Whale Hunters Beach Protestors

Joni Balter and Steve Chapman

Whale Hunters Beach Protestors

Joni Balter and Steve Chapman

Whale Hunters Beach Protestors
An email conversation about the news of the day.
May 17 1999 3:38 PM

Joni Balter and Steve Chapman

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Morning, Steve.

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Great line about Ken Griffey Jr. But dream on. Joltin' Junior, as Sports Illustrated called him, is leading the league in homers and they haven't all been hit in the climate controlled Kingdome. Our new half-billion-dollar outdoor park, the Field of Cost Overruns, opens in July. Griffey's name is all but chiseled in the concrete. I'm happy you're so happy about the Cubbies. Remember, though, Griffey almost always whines about Seattle weather before he signs a new contract.

You're right about the Israeli elections, a welcome break from the depressing news out of Kosovo. I hope Netanyahu loses. He has sandbagged the peace process and bartered away credibility with religious groups. Bring on Ehud Barak, a tough military man strong enough to wage peace.

Big news here comes from the far northwestern tip of the contiguous 48 states, Neah Bay, Washington. Members of the Makah tribe harpooned their first whale in 70 years this morning. They had government approval to renew their whale-hunting tradition. Harpooned is a term of art, I guess: They impaled the whale with their harpoons because they were so close to it. Then, they shot at it with high-powered rifles.

Hard to say what they're going to do with the meat. Local wine snobs are already joking about what wine to serve with whale blubber. Before you get the wrong idea about this place, please note that most Northwesterners still pride themselves on their whale ethics--the save-the-whale, not the kill-the-whale, variety. Yet there is a surprising public support for the hunt because of cultural considerations. The Makahs have a long-standing treaty assuring their right to hunt whales for their own uses.

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The whale killed today was a gray whale, from a population that grew healthier during the years when such whaling was not allowed.

What bothers me is the impact on other countries that also have aboriginal people and long-standing whaling traditions. What's to stop the other countries from standing up to the International Whaling Commission and yelling "me too"?

In Seattle, the whale hunt is full of irony. It pits the politically correct save-the-whales crowd against the politically correct supporters of Indians' cultural rights. Sometimes they're the same person living in the same body. How confusing.

After a heated debate, my editorial page opined in favor of the Indians' right to take a limited number of whales, because of the current health of the whale population and the strength of the treaty. Do you Midwesterners--or in your case, Texans--follow this kind of stuff? The TV bubbleheads have been broadcasting live footage of the ocean, canoes, and the protesters for days. Protesters have been out on the high seas, but the Makahs figured correctly they wouldn't be finished with their morning cappuccino and aromatherapy when whalers ventured out at first light. Not a protester for miles when the whale was finally taken.

I have been thinking about your senator, Peter Fitzgerald, and his vote last week in favor of gun control. He voted to close the gun-shop loophole, that is, to require private sellers at gun shows to do the same background checks on buyers required of the licensed seller at the next table. Six or seven Republicans voted yea, but not our Republican Sen. Slade Gorton. He was preparing for a fund-raising visit by Charlton Heston, NRA president, and he wasn't going to put the voice of Moses in an ill temper. So he voted first not to close the loophole and then he joined the pack voting for that convoluted mess that sort of closes the loophole and sorta doesn't.

So what is the GOP's favorite rock group? Guns 'n' Moses. What makes Peter Fitzgerald vote the way he did if he is as conservative as they say?

In search of more caffeine,
Joni