Watch where you stamp

About a year and a half ago, the price of a first-class stamp rose from 46 to 49 cents. Now it appears to be headed back down:

The U.S. Postal Service will have to roll back a portion of its largest rate increase in 11 years after a federal court ruled that the higher postage prices in place since January 2014 can’t be permanent.

Postal regulators had agreed to a 3-cent emergency postage hike for first-class letters, to 49 cents from 46 cents, after the Postal Service said it needed to recoup billions of dollars it lost during the recession. The 4.3 percent increase came on top of the customary 1.7 percent postage prices have risen to adjust for inflation.

But regulators set a cap on the amount of revenue USPS could recoup with the higher prices. The cap will be reached this summer.

On the upside, they won’t have to reprint any of the current “FOREVER” stamps, which are always valid for the current first-class rate.

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Quote of the week

The Z Man says we’re now in a post-democracy world:

[T]he ruling elite conspires with and manipulates local elected officials into gaming the public, foiling them into being looted by the global elite. We think our elections are about arbitrating disputes between the ruling class over public policy. In reality they are festivals to keep the public busy so they don’t revolt against their leaders. The Greeks can have as many elections as they like, the results will not change. The turd sandwich is what they get. The English can vote Tory or Labour. The results will be the same.

If there is any doubt about this just look at American politics. The GOP ran against ObamaCare in 2010 and won a huge majority in the House. They spent the next two years trying to enfeeble the Tea Party movement, rather than halt ObamaCare. They won big again in 2014, capturing the Senate and a bigger majority in the House. So far they have managed to pass more of Obama’s agenda in six months than Reid and Pelosi did in six years.

Which, if nothing else, suggests that the Republican Party at the very top is indistinguishable from the Democratic Party at the very top: they evidently get their orders from the same place. This is called “bipartisanism,” which presumably sounds nicer than “collusion.”

In the authoritarian age, violent revolt was the check on the skimming class. The ruling families could only loot so much of the people’s wealth before they ran into dangerous resistance. In the democratic age, the ballot box forced the skimming class to compete for the public’s affection. Get on the wrong side of the voters and you ability to skim was diminished. In the global age, what will be the check on the skimming class?

There won’t be. The need to buy campaign ads — hell, the need to buy voters — will guarantee that politicians will kneel to the plutocrats for the foreseeable future.

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Strange search-engine queries (488)

Once a year, a small but substantial segment of the population wonders if one thoroughbred can win the three biggest races of the year. Meanwhile, once a week, I wonder if I can find a dozen funny search strings in the log. Don’t bother placing your bets.

god “but when he moves, he moves quickly”:  Like who’s gonna stop God? Not me.

but your lovin don’t pay my bills pic:  Cut to picture of stack of bills going unpaid, and wonder how sex makes a difference.

Pics of nude apeman and wife sexing wild in the jungle and wrestling:  After that, I’m ready to look at a stack of unpaid bills.

fear of boobs:  In that case, you might not want to stare at the apeman’s wife.

points a and b are on opposites sides of wewoka lake. from a third point:  You want to summon help, because you shouldn’t have been out in this weather, what with everything flooded and all.

popeye’s fried chicken just took out an 8 percent interest-only loan of $50:  What, did they run out of biscuits or something?

worst eurovision outfits:  Are generally indistinguishable from the best Eurovision outfits.

taylor swift armpit hair:  This explains “nightmare dressed like a daydream,” anyway.

spoiler on back of car:  Well, it would be pointless to put one on the front of the car.

is the knowledge that the self is in prison, its vital force and ‘mangled mind’ leaking away in lonely, wasteful self-conflict:  Fortunately, you can always start a #hashtag on Twitter.

iraq was formerly known as:  A hell of a lot quieter than it is now.

larry derryberry hairy fairy query:  Now that’s scary.

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You’re not from around here, are you?

A rather disturbing incident today:

Which triggered a memory. I was in the laundry room at the CrappiFlats™ one summer Saturday in the early 1990s when I heard the utterly unexpected sound of exuberance. I abandoned the dryer for a moment, stepped outside, and traced the sound to the general area of the swimming pool, which was occupied by two Non-Resident Kids. At least, I didn’t recognize them.

For some reason, the pool hadn’t been opened up that day. Not to be thwarted, the youngsters — two boys, roughly seven and five, both black, neither with swimsuits — had climbed the fence, slid out of their clothes and jumped in. I approached. They withdrew, perhaps understandably suspicious; I assured them that I was fine with what they were doing. The younger one appeared slightly abashed, what with the nakedness and all; the older one, however, was gratifyingly brash, once he figured that I wasn’t going to turn him in. It helped, I think, that I didn’t ask him where he lived.

We talked about nothing useful for a couple of minutes, and I bade them farewell: “See ya later.” I gathered up my duds, crawled back to my flat, and sat as close as possible to an air-conditioning vent the rest of the day.

I heard later that the two boys were eventually apprehended by security and were escorted from the premises. Well, damn, I thought. It’s not like they were disturbing anyone. And I spent rather too much time wondering if they were busted for not being residents or for being naked on the premises — and if anyone would have turned in two white kids for the same offense.

Things got hot early in the morning, as they will in this part of the world, and at 9 am Sunday I was looking at the gate to the pool. I’d have been looking at the lock to the gate to the pool, but it was conspicuous by its absence. On an impulse, I popped through, looked around, stripped, and did my own little bit of skinny-dipping, displacing a heck of a lot more water than did two young boys. If anyone noticed, no one said a word. And if anything, I owe those kids for giving me the idea to do this in the first place, for I had never done such a thing before.

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I could have told you that

In which Mike Huckabee, perhaps despite himself, lines up behind me, a mere 19 years after the fact. I’m sure it wasn’t intentional.

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That’s it, blame the naked people

On Friday, a magnitude-6 earthquake struck the Malaysian state of Sabah; there are about a dozen known casualties so far. The state’s Deputy Chief Minister has offered this explanation for the temblor:

The Sabah earthquake that has so far taken the lives of 11 climbers was a result of the action of Western tourists who had stripped naked near Mount Kinabalu’s summit last month, said the state’s Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Joseph Pairin Kitingan.

Speaking to reporters on Saturday, he said the tragedy was a “confirmation” of the consequences of the actions of the 10 Europeans who he said had been disrespectful to local customs. He called on the culprits to be brought to a native court to be charged, the Malay Mail Online reported.

“Whether other people believe this or not, it’s what we Sabahans believe. When the earthquake happened, it’s like a confirmation of our beliefs,” he said. “It is a sacred mountain and you cannot take it lightly,” he added.

You’d think that if the deities in question were offended, they’d have contrived to have the tourists themselves, not just random mountain-climbers, swallowed up by the earth. Or anyway, I’d think that.

(Via @LadyGod1va.)

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Because activities

Hey, I know! Let’s compensate for our own miserable lives by making sure our kids don’t have a minute to themselves:

How did we go from spending our family times in parks and picnics, at movies and relatives houses to travel baseball and cheerleading competitions? When did we go from being supportive to being subtly abusive?

Why are we spending our entire weekends schlepping from county to county, town to town, state to state to play in some bullshit regional, junior, mid-west, southeast, invitational, elite, prep, all-state, conference, blah, blah, blah tourney? We decorate our cars with washable paint, streamers, numbers and names. We roll in little carpool caravans trekking down the interstate honking and waiving at each other like Rev. Jim Jones followers in a Kool-Aid line. Greyhounds, Hawks, Panthers, Eagles, Bobcats, Screaming Devils, Scorching Gonads or whatever other mascot adorns their jerseys.

You wouldn’t turn out for the Scorching Gonads?

The motivation here, apparently, is a subtle guilt/fear combo:

We are afraid that Emma will make the cheerleading squad instead of Suzy and that Mitch will start at first base instead of my Dillon. But it doesn’t stop there. You see, if Mitch starts instead of Dillon then Dillon will feel like a failure, and if Dillon feels like a failure then he will sulk and cower in his room, and he will lose his friends because all his friends are on the baseball team, too, and if he loses his friends then he will start dressing in Goth duds, pierce his testicles, start using drugs and begin listening to headbanging music with his door locked. Then, of course, it’s just a matter of time until he’s surfing the net for neo-Nazi memorabilia, visiting gun shows and then opening fire in the school cafeteria. That is why so many fathers who bring their injured sons to the ER are so afraid that they won’t be able to practice this week, or that he may miss the game this weekend. Miss a game, you become a mass murderer — it’s that simple.

Suzy is a whole other story, though. You see, if she doesn’t make the cheerleading squad she will lose a whole bunch of friends and not be as popular as she should (and she’s REAL popular). If she loses some friends, she will be devastated — all the cool kids will talk about her behind her back, so then she’ll sit in her room all day, eating Ding Dongs and cutting at her wrists. Then, of course, it is only a matter of time until she is chatting on the Internet with fifty-year-old men and meeting up with them at truck stops. And that is why every mother is so frightened when her daughters have mononucleosis or influenza. Miss cheerleading practice for a week, and your daughter is headed for a career in porn. It’s that simple.

Of such young women is Tumblr Feminism made.

I do worry about this at one level removed: #1 grandson has proven to be Quite The Jock. Fortunately, he doesn’t seem to be taking it so seriously that thoughts of it occupy every waking moment, and his parents have just enough Essence of the Lackadaisical to prevent them from going totally guanophenic.

(I got this from a teacher of long acquaintance on Facebook.)

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Jailarity ensuing

Kurt Hochenauer of Okie Funk sums up the mess at the jail:

The U.S. Justice Department found 60 civil rights violations [pdf] with the jail back in 2008, and essentially put county officials on notice that they needed to either fix the problems or face a federal takeover.

The county has, indeed, fixed most of the problems outlined in a 2008 report, which included high rates of violence between inmates and guards yet the basic design of the jail itself creates some of the problems. That means the county has to massively renovate the jail or build a new one, which makes the most sense. Each approach would cost millions upon millions of dollars and require some type of tax increase. The federal government, according to media reports, has apparently signaled it was moving forward with a lawsuit to force the issue.

In the past, Oklahoma County Sheriff John Whetsel and other county officials have promoted a small increase in the county sales tax of only half-a-cent or less, but that hasn’t proven to be popular with voters. If the feds take over, homeowners would automatically face high property taxes to pay for the project. Something has to give eventually.

Part of the resistance to “a small increase in the county sales tax” is that Oklahoma County actually levies no sales tax at all, an anomaly in that we’re surrounded by counties that have enacted sales taxes, ranging from 0.25% (Cleveland) to 1.0% (Pottawatomie). I’m not a fan of higher taxes generally, but I’d rather see Oklahoma County add another buck to my grocery shopping every week than to have them jack up property taxes, which are already bumping up against historical highs.

Doc Hoc’s prescription:

Lower incarceration rates through drug courts and creative sentencing and vote to invest in a new jail through a small tax increase that allows for rehabilitation to reduce recidivism.

I can get behind that, I think.

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It’s gotta be lunchtime somewhere

Bayou Renaissance Man posted this on Thursday, and it’s a major yock, based on the premise that the single aspect of American culture most readily recognizable in the rest of the world is fast food:

DJ Ötzi, born Gerhard Friedle in Austria, is perhaps best known in countries that speak German, but his English sounds good enough. For comparison, by way of the motion picture Kangaroo Jack, listen to Gerry’s cover of Bruce Channel’s “Hey! Baby,” yet another track that Trini brought to my attention some time last decade. (The girl knows me entirely too well.)

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Ungentle benzo

Why all this screwing around with health-care coverage, or lack thereof, doesn’t really mean a damn thing in the long run:

A single dose of the anti-anxiety drug lorazepam — the generic version of Ativan — will run you about 14 cents at Safeway or Target.

At Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles, the same pill goes for nearly $2,000.

At least that’s the impression Laurie Leigh came away with after being so overcome with grief when her 90-year-old father died at the hospital that she fainted at his bedside. She subsequently received a pill to soothe her nerves.

Leigh’s insurer, Blue Shield of California, covered about $200 of the bill, leaving her holding the bag for more than $1,700.

Of course, this doesn’t mean they charged her two grand for an Ativan; they also took her blood pressure and set her in a vacant bed in the ER for about an hour and a half. The tablet itself was a hair under $20. Still, you can buy thirty of them at Walmart for four bucks.

For the record, CFI Care — not its real initials — would have paid about $1360 had this happened to me, had I reached my annual deductible, which I think I’ve done twice in the last quarter-century.

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As I might have said

I don’t see myself as the sort of person who does celebrity interviews. (Then again, I am exceedingly uncomfortable when I’m being interviewed, inasmuch as I am no sort of celebrity.) Still, once in a while one of the pros comes up with a question that I would have come up with had I drawn the assignment. In 2003, it was Dan Snierson at Entertainment Weekly. This year, it’s Keith Staskiewicz at, yes, Entertainment Weekly, and the celebrity in question is Ted, Seth MacFarlane’s foul-mouthed stuffed bear, who will return in Ted 2, opening later this month. Given that Ted is, well, a bear, this question seems inevitable to me:

EW: Do you shit in the woods? Come to think of it, do you shit?

Ted: I have done both. What, do you wanna watch? Perv.

I was, of course, expecting an answer in the affirmative.

Later, Staskiewicz asked if Ted had seen those Charmin commercials, and Ted accused him of being “obsessed.” Fair enough, I suppose.

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Perk not included

This is a fairly typical house for its neighborhood (Barrington Section 3, south of Danforth/NW 192nd and west of Western):

2011 Parade of Homes house. High performance energy efficient built NAHB Green home. Granite thru out, custom wall finishes, tank less hot water, walk-in pantry, large master bath w walk-in shower and 2 closets, master sitting room, large covered patio, gas whirpool appliances, theatre room, 2nd kitchenette, mud-room off garage, office w/ built-ins, jack & jill baths, walk-in closets thruout, sprinkler system, additional heated & cooled storage above garage

Okay, one does not expect Updike-level writing from real-estate agents. I have cleaned up the spacing, but not the spelling. (A Jack and Jill bathroom has two entrances, one from each of two bedrooms. I think. I don’t hang around in these neighborhoods much.)

Come to think of it, no one is looking to its owner, Cleveland Cavaliers (and former Celtics and Thunder) center Kendrick Perkins, for any of that florid speechifying stuff: he’s to the point and, when necessary, in your face.

What I like about it: there’s a small theater room, seating six, and there’s a kitchenette right next to it. Now that’s planning.

(Via Thunder Obsessed.)

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Zinc and copper, copper and zinc

This is June, which is normally not the time to wax lyrical about metaphors for cold weather, unlike, say, February; still, having come across this explanation in the summer, I am loath to hold it back for six months, so here we go with “cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey”:

This term has nothing to do with testicles or primates, and a good deal of debate remains to this day regarding the origin of the phrase. In the days of smoothbore cannon, particularly ashore, ready-use cannon balls were stored near the guns. The balls were stacked in a “monkey,” a metal frame which was laid on the deck to help contain the bottom layer of the pyramid of cannon balls. Monkeys were typically made of brass (though monkeys made of rope were used as well). In extremely cold temperatures, the brass monkey shrank more than the iron cannon balls, and the stack of balls would collapse — or perhaps ice which formed under the balls pushed them up enough to break them loose. The root of the debate is whether such an event is possible at all, though the phrase appears to be more a traditional exaggeration than an engineering possibility.

My late brother, a seafaring man early in his all-too-short life, likely would have opined that even the most egregious exaggerations had some basis in truth. And God knows I’ve seen enough cannonballs stacked in pyramids.

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Fark blurb of the week

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Numero uno

As I may have mentioned eight or nine times, this was the very first record I ever bought:

“Satisfaction” is fifty years old this week, and that just frosts me. (Of course, if you’ve seen my head at any time since 1978, you realize that the frosting process has been going on for some time.) To this day I’m not sure why this particular slab of styrene demanded my 89 cents: I hadn’t been much of a Stones fan up to that point, and it was probably 1980 before I deciphered all the words. Then again, the words weren’t really what the song was about:

“Satisfaction” blends elements of blues, like repeated riffs, “blue notes” and Jagger’s half-shouted, half-sung delivery, with what we now know as rock music (that guitar tone, a riff acting as a song’s hook instead of a vocal melody). These elements — mashed with the simple, repetitive structures of pop music — provide the blueprint for a half-century of rock ‘n’ roll in just under four minutes.

There have been scores of covers of “Satisfaction” — in no particular order, I recommend Otis Redding’s, Cat Power’s and Devo’s — but, as we used to say in those days, the original’s still the greatest. Even if it is fifty years old.

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Wedged in

Striding through Japan’s Haneda Airport, it’s Amal Alamuddin Clooney in a knit dress by Missoni that described, aptly enough, as “breezy.” My attention is guaranteed:

Amal Clooney at Haneda Airport in Japan

I adore the color scheme. But what they wanted to show you, apparently, was the shoe, so let’s get a closer look:

Espadrille wedge by Valentino

A tricky shoe indeed. If you’re watching from the side, it might look like a jacked-up (four and a half inches) T-strap, but the shoe — “Rockee” by Valentino — obviously lacks the center strap that defines the T. says that it “simultaneously elevated and grounded her look.” There’s also a black version, with the same neutral-colored platform. Either way, it’s $845 at

You may notice, in the full-length shot, the Ordinary Folks trying their best to get a picture of Mrs. Clooney as she walks away from them.

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