For those who side with the bear in our Duel on socially responsible investing, there's a new mutual fund out there for you: The Vice Fund. Bold and brash, the company's website sports pictures of cigarettes, booze, and gambling, along with a quote from none other than Abe Lincoln, saying, "It has been my experience that folks who have no vices have very few virtues."

The new fund is run by, which considers vice industries "recession-proof." "We're not out there to do nothing but socially irresponsible investing, but the point of investing is to make money," one of the portfolio managers recently told CBS MarketWatch.

The company cites a study that indicates a portfolio with money divided equally among alcohol, tobacco, gaming, and aerospace/defense industries would have beat out the S&P 500 by more than 40% over the past five years. Too bad they didn't start the fund five years ago. Past performance, as they say, doesn't guarantee future results -- though there is that whole sin and Hell thing.

The Motley Fool 50, down to two packs a day, lost 1% today.

In today's Motley Fool Take:

Qwest Gets Green, Sells Yellow, Avoids Red

After reviewing bids from a flurry of suitors, limping telecom Qwest(NYSE: Q) agreed to sell its yellow pages directory business for $7.05 billion to private investments firms The Carlyle Group and Welsh, Carson, Anderson & Stowe. The agreement provides cash for the desperate, debt-laden, and downtrodden company, whose cool fiber optic network commercials have long been missing from TV. Qwest shares vaulted 25% on the news.

The deal will go down in two parts, with the first for $2.75 billion covering seven states' yellow pages operations scheduled to close in Q4, and the second for $4.30 billion and the remaining seven states closing in 2003. The leveraged buyout is said to be the largest since the $14 billion, 1989 takeout of RJR Nabisco. Lenders reportedly include J.P. Morgan Chase(NYSE: JPM), Lehman Brothers(NYSE: LEH), Wachovia Corp.(NYSE: WB) (to whom we say, don't let anyone Wachovia), Deutsche Bank(NYSE: DB), and Bank of America(NYSE: BAC).

Qwest sags under the weight of $26.3 billion in debt. Much is soon due, forcing the company to swallow a $500 million loan at the highly unFoolish rate of 13.5% (hey, we know better debt options). Observers believe that the new cash will keep Qwest afloat for a few years -- no matter how its numbers imbroglio works out with the SEC. Investment management firm Legg Mason(NYSE: LM) apparently agrees and upgraded the stock. Merrill Lynch(NYSE: MER) can't make up its mind, with reporting both "near term reduce" and "sell" recommendations.

The Carlyle Group is the refuge-du-jour for influential government types such as former British Prime Minister John Major, former Secretary of State James Baker, and former SEC Chairman Arthur Levitt. It plays in the same league as privately held engineering-construction firm Bechtel Corp., whose masthead has included Casper Weinberger, George Schultz, Richard Helms, and W. Kenneth Davis.

Discussion Board of the Day: Qwest

With a lifeline from two private investment firms and an influx of cash, is it time to buy Qwest? Can the once-fated telecom coast out of the static? Share your thoughts on the Qwest discussion board, only on

Social Security Still Ticking

The old codger of domestic programs, the Social Security Administration (SSA), turns 67 this month. With more than 45 million currently receiving Social Security benefits (and more than 175 million who have benefited from the income it provides), there's national pressure for the administration to take its vitamins and exercise at least 15 minutes a day.

For those titillated by SSA minutiae, read on. Those weary workers who just want to know what's comin' to them, skip to the final paragraph.

  • You might think that the first Social Security card issued would contain the lowest nine-digit number possible. Au contraire, mon worker bee. That'd be too straightforward for government work. The first card issued, with Social Security number (SSN) 055-09-0001, belonged to shipping clerk John D. Sweeney, Jr., age 23, of New Rochelle, N.Y. Sweeney died of a heart attack in 1974 at the age of 61 without ever receiving Social Security benefits. His widow, however, received benefits based on his work until her death in 1982.

  • The lowest possible SSN (001-01-0001) was actually issued to Grace D. Owen of Concord, N.H. She was the first applicant from New Hampshire, the state where then-Social Security Board Chairman John G. Winant resided. (He declined to have the SSN registered to him.)

  • The most abused SSN of all time is 078-05-1120. In 1938, the vice president and treasurer of wallet manufacturer E.H. Ferree Co. thought it would be clever to use a sample Social Security card to promote its product for display purposes in department stores across the country. He used the actual SSN of his secretary, Hilda Schrader Whitcher. By 1943, 5,755 people were using Hilda's number. Eventually, more than 40,000 people reported her SSN as their own -- 12 people as late as 1977.

  • And finally, if you want to know what's in it for you, get a handle on your retirement income with the SSA's benefit calculators. Based on the administration's own rules, if the SSA can keep working until its 70th birthday, it'll boost its own retirement kitty.

Quot e of Note

"You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life." -- Albert Camus, 1913-1960

Fool Radio Wants You

Labor Day is just around the corner, and The Motley Fool Radio Show on NPR would love to hear from you for its "How's Business?" special. If you've got an interesting job, call us at 866-NPR-FOOL or drop us an email at Farmer? Performance Artist? Steelworker? Puppeteer? Pet mortician? We want to hear from you!

Here's a Tip

Do you ever find yourself flummoxed, thinking you should probably offer a tip for a service you've just received, but not knowing how much to offer?

You're not alone. The Wall Street Journal today (subscription required, free trial available to Fools) tackled tipping, suggesting we often tip not out of appreciation, but because it's expected and we don't want our server to dislike us. Some tip generously to show off, and others do it to reward exceptional service.

For a quick rundown on common tipping guidelines for a variety of services, drop by and this site. Here are some sample guidelines, culled from a variety of sources:

  • Restaurants: 15% to 20% for wait staff.
  • Coat checking: $1 or $2 for checking one or two coats.
  • Hotel maids: $1 to $9 per night (some think $5 should be a minimum). Leave the tip on your pillow in a marked envelope or with a thank you note -- the housekeeper should be sure it's a tip.
  • Hotel room service: 15% to 20%.
  • Airport and hotel porters and bellmen: $1 to $2 per bag.
  • Taxis: 10% to 15% of the fare, with a $2 minimum.
  • Parking attendants: $1 or $2 when your car is delivered.
  • Massages: 10% to 20% is acceptable.
  • Haircuts: 10% to 15%, plus $1 or $2 to anyone who shampoos your hair.
  • Tattoos: 10% to 20%.

Also, consider not offering loose change as a tip, as it can be perceived by some as insulting.

Learn more in this USA Todayarticle. Share your thoughts on tipping on our Motley Fool Take discussion board.

And on a slightly related note, here's a book recommendation: The Tipping Point, by Malcolm Gladwell. It's not about tips offered for service, but instead focuses on how a myriad of small things can add up to big things -- which is true of service tips, as well. The book became a business bestseller a few years back, offering insight into how scales are tipped and revolutions and epidemics launched -- often with profitable results for companies.

Shameless Plug: Win $5,000!

There's no question we're in the midst of wacky market, but we're here to help. Right now we're offering you a chance to win a brokerage account worth $5,000. Who said we never gave you anything?

Quick Takes

Anything's possible when you're wearing an orange apron. Home Depot(NYSE: HD) rocked the house it helped build with quarterly results that topped analyst expectations. Earnings topped the billion-dollar mark, climbing by 28%. Sales rose by 12%, coming in at $16.3 billion. Following yesterday's lead by Lowe's(NYSE: LOW), the leading home-improvement retailer posted record financials, as low interest rates continued to fuel the real estate market.

While many figured Home Depot would have a bang-up quarter, the upside surprise was more of a shock at Staples(Nasdaq: SPLS). The "Yeah, we got that" people got more than analysts expected, topping profit projections as well. Margins widened as the company turned a 5% uptick in sales into a 47% spurt in net income. More than just another favorable report from the retail sector, the fact that a company is faring well selling office supplies might be a good sign in predicting an early economic recovery.

We all want a little more time, and AOL Time Warner(NYSE: AOL) is no different. Looking to gobble up AT&T's(NYSE: T) interest in Time Warner, Reuters reports AOL is proposing a cash and stock deal, despite its substantial overhang of debt. Credit watchers might not be too pleased that the deal is said to involve $2 billion in cash, along with a larger chunk in stock.

Like any good eBay (Nasdsaq: EBAY) auction, it's getting closer to the time to close the deal on the online bidding site's acquisition of financial services Web specialist PayPal(Nasdaq: PYPL). The companies cleared the anti-trust waiting period, which means the Justice Department isn't requesting additional information. With eBay and PayPal as dominant forces in their respective fields, clearance wasn't a given.

And Finally...

Today on Matt Richey spots a small Dark Horse in a foggy market.... Guitar Center plays its swan song to the Rule Breaker Portfolio.... How to pay for college, in Fool's School.

Bob Bobala, Robert Brokamp, Jeff Hwang, Tom Jacobs, Bill Mann, Selena Maranjian, Rex Moore, Rick Munarriz, Jackie Ross, Reggie Santiago, Dayana Yochim