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NYT Feb 9 2010

“Investors and traders find solace in 10,000,” said Jeffrey A. Hirsch, editor of The Stock Trader’s Almanac. “While it may not be important technically, falling below that level indicates that the whole economic picture is not as rosy as everyone had thought.”

Jasper Johns, #2

“You can tell investors there’s no contagion, but it doesn’t matter, because people start to think there’s more than one cockroach,” said Thomas J. Lee, chief United States equity strategist at JPMorgan Chase. “Right now, it’s still a little wait and see.”

“People worry that this is the straw that breaks the camel’s back again,” Mr. Stone said.

So speak our wizards of finance, explicating the mystic qualities of the numbers, the flux of energies which animate that most sacred entity of our time, The Market, that most glorious expression of the most firm belief under our dim firmaments, Capitalism. Like other practices of the same kind, this one comes dressed in its own arcane language, which most of the populace does not and cannot and should not fathom, and hence is required to defer to mandarin experts the better to understand. Rattling off the long list of buzz-words and acronyms – LIBOR, derivatives, leveraged-buy-out, – the eyes glaze over, as if hypnotized, and the congregants move as told, signing up for their 401K’s, assured by the priests of Wall Street and their cohorts that nirvana will be theirs come retirement time, their modest bundle magically expanded by the one fish to millions by the mumbling of certain words better left to the experts of the priesthood. It is an old story, of course, derivative (!) in our culture of the long-ago much fabled Greeks who told of the Golden Fleece. Well, if you were one of those taken in by the smooth talk of Reagan and others who told you that it would be better for you if you put your trust in the market, and… well, you’ve been fleeced. Retirement time is here for many, and the little nest-egg, to stick to the clodded linguistic clichés that seem to govern those of the fiscal inclination, ain’t. Or actually it is, but it was long ago converted into some investment banker’s 3rd home or second yacht, and you can’t have it.

Occasionally I subscribe to things normally out of my interests – economics blogs and letters, right-wing rant screeds, other odds and ends. An effort to keep up with the wider world, whatever my tastes think about it. One newsletter I get is Money Morning, a tip sheet for investors, which reveals all one needs to know about the investor mentality: if it’ll make money, they say BUY! Period. So it recently counseled military-industrial stocks as a good bet. You bet. And likewise they’re game for a profit, whatever the morality, ethics, social consequences. Here’s the lingo:

Welcome to The Syndicate

Play alongside The Syndicate and you are playing with the House. My conservative estimate is that this will increase your money by 62% before the first crack of the bat on Opening Day.

But if you continue to play against The Syndicate, then your odds drop alarmingly. This is because, right now, The Syndicate has a plan. A story.

And this story – a massive short squeeze – will leave you poorer. Very quickly.

What no one is telling you about this NEW STOCK MARKET could make you 62% richer IF you act right now

Think of the market as a story being written by a tight Syndicate of wealthy, smart traders.

Money is essentially a social contract, and like all social contracts it assumes trust between the contracting parties.  When that trust frays or collapses, the agreements made falter and become meaningless.  It would seem that in America the social trust required – that between neighbors, between buyer and seller, between “citizens” – is getting rather ragged.  For me it became tangible some decades ago, when, having in my younger days hitch-hiked from Los Angeles to Montana (a few times) and elsewhere as well, I decided sometime in the late 1970’s,  just for the fun and pleasure of it (you do meet people, find adventures, etc.), to catch a ride from LA to San Francisco.  I didn’t have to, as I had the money to take a train or plane.  So I went to a once-favored spot just out of Santa Monica on Highway 1, the gorgeous Pacific off to the west, the tawny bluffs of Pacific Palisades to the east.  I stood in the California sun, thumb out, happy, periodically receiving the epithets of  kids in sports cars or classy sedans (doubtless bought by their Beverly Hills parents) who shouted “get a job.”   After a few hours of this abuse and the clear understanding that a ride was not in the cards, I packed it in, caught a bus to the airport and flew.

Thanks to myriad things – among them Charles Manson and others of his kind, as well as to the later Reaganite mantras – the social trust had and would evaporate.   It continued to decline rapidly as the social engineering of the late 50’s and 60’s was undone, greed became “good” and community, having too much of a kinship with “communism” became suspect along with its cousin, communication.  Not much later Limbaugh took to the airwaves, to jostle along with the hell-and-damnation preachers, and before you knew it, America was at war with itself, uniting only for trivial matters like Super Bowls and World Series, or by the traumatization of 9/11.  Soon our currency will be worth about as much as these North Korean pieces of paper.

And perhaps we’ll be led by this lady, the present paladin of the tea-party folks, who is clearly gunning for running in 2012, never mind the embarrassment of being caught cribbing on TV this week, reading her talking points off the scribbles on her palm.   And given the state of the nation, and the failure of Obama and his alleged political party to act in any way at all so far – save for pleasing the bankers for a bit (though they are apparently starting to place their future bets elsewhere, perhaps seeing the writing on the wall far earlier than most: they put him in there, they can take him out), it seems quite feasible that a woman considerably dumber than Bush could indeed take the mantle of American leadership, and perhaps drive us further apart and deeper in the hole of our own communal self-willed ignorance.

You go, girl!


One Comment

  1. Right on, brother! Your daily musings upon the fraud of this economic system, reified into something called “The American Dream”, is both funny and insightful. Who knew that the fleecing of this society by unethical douchebags could provide such hilarity, even though their actions are sending many of us straight to the dogs. At least they’re eating well. If Jean Jacques Rousseau were able to speak I can hear him asking, “Do you understand now why we waged a revolution, or do you fools need a few hundred years more of this shit before you figure it out?”

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