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Monday, September 05, 2016


Playing a No Trump Contract

People are always asking me about the coming election and who I will vote for.  I am keeping my option open to ultimately hold my nose and vote for Trump, but that's definitely not where I am now.  If a pollster called, I would say that I will be voting for Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate, and that is certainly my expectation.  Actually, if Mr. Johnson can get into the debates, I think he would have a real impact, given the negatives attaching to both the major party candidates. But that's all a pretty unlikely scenario, and the Clinton and Trump campaigns will do all they can to keep both Johnson and Stein (the Green party) out of the debates. Clinton knows that Stein voters are attracted out of her base, and Trump should know, whether he does or not, that Johnson voters will be largely disaffected Republicans.  In fact, I would make the case that Johnson is actually the only true Republican candidate in the race.

Of course, lots of folks believe that voting for third or fourth party candidates constitutes a "wasted vote."  Let's talk about that.  I have done lots of thinking about this concept.  One thing that's for sure a wasted vote is a vote that's not submitted.  So if you don't go to the polls, that's for sure where you've wasted your vote. A second example is where you vote for a candidate you don't like as the "lesser of two evils."  Maybe that's ok where there are only two candidates running, but if there is a competent candidate running, it's a mistake to ignore him or her just to make sure some despised candidate loses to another more benign, but still incompetent or dishonest candidate.  For the life of me, I don't understand why reasonably solid Republicans like Meg Whitman would endorse Hillary Clinton.  If you can't stomach Trump, I get that, but that's no reason to endorse such an ethically challenged opponent.  So a conservative in that predicament should be endorsing Johnson, and a liberal or progressive in the same fix should be endorsing Stein.

I don't think Trump has the chops to be President.  It's beyond ridiculous that we haven't seen any of his tax returns yet (they can't all be under audit).  His daughter would be a more acceptable candidate.  It is an indictment of the primary process that he won the nomination.  Well, maybe someday I will explain to my readers how I really feel.
A movie Trump should be forced to watch on an endless loop for about two weeks is "Brooklyn," a beautiful story about a shy Irish immigrant to America who meets  and ultimately marries a nice Italian boy in the title borough. Yes, I know it's a chick flick, but it's hard to watch it without being captured.  It brought to mind the wonderful histories penned by Oscar Handlin (who we used to call the "Big O" in college), lacking footnotes since he relied almost exclusively on original source material, but reliably depicting the immigrant experience in ways we could all understand.    

Another rewarding screening was the HBO 8 part mini-series, The Night Of... which depicted the misadventures of a New York Muslim adolescent facing a charge for a murder he did not commit.  Though the plot was predictable enough, what was not was the incredibly high quality performance of all the actors and in particular, the renowned character actor John Turturro, here in a featured role as a small time attorney who solicits his clients on Rikers Island  and ends up as part of the defendant's team in the case.  His closing argument is both realistic and poignant, not to mention crucial in the attempt to offset his partner's earlier blunder.  Turturro has so often been among the most memorable elements of so many pictures, no matter how incidental the role. Recall his work in The Big Lebowski, Rounders, and The Good Shepherd, just to name a few. 
I mostly enjoyed my visit to San Diego in August.  The weather was perfect as always, the restaurants were fine as always, and the bar scene in the Gas Lamp District featured very good music and good whiskey too at reasonable prices.  Fiesta is a pretty decent Mexican restaurant, which you would expect in this city.  But I also had an acceptable Italian meal at Chianti, and at a new Indian restaurant that opened on G Street.

As for the bars, the dueling piano bar in the District is Shout and I would recommend it as the next best thing to a Howl at the Moon.  On a Friday or Saturday night, you may have to wait on a considerable line to get in.  The best music I heard was in Patrick's Pub, where there was a sensational blues band on Thursday, the 25th and a great rock cover band on the 27th.  They also had a pretty good selection of single malt scotches and bourbon too.  San Diego is one city where you just have to get out of your hotel.  

I wish I could say the same for Portland, Oregon which I visited for the first time in July.  There may be good restaurants there, but you couldn't prove it by me - we couldn't get into any on a Friday night, which tells me there just aren't enough. The trolley ride to the airport was a malfunctioning disaster. The weather was San Francisco like cold.  Not my kind of town.
I've been spending most of my jazz money at Birdland, which is my favorite NY club by far, and this month, you can go every week and see a terrific show, starting this week with John Pizzarelli.  There will also be a Coltrane retrospective this month.  Last week, I went with other satisfied friends to a Charlie Parker birthday celebration that featured my favorite current sax player, Vincent Herring, with Jeremy Pelt on trumpet, Helen Sung on piano and Lonnie Plaxico on bass (another fave).  It was one of those nights where we would have happily stayed for the second set if we didn't have to get up for work the next morning.
If you're worried that the stock market is levitating on Federal Reserve life support and is due for a precipitous fall somewhere along the line here, you are not without cause for concern.  The Fed, of course, is not alone among central banks propping up their economies with aggressive monetary stimulus that is long overdue for normalization.  A point we have made here ad nauseum is that however counter intuitive, normalization would actually improve economic growth by adequately compensating savers and investors, and giving banks a reason to lend. Lower for longer interest rates are killing the insurance industry and other providers of capital.  It is also shrinking the middle class and adding to wealth inequality, not that I worry so much about that, but it is ironic that the people who do care cheer lead the Fed's policy that causes the opposite result from what they insist they want.
I am still trying to decide whether to continue recording my stock transactions here, especially following the adoption of the DOL's new Fiduciary Rule.  I make it a point to remind readers that Musings does not dispense investment advice, but in this age of regulatory zealots, you can't be too careful.  If I do decide to catch up (and we haven't posted the second quarter transactions yet) it will come in the next post, whenever that might hit.     

Monday, April 18, 2016


Tomorrow is Primary day in NY

And we will be voting for John Kasich.  Or at least I will.  My wife and I agreed from the beginning to register in different parties so we would have one vote  in each primary, and she has the misfortune to be stuck in the Dems primary, with no one she wants to vote for.  Maybe this was a mistake.  We could have used another vote for John.  The polls show John second but well behind the Donald.  I wonder how accurate these polls will prove to be.  If you cold call a voter, ask him which primary he is voting in and he says Republican and he's voting for Trump, does the pollster do anything to be certain this voter will be eligible to vote in the R primary?  Unlike too many states, you have to be registered in the party to actually vote in the  NY primary.  And you can't just change your registration tomorrow.  You have to have done it by last October 15.  So I wonder how many of these Trump voters, who are really registered D's and Ind's will be turned away at the polls or forced to "feel the Bern."  Trump is likely to indeed win, but maybe not by nearly the margin pollsters expect.

This is the way primaries should be, if a state must have one at all.  My view is that the Trump squawking about "the voters should decide, not the insiders" is 180 degrees wrong.  Parties are private associations.  They make their own rules and offer candidates for election. They should want to pick a candidate who can win, because that means policies and political appointments friendly to the party.  Delegates after the first ballot will be largely free to pick such a candidate, and right now, the polls indicate that of those running, Kasich is the only Republican who could win.
A couple of columns worthy of note in today's WSJ op ed section.  First, read Mark Helprin's essay called "The Candidates Ignore Rising Military Dangers."  Now, I will stipulate that Helprin has been writing alarming hyperbole for the Journal on military matters for a long time, but that doesn't mean he's wrong.  The degradation of our military capability while nuclear weapons proliferate and Russia, China, Iran and North Korea increase their capabilities and encroach on their neighbors should give one pause.  Helprin's essay lists in impressive detail where we have gone wrong over the last two administrations and what needs to happen to resume our leadership position.

A second essay by Stuart Taylor Jr. entitled "A Hollywood Hit-Job on Clarence Thomas" reviewed the currently playing HBO movie "Confirmation."  The movie presents a depiction of the Thomas confirmation hearings, especially the explosive exchange between him and harassment accuser Anita Hill.  The essay details the evidence that her testimony was mainly false, and takes the movie to task for taking her side in the "She said, He said" controversy.

It's no wonder that young people are feeling the Bern, given the propaganda they are subjected to throughout school, particularly at the college level and by Hollywood.  To me, it is just as bad that Sanders is still a viable candidate as it is that Trump is.  The former is a Communist, the latter a storm trooper.  Both represent the worst of 20th century demagogues and tyrants, and use the same tactic of scapegoating, whether it be immigrants, banks, businessmen or their rival politicians.  Neither should have anything like the following they have in this country.

I find the developments depicted in these two essays very troubling when I consider the future of our country and the world that our kids and grandkids will be dealing with.  In the end, it's theirs to make the best of it, and if they won't listen to those who really understand what our Constitution and way of life is about, they will be much at fault.  But the liberal tendencies of baby boomers have surely paved the way.
Our portfolio finished the quarter up a couple of percentage points year-to-date, and given how the year started, that's pretty remarkable.  I do think this will be another challenging year for investors.  By the way, if you had capital gains as we did again last year, the tax bite from Obamacare and all the other anti - investor features of our code are now biting at full force.  It's enough to make me consider taking some offsetting losses next fall.  We'll see.  In the meantime, here are the investment transactions for the first quarter.  The final Fiduciary Rule seems to leave unpaid commentators like me outside the conflict of interest provisions so we can continue to list the transactions, with the reminder that they are just that, a list and not recommendations.  They may not be suitable investments for anyone else.


Date    Symbol     Shares    Price            Comments
1/5       ONCS      900       2.44
1/6        TIP            20      110.12
1/7        BRS         100       22.11        Not giving up on Tulane portfolio
1/11      GBT         100       23.89     New name run by Haverford alum
 1/13     GLD         20       103.89
 1/14     OPK         250        8.30     On the bargain counter
1/14      ONCS     1300      1.55     Catching a falling knife?
1/20     JPM.PR.A   100     25  
1/21      MU           200       10.44
1/22      GBT          150       19.78
1/25     GGP.PR.A   100      24.70    Another new name
1/27     SF              100       32.26
1/28     AA             300        7.18    Aluminum bottoming?
2/2      TIP               20       111.48
2/3       OPK          300       7.756
2/4         GBT         150       19.37   Averaging down
2/8       JPM.PR.A   100      25
2/10     BRS             200      14.51
2/12     DVN           200      20.57   Oil and gas not going away yet
2/16    PRH           100        25.47
2/18    NR             600        3.84    Go Tulane!
2/18    GBT           150        17.56    averaging down
2/19    GLD            20        117.1775
2/22     KN           400         11.50
2/23     HSC         400          6.29
2/23  JPM.PR.A   100         24.98
2/29  NR              600          3.67
3/1    GBT           150          15.08   averaging down
3/10  TIP              20          112.55
3/17   GNE          300            7.78  Israeli oil on St Pats Day
3/24   GBT          200            14.85   Averaging Down
3/24  JPM.PR.A  100           25.21
3/28   SF             100           29.15
3/29   HSC         400             5.22
3/31   GLD           20           118.08


Date     Symbol      Shares     Price     Date Purchased   Price     Comments
1/4         ENI         1600        11.63       Various            16.99    Off the Buy/Hold list; give up      
1/29      PCP          100        234.90      10/6/08            69    Buffet bought the company
3/3       NEM          100         26.29       2012-13          48.97
3/4       GENC        200         13.67       2009                 6.40
3/7       XEL           100         39.89        10/2/13          27.71
3/8     AWCMY     500          3.97          2010              4.95
3/17    NEM          100          27.86        2013              38.63   We'll get even on this one
3/18   HON             25         111.56      10/27/10         46.59
3/18   ITW             25          100.41        9/15/06         44.50
3/21   NEM           100          27.63        2013             30.12
3/22   HZO           200          19.48        2010-11          7.38
3/30   TFX            15           159.03        4/26/04         49.84

Tuesday, March 08, 2016


The market comes back Donald or no Donald

With politics dominating the news and the airways, er cableways, I can understand that anyone would be depressed but that by itself is no reason to sell stocks.  Sometimes, it's just time.  As you can see below, we did a good bit of selling in the fourth quarter.  Our formula seems to know when stocks are getting too high, though it generally moves a little early.   By December, we were back in buy mode for the most part, and that has continued until just the last week.  We will provide the first quarter, 2016 transactions in the next post which will bring us up to date.  Stocks have maintained their value despite, and not because of central bank actions.  I continue to believe we need the Fed to normalize interest rates already, and then please get out of the way.  By now it should be perfectly obvious that the quarter point increase in rates helped and did not hurt the economy.  As for the lack of inflation, I have two things to say (repeat) about that.  First, there is plenty of inflation, in housing, health care, food and beverage, everywhere but energy and commodities.  And now they are perking up too.  Second, where did this 2% annual inflation target come from?  I can't imagine a more idiotic monetary policy.  The only thing helped by inflation is the government's balance sheet since it is the world's biggest debtor.   What would be wrong with monetary policy aiming for price stability?

Of course, the Fed is a model of prudence compared to Europe, a whole continent going broke trying to pay unsustainable pensions and where interest rates are actually negative in a futile effort to foster inflation.  None of these central bank actions matter nearly as much as an economy's productivity.  Luckily, we are still way more productive than just about everyone else, even if our work ethic ain't what it used to be.

Sadly, our political candidates seem to grasp none of this.  Most don't seem to have ever taken even an 8th grade economics course.  To hear Trump, Sanders, and Hillary speak ignorantly about trade policy is hair raising.  In fact, the tenor of all the debates has fallen quite a bit short of your basic high school student council candidates debate.  We might as well be talking about what prom decorations to put up and promising to restore the Coca Cola machine to the school lunch area.

As for Cruz and Rubio, hasn't our current President exemplified the poor judgement the country used in electing a first term Senator with no other relevant experience?  This leads to the inevitable conclusion that the only competent candidate from either party is Ohio Governor Kasich.  His plodding campaign has discouraged many of his supporters, but there are some signs that he is the tortoise who might just yet pass the hares.  A second place or better showing in Michigan, as now seems possible, and a win in his home state may provide the momentum to keep him in the mix until the convention.  This is especially true given my belief that Trump has peaked.  If they get to the convention and no one has a majority (though Trump or Cruz might have a plurality), and if Rubio suspends after he loses Florida, don't be surprised if the convention turns to Kasich.  This will disappoint die hard conservatives who doubt Kasich's right wing bona fides, and of course the Trump supporters, many of whom aren't really Republicans at all.  But the party professionals would be delighted as they would emerge with a center right candidate very capable of winning the general election and helping retain the Senate down ticket. 

By the way, it is time the media junked the pejorative term "brokered convention" in favor of the more accurate "contested convention."  It used to be the exception that a party candidate won nomination on the convention's first ballot. Usually, you could not assemble a majority of delegates until after the first ballot primary and favorite son commitments were dispensed with. Funny how the concept of a convention not managed by a dominant candidate is referred to by the media as a brokered convention when applied to Republicans but as an "open convention" when applied to Democrats. Or is that my paranoia at work?

So the game plan now is this is the time to step up and contribute financially and/or by talking up the John Kasich candidacy, since there are a lot of self-fulfilling prophecies in politics.  If we want to see someone who can beat Hillary the shrillmeister, and get our fiscal nightmare behind us, then now is the time for a little rationality.

Date    Symbol  Shares  Price    Comment
10/2/15  MMM  15      139.08
10/19/15  TIP     20      111.12
10/21/15  CNRD 100    21.50
10/22/15  MMM   15    151.97
10/27/15  GLD      20    111.68
11/5/15  AWCMY 600     3.36
11/6/15 ONCS      600     3.68
11/9/15 AFSD      100     25.35  Quack Quack
11/11/15  ENI       200    12.37
11/11/15  MMM    25     157.86
11/16/15  PRH     100      26.09
11/16/15  HZO     200     14.93
11/16/15  ONCS  700       3.21
11/23/15  TIP         20    110.82
12/2/15   BG          50     66.03
12/7/15  ONCS     700    3.02
12/8/15  AFSD      100    25.51
12/10/15  BRS      100     26.39
12/11/15  HSC      500      8.73
12/14/15   GLD      20     102.58  Gold was getting killed
12/15/15  ADM     100    34.44
12/17/15  DVN     100     29.28 
12/21/15  TIP         20     109.74
12/22/15   KN       200     13.24
12/29/15  GLDD   600       4.05
12/31/15   GLD      20      101.48
12/31/15   MU      200       14.10


Date  Symbol  Shares  Price   Purchase Purchase   Comment
                                               Date       Price    
10/5/15 HIG   50       46.24   8/5/11     24.61
                                              9/6/11     21.33
10/6/15 SJM  25      116.98   3/5/14     99.16
10/6/15 KN   100      20.25   3/11/14   28.02
                                              3/21/14   31.50    "I don't like losses, sport"
10/13/15 GNE 200    13.27   11/20/12   6.01
10/15/15 ECL 25      121.60   9/25/05   32.10  Ten years of upside
10/15/15  GIFI  200   12.37    5/18/15   18.64
                                                11/6/12   22.09  Pain in the oil patch
10/16/15  MAN  25    87.84    6/14/16   61.45
10/21/15  GNE   200  13.49    10/2/13     9.17
10/26/15 ALGN 50    67.00     9/15/14    54.91
10/30/15 LANC 20    113.53   6/21/06    39.66
10/30/15  ROP   15    184.68   9/19/01   18.22   Home run for our side
11/3/15   BYD  100    20.36    8/6/14       9.52  It was a gamble
11/3/15  CAVCO 30   97.65    zero cost spinoff
11/9/15  SXI      50     89.64   1/4/01    19.88
11/16/15  GE     100   29.97   8/20/10  15.16
11/23/15  LFUS 50  109.28   11/13/00  25.63
11/23/15  TMO  15   136.59  1/13/03   19.88   Gonna have a tax bill
11/23/15  SEIC  50    54.17    9/9/11    16.06
11/30/15  AAON  100 25.12  1/26/05   2.84
12/1/15  NWBI    200  14.04  5/10/04  9.30 
12/2/15  Y            5     503.50  5/08     371.50
12/17/15 GENC  200    12.70   2/23/09  6.15
12/24/15  FNFG  200   10.90  5/31/12   8.02
                                                11/12/12  7.57   Will takeover by Key be allowed?
12/24/15  LOW   50     75.83   1/23/06  31.74

Monday, January 18, 2016


Bastille Day Edition? oops, make that MLK Day

This was supposed to be the ever popular Bastille Day edition, but somehow six months flew by so we had to re-title the posting.  There was no special reason for this hiatus other than just too much stuff going on in my life, some very good, some pretty awful.  Like everyone else.  I realize certain readers seem to want to be informed about such things, (hence, the surprising demand that we continue the recent activities feature) but I'm afraid that will be dependent on my schedule.  So to summarize the last six months in as few sentences as possible, the Mets won the National League pennant and gave a decent account of themselves in the World Series, though losing in five games.  All in all, an amazing year for the Flushing faithful.  On a much more serious note, after losing one of my closest friends in June, I lost another during the summer, again unexpectedly, and darn near lost a third a few months ago.  Getting older is not without its tribulations.

In better news, I got to play bridge at the Summer Nationals in Chicago and there renewed a friendship with a close business associate from Illinois who has somehow also migrated to the bridge world.  I certainly look forward to sharing cocktails with him at future tournaments.   In addition, there has been the general hilarity around the Presidential race.  Now a number of readers (and one is a number, as is 2, 3, 4, etc.) have asked who I am favoring to be the next leader of the Free World and I have to say that I hope they are not missing the bigger picture which is basically absurd.  But to answer the question, I was initially a Kasich supporter and even sent an early contribution, but I have to admit, John's campaign has not exactly caught fire.  Then I gravitated to Rubio, whom I still like, but I don't really get why Marco is trading bombs with Christie and even with Jeb of all people.  Ain't we all in this together? Lately, I've been warming up to Chris and think he's actually jelling with real Republicans, if you can actually find any.  More on that in a second.  So the short answer is, I'm going to vote for the GOP candidate no matter who it is, even if I have to hold my nose as I insert the ballot, because I would puke on the floor if I had to vote for Hillary or the Socialist from New England, or any other Democrat.  And that's just a fact.

Now, as a Republican, I have to say I am nauseated by this whole campaign, though of course, I understand the frustration of the voters.  But really, how can anyone actually believe that Donald Trump, or Ted Cruz, or Ben Carson, or Senator Paul are Presidential timber?  Paul Ryan?  For sure, but understandably, he avoided this food fight.  And Kasich, Rubio, Jeb, Christie, John Thune, Governor Pence, I can see any of them in the job. But in the aftermath of 8 ugly Obama years where progressives made huge gains in socializing (not to mention castrating) our health system, foisting all kinds of ridiculous environmental regulations on us, and reversing a generation of foreign policy progress, it looks like Republicans want to nominate, and probably elect, the anti-Obama, which means the right's version of the empty suit.  The left's version, as we have seen is an academic, totally divorced from the reality of realpolitik, lecturing the American public instead of leading it.  But the right's version is Donald Trump - completely off-the-cuff, lacking any meaningful governing philosophy, xenophobic, impulsive, and judgmental, but lacking in judgment ( a real bad combination, needless to say).

One of the real scourges for the GOP in the campaign this year has been the influence of talk radio, now personified by the likes of Mark Lavin.  In his search for the ideological pure conservative, he has been trashing all the moderate candidates regularly, and now even Governor Haley of SC, who gave the first competent response to the State of the Union in the eight years of the Obama Presidency.  But not pure enough for Mark.  He has become the leading xenophobe, opposing not only illegal immigration, but also legal immigration.  Basically, he and his ilk which include Limbaugh, et al,would like to ship all the Muslim's out of the country, presumably to Africa which seems to be the chosen repository for everyone these folks don't like. They don't even seem to care that they are destroying the cause, making it more likely that a morally reprehensible Democrat like Clinton, or a true and admitted socialist like Sanders would be elected.  I guess that's supposed to teach us impure conservatives a lesson.  Like I said, I am prepared to vote for Trump if he's the candidate, but I'll be holding my nose.  My fervent wish would be for a brokered convention, where the real party leaders would go into a smoke filled room and emerge with a candidate capable of both winning and doing the job.


 On to happier stuff.  The New York jazz scene has been as good as ever, and in the last few months, I have enjoyed seeing the Birdland Big Band, Freddy Cole, George Cables, Katherine Russell, John Pizzarelli, Vincent Herring and many others.  Last night, some friends and I went to see the terrific Karrin Allison at Birdland. If you're not seeing any of this talent, you are really missing out. Jazz is such a superior value to the overhyped jukebox musicals and revivals now overrunning Broadway.

Besides that, it is busy as usual for this reporter.  Plenty of business travelling (besides Chicago, we visited San Antonio, National Harbor, MD, and of course Washington recently, and looming on the schedule are New Orleans, Little Rock, and Albany).  And, I've got a ticket to see the very hot ventriloquist/comedian Jeff Dunham in Albany on the 28th.     

Well, I guess I have to write about the financial markets.  Ugh.  Enough said? Really, the Fed had to begin normalizing, and it's not going to be easy, since all the Keynesian formulas (like the Phillips curve) are not operative in the environment the Fed has created.  My preference would be for the Fed to raise the funds rate by twenty-five basis points every quarter a la Greenspan until it reaches 2.5% which is at least within hailing distance of normal.  If that causes some unemployment, or an over-valued dollar, then so be it.  The dislocation will be less in the long run in a normal economic environment.

I don't expect Janet Yellin to agree with this strategy any more than Bernanke did.  But they will never admit they are wrong either.  So we will do what we always do, follow our investing formula and hope to ride out these miserable corrections.  By the way, we are very closely watching DOL's new Fiduciary Rule.  It may make it too dangerous to expound on financial markets on this blog.  Isn't it a shame that free speech rights are under fire everywhere you look?  But for now we can continue to post our transactions, and we will reassess once the rule is final.  The list below takes us through the third quarter.  We'll catch up on the next two posts.  Remember, neither redwavemusings nor its author are investment advisors, and the securities listed here are not recommendations and may not be suitable for anyone else.


Date              Symbol   Shares        Price          Comment
6/9/15         SBRAP    100          24.97    Preferreds have been a home run
6/15/15      GHM        100          20.81
6/17/15       MU          100         24.27   Full service broker reco, can't all be gems
6/18/15      PRH         100          25.00
6/23/15      NR           300           7.40   Falling knife in the oil service
6/24/15     ONCS       300           7.27  Falling knife in Biotech
6/25/15    TIP             20            111.95 Got to hide somewhere
6/26/15     GIFI          200           10.20  Tulane portfolio not immune
6/29/15     MU           200           19.21
6/30/15     PRH         100            24.98
7/2/15       BRS          50             52.82   Another Tulane stock topped out
7/7/15       MU          200             18.13
7/10/15     ONCS     400              6.00
7/10/15     PRH         100             24.91
7/13/15     GNE        300             9.40
7/13/15     PQ          1200           1.69  Another old favorite on sale
7/14/15     GLD          20             111.00
7/21/15   USAK      100             20.15
7/21/15    MU          200             18.84
7/23/15   NEM       200               18.61 Miner performing better than the metal
7/24/15   PQ           1400              1.48
7/27/15    TIP          20               112.37
7/28/15    HZO       200              18.40
7/29/15     GLDD    400               5.18
7/31/15    GLD          20            105.41
8/5/15      NEM       200              16.75
8/5/15      PQ         1600               1.29
8/7/15   NEE.PR.C   100           25.30  Hate to pay more than par but...
8/7/15    PWR          100           23.63
8/10/15   ONCS       500           4.93
8/10/15   TIP            20            111.91
8/19/15   BRS          100           37.08
8/20/15   BDC          50            55.23
8/20/15    GLD        20             109.81
8/21/15    MU         200            14.39  Have to find a bottom somewhere
8/21/15    HSC       200            11.59
8/24/15   AFSD     100             25.01  Another insurer preferred
8/25/15   AWCMY 600           3.75  Alumina anyone?
8/26/15   MMM     15            140   new to the portfolio
8/28/15   PRH        100            25
9/2/15    NVEC       50           51.43
9/2/15    BDC         50            48.24
9/3/15    TIP          20             110.84
9/8/15   AWCMY  600             3.49
9/10/15    MMM   15              141
9/11/15    SBRAP  100            24.98
9/18/15    NR         400             5.78
9/18/15   MMM      15            140.44
9/21/15    AFSD     100           25.10
9/23/15    BRS        100          30.09
9/25/15    GWR        50          61.24
9/29/15    GLD         20         108.24
9/30/15    NR          400           5.16


Date          Symbol       Shares       Price      Purchase Date   Purchase Price    Comment
6/8/15        BRLI          100           40.75        7/5/13             29.74         takeover by OPK 
6/12/15      SEIC           50            49.22        9/9/11             16.06      a triple
6/12/15      PBCT         200           16.02        5/07                20.15   Taking a loss
6/12 15    MetLife (preferred) 800  25.04    2010-2014       24.39    Called in, damn it
6/30/15    PFG.PR.B    300           25                                                 Another call
7/2/15      CC               70             15.97    Didn't want the Chemours spin off from Dupont
7/21/15    TAI              600          21.89    Various           20.75   Took it off the buy/hold list
 8/19/15   BYD          50            17.60      10/27/08         3.95
8/19/15    BYD         150           17.60      6/10/11           7.87  Casino operator a good gamble
9/3/15     HIG            50             45.67      8/5/11            24.61
9/9/15    EXPD          50            49.21      5/30/07          42.95
9/16/15    TFX           20           137.54     4/26/04       49.84
9/17/15    BYD         150            17.41     6/10/11       7.87
9/17/15    BYD          50             17.41     8/10/11        6.02     
9/28/15   FNFG        200            10.44     5/31/12        8.02  takeover in progress                    

Monday, July 06, 2015


Greasing Greece's Fall

In several of our past posts (for example, June 13, 2011 - see the archives indexed alongside) , we have made the case that the way to both simplify and increase the fairness of our tax system would be to eliminate the entire calculation you do on 1040 and just have everyone fill out form 6251, the Alternative Minimum Tax (of course you would still have to do exhibit D if you have capital gains).  This would eliminate lower earning folks from the rolls and provide a flat tax with virtually no deductions for everyone else.  Since a growing number of Americans wind up paying the AMT anyway, the main effect of this change would be to eliminate the mind numbing calculations associated with having to compute your tax twice, before determining that the AMT is higher, therefore applicable.  The other positive effect is that it would increase taxpayers' understanding that their cherished deductions are mostly worth either little or nothing in the end, thereby ending the excruciating political ramifications of preserving them.

My voice had seemed to be a lone one in the wilderness concerning this simple and elegant solution until the WSJ on June 24 printed a letter from one Ed Kemmerling of Brighton, Michigan who made the same case.  It would be fun to contact him if I can, but in the meantime, thanks Ed, and yes, great minds do think alike.
 The Greece 60+ percent majority for "no," meaning opposition to the EU's bailout conditions almost undoubtedly will lead to that country defaulting on its debt and ultimately the failure of its banks and the likely return of the drachma.  If the situation for Greeks is depressing now, it is soon to get much worse.  Following his victorious "No campaign," the leader of the government reached out to Vladimir Putin to see if he had a friend there.  Ever the opportunist, Mr. Putin's solution was that Greece should privatize its prime state properties for sale to Russia's state favored oligarchs.  But no loans.  And you thought Angela Merkel was a tough cookie.

Look, it's sad, but none of these phoney baloney statesmen learn from past sovereign defaults that it is really not the easy way out.  It's much worse to be unable to get any credit than to have to work out a payment plan that entails some sacrifice (or a little work ethic).  And it's not just Greece of course.  We've got several other deadbeats teed up for bankruptcy, including Argentina (again!), Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Illinois, and so on.  And don't think Uncle Sam is immune.  The mountain of debt amassed by the Obama Administration is only manageable because of the artificially low interest rates engineered by the Federal Reserve.  Once those rates move up, the line item of the budget called "interest on the national debt" will be a terrible burden.  For now, the Fed has the unenviable problem of figuring out how to unwind its balance sheet without driving interest rates or inflation (or both) through the roof and causing stagflation or recession similar to the Carter years.

The Euro's will do well not to let Greece off the hook.  Let them go under if they won't accept the austerity plan, and let that serve as a warning to Spain, Italy and Portugal.

For your reading pleasure, I commend you to the thoughts of former Texas Governor Perry as printed in today's WSJ.  In an articulate piece we didn't think him capable of, he made a strong case for the GOP to pitch hard for the Afro-American vote, pointing out as we have that progressive policies had only hurt their cause and that Texas of all places had a better high school graduation rate and lower poverty rate among blacks than any of the progressive blue states.  As for fellow Republicans, Perry urged them to rediscover the 14th Amendment and not be quite so obsessed with the 10th Amendment. In short, reclaim its heritage as the Party of Lincoln.  Very good advice for the party and for the country.
We keep getting mixed signals about whether this nuclear deal with Iran is going to happen, with most parties saying its close while Secretary Kerry tries gamely to rein in expectations.  Given the goofiness of the Cuban deal, it looks to me like the Administration will again be more about making a deal than getting a good one, or even an acceptable one.  For any semblance of an accurate assessment, depend on Israel.  Their government's take is that the proposed deal gets worse every day, as the U.S. agrees to make concession after concession.  It's going to take a long time to undue the damage done by this administration.
The recently concluded Supreme Court term was a major disappointment to conservatives, who had let their hopes exceed realism.  Fortunately, many of the key decisions are irrelevant; some of the cases had already been decided in the court of public opinion and in the states (gay marriage) and others will in the end be superseded by economic realities (PPACA).  The Affordable Care Act is falling apart on its own, as premiums increase but fail to keep pace with worsening claim experience.  What would you expect when its main thrust was to expand an already failing program (Medicaid)?  As for choice, forget it.  The big health care companies are all merging, and why not? They are not really insurers, since there is no underwriting and no risk taking.  They are simply administrators acting as utilities and taking a share of the action as profit.  And utilities only work as monopolies.Trouble is, as the rest of the world is also experiencing, there is not enough money around to pay for the care everyone feels entitled to.  So that means care is rationed, quality is reduced, everyone pays more and gets less.  It is always this with socialism.

One actually bad decision with real world consequences was on disparate impact and the Fair Housing Act.  To understand why, I urge you to go to the SCOTUS website and read Kennedy's majority decision and especially Thomas' dissent and then make up your own mind as to which makes more sense.  By the way, I read a fair amount of these decisions and my opinion is, despite what you read in the liberal press, that Thomas is the most consistently thoughtful Justice.  And for those who think he is a Scalia clone, statistics show they do not agree as often as the liberal gang of four. My vote for worst Justice is easy, its Ginsberg in a walk followed by Kagan.  Their reasoning is strictly political, rarely taking the Constitution into consideration as far as I can tell..   
Some loyal readers have asked that more of the blog be devoted to a recount of my own activities.  For the life of me, I am not sure why anyone would find that interesting, since you all have your own activities that interest you or presumably you would be doing something else (which begs the question of how I have any readers.  We'll leave deep philosophical questions like that for another day).  But I am willing to try, although I'm not going back more than a week.  Last Monday was a work day, and after a Doctor's appointment to check on my electrical system, I did commute to NYC.  The Mets not being scheduled, I was able to concentrate on my reading Monday night though I did review Sunday's game (the Matz debut) on tape.  And of course, put in my stock order for Tuesday.  Tuesday was a routine work day with 6 conference calls scheduled.  I guess I needed to unwind after the Mets lost to the Cubs because I decided to have a nightcap at the local Irish Pub.After work Wednesday (4 more conference calls), I hustled over to Birdland for the 5:30 show featuring the Louis Armstrong Eternity Band.  Great fun as always, though a little abbreviated by the last of the conference calls, idiotically scheduled for 7PM.  I did get home in time to see the Mets lose again.

After work and dinner (at home) Thursday, I stopped at Sunset Park in Sea Cliff to see the last half hour of a cover band's performance there, and that of course led me back to the pub, where I was entertained by the local celebrities until bed time.Since the Mets had already lost that afternoon, the object of interest in the pub was the televised victory by the Long Island Lizards of major league lacrosse (I am not kidding).  And someone thought this would be fun!?  Friday was an off day, and I had planned to play golf in the morning, then meet some friends for a drive to Farmingville, Long Island's Pennysaver Amphitheater to see a festival of country music stars, including Phil Hoge, Casey James (who played all rock) and headliner Lee Brice ("I Drive His Truck").  But we decided to get a head start on the Hampton's traffic so golf went by the boards.  We beat the traffic but not the 2 hour jam at the entrance to the parking lot, which seriously cut into our tailgating experience.  That was really annoying since I had taken the precaution of filling a cooler with Razzano's hero sandwiches and some delicious Saranac Pale Ale.  Nonetheless, the show was fine, and we skipped a couple of unknown preliminary acts in favor of tailgating.  A wise decision.And I got home in time to see the Mets eke out a win over the Dodgers!

Saturday was the 4th, and I did play golf  - my first competent round of the year, by the way.  Then it was off to pub owner Eddie's traditional barbecue and I could spend the rest of the blog describing the food and drink served there.  I got home in time to see the Mets rally and--lose.  But we were dog sitting for my daughter and that's fun.  Sunday was bridge at noon and my partner and I did will - a 57% game for those few who might know what that means.  A quick trip to the golf course had me on the first tee by 4:15 or so, another decent day though not as successful as Saturday's round.  All the while, I was getting texts from my fellow Mets fanatic updating me on the romp over the Dodgers to win the series.  I was home for dinner by 7:15 and settled in for some more reading and watching True Detective, completely forgetting to watch or tape the women's World Cup final (I forgot to mention that I had seen Tuesday's semifinal vs Germany, which was the real final).  So just another normal week for me, albeit a holiday weekend.

Unless I hear otherwise, I will assume no one wants me to repeat this feature.
Still catching up on stock transactions:

Date       Symbol    Shares        Price                Comment
5/1          MU         100          28.31      Full service broker reco     
5/4         TIP            20          113.96
5/7         GIFI         200           13.21  Tulane portfolio under energy stress
5/7         MU          100           27.80    Getting cheaper
5/12       PRH         100           24.95    
5/15       AA           200           13.567
5/20       MU          100           26.47    Still getting cheaper
5/20 PFG.PR.B.CL 100          25.44
5/27      RAVN       200           19.28    Value at this price
5/27        MU          100          27.43   Still building the position
6/1         GLD           20          115.02
6/3         GIFI          200           11.20
6/5         ONCS      400             6.30    Follows a 1-20 reverse split

Sales                                                   Date            Price     Comment  
5/1        GNE    200          14.23        5/8/12        6.96 
5/4        SEIC     50           46.43       9/9/11         16.06     Nice company, almost a triple
5/12      GNE    200          13.90        2012            6.93
5/15      NEM   100          27.08       2/28/11         54.60    Ugh
5/18      GNE    200          12.10       6/19/12          6.90
5/18      TFX     25           127.97      6/16/06        51.20 
5/26      BG       25            90.88       12/17/12      72.15
5/29      GNE    200          12.50        11/20/12       6.01 
6/2        SF        50            54.80       12/10/07      22.05

Thursday, June 18, 2015


Blogging Anew

After a hiatus of almost 4 months, it is good to be posting again.  There is no shortage of things to discuss.  Your usually faithful scribe has not been sick, not suffered a computer failure and will never retire.  But there is a lot to do and precious little time to get to everything,  So while golf, bridge and jazz take up recreational time, there is also a mountain of reading to catch up on.  You can't write very intelligently unless you do your reading too.  So with those feeble excuses out of the way, let's see if we can put together a decent post.

The ineptitude of the Obama Administration is exceeded only by its flagrant disregard for the Constitution and its duties as described in that document.  The inability to convince its own party members in Congress concerning the fast track trade authority should have convinced anyone still on the fence about this uniquely incompetent Presidency.  But if you really want to be sickened, read the WSJ opinion pieces this week concerning the concessions already made in the "negotiations" with Iran about its nuclear program.  In retrospect, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu's criticisms of the talks were far too mild.  Of course none of this really matters since the President has decreed that climate change is clearly the most pressing problem we face.  He's even got the Pope saying it.

Leftists everywhere seem to have lost their minds, from Bernie Sanders to NYC's hapless Mayor.  The early Clinton campaign, when it bothers to say anything, seems to have adopted Senator Warren's platform, even opposing free trade (never mind that when Bill was President he was a consistent advocate for free trade).  I guess it's cool for Warren that she is getting her way on policy without even having to run.

All of this makes one wonder how the GOP is going to sift through some 20 candidates to settle on someone who might be our next President.  A lot of people are asking me who I favor, and the best I can do at this point is to divide them into categories.  So first would be the ones that seem to lack credentials, or they should give up already having lost enough times to be disqualified (what I call the Harold Stassen rule).  In this group belong Pataki, Huckabee, Carson,and Perry.  Next are the crack pots who shouldn't be allowed to run for anything.  That group includes Trump, Cruz and Fiorini.  Then there are serious candidates that I might agree with but can't warm up to somehow.  This group includes Walker (please stay in Wisconsin), Bush, Graham, Paul Jindal, and Santorum.  Finally there are the candidates I actually prefer, Kasich and Rubio.  Somewhat reluctant candidates I might like if they came out of the box include Thune and Pence.

If I had to pick one candidate to support right now, it would be John Kasich. I recognize he might never catch fire, in which case I would move to Rubio.  Realistically, there is only so much oxygen and money in Florida, and this hampers both Rubio and Bush.  It's early, but then again it's not that early.  If you are not organizing and piling up money by now, it will very soon be too late.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------     Today's Fed announcement was kind of a non-event, in that they gave a stronger indication of what everyone assumed, that we will finally get a rate increase in September, probably a quarter of a point, and maybe another quarter in December.  The Fed did reserve the possibility that if the economy does not continue its improving trajectory, or if inflation fails to approach its 2% target, the increases could be delayed yet again.

The whole thing is so dysfunctional.  The Fed is acting as if we are in a Keynesian world when in fact, we are in unchartered territory with interest rates held interminably to the near zero level.  In this part of the continuum, Keynesian physics simply leads to the wrong answers.  The economy needs higher interest rates, so that lenders can lend profitably, businesses and investors can earn a return (without resorting to overvalued stocks), and employers will have a reason to hire and pay workers.  And by the way, the last thing the Fed should worry about "achieving" is 2% annual inflation.  I liked it better when the Fed's only charge was maintaining the stability of the currency, not debasing it.  I guess when public debt is in the umpteen trillions, debasing the currency looks like a good idea.

If the Fed comes through with increases to short term rates, maybe the economy will finally perk up.  It's insanity to continue indefinitely a policy that doesn't work.  In the meantime, bond investors have already voted with their feet, bidding prices down and driving ten year rates higher.  It proves what economists have always known, the Fed only controls rates on the short end.  Preferred stock prices are also down, and as a holder and buyer of preferred's, I would like to see them go a little lower.  Of course, when they go lower, they get called, and MetLife called a preferred issue this month which I quickly sold just over par.  Some of this fixed price action is due to the strength of the dollar, which is a result of the weakness of other currencies, particularly the Euro.  When rates rise, the dollar should strengthen more.

Meanwhile, don't fall for the Progressives' line that somehow inequality of income is stunting growth.  They don't explain the mechanism that would give us that result, but presumably they think there is not enough consumer spending since only the rich people are making enough money and they save it rather than spend it.  In future posts, I'll deal with this utter nonsense, but my continuing concern is that this idea is symptomatic of a socialist, and certainly anti-capitalist, strain that has been nurtured on college campuses and in minority communities.   Our youth today has little understanding of the central roles capitalism and free enterprise have played in the growth and prosperity of our nation. With their appalling lack of knowledge of our Constitution and our history, the millennials are susceptible to politicians whose policies only perpetuate dependence on government, economic underachievement, and envy of those with the determination and focus, and yes luck, to succeed.        
According to blogger, redwavemusings has achieved over 28,000 page views.  I guess you can't beat the price.
At least the sports world has been a pleasant distraction from all this.  We enjoyed a great hockey season, as my Islanders made a big stride and the playoffs were fun to watch.  I expected it to be a Rangers - Ducks final but they both lost in the semi's, and from that point, it was pretty clear that the B-Hawks were on their way to another cup.  In the NBA, we had the Warriors going all the way, not surprise there, but I must confess the result could have been different if Cleveland hadn't suffered key injuries along the way.

In baseball, my Mets are trying gamely to overcome inept field management, and still have a nose in front of the favored Washington's.  But the classiest teams seem to be the in the NL Central (Cards, Pirates, Cubs) and the AL Central (Royals, Twins, Tigers).  If the Mets and Birds can win the NL East and AL East respectively, we'll be grateful for a puncher's chance in the playoffs.
So you want to see a little jazz before June winds down?  If you're anywhere near Old Lyme, Ct, head for The Side Door on June 27 to see the Jeremy Pelt Quartet, including the great drummer Victor Lewis.This weekend, a Miles Davis tribute quartet, featuring drummer Jimmy Cobb and Sonny Fortune on sax, headlines Birdland.  From June 23-28, Village Vanguard has the Harold Mabern Trio.  On June 22, Rainbow Room has an all star big band featuring Dan Levinson and Molly Ryan.  On the 27th, the late show at Smalls will feature the Lew Tabackin Trio.  Smoke has back to back features you should catch if possible.  June 19-21, the George Coleman Quartet includes the aforementioned pianist Harold Mabern.  Then June 26-28, Helen Sung brings her quartet in.

It's not too early to be thinking about summer jazz festivals either.  Jazz in July at 92nd St. Y, July 21-30, will include Anat Cohen, Bill Charlap, Bucky Pizzarelli, Dick Hyman, Harry Allen, Houston Person, Howard Alden, Jeremy Pelt, Ken Peplowski, Renee Rosnes, and Kenny Washington. Newport, RI, Jazz Festival, July 31-August 2,  has Arturo Sandoval, Bria Skonberg Quintet, Cassandra Wilson, Christian McBride Trio, Dr. John, Kenny Garrett, Lou Donaldson, Pat Martino, Tom Harrell, and Wycliffe Gordon.

Lichfield, CT Jazz Festival, Aug 7-9 features Anat Cohen, Christian McBride Trio, and Wycliffe Gordon and friends.  Bria Skonberg and Bucky Pizzarelli also headline Morristown, NJ Jazz and Blues Festival on August 15.  Karrin Allyson stars at the New Haven, CT Jazz Festival August 22.  Saratoga, NY Jazz Festival, June 27-28 includes Cassandra Wilson and the Christian McBride Big Band. Vince Giordano and Friends will appear at the Louis Armstrong House Museum in Corona, Queens the afternoon of July 18.

The jazz world mourns free jazz pioneer Ornette Coleman, whose music many of us did not really understand all that well, but who was among the most innovative figures in jazz history.

It will take us a while to catch up on the stock transactions, but we'll pick up where we left off:


Date               Stock           Price          Shares          Comments
2/24                GLD            115             20                
3/6                  GIFI              14.40         200              Oil Patch on sale
3/9                  GLDD            5.90         400          
3/9                   TIP             112.21          20             Fed wants inflation
3/10                 GIFI             13.55         200           Trust in the Tulane portfolio
3/11                  PQ                2.60          800            "  "       "     "         "
3/11                  GLD            111.23          20        
3/16                 RAVN            19.72        200
3/23                  PQ                  2.08        1000        Buying a falling knife?
3/24                 TIP                113.94         20  
4/1                   BRS                54.89         50       Tulane portfolio on sale
4/1                   XYL                35.38         100
4/2                   GLD               115.44          20 
4/8                   AWCMY           5               500
4/10                 ALGN               53              50
4/14                PFG.PR.B          25.26         100
4/17                 NWBI               12.15         200
4/20                 PCP                   201.90        10
4/20                NEE.PR.C           25.47         100
4/27                CNRD                 31              100      Buying Tulane again 

Date         Stock        Shares    Price    Date Purchased     Price      Comments
2/23         AAON      100        23.71       1/26/05          2.84          Ten years work
3/6            GNE         300        7.39         6/20/14          7.30
3/10           SF             50        53.90       12/10/07        22.05
3/13          MAN         25        83.43         5/30/06        66.25
3/13          SEIC          50        43.40       12/14/08        13.86       75 months for a triple
3/17         SHLM         50        43.62       11/1/06          24.26
3/19           B               50        40.50        3/22/99          8.31
3/20         ABC            50       113.06       11/29/01       14.34       What a home run
3/24          MAN          25        86.37         5/30/06        66.25      Employment comes back
3/25          BRLI          100       35.76         6/24/13        28.18     Takeover Target
4/2              GNE         300        8.10          11/8/11         7.88   Price going up
4/7             KMX          50        73.33          8/30/04         9.73    Split adjusted
4/10           BDC           50        94.72          11/24/08      11.69
4/15           GNE          300        9.18             11/8/11        7.88     Still going up
4/16           SHLM         50       47.58           3/19/07        20.89
4/23           GNE           200      10.11           12/14/11        7.61     Still going up
4/23           NR              200      10.54          12/5/14          9.80
4/27           PFE             100      35.30           2/14/02        41.40    OK to take a loss     

Monday, February 23, 2015


On The Road Again

Given no post since December 16 (seems like yesterday) and the prospect of spending most of the next two weeks on the road, and another trip at the end of March, the urge to do a fresh post was compelling.  There certainly is no shortage of things to kvetch about. Our so-called President (the academic - in - chief) sees to that.  All this March traveling makes it most unlikely that I will be playing bridge at the Spring Nationals in one of my favorite seedy haunts, New Orleans. Another March trip, even a vacation type, seems out of the question.  I keep telling myself I will go to all these events when I retire.  But that doesn't really happen, does it? On the other hand, if my company keeps performing so ineptly, I may get a not so gentle nudge, since there won't be all that many of us they will be able to afford to keep paying, especially at my exorbitant salary (not to mention expense budget).     

However, if this assignment continues through the summer (summer, there's a blessed term), my travel schedule will take me to Chicago at the same time the Summer Nationals happens to be scheduled there, so I will get to play some sessions, possibly extending my stay.  Yay!  It sounds too good to be true, so something is likely to screw it up.  I won't speculate on what that might be.

Though this is not a blog that dwells on sad events (only stupid ones), we usually give just a quick, though sincere nod to those notables in the passing parade who left a mark worth commemorating.  In the last two months though, we have really lost some big timber.

Saturday night brought news. not unexpected, that the great trumpeter Clark Terry had passed  away at 94.  Clark was still appearing on the Birdland bandstand, as well as other international venues until a few years ago when his diabetes simply made it impossible to perform, let alone get around.  I was privileged to see him perform live about 4 or 5 times, at Birdland and at a great concert he led at Morgan Park in Glen Cove where he lived for a few years.  He always played with such enthusiasm and artistry, and this translated to the young jazz performers he usually surrounded himself with, and who were so thrilled to have the opportunity to share the stage with him.  Besides being one of the last connections to the birth of jazz, Terry was one of the idiom's great teachers.  His resume included long stints with the Ellington Band, the Basie Band, his own bands, and most familiarly with Doc Severinsen's NBC orchestra during the heyday of Johnny Carson's Tonight Show. One of their running gags was to play a game called Stump the Band, and when an audience member posed some school fight song or camp song, of course no one in the band would really know it.  Invariably, CT ( or Mumbles, his nickname) would pop up and say "I've got it" and go off on his famous mumbling, scatting style of singing to some vamp the band would cook up, leaving Johnny and Ed to do their patented break ups and the rest of the band in stitches.

With Terry's passing, only a couple of pioneers are left (most notably, drummers Roy Haines and Jimmy Cobb and guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli).  The idiom is in very good hands these days, largely because of the tradition passed down by jazz educators like Terry, Dr. Billy Taylor, and current educators Wynton Marsalis and Pat Martino.       
In the sports world, we were especially hard hit, losing Ernie Banks, Jean Beliveau, Billy Casper and Jerry Tarkanian.

Ernie Banks was baseball's counterpart to Terry, an eternal optimist who loved day baseball in Chicago, and who enjoyed a Hall of Fame career playing for a team that made losing into an art form.  A two time (back to back) MVP for a team that didn't come close to winning half its games, Banks was an anomaly as a shortstop who could hit and had tremendous power, unleashing over 500 home runs despite being a wrist hitter.  In the 1950's, when there were only 16 Major League teams, every team had boppers, but the winning teams had pitching and defense, two things the Cubs never seemed to have.  As a shortstop, Banks was, well, a hitter.  It was no small coincidence that the Cubs became contenders when Banks transitioned to first base where his talents constituted a more traditional fit.  With the slick fielding, much lighter hitting Don Kessinger at short, Glen Beckert at 2nd, Hundley catching and the passable Jim Hickman in center, the suddenly good up the middle Cubs were a legitimate favorite to win the 1969 pennant, and would have except they were simply outpitched by the Miracle Mets.  With Banks, Ron Santo and Billy Williams manning the corners, this was a really good team.   Nevertheless, through it all Ernie Banks, Mr. Cub, would chirp "Let's play 2" and everyone had to smile.

Jean Beliveau was among the most graceful and talented hockey players ever.  Even when "Rocket Richard" was considered the greatest of Les Habitants, hockey afficianados reveled in Beliveau's seemingly effortless style.  When he was on the ice, you just couldn't  take your eyes off him.  He had the good fortune to play his entire career on one of sports' greatest dynasties.  He had too much class to point out what everyone knew - he was as much the key to their success as any one else.    

When golf's Big 3 of the 1960's reigned - Palmer, Nicklaus and Player, - real golf fans knew there was one other player who belonged in that group and that was Billy Casper.  In fact, when healthy and playing well, he was the clear number 2 to Nicklaus.  Despite being allergic to almost everything under the sun, (famously, the Casper family van was stocked with exotic foods to suit his dietary needs while on tour) Billy Casper won a boatload of tour events, two U.S. Opens (at Winged Foot when he made seemingly every putt and then at Olympic when he overhauled Arnie who had a big lead on the last nine, forcing a playoff which Casper won decisively), and a Masters Title.  Among the top players, Casper was always considered the best putter.  That he was such a well liked guy was clear from the tributes that poured in the last few weeks.

Maybe not so well liked was Jerry Tarkanian, the college basketball Coach who was the model for Gabe Kaplan's character in the movie Fast Break.  Tark's skill was as a recruiter.  He saw college basketball for what it was and became - a big money sport.  Not for him was there going to be lip service to"getting an education" and all the other NCAA required folderol.  He simply recruited the best players he could find, no matter their academic standing or potential.  The result was that he brought winning programs wherever he went, even if a lot of the battle was staying one step ahead of the NCAA police.  Look, for my money, I think Division1 programs are all about exploitation of student athletes and fans for money.  So if it's going to be that way, you either despise it or you love it and anybody who calls the hypocrisy for what it is gets my vote.   That was Tark the Shark.
John Whitehead worked his way up to be CEO of Goldman Sachs when its name was synonymous for high ethical standards on Wall Street.  Yes, there was a time that phrase was not an oxymoron.  Whitehead was a Quaker who nevertheless led his platoon on its D-DAY landing, and late in life, led the efforts to build the memorial at Ground Zero in Manhattan.  A graduate of Haverford College, Whitehead went on to Chair its Board of Managers and contributed so much to the College that its Student Center is named for him.  I had the privilege of meeting him once, and he was so elegant, almost regal in disposition and carriage.  He had a most significant life.
Perhaps not quite so impressive as the above folks, but noteworthy for my generation was Leslie Gore.  As "Little Leslie Gore," her explosive breakthrough in pop music at the age of 16 with the song "It's My Party" in 1963 marked a sea change in how records came to our attention.  It all seemed to happen within a few days when Murray the K and Cousin Brucie raced each other to annoint the new Princess of Rock.  The new paradigm would extend to chart busting hits by the Chiffons (He's So Fine), Jackie Wilson (Baby Work
Out), and "Little Peggy March" (I Will Follow Him) that all rocketed to the top overnight.  These proved to be just a dress rehearsal for Beatlemania, which took hold in 1964.

Gore was determined to be more than a one or two hit hit wonder, and did have some 8 or 9 significant hit records, some of which she wrote,  and one (You Don't Own Me) which forshadowed women's liberation.  One of my personal favorites of her records is the little remembered California Nights which I thought was musically in a different league from the others.

In recent years, Gore had some comeback gigs and I think those gave her a lot of satisfaction.  Too bad she didn't have a little more time.

Before we get to the stocks, I just have to wonder if there is anyone on the planet who didn't see the recent Ukrainian cease fire talks as a repeat of Munich.  If Nevile Chamberlain had actually been there, he couldn't have made Putin any happier.  As for our President, as usual when important things are to be done, he wasn't there.  Not that he would have made any difference.  It's just that he's never there anymore.  What job does he think he was actually elected to do?  He has long since outgolfed Eisenhower, Clinton and Bush 43.  But he's as bad or worse on Iran.  And he's pissed that Netanyahu is going to speak to Congress about Iran!  Tell you what - he can be angry when he starts showing up.  Until then, I don't really care how embarrassed he is. 
Back to Ukraine, the "cease fire" never actually took effect as one side kept shooting and the other side started running, backwards that is.  This aptly demonstrated two different views concerning negotiations.  Democracies negotiate to get an agreement - folly to be sure.  Autocrats negotiate for time and advantage.  Their sole aim is to freeze their adversary, get whatever they can without hostilities, then resume hostilities to get whatever else they want.  When we start treating autocrats like autocrats, and realize what they want out of the negotiating process, then we might have a little more realistic view of how the world works.

The only reason to negotiate is to confirm the hard fought gains we make on the battlefield.  Otherwise, there is no point.  As President Kennedy often said, he would go the the summit, but only to sign an agreement already achieved.

There have been lots of transactions since December 16, and they are listed below.  For 2014, we gained 4.95 %, which is all in (commissions, dividends, etc.).  We underperformed the S&P, but that is to be expected given we keep 20% in cash, and have lots of gold, preferreds, TIPS and municipals.  So at this point, we expect to underperform in up years and outperform in down years.

Date             Symbol         Shares            Price          Comments

12/17              GHM          100                26.67          Value Buy
12/29              ALGN          50                56.57
1/2                   GLD            20               112.49
1/2                   GNE           400                 6.15        
1/6                   WOR          100                28.74     Rolled Steel for all
1/7                   PRH            100               25.11
1/9                  GNE            400                 5.80     Fracking in Israel
1/12                DOV             50                69.91
1/13                BK.PR.C      100              23.95    Bank of NY preferred
1/14                NR               300                8.22   Tulane portfolio - oil patch is dicey
1/16               PQ                700                3.10 More oil patch bottom fishing
1/20              TIP                  20               113.94
1/26              GHM             100                23.98
1/28               HSC             200                15.46
1/30              BK.PR.C       100                24.31
2/2               GHM              100               21.10   Again?  Groundhog Day
2/5                PQ                 700                3.20
2/10             BK.PR.C        100               24.45   That should be enough
2/18              KN                200               17.82    Value
2/20             RAVN             100              21.52

Date           Symbol          Shares    Price       Date      Price Paid

12/19           KMX            50        65.55     1/20/09       7.99       an 8 timer from used cars
12/22           Y                    5         473.00   5/16/08     370.99
12/24          USAK           100        25.46     10/17/12     3.43
12/24          KNX             100        34.19     12/22/03    11.40     Love them truckers
12/26         BMTC            100        30.99     4/30/07       24.28
12/30         USAK            100        27.26     10/17/12      3.43
1/5              HZO              100        19.56     11/10/08      1.54    Boats are back in business
1/5              HZO              100        19.56      7/19/10       6.76
1/21            USAK           100        28.92      10/17/12     3.43
1/22            BYD              200       13.35       10/27/08     3.95
1/23           ABC                50        94.38        11/29/01    14.34
1/27           LOW              50         69.75         1/23/06     31.74
2/3            HZO               100        27.27         9/27/13       12.20
2/4            NEM              50          24.72         3/26/07     43.78     A needed loss (taxes)
2/4            NEM              50          24.72         2/28/11      54.60     Another
2/9            SJM               25          112.68        1/21/14      97.80
2/12          HZO              100          25.54        7/19/10       6.76
2/13          BYD              200          14.62       10/27/08      3.95      It was a nice gamble
2/17          PHM             100          22.68       12/22/10      7.34      A triple from the housing market
2/19          USAK           100         31.85        10/17/12      3.43                                   


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