Letters from our readers.
June 5 1998 3:30 AM

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Lax Hacks Lack Facts on Paks

I'm glad to see you finally printed something about the nuclear arms race in South Asia ("The Week/The Spin"). I'm not sure why you waited a week. So much for the Web's unique potential for timeliness.

How typical that the piece was not something more educational. You could have given us a piece on the roots of the conflict, a discussion of how previous wars between the countries got started, a discussion of how the British supported the Muslims, etc. It's clearly more important to you that your magazine never be considered outside the spin than that your magazine be informative. By pursuing spin over context, you join much of the rest of the print media in reducing itself to the level of TV talk shows like Crossfire. But in the case of Slate, we not only get no greater context than we'd get from television--we actually get it in a less timely fashion. This is especially foolish considering the Web's capacity for instantaneous dissemination of information.

--J. Levy


The editors respond: William Saletan's piece "Cowboy Indians" first appeared in Slate May 18.

The Dividend of the World as We Know It

Please inform Clive Crook ("Dialogue: The Stock Market") that dividends are not the only "payouts" to be considered when valuing a stock. An investor can receive payouts beyond dividends by ... selling the stock. No valuation formula for stocks uses dividends for the future cash flows. That is not because everyone "implicitly assumes" companies pay out all their earnings. It is because everyone assumes that the value of the company, and hence the stock price, rises with earnings and that investors can capture this increase in value by selling. Crook mentions "capital appreciation," saying that his method will reflect it because "dividends are themselves growing along with the worth of the company." But companies take any number of different approaches to dividends, and their relationship to a company's worth is very inconsistent. Intel, for example, pays a token 12 cents a share. Imagine a company that paid no dividends but had $1 billion in earnings and expected growth of 20 percent a year. Would its stock be worthless? Of course not. This is all elementary, the financial equivalent of saying that two plus two equals four.

--Jim Collins


A Man of Substances

In David Plotz's "Assessment" of Hunter S. Thompson, he superciliously states: "There's something unbearably sad about a 60-year-old man who still takes drugs." Would it be as unbearably sad if he drank espresso or enjoyed a good bottle of wine? The worst part of the war on drugs is its hypocrisy. I was surprised to find it in Slate.

--Gary Meyer

Address your e-mail to the editors to letters@slate.com. Please include your address and daytime phone number (for confirmation only).