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The Column of Lasting Insignificance: January 16, 2010

John Wilcock

*** Proposed 28th Amendment to the
United States Constitution:***

Congress shall make no law that applies to the citizens of the United States that does not apply equally to the Senators and Representatives; and, Congress shall make no law that applies to the Senators and Representatives that does not apply equally to the citizens of the United States”.source unknown

CHEATING THE I.R.S. is turning into a bonanza for some people — not the tax dodgers themselves but the snitches who report them. Since Congress authorized rewards as high as 30% concerning tax debts over $2million, whistleblowers in that stratosphere have been able to garner half a million bucks or more for their tip-offs. In the past year, leads on 1,900 tax delinquents  — many owing $100 million — added up to $65bn the Treasury was owed. “The entire game has changed on international tax evasion,” Commissioner Douglas Shulman told Forbes.

Sometimes the squealer is indicted for his own part in the tax fraud as, for example, Bradley C. Birkenfeld who told the Feds about all those dodgers with secret accounts in the Swiss bank UBS, which ended with the bank paying the U.S. $780m and turning over the names of 4,450 US taxpayers. Birkenfeld paid $52 million in back taxes and penalties, is currently in jail (unfairly, he says) but is now applying for his “reward.” Chicago tax lawyer Robert E. McKenzie has qualms. “I think we should enforce the law but do we want a Soviet-style society where neighbors turn in neighbors, friends turn in friends and employees turn in bosses?”

“Obama… has turned reality on its head by embracing the Pakistan myth that stabilizing Afghanistan is the key to stabilizing Pakistan. But U.S. pressure on the Taliban in Afghanistan is pushing more militants into Pakistan with the potential for upsetting the delicate balance there…” — editorial in The Nation


THE ONLY PRESIDENT who ever made a living as a writer was Teddy Roosevelt says historian Douglas Brinkley who believes “Obama’s in a league with TR. He created his political reputation through the written word.” GQ says that although Obama’s talent with words is widely acknowledged, his writing has gotten surprisingly little attention.

“Obama believes more strongly in the magic of words, especially his own, than perhaps any of his predecessors.”

A TOPICAL IDEA would be to build 100 new nuclear reactors over the next 20 years suggests Lamar Alexander, pointing out that China already has 132 of them, Russia is doubling its nuclear capacity, France gets 80% of its electricity from nuclear and Japan gets 36%. “The real problem with nuclear energy,” Alexander writes in the National Review, “is that it is surrounded by unwarranted fear, (but) the nuclear renaissance is well underway. It just hasn’t reached our shores…there simply won’t be any other way to meet the energy demands of the 21st century unless we go on burning a billion tons of coal a year.”

“The population might be having a wonderful time, buying iPods and going to nice restaurants, but I still feel they’re all kind of under control,” muses filmmaker Terry Gilliam (Time Bandits, Brazil). “I’m trying to escape that by forming my own kind of world. Basically I’m trying to encourage others to do the same. I’m more prone to anarchy than I am to control — even though I’m a film director.”

REVIEWING A NEW BOOK by Barbara Ehrenreich, the Columbia Journalism Review endorses her belief that positive thinking has become “the opium of the American masses.” In her book, Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Thinking Has Undermined America, the author emphasizes that the real problem with positive thinking is not only its “misguided optimism” but its focus on the lone individual. It’s a “supremely irrational creed” says CJR  reaffirming Ehrenreich’s argument that “instead of laboring so hard to change ourselves, we should be laboring to change the world.”

ANOTHER DAY IN PARADISE, that colorful magazine out of Zihuatanejo, celebrates its tenth anniversary with an issue that pictures the new currency — a 200peso bill that marks the 200th anniversary of the beginning of Mexico’s fight for independence from Spain, and a 100peso note that marks the centenary of the beginning of the Mexican Revolution.



THE WILCOCK WEB: Greece has imposed a 90% tax on bankers’ bonuses….And Whack-a-Banker, a new game at a pier arcade in Southwold, Sussex, has customers happily hammering away flattening heads… …The Getty Museum stages a one-day class (Jan. 16, $145) in creating illuminated manuscripts….Posing in her scanties for GQ, January Jones says that since she took on the role of Don Draper’s ice-cold wife in Mad Men, “all of a sudden I’m getting these lonely mom and wife offers”…. One BBC pundit forecasts that after about a year Tiger Woods will be back playing better golf than ever….Discerning viewers deserted NBC’s Tonight Show by the thousands when the vapid Conan took over. TV Guide’s chart showed ABC’s Nightline moving steadily into the lead. And if NBC now has to pay O’Brien $40m to dump him, serves them right for signing such a stupid contract…….After imbibing lots of sake, hundreds of near-naked men will mingle at outdoor Hadaka Matsuri festivals across Japan next week. Mud and near-freezing temperatures are invariably involved…. Don’t bother writing to Robert Mankoff, the humorless New Yorker cartoon editor, asking him to explain even his own cartoons, because he doesn’t reply…. Stanley Kubrick’s Napoleon: The Greatest Movie Never Made is now a 3,000-page package of books offered by Taschen for $700…..Labeled as “anthropology,” Details describes its two-page definition of the douchefag as “a plucked, preened party boy who’s taken being gay to new heights of tackiness”…. Three women in Ireland, challenging that country’s strict anti-abortion laws, have appealed to the European Court on Human Rights….. Now that so many student textbooks are priced above $200, it’s taking 25 hours of minimum-wage work to pay for each one comments Publishers Weekly…. A lipstick-sized container called Le Whif, developed at Harvard, delivers the taste of chocolate via the nose…. New York City’s 40,300 arrests for pot smoking last year — at least twice as many as pre-Bloomberg years — were 87% blacks and Latinos….The spectacle of two of America’s greediest companies, Fox and Time Warner, battling each other would certainly make a good TV program….“Don’t let anyone tell you that lenders are villains and borrowers (aren’t),” wrote a Westport, Conn, reader to the Wall Street Journal. “It’s time to bring back debtors’ prison”……“Finance is the art of passing money from hand to hand until it finally disappears.“ — Robert W. Sarnoff (1918-97).