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Tuesday, July 07, 2009


Joe Biden Can't Help Himself

I am imagining someone in the Administration, probably Chief of Staff Emanuel or maybe even the President, sends Vice President Biden a weekly reminder to engage brain before mouth, but as we all know, good old Joe just can't help himself, so the truth, at least as he perceives it,is always a threat to come out. When he served on the Senate Judiciary Committee, this usually took the form of baiting conservative nominees so no one thought much about it, but now when Joe makes the rounds of the Sunday morning TV news shows, what slips out is a barely softened version of what we're all thinking, namely that this administration, despite believing that it has assembled the smartest people in the world, is actually run by a bunch of klutzes and worse.

So Joe in recent days has talked about how the administration misjudged how bad the economy that they "inherited" really was (inherited from whom - the last Democratic Congress?), and how the stimulus is not really getting out there so maybe we will need another stimulus package, and maybe McCain's idea about taxing health benefits wasn't so bad (yes it was), and if the Israeli's choose to take out the Iranian nuclear facilities, that's their decision and they could just go ahead, etc., etc.

The other thing I have noticed is that people of all political stripes, even many who voted for Obama are griping out loud. It's Obama the socialist, Obama blowing it on foreign policy everywhere, Obama not sticking to his liberal guns, etc. Man, he must feel almost as beaten up as Sarah Palin! But, unfortunately, liberals never resign, they tough it out even when they're caught red handed, government "service" is their life you know.

As for Sarah, I think she just needs to make some money, and to stop spending it defending herself against all of these politically motivated and absurd lawsuits. Besides, hiding out in the boonies of Alaska is no way to get rich, famous and powerful. If John McCain hadn't ferreted her out to boost his flagging campaign, no one would know who she is.

Meanwhile, the embarrassment that is our stance on Honduras continues, despite the prevailing national sentiment that we are on the wrong side. When will Mrs. Clinton and her boss have their epiphany and realize that they are in bed with Communists and thugs on this one?

I feel a little like Bob Dole in 1996 these days. Where is the outrage? Yes I hear it among the folks in my circles, but do the masses in the minority communities who overwhelmingly voted for Obama see the error of his ways yet? I doubt it. What needs to happen, and I know this goes against the grain of the typical apolitical American, is that the outraged among us simply have to make our voices heard. Blogging and commenting and e-mailing on the internet is helpful, but there is no substitute for communications - letters, e-mails, phone calls - to your Congressmen, Senators, and the White House. People have to go on record that they want us to line up with the new democracy in Honduras, not the would be dictator who tried to abrogate the country's constitution, that we need to do more than make idle threats about sanctions with respect to North Korea and Iran, that we don't want to spend billions, even trillions, to replace our current health care system with one that rations care in the false hope of "insuring everyone," that we oppose card check and cap and trade, that we want to see more than models as proof that global warming is man made before we determine that carbon is a pollutant, that we want school choice instead of monopoly public schools that fail to teach, and that before we begin stimulus 2, we should fix stimulus 1, where only 10% of the authorized funds have been deployed. How about applying less of the stimulus to infrastructure projects we can't get off the ground and more to helping small business put people back to work?

But if Congress and the Administration don't hear our outrage, they will proceed down their socialist path with impunity. The social democratic cycle of success - keeping minorities poor, pretending to play robin hood for their benefit to win their votes and retain power, giving them fish instead of teaching them how to fish, - will continue. The Administration hopes to bring universal health insurance, cap and trade, etc. to a vote within the next six months. The time for clear expression is now.


Outside the US, the socialist retreat continues. Bulgaria is the latest to throw out its leftist government in favor of a center right party. I wonder if Obama wakes up every morning wondering why everyone else in the world is out of step.

I know Karl Malden was not everyone's cup of tea as an actor. He played every role intensely, probably a carry over from his early days on the legitimate stage. I always thought he was an underrated actor who made everyone else he worked with better, and quite a number of the stars he worked with won various awards, indicative of that quality. His performance in Patton, I thought really grounded and contrasted with George C. Scott's bravura performance in the title role and allowed him to go as far over the top as he wanted. He could also play the heavy - remember him as Jimmy Pearsall's father in Fear Strikes Out. In my book, he was a workmanlike actor, often a forgettable second banana, who made every movie he was in that much better.


The market is giving us a pretty good correction, reversing much of the spring advance, and threatening to retest the lows. We'll see. On July 1, we sold 300 more shares of Books A Million (BAMM) out of the IRA at 7.12, all purchased in November of last year for 2.20. Yesterday, we were active in the preferreds. We traded out of Citigroup (C.PR.S), selling all of our 6% preferred for 12.84 (400 purchased in August of 2004 for 24.46, 200 last January for 14.75), the loss not helpful since it was in the IRA. We bought 300 shares of an ING preferred (ISP) for 14.57 and 400 shares of an Aegon preferred (AEH) at 14.00. The idea is to remove the threat of Citigroup imploding while still maintaining most of the risk in financials at a similar price but diversifying out of the US. Also, CitiGroup made an almost incomprehensible offer to exchange the shares for Common stock, which I would not want to own. It's possible that the conversion of other preferreds would have made my preferred shares that much more secure, but where the Government is converting, I don't trust them to honor the preferred status if financial trouble hits. Especially after what happened to owners of secured Chrysler debentures. So the easiest thing was just to trade out of the name. It only hurt for a second and now I feel much better with the shares I traded into.

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