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Author Archives: Joe Queenan

Joe Queenan is a regular contributor on business issues, corporate culture, and financial follies to Barron's and The Wall Street Journal.

The Invisible Black Hand

The decision by the federal government to bail out the Mafia but allow the Cosa Nostra to go under has left investors bewildered and enraged. Ever since it became apparent last week that neither the Mafia nor the Cosa Nostra could survive without a massive infusion of capital, Americans have waited with baited breath to see if the feds would ...

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Pushing the Envelope

Sometimes the solution to a seemingly insurmountable problem is staring us right in the face. Beethoven used to bust flimsy harpsichords into smithereens until somebody hit on the practical solution of the grand piano. Holland would get flooded every winter until somebody dreamed up the idea of the dike. China suffered the depredations of marauding barbarians for centuries until it ...

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The Past Is Prologue

Two years ago, Jacob Alexander, one-time chief executive of Comverse Technology, fled to Namibia rather than face charges that he conspired to backdate stock options. If convicted of all 35 counts, Alexander could get sent to the slammer for 25 years. At present, the U.S. government is seeking to extradite its quarry from his base in Southwest Africa. According to ...

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This Is Just Not Happening

Newspaper readers instinctively turn to the same section every morning. For many it is the sports, for some the financial section, some actually start on page one with the bad news about the war, the stock market, Medicare. Not me. When I get my newspaper, the first thing I turn to is the crackpot essay on the op-ed page. Whether ...

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The Wealth of Nations

Anyone lucky enough to see the recent public television broadcast of the New York Philharmonic’s historic concert in Pyongyang can see why there has been so much contro versy lately about the rising influence of sovereign wealth funds. As maestro Lorin Maazel and the gang did their best to lift the spirits of the audience with some of the most ...

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I rate shareholders, meddlesome hedge fund managers, know-it-all private equity guys and even the man in the street often act as if being a chief executive officer is a day at the beach, a stroll in the park, a picnic. This is a misperception, perhaps a deliberate one. CEOs, it just so happens, have to deal with shrinking markets, tumbling ...

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Lionizing Lackeys

Every once in a while, somebody comes along with a theory so brilliant, so iconoclastic and yet so blitheringly obvious that the rest of us sit around grumbling, “Why didn’t I think of that?” Such a theory is “followership,” a bold concept delineated in the new book Followership: How Followers Create Change and Change Leaders. The brainchild of Barbara Kellerman, ...

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Are We Having Fun Yet?

The day the Fox Business Channel debuted, the normally abrasive talk show host Bill O’Reilly advised anchors Neil Cavuto and Alexis Smith to “have fun with it.” Since then, the news team has taken the advice in the spirit it was offered, serving up a frothy mix of happy-face banter and chummy interviews. This reflects Fox’s strategy to make its ...

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Executive Action

High atop the category “Suggestions That Have Been Far Too Long in Coming” is a proposal to establish a corporate version of Doctors Without Borders. The idea, advanced by the Afri can-based journalist Jonathan Ledgard, appears in strategy+business, published by consultants Booz Allen Hamilton. Ledgard proposes that midcareer executives in the mood for a change of scenery, who are seeking ...

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Delusions of Democracy


Back in the 1970s-the Gold en Age of Bad Ideas-scions of wealthy politicians got into the annoying habit of taking summer jobs as garbage men. This didn’t help real-life garbage men much, and it certainly didn’t help the unemploy ed stiffs who could have used the jobs the rich kids got to play at for the summer. The only people ...

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