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Category: General

Food Royalty

[ 72 ] November 14, 2014 |

corn girl

We’ve discussed the 1935 Idaho Potato Queen here in the past. But she didn’t exist in a vacuum. Food related royalty has long been a thing in the U.S. They still are too. I once attended the Yamboree in Gilmer, Texas. There was a Yam Queen. It was very exciting.

Sometimes, said food royalty poses with the food in somewhat odd ways.
That is the subject of tonight’s Friday night open thread. Above is the Kearney, Nebraska Corn Goddess. Don’t know the year. Below, a Pork Queen.


I’m Convinced!

[ 89 ] November 14, 2014 |

Vote suppression guru Hans von Spakovsky makes an excellent, if inadvertent, case for the confirmation of Loretta Lynch.

The Cosby Silence

[ 164 ] November 14, 2014 |

Excellent questions from one of his many accusers:

While I am grateful for the new attention to Cosby’s crimes, I must ask my own questions: Why wasn’t I believed? Why didn’t I get the same reaction of shock and revulsion when I originally reported it? Why was I, a victim of sexual assault, further wronged by victim blaming when I came forward? The women victimized by Bill Cosby have been talking about his crimes for more than a decade. Why didn’t our stories go viral?

Unfortunately, our experience isn’t unique. The entertainment world is rife with famous men who use their power to victimize and then silence young women who look up to them. Even when their victims speak out, the industry and the public turn blind eyes; these men’s celebrity, careers, and public adulation continue to thrive. Even now, Cosby has a new comedy special coming out on Netflix and NBC is set to give him a new sitcom.

There is a new 544 page biography of Cosby out that apparently ignores the extensive allegations of sexual assault entirely. The first, laudatory New York Times review of the book did not consider this worthy of mention at all; Dwight Garner’s more reserved review confines his objections on this score to a sentence. The cycle of silence or near-silence goes on and on.

This also can help us to understand why Jian Gomeshi thought he could just bluff and bully his way through the allegations against him. The horrible truth is that what’s surprising is not that he got away with it for so long, but that he suffered any professional consequences at all.

Choose Your Own Adventure

[ 32 ] November 14, 2014 |


R.A. Montgomery, author of the Choose Your Own Adventure children’s book series, has died. It is impossible to overstate how awesome these books were when I was 10 or 11 years old. Hopefully, Montgomery’s path to Heaven or Hell doesn’t include such similarly precarious choices as the many where the Maya would kill you, which seemed to happen a lot to me when I read the books.

The Other, Grosser McCain

[ 109 ] November 14, 2014 |

Go, Gamergate, go!

May I tell you what the most amusing thing about right-wing conservatives hitching their wagons to this odious movement is? They have no idea what they’re talking about. They’re not familiar with the details of Gamergate at all. They’re not familiar with its origins. They just know that a bunch of angry boys are “winning” and “standing up” to evil feminists. And, because they’re mindless reactionaries, that’s all they need to know to know which side they’re on. Still more delicious is the the fact the longer this drags on the more obvious it becomes that this was never anything more than an excuse to shit on women.

The comment section is comedy platinum.

That said, it doesn’t matter how many back pats the SJWs give the gaming industry, no one is going to by a video game, the object of which is to have your character curl up in a fetal position after drinking a bottle of cheap sangria, listen to Tracy Chapman albums and weep about how misogynistic society is. “Achievement Unlocked! Unlimited Free Spermicide w/ Titanium Diaphragm!”


Apparently, Gamergate is such an unstoppable force of nature it can time-travel, as–according to this comment–it’s clearly playing out in 1991.

EDIT: I should also add that the “SJW’s” have been making rhetorical mincemeat of the Gaters from the get-go, and that everyone outside its bubble–to include celebrities and celebrities in the gaming world–hates #GamerGate. It is, by any measure, a miserable failure of a movement.


[ 56 ] November 14, 2014 |


Don Blankenship, CEO of Massey Energy and one of the most detestable and immoral people living in the United States, was finally indicted for a few of his many crimes yesterday.

Don Blankenship, the longtime chief executive officer of Massey Energy, was indicted Thursday on charges that he orchestrated the routine violation of key federal mine safety rules at the company’s Upper Big Branch Mine prior to an April 2010 explosion that killed 29 miners.

A federal grand jury in Charleston charged Blankenship with conspiring to cause willful violations of ventilation requirements and coal-dust control rules — meant to prevent deadly mine blasts —during a 15-month period prior to the worst coal-mining disaster in a generation.

The four-count indictment, filed in U.S. District Court, also alleges that Blankenship led a conspiracy to cover up mine safety violations and hinder federal enforcement efforts by providing advance of government inspections.

“Blankenship knew that UBB was committing hundreds of safety-law violations every year and that he had the ability to prevent most of the violations that UBB was committing,” the indictment states. “Yet he fostered and participated in an understanding that perpetuated UBB’s practice of routine safety violations, in order to produce more coal, avoid the costs of following safety laws, and make more money.”

The indictment also alleges that, after the explosion, Blankenship made false statements to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the investing public about Massey’s safety practices before the explosion.

I’m really curious to what extent lying to investors wasn’t his real downfall. Being indicted is definitely not the same as receiving the harsh punishment Blankenship deserves, but it is a necessary and all too rare step to hold an employer accountable for people dying on the job. Still, the case of Blankenship is SO egregious that it could not be ignored and still took 4 1/2 years after the death of 29 miners.

Thanksgiving: The Holiday of Abolitionists

[ 46 ] November 14, 2014 |


My dislike for a lot of traditional Thanksgiving food, especially turkey, is fairly well known around these parts, but I always knew the holiday and its food more or less came out of colonial era New England. What I did know was that the celebration of Thanksgiving became deeply wrapped up in the sectional politics of the pre-Civil War era as New Englanders sought to make it a national holiday. This is just great stuff:

Virginia was the hotbed of anti-Thanksgiving sentiment. In 1853, Governor Joseph Johnson declined to declare a day of Thanksgiving for his state, citing Thomas Jefferson’s firm doctrine of separating church and state. Johnson’s successor, the slave-owning fire-brand Henry A. Wise, was even more intransigent. In 1856, he received the same annual letter from Sarah Josepha Hale that every other governor did, encouraging him to declare a general day of Thanksgiving. Wise not only declined to make the proclamation, but fired back a testy refusal.

“This theatrical national claptrap of Thanksgiving,” he declared, “has aided other causes in setting thousands of pulpits to preaching ‘Christian politics’ instead of humbly letting the carnal Kingdom alone and preaching singly Christ crucified.” By “other causes,” of course, he meant abolitionism.

That same year, the Richmond Whig elaborated the Southern case against Thanksgiving, excoriating the carnality of the holiday, which the editors felt should instead be spent in divine worship. In the District of Columbia, they noted, where all federal offices would be closed, “an astonishing quantity of execrable liquor will be guzzled” and the holiday would be “little more than an occasion for indulgence in dissipation at the cost of character.”

“While we are content,” the editors continued, “to buy our cotton spools and wooden ware from New England, because hers are the cheapest, we are by no means content to receive her notions of religion, morals, the duties of citizenship, &c, as being the best.”

Anti-Thanksgiving sentiment wasn’t confined to Virginia. In 1855, William H. Holcomb, a homeopathic physician in Natchez, Mississippi, recorded in his diary, “This was Thanksgiving day…I am sorry that the Yankee custom has crept in among us. I object to it because it makes gratitude to God a matter of civil ordinance, and limits to a single day the exhibition of feelings which should be a portion of our daily life.”

Those damned abolitionists, forcing Thanksgiving down the throats of Southern elites while attacking the benevolent institution of slavery….

Of course, the South did have one good point against Thanksgiving, which was the absurdity of New Englanders not celebrating Christmas. It was only after the Civil War that Thanksgiving was widely celebrated in the South and Christmas in New England. Interesting that in doing so, the South also basically accepted the entire menu from New England. Rather unfortunate too.

John Doar

[ 14 ] November 14, 2014 |


I’d have to say that someone who was one of the top two people in the Civil Rights Division from 1960-7 (among countless other accomplishments being on the front lines of the integration of Ole Miss and prosecuting the lynchers of Chaney, Schwerner and Goodman) and was chief counsel of the House Judiciary Committee during the Nixon impeachment process lived a life of exceptional accomplishment on the side of the angels.

a great interview with Doar here.

A Unicorn Industrialist Made Me Gay

[ 81 ] November 13, 2014 |

Origami Isopod wants you to look at these book titles. Not I, I find it entirely unfunny. As you know, I’m not in to this sort of thing, being as mature and dignified as I am.


* A Billionaire Dinosaur Forced me Gay
* Cyclops Forced me Gay
* Forced Gay by Aliens
* Robohound Forced me Gay
* Brachiosaurus Made me Gay
* Dark Pegasus Made me Gay
* Gay Lord of the Orcs
* Bigfoot’s Side Piece

ACA Trooferism: Team Pessimism

[ 99 ] November 13, 2014 |

I regret to say that Rick Hasen, Hank Greely, and Linda Greenhouse all in some measure share my dark view of what the Supreme Court granting cert in King means.

There is simply no way to describe what the court did last Friday as a neutral act. Now that the justices have blown their own cover, I notice the hint of a slightly defensive tone creeping into the commentary of some of those who have been cheering the prospect of rendering the Affordable Care Act unworkable: that as a statutory case, without major constitutional implications, any problems for ordinary Americans that result from a ruling against the government can be fixed by Congress (where House Republicans have voted 50 times to repeal the entire law) or by the states themselves (36 of which failed to set up their own exchanges, thus requiring the federal government to step in as provided by the law).


So this case is rich in almost every possible dimension. Its arrival on the Supreme Court’s docket is also profoundly depressing. In decades of court-watching, I have struggled — sometimes it has seemed against all odds — to maintain the belief that the Supreme Court really is a court and not just a collection of politicians in robes. This past week, I’ve found myself struggling against the impulse to say two words: I surrender.

Should the Roberts Court use this case to go even further down the road paved by Bush v. Gore and Shelby County, my suggestion is that Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor and Kagan all file separate dissents quoting the relevant language of the Sebelius dissent. Or, perhaps, in addition to separate arguments a joint dissent consisting of nothing but the quotes…

The Unbearable Stupidity of #GruberGate

[ 54 ] November 13, 2014 |

As we’ve previously discussed, conservatives have taken time from their busy schedule of constructing asinine legal theories to strip health insurance from millions of people to spend time parsing the obscure comments of President, Speaker of the House, Senate Majority Leader, Secretary of State, Chief Justice of the United States, and longtime don of the Gambino crime family Jonathan Gruber.

I could probably just note that Ron Fournier has boarded this train of derp and drop the mic, but couple of additional points. First of all, Timothy Jost’s comments on the first round of Gruber silliness remain relevant:

The greatest mystery of the media coverage of this litigation is why anyone should care what Jon Gruber might have said two years after the ACA was adopted while completely ignoring what the members of Congress who wrote the legislation have said they meant. Jon Gruber did not write the bill; he did not vote on it. He recognized before his 2012 misstatements that federal exchanges could in fact grant premium tax credits. But, for goodness sake, why should responsible journalists care? Gruber’s misstatements certainly have no more legal relevance than those of any other private citizen.

Gruber’s role in the passage of the ACA has been vastly exaggerated. He was a consultant, providing some expertise to help Congress and the White House do what they wanted to do. And — I stress that I’m not saying this to be critical of Gruber — it’s not as if his core ideas were some unique insight. As ridiculous as the comparison to the Heritage proposal and the ACA is, the mandate is the one thing they have in common. With European style health care reform off the table, and an employer-mandate model poisoned by the Clinton debacle, the ACA was going to take the same fundamental form had Jonathan Gruber never been born. And the specific details of the ACA had much more to do with the idiosyncrasies of marginal Senate votes like Nelson and Lieberman than Gruber.

But, more to the point, Gruber was paid for his (genuine) expertise on health care economics, not his expertise on politics. On the latter, he’s just a guy; his comments carry weight only to the extent that they’re true or relevant, and nothing he says is both. Brian Beutler:

First, Gruber’s actually overstating the degree to which the ACA needed to be finessed in order to pass. It’s true that the bill’s authors took steps to maximize its public appeal and minimize its vulnerabilities. Everyone writing significant legislation does this. The question is always how far you go—what lines are you willing to cross?

Congress did, as Gruber says, construct the mandate as a penalty rather than a tax, to make the bill passable. (Since then the Supreme Court has done us all a favor by reminding us this is a distinction without a difference.) Likewise, the bill’s core benefits only began kicking in this year, in large part because the authors wanted to keep the 10 year cost of the bill under $1 trillion to prevent sticker shock. Gruber didn’t mention that part.

But his suggestion that the key cost-sharing tradeoffs weren’t widely discussed just isn’t true. The idea that healthy people as well as sick people needed to participate in the system was central to the moral argument for the mandate, and figured heavily in the substantive debate over how much more insurers should be able to charge the elderly than the young. The risk-rating tussle is illustrative, because it was the rule, rather than the exception to the long legislative tug-of-war over the broader ACA. Conservatives have always said the health care law wasn’t debated, that it was rammed through, nobody read it, etc, etc. But it actually stands out for how much it was debated, and, for the most part, how transparent that debate was. Which in turn explains how difficult it was to pass.

In contrast, nearly everyone who’s attacking Gruber as if he were a White House political employee or a Democratic senator is simultaneously trying to require the Congressional Budget Office to say that tax cuts pay for themselves. The people who brought you the phony arithmetic of the Bush tax cuts and Medicare Part D and the self-financing Iraq war are upset about the ACA, which is genuinely fiscally sound.

By any reasonable standard, ACA respected budgetary constraints much better than most other laws.

This is all correct. I will add one additional point: Gruber’s comments are self-refuting. It is true that most voters don’t pay a great deal of attention to the details of politics, although it is both wrong and offensive to characterize this as “stupidity.” (One of the many things the debate over the ACA showed us is that even extremely intelligent, accomplished, and well-educated people can have a very shaky grasp of basic facts about the political process.) But given widespread voter ignorance, the idea that minor differences in the rhetoric were crucial to the passage of the ACA is self-evidently false. Even if you assume the false premise that shifts in public opinion translate directly into votes by members of Congress, the majority of the public who can’t name which party controls both house of Congress or name a single Supreme Court justice is not going to change its mind about the ACA based on whether the mandate is described in some speeches as a “penalty” or a “tax,” or because a wonk somewhere explains that insurance means that the healthy pay for the sick.

There’s just nothing here. Gruber doesn’t speak for anybody, and to the extent that his assumptions have any possible relevance they aren’t accurate.

UPDATE: Welcome Patterico readers! To help out your host, who apparently saw “Gruber” and decided to comment without reading the post, allow me to highlight this passage from the OP:

Gruber’s role in the passage of the ACA has been vastly exaggerated. He was a consultant, providing some expertise to help Congress and the White House do what they wanted to do.

He was a consultant who discussed “principles” with the White House and ran some models for Congress. He didn’t draft the legislation, he didn’t draft amendments, he didn’t vote for the legislation, he didn’t implement the legislation, he doesn’t speak for the Democratic Party in any way. See? You’re welcome!

It’s Baaaaaaack!!!

[ 155 ] November 13, 2014 |


What does Republican control of both houses of Congress mean? Many things of course. But one of them might be yet another push to open the Yucca Mountain nuclear storage facility in Nevada. And really, what could go wrong?

The key design element in question is something the Energy Department calls a “drip shield.” This is a kind of massive, corrosion-resistant titanium alloy mailbox that is supposed to sit over each of the thousands of waste canisters in Yucca Mountain’s underground tunnels. In NRC’s definition, it is designed “to prevent seepage water from directly dripping onto the waste package outer surface.”

The name drip shield itself is a giveaway that there is a water problem at Yucca Mountain. There is indeed a lot more water, and it is flowing faster, than the Energy Department imagined when it picked the site, which is why it added the drip shield to the original design. Without the titanium shields, dripping water would corrode the waste canisters placed in the repository and release radioactive waste, and the moving underground water would carry it to the nearby environment. Using the corrosion data in the Energy Department’s license application, one can calculate that this corrosion would take not the “million years” cited by Mr. Shimkus, but about 1,000 years.

Although the Energy Department has included the drip shields as part of the repository design, and NRC has accepted them for license-review purposes, the Energy Department doesn’t actually plan to install the shields until at least 100 years after the waste goes in. Presumably, this delay is based on financial considerations; installing the shields early in the project would add hugely to the repository’s cost and thus threaten its funding prospects in Congress. If you look more closely into the situation, you can’t escape the conclusion that it is highly implausible that the drip shields will ever be installed. In fact, as a practical matter, it may not even be physically possible to install them.

A 100 year delay? Well, what harm is there in that? Surely on top of everything else, the geopolitical situation will be precisely as stable as today, if not more so! Still…

According to Energy Department’s plan, after the radioactive waste canisters are placed in the repository tunnels, the site would receive minimal attention for many decades. After a hundred years or so, before the repository was permanently closed, the Energy Department would install the protective drip shields. So it says. Because of the radioactive underground environment, it would take highly specialized robotic equipment to install the shields with the required precision. None of this equipment has been designed, or even thought through.

Realistically, a century into the project, the underground tunnels would have deteriorated considerably and collapsed in part. Dust would sharply limit visibility. The tunnels would have to be cleared of rubble for a remotely operated underground rail system to transport robotic equipment and the five-ton drip shields to the waste canisters. The shields would then have to be installed end-to-end, so as to form a continuous metal cover inside the tunnels, obviously a delicate, complex, and extremely expensive operation. Is it reasonable to believe that after 100 years, with the nuclear waste in the repository long out of the public mind, that Congress would appropriate enormous sums of money for the Energy Department to go back into the tunnels to install the shields? Can we really rely on an agency that hasn’t yet cleaned up a nationwide radioactive mess that dates from World War II to keep a promise that it will do something a century into the future? Will there even be an Energy Department in 100 years?

This is one of many reasons why there is no room for nuclear energy in our future. As Alan Weisman discusses, building nuclear power plants assumes a forever of continued electrical production because if that power goes out long enough for the backup generators to run out, every single nuclear power plant in the world turns into a situation worse than Chernobyl. Then there is the storage issue that the U.S. certainly has never dealt with, as we see with the Yucca Mountain problems. Nuclear power is a bad idea.

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