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Thursday, June 28, 2012


Will this Decision be on the Supremes' Greatest Hits?

I am writing this blog as I enjoy my second listening to Counting Crows' newest CD, Underwater Sunshine. Recorded last year, it followed Adam Duritz's self reported creative burnout after the success of Saturday Nights, Sunday Mornings. If the existence and release of the album was a surprise, the concept was a bigger one since the album has no original soungs. Given Adam's burnout, the group decided to do cover songs of the groups they have admired and even played with in previous incarnations. The groups covered include Romany Rye, Teenage Fanclub, Coby and Immy, Tender Mercies, Fairport Convention, Pure Prairie League,, Faces, Gram Parsons, Dawes, Sordid Humor, The Byrds, and Big Star. I will be the first to admit that I know less than half of the covered acts and the songs, but the Crows bring their own unique brand of countrified rock to the titles and the overall impact is really entertaining. From Adam's liner notes: "You may or may not know these songs. It wasn't an intentional theme but it did sort of fall out that a lot of the songs on this record aren't well-known. It wasn't something we did on purpose; there's just a lot of great music made every day and there's no way for anyone to hear all of it. I suppose it's inevitable that a lot of it gets missed. The songs on Underwater Sunshine come from old bands and young, they stretch from the early 60's to earlier this year, and they were recorded for major labels, for indies, and, in some cases for just a few friends to hear. Either way, they're all great songs and hopefully they'll be heard by a few more people now. "Anyway, I know you wonder why we didn't just write our own record. Well...mostly because we just wanted to do THIS one. We live in an era of songwriting but (I hate saying this) songwriting isn't all there is to music. Sometimes it's great to play someone else's music and try to make it your own. Sometimes it's great just because it's fun." ----------------------------------------------------------------------------- Tomorrow is the day we have been waiting for with anticipation for months, when the Supremes stop keeping us hanging on and release their decision on PPACA. The assumption among the pundits that the individual mandate will be struck down is so widespread, it has made me believe that that part of the decision might have been leaked. What everyone seems less sure about is how much of the law the Court might leave in place, and what the pols next moves will be. I know I will be disappointed if the Court doesn't not only strike the mandate down but also go further by enunciating a limiting principle concerning the powers of the Congress versus the states. If federalism is to mean anything in the 21st century, this decision will provide the basis for it. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------- While the election is going to be played out largely on the U.S. economy, the failures of the Obama administration have been as bad or worse on the foreign policy side. The leaking of intelligence, some of it apparently intentional, by this administration is frightening. Why would anyone trust us again after we have made it known that US and Israeli intelligence were behind the cyber attack that delayed Iranian nuclear efforts (not that everyone didn't assume that, but you never admit to such a thing)? In the meantime, Obama's claim that he could further foreign policy efforts with the Axis of Evil by simply talking to them has been a total failure. The Iranians play us for time and we do nothing. Afghanistan has been a mess. If anything the so-called war of necessity has gone worse than the "War of Choice." Now we have the fiasco that is Russian relations, with our efforts to promote democracy there without offending Putin and the Oligarchs (if they had any hits, maybe CC would cover them). For background, read today's op ed in the WSJ written by former World Chess Champion Gary Kasparov. Really, I just don't see how anyone with an open mind could not see the need for a new President. Even Jimmy Carter had to pile on with his complaint about the administration's human rights violations (referring to the drone attacks). ---------------------------------------------------------------------------- For a great weekly jazz experience that's free, sign onto your computer at 9:30 Thursday nights and see the second set at Dizzy's Cola Club, (Jazz at Lincoln Center) live, as it's happening. I watched and listened last week and thoroughly enjoyed Barbara Carroll's quartet featuring the great Ken Peplowski on clarinet. The url is jalc.org. You will see a different headline act each week. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------- Ok, now Jane Monheit is on the CD player, since the Counting Crows record finished. Who has it better than me? ---------------------------------------------------------------------------- So far, our formula is preserving our capital in this miserable market, and that's always the first order of business. On June 14, we bought 400 shares of USA Trucking (USAK) at 5.41. This has been a near perfect storm for the small trucking firms that are always scrambling for independent drivers and to fill the trailers. On 6/15, we bought 15 more shares of the SPDR Gold ETF (GLD) for the IRA at 157.75. Yes, I hear all the technicians predicting Prechter like bear markets for gold, but I still want the inflation protection. On 6/18, we sold 100 shares of Quanta (PWR), our wind play, at 22.78. We paid 19.73 on 11/03/08. Making money in this stock is no small achievement. On 6/20, we sold 100 shares of Raven Industries (RAVN) out of the IRA at 70. We paid 20.88 on 2/18/09. A reasonably fast triple there. On 6/22, we bought 100 shares of Kaydon (KDN) at 20.80, a value buy. Then on 6/25, we bought 500 more shares of USA Trucking (USAK), at 4.79. This increasingly looks like a kamikaze mission. We have new readers all the time. Here's the periodic disclaimer. Neither redwavemusings, nor its author is an investment advisor, and the transactions and securities mentioned here are not recommendations and may not be suitable for anyone else (or me for that matter).

Thursday, June 14, 2012


Romney Pulls a Bit Ahead

I'm OK with John Edwards getting off the campaign financing rap, essentially on a no decision, and I think it would be a waste of time and money to renew the prosecution. This is the case even though I have a hard time imagining a sleezier human being than the former Senator, and I certainly believe he violated the campaign finance laws. That said, I think those laws are wrong headed and that we should not be so fixated on restricting campaign speech. Advocates of public financing of campaigns are equally misguided, as this is not something taxpayers should be required to pay for, and any such system would all but guarantee the re-election of incumbents. I favor no financing restrictions of any kind except that each campaign should be required to post the source and amount of all contributions on an internet site. Efforts to disguise the source of the funds, whether by the contributor or the campaign, should cause those funds to be forfeited. So I was also more than fine with the significant contributions Scott Walker received from out of state to fund his successful campaign to stave off recall and finish out his term as Governor of Wisconsin. I even made two small contributions to the Walker campaign. We have posted here before about how important it is to break the feedback loop between public unions and Democratic campaigns, and Mr. Walker has done that in Wisconsin. Once union dues (and campaign fund participation) became voluntary (as PAC participation is in the private sector) thousands of public employees opted out. What was occurring, of course (and continues in many states) was that union leaders took those compulsory contributions and financed Democratic campaigns, electing Dem governors to negotiate sweetheart benefit packages for those same unions, bankrupting the states and their taxpayers. In effect, the union sat on both sides of the negotiating table. Once the public understood this dynamic, Walker's relatively easy victory was assured. Expect to see this scenario repeated around the country, except perhaps in certain People's Republics (like California). It's interesting how often our conservative notions stand up under analysis on a broad range of issues, once we get by the polemical invective employed, admittedly, by both sides (but used virtually exclusively by the Left). That's why Governor Romney is clearly breaking through, as he discusses in proportioned, reasonable tones the reasons why we take the positions we do while the Administration's responses are basically an ad nauseum blast of rote talking points and class warfare nonsense. And when the President is left to his own devices, the result is just as bad as when his goofy VP opens up. Consider his recent "gaffe" about how the economy is not so good but the private sector is "doing fine." Hours later, after he realized he had given Romney an attack line, he tried to walk it back, but it was too late. The gaffe had given the public another insight (as if it needed one) into Obama's actual thinking - that he equates the health of the economy with public sector activity and its growth. In fact, it is the health of the private sector that should be equated with the economy, and the state of the private sector is none too healthy. But what do you expect from the kind of mentality that takes credit for every new job while assigning the blame for every lost job to the Bush administration? Anyway, the polls are starting to reflect the public's growing awareness of the incompetence of the current administration, and the opportunity to put a better executive in charge. Both Gallup and Rasmussen tracking polls today indicate a one point race, and Rasmussen has Romney up 46-45. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- The Euro Mess just keeps getting worse, with Spain agreeing to allow its banks to be bailed out. This was treated as a favorable development by the markets, and it may be in the short run. In the long run, both Europe and the US need to exercise some discipline concerning public spending and borrowing. Europe's problems are deeper than ours though, since it also needs to reverse decades of sclerotic social policy that has established overlong vacations, early full retirement ages, free medical care and other too generous entitlements as the expected norm. All of these things add up to a simple curse - lack of productivity, the one sure result for socialist states. The survival of the Euro is in doubt as a result, and that only adds to the pressures on business. It doesn't help matters here either. Business is looking at nothing but uncertainty, since all of the BRIC countries are under various strains and we have our own ponderables that include tax, health care, the elections, and the precarious finances of governments in this country, federal, state, and municipal. Business has lots of cash, but nowhere to park it and a lack of measurable opportunities where so much uncertainty exists. In addition to the Obama administration, the Federal reserve deserves its share of blame for our situation. Let's stipulate that Bernancke succeeded in rescuing the banks and replacing the owners of the auto companies (largely by putting the unions in charge). However, the continuing pedal to the metal effort to engineer a recovery through low interest rates is exactly the wrong medicine and it's threatening to kill the patient. We need higher interest rates which will give lenders a reason to lend and investors a place to invest. I am not saying we want double digit rates or anything even close, but zero is just an unreasonable cost for money. Better Fed policy combined with fiscal discipline on the spending side would trigger a more traditional looking recovery. Maybe after the election. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Summer is festival time for jazz in NY and, for that matter around the East Coast. Last week, Washington fans got to enjoy the DC Jazz Festival. There are lots more coming. Saint Peters, the Jazz Churxch on Lexington and 54th, has free lunchtime shows every Thursday through August. Lancaster, Pennsylvania has its festival this weekend featuring Orrin Evans and many others. Our heartthrob trumpet player, Bria Skonberg, is the featured performer for the summer long Hot Jazz, Cool Garden Concert Series in Corona, Queens June 16-August 20. Wilmington Delaware hosts the Dupont Clifford Brown Jazz Festival June 18-23 with the Christian McBride Big Band, Dee Dee Bridgewater, and Jane Monheit. Rochester, NY has a huge number of great players for its International Jazz Festival, June 22-30. Some of the big names include Bonnie Raitt, Diana Krall, Norah Jones, Roy Haynes, and the Terrence Blanchard Quintet. June 22-24, in Essex, Ct. you can attend the Hot Steamed Jazz Festival with Dan Levinson. 92nd Street Y's Jazz in July Festival includes a star lineup - Barbara Carroll, Bill Charlap, Bucky Pizzarelli, Dick Hyman, Freddy Cole, Ken Peplowski, Kenny and Peter Washington, Lewis Nash, Renee Rosnes, among them. Houston Person headlines the Jazz PA festival in Bellefonte, PA, July 27-28. The Caramoor Jazz Festival, July 28-29 in Katonah, NY features Dee Dee Bridgewater, Kenny Barron, and Roy Haynes. Aug 3-5 is the Newport Jazz Festival in Rhode Island with Dianne Reeves, Dr. John, Ken Peplowski, Anat Cohen, Lewis Nash with Jeremy Pely and Jimmy Greene, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, and Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks. Then there is the terrific Litchfield Jazz Festival in Goshen, CT Aug 10-12,where you can hear pianist Helen Sung, tenor sax Eric Alexander, Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks, and Kevin Mahogany among others. Finally, consider the New Haven, CT. Jazz Festival, Aug 11 featuring the T.S. Monk Sextet. --------------------------------------------------------------------------- On June 1, we bought 100 more shares of the Sun Trust Preferred stock (STI.PR.A) at 20.12. On 6/4, we bought 2000 shares of high risk (and apparently, low reward) Hauppauge Digital (HAUP) at 1.03. This was a limit order because you cannot risk a market order when the spread is such a high percentage of the price and so many shares are involved. Every extra penny you bid costs $20. On 6/6, we right-sized our Roper Industries holding, buying 25 shares back at 97.82. It was only on May 30 that we sold 100 at 101.35. On June 8, we bought 100 shares of San Diego Power preferred (SDO.PR.A) at 24.25, a new name for us. We put in a limit order since this issue is rarely traded. On 6/11 we bought 200 shares of Schulman (SHLM) at 19.50.

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