Archive for September, 2008

Three different ones

September 25th, 2008 by under Uncategorized. No Comments.

I’m not really that concerned with class anymore. Or perhaps I should frame it in the classic existential hedge…I am and I am not. 

Don’t get me wrong…I had a presentation on Monday in my Service Marketing class that I fully prepared for. I feel really good about how it came together both individually and from a group standpoint. When it’s time to work on a presentation or a paper, I know I will hammer down and get the job done. But I feel somewhat detached when I don’t have to be “on.” Maybe that’s a function of being a second-year MBA student. Maybe it’s a function of the economic crisis that darkens every day and what that means for both my personal future and the future of this country. The real answer – as is so often the case – lies in the middle, a function of both conditions.

It’s absolutely incredible that the economy is on the verge of collapse and that nobody saw this coming or had any contingency plan as late as a week ago at this time. There is no doubt that the leaders of this country are currently MAKING IT UP AS THEY GO, and that is and should be very frightening. The plan in economic theory and principle should work…the government buys toxic assets from the financial sector at 30 cents on the dollar and sells them for 60 cents when the economy rights itself in a few years, this im turns frees up banks to continue to extend credit to people and businesses who deserve it. I get that. I hope it works.

But no one has ever attempted anything like this before – it’s one big roll of the dice…come on 7, baby needs a 7 for a new pair of shoes, Uncle Sam needs a 7 to avoid a prolonged recession and outright economic collapse! The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.

This plan is being stewarded and shaped by the same people who flew a “Mission Accomplished” banner on a battleship five years ago in regards to the Iraq war, so obviously they are credible people whose word can be taken at face value (below link):

http://blogs.indiewire.com/jamesisrael/archives/6_22_bush_mission_banner.jpg

A certain individual close to me who I have a tremendous amount of respect for often would tell me that no business ever really has a plan. And I found this to be true in my work experience within the advertising industry. The idea that there is a master plan somewhere gathering dust that top executives use to shape their decisions and strategy is ludicrous. Everything is management by crisis only, and it’s all matter of how quickly and effectively you can react. No one has a crystal ball, advance planning is figuring out what you’re going to be doing on Friday. This is apparently even true at the highest level of the federal government. People simply make educated guesses based on past precedents and predicted future developments…and then sit back and wait – they’re hailed as geniuses and visionairies if events play out in their favor, fools otherwise.

The below link is a fairly even-handed assessment of the ramifications of the 1st debate (regardless of when said debate actually occurs). I’m gaining a new-found respect for the author of this article – which is not to say I agree with or condone his political agenda, it’s more than that I admire his skills in effectively framing issues and producing results, which is all business and politics are really about.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122230655620873931.html

And I think I liked Sarah Palin a lot better when her foreign policy experience was confined to looking out a window and seeing Russia on the horizon as opposed to Sarah Palin taking lessons on Foreign Relations 101 from this guy. I can’t even imagine how this conversation went down…I just can’t deal with it. There is nothing that will benefit the world that can come out of this little sitdown:

http://www.newsgroper.com/katie-couric/2008/09/24/interviewing-sarah-palin-kills-more-my-brain-cells-straight-gin

Quote #1: “I’ve now been in 57 states — I think one left to go.” – Barack Obama (Huh?)

Quote #2: “”Our economy, I think, is still — the fundamentals of the economy are strong.” – John McCain, SEPTEMBER 15, 2008 (Wow!)

Quote #3: “I’ll be long gone before some smart person ever figures out what happened inside this Oval Office.” – George W. Bush (Uncharacteristically razor sharp here).

Song: “Pigs (Three Different Ones)” Pink Floyd

Between Wish You Were Here and The Wall, the Floyd released Animals, a dark, Orwellian take on the inherent problems within captialism and modern society. Though often overlooked within their canon, Animals is a vital, uncompromising album and a fascinating snapshot of the four primary members playing together as a band. For Pink Floyd, much better known for space rock and rock operas, flat-out rocks it hard on this particular song cycle. It’s also notable for being the first Floyd album dominated entirely by Roger Waters lyrically and musically, and the overall tone is coloured (I fully acknowledge the pretension inherent by using the British “colour”) by his sharp, biting wit and arrangements. I often fluctuate between the various eras of Pink Floyd depending on my mood, yet Animals  is the one that I’m currently stuck on (for the first time in years…usually even more obscure gems such as The Final Cut and The Divison Bell get more play).  I heard “Dogs” while listening to Internet radio the other day and I have that to thank for sending me back to Animals. It just seems right given the increasingly bleak climate and harsh realities that don’t seem to be going away any time in the near future.

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Electioneering

September 17th, 2008 by under Uncategorized. No Comments.

I graduate in May and all bets are off as to the what the economic climate will be at that time. Which makes this a fascinating time to be in business school. Much of my time is spent analyzing relevant case studies – why businesses choose one solution from a set of alternative choices and what were the factors that contributed to such a decision. Yet the most fascinating and topical business case studies of all are currently playing out in dramatic fashion in real time. Case studies have the benefit of hindsight and past performance can be one of the best predictors of future returns. But in the current economic climate, it’s Thunderdome – anything goes. 

It is clear regardless of which party’s dogma you subscribe to that the financial sector is in dire need of drastic reform and regulation. Free markets have failed us in this particular instance. Which is not to say that free markets will always fail…it’s more that the pendulum has swung too far in one direction and that it’s going to take a significant amount of government oversight and intervention to get things back and track.

As this is the first presidential election cycle that I have resided in the greater DC area, I would be remiss if I didn’t at least topically address the political winds swirling all around me from time to time. The economy and the approach to it of our next president directly affects my immediate future. However, I will keep this discussion apolitical as the purpose of this particular blog is not to advance any particular political agenda.

To begin, here are links to recent op-ed pieces I found particularly insightful:

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/16/opinion/16brooks.html?_r=1&em&oref=slogin

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122161053317045669.html

The major issues on the table as I see it are the following:

– No one seems to have any idea as to when the bottom of this financial crisis will be reached. Who will fail next? Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch, AIG…these are all venerable Wall Street institutions that have successfully existed for in some instances well over 10o years. And seemingly overnight, they’re falling apart. Who’s next? Where does it end? No one has an answer to these questions. That’s scary.

– Neither of the presidential candidates has any real economic experience. One guy is a self-styled “reformer” who has been part of the problem in Washington the last 25 years and the other guy is a relative outsider who has been vague on the details of how he will bring about change.

The only person on either ticket who has any experience managing a budget is the first-term governor of Alaska. Let’s pause for a second and reflect on how bizarre that is. This individual’s previous experience was as mayor of a small town about the size of where I went to high school. I remember the mayor of that town when I lived there and I know who the current mayor is and those people were and are CLOWNS. The mayor of a small town does not exactly have high-level job responsibilites.

– Both candidates are promising to cut taxes. They have different plans in terms of whose taxes will be cut and who will have to return to the tax rates prior to the Bush tax cuts. Everybody likes lower taxes…I sure do. But here’s the problem: who is going to reduce federal spending? That’s the elephant in the room. Neither candidate has clearly articulated a plan on how they will effectively cut government spending. I fail to see how cutting taxes without implementing significant spending decreases is going to have a positive impact on the economy. It just doesn’t make sense.

– The national debt continues to swell and grow, and it is my generation that will be paying for it.

Anyway, the first presidential debate is next Friday night, the focus is domestic and economic policy, and anyone who thinks this country’s economy is a mess should be watching.

And it has not escaped my notice that a certain Smith MBA grad – quite possibly  Smith’s most prominent MBA grad – has been making headlines this week. I obviously agree that none of the 4 people in this presidential election has the experience to run a major corporation. But I disagree when she says that the country shouldn’t be run like a corporation. This country should be run exactly like a business: making decisions based on the bottom line, factoring in future returns. A CEO is accountable to his/her stockholders and the president should be accountable to the citizens. Instead, politicans are accountable to lobbyists: the country is run by people who answer directly to special interests. Patronage runs the show. And until that’s fixed (all signs point to NOT ANYTIME SOON), nothing will change in Washington.

The person I had hoped would run for president didn’t: he is a former CEO and current mayor of a large city. I would have voted for him, but nowhere enough people would have to make his candidacy viable. It’s a shame because he is a social liberal and fiscal conservative who spent his career in the financial sector. His defeat in the general election would have brought significant issues to the forefront, perhaps opening the way for future candidates of a similar caliber.

But I digress….we have what we have. I’ll say it again…it’s a fascinating time to be in business school. You can sometimes learn as much from poor management than you can from good management. And this is certainly one of those times. 

Song: “Absolutely Sweet Marie”  Bob Dylan

Quote: “The argument against democracy is spending five minutes with the average voter.” – Winston Churchill

Shameless Plug: I’m thinking of instituting this as a semi-regular feature. This is a blog written by an associate of mine in Philly who I have shared a beverage or two with over the years. I like the fact that he has a running “Scamming Scammers” feature where he deceives people who are trying to bilk the innocent and gullible through chain letter and Ponzi schemes.

http://sweetmercifulcrap.com/

And in case you go to his site and are wondering, I voted for Sarah Palin….

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Night school

September 9th, 2008 by under Uncategorized. No Comments.

I’m taking my first night class in the District this semester – “Implementing Strategy in Organizations.” Already, I’m glad I took advantage of this opportunity. All classes take place in the state-of-the-art Reagan Trade Building on 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. In a city which generally has a rather bland overall architectural style, the design of the Reagan Building is fresh and innovative. And there’s a lot to be said for walking out of a building, seeing the lit-up Capitol to your right and knowing that the White House is three blocks to the left. Plus, the large majority of students are part-time students, meaning that you get different perspectives and takes on the MBA learning experience. This class takes place on Mondays from 7-9:40..I initially was horrifed after realizing the conflict with “Monday Night Football” but am glad I made this decision for all of the above reasons. (And besides, I can still catch the second half).

The Smith school has seen fit to bequeath me a Blackberry that is a significant upgrade of the Fisher Price version I had been sporting for the last year. It is billed as the “World Edition” and comes complete with an international plug converter. I’m still learning the nuances and subtleties of this new device, but am enjoying it thus far.

Quote: “Hell is other people.” – Jean-Paul Sartre

Song: “I’m A Flirt” R. Kelly.

V and I were laughing about this song the other day. Essentially, the conceit of the song is that you shouldn’t introduce your girlfriend to R. Kelly because R. Kelly will seduce her. R. Kelly doesn’t have a choice in the matter; Sartrian existentialism decidedly does not apply here. This may involve your girlfriend gleefully participating in vile, base acts with R. Kelly that are largely unspeakable in this blog space. R. Kelly is in a sense waiving any and all liability for what happens to your relationship with your girlfriend if you fail to heed his warning and do in fact introduce her to R. Kelly. R. Kelly was acquitted of all charges pending against him over the summer, he is walking the streets as a vindicated, free man, and if you have not heard this song, or recklessly choose to ignore it, you are assuming considerable risk in your relationship. So at the end of the day you must ask yourself, with R. Kelly prowling wantonly at night, how risk tolerant are you?

(I’m sure you never thought I would be able to bring that back to business school jargon.)

SHAMELESS PLUG: Go Action Team is a new band that flat-out rocks. They are currently playing shows and building up a following in the Austin area. The drummer and bassist are good friends of mine….I have even performed (butchered) lead vocals on a cover of Weezer’s “Say It Ain’t So” in the past during rehearsal.

The link to their web page is: http://www.goactionteam.com/

I attempted to put in a music player widget, but because my craft with html code is admittedly basic, that didn’t work. No matter…here is the link to their MySpace page: http://www.myspace.com/goactionteam

These guys seriously rock…I urge you to check them out.

 

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