What would Warren Buffett tell United Airlines to do?

Thursday, 13 April, 2017

Billionaire investor Warren Buffett‘s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. is reportedly the largest single shareholder of United Airlines parent’s United Continental Holdings (UAL) with a stake of 28.95 million shares, or 9.2% of the shares outstanding (according to latest SEC filings).

So far Buffett has not spoken about this United self-inflicted mess (United Express Flight 3411 incident wiki page) yet but we may learn something from history. You see, Buffett biography The Snowball‘s author Alice Schroeder reported Buffett (an American Express investor) wrote the following during the 1963 Salad Oil Scandal (or “Soybean Scandal”) [with emphasis added],

It is our feeling that three or four years from now, this problem may well have added to the stature of the company [American Express] in establishing standards for financial integrity and responsibility which are far beyond those of the normal commercial enterprise.

Schroeder continues in The Snowball [with emphasis added],

Buffett wrote that two paths lay before the company, and that an American Express that took responsibility and paid the $60 million [note: remember, this is 1963!] to the banks would be worth very substantially more than American Express disclaiming responsibility for its subsidiary’s acts.” He described the $60 million payment as inconsequential in the long run, like a dividend check that got “lost in the mail”.

Using history as guidance, what would Warren Buffett tell United Airlines to do?

My guess is Buffett would advice United CEO Oscar Muñoz (or whoever replaces him) to take responsibility and pay a reasonable amount to settle the pending lawsuit as a United that take responsibility “would be worth very substantially more than United disclaiming responsibility“.

And in an imaginary world that Muñoz (or whoever replaces him) doing the RIGHT THING, “this problem may well have added to the stature of the company [United] in establishing standards for integrity and responsibility which are far beyond those of the normal commercial airlines.” Yes, things need to be done RIGHT now, and United need to lead in “establishing standards for integrity and responsibility which are far beyond those of the normal commercial airlines.

We will see what will happen in time. With Berkshire’s $2 billion (April 13 closing price of $68.07 multiply by 28.95 million shares) investment holding in United, I won’t be surprised reporters will want to ask what Buffett thinks about this mess next time he is interviewed on CNBC or other news media. We will see if I’m right or wrong.

Have a watch of Dr. Dao’s lawyers (more info at Thomas Demetrio’s law firm) and his daughter Crystal Dao Pepper’s hour long press conference today (CNN report) (CBC FB full video, CBC News report).

April 13, 2017 Update:

Sen. Franken (April 11, 2017), “Sen. Franken Presses United Airlines to Explain Forcible Removal of Passenger on Weekend Flight” [emphasis added]

– A federal cap exists on the amount of money a commercial airline may compensate a passenger for being involuntarily denied boarding or rescheduled for a flight. Why was the full amount of $1,350 not offered to passengers aboard Flight 3411 before the passengers were involuntarily denied boarding and forcibly removed? Does the $1,350 cap serve any benefit to consumers?

– Was the Louisville-bound flight oversold prior to including the four United Airlines personnel reported to have been granted seats to enable them to reposition from Chicago to Louisville? If so, were there alternative flight or ground transportation options for these four crew members that could have ensured they arrived in Louisville with sufficient time to board their next flight? Did United Airlines have the ability to assign other crew members to that flight departing from Louisville?

Does United Airlines limit the number of airline tickets that may be oversold on each flight?

Aviation Week, “Podcast: United in Crisis” – ATW and Aviation Daily editors discuss multiple mishaps and backlash after video of passenger’s violent removal goes viral.

LA Times Op-Ed. “Let Richard Branson kill United Airlines

LA Times, “At United Airlines and Wells Fargo, toxic corporate culture starts with the CEORead the rest of this entry »


Sicario: Denis Villeneuve, Emily Blunt, Benicio del Toro, Josh Brolin

Monday, 10 April, 2017

wrote about how I loved and enjoyed Denis VilleneuveArrival. I finally watched Sicario starring Emily Blunt, Benicio del Toro, and Josh Brolin.

Emily Blunt on her input to change the ending of ‘Sicario’

SICARIO -conference- (en) Cannes 2015

Sicario TIFF 2015 Q&A with Emily Blunt and Denis Villeneuve Read the rest of this entry »


Why I think President Trump has made the world a much worse place on Day One of his presidency

Saturday, 21 January, 2017

20170121-elizabeth-warren-just-blamed-president-trump-on-day-one

*** Why I think President Trump has made the world a much worse place on Day One of his presidency *** //I respect my FB friend for his professional work but I disagree with him. Here is my comment (with added web links & slight updates).//

XXXX, One day I would love to chat in person. Until then, here is my wordy take of why I think President Trump has made the world a much worse place on Day One. Starting with the least damaging (the mere “monetary” damages). Trump said the following in his Inauguration Speech and he has said all of these during the campaign so they are not new.

1) “For many decades, we’ve enriched foreign industry at the expense of American industry;
>>> International trades benefit everyone or we just don’t do it. Stances like this is getting China, Canada, etc worrying about trade wars. For the record, //Canada is the top export destination for 35 states. Nearly 9 million U.S. jobs depend on trade and investment with Canada.//

2) “Subsidized the armies of other countries while allowing for the very sad depletion of our military;
>>> Forgoing defence of NATO, Japan, etc?? Should they pay? How much? Think like a foreign leader for a moment. Which sovereign leader is stupid enough to be held hostage for a king’s ransom for its defence? This will force the world into an arms race? EU politicians are taking notice and starting to distrust US. Putin’s mission accomplished in Day One of Trump’s presidency. Fantastic!

3) “We’ve defended other nation’s borders while refusing to defend our own;” & “From this moment on, it’s going to be America First.
>>> This is probably one of the saddest part of this cluster-beep.
Spoiler alert, I’m giving the answer before I tell the story.
We Canadians are PROUD of us NOT putting Canada First! We PRIDE ourselves of putting “Others First”!

Some Americans have very short memory. On one sunny 9/11 day years ago, some evil people thought of turning planes into high-tech guided missiles with built-in human collateral protection. In that uncertain time, Canada let ~200 flights fully loaded with people (potential terrorists flown missiles) diverted to our major cities like Vancouver, Halifax, Montreal and Toronto (all with millions of people).

The “Others” we Canadians put “First” happened to be thousands of Americans and people visiting US! I would say the probability of me winning the lottery last night is higher than Trump coming to aid of Canadians if the shoes were swapped.

I’m human but I try to live by the Golden Rule when I can. What kind of horrible world we live in if we always and only put ourselves first?!

Right now, with “America First”, it feels like a great friend has flipped and become a psychopath.

And 1, 2, 3 and many more are the reasons why Trump Day One is the worst day of any US President’s Day One!

P.S. For me to write this wordy blah blah blah, I had to take a strong dose of Trump-vaccination. So I watch a 9 minute CBC News video of U.S. Ambassador David Jacobson paying tribute to the town of Gander, N.L. for “its generosity on 9/11, hailing its residents for their grace and good humour and representing “the best of us.”

//“This could well be the motto of this town: ‘Without waiting to be asked,'” Jacobson said.
He spoke about one stranded passenger, a child, who turned four in Gander soon after 9/11. All his gifts were stuck on the plane he had been on, so to make him feel better, a local Gander family threw him a party.
“They consoled and they cooked, they cooked and they cooked,” Jacobson recalled.//

Ref (with video, an easy Google): Gander on 9/11 told ‘you were the best of us’ CBC News Posted: Sep 11, 2011


Defending Kevin Roberts, Saatchi & Saatchi Chairman, in Social Media Mob Trial – re Business Insider report

Sunday, 31 July, 2016
request to release full unedited video, audio interview for transparency

request to release full unedited video, audio interview for transparency

I’m saddened this morning after reading AdWeek “Saatchi Chairman Kevin Roberts Placed on ‘Leave of Absence’ Over Gender Comments – CEOs of the agency and Publicis have disavowed him“. The controversy (the gender comments) started two days ago in a July 29th Business Insider interview/report “Saatchi & Saatchi chairman Kevin Roberts thinks the gender diversity in advertising debate is ‘over’” by Lara O’Reilly (tweet).

Kevin Roberts, Saatchi & Saatchi chairman, is a big boy and doesn’t need defending by anyone especially by an independent reporter. Kevin and I’ve never met once and  will likely never meet in person! But I dislike all forms of social media mob trial. Yes, I dislike this mob trial of @KRConnect @PublicisGroupe by social media as much as I dislike #genderbias!

At the end of the day, all reporting must rest on fairness. I’ve asked Business Insider reporter Lara to post her full unedited video/audio interview for the sake of transparency since Kevin has now been placed on ‘Leave of Absence’ because of her interview.

Until Lara can provide us the full unedited video/audio interview to watch/listen to judge for ourselves, I can only base my critique on the written interview. I have excerpted all of Kevin’s quotes from the report and added my emphasis and brief commentaries afterwards. Read the rest of this entry »


The Boston Globe Spotlight Team & My Hope for FactWire

Thursday, 14 January, 2016

Spotlight the movie, about The Boston Globe investigative news team Spotlight team, was announced as one of the Oscar nominated best pictures this morning. I have yet to watch Spotlight and I look forward to watching it sometime. Worth checking out how The Boston Globe covered/reviewed the movie. :) (e.g. “Superb ‘Spotlight’ doesn’t turn journalists into heroes“, “How the ‘Spotlight’ movie got made“, etc)

Fairly or unfairly, I am setting the 45+ years old Spotlight team as benchmark for FactWire News Agency 傳真社, a brand new (not yet in operation) Hong Kong based crowdfunded investigative news agency. FactWire just announced it has finished its hiring process yesterday.

In life, I try to benchmark against some of the best examples (as far as I know) around the world as aiming high and falling short is better than aiming low and exceeding the target. Mr. Ng Hiu-tung 吳曉東, CEO of FactWire, is well aware of the expectations people/funders have on him so I don’t think I am adding any extra pressure here. I hope FactWire will bring us insightful, comprehensive, and fully linked/referenced (with original source documents (watch this Q&A)) investigative reports in the coming months and years. I also hope FactWire can work out its business model so it can become a financially sustainable business.

Disclosure: Like many people who helped with FactWire’s crowdfunding project, I made a tiny immaterial contribution as I believe Ai Weiwei‘s saying of “A small act is worth a million thoughts“.

Here are some very insightful video clips. Starting with this Globe produced clip entitled The Boston Globe Spotlight Team (~12 mins)

DP/30 @ TIFF: Spotlight, The Real-Life Journalists (~31 mins)

KEYNOTE: A Hollywood ‘Spotlight’ On Award-Winning Boston Globe Investigation (~47 mins)

Michael Keaton Discusses ‘Spotlight’ | The New York Times (~2 mins) Read the rest of this entry »


Mending Broken Paris Hearts – Meet the Man with No Pulse

Monday, 16 November, 2015
Total Artificial Heart (video screen capture sample) Photo credit: SynCardia Systems

Total Artificial Heart (video screen capture sample) Photo credit: SynCardia Systems

I wrote a lengthy post (partly to try to mend our broken Paris hearts metaphorically) after a Google Hangout with my super cool and magical Paris friend Laurent  on the Saturday morning post-Paris Attacks. With Laurent‘s permission and help in providing some photos, this is a medical and technical post about why he is “magical” to me. And how a heart can be “mended” literally.

You see, Laurent had a major heart incident in June 2014 so he had to be implanted with a temporary Total Artificial Heart (TAH info from US nih.gov) 17 months ago! He is literally being kept alive by the magic of a cutting edge TAH as he awaits a new heart. (I included the above sample picture. It may not be the exact model inside Laurent but it is a good picture and will give you some idea.) Note that a temporary TAH is approved for “bridge to heart transplantation” and is NOT supposed to be a “destination therapy“.

(Important Disclosure/Warning: I am not a medical doctor or researcher. I do not work for and am not related to SynCardia Systems nor Stanford University. Please always consult your own heart doctors and healthcare professionals for their expert advices. I am not an expert of artificial heart devices, and I don’t even play a doctor like House M.D on TV!)

After you read the above Important Disclosure/Warning, I want to say, as a tech-geek, I really enjoy my chat with Laurent and appreciate the photos and links he provided. Laurent’s and my hope is that this post may be of some use to some people waiting for their heart transplants or in similar predicament. Of course, at the end of the day, all errors and mistakes in this post are mine. And consult your own heart doctors and healthcare professionals for their expert advices!

The following is a picture of Laurent’s SynCardia Systems Companion 2 Hospital Driver (C2 Driver) docked with a companion Caddy (pdf fact sheet and 2013 PR press release).

One of the machines that is keeps my Paris friend Laurent alive.

One of the machines that is keeps my Paris friend Laurent alive. The other is his total artificial heart (TAH). Photo credit: Laurent

The C2 Driver‘s pushes air in and out of the two artificial ventricles of Laurent’s total artificial heart (TAH) implant. A side “benefit” of a total artificial heart is Laurent has no pulse which means a flat electrocardiogram if he does one.

With permission, here is a photo of two tubes going in.

Two tubes connected to the total artificial heart (TAH). Photo credit: Laurent

Two tubes connected to the total artificial heart (TAH). Photo credit: Laurent

And here is a photo of an emergency standby machine, Read the rest of this entry »


Dianne Feinstein on the CIA and the Separation of Powers

Wednesday, 12 March, 2014

Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, chairwoman of the Senate intelligence committee, on the CIA and the Separation of Powers.  Watching and reading American history in the making (I hope).

Video via C-Span. Full text via Guardian.

The CIA: the double life of Dianne Feinstein (Guardian editorial)

March 13, 2014 update: “The CIA shows its fangs at home: Neil Macdonald – Spy agency allegedly hacked into senate committee computer


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