Month: April 2012

In which the author discovers his true identity: progressive purity troll

A really good cartoon.  I reblogged it secondhand. It originally came from STFU Conservatives, a site whose self-description is as follows:

Basically, we like facts and truth, and we hate ignorance. If you believe in feminism, liberal ideals, civil rights, abortion, marijuana legalization, healthcare access, marriage equality, stopping slut-shaming and fatphobia, ending the wars, and revamping the tax codes

I like all of those things too! Some are more important to me than others: ending wars is a bigger deal than fatphobia, but that’s just me. But I wandered around the site, and if I may be so bold as to generalize, it seems to be all about saying bad things about Republicans and worshipful paeans to the president (Obama’s 11 Most Badass Moments, e.g.) Which is fine, but really? This cartoon? Do the STFU people feel the War on Drugs and War on Terror are essentially or exclusively REPUBLICAN things?

Also, there’s a lot here about the ACA. I followed a link to a TPM piece with the headline “How An ‘Obamacare’ Repeal Would Take Medicare And The Rest Of The Health Care System With It”.

I read on. Wasn’t really convinced. Another post on TPM says overturning ACA would lead to single payer. Who knows? I don’t. I kept at it until I got to the comments, which were not particularly enlightened. One comment made the fairly uncontroversial point that the ACA is a “Republican bill.” And was pounced upon in general. And then, one of my favorite comments of all time came up:

Blah de blah de blah blah blah. Same old progressive purity troll crap, different year. You are exactly the kind of idiot who gave Florida to George W. Bush by convincing people to vote for Nader.

That’s it. Criticize Obama and the Democrats and ultimately the partisans will take the conversation here. At least now I know what I am: a progressive purity troll.

Read this! Garry Wills, “Bullying the Nuns”

The Vatican has issued a harsh statement claiming that American nuns do not follow their bishops’ thinking. That statement is profoundly true. Thank God, they don’t. Nuns have always had a different set of priorities from that of bishops. The bishops are interested in power. The nuns are interested in the powerless. Nuns have preserved Gospel values while bishops have been perverting them. The priests drive their own new cars, while nuns ride the bus (always in pairs). The priests specialize in arrogance, the nuns in humility.

The environmental impact of cow burps

For all the strengths of these alternatives, however, they’re ultimately a poor substitute for industrial production. Although these smaller systems appear to be environmentally sustainable, considerable evidence suggests otherwise.

Grass-grazing cows emit considerably more methane than grain-fed cows. Pastured organic chickens have a 20 percent greater impact on global warming. It requires 2 to 20 acres to raise a cow on grass. If we raised all the cows in the United States on grass (all 100 million of them), cattle would require (using the figure of 10 acres per cow) almost half the country’s land (and this figure excludes space needed for pastured chicken and pigs). A tract of land just larger than France has been carved out of the Brazilian rain forest and turned over to grazing cattle. Nothing about this is sustainable.

This is not the first time the New York Times has given the prime real estate of its op-ed page over to James McWilliams, who has made a career out of tut-tutting the naivete of locavorism. It’s an easy target in some respects. But at least one of the claims he regularly trots out as fact — that raising livestock on pasture is worse for the environment than raising them in confinement — strikes me not only as counter-intuitive, but also flat-out wrong.

Tom Philpott, writing in Mother Jones, cites a recent study by researchers from Stanford and Purdue Universities:

The authors create a model in which the US government cancels ethanol mandates, which would basically destroy the corn ethanol market and cause the price of corn to drop. If farmers responded to low corn prices would give farmers incentive to let their cropland revert to native prairie and put beef cows on it to graze, they argue, their land would store significant amounts of carbon in soil—more than offsetting cow-related greenhouse gas emissions like methane—thus helping stabilize the climate. Their bottom line:

Results indicate that up to 10 million ha [24.7 million acres, more than a quarter of land currently devoted to corn] about of could be converted to pastureland, reducing agricultural land use emissions by nearly 10 teragrams carbon equivalent per year, a 36% decline in carbon emissions from agricultural land use.

I have written before about McWilliams and the opportunities awaiting ambitious academics willing to crank out faux-contrarian arguments that, regardless of intent (McWilliams is a vegan) have the effect of bolstering the status quo (in this case the industrial meat system). Tom Laskowy has coined a name for this sort of thing: the FUDosphere (FUD standing for Fear Uncertainty Doubt), “a network of Sith-lord scientists and unrepentant PR flacks who have no compunctions about tweaking their research methodologies … to generate results both favorable to industry and confusing to those trying to understand the truth.”

God, I’ve totally forgotten that I’ve written on this subject at least three times in the past. But it’s kind of important to me personally. I raise a small herd of cattle on pasture, using intensive management techniques. I’ve invested in Philpott and the Stanford/Purdue study being right. And I know scientific studies offer results that are often all over the map. Might I suggest a debate between McWilliams and Philpott on this very topic?

And now … Farmopolis

For better or worse, the dowackado tumblr is a pretty good representation of my jumbled mind.

But recently I’ve come to realize that mine is essentially not much different from tens of thousands of other tumblr blogs. Yes, bien sur, my taste is far superior to that of my (all-too-often teenaged) tumblr peers, but at bottom it’s yet another attempt at curating stuff that’s already on tumblr. It’s fun. I still enjoy it, but I’m living a real life too, goddammit.

So, the need arises for farmopolis, an account, in text and images, of my family’s adventures in moving from the urban bustle and the supercilious certainties of New York City to bucolic Central Kentucky.

So … maybe you would like to check it out?

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