Now that fall is upon us, we are launching our annual fundraiser, the third in our seven-year history. Your donations are an important vote of confidence in our work. They tell us that you value Naked Capitalism as place for honest discourse, a corner of the world where we can look at the dank and hidden corners of finance and economics and bring the disinfectant of sunlight upon them. Your generosity helped us upgrade the site’s infrastructure and improve its performance, bring in talented writers like Dave Dayen, Nathan Tankus, our new Berlin-based correspondent Mathew D. Rose, and our intern Jessica (who soon will be orchestrating coverage from Spain), and in a host of ways large and small, aid us in ruthlessly describing the destructive impact of growing power of elite finance here and abroad.
I’m asking NC readers to join me once again. You can give by using the Tip Jar at the upper right for one-time or monthly donations through PayPal or the WePay button further down in the right column. You can also mail a check made out to “Aurora Advisors Incorporated,” to
Aurora Advisors Incorporated
903 Park Avenue, 8th Floor
New York, NY 10075
If you send a check, please also e-mail email@example.com, with “Check is in the mail” in the headline and the $ amount in the body, so we can include your donation in our running tally.
If you can’t afford to give, please, take what you’re learning here and share it with people you know. If you are can only afford a little, we’d still appreciate your contribution. But if you can afford more, please give more. The truth costs money, but it is far cheaper than the free lies elsewhere.
Why Naked Capitalism Matters
At this point, the convention for a fundraiser is to discuss why the mission is worthy and instill guilt (like threats re the imminent death of three legged dogs if you don’t pull out your credit card, pronto, or in our case, photos of bloggers doing exhaustion-induced face plants in their keyboards).
But this time, the image of tired bloggers collapsing at their desks is not far off. 2013 has been our hardest year yet, in terms of the sheer effort it has taken to keep the blog up to our high standard of relevance and (hopefully) insight. Yet it is also the first post-crisis year in which we’ve seen glimmerings of positive developments.
We are starting to see cracks within elites. Obama has been off kilter ever since Snowden exposed the scale and unchecked power of the surveillance state-within-a-state. Jamie Dimon and Lloyd Blankfein must be mighty unhappy that government they thought they’d paid for isn’t the one they need to own. Similarly, concerted public and Congressional opposition forced Obama to halt his plan to destabilize Syria. And, mirabile dictu, Larry Summers withdrew as a candidate for Fed chairman. As Fed historian Bill Greider pointed out, this was a watershed moment, signaling the beginning end of the Bob Rubin finance-dominated era in Washington.
Mind you, these victories occurred in the face of concerted, long-standing Obama administration efforts to kneecap or corrupt critics. Jane Hamsher wrote years ago of Obama’s veal pen, in which established “liberal” organizations that criticized the executive’s initiatives had key donations yanked.
The veal pen isn’t the only way that politicians neutralize critics. Last month, the Washington Post wrote about a heretofore unrecognized revolving door between the mainstream media and the Administration. And the efforts to police the party line go further than you’d think. For instance, a politically progressive blogger we’ve quoted finally got fed up and started posting pieces critical of Obama. That site went on a defacto blacklist. Traffic fell over 80% almost immediately.
So your donations are key to our independence. A broad base of supporters enables us to take on Big Finance and other vested interests along with their politician hirelings and media validators* (for instance, we made Adam Davidson a pet project last year).
But there’s an additional reason why what we do is hard. It isn’t simply that we sit outside a graft-ridden messaging apparatus. It’s that the propagandists are damned good at what they do. They’ve been at it for over 100 years (see Alex Carey’s Taking the Risk Out of Democracy for details). They’ve put lots of high-priced expertise into identity politics divide and conquer strategies and deceptive labeing to numb the public into acquiescence. Start with “reform”. “Entitlement reform” = “Cutting Social Security and Medicare so old people die faster”. “Tax reform” = “Lowering tax rates for big corporations while pretending to close enough loopholes to increase their taxes paid, while secretly expecting the reverse to happen”.
We don’t simply write about this sort of verbal sleight of hand. We seek to educate you so that you can recognize it yourself. Honing your critical thinking skills not only makes you more resistant to propaganda, but it can help you strengthen the resistance of friends and family to disinformation. But that sort of unpacking requires both very focused reading as well as enough knowledge of specific beats to discern and then deconstruct the spin.
Why 2013 Was Our Hardest and Most Important Year So Far
Why has 2013 been difficult? The short answer is we’ve done a lot of new things that we think are important. But doing anything new takes more effort and we’ve learned that original reporting is a lot of work. One indicator of how insanely busy we’ve been: Have you noticed how the only media appearances we’ve done are Bill Moyers and Harry Shearer’s Le Show? We’ve turned down all other requests due to being chronically overloaded (this may seem misguided unless you realize that the alternative is physical breakdown).
In general, blogging in the finance and economic space has become more demanding. Many of the problems exposed by the crisis, such as income inequality, stagnant wages, high levels of consumer debt, and predation by large financial firms, remain unresolved. As a result, the propagandizing and disinformation on our beat is far more intense than it was before and during the crisis.
In 2010 and 2011, we were ahead of the media in exposing serious deficiencies in mortgage securitizations, chain of title issues, and borrower abuses by servicers. Unfortunately, the officialdom’s response was the “get out of liability almost free” cards known as the OCC servicer settlement (April 2011) and the Federal/state attorney general settlements (early 2012).
We started this year with a series of posts based on whistleblower accounts of 2011 OCC settlement. That agreement called for the Orwellianly-labeled “Independent Foreclosure Reviews” (IFR). If the complaints borrowers submitted were verified, they would be eligible for payouts. Nine insiders who performed reviews at Bank of America and PNC told us in great detail of how the processes at each servicer were set up to make sure virtually no harm was found. And all provided considerable evidence that confirmed that the servicing abuses were more wide ranging and deliberate than even our previous work had shown.
We were told by political insiders that our whistelblower series eviscerated official efforts to present the IFR as a boon to borrowers. Not only were media accounts uniformly critical, but even the OCC did not attempt to defend the process.
However, we also learned through publishing this series, which we turned into our first e-book, that original reporting is much more exacting and time-consuming than commentary and analysis. Nevertheless, this is a place where we can continue to play an important role. NC’s sophisticated readership and its history of making complicated products and practices accessible makes us an ideal outlet for insiders who want to expose complex abuses and fraud of all sorts.
Since the OCC review series, we’ve published other whistleblower accounts (see here and here). We have another major series based on original reporting underway, on widespread abuses in the private equity industry (see here, here, and here for our most recent posts).
Lambert has also been doing important original reporting, namely, his Obamacare series, where he has doggedly investigated the considerable defects of this program. He was early to expose that the October exchange launch was certain to be rife with technology problems. He’s also chronicled the considerable inequity in the program, how seemingly similarly situated people will experience surprisingly disparate results. An additional Lambert new frontier is his analysis of rhetorical tricks – especially Obama’s – though his color codings and analysis of major speeches (imagine how painful it is to go over an Obama performance in such excruciating detail….).
How This Fundraiser Works
We’d like to get broad-based participation from the NC community. So even if you can only make a small contribution, we’d still appreciate that, because we also have readers who can make much bigger donations. Our target is 1000 donors over the next week.
We will also identify specific things that your donations will help fund and will tell you when we’ve hit each of these monetary goals.
The first goal is to upgrade our hosting and tech support. The Web has become an increasingly hostile environment. As recently as 2011, all I had to do was get the site hosted and I didn’t have to think beyond that. Now it seems that managing the site’s plumbing has become an ongoing process. And even though your generous support last year enabled us to move to a better hosting service, we have to keep upping our game. For instance, we are engaged in an arms race with spambots (the intermittent woes some commentors have are an unfortunate side effect of the measures we take to keep the 1200+ daily spam messages from turning the comments section into a sea of garbage). Similarly, Google has recently, radically changed its algorithms in a way that has really whacked NC. Specific search strings turn up low traffic sites that steal our posts while the NC original does not display at all.** You can imagine what a serious and pressing problem that is. The result is that our “nut” for technology is certain to be much higher than usual this year. So our first target is $10,700. Once we’ve hit that, we’ll let you know what our next item is.
How to Give
As we described earlier, there are multiple channels for donating. The first are here on the blog, the “Donate” and “Subscribe” buttons in the upper right, both of which take you to PayPal (the charge will be in the name of Aurora Advisors) or the WePay button lower in the right column. You can send a check (or multiple post dated checks, if you want to spread out payments) in the name of Aurora Advisors Incorporated to Aurora Advisors Incorporated, 903 Park Avenue, 8th Floor, New York, NY 10075. Please also send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org with the headline “Check is in the mail” (and just the $ en route in the message) so we can count your contribution in the total number of donations.
Thanks again for your interest and generous support!
*Those cluttered ads are still our biggest source of revenues. I know some of them bother readers, but I find it amusing that quite a few financial firms are helping to support a site that criticizes their bad behavior on an ongoing basis.
** We are told that this isn’t a matter of our URL being on some sort of blacklist, which would be easy to fix given that we’ve gotten some very strong press recently that shows we are a legitimate operation. Basically, Google is engaged in an arms race of its own, changing its algos to keep ahead of people to try to game its ranking system. Unfortunately, even though we’ve never tried any search optimization tricks, we seem to have become collateral damage.