Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Blue Collar Thanksgiving

By now you probably have your Thanksgiving holiday all planned out, and the feast just hours away from the starting line. But here are some tips, perhaps for next year, or better yet, for all the people stuck working on the holiday and won't be partaking of the grandest feast of the year until the weekend.

This little piece is really dedicated to them, the folks who will not actually be sitting around a crowded family table flinging mashed potatoes at the kids' table, or spiked nog at older relatives later in the evening when political conversations inevitably make their way into the inebriation of the after-party. This is for the blue collar folks who may be eating alone this year, or perhaps with just their significant other who also just worked a weeks worth of hours in two days, to honor the gods of consumerism. (Let's not leave out here too, the thankless hero's like emergency workers who respond to your deep fried turkey fiasco, or the gas station attendant who makes sure you get to grandma's with that one last-minute ingredient that was forgotten.)

A lot of folks, particularly in recent years, have gone all sorts of gourmet for the year's grandest feast, but for myself, nostalgia meets with much easier ways to prepare a meal than some hot mess you try to pull off from this season's latest cooking show. Now don't get me wrong, I have a few graduates of the Culinary Institute of America in my family (who all too often had to work on Thanksgiving anyway) so I am no stranger to good, complex recipes, unique spins on old classics, and a healthy reverence for the farm to table concept. But typically, I save my gourmet experimentation for just about any other day of the year. On Thanksgiving, I want it easy, I want it tasty, and I want it to remind me the dinners Grandma used to make. Let's skip the fresh green beans for the canned ones here, in other words.

The Bird

The centerpiece of any Thanksgiving table is the turkey, of course. Largely ignored by the American consumer through the rest of the year, but the ubiquitous image of festive over-indulgence to top off the season with the thanks of bountiful harvests of yesteryear, when man lived much more intimately tied to the land.

There are some upper-crust sorts who will insist on nothing less than a free-range bird that costs more per pound than the price of gold. There are also those who will insist that going out and hunting their own is the only way to truly celebrate the traditions of the holiday in full. (And I do have to admit that wild turkey is the bee's knees.) But most Americans simply don't have the time or the money to go high-end.

We pick up a frozen factory bird steeply discounted with our supermarket value card, after vigilantly searching the flyers to get the absolute best bargain down to the penny per pound. This is the category I fall into most years.

Oven roasting the bird is nowhere near as intimidating as it may seem to the beginner. The packages usually instruct you on the proper temp to set the oven, and how long it will take in hours per pound. There is also that cute little plastic popper injected into the breast to make the process nearly foolproof. (Beware though, I once had a "popper" that never triggered, even though the bird was clearly done.) A quick YouTube search will show you how to make sure your bird is cooked properly, and maybe even give you a few extra tricks and tips on how to kick it up a notch in technique.

The next thing you want to do is let the turkey rest once it is out of the oven. This is probably the biggest mistake that most people make when it comes to just about any meat, not allowing it to rest before attacking it with the knife. The resting period not only allows for a bit of extra cooking time, but tightens up the flavor juices that will make all the difference between a succulent piece of meat, and flavorless, unintended jerky. Not to mention you will burn the crap out of your fingers as all the flavor runs out onto the carving board.

Here are some tips from the Culinary Institute of America on how to finally butcher the bird when the time is right.

Now all of that is pretty straightforward and traditional, but in this day and age, things can be anything but traditional, as much as we may long for nostalgia.

Alternative to Cooking The Bird

There was one year where I found myself without an oven to roast a turkey. What was I to do?!

I suppose I could have just gotten some turkey coldcuts at the deli, or a TV dinner and called it a night, but I hated the idea of missing out on the real bargain of a whole turkey. So a new method was employed on the fly.

Instead of roasting, then carving the turkey, I attacked the process in reverse. I let the turkey thaw and then butchered it down before cooking it. I did not have an oven, but I did have an electric frying pan. If you are cooking for a whole big family, this might be a drawback. But if you are cooking for yourself, and maybe another person or two, you will have plenty of bird on the plate with this method. Even without a large electric frying pan, you can still do a piece or two at a time this way.

This meant that I could cook the portions I needed and could store the rest to cook later. I found that all of the parts fit perfectly into my large electric frying pan, except for the breast which I left un-split and still on the bone to be pan roasted later for sandwiches. Another drawback here was that pan roasting, covered, I didn't get that golden crispy skin. I did however, have a nice crust of twigs of thyme along with other herbs, seasonings, and aromatics. The lack of a golden crust was hidden beneath the gravy which I made right there in the same pan later. Another huge bonus was that it did not take hours upon hours for the turkey to roast. In less than an hour I had gigantic thighs, wings, and drumsticks all ready to serve just as the other fixins were finishing up.

A turkey wing is about the size of a chicken drumstick, perfect for a kid, or perhaps that elderly grandma who is too old to cook, and her appetite is not what it once was. For myself, I gorged on an enormous, succulent, herbed and seasoned turkey thigh smothered in gravy. Simply de-boning all of this rich, succulent and luxurious dark meat after it is cooked is also an option of course, to get the proper portion size to serve.

As mentioned above, the breast, still on the bone, was reserved to be pan roasted later before carving from the bone, for tomorrow's sandwiches. The drumsticks might also be reserved for later for extra meaty soups, creamed turkey on toast, and so forth. Make sure you save all the bones from the carcass for the soup stock later too!

So all in all, butchering the bird before cooking actually made it all a lot quicker and more manageable if you are feeding a smaller family. If it's just yourself, you might even simply pan roast a single thigh, and cook up the rest of the pieces later as desired. I might also add that it was the most tender, juicy turkey I have ever eaten. So much so that even when I had an oven the following year, I still went with this pan-roasting method instead.

The Gravy

This is the one place where I don't go directly off the shelf. Of course, you could just buy a few jars of baby food-like tasteless gravy, but if you are actually cooking some bird, you are much better off taking the extra step of using the pan juices and little bits stuck to the pan to make a quick gravy from scratch.

The herbs and seasonings I used on the turkey give an aromatic depth to this nectar of the turkey gods. All the fats, juices and scraping should be reserved, but then skim the fat off the top before it hardens. Meanwhile, chop up those giblets that so many people just wind up throwing in the trash. Take out the turkey liver, but the rest you can cook in the pan, with some onion, carrots, celery, and perhaps some herbs to create more stock. You might want to also buy some extra stock to keep on hand for when you are creating the final product, though water can be used to stretch the stock you have already made now as well.  All in all, more stock means more gravy.

To actually create the gravy itself you want to begin with a roux. A fancy way of saying we are going to fry flour in turkey fat. Some insist on proper measurements, particularly to avoid lumpy gravy. Stir or whisk constantly until your roux becomes a nice golden brown, then start adding your strained liquid stock until you have achieved the right consistency. The gravy will continue to thicken upon standing. Adding more stock or water might help if you don't nail it the first time. A dash of poultry seasoning and a little cracked black pepper will also make a more sophisticated depth of flavor to your gravy. Alternately, you can leave out the aromatics altogether and leave it a pure tasting turkey gravy.

Gravy making can really be an art, so google some videos and experiment a little to build confidence and hone in on your own perfect gravy recipe.

All The Fixins

While the turkey and the gravy are the real centerpiece of the Thanksgiving feast, it seems all the rest is what we really crave. The stuffing, the taters, the cranberry, even the veggies. Now here again, there are all sorts of gourmet ways to go about this. But today we are talking about making a meal that is easy, nostalgic, and good for those of us who won't be feasting with 30 pain-in -the-neck family members upsetting your digestion.

Stuffing (or dressing as they call it down south.)

Probably the most sought after dish on the table. There are plenty of really top-notch recipes out there for this, but I don't have the time to let bread sit out to get to just-right staleness to create my own croutons and so forth. So Stove-Top it is. I don't recommend store-brand stuffing (bland), but at the same time, those gourmet bags of dried bread don't really seem to bring any more satisfaction to the plate than the mainstay corporate brand.

The main trick here is to make sure the butter is incorporated thoroughly, and maybe even add a smidgen extra. You might also fancy-it-up a little by mixing flavors such as a box of sage flavored and a turkey flavored, or a turkey and a cornbread flavored, and so forth. You can even make it seem like you slaved for hours on a secret family recipe by adding a few extras such as crushed walnuts, raisins, maybe some chopped figs, whatever catches your fancy. I saw a little tub of mixed cashews, walnuts, and pecans with dried cranberries and some other little nibbles in there, all pre-mixed. Shaking some of that in there to the boil might give the impression that this was an old family recipe. 


Who doesn't love mashed potatoes? Especially when they are the real reason behind all that work you did on the gravy. Hand mashed? Sure, you could. But quick and easy means instant flakes from the box. I add a bit less liquid than called for to give them a thicker consistency. No one really likes runny mashed potatoes. I also use evaporated milk for a richer flavor. You might also like to whip in some sour cream, cream cheese, chives, garlic powder, cracked pepper, etc. Don't omit the salt here though, even if you are trying to keep the meal low sodium as possible. Don't go too crazy trying to add extra flavor to the spuds either though, lest you start to fight with the flavor of the gravy.

Sweet Potatoes

I love to split a fresh sweet potato and roast it in the oven, but most years its the canned yams on the table. Some people really like to do the whole marshmallow thing on top too, but I don't really care for that. Instead, I smash them down into a casserole dish, top with pats of butter all over, a drizzle of honey, then molasses, sprinkle with cinnamon, and crumble over with brown sugar. No marshmallows necessary, and I think this might be a running tie for me between those and the stuffing as my favorite dish.


Not usually the star attraction of the feast, but they do help break up the heavyness of the meal. Green beans are a long time favorite, though I am not a big fan of the retro green-bean casserole hot mess. Some canned green beans with a little butter, salt and pepper reminds me of the days when grandma thought all veggies had to come from a can, and there is nothing wrong with tasting that nostalgia here. On the other hand, you could go a little more fancy with some frozen green beans, maybe sauteed with a little olive oil and crushed garlic.

Corn, again you could go canned or frozen, with a little butter. But a little sprinkle of sugar in there, just a hint, can make that corn a true sweet corn.

Carrots. Often used more as part of the aromatics in making other things, it can be a sweet side dish as well. I like to fry some baby carrots in a pan with some butter and a drizzle of honey until lightly browned but still on the crunchy side as they will continue to soften on the way to the table
Broccoli and/or cauliflower. Fine with just some butter, salt and pepper. Even better smothered in some cheese sauce.

Butternut squash is a good traditional honorable mention here too.

Pick any or all veggie ideas to round out your plate depending on time and budget, as always in the blue collar world.

Odd and Ends

Cranberry sauce tops this category. Other times of the year for different recipes I will go out of my way to make a nice cranberry compote or chutney, maybe with a hint of orange zest. But that is one thing you won't find on my Turkey Day table. If anything says nostalgia in the whole meal it is the gelatinous can of cranberry, impossible to get out whole unless you are grandma, sliced into discs, and served in a little glass boat. It still makes the best turkey sandwich condiment later too.

Pimento stuffed olives, and little sweet gherkins always fill in the little gaps between bigger plates on the table too.


You mean dinner after dinner? So many to choose from, so many preferences. But for me, pumpkin pie has to make an appearance, with Cool Whip. Not whipped cream, Cool Whip, just like grandma had a freezer full of. Pecan Pie happens to be another of my favorites, though not owing to any southern traditions in my family really. Apple pie, well, I don't like the flaky crust on top. Give me the old-fashioned Dutch apple pie with plenty of cinnamon. plump raisins in there, with a brown sugar crumble topping and a drizzle of icing.

Ice cream is great, but should be kept simple to as not to overpower the palate. An authentic French vanilla (that actually has no vanilla at all) which I find Stewart's has the best, even if you have to wait 20 mins to pay for ten bucks petrol at the pump. Turkey Hill brand mint chocolate chip is hands down the best with their quality chocolate shavings in there, rather than those hard nibs that wind up like pieces of plastic in your mouth long after the ice cream has melted. The mint is refreshing after a heavy meal too. Butter pecan is another seasonal favorite. I tend to skip chocolate ice cream in favor of some other desserts like chocolate dipped dried fruit, chocolate chip cookies, brownies, a cup of hot cocoa with a nudge of cinnamon or mint liquor, or something along those lines anyway.

Well, there you have it folks, the store-bought Thanksgiving feast. Most of what is written here is not so much about cooking as re-heating and serving. Almost all if it can be done in the microwave in fact. Just because you are alone, or maybe with just a friend, or had to postpone the feast a few days, there is no reason not to celebrate and give thanks with a bountiful meal that doesn't take two days to put together.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Understanding Different Classifications When A Person Dies

In many news stories we often see comments where a person will say, "That person should be charged with murder!" without actually understanding that not all human death, even if caused by another human being, is not necessarily murder. Negligence is not the same as intent, and there are different degrees of both. But that is not the only misunderstanding the general public seems to have with understanding a reported death.

Cause, mechanism, and manner of death are usually determined by a medical examiner during an autopsy, but also often aided by evidence collected through investigation at the scene of the death.

When a person is killed by another person, that is considered to be a homicide. But all homicide is not murder, or even necessarily negligent to the point of warranting a charge of manslaughter. Without getting too much into legalese, let us just cut now to the curious tale of Ronald Opus.

This story was originally made public by Don Harper Mills, then president of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences:

On March 23, 1994, a medical examiner viewed the body of Ronald Opus and concluded that he died from a gunshot wound of the head caused by a shotgun. Investigation to that point had revealed that the decedent had jumped from the top of a ten-story building with the intent to commit suicide. (He left a note indicating his despondency.) As he passed the 9th floor on the way down, his life was interrupted by a shotgun blast through a window, killing him instantly. Neither the shooter nor the decedent was aware that a safety net had been erected at the 8th floor level to protect some window washers, and that the decedent would most likely not have been able to complete his intent to commit suicide because of this.

Ordinarily, a person who starts into motion the events with a suicide intent ultimately commits suicide even though the mechanism might be not what they intended. That he was shot on the way to certain death nine stories below probably would not change his mode of death from suicide to homicide, but the fact that his suicide intent would not have been achieved under any circumstance caused the medical examiner to feel that he had homicide on his hands.

Further investigation led to the discovery that the room on the 9th floor from whence the shotgun blast emanated was occupied by an elderly man and his wife. He was threatening her with the shotgun because of an interspousal spat and became so upset that he could not hold the shotgun straight. Therefore, when he pulled the trigger, he completely missed his wife, and the pellets went through the window, striking the decedent.

When one intends to kill subject A but kills subject B in the attempt, one is guilty of the murder of subject B. The old man was confronted with this conclusion, but both he and his wife were adamant in stating that neither knew that the shotgun was loaded. It was the longtime habit of the old man to threaten his wife with an unloaded shotgun. He had no intent to murder her; therefore, the killing of the decedent appeared then to be accident. That is, the gun had been accidentally loaded.

But further investigation turned up a witness that their son was seen loading the shotgun approximately six weeks prior to the fatal accident. That investigation showed that the mother (the old lady) had cut off her son's financial support, and her son, knowing the propensity of his father to use the shotgun threateningly, loaded the gun with the expectation that the father would shoot his mother. The case now becomes one of murder on the part of the son for the death of Ronald Opus.

Now comes the exquisite twist. Further investigation revealed that the son, Ronald Opus himself, had become increasingly despondent over the failure of his attempt to get his mother murdered. This led him to jump off the ten-story building on March 23, only to be killed by a shotgun blast through a 9th story window.

The medical examiner closed the case as a suicide.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Left to Right

I have thoughts on the political divide today in this country. Although I don't want this to be a personal soap box a bit about me. I'm a Conservative, not a Republican. By and large I am on the right of most things however my point to this is I will listen to the other side if I'm approached with civility and fact and not simply "you're not Democrat so you are wrong" or vice versa as is so sadly and ignorantly the case in big and small ways nation wide in today's day and age.

Folks regardless of your personal side of the fence in the affairs of the country and world today we need to at least listen to each other, looks at facts on all sides because the media wont tell you the truth, it's up to us to find said truth and not further the divide with baseless bickering that those in power want you to have in the first place. -Shaun Hedden

No Dental Plan

My parents divorced when I was in my later teen years back in the 1990’s. They fought back and forth, and through the state, about support and medical and whatnot. I didn’t really pay too much attention. I was working and trying (unsuccessfully) to finish high school. While everyone who was supposed to care were fighting with each other, I went through the most agonizing physical pain one could imagine, for several years.

You see, my wisdom teeth started coming in, but there was no place for them. So slowly, so agonizingly slowly, they began to overcrowd the rest of the teeth in my mouth. There was no doctor or dentist to see me, so I was left to suffer the hand that nature had dealt me, all on my own.

The pressure mounted. Oh, the god-awful pressure. It mounted daily. It distracted me from the rest of my life. My work, my school, my plans for the future. Those wisdom teeth kept creeping in and there was not a damn thing I could do about it.

Go smash yourself in the side of the face with a brick, and you will know what it felt like… before the pain got really bad. On numerous occasions, I went to the emergency room for high doses of pain killers, that did little to help in the long run as my molars literally exploded into pieces in my mouth.

On one night, the pain was so bad that I used a pair of pliers to rip a back tooth out of my mouth. Sadly enough, I didn’t really get it out, just broke off the crown above the gumline.

On another night, the pain became so terrible that I literally went into convulsions, vomited, and passed out.

All of this at a crucial time in my life when I was supposed to be making important life decisions, and setting my path for the rest of my life to come. It was impossible. I could not work reliably, my education went down the tubes, and to this day I suffer the consequences of that pain… that horrific and quite literal physical pain.

On yet another occasion, when another tooth had exploded, I was left with a razor sharp stub that lacerated my tongue whenever I spoke or tried to eat. (I am over 6 foot tall and dropped down to about 120 pounds.)

The emergency room whacked me up with high dose pain killer and referred me to a clinic for poor folk with no insurance. The dentist performed a root canal so that I would not feel the pain from that tooth any longer. But since it was a “free” service, fillings were not included with the root canal.

So when I ate, the canal became filled with food. A lump formed alongside my nose, where the food packed into my upper facial cavity left open by the dentist.

It took about a year, but finally the abscess molded, and became deadly. The pain was unbearable, the infection, life-threatening. So once again, back to the emergency room where they issued me a weeks worth of antibiotics, some heavy-duty aspirin, and sent me on my way the same day.

I swished warm saltwater, trying to open the soft, grown over gum tissue that trapped the menacing sack of puss in my head.

I will tell you, that when it finally let loose, it was the best and one of the most disgusting experiences of my life. The pressure, the pain, was suddenly free. And I was left with a mouthful of infectious bile ten times worse than any vomit you have ever puked.

And there is my short story, of a boy without medical care, and how his life was destroyed by it.

Please be sure to check out this short video on Facebook about dental care for those who cannot afford it, which inspired me to share my story today:

Gov’t Tells Philanthropist Dentist he can’t Charge Lower Prices for Poor People

Friday, March 13, 2015

Money as Debt (Full-Length Feature Video)

 "If the people only understood the rank injustice of our money and banking system, there would be a revolution before morning." -Franklin D. Roosevelt, November 1933
Worried about the economy? Dollars not going as far as they used to? Well, you're certainly not alone in your sentiments. Yet everyone seems to have an explanation, or a reason why it is like this, often blaming their neighbors for the economic woes of the world, rather than the folks who operate a terminally flawed economic system. Don't expect things to get better anytime soon. Under our current economic structure, collapse is a mathematical certainty. When exactly it will happen, and how the collapse will be managed are anyone's guess. But who will benefit? The very few who implemented this system, and no one else. Even if you are still comfortable, and not really feeling the economic pinch yet, have no fear, the check is in the mail. You are not immune from the woes that others are feeling now through little fault of their own.

If you think you understand how the economy works, think again. Very few people actually do, so don't be ashamed, and don't be blinded by arrogance thinking that you are special and that you actually do know better than most people. We all think that. Sure, you may have taken a few economics classes in school, but you were never taught the bare-bones truth of how our economy works. So please, take the next 47 minutes to watch the following video. It affects each and every last one of us. You might very well agree that this is hands down the single most important and eye-opening educational video of our time.

Hudson Valley Wire is proud to present, Money as Debt...

Want to learn more? Visit

To learn even more, support the creators of this video, by purchasing your DVD copy of the sequels after clicking the link to Moonfire Studios.  (HVWire was not paid or compensated for this endorsement, we are just making it in good faith to support good work and independent media.)

Saturday, February 28, 2015

The Panic Over $15 Per Hour

The following article came across our desk this afternoon:


I wanted to take this opportunity to look a little more closely at the issue, and refute some of the points made in that piece.

To start, it is not surprising that profits will take a hit from any wage increase. After all, the money to pay workers has to come from somewhere. Right? But ask yourself this question. Should you, the taxpayer be the one paying for the labor costs of a private company? Or should that private company, in business to turn a profit, be paying their own labor costs?

Even in the era of slavery, the business owners were responsible for maintaining the basic needs of their labor force. This included food, shelter, clothing, and even medical care for the sick and injured. Contrary to the popular notion of slaves being disposable and abused on a whim, slaves were actually a valued commodity. This is not to say that abuse did not happen, or that slaves lived a good life by any means, but at the same time they were an expensive component to the enterprises for which they labored. The purchase value of a slave at auction might be compared to the cost of a new work truck in the modern day, and then all the additional expenses to maintain that "equipment" for the duration of service.

Whether through charity or taxpayer supported welfare subsidies, should you be paying the expenses for private businesses? It is my position that employers should be mandated to pay a wage which is sufficient for a worker to maintain their own basic necessities (or have those necessities provided directly by the employer.) Taxpayers should not have to pay to feed the workers of a private company any more than we should be expected to pay for the fuel in their trucks, or the mortgage on their building. And just like gasoline has a price tag, so too should the cost of labor.

How do we set the price for labor in America? Well, here is one good example of how it could be done:

Analyzing a Practical Minimum Wage

Business should pay their own actual labor costs, not the taxpayers, and not charities. If it costs "X" amount of dollars for a person to subsist, that is, to get by with the basic necessities of life in modern America, then employers should be mandated to pay "X" amount of dollars, broken down hourly. Socialized labor is not the answer to our economic woes. Mandating a living wage is essential for true capitalism to thrive.

In short, yes, profits will take a hit. As they should. Just like business profits will take a hit here in the Hudson Valley when Central-Hudson raises their rates on electric soon. A business expenses should be drawn from their own profits, not from the wallets of taxpayers.

Now we will dig into the article itself, starting with this excerpt:

According to the National Review Hotline, Kathrina Tugadi owner of Seattle’s El Norte Lounge, no longer hires musicians for her restaurant, she said she can’t justify expenses that don’t directly “add to the bottom line.”

What concern is that of mine whether or not she hires musicians for her restaurant? Is she in show business, or the restaurant business? Now granted, it's nice for musicians to get work wherever they can find it, but eateries are hardly the backbone of the music industry. If she was not getting some value from those musicians to begin with, it was already a poor business choice to be hiring them in the first place. A waste of money. Is she a charity contributing to starving artists, or a business? No savvy entrepreneur pays for workers they don't need. And to cut workers you do need, only lowers reduces your customer service standards, while doing a favor for your competitors.  

She likely hired those musicians to provide a certain ambiance, and to draw in customers who would pay to eat there, while enjoying the band. So by eliminating the musicians, she is slashing service to her customers, and eliminating an entire demographic from her customer base because it doesn't add "directly" to her bottom line. Many of her customers may have been there for the music as much, maybe even more than the food itself. This is a classic example of the old "penny wise and a pound foolish" that we often see in debates regarding wage hikes. Or the old "cut off your nose to spite your face" routine.

It sounds like maybe the musicians really were the only thing keeping her business alive in the first place, as the article continues:

And, she says, hours will have to be cut: El Norte Lounge plans to stop serving lunch and only serve dinner.

Don't blame a wage hike for the fact that your restaurant doesn't know how to turn a profit on the lunch crowd, and don't expect taxpayers to subsidize your failing business model. If she can't afford to open for lunch and can't afford a band now, then it was only inevitable that those cuts would have been made soon anyway, with or without a wage hike, as she struggles to keep a failing business afloat in an economy where inflation is ever-present for any and all business costs. The article then goes on to say that she may not even be able to stay in business at all.

So in other words, this article is citing a failing business, with a flawed business model, as a reason why workers should not be paid a living wage. It's time to sort the wheat from the chaff. It sounds to me, like her business is already dead, and she just didn't know it yet. Life-support by way of artificially depressed wage standards is not the answer to create a thriving business.

Business doesn't make money based on what it can save, or shave off from their expense budget. It doesn't make money by passing along costs to taxpayers or consumers. A business makes money by bringing in people through the front door. Which clearly she is not interested in if she is firing the band that draws customers, and closing her doors in customers faces.

Now the article brings up another form of job loss, thus:

Even Pagliacci Pizza, a Seattle-area pizza chain, is considering moving its call center and some of its production facilities outside the city. That’s a lot of job loss, a lot of new people with a new wage of ZERO.

This is also nothing new. Companies have been moving out of cities, out of states, and right out of the country in order to streamline their costs for as long as I can remember. Should we all be paid a dollar a day, eat nothing but ramen, and live in a cage like a Chinaman because a business doesn't want to invest in their own community? If you want to outsource your labor, fine, go invest in some third-world hell hole, but don't let the door hit you in the ass. If I lived in Seattle, that pizza chain would never get another dollar of my business after such a move. Especially now if I was one of those workers they just laid off and didn't have the dollar to spend even if I wanted to thanks to their poor business savvy.

This pizza company is using the same bad business ideas as the small independent restaurant owner. Divestment is not good business. Whether you decide to pull the plug on the band or pull the pizza dough from out of town, this is just another threat that is actually bad business. Shutting down their call center and production means closing the door on all those workers as customers, with a rippling effect throughout the economy of the city that will only circle around in the long run to shrink their own sales rather than actually grow their business like true capitalists.

The author of that article goes on to proclaim:

Do our politicians really not understand that our standard of living is the direct result
of one thing . . . the vitality of our businesses?

And do business not understand that their vitality is based solely on consumers, rather than what they can "save" on the payroll account? This is a concept the author of this article does not seem to understand when he goes on to say:

Where do you think every paycheck every employee has ever received came from?

Yes, Kshama, they came from business, all of them. And where do you think these businesses came from? They came from regular people like you and I who took a chance, rolled the dice, worked hard and were able to provide the people with something of value. All of them, that is where every single business you deplore came from.

Talk about an inflated sense of self-worth. I see this too often with business owners. But as a matter of fact, no actually, every single business came from the consumers who decided that decided that entrepreneur had something of value to offer. The business owner does not print money. Gambling is not a good business model, and frankly a good business owner should not have to work hard at all if they have a good business model and a good product or service to offer. That is not to disparage the value of hard work in growing your business, but if you are relying on brute force to squeeze a few dollars out of the market, you might as well go pick up a gun and start poking it in people's backs. Which is essentially what many business owners are doing, by forcing taxpayers to feed and shelter their workers.

I have been a small business owner myself. And yes, I always looked for ways to do things cheaper, and more efficiently in order to maximize profits. But at the end of the day, it didn't matter how savvy I was with the books or how many hours I put in at the office, the viability of my business came down to consumers. No customers, no money. Which means you could be paying zero dollars per hour, and still wind up being forced to close up shop for good. If no one in that city has a job, if no one in that city can afford to go out for a bite to eat, if everyone is buying all of their food on their SNAP card because they are paid little or nothing, you no longer have a customer base. Time to close your doors, thanks to your own divestment and poor business choices.

What makes an economy hum? Two words. Market liquidity. This means that all the businesses in town are paying all of their workers well enough to actually participate in the economy. The more people you have participating, the more customers you have, more frequently, and with more money to spend at each visit. I pay my workers enough to buy the products I am paying them to sell, and pay them enough to afford the product you are selling too. You do the same, and the workers at your pizza shop are coming to visit my movie theater. Round and round it goes, and suddenly we see a thriving economy buzzing with consumer spending. Divestment, does just the opposite. Might as well throw sand down the engine block.

In debates on the topic, I often see people arguing that wage increases drive inflation. That higher wages will simply mean higher prices. This is actually completely untrue, and all historical data shows the exact opposite. Citing again the Analyzing a Practical Minimum Wage article:

Using data by the U.S. BLS, the average productivity per American worker has increased 400% since 1950. One way to look at that is that it should only take one-quarter the work hours, or 11 hours per week, to afford the same standard of living as a worker in 1950 (or our standard of living should be 4 times higher). Is that the case? Obviously not. Someone is profiting, it’s just not the average American worker.

Based on consumption growth since 1968, the minimum wage today would have to be $25.05 to represent the same share of the country's total consumption. Based on national income growth, the minimum wage should be $22.08. Based on personal income growth, it should be $21.16.

After adjusting for inflation, minimum wage workers today are paid about 26 percent less than they were in 1974.

At the top 1 percent of the American income distribution, average incomes rose 194 percent between 1974 and 2011. Had U.S. minimum wages risen at the same pace as U.S. maximum wages, the minimum wage would now be $26.96 an hour.

What do facts matter though to knee-jerk reactionaries, bad businesspeople, the politicized and the ignorant? The article we are examining cites a poll by the Seattle Times saying of businesses:

60 percent planned to pass on what they could to customers through higher prices.

If a business can charge more, they will use any excuse in the book to do it. Just like a business doesn't hire workers they don't actually need, they also don't sell you a better product at a lower cost out of some sense of charity or good will. The market value of a product is what it is. The consumer really could not care less about a business owner whining about their expenses, and in fact will be put off by it. You raise your prices beyond the market value of your product or service, you add a surcharge to your diners' checks, you might as well fly a banner out front that reads "Going out of business soon because I suck at it." So what that poll tells me, is that 60% of the businesses polled, do not have a viable business model. Either they were foolishly charging less and not making hay while the sun was shining so to speak, or they make their business decisions based on panic and a deluded sense of self-worth.

We touched on this point already once, but we will hit it again, with the article saying:

In Seattle, 42 percent of surveyed employers were “very likely” to reduce the number of employees per shift or overall staffing levels as a direct consequence of the law. Similarly, 44 percent reported that they were “very likely” to scale back on employees’ hours to help offset the increased cost of the law.

So again, as I said above, these business are penny wise but a pound foolish. Either they were paying for workers they did not need in the first place, or they will now be giving inferior service and driving their customers toward the majority of Seattle business who were not stupid enough to make either mistake.

Don't put off your poor business decisions onto the backs of your workers or the taxpayers.

At this point, let me say that I am not insensitive to the needs of small business. I believe that wage hikes should impact larger businesses first, with more than 100 employees, while allowing small business a little more time to adjust to the new market. Unfortunately, that is something we never see with minimum wage increases. It doesn't matter if you are a multi-national with hundreds of thousands of workers, or if you have a kiosk at the mall with 3 employees. All business is expected to adjust at the same time. This dynamic puts small business at a distinct disadvantage to larger companies who can much more easily absorb any new added business expense, whether it be labor, increases in utility costs, etc. Generally speaking, I would say that small business should be given an extra six months to adjust to and wage hike mandates. But short of that, this country has to get with the program of a living wage.

Today, half of all people on welfare have a job. That is pure insanity. Work has been a mandate for assistance since 1996. There is no reason in the world why a person who gets up and goes to work everyday should still be forced beg for a handout in order to put food on the table that night. It is bad for our country morally, and it is bad for our country economically. Feeding the profits of companies like Wal-Mart with foodstamps is bad business for everyone, except the Walton family who run Wal-Mart, and control more wealth than the bottom 40% of all Americans combined. By putting labor costs where it belongs, on the expense reports for the businesses which profit from that labor, we could cut welfare in half, right now, today.

American labor should be contributing to the vitality of our economy, not putting us further in debt.

- J. Marcellus VanWagner

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

A Modest Proposal...

…for preventing poor children from being a burden on their parents or country, and for making them beneficial to the publick.

It is a melancholy experience to those who walk through the streets of our great cities, or travel through small rural towns, to see the streets, roads, and doorways crowded with beggars and prostitutes. Especially those of the female sex with three, four, or six children, all in rags and importuning every passenger for an alms. These mothers, instead of being able to work for their honest livelihood, are forced to employ all their time in strolling to beg sustenance for their helpless infants, who as they grow up either turn thieves for want of work, or sell themselves to the black market drug lords, or leave the country to go train with terrorists.

I think it is agreed by all parties that this prodigious number of children in the arms, or on the backs, or at the heels of their mothers, and frequently of their fathers, is in the present deplorable state of the nation a very great additional grievance, and, therefore, whoever could find out a fair, cheap, and easy method of making these children sound, useful members of society, would deserve so well of the public as to have his statue set up for a preserver of the nation.

But my intention is very far from being confined to provide only for the children of professed beggars, it is of a much greater extent, and shall take in the whole number of infants at a certain age who are born of parents who are as little able to support them without welfare, as those who demand our charity in the streets.

As to my own part, having turned my thoughts for many years upon this important subject, and maturely weighed the several schemes of other thinkers, I have always found them grossly mistaken in the computation. A child just dropped from the mother’s belly may be supported by her milk for a solar year, with little other nourishment, at most not above the value of two thousand dollars, which the mother may certainly get, or the value in scraps, by her occupation of begging or from welfare, and it is exactly at one year old that I propose to provide for them in such a manner as instead of being a charge upon their parents or the parish, or wanting food and raiment for the rest of their lives, they shall on the contrary contribute to the feeding, and partly to the clothing, of many thousands.

There is likewise another great advantage in my scheme, that it will prevent those voluntary abortions, and that horrid practice of women murdering their bastard children, alas! too frequent among us! sacrificing the poor innocent babes I doubt more to avoid the expense than the shame, which would move tears and pity in the most savage and inhuman breast.

Now, there are a about three hundred million souls in this country. Of those, there are about four point three million couples who breed each year. Now I subtract half of those couples who are able to maintain their own brood. Although, I admit that under the present distress of the nation the number is more likely even less than half, but the general figure being granted, there are two point one five million breeders in a given year. The question therefore is, how this number shall be reared and provided for, which, as I have already said, under the present situation of affairs, is utterly impossible by all the methods hitherto proposed. For we can neither employ them in handicraft or agriculture. They neither build houses, nor cultivate land. They can very seldom pick up a livelihood by stealing, till they arrive at six years old, except where they are of towardly parts, although I confess they learn the rudiments much earlier, during which time, they can however be properly looked upon only as probationers, as I have been informed by a principal gentleman in the county of Brooklyn, who protested to me that he never knew above one or two instances under the age of six, even in a part of the country so renowned for the quickest proficiency in that art.

I am assured by our merchants, that a boy or a girl before fourteen years old is no salable commodity. And even when they come to this age they will not yield wages enough to account either to the parents or the state, the charge of nutriment and rags having been at least four times that value.

I shall now therefore humbly propose my own thoughts, which I hope will not be liable to the least objection.

I have been assured by a very knowing African of my acquaintance in London, that a young healthy child well nursed is at a year old a most delicious, nourishing, and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled. And I make no doubt that it will equally serve in a fricassee or a ragu.

I do therefore humbly offer it to public consideration that of the two million, one hundred and fifty thousand children already computed, one hundred and fifty thousand may be reserved for breed, whereof only one-fourth part to be males; which is more than we allow to sheep, black cattle or swine. And my reason is, that these children are seldom the fruits of marriage, a circumstance not much regarded by our savages, therefore one male will be sufficient to serve four females. Then now the remaining two million may, at a year old, be offered in the sale to the persons of quality and fortune through the kingdom. Always advising the mother to let them suck plentifully in the last month, so as to render them plump and fat for a good table. A child will make two dishes at an entertainment for friends; and when the family dines alone, the fore or hind quarter will make a reasonable dish, and seasoned with a little pepper or salt will be very good boiled on the fourth day, especially in winter.

I have reckoned upon a medium that a child just born will weigh 12 pounds, and in a solar year, if tolerably nursed, increaseth to 28 pounds.

I grant this food will be somewhat dear, and therefore very proper for landlords and executives, who, as they have already devoured most of the parents, seem to have the best title to the children.

Infant's flesh will be in season throughout the year, but more plentiful in Summer, and a little before and after. The Census Bureau reports that August has more births than any other month, and of course there is the common knowledge that the poor people and inferior races are more prone to rutting during the cold weather months having nothing else better to do. This will have the collateral advantage of lessening the number of inferior peoples among us.

I have already computed the charge of nursing a beggar's child to be about two thousand dollars per annum, rags included. And I believe no gentleman would repine to give ten thousand dollars for the carcass of a good fat child, which, as I have said, will make four dishes of excellent nutritive meat, when he hath only some particular friend or his own family to dine with him. Thus the squire will learn to be a good landlord, and grow popular among his tenants. The mother will have eight thousand dollars net profit, and be fit for work till she produces another child.

Those who are more thrifty, as I must confess the times require, may flay the carcass. The skin of which, artificially dressed, will make admirable leather goods for wear by both ladies and fine gentlemen.

As to our city of New York, slaughterhouses may be appointed for this purpose in the most convenient parts of it, and butchers we may be assured will not be wanting. Although I rather recommend buying the children alive, and dressing them hot from the knife, as we do roasting pigs.

A very worthy person, a true lover of his country, and whose virtues I highly esteem, was lately pleased in discoursing on this matter to offer a refinement upon my scheme. He said that many gentlemen of this country, having of late destroyed their deer, he conceived that the want of venison might be well supplied by the bodies of young lads and maidens, not exceeding fourteen years of age nor under twelve. So great a number of both sexes in every country being now ready to starve for want of work and service. These to be disposed of by their parents, if alive, or otherwise by their nearest relations. But with due deference to so excellent a friend and so deserving a patriot, I cannot be altogether in his sentiments. For as to the males, my African acquaintance assured me, from frequent experience, that their flesh was generally tough and lean, like that of our schoolboys by continual exercise, and their taste disagreeable, and that to fatten them would not answer the charge. Then as to the females, it would, I think, with humble submission, be a loss to the public. Because they soon would become breeders themselves. And besides, it is not improbable that some scrupulous people might be apt to censure such a practice, although indeed very unjustly, as a little bordering upon cruelty. Which, I confess, hath always been with me the strongest objection against any project, however so well intended.

But in order to justify my friend, he confessed that this expedient was put into his head by a famous tribal native of another African nation, who came from thence to London above twenty years ago, and in conversation told my friend, that in his country when any young person happened to be put to death, the executioner sold the carcass to persons of quality as a prime dainty. And that in his time the body of a plump girl of fifteen, who was crucified for an attempt to poison the emperor, was sold to his imperial majesty's prime minister of state, and other great mandarins of the court, in joints from the gibbet, fetching a wonderful price. Neither indeed can I deny, that if the same use were made of several plump young girls in this town, who, without one single penny to their fortunes, go about to present themselves as privileged, and demanding of things which they never will pay for, the country would not be the worse.

Some persons of a desponding spirit are in great concern about that vast number of poor people, who are aged, diseased, maimed, or morally bankrupted, and I have been desired to employ my thoughts what course may be taken to ease the nation of so grievous an encumbrance. But I am not in the least pain upon that matter, because it is very well known that they are every day dying and rotting by cold and famine, and filth and vermin, and in prisons and murdered, as fast as can be reasonably expected. And as to the young laborers, they are now in as hopeful a condition. They cannot get work, and consequently pine away for want of nourishment, to a degree that if at any time they are accidentally hired to common labor, they have not strength to perform it. And thus the country and themselves are happily delivered from the evils to come.

I have too long digressed, and therefore shall return to my subject. I think the advantages by the proposal which I have made are obvious and many, as well as of the highest importance.

For first, as I have already observed, it would greatly lessen the number of racial inferiors, with whom we are yearly overrun, being the principal breeders of the nation as well as our most dangerous enemies. And who stay at home on purpose with a design to deliver the country to the Communists, hoping to take their advantage by the absence of so many good Capitalists, who have chosen rather to leave their country than stay at home and pay tithes against their conscience to a black President.

Secondly, the poorer tenants will have something valuable of their own, which by law, may be made liable to distress and help to pay their landlord's rent, their things of value being already seized, and money a thing unknown.

Thirdly, whereas the maintenance of two million children, from two years old and upward, cannot be computed, the nation's stock will be thereby increased per annum, beside the profit of a new dish introduced to the tables of all gentlemen of fortune in the nation who have any refinement in taste. And the money will circulate among ourselves, the goods being entirely of our own growth and manufacture.

Fourthly, the constant breeders, beside the gain of eight thousand dollars per annum, by the sale of their children, will be rid of the charge of maintaining them after the first year.

Fifthly, This food would likewise bring great custom to taverns; where the vintners will certainly be so prudent as to procure the best receipts for dressing it to perfection, and consequently have their houses frequented by all the fine gentlemen, who justly value themselves upon their knowledge in good eating: and a skilful cook, who understands how to oblige his guests, will contrive to make it as expensive as they please. And what better season than summer to make great traditions of cooking fine meat, when gatherings and barbecues are so frequent?

Sixthly, this would be a great inducement to marriage, which all wise nations have either encouraged by rewards or enforced by laws and penalties. It would increase the care and tenderness of mothers toward their children, when they were sure of a settlement for life to the poor babes, provided in some sort by the public, to their annual profit instead of expense. We should see an honest emulation among the married women, which of them could bring the fattest child to the market. Men would become as fond of their wives during the time of their pregnancy as they are now of their mares in foal, their cows in calf, their sows when they are ready to farrow. Nor offer to beat or kick them, as is too frequent a practice, for fear of a miscarriage.

Many other advantages might be enumerated. For instance, the addition of some thousands of carcasses in our exportation of beef, the propagation of swine's flesh, and improvement in the art of making good bacon, so much wanted among us by the great destruction of pigs, too frequent at our tables. Which are no way comparable in taste or magnificence to a well-grown, fat, yearling child, which roasted whole will make a considerable figure at a mayor's feast or any other public entertainment. But this and many others I omit, being studious of brevity.

I can think of no one objection, that will possibly be raised against this proposal. Unless one is worried that the number of people will be thereby much lessened in the nation. This I freely own, and 'twas indeed one principal design in offering it to the world. I desire the reader will observe, that I calculate my remedy for this one individual class of inferiors, and for no other that ever was, is, or, I think, ever can be upon Earth. Therefore let no man talk to me of other expedients. Of imposing fines on absentee landlords. Of using neither cloaths, nor houshold furniture, except what is of our own growth and manufacture. Of utterly rejecting the materials and instruments that promote foreign luxury. Of curing the expensiveness of pride, vanity, idleness, and gaming in our women. Of introducing a vein of parsimony, prudence and temperance. Of learning to love our country, wherein we differ even from Canada, and the inhabitants of Africa. Of quitting our animosities and factions, nor acting any longer like the Jews, who were murdering one another at the very moment their city was taken. Of being a little cautious not to sell our country and consciences for nothing. Of teaching landlords to have at least one degree of mercy towards their tenants. Lastly, of putting a spirit of honesty, industry, and skill into our corporations, who, if a resolution could now be taken to buy only our native goods, would immediately unite to cheat and exact upon us in the price, the measure, and the goodness, nor could ever yet be brought to make one fair proposal of just dealing, though often and earnestly invited to it.

Therefore I repeat, let no man talk to me of these and the like expedients, 'till he hath at least some glympse of hope, that there will ever be some hearty and sincere attempt to put them into practice.

But, as to my self, having been wearied out for many years with offering vain, idle, visionary thoughts, and at length utterly despairing of success, I fortunately fell upon this proposal, which, as it is wholly new, so it hath something solid and real, of no expence and little trouble, full in our own power, and whereby we can incur no danger in disobliging the rest of the world. For this kind of commodity will not bear exportation, and flesh being of too tender a consistence, to admit a long continuance in salt, although perhaps I could name a country, which would be glad to eat up our whole nation without it.

After all, I am not so violently bent upon my own opinion as to reject any offer proposed by wise men, which shall be found equally innocent, cheap, easy, and effectual. But before something of that kind shall be advanced in contradiction to my scheme, and offering a better, I desire the author or authors will be pleased maturely to consider two points. First, as things now stand, how they will be able to find food and raiment for millions of useless mouths and backs. And secondly, there being a round forty million of creatures in human figure throughout this land, whose whole subsistence put into a common stock would leave them in debt millions upon millions of dollars, adding those who are beggars by profession to the bulk of farmers, tenement dwellers, and laborers, with their wives and children who are beggars in effect. I desire those politicians who dislike my overture, and may perhaps be so bold as to attempt an answer, that they will first ask the parents of these mortals, whether they would not at this day think it a great happiness to have been sold for food, at a year old in the manner I prescribe, and thereby have avoided such a perpetual scene of misfortunes as they have since gone through by the oppression of landlords, the impossibility of paying rent without money or trade, the want of common sustenance, with neither house nor clothes to cover them from the inclemencies of the weather, and the most inevitable prospect of entailing the like or greater miseries upon their breed for ever.

I profess, in the sincerity of my heart, that I have not the least personal interest in endeavoring to promote this necessary work, having no other motive than the public good of my country, by advancing our trade, providing for infants, relieving the poor, and giving some pleasure to the rich. I have no children now by which I can propose to get a single penny.

The End

(Adapted from the original work of Doctor Jonathan Swift)

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Facebook Down Again

We are unable to access Facebook, though our internet access is working fine.

EDIT to add:

This appears to be a deliberate hacker attack against several social media sites. Duration, approx one hour.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Storm Of The Century (Full-Length Feature)

Due to inclement weather, Tuesday is canceled.

Instead, we present this seasonally appropriate feature.

"When they tell you the world's coming to an end, they want to sell you cereal. When they tell you not to panic, it's serious." -Martha Clarendon, Stephen King's 'Storm of the Century'