Thursday, July 25, 2013

My Good Friend, Stevie Cohen

Years ago, when I made the mistake of listening to Jim Cramer on CNBC, I remember the people he called  "my good friends."
He was always talking about  "my good friend Stevie Cohen." Today his firm, SAC, has been indicted for fostering a culture of insider trading.
I once watched while he got his good friend "Eliot Spitzer "on the phone. Spitzer was forced out as governor of New York.
His "good friend Eddie Lampert," has driven Sears and Kmart into the ground, using their cash flow for his investments. He once owned Orchard Supply Hardware, a company built by a wonderful man who was a great philanthropist. At the Orchard Supply down the street from me three saws were broken, two that cut wood, one that cut metal. This situation prevailed for over three months. Of all the things a hardware store needs, working saws would seem to be crucial.
Jim Cramer clearly has few insights into people. People who looked at his recommendations for stocks over the years, do not especially think he has insights on them either.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Six White Women

Six White women. That's as much as you need to know about the Trayvon Martin decision. Of course there was the Stand Your Ground law in Florida that apparently allows someone with a gun to shoot anybody who scares them. The case was always going to be hard to try, because Florida does everything it can to protect gun owners.
But the jury was made up of six White women. At first Trayvon's mother thought it was hopeful that it was an all woman jury because she thought they'd see their child in Trayvon.
And as smart a woman as she was, she was giving more credit to white Southern women than they deserved.
A few years ago one of my students came to my office. She was the all-American girl. Her father was a minister and she was someone with a lot of empathy. She told me she was pulled over by the Inglewood police, and when asked what the problem was, the officer said, "it's a new car and you're Black."
Los Angeles is not the South, but it is in America, an America that views African-Americans differently than it does White people.
I called the Inglewood Police Department. I also talked to a member of the police advisory committee. She was African-American and not surprised at the story.
One day the young woman came to my office and asked me to stop trying to get justice from the Inglewood Police Department. Her father was afraid of what might happen to her if I kept on causing a ruckus.
As a father, I understood his concerns and shut up. I've also had many of my students picked up for DWB (driving while Black). I love America, but I know that things are frequently unfair. It's been a long time since I walked out of a George Wallace speech at Syracuse University, and while things have gotten better, deep down this country is still filled with hatred.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Bribery Crucial to Success in China

If you don't bribe, you can't be successful in China. The word Hong Bao, which means red envelope, is a technique used in low-level bribery. In this case, you simply hand a red envelope full of money to the person you're trying to bribe.
Naturalized Americans who have parents in China, rush to China to hand the doctor a Hong Bao, to make sure a sick parent will receive adequate medical attention.
Glaxo Smith Kline, which has been charged with large-scale bribery, has never been known as a company with integrity. They used travel agencies to funnel money to doctors and officials. However, any company trying to compete in China realizes bribery is a way of life. Former premier Wen Jia Bao's family accumulated $2.2 billion during the 10 years he was premier. Favors were done and fortunes were made.
American newspapers intimate that China itself wants to develop a homegrown pharmaceutical industry. The intense amount of hacking at American universities noted for research is part of putting together such an industry.
Ever since the death of Mao the amount of bribery has gone up and the acceptance of it among officials is widespread. That's why the story of GSK is so funny. It's impossible to imagine a China without rampant bribery.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

A Fullfilling Day in Beijing

Luckily, the world is made up of individuals with different motivations. A guy on Wall Street wants to get rich; a doctor wants to treat the sick in Africa; while an entrepreneur wants to start a company and watch it grow.
Because I caught polio when I was seven, and my father died in an iron lung in five days, I probably should've set my sights on making a lot of money. It certainly would've been the smart thing to do.
Instead I became a college professor and university vice president, and worked as a foster father for African-American guys. Because I'd been brought up living on Social Security, I could identify with many of their lives. When they succeeded, I felt good inside. It was clearly what I needed in my life.
After becoming a professor emeritus, I did a language exchange with a Chinese man in the UCLA MBA program. He was intelligent, open-minded and did his best to teach me Chinese. I valued his integrity and insights.
Once when flying back from Beijing I met a guy who needed a place to stay overnight. I took him home to my house in Los Angeles, and took him to a great place for breakfast. The last time I was in China, he flew from Beijing to Nanjing to speak to me in person for an hour and a half. Since then he has stayed with me in Los Angeles. As his son's godfather, I got to give his son an American name.
In the last couple of days, both men have called me from Beijing. I provided each one with the others number and they've already spoken and plan on working on a project. This gives me great joy. As a professor emeritus, I no longer had the opportunity to affect people's lives. My recent problems with mobility had left me isolated. But yesterday, when the two men talked, I felt fulfilled in a way I hadn't in the last couple of years.
I'm on a high because I still feel relevant. Seeds I planted a while ago came to fruition yesterday. My life is a good one.