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Thursday, June 12, 2008

 

Mets June Swoon and WSJ musings

The Mets have serious issues, I'm afraid. The shaky bullpen now extends to the formerly reliable closer, Billy Wagner, who has blown three saves in a row. It looks like it's time for a change. That usually means the manager - exit stage left. However, in this case the real culprit may be Omar Minaya, the GM.

I still say the team's troubles stem from Omar's decision to jettison manager Willy Randolph's hitting coach last year and bring in Ricky Henderson and Howard Johnson. Henderson in particular seemed to affect players' attitudes negatively, but the real damage was to Randolph's authority. If the manager can't name his own coaches, the players know he is not really the boss, and that's the end of that. Not surprisingly, the team continues to underachieve.

On top of that, Omar changed his whole approach in coming to the big budget New York team. In Montreal, where he built his reputation, Omar's teams were young overachievers, and typically he lost his best players each year since the Expos could not afford big salaries. With the Mets, he has traded many of the young prospects for bigger salaried name players, who have usually turned out to be either overrated or past their primes. The result is an old, injury prone team that lacks the grit needed to win consistently.

So even though Willie will go first, I suspect that Omar will be out at the end of this season too. Pretty frustrating stuff for Mets fans.
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The Guantanamo decision is in from the top court, and it went against the Bush administration, effectively throwing terrorist trials back to the civilian criminal court system. The President, missing the point, criticized the decision because of its implications for our security. Actually the Court should have decided the case based on what the constitution says. However, the majority's reasoning was as flawed as the Bush criticism, ascribing it to the prisoner's constitutional rights. But the enemy combatants have no constitutional rights, being neither US citizens nor US residents. They also have no Geneva prisoner rights not being soldiers for a signor of the Geneva Conventions. So the Court made a bad decision but not for the reason that the administration claimed.

Regarding the politics of the matter, the liberals appeasement drumbeat that Guantanamo should be closed and the prisoners either tried or released has again been shown to be what it is by the revelation that one of the prisoners released in2005 has died a suicide bomber, taking about a dozen other lives with him. Guess he really was a terrorist after all.

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In case anyone was wondering why I haven't been quoting many WSJ columns in this blog recently, it's not because there hasn't been an awful lot of great material there. It's a shame that some WSJ readers only see the weekday editions and miss out on the weekend edition columns that include Peggy Noonan's. Last weekend's edition featured a great column by Michael Ledeen of the American Enterprise Institute called "Iran and the Problem of Evil", highlighting the parallels between the West's failure to deal with Iran now and Nazi Germany in the run up to World War II. He effectively points out that both Germany and Iran made no secret of their intentions to commit mass murder and aggressive war, yet neither has been taken seriously by Western intellectuals. Pretty frightening stuff.

The Israeli's of late have been equally explicit about the probability that they will have to make a preemptive strike on Iran's nuclear facility, and soon. This reality has also been echoed by President Bush in the last few days, sort of a verbal wink and nod. I know that thought strikes terror in the hearts of the Bush Haters, and even he is smart enough to let the Israeli's do the heavy lifting, but the prediction here is that it is likely to happen sometime in 2008.

Meanwhile, we are not doing enough to replenish our weapons and fighting forces and that only emboldens our enemies, including North Korea, which continues to stall on its promises regarding its nuclear program. An Obama administration given this international situation is a pretty worrisome prospect.

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Another really provocative column was Brian Wesbury's "Change We Can Believe In Is All Around Us" from yesterday's op ed page. The theme here is that rather than embracing change, represented by the globalism of the economy and productivity gains, the Obama campaign represents a longing for a past that cannot be restored. The last two paragraphs constitute a great summation:

"In contrast to what some people seem to believe, having the government take over the health-care system is not change. It's just a culmination of previous moves by government. And the areas with the worst problems today are areas that have the most governmental interference - education, health care, and energy.

"The best course of action is to allow a free market economy to reallocate resources to the place of highest returns. In the midst of all the natural change, the last thing the US economy needs is more government involvement, whether it's called change or not."

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On 6/6 I sold 100 shares of Axsys Technologies (AXYS) out of my IRA for 62.78. These were shares I bought on 5/1/06 at 16.80. I have said before that in slippery markets like we are now enduring, it is more important than ever to take some profits, reinvesting in stocks that have less downside risk. This is a philosophy I share with Mad Money host Jim Cramer, although he never would have had the patience to wait until this became a virtual 4 timer. With me, it's not patience either, it's our still-working formula. On Monday we were back to the buy side, adding 20 more shares of Precision Castparts (PCP) at 104.35, one of our infamous "zero buys.". Yesterday, we averaged down again in Hauppauge Digital (HAUP), buying a 1000 shares at 2.06. There's got to a bottom somewhere for a company with zero debt, doesn't there? If this doesn't seem like less downside risk, well that's a good point, but I refer you to the HAUP and PCP charts for perspective.

Repeating the Musings disclaimer, neither this blog nor its author is an investment advisor, and in fact, the stocks mentioned here may not be suitable for anyone, least of all, me.

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