So, New York Gov. George Pataki is letting Lenny Bruce off the hook? That's right, the raucous comedian was granted a posthumous pardon Tuesday on an obscenity conviction stemming from his -- how should we say -- unique brand of political commentary. Reportedly, the governor issued the first posthumous pardon in the state's history as "a declaration of New York's commitment to upholding the First Amendment."

Much as we appreciate the sentiment -- what with the holidays and all -- the First Amendment strikes us as one best upheld contemporaneously. A 40-year-old penny for Lenny's thoughts on this one.

In today's Motley Fool Take:

eBay's Holiday Bid

If your procrastinating ways leave you a few gifts short this season, guess who is trying to make a bid for you holiday business? A look at eBay's(Nasdaq: EBAY) site these days shows a company that looks more like a traditional online retailer than a popular auction site.

Last-minute gifts. Express shipping listings. Emphasis on the site's "Buy It Now" feature to promote immediate closure and gratification. Even, egads, site-specific gift certificates!

Going by the numbers, it makes perfect sense. The company is already the country's 11th-largest retailer. Though eBay has become a popular year-round destination for folks looking to soak in the mother of all garage sales, it's fitting for it to try to ape Amazon(Nasdaq: AMZN) or Wal-Mart(NYSE: WMT) now that the holiday shopping season has arrived.

After its great move to acquire PayPal, the company has more at stake in growing the number of successful online transactions. And just as Web-savvy shoppers have come to value cheap shipping and great prices, eBay was right to respond.

The auctioneer has ambitious goals. It is looking to produce $1 billion in operating cash flow on more than $3 billion in revenue come 2005. So, if you find yourself wondering why the site is suddenly warming up to Secret Santa exchanges and hosting special interest forums, it's all in the interest of keeping its community close and chummy.

It's that kind of common-sense storyboarding magic that made the company one of the earliest Motley Fool Stock Advisor selections. If eBay keeps this up, despite its lofty valuation, it may very well wind up bidding on something else: your attention.

Discussion Board of the Day: eBay

Have you noticed any changes in eBay over the years? Has your experience with the leading online auction site improved since the early days or not? Are investing bidding the stock too high? What is a fair price, then? All this and more -- in the eBay discussion board. Only on

The Future of Consumer Electronics

For the record, I don't think that Best Buy(NYSE: BBY) is perfect. Over the past few days, Dave Marino-Nachison and I have been going back and forth -- and back again -- on the state of consumer electronics. While I singled out many Circuit City(NYSE: CC) miscues, I would have to say that the biggest tactical blunder may have actually come from Best Buy two years ago.

Why did it ever buy into music retailing the way it did with Musicland? Here it was cutting the sector's throat by selling CDs as loss leaders to get traffic into its superstores, and it makes a costly gamble on the very currency that it was in the process of devaluing.

Yes, that's in the past. More important, it was a mistake that was transparent to the Best Buy customer. After all, Circuit City spent years forgetting that the word "consumer" comes first in "consumer electronics" by employing commission-fed associates who stalked big spenders around the store. Thus, the act of reinvention has been made even harder by the need to cleanse its reputation. Best Buy only had to battle its bean counters.

Yesterday Dave raised some concerns about discounting in this promising sector. I don't quite see it that way. While it's easy to see how Wal-Mart(NYSE: WMT) has made mincemeat out of grocery store chains -- and has unseated Toys "R" Us(NYSE: TOY) to become the world's largest seller of playthings -- let's draw the line here.

Big-ticket items come with certain expectations of handholding that you're just not going to get at a discounter. Over the next few years, there are going to be millions of people who will flock to consumer electronics stores for guidance on satellite radio. Will it be Sirius(Nasdaq: SIRI) or XM Satellite Radio(Nasdaq: XMSR)? You're going to have questions that discounters may not be able to answer. Don't you almost have to pity the folks who walk into Kmart(Nasdaq: KMRT) trying to decide between video game consoles for their children or the right digital camera for their needs?

Consumer electronics will continue to grow. We are smitten by high-tech gadgetry, and that infatuation will only become stronger. For those who do it right -- like Best Buy and, I'll concede, maybe even Circuit City in due time -- the barriers to entry will remain higher than it seems.

Quote of Note

"Hitch your wagon to a star." -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

BlackBerry Is Ripe

Research In Motion (Nasdaq: RIMM) shares were up a whopping 42% to $65.42 this morning after the company blew away earnings estimates and forecasted even stronger results over this quarter and the next.

After the bell yesterday, the company behind the increasingly popular BlackBerry handheld email device said that third-quarter revenues climbed 107% year over year to $153.9 million. Meanwhile, Research In Motion (RIM) added 154,000 BlackBerry subscribers in the quarter, bringing the total to 865,000. As a result, earnings came in at $16.3 million, or $0.20 per share.

Excluding a litigation provision of $9.2 million, the company earned $0.31 per share on a pro forma basis. By comparison, analysts had expected earnings of $0.17 on that basis.

And apparently, RIM is ripe for further growth.

RIM expects revenue in the current quarter to come in between $195 million and $210 million, vs. its previous guidance of $150 million to $160 million. At the same time, the company said that it is on track to add another 180,000 to 200,000 BlackBerry subscribers, breaking the 1 million mark. RIM also expects to earn $0.30 to $0.40 per share. Excluding the litigation provision, that comes to $0.45 to $0.55 per share, more than doubling the analyst estimate of $0.22 per share.

For the first quarter of fiscal 2005, RIM expects to earn $0.35 to $0.50 per share -- $0.50 to $0.65 on a pro forma basis -- on revenues of $220 million to $240 million. Analysts had expected earnings of $0.23 per share on revenues closer to $160 million.

The company cited "strong execution and momentum in [its] carrier channels" for the performance.

Not three months ago, Barron'spanned the stock near $27, after the then-profitless company's stock price had rocketed from a March low of just under $11 per share. At the time, RIM's $340 million in trailing annual sales didn't seem to justify its $2.1 billion market cap. But with RIM's explosive performance and heightened expectations, the stock suddenly doesn't look so expensive.

Beyond earnings, the company is in great shape, with $531 million in cash and investments and negligible debt. RIM also recently had the not-so-meaningful validation of being added to the Nasdaq 100. With a growing list of business partners and clients -- which includes PalmSource(Nasdaq: PSRC), Nokia(NYSE: NOK), IBM(NYSE: IBM), Vodafone(NYSE: VOD), and now Sony Ericsson (a licensing agreement announced yesterday) -- Research In Motion may have a very bright future.

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More Fool News

For all today's stories, see Today's Headlines.

And Finally...

You might think of stock as pieces of paper or financial assets, but it's really much more than that. When you buy stock, you buy a business. David Forrest advocates that you approach investing as if you were Buying the Whole Company. If that sounds like too much commitment, David Nierengarten thinks he's found an Undervalued Biotech. Of all things.

Bob Bobala, Robert Brokamp, Paul Elliott, Mathew Emmert, Jeff Fischer, Jeff Hwang, Tom Jacobs, LouAnn Lofton, Alyce Lomax, Bill Mann, Selena Maranjian, Dave Marino-Nachison, Rex Moore, Rick Munarriz, Reggie Santiago, Dayana Yochim