'The First Tycoon'
Maybe our conceited Wall Streeters, so convinced of their importance to capitalism, will deign to read a book
about America’s first modern capitalist who actually built and ran tangible things. For all his faults, I’d take Cornelius Vanderbilt over John Thain anytime. ... It’s fascinating how the name of such an "illiterate and boorish” man, once shunned by New York society, is now synonymous with American aristocracy. The latter, of course, is the invention of his do-nothing descendants.
'I still think KG ...'
After a glorious spring run by Boston sports teams (sweep of the Habs, Yanks, etc.), Reader No. 1 assesses the KG-less Celts going into tonight's game:
This Celtic postseason evokes mixed feelings.
First, these are intense and exhausting games to watch. Great when you win, deadly when you lose. And every game has been won and lost 10 or 12 different ways, play by play, and shot by shot.
Second, I remember saying a year ago to anyone who would listen that - no disrespect to Pierce or even Ray Allen, but KG was the most important player on the team and Rondo #2 - as Bob Ryan probably has said, our point guard is a bona-fide-basket-ball-player.
Third - I still think KG is the most important player on the team and... no disrespect to Big Baby or Perk, who have busted their asses Above and Beyond the Call, Garnett ain't walkin' through that door any time soon. It is more than a bit alarming that all of the ESPN Experts pick the Celts. It will be a moral victory just to win this series.
Having said all of that... Boston in 7, by a fingernail (Rondo's of course :->) over the new generation's McFilthy and McNasty.
Agreed: KG's absence is definitely key. Same with Leon's. But everyone I talk to likes this team a lot precisely because they're playing their hearts out despite the crippling injuries. Reader No. 1's prediction of Boston in 7, by a Rondo fingernail, sounds right.
'Now, it's personal with 160 people'
They're indignant again.
Remember how Dem lawmakers became indignant when Romney dared to run candidates against them? They expect governors to adapt to them -- not vice versa. ... Patrick is definitely all over the map
. He's now where he should have been before all the zigzags. How long he stays on this course is anyone's guess. ... Classic example of how tax hikes quickly negate reforms: the Quinn bill is back. Update
makes an interesting catch: The newest members of the House are siding with DeLeo, not Deval.Update II
: '... We’ve got some delicate sensibilities in the legislature.' ... Outraged Liberal
is all over the showdown too.
'Hack-Progressive Alliance Nationalized'
In an email slugged "Hack-Progressive Alliance Nationalized," Reader No. 1 points out this piece
about how you and I, as taxpayers, could soon be proud co-owners with unions of dysfunctional car companies. ... I loved this analysis
The federal government and the workers will own one of our largest and most storied industrial companies. That has never really happened before. In other words, the governmental restructuring of General Motors is a social experiment that will shortly teach us two things: Whether businesses can be managed to a profit when in the hands of bureaucrats and union officials, and whether American consumers will trust such people to stand by the products that they make. I, for one, am eager to learn the answer, because it will tell us what we should and should not do about health care.
'Running against the Legislature'
What's wrong with that?
Patrick is merely discovering what his Corner Office predecessors already knew: The 50-years-old one-party Legislature is a pain in the ass to everyone. Patrick should view Therese Murray's he's-not-cooperating criticism as a badge of honor. ... That's not to say Patrick is handling this well. He's still more of a progressive than a reformer. He really wants that money. But at least he's theoretically making a stand for reform. If he buckles now on his reform/veto pledge, he's toast. He picked a battle. He needs to fight it to its logical end, i.e. a confrontation with the Legislature. ... Since when is a sales tax "less regressive"
than a gas tax? Let me see. A sales tax hits more people. It applies to more items. It raises more tax dollars. That must be it: It raises more revenue. Ipso facto, it's more progressive.Update
-- Here's the switcheroo Dem lawmakers are trying to pull: Transportation reforms were promised in exchange for specific transportation-related taxes (i.e., the gas tax). But it's morphed into watered-down transportation reforms in exchange for an even bigger all-purpose tax hike. Patrick has every right to demand more non-transportation reforms if lawmakers up the tax ante. But there's part of me who thinks Patrick doesn't grasp the obfuscation game being played.
P.S. -- This is definitely a battle between the hack and progressive sides of the Hack-Progressive Alliance. History shows us they usually find a way to kiss and make up.Update II
-- From Bert:
Is it possible for Patrick to form an alliance with Therese Murray and members of the Senate in his showdown with the House? Granted there are logistical issues that prevent him from winning full victory this way, but it would publicly isolate DeLeo and his crew a bit more. And though slight, isn’t there always the perception that the Senate is more mature and collegial than the House? Again, maybe more on the federal level than the state, but I think there could be some carryover.
Now that Patrick is basically singing the same song as Murray (Reform/change before revenue) could this alliance be forming behind the scenes already? Identify and discuss past instances where this strategy has been used, paying particular attention to the effectiveness of the effort, whether broad or very narrow.
Murray sure doesn't sound like she's singing the same song as the governor. She's now humming "Legislative Preogatives," an all-time hit on Beacon Hill.
Another OT thriller
Is this series great or what?
... Paul Pierce
may have come through in the clutch. But Kendrick Perkins played his best game as a Celt and deserved last night's MVP award. ... Runner-up MVP has to go to Tommy Heinsohn, who was in full glorious Johnny Most mode last night, snarling at the refs and biased right to the last buzzer. I could have sworn I heard him yelling at the Celts when Comcast was cutting away for a commercial, "Inside, pleasssse!" -- an apparent reference to the complete breakdown of the Celts' inside offensive game in the fourth quarter. ... Well, maybe he wasn't in full Johnny Most mode
(he gets rolling around 40 seconds and hits his "yellow, dirty" stride at 1:40).
'Never been a Celtics team more deserving'
My sentiments exactly.
Portfolio magazine to close
That was fast.
... More from Portfolio's own Jeff Bercovici
. ... Portfolio was a huge journalistic success in my book -- and Michael Lewis's Wall Street piece
was an instant classic.
- 4.28.09 -- Portfolio may have been good journalistically. But John
says the business was mismanaged from beginning to end.
'Endless political warfare'
Hub Blog hasn't been very articulate on the torture/prosecution issue. So I'll let David Broder sum up my views.
The long winding road
How did we go from avoiding a toll increase to hiking the sales tax
by $900 million? Somewhere along the line, a great compromise opportunity was lost to boost the gas tax. Deval's belated 19-cents gas-tax proposal was pure overreach. Business groups' 25-cents proposal was shockingly stupid. Frightened lawmakers then ran away from anything having to do with a gas tax -- and now we're facing an all-purpose sales tax increase to partly fund transportation, state aid, the general fund, the Quinn bill, pork
etc., etc., etc.Update
Double OT thriller
You know you've watched a great game when the Celts lose and you still say, 'Wow.'
'Why has Barack Obama failed to cure swine flu?'
dares to ask the question the MSM is dodging in all its 100-days coverage.
‘Tom, you're gonna get me in trouble'
has a great piece on Menino's process-driven rise to power. The process is sort of a Government Center version of the Rose Garden strategy. It bores everyone to death. But it works.
'Read & Weep,' Part II
Re smiling-presidents-with-dictators, Brighton Reader nominates his own favorite photo: "The Evil Empire, distracted.
Was there ever a better picture of a dictator and a president?"
'We need to step back and ask ...' Part III
Some reactions to my Part II post. First, Peter Porcupine:
Mr. Hub Blog -
Your comments about the 'rush to war' reminded me of this post I wrote for Pearl Harbor Day in 2005 (it's hell being omniscient..)
Nevertheless, the first two paragraphs are germane - and I wonder if Krugman, Silverglade, et al would like to be compared to Lindbergh...
You wrote: "Hmmm. Did America prosecute FDR and others for tossing Japanese-Americans into concentration camps? Just wondering."
Ugh. Please tell me you're not recycling this lame right-wing talking point. No, America didn't prosecute FDR -- the Korematsu decision and FDR's death pretty much closed off that avenue, don't you think?
Jay, your often-irritating tendency to want to split the difference between right and left on EVERY issue isn't serving you well in this instance. There ARE instances where the left-wingers are completely correct, you know? (The same for the right-wingers.) In the case of torture, the lefties and "moralists" have got it all over the right and the torture apologists. I'm not a huge fan of "international law" and things like the ICC. But if we demonstrate to the world that we can't take out our own trash, it seems that the Euro do-gooders might be on to something. I suppose if our war criminals aren't held to account, I can find some small solace in knowing that "No Fly List" is going to take on a whole new meaning for Yoo, Addington, Cheney, and Rumsfeld.
Hey, I think the way I think. Obama seems to be having some problems too with splitting the left-right differences in this instance. ... As for FDR, I don't recall any of his former aides being prosecuted and put on the late-1940s equivalent of 'no fly list.'
'Read & Weep'
In an email slugged 'Read & Weep,' Reader No. 1 points to a column by the WSJ's Dan Henninger
, who lectures Obama about getting caught in a photo smiling with a dictator. Dan's tale of how WSJ editors once avoided getting photographed with Ferdinand Marcos got me to thinking of another president who got caught in a photo smiling with a dictator. The result of a quick Google search is at the right. (Note: I originally used an even better smiling-with-dictator photo
in this post, but replaced it due to copyright concerns.) ... More photos of presidents with dictators here
'We need to step back and ask ...' Part II
Hub Blog gives permission to readers to unplug this blog if I become as obsessive as others
on the torture/prosecution issue. ... With that said, Paul Krugman really ought to stick to economics.
He says hearings and prosecutions are needed to reclaim 'America's soul' -- and not just over torture. He also wants probes into 'the march to war.' ... Hmmm. Did America prosecute FDR and others for tossing Japanese-Americans into concentration camps? Just wondering. ... Notice how Krugman describes those who disagree with his views, i.e. they're either prissy people who dislike 'ugly' scenes or people who don't want to be reminded of their 'sins of omissions.' Harvey Silverglate
, you ought to be ashamed of yourself! ... I have this vision of Paul Krugman and Andrew Sullivan serving as judges in 'The Crucible,' sitting at a court bench, wearing their Pilgrim hats
and angrily pointing moralistic fingers at others. ...
Final note: Obama's all over the map on this one. Now he's against hearings? I don't mind getting at the truth.
But prosectutions are an entirely different matter, as that sinner Harvey Silverglate notes. ...
Liquidating Boston history, Part II
Re yesterday's Filene's post, Reader Kip points out the terrific Business History
site. Filene's history can be found here
(scroll to 1908) -- and immediately below it is a look at Abraham "Pop" Cohen's Lechmere stores. I didn't know the chain's origins traced back to the Lechmere Harness Shop. From horse-and-buggy to electronics. There's hope yet for newspapers. ... Then again, the Lechmere chain is now defunct. But it did transform itself into a viable business for nearly another 100 years. ...
Pop quiz time: What's in the photo above? Don't let the wood fool you. ... It's the first computer mouse. Lots of other cool stuff at Business History. ... FYI: When I was at the BBJ
, we put together a special and very well-received "100 Years, 100 People" supplement, celebrating the greatest Boston-area business leaders of the 20th Century. Sadly, I can't find it on the web. (That's a hint to my old colleagues, BTW.) Anyway, there was always one unintended omission in the supplement that bugged me: the Sheraton Hotels
, started in Massachusetts (scroll to 1933). But now I've discovered two omissions: The Ritz-Carlton chain (1927), also started in Boston. I always assumed the Ritz-Carlton originated in New York or Chicago. The original hotel was named after an investment firm. I didn't know that either.
'Earth Day Can Blow Me'
Suldog blows off steam on Earth Day.
… I'd have a similar reaction if the little snot refused me a pastry
'We need to step back and ask ...'
parks one on the torture/prosecution debate. The self-righteous on both sides won’t like it – which is one reason why it’s so good. … FYI: In an earlier piece
, Harvey seems to contradict himself on the prosecution issue by citing the gruesome Regina v. Dudley and Stephens
case. But the difference is that Dudley, Stephens and Brooks didn’t have lawyers scribbling legal memos from the bow of the boat to justify killing and chowing down on their lifeboat mate. …
Obama has been disappointing in all this. He initially took a common-sense and common-law approach toward the issue, condemning torture practices while resisting passionate calls to prosecute. His stance was not unlike Gerry Ford’s pardon of Richard Nixon – then an unpopular decision that many years later came to believe was indeed a wise and courageous move
. But Obama has since buckled to the self-righteous. Not exactly a profile in courage. … In Obama’s defense, I don’t see what’s wrong with the administration’s release of the torture memos. It’s not as if we didn’t already know this stuff came right from the top within the White House. ...
Liquidating Boston history
Filene's Basement may yet emerge
from bankruptcy. But its recent stores liquidation
shouldn't liquidate its corporate history. Edward Filene
and Lincoln Filene
were Boston business titans in their time -- and they rank right up there with King Camp Gillette
, Vannevar Bush
, An Wang
and Ken Olsen
as probably the most influential industry leaders of the 20th Century in Massachusetts. In addition to running an innovative discount store and playing a role in creating credit unions, workmens compensation and the Boston Chamber of Commerce, the duo also pioneered the use of charge-o-matic cards, variations of which you can still occasionally see at older stores and restaurants that haven't yet adapted to electronic-debit payments. They like their hand-cranked, carbon-copy receipts just fine. ...
'The additional insult'
Toll-paying motorists are the only ones who directly pay for the upkeep of their roads. They also pay for the upkeep of a vast new transportation network that they rarely use. They now won’t get any of the stimulus money
so free-loading motorists can continue to free-load on other people’s dimes. Only in James Aloisi’s mind does this make sense.
'When the sun rises over Hyde Park'
Hark! Look! The emperor stirs and awakens in the true land of the rising sun -- the hub of the hub of the universe! The emperor has spoken.
So it shall be. … He’ll crush his opponents. But Menino is almost surely engaging in a term too far. The signs of mold are all over City Hall. He should bolt before the feds turn their attention from Chuck to others. But he won't. …
'Concept of "shared sacrifice" goes out the window'
Ah, just take it out of the widows and orphans fund.
-- From Reader A:
What people often forget about the Quinn bill is that its educational content has reversed over the course of its history. The original law did not cover degrees in criminal justice -- the idea was that police officers should be liberally educated. Then it was changed to cover only career programs (which led directly to notorious quality problems). It's obvious, therefore, that the real purpose of the law is to provide an entitlement for its beneficiaries, not to achieve any educational result.
'Listen my children and you shall hear ...'
' ...The sound of Al chugging an 11am beer.'
... J.L. Bell
has more cool Patriots Day factoids, including the tale of captured British officer Lt. Edward Thoroton Gould. ... One thing was missing from this past holiday weekend: the obligatory debunkings
of Paul Revere myths and the anti-debunking debunkings of Paul Revere myths.
'I Was Right, The Banks Still Suck'
Meredith Whitney on the 'Great White Wash.'
... FYI: Whitney was the first to point out
that the Citigroup emperor had no clothes.Update
-- Ta da!
'Okay, Maybe The Community Reinvestment Act Is A Problem'
CRA mortgages account for 7 percent of BofA's bookings but 24 percent of the losses. It doesn't account for why pure Wall Street firms, which aren't covered by CRA regulations, collapsed last year. But the CRA is clearly playing a role in BofA's woes. ... Time to recalibrate the Perfect Economic Storm
blame factors. I'm upgrading government's national culpability quotient
back to a GF 9. It could hit GF 10 as more data comes in. Wall Street stays at a solid GF 12.
Global Warming-remedy skeptics
Not to be confused with Global Warming skeptics.
... I'll believe environmentalists are serious about global warming and our foreign-oil dependence when they embrace, albeit reluctantly, nuclear power and drilling within U.S. territory. I'm not a "drill, baby, drill" type, nor a clean-energy-is-the-only-answer type. I'm more of a "hybrid" guy. I'll let a fellow non-scientist
'Holding aloft copies of “Yankee” magazine'
Armchair Gen. Savin Hill rants about Peggy Noonan's Green Acres predictions
Peggy Noonan’s WSJ piece “Goodbye Bland Affluence" was a five-star eye-roller.
Noonan believes a sound reaction to the economic downturn is for all of us to move to a farm in Vermont.
Noonan starts her column waxing poetic about a family that has cast away all its electronic possessions and moved to a farm to grow their own food. The ability to grow vegetables in a garden seems to awe Noonan. She then reports that a friend in Manhattan is actually thinking of moving to a small town or a farm (as if he announced he’s heading up the Mekong River to form a warrior society of cannibals). ...
She says people will look scruffier too, partly because of fewer botox injections (no, I’m not kidding). She ends by predicting the new home style will be “spare… a return of an old WASP style” of good but frayed rugs and dogs like golden retrievers.
Do the elites of Washington D.C. and New York really think like this? They get a whiff of financial hardship and they all act like Red Guards of the Chinese Cultural Revolution. Only instead of holding aloft copies of Mao’s “Little Red Book” and storming universities they’re holding aloft copies of “Yankee” magazine and storming Home Depot for vegetable seed packets. What weaklings.
Hub Blog's response: Ah, the simple life.
... I'm personally anticipating a return to authentic Medford chic.Update
-- Here's a terrific piece
on Wall Street's "state of delusion." ... Hub Blog is prepared to wager everything I have, or will ever have, that less than 1 percent of these guys will end up as "homesteaders."
'Somerville historically ...'
Somerville is a finalist for All-America City.
... What? No mention of the greatest moment in Somerville history
? The day Kevin White pounded his desk in jealous fury? The day Paris civic leaders threw in the towel? The day that started the 'world class city' arms race? ...
'Clearly something went wrong'
More legalized looting.
From uncomfortable conflict of interest to larger conflict of interest
There's hope yet for the Bruins organization, Part II
And the Bruins apparently have produced a winner on the ice
'No way' for KG
During an 'EEI interview
, Doc Rivers said there's "no way" Kevin G will be ready for the playoffs. He hedged a bit. But it sounds bleak. ... I'm with Callahan: This is a huge blow, but, in a strange way, it makes me more interested in the playoffs. I like the way the Kevinless Celts have handled themselves this year. There's still a high confidence level on the team. They may not win it all. But, hopefully, they can claw their way to the Eastern Conference championship.
'Emergency staffing levels'
From Reader No. 1 on the Pike: "NECN is on to something.
Simply amazing. Governor Patrick, attention please!" ...Dan
caught the same NECN report. I saw it last night, too. It's a shame the Turnpike's "emergency staffing levels" take into account assumed sick-time abuses by workers. But an infuriating reality is an infuriating reality. One has to deal with it. LeBovidge didn't. There's a part of me who thinks he just took an "ah, fk it" approach, sort of what you say to yourself when you knowingly order one too many bourbon shots after a rough day at work.
'Someday, people will get the message'
Yeah, we got the message, Al.
... Hub Blog is really trying to be fair, agreeing with Charley
that Turnpike toll-takers aren't getting their fair share of the blame for this past weekend's Easter traffic fiasco
. But the more I hear from LeBovidge, the more convinced I am that a.) he doesn't particularly care, or doesn't care enough, what he did to thousands of fellow citizens b.) he's stubborn and doesn't get it. He keeps babbling about his "obligations" and need for "balance" and running a "business." But where the hell is his obligation and balance and business sense when it comes to the customers? He's a bean counter. It's worse than that: He's a bean counter within a crazy Turnpike system in which the math has NEVER added up. ...
It'd be nice if Deval pulled a Ronnie by issuing an air-traffic-controllers-like ultimatum to Turnpike workers before the Memorial Day weekend: Show up, or your job is forfeited and terminated. But that's expecting too much from a Democratic leader whose party is beholden to public unions. As a back-up plan, it'd be nice if the governor issued an apology to the public and waved tolls for the Memorial Day weekend. He probably won't do that either. His head bean counter would lose face. ... I'm still shaking my head. Inconveniencing motorists for a lousy $1.25 toll -- putting a Turnpike value on a motorist's time at about 31 cents an hour if they sat in traffic for four hours. But the Turnpike needed that money!Update
-- Make that 31 cents an hour (I initially had the math wrong -- proving I'm no bean counter). ... Speaking of bean counters, doesn't LeBovidge sort of remind you of Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs? A bean counter who for years didn't give a damn about the customers? Jacobs finally shook things up only after he realized that fans weren't buying as many tickets, hot dogs and $6 cups of beer. Maybe motorists will send LeBovidge a similar message on Memorial Day.
'It was all because ...'
Nice to see Alan "Let Them Buy Transponders" LeBovidge
blaming motorists for the Turnpike's budgeting/staffing incompetence. ... Margery
wonders if the Easter backup was deliberate sabatoge or incompetence. After reading LeBovidge's ridiculous blame-the-customers comments, I'm tilting toward the former. He's being too ham-handed about all this. It fits right into the Washington Monument Syndrome
pattern. ... Can't wait for the T and MBTA to be eliminated. But, wait, lawmakers are thinking of creating yet another quasi-independent board
to oversee the two bankrupt independent agencies. The governor would have 'tremendous sway' over the new Massachusetts Transportation and Infrastructure Authority. Read: Lawmakers will retain tremendous sway over patronage jobs. ... Reform before revenue? Riiiight.
'The obscure provision'
Hub Blog is desperately trying to restrain my inner-Howard Beale
after reading about yet another pension abuse
'I was shop steward … '
The Herald's Tom Mashberg
has some good advice for Globe management and unions. ... This morning's stories on the Globe's lost 'jewel in the crown' status
and lost opportunities
are fine, I guess, from a look-back perspective. But aren't they beside the point now? ... They should reread Mashberg's piece. ... Back to my cold-turkey
'The coming generation of business leaders'
Suffering from an odd Glenn Beck-like "9/12" bug, Peggy Noonan
romanticizes about past and future Wall Street leaders. Unfortunately, there's a sort of back to the future
phenomenon developing on Wall Street. I am most definitely not impressed with their "innovation" and "risk-taking" and "brash boutique firms." Their goal can be best summed up by a quote from one of them: “We have the opportunity to step into the shoes of a Bear Stearns or a Lehman.” Need I say more about their back-to-the-future intentions? ... These firms have to be regulated. Long-term Capital Management
was also once a "brash boutique firm" that, perversely, needed a bailout from some of the very same Wall Street players that later needed their own bailouts. These guys are a proven menace to capitalism. ... Glad to see many college-age youths
choosing not to go into financial-sector professions. But what's with the glorification of government jobs? From one extreme to another.Update
- 4.13.09 -- Andy Borowitz:
As the federal government moves to institute salary caps for Wall Street executives, an increasing number of assholes are seeking employment elsewhere, a study confirmed today.
'The politics of paranoia'
has a good column about the new politics of right-wing paranoia (over Obama's policies), not to be confused with the politics of left-wing paranoia (such as the we-went-into-Afghanistan-for-the-natural-gas paranoia espoused by ideologues like Michael Moore). Rick's column was accompanied, in the print edition, by an old Chicago Tribune cartoon, dating back to 1934, that compared New Dealers to Trotsky and Stalin. Sure enough, I found the cartoon on a paranoid site
. ... Someone recently asked me about Rick Lowry's take on TARP.
He's not paranoid. He's asking pretty good questions. But let's get something straight: TARP isn't the end of capitalism. It's an unfortunate reaction to the failures of an extremist Randian experiment in capitalism. We'll survive both TARP and the Randians. Too many people need to take deep breaths and calm down. ... P.S. -- I briefly ran the cartoon mentioned above. But it was too big to post.
Barbary Wars II?
... A serious showdown has developed. Local angles here
'Is there no end to the indignity?'
Do you finally see the connection between hackerama antics like pension abuses
and bloated payrolls
and the absurd cutbacks in services at the Turnpike
? Hundreds of millions of dollars being wasted at these independent agencies -- and what do they do? Turn off the Zakim lights to save $5,000 a month and plan to reduce evening trolley routes. ... When are the people in this state going to wake up? ... Michael Widmer has a quote to remember from the first link:
Is there no end to the indignity? ... I'm speechless. It's amazing. It's the entitlement and the creativity. And it's all done out of public view. They have done these things for years with a wink and a nod of the Legislature.
Ah, yes, with a 'wink and a nod of the Legislature.' Governors have come and gone over the years. But the one-party Legislature, having just celebrated its 50th anniversary, has always been the political glue keeping the hackerama together.
The national culpability quotient, i.e. the politics of blame
At least we're making progress on the financial-crisis blame-game front: Liberal Kevin Phillips
is raising Democrats' "national culpability quotient" while conservative Victor Davis Hanson
lets loose a good blame-game line:
You know we live in strange times when it's hard to figure out whether to blame big money or big government.
Both still have their ideological blinders on to a degree, particularly Victor, who seems to have problems acknowledging that Republicans played their own quasi-utopian role in deregulating markets (think of the drawling Phil Gramm singing the praise of regulation-free derivatives markets). But at least both are moving away from the dreadful "It's all the CRA's fault" or "It's all Wall Street's fault'' arguments. Much of the intellectual world is slowly moving toward acceptance of a variation of Hub Blog's groundbreaking Perfect Economic Storm The
ory, though the PES's exact culpability quotients are still being adjusted.
BTW: Phillips has more on the historic growth
of the financial sector, something Paul Krugman
once again touches upon. Phillips deserves a lot of credit for seeing this trend long before many others.
Favorite war books, Part II
Armchair Gen. Savin Hill on Tom Ricks' favorite war-books list
This seems to be a pretty good list, I can vouch for about half of these. Two of them are very high personal favorites -- "Son of the Morning Star" and "With The Old Breed". "Son Of the Morning Star" is superbly researched and filled with surprises. I think Hubblog's mention of "Company Commander" is a great choice too, and I would say if you liked "CC", you will like "With The Old Breed" -- first person accounts that are hard to equal.
I would venture to add "An Army At Dawn" by Atkinson and "Black Hawk Down". I don't think Ambrose's "Band of Brothers" however, was a better book than his "D-Day". Oh, and "A Bright Shining Lie" starts off very well, but I thought the book really rambled to a disjointed ending.
Reader Jon isn't wowed by Ricks' selection of This Kind of War
It is a good book but I wouldn't say the best on Korea.Update
Also try the histories by Joseph Goulden, Max Hastings, David Halberstam, Bruce Cummings. If you are a MacArthur apologist, be sure you read Halberstam....
-- Hub Blog asked Jon for a Korean War recommendation and here it is:
Though it is long, Joseph Goulden's Korea: The Untold Story of the War remains, I think, the best 'beginner' book on the war. Update II
Once you've got that under your belt, if you still have an appetite for Korea, I'd go with David Halberstam's The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War.
Beware starting with Halberstam's book, though. He is a very good writer and The Coldest Winter is an engaging book. However, he goes very, very quickly over the last half of the war. He is not the only author to do this; many books on Korea spend far more time on 1949-spring 1951 than they do on spring 1951 to the amistice. If you want to get to know the Korean War, you really need to go to Goulden first.
-- From Peter Porcupine:
I can’t stand it. I was going to let the military books meme go by, but with all the great suggestions, the greatest is still missing.
'Quartered Safe Out Here' by George MacDonald Fraser (better known for his brilliant 'Flashman' series of books) is about his service in Burma, and is perhaps the best book about war since Bill Mauldin wrote 'Up Front'. and hey, how ABOUT Bill Mauldin?
Hub Blog's reponse: The lists are about U.S.
military history, so Peter's first book wouldn't have been on any of the lists. Mauldin, though, is quintessentially American and a good recommendation. His cartoons are addictive.
'This isn’t Johnny Depp and ‘Pirates of the Caribbean '
Nothing like an old-fashioned
, high-seas pirate drama
to temporarily knock aside the top “nonstarter”
news of the week. …
Best news of the day
Cheap keg wine on tap.
... Massachusetts' liquor industry, I'm sure, will find a way to ban it and/or keep prices high, thanks to our no-reforms-before-our-time
-- Reader A on keg wine and an off-subject pun:
1. Keg wine on tap -- Same principle as box wine ("casks") -- great for red especially -- an OK Australian red served at room temperature is better than a much pricier wine left over and served too cold from the refrigerator.
2. A prominent Beacon Hill lobbyist remarks the Dianne Wilkerson should be indicted for "underwire fraud."
Favorite war books
Hey, who’s this Tom Ricks guy
putting out a list of his favorite U.S. war books
? He ought to stick to writing war books, leaving favorite war-related lists to us bar pros
. … Obviously, his list is quite good. No surprise. I’ve read some of them – and want to dive into Thunder Below
and This Kind of War
, both on his reading list.
I’d add my own small list of suggestions: Bruce Catton’s Grant series (Grant Moves South
and Grant Takes Command
), Charles McDonald’s Company Commander
, and Neil Sheehan’s A Bright Shining Lie
. I’d love to include Robert Grave’s Good-bye to All That
, but extending the list beyond U.S. military history might lead to spitting matches like this
BTW - Ricks’ own The Gamble
, which I’m just finishing, is a mini-classic for describing how intellectually hard it is for military institutions to recognize and replace flawed strategy, tactics and leaders. The same applies to just about any institution, though not nearly on the bloody, high-stakes level of an army at war. … BTW II: Ricks, at his blog
, might have the title for his third book on Iraq – The Unraveling
. You can also read his “memo to the ale-addled hacks of Sunday Times of London.”
'I didn’t see who had the gun'
I know I'm hopelessly late to the shotgun-wedding story
, but how can this crazy lifestyle not effect Tom's play?Update
-- Switching sports gears, a New Jersey mathematician
calculates the Sox will make the playoffs this year. His record isn't exactly impressive. Two industries that academic mathematicians should stay away from during these trying times: Professional sports and Wall Street.
Establishment to the rescue
OK, I'm all Globed out, and I'm going cold-turkey on the subject after this. But first: A small mutiny
is under way against union management, many of whom have lifetime contracts
at the Globe. ... I'm with Jack Shafer
: No to government and non-profits. Let the chips fall where they may. The thought that the establishment
is riding to the rescue should be more than a little embarrassing to journalists. ... A colleague recently asked me if I’m serious about wanting to keep Boston a two-newspaper town. Short answer: Yes. My oh-so noble instincts are similar to Jules'
. But I'm not going to say there's no trace of not-so-noble competitive schadenfreude, especially when I see some of the asinine ideas out there to save newspapers. ... Finally, from Reader Rich on the numbers:
I also agree with your "mix of 2 and 4" assessment, though I think most of the weight is on 2. After all, as NYT and Globe favorite Rahm Emmanuel said, you don't want to waste a crisis. Here's a chance for the NYT to jettison lots of financial dead weight. They'd be crazy to waste the chance.
BTW: Thanks to Kevin
for having me on his 'RKO show Sunday night. It was a lot of fun.Update
-- My cold-turkey therapy starts immediately after this: Eileen McNamara rips into the Times
Who is Young Arthur to lecture the union workers of The Boston Globe about fiscal responsibility? ...
From the moment The Times Co. purchased The Globe in 1993 it has treated New England’s largest newspaper like a cheap whore. It pimped her out for profit during the booming 1990s and then pillaged her when times got tough.
Sorting out the numbers
Obviously, there a lot of scenarios/theories out there concerning the NYT’s ultimatum to the Globe. Hub Blog tries to sort some of them out:
Scenario 1: The $85 million loss estimate is largely accurate. It’s possible. Other papers are losing big bucks. But why is the Times asking for only $20 million in concessions? Doesn’t that leave a $65 million gap? The $85 million - $20 million = $65 million formula may well be true. But the numbers logically don’t make sense from a close-the-gap standpoint.
Scenario 2: The $85 million is largely accurate but irrelevant to the immediate concerns. The real goal is to get the $20 million in lucrative benefits (such as 400-plus “lifetime” jobs) off the books before proceeding forward, whether it’s for pure survival, a possible sale/managed-bankruptcy or just common-sense financial reasons during a crisis. … FYI: Some or all of the $20 million could be tied to the $100 million in liabilities John
was talking about. Who knows?
Scenario 3: The $85 million is inaccurate for whatever combination of reasons (negotiating tactics, past cuts are included, bad revenue estimates etc). But you still have to go under the assumption that there are heavy losses and liabilities – and that there will be more cuts even after concessions. The $20 million figure looks like a time buyer.
Scenario 4: The $85 million, $20 million, $65 million, $100 million may be accurate or inaccurate – but exact figures are not the point right now. The bottom line: The Globe is losing money and the Sulzbergers want to be able to say they did everything possible to save the Globe. Or, more accurately: They don’t want to be remembered for killing off the Globe. So they’re just muddling along, hoping for a miracle as they put off the day of reckoning. The paper will probably be around in 30 days. But what about a year from now? How much longer can the Times endure the trend-line losses? Who will buy the paper? Who wants to own it?
My best guess is we’re looking at a weird combination of Scenarios 2 and 4.
'That 85 million dollar annual loss figure'
A reader and former Globester, who shall be known as ExGlobieInTheNickOfTime (his suggestion), writes in to question the NYT's numbers and/or sanity:
That 85 million dollar annual loss figure: 85 million dollars is paying a little over 1,200 people $70,000 a year. $70,000 is probably a good average Globe pay number to use -- it's where most Guild jobs top out, you've got slave-wage webheads and classified ad ladies below that, and higher paid content creators and Teamsters and pressmen above.
The Globe employs 1,400 people.
You are telling me that The New York Times Co. is saying you could lay off 6/7ths of the staff at the newspaper .. and it would STILL lose money?? Are you (really) (joshing) me? And if you are losing the equivalent of 1,200 people's salaries every year, WTF with asking for 50 FTE scalps from the newsroom? Why aren't you asking for 300, plus outsourcing every ad taker and customer service rep to India and having Dow Jones print the paper in Chicopee?? There has got to be something really wrong with 85 million dollars in annual losses ... Either the number is crap, or if it's close to true, it indicates the entire Globe business is crap, and what the heck has the NYT Co. been doing with the Globe for the last several years?
A bigger picture question: Has The New York Times Co. ever given any indication it has any idea WHY it bought the Globe for a billion dollars? Any strategic vision or purpose for it? They use the Globe presses to print the New England NYT, and they've probably done some back-office consolidation of billing and payroll and advertising, but what else? The current fiasco smells like the end result of 15 years of clueless neglect ... like buying a very expensive car and then never changing the oil.
Hub Blog used a back-of-the-envelope $250,000
for each job (including health care, pensions, various other expenses beyond just salaries). But we're both painting the same picture. Cut $250,000 in half and you're talking 680 jobs to close a $85 million hole.
Of course the NYT's shutdown ultimatum to the Globe is a negotiating ploy.
But what type of ploy? A straight-forward ploy that tells it like it is? A ploy to cut costs before one last attempt to sell it? A ploy to get an astounding 430 "lifetime" jobs
off the parent company's books before a closure? A ploy to buy time while management figures out what the hell to do? Etc., etc. ...
Oh, no, here it comes: bailout talk
. Only $60 billion over three years to implement what sure looks like a BBC-like model for the entire industry. My short answer: No. ... But you read self-serving odes to thyself
and you wonder if Reader No. 1 isn't right about whether there's a move afoot to prod others to prod others for help. ... Yes, there's a mutinous mood
over at Morrissey Boulevard. But the unions will largely comply. They have no choice. The odds are the Globe will be limping along after the ultimatum deadline. ... Reader A on Boston.com:
The Globe's boston.com website (though less of a "stand-alone" than the Herald's, and in that sense less advanced) is very widely read -- 6th last time I looked, behind NYT, USA Today, WSJ, WaPo, LAT. My guess is that the Globe's relatively extensive coverage of cultural/intellectual/academic stories, along with sports, is a major attractor on the web. This makes the Globe and the Times head-to-head competitors on the web in a way that they aren't in print, which seems problematic.
BTW: First Alan Mutter link via Dan
, who has lots more on The Ultimatum.Update
has more on the Globe's prospects. He thinks a bankruptcy might be the only option.
In an email slugged “Survivor: Boston,” Reader No. 1 weighs in on the Globe. My points follow. Reader No. 1:
Don't take it the wrong way if I say it would be a supreme irony for the Herald to be the survivor in a one-paper Boston - given the persistent financial challenges, and the overwhelming cultural disadvantages, beneath which the Herald staff labors. Not to mention the irony that the United States is now led by people who almost certainly read the Globe on a regular basis in their intellectually formative years (*that* should give us all pause)... 5 points:
1- The gut says the Globe gets enough union concessions, and staff reductions, to avoid the latest threat (no doubt prodded along by 'helpful' local business and political types aware of jobs, ad revenues, and regional reputational effects). But as a wise senior person used to say to me, "nobody ever cut their way to greatness."
2- I spend a lot of time with educated, affluent, well-travelled and cultured people both well-established in their professions, and those just starting out. From a periodic perusal of the paper, these groups would appear to be Globe's target audience (well, there's one more - see point 3 below). I see the Globe delivered every day in my workplace, but I can't recall ever seeing anyone actually reading the paper. More often than not, an intact Globe goes into the recycle bin the day after publication. Most folks go to the web (if they read the Globe at all - see point 4 below).
3- I have wondered for some time what the Globe circulation would look like absent the 2004 and 2007 World Series and, to a far lesser extent, the three Patriot Superbowls. ...
4- Back when I was a Globe subscriber, I used to get many aggressive calls to add the NYT daily, and I always wondered why would I want to read both of these papers - especially given the Globe's long-time ambitions to national and international coverage, to say nothing of the common cultural tilt in both papers. ...
5- I would like to see some circulation data on the Globe outside of the Boston/Cambridge/Brookline belt. My guess is that urban-centric features in the IDEAS section like this and this don't do much for circulation in our leafy burbs... to say nothing of the daily cultural/political monotony pervading everything but Sports, Autos and Real Estate (the latter 2 sections where the advertisers live). The Internet aside, you can also draw a line between this cultural problem and "The ad revenues have fallen off the cliff".
Is there any of that bailout money left? Has anyone called the White House yet?
Hub Blog's response: Some good points, especially the supreme irony and gut-instinct parts. But here's my main point: You can't put the Internet aside. The migration of classifieds to Craig's List wasn't caused by cultural biases in newspapers. It was caused by a game-changing technology. The same game-changing technology has changed so much else within the industry, such as why so many of the Globe's natural-target audience, as mentioned in point #2, have headed to the web, etc. etc. etc. Sorry, I don't buy the cultural-problem arguments.Update
-- Reader No. 1 responds:
Craigslist is here, and popular, because people find it practical. If you take away a practical reason to buy the paper (ads), you are left with the 1-news, 2-editorial content, and 3-sports. The first two are largely indistinguishable in the Globe. So why should someone pay $14 a month to read stuff with which they largely disagree? (Spend more time in the Northern and Southern suburbs and I think you will see the validity of the cultural argument - somebody needs to be out measuring it. Radio ratings would be a good place to look - and in fairness, they need to include NPR listeners.)
Speaking of 3-sports and radio, a little travel down memory lane recalling how the Globe surgically extracted itself from local sportsradio. Ah, for the days of moral certitude.
Apparently Larry's Citi jet-setting
was just the tip of the iceberg
of his ties to Citigroup, JP Morgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch, etc. etc.
Hub Blog was out of the loop last night and, so, you can imagine my utter shock when this morning I read this
, then this
, then this
, then this
, then this
about the NYT's dramatic shutdown ultimatum to the Globe.
My thoughts are kind of scattered right now, but here are some quick observations:
1.) The $20 million in concessions will only buy time if there's still a $65 million budget gap. The projected $65 million in losses is not sustainable. John
points to the dire action the NYT may have to take to save its flagship.
The loss forecasts might improve, a bit, if economic recovery comes sooner than expected. But don't count on recovery reversing the long-term trend.
2.) My mind drifts back to this article
and this article
about the broken business model for content delivery.
3.) The recent debate over whether the Globe is worth $20 million or $200 million is moot. The business itself, as of today, is worth $0. Z-E-R-O. The same applies to many other papers. The properties that they sit on are a different matter. Their online holdings are also worth something, but those models are dependent on content from the print side. The values of online products, as a result, are hard to estimate.
4.) After it was first revealed a number of months ago that the Globe was losing $1 million a week, I initially wouldn't/couldn't believe it. I confided to a couple of colleagues and friends it must have been a reference to the loss of value per week, not operating losses. I later learned I was wrong when a reliable source bluntly told me, 'Believe it.' The projected losses are now $1.6 million a week. After concessions, the projected losses are $1.25 million a week. The situation is getting worse, not better.
5.) I want a two-newspaper town. I did so when it looked like the Herald might go down first. I do so today when it looks like, somewhat incredibly, the Globe might be the first to shut its doors.
6.) It's a sad, shocking day.Update
makes a good point about one of my points, i.e. it may not be as simple as $85 million - $20 million = $65 million. Who know what the numbers are and what they're counting? That's one of the things the unions will be demanding to see. But think of it this way, using a back-of-the-envelope method: $85 million divided by $250,000 (average cost per job; that may be high or low) = 340 jobs. I don't think they've cut nearly that much in the most recent round(s). There's still a huge gap, if the NYT's stated numbers are accurate.
'Blagojevich's interest in running for President'
You gotta read this 14-page press release
(pdf) accompanying the indictment of Blago. It's mind-numbing charge after charge of Krusty-the-Clown-like corruption. Blago's interest in the presidency is casually dropped during a plane-ride conversation about how easy it is for governors to shakedown contractors -- as Blago's traveling show headed to New York for a fundraiser. Every pilot, stewardess and bag handler was probably a fed agent.
Greed or stupidity -- not both, not, Part II
, chairman of the conservative Manhattan Institute, tries to explain to fellow conservatives the birds-and-bees of the Wall Street meltdown:
It's true that monetary policy was too lax for too long, and the government encouraged lending to people who were unlikely to repay their loans. But this crisis was primarily caused by managements and individuals throughout the financial system who exercised extremely poor judgment. The private sector, not the public sector, is where the biggest mistakes were made.
He also notes how the "warped incentives and compensation schemes fueled the risk-control failures that eventually brought on the crisis we face today." Doesn't sound like pure stupidity at work, right? ... But it does sound like Hub Blog's groundbreaking Perfect Economic Storm Theory
, though I'm thinking of downgrading Socialism's role to a Gale Force 8 while keeping Wall Street at a GF 12
. I'm also toying with substituting "government" for "socialism." The Phil Gramms played their own non-socialist government role in this mess, as Tim Geithner now admirably admits
Note: I briefly had the Singer piece as an update below. Decided to break it out and bump it up into a separate post. It's important for in-denial conservatives to read.Update
-- Bill Kristol
Singer and others can point us to a path very different from Obama-like nanny-state liberalism, but also different from head-in-the-sand-everything-was-fine-except-for-the-Community-Reinvestment-Act conservatism.
Greed or stupidity -- not both, not
makes the unconvincing case that the financial crisis was caused either by greed or stupidity -- not both. He chooses stupidity. But that begs the question: Why were banks so stupid? It wasn’t because they loved algorithms too much. ... There's a potential third component at work: criminal intent. See post immediately below.
P.S. - Paul Krugman
, an expert on international trade, explains China’s self-made dollar problem.
'A Ponzi scheme plain and simple'?
A stunning conclusion
about AIG by IRA:
In fact, our investigation suggests that by the time AIG had entered the (credit default swap) fray in a serious way more than five years ago, the firm was already doomed. No longer able to prop up its earnings using reinsurance because of growing scrutiny from state insurance regulators and federal law enforcement agencies, AIG's foray into CDS was really the grand finale. AIG was a Ponzi scheme plain and simple, yet the Obama Administration still thinks of AIG as a real company that simply took excessive risks. No, to us what the fraud Bernard Madoff is to individual investors, AIG is to the global financial community.
I’ve now seen it all
: A big-spending Texas pol is warning about a big-spending Chicago politician. ... Now how do you think Karl learned about Saul Alinsky's personalize-and-polarize-it tactic?Update
-- After extensive psycho-analysis, I think I'm a Blue Dog
The Blue Dogs have no ideological objection to government. They support such Obama priorities as health-care reform. They just want them paid for.
And Blue Dogs hold undisguised contempt for recent Republican conversions to fiscal rectitude.
Brighton Reader thinks he’s found a blogosphere doomsday machine if it’s ever activated:
I am reluctant to cite anything dated April 1, but Wrong Tomorrow seems real.
In the course of this post, he creates a term that I love: "financial astrology."
Can't think of a better way to describe all the theories and equations of wealth creation that dominated stock market analysis.
But holding pundits, bloggers, and opinionators, not to mention the head of the Federal Reserve, accountable for their predictions? It will destroy the Blogosphere!
. … Filling positions isn't necessarily the problem, though, you know, it'd be nice if some positions were left vacant
during a budget crisis. The problem is the salaries. But I guess green venture capitalists don’t come cheap. They probably think they’re working at bargain-basement prices. … Moseying on over to our if-we’re-going-down-we’re-taking-others-with-us cousins
NOW THAT we don't have Marian Walsh to kick around anymore, how about kicking around the larger issue of secretive state agencies stocked with richly paid executives who answer to practically no one?
BTW: Couldn’t resist again. Cartoon via Herald Holbert
every hammer blow
. Now the question moving forward is: What do they do moving forward? The Duke II option simply isn't an option at this point. Another blatant patronage stunt like the Walsh appointment will cripple this administration. They need to convey to their fellow Beacon Hill Democrats to back off their constant patronage 'cooperation' demands. But I doubt legislative Dems get it. They've probably concluded that a different combination of hack tricks is all that's needed, i.e. less 'amateurism.' Knowing the please-sir-may-I-have-another Massachusetts electorate, they're probably right. ...
'Much of it with a sectarian edge'
Maybe it's a little too early to get nervous, but things ain't looking good in Iraq again.
... I'm now about halfway through Tom Rick's 'The Gamble,'
and I have nothing but admiration for those who developed and implemented the surge's counterinsurgency strategy. It succeeded, in the short run, beyond anyone's wildest expectations. It was an against-the-odds effort that makes you feel proud. But, in the long run, the enemies have always been time and a fractured Iraqi society. We'll learn over the next year or so whether the surge gave Iraqis enough time.
'Some of the same concerns'
Reading about Eric H. Holder
overriding advice that the D.C. voting bill is unconstitutional, Hub Blog immediately thought of another past administration that regularly ignored advice about constitutional matters. Does the Obama administration really want to go down this road?Update
-- A reader emailed to say the D.C.-voting issue is more complicated than my Obama-Bush comparison, noting that Ken Starr, of all people, thinks the D.C. bill is both constitutional and proper
'This crisis is not a crisis of capitalism'
French President Nicolas Sarkozy
has more up his sleave than he’s acknowledging (i.e. global governance), but he does articulate the problem well:
This crisis is not a crisis of capitalism but the breakdown of a system that drifted away from capitalism's most fundamental values.
G-20 leaders would do well to listen to him.