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The Five Dumbest Things on Wall Street This Week

1. The Lady and the Trump

Want to be like Donald Trump? Well, do so at your own peril.
You're ... Fricasseed
Money money, Martha!


Now, we're not referring simply to his bizarre hairstyle. Nor are we talking just about his management style -- specifically, the style that led Trump Hotels and Casino Resorts into bankruptcy.

No, we're thinking of Wednesday's announcement that Martha Stewart, following her release from federal prison, will star in a spinoff of the Trump-centered reality TV franchise The Apprentice.

Yes, soon after Stewart is released from jail in March, a gaggle of executive wannabees will vie on-camera for a position at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia (MSO).

Well, as much as people are rooting for Martha's rehabilitation, and as much as her company's stock has soared while she's been in prison, we just don't get it. The Apprentice: Martha Stewart, we suspect, will go the route of previous Apprentice-copycat shows starring Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and British adventurer/entrepreneur Richard Branson: It'll deflate faster than one of Branson's hot-air balloons.

See, the primal appeal of The Apprentice is the joy of watching a bunch of ambitious punks brutally fight over money in the presence of a guy who celebrates the culture of money.

But while Stewart, a former stockbroker, is indeed a moneymaker with a lot of drive, her public persona has nothing to do with money or ambition. It's all about family, friends, food, decorations and happy homes. Her public focus is on the good times that money can't buy -- happiness in a cozy home, not a rat-race workplace.

So we don't understand how you can have people ruthlessly compete with one another to be paragons of domesticity. It's too paradoxical to contemplate.

Nor do we see the appeal of watching the behind-the-scenes, no-nonsense businesswoman that Martha Stewart undoubtedly is. We prefer the gracious hostess that Martha plays on camera, even if it is an act.

No, we don't want Martha Stewart to star in a reality show. It's the unreality that is her genius.

2. Being Sold a Bell of Goods

What's sadder: The possibility that the venerable AT&T (T) brand could become a footnote to the voracious communications behemoth SBC (SBC)? Or the fact that no one cares?

Yep, it's kind of sad. AT&T is a historic company, one that is central to the development of communications in America. It played a highly respected, glorious role in the economic life of the 20th century.

But as much as we'd like to get upset about AT&T's passing, now that SBC has announced plans to buy Ma Bell, we find that we just don't care. The historic role of AT&T, we find, just doesn't translate into sentimental value.

We're not sure why. Maybe it had something to do with the ruthlessly efficient manner in which AT&T, in its prime, tried to stamp out all perceived intruders on its turf. This is a company, for instance, that had its lawyers spend about seven years to prevent a company from selling a piece of plastic you could snap onto the mouthpiece of a telephone handset. (AT&T insisted that the gadget, called a Hushaphone, would degrade its network.)

Under AT&T, you may recall, long-distance rates were far higher than the competition-induced rates people enjoy today. If AT&T had continued its reign, countless Americans likely would still be waiting until 11:01 p.m. on weeknights to make cross-country calls at a reasonable price.

Not that the SBC brand name gets us all warm and fuzzy. But AT&T strikes us as one of those classics of English literature we were supposed to read in college, but never did: Yes, it's highly respected, and it's been around for years. That doesn't mean we actually like it.

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