DISCLAIMER: THE FOLLOWING "Cost of Freedom Recap" CONTAINS STRONG OPINIONS WHICH ARE NOT A REFLECTION OF THE OPINIONS OF FOX NEWS AND SHOULD NOT BE RELIED UPON AS INVESTMENT ADVICE WHEN MAKING PERSONAL INVESTMENT DECISIONS. IT IS FOX NEWS' POLICY THAT CONTRIBUTORS DISCLOSE POSITIONS THEY HOLD IN STOCKS THEY DISCUSS, THOUGH POSITIONS MAY CHANGE. READERS OF "Cost of Freedom Recap" MUST TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR THEIR OWN INVESTMENT DECISIONS.
Bulls & Bears
This past week's Bulls & Bears: Gary B. Smith, Exemplar Capital managing partner; Pat Dorsey, Morningstar.com director of stock research; Tobin Smith, ChangeWave Research editor; Scott Bleier, HybridInvestors.com president; Patricia Powell, Powell Financial Group president, and Adam Lashinsky, Fortune Magazine senior writer.
Trading Pit: Madmen with Oil
The showdown between Iran and Great Britain hitting home and causing oil prices to soar. Madmen with oil — as those in Iran and Hugo Chavez in Venezuela — how much of a threat are they to Wall Street and Main Street?
Gary B.: They are a horrible threat and this has disaster written all over it! Chavez and Ahmadinejad are two power hungry dictators that despise the United States and control resources vital to our economy.
Tobin: They are not nearly as big of a threat as people may believe. When Hugo Chavez started his regime, Venezuela produced about 3 million barrels of oil a day. Now they're down to only 1.8 million. He talks a good game but doesn't have the oil to carry through these threats. Iran is importing more gasoline than anyone else because they can't create it! Ahmadinejad is smart and knows that the right price for oil is $65 or $66 a barrel.
Patricia: We should be worried! The supply and demand of oil is very tight worldwide. If you take out a major supplier, you could easily get a spike to over $100 a barrel or even a super spike topping $200.
Adam: There is no comparison between Venezuela and Iran. Chavez is an annoyance! He's somebody who is hurting his country by degrading their ability to produce oil. There is no way he can or will cut off oil to the United States. It would be the worst thing for his economy. Ahmadinejad is the one we should really be focusing on. Iran is a very big, scary country in a dangerous part of the world.
Scott: The two are devastating to world economies. They are jawboning the price of oil, by saying they can turn it off. Iran is a behemoth that can devastate world economies. This is why America needs to develop alternative energies.
Pat: Venezuela is just a fly in the ointment. Iran is the much bigger issue. Chavez and Ahmadinejad have set themselves up as regional leaders, which allows them to have bigger effect then if each acted alone. The longer these guys stay in power and keep selling oil, the more dangerous they become. They are the new leaders of South America and of the Shiites — neither of which are our friends.
Obama Charges President Bush of Social Darwinism
Senator Barack Obama, D-Ill., is accusing President Bush of what he calls "Social Darwinism". Here's what Obama had to say, "It's a strategy that we've seen this administration pursue over last 6 years, that basically says government has no role to play in making sure that America is prosperous for all people not just for some."
But is it the government's responsibility to make sure all of us are prosperous...or just that we have the opportunity?
Gary B.: I don't know what he's talking about — this "Social Darwinism". We already spend more per household than we ever have in the history of the United States. This entire country was founded on the belief that people make money on their own. Didn't we try to get away from the tyranny of the British government? This whole thing about the government "being our Mommy and Daddy" is just idiotic! It's going to kill this economy and kill the spirit of entrepreneurship that makes this country great.
Adam: Barack Obama did not say that it's government's job to make every citizen prosperous. He said that it's government's job to make a prosperous America for all of its people. That's exactly the same as, " life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness". What Obama said is not such an outrageous thing to say.
Pat: He may have a point. The left-wing Democrats believe in a large social safety net, unlike the bulk of the Republican Party. I think that the answer is somewhere in the middle.
Tobin: Government has a very important role: keep us safe, build the infrastructure, and encourage risk. Obama is a guy who has never created a job or a business. The biggest risk he's taken is running for office where he raised money from other people to elect himself! If he understood that taking risks is what made America he wouldn't spew such garbage.
Scott: It's not the government's job to make everyone prosperous. It is the government's job to create a foundation of opportunity that allows people to succeed. People are supposed to work toward success and climb up in society.
Patricia: I don't know what Obama is talking about. America is already doing this. Every child in this country has the right to free public education up to twelfth grade. There is a way for every student who wants to go to college to do so. You may not be able to go to Columbia and Harvard like the senator from Illinois, but there are many public and private schools around this country.
Batter up! Baseball season's first pitch is Sunday night. Our all-stars picked their home run stocks.
Tobin: Broadcom (BRCM)
Gary B: Abbott Laboratories (ABT)
Pat: Cheniere Energy (LNG)
Scott: Helix Energy Solutions (HLX)
Patricia: Wynn Resorts (WYNN)
Gary B's prediction: Nasdaq gets whacked! Down 10 percent in next 3 months
Scott's prediction: Wal-Mart's (WMT) is a bargain! Up 25 percent in one year
Tobin's prediction: Video of "MC Rove" is a big hit; Yahoo! (YHOO) up 25 percent
Patricia's prediction: Royal Caribbean (RCL) sails up 25 percent by end of 2007
Pat's prediction: FoxHollow Technologies (FOXH) makes gain of 50 percent in 2 years
Cavuto on Business
On Saturday, March 31st, Neil Cavuto was joined by Charles Payne, wstreet.com; Cheryl Casone, FOX business correspondent; Rebecca Gomez, FOX business correspondent; Chris Lahiji, Lahiji Inc; Todd Schoenberger, USAA Brokerage; and Danielle Pletka, American Enterprise Institute.
Neil Cavuto: Tensions mounting in the hostage crisis between Iran and the UK. A standoff between the two countries is now in its second week. If this turns into a military confrontation over there, what happens to the stock market over here?
Rebecca Gomez: The market tanks. It'll be volatile. The 416-point drop we saw a few weeks ago won't be anything. Oil prices will likely soar to $100 / barrel.
Neil Cavuto: On the first incidence of violence, you're saying?
Rebecca Gomez: Absolutely. Look at last summer. There were just mere threats and we topped at $78 / barrel. Some supply disruptions from Nigeria may have also played a role. But, if we actually have military action between the west and Iran, we're going to have a huge market drop.
Danielle Pletka: Well, I don't think we're going to have any military action between the west and Iran. Neither the Iranians nor we, and certainly not the British are interested in military action right now. We've got a lot on our plate. What we really want to do is ratchet up the pressure on the Iranians. The oil markets will settle down because of that.
Cheryl Casone: I think the oil markets are already pricing in the belief that we're not going to have any military action in Iran. Ahmadinejad's has to import 40 percent of the gasoline consumed in his country. The traders I'm talking to are saying that Ahmadinejad would be cutting off his foot if he cuts off ties. If he continues this game he's playing with the US and the UK, he's going to hurt his own people. He can't have that. There's not going to be military action. Having said that, the threat does play into traders' minds. And there are also some issues in Nigeria this week that made prices go higher. But $100 / barrel? No.
Neil Cavuto: You know, Charles? All I know is the price of Ahmadinejad's greatest commodity keeps going up. He's gotten richer.
Charles Payne: Definitely. But what I'm really concerned about is that this is a cautionary tale for America. A lot of our friends don't like us any more in part because we don't allow the world to dictate how we use our military. Britain once had the greatest, most powerful navy in the entire world. Now look what it has been reduced to. I'm really afraid of what's going on over there and the fact that Europe won't be able to defend itself. I think this is a prime example. This goes beyond the situation with oil. I think Iran is telling the world that Britain was once a great, mighty, imperialist country, and it can't handle us. And I think people who think Brussels should dictate how we deploy our military need to wake up.
Neil Cavuto: Todd, is this a wakeup call? If so, is Britain ignoring it?
Todd Schoenberger: Well, it could be a wake up call. But here's the thing. Iran has a very enviable business model. And this threat, taking UK hostages, is clearly going to spike oil prices and increase Iran's revenue.
Neil Cavuto: How much more from the upper-60s?
Todd Schoenberger: Oh, we would definitely test the highs from last July. And that was when we actually saw military conflict. You can't help but think we're going to go higher than $80 / barrel, and that's going to lead to higher prices at the pump.
Neil Cavuto: Chris, if that were the case. Even the rumor that things might get dicey sent prices up during after-hours trading on Tuesday, March 27th. We will see that kind of trade fear again?
Chris Lahiji: Of course we will. People are trying to juxtapose this hostage situation with the Iranian hostage situation from 1979. I don't think this situation is as significant as the 1979 situation. I think Iran is just doing this as political grandstanding. They're trying to flex their muscles. If we wait a month or so, they'll let all those soldiers go back.
Charles Payne: Chris, I have to disagree. This is actually more significant than taking some students hostage. This is military personnel. This is much more significant than 1979. And the markets are very nervous about it. I agree with most of panel when they say this won't end up in war. But, this is an extremely serious situation.
Cheryl Casone: But Charles, the markets do not believe military action is going to happen. And that fear was already priced in.
Neil Cavuto: I can remember the '79 situation. The markets also thought that would be short-lived. Four-hundred-forty-four days later…
Rebecca Gomez: The markets have no control right now. And I think Tehran is testing the waters. If the West is going to the UN instead of taking direct military action, maybe Tehran is saying we have a lot of power and influence over their economies.
Cheryl Casone: But Ahmadinejad would not risk alienating his own people. He needs their support right now.
Rebecca Gomez: It's a dictatorship, Cheryl!
Neil Cavuto: And nothing rallies your people like fighting the evil West. What's the fallout for us?
Danielle Pletka: We shouldn't fool ourselves into thinking this is their problem. The Iranians are testing. They're not worried about the UK.
Neil Cavuto: Who are they testing?
Danielle Pletka: Well, they're testing everyone. They're testing the international community. They're testing the United States. They're testing the European Union.
Neil Cavuto: But the international community basically said "Don't you do this! We don't think it's very good to do." I'm trivializing it, but it was a trivial response.
Danielle Pletka: Well, of course Neil. There's no question that when you say "international community" you're talking about the lowest common denominator response. But at the end of the day, if we don't respond forcefully, the Iranians are going to keep poking at us. They may stop short of pushing us over the edge, but we need to assure them that we're not going to tolerate this sort of thing. And we need to stand beside the British as we do it.
Neil Cavuto: Todd, Charles raised a good point earlier, that this is more than a test of wills between Iran and Britain; that it might be a chance for Iran and other countries to size up the West. If it ends up diplomatically, which we hope is the case, they're going to say, "You know, the West is a bunch of wimps." What do you say?
Todd Schoenberger: Neil, they've been testing us for some time now. They've threatened nuclear weapons. They've threatened war. There are several other instances in the past 12 months. They're not dummies. Tehran knows that with the Taliban out of the way, they can be the premier country over there.
Head to Head
Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott on his company's big worry – gas prices:
From Tuesday, March 27th
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
Neil Cavuto: Let me ask you about this gas price connection to your sales. You were telling me something interesting during the break, that there is a clear correlation.
Lee Scott: Clear correlation. It's the greatest correlation in Wal-Mart's store sales. It's not the unemployment rate, inflation rate, housing starts, or anything else. It is the change in fuel price. If you think about how many people today live paycheck to paycheck, which are a lot of people, and they are barely making ends meet. When they put more money in their tank that is less that they have to spend at a Wal-Mart store.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
Neil Cavuto: That struck me as the most amazing thing in that interview: Lee Scott telling me that he's worried big time about gas prices.
Cheryl Casone: I think gas prices hit near-record levels this summer. Inventories have been down for several weeks straight. And we saw gas prices spike in the spring, more than we usually do. I think Lee Scott has a point about the consumer. But, I think it's more a confidence issue, not so much a money issue.
Chris Lahiji: Neil, this is the only time you'll see me agree with Mr. Scott. I absolutely, 100 percent agree. What people don't understand is 40-million people are living in poverty in this country. Twice that number are living paycheck to paycheck. When gas rises, they have less to spend. When people are spending less, it leads to a slowdown.
Rebecca Gomez: The people who live paycheck to paycheck are not a huge population. There are a lot of people who are doing very well right now. The unemployment rate is very low. But people who shop at Wal-Mart and live paycheck to paycheck will have a harder time buying their basic needs if gas prices go up.
Todd Schoenberger: What's the tipping point? When we were at $2.50 a gallon, everyone said $3.00 would stop the U.S. economy. We hit $3.00 and it became $3.50. We hit $3.50 in some parts of the country last summer. Nothing can stop the resilience of the US economy. But granted, for Wal-Mart consumers, they could take a hit.
Charles Payne: I agree with Todd. Look at retailers in general for the past couple of years. These stocks have been flying high! Here's the interesting thing: Gas is up 39 percent since January 2005. Wal-Mart's stock is down about 20 percent, but Target's stock is up 11 percent. So there are some company-specific issues there. I used to be a believer that there was a correlation, but I see often that when crude oil is up, the stock market is up.
Exclusive Interview with Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott
From Tuesday, March 27th
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
Lee Scott: Our workers get very upset about the company being attacked all of the time because they work in the store. They know how they're treated. They know what the opportunities are. They know what job they had before they started at Wal-Mart. They knew what the benefits were and the pay. So they know they are better off. So yes, and what they want me to do is to speak out, whether it be on programs like this or in the press or wherever. They want Wal-Mart to speak out.
Neil Cavuto: Why don't you?
Lee Scott: I do.
Neil Cavuto: But not a lot.
Lee Scott: Oh, much more than I'd like.
Neil Cavuto: The reason why I mention this is, as you know, image is everything and perception becomes reality, and, I guess what I am asking you is whether this has any personal fallout for you? You are trying to run this behemoth. You are trying to save customers money. And you get slapped around a lot.
Lee Scott: No. This is… it is a great company that provides a great service, not only in this country, in Mexico, Nicaragua, Argentina, Brazil, China, in causing people to be able to live better, both the associates and our customers. We have critics who want us to be a better company.
Neil Cavuto: No. Do you know what you have?
Lee Scott: No.
Neil Cavuto: I think you have critics who want you to be a union company. Now if you were, do you think all of this would go away, all of this criticism?
Lee Scott: We have a select group of people who are critics of the company that want us to be better. The issues you are talking about really are from the unions that came after we started the Supercenter Program, and we entered into groceries. And that is where I think the major force behind this criticism is. We cannot appease them. We are not.
Neil Cavuto: They want you to be unionized, right?
Lee Scott: They may.
Neil Cavuto: All right. They do. I talk to a lot of them.
Lee Scott: That is not their choice. That is our associates'.
Neil Cavuto: Absolutely. Now do you think in your heart of hearts, if you were, then all of the people criticizing you about health benefits, hourly rates, all of that, they would all go away?
Lee Scott: You are darn right. This is about politics and power. It is not about right and wrong.
Neil Cavuto: Now you have workers who, when a store opens up in a given area — and I have seen this in Pennsylvania of all places, one of your stores opened not too far away, I think for 300 positions, close to 3,000 people came, and I am told that that is typical.
Lee Scott: Yes.
Neil Cavuto: The mom-and-pop stores are the ones that come back and say, yes, but they have driven out thousands more from their jobs. What do you say?
Lee Scott: I say that is not correct. If you actually look at where we build and look at the economic activity that is created around it, go to the West Side of Chicago, where we opened that very controversial store, and look at the growth and development around there today and the jobs that been created. I would not argue that there is not somebody who is disadvantaged if we come in. There may be a competitor that goes out of business. I do not know that. But what we do see is that, overall, there is more economic activity and small businesses can compete, and do very well.
Neil Cavuto: Hillary Clinton sat on your board, now bashes you. What do you think of her?
Lee Scott: I like Hillary Clinton. I do not believe Hillary Clinton bashes us. I am not familiar with her bashing us. I have a lot of respect for her.
Neil Cavuto: Her campaign says you treat your workers unfairly.
Lee Scott: I am not sure what her campaign says. I just am not familiar with the senator saying that.
Neil Cavuto: But you like her. If she became president of the United States, you would be all right with that?
Lee Scott: I'm not talking about how I'm going to vote.
Neil Cavuto: Do you have a horse in the race?
Lee Scott: I tell you how I would judge people. When Hillary Clinton served on our board, I was assistant director of the private fleet, very low-level job; she always treated me with respect and courtesy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOX on the Spot
Rebecca Gomez: Iran wake-up call fast-tracks pursuit of alternative fuels
Charles Payne: Iraq pullout deadline becomes terrorist recruiting tool
Cheryl Casone: Lenders overreact to subprime mess, hurt economy
Todd Schoenberger: Sah-wing batter batter! Budweiser (BUD) hits home run
Neil Cavuto: Iran keeps hostages to profit from oil prices
Forbes on FOX
In Focus: Talk to Iran: Best Thing for our Safety and Stock Market?
Quentin Hardy, Silicon Valley bureau chief: It's six years into the axis of evil, let's take score. North Korea: nuclear weapons. Iraq: civil war a big problem. Iran: on it's way to nuclear weapons and a nut job is in power. It's time to rethink the strategy. Here's why talking makes sense. In Iran, they live and die by oil prices. If we talk we calm the markets, oil prices drop and that hurts them worse.
Lea Goldman, associate editor: We can't negotiate with terrorists. It's the same logic that had Chamberlain handing over Czechoslovakia to Hitler. It doesn't work. This man is a nut! The natural extension of his thinking is that he is ordained by Allah to wage war against America. You can't negotiate with that.
Michele Steele, Forbes.com reporter: We're not talking about appeasement, we're talking about a smart defense. They're too volatile of a regime to be left to their own defenses. It's not about us negotiating with terrorists or succumbing to their desires. It's about keeping tabs on them.
Steve Forbes, editor-in-chief: If we talked to them the markets would go down. The only reason you would talk to them is to make concessions for appeasement. But we saw what that did in the 1970s, it hurt the economy and the markets. They only understand one thing, action! They're practicing weapons of mass obstruction. We can't play that kind of game.
Neil Weinberg, senior editor: Talking is not appeasement. We talked to Libya and they gave up their weapons. We talked to the Soviet Union during the Cold War and we finally came to a resolution. I think the markets would like it if we talked to Iran.
Elizabeth MacDonald, senior editor: These guys won't change. What you do is you financially strangle these maniacs. Ahmadinejad won on a populist appeal to redistribute the oil wealth back to Iranians. Now the Iranian oil industry is decrepit. They need to import 40 percent of their gasoline. I say quarantine their oil supplies and then you may have the civil unrest to overthrow this regime.
Steve Backs Rudy Giuliani: Does Forbes Staff Agree?
Steve Forbes: Rudy Giuliani is the man for the times. He demonstrated in New York that he can handle crisis. He's a fiscal conservative who cut taxes in New York City. He knows how to take on big things like welfare reform and fighting crime, things that no other mayors had tried to do. If he can do that in New York City think about what he can do in Washington.
Quentin Hardy: Rudy's for abortion then he's against abortion. He's for gay rights then he's against them. He announces his divorce in a press conference without telling his wife. Don't you think there is a little bit of baggage here in terms of electability?
Rich Karlgaard, publisher: There are only two good pro-growth Republican candidates, Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani. John McCain is horrible. He's one of three Republicans who voted against the 2003 Bush tax cuts. Mitt Romney is a wonderful guy but he's not getting any traction. So Rudy is the man!
Victoria Barret, associate editor: It's hard to see what Rudy stands for. Let's look at the facts. He makes his name as a Wall Street prosecutor going after Wall Street millionaires. He leaves office and then becomes a millionaire. He was great on crime in New York but he's backed Bush's failing Iraq policy since day one.
Mike Ozanian, senior editor: Rudy has it right on the economy. He's strong on defense. I don't think Rudy's past is going to come into play. My only question is will he go for the flat tax?
Elizabeth MacDonald: Rudy is going to bring the conservative identity crisis to an end. He is going to be a real fiscal champion of libertarian policies, and hopefully a flat tax. When he was mayor of New York he cut or eliminated taxes 23 times and he brought spending down. We have a President now who is acting more like an LBJ democrat. The big government spending has got to stop.
Flipside: "The Rich" Already Pay Way Too Much in Taxes!
Elizabeth MacDonald: When you look at the IRS data, the rich have been paying a steadily increasing share of the income tax burden. 32 percent of the total burden in 1996, not it's at 36 percent. Yes you could say that the rich should be paying more. But ironically the Bush tax cuts have made the tax code more progressive.
Michele Steele: We have to ask ourselves if we are interested in cutting deficits and how are we going to pay for that.
Mike Ozanian: The people who want to tax the rich more have one idea which is to take a dollar from someone who is earning a lot and give 50 cents to one person and 50 cents to someone else. They lose one vote but they get two in return.
Lea Goldman: The issue isn't increasing taxes for the rich, the issue is if you want to bring them down, how are you going to offset the cost? You're going to have to offload the burden to the poor.
Steve Forbes: It's not a zero-sum game. When you lower tax rates for all, everyone benefits. You don't have to increase taxes on the poor to have tax cuts for the middle class or anyone else. In terms of deficits, the real key there is controlling spending. Revenues are soaring in Washington.
Informer: Breakthrough Stocks
Mike Ozanian: Celera (CRA)
Victoria Barret: Fidelity Select Medical Delivery Fund (FSHCX)
Rich Karlgaard: Charles Schwab (SCHW)
Neil Weinberg: ISIS Pharmaceuticals (ISIS)
Our Cashin' In crew this week: Wayne Rogers, Wayne Rogers & Co; Jonathan Hoenig, CapitalistPig Asset Management; Jonas Max Ferris, MaxFunds.com; Tracy Byrnes, New York Post; and Gary Kaltbaum, Kaltbaum & Associates
Stock Smarts: Could the Iran-U.K. Hostage Crisis Mean $4 Gas?
Wall Street takes notice after 15 British sailors were kidnapped and held hostage, sending shockwaves through both the oil market and the stock market. Could Iran's actions end up sending gas prices in America to $4/gallon?
Gary: Absolutely! This week there were rumors that Americans were attacked and oil prices went up $6. If you look at a map, the Strait of Hormuz is where 20-25 percent of the oil has to pass through. These irrational Iranians would do anything to try and test the waters out there. Gas is going higher than $4/gallon.
Wayne: Gary's right. Gas could go to $4 or $5 a gallon. We have got to wean ourselves off of this and find alternative fuel sources; we can't be held hostages by crazy people. Ahmadinejad is a total nut. Our policy in the Middle East is wrong. We have destabilized the area. Iraq controlled Iran for a long time. Saddam Hussein fought them. There was a major war. As long as they are fighting each other it helps us, but we do not need to be there at war with anybody. We can use them as surrogates. We destabilize everything by going into Iraq. It was a bad move. Let the Iraqis and Iranians fight each other.
Jonathan: The way to deal with force is by force. Gas is not a reason to go to war. Oil is not a reason to send American kids into war. The stronger Iran gets the higher the price of oil will go. Instead of asking for everyone's permission at the UN and EU, I'd love to see something actually done to protect citizens' lives. Then the price of gas will go down.
Jonas: If gas hits $4 a gallon, it will be because of military action by somebody against Iran. Gas should be at $2/gallon right now and a barrel of oil should be $40. The nonsense that is going on right now is driving up the prices. Iran always makes noise when oil prices are heading down. It was a year ago when talk of its nuclear program began. At that time, oil was at $60/barrel and moved up to $75/barrel.
Tracy: If it weren't for the geo-political issues, gas would be at $2/gallon. Iran is full of rhetoric and wants attention. We need to listen to Iran's fears. The market is ok with the U.S. being in Iraq, but it's not ok with Iran. Iran is still the unknown enemy.
Wal-Mart Bashers: Retailer Could Cause Nuclear Attack
WakeUpWalMart.com out with an ad claiming the retailer's actions could lead to another attack on our country.
In an exclusive interview with FOX News' Neil Cavuto, Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott responded: "What I have seen, the reaction, is that is in bad taste. It shows the desperation on their part, and it is unfortunate that they did it, but our customers do not believe that kind of idiocy."
Is Mr. Scott right? Will this ad not have any impact?
Tracy: This ad is a joke. These people are crazy. They just need to get over this already. Wal-Mart has done a lot of great things for a lot of people. Its shoppers are not going to pay attention to this at all.
Wayne: It's over the top. What it says about 100 percent of the containers that come through our ports is insane. You could never monitor 100 percent of the containers. This is a below-the-belt attack on Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart is a great economic model. The company is run very well. It's very efficient. The company just has an image problem and it is trying to correct it.
Jonathan: There's nothing the company can do that will make WakeUpWalMart.com happy. It hates everything about Wal-Mart. This suggestion that Wal-Mart is aiding and abetting terrorists is absolutely outrageous. Why not make an ad that says militant Islam is the problem? Wal-Mart is not the enemy. The militant terrorists are.
Gary K: This terror ad is not over the top. These are slimy, sleazy, scummy lies. It's a lot of politics backed by the unions. The amazing thing is that Wal-Mart is the greatest business story of the century. It lowered the inflation rate alone, which means interest rates are down. Plus, Wal-Mart is the greatest job creating machine.
Jonas: Every corporation that imports goods into this country doesn't want port security since it raises costs. Wal-Mart happens to be the biggest, so it has more on the line. This ad only appeals to this core constituency that isn't all that large to begin with. The criticisms would have been more successful dealing with issues other than security.
Time for Investors to Hold The New York Times Accountable?
The New York Times fumbles another big story; this time it was an article in the magazine section dealing with the treatment of female soldiers in Iraq. It turns out that one of the subjects in the piece was lying about her service in Iraq.
This story coming after numerous black eyes for the paper — none bigger than the Jayson Blair scandal.
Is it time for investors to start holding the paper accountable?
Wayne: Investors are already sending the paper a notice. Both Morgan Stanley and T. Rowe Price control a lot of the company stock and have been sitting down with management to say they want changes. The Times has lost a lot of credibility and needs to fix itself.
Tracy: When you look back at what has happened to the paper, it is right that the stock has lost about half of its value over the past three years. As a journalist, all you have is your credibility. So why would someone bother investing in a paper that has taken such a hit?
Jonas: The fact that other newspaper companies (like Tribune: TRB) are trading at better valuations than The New York Times (NYT) shows that investors are taking notice. This is a period when the New York Times should be doing much better since we are in the middle of an unpopular war.
Jonathan: If the paper is so bad, then why is the panel reading it? The paper's national editorial value is overstated by those who live in New York. It is a free country and the paper is free to print what it wants.
Gary K: There are a lot of great journalists at The New York Times, but the paper still has a bias against the Bush administration and tries to play up negative stories as much as possible.
Best Bets: Final Four Stocks
Gary's team and stock:
University of Florida
Darden Restaurants (DRI)
Friday's close: $41.19
Tracy's team and stock:
Marriott International (MAR)
Friday's close: $48.96
Wayne's team and stock:
Friday's close: $92.91
Jonas' team and stock:
The Ohio State University
Procter & Gamble (PG)
Friday's close: $63.16