Sunday, March 31, 2013

Closing Out the Month of March With a Spectacular Day

Looking across Neklason Lake to the Talkeetnas Sunday
I've been sort of on a high over the weekend from the glow of how well our Anchorage Civic Orchestra concert went last Friday.  And the weather Saturday and Sunday inspired me to get the greenhouse going by moving starts from the inside of the house to the greenhouse.

Greenhouse starts
Today I finished the three-month-long project of transferring my studio from a basement utility room to what used to be our son Alex's bedroom.

Time to finish some composition projects, and start the next ones.

For Easter

I'm not a Christian, so Easter means less to me than when I was one.  However, I listened to Claudio Monteverdi's Vespers today, as I finished moving and remodeling my studio.


My sister-in-law's Easter art:

The Bartlett Club To Take to the Streets This Thursday

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Prince William Sound from the Air Yesterday

Judy took this picture yesterday, flying from Merrill Field to Tatitlik on Prince William Sound.

Is David Lawrence Only the First of Many Heads Rolling at Shell's Alaska Fiasco? - and Other Shell Items

I.  Late last week, Royal Dutch Shell PLC sacked longtime employee, David Lawrence:
David Lawrence, the executive vice president directly responsible for Alaskan operations has left the company. A Shell spokesman says that “Mr. Lawrence’s departure from Shell is by mutual consent.” Lawrence had been with Shell since 1984. His departure was first reported on the site started by longtime Shell gadfly Alfred Donovan. A year ago Lawrence had said that Shell’s planned Arctic drilling “is relatively easy.” 
So it’s fitting that he was made to answer for the disastrous Alaskan campaign which was marred by a host of delays, accidents and mishaps. The misadventure resulted in a couple of wells being started, then abandoned, and one of Shell’s rigs, the Kulluk, being damaged in a grounding near Kodiak Island. “ Shell screwed up in 2012,” said Interior Secretary Ken Salazar earlier this month. 
So far, the local Alaska news has largely voided any implications in his having, uh, left the company.  I predict more heads will roll at the Alaska operation, even though more information is coming out that Shell's shortcomings organizationally for the 2012 drilling debacle came from higher up in the company than from their Alaska crew.

II.  It appears Shell ignored internal advice on how to prepare for their 2012 Arctic drilling operations.

III.  The Noble Discoverer was far more poorly prepared to operate as a drill rig in Alaska's Arctic than Shell has wanted us to believe:
According to our whistleblower source, the entire rebuild and preparation was carried out at a reckless pace and the Noble Discoverer departed on its way to New Zealand without even being certified. As a consequence of the botched processes, the ancient ship repeatedly broke-down on the high seas during the move to New Zealand. Because almost everything went wrong, the well it had attempted to drill had to be abandoned before reaching its objectives so that the jinxed drilling ship could be moved to the Arctic with all speed.
IV.  Another agency may begin an investigation into Shell's Arctic mishaps:
The Coast Guard has asked federal prosecutors to consider taking action on possible violations of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) committed in the operations of Shell's Kulluk drillship, said Rear Admiral Thomas Ostebo, head of the Coast Guard in Alaska. 
Shell, which had planned to drill up to five wells offshore Alaska in 2012 and a similar number this year, has previously said it will pause its Alaska operations to regroup due to complications faced in the harsh northern environment, but it expects to resume drilling next year. 
Ostebo said he had commissioned one investigation already launched into the December 31 grounding of the Kulluk and that the Coast Guard has forwarded findings of safety and environmental violations on the Noble Discoverer, Shell's other Alaska drillship, to U.S. prosecutors for possible enforcement action.  
"Last week, I also referred a separate Kulluk investigation into potential MARPOL violations from 2012 to the Department of Justice for their review and potential follow-on action," Ostebo said at a field hearing convened by Senator Mark Begich.
Here is a video of the field hearing chaired by Sen. Begich Wednesday:

Things keep piling up.

Shell may not be back.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Sen. Begich Finally Comes Out of the Closet - In Support of Gay Marriage

On the eve of the U.S. Supreme Court's hearing of California Proposition Eight's legality, Alaska Sen. Mark Begich has finally come out fully in support of equal rights for gay couples:
Gay and lesbian couples should not be denied the ability to pledge their love and commitment through the civil institution of marriage. I believe that two committed adults of the same sex should be able to receive a government-issued marriage license, while religious institutions retain their right to determine which marriages they will perform.
Begich went on to say, "Government should keep out of individuals' personal lives—if someone wants to marry someone they love, they should be able to. Alaskans are fed up with government intrusion into our private lives, our daily business, and in the way we manage our resources and economy."

Earlier Begich had been far more vague in his support.  He faces a tough reelection battle in 2014 against opposition surely to be led by the same conservative Christians who inflicted Sarah Palin and Joe Miller onto the national psyche.  Representative of these types, are some of the comments coming in at The Hill's article on Begich's announcement:
This is Begichs last term !!!  
How can politicians continue to "evolve" on the issue of gay marriage when it stands as such an obvious contradiction to evolution?  
Looks like another Republican pickup in 2014, Alaska is one of the redest [sic] states in the nation, they elected Sarah Palin after all...
However, those of us who have long followed Begich's hiring as mayor of Anchorage and in the U.S. Senate, and know his staff, understand Mark has always been very welcoming and inclusive.  Among his most staunch supporters among staffers and former employees have been several openly gay men and women, some of who are my friends.  I remember back during the Democratic Primary of 2008, when I was supporting his opponent, Ray Metcalfe, getting several calls from gay friends (and other friends) who urged me to look more deeply into Mark's record and qualifications.

Begich's endorsement wasn't the only recent one from a previously less committed Democrat, but Business Insider noted it as "perhaps the most significant," because of Begich's upcoming reelection campaign.

Alaska Robotics on Parnell's Fixations on Oil and --- North Dakota?

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Anchorage Civic Orchestra Concert Friday Will Feature Two Outstanding High School Soloists

Each spring, at the Anchorage Civic Orchestra's Family Concert, we feature the winner of our December Concerto Competition.  This year we couldn't decide which of two extremely talented Anchorage high school students was the winner, so we will feature them both, as co-winners.

Dane Breitung, a junior, will perform Claude T. Smith's Fantasia for Alto Saxophone and Orchestra.  Here is a performance of the original version for alto saxophone and wind ensemble:

Keeon Guzman, a senior, will perform the Finale from Edward Elgar's Cello Concerto:

I feel privileged to be leading the accompaniment of these two hard-working, vivacious young performers.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Ray Metcalfe on His Initiative and Referendum to Defeat the Corrupt Bastards Club II's SB 21

On Friday, I interviewed Alaska's most influential and enduring muckraker, Ray Metcalfe.

Back at the beginning of the current legislative session, he predicted that the big oil companies would buy or coerce enough votes in the Alaska Senate to pass Senate Bill 21, which they did on Wednesday.  He has conceived of a two-part plan to repeal SB 21 and reinstate ACES, should Alaska's voters want that.  Reading through the comments in the Anchorage Daily News article on SB 21's passage, it appears he may have a very willing voting constituency for such a set of moves.

Metcalfe is getting help from members of the Senate who opposed the multi-billion-dollar giveaway.  Sen. Bill Wielechowski, who was quoted back on March 12th as stating "If it takes a popular citizens movement, an uprising from the people of this state to show that we're sick and tired of a Legislature that's not going to listen to us, I'm going be behind it 100 percent," is providing support for Metcalfe. He is also getting free legal support from attorneys familiar with both oil company tactics, and with Alaska voting laws and statutes.  And - as has been the case for over a decade regarding Alaska oil company corruption of our legislators - the doors to the FBI's top investigators are wide open to Ray.

I interviewed Ray Metcalfe on Friday afternoon, when we got together at the Cafe del Mundo coffee shop on Benson Boulevard in Anchorage.


Friday, March 22, 2013

The Alaska Senate Stabs Alaskans in the Back - Time For Ray Metcalfe's Revenge? YES!

Ray Metcalfe at Occupy Anchorage, September 2011
I.  Wednesday's Alaska Senate vote may have been a direct violation of the most important provision of the Alaska Statutes, Title 24, § 24.60.030, Conflicts of Interest:
(3)(g) Unless required by the Uniform Rules of the Alaska State Legislature, a legislator may not vote on a question if the legislator has an equity or ownership interest in a business, investment, real property, lease, or other enterprise if the interest is substantial and the effect on that interest of the action to be voted on is greater than the effect on a substantial class of persons to which the legislator belongs as a member of a profession, occupation, industry, or region.
Senators Kevin Meyer and Peter Micciche work for ConocoPhillips.  Micciche owns stock in ConocoPhillips. The governor who proposed and ardently pushed this bill is a recent employee of ConocoPhillips. Senators Meyer and Micciche should have recused themselves from the vote, if not the earlier proceedings as well.

Though probably not a criminal violation by the two GOP senators, yesterday's session on this vote was the sleaziest display of Alaskan political corruption on the legislative floor since Ethan Berkowitz got up to protest Bill Allen's blatantly unashamed exhibition of vote manipulation, during a special session of the legislature, back in 2006.

Wednesday's vote was 2013's version of The Corrupt Bastard's Club.

Because of the obvious violation of a state statute in the bill's passage (the vote would have been 9 to 9 with the recusals, resulting in its defeat), I suspect this will be litigated before it can become law.  Perhaps for years.

The law may be thrown out, wasting millions in state resources spent defending dubious legislation achieved in an underhanded way.

II.  Meanwhile, Alaska's greatest muckraker, a background figure in the destruction of the 2006 Corrupt Bastards Club, Ray Metcalfe, needs our help.  He wants to put the issue of oil development taxation law up to our voters (emphases added):
Political activist Ray Metcalfe says he is preparing an initiative for the 2014 ballot that would restore a modified version of the state's current oil-tax regime should the Legislature adopt Gov. Sean Parnell's oil-tax cuts. 
"The objective here is to have petitions in hand so that if Parnell gets his way and passes something onerous, when the dust settles you've got people ready to put something on the ballot," Metcalfe said Tuesday. "I think (the cuts) would be reversed if it were placed on the ballot." 
Metcalfe, a former Republican legislator in the 1980s who created the Republican Moderate Party as a protest to the Republican drift to the right and then joined the Democratic Party, said his initiative was mainly copied from Senate Bill 50, the Democratic response to Parnell. Neither Senate Bill 50 nor its House counterpart, House Bill 111, have had any hearings in the overwhelmingly Republican Legislature, though the bills were introduced more than a month ago. 
Malcolm Roberts, a long-term aide to the late Gov. Wally Hickel and a founder of the oil-industry watchdog group Backbone, said Metcalfe's efforts could be "round two" in the fight against Parnell's tax cuts contained in Senate Bill 21 and House Bill 72. 
"There's still a battle that may be winnable to get enough votes to stop Senate Bill 21," Roberts said. He and other Backbone members were in Juneau earlier this week trying to convince senators to vote against the bill. 
"Let's not give in to this bill till we've actually lost it, and then we'll go from there," Roberts said. 
Sen. Bill Wielechowski, a lead author of the Democratic tax measure, said he'd back Metcalfe, depending on what eventually emerges from the Legislature. 
"I think he's going to find widespread support -- I don't think the people of Alaska support what's happening in the Legislature," said Wielechowski, from East Anchorage. "If it takes a popular citizens movement, an uprising from the people of this state to show that we're sick and tired of a Legislature that's not going to listen to us, I'm going be behind it 100 percent." 
Metcalfe said he has two versions of the initiative that he could spring after the Legislature finally votes, assuming it passes Parnell's tax cuts relatively intact. 
One of the initiatives would actually raise oil taxes, he said. The other would reduce the current progressive rate of tax increase as oil prices rise -- but it wouldn't cut taxes even as much as the Democratic SB 50 would, he said. Unlike supporters of Parnell's tax cuts, he says that Alaska's tax rates are competitive in the world, and more favorable to industry than in some fields in Mexico and Iraq. 
He has the initial round of 140 sponsor signatures for each measure, 40 more than required, he said, but hasn't decided which one he will finally offer. Metcalfe said he's also looking for two prime sponsors in addition to himself to make up the initiative committee.
Former representative Metcalfe wrote an op-ed back in February, detailing years and years of oil company manipulation of our legislative processes.  The Frontiersman and Juneau Empire carried it.  The Anchorage Daily News refused.  At least they carried Richard Mauer's story on Ray's initiative.

I'll be writing more on this important piece of democracy.  Let's hope others do that as well.

We need to get the petition for the initiative distributed, signed and filed in a visible, citizen-friendly way - ASAP!

Disclaimer:  I serve as Secretary on the board of Citizen's for Ethical Government, which Ray Metcalfe founded.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Obama's Israeli Statement on Syrian Chemical Weapon Use Makes Me Want to Puke

I don't watch much television and don't trust any TV news outlet on the subjects of war, peace, economic justice or the environment.  But I turned the TV on early this morning, to watch how the media dealt with Obama's visit to Israel.

I grazed NBC, CBS and ABC early news.  I was annoyed by FOX News coverage, which continues to portray Obama as not nearly loyal enough to Israel to qualify as an American president.  I turned to CNN, where live reports were coming in to the American News Desk from their senior reporter and former key employee of the Israel America Public Affairs Committee, Wolf Blitzer, who is traveling with the presidential entourage.

I watched, during the joint press conference held by Obama and Netanyahu in Jerusalem (not the seat of the Israeli government recognized by the government of the USA), as Obama was asked about reported use by the Syrian government, or by the rebels, within the past few days.  Obama addressed the reports:
With respect to chemical weapons, we intend to investigate thoroughly exactly what happened. 
So I’ve instructed my teams to work closely with all other countries in the region and international organizations and institutions to find out precisely whether this red line was crossed. 
The broader point is that once we establish the facts, I have made clear that the use of chemical weapons is a game changer and I won’t make an announcement today about next steps because I think we have to gather the facts. But I do think that when you start seeing weapons that can cause potential devastation and mass causalities and you let that genie out of the bottle, then you are looking potentially at even more horrific scenes than we’ve already seen in Syria, and the international community has to act on that additional information.
I wanted to puke.  Especially as it was being despicably uttered on the tenth anniversary of the beginning of our huge war crime in Iraq - shoved down the throats of Americans by the post-9/11 GWOT cabal, so directly related to the Project for the New American Century and A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm, and by a media and political establishment stock full of people who intensely believed our criminal Iraqi expedition would help Israel, no matter what it did to America, let alone Iraq. 

Iraq is where we've been shown more horrific scenes than in Syria, time and time again, in spite of the firings, censorship and threats of retribution that have kept the media acquiescent, right up to the present.  Dahr Jamail, on Democracy Now this morning, described our use of what have to be regarded as "red-line"-crossing chemical weapons - depleted uranium and white phosphorus - in Iraq, particularly in the battles of Fallujah (emphasis added):
And going on to Fallujah, because I wrote about this a year ago, and then I returned to the city again this trip, we are seeing an absolute crisis of congenital malformations of newborn. There is one doctor, a pediatrician named Dr. Samira Alani, working on this crisis in the city. She’s the only person there registering cases. And she’s seeing horrific birth defects. I mean, these are extremely hard to look at. They’re extremely hard to bear witness to. But it’s something that we all need to pay attention to, because of the amount of depleted uranium used by the U.S. military during both of their brutal attacks on the city of 2004, as well as other toxic munitions like white phosphorus, among other things. 
And so, what this has generated is, from 2004 up to this day, we are seeing a rate of congenital malformations in the city of Fallujah that has surpassed even that in the aftermath of—in the wake of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki that were—that nuclear bombs were dropped on at the end of World War II. So, Dr. Samira Alani actually visited with doctors in Japan, comparing statistics, and found that the amount of congenital malformations in Fallujah is 14 times greater than the same rate measured in the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan in the aftermath of the nuclear bombings. 
These types of birth defects, she said—there are types of congenital malformations that she said they don’t even have medical terms for, that some of the things they’re seeing, they’ve never seen before. They’re not in any of the books or any of the scientific literature that they have access to. She said it’s common now in Fallujah for newborns to come out with massive multiple systemic defects, immune problems, massive central nervous system problems, massive heart problems, skeletal disorders, baby’s being born with two heads, babies being born with half of their internal organs outside of their bodies, cyclops babies literally with one eye—really, really, really horrific nightmarish types of birth defects. 
And it is ongoing.
It is ongoing.  14 times greater malformation rat than experienced by the victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki!

Israel's illegal use of chemical weapons against its neighbors is longstanding. Its recent use of coerced sterilizations against its own citizens who don't look white enough - Ethiopian Jews - has finally been brought to light.

And the same scoundrels who prepped us to go into an insane and criminal war against Iraq, are going to force us into what will end up being a nuclear war against Iran.  In the same press conference Wednesday where Obama threatened some warlike response against Syria, he refused to confront Netanyahu about Iran's nuclear intentions.  Instead, he asked to be brought to the nearest donkey that needed servicing. 

Here's Obama on the Syrian chemical weapon report:

Here's Dahr Jamail on our use of  illegal chemical weapons in Iraq:

Personal note:  The combination of the second anniversary of the Fukushima reactor explosions and subsequent meltdowns, the tenth anniversary of the murder of Rachel Corrie and the tenth anniversary of the beginning of our Iraq War depressed me so much, I found it hard to write about politics, public affairs or the environment for almost a week.  Maybe I'll bounce back.

Three Candidates for Anchorage Assembly to Address Bartlett Club Thursday

Thursday, March 14, 2013

U.S. Department of the Interior Releases Review of Shell Oil 2012 Arctic Drilling Operations - The Press Conference - Updated

At 4:30 PM, Washington DC time Thursday, outgoing Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar and others, held a press conference to announce the release of their expedited 60-day review of Shell's 2012 Alaska Arctic drilling operations, which were plagued by a series of fiascos.  Along with Salazar, the following DOI officials participated:

• David J. Hayes, Deputy Secretary of the Interior 
• Tommy Beaudreau, Interior’s Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management and Director of Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management 
• James A. Watson, Director of Interior’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement

Here's what DOI put out in their media advisory:
Salazar will be joined by Deputy Secretary David J. Hayes, who chairs the Interagency Working Group on Coordination of Domestic Energy Development and Permitting in Alaska; Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Director Tommy Beaudreau, who led the assessment; and James A. Watson, Director of the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement. In January, Secretary Salazar directed the high-level review of Shell’s 2012 offshore drilling program in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas – including the company’s preparations for last year’s drilling season and its maritime and emergency response operations – to identify challenges and lessons learned.
I attended telephonically.

The following is the best I could do between trying to quote, and getting fair paraphrasing:

Salazar opened with a statement describing Obama's commitment to the development of offshore and Arctic regimes, both oil and natural gas.

"Under the president's leadership domestic oil production has grown every year .....  Oil imports have dropped to 45%, the lowest percentage since 1995.

"Last summer we allowed Shell to proceed with limited activity in Alaska's Arctic.  Because Shell wasn't able to meet safety requirements, they were only allowed to drill preliminary holes.  We and the USCG watched closely.

"We learned a lot, partially from Shell's mishaps.  On January 8th, I directed an assessment and review of Shell's 2012 activities."

 Salazar notes that Shell came to DOI, to announce their drilling suspension for 2013.

Salazar defers to Beaudreau's 60-day report. Introduces "Tommy":

B describes their "37-page report."  Participants were also USCG and Price Waterhouse.

B states "Shell also cooperated.  Meetings in Washington DC, Alaska and Washington state."

Also met with Alaska Native groups, environmentalists and other governmental agencies.


All phases of Arctic operations must be integrated and subject to strong operator management and government oversight. Operators must submit detailed descriptions of operations before,. during and after. Shell fell too short in terms of management and planning.  Serious violations of permits in terms of discharges and demands 3rd party involvement in management of oversight regime by Shell.

Seems to slam Shell for not using adequate local and professional knowledge.

Turns the mike over to Hayes:

The review confirmed the importance of interagency coordination between Federal agencies in offshore drilling. (I think he is glossing over the 2012 problems severely, as he praises how Fed agencies performed.) The report confirms the appropriateness of "Arctic-specific standards" for equipment, operations and management.

He all but praises Shell for their performance while actually drilling the lead holes in the Chukchi and Beaufort.

Turns over to Admiral Watson, USCG:

Blah, blah, blah, Shell OK, blah....

Questions from press: John Broder, NYT: What did you find out about government operational shortcomings? - B - We learned a lot, and know more from it.  Integration between Fed agencies "worked very well." I missed a couple of questioners, as I signed in to ask two questions.

Rachel d'Oro from CSM/AP: was oversight of contractor by Shell a big problem? - "Pervasive problem."

Aisha Rasko, Reuters:  on "submitting integrated plan for operations - how would these differ from plans already required to submit?"  B - "asking for Shell to come up with plan that goes beyond that, including detailed descriptions, schedules,. targets all through approach, operation and end of season."

John Ryan KUOW Radio:  Questions wisdom of even deploying Arctic Challenger, in light of the seas the Kulluk encountered?  Admiral - basically, avoids the question of AC's suitability.

Conference concluded. Didn't get to me.  My questions were:

1) Has the strengthened, modified containment dome for the Arctic Challenger been tested yet? 
2) What little we know about how badly the test of the AC's original dome went came zbout from disclosures from KUOW's FOIA.  Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility has submitted several FOIA requests on the containment dome testing that have now been answered.  Will the requests be answered soon?

Somewhat disappointed, but not at all surprised at the shallowness and brevity of the information provided at the conference.

When DOI has posted the report, I'll link to it here. Link to some previous fdl articles on Shell Arctic drilling 2012.

Update - 4:05 pm PDT: The Department of the Interior has released its assessment report.

Here is the link (pdf)

From the report (emphasis added):
This review has confirmed that Shell entered the drilling season not fully prepared in terms of fabricating and testing certain critical systems and establishing the scope of its operational plans. The lack of adequate preparation put pressure on Shell’s overall operations and timelines at the end of the drilling season. Indeed, because Shell was unable to get certified and then deploy its specialized Arctic Containment System (ACS) – which the Department of the Interior (DOI) required to be on site in the event of a loss of well control – the company was not allowed to drill into hydrocarbon-bearing zones. Shell’s failure to deploy the ACS system was due, in turn, to shortcomings in Shell’s management and oversight of key contractors. Likewise, additional problems encountered by Shell – including significant violations identified during United States Coast Guard’s (USCG) inspection of the Noble Discoverer drilling rig in Seward last November, the lost tow and grounding of the Kulluk rig near Kodiak Island in late December, and violations of air emission permits issued by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) – also indicate serious deficiencies in Shell’s management of contractors, as well as its oversight and execution of operations in the extreme and unpredictable conditions offshore of Alaska.

We're Hosting a Fundraiser for Jamey Duhamel for MEA Board Saturday Afternoon

Judy and I are hosting a fundraiser for Jamey Duhamel on Saturday afternoon, from 4:00 pm on.  She kicked off her campaign today, for the open seat on the Matanuska Electrical Association Board, being vacated by Borough Mayor, Larry DeVilbiss.

Here's a link to the event page we've created on facebook, which gives directions to the fundraiser.

Here's a link to her MEA campaign facebook page.

Jamey works very hard and is dedicated to serving people in the Mat-Su Valley.  Here's part of her biography:
I am a life-long Alaskan raised in a military family and the mother of four sons. Brought up in the Mat-Su, I am blessed to have married my high school sweetheart and created a large family together in the place we love. Recently, we chose the pristine beauty of Sutton to buy our first home and raise our energetic boys. With a humble chunk of land, we are raising chickens and vegetables, while teaching our sons the value of hunting and fishing for our food. Living off the land and building character through hard work and perseverance is one of the best gifts living in Alaska has to offer.

I am also blessed to have enjoyed a career improving the futures of families and community. Eighteen years ago I started my career as a therapist for autistic children. Since then, I worked for many years with adults and children with disabilities to ensure they have the chance to be productive, happy, and healthy members of our community. I have spent the last 10 years helping families with victimized children overcome trauma to become healthy adults. In addition, I advocate for abused children in court to help find them safe, permanent homes.

In addition to my professional life, I have enjoyed a long and fulfilling career as a community service volunteer. I served as President of the Board for a local parent resource center for several years, I volunteered on various budget and administrative committees for the local school district, and I volunteer to work with abused children.

Whether volunteering my time or working as a professional, I give my time to the community because I feel strongly that our greatest asset is our people. I want to create a future here that will bring health and happiness to our children and grandchildren.
Come join us Saturday.  Meet some local friends.  Enjoy refreshments.  Sample from our wine cellar.  Donate to Jamey!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The New Pope, Giving Communion to the Creator of Argentina's Dirty War - La Guerra Sucia?

This picture was posted on Wednesday, by Immortal Tech, asking if it is an image of newly installed Pope Francis I, giving communion to former Argentine dictator, Jorge Rafael Videla.  From the look of the image, Videla is much older than when he presided over the abduction, detention, torture and murder of at least 30,000 Argentine liberals and radicals.  And we cannot see the face of the Argentine Catholic cleric offering Christ's flesh to this ogre who presided over such barbarism.

Whether or not the new pope is the person assuaging this monster, the role of the Catholic Church in Argentina's Guerra Sucia is undeniable.

I've been following news stories on the Dirty War since the mid-1980s.  Even before the Worldwide Web, I was involved in internet discussion groups on the subject, some of them in Spanish.

Tens of thousands of liberals were arrested or kidnapped.  They were brought to detention centers more humane than our Guantanamo, or most of our maximum security prisons, initially.  Eventually they were moved to military detention centers.  Most were tortured.  Some were shot outright, individually, or in small groups, buried in pits.

Pregnant women were made to deliver their babies, then had them taken, given to conservative Catholic families who wanted kids.

Then the shocked women were sent to "transfer centers," where they joined thousands about to die.  Most were told they would soon be released.  They weren't

They were drugged, stripped naked, chained into small groups, led into  US-supplied C-130s, and flown out to sea, sometimes hundreds of miles out into the Atlantic.

They were then unchained, and thrown, one by one, into the sea.  None survived.

It appears that the Catholic Church is moving from a reactionary pope to a pontiff who blessed torturers.

Part of the way the truth about some of the most awful deaths during Videla's Dirty War emerged, was that Argentine military who had participated in torture and murder wanted to to confess to a priest, and were rebuffed by their chaplains, or were reported to their commanders for being weak or worse by the same chaplains.  This came out in trials in Italy and Spain in the early 1990s.

The most vibrant part of Catholicism in Latin America is its progressive arm, Liberation Theology, which tries to uplift the poor, and represents Jesus as such a figure.  Francis I represents the opposite side of the spectrum, which, in part, represents Jesus as a king who oversees princes and an aristocracy who oversee the rest of humanity.  Francis I represents a Catholicism that is quickly dying, as it sucks the life out of what good there was in that faith.


Saturday, March 9, 2013

ConocoPhillips' Mike Faust Pokes Shell's Curtis Smith in the Eye: “We’re not going to bring up a 30-year-old piece of equipment"

ConocoPhillips' jack-up Arctic drilling rig, being constructed now
I covered the difference between Shell Oil's criminally negligent approach to Arctic drilling to ConocoPhillips' 2014 preliminary plans last week.  As ConocoPhillips perhaps prepares the ground for next week's release of the U.S. Department of Interior's 60-day review of Shell's Arctic Drilling plan, the company's spokespeople are providing more detail:
ConocoPhillips on Thursday revealed that it is moving ahead with plans to drill up to two exploratory wells in Alaska’s arctic waters in 2014 where rival Royal Dutch Shell suffered a number of setbacks this past year.

ConocoPhillips proposed exploratory drilling program, presented during NOAA’s annual Arctic Open Water Meeting, will focus on the “Devils Paw” prospect located 80 miles offshore in the shallow waters of Chukchi Sea, Alaska. The company says it intends to drill one or two exploration wells during the open water season of 2014 in water depths of approximately 140 feet.

ConocoPhillips’ plan calls for drilling to be conducted using a jack-up rig and a number of support vessels including tugs and barges, ice management and oil spill response vessels, and fixed wing aircraft and helicopters.

Reuters reports that the rig to be used is being built by Noble and will be designed for extreme weather conditions.

“We’re not going to bring up a 30-year-old piece of equipment,” said Mike Faust, ConocoPhillips’ Chukchi program manager, during the meeting in Anchorage. Faust also admitted that the company will take Shell’s experience into account, but added that there are a number of differences that set ConoccoPhillips’ program apart including a prospect that is further south, where ice melts earlier in the season.

ConocoPhillips’ exploration plan is currently under review by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.
Meanwhile, another player in Arctic drilling isn't poking fun at the Keystone cops at Shell.  They are engaged in serious contemplation, something outside of the corporate culture toolkit at Alaska Shell:
This week a top executive with Norway-based Statoil said it would be willing to walk away from Arctic offshore drilling if exploration in the harsh and remote environment proves too risky. 
In an interview at the IHS CERAWeek conference in Houston, Tim Dodson, Statoil’s executive vice president of global exploration, acknowledged the numerous challenges associated with Arctic offshore drilling and reiterated his company’s cautious approach to exploration in the region. 
After spending $23 million on Chukchi Sea leases in 2008, Statoil had planned to begin drilling in 2014, but delayed those plans by a year after watching Shell’s struggle to comply with safety and environmental standards and navigate the challenging conditions — all before drilling into any oil-bearing zones. Now, Dodson said, that may be pushed back even further: 
We’ve [said] we wouldn’t drill before 2015. Whether that means we drill in 2015, or maybe not until 2016 or whether we’d drill at all, I think maybe the jury’s still a little bit out on that. 
One key reason for Statoil’s reluctance to rush into Arctic offshore operations is the cost involved. Shell has spent approximately $5 billion on equipment and preparations, only to see its state of the art oil spill response equipment “crushed like a beer can” in a routine test off Puget Sound. And both of the company’s specialized Arctic drilling rigs were so badly damaged in accidents last year that Shell will tow them to Asia for substantial repairs — delaying its own exploration plans until at least 2014. 
In the aftermath of Shell’s debacles, the Department of the Interior is nearing the end of a 60-day review of the company’s Arctic Ocean drilling program, the results of which are expected as soon as the end of this week.
I'm not sure that the failed containment dome on the Arctic Challenger was actually "state-of-the-art."  We wouldn't even know how badly the apparatus had failed had it not been for a Freedom of Information Act request submitted by Seattle's KUOW.  Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility have ongoing FOIA's and a lawsuit, regarding the same failed tests, which may reveal even more about Shell's  rush to get something going, no matter what the cost - financially or environmentally - in 2012.

Bonus:  Picture taken Thursday in Resurrection Bay of the hulk, Noble Discoverer, by Wolfgang Kurtz, for the Seward Phoenix Log:

Alice Walker Reads Rachel Corrie

Next Saturday, March 16th, will mark the tenth anniversary of the death in Gaza, of Rachel Corrie.  Rachel, then a senior at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, had gone to Gaza at the beginning of 2003, to fulfill aspects of her senior thesis.  While there, she became active in efforts by the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), to protect Palestinians from outrages of the Israeli occupation forces.

She was killed by an Israeli Army D-9 armored bulldozer, with two people aboard in the cockpit, one there to drive, the other, to observe.  During the same time period, Israeli forces in Gaza shot and mortally wounded Tom Hurndall, a British photographer, also working with the ISM (April 11th), and mutilated Brian Avery (April 5th), another American ISM activist, in Jenin in the West Bank.  This time period coincided with the American invasion of Iraq - March 19th to May 1st.

A notable aspect of Rachel Corrie's legacy is the sheer volume of art her life and sacrifice evoked.  Between March 19th 2003 and April 24th 2004, I collected over 160 poems written in the young woman's honor, and posted on the web, in the English language.  I used two of them in my 2003-2004 cantata, The Skies Are Weeping.  California composer, Paul Crabtree composed another cantata about Corrie, American Persephone.

Corrie's journals and emails from Gaza became the basis of the most widely viewed and highly regarded work of art about Corrie, My Name is Rachel Corrie.  Written by Katharine Viner and Alan Rickman, the play premiered in London on April 5, 2005, in a highly evocative solo performance by actress Megan Dodds.  Premiered in a very small theatre, it was revived in the 2005 fall London theatre season in a larger venue, and proceeded to win many awards.

The first attempt to produce My Name is Rachel Corrie in the USA , at the New York Theatre Workshop resulted in a cancellation, when the NYTW caved to threats from militant Zionist expansionists. (Incidentally - the article about the cancellation in The Nation, by writer Philip Weiss, and the pushback that writer got in the publishing world for having written so sympathetically about Corrie, and critically about the NYTW, was one of the epiphanies Weiss underwent that led him into new directions, now expressed most fully at his web site, Mondoweiss).

The play has gone on to be performed on every continent save Antarctica, in many languages. 

The play was derived from Corrie's written material with cooperation of the slain activist's family.  Some of Corrie's writings had been posted on the web soon after her death.  Some soon became the basis of poems or lyrics.  For instance, the concluding lyric in The Skies are Weeping is my editing (with the Corrie family's approval) of one of her last emails home:
Feel sick to my stomach a lot
from being doted on all the time,
very sweetly,
by people who are facing doom.

You can always hear the tanks and bulldozers
passing by.
I have bad nightmares about tanks and bulldozers
outside our house
and you and me inside.
Tanks and bulldozers destroyed 25 greenhouses
the livelihoods for 300 people.
Then the bulldozers come and take out
people’s vegetable farms and gardens.

This happens every day.

I think that I should at least mention that
I am also discovering a degree of strength
and of basic ability for humans to remain human
in the direst of circumstances.

I think the word is dignity.

I wish you could meet these people.

Maybe, hopefully, someday
you will
Here, American author and poet Alice Walker, reads from Corrie's writing in such a way as to bring out the poetry in it:

Here is the concluding monologue from My Name is Rachel Corrie, in a 2008 performance of the work in Mississauga, Ontario.  The actress is Alexandra Bell:


And here is Rachel Corrie, herself, expressing her hope, in an elementary school oral presentation:

Now might be a good time to find out more about the Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace and Justice.  You might consider donating to them, as I have.

Allan Savory - Keeping Cattle: cause or cure for climate crisis?

Allan Savory - Keeping Cattle: cause or cure for climate crisis? from Feasta on Vimeo.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Sally Jewell Interior Secretary Nomination Hearing Live Webcast

You can click here to watch the U.S. Committee on Natural Resources confirmation hearing of Sally Jewell, to replace Ken Salazar as Secretary of the Interior.  Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski is ranking member, and may put a hold on the nomination, over a longstanding rural access road issue on the western Alaska peninsula:
One senator has indicated she may put up a barrier to the confirmation however. Ranking senator, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) has said she might hold up the nomination to ensure approval of an Alaskan road to connect a remote Aleutian village to an all-weather airport used for medical evacuations. The road would need to pass through the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge, a sensitive environmental area. The project has been denied for more than 30 years by the Fish and Wildlife Service. They said last month that they would again deny a proposed land swap that would enable the road to be built.
Here is a link to Jewell's written statement, submitted before the hearing.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Noble Discoverer Aboard Xiang Yun Kou; Kulluk in Dutch Harbor, Awaiting Xiang Rui Kou; Sally Jewell Confirmation Process to Begin

Noble Discoverer aboard Xiang Yun Kao - image by Ronn Hemstock for Seward City News

I.  On Sunday, in Resurrection Bay, the hulkish, substandard, underpowered Shell-contracted drill rig, Noble Discoverer, was towed out into the bay, and brought over the partially submerged Chinese heavy lift vessel, Xiang Yun Kou.  Currently, it is being securely fastened in place, before being "dry towed" to a Korean shipyard for either major renovations or scrapping.

Early this morning, the heavily damaged conical drill rig, Kulluk, was towed by three tugs into Unalaska Island's Broad Bay, where it will await arrival of the sister ship of the Noble Discoverer's deliverer, the Xiang Rui Kou.  Here is the Xiang Rui Kao:

Shell announced the Kulluk's arrival about two hours after Progressive Alaska first noted the arrival at Unalaska Island of the Kulluk's towing tugs:
Shell’s damaged Kulluk drill rig has arrived in Unalaska, a week after leaving Kodiak. The rig will towed to its specialized dock in Captain’s Bay later this afternoon.  
Shell spokesperson Curtis Smith says the heavy-lift vessel that will be picking up the rig is on its way as well. The Xiang Rui Kou left China on Sunday, according to its automated tracking system. Once the heavy-lift vessel arrives, it will empty its ballast tanks, sink below the Kulluk and lift the drill rig onto its deck.  
The rig will then head to dry dock in Asia for repairs. Smith says as of today, no shipyard has selected.
II.  DOI Shell Arctic 60-Day Review and Senate Sally Jewell Confirmation Process to Start:

The Department of Interior is soon scheduled to release its 60-day review of Shell's Arctic program, which has to continue to meet DOI approval to proceed.  Even though Shell has announced it is not going to drill in 2013, the Interior Department informed me late last month that the oil giant's decision will have no impact on the report, or its date of issuance, which could be as early as this Friday.

The U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources will be looking at outgoing Interior Secretary Ken Salazar's successor this Thursday:
SD-366 Senate Dirksen Building 10:00 AM  
The purpose of this hearing is to consider the nomination of Sally Jewell to be the Secretary of the Interior.  
The hearing will be webcast live on the Committee's website, and an archived video will be available shortly after the hearing is complete.  
Witness testimony will be available on the website at the start of the hearing. The overflow room is SD-608.

Kulluk Appears to Have Arrived in Dutch Harbor Area

The tugs which have been towing the Kulluk from Kiliuda Bay to Dutch Harbor appeared this morning as having arrived in Broad Bay, Unalaska Island.  They are now anchored, which presumes the Kulluk has also arrived in the bay.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Noble Discoverer Placed Aboard Xiang Yun Kou in Resurrection Bay

On Sunday, the damaged, rusting hulk of the Shell drill rig Noble Discoverer was placed aboard the partially submerged heavy lift vessel, Xiang Yun Kou, in upper Resurrection Bay.  Story and excellent photographs for the Seward City News, by Carol Griswold:
Guided by powerful tugs, Shell Oil’s drilling rig, the Noble Discoverer, began its slow but steady journey from the Alaska Railroad Dock to the waiting semi-submerged transport ship around 6:30 am on Saturday morning. Calm seas helped make this delicate operation much easier.  
By early afternoon, the rig was temporarily secured in place, and the transport ship began to pump out the ballast water.  
By evening, the rig rode high and dry on the cargo deck, lights blazing.  
Over the next few days, welders, including graduates of the AVTEC welding program, will secure the rig to the ship for the month-long journey across the North Pacific Ocean to the repair facility in South Korea.
I do like that Shell is using people from the AVTEC school for the hard tie-down.  I'll be surprised if the journey takes an entire month, but it is possible.

Note that the Aiviq is now berthed in Seward, on the west side of the Alaska Railroad dock:

•  The Kulluk should be getting close to Dutch Harbor.

•  Sunday, the conservative Seattle Times published an editorial critical of Shell's 2012 Arctic drilling activities:

MOTHER Nature made the point the Obama administration chose to ignore two years ago as it was processing an application by Shell Oil to proceed with oil and gas development in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas. 
The Arctic Ocean is a rough place to do business. 
Shell operations were pummeled in both locations last year, and last week the company called off plans for the 2013 drilling season. 
Oil rigs had trouble, and so did a new tug. Harsh weather, accidents and errors combined to send the Shell rigs to Asia for repairs. 
All of the early warnings were seemingly ignored during the permitting process, so high winds and seas, ice and limited visibility made the point. 
The Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico made the hazards and difficulties clear. Imagine spill response within truly harsh conditions. 
Respect the lessons learned.
•  Needless to say, some are miffed in the Seattle area, as the mismanagement of Shell's fleet evacuation from Alaska to Puget Sound resulted in the loss of tens of millions of dollars worth of repair and modification contract work in shipyards down there.

•  Within a week, we should see the issuance of the Department of Interior 60-day review of Shell's Arctic drilling plan.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Viral Video That Shows Wealth Inequality That Has Only Gotten Worse Under Obama

hat tip to Kelly Walters

If Rosa Parks Lived in Samaria Rather than Alabama

In the same brief year Obama honored the late Rosa Parks at the commemoration, in our nation's capitol, of a bronze figure of that modest yet heroically stubborn woman, who fought fools and bigots in Alabama, this happened in what fools and bigots call "Samaria:
An Arab-Israel student at the Ariel College in the West Bank claimed she was told to get off a bus because she "dared" to speak Arabic on her cell phone. 
Hanin Muslah said that during Thursday's incident she was also subjected to a full body search.

Muslah, who is originally from the Wadi Ara area and is studying for a degree in engineering at the establishment's architecture and interior design department, said two armed security guards boarded the bus near a checkpoint as it was leaving Ariel. She claimed that the guards questioned her after hearing her speak Arabic and eventually ordered her to get off the bus.

"As I was talking on my cell I noticed they were pointing at me," said Muslah, who takes the same bus home every day.  
"I started to cry. I have never been so humiliated in my entire life. They took me off the bus in the middle of nowhere. I told them, 'I'm an Israeli, just like you are, so why are you treating me like this? Why take me off the bus in such a degrading manner?'"  
"I don't wear a veil or traditional dresses; I don’t look Arab," said the student, "I was taken off the bus only because I spoke Arabic." The Ariel Municipality said the guards in question work for a security company that operates "according to IDF guidelines," adding that "non-Jewish citizens, including students, pass through Ariel's gate every day."
And on the same day Obama introduced the Rosa Parks statue:
Starting on Monday, certain buses running from the West Bank into central Israel will have separate lines for Jews and Arabs.  
The Afikim bus company will begin operating Palestinian-only bus lines from the checkpoints to Gush Dan to prevent Palestinians from boarding buses with Jewish passengers. Palestinians are not allowed to enter settlements, and instead board buses from several bus stops on the Trans-Samaria highway.
You might ask why I bring this up.  OK.

American citizens get tax breaks for investing in that company's bus system.

At the same time this is happening, we're entering the "sequestration" rabbit hole, where everything related directly to Federal spending is under scrutiny for budget cuts.  But Israel, a country that sees more American financial largesse than any other, and enjoys privileges in its binational relationship with us beyond even Canada, Great Britain or Mexico, is seeking to be made immune to the sequestration process, while my social security and medicare payments will be reduced.

From Jewish Week:
At a time when sequestration is about to take a big bite out of the Pentagon budget, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) will be sending thousands of its citizen lobbyists to Capitol Hill next week to make sure Israel is exempted from any spending cuts.  
This could prove a very risky strategy at a time when millions of Americans will be feeling the bite of the sequestration debacle, from the defense budget to the school lunch program. But not aid to Israel, which will be untouched if AIPAC gets its way.
Such ingrates.

All we've done for them over the years - the list is incredibly long - and this.

If Rosa were alive, she would be holding hands with that young student in Samaria.

Is Obama's Upcoming Israel Visit as Fictitious as That of The Rolling Stones?

I.  A whole lot of people hooked on Ziocaine got punked last week by a prank article published in The Jewish Press.  The article touted an upcoming concert in Israel by The Rolling Stones:
Despite a barrage of attacks from British, European and U.S. Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) groups, the Rolling Stones will perform their planned concert in Jerusalem on Israel’s Independence Day, Monday, April 15. 
“We’ve been slammed and smacked and twittered a lot by the anti-Israeli side,” said Mick Jagger, the band’s leader and most recognizable member since 1963. “All I can say is: anything worth doing is worth overdoing. So we decided to add a concert on Tuesday.” 
Needless to say, tickets to both concerts, Monday night in Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem and Tuesday night in Bloomfield Stadium, Tel Aviv, have been sold out even as Jagger was speaking.
The hoax article went further into details of the fictitious concert series.

Unsurprisingly, some took the bait, in spite of a disclaimer ("This has been a Purim prank…").  My favorite:

Some of the web sites or publications falling for it were
Legendary rock band The Rolling Stones has announced it will not cancel its planned concert in Jerusalem, to be held on Israel’s Independence Day April 15, despite pressure from anti-Zionist groups. Instead, the band decided to add a second Jerusalem concert the next day.
and Abby Martin's favorite fake news source, Allgemeiner, about whose punking Phan Nguyen wrote, "the reliably unreliable Algemeiner":
Legendary rock band The Rolling Stones has announced it will not cancel its planned concert in Jerusalem, to be held on Israel’s Independence Day April 15, despite pressure from anti-Zionist groups. Instead, the band decided to add a second Jerusalem concert the next day. 
“We’ve been slammed and smacked and twittered a lot by the anti-Israeli side. All I can say is: anything worth doing is worth overdoing. So we decided to add a concert on Tuesday,” said Mick Jagger, the band’s lead singer, according to the Jewish Press.
and my favorite, the amazing Pamela Geller (Rep. Bob Bring ME the Donkey Lynn's BFF), who was in ecstasy over this, in her original post that lauded the Stones' courage:
It is so delicious to see very cool people standing against savagery, thuggery and injustice. I'd wish I could get to Jerusalem just to see this show.
When Geller's being punked was exposed by commenters to her post, she lied and turned on them. According to Phan Nguyen:
Thus—essentially saying, “I was testing you”—Geller pretended to be in on the joke. However, there are several reasons why this is implausible: 
1. Geller acknowledged that it was a Purim joke. But by the time of she had posted her story on February 26, Purim was already over. It would be like making an April Fool’s joke on April 2. 
2. Geller didn’t quote directly from the original Jewish Press article but instead based her post on Robert Miller’s Joshuapundit article. To this day, Miller appears unaware that the story is a hoax and his post stands uncorrected. There is no indication that Geller had seen the original article in The Jewish Press before she posted. 
3. Despite claiming that she was proving a clever point, Geller later removed the posting from her website and also deleted her tweet referencing it. What’s the point of making a point and then deleting all references to the point?
II. So The Rolling Stones aren't going to Israel in April, after all. How about Obama in March, especially if he doesn't have an Israeli Government with whom to meet?
President Barack Obama's historic first visit as US leader to Israel this month could be in jeopardy after Benjamin Netanyahu was forced to plead for extra time to cobble together a new coalition government. 
The Israeli prime minister was granted a two-week extension by Shimon Peres, Israel's president, after missing Saturday's deadline to reach agreement with rival parties following January's inconclusive general election. 
He now has until March 16 to form a government – otherwise Mr Peres will ask another party leader to lead coalition talks. 
White House officials have said Mr Obama will call off his visit if no government is in place by then. 
The US president is scheduled to arrive on March 20 for a two-day trip that will also include the West Bank city of Ramallah.
If you find Israeli party politics bewildering, you are not alone. I suppose Netanyahu himself is bewildered by the maze he helped build, and in which he is now all but trapped:
Netanyahu's Likud-Beitenu won 31 of the Knesset's 120 seats - an eroded lead that forced him to cast a wide net for partners while juggling their disparate demands. 
During the 28-day period, Netanyahu managed to forge a pact only with the party of former foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, whose six-member faction "The Movement" has given him 37 seats, way short of the minimum 61 needed to confirm a new coalition. 
In a brief statement following his meeting with Peres on Saturday night, Netanyahu hinted that at least one potential coalition partner refused to sit alongside others. 
Netanyahu has faced demands from the parties that placed second and fourth, Yesh Atid (There is a Future) and Bayit Yehudi (Jewish Home), to slash mass exemptions from military conscription and cut welfare stipends to ultra-Orthodox Jews. 
In coalition talks on Friday with Bayit Yehudi, Netanyahu's chief negotiator said the right-wing party was unwilling to sit alongside ultra-Orthodox parties but Bayit Yehudi officials denied this.
At Mondoweiss, Annie Robbins has provided an excellent, detailed analysis of Netanyahu's pickle, which most likely adds up to no Israeli ruling coalition by the date set for Obama's trip.  She observes that in spite of gains by moderate factions in the January election, the hardliners seem to hold the last trump.  Playing it - accepting the notion of outright annexation of Palestine without giving the non-Jewish Palestinians any citizenship rights - will isolate Israel internationally, certainly from Europe and most of Latin America.

Pressures on the disagreeing parties to come up with something so as to avoid a cancellation or rescheduling of Obama's trip are probably there, but insignificant.  One shouldn't forget that there is far more antipathy toward Obama in Israel than there is, even among white GOP conservatives and Tea Party fanatics, in the USA.

hat tips to Phan Nguyen and Annie Robbins

Saturday, March 2, 2013

A Nice Day for Dogs and Gardeners

The sun is out, the wind is calm, and you can feel spring in the air.  Strider the dog doesn't want to come in the house; he wants to bask in the warmth on his favorite deck.

It got up to 69 degrees F in the greenhouse. First day of planter starts:  tomatoes, parsnips, sage and beets.  I also transplanted some spearmint shoots that have wintered over in the house.

Friday, March 1, 2013

UAA's Annual Scholarship Benefit Concert - Saturday and Sunday

I'll be performing in it - 2nd Horn in the UAA Wind Ensemble.  Come hear the talented, hard-working kids at UAA.

Alaska Sen. Bill Wielechowski's Powerful Powerpoint on Oil Taxation Policy

Alaska Sen. Bill Wielechowski is the point man in the Alaska legislature's push against Gov. Sean Parnell's attempt to transfer billions of dollars from Alaska's future to giant oil companies and their stockholders.  In Juneau, this session, the Senator has come up with the most thoroughly reasoned arguments against Senate Bill 21 and House Bill 72.

Today he posted an excellent Powerpoint series that provides the basics of his argument in favor of  alternative legislation, Senate Bill 50, and House bill 111.

Somebody needs to turn Bill's Powerpoint into a narrated Youtube, and get it out to as many people as possible.

Here is a link to the 120-plus page document.  

Please take the time to read all the way through it.

Goodbye, Shell - and - Hello, ConocoPhillips

Xiang Yun Kou in Resurrection Bay - image by Jackie Wild
The wounded warriors of Shell's dismal 2012 Alaska Arctic drilling fiasco are exiting Alaska waters and the Western Hemisphere, not to be back here soon.

The Kulluk is being towed to Dutch Harbor, where a very large dry tow vessel will take it aboard for the long, late winter trip to Asia.

The Noble Discoverer will be taken aboard the large dry tow vessel, Xiang Yun Kou, within a few days. The latter ship arrived in Resurrection Bay Thursday:
[T]o get the drillship from point A in Alaska to point B in Korea, the immense vessel Xiang Yun Kou pulled into the waters near Seward Thursday to dry-haul the Noble Discoverer to its Asian destination.  
But the Discoverer won’t be leaving right away. On Thursday morning, Coast Guard spokeswoman Ensign Victoria Swinghamer said the plan to raise the Noble Discoverer wouldn’t occur “for a few more days.”  
The Coast Guard also planned to inspect the Xiang Yun Kou upon its arrival to ensure it would be prepared for its long trip across the Pacific with the Noble Discoverer atop its 583-foot-long, 141-foot-wide cargo deck. The Coast Guard cutter Mustang hovered near the Chinese ship on Thursday, along with the tug Junior.
Here's a look at the Xiang in its submerged state, ready to take on a load:

Here it is, loaded with a rig that is probably in much better shape than the Noble Discoverer:

Since the beginning of Shell's disastrous 2012 misadventures, the company has been criticized for using used up equipment.  And its sole piece of brand new equipment - the Arctic tug, Aiviq, failed at least as spectacularly as did the foreign firm's rust buckets.

The other major oil giant getting ready to drill off our state's North Slope is ConocoPhillips.  They are having a giant, state-of-the-art Arctic rig being built right now:
Keppel Offshore & Marine Technology Centre (KOMtech) and ConocoPhillips are jointly designing a first-of-its-kind “ice-worthy” jackup to operate in the Arctic seas.  
The jackup will have dual cantilevers to optimize drilling operations within a limited time frame. It will be capable of operating in a self-sustained manner for 14 days and be equipped with a hull designed for towing in ice. The rig also will be able to resist the impacts from multi-year ice floes and ridges, as well as withstand a certain level of ice thickness.  
“The features of this jackup rig make it a cost-effective and promising drilling solution for the Arctic offshore,” Dr Foo Kok Seng, KOMtech director, said. “We believe that this joint project will achieve significant breakthroughs in offshore Arctic drilling.” The project is expected to be completed by the end of 2013.
Here is an artist's conception of the finished rig, the Gemini:

Shell isn't quite out of Alaska yet, but let's continue to hope that nobody gets hurt.