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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

BEN FOLDS FIVE DURING APPLE 3RD QUARTER CONFERENCE CALL

Ben Reitzes of Lehman Brothers (LEH) apologized for asking a question about Steve Job's health during Apple's 3rd quarter conference call yesterday.

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Too bad someone could not ask Reitzes about the chances of him losing his job considering Lehman Brothers (LEH) shares are down 69% year-to-date. Gee, Ben, your ship is sinking so fast you can't even behave like a human being. You are probably so worried about your bonus or stock options or if your firm is about to follow Bear Stearns you can't even think straight.

Here's Ben's snarky question, in his own, like, y'know, 20-year old Valley girl vocabulary.

...um OK thanks. I'd like to ask it as respectfully as possible, um, y'know a New York newspaper today, y'know, obviously called into question, um y'know um some issues around Steve and obviously his health and, and y'know, we get a lot of questions about it, and, I'm really sorry to ask 'cause it's a very private matter, would you mind addressing the situation and, you know just making it so we can have your official statement. I apologize in advance for asking the question.

Tim Cook's answer was this:

Ben, Steve loves Apple. Steve serves as the CEO at the pleasure of the board and Steve has no plans to leave Apple, Steve's health is a private matter.

WHAT KIND OF, Y'KNOW, CRAP WAY OF ASKING ANY QUESTION IS THAT, Y'KNOW, BEN? Y'KNOW IF YOU HAVE TO APOLOGIZE IN ADVANCE, YOU KNOW, YOU FOOL, BEN. GEE, HOW'S YOUR GRANDMOTHER'S HEALTH, BEN? HEARD YOU RECENTLY HAD THE SNIFFLES, DOIN' OK NOW BEN? COULD YOU TELL US IF LEHMAN BROTHERS IS ABOUT TO, Y'KNOW, FOLD BEN?

What kind of a stinking way, even for a slimey, half-bit analyst at a rapidly sliding investment bank, is that to phrase a question??? I suspect Ben's remaining few customers at Lehman's are more concerned about how big their losses in shares other than Apple's will be in the next six quarters. Someone should check out Ben Reitzes's Facebook or MySpace friends for people shorting Apple shares yesterday.

Ask your questions straight out like a man, Ben, or else ask a relevant follow-up on actual financial performance.

On an aside, how can you and other people with some actual education under their belts honestly continue to believe the canard that Apple is some kind of one-man band like Dick Van Dyke performing in the movie Mary Poppins?

Apple is a huge corporation. Their phenomenal results are due to teamwork, insight, brilliant product design, timing, and a keen sensitivity to consumer demands. Job's works at Apple, he is the CEO, but any fool that thinks that Apple will suddenly flop when any employee leaves, including the CEO, must be clueless in all respects.

Here are the truly relevant facts from yesterday's conference call:

Apple closed yesterday at around $167/share. At 1800 Eastern Time, Apple reported a whopping 38% increase in year over year quarterly revenue. They reported the highest quarterly revenue in the company history, $7.46 billion in the past 3 months! $1.07 billion of that was pure profits! Year over year growth of nearly 40% is simply amazing, especially for a consumer product firm.

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Most of this money was made from the sale of MacBooks and large Mac computers like I use for my business, not just iPhones or iPods, though those items' sales increased immensely. Remember the new iPhone release was July 11, so those numbers are not included in the quarter ended June 28th.

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After Apple announced these numbers, numbers every company in the world are jealous of, some shady investors started selling Apple shares and drove the price down to $146/share. These investors are actually huge Wall St firms that are good at tricking little people into selling shares. Today the price raced back up to $162/share. Of course you know I did not sell a single Apple share during that wholesale theft by the likes of Lehman Brothers or others.

Apple just opened their newest store, in Beijing. Hmm, are there many people living in China? They also announced that iPhones are now sold in 22 countries, soon to be 30 or more countries. One of those new countries is India, coming this fall, but there are not many people living in India, huh?

Great results, Apple!

Ben, clean out your desk and go find a competent speech therapist, a little human compassion, and some morality. You desperately need all three. Pick yourselves up a copy of The Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb while you are it, Ben, Shaw Wu, and all the other so-called analysts, you all need to learn about how worthless your profession has proven itself in the past.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

In Defense of Cigarette Smokers

This morning, like every morning, hundreds of millions of people young and old woke up from a night's rest and smoked their first cigarette. The first one of this day, that is.

They found the nearly empty pack near the television remote control and paired it with the disposable cigarette lighter that somehow ended up on the floor near their children's toys.

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Each smoker seems to develop a unique style of holding the cigarette, inhaling, and holding the smoke in just long enough to catch that nicotine rush. Every smoker will tell you they do not hold the smoke in their lungs but they all do exactly that. Young girls that smoke try to hold the butt as far away as possible. Men will let the cigarette dangle from their lips.

If you live in a family you will probably step outside on the porch to smoke. Smokers that live alone smoke in their kitchens or in the den in front of the TV. Smokers only do it in the bedroom at night.

Smoking is sexy. John Wayne, Lauren Bacall, and Humphrey Bogart all smoked. Wayne and Bogart died as a result of cigarette smoking. Bogart even had his esophagus ripped out in a vain attempt to save his life. Lauren Bacall quit smoking in 1990 and is still alive today.

Smoking gives you something to do with your hands, smokers tell you. They are planning to quit someday, they all know it is "not good for you." It is rare to encounter the smoker that tells you they smoke too many cigarettes.

Each morning millions of smokers must start their cars and drive to the nearest market to purchase another package of cigarettes. They will tell you that the milk is almost gone or they need coffee or gas for the car. What they need, what they absolutely must have, is that next cigarette. In fact they need a whole package and may even an entire carton of ten packs to feel comfortable living with their addiction.

Like cocaine, heroin, and meth, cigarette smoking is an addiction. Smokers know this too, but they can still go to a local market and buy a pack for seven dollars. Some people will tell you if smoking killed people quickly like meth or heroin the government would have made tobacco illegal years ago. They know smoking can kill people but they are pretty sure smoking will not kill them...at least not today, not this particular cigarette in their hands right now.

Children of cigarette smokers, like their friends, learn to live with the smoke of burning tobacco. Smokers all smoke while they drive long distances, even with their kids sitting on the back seat. Cigarette smokers absolutely hate to ride in the cars of non-smokers.

Among the substances in third-hand smoke are hydrogen cyanide, used in chemical weapons; butane, which is used in lighter fluid; toluene, found in paint thinners; arsenic; lead; carbon monoxide; and even polonium-210, the highly radioactive carcinogen that was used to murder former Russian spy Alexander V. Litvinenko in 2006. Eleven of the compounds are highly carcinogenic. - quoted from a recent New York Times article.

Since they banned smoking in airplanes full of fuel many cigarette smokers decided that it is very unsafe to fly. Now that smoking is banned in public buildings including bars, smokers are getting somewhat desperate about the future of their habit. They blame the government, the cigarette manufacturers, and even their non-smoking friends who rarely seem to come visit them.

Cigarette smokers do not usually want to go for a long walk with you. They have a trick ankle, a sore knee or something else they need to do instead. They will never admit to anyone else that they become short of breath when they try to exercise even a little.

It was once easy to check the Nonsmoker check box on their life insurance policy but now the insurance company makes certain who is a cigarette smoker and who is not. Smokers are required to pay for their habit in many different ways. While it costs less than a dollar to manufacture and market a pack of cigarettes those 20 smokes cost 5, 6 or even 7 dollars in some places. Most of the price of cigarettes goes to pay taxes. Smokers know this and blame the government for making smoking such an expensive habit.

Smokers do not realize that a community that smokes cigarettes needs more fire trucks, more hospital rooms, and more street cleaners. More doctors must go to more medical schools to learn how to keep cigarette smokers alive just a few more months. Tobacco farmers even get a special subsidy check from the government just for growing tobacco on their land.

A big reason health insurance for everyone is so expensive is because so many folks still puff butts. Smokers always make certain they have good group health insurance at their workplace. Employers must now avoid hiring smokers even if they happen to be good at whatever they do.

Smokers have to take more frequent breaks while they work. With the ban on smoking indoors now in place this means a smoker must take the elevator down to the first floor and go outside to have a cigarette or two. Heavy smokers interrupt their work to do this several times every hour. Do you want someone who is certain to develop health problems and cannot work effectively working in your business?

The real costs of cigarette smoking are mostly concealed from everyone except the smokers themselves. They notice the nagging cough. Smokers are aware their raspy voices sound funny. Smokers know their clothes, cars, houses, and bodies stink from smoking. Burn marks can be found everywhere they smoke. Used cars driven by smokers are much harder to clean up and sell. Smokers know all this and other things but they keep smoking more and more cigarettes.

Printed on each pretty cigarette pack is the message, "Smoking can kill you." Smokers try not to read those words while they constantly play with their packs. They would rather not think about the fact that they are committing slow suicide. Some will tell you that you could get killed walking across the road. Others will tell you about a grandfather that lived to be 80 and smoked every day of his life. That grandfather probably lived out in the countryside, away from the cars, the factories, and the many other cigarette smokers. In any event, millions of other grandfathers and grandmothers never got to know their grandchildren. Those people died from smoking cigarettes before their grandchildren were even born.

Tobacco smoke has killed and will kill more people than all the wars put together. Cigarettes recently killed three young people in Easton, Maryland that did not even smoke cigarettes. A young man carelessly tossed a lit cigarette off the back porch, went to bed, and burned the new house down to the ground. Three people died in the fire but not the smoker. He survived knowing that his cigarette killed his friends.

Cigarettes and cigarette lighters burn many houses down every year. People usually die when that happens.

If you smoke your children will probably develop the habit of smoking cigarettes. Think about that for a moment...

In a recent movie, The Bucket List, the character played by Morgan Freeman suddenly learns he is dying of cancer. He slowly lets the smoldering cigarette drop from his fingertips. He is not seen smoking again while he quickly dies during the rest of the movie.

The famous news reporter, Peter Jennings, learned he had lung cancer and subsequently told his audience of millions about his smoking habit. Mr. Jennings said he had quit years ago but started smoking again after the events of September 11, 2001. The multi-millionaire ABC news announcer died from cigarette smoking only months after he learned he had cancer. Like many smokers, Mr. Jennings will never know his grandchildren.

Going to the hospital to watch a friend die from emphysema is not a very pleasant thing to do. Watching a parent, husband, or your child die as a result of cigarette smoking is excruciatingly painful. Dying as a result of cigarette smoking must be incredibly horrible and very, very, painful. An early death from smoking is even more painful than quitting the habit.


Learn more about smoking and the tobacco industry at this link.

Or this New York Times article.