Harry Newton's In Search of The Perfect Investment
Newton's In Search Of The Perfect Investment. Technology Investor.
AM EST Tuesday, September 12, 2006: I told my busy
real estate mogul I was starting a new business. He looked at me as though I
had flipped out. "You should be enjoying your life." Everyone envies
to motivate builders and subcontractors: Short
answer: You can't. I've tried pleading, begging, groveling and threatening.
Groveling seems to work best. My friend, a big developer, says his builder walked
in yesterday, said he was losing money on the fixed price job and demanded $2
million extra to finish it, or he'd walk.
real estate update: The $1,000 per square foot for Manhattan apartments
is holding, but just barely. Prices are down 10% from a year ago. It's clearly
a buyers' market in residential real estate. The buyers know it. They're taking
much longer to close. And the banks (the mortgage lenders) are more conservative
in their appraisals. In recent cases the banks have come in lower than
what the buyer (their client) agreed to pay.
The picture is completely opposite in commercial. "It's the hottest it's
ever been," one mogul told me last night. "There's a huge demand for
commercial space." The latest trend -- office condominiums.
your way through September: Mark your calendars. Hay fever season
begins August 24 each year and ends with the first decent frost. I have "enjoyed"
hay fever for over 50 years. I humbly present my "solutions":
1. Wash your face with cold water and soap. This removes the bad stuff off your
2. Turn on the airconditioner. When you're freezing, you're not sneezing.
3. Don't rub your eyes. That makes them worse.
4. Get someone else to vacuum out your room.
5. Keep away from dogs and cats.
6. Don't go to the octor to figure what you're allergic to. Most likely, you'll
be like me -- allergic to everything. Being inoculated against "everything"
or even avoiding "everything" doesn't work.
7. Claritin (loratadine) works somewhat. it doesn't put you to sleep as quickly
as some others do.
8. Exercise works. You don't sneeze when you're sweating.
The only good news with allergies is that every few years your sensitivity to
allergies changes. Maybe it's every seven years. Maybe not. This scene is from
the movie, The Seven Year Itch. The best part of allergies is watching
Prius, an update on yesterday's column: My friend Karen's Prius does
52.7 miles per gallon in the city and 43 miles to the gallon on
the highway. Most people who drive an SUV get fewer than 20 miles per gallon.
Writes Karen, "Sweetie, don't make fun of the Prius. I like driving it
more than my 2003 500SL, though the 500SL is a hell of a lot sexier especially
with the hard top down."
The Mercedes, more money, less gas mileage, but sexier.
The point of yesterday's
column: In between the Prius and
the Mercedes, there are huge opportunities for saving oil. Transport is the
single biggest consumer of oil in the U.S. We need to reduce
oil to reduce the money in Middle Eastern dictator hands.
about Global Warming: Michael Crichton thinks
it s a crock. Arnold Schwarzenegger is obsessed with it. I'm confused. The Economist
has a big survey on it, titled, The
heat is on. Excerpts:
For more, click
it now seems, is for real.
THE world's climate has barely changed since the industrial revolution. The
temperature was stable in the 19th century, rose very slightly during the
first half of the 20th, fell back in the 1950s-70s, then started rising again.
Over the past 100 years, it has gone up by about 0.6°C (1.1°F).
So what's the
fuss about? Not so much the rise in temperature as the reason for it. Previous
changes in the world's climate have been set off by variations either in the
angle of the Earth's rotation or in its distance from the sun. This time there
is another factor involved: man-made greenhouse gases.
When the sun's
energy hits the Earth, most of it bounces back into space. But carbon dioxide
and around 30 other greenhouse gases, such as methane, help create a layer
that traps some of the heat from the sun, thus warming the planet. And, because
of the burning of fossil fuels, which contain the CO2 that the original plants
breathed in from the atmosphere, levels of CO2 have increased from around
280 parts per million (ppm) before the industrial revolution to around 380
ppm now. Studies of ice cores show that concentrations have not been so high
for nearly half a million years. At the current rate of increase, they will
have reached 800 ppm by the end of this century. Given that CO2 being emitted
now stays in the atmosphere for up to 200 years, getting those concentrations
down will take a long time.
The first person
to spot the connection between temperature and human activity was a 19th-century
scientist called Svante Arrhenius. He speculated that emissions from industry
could double CO2 levels in 3,000 years, thus warming the planet. Being a Swede,
he thought that was just fine. In 1938 a British engineer called Guy Callendar
gave a talk to the Royal Meteorological Society in which he claimed to have
established that the world was warming, but he was regarded as an eccentric.
The idea of global warming seemed bound for the intellectual dustbin.
in climate change was lukewarm in the first half of the 20th century, it went
distinctly chilly in the second half, for the good reason that the world was
getting cooler. In 1975 Newsweek magazine ran a cover story entitled The
Cooling World that gave warning of a drastic decline in food production
with serious political implications for just about every nation on
Earth a prediction repeated with understandable glee by those
who suspect the current worry is just another such scare.
blip turns out to have been the consequence of another by-product of human
activity: sulphur and other airborne particles that bounce back sunlight before
it can hit the Earth, thus offsetting the greenhouse effect. By the late 20th
century, efforts to control that sort of pollution were having an effect.
The particulate content of the atmosphere was falling, and the world began
to heat up once more. The idea of global warming was retrieved from the bin
and turned into one of the biggest arguments of our time.
The debate involves
scientists, economists, politicians and anybody interested in the future of
the planet. It is charged by the belief on one side that life as we know it
is under threat, and by the conviction on the other that scientists and socialists
are conspiring to spend taxpayers' money on a bogey. It is sharpened by a
moral angle the sense, deep at the heart of the environmental movement,
that the consequence of individual selfishness will be collective doom: the
invisible hand is a fist, and original sin an SUV.
is peopled by big characters: James Lovelock, a British scientist who believes
that mankind has fatefully unbalanced the delicate mechanisms of a world he
calls Gaia; Bjorn Lomborg, a hyperactive Danish statistician who believes
that scientists are twisting figures to scare people; Arnold Schwarzenegger,
the governor of California, whose mission is to terminate climate change;
and James Inhofe, chairman of the environment and public works committee in
America's Senate, who says it is all nonsense.
the argument is also fuelled by ignorance, because nobody knows for sure what
is happening to the climate. At a macro level, modeling what is one of the
world's most complex mechanisms and projecting 100 years ahead is tricky.
At a micro level, individual pieces of data contradict each other. One shrinking
glacier can be countered by another that is growing; one area of diminishing
precipitation can be answered by another where it is rising.
fear have spawned an industry. Governments, international bureaucracies and
universities are employing many thousands of clever people to work out what
is going on. Foundations are pouring money into research. Big corporations
now all have high-level climate-change advisers with teams of clever young
things scurrying around to find out what the scientists are thinking and what
the politicians are planning to do.
of an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change under the auspices of the
UN was designed to silence the arguments and give policymakers an agreed line
on what the future holds. But given how little is known about either the climate's
sensitivity to greenhouse-gas emissions or about future emissions levels,
that proved difficult. Not surprisingly, the IPCC's latest report, published
in 2001, offers a wide range of predicted temperature rises, from 1.4°C
to 5.8°C by the end of this century.
This huge range
limits the usefulness of the IPCC's findings to policymakers. Nor has the
panel's existence quieted the debate. Skepticism about its science and especially
its economics has led a number of people to disagree with its findings. Some
challenge the evidence that climate change is happening; others accept that
it is happening, but argue that it isn't worth trying to do anything about
Since that IPCC
report five years ago, the science has tended to confirm the idea that something
serious is happening. In the 1990s, satellite data seemed to contradict the
terrestrial data that showed temperatures rising. The disparity puzzled scientists
and fueled skepticism. The satellite data, it turned out, were wrong: having
been put right, they now agree with terrestrial data that things are hotting
up. Observations about what is happening to the climate have tended to confirm,
or run ahead of, what the models predicted would happen. Arctic sea ice, for
instance, is melting unexpectedly fast, at 9% a decade. Glaciers are melting
surprisingly swiftly. And a range of phenomena, such as hurricane activity,
that were previously thought to be unconnected to climate change are now increasingly
linked to it.
will argue that although the science remains uncertain, the chances of serious
consequences are high enough to make it worth spending the (not exorbitant)
sums needed to try to mitigate climate change. It will suggest that, even
though America, the world's biggest CO2 emitter, turned its back on the Kyoto
protocol on global warming, the chances are that it will eventually take steps
to control its emissions. And if America does, there is a reasonable prospect
that the other big producers of CO2 will do the same.
reaction to Global Warming:
SYDNEY, Australia (AP) -- A saloon-style striptease, complete with
corsets and balloons, at an Australian government-sponsored conference on global
warming left some scientists hot and bothered and the organizers in boiling
The show was cut
short and organizers issued an apology after some delegates at the Australia
and New Zealand Climate Forum's dinner in Canberra walked out in disgust at
what was intended as a lighthearted break from the weighty business of rising
who led the team of dancers from Miss Kitka's House of Burlesque, said the performance
was in reasonably good taste and she didn't understand what the fuss was about.
Gale said she
emerged into the function room during dinner wearing a heavy corset, black fishnet
stockings and at least a dozen balloons, which she invited delegates to pop
as she danced to Peggy Lee's sultry 1958 hit "Fever."
that any of the girls get down to is vintage lingerie, which is corsetry and
stockings," Gale told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio on Friday. "It's
not like we were doing full nudity and simulating sexual acts or anything like
was not even a midriff on display."
But some in the
audience objected to the Wednesday night show in Australia's old Parliament
House, and the dance troupe was asked to stop about 10 minutes into a 45-minute
routine, Gale said. The Australian National University, which organized the
conference, issued a statement the next day apologizing for any offense caused.
Minister Ian Campbell got wind of the show, he canceled his department's $2,290
sponsorship, and the Agriculture Department followed suit, withdrawing $3,800.
"I am appalled at what happened," he said.
John Howard was less prudish. "My reaction is well, probably not appropriate,
but I'm not going to list it for discussion at the next meeting of the national
security committee," Howard told the Southern Cross Broadcasting network.
A Texan was stopped by a game warden in East Texas recently with
two ice chests full of live fish in water, leaving a river
well known for its fishing. The game warden asked the man, "Do you have
a license to catch those fish?"
friend, I ain't got no license. These here are my pet fish," explained
"Pet fish?" asked the game warden.
night I take these fish down to the river and let 'em swim' round for a while.
Then I whistle and they jump right back into this ice chest and I take 'em home."
bunch of BS! Fish can't do that !" said the game warden.
The redneck looked
at the game warden for a moment and then said, "It's the truth. I'll show
you. It really works."
GOT to see this!" said the game warden.
The redneck poured
the fish into the river and stood and waited.
After several minutes, the game warden turned to him and said, "Well?"
said the redneck.
you going to call them back?" asked the game warden.
back?" asked the Texas redneck.
the game warden exclaimed.
asked the Texas redneck.
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
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