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Thursday, March 21, 2013


The O in Israel and the Middle East

President Obama visited Israel this week, his first stop on his Middle East barnstorming tour, and did what he could to thaw out his frosty relationship with Israeli leader Bibi Netanyahu. He paid special attention to his advisors' talking points, making sure to emphasize the Jews' historical (biblical) birthright to the land and visiting Zionist monuments.  From Israel, he proceeded to occupied Palestine where he tried to assuage the locals by saying that "Palestinians deserve to have a state."  So, it's not just here that the "O" wants to have his cake and eat it too.  Don't take it personally.

It would have been something to be a fly on the wall when Netanyahu huddled with Deputy PM and sometimes rival Ehud Barak to do a post mortem on the American President's drop-in. Amazingly, your crack redwavemusings investigative reporting team has obtained (exclusively, I might add) a transcript of their candid conversation, which we reprint here:

BN: I thought he would never leave.  That man can talk a blue streak.
EB: Yeah, he's some sweet talker, like a big piece of halvah!
BN: At least he made an effort this time.  When I went to the states, he seemed to go out of his way to make me mad.  I finally said, "I didn't come here to be insulted."  So he says, "that's what you think!" Then he calls me an upstart! (sorry, Marx Brothers fans)
EB: Some nerve.
BN: I'm thinking who is this young semi-schv...
EB: Watch it, Bi Bi!
BN:-schmo telling me how to run my freaking country?  I don't tell Americans how to play basketball.
EB: Hold on there, we sorta do.  Remember, before Bill Russell and Lenny Wilkens, there was Red Auerbach and Red Holzman, not to mention Joe Lapchik and Al McGuire.
BN: Joe Lapchick and Al McGuire?
EB: I asked you not to mention Al McGuire
BN: Al McGuire wasn't Jewish, he was Irish!
EB :Funny, he didn't look Irish
BN: Anyway, now he wants to give those idiot Palestinians a state.  Can you imagine?  They couldn't run a decent size camel ranch.  How are they ever going to manage a state?
EB: I don't know, but it may not be all bad.  Maybe once they have their own place, they'll stop coming here.  And it's a pain in the tuchus already to occupy the territories.  Enough!  You want to be like the idiot Americans, stuck in Afghanistan?
BN: Oh God, even a worse place than the desert here.
EB: So maybe we can figure out a good way to make this happen.
BN: And if they start up again, we can re-occupy them if we have to.  It will be good practice for when we have to circumcise the Persians.
EB: Good plan.
BN: You want to hear a good one?
EB: Sure
BN: Obama and I made a bet.  He showed me his NCAA Tournament bracket, so I did one and I bet him mine would come out better than his.
EB: What stakes?
BN: If he wins, we have to show the Americans how we fixed that lousy missile defense system they gave us so that it actually works.  Suddenly, they're all worried about the North Koreans and that chubby peckerhead with all the threats and stuff.
EB: And what if you win?
BN: He has to visit Iran and personally give Khameni a swift kick in the tuchus.  No, really.
EB: I wonder if he knows how insulted those camel breaths get when you show them the bottom of your shoes!
BN: Heh heh.
EB: Well, I could use a belt, let me tell you.  Is it 5 o'clock yet?
BN: Somewhere.
EB and BN (together): L'Chaim

I ask my readers, please don't send this transcript to Julian Assange.

Speaking of the NCAA's, I didn't bother with a bracket.  This looks like the kind of year where someone could come out of nowhere to win.  The smart money says the best teams are Louisville, Kansas, Indiana, but I think this could be the year of Miami, meaning both the University of, as well as the Heat.    So far, what I know is that the Big Five Champion LaSalle, whom we saw at the Palestra a month ago, won its play-in game.
The Wall Street Journal really had it right about Andrew Cuomo in today's editorial.  For all the non-stop blather about establishing a business friendly environment in New York, things have never been worse for business here, and the ever increasing taxes and minimum wage in the budget proves the point.  With politicians, what they do is so much more indicative than anything they say. Since Republicans are an endangered species hereabouts, there is no relief in sight, I'm afraid.
Meanwhile, the Cyprus bank crisis, which has been further complicated since the Russians use it as a tax haven (the way we use Guernsey and the Caymans), is indicative of the fact that the Euro crisis is far from over, and that the Germans have about had it with rescuing everyone.  The shocking proposal to put the snatch on depositors' money was less shocking than the unanimous vote by the Cyprus legislature to defy the EU's imposed solution.

Lest you think it can't happen here, consider that the Fed's interminable low interest rate campaign is effectively a confiscation of our depositors' interest income.  We are just a bit more subtle than the Germans, but no less willing to make savers pay for profligate spending by governments and others.
By the way, if you get a chance, catch the replay of ventriloquist/comedian Jeff Dunham on CMT.  It is just a scream and definitely worth wading through all the commercials.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- The Fed induced stock rally carries on virtually unabated.  Bull markets climb a wall of worry and this one is typical.  We've been taking profits, and will pay dearly on April 15, 2014, but that's life in the USA.  On 3/13, we bought 50 shares of AstraZeneca (AZN), a somewhat beleaguered drug stock with just about nothing in the pipeline.  In short, a perfect time to buy with the stock down to 45.67.  On 3/14, we bought 200 shares of the Sabra Health Care REIT (SBRP), a new issue recommended by Full Service Broker.  We needed some new preferred (and similar acting) names and this seems like a good one.  The REIT will assemble a portfolio of health related real properties like nursing homes.  We paid 25.  On 3/18, we sold 50 shares of Teleflex (TFX), a long time favorite that was trading in the ozone.  We got 81.19 for shares purchased on 6/16/06 for 51.20.    On 3/19, we sold 100 shares of Bristow Group (BRS) for 61.77.  Bristow is another one of our Tulane portfolio winners.  We paid 29.34 for these shares on 8/16/04.  Yesterday, we switched back to the buy side, paying 7.18 per share for 300 shares of Gencor (GENC) to put into the IRA.

Disclaimer time:  Neither redwavemusings nor its author are investment advisors.  The recording of these transactions is not to be construed as a recommendation of any security or action, and those mentioned here may be unsuitable for anyone else.  

Tuesday, March 12, 2013


Items Grab Bag

Item - The Republican Senate Leader in New York, Dean Skelos, reversed course, determining that some increase in the minimum wage would be OK after all.  So we now have evidence that New York Republicans cave even faster than Senate Republicans in Washington do.  That said, the cave is still not enough for Dems like Assembly Speaker Shelly Silver.  He and Governor Cuomo are demanding not just a big increase in the minimum wage, but also the indexing of that minimum to inflation.  What a terrible idea - when we assume a need to keep up with inflation, we raise inflation expectations and ultimately accelerate inflation itself.  No doubt the victims of this lousy policy will again be youth workers, especially the less educated who will be laid off in droves.

Item: North Korea's dictator threatens U.S. with nuclear weaponry and renounces the truce that ended the Korean War.  This is what happens when you give a juvenile delinquent the keys to the country.

Venezuela's Chavez dies from cancer complications setting off mourning among the country's peasantry and U.S. liberal sympathizers.  My grandfather taught me, if you can't say anything good about the dead, don't say anything at all.  So I won't.  But I can still "dis" Sean Penn and Robert Kennedy Junior, can't I? 

Item: 3,300 dead pigs were found in a river in China that is an important source of drinking water.  No wonder a favorite dish in that environmental nightmare of a country is twice cooked pork.  But I'm pretty sure twice would not be enough for most of us.  Here we have General Electric agreeing to a fourth Hudson River dredging project to remove some of the PCB's they dumped there decades ago.  I wonder how many times you'd have to cook them before they were safe.

Item: Old teams suffer injuries as night follows day.  The aging and aged Knicks can't keep their stars on the court, the Yankees have had a difficult time keeping their inevitable Hall of Famers on the field.    In the pre-steriod era, we expected athletes to slow down and glide to retirement by 35 or so.  Now with high salaries motivating athletes to stay in shape, and with steroids and PED's speeding their healing and return to the field and the court, it is common for pros to soldier on to 40 or even later.  But I am not sure this is really good for anyone - the teams, the fans or the players themselves.

Item: Cedar Walton wowed them at Birdland, but as often happens, it was one of his sidemen, alto sax veteran Vincent Herring who stole the show.  We have seen Herring many times at Birdland playing with greats like George Cables, Victor Lewis, Nicholas Peyton and Tom Harrell.  He is a regular at all of New York's top jazz clubs  - the current sax player of choice in a city where Eric Alexander, Joe Lovano, Lew Tabackin and other great players are based.  This is why, when selecting a show to see, go past the headliner and look to see which sidemen are playing also.  

I sat at the bar for the show, next to a German visitor in town on business.  He told me he was anxious to see New York's Birdland since he goes to a club named Birdland in Hamburg.  Of course, he doesn't often see the likes of Walton and Herring there.  Needless to say, he was suitably impressed.

Item: The Mets are shaping up pretty much the way we expected - lots of quality starting pitching and lots of questions in the outfield.  And way too left-handed at the plate - we are going to see a lot of lefties out of opposing bullpens.  It does look like if Jordany Valdespin can get the hang of centerfield, he may see quite a bit of starts there, which would send Kirk Nieuwenhuis to Las Vegas for a while.

But they have more to worry about in Las Vegas than a triple A team that strikes out a lot.  Casinos are sprouting everywhere.  And on-line gambling too.  Of course, New York politicians want to restrict the casinos to the economically challenged upstate counties, and not to put them in New York City, where they might actually do some business.  I think it's all a conspiracy to keep me from dominating the poker tournament circuit.

The stock market is setting records every day and that makes any self respecting investor/trader nervous.  Remember, the late Dr. Martin Zweig was perpetually worried and nervous.  Fortunately, like Star Trek's Mr. Spock, we have a formula that keeps any such emotions at bay.  The public is characteristically made up of trend followers who always get it wrong, getting to rallies too late and then being set up for the market's inevitable slump.  Our formula takes us in the opposite direction.

On Feb 25, we sold 100 shares of SEI Corp. (SEIC) at 28.14.  We paid 14.81 on 5/3/04.  On 2/26, we bought 100 shares of San Diego Power preferred (SDO.PR.A) at 24.69.  On 3/1, we bought 100 shares of Devon Energy (DVN) at 53.87.  This was a value buy since the stock is depressed due to the surplus production of natural gas.  On 3/4, we sold 100 shares of Conrad Industries (CNRD) at 22.64.  We paid 1.30 0n 4/26/05, a triumph for our formula and the vaunted Tulane portfolio.  On 3/5, we sold 400 shares of the rebounding USA Trucking (USAK) for 5.03, taking a small loss from the 5.73 we paid on 1/8/01.  On 3/6, we sold 200 shares of Marine Max (HZO) for 13.76 that we bought on 11/10/08 for 1.54.   During the crisis, they priced HZO as if no one would ever buy another boat.  On 3/7, we sold 100 shares of Watts Water (WTS) at 48.96.  We paid 31.61 on 6/19/06.  Finally, on 3/11, we sold 100 shares of News Corp (NWSA) for 30.50.  We paid 18.04 on 3/18/05.  News Corp will be splitting into two companies, separating its newspaper business from its other media businesses.            

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