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Archive for January 2010

Maps of Florida Elections

By: Inoljt,

For your enjoyment, a few maps of Florida’s presidential elections (taken from the New York Times) are posted below.


Barack Obama beats John McCain, 50.91% to 48.10%. Notice how well he does in Jacksonville, Orlando, and Miami. On the other hand, John McCain is absolutely dominating the north, where he improved on Bush in a number of smaller counties.

More elections below the fold.

Open Thread: Super Bowl vs. The Grammys

For the Sunday Sofa Surfers amongst us, tonight presents a choice of Bruisers or Belters.

Sacking vs. Singing.

Saints vs. Swift.

Tackles vs. Tenors.

Brees vs. Beyonce.

Careering vs. Crooning.

Manning vs. MGMT.

Force vs. Falsetto.

Colts vs. Caillat.

Beers vs. Bravos…..




**edit: Yeah, Kysen is outed as a non-football fan, tonight is not Super is the 2010 AFC-NFC Pro Bowl. Super Bowl is NEXT Sunday…and Kysen is stuck with the Grammys (and chili, and nachos, and chips’n’dip, and beer…hmmm..perhaps the Grammys can be fun as well. Or not.)…and I bet the commercials suck during the Grammys.  😉

The Wonderful World Of Politics

The first thing I noticed this morning when I ended my one-week voluntary vacation from politics is that the world didn’t end this past week. In fact, it seems to be spinning around just as it has for billions of years. What a relief.

One week ago, the Left was in extreme disarray. With the loss of Ted Kennedy’s senate seat, health care reform seemed dead. The president seemed to be on the ropes. Many on the Left, led by the firebaggers and PUMA crowd, were ready to start calling for impeachment. One short year into President Obama’s administration and the Left seemed ready to throw in the towel. Oh, woe is me.

I don’t want to give the wrong impression here. The Left had plenty of reasons to lament. I was feeling pretty down myself. But that’s not why I decided to take a vacation from politics. I decided to take a vacation because I could sense that I had lost perspective.

The Importance (Or Lack Thereof) of State of the Union Addresses

President Barack Obama gave a solid speech last night, carefully explaining his policies and proposing new plans for helping the middle class.

The trouble is that nobody will remember it in a month.

Presidential speeches come in two types: those few that are enduring, and those many that do little more than fill a news cycle. The enduring ones have several things in common: they are generally made in a time of crisis, and they outline themes that constitute a hallmark of the presidency. For instance, in March 1947 President Harry Truman summarized the strategy of containment against the Soviet Union, which would guide U.S. policy for decades to come.

State of the Union addresses almost never fit either condition. One exception was in 2002, when President George W. Bush coined the term “Axis of Evil” – which for better or worse came to symbolize his administration’s policies. But other than that lone exception, not a single address (out of the hundreds given) has made any impression upon history.

Mr. Obama’s speech was not particularly memorable, either. It was not meant to be. The speech focused primarily on domestic issues like jobs and education; stuff like this a great speech does not make. There are probably at least five speeches the president has made which overshadow this one (funny how most of them were written by Obama himself). Indeed, I doubt that half the people at my college even knew that there was the State of the Union address yesterday.

Like last year’s address, this year’s will probably be quickly overshadowed by other news. Its likely that even the most politically passionate can’t recall a word of the 2009 quasi-State of the Union. And as for the 2008 address – most people probably don’t even remember Mr. Bush making it.


President Obama Goes to Town

A little bit of political history was made today when President Obama addressed Republicans at their conference in Baltimore:

President Obama traveled to a House Republican retreat in Baltimore on Friday and delivered a performance that was at once defiant, substantive and engaging. For roughly an hour and a half, Obama lectured GOP leaders and, in a protracted, nationally-televised question-and-answer session, deflected their policy critiques, corrected their misstatements and scolded them for playing petty politics.

Sam Stein – Obama Goes To GOP Lions’ Den – And Mauls The Lions Huffington Post 29 Jan 10

In a live television broadcast the president delivered a prepared address and then participated in a question-and-answer session with Republicans which is unlike anything in recent domestic political history.  Coming at a time when Obama’s presidency is under increasing criticism for messaging and policy it was a masterful performance which demonstrated his keen grasp of policy and the process of politics as currently practiced in Congress.

Looking to Agriculture to Help Rebuild in Haiti

Cross posted from Nourishing the Planet.

A recent article in the New York Times highlights the critical role that agriculture will play in rebuilding Haiti in the wake of the devastating earthquake of January 2010.

Food security is not a new problem in Haiti, and development organizations such as the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and World Food Programme, as well as nongovernmental organizations like Heifer International and Oxfam, have been forced to halt food programs in the country as these groups themselves attempt to recover from the disaster.

Before the quake, FAO alone was implementing 23 food and agriculture projects in Haiti, hoping to improve access to food in the poorest country in the western hemisphere. Prior to the disaster, an estimated 46 percent of Haiti’s population was undernourished, and chronic malnutrition affected 24 percent of children under five.

Right now the most urgent need is to get food and water to millions of people in the capital city of Port au Prince and elsewhere in Haiti. But as the country looks to the future, the need for sustainable sources of food, such as those we are learning about in sub-Saharan Africa, is more important than ever.

US Economy Grows 5.7% in Q4 2009

After a long ugly spell that could have resulted in complete collapse of the global economy, The Washington Times and other sources are reporting that the US economy grew dramatically in the last quarter of 2009.

The U.S. economy roared ahead in the final months of 2009, growing at its fastest rate in six years, as corporate America stopped slashing its inventories and again started to invest for the future.

As the saying goes, “It is darkest before the dawn”, and it looks like that is the sun we see over the horizon.

Parachuting In (Update)

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has successfully reenergized many among the disillusioned Left, declaring that health care reform is not in fact dead, as some of the more cynical voices among us may have come to fear. At this point, the confusion over what’s going on with HCR has become thoroughly discouraging to many who have spent the last few months (or years) championing the cause. The debate became muddled early on in the midst of GOP outrage and hysteria, and as the process progressed, the Left split along ideological lines. We were having enough trouble when we were largely united, and the growing number of divisions have simply confused the issue further.

And though I personally am fond of the president, I still feel that his lack of leadership on health care has been damaging in the long run, and possibly his largest failing thus far. Mixed and ambiguous messages from the administration about key components of the package like the public option only helped to muddy the debate. The lack of vocal support for progressives in Congress and the eagerness to praise disappointing compromises with conservadems has frustrated the liberal and progressive blogosphere to no end, and understandably so. Some among us, myself included, still believe that the better path to HCR would have been an initial push toward single payer, gradually adjusting and making concessions until we worked our way down to a strong public option, which would then have been seen as the marginal compromise that it really is, rather than the socialist government takeover of health care that the Right likes to pretend it would be.

Then again, hindsight is always 20/20, and if we really wanted a president who would push for single payer to begin with, we should have all voted for Dennis in 2008, now shouldn’t we?

Building a Methane-Fueled Fire: Innovation of the Week

Cross posted from Nourishing the Planet.

For half the world’s population, every meal depends on an open fire that is fueled by wood, coal, dung, and other smoke-producing combustibles. These indoor cookfires consume large amounts of fuel and emit carbon dioxide and other dangerous toxins into the air, blackening the insides of homes and leading to respiratory diseases, especially among women and children.

Biogas, however, takes advantage of what is typically considered waste, providing a cleaner and safer source of energy. Biogas units use methane from manure to produce electricity, heat, and fertilizer while emitting significantly less smoke and carbon monoxide than other sources of fuel. Access to an efficient, clean-burning stove not only saves lives-smoke inhalation-related illnesses result in 1.5 million deaths per year-it also reduces the amount of time that women spend gathering firewood, which the U.N. Development Programme (UNDP) estimates is 10 hours per week for the average household in some rural areas.

The IFAD-funded Gash Barka Livestock and Agricultural Development Project (GBLADP) helped one farmer in Eritrea, Tekie Mekerka, make the most of the manure his 30 cows produce by helping to install a biogas unit on his farm (similar to the unit that Danielle saw in Rwanda with Heifer International). Now, says Mekerka, “we no longer have to go out to collect wood for cooking, the kitchen is now smoke-free, and the children can study at night because we have electricity.”Additionally, Mekerka is using the organic residue left by the biogas process as fertilizer for his family’s new vegetable garden.

In Rwanda, the government is making biogas stove units more accessible by subsidizing installation costs, and it hopes to have 15,000 households nationwide using biogas by 2012.  While visiting with Heifer Rwanda, Danielle met Madame Helen Bahikwe, who, after receiving government help to purchase her biogas unit, is now more easily cooking for her 10-person family and improving hygiene on the farm with hot water for cleaning.

In China, IFAD found that biogas saved farmers so much time collecting firewood that farm production increased. In Tanzania, the Foundation for Sustainable Rural Development (SURUDE), with funding from UNDP, found that each biogas unit used in their study reduced deforestation by 37 hectares per year. And in Nigeria, on a much larger scale, methane and carbon dioxide produced by a water purifying plant is now being used to provide more affordable gas to 5,400 families a month, thanks to one of the largest biogas installations in Africa.

To read more about how waste can be turned into a source of fuel, energy, and nutrition see: Making Fuel Out of Waste, Growing Food in Urban “Trash,” ECHOing a Need for Innovation in Agriculture, Keeping Weeds for Nutrition and Taste, and Vertical Farms: Finding Creative Ways to Grow Food in Kibera.

If you know of other ways people are making the most of their waste and would like to share it with us, we encourage you to leave a comment or fill out our agriculture innovation survey here.

Democrats Re-Elect John McCain

This week we saw right-wing radio talkshow host JD Hayworth announce his resignation as a broadcast personality so that he could run against John McCain for his Senate seat in Arizona. Last night, after the State of the Union address, John McCain sent out an email offering his counter to the President’s speech, and included as usual is a call for donations.  The letter strikes a strong yet sharply oppositional tone, disagreeing with the President but showing due respect to the office of Jefferson, Lincoln and Kennedy.

In other words, John McCain has proven that he is a weak socialist homo intent on Eating the Young of the Real Americans who are today being valiantly defended by the Tea Bag Party.

For this reason, I recommend that Democrats across the country donate to the John McCain re-election campaign.  The alternative may well be to become accustomed with the term “Senator Hayworth”.