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Ben Stein sure has a knack for stirring up readers. And this week, he really struck a chord when he suggested the crash of the


was no accident


In fact, in

It's Time to Investigate Those Who Inflated the Bubble, Stein wrote that, as far as he was concerned, Nasdaq investors were fleeced as part of a



Stein, whose columns appear exclusively on

beginning Sept. 10, sees the worst stock market debacle of postwar America as a result of conspiracy, ignorance and greed. Oh, yeah. He also blames federal regulators.

And judging from the emails that streamed in, many "little guys" who got clobbered when the Nasdaq's bubble burst agree with him.

In his article, Stein blamed investment houses and mutual fund managers for selling pipe dreams to unwary investors, and Wall Street movers and shakers for vastly overrating Internet companies.

He also wondered what happened to the


. Instead of protecting investors, the cavalry was sleeping, Stein said. In summary, he would like a commission to determine just how the debacle was allowed to occur.

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Other than that, it was a pretty run-of-the-mill story. A snooze, I tell ya.

This Market Is for the Birds

We had a warbler migrate

into the office

on Thursday through a 15th-floor window. It found its way back out on Friday, at which point we could seal the windows shut again, and not a moment too soon. Something about this ugly market and windows being open high above Wall Street gives me the willies.

Investors whose portfolios have been hammered need a calm, rational voice to listen to their frustrations and understand their fears. Which is why Steven Hendlin's column,

Shrink Rap, is a brilliant stroke.

A clinical psychologist for 25 years, and an investor for 20 years, Hendlin on Wednesdays will answer investors' questions about psychological issues. In his debut this week, Hendlin said the psychology of trading "centers on understanding how your personality, moment-to-moment thinking, mental images, perception of events and flow of emotions affect your trading decisions."

Topics Hendlin may include in future columns include dealing with the pressures of trading, obsessive thinking, trading addiction, dealing with losses, perfectionist thinking, trader's block, improving concentration, neutralizing fear and greed, and balancing isolation and information overload.

So, from now on, on Wednesdays, the warbler will be out but the doctor will be in at


Let's Call the Whole Thing Off

So far, the big






merger has been

ripped by everyone except Carly Fiorina and Michael Capellas.

David Brail, a risk arbitrage expert, joined the clubbing this week in his story,

H-P, Compaq Deal Wins a Big Thumbs Down.

Brail said the proposed marriage between giants is such a bad idea that shareholders of both companies may best be served if the deal is blocked by federal regulators.

In terms of avoiding total embarrassment, Brail said that also may be the best thing for both Hewlett-Packard and Compaq as well. If the deal passes antitrust review, Brail suggests shareholders could vote it down.

"When companies know they are going to lose a vote, they simply call off the deal rather than suffer the humiliation of having to announce a losing result," Brail wrote. "Perhaps the management teams can persuade holders to support their deal. But if the vote were taken today, it's hard to conclude that anyone would be well served by seeing this merger close."

Block Out da Noise, Bring In da Value

Sure, times are tough. Just ask Carly. But they aren't disastrous. In fact, in

Five Stocks That Can Turn Times Into Opportunity, Turnaround Artist Arne Alsin reminded readers this week that the best time to buy stocks is in the midst of a recession.

Alsin, who has a terrific track record in identifying value stocks, believes a new cycle in equities is already in progress. He isn't sure that the indices are going to make much progress in the new cycle, but he is sure that investors can reap rewards by avoiding big-cap dogs and buying mid-cap keepers.

Companies he advised avoiding include

General Electric

(GE) - Get General Electric Company Report



(MSFT) - Get Microsoft Corporation Report

. His favorites include


(WHR) - Get Whirlpool Corporation Report


Liz Claiborne



Is it time to back up the truck and buy undervalued stocks? Alsin concluded by saying if it isn't, that time is near.