The flowers that bloom in the spring, tra la

April 1, 2006
Ah, the crack of wood on horsehide and the roar of the crowds as another Big Papi missile is launched over the Green Monster.

Ah, the crack of wood on horsehide and the roar of the crowds as another Big Papi missile is launched over the Green Monster. The Fenway Park infield grass is overlaid with the smell of hotdogs and popcorn. It’s spring in New England and the Red Sox Nation faithful have optimistic visions of another World Series trophy in their heads. After waiting for more than 80 years for the first one, two years without can seem an eternity.

The controlling word here is “optimism.” No matter last year’s record. Forget the newly rich veterans’ defections and untested aspirations of their replacements. That seven-letter word hangs over the local summer sports scene, likely not to evaporate until the last out in October.

It’s a lovely word, optimism; one that just reeks of good thoughts, confidence, cheer, positiveness, and hopefulness. You hear it and your brain is conditioned for follow-on good news.

A few years ago some wag, possibly a mutual fund salesman, coined the term “cautious optimism.” What a cop-out-show me the cake and then pull it back! How can you be cautiously optimistic when the synonyms for optimism are all so upbeat? Dimwit’s Dictionary of overused words ( cites the phrase as a torpid (there’s a damming word) term; flat, dumb and dispassionate, eliciting the least from us. It’s become such a trite phrase that even I have used it on occasion, much to my distaste, when I couldn’t really find anything positive to say about a situation.

The word on the street is one of optimism. Manufacturing in the United States seems to have stabilized as the initial rush to offshore has slowed and in some notable situations reversed. Lean manufacturing allows manufacturers to reap the benefits of more productive output. And say what you will about the woes of the Big Three automakers, investment in new technology by Korean, Japanese, and German auto manufacturers in U.S. infrastructure more than offsets the Detroit bad news.

A political columnist in Newsweek (Feb. 20, 2006) paints a grim picture for Europe in a polemical entitled “The Decline and Fall of Europe,” where he cites, among other factors, Europe’s changing influence in the world because of its protectionist outlook. I’d worry, but this writer has been so off-base about events in Islamic countries, his presumed area of expertise, that I place little faith in his thoughts. In that same issue a columnist that I do respect writes about “Anxiety Amid the Prosperity,” which, depending on which side of his argument you sit, means life is great or the pits. Not exactly an optimistic week in an international news magazine.

But even this can’t get me down on this lovely spring day-look at those flowers in the photo to the left. The situation in Japan looks very promising; after a decade of financial woes that pretty much mirrors the title of a 20th Century cult classic by Richard Farina, “Been down so long, it feels like up to me.” China remains hot and India is the sleeping giant beginning to awaken its manufacturing promise, making the outlook in Asia as optimistic as you get these days.

Annual reports for 2005 and first quarter results for 2006 are rolling in, and they are upbeat. Prospects for 2006 repeating 2005 are good, and, although there is some talk about flat growth, whatever that means, most companies report that 2005 was so good that matching the numbers in 2006, with a slight up tick, is about what you would expect. And several are optimistic, there’s that word again, about a good year. They must be breathing the same air I am.

Click here to enlarge image

David A. Belforte
[email protected]

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