Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Malignant Narcissism

Let's take a look at a few of the more egregious media morons of the past few days, starting with our old buddy Richard Dice Cohen, who is apparently itching to prove that he knows about as much about financial journalism as he does about comedy. The Diceman decided that poor ol' Jim Cramer needed someone to stick up for him, after the vicious on-air cornholing Cramer got from Jon Stewart.

What Jon Stewart needs is Jon Stewart. He could use a droll comedian to temper his ferocity and correct him when he's wrong, as he was about the financial media, particularly CNBC and its excitable analyst Jim Cramer. They didn't cover up the story of financial shenanigans. They didn't even know it existed.

Sigh. That was Stewart's point, that Cramer and the rest of these clowns were billing themselves as having their fingers squarely on the pulse of what was going on, and Stewart provided extra video definitively proving that Cramer understood how to game the system -- indeed, was both hunky and dory with it. But even without the video, Cramer and CNBC were left exposed as being useful idiots for Wall Street swindlers.

Another guy seems a little unclear on what really seemed like a simple, obvious concept. [emphasis in original]

If CNBC were to have been anything but cheerleaders, they might not have gotten the interviews that Jon Stewart was talking about. Thus, you can’t talk about asking harder questions and digging deeper with the assumption that you’ll have the same network of information, because in reality that depends on the questions you ask as well.

Yeah, 'cause there was absolutely no other way on the fucking planet to figure out that this was a global-scale Ponzi scheme, capitalized on three-dollar bills and unicorn farts. Nope, the only way was to get the CEO of Wachovia on and butter his ass while he lied through his teeth. Jesus Tapdancing Christ, people, this is why we get the coverage we get.

For those who missed it a couple years back when I first started talking about it, I'll tell you one enormous, undeniable clue that hit me like a ton of bricks: reading newspaper stories about regular people with regular jobs, maybe $50-60k household income, outbidding each other by five figures for the sweet-ass opportunity to pay $500-600k on a goddamned tract house in the East Bay.

Anyone who has ever been to Antioch or Concord knows there's not much there worth half a million bucks, certainly not a cookie-cutter crackerbox, but more importantly, there was no way these people could afford that. But they got ninja loans thrown at them, supplemented with a fat HELOC and encouraged to use that as an ATM, and urged to ignore that pesky little rate-adjustment date down in the fine print.

Friends 'n' neighbors, I am by no means a financial genius; I don't even live in or near the Bay Area, so it wasn't like I had a stake in it. I don't know the specifics on how credit-default swaps and collateralized debt obligations work, or the nuts and bolts of leveraging securitized derivative instruments on the margin. But a rabid chimp could figure out that using these bullshit loans and a spreadsheet formula that could only be interpreted by a few Good Will Hunting types to purchase a bunch of arcane wagers waaayyyy on the margin was untenable. It was clear that no wealth was being created, only debt being rejiggered.

I just looked at the numbers. A lot of people -- actual economists, even -- looked at the numbers and came to the same conclusions. It was a numbers racket, like in the old mob movies, except here the mobsters traded their souls for skyscrapers and unlimited gall. It wasn't that hard to figure out -- this shit never even worked on paper, never.

It only worked as long as there was an unspoken mutual agreement among the mobsters not to look at it too closely. And when someone finally did, they poured gasoline, threw a match, and pulled the fire alarm, right after filing the insurance claim. You can almost imagine Pesci hounding Liotta "do me a fuckin' favor, Hendry, help me nail dis fuckin' broad, I don' axe you fer fuckin' favors," as the scumbags at AIG wrote themselves fat bonus "contracts" last April, a full month after Bear Stearns took a header and the Euro central banks were getting involved, well after people realized there was some shit going down.

So when I see these high-tit buffoons sit there with their shit-eating grins and swear on a stack of Rick Santelli toupées that there was no way you coulda seen this comin', that there was no better way for financial reporters and commentators to do their job other than to serve as a bullhorn or billboard for the swindlers and grifters, they're either lying to you or to themselves. Stewart was mean, and Cramer was believable in his contrition, but there's no getting around that they failed -- not because they were wrong, but because they didn't care enough about getting it right.

Of course, the finance dorks have a ways to go before they catch up to the crass, guilt-free self-regard of the political smart set, who hop from teapot to teapot, looking for a proverbial tempest. Obama backed out of the Gridiron Dinner -- big fuckin' deal, right? Name one person outside the Beltway who knows or cares.

But there's so much intrigue here, n'est-ce pas? The journos feel snubbed; they're fine; they're snubbed but are pretending they're fine. The dinner is important; it's not important; it's an honored cultural tradition; it's an outdated pageant for ancient cronies and hacks. Let's make up our minds about this, people. It's not everything to everyone, it's a circle jerk for people who can't get on the list at Bohemian Grove.

Right now Obama has better things to do than help a bunch of codgers slather verbal Ben-Gay all over one another. Fuckin' dig up Henny Youngman and tell each other borscht-belt jokes or something. Buncha damned eighth-graders, thinking it's all about them.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

i wish more people were putoff by skeevy "innovative financial products". but the sheeple aren't skeptical enough, then are suckered by salesschmucks.