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Saturday, September 27, 2008

 

Debate Analysis; Paul Newman (RIP)

My opinion is that both candidates performed well at last night's debate, playing carefully to their bases and sticking to their respective campaign strategies. Obama tried to look centrist while sticking with the usual Dem class warfare positions where they play well - executive pay, the Bush tax cuts, etc. He scored "debating points" by obfuscating the argument about whether the President should hold summit talks before lower level discussions have set the agenda, gracefully reversing his earlier provocative statements regarding the lack of necessary preconditions. McCain called him on that but it dissolved into a silly semantical discussion.

For his part, McCain demonstrated his "maverick" chops, with the political advantage of separating him from identity with the current administration but the weakness of leaving doubt about his ability to command the helm without mishap. He does come across at all times as a straight talker, and Obama does not look good when he tries to make McCain look like anything else.

My guess is that whichever candidate you went in favoring, that's who you think made the better impression. As for the undecided voters, they probably are just as uncertain today, and will be looking for more data. Given how many folks vote early, time is running out.

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Washington moves closer to a deal on the"bailout" or "rescue" plan, whichever you choose. It is clear that it will be based on the Paulson/Bernanke proposal, the House GOP proposal for an "insurance" solution being a non-starter. The interesting thing about the proposal on the table is that while the government might indeed be putting $700 billion at risk, the chances are that if it succeeds at breaking the negative feedback loop we are in, it will cost much less, and could even be profitable!

What's holding up the deal is the House GOP's legitimate concern about the Dems' provision for dedicating a certain percentage of any profits to left wing "low housing" interest groups like ACORN, instead of to deficit reduction. As the WSJ has pointed out, why should Republicans vote for a plan that has the potential to finance its fiercest enemies? Actually, this is what has conservative talk radio in an uproar (causing an avalanche of phone calls to GOP members), not the quoted cost of the program.

Once the Dems are forced to remove the offending provisions, the deal will be done. If they don't remove them, either Dems will pass it without GOP support or no deal will be done. If the latter, we should expect a windfall for bankruptcy lawyers.

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Paul Newman was a modern day "leading man" but one who had more range than the average bear and who played many of the characters we loved. The proof of this is in the charaters he was brought back to reprise in sequels. For example, he played the Bogart-like private detective Harper in the movie of the same name, and then again in The Drowning Pool. He was nominated for Academy awards 10 times, finally winning for his reprise of Fast Eddie Felson (as a mature adult) in the Color of Money. He played the pool shark as young and irresponsible in The Hustler, a truly great performance where we see Felson mature under duress, attaining "character" in the end.

In most of his performances, we see his hallmark sense of humor peeking out through the earnestness and intensity. Maybe that's what we loved.

Other memorable Newman roles were the broken down hockey coach and promoter in Slap Shot (1977), the broken down alcoholic attorney in the award winning The Verdict (1982) with the unfortgettable character actors Jack Warden and James Mason, and of course the two classics with his friend Robert Redford, as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) and the con-man Gondorf in The Sting (1973), another best picture winner.

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I've always said that the key to understanding why football teams win or lose is organization. Playing talent is important, but in football, good coaching and organization mean more than in any other team sport, even basketball. More evidence of this can be seen in college football where the hiring of Nick Saban by Alabama seemingly has ended the Crimson Tide's long down period. His recruiting abilities and game preparation skills will put the elephants back near the top of the college polls again.

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On Monday, I bought 300 shares of Sun Microsystems (JAVA) at 8.58. This company is not necessarily going to stay on my buy/hold list much longer, but I think it could be a takeover target. Possible suitor - IBM. On Friday, I bought another 100 shares of LDSH for my IRA at 21.08.

Strange announcement from Bank of Granite (GRAN) where they eliminated their dividend (understandable when capital is king) but also split the stock five for four. Strange because the stock is depressed and the split could take it under 5 where institutions (if any are left in the stock) will have to dump it. A reverse split, one for two or one for four, would have made much more sense. I guess the Board was hoping to neutralize the negative dividend action with a positive one, but the Street saw right through it and took the stock down further.

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