Dispatches > The Buzz

The Buzz

Issue: "Back to no future," April 22, 2000

REGULATION, DEBT, OVERVALUATION: WHAT'S HURTING NASDAQ?
Shooting down the tech stocks
Has gravity hit high-flying technology stocks? By the middle of last week the Nasdaq composite index, home of many high-tech stocks, had dropped to 3769.63, down 7.4 percent for the year. That may not sound like much, but consider that as of March 10 the Nasdaq was up 24 percent for the year at 5,048.62. Different analysts cited different causes for the drop. Some blamed Uncle Sam, arguing that the Justice Department's antitrust victory against Microsoft might embolden regulators to go after technology markets. Economist James K. Glassman, in The Wall Street Journal, argued that "investors, jarred by the Microsoft decision, have suddenly woken up to these threats of government intervention." Others blamed debt, specifically a recent spike in stocks bought on margin-i.e., with money borrowed from brokerages. When stock prices slide, those brokerages can make "margin calls," demanding that investors put up cash to cover loans. This leads to even more feverish selling, which can "turn a rational decline into something disorderly," as First Albany Corp.'s Hugh Johnson put it. Margin debt has soared recently, jumping 50 percent in the last six months. Still others said that tech stocks simply had been valued too highly. They welcomed the slide, predicting that it will bring some healthy skepticism to the technology market. "Investors will be more discriminating in their buying of technology and Internet stocks," said Alfred E. Goldman, chief market strategist at A.G. Edwards & Sons in St. Louis.

ups & downs of the week
New ballparks: Forget the annual spring debate over whether the baseball is "juiced," causing an inordinate number of homeruns; the buzz in major league baseball this year concerns the gorgeous new ballparks. The Giants' Pacific Bell Park (with a view from home plate of the Golden Gate Bridge), the Tigers' Comerica Park (which manages to make Detroit shine), and the Astros' Enron Field in Houston are a radical departure from the utilitarian, multipurpose concrete blisters from the Cold War era (WORLD, "Dethroning the Kingdome," April 8). The new parks represent one of the rare benefits of postmodernism: They are quirky and irrational-and in their own way, they show the quirky side of life, rather than the functional but lifeless stadiums of the past. Prospects for a pardon of President Clinton: In a Q&A with the American Society of Newspaper Editors, Mr. Clinton tersely said he was not "ashamed" of his impeachment and has "no interest" in receiving a pardon because "I am prepared to stand before any bar of justice I have to stand before." Speaking of his impeachment battle, Mr. Clinton said, "Let me tell you I am proud of what we did there. Because I think we saved the Constitution of the United States." Speaking of saving the constitution, The Buzz applauds federal judge Lynn Adelman, who last week upheld a Milwaukee-area man's right to make a presentation about creationism in a public-library meeting room. The West Allis, Wis., library's "Constitution Room is a designated public forum," Judge Adelman wrote. Attorney Erik Stanley, who represented Christian activist Christopher Pfeifer, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "The judge's decision, in effect, brought the constitution back to the Constitution Room."

MAN KNOWS NOT HIS TIME: M*A*S*H STAR DEAD AT 60
Larry Linville
Goodbye, Major Burns. Larry Linville, one of several actors whose career got a short-lived blastoff from the M*A*S*H TV show, died of cancer at age 60. He played the resident heel among the Korean War doctors on the show from 1972 to 1977. For Mr. Linville and other actors, the success of the show didn't push their careers much after they left. Like Wayne Rogers, Loretta Swit, Gary Burghoff, Jamie Farr, and William Christopher, he faded into obscurity. Mr. Linville appeared sporadically in minor movies and little-watched TV shows. At its start, M*A*S*H was a toned-down version of Richard Hooker's raunchy novel and the movie that followed. Quickly it became something far different. The show's network, CBS, had deliberately decided to shift away from its traditional hits like Gunsmoke, Mayberry RFD, and Lassie toward avant-garde product laden with hip left-wing message. No more Beverly Hillbillies; it was time to be relevant with a capital R. And M*A*S*H stayed on the air into the Reagan Administration.

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Faces

  • With top-flight SAT scores, Georgia homeschool twins Jerome and Jason Scoggins, 17, became the latest objects of college-recruiter affection. Scoring 1570 out of a possible 1600, Jason won a full scholarship to Oglethorpe University. His brother also garnered scholarship offers with a 1480 score. "I was afraid we were the rogues of the education community," Jerome told The Wall Street Journal.
  • While others tossed down drinks and tossed around beads and confetti at last month's New Orleans Mardi Gras celebration, Peter Kolb and others from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis handed out 25,000 buttons and distributed Bibles to police officers. The buttons listed a website, www.buttonup.org, that testifies to Christ as Lord. quicktakes
  • After President Nixon's diplomatic opening to China in the 1970s, the communist government gave pandas as a gift. Now that China has given campaign gifts to U.S. politicians, the pandas will have to be rented: $8 million for a decade. The Smithsonian Institution wants to pay that much to borrow two of the creatures from China. The zoo has a letter of intent and is working on the details that would reopen its empty Panda House, which was left unoccupied after Hsing-Hsing and Ling-Ling died in the 1990s.
  • Was Ralph Reed hired by Microsoft to influence George W. Bush? The former Christian Coalition leader has been quietly working to help the company in Washington for more than a year. A New York Times story reported that the hiring was an attempt to influence the Republican candidate in case he is elected president. Mr. Reed himself apologized for encouraging people to talk to the Texas governor about Microsoft, according to a statement from his consulting firm, Century Strategies. "Century Strategies should not have encouraged any citizen to contact Governor Bush," it read. "We should have been more sensitive to possible misperception and it is an error that we regret."
  • The confederate flag may be coming down from the South Carolina Statehouse dome soon. The state senate voted 36-7 to take the flag down. Opponents of the flag say it is a racist symbol, while supporters say it represents Southern heritage and honors Confederate war dead. The proposal would move the flag to a non-prominent place at a monument honoring Confederate soldiers.
  • Despite the embarrassing publicity, ABC is going ahead with an Earth Day broadcast that shows President Clinton being interviewed on global warming by movie star Leonardo DiCaprio. The interview had angered some at ABC who wondered why an actor was fulfilling a role usually handled by a journalist. And ABC brass had a public tiff with the White House press office over whose idea it was to do the interview. It's not clear how much of the reported 20-minute chat between the Titanic star and Mr. Clinton will make it on the air.

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