ABACUS: Small Enough to Jail (2016, Steve James)

Categories: 2016 and Movies.

This film is about the only bank – the only bank! – to be indicted for mortgage fraud in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. It tells the story of a bank in New York City’s Chinatown which detected loan fraud, fired the employee responsible, reported the fraud to their regulator, fired additional employees when more fraud was discovered, and then was prosecuted by the District Attorney of New York City, because some of the fraudulent loans were sold to Fannie Mae, where they made money. Read More

The Violence of Financial Capitalism (2011) by Christian Marazzi

Categories: 2011, Books, and Non-Fiction.

It has been a long time since I’ve read a book this dense. A long time. Maybe grad school, maybe in the years after grad school when I tried to re-read or finish lots of books that I felt I hadn’t spent enough time with in school. Either way, I don’t think my brain is trained for this stuff any more. And, well, I never took economics. So that’s a problem. Read More

The Wolf of Wall Street (2013, Martin Scorsese)

Categories: 2013 and Movies.

This is basically the Goodfellas of stockbroker films. It’s got so many things in common with his earlier masterpiece that I don’t really want to go into it. (I feel like going into it would take too long and, frankly, I am worried I wouldn’t do the most complete job.) Scorsese has created another brilliant film about a criminal who is essentially a criminal just because he enjoys the lifestyle, only this one has even less of a background for it. The film is extraordinarily well-paced for its length, it’s well shot (we would expect nothing less), and Scorsese’s penchant Read More

Millioniare (1999, Janet Gleeson)

Categories: 1999, Books, and Non-Fiction.

This is a brief, cursory biography as these things go. It’s certainly interesting but the predominant feeling I am left with after finishing is “I want to know more.” Gleeson says she didn’t want to get bogged down in financial details to make this accessible to the general reader but the problem is that her thesis is significantly hurt by her unwillingness (or inability) to discuss the financial moves of Law in greater detail. This is much more a portrait of a person than it is a discussion of the legacy of his behaviour. I would have liked more detail, Read More

Margin Call (2011, J.C. Chandor)

Categories: 2011 and Movies.

This is probably the best fictional film about the 2008 economic crisis and probably the best film about finance I’ve seen since Glengarry Glen Ross. There are a couple of minor flaws: the dialogue is occasionally clunky and reeks of someone with historical knowledge of the situation: I doubt that these characters would be so aware of the consequences of this – maybe they would be but I’m not sure the movie gives us enough to decide that. Also, the film is a bit myopic. This helps with the tension but doesn’t so much help with the big picture and Read More

The Queen of Versailles (2012, Lauren Greenfield)

Categories: 2012 and Movies.

This is a near-perfect analogy for what happened to the US (and world) economy in 2008: David Siegel had lots of money. However, he wanted more. So he mortgaged what he had to expand his business. Then the housing crisis hit and he lost a lot; not everything, but a lot. Sure, the average American had not even a tiny percentage of what Siegel had. But compared to the rest of the world, they still had a lot. And many wanted more and were convinced by predatory lenders to borrow against what they had. Siegel is different because he had Read More

Money, Power and Wall Street (2012)

Categories: 2012 and Movies.

This is about as thorough an explanation of what happened to the world economy in 2008 as you will find. It is a little repetitive at times and it sometimes fails to draw the biggest implications from the behaviour of the banks prior to, during and after the crisis, but on the whole it is fair and exhaustive. It is well worth finding the DVD and watching it. 8/10 Read More

Park Avenue: Money, Power and the American Dream (2012, Alex Gibney)

Categories: 2012 and Movies.

This is an interesting documentary about the increase in the gap between ultra-rich and everyone else in the US. It is marred a little by the fact that there are numerous documentaries out about this subject, by the fact that it is preaching to the choir (when are we going to get a documentary about this topic that actually gears itself towards the people who need to watch it?) and, most importantly, that it fails to fully make use of its main theme, that of two different Park Avenues, side by side. But it’s still worth seeing (that is, if Read More

The Other Guys (2010, Adam McKay)

Categories: 2010 and Movies.

This is a surprisingly clever comedy that managed to surprise me in a number of ways, while also making me laugh a ton (it couldn’t have hurt that I was dead tired and therefore in a very silly mood). Ferrell is actually almost a real character, which is a nice surprise. And Wahlberg sort of plays off his reputation as someone without a sense of humour. So hooray for characters! But the real strength is as parody: this is the best action movie / cop movie parody since Hot Fuzz. In some ways it might actually be better because it Read More

Oh Stephen, you’ve done it again

Categories: 2011, Politics, and Society.

Today it was announced that there would be a significant number of extra seats added to parliament, in BC, Alberta, Ontario and Quebec. It is estimated that these seats will add $11 million to the cost of a single election, not to mention that added cost of MP and staff salaries, which will probably be considerably more. Now I don’t object to increasing the number of seats in general, as I think it is an important part of any rep by pop system (though, in a reformed system, I would like to see a cap on seats, so that parliament Read More

Neo-cons

Categories: Politics and Society.

These security and lower taxes types are just ridiculous because security costs more than social programs. Maybe this wasn’t true two hundred years ago. Maybe it cost more to pay and support doctors to travel to remote places than it did to keep a standing army, but it doesn’t work that way any more. As a result, 90% of these people are inherently fiscally irresponsible if they follow their advertised policies. We should think about this in light of our government’s decision to buy some new military toys. (Avoiding other obvious questions: How useful are these planes really going to Read More

Debt and such

Categories: Economics and Society.

Disclaimer: I am not partisan. If I had my dual citizenship, and had to vote, I wouldn’t vote for either Republicans or Democrats. I think the Democrats are almost as bad, and as much of a machine, as the Republicans. It’s a myth that Republicans are fiscally responsible. The debt trebled under Reagan. It didn’t stop increasing under Bush I. The only balanced budget in the last few decades came under a Democrat. Bush II was one of the most fiscally irresponsible leaders ever. The debt went from under $6 Billion to nearly $9 Billion in his eight years. And Read More

Squandering

Categories: 2008, Politics, and Society.

In the Star today: Obama has raised $234,754,081 Clinton has raised $189,097,053 McCain has raised $76,691,826 As of March, all candidates had raised $850,000,000 (so it’s now higher). We are talking about nearly a billion dollars. It is impossible to imagine (in your mind) that many pennies (it is beyond the abilities of human imagination). So, essentially, a few people are raising an unimaginable amount of money so that one of them can have the world’s most difficult job for four to eight years. If we think about this in terms of spending efficacy, it is enough to make one Read More

Valentine’s Day & The Corporation (2003, Mark Achbar, Jennifer Abbot)

Categories: 2003, Movies, and Personal.

In the CD player: nothing cuz it’s far too early. I watched The Corporation yesterday. Interesting and entertaining documentary. I don’t necessarily agree with the filmmakers about everything, but it was worth watching. Personally, I don’t think direct democracy will help us much (it will certainly make it harder to protect rights.). It seems to me a major problem is the definition of a corporation as a person. Another issue is making life property. Anyway, I’ll leave it to the anti-globalization activists to discuss. The consistent ones. If I haven’t mentioned this before, people who scream about corporations but buy Read More