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Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, Alex Gibney (2005)

This is an amazing film, which should be seen by anyone who doubts for a second that corporate America and the American government not only exist in a permanent state of co-dependency and blatant conflict of interest, but are essentially two manifestations of the exact same impulse: greed. I’m a 21st century kid, cynical to the core, and not easily shocked, but I gagged on this. If you’ve only got twenty minutes or so, watch the segment about 2/3 through about the California blackouts in 2000 and 2001, which cut off power to millions of citizens, ensured the recall of Governor Gray Davis and the election of Arnold Schwarzenegger, and which were completely and utterly artificially engineered by Enron traders in order to generate profits for the company and themselves. You hear tapes of the traders joking with each other about stealing from old people, and how good it is for business when wildfires get out of control. Then you hear the newly elected President H. W. Bush (good friends with Kenneth Lay, as his father was) saying that there is no need for the federal government to intervene in California. It’s nothing you haven’t suspected, but it still packs a wallop.

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  1. Speaking as a native Californian, who endured endless smack talk about the state during and after those blackouts, let me say, amen brother. People still don’t know what actually happened. I remember especially the taped trader saying “use candles!” while an ambulance carted away the remains at a traffic accident caused by a non-functioning light.

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