And so this is America. Another week passed, a fresh batch of outrage cooked up by a GOP intent on serving platters of goodies to their base, the elites, at the expense of the fiscal and emotional well being of the rest of us poor bastards. And depending on how you read the administration's play, this week you see White House intent on transforming themselves into moderate Republicans, in order to appeal to that 20 percent of the electorate who'll be up for grabs in 2012 -- or perhaps one that knows they are boxed in by a diabolical enemy unconstrained by conscience, one playing by a rulebook which mandates duplicity and mendacity in order to secure their twisted wish list, and thus one that in this skirmish cannot be bettered.
If we choose hope, and the latter interpretation of the latest GOP play, the unemployment extension for tax cuts for billionaires hostage deal, then we can only hope that that 20% will get the narrative in 2012. We hope that the undecided will see the GOP for what it is: a cabal of greedy jackals intent on securing their own power at all costs, one bent on achieving their mission no matter the collateral damage. We hope that those all-important independents will finally get it, that this GOP that would make Jesus soil his tunic if he returned to this milieu, and saw how all these "God fearing Christians" treated the less privileged are the problem, not the solution. We hope that all these pre-makeover Grinches in the GOP somehow get injected with a conscience, that somehow they gain the blessing and curse of empathy, that somehow they comprehend the despair that comes with being out of a job, out of money, out of your home, out of food with which to feed your hungry kids, and reverse their wretched streak of selfishness.
But we know that change is hard to achieve. Old habits die hard. The current mindset of the GOP seems pathological, so malignant that it can't be affected by mere irradiation of reason, or calls to decency. We know that these guys, the McConnell's, Roves, Palins, Becks, Limbaughs et al, are not likely to have their Grinchian epiphany. Their hearts will stay pea sized, and coal-colored.
So if we choose pragmatism, and realism based on decades of data, then we should arm ourselves with all the knowledge we can take in, so we can fight back. If we go that route, all like minded progressives who are similarly sickened by the Reaganesque road to ruin we have been traveling must immerse themselves in content offered by properly horrified journalists like Keith Olbermann, and Matt Taibbi. Or we can simply wave the flag of surrender, let the conservatives continue their plot to have an every-man-for-himself society, where the Haves are insulated in their cocoons of wealth, and the Have Nots, because they are lazy, and stupid, are left to battle each other for the crumbs.
Here's Part II of my Q 'n' A/unabashed plug for Taibbi's Griftopia. Buy one for yourself, and another for every stocking you have to stuff.
WOODS: I thought of you on November 7th, and found myself feeling all patriotic when I read that Russian journalist Oleg Kashin was beaten close to death, in front of his home, by two men, who have not been caught. Hear me out -- he'd written about youth groups, like Nashi, which some have compared to the Hitler Youth, and are sponsored by the
Kremlin. More than any writer, anywhere, I'd say, you've taken on the sacred Gods of capitalism, and called them on their felonious fiendishness. If you were still living and working in Russia, I dare say you would have been "visited" by a couple of goons and been abused
like a heavy bag at Gleasons. But that hasn't happened. Thus, I felt glad to live in America. Are you a proud American, for this reason, for this "freedom" of the press we enjoy, and for any other reasons?
TAIBBI: I never knew Oleg, but I did know Anna Politkovskaya a little, as well as Yuri Sheckochikhin, another Russian reporter who was assassinated. I had a few close friends from this world (including an investigative reporter named Leonid Krutakov, who was severely beaten at least once) and those relationships always served to remind me how lucky, relatively, Americans are to have such a free press. There are very few journalists in America, if there are any, who ever have to face physical danger reporting within our own borders (obviously war reporters abroad face serious risks). Now, I'm sure that reporters like myself and Joe Hagan from New York magazine and Gretchen Morgenson of the Times have cost companies like Goldman an enormous amount of money in the last 18 months or so (Gretchen in particular, the Times coverage of the Abacus case led to an SEC lawsuit that cost Goldman billions as its shares dropped in value), and if we were in the third world that would be a situation that normally would be quite hazardous.
WOODS: And if we keep heading down the current path, which is lined with aggressive guardians of the status quo (on our energy policies, our campaign finance lack of rules, the military-industrial complex, etc), can we expect these attacks on the press to occur here?
TAIBBI: It's not unsafe physically for reporters covering this material and I doubt it will be, ever. On the contrary, the reason that most reporting is not threatening to these companies is that individual exposes seldom lead to serious long-term consequences; in other words, the powers that be in this country normally can choose to ignore annoying reporters rather than kill them. What happened with Goldman last year was an extraordinary case -- most of the time, unless you can get all the cable channels to pile on with you for days at a time, even the most shocking expose will have no effect.
WOODS: Have there been any attacks on you, physical, or verbal, or via
computer? Apart from the Goldmans, the actual Goldman Sachs crew, dismissing you as a fantasist, and conspicuously not responding to and refuting your stated evidence of their chicanery. If there have not been, do you fear retribution? When you see an old guy with a cane
shuffling to you in Jersey, do you get a flash of panic, thinking it might be Alan Greenspan, hobbling at you with a ricin tipped cane?
TAIBBI: Nah. The only thing I've ever really had to worry about is a lawsuit. And since we're so scrupulously fact-checked, I don't even worry about that all that much. About the only way a company like Goldman could really destroy itself is to do something as over-the-top crazy as whack a reporter from a music magazine. I think they understand this. And I'm not sure I'd be their first choice anyway.
WOODS: If I finish reading this book, and I come away feeling that Alan
Greenspan deserves the majority of scorn, and blame, for the state of our economy, more than any one person, would I be wrong? We Americans like it boiled down, like high fructose corn syrup, we like to focus on the one vile actor, so we can haze them, and then move on to more important matters, like the brand new Real Housewives of Beverly Hills at 10 PM! Is Greenspan the MVP, Most Vile Person, of this crash? Or someone else?
TAIBBI: It's a close race between Greenspan and Bob Rubin. Those two are the Laverne and Shirley of the financial crisis. I'd probably give it to Rubin by a nose at the end, just because Greenspan is by far the dumber of the two and probably did less of what he did knowingly, while the economy of the late 90s and early 2000s was on the other hand very close to resembling exactly what I think Rubin would have envisioned as his perfect state. To the extent that any of this was planned, Rubin had a much bigger part in the planning. Greenspan I feel like was motivated so much more by wanting to be famous and worshipped and cooed at by female TV reporters and so on. But I focused on Greenspan just because his quasi-Randian belief system and preposterous character/ideological contradictions (he argued violently for no role for government in the economy, until his banker buddies needed bailouts) is such a perfect symbol of the mindset that got us to where we are, that I felt he had to be the starting point for this discussion.
WOODS: In Chapter 1, The Grifter Archipelago; or, Why the Tea Party Doesn't Matter, you focus quite a bit on Sarah Palin, that canny exploiter of our national obsession with good looking famous people saying spicy things. It appears that at the time you wrote this, she had recently quit as Governor of Alaska. Now she's neck and neck with
Mitt Romney for the 2012 GOP nomination for the Big Gig. Did you underestimate her? Is she cannier than you thought? Should fire-breathing liberal types, like me, in order to keep our blood pressure from spiking, view her inevitable candidacy as theater, watch it and treat it with the same condescension we conserve for reality television? Or should we take her ambition seriously, and battle like hell, not presume that our collective isn't so dim as to not see
through her schtick? Bottom line, can she win?
TAIBBI: She can and I think will win the Republican nomination. I don't see her winning the presidency, but then again I mean, George Bush got elected twice. But George Bush is William Shakespeare or Isaac Newton compared to Sarah Palin (and Palin is Stephen Hawking compared to Michelle Bachmann, another potential 2012 candidate), so the prospect of her actually winning the presidency is that much scarier. I think people have to take her run seriously. She is an extremely gifted politician on the level of connecting with crowds and she has a tremendous knack for using modern media to reach people. So she is a formidable opponent. Her problem is that she's mentally unstable I think (her abrupt resignation seems to confirm a lot of the rumors about her, i.e. that she is prone to wildly impulsive decisions, often motivated by disputes/conflicts with various enemies), and she's also just an awesomely stupid individual, in the sense that she knows very little about how the world actually works. But that doesn't hurt her with a giant chunk of the electorate. But if the same voters who turned out in 2008 (including all those young people and minorities) come out in 2012, she has no chance at a general election win.