Carl McCall Does It Again

What in the world is Carl McCall thinking? Several years ago, the State Comptroller got into hot water when it was learned that, three days after a Los Angeles financial firm gave the McCall campaign $16,000 in December 1997, the state pension fund invested $85 million in a fund managed by that same firm. At the time, The New York Times noted that “Mr. McCall has repeatedly awarded contracts and other work … to businesses that have given sizable sums to his re-election campaign.”

When these smelly practices were reported in 1998, Mr. McCall seemed contrite. But now, within the heat of a tough gubernatorial primary, we’re learning that Mr. McCall hasn’t learned his lesson.

The Times reported in early August that Mr. McCall hired three law firms that happen to be major contributors to his campaign to handle lawsuits on behalf of the shareholders he represents. According to a report in The New York Times , two of those firms were awarded “staggering” fees in exchange for working on a lawsuit against the Cendant Corporation.

The two firms in the Cendant case, Bernstein, Litowitz, Berger & Grossmann and Barrack, Rodos & Bacine, have donated nearly $200,000 to Mr. McCall’s campaign. Until a court intervened, those two firms stood to make as much as $262 million for their “work” in the Cendant case. A federal appeals court rightly called that sum “staggering” and ordered it to be reduced. Another firm, Milberg, Weiss, Bershad, Hynes & Lerach, donated about $220,000 to Mr. McCall; Milberg, Weiss is representing New York in a lawsuit against Global Crossing.

The lawsuits were filed on behalf of the state pension fund, which Mr. McCall oversees. One of the State Comptroller’s main tasks is to watch over the state’s Common Retirement Fund, which has $112 billion in assets. The fund makes Mr. McCall the nation’s largest investor.

In that position, Mr. McCall is suing corporate wrongdoers for their squalid accounting practices. That’s why he needs lawyers. Wouldn’t you know-the lawyers he chose happen to be major donors. A coincidence? Hardly.

What’s interesting is that another lawyer for other shareholders objected to Mr. McCall’s choices, because the firms were so closely connected to the Comptroller’s campaign. Those objections, however, were overruled.

Mr. McCall’s track record on these issues is abysmal. It suggests poor judgment and a blind eye to public perception. The State Comptroller, even when running for higher office, should be seen as an impartial protector of the state’s finances, not as a political hack who hands out jobs-lucrative jobs-in exchange for campaign contributions.

Mr. McCall could have stepped in and blocked the fee that his friendly law firms were due to receive until a court intervened. He didn’t.

And now he wants to be Governor? Based, precisely, on what?

The Harlem Little Leaguers

As major-league millionaires prepare to walk picket lines because of imagined grievances, a group of young men from Harlem has reminded us why baseball once was our national pastime.

The Harlem Little League All-Stars, playing through a grueling tournament in brutally hot conditions, have shown us that even major-league greed, commercialism and hype have not banished joy in the world of sports. Playing for no reason other than love of the game, these young men have captured New York hearts with their talent, commitment and style. They have left us with images we will treasure if this year’s major-league season ends on Aug. 30 with a players’ walkout.

At press time on the evening of Aug. 20, the Harlem team was playing the team from Aptos, Calif., in the annual Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa. Because Harlem already has one loss in the tournament, another defeat would mean elimination. Nobody would be surprised, however, if the team regroups and moves on to a date with destiny. But even if a world championship isn’t in the cards, the Harlem Little Leaguers deserve our thanks and praise.

If only we could say the same about the so-called major leaguers.

Caught Napping? That’s a Good Thing!

The next time you visit your golf instructor for yet another lesson in the art of the full shoulder turn, do yourself a favor: Complete the drill, then rush home and take a nap.

It turns out that sleep is more than just a chance to dream. It allows your brain to store information needed for motor skills.

A test conducted by scientists at the University of Lübeck showed that well-rested students outscored their restless peers after receiving instructions in a finger-tapping exercise. Students who slept after the instruction were 35 percent faster and made 30 percent fewer errors than those who were kept awake.

It’s not a question of exhaustion, the researchers decided, because the results were about the same after both groups were allowed to sleep and were then re-tested. Apparently, sleep allows the brain to process motor-skills memory more efficiently. The findings are similar to those of another test conducted by the Harvard Medical School. Researchers there found that people who were taught sequences on a keyboard at night, and then went to sleep, outperformed those who were taught earlier in the day and tested 12 hours later, after no sleep.

So if you’re having trouble with your golf game, or if those guitar lessons aren’t living up to your expectations, do yourself a favor and go to sleep.

But, please, not just yet. You still have some reading to do.