The Breakfast Table

No News Is Dull News

Dear Paula,

What a day to have to do this. The papers are dull, dull, dull. I’ve read the Times, New York Post and the Journal, and there’s precious little of interest going on in the world. Why can’t we get news that would give us something to work with? (Are you listening Mr. Gates?)

The Journal reports that NATO has plans for a non-invasion invasion. Ground troops to enter a “semi-permissive” environment. Hope the Serbs get the message and put up semi-resistance.

Campaign fever is beginning. Elizabeth Dole has shown true courage. She has boldly announced that she will do the risky thing and … reappoint Alan Greenspan as Fed chairman. Alas, she seems not to have realized that this decision will be Clinton’s to make, since it happens next year. Now, if she means she’d do it again, after the next election, Greenspan will be around 80 years old then. With or without Viagra, that seems retirement time to me.

By the way, on your last missive yesterday: p/e ratios are certainly high by historical measures. But, in fact, many of the new technology companies have grown at 30 and 40 percent a year; it might make sense to bet that others will also do this. And there are those who argue that historical measures are irrelevant in the wondrous new economy. Stocks have usually been subjected to a “risk premium,” but they are not, in fact, riskier than bonds. Now that people are realizing this, stock prices will rise until the risks are equivalent. James Glassman makes this case in great detail in a forthcoming book titled, are you ready, Dow 36,000!!! Slate has assailed his math in getting to that number (click here to read article), but the general point is that the high p/e ratios we’ve seen in some sectors are not simply an instance of tulip-mania.

Anyway, at least we agree on David Hare, who is for my money the most overrated playwright around. Forget the politics, his plays are just dull, dull, dull.