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
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
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
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.