The Dot-Com Debacle

Truth tends to win out in the end, and the ambitious

entrepreneurs of New York’s Silicon Alley, who just yesterday were poised to

become Masters of the Universe, are in the very public process of painfully

learning that it takes more than an idea and a modem to create a business-or

even to make a decent living. The Wall Street Journal reports that out in California’s Silicon Valley, casualties

of the dot-com collapse have begun to turn

on each other, frantic to assign blame. The entrepreneurs blame the venture capitalists; the venture

capitalists blame the Wall Street analysts; the employees blame the entrepreneurs; everyone blames the day traders.

Similar finger-pointing is taking place in New York, where last year’s

hot-ticket Internet companies are cooling off and disappearing at a staggering

rate, sending a generation that went

to work each morning in T-shirts running to Brooks Brothers for gray

pinstripes.

But speculating about who is to blame is missing the main

point, which is that the overwhelming majority of the dot-com companies were

profoundly absurd investments in the first place. There is nothing mysterious

about the current plight of the many thousands of people who poured their money

into the Web, or who left stable employment for a “dream job” at Internet

start-ups. Anyone who took the time to look carefully at the hyped-up I.P.O.’s

of the past several years would have seen that they were smoke and mirrors.

Forget earnings; indeed, one cannot be sure that even those dot-coms which did

manage to survive will ever earn a dime. If one wishes to assign blame as the

Nasdaq trickles along at around 2,000-down from highs of over 5,000-one could

do worse than to fall back on that ageless dictum: A fool and his money are

soon parted.

What does all this mean for New York? The downfall of the

dot-coms may be a good thing for the

long-term health of the city, as we witness a return to the values of

work and patience, and as young professionals realize there is virtue in

holding a job instead of hopping from one so-called “opportunity” to another.

After all, earning a salary, rather than depending on options and playing the

markets, is where the smart money always places it bets in the end.

Edison’s Bright Idea

The travails of New York’s public school system are

legendary, and need no summary here. Suffice to say that something has been

wrong for decades. And yet, the system defies attempts at reform.

Chancellors-good and bad-come and go, as do Mayors. And nothing changes: News

of poor reading scores, horrendous conditions, union politics and unyielding

bureaucracy has become as familiar as the weather report and sports scores.

Schools Chancellor Harold Levy wants to try something new.

He has invited Edison Schools, a for-profit business that manages 100 schools

in 45 cities, to take over five poorly performing elementary schools. The plan,

however, is contingent on the approval of parents. The threshold is high:

Edison will need the approval of more than 50 percent of each school’s parents.

At Mr. Levy’s direction, the Board of Education would like to mail ballots to

the parents. A state Supreme Court justice, however, has halted the process.

Opponents are hoping to stop the plan outright.

Students at Edison

schools around the country have shown marked improvement on standardized

tests, and 85 percent of Edison parents give the schools a grade of A or B. And

it’s important to remember that Mr. Levy is hardly attempting to impose his

view on the schools. He is asking parents to make the decision. This is too

much for some self-styled community organizations. One such group, the New York

chapter of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), is an egregious inflamer of racial

and class tensions. ACORN officials can’t stand the thought of parents

making unauthorized decisions. They prefer the status quo; it gives them

something to protest.

No surprise that they have found an ally in Al Sharpton, a

bigoted charlatan who doesn’t blink to advance his own agenda at the expense of

city children. He is joined by Hazel Dukes,

a political hack who disgraced the Dinkins administration until she

finally disappeared into deserved obscurity. She has reemerged, only to show

she has learned nothing since her last public utterance. She said that

Chancellor Levy should “be put in a dungeon.” Why are ACORN, Ms. Dukes and Mr. Sharpton so afraid of letting

these parents, most of them minorities, decide how their own children

will be educated?

If the measure of Mr. Levy’s proposals is the character of

his opposition, one can only conclude that he is on to something.

Kids, Soda and

Obesity

One out of every four children in America is obese,

according to an accepted definition of the

term. The number of obese children in the country has increased more than 100

percent during the past 20 years. New evidence just published in the British

medical journal The Lancet suggests

that one major cause of this troubling national trend may be sitting in the

family refrigerator: soda. Researchers who studied a group of more than 500

children ages 11 and 12 in Massachusetts found that an extra soft drink a day

gave children a 60 percent greater chance of becoming obese. This held true no

matter what kinds of foods the children ate, how much exercise they got or how

much TV they watched. Just adding one soda per day to the amount they had

previously been drinking put them squarely on the road to obesity.

The scientists speculate that the human body has trouble

dealing with intense concentrations of sugar in liquid form. Perhaps soda

manufacturers should be required, like the makers of cigarettes, to post a

warning label on their product: “Drinking soda has been shown to cause obesity

in children.” Meanwhile, the European custom

of letting kids have a glass of wine every now and then is starting to

look positively wholesome.

The Dot-Com Debacle