You're confusing (unintentionally, I assume) two distinct meanings of the word "stable" here. Stable can mean either:
1) Bug-free enough to not crash on most systems encountered in the wild (i.e., "stable" in the sense of "production-ready");
2) Not undergoing changes.
It's important to keep in mind that these are not related to each other. When you say "it lasted THREE DAYS", you apparently mean that it was replaced with a newer patch (.16) three days later - that's the second definition of stable. So, yes, in that sense, 2.6.16.x isn't stable, but that's just because the developers are actually fixing security issues that are found and releasing patches immediately.
Would you rather have them sit on those patches for weeks or months? Well, if you do, you can still have that; nobody's forcing you to apply those new patches.
But in any case, what Andrew Morton talked about was stability in the first sense, and that's a different beast. How long would it have taken for 22.214.171.124 to crash on your boxen? It's hard to say, but I'd guess that unless you'd have been rather unlucky, it would've been more than three days.
So, the answer to your question is: you choose the latest one that's available. Whether you continue to apply newer patches as they come out is your choice, not ours, and complaining that you have downtime when patching security issues in the *kernel* is pretty silly. That's how things are in the real world. (And it's still true that nobody's forcing you to apply anything, so if you'd rather avoid downtime than patch newly-found issues, just don't apply them.)
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