In 1886, a chemist named John Pemberton concocted a sweet, carbonated “brain and nerve tonic” made with coca leaves and cola nuts. Six years later, he sold his recipe for $2,300 to the druggist Asa Candler, who spun it into multinational gold. While the current product has just half the caffeine and none of the… Read More

Here in our United States, our government is sliced and diced between Uncle Sam, 50 states, 3,141 counties, and 89,000-odd cities, towns, and villages. You would think that 244 years of independence, along with a dollop of Yankee ingenuity, would produce a crisp, streamlined system for paying for it all. Instead, we’ve got a janky… Read More

Last week, we wrote about the sad fate faced by astronauts preparing for a brave new world of space commerce. Specifically, they’re fated to wind up paying the same tax bills on their interplanetary income as they do on the earthbound work they do today. But that’s not the only thorny tax issue facing the… Read More

Cross-border tax questions present some of the thorniest issues in tax. For example: when an American company like Apple takes components from 43 different countries, assembles them into an iPhone in China, and sells it in London or Paris, who gets the income tax on that profit? The day-to-day work of answering that question is… Read More

A hundred years ago, billionaires were a big big deal. Tycoons like John D. Rockefeller, worth the equivalent of two Jeff Bezoses in today’s dollars, were celebrities, the overachieving substitutes for today’s merely overexposed Kardashians and Tiger Kings. Today, though, CNBC reports there are at least 630 billionaires in the U.S. alone, which means if… Read More

Once upon a time, the number 13 bragged “I’m the unluckiest number of all!” Then 666 came along and said, “oh no, I’m worse.” Then 2020 arrived and said “hold my beer.” Between the coronavirus, the murder hornets, the hurricanes, the wildfires, and the ugliest presidential election in recent memory, it seems like 2020 is… Read More

“If you are truly serious about preparing your child for the future, don’t teach him to subtract — teach him to deduct.” Fran Lebowitz Here in the United States, we spend about $1.3 trillion on education, including early childhood programs, K-12th grade, the whole college-industrial complex, and adult learning and continuing education. This is obviously… Read More

Writing a weekly tax column probably looks like effortless fun. But it’s not always easy mining comedy gold from the Internal Revenue Code. Believe it or not, sometimes, taxes just aren’t funny. When you see us trying to jam a tax angle into something like, say, National Feta Cheese Day, you’ll know it was a… Read More

Back before Covid-19 shuttered theaters, courtroom dramas were a cinema staple. In Twelve Angry Men, Henry Fonda shines as Juror 8, trying to convince his fellow jurors the case they were considering wasn’t so clear-cut. In A Few Good Men, Tom Cruise proves he could handle the truth while baiting Jack Nicholson into admitting he… Read More

Thirty-five years ago, cartoonist Bill Watterson published the very first “Calvin and Hobbes” strip. Calvin, an irrepressible six-year-old who’s surely destined for a therapist’s couch or an orange jumpsuit (or both), tells his dad he’s off to check his tiger trap: “I rigged a tuna fish sandwich yesterday, so I’m sure to have one by… Read More

The world of law enforcement lost a pioneer last week with the death of Gerald Shur. As a young prosecutor targeting what one member described as “a certain Italian-American subculture,” he realized his informants would be more likely to testify on Monday morning if they weren’t afraid of winding up dead on Monday afternoon. Shur’s… Read More

President Trump’s war on Tik-Tok, the Chinese video-sharing app that’s loaded with more spyware than James Bond’s latest car, illustrates just how ubiquitous those programs have become in our lives. Apple offers 2.2 million apps in their iStore. Apps help you do everything, from setting an alarm to wake you up in the morning to… Read More

Ambitious musicians have always looked for ways to monetize their name and fame. Sometimes the results fall short of a mic drop — usually half-baked restaurant “concepts.” (Remember Kenny Rogers Roasters?) But today’s artists — especially in the rap community — can be just as talented at entrepreneurship as making music. Sean Carter used to… Read More

Living as we doth in this age of Technologie, ’tis easy to believest that many Things we take for granted are new. 1,000 years ago, there was naught Internet. No reality Television. (“Tiger King” meant somethinge quyte different.) And a “Hybrid” was a Cart powered by an Ox and a Mule. But verily, some of… Read More

After World War II, a generation of returning veterans turned California into America’s golden dream. Industries like shipbuilding and aerospace created thousands of good jobs. California engineers and educators built world-class roads and universities. California vineyards started producing world-class wines. And throughout the rest of the country, young men wished “they all could be California… Read More

Coronavirus has upended nearly every aspect of American life, including of course sports. First was the chaos of interrupting leagues mid-season with no idea when, or if, they would ever return. Next was the oddity of playing games in arenas filled with cardboard cutouts of fans and their dogs. Now we have the crime against… Read More

In 2004, Stephanie Meyer sparked a bona fide cultural phenomenon with her debut novel, Twilight, recounting the romance between 17-year-old schoolgirl Bella Swan and 109-year-old “vegetarian” vampire Edward Cullen. (He only drinks animal blood, not human.) The story spawned four books, five movies (because you’ve gotta double up that final book to sell more tickets… Read More

A century ago, New York’s richest families didn’t summer in the Hamptons. (Yes, this is a story about people who use “summer” as a verb, with a straight face.) Back then, clans like the Rockefellers, Morgans, and Huntingtons headed upstate to the “Great Camps” of the Adirondacks, a constellation of compounds overlooking the area’s forested… Read More

One of the delights of living in America is the variety of local delicacies that different places champion as their own. Maine’s lobster rolls serve up a briny mouthful of golden summer tucked into a lightly-toasted bun. Wisconsin is home to amazing cheeses: milk’s bid for immortality. Nashville’s hot chicken dresses up ordinary poultry in… Read More

Forty years ago this weekend, Orion Pictures released a comedy producers pitched as “Animal House on a golf course.” The movie featured a scrappy bunch of misfit locals battling a group of rich snobs played by ad-libbing comedy legends. And while reviews were underwhelming, it went on to gross $40 million and claim a place… Read More

Coronavirus has millions of Americans rethinking where they choose to live, especially crowded cities. Back in February and March, New Yorkers led the charge, fleeing the petri dish that Manhattan had become to vacation homes in places like the Hamptons and Martha’s Vineyard. Silicon Valley tech-bros are gazing longingly across the Pacific to New Zealand.… Read More

Colleges looking to compete for students have added new fields like cybersecurity, political campaign management, and even beer fermentation. (That last one seems a bit indulgent, given how many college students pursue rigorous self-study programs in malt beverages with no promise of academic credit at all.) Perhaps it shouldn’t surprise you, then, that a Japanese… Read More

On June 27, 1997, an unknown British author rolled out her first novel, which she wrote in longhand because she couldn’t afford a typewriter. The book was a success beyond imagining: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone stormed the world and made author J.K. Rowling richer than the Queen. (Seriously, you can look it up.)… Read More

Here in the United States, the National Football League’s “Hypomatic 3000” machine works day and night to convince us that our brand of football is the most important contest in the world. But everywhere else, the people we call “soccer” fans know their game is what counts. Last year, a hundred million people watched the… Read More

In the world of football, one family stands out among the rest: the Mannings. In tennis, it’s the Williamses. And on television, it’s the Kardashians, Jenners, and various C-list and D-list orbiters that make up the First Family of Reality TV. What many viewers don’t realize is that the Kardashians aren’t just a family, they’re… Read More

In China, it’s a curse to say “may you live in interesting times.” If that’s so, 2020 is surely cursed. It all started with coronavirus in January or thereabouts. April brought the murder hornets to Washington State. (They might still be only in Washington, but they’re murder hornets.) And last week brought news that yet… Read More

Memorial Day weekend is fading in the rearview mirror, and we’ve ventured outside to commemorate those who gave their lives in service to their country. Summer is as officially “open for business” as it can be in this year of coronavirus. But there’s a lesser-known occasion coming up that the average American celebrates three times… Read More

Maurice Fayne, did you think you would get away with it? Did you think styling yourself “Arkansas Mo” on a show like VH1’s “Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta” made you the kind of guy who can pull a con on the down low? When you borrowed $2,045,800 from the Paycheck Protection Program, did you really… Read More

In 1914, Woodrow Wilson signed a proclamation designating the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day. Ever since then, Americans have spent that day destroying Mom’s kitchen in the name of breakfast in bed, tramping through her garden in the name of bringing her flowers, and making up for the phone calls and compliments they… Read More

American law schools sponsor over 200 law reviews: dense collections of grim, wooden prose, groaning with footnotes. (Chief Justice John Roberts once said “Pick up a copy of any law review that you see, and the first article is likely to be, you know, the influence of Immanuel Kant on evidentiary approaches in 18th Century… Read More

Life comes at you fast. Two months ago, the Dow was flirting with 30,000, unemployment was at 3.5%, and the economy was looking forward to spring with the rest of us. Today, of course, we’ve put the economy in a medically-induced coma. People who are trapped at home with cranky partners and children are wondering… Read More

A couple of weeks ago, we wrote about the great toilet paper shortage of 2020. It gave us a great opportunity to indulge in the sort of lowbrow humor that made MAD magazine such a hit with 10-year-old boys. The problem turns out to be simple. Toilet paper makers produce two separate products for two… Read More

Our calendar is full of “Hallmark holidays”: meaningless commemorations and celebrations, usually created by marketers and publicists. Just this month, there’s National Talk Like Shakespeare Day, National Hug a Plumber Day, and National Wear Pajamas to Work Day. (That last one may not feel like a celebration right now). Food fans have National Burrito Day,… Read More

Coronavirus has turned millions of Americans who used to laugh at the doomsday preppers on National Geographic into converts. Your neighborhood supermarket is working overtime to keep shelves stocked as panicked shoppers rush to settle in for stay-at-home orders. And the first item to disappear was . . . (checks notes) . . . toilet… Read More

Millions of us who are staying at home in this time of coronavirus are discovering to our dismay just how much the clown car of halfwits, freaks, and grotesques of “reality TV” has taken over our living rooms. The endless parade of bachelors, teen moms, real housewives, and Kardashians have slowly sapped at our dignity.… Read More

The Cambridge Dictionary defines “digging your own grave” to mean doing “something that causes you harm, sometimes serious harm.” Kids who don’t do their homework, politicians who cut popular spending programs, and people who overshare on social media all dig their own grave in one way or another. It’s not every day that someone charges… Read More

If you’re like most Americans, coronavirus quarantines and “social distancing” mean you’re going to spend a lot of time in front of your TV binging on Netflix, HBO, Amazon Prime, and Disney+. If you’re working from home, you’ll spend more time listening to your favorite music on Pandora or Spotify. And believe it or not,… Read More

When talented musicians join forces, they epitomize Aristotle’s maxim: “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” Collaboration is the essence of music, and even the most technically proficient soloists benefit from an ensemble framing and highlighting their skills. You can’t whistle a symphony. It takes a whole orchestra to play it. It’s… Read More

Four years ago, a consortium of European journalists broke a story based on 11.5 million documents leaked from the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca. The exposé detailed how the firm’s clients across the world used offshore shell companies to hide assets and evade taxes. (Remember, tax avoidance = legal; tax evasion = go to jail.)… Read More

This time of year, most Americans living in the northern half of the country are dreaming of sunshine. But there’s a heartier, usually affluent breed that can’t get enough snow. In Vermont, at resorts like Killington and Stowe, Ivy League students spend weekends hitting the slopes by day and donning LL Bean sweaters to sip… Read More

Hollywood legend Kirk Douglas, who died last this month, played nearly every role in his career: actor, director, producer, and writer. He was born before the first “talkie” hit theaters. He grew up one of seven children in an impoverished home. Then he worked his way through St. Lawrence University and the American Academy of… Read More