Motley Moose – Archive

Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

Archive for April 2011

Gasoholics: A Demandingly Driven Open Thread

Thought we needed a new open thread, figured I’d kick it off with this Facebook status from a friend:

Dear Pres. Obama, what part of $5.00 a gallon gas sucks ass do you not understand? And no, I’m not trading in my F-150 for a hybrid.

My answer is shut up and deal with it. His:

Gas is $5.00 because you liberals won’t let anyone drill for more oil. More oil = more gas, but you liberals are more concerned about stupid dolphins and getting me out of my truck than hardworking Americans.

Ah America, where we want our problems solved, without having to sacrifice anything.  

The Mystery That is North Korea

By: Inoljt,

North Korea today constitutes one of the most isolated countries in the world. Precious little information is known about the regime; people do not come in, people do not come out. Until recently, there was only one known photo of Kim Jong-un, the purported successor to Kim Jong-il – and even today the most recent photo of the man is decades old.

North Korea is also supposedly a living hellhole. To live in North Korea is to reside in one of the poorest countries in the world. North Koreans are raised to believe that Kim Jong-il is literally a God. They live in perpetual fear of the secret police. Millions are starving from the failed economic policies of the authoritarian government.

Wait a second – if North Korea is such a mystery, how do we know all this?

More below.

Lord of the Flies: the Techno-Libertarian Experiment on DK4

Welcome to the Wild West, a personal Lord in the Flies Experiment in Flame Baiting and Anarchy

(PSST. Is this snark?)

This diary is a combination of several things, partly a response to Kos’ recent update on both the software developments on Daily Kos, and his comment on moderation. But it’s also a wider reflection on what’s happened to the principles of online activism, fundraising, citizen journalism and advocacy.

First off, this isn’t a gripe about the software redesign of DK4, or all the hard work put in by Kossacks and the IT team.  On the purely visual level, it’s a stunning overhaul and most of us would feel a real downgrade to to back to DK3. This is about something deeper than active tags or group functionality. It’s about the principles of civility and online citizenship.

Neither is it an attack on the site’s founder. I have no personal gripes against Kos. Hell, I spend a lot of time on his blog for free (hope he gets some ad revenues). DailyKos is certainly the best looking, most active and advanced blogging platform I’ve come across. No other site on Left Blogistan compares with it, and UK equivalents look lumbering and antediluvian in comparison.

Though I’ve heard Kos is some kind of left libertarian, this is mainly directed to a wider set of  ‘Technolibertarians’ who somehow believe that online networking will solve many of the political problems of our future.

So, no mon hypocrite lecteur,  my opening line isn’t entirely snark. This has felt like the Wild West since the launch of DK4,  like being a character in Lord of the Flies. What happened? Are there any lessons to be drawn from it? Will I get gift subscriptions? And is there any end to pie?

Republican Presidential Primaries

This is the first of a weekly series of diaries covering the Republican Presidential Primaries or “Who’s Going to be Wiped Out by Pres. Obama in 2012”. First up is discussion of who, and more importantly, who is not going to file and run.The candidate must file with the FEC in order to be considered a bonafide runner.

For the sake of establishing an historical baseline, below is the list of candidates and decliners for 1996. This roughly reflects 2012: A Democratic President running for reelection, a Democratic Senate, a Republican House via a decisive midterm resurgence. The tally was 11 bonafide candidates and 21 declinees.

Agriculture: The Unlikely Earth Day Hero

Crossposted from the Worldwatch Institute’s Nourishing the Planet.

For over 40 years, Earth Day has served as a call to action, mobilizing individuals and organizations around the world to address these challenges. This year Nourishing the Planet highlights agriculture-often blamed as a driver of environmental problems-as an emerging solution.

Agriculture is a source of food and income for the world’s poor and a primary engine for economic growth. It also offers untapped potential for mitigating climate change and protecting biodiversity, and for lifting millions of people out of poverty.

This Earth Day, Nourishing the Planet offers 15 solutions to guide farmers, scientists, politicians, agribusinesses and aid agencies as they commit to promoting a healthier environment and a more food-secure future.

1. Guaranteeing the Right to Food. Guaranteeing the human right to adequate food-now and for future generations-requires that policymakers incorporate this right into food security laws and programs at the regional, national, and international level. Governments have a role in providing the public goods to support sustainable agriculture, including extension services, farmer-to-farmer transmission of knowledge, storage facilities, and infrastructure that links farmers to consumers.

2. Harnessing the Nutritional and Economic Potential of Vegetables. Micronutrient deficiencies, including lack of vitamin A, iodine, and iron, affect 1 billion people worldwide. Promoting indigenous vegetables that are rich in micronutrients could help reduce malnutrition. Locally adapted vegetable varieties are hardier and more dependable than staple crops, making them ideal for smallholder farmers. Research organizations like AVRDC/The World Vegetable Center are developing improved vegetable varieties, such as amaranth and African eggplant, and cultivating an appreciation for traditional foods among consumers.

3. Reducing Food Waste. Experts continue to emphasize increasing global food production, yet our money could be better spent on reducing food waste and post-harvest losses. Already, a number of low-input and regionally appropriate storage and preservation techniques are working to combat food waste around the world. In Pakistan, farmers cut their harvest losses by 70 percent by switching from jute bags and containers constructed with mud to more durable metal containers. And in West Africa, farmers have saved around 100,000 mangos by using solar dryers to dry the fruit after harvest.

4. Feeding Cities. The U.N. estimates that 70 percent of the world’s people will live in cities by 2050, putting stress on available food. Urban agriculture projects are helping to improve food security, raise incomes, empower women, and improve urban environments. In sub-Saharan Africa, the Educational Concerns for Hunger Organization (ECHO) has helped city farmers build food gardens, using old tires to create crop beds. And community supported agriculture (CSA) programs in Cape Town, South Africa, are helping to raise incomes and provide produce for school meals.

5. Getting More Crop per Drop. Many small farmers lack access to a reliable source of water, and water supplies are drying up as extraction exceeds sustainable levels. Only 4 percent of sub-Saharan Africa’s cultivated land is equipped for irrigation, and a majority of households depend on rainfall to water their crops-which climate scientists predict will decline in coming decades. Efficient water management in agriculture can boost crop productivity for these farmers. By practicing conservation tillage, weeding regularly, and constructing vegetative barriers and earthen dams, farmers can harness rainfall more effectively.

6. Using Farmers’ Knowledge in Research and Development. Agricultural research and development processes typically exclude smallholder farmers and their wealth of knowledge, leading to less-efficient agricultural technologies that go unused. Research efforts that involve smallholder farmers alongside agricultural scientists can help meet specific local needs, strengthen farmers’ leadership abilities, and improve how research and education systems operate. In southern Ethiopia’s Amaro district, a community-led body carried out an evaluation of key problems and promising solutions using democratic decision-making to determine what type of research should be funded.

7. Improving Soil Fertility. Africa’s declining soil fertility may lead to an imminent famine; already, it is causing harvest productivity to decline 15-25 percent, and farmers expect harvests to drop by half in the next five years. Green manure/cover crops, including living trees, bushes, and vines, help restore soil quality and are an inexpensive and feasible solution to this problem. In the drought-prone Sahel region, the Dogon people of Mali are using an innovative, three-tiered system and are now harvesting three times the yield achieved in other parts of the Sahel.

8. Safeguarding Local Food Biodiversity. Over the past few decades, traditional African agriculture based on local diversity has given way to monoculture crops destined for export. Less-healthy imports are replacing traditional, nutritionally rich foods, devastating local economies and diets. Awareness-raising initiatives and efforts to improve the quality of production and marketing are adding value to and encouraging diversification and consumption of local products. In Ethiopia’s Wukro and Wenchi villages, honey producers are training with Italian and Ethiopian beekeepers to process and sell their honey more efficiently, promote appreciation for local food, and compete with imported products.

9. Coping with Climate Change and Building Resilience. Global climate change, including higher temperatures and increased periods of drought, will negatively impact agriculture by reducing soil fertility and decreasing crop yields. Although agriculture is a major contributor to climate change, accounting for about one-third of global emissions, agricultural practices, such as agroforestry and the re-generation of natural resources, can help mitigate climate change. In Niger, farmers have planted nearly 5 million hectares of trees that conserve water, prevent soil erosion, and sequester carbon, making their farms more productive and drought-resistant without damaging the environment.

10. Harnessing the Knowledge and Skills of Women Farmers. According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, women represent 43 percent of the agricultural labor force, but due to limited access to inputs, land, and services, they produce less per unit of land than their male counterparts. Improving women’s access to agricultural extension services, credit programs, and information technology can help empower women, while reducing global hunger and poverty. In Uganda, extension programs are introducing women farmers to coolbot technology, which uses solar energy and an inverter to reduce temperatures and prolong the shelf life of vegetables.

11. Investing in Africa’s Land: Crisis and Opportunity. As pressure to increase food production rises, wealthy countries in the Middle East and Asia are acquiring cheap land in Africa to increase their food productivity. This has led to the exploitation of small-scale African farmers, compromising their food security. Agricultural investment models that create collaborations between African farmers and the foreign investing countries can be part of the solution. In Ethiopia’s Rift Valley, farmers grow green beans for the Dutch market during the European winter months, but cultivate corn and other crops for local consumption during the remaining months.

12. Charting a New Path to Eliminating Hunger. Nearly 1 billion people around the world are hungry, 239 million of whom live in sub-Saharan Africa. To alleviate hunger, we must shift our attention beyond the handful of crops that have absorbed most of agriculture’s attention and focus on ways to improve farmers’ access to inputs and make better use of the food already produced. Innovations-such as the human-powered pump that can increase access to irrigation and low-cost plastic bags that help preserve grains-offer models that can be scaled-up and replicated beyond Africa.

13. Moving Ecoagriculture into the Mainstream. Agricultural practices that emphasize increased production have contributed to the degradation of land, soil, and local ecosystems, and ultimately hurt the livelihoods of the farmers who depend on these natural resources. Agroecological methods, including organic farming practices, can help farmers protect natural resources and provide a sustainable alternative to costly industrial inputs. These include rotational grazing for livestock in Zimbabwe’s savanna region and tea plantations in Kenya, where farmers use intercropping to improve soil quality and boost yields.

14. Improving Food Production from Livestock. In the coming decades, small livestock farmers in the developing world will face unprecedented challenges: demand for animal-source foods, such as milk and meat, is increasing, while animal diseases in tropical countries will continue to rise, hindering trade and putting people at risk. Innovations in livestock feed, disease control, and climate change adaptation-as well as improved yields and efficiency-are improving farmers’ incomes and making animal-source food production more sustainable. In India, farmers are improving the quality of their feed by using grass, sorghum, stover, and brans to produce more milk from fewer animals.

15. Going Beyond Production. Although scarcity and famine dominate the discussion of food security in sub-Saharan Africa, many countries are unequipped to deal with the crop surpluses that lead to low commodity prices and food waste. Helping farmers better organize their means of production-from ordering inputs to selling their crops to a customer-can help them become more resilient to fluctuations in global food prices and better serve local communities that need food. In Uganda, the organization TechnoServe has helped to improve market conditions for banana farmers by forming business groups through which they can buy inputs, receive technical advice, and sell their crops collectively.

To purchase State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet please click HERE. To watch the one minute book trailer click HERE.

Dog's Breakfast: An Unappetizingly GOP 2012 Open Thread

As with automobiles, the new model year is out early in GOP 2012 presidential candidates. Advertising is flowing fast and furious to convince the buying public that Brushforward Styling and Birther Bumpers are All The Rage for 2012. Whether more than half of interested parties will sign on the dotted line after the salesman talks football with his manager (“I have to clear this Special Deal with my boss, you hang tight right here”) is an open question.

What do you think? Will the puppy eat the reconstituted beef gristle and pork snouts?

Consider this an olfactorialy offensive Open Thread.

Mare Stare — Ruminations on an online addiction

Yes, fellow Meese — I’m back with another equinecentric diary, though not, I think you’ll agree, quite in the mold of my previous efforts.

Even worse — it’s a critter diary with no pictures!  Not even one!  You want pictures, go visit my blog (where this essay is my most recent posting) and scroll down to where you’ll find ponies and kitties galore.

It is, however, among other things, a contemplation of life and death, from an abstract yet very real angle.  Follow below the fold and you will see what I mean.

Casting Doubt: Birthers In The News

My family isn’t the sharpest set of tools in the shed. They’re often one suit short of a full deck of cards. So it didn’t surprise me when my grandmother came to me yesterday very upset saying she wanted to know why no one told her Obama wasn’t born in the United States when she voted for him last year.

“If I had to know he was unqualified, I wouldn’t have voted,” she said.

I told her it was a lie, and why did she think it was true?

“Well Donald Trump says it’s true and it’s all over the news,” she said.

All over the news.  

In Florida, the GOP Moves to Disenfranchise Voters

In Florida, the Republican controlled state legislature wants to overhaul election laws in ways critics say would disenfranchise voters and extend the dominance of the GOP in the state.

This latest onslaught to disenfranchise voters comes after Florida Republican Gov. Rick Scott rescinded the rules allowing for automatic restoration of voting rights of tens of thousands of convicted nonviolent felons in the state, a move that critics say smacks of a return to Jim Crow-era laws in the Sunshine State since felons tend to be disproportionately members of minority groups.

Under the new rules established in March, Florida felons will have to wait a minimum of five years after they’ve served their sentences to apply for the right to vote. More serious offenders would have to wait seven years. Florida now joins Kentucky, Virginia and Iowa as the only states that deny felons automatic restoration of their rights to vote in elections after having served their sentences.

But now the state legislature is pushing a bill to cut early voting time by half, to make it harder for grass roots groups to register voters and to require people to vote provisionally if they moved since the last time they voted — a change elections supervisors say would affect the young and the poor the most. Both groups are traditionally Democratic voters. Republicans argue that move is needed to save money.