Wednesday, July 31, 2013

"keep capitalism clean"

A Reader in the Midwest "Commented-In" last week on the SAC story:

I'm never one to quote movies as evidence, but one thing in the final Batman chapter was correct... when the stock market was being held up and the suit says "this is a trading floor, there's no money to steal here," the villain retorts, "Really?  Then what are you people doing here?"

On some level that is exactly right.  The power-brokers game the system on a daily basis, taking money that should belong to real investors, and putting it in their pockets.

The stock market now has less to do with the quality of a company and its operations, and more to do with Wall St. Weasels manipulating the perceived value of stocks and commodities at the speed of light, and gaming the system's latencies / flaws... skimming money is now a matter of moving assets at a particular minute and second of the day after a particular bit of information is leaked.  Hit-and-run.

There are more criminals per capita on Wall St. than the south side of Chicago, Detroit, or any other crime ridden neighborhood.  And the crimes are much worse than possessing a $10 bag of pot, frankly.  Many people in prison should be at home and many in posh apartments overlooking NYC, should be in prison.

other Reader Comments:

(New Jersey) -- This is a good move by the government to crack down on such practices and such firms.  Cohen is a criminal and the real victory will be when they get to him.  The other big issue is that he is only one shark in the family, hopefully this investigation will also help trap other bigger sharks like GS etc. who encourage Cohen type people and practices.  This dirt is a result of capitalism and we should clean it and keep capitalism clean.

(N.J.) -- One small step for the rule of law.
One giant leap for economic justice.
Time to break up the Wall St. racketeering mafia and their violent economic terrorism of insider, high-speed trading and stock, security and commodity manipulation.
Wall St. is the world leader in grand larceny.

(KW, Arizona) -- Mr. Cohen instructed his traders to get the "dope" no matter what and where but not let him know where it came from.  If you didn't bring in your pile of gold regularly and lay it at his feet you were fired.  Mr. Cohen purposely dodged the insider trading laws by demanding that his traders violate it daily.  Also, any particularly "good dope" always went to the boss's account first.  The traders got second dibs on the contraband.  Is that hard to prove?  Apparently those traders are talking....SAC will have its day in court, just like Bernie Madoff.

(NY) -- Apparently Steven Cohen and SAC Capital were successful as
not as

(Steve, NY) -- You have to love it how these hedge fund managers like Cohen who are famous for keeping a close eye on anything involving the markets claim ignorance about what's going on in their own firms....

(EddieboyS, NYC) -- Oh, they know but turn a blind eye if they personally are benefiting from the behaviors and can claim a modicum of plausible deniability.

(Yreka, CA) -- Great - now how about going after the banks?

(Dan, New York) -- Starting way back under the guise of Reaganomics, The Corporations took over America by picking go-fer politicians who had and have no principles.  The idiots voted for these jokers because they campaigned on the knownothing, patriot, anti-welfare, bigoted platform.  Now they are the ones that are struggling and talking about the good old days when they had benefits and pension.  They were used.

(Texas) -- Since it's unclear exactly what productive benefit SAC brings to the US economy, killing the company will send just the right message to Wall Street to slow down the foolishness for a little while.  Meanwhile, the really right message would send Cohen away to prison for a few years, like Madoff, but I won't expect miracles (or 30% annual returns year after year).

------------------ (Milwaukee) -- Hedge funds bring NO productive benefits to the US economy, it's "hedge I win, tails you lose".  It's pure grift for the wealthy.

(Minneapolis) -- So The Citadel Group is involved.  They gave $1 million to Obama in '08, and then went over to the Republicans.  The parasitic psychopaths club is exclusive and non-partisan.

(sam I am, boston) -- It's certainly possible to become a billionaire in perfectly legitimate and honorable ways -- especially those that result from actually developing and selling material products that actually enhance life, rather than moving paper -- but it's a fair guess that, in the explosion of billionaire fortunes in the last two decades, few could withstand the scrutiny of a "legitimate and honorable" test.  This is particularly true on Wall Street and its environs.

It's reasonable to assume many such fortunes acquired before and as a result of the financial collapse would fail that test.  Let's hear it for the SEC and DOJ.  This is long overdue.


Tuesday, July 30, 2013

what it is ain't exactly clear

One Reader Comment on the SAC story which we quoted here yesterday said, "now how about some indictments about the fraud that caused toxic waste mortgage bonds to be marketed and sold as AAA assets?" --

I don't think there's any such thing as "toxic waste mortgage bonds" -- what they meant, probably, was simply "toxic mortgage bonds."

It's one of those phrases where people are so used to having the word "waste" come after the word "toxic" that it's hard to leave it out.

I notice things like that, a lot -- where an expression, a phrase, gets used incorrectly -- (no big criticism, not putting down the person who says it -- it happens -- it's hard to say "toxic" without saying "toxic waste"...)  And sometimes the incorrect -- or less accurate usage becomes the main way people use the phrase, simply through common usage.  Say it wrong often enough, and that becomes how people say it.

(Oh! -- this one's hard for me! -- when a person wants to emphasize that they don't care about something -- really a lot -- as in, ("Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn")... they'll say,

"I could care less!!"


The original expression was, "I couldn't care less."
Like -- it would be impossible for me to care any less, because I DON'T CARE.
That would be the correct way.
But people started expressing that same feeling by saying,

"I could care less"

and it stuck.  Waves of generations of new children grew up to be adults, expressing the "I-don't-care" idea by saying, "I could care less" and now that's how we say it.
(It's been driving me crazy since I first noticed it in about fifth grade.)

============ It's like the "animal activists."  The term was originally "animal-rights-activists" but often you hear people say the phrase and leave out the word "rights" ... and dear Lord, when I hear someone mention

"animal activists"

all I can think of is a group of dogs and cats and maybe a horse and a deer, stoically walking a picket line carrying signs which read, "Occupy Wall Street," or "Boycott Big Pharma"...

Stay sane.


Monday, July 29, 2013

FBI. Get dressed.

Last week when I read of federal charges of insider trading against SAC, could not help but recall the first episode of Season Six of "Sex and the City" -- the outrageously social and outgoing Samantha Jones meets a cute stockbroker who has moved into the apartment building where she lives:  she is at his place, where unpacked boxes are still all around, with him . . . interacting, shall we say, when there's this authoritative thumping at the door.

"Go 'way, I'm busy!" hollers the stockbroker.

Keys grind in the lock and three men come through the door - (aah!) - a shorter, thickset man wearing a gray work-shirt -- the building's "super," who has a key -- and behind him two taller men wearing trench-coats.

Chip Kilkenny, the stockbroker:  "Who the f--k are you?"
First Coat Guy:  "FBI.  Get dressed.  You're under arrest for insider trading."

He approaches the bed, bends down to look Samantha Jones in the eye, and says,
"Ma'am, could you please un-do your cuffs so we can use ours?"

Samantha:  "Surely."
(she fishes for the key...)
"...All the good ones are getting arrested."

= = = = = = = = = = = I think I was as disappointed as Samantha (though certainly more fully-clothed) when I read a Reader Comment on Friday's story -- it sounded like a kid, I thought -- someone from New Jersey:
"You forgot Congress...also a magnet.  In fact America's so called elite got there mostly by cheating and / or connections.  Amorality if not immorality is absolutely a prerequisite to get to the top.  Ambition and ability are not enough.  Just look at all our doped up professional athletes, politicians who have gone to jail, CEOs who have gone to jail (except for the ones who are TOO BIG to be handcuffed ex. Blankfein et al.)  And they pick on the desperate guy standing on the corner selling some reefers to rich white kids from the burbs."

I hate to see a kid that discouraged, just starting out in life.  They see news stories like this, as well as observing the world around them, and I worry that they get the wrong messages.

They're not supposed to believe that in order to have economic success, you have to
-- cheat, lie, be a criminal
-- have "connections"
...or come to think of it -- win the  !##%(**!~  "lottery."
(This Comment Kid didn't say "win the lottery," but just in my own personal direct experience, if one more hard-working person says "if I win the lottery..." to me, I'm going to scream.

People are not supposed to think (believe) that in order to have money they would have to cheat, have connections, or win "the lottery" -- they're supposed to believe that they can achieve economic security and perhaps wealth by working.

And it's supposed to be true.

When I hear people say things like this, it's, like, an assault on my Belief System.
(Hence the screaming.)

============== And one thing with that Comment, too, he used the phrase, " get to the top."  Someone should educate these young people so they're not thinking in "zero-sum" terms.  You know, what - is - "the top"? 
Top of what?
It's different for everybody.  Apparently Mr. Steven Cohen's "top" is not the same as mine.  If he wanted my goals, he'd be writing a blog and filling pages and notebooks.  If I wanted the stuff he gets, I would have become a stockbroker and live in New York.  You know...

It's like what that other (currently much more popular) rich guy, Warren Buffett, said,
"Find what turns you on."
"Don't worry about what everyone else is doing."
"Know your strengths."
"Know what you like and forget the rest."

There is no "top."

[other Reader Comments on the SAC story]

California -- One down, ninety to go.  Here's an insider tip:  Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, Bain Capital, Morgan Stanley -- all overdue.

Branford, Connecticut -- Now how about some indictments about the fraud that caused toxic waste mortgage bonds to be marketed and sold as AAA assets?

Philadelphia -- Studies have shown that index funds are usually more successful than hedge fund picks unless the hedge fund is trading on insider information.  These people are paid so well because they cheat so well.

Massachusetts -- Why not Jamie Dimon and the rest of the crooks who have bankrupted the country?

NY NY -- FINALLY...these crooks should be in prison for life....Obama is so in bed with all of these bankers, it's disgraceful.  A full large scale investigation should be done on all these firms.  This is the tip of the iceberg.

Paul Cohen, Hartford, CT -- We [taxpayers] paid the rescued banks to take the free money because so much of their reserves were lent back to the government by purchasing treasury bonds.  These executives used this money to award themselves the highest  bonuses in history.

-- This case actually indicts a firm, not just mid- or lower-level employees, as is typically the case.  A trend toward indicting firms is a healthy development that could help to deter insider trading.

-- What about Corzine?

sonofagun, Pennsylvania -- Move it on over, Bernie Madoff.  You'll be getting some company.

Alan Attlee, Boston -- Connect the friggin' dots!  The guy who was the supposed chief enforcer at the SEC leaves to take up a 5 million a year job working for the people he was supposed to regulate.  And now we have the SAC scandal that that guy somehow couldn't see.  And at the same time O. trots out a vision speech about the middle class while all the while indulging the financial culprits.  Worse than Bush!  Well, As Bad as Bush!

Alex W, Nevada -- You say this like every person on Wall Street is a crook.  Can you name me a single profession that has no criminals?  No Cheats?  Don't those criminals and cheats always hold themselves out to be the best and to have earned it until they are caught?

----------------- Jeffrey Thompson, Minneapolis, MN -- Alex, can you tell me what other single profession has the ability to do so much damage?

In this country we send small time thieves to prison, while Wall Street destroys Trillions of dollars in value through fraud, and gets a light slap on the wrist, until election time when they are bowed down to by those that are supposed to be in charge.

Rob S, San Francisco -- As long as we're on the subject of funny business on Wall Street, I wonder what's next for Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan

---------------- Paul, Nevada -- God willing it will be both.

-- What silly person would ever put his money in anything stock or Wall Street?

-- Plain and simple.  This is good news.  The implications alone are good news.

--It's hard to imagine a criminal indictment of a financial company in these United States.

Did hell just freeze over?

--------'s just that the government doesn't like competition on insider trading.

-------- Yes, and pigs are flying.

-------- Wake up, you're just in a deep dream state.


Friday, July 26, 2013

whacked for less

Perusing Reader Comments on the Anthony Wiener story definitely puts a person into some "Reb Tevye moments":
That Commenter was right.
And that Comment is right.
('They can't both be right.')
And you, also, are right.

Somehow, a couple of Commenters veered onto the subject of the economy -- probably because someone mentioned, Why are we paying attention to this trivial fuss when there are bigger problems? -- also it was linked with other sex scandals, for example the one with New York Governor Eliot Spitzer in 2008...

A Reader from Michigan Commented in:
Our economy does better when we have a healthy middle class that can afford things, the foolish greed rampant on Wall Street is short-sighted and hurts us all.  Eliot Spitzer and his type are too rare these days.  Wall Street desperately needs a sheriff and as Teddy Roosevelt isn't available and there aren't many other solid prospects (everyone else seems to be eyeing the revolving door) -- I say bring Spitzer back!

same Reader, with a second Comment:
Wall Street survived and prospered with reasonable regulation from 1934 through the Reagan / Clinton / Bush idiotic deregulation.  Where's Wall Street going to go?  London?  Nope, already a center and better regulated; Toronto?  Nope, reasonable regulations; Mexico City; Dakar; Johannesburg; Shanghai?  Hah hah hah.  Fat chance.  Wall Street will whine and lament over their 25 year old scotch and Cuban cigars and then go on with making slightly less billions with a more productive outcome, if we give them the chance.

and a 2nd Reader answered:
Spitzer was run out of town because Wall Street hated his attempts to regulate them, and throw the worst of them in jail where they belonged.  He singlehandedly could have avoided the crash in 2008 if he'd stayed there doing his job.  Considering the downside, this makes him fearless; people have been whacked for less.  Bring Back Spitzer!

...then today, as I was absorbing and trying to understand those Comments and their implications, this New York Times story comes at us:

----------------Federal authorities, under fire for handling Wall Street with kid gloves, have delivered a crippling blow to one of its most successful firms, SAC Capital Advisors, whose outsize trading profits have drawn government scrutiny for more than a decade.

Calling SAC "a veritable magnet of market cheaters," federal prosecutors announced criminal charges against the hedge fund on Thursday, a rare move against a large company that could threaten its survival.  The authorities argued that the firm and its units permitted a "systematic" insider trading scheme to unfold from 1999 to 2010, activity that generated hundreds of millions of dollars in profit for the firm, owned by its founder, the billionaire stock picker Steven A. Cohen. ...

The U.S. attorney's office in Manhattan and the F.B.I., which brought the charges, have spearheaded the largest and most prominent securities fraud cases in the nation's history, including those against Ivan Boesky, Michael Milken and Raj Rajaratnam.  Yet

federal prosecutors on Thursday portrayed the "rampant insider trading" at SAC as having no equal,

pointing to more than a decade of abuses that took place while managers turned a blind eye.

...At the height of SAC's powers in 2006 and 2007, Mr. Cohen is reported to have earned about $900 million each year, helping to give the firm a certain mystique.  But it also generated whispers about whether the fund routinely crossed the line.

...SAC, the indictment says...recruited employees who possessed what the fund called "an edge," including one trader who was fired from another hedge fund on suspicion of insider trading....

Mr. Cohen, 57, was not charged, but the 41-page indictment is a stinging attack on him nonetheless, declaring that he "fostered a culture that focused on not discussing inside information too openly, rather than not seeking or trading on such information in the first place."  Last week,

the Securities and Exchange Commission filed a civil action against Mr. Cohen, accusing him of failing to supervise his employees.

The criminal indictment lists eight former SAC employees who the government said engaged in misconduct while at the fund; six of them have already pleaded guilty to individual criminal charges, and are expected to testify....-----------------[end Article excerpt]
written:  Peter Lattman and Ben Protess.

= = = = = = = = =
5 of the Reader Comments:

Ossining, NY -- Simply organized crime.  Greedier, and more dangerous to the economy than the Mafia, yet much less intriguing, and in some ways much more repulsive.  Now, how about Goldman for their crimes?

Asia -- Sadly, the entire finance industry is one big magnet for cheating.

Marlton, New Jersey -- You forgot Congress--also a magnet.  In fact America's so called elite got there mostly by cheating and / or connections.
Amorality if not immorality is absolutely a prerequisite to get to the top.  Ambition and ability are not enough.  Just look at all our doped up professional athletes, politicians who have gone to jail, CEOs who have gone to jail (except for the ones who are TOO BIG to be handcuffed ex. Blankfein et al.)
And they pick on the desperate guy standing on the corner selling some reefers to rich white kids from the burbs.

[This Comment was from an NYC guy who works in financial industry and has associated with SAC's Mr. Cohen] -- ...I do think Steve lives an empty existence of dealing with all of this stress when he has so much money that every marginal dollar is useless to him (law of diminishing returns to scale)

[[ I don't understand that Comment but found it interesting. B-C-L]]

David from Portland, Oregon -- I look at other poker players' cards before I make my bet.  That makes me a poker genius who deserves vast sums of wealth ...


Thursday, July 25, 2013

to short-circuit the Embarrassment Machine...?

Someone told me last night that former congressman Anthony Weiner -- did it --

This morning, I wondered -- could Mr. Weiner have gone out and done this to himself again because he and his wife made a plan -- a serious plan -- to -- sort of -- challenge the -- "Embarrassment Machine" -- the media scandal-mongering?

A possible plan / time-line:
1.  come out and say you did it again, you're sorry again, you love your wife again
2.  wife stands by him
3.  he WINS the election for Mayor of New York City
4.  the Embarrassment Machine is --
in for repairs?
sold for parts?

Maybe the Embarrassment Machine would lose its power, if someone took it on.
Maybe, I said to myself this morning while getting ready for work, that's what he's doing.

A Comment I read showed me someone else thought of that, too -- it said, "...turning this election into a referendum on the relevance of sexual proclivities to politics."

============= other Comments:

a third-rate psychodrama

so banal

Why is [this publication] so addicted to this trivial nonsense?

Unfortunately, given the way we treat politicians, only the
heroically public-minded
and the
pathologically narcissistic
seek office with any frequency. 
There are a lot more of the latter than the former.
Public service seems to be the only sphere in which we expect that worse treatment of current and prospective employees will somehow improve the quality of the applicant pool.  Weiner is about what we're down to, with rare exceptions.

I wouldn't hire him to walk a dog.

I wouldn't trust him to feed my cat.

It's like a Puritan witch hunt.

Question.  Why does anyone care about this story?  What does it mean to voters in terms of his public service?
Answer.  Seems like he will lie and omit whenever it suits him.  Normally I agree with you, but it's crossed a line for me at this point.  Plus he just looks like an idiot.

The more I read about this, the more I think it's none of my business.

If he had any decency he would at least follow through on his promise to get that girl a sex condo in Chicago.

Mind your own business.  Then people won't have to lie to keep their business private.

Great use of time and space, this.

I'm not that offended by others' infidelity, and don't consider it a litmus test to hold office.  I am much more offended by the boggling stupidity he's displayed.

What is wrong with us voters that we even tolerate people of this low character?  I mean even if Weiner had never sexted, it's clear his character is nonexistent.  Politicians make decisions that affect the lives of millions of people.  What is wrong with us?

= = = = = = = = = = =
----------------[excerpt, article in The Atlantic, on-line] -- Anthony Weiner is a politician who relished antagonizing the opposition.  His appeal was singular and tribal -- in an age of seemingly

vacillating, gun-shy Democrats,

Weiner took on whoever may come.  You never once got the feeling that he was ashamed to be a liberal.  He must have known that this made him a target for conservative activists.  A wise man in Weiner's position would be watchful. 

But Weiner is not a wise man. 

It is not his desire to get off that offends, it is the thick-wittedness of sending nude selfies on Twitter.  It is the incomprehensible silliness of handing your opponents a gun and saying, "Please shoot me."  Repeatedly.  It is wholly sensible that those of us who believe the liberal project is about more than embarrassing Republicans would not want Anthony Weiner as a pitchman.

There is something else at work here also -- a lack of compassion.  Here is where I differ with many of my liberal and libertarian friends. 

I believe that how you treat people matters.  It is folly to embarrass your pregnant wife before an entire nation.  To do the same thing again is cruelty. 

And there is the promise of more to come.  One argument holds that what happens between Weiner and his wife is between them.  I agree with this argument. 

But cruelty is not abolished by the phrase "consenting adults." 

And the fact that the immoral is not, and should not be, illegal does not make morality meaningless.  Huma Abedin has one choice.  We have another.  The choice should be made by voters -- there should be no sense that if not for the powerful editorial pages Weiner would have won.  As a city we deserve to see who we are, and what we actually care about.

I don't think it is wrong to care about how people treat each other, which is another way of saying I believe that morality is important. 

...I think public office is an honored, and honorable, position. 

I do not think it is wrong to ask that our officers be compassionate.  I do not believe it is wrong to ask that our officers be wise. 

I do not believe that it is the fate of all men to send dick pics hurtling through cyberspace.  And I do not believe that Anthony Weiner is the best we can expect from maledom, to say nothing of New York Liberals.

---------- written by Ta-Nehisi Coates


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

taste, integrity, and a band named Fritz

beginning historic path of Fleetwood Mac
beginning historic path of Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks:

beginning historic path of Fleetwood Mac --
started in England, Mick Fleetwood;
Peter Green was part of it;
(Green came to the conclusion that money was at the root of the world's ills, decided to give his money away, and at one point had conflict with his accountant who charged that Green had threatened him with a gun to get him to stop sending checks...);
F. Mac came to America;
Bob Welch was their guitarist for a while;
when Welch left in 1975, Mick Fleetwood discovered Lindsey Buckingham through an engineer who had worked on the Buckingham Nicks album;
F. Mac invited Lindsey B. to join the band;
Lindsey told them, "Stevie and I are a package deal."
Then -- the Fleetwood Mac album ("Rhiannon");
then -- the Rumours album ("Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow")

(Then -- more albums after that, etc. -- I just wanted to track / trace / timeline the beginning....)

beginning historic path of Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks --
1968--Lindsey Buckingham invites Stevie Nicks (whom he had met in high school) to join his band, Fritz.
1968-1971--Fritz works in San Francisco, as an opening act for, among others, Jimi Hendrix, and Janis Joplin.  (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! you couldn't make this stuff up if you were just sitting there wishin' and dreamin' ...!!!!)
1971--Fritz breaks up; Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham are by now a couple, and they set out to do play live dates and record an album, as Buckingham Nicks.
1975 -- They join Fleetwood Mac, which is Now comprised of --
Mick Fleetwood, drums
John McVie, bass
Christine McVie, piano and vocals
Lindsey Buckingham, guitar and vocals
Stevie Nicks, vocals.

Christine, Lindsey, and Stevie are the main songwriters.

miscellaneous Mac things:

The erstwhile guitarist Bob Welch turns up in two interesting performances on You Tube which I've found (there may be a jillion more):

1.  in the video of "Gold Dust Woman" -- Stevie-Nicks-live-rare-1981-8 minutes, Bob Welch is playing guitar (Lindsey Buckingham isn't there) -- so, Bob Welch was back with his former band as an invited guest, or whatever...


2.  typing in Bob Welch - "Ebony Eyes" - Stevie Nicks will get you a flying live outdoor show in CA and really-interesting Comments, if you read them....

= = = = = = = = On the "Classic Albums-Rumours" tape, made in 1997, Mick Fleetwood says (in his English accent), "Fleetwood Mac, in its earlier form, with Peter Green, had some success, with the hit records, the screaming girls -- we'd been there, and -- come back from it.  And, if you like, gone down from it....then we came over to America, and were sort of feeling our way...then in 1975 when Stevie and Lindsey joined, and we made that album -- and boom, here came the success again."

=  =  =  =  1978 Rolling Stone article, by Dave Marsh [excerpt] --
Mick Fleetwood puts it another way.  "You won't catch us selling Fleetwood Mac medallions on our next album sleeve," a thinly veiled jibe at Frampton's "I'm in You" LP, which was as choked with merchandising offers as a late-night TV show.  Fleetwood speaks of maintaining taste and integrity with a passion that seems fresh because everyone else seems to have left theirs in the Sixties.

This quality of humble amazement and the group's determination to remain that way combines quite nicely with Fleetwood Mac's stature as the only self-managed rock giant.

The Eagles are Svengali'd by the redoubtable Irving Azoff; Linda Ronstadt has Peter Asher; Boston is guided by a consortium of music-business experts; Peter Frampton has the advantage of Dee Anthony's twenty-five years as a show business manager, and Stevie Wonder has the Motown organization behind him.

Fleetwood Mac is managed by its drummer.


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

it would just spark off

One of the most interesting things about the band Fleetwood Mac, to me, is the evolving composition of the group -- various people joined, and dropped out, over the years.  I never even knew until about 2004 that Fleetwood Mac had a whole history and existence before Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks joined them in 1975.

You go to listen to "F-M" songs and performances on You Tube, and scroll down and read the Comments, and there will be people going, "Yeah this is good, but I miss the Original Mac with Peter Green!"  (I sit there -- "Peter Green?  ok...?...")

Other Commenters weigh in for the band's most exciting music as having been made when Bob Welch was their guitarist.

(Peter Green!  Bob Welch!  Clinton!  Mondale!  Reagan!  Whatever...!)

When you watch the "Classic Albums:  Rumours" tape, you get a real sense of the musical combustion which occurred when Buckingham and Nicks came on board.  Speaking in 1997 interviews, Lindsey Buckingham says he and Christine McVie had similar melodic senses -- he recalls, "We would start to play, and -- it would just spark off!"  The words "spark off" come out sort of pleasantly surprised and amazed -- a little bit in awe, even recalling it twenty years after....

They discuss the harmonies -- one engineer says, "Stevie could wrap her voice around Lindsey's...she would sing around him, and he would sing around her...." 

And with Christine McVie's voice added to the mix it made a unique sound.

As a listener, I can't necessarily tell who's singing when...I'm not enough of a musicologist to separate, or dissect, those harmonies -- and maybe we listeners aren't meant to be able to do that.  After all, with studio technology, each of the singers can even harmonize with themselves, if they want to...! 

One time a politician, hearing Fleetwood Mac's 1997 "The Dance" cassette playing in my car, said to me, "Is that Stevie Nicks?"
"Yes!" I answered,
thinking at the same time, ("Actually it's Christine McVie...")
But then -- really, I didn't know, could've been both and --
I wasn't going to subtract from his enthusiasm. ...

When I was in high school, the songs from the first F.Mac album with Buckingham & Nicks ("Fleetwood Mac") started flowing by us, coming from -- believe it or not -- "top 40" A-M radio, at that time, as well as FM "AOR" (album-oriented rock) stations, once I got located where I could access those --
"Over My Head"
"Say-aay You Love Me"

"Monday Morning"...

At the time, I didn't even really know what a "Fleetwood Mac" was:  that music was just a constant, connecting, continuing part of our atmosphere, like clouds, and a blue sky, and a long road.

{"...drove me through the mountains, Through the crystal like and clear water fountain, Drove me like a magnet -- to the sea; to the sea..."}

I'm pretty sure that sometime in 1975 or 6 -- maybe at home, or maybe while baby-sitting -- I saw F-M perform "Rhiannon" on "The Midnight Special"...{would you stay if she promised you heaven...}

Took it "for granted" -- really!  I laugh, now. 
--Yeah that music's good, ok, what else is there?--
I must have been an unanalytical teenager.
--Pink lipstick!  Blue eye-shadow!-- 
(Yes, Priorities firmly in place. ...hmm...)

A few years before, when I was somewhere in 6th-8th grade, I had come across a record album entitled "Buckingham Nicks" in a record store in Ohio -- either Ravenna, or Kent. ...I remember I almost bought the album even though I didn't know what it was -- had no knowledge of this kind of music, really. 

Am not sure when I put it together in my head that Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham in Fleetwood Mac were the Buckingham and Nicks of that long-ago mysterious album that I didn't buy.  (Looks like you can't buy it, now -- but it is on You Tube.)

"Races Are Run"
"Frozen Love"
"Crystal"  (ah-hah!)
"Without a Leg -- to Stand On"...


Monday, July 22, 2013

drop everything and carry seeds

In The New York Times, Christy Wampole wrote about essays:
"The Essayification of Everything."
She said,
"I believe that the essay owes its longevity today mainly to this fact:  the genre and its spirit provide an alternative to the dogmatic thinking that dominates much of social and political life in contemporary America.  In fact, I would advocate a conscious and more reflective deployment of the essay's spirit in all aspects of life as a resistance against the zealous closed-endedness of the rigid mind...."

Reader Comments on this article included these --

from Paul Aviles - Syracuse, NY -- I think Wampole's point (or one of them) is that there is much "merrymaking" to be had in non-fiction as well and that one of the enduring pleasures of the essay is that it is NOT restricted, that it can roam, wander, wonder unfettered...

from Sonya Huber - Statesboro, GA -- ...I don't think the essay needs necessarily to be a self-centered form.  The fantastic and subtle essays of George Orwell are one example among many of essays that reach outward to engage with values and communities as well as with the self.  I'm not sure that personal stability or comfort is a prerequisite for essayism, because the shifting self might be the embodiment of the essay form.

Aviles-Syracuse, jumps back in --
Right on!
For me one of the problems and HUGE limitations of the "essay fever" we've experienced in the past few decades in the U.S. is that "essay" has been taken to mean the "personal essay" almost exclusively.  Surely the form is NOT so limited, and Orwell is an excellent example of the genre as it engages with the world at large.

Your point that the shifting, up-for-grabs, contingent self is quintessentially essayistic is spot-on.

Thanks for your post...

from Washington, DC -- Marvelous and erudite essay on essays and essayism.  I write essays several times a week and for me they are often processes of thinking out loud.  When I start, I have no idea how I will end, but too often I end with questions.  In my latest essay I force myself to end with an answer:  How Does One Bring About Peace on Earth?  Farm.
Drop everything and carry seeds all over the world and hand them out for free.  Violence can kill only so many of us.---------------- [end Reader Comments]

ok-then; interesting


Friday, July 19, 2013


"The Media Needs to Stop Inspiring Copycat Murders.  Here's How."

This was a headline on an article in The Atlantic (on-line) published Dec. 19, 2012 -- I just came across it. 

---------------- [Atlantic article]--------- After a wave of teen suicides in the 1980s, news outlets began reporting on these deaths more cautiously.  Similar guidelines could help prevent more shooting sprees.

You might not have noticed, but the mass media rarely reports on suicides, particularly teen suicides.  When it does, the coverage is careful, understated, and dampened.  This is no accident:  Following guidelines endorsed by the Centers for Disease Control and National Institutes of Mental Health, the media carefully and voluntarily avoids sensationalizing such deaths especially among teenagers.

They almost never make the news unless the person is a public figure; methods of suicide are rarely mentioned; suicide pacts are not reported upon.

This is for good reason:  Suicide, especially among teens, is contagious.  It's a morbidly attractive idea that offers an established path of action for a troubled youngster.  And we know from research in many fields that establishing a path of action -- a complete narrative in which you can visualize your steps and their effects -- is important in enabling follow-through.

This, for example, is exactly why political campaigns ask people about where and how they plan to vote -- specifically-imagined events are more likely to be carried out in real life.  If you have a full story in your head, you are more likely to enact it, step by step.  We also know such "contagion" effects are especially strong in adolescence and young adulthood -- an especially turbulent time for mental health.

As a sociologist, I am increasingly concerned that

the tornado of media coverage

that swirls around each such mass killing,

and the acute interest in the identity and characteristics of the shooter -- as well as the detailed and sensationalist reporting of the killer's steps just before and during the shootings -- may be creating a vicious cycle of copycat effects similar to those found in teen and other suicides.

Indeed, the rate of mass public shootings in the United States has been accelerating.  In 2012 alone, there were at least a dozen of them.  Seven dead at an Oakland college in April.  Five killed at a Seattle coffee shop in May.  Twelve killed in an Aurora, Colorado, movie theater in July.  Six murdered at a Wisconsin Sikh temple in August, and six more killed in Minneapolis in September.  Three dead in the Milwaukee spa shootings in October.  And most recently, and unimaginably, 20 children as young as six, along with six adults, murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School.  The trend is disturbingly clear.

As many have pointed out, these mass public rampages are inextricably linked with the availability of high-capacity guns and ammunition, as well as with lack of strong mental health infrastructure -- especially for those in late adolescence and early adulthood, the typical onset period for major psychotic disorder.

But it's also important to recognize that

while mental illness plagues every society, the ways people express it are heavily influenced by the norms, heroes, anti-heroes, and spectacles of their own places and times. 

In the Middle Ages, psychosis may have involved visions of the devil, snakes, or witches.  In the 21st century, it can involve dressing in pseudo-combat gear,

donning numerous high-powered rifles, and walking through a public place in a blaze of violence.  The shock value is part of the goal -- and the higher the shock value, predictably, the higher the ensuing

media coverage, which fuels interest in the shooter and creates a whirlwind of attention and spectacle.

My aim here is not to blame the media:  such events have undeniable news value, and there is intense public interest in uncovering their details.  But it's important to recognize that such incidents are not mono-causal, and

sensational news coverage is, increasingly, part of the mix of events that contributes to these rampages.

We need to figure out how to balance the public interest in learning about a mass shooting with the public interest in reducing copycat crime. 

The guidelines on reporting on teen suicides were established after a spate of teenage suicides in the United States, some through suicide pacts, in the 1980s.  Those who created the guidelines looked at examples from other countries -- for example, the subway suicides in Vienna in the 1980s, which decreased after the media changed its coverage -- and provided specific recommendations:  Don't refer to the word suicide in the headline.  Don't report the method of the suicide.  Don't present it as an inexplicable act of an otherwise healthy person.

With that as a model, here are some initial recommendations.

1.  Law enforcement should not release details of the methods and manner of the killings, and those who learn those details should not share them.
In other words, there should be no immediate stories about which guns exactly were used

or how much robo-cop gear was utilized. 

There should be no extensive timelines -- no details about which room was entered first or which victim was killed second.  In particular, there should be no reporting of the killer's words, or actions before or during the shooting.

Yes, I am a scholar of social media and I understand that these things will leak.  But there is a big difference between information that can only be found if you really look for it and news stories that are blasted by every television station and paper in the country.  At a minimum, we can and should greatly delay the release of these details by weeks, if not months.

2.  If and when social media accounts of the killers are located, law enforcement should work with the platforms to immediately pull them. 

[[ This makes sense to me -- if Sony can keep the Internet swept clean of all Bob Dylan songs that they "own", then law enforcement's I-Ts can vacuum off this type of info as it appears....]]

Yes, there will be screenshots, and again, I am not proposing that such information can be entirely shut out.  But by making it harder to find, we can

dampen the impact of the spectacle.

3.  The name of the killer should not be revealed immediately.  If possible, law enforcement and media sources should agree to withhold it for weeks.  The identity can be released later during trial (if there is one) or during the release of the investigative report.  Once again,

merely delaying the release of information may greatly reduce the spectacle effect. 

The name may "leak," but that is very different from the

full blast of attention

that currently surrounds the perpetrators immediately after each incident.

Similarly, the killer should not be profiled extensively, at least not at first.  There should not be an intense search for clues or reasoning beyond "troubled person commits unspeakable act; wish he had gotten help earlier,"

in as flat a reporting style as possible. not need to know which exact video games they played, what they wore, or what their favorite bands were.

4.  The intense push to interview survivors and loved ones in their most vulnerable moments should be stopped.  This, too, may help reduce the sense of spectacle and trauma.

...And we shouldn't be concerned that such guidelines will be impossible to follow.  Just yesterday, news outlets revealed that Richard Engel of NBC had been kidnapped in Syria -- and released.  The information about his capture, though obviously newsworthy, was held back in order to aid the negotiations and rescue efforts.

There are many such cases of media voluntarily acting to dampen coverage of certain events, especially when it involves one of their own.  Let's entreat them to do it for the sake of potential shooting victims as well.-------------------- [end, article]

{from The Atlantic on-line,
written by Zeynep Tufekci}