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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

 

Farewell, 2010

One week to go in the NFL regular season and unlike most years, there's just not all that much to be decided. In the AFC, New England clinched home field, somehow the Chiefs won the hapless West, and the Jets and the North loser (Steelers or Ravens) will be the wild cards. The Steelers and Ravens still have to decide the North, with one getting a bye, the other a wild card. Indy is at home against Tennessee, needing a win to leave the overachieving Jags on the outside looking in.

In the NFC, the Eagles won the East but not a bye. Instead, the byes likely go to Atlanta and Chicago, with the defending champs New Orleans getting one wild card. The other is in doubt since Green Bay needs to beat Chicago on the frozen tundra, assuming the Giants can turn things around in Washington. Of course, Tampa Bay can complicate the tie breaks by scoring an unlikely upset in New Orleans.

The Giants are that incredible poster child for what can happen to an otherwise good team that can't protect the football. I remember when a good Redskins team had that same disease when Sonny Jurgensen threw multiple interceptions every week. When Sonny was injured, Bill Kilmer took over, threw possession passes, and the Skins went on a tear.

But the Giants' answer is not that simple. Not only is Ely vulnerable to the interception, the running backs also seem prone to fumble. One wonders if the freedom in Coughlin's offense that allows skill players to freelance also makes the team vulnerable to turnovers. In any event, I expect the Giants to be more disciplined Sunday and give the Redskins another good thrashing, following the Skins all out upset win last week (and Jets fans thank them). However, it simply may not be enough, though the Bears are motivated enough. Given the problems the Bears' defense is having lately, I don't know if they will beat a desperate Green Bay team in Wisconsin.

If the G-Men miss the playoffs, they are likely to be considered the best non-playoff team since the format went to 12 teams. Small consolation.
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If we thought Obama had righted the re-election express by signing onto the tax cut deal, we have had second thoughts since the administration moved to regulatory cram-down mode as its new method for carrying out the progressive left-wing agenda. In short order, we have had EPA move to regulate carbon, the FCC move to adopt net neutrality rules, and now Medicare announce they will reimburse physicians for end- of- life counseling.

Let's put these in perspective.

Though the Clean Air Act authorizes the EPA to regulate gases and other contaminants it finds (after study) to be dangerous, the determination that carbon is a danger to man rests solely on the dubious proposition that it is a greenhouse gas causing global warming. In exchange, the EPA rules will cause significant job loss and economic expense which could not possibly be justified by any "savings" achieved by its regulations. Furthermore, the EPA has conducted none of the required cost benefit studies as prerequisite to its authority.

When President Obama said that cap-and-trade's failure was no big deal - there are "other ways to skin the cat," this is apparently what he had in mind.

So, contrary to the expressed wishes of Congress (even that last awful Congress), and relying on contrived models purporting to show human causes of global warming (as opposed to any direct evidence), the EPA intends to legislate by means of regulation. It will be interesting to see the reaction in the new Congress. One could envision a veto proof bi-partisan majority reining in the EPA on this one. While they're at it, how about amending the Clean Air Act to prevent any further nonsense of this kind.

With respect to net neutrality, this blog has commented before on this misguided over-regulation. Frankly, anything the FCC has done in the last 20 years is pretty much suspect as far as I am concerned. Believe me, I have no love for the cable companies or any of the other DSL providers, but this is one area where we do not need interference from the Feds. I don't know too many consumers who are actually concerned about the prioritization rules enforced by internet providers.

On the other hand, end-of-life counseling - the living will concept - is an important area of discussion for doctors and patients to address. Frankly, it already occurs routinely. I don't see what's wrong with medical practitioners billing Medicare for this time. This is different from the "death panels" excised from the health reform bill, which were aimed at denying doctor recommended treatments to elderly patients. The problem here is that the Medicare bureaucracy attempted to slip this change in without public notice. More abuse of process.

I note Republican leaders have been treating this last proposal with the delicacy and fair handedness it deserves, and not reflexively reviving the death panel discussion. That's good. The public is going to recoil at the high handed process abuse of Obama's regulatory initiatives, but there is no need to pour gasoline on the fire by opposing rules that make sense. If the GOP can build a sense of evaluating policy issues from the standpoint of serving the public, it will be in position for more gains in 2012, including the White House.

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I happened to catch the MLB presentation of the original film of the 7th game of the 1960 World Series, with Bob Costas interviewing Bill Virdon, Dick Groat, Bobby Richardson and Hal Smith between certain innings. I remembered this game vividly, and recall persuading (with considerable difficulty) our 5th grade teacher to put it on the radio during the school day. We tuned in in time to hear Berra's homer and then Smith's homer. I think I was home in time to see the Mazeroski walk-off.

What a game this was! It had everything, and the world owes Bing Crosby for saving this print (NBC did not!?). To see Clemente, Mantle, Maris, Law, and all the other great players who participated again was really something. Also to hear Bob Prince and Mel Allen, play -by -play magic!

It was Casey's last game as Yankee manager, and maybe for the first time I understood why he was let go at age 70 after the game: pitching Ford in games 2 and 6rather than 1, 4 and 7 against Law, the quick hook on Bob Turley, letting Bobby Shantz bat in the 8th (though he was a good hitting pitcher), he just left himself open to a lot of second guessing. The bad hop that injured Tony Kubek on a double play ball that turned the game - just fascinating to see it replayed.

I am sure this will be shown again. If you get a chance to see it, you should.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------- We did get 17.8 cents for our last 200 Blockbuster shares - good riddance - versus a purchase price of 17.10 in 2003. Not the way to get rich, but it will lock up our max $3,000 tax deduction for 2010. On 12/22, we bought 300 shares of Pulte Homes (PHM) at 7.34, even as housing seems headed for a double dip. Don't try this at home. On 12/27, we sold 100 shares of CRDN at 31.55, bought for 31.02 on 3/3/08. Of course, our average cost is well below that, but we use FIFO and in this case, it keeps our gains to a minimum. No matter here since it was sold from the IRA. Just following the formula. On 12/28, we bought 100 shares of Aegon Preferred (AEH) at 20.70. Today, we bought 300 shares of Presidential Life (PLFE) at 10.02, a value buy. Two more trading days left in 2010, and one more transaction to put through, probably another sale. Despite the realized losses in out taxable accounts, we offset a lot of those with gains in the IRA, so things have been relatively tax efficient. But mainly 2010 has been a big up year. Remember, the market has discounted an improving economy in 2011, so guard against irrational exuberance. However, typically the third year of a Presidential cycle is also up. We'll see.

In 2010, we cleaned out most of the dogs, took our losses but registered a solid portfolio gain while adding conservatism in the form of preferreds, and inflation protection in the form of TIPS and GLD. Here's wishing a Happy and prosperous New Year to all Musings readers.

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