18 Following


Currently reading

Hieroglyph: Stories and Blueprints for a Better Future
Neal Stephenson
Ukraine: Zbig's Grand Chessboard & How the West Was Checkmated
Natylie Baldwin, Kermit D. Larson
The Girl on the Train: A Novel
Paula Hawkins
Our Souls at Night: A novel
Kent Haruf
Above the Waterfall
Ron Rash
On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft
Stephen King
Designs on Film: A Century of Hollywood Art Direction
Cathy Whitlock
The Homicide Report: Understanding Murder in America
Jill Leovy
Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania
Erik Larson
The Gods of Mars
Edgar Rice Burroughs
Griftopia: Bubble Machines, Vampire Squids, and the Long Con That Is Breaking America - Matt Taibbi UPDATES - June 21, 2012 - at bottom

You don’t have to be Dorothy or “The One” to know that there is something foul going on behind the economic curtain. Matt Taibbi, a contributing editor at Rollingstone, rips away the misinformation that cloaks some of the most nefarious behavior in American history. He looks at a few elements of what can only be described as institutional organized crime and explains just what is going on in clear, understandable terms.
The engine for looting the old ghetto neighborhoods was the drug trade, which served two purposes with brutal efficiency. Narco-business was the mechanism for concentrating all the money on the block into that Escalade-hungry dealer’s hands, while narco-chemistry was the mechanism for keeping the people on his block too weak and hopeless to do anything about it. The more dope you push into the neighborhood, the more weak, strung-out, and dominated the people who live there will be.

In the new American ghetto, the nightmare engine is bubble economics, a kind of high-tech casino scam that kills neighborhoods just like dope does, only the product is credit, not crack or heroin. It concentrates the money of the population in just a few hands with brutal efficiency, just like narco-business, and just as in narco-business the product itself, debt, steadily demoralizes the customer to the point where he’s unable to prevent himself from being continually dominated.
Taibbi goes into detail on how this scam has been inflicted on so much of the population.

He takes aim at the ethos of smug Ayn Rand acolytes, reserving particular scorn for Alan Greenspan. While Greenspan may indeed be, as Taibbi calls him, the “Bigest Asshole in the World,” the worldview of Rand’s followers and their impact on our economy has been remarkable and not in a good way. He shows how.

Taibbi looks also at how commodity speculation has resulted in misery for all of us, how myopic government officials are racing to sell off public property and long-term revenue streams in return for short term payments solely to keep themselves in office through the next election cycle, how private interests have made a scandal of our national health care system and he offers a close look at the “vampire squid” that is Goldman Sachs. The latest economic downturn is not the first one, or even the largest, in which they have had causal impact.

My one gripe with the book is Taibbi’s fondness for the foul. For example, while one may sympathize with Taibbi’s view of Alan Greenspan and his fellow Ayn Rand acolytes, it does his argument no service to call them “jerk-offs.” While such heartfelt expression may be satisfying, and might be standard fare for his Rollingstone readers, it makes his book inaccessible to any who are not already on board with his analysis. Once readers from an alternate view come across Taibbi’s merry profanity, they have an easy excuse to dismiss him.

Griftopia reminded me of Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine in its visceral impact. This is very compelling stuff. By the time you finish reading the book, you may want to invest in pitchfork and torch futures. Taibbi offers plenty of fuel with which we might light up the night. If only.


April 19, 2012 - TARP on steroids for the EEU furthers the demise of democracy and guess who helped set it up?- The European Stabilization Mechanism, Or How the Goldman Vampire Squid Just Captured Europe

June 21, 2012 - Taibbi's latest Rollingstone piece on how Wall Street rips us all off, The Scam Wall Street Learned From the Mafia