The Real World

Readers weigh in with thoughts and insights.
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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.

Keeping it Real

James Cramer

: In response to your column

Heralding the Brazilian Comeback, I'm left wondering where would the real be in December if the country continued with the (mis)managed float? Where will the currency finish up the year now that the financial leaders let it go? The narrow differential is the (Arminio)

Fraga

factor. Then again, who cares when stocks finish the year up 100%?

No wonder the Caipirinhas is the new in drink. If you can handle the acid in your stomach, its a great buzz, just like Brazil.

--

Richard A. Savage

(received 5/10)

About Brazil, it's

OK for trade, but don't join the cult. Brazil is the country of the future and always will be.

--

Wiley Choctaw

(received 5/10)

Knowing When to Say When

James Cramer

: In response to

Never Write Off AOL, imagine if Congress opens up the cable lines for any ISP. How smart will

AOL

(AOL)

look for walking away from that bidding war?

Kind of like knowing when to get in the market and when not to get in. Sometimes doing nothing is a better investment than getting in at the wrong time!

--

James Smith

(received 5/11)

The

bad news on AOL is out.

AT&T

(T) - Get Report

has made its "mark" on AOL. The stock has survived. AOL longs now wait for the news from AOL to come out.

Today's announcement is the first counteroffensive move on AOL's part. I think

Mary Meeker

knows something. I think she must've known about the announcement. Price weakness isn't enough for an upgrade. I suspect that AOL planned this with her. The two events may sustain the stock for a while.

--

Chris Kwak

(received 5/11)

Limiting the Power of Gold

Aaron Task

: In response to your article

There's Gold in Them There Black Helicopters, there can be no clearer indication of intentional central bank manipulation of the price of gold than the recent British central bank preannouncement of pending gold sales.

That announcement caused the price of gold to plunge $7. It is interesting to speculate what the real motive was for this announcement. I am left with the conclusion that some central banks fear a rise in the price of gold.

Strong gold, and its currency-stabilizing effect, would diminish the unlimited power of gold-selling central banks to create credit and money. They have held this power since the demise of the gold standard. These central banks are eager to have other central banks capitulate and join them.

Their uncertainty as to the correctness of their actions causes them to urge other nations to also abandon gold. This way there can be no return to an international currency system, even partially based on gold. They fear a future where nations with little or no gold reserves suffer through periods of currency uncertainty and devaluation, while nations with substantial gold reserves do not.

--

George Shinopoulos

(received 5/10)

Aaron Task

: I do believe there is a link here

not expressed in your piece.

I believe that the U.S. government knows very well that Y2K will be a disaster. Keeping the lid on gold prices will help to forestall the inevitable panic. While the mass media and the financial press are blithely ignoring the Y2K mess, the financial news will certainly report any sharp upward movement in gold prices. This would alert some folks to ask what was causing the price increase, and that there may be something to this Y2K stuff after all.

--

Les Holladay

(received 5/10)

Long Bond Outlook

James Padinha

: In response to your column

Why You Don't Want to Be Trading Bonds, I have been a frequent critic of your columns. Specifically your outlook on rates, in many cases vehemently.

I have thrown in the towel, sold my zeros, as we approach 6% on the long bond. While I am baffled by all of this, you have been right on target! I kept reading James Cramer anyway, as I felt although he was wrong his columns were always interesting.

I hate it when I am wrong, but I would rather be wrong than suicidal. Hence the reluctant sale of my zeros.

--

Jack Moolick

(received 5/8)

Keypads Are as Mighty as the Pen

Eric Moskowitz

: In response to your story

The Revolution Will Not Be Handheld, I'm concerned that you aren't adequately defining what you mean by a "handheld." Market shares for a variety of companies are compared, but the market is not defined. The article, and even the series, apparently limits itself to the vertical format pen-entry devices that lack hardware keyboards.

There are a great many devices out there that are handheld and have keyboards:

Hewlett-Packard

(HWP)

has an extensive line (Jornada 820, 680, 420 and 320);

Compaq

(CPQ)

and

Casio

have additional CE machines. The H-P 200LX long preceded the current Windows CE machines and is still on the market.

I'm concerned that many of your readers who don't follow this market will be misled about the true nature and size of the handheld market. Incorrect conclusions could be drawn from your market share analysis.

3Com

(COMS)

certainly doesn't own 77% of the market when all the handheld devices are considered. They may come away believing that the pen-entry device is the only type of handheld available, when a keyboard device might better meet their needs.

As for whether the revolution will be handheld, I believe it will be, but it will have a keyboard rather than a pen.

--

Victor Riley

(received 5/10)

History Will Tell Daytraders' Tale

Christopher Byron

: In response to your story

Daytrading Mania: Cash In on Momentum That You Help Create, I am a bull that has taken part in the type of investor behavior you poke fun at.

I started by subscribing to

TheStreet.Com

. Then I opened an account with

Ameritrade

(AMTD) - Get Report

. Before you know it, I'll be liquidating all my mutual funds because they are boring. I thought your story was an excellent and lighthearted piece making fun of our current stock-market craze.

It will be interesting to see if this story will be reprinted as a historical account of the behavior that led to a stock-market crash. Perhaps it's something our grandchildren will read in an American history class someday.

-- Jon Michelizzi

(5/6)

Christopher Byron

: I totally agree with

your viewpoint. In my mind, participation is really exciting enough, even though I can't make too much profit in this game.

In my opinion, the only winners in this game are the online brokers. They have no risk. However, the music will not stop before both the

NYSE

and

Nasdaq

extend their trading hours.

-- Ray Lai

(received 5/6)

AOL's Need for Speed

James Cramer

: In response to

Everyone Says AOL's a Loser, but Cramer's Not Worried, this issue is one of the biggest red herrings I have ever seen.

There is an existing solution for

AOL

(AOL)

and high-speed access. I know, I use it every day. I have a cable modem and a bundled ISP.

The cost to keep my AOL account is $9.95 per month if I use the cable modem as my access to AOL. This is worth it since I won't have to change my email address. I can swap files seamlessly with the individuals I correspond with on AOL and keep my kids happy about their AOL chat rooms.

Essentially, AOL has achieved critical mass as far as the subscriber base is concerned. And it is worth more than $9.95 per month for the convenience and content, despite having independent access means an ISP.

How many people really think that the great mass of AOL subscribers are going to balk at an extra $10 when the basic cable modem or ASDL costs $50 to $70 per month? If you can afford the cable, you can afford to keep the AOL, and you will think you are getting a bargain at half-price.

-- Dave Leary

(received 5/6)

James Cramer

: I think you are

wrong about AOL. AOL essentially competes with the Internet by bringing content in-house, providing proprietary software and protocols to access that content. It also provides a gateway to pass through to the Internet.

As access speeds increase, AOL must upgrade everything to keep up. Faster input speeds create greater demand for in-house content as well as greater expectations for pass-through performance. They get hit at all three points.

AOL's major asset is the uncyber-savvy public, whose numbers are probably decreasing as more people, young and old, get knowledgeable. AOL, in its current form, appears to have an incurable disease.

-- John Baycich

(received 5/6)

New Era Insight

James Padinha

: In response to your column

Employing a Little Foresight, why on earth are you so upset with the New Era types? They don't mean any harm. Just because inflation has not spooked the stock market doesn't mean they don't worry about it. Just because we're in an unprecedented, long-term, low-inflation growth era in our economy, it doesn't mean they don't believe it will go on forever. They are right-on about the differences during the great

Clinton

bull market! You probably think he had nothing to do with it, but whatever, deal with it.

-- Rick Singerman

(received 5/5)

Nike Ads Don't Add Up

Suzanne Kapner

: In response to

Ad It Up: Kids Still Don't Want to Be Like Nike, the big problem with the advertising is that it is too obscure and too cute. When was the last time you saw a

Nike

(NKE) - Get Report

ad that said wearing branded athletic apparel was cool? You have ads with coaches wearing suits instead.

If you watched the union meetings during the

NBA

lockout, you would have noticed that the athletes making tens of thousands of dollars in endorsements rarely ever wore Nike or

Reebok

(RBK)

apparel. Nike et al have lost the urban teen, who is switching direction every month. Remember

Fila

(FLH)

? Remember

Nautica

(NAUT)

? Remember

Tommy Hilfiger

(TOM)

?

The only thing wrong with Nike's shoe business is that it does nothing to make sure people think wearing a Nike branded shirt or jacket is "cool."

-- Robert Carr

(received 5/5)

Just Fine With priceline

I'm writing in response to the

letters on

priceline

(PCLN)

. I have never used priceline for airline tickets, but I can tell you that it has worked perfectly for hotel rooms. Recently I stayed at the

Renaissance

Chicago for $50. I have reservations at the

Sheraton

for $75. To my amazement, we stayed at the

Renaissance

in Springfield, Ill., for $30 just last Friday.

I am completely satisfied with this aspect of priceline.

-- Rick Czopp

(received 5/5)

Price Matters

Suzanne Galante

: In response to your

story about priceline.com, I've got to tell you I don't agree.

I think the majority of people in this world only care about price! Most people sacrifice quality to pay a lower price, except for people with a lot of money. They are the minority in this world.

-- Lisa Steinbach

(received 5/5)

Suzanne Galante

: I agree with your story

At priceline.com, Flash Trumps Flexibility, but as someone who has attempted to use priceline, I have a few additional comments.

  • Customer service is nonexistent. Need to actually talk to someone? I wasn't even able to find a phone number to call. I don't believe they have one.
  • Most airlines now have a way, usually for a nominal fee, to let you change or cancel a ticket. Not priceline. You purchase a ticket, and that's it! This lack of flexibility makes priceline unattractive.
  • priceline only allows one inquiry for a ticket price. Once my father submitted a request to fly at price X. I subsequently sent a request to fly at X plus. I received a curt email from priceline that a "request had already been submitted for this itinerary and I was only allowed one inquiry." Since my father and I only share last names, I believe this was a computer-generated message used to match last names. We use different ISPs and email.

Needless to say, I didn't buy my ticket from priceline. In my opinion, priceline isn't even right for price bottom-dwellers. The lack of flexibility, inability to connect to a human being and one-shot inquiries make the system far too limited for my use. I suspect most people, in time, will agree with me. priceline is a good short, not purchase.

-- Lynn Conant

(received 5/5)

Reduce Fees or Face Tough Times

Joe Bousquin

: In response to your story

Morningstar Chief Declares '99 Year of Active Managers, Don Phillips is right. The fund management industry is in for tough times as the public realizes how their fees are so far out of line with performance. If their fees and turnover continue, they will continue to fight the battle with one hand (a 3% disadvantage) tied behind their back.

Better for them to reduce fees and acknowledge that a

Wilshire 5000

fund should be the core of everyone's portfolio. But that is not likely to happen, nor are the majority of fund managers likely to beat the

S&P 500

or a Wilshire 5000 this or any other year.

-- Lawrence Weinman

(received 5/4)

The Market's Safety Net

James Cramer

: In response to your column

Looking for a Shake-Out, I'm wondering -- with all the 401(k) money and heightened participation in IRAs, can this market ever really crash? The statistics of the percentage of people who are in the market today vs. just five years ago are staggering. All you ever hear from most big fund managers is that they have too much cash. It seems like a big fund closes every week. Do they have any choice but to buy the dips?

I think this market is truly different from the ones before it. But maybe I'm just being naive.

-- Mike Barrett

(received 5/5)

Why Not SPY?

Tracy Byrnes:

In response to your article

QQQ Options Trading In Gray Area of Tax Law, the QQQ option tax debate doesn't affect me. I live in Canada and expect to be taxed just for breathing, so what difference would it make? But the article mentioned an important point: There are no

SPY

options.

What I want to know is why? Surely

Amex

could list them tomorrow, and there would be huge interest! I, for one, would be interested.

-- Mark Beddis

(received 5/4)

Nike Gets Cold

Suzanne Kapner:

I thought your article

Ad It Up: Kids Still Don't Want to Be Like Nike was very good and accurate. I have a 9- and 12-year-old, and they won't wear

Nike

(NKE) - Get Report

. The 12-year-old will only wear them for gym class -- that is, if I can find a pair on sale that is comfortable on her feet. She and her friends are into all fashion shoes. Believe it or not, they are satisfied with the styles at

Payless Shoes

(PSS)

. At $15 a pair, Mom will buy three pairs! In two months, their shoe sizes change anyway, so the more styles for the outfits the better.

My daughter refuses to pay $100 for any shoes, especially with the money she earns. She feels that half the cost of the shoes will go to the already wealthy

Michael Jordan

. Girls are tired of wearing Nike every day.

It might be a different story for the boys.

Vans

(VANS)

does have some pretty awesome styles for that Californian skateboarding crowd. We are talking about six-digit income for moms and dads. Nike is a great brand, but it has lost its total edge on the high school crowd.

-- Patricia Pieton

(received 5/3)

Aging Oracle

James Cramer:

In response to your column

Back Off the Buffett-Bashing,

Warren Buffett

has been a stud for several years, but his ignorance when it comes to the tech sector and the Net has cost his investors millions. This is no longer a

Coke

(KO) - Get Report

and

Disney

(DIS) - Get Report

market. And it will not be for the foreseeable future.

The reason that he is coming under such fire is because everybody is making baskets full of money investing in the Net. This has been the most explosive market nearly ever. There is so much money to be made, so much opportunity, and Buffett invests in Coke.

His time has passed. He was the man, but not anymore. Even you admitted in a previous column that you needed to change your style in order to keep up with the market. Shifting from small-cap value to tech mania. You have survived because of that decision. Buffett needs to come to the same realization that you did.

-- Tim Moriarty

(received 5/3)

James Cramer:

in response to the

Warren Buffett shindig in Omaha this week: When is someone going to ask what Buffett has done for them lately? His stocks have not done well recently; if and when he passes away, the fund would get cut in half. It's really a mutual fund that is priced at two times or more its net asset value.

He has such huge capital gains taxes embedded in the fund that he can't sell stuff like Coke or

Gillette

(G) - Get Report

, as he would owe $10 billion or more to the government. Wouldn't that make the government one of the biggest stakeholders in

Berkshire Hathaway

(BRK.A) - Get Report

? All I'm saying is if I'd bought shares in 1958, I would worship the ground he walks on. For shareholders nowadays, I don't see where the gains will come from.

-- Chris J. MacDonald

(received 5/3)