Flash Crash – The Call Redux – A Fictional Look at the May 6, 2010 Market Crash

Three days after the Flash Crash of Thursday, May 6, 2010 I posted a fictional story on Zero Hedge describing what might have happened. To commemorate the anniversary I have rewritten, novelized and illustrated that posting and present it below for your reading pleasure. May I mention again that this is fiction just in case some readers are violently triggered?

Chapter One

Russell Senate Office Blg Rotunda

The honorable Senator Howard A. Lancaster, a rather unkempt but distinguished looking heavy set graying man in his early 60’s, has served for more than 20 years in both houses of Congress after a successful career building his law practice. The Senator is involved in a rather animated phone conversation as the others silently file in and take their seats for the meeting. In attendance is Sam Perkins, Howard’s chief of staff and long time confidant; Lois Evelyn Saunders, Howard’s personal assistant and office manager; Tabatha (Tab) Kowalski, the office stenographer and all around gopher and John M. Taylor, a lobbyist for the powerful banking interest group and the reason this meeting was convened in the first place.

As soon as everyone is seated Howard finishes his call with a verbal flourish of mock anger and disgust and then loudly slams the handset into its cradle. Howard just loves to be dramatic when he has an audience, even if it’s only his staff. The senior Senator always makes sure he conveys the impression that he’s diligently doing the people’s work. It would all be pretty funny if it weren’t so childishly pathetic to watch in person. The perpetually insecure can rarely recognize their own vulnerability when they are acting out and Howard is no exception. 

In a further petty display of power and spite Howard ignores the group as he shuffles some documents around his elegant 1820’s oak antique colonial desk. Like an insecure school yard bully the Senator feels the need to make sure Taylor knows who the boss is. He is not pleased he was pushed so hard to schedule this meeting on such short notice and he wants John to witness his displeasure. Only after Sam loudly clears his throat does Howard look up and after surveying the group arrayed in front of him begins addressing John directly.

“I’m a busy man John and I don’t appreciate being bulldozed in this manner. What’s so damn important that you insisted I clear my afternoon schedule to see you?”

John, a strikingly handsome man in his late 40’s with graying temples and an easy manner that quickly endears him to others, smiles to himself as he considers how to respond to Howard’s posturing. He decides it’s not worth it to confront him at this moment. The Senator will be paid back a hundred fold over the next hour so there is no sense upsetting him at this point. He waits a moment before answering to make sure he has the undivided attention of the room.

“Sir, before we start, would it be possible if we cleared the room and conducted a private conversation?” He glances down at his watch to see it is ten minutes before 2 PM. “We don’t have much time.”

This surprises Howard, particularly the claim that there isn’t much time. “Obviously we have all afternoon since you insisted I free it up. Regardless I’ll be happy to clear everyone except my chief of staff. Sam’s my eyes and ears on the Senate floor so I want him involved.” Howard learned long ago to always have a witness when delicate matters are discussed. There will be none of that ‘he said, she said” crap if he has anything to say about it.

After taking a moment to choose his words carefully, John continues. “Senator, what I’m about to discuss is extremely sensitive. All I’m asking for is the chance to talk privately. After we’re done if you still want to bring your chief of staff up to speed I’ll be happy to brief him with you. OK?”

Howard considers the request for a few seconds before signaling everyone to leave. Rising quickly to walk Sam to the door, he speaks to him quietly so as not to be overheard. After acknowledging the instructions with a nod of his head, Sam quickly follows the rest of the staff out the door. He will activate the hidden recording devices throughout the room as soon as he returns to his desk, assuring Howard there’s a complete record of whatever is said in the room.

I Spy

Not wanting to let John rush him nor allow him to take the lead, Howard strolls over to the wet bar in the far corner and pours himself a two finger Black Label. “You want something to drink? Whiskey? Scotch? A beer maybe?”

“Thanks Senator Lancaster, but I’m all set. It’s going to be a long afternoon and I want to remain sharp.” Time is growing short and John needs to press on. The time for pleasantries has passed.

A flash of movement just outside his field of vision catches Howard’s attention and he turns to the large flat screen TV hanging on the side wall to see what’s going on. The television has been tuned to the CNBC business channel since the market opened and it is muted so as not to disturb. Dropping since the open and with a few minutes to go before 2 PM the S&P 500 is down twenty points or nearly two percent. It looks like a good old fashioned sell off is in progress and with two hours to go before the markets close it might get downright ugly. Howard makes a mental note to move some money out of the market before the end of the trading day, then returns to his desk and drops his bulk into the chair.

“Since you claim you’re short on time let’s get down to business. What’s this all about?” Howard is still a bit irritated by how poorly he’s been treated. While Taylor has directed several large political contributions his way, he just burned all his good will by rushing Howard. “We’ve gone round and round this issue too many times and quite frankly I’m sick of it. How many times do I need to tell you that I won’t change the bill?”

John makes a mental note to check on Howard’s health. He’s a bit red in the face and his hands are noticeably shaking. “My clients have directed me to ask you to reconsider your position. Your political support is wavering and while some might think a Federal Reserve audit is a good idea we both know that’s just populist poppycock. There are many powerful people who would like to see this problem go away so you might want to think twice before pissing them off Howard.” Being too familiar with the Senator brings its own set of dangers, but the message needs to be delivered clearly. Howard must know the political and personal consequences of his actions.

“Aw, cut the crap John. You’re not talking to some wet behind the ears freshman from fly over Middle America. I’m fully aware who and what I’m up against and I’m not backing down. Your puppet masters have gone too far this time and while they might eventually gut me on this one I’m willing to take my chances.” Howard nearly always over states his case and this time is no exception. While flowery speeches, bravado and broad sweeping statements go hand in hand in politics, Howard often leads the pack in blowhard bullshit.

Unfortunately the Senator is playing the weak hand in this poker game and he knows it. In fact he’s been waiting for the big guns to come out and from the looks of things Taylor has brought the firing squad. Howard raises his voice, more to build his own courage than anything else. “There’s strong support in the House for Anderson’s version of my audit bill and while things are still up in the air here in the Senate I’m certain with midterm elections coming I can pull together a super majority to get this passed. Face it John, you’ve lost. Take that back to your people with love from me.” Howard slaps on a broad smile for the crowd, but he knows he’s in trouble.

John can’t help but admire the guts the Senator is displaying. Clearly he is a veteran of many political knife fights and doesn’t give up very easily. Or maybe he’s just so conditioned to throwing his weight around to get his way that it’s simply a reflex. Either way it’s a very impressive bluster despite the fact he’s holding a losing hand. John pushes on.

“These are serious people we’re talking about Howard. People who will stop at nothing to see their interests furthered. I cannot emphasize that enough. You’ve seen some of their handy work yourself; you know what I’m talking about. Why can’t you compromise on this one? I’m sure we can find some language that’ll satisfy everyone with no need for blood to be shed.” John regrets saying this as soon as it comes out, but by then it’s too late.

Howard explodes in anger and becomes livid, his face turning beat red and his blood pressure soaring through the roof. While this is pretty common for the Senator, to someone who doesn’t know him well it looks like he’s about to suffer a heart attack.


“Fuck you John. Fuck you and the horse you rode in on. Who the fuck do you think you are? First you demand to be seen immediately and then you come in here waving your dick around, threatening me with spilled blood. Fuck you!” Howard is seeing red he’s so angry and small specks of spittle are quickly gathering in the corners of his mouth. He knows he needs to calm down and quickly, but this is his chance to escape from John and he’s going to make the best of it.

“I’m deeply sorry Senator, I meant no disrespect.” John lowers his head and uses Howard’s title as an act of contrition and respect. “I wasn’t implying you’d be physically hurt, just that your political career could be ruined over this issue. Please, calm down so….” Howard quickly interrupts him.

“I won’t calm down. Who…who…who the fuck do you think you are? Get…get the hell out of my office. Now!” Howard is so incensed he’s nearly tongue tied. He simply cannot believe what he’s hearing from this stooge lobbyist who shows little respect for himself or the office.

The Senator heaves himself from his chair and nearly sprints the 10 paces to his private bathroom, slamming the door behind him in a fit of childish rage. While he would love to wallow in his self righteous anger and nurse his bruised ego, what he really needs to do is regain his composure and control his blood pressure or he’ll be in big trouble. If he can stall John for a while maybe he’ll get the message and leave on his own.

Howard yanks open the ornate medicine cabinet door and rummages around inside until he finds his blood pressure meds. His hands are shaking so badly he has trouble getting the cap off, but finally manages to pry it loose. Screw those child safety caps. The pharmacy isn’t supposed to use them with his prescriptions.

He fumbles out a tablet while dropping half a dozen more on the floor and places one under his tongue, the quickest way to get the nitro in his blood stream. Unsteady and a bit light headed he settles down into the chair in the corner of the bathroom and relaxes as he waits for the medicine to be absorbed into his system. His heart pounding and his face flushed Howard closes his eyes and puts his head back against the wall as he tries to relax. After a few minutes he feels his heart rate begin to slow and the blood drain from his face. That was close. Other than his doctor and his wife no one else knows how serious his heart condition really is.

Looking around the bathroom he wonders why he never thought to put a phone in here. He’s trapped in the can without even a cell phone to call Sam or anyone else for that matter. Obviously Sam isn’t listening to the office voice recording live or he would be here by now. Slumping further into the chair, Howard considers the political jam he’s backed himself into. While no doubt he played it for all it was worth, he was still quite surprised how blunt John was. Talking about spilled blood is pretty bold and not to be taken lightly considering who John works for or that he’s always diplomatic and deferential.

Resigned to the fact that he must leave the bathroom and feeling a bit better now that his pressure is down a bit, Howard recovers the spilled pills from the floor and then splashes some water on his face to freshen up. He straightens his clothes and then preens for a minute or so in front of the mirror before walking back out. Unfortunately he is immediately disappointed to see John still sitting right where he left him.

“I thought I told you to get the hell out of here.” Howard blurts out.

“Senator, before I go you need to listen to something. May I use your phone?” Without waiting for an answer John reaches across the desk and grabs Howard’s office phone, pulling it over to his side as he punches in a phone number.

Surprised once again by how brazen Taylor is, Howard is at a loss for words and says nothing. He notices the phone number John dials is well over 18 digits, indicating he’s accessing some kind of secure phone network. After he finishes punching in the codes John glances up at the TV while waiting for the first ring. Howard, following the shift in his attention, does the same. It’s now 2:14 PM and the Standard & Poor’s 500 is down twenty-six points, well over 2%. The CNBC reporters are looking a bit frantic and Howard feels a cold chill run down his spine.

“What’s going on here? Have you anything to do with this?” Howard asks as he points to the TV. He knows these people are powerful, but is John really doing what Howard suspects he’s doing?   


Hearing someone pick up on the other end John quickly speaks into the phone. “It’s me……..Yeah, I know I’m late. Howard was hiding in the bathroom. You ready? Can you still go or have you lost control? Ok, hold on a minute, I’m putting you on speaker.”

Antique Speakerphone

John punches the speaker button so Howard can hear the rest of the phone conversation, then returns the handset to the cradle. Turning back to look directly at Howard, who is looking even more disheveled than before, John pushes back into his own chair and relaxes. He’s in his element now and his confidence soars. It was touch and go there for about 10 minutes when Howard wouldn’t come out of the bathroom, but it looks like this might be salvageable after all. Regardless, now that he’s made the phone call there’s no turning back.

“My clients hoped you would be reasonable and it wouldn’t come down to this. But you’ve left them with no choice. They don’t believe you understand the gravity of the situation.” John pauses for effect as he slowly turns his head back towards the TV. He wants the cause and effect message to be unmistakable. “My clients are determined to stop this intrusive audit and they’re willing to go all the way to do so. So they’ve arranged a little demonstration to show you how far that is.”

Howard is very confused and even more frightened. He remembers those two weeks in September of 08 when the market plunged in reaction to the failed vote on the TARP bailout bill. Or at least that was the story the public was told. However, there were thinly veiled threats made back then and while he suspects the market drop was engineered he has never been able to confirm it. But it’s pretty clear what John is implying with his words and actions and Howard doesn’t want this to go any further. He decides to put a stop to this here and now. 

“I’m not sure what it is you think you’re doing here and I don’t want to know. Just hang up the phone and let’s talk this out.” Howard puffs up is chest and leans back in his chair as he feels his confidence returning.

Chuckling to himself over how predictable Howard is, John is pleased to see him taking the bait. This is just too easy. “I’m afraid that’s not going to happen. My clients believe that unless you see their capabilities first hand you’re not going to fully appreciate whom you’re dealing with.” John returns to using Howard’s first name now that it doesn’t matter anymore. From this point on the intent is to scare the hell out of him, not make him feel better or salvage his ego.

“With the help of some……umm……shall we say like minded parties, they’ve been burning down the market all day.”

John met some of these people at the meeting last week and he doesn’t doubt their capability in the least. Though it is still hard to internalize what they said they can and will do.

“Basically they’ve been preparing the markets all day for this demonstration. Your unwillingness to listen to reason, along with your escape to the bathroom…” John can’t help himself and throws in the snide remark “…has pushed this way past the point of no return. There’s no turning back now.”

Of course John’s last statement is a deliberate and manipulative lie. The plan was always to finish the demonstration regardless of what Howard said or did. It’s Howard who needs to be psychologically prepared and conditioned before the button is pushed. Psychological operations or psyops for short are always tuned to the personality type of the person or group they are directed towards.

In this case Howard is cursed with what one might call a care-giver personality, someone with a strong moral compass and a sense of responsibility for others, along with an ego big enough to believe they can do something about it. Success of this portion of the psyops depends upon John’s ability to transfer emotional responsibility to the Senator for the coming spectacle even though he could in no way be blamed for something he didn’t initiate or possibly control.

Lancaster is that rare Senator who actually believes he works for the people, rather surprising considering today’s corrupt corporate and political environment. While he can be a pompous and ego centric ass at times he ultimately feels his responsibility is to others. Thus he’s the easiest to manipulate once you have his full and undivided attention focused upon the disaster he’s being conditioned to believe he could and should have stopped. But just as important Senator Lancaster must be left with some hope for the future, otherwise he has no reason to play ball. He must be allowed to believe he still has some control; even if that control is just an illusion, especially if that control is just an illusion.

John turns his attention back to the speaker phone which has been silent since he turned it on. “Are you still there?” Bud should be on the other end, one of the operatives he met for the first time at last week’s meeting. At least that’s who they agreed would pick up when he called.

“Yup, still here and waiting on you.” Yeah, it sounds like Bud. John’s suddenly feeling a little nervous, edgy even, and speaks a little too loudly. “Is everything ready to go on your end?

Old school manipulation


Now it’s Bud’s turn to speak louder than necessary. Why is it that so many people raise their voice when using a speaker phone? “Yup, we’ve been walking the market down since the open. It’s now to the point where all the computer algorithms on the Street are primed and ready to trigger a cascade sell. But the situation is extremely unstable because of the delay on your end. So we need to go now or we might lose it.”

Howard is desperate to reassert control and quickly interrupts. “Hang up the phone. Do you hear me? Just hang up the phone. I don’t want you to do something stupid you might regret. Just hang up and let’s talk.”

There is little doubt anymore what John’s intention is and Howard is unsure what to do. He briefly considers calling for Sam or even the Capital police, but just as quickly realizes John could hang up at any time leaving Howard to try to explain…..what exactly? That John Taylor, lobbyist for the banking interests, was crashing the stock market by phone? He’d be a laughing stock even with the tapes from the conversation as ‘proof’. Besides, who knows what would happen to the market if these guys ran for the hills now. Howard is feeling thoroughly trapped and decides the best course of action for the moment is to do nothing.

Carefully studying the Senator’s face and body language for clues to his psychological state, it is clear to John that the Senator is distraught and very worried. In fact there’s panic in his eyes though he’s doing a good job hiding it. Good! Let the jerk stew in his juices for being such an ideological asshole and refusing to compromise.

“Senator, at this point it would be best if you remained quiet and just watched. Things were set in motion when I made the call, something you could have stopped if you hadn’t hidden from me in the bathroom. If this isn’t coordinated properly you’ll live to regret it. There’s no stopping it anymore, just controlling it.”

John turns back to the phone. “It’s me again. Let’s make sure everyone understands the plan. My clients want you to take it down quickly, but don’t trigger the stops. Worst case you kiss the bottom, then immediately recover nearly everything we’ve lost. They’re looking for some soiled panties, but no real damage. They do not want to close at the lows under any circumstances. You got that?”

“Yup, understood, dump and pump to send a message. Is that all?” Bud’s cool and collected. He’s done this before and it shows.

After hearing Bud’s calm tone of voice John relaxes a bit. While Bud’s casual demeanor is intended to sound nonchalant in order to frighten, it has the opposite effect on John, making him feel calmer. He suddenly realizes he’s getting caught up in his own psychological war game and involuntarily chuckles at himself. He’s such an amateur.

“Yeah, that’s it. When can you make it happen? It’s now 2:25 PM and it looks like you have the S&P down by thirty points.”

Bud laughs out loud and then catches himself. It sounds like he’s actually enjoying himself. “It’s somewhere around there. Just give me the word and it will happen pretty quickly. There’ll be a quick pop up to prime the algorithms, then we open the trap door and kick out support. Round trip in about 20 to 25 minutes unless we lose all control. But that’s not likely because no one will be trading near the bottom except those we let trade. Don’t worry, we’ve done this before and we know what we’re doing. But this assumes we go now, not in 5 minutes.”

“Ok, do it.” John is relieved this part is over. It’s one thing to conspire in secret, another for it to be happening in real time and witnessed as well.

John hangs up the phone and reaches over the desk to place it back on Howard’s side. He then grabs the TV remote from the edge of the desk and flips the mute off. The room suddenly fills with noise and John quickly lowers the volume to where they can hear what’s going on without it drowning out their conversation. He then turns his attention back to Howard while settling into the upholstered chair.

It was imperative that Howard listen to Taylor’s conversation with the operative in order to cement the psychological effect of the operation. He needed to hear the matter-of-fact explanation of what’s going to happen and then see it play out as described. There must be no doubt in Howard’s mind that his adversaries have the power to move heaven and earth. Interestingly John came up with the idea for this part of the psyops after a late night reading the bible. God always announced what he was going to do before doing so. Even the Lord wasn’t above using a little predictive programming and psychological manipulation to set the stage and drive his point home.

Turning his attention back to Howard, John continues to prime him. “You’ve been on Congressional finance committees for a long time so you understand how interconnected the world is today. No doubt you’ve seen the Senate national security summaries outlining how shaky the world’s economic system is right now.” He pauses to let that sink in as Howard’s eyes move up and to the left indicating he’s accessing his memory of those secret reports.

Inflection Point

“And of course you know most of what the government says about the economy, all that happy talk, is bullshit simply because you produce some of it yourself. There are serious problems here and in Europe and most of it is being buried. I could go on, but you know what I’m talking about.” John pauses to let Howard respond, but he is once again transfixed by what’s happening on CNBC.

“Regardless of how we got here, we are here now. The economic system is approaching an inflection point and any interference or unwanted second guessing by self righteous do-gooders who think they know what’s best is only going to cause serious problems for all of us, including your constituents. Regardless of the reasons for our current situation, we’re way past the point of no return and any meddling by you or your supporters will just push us all off the cliff.”

John prides himself on living in reality and not in the fantasy world we were conditioned to believe in starting well before grade school. So in many ways he’s speaking from the heart here. It doesn’t matter what did or did not happen or even should be happening, just what is happening now. At this point things are so bad that anyone who doesn’t go with the flow is a danger to himself and everyone else around him. The economic system is entirely dependent upon the faith and belief of the people within the system. Loose that faith and the entire system collapses.

While John is talking Howard is transfixed by what he’s seeing on TV. In fact he’s positively shocked, stunned even. No sooner had John hung up the phone but the S&P popped up five points in less than three minutes, paused, and then started back down again. Is this even possible? The US stock market is huge, the biggest market in the world with billions of shares traded every day. How could these people have this kind of control? While Sam briefed him last December on the power and reach of the too-big-to-fail banks, this is just incredible.

Hearing John pause Howard turns to confront him. “You just did that? How’d you do that? That’s impossible. Did you do that? You can’t move the market like it’s a toy.” He’s no longer thinking about stopping it as much as he’s trying to understand how it could even be possible.

A genuine smile crosses John’s face as he rises once again and walks over to the TV. He could get used to this feeling of power and control. “Well Senator…” John points to the television, “…you’d be surprised what my clients can do now that the major trading computers are physically connected directly to the various stock exchange servers. It all happens tens of thousands of times a second. And don’t forget that a lot of the competition has been squashed. The 2008 crash, which I’m told was also artificially created, was as much about the brokerages and banks that survived as the ones that failed.”

John continues to talk as he moves to a different seat at the other end of the desk, allowing to him to see both Howard and the TV without shifting back and forth.

“Not only was banking consolidated, but any significant resistance was eliminated. And the regulatory dogs don’t bite anymore now that national security considerations override everything else, including prosecutions of anyone other than the small guy. Why do you think Bernie Madoff was ignored all those years?”

While Howard has known since 2006 that the President and his intelligence czar could override the SEC and enable, even order, companies to cook their books, he hadn’t thought to what extent or how wide spread this practice was. He’s getting a taste of it now.

“While my clients readily admit they don’t have total control, they don’t need it in order to push the markets around in any direction they wish. And when they want spot control, if they have a few hours notice and the conditions are right, they can do exactly what they’re doing today.” Despite John’s cool exterior, his heart rate is elevated again and he’s perspiring heavily. Talk about playing with fire. What has he gotten himself into here?

Someone is yelling in the background and Howard shifts his attention back to the television. It is now 2:37 PM and the Dow has dropped almost four hundred points with the S&P down forty five. While John continues to talk about the financial reform bill and the banking industry’s proposed compromise, Howard hears very little. He is mesmerized by the stock market crash playing out in real time. It is all so surreal. John flips the channel over to Bloomberg because CNBC has switched to a grating personality he detests.

Grating personality

Over the next fifteen minutes Howard watches as the Dow plunges a thousand points, the S&P drops nearly a hundred and the NASDAQ dives over two hundred. Overall this is equal to a 10% drop or several hundred Billion dollars of market capitalization wiped out in less than an hour. Then, just as quickly, it all turns around and begins to rapidly recover. John is certain the market ticker on Bloomberg isn’t accurate because it’s jumping all over the place.

At one point John pulls out his cell phone and briefly talks to someone, then hangs up and sits back, quiet for now as he watches the mayhem on TV. Its total chaos with people talking over each other and background conversations heard because microphones are left open. John sees with satisfaction that the planned disinformation campaign has already swung into action. Bloomberg dutifully reports “news” that it appears there was a fat fingered trade that caused the plunge. This little gem was timed to be released just before the markets were turned back up.

Howard’s desk phone rings, but he just hits the do-not-disturb button without looking to see who it is. Ten seconds later Lois walks in without knocking. “Senator, Sam wanted me to make sure you’re aware of what’s going on in the markets and to see…….” Howard cuts her off with a wave of his hand.

“Yes, yes. Can’t you see I’m watching the TV? Now get the hell out. And no more phone calls.” Lois is startled and scurries out. Howard is rarely rude to his staff and Lois is clearly hurt by his outburst. Howard will need to deal with her later.

Switching the TV back to CNBC, John is just in time to watch as the producers switch to the floor of the New York stock exchange. It looks like CNBC has also been successfully fed the disinformation when a stressed Bob Pisani, their floor reporter, confidently explains that it was all just a trading error, going so far as to explain what a fat fingered trade is to the most savvy financial audience in the world. The market continues to rapidly regain lost ground, with the Dow ticker in the lower right hand corner jumping from -856 to -523 in one click.

John smiles to himself. Damn but those boys really are as good as they said they were at the meeting. He considers the money he just made, knowing he was promised a large buy at the bottom and a quick sale at the top of the planned rebound in some leveraged Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) as extra compensation for the risk of being involved in this conspiracy. It’s all over but the shouting by 2:58 PM, with the Dow now down only four hundred points and climbing. So John flips off the TV and throws the remote onto Howard’s desk. He knows the team will trade the market swings in the last hour to feed themselves with guaranteed profits. There’s nothing to see here so time to move on to the next phase.

“Now wasn’t that fun?” John is feeling pretty good at this point with no lingering fears or regrets. While he believed it was possible when he was told the plan, it was still scary as hell to see it actually happen. “Pretty unbelievable, isn’t it? It never ceases to amaze me what those boys can do with their computers. But hell I’m not a geek so I’m not sure exactly how they did it. But it’s pretty clear they did it, right Howard? Howard?”

Even though the TV is off Howard is still staring at the dark screen, not sure what to make of it all. This can’t be happening. While intellectually he knows he’s not responsible for this, he also understands that tens of billions of dollars were lost today solely to prove a point to him. He feels responsible because he didn’t take these people seriously enough to even listen to John, forcing him to make the call. But how could he have known what they were capable of? Who could have known?

Suddenly realizing that his mouth is hanging open Howard snaps it shut and turns his attention back to Taylor. His stomach is churning, his head hurts and he realizes his hands are shaking. He places them on the desk to steady them, then gathers his wits and speaks. “You fucking bastard. You’ll never get away with this. I’ll make sure there’s an investigation and the truth will come out.” Howard did his best to sound menacing, but his voice wavers and the effect is lost leaving him just another frightened old man who has run out of options.

Laughing involuntarily at the thought of an investigation John continues. “Yeah right, a Senate investigation. If ever there was a paper tiger, that’s it. My clients really don’t care what you’ll do about this. Their tracks are being covered as we speak and the SEC and the White House will accept the fat finger story or whatever else they come up with. What choice do they have? What do you think would happen if people realized the market could be tanked on purpose at any time? Public knowledge of that alone would crash the markets worldwide.”


John is on a roll now. The last component of the psyops needs to be mercilessly applied before he can call it a day. “Nope, people will believe the cover story because they want to believe the cover story. The investigation will ultimately point to high frequency trading and some toothless regulations will be proposed and maybe even passed. It doesn’t matter what’s eventually found to be the cause because it won’t be the truth. The truth serves no one here so the truth will be whatever people want it to be. Nothing will result from this that my clients can’t handle. Wake up Howard, its over.”

Feeling exhausted and beaten, Howard just wants to lie down and take a nap. While he doesn’t want to back off, it’s now obvious even to him that he’s lost and lost big. Even with the tapes from this conversation he can’t do much more than fight these bastards at another time under more favorable conditions. That small comfort helps sooth his wounded ego. As much as doesn’t want to give up the fight Howard is a political animal and his years in Congress have taught him the golden rule. When you’re out gunned, scratch for what you can and live to fight another day.

Almost in a daze he walks over to the bar and pours himself another Black Label straight up and nearly to the brim, then returns to his seat. His voice still shaky Howard tries to save face and his bill by bargaining. “I still want some kind of audit of the Fed, even if it’s superficial. And I want someone’s head on a platter. If you’re going to get this to fly with the public, you’ll need to hand them someone to blame and hate. I’ll accept no less than that.”

Pulling a few sheets of folded paper and a memory stick from his suit pocket, John pushes them across the table to Howard. “My clients are way ahead of you. As you’ll see my client’s new proposed language for your bill still authorizes an audit that’s well beyond anything that’s been done in the past, so long as it doesn’t interfere with monetary policy. That’s all my clients have ever asked for. And they’ll release the names of the banks that were lent to. It doesn’t matter anymore anyway.”

That certainly appears to be true. For the most part the public has given up completely and has accepted the bank bailouts as old news. Or they are too frightened to do much about it anyway other than moan and groan about how they owe, they owe, so off to work they go. John is almost done here.

“While the disclosures will be embarrassing to them and the news might actually take out a few bank CEOs, the public has come to understand that they’re married to the banks whether they like it or not. One of those bank CEOs can even be that head on a platter you’re looking for. That’s your job. Your new co-sponsor is waiting for your call to work out the details. You know who I’m talking about.”

John looks around to make sure he’s left nothing behind. “Now if you’ll excuse me I have some things I must attend to. I’ll show myself out.”

Smiling in pity at Howard, John slowly stands and then walks a few steps towards the door before pausing. It almost looks like he’s forgotten something, but can’t remember what. Then he quickly brightens and turns around to face Howard, once again smiling broadly. One more dagger needs to be thrust into the corpse. John needs to drive home the point that resistance is futile.

“Oh, I almost forget. You’re going to find your office recording system has malfunctioned with nothing we’ve talked about saved. Instead of our conversation tucked away in memory you’ll find one of your rousing Senate floor speeches denouncing the evil bankers. Those wireless microphones you installed in here were a really bad idea. And your network’s been compromised as well. No real damage done, but you might want to get on it pronto. I suggest you fire your IT people once they’ve secured it again. I’ll be in touch Senator.”

Howard slumps into his chair in total defeat. He’s been masterfully played and he knows it. Trying to salvage what he can the Senator makes a political decision that signals a successful assimilation of the psyops. He quickly realizes he’d better make that call now and get ahead of this PR disaster by taking advantage of a news cycle that will be consumed by the market plunge.

But before he can pick up the phone an ugly realization comes over him. How many other Congressmen and women had visitors in their offices today providing the same lesson in the use and abuse of raw power? For the first time ever Howard’s thoughts turn to retirement.

Cognitive Dissonance - 05/06/2011


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