Monday, 30 May 2016

Are the policies of American political parties realigning to their base?

In This Is What the Future of American Politics Looks Like Michael Lind argues that we're seeing an earthquake in American politics. He argues support for the two major parties will align on policy grounds rather than the current partisan alignment. That is, the Republican Party  has become the party of the white, southern and mid-western working class and we will see it's policies align accordingly (nationalistic, anti-immigration, anti-free trade, pro Social Security and Medicare). He argues the reason Trump has won the Republican Party presidential nomination is because he has espoused these policies.

By contrast the Democrats will become the party of multiculturalism and globalisation.Its support base will be "an alliance of upscale, progressive whites with blacks and Latinos, based in large and diverse cities".

Sunday, 29 May 2016

The Yom Kippur War on US military doctrine

In Yom Kippur War & The Development of U.S. Military Doctrine John Suprin explains how lessons from the Yom Kippur War changed American Army doctrine and weapons.

The Americans were able to inspect captured Russian built equipment after the war and were surprised to discover that the tanks were built for a NBC battlefield. He later relates a conversation he had with a Ukrainian General (formerly of the Red Army before the fall of the wall and the break up of the USSR) where the Ukrainian explained the Red Army's plan to user nuclear weapons right from the beginning of any land war in the Europe.

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Great rappers deconstructed.

I had no idea of the complexity in rap music and the skill needed to write it. Watch Deconstructing the greatest rappers of all time by Estelle Caswell and Martin Connor.

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

KPGM arguing for a boost to education and infrastructure

In Coalition and Labor fighting the last war while a different battle looms Michael Pascoe argues that neither the ALP or the Liberal Party are really addressing the needs of Australia. He bases his argument on a KPMG report.
Meanwhile, the nation's future needs, the big economic issues the next government should be focusing on, are highlighted by a KPMG report that suggests there's a great deal more genuine political leadership should be doing instead of chanting that the other side is a tool of the unions/banks/dole bludgers/tax avoiders/socialists/neo-cons/whatevers.

The bottom line of KPMG's The Global Economy – Is This As Good As It Gets? paper is that our would-be leaders should be competing to offer the most credible boost to productivity-enhancing investment in infrastructure and education.
Personally, I think the ALP is much closer to KPMG's recommendations than the Coalition.

Monday, 9 May 2016

GMO used in cheese production

In You Can Thank Genetic Engineering For Your Delicious Cheese Levi Gadye explains how the cheese industry turned to genetically modified bacteria to make up for a potential short fall in rennet.
These enzymes, called rennet, are secreted by mucous membranes that line the calf’s fourth stomach. Harvesting rennet the old fashioned way requires slicing this stomach open, which in turn requires slicing open the baby bovine itself. This, as they say, kills the cow.
Rennet is used to make hard cheeses.

Article with tips on handling cake emergencies

Solve your cake emergency: baking tips and fixes has some baking tips.

Friday, 6 May 2016

Why civilisation was built on grains and not tubers

In The sinister, secret history of a food that everybody loves Jeff Guo looks at work by some economists that counters the generally accepted argument that civilisation arose because of an excess of food from agricultural production.
In his 1997 bestseller “Guns, Germs and Steel,” historian Jared Diamond argued that the availability of nutritious and easily domesticated plants and animals gave some societies a head start. In the Middle East there was barley and wheat; in Asia there was millet and rice. “People around the world who had access to the most productive crops became the most productive farmers,” Diamond later said on his PBS show. And more productivity led to more advanced civilizations.

Going against the generally accepted theory are those societies that depended on tubers (such as potato, tapioca and sweet potato) as their main cultivated food source. These societies had an abundance of food, tubers are generally more productive and nutritious than grains, but never developed the technical and political complexity of societies that depended on grains.
The study, published last year by economists at the United Kingdom and Israel doing novel work on archaeological and anthropological evidence, attempts to explain a strange pattern in agricultural practices. The most advanced civilizations all tended to cultivate grain crops, like wheat and barley and corn. Less advanced societies tended to rely on root crops like potatoes, taro and manioc.

It's not that grains crops were much easier to grow than tubers, or that they provided more food, the economists say. Instead, the economists believe that grains crops transformed the politics of the societies that grew them, while tubers held them back.

How crops changed the world

The argument depends on the differences between how grains and tubers are grown. Crops like wheat are harvested once or twice a year, yielding piles of small, dry grains. These can be stored for long periods of time and are easily transported — or stolen.

Root crops, on the other hand, don't store well at all. They're heavy, full of water, and rot quickly once taken out of the ground. Yuca, for instance, grows year-round and in ancient times, people only dug it up right before it was eaten. This provided some protection against theft in ancient times. It's hard for bandits to make off with your harvest when most of it is in the ground, instead of stockpiled in a granary somewhere.
So grains can easily be stolen or taxed. There for they more easily support an infrastructure to defend them, on built on the gains from taxing them.


Is gluten the culprit?

Sarah Berry in Going against the grain: why bread-denial is bad explains that some people who think they're gluten intolerant may not be - they may just be intolerant of the way modern mass produced bread is made.