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Thursday, June 17, 2010

 

Sweeping up the Cellars

After visiting the Eastern cellar dwelling Orioles and sweeping them, Jerry's red hot kids went into Cleveland to take on the doormats of the Central Division and darned if Los Metso's didn't sweep them too. Now it's time to move up in class and take on the Yank -a- Pups in their ball yard in the South Bronx. The Bombers should be motivated, with the memory of their series loss at CitiField still fresh in their minds, and given that they always seem to play well at home. It should be some fun. We need one of the games to split the season series with the Stinkees and finish the trip a more than respectable 7-2. Anything better than that is just gravy.
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It's been a little different walking by open pubs in New York City early in the morning seeing their patrons watching the early World Cup games through bleary eyes. Tomorrow morning, the pubs will be full presumably as the USA team is back in action. Their tie with the UK (which could easily have been a win) gives US fans the once unlikely hope of making it through their preliminary grouping. Tomorrow may well tell the tale.
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Caught the early Wednesday night show at Birdland to again see Dave Osvalt's Louis Armstrong Centennial Band. It really is amazing how Dave pulls together a top notch ensemble each week, and the word is out because the place was quite busy last night. The tourists have really discovered Birdland - maybe they've discovered our blog? Anyway, the gentleman at the table to my left was visited by all of the band members during the break, and others from the audience, so I introduced myself too. He turned out to be none other than the well known veteran jazz writer Dan Morgenstern, which is ironic since I am in the middle of reading a giant collection of his reviews, essays, liner notes, etc. Anyway while we were talking, another older gentleman arrived for a chat, who turned out to be veteran trombonist Bennie Powell, one time player with the Lionel Hampton and Count Basie orchestras among many others. So it was quite a night.

And the jazz was great too! Osvalt's band plays every Wednesday night at Birdland from 5:30 to 7:15, two sets for a trivial $10 dollar music charge and $10 dollar minimum. Recommended even for beginning jazz fans.
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The administration propaganda machine trying to sell the public on the benefits of the health insurance reform plan is both awesome in its magnitude and sickening in its approach. With front person Kathy Sibelius seemingly able to say just about anything while keeping a straight face, the Administration keeps hammering at their key talking points - if you like your current insurance plan, you can keep it, the reform plan is "paid for," we can cover everyone for less cost. Of course none of this is true, and the people know that instinctively. In fact, the latest Rasmussen poll shows 58% favor repeal of the law, and 48% strongly favor repeal. No wonder the Administration has set aside $125 million to sell the plan to the public (one wonders where this money came from - is it campaign funds or taxpayer money?).

Given the propaganda blitz in progress and coming, it is important for opinion leaders to be able to articulate why the talking points are all lies. I rarely recommend Karl Rove's weekly column in the WSJ - he is just too partisan to be taken seriously on a lot of issues. But his piece today on the health care plan's unpopularity was really articulate in making the points that need to be made. Here are some excerpts:

That (if you like the coverage you have you can keep it) sounds good - but perverse incentives in his new law will cause most Americans to lose their existing insurance...The CEO of a major restaurant chain said under health reform, his company's health insurance will jump from $25 million to at least $90 million. It will be cheaper for the company to dump its coverage and pay a fine - $2,000 for each full time worker...Employees who lose coverage get to select a policy from the government sponsored...exchange. This will be subsidized by taxpayers, depending on the employee's income, and the worker will pay his share with after tax dollars. Families making less than $30,000 will be dumped into Medicaid. Because more workers will be dumped into subsidized coverage, taxpayers are likely to pay much more than the $1 trillion plus price tag claimed by ObamaCare advocates for its first ten years.

Health care plans would no longer be grandfathered if a business changes insurance companies, raises deductibles more than 5%, drops any benefits or increases co-pays. The Obama administration itself estimates that these draft rules could cost up to 80%of small employers and 64% of large employers their grandfathered status. This translates to between 87 million and 115 million Americans losing their current coverage.

To this, I will add that anybody who believes that existing insurers will be able to offer insurance at current premium costs (as Sibelius demands) when they cannot underwrite for pre-existing conditions and have to accept all comers (just as they get sick) doesn't really understand what insurance is. There is no price that can offset that kind of anti selection, and insurers will simply leave the business, just as doctors suffering reduced government limited reimbursements will leave medicine.
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Obama's oval office speech concerning the oil disaster in the Gulf was just another feeble attempt to rewrite history and shift all blame to private industry, personified in this case by BP. Knowing the BP culture, we were not surprised to find them the most guilty of the involved parties. In truth, this is less a failure of the BP culture than of the Amoco culture that BP absorbed when they took over that oil giant. That's why I sold the stock after the Texas accidents that resulted in fatalities many years ago. Meanwhile, our anti-BP rhetoric is souring relations with the UK.

But frankly, the Obama rhetoric is infantile and insults our intelligence. Also, taking credit for controlling the spill rang hollow in the wake of frustrations expressed by Gulf region leaders at the failure of the Federal response.

The biggest knee slapper was the Obama complaint that the country had lagged over the decades in breaking free from fossil fuels and somehow again blaming private industry and lobbyists. In fact, there is no reason why any power plant in this country (that is not hydro powered) should be on anything but nuclear power, except for the lobbying by environmentalists and anti - development types who have prevented any new nuclear plant from being built in this country for decades. That's why we still depend on fossil fuels - coal, oil and gas. But Obama would never place the blame where it actually belongs.

None of this should be a surprise. Hillary Clinton had pointed out in the 2008 campaign that Obama's experience was that of a junior Senator. In fact, there is nothing in his background or experience to suggest competence for this job. So far, his performance has been exactly what should have been expected.
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We shifted to the sell side this week. On Wednesday, we sold 300 shares of Newpark Resources (NR) for 6.91. These were purchased on 7/28/06 for 5.81. Today, we sold 800 shares of Hauppauge Digital (HAUP) at 2.50, purchased on 6/11/08 for 2.06. Both of these were IRA transactions.

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