Matt Taibbi

Glenn Greenwald: Columnist or Criminal?

Just because objectivity can't exist in journalism doesn't mean writers shouldn't strive for it

What the debate over his role reveals about the idea of objectivity in journalism.

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Felix Salmon’s foppish war on the banks.

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If you haven’t been following that other British scandal—not Murdoch, but the interest-rate scandal that made heads roll at Barclays—then you really should be. As Matt Taibbi explains, it’s a neutron-bomb of a revelation that’s caused even hardened cynics to rethink their assumptions about the banking system.

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We're hearing a lot from conservatives about how Rush Limbaugh's attack on Sandra Fluke, offensive though it may be, occasions a second look at all the offensive things liberals get away with saying. "Liberals" is defined pretty broadly in this instance to include rappers (I guess because they're usually black).

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In a Slate column on Tuesday, Jessica Grose asked the question of why the media covers Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann differently. According to Grose, the media treats Perry as dumb and Bachmann as crazy. As Grose says of the Texas governor, he “comfortably fits into the Republican archetype of the stupid male candidate.” The fact that he is from Texas and likes to play up his anti-intellectualism—both traits reminiscent of another former Lone Star state governor who was derided for being none-too-bright—only makes the picture easier to draw.

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p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal { margin: 0in 0in 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman"; }span.Italic { font-style: italic; }div.Section1 { page: Section1; } As the U.S. economy fails to recover, there is a growing fear that the United States has entered a phase of long-term decline. Conservatives blame “big government” for throttling entrepreneurship; liberals tend to take aim at Wall Street.

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As the U.S. economy fails to recover, there is a growing fear that the United States has entered a phase of long-term decline. Conservatives blame “big government” for throttling entrepreneurship; liberals tend to take aim at Wall Street. Rolling Stone writer Matt Taibbi memorably described Goldman Sachs as “a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money.” Among less inventive critics, the term in vogue is “financialization.” According to author Kevin Phillips, who popularized this notion, financialization is “a process whereby financial services, broadly construed, take over the dominant economic, cultural and political role in a national economy.”Elements of this thesis can be found in scores of books, articles, and blog posts on the state of the U.S. economy. Phillips blames financialization not just for the “Great Recession,” but for “excessive debt, great disparity between rich and poor, and unfolding economic decline.” In their book, 13 Bankers, former International Monetary Fund (IMF) chief economist Simon Johnson and James Kwak blame financial factors for the “anemic growth” in the overall economy prior to the crash. And, in an influential essay—titled “WHAT GOOD IS WALL STREET?”—The New Yorker economics writer John Cassidy pointedly contrasts the period when regulators restrained the growth of the finance sector (when wages, investment, and productivity grew, lifting “tens of millions of working Americans into the middle class”) with the period of growth experienced by the finance sector since the early ’80s (when “financial blowups have proliferated and living standards have stagnated”). One thing is clear: Financialization, in some form, has taken place. In 1947, manufacturing accounted for 25.6 percent of GDP, while finance (including insurance and real estate) made up only 10.4 percent. By 2009, manufacturing accounted for 11.2 percent and finance had risen to 21.5 percent—an almost exact reversal, which was reflected in a rise in financial-sector employment and a drop in manufacturing jobs. It is also clear that high-risk speculation and fraud in the financial sector contributed to the depth of the Great Recession. But Phillips, Johnson, and the others go one step further: They claim that financialization is the overriding cause of the recent slump and a deeper economic decline. This notion is as oversimplified, and almost as misleading, as the conservative attack on the evils of big government.

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Of course, scapegoats are intrinsic to the language of politics. And scapegoats are particularly useful to ignorant politicians. The fact is that most politicians do not know the slightest about how finance—public or private—actually operates. It is for them a matter of good and evil—mostly good when prosperity reigns, mostly evil when prosperity collapses.

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In a post yesterday, I argued that some intra-progressive fights reflect ideological differences, particularly over the role of private-sector entities in pursuing progressive policy goals, that need to be taken more seriously, in part because failing to acknowledge them often makes such fights nasty exercises in name-calling and character attacks. There's another broad area where differences of opinion often originate, and that must be understood as well: differing political strategies. Two Examples of Strategic Disconnect Consider two examples: Democratic political operatives and progressive

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Worth Reading

In defense, and against, Matt Taibbi's rhetoric. Some government salaries are booming. Ron Paul on why he'd vote against his own amendament. On the prospects of a value-added tax in the U.S. If you believe the chartists, the dollar's fall has stopped.

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