Things I Drink and So Should You: The Mint Julep

There’s a woman in my church who wears a proper church crown. I call it that because it deserves the name. It’s a royal blue, straw hat with plastic sunflowers emanating from the brim. She wears it proud, as each year of the 93 she’s been alive has earned her the right to wear it, and nothing could take that crown from her head.

I wish we lived in an era where it were not only appropriate but fashionable for women to wear church crowns. Hell, as a pastor, I wish it were fashionable for women to just come to church. But, barring that, I wish women would bring the hat back. Because when a woman wears a hat, a real hat, it lets everyone know that she is not to be trifled with, not to be played. A woman in a church crown is a woman who runs shit.

I suppose I should define church crown. A church crown isn’t just a hat. Every grandmother has a hat she’ll break out when the weather gets warm and the sun beats down. This is not that hat. In fact, if you’ve never been to a prayer meeting, you don’t know what a church crown is. Church crowns don’t just cover your head and keep you cool; church crowns let everyone know you’re in church. When you stand up to praise, it’s your hat that’s seen. That royal purple blob twenty pews ahead? That’s Dotty, praying for Raymond, like she has the last twenty years. And damn if you don’t put your head down and pray that this might be the week Ray finally gets it.

After 30 years of church, the sight of an honest church crown can put my chin into my neck for a minute of prayer, or simply some good old “yes ma’am”, even when I’m running the show. When Phyllis shows up with that sunflower halo, I know she needs Jesus, and I know she needs prayer. She’s got a dozen hats that she wears for church, but Sunday School kids that graduated before I was born made her that one. When she deigns to bring that to the congregation, we all know. We all pray.

Continue reading Things I Drink and So Should You: The Mint Julep

Okay, so this is f*cking brilliant

Tim Minchin and Fraser Davidson make the nastiest, filthiest and profanity-starringist anti-papal song and video ever. Not really safe for work at all.

(I’m very afraid that the fact that the song is now stuck in my head may get me in trouble at work.)

via The Daily What

Friday Funny – Telephone, as performed by soldiers in Afghanistan

From the YouTube description: “This is a couple guys located in afghanistan, that re-made the music video by Lady Gaga….Telephone. Prepare yourself for a fantastical journey. Right now this is the temporary version, we have more scenes to cut, and edit, however with guys always on mission it is harder to film than you think.”

New York Times Columnist Line of the Day

If you’re one of the four-or-so frequent readers of this here blog, chances are you also occasionally check out the New York Times op-ed page. You may even know the names: Thomas “They Hate Us For Our Friedman” Friedman, Gail “The Colander” Collins, Nicholas “The Dark Crystal” Kristof, &c. Well, I’ve decided to devote a daily feature to these folks, by daily pointing out one line that is either awesome, funny, insightful, intelligent, ridiculous, or utterly divorced from reality. I hope you enjoy.

Today’s is from David “Yawny-Pants” Brooks, who in his column “American Power Act,” writes:

Energy innovation is the railroad legislation of today.

Well, he’s right to an extent. But, railroad legislation is also the railroad legislation of today, since building a network of high-speed railroads is, and should be, a priority as well. However, I do like that Brooks gets the necessity for carbon tax and investment in clean energy, a thought that makes most conservatives grimace (or scream epithets at rallies). I just wish he wouldn’t forget that we need new trains too.

Morning Constitutional – Friday 30 April 2010

Good morning everybody. A very happy early May Day and Derby Day to all of you. Now, your morning constitutional:

Oil from the massive spill in the Gulf of Mexico has reportedly reached shore overnight, although not confirmed by officials yet. Officials are stopping any new drilling until the spill is fully investigated.

Hawaii’s legislature passed a civil unions bill yesterday giving gay couples the same rights as married straight couples. The bill is sent to Gov. Lingle, a Republican, who remains undecided on whether to veto, sign or pass the bill. The bill did not pass with enough votes to override a veto.

The Belgian lower house of Parliament Thursday passed a ban banning women from wearing full-face Islamic veils in public.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin tracks polar bears, orders clean-up of polluted arctic territories.

House Minority Leader John Boehner promises to repeal health care reform if Republicans gain majority in the House.

The Economist re-draws the map of Europe.

Democrats unveil their framework for reforming immigration. Included: more border security, biometric Social Security cards, and a path for undocumented to become legal.

FiveThirtyEight unveils prediction for U.K. elections: 299 Tories, 199 Labour, 120 Lib-Dems. More: Post-UK debate scenarios; Strong second for Lib-Dems could help Tories.

Just a day after Charlie Crist upends the Florida senate race, Palm Beach billionaire Jeff Greene enters the race as a Democrat.

Led by a boost in customer spending, the economy grew at a brisk 3.2% during the first quarter of this year.

Microsoft explains humor. Seriously.

The Affordable Care Act, the health care reform package passed this Spring, gets a little more bipartisan support since its passage.

Chad’s government claims to have killed over a hundred insurgents near it’s Sudan/Darfur border.

The RNC complains that the president has no blacks on his Supreme Court shortlist. Except he does.

How black Baltimore drug dealers are using legal theories from white supremacists to confound the federal government.

The new Arizona immigration law may seem crazy, but TPM documents some other crazy legislation coming out of statehouses nationwide.

What the fuck should I make for dinner?

Another mine tragedy—in Kentucky—as second miner is found dead after a roof collapse in a mine with a history of safety issues.

According to a casual study of, President Obama is already the subject of twice as many rumors as President Bush after only one and a half years in office, and only 9% are true, compared to 43% for Bush.

Forget Goldman Sachs, the entire economy is built on fraud.

Finally, in a surprise showing, turns out the Cleveland Indians are the most-hated team in baseball.

Florida Governor Charlie Crist to run for Senate as independent

CC photo by Flickr user Philip Michael Photo

It’s been expected, but now it’s all but official: Aides confirm that Florida Governor Charlie Crist will, indeed, announce tomorrow that he will run for the U.S. Senate as an independent. Crist has been a Republican his entire career, but a run from former state House speaker Marco Rubio on his right has pushed him both out of the party primary and into the center.

This, in effect, both blows up this race, as well as solidifying it earlier than the primary would have. Rubio now has a longer time to move center to try and court moderate Republicans and independents who might be scared off by his links to the tea party movement. His recent moves seem to have predicted that Crist would defect, e.g., his lack of support for the recent Arizona immigration bill. Meek’s campaign, which wasn’t too terribly great to begin with, got more complicated. While before he could paint Rubio as too conservative, now he has to change tactics and hope Rubio and Crist can split the right and open the center.

Can Crist win? Well, he has a better shot now than before (he was definitely going to lose the primary, but it’s arguable he had as good a shot in the general election), but his chances are still far from knowable. Nate Silver doesn’t think his chances are great. However, Crist does have a lot of time until November now, and if he can agilely move to the center without sending sell-out signals, he could come off as a slight-latter-day Scott Brown. Or, he could come off as a less-sleazy Joe Lieberman, but without the Democrats in this case to unofficially officially support his candidacy.

BREAKING: Bankers are greedy and evil

CC photo by Flickr user TheTruthAbout...

JPMorgan Chase wants you to sign the slip.

According to the American Banker, in a mailing from JPMorgan Chase to customers whose debit cards had been switched from Washington Mutual when JPC bought WaMu, the bank strongly urged cardholders to sign the slip rather than enter their PIN when making debit card purchases. The mailing continues, “It’s not a credit card, so the money still comes out of your checking account. But by choosing ‘credit,’ you won’t have to enter your PIN in public.”

Brilliant. JPMorgan Chase wants you to be safe. Sadly, it’s also terribly dishonest. Security experts agree that entering ones PIN is far and above the safest method.

“From a technical security standpoint, there’s no question about it, a PIN adds a level of safety, which is why ATM transactions have required a PIN for years,” Avivah Litan, a security analyst at Gartner Inc., told the American Banker.

So why does JPMorgan Chase want you to sign the slip instead?

Short answer: Signing makes the bank significantly more money per transaction than entering a PIN. And, it’s not inconsequential. Signing the slip makes it an offline transaction, which is basically the same way a classic credit card is charged, and entails a higher interchange fee than online transactions, which require a PIN, and charge a lower interchange fee. The difference is enormous: offline transaction interchange fees are around 2% or more, while online transactions can be as low as .5%. These fees are invisible to the shopper (it’s illegal to pass on transaction fees), but cost retailers billions of dollars a year. If you ever see a sign at a store similar to “Five dollar minimum to use credit card,” this is why, because for small purchases, the fees wipe out any semblance of profit (or, in some cases, even cost).

Here’s a chart from the GAO that explains how interchange fees work (click for slightly larger):

JPMorgan Chase is not alone in enticing customers to sign the slip. However, most banks that offer debit cards offer some variety of reward for making signature transactions: points, miles, etc. JPMorgan is alone in attempting to scare its customers into thinking that signing is safer, which is untrue. It’s also cheaper than offering rewards.

So, in conclusion, think about greedy bankers and poor merchants when using your card. I suggest entering your PIN every time: It’s safer, and costs those businesses a lot less money. And, it doesn’t make a lick of difference to you.

New York Times Columnist Line of the Day

If you’re one of the four-or-so frequent readers of this here blog, chances are you also occasionally check out the New York Times op-ed page. You may even know the names: Thomas “Friedman of Peach” Friedman, Gail “The Colander” Collins, Nicholas “The Dark Crystal” Kristof, &c. Well, I’ve decided to devote a daily feature to these folks, by daily pointing out one line that is either awesome, funny, insightful, intelligent, ridiculous, or utterly divorced from reality. I hope you enjoy.

Today’s is from Maureen “Refrigerator” Dowd, who in her column “Olive Oil and Snake Oil,” writes about the Goldman Sachs hearing in the Senate yesterday:

You know you’re ethically compromised when Senator John Ensign scolds you about ethics.