Editor's Note: Welcome to "Funny Money," a feature written by New York-based comedian Jeff Kreisler. Lest there be any confusion, please note that this column is a work of satire and intended for entertainment purposes only. Enjoy the weekend.The big news early in the week was the $33 billion LBO of the HCA hospital chain. Now, if HCA can just get its buddies in the pharmaceutical industry to start making people sick, maybe pass some anti-personal bankruptcy laws and health care schemes, then they'll start making some real money. They just need some government connections... What's that? Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's family is involved? Wow, what a coincidence. In a totally unrelated story (really, I mean it), Merck and Schering-Plough reported high quarterly profits, because the world is very scary, and insurance-provided drugs are a cheaper coping mechanism than whiskey. Less pungent, too. Elsewhere in big pharma-land, Pfizer will sell a promising new heart pill, as part of the company's new (but borrowed) campaign: "Once you pop, you can't stop." Meanwhile, GlaxoSmithKline may be able to produce a bird flu vaccine so, as soon as the "right" people own stock, the media can begin a new round of scary stories about the three-ish people the disease has ever killed. In other earnings news, United Airlines posted its second consecutive profitable quarter since bankruptcy. Just shows what shirking responsibilities can do for the bottom line. It's the deadbeat dad business model. Amazon.com, struggling with falling profits, is trying to sell movies and television shows online. Amazon started with books, you know, those slower, more beach-take-able movie-like-thingies. Amazon's profit and stock both plunged this week, in what this "analyst" is calling "deforestation." But stay positive. Don't lose sight of the large jungle women for the trees. Nintendo's first-quarter profit was up 10%, thanks to Mario getting one of those barrels from Donkey Kong: Each one holds 5 kilos of pure, uncut Colombian cocaine. Hasbro, however, saw its earnings fall. Really, look at the news. There is no joy left in the world. No innocence. If not for the ESPYs, there'd be no reason to play at all. To watch Jeff Kreisler's video take of this column,
Kraft's profits rose, thanks to the company's removal of all remnants of "food" from its products. Chemicals! Yum! Now showing on Wall Street's Short Attention Span Theater: Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, recently panned, now a darling with new earnings. Coming soon to the theater: Amazon.com. Speaking of megalomaniacs, Donald Trump is getting paid handsomely for his involvement in Trump Magazines. Anyone remember what he does for a day job? Reality TV? Real estate busts? Trophy wife-hunting? Personally, I think he's a drone sent from the future to teach us about intergalactic hair color. In other corporate news, Microsoft introduced the Zune. It's known as an "iPod killer" because it dresses like a ninja, eats only tea leaves, and strangles its victims with the albums of Paul Anka. Hewlett-Packard paid heavily to put product placement in Jessica Simpson's new music video. The product placement apparently prevents the placement of any talent or originality, but, don't worry, your children can't tell. Said an MTV spokesman, the product placement was "organic to the story line." Story line? It's an overpaid, overexposed, plain-looking sex figure dancing to music she didn't write and probably didn't sing! Aagh! Where's my walker and MedAlert bracelet? I'm with you, grandpa! Honda will introduce a new seven-passenger jet plane. It will be the Honda Accord of the sky, which means it'll either be the country's most stolen vehicle, or every teenager in San Francisco will own one. Boeing decided not to treat a $615 million ethics settlement with the government as a tax deduction. What? Next thing you know, I won't be able to write off my jail cell as a home office. In another pocket-change development, Paul Johnson, a former tech stock analyst, was penalized $2 million for deceiving investors during the Internet bubble. Oh, so it was his fault! Phew. Glad that's taken care of.
The City of Chicago passed an ordinance requiring Wal-Mart to offer a "living wage." In response, the company opened a competing city nearby which will offer below-cost deep dish pizza, corrupt political legacies, and a lovable baseball team. Chicago is expected to go out of business within a year. Speaking of which, Teen People is folding. Teen People is folding?!? Who will teach the children?!? Surely we can't let them become adult People too soon. Our babies aren't ready for Kirstie Alley stories! It's sad. There is no more frivolity, no more exploration, no more playful crushes on safe-for-your-girls-but-maybe-not-for-your-boys 'N Sync members. First they took the middle class, then the Middle East, now the middle years... When will it end? Middle Earth? I bet Frodo saves us. (Wager placed via BetOnSports.com). Speaking of which, BetOnSports's former CEO, Gary Kaplan, has been accused of hosting "sleazy sex parties." As my grandfather used to say: "If you're going to have gambling and sleazy sex, please, invite me." In other enforcement news, the government eliminated half the IRS staff responsible for auditing estate-tax returns on Saturday afternoon, which is when everyone is paying attention (if "everyone" means "nobody"). I guess if you can't beat 'em, fire 'em. Meanwhile, the SEC came down hard on hedge funds, prompting several shady New Jersey funds to invite Chairman Christopher Cox to "invest with the fishes." The SEC really did vote for new options and compensation rules, or, as my grandfather would've said, "Closed the barn door once the horse is... Hey! We don't have a barn! What's that horse doing here!" On a minor note, the executive pay disclosure rules don't apply to former SEC commissioners, nudge nudge, wink wink. Frankly, this whole honesty, transparency and moral high ground just about makes me sick. I actually think the loose rules and easy hoaxes of organizations like Bayou and Refco were good for our country: They weeds out the lazy investor in an example of survival of the fittest, which proves the theory of evolution, thus rescuing our school system and creating tomorrow's leaders and/or fund managers.
Really, all these investigations into options backdating and accounting errors remind me of the simple truth my grandfather told me many years ago: "Either cheat or steal, but don't do both, at least not in the same maneuver." He then cheated me out of $11,000 in Monopoly. Finally, this week's breakdown in trade talks was blamed on farm subsidies. Seems several kooks in Iowa were plowing under their corn to build baseball fields. Father issues, if you ask me. Although trade talks broke down, there's no reason to worry, because the world is collaborating on a more significant path to fiery Armageddon. Cooling Aloe Vera lotion... I'd invest in that.