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Sunday, June 09, 2013

 

Heading into summer...

Item #1 - Senator Lautenberg died, setting up a vacancy in the US Senate for Governor Chris Christie to fill.  The Dems immediately tried to fill the media with reasons why the Governor should not name a Republican, or should call a special election in 2013 (though it didn't have to be called until 2014), or even sillier, bow to the inevitable and appoint Mayor Booker of Newark to the Senate now.  As if any Democratic Governor would do anything like that given a similar opportunity.  In the end Christie gave them half the wish list, selecting an October date for the special election.  Why spend the money for a special election that close to November?  He doesn't want the Booker voters coming out to vote for his Democratic opponent.  For the very short stub period, he named his Republican buddy currently serving as New Jersey Attorney General, with the stipulation he won't run in the special.  So he screwed his own party to assure his own re-election.

Item #2 - Weakest manufacturing report since the Great Recession issued - So what is causing the economy to go into another second quarter flatline despite the loosest monetary policy since Arthur Burns money printing press was mothballed by Paul Volcker?  Part of the problem is that Europe and Asia are also weakening and exports are down.  But our economy continues to underperform due to nonsensical federal government and blue state policies.  Economic activity is all but paralyzed by the spectre of ACA implementation, the unwillingness of Democratic leaders at all levels to buck environmental extremism that continues to put off pipeline and fracking projects, and regulation that is simply making for a lousy business climate.   Of course, the left doesn't see things this way, so there is not much constructive dialogue going on.  Meanwhile, though the sequester might be damping activity a bit, there is no discernible reduction in government services that is bothering anyone, leading one to believe that, in fact, the money not being spent now was simply wasted previously.  So you can expect no agreement on budget issues for the forseeable future either, since Republicans will see no reason for additional tax increases.

Dems will point to our deteriorating infrastructure and say that gasoline taxes should be increased to pay for those fixes.  But I think gas taxes are plenty high enough thank you.  There is no reason to believe that motorists can expect any return on gas taxes - they just go into the general revenue mix anyway.

Item # 3 - Detroit will be biggest municipal bankruptcy ever; Illinois suffers rating downgrade - Despite the best efforts of the former NBA star, Detroit Mayor Dave Bing, Governor Snyder has named a financial manager for the city who seems to have decided that the only way forward is to declare bankruptcy so he can dissolve the sweetheart union contracts and pension commitments that Detroit has no hope of being able to afford.  Detroit is a victim of industries that declined, frankly unable to compete because of the burden of a unionized workforce.  Its population is down to about 700,000.  Mr. Bing came into office faced with a nearly hopeless mess, and we will stipulate that he made an honest and exhaustive effort to fix things.

Illinois suffers from a lot of the same maladies, exacerbated by corruption at all levels of government.  The governor and the legislature have chosen to stick their heads pretty much in the sand, so the downgrade was anticipated and expected.  As far as I can tell, there is no positive response in the offing.  If I was vengeful, I might add that this is the millieu from which sprang our President (oops, I guess I did).

Item # 4 - Passings include Richie Havens and Ray Manzarek - In the mid 60's, when FM radio was young, DJ Murray the K went to work for WOR FM in New York.  He was among the first to spot the revolution in popular rock music that the Beatles had spawned.  So he moved on from the R&B oriented shows he used to promote at the Brooklyn Fox and put on newer acts that only his listeners knew much about, because it was only on WOR that their albums were being played.  But that changed overnight.  My buddies and I went to the first of these shows, I believe in 1965 or 1966.  On a single bill, we saw the Chambers Brothers (Time Has Come Today), the Blues Project (with Al Kooper), Janice Ian (Society's Child), The Doors (Light My Fire) and Richie Havens (Follow).  I saw The Doors live again at Forest Hills in a concert where they played the first hour and Simon and Garfunkel played the second.  If that seems incongruous, it didn't seem to matter to a full house of fans who were simply awed by what was happening to rock (and folk for that matter).  It should be said that Jim Morrison was completely dominant fronting The Doors.  I like to say that people went to see them with the same attitude one brings to a NASCAR race.  You kind of love what's going on, but you're on the edge of your seat waiting for the (likely) crack-up.  You really didn't know what Morrison might do, and that was part of the attraction.  But it was poetry put to rock, and thinks to Manzarek's keyboard work, there was a strong element pf jazz improvisation to the arrangements that meant the songs never got tired, never got stale.  Manzarek said that John Coltrane was a major influence on him, and though I am sure he never felt he was quite in that class, he was probably as good at the rock keyboards as anyone before or since.  In later years, Manzarek did what he could to keep the legend alive, and to see that his friend Morrison would be remembered as a great artist, and not merely as a symbol for the self-destructive drug culture of the rock era of the 60's and early 70's. 

I saw Richie Havens many times live after that first show, in concert at Westbury, at Rosemont (PA) College, at Haverford (PA) College, and memorably, as the first half of another memorable concert at Forest Hills.  (The second half was Janis Joplin!) Havens is best remembered for his high energy performance at Woodstock, where he sang the amazing song High Flying Bird from his incredible first album, Mixed Bag.  Richie wrote some of his songs, but I always thought his best work was creating great arrangements to cover other artists, particularly the Beatles and Bob Dylan.  He could bring the greatest melodies out of those Dylan tunes, which were often hidden in Dylan's versions given his unique approach to "singing," But listen to Havens' vesion of Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands, for example and it's like hearing the song for the first time.  Similarly, when Havens recorded Lady Madonna and Strawberry Fields, two great Beatles songs, the hooks were so much more powerful than even in the Beatles' version.  Havens was a pretty good guitarist too, playing with what was called a unique "open tuned" method that allowed him to accompany himself more powerfully than most singers could. 
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Our next post will include two features you may not want to miss.  First, we will do what we haven't done in quite some time - review the entire Musings stock trading rules (the mysterious formula) so that those who are newer readers can more easily follow along.  We will remind readers that the formula is not recommended for anyone else.  Still, there may be a thought you might want to adapt as you review your own financial planning.  This will be the first time the entire method will appear in a single post.  Hope I don't forget anything.

Also, it being summertime, we will preview the many great jazz festivals lined up here in the eastern states.  For those in the D.C. area, I would simply say for now that yours is wrapping up this week, so consult your local media for times and locations of any remaining events.
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On May 28, we sold 400 shares of USA Trucking (USAK) at 6.40.  This was a taxable loss we could use; we paid 14.46 for 200 on 10/15/07 and 13 for 200 on 4/6/11.  On 5/29, we sold 200 shares of Boyd Gaming (BYD) from the IRA at 13.05.  We paid 9.30 on 7/21/08.  Then we switched to the buy side as higher interest rates cooled off the rally.  We bought 100 shares of MAIN for the IRA at 29.60 on 5/30.  On 5/31, we bought 50 shares of Cincinnati Bell (CBB.PR.B) at 47.94.  Then on 6/3, we bought 100 shares of Bryn Mawr Bank (BMTC) at 22.86.  On 6/5, we bought 50 shares of NVEC Corp. (NVEC) at 51.77.

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