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Investment banking follows trading online

William Hambrecht, founder of Hambrecht & Quist, the investment bank
that took Apple public, has a new Internet venture in the works that
will capitalize on the boom in online trading to give low-cost,
Internet-based investment banking a run at the big time. The low-cost,
Net-based IPOs that Hambrecht plans to
offer promise to “level the playing field” — to give individual
investors a chance to get in at the starting gun. Auction-like software
(think of eBay or
Priceline) will allow anyone to bid on
stock about to be offered, balance investors’ bids with company needs,
and determine a single price that all initial investors will pay.

Some are already hailing the concept as (to quote Newsweek’s Brad
Stone) “the dawn of a new, populist order.” But if all investors pay the
same initial price for a stock, that price is likely to simply start out
higher — wiping out a good portion of those magical early run-ups. In
other words, you’ll be able to get in on the good thing (assuming you
make a lucky pick — IPOs are risky propositions), but it won’t be quite
as good. The real winner? The company issuing the stock, which will reap
a higher profit than under the traditional restricted-access system.

E*Trade is fielding a competitive venture
called E*Offering which plans to make 50% of each deal available
directly to individual investors through the Internet, with E*Trade
customers getting first crack. If you’re one of the latter, you may do
better at E*Offering than you will by taking advantage of Hambrecht’s
egalitarian approach.

Opt out of a new
national database

Many residents of South Carolina, Colorado, and Florida are
requesting that their driver’s license photographs be removed from a new
national database system created by Image
Image Data is paying the states
for the photos. Its database is intended to allow retailers to verify
customer identities using something called the “TrueID” device. Image
Data received $1.46 million in grants from the Secret Service last year.
To request that your photograph be removed from its database, those of
you holding driver’s licenses issued by the affected states can
email Image Data, fax them at
603-598-0244, or call them at 888-887-8343.

Who’s paying the bill?
Not Bill

The legal bills accumulated by Bill and Hillary won’t trouble them
long. I got my very own solicitation for contributions from the “Clinton
Legal Expense Trust” in the mail just a few days ago, which suggests to
me that they must be flinging a monstrously wide net (where on earth did
they get my name from? why? why?) Needless to say, I won’t be helping to
float that ship, but I can tell you how to find out who is. The Center
for Responsive Politics, on the ball as usual, has compiled a searchable
database that lets you find
to the Clintons’ legal
fund, by state, name, or size of contribution.

Close, but no cigar

The Essential
is a slightly
dreamy paean to the seminal psychologist who was one of the first to
expand upon Sigmund Freud. Heir to, then rebel against, Freud’s original
psychoanalytical paradigm placing sexuality at the center of the psyche,
Jung offered alternative, intriguing (and, to some, more palatable)
explanations of psychological phenomena, such as the concepts of
archetypes and of the “collective unconscious.” Beautifully designed, if
indifferently copyedited, the site consists largely of an organized
variety of quotations from Jung’s original works, through which the
ruminative explorer may wander at will.

Signing off

You can give your e-mail a signature look with the assistance of a
new Web site called Signature-mail.
They’ll digitize your signature so that you can “sign” your email. You
fax in up to 25 versions of your signature; Signature-mail puts them
into usable electronic form for downloading and storage. Personally, I’m
not sure I want 25 copies of my signature on record with anyone, but
it’s a cute idea that’s bound to appeal to many.

Sometimes you feel like a nut,
sometimes you don’t

Can’t find a box of muesli that’s mixed just the way you like it? The
Austrian cereal company Gutschermühle Traismauer feels your pain. Order
your own blend there, adjusting
the proportions of nuts, raisins, and so forth to your liking until you
create the definitive muesli, the über-muesli, the Platonic ideal of
muesli. I assure you I’m perfectly serious. Check it out. Best with