Faces and Heels
Stress is a critical survival tool, enabling humans to avoid or confront threatening elements in their environment. However, the nervous system is not built to exist in a state of continuous stress, and its functionality degrades if exposed continuously for too long to it. Stress in modern society is carefully titrated, served and withheld in doses as needs dictate. Whether it’s the mundane, everyday pressure of chasing devaluing clownbux to survive (nevermind what the CPI says, check your family budget), or more epic, traumatic societal events administered from time to time, the infotainment complex is as ready as ever to deliver the desired programming on HOW to react to said stresses in our everyday lives. Indeed, it can be seen as a transmission mechanism for, and reinforcer of stress as well as desensitization.
The media is by and large a construct of the system, owned and paid for in concentrated forms by the PTB. There is, of course, a desired component of variability to maintain the illusion that any free media exist, They have not yet seen the cost-benefit ratio of shutting down the ‘fringe’ internet sites that actually (hopefully) make an honest effort to reveal and represent the truth. But if something makes it to the top of the newscast, the front page of the paper, or the top of the search results list, it was put there. Purposefully, methodically, with a remarkable degree of precision. Not every item, of course, REAL news exists regardless of manipulation. But its position and relative exposure, its editorial spin, the selective serving and withholding of facts or questions – those are of course all fair game in all cases.
News is of course but one channel – and inducing/maintaining/tapering/spiking stress cannot by itself keep the
serfs, errr..... productive citizens properly motivated. Release valves and sedatives must also exist to keep the brain chemistry just right (we won’t get into the direct chemical engineering here) – hence entertainment in all its glorious diversity in this golden age of culture. Circuses are just as vital as the bread. Gladiator arena equivalents abound, whether it’s professional sports or talent shows and ‘talent’ shows, reality shows or political theater. But I wanted to bring up a particularly obvious analogy: professional wrestling. Just like what I imagine medieval street theater to be like, professional wrestling is a staged affair, with ‘scripts’, roughly delineating the dialogue and roles of the wrestlers. There is always a ‘face’ character, a good-looking (to some, anyway) leading man the audience can identify with, cheer for and be enamored by. And there must be a foil, a villain, an anti-hero – the ‘heel’. Specifically designed to be caricatures, they are the Emmanuel Goldstein equivalent at whom the audience can hiss, boo, vent their frustration and anger – release the stress of everyday life in the righteous feeling of all being right with the world when they are vanquished.
The man that seems to top the charts of all-time best villains in pro wrestling: “Rowdy” Roddy Piper. Believe it or not, there was actually a cartoon series in the 80’s following the exploits of the stars of the WWF:
The reason I bring this latter point up is to introduce one of the two recommended movies for the weekend: Roddy Piper starred in a relatively little known, ‘cult’ classic film by John Carpenter – ‘They Live’. While the full movie used to be on YouTube, I could not find it this time around:
The other is an obvious choice, and please excuse my getting repetitive in recommending it – Century of the Self by Adam Curtis. While it starts out focusing on the development of modern advertising and PR, the second part of the first episode, and the second part of the series (The Engineering of Consent) explores the concepts around influencing/manipulating the thoughts and thus behavior of entire societies.
Keep the above thoughts in mind as we proceed to this week’s sideshow event – the Great and Glorious Public Tarring and Feathering of JPM on Twitter: #askJPM
The script: JPMorgan, Official Twitter account for Asset Management, Private Banking, and the Corporate and Investment Bank (not the retail outlets of JPMC catering to the masses) decides to capitalize on its recent coup (back then still only anticipated – ha, who am I kidding, sure thing) of bringing Twitter public, and puts out a call for a Twitter-chat featuring the star dealmaker Vice Chairman Jimmy Lee. It was announced inauspiciously on November 6th:
The session was originally supposed to go live today, but was of course cancelled with an equally inauspicious Tweet:
However, that has not really stopped the stream of comments (which to date seem to be around 33K for the past two days). If you missed the hilarity, it’s still not too late to check out the feed directly: #askJPM. You can find any number of summaries and punditry on the hows and the whys by just searching for the hashtag.
When I stopped spewing coffee and my laughter abated from abdominal muscle strain, I stumbled upon something that gave me pause: Stacy Keach reading #askJPM tweets on a stage, while narrated occasionally by a blue puppet seemingly ripped off from Jon Stewart’s Michael Steele skit. Playing on CNBS.
The network copies (arch-nemesis) Jon Stewart’s Michael Steele blue-puppet idea:
... and airs this on CNBC today:
Ask yourself, which of the network’s esteemed commentators would not most likely degrade themselves gratuitously in their ‘journalistic integrity’ for a chance to do a 1:1 interview with the suave, icy-stared playboy billionaire JamieD? How much time and effort has the channel spent ensuring the viewing public that while some bumps in the road are to be expected, folks should trust institutions and invest in stocks and bonds? Would CNBS really, out of the blue, deliver such a broadside on the best-run, biggest, most profitable, TBTF and TBTJ bank on its own? Remember these gems?
http://video.cnbc.com/gallery/?video=3000143166 (Dimon in Davos with Dartiromo)
There are several ways in which the current situation can be viewed:
JPM is simply going through a perfect storm, with all the settlements for alleged but never acknowledged or proven illegal behavior, the extremely suspect employment contract extended to Chinese ex-PM’s daughter, the Moody's downgrade. The Twitter incident was a well-meaning honest mistake by a largely underutilized small SM team. After all, #JPMCodeForGood didn’t devolve into scathing criticism of algorithmic HFT – they simply had not dreamed that such attention would be lavished on their dusty @jpmorgan account – and truly expected this to be a small step in trying to reach out to the public: “Look, peasants – we are offering access to the gilded halls. A lucky few Tweeters may even be invited to an internship or two.” – to try to build social capital, like they are supposed to. In strong support of this version is the date of the creation/sharing of the hashtag: Nov. 6 was a week prior to any events erupting, spontaneously or not.
Some counter-arguments to this option (which must nevertheless remain on the table as the simplest, most straightforward explanation):
- If so, why absolutely NO reaction from the bank whatsoever, other than the skulking off at the end?
- Why the unanimous, continued push from financial media to de-throne the de-facto institutional king of the financial world? How did everyone’s golden boy and stalwart pillar of society turn into the universally-loathed whipping boy that is now almost fashionable to hate? How is the name synonymous with American banking being dragged through the mud all of a sudden?
- JPM, despite the outsized settlement payments and legal fees, has a coupla billion in profit left over. Do we really think the reputation of such an iconic brand and global force would be left to chance and the whim of an incompetent, inexperienced and underpaid steward? Has JPM, the master of subterfuge, disinformation, false advertising, fraud and lies TRULY become this sloppy in their PR execution?
- Was there perhaps a co-incidence of some other events that needed to be distracted FROM in these last few days?
- WSJ op-ed from Andrew Huszar: Confessions of a Quantitative Easer (Monday, Nov. 11, 2013) – Original here, ZH cover here. (see further details below)
- Announcement of new CFTC-head nomination (Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2013) - Bloomberg story here, ZH cover here.
- Janet Yellen confirmation hearing:
- pre-leaked statement (Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2013) ZH here, MSM version here
- actual Senate hearing session (Thursday, Nov. 14, 2013) Goldman’s take via ZH
- Obamacare rollout and subsequent ‘humiliation’/flailing to recover composure
- EU announces QE
- JPM-specific REAL bad news:
- JPMorgan was cut to A3 from A2 by Moody’s (not that this really means anything, BofA was raised from A2 to A3)
- $13B MBS fraud settlement with Justice Department, to include/cover a $5.1B settlement with FHFA, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac
- JPM pays Chinese ex-PM’s daughter $900K/yr for ‘consulting services’
- JPMorgan Banker Backed $200 Million Madoff Loan in 2008
Amidst all the fun and games of the EpicTweetFlameWar, there were a few thoughts in other directions:
Regardless of the specific nature of THIS particular event, my belief in coincidences has declined considerably over the last few years. And though it displays the creative humor of the Twitterverse, this little comedic aside does little to nothing to change the balance of power. Our best hope is that it was able to raise awareness to some degree, and open the eyes of a few who might otherwise have continued to slumber.
But it really feels to me like JamieD and his tag-team at JPM are being cast as the heels, complete with diabolical manager and female sidekick. Heels sometimes switch sides to become good guys, and vice versa – are we seeing an ongoing Hulk Hogan / Hollywood Hogan transformation as we speak?
(...sorry, couldn't resist, you have to admit the more-than-passing resemblance...)
As a last note, the exFedGoon guy "writing-in" to the WSJ? His name is actually pronounced thus: open this link, and click the speaker icon in the little window on the left.
He may be a potential convert to at least SOME tenets of Turdism. I would like to think that honest, decent people still exist in the world – and that this gentleman is neither playing not being played. He certainly sounds sincere, and seems to have joined the growing ranks of those standing to be counted. I hope so, and hope that his current academic status provides some modicum of protection (though I can't seem to find him at Rutgers).
Video link (Bloomberg TV)
Together with the MBS purchases to the tune of $1.2T, the rest of this gentleman's resume reads like the script of the movie about a bankster secret agent's shenanigans before, during and in the aftermath of the Great Financial Crisis that began in 2007/2008 (with material for a prequel as well). From his LinkedIn profile:
FRBNY Counsel, January 2001–June 2006 (5 years 6 months)
• Iraq: Awarded FRBNY President’s Award for Excellence for aiding in establishing the Central Bank of Iraq’s Development Fund for Iraq account at the FRBNY following the Second Gulf War and serving as FRBNY liaison for the Central Bank of Iraq from 2003 through 2004 in connection with over $8 billion in Iraqi sales of crude oil. [Yeah, all of that went SWIMMINGLY. How many pallets of fresh, crispy FRNs went AWOL, again? I am being unfair, the missing $6.6B has been, apparently miraculously, found: 7 years after the fact.]
• Latin America: Acted as legal liaison to the Latin American Central Bank accountholders, frequently addressing in Spanish any legal questions emanating from these institutions. [Senor, I want to make sure I made myself absolutely clear. Yes, you CAN deposit these funds, however acquired, and invest in UST with our partner primary dealers and other member banks. Our underlings can sort out the specifics and transmission channels.]
Managing Director, U.S. Head of OTC Derivatives Client Clearing, Morgan Stanley, January 2011 – June 2012
- Lead U.S. client clearing business for interest rate and credit derivatives. Substantially grew and manage a 18 person team encompassing sales, financial planning and analysis, product development, on-boarding, and client service functions; oversee work done by over 130 individuals.
This guy must have remarkable war stories to tell. I hope we get to hear more of them. He may yet turn out to be merely a useful middleman in a process way above his head, or he could be trying to get out and truly seek absolution to get ahead of massive popular anger to come. But taken at face value, I like the guts being displayed. Perhaps I am just being lulled into complacence by the familiar accent…
Will the villain be defeated? Will he switch sides, become one of the 'good guys' again, and help defeat all the 'evil banksters' and keep only the good ones? When is the hot lady getting between the ropes again? What will that wacky manager/promoter say next? Speaking of which, isn't the wrestling federation getting a new CEO?
In any case, stay tuned, keep the popcorn ready, it’s sure to be an entertaining ride.
PS: Thanks and acknowledgement to Pining, who provided the catalytic spark for today's post.