Internal Revenue Service

The fact is that it did not happen until Barack Obama became president. It was a standing offense to American tax justice that probably hundreds of thousands of our very rich countrymen brazenly avoided the reach of the Internal Revenue Service simply by transferring (much of) their wealth to foreign banks in Switzerland and about 15 other countries, which protected the identities of these depositors by their laws. We know why this long-time structural injustice was of no interest to either of the Bush administrations. Let's say roughly that both George H.W. and George W.

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It looks like the IRS is going to let victims of Madoff and other ponzi schemes deduct about 95 percent of their losses. Per the Times: [T]he I.R.S. will allow investors, including those who are suing Mr. Madoff, to claim a theft-loss deduction equal to 95 percent of their investments, minus any withdrawals, reinvested gains and payouts from Securities Investor Protection Corporation, the government-chartered fund set up to help protect investors of failed brokerage firms.

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Spitz Out

On Monday a friend gave me a copy of a memorandum (pdf) that Attorney General Michael Mukasey had circulated inside the Justice Department admonishing staff about how to deal with politically sensitive cases. "They must be about to bag another big-time Democrat,” my friend said, jokingly. Perhaps it wasn’t a joke. Within hours the wires were burning with reports that New York Governor Eliot Spitzer had been linked to a prostitution ring. In New York, the tabloid press and comedians are having a field day with the sudden, spectacular fall of Eliot Spitzer.

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Pin Prick

Ryan Lizza on George Allen's race problem.

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Last summer, President Bush and the Republican congressional leadership had a problem. The legislative linchpin of the president's reelection effort, a bill to add prescription-drug coverage to Medicare, lacked the votes in Congress, where conservative Republicans were chafing at the expense. GOP leaders finally secured a bare majority by consenting to the demands of 13 Republican House members, who agreed to vote yes if the cost would not exceed $400 billion over ten years.

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The Rescuer

A Race Against Death: Peter Bergson, America, and the Holocaust by David S. Wyman and Rafael Medoff (The New Press, 269 pp., $26.95) Twenty-five years ago, while researching Holocaust history for the Joint Distribution Committee in New York, and as I was preparing to immigrate to Israel, I came across a clipping from The New York Times from 1936.

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Street Unwise

With ten congressional committees holding hearings on Enron, it's almost impossible for any one member of Congress to distinguish himself on the issue. But that hasn't stopped Senator Jon Corzine from trying. These days the freshman New Jersey Democrat sounds more like Ralph Nader than the former investment-banking pooh-bah he is.

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The Hero Worshipper

Fire By Sebastian Junger (W.W. Norton, 224 pp., $24.95) There is a point in Hemingway's Death in the Afternoon where the old lady turns on the writer and asks: "How is it, young man, that you talk so much and write so long about these bullfights and yet are not a bullfighter yourself?" The writer admits that he did try it once or twice—on bulls with blunted horns.

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Not Deciding

Playing It Safe: How the Supreme Court Sidesteps Hard Cases and Stunts the Development of Law by Lisa Kloppenberg (New York University Press, 304 pp., $38) For many years, Israel's General Security Service has engaged in certain forms of physical coercion, reasonably described as torture, of suspected terrorists. Suspected terrorists have been repeatedly shaken, in a way that causes their heads and necks to dangle and to vacillate rapidly. They have been tied in chairs for long periods of time, their heads covered in opaque and foul-smelling sacks, while very loud music is played.

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Notebook

MAIL FRAUD: If you pay income taxes, sometime in the next few weeks you'll receive a letter touting the recently passed tax cut: "We are pleased to inform you that the United States Congress passed--and President George W. Bush signed into law--the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001." The letter will further inform you that, thanks to this law, a rebate check (up to $300 for individuals, $600 for couples) is in the mail. ("You will be receiving a check," the letter states. "You need to take no additional steps.") Agitprop paid for by the Republican National Committee?

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