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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

 

Democracy Backlash

Probably no one will ever know who actually won the Iranian election, but what everyone does know is that the count was fraudulent in at least two respects: first, there were districts where the count just has to be wrong because the home candidate was "swamped" and second, there was no way that all those hand ballots could have been counted almost instantaneously. The clerics in actual charge have made a big mistake by immediately confirming the count and thereby tying their revolution to Ahmadinejad. Ironically, Mousavi was not really a reformist candidate to begin with, but he became the vehicle for the long smoldering middle class and student discontent with the governing theocracy.

Like any good Machiavellian dictatorship, the Mullahs have decided the best course is a stern crackdown, to try to stifle the uprising. The reality is that once the genie is out of the bottle, you can't put the toothpaste back into the tube very easily (clinching the mixed metaphor of the year title with the year less than half over).

Iran is not the only place where democracy is on the march. In Lebanon, South Korea, Georgia and many other places, the friends of George W. Bush are back on the rise. It looks like a Conservative government is coming in in the UK, and in fact, much of Europe looks to be becoming less enchanted with socialism.

Everywhere but here, of course, where the Social Democrats and the Obama Administration push their incredibly ambitious and expensive agenda to the limit. Yet even here, there are signs that Obama's popularity, or at least the popularity of his positions, is more closely tracking David Paterson's than anyone else's. The young President is learning what every other recent President has had to learn - that proposing is not quite the same as disposing. So national health insurance, financial regulation, environmental reform, and redistributionist tax changes all have significant obstacles on the way to passage. Imagine if there was a halfway effective Republican opposition.

On international affairs, Mr. Obama is getting an education on why the Bush Administration policies were what they were, as the axis of evil shows itself to be ...the axis of evil. It is only a question of time before the Israeli's are given the green light to take out the nuclear facilities in Iran and before much harsher, more effective measures are put in place to deal with the North Koreans.

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Lucas Glover may be the winner of the US Open, but Bethpage Black golf course overcame the most horrible weather to prove itself again as one of the best venues to stage the championship the real winner. It showed the great players' skills to their best advantage. Anyone who has ever played there must surely be astounded at the fantastic level of play the last five days, culminating in a thrilling final round that put maximum burden on corporate server systems around the country Monday morning. It was almost impossible to resist tuning in to NBCSPORTS.com wherever it was not blocked.

It was really fun to watch and hear the enthusiasm of the Long Island fans, rain drenched as they were for much of the week, as they cheered their favorites. Some of those favorites were newly discovered, like Andrew Weaver or rediscovered like David Duval. What a bonanza for golf writers.

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And congratulations are due to author Tom Coyne, whose excellent golf/travel digest "A Course Called Ireland" was listed #5 in today's WSJ best seller list for Nonfiction Sports Titles. If you like golf, or loved Ireland, or just love the idea of Ireland, go find and read this terrific book.

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Last night, many of the jazz greats who played at the Jazz Forum 30 years ago came to Lincoln Center to commemorate it, and yours truly was one of the lucky ones to attend. Among the stars playing were Kenny Baron, Joe Lovano, Lou Donaldson, Louis Hayes, Paquito D'Rivera, Jimmy Cobb, John Scofield, just to name a few.

And coming to Dizzy's Cola Club the first week of July, the great Latin Pianist, Eddie Palmieri. His show is reliably among the most exciting you will ever see.

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After a solid month of profit taking, the market has corrected and that has triggered a round of buying for the musings portfolio. We started on June 10 buying 400 shares Of Harleysville National Bank (HNBC) at 5.51, despite the regulators breathing down its neck insisting it raise more capital. Kids, please don't be trying this at home. On June 17, we bought 300 shares of Presidential Life Corp., (PLFE) at 8.84. Then yesterday, it was 800 shares of Newpark Resources (NR) at
2.85. Today, after an abortive limit order Friday at a higher price, we bought 1900 shares of Hauppauge Digital (HAUP) at 1.10, a really speculative adventure. Believe it or not, these were all value buys, except for HNBC. Meanwhile, what we don't know is how far down this slump is going to take us. Some think we will test the March lows. UGH. Of course, we don't try to predict such things. We'll let the market tell us what to do, following the formula, which relies mainly on our asset allocation approach.

Comments:
I noted the Redwaver’s May 16, 2009 post, referenced the death of the Pulitzer Prize winning playwright, Horton Foote. Last night, I had the opportunity to see his play “Dividing the Estate” performed by the Broadway cast in, of all places, Hartford CT. The play was enjoyable as it dealt with human foibles in the in time of stress, financial and ultimately, death in a family, in a realistic and warm manner. The play is set in an East Texas farm that was really more like a plantation than a farm where the owners are land rich and cash poor. The key question facing the family is whether to divide the estate or break it up to the cash hungry family members. The resolution is almost a foregone conclusion but the key here is the characters revelations and human interaction. The actors were all excellent in creating realistic and humorous characters from Mr. Foote’s work.
All in all, this was a most enjoyable evening.

As always,
Hail Freedonia!
Rufus T. Firefly
 
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