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Thursday, June 18, 2015

 

Blogging Anew

After a hiatus of almost 4 months, it is good to be posting again.  There is no shortage of things to discuss.  Your usually faithful scribe has not been sick, not suffered a computer failure and will never retire.  But there is a lot to do and precious little time to get to everything,  So while golf, bridge and jazz take up recreational time, there is also a mountain of reading to catch up on.  You can't write very intelligently unless you do your reading too.  So with those feeble excuses out of the way, let's see if we can put together a decent post.
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The ineptitude of the Obama Administration is exceeded only by its flagrant disregard for the Constitution and its duties as described in that document.  The inability to convince its own party members in Congress concerning the fast track trade authority should have convinced anyone still on the fence about this uniquely incompetent Presidency.  But if you really want to be sickened, read the WSJ opinion pieces this week concerning the concessions already made in the "negotiations" with Iran about its nuclear program.  In retrospect, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu's criticisms of the talks were far too mild.  Of course none of this really matters since the President has decreed that climate change is clearly the most pressing problem we face.  He's even got the Pope saying it.

Leftists everywhere seem to have lost their minds, from Bernie Sanders to NYC's hapless Mayor.  The early Clinton campaign, when it bothers to say anything, seems to have adopted Senator Warren's platform, even opposing free trade (never mind that when Bill was President he was a consistent advocate for free trade).  I guess it's cool for Warren that she is getting her way on policy without even having to run.

All of this makes one wonder how the GOP is going to sift through some 20 candidates to settle on someone who might be our next President.  A lot of people are asking me who I favor, and the best I can do at this point is to divide them into categories.  So first would be the ones that seem to lack credentials, or they should give up already having lost enough times to be disqualified (what I call the Harold Stassen rule).  In this group belong Pataki, Huckabee, Carson,and Perry.  Next are the crack pots who shouldn't be allowed to run for anything.  That group includes Trump, Cruz and Fiorini.  Then there are serious candidates that I might agree with but can't warm up to somehow.  This group includes Walker (please stay in Wisconsin), Bush, Graham, Paul Jindal, and Santorum.  Finally there are the candidates I actually prefer, Kasich and Rubio.  Somewhat reluctant candidates I might like if they came out of the box include Thune and Pence.

If I had to pick one candidate to support right now, it would be John Kasich. I recognize he might never catch fire, in which case I would move to Rubio.  Realistically, there is only so much oxygen and money in Florida, and this hampers both Rubio and Bush.  It's early, but then again it's not that early.  If you are not organizing and piling up money by now, it will very soon be too late.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------     Today's Fed announcement was kind of a non-event, in that they gave a stronger indication of what everyone assumed, that we will finally get a rate increase in September, probably a quarter of a point, and maybe another quarter in December.  The Fed did reserve the possibility that if the economy does not continue its improving trajectory, or if inflation fails to approach its 2% target, the increases could be delayed yet again.

The whole thing is so dysfunctional.  The Fed is acting as if we are in a Keynesian world when in fact, we are in unchartered territory with interest rates held interminably to the near zero level.  In this part of the continuum, Keynesian physics simply leads to the wrong answers.  The economy needs higher interest rates, so that lenders can lend profitably, businesses and investors can earn a return (without resorting to overvalued stocks), and employers will have a reason to hire and pay workers.  And by the way, the last thing the Fed should worry about "achieving" is 2% annual inflation.  I liked it better when the Fed's only charge was maintaining the stability of the currency, not debasing it.  I guess when public debt is in the umpteen trillions, debasing the currency looks like a good idea.

If the Fed comes through with increases to short term rates, maybe the economy will finally perk up.  It's insanity to continue indefinitely a policy that doesn't work.  In the meantime, bond investors have already voted with their feet, bidding prices down and driving ten year rates higher.  It proves what economists have always known, the Fed only controls rates on the short end.  Preferred stock prices are also down, and as a holder and buyer of preferred's, I would like to see them go a little lower.  Of course, when they go lower, they get called, and MetLife called a preferred issue this month which I quickly sold just over par.  Some of this fixed price action is due to the strength of the dollar, which is a result of the weakness of other currencies, particularly the Euro.  When rates rise, the dollar should strengthen more.

Meanwhile, don't fall for the Progressives' line that somehow inequality of income is stunting growth.  They don't explain the mechanism that would give us that result, but presumably they think there is not enough consumer spending since only the rich people are making enough money and they save it rather than spend it.  In future posts, I'll deal with this utter nonsense, but my continuing concern is that this idea is symptomatic of a socialist, and certainly anti-capitalist, strain that has been nurtured on college campuses and in minority communities.   Our youth today has little understanding of the central roles capitalism and free enterprise have played in the growth and prosperity of our nation. With their appalling lack of knowledge of our Constitution and our history, the millennials are susceptible to politicians whose policies only perpetuate dependence on government, economic underachievement, and envy of those with the determination and focus, and yes luck, to succeed.        
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According to blogger, redwavemusings has achieved over 28,000 page views.  I guess you can't beat the price.
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At least the sports world has been a pleasant distraction from all this.  We enjoyed a great hockey season, as my Islanders made a big stride and the playoffs were fun to watch.  I expected it to be a Rangers - Ducks final but they both lost in the semi's, and from that point, it was pretty clear that the B-Hawks were on their way to another cup.  In the NBA, we had the Warriors going all the way, not surprise there, but I must confess the result could have been different if Cleveland hadn't suffered key injuries along the way.

In baseball, my Mets are trying gamely to overcome inept field management, and still have a nose in front of the favored Washington's.  But the classiest teams seem to be the in the NL Central (Cards, Pirates, Cubs) and the AL Central (Royals, Twins, Tigers).  If the Mets and Birds can win the NL East and AL East respectively, we'll be grateful for a puncher's chance in the playoffs.
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So you want to see a little jazz before June winds down?  If you're anywhere near Old Lyme, Ct, head for The Side Door on June 27 to see the Jeremy Pelt Quartet, including the great drummer Victor Lewis.This weekend, a Miles Davis tribute quartet, featuring drummer Jimmy Cobb and Sonny Fortune on sax, headlines Birdland.  From June 23-28, Village Vanguard has the Harold Mabern Trio.  On June 22, Rainbow Room has an all star big band featuring Dan Levinson and Molly Ryan.  On the 27th, the late show at Smalls will feature the Lew Tabackin Trio.  Smoke has back to back features you should catch if possible.  June 19-21, the George Coleman Quartet includes the aforementioned pianist Harold Mabern.  Then June 26-28, Helen Sung brings her quartet in.

It's not too early to be thinking about summer jazz festivals either.  Jazz in July at 92nd St. Y, July 21-30, will include Anat Cohen, Bill Charlap, Bucky Pizzarelli, Dick Hyman, Harry Allen, Houston Person, Howard Alden, Jeremy Pelt, Ken Peplowski, Renee Rosnes, and Kenny Washington. Newport, RI, Jazz Festival, July 31-August 2,  has Arturo Sandoval, Bria Skonberg Quintet, Cassandra Wilson, Christian McBride Trio, Dr. John, Kenny Garrett, Lou Donaldson, Pat Martino, Tom Harrell, and Wycliffe Gordon.

Lichfield, CT Jazz Festival, Aug 7-9 features Anat Cohen, Christian McBride Trio, and Wycliffe Gordon and friends.  Bria Skonberg and Bucky Pizzarelli also headline Morristown, NJ Jazz and Blues Festival on August 15.  Karrin Allyson stars at the New Haven, CT Jazz Festival August 22.  Saratoga, NY Jazz Festival, June 27-28 includes Cassandra Wilson and the Christian McBride Big Band. Vince Giordano and Friends will appear at the Louis Armstrong House Museum in Corona, Queens the afternoon of July 18.

The jazz world mourns free jazz pioneer Ornette Coleman, whose music many of us did not really understand all that well, but who was among the most innovative figures in jazz history.
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It will take us a while to catch up on the stock transactions, but we'll pick up where we left off:

Purchases

Date               Stock           Price          Shares          Comments
2/24                GLD            115             20                
3/6                  GIFI              14.40         200              Oil Patch on sale
3/9                  GLDD            5.90         400          
3/9                   TIP             112.21          20             Fed wants inflation
3/10                 GIFI             13.55         200           Trust in the Tulane portfolio
3/11                  PQ                2.60          800            "  "       "     "         "
3/11                  GLD            111.23          20        
3/16                 RAVN            19.72        200
3/23                  PQ                  2.08        1000        Buying a falling knife?
3/24                 TIP                113.94         20  
4/1                   BRS                54.89         50       Tulane portfolio on sale
4/1                   XYL                35.38         100
4/2                   GLD               115.44          20 
4/8                   AWCMY           5               500
4/10                 ALGN               53              50
4/14                PFG.PR.B          25.26         100
4/17                 NWBI               12.15         200
4/20                 PCP                   201.90        10
4/20                NEE.PR.C           25.47         100
4/27                CNRD                 31              100      Buying Tulane again 


Sales
Date         Stock        Shares    Price    Date Purchased     Price      Comments
2/23         AAON      100        23.71       1/26/05          2.84          Ten years work
3/6            GNE         300        7.39         6/20/14          7.30
3/10           SF             50        53.90       12/10/07        22.05
3/13          MAN         25        83.43         5/30/06        66.25
3/13          SEIC          50        43.40       12/14/08        13.86       75 months for a triple
3/17         SHLM         50        43.62       11/1/06          24.26
3/19           B               50        40.50        3/22/99          8.31
3/20         ABC            50       113.06       11/29/01       14.34       What a home run
3/24          MAN          25        86.37         5/30/06        66.25      Employment comes back
3/25          BRLI          100       35.76         6/24/13        28.18     Takeover Target
4/2              GNE         300        8.10          11/8/11         7.88   Price going up
4/7             KMX          50        73.33          8/30/04         9.73    Split adjusted
4/10           BDC           50        94.72          11/24/08      11.69
4/15           GNE          300        9.18             11/8/11        7.88     Still going up
4/16           SHLM         50       47.58           3/19/07        20.89
4/23           GNE           200      10.11           12/14/11        7.61     Still going up
4/23           NR              200      10.54          12/5/14          9.80
4/27           PFE             100      35.30           2/14/02        41.40    OK to take a loss     
  

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