JP Morgan & Frontline’s Money Power & Wall Street Propaganda Series

Frontline: Money Power & Wall Street

Quotes below are from an edited transcript of an interview conducted by producer Martin Smith on Feb. 6, 2012.

“So it takes rocket science to — I mean, — (laughs) — these are very complex deals, correct?”

[Martin Smith to Terri Duhon, Feb 6 2012, during interview for Frontline’s “Money, Power & Wall Street” series.]

I’m not the brightest bulb in the box. I’ve never been able to balance my checkbook and yet after watching this series I had a general understanding of CDO’s. One of the few good things I can say.

While it may take rocket science to understand the complexity of the deals, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that Frontline’s much touted series had an agenda. Nor does it take a rocket scientist to figure out that the disingenuous comments by Terri Duchon (joined JPMorgan as a derivatives trader in 1994) and the interviews with others about JP Morgan’s 20-something wiz kids who came up with the idea of complex derivatives were contrived to manipulate our perceptions of those behind the melt-down.

Terri Duchon:

“They are complicated. But for someone who is well versed in fixed income products or who has been looking at portfolios of fixed income products for a long time, it’s not that much of a leap from what they’re currently looking at. So if you’re looking at individual bonds and loans, already thinking about them on a portfolio basis, and then thinking about the tranches of risk isn’t that much of a leap.”

Martin Smith:

“OK. But by that argument, why did other banks go forward when your bank and your team decided to stop? So if it’s not so complicated, why did so many others keep going, marching toward the cliff?”

Terri Duchon:

“Look, very simply, there are certainly some investors, some banks, some borrowers who are a bit greedier than they should be. And we decided to stop because the products just got more and more risky. The risk became something that we weren’t comfortable with.”

Apparently JP Morgan did not stop as the $2 billion loss this past week was not due to a hedge gone wrong but to another failure of complex derivatives trading. Trading a product that doesn’t exist, gambling high stakes on a poker hand without the advantage of being an autistic card counter.

Watching the show as it aired, I was shocked by the way the JP Morgan 20-somethings were allowed to portray themselves as ‘kids’ without a clue as to what would happen with their new idea. These were adults trained to think ahead, whose jobs inherently required long term financial forecasting. To say they were ‘unaware’ just shows how creatively manipulative they are. Ms. Duchon and others from that group were a bunch of 20-something psychopaths whose job it was to come up with plan to hide risk in a way that wouldn’t show up on the charts. I can imagine them all high 5’ing each other and yelling “OMG!!! WE RULE!!!!!” when they came up with the idea.

And then again after Frontline aired.

The list of experts not chosen for interviews says as much about Frontline’s agenda as the list of experts interviewed. With Frontline’s typical lack of balanced and informed viewpoints, it watered down to nothing more than anti-Obama propaganda, the kick off for another election season. Not that it matters much. Anyone who thinks one politician is different from another… well, I can’t help you. Please seek professional help.

Have we all seen enough of smirking bankers and Wall St. execs wending their way through crowds of angry citizens to collect their bonuses yet? MOVE YOUR MONEY out of these predatory financial monstrosities and into community banks and Credit Unions.

Recommended viewing:

Bill Moyers Interviews David Stockman on Crony Capitalism of Washington & Wall St

Recommended additional reading:

Practically anything on ethics and, even with his occasionally flawed constructs, Ernest Becker’s “The Denial of Death.”

My Manic-Depressive Down Slide: Hoarders, Phil Ochs, and Woody Allen

Caution: While I feel compelled to entertain everyone in my other life, I don’t feel that same compulsion online. You might want to stop here.

I’ve been curled up in a ball for at least a week now. I haven’t been this depressed in at least 20 years. Suicidally depressed. And for no reason. It’s just the way things go. Nothing major has happened. I’m not sad. I’m just super humongously depressed. There is a difference.

But try explaining that to people who don’t go through such things. A friend called and asked if I was OK since I hadn’t been calling her daily. I have no idea how that became a requirement of our acquaintanceship. I told her I was depressed. She went into a screeching flurry of “Why would you be depressed? I’m the one who should be depressed. I’ve got [… her usual litany of every single medical thing that’s wrong with her and that she imagines is wrong with her].” I put the phone on the desk and gave her the “Look of Death” from the privacy of my bedroom. I said “I am manic-depressive, remember? This is part of it. I don’t need anything to happen to make me depressed. Why don’t you ever understand this?”

When I don’t feel well I usually act like a sick cat. I go into hiding until I’m feeling better. But last night was so awful I thought I’d try something different. I called a friend. There was laughter and commotion in the background. He said “Hey, what’s up?” and I said “I’m suicidal. I know. Some way to start a conversation.” And I laughed a bit. He said “Oh don’t do anything like that. The world would be less without you.” And then he went on to talk about hard drives and what to do about some computer thing and such. Which I’m usually up for… but wasn’t exactly in the mood for last night. So I said “OK, see you.” and hung up. I understand. He didn’t know what to say. He was trying to get my mind off of whatever might be depressing me. What exactly does one say to a person who says they’re so depressed that they’re feeling suicidal? I guess something about hard drives is as good as anything.

Today I did something I haven’t done in over 20 years. I called the doctor at the “mental health” clinic. His assistant answered and after I explained (in 30 seconds or less) why I was calling she said, “Well then, I’ll connect you to a nurse.” The nurse turned out to be an answering machine: “Thank you for calling. Please leave your name and phone number. Be sure to spell your last name. I’ll return your call within 48 hours. If you feel you need help sooner, please call the Safety Zone. Have a great day!” I might have called the “Safety Zone” but when I called them soon after I arrived in Arizona in the ’90s, the person on call said, “Just go to sleep.” and hung up.

And they wonder why people shoot people in the head here in Arizona. I used to have a case manager. I used to have access to a therapist. I used to have access to groups. But now I have 5 minutes or less with a very nice doctor with a good sense of humor who says “What’s up? Need refills fax’d in for your prescriptions? OK, see you next month.”

The reason I don’t have access to anything else is because in June, 2010, while everyone was going nuts over SB 1070, Jan Brewer cut mental health care drastically. Everyone was divided up. Clients, including those classified as SMI (Severely Mentally Ill), were either “Title XIX (19)” or “Not Title XIX (19).” I was one of the latter. Believe me, there are so many former clients who have no idea what happened to them. All they know is that now they’re out on the street, have no meds or meds that don’t work, and no one to talk with anymore. Ah screw it. I’m not in the mood to explain it all right now. All everyone needs to know is that half the people formerly getting help are not getting help anymore.

[Someone just knocked on my door. They wanted me to do something for them on the computer. I said “I’m sorry. I’m not feeling well. Some other time. I really feel rotten.” And they just kept on going about what they needed done! What the fuck is it with people???]

I told my friend on the phone last night that maybe I hadn’t picked the best things to watch considering my mood. He asked what and I told him “the last episode of Hoarders and the American Masters documentary on Phil Ochs.” He said “Who’s that?” *sigh*

If I could think clearly (thanks for the irreparable brain-fuck, Clonazepam) I might be able to figure out the correlation between the two shows. How hoarding has become a cultural problem. Not particularly in the sense of material things but in a broader sense… America for Americans! Kill the poor! No Tax Hikes for the Rich! Cut Medicare and Social Security!

And so on… hoarding what we perceive as our gawd-given “American lifestyles” at the expense of anyone and everyone else. Perhaps that’s the connection. A political crossroads, one that Phil Ochs sang about until he was a worn out, manic-depressive drunk. Dead at 35.

Watching my way through the decades I lived though, re-living the promise and the failure, was very difficult though I’ve certainly watched it all in many other documentaries before this one. My daughter once said to me, “Your generation ruined everything.” and perhaps she’s right. I have nothing much good to say when Talking ‘Bout My Generation. I look around at the spoiled self-centered poorly educated children we raised who are now raising the next generation of spoiled sociopaths and I know that things are worse in many ways than before Phil Ochs started singing.

I might as well mention the two part American Masters documentary on Woody Allen here too since it fits in some odd way. I watched it a few days ago. They should have called it “Woody Allen: A Life Unexamined.” The documentary was more interesting than Allen himself which is sort of funny because it was about him. I was living in NY when Bananas came out and so of course I saw it in the theatre. Followed by other of his films. There were some great films, no doubt about it. Manhattan and Stardust Memories are most memorable for me.

I was very struck by the scene in Manhattan where Allen stood beside a skeleton in a classroom and read his friend the riot act on morality and ethics… ending with something like “… and when I thin out like this guy, I want to be well thought of.” Or some such. Though he has always said his films are not autobiographical, I could usually predict what he would do after seeing his latest film. While watching “Hannah and Her Sisters” I wondered if Mia Farrow was aware that she was playing herself and that Allen would be dumping her soon for someone much younger and needier. Apparently not. But even I could not predict that he would leave Farrow for her under-aged daughter, a daughter he’d helped to raise. I could not figure out how he got from Point A (being concerned about ethics and being well thought of when he thinned out) to Point B (screwing his step-daughter and then calling Farrow a lunatic when she reacted with hostility).

Allen ends one film and immediately starts on the next. He makes sure there is no time to stop and think about things he’s done. A life unexamined. And if he really believes that his films are not autobiographical then he is crazier than I am. The last film I ever watched by him was Mighty Aphrodite. Clever idea, horrible movie. Perhaps Woody Allen would do well to have a Greek Chorus following him around.

So how does Woody Allen fit with Hoarders and the Phil Ochs documentary? Hmmm…. maybe the belief that he is entitled to do anything he pleases regardless of the consequences to those around him? Not sure. I’m only sure there is a connection somewhere. The total lack of a code of ethics, a selfishness that is mind-boggling… perhaps that’s it.

Oh. The advice I got from my friend is that I “need to get out of myself.”

That feeling of needing to get out of myself… permanently… is what got me on the phone in the first place.