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Tuesday, November 03, 2009


That's No Lady, It's Bill's Wife!

Just who is that person in the Hillary costume? The last two weeks, the Secretary of State, who had been allegedly marginalized by the Obama White House foreign policy "experts," has emerged to provide some adult supervision for the administration and correct some of its most flagrant policy blunders. On Honduras, a settlement was reached with the interim government (much to the consternation of State Department careerists and our hapless, incompetent ambassador) that returns the decision regarding ousted President Zelaya to the Honduras Supreme Court and its Congress. The predictable result is that Zelaya will not be returned to power, but more importantly, the election scheduled for later this month will be recognized by the US and the OAS as legitimate.

On Afghanistan and Pakistan, Clinton prevailed upon Abdullah to give up his challenge to Karzai, cementing his own reputation and simultaneously stabilizing the government. Clinton also pointedly criticized our Pakistani allies for not doing enough to smoke out Al Queda leadership hiding within its borders. That sort of straight talk has been missing since virtually the beginning of our involvement.

On Israel/Palestine peace talks, Mrs. Clinton became the first Obama administration official to NOT throw the Israeli leadership under the bus on the settlements issue, making it clear that we actually know which side is really interested in a lasting settlement and a two state solution.

On Iran, with the deadline for serious movement long since passed, Clinton made it clear that the policy of engagement will not be followed blindly for much longer.

All of this is welcome news, though it would certainly be more helpful if the Obama administration did some straight talking with the American people and its political base about the importance of wiretapping in preventing recent terrorist plans from coming to fruition, the ongoing role of Guantanamo, and other of the Bush policies that were actually correct and which they are still following. But don't hold your breath.


The three races I was really following and hoping for conservative victories have yielded two winners, and one race that still hasn't been called, though Mr. Hoffman is behind in NY's 23rd CD. More on that race in a minute.

The Virginia landslide was partly a function of the Republican candidate being simply much better than his opponent, but it also demonstrates how the energy has shifted since a year ago. Youth and minorities are not engaged, but conservatives are over-the-top engaged. They will be energized by the off year victories; look for money and volunteer hours to gravitate to conservative candidates for 2010.

Lest anyone think this is a fluke, take note that it appears the GOP is also winning statewide races big in Pennsylvania, another state thought to have turned true blue.

In New Jersey, the Corzine campaign ran one of the nastiest batch of TV ads in recent memory. Obama came to the state several times, as did Biden et al. For, their trouble, they lost by over a 100,000 votes to a mediocre campaigner, albeit with an excellent, squeaky clean record. Christie won despite being massively outspent and despite being the target of Corzine's bare knuckle tactics. This will be good for New Jersey, though the state's problems are a massive challenge for anyone. But tonight, we wish good riddance to Mr. Corzine.

As for the 23rd in New York, much has been made about how the Republican party is no longer safe for moderates, that internecine squabbling will result in too small a tent, etc. Frankly, I think this is just Democrats and the liberal media spinning one more thing when, in fact, there are philosophical divisions in both parties and always have been. Just wait til you see how the Dems go at it on health care. They are, in fact, the past masters of the circular firing squad.

The original handpicked candidate, Dede Scozzofaza, or whatever her name was, misrepresented herself by calling herself a Republican, just like Olympia Snowe, Arlen Spector (til he crossed), et al. It's OK for Republicans to disagree from time to time, but when you are off the reservation on so many core issues and can still call yourself a Republican, then the term has no meaning. It just becomes a label for determining which party you caucus with.

When I was in high school and we had elections for class officers and students' council, we had a green and a red party. Neither stood for anything, and I can't remember how you came to be in one or the other, but each party nominated a candidate. Green and red were the school colors, and that's about all there was to it (no, it wasn't the communists versus the environmentalists).

Well, with the Republican candidate in the 23rd, she might as well have been in the red party as the GOP. So Republican voters decided to dump her in favor of the Conservative party. With the handwriting on the wall, Dede followed form and ultimately supported the Democrat Owens, and she will now presumably be forced to cross the aisle in the NY Assembly. I predict that like Senator Spector, her political career is on life support.

In any event, it looks like Owens will squeak by Hoffman, a result that is unfortunate, but I believe merely proves that Republicans will do better when they have first had a primary (this special election did not have a primary opportunity) and sorted out the ideological preferences of their candidates.

One piece of bad news today is that Royal Bank of Scotland's agreement with the FSA
apparently includes a suspension of the preferred stock dividend for at least two years. We knew this was a possibility and took a calculated risk in buying the depressed stock and will now continue to hold it. Since it is trading at about a third of par, timely resumption of the dividend will actually make us just about whole. On October 27, we sold 200 shares of Avocent (AVCT) which is being taken over soon. We took 24.92 per share from the arbitrageurs and that saved a few dollars versus the fee our discount broker charges for packaging up tender offers. We'll sum up the profits and losses on Avocent once the rest of the shares go in the takeover. On Friday, we bought 50 shares of J. P. Morgan preferred (the old Bear Stearns issue) for the IRA at 44.10. Today, we bought 200 shares of Ceradyne (CRDN) for the IRA at 15.96, a value buy.

This market continues to look vulnerable and shaky. Handle with care.

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