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Monday, November 09, 2009

 

The Boss at MSG

For a completely unique experience, I got it into my head to see Bruce Springstein Saturday night at Madison Square Garden, despite the fact that the show (and Sunday's also) was a total sellout. No matter, it was also a chance to become a first time user of Stubhub. With respect to that service, I found the on-line, secondary market for event tickets a refreshing oasis of old fashioned capitalism, with prices and ticket availability changing in predictable ways as concert time neared. I could have chosen Sunday tickets for a much more reasonable price, but I was determined to go Saturday, waited for a semi-decent value for a seat facing the stage (rather than behind it), and finally pulled the trigger about 2 and a half hours before advertised concert time, which turned out to be 3 and a half hours before the first chord rang out.

Then it was a simple matter to take the train into the City, get over to the Stubhub office and pick up my ticket - fast, clean convenient, no muss, no fuss. Much better than going the scalper route at the Garden, where there were plenty of would-be ticket buyers but hardly any sellers. My ticket cost about double face value, all in, and that was about as good as I should have expected.

Having never seen Bruce perform before, except on TV at the Super Bowl, I was a blank slate expectation-wise but was quickly filled in by my seat neighbor, an architect from Binghamton, NY who was seeing Bruce for the third time on THIS TOUR! I think he must be getting burned out because he showed little or no energy during the show, in contrast to the other 19,998 fans who were singing, dancing, jumping, fist pumping fanatics throughout. About the second song in, Bruce did "Hungry Heart," a banal but familiar tune that even I knew, followed closely by the wonderful "Prove it All Night" but then there followed a dozen and a half rather unfamiliar songs, a few of which I loved, but more of them simply overwhelmed me with their high volume (heavily distorted, especially early on) pyrotechnics, many not especially tuneful. The ones I liked were really great, and I think Bruce, like most talented singers at his age, is better on the ballads (or what passes for a ballad in a Springstein show). Unfortunately, Bruce didn't stop to name or banter about any of the tunes (completely unnecessary for the other 19,999 diehards), and in fact, didn't really stop between songs, simply counting the next one in over the closing chord of the last. If he needed a drink of water or a new guitar, the band just kept rolling that last chord until he was ready. Therefore, it was never really quiet enough for me to even ask my acquaintance to the left for a song title, embarrassing as that might have been.

When we got back to more familiar territory, there was a very spirited rendition of "Glory Days", "Dancing in the Dark," and of course a raucus "Born To Run" where Bruce had help from at least 19,000 who actually knew all the words! The three hour plus show was closed fittingly with a brilliant cover of Jackie Wilson's "Higher and Higher." I say fitting because Mr. Wilson was the high energy act of his day. That was one thing the E Street Band never lacked Saturday night - energy - and a happy and exhausted crowd left, many no doubt looking forward to the next tour.

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Saturday night's health care vote in the House, following a marathon all day "debate" on the floor, gave Nancy Pelosi and the liberal wing a chance to show off their bona fides for the base and win a preliminary round (if barely). Pelosi also used the event to give a pass to some of the Blue Dogs to show off their independence and vote no, though only on the condition that the bill would not be defeated. Republicans played into her hands by appeasing their anti-abortion base, attaching an amendment that made it safe for enough Blue Dogs to vote yes to give Pelosi the win.

Now it goes to the Senate where things get even more complex since the magic number will be 60, not 218. Hawks like Howard Dean threaten to use the Budget Reconciliation process to pass the bill with 50 votes, but in fact, that process is too awkward to use for this bill, where if it passes, there would be an exhaustive conference committee process to square the bill with the House version, followed by re-votes.

So there are two possible outcomes. In one scenario, the Dems somehow cobble together 60 votes for a bill with no public option that looks surprisingly like the GOP alternative proposals in some respects (except without tort reform). Squaring the bill with the House version gets put off until next year with a very uncertain result. The other scenario is where the Dems force a vote on the fillibuster of the Reid bill, knowing they will lose but hoping to depict the GOP in the 2010 elections as the party of "NO."

So I am still hopeful that this horrible idea for the government to take over another one-sixth of the economy will come to naught. We will see. Obama and the Dems' base are awfully determined. But the more I read about what's actually in the bill, the less I understand why ANYBODY is in favor. Perhaps more people just need the facts. As it is, polls are showing that the majority of the public is either undecided or against.

We have said before that while our health system is by far the world's best, there are things that can and should be done within the system to improve and expand access. This can be a bi-partisan effort. Unfortunately, the Dems are less interested in that than they are determined to expand the public (unionized) sector at any cost.

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Predictably, Zelaya opted out of the settlement he agreed to when it became clear that he would not be restored to the Presidency by the Honduran legislature. Look for this dispute to peter out as the election on November 29 takes center stage. Give great credit to the interim government and the people of Honduras for standing up to the world to defend their freedom. And a cheery salute to Hillary for seeing who the good guys were, in the face of the leftists in her own State Department and the Administration.
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On Friday, we bought 100 shares of NVE Corp (NVEC), a new name, at 38.53. This along with FLIR, were my picks from this year's Forbes listing of the best 200 small, publicly traded companies. Today, we bought 100 shares of Goldman Sachs preferred (GS.PR.D), also for the IRA, at 20.70. The hardball players at GS are not my favorite people, so I had to do a little nose holding when I put this order in, but I needed some new preferred names, since we are buying so much of that type of stock. Frankly, quality preferred's are not such a big universe, and the energy preferred's are largely trading at par, too high to buy with hyperinflation a threat.

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