Monday, October 5, 2009

Matt Taibbi and the Wall Street Racket

Matt Taibbi did an interview this morning on Don Imus' new show on Fox Business News discussing his new article "Wall Street's Naked Swindle".

Now, I'm no fan of Imus - not to mention that Fox Business News is on my list of organizations to boycott - but the interview does contain some useful information. Which is why in the end I am recommending it. I guess Taibbi wants to reach as broad an audience as he can with the issue of "naked short selling". Good for him. He must have a strong stomach.

The full interview is not available online, but here are two fairly lengthy pieces of it which I think capture most (if not all) of the relevant discussion with regards to naked short selling.

Part I

Part II

Why didn't I take the Blue Pill?

There is a little bit more of this interview available here on the Fox Business News site for those who are really interested. The only thing new there is that Matt talks about how clueless he was with the inner workings of Wall St. before beginning to work on this series of articles.

That's interesting to me because I'm in the same boat. Before the Great Bailout of '08 I was just as blissfully ignorant of the affairs of Wall Street. I mean, who wants to bother with this stuff? But when the government started handing out my hard earned money to the super-rich of Wall Street, that really caught my attention.

Not only did the politicians in Washington D.C. hand over my tax money to their Wall Street overlords, but they then handed me back an IOU in the form of the government loans used to finance the Great Bailout of '08. If I go in debt because I decided to buy a new house or a new car, that's one thing. But when I get handed a virtual credit card statement because the government decided to go on a spending spree handing out billion dollar gifts to their super-rich buddies on Wall Street then that's something else.

And really this is just a global game of kick the can, because it hasn't solved the basic problem at all. What will happen when the US defaults on those loans - which it ultimately must? Will the banks come in and demand restitution in the form of government (the American People's) assets? What then?

The result is that our world has been reshaped economically and politically just as surely as if there had been a third World War. There were no bullets that flew and no one was drafted, but there is a War Debt all the same.

Wall Street is a Racket

As Major General Smedley Butler, who received two Medals of Honor, wrote in 1935 "War is a Racket".
WAR is a racket. It always has been.

It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives.
Well the racketeers have come up with a new model - a sort of covert virtual war - to steal money out of the pockets of the citizens of the worlds nations. This way they avoid most of the protests, but still get there big payout from the government coffers.

Here's a particularly relevant quote from Smedley Butler.
And let us not forget the bankers who financed the great war. If anyone had the cream of the profits it was the bankers. Being partnerships rather than incorporated organizations, they do not have to report to stockholders. And their profits were as secret as they were immense. How the bankers made their millions and their billions I do not know, because those little secrets never become public -- even before a Senate investigatory body.
The Big Banks finally figured out a way to cut out all the competing industries from getting their cut of the war budget. The breakthrough came when they realized that they don't need a war to throw the government into debt - just create a crisis; an economic crisis, a virtual crisis. Spread the same kind of war hysteria among the population that the nation is under threat of being destroyed - not by bombs, but by bankruptcies. Then demand a multi-trillion dollar ransom to save the world from a crisis that they themselves manufactured.

No its not the story line from the latest James Bond plot - there's not nearly enough action and explosions for that - and yet still, people's lives have been destroyed to feed the greed of the International Bankers.

And don't forget that it was the same Smedley Butler that revealed to the American People the "Business Plot" of 1933.
The Business Plot was a political conspiracy which involved wealthy businessmen [including Prescott Bush] plotting a coup d’état to overthrow United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt. In 1934, Butler came forward and testified to the McCormack-Dickstein Congressional committee that a group of wealthy pro-Fascist industrialists had been plotting to overthrow the government and had approached him to lead it.[5]

In March 1934, the House of Representatives authorized investigations into "un-American" activities by a special committee headed by John W. McCormack of Massachusetts and Samuel Dickstein of New York. The McCormack-Dickstein Committee investigated Smedley Butler's allegations as well as a number of other high profile topics of the era. In the opinion of the committee these allegations were credible.
Well there's more than one way to achieve power via a coup d'état - just ask Hank Paulson.

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AmericanGoy said...

"The only thing new there is that Matt talks about how clueless he was with the inner workings of Wall St. before beginning to work on this series of articles.

That's interesting to me because I'm in the same boat."

We ALL are in the same boat, learning about it as we go along.

The whole structure of the market - HFT trading, deep pools, the opaqueness of tranches and CDO's is designed to basically hide fraud and to be in a "grey area" - where the law is not made yet to really regulate it.

AmericanGoy said...

Also, Smedley Butler is THE American hero, as far as I am concerned.

Too bad he is not mentioned in any high school nor university history books.

Frank Hope said...

Hi AG. One of the great things about the internet is how it sheds a light on areas of darkness. I'd never heard about Smedley Butler up until recently. Like you say, this is not something that is taught in history class. Why not?

As for the inner workings of Wall Street, it is only the work of the many inhabitants of the blogosphere that has made this world comprehensible to those of us who do not spend our daily lives immersed in this world.

Democracy can only function if the population is informed. And not just informed by a constant stream of corporate propaganda, but by independent voices searching for the Truth. And that is what Life does best - constantly probe its surroundings looking for a crack, a new route through the wilderness.

In the words of the late Michael Crichton in Jurassic Park...

Dr. Ian Malcolm: No, I'm simply saying that life, uh... finds a way.

Dr. Ian Malcolm: If there is one thing the history of evolution has taught us it's that life will not be contained. Life breaks free, expands to new territory, and crashes through barriers, painfully, maybe even dangerously.