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Thursday, June 23, 2011


Short Relief Rally Ends

We had a little technical rebound since the last post, but that didn't last long. The market pundits are blaming Greece, but somehow stocks bounced off their lows today when a new plan was floated to help Greece kick the can further down the road. Why the market should like that, I'm not sure.

In fact, the economic scene is just miserable, as described in our previous post. Can we have a more inept Fed Chairman? He sounded like Jimmy Carter yesterday - in give up mode. Next, we'll start hearing about our malaise again.

I've given up on my friendly liberal bloggers. I know I'll never convince them of anything, but that's not the problem. My issue is that people who I thought were smart, just merely misguided, turn out to be actually STUPID. Yesterday, Kleiman's response to why the recovery was so weak was that the stimulus package had not been big enough!! Yikes. It's a good thing Mark is not a medical doctor. I guess if he was, and if the medicine he prescribed was killing the patient, his answer would be to increase the dosage.

Part of why this administration can not do anything right is that they are so myopic, seeing everything in only two perspectives - their own failed liberal orthodoxy, and their overwhelming desire to be re-elected. In fact, Obama shifted into candidate mode several months ago, and every decision is being made with a view on how it might play in November 2012. This is a hell of a way to govern.

The conduct of the Afghan war is prototypical. The campaign line in 2008 was that unlike Iraq (the "war of choice"), Afghanistan was the war of necessity. This blog never bought that, having some sense of history and knowing that foreign powers had a miserable record in that theater (see Britain, Soviet Union, etc). Whatever one thinks of the strategic significance of the Bush foray into Iraq, the Afghanistan objectives were always tactical and clear: remove the Taliban from government (done by GWB) and kill bin Laden (done by BHO). Why is anyone surprised that a majority, emanating from a wide swath of the political spectrum, wants out?

But here's the problem. The mission is not quite accomplished. Yes, the Taliban is out but not pacified. It is far from clear that the current Afghan government can sustain itself. Obama is at fault for never quite committing to the troop surge. Even as he announced it, he put a time limit on it, encouraging the Taliban to play for time. Now that the deadline is here, Obama feels he must pull some troops, for political reasons, but his military advisors oppose that. So we get another halfway measure, with yet another deadline for the Taliban to look forward to. All this does is put our men in the field with one hand tied behind their backs.

In fact, Obama's foreign policy record is a trail of promises and halfway takebacks, from Guantanamo, to Israel v Palestine and the 1967 borders, and on and on. He seems to believe that if he can give a nod to his lefty base while following something like the policy that's really required (but never in committed fashion) he can get re-elected based on the popularity of his personality. And it might work except the public, more and more is on to him. They like him, but they now see him for what he is - a very liberal Democrat, who has taken us down a very dangerous set of policy alternatives while making occasional concessions to governing reality. And it's just not working at all.


Item - Fed officials say they have done all they are prepared to do to spur growth for now. (That's a relief)

Item - A McKinsey survey showed that 30% of employers plan to drop health coverage in 2014, throwing their employees into the 'exchanges." They have determined it is preferable to pay the fines than it is to obtain and subsidize employee coverage.
(Since this did not fit into the Obamacare budget assumptions nor match the campaign talking points, the administration decide to blast the consulting firm for their lousy findings, and got their friends in the CBO to do the same. It still hasn't occurred to them that something might be wrong with their unpopular health insurance scheme).

Item -Recent actions by the SEC show the difficulties in charging individuals at firms who are blamed for roles in the financial crisis. (If someone hasn't gone to jail by the next Oscars show, Obama's Hollywood friends are going to raise hell. I suggest locking up former Senator Dodd).

Item - Freight railroads are raising rates and making big profits, drawing regulatory scrutiny and customers' ire. (Imagine, private companies booking profits in a capitalist economy. Is that really allowed? Next we'll find out that gamblers lose money in casinos).

Item - The White House delayed part of the health law designed to help consumers appeal insurance claims. (I thought Congress made the laws, and the executive branch enforced them. Is it different because the President proposed the law? Can he just delay enforcement? Was the Constitution amended last night?)

So the Biden debt limit talks broke down. Not exactly a shock. Of course, immediately, Dems blamed the GOP for having trouble keeping its Tea Party wing in line.

Funny, but why do Republicans get blamed when they achieve discipline (not bi-partisan enough) and then get blamed when they are divided? The media's double standard is pretty obvious. The fact is that both of our major parties have always had factions, they are big tents, not monolithic. Dems have their own tensions between the Blue Dogs and the now dominant liberal wing of the party.

This has been the rule in our politics, not the exception. Go back and re-read James MacGregor Burns' The Deadlock of Democracy - Four-Party Politics in America
(1963). There is nothing new about the parties within the party, though the factions do move around over time. Yesterday's Dixiecrats found a home in the GOP, while some moderate Republicans became more comfortable as Blue Dog Dems. The Tea Party continues to be an asset to the R's and will be a source of energy for them in 2012.

On June 13, I bought a 100 shares of Hartford Preferred (HIG.PR.A) for the IRA at 24.32, taking advantage of a rare opportunity to buy below par. On 6/15, we bought 100 of Ceradyne (CRDN), again for the IRA at 37.80. This is a value buy and a recommendation from Full Service Broker that has done well. On 6/17, we bought 200 shares of Graham Corp. (GHM) for the IRA, a zero buy. On 6/20, we bought 15 shares of GLD at 150.08. Yesterday, we sold 100 shares of Smuckers (SJM) at 78.11, a taxable gain from our purchase price of 49.05 on 2/23/04.

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