said, “You can kill the revolutionary, but you can’t kill the revolution.”  King was a dreamer, not a revolutionary, but his dream was part of a larger revolution, one that hasn’t stopped its singing.

Lord Love a Duck (Grand Illusion Cinema, April 30-May 6)

Aced out by  “The Loved One,” which beat it to theatres by four months,  “Lord Love A Duck”  was both more offensive and tasteless than the former, but lacked the unifying gesture of a pet cemetery to tie up the package.  As the   high school Fausta who becomes progressively greedier with each granted wish, Tuesday Weld is the pinnacle of  need and desire.  The fifties were rife with psychological studies of  hormonal teenagers, with   “Splendor in the Grass”   implying  that celibacy at this age could lead to mental illness, but the sixties insist  the mental illness was there before adolescence pushed it out through the pores.  Weld’s Barbara Ann (named after two movie stars, Barbara Stanwyck and Ann Sheridan) incipient madness can be clearly seen in her parents. In a crazed bit of erotic perversity, her father  responds to her  sweater modeling with the fervidity of a moth-ball suitor.  Meanwhile her  bunny-tailed  mother plants the eggs of nympho-itis into her daughter’s mini-skirted skull.

“But you promised to honor and obey me,” protests her husband.  “I may have been hysterical at the ceremony, but I wasn’t stupid,” Barbara Ann retorts. All her wishes have been fulfilled by a seemingly asexual classmate Alan (Roddy McDowell), who has given himself the nickname Mollymauk (the South Pacific albatross of the title, or  more likely  a relative of Mephistopheles.)

Through much of the picture, Alan seems a precursor to the stereotype of the gay best friend that became an archetypical crutch to the situation comedies of the seventies and eighties, but the end of the film reveals a more conventional motive for his dedication to bringing happiness to the delectable Barbara Ann. George Axelrod is a better writer than director, with half a dozen classics among his two dozen produced scripts and only one other picture, and a dud at that, to his credit as a director.  But   his off the cuff and anything goes way of throwing things together  add to “Lord Love a Duck’s”  general sense of anarchy.  The acting is terrific, with Weld in top form and Ruth Gordon just beginning to show the world how weird she could get. 

 Mid-August Lunch (Guild 45, April 30-May 6)

This is the last thing I expected from Gianna De Gregorio, one of the six scriptwriters who contributed to   the mob epic “Gomorrah.” Slighter than slight, Mid-August Lunch” is 72 minutes spent with Gianni, a financially irresponsible man who lives with his mother and three other elderly ladies who he has agreed to look after while their sons leave town to cavort on Ferragosto, a Roman fertility holiday that is celebrated on August 15th.  Being a fabulous cook, Gianni has no trouble entertaining at the table, but the idiosyncrasies of his guests take a while to iron out before the table is a completely happy one.   First time director Gregorio plays the lead, and is not terribly charismatic as an actor.  His sensitivity toward the ladies makes up for that, and in the end he delivers a sweet, subtle, and unsentimental tale of marginalized people who slowly and carefully widen the margins of their own lives to let others in.  

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Meet Puget Sound’s latest endangered species… Feds relent and protect local rockfish

Years of badgering the federal government to take steps to save Puget Sound rockfish from extinction have paid off for retired fish biologist Sam Wright.

The National Marine Fisheries Service today announced that it will do what Wright suggested: It will protect three populations of local rockfish from Puget Sound and connected inland marine  waters under the Endangered Species Act.

Canary and yelloweye rockfish now are deemed “threatened” and a third rockfish species – bocaccio – is now legally considered “endangered.” An endangered species is at high risk of extinction; a threatened species is vulnerable to extinction in the near future and in need of protection.

The fish have been caught at high levels, depleting their numbers. They’re often caught unintentionally by fishermen targeting other species, according to the Fisheries Service, and they’re hampered by environmental factors, such as degradation of their habitat near shore, pollution and lost fishing gear that continues to snare fish.

It’s just the latest feat for Wright. While other retirees spend major hours playing golf or the like, Wright has devoted a big chunk of his golden years trying to save fish from extinction.

He’s the guy who petitioned the government to protect Puget Sound steelhead — and was successful. Ditto for Puget Sound chinook.

Puget Sound is home to 14 species of rockfish, only five of which are found in abundance, Wright has said. That leaves nine species doing poorly in his eyes.

Rockfish – a long-lived, bottom-dwelling fish — mature and reproduce slowly, making them vulnerable to overfishing, according to the fisheries service.

No one knows how many rockfish exist. In Wright’s written request to the government ( ), he stated that at least 50,000 bocaccio, 15,608 canary rockfish and 8,761 yelloweye rockfish were caught during a 12-year period of 1975 to 1986. But he added that a state fish biologist since told the federal agency he has seen zero bococcio in the last two decades and the other two species have virtually disappeared.

“A fish population decline from 50,000 to zero should have been more than adequate proof of a legitimate problem,” Wright said.

Wright also hoped to secure protections to greenstriped and redstriped rockfish, but agency scientists said they’re at “low risk” of extinction.

Orcas remain the most famous critters protected under the Endangered Species Act. Chinook salmon, chum salmon, steelhead and bull trout also already are protected in Puget Sound under the act.

“The real critical problem for rockfish is they have very small home ranges, and most of these nine species have home ranges like 30- and 40-foot in diameter,” Wright told the PostGlobe after he filed his petition last year. “So what happens when you get to be in very low abundance is you can’t find mates for your own species. So, there’s no chance for reproduction when you can’t find a mate.”

“I’ve worked on these things for 45 years, and when I see something that’s obviously wrong to me, I’ve got to correct it. Really, as a private individual, really the only mechanism that you’ve got is the Endangered Species Act. That’s the only way you can actually make a difference,” Wright told the PostGlobe last year after he filed his petition. Sitting on advisory committees doesn’t do it. “I’ve been part of them for 45 years, and I haven’t accomplished anything that route.”

Simple math: Health care = jobs

This is simple math: Health care equals jobs. And the new health care reform law means even more jobs. In many communities across the United States, the health care industry is the region’s top employer. Indeed, if you put this in a global perspective, the National Health Service in the United Kingdom now employs 1 in every 23 workers in that country, some 1.3 million people. (The NHS is the third largest employer in the world, only ranking behind the Chinese army and India Rail.)

 The numbers in Indian Country show that same kind of growth. Look at the figures before President Johnson’s Great Society (and the expansion of federal programs):  The Bureau of Indian Affairs employed 16,035 full time employees in 1969, while the Indian Health Service employed 5,740 people. That trend is now reversed. In 2009 the BIA employed 8,257 full time workers and the IHS had grown to 15,127 employees. These are just the number of federal employees, because tribes or organizations administer roughly half of the Indian health system.

 The demand for health care workers in Indian Country represents a public policy paradox: We need jobs in communities where the official unemployment rate is about 50 percent and yet the Indian Health Service reports shortages of health professionals.

 The IHS describes its employment situation this way:

“The physician vacancy rate now stands at approximately 21%, and the average length of service of the approximately 800 federally employed physicians in Indian health is 10 years.

The dental vacancy rate of 24% is higher than it has been in many years. Pharmacy vacancy rates have increased to 11% from 8% in FY 2008 and nursing vacancies are up to 26% nationwide. Of particular concern is the shortage of registered nurses nationwide in both the inpatient and outpatient settings. These are the nurses most needed throughout Indian health. The agency expects the shortage of registered nurses will increase markedly over the coming years due to the increasing age of the U.S. nurse population (the average age of nurses in the U.S. is 47 years) and decreasing numbers of nursing schools, graduates, and new students. Pharmacy is facing similar issues in that fewer people are entering pharmacy schools at a time when the need for pharmacists is projected to grow considerably over the next 8 – 10 years.”

 The paradox represents a great challenge for American Indian and Alaska Native leaders. We know these jobs are there. Guaranteed. And this already rich opportunity is getting better because of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (health care reform).

 But the challenge is to get young people the kind of education needed to be successful. The way I look at it there needs to be a significant investment in terms of strategy, time and money to meet this demand. Imagine what it means to guarantee a young person a job – better yet, a career.

 The health care reform bill has several provisions designed to increase the pool of people entering medical-related fields. The big push is in the area of “primary care.” There should be training and scholarship money for at least the next five years for new models for programs such as team management of chronic diseases, a practice the IHS does well now.

 The law also calls for:

  • A Workforce Advisory Committee to develop a national strategy;
  • A significant increase scholarships and loans (including those with either repayment or retention incentives);
  • Additional funding for training dollars for nurse practitioners. This is where the action is and a critical area because of the emphasis on nurse practitioners and physician assistants acting as a lead agent in primary care. The difference in the two jobs is interesting, both work under the direction of a medical doctor, and usually both fields require a Master’s Degree, but there are more hours of clinical training required for the PA and there are differences in the types of cases.

 The Indian Health Care Improvement Act also opens up training and education dollars specifically for the Indian health system, specifically for paraprofessionals as Community Health Representatives and Community Health Practitioners.

 There should be a wide range of jobs created by an expansion of the health system: Dieticians to help people stay well by eating better; ethicists to help families talk through difficult decisions; and administrators to move paperwork. The Center for American Progress estimates that between 2.5 million and 4 million jobs will be created during the next decade.

 How big a number is 4 million new jobs? If even one-half of one percent of those jobs ends up in the Indian health system, that’s an increase 20,000 jobs or more people than work at IHS today. We’d better get ready for a great opportunity. Fast.

  Mark Trahant is a Kaiser Media Fellow examining the Indian Health Service and its relevance to the national health care reform debate. He is a member of Idaho’s Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. Comment at