Refudiation of the week

Robert Stacy McCain is grilled by “a certain Republican communications strategist,” and comes back with a snappy answer to what he clearly thought was a stupid question:

Q. Do you believe promiscuous women deserve to be raped, regardless of their chosen partner’s proclivities?

A. No one “deserves” to be raped, just as no one deserves to be robbed or murdered. If I advise against parking your car in Southeast D.C. with the windows down, the doors unlocked and the keys in the ignition, that doesn’t make me “pro-car theft.”

Blaming the victim? Hardly:

[W]omen should be strongly cautioned against putting themselves into predicaments where they risk being victims of a crime where successful prosecution is so difficult.

For that matter, men should be strongly cautioned against putting themselves into predicaments where they risk being accused of a crime. Sauce for the gander, and all that.

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Nirvana, this exit

Most people, I suspect, will just snicker at you if you suggest that we’re living in some sort of automotive Golden Age: when the gas costs three bucks and the government keeps coming up with ideas that aren’t worth a plugged nickel, things don’t seem so promising.

In an effort to provide you with some measure of reassurance, I point you to the January “10Best” issue of Car and Driver, which as always includes a list of the ten Best and Worst Performers of the previous year. The Best numbers are always impressive, but the eye-opening stuff is in the Worst column.

An example: Worst Zero-to-Sixty. Ford’s little Transit Connect bread truck, imported from Turkey (!), takes a whole 11.1 seconds. It is a measure of how much our expectations have changed that 11.1 seconds is now considered slow: V-6 family sedans routinely break the seven-second mark, and even the four-cylinder cars manage nine or better. The new electromobiles — Chevrolet Volt, Nissan Leaf — keep the acceleration at bay to preserve battery range, but even they can knock off easy 10s. The Transit Connect does the quarter-mile in 18.3 seconds at a trap speed of 75 mph, which also rates as Worst.

Then again, here I am with, according to its manufacturer, the “most powerful” car in its class, ten years ago. Says C/D, it runs 0-60 in 8.3, and does a 16.4 quarter at 87 mph. Not a whole lot slower than Ford’s vanlet, really. (And about the same fuel economy: low 20s around town.)

Incidentally, we get the Transit Connect here by way of a loophole in one of those brilliant government ideas: the 1963 “chicken tax,” which set stiff tariffs on a variety of imports, including trucks, as a response to European duties imposed on American poultry. The rest of those tariffs have fallen by the wayside, but the truck tax (25 percent) remains. Ford gets around this by importing the passenger version of the Transit Connect, and then throwing away everything inside back of the B-pillar. Remember this next time someone tells you that the government has thought out some new scheme very carefully and there’s no possible way anything can go wrong.

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The right direction, anyway

David Holt, the new Senator from District 30 (northwest Oklahoma County), has prefiled Senate Bill 70, which would drop the top income tax rate by 0.1 percent a year for the next ten years.

The current top rate is 5.5 percent, though it’s scheduled to drop to 5.25 for 2012, due to legislative action taken in 2006 which provides a trigger mechanism based on anticipated revenue increases. Senator Jim Wilson of District 8 (he’s from Tahlequah) has proposed delaying that drop, pointing out that revenues are still below the pre-recession level, even if they are increasing, but that idea isn’t going anywhere in the GOP-dominated legislature.

Then again, this suggests a possible deal: the GOP could kill Holt’s bill in exchange for the Democrats’ shutting up about Wilson’s. The Republicans don’t have to deal — they have the numbers to get pretty much what they want — but paying lip service to bipartisanism is de rigueur these days.

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Next time, hold the MSG

Last night, I opined:

[T]here’s some argument among the pundits whether the Knickerbockers are as good as their 16-12 record — they’ve dropped three straight to marquee teams…

Okay, maybe Cleveland isn’t quite so marquee these days, but tonight, at least, the Knicks were that good. Maybe better. New York took control of this game in the second quarter and never let up, silencing the Thunder to the tune of 112-98 in front of a typically-boisterous Madison Square Garden crowd. The Knicks displayed superior ball movement (30-15 on assists), better shooting (48.8 percent versus 39.2), and accuracy beyond the arc (10/21 versus 3/17).

New York landed six starters in double figures, with both guards posting double-doubles: Raymond Felton had 12 points and 10 assists, while rookie Landry Fields recorded 14 points and 10 rebounds. Amar’e Stoudemire (23 points) was formidable in a “What do we need Carmelo Anthony for?” kind of way, and Wilson Chandler methodically added 21 more to the score.

The Three Amigos made reasonable showings, Kevin Durant bagging 26 points, Russell Westbrook 23 and Jeff Green 14, but it took them 61 shots to do it. Serge Ibaka was okay off the glass (8 boards), but couldn’t buy a bucket all night; Nick Collison wound up with five fouls and not much else.

Mullens Report: Byron came on in the last five minutes, hitting one of two shots, grabbing one rebound and blocking a shot.

Speaking of ‘Melo, he had the night off — a death in the family, and we wish him well at what surely is a difficult time — but he’ll presumably be joining the rest of the Nuggets Christmas Day in the How Many Names Do I Have To Think Up Coliseum, as the Thunder try to get themselves back on track.

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It’s all about the Jeffersons

I picked up a $2 bill this week, the first one I’d seen in rather a long time. It wasn’t from one of those uncut sheets you see advertised now and then, either; it was a fairly ordinary Series 2003 Federal Reserve Note, with John W. Snow’s signature.

As is my usual practice, I set it aside with the others. And by “others,” I mean a total of two other $2 bills. Two of them look pretty much alike, but the third, which was the first one acquired, is distinctive: it’s an actual United States Note — no reference to the Fed anywhere — from Series 1963. The Treasury Secretary signing this bill was C. Douglas Dillon, appointed by JFK way back in ’61. On the obverse, instead of the current Declaration of Independence scene by John Trumbull, is a representation of Monticello, home of Thomas Jefferson. Apparently this was one of the last $2 bills to be issued before the denomination was (briefly) discontinued.

Of course, some people seem to be unaware that $2 bills even exist.

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Not safe for lightcycles

This is identified as part of the TRON-inspired product line by Disney, and I have my doubts as to whether it’s suitable for the game grid:

Shoes inspired by TRON

And where do those plug in, anyway?

(Via the currently-being-renamed If Style Could Kill.)

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Fifteen thirty

Rather a lot of people who had Commodore 64 computers also had the 1530 tape drive — for a while, anyway:

I didn’t personally use a Datasette for more than a couple of weeks back then. I got my Commodore sometime during the summer of 1985, and got a disk drive for my birthday that August. In later years there were advances in tape-loading technology (speed loading techniques and the like), but in 1985 loading from and saving to cassettes was akin to digital masochism. While I have read that especially overseas there were Commodore users that primarily used the Datasette, in the US I didn’t know a single person who did.

I did, for about 48 hours, after which I dashed down to Toys R Us and snagged a 1541 disk drive. At the time, I had no idea how slow it was, but I knew it had to be faster than that horrible tape device.

Which was pretty damned slow:

[A] whopping 50 bytes/second. To put that in perspective, a 5 megabyte mp3 file (5,242,880 bytes) would have taken 104,857 seconds (just over 29 hours) to load. So while Commodore’s floppy disk drives seemed (and were) slow, they sure seemed fast to previous Datasette owners. Of course, 5 megabyte files were unheard of to home computer users in the 1980s. As a matter of fact, Commodore cassette tapes could only store around 100 kilobytes of data, which means to store that one single mp3 you would have needed 420 cassette tapes to do so.

Worse, if you had multiple (short) programs on a single tape, the little machine had to plow its way through programs 1 through N-1 before it could load program N for you.

Still, the 1530 had one distinct advantage: at $40, it was cheap. The 1541 disk drive was $200 in 1985.

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Short of a triple threat

This would seem well-nigh inarguable:

You’ve heard that saying, “Good, fast, or cheap: pick two.” Here’s my social media variation: “Blogging, Facebook, or Twitter: pick two.” Cause I don’t think anyone can do all three well (and still have a semi-normal social and/or professional life).

Well, that’s a relief. I didn’t want anyone to think I had a life or anything.

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Take that, varlet

I am, perhaps, a smidgen above average at the fine art of delivering an insult, though certainly no more than that; it’s too easy for me to fall back on clichés, pop-culture references, and Python excerpts. (Besides, does anyone’s father really smell of elderberries? Unless he’s really, really old, I mean.) And I am definitely not in the same league as Amy Sedaris.

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When to fold them

After 36 minutes, I was convinced the Charlotte Bobcats were going to pull off the upset: they led 69-68 after trailing by five at the half, and the Thunder had not looked all that impressive in the third quarter.

Nine minutes and eight seconds later, the ‘Cats got their first field goal of the quarter. James Harden came back with a trey, and that was it for the starters for both sides: Charlotte finished the fourth quarter with a total of 12 points, and the Thundermen got on the plane to New York with a 99-81 victory in hand.

Which makes me wonder what Scott Brooks yelled to his troops before that final frame began. They started the quarter with a 7-0 run, which eventually grew to 23-3. A more methodical destruction, you cannot ask. Kevin Durant, after a shaky start, finished 8-13 from the floor with 32 points. Serge Ibaka (we’re still Krstićless) was his not-so-old self again, and Nick Collison and D. J. White were instrumental in keeping the Bobcats away from the bucket while Jeff Green dropped in nine points (of 12) in the fourth.

Stephen Jackson had a pretty good night, with 20 points, and Nazr Mohammed blocked four shots, one more than the entire OKC squad, but the go-to guy for Charlotte was Boris Diaw, who had 13 points, seven rebounds and eight assists. The ‘Cats shot only 40 percent; then again, the Thunder didn’t break 44.

Mullens Report: Byron appeared briefly in the first quarter, and returned for garbage time; in eight minutes, he recorded three rebounds, two fouls, and a three-second violation; he missed two shots.

Tomorrow night in Madison Square Garden, and while there’s some argument among the pundits whether the Knickerbockers are as good as their 16-12 record — they’ve dropped three straight to marquee teams — hey, it’s Madison Square Garden, where anything can happen.

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Gotta have it

Rich Appel on the next step beyond instant gratification:

[I]nstantaneous gratification. You can learn about a song, listen to it, then own it in the space of about five minutes. Imagine if there was ever an original song on Glee that blew the doors off of everything: by 9:05pm Tuesday night you’d have the #1 song in the country. Maybe some of you remember 1973, when UA told us that initial orders of War’s “The Cisco Kid” 45 sold out in 45 minutes; today that’d be a #1 single first week out, although back then UA’s story was never really reflected on the chart (or, for that matter, proved).

Well, it did make #2 on Billboard’s Hot 100 (and #5 on their soul chart).

Oddly enough, my own story of this sort also dates from 1973, with the television special Barbra Streisand … And Other Musical Instruments. I was in central New England toiling for Uncle Sam in those days, but that Saturday, having been sprung from the duty roster, I took the bus into Boston and grabbed the first copy of the LP I could find at the first Newbury Street record vendor I hit. I wasn’t even in a mood to shop around for bargains. (I still have that LP. Here’s a clip.)

Okay, it took longer than five minutes back then. The dynamic is still the same.

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What clanging chimes of doom?

The Band Aid (Bob Geldof/Midge Ure) classic “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” with a different sort of spin:

Freezepop and Plushgun, recorded live, just a little on the boisterous side.

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That’s funny, he doesn’t look Jewish

How many times have you heard that one? But that was the first thing that came to mind when I read this:

On the first day of Hanukkah, the 25th day of the month of Kislev on the Jewish calendar, Dr. Stan Eisen, the son of two Holocaust survivors and the father of two Orthdodox rabbis, did something he’d never done before … he walked into a room full of children young and old at Christian Brothers University and bellowed in his deepest baritone: “HO! HO! HO! Merry Christmas!”

For the next couple of hours, Eisen, a member of Anshei Sphard-Beth El Emeth synagogue in East Memphis, played the man from the North Pole.

Very much in character, and very much in costume.

(Seen at Daily Pundit, with the title “Why not?”)

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You can’t touch this

Frank Gehry puts the hammer down:

A friend of mine who worked with Mies had the Mies ensemble — a settee, two chairs and a coffee table — in front of the fireplace in his apartment. He’d complain that it wasn’t comfortable. I said, “I’ll show you what’s wrong.” I took the settee and pulled it around, put a chair on either side of the fireplace and did this and that. He agreed it was so much better. The next time I went it was all put back the way it had been. I asked why, and he said, “That’s the way Mies wanted it.” Mies was dead by then. I don’t think he would have cared.

This comes from the January 2011 Playboy Interview, and while it’s probably premature to say that the magazine is finally getting around to upgrading its text product, I can say this: “April ’08, Chad Kroeger of Nickelback.”

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Drawing the clothes line

Shelterpop’s Jodi Helmer accepts an unusual assignment:

Most people wake up in the morning and get dressed. Last week, I agreed to hop out of bed and not get dressed.

Yes, it’s another “What’s it like to run around naked?” piece. And no, she didn’t do exactly 168 consecutive hours in the nude:

There were things I refused to do naked: I avoided cooking all meals that might involve grease spatter (ouch!), and I skipped scrubbing the tub for a week because donning rubber gloves and getting down on all fours to scour grout while naked felt like the opening scene of an X-rated movie. I also postponed a project to pull out the carpet and install hardwood floors for obvious reasons. Of course, I got dressed to walk the dogs, run errands and meet friends for dinner.

Nasty stuff, grout. I don’t have this particular inhibition myself, except to the extent that I hate scrubbing the tub and its immediate vicinity anyway, and that has nothing to do with wardrobe or lack thereof.

And I definitely believe this:

I found it downright comical when I stood in front of the fridge and searched for ingredients for dinner while staring at a cantaloupe and cucumbers! (Yes, being naked gave me the mindset of a prepubescent tween.)

Post-shower, the first thing I pass on the way back to the dresser is a full-length mirror; often as not, I’m likely to think I look at least faintly ludicrous. Still, it’s not like I have an audience — or a writing assignment.

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Welcome to the machine

The hilarious Spaff tune “Save Me, Obama” (sung by Robert Lund, and you can snag it here) contains this stirring verse:

Stop Shiites from settling fights the mob way
Find me jobs in Fiji and St Croix
Purge the graft from hell-holes like Zimbabwe
And Illinois!

Residents of Illinois have been occasionally disparaged as “Suckers”, though this had nothing to do with graft, various Blagoisms and such notwithstanding. Still, there’s a long history of corruption, and there’s a long-standing historical reason for it:

Owing to historical factors, Illinois developed a labyrinthine governmental structure that offered fertile ground in which corruption could sprout. The Illinois constitution of 1870, in effect until 1970, limited the amount of debt counties and municipalities could carry and taxes they could levy. When cities needed to fund improvements, they got around those constraints by creating new units of government with the capacity to borrow — a library district, for example, would be created to build and administer a new library. “The 1870 constitution almost forced you into multiple units of government if you were going to deliver services beyond your municipality or modernize your municipality,” says [IU political-science Professor Kent] Redfield. Today the state contains almost 7,000 separate governmental fiefs — far more than any other state — ranging from counties, towns, and school and fire districts to water reclamation and mosquito abatement districts. Most have budgets to protect and authority to wield.

Did things improve after 1970? Of course not. The new constitution provided for home rule for larger municipalities, but didn’t do much of anything to consolidate all those individual fiefdoms.

(Via New Geography. Disclosure: Your Humble Narrator was born in Lake County, Illinois.)

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