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American Casino – Interdependence and the Subprime Mortgage Crisis

I’m a buddhist. I read the Wall Street Journal as often as I can. I don’t see how anyone interested in interdependence can ignore the WSJ. I think any buddhist interested in relieving suffering in this world of relative reality can enjoy it.

And I think anyone interested in interdependence will enjoy the movie I saw this weekend: American Casino, an amazing documentary about the subprime mortgage crisis and the financial meltdown, featuring Phil Gramm, Alan Greenspan, and a variety of sweaty, business-suited guys and lower middle-class, mainly African American, former homeowners in Baltimore, Maryland.


Filmmakers Andrew and Leslie Cockburn interviewed both Wall Street heavy hitters and those on the street because they lost their homes in one of best movies I’ve seen this summer.

The Cockburns concisely show the crystal-clear connections between foreclosures in Baltimore, the bettors on Wall Street, and disease-bearing mosquitoes in Southern California. We are ALL connected. What we do, and with what intention we do it, matters. A lot.

Baltimore school teacher Denzel Mitchell walking through his foreclosed home, to California real estate investor Jeff Greene, who bet against the mortgage-backed securities market and made close to half a million dollars, there is a lot of interdependence. And a lot of interesting stuff.


Moneymakers don’t come off badly in this film; liars do.


Of course making money isn’t bad. I don’t believe buddhism means that. I do believe that buddhist thought points out that every action has a result, and that the intention with which acts are performed affects the result.

To me, it seems the source of the problem lay in the intentions: the intention to deceive, for the intention of satisfying greed.


It becomes clear as the film progresses that the lying that went on in generating mortgages for people who couldn’t afford to pay them back was the root. And the lying that went on among those who sold securities based on those mortgages was the branch. And the subprime meltdown is the fruit.

Investment isn’t evil. Bankers aren’t villains and the homeowners aren’t saints. I’m not even sure I’d say gambling (the securities market) is intrinsically evil. But lying to people about what they are gambling on? 

The results manifesting from such a fine mess of ignorance and greed are so obviously painful, so generative of suffering, that this film made me pause and think, specifically about every single bit of speech or email I produce in the course of a business day. About whether there is any intent to deceive, ever so small, about when something was done, will be done, or can be done. Because this movie is one big karma lesson.


The network of interdependence revealed by the film is far too much fun to watch as is plays out; I don’t want to spoil it here. Of course, I recommend seeing it oneself; in New York City it’s playing at Film Forum the first two weeks in September, and there will be other showings–and Netflix–soon. At Film Forum there are a few live Q&A sessions with the filmmakers, Leslie and Andrew, on the following dates.

Wednesday, September 2, 8:00 show
Thursday, September 3, 8:00 show
Friday, September 11, 8:00 show

I’d ask them what their next film might be. And I’d hope it isn’t about this article in the Wall Street Journal today.

Comments read comments(12)
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posted August 31, 2009 at 4:25 pm

I can’t wait to see this movie on nexflix.

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Anan E. Maus

posted September 1, 2009 at 2:01 pm

Greed never produces anything good.
Institutionalized greed produces horrible consequences.
And basing an entire society on economics, rather than Democracy or other aspects of truth, is sheer insanity and a harbinger of destruction.
The economy can function just fine using business conducted with honor and honesty.
The “need” to lie, cheat, manipulate and steal, is no “need” at all. It is just surrendering to temptation.
We, as spiritual beings are above that vicious fray. And if we invoke our divine qualities and try to manifest them, the world will conform to our spiritual will. If we feel we are doomed to be under the thumb of materialism and must be it’s slave…then we will never see clearly enough to not cause tremendous harm to others.
People seem to forget, that one of the founders of modern American economic society was Ben Franklin. And his devotion was not to greed, but to making other people’s lives better. He invented the lightning rod, but refused to patent it, so that it would be accessible to all. The more we try to follow that model, the better off we will all be.
It is sheer lunacy to think that devoting ourselves to good will is someone going to let the society crumble around us. The opposite it is creates the climate that produces all manner of good, including economic well being.
Why is it so hard for people to trust in the power of goodness?

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Self Dumping Hopper

posted June 23, 2010 at 9:18 am

thanks for this very interesting article.I I like how Google App Engine roughly the first two sets.

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posted June 29, 2010 at 3:39 am

please continue with your message, I really enjoy them. Always
absorbent can publish something that keeps the minutes of
your life as you see on many other sites.

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bebo kobo

posted October 7, 2010 at 8:09 am

Well i think the submarine properties is been reportedly hit by the aftermath of the phase of recession and now its the time for real boom again.

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posted October 22, 2010 at 4:08 pm

We are seeing spectacular resu;ts with the REST Report as part of a foreclosure defense

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Akali Dennie

posted November 24, 2010 at 4:00 pm

An all too common story these days. Best Current Mortgage Rates

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posted December 7, 2010 at 8:48 am

thank you for sharing thid,full of information regarding subprime mortgage crisis.we can’t avoid that there is also times that loan or mortagages experience this crisis.very interesting topic.

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posted December 15, 2010 at 9:29 am

The US subprime mortgage crisis was one of the first indicators of the 2007–2010 financial crisis, characterized by a rise in subprime mortgage delinquencies and foreclosures, and the resulting decline of securities backing said mortgages.

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Tony Antony

posted February 25, 2011 at 5:37 pm

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