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Newsletter 6-11-2021

Colin Powers
Colin Powers

Hi everyone. Thanks for subscribing. If you have the means, please consider becoming a paying member. If you have the inclination, please pass this newsletter around to others who might enjoy the read. Now onto this week's edition of No Craic, Mad Craic, and Great Craic.

No Craic

(1) Jesse Eisinger, Jeff Enrsthausen and Paul Kiel over at Pro Publica managed to get their hands on a cache of IRS documents related to the tax contributions of America's wealthiest individuals. Surveying over fifteen years of filings, the journalists discovered, amongst other things, that Elon Musk, the world's second-richest man at the time of writing, paid no federal income tax in 2018, and that Jeff Bezos pulled the same trick twice (in 2007 and 2011). Erstwhile lib favorite Warren Buffett--who has earned such a status through the interviews he gives every few years where he laments the unfairness of our current tax system and calls for reforms to ensure that folks like him pay their fair share--meanwhile, has outdone both of those dweebs vis-a-vis the taxman. From 2014 to 2018, Buffett's true tax rate, which accounts for asset appreciation alongside wages in calculating one's income, was a remarkable .10%.  

None of this derives from tax evasion or any illegal practices as concerns the parties involved; rather, it is an inevitable outcome of the tax system's design. As things stand, so long as these guys don't sell assets--against which, of course, they can borrow (and roll over) enormous amounts of cash at exceedingly low interest rates so to finance luxurious living--they needn't contribute even a pittance to the public coffers.

Next time you read of a CEO foregoing salary or some other nonsense, then, just know that this is a wealth retention scheme in all likelihood.  

(2) Andrew England at the Financial Times has just completed an investigation of the Egyptian army's economic empire. Primary beneficiary of both increasing public indebtedness and the government's selective retention of energy subsidies (which underwrite the cement industry's profitability in particular), as England details, entrepreneurial elements within the Egyptian military have spread their tentacles into virtually every sector of the economy in the last decade. Capturing the lion's share of Egypt's nominally healthy growth rates in the lead-up to pandemic--rates goosed by debt-financed mega construction projects like the building of a new capital city--the Field Marshall and his Generals have consolidated a form of state capitalism devoid of social or developmental utility and primed to collapse as soon as credit conditions in international markets shift.

(3) Speaking of Egypt, they and their Gulf allies (Saudi Arabia and the UAE, specifically) are assisting the Chinese in their crackdown on the Uyghurs. Detaining and deporting back to China those Uyghurs residing or traveling within their respective countries, the Middle East's reactionary axis is actively aiding and abetting Xi Jinping's ongoing repression of China's largest Muslim minority group.

(4) In the same vein of international collaborations aimed at persecuting and controlling vulnerable domestic populations, Haaretz revealed on Wednesday that an Israeli tech firm directed by former senior intelligence officials has just sold a technology to the Saudi Arabian government granting it the capability to infect iPhones without the user even needing to click on a link.

The firm in question is named Quadream, and the hacking tool they have furnished for Muhammad bin Salman et al not only facilitates external data harvesting, but will also allow the Saudi mukhabarat to remotely control an individual's phone.

(5) Vijay Prashad over at the Tricontinental Institute for Social Research has written up a broad analysis lending clarity to the troubled days we are living through.

With the comprehensiveness that is typical of his work, Prashad highlights how a number of intersecting dynamics are pushing countries across the Global South to the brink of wholesale catastrophe. Needing to now navigate harrowing spikes in food prices (a 40% bump in June as compares to May, according to the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization), enduring unemployment crises, punitive debt obligations, and the accelerating ravages of COVID-19, the suffering of the bottom billions shows no sign of abating.

(6) Strike busting tactics now include vehicular assault.

Three of the mine workers currently picketing against Warrior Met Coal Inc. down in Alabama have been struck by cars driven by either Warrior management or non-union members of its workforce in the past few days alone. As a statement of the United Mine Workers of America points out, these instances of anti-worker violence are historically unexceptional, representing merely a new form within the unchanging continuities of brutality witnessed at the mine.

Should labor mining struggles be of interest, I know I've referenced it before, but I cannot recommend Gavetta's Power and Powerlessness enough.

Mad Craic

(7) The Department of War Studies at King's College London once served as a finishing school for aspiring British spooks. In a move fitting with late (post) modernity, however, it now appears to have #pivoted to the #content game.

Though King's faculty are still filled with former NATO officials and the like, per Alan Macleod, the school's graduates are less likely to staff the intelligence forces of the US/UK than they are the editorial bureaus of the English-language world's largest print/TV media companies these days. Though some of Macleod's claims flirt with the conspiratorial, it is hard to dismiss the core of his findings.

Tony Gramsci eat your heart out.

Great Craic        

(8) Here's a video of an "ethereal waterfall" out in Iceland. It is very, very dope.

Will leave it there for this week, shibab.

Have a great weekend.


Colin Powers

Colin received his PhD from Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in 2020. He is a two-time Fulbright Fellow.