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Rapid-Fire Random Thoughts

By

It's not about our generation. It's about the children.

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I'm your daddy

Since arriving home last Thursday afternoon I've drawn a small zoo (or large nightmare's) worth of animals and monsters on my driveway, danced clumsily to the entire soundtrack of Curious George 3 times, watched 2 episodes of Dora the Explorer, gone to 3 birthday parties celebrating a cumulative of 11 years worth of life, voiced the deepest thoughts of 2 different but equally "favorite" stuffed animals (danger: stuffed animals seem disturbingly bent on attacking children, albeit softly), read dozens of very short books and assisted in the blowing of roughly 100,000 bubbles.

5 years ago such a schedule would have found me starting a second, grown-up, weekend this morning in order to offset the irritations of the first. These days it leaves me feeling nothing short of "zesty." Slightly concerned that I'm less than 2-years away from taping Family Circus comics to my refrigerator, switching from Dave to Leno and officially becoming my grandpa, sure, but zesty nonetheless.

Given that extra-pep, let's go with the flow and merrily skip from idea to idea, dropping each topic as soon as we see something more interesting (or a butterfly, or a doggie, or because Superfly grabbed our dress or any other distraction crops up):

Wal-Mart: Introducing usurious credit terms to China!

The world's largest retailer, utterly focused on creating growth through store remodeling, high-end sushi initiatives, cut-rate electronics sales, grocery sales and fashion is going forward with a plan to issue credit cards in China, according to the FT.

At the risk of enhancing my growing reputation as a Wal-Mart (WMT) crank, I have to offer the following: As an investor I like to avoid companies A) Responding to saturated domestic markets by saying/doing things like "we're going to grow by expanding into China!" B) Devoid of any focus regarding strategy for their core operations. I like to avoid companies going into credit for growth (see: Motors, General (GM)). I'm not short Wal-Mart but you can probably suss out what I think of getting long a company featuring A, B & C (the Triple Crown of Terror).

And Starbucks (SBUX), I'm looking at your Chinese going, movie-producing butts as well. I mean, I liked "Akeelah and the Bee" but come, freaking, on...

Boston Scientific (BSX): Now so transparent it's possible to see them sneering during conference calls.

BSX is down as much as 8% yesterday after announcing a recall of some pacemakers and defibrillators.

"We knew, when we did our due diligence, that the [cardiac rhythm management business] of Guidant hadn't had its last recall," shrugged CEO Jim Tobin on the call this morning, "We will have further recalls; everyone in the industry will have further recalls (so what's a few more faulty devices planted into chest cavities all over the world (and hopefully more in Europe)... Listen, get off our backs about the stints, ok? You want to us to recall everything?! Fine, that's what we'll do if it will shut you people up").

(Subtext added)

Warren Buffett: Dodging the Estate Tax
It's a nice gesture. A historic gesture, even.

I'm just saying... You know... Warren's descendants are spared $17 billion in taxes because of Buffett's donation. And think of the loss to future generations of paparazzi now that we won't have Buffett's great-great- granddaughters going full Paris-Hilton on us. And what about that same generation's star athletes and Greek shipping heirs? Who is going to ruin their lives now that we won't have Warren's ancestors squandering their now non-existent trust funds in a photogenic way?

It's not about our generation. It's about the children. What do they get in return for what is being cynically marketed as celebration of philanthropic acts? An entirely re-tooled school system focusing on developing their skills in a cost-effective way to maximize the societal good?

Yeah, right. You teach future generations to read then you deprive them of the very tabloid fodder that would make reading interesting to them by eliminating Warren's genetic spin on the spoiled-rotten heiress. I weep for the future if this kind of philanthropy becomes a trend.

No positions in stocks mentioned.

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