Archive for 2009

HealthCare: be Careful and take Care of yourself – Really!

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009

Raining again in Durham. After the drought of 07, I steel myself not to complain as the waters fall. And we’re 3x the usual for this time of year. My form of lemonade for this circumstance would be snow, which is a stretch for Central Carolina in late Fall. Healthcare and the associated reform movement perplex me. Participated recently in a well-managed discussions within this topic. Duke’s Fuqua School hosted a day-long series of panel discussions on how we, the nation and its array of providers, payers and patients, might find a way to get most of the healthcare that we pay for. By now, it is common knowledge that the USA pays the most per capita without being close to the top in quality of care received. Tangentially, we’re applying the same thinking to the war in Afghanistan, i.e. we must do the right thing even if it is neither affordable nor is victory, however measured, likely with this continued investment of resources. GordianKnot “Turn him to any cause of policy,
The Gordian Knot of it he will unloose, Familiar as his garter” (Shakespeare, Henry V, Act 1 Scene 1. 45–47)

Back to Fuqua. The participating senior members of the government, the sincere consultants, the MDs turned economists and the very bright business school students (Fuqua competes with Wharton for the top spot in HMS (Health Management Systems- the program once known as Masters of Hospital Administration)- were thwarted by the complexity and interconnection of the elements of our problem. If we solve one part, we penalize an important constituency; if we resolve that part, we anger this other important constituency. The hovering bomb, of course, is the unfunded liability, now estimated to be $59 trillion dollars, for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid obligations. Occurred to me that the sole and probable solution, unless we want to continuously spend 20%+ of the GDP on healthcare, is to prepare for the collapse of the system. Some hope remains if the likes of this MBAs attack the root causes of this mess. With enough time and authority, they will make an important difference. If they venture into healthcare front as a second option to employment on Wall Street, then it’s welcome to HCA – HealthCareAfghanistan.

By the way, some argue that the Push-Up is the best indicator of physical fitness.images

Veteran’s Day 2009. The Blessings of Service. Duke University War Memorial, 23 Oct. 2009

Wednesday, November 11th, 2009

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Remarks by Secretary Eric K. Shinseki
War Memorial Dedication at Duke University
Durham, NC
October 23, 2009
 
Good morning, everyone. It’s wonderful to be back on this beautiful campus, where I spent two memorable years of study and reflection. I’m honored to be here today to help re-dedicate the memorial honoring Duke Graduates who fell in service to our country.

After studying engineering at West Point, and serving two combat tours in Vietnam, I arrived in Durham in 1974, thinking I had cleared some of life’s most challenging hurdles. Then I encountered the English Department. Wow! I think I spent every waking moment for two years reading books and articles most undergrad English majors had perused as sophomores. But, what I learned at Duke has served me well for over 30 years now, and the memories of my time here are fond and deep.

Duke has had many distinguished alumni, but the names on this memorial personify duty, honor, courage, and service to something larger than self. This memorial is a testament to the belief that free people can bend history in the direction of their best hopes, and that history will not forget their service or their sacrifice.

Edmund Burke wrote that “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” All whose names appear here exemplify the hope contained in Burke’s admonition. They did not stand idle; they acted. They understood their duty and fulfilled it. They carried with them the love of family and country, which they swore to safeguard by their service. Many of the fallen undertook their military education and training through the ROTC program here at Duke. Others joined the military after college, as a way to give back to their country. No matter their source of commission, when tyrannies threatened, each answered the call with the prophet Isaiah’s resolve: “Here am I, [Lord], send me.”

From a distance, these engraved names all look alike. Yet, every son or daughter, mom or dad, brother or sister, who visits, will always see their one name first.    Each name is a profound statement of love, patriotism, and loyalty. The families and friends, gathered here today, have given someone precious and irreplaceable in their lives—and we are here to honor and thank them.

When I served as Army Chief of Staff, I called as many families as I could of soldiers who died on operations during my tenure. These were calls to try to express the inexpressible; to assuage the unbearable; and to say “thank you” when no measure of gratitude could ever fill the void left by the death of a child given in service to the Nation. They were phone calls no parent wants to take and I, as Chief of Staff, wished never to make.
At a time of a parent’s deepest grief, when my call was an intrusion into their private anguish, mothers and fathers shared their hearts with me, helped me through my own sorrow, and made me even prouder of their children. Ultimately, it was I who was consoled during those calls.

Very often, it is the fallen themselves who provide us with the inspiration we need to meet another day. Lieutenant Harold Arthur Kepnes graduated from Duke in 1934, and later earned his medical degree from Tufts University. A member of the U.S. Naval Reserve, he was killed in action in Guadalcanal in 1943. Before he died, he consoled his wife in a letter to her:

“If the Lord above deems it my fortune to be spared and sent back to my loved ones, then I shall be ever thankful, but if on the other hand I shall be one of the victims of this hideous curse of humanity, then I am willing to go in my single attempt to wipe out this enemy, for I would not be happy being under the yoke of oppression of rulers as these for my life is my love of freedom and supreme happiness as I would only have if I were surrounded by the ones I love and whom I would feel could be free to talk, to act, to live in a free country.”

Lieutenant Kepnes has been memorialized here at Duke on these plaques since they were first dedicated. Today, another group of patriots will join him. We salute them and their devotion to our country. Our gratitude is deep and profound.

It has been said that “poor is the Nation that has no heroes, but beggared is the Nation that has and forgets them.” Those we honor today answered their call to duty, and in doing so, they honored us. It is, now, our duty to honor them and the legacy they left for us. They should not be strangers to young Americans, especially those studying here at Duke.

May Duke University find ways to make this memorial central and important to future generations of students and faculty, who will be privileged to study and work here, as they did. May the university remind all that our freedom was purchased by stalwarts like these, who gave their tomorrows for our todays.
As we honor these courageous and distinguished alumni, our thoughts and prayers are also with those who serve today. Let us give thanks to all who wear the uniforms of our Nation, who carry our ideals high, and who keep our country the land of the free and the home of the brave.

May God bless them and their families. 

Thank you.

“I don’t care what the newspapers say about me as long as they spell my name right.”

Monday, November 2nd, 2009

Wall Street Journal 2 November 2009
U.S. Turns Screws on Bailed-Out GMAC
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Ally is the new name of the former GMAC. This photo is an ad from this week’s Economist.

IMG_0758Breaking Supply Chain News: Bob Moffat, Head of Supply Chain and Rising Star, Arrested for Insider Trading. Photo is ad in recent Economist.

Role reversal for Halloween

Monday, November 2nd, 2009

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Halloween Financial Headlines: Trick or Trick

Saturday, October 31st, 2009

1031 markets

Federal bank regulators issued guidelines allowing banks to keep loans on their books as “performing” even if the value of the underlying properties have fallen below the loan amount.

The $2.3 billion in taxpayer money spent to save CIT is likely to be wiped out, as the lender prepares to file for bankruptcy protection in a high-stakes restructuring plan.

President Barack Obama said Saturday that reports the economy is growing again and that more than a million jobs were saved or created by his stimulus plan show “we are moving in the right direction.

You be the babe: who needs a spokes-model for shopping satisfaction

Monday, October 26th, 2009

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when you can be your own. This 22 October 2009 article in the New York Times, section E1, by Ruth La Ferla, describes how many shoppers get their kicks in virtual worlds in much the same way as they do in the genuine shopping mall. I recall last year being advised by an exec of a major television shopping network that 30+% of packages that they shipped were never opened by the buyer, mainly because the buying experience is one of association with the hostess on the show, i.e. buy this and be like me or be my friend, more than a genuine need/want for the item.

I think that improvements in overall virtual world experience due to faster update rates and improved user-interfaces will dimish dramatically the need or want to go to the mall to buy something to feel special. I suppose that the mall serves the purpose of bringing us together, but who truly values that experience?! I am not looking forward to virtual exercise or pixel-offspring and feel that shopping in Second Life, for example, and being the handsome hunk or more likely, the fashionista, will be a lot healthier and less expensive than relying on a celebrity spokes-person flogging some product that they don’t use themselves. In short, who will need them to trick us; we’ll shape our own shopping fantasies, thank you.

Complete article at: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/22/fashion/22Avatar.html

USMA-USNA Leadership Discussion Series 16 Oct 09

Sunday, October 18th, 2009

John Moellering, Chairman of USAA and former commandant of West Point, spoke to us about USAA’s impressive achievements over the past 50 years and more. 13,000 of USAA’s 21,000 employees engage the USAA membership. They are trained, educated and motivated to solve the member’s problem. They are not measured to get a caller off the phone as fast as possible. Member service is the mission of USAA.

Although the average insurance company lost 38% of the value of its assets in 2008, USAA gained 1%. The average USAA employee receives an average of 100 hours of training per year; even the Board of Directors are trained in their roles for the company.

And USAA continues to expand its markets. On November 11, 2009, membership eligibility will be expanded to all who have served honorably in US Armed Forces.

General Moellering discussed changes to the Board of USAA. The Board of Directors have the explicit mission to set strategy for the company and to assist & to ensure that senior management is able to execute this strategy. No longer – and many global corporations are coming to the same conclusion – is the USAA Board headed by the CEO and expected to serve as an approval mechanism for the CEO’s vision. Corporate Operations and the Board have unique missions which are best executed in support of and separate from one another. If only the former fiefdoms in the financial sector had instituted such a principle.

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Preparation is the foundation of heroism

Wednesday, October 14th, 2009

October 14, 2009 article in Wall Street Journal by Jeffrey Zaslow discusses What We Can Learn From Sully’s Journey
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“We need to try to do the right thing every time because we never know what moment in our lives we’ll be judged on.”

The Science of Business & the Business of Science: shall the twain meet?

Friday, October 9th, 2009

Participated, and fortunate to do so, in the annual Fuqua Business School’s High Tech Conference on Wednesday and attended, gladly to do so, the Summit on Nano Technology and the Environment, program here on Thursday. My guess is that even though the Fuqua School and the Bio Tech Center, host of the Summit, are separated by 8 miles of distance, their purposes and perspectives keeps them miles apart. Yet, each expressed an interest in meeting more of the other. A recurring theme of the nano conference presentations was not to let the capabilities of the science get too far ahead of the ‘public’s acceptance’ of this science. Lessons from the hysteria of genetically altered crops, aka Franken-science, remain vivid.

Forty percent of the Fuqua MBA program comprises international students and ones who are ambitious, accomplished and clever as well courteous and purposeful. Deflating for me is that 90% of the Hi Tech Club comprises international students. I guess that my fellow Americans who join the Retail, Finance and Energy Clubs at Fuqua don’t feel comfortable in the HT Club, or worse, maybe don’t feel that technology will have much bearing in their future roles. Cannot be true! Even though the average age of an MBA candidate is 30, meaning that they have plenty of work experience, they are eager for tips and secrets and leads for employment. Is there a science to the adult, working world? Which made me ponder the notion of a Masters of Business Administration. Do we need business administrators? Can leadership be taught ’cause this is what we need. Is not the essence of leadership selfless service or sacrifice? Here’s a B-school promo: come to XXX for $120k in real cost and learn to sacrifice or help others to perform better. I’d like to change the name of the degree to Masters of Business Innovation or is this too close to Tom Wolfe’s masters of the universe image in The Bonfire of the Vanities?

At lunch, I asked if the business school curriculum taught business development or sales. ‘Not really’ was the table’s reply. What business is there to administer if there is no top-line or revenue?! Reminds me of my transition from the Naval Academy to the fleet or real Navy. At Annapolis, we learned a lot about ship design and missile intercept solutions. Didn’t get too much insight into how to manage a division of 15 to 18 sailors, most older, some smarter and all more worldly than me. This was my first assignment as I didn’t do much ship driving or any missile firing until much later. OK- it’s not news now that the adult world’s concept of management and organizational behavior is about as fragile and outmoded as, well, as is our banking system.

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Governor Hunt welcomed attendees. Did you know that he was governor twice, twice = 16 years.

The highlight of the Nano Summit was the presentation by Dr. Joe DeSimone, reknown chemist and entrepreneur. Yes, Virginia, one can be both. He spoke adeptly about his vision for nano technology and even though he pitched his latest venture, Liquidia, his presentation was interesting, informative, well substantiated (meaning his charts aided his talk; his talk did not furnish color commentary for the charts as we too, too often suffer). Dr. Joe knows how to make a business of science and has a keen sense of the science of business. I learned more about the potential of nano technology in his 20 minutes than I’ve in 3 years of trying to read the occasional article on this topic.

My conclusion from these two days is that there is enormous opportunity for those with an aptitude, if not the scholarship, to discuss the business value of technology. How can we shorten the distance between our RTP business schools and our RTP scientists?

China’s 60th anniversary parade.

Tuesday, October 6th, 2009

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What to make of this event? Same week that Olympics refuted President’s solicitation of Chicago as venue for 2016. I guess that we should take solace that we owe them so much money?! Why is the stock market behaving as though we’re back on track?