Of Marching, Mishmash and Bills

And other thoughts from <I>TSC</I> readers.
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TheStreet.com publishes selected email received by the publication and its staff members. To send an email intended for publication in this section, write to letters@thestreet.com and include your full name and city. Letters may be edited for length, style, clarity and accuracy.

Marching to a Different Beat

Marc Chandler:

In response to your column

Global Briefing: Marching Out of Step, you wrote "

Milton Friedman

, the patron saint of monetarism, argued that inflation is once and always a monetary phenomenon. While it sounds nice, in reality inflation is just as much a psychological phenomenon.

Fed

tightening is meant not to combat current inflation, which according to most measures of general price levels like the

GDP

price deflator and personal consumption deflators is quite benign. The Fed, should it move, will be targeting investors' inflation expectations."

You make light of Milton Friedman as if he doesn't understand a complex problem, which you believe you do. You are like the man playing poker, looking around to decide who is about to be taken by the pros -- and it is Friedman. Our current situation is tracking, as Friedman would explain it, not as a proponent of the Fed's Phillips Curve would predict.

--

Bennet S. Simonton

(received 8/9)

Making Sense of the Mishmash

James K. Galbraith:

In response to your column

In Politics, the Summer of Reruns, you begin with an exceptionally titillating gem by

Karl Marx

. Its relevance to the rest of the article is in doubt by the time we have retreaded

John Maynard Keynes

and

George McGovern

. Such a disarming admission at the end of an article isn't an excuse for being so unoriginal within its body.

U.S. politics is already an extremely confusing mishmash of ideas devoid of ideology, mandated by the constantly shifting demands of giving the people what they want. If

George W. Bush

has all but won the Republican nomination, it is because he has better handled the press and his own image. I wonder how the Democrats will muster the moral fortitude to attack his drinking and carousing?

Are radical propositions about reforming the Federal Open Market Committee, raising the minimum wage (again), abolishing the Social Security Trust Fund, putting children on Medicare, and restructuring the military supposed to make it simpler for Americans or any overseas well wishers to make sense of the whole shebang? It has been said that a camel is a horse designed by a committee, and it wasn't Marx! It sounds like we're on the way again to building a bigger, better camel.

I always thought that democracy wasn't designed to help people get things done, but rather to keep people from doing something stupid. You wouldn't know it watching this political process!

--

Dino William Ramzi

(received 8/9)

James K. Galbraith:

Thanks so much for your

refreshing views amid the usual terror of raising wages. I agree with you about

Bill Bradley

. All of it is clear and sensible, so of course it will be ignored unless there's some progressive oversight in regulating globalization.

I don't want to have to wait for

Bill Gates

to write checks for social security.

--

Laurie Stone

(received 8/8)

How 'Bout Bill Gates?

Adam Lashinsky:

In response to your column

The Hole Truth , given the market cap and the multiples, it seems that a new player or set of players needs to provide value as an "aggregator." But who has that kind of money to risk, other than

Paul Allen

?

--

Robert A. Zeek

(received 8/9)

The Net Glass Is Half Full

David Shabelman:

In your article,

Jobs Data, eBay Send Net Stocks Tanking, the real question shouldn't be "Where do Net stocks go from here?" but rather "Which Net companies are for real and which rose along with anything resembling a Net company?"

And those employment numbers that terrified everyone last week are tremendously good news for Net stocks as far as I'm concerned. The consensus was that about 200,000 new jobs would be created, and that number was crushed by about 100,000. This means approximately 300,000 more people may be able to afford computers and an Internet connection. So quit your whining and recognize a good thing when you see it!

--

David Coakley

(received 8/8)

Looking Into Apple's Core

Eric Moskowitz:

In response to your story

Apple Could Benefit From a More Colorful Retail Strategy, most people, in my opinion, do not understand

Apple

(AAPL) - Get Report

.

An Apple is not your typical PC, and the company can't be measured the same way you measure other computer companies. Most PC users have very little brand loyalty, while Apple's is rock solid. Apple users are very different than typical PC users.

For example, the average PC user will not upgrade his or her computer when a new model comes out. The average Apple user does so on a regular basis. When the G3 moved from 266 MHz to 300 MHz, users upgraded. Why? Because of the design and publishing market. This market drives Apple.

And Apple will never beat

Dell

(DELL) - Get Report

or

Compaq

(CPQ)

in sales. It's more like

Porsche

, which simply focuses on making great products for a small market segment.

--

Jeremy B. Smith

(received 8/8)

Content and Conduit

Spencer E. Ante and Scott Moritz:

In response to your story

Content vs. Conduit: Excite@Home and AT&T Clash Over Goals, if they don't do it, who will? I'm an

Excite@Home

(ATHM) - Get Report

customer and I love it. Especially their newer video content. This morning I watched a video clip from the weather channel giving my weekend forecast. You need the broadband conduit to feasibly offer this content. Therefore if they don't come up with the content themselves, no one will. Their video advertisements are also eye-catching and novel. I can't imagine having any other service.

--

David McFarland

(received 8/6)

Spencer E. Ante and Scott Moritz:

Internet users will desire more speed not content from their ISP. As people become more savvy they will stray from the canned products provided by the

America Online's

(AOL)

of the world. Internet users by definition are willing to search out the content they want.

Just get me there faster and cheaper, I'll figure out what I want.

Conduit definitely beats content.

--

Christopher Bondy

(received 8/6)

Response to Advice

James Cramer:

In response to your

Cramer's Rewrite of His 'A Piece of Advice' Column, paranoia reigns supreme in the investor relations office. You're stuck between a rock and a hard place because the Chairman and the CEO own you and are your first loyalty. The

SEC

's laws and regulations are filled with career and legal death traps. And as always, the shareholders are out there somewhere. The market makers are always grinning at you evilly and maniacally when you desperately need information that only they can provide. This is information that your Chairman has asked you to have by 3:00 p.m. They offer nothing of substance. Reporters are telephonically clawing at you to get exactly that information that the SEC will throw the book at you for giving, that is until it's in a release. The release first must be drafted, submitted and okayed by the Chairman and CEO, then vetoed by the attorney(ies). Ultimately this information will be put in a release for all to see at the same time, and all, all this is yours to manage. That's not even getting to all the street constituencies, the bankers and broker, analysts and assistants with attitudes.

So, do your job and they'll do theirs.

--

Larry Stark

(received 8/6)

Shorting the Tower

Jim Seymour:

I agree with your analysis in

How MP3 Will Break the Record Companies. But even at 99 cents per single, you need technology that can protect against piracy postdownload.

If some algorithm scientist can accomplish this feat, this technology would effectively control the downloadable music world.

Now, 99 cents is 99 cents.

Tower Records

et al. can be shorted. That's not so far-fetched.

--

Ted Pulaski

(received 8/4)

The Replacements

John Edwards:

About your poll on who should replace

Union Carbide (UK:NYSE) on the

Dow

: It should be

Microsoft

(MSFT:Nasdaq) but it never will be.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average is the worst of all indices. It is not an industrial average but an average of 30 stocks listed on the

NYSE

. Apparently the editors at

Dow Jones

(DJ:NYSE) don't think a company is important if it is listed on

Nasdaq

. They have had numerous opportunities to change their antiquated ways but have let each one slip away.

Unless the Dow adds not just one but four or five Nasdaq stocks, it will never again be an index of American industry.

--

Steven Steiglitz

(Received 8/4)

Trading Up

Gregg Wirth:

About your story

Waterhouse Exec Bounces Back From E*Trade, perhaps the larger question that should be asked of this new trend in "job-trading" is how will this affect the internal environment of these companies.

Considering the huge demand for high-tech management, especially on the new frontier of electronic brokerages, there is certain to be a large amount of job-trading that is really not based upon the job. Instead, it's based on the stock options and stock prices. The price of

E*Trade

(EGRP:Nasdaq) at the time of this executive's decision to leave

TD Waterhouse

(TWE:NYSE) was probably a good 25%-40% higher than its current price. Then check the value of the warrants or options on this stock at the time of the decision and it is easy to see why this guy came up with some lame excuse for his quick departure.

I think a lot of this job-trading only weakens companies in the long run. A prolonged downturn in high-tech stocks will only contribute to the slide in these companies' stock prices as the head guys exercise their shares and cash in on this bubble in the stock market. That, in turn, will affect the prices of the new guys who jump on board with the idea that all of these shares they have coming to them may eventually be worthless. All of this will be one of the chapters of the demise of our equity markets and will someday be blamed as one of the main reasons our economy suffered.

--

Peter Beckwith

(received 8/4)

The Fixed-Income Game

Elizabeth Roy:

In response to your column

What Makes a Bond Cheapest to Deliver Against the Futures Contract?, I am surprised to know there are actually people subscribing to

TheStreet.com

who care about what a cheapest-to-deliver bond is. As someone who makes a living trading this stuff I'd like to tell these readers: Find out about this as much as you want -- just don't try it at home. That's partly why fixed-income games will never catch a big crowd. This is the area in which amateurs, who are the driving force behind this great bull market, cannot win.

--

Tony Tang

(received 7/30)

Not Online Broken

George Mannes:

I'm writing in response to your article

As Net Stocks Tumble, Explanations Abound. In it, you write, "Some blame the IPO glut, others the seasonal weakness in tech stocks. And another group sees ominous signs in the weakening fortunes of online brokerages."

But are the fortunes of online brokerages weakening in fact? Where is the evidence of this? The report from the

Credit Suisse First Boston

analyst was concerned with volumes, not fortunes. I seem to remember exactly the same volume concerns in May and June, when everyone was saying how the low volume would reduce the profits of online brokers -- all to be proved wrong with the astounding second-quarter results of all major online brokerages!

I don't believe online brokerages are or will experience weakening fortunes this year or next, whatever happens to their share price from day to day. Thinner volume last and this month will probably be balanced by higher volume next month, and even if it isn't, I doubt this will cause disruptions to third-quarter earnings.

--

Dominic Crowe

(received 8/4)

Happy With Red Hat

Jim Seymour:

In response to your column on

Opportunity Ahead: Donning the Red Hat, Part 2, first a disclosure: I'm one of the people who received The Letter (the letter Red Hat sent out inviting free software contributors to participate in its IPO at the IPO price). Also a disclaimer: I don't speak for anyone else here, just myself.

I've written several thousand lines of code in the kernel and in other packages included with

Red Hat Linux

. I'm working on several more projects, including an innovative trace-and-replay debugger. I don't have a problem with Red Hat picking up my GPL'd work, putting it on a CD-ROM, and selling it for money. Far from it! I love it!

Here's why: When I work on open-source code, I write what I want to write, the way I want to write it. I have no agonizing compromises on quality in order to meet artificial deadlines. I have thousands of people available to read my work, appreciate it and send me enhancements and bug fixes. I get to work with other people who are happy to show me their beautiful creations.

My name goes on everything I write. Imagine how you would feel if you still kept writing for money but your employer systematically published your work with no bylines on it. That's how my daytime employers publish my work-for-hire.

Linus Torvalds

said it like this:

Q: Do you know how much money you could have made? A: I don't care about that. I know how much fun I've had.

These are powerful incentives to write software. They are so powerful that hundreds of skilled professionals will devote some of their time, as a hobby, to writing software for free. So long as I continue to receive those benefits, I'll continue being one of them.

You mentioned that

Bob Young

says that he "scrupulously plays by the rules" -- your words paraphrasing him. Indeed he does. Red Hat acknowledges the developer community: It provides money and hardware and employment opportunities; and it develops significant new open-source programs, such as its

RPM

package manager and the

GNOME

windowing system.

I'm not anti-money. It would be more accurate to say that in this part of my life, I'm agnostic when it comes to money. As for the values I do hold, Bob Young understands, respects, and contributes to them. I hope Red Hat makes a

ton

of money.

--

Michael Elizabeth Chastain

(received 7/30)

Wayne's Wampum

Aaron Task:

In response to your story

Would You Buy a Used Car From This Man? , you are 100% right on the money. When I heard all of the same things you and

Chris Byron

said, I found it hard to believe. What he is doing makes no sense businesswise. However, take a look at what Wayne does do very well, and that is what makes Wayne much wealthier. He bought the

Florida Panthers

and then turned around and sold the public almost half the company for over 80% of the cost of the whole thing. So now he has almost all of his money back, and for the small outlay owns an asset worth twice as much, and far more liquid to boot.

Same game has been played with the hotels he and his cohorts owned in Ft. Lauderdale. They were sold to

Extended Stay

for cash and stock, relieving them of loan payments but effectively controlling the assets. His game plan is simple. Sell some assets to the public for real money. Those dollars recover most of his out-of-pocket costs, and leave him with a huge paper asset that he can use however he chooses. The coming spinoff of the car rental agencies is a good example. Bought with Wayne's wampum, it will now become cash-valued assets i.e. public stock. Guaranteed, Wayne ain't gonna be poorer when this maneuver is done!

--

Herb Ashendorf

(received 8/2)

Yellow Jersey Stories

Cory Johnson:

In response to your story

Thomas Weisel, the Man Behind the Man in the Yellow Jersey, I just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed the piece about

Thomas Weisel

and

Lance Armstrong

. I'd read just a little about Thomas Weisel in a cycling publication but not enough to really know much about the guy.

I felt like I was reading

Velo-News

when I was reading your article. Surely you must be a rider or racer yourself. I race in the masters category here in Texas. I'm always trying to justify my time away from work to train. I own a restaurant. I'm glad to hear guys like Thomas Weisel are as hard charging at work and play as I feel I am.

Anyway, great work and insight on what was a wonderful race and a great triumph for American cycling and cancer survivors everywhere.

--

Victor Leal

(received 8/2)