Saturday Bites & Pieces: Southern Comfort

I’m baaaack!  There has not been time yet to catch up on all the ATiM posts and comments, but at a glance you certainly had some interesting discussions that I very much look forward to reading more thoroughly.  Thanks to all of you for that gift.

Mexico was fabulous, although I only got out of the resort for one excursion so unfortunately don’t feel like I experienced any of the local culture.  The food at the resort was plentiful but IMHO so-so in quality, with a few notable seafood exceptions, and obviously off-the-charts in sodium content.  So I’m happy to get back to my regular low-sodium diet, and this recipe is both quite healthy and very low sodium (fairly rare on both counts for a “comfort food”).

While shopping today at my local farmers market, I was overwhelmed by the gorgeous and inexpensive produce.  I wanted everything, so it took some self-discipline not to buy too much.  The local okra is coming in plentifully, and it inspired me to make one of my favorite southern-style comfort foods.  I love okra.  If this summer is as hot as last summer, I’m sure it will be another bumper crop.  I grew up eating a version of this (proportionately much more chicken) served over grits, but it’s just as good or better served over rice.  The original recipe (for the below, not for what I grew up eating) calls for twice the amount of chicken and half the amount of okra I’ve included below, but my modification lowers the calorie and fat content significantly.  If you are not particularly fond of okra, you probably would still like this in the original proportions or you could substitute squash or another veggie for the okra.  I hope you’ll give it a try.

FB, this is another “one-pot” meal (except for the grits or rice), but I have no idea if your boys will eat okra, especially considering the texture issues many people have with okra.  And it takes at most 30 minutes to prep and cook.


Makes 2 servings, 1 ½ cups each


1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

1/2 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels

4 ounces boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed of fat and cut into 1-inch chunks

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon paprika

Pinch of cayenne pepper, or to taste

1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes, preferably no salt added

2 cups fresh or frozen sliced or chopped okra

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1/8 teaspoon salt


Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and corn and cook, stirring often, until lightly browned and softened, about 4 minutes. Add chicken and cook, stirring often, until browned, about 2 minutes.  (The chicken just needs to be browned, not cooked through because it will be cooked later.) Add garlic, paprika and cayenne and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add tomatoes and okra. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is cooked through, about 5 minutes. Add pepper and salt.


Per serving: 175 Calories; 4 g Fat (1 g Sat); 33 mg Cholesterol; 23 g Carbohydrates (8 g Sugar, 6 g Fiber); 13 g Protein; 173 mg Sodium

P.S.  I STILL  l.o.v.e  the Thunder.  They had a great year.


Old Fashioned Sweet Cherry Conserves

From The Joy of Cooking, 75th Anniversary Edition

Makes enough for about eight 1/2-pint jars

  1. Wash and cut oranges into very thin slices, discarding any seeds.
  2. Barely cover with water in a large saucepan, about 1/4 cup, and cook until  very tender.
  3. Wash, stem, pit (see Note below) and add 1 quart cherries.
  4. Add 6 tablespoons bottled lemon juice, 3 1/2 cups sugar, 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, and 6 wholes cloves tied in a cheesecloth bag.
  5. Simmer the conserves, stirring frequently until thick and clear.
  6. Discard the spice bag and ladle the hot conserves into hot 1/2-pint jars, leaving 1/4-inch of headroom.  Process for 15 minutes.

Note:  To pit the cherries, I treat them like olives.  First put on an old t-shirt (one that you use for painting would work well), then take the cherries, a chef’s knife, and a cutting board outside to an area that will clean up easily (a pool deck is probably perfect).  Using the flat side of the blade, whack a couple of cherries at a time and remove the pit(s).  Once all of the cherries are pitted, go back inside and finish the conserves.

Gay Marriage Strawman 4: I Pronounce You Man and Wife and Wife and Wife

Fourth is a four part series which closes out Pride Month.

I have previously discussed pedophilia and bestiality as slippery slope oppostions to to gay marriage. Another one frequently brought up is polygamy. When in doubt, the man whose name is synonymous with slippery slope (so to speak) metaphors, Rick Santorum is always good for a quote.

“So, everybody has the right to be happy? So, if you’re not happy unless you’re married to five other people, is that OK?”

Rick is prone to these Socratic rhetorical outbursts, but why did he pick that particular example when ‘man on dog’ had been such a winner for him in the past? Well, Eugene Volokh in the Hofstra Law Review explicitly endorses polygamy as a slippery slope gambit.

And as it happens, there probably is a large group of American listeners that neither firmly opposes nor firmly supports same-sex marriage, but pretty firmly thinks that polygamy ought not be recognized, and a smaller but nontrivial group that is open to same-sex marriage but skeptical about at least some kinds of bans on sexual orientation discrimination. People in these groups are thus potentially swayable by the slippery slope argument.

As I mentioned in my last post, the most common definition arrayed against gay marriage is that it is traditionally between one man and one woman. And while I find the gender distinction irrelevant, some people fixate on the ‘one’ part of the circumlocution. They feel that allowing gay marriage could lead to polygamy, not realizing that polygamy exists in lots of countries already, many of them highly opposed to gay rights of any variety, so the connection is tenuous at best. Polygamy is a Biblicly endorsed practice along with slavery and the shunning of menstruating women. As such, it is hardly novel or shocking.

These objections over tradition also seem oblivious to the fact that the religion of the Republican candidate had polygamy as one of its founding tenets, a practice it refuted only just over a century ago even though splinter sects still practice it. And the practitioners don’t go through the motions of civic marriage, even if they could, because that infringes on their gaming of the child welfare system that is part of their economic model.

Polygamy raises the hackles of many people including feminists who find it a patriarchal institution suppressive of women. I doubt you will find many lesbians, single or married, in support of ‘traditional’ polygamy.

The more modern form of multi-partner relationships is called polyamory in order to distinguish it from the older variety, but even it is nothing new as it is just a newer variation on the Free Love and Open Marriage movements which have been around for years. By taking the ‘gamy’ suffix out, it divorces (so to speak) the romantic/sexual relationship from the square traditional concept of fidelity. Also within the concept of polyamory is an implicit acceptance of bisexuality as at least one of the possible permutations.

For the most part, polyamory seems to be for people who just find the emotional tightrope of traditional relationships too easy and need a greater challenge. At least that is my impression from my major source of information on this topic, Dan Savage’s Lovecast podcast. Judging by his listenership the predominant paradigm in these relationships is a primary partnership, which may or may not be a legally married couple, and ‘special guest stars’ of indeterminate duration. The very ephemeral nature of the secondary partners makes absorbing them into the marriage concept complicated to say the least, and most likely unnecessary in the long term.

Conceptually the idea of extending marriage to multiple partners is simply to make marriage contracts non-exclusive. This could lead to all sorts of interlocking directorates of sorts which would really not do much except open new areas of practice for divorce lawyers. This would also require the elimination of bigamy laws which I have no qualms with since I have always considered bigamy its own punishment.

So when someone goes on clambering about how gay marriages are going to destroy society, try to realize how much society has absorbed already. Gay marriage was originally drafted as a conservative measure to draw homosexuals into society. Marriage in any form is a civilizing influence. It creates responsibility and fosters commitment, not just to a person but to a code of behavior and expectations. Love comes is all colors, sizes, and shapes and should be celebrated wherever it occurs and to whomever it happens.

On a personal note, my cousin had her civil union in Delaware on Wednesday. The Delaware rules make a ‘solemnized’ union literally indistinguishable from a marriage. Today four generations of all political stripes will gather to celebrate and honor the creation of a new family. I’m sure it will bring a tear to my eye because I find all brides beautiful and today’s ceremony will be doubly gorgeous.


New thread for the LIBOR investigation:

Here are some links:

Matt Taibbi:

A Huge Break in the LIBOR Banking Investigation

Another Domino Falls in the LIBOR Banking Scam: Royal Bank of Scotland


Barclays’ gift to private antitrust plaintiffs in Libor case


Barclays Big-Boy Breaches Mean Libor Fixes Not Enough

Daily Mail:

“Earlier, Tan Chi Min, a former head of delta trading for RBS’s global banking and markets division in Singapore, alleged that managers at RBS condoned collusion between its staff to set the Libor rate artificially high or low to maximise profits.

He named five staff members he claims made requests for the Libor rate to be altered and three senior managers who he said knew what was going on.

 He also says the practice ‘was known to other members of [RBS]’s senior management’.

Mr Tan, who was eventually sacked for gross misconduct, worked for RBS from August 2006 to November 2011and alleges that senior members of staff knew about Libor fixing, and that the behaviour started while Fred Goodwin was chief executive”

British bankers now face criminal inquiry after 20 more banks are found to have rigged interest rates

My overarching question would be at what point do repeated patterns of criminal misconduct from the same organizations cease to be isolated incidents of specific bad actors and instead become a systemic problem with the organization itself?

The Political Supremes

The WSJ today notes something odd that I noticed and thought was peculiar yesterday in reading through the dissent:

One telling note is that the dissent refers repeatedly to “Justice Ginsburg’s dissent” and “the dissent” on the mandate, but of course they should be referring to Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s concurrence. This wording and other sources suggest that there was originally a 5-4 majority striking down at least part of ObamaCare, but then the Chief Justice changed his mind.
The Justices may never confirm this informed speculation. But if it is true, this is far more damaging to the Court’s institutional integrity that the Chief Justice is known to revere than any ruling against ObamaCare. The political class and legal left conducted an extraordinary campaign to define such a decision as partisan and illegitimate. If the Chief Justice capitulated to this pressure, it shows the Court can be intimidated and swayed from its constitutional duties. If this was a play to compete with John Marshall’s legacy, the result is closer to William Brennan’s.

Charles Krauthammer proposes a similarly political explanation for Roberts’ decision.

Why did he do it? Because he carries two identities. Jurisprudentially, he is a constitutional conservative. Institutionally, he is chief justice and sees himself as uniquely entrusted with the custodianship of the Court’s legitimacy, reputation, and stature…
How to reconcile the two imperatives — one philosophical and the other institutional? Assign yourself the task of writing the majority opinion. Find the ultimate finesse that manages to uphold the law, but only on the most narrow of grounds — interpreting the individual mandate as merely a tax, something generally within the power of Congress.

Whether or not this is true, Roberts’ decision will not, and should not, restore any lost legitimacy of the court. The legitimacy of the court (to the extent that it even matters) had not been brought into question because one or two contentious decisions have been perceived as politically motivated. The legitimacy of the court is in question because the court has become a political institution. In our post-Roosevelt and, in particular, post-Roe world, justices are appointed and confirmed to the court by politicians in a blatantly transparent effort to effect political ends via the judiciary. And once on the court, those justices do what they were nominated to do. From a layman’s perspective, it has become obvious that, on many politically contentious issues that make it to the court, justices have a preferred result in mind and use whatever lawyerly semantics, sophistry and tortured reasoning they can to justify reaching that preferred outcome.

Far from dispelling this impression of the court, Roberts’ opinion merely strengthens it. The fact that he is a conservative joining a bloc of liberals does nothing to blunt the undeniable conclusion that this decision was politically motivated. It doesn’t matter much whether it is because he likes the direction in which Obamacare is taking the nation, or because he is trying to – ironically – alter perceptions of the court. It is clear that he has engaged in the same semantics, sophistry and disingenuous parsing that has made so many of us non-lawyers so cynical about the court’s proceedings.

If Krauthammer is correct and Roberts’ decision was driven by a desire to burnish the courts flagging reputation as an impartial, non-political interpreter of the law, he could not possibly have taken a more counter intuitive approach, nor have failed more abysmally.

Gay Marriage Strawman 3: Think Of The Children

Third in a four part series.

One of the most common mantra against allowing gays and lesbians to marry is that marriage is meant to be between one man and one woman. When asked why, the response is that only a man and a woman can make a child. Despite this basic biologically obvious observation, not all men nor all women can make a child. Otherwise an enormous fertility industry would not exist. Nor do all married couples want children despite the best efforts of some to turn back Griswold vs. Connecticut.

If children were the sole reason for marriage, then the logical position would be to deny licenses to anybody who cannot produce a positive pregnancy test result. Indeed, apocryphally (and I cite Jude the Obscure as but one literary example) many marriage proposals in times past not involving the exchange of property occurred only after a metaphorical rabbit had died. For peasant farmers there was no reason to do otherwise. And if marriage was only for raising children the fact that infertile people or post menopausal women can get married proves that there are larger issues than just procreation in the mix.

Recently David Blankenhorn has reversed his position against gay marriage which had largely been based on the pro-procreation argument.

I had hoped that the gay marriage debate would be mostly about marriage’s relationship to parenthood. But it hasn’t been. Or perhaps it’s fairer to say that I and others have made that argument, and that we have largely failed to persuade. In the mind of today’s public, gay marriage is almost entirely about accepting lesbians and gay men as equal citizens.

He makes the case that it is ironic that the gay community is embracing marriage as broader society is becoming more blasé about it, with or without children. 53% of children born to mothers under the age of 30 who weren’t married. Many weddings that do occur now include the children of the bride and groom as members of the party.

And lots of gay couples enter marriage to form families. Despite the biological headwinds they face, they have available the same resources heterosexual couples can take advantage of, adoption, donor sperm, surrogacy, etc. And to say that a gay or lesbian person is not the parent of a child just because they have no genetic material at stake is an insult to any adoptive or step-parent who has ever taken on parental duties.

But having children is not the sole or even primary reason to get married. Many straight couples never intend to have kids. Why should gay couples have to meet some higher standard? Marriage throughout history has had many purposes, exchange of property, insurance of fidelity, political bonding, but the modern notion is that marriages should be based on love and affection. While arranged marriages still occur in many cultures, the Western notion of the love match is taking root through the soft imperialism of popular culture.

And with modern contraception, children are not a necessary nor sufficient reason for a marriage. For two people to get married the necessity nor the possibility of them having children no longer makes any sense as a criteria. A mutual affection and a desire for commitment should be be all that is needed.

What’s Next

The PPACA extends the current system to more people to increase coverage, but doesn’t fundamentally reform health care at the delivery level. As such, it will not succeed in bending the cost curve to make the growth rate of health care spending sustainable. The interesting question now is what path it takes when it inevitably collapses. I see one of two options: 
1. “Individual Market Based” – Some combination of Ron Wyden’s and Paul Ryan’s reforms are enacted eliminating the employer based tax preferences and replacing them with individual tax credits, thus eliminating the already tenuous “firewall” between the exchanges and the employer based system.  
Medicare and Medicaid (and potentially TriCare) are voucherized and integrated into the existing subsidy system in the exchanges so that all health insurance is purchased by individuals in the exchange system with varying levels of subsidies and tax credits based on age and income. About as close to “Free Market” as you are likely to get. 
2. “Single Payer (sort of)”. Medicaid for all is enacted replacing the exchange system entirely with a universal minimal standard insurance package provided by the government. Coverage and reimbursement is dictated by a more robust version of the Medicare Payment Advisory board that strictly limits name brand drugs and other expensive treatments in favor of generics and applies similar cost/benefit analysis to approved procedures (and reimbursement rates). The ability to see specialists without a referral or otherwise go “out of network” is curtailed, as are end of life procedures.  
In parallel with the public system, private insurance and medical care remain to provide enhanced care for those who can afford it.  
Eventually, the public system comes to resemble public schools vs private schools as taxpayers who opt for the private system are not receptive to tax increases to maintain and improve a public system that they themselves do not participate in, thus regulating the public system to a second tier level of care, much like Medicaid is today.

SCOTUS Decision (Open Thread)

So today is the day. I thought we could just use an open thread for comments as the decision and opinions come in.  Anyone have a link to that liveblog we can add here?

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