Mystic Crystal Revelation

… and the mind's true liberation:

  • Jeffrey Miron links to an NPR story describing the definitional acrobatics of states that have decided to stop exempting candy from sales tax. But what's "candy"? Well, …
    So put into practice, that means Reese's Peanut Butter Cups are taxable. Mike and Ike candies are taxable. Kit Kat is exempt.

    That's because Kit Kats have flour in them, explains Patrick Gillespie of Washington state's Department of Revenue. And flour is the not-so-secret ingredient that determines whether something is candy or not — at least if you're the taxman. If it has flour, it's not candy.

    A group of states working together to simplify and sync up their tax codes came up with the flour test. It took them two years. They insist that the flour lobby had no influence in the matter.

    Which reminds me of this old Bill Cosby routine, where he's forced into making breakfast for his children, and winds up serving them leftover chocolate cake. Key quote:

    And someone in my brain looked under "chocolate cake". And saw the ingredients: Eggs! Eggs are in chocolate cake! And milk! Oh goody! And wheat! That's nutrition!
    The bit is on YouTube, and if you have a spare nine minutes and twenty-five seconds:

  • At the Volokh Conspiracy, John Elwood uncovers the old WW2 OSS "Simple Sabotage Field Manual" used by folks looking to disrupt the Nazi war machine. One of the eye-opening sections describes how to monkey-wrench your local organization:
    1. Insist on doing everything through "channels." Never permit short-cuts to be taken in order to expedite decisions.

    2. Make "speeches." Talk as frequently as possible and at great length. Illustrate your "points" by long anecdotes and accounts of personal experiences. Never hesitate to make a few appropriate "patriotic" comments.

    3. When possible, refer all matters to committees, for "further study and consideration." Attempt to make the committees as large as possible—never less than five.

    4. Bring up irrelevant issues as frequently as possible.

    5. Haggle over precise wordings of communications, minutes, resolutions.

    6. Refer back to matters decided upon at the last meeting and attempt to re-open the question of the advisability of that decision.

    7. Advocate "caution." Be "reasonable" and urge your fellow-conferees to be "reasonable" and avoid haste which might result in embarrassments or difficulties later on.

    8. Be worried about the propriety of any decision—raise the question of whether such action as is contemplated lies within the jurisdiction of the group or whether it might conflict with the policy of some higher echelon.

    I thought this must be a modern-day hoax, but apparently not.

  • "I'll take 'Game Show Champs' Daughters' for $1000, Alex."

    "Answer: Ken Jennings' daughter misheard this famous song lyric as 'This is the doggie in the angel's aquarium'."

    [Hints for your correct response: (a) the title of this post; and (b) here. Please be sure it is in the form of a question.]

Last Modified 2012-10-03 11:34 AM EST

Kansas City Confidential

stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

Back to the 1950s for a sorta-film noir.

A mysterious criminal mastermind (Preston Foster) accumulates a gang to knock over a prosperous Kansas City bank. His gimmick: his identity is hidden behind a mask. And he demands that the three guys he recruits mask themselves during the caper. So only "Mr. Big" knows who the participants are, and the flunkies are kept totally in the dark.

The heist goes flawlessly, but an innocent ex-con driving a flower truck (John Payne) is roped in by the crack K. C. cops. He's almost immediately exonerated, but is irked enough to do some of his own detective work in hunting the true culprits. Pretty soon he and the gang are down in Mexico: they're planning on splitting the loot, and he plans to … well, you'll have to watch the movie.

A nice twisty plot, and Mr. Big's true plan isn't revealed until the end. There's a girl (Coleen Gray) who shows up to make sure the hero goes straight. You'll almost certainly recognize the bad guys: Lee Van Cleef, Neville Brand, and the great toad-faced Jack Elam.

Consumer note: For a movie titled Kansas City Confidential, surprisingly little of the movie is actually set in Kansas City.

Last Modified 2012-10-03 11:34 AM EST