You can't
tell what's

snot from
what's not
-- A.R. Ammons, "Cold Rheum"

I feel so cheated. Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) pulled an all-time great low-balling job on us this time. The National Poetry Month tribute above should make sense in a minute in that context.

To refresh your memory, management guidance topped out at about $4.9 billion in revenues and earnings of $0.60 per share. Granted, these estimates have traditionally tended to be on the low side. But delivering $5.26 billion of sales and profits to the tune of $0.87 per diluted share -- well, either the CFO is a pessimist in the Cassandra mold, or these guys are sandbagging as best they can.

The paranoid conspiracy theorist in me can come up with a pretty good motivation for that tactic: distraction. It's the perfect time to present something bright and shiny, previously hidden behind Steve Jobs' back, to take the attention off Apple's options issues.

I mean, this headline made me laugh today: "Apple Board Members Defend Jobs Over Options Grants." And the immediate question in my mind was: Was it Steve Jobs they were defending, or their own cushy board seats and the accompanying stock grants?

Let's face it -- if Jobs is forced out, Apple is dead. The charismatic leader is the obvious driving force behind a company that has languished whenever he wasn't there in the past, and insider reports tell of a culture not conducive to fostering a line of capable lieutenants, heirs apparent, or even decent stewards of the corporation for the years A.S. (After Steve).

Not that the board members need go begging for food stamps or anything. Just the Compensation and Nominating committees here include luminaries like former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, J. Crew (NYSE:JCG) CEO Millard Drexler, and Genentech (NYSE:DNA) CEO Art Levinson. Then there's Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) CEO Eric Schmidt, who could arrange to fill an Olympic-size pool with dollar coins if he wanted to.

I think it's mostly a matter of professional pride. That's a swell hobnobbing playground with serious monetary perks, and if you have to defend a possible wrongdoer to keep the ship from sinking, well, where's my bailing bucket, boys? Oh, and here's an easily surpassed earnings target for the presses ...

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Fool contributor Anders Bylund holds no position in any of the companies discussed here. You can check out Anders' holdings if you like, and Foolish disclosure will make your day, every day.