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Monday, May 26, 2014

 

Kindergarten for $60,000 per year

There has been quite a brew-ha-ha concerning college commencement speakers and protests by students causing invited speakers to withdraw.  Such occurred at Rutgers, Smith, and most recently at my alma mater, Haverford College.  The list includes some pretty fancy finishing schools where you might think liberal arts, pre-law and pre-med seniors might be mature enough to listen for ten or 15 minutes to an eminent scholar, business or community leader with whom they might have differing views.  Alas, such is not the case, at least for the left wing progressive police who apparently believe the first amendment applies only to those who share their preconceived notions, or the propaganda force fed them over 4 years by a faculty with an agenda that supersedes the mere dispensing of actual knowledge.  

In Haverford's case, the target of extremist left-wing wrath was the former chancellor of Berkeley, of all places, wherein certain Fords objected to the methods used to terminate the mindless "occupy" demonstrations on that campus.  Security had been called in (to protect other Berkeley employees) and allegations were made that some of the officers got a little rough with a few of the demonstrators.  Quite properly, the then Chancellor called for an investigation of the security force, the results of which I don't know, but the Fords were not saying that the investigation was unfair or incomplete.  They were saying that before being allowed to speak, the Chancellor should make amends by apologizing and assenting to a list of demands.  Of course he would not do this and therefore opted out of the speaking engagement.  Haverford's first year President took his side, saying that the students' demands were inappropriate, but he was sorry that they were offended.  He could have gone on to say that the graduates instead could have merely voted with their feet and opted to skip the ceremony and receive their diplomas in the mail.  But he didn't.  We'll talk about that missed call next week during alumni weekend.

In the end, the President of Princeton filled in as a substitute and to his credit, pronounced the protesting students "immature," a very polite word for what they are.  At that, the students expressed their indignation and shock to be called such a name.  All of this was duly reported in the Wall Street Journal and commented on extensively in the op eds, presumably to the embarrassment of the College (and certainly the alumni).  If academic freedom means anything, it should allow for everyone's first amendment rights and we have commented in this space before about the offensiveness of campus speech codes (specifically at Dartmouth but pervasive almost everywhere).  That should go for the protesting students and also for guest speakers on campus.

By the way, if you want to read a really great commencement address, see the weekend WSJ or go to WSJ.com and take a look at William H. McRaven's speech at the University of Texas.  Entitled "Life Lessons From Navy SEAL Training," it will make your day and give you a lot to think about, especially if you've spent $60,000 or more per year on someone's liberal arts education.
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What a revelation it is to see GOP primary voters actually making intelligent choices to pick electable candidates rather than make such contests about conservative purity.  Liberal pundits misread these results if they choose to believe they are a rejection of the Tea Party or its ideas.  Instead, it is the inevitable marriage of the Tea Party with Republican conservatives, and in fact, Tea Party folks returning to their natural affiliation.  This gives the GOP its best chance to also capture the votes of so-called moderate Republicans (who are actually liberals in the classical sense of the term) and certain libertarians of an even less conservative stripe.

6th year elections (of a President's tenure) are almost always bad for the Chief Executive's party, and having endured a shellacking in 2010, Dems are right to be fearful of another one, which, if bad enough, has the potential to flip the Senate for at least two years (when some of those freshman Republicans are up for re-election in a Presidential year).  This administration's record is so bad, and it has been so contemptuousness of Congress and the separation of powers, that a loss of the Senate will be catastrophic for them.  It will be good for the country however, since Dems are set to move without super-majority support on all kinds of things in Obama's last two years if they retain the Senate..  One wonders whether Dems will regret scotching the 60 vote super-majority for confirmations if the GOP also wins the White House in 2016.  With a small senate majority, the precedent has already been set by the Dems for the GOP to nominate and confirm anyone they want in 2016 and beyond if they take the White House and the Senate.   
If the GOP does carve out a majority in November, look for Justice Ginsberg to immediately resign, citing ill health, and for the Dems to try speeding a replacement through during the lame duck session.

Once the GOP takes charge, if they do, look for heightened investigations into Benghazi, the IRS scandal, PPACA rule making, and the Federal Reserve.  GOP investigators will be so busy, they will hardly have time to spend denying climate change (no need, the weather seems to be doing just fine with that).

By the way, if you really want an environmental issue to worry about, forget climate change and start wondering what is happening to the bees of the world.  There is an alarming die off among bees, and though the cause is not known for sure, pesticides are certainly a candidate.  Bees are essential to pollination and therefore, essential to the very base of the food chain.  It won't matter how warm or cold it gets if there are no bees around.
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Hopefully the Ukranian election now allows that crisis to wind down a bit.  The Russians, if they are smart, will settle for the annexation of Crimea and for an agreement to allow some kind of limited self rule for the eastern part of the country.  The President, as I wrote, seemed to get off to a good start in handling this one, as he immediately invoked sanctions (weak as they were) and threatened harsher ones.  Unfortunately, that threat was largely a bluff and Putin called him on it.  The Europeans had even less backbone, so the result is what it is.  We have said many times before that as dangerous as it is to be our enemy, it is just as dangerous or more to be our friend, a lesson that won't be wasted on the Ukranians.
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 The Mets finally made a move today, firing their hitting coach and releasing a completely washed up Valverde, two moves that make sense but will hardly make the difference.  The players said the usual things they say when a coach gets canned, that he was a good guy and it was the players that didn't produce, but if he was doing a good job, then you don't need a hitting coach since the Mets can't hit, particularly with runners in scoring position (except for Daniel Murphy who can hit period).  The Mets continue to have to overcome the poor in - game strategy of manager Terry Collins and they simply don't have the talent to do that.  It is way past time for Wally Backman to be called up to take over for Terry.  At this point, it's largely his team that he prepared in Las Vegas, where he has a great record, so he might as well be the manager anyway.

The other thing that has to change is for Sandy Alderson to stop wasting money on retreads in decline like Valdeverde, Farnsworth, Chris Young, Curtis Granderson, etc, etc.  At least Bobby Abreu still has his hitting chops.  But the rest of these free agent stiffs (and Colon is another borderline member) we didn't need.
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So when baseball becomes too frustrating to watch, at least there is great New York jazz music to hear and see instead.  Last Monday, I saw one of the best shows I ever attended, an all-star tribute to the late producer Mat Domber at the massive (and sold out) Symphony Space on 95th and Broadway.  Performers included Randy Sandke and Warren Vache on trumpet, Harry Allen, Anat Cohen and Bob Wilber on reeds, trombones Wycliffe Gordon and John Allred, Dick Hyman and Rossano Sportiello on piano, Ed Metz and Rajiv Jayaweera on drums, Joel Forbes on bass Bucky Pizzarelli on guiitar and Becky Kilgore on vocals.  This ensemble of veterans and current jazz royalty seemed all in top form and the audience was suitably enthusiastic.  It should be noted that Cohen, Gordon, Hyman, and Jayaweera have all taken more or less regular turns with Birdland's Wednesday evening featured Louis Armstrong Centennial Band.

And I saw that band on Wednesday night for their usual terrific two sets, thoroughly enjoyed by a nearly full house dominated by tourists.  On Thursday night, I returned for a really fine set by vocal stylist Karrin Allyson, whom I had not previously seen.  I can heartily recommend that you look for her future gigs around town or at a nearby jazz club.  Her songs and arrangements are really spirited and well thought out and she knows how to show off her vocal chops to their best advantage (knowing that she doesn't have the tone and range of someone like, for instance, Jane Monheit).  Her version of the classic "Moanin'" was really memorable. I was sorry I could not stay for the second set, but did note that the first set was a complete sell-out.
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We have again adjusted the print format for the stock transactions to make it easier to read.  It's the least I can do for loyal followers who have now topped 21,000 page views of this blog.  Many thanks to all for your continued interest.

The market has been moving sideways, reflecting the economy and the geopolitical cross currents.  As always, it's important to take profits in accordance with our formula.  That led us to take a profit in AstraZeneca, a move that looks really good now that it appears that the Pfizer deal is not likely to happen.
BK.PR.C is a "new old" name, Bank of New York Mellon preferred stock.  

Purchases

Date     Symbol  Shares    Price

4/16/14  KN          100        30.53
4/23/14  KN          100        30.94
4/28/14  BK.PR.C 100        23.13
5/2/14    GNE        300        8.11
5/2/14    RVN        100        30.35
5/5/14    TIP            20        114.11
5/9/14    GLDD      300         7.56
5/9/14    BOLT       200        16.27
5/12/14WFC.PR.P 100        23.82
5/16/14 GNE          300          7.25
5/16/14 GHM         100         27.51

Sales                                                      Date       Purchased Price

4/14/14 USAK       200         17.40       8/24/12               3.74
4/17/14  KNX        100         24.26       1/10/00               3.33
4/21/14  AWCMY  400          5.00        1/22/10              5.99
                                                              2/11/10              5.85
4/22/10   USAK      200         18.91      8/24/12               3.74
4/28/14   DVN          50         70.63      4/4/12                 70.19
5/2/14      AZN          50         80.80      3/25/02               49.40
5/9/14      SXI            50         74.05      5/11/98               30.25
5/12/12    PQ            400          6.25      10/20/04               5.07
                                                              11/22/04               4.46    
 

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