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Tuesday, July 27, 2010


Can GOP get it together?

In a year when huge Congressional gains are all but assured, we face the prospect of GOP hopefuls and conservatives considering third party efforts, bringing certain Dems back into a race they could not win in a two person field. One such race may be for a Senate seat in Colorado, where a Conservative candidate who once backed a GOP hopeful in the primary, has now decided he wants in but too late to enter said primary. He is talking about a third party run, the last thing we need. There are similar possibilities in several other races. One race where I believe the GOP is helped is in Florida, where one-time GOP governor Charlie Crist, with no chance in the GOP primary, is running as an independent for the Senate. The conventional wisdom is that he will hurt the Republican candidate and may even be the favorite. The way I am looking at it, Crist might as well have always been a Democrat, and the existence of an Obama supported Democratic candidate to Crist's left will take votes away from him, imcreasing the chances for Republican candidate Rubio. In fact, Rubio has already taken the lead in the latest Rasmussen poll. The only thing that could stop him would be if the Dems contesting the primary both drop out, and Crist becomes their candidate. But that does not seem to be in prospect.

The fact is, it is getting late in the game for the Dems. Each week, they poll worse. The generic Congressional vote is now tied 43-43, almost unprecedented for Republicans. Among likely voters, Republicans lead 48-40. Old time political junkies are astounded at how badly Democratic Blue Dogs are polling. They just don't get it. I have been saying for months that Blue Dogs are an endangered species. Voters now see them for what they are - the keys to leadership for Pelosi and Reid. Dems could not assemble majorities with only their liberal district representatives. The Blue Dogs also provide reliable votes when needed by Pelosi and Reid, and are only allowed to drift off the reservation when not needed. This kind of cynicism will no longer fool red state voters. They want Pelosi and Reid out after the Health Care fiasco. Wild horses won't keep those voters from the polls this November. Meanwhile Dem voters are disillusioned and disconsolate.

The leaks of the classified information about the war in Afghanistan are disturbing, mainly from a national security point of view. They recall the lionization of Daniel Ellsberg from the Vietnam era. Whatever one thinks of the conduct of the wars by the largely inept Obama administration, there is no excuse for undermining our troops in the field. If an American is responsible, it is simply treason, and the punishment should be meted out accordingly.

On the other hand, the Administration's bumbling handling of the Agriculture Department employee's short lived firing based on an edited snip of her speech posted by a conservative blogger (not this one!) is indicative of the lack of adult supervision in the Obama White House. This is not to exonerate the actions of the blogger, which come under the general heading of dirty tricks. This does not reflect well on the blogger community either. But you would think the folks actually in charge in Washington would know better.

We have said it before - only Hillary has demonstrated the maturity to handle her position, whatever you think of her policy positions. Too bad she is now distracted by her daughter's $3 million wedding. By the way, we should thank the Clintons for stimulating the economy in this way. It beats the ineffectiveness of government spending in terms of providing employment and tax revenues. I don't begrudge Chelsea and her intended a really nice wedding. If you've got the dough, you might as well treat yourselves. Besides, what were the odds that such a plain Jane could hook a mate so expeditiously? Something to celebrate, indeed.

This has certainly been a nice rally in the market, and of course, I am using it to book some profits, as per our investing formula. On the 22nd, we sold 200 shares of takeover target Tomkins (TKS) at 18.60 from the IRA. These were shares purchased for 14.25 in December of 2007, and we are happy to be no longer under water in this stock. We do have doubts that the takeover will happen, since TKS seems to be effectively employing the "just ignore it" defense). On 7/23. we sold 100 shares of Ladish (LDSH) for 28.47, a nice gain over the purchase price of 21.08 from September of 2008. Today, we sold 300 shares of Newpark Resources (NR) at 8.21, a gain from the puchase price of 6.23 from October of 2004.

Newpark was one of a group of selections we made from a list of recommendations made some years ago by the business faculty and students at Tulane University. The Tulane portfolio I constructed included Bristow Group (BRS), Conrad (CNRD.PK), Gulf Island Fabrication (GIFI), Newpark, Petroquest (PQ) and Shaw Group (SHAW). To say this Gulf portfolio has been a net winner would be an understatement. We have made $94,600 in cumulative purchases in these stocks, but already taken out $107,700 in sales. Our current holdings in the 6 stocks still have a value today (on paper) of
$96,700. So thank you, Tulane, and let's keep in mind that the recovery and ongoing business activity in the Gulf is important to the country's well being.

I hope the Obama Administration realizes there should be good reasons for continuing a drilling ban in the Gulf, if that's what they intend to do. Otherwise, drilling with proper procedures and safeguards should resume.

On another financial topic, when I read that certain preferred stocks issued by banks would no longer count as Tier 1 capital starting in 2013, a provision in Dodd - Frank, it occurred to me that there might be an opportunity to invest in preferreds issued by banks selling below par. Banks wanting to replace the preferreds with qualifying Tier 1 capital would be tempted to buy in shares on the open market, providing a price support, and eventually call them in at par.

It hasn't taken long for this effect to be noticed. JP Morgan is already calling in several issues, including the old Bear Stearns issue in our portfolio. They will be called at par, giving us a nice little capital gain to go along with the nice dividend yield we have been enjoying all along. If you look at the new high list in the WSJ, you will see that it is liberally spotted with preferred issues, presumably bid up by speculators thinking along the same lines as I. WE will continue to speculate in bank preferreds below par, though care needs to be taken to avoid the perpetual preferreds not subject to the Dodd - Frank provision.

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Monday, July 19, 2010


Passing Parade

If you've ever worked for a newspaper, you know that obits are written while celebrities are still alive and updated as necessary. Not much has to be added when the inevitable finally comes. This has been a month of file purging for the obits departments, as the death pools have been paying out with regularity.

When George Steinbrenner suffered a fatal heartache, thereby upstaging both the All Star game and the passing of Yankee Stadium PA icon Bob Sheppard, it was right in character. Though reportedly a generous and warm friend to those who knew him personally, the public persona of The Boss was frankly overwhelming, overbearing, and, often overachieving, though it must be reported, not always. In fact, the Yankees went through a long period under George when their failures on the field rivaled the days of inept CBS ownership.

Yet, that has long been forgotten during this latest Yankee dynastic period. And people, especially Yankee fans, underestimate the magnitude of the Bombers' accomplishments during the Jeter era. This is because they dwell on playoff performance, but a short series is always a crap shoot, and the post season is almost a lottery. The success of a team should be measured by division championships and playoff appearances, just as in the pre-1969 era, we gauged a team's success by pennants. Under this criteria, the Jeter era rivals prior Yankee dynasties.

As for The Boss, his major innovation was to exploit free agency and drive up player salaries to reestablish the advantage of the big market teams that was lost when the draft offset the Yanks'(and Dodgers) advantage in scouting and farm systems. If anything, it made baseball even a less competitive situation for small market teams than it had ever been. It also drove ticket prices and other costs of going to a game to levels that put what was once a relatively inexpensive sports spectator experience beyond what was affordable for many families. So while The Boss was great for Yankee fans interested in mainly having a winner, and great for the players and their wallets, he did baseball and its fans an unfathomable disservice in the overall.

George Steinbrenner, like Marvin Miller, belongs in baseball's Hall of Fame, based on my (and Stan Isaacs') criteria that you could not write any reasonable history of the game without mentioning their impact. However, the impact of both was a decidedly mixed blessing.
I have no such ambivalence concerning college basketball coaching great John Wooden. Of course, Wooden didn't have to mix it up in the dirty business of the recruiting wars since everyone wanted to play for him, including the incomparable Lew Alcindor, aka Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Wooden approached coaching as the teacher he was, dispensing his well worn advice aimed at building teams that played to methodical. if often frantic perfection, and carried themselves like solid citizens rather than frat boys. During its heyday, UCLA simply played its own game and forced the other team to adapt; almost always, the opponents' efforts were futile. The zone press that UCLA habitually employed generally would bury the opponent in the first half. When the UCLAn's won 7 straight NCAA titles between 1967-73, they lost only 5 games while winning 205! They won all but two NCAA Championships from 1964-1975.

Every amateur coach knows the Wooden aphorisms - "Be quick, but don't hurry" and so on. More should teach his lessons about life, among them, "You can't let praise or criticism get to you. It's a weakness to get caught up in either one." "If you're not making mistakes, then you're not doing anything. I'm positive that a doer makes mistakes." "Talent is God given. Be humble. Fame is man-given. Be grateful. Conceit is self-given. Be careful."

Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia was a man who lived certain principles. The overriding one was that he served the people of his state. In the process of doing so, he brought money for projects and other causes back to WV from DC. He was a man of his eras. When it served his needs, he could be a Klansman, or later, a determined advocate for affirmative action. In the Senate, he famously knew more about Senate rules and procedures than anyone else, a knowledge for which he was revered by his party and his allies and feared by his opponents. He won't be remembered for his policy positions other than that he won so much treasure for his state that somehow never seemed to alleviate its ranking among the most impoverished states in the union. Where did all that money come from? If some states are net winners in Washington, that means others are net losers. It never seemed to bother the Senator that this was the case, nor that the bottomless pit that the Federal Government became is passing on a hopeless debt to future generations.


The Courts are backing the FCC off on its decency rules. Just as Larry Flint was ultimately legitimized, it now seems that Howard Stern was on the right side of the law all the time. Frankly, I never understood why the FCC made a federal case of broadcast indecency, under both Republican and Democratic administrations, other than that is how bureaucrats exercise power.

So the lesson is that we will really be at the mercy of the health insurance and bank regulators under recently passed legislation, given this regulatory mindset. Unlike broadcast rules though, health and finance are important parts of our lives.

It is clear that the punditry class still doesn't know what to make of the Tea Party advocates. I think they just have not watched enough Libertarian Party convention shenanigans, or the sight of goofy characters in colonial dress would not be so off-putting. In fact, the "platform" of the Tea Party is more cogent and focused than either of the major parties. It is about fiscal responsibility and confining government at all levels to the areas where they are constitutionally permitted. I am not saying that everyone needs to agree with them, but to make the case that they can't be effective because their message is only negative or too muddled is 100%wrong and misses the point anyway.

Many Dems are consoling themselves that Tea Party types are winning GOP primaries and will be too wacky, too extreme, too inexperienced or too poorly financed to present the most dangerous opposition to them in the general election. They are so dead wrong. True Republicans will vote against the Dem anyway, and many are more energized by true fiscal conservatives than by more moderate Republicans. Fiscal conservatives also appeal to independents. I look for Tea Party candidates to gain momentum heading into November.

Incredibly, Dems are becoming concerned about losing the Senate as well as the House. That would take almost a clean sweep of winnable contests by the GOP, and I am not quite there yet. But today's WSJ had a pretty good breakdown of what it would take.

George W. Bush's ineptitude as a communicator was acknowledged by even his strongest advocates, and his press conferences, impromptu and otherwise, were generally cringe fests. But at least he had them. Lately, the White House press corps has been complaining that President Obama simply has not been taking questions, period. Seems strange for a White House occupant whose main skill is talking.

On 7/13, we bought 200 shares of the SPDR Gold fund (GLD) at 119.00 On July 15 (we took Bastille Day off), we sold 200 shares of ADC Telecommunications (ADCT) from the IRA at 12.50. This followed a takeover bid for the Company and we have quite a few more shares we will hold for the takeover price. Maybe there will be a better bid(doubt that)? Anyway, getting this bid cut the losses by a lot. As it was, we took a $7,322 loss on these shares purchased in 2000 and 2001 (and followed by a reverse split). That cut our Y-T-D realized gains in the IRA in half. Happily, we got another takeover bid today on Tomkins (TKS) taking our holding into a profit position. These bids show the efficacy of the average down technique for under water positions, which every broker will tell you to eschew. However, once you are buried in a stock, you can do one of three things. You can sell, cementing the loss. You can hold, hoping to break even, but probably wind up sitting on dead money. or you can average down, reducing your cost basis to an achievable level. You do the last if you still like the company and want to keep it on your buy/hold list. Otherwise, you might as well sell.

Today, we bought 300 shares of Marine Max (HZO) which our formula has had us in and out of, with good effect. The price was 6.76 and this was a value buy.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

It's one thing when this blogger poses the possibility, or even probability of a GOP takeover of the House this November given my admitted right wing bias. It's quite another when a veteran political handicapper with a moderately liberal bias like Charlie Cook does the same. Mr. Cook passes himself off as a totally objective pundit, and indeed, his biases are so subtle, you have to be especially alert to pick them up, but a careful reader will see it in his choice of words when describing impending Dem achievements vs GOP. Yet, Mr. Cook now believes that a GOP gain of 40 or more seats is already pretty much cooked in.

The Dems see it too, hence their increasing desperation to pour money into key races and dig deep for embarrassing tidbits about GOP opponents. It's not really helping though. First of all, while Dems have swollen war chests thanks to incumbency, the new PAC money is drying up as private businesses see the chance for the GOP to win, and have had it with being demonized by the Obama Administration. Second, for every stupid Michael Steele quote, there are three incidents of Obama Administration and Congressional Dems inserting feet in mouths. While it would make sense for Steele to quit and stop providing his distracting comments, I don't know how the Dems go about muzzling Holder, Shumer, Reid, Emanuel, Axelrod and all the rest. And sending Obama out on the road to campaign in swing districts just seals the doom for the Reid's of the world. Independent voters and Obama Republicans have already had it with him and his Socialist agenda. So I agree with Cook, there is no way out for the Dems, most people have already decided, GOP voters and Tea Party independents will come out to vote, depressed Dems will not, and the only question is how many Senate seats will also flip.

This is not to say the GOP campaign so far is especially effective. Cox in NY is doing an especially terrible job (he should quit too). There is no serious leader yet to emerge to lead the GOP charge (Sarah Palin - please!). So the rout might not be as big as it would be given a galvanizing force among Conservatives.


Some of the talk radio types are sounding the alarm about Congressional Dems' plan to pass significant tax and other leftist legislation in a lame deck session following the expected November debacle. I think they are just keeping their listeners scared straight. With 41 Senate seats, the GOP should be able to keep anything really serious from passing during such a session. I think even the Northeastern Senate Republicans would draw the line there.

Could Dems pass a value added tax (VAT) or Cap and Trade using budget reconciliation in a lame duck session? Will it be more possible because a budget has not been passed for fiscal 2011 (you knew that right?). Personally, I don't really think so.

The Dems who will be wiped out in November will be from swing districts, i.e., largely "blue dogs." Since they will have lost, Pelosi will not have so much influence on them, and they won't want to be pariahs with no future prospects in their districts. So the Dems will not be able to move anything important in November and December in my opinion.

If you study the financial reform bill, still awaiting Senate passage, you may or may not like certain aspects of the legislation. But you can't miss the fact that Congress has delegated most of the new powers to regulators, with only minimal direction. Why do Dems produce 2000 page bills broadening regulatory powers while providing only general policy prescriptions?

The fact is that this tactic is a sop to the party's trial bar allies and public employee union allies. The new regulatory agencies created by such bills provide employment and new members for the unions. The vague policy provisions provide limitless litigation opportunities for the tort bar. It doesn't take a conspiracy theorist to understand this.

These bills add to regulatory friction for private business interests. The financial reform bill, in particular, will reduce ROE's for banks and other financial players, increase costs of borrowing and banking services for all businesses, and will murder investors who are already suffering enough. Whatever the bill's merits, and there are some, it did not have to be this debilitating.

I will devote a future post to an analysis of the bill, unless it somehow dies in the Senate next week, admittedly a long shot.


It's pretty ironic when the Czech Republic turns down an invitation to join the EU because no one has a clue how long it will take to solve the problems of the Euro zone. The socialist arteriosclerosis impeding the EU economies has long been known to true capitalists, and is now a cause for concern to the comparatively new capitalists of Eastern Europe.

We are learning the hard way about the costs of extending endless benefits to those in our society who appeal to our better nature. It would be nice to simply give everyone prosperity and the social amenities that go with it, but it's not affordable, as the Jamestown colonists leaned in 1607. Venezuelans are learning as well, and my feeling is that Chavez' days are numbered, along with Obama's fellow travelers in Cuba, the Castro brothers. Capitalism had a little bear slump in 2002-2010 but people are remembering that the Reagan days were really better, at least economically.

These things go in cycles. The rehabilitation of Newt Gingrich is almost complete. The conservative/capitalist resurgence has already begun. The key will be to extend it to ethnic groups that are natural allies. That means not only Eastern Europeans, but Latinos and Asians. Conservatives, since they are a little xenophobic by nature, have done a lousy job about opening their tent to those folks. That has to change. Once it does, the Dems will be a minority party for a generation.


The Mets were 2-4 on the home stand, which I attribute to pretty good opposition, and some unfavorable scheduling because of the Puerto Rican trip. The All Star break comes at a good time. There is no way that Pagan should not continue to play center field, especially at CitiField. On the road, there may be some center fields that Beltran can still patrol, otherwise, he should play left or right. There should be plenty of playing time for Beltran, Bay, and Francour to split the two corner outfield positions.

As for the pitching, I like what Jerry did today, using Parnell for the eighth, and saving Feliciano to use as a specialist to get lefties out and keep tied games tied. Eventually, Parnell should become the closer (next year). He throws strikes, at high velocity.

I am glad the Mets did not go for Cliff Lee. We should not rent players. In fact, I don't like bidding for free agents at all. I'd rather pay to keep good young home-grown players in place. The Mets have a good nucleus of them now.

AS for soccer, people might forget that Spain entered the tournament as co-favorites with Brazil. Their short passing game enabled them to control the ball and they made few mistakes. Goals occur when mistakes are made. It's no coincidence that the champs won a lot of 1-0 games.

When I was a freshman sports writer for the Haverford News, one of my first interviews was with veteran soccer coach Jimmy Mills, who had been a US Olympics coach when not handling the Haverford program. He emphasized that short passing game, a difficult thing to execute at the Division III level, but the Fords always overachieved on the soccer field (er, pitch). A good education for a neophyte who knew next to nothing about soccer then (and not much more now).

On Tuesday, we bought 400 shares of our Australian Aluminum Company (AWC) at 5.31, a value buy. On Wednesday, we bought 2000 shares of Bank of Granite (GRAN) at 1.06, a zero buy. Please don't try this at home. I was happy to see (again) that the FDIC did not close GRAN on Friday. On Friday, we sold the last 200 shares of First Niagara (FNFG) out of the IRA, though we still have plenty of those shares left in the taxable accounts. We got 12.78 for shares purchased on 5/12/03 for 12.98. We are selling because the shares we received in exchange for the Harleysville National shares we gave up in the merger left us with an oversized position in FNFG.

Thursday, July 01, 2010


Market Teetering

If you think Democrats are teetering, imagine how it feels to be an investor! The wise guy on-line analysts seem to all be predicting depression and the continuation of the long bear market (interpreting our 2009 bull run as a bear market rally, not unreasonable). In fact, I think Bob Prechter would say that according to his reading of the Elliot Waves, the bear started in 2000 and that we are only about half way through. Given the agonizingly inept policies we have been following since 2000 (too much spending, too much debt, bad trade policy, shifting of too much activity to the public sector, entitlements we can't afford, feckless foreign policy, etc., etc.), for which there is plenty of blame to attach to both political parties, there are fundamental reasons to be very concerned as well.

This week's pending home sales number collapsed, as might have been expected following the expiration of the artificial hype provided by the $8,000 tax incentive for home buyers. As with all such promotions, as any competent auto dealer could have told the administration, they only pull sales forward that would have occurred a little later. So numbers are temporarily juiced and then retreat to even more depressed levels.

Similarly, the employment numbers are especially bad now that the artificial stimulus of census jobs is going away. The question is, do these bad numbers indicate a double dip or are they just artificially low for the reasons above, meaning we can continue the tepid recovery that started last year? The next couple of months may give us an indication.

Whether we are in a weak recovery or entering double dip territory, one thing is for sure. Businesses are not optimistic and for good reasons. They fear the unknown, represented by a health insurance plan that is certain to raise costs (but how high?) and financial services reform that adds so much regulatory friction that will likely be passed on to businesses and individuals.

So we should not be surprised that business confidence and hiring is low. Nothing this administration is saying is supportive of business nor cause for optimism. This is the bed they have made, and they are stuck with it. It is now all but certain that the economic condition and outlook going into election day will be poor. I don't think Dems can sell the public that this is all Bush hangover and that they have no culpability. Dems have controlled the Congress since 2006 and the executive branch for 18 months. They will be held accountable in November as they should.


Kudo's to former AIG Exec Joseph Cassano for standing up to Congress and pointing out that he and AIG leadership would have gotten a much better deal on the derivative contracts that caused the bailout than the Treasury did. Again, both parties are to blame since the horrible Federal deal that rewarded counter parties at 100% was struck by the Bush Treasury and current Treasury Secretary Geithner when he was at the NY Fed.

Of course Cassano has no satisfactory explanation for the wheelbarrows full of compensation he took from AIG amounting to $300 million. He was worth a lot, but no one is worth that much.

Of the $700 billion in TARP money authorized by Congress in 2008, $182 billion was for AIG, $45 billion went to Citi, $60 billion for GM and Chrysler. Much of the rest has either been paid back or was not disbursed in the first place. The Government has been selling Citi stock at a profit and stands to come out whole or nearly whole there. I have my doubts about the auto money, an outright gift to the unions (where the bondholders got stiffed). AIG? We'll see. But I don't think we would have lost anything if the feds hadn't stepped in, and I doubt the company would have gotten into trouble at all if the degenerate AG Elliot Spitzer had not forced Hank Greenberg out of the CEO position.

So the public is right to be upset with the Federal Government, but their anger is misplaced in terms of the banks and the TARP rescue. In fact, the banks are all paying TARP money back. The real crime is that we are about to get a "reform" of financial services that institutionalizes "Too Big to Fail," provides a roadmap for future bailouts, and leaves in place Fannie and Freddie for which the taxpayer bailouts will dwarf TARP.

If you want a good explanation of what is wrong with the reform bill and why it fails to address needed changes for the most part, read the op ed "The Dodd-Frank Financial Fiasco" in today's WSJ, written by Stanford Professor of Economics John B. Taylor.

One of the few things Ms. Kagan said that I agree with is that the confirmation hearings are a useless waste of time and serve little or no purpose. Who wants to hear Senators pontificate for five minutes on the way to asking a nonsensical question that the nominee either avoids answering or provides some one sentence reply that reveals nothing?

Certainly, Republicans did not cover themselves with glory by spending most of their time questioning Kagan about why as Dean, she made it a little more difficult for military recruiters at Harvard Law School so that she could make a statement about gays in the military. How many gay Harvard lawyers want to be in the military anyway? Does anyone really care about this issue?

The questions regarding the Commerce clause were more on point and reveal enough about Kagan's expansive constitutional philosophy to justify Republicans who wish to vote No. But she will be confirmed regardless. These days, nominees are well-coached concerning the confirmation process, and nothing less than the production of a witness claiming to have overheard the nominee complaining about pubic hair in his/her coke is going to change anything.

This being July 4 weekend coming up, and having passed D-Day without sufficient notice, I thought I would simply post a short WSJ op ed from last year by Herbert London, emeritus professor at NYU and President of the Hudson Institute called The Meaning of Bloody Omaha:

The skies over Normandy are invariably filled with dark rain clouds. But on one day in late April the sky was cloudless and the English Channel tranquil. Youngsters built sand castles on Omaha Beach and dogs romped in the surf. It was a vastly different scene from the bloodshed and violence that occurred on this same beach 65 years ago.

In an effort to understand what the GI's experienced on that fateful day of June 6, 1944, I climbed up a steep hill to the plain above the beach. Unlike the soldiers, I didn't carry an 80-pound pack on my back. And even though I observed German fortifications on my way, no one was firing at me.

These fortifications are a reminder that despite feints to Calais and bombing along the coast prior to the invasion, Nazi forces were well ensconced when the U.S. and its allies landed. Most of the bombs aimed at these German installations landed several kilometers inland-a condition that distinguished Omaha Beach from Utah Beach. Omaha Beach was Bloody Omaha, a scene of so much death that it was unprecedented in American history. One soldier noted "there were body parts everywhere and the sea turned red with blood."

Many never made it to the shore from their landing crafts. Some were shot and some drowned, not realizing that if you wear a flotation device around your waist instead of under your arms it may not be possible to stand in the turbulent surf with a heavy pack. There was panic, confusion, camaraderie and bravery on the beach that day that changed the world.

The cemetery for the fallen overlooks Omaha Beach. It was noon when I stood at the edge of the cemetery, looking out at row after row of the graves. The bells played "God Bless America." There was a burly fellow wearing steel-frame glasses standing in front of me, most likely an octogenarian. As the bells sounded our eyes met. I wanted to say something to him, but he removed the glasses and wiped the tears from his eyes. Words were unnecessary; he and I shared a silent understanding.

There is simply no way to describe the sacrifice Americans made on the D-Day invasion to reclaim Europe from the grip of totalitarianism. Even the notoriously dispassionate Europeans realize this is consecrated ground, a place where angels spread their wings to honor the deeds of youthful warriors. No St. Crispin speeches were necessary here, for this Band of Brothers knew what need not be stated: They were saving Europe from enslavement.

As a local Normandy resident wrote during the occupation, "A German lieutenant said 'we are your masters' Well they were until the Americans arrived." Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower was a 20th century Moses. Gen. George Patton's Third Army fanned out across the northern tier of France. Though he had his detractors, Gen. Patton knew how to fight and win.

We have grown complacent as a people in the last six and a half decades since the war in Europe reached the beginning of the end. But it is hard to remain unemotional at the hilltop cemetery that honors those who made the ultimate sacrifice so that we may live in freedom.

Though we owe these men a debt we can never repay, what we can do is honor them. Their bravery can still inspire if the story of D-Day is told with passion and honesty.

The world offers challenges each year since freedom is tested in each generation by new pharaohs. We need the guardians of liberty to remind us how precarious that freedom is. We need to rise to the occasion the way young soldiers did on June 6, 1944. They are a constant reminder that liberty requires vigilance and courage if it is to survive.

On Tuesday, we bought 300 shares of Pulte Homes (PHM) at 8.70, a zero buy if ever there was one. Pulte got on our buy list by taking over Centex. Today, we bought 100 shares of MetLife Preferred (MET.PR.B) at 23.34 for the IRA. This market really bites the big one. It got so oversold this morning, it had to be a short term bottom, and it was. Investors need to be extra careful. If you feel bullish, you might want to buy some index puts for a little protection in case we lurch to the downside.

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