Professor Terguson

The Witch-hunting Wisdom of Monty Python.

[Enter Classroom]

Hello Everyone…

Welcome to TV & Cinema Appreciation 201. Mr. Leo is out today, I will be your substitute. I am Professor Terguson.

Mr. Leo did have a chance to tell me he’s giving you extra time on your 1970s-1990s historical comparative analysis of the characters played by Scott Baio vs. Michael J. Fox, which sounds like very worthwhile work.

I understand Joanie would have still loved Chachi despite his womanizing ways.

And, after the car surfing and time travelling, eventually Alex P. Keaton did go onto bigger & better things in the world of finance. Well, after the whole Savings & Loan crisis thing. So, that’s good to know, too.

Now — before we get started today — a little bit about me…

I’m currently an out-of-work stockbroker. I spent 30+ years on Wall Street. I went from making 10% commissions, to 8%, to 5%, to Lying about 5%, to $1000 a trade, to $50. Then gone. Poof. Bye-Bye- Sayonara. Adios, Gones-ville. Capital S.H.I.T. No more reverse merger orgies. No more mutual fund timing. No more sexually harassing secretaries. KABOOM. Over. I hear the banks are setting up shop over in China now, the Wild East. Yep.

“…I was thinking about moving there, but then I gotta learn chinese.”

2008 CHANGED EVERYTHING.

See kids — I was the first to go this time around, but I won’t be the last — not this time. But I’ve got some other things cookin’ too. Substitute teaching is just one hat. I just finished my realtor’s license…

And, I probably shouldn’t tell you this, but I’ve got some pretty big ideas. Like, check this one out — tiny ‘Earn 15% A Month’ ads all over the internet. My buddy is minting money hand-over-fist right now. And the beauty is, as long as we say ‘they can lose money’ in really small script (buried in page 198 of our prospectus) — BAM. CASH. — it’s totally legit. It’s not advice per se , just suggestions — cherry picked to show insane returns. SO. MUCH. MONEY. He still does some brokering — Moves them from a mutual fund, to an annuity, out of the annuity, to the mutual fund, then life insurance. He moves everybody like every 7 years, from firm to firm. He gets a huge check from the firms to do it. And he’s doing a ton of options trading with his bonus money now too, E*trade just gave him a free Android phone. Totally Free. He’s trading his brains out right now– he’s up like up 500% (editors note* his friend is down 50%)

And the babes. He’s got some chick called the “Millionaire Mistress” on speed dial — any chick he wants. The dude is made, paid & laid.

I cannot wait to get back in the game, instead of being here with you Losers.

But I dunno, I’m thinking about the Lexus LFA myself. We’ll see, it’s kind of a work in progress… he’s going to walk me through how I incorporate in Nevada or Delaware or something like that to avoid all the taxes and regulations.

Yeh, this ain’t my first time at the rodeo — I lost my first stockbroker job in 1970. Actually, now that I think about it, I was probably humping some of your moms in my Jag. It was terrible– the layoffs. Over 100 member firms of the New Stock Exchange, one sixth of the total, disappeared as a result of mergers or liquidations. So- I know about hard times. Hell, after I lost my broker gig I went into teaching; it doesn’t get much worse than that. Kinda bad timing there too though. Got laid off again in ’74. So, I went to work for my uncle; siphoning gas from cars for a few years. Then a buddy of mine got me hired at TBTF Bank around 1980. Man, those were the days. A 20 year bull market. God, what I would do to see that again.

And yes, I actually used to be a Contemporary American History teacher myself. So, I want you all to know that I really appreciate the work you’re doing with Mr. Leo here, in the classroom even if it does sound a little gay — or is that ‘fruity?’ Can I say homo? Look, it doesn’t matter- I know this is really important work and I’m glad to see you all giving it the dignity & attention it deserves. See, I know about history. Not Scott Baio and Michael J. Fox history. Real history; because I’ve lived it…

“I personally hold history sacred…sacred. The way the farmer looks at the earth, and holds it sacred. The way a christian takes the bible, and he holds it sacred. The way a lot of people hold their marriage sacred. That’s how I feel about it…”

Now — as your substitute professor — I know it’s pretty much my job to show you a video till the end of class & keep quiet. But, today I thought I’d try something just a little bit different. Let’s watch this first, shall we?

[Room darkens — TV ON]

[Monks chanting, banging their heads repeatedly with wooden boards…]

Enter: Incensed wild crowd sweeping through the main square of town…Ruckus. Commotion. To the center of the square.

CROWD: A witch! A witch! A witch! We’ve got a witch! A witch!

VILLAGER #1: We have found a witch, might we burn her?

CROWD: Burn her! Burn!

BEDEMIR: How do you know she is a witch? VILLAGER #2: She looks like one.

BEDEMIR: Bring her forward. WITCH: I’m not a witch. I’m not a witch.

BEDEMIR: But you are dressed as one. WITCH: They dressed me up like this.

CROWD: No, we didn’t… no.

WITCH: And this isn’t my nose, it’s a false one. BEDEMIR: Well?

VILLAGER #1: Well, we did do the nose. BEDEMIR: The nose? VILLAGER #1: And the hat — but she is a witch!

CROWD: Burn her! Witch! Witch! Burn her!

BEDEMIR: Did you dress her up like this? CROWD: No, no… no … yes. Yes, yes, a bit, a bit.

VILLAGER #1: But she has got a wart. BEDEMIR: What makes you think she is a witch..?

[AND TV PAUSE — CUT BACK TO CLASSROOM with MR. TERGUSON]

PROF. TERGUSON: Alright, I’m sure you all know how this ends… Can anyone tell me about what we just saw in that scene?

STUDENT #1: Monty Python was a British surreal comedy group which first aired on the BBC in 1969 eventually spawning into touring stage shows, numerous albums, and several books. The 1974 production of the Holy Grail was based on the Arthurian Legend, and is a modern day cult classic.The film was made on a budget of only £229,000, the money partly raised with investments from Pink Floyd, Jethro Tell, and Led Zeppelin…

The scene comically illustrates hysterical crowd behavior being led by ridiculous rules & social norms discovered through sophomoric trial & error. And in a twist of fate, the wisdom of the crowd leads us through the ultimately unthinkable irony… A logically illogical conclusion which turns out to be true…

I Think Mr. Leo called it the ‘Old Switcheroo‘?

PROF. TERGUSON: IS She right?… ‘Cause I know that’s the *popular* version of what went on there. And a lot of people like to believe that. I wish I could, but I was *there* in 1974. I wasn’t here in a classroom, hoping I was right, thinking about it. I was up to my knees in a crash TICKER TAPE….dealing with double-digit inflation and Nixon gettin’ screwed over, while pussies like you were back here partying putting headbands on, doing drugs, and listening to goddamn Elton John singing Bennie and the Jets…!!!!!

*******************************************************

…That’s all I’ve got written so far, but the next scene is going to be hilarious. You will not be-lieve how it ends…

Oh, and that lady in the Monty Python fim — She ACTUALLY IS A WITCH!!!!! The ole’ double switcharoo. Oh SURE — you think oh, Monty Python– this is gonna be ridiculous. Crazy – Silly. Just Silly. Man walking with coconuts to sound like a horse & blood-thirsty bunnies. The knights who say… Just absolute insanity.

But of course she’s not a witch, duh…; they’re gonna make everyone just look stupid & silly in the quest for something we all already know…there are no witches. But Then BAM. She IS a witch. Genius. It’s comedy gold; which is lighter than regular gold by the way.

Here’s the Thing… There Are Witches.

You just need to know your history to fully understand the humor of this scene. See — about 100 years of yore ago in a far-away land called Wallus Streetus, there was an evil wind blowing over Main Street. The spell of insatiable greed had been cast. The ‘have nots’ looked with wanton eyes at the haves and willfully accept the all of the terms laid out by these monetary magicians. And why? Because, left unchecked, everybody always wants more than they can afford. And JP Morgan & Goldman were there to make their wishes come true. Strictly by coincidence, just minding their own business.

Wall Street 1.0

And so, the 1920s were ripe for them all of the witches of the day (namely Goldman) to pull out their magic money wand, dice up a bunch of companies from their books & sell them off as a new investment via IPOs. These were called Investment Trusts… oh, sweet irony.

And then, when it ended with fire and brimstone, and crowds of hysterical people took to the streets with pitchforks & bread-lines.

To complete the scene the director just needs to add some witty word play & banter played out by the press. Name calling. Finger Pointing. The people wake up the sheriff and wise men. Other witches are found. And then…

Finally, the King of the Banks, JP Morgan, comes in and “saves us all” from our folly. Silly charades continue with the hapless, toothless, bought-&-paid-for Pecora Commission; an even more absurd exercise in blundering a witch-hunt, which somehow still actually ends up revealing the truth we thought wasn’t possible to begin with. That, from the beginning, we were dumb enough to believe they wouldn’t try to trick us that much.

Fast forward through decades & years of world domination led by smart, powerful, connected people & corporate interests driving the world’s quest for the holy grail to today. And now, the same exact actors take the stage. Freshly injected with botox (aka bailout money), so they don’t show their wrinkles. And add a few zeroes to the script. And Bingo– Wall Street 2.0 —  just a bit more interconnected and convoluted, courtesy of computers.

It’s a brave new world, but one thing remains true. There are Witches. And, we are the muppets.

This is Just the Sequel: Wall Street 2.0

This isn’t new people… Wall Street 2.0 was the 1980s-2000. It even ended with the same plot line playbook, IPOs. And you still rushed out to see it.

So, Occupy Wall Street can talk about all of their demands till they’re blue in the face. We can scream about Greg Smith, and the fabulous Goldman boys. And bankers can take the high road, not calling each other’s clients. But the truth is, until all of you start firing your wirehouse brokers and taking your money from the big banks; it won’t stop. And conversely, not every banker or broker or insurance salesman, or investment advisor, is a duck. Or a Witch.

Maybe we forget that a banker was a societal place of honor at one point. Trusted. Revered. The bank was supposed to be a place everybody pooledtheir money, to build a community. Prudently. With personal care to reputation and future of its stakeholders, usually the members of the community. They shared resources. They were supposed to say no — to help you, to help everyone. And, of course, some bankers were assholes and stole from the town and customers. And if they were really good at it, they’d grow a pencil-thin curlicue mustache.

But some were like George Bailey from It’s a Wonderful Life. Nice guy, not terribly greedy. Just trying to help some people out and make an honest living doing it. He wasn’t rollin’ in a benz or bentley. He didn’t have the G6 on call 24/7 or buy $200k bottles of champagne just because he could. And he certainly didn’t need the elephant foot umbrella stand.

Don’t Hate The Play, Hate The Script

Personal finance just isn’t as personal anymore. The old firms used to be small partnerships. Hence, making partner being a big deal. Today, the bonuses and stock options are so ridiculous, it doesn’t really matter if you last 5 years or 50 — you can wipe your ass with money for the rest of your life either way. There’s not a lot of accountability when you can hole up in your penthouse and private jets for the rest of your life instead of facing the people you’re screwing over.

The other reason we have so many witches dens among us is because during Wall Street 1.0 they didn’t need to hit next quarter’s trading goals to juice the company stock another 5 points. Most of the firms weren’t publicly traded. They just needed to do the right thing, and the business would come. Because that’s the way things worked. Well, maybe it wasn’t that quaint — but this is my story. You get the point.

The sad part is, as much as George Bailey is a nice guy, if it wasn’t for the angel in his corner — he’d have probably been dead. He wasn’t long for the world of banking. See, the problem isn’t that there are or aren’t witches. It’s not even Wall Street’s script. It’s that you somehow believe in magic.

See, It’s Not The Witches. It’s you nutty townspeople.

You keep electing people to office to tell you what’s real and what isn’t. They’re your town wiseman.

And then they go up on stage, jump in a bikini, and start helping the magician. Every single time. You somehow still you suspend disbelief. And it get’s better…

Then, somehow you think if we put all of our money in this big huge black box surrounded by smoke, covered with mirrors, which is then cut up with this super awesome ninja katana and spun around three times…

Let me also add — By masked magicians…

That somehow when the box is opened, your money won’t actually be cut up 15,000 times by the bank employing 100,000 faceless stage-hands who are actually paid to cut up your money while the ‘magic’ is happening. But, the joke is on them, right? The old switcheroo. Because somehow real magic will occur.

You’re even still standing there tapping on the box with this Pickled Herring. And then BAM — The old double switcheroo. It was true the whole time…

4 thoughts on “The Witch-hunting Wisdom of Monty Python.

  1. Pingback: You are not all that unique an investor | Abnormal Returns

  2. tracieoh

    Loved your post (HT to Ritholtz). In my town, and likely elsewhere, the people seem to reluctantly accept the lesser of two evils. Those evils are capitalism and socialism. Thanks to decades of propaganda, backed by the manipulation of the tenets of capitalism, we all know which side won.

    It’s no coincidence that the fears of socialism have been pushed by false capitalists, afraid to lose their un-earned crowns of capitalism and be exposed as frauds. What then would they have to distinguish themselves? And, wouldn’t that call into question conventional wisdom regarding who or what is a capitalist?

  3. iheartWallSt

    Thanks for coming by & leaving a note. I’m glad you liked it. You make some good points & the one thing I’m absolutely sure about is, there are no absolutes. 😉

  4. Pingback: You are not that unique an investor | Accretive Investor Insights

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