KYTH, first suggested here several months ago at $22.70, seems to have fine prospects. I sold most of mine yesterday at $49.65 not because of anything negative but because those fine prospects seem now to be at least somewhat less overlooked.
That’s quite different from BOREF, which dropped to $12.95 a share yesterday morning on 5,000 shares (someone perhaps put in a “market” rather than a “limit” order?). With a normal stock, a sharp drop like that would be in reaction to some big news — imagine if Apple dropped 15% overnight — but there’s been no negative news, and what may have been a single sale of 5,000 shares is not, it seems to me, necessarily indicative of anything. It may have been a reaction to this story that came out a few hours prior to yesterday’s trading. But to me that story is more encouraging than not. WheelTug may or may not win the day, but it sure seems to be very much in the race. I was able to buy a few more shares of grandparent Borealis at $13.10 — though only with money I can truly afford to lose.
NEW JERSEY CRIME
This story has nothing to do with Governor Christie, even though the perp was one of his personal troopers. I just found it irresistible — especially the part about the video tape. I mean: talk about being caught dead to rights! And he is a state trooper! Earning (with overtime and benefits) well into six figures! We all love New Jersey. (No, really!) But it has been providing more than its share of color lately.
SOCHI WITHOUT THE COMMERCIALS
Paul deLespinasse: “I’m not sure I ever sent you my piece about watching foreign TV for free over the internet. Beelinetv.com lists 45 languages from Arabic to Vietnamese, and for each a choice of stations streaming over the Internet. It was through this website last May that I discovered a station in Moscow, Moscow-24 with the most wonderful variety programming of any Russian channel I have visited. After watching it for six months I feel like a Moscow resident, though, I only spent four days there 25 years ago. Call me a virtual resident. . . . All this listening has greatly improved my oral comprehension of Russian, and I have filled many notebook pages with new words. . . . One of my favorite programs is an interview show where an excellent interviewer talks with artists, entertainers and athletes, and almost always has one or more cats sitting beside him or crawling over him. If it is not his own cat, a note on the screen advises that if you want this cat, here is the Moscow telephone number to call. The program, Pravda-24, has its own Facebook page!”
Fair enough . . . though I wonder whether they’ll show Britain’s Channel 4 documentary, “Hunted,” linked to yesterday, in which Russians torture gays and lesbians with the tacit blessing of church and state. I suppose the Jews will be next. We know how this goes. The worst of human nature.
THE PORT AUTHORITY
This item does concern Mr. Christie. I had hoped just to link you to this segment of “The Last Word” with Lawrence O’Donnell, but could only find the transcript. It’s a brief but fascinating history of the Port Authority — and shows how Governor Christie degraded it in much the same way President Bush degraded FEMA. Heck of a job, Guv.
O’DONNELL: How important is the Port Authority? The greatest city in the Americans would be nothing without its port. In the 19th century, the port of New York surged past its east coast competitors to become not just the busiest port in the United States, but the busiest port in the world. Including rivers and bays, Philadelphia had 37 miles of Waterfront. Baltimore had 120, Boston, 140, while the port of New York had almost 800 miles of waterfront.
By 1915, the port of New York handled about half of our country’s exports and imports. And bi-state cooperation between New York and New Jersey had become crucial to the future of the port. A few years earlier, the governor of New Jersey, Woodrow Wilson, a more elegant speaker than the current governor said, the states recognize that a wise cooperation is imperative in the common interest. But they lack the means, the instrumentalities that would serve them in their new community of action.
It was in the last year of Woodrow Wilson’s presidency, 1921, that the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey was born, and the port had the instrumentality it needed to continue to thrive. The Port Authority was the child of the progressive movement. The primary aim of the progressive movement was cleaning up government, which was then rife with corruption at every level. The progressive movement gave us many improvements in governing including career civil service systems so that government professional could no longer be fired at the whim of a political regime. And the Port Authority was designed on the progressive movement principles, appointed instead of elected commissioners, overlapping terms. The design, or should we say, the dream, was to eliminate partisan decision making. Eliminate or minimize patronage and use sound engineering and economic analysis in Port Authority projects.
Eighty-nine years later, here is Chris Christie’s appointed deputy executive director of the Port Authority, Bill Baroni, testifying to a United States state Senate subcommittee chaired by New Jersey’s senator Frank Lautenberg who asked about the latest increase in the tolls on the world’s busiest bridge.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. FRANK LAUTENBERG (D), NEW YORK: Whether you like it or not, you don’t have an easy pass. You’re there at our request and we expect you not to give us a song and dance but to answer the question specifically. OK? So I’m asking you, when did the governor get word the past you were going to boost the —
BILL BARONI, FORMER PORT AUTHORITY EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR: Well, Senator, I’m not going to get into conversations that I have with —
LAUTENBERG: No, you — no, you’re refusing to answer the question?
BARONI: Senator, I’m not going to —
LAUTENBERG: You’re refusing to answer the question?
BARONI: Senator, I’m not talking about conversations I had —
LAUTENBERG: This isn’t a conversation. Are you running a protection agency there?
BARONI: Excuse me?
LAUTENBERG: Talk straight about what went on. And I asked you a simple question and you say you’re not going to discuss it. You have to discuss it. You’re an important executive at that agency. You work for the people, whether you think so or not.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O’DONNELL: The next year, 89-year-old Frank Lautenberg died in office, and later that same year, Bill Baroni testified about the George Washington Bridge again.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARONI: Who told him to put the cones out? On September 5th, Mr. Wildstein requested a one-week study be conducted. And then that began that Monday morning. And TBT, the bridge folks and the Port Authority police department began putting the cones out and as opposed to creating a three-lane special lane for Fort Lee. It was a one lane special lane.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O’DONNELL: Bill Baroni was not under oath during that testimony, but the next time he testifies about the George Washington Bridge, he will be.
Joining me now is Jim Doig, author of Empire on the Hudson a book about the history of the Port Authority. He’s a visiting professor from Dartmouth College and Martin Robins, a former Port Authority official and
now with the transportation center at Rutgers University.
Professor Doig, how far have we come from the creators’ vision of what the Port Authority should be to what we find the Port Authority to be now in this age of — this period now of very clear scandal of the Port Authority.
JIM DOIG, AUTHOR, EMPIRE ON THE HUDSON: Well, until five or six years ago, many of the themes that you identified, that is nonpolitical administration and keeping patronage and short-term narrow politics out of the agency pretty much existed. It was successful. When Chris Christie became governor, he had a very different view. He saw the possibility of putting a fair number of his associates, friends, those who worked on political
campaigns into office. And that finally led to more than 50 patronage appointees and did change the extent at which point authority was independent of narrow politics.
O’DONNELL: Let’s listen to something else that Senator Lautenberg said in that hearing a couple of years ago about how bad things have gotten at the Port Authority.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LAUTENBERG: There have also been allegations about a controlled political patronage at the Port Authority where substantial positions with six-figure salaries were given to former political bloggers, local mayors and others with questionable credentials.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O’DONNELL: We now know, of course, that political blogger he was referring to was David Wildstein.
And Martin Robins, you worked at the Port Authority. It has to be difficult for you to watch what’s happening to it now.
MARTIN ROBINS, FORMER PORT AUTHORITY OFFICIAL: It is very difficult. I hear constantly from acquaintances, former colleagues, retirees how dispirited they are by the loss of mission and that existed at the Port Authority over a many-year period.
O’DONNELL: Professor Doig, have we been relying on basically the good will and good intentions of the governors of New York and New Jersey? And could what is happening now have been happening at anytime if we had a governor in one state or the other or both who wanted to load it up with patronage jobs, and wanted to use the Port Authority to his own ends?
DOIG: Well, we did actually have such a governor, Governor Harry Moore. He was a New Jerseyan in the late ‘20s and mid ‘30s. He was twice governor. He was interested in adding patronage positions, and also in helping to select the kind of engineering approach that might be used at the George Washington Bridge.
But then, the commissioners who had a sense of independence, they resisted him. They blocked his ability to act in that way. And therefore, he had to back away from that. And that, I think, helped to maintain or reinforce the independence of the agency.
O’DONNELL: Martin Robins, what would be the two or three changes you would make now to get the Port Authority back on track?
ROBINS: Well, the first change I would make is to eliminate the position of deputy executive director.
O’DONNELL: That’s the one that Bill Baroni had?
ROBINS: Yes. And I think that is a fatal flaw, the way that it has been established. Now, a deputy executive director per say is not an offensive position if the position were chosen by the executive director. But because the deputy executive director is now chosen by the governor of New Jersey, it creates two separate lines of authority, which makes it impossible for the executive director, particularly under the circumstances that we’ve just seen that unfolded last year, it becomes impossible for the executive director to manage the agency as he ought to.
As Patrick Foye testified in December, he said that he could not fire David Wildstein who worked for Bill Baroni. And that is a stunning admission, but it is unfortunately a very true state of affair, but it should not be that way. So that is my number one priority.
O’DONNELL: OK. We only have time for that number one tonight. We’re running out of time. I’m very sorry.
Jim Doig and Martin Robins, I’ve been looking forward to that conversation for days. I want to keep it going. Thank you very much for joining us tonight.
Quote of the Day
That I'm their competition.~Famed hedge fund manager Michael Steinhardt, when asked the most important thing an investor could learn from him.
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