Monthly Archives: April 2004

The impending anti-trust disaster

There are hundreds of Mario Monti wanna-bes. And most do not even live in Europe.

Monti is the European Competition Minister who was the thorn in General Electric’s side and is now reeking havoc on Microsoft. He represents the EU’s will and no major companies can merge without his blessing.

After Monti there are American regulatory bodies (DOJ, FTC, FCC, etc) that often have to sign off on a merger. But basically, that’s it. Any company really has to only worry about the EU and the US.

But that’s changing.

As we increase the number of actors on the world stage that approve the merger process or that can investigate/enforce anti-trust issues, we are going to create a regulatory log-jam.

China, Japan, Latin America, India, Russia, might soon get in the game — especially if one of the merged companies has some significant interest in their country.

There are some solutions on the horizon. The ICN (International Competition Network) has a world membership that looks to resolve these disputes. But it is a nascent organization that has yet to be tested.

To overcome these jurisdictional issues, we will have to create some sort of world arbitration system that regulates anti-trust concerns. And no country will be happy with the ultimate compromise and encroachment on sovereignty.

My guess is in the mid-term, this will significantly reduce the market cap of global companies that were once thought to be acquisition targets — because acquiring them will be very difficult.

Rating my publications

Last night my mailbox was stuffed with publications. I get lots of magazines, journals, etc. I am constantly getting input from people on what they read and like (usually it is other terrific blogs) and am getting asked what I read.

My blog list is a great source of news and ideas — but I still live on paper.

The following are a list of publications that I subscribe to (meaning they arrive periodically in paper form via snail mail) and I have ranked ordered them from most-important (the Wall Street Journal) to least-important (note: even the least important ones still have value to me — otherwise I would not subscribe to them at all):

Wall Street Journal
Atlantic Monthly
The Week
Business 2.0
Fast Company
Foreign Affairs
US News and World Report
Foreign Policy
Weekly Standard
The New Yorker

Note that I pay for every one of these publications except for CIO and Foreign Policy (I get those for free).

Treo / Sprint PCS email down – complaint

My Treo email has been down for almost a week now.

This is really disappointing.

On April 14, my Sprint PCS Business Connection email went down. I spent a long time trying to fix it before finally calling Sprint PCS. And guess what? It was down on their end — and it is down for everyone apparently.

So my question is — why didn’t they notify me?

I understand things go down — but they could have notified me. They know I am a registered Business Connection user. They know I use the service constantly. They know my cell phone number (they could text message me). They know my email address (they could easily notify me via email).

Another example of really poor customer service.

So I asked them when the service will be back up. Tomorrow they say. Of course, it is now a week later and the service is still down. Did they notify me of that? Of course not. Bad Sprint PCS customer care.

You’d think that with number portability, firms like Sprint PCS would have a greater focus on customer care — especially when things like notifications are so easy to do.

You’d think … wouldn’t you? The Sprint PCS web site does not even have a way of registering my complaint.

Why can’t every company be like JetBlue?

The Blessed Class – is it immoral to be unhappy?

We are the blessed class.

Blessed because we are educated. Blessed because we don’t have to worry about our safety. Blessed because some of us actually want to pay higher taxes. We give to charity. We have disposable income.

We spend lots of free time perusing the Internet. We read blogs. We love Friendster. We forward web sites of dancing chickens to friends. We have time (even though we think we don’t).

Sometimes I don’t understand why so many blessed people are so stressed.
Why are the blessed stressed?
Why does Prozac rule?

Frankly, I am well aware how blessed I am. I can’t really muster up any reason why I should be sad, unhappy, or generally stressed.

actually, the biggest stress in my life is slaving over a witty response to write on Evite replies.
I’m getting better on Evites … I’m still not an Evite bard yet … not by any means. But some people are so witty on Evite — I get so jealous — it stresses me out …. should I pop a Prozac?

Unhappiness is, of course, a state of mind. But do we in the blessed class actually have a “right” to be unhappy? I guess we do. I imagine the Supreme Court would deem it unconstitutional to legislate that one cannot be unhappy. So you certainly have a “right” to be unhappy. Of course, you also have the right to commit an adulterous affair, lie to your parents, and be a jerk to your neighbor.

So a better question for the blessed class might be … not do you have the “right” to be unhappy … but are you morally obligated to be happy?


Is it immoral and selfish to be unhappy if one is part of the Blessed Class?


My guess: people in the blessed class are just as unhappy as people who have to scratch for every bit food … who have to fight just to have a roof on their head … who have no proper healthcare … who have gotten beaten or raped by crack-addicted neighbors …

Imagine an unblessed person. Imagine what they think when they see someone who is blessed, who has everything … yet is still unhappy. They’ll think you are crazy … insane … because you have it all …

If you are blessed (and you are probably blessed if you are reading this blog), you should be happy. Almost always. Bad days should be extraordinarily rare. Great days should be the norm.

It is good manners to be happy. Just like knowing how to use a fork properly and knowing not to curse widely in public … yeah … it’s good manners to be happy … and it is bad manners to complain about … about nothing of consequence …

Don’t take things so seriously …

Really …

Be happy.

And work on your Evite replies

Market differentiation in news weeklies?

I subscribe to four American news weekly magazines: Time, Newsweek, US News & World Report, and The Week. This week, two of the four — Time and US News — both had the exact same picture on the cover (an American soldier in Fallujah). The Week featured the same picture on page 4 — its most prominent news page. Only Newsweek had the foresight not to publish the same photo.

The photo is an AP photo — so it is shareable by all outlets — but it shows the lack of market differentiation in the magazine news business.

How San Franciscans and New Yorkers Differ

Even though I now live in San Francisco (have been here for 12 years), I’m a New Yawyer at heart. I love New York … I generally typify New York … I complain about not finding good pizza … I walk faster than everyone in California … and I search out people who tell it like it is.

NYC and SF have a lot of commonalities (it is very common for San Franciscans to have spent time in NYC), but they also have a lot of differences.


San Francisco is massively smaller than New York — even when you include Silicon Valley. At least in the technology arena, it seems like everyone is only two degrees removed from one another. Everyone can check up on everyone else.

Because of sheer size issues, it is much more profitable to be ethical in San Francisco (as opposed to the largely anonymous New York). People can easily check up on you in San Francisco — so business dealings are smoother, people behave better, and everyone who is rational is extremely concerned with their reputation.

In my twelve years here, I have only known one SF guy who cheated on his significant other. Only one. (for some reason, I have known five SF women that were not true to their spouses). This is probably because the town is so small, one would likely get caught. Hence it is more profitable to be ethical.

In New York, by contrast, cheating on girlfriends and wives, while not commonplace and still unacceptable, is much more common.

And whether it is one’s sex life, or their business transactions, one can screw over a lot more people in New York before one’s reputation globally suffers.


San Francisco and Silicon Valley are more of a meritocracy than any place I have ever been. Discrimination in SF is based more on one’s brain than on one’s background. In all my dealings in the Bay Area, I have never been asked, in a business setting, what my father does for a living or what high school I went to. Those are very East Coast questions.

In New York, people are always trying to put a box around you. Where did you grow up? What church do you go to? what is your ethnicity? What club did you join? How many middle names do you have? Not necessarily to discriminate (as I find New Yorkers extraordinarily friendly and inviting), but more to try to better categorize someone. In New York, it is far more important that one is Jewish and went to Exeter Academy then that information would be in San Francisco.


A New York friend is far more likely to invite you into his home than a San Francisco friend. I have no idea why, but New Yorkers are some of the friendliest people I have ever met. Need a place to stay? Want a meal? Need help moving to a new place? Look no further …

San Franciscans, by contrast, are connectors. They might not let you stay the night at their house, but they are happy to introduce you to Tom Siebel or Jerry Yang in a business setting. No one in New York has ever offered to introduce me to Hank Paulson or Stephen Schwarzman.


My guess is that after Washington DC, San Francisco is the most transitory city in America (maybe tied with Atlanta and Phoenix). It is hard to find someone in SF that is actually from SF. Many people are immigrants or transplants (including thousands from New York).

NY has is share of transplants, but much of the nightlife and business-life revolves around people that have been in the New York area for generations. Old money is more important. In New York, your high school friends are more important … in Boston, your college friends are more important … in San Francisco, your business school friends are more important …

Because SF is so transitory, people are far more open to meeting new people.


Religion tends to be deemed more important in New York. San Francisco has one of the highest rates of intermarriage between religions of all American cities (that is probably due to the fact that SF also has lowest rate of people who regularly attend religious services).

Though New York is certainly not the bastion of religious zeal, it does promote more adherence to God. That might be because tradition is much more ingrained in NY society (and there is a historic church or synagogue on every corner).


That’s right, small cities like San Francisco (where everyone is maximum of two degrees from everyone else) massively change behavior.

First, people are more social … what? You say people are more social than in New York?


My guess is that the average San Franciscan has double the amount of acquaintances than the average New Yorker. Double.

They probably have the same number of “friends” — but twice as many people they know and like (the next step beyond friends). eVite originated in SF because of the dotcom craze — but it also originated here because there more of a reason for evites. Parties of 50 people that all know each other are commonplace in SF — they’re rare in NY.

This is, of course, due to SF’s size and transitory nature. When I go out in NYC, I go to a bar with three friends and maybe, just maybe, we happen to run into someone we know there. In SF I go to a bar with three friends — but I already know that they’ll be at least 20 acquaintances there. Now all these acquaintances brought their friends — so what happens is that I go into the bar knowing 20 and I leave knowing 30.

And clubs … how many people in SF do you know that joined a social club? I think I might know three. But many of the people I know in New York are part of some club — whether it is the Harvard Club, the Metropolitan Club, the banana-split with all the toppings club …

Why the difference?

Because New York is about those boxes … SF is about off with the suit and tie …

Books: We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will be Killed With Our Families: Stories from Rwanda

Books: We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will be Killed With Our Families: Stories from Rwanda
by Philip Gourevitch

This book is one of the best books I have ever read. Ever.

It is certainly not an uplifting book. In three months, the Hutu power regime in Rwanda killed 800,000 minority Tutsis.

The book tries to answer the question of why genocide happens. what can compel one people, living side by side with another people for centuries, to rise up and mass kill? What drives Hutu, who’s wife might be a Tutsi, to kill his wife’s brother and mother? What drives mass rapes? What drives a man to hack up his neighbor into bits with a machete?

why does this happen?

Philip Gourevitch writes an amazing and detailed account of Rwanda and of its neighboring countries like Uganda and the Congo (formerly Zaire). Gourevitch has incredible access to the leaders of these countries and his “man on the street” interviews are extremely revealing and mind-expanding.

The book was given to me by my friend Price Roe who said that I “had to read this book!” And it just sat on my bookshelf for a long time. After about a year, I dusted it off and read it. I am a better person for it.

Summation: Don’t wait a year, read this book now.

Books: The Influentials: One American in Ten Tells the Other Nine How to Vote, Where to Eat, and What to Buy

The Influentials: One American in Ten Tells the Other Nine How to Vote, Where to Eat, and What to Buy by Jon Berry and Ed Keller

If you read the Tipping Point, you can skip this book. The book hashes a lot of data about which consumers influence others, but the entire 343 page book could be better condensed to a 5-page memo.

Please love this book. But my summation: Skip it.

The Four Questions of Political Involvement

During a Passover Seder, the youngest person at the table traditionally asks four questions about “why is this night different from all other nights?” These questions are asked and answered in an elaborate ceremony.

I have four different questions to ask. These are the questions I ask people when they tell me that they want to get involved in politics. They are:

A. Who is the Speaker of the House?
B. Who is the White House Chief of Staff?
C. Who is the Senate Minority Leader?
D. What state is Vice President Dick Cheney from?

My guess:
Only 1% of DC elites do NOT know the answer to all four questions.

My other guess:
Only 1% of business elites actually know the answers to all four.


These are inside the beltway trivia — so even people in DC don’t expect the outside world to know the answers to these questions. But they won’t take you seriously UNLESS you know them.

It is like trying to do business in Silicon Valley and not knowing what Moore’s Law is … Or not knowing who John Doerr is …

Or doing business on Wall Street and not knowing what a “put” or a “call” or an “option” is …

They can understand outsiders not knowing the terms … But they will be wary of doing business with you.

To affect policy change, you need to speak the DC lingo … And you need to brush up on your four questions (answers below).

(A: Dennis Hastert (R-IL), B: Andy Card, C: Tom Daschle (D-SD), D: Wyoming)