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Review of Griftopia

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Please Note: since Matt Taibbi tends to write with an R-Rated word processor, some of the quotations from the book are on the blue side. Please wear your special Provo Goggles when reading this post.

Last night, I finished reading Matt Taibbi's Griftopia (which is on Amazon here), and I enjoyed it. However, I wasn't knocked off my feet by it for reasons I shall cite in a moment.

To give you a flavor of the book, I will type in a few excerpts:

Politics: "If you want to understand why American is such a paradise for high-class thieves, just look at the way a manufactured movement like the Tea Party corrals and neutralizes public anger that otherwise should be sending pitchforks in the direction of downtown Manhattan….That's why it's so brilliant for the Tea Party to put forward as its leaders some of the most egregiously stupid morons on our great green earth….the Tea Party has made anti-intellectualism itself a rallying cry…..What they are, and they don't realize it, is an anachronism. They're fighting a 1960 battle in a world run by twenty-first-century crooks."

Government: "There are really two Americas, one for the grifter class, and one for everybody else. In everybody-else land, the world is small businesses and wage-warning employees, the government is something to be avoided, an overwhelming, all-powerful entity whose attentions usually presage some kind of financial setback, if not complete ruin. In the grifter world, however, government, is a slavish lapdog that the financial companies that will be the major players in this book use as a tool for making money……the new America, instead, is fast becoming a vast ghetto in which all of which us, conservatives and progressives, are being bled dry by a relatively tiny oligarchy of extremely clever financial criminals and their castrato henchmen in government, whose main job is to be good actors on TV and put on a good show."

Greenspan: "Former Federal Reserve chief Alan Greenspan is that one-in-a-billion asshole who made America the dissembling mess that it is today. If his achievements were reversed, if this gnomish bug-eyed party crasher had managed to convert his weird social hang-ups into positive accomplishments, then today we'd be calling his career one of the greatest political fairy tales ever witnessed, an unlikeliest of ugly ducklings who through sheer pluck, cunning, and determination made it to the top and changed the world forever….[instead he] jacked himself off to the attentions of Wall Street for twenty consecutive years – in the process laying the foundation for a generation of orgiastic greed and overconsumption and turning the Federal Reserve into a permanent bailout mechanism for the super-rich." (note: there is an entire chapter devoted to Greenspan whose title, The Biggest Asshole in the Universe, tips you off as to Taibbi's disposition).

Mortgage Fiasco: "In this world, everybody kept up the con practically until they were in cuffs. It made financial sense to do so: the money was so big that it was cost-efficient (from a personal standpoint) for executives to chase massive short-term gains, no matter how ill-gotten, even knowing that the game would eventually be up. Because you got to keep the money either way, why not?"

Goldman: "One of the keys to talking to sources about any subject is clicking with their sense of humor, and I was noticing that with a lot of financial people I was calling, I was missing laugh cues whenever anyone mentioned the investment bank Goldman Sachs. No one ever just referenced 'Goldman'; they would say 'those motherfuckers' or 'those cocksuckers' or 'those motherfucking cocksucking assholes at Goldman Sachs.' It was a name spoken with such contempt that you could almost hear people holding the phone away from their faces as they talked, the way you do with the baggie you have to pick up after curbing your dog on the streets of New York."

Taibbi makes me look positively doe-eyed and optimistic. In any case, the first couple of chapters of the book are just terrific, but a good half of the book struck me as pissed-off filler about the health care system and commodities deregulation. On a scale of 1 to 10, I'd give the book about an 8, and I wanted to take the time to share with you some morsels so you could judge for yourself.