Harry Newton's In Search of The Perfect Investment
Newton's In Search Of The Perfect Investment. Technology Investor.
AM EST Monday, September 11, 2006: Today cool, cloudless,
gorgeous. Exactly as it was five years. Everyone remembers where they were on
September 11, 2001. I had lectured at MIT and was on an Amtrak train coming
home. Amtrak stopped my train 25 miles from New York and said we should all
go back where we came from. I caught the next train back. I worried about my
wife who was in New York. We knew little of what was happening. We thought "more
Five years later, I conclude:
+ There are a lot of people out there who want us dead.
+ Most of them are young Muslims whose lives have been disadvantaged by a serious
lack of economic opportunities.
+ Except for Israel, every country in the Middle East is ruled by a dictator,
who keeps all the economic opportunities to himself and his cronies.
+ The only tolerated "free" expression is in mosques. Fiery sermons
are OK, so long as their anger is aimed externally -- at Israel, the US, etc.
+ We invaded Iraq to bring democracy to one Arab country. That was a brilliant
idea, in theory. The implementation is floundering because we fail to understand
that one vote per person means that one sect -- the Shiites -- would rule Iraq.
The less populous Sunnis, which had previously been in control under Saddam
didn't want to be ruled by the Shiites. The rest is history.
+ There are two "solutions" to the Middle East:
1. Break Iraq into three countries -- one for the Kurds, one for the Shiites
and one for the Sunnis. Dozens of countries have split since the end of the
second world war, with largely positive long-term results -- from India to Yugoslavia,
from Czechoslovakia to Ethiopia.
2. Cut the price of oil. This cuts Middle Eastern governments' ability to make
mischief. Iran couldn't afford to finance Hezbollah terror were it not for oil.
Saudi Arabia couldn't finance the hate propaganda it puts out. There are dozens
of ways to cut oil prices, from mandating minimum mileage standards and removing
exemptions (e.g. for light trucks and SUVs), to encouraging windmills and solar
photo-voltaic cell installations with tax breaks, from opening Alaska oil fields
to researching more efficient ways of extracting oil from tar sands. 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.
God forbid we should all drive Priuses,though Karen prefers driving hers to
her 2003 500SL. 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.
things begin with a phone call. Email is for confirming. Phones are
for making opportunities. Pick up the phone. Good things happen. I know this
sounds childish and self-evident. But a whole bunch of good things happened
to me last week because I picked up the phone.
Harry: Wall Street is
rife with gigantic conflicts of interest. When I find them, they amaze me. I'm
really naive. The New York Times' Gretchen Morgenson looked at how mutual
funds voted on three Pfizer directors, which the nation's two largest proxy
advisory firms had urged shareholders to withhold support because of questionable
pay practices at the company. Reported Morgenson:
funds operated by Barclays Global Investors, Dodge & Cox, Fidelity and
Northern Trust are among Pfizers largest shareholders who supported
its board. All receive revenue doing other work for Pfizer.
at all four of these companies say their votes were cast in the best interests
of their shareholders and in accordance with proxy voting guidelines. All
say their votes had nothing to do with any revenue generated by Pfizer or
other relationships with Pfizer or its directors.
for example, manages several funds in Pfizers employee retirement plans.
While Anne Crowley, a Fidelity spokeswoman, said the company does not comment
on specific votes, she added: Our votes with management dont vary
between whether or not we have another relationship with a company.
earned $2.65 million in 2004, the most recent year for which figures
were available, as an investment manager in a Pfizer pension plan. Tom Taggart,
a company spokesman, said: The sole factor B.G.I. considers in making
proxy voting decisions is the best economic interests of shareholders.
there is Dodge & Cox, which earned $1.06 million in 2004 as an
investment manager to Pfizer retirement plans. A Dodge & Cox spokesman,
Steve Gorski, said its funds supported Pfizer directors in accordance with
its guidelines. ...
Jurek is a spokesman at Northern Trust, which earned roughly $2 million
from Pfizer in 2004 as trustee of its pension plan. He said Northern Trusts
vote was made in accordance with Institutional Shareholder Services
vote recommendations to us that were in accordance to our proxy guidelines.
hires a new CEO: I love this. In desperation
Ford hires a 37-year Boeing executive who:
1. Who drives a Lexus LX 430, and
2. Who says "I can't wait to become a car guy."
Personally I can't wait to buy my first flying car.
Economists Say Housing Prices May Stagnate, or Decline,
in 2007 as Cool Down Continues.
Economists believe cooling in the housing market will extend into
next year and many forecasters in the latest WSJ.com survey predict no change
-- or an outright decline -- in home prices next year.
the 48 economists who answered the survey's question about housing predicted
no change or a decline in a closely watched gauge of nationwide home prices
during 2007. The average prediction for next year was for an increase of 0.43%,
lifted by five economists who forecast gains of 5% or more.
Why The Wall
Street Journal wastes it time talking to economists beats me. Why don't
they talk to real estate brokers, or developers or home owners, or somebody
who knows -- but NOT office-bound, chair-hugging economists -- beats
Here's their "prediction." Reminds me of asking a bunch of chimps
to write poetry.
flight that goes all the way:
This fits in the
category of your own business is always the most fun. Bob Smith gives
one-hour rides in his Piper Cherokee 6 complete with mattress and champagne
for $299. From USA Today:
corporate pilot Bob Smith has a soaring sideline: helping couples join the infamous
"mile-high club." For $299, he'll take a frisky twosome past 5,280
feet in a Piper Cherokee 6 fitted with a mattress. The hour-long flights out
of Carrollton, Ga., (milehighatlanta.com)
have lured couples from as far as New York. Smith, 51, shares stories of highflying
whoopee with USA TODAY's Kitty Bean Yancey.
Q: Who goes
on these flights?
A: Couples from 18 and 19 up to their 60s. I've taken between 75 and 100
in five years. I've had people fly in from New York, New Jersey and Miami
just to do the mile-high club. It's a lot easier (for them) than getting in
the bathroom of a 737.
Q: Do men or
women usually book the flights?
A: About 75% of the flights are booked by women. I've tried to figure that
out, and I guess if the guy suggested it to a woman, he would be afraid she'd
think he was some kind of pervert. But if the woman suggests it, the man thinks
Q: But your
plane is small. Aren't people embarrassed to fool around with you there?
A: No. I've got a curtain up so I can't see what's going on, and I wear
a headset. But I guess the ones who want to (take a mile-high flight) aren't
the inhibited type anyway.
you have to interrupt them to tell them when you're going to land?
A: I give them a kitchen timer. I set it on 50 minutes and I tell them
when it goes off, they've got 10 minutes to get their clothes on and buckle
Q: What does
the Federal Aviation Administration have to say about this kind of flight?
Do they give you any trouble?
A: I have a commercial license, and this qualifies as a sightseeing trip.
... It's not against FAA rules to join the mile-high club.
Q: Do some
people have a problem with what you do?
A: I've had some people get irritated. And I ask them: 'Do you get mad
at people who own hotels and rent rooms to couples?' I'm just providing a
space for them to have an opportunity to fulfill a fantasy.
Q: Does anyone
else do this sort of thing?
A: The only one I know of is in Cincinnati. It's called Flamingo Air (flamingoair.net).
do you prefer piloting business execs or mile-high clubbers?
A: I like the corporate stuff. But I enjoy the mile-high club because
the people behind me are enjoying themselves.
Q: I would
imagine you get some married people who are not with their husbands or wives.
A: After the flight, I give (customers) a certificate on joining the mile-high
club. I have had a couple of couples who did not want their names on the certificate.
Q: So the
price is $269 for an hour, including champagne?
A: It's actually $299 now. I had to raise it because of fuel prices. The
champagne is Cook's or the Spanish one in the black bottle (Freixenet). I
don't give Dom (Perignon) or anything. You also get to keep the sheets. ...
Everybody gets brand-new sheets.
keep fighting." From this week's Weekly
In the quarterfinals
of the 2005 U.S. Open, Agassi came back to beat a young, powerful James Blake
after dropping the first two sets. In the press conference afterwards, he
was asked how he turned the match around. He answered, "I dont
have the answers, I dont pretend that I do just because I won the match,
I just keep fighting and maybe something good happens.
to get government benefits. A fantasy story:
When I went to the social security office to
apply for Social Security, the woman behind the counter asked me for my driver's
license to verify my age. I looked in my pockets and realized I had left my
wallet at home. I told the woman that I was very sorry but I seemed to have
left my wallet at home!
to go home and come back later."
The woman says, "Unbutton your shirt."
So I opened my shirt revealing my curly silver hair.
She says, "That silver hair on your chest is proof enough for me"
and she processed my Social Security application.
When I got home, I excitedly told my wife about my experience at the social
She says, "You
should have dropped your pants.
You might have
gotten disability too."
true story from Frank Bisbee, a friend
The other day, I got home early and
thought it would be nice to cook dinner for my wife and surprise her with my
culinary skills. She called the house as I was getting everything going on the
stove. I told her what I was preparing and she was pleased.
there was some overflow on one of the burners and it started to smoke. While
we were talking, the smoke detector went off. I asked her to hold on, put the
detector in the refrigerator and returned to the phone.
My wife said, "Honey, you are not supposed to use it as a timer."
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 .
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