Tuesday, July 24, 2012

the best Tex Mex cooking site IN THE WORLD

Did you know there's a Tex Mex-specific analog to Smitten Kitchen? I didn't. I've now tried 3 recipes from Homesick Texan:

This biscuit recipe is what I used to make my first successful attempt at fluffy biscuits without resorting to shortening. I even used white-whole wheat flour!

The Mexican rice turned out better than any restaurant version I've ever had.

The sauce in this stacked enchiladas recipe, however, brought me to a new state of consciousness. Also, I just washed the dishes afterwards, and my fingertips are burning.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Worst Congress Ever, in 14 relatively nonpartisan ways

Told like it is. Fewest laws passed of any Congress, lowest popularity of any Congress, most polarized of any Congress, but most importantly, an explication of all the very important ways they have failed us at critical moments this year, and have done more harm than good.

credit card surcharges and you

Underneath all the election year garbage, some news of actual import to everyone who uses credit cards or runs a business that accepts them. Via Kevin Drum, it appears that, thanks to a major anti-trust settlement against Visa and Mastercard, merchants are no longer barred by contract from passing along card companies' 2.5% swipe fee on to consumers.

Drum is mainly looking at the possible effects of this settlement from a wonky point of view, but what does it mean for the consumer? 2.5%, if added as a surcharge to every credit card purchase, swamps any savings gained by most rewards programs, as they all give in the neighborhood of 1% back. Will it still be worth it not to carry cash? Will this apply to debit cards as well? Will we find, as Drum suspects, that the swipe fees were too high in the first place, and now businesses will get a respite from the grift of a greedy oligopoly? Will this mean the end of rewards programs?

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

ACA not a very good issue to demogogue

Yglesias on why we keep getting articles and interviews where someone viciously denounces Obamacare and then proposes in its place something identical or almost identical:
Still, as a matter of forward-looking policy, I think that what's going on here is that in order to stay "onside" in the political debate, a number of moderate conservative commentators are drastically exaggerating the extent of their disagreements with the law. Saying you think Obamacare's increase in taxation of investment income should be rolled back and replaced with more aggressive implementation of the excise tax is a far cry from positing a deep-seated philosophical disagreement with the overall approach. At some point, everyone had to look at the overall legislative package and decide if they were "for" or "against" it, and ever since that moment the debate about the specific elements of the progam has gotten extremely fuzzy and overly polarized.
It's true, I definitely think he's right that this happened, but I think he's being too charitable here. Yes, there is definitely an element here of David Brooks playing a side, and so trying to find excuses to denounce Obamacare. This point about how people have generally approached debate on the ACA by taking a side on the whole thing first and then letting that color how they feel about, and argue, each individual piece is I think unquestionably true. There is something of a smart calculus there, though: while nice discussions can be had on the merits of each piece, if you analyze the pieces and then try to argue a position on the whole thing based on those, the "ban on denial of coverage for pre-existing conditions" pieces is going to crowd out everything else, and the anti-Obamacare position is pretty much indefensible on TV if you allow that.

That being said, I'm pretty sure there's also a strong element here of David Brooks not actually knowing what the law does. Coverage and debate of the ACA has really exposed just how little the journalists in our television and newspapers present or even understand the major bills they purport to be discussing. Brooks' misunderstanding here is quite minor compared to the general idiocy we've been subjected to.

Outsourced Justice: not blind, but only sees green

I've joked a bit with friends that now, having lived in the deep south for almost a year, I get why southerners are so distrustful of government: they're so terrible at it. There are so many terrible ideas in this piece that I don't know where to start. It's about municipalities down here outsourcing traffic fines and probations. There are a lot of individual sentences in this piece that will leave your jaw agape. Here was one that did it for me:

J. Scott Vowell, the presiding judge of Alabama’s 10th Judicial Circuit, said in an interview that his state’s Legislature, like many across the country, was pressuring courts to produce revenue, and that some legislators even believed courts should be financially self-sufficient.
What kind of an uber-Randian weirdo do you have to be to believe that the courts should generate their own revenue?