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Sunday, October 31, 2010

 

Halloween Musings

This morning's news shows seemed to have a little better grip on reality, but there were still the subtle biases that an alert viewer could catch. In one instance, Charlie Cook on NBC talking about several House races that would give an early indication Tuesday night, remarked that if all three went to the R's, it would be a "really bad night." Meaning a really good night for me. And several stations over the weekend, including the notorious CNN, while acknowledging good new polls for R's in Illinois and PA, said R's were acknowledging defeat in West Virginia (none that I know of) and probably would lose in Washington and California. Well maybe California, but D's are a toss-up at best in Washington.

I have been analyzing the polls very carefully, looking for trends in individual pollster's results, not just overall. This recognizes there are wide differences in polling techniques and accuracy. I may be a cockeyed optimist but I see Dems gaining important ground almost nowhere. In fact, I see undecideds breaking against incumbents as they usually do, helping R's in close Senate races in Washington, Nevada, Wisconsin and Colorado.

Of course, the only poll that matters is Tuesday's. R voters will be out in force. What will D turnout be? Will minorities come out? Youth (probably not, unless in California)? Independents are coming out to throw out incumbents and vote for R's, for the most part.
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I was happy that Mark Kleiman visited our site and left a comment on our last post, even though it did not address the issues, only the author. Sadly, this is all too typical of the arguments D's make, as anyone who has watched the debates knows. Nevertheless, I have to say I agree with Mark that my characterization of him as a "political scientist" did not really do him justice. Today, in the academic community, a political scientist is one who typically studies and writes on very narrow, statistically focused questions. Frankly, the obsession with data has driven a lot of would be theorists to other disciplines.

Mr. Kleiman is really a public policy expert, with writings and expertise in a number of policy areas but especially drug policy and decriminalization questions. He is currently very active on the California Proposition 19 decriminalization proposal. Perhaps his argument with being positioned on the left side of the political spectrum (as I did) is based on the fact that on this and several other issues on which he is an expert, he is in the middle of the road, at least within the academic community. I do tend to agree with him on drug policy. However, political positioning is a matter of perspective. In the academic community, you have to practically be a communist to be left of center (not exaggerating much, either). And on most issues, Mark is, in my opinion, a committed liberal at least. But you can decide for yourself by visiting his entertaining blog, The Reality Based Community.
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The Jets looked out of synch today, especially on offense, and this continues a pattern I find surprising, namely that teams don't do well after the bye week. You would think rest and healing and an extra week to prepare for an opponent would set teams up for a prime performance, but apparently the disruption of the usual practice routine means more.

Twice during the game, Jets receivers lost the ball on seemingly completed passes after going to the ground. Whether or not these interception calls were technically correct, I think you will now see hard battles for the ball after receptions until the league decides that the play is over once the receiver goes down.

The other thing all should note is the well known matter of teams performance changes being so drastic from year-to-year. In a sport where the average pro career is barely more than 3 years, we shouldn't be that surprised, but nonetheless, I wonder if fans have really yet caught on to the improvement in the Rams, the Chiefs, the Raiders, and the Lions, among others. Of course, the Cowboys have been unmasked as a fraud, but does everyone yet appreciate the decline of the Broncos, the Cardinals, and the Vikings?
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The Pat Martino organ quartet has come so far in two years, and I heard them Wednesday and Friday night at Birdland where they played to packed houses. Perhaps more amazing is that Birdland had a packed house Friday for the early show by the Birdland Big Band, which they do almost every week, emptied it after that show and refilled it for Pat! In New York, at least, jazz continues to be very healthy and provides an economical and entertaining alternative to the Broadway theatre for tourists and residents alike.

As for the quartet, Pat's guitar playing is as good as ever, but he allows much more space than previously for Eric Alexander on tenor and Tony Monaco on organ, both of whom thrive in this setting. Of course, with the gig ending last night, Eric will return to his usual gigs all over the City, particularly at Smoke. He is definitely worth listening to in all of his various combos.
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On the 29th, we bought 100 shares of Hartford Preferred (HIG.PR.A) at 24.62 for the IRA. I promised a recap of my results with Books A Million (BAMM). I bought my first shares in 1998 and over the years made 18 purchases of shares, spending over $42,000. The proceeds received for those shares exceeded $104,000. We also received about $6,800 in dividends. Don't ever let anyone tell you that dividends are not meaningful. So in all, counting taxable and non-taxable accounts, we cleared almost $70,000 on this stock. You can't fall in love with any stock though, even your winners. I really have become concerned that the retail book store business model could be blown up, so until I think otherwise, BAMM is off the buy / hold list. I don't think BAMM's various specialties, such as religious publications, can protect it from this trend.

Time for the periodic disclaimer: neither Redwavemusings nor its author are investment advisors, and the securities mentioned on this site should not be considered recommendations. The investment actions described here may not be suitable for readers or anyone else.


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