Unhappy Anniversary, Citizens United

Today is the 4th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s infamous “Citizens United” decision.

Why should you care?

Watch the 2 1/2 minute video at…

http://unitedrepublic.actionkit.com/event/cosponsor/9815/
http://unitedrepublic.actionkit.com/event/cosponsor/9815/

http://unitedrepublic.actionkit.com/event/cosponsor/9815/ to get a sense of what money in politics is doing to us and to our government. I hope you’ll then decide you want to add your name as a Citizen Co-Sponsor of the American Anti-Corruption Act. I hope you’ll want to tell everyone to do the same.

After that, visit…

https://movetoamend.org/
https://movetoamend.org/

https://movetoamend.org/ to understand what a bunch of concerned citizens are doing to push for an amendment to our Constitution, “… to firmly establish that money is not speech, and that human beings, not corporations, are persons entitled to constitutional rights.”

You can sign their petition, too.

Sounds pretty easy, right? It doesn’t take a lot, and every voice counts.

Look, if you don’t do something, who will?

And if you decide to do nothing? That’s your choice, of course.

The way I see it, though, is people who won’t take action – any action – really don’t get to complain about money in politics or the Democrats or the Republicans or the size of government or the size of the military or voter ID laws or how the 2-party system keeps independents from running and winning or fracking or climate science or Roe v Wade or the minimum wage or right-to-work states or class warfare or corporate welfare or Wall Street bonuses and bail outs or George Soros or Sheldon Adelson or Donald Trump or Fox News or MSNBC or Glass-Steagall or the Gilded Age or Obamacare or the NRA or immigration reform or lots of other things that corrupt our representative democracy.

Ask Your House Rep & Senators to "Be A Leader" on Overturning Citizens UnitedIt all boils down to money, and unless and until we – you and I and everyone we know – does something – ANYTHING – to get money out of politics while we get out and vote in every election, well then we shouldn’t expect much to change for the better.

We can do this. You can do this. Why not do it right now?

 

Let’s #NeverForget915 and the Lies of Trickle-Down Economics

NeverForget915On this, the 5th anniversary of the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers, Americans should take time to pause and remember this as yet another heinous crime of historic proportions perpetrated on Americans on a day in September.

It wasn’t terrorists and it wasn’t Main Street who killed our economy. No, this crime was perpetrated on us by a conspiracy forged between Big Money on Wall Street and Small (not Big!) Government politicians who carry their water and actually pass rules and laws that make the crime legal.

That means we’re also to blame. Actually, it’s not all of us who must share the blame.

There’s no other way to say this. It’s Americans who vote for politicians who want to further deregulate all kinds of industries, including the financial services industry, who share in the blame. By electing people who work to shrink government and deregulate industries, we’re actually creating a “Socialism of Wall Street” where the gains of capitalism are privatized to an infinitesimally small number of people while all the losses are socialized to all the rest of America.

How much more proof is needed that deregulation, coupled with greed and power, leads to terrible outcomes for everyone except those with wealth and power? I consider myself to be a capitalist, but I also know from experience that corporations have proven time and again that they cannot be trusted to police themselves alone.

For an excellent accounting and timeline of events that led up to the crash of ’08, I recommend reading this 2011 Forbes piece, Lest We Forget: Why We Had a Financial Crisis.

In it, Steve Denning writes:

Many actors obviously played a role in this story. Some of the actors were in the public sector and some of them were in the private sector. But the public sector agencies were acting at behest of the private sector. It’s not as though Congress woke up one morning and thought to itself, “Let’s abolish the Glass-Steagall Act!” Or the SEC spontaneously happened to have the bright idea of relaxing capital requirements on the investment banks. Or the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency of its own accord abruptly had the idea of preempting state laws protecting borrowers. These agencies of government were being strenuously lobbied to do the very things that would benefit the financial sector and their managers and traders. And behind it all, was the drive for short-term profits. <emphasis added>

I think “…being strenuously lobbied…” is too polite a euphemism.

It was the Big Money One-Percenters exercising their control over politicians who got agencies to do their bidding. 2008 was the result of the lies Reagan told America about trickle-down economics and the size of government, and the perpetuation of those lies coming from Republicans, extreme neo-cons, and the One Percent ever since. They are the ones who killed our economy in 2008, and they will do it again unless we do something to stop them.

Need more evidence?

Here are some facts about the 2008 bailout, courtesy of Public Citizen.

  • Amount the crash cost the U.S. economy: $22 trillion
  • How much everyone would get if that $22 trillion were divided equally among the U.S. populace: $69,478.88
  • Assets of the four biggest banks in America — JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup and Wachovia/Wells Fargo — when they were “too big to fail” in 2008: $6.4 trillion
  • Assets of those four banks today: $7.8 trillion
  • Of the 63 former Lehman Brothers employees identified by a bankruptcy examiner as being aware of an accounting scheme Lehman used to mask its true finances, number who are employed in senior financial services positions today: 47
  • Number of the 25 banks responsible for the bulk of risky subprime loans leading up to the crash that are back in the mortgage business: 25
  • Chances that an American voter thinks that regulating financial products and services is “important” or “very important”: 9 in 10
  • Chances that an American knows the Earth orbits the sun: 8 in 10
  • Amount spent in 2012 by Wall Street and other finance industry behemoths on lobbying to roll back, water down and weasel out of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act: $487 million
  • Number of registered financial industry lobbyists in 2012: 2,429
  • Number of lawsuits filed as of April of this year by Eugene Scalia, son of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, to hold up implementation of Dodd-Frank rules on legal technicalities: 7
  • Rank of finance industry among all corporate election spending by sector in 2011 and 2012: 1
  • Amount the industry gave to political candidates in 2011 and 2012: $664 million
  • In 2012, rate at which revenues of JPMorgan Chase, the largest bank in the U.S., matched Public Citizen’s operating expenses for the entire year: Every 80 minutes

To my friends on the right, isn’t it time to wake up to the reality that trickle-down economics is a lie? The One Percent don’t care about you, and you are extremely unlikely to ever become one of them.

Isn’t it time to join forces as average, middle class Americans to make our voices heard about getting big money and it’s corrupting influence out of politics, and to get our democracy turned back over to us ordinary citizens?

You can start by joining and supporting CoffeePartyUSA and by becoming a Citizen Co-Sponsor of the American Anti-Corruption Act.

UPDATE 9/16/2016:

I am no longer a supporter of any kind of Coffee Party USA. To understand why, click here.

http://anticorruptionact.org/
http://anticorruptionact.org/

Wall Street’s Socialists

Take a good look.

Exchange floor

These are the real Socialists in America today(1).

No, not Socialism in the text-book definition of the word. I mean something more heinous:  a dystopian form of capitalism in which all the gains are privatized and all the losses are socialized.

The New York Times reported that when Bernanke said, “…the economy could soon be strong enough to live with less of its stimulus, the markets threw their version of a tantrum.”

Why is that? Why do the all-knowing and all-powerful “invisible hands” on Wall Street who control the world’s finances and our so-called free market start wringing those hands and selling off stock at the thought of fewer stimulus dollars?

Shouldn’t they be overjoyed? What happened to all the confidence they profess to have that capitalists and corporations would thrive if they were simply left to their own devices?

And, where are the cheers from the GOP, tea partiers, and Randians on the right for Bernanke’s announcement?

Why are “investors” (and let’s be clear, they don’t mean us) selling stocks when corporate profits are generally at historic highs?

I know. Buy low, sell high. So, has the high been reached? Could it be that those highs have been achieved at least in part because there was federal stimulus being pumped into the economy?

Could it be that Wall Street is having their tantrum now because they know the truth: that tapering back now is a bad idea? After all, some really smart people who have won Nobel Prizes for how much they know about economics have been telling us that the recovery hasn’t been all that great – except on some paper and in reality for an infinitesimally small number of people – precisely because there has been too little stimulus.

Wall Streeters and banksters are a lot of things. One thing they are not is stupid. They know that corporations won’t do so well once the Federal Reserve tapers back.

They have to know what many of us know:  that on some very disturbing levels austerity has proven to be a complete failure. Austerity does not lead to growth. If the Feds curtail stimulus now without a healthy, prosperous, and confident middle class, the whole charade of corporate profitability will be revealed and proven to be unsustainable.

Can’t you just see Wall Street coming back to the federal government again to be bailed out?

Let’s hope that this sell-off wakes up our elected leaders. Wall Street needs much more and much tougher regulation, and they need it now. The big banks created out of the fiasco that was the GOP and W administration – yes, it’s still his and their fault and always will be despite all the attempts to rewrite or ignore history – need to be broken up, and they need to be regulated under new Glass-Steagall-like regulations on steroids.

Our only hope as citizens will be to vote for politicians like Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Sherrod Brown who also believe that our society requires a stronger government that protects us from the unfettered greed of people running banks and big corporations. It is their big and dark money, and the influence it has over our politicians, that represents the real threat to our society.

(1) I’m not claiming that the gentlemen specifically pictured above are socialists. I don’t know them or their politics. This is merely symbolic metaphor.

Sources:

A Fit of Pique on Wall Street, New York Times, June 21, 2013. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/22/business/economy/a-fit-of-pique-on-wall-street.html

‘Whale-sized’ Proof That Wall Street Can’t Be Trusted

Image
Michael /Cavanagh and Douglas Braunstein swear into a Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations hearing in Washington, D.C., on March 15th, 2013. -Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Wall Street is proving once again that they simply cannot be trusted. What is required is even greater and stronger regulation, not less. We also need laws that expeditiously put bankers in jail for the kinds of willfully unethical actions undertaken by JP Morgan senior managers in the London Whale escapade.

Few of us are likely to read a 307-page Senate report. Instead, read Gretchen Morgenson’s New York Times article, “JP Morgan’s Follies, for All to See” from March 16.

Wall Street remains out of control. In fact, they are now a greater threat to stability in the global economy than before the crash they caused just five short years ago.

It’s also important to understand and admit that Dodd-Frank is not strong enough despite any accusations over its supposedly onerous overreach.

What other conclusions can anyone come to when the government seems powerless to foresee and forestall the world’s largest derivatives trader, a firm described as “the bank that enjoys the best reputation among its peers,” from acting with this kind of hubris, impunity, and disregard for ethical conduct?

The Senate report disproves this premise <that Dodd-Frank would make the banking system safer> with vigor.

Its pages of e-mails, testimony, telephone transcripts and analysis show that traders in the bank’s chief investment office hid money-losing derivatives positions, if only temporarily; that risk limits created by the bank to protect itself were exceeded routinely; that risk models were changed to minimize losses; that bank executives misled investors and the public; and that regulations are only as good as the regulators enforcing them.

What can we do about it? For starters, we can make our voices heard.

The people in DC are supposed to work for us. A few like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are demonstrating through word and deed that they do represent citizens first.

What’s corrupting the vast majority of politicians and our government is money. Big Money. Money that was, to be sure, always there, but money that is now exponentially larger and more dangerous because of the sheer amounts, the lack of transparency about its sources, and the influence it is having on lawmakers as a result of the Citizens United ruling by the Supreme Court.

As citizens, we are well within our rights – in fact, we have a duty – to call or write to your elected leaders to ask – and to demand, if we must – to know what their positions are on Citizens United. You can find your Senator here and your Representative here.

Here’s an even easier way.

Get involved in the movement to overturn Citizens United.

Help spread the word and throw your support behind groups of like-minded citizens like BeTheWave, Represent.Us, MAYDAY.US, Wolf-PAC.com, and Coffee Party USA.  Join forces and pressure our elected officials to take a stand on Citizens United one way or the other. Every Senator and every Representative needs to be on record so voters will know if the candidate represents our concerns as citizens or the concerns of Big Money.

We need to vote for and support Senators and Representatives who want to break up the banks, not defend and deregulate them further. We can see where that leads. What we need are elected officials who will build up and build upon Dodd-Frank so that we have some sort of 21st century version of Glass-Steagall.

History really does repeat itself, doesn’t it? It happens exclusively because we refuse to study it and learn from it. Among the many excellent posts by John Cashon, the one titled “Franklin Roosevelt, an advocate for the people” is highly recommended as one that will help the reader to understand the similarities between the early 20th century and the early 21st century.

Unless and until our laws change, the people most responsible for tanking our economy five years ago and who are putting our economy at risk again are not going to change their behavior. And so long as politicians care more about raising incredible amounts of money – and feathering their nests for a post-electorate career in the private sector – than they do about representing us, the necessary laws have only a small chance of getting sponsored and passed.

Still, we cannot and should not give up or stay silent. As citizens, we must demand that government take a stronger and more active stance to protect us from a financial system whereby gains are privatized and losses are socialized.

Image
Dorothea Lange’s Migrant Mother depicts destitute pea pickers in California, centering on Florence Owens Thompson, age 32, a mother of seven children, in Nipomo, California, March 1936. – from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Depression

The concerns about today’s financial services sector are not hyperbole conjured out of thin air. Wall Street and the free market have proven once again that they cannot be trusted to regulate themselves. The “invisible hand” really does require a strong and very visible counter-balancing force that comes only from government and only through regulation, oversight, legislation, and when necessary, significant punishment under the law.

The unregulated and unfettered capitalists who caused the financial collapse of 80 years ago knew no limits to their hubris. Their progeny seems not to have any today.

In borrowing the words of FDR, we should welcome their hatred for our desire to want to stop them from wrecking the economy over and over and over again. We should throw our full support behind those candidates who would equally embrace the “hatred” of Wall Street while they work to increase regulation and overturn Citizens United.

(Updated 9/12/2015)

Will We in the Middle Class Never Learn?

Joe Nocera’s New York Times op-ed of June 17, 2011, “The Banking Miracle”, makes me wonder why it’s so hard for some people to accept what history has to tell us?

America’s economic greatness is measured by its middle class, not the wealthy. We seem to be doomed without a vibrant, optimistic, and prospering middle class that has the money to spend on the goods and services that the economy produces. An irony in all of this is that we in the middle class are partly to blame. We are so caught up in striving to be wealthy – or at least occasionally feel like we can live a little of our lives as if we were – that we can be our own worst enemies when it comes to racking up personal debt. The difference between us and the bankers, however, is that our debts are our own and, as we should have learned from history and are so painfully learning again, so are Wall Street’s.

We also become our own worst enemies when we start believing and supporting the fallacy of trickle down economics. History proves that model doesn’t work. Correction. That model works perfectly well for the very wealthy. It’s a superb model for widening the wealth gap and concentrating wealth in fewer and fewer hands.

So I continuously wonder how many more times will it take before intelligent individuals look at history, do the math, and accept that the rich consider the rest of us to be little more than economic chattel; property, as it were, to be bought and sold for the benefit of the uber-rich and powerful? By supporting failed economic models and legislative policies that benefit the wealthy over the middle class, we are doing little more than engaging in wishful thinking while clinging to a blind faith that by prostrating ourselves at the feet of the wealthy we might some day be invited to a seat at their table. Even without such an invitation, some of us cling to an even more dangerous and failed belief that what’s needed now is to remove any last bit of regulation and to put our full faith and trust in the hands of wealthy capitalists and bankers. These are the very people who not only have caused the last two great economic collapses, they have mastered the art of duping an uninformed and blissfully ignorant portion of the population into believing that without them we will have even fewer opportunities to live a life that has any hope, dignity, or comfort at all.

IMHO, those of us in the middle class who believe these fairy tales do ourselves and our fellow citizens a grave injustice by thinking that the best a free market system has to offer is whatever scraps the richest among us care to share from their plates.

Economic collapses aren’t and never have been caused by unions, the middle class, the poor, or illegal immigrants. Men from places like Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, and other big houses on Wall Street have been at the root of our economic collapses. They’ve never really been the catalyst of economic growth and prosperity, either. They’ve never built a single car, computer, or line of software code. They don’t build buildings and they don’t grow food. They don’t mine minerals and they don’t teach our kids in schools or deliver health care. To be sure, they play a role as middle men in making the financing possible to do those things. They ostensibly provide the supposed financial expertise to evaluate the risk-reward equation. They have the contacts to be able to put monied interests together with those who need the investment capital. So at the end of the day, what are they? They are the hosts of a multi-trillion dollar Match Game for which they are paid astronomical sums and for which we are supposed to be grateful for their parts in the “jobs creation” equation.

Here’s the rub. When their bets win, they reap the rewards in terms of massive personal wealth which never really trickles down very far, if at all. Good for them. Our system is supposed to reward intelligence and achievement, and I’m all for that. But what happens when there are no rules in place and their gambles go south? Who suffers? Who has to pay for those bad bets?

History cannot be denied. We know by looking back that when there are either too few or no borders, boundaries, or rules by which people – including capitalists – must play, bad things tend to happen. Call it a sad reality of human nature. Call it whatever you like. The reality cannot be denied. The concentration of wealth – and the unregulated power that goes with it – is what was at the root of the Great Depression and the Great Recession. And while the post-WWII prosperity this country enjoyed for the latter half of the 20th century is not completely the result of Glass-Steagall, the undeniable truths are that the bill existed until Reagan and Greenspan successfully vilified government and financial regulation, and Clinton signed a GOP piece of legislation into law that the Republicans had wanted since the 30s to reverse Glass-Steagall known as Gramm-Leach-Bliley.

And where do we find ourselves again and as a result? In an economy that widens the wealth gap, divides us on ideologies to the point where people stop talking to each other, and where, saddest of all, facts no longer matter.

Know what else cannot be denied? It’s who pays for the *unregulated* bets that Wall Street makes and loses. Bets that we’re now learning that Wall Street was making both ways by continuing to sell unregulated securities like mortgage backed securities and collateralized debt obligations even while they bet against them with credit default swaps? I can tell who didn’t pay for those bad bets; the Wall Streeters who made them and who, despite the collapse, continue to make historic bonuses instead of being fired or going to jail. Whatever happened to accountability? Whatever happened to paying for one’s mistakes? Whatever happened to business ethics?

So I have to ask, “Is the desire to regulate really socialism, and what is it called when an economic system privatizes all the gains and socializes all the losses?”

Are we witnessing a perversion of capitalism? Is the erosion of the middle class and vilification of the poor what happens when a wealthy and powerful oligarchy wields ever more unchecked and unregulated power, reaps all the rewards, and passes all of their losses onto us?

Is what we are witnessing really the truest expression of capitalism? Is the ultimate manifestation of our system really the plutocracy we are seeing now; a system where the rich few tell all the rest of us what to think and what’s good for us and, out of shear fear and panic, we believe them?

Are we really going to become a society in which social programs are seen as wasteful and frivolous; where the availability of medical science and technology that can improve and save lives is reduced to an economic ROI calculation; where average people who have played by the rules and worked hard all their lives become indigent in their old age; and where we gladly pursue and support economic and political policies that produce short term gains for a few with no regard for long term pains for the many?

Are we that blind? Are we that cold? Have we really lost our intelligence and our humanity at the same time?

What happens next? Do we continue to allow our system to devolve into a kleptocracy where government is replaced by capitalism, ruled completely by and for the exclusive and sole benefit of the richest among us, and where we finally and completely see them steal any lingering shreds of dignity and paltry wealth we have left?

It just seems to me that we are hurtling toward a doom that comes only from a completely unregulated capitalist system – at least as capitalism is being practiced today in America. IMHO, we have some people within the middle class who support the idea of less regulation, who refuse to learn from history, and who won’t face reality to partially thank for it.

If we were united in the middle class and in our demands for fairness, equality, and sensible rules to protect the economy as a whole, I could see us creating the environment for real recovery and prosperity just as was the case during that period in the 20th century when the wealth gap wasn’t so wide and legislation like Glass-Steagall kept people from making fortunes by knowingly making bets that only paid the dividends and never saddled them with the losses.

Related Sources
Rampell, Catherine. (June 17, 2011). For Want of a Word, Arizona’s Jobless Lose Checks. New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/18/business/18benefits.html

Howard, John. (June 2, 2011). Goldman Hit With Subpoena Over MBS Antics. Law360.com Retrieved from http://www.law360.com/topnews/articles/248863

The Daily Show: Exclusive – William Cohan Interview Parts 1 and 2 (April 28, 2011). Retrieved from
http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/thu-april-28-2011/exclusive—william-cohan-extended-interview-pt–1
http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/thu-april-28-2011/exclusive—william-cohan-extended-interview-pt–2

—– Original Message —–

Sent: Saturday, June 18, 2011 7:15:29 AM
Subject: The Banking Miracle

The president of the American Bankers Association was railing against excessive regulation in a speech at the Waldorf Astoria. The banking reform bill, he complained, “would destroy a substantial part of our bond-distributing machinery.” He added, “Can anyone expect that a step of this kind will improve the quality of our long-term investments?”

Modern echoes, for sure. But I read about the speech in a Jan. 27, 1933, article culled from the wonderful archives of The American Banker, the bankers’ bible now celebrating its 175th birthday. The speaker, one Francis H. Sisson, was complaining about an early version of the Glass-Steagall Act, the most famous of all Depression-era bank laws, and the one that, in retrospect, probably did the most good. Less than six months after Sisson’s speech, President Franklin Roosevelt signed it into law.

From my vantage point here in 2011, Glass-Steagall seems miraculous. It was amazingly radical, not just for its time, but for any time; it didn’t so much reform banking as upend it. Most notably, it ordered banks to get out of the securities business. As Sisson complained: “The effect of the proposed banking reform is to renounce investment banking rather than regulate it.” Because investment banking was then the chief activity of the big banks, this was a very big deal.

Glass-Steagall also created the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, which insured customer deposits for the first time, and outlawed branch banking by national banks, among other things. It is impossible to imagine anything like it passing today; although the modern reform bill, Dodd-Frank, surely does some good, it’s not even comparable.

I’d long wondered how Senator Carter Glass, the powerful Virginia Democrat, and his House counterpart, the Alabama congressman Henry Steagall, managed to get it passed. What were the politics like? What did they fight over? Why didn’t people like Sisson have better luck pushing back against it, the way bank lobbyists do today? So I asked the editors at American Banker if they would send me some articles from the era that would shed some light on the question. Happily, they obliged.

The first thing I realized is that all the horse-trading over the bill’s provision was done by Democrats. The Republicans, having been badly defeated in the 1932 election, had no ability to block it or even amend it. For instance, Republicans tended to view the creation of deposit insurance as “socialism.” (Sound familiar?) But it didn’t matter: Steagall cared deeply about deposit insurance. Many community bankers — as strong a force back then as today — also supported the idea because they believed it would renew customers’ faith in the banks, and bring back deposits. (This turned out to be true.) Glass, though skeptical, went along so he could get things he cared about, mainly a stronger Federal Reserve with more power over the banks.

The second thing I realized was that, the Sisson speech notwithstanding, there was surprisingly little controversy over what we now think of as the law’s primary achievement: splitting commercial and investment banking. The fights were all over issues that seem inconsequential by today’s lights. It’s as if the notion of breaking the banking business into two was always a foregone conclusion.

And, for the most part, it was. Partly, this was because, unlike today, bank failures in the 1930s were often ruinous to customers. So reform was more pressing. But it was also because, for the entire time the legislation was under consideration, the Pecora hearings were going on — in which Ferdinand Pecora, the flamboyant chief counsel of the Senate Banking Committee, dragged one well-known banker after another before the committee and grilled them mercilessly, exposing how they had abused their investment banking roles, sometimes to the point of criminality. The Pecora hearings serve as a steady drumbeat in the American Banker articles.

Those hearings infuriated the country, and made it unthinkable that banks would continue to be allowed to sell securities. In fact, some banks, seeing which way the wind was blowing, applauded: “The spirit of speculation should be eradicated from the management of commercial banks,” declared Winthrop Aldrich, the chairman of Chase National Bank, according to Michael Perino, Pecora’s biographer. Ironically, Glass loathed the Pecora hearings, deriding them as “a circus, and the only thing lacking now are peanuts and colored lemonade.” But the hearings made his bill — which had been filibustered by Huey Long just 18 months earlier — not just possible but inevitable.

How inevitable? Charles Geisst, a finance professor at Manhattan College and an expert on the law, says that the House and Senate didn’t even bother with a roll-call vote for final passage. This seminal piece of legislation, which helped keep the banks out of trouble for the next 70-plus years, flew through on a voice vote. On Friday, June 16, 1933, when Roosevelt signed it into law, The American Banker gave the news all of three paragraphs. There was nothing left to say.

Joe Nocera