On election day, I woke up before dawn, took a dip in the ocean, made coffee and worked until about noon, when I decided to get the thing over and go vote. I walked five blocks to my polling station, located in the lobby of the Santa Monica Shores apartment towers sitting right on the beach.
It was a warm clear Southern California day. Outside the polling station, long-stemmed palm trees swayed softly in the light ocean breeze.
I could see through the glass doors that there was a long line stretching diagonally across the lobby. I swung the doors open and didn’t take more than two steps inside when I was hit by a gut-wrenching smell–a musky, nauseating mix of rancid beer, rotten fruit and anchovies. The lobby was filled to the brim with pensioners—and one of them had a yeast infection that had gone rogue. (more…)
Posted: November 9th, 2012
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
The untold story of Jeffrey Goldberg & Meir Kahane, Brooklyn's bin Laden
On August 15, 2012, in West Jerusalem, a small group of Palestinian teenagers was attacked by a mob of Israeli youths. The New York Times
described it as an “attempted lynching.” The Israelis, who had apparently planned on lynching someone that night, set their sights on a couple of Palestinian kids hanging out at a busy city square, chased one of them down and then beat him until his heart had stopped. His name was Jamal Julani, a 17-year-old resident of East Jerusalem. He only survived because a medical student happened to be on the scene and was able to resuscitate him in time. The beating took place in full view of hundreds of people, who stood by and watched without intervening. According to an eye witness in account
in The Jerusalem Post
, ”People who tried to resuscitate the Arab were mocked by the crowd of Jewish youths.” (more…)
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
This article was first published on AlterNet
It’s Nobel Prize season again. News reports are coming out each day sharing the name of the illustrious winner of the various categories — Science, Literature, etc. But there’s one of the prizes that’s a little different. Well, that’s putting it lightly… you see, the Nobel Prize in Economics is not a real Nobel. It wasn’t created by Alfred Nobel. It’s not even called a “Nobel Prize,” no matter what the press reports say.
The five real Nobel Prizes—physics, chemistry, literature, peace, and medicine/physiology—were set up in the will left by the dynamite magnate when he died in 1895. The economics prize is a bit different. It was created by Sweden’s Central Bank in 1969, nearly 75 years later. The award’s real name is the “Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel.” It was not established by Nobel, but supposedly in memory of Nobel. It’s a ruse and a PR trick, and I mean that literally. And it was done completely against the wishes of the Nobel family. (more…)
“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…)
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…)
This past Friday, S.H.A.M.E. Project’s expose of Megan McArdle got a shout out from financial blogger/commentator Barry Ritholtz, who called our profile of the Newsweek/Daily Beast hack “one of the most brutal takedowns I have ever seen.” Ritholtz—author of the excellent 2009 book Bailout Nation, frequent Bloomberg TV pundit, and the man behind the popular finance blog The Big Picture—advised his readers that “if you have any interest in media or journalism, it is absolutely must read material.” (more…)
Posted: September 24th, 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
On Monday, September 10, the Chicago Teachers Union—the oldest teachers union in America—went on strike. Teachers are striking for better pay, smaller class sizes and more job security. They are striking against school privatizations, teaching to standardized testing and the general “corporate reform agenda” of Chicago city officials. The list of enemies aligned against the teachers is long and intimidating: Billionaire hotel heiress Penny Pritzker, Charles Koch, Art Pope, Rahm Emanuel, President Obama and . . . Steven Levitt. Yes, Steven Levitt, University of Chicago economist and author of the wildly successful book Freakonomics. (more…)
Posted: September 12th, 2012
When billionaire brats attack!
One thing I learned from watching last week’s RNC: Being a reporter with a video camera at a GOP convention and doing anything other than sucking up to power . . . well, that just might be the most dangerous journalism job in America today. Hell, people are in danger of being lynched just for reporting while being black. (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
Cross-posted from the S.H.A.M.E. Project
“[The Middle East] is so dysfunctional, any stirring of the pot is good. America’s involvement in the region is for the good. In that way, I’m an immigrant.”
—Fareed Zakaira on invasion of Iraq
After a week on the ropes, Fareed Zakaria is back in the game. Yesterday, Time and CNN announced they had cleared Zakeera of any charges of wrongdoing: “We have completed a thorough review of each of Fareed Zakaria’s columns for TIME, and we are entirely satisfied that the language in question in his recent column was an unintentional error and an isolated incident for which he has apologized. We look forward to having Fareed’s thoughtful and important voice back in the magazine with his next column in the issue that comes out on September 7.” CNN, which is a part of the Time Warner media conglomerate, issued a similar statement: “We found nothing that merited continuing the suspension. Zakaria has apologized for a journalistic lapse.” (more…)
Check out Yasha Levine’s new Kindle book: The Corruption of Malcolm Gladwell. The book expands on S.H.A.M.E.’s initial investigation into the life and journalistic corruption of New Yorker staff writer Malcolm Gladwell, providing new information and plenty of examples of his covert, pay-to-play corporate advocacy that you won’t find anywhere else.
It’s only $2.99. Support the S.H.A.M.E. Project. Buy the book today!
From the description:
It may be hard to imagine that Malcolm Gladwell, a staff writer for the New Yorker and bestselling author beloved by millions of readers, could be a crooked propagandist for some of the most toxic and destructive industries on the planet. Investigative journalist Yasha Levine didn’t think it was possible, either—at least not until he happened to stumble across an old article by Gladwell defending the tobacco industry, and discovered a paper trail that led him to the shocking truth…
Levine presents well-sourced evidence showing that Gladwell spent his entire career systematically and unapologetically shilling for Big Tobacco, Pharma, health insurance companies and defending Wall Street financial fraud, all while earning seven figures as one of the most sought-after corporate speakers in America, frequently being paid by the same companies and industries that he covers as a journalist. Levine unravels years of Gladwell’s work as a covert propagandist, and analyzes the techniques Gladwell uses to confuse readers, redirect their attention and slyly rewrite history for the benefit of his sponsors—without anyone getting wise to his racket.
The S.H.A.M.E. Project had a great first month that’s exceeded our expectations—and we couldn’t have done it without help from eXiled readers like you. We figured that the first month would be a period of testing out both the material and technology, but what we underestimated was just how big the response would be. Already, of the three major media figures we’ve covered, the biggest name of those three, Malcolm Gladwell, has contacted us and is showing signs of cracking. (more…)
REPOSTED FROM THE S.H.A.M.E. PROJECT
Last week, I got an email from Malcolm Gladwell. He told me he read the S.H.A.M.E. report I wrote about him a few weeks ago, and asked if I had time to answer a few of his questions:
From: Malcolm Gladwell
Date: Tue, 12 Jun 2012 3:56 PM
I recently read your pieces about me. I have a number of questions I’d love to ask you. Do you have the time? Cheers, M.
Steven Levitt, University of Chicago economist, gained nationwide fame and prestige after co-authoring Freakonomics, a pop economics book based partly on Levitt’s original economic research. Published in 2005, Freakonomics became an instant #1 bestseller and spawned an entire Freakonomics media franchise that included a branded Freakonomics blog (hosted on the New York Times website until 2011), a regular segment on the National Public Radio program Marketplace, a Freakonomics movie and, alas, a Freakonomics business consulting company (now called the Greatest Good). (more…)
Cross-posted from the S.H.A.M.E. Project. For a reader’s digest version of this report, check out Malcolm Gladwell’s S.H.A.M.E. Profile…
“I’m necessarily parasitic in a way. I have done well as a parasite. But I’m still a parasite.”
In the vast ecosystem of corporate shills, which one is the most effective? Propaganda works best when it is not perceived as propaganda: nuance, obfuscation, distraction, suggestion, the subtle introduction of doubt—these are more effective in the long run than shotgun blasts of lies. The master of this approach is Malcolm Gladwell.
Malcolm Gladwell is the New Yorker’s leading essayist and bestselling author. Time magazine named Gladwell one of the world’s 100 most influential people. His books sell copies in the millions, and he is in hot demand as one of the nation’s top public intellectual and pop gurus. Gladwell plays his role as a disinterested public intellectual like few others, right down to the frizzy hairdo and smock-y getups. His political aloofness, high-brow contrarianism and constant challenges to “popular wisdom” are all part of his shtick. (more…)
Six months ago, The eXiled announced a new media transparency project that would take our war against corporate trolls and media shills to a new and more effective level. The project is called “SHAME” and stands for “Shame the Hacks who Abuse Media Ethics.” Its goal is to expose and shame corrupt media figures, and make life a little harder for those who manipulate the public, degrade our democracy and help perpetuate oligarchy power, making their money by acting as covert propagandists for corporate interests.
This article is cross-posted from Naked Capitalism…
Adam Davidson is moving up in the world. He has gone from fellating the 1% to the top 0.1%.
But bear in mind that we can’t hold Davidson solely responsible for his latest assault on common sense, decency, and most important accuracy. It was the editors of the Sunday Magazine that not only decided to showcase an interview with Mitt Romney’s uber wealthy former partner Edward Conard (“The Purpose of Spectacular Wealth, According to a Spectacularly Wealthy Guy“) but to give it a full 6 pages (per my browser) and put it on the magazine cover. Conard says his new career is to “make his case for a new, decidedly pro-investor way to think about the economy.” And what follows is half-baked, largely inaccurate, unabashed propaganda. (more…)
The New York Times, 1971: “Traffic disrupters, your time is through!”
Today’s May Day protests are the first May Day protests on such a large scale “in memory.” Not that Americans have a memory to speak of. Here’s something to jar that memory loose: Newspaper clippings of the big May Day protest in Washington DC back in 1971, when federal troops and police herded 7,000 protestors into an open-air stadium prison.
A few months back I had a long conversation with Freke Vuijst, a journalist from the lefty Dutch magazine Vrij Nederland, about the history of the Koch clan—specifically, we talked about what I learned during my trip to Quanah, Texas, the shit-kicker corporate railroad town where granddaddy Harry Koch dropped anchor in 1891 and started a family that eventually spawned the two most powerful oligarchs of our time, Charles and David Koch. Freke was working on a story about the pre-USA origins of the Koch family back in the family’s native Netherlands, using Dutch archive material, and she and I compared notes… (more…)
It’s just past 2:00 pm out here in Venice Beach. The sun is out and a cool breeze is blowing from the Pacific Ocean. Outside my window, surfers are walking towards the beach . . . a young woman glides by on her bicycle in daisy dukes and a tank top. There’s a bum lazing around in the shade of a dumpster. But I can’t enjoy the warm spring weather. I’m quarantined in my apartment, my skin is crawling with tiny parasitic mites that have tunneled into my skin and have turned me into a giant breeding vat. I’ve barely slept in days, and I scratched myself raw. And I owe it all to Los Angeles Mayor Villaraigosa and the fine men and women of the LAPD. Not only did they throw me in jail for covering a political protest, but they gave me scabies, too. (more…)
“…everyone but an idiot knows that the lower classes must be kept poor, or they will never be industrious.”
—Arthur Young; 1771
Our popular economic wisdom says that capitalism equals freedom and free societies, right? Well, if you ever suspected that the logic is full of shit, then I’d recommend checking a book called The Invention of Capitalism, written by an economic historian named Michael Perelmen, who’s been exiled to Chico State, a redneck college in rural California, for his lack of freemarket friendliness. And Perelman has been putting his time in exile to damn good use, digging deep into the works and correspondence of Adam Smith and his contemporaries to write a history of the creation of capitalism that goes beyond superficial The Wealth of Nations fairy tale and straight to the source, allowing you to read the early capitalists, economists, philosophers, clergymen and statesmen in their own words. And it ain’t pretty.
I travelled to Breitbart’s hood to carry out a private investigation of what happened…and found a grisly, blood-splattered crime scene just a block away from his home.
It didn’t take long after Andrew Breitbart’s death was reported for the Baggertarian Believers to start ominously tweeting out some of the craziest (and funniest) conspiracy theories this side of the John Birch Society. Part of the blame goes to the official “Breitbart died of natural causes” story they put out—no one believes he died of “natural causes,” neither his fans nor his detractors. But if you’re a fan of Breitbart, you can’t face the awful reality of what everyone knows did kill him—degenerate personal habits, and bile. (more…)