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“Taxes will keep Democracy on the march!” [video]

A great video from 1943, when we were much better at making the argument that paying your taxes—particularly during a time of war—is patriotic. The end of the video is quite good.

(E-mail subscribers will need to click through for the video)

I also love this video for its sweeping statements about freedom and democracy. We need more of that.

KFC’s “Buckets for the Cure” ad [video]

KFC has released their first Buckets for the Cure ad. I tend to think they should have played up the “Why Race for the Cure when you can Eat for Cure?” angle, but oh well. The ad is still pretty good—and a bucket of KFC Original Recipe chicken is as delicious as ever.

In praise of the IRS

Internal Revenue ServiceNow is the time of year that everyone loves to complain about taxes and the Internal Revenue Service. I just finished doing my taxes for the first time (previously I’ve had an account handle it), and I must say it was a fairly pleasant experience.

In addition to my Federal taxes, I had to file returns in two states. I also had to report a fair amount of independent contractor and sole proprietor income as well as some expenses. So the process was a bit more complicated than the typical 1040-EZ.

To handle the task I used Turbo Tax, which was fairly effective. I only encountered problems when it found a few errors but offered no insight as to how to decipher the tax jargon in question. So it is unclear if those problems got fixed. But all in all, it was solid software. The user interface was great and they give you on the spot feedback as to how new information impacts your tax return. I was happy to give them some money for the service.

But the real pleasure in the whole tax process came when I had to call the IRS. Apparently there is some pin number you’re supposed to save every year if you want to file your taxes electronically. Well, being an American, there is no way I am ever going to save a scrap of paper for a year (this isn’t the Soviet Union, we don’t carry around our “papers”). The only most Americans keep track of their drivers licences is because bars often ask for them. So the long and short of this story is that I found my self calling the IRS for help.

There was no wait time, no annoying music. They didn’t play ads for themselves like Comcast does. The fellow I spoke to was quick, efficient and helpful. He solved my problem in under two minutes. Calling the the IRS on April 14th was the best telephone customer service experience I have ever had.*

For two hours of paperwork and a five minute phone call, I’ll be getting about $400 back. Because of withholding, taxes don’t only seem fair, they seem like a genuine windfall! Thanks Milton Freedman.

*The second best was when I had to call the Economist about a subscription issue. But that was only delightful because of how shockingly unprofessional their customer support was and because the fellow I spoke with referred to his colleagues at the Economist as “Comrade.”

Credit Cards making gains in Britian

They may have minimum-purchase requirements and credit-card surcharges, but the use of credit and debit cards is still spreading in the United Kingdom. It seems that even the most punitive, anti-consumer measures cant stop the spread of something as convenient as paying with plastic. According to an article from the Guardian, cash and coins will be used in less than half of all transactions in the UK withing five years. It is certainly progress. Now all they need to do is get rid of those Pound coins and make all their banknotes the same size.

[via Chart Porn]

Fighting Breast Cancer with Fried Chicken

It has been a little KFC heavy here for the last week, but that is only because the Colonel has been innovating and marketing like a mad man.

First it was the announcement that the Double Down Sandwich is real, and as of today is available at a KFC near you. Then they released an awesome Double Down Sandwich ad. And now comes news that KFC is teaming up with the Susan G. Koman foundation to fight breast cancer by, you guessed it, selling buckets of fried chicken.

Starting today, KFC will be selling special pink buckets of its signature fried chicken as part of its new “Buckets for the Cure” campaign. The Colonel will be donated 50 cents to breast cancer research for every bucket purchased. The stated goal is to “make the single largest donation to fight breast cancer ever.”

I have two thoughts on this:

1: Only in America could we transform something as gluttonous as ordering fried chicken by the BUCKET into an act of charity. Well done Madison Ave!

2: Now that eating for the cure is an option, I’m pretty sure no one is going to be Racing for the Cure anymore.

KFC Double Down Sandwich ad [video]

We only have to wait one more day until the Double Down Sandwich is launched. Here is the latest ad to get you excited.

European airline brings pay toilets to the skies

ryanairYou’d think that making distressed tourists pay to use  the bathrooms of museums and public parks would be enough for European businesses. But that is apparently not the case, as Irish discount carrier Ryanair now plans to bring pay-toilets to the skies.

The Curious Capitalist has the details:

…Ryanair, the king of cheapo European carriers, was already working on exactly that. The carrier actually plans to install pay toilets on its short-haul flights. Apparently Ryanair believes that you should be able to hold it in for hour, and if you can’t—better have a €1 coin handy.

For those of you not familiar with Ryanair, it is a feisty competitor that has torn the once highly-regulated intra-European air travel market to shreds by offering flights for ridiculously low prices. The tradeoff is that Ryanair ceo Michael O’Leary feels free to offer passengers as much abuse as he deems necessary to make a profit. Needless to say he does not give a, um, whit about passenger comfort if he gets you where you’re going for next to nothing.

That gets us to pay toilets. Since Ryanair is mostly short-haul, O’Leary figures all but the most urgent natural functions can be discouraged, which conceivably allows Ryanair to yank out a toilet or two and install seats that generate revenue. Whatever toilet seats do remain will generate revenue, too.

A typically-European way to make a buck. What if someone doesn’t have a Euro to spend on the bathroom? Is he going to get in trouble for going in his seat? This policy could result in some rather nasty mid-air disagreements between flight staff and customers who just have to go.

Thanks to the work of the Committee To End Pay Toilets in America, many American municipalities ban pay-toilets. Hopefully these bans will apply to U.S. airlines as well.

Jesus wants you to fill out your Census form [ads]

I’m not sure if this Census poster printed by the National Association of Latino Elected Officials is completely amazing or totally misses the mark. Needless to say, some Christian leaders–particularly those encouraging Latinos to boycott the Census–are not happy about it.

What do you think? Is this poster more or less amazing than putting Census ads in fortune cookies?

How far we’ve come [video]

I’m no fan of what Matt Yglesias calls the “stick it to hippies” school of libertarianism—or for that matter, pretty much anything that the Competitive Enterprise Institute promotes. But I do appreciate a good political ad, particularly one that trumpets progress.  And this ad that CEI made attacking Earth Hour is very well done. (I know, I know, I’m a week or so late to this).

The one thing I would add is a picture of free refills at the end. After all, if the never-ending refreshment that is free refills technology is not the pinnacle of human achievement, I don’t know what is.

[Previous Earth Hour coverage]

Army orders Burger King, TGI Fridays, Dairy Queen out of Afghanistan [setbacks]

As anyone who has traveled overseas knows, there is nothing like some good old fast food to bring back the warm glow of America to homesick travelers. But our men and women fighting in Afghanistan won’t be able to enjoy that reminder of home much longer because of a new military policy.

Reuters has the story:

Fast food joints where soldiers wolf down burgers and pizza will soon be a thing of the past at bases in Afghanistan, as the U.S. military reminds soldiers they are at war and not in “an amusement park.”

In the sprawling military base at Kandahar, the fast food outlets facing the axe include Burger King, Pizza Hut, and the U.S. chain restaurant T.G.I. Friday’s that features a bar with alcohol-free margaritas and other drinks — all set along the bustling “Boardwalk” area of the base.

On any given day, the giant square-shaped walkway features the surreal sight of soldiers sipping gourmet coffee and eating chocolate pastries with guns slung across their shoulders, while Canadians play ice hockey at a nearby rink and fighter jets thunder overhead.

The U.S. military says its beef with the burger joints is that they take up valuable resources like water, power, flight and convoy space and that cutting back on non-essentials is key to running an efficient military operation.

“This is a war zone — not an amusement park,” Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Hall wrote in a blog earlier this year.

It may be a war zone, but if we are giving up are Whoppers, haven’t the terrorists already won?

[via Consumerist]

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