You Keep Using That Word I Do Not Think It Means What You Think It Means

The words: the "market." The you: The Brookings Institution:

Low-income residents of 13 cities across the nation pay extra for many everyday services, sometimes thousands of dollars more over a whole year, a study to be released today shows.

By taking out higher-interest mortgages, shopping at rent-to-own furniture stores, using check-cashing businesses instead of banks and buying groceries at convenience stores, the nation’s working poor households pay much more than moderate- and high-income households for life’s essentials, says the Brookings Institution study, which analyzed services in San Francisco, Oakland and 11 other cities.

The report — “From Poverty, Opportunity: Putting the Market to Work for Lower-Income Families” — calls on government officials to create laws to curb services that gouge low-income consumers, and it proposes reproducing fledgling programs the authors found across the country.

No word on whether how the Brookings Institution wants businesses to recoup their losses on the higher default rates of those in poverty. Perhaps the government should just create laws to curb poverty, risk, and rain on days you wanted to go for a bike ride since it’s that easy.

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Satanism Rears Its Ugly Head In Columbia, Missouri

Oh, sorry, I guess it’s not really Satanism, just a prosecutor using a law targeting Satanism creatively to punish someone who abused her child:

Boone County Circuit Judge Gary Oxenhandler sentenced Erma McKinney on Monday to 21 years for assault, 10 years for child abuse, eight years for child endangerment, and seven years for child endangerment in a ritual or ceremony. McKinney will serve the first three sentences concurrently and the last one consecutively.

McKinney was convicted in May.

The ritual or ceremony charge was brought because McKinney told police she punished her son with a hot shower more than once.

I demand my legislators do something! and make sure that assault with an active shower head is an additional felony, because 30 years just ain’t enough.

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Book Report: The Mystery of Edwin Drood by Rupert Holmes (1986)

You know, the St. Louis Reperatory Theatre put on this play last year, and I didn’t have the inkling to go. I mean, face it, I hear Steven Woolf on the radio hawking the shows, and his forced enthusiasm kills any I might feel about a play. I mean, this one is a musical, and everybody knows how I feel about musicals (hint). So I didn’t go, and reading the book, I’m sorry I didn’t.

I picked this book club edition for a couple bucks at one of the book fairs I attended this summer. I think it was St. Charles, but come on, St. Charles, St. Louis, Kirkwood, Belleville, Webster Groves….they’re all beginning to blend together. I’m not reading the books fast enough to keep their origins fresh.

Aside from that, let’s dwell on the fact that this is a book club edition. Now, I’ve done my turns with the Book of the Month Club and the Quality Paperback Club (and the Writers’ Digest Book Club) beginning in the 1990s, but they didn’t offer contemporary plays. Is there a Broadway Book Club out there, or is this disappearance representative of the death of middlebrow culture? I mean, not to put too fine of a point on it, where has drama-loving middlebrow culture gone? In the olden days, plays and theatre were cheap and popular entertainment, with stars accountable to their audiences both in their performance and their lifestyles. Now, our popular entertainment is phoned in from somewhere else, delivered via unresponsive screening technologies by stars who don’t know their ultimate audiences, but feel contempt for them. What happened? Oh, yeah, theatre tickets stopped selling for a penny and snotty little English and Drama majors started getting uppity, using the rarification of their academic experience to distance themselves from the dirty, unthinking (or wrong thinking) plebes. Probably more of the former than the latter.

This particular work breaks down the fourth wall in a rather interesting fashion. It does the normal play-within-the-play thing as well; the story revolves around the last, unfinished work of Charles Dickens as presented by a turn-of-the-century British troupe. Ergo, all actors are playing actors playing characters in the play. Throughout, the Edwin Drood action stops as the drama personnel of the British troupe make asides, discuss their parts, and so on. Ultimately, the British troupe asks the audience to help finish off the play, as Dickens died before revealing the Solution of Edwin Drood.

So the play, this play, the Mystery of Edwin Drood, offers a novel and amusing presentation of several conventions and must be very interesting to see in performance, except now I know all possible endings. It’s like watching Clue: The Movie over and over again even when the mystery is gone. Come to think of it, I do that, too, so I guess I’d go see a production of The Mystery of Edwin Drood if I got the chance.

As far as the St. Louis Reperatory Theatre goes, I guess I’ll make my way over there, too, and give Steven Woolf the benefit of the doubt. Especially since we’ve moved to Old Trees, Missouri, and now we’re so close to it that I sometimes bang my shin into Loretto-Hilton Center when trying to find the bathroom in the dark.

Books mentioned in this review:

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Is That Some Kind of Metaphor?

As jets soar, so does temperature:

The National Weather Service has issued a heat advisory for the Milwaukee area today, cautioning residents – who sweated through highs in the mid-90s on Saturday – to prepare for even higher temperatures and humidity.

The advisory, the first of its kind this year, is expected to be in effect until Monday morning.

Darrin Hansing, a meteorologist with the weather service in Sullivan, advised residents to stay indoors and drink plenty of fluids.

“Heat exhaustion and heatstroke are very possible in these types of situations if people don’t take the proper precautions,” he said.

Little relief is in sight until the end of the week.

The weather service predicts a hot and humid day today, with highs in the upper 90s. Residents can expect 90-degree days until Thursday afternoon, said Peter Speicher, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Sullivan.

“There’s a front coming in from the northwest,” he said.

Milwaukee hit a high of 94 on Saturday.

Temperatures in Fond du Lac climbed to 95 and reached a high of 91 in Lone Rock. It was 97 in Sheboygan and 93 in Madison, Kenosha and Racine.

No, wait, somewhere around paragraph 24, after all the normal admonishments to turn on your air conditioners, you freaking northerners, and don’t put the pets in the sweat lodge, we get the tie to the weekend air show:

The Milwaukee Fire Department also set up three sprinkler tents around the Veterans Park area for the TCF Bank Air Expo on Saturday, Lt. Tim Halbur said.

We then get a couple short paragraphs about the air show and how people coped with the French-killing temperatures at the air show. I guess that’s where the Journal-Sentinel sent its photographers to cover the heat wave, or maybe it couldn’t afford to take pictures of and write stories about both the heat wave and the air show, so the paper did its part in conserving energy by combining the two stories in a surprising and haphazard way.

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I Want Their Therapy

Apparently, the producers of have blotted the movie Dirty Dancing from their minds; otherwise, how could they call Eric Carmen a one-hit wonder for his song “All By Myself”?

Oh, they’re British.

As if that’s some excuse they didn’t spend much of the late 1980s suffering through “Make Me Lose Control” on the radio.

My psychiatrist appreciates the difference and is glad I was not born in Leeds.

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Suddenly, A San Francisco City Supervisor Is Inspired To Mandate Pet Sitter Licenses

Inspiration here: Don’t gobble up slick tricks — get Fido a pro: It takes more than fake certifications to make a pet sitter:

So how can you find this trustworthy soul? It makes sense to start with a referral from someone you know and respect, like a friend or veterinarian, preferably someone who has actually used this sitter’s services.

You can also look in the phone book under “Pet Sitting Services” or check with an organization such as the Humane Society, or a local shelter or rescue group. I found a wonderful sitter for my greyhound, Elvis, through the referral program of Golden State Greyhound Adoption. My sole concern has been that sometimes I suspect he prefers her to me.

No doubt the government-solves-everything crowd and the organized pet sitters with organizations and whatnot know that their preferred solution is a license.

Author of the piece identifies some handy due dilligence for selecting a pet sitter in a free marketplace, but caveat emptor can always be solved when you knock out that damn laissez-faire. Both are foreign words anyway, too good for us Americans.

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Book Report: And Then She Was Gone by Susan McBride (1999)

I picked this book up at the Kirkwood Book Fair because I recognized the local author’s name from the Big Sleep Books, and this book was a First Edition/First Printing. For a dollar. You cannot do wrong, can you?

Well, it’s a child snatch book, and although it’s not Nightmare in Manhattan, I didn’t care for it that much. I’m just not big on that particular plot thing. Perhaps I just don’t have the same nightmares as most parents, but I don’t have an automatic investment in child snatch books, even if there’s the scandalous confrontation of child molestation! It hearkens me back to my single visit to a starting writers’ group in my former suburb, where it was me, a couple of “poets,” and a number of old ladies all writing books on child molestation. It creeped me out, I kid you not.

The book is a serviceable genre piece, though, and worth a buck if you can find it. It did, however, alert me to Mayhaven Publishing and its annual novel competition. Boy, novel competitions are starting to look good to me as far as publishing my last novel are concerned.

Books mentioned in this review:


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Democrats Turn America Around – To The Past

Althouse likes it, but come on. The new Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee ad has the title America Needs a New Direction, but its premise is that it’s about turning America around, and the only speaker in the ad is Bill Clinton.

Somehow, Bill Clinton does not represent a new direction, merely a reprise of a time when the world was rosier for Democrats, and they briefly controlled the presidency and the Congress. Before the country began its true change in a new direction (which sort of diverged, but turned parallel, sadly).

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Blogging Kismet

On Sunday, I reviewed Stanley Bing’s novel Lloyd: What Happened. Today, I got several Google hits for the book title.

It’s because CNN is running a piece on him in support of his new nonfiction book 100 Bull—- Jobs … And How to Get Them.

None of those cheapskates used the Amazon link to buy the novel, though. However will I top my quarterly record of $.08 without the help from some hapless Internet searchers?

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"Level" Means The Finger of Government Is On Your Scale

Somehow, I’m not sure whether the government should be in the business of determining whether cows are happy enough:

Fears that big operations will muscle out family farms have produced a backlash, including a boycott by the Organic Consumers Association against the country’s biggest organic milk brand, Horizon Organic.

Organic farmers and consumer groups hope the Agriculture Department will level the field. The agency is considering whether to mandate that milk bearing the “USDA Organic” seal come from cows that have significant access to pasture, a move smaller producers say would give them the protection they need.

The whole marketing story used to be that organic junk was better for the consumer, healthier and all that. One would think that corporate economies of scale applied to organics, yielding more healthy consumers, would be a good thing. But not if corporations are involved; then the marketing story switches to more green, cow happiness (which corporations cannot/do not provide):

Chris Hoffman drank Horizon milk until she learned about the dispute and switched brands.

The resident of Sherburne, N.Y., said she’d thought she was buying milk from “family farms with happy cows.” To her, feedlot milk does not follow the spirit of organic farming.

“I just think it’s patently dishonest. And it just really ticked me off,” she said.

The spirit of organic farming, apparently, is protectionism, anti-marketism and anti-consumerism, and creation of artificial price floors to support people who thought that working in a niche market with a pricing minimum would pay off and later discovered, to their own financial (greed!) horror, that when their niche became mainstream, it proved to be less lucrative.

It’s not about the cows, it’s about the cash cows.

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Will City of St. Louis Run Mallinckrodt Out Of Town?

Rail manufacturers, tar producers, and chicken plucking futures have just gone up! Explosion injures two Mallinckrodt workers:

Two employees of Mallinckrodt Inc. suffered minor injuries this morning in a flash fire that occurred while one of them was mixing chemicals.

St. Louis Fire Department Capt. Steve Simpson said the explosion occurred when dust was ignited, possibly from static electricity. It happened at Building 235 at the Mallinckrodt complex at 3700 N. Broadway at about 10:20 a.m.

Those of us who watched the Praxair accident aftermath (my coverage here, here, and here) have to wonder if Mallinckrodt will suffer the same banishment for the industrial accident, or if there are other criteria which a company meet to draw the ire of the government of the city of St. Louis, such as:

  • Dramatic pyrotechnics the whole neighborhood can see.
  • Live coverage on CNN.
  • Continuous drum-beating by the local daily paper.
  • ?

Either way, if the city doesn’t punish the company, it will demonstrate once again the fickle nature of our governments and prove that businesses and citizens exist, live, and do business at the leisure of the regal ruling class.

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Missouri Democratic Party to pay $20,000 campaign finance fine:

The Federal Election Commission has imposed a $20,000 fine on the Missouri Democratic Party for violating federal campaign finance laws during the 2002 election.

The fine — part of a negotiated settlement — comes less than a year after the party paid a separate $110,000 fine to resolve similar allegations from the 2000 election.

Of course, it reflects more on the labyrinth of campaign finance violations that make it an incredibly violation-fraught journey to try to run for political office in this country than actual corruption. Too bad for the Missouri Democrats.

Oddly, Fired Up! Missouri doesn’t mention this story.

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Book Report: Stars and Stripes Triumphant by Harry Harrison (2003)

This book represents the third book in the Stars and Stripes trilogy, but I didn’t know that when I threw it in my box at the St. Charles Book Fair. All I knew is what the front cover told me (A Novel of Alternate History, Harry Harrison, and the title), and that was enough for me. I’ve done a Turtledove in the recent past (Ruled Britannia, reviewed here) and another Harrison novel earlier this year (The Stainless Steel Rat for President, reviewed here), so of course I picked this one up, even though it’s an ex-library copy and I would later realize it cost $2.00

The premise of the series: At the onset of the Civil War, Great Britain seizes a Confederate diplomat and unites the Union and the Confederacy into a war against Britain. Apparently the books deal with the initial conflict, subsequent conflict, and finally (this book) an invasion of Britain itself. It’s a quick read and stood well enough apart from the others in the series that I was not lost in it.

Unlike Turtledove, this book is pretty straight-ahead action without a lot of reflection or repetitious, almost extraneous character development. On the other hand, it does skip a bit on actual drama and conflict, since the technology and the battle-hardened nature of the American side and its brilliant strategy pretty much ensures that events unfold as planned without significant hinderance from the British.

That simple, almost logical progression not only plays to my jingoist American sensibilities, but also acts as fast forward buttons on the reading.

So I liked the book and wouldn’t mind reading the others in the series, but let’s face it: I’ll try not to pay $2.00 for ex-library editons in the future. Unless the book fair bug strikes again.

Books mentioned in this review:



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