Monday, October 08, 2007

Code Red

Market non-sequitirs are the most pregnant awe-inspiring things to behold. They are full of drama, twists and turns that intrigue, and deftly feign one direction and then the other, observers and participants often highly uncertain which premise will be proved unworthy. For in the end, undoubtedly, there will be a casualty. But which?

The denoument of "A Few Good Men", that fantastic and poetic screenplay so confidently written by Adam Sorkin where the accused's defense counsel Kaffee (Tom Cruise) has Col. Nathan Jessep (Jack Nicholson) on the witness stand and is trying (under penalty of penalty of his own downfall should he fail) to get the decorated Colonel to admit that he ordered the hazing (or "Code Red" in Marine parlance) that caused the [accidental] death of an innocent at the hands of two rank and file who were just following unwritten orders.

The trial to this point has progressed, and the soldiers, left hung to dry by the officers, look like they will be found guilty. Their sole hope for truth and justice is their passionate defense counsel, Lt. Commander Kaffee ....
KAFFEE - A moment ago said that you ordered Kendrick to order his men not to touch Santiago.

JESSEP - That's right.

KAFFEE - And Kendrick was clear on what you wanted?

JESSEP - Crystal.

KAFFEE - Any chance Kendrick ignored the order?

JESSEP - Ignored the order?

KAFFEE - Any chance he just forgot about it?


KAFFEE - Any chance Kendrick left your office and said, "The 'old man's wrong"?


KAFFEE - When Kendrick spoke to the platoon and ordered them not to touch Santiago, any
chance they ignored him?

JESSEP - Have you ever spent time in an infantry unit, son?

KAFFEE- no sir.

JESSEP - Ever served in a forward area?

KAFFEE - No sir.

JESSEP - Ever put your life in another man's hands, ask him to put his life in yours?

KAFFEE - No sir.

JESSEP - We follow orders, son. We follow orders or people die. It's that simple. Are we clear?

KAFFEE - Yes sir.

JESSEP - Are we clear?

KAFFEE - Crystal.

(KAFFEE speaks with the quiet confidence that comes from knowing you're about to drop your opponents)

KAFFEE - (continuing; beat) Colonel, I have just one more question before I call Airman O'Malley and Airman Perez: If you gave an order that Santiago wasn't to be touched, and your orders are
always followed, then why would he be in danger, why would it be necessary to transfer him off the base?

(And JESSEP has no answer. Nothing. He sits there, and for the first time, seems to be lost.)

JESSEP - Private Santiago was a sub-standard marine. He was being transferred off the
base because--

KAFFEE - But that's not what you said. You said he ws being transferred because he was in
grave danger.

JESSEP - (pause) Yes. That's correct, but—

KAFFEE - You said, "He was in danger". I said, “grave danger". You said--

JESSEP - Yes, I recall what--

KAFFEE - I can have the Court Reporter read back your….

JESSEP- I know what I said. I don't need it read back to me like I'm a damn--

KAFFEE - Then why the two orders? (beat)…Colonel? …(beat) Why did you …

JESSEP - Sometimes men take matters into their own hands.

KAFFEE - No sir. You made it clear just a moment ago that your men never take matters into their own hands. Your men follow orders or people die. So Santiago shouldn't have been in any danger at all, should he have, Colonel?

(Everyone's sweating now. Everyone but KAFFEE.)

JESSEP - You little bastard.

ROSS (Prosecutor) - Your Honor, I have to ask for a recess to--

KAFFEE - I'd like an answer to the question, Judge.

JUDGE RANDOLPH - The Court'll wait for answer.

KAFFEE - If Kendrick told his men that Santiago wasn't to be touched, then why did he have to be transferred?
(Jessep is looking at O'KALLEY and PEREZ.)

KAFFEE - (continuing) Colonel?

(JESSEP says nothing.)

KAFFEE (continuing) - Kendrick ordered the code red, didn't he? Because that's what you told Kendrick to do.

ROSS - Object!

RANDOLPH – Counsel! (KAFFEE will plow through the objections of ROSS and the admonishments of RANDOLPH)

KAFFEE - And when it went bad, you cut these guys loose.

ROSS - Your Honor--

RANDOLPH - That'll be all, counsel!

KAFFEE - You had Markinson sign a phony transfer order--

ROSS - Judge--

KAFFEE - You doctored the log books.

ROSS- Dammit Kaffee!!

KAFFEE - I'll ask for the forth time. You ordered--

JESSEP - You want answers?

KAFFEE - I think I'm entitled to them.

JESSEP - You want answers?!

KAFFEE - I want the truth.

JESSEP - You can't handle the truth!
(And nobody moves…)
Son, we live in a world that has walls. And those walls have to be guarded by men
with guns. Who's gonna do it? You? You, Lt. Weinberg? I have a greater responsibility than you can possibly fathom. You weep for Santiago and you curse the marines. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know: That Santiago's death, while tragic, probably saved lives. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives. You don't want the truth. Because deep down, in places you don't talk about at parties, you want me on that wall. You want me there (boasting) We use words like honor, code, loyalty...we use these words as the backbone to a life spent defending something. You use 'em as a punchline. (beat) I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom I provide, then questions the manner in which I provide it. I'd prefer you just said thank you and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon and stand a post. Either way, I don't give a damn what you think you're entitled to.

KAFFEE - (quietly)- Did you order the code red?

JESSEP - (beat) I did the job you sent me to do.

KAFFEE - Did you order the code red?

JESSEP - (pause) - You're goddamn right I did.

WOW!!! I've seen this a dozen times and the drama never fails to enthrall me!

But in the market, we have an emerging drama: An equity market that doesn't want or hasn't been able to come to terms with the continuing dysfunction in the credit markets, the imminent recession in both US output and consequentially, US Corporate earnings, and the likelihood that the neutering of the US bond market is likely to be challenged by the combination of swelling petro-dollars and surpluses and diminishing real demand (and official!!) demand. And yet asset markets continue to levitate despite the likelihood that there is a large emerging market non-sequitir between asset prices and the benign conditions that have munificently caused their rip-roaring rally. But I reckon we are the point where Kaffee has just confronted Jessep with the logic flaw of his big lie. The market may go for the jugular as the resolution unfolds.
KAFFEE - Mr Bernanke, I want the truth!

BERNANKE - Yes yes, you're damn right I ordered the Code Red - it's NOT a savings glut, but excessively easy fiscal policy combined with not-so-benign monetary neglect, and the incessant kindness from foreign official institutions..."! I did what I needed to do, and I'd do it again...."
And only once the market decisively reveals its truth, will the pundits say: "Ah! I knew it all along..."


RJH said...

Cassandra - Did you order the dissenters to vote for the 50 bps cut?

Bernanke - Nice blog you've got here, My Dear.

Cassandra - Did you?

Bernanke - How'd you like to be a Governor, My Dear?

Cassandra - Will I get to meet Cramer?


"Cassandra" said...

I toyed around with different ways to weave it in. Maybe using the characters as allegories (Jessep as Paulson etc. Setset as Kaffee),

(Zoom in to WTO with PBoC/Zhou on the Witness stand...

SETSER: "Did you manipulate the currency?! I think I deserve the truth"

PBoC:"You want the truth? You can't handle the truth..."

SETSER: (Shouting) Did you order the massive intentional accumulation of reserves to cynically gain parochial trade advantage...?!!

PBoC: You're damn right I (well, "We" anyway) ordered it (And now its Europe's turn...)

Anonymous said...