Friday, May 8, 2015

Mel Brooks Said It First

Monday, May 4, 2015
Today’s paper has a fascinating feature on mobility and poverty, that is, how a timely relocation for a child influencess later economic conditions.  "[P]oor children who grow up in some cities and towns have sharply better odds of escaping poverty than similar poor children elsewhere."

We know instinctively that growing up in "a nice neighborhood" is beneficial. This study shows that a move into a better neighborhood early enough offers measurable benefits. The study provides a county-by-county analysis of the economic impact of local residency.  It may be an ironic coincidence, but Baltimore was found to be the place "where children face the worst odds of escaping poverty."

The attack on an anti-Muslim "Draw the Prophet" cartoon contest and exhibit in Texas is very disturbing. As a Jew, I am often angered by the anti-Semitic slurs, insults, prejudice, and violence emerging from almost every imaginable quarter. However, for better or worse, my response, is no more than "Drop dead, you miserable bastards," expressed verbally, but not physically. Some Muslims can’t seem to exercise restraint when, even in the absence of any threat or harm to a living person, the Prophet Mohammed is insulted, sometimes merely depicted.

One of the Ten Commandments is "You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them." For many, the basic understanding of this is to ban idols and idolatry. Some very Orthodox Jews, and maybe other folk, go further and take this commandment to forbid artistic or photographic representations of humans, as well as artistic representations of the Divine.

While the Koran does not explicitly ban visual depiction of the Prophet Mohammed, there are later commentaries that oppose this with varying degrees of vehemence. See the following for a good overview of the topic.

The word Islam means, or may be taken to mean, "submission to the will of God." While it’s not my style, I know that some people see their devotion to God as the organizing principle of their lives, and, therefore, the more devotion the better. Also, I appreciate how they might have a protective instinct towards the Almighty, and may be agitated, inflamed by abuse of any sort. But, as I see it, it comes down to this: If you believe in the Master of the Universe, trust Him to take care of business and smite the wicked, the blasphemers, the heretics, the mockers and the defilers. You, however, keep your hands to yourself. If you believe, believe.

I read over the weekend that (Chinese) women are not allowed to hand pull noodles, at least in public. That sent me off to Tasty Hand-Pulled Noodles, 1 Doyers Street (May 27, 2010), where I was unable to learn the gender of the noodle pullers. I remember when Xi’an Famous Foods was in the tiny space under the Manhattan Bridge, and one of the two people jammed behind the counter spent his (it was a guy) time pulling noodles right in front of you. If you were the (only) customer who could fit into the joint, you were only inches apart, separated by a clear glass panel. When Xi’an moved to the four times larger, but still really small space on Bayard Street, the food preparation went to the basement and a flat screen monitor showed a video of a man pulling noodles. 

Tasty is about the size of Xi’an, square instead of rectangular. It contains nine tables, 7 two-tops and 2 four-tops, without a spare inch of floor space. The menu is mostly noodles, on a plate or in soup. I had chicken and shrimp with hand-pulled noodles ($8.50). Carrots, onions, bean sprouts, and celery were cooked in with the noodles – regular hand pulled, as it turned out, much like lo mein. Other choices were fat, small wide and big wide hand-pulled noodles, akin to chow fun, my choice for next time.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015
"For Top 25 Hedge Fund Managers, a Difficult 2014 Still Paid Well." How well? "The top 25 hedge fund managers reaped $11.62 billion in compensation in 2014, according to an annual ranking published on Tuesday by Institutional Investor’s Alpha magazine." 
How difficult? "2014 was the sixth consecutive year that hedge funds have fallen short of stock market performance." I guess it’s like some of those kiddie soccer leagues, where everyone gets a trophy for showing up.

With the advent of warm weather, Chinatown is rife with champagne mangos and tourists. Don’t pay more than $1 each for the excellent fruit. You’ll have to strike your own bargain with the latter. Sun Sai Gai Restaurant, 220 Canal Street, was busy, but not exploding with tourists in spite of its strategic location at the corner of Canal Street and Baxter Street. As I observed on a previous visit (April 29, 2010), it gives the appearance of a Vietnamese restaurant serving Chinese food. It displays the alternate Vietnamese name Nha Hang Tan The Gioi (sans accents), which I learned may be translated as Service Cave of the Spreading, Fragrant Rose-Apple Tree, or more prosaically New World Restaurant.

Sun Sai is one of those restaurants that hangs some of its fare in the window, and I was taken by the duck. I ordered half a "crispy duck" ($13.50), which was really a roast duck. The portion was very large, and, even discarding the inevitable fat, yielded a lot of tasty meat.

On the way back, I went one block over to Mulberry Street and bought 3 mangos for $2.50 to enjoy with my young bride tonight.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015
One reason that economic inequality has grown significantly in the last several decades is the attitude of the have-nots towards the haves, an abandonment of the reform zeal that led to the growth of the labor union movement and Top 40 hits for the Weavers.  In general, I think now that the have-nots harbor feelings of shame or embarrassment at their plight, envy at the success of the haves, and/or deference to the haves based on a sense of inferiority. As a result, the have-nots fail to challenge the haves and the rules, or lack of rules, that help perpetuate the status quo. No doubt you have heard the saw, "If you are so smart, how come you are not rich?" What that really means is, "You ain't rich, so you ain't smart." I still remember having it directed to me in 1984 by the sister of a woman that I was briefly dating. While I was speechless at the time (hard to believe, isn’t it?), in fact, I have never believed that smarts characterize the rich. A lot of luck and guile, yes. My more than 30 years in private industry demonstrated that over and over.

So, today, in the sports section, we read that Madison Square Garden (MSG) has hired Isiah (sic) Thomas, legendary basketball player, as president of the New York Liberty, the Women's National Basketball Association team located in and owned by MSG. The selection was made by James Dolan, executive chairman of MSG, and understood to be a longtime friend of and advocate for Thomas. Dolan, of course, is a very rich man, more importantly, the son of the very rich man who founded Cablevision, the ultimate owner of MSG. Young Dolan prepared for life at the top of the economic pyramid by abusing drugs and alcohol. See

Dolan, of course, is free to make his employment choices. Thomas is an African-American, eliminating any concern about racial discrimination.  But, there is a big stupid part, very stupid. The Liberty consists entirely of women basketball players, if I may belabor the obvious. Thomas, when previously employed by MSG as president and coach of the Knicks, its men’s basketball team, was found, after a jury trial, to have sexually harassed a female MSG executive. MSG paid over $11 million dollars to the complainant in that case. You don’t have to review the details of Thomas’s behavior to conclude that it had to have been more than slightly raunchy to reach $11 million. Now, the very rich Mr. Dolan has demonstrated again (his miscues are well recognized by sports fans, but less familiar to the sane portion of the population) that dumb is priceless.   

The Boyz Club met at the Sacred Shrine of Wo Hop, 17 Mott Street, and 7 of us crowded around a table, never more than inches away from the food spread before us. To wit, crispy noodles, fried wontons, vegetable egg roll (for the chasserai abstainer, who showed up late after others could not wait to devour it), vegetable chow fun, chicken chow fun, spicy eggplant, beef with scallions, honey crispy chicken, jumbo shrimp with black bean sauce, and a little white rice to bind. With a generous tip (as always), it cost $15 each.

Friday, May 8, 2015
The arrest of Dean Skelos, the Republican leader of the New York State Senate, on federal corruption charges follows the arrest of Sheldon Silver, the Democratic leader of the New York State Assembly, on federal corruption charges by a little over three months. 
Here is a montage of 41 elected New York State officials accused of misdeeds in the past 12 years.  As reported by the Syracuse Post-Standard, "[s]ome are awaiting trial, some have been convicted, some resigned amid controversy without criminal charges.  Some were rewarded with re-election or other government jobs."  One may conclude that running for office in New York State demonstrates a propensity towards criminal conduct.   

I went to Shanghai Café Deluxe, 100 Centre Street, for lunch, lured by the memory of their excellent scallion pancake ($2.50), and I was not disappointed.  Instead of just pan frying the scallion pancake, they give it a quick deep frying, producing a wonderfully crispy exterior, yet avoiding greasiness.  I was disappointed, however, in the dipping sauce.  It was almost entirely vinegar, no taste of rice wine or soy sauce, so it was only tart, not sweet, not salty. 

Not too hungry, I thought to play it safe by ordering "tiny fried buns" (8 for $4.95).  The sturdy golf-ball sized and shaped, pan fried buns were anything but tiny.  They had a 3/16" doughy wrapper around a chopped meat center.  Four people could have shared the dish before going on to a main course.  Fortunately, I was able to donate one of the buns to a couple at the next table who wanted to know what I was eating. 

Tom Brady’s agent was indignant that a report released this week implicated the superstar professional football quarterback in a scheme to tamper with the footballs to be used in a championship game. He called the report "a significant and terrible disappointment . . . [because of] its omission of key facts and lines of inquiry." He hit the nail right on the head since Brady "declined to make available any documents or electronic information (including text messages and emails)," according to the report. It’s good to be the King.

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