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MSNBC: Mark Ames and Yasha Levine
Broke the Koch Brothers' Takeover of America
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Yasha Levine

My McMansion

My name is Yasha and I live in a McMansion. As far as I can tell, I have three bedrooms and a master bathroom with a Jacuzzi tub, which I’m now filling up for a bubble bath. But life wasn’t always like this—I had a real struggling journalist’s life, once. No real job and lived in a cramped apartment with my friend and his girlfriend. Then one day my life took a turn for the best. I packed everything I own—a couple of couches, a desk, two guns, some books and a few garbage bags worth of clothes—into an orange U-haul truck and drove the rig at a top speed to a suburban blob called Victorville, in the middle of the desert 100 miles away from Los Angeles. And I stepped right into the American Dream. It wasn’t my dream; I’m here undercover.

Victorville is what they call an “exurb,” one of thousands of new sub-suburban sprawls all around the country built for poor Americans. To flocking homeowners, Victorville must have seemed like a glorious reaffirmation about everything good and right about American values, a place where the poor could finally afford a home of their own. Instead, it turned into just one more slaughtering ground in the the biggest scam of the century, a place where tens of thousands were lured to be ripped off and set adrift. (more…)

Posted: April 12th, 2009

Home Hunting in Stockton

Last weekend, I took a drive up to Stockton to scope out a place I could call home for the next few months. My demands were very simple: I wanted to rent a house in a foreclosure nightmare, one of those brand new McMansion neighborhoods that have sprouted from cabbage patches and rocky desert landscapes all across the country in the past few years. (more…)

Posted: March 25th, 2009

astroturf-master-tony-katz

Koch Industries’ one-man teabag revolution in Santa Monica

As soon as Ames and I sent off our Santelli-FreedomWorks connection article to the editors at Playboy, I rushed out the door. I was already 10 minutes late to a tea party event being held just a few miles from my house.

The protest was scheduled to take place at the very end of the Santa Monica pier at 9:00 am Friday, February 27 — sharp — and would last until exactly 9:45 am. Tony Katz, the event organizer, had the whole thing mapped out on a Facebook page he set up: meet and greet, three keynote speakers (some no-name actor, a writer and an alleged comedian), a quick teabagging ceremony and then goodbye. It wasn’t the best time slot to attract protesters.  (more…)

Posted: February 27th, 2009

I was stuck in traffic with a broken tape deck, barely paying attention to the stupefyingly flat drone of NPR when I heard a story that made me want to carpet bomb the entire US. Just get it done with. Let nature start anew. (more…)

Posted: February 17th, 2009

It was 11:00 am on Saturday morning when I woke up and jumped out of bed in panic. I realized that the night before, I had parked my car in a 2-hour parking zone around the corner from my house. I ran outside barefoot, in a rumpled T-shirt and boxer shorts. But I was too late. A neat white envelope stuck out from underneath a wiper blade. I missed the fucker by only a few minutes and was busy cursing my bad luck under my morning breath and looking around for the meter maid when I heard a voice at my shoulder. “I’m too much of a pussy, but if I had the guts, I’d block out all the personal information on the tickets I get, wrap them around a rock and break a window in some city government building. That way, these assholes know exactly what my money is going to be used for. Repairing that busted window,” a neighbor of mine said with hate in his eyes, and then bent down to scoop up his pit bull’s steaming pile of shit. (more…)

Posted: January 30th, 2009

Drugs may be the major American story of our era, the thing that did more to alter behavior and law, that redistributed income to the poor far more dramatically than any tinkering with tax codes, that jailed more people and killed more people than any U.S. foreign policy initiative since the Vietnam War. But this vital force…is absent from our daily consciousness and surfaces when discussed as a problem.

—Charles Bowden, Down by the River

It was just past 2 a.m. on a Saturday and I was standing at a busy intersection in a dirty corner of Hollywood, just a few blocks away from Grauman’s Chinese Theater. People were spilling out of bars and heading home. The strip was emptying out quickly. But where I was standing, prime time was just beginning. Hookers were pouring out onto the sidewalk, circling the block slowly in packs of twos and threes and causing a traffic jam as cars slowed to a crawl to check out the selection. There weren’t too many females among them. This part of town specializes in tranny whores and gigolos. (more…)

Posted: January 5th, 2009

Miss Drug Universe 2008: Laura Elena Zúñiga

On Monday night, Mexican police nabbed Laura Elena Zúñiga Huizar, a 23-year-old babe named “Miss Sinaloa 2008.” Ms. Zúñiga, who also holds the title of “Queen of Latin America 2008,” was traveling in an SUV with seven thugs, a couple of machine guns and $50K in cash. According to English-language news reports, Ms. Zúñiga was caught up in some sort of drug-trafficking operation. But with no drugs and just a pitiful amount of cash, the situation begs the question: What freakin’ drug deal? (more…)

Posted: December 23rd, 2008