Posts Tagged Wall Street
The classic adage “One does not simply drink one beer at a Municipal Waste concert” may have finally run its course; in the process, triggering the worst financial turmoil in months. Yesterday’s Waste show in Pori, Finland yielded a novel sight for the band: a barren bar, no crowd surfing, concert-goers standing completely still when called to form a Wall of Death, and a general air of utter boredom.
“I don’t know how to describe it… I just, like, didn’t have fun, man,” said one attendee.
At the end of the next business day, the NASDAQ lost nearly 1.5% of its value, down to 3099.14, while Dow Jones Industrial Average did not fare much better, falling 1.2% to 13521.97. The crisis, according to Thomson/Reuters, may be contained for the moment – due to the location of the show in Finland, which has a strong manufacturing base that can offset damages to commodity and retail losses from the concert, as well as brighter outlooks for the remainder of the band’s European festival run.
However, music industry pundits and Wall Street bankers alike fear that the effects of the concert could trigger a domino effect that would send ripples throughout the financial system. “Municipal Waste is highly influential in several markets, most notably for commodities like beer, raw materials like wood, plywood, polyester for skateboards and boogie boards, and in clothing markets like those that include jean jackets, bullet belts, and White Nike High Tops,” said a senior analyst at Goldman Sachs, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “There are a lot of traders who are going to buy based on their performances.”
The S&P 500 took the biggest hit, down 1.74% a half-hour before the closing bell.
“There’s been a deluge of market-moving events this week,” said Kleinerman Brigham, chief market strategist for HPL Financial. “Yesterday’s Municipal Waste concert was simply the tipping point, and we’re beginning to see traders react to it.”
Municipal Waste has gone from its underground party-thrash roots to become a major market-shaping force, according to HPL’ research. From January 2003 through August 2013, the correlation between fun had at Municipal Waste concerts and the daily value of the dollar against major U.S. trading partners was -.82. Data available from January 2001 through January 2003 (before the band was signed to Earache Records) shows a correlation between fun had at Municipal Waste concerts and the value of the dollar of -.08. These numbers may seem small, but they have gross consequences. The difference between the two indicates that fun had at Municipal Waste concerts and the value of the dollar tend to have a negative correlation.
“U.S. health and national security is threatened when the value of the dollar is intertwined with fun had at Municipal Waste concerts, which continually feed the U.S. trade deficit,” said J.P. Morgan Chase chief economist Jeremy Johnson. “We need tight regulation of how people enjoy themselves at Waste shows – and we need to do it by setting a cap and floor on fun had, as well as open up new markets for trading allocations of fun, or “fun derivatives”.”
Anti-bank politicians disagree. “Municipal Waste has become a Too Fun To Fail band,” said California congresswoman Elizabeth Boxer. “By no fault of theirs or the governments’ – it was the big banks that allowed the band to become so intertwined with the fate of our economic system.”
This week’s events come at the tail end of a month of bad press for Wall Street. J.P. Morgan has come under ire for manipulating energy prices for thousands of consumers, The New York Times recently released an investigative report about Goldman Sachs’ shady dealings with commodities like aluminum, and nearly every bank is being accused of rigging foreign-exchange FX markets, which play a key role in maintaining currency values.
Brigham sided with Boxer on the issue of regulation versus litigation, while also raising the crisis alarm. “Do I think financial institutions should be held accountable for the losses sustained this week? Should the pension funds for teachers in California, autoworkers in the Rust Belt, and police officers in North Jersey that are going to take the biggest hits be held responsible? Not when the reckless speculation in Municipal Waste-related markets that led to this crisis was done by bankers at the Goldman Sachses of the world. So, yes.”
“This is far from over. Normally Municipal Waste “f**k’s up” its fans. This time, Wall Street may have engineered a system in which the band will “f**k up” five years of economic growth and recovery following the sub-prime mortgage crisis.”
Jari Hjekvik contributed additional reporting from Helsinki.
Years from now, the Rick Santorum Presidential Campaign won’t be known for much. He has gone along way on the strength of an uncanny ability to make hatred sound virtuous, but let’s face it, his campaign is clearly having its final death spasms and will hopefully be put out of it’s misery, Old Yeller style, in a matter of weeks. Not that anyone will shed a tear for the man. Those who hate him will move on to more worthy targets and those who love him will find another dimwitted fear monger to cast their lot with any day now. America is chock full of hateful, well-spoken vipers who can carry the neo-conservative mantle yet another yard as it lurches ever so slowly towards 1951.
It’s easy to rail on Santorum and weeks from now, it’ll be even easier to forget he even exists. However, I think that he should be praised for one thing. His shadowy team of Gollum-esque backers has managed to create the single best negative campaign ad since LBJ nuked that poor little girl picking the daisy. If you haven’t seen the Obamaville ad and you happen to still double-check the locks on your front door when anyone mentions Willie Horton, you are in for a treat…
The first fifteen seconds of this ad are beautiful. It’s as if they hired George A. Romero or the guy who used to do the Nine Inch Nails videos to shoot the thing. The dimly lit streets of some American town. Pale, muted colors. Crows. Rusty playground equipment and the abandoned shoe of a child. Desolation. Despair.
This is usually the point where the bloodthirsty ghouls wander down the boulevard in search of brains. Instead, we get a flood of about 10 images in one second. Happy family. Front porch. Old couple. Jailed prisoner. Baby in red. Is the baby a communist? Is the baby a symbol of purity stained by years of liberal attacks on….I dunno…..babies?
Yes, that was a subliminal cut to an eyeball at the 17-second mark. Why? Who knows, but it sure is creepy. More despair in Zombie America. People losing jobs. Families in squalid apartments forced to eat nothing but apples. Cut to long abandoned hallways. Evil doctors lurking around every corner with needles, ready to harm you all the while bleeding your bank account dry.
Then, the best image in the whole ad. A man with a gas pump aimed at his head committing….uhm….dieselcide. More images. Religious candles being blown out by, I guess, liberals. Darkness. But, wait…it gets better.
Old people. About to be harmed. By Iranians. With nuclear weapons. Yes, at the 40-second mark, you did see the ad cut from killer Iranian leaders to Barack Obama and back again. You didn’t make that up. It really happened.
People. Marching in line. Drones. Zombies in suits. Sent to America to take your freedom and potentially restrict your family’s ability to visit theme parks. Wall Street. A menacing, monstrous looking tree with glowing eyes.
Images. Speeding up. You’re fired. You’re in your minivan and you’re angry. Obama. Piggy bank breaking. Faster. Eyeball. Red. Capitol. Faster. Jails. Bossy old women. Glasses. Faster. Iranians. Faster. The red baby. This hell on earth could only be one place…..Obamaville.
What could it all mean? It’s a surreal pastiche of terror. Watching this ad made me less concerned about the economy and much more concerned about the possibility of giant hawk-like creatures coming down from the sky and ripping my head off.
Forget all this policy mumbo-jumbo, let’s scare the bejesus out of them. It’s not that this is an uncommon tactic, it’s just that you rarely see it so clearly spelled out. This is the mother of all attack ads, because it implies, pretty clearly, that voting for Obama is not just a bad idea….it will, in no uncertain terms, KILL YOU. Short of selling bottles of rat poison with Obama’s face on it, I’m not sure how much more clearly you can make that point.
So, a tip of the hat to Rick. He left us with something that will stand the test of time. His campaign is directly responsible for taking things to a level that shady little hucksters like Lee Atwater never dreamed. He’s created the first all-American political slasher ad. An ad so vile, so repugnant, so clearly aimed to poison the well, that it will take Herculean effort to match its malignancy. After all, when your entire campaign is based on the idea that hopefully America will become so unlivable, so completely ramshackle, that its people will rise up en masse and elect a guy who could easily have been the Commander in “A Handmaid’s Tale”, why the hell not run an ad like this?
It is a rare person who can make being a scoundrel seem like a completely respectable way to make a living. Occasionally, this sort of scoundrel works his way into politics. Most corrupt politicians today bathe themselves in the murky oil of self-righteousness. It is quite unique to find a man completely devoid of principals and willing to make that a matter of public record. George Washington Plunkitt was such a man.
Plunkitt was a State Senator in New York during the heyday of Tammany Hall. The Tammany political machine ran New York City for over a century by offering jobs and protection for new immigrants in exchange for votes and political influence. Tammany produced some of New York’s most influential politicians (William Mallory “Boss” Tweed being the best known) and even counted a Vice President (Aaron Burr) and a Presidential candidate Al Smith among its ranks.
The organization had many outspoken, charasmatic politicians, but Plunkitt was probably the best at explaining “The Tammany Way”. Plunkitt’s book “Plunkitt of Tammany Hall: A Series of Very Plain Talks on Very Practical Politics, Delivered by Ex-Senator George Washington Plunkitt, the Tammany Philosopher, from his Rostrum—the New York County Courthouse Bootblack Stand” contains some of the most intriguing justifications for corruption that have ever been written. His distinction between honest and dishonest graft is deeply flawed but amazingly compelling.
Here is an excerpt that captures Plunkitt’s belief about how the system works…
Everybody is talkin‘ these days about Tammany men growin’ rich on graft, but nobody thinks of drawin‘ the distinction between honest graft and dishonest graft. There’s all the difference in the world between the two. Yes, many of our men have grown rich in politics. I have myself. I’ve made a big fortune out of the game, and I’m gettin’ richer every day, but I’ve not gone in for dishonest graft—blackmailin’ gamblers, saloonkeepers, disorderly people, etc.—and neither has any of the men who have made big fortunes in politics.
There’s an honest graft, and I’m an example of how it works. I might sum up the whole thing by sayin‘: “I seen my opportunities and I took ’em.”
Just let me explain by examples. My party’s in power in the city, and it’s goin’ to undertake a lot of public improvements. Well, I’m tipped off, say, that they’re going to lay out a new park at a certain place.
I see my opportunity and I take it. I go to that place and I buy up all the land I can in the neighborhood. Then the board of this or that makes its plan public, and there is a rush to get my land, which nobody cared particular for before.
Ain’t it perfectly honest to charge a good price and make a profit on my investment and foresight? Of course, it is. Well, that’s honest graft. Or supposin‘ it’s a new bridge they’re goin’ to build. I get tipped off and I buy as much property as I can that has to be taken for approaches. I sell at my own price later on and drop some more money in the bank.
Wouldn’t you? It’s just like lookin‘ ahead in Wall Street or in the coffee or cotton market. It’s honest graft, and I’m lookin’ for it every day in the year. I will tell you frankly that I’ve got a good lot of it, too.
I’ll tell you of one case. They were goin‘ to fix up a big park, no matter where. I got on to it, and went lookin’ about for land in that neighborhood.
I could get nothin’ at a bargain but a big piece of swamp, but I took it fast enough and held on to it. What turned out was just what I counted on. They couldn’t make the park complete without Plunkitt’s swamp, and they had to pay a good price for it. Anything dishonest in that?
Up in the watershed I made some money, too. I bought up several bits of land there some years ago and made a pretty good guess that they would be bought up for water purposes later by the city.
Somehow, I always guessed about right, and shouldn’t I enjoy the profit of my foresight? It was rather amusin’ when the condemnation commissioners came along and found piece after piece of the land in the name of George Plunkitt of the Fifteenth Assembly District, New York City. They wondered how I knew just what to buy. The answer is—I seen my opportunity and I took it. I haven’t confined myself to land; anything that pays is in my line.
For instance, the city is repavin’ a street and has several hundred thousand old granite blocks to sell. I am on hand to buy, and I know just what they are worth.
How? Never mind that. I had a sort of monopoly of this business for a while, but once a newspaper tried to do me. It got some outside men to come over from Brooklyn and New Jersey to bid against me.
Was I done? Not much. I went to each of the men and said: “How many of these 250,000 stones do you want?” One said 20,000, and another wanted 15,000, and other wanted 10,000. I said: “All right, let me bid for the lot, and I’ll give each of you all you want for nothin’.”
They agreed, of course. Then the auctioneer yelled: “How much am I bid for these 250,000 fine pavin’ stones?”
“Two dollars and fifty cents,” says I.
“Two dollars and fifty cents” screamed the auctioneer. “Oh, that’s a joke Give me a real bid.”
He found the bid was real enough. My rivals stood silent. I got the lot for $2.50 and gave them their share. That’s how the attempt to do Plunkitt ended, and that’s how all such attempts end.
I’ve told you how I got rich by honest graft. Now, let me tell you that most politicians who are accused of robbin’ the city get rich the same way.
They didn’t steal a dollar from the city treasury. They just seen their opportunities and took them. That is why, when a reform administration comes in and spends a half million dollars in tryin’ to find the public robberies they talked about in the campaign, they don’t find them.
The books are always all right. The money in the city treasury is all right. Everything is all right. All they can show is that the Tammany heads of departments looked after their friends, within the law, and gave them what opportunities they could to make honest graft. Now, let me tell you that’s never goin’ to hurt Tammany with the people. Every good man looks after his friends, and any man who doesn’t isn’t likely to be popular. If I have a good thing to hand out in private life, I give it to a friend. Why shouldn’t I do the same in public life?
Another kind of honest graft. Tammany has raised a good many salaries. There was an awful howl by the reformers, but don’t you know that Tammany gains ten votes for every one it lost by salary raisin’?
The Wall Street banker thinks it shameful to raise a department clerk’s salary from $1500 to $1800 a year, but every man who draws a salary himself says: “That’s all right. I wish it was me.” And he feels very much like votin’ the Tammany ticket on election day, just out of sympathy.
Tammany was beat in 1901 because the people were deceived into believin‘ that it worked dishonest graft. They didn’t draw a distinction between dishonest and honest graft, but they saw that some Tammany men grew rich, and supposed they had been robbin’ the city treasury or levyin‘ blackmail on disorderly houses, or workin’ in with the gamblers and lawbreakers.
As a matter of policy, if nothing else, why should the Tammany leaders go into such dirty business, when there is so much honest graft lyin’ around when they are in power? Did you ever consider that?
Now, in conclusion, I want to say that I don’t own a dishonest dollar. If my worst enemy was given the job of writin’ my epitaph when I’m gone, he couldn’t do more than write:
“George W. Plunkitt. He Seen His Opportunities, and He Took ‘Em.”