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Tuesday, October 01, 2013


Got the Government Shutdown Blues?

Hours from a shutdown due to the inability to pass the needed expenditure bills to open the fiscal year, Congress is putting the American people through this kabuki dance as a reflection of the districting mess. Because there are so few competitive congressional districts, the typical House member is far more concerned about a primary challenge than about the opposing general election candidate. The result is the need to demonstrate conservative or liberal bona fides for the folks back home. So no meaningful negotiations take place. One can't imagine the Dems giving up Obamacare so easily anyway, not after more than 50 years of effort to pass it. The resulting paralysis plays right into the President's hands, since he can use the bully pulpit and his alleged oratorical skills to defame the Republican brand. The reality is both sides are equally at fault, and there is a pretty good argument that the President wanted this shut down from the beginnning. Regardless, I expect this to peter out tonight, with the Republicans caving on Obamacare, although there is the vague possibility the Dems will chip in to repeal the very unpopular tax on medical devices. The whole thing has been a tactical blunder by the Tea Party types. The GOP should have simply funded Obamacare and watch the chaos unfold. Instead, they have found a way to share the blame for the mess that is sure to ensue. The next big time bomb will be the fight over the debt ceiling, which needs to be raised within the next few weeks to avoid a Federal bond default. Most of the talking heads have determined that is a much more important problem to deal with than the shut down. Obama will say default is not an option and the debt limit is an inappropriate item to leverage. Yet, when he was a US Senator, the Dems did the same thing to George W., and Obama voted against raising the debt limit. So there is more than enough hypocrisy to go around. By the way, according to the WSJ, it is still undetermined if the thousands of Federal workers to be furloughed if there is a shut down will ultimately be paid for that time. But if they are going to be paid, what is the point of the furlough? Where are the savings? We might as well keep them all at work if we are going to pay them anyway. Personally, I would just as soon see this out of control Justice Department and EPA furlough their 150,000 employees without pay. That may sound callous until you think about the entitlement those workers and their appointed bosses demonstrate with respect to our tax dollars. ------------------------------------------------------------------ Before I get off my political soapbox, I just have to say that the ineptitude of our Administration's foreign policy is more than matched by their ability to tell the silliest lies with a straight face. One of the oft repeated Obama lines is how the drone program and other counter-terrorism tactics employed by his Administration have enfeebled the terrorists. But those bad guys are doing a lot of damage for a group supposedly on the run. The latest doings in Africa brought this to our front pages, but less well known is the extent to which the Syrian rebels are now dominated by Al Queda. And still, no one is held responsible for the murder of our diplomats in Libya. As if all this wasn't embarrassing enough for the Obama folks, you now have the new Iranian President snubbing our President at the UN. Where is JFK when we need him? Now, U.S. prestige really is at an all time low, as he famously charged in that long ago (1960) campaign. In November, when the 50th anniversary of his assassination is commemorated, we will see the images of a real leader on screen again. Yes, JFK was young, inexperienced and error prone just like the current incumbent, but there was a clarity of purpose and determination completely missing now. -------------------------------------------------------------------- Saw Sara Evans at Westbury and thoroughly enjoyed her show. She ran through a lot of her hits as well as some new songs. Leading off was 25 year old Ayla Brown, accompanying herself on acoustic guitar in a solo performance. Without a band to sing over, her compositions were quite refreshing and well received. She is a Boston College product that you might remember from American Idol and she was working though quite a line of customers buying her autographed CD's after the show. Last Friday night, Tommy Igoe returned to NYC for the first time in two months to direct the Birdland Big Band at their home club. The Big Band will again work New Years Eve at Birdland and headline there through the first week of January. Freddy Cole is also moved back to January to make room for a two week Birdland gig for Michael Feinstein. Sounds like some must see shows. Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks have taken their Monday and Tuesday gigs to a new home, the Iguana on 54th and Broadway. They did a terrific show before a very large crowd outdoors in Westbury Gardens in August. In Philadelphia for a night recently, I stopped in at Chris' Jazz Cafe and caught a very nice young quintet headed by two flute/piccolo players! This was followed by a sensational young quartet that played into an open mike session that was lots of fun. The Philly jazz scene is driven by Temple University and the Philadelphia Academy of Music where there are aspiring young players with a great club to play in. They also have a great role model in veteran guitarist Pat Martino, who headlined at the CJC last weekend. When Eydie Gorme passed away recently, I recalled that my father, also a professional singer, always said that she was the purest and best pop singer of her time. Husband Steve (Lawrence)and Eydie were a can't miss act for 40 years. -------------------------------------------------------------------- The one really nice thing about the New York primaries a few weeks ago was the discerning public's clear rejection of low life candidates Anthony Weiner and Eliot Spitzer. Towards the end of the campaign, a heckler called Weiner a "scumbag," inadvertently insulting Trojans everywhere. ----------------------------------------------------------------- Fall baseball began with tonight's play-in game between Tampa and Texas. It will be lots of fun as there are real good teams in both leagues. I am so not yet into football. Fittingly, I am off to Cooperstown on Wednesday for our annual trade association meetings, with a little golf on the side at the famous Leatherstocking Course at the beautiful Otesaga hotel. ---------------------------------------------------------------------- On September 4, we bought 50 shares of Cincinatti Bell preferred (CBB.PR.B) at 43.63. On 9/6, we bought 200 shares of Safeguard Scientifics (SFE), a value buy at 14.73. We also bought 100 more shares of BioReference Labs (BRLI) at 29.06. On 9/9 we bought 20 shares of the TIP ETF at 109.56. All of these purchases are being funded by the flurry of takeover sales we are enjoying. We accepted another bid on 9/12, letting go of all 700 shares of Kaydon (KDN) at 35.53. This was quite a bit more than we paid on shares purchased as long ago as 2001, when we paid less than 21 for 300 shares. On 9/13, we bought 200 shares of News Corp. (NWS.A) at 17.06. It took me a while, but I finally decided to restore the print half of Murdoch's empire to the buy list. Then on 9/16, we bought 25 shares of Deere (DE) at 83.50. This is a zero buy of course. And on 9/17, we added 100 shares of the Sabra preferred (SPRAP) at 24.75. We'll catch up on the rest of the September transactions, including more takeover news, in the next post.

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