March 2004
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Day March 8, 2004

It’s like Bush is channeling James Watt…

Just when I was getting the hang of what is happening with the Administration, tax cuts, and deficits, a news item from BushGreenwatch caused me to remember that the fight over responsible forest protection isn’t over by a long shot.  This is a long-standing issue for me, having spent some of my graduate school days poring over environmental impact statements and maps of old growth forests in Washington and Oregon.  

After a protracted battle, the 1994 Northwest Forest Plan put into place some minimal protections for 450+ species and key ecosystems in the forests of the Pacific Northwest.  In particular, a program called “Survey and Manage” forced the Forest Disservice Service and Bureau of Livestock and Mining Land Management to actually look at logging sites for rare (not just endangered) species.

Well…you can guess the rest of the story.  Annual reviews of species covered by the program have been instituted (2001), and as a result, only 296 species and four arthropod groups are now covered.  And to top it off, as a result of lawsuits by timber companies, a revised Final Supplemental EIS has been filed which recommends removing the Survey and Manage program entirely.  To quote the “key points” in the EIS, the “reason for this proposal is to improve the agencies’ ability to implement the Northwest Forest Plan which balances healthy forest ecosystem objectives and sustainable commodity production.”  Apparently, spending the time checking on the ground for rare species before clearcutting removes them wasn’t enough of a balance – in the direction of “sustainable commodity production.”  

After basically claiming that the program is wasting “valuable public resources,” the report does mention that the agencies “remain concerned about the management of rare species” but claim that other programs, such as Special Status Species Programs and the Endangered Species Act were sufficient to the task.  In other words, call us when there’s a fire to put out – we’re not interested in prevention. 

Oh, and my favorite part…the language.  In a stunning example of the Administration’s command of euphemism, “risk of extirpation” has been changed in the final EIS to read “sufficiency of habitat to support sustainable populations.” 

It’s been hard, these last three years, to keep the entire scope of what the Administration has been up to in full view.  They’ve been busy making war on many fronts, and not all of them overseas.  

Odd reports from Zimbabwe…

This is really a strange report:  a US-registered Boeing 727 was detained at the airport in Harare, Zimbabwe yesterday and found to be carrying what are described as 64 “mercenaries” and “military material.”  The plane has been moved to a military base for an investigation of the identities of the passengers and their mission. 

I don’t even have a good speculation about this, but I’m gonna be watching the news for a resolution on this.  A new escapade?  Covert mission whose cover got blown?  The thing I love about RSS feeds is that I’d never read news like this otherwise.  Sadly, with nearly 100 RSS feeds, I’m trying to remember where I saw this…

Possible VP candidates not interested?

Richardson, Graham, and Rendell appeared on Face the Nation this Sunday, and none appeared interested in the VP slot.   Richardson indicated that he’s only been governor of New Mexico for a year, and is happy in the job.  Graham basically deflected the question, saying little positive or negative either way.  Rendell basically recommended that Kerry pick somebody popular from a state Bush won in 2000.  

As I mentioned last week, the “southern strategy” for VP makes a lot of sense, and in that post, I predicted that Edwards or Graham would be the top possibilities.  Which raises an interesting question – what if neither Edwards nor Graham are interested?  Kevin Drum has some interesting arguments about why Edwards might not want to be VP – especially if Kerry doesn’t win.   No losing VP candidate has ever come back and won in a future presidential race.

Although this does have to be tempered by the fact that many recent VP candidates simply weren’t presidential material themselves.  As a commenter to Drum’s post pointed out:  Lieberman is a terrible campaigner, Quayle is….Quayle, and so on.  The data aren’t suitable for really determining whether there’s a causal factor here, but I would suspect that it has more to do with the candidates themselves rather than something structural.

I firmly believe that Edwards will serve as VP candidate if asked by Kerry.  He’d be stupid not to.  He’s not going back to the Senate in the meantime, so he’d have to run for a shorter-term House seat (which is death…) or try for a Governor-ship.  If Kerry/Edwards lose, he’s still fairly strong and can rebuild by running for the Senate again.  If they win, then Edwards is likely the presumptive nominee in 2012, whether Kerry wins re-election in 2008 or not.    

Prediction:  it’s gonna be Edwards.   I know that’s not original, but logic points in this direction.  There aren’t any governors other than Rendell or Richardson that look attractive.  Edwards had enough momentum that putting him on the ticket could further unify the Dems, and we get a “southern strategy” in the deal.