Dodging Taxes? Must Be A Filthy Rich Plutocrat

The Article: Ten filthy rich, tax-dodging hypocrites by Sarah Anderson and Scott Klinger in Salon.

The Text: Brace yourself for one of the most aggressive corporate lobbying campaigns of all time. And one of the most hypocritical.

“Fix the Debt ” is a coalition of more than 80 CEOs who claim they know best how to deal with our nation’s fiscal challenges. The group boasts a $60 million budget just for the initial phase of a massive media and lobbying campaign.

The irony is that CEOs in the coalition’s leadership have been major contributors to the national debt they now claim to know how to fix. These are guys who’ve mastered every tax-dodging trick in the book. And now that they’ve boosted their corporate profits by draining the public treasury, how do they propose we put our fiscal house back in order? By squeezing programs for the poor and elderly, including Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

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A New Global Depression?

The Article: A New Global Depression? by Richard Duncan in The New Left Review.

The Text: You were one of the very few analysts to predict the full enormity of the financial crisis, writing as early as 2003 of a coming credit crunch that would have ramifications throughout the asset-backed securities sector, necessitating giant bail-outs for Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and financial-insurance companies, and a possible meltdown in the multi-trillion-dollar derivatives market. This prescience was in stark contrast to the complacency of most mainstream economists. Could you describe how you came to write The Dollar Crisis—what was the course of your intellectual development and what did you learn from your experience as a Far East securities analyst?

I grew up in Kentucky and went to Vanderbilt University. My plan was to go to law school, but I didn’t get in. Plan B was to go to France for a year, picking grapes. I got a job as a chauffeur in Paris, driving rich Americans, and made enough money to backpack around the world for a year, in 1983 and 84. So I was lucky enough to see the world when I was very young. I spent a couple of months in Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore—and even a couple of months there was long enough to realize: go east, young man.

Go east, because?

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Fuel Will Fan The Next Revolutionary Flames

The Article: Why Global Fuel Prices Will Spark The Next Revolutions by Vivienne Walt in Time World.

The Text: While the demonstrators that have mobbed the streets of Amman for two weeks now are demanding the overthrown of King Abdullah — a criminal offense in Jordan — it’s not the demand for democracy that sparked their protests. Instead, thousands of Jordanians have been spurred to act by a more basic issue: the rising price of gas after the government withdrew its subsidies.

Jordanians are hardly alone in their anger. Governments across the world are attempting to wean their citizens off subsidized fossil fuels —a critical issue which environmentalists say is a big contributor to the output of carbon gases that contribute to global warming, and which have even more immediately burdened public finances the world over by an estimated total of $523 billion last year — a 30% increase over the previous year. “In a lot of emerging and developing countries you see fuel subsidies, where the government is picking up the tab,” says Helen Mountford, deputy director of the environmental directorate for the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development, or OECD, in Paris, which represents the world’s biggest economies. “In many cases it has been put in place to help support the poor.”

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Understanding Capote’s Swan Dive

The Article: Capote’s Swan Dive by Sam Kashner in Vanity Fair.

The Text: Have you seen Esquire?! Call me as soon as you’re finished,” New York society doyenne Babe Paley asked her friend Slim Keith over the telephone when the November 1975 issue hit the stands. Keith, then living at the Pierre hotel, sent the maid downstairs for a copy. “I read it, and I was absolutely horrified,” she later confided to the writer George Plimpton. “The story about the sheets, the story about Ann Woodward . . . There was no question in anybody’s mind who it was.”

The story they were reading in Esquire was “La Côte Basque 1965,” but it wasn’t so much a story as an atomic bomb that Truman Capote built all by himself in his U.N. Plaza apartment and at his beach house in Sagaponack, Long Island. It was the first installment of Answered Prayers, the novel that Truman believed would be his masterpiece.

He had boasted to his friend Marella Agnelli, wife of Gianni Agnelli, chairman of the board at Fiat, that Answered Prayers was “going to do to America what Proust did to France.” He couldn’t stop talking about his planned roman à clef. He told People magazine that he was constructing his book like a gun: “There’s the handle, the trigger, the barrel, and, finally, the bullet. And when that bullet is fired from the gun, it’s going to come out with a speed and power like you’ve never seen—wham!”

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Surrendering The War On Drugs

The Article: The Truce On Drugs by Benjamin Wallace-Wells in NY Magazine.

The Text: Cannabis is a highly persuadable plant. It thrives in Afghanistan; it grows beautifully in Mexico. It can prosper indoors or outdoors, in contained environments or expansive ones. Even on the essentials, like soil, light, and water, accommodations can be made. Cannabis in the wild will flower only once a year, early in the fall, but it can be tricked. Indoors, artificial light can be timed to mimic the patterns of the early sunsets of autumn, seducing the plant to bud; outside, the same effect is achieved by laying parabolic tarps, each shaped like the St. Louis arch, over the crop to obscure the sun. Nor does cannabis require expert botanists. There is a pattern that has been showing up in the criminal courts of Northern California in which a day laborer, often an illegal immigrant, is picked up for work, driven to tend a marijuana garden growing deep in Mendocino National Forest, and told that he is now in the employ of the Mexican Mafia. The guess, locally, is that the Mexican Mafia is not really involved, that this is just a ghost story to make sure the laborers stay put. But still, an untrained day laborer hired at Home Depot is all you need to manage a large crop. He’ll do fine.

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