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Adam Ruins Taxes

And another lobby makes life harder and more expensive than necessary. I like the idea of Return-Free Filing.

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McDonald’s Hot Coffee Suit

For the whole truth on the legendary lawsuit against McDonald’s watch the video above. As with all the Adam Ruins Everything videos’ Adam Conover will see that the scales fall from your eyes and the truth comes to light.

I’m not kidding, you should see this and spread the truth.

Buy your Glasses in China!

How is this legal? We should get this monopoly broken up.

I have contacted my senators.

The Kill

emile-zola-the-kill

Émile Zola continues his stories of the Rougon-Marquart clan with The Kill (La Curée), which tells the story of Aristide Rougon, who is introduced to readers in The Fortune of the Rougon-Marquart’s as a slothful (accent on full) son of the matriarch of this clan. Aristide changes his name to Saccard when the gets to Paris. He hits his well connected brother to get a cushy government job with loads of status. He’s disappointed at first with apparently low level job till he realizes that he will get all sorts of information on city plans that enable him to make real estate deals, quite questionably ethically ones, that will get him a fortune. Saccard is slimy for sure, but the house of cards he sets up is compelling. As a reader, I was just wondering when this all would fall.

Along with Saccard, his second wife Renée is equally questionable ethically. She’s materialistic, superficial, self absorbed and incapable of loyalty. The marriage was arranged to get Renée out of trouble. Her early life was pitiful, but by the time of the story she’s in control and for much of the story rather powerful and independent. Her undoing is her relationship with Saccard’s son.

The writing is beautiful and this portrait of a corrupt society feels real and moves quickly. It was fascinating to learn about the corrupt real estate market of 19th century France. Wall Street didn’t invent financial malfeasance..

 

 

 

A Touch of Sin

a-touch-of-sin

A Touch of Sin , directed by Jian Zhangke, blew me away.

I think I was expecting a movie about love affairs or something with a touch, i.e. a little corruption.

The film could be called A Massive Dose of Sin as it dramatizes four true events in modern China. True events, my mind still swirls.

The film features four stories that overlap a tad. First we see a villager who’s fed up with the corrupt village chief who promised that proceeds from the sale of a mine would be shared with the villagers. While the chief travels by private jet and owns a luxury sedan, the villagers have netted zero. When trying to speak to the chief gets him no where, the villager turns to violence — in a big way.

A Touch of Sin - Stills - Lian Rong (Li Meng) 02 Copyright Xstream Pictures (Beijing)

Later we meet a professional thief who returns to his village for his mother’s 70th birthday, a mistress who gives her lover an ultimatum and a factory worker who heads to a bigger city, with brighter lights and more action. None of these characters fare well. They get caught in the wheels of the greed of modern China. There’s plenty of violence and blood in each story, which I still am stunned that they’re all true. The cinematography is outstanding and the dialog spare. Jia shows us these tales and leaves us with little commentary or preaching on what to think about the brutality. The scenes all feel so real, so real that it’s scary.

A Touch of Sin won for best screenplay at Cannes in 2013.

I’m glad I saw it, but watching a second time would be too much for me.

Word of the Week

peculation, n. ‘ The appropriation of money or property held in trust for another by a servant, employee, or official; esp. the embezzlement of public funds belonging to a ruler, state, or government. Also: an instance of this.’
Pronunciation: Brit. /ˌpɛkjᵿˈleɪʃn/, U.S. /ˌpɛkjəˈleɪʃ(ə)n/
Etymology: < post-classical Latin peculatio embezzlement of public money or property (5th cent.) < classical Latin pecūlārī peculate v. + -ātio -ation suffix. Compare earlier peculate n., and later peculate v.
Somewhat formal in later use. The appropriation of money or property held in trust for another by a servant, employee, or official; esp. the embezzlement of public funds belonging to a ruler, state, or government. Also: an instance of this.1658 E. Phillips New World Eng. Words, Peculation, a robbing of the Prince or Common-wealth.
1732 Gentleman’s Mag. Dec. 1094/2 Do they punish Bribery and Peculation in their own Creatures and Friends?
1779 J. Watt Let. 3 Mar. in Partners in Sci. (1970) 56 The person in Office there has either been guilty of peculation or of gross neglect of duty.
1844 U.S. Mag. & Democratic Rev. Mar. 238 [He] had just forwarded to the Committee written proof of peculations committed by Fouché de Nantes.
1874 J. R. Green Short Hist. Eng. People ix. §9. 700 Marlborough was dismissed from his command, charged with peculation, and condemned.
1950 New Yorker 30 Sept. 32/2 Mrs. Elkin’s voice dropped to the low, gemütlich whisper reserved for obstetrics, cancer, and the peculations of servant girls.
1994 Daily Tel. 28 Nov. 22/1 It would no longer tolerate a form of politics that favoured politicians above people and peculation above principles.

Mooncakes

Today is Mid-Autumn Festival in China and the common gift is mooncakes. Above you see the ones my school gave me. Throughout the neighborhood there are vendors selling these cakes, which I’ve learned can be used as a secondary currency creating problems of corruption.

I don’t like the one’s with bean paste, but the nut-filled ones are okay. The trick for me is to eat about a quarter of a cake a day. They’re pretty heavy and the sweetness can get excessive.

Sweet Victory

Next time maybe he will use the meter

Today I learned that my complaint against the black taxis, who refused to give my friends and I a ride using their meters, has resulted in some success. A Chinese friend helped me file official complaints a few weeks ago. I’ve just learned that one of the drivers was fired on May 3rd and another was fined.

So although as a foreigner who often feels that the system is beyond her and that some people are just bad, there’s no reason to despair. Sometimes justice is served. Perhaps in a small way I’ve helped taxi users in Beijing.

I urge anyone who’s having such problems to take a photo of the offending cab’s license plate and driver. Then report the matter to the police as Ling did or to the cab company.

The Bo Xilai Story

US Secretary Gutierrez meets with Chinese Mini...

US Secretary Gutierrez meets with Chinese Minister Bo Xilai cropped from File:US_Secretary_Gutierrez_meets_with_Chinese_Minister_Bo_Xilai.jpg (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve been following the Bo Xilai story as best I can, which is hard to do in China. At first the details were murky and I couldn’t figure out exactly what is alleged to have happen, but finally The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, The New Yorker, The Guardian and others have clearer reports of what’s believed to have gone on.

What’s interesting is how little coverage the story gets here.  A month ago CCTV reported that tangentially that several websites had been closed down for “spreading rumors” and that the

I’d just pieced together parts of the story, but now it’s clear that Bo’s wife, Gu Kailai, is implicated in the murder of a British man, Neil Heywood, who was to help her send lots of money overseas. That Bo has tapped the phones used by high ranking CP officials and that although his job was to stop corruption, he was highly corrupt and also imprisoned people who crossed him. An NPR report a month ago mentioned that family members of missing people in his district were afraid to speak out about their missing relatives.

If this happened in the US, people would be talking about it. A lot.

That’s a big difference in living in China. I wouldn’t ask anyone about it as I think I’d be rude or worse. If a student brought this up, I’d be surprised and I’d probably change the subject, though I’ve been quite open about the scallywags in Illinois politics.  I also don’t perceive the kind of energy that surfaces in the midst of a scandal. There’s no uptick in gossip that I can detect. Yet as I don’t speak Chinese I wouldn’t know, though I would pick up on the change of energy.

Well, it seems that the CCTV segment that showed that all is well in Mr. Bo’s Chongqing was might be on the money. There was an insipid segment on the news in which a reporter went to a GAP-like store in Chongqing and interviewed the assistant manager and a shopper or two. All said everything was hunky dory. Well, sure. When Blogojevich was on trial it’s not like, people stopped needing new jeans. Yet as I watched the report of how calm it was, made me suspicious. Why would someone report about a calm day?

Published

Although I became resigned to the fact that the Korean police weren’t going to exert themselves in investigating my cyber crime, one friend of mine kept trying to find ways to move forward. I knew it was a futile effort, but I also know that this friend is more or less stuck in Korea till he retires in 10 years and that he was getting some satisfaction from the project. Every now and then he’d ask me to provide information as he tried to get lawyer friends to intervene.

While it was a lost cause, sometimes I think people can’t be talked out of things and that circumstances are the best teacher. I often liken this to learning to walk. The best coach is gravity. You can’t tell a child “If you try to go to fast . . .” or “If you put your foot down like that, you’ll probably fall.” They need the experience not words to teach them. So finally, my friend has concluded that nothing can be done. He needed several lawyers to convince him. When I started to try, he thought I was a quitter. It was best to let it work out this way.

Well, I did see that that experience should not be for naught. Ne’er do wells got away with something and they’ll try again. Yet vengeance is is foolish. One big problem that was as bad as the crime itself was that the police didn’t follow through and acted in a strange fashion. They went to the crime scene and collected evidence. They did some interviews and never looked at what they collected. Also, they refused to contact the internet services like Yahoo! and Google to obtain evidence. They gave me a song and dance about not being able to obtain the evidence, but both companies told me what was needed and I found out that Korea and the U.S. have a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty so investigation beyond the evidence they sat on was possible. As time wore on it was easier to see that any foreigner and many Koreans would have been ignored.

The only thing I could do, though perhaps not all that effective would be to write to the newspaper. They did publish my editorial which objectively calls for better services for crime victims. I realize few will read it, but I have the satisfaction of having done all I could. Here’s the editorial. Not my best work, but okay.

Also, if there’s any crime victims who need the text of this treaty along with the form and directions on how the police should fill it out and submit it, contact me.

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