Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Ending Identity Liberalism

The Age of Identity Liberalism Must be Brought to an End:

One of the many lessons of the recent presidential election campaign and its repugnant outcome is that the age of identity liberalism must be brought to an end. Hillary Clinton was at her best and most uplifting when she spoke about American interests in world affairs and how they relate to our understanding of democracy. But when it came to life at home, she tended on the campaign trail to lose that large vision and slip into the rhetoric of diversity, calling out explicitly to African-American, Latino, L.G.B.T. and women voters at every stop. This was a strategic mistake. If you are going to mention groups in America, you had better mention all of them. If you don’t, those left out will notice and feel excluded. Which, as the data show, was exactly what happened with the white working class and those with strong religious convictions. Fully two-thirds of white voters without college degrees voted for Donald Trump, as did over 80 percent of white evangelicals.

The moral energy surrounding identity has, of course, had many good effects. Affirmative action has reshaped and improved corporate life. Black Lives Matter has delivered a wake-up call to every American with a conscience. Hollywood’s efforts to normalize homosexuality in our popular culture helped to normalize it in American families and public life.

But the fixation on diversity in our schools and in the press has produced a generation of liberals and progressives narcissistically unaware of conditions outside their self-defined groups, and indifferent to the task of reaching out to Americans in every walk of life. At a very young age our children are being encouraged to talk about their individual identities, even before they have them. By the time they reach college many assume that diversity discourse exhausts political discourse, and have shockingly little to say about such perennial questions as class, war, the economy and the common good. In large part this is because of high school history curriculums, which anachronistically project the identity politics of today back onto the past, creating a distorted picture of the major forces and individuals that shaped our country. (The achievements of women’s rights movements, for instance, were real and important, but you cannot understand them if you do not first understand the founding fathers’ achievement in establishing a system of government based on the guarantee of rights.)
I've never heard of Mark Lilla before this article appeared in the NYT this weekend, but it is the best explanation I've read yet about why the Democrats lost the election (even though they are projected to win the popular vote by 3 million votes; see my last post for more). The intense narcissism produced by identity politics has produced an ironic reaction: individual self-identifying groups of people who are completely lacking in empathy towards people different than them ("othering," to use the common phrase).
It is at the level of electoral politics that identity liberalism has failed most spectacularly, as we have just seen. National politics in healthy periods is not about “difference,” it is about commonality. And it will be dominated by whoever best captures Americans’ imaginations about our shared destiny. Ronald Reagan did that very skillfully, whatever one may think of his vision. So did Bill Clinton, who took a page from Reagan’s playbook. 
Let's pause to note: he's discussing electoral victory, not the fact that these are two of the more failed presidencies in terms of mass incarceration, punishment as political capital, and the war on poor people and people of color. In fact, the anger towards Hillary Clinton among these disenfranchised groups was directly attributable to her husband's draconian welfare and punishment policies of the 90's. But I digress...
The media’s newfound, almost anthropological, interest in the angry white male reveals as much about the state of our liberalism as it does about this much maligned, and previously ignored, figure. A convenient liberal interpretation of the recent presidential election would have it that Mr. Trump won in large part because he managed to transform economic disadvantage into racial rage — the “whitelash” thesis. This is convenient because it sanctions a conviction of moral superiority and allows liberals to ignore what those voters said were their overriding concerns.
I so agree. If there was a dumber term than "whitelash" this election cycle, please direct me to it.
The whitelash thesis is convenient because it absolves liberals of not recognizing how their own obsession with diversity has encouraged white, rural, religious Americans to think of themselves as a disadvantaged group whose identity is being threatened or ignored. Such people are not actually reacting against the reality of our diverse America (they tend, after all, to live in homogeneous areas of the country). But they are reacting against the omnipresent rhetoric of identity, which is what they mean by “political correctness.” Liberals should bear in mind that the first identity movement in American politics was the Ku Klux Klan, which still exists. Those who play the identity game should be prepared to lose it.
Not to mention, to these rust belt, non-college degree white folks (especially white males) the idea that they are somehow a "privileged" group is only something a person living in the true confines of privilege could assert. There is nothing "privileged" about a manufacturing job that paid $25/hr + benefits and was outsourced to China (Gina!) being replaced with a job as a sales associate at Wal-Mart making $10/hr with no benefits. And all the rhetoric suggesting otherwise simply manifests itself in a hatred of the "educational elite" and other clueless eggheads on college campuses.
We need a post-identity liberalism, and it should draw from the past successes of pre-identity liberalism. Such a liberalism would concentrate on widening its base by appealing to Americans as Americans and emphasizing the issues that affect a vast majority of them. It would speak to the nation as a nation of citizens who are in this together and must help one another. As for narrower issues that are highly charged symbolically and can drive potential allies away, especially those touching on sexuality and religion, such a liberalism would work quietly, sensitively and with a proper sense of scale. (To paraphrase Bernie Sanders, America is sick and tired of hearing about liberals’ damn bathrooms.)
Put it this way: when the Democratic party put transgender bathroom access as a top priority in its party platform agenda, you lose a generation of angry, white, working class voters (the once backbone of the party) for whom this issue is beyond irrelevant. That's not to say the issue itself is irrelevant, but priorities, people.
Teachers committed to such a liberalism would refocus attention on their main political responsibility in a democracy: to form committed citizens aware of their system of government and the major forces and events in our history. A post-identity liberalism would also emphasize that democracy is not only about rights; it also confers duties on its citizens, such as the duties to keep informed and vote. A post-identity liberal press would begin educating itself about parts of the country that have been ignored, and about what matters there, especially religion.
Now, I understand that faith was largely ignored by both candidates in the 2016 election (also, so was public policy or anything resembling a substantive political campaign). How Trump won the evangelical vote by upwards of 80% or more is astonishing for someone who is about as a-religious as it gets. And Clinton herself was no Bible-thumper who rarely, if ever, brought up faith on the stump.

But the Democrats are more frightened of talking about religion, or nominating a candidate for whom faith is central to their "identity," because it's likely to be derided as "non-inclusive," "hateful," or "what about my faith," or whatever the hell. And it's that precise sort of othering and condescension that breeds resentment among the electorate, particularly those for whom faith is kind of a big deal.

None of this is to take away from the neo-Nazi ugliness, antisemitic behavior, and explosion of hate crimes across the country, perpetrated by angry whites, since the election (this headline on CNN "Are Jews People?" was astonishing). It makes you wonder what the reaction would have been had their "anointed candidate" lost. You can call them "alt-right" or "white nationalists" (or better, "sore winners") and try to normalize hatred, but it won't work. These people are good old fashioned racists, using the election to mainstream their twisted ideologies. The sooner the media turns that rock over, the better.

But Lilla isn't giving this kind of hatred a pass or excuse, because the article is about electoral politics, not the aftermath. What he is saying is that the past 25 years of "political correctness" and other multicultural pronoun/language calisthenics has produced a coalition of Democrats who are sure to keep losing election after election for the foreseeable future. As he notes, what wins elections is "us" and "we," not "them" and "those" (or hir and ze).

Democrats can dismiss him if they choose, but should be prepared to remain in the electoral wilderness and watch as the real assault on freedom begins by people who don't really care about identity groups, safe spaces, bathroom access or, ironically, the uneducated working class white folks who ushered them into office.

The shitstorm is a coming...happy thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Electoral College: Plutocracy in Action

Clinton's Popular Vote Will Grow and Grow and Grow:

Donald Trump didn’t actually flip many Democrats, the thinking goes. Instead, Hillary Clinton failed to turn out liberal voters who had previously voted for Barack Obama. It’s a tempting narrative for smarting progressives, as it maintains status quo thinking—Clinton’s unlikable!and removes any culpability on the part of the Democrats for missing a massive shift in the electorate. In other words, it’s Clinton’s fault, not theirs, that Trump won the presidency.

Unfortunately, that graph is missing something important. (And not just a properly scaled y-axis.) The numbers that came out on Election Night were enough to secure Trump the presidency, but they weren’t complete. State officials are still counting millions of provisional and absentee ballots, and within two weeks, Clinton will likely have another few million votes in the bank.

Most were cast in the Clinton-leaning states of California, Washington, and New York—not swing states—so they won’t change the Electoral College. But there’s a sufficient amount to put her within striking distance of Obama’s 2012 turnout, and help put an end to the argument that she simply didn’t work hard enough.
It also challenges all the other tropes coming from the disgruntled Bernie Sanders supporters in the party that she was a "flawed candidate," that the "corrupt party establishment" was out of touch with the people, that "millennials, African-Americans" and other marginalized groups didn't turn out, and on and on (the black vote is close to what it was in 2012, and if you only counted 18-25 year old's votes, she would have won a 48 state landslide).

The problem, dear reader, is the antiquity known as the Electoral College. This will be twice in the last 16 years that the president-elect lost the popular vote to their opponent. Gore won the popular vote by around a half a million in 2000, and Clinton is expected to win by 2-3 million, an astonishing number of votes that have been systematically disenfranchised by virtue of the Electoral College.

It doesn't take a genius to figure out why the anti-Trump protests, at first thought to be a day-after reaction to the election, are growing larger and larger by the day.

Keep in mind a few facts about the EC: 1. it was a compromise with slave-holding states to make their representation count more in a national election (along with the wretched "three-fifths Compromise" bone thrown to southern states); and 2. it was described by Madison, Hamilton and others in the Federalist Papers as being designed to specifically subvert the will of the "ignorant and uninformed masses" who might otherwise vote for some kind of charlatan, dictator, or other lunatic (insert your own ironic Trump/Clinton joke here). In other words we, the plutocracy ruling class of the country, will let you know if your candidate is up to snuff.

On the one hand, I can see a legitimate concern back in the 18th century, when there was no mass media, word traveled on horseback, there were no mandatory education laws, and no way to be 100% sure the people wouldn't fall for some sucker and end up destroying the republic.

On the other hand, since at least 150 years ago if not longer, we've had a mass media and, increasingly, a much faster spread of information via the web and 21st century technologies. The idea that a majority of the country would be clueless about the candidates they were voting for, today, is absurd.

Whether you agree with the outcome or not, the people voting for Trump knew exactly what and who they were voting for. And the fact that Clinton won the popular vote election by historic margins (her vote totals may end up near Obama's re-election numbers in 2012) is also incontrovertible.

It's true, America is not a "democracy" by definition (the word doesn't appear in the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, or the Bill of Rights), and some argue that the EC is a way for the rights of the minority to be protected from the will of the majority when its rights are indeed violated (fair point).

But America is also not a plutocracy either, and the ruling class has now subverted the will of the people in two of the last five presidential elections. It's a sentiment even the president-elect has said he agrees with.

Real reform comes at a price. And if the people are supposedly as "angry" for change as we keep hearing, then now's your chance, America, to scrap the antiquity known as the Electoral College.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Suicide Attempts and Follow Up Risks

After A Suicide Attempt, The Risk of Another Try:

Suicide surpasses homicide in this country. Every 13 minutes someone in the United States dies by his own hand, making suicide the nation’s 10th leading cause of death over all (42,773 deaths in 2015), but second among those aged 15 to 34. Among children aged 10 to 14, the suicide rate has caught up to the death rate from traffic accidents.
Let me pause here and note, this latter statistic among the 10-14 set has been getting a lot of mileage lately in the press, but it's taken out of context. Yes, the suicide rate has increased marginally among this group in the past decade (up a few cases, literally); what's changed is that the number of deaths related to traffic accidents has continued to drop annually. Meaning, while the suicide rate for 10-14's is higher than traffic fatalities, we're talking about such small populations they are almost statistically insignificant (384 v. 425).

Not that these lives are insignificant by any measure, just that when comparing rates among populations so small (we're talking hundreds of cases out of the millions of children aged 10-14) even the slightest increase or decrease can cause a huge shift in rate.
Many times that number – more than a million adults and 8 percent of high school students — attempt suicide each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Yet a woeful minority receive the kind of treatment and attention needed to keep them from repeating a suicide attempt.

A common yet highly inaccurate belief is that people who survive a suicide attempt are unlikely to try again. In fact, just the opposite is true. Within the first three months to a year following a suicide attempt, people are at highest risk of a second attempt — and this time perhaps succeeding.

A recent analysis of studies that examined successful suicides among those who made prior attempts found that one person in 25 had a fatal repeat attempt within five years.
Which begs the question, what methods were used in the attempts, and how do they vary by lethality?
Now a new study reveals just how lethal suicide attempts, as a risk factor for completed suicide, are. The study, led by Dr. J. Michael Bostwick, a psychiatrist at the Mayo Clinic, tracked all first suicide attempts in one county in Minnesota that occurred between January 1986 and December 2007 and recorded all the deaths by suicide for up to 25 years thereafter. Eighty-one of the 1,490 people who attempted suicide, or 5.4 percent, died by suicide, 48 of them in their first attempt. The findings were reported in the American Journal of Psychiatry.

When all who succeeded in killing themselves were counted, including those who died in their first attempt, the fatality rate among suicide attempters was nearly 59 percent higher than had been previously reported.

“No one had included people who died on their first recorded attempt, so it’s not in the medical literature,” Dr. Bostwick explained in an interview. “That almost two-thirds end up at the medical coroner after a first attempt is astounding. We need to rethink how we look at the data and the phenomenon of suicide. We need to know more and do more for those who will complete suicide before they get to us for any kind of help.”

The study also showed that the odds of successfully committing suicide are 140 times greater when a gun is used than for any other method. Dr. Bostwick said that most suicide attempts are “impulsive acts, and it’s critical to prevent access to tools that make impulsive attempts more deadly.

“Suicide attempters often have second thoughts, but when a method like a gun works so effectively, there’s no opportunity to reconsider,” he said.
As I've noted for years, the lethality of the method leaves no room for reconsideration. The easy access and availability of firearms in our gun-soaked culture virtually guarantee these trends will continue: that first attempters will be successful attempters, and the numbers of people who attempt suicide and live will continue to decline. 

Yet gun control is rarely mentioned in the suicide prevention literature.
Equally if not more important to preventing successful suicide is paying attention to premonitory signs of suicidal intent and taking appropriate action to diffuse it. People who are depressed, who abuse substances like alcohol or illegal drugs or are having serious relationship difficulties should be considered high risk, Dr. Bostwick said.

More often than not, family members and friends are in the best position to spot a potential suicide and take steps to head it off. In addition to depression and substance abuse, signs include making statements (verbal or written) of being better off dead; withdrawing from family and friends; feeling helpless, hopeless, enraged, trapped, excessively guilty or ashamed; losing interest in most activities; acting impulsively or recklessly; and giving away prized possessions.
All very good and informative, but again, it fails to mention the thousand pound elephant in the room, namely the preferred lethality of the chosen method, in this case guns. No, gun control won't stop every suicide and no one is suggesting such a thing. But you 're never going to lower the rate of suicide overall, or at all, unless you talk about gun control.

When the number of people shooting themselves every year is approaching the same number who get the flu, you've got a big f'ing problem in your society. And failing to do something about guns is like discouraging people from getting flu shots.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

The Long National Nightmare

Is either ending or just beginning today, Election Day, U.S.:

Parents held their children in the air to get a glimpse as Mrs. Clinton voted for herself in Chappaqua, N.Y., on Tuesday morning.

“It’s a humbling feeling,” Mrs. Clinton said.

Mr. Trump appeared to be in good spirits when he arrived at a Manhattan polling place on the Upper East Side just before 11 a.m. with his wife, Melania, to vote for himself.

He was met with a mix of cheers and boos as he left his motorcade and waved to pedestrians.
It certainly has been an ugly, sordid, myopic election, especially if you compare it to eight years ago.
The elections of 2008 and 2016: twin political moments that cannot be disentangled — an earthquake and its aftershock, jolting the American psyche into an era of spectacular contradiction.

An increasingly popular departing president is leading a country that most voters believe is on the wrong track.
It's rather ironic, that with the end of his presidency in near sight, and with Clinton v. Trump dragging into its sixth month (the election overall, 18+ months),  that more people wish we could scrap the 22nd amendment and allow Obama to serve a third term. His approval ratings today, Election Day, have never been higher. 

But the differences in the elections are startling. '08 was about optimism, hope, and history. This election has been the polar opposite: cynicism, pessimism, and loathing. 

On the one hand, it's the last dying gasp of a white majority soon to be minority, with race having been the absolute central motivating factor in all the anger, resentment and obstruction that greeted Obama from day one. And now with Hillary Clinton's probable ascension, a new wave of misogyny and sexism will greet her from day one (endless and pointless investigations, congressional obstruction, etc.). And believe me: it has everything to do with gender, no matter how much the obstructionists will claim it doesn't (like they said race had nothing to do with Obama's obstruction). Men in general are on their way out of the offices of power, and like the dying white majority, they won't go quietly either.

So, we'll see what the results are in mere hours, but I think it's worth noting that if Trump loses and refuses to "accept" or "concede" the results, it's 100% irrelevant. The results are the results, and it doesn't matter whether he concedes or approves or accepts them. The Electoral College meets in December and certifies the results, and the winner is sworn in January 20th. The end. It will be interesting to see if the media continues to cover the disgruntlement of the loser, simply because he's good for clicks/ratings/ad dollars.

At the end of the day the republic has certainly suffered worse and more controversial elections. What's changed, though, is our ability to come together and move forward as a culture. It's now to easy to hide in social media world and get only the information that affirms your preexisting thoughts. And so if you believe the election is "rigged" and Clinton wins, then you can spend the next four years reading conspiracy theories that absolutely prove you were right. 

Wonderful thing about social media and this election: it really pulled the scab off all our latent fears, anxieties, stupidity, racism and sexism that have simmered beneath the surface for years. I guess that's the price of change. Just like hate crimes surged after Obama's election, all this ugliness will have to be exorcised too as the first woman to be elected president plays out tonight and the coming weeks (assuming it isn't "rigged" and Trump wins, right?).

We'll see what America is really made of soon.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

One For The Ages (Part 2)

 
Cubs End 108 Year Drought With World Series Title:

If you are going to endure years — no, generations — of futility and heartbreak, when you do finally win a World Series championship, it may as well be a memorable one.

The Chicago Cubs did just that, shattering their 108-year championship drought in epic fashion: with an 8-7, 10-inning victory over the Cleveland Indians in Game 7, which began on Wednesday night, carried into Thursday morning and seemed to end all too soon.

When the Indians rallied with three runs in the eighth inning — including a two-out, two-strike, two-run thunderbolt of a home run by Rajai Davis off closer Aroldis Chapman — the Cubs found a way to beat back the ghosts of playoffs past.

After a brief rain delay following the ninth inning, they pushed two runs across in the 10th inning on a double by Ben Zobrist, the Series’s most valuable player, and a single by Miguel Montero.

The Cubs then had to hold their breath in the bottom of the inning when Davis hit a run-scoring single to pull the Indians to a run behind. But reliever Mike Montgomery replaced Carl Edwards and got Michael Martinez to hit a slow roller into the infield. Third baseman Kris Bryant scooped it up and threw across to first baseman Anthony Rizzo.
The last time I meaningfully wrote about baseball on this blog was five years ago (10/29/11), at the conclusion of the Cardinals/Rangers slugfest.  And this is what I wrote about the Cardinals and that series as being one of the greatest of all time:
St. Louis was simply a team that had no business being there. Coming from 10 games back at the beginning of September (to beat our Atlanta Braves, no less) to win a wild card berth, no one expected them to go this far. They dumped the mighty Phillies, whipped the surging Brewers (who everyone predicted would win the Series back in March), and simply would not let the Rangers finish them off, going all 7 games to prove it.

The Cardinals were on their deathbed, with the priest ready to come in and administer final rights, several times. In game 6, to be within one out (one strike!) of being eliminated, only to keep coming back over and over...you know the Rangers were just shaking their heads, thinking "these guys are like cockroaches...you can't kill them off."
The great thing about the series just concluded is that you could substitute either the Cubs or the Indians for the Cardinals in those paragraphs and it would fit perfectly. They were both cockroach-like in their pursuit of the Series championship, both vanquishing opponents who were more heavily favored or certainly stacked (Giants, Red Sox, Blue Jays, Dodgers), and both carrying the weight of long championship droughts (the Cubs since 1908, the Indians since 1948). And the Cubs then going down 3-1, only to come back and win it (the first time since the Royals in 1985) was just epic. Cubs manager Joe Maddon, a longtime favorite of mine going back to his early Rays days, is simply GOAT.

Was this series greater than the Cardinals/Rangers in 2011, or the Braves/Twins in 1991? Probably. In terms of the history, the rabidness of the fan bases, and the way the two teams kept grinding, playing each other out for out, duel to the death, all the way through extra innings in game 7? And the overwhelming national interest (caused from election fatigue no doubt)? I'd say yes. In fact, the interest in this series was much greater than any I remember, going back to the 70's.

Was it the greatest series of all time? I'll leave it to those much more knowledgeable in baseball history to answer that. But put it this way: I never thought the '91 or '11 series would be topped...and I think they just were.

One minor quibble: I would again implore the powers that be in the MLB and Fox to start these games earlier on the east coast. My kids were pissed they had to go to bed at the end of the 8th inning, but it was already 11:30pm edt, and the game wouldn't end until 1am. That is ludicrously late by anyone's standards. It makes me wish we lived on the west coast (game over at 10pm). 

Nonetheless, what a series and what another great October of MLB playoff  baseball. I'll conclude as I did five years ago (and even more prescient since it's about 80 degrees right now): "Winter isn't even close to being here in the south, but I'm already looking forward to spring."

Monday, October 31, 2016

2016 Election Collateral Damage

Comey Accused of Abuse of Power:

THE F.B.I. is currently investigating the hacking of Americans’ computers by foreign governments. Russia is a prime suspect.

Imagine a possible connection between a candidate for president in the United States and the Russian computer hacking. Imagine the candidate has business dealings in Russia, and has publicly encouraged the Russians to hack the email of his opponent. It would not be surprising for the F.B.I. to include this candidate and his campaign staff in its confidential investigation of Russian computer hacking.

But it would be highly improper, and an abuse of power, for the F.B.I. to conduct such an investigation in the public eye, particularly on the eve of the election. It would be an abuse of power for the director of the F.B.I., absent compelling circumstances, to notify members of Congress that the candidate was under investigation. It would be an abuse of power if F.B.I. agents went so far as to obtain a search warrant and raid the candidate’s office tower, hauling out boxes of documents and computers in front of television cameras.

The F.B.I.’s job is to investigate, not to influence the outcome of an election.

Such acts could also be prohibited under the Hatch Act, which bars the use of an official position to influence an election. That is why the F.B.I. presumably would keep those aspects of an investigation confidential until after the election. The usual penalty for a violation is termination of federal employment.

That is why, on Saturday, I filed a complaint against the F.B.I. with the Office of Special Counsel, which investigates Hatch Act violations, and with the Office of Government Ethics. I spent much of my career working on government and lawyers’ ethics, including as the chief White House ethics lawyer for George W. Bush. I never thought that the F.B.I. could be dragged into a political circus surrounding one of its investigations. Until this week.
Richard Painter was Bush's general counsel from 05-07, so this is pretty serious stuff.

I've refrained from making too much of any of these investigations (emails, sexual assaults, etc.) simply because the election has dragged on for far too long, and I simply don't have the energy to jump into the cesspool of electoral politics at this late stage.

Nonetheless, I did write last summer that Comey's dismissal of Clinton's email investigation struck me as particularly egregious and out of character for a Director who has otherwise been vaunted as an a-political, law and order kind of guy. And then this 11th hour "October surprise" about starting the investigation back up, literally 10 days before the election, even more slipshod.

But as Painter suggests, it's potentially well-beyond egregious, boneheaded, or simply stupid. Comey may have broken the law himself, which the next justice department may have to pursue charges of. Imagine a new administration and attorney general having to take on the prosecution and removal of the FBI Director?

Sadly, this ugly circus won't be over on November 8th. We'll be dealing with the fallout of it for months and possibly years to come.

Happy Friggin Halloween.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Lions Hunting Zebras

Wells Fargo Targeted Most Vulnerable Customers In Scam:

Mexican immigrants who speak little English. Older adults with memory problems. College students opening their first bank accounts. Small-business owners with several lines of credit.

These were some of the customers whom bankers at Wells Fargo, trying to meet steep sales goals and avoid being fired, targeted for unauthorized or unnecessary accounts, according to legal filings and statements from former bank employees.

“The analogy I use was that it was like lions hunting zebras,” said Kevin Pham, a former Wells Fargo employee in San Jose, Calif., who saw it happening at the branch where he worked. “They would look for the weakest, the ones that would put up the least resistance.”

At a branch in Scottsdale, Ariz., members of a local Native American community would arrive like clockwork every three months with checks for their share of the community’s casino revenue. It was then, said Ricky M. Hansen Jr., a former branch manager there, that some bankers would try to dupe them into opening unnecessary accounts laden with fees.

In California, it was people with identification cards issued by Mexican consulates. The absence of a Social Security number made it simpler for Wells Fargo employees to open fraudulent accounts in those customers’ names. Wells Fargo is one of the few major banks to permit accounts to be opened without Social Security numbers.

And in Illinois, one former teller described watching in frustration as older customers fell prey.
“We had customers of all ages, but the elderly ones would at times be targeted, because they don’t ask many questions about fees and such,” Brandi Baker, who worked at a branch in Galesburg, Ill., said in an interview.
Good times. Nothing says integrity and quality banking like ripping off minorities, the elderly, non-English speakers, college students, and the disabled. And for those of you wondering "how could something like this happen at such a venerable institution like Wells Fargo?" I refer you to this study which found there are more psychopath CEO's and upper management on Wall Street and in Big Banking than there are in prison.

Firing these people (as Stumpf and others have now been let go via their golden parachutes) does nothing to make restitution to the victims of this massive fraud, nor does anything to prevent it from happening again. 

However, if we could move a significant percentage of the upper management of Wells Fargo into a maximum security prison, and move the current sociopaths in prison out, society would be demonstrably safer.