"No End in Sight, Part $"
Charles Ferguson's last documentary was No End in Sight, the very fine examination of how the militarily successful invasion of Iraq could turn into a stunningly inept (and contrary) example of nation-building. Like the handling of the Katrina aftermath, it was a case of arrogance, of sticking to what the Administration thought was going to happen (or merely wanted to), as opposed to reacting to what did happen. Ferguson used archive footage to present the timeline, devoting most of the time to interviews with witnesses, which broke down into two groups, those with boots on the ground (generally bitter and remorseful) and the idealogues (cluelessly in denial). It becomes very clear in the viewing that key decisions by officials who couldn't be bothered to go the source made very early but critical decisions from which the situation never recovered, compunded when the mistakes weren't acknowledged or denied.
Inside Job, which looks at the banking melt-down, takes a different tack. It begins with the recent economic story of Iceland, a microcosm of what happened in the United States and globally, and then once the basic principles of over-extending becomes clear, expands the scope to take on the massive task of explaining the intricacies of the U.S. disaster and its subsequent bail-out.
The difference in this one is the talking heads (and I'm being kind using that particular part of the anatomy). Yes, there are interviews with international bankers who have an objective view, plus writers for financial publications who looked at the situation with a reporters's overview. So many of the interviewees, though, are U.S. financial advisers, many of whom either benefitted from the crisis—through bonuses or receiving cushy jobs in other financial sectors—or had a hand in causing it. Their interviews are examples of arrogance in action, dodging their responsibility, dodging the camera ("Can we turn that off?" asks one of the camera), or getting suddenly pissy when Ferguson dares to ask pointed questions ("You have three minutes," says one of Bush's financial architects. "Give it your best shot." I'm only surprised that he didn't say "Bring it on.").
None of these guys were elected by us, and yet, their actions have affected all of our lives—all of ours. They screwed up, and yet they are still in business, still profiting, and there is nothing we can do about it. Except make our voices heard in protest (to which these Masters of the Universe react with hurt feelings, releasing their statements of outrage from the multiple houses they are in no danger of losing*). There are no investigations into their mis-deeds because so many are still deeply embedded in the very government that should be running those enquiries. Many of them, as Inside Job points out, are hiding in the ivory towers of financial academia, ensuring that their ideas are carried on to future Masters. Think they're teaching any ethics classes? Probably not. The priority is crunching numbers...and lives.
It's depressing stuff. There was a lot of disgruntled grumbling as viewers filed out of the theater (it was a full house, which was encouraging), but no cries for revolution, no pitch-forks, and probably, at home, no mattresses stuffed with cash. People are still "gruntled" enough to trust the situation...and business to people who protest that they know what they're doing (and we can't), but so obviously screwed up, greedily driving the car as fast as it would go so close to the cliff's edge. And they fight mightily if someone wants to include any kind of brake in the vehicle.
It is funny, now, to hear so many people upset about taxing the upper 1% of American earners bleating into their golden microphones that this is (horrors!) "class warfare." Yes, it is. But that war was started years ago against the middle-class, the american people in general and the nation. These weasels, after drawing first blood, just don't want anybody to fight back.
Inside Job is a Matinee (just because you should save some money--these guys are still in charge!!)
* I saw Inside Job the week after George W. Bush made his promotional book-tour on the talk-shows bitching that the worst thing that happened to him during the Administration was being called "a racist" by Kanye West. He got off easy during his tenure...so many American did not. It's good to be the King.
Tuesday, November 23, 2010