Wednesday, 17 March 2004

Crispy Tofu Cubes

Via Will Baude, I see that PG is doing a bit of tofu bashing. Well I'll have none of that. Tofu is delicious and easy to prepare. In its defense, I present the following recipe for Crispy Tofu Cubes.
  • 3/4 lb. firm tofu, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1 1/4 cups peanut oil
  • 1 oz. roasted peanuts
  • 3 tbsp. peanut butter
  • 1 tbsp. sugar
  • 2 tbsp. water
  • 2 tsp. rice vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. finely chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. chili oil
  • Sriracha chili sauce
Heat oil in wok until it almose smokes. Deep fry tofu cubes in 2 batches until lightly browned, drain well on paper towel. Combine sauce ingredients, except sriracha sauce, in food processor. Put a teaspoon of sriracha sauce on top of the peanut sauce, and serve with tofu cubes. Eat with chopsticks.

Mississippi justice

Kate Malcolm (to whom I owe a NCAA tourney bracket) wonders if I have any perspective on the ongoing legal machinations surrounding Justice Oliver Diaz of the Mississippi Supreme Court. What’s perhaps most interesting is the necessary footnoting that NYT reporter Adam Liptak omits from the article. For example:

In court on March 5, Abbe Lowell, a lawyer for Mr. Minor, said the government’s theory made routine conduct by lawyers and judges in Mississippi into a federal felony.

Fun fact: Lowell served as Democratic counsel to the House Judiciary Committee during the impeachment proceedings against Bill Clinton.

[Paul] Minor, a former president of the Mississippi Trial Lawyers Association, contends that the United States attorney here, Dunn Lampton, a Republican, singled him out for prosecution for political reasons, because he is a big contributor to Democratic candidates and a vocal opponent of efforts to limit injury awards.

Minor’s father—whose libel case was at issue in the prosecution—is a political columnist for Mississippi newspapers; his politics are just slightly to the right of those of Paul Krugman.

His papers focus on what he says is similar conduct by Richard Scruggs, another prominent plaintiffs’ lawyer in the state, though one with ties to the Republican Party. Mr. Scruggs and Senator Trent Lott, Republican of Mississippi, are married to sisters.

Richard “Dickie” Scruggs was the main beneficiary of the state’s separate settlement agreement that his college roommate, former Democratic attorney general Mike Moore, negotiated with Big Tobacco. Scruggs raked in hundreds of millions of dollars of contigency fees, while Moore got to oversee a parallel shadow government under the aegis of the settlement trust fund that, to this day, remains unaccountable to the state legislature (and which spends millions of dollars per year on an anti-tobacco campaign for Mississippi youth that has been shown to be almost completely ineffective, rather than contributing to the better-known and more reputable “Truth” campaign funded by the MSA with Big Tobacco that most of the states arrived at later).

Mr. Minor is also accused of guaranteeing loans and making payments to two former lower-court judges, John H. Whitfield and Walter W. Teel.

Lawyers in Mississippi routinely appear before judges to whose campaigns they have made financial contributions.

Don’t you just love institutionalized corruption? Still, that’s an interesting juxtaposition—essentially equating personal gifts and loans (i.e. possible bribes) with campaign contributions.

I’ll leave the detailed legal analysis to Scipio. As Liptak notes, the case is somewhat tied into the ongoing mess over tort reform and “jackpot justice” (absurd non-economic damage awards) in the state, which has been a battleground between Mississippi Democrats and Republicans—and arguably is the only substantive issue in the state that white politicos disagree on, given the roughly tripartite division of the legislature into black (Democrat), white Democrat, and (white) Republican voting blocs.

The art of the Phi letter

I’m now starting to accumulate rejection letters at a not unreasonable pace.

The endorsement of death

Mark Kleiman wondered a few days ago why countries don’t try to muck around with internal politics to pursue their preferred policies (except, of course, when they do—most notably, during the steel tarriffs flap, the European Union was on the verge of imposing sanctions against the U.S. that were conveniently targeted at “battleground” states that George Bush needs for reelection).

The ongoing kerfuffle over John Kerry’s backdoor endorsements by foreign leaders suggests a reason why: if public, such endorsements are often counterproductive. I trust that the news that incoming Spanish prime minister Zapatero favors the election of Kerry won’t be prominently featured in Kerry’s advertising for that very reason. Even if you presume that Zapatero’s comments were made purely for domestic consumption by the Bush-hating European masses, he might have done well to consider that Bush—unlike Bill Clinton—is into the “personal loyalty” approach and doesn’t stand for the traditional left-wing European game of trying to have it both ways in a relationship with the United States (something that Tony Blair rather wisely figured out on his own, yet somehow this lesson is lost on Blair’s continental counterparts.)

Sincerity and symbolism in legislator behavior

Both Steven Taylor and Eric Lindholm note that John Kerry was on both sides of the supplemental appropriations bill for Iraqi and Afghan reconstruction. In particular, Eric notes this rather curious position by Kerry:

Mr. Kerry has indicated that he might have voted [in favor of final passage of the bill] had his vote been decisive.

Now, it is arguably rational for voters to behave differently when their vote is decisive (or pivotal) than when it isn’t; voting is both a symbolic act and part of a decision-making process. The normative question is: given that most votes are not inherently pivotal, should citizens nonetheless expect sincere voting behavior from their representatives, rather than the symbolic behavior that Kerry essentially admits he demonstrated? Given that representatives are supposed to be accountable for their votes—hence the use of non-secret ballots—my gut feeling is that citizens should expect sincere voting by the legislators they are represented by, whether we’re discussing procedural motions or votes on final passage.

Real Medicare Fraud

Vance of Begging to Differ points out evidence that Bush administration officials deliberately hid the full cost of the recent Medicare bill from Congress until after the bill’s passage.

Two doors down

I just walked out to put something in the mail, and saw fire trucks down the street; the house two doors down is on fire (or, was on fire; it’s out now, as best as I can tell). It looks like the house was pretty well gutted, considering I can see inside the rafters where the flames burned through.

Amazingly, I wouldn’t have known this had I not gone outside to put something else in the mailbox (I didn’t hear the fire truck siren, though I did hear it when it pulled up). An hour ago, when I put a couple of other things in the mail, all was perfectly tranquil.


I thought I’d make myself useful today by filling out the paperwork to move the contributions I made was forced to make to Mississippi’s state retirement plan to my personal IRA. This is not an easy task:

  • One form (Form 5) needs to be witnessed by two different people, in addition to me, then approved by the University of Mississippi HR department, then shipped off to Jackson for paperwork pushing.
  • A separate form (Form 5C) does not require witnesses; however, I have to get the custodians of my existing IRA to approve the rollover, then have the form shipped off to Jackson for additional paperwork pushing. This would seem to be a relatively trivial exercise, except the closest branch of the credit union I have my IRA with is in lovely Picayune, Mississippi (best known as “the place all the signs on I-59 say you’re going when you’re actually headed to New Orleans”), which is about 6 hours from here.

I have thus decided the sensible course of action is to defer further action until I find out whether I’ll end up being a state employee again in the fall—the odds of that are rather slim, but one more year of state employment would be sufficient for partial vesting in the plan, thus making this entire exercise financially counterproductive.