This article was originally published in The eXile on September 17, 2004
Exile editor Mark Ames exposes a rare fawning side while interviewing his lyrical hero, Mark E. Smith of The Fall, while Smith, who is notorious for abusing journalists (even reportedly putting a cigarette out in the eyeball of one Brit journo), reveals a charming, disarming side. Particularly in the number of times he addresses Ames by his first name, giving the interview a kind of Paintwork/Dale Carnegie sensibility. (more…)
This article first appeared in The eXile on November 11, 2003
TBILISI, GEORGIA – If you want to understand what’s really going on beneath the current election crisis in the former Soviet republic of Georgia — a struggle that threatens to push the country back into the kind of civil war which killed tens of thousands from 1989 through 1993 – then you need to pull the camera back. Way back, to the global level.
That’s because Georgia is a battleground not just between local political factions vying for power, but also between the geostrategic interests of America and Russia, between competing Big Oil interests, and between the forces of globalization and the forces which defy globalization (chaos, tradition, isolation). (more…)
A New Leaf, a 1971 screwball comedy written and directed by Elaine May, is a great genre film made by a women. You know how many great genre films were ever made by women? Well, lessee, there was…oh, how about…no, that one was a genre film made by a woman, but it was rotten…hmmm…
Given enough time you’ll come up with something (Ida Lupino, The Hitch-Hiker), but it isn’t really worth the effort. Too depressing.
Posted: January 15th, 2013
I waited to write about Django Unchained because I couldn’t figure out how to account for its maddening effects. But they’ve gotten more and more maddening over time, to the point that I found myself in a restaurant the other night ranting about the sheer horror of hearing Jim Croce’s soporific ‘70s soft-rock ballad “I Got a Name” scored over should-be-exhilarating shots of Django as a newly freed man riding a fine horse through a grand Western snow-scape.
Sorry, other patrons of the restaurant in question! But consider the provocation! “I Got a Name,” for the love of Christ, right there in the middle of my pre-Civil War slave-revenge epic that I’ve been waiting a year to see! “I Got a Name”! I mean, why not the mellow stylings of James Taylor while we’re at it? Maybe Django could sing “You Got a Friend” to his horse or something! My God! Has the whole world gone crazy?
So what the hell, after that there’s no point holding back.
Posted: January 6th, 2013
Cross-posted from Media Matters…
It is not insulting Fox News host Greg Gutfeld to say he doesn’t know much about the subjects he jokes and chats about for a living. He draws pleasure from saying so himself, over and over again, in a thousand repetitive ways.
Like the network he works for, Gutfeld’s shtick is premised on the loud embrace of a pugilistic, media-bubbled conservatism. Gutfeld considered the late Andrew Breitbart a close friend and inspiration, and indeed represents what might be called the Breitbartian wing of the Fox News spectrum: he revels in media war for its own sake, prefers pop culture to political history, and spends his time buried in a trough of Twitter feeds and feuds. His new book, The Joy of Hate, reads like an extended riff on the author’s admission to being just an oversexed, Internet-and-TV addicted former lad-mag editor, who not all that long ago was teaching “old people how to do sit-ups on cruise ships,” and whose idea of journalistic legwork is using the search box at FoxNews.com. (more…)
Be libertarian one time? Is that the same thing as "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas"?
Author’s note: I wrote this brief dispatch about my run-in with libertarian pro-marijuana activist/former judge James P. Gray back in March of 2011. But the piece disappeared into the black void of my computer hard-drive, and I forgot all about it—until now. I’m glad the text turned up, because Judge Gray’s sleazy efforts to bring lefties and progressives into the Libertarian Party fold under the innocuous banner of pot legalization is much more relevant today than it was 2011. After all, Judge Gray is now the running mate of Libertarian Party presidential nominee Gary Johnson is using the weed wedge issue to siphon off votes from Obama. —YL
Cross-posted from Frying Pan News
It’s an unreasonably warm October day, and I’m milling about awkwardly with a handful of suits at a mixer in a small banquet hall at Newport Beach’s Pacific Club—which, according to its website, is the gathering place of choice for the “distinctive life-style of Orange County’s business and professional leaders.”
An incredible thirst suddenly overwhelms me, as I look down and see I’ve practically sweated through my cheap suit. I try my best to keep control of my decorum, but when a busser passes by with a lone Arnold Palmer on his tray, I snatch it greedily from the outstretched hands of another guest and suck the saccharine concoction down in one gulp. (more…)
Posted: October 31st, 2012
I was passing through the Mojave Desert and by chance stopped by a local thrift store in Joshua Tree. I’m glad I did, because I spotted a book that I just had to own. At $0.50, it was priced to sell. And as you can tell from the title above, the book’s a classic. It’s bound to remain fresh and relevant through the ages—not as a useful guide to homeownership, but as a fossil record of the biggest real estate scam in the history of the United States.
A lot of people still wonder how and why so many millions of people bought such ridiculously overpriced homes and took out mortgages and loans they clearly could not afford?
Extra! Extra! Yasha Levine makes frontpage news in Victorville!
That’s what I kept wondering when I moved out to Victorville back in the Spring of 2009 to do immersion reporting from the front line of the real estate meltdown. Located about 100 miles east of Los Angeles on the edge of the Mojave Desert, Victorville got higher and crashed harder, in terms of real estate, than almost any other place in California. It doubled its size to 100,000 in just eight short years, growing from an isolated hick outpost into a booming commuter suburb filled with the cheapest McTractHomes south of Fresno. By the time I got there, Victorville was a ruined city filled with empty master planned communities, some of them half built and abandoned, rotting dry in the sun. I spent nearly two years reporting on the real estate swindle out there, and I never could stop thinking about the central question: How the hell were people coerced into moving out here? Why would anyone think that buying a $500,000 house in a desert 100 miles away from Los Angeles be good idea, no matter what kind of loan deal you got or how booming the market. What kind of propaganda were these people subjected to?
Well, this book provides a part of the answer: people were explicitly instructed to do so.
The Automatic Millionaire Homeowner hit the front bookcase displays at Barnes and Noble in March 2006, at the very top of the real estate market and just a few months before the whole thing crashed and burned. Its main message was simple: If you take out a mortgage to buy a home, you will always make money. There is no way you can lose—no matter when you buy, how much you pay or what type of loan you get. And the kicker is: both the book and finance expert who wrote it were bankrolled by Wells Fargo and Bank of America.
This book is just one of dozens—if not hundreds—of similar self-help snake oil guides promising a sure bet system to get rich in real estate. But it’s a good example of the massive propaganda effort financed by Wall Street that was designed to funnel as many people as possible into the mortgage meat grinder. The book was packed with blatant lies that seem so obvious and even comic in retrospect. The book was not put out by some shady fly by night operation, but by a supposedly credible financial expert who had the backing of the most well-known and respected banks, TV networks and newspapers.
But the whole thing was a fraud, shamelessly boosted by some of the biggest names in news media—none of whom have been held accountable for their role in defrauding millions of Americans.
So let’s take a look…Crack open the book and turn to the introduction, it begins like this:
What if I told you the smartest investment you would ever make during your lifetime would be a home!
What if I told you that in just an hour or two I could share with you a simple system that would help you become rich through homeownership?
What if I told you that this system was called the Automatic Millionaire Homeowner—and that if you spent an hour or two with me, you could learn how to become one? [emphasis mine]
Would you be interested? Would you be willing to spend a few hours with me? Would you like to become an Automatic Millionaire Homeowner?
Interested? Intrigued? Want to know more? Well, turn a couple of pages and you get this:
As I sit here in August 2005, I have no idea when you will be reading what I’m writing. Maybe it’s March 2006 (when this book is scheduled to be published)—by which time the real estate market could be slowing or cooling down to modest single-digit annual gains (or not). Perhaps this book was bought by a friend of yours who passed it along to you—and it’s now 2007 and those once “certain” boom markets are going bust due to speculation. Or maybe the opposite has happened—interest rates have remained at historic lows, and home prices have continued their march upward.
In fact, it doesn’t really matter when you happen to be reading this or what’s going on right now in the markets. This book is not about the boom . . . or the busts. . . . What this book is about is the truth. And the truth is this:
Nothing you will ever do in your lifetime
is likely to make you as much money as
buying a home and living in it. [emphasis in the original]
What’s this sure-fire system? Well, it’s so simple it fits on the inside flap! Here’s how you do it:
What Makes The Automatic Millionaire Homeowner Essential:
■ You don’t need a big down payment to buy a home.
■ You don’t need great credit.
■ You should buy even if you have credit-card debt.
■ You can buy a second home even if you’re still paying off the first.
■ You can get started in any market-boom or bust.
■ It’s easier to be a landlord than you think.
Just a few months after the book came out, the real estate market went into a death-spiral. Victorville and other Mojave Desert exurbs like Palmdale and Lancaster were packed to the brim with people who followed this book’s advice to the letter. They took out no down payment adjustable rate mortgages, bought at the peak of bubble, had horrible credit scores, were struggling to make ends meet and were probably up the hilt in credit card debt. Over the next year and a half, home prices collapsed by 30% and just kept falling. By the time that I packed my bags and fled West towards the Pacific Ocean in 2010, homes that had sold for nearly $400,000 at the top of the market in 2006 couldn’t find a buyer at $50,000 or $75,000. People were kicked out of their homes, lost all the “investment” payments they had made on the loan and had to find other places to live—rental homes if they were lucky; their cars or tents at the hobo camp down on the banks of the Mojave River if they weren’t.
So the Automatic Millionaire was a bust—well, at least as far as the now-former homeowners were concerned. But as we now know, the latest homeownership craze was never meant to benefit the homeowners. The only Automatic Millionaires created by this book were David Bach and the financial oligarchy he served.
See, before David Bach began his bright career as a New York Times bestselling author dedicated to spreading the gospel of homeownership, he was a senior vice president of Morgan Stanley and a partner of The Bach Group, a wealth management outfit started by his father. Yep, he was born into it. Finance runs through his veins!
So it’s no surprise that both Bank of America and Wells Fargo sponsored David Bach and his revolutionary Automatic Millionaire Homeowner wealth creation system.
Here’s an excerpt from Wells Fargo’s press release:
Wells Fargo Home Mortgage Joins with David Bach to Promote Shared Vision of the Lifelong Benefits of Homeownership to Millions of Americans
Best-Selling Author, Leading Retail Lender to Encourage People to Build Long-Term Financial Success through Homeownership
DES MOINES, Iowa – Oct. 28, 2005 – Wells Fargo Home Mortgage today announced a three-year agreement with financial coach David Bach, author of several best-selling books including No. 1 New York Times best-seller The Automatic Millionaire. The partnership is designed to increase the number of first-time, second-home and investment homebuyers and help homeowners best manage the equity in their home as an asset to achieve their long-term financial goals.
Yep, Wells Fargo is only interested in educating homeowners for the greater good. And the bank is not alone. Just look at all the smart people who praise and recommend his work. They wouldn’t lie, not with their reputations on the line!
Jean Chatzky, Financial Editor of NBC’s Today, blurbed: “The Automatic Millionaire gives you, step-by-step, everything you need to secure your financial future. When you do it David Bach’s way, failure is not an option.”
Fox’s Bill O’Reilly also endorsed the Automatic Millionaire wealth creation system: “David Bach’s no-spin financial advice is beautiful because it’s so simple. If becoming self-sufficient is important to you, then this book is a must.” Yep, this is the same O’Reilly who bashed homeowner “losers” who took out loans that they weren’t able to pay, and yet here he is endorsing a plan that says there’s no such thing homeowner who loses money. Wonder what kind of cut Bill gets off Bach’s loot?
He rips you off, puts you in debt and sticks by your side to help make sure you pay it off. What a guy!
So what’s up with David Bach today?
The man’s still doing regular TV gigs and giving financial advice to unsuspecting victims, including a weekly appearance on NBC’s Today Show. But he’s changed his racket: Bach’s no longer out to make automatic millionaires; these days he’s motivating debtors to get second/third jobs and convincing them to adopt austerity measures in their own personal lives. He’ll help you pare down your consumption footprint to the bare minimum necessary for physical survival. Yep, Bach’s our debt handler. His job is to make sure we peons keep making those monthly payments to Wells Fargo and Bank of America!
The day that degenerate shysters like David Bach are afraid to show their faces in public and feel the need to flee across the border is the day that we’ll know that we as a country are making progress towards a brighter future.
Yasha Levine is an editor of The eXiled and co-founder of the S.H.A.M.E. Project. Read his book: The Corruption of Malcolm Gladwell.
Click the cover, buy the book!
Posted: October 19th, 2012
“The strength of propaganda reveals one of the most dangerous flaws of democracy. . . . that propaganda renders the true exercise of it almost impossible.” *
Ever since our launch just a few months ago, the SHAME Project has been running like a buzz saw through the media establishment . . . it just needs support from readers and fans like you to keep up the pace. Can you help? Contribute using PayPal or WePay. (more…)
You poor Obamabots only just discovered a few nights ago what a crushingly dull technocrat Barack Obama is—but you’re still making the mistake of assuming that his snoozer performance against Mitt Romney during Wednesday’s debate was some sort of aberration. As Mark Ames argued way way back in this February 1, 2008 write-up for Alternet, Obama always was a neoliberal dullard— you people were just too starry-eyed and desperate-to-believe to see Obama for what he really was, and is. So blame yourselves for being 4-1/2 years too late to reality—and blame yourselves for not listening to Mr. Ames when you had the chance to save yourself some embarrassment.
Posted: October 6th, 2012
Reposted from The SHAME Project
“In propaganda, truth pays off.”
— V.I. Lenin
SHAME’s recent exposé of Newsweek/The Daily Beast correspondent Megan McArdle went into great detail about her deep, close ties to the Kochs’ libertarian influence-peddling machine and her failure to disclose the connections. The most important thing you need to know about Megan McArdle is this: She is the only journalist in America whose byline has appeared on Newsweek and Atlantic Monthly cover stories, while at the same time is so close to Charles Koch that she was chosen to emcee the big 50th Golden Anniversary bash that Koch threw last year to celebrate the success of his libertarian think-tank the Institute of Humane Studies, the first of countless dozens of think-tanks (Cato Institute, Americans for Prosperity, Competitive Enterprise Institute, etc.) that the billionaire oligarch controls today. (more…)
As soon as The Master was released, every day it was, “Ja see it? Ja see it yet? Whadja think? Ya gotta go see it.” Nag, nag, nag.
So to give writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson credit, he’s got crass showmanship going for him. He can crank up the ballyhoo machine, and that’s not nothing in these dull times.
What with all the hue and cry, you find yourself hustling right off to see his latest extravaganza, and only then do you remember how much you hate that little flimflamming PTA fucker. He takes your money and gives you crap in exchange every time—magnificently shot crap festooned in Acting with a capital ACK.
And then, after the last time when you swore to yourself you’d never get taken in by any more of his milkshake cons—he does it again! PTA Barnum!
Posted: September 23rd, 2012
S.H.A.M.E. just published a brand new shill profile. Its latest subject: Megan McArdle, who was just hired on this September as Newsweek/The Daily Beast’s “special correspondent on economics, business and public policy.” In case you’re wondering, yes, that’s her in the image above, beaming with joy as Charles Koch’s party clown-for-hire at the 50th anniversary bash of Koch’s flagship libertarian think-tank, the Institute for Humane Studies. But more on that later. . .
McArdle should be very familiar to eXiled readers. Many of you probably first learned of McArdle’s existence more than three years ago, when she led a smear campaign from her perch at the Atlantic to discredit the first media investigative piece exposing the Tea Party as an Astroturf campaign funded by the Kochs and FreedomWorks, written by eXiled editors Mark Ames and Yasha Levine and published in Playboy in February, 2009. That’s when we first got to know the McArdle name too, and we were wondering then why someone who called herself a “journalist” would work so hard to discredit other journalists’ investigative work while defending powerful rightwing oligarchs, rather than the other way around. The S.H.A.M.E. profile on Megan McArdle clears up the air on McArdle’s long, deep undisclosed ties to the Koch brothers’ libertarian influence-peddling machine, and to the GOP activist community. Read the profile on the S.H.A.M.E. site or check it out below—we’re sure Mrs. McArdle will appreciate it if you do. (more…)
Posted: September 19th, 2012
From today’s edition of NSFW Corp
SALT LAKE CITY, UT—I have some explaining to do. As you know, I went missing for roughly 36 hours — no phone, no email, no nothing — roughly from the time of Clinton’s Satanic speech Wednesday night until the time which you receive this. First, let me tell you that I am fine, alive, and though a bit shaken up and haggard looking from sleeplessness, I was not mistreated or molested in any way.
In my last panicked correspondence to the outside world, I was begging the NSFW Corp’s Paul Carr to arrange some sort of commando mission to Charlotte to rescue our man-on-the-ground there, James Kotecki. I was terrified that the Tracy Flickites who gathered in their numbers in Charlotte would get into James’ brain and swallow his soul. That if James so much as fell asleep for five minutes, the Flickites would sneak a pod next to our Convention Correspondent’s bed, and he’d wake up full of hope and optimism. Or worse. (more…)
Auden is the worst famous poet of the 20th century. He simply cannot write a decent line, let alone a decent poem. Some of his very worst poems are among those “classics” found in every anthology of Modern poetry. They’ll continue to clog those penitential first-year university texts until we find the courage to laugh out loud at stanzas like this:
Earth, receive an honoured guest:
William Yeats is laid to rest.
Let the Irish vessel lie
Emptied of its poetry. (more…)
Posted: August 28th, 2012
From today’s edition of the NSFW Corp:
The early news reports made Jeffrey Johnson out to be a deranged monster: After pumping five bullets into the supervisor who’d fired him from his job at the Empire State Building, Johnson supposedly went on a wild shooting rampage out on 5th Avenue, firing randomly at innocent bystanders, wounding nine before cops took him down using their anti-terrorism training. (more…)
This article was first published in the Daily Banter
Every week, it seems there’s another tragic story about a suicide or murder-suicides linked to foreclosure trauma. Some of the more spectacular murder-by-foreclosure stories the past few years have been collected by a blog called “Greenspan’s Body Count”—others, myself included, have been writing about these terrible stories of class warfare being waged by the only side fighting it, and winning it, as Warren Buffett rightly said. (more…)
This story was first published in the defunct Radar magazine on March 7, 2008
How “liberal” is newly-anointed Russian President-elect Dmitry Medvedev, the one so many people are saying represents a possible thaw in post-Putinpolitics? My Moscow newspaper just found out the hard way—one of Russia’s leading printing presses censored us yesterday over a page-six photo essay that we’d headlined “Fucking For Medvedev.” (more…)
Published in today’s edition of NSFW Corp:
Back in early July, I got an agitated email from a friend of mine from the group Faith No More right after they played a concert in Moscow with Pussy Riot. Bill, the band’s bass player, was trying to make sense of the weird experience he’d just had in Moscow:
“I don’t know if you heard, but we played in Moscow the day before yesterday, and we had Pussy Riot do a little bit for the encore. It was pretty insane…” (more…)
Earlier today, eXiled editors Mark Ames and Yasha Levine talked to RT’s Kristine Frazao about the S.H.A.M.E. Project’s recent expose of NPR host and New York Times columnist Adam Davidson.
Watch the segment below: (more…)
Posted: August 20th, 2012
Published in today’s edition of NSFW Corp:
It’s been a few hours since I stormed out of the Georgetown AMC Loews cineplex. I went there to see “The Campaign”, the new Zach Galifianakis “comedy” that just opened, and I lasted almost an hour in my seat before throwing my popcorn and bolting the theater.
“The Campaign” isn’t the worst — as in terrifying scary shit-bad worst — film I’ve seen since moving back to the Free World a few years ago. That honor would have to go to “Sex and the City 2″. I lasted about 40 minutes through that film, telling myself the whole time, “If Pat Tillman could face terrorists, you can face Sex and the City 2, Ames!” over and over. Until it finally dawned on me: “Pat Tillman had it easy compared to this! Kandahar is like Club Med compared to Sex and the City 2!” and I ran screaming.
“The Campaign” is a different kettle of fish puke. There’s a weirdly unfunny flatness permeating the entire film: flat writing, flat jokes, flat directing, and above all, Zach Galifianakis’ non-presence, a flatness so flat it’s like convex comedy…
To read the rest of this article click here (open viewing).
This review of was published at Not Safe For Work Corp, where I’m acting as editor-at-large. You should subscribe http://www.nsfwcorp.com/subscribe
Still like to know more? The eXile: Sex, Drugs and Libel in the New Russia co-authored by Mark Ames and Matt Taibbi (Grove).
Click the cover & buy the book!
To celebrate today’s announcement that Ayn Rand fanboy Paul Ryan will in a few months’ time be a heartbeat from the presidency—and to honor this special moment, marking the final syphilitic pus-spasms of America’s decline and fall–we are reposting for your edification Mark Ames’ 2010 article about the man behind the Rand: Ayn Rand’s unrequited adoration of a notorious serial killer, William Edward Hickman. Yes, Vice President-to-be Paul Ryan owes his entire “moral” worldview to a lowly groupie of serial killers, a 1920′s prototype of today’s “Joker” wannabees. Yes folks, in a few months’ time Americans will finally be able to stand up and declare: “We are all serial-killer groupies now.” (more…)
Posted: August 11th, 2012
“I feel like the voice of business journalism is sort of, it’s an authoritative voice of God.”
Editor’s Note: This article, and S.H.A.M.E.’s larger investigation of Adam Davidson, has caught the attention of the New York Observer’s Foster Kamer, who suggests that the authors have made a “compelling case” that the NPR programming Adam Davidson is associated with is “inherently conflicted.” What are the charges? Kamer summarizes:
First, that a notoriously hostile 2009 Planet Money interview between Davidson and Elizabeth Warren—the special adviser to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau—was ethically tainted by Planet Money‘s financial arrangements with “the sole sponsor underwriting Davidson’s Planet Money show and his salary.” Levine and Ames argue that the sponsor in question—a financial services conglomerate—lobbied against the creation of the CFPB before it was created (and around the time of the interview), which is evidence of an insidious conflict of interest. Furthermore, they allege that Davidson is accepting speaking fees from the industry he covers for both NPR and The New York Times Magazine, something largely viewed as an unsavory, questionable practice by most journalists (and journalism institutions, which usually have guidelines against that sort of thing).
Adam Davidson is the co-creator and host of the popular economic news radio program Planet Money. On air, Davidson plays the role of an earnest, brainy reporter who’s doing his best to make sense of the complicated, jargon-filled world of finance to report business news in a way that NPR listeners can understand. However, behind the dweeby, faux-naive facade Adam Davidson presents to his listeners is a shrewd propagandist with a long, consistent history of shilling for powerful and destructive interests—and failing to disclose his financial ties to the companies and industries he reports on. (more…)
This piece was originally published at Not Safe For Work Corp
I’ve always hated Michael McFaul — and he don’t like me much neither.
We’ve carried on a sort of hate-hate relationship going back to the mid-1990s, when McFaul was former President Bill Clinton’s chief propagandist in Moscow, cheerfully assuring every foreign correspondent that Boris Yeltsin was the Thomas Jefferson of our day. (more…)
This is the first of a series of posts that will explore and expand on the recovered history of Arianna Huffington recently unearthed by S.H.A.M.E.
Ever since its transformation from a celebrity blog into a mainstream news media outlet, Arianna Huffington has marketed the Huffington Post to the public as a media outlet whose purpose is to leverage social media and new Internet technologies to democratize news and empower the American people by wresting control of news away from corrupt elites. To hear her tell it, you’d think that the Huffington Post was nothing less than a staging area for a populist revolt to reclaim American democracy from corporate rule: (more…)