Review: Griftopia–Bubble Machines, Vampire Squids, and the Long Con That Is Breaking America

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Matt Taibbi

5.0 out of 5 stars 6 Star Game Changer….Maybe

November 2, 2010

This is an extraordinary book, combining gifted insights and turns of phrase with serious research that has a point worth fighting for: Wall Street led by Goldman Sachs has ripped off the entire US economy, and they still have most people thinking that politics matters.

It merits comment that while Michael Lewis was first, with Liar’s Poker, and was recently quoted as saying he had no idea Wall Street would get away with these obvious high crimes against the public for another 30 years, this author takes us all up another level, weaving in everything–politics, culture, sex, booze, LSD, and the occasional rabbid racoon.

The author is especially deft at observing, documenting, and describing the combination of lunatic ignorance and blessed righteous anger within the Tea Party, at the same time that he points out they have no idea that they have been funded and directed by the very people who have stolen their economy out from under them.

I am especially impressed by the author’s understanding of how Wall Street has managed to co-opt the very people they are destroying by leveraging the “shared” view of excessive government regulation. I for one absolutely believe that states should start nullifying federal laws and regulations that impair state-based businesses (e.g. butchers and cabinet-makers). What the people being destroyed do not understand is HOW they are being destroyed by Wall Street, which is essentially eating out the foundation from under them.

QUOTE (32): What has taken place over the last generation is a highly complicated merger of crime and policy, of stealing and government. Far from taking care of the rest of us, the financial leaders of America and their political servants have seemingly reached the cynical conclusion that our society is not work saving and have taken on a new mission that involved not creating wealth for us all, but simply absconding with whatever wealth remains in our hollowed out economy. They don’t feed us, we feed them.

Despite the sensibility of the above quote, a third of the way through this book I think to myself that we need a Dummies Guide to Grand Theft Wall Street, or a comic book version, because this stuff taxes my brain, I can only imagine what it would do to someone whose chances of buying and reading this book are right up there with the extra-terrestials landing to apologize for the mis-behavior of their “stewards.”

Greenspan (and his intellectual or ethical (or not) underpinning Ann Rand) gets his own chapter, “The Biggest Asshole in the Universe,” and I confess to being shocked. Although I read a great deal and William Greider is one of my most respected authors to read, this author has a wicked pen that draws blood on every page. This chapter also makes two things clear: that government no longer governs, but rather outsources power to the unelected private sector with its own agenda; and that class rules–its the rich against the rest of us, and we are too stupid to even see this (in enough of a critical mass to make a difference).

QUOTE (53): That’s why Alan Greenspan is the key to understanding this generation’s financial disaster. He repeatedly used the financial might of the state to jet-fuel the insanely regressive pyramid scheme of the bubble economy [led by Goldman Sachs], which like actual casinos proved to be a highly efficient method for converting the scattered savings of legions of individual schmuck-citizens into the concentrated holdings of a few private individuals.

I am educated by this book in that while I have understood for some time the role played by Senator Phil Gramm (R-TX) and his 99 sleazy Senatorial colleagues all too eager to approve 200 pages of deregulation legislation written by lobbyists and inserted five minutes before the vote, I was not aware of the Greenspan-Rubin actions that set the stage to undermine, sidestep, and eventually dismiss the Glass-Steagall Act that kept insurance, investment, and banking houses from merging.

A long chapter, the chapter on Greenspan is devastating, and concludes that Greenspan was in fact a master criminal, that the Greenspan era was not an era of economics run amok, but rather of organized crime running precisely as planned–

QUOTE (77): “bubbles of the sort he oversaw are rigged games with preordained losers and inherently corrupting psychological consequences. You play, you get beat, in more ways than one.

The middle part of the book is a tremendously detailed and well-told tale of how Goldman Sachs and a handful of other companies are nothing more than a criminal network that sucks as much credit from a range of targets as possible, and then burns them to the ground to collect the insurance (or “bailout” in today’s parlance). In two chapters, one on the mortgage scams including outright fraud at every step of the way by Moody’s and others, the other on the commodities bubble that led to rising gasoline prices and food security issues and food riots world-wide, all for the financial benefit of a small group in New York, the middle of the book assures this book’s place in the reference shelves of anyone hoping to excel in leveraged businesses in the future. A third chapter describes in detail about how foreign wealth funds are being encouraged to buy up US infrastructure including toll roads and parking meters, while the US brokers cheat the US sellers by underpricing everything. This is truly a tale of infamy and treason across the board.

I confess to being amazed at the degree to which the author has been able to coherently document the federal government’s blatant violation of acts of Congress, and the ease with which waivers, loop-holes, and other work-arounds were executed Of, By, and For Wall Street and against the public interest. This book is therefore an indictment of the federal government, and the varied agencies ostensibly charged with assuring fair and honest trade, but in fact partners in crime with the financial and commodities brokers.

The chapter on the health care swindle is a study in itself, and should be read together with PriceWaterHouseCooper’s excellent study, free online in readable form, “The Price of Excess,” which outlines how 50% of US healthcare spending, $1.2 trillion out of $2.4 trillion a year, is waste. What shocked me about this chapter was the combination of its superb documentation of how the Obama Administration and a left-right coalition traded away the right to tax Americans for health care to the private sector, in return for campaign financing for the next couple of election cycles, at the same time that each Senator supporting the legislation received $100 million dollar health-related “grants” for their states; and–the second shocker–how the insurance industry has been made immune from federal regulation and oversight.

The final chapter is a fuller version of the original Rolling Stone article that created a firestorm and destroyed “The Narrative” about Goldman making money on brilliance instead of crime. The author is blunt: Goldman Sachs is a “pump and dump” criminal operation, and the author notes with sadness that organized crime will always overcome disorganized democracy, at least as things now stand with asymmetric information and data pathologies (the latter my special interest). I had to read this chapter twice, and while the entire book is superb, this is the chapter I would scan, pdf, and translate into at least 33 languages and all twelve dialects of Arabic.

The larger narrative that the author tells in compelling and occasionally offensive terms is not new–what is new is the level of detail; the clear depiction of a government that works for Wall Street every day of the week and is marginally responsive to We the People only on voting day; and the very high likelihood that because we have a dumbed down inert population, these assholes (the author introduces the word with frequency) are going to get away with it.

I am not so sure. Public intelligence in the public interest in what I do, and I think that 2012 is going to be a year of convergence and emergence. Tangible properties can be reappropriated. Individuals can be hunted down, and I have absolutely no doubt at all that Goldman Sachs has been quick to settle its Chinese and Russian complaints because unlike the US Government, they can and will assassinate the Goldman Sachs executives after first cutting their children into small pieces before their eyes.

This book is perhaps a milestone, it is most assuredly one of the most important books about the US economy and how it has been looted that I have ever read. Below I list nine other books that are recommended, with links, and I provide the text but not the link to some of my lists of lists of reviews I have done, all at Phi Beta Iota the Public Intelligence Blog [links are active in the PBI posting]. The Republican and Democratic parties, and the Bush and Clinton families, are co-conspirators and dues paid members of this class and carpetbagging club. The rest of us are not. Justice will be done–when and how I do not know. What I do know is that the Collective Intelligence of the public is emergent, and that there is no place on the planet for these people to hide.

See also:
Come Home, America: The Rise and Fall (and Redeeming Promise) of Our Country
The Battle for the Soul of Capitalism
The Global Class War: How America’s Bipartisan Elite Lost Our Future – and What It Will Take to Win It Back
Grand Illusion: The Myth of Voter Choice in a Two-Party Tyranny
Rule by Secrecy: The Hidden History That Connects the Trilateral Commission, the Freemasons, and the Great Pyramids
9-11 Descent into Tyranny: The New World Order’s Dark Plans to Turn Earth into a Prison Planet
9/11 Synthetic Terror: Made in USA, Fourth Edition
Election 2008: Lipstick on the Pig (Substance of Governance; Legitimate Grievances; Candidates on the Issues; Balanced Budget 101; Call to Arms: Fund We Not Them; Annotated Bibliography)

Selected Lists of Book Reviews by Robert Steele:
Worth a Look: Book Review Lists (Positive)
Worth a Look: Book Review Lists (Negative)
+ Worth a Look: Book Reviews on Corruption
+ Worth a Look: Impeachable Offenses, Modern & Historic
+ Worth a Look: Book Reviews on Institutionalized Ineptitude
+ Worth a Look: Book Reviews on Intelligence (Lack Of)
+ Worth a Look: Book Reviews on Bankruptcy of US Economy, Federal Reserve Malfeasance
+ Worth a Look: Book Reviews on Class War (Global)
+ Worth a Look: Book Reviews on Corporate & Transnational Crime
+ Worth a Look: Book Reviews on Corporate Lack of Integrity or Intelligence or Both
+ Worth a Look: Book Reviews on Elite Rule

I have never before listed so many lists of lists (over 1,600 books sorted into the first two master lists, all in support of my most recent book, INTELLIGENCE for EARTH: Clarity, Diversity, Integrity, & Sustainaabilty. I do so here and now because I believe that this book could be a catalyst for inspired accelerated reflection by the Independents that now comprise a voting majority. I believe there is nothing wrong with America that cannot be fixed by Electoral Reform (1 page 9 points), and that even in the face of the grevious, despicable, and eternally damning crimes committed by Goldman Sachs and the two political parties, that We the People can create infinite wealth and get over this. The truth, however, must be known. This book is a sensational contribution, and joins the ten percent of books I have reviewed that I rate as 6 stars and beyond.

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