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1. The Ultimate Drivel Machine

Only three weeks ago, we at The Five Dumbest Things Research Lab railed against

the annoying ubiquity of the phrase "deja vu" at

The Wall Street Jounal.

Fat lot of good it did us.

Yes, even though sources say Wall Street's Paper of Record subsequently urged its writers and editors to keep their deja vus to a minimum, advertisers haven't gotten the message.

Either that, or they just don't care.

Yeah, that's probably it. As our research indicated last week, spending a few thousand bucks on a full-page ad gives advertisers the privilege to run whatever egregious content they desire.

Anyway, here's how German automaker BMW this week trumpeted that a BMW-sponsored team had won its fourth big race: A caption reading "Deja deja deja vu." (Accents grave and aigu omitted.)

Doh! Deja Vu Anew
Did ya think deja was going away, did ya?

We don't know what's more irritating -- the deja vu repetition, or the blatantly ungrammatical headline below it: "BMW.WilliamsF1 Team wins their fourth Grand Prix."

What's happening here, guys? Is it that the team

wins its

fourth race, or that the folks on the team

win their


So much for that legendary German attention to detail.

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2. Fanfare for the Common Mangia

We lab rats love to tease Profound Economic Trends from the flimsiest shreds of evidence we can find.

Sure, it's not as accurate as drawing conclusions from exhaustive and extensive economic data. But it's a lot more fun.

Today, we return to a research category particularly dear to our hearts: the Macroeconomics of Fast-Food Pricing.

You'll remember, perhaps, our ground-breaking work on the



Happy Meal as a

deflationary indicator, and our follow-up research on



pancake promotions.

Now we bring you an extremely Wall Street-specific issue: the price of coffee at Mangia.

Mangia, for those of you who haven't visited the neighborhood, is a high-class cafe with high-class prices at 40 Wall Street -- only a few steps away from the

New York Stock Exchange

. At lunchtime, the place runs a popular salad bar -- though calling Mangia a salad bar is like calling a Rolls-Royce a car. Quality comes at a price. If you're worried you'll spend too much, you're patronizing the wrong retailer.

Coffee Futures

But because Wall Street is paved with gold -- other people's gold -- money is never a problem.

Or so we thought.

See, a week or two ago Mangia launched an unheard-of promotional offer: Spend $2 on any purchase between 7 a.m. and 11 a.m., and coffee is free. That 10-ounce cup that usually costs you $1.25 -- 75 cents more than the standard entry-level coffee-cart price out on the sidewalks of New York -- is free.

This is scary. Once Mangia, like Rolls-Royce, starts competing on price, something is very wrong indeed.

Unfortunately, we aren't sure what that something is. Is Mangia's promotion simply a reflection of seasonality? After all, anybody with enough money to eat at Mangia has most likely deserted the city for the summer.

But we at the lab don't remember similar promotions in previous summers. In fact, this coffee giveaway is unprecedented, according to the lab's former vice president of coffee, Erle Norton -- a man who for several years visited Mangia on a daily basis.

So maybe, with this giveaway, we're looking at a deflationary indicator. Or a leading indicator of further declines in the market. Or maybe the sign of a bottom -- a caffeine capitulation, if you will.

In other words, we have no clue. If you've got a strong opinion on the subject, let us know.

3. Getting Clocked by the National Debt

Speaking of our readers' strong opinions, one of them has sent us what we believe to be crackerjack stuff.

Yes, Bob Clark of St. Louis has cleared our rigorous peer review process with his out-of-the-box follow-up to our previous item about the Bush administration's

understatement of the budget deficit.

Clark, visionary that he is, theorizes that the resulting increase in the national debt isn't all that much. And how does he figure that out? Why, he starts with the age of the universe, for no good reason.

To Boldly Go Where No Deficit Has Gone Before

Over at the NASA Web site, points out Clark, one learns that

the universe is 13.7 billion years old, plus or minus 200 million years.

Meanwhile, one can get an estimate of the U.S. national debt at the

National Debt Clock Web site.

Using these numbers, Clark calculated that as of July 18 -- the date he submitted his paper for publication -- the U.S. national debt was a mere $1.34 for each day that has passed since the birth of the universe.

"From that perspective," writes Clark, "it doesn't seem too bad, does it? Especially since the anticipated $455 billion deficit will raise that number by only 3 cents -- making it $1.37 per day for all the days that have ever been.

"Maybe," continues Clark, "the spin-meisters should average the national debt over the life of the universe. After all, you could argue that it took that long for us to get into this mess.

"One wonders," he concludes, "if it will take equivalently long to getout of it."

4. Call Girls at Verizon. And Talk Dirty to Them.

The next time you call your phone company to discuss your bill, perhaps you'd better make sure the kids are out of the room.

That's what we at the lab conclude after reading an article in the

St. Petersburg Times

this week about




It seems that Verizon, in a letter informing certain customers of a rate increase, printed the wrong number for its own customer service line, mistakenly substituting the area code "888" for the correct "800" prefix.

Letter recipients who dialed the wrong number, says the


ended up at Intimate Connections, an adult chat line that greeted callers with the message, "If you are under 18, you must hang up now."

Ooohh. Bad Verizon. Very bad Verizon. They deserve such a spanking. And if you call us up at the research lab, we'll let you listen to us do it, at a cost to you of only $2.99 per minute.

5. Thankfully, He Didn't Say Whether It Was a Brazilian

It's a great country, America. Minor celebrities named

Gopher can get elected to Congress. A professional wrestler can be governor of Minnesota. And Arnold Schwarzenegger can run for governor of California.

Arnold Waxes on Politics
Well, it is California

That being said, we at the lab have been rolling our eyeballs nonstop over something Schwarzenegger said when he announced his candidacy on

The Tonight Show

Wednesday evening.

You can probably guess what it was: Schwarzenegger's comment to Jay Leno, "You know, it was the most difficult decision that I've made in my entire life except the one in 1978 when I decided to get a bikini wax."

Oh, shut up. We're talking serious stuff here: a $38 billion state budget deficit, a local economy that's sinking into the sea and the rerunning of a major election less than a year old.

Yes, we presume that Schwarzenegger understands the gravity of the issues that California faces, but comparing elected office to a bikini wax is a lousy way to do it. We have little doubt that Schwarzenegger's comment will go down in history as one of the most regrettable comparisons of superlatives since Ted Turner said -- upon the announcement of the deal to create

AOL Time Warner


-- that he cast his vote for the deal "with as much or more excitement and enthusiasm as I did on that night when I first made love some 42 years ago," according to the FDCH eMedia transcript.

Yes, even a lightweight like Ronald Reagan knew when to act serious. Let's hope that Schwarzenegger's bikini bottom represents the low-water mark of the campaign, dignitywise.