Friday, July 29, 2011

Fiscal Crisis And Hint On Buying Stocks.

The Speaker of The House is having quite a time trying to bring into the fold some of his newer members as he attempts to get some forward movement of the “debt crisis” which may or may not be shaping up as a fiscal 2YK.

Now the general opinion of those in the media that are left leaning is that this group - with strong Tea Party affiliations - are the ones who will be ultimately responsible for a four figure drop in the DOW and beggar status for the United States. What is left out is they are doing exactly what they were voted into office to do and they are hard liners on it so the next few days of arm twisting will be of much interest.

The postion I found interesting and personally somewhat compatible to my own warped fiscal opinions is the “Gang Of Six” and their attempts to reach a bi-partisan accommodation. The reduction in the number of tax levels, reduction of corporate taxes and a further revision of the tax code stood out. That of course would be accompanied by cuts and the ever present “Revenue Enhancement” otherwise known as taxes.

I really see the rich as an easy target and it appears the breaking point for being rich is a family income in access of 250K. An easy target since about 98% fall below that but what I find appalling is that half the people in this country pay no taxes. Zippo! And that is some with income that touches 85K. With no skin in the game you are not part of the game. IMO everyone should pay taxes even if it is a nominal few bucks. After all the handouts the tax codes provide to get to that zero base and below - you can actually receive money back - sort of a bonus. No taxes and a refund to boot. So when that zero is reached that is it. Nothing. No give backs. And then a few dollars sort of a minimal tax.

IMO I have been impressed with the actions by the Speaker in attempting to resolve this issue. He has a split party or what is really a party of clearly defined factions along fiscal policy. The Tea Party types have entrenched themselves and although I may not agree they are doing exactly what they were elected to do. I just wonder if this may cause a party split similar to what happened to the Democrats in 1972 and 1980 over different issues. Maybe a political version of the cleansing of the hive?

What is absolutely a given is that any measures that Obama has attempted to address a broken economy have failed. You can play the Bush card just for a bit until you have ownership and this president now has ownership and seems lost. The number one priority should have been the economy from day one and not an poorly planned health care proposal that was rushed through a Congress who want to curry favor with a president who “claimed” a mandate. I just love hind sight.

Right now there has not been an aggressive shift of funds as folks seem to have taken a bunker mentality like I have. Gold is up a bit but draw downs in mutual funds are not present. Like me it seems to be a long haul situation where a loss is almost a given but what falls will rise. I place it in the category of what happens when a significant world event takes place such as 9/11 or the Japan mess several months ago. You take a hit and then in three or four weeks the dust has settled and been brushed away and you are back to square one.

This week the markets will lose about 3-5% depending upon how today goes. With a down market cash will be king over the next few months as bargain hunters will be on the prowl. With the mess comes opportunity. I will now give you the great tip I have used for years to purchase stocks. In fact I was discussing this with an investment advisers who was quite intrigued by my approach. This is something that is relatively easy to do with the age of the internet and the wealth of information available.

I go to mutual funds research. You can do this on about any financial site without having an account or just use Yahoo. A few months ago I wished to purchase some pharmaceutical stocks so I went into funds that specialized in pharma. I looked at about six funds from the successful to the not so successful and when you do that you can see what their holdings are. So I check out each fund and see how many have similar holdings that are relatively successful. I make a list of potentials and narrowed it down to Medco Health Solutions (MHS). I checked it out on various research portals such as The Street and Market Watch and found it to be under valued so I made a purchase. The stock trended upwards are finally was purchased by their most significant competitor - Express Scripts (ESRX) and I stand to make a tidy 40% when this corporate marriage is finally consummated. Total time spent about two hours.

Is the above a guarantee for success? Well..….I used the same method and loaded up on World Com so that should say it all but it does offer you an option to build your own mutual fund without the costs of a mutual fund such as front loads and fees. I built my own and so can you just by selecting some of the blue chips that make up the DJ and toss in a few high performers from the NASDAQ. I still have mutual funds and consider them and their poor cousin ETF's to be excellent. I just like to create my own which is exactly what fund managers do.

One other thing I have done is not all funds are created and managed equally. I really go against the grain on this one but have the hard data to prove it and advisers get a bit flummoxed over it. Say I have $75,000 I want to toss into large cap fund. The conventional wisdom is you pick a fund and in it goes. I would pick three funds with similar objectives, holdings, performance and fees and pump 25K into each. Duplication of services? I have actually seen a variance as high as 30% over a period of one year since some funds are managed better than others and it also spreads the risk even within similar financial objectives.

Monday, July 25, 2011

I Love A Middleboro Casino

I love a Middleboro casino.

Now I was a moderate anti that was best described as a NIMBY that is similar to being a fiscal conservative and a social liberal or maybe getting to second base on a date. An ardent draw the line in the sand I was not. In fact I didn’t mind throwing verbal and written darts at both sides. In my own perverse way I actually rather enjoyed it. But that whole issue is now “back in the day” category. Divisive it may have been but that seems to have dissipated to the part where a small coterie of true believers is left on both sides. No longer is being on one side of the fence or perched in the middle like me a litmus test.

I think we all owe a sincere debt to that issue. It has nurtured a good many activist who as time passed by left the one trick pony to the zealots and moved on to a virtual buffet of town issues. Even our BOS now has members who really would still be tending to their gardens and doing the 9-5 completely oblivious to local government except to curse about their taxes, trash bill or the other mundane things we grouse about and quickly put on the back burner to concentrate on more important activities like viewing American Idol.

Circumference of about 9.25 inches, diameter of about 2.9 inches, a weight of 5.25 ounces and, of course, 108 stitches. Being a true American I have avoided that Gawd Awful metric crap. That is a baseball. My father loved boxing and cherished the day I would box but at age eight I fell in love with the sphere. I learned everything about it. Read and still read endlessly. A devoted fan. Hooked.

Well we all have our addictions and the casino was a great incubator just as the simple sphere was for me. Some - and why mention names as we know them - got hooked on the process of politics especially town politics. What does this board do? Who the hell is Robert and his rules? How do you make sense of a budget? What is the bizarre relationship between FinCom and the BOS? Politics - like baseball - can be a disease and there is no cure but involvement. The casino managed to bring out a whole new phalanx of locals who just plain got involved, Learned and got appointed an ran. They are not one trick ponies but now examine issues diligently, do their homework, are assessable and try to be as transparent as possible and I am not discussing the BOS exclusively.

So that is why I just love that damn casino. It has reverberated by bringing out new bodies with new ideas and a new level of involvement.

Backpacks have now reached the point where they need to be brought to the attention of the Nanny Police. On a recent flight I ended up with a bruised forehead and a scraped face thanks to one clod maneuvering it as he attempted to get into his seat. “Oh…excuse me did I hit you?” “No….I just punched myself in the head and scraped my face with my nails because I was bored.” This bag was huge. And the manners? Folks are so use to carrying them they are clueless that when you turn you are swinging something that sticks out well over a foot and closer to two feet.

A good baseball trade is one in which both teams win. Both teams have needs filled and they walk away from the transaction satisfied. No winners or losers. But with politics and especially the “Debt Crisis” you have to have a winner and a loser and that will be Republicans or Democrats depending upon whom is putting on the spin. Another disgraceful moment in our history and one in which the leadership gap is incredible. That leadership is our current president who will now be the 21st century answer to Herbert Hoover. Obama has shown racial equality at its very best in that a Black guy is as capable as screwing up as a White guy - especially any with a last mane of Bush.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Allin and Lance

Allin Frawley has hit the ground running as he did for the BOS election and from what I have seen on his short stint on the BOS his work ethic is not isolated to the campaign trail but is a continuing process to understand the operations of the town - government and otherwise.

I’m sure that same quality will translate into performance when Allin is elected to that bastard step child known as the 12th Bristol. I even argue with myself so I’m sure Allin will do things that might run contrary to my own views but I know his opinion will be derived from doing some diligent homework and not an emotional rant. Folks really appreciated access and hard work no matter what their political perspective.

I have no idea why Roger Brunelle, Jr. has entered this race? He has no political resume that I know of and my typical knee jerk reaction is some type of vendetta to draw primary votes away from Allin. The typical straw entering the race whose only goal is to target one candidate. I hope I am wrong on this but until some definitive reason surfaces for entry into the race besides union affiliation I’ll stick with my knee jerk reaction.

Buy local is something we see and hear all the time. Just look at the closed storefronts downtown. For a few extra bucks you can avoid having your money sent to some hillbilly corporate center in Arkansas. Same with local produce. A bit more but fresh and, of course, local

Carpetbaggers were those loyalist of the Union during the Civil War who were rewarded with political jobs of reconstruction of the South. Southerners’ quickly despised these outsiders not only over the political connections but simply because they were only there for a few dollars and then would move on.

I had some real issues with Lincoln Lynch who was school superintendent starting around the time of King Phillips War. Lynch was here for at least twenty years in the command chair and was local. He knew Middleboro and you did have the consistency of leadership in a key town position.

Now those three paragraphs are - to steal a literary term - setting the stage. We now have a fire chief that is apparently on the move - again. May the next chief - if this one leaves - actually have some connection to the town. Maybe it is time to buy local? I really have some “issues” with residency but just maybe that does deserve a look. Maybe a key department needs someone who is more than two or three and out.

At this juncture the whole convoluted ambulance issue is up for more serious debate. Exactly what concessions are being tossed around? This will eventually come out in the wash since the negotiations have borrowed the Cone of Silence from “Get Smart.” Spataro was right in not voting.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Obesity And Other Comments

Obese kids is what they now call fat kids. Now growing up we had fat kids. My friend Eddie was fat and I called him Eddie while others called him “Porky.” I called him Eddie because we lived close to each other and he could beat the snot out of me if he wanted to. Why chance it?

Now you looked at Eddie’s dad you could understand the fact genetics played part of it. But Eddie was no lay about. Eddie was quite active as we’d ride our bikes everywhere and he was top notch at baseball. Eddie was proof that you can have a few pounds on you and still be in good shape.

So what is the point of all this? I look at playgrounds today and they seem deserted. Growing up we’d get up real early in the AM to try to capture a baseball field and would play all day. No video games to occupy our time as technology was a state of the art pool cue or going bowling at a place that no longer used pin boys. To get places we’d ride our bikes. There were friends of mine I loved to ride with not because of any great bonding allegiance but the fact they could fix a bike. That was their gateway into becoming full fledged motor heads when we got old enough to have a car. I had zero mechanical ability and still have zero so I was always amazed by the ability to see the problem, diagnosis the problem and fix the problem. Now it seems like the bikes are either disposable or you go to a bike shop for repairs.

Now today it seems car pool has become a term that we had no use for “Back in the day.” You think mom or dad would give you a ride of a mile or so? We walked. In fact many of us walked to school. My JHS was a mile and a half so I walked. Occasionally we’d get a ride but it was not a given nor was it expected. Especially with parents who had grown up in a depression and WW II. They were use to doing without and it would take awhile to erase that mind set.

TV was starting to become a big deal in the 50s but it was not the conglomerate of channels you have today. Nor did you have multiple sets. If mom or dad commandeered the set it was tough cookies so you and your buddies would have to occupy your time developing your own mischief. Most of that including running about the neighborhood.

I could go on and on about how technology has impacted our lives especially those under twenty but the whole idea is not a “Good old days” versus today but just to isolate the one thing that seems to divide my generation from those of my grandkids and that is level of activity. I just don’t see the expenditure of energy thanks to the options technology provides. How much of that obesity level would be reduced with an increase in physical activity?

Kevin Reddington is the lawyer whose job it is to defend his client one Catherine Greig the best he can. So he is using the Robin Hood defense to make her sixteen year companion Whitey Bulger seem like some type of hero in the Boston area and, naturally, his moll, Greig, was just a companion who admired this salt of the earth character. And that is another chapter in why I diss lawyers.

Scott Brown is in for smooth sailing for another term as Democrats seemed to have gone to the second tier for candidates.

“Mumbles” doesn’t want WalMart in Boston. I’m sure a good portion of the populace feels perfectly comfortable at Copley Place as a destination to spend their payroll checks for low three figures.

Once again the government needs money to cover their own incompetence and it is done with dire threats of financial collapse. Why just think of Greece and magnify it say a thousand times. On the loony front we have the President pandering for support of his own irrational fiscal and leadership failures by using the typical scare tactics of no SS checks nor entitlement checks. I’m all for the stop feeding program and placing the government on a fiscal diet. Maybe a good cleansing is needed and this is the opportunity to do it?

The lineup to replace Canessa is just about set and it looks like Middleboro could quite possibly end up with a “Home Boy” hustling into Boston each day. Will Allin take the “T” like Dukakis did? Allin will win.

The proposed increases in the water and sewer rates are confiscatory. Time for a well and a two holer.

I have a son who lives in Brockton yet “farms” on our property. A woodchuck has decided to use his garden as a personal buffet and he has responded. So far this is right out of “Caddyshack” with the gopher and Bill Murray.

“I was brought here to do something and do it now” was the quote I heard from one of the obstinate obstructionist regarding the debt crisis. A politician actually doing what he was elected to do. How novel.

It is also not a debt problem but a spending problem.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

All Sorts Of Stuff

Thankfully there is legislation afoot in Congress to eliminate the passage to CFL’s bulbs that you need a HazMat team to replace. Those little suckers give off about as much light as a birthday candle and cost about five times what I pay for Edison’s original.

Some of Obama’s pronouncements on the economy of a few years back have come back to bite him in the azz and even the Democrat operatives are now in full fledge damage control. Unemployment and economic growth have been stagnant and the traditional Democratic practice of tossing money at a problem has failed.

The Republicans express joy - of course - at the continued morass of the economy but - naturally - have managed to attempt to distance themselves from their own culpability in this mess. What exactly got us to the failed policies of Obama? Just wander down to Crawford Texas for your answer.

I see a nice lineup forming for the gig being deserted by Steve Canessa. Nothing like upward political mobility and the old “I can do more in the State House” mantra. With so many getting into the race this may be an occasion with more candidates than voters. I also am somewhat disappointed that a candidate I supported a few months ago decided to pull up stakes and attempt to move on. Maybe Allin will serve in both posts? IMO it is harder work being a member of the BOS than “On The Hill.” But those wages in the State House are nice.

Now on the next BOS race do we have M&M popping out of the woodwork?

I saw an accident scene and Brewster had one of their meat wagons show. Looked new - either that or they really kept those things shiny. Was unnecessary - thankfully.

Casey Anthony trial is finally over. I didn’t follow much of it - just the usual excerpts that appeared on the internet - but I was surprised by the verdict. I guess to prove your case beyond all reasonable doubt means to have pictures of her committing the crime.

On a recent trip I once again was witness to the utter incompetence and common sense that prevails at our airports thanks to the government version of mall cops - the TSA. I’m in line 40 minutes and the backup behind me is long, real long. So TSA opens up two new lines and then goes over and grabs the folks that just got in line. Great. After I got through I went over to the genius who ran this operation and asked if they had ever been in line at a store? I said the usual procedure is to say “May I help the next person in line” when opening up a new register. That the TSA folks could have just moved us directly to the newly opened area. This idea seemed to be beyond their comprehension.

Now TSA will certainly get more power to this quasi police force as someone - probably TSA - floated the idea of surgically implanted bombs. I can’t wait until they give these diaper checking federal goons guns.

The Patriot Act is one of the most despicable pieces on intrusive police state legislation to show up since Abe put the kibosh on Habeas Corpus during the Civil War. The PA is now being used to “enforce” warrants that have little evidence if any behind them. One even involved a school loan where a man and his family were held virtually hostage over a school loan his ex had not paid and who was no longer living in the residence. The simple fact is the more power you give government the less you have and a clear example of that is the proliferation of laws over the decades from the simplest to the complex.

And in that area of laws comes regulations. I imagine just about any business could be shuttered at any time if a government “enforcer” looked deep enough into the books of regulations. Maybe a business didn’t properly fill out some form that even in the most obscure way has little or nothing to do with their operations. That opens a door. Amazing the standards that government holds individuals and businesses to but does not hold themselves to.

The Bulger case clearly has demonstrated that just because you have the tag FBI does not mean you are incapable of accepting a bribe or somehow magically are a pristine seeker of truth and justice. The level of corruption in the agency harkens back to their pre Hoover dress wearing days.

Now the latest ban being proposed is that old evil known as chocolate milk. Another example of how all intrusive our government is becoming in managing our lives to the whims and dictates of a few who - naturally - know better than us. Why does it seem Massachusetts is always on the cutting edge of this nonsense?

The space shuttle is now history and will probably soon be joined by NASA itself.

Saw the movie “Bad Teacher” and it was hilarious.

In Texas gas prices were about $3.33 a gallon. Kroger’s Super Market sold gas for $.3.05 if you had their card. I did get some gas in Texas City for $3.39 and Texas City refines about 20% of our fuel. Go figure.

Red Sox had started to sputter a bit but woke up the last seven or so days. Even with injuries they should be in the playoffs.

Middleborough Historical Society has their annual Ice Cream Social this Sunday

Monday, July 4, 2011


I noticed my running or waddling partner had a travelog on his trip to D.C. so I figure I'd do one now that I just returned from Houston.

This was not a vacation as such but a Red Sox road trip for my daughter and myself. Three games at the fabulous Minute Maid Park in downtown Houston.

Now we stayed out by Bush International (IAH) since a downtown hotel is about six to ten times what you pay around the airport. Travel was exceptionally easy since the usual snarl of greater Houston was not present thanks to the 4th. If not this city has among the worse traffic in the country. Public transportation is limited to a small LRV line and buses so cars are the way to go.

Now when you visit Houston there is very little to do in the downtown area. Almost nothing of merit since it is a collection of skyscrapers. In fact Saturday at noon time we went to the Houston Aquarium and there was no traffic to get there and none on the city streets. Easy to park. Downtown is limited to a theater district, a museum section and a non descriptive shopping district. Everything is outside the core city.

So if you go to Houston the main targets would be on I-45 heading south to Galveston. We went to Kemah and the Kemah Boardwalk that has a new five star wooden roller coaster that is one of the best I've ever been on. The Boardwalk has about a dozen rides that can have a daily pass or individual purchase. Plenty of restaurants and I'd suggest Joe's Crab Shack that is part of the Landry's chain of restaurants.

In the same area is NASA and that is fairly self descriptive as you can grab a shuttle tour of the facility. We did it about ten years ago and there is something for everyone and some good hands on stuff.

At the end of I-45 is Galveston and that is the main destination in the area. Moody Gardens is a fascinating place that will take you all day.

Next up would be the ultimate water park right next to Moody Gardens and that would be Schlitterbahn and that could also chew up an entire day.

In downtown Galveston is the Strand District that takes up about an eight block area around the waterfront. Galveston also has a selection of fine Victorian homes for viewing at a nominal charge. Then you have the beaches and from the West End of Galveston on the fee is free. Others are a few dollars. Galveston is also the center for the cruise lines to dock. But now back to the important stuff - The Boston Red Sox.

Three games that had the highest attendance figures of the season except for opening day. Red Sox Nation was in full bloom and this was a home game on the road. Sox fans everywhere. The "Let's go Red Sox" spontaneous chant totally drowning out any attempts by the Astro fans to quell the boisterous members of RSN.

Pres game lineup introductions gave a hint. Huge and demonstrative for Red Sox and mild and polite for the Astros. Game reports even commented on the Red Sox fans obvious enthusiasm and support of their team. Ditto by player comments from the Astros who expressed a high level of jealousy.

Friday night fireworks were spectacular as they "Popped the Top" since Minute Maid has a retractable roof. The display was timed to music of Boston groups Aerosmith, The Cars and Boston. On Saturday night the display mimicked our own Esplanade 4th display.

Sunday was when they played Sweet Caroline for their 6th inning "Kiss Cam" segment and also had lobster rolls available in the Diamond Club.

The food at MM is both exceptional quality and reasonable. The Blue Bell four scoop ice cream cone was $5.50. Popcorn - a tub - was $4 and a large drink was $4.50. The variety was from Bar-B-Que to seafood to Cajun to Tex-Mex with lines that moved quick. Even a McDonald's available but no Dunkin' Donuts. Their food service and park amenities put Fenway to shame.

Parking at the ballpark lot is $15 but lots near the park range $10-20 with free parking or meter (no charge after 6PM and weekends) a ten minute walk - if you don't mind walking in 100 degree weather.

On Friday morning we went to check out ticket upgrades and saw three gentlemen with suitcases attempting to get into a gate that was locked. I told my daughter they were coaches and she didn't believe me until we got close and I said "Good luck in the series, gentlemen, and especially you Terry." Was Francona and two of his coaches trying to get in.

The upgrades were not necessary as on Friday we sat in section 328 ($23), Saturday in section 418 ($16) and on Sunday six rows from the field in section 111 ($60). Far cheaper than Fenway. Great views in the cheap seats - Spataro would like that - and less crowded for the bathrooms and food.

On Sunday the Sox side of the field was mobbed and we had trouble even getting to our seats as fans tried to get up close and personal during pre game. The Astros side was deserted. Kind of sad.

About ten minutes before the Sox took the field reserve infielder spent about five minutes signing autographs next to the Sox dugout and was soon joined by a few other players. Nice touch. Beckett - who was starting - handed his warm up ball to a kid. During the game Sutton hit a foul in our section and a guy went nuts to grab it, spilled his beer and almost did a face plant. Then he hands it over to a kid about five years old a row behind him. Nice gesture.