The engine of future Chinese economic development: Potatoes.
… Is there nothing potatoes can’t do?
'Right now, Charlie, you’re still nobody'
Charlie, Charlie, Charlie.
You looked so good on paper.
'Closed. Gone to try and get a visa'
This is insane.
They arrive here legally. Establish a business. Pay taxes. Obey the law. And then they get kicked out for no good reason. ...
‘Art did the darndest things …’
explains how Art Linkletter could mine humor but couldn’t tell a joke if his life depended on it. … Its opposite is asking Bill Murray
to be a serious actor
while still being Bill Murray. It’s not quite there. … One of my favorite discussions about the art of humor came via Tony Randall, who once marveled how bad an actor Howard Cosell was and yet how funny he was on The Odd Couple. The writers strove to turn Cosell’s colossal ego and bad acting upside down, so he thought he was being funny when he wasn’t funny, and that’s what made it so funny. His Odd Couple performances
have withstood the test of time. …
it – and he
. … You gotta love a guy who thanks God for humility and then compares himself to Atlas. … Orlando’s Matt Barnes
on the Celts moving forward: “They definitely got everything it takes and we wish them good luck.” … They got it all right. Celts in 6, no matter whom they face in the finals. The Lakers are the obvious villain of choice to dispatch. The Celts also match up better against the Lakers than they do against the Suns, whose all out run-and-shoot style is scary from an old-legs match-up standpoint.
'The political end of the president'
Going on gut instinct, I don't see or feel the disgusted outrage over the BP/Gulf disaster. It's more like resigned sadness. ... Has the president blown it? From a PR and political standpoint, yes. From a technical standpoint, no. He was right to lean heavily on BP because there's no federal Department of Blown Oil-Well Caps -- not yet anyway.
'On the edge'
Who's on the edge? The Celts? Or the fan base? Answer: Both. A nightmare
scenario is unfolding
. The Celts are now riddled with big-guy injuries and a probable suspension going into Game 6. ... The most telling statistic: 31. That's how many points the Magic made in the first quarter. The key to Celtics' previous wins was defense in the early minutes, allowing them to build up a lead before games tightened up. Now they're tight at the start, allowing the Magic to pull away at the end. The Celts tomorrow night probably won't have their full contingent of big guys tag-teaming an increasingly more confident Dwight. It doesn't look good. Not good at all. ...
Doc recently said that Nate Robinson would win a game for the Celts before the playoffs were done. Tomorrow night would be nice, Nate. Tomorrow night. But I'm not counting on it.
President Obama will regret this
President Obama is going to regret this one
for two reasons: 1.) It may not be a Celts-Lakers finals. 2.) If there is a Celts-Lakers final, I’m going with the Celts in six games again. … I was feeling a little melancholy going into the Celts game tonight. But now the Lakers are in a real dog fight
with the Suns. Assuming the Celts win tonight, Friday or Sunday, they’ll get a good pre-series rest no matter what. If they somehow lose the Magic series, well, Trader Danny will have found his excuse to let Ray go. …
The capitalist disconnect
Re Fat Finger Thursday
A Bloomberg Businessweek investigation into those harrowing minutes revealed the extent to which the market is now dominated by quick-draw traders who have no intrinsic interest in the fate of companies or industries. Instead, these former mathematicians and computer scientists see securities as a cascade of abstract data. They direct their mainframes to sift the information flows for minute discrepancies, such as when futures contracts fall out of sync with related underlying stocks. High-frequency traders (HFTs), as they're known, set an astonishing pace. On May 6, 19 billion shares were bought and sold; as recently as 1998, 3 billion shares constituted a very busy day.
In other words, forget about the quaint notion that Wall Street capitalism is about efficiently allocating money to growing businesses that need it. Those days are gone.
The potential for Probation lawsuits
Re Hacko Jacko O’Brien possibily suing
the state: Let him. Anyone can file a suit. But it's actually Probation workers who didn’t get jobs, promotions, etc. who have a better chance of filing landmark suits against O’Brien and the state, if they hire a sharp enough constitutional lawyer who understands the Supreme Court’s 1990 anti-patronage ruling.
… I truly hope someone files a big, fat class-action lawsuit as a result of the Hacko Jacko-Probation fiasco. Not all non-hacks could sue under the Rutan decision
(see summary here
). But O’Brien’s alleged patronage splurge was so gross and widespread, there’s bound to be potential qualified plaintiffs under Rutan. … Tim Cahill
says patronage occurs everywhere. Good. So let’s root it out. Repeat: Patronage at the non-managerial level has been found to be unconstitutional.
‘We are now officially in the era of cheap content creation’
AOL is still touting
its do-it-cheap journalism. … A few years from now, I just don’t see newspaper publishers slapping their foreheads and exclaiming, ‘That was always the mysterious business-model key! Paying reporters ever-lousier salaries!’ … Not that they’re not trying it now. … More on the Brave New World of journalism here
Doc would throw a fit if he heard one of his players so much as muttering the phrase. But I'm not one of his players. ... The Celts. What can you say? They are absolutely crushing
the Magic into dust. One more game. Remember the Bruins. Focus on tomorrow. Don't get cocky. Blah, blah, blah. But you know what everyone is going to be thinking and chanting tomorrow night at the TD Garden.
‘The Probation Department’s friends in the Legislature’
The Globe Spotlight Team takes a very thorough look
at the patronage-infested Department of Probation. … But wait! Howie has a late-breaking update
. You see, there’s this probation officer, the son and grandson of judges/legislators and a legislator-wannabe mom, and he got arrested Thursday outside the home of a guy connected to a heroin bust. Take it away Taunton Daily Gazette
After searching Lawton and his Acura, police found several hypodermic needles, a .22-caliber pistol and 30 pills from eight different prescription medications. They also noticed particles of marijuana on the floor of the car and a piece of cigarette filter, often used, police said, for injecting heroin.
Remember: He’s innocent until proven guilty. … Hats off to Jack Sullivan and Bruce Mohl
and the Boston Foundation
for prior digging into the Probation Department. … Two other nauseating tidbits: 1.) Rep. Thomas M. Petrolati, who has put a long list of hacks on the PD payroll, hasn’t faced an election opponent since 2000. Our glorious one-party state. Isn’t it swell? 2.) Tom Finneran, who last decade engineered the Legislature’s effective takeover of the Department of Probation, is actually quoted as saying the following:
If you scan a list of probation officers, there might be sons and daughters of politicians and judges there. That’s not going to go away. And, honestly, I don’t think it should. They shouldn’t be excluded because of the achievements of their parents.
With an attitude like that, no wonder lawmakers are resisting this reform idea
'Massive incumbent protection program'
Our new Praetorian Guards
. Beneficiaries of the Established Order. Defenders of the Established Order. … See post below about the Established Order they've sworn to uphold.
‘Padded Pensions Add to New York Fiscal Woes'
I especially liked the chart
showing how public-sector employees now get both better pay and pensions compared to those in the private sector -- and keep in mind the comparison is to private-sector firms that still have pensions. The vast majority of private-sector companies no longer provide pensions. So the gap between public- and private-sector workers is much greater than the chart suggests. ... Shouldn't we stop referring to them as "public servants" and just admit we've allowed them to become our "public masters"? Don't you love the fact that they don't pay state or local taxes in retirement while the rest of us do?Update
-- Reader No. 1 writes in:
More public sector stories. In WSJ - Mort Zuckerman (subscription) and John Fund (no subscription required). Update II
And on a distantly indirectly related topic, these thoughts by Walter Russell Mead on the future of the UK.
-- Just read the Walter Russell Mead piece linked immediately above. It's really a brilliant essay on Britain's foreign policy moving forward re Europe, the European Union and the U.S.
The Celts: Starting to believe (knock on wood)
These were exactly my fears
going into last night’s Celts game:
To an extent, just the thought of four straight wins made Celtics coach Doc Rivers nervous. During the regular season, the Celtics got drunk off just one or two shots of success, short winning streaks followed by catastrophic losses.But
In the last week, they rendered the Cavaliers powerless, and after a Game 1 win over the Magic in the Eastern Conference finals opener, Rivers knew it would be easy for his team to feel too good about itself.
… It’s why I’m beginning to – knock on wood – believe they can go all the you-know-what. Don’t forget the Bruins. Don’t forget Mr. Hyde
. Don’t forget their crummy home record during the regular season. But …
The unfolding euro drama
Here are two excellent primers on the economic and political drama now unfolding in Europe: 1.) The political history
of the euro. 2.) The probable Greek domino effect
on the rest of Europe. … The magnitude of the financial problems facing the developed world, including the U.S., is simply stunning. … Both pieces via RCM
'Tim Cahill never defined himself,' Part II
Forget all the fancy theories about why Cahill is currently tanking. Reader A says in an email that Cahill's fate was sealed a long time ago:
Tim Cahill's biggest mistake was running as an independent. Generations of Massachusetts political wisdom tells us that if you're a "regular" Democrat taking on a reformer, you do it in the primary -- especially if you have an Irish name. You run as an independent when you're going after unenrolled voters, but they aren't Cahill's base.
Here's another piece of old-time wisdom: If the opposing party is split, that's good for you, so just let them fight it out. The Republican governors evidently don't know this.
If Patrick can pull this out based on superior political savvy, what would that say about the other guys?
The Celts' gridiron classic, Part II
In an email, Bert offers yet another football analogy:
Dwight Howard may suffer the same fate as LeBron at the hands of the Celtics hyped-up playoff defense. The Magic may still win the series, but the Celtics have the ability to make teams suffer for their victories.
Trouble for Howard and Van Gundy is that they couldn’t even go to school on what the Celts did to the Cavs. It’s going to be an entirely different scheme to attack the big guy.
When is someone going to make more of a connection between Rivers and Belichick? In the oft-replayed Rivers timeout speech at the end of Game 5 in Cleveland, he was yelling two things: Do your job and win as a team. Doesn’t this sound familiar? I won’t get into Rondo as early Brady, Garnett as Moss or other comparisons. But it would be a fun parlor game. And what about Rivers-Thibodeau as Parcells-Belichick?
The Celts' gridiron classic
Hub Blog was initially a little distressed that the victorious Celts
blew a big lead yesterday. But the ability to blow a lead
was the essence of the Celts win. The game was decided in the first three quarters. … Ray Allen
was definitely MVP. But the real battle was fought underneath the basket. One play stands out. Vince Carter was at the line with 9 seconds to go. He deliberately missed the second free throw, allowing Jameer Nelson to sneak in with a big follow-up score to bring the game within two. The replays focused on how Nelson did it. But the replays also showed Rasheed smashing into the scrum, his two forearms up and extended, like an old-fashioned offensive lineman plowing back an opponent on the scrimmage line. It was a blatant foul by a factor of ten. It wasn’t even basketball. It was football. The officials didn’t catch it. It was great. The Celts mugged and manhandled the Magic like that all game.
'Tim Cahill never defined himself'
One of Tim Cahill's problems
: He let others
define him. Howie
also has some sharp observations on Cahill and the gubernatorial race. ...
Still, Cahill's demise was supposed to mainly benefit Charlie Baker. It hasn't. The numbers don't add up. Part of the reason is due to Charlie's truly awful campaign
. Part is due to Deval running a solid campaign. Some of it can also be attributed to a possible breaking of the anti-incumbent fever
here. But other things could be at play: 1.) Dissatisfied Dem hacks are returning to the Dem fold, sensing they better get back on the good side of a probable winner. 2.) Tea Partiers, some of whom have had a strange attraction to Cahill, aren't peeling back toward the moderate Baker, no matter how much he poses as a conservative. 3.) Some Independents aren't as furious at Deval as thought (his small pension reforms and stands against public unions have helped with Independents). ... Deval is still quite vulnerable. A strong third-candidate run by Cahill remains critical to his success. But he's now within 5 points of a majority. That's pretty impressive, considering the state's high unemployment rate and all his first-term blunders.
This is too much
. BP is now thinking of cramming down plastic cubes, knotted rope, even golf balls to stuff up the gulf oil leak. … Maybe concerned citizens can launch drives to collect old rags?
P.S. - Had the wrong link earlier. All fixed.
Sickening symmetry of epic proportions
Down three games, the Flyers came back. Down three goals, the Flyers came back. They win the series 4-3 by winning the seventh game 4-3. It really is a sickening symmetry
of epic proportions
. … I know the Bruins suffered critical injuries. But the way they lost last night was stunning. … Each year, Hub Blog, who isn’t a big hockey fan, usually calls up some die-hard Bruins-fan friends to gently tease them about the Bruins’ latest choke. But I’m not going to do it this year. This one hurts too much. …
'Our government is the worst loan shark in history'
As usual, Jon Stewart says it best.
... My earlier rant on Wall Street's amazing first-quarter hitting streak is here
LeBron this, LeBron that
: We're the only city in America talking about the Celts winning the series
. ... Yes
, "nearly lost in the Cavaliers’ shocking early exit" is the fact that a team written off as too old played like veteran champs. ... Let's savor the series victory and not think too much about Dwight Howard, the true monster of the NBA, not LeBron.
Rigged-market theory: A home run every time at bat
Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase and possibly Citigroup all made money every single trading day
last quarter. Not one day of trading losses. Not one. Four banks. For an entire quarter. A home run every time at bat. Jonathan Weil calculates the odds of that happening under normal trading conditions. But we’re not living
under normal conditions. We’re literally printing money and loaning it to “too big to fail banks” at such super-low interest rates that even a blind orangutan could make a buck trading. But Weil says that still doesn’t account for the banks’ amazing juiced-up trading averages. I’ll let him explain. Hint: It has something to do with Pretend Capitalism. … P.S. – Good ol’ Uncle Warren. No wonder why he invested in Goldman Sachs.
Deval is pulling ahead
in the most recent polls. Two reasons for the surge: 1.) He's running an excellent campaign. 2.) The divided opposition. ...
They booed LeBron?
. ... I'm not sure I like this. It could fire him up. Combined with the possible return of the Mr. Hyde Celtics, it could be a deadly combination tomorrow night. ... But enough with my pessimism. Game 6 MVP: D-E-F-E-N-S-E. It was simply outstanding. Last night was a textbook case on how it wins games. The TV people did a great job, via replays, showing how the Celts employed a multi-level defensive system, with all sorts of subtle traps, to stymie LeBron and the Cavs, who just couldn't figure it out. The game was a joy to watch.Update
-- A reader/friend mentioned that I shouldn't forget all the 'strategic fouls.' It's true. Anytime the Cavs penetrated the C's outer defense, they were hacked to death under the basket. It's how the game should be played.Update II
-- From Bert:
Sitting on the bench in the fourth quarter, LeBron didn’t look angry, frustrated or even matter of fact. He looked confused. Do you ever remember Bird, Magic, Jordan or even Kobe looking that way? I don’t. I still think he’s the best player in the game. But there’s a question about his ability to deal with adversity, with finding the balance Jordan ultimately did between carrying a team to victory and leading a team to victory. Or is it just that he doesn’t have his Pippen yet?
Analysts last night on espn skewered his lack of emotion and interest and questioned why he never tried to shake himself out of it. Made me think of Hagler beating himself on the head during the Leonard fight.
The problem with Elena
There are some really sharp pieces out there on President Obama's nomination of Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court. I'd recommend Margery
's criticism of the Ivy League Court, David Brooks's
observations on the Organization Kid, Andrew Sullivan's
blast against the 'purity of careerism,' Dan Kennedy's
concerns about her First Amendment views, and Harvey Silverglate and Kyle Smeallie's
analysis of her stands on executive power (via Dan). ... For all her brilliance and charm, Kagan is ultimately a banal pick. A strict comparison to Harriet Miers
is unfair. But there are parallels, starting with the fact they were both White House insiders when tapped for the court.
'How different, really, is the United States?'
The answer to the question when it comes to our debt compared to Greece's debt: Not much different.
Though I agree with the general premise of the story, the we're-all-to-blame narrative -- and the singling out of Social Security and Medicare -- is highly annoying. Medicare is clearly broken and out of control. But Social Security? The primary reason Social Security is in trouble is because Congress has already spent collected Social Security revenues that were supposed to be set aside in a "lock box," as Al Gore famously used to call it. Now Congress doesn't want to pay back the IOUs. Now lawmakers are talking about 'reforms' to 'fix' Social Security, i.e. they're going to change benefits to balance the books they screwed up. Here's a 100-percent guaranteed prediction: Social Security will be 'reformed' long before there any substanative 'reforms' to the bloated public-sector pension systems. Private-sector workers, the vast majority of whom heavily rely on Social Security for their retirement, will once again get shafted. ...
... Joel writes in about the 'We can't finance our social model anymore' post below:
Such debts are unsustainable as long as hedge fund managers get to pay at the 15% rate same as burger-flippers and pizza-deliverers. As long as big corporations get sweetheart tax credits.
The first sentence is a little mangled. But I know what he means and agree: Hedge funds, currency speculators, Wall Street types and others have played an ugly, predatory role in the current debt crisis. But they're just foxes circling a very flimsy chicken coop. To use another lame metaphor, Greece's financial situation was a house of cards waiting to topple. ... If you haven't already, read Mark Cuban's broadside
against Wall Street.Update
-- From Bert:
I would love to see a state by state comparison of budget situations. Is Mass in that much worse shape than others or is that perception a function of us being so close (and pessimistic)? Do “liberal” states tend to be in more trouble than “conservative ones?”
And what role does military spending (Star Wars comes to mind) have in the nation’s long-term budget troubles? Are there other issues? Farm subsidies, bad grant funding to private companies, etc?
I haven't seen a list lately. But Massachusetts isn't close to being a California, New York or Illinois. I'm more worried about long-term problems, from the T (funding its operating budget via debt), the old Turnpike (thanks, Big Dig), the pension system, skyrocketing health-care costs, etc. ... I'm not as familiar with the federal budget.
‘Good Ol' Uncle Warren’
I’ve never been a Warren Buffett fan either
Some more bashing
of the overrated Warren (overrated on the integrity front, not the financial-success front).
'We can't finance our social model anymore'
They thought the day would never come. But it did: Europe's post-WWII social contract is over.
... They think the day will never come in the U.S. and Massachusetts. But it will. Long-term federal and state debts are unsustainable. A small taste of what's to come can be found here
Computer hackers. Financial hackers. Same difference.
Hub Blog has developed a newfound respect for Mark Cuban
, who’s produced one of the best pieces yet on what Wall Street has become. Wall Street has strayed far from its original purpose of creating capital for growing businesses. … Cuban blog post via John.
The Dr. Jekyll Celtics show up
Rajon deserves all the praise
he's getting this morning
. His numbers kind of snuck up on me yesterday. I knew he was having one hell of a game. But the best playoff game in Celts history? That's a lot of history to top. ... Tony Allen and even Rasheed made important contributions yesterday too. ... Unfortunately, I'm half expecting Mr. Hyde to make an appearance in Game 5. It's who they are, though I noticed for the first time yesterday that this team is definitely developing chemistry. At times, the passing was first rate, based mostly on a confidence that comes with familiary. I also loved the fast breaks. Not bad for an old-guys' team. ...
The Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde Boston Celtics
Sure, LeBron James was awesome
the other night. But the Celts blew out the Cavs in the previous game. The question mark isn’t LeBron’s elbow or what spectacular level he’ll play at today. The question is which Celtics team shows up today. …
New York is drooling
over the prospect of landing LeBron next year, even citing the availability of No. 6 for LeBron, who allegedly wants to drop his No. 23
out of respect to Michael Jordan. So using the same dumb logic, does that mean he’s disrespecting Bill Russell and Julius Erving? Listen, I like LeBron. A lot. Both on the court and off the court. I’d love to see him in Boston. But he seems to be one highly annoying step away from referring to himself in the third person.
Sounds like Aquapocalypse was more the result of an engineering call
than a flawed clamp. But who am I to say? … I guess it's back to the PR drawing board for the MWRA when it comes to finding a scapegoat. ...
'City council needs to keep its 'courage' local'
Profiles in Courage - Not
. ... We'll see how they respond when real courage
is required. I'm not counting on them rising to the occasion. ... H.D.S Greenway
had a very balanced, thoughtful column on immigration the other day. It's so easy to criticize Arizona from far away places like Boston.
'Destitute, he leaves his blog-funded mansion …’
After trying to cash in on Aquapocalypse, Aquapocalypse Tumblr
admits his online entrepreneurial venture flopped because he underestimated the ability of the MWRA to fix its pipleline leak within a few days. See video of his sad blog departure in the link.
Spring flooding. T station fires. Water pipeline catastrophe. Sox tanking. Outraged Liberal
connects the dots. … I’d throw in the Pats-Giants Super Bowl loss, but that was too long ago to fit into the pattern.
P.S. – Jon
points to very interesting testimony given by a former Gloucester mayor in 2001 about the deterioration of the infrastructure in general. See 'Obvious Day 2 question' directly below.
Earthquake in Haiti. Volcanic eruption in Iceland. Oil spill off coast of Louisiana. Spring flooding and catastrophic water-main break here. All tied, ultimately, to our inability to harness nature. Sounds corny. But someone mentioned it to me yesterday. I can’t get it out of my mind. …
Obvious Day 2 question (since the pipeline disaster wasn’t entirely nature’s fault): How does a $1.4 billion water system suffer a catastrophic failure after only seven years?