06/24/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Excerpts from conversations with my stockbroker, Al A Definite Short

Al recently called me up with an original pitch: "I've got a stock for you to check out. See, there's this company that's been around for years, one of the biggest in its industry but everyone keeps shorting it. Figured you might want to see if it's worth picking up on the cheap."

"What's wrong with it?"

"Not as smart as it thinks it is."


"A mess. Little fiefdoms choking each other."


"Well, their top people get way more than the competition but most barely squeeze a living wage."

"A recipe for disaster! Are their benefits eating them up?"

"They're paying way more for health care and education than their competitors, but it's a crazy system - while senior executives get plastic surgery and their kids attend Ivy League schools most folks can barely ever see a doctor or let their kids finish high school."

"That's revolution waiting to happen. How's their innovation?"

"They used to be on the cutting-edge. Still have some amazing breakthroughs though."

"Competitor research?"

"Company motto seems to be, "it ain't perfect here, but it's better than the rest" even though they don't bother to look. Tons of competitors are coming with new ideas and innovations while they keep tweaking the old system hoping something new will shake out."

"It's a definite short, Al."

"Do me a favor, run the numbers then get back to me."

"Well, what's the company's name?"

"The United States of America."