March 31, 2011

Bread machine usage

A Facebook friend told me I was using my bread machine more than anyone she knew, including herself. I told her part of the secret was that I have no cupboard space left in which to hide it, so it lives on the counter, virtually asking me to bake in it.

I have made a fair bit since November, though. Here's a slideshow of most of the loaves I've baked since then. Click the right-arrow to start it.

If the slideshow link doesn't work, try this page with pictures of all the loaves laid out.

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March 30, 2011

Which shell is the pea under?

Jonathan Bernstein at Plum Line:

What this means is that all the players will be groping forward in a world of extreme uncertainty, right up to the deadline — and then, if a shutdown starts, beyond — on top of how hard it already is to craft a deal that can win a majority in the House, 60 votes in the Senate, and the president’s signature. Speaker Boehner, for example, doesn’t just have to worry about what Harry Reid and Obama are up to and whether their various public statements are bluffs. He also has to make that calculation for members of his own Republican conference who are threatening to withhold their support for an eventual deal. Even worse, it’s not clear that leaders of the various blocks within the conference can safely be counted on to deliver votes. So Boehner can’t just go to Tea Party Caucus leader Michele Bachmann and ask her if the Tea Partyers are on board for a deal. He has to go to each individual Member.

All of whom could be bluffing.

That's useful advice. The countless pixels and inches of ink you read between now and April 8 when the latest continuing resolution expires should all be taken with huge chunks of sea salt.

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March 29, 2011

It's not rocket science, Dems

I'm trying to remember the last time Democrats in Congress (besides Anthony Weiner) ever publicly bad-mouthed the Republicans and their loony economic beliefs. I mean, there was "voodoo economics," but that was Republican George H.W. Bush when he was running against Ronald Reagan in 1980.

Time after time I've watched as the Republicans get much of what they want from the Democrats, despite being in the minority. It is really frustrating, and apparently it's happening again. As Steve Benen says,

Criticisms of the GOP plan have been all over the map, made more complicated by the fact that Democrats themselves have been far too quick to buy into the dubious notion that Americans actually want a focus on the deficit instead of the economy.
The Republicans are famous for having one set of talking points and sticking to them across all members of the party, while the Dems seem to be free-lancers. Thus the Republicans, it now appears, are about to get a whole lot more in cuts to the current year's budget than the Democrats think is good.

Worse, politically, unless you stand up on your hind legs and shriek bloody murder before this ends up in a government shutdown, you risk the public blaming both you and the Republicans equally. Where are all the smart Democratic political advisers?

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March 28, 2011

Bruschetta ho!

Olive Oil Bread. It rose only about half as high as the other loaves I've made, so I was worried about it. Needlessly, as it turned out. It tastes wonderful and has a very pretty light color to go with a crispy crunchy crust. That's because it was made in French Bread mode, I imagine. It's supposed to be good for Bruschetta, and I can understand why.

From Events
(Click to enlarge)

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Medicaid cuts in Nebraska lead to . . .

dramatic effects, doctors and health clinic administrators reported Wednesday.

At least five babies have died.

Women are traveling 155 miles to get prenatal care.

Babies have been delivered at clinics, in ambulances and hospital emergency rooms.

Why were those women dropped from the pre-natal care program?
About half of the women dropped from the program are undocumented. Those babies are U.S. citizens as soon as they are born and will automatically qualify for Medicaid health services upon delivery.
Oh, well then. Can't have "people who are here illegally" getting health care, particularly if they might have children on U.S. soil.

This is Nebraska but it could be any one of half-a-dozen states.

The media perceives the Tea Partiers as much more concerned with fiscal issues than social ones; that's wrong. The Tea Partiers are just the same old right-wing of the Conservative/Republican party they've always been with a different mask this time around.

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March 27, 2011

Wow, VCU!

I managed to watch the second half of the VCU upset over Kansas between mopping my drippy nose. I'm still shocked.

I'm also waiting for Jay Bilas to acknowledge that he screwed up big time on ESPN by saying that VCU didn't deserve its invitation to the tournament. I expect to be waiting a long time.

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March 26, 2011

It's always something with computers

I've been using a Dynex wireless router, but its range isn't ideal for Mom's MacBook in the other room. After some research I went out and bought a Netgear N300 wireless router today.

I just installed it (easy as pie, as advertised) and it seems to have lengthened the range remarkably. Where Mom got between 2-3 bars with the Dynex, the signal from the Netgear gadget seems to be hovering between 3 and 4. Good. I was getting tired of saying "I don't know" when asked why the MacBook kept dropping off the network. "Sunspots" is an unsatisfactory answer, I'm told.

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March 25, 2011

Haven't taken a quiz in a zillion years, but. . .

Quiz: What Kind of Liberal Are You?

My Liberal Identity

You are a Social Justice Crusader, also known as a rights activist. You believe in equality, fairness, and preventing neo-Confederate conservative troglodytes from rolling back fifty years of civil rights gains.

Take the quiz at Political Humor

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Academic Freedom? Not for our opponents!

Just when you thought Wisconsin Republicans couldn't get worse:

Bill Cronon -- or William Cronon, as I think of him -- is a Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin. A few days ago he wrote an oped in the Times critical of Gov. Walker and his push to abolish collective bargaining rights for public employees in Wisconsin. About a week before that, he wrote a blog post -- the first in a new blog called Scholar as Citizen -- examining just who's behind this big anti-union push. He focused on a group called ALEC (The American Legislative Exchange Council).

Now, so far, nothing particularly controversial about any of this. But then it took a dark turn. Or perhaps better to say, then the story got into gear with everything else we've seen out of the Walker administration over the last three months.

Less than two days after Cronon published the blog post, the Wisconsin Republican Party filed a state open records request to gain access to Cronon's personal emails to get a look at what communications or discussions or sources or anything else went into writing it.

Read the whole thing, including the links at the bottom to Cronon's original post and op/ed and his response to the Wisconsin Republican Party's demand. It's a pretty blatant attempt to chill all dissent.

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March 24, 2011



Go Wildcats!

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March 23, 2011

Puerile and childish behavior from another Republican Governor

Conservatives always gripe about "political correctness," right? So why, then, is the new Republican governor of Maine removing a mural celebrating labor from the halls of the state's Department of Labor?

Because his office got

a faxed complaint comparing the art to North Korean propaganda.

"In this mural I observed a figure which closely resembles the former commissioner of labor," an anonymous fax given to the Portland Press Herald reads. "In studying the mural I also observed that this mural is nothing but propaganda to further the agenda of the Union movement. I felt for a moment that I was in communist North Korea where they use these murals to brainwash the masses."

A spokeswoman for the governor, Adrienne Bennett, told TPM that while she didn't want to "give validity" to the specific sentiments in the fax, it was one of numerous complaints brought up by senior policy staff when the LePage administration took over the department.

The spokesperson went on to say "The message we want to send is 'We're here for you,' for job creators and employees," she said. "The decorum needs to represent neutrality."


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March 22, 2011

Hypocrisy or stupidity?

I can't decide: is Mike Pence (R-IN) just a bog standard Republican hypocrite, or is he as stupid as the proverbial box of rocks?

I mean, he can't say "I’ve never advocated reducing funding for Title X" when he's the principal author of the Title X Abortion Provider Prohibition Act which "eliminate[s] the entire Title X program, which was founded in 1970 and is the only federal grant program dedicated solely to providing individuals with comprehensive family planning and preventive health services, particularly to low-income families".

Garden-variety hypocrite or complete idiot? You decide.

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March 21, 2011

Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly

And Congressional Agricultural Committees have to keep cash from farm subsidies flowing. But! They want to show they're doing their part to reduce the budget deficit! What to do, what to do? Herewith an imaginary colloquy:

"Well, what else do we have jurisdiction over?"

"Food stamps."

"Okay! Then let's cut them!"

The budget letter, endorsed by both Lucas (R-OK) and Peterson (D-MN), argues that subsidies need to be in place for when record-high prices “inevitably” fall, and that higher prices have actually increased risks for farmers.
Meanwhile, those higher prices mean that food stamps don't go as far as they used to, so recipients of such are hard-pressed as it is. But no matter, they're too generous for those city-dwelling bums (on average, a monthly $200 a person to households at or below 130 percent of the poverty level!).

I despise these people with the strength of a thousand suns.

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Projected Tournament Winners

Now that the field of 68 has been whittled down to 16 in the NCAA Men's Tournament, which team nicknames remain?

In the East Regional we've got the OSU Buckeyes, the Kentucky Wildcats, the Marquette Golden Eagles and the UNC Tar Heels.

In the West Regional the remaining teams are the Duke Blue Devils, the Arizona Wildcats, the UConn Huskies and the San Diego State Aztecs.

In the Southwest Regional the survivors are the Kansas Jayhawks, the Richmond Spiders, the VCU Rams and the Florida State Seminoles.

And finally, in the Southeast Regional there are the Butler Bulldogs, the Wisconsin Badgers, the BYU Cougars and the Florida Gators.

Five humans (Tar Heels, Blue Devils, Aztecs, Jayhawks and Seminoles); three felines (two Wildcats and one Cougar); two canines (Huskies and Bulldogs); and one each of a tree (Buckeyes), a bird (Golden Eagles), an arthropod (Spiders), a sheep (Rams), a mustelid (Badgers) and a reptile (Gators).

Purely statistically one of the humans should win.

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March 20, 2011


Since there's nothing else going on in the world. . .

I just found some non-"Prey" books from John Sandford. I'm ambivalent about the Lucas Davenport books Sandford's written; he's not a likable character in some of those books. Sandford has gone on to spin off a guy named Virgil Flowers from Invisible Prey into five new books, but way back when the first Davenport book (Rules of Prey) appeared he'd written another book called The Fool's Run featuring a smart-aleck painter/industrial spy named Kidd. The Prey books took off, but Kidd hasn't completely disappeared. There are now four books in which he's the star. I just read the third, The Devil's Code, and I like Kidd a lot better than I do Davenport.

How about you? Read any good books lately?

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March 19, 2011

Afghanistan, Iraq, and now Libya?

While I have as much distaste for Qaddafi as the next guy, and I really don't want to see innocents massacred by his loyalists, I really don't see an end game here. Short of getting into one of his palaces and assassinating him, the most likely outcome seems to be a divided Libya, with the rebels holding the eastern portion and Qaddafi holding the west.

Who's going to be satisfied with that?

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March 18, 2011

Are you kidding me?

I have no words to describe how appalling this section of HR 3 is:

Barthold replied that the taxpayer would have to prove that she had complied with all applicable abortion laws. Under standard audit procedure, a woman would have to provide evidence to corroborate facts about abortions, rapes, and cases of incest, says Marcus Owens, an accountant and former longtime IRS official. If a taxpayer received a deduction or tax credit for abortion costs related to a case of rape or incest, or because her life was endangered, then “on audit [she] would have to demonstrate or prove, ideally by contemporaneous written documentation, that it was incest, or rape, or [her] life was in danger,” Owens says. “It would be fairly intrusive for the woman.”

Not everyone has “contemporaneous written documentation” that a pregnancy was the result of rape or incest. And, as Owens notes, adults sometimes pay for abortions for their children. If H.R. 3 becomes law, parents could face IRS questions about whether they spent pre-tax money from health savings accounts on abortions for their kids. “It would seem there would have to be a question about that [in an audit] and maybe even a question on the tax return,” Owens says.

How does this fit into the Republican tenet that small government is pre-eminent and that government should not intrude into Americans' personal lives?

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March 17, 2011

Don't just stand there, do something!

In a sensible world this statement by that oh-so-admired Paul Ryan, R-WI, would disqualify him from consideration as a serious man. Told that Senator Harry Reid said yesterday that he wouldn't consider any changes to Social Security because the program isn't broken and doesn't contribute to the deficit (true statements, both of them), Ryan said today:

I would argue, even though, it’s not really a driver of our debt, it’s not a significant part of our debt problems, it would build great confidence, fixing Social Security on a bipartisan basis, because it would tell not only the credit markets that Americans are getting their act together, it would buy us more time and space with them, it would show that our government’s not broken. (Emphasis mine)
So, even though he agrees it doesn't contribute to the deficit, he thinks it needs "fixing" to "send a message." Republicans are certainly gung-ho about sending messages, aren't they? By golly, we can fix a non-broken thing by privatizing it (see his Roadmap for America's Future1) just to show the bond market we can accomplish something!

Yet our foolish media Village takes him seriously.

1. The Ryan plan proposes large cuts in Social Security benefits — roughly 16 percent for the average new retiree in 2050 and 28 percent in 2080 from price indexing alone — and initially diverts most of these savings to help fund private accounts rather than to restore Social Security solvency.

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March 16, 2011

Truth outdoes fiction

I don't at all dismiss what's happened in Japan as trivial, but it occurs to me that if someone had written a script containing a massive earthquake, a tsunami and a nuclear reactor meltdown, the author would be told "You're in Poseidon Adventure territory. Nobody would believe that." The confluence of horrible events going on in that country is nearly beyond comprehension.

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March 15, 2011

Japan's nuclear crisis

One of the best or at least most current sources for news about the failing reactors and the other parts of the Japanese earthquake recovery is the NYT's The Lede blog. It's posting live NHK feeds and news/commentary from its reporters on the ground. The latest seems to be that most of the last 50 workers inside the plant have been pulled out for safety reasons, although some remain. Can you imagine the stress those guys are feeling?

I keep hearing news people commenting on the orderliness and lack of anger shown by the Japanese; if those news people had ever lived there as I did they'd not be surprised by that at all. Japan has an admirable culture and society in a lot of different ways; it's occasionally incomprehensible to Westerners, but that's not the Japanese people's fault.

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Rye, he said wryly

From Events

When toasted, the bread went very well with fried eggs and corned beef hash.

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March 14, 2011

To: All "liberal" institutions and the press

This post from Lindsay Beyerstein explains why you don't have a knee-jerk reaction to videos from James O'Keefe or any of his imitators (like Andrew Breitbart).

Glenn Beck's website, "The Blaze," ran a critique titled, "Does Raw Video of NPR Expose Reveal Questionable Editing & Tactics?" The short answer: Yes.

The post compares sections of the heavily edited video segment that O'Keefe released last week with what O'Keefe claims is the raw video of the two-hour lunch meeting. The author of the post, Scott Baker, and his colleague, video producer Pam Key, demonstrate how the tapes were dishonestly edited. The release of the video prompted NPR's top fundraiser to re-resign. Schiller had already announced his departure for a new job the week before, but in classic NPR style he felt it necessary to preemptively re-resign. The head of NPR, Vivian Schiller (no relation), resigned or was fired shortly thereafter.

There are two conclusions to be drawn here:
  1. Any institution (NPR, Acorn, CNN) which O'Keefe and his fellow conservatives believe has liberal leanings can be a target for their scams, and that those institutions shouldn't take any hasty action when these phony videos first appear. Wait.
  2. The press should immediately begin digging into the story before taking any video from O'Keefe or his crowd seriously, and it certainly shouldn't just run the video as though it were gospel.
As Ms. Beyerstein says
At this point, any news outlet that runs an uncorroborated James O'Keefe video is committing journalistic malpractice. O’Keefe is openly proffering propaganda. That alone should be enough to make news outlets and pundits disregard his work. On top of that, he has been caught distorting videos in ways that would get any real reporter fired. Yet media outlets are willing to launder O'Keefe videos by presenting them as real news, even though they know he's not a trustworthy source.
Amen to that.

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March 13, 2011


The Obama Administration has disappointed me in a lot of different ways, particularly in its cavalier attitude toward civil rights. It seems that the Administration looked at what Bush did and said "Hmm. Makes sense to me!" Well, no, Mr. President. Many of us voted for you thinking that Bush's civil rights policies made no sense whatsoever and that you agreed with us and would work to overturn them.

So when word surfaced that Bradley Manning, the guy accused (not convicted, mind you, just accused) of leaking documents to Wikileaks was incarcerated and subjected to less-than-humane treatment in the brig, it wasn't all that surprising. But still:

So, in Barack Obama's administration, it's perfectly acceptable to abuse an American citizen in detention who has been convicted of nothing by consigning him to 23-hour-a-day solitary confinement, barring him from exercising in his cell, punitively imposing "suicide watch" restrictions on him against the recommendations of brig psychiatrists, and subjecting him to prolonged, forced nudity designed to humiliate and degrade. But speaking out against that abuse is a firing offense. Good to know.
This appalls me. If it appalls you, you can tell the White House how you feel about it. I did.

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March 12, 2011

Now that's impartial!

I see that Harvard and Princeton finished the Ivy League season with identical 12-2 records and are having a playoff game today to determine which team gets the league's automatic birth in the NCAA Tournament.

I further see that the league has determined the game should be played at a neutral site which will confer no crowd advantage to one team or the other. What's that neutral site?


This amuses me for some reason. Heaven forbid the hoi polloi get in to see the game in a non-Ivy gym.

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March 11, 2011

Pacific Tsunami

Hawai'i was spared any serious damage by the tsunami generated by the earthquake which hit Japan. Some boats in harbors came loose from their moorings and crashed into one another, and a hotel in Kona on the Big Island had its lobby soaked, but nothing more serious than that. It's easy for me to say, since I'm neither a boat owner nor an owner of the hotel, but if that was indeed the sum of statewide damage I'd say we dodged a potentially horrific bullet.

Personally, I was informed almost immediately about the earthquake by a friend who posted a news item about it to my Facebook wall. I immediately turned on CNN and shortly thereafter switched to one of our local TV stations, which began All Tsunami All The Time coverage at around 8:00pm and stayed with it until 9:00am this morning.

Our house is about 800 feet above sea level and our hill is pretty steep, so we didn't worry about a water surge. What did concern us was the potential for power outages. One of Hawaiian Electric's power plants is in one of the possible tsunami inundation zones. One of their spokespersons was quickly on television telling customers that the company had shifted personnel to that plant and was already moving load to other plants as well. This was complicated by the fact that their workers are in the midst of voting on a new contract they'd just gotten after a brief strike; the workers are still out but told management they'd come back to work if needed to recover from any damages.

I filled up a water jug and made sure I had batteries for my flashlights and batteries and went to bed, thinking the state wouldn't be helped if I sat up till 3:21 A.M. (when the tsunami was forecast to arrive) worrying about it. That decision proved to be sensible.

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March 10, 2011

Kind of a placeholder till I have time to read the whole thing

The 2011 edition of The Grapes of Wrath.

The American people have a choice. They can continue on a course of apathy, selfishness and worship of mammon, or they can rally together with selflessness and concern for the welfare of their fellow man and future unborn generations. The current path, forged by a minority of privileged wealthy elite, will lead to the destruction of this country and misery on an unprecedented scale.

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March 09, 2011

Credit for honesty, I suppose

From Think Progress:

In an interview with Fox News’ Megyn Kelly moments ago, State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-WI), one of Walker’s closest allies in the legislature, confirmed the true political motive of Walker’s anti-union push. Fitzgerald explained that “this battle” is about eliminating unions so that “the money is not there” for the labor movement. Specifically, he said that the destruction of unions will make it “much more difficult” for President Obama to win reelection in Wisconsin
It's refreshing to hear a Republican politician freely admit that the whole purpose of Walker's attempt to strip collective bargaining rights from public employees is to defund unions. For the most part that goal has been left unsaid; obvious to anyone watching, but nonetheless unspoken.

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March 08, 2011

Cast ye bread upon the waters

Or just make a loaf for toast to accompany your dinner, as I did this morning:

From Events

That's a loaf of Instant Potato Bread, made with water, buttermilk, honey, olive oil, bread flour, instant mashed potato flakes, salt and yeast. Here's what it looked like before I sliced it:

From Events

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About that volcano . . .

Images and video of Pu`u `Ō `ō crater. The crater floor dropped 300+ feet over the weekend, prompting a fissure eruption. The paper has the story here, with more pictures.

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March 07, 2011

Econ blogs you should examine

Time magazine has put out a list of them, grandly titled "The 25 Best Financial Blogs." There's at least one I'd have left off the list because its author frequently gets her basic arithmetic wrong when trying to support her arguments, leading me to believe she has the philosophy "Never let the facts get in the way of my point of view," but that's me.

The nice thing about the list is that the description of each blog is written by one of the other bloggers on the list, so you get a sense of the respect accorded to the blogger by his/her peers.

Anyway, if you're looking for new economics blogs to read, this is a great resource.

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March 06, 2011

A Song for the Dairy State

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From rain to sunshine

In about four hours. Tradewinds are back, vog is disappearing, and part of the Pu'u 'O'o Crater floor has collapsed on the Big Island (video at link). Sixty-five foot tall fountains of lava are spewing from a rift five football fields long.

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March 05, 2011

Power loss, power found

We're in the midst of a power outage on Oahu. My sympathies go out to all the people unable to open their refrigerators and freezers for fear of food spoilage and unable to cook. For whatever reason, our neighborhood has, over the years, been pretty much immune to lengthy losses of power. We've had our share of one and two-hour blips; the longest I remember is about six hours. I remember that stress and frustration, so I feel for the folks west of me.

The union didn't plan to go out strategically at the moment of a major storm, its spokesman says, and I'm inclined to believe him. Who can plan for storm damage like this? Nonetheless, I'm sure there are some thoughts of "hey, our leverage in getting management back to the table just improved a lot." I don't blame them for holding those thoughts, either. If you're willing to negotiate but the other side isn't, and you've been without a contract for months, you'll take any outside help you get, even if it's the weather.

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March 04, 2011

Can you say mindless?

I thought you could.

If the House Republicans get their way, the next time your or your neighbor's kid swallows half a bottle of furniture polish or perfume your call to the local poison control center will go unanswered. They've decided the $27 million those centers cost the Federal Government must be eliminated.

What the hell, I'm sure it's only poor people whose kids swallow that stuff, right? Republicans claim to be pro-life, but their version of that phrase means "from inception to birth." Once the kid's born, particularly if the mother is poor, she deserves no support, not even a poison control center in case that toddler drinks a little cleaning fluid.

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March 03, 2011

What's next, Wisconsin Republicans?

News Item:

Wisconsin Senate Republicans ratcheted up the pressure . . . declaring the Democrats "in contempt" of Senate rules and authorizing their arrests to force them back to the chamber.
This is getting more and more bizarre, isn't it?

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March 02, 2011

Oh, fer heaven's sake

More pettiness from the Wisconsin Republicans:

the Senate has passed a resolution fining members who are absent without leave for two or more session days, at a rate of $100 per day of absence. AWOL members would also be required to "Reimburse to the senate the actual costs incurred in compelling the attendance of the member."
These are the same guys who previously restricted Democratic staffers' access to the Capitol copiers and cut off direct deposit of paychecks for the Democratic Senators.

I know I said earlier that Republicans are like little children. Scratch that. I know little children who are less childish than this bunch.

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March 01, 2011

Moonlight and Magnolias

That's an interesting catch phrase, isn't it? I'd never heard it until I read this article by Ed Kilgore in The New Republic. He's using it to describe the model for economic growth that the South has been using for years:

. . . the capital-starved, low-wage region concluded that the way it could compete economically with other states was to emphasize its comparative advantages: low costs, a large pool of relatively poor workers, “right to work” laws that discouraged unionization, and a small appetite for environmental or any other sort of regulation.
I'd add that as part of this strategy the South (like most other regions, truth be told) is willing to offer almost any tax break to businesses willing to build or relocate there; witness the the bidding war for a new VW plant ultimately built in Chattanooga, TN.

From the employee's point of view, the trouble with this strategy is that any attempt to organize these new jobs runs into these states' "right to work" policies. It comes from the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947, passed over Truman's veto, and it means that no employee can be compelled to join or pay the equivalent of dues to a union, nor can the employee be fired if he or she joins the union. Thus the right to work.

Well, guess what? If unions are discouraged, unions won't be organized. The workers will probably get lower wages and fewer benefits than their counterparts in similar jobs in other states. What the plant owners and the states are counting on is that those jobs are still far better than most others available in those states, so the employees won't get too restive. They may be fired at will, but their employers rely on the relative value of those jobs to attract new workers to replace them. The states are happy, because they've got a higher tax base (from those employed workers, not from the companies; they gave away all the potential taxes the employers would ordinarily pay in order to get them to locate there in the first place, remember?) The employers are happy, because they've got a cheaper place to do business. Who are the losers? The employees, of course.

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