Monday, June 30, 2008

It's Still the Oil, Stupid

Update: Heavy political fallout over the technical support agreements has caused Iraq officials to delay signing the deals with the former exclusive producers. According to the Iraqi oil minister, the contracts were not executed because the companies "refused to offer consultancy based on fees as they wanted a share of the oil." I would too, if I had the option between being paid in devalued dollars or $140/barrel crude. In order to make the agreements politically more acceptable, the ministry announced it had selected 41 other companies included six state owned firms to compete for long term production agreements. A disclosure by US officials caused more consternation over the contracts and potential conflicts of interest. A group of US advisers, lead by a small State Department department team advised the oil ministry during the negotiations, even providing template contracts and detailed drafting suggestions. The contracts were not competitively bid. When asked about the US role in the negotiations between private companies and a foreign state, a State Department official said he saw no possible conflict of interest. Wackydoodle sez: "Ain't no conflict long as I get paid".
[photo: Darth & the Boys in conference]

The big oil internationals who founded the Iraq oil industry are set to return to the patch after reaching agreement with the Baghdad government to provide oil service expertise to repair and upgrade equipment and facilities, reports Patrick Cockburn for the British Independent newspaper. Shell, BP, Exxon-Mobil and Total will sign agreements at the end of the month, the first with large Western companies since the U.S. invaded in 2003. These companies were joint venturers in the British-French-American consortium that controlled Iraq's oil for forty years before it was nationalized by Saddam Hussein in 1972. The two year technical support contracts are for services only, but the companies have the option to be paid in cash or crude oil, and the service agreements position them for follow-on production agreements. Experts estimate that the foreign companies will add 500,00 bpd to Iraq's current level of 2.5 million bpd. Saddam's move to nationalize Iraq's oil production was popular. Many Iraqis believe that the invasion of their country by the United States was motivated by the desire to return control of reserves thought to be second only to Saudi Arabia to the West.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Le Shorter: When the North Pole Melted

For you who do not believe read this:

For the Record with Russ Feingold

"Well the idea that this [FISA bill] is somehow a compromise, where we got a few things and they got a few things is just false. Senator Kit Bond is one of our worst opponents on this, is basically doing a jig. He's so happy, bragging that the White House is shocked at how it got everything it wanted, basically. There's two huge problems. One is the one you mentioned. This retroactive immunity for telephone companies, whether or not they followed the law in giving out this private information to the government. That is a terrible precedent in terms of the rule of law, and one that's generated a lot of attention. We got like a thousand calls in the last couple of days in my office against this deal. The other piece that I think is even more important, that you hear less about, is the way in which this is going to allow the government to basically suck up all international communications between Americans and anybody overseas, even Americans overseas, in a giant data bank if they want. And this is an amazing intrusion into the freedom of the American people. There's no court review of it. There's no requirement showing that there's anybody doing anything wrong. So these two things together make for just an awful piece of legislation that nobody should be voting for, especially a Democrat."--response to questions at Young 6/26/08

'Toontime: The Sun Sets Through the Rigs

credit: Rex Babin, Sacramento Bee

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Zimbabwe Fights Back

The United Nations voted Monday to declare free elections in Zimbabwe under the current regime of dictator Robert Mugabe not possible. A run off election is scheduled for June 27th. Mogan Tsvangari, the opposition political leader who many observers say won the general election outright, took refuge in the Dutch Embassy in Harare after receiving death threats from Mugabe's operatives in his Zanu-PF party. The opposition says Mugabe and his thugs are responsible for at least eighty deaths during election campaigning. Zanu PF mobs are forcing fellow citizens into what they term 're-education' camps [photo]. Tsvangari withdrew from the run off, citing the violence against his supporters, but Zimbabwe's justice minister says his withdrawal was too late and that the run off election would proceed.

International condemnation of the aging Mugabe maybe be reason for hope. According to the London Times there are talks between South Africa's president Thabo Mbeki and Mugabe with a view to establishing a national unity government. Mbeki has his own reason for mediating since thousands of Zimbabweans are immigrating illegally to South Africa. If Zimbabwe totally collapses economically, the refugee problem will become much worse. Mbeki is also mediator for the fourteen nation South African Development Community. Several member countries have joined in censoring the once admired Mugabe who heroically lead his countrymen out of colonial rule and apartheid. Up until this point Mbeki has been loath to apply full pressure on his fellow former freedom fighter. Without tacit South African support, Mugabe's regime is doomed. Zimbabwe, which Mugabe did so much to create, now must be saved by neighboring countries from his chaotic misrule.

You can add your voice to the international effort to save Zimbabwe by signing a petition at

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Israel Wags the US Dog

A prime example of US foreign policy being influenced by Jerusalem is the unwillingness of the current US regime, dominated by pro-Zionists, to engage Iran in direct negotiations over its stubborn insistence on uranium enrichment. US intelligence concluded in the latest national intelligence estimate on the subject (2003), that Iran had halted its nuclear weapons program. Still, UN nuclear energy experts have concluded that Iran is not coming clean about its program and is withholding critical information that would allow the IAEA to determine whether Iran is attempting to create a nuclear arsenal. A restricted report leaked to the American press said Iran has not disclosed full information about its work on high explosive testing, missile design work, and studies of uranium hexafluoride, used in gas centrifuges to make enriched uranium. When Javier Solano, EU foreign minister, made recent diplomatic overtures in Tehran offering technical assistance to develop light water civilian reactors and trade opportunities, US envoys were not present in the "sextet". In fact the Charlatan engaged in unhelpful rhetoric during the visit, similar in tone to the rhetoric issued by Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He also revealed information about the Israeli attack on a Syrian installation believed by the Israelis to be nuclear related in order to apply pressure on Iran and North Korea. The lack of progress in altering Iran's current enrichment policy is making Israeli leaders very nervous. The Israeli military recently conducted a joint air force-navy long range strike exercise in the Mediterranean. The exercise covered a similar distance to possible targets in Iran.

Some observers believe that Iran's policies are essentially defensive given the presence of western forces on both sides of the country and a fully developed nuclear arsenal in the hands of its traditional enemy, Israel. Faced with a negative response from Tehran on their latest carrots and hard line US pressure, European leaders agreed on Monday to impose new sanctions. The measures will force Bank Melli, Iran's largest bank, to cease operations at its offices in London, Hamburg and Paris. The bank is involved in a large number of business deals between Europe and Iran. According to Deutsch-Welle implementation of the sanctions was delayed while Solano engaged in diplomacy. EU leaders still express interest in resolving the nuclear proliferation impasse with Iran. However, the western diplomatic chorus is missing a lead singer and it will have to wait until after his November debut in the US. Hopefully he will not be singing, "Bomb, bomb, bomb Iran".

Monday, June 23, 2008

Vox Versi: Torture Redux

"The United States does not torture."--Charlatan's repeated assertion to the press


The eleven released detainees examined were subject to cruelties that ranged from isolation, sleep deprivation and hooding to electric shocks, beating and, in one case, being forced to drink urine.--2008 Report by Physcians for Human Rights

"The commander in chief and those under him authorized a systematic regime of torture." --General Anthony Taguba, 2004 DOD investigation

New FISA Bill a "Farce"

Incredibly, Barak Obama is willing to support a bill that gives the Regime almost everything it wanted in FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) legislation. The presidential candidate said he was willing to object to immunity for telecommunication companies, but was also willing to support a compromise solution to the illegal domestic surveillance initiated by the current President as a part of his so-called "War on Terror". Obama's willingness to cooperate with supporters of widespread domestic spying in an indication of the pressure on legislators to avoid letting Patriot Act wiretaps expire in August. Russ Feingold (D-WI) called the bill passed by the House a "farce" and an "incredible giveaway" to the Regime. Both Reingold and former presidential candidate Chris Dodd (D-CT), who made the immunity demands a major campaign issue, said they would attempt to slow down the rush to give the Charlatan and his corporate handlers want they want. But Feingold was not optimistic about his chances. Even Republicans negotiators say that the bill relinquishes more than they expected. H.R.6304 fails to re-establish the fundamental judicial check on executive requests for surveillance orders by requiring a prior finding of probable cause, and relegates the special FISA court to reviewing the adequacy of procedures established by the executive branch. Republican leadership predicted that the forty pending civil rights lawsuits against collaborating communication companies will be dismissed. Want your private communications protected from government snoopers? Call your Senator and ask for more debate on the issue.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Hydrology 101

The Midwest flooding is being called a 500 year event, but some hydrologist believe that the effects of heavy spring rains were enhanced by the drastic changes in the landscape wrought by 150 years of intensive agriculture. In the past the tall grass prairie and an interconnected web of wetlands, streams and rivers drained east central Iowa into a Mississippi River unconstrained by levees. The great river routinely exceed its banks, cut new channels, and created lakes along its flow. The natural geography acted as a sponge, soaking up heavy rains, collecting, storing and directing the water south to the Gulf. The Des Moines lobe, a region of fertile wet prairie in north central Iowa was described by Rufus Blanchard in 1868: "the country consists of broad tables with but slight depressions, drained by frequent undulating sloughs. These are found in parts most distant from large rivers, where the admirable system of drainage which nature has provided for this State has not yet had time to be developed."[1] But that landscape is gone forever because the natural attributes of the land were not adequate for the needs of mechanized farming however. A mono-crop agricultural landscape extends as far as the eye can see. For nearly a century and a half, Midwest farmers drained, dredged, and tiled the wetlands and marshes on the Des Moines Lobe and across the greater Prairie Pothole Region. Estimates generally agree that approximately 99 percent of the original wetlands, marshes, and small streams of north-central Iowa were drained and plowed.[2] The effect of all this human hydrology has been to remake Iowa into a vast tilted plain much more permeable to rain water, allowing greater volumes of water to enter streams and rivers than historically possible. The Cedar River broke it's previous high water mark by eleven feet after 15 inches of rain was dumped on the central and eastern parts of the state. The ground was already saturated from previous precipitation. So most of that water entered the man made drainage courses causing area rivers to reach record stages. The U.S. Geological Survey has preliminary data showing 500-year floods on the Cedar, the Shell Rock, the Upper Iowa and the Nodaway rivers. The 1993 flood was also considered a 500 year event. The anomaly of two statistically unlikely events with 15 years started meteorologists thinking. Some attribute the flooding to cyclical climate change. The Midwest has been in a wet cycle for the past 30 years. Others are willing to attribute the severe weather to global warming without direct evidence. Computer climate models do predict more severe weather as a result of global warming. A recently released government survey of academic literature on the subject predicted a 90% chance that the frequency and intensity of heavy downpours will rise. In official understatement the report opined: “…on balance, because systems have adapted to their historical range of extremes, the majority of the impacts of events outside this range are expected to be negative.” Pass me a sandbag, dude.
[2] id. Image of a mole plow used to drain land.

Friday, June 20, 2008

It's the Money, Stupid

Democrats in the House agreed to immunity for telecoms companies in exchange for more judicial oversight of domestic eavesdropping than the Regime wanted. The bill provides for a rubber stamp certification procedure that allows dismissal of civil rights suits if a telecom company received a written authorization from the President. And on the campaign front, Senator Obama agreed to met with Hillary's Wall Street and corporate supporters without the press being present before he announced he would not be taking $85 million in public funds for his campaign. I can't help hearing in my head the old "The Who" song lyric, "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss...."

'Toontime: Split on the Writ

credit: Jim Morin, The Miami Herald]

Thursday, June 19, 2008

For the Record with Michael Greenberger

Many say that Goldman Sachs & Co. and Morgan Stanley are primary traders on the principal market outside of direct U.S. supervision, the Intercontinental Exchange, otherwise known as ICE....Economists and industrial energy consumers suggest that the price of a barrel of crude oil could be anywhere from 25 percent to 100 percent in excess of what supply-demand market fundamentals would dictate. For example, OPEC has recently said that a barrel of crude should not be in excess of $70....Thirty percent of the U.S. futures trading in United States-delivered West Texas Intermediate crude oil contracts is conducted by the Intercontinental Exchange. Despite the fact that that exchange is owned by an Atlanta-based corporation with trade-matching engines in Chicago, the CFTC [Commodity Futures Trading Commission] insists that it (ICE) should be regulated by the United Kingdom....To the extent that the Intercontinental Exchange operates outside of U.S. limits and controls on speculation, there is very substantial evidence suggesting that United States futures trading on that exchange is akin to the unregulated trading in U.S. stocks in the 1920s. That comparison is aided by the fact that huge positions in these markets can be obtained by speculators with less than 10 percent margin--Former Director of CFTC Division of Trading, interviewed by McClatchy News 6/17/08

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

McBush Sez:

Lifting the offshore oil drilling moratorium is a "matter of national security".

Wackydoodle sez: 50mpg is a matter of my pocket book.

Nota bene: McBush leads all other senators, and all others who ran for president, in contributions from the oil and gas industry, according to the Center for Responsive Politics’ analysis of federal data in the 2007-08 election cycle. McCain collected $724,000 through May.
15 of his top aides and fundraisers have lobbied for the oil & gas industry.

Offshore drilling is safe from hurricanes.

Wackydoodle sez: A drop of crude goes good with your coffee in the morning.

Nota Bene: According to the Coast Guard about 7 million barrels of oil were spilled in the aftermath of Katrina or about 2/3 of the amount spilled by the Exxon Valdez in Alaska. The forty four spills occurred inland at industrial and storage sites along the river. There were no reported spills offshore, but according to a coast guard spokesman hurricane Ivan caused oil spills in the Gulf of Mexico.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

With Pombo Gone, Wilderness Arrives

Now that Richard Pombo the former chair of the House Resources Committee has been voted out of office, wilderness designation bills are starting to move in Congress. In recent weeks the House has passed six wilderness bills, including the Wild Sky Wilderness in Washington State, that would protect more than 500,000 acres. The Senate Energy and Resources Committee has approved another four wilderness bills and the panel could pass more, an effort that Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) told the Washington Post was aimed at addressing "some pent-up demand for bills that had been in the works for most of the last decade." As many as a dozen bills are expected to pass this year, and another seven have been introduced recently. One of the pending designations is an expansion of the Mt. Hood Wilderness adjacent to metro Portland, Oregon. Pombo made it his business to block every wilderness bill pending in Congress. He was defeated for reelection in 2006 thanks in large part to a targeted public relations offensive mounted by a coalition of environmentalists {Got Pombo? 11/2/06}. Conservationists are generally pleased with the new attitude toward wilderness in Congress, but point out that even larger amounts of public lands have been open to oil and gas exploration. Some of the lands are relatively unspoiled wild habitats such as the Roan Plateau in north central Colorado. All together the Regime has offered more than 40 million acres in the Rockies and 70 million acres in Alaska to extractive industries for development. "When I changed the name from Resources to Natural Resources, it wasn't just for cosmetic reasons -- it's for what I view as the real guts of the responsibility of this committee," said Pombo's successor, Rep. Nick J. Rahall (D-W.Va.). Earth's mechanism for absorbing
[photo cedit: Black bear footprint on Roan Plateau, Brandon Jett]

The Horror: Bagram Airbase

McClatchy News Service reports, after an eight month investigation, wide spread abuse and torture of detainees held in US custody at the former Soviet Bagram Airbase outside of Kabul, Afghanistan. McClatchy journalists interviewed 66 former detainees who told of repeated brutal beatings, the widespread use of stress positions, sleep deprivation, and various forms of psychological humiliation. The systematic brutality lasted for some twenty months starting in late 2001. Former guards interviewed said they beat prisoners in "retribution for 9/11". All such actions are prohibited by the 1949 Geneva Conventions that the Regime ordered did not apply to suspected Al Qaeda and Taliban detainees. To further limit any legal liability for torture, the Regime pressured Congress to narrow the definition of a war crime under the War Crimes Act of 1966. Afghan detainees Dilawar and Habibullah were beaten to death while chained to the ceiling of their "cages" in December 2002 [see eyewitness diagram]. No military officer above the rank of Captain has been called to account for the rampant brutality in their commands.
Update: "Yesterday's Man", as the British press refers to the current occupant of the bunker, made another outrageous comment to a TV interviewer who asked him how the torture at Abu Ghraib and Gitmo squared with his claimed belief in "universal freedom". The Charlatan responded saying critics of US human rights violations are "slandering America"[video] . Only this deluded man who appears to suffer from some variety of schizophrenia could make a remark so wildly inaccurate as to itself constitute slander of those journalists with enough spine to point out the obvious hypocrisy of America's current policies in the Middle East. The Regime clearly wants to continue a military occupation of Iraq for the foreseeable future. Even the Maliki puppet government is balking at US demands for 58 permanent bases and control of Iraq's airspace and foreign policy. Clearly, Iraqi freedom is wholly contingent on US security interests.

Wackydoodle sez: "Them camel drivers can't handle freedom, but I figure the Constitution is worth a city."

Monday, June 16, 2008

Trashing the Arctic Seas

One hundred and forty dollar a barrel oil has got the exploration companies all fired up and out to find more black gold. Seismic surveys are the main tool of exploration and involve making the loudest noise in the ocean. The National Marine Fisheries and Mineral Management Services of the Department of Interior have approved permits for conducting seismic surveys in the Chukcki and Beaufort Seas in 2008. The noise associated with the exploration activity is known to cause hearing loss in marine mamals, disruption of feeding and migrating behavior, and has been associated with whale strandings. Despite all the negative impacts on protected species like the bowhead whale and polar bears the permits have been issued with inadequate environmental review and in violation of the Marine Mammal Protection Act. The permits are being challenged by conservationists in court.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Kucinich Vows to Fight

Representative Dennis Kucinich told reporters, according to The Hill journal, that he does not intend to let his 35 article impeachment bill die a quiet death in the House Judiciary Committee. He will reintroduce the bill with co-sponsors in thirty days if there is no action on it. He has an uphill fight since the Democratic leadership in both houses would rather let the carcass of the boy king George twist slowly in the political winds sweeping the Hill. The Founders wisely provided a remedy for an executive branch gone wild. Some even foresaw the pernicious influence of faction, but provided no remedy for that in the Constitution. The Republicans, in their cynical effort to impeach Bill Clinton for false statements relating to what most Americans considered a personal failing, politicized the impeachment process perhaps beyond resort. One network commentator suggested that the impeachment of Clinton may have been a deliberate ploy to in order to inoculate his Republican successor. Perhaps that idea is slightly too Machiavellian even for Darth Cheney and Carl 'Turd Blossom' Rove. However, it is known that the neocons and the Vice President entered office fully intending to maximize the power of the president at the expense of Congress especially when foreign policy decisions were concerned. If any president in the history of the Republic should answer for his high crimes in the dock of the Senate, it is Bush & Company.

Friday, June 13, 2008

'Toontime: Doubleheader

[Richard Crowson, Wichita Eagle]

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

For the Record with Alexy Miller

"We expect that the oil price will approach $250 per barrel in the foreseeable future". --Alexy Miller, CEO Gazprom, address to European Business Congress 6/11/08

Le Shorter: A Sad Record

Republicans have engaged in 75 filibusters on the Senate floor during this Congress. A Republican memo obtained by Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) shows that their obstructionism is an intentional strategy to score political points against their opposition. Clearly, Republicans are bad for America.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Colonizing the Oil Fields

A high ranking Iraqi official called the Regime's proposed status of forces agreement,"more abominable than the occupation". The agreement calls for 58 permanent US bases, and a clear relinquishment of Iraqi soverignty by allowing the United States to unilaterally decide if a hostile act from another country constitutes aggression against the state. Presumably this provision would allow the US to launch a retaliatory strike against Iran using forces stationed in Iraq for what it may deem Iran's provocative behavior. Equally unacceptable provisions are complete functional control of Iraqi airspace and immunity for US military personnel and private military contractors, like Blackwater USA, whose mercenaries have been involved in controversial killing of unarmed civilians. Iran, now enjoying increased influence in Iranian affairs as a result of the US invasion and occupation, has made it clear to visiting Prime Minister Al Maliki that the proposed security accord is unacceptable. Currently, the US military operates out of 30 facilities, not counting minor combat posts. The international legal basis for the occupation, the UN mandate under Chapter Seven of the UN charter, expires in December absent an extension. Iraqi legislators are anxious to remove Iraq from the status of being a threat to world peace, but view the proposed security agreement with the US as overreaching. Democratic legislators in the United States also want a say in approving the arrangement which they maintain far exceeds previous executive agreements made without formal congressional approval in scope and intent.

Bad For Business?

The hypocrisy of the plutocrats never ceases to irritate me. Their candidate in chief, Mr. McNavy, says Obama's moderately progressive policy initiatives would be "bad for business". What about their practices being "bad for America"? The oil companies' tax subsidies are a stunning example. While the international oil oligopoly enjoys record prices and windfall profits, they still insist on preferential tax breaks like the depletion allowance--a form of depreciation for a natural resource that is not a capital asset. Democrats failed, 51-43, to get the 60 votes needed to overcome a GOP filibuster and bring a windfall profit tax up for consideration. Democrats also failed to get Republican support for a proposal to extend tax breaks for wind, solar and other alternative energy development, and for the promotion of energy efficiency and conservation. The tax breaks have either expired or are scheduled to end this year. Republican business policies have very little to do with les petites bourgeoisies and much more to do with Wall Street. Argue that assertion with an independent trucker paying over $5 a gallon for diesel fuel.

The plutocrats hardly ever talk about the billions wasted at the Pentagon on weapons systems and war--cost that is essentially social overhead that could be better allocated insuring Americans' health, thereby relieving small business of a major escalating expense. How many nuclear aircraft carriers does this nation realistically need to combat mujaheddin armed with surplus Kalashnikovs? Nor do they mention the uncompensated externalities created by their production activities often resulting in a toxic and degraded environment in which we all have to live. Let the boo birds and ditto heads have their day. The mismanagement of the country under successive Republican administrations is so glaring even the couch potatoes cannot fail to vote their actual economic interests.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

For the Record with Ralph Nader

In an ironic twist, the major price determinant[of oil] has moved from OPEC (having only 40% of the world production) and the oil companies to the speculators in the commodities markets. What goes on in the essentially unregulated New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX)—without Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) enforced margin requirements, and, unlike your personal purchases, untaxed—is now the place that leads to your skyrocketing gasoline bills. OPEC and the Big Oil companies reap the benefits and say that it’s not their doing, but that of the speculators. Gives new meaning to “passing the buck.”--Counterpunch 5/28/08

Joe has Got to Go

Joe Liarman, that once upon a time Democrat, publicly criticised Obama for allegedly being weak on Iran, and not sufficiently Zionist to please the moneybags at AIPAC. Senator Obama, after securing his party's nomination for president, got involved in a heated conversation with Joe on the floor of the Senate. He led the increasingly right leaning independent senator off to a corner for a brief but animated conversation. Majority Leader Reid's suggestion that Joe should be stripped of his committee chairmanship is well taken. The Connecticut senator takes every opportunity to publicly identify himself with Republicans and their policy positions. He even uses their worn out talking points repeatedly accusing Iran of being bent on Israel's destruction, and accusing Democrats of a "blame America first mentality." Joe's Zionist line is not consistent with negotiating a more stable and peaceful Middle East. Its time to oust him from the caucus he loves to rebuke.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Le Shorter: Senate Still Gridlocked

The climate bill currently before the Senate is doomed by the Republican filibuster. Progressive senators do not have the 60 votes needed to pass the measure which is inadequate to achieve the necessary dramatic cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. Meanwhile the price of oil is rocketing towards $150 a barrel on commodity markets. US retail gas prices could reach European levels of $8.00 a gallon by the end of summer and certainly $5.00 a gallon by the 4th of July.

'Toontime: That's Texas

[credit: Robert Ariail, The State, Columbia SC]
Wackydoodle sez: Don't mess with Texas mommies!

Thursday, June 05, 2008

An Outrageous Act

Iceland, ancestral home of fearless Viking explorers and whale killers committed another senseless act of brutality against wildlife yesterday. A starving polar bear swam 200 miles from Greenland to Skagafjordur in northern Iceland where it was promptly killed by police. It was the first ice bear to reach Iceland since 1993 when a swimming bear was spotted by sailors and also shot dead. The so-called environment minister gave the go-ahead to kill the bear allegedly because it would have taken 24 hours for the correct tranquilizer to arrive on the scene. Police were supposedly concerned for the safety of gawkers. But the chief vet in town, Egill Steingrímsson, told reporters he had enough tranquilizer in the boot of his car to do the job. A dart gun could have been sent within an hour, and police could have kept the bear under observation for such a short period of time in the opinion of the doctor. Steingrimsson added, "I'm very unsatisfied that the police did not try to catch it alive and did not close the road."

Umky Patrol

An outstanding example of community involvement in conservation is the Umky Patrol from the small arctic village of Vankarem on Russia's Chukotka Peninsula. Umky is the native word for polar bear (ursus maritimus). Because of disappearing sea ice, more and more polar bears are coming ashore. When a young girl was killed by a polar bear in a neighboring village the leaders of Vankarem, with help from the World Wildlife Fund, established a patrol to keep foraging bears out of their village. The experiment has proved very successful. In its first fall season of 2006 the patrol protected humans from about 180 polar bears surrounding the village for several weeks without a single casualty, either ursine or human.

Biologist estimate there are 20,000-25,000 wild ice bears in 19 separate populations in the Arctic. Under normal conditions they live 20 to 30 years. We may loose two-thirds of them if current trends in melting sea ice continue. A remnant has a chance to survive in Northwest Greenland and the extremities of the Canadian archipelago where favorable ice conditions may persist. So it is important that the great white bears are protected from increasing human exploitation of Arctic resources. Oil companies bid $2.6 billion for leases in the Chukchi Sea, habitat for bears, seals, walrus and seabirds. The lease sale was conducted by the Department of Interior before a decision was finally made to list the polar bear as a threatened species, and only after much public protest. Even the Marine Fisheries Service recommended that the Chukchi Sea be removed from the five year plan for exploiting the continental shelf. It is one of the world's most productive marine ecosystems. The department estimates that oil development will result in a 40% chance of a major oil spill and numerous small ones.

Local residents conducting the Umky patrols also collect valuable scientific data that can be used to better understand the condition of bears in the region. Polar bears depend almost entirely on ice for hunting. Loss of sea ice means less time to feed leading to a decline in health, reproduction and ultimately survival. Four patrols now work on the Russian coastal regions of Chukotka and Yakutia with plans to expand the patrols to other villages in Russia and the Arctic.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Obama Tells AIPAC, "One Jerusalem"

In a near obligatory appearance before the powerful Jewish American foreign policy lobby, AIPAC [video], Senator Obama told the attendees that Israeli security was "sacrosanct", and that America would defend the state of Israel with its capital in "an undivided Jerusalem". The latter statement ignores the historic and demographic facts on the ground in Palestine. East Jerusalem and the Old City have been historically an Arab quarter until it was occupied by Israel during the 1967 Six Day War. A return to pre-1967 borders has been a consistent hallmark of Palestinian Arab demands for territory in return for peace. Relinquishing Arab territorial claims to the ethnically Arab Old City has been rejected by Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas. Undoubtedly the Arab "street" will see Obama's announcement as no change in an unreasonable bias towards Israel as part of US attempts to resolve their 120 year old conflict. Even the last Democratic president was willing to negotiate the issue of control of East Jerusalem with Yassar Arafat at Camp David.[1] Failure to recognize Arab's territorial claims to East Jerusalem and the site of Haram ash Sharif robs third party intermediaries of needed negotiating flexibility to resolve the interlocking issues of territory, soverignty, security and resettlement separating the beligerents.
[1] Morris, Righteous Victims, 2001 p.659

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Obama Reaches Out

It seems that Senator Obama is reaching out to Hillary and her fans. The ruling of the Democratic Party's by-laws committee on Saturday rung the death knell for Senator Clinton's nomination hopes. Presumptive nominee Obama is reportedly considering her for a post in his cabinet as Health Human Services Secretary, or giving her the lead Senate role for his health care reform legislation. The camps are talking about paying off Hillary's campaign debt of $30 million, but according to one Clinton insider it is difficult to talk about an end game when the candidate still has not accepted defeat. One decision is becoming clear: Hillary will not be offered second place on the ticket. That decision was made easier after Hillary's last gaffe, referring to RFK's 1968 campaign to justify her refusal to concede. Rumor has it that Kansas governor and perceived moderate, Katherine Sebelius, is the front runner for the VP nomination.
The magic number is now: 0

Monday, June 02, 2008

Leadership or Politics?

All three candidates for president propose CO2 reduction legislation, but when the Senate takes up a version of the Warner-Lieberman bill this week, all of them will be on the stump and not participate in the debate. McBush said he "would not shirk the mantel of leadership", but will not be bothered to support a bill almost identical to his proposal except for what he calls insufficient subsidies to the nuclear energy industry. This bill is a step in the right direction as they say, but does not go far enough in reducing carbon emissions. Climate scientists think we must reduce carbon emission by 80% or more by 2050 to stand an even chance of avoiding climate catastrophe. Nor does the bill provide for 100% auctioning of pollution credits to generate revenue as proposed by Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA). The Obama and Clinton plans seek to meet the necessary level of reductions while also taking significant steps to improve energy efficiency, promote conservation and alternative energy, as well as nurture a green technology industry. Neither candidate has committed to speak in the Senate on behalf of these proposals during the debate on S.3036. The final primaries in Montana and South Dakota are held tomorrow.