Tomorrow: The Bubble

But today . . .

NPR – NOT JUST 89.1 – 89.9FM

Bruce: ‘In Anchorage, NPR is at 91.1 FM.’ Brooks: ‘NPR is at 91.5 in Phoenix. Before you travel, you can always check npr.org/stations to get the frequencies along the way.’ Wayne Bennion: ‘Visitors to the Bay Area would miss KQED at 88.5 and KALW at 91.7 if they limited their search to Gary Diehl’s frequency range. ‘This American Life,’ by the way, is terrific!’ Wayne S.: ‘The non-commercial portion of the FM band is actually 88.1 – 91.9. It includes NPR stations as well as religious stations, noncommercial community stations, and school and university stations. A few NPR stations are on the AM band.’ Patrick Egan: ‘NPR can USUALLY be found in the non-commercial section of the FM band, 88.1 – 91.9, but CAN also be anywhere on the commercial section, 92.1 – 107.9. Notable public stations on the commercial section include KSJN 99.5 in Minneapolis, KUOW 94.9 in Seattle and a little station you probably listen to, WNYC 93.9 in New York.’

JOBS AND BUFFETT

Cole Lannum: ‘You mentioned Steve Jobs in your column today. If you have not already seen his recent commencement speech to Stanford University, I highly recommend it. Very inspiring. You also mentioned Warren Buffett. Did you see that the auction for a lunch with him is now up to $250,100? Think how much money you could make for the DNC if you auctioned off a lunch with yourself.’

☞ Easily the same $100 Buffett is going for; just not the $250,000 accompanying it.

THY NEIGHBOR’S ASS

Dan Flikkema: ‘Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott recently said ‘The Ten Commandments are a historically recognized system of law,’ and that may be – but it isn’t the history of this country. Consider this commandment: Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbor’s. I risk sounding flippant here but is there anything more un-American than not coveting? We are world class coveters. If there ever was a nation founded on the concept of coveting it’s our nation. It is the basis of our entire economy. We couldn’t outlaw coveting. What would we do with our selves? Coveting is our country’s identity and obsession. It’s true we may not be coveting our neighbor’s ox or our neighbors ‘man-servant’ – although I can’t speak to what goes on in all your readers’ houses. But in my neighborhood we are more likely to covet intangibles like success, power, and maybe really, really white teeth. More precisely, we covet the appearance of being successful and powerful and hope to hide our inadequacies. That’s why people buy Hummers. While ‘Thou shalt not covet’ is an admirable philosophy, it’s clearly not American. I don’t know how anyone can claim it’s one of our founding principles and keep a straight face.’

☞ And as others have pointed out, only Commandments #6 and #8 are the law in Texas. (Maybe #9, also, depending on how you define it.) The rest? Ignored by our system of laws.

MARRIAGE

Canada is racing to join the Netherlands and Belgium in granting marriage equality. (Yesterday, the House of Commons gave its OK. Final passage is expected in a few weeks.) I predict: the sky will not fall and Canada will be a slightly happier, more prosperous place as a result. Marriages are almost surely a good thing for societies regardless of the race, religion, or gender of the partners. Religions should be free to condemn inter-denominational or inter-racial or same-sex marriages, but governments should not deny couples equal rights or discourage stable, committed, long-term relationships.

PPD

Glenn Hudson wrote in March to suggest we buy Prepaid Legal Services stock, PPD, at $35 (which I modified to suggest the January 2007 PPD $25 LEAPS for $11.80). He was high on the company for a number of reasons, not least being how low on the company so many people are – it carries a huge short interest. Meaning that people have borrowed a great many shares and sold them short, hoping the price would go down – but, oh no!, it’s been going up!

Last night PPD closed at $44.49 and the LEAPS were worth $20 or so, up 70% in three months.

I e-mailed Glenn two questions:

  • Does this company have anything going for it other than the huge short interest? Might a value or growth investor want to buy it on its own merits?

Glenn Hudson: ‘Originally when the shorts shorted the stock, they drove PPD’s share price down well below its true value by both shorting the stock and attacking the credibility of the company. Now the large short interest is like an additional insurance policy even though I believe PPD is still undervalued.

As shorts have covered [there were an astounding 7+ million shares short a few months ago, now 5 million, or still roughly half the float], PPD’s share price has risen to a share price that is closer to its true value . . . though when the shorts began their attack 5+ years ago, PPD’s share price had risen to around $48 to $49.

Because of Prepaid’s great cash flow and membership and sales associate growth, Prepaid still has a ways to go before it is close to its business value. The new ID theft product is timely and gets their sales force in front of a lot of candidates they never could reach before. So I do think a growth investor could benefit by owning this stock.

And Prepaid’s management has worked hard to get rid of the anti-takeover provision. That provision was just revoked. I believe Prepaid’s management may be in the process of finding an appropriate larger company to merge Prepaid into. I am sure this will result in a nice premium on the stock if it should happen.

  • Is the company product any good? Have you ever used it?

Glenn Hudson: I used the service for a few years myself. I don’t remember why I stopped. I think it was when a close friend of my wife that is an attorney became available to consult with. However, I did use the service a few times. Each time I called with a legal question, they had someone to take down the general information so they could forward it to the appropriate attorney who within a few hours returned my call and helped me with my question. I found the attorneys to be pretty good.

Also, I had a situation where my 17-year-old son got a ticket for speeding (going 94 MPH on New Years Eve trying to get his girlfriend home before her curfew) (welcome to parenthood). I didn’t want to get this on his record for insurance reasons, so I had Prepaid’s attorney get us a forwarding attorney that represented us in court for FREE. He got my son off with probation, a slightly higher fine and traffic school. I was very satisfied.

That beats the heck out of the experience that I had with one of my stepsons who was given two tickets that I knew personally I could get thrown out. We used the attorney that was a friend of my wife to represent him. He kept dragging the case out and after $750 in fees, I put my foot down and got rid of him. I met with the states attorney handling the case, explained that the tickets were incorrectly issued and, to make a long story short, got the case thrown out. I wish I would have kept Prepaid’s membership in force at that time.

I think Prepaid has a very good concept that uses an attorney’s time efficiently. Instead of going into any attorney’s office and having a long drawn out conversation while you are being billed $200+ per hour, everything is streamlined to get the legal answer that a client needs. They also provide wills and some other services that I am not sure I can do justice in informing you about.

I haven’t used the theft ID product. It is provided by KROLL a subsidiary of MMC. I think they are the best in the business and anyone that wouldn’t want to deal with the hassle of correcting any type of theft ID problem would probably be smart in using them.

Prepaid does have a high turnover of customers but I don’t think it is anything unusual for the type of business that they are in. They continue to add to their core customer base that totally believe in their product.

This is just one opinion, of course, and I have no doubt the shorts have strong opinions of their own. But for now I’m happy holding my speculative little position in PPD LEAPS, and if you can afford to lose your money, you might want to hang on, too.

EMINENT DOMAIN

LJ Kutten: ‘One of the things about eminent domain [e.g., taking Justice Souter’s house to build a hotel] is that if you disagree with the value placed on the property by the state you can always go to trial. There are a lot of cases where the jury came back with such a high value that condemnation did not go forward.’

WORLD DOMINATION

Jack Rivers: ‘I am pretty sure Chris Williams was being sarcastic. I mean, he was, right?’

☞ Doesn’t seem that way. (Chris wrote: ‘Come now, surely we can all agree – Iraq has been a wildly successful outcome. We have thousands of troops on the second biggest oil reserves in the world and they aren’t going anywhere for a very long time – and hell, they’re there at the request of the country’s government. What better reality for a century during which the oil will run out could you possibly, in your most optimistic dreams, hope for in the pursuit of American dominance? A few thousand men die to secure for America a very good chance of dominating an entire century. Forget Iraq. Just look at that equation. We all want America to be the dominant power on this planet. Would you not think 1,500 men is small price to pay to ensure America is subordinate to no one For Very Probably An Entire Century?’) In response to my response, he replied: ‘I talked explicitly about the favorable reality we’ve been given in Iraq and your reply didn’t address that at all. Rather, it talked about causation and intent, which has nothing to do with assessing the outcome. If it makes you happy to consider the outcome serendipity in order to eliminate any credit from the Administration, feel free. But favorable it is.’

THE WAR IN IRAN HAS BEGUN?

From former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter, for what it’s worth – on Al-Jazeera.com, no less – click here.

Tomorrow: The Bubble

 

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