Friday, June 17, 2011

Hang onto your hats

Not many hats around these days, other than those atop cowboys and cowgirls real and wannabe. That didn't used to be the case, and I've never figured out how women like my aunt, Frances Susan (Boswell) Garnes (1838-1918), kept a confection like this in place when the wind was high. Hat pins came in handy, but you'd almost need a chin strap for this thing. To complicate the matter, the Garnes moved from Corydon to Leoti in Wichita County, Kansas, where the wind really does come sweeping down the plain.

Aunt Frances's niece, Mary Florence (Cox) Stark, fancied hats, too --- and apparently enjoyed reading while standing around waiting for the photographer to get busy. I wonder what she was so interested in.


There's a good deal of wind these days in the upper Midwest as politicians in both Iowa and Minnesota, facing June 30 deadlines, play budget brinksmanship --- waving around the possibility of state government shutdowns if lawmakers decline to compromise.

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton, a Democrat, released his shut-down plan Wednesday; and Iowa's Terry Branstad, a Republican, seems to be ready to release his plan today (according to The Register). Branstad, who campaigned using the old "transparency" ploy, previously had declined to share his plans --- but faced by at least two formal open-records-law petitions (one filed by The Register) now seems ready.

There's not actually much chance the government will shut down, since all sorts of last-ditch maneuvers can be engaged in to prevent it, but the potential can be diverting. The governor has been on a state-wide tour to take potshots at Democrats and Democrats have been returning the favor, expending considerably less effort and money, from Des Moines.

There doesn't actually seem to be that much of a gap between the two sides --- Republicans have agreed not to further starve Iowa schools and to spare the poorest children; Democrats seem willing to agree to the governor's demand for two-year budgeting. Tax cuts, part of the GOP canon alongside biblical inerrancy and the God-given right to shoot mourning doves, appear to be the major issues now.


Speaking of mourning doves, the legislative sleight of hand involved in instituting a hunting season for those little birds apparently will be the principal legacy of Lucas County's State Rep. Richard Arnold, who has announced plans to retire from the Legislature after this session. That decision probably has more to do with drastic realignment of the House district in which he lives rather than with his desire to sit on the front porch down there by Lost Branch Crick and blast away at the little critters, but it's kind of too bad that's what he's likely to be remembered for.

Serving in the Iowa Legislature requires a strong stomach, a suit of armor and rarely makes anyone rich. So anyone who does it, no matter the party, deserves at least a gold star for endurance.


Subsidies that have allowed Iowa's corn ethanol industry to flourish, including a 45-cent-per-gallon tax credit for refiners, received a massive vote of no-confidence in the U.S. Senate yesterday, falling 73-27 with rare bipartisan backing despite yelps from senators of both parties from states where corn is a staple crop.

Subsidy cuts are unlikely to actually result from Thursday's vote, but it is a fairly clear indication that they're doomed.

An estimated $2.4 billion in savings plus concern about escalating food prices that have resulted as more and more of the crop was poured into Ford and Chevy fuel tanks rather than into hungry people and livestock, thus escalating food prices, seem to be major factors.

The "experts" say the long-term effect on the enthanol industry will be minimal, but I guess we'll just have to wait and see about that. 

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