Wandering Eye: Ed Hale is still talking about the CIA, tax breaks for development only help the rich, and more

The cinephiles at sobernation.com have put out a top-10 list of movies about their obsession: addiction. For junkies there's "Candy" and "Trainspotting," for meth heads there's "Spun," for coke fiends there's "Blow" and "Traffic," for stoners there's "Half-Baked," and for poly-abusers there's "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas," "Basketball Diaries," and "Requiem For a Dream." They gave short shrift to booze-hounds, though, offering just "Leaving Las Vegas," which indeed portrays an over-the-top, stomach-turning bender, but what about "Barfly" or, perhaps the all-time best, "Days of Wine and Roses"? They are absolutely right, though, that what they call "addiction"— what others might simply consider "partying"—is "a compelling topic" for the screen. (Van Smith)


New York City's "421-a" housing construction tax break made the Times this morning with a spectacular example: a $100 million flat that gets its owner 95 percent off his tax bill. In all, the program costs city taxpayers about $1 billion each year to subsidize fewer that 13,000 low-moderate apartments: about $80,000 per unit. It's another hilarious tale from a place where regular people have not been able to afford the rent for a generation or more. But read closely and remember this: Tax breaks to spur development have been the standard prescription for "affordable housing" advocates for the past 50 years. The complex rules differ in almost every jurisdiction (Baltimore lists 15 separate housing tax credits targeting everyone from the widowed spouses of "fallen heroes" to the owners of "vacant properties"—and this list doesn't even discuss the TIFs and PILOTs hoovered up in recent decades by downtown developers). At the national level, the Local Initiatives Support Corporation and others bundle hundreds of millions of dollars from rich people and institutions—doling out income tax benefits to the nation's wealthy in order to subsidize affordable housing. Yet after 50 years of this there is still not enough affordable housing. There is another model. It used to be utilized, and it used to work. Once upon a time, governments themselves cleared land, built apartments, and managed them so that poor people would have a decent place to live. But rich people could not become richer under this model, and therein lies the rub. (Edward Ericson Jr.)


It's been widely reported here in Baltimore that former bank executive Edwin "Ed" Hale Sr. claims in a new memoir he worked for the CIA. Now the Wall Street Journal has talked to Hale on the subject and, wow, what a lede: "Edwin 'Ed' Hale Sr., a retired bank executive known locally for his sharp-elbowed approach to business, installed video surveillance on his 186-acre farm and still sleeps with a sawed-off shotgun by his bed." In case you missed it, Hale basically set up a shadow company that allowed agents to travel the world using his corporate credentials. Hale also says he traveled all over the world on behalf of the CIA. Apparently the guy who recruited the banker to work for the government is none too pleased Hale spilled the beans, telling the WSJ, "I am disappointed and upset that Ed would violate his agreement and understanding with the agency." And we don't really get a sense of why Hale is so paranoid. Maybe he knows more than he lets on. (Brandon Weigel)

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