Harry Newton's In Search of The Perfect Investment
Newton's In Search Of The Perfect Investment. Technology Investor.
8:30 AM EST Monday, August 21, 2006: Welcome
home proud Harry. We hear you biked 168 miles up hill and down dale. You didn't
keep up with your 24-year old son who did 230 miles. But you did OK for an old
fogey. And your legs are recovering, albeit slowly.
prosperous and timeless: That pretty well sums
up Austria. We biked through mile after mile of countryside. Not one pile of
junk in someone's yard. Not one piece of paper out of place. But lots of enormous
farm houses and well-tended farm plots. Europe treats its farmers well. And
they, in turn, live like kings. I gave up counting the Mercedes parked in the
driveways of farmhouses.
came good. Becton Dickinson offered to put
TriPath out of its misery for $9.25 a share. TriPath had been at $5.12 before
BD popped the news. I think TriPath is worth more. I'm not selling until I see
if Paul Sohmer, TriPath's talented, but tired, CEO can squeeze BD for a buck
or two more. Paul once told me he was hoping for $20. He's done it before --
building companies and selling them out.
with a laptop:
1. This is the most useful traveling gadget. It's called a Targus 70-Watt Universal
Auto/Air Adapter and costs between $40 and $70, depending on where you buy it.
EBay is cheapest. The gadget lets you plug your laptop into an auto or a plane
(if they have laptop outlets).
What Targus doesn't
tell you is that this thing only works on 12 volts and destroys
itself if plugged into anything higher -- like the 24 volts on our bus or the
48 volts on a private plane I once plugged into. Before you plug in, ask what
the voltage is. Don't assume it's 12 volts -- just because it looks like a normal
Internet access in Europe is pretty horrible, usually slow and usually expensive.
But you can get on -- sometimes through your hotel, sometimes through
an Internet Cafe. Typical price was one euro ($1.25) an hour. But an Internet
cafe in Vienna charged by the minute, coming to nearly $10 a hour. The key is
not to write emails online. Batch them out, blitz them and get off. Assume you'll
be days without email.
Cell phone service is excellent all over, even in the smallest of towns. Buy
a cheap GSM phone. Buy prepaid SIM cards in each country you visit. Roaming
across borders is expensive.
4. ATM machines
are all over. I used a bank debit card. I'm told the fees are minimal.
5. You can bargain with airlines. Lesser popular airlines charge less to Europe.
Air France gave us cheap two-for-one business class tickets -- into Prague and
out of Vienna. We got what we paid for: Coming back we were on an old plane
with old seats and no laptop outlet. Fortunately, I had extra batteries. The
only place we had lines for security was Paris. Everywhere else (including New
York), we breezed through in seconds. Go figure.
Europe drives diesel cars: It's a lot cheaper.
on Daddys Dime. This
is Thomas Friedman's latest column in the New York Times. The numbers are fascinating.
sure yet whos the winner in the war between Hezbollah and Israel, but
I know whos the big loser: Irans taxpayers. What a bunch of suckers.
obvious? As soon as the reckless war he started was over, Hezbollahs
leader, Hassan Nasrallah, declared that Hezbollah would begin paying out cash
to the thousands of Lebanese families whose homes were destroyed. We
will pay compensation, a certain amount of money for every family to rent
for one year, plus buy furniture for those whose homes were totally destroyed,
said Nasrallah. These number 15,000.
vowed that his organization would help rebuild damaged houses and businesses,
promising those affected that they will not need to ask anyone for money
or wait in queues to get relief funds. To paraphrase the All-State commercial,
Youre in good hands with Hezbollah.
where will Hezbollah get some of the $3 billion-plus needed to rebuild Lebanon?
Last time I checked, Hezbollah did not have any companies listed on the Nasdaq.
The organization doesnt manufacture anything. It doesnt tax its
followers. The answer, of course, is that Iran will dip into its oil income
and ship cash to Nasrallah, so that he will not have to face the wrath of
Lebanese for starting a war that reaped nothing but destruction.
to $70-a-barrel oil you can have Katyusha rockets and butter at the same time.
When oil money is so prevalent, why not? Hezbollah and Iran are like a couple
of rich college students who rented Lebanon for the summer, as if it were
a beach house. Cmon, lets smash up the place, they
said to themselves. Who cares? Dad will pay! The only thing Nasrallah
didnt say to Lebanese was, Hey, keep the change.
In the cold
war, Russian taxpayers were the suckers who rebuilt Arab armies every time
they got crushed by Israel. Now Irans citizens will foot the bill with
their oil income assuming the ayatollahs actually put their money where
their mouth is. (Iran was always happy to spend money on Hezbollah rockets.
Lets see if it will pay for schools and clinics.)
This is why
I am obsessed with bringing down the price of oil. Unless we take this issue
seriously, we are never going to produce more transparent, accountable government
in the Middle East. Just the opposite we will witness even more reckless,
unaccountable behavior like Nasrallahs and Irans.
Been to Syria
lately? Why do you think it can afford to shrug off U.S. sanctions? It also
is not making microchips. It is, though, exporting about 200,000 barrels of
oil a day, and that is what keeps a corrupt and antiquated regime in power.
The Syrian regime subsidizes everything from diesel to bread. As in Iran,
almost half of Syrias people are teenagers, and without real economic
reforms, widespread unemployment and unrest are just around the corner
but for now, oil money postpones the reckoning.
Iran is OPECs second-largest producer, selling the world about 2.4 million
barrels of oil a day and earning the regime some $4 billion a month
the governments main source of income. To buy public support, Irans
regime subsidizes housing, gasoline, interest rates, flour and rice.
an Aug. 2 report on Bloomberg.com, Iran spent $25 billion on subsidies
last year, or more than half the $44.6 billion it collected through crude
oil exports. But Iran actually has to import more than one-third of
its gasoline, because it cant refine enough itself. This became so expensive
the regime wanted to ration subsidized gas but feared a public backlash. No
wonder. Bloomberg reported that subsidized gasoline in Iran is 34 cents a
like Irans and Syrias use oil money to buy off their people and
insulate themselves from the pressure of political and economic reform. When
oil prices get high enough, they can even buy a month-log war in Lebanon.
Why not? Its like a summer sale: Now, this summer only: 34 cents-a-gallon
gasoline and a war with the Jews and new living room furniture for Lebanese
Shiites! Such a deal!
If we could
cut the price of crude in half, it would mean that all of Irans oil
income would go to subsidies which would be unsustainable and therefore
a huge threat to the regime. It would also make Irans puppets, like
Nasrallah, think three times about launching wars with Israel that might ravage
Too bad we have
a president who tells us were addicted to oil but wont
do anything about it. That sort of hypocrisy just makes Nasrallahs day.
is great: We went with a company called Backroads, which builds itself
as "an active travel company." They take care of everything.
They provide the bikes, map the route, book the hotels and chase us in cheery
vans loaded with water, snacks and a ride home if our legs give out.
I'll go with them again. For more on them, Click
column is about my personal search for the perfect investment. I don't give
investment advice. For that you have to be registered with regulatory authorities,
which I am not. I am a reporter and an investor. I make my daily column -- Monday
through Friday -- freely available for three reasons: Writing is good for sorting
things out in my brain. Second, the column is research for a book I'm writing
called "In Search of the Perfect Investment." Third, I encourage
my readers to send me their ideas, concerns and experiences. That way we can
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