NYTimes: Why I Am Leaving Goldman Sachs
by Greg Smith
Today is my last day at Goldman Sachs. After almost 12 years at the firm — first as a summer intern while at Stanford, then in New York for 10 years, and now in London — I believe I have worked here long enough to understand the trajectory of its culture, its people and its identity. And I can honestly say that the environment now is as toxic and destructive as I have ever seen it.
To put the problem in the simplest terms, the interests of the client continue to be sidelined in the way the firm operates and thinks about making money. Goldman Sachs is one of the world’s largest and most important investment banks and it is too integral to global finance to continue to act this way. The firm has veered so far from the place I joined right out of college that I can no longer in good conscience say that I identify with what it stands for.
It might sound surprising to a skeptical public, but culture was always a vital part of Goldman Sachs’s success. It revolved around teamwork, integrity, a spirit of humility, and always doing right by our clients. The culture was the secret sauce that made this place great and allowed us to earn our clients’ trust for 143 years. It wasn’t just about making money; this alone will not sustain a firm for so long. It had something to do with pride and belief in the organization. I am sad to say that I look around today and see virtually no trace of the culture that made me love working for this firm for many years. I no longer have the pride, or the belief.
Source: The New York Times
Infographic: The Facts About Voter Suppression
The right to vote is under attack. In response to record voter turnout in 2008, we’ve seen an uptick in state legislation aimed to suppress the vote.
Voter suppression measures have been introduced in more than 20 states, and recently passed in critical swing states like Virginia, Pennsylvania and Minnesota. All of these suppression measures — from voter ID laws, restrictions in voter registration and cuts to early voting — make it harder for African-American, low-income, elderly and other minority voters to cast a ballot.
Check out these infographics and learn more about how the attack on the right to vote disproportionately impacts minority voters.
Super Rich Still Have Little To Fear From IRS
By Stephanie Mencimer on Wed. April 11, 2012 7:10 AM PDT
In 2009, IRS commissioner Doug Shulman said in a speech that the IRS had formed a new group of auditors who were going to be directing their attention at a special group of taxpayers: the super rich. Dubbing them “global high wealth individuals,” Shulman promised that his agency would be taking a hard look at people who had tens of millions of dollars worth of assets and income tied up in complicated financial dealings that often involved overseas banking and aggressive tax avoidance strategies. The IRS, he said, wanted to make sure that hard-working, tax-paying Americans could be sure that everyone is paying her own fair share. It’s certainly a ripe area for the government to turn up more revenue. In fiscal 2011, audits of people making more than $1 million identified $5 billion in underreported income tax, and that’s just for the roughly 15 percent of millionaires the IRS audited.
Two-and-a-half years later, though, the effort to target the super rich has proven underwhelming. According to a new study by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University, the IRS has completed a mere 36 audits from the over-$10 million set since launching the global high wealth group. TRAC researchers estimate that this means the IRS audited only between 12 and 18 people, because the audits were counted by annual returns, not by individuals, who may have had more than one year of returns examined. That’s not even one percent of the more than 8,000 annual returns that the IRS has said include gross income of $10 million or more. (By comparison, working poor people with children who claim the Earned Income Tax Credit get audited at twice the rate of any other taxpayer.)
As part of its global high wealth group effort, the IRS has also promised to focus more on “flow through” entities—the partnerships and S corporationsthat super rich people use to avoid paying taxes. The group didn’t have the most ambitious goals to begin with, according to TRAC. But it failed to even meet those. The IRS hoped to audit 122 of these sorts of corporate entities in fiscal 2011, but completed only 40.
The IRS hasn’t come up totally empty handed by looking at the portfolios and tax returns of the super rich. They found $47 million in additional taxes owed. But if you consider how much the IRS turns up just in simple audits of ordinary millionaires, that’s pretty small potatoes. TRAC can’t say whether the disappointing results from the IRS are due to a lack of resources for the agency or the fact that the super rich might just have incredibly complicated financial affairs that aren’t quickly and easily tackled by the average IRS auditor. Either way, more resources for the IRS ought to be a priority for anyone who really cares about the budget deficit. The government is clearly leaving money on the table that it could surely use right now.
Source: Mother Jones
R44 tips for enjoying Earth Month to the fullest…
Tip #5: Get out and camp!
It can sometimes be difficult to figure out how to balance your natural instincts with your urban lifestyle….enter the Biolite Camp Stove, which burns leaves and twigs to cook your food and then converts the energy into electricity that can charge your iPhone! We prefer leaving the gadgets at home when out in nature, but, hey, this is pretty rad!
Study: Centuries-Old Farming Methods Hold Key to Rainforest Conservation
Ancient Amazon farmers shunned slash-and-burn techniques.
The Amazon region of South America, the largest tropical rainforest and river basin on Earth, is disappearing at a rate of around 800,000 hectares a year, but a new study finds one possible strategy for reversing this trend in ancient Amazonian farming methods.
Analysis of a 1,000-year-old ecological record in the Amazon provides a rare glimpse at early farming practices before European explorers began arriving in the Americas more than 500 years ago.
The study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, finds the ancient farming methods could slow the destruction of the Amazon rainforest.
The rapid expansion of agriculture and cattle ranching, road and dam construction, and illegal logging are the biggest drivers of this massive deforestation.
Before European settlers arrived, farmers on the rainforest savanna grew crops in raised beds, a practice which would be forgotten for 500 years.
Iriarte says the farmers understood how fire could harm the land and agricultural production.
“We know that fire results in the loss of crucial nutrients for crops, [and that] fallows without fires are most effective in restoring soil organic matter and preserving soil structure,” he said. “So we interpreted that they were limiting fires because it was better to grow crops in these raised field systems.”
Iriarte says use of this fire-free method by the pre-Columbian farmers helped them transform the seasonally-flooded savanna into productive cropland.
“Raised fields provided better drainage, soil aeration, and also moisture retention during the dry season. These raised fields were constructed mainly with the muck from these seasonally flooded savannahs,” he said. “So they are really fertile and they can be recycled every season.”
Mitchell Power says this labor-intensive approach ended abruptly when as much as 95 percent of the indigenous population died from a variety of Old-World diseases brought by the European settlers.
“Once the Columbian encounter happens we don’t see that type of agriculture any more,” he said. “We start to see increased burning and a shift toward dry land farming. So people were then clearing forests and making their raised beds in the forests. And what we think is happening was a huge demographic collapse in this region.”
Slash-and-burn agriculture - introduced to the Amazon not by the native farmers but by European colonizers - remains today a major threat to the rainforest. Experts say if such practices continue at the current rate, more than half of the Amazon’s tropical rainforest could be gone by 2030.
Iriarte says pre-Columbian farming methods offer a tried-and-true alternative.
“It has the capability to help curb carbon emissions and at the same time provide food security for the more vulnerable and poorest rural populations of rural Amazonia,” he said.
The authors say bringing back these labor-intensive but productive farming systems to serve today’s - and tomorrow’s - food needs will require extensive farmer re-training - and the political will of the region’s governments. And they believe that if the Amazon’s current stewards can reclaim the wisdom of their ancestors, the damage to the world’s greatest rainforest can be slowed.
Obama promotes ‘Buffett Rule’ among wealthy endorsers
President Obama plugged his plan to increase taxes on millionaires yet again Wednesday morning, but this time with a new twist – appearing alongside rich people who support the signature tenet.
The proposal would require that people earning $1 million a year or more pay at least the same tax rate as middle-class families. Obama calls it the “Buffett rule” after billionaire investor Warren Buffett, who has famously complained that he pays a lower rate than does his secretary.
To help make the point, the endorsers showed up with their assistants. Appearing on stage with Obama were Abigail Disney, president of the Daphne Foundation, and her assistant, Celine Justice. Whitney Tilson, managing partner of T2 Partners LLC, appeared with her assistant, Kelli Alires; Google retiree Frank Jernigan joined with his assistant, Teresa Gardiner; and Lawrence Benenson, of Benenson Capital, appeared with his assistant, Carmen Peterson.
None of those millionaires has told him they’re excited about paying more taxes, Obama said.
But “they agree with Warren,” he said. “This should be fixed.”
The measure is highly unlikely to pass the divided Congress this election year. But the message was live on network television this morning, same as Tuesday, giving the president’s “tax fairness” message the kind of exposure that money can’t buy.
Source: Los Angeles Times
Ashley Judd describes how speculation over her “puffy” face is just part of a misogynistic assault on all women.
by Ashley Judd
The Conversation about women’s bodies exists largely outside of us, while it is also directed at (and marketed to) us, and used to define and control us. The Conversation about women happens everywhere, publicly and privately. We are described and detailed, our faces and bodies analyzed and picked apart, our worth ascertained and ascribed based on the reduction of personhood to simple physical objectification. Our voices, our personhood, our potential, and our accomplishments are regularly minimized and muted.
As an actor and woman who, at times, avails herself of the media, I am painfully aware of the conversation about women’s bodies, and it frequently migrates to my own body. I know this, even though my personal practice is to ignore what is written about me. I do not, for example, read interviews I do with news outlets. I hold that it is none of my business what people think of me. I arrived at this belief after first, when I began working as an actor 18 years ago, reading everything. I evolved into selecting only the “good” pieces to read. Over time, I matured into the understanding that good and bad are equally fanciful interpretations. I do not want to give my power, my self-esteem, or my autonomy, to any person, place, or thing outside myself. I thus abstain from all media about myself. The only thing that matters is how I feel about myself, my personal integrity, and my relationship with my Creator. Of course, it’s wonderful to be held in esteem and fond regard by family, friends, and community, but a central part of my spiritual practice is letting go of otheration. And casting one’s lot with the public is dangerous and self-destructive, and I value myself too much to do that.
However, the recent speculation and accusations in March feel different, and my colleagues and friends encouraged me to know what was being said. Consequently, I choose to address it because the conversation was pointedly nasty, gendered, and misogynistic and embodies what all girls and women in our culture, to a greater or lesser degree, endure every day, in ways both outrageous and subtle. The assault on our body image, the hypersexualization of girls and women and subsequent degradation of our sexuality as we walk through the decades, and the general incessant objectification is what this conversation allegedly about my face is really about.