Books And Authors I’ve Read (101-119)

108. “Griftopia – A Story Of Bankers, Politicians, And The Most Audacious Power Grab In American History” by Matt Taibbi

nugget 1:

“It’s September 3, 2008. I’m at the Xcel Center in St. Paul, Minnesota, listening to the acceptance speech by the new Republican vice-presidential nominee, Sarah Palin…

“Palin is talking to voters whose country is despised internationally, no longer an industrial manufacturing power, fast becoming an economic vassal to the Chinese and the Saudis, and just a week away from an almost-total financial collapse. Nobody here is likely to genuinely believe a speech that promises better things.

“But cultural civil war, you have that no matter how broke you are. And if you want that, I, Sarah Palin, can give it to you. It’s a powerful, galvanizing speech, but the strange thing about it is its seeming lack of electoral calculation. It’s a transparent attempt to massmarket militancy and frustration, consolidate the group identity of an aggrieved demographic, and work that crowd up into a lather. This represents a further degrading of the already degraded electoral process. Now, not only are the long-term results of elections irrelevant, but for a new set of players like Palin, the outcome of the election itself is irrelevant. This speech was designed to win a general election, it was designed to introduce a new celebrity, a make-believe servant of the people so phony that later in her new career she will not even bother to hold an elective office.” – pages 3 & 8

nugget 2:

“There are really two Americas, one for the grifter class, and one for everybody else. In everybody-else land, the world of small businesses and wage-earning employees, the government is something to be avoided, an overwhelming, all-powerful entity whose attentions usually presage some kind of 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 grifter class depends on these two positions getting confused in the minds of everybody else. They want the average American to believe that what government is to him, it is also to JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs. To sustain this confusion, predatory banks launch expensive lobbying campaigns against even the mildest laws reining in their behavior and rely on carefully cultivated allies in that effort, like the Rick Santellis on networks like the CNBC. In the narrative pushed by the Santellis, bankers are decent businessmen-citizens just trying to make an honest buck who are being chiseled by an overwhelming state, just like the small-town hardware-store owner forced to pay a fine for a crack in the sidewalk outside his shop.” -pg 30

nugget 3:

“[Alan] Greenspan’s rise to the top is one of the great scams of our time. His career is the perfect prism through which one can see the twofold basic deception of American politics: a system that preaches sink-or-swim laissez-faire capitalism to most but acts as a highly interventionist, bureaucratic welfare state for a select few. Greenspan pompously preached ruthless free-market orthodoxy every chance he got while simultaneously using all the power of the state to protect his wealthy patrons from those same market forces. A perfectly two-faced man, serving a perfectly two-faced state. If you can see through him, the rest of it is easy.” – pages 36 & 37

nugget 4:

“[Alan] Greenspan met [Ayn] Rand in the early fifties after leaving Columbia, attending meetings at Rand’s apartment with a circle of like-minded intellectual jerk-offs who called themselves by the ridiculous name the “Collective” and who provided Greenspan the desired forum for social ascent.

“These meetings of the “Collective” would have an enormous impact on American culture by birthing crackpot antitheology dedicated to legitimizing relentless self-interest – a grotesquerie called objectivism that hit the Upper East Side cocktail party circuit hard in the fifties and sixties.

“It is important to spend some time on the seriously demented early history of objectivism, because this lunatic religion that should have choked to death in its sleep decades ago would go on, thanks in large part to Greenspan, to provide virtually the entire intellectual context for the financial disasters of the early twenty-first century.

“Rand, the Soviet refugee who became the archpriestess of the movement, was first of all a perfect ancillary character in the black comedy that is Greenspan’s life – a bloviating, arbitrary, self-important pseudo-intellectual who recalls the gibberish-spewing academic twits in Woody Allen spoofs like “No Kaddish for Weinstein” and “My Speech to the Graduates.” In fact, some of Rand’s quirks seemed to have been pulled more or less directly from Allen’s movies; her dictatorial stance on facial hair (“She… regarded anyone with a beard or a moustache as inherently immoral,” recalled one Rand friend) could have fit quite easily in the mouth of the Latin despot Vargas in Bananas, who demanded that his subjects change their underwear once an hour.

“A typical meeting of Rand’s Collective would involve its members challenging one another to prove they exist. “How do you explain the fact that you’re here?” one Collective member recalls asking Greenspan. “Do you require anything besides the proof of your own senses?”

“Greenspan played along with this horseshit and in that instance reportedly offered a typically hedging answer. “I think that I exist. But I don’t know for sure,” he reportedly said. “Actually, I can’t say for sure that anything exists.” (The Woody Allen version would have read, “I can’t say for sure that I exist, but I do know that I have to call two weeks in advance to get a table at Sardi’s.”)

“One of the defining characteristics of Rand’s clique was its absolutist ideas about good and evil, expressed in a wildly off-putting, uncompromisingly bombastic rhetoric that almost certainly bled downward to the group ranks from its Russian émigré leader, who might have been one of the most humor-deprived people to ever walk the earth.

“Rand’s book Atlas Shrugged, for instance, remains a towering monument to humanity’s capacity for unrestrained self-pity – it’s a bizarre and incredibly long-winded piece of aristocratic paranoia in which a group of Randian supermen decide to break off from the rest of society and form a pure free-market utopia, and naturally the parasitic lower classes immediately drown in their own laziness and ineptitude.

“The book fairly gushes with the resentment these poor “Atlases” (they are shouldering the burdens of the whole world!) feel toward those who try to use “moral guilt” to make them share their wealth. In the climatic scene the Randian hero John Galt sounds off in defense of self-interest and attacks the notion of self-sacrifice as a worthy human ideal in a speech that lasts seventy-five pages.

“It goes without saying that only a person possessing a mathematically inexpressible level of humorless self-importance would subject anyone to a seventy-five page speech about anything. Hell, even Jesus Christ barely cracked two pages with the Sermon on the Mount.” – 38 & 39

109. “Thieves Of Bay Street – How Banks, Brokerages And The Wealthy Steal Billions From Canadians” by Bruce Livesey

nugget

“The demise of Nortel was but one more outbreak in a widespread epidemic of executives enriching themselves at the expense of investors and employers. In case after case, companies had cooked their books, falsified quarterly reports and inflated share prices; then, after the firms went bust, bankruptcy receivers moved in and sold off the pieces, usually to foreign bidders who, in turn, moved key research and development and management jobs offshore. The worst of this corporate culture caused the 2007-2009 credit crisis and the near-total meltdown of the global financial system, a debacle initiated by bankers and traders and hedge fund managers who peddled bogus investment products to unsuspecting investors…

“While this house of cards was tumbling down in the United States, Canada’s $6.3 trillion financial sector (which is the total value of our capital markets) seemed to be weathering the storm. The nation’s chartered banks and brokerage houses had remained solvent and some important people noticed. As Andrew Coyne remarked in Maclean’s magazine in 2009, “One of the odder turns in the financial crisis has been the emergence of what can only be described as a worldwide cult of the Canadian banks.”

“The Financial Times called Canada’s banks “the envy of the world,” and no less than U.S. president Barack Obama, former Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volker and Newsweek editor Fareek Zakaria piled on the praise. Even Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman, under the headline GOOD AND BORING, added to the hype in his New York Times column: “We need to learn from those countries that evidently did it right. And leading that list is our neighbor to the north. Right now, Canada is a very important role model.”

“Had Canada truly got right what its southern neighbor had allowed to go so catastrophically wrong? I’ve been reporting business stories since the late 1980s and have interviewed countless CEOs, and despite the time I’ve spent in that world, the banking and brokerage industry has always remained an arcane and mysterious landscape for me. This view changed after I began researching the credit crisis for the CBC and was able to inch back the curtain on this little-understood industry and reveal a much darker reality beneath. The hype about Canada’s financial business, it appeared, was just that.

“For one thing, the federal government had bailed out Canada’s banks. In October 2008, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government created a program to move tens of billions of dollars in assets off the banks’ balance sheets in order to free them up to continue lending. For another thing, overwhelming evidence revealed that Canada was actually a premier have for investment fraud, a country where white-collar criminals faced little fear of being caught or seriously punished for their crimes. Over the quarter century leading up to 2012, fewer than twenty Canadian white-collar criminals had actually gone to jail. Yet the damage caused by these crooks and others like them was reflected in the nearly $15 billion worth of losses due to securities fraud that plaintiffs were pursuing in lawsuits during 2010 alone.” – pages 3, 4 & 5

110. “Washington’s Long War On Syria” by Stephen Gowans

nugget 1:

“Washington’s allies on the ground in the fight against the Syrian government were Islamists, not democrats. The Islamists’goal was to create a Sunni Islamic state, similar to Saudi Arabia, in which the Quran, not democratic decision-making, would be the basis of law. Even the Free Syrian Army, touted in the early days of the rebellion as a sort of liberal democratic movement, not only included Islamists, but was Islamist-dominated. The Associated Press reported that “Many of the [Free Syrian Army’s] participating groups” had “strong Islamist agendas.” Most of the Free Syrian Army groups were ideological cognates of the Muslim Brotherhood, the progenitor of al-Qaeda and Islamic State. The Wall Street Journal pointed out that not only was the Free Syrian Army “dominated by Islamist groups” it was also “in close coordination with al-Nusra,” the al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria. Moreover, the group had no program for the establishment of a multi-party democracy, or of any sort of democracy, for that matter. Its aims were purely negative, defined by a single goal – toppling the secular Syrian government. The idea, then, that even so-called “moderate” and “relatively secular” Free Syrian Army was not Islamist was mistaken. As the veteran journalist Patrick Cockburn remarked, there was no “dividing wall between” Islamic State and al-Nusra “and America’s supposedly moderate opposition allies.”

“Washington’s principal ally in the region and in the war against Syria, Saudi Arabia, was an anti-democratic tyranny which crushed its own Arab Spring demonstrations, and sent tanks to neighboring Bahrain to quell demonstrations there which called for an end to monarchy and a transition to democracy. Saudi authorities beheaded Nimr al-Nimr, a Saudi cleric who played a lead role in calling for democracy, and sentenced his nephew to death by crucifixion for taking part in demonstrations against the monarchy as a seventeen-year-old. The United States turned its head, as it had for decades, to the Saudi royal family’s disdain for democracy and oppression of its subjects.” – pages 12 & 13

nugget 2:

“A second ideological force in the war on Syria was the political Islam of the Muslim Brothers. It arose as a reaction to Britain’s domination of the Arab world’s largest country, Egypt. Like the Arab nationalists, the Muslim Brothers reacted to the intrusion into the Arab world of European colonialism. But unlike the Arab nationalists, whose program was based on mobilizing the Arab world on the basis of a common language, the Muslim Brothers sought to unify a larger world, that of Islam, on the basis of Islamic, and not Arab, identity. The Brothers’ solution to reversing the decline of Islam relative to the West was to return to the pure Islam, defined as that practiced by the first few generations of Muslims, the so-called Salaf, from which the word Salafism, meaning Islamic fundamentalism, is derived. The Muslim Brotherhood rejected communism, socialism and Arab nationalism as alien importations from the West, and as false ideologies, springing from the imperfect minds of humans, rather than from the Quran, the revealed word of a perfect God. Muslim Brotherhood-influenced Islamists argued that the solution to the indignities which the West had inflicted upon the inhabitants of the Muslim world was Islam – not nationalism, not socialism, and not communism.” – pages 23 & 24

nugget 3:

“Washington’s goals, however, were obviously antithetical to the Ba’athists’ Arab nationalist mission. It didn’t want Syria to nurture its industry and zealously guard its independence, but to serve the interests of the bankers and major investors who truly mattered in the United States, by opening Syrian labor to exploitation and Syria’s land and natural resources to foreign ownership. “Our agenda,” the Obama Administration had declared in 2015, recapitulating U.S. foreign policy strategy since the end of World War II, “is focused on lowering tarrifs on American products, breaking down barriers to our goods and services, and setting higher standards to level the playing field for American… firms.” Damascus wasn’t falling into line behind a Washington that insisted that it could and would “lead the global economy.”

“If hardliners in Washington had considered Hafez al-Assad an Arab communist, U.S, officials considered his son, Bashar, an ideologue who couldn’t bring himself to abandon the third pillar of the Ba’ath Arab Socialist Party’s program: socialism (nor the party’s pro-Palestinian and Arab nationalist positions). The U.S. State Department complained that Syria had “failed to join an increasingly interconnected global economy,” which is to say, had failed to turn over its state-owned enterprises to private investors, among them Wall Street financial interests. The U.S. State Department also express dissatisfaction that “ideological reasons” had prevented Assad from liberalizing Syria’s economy, that “privatization of government enterprises was still not widespread,” and that the economy “remains highly controlled by the government.” Clearly, Assad hadn’t learned what Washington had dubbed the “lessons of history,” namely that “market economies, not command-and-control economies with the heavy hand of government, are the best.” By drafting a constitution that mandated that the government maintain a role in guiding the economy on behalf of Syrian interests, and that the Syrian government would not make Syrians work for the interests of Western banks, corporations, and investors, Assad was asserting Syrian independence against Washington’s agenda of “opening markets and leveling the playing field for American… businesses abroad.”

“On top of all this, Assad underscored his allegiance to socialist values against what Washington had once called the “moral imperative” of “economic freedom,” by writing certain social rights into the constitution: security against sickness, disability and old age; access to health care; and free education at all levels. These rights would continue to be placed beyond the easy reach of legislators and politicians who could sacrifice them on the altar of creating a low-tax, foreign-investment-friendly climate. As a further affront against Washington’s pro-business orthodoxy, Assad retained the 1973 constitution’s commitment to progressive taxation.” – pages 66 & 67

nugget 4:

“…The U.S.-superintended global economy, into which all countries would be integrated – by force if necessary – was to be regulated by markets, not economic plans drawn up by the state to serve the public interest. Moreover, it was to operate on the basis of enterprises owned by wealthy investors and great banks – preferably American – and not states. And its goal would be profit-making, not the satisfaction of human needs.” -pg 251

111. “The Politics Of Deception” by Patrick J. Sloyan

This book is propaganda. Read it at your own peril. Obviously, If you read some of the better books on JFK, then it’ll be safer for you to read Patrick’s book. One example of Patrick’s propaganda: Patrick, like Bruce Miroff (whose book is actually good, if not perfect), reserves the word ‘terrorism’ for the targets of U.S. aggression.

112. “The Arrogant Autocrat – Stephen Harper’s Takeover Of Canada” by Mel Hurtig

nugget 1:

“Time after time, government departments failed to respond when the Parliamentary Budget Office requested information. According to Post Media News, “The federal government has refused to give the parliament budgetary watchdog copies of the bids that ultimately won nearly $33 billion worth of work for shipyards in Halifax and Vancouver under the government’s national shipbuilding strategy.” [Kevin] Page wrote to the deputy minister in charge, asking for copies of the relevant bids, but the requests were denied. Unbelievably, the Parliamentary Budget Officer was reduced to filing Access to Information requests for departmental data to which he is statutorily entitled…

“…In 2008, the Harper government eliminated the Access to Information Database widely used by journalists, researchers, experts and the public to identify and request documents previously obtained by other users.” – pages 6 & 7

nugget 2:

“Referring to an omnibus bill table in October, 2013, the Toronto Star reported:

“The Harper government has once again resorted to sneaking ideology-driven policy in through the back door by cramming the change (to the public service) into Bill C-4, a 321 page ‘omnibus’ budget bill… that contains a slew of unrelated measures. Apart from union rights, the bill affects Supreme Court appointments, employment insurance, workplace safety, veterans’ affairs, conflict-of-interest, solicitor-client privileges, immigration policy and more. There is no way MPs can give this bulky tome the study it deserves in the short time available. It’s just the latest Conservative affront to Parliament.”

Ironically, back in 1994, as a Reform Party MP, Stephen Harper took exception to such bills. Hansard of March 25th, 1994 records his words:

“Mr. Speaker, I would argue that the subject matter of the bill is so diverse that a single vote on the content would put members in conflict with their own principles…

“Second, in the interest of democracy I ask: How can members represent their constituents on these various areas when they are forced to vote in a block on such legislation and on such concerns? We can agree with some of the measures but oppose others. How do we express our views and the views of our constituents when the matters are so diverse? Dividing the bill into several components would allow members to represent views of their constituents on each of the different components in the bill.”

– pages 11 & 12

nugget 3:

“Nearly half of scientists responding to a 2013 Environics survey, commissioned by the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada, reported that they knew of cases of direct government suppression of scientific information. A quarter of government scientists reported that they had been asked to exclude or change technical information in their own documents. Many reported political interference in their scientific work which they said had compromised the health and safety of Canadians, and most did not believe they could state their concerns publicly, or to the media, without government retaliation.” -pg 31

nugget 4:

“Among the vulnerable in our midst, we must include recent immigrants and refugees who come to Canada in desperate circumstances. The list of measures taken against these individuals is a sorry litany, starting with the Harper government’s 2012 decision to cut back on health benefits for immigrants, rejected refugee claimants, and those from “safe” countries. The organization Canadians Doctors for Refugee Care took the government to court on procedural and Charter grounds, where they won a partial but significant victory. In a Federal Court ruling in July 2014, Justice Anne Mactavish, deemed the cuts “cruel and unusual” treatment and unconstitutional. Furthermore, she said, they put at risk “the very lives of these innocent and vulnerable children in a manner that shocks the conscience and outrages our standards of decency.” She gave the government four months to restore the health care funding. The government said it would appeal.” -pg 68

nugget 5:

“Of course we all want balanced books, but balanced by increased economic growth and increased revenue from corporations paying their fair share of taxes, not by draconian measures that hobble our economy, shrink our workforce, and inflict long-term damage on our future prospects. Balancing the books is only meaningful when it has been achieved in concert with strong, healthy social programs and a thriving population with secure employment, accessible healthcare, and affordable homes…

“…Nor will we hear Harper or [Joe] Oliver talk about the enormous public debt charges that we have had to pay on that national debt during their years in office. Since 2005-2006, these charges have exceeded a whopping $280 billion dollars. And that’s just to March 31st of 2014.

“While the government rhapsodizes about its ability to produce a balanced budget and cut taxes, we will have paid over $28 billion in public debt charges just for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2014 alone. Can you imagine what $28 billion could do to ameliorate child poverty in this country? Or let me put it another way: is this sound economic management?” – pages 94 & 95

nugget 6:

“There is no sign that the Harper government intends to do anything about this sell-off. It will continue, every day of every week of every month.

“Along with foreign takeovers, I have long warned Canadians about the downsides of free trade agreements. Like takeovers, free trade agreements erode our sovereignty and undermine Canadian control of our own economy and environment. They allow foreign corporations to sue us for lost profits; in fact, Canada is now the most sued country under NAFTA’s free-trade tribunals. The bulk of the lawsuits contest our environmental laws. When listening to Stephen Harper’s claims of his government’s breakthrough successes in trade negotiations, ask yourself, success for whom?” -pg 97