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Time for another Gooberhead Award — an honor bestowed periodically on someone in the news who's got their mouth running 100 mph ... but forgot to put their brain in gear!

Today's is a group award, going to a whole gaggle of America's most prestigious investment banks. These are the financial sharpies who, in recent years, have moved billions of investor dollars into the wild and wacky world of dot-com start-ups.

You've heard of these start-ups — some outfit with a name like ubuycrap.com, run by a couple 20-something computer whizzes who have no business experience, suddenly has skillions of dollars showered on it by investors. The kids become multimillionaires overnight and get written up in the media as business "geniuses" — even though they don't actually make anything, including a profit.

In the past year, though, the speculative bubble has burst for these dot-com wunderkinds, and their companies are going belly up.

OK, they're just kids, but what about the Wall Street bankers who advised so many Americans to invest in these profitless money holes? The New York Times reports that such giants as Goldman-Sachs, Merrill Lynch, J.P. Morgan, Credit Suisse, Fleet Boston, and Bear, Stearns were hawking these dot-com stocks at, say, $40 a share just a few months ago — but now those stocks are worth only pennies, and, for small investors, "big chunks of their nest eggs have been wiped out."

These Wall Streeters have a moral and fiduciary responsibility to advise investors with caution, yet they're now shrugging their shoulders and saying that they got caught up in the "exuberance of the market." Besides they say, you can't "blame the merchant for selling something to a paying customer."

This is Jim Hightower saying ... What a bunch of goobers. While they wash their hands of any responsibility, they've also pocketed hundreds of millions of dollars in fees for directing investors to buy practically worthless stocks. Shouldn't they have to give back some of those fees? Jim Hightower's latest book, If The Gods Had Meant Us To Vote They Would Have Given Us Candidates, has just been released in a fully revised and updated paperback edition. E-mail

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