Harry Newton's In Search of The Perfect Investment
Newton's In Search Of The Perfect Investment. Technology Investor.
8:30 AM Monday, October 3, 2005: Amazing
returns. Just in:
returns for 12 months to June 30, 2005
Behind these sterling
+ Alternative investments -- real estate, timber, commodities.
+ Hedge funds.
Endowments magazine did a survey of the investment returns of 210 nonprofit
groups. The highest earners for 2004 were:
* Year to March 31
Way of Greater Rochester*
Public Radio (Washington)**
Monuments Fund (New York)***
Museum of Arts***
** Year to September 30
*** Year to June 30
Keep the ideas
on energy stocks coming. Hope to address them tomorrow.
is New Orleans? There were reports of New Orleans's police officers
abandoning their posts. Turns out most of the cops listed on the payroll never
How inept is FEMA? A friend of mine sells
equipment. FEMA ordered from him. A few days later they ordered the same stuff.
He asked why? FEMA said they had misplaced the first batch. The
saddest FEMA screwup is the story of the $100 million of ice. First, the photo:
of trucks carrying hurricane relief supplies waited on Sept. 14 at a Federal
Emergency Management Agency staging area at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery,
Now the story from the New York Times:
When the definitive
story of the confrontation between Hurricane Katrina and the United States
government is finally told, one long and tragicomic chapter will have to be
reserved for the odyssey of the ice. Ninety-one thousand tons of ice cubes,
that is, intended to cool food, medicine and sweltering victims of the storm.
It would cost taxpayers more than $100 million, and most of it would never
befuddled heroes of the tale will be truckers like Mark Kostinec, who was
dropping a load of beef in Canton, Ohio, on Sept. 2 when his dispatcher called
with an urgent government job: Pick up 20 tons of ice in Greenville, Pa.,
and take it to Carthage, Mo., a staging area for the Federal Emergency Management
40, a driver for Universe Truck Lines of Omaha, was happy to help with the
crisis. But at Carthage, instead of unloading, he was told to take his 2,000
bags of ice on to Montgomery, Ala. After a day and a half in Montgomery, he
was sent to Camp Shelby, in Mississippi. From there, on Sept. 8, he was waved
onward to Selma, Ala. And after two days in Selma he was redirected to Emporia,
Va., along with scores of other frustrated drivers who had been following
similarly circuitous routes.
Mr. Kostinec sat for an entire week, his trailer burning fuel around the clock
to keep the ice frozen, as FEMA officials studied whether supplies originally
purchased for Hurricane Katrina might be used for Hurricane Ophelia. But in
the end only 3 of about 150 ice trucks were sent to North Carolina, he said.
So on Sept. 17, Mr. Kostinec headed to Fremont, Neb., where he unloaded his
ice into a government-rented storage freezer the next day.
that ice around for 4,100 miles, and it never got used," Mr. Kostinec
said. A former mortgage broker and Enron computer technician, he had learned
to roll with the punches, and he was pleased to earn $4,500 for the trip,
double his usual paycheck. He was perplexed, however, by the government's
seem to know how much ice they were buying and how much they were using,"
he said. "All the truckers said the money was good. But we were upset
about not being able to help."
In the chaotic aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Mr. Kostinec's government-ordered
meandering was not unusual. Partly because of the mass evacuation forced by
Hurricane Katrina, and partly because of what an inspector general's report
this week called a broken system for tracking goods at FEMA, the agency ordered
far more ice than could be distributed to people who needed it.
Over about a
week after the storm, FEMA ordered 211 million pounds of ice for Hurricane
Katrina, said Rob Holland, a spokesman for the Army Corps of Engineers, which
buys the ice that FEMA requests under a contract with IAP Worldwide Services
of Cape Canaveral, Fla.
realized that that much ice was overkill, and managed to cancel some of the
orders. But the 182 million pounds actually supplied turned out to be far
more than could be delivered to victims.
In the end,
Mr. Holland said, 59 percent of the ice was trucked to storage freezers all
over the country to await the next disaster; some has been used for Hurricane
Of $200 million
originally set aside for ice purchases, the bill for the Hurricane Katrina
purchases so far is more than $100 million - and climbing, Mr. Holland said.
Under the ice contract, the government pays about $12,000 to buy a 20-ton
truckload of ice, delivered to its original destination. If it is moved farther,
the price is $2.60 a mile, and a day of waiting costs up to $900, Mr. Holland
add up fast, and reports like Mr. Kostinec's have stirred concern on Capitol
Hill, as more wearying evidence of the federal government's incoherent response
to the catastrophe. ...
Not all of the
ice delivery trips, by an estimated 4,000 drivers, ended in frustration. Mike
Snyder, a truck driver from Berwick, Pa., took an excruciating journey that
started in Allentown, Pa., on Sept. 16 and did not end until two weeks later,
on Friday morning, when he arrived in Tarkington Prairie, Tex.
was out in the small community. When Mr. Snyder pulled up in front of a local
church and unloaded his ice, residents were overjoyed to see him. "I
felt like I did a lot of good," he said.
who pinballed around the country felt differently.
lost his Florida home to a hurricane last year, Jeff Henderson was eager to
help when he heard that FEMA needed truckers to carry ice. He drove at his
own expense to Wisconsin to collect a 20-ton load and delivered it to the
Carthage staging area.
Then he, too,
was sent across the South: Meridian, Miss.; Selma; and finally Memphis, where
he waited five days and then delivered his ice to storage.
understand what happened," Mr. Henderson said. "The government's
the only customer that plays around like that."
a dispatcher in Omaha, sent a truckload out of Dubuque, Iowa, to Meridian.
From there, the driver was sent to Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana,
to Columbia, S.C., and finally to Cumberland, Md., where he bought a lawn
chair and waited for six days.
days after he started, the driver was told to take the ice to storage in Bettendorf,
Iowa, Mr. Hohnstein said. The truck had traveled 3,282 miles, but not a cube
of ice had reached a hurricane victim.
Mr. Hohnstein said, "the driver got to see the country."
bill to the government will exceed $15,000, he said, but the ice was worth
less than $5,000. "It seemed like an incredible waste of money,"
he said. ..
send valuable packages through the post office.
Packages disappear and can't be traced.
UPS and FedEx have tracking systems that work. The USPS doesn't.
is a wonderful, special place. When I visited it, I thought "this
is the place I want to retire to." Words cannot adequately describe its
beauty and its gentleness. On the weekend three suicide bombers killed 26 and
injured 100. The bombings carried the signature of a group called Jamaah Islamiyah.
Over the weekend the Australian prime minister, John Howard, a close ally of
America, said "There's nothing the terrorists want more than to destabilize
Indonesia and what Indonesia represents as a moderate Islamic country and bulwark
against the perverted, obscene version of Islam which is represented by these
asked my Australian friend, who studies these things, to explain Jamaah Islamiyah
to me. He wrote:
JI are psychopaths. So trying to 'understand' them is ultimately
an impossible task. They want Sharia law. They are descended from a group
who tried to set up an idyllic Muslim state at the time of Indonesian independence.
Sukarno crushed them and proclaimed Panchasila -- the first rule of which
was tolerance for other religions, as long as people believed in God. Panchasila
is No 1 target for JI. This means Bali is a particularly suitable target,
with its tolerance, and Hindu overlay on animism. The West is pagan. Women
must wear veils. Nightclubs are evil. The Indonesian State is illicit. They
believe JIHAD must be waged against anyone who does not belong to their particular
fundamentalism. Yes women and children too. If one carries out Jihad (i.e.
bombings) that will ensure Sharia Law will come into force. Of course the
senior guys only make bombs and plans. They recruit simply boys to be the
bombers. One of the previous Bali bombers had a wife of two years or so and
two small kids.
is the Bali I remember -- volcanic, with steep gullies and every inch farmed
by the best irrigationists in the world -- the Balinese. There is a highly
developed and sophisticated Law of Riparian rights whereby the farmer at
the bottom has rights to water vis a vis the farmer at the top.
is what the suicide bombers did to a restaurant in Bali.
Hashanah begins tonight
It celebrates the beginning of the Jewish New Year. All Jewish holidays, according
to Jewish folklore, can be summarized in three short sentences:
+ They tried to
+ They failed.
+ So, let's eat.
Here are some famous cracks by famous Jews:
+ I once wanted
to become an atheist but I gave up. They have no holidays. -- Henny Youngman
+ The time is
at hand when the wearing of a prayer shawl and skullcap will not bar a man from
the White House, unless, of course, the man is Jewish. -- Jules Farber
+ The remarkable
thing about my mother is that for thirty years she served us nothing but leftovers.
The original meal has never been found. -- Calvin Trillin
+ Let me tell
you the one thing I have against Moses. He took us forty years into the desert
to bring us to the one place in the Middle East that has no oil! -- Golda Meir
+ My idea of an
agreeable person is a person who agrees with me. -- Benjamin Disraeli
+ A spoken contract
isn't worth the paper it's written on. -- Sam Goldwyn
+ I have enough
money to last me the rest of my life unless I buy something. -- Jackie Mason
+ I don't want
to achieve immortality through my work. I want to achieve immortality through
not dying. -- Woody Allen
+ Marriage is
a wonderful institution. But who wants to live in an institution? -- Groucho
+ When I bore
people at a party, they think it is their fault. -- Henry Kissinger
+ How my private equity fund is doing. Click
+ Blackstone private equity funds. Click
+ Manhattan Pharmaceuticals: Click
+ NovaDel Biosciences appeals. Click
+ Hana Biosciences appeals. Click
+ All turned on by biotech. Click
+ Steve Jobs Commencement Address. The text is available:
Click here. The full audio is available. Click
+ The March of the Penguins, an exquisite movie. Click
+ When to sell stocks. Click
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
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