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Thursday, June 19, 2008

 

Fakin' It? Surely Thou Jests

One of the most outrageous accusations we heard from the "root for anyone but Tiger Woods crowd" was that he was feigning serious pain and injury during his incredible, gutty victory at the US Open. Why did it hurt so much on only some shots? What could he have taken on the back nine Sunday that enabled him to play so much more comfortably? Why would a guy with such a bad knee crouch to read his putts (seemingly without pain).

Heck, I wanted to see Rocco Mediate win as much as the average underdog's fan, but there was no way you could deny what Tiger was going through. Today the truth came out - Torn ACL, stress fracture, etc. requiring season ending reconstructive knee surgery. This is a long rehab, by the way, and most guys are never quite the same. The Tiger people are putting a good face on it, but the likelihood is that he did permanent damage in pursuit of victory at Torrey Pines. And he sure made the skeptics noted above look and sound ridiculous.

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A few posts back, I called the top for crude at $135, only to have the price shoot up to $140 briefly a week later. However, it did not hold at that level, any more than it stuck at the lower levels it has tested since my call. Frankly, it's hard to tell if the recent action represents base building for the next move up or a topping process. I'm not really good at dealing with short-term questions like that, but will only repeat that the evidence is clear that long-term demand adjustments are being made and they should impact crude eventually. I don't think there is any rush to sell energy stocks in toto, but nailing down some big profits would not be unreasonable. If the Fed really acts to defend the dollar, there will be a compounded impact reducing the price of oil.

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So Mr. Obama has declined to observe the spending limits of McCain Feingold and sworn off Federal matching funds, a decision Mr. McCain will also be making shortly, after having belatedly done so in the primaries. Mr. McCain is being taken to task since by at first appearing to accept the matching funds (but never receiving them), he encouraged some contributors to salvage his then failing campaign. Since there is no end to the Dems' hypocrisy, they are trying to have McCain's campaign sanctioned for this technicality, but it will never happen.

In fact, there is more than enough hypocrisy to go around on this issue, since all of the above candidates (Hillary too) refused to accept the spending limits they advocate for everyone else. It's not money that corrupts politics, it's the crooked politicians. The only campaign finance system needed is to let anyone make any sized contribution they choose, as long as the campaign is obligated to disclose all contributions immediately on the Internet.

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At age 62, Al Green has a new hit album. It's fascinating that great musicians can retain their ability to entertain us, seemingly indefinitely. At an industry dinner last night, the conversation turned to live performances folks had seen recently, and the remarkable energy and brilliance that had been displayed by Tom Petty, Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen, and Tom Petty just to name a few. Next month, I will be seeing Mark Knopfler in Central Park - I have to admit I'm pretty excited by that prospect.

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At the other extreme pf competence is the bungled firing of Willie Randolph and half of his coaching staff. Look, we knew Willie was going, and posted to that effect, but there was no reason to fly him to LA, have him manage the first game of the series (a win), then lower the boom in the middle of the night. The blame for this goes to Wilpon the younger, another spoiled brat son of a wealthy businessman, just like Jimmy Dolan. No class, no real business sense, and no regard for their employees. What else is there to say? Inevitably, the organizations these characters run underachieve.

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On Monday, I bought another 1200 shares of poor ol' Cardiodynamics (CDIC) at 2.02. The price was so high because I put in a market order, a pretty fundamental mistake with a thinly traded stock. Of course this was also the stock when a limit order I put in didn't fully execute. It's just a tough stock to trade right now. Yesterday, I bought 6 more shares of Alleghany Corp. at 365.00. By the way, business conditions are really terrible right now, as gasoline and food prices suck the (green) blood out of the economy. You are seeing the impact of that in the quarterly earnings reports. Still, watch the increment to shareholder equity for these reports; that will tell you something about the quality of the earnings. If the quality is good and the dividends are not too high, a reasonable share of earnings should fall through to equity. That was the good news in the otherwise disappointing earnings turned in by Carmax (KMX) and Lindsay Corp (LNN). Both stocks got crucified, but I think the selling was way overdone, long term. Of course for Lindsay, the stock was significantly overbought before the earnings came out.

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