I was very disappointed with "Can MTV stay cool?" (Cover Story, Feb. 20). While MTV Networks (VIA) may be a leader in reinventing its brand, your story made little mention of MTV's dark side, which includes regularly playing music videos that largely feature misogynistic images and lyrics and espouse the "virtues" of materialism. MTV has taken the strategy of appealing to the "lowest common denominator" in order to obtain its widest reach.
Assistant Professor of Marketing
Franklin & Marshall College
As a member of Congress for 22 years and a lobbyist for the last seven, I take issue with the conclusions in "Shakedown on K street" that lobbyist "money is vacuumed up to Capitol Hill by demands from members of Congress" (News: Analysis & Commentary, Feb. 20). Do these things happen? Yes. Are they the norm? No. The 11,500 lobbyists work for every conceivable cause in D.C. A few pay to play, but most do not. Most give because a lawmaker supports his or her view of the world or the client's views. There is no quid pro quo.
Lobbyists are advocates in a complex system of legislation, just as lawyers are in the world of the courthouse. The true irony is that virtually all money raised in politics is not for the politician's personal benefit, for if it is shown to be so, he or she goes to jail. No, the vast portion of money in politics goes to the press so the politician can get his message out, thereby enabling the press to pay their airheads unreasonable sums of money and condemn the supporters of politicians for supplying the cash in the first place. If you want to take money out of politics, suggest that the press carry political messages for free.
Member of Congress (Retired)
Editor's Note: The writer represented Louisiana's First Congressional District from 1977 to 1999.
In "How safe are diet supplements?" (Science & Technology, Jan. 30), reporter John Carey omitted crucial information as to why persons such as myself are critical of ConsumerLab.com. If you pay CL $3,500 per product to use its logo, then on any other product that may later be found to be deficient, CL will work with you to fix the product and not publicize your name. That is why some industry members describe CL's tactics as "name and shame." I have accused CL of attacking and painting with a broad brush otherwise good companies. They are also not a lab: They use outside labs, meaning they do not have to hold themselves to good laboratory practices.
On the ginkgo biloba issue, Carey writes: "Jarrow says that a Chinese supplier was at fault." No! I said, clearly, that an employee of Jarrow didn't do his job, that we had been testing that supplier's product at first, and the employee was reprimanded because the testing had been inexplicably stopped. More than that, I said I had flown to China, inspected the plant, saw the ethanol extraction-resin beadlet technology, that freeze-drying and not just spray-drying was used, that they had an adequate lab, and approved them as a supplier. I told Mr. Carey that we undertook a recall and that we changed suppliers.
Jarrow L. Rogovin
Jarrow Formulas Inc.
Editor's note: CL President Tod Cooperman says if you pay $3,500 per product, CL will test each product in its certification program. If a product fails, ConsumerLab will not publicize the failure. If it passes, CL will post that on its Web site. Cooperman says CL does not target companies that do not pay for its services. It uses outside labs, he says, to take advantage of their different areas of expertise and to confirm results with a second test.
I am writing to thank you for conveying my vision of bringing sophisticated investment products such as Superfund to retail investors ("Welcome to Superfund," Special Report, Mar. 6). I would like to clarify several points: The article states that "Superfund tries to boost its returns by investing with lots of borrowed money" which allows it "to buy contracts with face value that far exceed invested equity, magnifying potential profits -- and losses."
In managed futures, every investor puts down less money than the face value of the futures contract being purchased. We employ various degrees of leverage to maximize returns. However, Superfund does not borrow money in the conventional sense of going to a bank for a loan. Furthermore, with regard to the Superfund Q-AG series, for example, only about 30% of the assets of the fund are used as margins for trading futures contracts. Most of the holdings are invested in government-backed bonds that earn interest for investors while being used as security to cover any potential trading losses.
The article also discusses the performance required "just to break even" in light of the management, sales, brokerage and other fees. All of those fees are factored into reported returns.
Finally, I think the volatility charts under the heading "Super Performance" could have made it clearer that Superfund's cumulative returns over the 10-year period (531%) far exceeded those of Tremont Managed Futures Index (111%) and Tremont Hedge Fund Index (182%).
"Checking in? First pass the picket line" (News: Analysis & Commentary, Feb. 20) implied that unionization leads to higher wages. The fact is that both nonunion and union hotels pay competitive wages. They can vary from city to city, but this is based largely on local cost-of-living differences, not the level of unionization. That's why hotels are committed to working with local unions to find a solution that is fair to our employees. The hotel industry firmly believes we can reach agreements that provide our workers with the job security and benefits they need to maintain a good quality of life.
In addition, it's important for the public to know that with labor contracts expiring this year, the hotel industry will fulfill its obligations and responsibilities to its guests, too. Our guests can always rest assured that they will continue to receive the same high-quality service they have come to expect from our members.
Joseph A. McInerney
President & CEO
American Hotel & Lodging Assn.
Re Dr. Andrew W. Lo'S research into the cognitive psychology of investors ("Darwinian investing," Voices of Innovation, Feb. 20): Many a Nobel prize-winning economist and most of the academic community (at least those who don't work for hedge funds) concede that stock market returns are over 95% explainable by factors such as a portfolio's average market capitalization and average price multiple, not one's ability to pick stocks better than the next guy. In fact, by trying to outsmart the other guy it is almost mathematically certain you will underperform the market over the long term.
Steven A. Weydert
Park Ridge, Ill.