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Just an average investor... primarily in American equity and bonds. (Important Note: My articles, blogs, comments, reference links and messages are not intended to be investment advisements; or to value securities. Examples and considerations are hypothetical and educational. Please consult a... More
  • Berkshire & Mars: Trayvon's Skittles 0 comments
    Apr 2, 2012 7:56 PM | about stocks: BRK.A, GOOG, HI, HRC, HSY, LMT, SWHC, TR, UTHR, WMT, UPS, AMZN
    Berkshire Shed a Tear

    In 2008 Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A) and Mars Inc. bought Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company. Their product 'Skittles' has been at the center of an American Tragedy. The killing of an American teenager, who was on his way home, when a neighbor inaccurately profiled him.

    Currently photos of the colorful Skittles candy wrapper covering protestors' mouths are circulating. As well Americans have been encouraged to send the candy to Congress and to the Sanford, Florida Police Department.

    Mars and Wrigley released a statement saying:

    ".. (we) feel it inappropriate to get involved or comment further as we would never wish for our actions to be perceived as an attempt of commercial gain following this tragedy."

    In 1994 Skittles began using the slogan 'taste the rainbow.' It is a multi colored candy, that is chewy and satisfying. Skittles represent a very unique creation.

    They contain:

    "SUGAR, CORN SYRUP, HYDROGENATED PALM KERNEL OIL; LESS THAN 2%: APPLE JUICE FROM CONCENTRATE, CITRIC ACID, TAPIOCA DEXTRIN, MODIFIED CORN STARCH, NATURAL AND ARTIFICIAL FLAVORS, ASCORBIC ACID (COLORING,) SODIUM CITRATE AND CARNAUBA WAX."

    It turned out that this candy, did in a sense protect young Trayvon. No, they could not protect his life. However, they have protected the memory of him. Because people know what it is like to walk around with a bag of them. It is, to be American.

    You do not need a concealed weapons permit, you do not need a reminder that you are 'not a freelance police officer,' because you now have a permit to carry Skittles.

    Because, if you gave these ingredients to Smith & Wesson (SWHC) or Lockheed Martin (LMT) they wouldn't know what to do with them. Because they make weapons. Berkshire Hathaway and Mars make Candy.

    The White House

    At first the White House stated:

    "But obviously, we're not going to wade into a local law-enforcement matter."

    www.whitehouse.gov/photos-and-video/vide...

    Obviously, the White House Press Secretary was trying to deflect the media's attention. With an excuse that was not consistent with the recent actions made by President Obama.

    When a legendary Harvard English Professor was racially profiled in Boston, early in the Obama Administration, the President was very vocal. The Professor, Henry Louis Gates Jr., was having trouble opening his front door, after returning from over seas.

    A passerby thought Mr. Gates may have been trying to break in and called the police. When the police arrived, the Harvard Professor was affronted, by accusations that he did not belong in his own home.

    So the President had the two men, and their families over to the White House where they joked, made peace, and drank beer.

    Unfortunately, the reality is extreme incidents of injustice can not be overcome in this fashion.

    The President made a powerful statement, 'If I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon Martin.' It resonates true.

    The media is trying not to leave any stone unturned. Discovering that Trayvon Martin had been suspended for having an empty plastic bag in his back pack, that allegedly contained Marijuana residue.

    Though, Mr. Trayvon Martin, the future pilot, the great engineer, the aspiring Politician, or just the average American; will never have the Liberty to write about such trivial incidents in his youth. On his path to greatness. As President Obama did, in Dreams From My Father.

    (to read more about this subject, here is a good source: www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/ar...)

    Give Me Liberty Or Give Me Death

    We, Americans fought for Liberty. We experienced War. Famously, Patrick Henry tried to argue for the Revolution with these words.

    www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/liberty

    Definition of LIBERTY

    1: the quality or state of being free: a : the power to do as one pleases b : freedom from physical restraint c : freedom from arbitrary or despotic control d : the positive enjoyment of various social, political, or economic rights and privileges e : the power of choice

    The Declaration of Independence states that 'All Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Hapiness.'

    These sentiments are the reason why we have the great American Businesses that we have today. They are the reason why we have freedom. Because, Americans would not settle to be subjects and servants to the King of England. Instead we fought for democracy.

    That is what I believe saddens the nation, saddens the President, and everyone who has commented on this tragedy. We know what is worth fighting over. We know the loss, and the responsibility. And the details of the Trayvon Martin killing, point to a Neighborhood Watchman who was overzealous. Who was upset that he was being "checked out," by a young teen who was unfamiliar to him.

    February 26, 2012 : Sanford, Florida

    Exactly three weeks after his 17th birthday a boy was walking in a neighborhood. He had a phone, a bag of Skittles and a can of Arizona Tea.

    A resident of the neighborhood saw this boy, and decided to call the police. George Zimmerman, states 'there is a real suspicious guy,'
    'this guy looks like he's up to no good, or he's on drugs or something, it's raining, and he's just walking around looking about.'

    Mr. Zimmerman goes on to say that young Trayvon Martin is wearing a 'dark hoodie, like a grey hoodie, either jeans or sweat pants, and white tennis shoes.'

    He continues, 'he's here now, just staring, looking at all the houses, now he's just staring at me.' Mr. Zimmerman then says, 'now he's coming towards me,' (sound of car door and sound of rain) 'he's got his hand in his waist band, and he's a black male, he's got a button on his shirt, late teens' (sound of door again) 'something's wrong with him, yep he's coming to check me out, he's got something in his hands, I don't know what his deal is, get an Officer over here, ok, these a**holes they always get away.'

    "I Am Trayvon Martin"

    This Nation has been through a lot in the past ten years.

    However this phone call made available online, on YouTube (GOOG) captured the nation's attention. Because what happened within the next 3 minutes did not sit well, it did not seem to make sense.

    Mr. Zimmerman has been described as a 'Neighborhood Watchman.'

    The public knows exactly what he was thinking, what he was claiming, because of this recording.

    He says he saw, 'a teen' with 'something in his hands.'

    Most everyone knows what a can of Arizona Soft Drink looks like because it has a very distinctive tall shape. It seems difficult to believe anyone could mistake a can of Arizona Brand Tea for some sort of weapon.

    Now, we know one other thing seems certain Mr. Zimmerman knew full well he had his gun. He says on the tape Trayvon was leaving, claiming he was 'runnning.'

    We do not hear Mr. Zimmerman, from the safety of his vehicle, on the recorded line, attempt to identify himself and ask Trayvon anything. What we hear is someone calling the police to tell them a teen, with a button on his shirt is looking at the buildings in the neighborhood, then looking at him.

    Politics of an election

    The unfortunate issue here, is it is election season. Though there may be a right thing to do, obviously the most important thing on the White House's mind is to get a re-election.

    This is Florida, not Wyoming. President Obama has campaigned in Puerto Rico hoping to get votes in Florida.

    The White House made it abundantly clear, that it does not 'wade' into local matters. Unless of course it's for a photo opportunity over some cold beers.

    There are no easy answers to this. Telling teens, if some big guy, in plain clothes, who doesn't identify himself, who may seem weird, smelling of who knows what, runs up to you, panting, with his hand on a gun, starts to question you and grab you, you're supposed to just be nice and polite and answer his questions... ain't gonna fly. There's some responsibility that is needed on the side of the George Zimmermans of the world.

    As far as I can tell, the bigger person in this tragedy, Trayvon unfortunately is gone. I know this because he was not carrying a weapon. He was carrying a bag of Skittles.

    Seeking Alpha

    So when I went to publish this article on Seeking Alpha their editor wrote:

    "This article lacks the in-depth fundamental analysis and actionable opinion on stocks we look for in published articles."

    I disagree, because I selected the subject as 'economy.' This is an article that addresses the economy. It is an analysis of action and reaction in the corporate world, in regard to consumers.

    Companies like Berkshire and Mars, and for that matter Walmart (WMT) are dependent on consumers being able to ambulate freely to shop. If in the future consumers are afraid to step out of their front doors, for fear; if in the future parents do not let their children go shop for candy, it will reduce growth.

    This would make a good case for Amazon (AMZN). Because their products are delivered, often by United Parcel Service (UPS).

    As an investor, I know that brands and products are of monumental importance, to business. The precise atmosphere of the past, present and their relationship to the future, drives the market for certain companies.

    I often find myself stuck between giving up hope on businesses that work to save lives. Because a slight failure in a clinical trial will send the company spiraling down. As was the case with United Therapeutics (UTHR) last year. They are focused on advancing treatment for Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension, a tragic disease.

    Of course they are not going to simply cure the disease, over night or in a fiscal year. They need to experience trial and error, in order to find what works. However the market can not quite understand this.

    So I wonder, should I buy Hillenbrand (HI) www.hillenbrand.com the Coffin maker? Or Walmart because they also offer Coffins. Or Hil Rom (HRC) because they make Hospital beds. And, of course it comes down to the analysis of their financials, and the market for their business. In deciding how much or whether to buy any shares of this or that company.

    Buy Berkshire?

    So based on the fact that one product, out of many owned by Berkshire, was involved in one national event, is it a buy?

    Well, BRK.A is 122,000 dollars a share, and Mars is a private company. So do you buy a competitor? Like Tootsie Roll (TR) or Hershey (HSY) Or perhaps BRK.B?

    Well, obviously not on this tragedy. No, the purpose here, is not to make a suggestion. The purpose is to be informative, because this event applies to the economy. It applies to the future. And, it sure as anything applies to the companies that manufacture these products.

    I don't simply recommend one stock, generally. To play the future of the market, I would say, buy a few shares of BRK.B, a few shares of Walmart and a couple shares of Amazon.

    That way if one disappears the other positions will hopefully compensate.

    Do The Right Thing

    We've seen such a diverse, mind numbing, tidal wave of conflict, in reaction to the injust killing of Trayvon Martin. It is an outpouring of emotion.

    In Tunisia, one man Mohamed Bouazizi protested ill treatment, and subsequent protests effected change in Egypt and Libya. Though the continuation of uprisings have reached a road block, in Syria. Where reporters and thousands have suffered and died, at the hands of a brutal dictator.

    Thus far, those deaths have resulted in a political affair between Kofi Annan and the dictator of Syria, Bashar al-Assad. As well as the publication of al-Assad's alleged personal e-mails.

    What it boils down to here, in America, currently is re-election. And, as the saying goes, if you are not for it, you are against it. I beg to differ with the Seeking Alpha editors, all of this is very relevant to the economy, and to the stock market, from an investor stand point and from a business stand point. When I make a recommendation it is based on the precise moment, and the relationship of the business to the context of the economy. (Simply put, if you are an investor or businessperson today, and you don't understand the tragic loss of Trayvon Martin, you might as well have your head stuck in the sand.)

    Thus the title of this passage, after Spike Lee's movie. Here Mr. Lee thought he may have been doing the right thing, by using Twitter to try to publicize the location of Trayvon's killer. However instead he wound up with egg on his face, he did not do the right thing, though at the time it felt like he was.

    He was using a keyboard and Twitter. Trayvon thought, perhaps he was doing the right thing, by trying to walk away from this person who he did not know, back to his father's home, with his candy. And, Mr. Zimmerman, in his little world, possibly thought he was doing the right thing, armmed with lethal force. The White House Press Secretary thought he was doing the right thing, by trying to ignore the media and the public. The President, also by making his statement, must have felt that was the right thing to do, with his voice.

    Only afterwards, can it be determined, whether they actually did the right thing.

    Spike Lee, made a mistake. Trayvon Martin was killed. Mr. Zimmerman was placed under arrest, then released, and is now in hiding, over the furor he caused. The Press Secretary was trumped by the President. And, the President focused on his campaign.

    My opinion is, in order for American businesses to thrive, we need consumers. As well, for businesses to thrive into the future they need to use thought, and understand the ethics and morals of the public. Because in the long term the majority will rule. So it is monumentally important for businesses to understand this. Clearly, atleast one American Businessman does, he runs a company called Berkshire Hathaway. Though it is unclear if newbies around him, like the rejected David Sokol, fully understand.

    Fundamental Analysis & Actionable Opinion

    The issue with Seeking Alpha, is they are settling for 'cookie cutter' articles. So many are entitled "3 to buy 1 to avoid," or some variation. Basically my philosophy is to use a strategy, and part of the strategy is to understand how these sectors and industries fit into the special interests of those making the deals.

    I am speaking about strategy and knowledge of the present market factors. How this knowledge can be used to understand the future of a financial market. How investors can also make attempts to balance Social Responsibility, with Profit.

    Though sometimes, as is the case now, it is not simply about trying to make a buck. My effort is to try to use strength, and side with the better good. In order to perfect a strategy. Though Walmart is not perfect, it is alongside BRK.B and Amazon in my book. Because so far the good outweighs the bad.

    Trayvon's Skittles

    The subject of this article is Berkshire Hathaway and Mars Candy. It is the story of one of their customers, who was very unfortunate. Their product protected his memory. Because Skittles motivated the public.

    Because Trayvon went to the store, to buy Skittles. He was on his way back from the store, with them. And he never got the chance to even enjoy them.

    Think about it. If you had 2 billion dollars, what would you do? Buy the LA Dodgers. What if you had 23 billion dollars? Would you buy Wrigley? Well, Berkshire saw value.

    That is why I am long on Berkshire Class B shares. Because currently we have someone who is not trying to take billions and build up a dictatorship. We have a business that favors America, Rail Roads, Coca Cola, IBM, Bank of America, and Wrigley (just to name a few.)

    We have been through so much in the past ten years. America clearly is not easily moved to take action. We've seen President Obama countless times tell Americans about how they are not Warren Buffett.
    And how we should go along with a 'Buffett Rule,' that is not even precisely what Mr. Buffett has articulated is his hope for the tax code.

    Mr. Martin, was not Warren Buffett. If he was, at this point we have to wonder, if it was Mr. Buffett walking around with his hoodie on carrying his Skittles, during halftime, if he would have been shot at. For looking 'suspicious.'

    Trayvon only had a few dollars, and he chose to buy a drink and some candy. Those products, somehow made him suspicious to an overzealous, gun toting Neighborhood Watchman, in defiance of common sense. Mr. Martin, can no longer aspire to be a part of great American Institutions. Though America, Berkshire, the White House, can still be Trayvon, by not taking Liberty and the value of Americans lives for granted.

    Disclosure: I am long BRK.B, SWHC, LMT, AMZN, WMT, UPS, HSY, TR, HI, HRC, UTHR.

    Themes: economy Stocks: BRK.A, GOOG, HI, HRC, HSY, LMT, SWHC, TR, UTHR, WMT, UPS, AMZN
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