The intent is to demonstrate Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's utter cluelessness by getting him to state that paying taxes in the United States is a voluntary act and not a coerced transaction by which unwilling Americans are forced to transfer their hard-earned dollars to undeserving welfare recipients. In the video, a hapless Reid makes the mistake of giving a technical answer to a gotcha question.
(Note: For any Palinistas reading, the interviewer in this video asks gotcha questions, which -- no matter how much you think to the contrary -- differ from a straightforward inquiry about which magazines Reid reads. Also, I'm not defending Reid's ineffectual response: He ought to be able to handle the questions. I do wonder why he consented to an interview with this doofus in the first place.)
The plain fact is, though, that in this country we choose to tax ourselves. If enough people decided that we should no longer tax ourselves, they would elect candidates who would eliminate taxation (along with public safety, national defense, public education, roads, basic scientific research, what little public health system we have, and so forth). I'm not unsympathetic to the dilemma of tax dollars going to undeserving recipients. If someone could figure out a way for me to earmark my taxes so that none go to the Iraq war, no-bid Halliburton contracts, and a bloated military, I'd listen with open ears.
In the absence of that, though, I and everyone else are stuck with an imperfect social contract under which we all agree to pay taxes distributed -- for better or worse -- by our elected representatives. This is called "taxation with representation," and we fought a war to establish that particular practice as a right of the people. If I don't like what's happening, I vote to change it. I'm also free to contribute time and money to that end. The field of play is hardly even, but it's the one we've got.
My message to right-wingers like the interviewer above is this: You had eight years in power and you screwed up. Completely. Both ideology and competence of your standard bearers are discredited. And the best you can do now is to ask Harry Reid a couple of cheap shot questions?...
New Orleans' recovery requires "unconventional thinking":
New Orleans offers an unprecedented opportunity to find more effective ways to make urban coastal areas safer around the world, Törnqvist and Meffert say.
“A concerted effort to restore and transform a coastal urban center whose functioning is inextricably tied to its surrounding natural ecosystem can only lead to new knowledge and understanding that will prove critical once comparable conditions confront Shanghai, Tokyo and New York City,” the authors write.
Say what you will about the publicity surrounding celebrities and charity (and I don't say much), Brad Pitt's Make It Right New Orleans project meets with the authors' approval...
Over at Mouse Medicine, a grandfather writes to his grandchildren about his trip from Connecticut to attend the inauguration of President Obama:
I won’t describe the swearing-in ceremony since I’m sure you saw it for yourself. What I will tell you is that the emotions of all the people around us were on display. Families hugged, children sat on shoulders and tears of happiness were shed, including more than a few from Papa. We hung on every word and didn’t leave when it was over. No one wanted to leave. Everyone wanted to feel the way they felt at that moment forever. If only we could.
R. I. P., John Updyke. If you've never read his classic New Yorker essay "Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu," treat yourself now. You don't have to be a fan of baseball, the Red Sox, or Ted Williams to appreciate writing this good:
Fenway Park, in Boston, is a lyric little bandbox of a ballpark. Everything is painted green and seems in curiously sharp focus, like the inside of an old-fashioned peeping-type Easter egg. It was built in 1912 and rebuilt in 1934, and offers, as do most Boston artifacts, a compromise between Man's Euclidian determinations and Nature's beguiling irregularities...
Longtime Boston Globe sportswriter Bob Ryan remembers how the famous essay came about and contributes his own assessment of it...
Dirty Linen polls its readers as to what Cajun/Zydeco album should get the Grammy. Citizen K. is fer sure down with Cedric Watson. Watch Cedric paint the Blue Moon red: