Think Bernie Madoff was an outlier? To gauge by some of the contributors to this volume, the whole speculative economy is a vast Ponzi scheme.
Indeed, notes David Shapiro, a legal/financial investigator, there are some fine distinctions between “hedge and private equity funds and Ponzi schemes,” the former being “pools of investment capital that are largely unregulated by federal, state, and local authorities,” which is just the way the wizards of Wall Street like it. By contrast, of course, other investment instruments such as mutual funds are intricately regulated, such that financial hanky-panky seldom occurs there, at least not by comparison. Shapiro wonders why it is that a financial crisis is required to ferret out the bad guys, observing, “The nature of today’s unregulated or lightly regulated market often makes the distinction between outright fraud and high-risk vehicles hard to discern.” In such a climate, an operator like Madoff was destined for success, and that he got away with it for so long—thus the title of the book—is a matter that should provoke much discussion among regulators. Writes Jock Young, “He is the right gender to be sure but the wrong class, ethnicity, and age; we usually spend our time looking down, not up, the social structure when analyzing criminal behavior.” “They”—the layers of malfeasants that include “Wall Street, Washington, and Main Street”—got away with it for so long, in other words, because people were looking the wrong way, hoping, in the case of Main Street, to get a little of the proceeds themselves, and no one should have been surprised when the whole thing came tumbling down.
The lessons to be learned are many, but, the editors conclude, the regulatory mechanisms meant to preclude future meltdowns, such as the Dodd-Frank Act, are now under assault. Stay tuned.
Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)
Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.
Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").