Tag Archives: Matt Taibbi

This Week’s Best Profile – The Exile

Not a person, but a thing. The Exile, an ex-pat newspaper in Moscow:

What made The Exile so popular, and still makes it so readable, was its high-low mix of acute coverage and character assassination, sermonizing laced with smut—a balance that has also characterized [Matt] Taibbi’s work at Rolling Stone, where he has been a contributing editor for the last five years. “One of the big complaints we heard for years—really violently angry complaints—was: You cannot mix, in one paper, satire and real investigative journalism,” [Mark] Ames says. “And we were like, Why?” Taibbi wrote on subjects ranging from Washington and I.M.F.’s policy in Russia to Moscow prisons, labor strikes, and religious cults. He hung out with crime bosses, cops, and rogue politicians and wrote a series in which he lived the lives of ordinary Russians for days and weeks, working as a bricklayer, a miner, and a vegetable hocker and attending a Moscow high school. He was among the first foreign journalists to speculate openly on the connection between a series of suspicious apartment-building bombings and Putin’s ratcheting up of the Chechen War, now a mainstay of the anti-Putin canon.

James Verni writes about the now-defunct paper, started by Americans Mark Ames and Matt Taibbi, for Vanity Fair. In addition to being popular, they did things like this:

It was [Michael] Wines, then the Times’s Moscow-bureau chief, who, having won The Exile’s coveted Worst Journalist in Russia March Madness contest in 2001, was typing in his office when Ames and Taibbi rushed in unannounced and, by way of congratulations, slammed a pie in his face. The pie was made with fresh vanilla cream, hand-puréed strawberry, and five ounces of horse semen.

It runs on a bit long, but the end is worth the wait for pure shock value. It’s a simultaneously inspiring, horrifying, romantic, depressing story.

Matt Taibbi Strikes Again

Accusations of hyperbole be damned, I think Matt Taibbi’s great. In part for the substance of his reports – like this latest, on the scourge reaped by Wall Street on one county (and, probably, many other counties) in Alabama –  but more for his daggers:

Blount is a stocky, stubby-fingered Southerner with glasses and a pale, pinched face — if Norman Rockwell had ever done a painting titled “Small-Town Accountant Taking Enormous Dump,” it would look just like Blount. LeCroy, his sugar daddy at JP Morgan, is a tall, bloodless, crisply dressed corporate operator with a shiny bald head and silver side patches — a cross between Skeletor and Michael Stipe.

Dude can create a villain. The rest is enlightening, if you can wade through the financial mumbo jumbo.

Clusterfuck

We don’t like to get political here at Meanderings, but we do like to get smarter. Thankfully this piece on health care (note: not “health insurance”) in The Atlantic does the latter while avoiding the former:

Everyone I know has at least one personal story about how screwed up our health-care system is; before spending (another) $1trillion or so on reform, we need a much clearer understanding of the causes of the problems we all experience.

Oooo, I’ve got a story! It involves 10-minutes with a podiatrist, a bulbous middle toe with no solution, and a $300 bill. But that’s neither here nor there. What is both here (involving my toe) and there (involving America) is this, one of many nuggets in this piece worth having when you’re thinking about health care (again, not “health insurance”):

Try discussing prices with hospitals and other providers. Eight years ago, my wife needed an MRI, but we did not have health insurance. I called up several area hospitals, clinics, and doctors’ offices—all within about a one-mile radius—to find the best price. I was surprised to discover that prices quoted, for an identical service, varied widely, and that the lowest price was $1,200. But what was truly astonishing was that several providers refused to quote any price. Only if I came in and actually ordered the MRI could we discuss price…

Keeping prices opaque is one way medical institutions seek to avoid competition and thereby keep prices up. And they get away with it in part because so few consumers pay directly for their own care—insurers, Medicare, and Medicaid are basically the whole game. But without transparency on prices—and the related data on measurable outcomes—efforts to give the consumer more control over health care have failed, and always will.

The article – “How American Health Care Killed My Father” – couldn’t have a more hyperbolic title. But it also couldn’t be a more informative and disturbing read.

Update: If you’re truly that sadistic and want the politics, I recommend Matt Taibbi. As long as you know his biases (he’s, uh, liberal), there’s not a more straight-forward source out there. And certainly not a more entertaining one. I mean, he calls someone a gorgon:

Many of the health care advisers in Obama’s inner circle, meanwhile, are industry hacks — people like Nancy-Ann DeParle, the president’s health care czar, who has served on the boards of for-profit companies like Medco Health Solutions and Triad Hospitals. DeParle is so unthreatening to the status quo that Karen Ignagni, the insurance industry’s leading lobbyist-gorgon, praised her “extensive experience” and “strong track record.”

Behind closed doors, Obama also moved to cut a deal with the drug industry. “It’s a dirty deal,” says Russell Mokhiber, one of the protesters whom Baucus had arrested. “The administration told them, ‘Single-payer is off the table. In exchange, we want you on board.'” In August, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America announced that the industry would contribute an estimated $150 million to campaign for Obamacare.

The World’s Best Essayist Is…

Caitlin Flanagan is the best essayist in the world today.

Better than Christopher Hitchens. Better than Matt Taibbi. Better than Sam Anderson.

She often writes about womanly things, which Meanderings is admittedly ignorant of. But he likes learning, and Ms. Flanagan makes him think in pleasurably unexpected ways, and Meanderings likes that. Her latest is excellent, as are some older favorites:

Katie Couric’s long day’s journey into evening

The Passion of Alec Baldwin

How nice girls got so casual about oral sex.

Update: Stephen Marche should be in the conversation.