Saturday, April 2, 2011

"Young Olympia"

Given the rash of recent events dominating the world stage, one overlooked item escaped attention. Well in line with his history of contempt for anything environmentally conscious, the Congressman for All Alaska Don Young continues to champion the oppressed members of society by selflessly going to bat for his constituents. In this case, the maybe two or three licensed big game guide services and related taxidermy businesses in Alaska whose clients are shut out of importing their polar bear kills back home after their Canadan safaris. The bill in question here is House Resolution 990:
"To amend the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 to allow the importation of polar bear trophies taken in sport hunts in Canada."
(extended rant below the fold)  
 This is rehash of a previously failed bill, H.R. 1054, which by sponsoring, Young focuses his legislative priority back over anything else at the moment that's happening in America. Taking care of the approximately 41 "hunters" who made their kills before the polar bear became listed as endangered species in 2008: this is what occupies the attention of Alaska's most powerful political figure -  the 2nd most senior Republican in Congress and the longest-serving member of the Alaska congressional delegation. According to his official press release:
“There is no conservation value in a dead bear that is held in cold storage in Canada,” said Rep. Young.  “Those who legally hunted and harvested these polar bears fully complied with all U.S. and Canadian laws in place at the time of their hunt and are now paying to keep their trophies in cold storage because bureaucracy and politics have gotten in the way of their rights.  Most Canadian polar bear populations are healthy and well managed and sport hunting activities fund important conservation programs. Additionally, these expensive hunts support and feed remote Native villages.  Holding these legally taken trophies hostage for political gain is wasteful and foolish and with this legislation we will correct this ridiculous determination.”
On the other hand, there must be considerable "conservation value" in Alaska keeping such a magnificent specimen of useless favoritism in Washington, DC. - at least to compliment the impression that the other Great White Hunter (Mama Grisly) is having on the rest of the country.

The science behind polar bear population estimates being used to justify these trophy hunts is the same as Alaska Department of Fish & Games' gamesmanship over their obsessive wolf fetish. As to the exact numbers, the know knowns are ignored, and the rest... well, nobody really knows. According to the most recent data (1993) from the US Fish & Wildlife Service and international researchers: "Of the 19 recognized polar bear subpopulations, 8 are declining, 3 are stable, 1 is increasing, and 7 have insufficient data." Kinda gives lie to Young's earlier statement that "most" are "healthy," but given the average fitness and age of most politicians in Washington, this is an understandably distorted perspective as to the relative health of a subpopulation. In 2006, the "total number of polar bears worldwide is estimated to be 20-25k" (Dept. of the Interior/F&WS), which when coupled against the loss of habitat due to decreasing sea ice, the designation as "threatened" is depressingly inadequate.
A while back an acquaintance of mine had the distinct honor of entering the den of the Don, and bagged a great picture of him posing with a trophy hippie: As opposed to a zoo, word has it that the lair is somewhat more:
“... like a hunting lodge/Alaska history museum. [...] The best part was when one of us students asked "what was the worst part of almost losing that election?" His response was, "what would I do with all these fucking heads."

The grimace of disgust on the Inuit stand-in reflects contempt for using the tiresome "Noble White Man Must Help the Poor, Struggling Native" line, which is almost as old (and useful - excepting during reelection) as Young himself. Waving around a flag of cultural diversity: "Additionally, these expensive hunts support and feed remote Native villages" - when it covertly advances one's thinly veiled personal agenda is political opportunism. While indigenous communities certainly have the right to profit from the resources on their lands and capitalize on such opportunities, under the guise of perverting amending the intent of the original Marine Mammal Protection Act, this bill is a charade.
I'm also skeptical that the income derived ($35k each in 2007) from 150 hunts that bagged 518 bears "support and feed remote Native villages" as Young claims. If the numbers hold true from Alaska, photo safaris and other non-consumptive ecotourism related business ventures are comparatively much more lucrative and sustainable sources of revenue.

“They might in the future more than ever before engage in hunting beavers.” – Samuel de Champlain
Trivia: I achieved that squishy, floppy look towards the bottom of the composition because my original doodle that was supposed to just be a warm-up, evolved into something worth saving. Excepting for the fact that on this particular sheet of paper I basically ran outta room along the bottom. 

While the parodied piece, Manet's "Olympia," is loaded with allegorical symbolism of racism, gender stereotypes and blunt sexuality, any implied phallocentric connotations here are purely coincidental. For example, Manet's black cat (which was in turn a riff off of the original dog in Titian's "Venus") supposedly denotes everything from prostitution to "corruption and the moral decay of society." My beaver is just standing there looking cute.

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