An Alaskan journalist's perspective on local and national issues

Posts tagged ‘Rolling Stone’

Lefty’s Review: Griftopia: Bubble Machines, Vampire Squids, and the Long Con That is Breaking America

This is one of those books that every progressive should read.  Matt Taibbi, the author and also a contributor to the political section of Rolling Stone magazine has a gift at being able to make the incredibly ugly very easy to swallow.  His mission with this book was incredibly ambitious – be able to take what is a machine so complicated that to identify all its moving parts is like trying to solve a calculus equation with a European see-and-say and make it all make sense.

The first thing it opens up with is showing that the Tea Party isn’t what any of us believed it to be.  Taibbi put it rather poetically –

They’re fighting a 1960s battle in a world run by twenty-first century crooks.

One interesting point that he makes is that the difference between America and a third world country is that for us, our politicians put on this really extravagant show, with lots of bells and whistles.  A typical presidential election cycle is nothing but a big performance.  What’s more, the American people know this.  They are fully aware of the fact that they are being duped.  They just don’t care.  Every year, a presidential election is more or less decided by who the public likes more.  Who has more charisma.  The informed public knows that none of the candidates are going to do anything, or at least not what they promise, but for some ridiculous reason, they keep hoping that they will.  Meanwhile, the uninformed public doesn’t care.  When you hear people say, “I don’t know that much about politics, but I’ll vote for George Bush because of his faith,” that tells you all that you need to know.

The ultimate tragedy of this country is that the presidential election, something that should be about issues and a lot of deep thought, is about entertainment.  We know that it is a useless waste of time.  So now, we just want to be entertained.  We want to feel like we have been given something worth having.  America’s leaders don’t care as well.  They know we don’t, and they know we will just vote for them because that is how it’s always been done.

The leaders of this nation see the writing on the wall.  The fact is that America is in trouble.  But rather than try and help, they simply want to amass as much cash for themselves as they can and get while the getting is good.

Throughout the book, he looks into concepts like “bubble economics.”  If you want to know what it is, read his book.  There is a reason an entire book was written about this.  It takes an entire book to explain.  The machines that run this country are so convoluted, and this is no accident.  Rather than try and do things secretly, our economic and political leaders have realized that they can simply make things so complicated, and the average stupid American won’t know what to think of it, and won’t look beyond the surface.  And for those who would try, there is a mountain of information to climb, and most won’t even get close to the summit.  It is a brilliantly engineered system.

The problem is that the system has become so complicated that we can pin the collapse of the financial market in 2008 on something they overlooked going wrong.  Meanwhile, while the bulk of the public is looking to pin some rightful blame on the bankers for their role in all of this, nobody is talking about taking the politicians to task for their own role in making legislation that protects the privacy and interests of the financial institutions and Wall Street.

Another point he addressed was something that liberals across America are uniting to cheer, which is interesting to me – the Health Care Reform bill.  One of the greatest cons in the history of this country, and a birthday present to the private insurance companies.  Yet liberals are saying that this is a good thing.  Talk about good marketing.

This is not a pleasant book.  It’s not a book that at the end will leave you feeling good.  I think it’s a great book, and definitely worth checking out for those who want to learn how the mechanisms of this country actually work, but once you understand that, you will find that you have a profound hatred for this country, and for the people who run it, because while you will work hard and try to make a good life for yourself, every single person that you elect is trying to screw you.

There is no party for the American people.  Democrat, Republican, they are all the same.  All sides are loyal to one group, and one group only – Wall Street.  Once you understand that, and you understand that all politicians do is say they will do stuff, while meanwhile sucking from the tit of big money, you can realize just how pathetic this nation’s future really is.

America isn’t going to get better through traditional means.  You cannot vote this problem out of office, because each person who will take that person’s place will be just as loyal to Wall Street as the person who came before.  So this leads to the ultimate question of our times –

What can we do?  What can any of us do, against the forces so powerful, and so uncaring, who feel no remorse from destroying neighborhoods and destroying families?  What can be done?  And perhaps the hardest question of all –

Is it too late?

Are We in Danger From the Law?

There was a story that I wrote for the latest article I submitted to the paper.  It examined a topic that I actually think is pretty serious.  The typical American is told when they are born that the police officer and the soldier are your friends and that you should trust them.  They are told that they are the people who protect you in times of trouble.  This is a lesson that everybody is given, and that people are seeming to agree with blindly.  Part of the problem these days is that people don’t want to be critical of law-enforcement personnel and soldiers.  But that is something people should be critical of, and there are some very good reasons why.

A few weeks back, in Miami Beach, Florida, a man named Narces Benoit was out with his girlfriend.  He got to see a rather awful event unfold in front of him.  Nine cops were firing with abandon at Raymond Harisse.  He was sitting in his parked car.  The evidence points to him not having shot back.  The cops claim that there was a gun hidden in his car.  If that is the case, how would have have been able to shoot at the cops, get hit numerous times, and have hidden the gun?  There is a logical disconnect happening with their story.

These nine cops, if they were firing a standard-issue Glock 22, potentially fired 135 rounds.  One bystander reported that their guns were clicking on empty.  That’s 135 rounds that not only went in Harisse, but also into four bystanders are the scene.  These cops killed this man in cold blood, and why?  Because he had run over a police officer earlier that day.  Instead of taking him to jail, these cops decided to outright murder this man.

The police are a unique thing to watch right now.  Here is an interesting practice that happens in this country – the cops will take people’s stuff and sell it.  For real, this isn’t a joke.  To make up for the unbelievably low wages this country forces our cops to accept, they have started routinely taking people’s stuff without even charging them for a crime.  They take people’s stuff who aren’t able or who don’t have to money to fight for what is taken.  They typically target low-income persons with a couple of charges under their bealt, so they won’t choose to fight.  This is a fairly common practice among police officers in this country.

And brutality isn’t really just an every once in a while occurence either.  A young black man in Houston, Texas was running from the cops.  However, when his path was cut off, he got on the ground and put his hands behind his head in surrender.  He has submitted, and the cops, instead of just handcuffing him and throwing him in the back of a car, they just, for 30 to 40 seconds, just beat him mercilessly.

And these are just some local examples.  Then there is what American soldiers have been doing overseas.  The biggest, and worst of these stories being one that appeared in an article in Rolling Stone magazine.  It talked about a group of soldiers in Bravo Company that they dubbed “The Kill Team.”  These guys not only killed, completely in cold blood, four Afghani civilians, but they were planning to kill more.  Had they not have been stopped, the killing would have continued.  One idea that they were throwing around was to go up to a bunch of kids and thrown candy out the windows of their vehicle.  Then, when the kids came to grab it, they would open fire on them.  But one of them thought – why waste the bullets?  Why not just throw candy out in front of their vehicle and run them down?

These are American soldiers.  These are people who are supposed to be able to respect the lives of others.  And we have a group of men who killed and mutilated four people.  One of them was from Wasilla, Alaska, the town I grew up in.  There were pictures of them with severed heads.  This is not the activities of a civilized society.  And the sad fact is that all of the areas of law enforcement are becoming that way.

The TSA’s new pat-downs have been a source of controversy in this country for some time.  But recently, it has taken an even uglier turn.  The TSA told the daughter of a 95 year old leukemia patient to take off her soiled adult diaper.  The elderly woman’s mother, was very stoic.  The daughter bursted into tears.  She had every reason to hate this.  Not only is this not dignified, the fact that our government has given a branch of law enforcement the power to do something like this is just plain sick.  That’s a fact – it’s sick.  To even ask somebody to do this is wrong.  The head of the TSA should have apologized, but they didn’t.  What did they do?  They said it didn’t happen.  That was their response – to deny the allegation completely, and pretend it didn’t happen.  And with the government pretty much giving them a blank ticket anymore, they can do that and it can work.

And of course, the great example of how the law can have unlimited power and can suffer no consequences – The Patriod Act.  This is a hopelessly abused weapon of the system designed to keep an eye on the common man.  Using it, they have been able to detain people for no reason, tap phones and enter homes without a warrant.  They have even been able to torture people and have the military not be able to be prosecuted for this.  It has been proven over and over that torture doesn’t work.  A skilled interrogator who is good at reading people is worth more.  But instead of following historical evidence, they decide to just keep at this broken system.

The big quesiton that needs to be asked – are we in danger from the law?  The answer is looking more and more ugly.  And what happens when this abuse happens to people?  Who is made to pay for the violation of rights that is occuring?  When a cop maces a 15 year old girl who he has pinned down on the hood of his car, with her hands cuffed behind her back, who gets retribution?

The problem is that so many people don’t allow these kinds of discussions to happen.  They simply choose to say that the law is right, no matter what.  Questioning if something is right is never a bad idea, never.  People need to realize that, because if cops can shoot a man in cold blood and the complain about the media attacking them because it would hurt their case, who is being helped?

Peace out,


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