Delta is ready when you are

While watching his P’s and Q’s, Eric Scheie finds himself frustrated by A’s and B’s:

Sometimes I think that most of what we call “politics” consists simply of Alphas trying to convince Betas that they can actually be Alphas, if only they vote for the right Alpha leaders! It’s a total con routine, played by both sides, and it relies on convincing the Betas that they are not what they are, by Alphas who know the dirty truth. And in another variation, the Betas are always encouraged by the Alphas to think that their leaders are actually Betas, just like them, while the “real” Alphas are the malevolent leaders of the poor duped Betas on the other side. Alphas on both sides pretend to be Betas, accuse each other of being Alphas, while Betas imagine that by voting for the right Alphas, they’re better Betas than the other Betas, and they might even be “good” Alphas. It goes in endless circles — much to the delight of the Alphas.

I sidestep this particular conflict by assuming that everyone, until proven otherwise, is Gamma, and not a particularly high Gamma at that.

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There’s a vow about this

It’s been a while since I walked to or from school, and generally I was alone; the parental units were otherwise occupied, and besides, conventional wisdom holds that it was much safer back then.

But it’s still doable in some parts of the country at some times of the year, though one must expect the unexpected along the way, especially if you’re taking a shortcut:

Shark had a half-day yesterday, and so we decided to walk. Of course, I forgot that Monday is traditionally laundry day at the Convent. Behind the Convent is a laundry line. Most houses in the area have them, right? Who doesn’t love sun-dried sheets?

Well, yesterday, the Convent laundry line was laden with very sturdy and staid foundation garments. Parachute-sized, rebar-reinforced; fluttering mightily in a stiff spring breeze. All in shades of blue and white, as it IS an IHM Convent, after all.

Shark’s eyes were as big as teacups as we walked past. While he’s fairly sure that Sisters (for the most part) are human, too, it had not occurred to him that they might wear UNDERWEAR. He was not entirely sure that even seeing Sister’s squirrel-covers wasn’t a grave sin requiring extra Masses, Confession or possibly Last Rites. Certainly it was more embarrassment than one small boy could bear!

I remember, circa 1968, when one of the orders staffing our high school adopted a habit that didn’t actually sweep the floor: the new hemlines were actually several inches above the ankles, revealing something we’d never so much as imagined. Inasmuch as our female classmates were constantly having their hemlines inspected, lest we boys be unduly provoked, this was wholly unexpected, totally far out, right up there in implausibility with the flying cars we were supposed to own by, um, let’s say, 2010.

And Sister, of course, was aware of our perplexed state. “What were you expecting? Wheels?”

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The tyranny of high expectations

In the NBA’s Western Conference, Oklahoma City Thunder coach Scott Brooks, who led his team to the 8th seed in the playoffs, was named Coach of the Year and had his option picked up for another year.

In the NBA’s Eastern Conference, Chicago Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro, who led his team to the 8th seed in the playoffs, was fired.

Lifetime records as head coach: Brooks 72-79; Del Negro 82-82.

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Bacon Helper™

Who would have thought it needed any help?

Nicole, “They should make a Bacon Helper”

My husband’s eyes lit up and he got this dreamy look on his face, “Wow, just imagine TWO pounds of crumbled bacon!”

Danielle, “What would you put with it?”

My husband, “What else is needed to achieve nirvana?”

(Poached from The Lemon Stand.)

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Getting a little behind

Inspired by the lovely Miss Cellania, who unearthed “The Colorectal Surgeon’s Song” by Canadian cut-ups Bowser and Blue, I decided we’re overdue for a revival of their 1986 classic “Polka Dot Undies,” which goes something like this:

Just a trifle Dylanesque, I think, and possibly even safe for work, despite their best efforts.

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The revenge of Reverend Jim

The New York Times reports on next year’s hippest vacation spot:

Better known as Jonestown, where more than 900 Americans committed suicide or were murdered one night in 1978 at the behest of the cult leader Jim Jones, the site yields few signs of remembrance. Rains, termites and scavengers have laid waste to its buildings. Vines camouflage its rusting vehicles, including an old flatbed truck and a tractor.

But while nature seems intent on erasing the utopian experiment that went tragically awry here, some enterprising souls in Guyana, South America’s only English-speaking nation, have another idea. They want Jonestown reborn as a tourist destination and are even getting some tepid help from the government, which spent more than 30 years largely trying to live it down.

There seems to be no indication that Kraft Foods is interested in setting up a Kool-Aid booth on the site. (Not that they’d have any reason to.)

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This, too, shall pass

The “Better Marriage Blanket” contains a layer of activated charcoal for odor absorption, essential if, for instance, you wind up married to Jessica Simpson. At $120 to $180, though, it’s pricey, and WalletPop recommends some alternative measures at varying price points:

You can’t put a price on love, but sanity is another story. And while cheaper alternatives exist (a can of Lysol, nose plugs, cork), so do more expensive ones: marriage counseling, bigger beds, and the Lasko 3135 30″ Oscillating Industrial Pedestal Fan. We don’t know if the Better Marriage Blanket will work, honestly. But just like marriage itself, it’s a bit of a crap shoot. Let’s not take that metaphor any farther.

One thing that will definitely not work: getting a dog, and then blaming it.

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Busting the cap, so to speak

Darnell Mayberry had a good piece in yesterday’s Oklahoman [warning: gratuitous autostart video] about bang for one’s NBA salary buck: the Thunder, for instance, won 50 regular-season games while spending $55.9 million, while the Lakers won 57, albeit with a payroll of $91 million.

And it’s actually worse than it sounds, since L.A.’s Purple Gang is well into the luxury-tax zone, so spending $91 million on payroll will actually cost them more like $113 million when all is said and done.

Shed no tears for the Lakers, though. One commenter on the paper’s Web site:

If the new CBA has a hard cap, then OKC would be in the same financial ball park [as] New York, Chicago, Boston, etc. But that ain’t gonna ever happen.

This current soft salary cap is ridiculous. It’s more complicated than the Federal Tax Code. And only benefits the Lakers of the world, who can sign any player they want and pay no attention to the cap.

Which is not precisely true, but an owner who’s willing to write extremely large checks does have more options than one trying to live on the NBA-recommended budget. The cap for this season was $57.7 million. Of thirty teams, twenty-eight were over the cap.

And there are lots of exceptions to the cap, which is why it’s “soft.” Even the low-budget Thunder have used exceptions on occasion: center Nenad Krstić was retrieved from Europe with the “mid-level” exception, which allows a team to sign a free agent to a salary no greater than the average NBA salary. (The NBA does not release salary figures, but Krstić’s three-year contract was worth approximately $15.5 million.)

The biggest prize, they say, in this year’s crop of free agents is LeBron James, who has an early-termination option in the fourth year — next season — of his approximately $60-million contract with the Cavaliers. No combination of exceptions will enable the Lakers to buy out LeBron. It is theoretically possible that Cleveland could re-sign King James and then immediately trade him, but there’s no reason to think that the Cavs would consider such a thing. (And incidentally, James wasn’t the highest-paid player on the team this past season: that was Shaq.)

Besides, the Thunder’s actual cap room is apt to be eaten up in the next few years as the younger guys get ready for their second contracts. For 2011-12, the price for Kevin Durant’s services, and for Jeff Green’s, will go up markedly; in addition, there are seven players whose options will either have to be picked up or dropped. At this time, the only player on the team who is definitely signed for that season is Thabo Sefolosha, who is under contract through 2013-14. Could the Lakers, or someone else, swipe Durant? Be assured that Thunder ownership will do their damnedest to see that they don’t.

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Pols just want to have funds

Any of us can think of a handful of things government ought not to be spending money on. (Several handfuls, for some of us.) Here’s a modest list from Brian J.:

Advertising for tax increases. I mean, they’re showing profligacy and poor money management with the existing tax revenue they have if they throw it into four color mailers and neat signage. I notice that Greene County [MO] has started putting up signs along roads it would improve if the quarter cent sales tax wasn’t sunsetting. Please. Spend the existing money better.

Around here, they usually partner with some interested private-sector party.

I remember one City Council candidate who put up signs with his name along the worst roads in the ward. He didn’t get elected; I’m wondering if maybe some voters thought he was already in office and therefore was to blame for the miserable conditions.

Lobbying for more share of revenue from higher governments. The whole game of getting “free” money from the state or Federal government is unseemly as it is. Spending money to get that money is a bit like gambling.

The Feds, of course, are happy to see the states, hat in hand, offering to do this, that, and maybe even the other thing, just give us some money, wouldja please?

Worst recent example: the high-speed rail initiative announced last year by the Obama administration. Most states didn’t have a chance in hell of dipping into this slush fund, but most states tried.

Suing other governments or taxing districts for a bigger share of money. I hate it when the taxpayer is on the hook for all three sides of this story (two sets of attorneys plus the actual judiciary). Win or lose, taxpayers lose.

Surely there’s something we can sue Arkansas over.

Advertising their services. I listen to radio on the Internet, so I get a steady diet of PSAs advertising the services of various agencies, but I also hear them on the regular radio, too. If you have to advertise for your service, it’s probably superfluous. And the regional drinking-and-driving ads drive me crazy. The state gets money from the Federal government to spend on the ads, so instead of a single PSA, you get your state highway patrol cutting its own ads. Which takes a cop out of a car or from behind a desk for a day in addition to inefficiently spending money to let citizens know that the government will enforce a law.

Of course, the agencies need new clients; in this age of austerity, it’s the only way they can avoid getting their budgets cut.

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But wait, there’s more

A bit of wisdom tucked into Marko’s Search Term Safari:

As a general rule, you shouldn’t ever buy anything that’s offered on TV between the hours of 10pm and 6am. Sleep deprivation and credit card access don’t mix well.

Although I’d keep a few dollars open on the MasterCard just in case I happened to catch Popeil’s Pocket Sniper.

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Low finance

Nobody in his right mind is actually shouting “Mr. Obama, tear down that Wall Street!” Still, there are lessons to be learned, methods to be adopted. First, a lesson, from Sonic Charmer:

Suppose you bought into a Ponzi scheme this year, and got $100k back, and were able to support yourself this year on that amount. Not only that but you made a bunch of purchases and plans premised on the idea that $100k would keep flowing to you yearly from Ponzi schemes. But then the next year rolls around and the Ponzi scheme stops paying, and you’re unable to find a new one that pays that $100k.

Do you have a grievance against the Ponzi arrangers for “causing a crisis”? Do you have the right to be self-righteously angry with them for your financial hardships?

Hardly. You made out like a bandit. You got $100k passed to you from Ponzi suckers further down the chain. Among these suckers were IKB and ACA Capital, the investors in Abacus 2007-AC1, who handed over $1 billion for nothing. They were at the bottom of a giant pyramid. If you’re a homeowner who borrowed “bought” a nice house you couldn’t really afford, you were in the middle, not the bottom, of a Ponzi scheme. You have no grievance against anyone. If anything, people have a grievance against you.

And a proposal, from Steve Sailer:

The rating firms’ old school culture of honesty carried them along fairly well, but eventually it broke down under the lucrativeness and complexity of Housing Bubble mortgage-related instruments. Lots of street level petty fraud was going on between borrowers and mortgage brokers, but nobody — the clients, the feds, the media, the GOP, the Democrats — wanted to hear that “underserved” borrowers weren’t going to be able to pay back their mortgages. So, instead of doing things like hiring private detectives to check for fraud, the ratings agencies just rubber stamped the crud concocted by the people paying their bills.

Here’s a simple suggestion for fixing the ratings firms: barter. Only allow them to be compensated by the sellers of financial instruments in those exact financial instruments they rated.

Would this eliminate sub-junk “assets”? Maybe, maybe not. But there’s a lot to be said for putting one’s money where one’s mouth is.

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Fireball MX-5

If everyone wanted the same car, all the cars would look the same, act the same, cost the same. Despite the best efforts of various governmental yahoos, though, they don’t, and therefore we have to establish our criteria carefully, as did Bride of Rove:

[M]y Miata has finally zoomed her last zoom and is on her way to the parts depo in the — well — somewhere. My husband and I, anticipating the demise of my beloved car, have been arguing about what to buy next. In all practicality I should buy something that gets better gas mileage, but all of the cars that get better gas mileage are miserable to drive. In my final arguments to D I implored him, if I must live under the shadow of “O”, I NEED a fun car to drive. Life simply cannot be wasted on practicalities in these days of impending doom and chaos. As the nation falls to rack and ruin, let me slog the 80 miles into the office in a bubble of zoom zoom sunshine. Let me race home with Mark Levin blasting on the radio through Overtown after dark with the top down.


He bought me another Miata.

Actually, 21 city/28 highway, which is about what it said on my car’s sticker (and about what I actually get), doesn’t strike me as all that bad, especially since any current Miata should be able to leave me in the dust.

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Speaking of boobs

Seal of the Commonwealth of VirginiaIf the official seal of the Commonwealth of Virginia strikes you as excessively erotic, you just might be the Attorney General:

Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli apparently isn’t fond of wardrobe malfunctions, even when Virginia’s state seal is involved.

The seal depicts the Roman goddess Virtus, or virtue, wearing a blue tunic draped over one shoulder, her left breast exposed. But on the new lapel pins Cuccinelli recently handed out to his staff, Virtus’ bosom is covered by an armored breastplate.

When the new design came up at a staff meeting, workers in attendance said Cuccinelli joked that it converts a risqué image into a PG one.

It appears to me that Mr Cuccinelli has missed out on an opportunity here. Virtus, the name, is derived from “vir,” which means “man”: the virtues implied are those which were perceived as deriving from masculinity, and when it became necessary to personify them — but no, let’s not go there. Besides, the Greek version (“Arete”) definitely wound up as a goddess, and anything the Greeks did, the Romans thought they could do better.

The issue here, though, isn’t Roman history, but boobage, which will not win the AG any Brownie points:

The joke might be on him, said University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato.

“When you ask to be ridiculed, it usually happens. And it will happen here, nationally,” he said. “This is classical art, for goodness’ sake.”

I’m happy to do my part to make Dr Sabato’s prophecy come true.

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In lieu of actual technical support

You know, something like this could make a body question the value of those “service plans”:

They futz around with it, determine that it works with a direct connection to the router (which I knew) and that they couldn’t get it to work with the wireless (hence the REASON IT IS THERE) and said they couldn’t do anything but that for $130 they could do a system restore.

Now we wouldn’t put up with this from a car dealership. “We can’t fix it, but we can install a new engine for $7500.” But we’ll endure all manner of crap from someone who claims to be able to fix computers, especially if we’ve already paid him $200 for a service plan.

It’s a good racket, if you can get in on it. You bank on people not knowing what to do with computers.

Still, as anyone who’s ever been paid to fix these contraptions can tell you, the most serious system damage is caused, not by your everyday users who don’t know much about how they work, but by the people who think they know more than they actually do. Those folks need to be made to fork out $130 or so now and again, just to give them a sense of humility.

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Strange search-engine queries (222)

So basically, we opened up the server logs, and suddenly all this data came spewing out. We did our best to stanch the flow, but inevitably some of it washed into the Web.

skirt “without underwear” “whenever possible”:  Who knew that Britney Spears had a mission statement?

blythe lifts with her tiny babysitter:  Not everyone can say that. Or should.

“sinister, humorless, and vain”:  What is the political-consulting firm upstairs from Dewey, Cheetham and Howe?

sludge and tripe:  And the ad agency on the third floor?

you porn vith rabbit:  I have no idea what you’re talking about, so good luck finding a picture of a bunny with a strap-on.

what is a hotty spirit:  For instance, Elvira Condomine in that Noël Coward play, although the widower might have disagreed with that sentiment.

haul bituminous anthracite dingbat:  This is not, incidentally, the situation that inspired the Bee Gees’ “New York Mining Disaster 1941.”

“naked in phoenix”:  Hey, it’s hot out there.

cool nightwear:  I’ve found the best way to keep it cool is to leave it in the dresser. Even in Phoenix.

10 most irritating things women do during sex:  “Not being here” has always been first on my list.

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The rainbow shades are off

Stories are now circulating that Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio will run for Governor of Arizona:

[KNXV-TV] is reporting that Arpaio already has made the decision to take the plunge and will announce his candidacy on Monday.

According to “several high-ranking sources within the Sheriff’s Department,” all the necessary paperwork “has been filled out and is ready to file.” These sources say Arpaio has spent the last two weeks meeting with Republican brass, and several of those meetings have been to discuss Arpaio running for governor.

Given the fact that roughly 60 percent of Arizona’s population is in Maricopa County, Arpaio would have no trouble with name recognition, even if he hadn’t spent the last couple of decades burnishing his reputation as “America’s Toughest Sheriff.”

But can he win? Not out of the question:

Unfortunately, he may well win. There are two things an outsider needs to know about people in Arizona:

1. They have an insane, irrational fear of Mexican immigrants, who they see as disproportionately made up of gang lords who make Tony Soprano look like a pansy. Of course, no one seems to have any actual personal experience with such violence or to be an actual victim, but they heard that the lady who put her cat in the microwave was threatened.

2. They believe that only Joe Arpaio has been standing between them and total annihilation at the hands of the brown-skinned hordes.

Out here in Soonerland, the immigrant gang lords seem to be from places farther away than Mexico, but let that pass.

I suspect some of Arpaio’s detractors are actually hoping he will run, if only because he’d have to resign his position as Sheriff.

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