Tag Archives: Rolling Stone




Earlier today I blew up on Facebook. I called friends who generally share my views stupid and those who don’t stupider. Much of my heartfelt enmity is the result of the rise of Drumpf.

Why do I refer to him as Drumpf? You can thank John Oliver for that.

Immediately after my viewing of this episode I downloaded the Chrome extension that converts Drumpf to Drumpf (I have found I can’t even type the actual name here without it undergoing the transformation) on stories in my browser. It is one small consolation to see this at work in the headlines and stories I see on Slate, Huffington Post, Rolling Stone, and elsewhere, even on sites that lean farther right.

I deplore the lowlghts from all the 2016 campaigns. Our Presidential  electoral process is in the gutter, dragged there by Drumpf who has been joyfully joined there by Marco Rubio  who questions the size of Drumpf’s penis; by Ted Cruz simply being Ted Cruz; by Jeb Bush forced to defend charges of being a mommy’s boy; by Ben Carson, who fell in while sleep walking; by John Kasich, who destroyed any possible claims of being a moderate by defunding Planned Parenthood; and by the millions of presumably sentient human beings who listen to all the crazy talk about immigrants and an out of control government who couldn’t pass a U.S. citizenship/civics test if it were an open book exam and the original Declaration of  Independence and Constitution were splayed in front of them.

Holding them hostage there are David Duke and the Ku Klux Klan and other white supremicist groups armed to the teeth courtesy of the National Rifle Association, crazed Evangelicals who believe Drumpf somehow possesses better Christian bona fides than the Pope when The Donald is probably more likely to provide a quote from a Smokey Stover comic book than from II Corinthians when asked about his favorite Bible passage.

Let us not forget the Secret Srvice which somehow has improved its training to the point that a reporter who wanders 10 inches outside the designated journalist area at a Drumpf rally is strong armed when only a few months ago intruders inside the White House grounds stole President Obama‘s favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe before being hustled to the requisite nearby mental hospital for observation.

Oh I’m not forgetting the Democrats. Their participation is in somewhat shallower waters near the curb cutouts that allow wheelchair crossing rather than in the middle of the block, but where the H2O is equally putrid. This time it is not so much the candidates themselves…Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton …hurling invectives at each other so much as it is the so-called BernieBros who have been accused of ugly misogynistic characterizations of the other camp while feminist icons Like Gloria Steinem, though using politer language, are equally sexist in how they portray young female Sanders enthusiasts.

And from these nominal Progressives come the enabling threats to withold their vote from the nominee should he or she not be the one they love to death at this moment. Enabling threats because by doing so they will practically guarantee that our next President will have a bulbous red nose, bizarre multi-colored makeup, a fright wig,  and will be making nonsense noises as he struts around the circus ring. Of course all but Drumpf will need to be fitted for this outfit.

Accompanying this flotsam down the gutter where it will eventually empty into the stream that will make the water supply of Flint, Michigan seem utterly pristine by comparison are various pundits, analysts, economic gurus, and the like offering opinions that may be parsley, rosemary, or thyme, but most certainly not sage.

Perhaps the only good that is coming from this is Spotlight. No, not the latest Oscar winning film but the harsh relentless glare focused on the entire Presidential nominating process that places premiums on a candidacy that begins within weeks after the prior election and is fueled by endless speculation, pollmongering profiteers, the need to fill cable TV news with anything but substance, and the proliferation of web sites whose sole purpose is to promulgate lies, denigrate anyone with opinions different from theirs, and disregard anything remotely likely to benefit the America they all profess to love but which they incessantly subject to virtual domestic violence while declaring their fealty between bruising blows.

Super Tuesday is an agglomeration of primaries in states and American Samoa which would be significant just for the sheer numbers of opportunities for voters to express their choices were it not for the media telling us that the issues have been decided by the primaries/caucuses already consigned to history in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina and whch have a combined poulation dwarfed by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania whose own 2016 primary is not until April 26, a date by which the names of many former candidates will be not even a memory and which may represent only the merest possibility of ultimate success to the horses (asses) still in the race.

All this makes the Swiftboating of John Kerry in 2004 look more like the highest level of forensic debate by comparison.

Oh, hell. I’ll admit it. I, too have awkwardly stepped off the curb and fallen into the slime. But the murky waters are deep and I really can’t swim so I am about to drown in this torrent I am now a part of.

In splashing around for survival I might occasionally send splurges of nastiness into the open mouths of others, but they were there first voluntarily.




Matt Taibbi, in the new Rolling Stone, tells the tale of one Alayne Fleischmann, once a deal manager at JP Morgan Chase, the giant bank, too big to fail but not for lack of effort.

You may recall the saga of Chase and its CEO, Jamie Dimon. But large parts of that saga are more myth than documented history…akin to Homer’s Iliad depicting the Trojan War as a panty raid on a college’s women’s dormitory.

Fleischman, for her part, has been attempting to set the record straight. She is a Cornell educated lawyer who surprisingly found herself working for Chase after graduation and then finding she enjoyed her work. That is, until Chase put in place people controlling the securitiization of home mortgages more concerned with the bundle of money Chase would earn than for the fact that many of these mortgages were doomed to fail almost from the outset.

This is a synopsis of what Fleischmann found she was dealing with;

In late 2006, not long after the “no e-mail” policy was implemented, Fleischmann and her group were asked to evaluate a packet of home loans from a mortgage originator called GreenPoint that was collectively worth about $900 million. Almost immediately, Fleischmann and some of the diligence managers who worked alongside her began to notice serious problems with this particular package of loans.

For one thing, the dates on many of them were suspiciously old. Normally, banks tried to turn loans into securities at warp speed. The idea was to go from a homeowner signing on the dotted line to an investor buying that loan in a pool of securities within two to three months. Thus it was a huge red flag to see Chase buying loans that were already seven or eight months old.


In Taibbi’s reporting he makes a couple of analogies to used cars. He likens these defective loans to old junkers given a new coat of paint and resold to unsuspecting consumers. In this case the unsuspecting consumers were the purchasers of the loans packaged to be sold as securities. And, just as a junker getting a cosmetic overhaul but with a rotting body or soon to blow engine, these packaged mortgages were rotten to the core and guaranteed to go into default, costing the investors, perhaps, but a sure financial windfall for Chase.

What carries the used car analogy even further is the element of fraud. Within the mortgage and securities industry there may be no outright prohibition of selling such bound-to-fail mortgages but the entity doing so is bound to identify them as such so that the purchaser is aware of the risk. Likewise it may not be illegal to sell a used car with a blown headgasket but if such defect is known to the seller it has a duty to so inform the customer. That is so even if the car is sold “as is”.

Taibbi also tracks the course of the investigation of Chase for this fraud by the Department of Justice. Instead of facing true criminal charges Chase fessed up and was fined $13 billion. He explains how that figure is misleading and how the entire process was virtually pure smoke and mirrors designed to fool a gullible public into believing some action was finally being taken to punish the people responsible for the almost catastrophic collapse of the financial markets.

Chase was so damaged by this settlement that Dimon suffered considerably due to his leadership during this fraud. His pay was cut…no WAIT!, that’s a typo…his pay was not cut one bit but early this year he received a 74 % increase.

Taibbi spares no government official in his revelations of this chicanery, depicting

Attorney General Eric Holder, (as) the chief architect of the crazily elaborate government policy of surrender, secrecy and cover-up. “Every time I had a chance to talk, something always got in the way,” Fleischmann says.  

For her part Fleischmann is still eager to see that Chase is criminally prosecuted.

She believes the proof is easily there for all the elements of the crime as defined by federal law – the bank made material misrepresentations, it made material omissions, and it did so willfully and with specific intent, consciously ignoring warnings from inside the firm and out.

Aside from these charges Matt Tiabbi offers other examples of miscreances committed by Chase while also noting that

…former Debevoise & Plimpton hotshots Mary Jo White and Andrew Ceresny, who represented Chase for some of this case, have since been named to the two top jobs at the SEC. As for the bank itself, its stock price has gone up since the settlement and flirts weekly with five-year highs. 

What is evident from all this is that, while there is no rest for the wicked, there is also no retribution for them.

This is one lemon that, if you were to make lemonade of it, you would gain nothing but indigestion.



These are the words that started it all

“There are a lot of wealthy, successful Americans who agree with me — because they want to give something back. They know they didn’t — look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own. You didn’t get there on your own. I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something — there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there.

“If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet. The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together.”

That is the word for word context of the part of the speech President Obama gave earlier this year that the Republicans have condensed to just four words

“You didn’t build that”

From that snippet of a larger statement the GOP has been building a prosecution against the incumbent in an attempt to prove him guilty of wanting to insinuate the government into our lives while it is obvious that anyone who experiences business success did so solely as a result of their own inspiration combined with perspration.

They have even made it a major theme of this week’s nominating convention in Tampa. Of course Jon Stewart of The Daily Show quickly capitalized by brilliantly mocking this nonsense. You can view the video here.


We need not delve deeply to reveal  success stories that belie the characterization of “I made it on my own.” In fact we just need to look at the Republican nominees for President and Vice President..

We will look at Number 2 first.

Paul Ryan has served in Congress fourteen years and  is just forty-two years old. He was born into a family that had become very wealthy in the construction business.

(Disclaimer: I make no assertion that any of this is or was illegal nor was it vastly different from what most people in their positions would have done.)

This construction business began in the late 1800’s as the federal government awarded contracts to build the railroads. The Ryan family benefitted from those contracts.

Through the years the company flourished and gained expertise and thus was able to bid on and win federal government contracts to help construct Chicago’s O’hare Airport as well as chunks of the Interstate Highway system. Even today much of its business comes from federal (and probably some state and local) government contracts.

When Paul Ryan was sixteen years old his father died. As a minor he was entitled to Social Security Survivors benefits from the federal government.Fortunately he did not have to use that money to live on and he wisely saved it which paid for his college education.

While in college he worked as a Senate intern and on a congressional campaign. Upon graduation he went back to Washington, D.C. as a staff economist for that same Senator. Later he was a speechwriter for a conservative group founded by people who had worked in the federal government.

Eventually he launched his own political career…in the federal government.

Now let’s look out for Number 1 as he so ably does for himself.

Romney’s narrative is pretty well-known. Takes time off from college to go on a Mormon mission. Those endeavors aren’t easy either. Returns and gets his degree then dual law and MBA degrees from Harvard then on to Bain and Company. As sort of a protege to Bill Bain, Mitt was entrusted with heading up the spinoff of Bain Capital from the parent company.

Now things begin to get interesting. Though portrayed, especially in a convention speech by his wife, as a brave entrepreneur who took a great risk in heading to the offshoot, the truth is actually the opposite. Fearful of failing (not unreasonable in a startup) Mitt sought a cushion…an edge if you will. He persuaded Bain to take him back at the main company if that failure occurred and keep him financially secure and cover for him with an explanation that would keep his public image untarnished.

Everything worked out but it seems in 1990 Bain and Company itself was in deep finacial doo doo. Here’s how a Rolling Stone article describes the situation.

The trouble began in 1984, when Bain & Company spun off Bain Capital to engage in leveraged buyouts and put Romney in charge of the new operation. To free up money to invest in the new business, founder Bill Bain and his partners cashed out much of their stock in the consulting firm – leaving it saddled with about $200 million in debt. (Romney, though not a founder, reportedly profited from the deal.) “People will tell you that Bill raped the place clean, was greedy, didn’t know when to stop,” a former Bain consultant later conceded. “Did they take too much out of the firm? You bet
What happened next was culled from FDIC documents that Rolling Stone obtained through a Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) request:

The FDIC documents make clear what happened next: “Soon after the founders sold their equity,” analysts reported, “business began to drop off.” First came scandal: In the late 1980s, a Bain consultant became a key figure in an illegal stock manipulation scheme in London. The firm’s reputation took a hit, and it fired 10 percent of its consulting force. By the time the 1989 recession began, Bain & Company found itself going broke fast. Cash flows weren’t enough to service the debt imposed by the founders, and the firm could barely make payroll. In a panic, Bill Bain tapped Romney, his longtime protégé, to take the reins.

What Romney did was basically this. He got a consolidated loan from four banks and some Bain partners returned cash to the business. But even those tactics did not succeed fully and the banks were on the hook for over $30 million. Since there was a golden parachute provision in the loan documents that provided for the payment of the available cash to Bain executives, liquidation would mean the creditors would get nothing.

So the FDIC ended up taking the hit (that’s FEDERAL Deposit Insurance Corporation), the bonuses were paid while the banks got nothing and…oh yeah…Bain Capital walked away with a $3.6 miliion fee for lending Romney to the parent company.

So as you can see no matter the abilities to run a business Mitt Romney possessed, he never would have left Bain and Company without his own little safety net in place. Then, when summoned to a rescue he left inchoate, he was able to leverage the federal government into covering the losses for the loans his private company could not repay. All this while making a tidy profit.

Yes, various programs of the U.S. federal governmet enabled our two broad-shouldered lads to wend their way to the top, as steps towrd the present goal of becoming the most powerful man in the world and the man just one heartbeat from replacing him. In Mitt’s case he also had the luxury of a fallback position if his venture into leading a new company failed.

Not that many people opening dry cleaners or restaurants or auto body shops  are accorded that luxury.

Thus if you encounter Paul Ryan or Mitt Romney upon the campaign trail and you hear either of them blurt out, “I built that!”, immediately get a bar of soap and wash their mouths out for blasphemy.


It is still early in the morning but I’ve found some pieces on line very worthy of being shared.

I have been emphasizing income and wealth disparity for most of the last two years and how this is a reflection of policies that enable the haves to have more while most of the rest of us are running in place, if that.

But there is another divergence, the disparity between communities and their viability that has also been growing the past thirty years just as income disparity has.

Salon presents an excerpt from The New Geography of Jobs by Enrico Moretti, a professor of economics at the University of California, Berkeley.


Moretti recounts the tale of David Breedlove, an engineer, who in 1969 was living in Menlo Park in what is now known as Silicon Valley. Breedlove quit his job and moved his family to Visalia, about three hours away, in the farmlands of the San Joaquin Valley. He believed the quality of life there would be better or at least certainly on a par with Menlo Park. He was wrong.

Today, Menlo Park demographically is one of the richest and best-educated communities in America, and Visalia is among the worst in both categories.

For someone like David Breedlove, a highly educated professional with solid career options, choosing Visalia over Menlo Park was a perfectly reasonable decision in 1969. Today it would be almost unthinkable. Although only 200 miles separate these two cities, they might as well be on two different planets.

The divergence of Menlo Park and Visalia is not an isolated case. It reflects a broader national trend. America’s new economic map shows growing differences, not just between people but between communities. A handful of cities with the “right” industries and a solid base of human capital keep attracting good employers and offering high wages, while those at the other extreme, cities with the “wrong” industries and a limited human capital base, are stuck with dead-end jobs and low average wages. This divide—I will call it the Great Divergence—has its origins in the 1980s, when American cities started to be increasingly defined by their residents’ levels of education. Cities with many college-educated workers started attracting even more, and cities with a less educated workforce started losing ground. While in 1969 Visalia did have a small professional middle class, today its residents, especially those who moved there recently, are overwhelmingly unskilled. Menlo Park had many low-income families in 1969, but today most of its new residents have a college degree or a master’s degree and a middle- to upper-class income. Geographically, American workers are increasingly sorting along educational lines. At the same time that American communities are desegregating racially, they are becoming more segregated in terms of schooling and earnings.

This makes perfect sense to me and simply correlates to the other long term effects of the Great Divergence regarding income equality alone.

This next tale deals with breast cancer but is no “Run For the Cure” moment. Women breast cancer victims outnumber men who suffer 100 to 1. But the discovery of a cluster of such male victims may have repercussions for all who are so afflicted.


It seems that this cluster has occurred in men who either were in the Marines and stationed at Camp LeJeune, N.C. or they were in Marine families who resided there.

Apparently the water at Lejeune was rotten to the Corps. (Pardon the pun.) It contained any number of toxic chemicals. Now, epidemologists believe that studying these men may make a stronger case for environmental causes of breast cancer.

Epidemiology is considered a blunt instrument of science. Most suspected cancer clusters are not what they appear to be—or if they are, it’s tough to prove. They get dismissed as statistical anomalies or phantoms dreamed up by victims desperate to explain what caused their illnesses. Usually the numbers are too small to work with, the exposures too hard to nail down. “You know you have a catastrophe when even epidemiology can detect it,” says Clapp.

Even when local cancer rates do pop out as statistically significant, it’s rarely possible to draw a straight line between environmental exposure and disease the way you can in the lab. (Our proof that radiation causes breast cancer came courtesy of that large-scale public health experiment known as the atomic bomb.) Some 200 different chemicals have been linked to mammary tumors in animals and people, but you can hardly lock human subjects in a lab and feed them TCE or benzene to see what happens.

Yet in a sense, Lejeune is that lab. As Clapp notes, the numbers are huge: hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children exposed to contaminated water. What’s more, the military has precise records of who lived where and for how long. In some cases, it may even be possible to pinpoint, down to the trimester, when fetuses were exposed—knowledge useful for tracking developmental defects. Indeed, it was a survey indicating low birth weights that first caught the attention of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), which is now conducting massive health studies at Lejeune

The individual tales of the men affected are alarming, just as those of women are. There are some graphic post-mastectomy pictures It is excellent reading on a topic than can touch anyone’s family.

You’ve probably heard by now about the arrests of demonstrators in Chicago who allegedly were plotting to blow up things. I view these news items with skepticism because in pretty much all such cases that have come to light, government undercover agents, usually FBI, were instrumental in propelling these plots forward.

Rolling Stone explores this phenomenon and decries it as entrapment, pure and simple.


In all these law enforcement schemes the alleged terrorists masterminds end up seeming, when the full story comes out, unable to terrorize their way out of a paper bag without law enforcement tutelage. (“They teach you how to make all this stuff out of simple household items,” one of the kids says on a recording quoted in the FBI affidavit about a book he has just discovered, The Anarchist Cookbook. Someone asks him how much it says explosives cost. “I’m not sure,” he responds, “I just downloaded it last night.”) It’s a perfect example of how post-9/11 fear made law enforcement tactics seem acceptable that were previously beyond the pale. Previously, however, the targets have been Muslims; now they’re white kids from Ohio. And maybe you could argue that this is acceptable, if the feds were actually acting out of a good-faith assessment of what threats are imminent and which are not. But that’s not what they’re doing at all. Instead, they are arrogating to themselves a downright Orwellian power – the power to deploy the might of the State to shape a fundamental narrative about which ideas Americans must be most scared of, and which ones they should not fear much at all, independent of the relative objective dangerousness of the people who hold those ideas.
In a way this is nothing new as you can see from the examples given of cases back in the good old anti-war days. But this government miscreancy is particularly egregious since 9/11 and the media is complicit by not looking further into what lies behind these “terror busts.”


Ho Hum Department. The Mittster is blaming the GSA conference spending extravaganza on President Obama’s “elaborate” vacations setting a bad example.


However, this pattern of GSA spending began under Bush.

A review of budgets for the past three conferences, provided by a government source, shows that the pattern of excessive costs began in planning the 2008 conference – where costs soared from $323,855 in 2006 to $655,025in 2008. That represents a 102 percent increase between 2006 and 2008. 


And Romney complains that Obama goes to his home state of Hawaii rather than bopping down the road to Camp David. Well, Romney owns houses in several states that he calls home. And Obama’s dog is never strapped to the roof of Air Force One.

Tom Dickinson in Rolling Stone makes the assertion that the left has been winning a string of battles and should be heartened by this accomplishment. Moreover he makes the point that the Obama administration, chided by many liberals for deserting their ideals, should take note and become stronger proponents of a more left-leaning agenda.


He cites SOPA (the internet control law), the Komen-Planned Parenthood dustup, Rush, and ALEC as examples.

I disagree on the impact. How many people really knew or cared about SOPA and its possible effects on internet usage? Besides, the issue had both Republicans and Democrats as either co-sponsors of the legislation or leading the opposition to it.

Additionally, we still have privacy issues arising out of countermeasures in the so-called war on terror. Those measures are blatant violations of our 4th and 5th Amendment rights.

ALEC’s own agenda is so broad and pervasive, that abandoning this small slice of it is like the fat man on a diet who gives up Snickers but not Three Musketeers.

Dovetailing nicely with the previous item is this report from The Nation that Georgia this week enacted a drug testing requirement for welfare recipients.


This law was introduced by an ALEC member legislator. Actually welfare is not welfare. Since its reform in the 1990’s eligibilty for cash assistance has been greatly reduced and, even in these hard times, the number of families receiving it is about a third of the number prior to reform. States have much discretion in eligibility requirements and amounts paid out.

As writer Greg Kaufman put it:

It’s not easy for poor people to get cash assistance in America.

Prior to welfare reform in 1996, 68 of every 100 poor families with children received cash assistance through Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC). But by 2010, under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program which replaced AFDC, just 27 of every 100 poor families received benefits. The rolls shrunk as states were given wide discretion over eligibility, benefit levels, time limits, and how to use their TANF block grants which were frozen at 1996 funding levels and not indexed for inflation.

Georgia is known as a particularly difficult state when it comes to accessing TANF. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), in 2008-09 for every 100 poor families with children in Georgia, only eight received cash aid.

Now the state is set to make its TANF application process even more onerous.

A similar Florida law was thrown out by a federal judge, so there’s hope that this piece of rubbish will not survive either.

From Mother Jones comes its quote of the day:

From Ezra Klein, after learning that conservatives are attacking President Obama for eating dog meat when he was a seven-year-old growing up in Indonesia:

“After I learned the story, I felt a little worse about myself for being in any way involved in the tornado of idiocy that is American politics.”


This observation itself may stem from journalism’s own tendency for misguided and misinformed reporting.

Jason Linkins on HuffPo refers to an article in the Columbia Journalism Review that applies such a theory to the reporting on Social Security issues.


Lieberman went on to point out that one of the effects of this sort of journalism is that otherwise reasonable people begin to make very poorly informed personal choices. “The one-sided reporting on this issue has influenced the way millions of Americans, especially younger ones, now think about Social Security,” she said, citing an example:…

There is a link to the CJR piece at the end of Linkins’ article.

I believe that not only is there inaccurate reporting but the intense concentration on mostly irrelevancies distracts from the vital stories that we do need to know about. Yes, Rush Limbaugh is a pig for calling a woman a slut. That was not a step down for him, merely maintaining his standing among the neanderthals. Yet, it became a major story itself. Whoopee!

Give me real news based on discernible and proveable facts.