Thursday, March 31, 2005

The Governor Weighs In

For those of you who missed Powerline's link to this early this morning, Governor Murkowski had a guest spot as a columnist for the Seattle Times. He gave us his "honest look at the facts" surrounding ANWR drilling. It didn't surprise me to see that a lot of it consisted of opinions, rather than objectively verifiable data.

And while most of it consisted of obvious, overreaching, overgeneralized pro-drilling sentiments like, "wildlife in ANWR will continue to coexist with cautious oil and gas exploration" (no one doubts that; the question is how healthy and ecologically sound the populations will be), I actually found some good information that gets overlooked in the ANWR debate.

For instance, "Protecting the environment is a global issue, not just an Alaskan issue. Stopping the exploration of ANWR only shifts oil production to other parts of the world where environmental standards are lower." Good point about the NIMBY issue. But, oil production is already in other parts of the world where environmental standards are lower. No one's talking about cutting off Venezuelan oil imports, are they? And: "Some say ANWR will take at least seven years to begin production. That delay is because of the comprehensive environmental-impact study necessary to ensure that the environment is protected." OK. Good to know. Sounds about right.

Another: "We need an honest discussion of the facts and science regarding responsible ANWR oil production and its numerous benefits for America."

Righto. Fantastic. . . .

Umm. OK. But, wait a second.

An "honest discussion of the facts and science regarding responsible ANWR oil production" will actually have little or nothing to do with its "numerous benefits for America." Because if the discussion were actually "honest" and involved "facts" and "science," Americans and their legislators who are itching to drill would have to face reality and realize drilling in ANWR is a short-term, short-sighted, economic and politically costly so-called solution to a very complicated problem for which there is no silver bullet. So there really wouldn't be "numerous benefits for America."

Sadly, if the Governor and his pro-drilling comrades continue to allow the tail ("numerous benefits") to wag the dog ("facts" and "science"), ANWR will only be the first step toward casually sacrificing the innate value of pristine wilderness for short-term profits and band-aid psychological "security".

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Check Out This ANWR Blog

Here's the best, most reasonable and comprehensive ANWR blog I've seen:

Check it out. The journalist running this site has both his head and his heart in the right place. And, above all, he's a fact man.

Where Can I Get a Secret Service Lapel Pin?

Three people were removed from President Bush's Social Security town hall meeting at the Denver Wings Over the Rockies Museum last week by a Republican staffer dressed like a Secret Service agent, complete with lapel pin and earpiece.

Astonishingly, the Rocky Mountain News, Denver's conservative branch of its two-paper newspaper company, has the story today.

The three are members of a group called Denver Progressives. The reason the staffer physically removed them from the speech even though they had legitimate tickets received from Republican U.S. Rep. Bob Beauprez's office: a "No More Blood for Oil" bumper sticker on the SAAB they drove to the museum. Read the story in their words here.

What's more disturbing: the removal by a clearly misguided staffer playing security professional, or the fact that despite legit credentials for attendance, they were removed because of a bumper sticker?

Now, to be fair, the Progressives also wore "Stop the Lies" T-shirts under their business attire. And they admit having considered baring the shirts at the meeting. But the shirts were not visible before or during their removal.

What if these three had been Quakers who legitimately supported Bush for his Pro-life stance and wanted to hear his take on Social Security, for example, but absolutely (like Pat Buchanan seems to lean nowadays) opposed and oppose the war in Iraq? Can't a pacifist Bush supporter display a bumper sticker opposing war?

More importantly, what if these three--as they say they did--really wanted to hear Bush speak about Social Security? Or, as one of them said, wanted to be in the presence of a President, out of awe. The tickets were real. There was zero indication these three would disrupt the talk.

So, where does that leave us? This Repub. staffer had just the bumper sticker to go on? O.K. That's troublesome for First Amendment reasons. But what if the organizers of the event had more information than that? Two of the three Progressives were flagged as they went in and told not to cause a commotion or they would be arrested. Why? Is there some kind of database? Are members of the "Denver Progressives" on a list on some agent's Blackberry? Denver is all too familiar with such "spy files".

Monday, March 28, 2005

It's True that Just about Everyone in Alaska Has a Gun Rack on His Car . . . or Bike

Alaska: what a great state.

I mean it. I really enjoyed my time there and I'm going back in July. But that doesn't mean I don't think that Governor Murkowski--at least with regard to the natural environment--is nuts.

First, in an interview I saw on Real Time with Bill Maher, he said that he didn't know what amount of oil companies might find in ANWR or whether they would find any at all. Now, I know this to be true because I oppose drilling in ANWR, and one of the reasons is that the availability of oil is questionable. Even if it's there, it's very doubtful whether it exists in economically and politically justifiable amounts.

But he's the guy who's been pushing for oil drilling because it's so good for the country. Can't he at least pretend to be a little more sure of the presence of oil?

Luckily, perhaps, as althippo reports on March 28, 2005, oil companies have been feeling skittish about setting steel to earth on the coastal plain for fear of the legal consequences.

But just when that twinkle of good news--like a little pixie dust--settles on the worried bunch of us who care about humans' responsibilty for the Earth, I read this from Defenders of Wildlife:

The death toll from Alaska’s aerial wolf killing program has reached at least 210, with hundreds more scheduled for elimination by April 30th. Wolves are being shot directly from airplanes, or being chased to exhaustion by aerial gunning teams, who then land and shoot the wolves point blank.

Excuse me? Hold on. Let me clean this wax from my ear with a pencil eraser.

"Wolf-killing program"?

If DOW is to be believed:

The citizens of Alaska have twice voted in statewide measures (1996 and 2000) to ban the aerial killing of wolves. Nonetheless, Governor Murkowski signed a bill two years ago overturning the most recent ban.

"It’s deplorable that Governor Murkowski continues to back the extermination of wolves in key areas across the state even though his so-called predator control programs lack scientifically-based standards and guidelines to monitor the program," stated Karen Deatherage, Alaska Associate for Defenders of Wildlife. "Lower-48 and urban trophy hunters are clearly the only beneficiaries of the governor’s ill-advised policy."
Now, I don't know about you, but I understand deer-population culling through hunting. I grew up in Michigan where the white-tailed deer population is at least twice as large as the human population of the state. There were autumns where more dead and mutilated deer carcasses lined highways than stood motionless in every other backyard or along the side of the road, eyes fixed on me, as I rode by on my bike.

One had to wear orange whenever leaving the house, it seemed.

That said, I've never heard of such an aggressive campaign to kill predators, especially ones that are endangered in the lower 48. (Yellowstone visitors salivate over the chance for a fleeting glimpse of a wolf in the Lamar Valley.) And I'm floored by the audacity with which so-called "hunters" are downing these incredible animals. From planes. By exhausting them until they can't run away. I'd link you to the video I watched, but I don't want to make the reader as sick to their stomachs as I was.

I'm ambivalent about most hunting practices. I'm a fisherman--mostly I fly and spin-fish for trout, and I'm intense about it--and about 95% of the time I practice catch-and-release. When I keep the fish, I kill them and eat them and share the goods with friends, cold beers in hand. The hunters I know are good, solid people. Most of them are environmentalists, too. Makes sense.

Killing wolves from planes has nothing to do with hunting or fishing or anything else that I'd remotely consider "sporting." It's slaugher for trophy mounts. But no, the Alaskan government says, it's to increase the moose population.

Aside from the obvious fact that Alaska profits from the licenses purchased by aerial wolf-snipers and the Alaskan economy benefits from their plane rentals, accomodations, and other purchases, my question is: how did the moose population get so out of balance? Hmmm. Did it have anything to do with . . . humans not paying attention to the ecosystem?

To top it off, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game makes this self-contradictory statement:

When the Board determines that people need more moose and/or caribou in a particular area, and restrictions on hunting aren't enough to allow prey populations to increase, predator control programs may be needed. . . .

[Then the next sentence:] Wolf hunting and trapping rarely reduces wolf numbers enough to increase prey numbers or harvests.

Huh? Is that a typo or a brain fart, or, did I just read--in support of wolf hunting--"[w]olf hunting . . . rarely reduces wolf numbers enough to increase prey numbers or harvests." Isn't that the point? Did the person who composed this public-relations piece accidentally include a bit from some objective science report on the effects of the program? What is this?

Those idiots in the Piper Cub flying slowly over panicked gray wolves running for their lives below might as well be shooting family dogs. Of course, it's even worse. Because if they shot my dog, I'd sue them. After my wife and my friends restrained the instinctual me from beating their heads in with a pipe wrench.

I guess that wouldn't be humane.

Don't watch the video.