Thursday, April 30, 2009

Online Diagnosis: Do You Have Swine Flu?

If you're concerned about the state of your health in the current swine flu apocalypse, you can try to get some answers here:

http://doihaveswineflu.org/

Link courtesy of the lovely Kamikaze Editor (who does not have swine flu -- yet!).

Life Imitates Aristophanes: Real-Life "Lysistrata" in Kenya

The current news story. The ancient Greek comedy. Aristophanes would be proud.

Nerdworld Soundtrack: Vivaldi

Gotcha! I bet you didn't think I was going for Antonio Vivaldi -- not after the last Nerdworld Soundtrack entry was Van Halen, right? Then again, there's no holding back here on MM Blog: we're always going for BAROQUE. (Ha ha ha ... groan)

But what more appropriately named for a warm day in Nerdworld than Vivaldi's "Spring" concerto?

Quote of the Day: Andrew Lloyd Webber on UK Brain Drain

In a nice companion piece to Sir Michael Caine's opinion, music man Andrew Lloyd Webber warns that tax hikes will prompt massive brain drain from the UK.

Look, it only makes sense. Suppose I live in a given place. Its government raises my taxes to the skies -- until I find them so onerous I can't carry on effectively. What will I do? I can sit there and suffer and I can try to improve my situation. I will look for somewhere else to live where taxes are lower and living conditions better. DUH, obviously. (What's the government going to do? Forbid the wealthy from emigrating so they can continue to soak them for taxes? Actually...)

What I also find dreadfully disturbing is the ugly spectacle of elite-driven class envy and class warfare (what an oxymoron, no?), as wealthy corrupt/incompetent government windbag after wealthy corrupt/incompetent government windbag on both sides of the Pond rail against "the evil rich" -- that is, people who get wealthy but are not in government -- and whip up public opinion against these actually productive people. Hey, when was the last time a poor man offered you a job? Seriously.

So to all those howling "eat the rich!" -- what are you going to do when you're out of the rich? Eat the middle class -- by redefining what it means to be rich? Hey, how about this definition: if you have enough income to get taxed on it, then you must be rich!

OK, end of rant. Here are some Webber words:

The opinion polls have uttered. The country loves the new 50 per cent top rate of income tax. Soak the rich. Smash the bankers. So Government spin doctors are in second heaven. The Conservatives' silence redefines a tomb. And I suppose there'd be quite a turnout for the public flogging of Sir Fred the Shred.

But before you book your tickets, hold hard. And before you lynch me as a rich b*****d flying a kite for my own cause, let me beg you to believe that I am not.

I believe that this new top rate of tax could be the final nail in the coffin of Britain.

. . . Here's the truth. The proposed top rate of income tax is not 50 per cent. It is 50 per cent plus 1.5 per cent national insurance paid by employees plus 13.3 per cent paid by employers. That's not 50 per cent. Two years from now, Britain will have the highest tax rate on earned income of any developed country.

I write this article because I fear the inevitable exodus of the talent that can dig us out of the hole we find ourselves in. It is inevitable, given that other countries are bidding for entrepreneurs. The Government must modify its proposals.
Good luck with that.

Silly "News Analysis" of the Day: Women Will Save the Economy Because We're Shop-a-holics

Really? I hope the writer of this was attempting to be cute and funny:
Men may have got us into this recession but it is women who are going to get us out of it. Not because they are more practical or prudent but because they just have to shop.

. . . There is no need to look dowdy just because your country has a $11 trillion debt.
Somehow, vaguely, I feel insulted. Furthermore, notice the little bit of man-bashing too. Excuse me, men alone did not get us into this economic mess. Everybody who spent themselves into debt like idiots and bought things they could not afford played a part in this debacle -- and that means women too.

I have to add: the fact that you have a $11 trillion debt (and are going to crash and burn more with every passing act of government folly) is a perfectly legitimate reason not only to "look dowdy," but to moan and wail in sackcloth and ashes.

Oh, and FYI? It is totally possible to look rather nice (i.e., not dowdy) without spending a pile of money!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Satire Alert: Pooh Panics as Swine Flu Hits Hundred Acre Wood

I found this cartoon of a sneezing Piglet at Maggie's Farm. Enjoy (click to enlarge):


Nerd News: Government Pushing Private Lenders Out of Student Loans?

Here's something worth a look.

All I have to say is: for goodness sake, no more government meddling in higher education -- and I mean loans too.

The final result would be nationalized higher education and a government monopoly on student loans. Who in their right mind actually thinks this is a good idea? GEEZ LOUISE, PEOPLE.

Quote of the Day: Sir Michael Caine on Taxes and Government

As if you needed another reason to like British acting legend Sir Michael Caine. Here's the quote, in the aftermath of the UK government's decision to raise taxes on the wealthy to 50%:
"The Government has taken tax up to 50 per cent, and if it goes to 51 I will be back in America. We've got 3.5 million layabouts on benefits, and I'm 76, getting up at 6am to go to work to keep them. Let's get everybody back to work so we can save a couple of billion and cut tax, not keep sticking it up."
Wait, wait, Sir Michael, what did you say? "Let's get everybody back to work so we can save a couple of billion and cut tax, not keep sticking it up." CUT TAX, NOT KEEP STICKING IT UP? I think I'm in love.

*blows kisses*

UPDATE: More here. Blurb of commentary:
The fact is that Caine, while he may not employ philosophical abstractions to denounce the looting intent of such a tax rise, is at root repelled not by the economic stupidity of such a tax hike, but its essential injustice. What a top-rate tax like this says, in effect, is that no-one should be allowed to rise above a certain level of wealth because it might make others envious. It makes a mockery of all that progressive-leftist talk about removing "glass ceilings" to advancement, etc.

Nerd News: High School Students Don't Know History

This is a common jeremiad on this blog. Usually I'm moaning about how students don't know what they ought. But I'm usually moaning about students in the US or the UK.

This story reports that high school students in Israel don't know history either. Great -- now there's a pandemic of high school history-ignorance.

Sigh:

Sixty percent of the country's high school pupils don't know the difference between the man who declared Israel's independence and the mortar used to fight for it.

Those results, along with other embarrassing indicators as to the poor state of high school pupils' grasp of national history, were included in a recent survey conducted by Prof. David Chen, dean of the Or Yehuda Academic College's School of Education and an adviser to the Education Ministry.

The survey, which tested the national history knowledge of 527 students, revealed that only 39% of them knew that David Ben-Gurion was the first prime minister of Israel, and 49% thought Davidka, the name for the homemade mortar used during the War of Independence, was Ben-Gurion's nickname. He was, of course, known colloquially as "The Old Man."

Other findings showed that 39% of those surveyed thought Ben-Gurion was the country's first president, and only 34% answered correctly that it was Chaim Weizmann.

Again, only 39% of the pupils knew that November 29 was the day in 1947 that the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution recommending the partition of British Mandated Palestine into two states - one to become an Arab state and the other the Jewish national homeland.

It's pretty depressing when you think about how recent some of this history IS. The modern state of Israel celebrated its 61st year earlier this week.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Movie Fun: "Twilight" + Cheeseburgers

From Serious Eats comes this fantastic parody of the "Twilight" debacle. Instead of being in love with Bella and yet wanting to eat her, vampire-boyfriend Edward is in love with a cheeseburger. It's all actually rather a clever reductionist take on the flick and book -- plus it's downright hilarious.

La Parisienne, this is for you, since laughter is the best medicine!

Apocalypse Alert: We're All Going to Die in 2012

LOOK. What did I just say about being tired of apocalypses?

At least this doomsday is scheduled for 2012, so I can finish a bunch of papers and presentations first. Thanks, apocalypse! 'Ppreciate that.

Note new tag for posts like this one.

Nerd Journal: I Must Have This T-Shirt

I must proclaim my Joss Whedon fandom by means of T-shirt fashion! It's the perfect combination of nerd pride and Whedon worship!

OK, now I feel the sudden overwhelming urge to watch "Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog." You can go Hulu it too.

Remember, it's Whedon's world. We just live in it.

Felony Stupidity: the iPhone Baby Shaking App

I've created the new "felony stupidity" tag to describe acts of brainlessness that can't be described as mere idiocy.

Check out this example. Hey, virtual child abuse. What could possibly go wrong?

Nerd Notes: Pandemic Panic and a Little Historical Perspective

One of the problems of a 24/7 cable news cycle is that the news media keeps hammering at a given topic until all perspective is lost in the endless drumbeat of talking, analyzing, overanalyzing, speculation, and so forth.

Take swine flu. It is a health hazard, but can we please not panic?

Also, people are muddling the language. An outbreak is not the same thing as an epidemic is not the same thing as a pandemic. A rough rule of thumb is that an epidemic is localized while a pandemic is global. E.g., An epidemic of the plague at Messina, Sicily, in October of 1347 turned into a pandemic throughout Europe in the next four or so years.

Anyway, here is a little historical perspective of 5 other (viral or bacterial) disease events in history. In brief:
  1. The plague at Athens in 430 BC (disease not securely identified, though numerous possibilities have been suggested)
  2. The "Antonine plague" at Rome in 165 AD (possibly smallpox or measles)
  3. The "plague of Justinian" at Byzantium in 541-542 AD (bubonic plague)
  4. The Black Death that swept through Europe in 1347-1351 and killed up to one-third of the population (bubonic plague)
  5. The Spanish flu epidemic of 1918 that killed at least 20 million worldwide
The list doesn't include plenty of other deadly disease events, such as smallpox in the New World that all but wiped out native populations, the plague of London in 1665-1666, or the modern AIDS/HIV.

Quote of the Day: Tigerhawk on Freedom of Speech

Quoth Tigerhawk:
"Just remember, the right of freedom of speech is only relevant to people who express opinions that offend the powerful. There is no other need for it."

Monday, April 27, 2009

Film Culture Commentary: Completely Reductionist Movie Plot Summaries

Here's something for your amusement. Plotlines of well-known movies + reductio ad absurdum = hilarity! (Slight language warning.)

My personal favorites include:
  • BATMAN: Wealthy man assaults the mentally ill.
  • BEAUTY AND THE BEAST: Peasant girl develops Stockholm Syndrome.
  • LORD OF THE RINGS: Midget destroys stolen property.
  • SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS: Layabout stepdaughter shacks up with seven miners.
  • SPIDER-MAN: Nerd gets bitten by spider, complains about how this ruins his life for years to come.
  • SUPERMAN RETURNS: Illegal immigrant is deadbeat dad.
  • TWILIGHT: Girl gives up college for stalker.

You may also like 4-word-long movie reviews. Ah, brevity really is the soul of wit.

Mind-Boggling Stupidity in NYC Plane Photo Op

UNBELIEVABLE. WHAT FRESH HELL IS THIS? Words fail even garrulous me. We're all going to need therapy after this kind of cr*p.

I hope you idiots got the photo you wanted. I hope you thought it was worth frightening the good people of NYC and rehashing painful memories of 9/11 just so you can get a photo call for your PR machine.

Doesn't it just speak VOLUMES about the government bigshots who thought that getting a flashy photo was worth causing mass panic and disrupting the life of an entire major city and its surroundings? Haven't New Yorkers been through enough without being rattled for no reason by insensitive jerks in pursuit of MARKETING? But noooooooooo, apparently political marketing and PR games are more important than the everyday lives and welfare of Americans going about their business.

Whoever thought up this boneheaded idea should be fired and drummed out of town.

UPDATE: Tigerhawk says, "Stupid is as stupid does."

Kitchen Notes: Dancing About Food

How do you dance about food? Choreographer Shobana Jeyasingh has some ideas!

Cool Video of the Day: Get Up, Get Dressed, and Get Ready for Work in 5 Minutes!

This is just perfect for a Monday morning! It's right from a Japanese game show.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

One More Reason to Like Sun Yat-sen

He supported Taiwanese independence. He also hoped for democracy in China.

If you are unclear on who Sun Yat-sen is, please educate yourself.

Apocalypse Now: Another Day, Another Freaking Doomsday Scenario

I mean, really. Every time I turn around, there's some new apocalypse looming.

This time it's a geomagnetic apocalypse. You know, when I was your age, we didn't have such new-fangled fresh catastrophes! We had to make do with zombie apocalypses, global cooling disasters, alien invasion scenarios, and the Carter Administration. You young whippersnappers don't know how good you have it, being able to have so many different kinds of exciting new apocalypses to choose from nowadays!

FYI, PEOPLE/SPACE ALIENS/MOTHER NATURE/ANIMALS/VIRUSES-PATHOGENS: I AM ALL BOOKED UP ON APOCALYPSES FOR THE FORESEEABLE FUTURE. PLEASE SCHEDULE ALL NEW CATACLYSMS ACCORDINGLY.

Yes, yes, insert here the obligatory: "WE'REALLGOINGTODIEOMG."

End of tongue-in-cheek "rant."

UPDATE: OH, FOR CRYING OUT LOUD!

Geek News: Lego Rock Band Video Game!

Due out this Christmas, "Lego Rock Band" is going to be a great enabler of my dreadful Wii addiction.

Swine Flu Mania from Mexico

EVERYBODY PANIC! Or not.

Good grief, I look away for five minutes and a public health emergency breaks out over swine flu.

By the way, CDC, way to go on calming people down. Why not just issue a public announcement that has this helpful medical directive:

When in panic or in doubt, run in circles, scream, and shout?

Cool Video of the Day: An Unusual Notebook

This short film by Dutch artist Evelien Lohbeck is simply delightful. (Link via Neatorama.)

Do take a look at this award-winning confection of art, technology, imagination, reality, and fantasy:


Noteboek from Evelien Lohbeck on Vimeo.

Geek Fun and Quirky Euro Files: A Science Show in 12 Train Carriages

This looks like fun! The science train will travel to 60+ cities in Germany. English blurb here. Check out the cool photos of the stylish design of the train cars.

Lomberg on Carbon Emissions

Lomberg. Bjorn Lomberg. Read his latest op-ed!

Blurb: "We must challenge the orthodoxy of Kyoto and create a smarter, more realistic strategy." LOVE IT.

Nerd News: Bizarre Teacher Trend

Three instances makes a pattern!

Observe the latest scary trend -- teachers in the news for all the wrong reasons:
  1. The New York computer science teacher who barricaded himself in his classroom.
  2. The University of Georgia marketing professor who is now a suspect in three murders.
  3. The Bucknell University economics professor who denies he was involved in an Ethiopian uprising.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Friday, April 24, 2009

Life Imitates Satire: Tax the Sick to Pay For Health Care Program

What fresh hell is this? Taxing the sick in order to make health care "affordable"?

Is this news story real or the Onion? I found it on the blog of a cardiologist and medical school professor, via Dr. Helen, herself a forensic psychologist. The story looks legit.

I guess we really are living in a world so insane that it can no longer be satirized!

Nerd News: the True Cause of Increasing College Tuition?

Via the Insta-Prof comes this link at the Freakonomics blog. Blurb:
Over the last two decades, colleges and universities doubled their full-time support staff while enrollment increased only 40 percent, according to a new analysis of government data by the Center for College Affordability and Productivity, a nonprofit research center.

During the same period, the staff of full-time instructors, or equivalent personnel, rose about 50 percent, while the number of managers increased slightly more than 50 percent.

The data, based on United States Department of Education filings from more than 2,782 colleges, come from 1987 to 2007, before the current recession prompted many colleges to freeze their hiring.
Hmmmm. More managers and admin types than teachers or students? *Sigh.* It reminds me of conversations with fellow teaching-nerds that sound like, "Can someone explain to me why we really need 20 vice-presidents in administration? I mean, what do all those people actually DO?" Goodness knows they enjoy better pay than teaching-nerds.

Follow-Up: More Analysis on Aid to Africa

Take a look at this op-ed piece from -- wait for it -- the New York Times (link xie-xie to blogfriend Pursuit of Serenity, who rightly wonders if the era of "white guilt" might be waning in terms of that "guilt" partially driving the African aid machine).

Blurb from the Times piece:
CAPE TOWN — Less than four years ago, on the back of Tony Blair’s Africa Commission recommendations, the Group of 8 summit meeting at Gleneagles agreed to write off Africa’s debt and to double aid by 2010. Aid, trumpeted the British prime minister and his fellow celebrity travelers from Bono to Bob Geldof, was the answer to Africa’s development woes.

But this once politically correct view has suddenly become unfashionable.

A key reason is that aid has proved to be an extremely ineffective way of getting a return — in this case, development — on serious money flows. Some put total aid to Africa over the past 50 years as high as $1 trillion.

. . . If Africa is to use aid productively, the responsible government — and not the donors — have to set the agenda. One way to do this is for African countries to ensure that only those projects will be considered that focus on the creation of hard (physical) and soft (education and health) infrastructure. And the government alone, not the donors, should identify priority projects, all of which need clear, identifiable and tangible outcomes and benchmarks — and not workshops, seminars and studies.

You will remember this recent post/book review on Western aid to Africa.

Kitchen Notes: Los Angeles Times Rhapsodizes About Kimchi

The latest addition to the WTTPWS Files, this new ode to kimchi.

I've enjoyed kimchi ever since I was small. It's great stuff, though if you're not careful, you can burn your taste buds clean off!

PETA: Meat Is Not Green

Meat isn't green -- thus spake that unimpeachable arbiter of moral behavior, PETA.

Really? Meat's not green? I beg to differ!

Friday Fun Video: Henson's Eleven

What happens when "Ocean's Eleven" meets the Muppets? (Via Neatorama.) Take a look!

One Small Leap for Womankind: Girls' Ski Jumping

Well, hey, why not? I think I'll stick to my kind of ski jumping, though!



Thrill of victory or agony of defeat?

Nerd News: Tax Problems at Harvard?

Hmmmm.

Shady dealings and general skulduggery on a university campus? I'm shocked, SHOCKED!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Nerdworld Soundtrack: More Van Halen

I have so much work to do that I don't even know how or where to start. Oh, I know -- how about with some crazy big-hair 80s rock? Yeah!

I give you Van Halen's "Right Now."

Because I have a LOT of work to do. RIGHT NOW. RIGHT HERE AND NOW. Why put it off another day?

The Nexus of Israel, Iran, and the Palestinian Issue

Here is the WaPo article and Power Line's analysis, which sums all up neatly with this:
"Benjamin Netanyahu's government is said to have decided that it will not move ahead on serious peace talks with Palestinians until it sees progress in U.S. efforts to stop Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons. This is statecraft at its best."
What do you think?

Time is running out on the Iran nuclear front. And, frankly, if I were Netanyahu, I would prioritize Iran too.

RELATED POST: "Netanyahu to Obama: 'Stop Iran . . . or I Will.'"

UPDATE 1: Interesting opinion/observation here:
Give Benjamin Netanyahu credit for learning from the experience of others. The new Israeli Prime Minister has watched Barack Obama get pushed around on the international stage for the past 100 days, and figures that he can redefine a relationship, too. Bibi will tell Obama that Israel will move no further on Palestinian peace talks until the US removes the threat from Iran . . .

Previous Israeli governments usually deferred to the US in public, even if they pushed back in private on policy in their back yard. Netanyahu has apparently taken the measure of this President and decided that the traditional deference isn’t necessary, after watching him get humbled by the likes of Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong-Il, Hugo Chavez, Daniel Ortega, and others. If our opponents feel that bold, why not our friends?
Oh, my!

UPDATE 2: The Jerusalem Post says that the Washington Post is all wrong:
Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon on Wednesday denied a report that Israel will not move ahead with diplomatic talks with the Palestinians until the US places more pressure on Iran to stop its nuclear weapons program.

"We will deal with the Palestinian issue as if there is no Iranian issue, and with the Iranian issue as if there is no Palestinian issue," Ayalon said.

China: Government Orders 60+ Million People to Change Their Names

Hmmmmm. What fresh hell is this?

What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet -- unless of course, sweet Juliet, you were being forced to change your name by a gigantic autocratic government that thinks little of the individual.

Basic message: conform or else!

Bonus -- this lovely little snippet:
Moreover, the situation is about to get worse or, in the government’s view, better. Since at least 2003, China has been working on a standardized list of characters for people to use in everyday life, including when naming children.
Micromanage much, Ge-Ge?

Nerd News: Free Speech Disgrace at UNC

Hey, it's more of that oh-so-enlightened "free speech for me, but not for thee!" approach to opinions that differ from your own. This time it's UNC-Chapel Hill, where some thuggish student hooligans disrupted a speech by a former Virginia congressman who had been invited to speak by a legitimate student organization. Way to tarnish the Tar Heel name, folks!

Note to all: THE FIRST AMENDMENT APPLIES TO EVERYBODY, NOT JUST PEOPLE YOU HAPPEN TO LIKE. And why don't you go acquaint yourself with a fellow named Voltaire?

Idiots. Self-righteous idiots. Why is it that it's always the self-righteous moral masters of the Left who think they can get away with silencing all other viewpoints? This sort of stuff seems to happen on college campuses nationwide with depressing regularity. A similar incident had happened at UNC (again!) recently. Here's another take on the trend since the cop-out response to speech you don't like is to call it that magic term "hate speech."

UPDATE: Commentary.

Political Humor of the Day: "Barack Obama: President of America for Make Benefit Change and Hope of World"!

Life imitates "Borat"? Here's an amusing little bit of tongue-in-cheek political observation.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Most Blindingly Obvious Headline Yet on the Economic Crisis

Here it is, people! Drum roll . . .

"Bank bailout may harm taxpayers, be open to fraud."

No, really? (Yes, I'm positively dripping with sarcasm.)

To the headline, I can only say, "Well, DUH!" WHY IS THIS NEWS? ISN'T IT OBVIOUS to anybody with more than two neurons?

Quirky Asia Files: Rickshaw Races in India

No, I'm not making this up!

Geek News: the World's Smallest Humanoid Robot

And the little 'bot is Taiwanese too. Here, check him out!

Nerd Analysis: The Power of Statelessness?

Two recent pieces (one and two) bring up an interesting question worth discussing and debating.

Nerd News: DC School Voucher Rant

Juan Williams is ranting passionately about education -- and therefore saving me from having to do so. And the decline of American high school education continues apace while feckless politicians wheel and deal -- and fritter away our future both in terms economic AND educational.

For the record, I am all for school choice and vouchers, oh yes.

Nerd News: the World Digital Library

The launch of the World Digital Library project has been announced by UNESCO and the US Library of Congress. There's not too much information yet, but this is an interesting idea for making great texts available online.

Taiwan: On Diversity of Languages

Interesting. It's been a matter of some concern for a while now that Mandarin Chinese is swamping everything.

On a historical note, some of my older relatives remember the Japanese colonial era, when Japanese was swamping everything.

Amusing Historical Coincidence: Gaia and Some Guy

Perfect!

You'll recall the previous amusing historical coincidence.

UPDATE: More piquantly amusing Earth Day commentary at the delightful Deceiver.Com.

A Few Post-Tea Party Links: Tea and Sympathy

Despite my promise, I'm too busy to write a full analysis of the Tax Day tea parties that took place exactly 1 week ago, but these other folks have basically done my job for me. Take a look at some nice observations:
A few thoughts from me:

~Mainstream media coverage was abysmal. ABYSMAL. People at MSNBC and CNN embarrassed themselves repeatedly. Exhibit A: the now-infamous CNN employee (I refuse to call her a "reporter" or "journalist") who apparently had no inkling either of what journalism is (the collection and objective analysis of facts) or that the First Amendment existed for people who didn't agree with her. Exhibit B: MSNBC and CNN "journalists" acting like sophomoric adolescents by constantly making jokes about "teabagging," which is a grossly vulgar expression in urban slang. Meanwhile, Fox News was an unabashed cheerleader for the tea parties.

~The MSM's and various leftists' open hostility to the tea parties was itself indicative. Hey, I guess dissent isn't patriotic anymore. Do you remember how Bush-bashers used to say that they were being patriots by opposing the president? I guess now we have "dissent for me, but not for thee." Media bias has become so blazingly obvious that I can hardly believe it. Am I the only person who remembers how devotedly the MSM covered anti-Bush rallies or Cindy Sheehan's camp-out in front of Bush's property in Crawford? It's the same MSM that's now openly sneering at the millions of common Americans who came out and exercised their constitutionally protected right to assembly, speech, and expression.

~Some people have said that the rallies are bogus because "where were these rallies when Bush was busy expanding government spending and deficit?" Well, I wasn't happy about THAT, either! And neither were lots of other people. But I think we've come to critical mass with the rapid presentation of TARP, the various bailouts, the mortgage plan, the stimulus bill, AND the Obama budget. The price tag has been eye-watering and mind-boggling, along with the sheer concept of the new debt and deficit, has pushed the long-frustrated American taxpayer to the breaking point. The grotesque amount of government spending, delivered with dubious spending policy, has now become impossible to hide, ignore, or mitigate with pretty words and slight-of-hand. (Listen to the Cassandras?)

~So, did the tea parties DO anything? I think it's premature to expect an agenda. In fact, it's rather good that there's not, because then the rallies would look too partisan and political. No, the parties were the first expression of unhappiness. Where do we go from here? It's time to turn passion into action. Elections are coming in 2010 -- it's time to vote out as many rancid spend-aholic incumbents as we can. I'm disgusted with the entire lot of career politicians in DC. Many career Republicans are just as guilty as career Democrats. It's time to demand accountability. I kind of like this. I kind of like it a lot! (Summary: a politician who supported the bailouts goes home and faces some very angry constituents. All politics really ARE local!)

~Thalia went to a tea party and said there was too much singing "Kumbaya" and nowhere near enough talking about real solutions. She's got a great point. The tea parties are a great first step. But it's time and past time to talk about common sense solutions. She reported a nice little feature of her tea party, though. The organizers had asked everyone who attended to bring a canned food item as the "price of admission." The goal: collecting donations for the local food shelf to help people hard-hit by the recession. Now I like that. I like that A LOT. It's a snapshot of the "common sense solutions" mentality: individuals freely volunteering to help other individuals -- with no stupid government involved.

~The DC talking heads have been busy fomenting or attempting to foment class envy, class hatred, wealth redistribution, and the "eat the rich" mentality. I don't think it's working. The tea parties were rallies against government overreach and its massive spending. The taxman cometh not only for the demonized "rich," but for all of us.

~Frankly, the entire tea party thing made my wicked little libertarian/conservative heart smile. I absolutely believe that the government that governs least governs best, and I am convinced that Reagan was right when he said that government was the problem, not the solution. Besides, there was something deeply moving -- even inspiring -- about millions of normal Americans in hundreds fof cities taking part in the political life of their country and asserting that they are active citizens, not passive subjects. It is a right of participation that previous Americans had fought and even died to obtain and preserve, and it's a wonderful thing. Oh, sure, there were a few inevitable crazies at the rallies (as there are at any rally of any type), but for the most part the folks behaved themselves. It wasn't a mob mentality (and must never become one).

~Some critics have doubted the sincerity and/or authenticity of the parties. "Oh, they can't be grass-roots. They've GOT to be part of some Vast Right Wing Conspiracy." This betrays a total lack of understanding about how information sharing has undergone a revolution in the last few years. Its called the INTERNET, people. From social networking sites like Facebook to instant communications like Twitter or text messages to (now-stodgy-sounding) email, it's now faster and easier to coordinate information than ever before -- among ever-increasing numbers of people who don't have to know each other personally (see the phenomenon of "flash mobs").

~The tea party rallies were the largest tax protests in recent history and memory. Admittedly I'm not very experienced, but I've never seen anything like it. But is anybody in DC "bubble" paying attention? Maybe they'll refuse to acknowledge grass-roots expressions of unhappiness until the grass-roots show up and hold a tea party on the Capitol steps. Tea, Earl Grey, hot!

~I'm rather tickled at how the tea partiers so often called on the memory of the Founding Fathers, used their words on placards, and even dressed in 18th-century garb. The demand: go back to the founding principles! (Note to self: Maybe get a tricorne hat if I go to a future tea party. Maybe my fellow girlish subversives and I will make a special effort to bring the hotness in honor of Martha Washington. You go, girl. After all, it is possible both to be a patriot and have some awesome shoes. Heck, yeah!)

~There is buzz already for another tea party on July 4. One of the witticisms: TEA = "Taxed Enough Already." Heh. You don't say!

The tea parties were a great start. But it's up to the concerned American citizen taxpayer to do something now beyond the world of tea and sympathy. It's time to take it to the ballot box. (Whom do YOU most want to see voted out of office? I have a whole laundry list of people!)

One last thought: I actually don't like talking about tax policy or government spending or things of that nature. I much prefer posting recipes or silly stories about Hello Kitty on my blog. But I feel that this is no time to be an ostrich. I've never gone to a political protest in my life. But you may very well see me at the next tea party. (Assuming that DHS hasn't hauled me away by then! Pfffft!)

Oh, more here, including this fabulous quote about newspapers from someone at the Boston Tea Party: "If Obama had been the king of England, the Globe wouldn’t have covered the American Revolution." Ha!

UPDATE 1: A bailout supporter wonders, "Maybe those tea party protesters were right about the bailouts."

UPDATE 2: The rallies seem to have struck a nerve.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Public Service Announcement: Today is "Free Cone Day" at Ben and Jerry's

If there is a Ben and Jerry's Scoop Shop near you, today you can get a free ice cream cone !

Today is the ice cream company's annual Free Cone Day!

What flavor to get? They've got so many flavors with funny names. Cherry Garcia? Chubby Hubby? Chunky Monkey? Phish Food? Chocolate Therapy?

Book Review: "Dead Aid" by Dambisa Moyo and Western Aid to Africa

An interesting book review is now available for Dead Aid: Why Aid is Not Working and How There is a Better Way for Africa by Zambia-born economist Dambisa Moyo.

Here is a piece of it:
Moyo’s views will not surprise readers familiar with the issue. When aid is easily available, she asks, why become an entrepreneur? Lobbying in Washington or Paris is more rewarding for an African entrepreneur than investing in his own country. Moreover, as Moyo shows, aid can destroy the continents’ few indigenous companies. The distribution of free anti-mosquito nets by aid programs, for instance, puts local manufacturers of nets out of business. Moyo proposes classic free-market solutions. The U.S. and E.U. should stop subsidizing their farmers, enabling Africa to export more of its primary products. Slum residents should receive legal title to their homes. African nations should foster the institutions of microfinance. All of this would spur real African growth, she believes.
You may remember that the issue appeared on the blog several years ago with a link to this interview with Kenyan economist James Shikwati, who also called for an end to Western aid to Africa.

In some ways, the Western developed world's love affair with aid is -- OK, I'm going to say it, though it's not politically correct! -- a new version of paternalism and the "white man's burden." It also goes with the entire therapeutic drive behind a lot of seemingly bleeding-heart endeavours: the wish to feel good about oneself for being charitable and whatnot. Good intentions are fine and all -- as paving stones to hell. People need results and a better standard of living.

Also, Africans are not pets -- no matter how many African babies some Hollywood celebrities want to adopt (with much fanfare and self-aggrandizing publicity), regardless of whether the local African authorities want them to adopt a native child or not. *cough* Madonna! *cough* (Boy, I'm trying not to launch into a digression about celebrities and their kinda/sorta neo-colonialist adoptions and messianic aid projects.)

Really want to help? Throwing money at the problem of African poverty won't fix it. In fact, it makes the problem worse. Go for trade, not aid -- and capitalism, free trade, and free markets that create wealth. Also along with the growth of free markets, the growth of free people, of self-sufficient individuals.

See an archived post from my defunct first blog.

Also, I apologize right now for often using so general a term as "Africa." But I haven't time or resources to look at each individual country in that continent; note that each one is different and that talking in overgeneralized terms really can't do much specific good.

UPDATE: Related article here! Blurb:
Africa needs aid, but not the kind the West is currently providing. Conventional development aid has turned the continent into a dependent recipient of charity. We should halt the handouts and adopt successful micro-lending models instead, helping Africans to help themselves.
OK, I can't help myself. Confucius say, if you want to feed a man for a day, give him a fish. If you want to feed him for a lifetime, teach him how to fish!

Monday, April 20, 2009

14 Modern Cassandras Criticize Government Economic Policy

OK, some of these 14 Cassandras have more dignitas and credibility than others. Still, it's an interesting collection of critics from both left and right. One common theme -- apparently nobody likes Tim Geithner or his "plan."

I can't resist including a quote from one of the critics:
"Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner's latest bank bailout plan is another Rube Goldberg contraption intended to funnel taxpayer dollars to bankrupt banks, without being overly visible about the process."
A RUBE GOLDBERG DEVICE! Such geek-speak does make me smile.

Nerd Notes: Affirmative Action and the Academic Achievement "Mismatch" Debate

Opening the can of worms in 3... 2... 1... Now!

Kitchen Notes: ""Grad Student Cuisine"?

Interesting idea -- or contradiction in terms? Still, check this out.

Nerd News: Unusual Book Now Popular with Business Students in India

Some business students in India aren't rushing to take management lessons from corporate gurus or even from Macchiavelli. Check out the hot bestselling book.

Oh, yeah. This story more than deserves its "weird with crazy on top" tag. I swear I'm not making this up.

Nerd News: French and Israeli Students Versus Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

French students just took on Iran's Ahmadinejad at the UN's Durban II racism summit (a disgraceful event I won't even dignify with a description). Here's a quote from one of the students:
"We wanted to do something meaningful, and we took advantage of Ahmadinejad's speech. We dressed as clowns because we wanted to show that his speech and the entire conference is a joke. We were very happy that so many people walked out afterwards."
OK, since three instances of anything makes a trend or pattern, I'm now calling a trend of feisty student action in 2009. You can refresh your memory with instance #1 and instance #2. (The silly NYU cafeteria stunt does NOT count.)

Score thus far: Feisty Independent Students 3, World-Class Jerks 0.

UPDATE: Video!

On Freedom: Bruce Lee Versus Jackie Chan

Here is a follow-up to "Chan-Gate." From Foreigner in Formosa come two Asian action movie stars and two views for you to compare and contrast:

"The Moment is freedom. — I couldn't live by a rigid schedule. I try to live freely from moment to moment, letting things happen and adjusting to them."

- Bruce Lee


“I’m not sure if it’s good to have freedom or not. I’m really confused now. If you’re too free, you’re like the way Hong Kong is now. It’s very chaotic. Taiwan is also chaotic. I’m gradually beginning to feel that we Chinese need to be controlled. If we’re not being controlled, we’ll just do what we want.”

- Jackie Chan


I'm with Bruce. Be water, my friend!

UPDATE: Another nice Lee quote here: "
I have come to discover through earnest personal experience and dedicated learning that ultimately the greatest help is self-help; that there is no other help but self-help—doing one’s best, dedicating one’s self wholeheartedly to a given task, which happens to have no end but is an ongoing process."

Nerd News: More Thoughts on Student Loan Debt

Here is an interesting news article.

See too commentary by law professor Glenn Reynolds: "I think they’re the worst debt you can get."

For my related posts, click on the "cost of education" tag.

Satire Alert: Bruce Wayne Hard Hit By Recession

Hilarious! Enjoy:

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Jackie Chan Backlash from Hong Kong and Taiwanese Democrats

First there was the idiotic comment.

Now comes the (well-deserved, IMHO) backlash. News blurb:

HONG KONG (AP) - Action movie star Jackie Chan questioned the need for freedom for Chinese people during a speech Saturday, prompting outrage from lawmakers in Taiwan and Hong Kong, who accused him of insulting his own race.

. . . "He's insulted the Chinese people. Chinese people aren't pets," pro-democracy Hong Kong legislator Leung Kwok-hung told The Associated Press in a phone interview. "Chinese society needs a democratic system to protect human rights and rule of law."

"His comments are racist. People around the world are running their own countries. Why can't Chinese do the same?" another Hong Kong lawmaker, Albert Ho, told the AP.

"He himself has enjoyed freedom and democracy and has reaped the economic benefits of capitalism. But he has yet to grasp the true meaning of freedom and democracy," Taiwanese legislator Huang Wei-che said.

While Chan's comments were reported by the Hong Kong and Taiwanese news outlets, they were ignored by the mainland Chinese press.

Hear, hear!

We also get the somewhat odd spectacle of one Hong Kong native accusing another of being a racist. Raaaaaaaaaacist! (Sorry, I couldn't resist. I've spent too long listening to arguments from identity politics!) By the way, gentle reader Lumpy was first on scene with the race-based angle. He was, I dare say, being a bit tongue-in-cheek with his comment, but the angry HK lawmakers are apparently quite serious about the accusation.

The Inspirational Magic of Susan Boyle

Here is a great article about Susan Boyle, about whom I raved previously.

More than 30 million people have now watched her sing on YouTube. Go and watch it -- or watch it again. It is one of the most moving, magical things I've ever seen.

Quirky Euro Files: How Do You Give Parking Tickets to Identical Twins in Switzerland?

The amusing answer is: you don't!

Movie News: Fresh "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" Trailer

For La Parisienne and all other Potter fans! Also, check out the cool shot of London's Millennium Bridge in the trailer.

Satire Alert: Iowahawk's "Red Scare"

The reliably brilliant Iowahawk has done it again. This time he's concocted the script of a fake 1950s-style educational film -- and using it to poke fun at the DHS nonsense (previously lampooned by your humble blog hostess here).

Now enjoy some Iowahawk!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Satire Alert: Department of Homeland Security Issues "No Read List"

After the kerfuffle over Janet Napolitano and the DHS's new report on "right-wing extremists" and potential terrorists, I could not help myself.

Enjoy my latest satire! (And leave any suggestions for other books in comments below.)

For another humorous potshot at this ridiculous and utterly needlessly offensive and tin-eared DHS "report," you can take Reason's little quiz! You can surely guess what my results were, no?

You know, the entire sphere of politics-speak these days is some upside-down, topsy-turvy, Through-the-Looking-Glass kind of place. Government officials won't call actual terrorists by that term, but apparently it's OK to use that term to describe Americans who hold different political convictions? What? And without any solid, corroborating data or evidence? Sounds rather rant-worthy to me, though I'd rather poke fun at this one. Mercilessly.

By the way, read the Constitution -- while it's still legal to do so, eh? In the words of blogfriend Lumpy, Oh, GO ON!

Nerd Analysis: Taxes May Double in Future

Brace yourself for some panic-inducing reading via the TaxProf Blog. NOOOOOOOOOOOO!

Here's a bit of sharp economic humor as a chaser (satire alert -- though there is a very real point to it). Note the puns in the names of "accountants"! Or, you can jump to the piquantly humorous fake tax form here. It's either laugh or cry at this point, baby.

Idiotic Comment of the Day: Jackie Chan Unsure If China Should Be a Free Society

Hey, obviously you don't have to be American to be an actor who sticks his foot in his mouth. Observe Asian film star Jackie Chan's foot-tastic moment, brought to you courtesy of blogfriend Dignified Rant:

BOAO, China – Action star Jackie Chan said Saturday he's not sure if a free society is a good thing for China and that he's starting to think "we Chinese need to be controlled."

Chan's comments drew applause from a predominantly Chinese audience of business leaders in China's southern island province of Hainan.

The 55-year-old Hong Kong actor was participating in a panel at the annual Boao Forum when he was asked to discuss censorship and restrictions on filmmakers in China. He expanded his comments to include society.

"I'm not sure if it's good to have freedom or not," Chan said. "I'm really confused now. If you're too free, you're like the way Hong Kong is now. It's very chaotic. Taiwan is also chaotic."

Chan added: "I'm gradually beginning to feel that we Chinese need to be controlled. If we're not being controlled, we'll just do what we want."

Ai-ya is all I can think of saying right now! Then again, Jackie's been known to say goofy stuff before, like sneering at the Taiwanese presidential election (between Lien Chan and Chen Shui-bian). Just can't quit lobbing cheap shots at Taiwan, can you?

Thanks for nothing, Jackie, especially in terms of the many Chinese dissidents (and political prisoners) whom you've effectively stabbed in the back. Don't even get me started on Chan's little sneer at Hong Kong and Taiwan, where democracy activists are working hard. Geez Louise, the sheer arrogant, selfish NERVE of this guy, who -- wealthy, famous, free to jet-set and enjoy a kind of luxury that millions of people can't even dream of -- is basically saying "a good life of freedom and privilege for me, but not for you." He's even FROM Hong Kong.

Stick to making movies, Jackie. That's what you're good at. Pfffffft.

Meanwhile, don't you want to know if Hong Kong really is, as Chan says, "too free"? Not from what I've heard. And if you care to have a look, Hong Kong's press freedom has deteriorated since the 1997 handover. You can also look up the news reports of numerous pro-democracy demonstrations in Hong Kong since 1997. (Here's one I linked at random.) Too free? Not by a long shot, pal.

Nerd Trivia: Obama Administration Has More Czars Than the Romanov Dynasty

Here's a fun fact, note by the blogging nerds at the Volokh Conspiracy. Hm, it's time for me to brush up my Russian imperial history...

Oh, and Volokh has a little understated comment: "Government by czar didn't work especially well in Russia." You don't say!

Caveat: nobody panic! We're just playing with the term "czars," not saying that the current administration is sending dissidents to Siberia or whatever. Mmmmkay?

Geek News: World Robotics Championship

10,500 geeks gather in Atlanta, Georgia, for the first World Robotics Championship! The theme? "Lunacy." Perfect!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Quirky Asia Files: Japan's Modern Samurai

Via TokyoMango comes this insane video from Japanese TV. In some ways, it's like a crazy samurai-flavored version of "Stupid Human Tricks," but it's still worth a look. The guy's knife skills are pretty impressive. Enjoy! (Hm, it does make me think of this too, though.)

Bonus: Engrishy subtitles.

Euro Notes: Sarkozy Busy Making Friends and Influencing People

Seriously, Sarko, tell me what you really think!

Kitchen Notes: More Cool Coffee Art

Check out the cappuccino PANDA.

At least it's not a repeat of this monstrosity.

Photo of the Day: If High Taxes and Big Government Aren't Your Cup of Tea...

A little history, a little literature, a little common sense, a little education, a little wit, a little democratic participation. This photo from a Tax Day tea party has it all, and it makes me very happy!

(Guys, you'll have to let me know if you think the photo has the additional benefit of containing a "protest babe" (TM)!)

Super busy today, but I'll try to post soon about the Tax Day tea party rallies. They seem to have brought out the best in the centrist-moderates who participated and the worst in the far left media who "reported" by openly sneering at the numerous Americans nationwide who gathered peacefully in the largest tax protest in recent memory.

Friday Fun Video and Satire Alert: "Treasury Department Issues Emergency Recall of All US Dollars"

The humorists at the Onion are inspired. Enjoy!


Treasury Department Issues Emergency Recall Of All US Dollars

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Nerd Journal: Sci-Fi Fun and Fandom on "CSI"

FYI, the Cine-Sib and I are loving tonight's sci fi-themed episode of "CSI"! It's even called "A Space Oddity."

I haven't had this much fun with a TV episode in a long time (sorry, Sam and Dean -- you're only a rerun tonight anyhow!).

Bonus: the nerdy professor character spouting Nerdish -- and referring to Derrida!

Financial Apocalypse Soundtrack, Song 24: Kathleen Stewart

OK, OK, I'm a day late and a dollar short -- but I only found it right now, OK?

This Tax Day song's just too good to ignore, though. Enjoy Kathleen Stewart's jazzy potshot at Tax Day with "The 1040 Blues." (song available free for listening online at the link)

Lyrics include: "The IRS has made a servant out of me . . . The more I make, the more the bureaucrats take . . . I got the 1040 blues."

Sing it, woman!

Oh, and she has more. Check out her song to the government: "It Ain't Your Money to Spend!"

Public Service Announcement: Paula Deen Is Trying to Kill You

I doubt any further explanation is needed!

OK, OK, I was being sarcastic and funnyish. But, really, can deep-fried breaded blocks of bacon-wrapped macaroni-and-cheese possibly be good for you?

Life Imitates Literature: the 138-Year-Old Slice of Cake

Miss Havisham, call your office!

Reason # 87644872622 Not to Buy Chinese Products -- Asbestos in the Baby Powder

This time it's baby powder contaminated with asbestos. Good grief.

You can add this to the previous baby milk disaster as part of China's consumer war on babies. Or not. I only wish it were satire.

The standing PSA of this blog? Don't buy food or personal care items from China! From poisoned dumplings to poisoned toothpaste, the lesson seems to be: if the thing even comes close to your body, make sure it's not made in China or has components sourced from the same.

Oh, check it out: the news story (sort of) appears on the CCTV website. Notice how the circumstances are -- and are not -- described.

Idiotic Pseudo-Analysis of the Day: Hey, Let's Abandon Taiwan Because China's Emotional

Dignified Rant disassembles this half-baked attempt at an analysis of the Taiwan-China-US nexus.

The "analysis" contains this little gem:
But the real question is whether Taiwan is strategic militarily to the United States. The small island nation is not, and the United States shouldn’t risk escalation with a nuclear-armed China to defend it.
I don't even know where to start hammering at it -- the target is too big! That's not even getting to a later bumblingly ludicrous argument that because China is "emotional" about the Taiwan issue, the US should simply concede it.

A brief blurb from DR:
Ivan Eland thinks we should abandon the defense of Taiwan because it isn't important to us and is important to China. Taiwan is only useful as a base to attack China, Eland says. (So would Eland say we have the right to own Cuba given their position astride our Gulf Coast sea lines of communication?)

This assertion ignores the role Taiwan would play as a springboard for Chinese power projection should China hold the island. So already Eland's analysis is bad.

And he ignores the morality of abandoning free people to China's communist rulers.
I do believe the ignoring of morality in foreign policy is often conveniently called "realism" by its practitioners. Naturally, it leads to some appalling "decisions" and "analyses" that are in themselves heavily, even blindly ideological (here's a pithy reminder -- penned by a thoughtful voice from the reasonable center-left-ish).

Well, what a cheerful chaser to the 30-year anniversary of the Taiwan Relations Act, the recent release of the annual Pentagon report of China's military, and the latest KMT shenanigans.

Is anything so pathetically evil as free people being willing to abandon other free people -- to autocrats -- in the name of being "nice" to those autocrats? There's nothing so craven as kissing up to potentially hostile groups while being treacherous to one's actual friends, allies, and dependents.

UPDATE: Here is a piece arguing for the defense of Taiwan, via blogfriend View from Taiwan.

It Ain't Over 'Til the Fat Lady Sings! Meet Susan Boyle of the UK

I'm probably the last person to see this fabulous video, but it's really good! 47-year-old Englishwoman Susan Boyle is now a global Youtube sensation.

Just listen to her sing on "Britain's Got Talent." It's the perfect antidote to the post-tax emotional hangover. (Well, if you ignore lyrics like "Life has killed the dream I dreamed"!)

Kudos to Susan -- who reminds me, with that gorgeous voice, of my dear friend the Opera Diva.

UPDATE: Read this!

Life Imitates the Movies: Snakes on a Plane!

No, really!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Taiwan: Chiang's Legacy and Historical Revisionism

I've been so busy ranting about taxes that I haven't looked back at Taiwan in a while, but I just did, and I'm not thrilled to see the KMT prancing around.

Indulging in a little historical revisionism mingled with current self-preening, are we, KMT? Taiwan News, though, is calling them on it. Blurb (my emphasis in boldface):
The ruling Chinese Nationalist Party (Kuomintang)'s celebration of the centenary of the late president Chiang Ching-kuo, the autocratic son and successor of KMT dictator Chiang Kai-shek, marks a major step in the restored KMT regime's attempted "historical cleansing" of the Taiwan people's "quiet revolution" of democracy.

The taxpayer financed commemorations for the late KMT leader have included a mountain of "pulp panegyrics" and exhibitions, a music concert, a website (www.cck.org.tw) and an official memorial service topped off by a 11,000 Chinese character essay by President Ma Ying-jeou, who is transparently positioning himself as his mentor's political successor.

In his address posted on Friday, Ma lauded the younger Chiang for launching the so-called "10 Major Construction Projects" in the early 1970s, improving the livelihood of the Taiwan people and creating an economic miracle" and "guiding democratic reform and lifting the freeze in cross-strait relations" with the People's Republic of China which is ruled by the Chinese Communist Party, which expelled Chiang Kai-shek's KMT regime from the China mainland in 1949.

Ironically, Ma's keynote account is more noteworthy for what it omits than for what it includes.

For example, readers will look in vain for any mention of the younger Chiang's role as the mastermind of the KMT martial law regime's security network in the 1950s and 1960s and his role as the hands-on executor of the "White Terror" purge of alleged "communists," Taiwan independence advocates, liberal dissidents and rivals for power that cost the lives of at least 5,000 mainlanders and native Taiwanese, nearly 30,000 imprisoned political prisoners and the destruction of tens of thousands of families.

Learn the history! That way you can recognize whitewashing when you see it.

The editorial does have a firecracker of an ending, though:

But the very fact that Ma and the rest of the KMT leadership are unwilling to confront the true and full history of Chiang Ching-kuo and exposes their fear of the historical memory of the Taiwan people's successful if imperfect democratic revolution in the face of the incompetence of the restored KMT government.

The Taiwan people should never forget that our democracy was not a "gift" but a priceless treasure which the blood, sweat and work of hundreds of thousands of activists and the votes of millions of ordinary citizens "repossessed" from a dictatorial regime.

We should also never forget that we did it once and can do it again.

YES.

More here.

Disgustingly Cute Photo of the Day: the Pizza-Eating Squirrel

Buon appetito, furry little guy! I guess it beats raiding bird feeders.

Amusing Historical Coincidence: It's About an Unsinkable Ship

This coincidence gets me every April 15, really. The Titanic struck its fatal iceberg during the night of April 14, 1912, and sank in the early hours of the 15th. It was a massive disaster. Kind of like the tax code and government budgets. Oops! Did I say that out loud?

On another note, in the name of all that is good and holy, do NOT make references to Leo, Kate, or Celine Dion's dreadfully overplayed song.

Great Moments in Higher Education: Yale Campus Paper Ponders Zombie Apocalypse

Seriously, the term "zombie apocalypse" appeared in this story from the Yale Daily News. The opening sentence: "Is Yale prepared for a zombie attack?"

At least the piece seems to be mostly tongue-in-cheek.

And, yes, this was an excuse to have another frivolous post about zombies -- who, by the way, do have their own category tag on this blog. (I is a serius skolar!)

A thought: maybe I should make a new category -- "Life Imitates Silly Internet Quiz." Remember this?

Kitchen Notes: A Feast for Both Your Eyes and Your Stomach

It's the perfect combination of art, cooking, and photography . Enjoy!

Life Imitates Satire: IRS Workers Worried About Filing Their Own Taxes

Oh, sweet irony, thy name is government!

Plus, as blogfriend Dignified Rant recently told me, it's impossible to satirize government in this age of Hopechange.

Check this out (link via the Insta-Prof): "IRS Workers See Double Standard on Tax Errors." No, this is actually NOT satire. Blurb (my emphasis in boldface):
. . . some Americans are wondering why they should comply with the arcane requirements of the Internal Revenue Service when top administration officials failed to do the same. Even some IRS employees are upset at what they see as a double standard.

The most criticized example has been Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, who admitted not paying $34,000 in payroll and Social Security taxes, saying his failure to pay was an oversight. Five other nominees disclosed similar tax issues, including one as recently as two weeks ago when Kathleen Sebelius, President Barack Obama's pick for secretary of health and human services, admitted she didn't pay $7,040.

"Our members are upset and angry," said Colleen Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, referring to concern bubbling up within the IRS over unusually strict rules that can cost agents their jobs if they make a mistake.

In some cases, IRS employees have lost jobs for simply filing a late return or failing to report a few hundred dollars of interest income.

In an interview Tuesday, Kelley said the Geithner case underlines the need for a change of the rules governing IRS employees.

"My issue is not that I want Geithner or anyone else punished," Kelley said. "I want there to be a re-examination of the law that holds IRS employees to a separate standard: one in which a simple mistake can cost them their jobs with no right of appeal."

Well, OK, but I kinda DO want Geithner and every other politically prominent tax cheat to be punished -- just like the hoi polloi's tax cheats should be punished.

It's Tax Day 2009

Oh, maddening tax code, how from hell's heart I stab at thee!

So much going on today. Feel like a tea party? (By the way, the media coverage has been pretty bad, both in terms of some outlets blatantly dumping on the idea -- most of the MSM, I'm talking to you -- and other outlets blatantly promoting it -- and that's you, Fox News.) Check out one law prof's take on the tea party movement.

Tax Day and the entire tax structure and industry are just begging to be satirized. Maybe we can laugh our way through our W-2s and 1040s with a little help from the indispensable Onion. Satire Alert -- take a look at its fake (and slightly Kafka-flavored) news story, "2008 Tax Records Reveal Sasha Obama Made $136 in Allowance Money."

Is the entire idea of high (and practically confiscatory) taxes (plus a ballooning and increasingly interventionist government) a type of collectivism? Not to mention statism. Blurb (though the whole thing's worth a look):
Collectivism holds that the individual has no rights. Your life, your existence, your interests and the product of your labor now belongs to the group. If the group needs a bailout, health care, green cars, low mortgage rates, a job, an education—anything at all, it now becomes your responsibility to provide it, whether you want to or not.

You see it in both the redistributive legislation, which takes money from people who’ve earned it and give it to those who have not, along with the language itself. Phrases like “we’re all in it together”, “I am my brother’s keeper” and “shared sacrifice” boil down to the same frightening reality: You are here to serve. And unlike the charity of volunteerism, the “will of the people” is implemented by force, not by voluntary trade.

This is a profoundly anti-American ideal. From the original Boston Tea party came the Declaration of Independence, which articulates the morality of individual rights. In this country, you are born free with the absolute moral right to make of your life what you will.

“Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” refers to your life, your liberty and your happiness. America was a truly revolutionary country because, for the first time in history, every man was born not with a duty to serve the king, the senate or society, but with a moral right to live his own life and pursue his own happiness. The Tea Parties are protests against government power and in support of a society in which man has the right to live selfishly for his own sake, not sacrifice himself for the “common good.”

But for collectivists, sacrifice is seen as absolute. You’re expected to sacrifice for your neighbor, your government, your country. For AIG and Citigroup, deadbeat homeowners or auto workers, whatever or whomever the geniuses in Washington decide has more rights than the rest of us. The individual has a value only as a means to the end for society. His life, his dreams, his income, are Uncle Sam’s to marshal and allocate.
Yuck! (Sounds like it's time to "go Galt"?)

On other fronts, I have some tax-errific video for you too:




Oh, and people? Getting the hapless, tin-eared Joe "Gaffemeister" Biden to cheerlead for higher taxes is a really, really dumb idea.


Here's something a bit more comedic:

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Amusing Video of the Day: Ordering with a Song at Taco Bell

Or Taco Hell, as the Sibling calls it. Check out this musical stunt (link via Serious Eats). What's really amazing is the Taco Bell employee.




Satire Alert: Due to Popular Demand, IRS Introduces Taxpayer Earmarks

La Parisienne, this is for you!

As a follow-up to the newest iteration of my annual tax rant, I give you a fresh new satire. Enjoy.

By the way, I finished my taxes, filed online, and discovered that I'm supposed to get a little rebate. But don't expect me to feel grateful that I'm getting it -- because it was my own freaking money to begin with.

The Taiwan Relations Act is 30 Years Old

See Taichung-based blogger Michael Turton's two posts on this, here and here.

Here is the text of the TRA.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Easter!

"Resurrection of Christ and Women at the Tomb"
by Fra Angelico, c. 1440-41
currently at the Convento di San Marco, Florence, Italy

In other news, MM in the Kitchen later today will be making a splendidly simple and springtime-ly festival of gluttony with roast lamb (with garlic, olive oil, and rosemary), asparagus (lightly steamed with a shimmer of butter), and new potatoes. Plus a nice crisp salad and some artisan bread.

Only negative note in the day: the weather's still chilly! I mean, COLD in that East Coast way, even if the sun is out in a blue sky. It's hard to feel all springtime-ly when you're still wearing coats and jackets over pretty outfits. Then again, everyone at church was doing the same thing, so...

UPDATE: Nice posts at the Anchoress and also Wheat and Weeds. Plus link to great music.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Friday, April 10, 2009

Rep. Paul Ryan on Obamanomics

Here's a little video worth watching. Rep. Paul Ryan makes some sensible points -- and, frankly, he's easy on the eyes to boot.



Anyway, I can't help wondering whether conservative/libertarian/free market guys tend to be more attractive than their statist/leftist counterparts. Or maybe I've just had the pleasant luck to run into video lectures/interviews with attractive fellow thought-criminals -- like this fellow. Certainly it seems a given that these guys have a much better sense of humor and grip on reality than their shrill, hostile opposite numbers.

Yeah, it's Friday afternoon and I'm starting to lose my focus. Oh, so sue me. It's time to log off, meet some friends, and have some fun!