Below is a roundup of news, politics science, and humor. I plan on doing this about once a week as long as people seem interested. I hope you enjoy.
The Greedy Oil Party is starting to get hit again with some major scandals. It will be interesting to see how this changes the shape of the 2014 elections. Progressives can seriously push back against Republican extremism in several states, but to do so, we need to be ready. To be ready we need to put our money and volunteer time to key candidates. You know your local elections best so you best know how to devote your time. But here is my breakdown of the key races to send some money: Please donate to my 2014 ActBlue site.
More news, science and randomness below...
ENVIRONMENTAL ACTION: Going Solar Just Got Easier
From Green America:
Last year was a great year for solar – but the future is looking even brighter in 2014. Did you know that every 4 minutes in America, someone makes the switch to solar? It’s your turn to be a part of the clean energy future and join them.My wife and I buy 100% wind power. I am also looking into rooftop solar for our building. Green energy is available now.
Helping the environment doesn’t have to mean emptying your pockets. That’s why Green America is partnering with Sungevity to help you go solar. They offer the ability for you to go solar for as little as $0 down with monthly payment options. They are also giving you a $1,000 credit if you go solar this June and will donate $750 to help Green America's green energy work.
By starting the solar conversation, you’ll learn how you can save money, protect the planet and take back control of rising energy costs from expensive fossil fuels.
HEALTH, SCIENCE AND ENVIRONMENTAL NEWS:
Promising and desperately needed...but it will take a long time for it to be clinically relevant: New way to fight resistant bacteria
Given the dynamics of ice melt, this makes sense. I guess it just took awhile for scientists to figure out the math and test it. New techniques predict Arctic sea-ice melt
A very important move. As fisheries decline, a big part of the world's food supply is threatened. Obama is seeking to protect that food supply: Obama doubles global marine reserves
Free Book Preview from the National Center for Science Education: A glimpse of The Cartoon Introduction to Climate Change
Declining fish stocks and declining forests can be linked. Another reason to preserve/replant forests! Deforestation leaves fish hungry. I should note that according to Jered Diamond's book Collapse, deforestation along rivers also leads to degradation of fisheries in the ocean at the mouth of those rivers. MORE reasons for preserving and replanting forests.
Debunking and confronting science denial :
CONSUMER ALERT: The worst supermarkets in the country
According to Consumer Reports (via the Latinos Post), the second worst supermarket in the country is no big surprise: Walmart.
With 3,000throughout the United States, Walmart Supercenters stock everything from dairy foods to home ware. The giant stores received scorching reviews for service, food quality and cleanliness. Furthermore, at 32 percent, Walmart Supercenters had the highest percentage of shoppers who said they suffered three or more problems.Note that in the Consumer Reports study, Wegmans got the highest marks.
I should note that according to Green America, Walmart also ranks the worst of all major supermarket chains. (Trader Joe's ranks the highest).
According to the report, the worst supermarket is Pathmark, a store I am not very familiar with.
A subsidiary of A&P, Pathmark received "highly dissatisfied" reviews for its service, "mediocre" reviews on food quality and price, and "poor" responses for its level of cleanliness. About 75 percent of respondents complained about one or more aspects of the store while 31 percent named three or more problems areas.POLITICAL NEWS:
Prime Rachel Maddow:
What's happening in Iraq? Much of the problem stems from mistakes made during the Bush regime: Factors behind the precipitate collapse of Iraq's army
What should we do about Iraq? It sounds to me like Iran has the right idea (or at least SAYS the right things): Iran's President Rouhani says Tehran is ready to help Iraq in its battle against extremist Sunni Islamists, but sending troops is not on the cards
What should we do about Iraq? A good opinion piece: The problem at its core is not just a matter of security, but politics.
The radical right wing is sending threats to the Idaho community where Bowe Bergdahl lives: Bergdahl's hometown flooded with hateful calls, cancels celebration in 'interest of public safety.' This seems insane to me. I suggest we counter this right wing hatred with some patriotic support. Hailey, ID, is raising money for their July 4th celebrations. I suggest we show them that the left can help them with their patriotic celebrations. On their community website, on the left side, is a place you can click to donate to their July 4th celebrations.
The way CEOs are destroying our economy with their personal greed: Why Executive Pay Results in an Unstable and Inequitable Economy
Cinco de Mayo isn't really about Frat boys getting drunk at racist themed parties: The Mexican Revolution of 1910
Prisoner Exchanges in Historical Context:
Prisoner exchanges have been common throughout history. It became a very common aspect of, for example, the Muslim-Byzantine conflicts in the Middle Ages. It is not something President Obama invented. It is SOP in diplomacy, whatever the right wing wants to say. Such exchanges come in basically three forms: direct exchange of captured people, ransom, and, occasionally, weapons/armor for prisoners.
I should also note that prisoner exchanges are also mandated by the Geneva Convention, though when it comes to many conflicts those seem to be defenestrated by both sides.
What is particularly disgusting about the right wing teabaggers and Greedy Oil Party politicians whining about the Bergdhal prisoner exchange is that they are completely inconsistent and hypocritical about it. When Reagan traded arms for hostages with Iran, they cheered as if arming our enemies is okay. Now one could argue arms for hostages is different than a direct prisoner exchange, but can you imagine if Obama armed the Taliban (like Reagan and Bush did)? The right wing whining would shatter glass across the country.
Below are examples of very similar prisoner exchanges that the right wing completely failed to whine about. Why? Because to the Greedy Oil Party, the Teabaggers, and their Koch brother masters, the ONLY thing that matters is boosting their own and opposing moderates and the left. Actual diplomacy and actual governing are not on their agenda.
What about the Gilad Shalit release deal?
Negotiated by the extremist right wing Netanyahu government, this prisoner exchange is almost identical to the Bergdhal exchange. Except the exchange was even more lopsided:
After more than five years held in captivity in Gaza, Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit has been freed in exchange for hundreds of Palestinian prisoners.Obama negotiated the release of one soldier for five Taliban prisoners. Netanyahu negotiated the release of one solder for HUNDREDS of prisoners classified by Israel as terrorists. The actual number is over 1000! One could argue whether all of those hundreds were actual terrorists or not, but the right wing certainly wouldn't argue that. To the Fox News crowd that is over 1000 "terrorists" released for one Israeli soldier. So compared to Greedy Oil Party darling Netanyahu, Obama's administration negotiated an EXCELLENT exchange. I never heard Fox News attack Netanyahu for his poor diplomacy and lopsided prisoner exchange. Nor have I heard them praise Obama for his relatively good prisoner exchange.
This leads me to an aside. When I see such lopsided exchanges, it makes me feel that the worth of Palestinians are viewed by both sides as being less than the worth of a single Israeli. Personally I think this is a major flaw in the thinking of BOTH sides: 1 Israeli is worth hundreds of Palestinians. I am not even saying this as a criticism per se, so much as pointing out that it is a very sad and problematic calculus that both sides are doing. However, this is a complex issue, which the BBC discussed at the time.
Other Israeli exchanges:
But the Shalit exchange was nothing new. Israel has routinely negotiated prisoner exchanges since 1948. In 1956 they exchanged 40 captured Syrian soldiers for four Israeli soldiers and the body of a fifth. If we assume the body was thrown in to seal the deal, that is a 10:1 exchange in favor of the Syrians...Obama's deal still shows better diplomatic skills. Also in 1956, Israel exchanged OVER 5000 Egyptian prisoners for a single Israeli.
There are many more examples. And Israel has in place a "don't negotiate" policy (the Hannibal Directive) which they clearly violate when they make these deals. I think all that does is show how "don't negotiate" policies are more for political speeches and not for real life situations. I do not judge the right or wrong about these exchanges, merely point out that the right wing whining about Obama's exchange ignores the wider context.
American Prisoner Exchanges:
America exchanging prisoners goes back to, well, before we were America. There were prisoner exchanges during the Revolution. I will ignore the Civil War because that is kind of different from an overseas conflict.
Originally prisoner exchanges were made on a 1-to-1 basis. But that has changed in modern times. As early as the Korean and Vietnam wars we were giving back far more "enemies" than we were getting back our own. From NPR:
So if you look at the exchanges near the end of the Korean War, for example, the United States is giving back about 10 prisoners for every one that we are receiving on behalf of United Nations forces. By the time of Vietnam, the ratio is probably closer to about 40 to 1. And so there's really no set rule anymore for exactly what kind of equality you might expect in these trades.So again, compared to Eisenhower, LBJ and Nixon, Obama's prisoner exchange looks like good diplomacy.
So when the whining right wing calls Obama a "traitor," they are by definition calling Netanyahu, Reagan, Eisenhower, and Nixon traitors.
Jon Stewart Moment of Zen:
A real moment of Zen: Japanese Zen Buddhism: Description, Branches & Revival
This week's moment of jbou: Do something weird. Jesus ain't lookin'.
The piercing feel of a world undone--not just lost; undone--permeates both Palestinian and Jewish calamities.--Amos Oz and Fania Oz-Salzberger, from jews and words.
From BBC News: Today's African Proverb:
“The axe forgets, the tree does not forget”ENVIRONMENTAL/ECONOMIC ACTION ALERT: Save our food, save our pollinators (Part I: Monarch Butterflies)
--A Swahili proverb sent by Israel Makaza, Zimbabwe
About one third of our food supply depends on pollinators. Bees in particular but also butterflies, bats, humming birds, etc. are NECESSARY for one third of our food supply.
Because of pesticide overuse, climate change and habitat destruction, many of these pollinators are in sharp decline. This is not only an environmental disaster in the making, but an economic disaster...imagine if one third of our food supply suddenly became scarce!
I am going to highlight efforts to protect our pollinators and hence protect our food supply. I will start with the monarch butterfly.
Monarch butterflies have a complex life cycle involving migration across very large distances across national borders and dependence on different plants and ecosystems along those distances. Overuse of pesticides obviously will harm monarch butterflies (one reason to buy organic foods). But urbanization and habitat destruction are reducing the ecosystems and plants they depend on. I want to highlight two particular efforts to preserve monarchs. One effort seeks to protect and expand one critical wintering ground in Mexico. The other seeks to encourage people around the country to plant milkweed, a plant that is important for the monarch butterfly's larvae to eat. Together, these efforts go a long way to supporting the life cycle of the monarch butterfly.
The Monarch Butterfly Fundis focusing on the wintering grounds of the monarch butterfly migration:
Each fall the monarch butterfly travels thousands of miles to spend the winter in the forests on 12 mountaintops in central Mexico. The monarch migration is the most spectacular two-way migration carried out by an insect.Please click here to support these important efforts to preserve not just some ecological wonders, but also our own food supply.
The forests provide unique microclimatic conditions that allow monarchs to survive the winter. Forest degradation is putting this amazing migration in peril.
MBF is meeting the challenge of preserving monarch butterflies and their spectacular migration through our conservation strategy that fosters healthy ecosystems and sustainable communities through Partnerships, Forest Conservation, Scientific Research and Monitoring, Education and Outreach, and Sustainable Development.
Bring Back The Monarchs is a more low key effort, focusing on a widespread planting of milkweed, one of the main food plants for monarch caterpillars. This, in combination with the preservation of the wintering grounds above, is critical for the preservation of the monarch butterflies.
Monarch butterfly numbers are down. A number of factors are involved: habitat losses in the United States and Canada, degradation of the forests that support overwintering monarchs in Mexico, and catastrophic mortality of monarchs due to winter storms at the overwintering sites. All of these have reduced the monarch migration.Click here to donate to this worthy effort.
We can “Bring Back the Monarchs” but we will need your help and that of many partners and supporters to do so...
Our goal is to restore milkweeds in “natural” landscapes and encourage their adoption in ordinary gardens throughout the United States.
To accomplish this goal we:
◾are embarking on a Nationwide program to collect seeds of milkweeds used most commonly by monarchs in each region of the country;
◾will distribute these seeds to organizations and individuals engaged in restoration of public and private landscapes;
◾will form partnerships with nurseries to produce young milkweed plants (plugs) that can be used for restoration and plant fundraisers by cooperating organizations;
◾will promote the incorporation of milkweed seeds and plugs into restoration projects along roadsides, at nature centers, within municipalities, in natural landscapes adjacent to schools, businesses, private lands, and other public lands;
◾will form partnerships with organizations engaged in landscape restoration and will encourage 4H groups, schools, science clubs, native plant societies, county conservation organizations, land managers and others to plant milkweeds and to protect monarch habitat;
◾will develop a number of partnerships to produce large quantities of milkweed seeds that can be used in the above projects; and
◾will extensively promote the planting of milkweeds in gardens, particularly the adoption of a number of western milkweeds into “dry’ gardens.
And if you want to plant milkweed on your own property and enjoy the presence of monarch butterflies in your garden, click here for milkweed seed and supply sources near you.
For last week's issue: Mole's Cool News Roundup 9