It might seem callous to think of Middle East turmoil in terms of its effect on the U.S. economy, but that's just the way Mr. Market is: Fear of rising oil prices contributed to what's been a crummy week for stocks. If you haven't already read or heard a dozen stories about how the misery and suffering on the other side of the world might impact the cost of your summer road trip, here's one. And here's what else happened this week.
Settled Account? Perhaps buckling under the awesome pressure brought to bear by Lou Dobbs (see below), the Justice Department is now reportedly open to striking a settlement with Arthur Andersen. Details are somewhat puzzling. The firm would supposedly have to admit that it "illegally" shredded documents, but it might not have to actually plead guilty. Meanwhile, big congratulations to Aldo Cardoso, just named to the highly coveted position of Andersen's new acting CEO. Enjoy.
H-P, Without H: Walter Hewlett will not be re-nominated to Hewlett-Packard board of directors, after fellow board members found something "adversarial" in his decision to sue the firm in a last-ditch effort to block the Compaq merger that he so vigorously opposed. The anti-deal Web site is still up and running, though it doesn't seem to have been updated lately.
Cloudy Forecast: One of the things that I miss about the long-departed Internet boom era was the endless proliferation of pie-in-the-sky forecasts from "expert" firms, like Jupiter. The sunny projections churned out by that firm and its ilk were repeatedly in media stories and stock prospectuses, despite their high wild-guesswork component. Well, here's something the seers at Jupiter apparently didn't see coming—they're running out of money! Who would have predicted that? (Thanks to Bizquick for the link.)
A Host of Dobbs Critics: Multiple reports point to the shocking revelation that Moneyline host Lou Dobbs has pro-business tendencies. The more substantial complaint is that he has filled the "commentary" portion of the show with criticism of the Justice Department's decision to indict Arthur Andersen without disclosing that he's received speaking fees from the firm or that it was once the sponsor of another Dobbs show. Furthermore, a media-watchdog type complains: "It would be very easy for people who watched this mixed role to think that they were not getting information that might run counter to what Lou Dobbs's editorial perspective was." Since no proof or even accusation is offered that Dobbs ever actually suppressed anti-Andersen information or misrepresented facts, should we be concerned that he's expressed opinions that sort of hint that he might have done so, or that maybe he will someday? Perhaps such worries on the part of Moneyline watchers might be an excellent clue for them to look elsewhere for whatever information they think they're missing. And in that case, hasn't Dobbs actually done such viewers a favor by making his point of view explicit? Would it somehow be better if he were suppressing news that didn't agree with his opinions—but never told you what those opinions were? If it gets hot enough for Dobbs, maybe CNN could replace him with Louis Rukeyser. Speaking of whom …
A Friend Writes: "Say, why don't you take over for Rukeyser? You could play outre music and drink beer and have counterintuitive guests. You could dismiss every analyst's predictions with a snarky trademark putdown."
MONEYBOX: So, Jeremy, are we going to be seeing a resurgence in the health-care sector by Christmas?
JEREMY: Well, it certainly would seem—
MONEYBOX: I'm sorry, where did you say you went to school again?
JEREMY: Uh ... um ... school? You mean college? Undergraduate? I ... uh ... I went to school in Boston. Harvard. I received my BA in economics at Harvard in 1981, and then a Masters ...
MONEYBOX: What makes you think you know so much, Harvard-boy? [Cue Os Mutantes record; fade out.]
Recommended (Special Texas Edition): Fajitas at the original Ninfa's, on Navigation, in Houston. Fatty beef brisket at Smitty's barbecue in Lockhart, Texas. Kreuz Market is also great, of course, but I prefer the atmosphere at Smitty's, and we were there as recently as last week, while it's been over a year since we've been to Kreuz. Live set by Norah Jones on KCRW's Morning Becomes Eclectic—a stretch, I suppose, since that's a Santa Monica radio station, and Jones is now based in Brooklyn, but she grew up in the Dallas area, and it's traditional to claim any musician with any Texas connection at all as a "Texas artist." And finally: Go, Astros! (I can dream, right?)