Affection for our planet is misdirected and unrequited. We need to focus on saving ourselves.
In 2008, I wrote a piece for Salon about renaming ‘Earth’ Day. It was supposed to be mostly humorous. Or mostly serious.
Anyway, the subject of renaming Earth Day seems more relevant than ever in light of our inaction on climate change, the over-running of Congress by climate zombies, and Bill McKibben’s book, Eaarth.
In a 2009 interview, our Nobel-prize winning Energy Secretary, Steven Chu, said:
I would say that from here on in, every day has to be Earth Day.
Well, duh! Heck, we have a whole day just for the trees — and we haven’t finished them off … yet. If every day is Earth Day, than April 22 definitely needs a new name. So I’m updating the column, with yet another idea at the end, at least for climate science advocates:
It’s worth noting that, although the death penalty is still technically legal in most states, actual executions are very rare in most of the country — even after a person has been sentenced to death row. According to a 2011 study by the Death Penalty Information Center, thirty-two U.S. jurisdictions executed no one in the previous five years and more than half of those jurisdictions executed no one after the Supreme Court permitted executions to continue in 1976. Only 12 states executed someone in 2010, and only 7 states executed more than one person.
The increasing rarity of the death penalty in most of the country not only reflects America’s evolution away from inhumane and irreversible criminal justice policy, it also has constitutional implications. The Constitution forbids “cruel and unusual punishments,” and the death penalty is increasingly unusual in the overwhelming majority of the nation. At the very least, Texas’ status as the outlier jurisdiction suggests that an Eighth Amendment solution may be necessary.
In this Sunday’s New York Times, the paper revealed an explosive story of high-level corruption at Walmart, aided by a whistleblower’s account of how the retail giant bribed its way to market dominance in Mexico. But unsurprisingly, the Sunday talk shows ignored thescandal entirely.
One former executive told the Times about how Walmart employees brought envelopes of cash to government officials in Mexico in order to boost the company’s expansion:
The Times examination included more than 15 hours of interviews with the former executive, Sergio Cicero Zapata, who resigned from Wal-Mart de Mexico in 2004 after nearly a decade in the company’s real estate department.
In the interviews, Mr. Cicero recounted how he had helped organize years of payoffs. He described personally dispatching two trusted outside lawyers to deliver envelopes of cash to government officials. They targeted mayors and city council members, obscure urban planners, low-level bureaucrats who issued permits — anyone with the power to thwart Wal-Mart’s growth. The bribes, he said, bought zoning approvals, reductions in environmental impact fees and the allegiance of neighborhood leaders.
Maritza Munich, former general counsel of Wamart International, also resigned in 2006, after pushing Walmart executives to complete an investigation into the accounts of bribery. Walmart, however, quashed the investigation. The acts of bribery could be violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which makes it a crime for American corporations to bribe foreign officials. The Department of Justice is responsible for investigating potential violations of the act.
Walmart responded to the story with a lengthy statement, saying “the investigation is ongoing and we don’t have a full explanation of what happened. It would be inappropriate for us to comment further on the specific allegations until we have finished the investigation.” Walmart International has previously faced criticism for its treatment of workers and mislabeling of products.
U.S. And Afghanistan Agree On Strategic Partnership |
The United States and Afghanistan have reportedly reached a strategic partnership agreement that pledges American support for Afghanistan for 10 years after U.S. troops withdraw in 2014. Top U.S. officials agreed on the draft, which will now be sent to Afghanistan’s parliament and President Hamid Karzai for review and approval. The New York Times reports that “officials from both countries have said they hope that it will send a signal to insurgents and other destabilizing forces here that the United States is not going to abandon Afghanistan as it did in the 1990s after the Soviets were driven out.” Separate agreements were drafted on the controversial issues of night raids and American operation of detention facilities.
The Secret Service sex scandal in Cartagena, Columbia has women wondering whether the mostly-male bodyguard team might benefit from a few more female figures. On This Week with George Stephanopoulous today, Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) discussed Paula Reid, the woman brought in to clean up the scandal, and how the secret service would have behaved if there were fewer men with a “wheels up, rings off” mentality.
Maloney was left asking the same question she asked during the contraception debate: “Where are the women?” As it turns out, there aren’t many. According to Maloney, only 11 percent of the Secret Service are women:
STEPHANOPOULOS: Welcome to you both. I think it’s appropriate that we have female legislators here today, because we just learned this morning that the agent who swept in and cleaned this all up, female agent Paula Reid, head of the service detail down in Latin America, and she seemed to get to the bottom of this quickly.
COLLINS: She did. She acted decisively, appropriately, and I can’t help but wonder if there’d been more women as part of that detail if this ever would have happened.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, what’s the latest, though, on the investigation?
MALONEY: I would like to say I talked to Director Sullivan last night, and he was commending her leadership, too. She really went in there and cleaned up the mess. And one thing I asked him is, how many women are on the force? It’s only 11 percent of the agents are women. And if — we agree on this. If there were more agents on the ground, maybe we would not have had this.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Only 11 percent?
MALONEY: And I can’t help but keep asking this question, where are the women? We probably need to diversify the Secret Service and have more minorities and more women.
There is no reason women shouldn’t qualify for the Secret Service. According to their application requirements, nearly all requirements are of mental acumen, not physical strength. The only physical requirement is “applicants must be determined physically fit by an authorized government physician to perform strenuous and physically demanding duties.” Certainly, there are plenty of women who are fit enough to make the cut.
This 11 percent figure differs from a 2010 Equal Opportunity Employment Commission report that 25 percent of the Secret Service were women, leaving questions about whether the report or Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan gave accurate information.
By Climate Guest Blogger on Apr 22, 2012 at 9:52 am
by Melanie Hart and Jeffrey Cavanagh
This Earth Day is a great opportunity to take stock of the progress we are making around the world on environmental protection. Here in the United States, much can be learned by comparing our environmental progress to China, where they are just now starting down a path we took back in 1970.
Taking stock of our environmental progress is particularly important in an election year, when some politicians and political hopefuls are pointing to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as an example of wasteful government spending and overregulation. The reality is that our regulatory system is what separates us from the citizens in China, where air pollution and lead poising are the norm and environmental problems corrode the quality of life in ways that we have not faced in decades.
We certainly hope China manages to address its environmental problems, not only for the sake of the Chinese people but also because China’s problems harm us as well. China is now the largest contributor to global carbon dioxide pollution, and jet streams are bringing some Chinese pollution to the United States. Mercury emissions from China’s coal-fired power plants are building up in U.S. watersheds, for example, and particulate pollution from China appears to be inhibiting rain and snow production and reducing water supplies in some California cities.
At the moment, however, our environmental protection regime is far superior to China’s, which gives us a competitive edge. Our children are growing up healthier and arguably smarter (since lead and mercury poisoning impairs brain development), and we will probably live longer and face lower cancer risks. Our environmental regulations give U.S. businesses more incentives to innovate and develop cleaner, more efficient production processes that will be fueling our economy long after China’s current high-polluting factories close their doors. We fought hard to build up the system that is now bringing these benefits, and it is not something we want to give up.
U.N. Approves 300-Member Observer Team To Monitor Syria Ceasefire |
The U.N. Security Council yesterday agreed to expand the small team monitoring the fragile ceasefire in Syria to 300 members. Kofi Annan, the U.N./Arab League envoy, said the decision was a “pivotal moment in the stabilization of the country.” Meanwhile, the fighting in Syria continues. Activists said Syrian troops shelled a Damascus suburb and rebels reportedly attacked a government military convoy in the north. “This U.N. observers thing is a big joke,” said Douma-based activist Mohammed Saeed. “Shelling stops and tanks are hidden when they visit somewhere, and when they leave, shelling resumes.”
By Climate Guest Blogger on Apr 22, 2012 at 8:04 am
by Jessica Goad
The United States is home to some of the most stunning and unique natural areas in the world, including 397 national parks, 101 national monuments, and 556 national wildlife refuges. But many more public lands—managed by the federal government and owned by all Americans—are worthy of protection for future generations. This Earth Day it’s worth thinking about the places that have strong local coalitions calling for protection that should be granted this year.
The road to protection could be a long one, though. Due to partisan gridlock Congress has not sent the president a single piece of land-designation legislation since March 30, 2009, when President Barack Obama signed into law a bill protecting 2 million acres of wilderness and 1,000 miles of Wild and Scenic Rivers from development. Both Republicans and Democrats have introduced more than 20 wilderness bills in the 112th Congress, but not only has a single one not passed, none has even come up for a vote.