Harry Newton's In Search of The Perfect Investment
Newton's In Search Of The Perfect Investment. Technology Investor.
8:30 AM EST Tuesday, May 9, 2006: The
PC business is slow. Dell warned. Microsoft can't deliver Vista. Intel's new
chips don't deliver anything remarkable. The big tech are in trouble. There
are bright spots. Cell phones boom: Nokia is up. Texas Instruments is edging
up. Some of Cramer's "Fast and Furious" tech stocks are up
-- Akamai and Citrix Systems. Some are down -- F5 Networks and Rackable Systems.
One is flat -- Network Appliance. Smaller ones tend to do better -- GigaBeam
-- but can be volatile. I love technology. In the past I've picked stocks based
on what I bought and enjoyed. But I haven't found anything compelling
recently. It's a tossup whether my new Intel dual core Toshiba laptop is even
as fast as my old Toshiba single core laptop. It's hard to pick tech stocks
one of those things that can't miss." That's
how one producer pitched his movie investment to me early this morning. Why
am I leery? The Broadway musical I invested in lost 100% of my money.
The next musical that the same producers did contained all Elvis songs. I didn't
invest in that, though a bunch of "big names" put up nearly $11
million. And they lost all their money. It lasted a few weeks before it
closed. One good thing about investing in the theater is you know quickly if
you succeed or fail.
The bulk of my "can't miss" investments in startups missed.
I'm increasingly leery when friends and acquaintances approach with "sure"
things. You should too.
Todd's mantra: "When in doubt, stay out." Triple tax-free floaters
are paying around 3.53% at present. That 3.53% is close to 5%
pre-tax. -- which is, as they say in Australia, better than a slap in the belly
with a cold fish. And your capital is 100% safe.
Today's psychology: A dollar lost is far more painful than a dollar gained.
paean to my favorite economist, John Kenneth Galbraith, who died on April 29,
aged 97: I met him once in a Cambridge, Mass
barbershop. I told him how much I admired his work. He asked me what I did?
I told him I was a student at the Business School. He waved his long arm and
dismissed me, "They're all Bolsheviks over there." It was classic
Galbraith. It didn't mean anything. He was wrong. But , it was great words.
I first discovered "conventional wisdom" reading his books
and I've used it ever since.
I loved his words.
He talked about the bland leading the bland, private
opulence and public squalor. I loved his sense of humor. Shortly after
he published a book on the depression called "The Great Crash,"
he visited a bookshop at La Guardia Airport. The salesperson asked him, "If
she could help?" He said he was looking for a recent book by John Kenneth
Galbraith. She asked the title. When told, she furrowed her brow and said, "Sir,
that isn't a book we could sell in a airport!"
What I most admired about him was his discipline. Despite teaching, diplomating,
and advising, he organized himself to write 40 books, including best sellers
The Affluent Society, The New Industrial State, The Great Crash and American
Capitalism. I'm struggling with my third.
According to the
a large oak bookcase in John Kenneth Galbraith's elegant sitting room in Cambridge,
Massachusetts, a framed sampler was displayed. 'Galbraith's First Law,', read
the meticulous red and blue cross-stitch: 'Modesty is a vastly overrated
virtue.' He thoroughly believed it. Save for his humble origins on a farm
in Ontario, little about Mr. Galbraith or his life was modest.
At six foot
eight, he was a giant. Intellectually he was equally towering, a man who spent
more than seven decades either on the stage of American public policyas
a bureaucrat in Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal, a confidante of John Kennedy
and adviser to countless other Democratsor loudly lambasting Washington
from offstage left, as a Harvard professor.
of those decades, Mr. Galbraithmuch to the chagrin of his academic colleaguescould
claim to be the best-known economist in the world. His books, more than 40
of them, were spectacularly successful. All this made him an extraordinary
public intellectual. But for many, particularly on America's left, he was
much more. Mr. Galbraith embodied a creed (a broad skepticism of markets and
unshakable belief in a strong state to balance them) and an era, the 1960s,
when that sort of liberalism reached its peak. In many eyes, and perhaps his
own, Mr. Galbraith was America's Great Liberal Economist, the intellectual
heir to John Maynard Keynes, whose contributions to economics are underappreciated
by a profession obsessed with mathematical formulae.
He was certainly
Keynes's heir in his passion for the trenches of public policy, his recognition
that economics could and should be accessible, and his way with words. A devotee
of Trollope and Evelyn WaughScoop was a favoriteMr.
Galbraith strove to perfect his prose, reworking each passage at least five
times. It was usually on about the fourth day that I put in that note
of spontaneity for which I am known, he once admitted.
Bons mots, however,
seemed to come naturally to him. Economists are economical, among other
things, of ideas; most make those of their graduate days last a lifetime.
Wealth is not without its advantages, and the case to the contrary,
although it has often been made, has never proved widely persuasive.
As Kennedy's ambassador to India, Mr. Galbraith preferred to write to the
president direct: sending letters through the State Department, he told Kennedy,
was like fornicating through a mattress. ...
A decade ago,
Mr. Galbraith lamented that old age brought an annoying affliction he called
the Still Syndrome. People would constantly note that he
was still doing things: still interested in politics
when he showed up at a meeting, still imbibing when he had a drink
and still that way when his eyes lit up on seeing a beautiful
woman. The Still Syndrome lasted an immodestly long time. Its passing has
left America poorer.
I shall miss him.
John Kenneth Galbraith, not modest
Affluent Society. A boutique in the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Los
Angeles is selling a pair of unremarkable "old" jeans for $3,286.
about this appeals. For years, I have tried to have the same password
for all my online accounts, only to be thwarted by those systems that want at
least one numeric, and then two numerics and then later insisted on changing
my password every thirty days, or so.
Cowboy jokes are now in vogue.
A young cowboy walks into a seedy cafe in Prescott, AZ. He sits at
the counter and notices an old cowboy with his arms folded staring blankly at
a full bowl of chili.
minutes of just sitting there staring at it, the young cowboy bravely asks the
old cowpoke, "If you ain't gonna eat that, mind if I do?"
The older cowboy
slowly turns his head toward the young wrangler and in his best cowboy manner
says, "Nah, you go ahead."
Eagerly, the young
cowboy reaches over and slides the bowl over to his place and starts spooning
it in with delight. He gets nearly down to the bottom and notices a dead mouse
in the chili. The sight was shocking and he immediately barfs up the chili into
The old cowboy
quietly says, "Yep, that's as far as I got, too."
Maher's monologue was not from "other night." A reader
corrected me. It was from last September. Several people were upset at my publishing
it. Parts of the monologue were funny. Parts were deadly serious. My personal
day-by-day concern lies with the fine American men and women dying daily in
what seems to me a pointless, unwinable war.
This 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 all learn together. My email address
is . You can't
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