Whither your milk?

Just because I haven’t been posting enough lately, here’s an unusual and interesting piece from Slate last month on why we pretty much only drink milk from cows:

In America, cows never had any real competition. The ice age had scoured the continent of all of its large ruminants, with the exception of the bison, and Native Americans had no dairy tradition for the colonists to adopt. So, as Deborah Valenze recounts in Milk, Europeans brought cows along with them when they set off for North America and then let these autonomous food factories graze on the continent’s unlimited vegetation until their milk or meat was needed. The cows thrived, to say the least: Between 1627 and 1629, while the colonists were fretting about other things, the number of cattle in Virginia grew from 2,000 to 5,000.

The iron fist of cow-milk hegemony isn’t just thanks to cows’ high output and doziness. Cow’s milk has some real aesthetic and practical advantages: It separates itself into cream and milk, so it can be made into an easily drinkable beverage as well as all the luscious cream-based comestibles, such as ice cream and crème fraîche. Its fat content is similar to that of human milk, which makes it familiar to our palates, and its relative blandness makes it an attractive blank slate for the creation of cheeses with a range of flavor profiles and consistencies, from runny Camemberts to rock-hard Goudas.

The article also had very good things to say about goat’s milk.  I’m thinking I should try it sometime.  As for pig’s milk?  Apparently it’s not exactly easy to milk a pig.

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Abortion, labels, and common ground

Actually came across this before the whole Akin mess.  One of these days I’m going to publish my research on how much “pro life” and “pro choice” abortion labels muddy the picture.  Most American are profoundly ambivalent about abortion as a policy matter, which is completely lost when we settle on simplistic, dichotomous labels.  This is from Gallup last year:

Areas of Abortion Policy Consensus Between Pro-Choice and Pro-Life Americans, June/July 2011

Short version: most “pro life” persons favor policies that National Right to Life Committe considers unacceptable.  Meanwhile, to an especially noteworthy degree, most “pro choice” favor restrictions on abortion that are strongly opposed by NARAL.  Here’s the Gallup summary:

Abortion politics have been quite contentious in the United States; however, self-described “pro-life” and “pro-choice” Americans broadly agree on more than half of 16 major abortion policy matters Gallup tested in June and July. These policies generally have to do with protections for women’s vital health, preventing late-term abortions, and ensuring that abortion patients and parents are fully informed before an abortion.

While such positions may not square with those taken by the leading pro-choice and pro-life lobbying groups in Washington, enacting them would greatly narrow the scope of the debate among Americans as a whole. That would leave first-trimester abortions, abortions performed when physical or mental impairments of the fetus are indicated, when the mother’s mental health is endangered, and abortions performed for financial reasons as the main areas of contention over abortion. In addition, laws that require pregnant women to be shown ultrasounds, policies that allow healthcare professionals to opt out of participating in abortions, and banning federal funds to abortion providers would continue to generate controversy.

I really should get back to doing some research on this topic.  It’s not exactly going anywhere as a controversial issue.

Photo of the day

When in doubt, you can’t go wrong with a good North Korean dictator photo (via Buzzfeed):

KCNA / Reuters

You’ve got to wonder if this family will get in trouble for looking so unhappy if Kim Jong Un sees this photo.  Though, I’m thinking that the little girl must be too heavy for the woman front-center as she looks even more unhappy than the “I’m being forced to pose with a dictator” look.

Akin, rape, and the radicalism of today’s Republican party

Okay, you probably heard about this all ready, but just in case:

Rep. Todd Akin, the newly-christened GOP Senate nominee in Missouri, said in an interview airing Sunday that “legitimate rape” rarely causes pregnancy.

Explaining his no-exceptions policy on abortions, Akin was asked why he opposes abortion even when the pregnancy is the result of rape.

“First of all, from what I understand from doctors, (pregnancy from rape) is really rare,” Akin told KTVI-TV in a clip posted to YouTube by the Democratic super PAC American Bridge. “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

Akin added: “But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something. I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child.”

Nice.  For starters, I’d like to know more about this “legitimate rape” thing.  Now, one could easily run a blog “incredibly stupid things Republican state legislators say,” but this is member of Congress– on the science committee no less (yikes!!)– and a candidate for U.S. Senate who won a statewide primary of Missouri Republican voters.  Ladies and gentlemen, your’re modern (paleo-modern?) Republican party.  The Democrats in MO were thinking that Republicans nominating this troglodyte was the only hope for Claire McKaskill to hang onto her Senate seat in this increasingly red state (they even contributed to his primary campaign).  The very scary part is that he nonetheless has a good chance at being a US Senator.  Should he still actually win election, does not speak well at all of today’s Republican party or the (not so) good people of Missouri.

Sometimes, the best approach, of course, is satire.  Here’s the Borowitz report:

ST. LOUIS (The Borowitz Report)—Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin doubled down on his controversial remarks about the female body today, proposing a prominent national security role for the uterus.

“From what I understand, there’s nothing that the uterus doesn’t know,” Rep. Akin told a reporter on KTVI-TV. “It’s almost like Spiderman’s spidey sense, if you will, except the tingling goes on down in the lady parts.”

Rep. Akin said that given the uterus’s extraordinary powers of detection, the female reproductive system should be America’s secret weapon in the war on terror.

“If we posted a uterus at every airport and a bunch of them along the border, I would just love to see an evildoer get past defenses like that,” he said. “Not gonna happen, folks. Nothing fools a uterus.”

Just another great example of the asymmetry.  I double-dog dare you to find a Democratic Senate candidate in any recent election who is half as extreme to the left as Akin is to the right.

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