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Sunday, January 08, 2012

 

Orlando Bound

Business meeting in Orlando this week. Why Disney Town has become a mecca for business conferences is a mystery to me. We are going without family, without golf clubs, without bathing suits. Really, we are not going to be doing any and all of the things one might go to Orlando to do, even if you could actually stand the place. But we're still going.
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This morning, I watched some of the Republican candidates' New Hampshire "debate" on NBC. Now I have studiously avoided watching any and all of the debates up to this point. Of course, it is impossible to avoid all of the sound bites and newspaper snippets reporting on these gabfests. So I do have some observations.

First, I question why, tactically, it makes any sense for the GOP to have so many debates. Granted, it will be good preparation for the eventual candidate who will have to "debate" President Obama. But mostly, it provides opportunities for the candidate to commit a faux pas or other inconsistency the Dems can use later.

Second, if the party must have debates, why on earth wouldn't you want to control the process a bit more. By that, I mean let the candidates pick the questions and know them in advance so they can have their answers prepared and come off at their best. As it is, having a David Gregory or other liberal mainstream media personage moderate just gives them an opportunity to embarrass the candidates, which is what their questions are framed to do. For example, one of Gregory's questions today was, "Can you name three (austerity) cuts you would impose that would cause pain to Americans?" You have to be a complete moron to answer that question (which would have been perfect for Jimmy Carter, by the way). Aside from the fact that it is a loaded question, it completely misses the point of Republican orthodoxy, which is that lower spending and pro-growth policies will cause the economy to perform better, minimizing any pain. Gregory was trying to get the candidates to accept Democratic orthodoxy (that somehow we deserve painful policy prescriptions) as the pretext for that question.

All of the candidates showed the good sense to sidestep the question, which frustrated Gregory and caused him to point out that the question hadn't been really answered. If Republicans are going to debate, let George Will, or Peggy Noonan, or Paul Gigot or Fred Barnes moderate. If NBC won't cover that, I'm sure Fox will, and maybe ABC. But it's just stupid to subject the candidates to what they went through this morning.
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As for the message coming out of Iowa, ignore the Democratic propaganda. This was a big win for Romney who didn't even take it seriously until the last few weeks. He will win in New Hampshire, pretty convincingly, and is gaining ground in South Carolina too. After Florida on January 31, it will all be pretty much over, and then the Romney campaign can focus on the general election.
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A week from tomorrow, we will observe the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.. It amazes me that to this day, I still hear otherwise rational people question why this is a national holiday. Since Dr. King's assassination, his stature and significance have only grown with the perspective of history. This is especially true in light of the almost unrelenting mediocrity of the elected political class, President Reagan excepted.

Though Dr. King was a liberal politician, pro-union, anti Vietnam war, etc., this was the less important facet of his public personna. What he stood for and what he accomplished quite simply was the non-violent termination of Jim Crow. It is not his legacy that a victimization, dependency agenda was appended to his triumph. That appalling result is the fault of the Jesse Jacksons and liberal politicians who claimed to carry his banner but failed to actually continue his work. That work secured voting rights, the right to be served in businesses open to the public, and the right for children to be educated in truly equal and integrated schools. In short, King secured the application of our founding documents to all our citizens. Why would anyone, and particularly any Conservative, not think that is worth celebrating?

What isn't taught much in the schools and what many have forgotten over the past forty odd years is that Dr. King was not the undisputed leader and idol of his community in the last couple of years of his life. In fact, the various "Black Power" advocates were more admired on college campuses in 1967 and early 1968, and especially Malcolm X. In my college history courses taken in the years immediately following the assassination, we were assigned any number of readings written by or inspired by Malcolm, but actually none by Dr. King.

As I have come to view that era and particularly the rivalry among Black leaders of that time, King and Malcolm were like the two opposing sides of a single personality. I think given more time, they might have joined forces to foster a less dependent, more assertive attitude among their following. At the risk of trivializing the point, I recall a Star Trek episode where the transporter has caused Captain Kirk to divide into two personalities, one passive, the other overly aggressive and dangerous. Neither is able to effectively function without the other and until they are reunited. Actually, neither King nor Malcolm were so one dimensional, but history having cut both short, we are left with an oversimplified historical view, and with King's legacy achieving immortality while Malcolm's has retreated (Spike Lee's sensational biopic notwithstanding), the politics of victimization have been dominant.

One might have hoped that President Obama would have taken the opportunity to move the country into not only a post-racial era, but a post dependency one as well. Instead, entitlements are only growing under his administration, and beyond what we can afford. Though minorities continue to make great progress in this country, the number of folks on food stamps, unemployment, and other programs that encourage dependency keeps growing. I believe this will ultimately be seen as the President's greatest failure.

For now, conservatives should promote Dr. King's birthday as a reaffirmation of the Declaration and the Constitution, and how he helped make those documents and the principles inherent in them applicable to every citizen. As conservatives regain the reins of government, they would do well to rededicate themselves to making sure that good work lives on in our exceptional country.
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There is so much great jazz in NYC this month, but I'll only list a few outings on the short list. McCoy Tyner, last survivor of the Coltrane classic quartet, will be at Blue Note this week for a short run. Next weekend, trombonist Wycliffe Gordon comes to Kitano for some guaranteed fun. The following week Jane Monheit comes to Birdland, and on Thursday, baritone sax Lauren Sevian fronts the Helen Sung Trio. For the weekend of the 20th, I am thinking of looking in on the Ken Peplowski quartet at Small's. The last weekend of the month will also highlight action at Kitano (Helen Sung trio) and Small's (Seamus Blake quintet including pianist Dave Kikoski.
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It looks like, on a total return basis, the Redwavemusings portfolio lost 1.3% in
2011, acceptable performance considering what a difficult year it was in the markets. We booked substantial capital gains this year though, reversing last year's tax efficiency when we made significant portfolio gains while booking capital losses. But we are happy with the year anyway since we did use the time to increase our holdings in gold, TIPS, and preferred stocks.

On January 3, we bought 500 shares of Alumina (AWC) at 4.76. The next day, we sold another 600 shares of FSI International (FSII) this time getting 3.84. We had bought 400 of those on 9/8/09 for 1.01 and the other 200 on 10/4/10 for 2.73. On Friday, we sold 200 shares of Newpark Resources (NR), one of our Tulane portfolio stocks, for 10.26 versus a purchase price of 2.85 on 6/22/09. The Tulane recommendations have really been home runs.

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