Not if but when
The valuation of this company (see "Amazon.c(abo)om," 10/21) has fascinated me since I started following the stock movements—just a crash waiting to happen. What people don't seem to realize is the amount of growth that is needed for this company to justify its current market capitalization. I see this stock going down 90 percent in the next three to five years. Watch this week: Improved performance by Etoys and an appearance that they are beating Amazon on Internet sales makes it a lot less likely that Amazon is automatically the Wal-Mart of the Internet. If they can't knock off an upstart like Etoys, then it's obvious there is a flaw in the thinking of the analysts for this stock.
My view is that the only reason this stock hasn't tanked further is the investment bankers are looking to push more lucrative deals for this company. They want to take Homegrocer.com or Pets.com public for the investment banking fees, or at the least have a generous cut of the IPO to flip. The question is when this stock is going to tank, how far it will tank, and whether it will be a quick downward move or a slow gradual decline in value—it's not "if" this stock will tank.
DAVID C. ENGEL
Weekly job security?
Another hatchet job by the staff of the Weekly.
This article ("Amazon.c(abo)om," 10/21) is nothing more than meaningless speculation and contains very little actual reporting. "Dozens of stock market gurus . . . waiting for collapse"—there are also dozens who believe in Amazon's business model and continue to give their stock a strong buy rating. The fluctuations that you see in the stock price are largely based on trends effecting the entire Internet sector and are not centered just on Amazon. There really is no excuse for reporting that is so obviously one-sided.
Once again the Weekly seems to be putting this personal grudge match with Amazon before any sense of journalism. I can only assume that someone on their staff failed to gain employment from Amazon. At least you know you're secure in your present job; You'll be able to write about Amazon.com for a long time.
I enjoyed your October 21st story "Amazon.c(abo)om." It's refreshing to see some objective journalism regarding e-commerce.
Personally, I find the local media's love affair with Northwest high tech, Internet, and e-commerce companies revolting. I wonder if the revenue stream from dot com companies and the economic impact in the region are influencing the news. We have been down that road before with the "big bird" company.
I, too, feel the original model of Amazon.com is flawed. The majority of Amazon.com's original book customers were predisposed to buying books through the mail; thus the transition to Internet ordering with a good value was easy. The same is and will be true with music and videos. When they move into other product groups it will be more difficult and require more money for advertising and promotion, resulting in tight profit margins.
Second, but more importantly, there is no structure to retailing on the Internet. This will help startups but will eventually be the demise of portal shopping sites. Competitors will sit back and watch them grow and pick off the most profitable product groups and compete directly. This will be a never-ending problem, and Jeff Bezos will run out of investment capital for all the spin-offs and startups.
As long as the funding for e-commerce comes from the self-serving brokerage firms and the results are distorted by spin-doctors and echoed by the media, this balloon will continue to grow. But if or when it pops, the fall will be hard and fast.
There is a post-election rumor that the Irons family have several job openings starting on Thanksgiving day. Successful applicants are guaranteed very early retirement benefits. The job? Food tasters at the family dinner.
This same rumor speculates as to whom will be served the part of the turkey that goes over the fence last.
A Griffey surprise?
I hope you share my wonder at the split-second timing of the Mariners in not announcing the Griffey trade until it would be too late to affect the polls. Had they announced it Friday, I suspect the establishment candidates in Seattle would not have done nearly as well—not considering their role in OKing the half-billion dollar Mariners stadium. I see this as a Seattle version of Ronald Reagan's October Surprise.
The passage of I-695 indicates how poorly educated more than half of the Washington State voters are, especially a leader such as state Republican Party chair Dale Foreman. The fact is we have a representative government and not a direct democracy. Direct democracy was valid 200 years ago in small assemblies where almost everyone could be informed about all the facts of an issue.
I-695 is an example of trying to be a direct democracy and ending up being a mobocracy. How many of these people baited by a saving of a few dollars know the extent of service by their government? Most agencies work smoothly enough so that their work is invisible. How many are going to take the time to wrestle with the problems a representative must deal with? They are even too lazy to examine the voting records and their impacts of their representatives to make them responsive to themselves.
Be wary of rabble rousing. The rousers usually have a hidden agenda which may not be obvious.
IRENE MARK BUITENKANT
Roger Downey's article "Shut up, Seattle!" (10/21) on the recently vetoed new noise ordinance is a morass of misleading and incorrect statements. Let me cite just a few. Mr. Downey makes fun of what he sees as the vagueness of the ordinance's section on public disturbance noise, not realizing that in fact this section makes more specific the corresponding section in the old (current) noise ordinance. Moreover, the term "plainly audible" is defined in the new noise ordinance, and although there will always be borderline cases, this standard is, for the most part, quite clear. Those who claim that it is too vague really mean that they don't like it.
Mr. Downey also refers to the council's proposed time, place, and manner restrictions on the noise exemption given for picketing, marches, rallies, or parades as on "thin ice legally"; here again he doesn't know what he's talking about. I am not aware of any other city—including Seattle under the current law—which grants such exemptions to its noise ordinance; furthermore, it is well accepted by the courts that cities have the right to place reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions on such events.
Finally, Mr. Downey's description of Margaret Pageler as "zealous to secure the sleep of the righteous from voices of dissent" is just plain stupid; Ms. Pageler was concerned that a blanket exemption could be abused in very egregious ways—ways which really have little to do with freedom of expression.
The salient points regarding the new noise ordinance are really these:
1) All residents—including those living in the central city—of Seattle have the right to a reasonable degree of peace and quiet in their own home. There will certainly be more traffic and street noise in the central city, but it is not reasonable to have music from a neighboring club set your windows vibrating, nor is it reasonable to have an outdoor party under your windows at 2am. It is astonishing how many noise ordinance opponents do not accept these obvious statements.
2) Unwanted unnecessary noise is not trivial. As a victim of noise from a club with an outdoor bar area, my life has been disrupted, my career has been damaged, and I may, quite possibly, be forced from my own home, at a cost of tens of thousands of dollars. Had Mr. Downey attended any of the public hearings, he would have learned of the damage noise can do and would not have been so smug.
3) Many club and bar owners have treated their neighbors with contempt for years, refusing to acknowledge that they have any right at all to peace and quiet. These owners keep whining about how the proposed ordinance would shut down night life, yet they refuse to install soundproofing, refuse to keep their doors and windows closed, refuse to encourage patrons to leave quietly, and refuse to close down outdoor bar areas early. (It is in fact the law in Chicago—a city where some bars serve drinks until 5am—that all outdoor eating/drinking establishments must move inside at midnight.
Garth Brooks, Genius
As a loyal Garth Brooks fan, how dare you make fun of the world's biggest pop- country star in your column (At Large, "Why wait to reincarnate?" 10/14). Don't you know creativity when you see it? Chris Gaines, Garth Brooks—it just doesn't matter. The man is a genius. You, however, are not.
You might be pretty funny sometimes, Mr. Seely, but you're obviously hard up for material if you're picking on a great talent such as Garth. Don't miss him and Chris Gaines on Saturday Night Live (see how dominant Garth Brooks is, to be both the host and musical guest).
I know I won't—in fact I've invited all my girlfriends over to watch him/them with me. How many times have a bunch of girls planned an entire evening around you? None, I'll bet.
Critic on ice
I would be interested to know what credentials qualify Sandra Kurtz as a critic of ice dance performance theater ("Indoor freeze," 10/21). Ms. Kurtz shows an abysmal lack of understanding of the ice medium and the artistic sensitivity of a dinosaur coprolite. She also displays an appalling lack of manners in referring to an 'artiste' as 'some woman' when it is obvious that 'some woman' has a given name and surname.
If she does have any skating knowledge, she drowns it in pseudo-intellectual drivel. Let her confine her reviews to the time-worn sweetness of The Nutcracker.
MURIEL KAY (FULTON)
(EX-OLYMPIC FIGURE SKATING TRY-OUT COMPETITOR)
Your recent story on MP3.com ("Money for nothing?" 10/14) missed a few things. First, concerning Michael Robertson's statement that most bands never make money from their CDs: this is 100% true. Many artists, like NWA, are approaching MP3s simply as a great new way to market a band, not sell albums. Only about 16% of major-label artists ever see money from record royalties. The rest make money from merch and ticket sales, which ultimately means the bands rely on their fan base, something the Internet, and MP3.com in particular, is helping bands like Maktub build internationally. Also, many people find out about bands online and then go to record stores to buy the full album. People can also purchase MP3 files online from MP3.com, and most of the profits go to the band. All of these are other potential ways for bands to make money from MP3.com.
You also mention several times how MP3.com is unfiltered. This is only partly true , as there are many charts on the site, which allows visitors to see what other music fans (not just one person who owns a radio station, Web site, or record label) like on the site. So, it really is filtered, but in a very bottom-up way. This is why the site is threatening to the established business. Also, for those people who cannot spend the time to search through a lot of things they don't like to find what they do, or need to rely on other people to tell them what to like, editors on MP3.com do feature artists and tracks.
And though there are many bands, good and bad, on their site (about 26,000) to plow through, there are many more released by major labels every year (about 35,000), the difference being MP3.com isn't shoving their bands down anyone's throats with multimillion dollar ad campaigns.
At the end of the day, few, if any, of the bands on MP3.com will get rich from the site. But that is also true of any media. The Internet is a new tool, and will not take the place of other media, but rather has quickly become one of many pieces to the puzzle of how to break a band. It does, however, offer bands a way to distribute their music internationally, communicate directly with fans, broadcast live shows, and ultimately make a lot of new fans, all at no cost. It also gives music fans a way to find new music without the interference of the short-sighted, profit-oriented music biz, and their minions of "journalists," retailers, commercial radio programmers, and other taste makers.
So, from our perspective, many props to sites such as MP3.com, fbgc.com, Realguide.com, Amazon.com, Mjuice.com, etc., who have exposed Maktub to tens of thousands of new fans around the world and support artists supporting themselves.
Don't look behind the curtain
Roger Downey's article on Michael Moore ("Moore power or less?" 10/14) was an exceedingly crafty work of obfuscation. It pooh-poohed the notion that the World Trade Organization (WTO) has any real power and sought to divert readers from issues of substance by restricting its focus to the organization's frontman, whom he characterized as a "Wizard of Oz." Downey even cleverly hinted that the WTO was grateful for public opposition. How dare he seek to dissuade activists by suggesting that their protests actually served the WTO's quest for credibility!
The World Trade Organization possesses and exercises unprecedented powers to overturn any member nation's legislation which seeks to regulate trade in the interests of the environment, labor rights, food safety, or human rights. Moore's image is utterly irrelevant to the WTO's power. All that is mere packaging. Assess the product itself, and not just its price in dollars.
Brave souls stand up
In his letter (Seattle Weekly, November 4) Mike Kelly refers to US Constitutional treaty obligations to support the supposed legitimacy of allowing the WTO to make legally binding decisions about the laws of signatory nations.
When the Clinton administration wanted to get this through Congress, they knew it couldn't get the two-thirds majority assent required by said Constitution for treaties, so instead they sent it on as an "executive agreement," requiring a simple majority of 51 percent instead. Therefore, WTO rulings, though legally binding on signatory nations, are by no means part of our "supreme laws." Since secret WTO tribunals meeting behind closed doors in Geneva can override our legally created laws (and have done so already) in the name of private profits of foreign corporations, indeed they could be held unconstitutional. Or does Mike Kelly conveniently forget that our country was founded by brave souls standing up to a foreign power (England, in this example) that taxed us without representation?
Why even a majority of our Congressional delegates supported it could be attributed to the importance of corporate contributions to election (and reelection) campaigns, as has been increasingly obvious during recent years (see the current situation vis-୶is one George W. Bush as a prime example). Recently, when I had an exchange with Senator Gorton about why he could possibly support a legal agreement as blatantly antidemocratic as the WTO, especially in view of his oath to uphold the US Constitution, he declined totally to respond.
While I don't intend to be snide about Mr. Kelly despite the harsh terms he used against Geov Parrish, as Kelly expresses at least a tiny amount of open-mindedness with regard to further information about the WTO, I think it'd be fair to say that he himself needs to do a bit more research before coming out with untrue statements.
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