Sunday Morning Reads………An Eclectic Mix

Good Morning, All. I am pinch hitting for JJ while she and her family are visiting our nation’s capital. I haven’t traveled much, but I have been to D.C. twice. What an amazing place. This will be an eclectic mix of links and stories, covering many different categories. I hope you will find at least some of them of interest to you.

This first group is about gardening. bb had mentioned to me that she likes to work in her garden, so I figured she would enjoy these. The first is a list of ideas on how to attract butterflies to your garden.

Planting your garden with plants that attract butterflies is only one step in making your garden butterfly-friendly. Once butterflies discover your garden the females will lay eggs on plants that become food for the hatching caterpillars.

The host plant selected, and the time of year the eggs are laid, depends on the species of butterfly. Different butterflies prefer different host plants.

Bees are pollinaters, picking up pollen as they go from flower to flower to gather nectar. Obviously they are an important component for a successful garden. Besides nectar, bees also need water and this has ideas about how to make a watering hole for bees.

As the temperature rise in the garden it is important to remember the bees you’re attracting to your garden will also be searching for water. For bees, a supply of water is as important as pollen and nectar forage in the summer.

Besides the lovely green foliage of a garden, it is important to do what we can to use “green” products. Treehugger contributor Ramon Gonzalez provides a list of 10 sustainable garden products.

A garden that is kinder to the earth can be achieved through the selection of products and tools that are sustainably manufactured or given new life through recycling. It’s never been so easy to build a garden that’s green from the moment you plunge that spade into the soil.

Many commercial fertilizers used in both gardening and farming contain phosphates. Aasif Mandvi of The Daily Show covered a story about Simplot, a phosphate mining company in Idaho. Naturally, it is a satirical look at the dangers of phosphate mining and the damage being done by the by-product, selenium. Greater Yellowstone Coalition is an environmental organization working to get J.R. Simplot Co. to Clean Up Its Smoky Canyon Mine Superfund Site.

The New York Times featured a story and video today about the industrial damage done to Newtown Creek since the mid-1800s, and Mitch Waxman who has chronicled its history. The waterway was declared a Super Fund site in 2010.

If Mitch Waxman is your guide, he will identify it as the derelict smokestack of Peter Van Iderstine’s fat-rendering business, which first set up shop in 1855. But he won’t stop there.
He will expound on the archaic waste-disposal operations that once flourished on the creek, conjuring scenes of putrescent horse carcasses floating in on barges from Manhattan and docks piled with manure three stories high. The narrative will extend to Cord Meyer’s bone blackers and Conrad Wissel’s night soil wharf — the gothic names of these forgotten businesses rattled off in a distinct Brooklyn accent.
At some point, he will start in on the horrors of the M. Kalbfleisch Chemical Works, eventually making his way to the sins of Standard Oil.

Moving on to some stories about activism that caught my eye. The first story comes from Truth-Out about The Heritage Foundation’s conference to re-brand the Occupy Movement. Matt Dineen interviews Jason del Grandio, the author of Rhetoric for Radicals. Here’s a snippet of what Jason has to say about his perceived purpose of the conference.

The speakers make frequent reference to capitalism, free markets and free enterprise, and often mention traditional buzzwords like individual liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The Heritage Foundation is trying to understand the populist appeal of Occupy, and by doing so, trying to use that appeal to “win back” some of the Occupiers. Or, at the very least, to impede Occupy’s progress and win the hearts and minds of those who are still on the fence.

Brian Merchant interviews Tzeporah Berman, an environmental activist since was was 19, for Treehugger. This quote really hit home for me – you can’t un-know or un-see an injustice once your eyes, mind and heart have been opened to them.

Sometimes I wish I could open up a paper and not be immediately drawn to the story about mercury in fish or the dramatic increase in flooding in Sudan. But I can’t now.

Have you heard of Emem Okon, the Nigerian ecofeminist? I had not. She is a courageous woman, organizing other women of the Niger River Delta and taking on Chevron. The interview from Antonia Juhasz is reprinted from Ms magazine on Truth-Out.

One of the most prominent voices was Emem Okon, founder and executive director of Kebetkache Women Development & Resource Centre of Nigeria. A community organizer and women’s rights activist from the Niger Delta, Okon is leading a thriving Nigerian ecofeminist movement. She has coordinated several local women’s networks and coalitions, including Women Against Climate Change (WACC), International Network on Women and Environment, Niger Delta Women for Justice and Niger Delta Women’s Movement.

Speaking of women, the New York Times featured a story on the the Human Rights Film Festival at Lincoln Center. The review starts off with a profile of The Invisible War, which won the 2012 Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival.

It hardly needs to be said that any armed force has the potential for internal as well as external violence. But “The Invisible War,” Kirby Dick’s incendiary documentary about the epidemic of rape within the United States military, is a shocking and infuriating indictment of widespread sexual attacks on women. Such behavior, the film argues, is tacitly condoned and routinely covered up; the victims are often blamed and their reputations destroyed.

I found other links to discussions of the film, at the military publication, Stars and Stripes along with stories about Congress denying healthcare coverage for abortions for military women who have been raped. from Mother Jones.

The Rio+20 Summit begins on Monday, June 18th. President Obama and England’s David Cameron WON’T be attending, however Hillary Clinton will be representing the U.S. BBC News has more about Rio+20 and the awful state of the world’s oceans.

The researchers assessed the various pledges made at the landmark 1992 Earth Summit and 10 years later at the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development.

Governments vowed to establish an ecologically sound network of marine reserves by 2012, eliminate subsidies that contribute to illegal fishing, protect critical habitat, look after the needs of local fishermen and restore depleted stocks to healthy levels by 2015.

Subsidies have not been eliminated, and illegal fishing is still a major issue in some parts of the world.

Tom Ashbrook, host of NPR’s On Point, interviewed Bill McKibben of 350.org on Friday’s show. McKibben’s name is probably best known for the protests against the Keystone XL Pipeline, held outside of the White House, along with his subsequent arrest for protesting. You can listen to the audio at the link above. Here’s a short introduction:

Environmental champion Bill McKibben wrote nearly a quarter century ago about what he called “the end of nature.” The untouched wild. He didn’t think he was writing about the end of the world. But the climate change path since then has been a scary one. Bad to worse.

And McKibben has gone from writerly philosopher to full-on environmentalist to activist in handcuffs. Political street fighter. He was at the heart of the campaign to stop the Keystone XL pipeline. Arrested at the gates of the White House.

The current campaign of McKibben and 350.org is ending fossil fuel subsidies. These companies are paid by governments in the neighborhood of 1 TRILLION DOLLARS a year to pollute our planet. 350.org is organizing a Twitterstorm for June 18th. Although I don’t have a cell phone (and refuse to get one), I plan to set up a Twitter account so that I can participate. I hope that you will go to the link and sign up to participate as well. This quote comes from Treehugger about the Twitterstorm:

If you’re itching to do some petition signing right now: End Fossil Fuel Subsidies, and check out how your representative (in the US) stands on ending subsidies: End Fossil Fuel Subsidies Scorecard

There’s also more info on the Facebook event page: Twitter Storm: #EndFossilFuelSubsidies

Since it’s Father’s Day, I thought I would end this with a trbute video to a very special Dad
from Discovery News.


Just Exactly What Qualifies Mitt Romney to be POTUS?

"The purple mountain majesties" of Great Basin National Park

Via Think Progress, yesterday Mitt Romney sat for an interview with the editorial board of the Reno Gazette-Journal. Today, the conservative newspaper endorsed Romney for the Republican nomination in advance of the Nevada caucuses tomorrow.

During the interview, Romney was asked whether, if elected, he would consider permitting the state of Nevada to buy back public lands that are currently held by the Federal government. Here’s his response:

I don’t know the reason that the federal government owns such a large share of Nevada. And when I was in Utah at the Olympics there I heard a similar refrain there. What they were concerned about was that the government would step in and say, “We’re taking this” — which by the way has extraordinary coal reserves — “and we’re not going to let you develop these coal reserves.” I mean, it drove the people nuts. Unless there’s a valid, and legitimate, and compelling governmental purpose, I don’t know why the government owns so much of this land.

So I haven’t studied it, what the purpose is of the land, so I don’t want to say, “Oh, I’m about to hand it over.” But where government ownership of land is designed to satisfy, let’s say, the most extreme environmentalists, from keeping a population from developing their coal, their gold, their other resources for the benefit of the state, I would find that to be unacceptable.

Think Progress:

Public lands in Nevada – and other western states—actually provide an enormous economic boost and sustain hundreds of thousands of jobs. Indeed, recent Interior Department statistics show that federally managed public lands in Nevada provided over $1 billion in economic impacts and supported 13,311 jobs in 2010 (and this statistic doesn’t even include the economic impacts of Forest Service lands, managed by the Department of Agriculture). Recreation, energy and minerals, and grazing and timber all play a part in the economic effects that public lands provide to Nevada. Activities like skiing at Lake Tahoe, boating at Lake Mead, and hiking at Great Basin National Park all take place on public lands.

Do you suppose Romney has even heard of Teddy Roosevelt? Or was the conservationist President insufficiently “conservative” for today’s Republican Party? Today “conservatives” don’t seem to care about conserving the beauty of nature for all Americans. It sounds like Romney is more interested in milking public lands for coal, gold, and oil than preserving their beauty so that in the future children can learn “to fall in love with America” as he was able to do? (h/t Think Progress).

A couple of days ago in, Romney sang “America the Beautiful” at a campaign appearance at a retirement community in Florida.

But what will Romney’s policies do to the beauty of our country? The folks at Think Progress made a video about it.

What else hasn’t Mitt Romney “studied” about our country? Well, he doesn’t seem to be aware that America’s social safety net is pretty weak and that his economic policies will completely shred what’s left of social programs like food stamps, Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security.

Romney doesn’t seem to be aware that the number of Americans living in “deep poverty” is the highest it’s been in 35 years.

More than 20 million Americans live in a household with income of less than half the federal poverty rate, the level social scientists often use as a category for the very poor, according to census data for 2010. Last year that meant an annual income below $11,057 for a family of four.

The portion of the population in that category was the highest in at least 35 years and has almost doubled since 1975, from 3.7 percent then to 6.7 percent in 2010.

Romney told CNN on Feb. 1 that “I’m not concerned about the very poor” because they have many programs to help them. He later clarified his remarks, telling reporters on his campaign plane that low-income people have an “ample safety net,” including Medicaid, housing vouchers, food stamps and the Earned Income Tax Credit.

I wonder if Romney knows that one in five American children lives in deep poverty? Frankly, I doubt it. And just think of all those fetuses who don’t get proper nutrition and health care because their pregnant mothers are poverty-stricken. Mitt probably hasn’t “studied” that yet, because he really just doesn’t care.

Now Romney is claiming he “misspoke” when he told CNN’s Soledad O’Brien–twice!–that he’s not concerned about the very poor, because they have an “ample safety net.” But O’Brien doesn’t buy it. And, as NPR points out Romney even made the same remark about the poor to the press corps on his campaign plane after the CNN interview.

So what has Romney “studied?” And if he hasn’t familiarized himself with two of the most important issues facing Americans today–the environment and poverty–why on earth does he want to be president anyway? Is it because he’s an expert on foreign policy? Well, no. Not really.

So why does this man want to be President of the United States? He’s repeatedly told us that he knows how to create jobs and manage an economy. But then, why didn’t he do that when he was governor of Massachusetts?

Numbers are important in evaluating Mitt Romney, but the focus should not be on the $250 million estimated fortune he amassed at Bain Capital, or the $374,00 in speaking fees he took in last year, or even on the roughly 15 federal percent tax rate he paid.
The most important number is 47 — Massachusetts’s rank in job creation when he was governor. This is the number that most calls into question Romney’s own current job application.

No job is comparable to the presidency, but the closest thing to it is governor of a large state — an executive position in public office, where the welfare of millions of people is the charge. Unlike a corporate executive, whose overriding goal is to make profits for investors, the president and governors have the same central goal — improving the well-being of the entire population. The first priority, usually, is the overall economy.
Indeed, Romney won office in 2002, after shouldering aside Acting Governor Jane Swift, with a pledge to use his business experience and connections to bring jobs to Massachusetts. He failed, dreadfully.

The 47 figure is one Romney cannot escape. During his four years in office, Massachusetts ranked 47th in overall job growth — only 0.9 percent compared with 5.3 percent nationally. Romney has countered that the unemployment went down appreciably — from 5.6 percent to 4.7 percent during his term.

How could so few new jobs translate into a healthy-looking decline in unemployment? The answer is simple — and not so healthy: Working-age adults were packing up and moving out. Many were replaced, fortunately, by immigrants. But overall, Massachusetts was one of only two states to have no growth in its resident labor force during Romney’s term.

So what exactly qualifies Mitt Romney to be President of the U.S.? And why does he want the job? Perhaps it has something to do with the folks that are funding his campaign?

Goldman Sachs $496,430
JPMorgan Chase & Co $317,400
Morgan Stanley $277,850
Credit Suisse Group $276,250
Citigroup Inc $267,050
Bank of America $211,650
Barclays $203,650
Kirkland & Ellis $201,701
HIG Capital $188,500
PriceWaterhouseCoopers $179,300
Blackstone Group $170,550
Bain Capital $144,000
EMC Corp $127,800
Wells Fargo $126,200
UBS AG $123,900
Elliott Management $121,000
Citadel Investment Group $118,625
Bain & Co $116,050
The Villages $98,300
Sullivan & Cromwell $97,150

Or maybe the moguls who are funding his super pac “Restore Our Future,” 10 of whom gave $1 million or more?

What will become of “America the Beautiful” if Romney and his multimillion-dollar backers achieve their goals?