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Thursday, August 13, 2009


YouTube Bonanza

I am not a frequent YouTube visitor, but I have to admit that I was interested in seeing for myself just what was going on at these Town Hall Meetings that had Congressmen so terrified. So I watched a half dozen or so videos and I have to admit that I didn't really hear anyone getting shouted down or anything scary, though some argued aggressively and pointedly.

The Dems are much better than we are at exploiting hyperbole and overreaching so it is not surprising that they have taken the tack of arguing that the anti-health reform folks are shrill, organized, and spreading myths about the bill (to the extent there is a bill yet). The R's and their allies will have to be careful about any exaggeration that can be exploited- Sarah Palin's unfortunate use of the term "death panel" to describe the bill's mandated status reviews of older and (near) terminal patients the prime example. You can listen to talk radio all you want - Lavin and Sean and Rush - and you won't hear the term, but the D's are scoring points by saying there is no such thing in the bill (when there is but it is not called that).

The fact is that in spite of the mistakes made by politicians and regular folks opposing the bill, the Dems are in retreat, and not just on health "reform" but also on cap - and - tax, card check, etc. We don't need to bludgeon them with clever wordsmithing. The facts are on our side. For a measured and well written analysis of what happens in the single payer world favored by Obama, Pelosi, and Reid, see today's WSJ op ed piece by Alan B. Miller, Chairman and CEO of Universal Health Services Inc.

By the way, the Dems are making plenty of mistakes of their own, and it's not helping them in these meetings with the public. For example, Sen. Arlen Spector, in the middle of a cogent explanation about how he and his staff go about dissecting a 1000 page bill, dropped an aside that they have to turn this around fast. That caused the audience to scream, virtually in unison, "Why?" After all, what is the hurry to dump the system that provides the world's best health care for the large majority of the population. All we really need to do is figure out how to extend that system to cover those currently excluded. And we need to take the time to do that correctly.

Another example was Obama's explanation for why private insurance plans would be able to coexist with the public option. "Fed Ex and UPS seem to be holding their own against the Post Office." Well, yeah, but that's because the quality of postal service is unacceptable for important packages. I guess if public health care delivery is going to follow the post office model, the private carriers can compete, but is that the quality level reform advocates aspire to?

By the way, it is sinking into the public consciousness that while Obama is the best off a teleprompter, he's not so good on his feet.


The MoveOn.org crowd, still looking for blood from the Bush Administration, believes it has found the smoking gun leading to Karl Rove's culpability in the firing of a few of the US Attorneys some years ago. I haven't reviewed the "evidence" but wonder again about the effort to criminalize politics. Let's stipulate that these Republican appointed attorneys were fired for political reasons - they would not play ball in pursuit of election fraud cases. So what? Don't they serve at the pleasure of the President and the Attorney General? These are not civil servants. Was it a crime when the Clinton's fired the ENTIRE STAFF of US Attorneys shortly after entering the White House. I would say either both were crimes or neither (my own view).


The Administration's foreign policy is alternately inept and embarrassing, but it's handling of Iran is especially scary, particularly if you live in Israel. They are making it easy for Iran's repressive regime to buy time to make its nuclear bomb, so the Israeli's are getting very close to decision time in terms of taking action to destroy Iran's facility. Since much of it is underground, the Israeli's will have to use some fairly sophisticated weaponry to get at it.

Meanwhile, the Administration's main concern in the region seems to be the curtailment of Israel's settlement activity near Gaza and the West Bank. Thus continues the old Cold War axiom - it is dangerous to be America's enemy, but often fatal to be our friend.


One of history's longest running jazz gigs ended for good today when legendary guitarist Les Paul died at age 94. Monday nights at Iridium Club will never be the same.


On Monday, we sold 200 shares of Carmax (KMX) from the IRA at 17.16 for a small profit (originally purchased on 6/30/08 at 14.70). Yesterday, we took a smaller profit, selling 200 shares of First Niagara (FNFG), also from the IRA, at 13.37 (purchased 5/12/03 at 12.99). Sometimes these transactions yield small profits or losses even though our average purchase price is quite a bit lower than the shares we sold. When the formula tells us to lighten up, we do. We've been selling into this great little rally for a while now, the last 8 transactions have all been sales. We are now up more than 18% year-to-date.

Frankly, I am not comfortable. This rally could well be for real, but it also could be, as Robert Prechter believes, a bear market rally. Our formula has been working great for a long time, but we do tweak it when it can be improved. It is important that we feel comfortable following it, and I am not comfortable that it moves quickly enough. We could be raising cash even faster in my opinion. Also, since we're now only about 15% or so below our all time high, I would be anxious to do more purchasing, when the time comes, in preferred's. So we are going to add one transaction per two weeks versus the original formula, which means, where our balance is now, a transaction every other day instead of twice a week. Also, for purchases, we will simply alternate value buys, zero buys and preferred's. Over time, that should make the portfolio a little more conservative, and juice our incoming dividend cash.

You can see the Musings portfolio in Bloomberg.com. See our post from a few weeks ago for the instructions. Next week some time, I will add the preferred's we own to portfolio #5 on that website and then reprint the instructions for viewing.

I read the OpEd piece concerning health care written by President Obama in the 8/16/09 NY Times. He, or his staff, must not have proof read it before allowing it to be published. Talk about irony! Well, I rather not but read on ...
"In the coming weeks, the cynics and the naysayers will continue to exploit fear and concerns for political gain. But for all the scare tactics out there, what’s truly scary — truly risky — is the prospect of doing nothing. If we maintain the status quo, we will continue to see 14,000 Americans lose their health insurance every day. Premiums will continue to skyrocket. Our deficit will continue to grow. And insurance companies will continue to profit by discriminating against sick people."
Who is trying to scare who? The President is resorting to politics at the lowest/worst level.

As always,
Hail Freedonia !!

Rufus T. Firefly
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