Monday, October 16, 2017
We have been busy the last two weeks, traveling, visiting, eating, drinking, you know, Out and About.
A trip via Delta Airlines to the Ann Arbor / Jackson Michigan area to visit family prompted added visits to the Big House to witness Michigan State Spartans whack the University of Michigan, a visit to Dexter, Michigan and the boys who press the apples for wonderful apple cider, and a memorable Michigan fall sunset.
Prior to our trip a wonderful day of friends and terrible golf at the University of La Verne annual golf tournament for student programs at the University. Of course Rink Rats was there in spirit.
Finally, and certainly not least a lovely afternoon at The Raymond 1886 in Pasadena, California with two very famous alumni of St. Lawrence University. These women have won more alumni citations from St. Lawrence than you can count: Pris Schroeder ’56 and Lennie McKinnon ’58. We exchanged hockey and soccer stories, and more importantly caught up with our families and all the news from Canton, N.Y. Simply the best.
SUDDENLY SUSAN – Another discussion item regarding St. Lawrence is the announcement this week of Republican Senator Susan Collins (64) (St. Lawrence ’75) choosing not to run for Governor in her home state of Maine. She has decided to finish her Senate term to 2020.
Though Collins holds sway as one of the chamber's few swing votes, she also faces the frustration of watching her party constantly doing the opposite of what she'd like. ... In the latest Obamacare repeal effort, even after party leaders had written her off as an automatic 'no,' she came under unyielding pressure from the White House.
The discussion at our table at The Raymond was the timing fits perfectly into President Bill Fox’s contract at St. Lawrence ending in the 2020 time frame. Bill Fox has been a great leader, but we could see a possible Susan Collins presidency at St. Lawrence. Stay tuned.
COLLEGE CHRONICLES – On the outskirts of the University of Michigan campus, there's a sight that gives an instantaneous snapshot of how much the area has changed — a sensor-connected car steered by an Xbox controller roams the streets of "M-City" to test self-driving and other connected-car technologies.
Michigan is known for its auto industry expertise but experienced a steep decline a decade ago when Detroit — its biggest city — lost half its population as manufacturing jobs left in droves. Detroit is fighting its way back to build a burgeoning tech scene. Ann Arbor, only 40 minutes away, is taking a complementary path: It's harnessing the university's high-tech talent factory and the state's auto factory history to be at the forefront of next-generation vehicle development.
Self-driving car city: M-City is a public-private partnership in Ann Arbor funded by 70 members including major car manufacturers, chip makers, wireless and insurance companies. Every year, it receives about $1.2 million to research things like how humans will interact with self-driving cars and how cities will need to be designed for them.
Ann Arbor is also wirelessly connected using vehicle-to-vehicle communications technology called DSRC so that intersections and vehicle can communicate with each other.
2,000 privately owned vehicles are "driving" around Ann Arbor broadcasting messages back and forth 10 times a second.
McGuire said a few cars will be deployed on campus next month to research how students, bicycles and other cars interact with them.
TOMMY TROJAN - David Carrera, the University of Southern California's vice president for fund raising, left his position after an internal investigation raised questions about alleged sexual misconduct. This is the latest USC departure related to possible sexual harassment. Last week the medical-school dean, Rohit Varma, was removed over alleged harassment. And in July, Carmen A. Puliafito, Dr. Varma's predecessor as dean, was fired as a faculty member after the Los Angeles Times revealed details of his drug-fueled partying habits. But years before Dr. Puliafito became a dean, warning signs of his behavior and violent episodes were ignored. Read our Jack Stripling's report on what happens when those signs are missed.
I bet it has been fun times in the Human Resources office at USC.
BIRTHDAYS THIS WEEK – Birthday wishes and thoughts this week to Eminem (45) Detroit, MI.; Mike Keenan (68) St. Lawrence ’72; Lindsay Vonn (33), Vail, CO.; Michelle Wie (28) Orlando, FL.
SHARK TANK - At a few minutes after 5 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 1, 12-year-old Carson Kropfl logged onto his website, lockerboard.net.
He could hardly believe his eyes. “The website started blowing up,” he said. “It was super cool.”
The reason his website, his Facebook and his Instagram were lighting: the season premier of ABC-TV’s Shark Tank was under way on the East Coast.
Carson and his mother, Carrie Kropfl, were the first guests on the two-hour show that would air in California three hours later.
Within minutes after 5 p.m., international magnate Richard Branson made Carson an investment offer he couldn’t refuse: $65,000 for 20 percent of Carson’s skateboard company.
“I see a young Richard Branson in you,” Branson said. “You’ve got a wonderful story. You are very articulate. Your product itself is great. We’d love you to give it a shot with us.”
Carson and his mother told prospective investors about the Locker Board, a mini skateboard that Carson designed a year ago. On his first day of middle school, entering the sixth grade, he had learned he had a school locker for the first time but his skateboard wouldn’t fit in it.
By trial and error in his back yard, he shaved down a succession of used skateboard decks until he settled on a design he could slip easily into his backpack and locker. The trick was finding just the right shape to make the mini board capable of kick flips and solid performance.
On Shark Tank, Carson rode up on a Locker Board with his skater friend Sierra Downer to make his pitch to celebrity investors. Branson outbid sports magnate Mark Cuban for a deal with the Shorecliffs Middle School student from San Clemente.
U.S. STILL SHORT ON TEACHERS - America is still short hundreds of thousands of teachers years after the Great Recession created a gap that has only widened since, according to a recent report by the Economic Policy Institute. Per the report, the number of teachers and education staff has failed to get anywhere near its pre-recession level and isn't keeping pace with a growing student population. Public education jobs are down by 128,000 compared to nine years ago, and with growing enrollment added on, the report estimates the country is short some 327,000 teachers.
JAPAN STOCKS HIT 21-YEAR HIGH - Japan still faces deep structural problems. Its population is aging and dwindling. China has stepped up its manufacturing game. Corporate stalwarts like Toshiba and Kobe Steel have stumbled. Investors appear to be looking at the bright side.
Japan's main stock index rose to its highest level in almost 21 years on Wednesday, buoyed by a broad rally in global markets as well as growing optimism about the Japanese economy. The surge came despite the continuing problems at Kobe Steel, a Japanese stock market stalwart. Its shares sank sharply for a second day after revelations that it had falsified data about the quality of aluminum and copper.
MARKET WEEK – The bond market is still playing a central role in the stock market's rise.
Corporate credit downgrades have dropped 42% so far this year, according to S&P Global Ratings. Meantime, the ratings firm says upgrades have climbed 10% versus last year.
This year’s decline is a sign that credit conditions are improving in corporate America even as the Federal Reserve lifts rates. If financial markets continue to be this tame in the face of steadily rising interest rates, cheap borrowing costs could add further fuel to the stock market.
Easy credit has defined the post-crisis recovery. The S&P 500 is up 14% this year, continuing to notch fresh record highs at a rapid clip.
Part of that support for the bull market comes from continued low rates in the Treasury market. Despite repeated calls for the yield on the benchmark 10-year note to rise, it's fallen 0.08 percentage points this year to 2.370% on Friday. The yield premium that investors demand to own corporate bonds over Treasurys has increased a bit in recent weeks but has remained historically low.
Some investors have worried that weakness in the oil and gas sector, which stalled the stock rally in 2015 and early 2016, could continue to impede the market's run if it further eroded those companies' credit. Instead, energy prices have largely stabilized this year, alleviating the stress in many parts of the oil and gas industry. That's helped lower the default rate among companies with speculative grades, many of which are energy firms. That rate dropped to 3.3% in August from 3.5% in July, S&P said in its report.
The environment has remained hospitable to issuers of junk bonds, which have sold 19% more debt this year than last year. Many companies have used the loose conditions to extend out the maturities of their bonds. The amount of debt maturing by the end of 2020 is down by more than a third, while debt maturing in 2021 and 2022 is up 10%, helping companies maintain strong balance sheets.
The lack of market volatility this year could all change, of course. Investors have taken in stride the Fed's plans to trim the size of its balance sheet and keep raising rates, but the market could turn more volatile at any moment. In 2013, for example, yields jumped sharply after the Fed signaled that it planned to curb its bond-buying program. The S&P analysts cited the Fed as one of the "risks on the horizon."
Plus, the political situation in Washington could upend markets as politicians seek to deal with geopolitical tensions between the U.S. and North Korea, as well as an ambitious plan to overhaul the tax code.
But investors and analysts have called for rising rates and tighter financial conditions for years, only to watch them continue to ease. Equity investors hoping for further gains should savor this hallmark of the post-crisis recovery for as long as it lasts.
DRIVING THE WEEK - The House is out. The Senate needs to pass a budget to set the parameters for tax reform. Gonna be close ... President Trump holds a Cabinet meeting on Monday and will lunch with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and VP Pence ... On Tuesday, Trump meets with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras of Greece and speaks on taxes at the Heritage Foundation's President's Club meeting .. Senate Finance members visit the White House on Wednesday ...
Senate Banking has a consumer data security and credit bureau hearing at 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday ... Industrial Production Tuesday at 9:15 a.m. expected to rise 0.3 percent ... Index of Leading Indicators at 10:00 a.m. Thursday expected to rise 0.1 percent.
SWAMI’S WEEK TOP PICKS –
NFL Football Pick of the Week – Sunday 10/22, 5:25 PM PT, NBC: Atlanta Falcons (3-2) visit New England Patriots (4-2), Falcons will cover the spread but Pats still win, 30 – 28. (Season to date 3-3).
College Football Pick of the Week – Saturday 10/21, 7:30 PM ET, ABC: #11 University of Southern California Trojans (6-1) visit #13 University of Notre Dame Fighting Irish (5-1). Huge game for The Irish, they win a close one, 32 – 30. (Season to date 4-3)
D-III Football Pick of the Week – Saturday 10/21, 1:30 PM PT: The game of the year at Maxwell Field, #21 George Fox (5-1) vs. #7 Linfield Wildcats (4-1), Linfield has too much fire power on offense, 40 – 28. (Season to date 5-2)
SCIAC Game of the Week (Women Soccer) – Saturday 10/21, 7:00 PM PT: First place is on the line in this one, California Lutheran SATs (10-2-2) vs. University of La Verne Leopards (9-2-3). The Leos are for real this year, 2 – 1. (Season to date 6-1)
College Hockey Pick of the Week – Saturday 10/21, 7:30 PM ET: #9 Providence College Friars (2-1-0) vs. #15 Clarkson University Golden Knights (3-0-1). They will be 3,000 strong at Cheel Arena for this inter-conference puck drop, though I hate to say it, Golden Knights win 4 – 3. Season to date (0-2)
NHL Pick of the Week – Saturday 10/21, 7:00 PM ET: Pittsburgh Penguins (3-2-1) vs. Tampa Bay Lightning (4-1-0), Lightning playing good hockey in the early going, 4 – 3. Season to date (1-0).
Season to Date (71 - 44)
ON THIS DATE – September 28, 1972, THE GOAL. What more can be said about Paul Henderson's heroics that has not been said time and time again? In the Summit Series against the Soviet Union.
He scored the game winning goals in game 6, game 7 and of course game 8. And he will be forever immortalized in hockey history as he scored on what is arguably the greatest hockey moment ever.
Next Blog: What student’s ask. Reminder Finder.
Until next time, Adios
October 16, 2017
CARTOON OF THE WEEK – Trevor Spaulding, The New Yorker
Tuesday, October 3, 2017
We are back, this early school year pace has my Blog writing a bit behind, no worries, and we begin the autumn season.
In Southern California the fall season means it is fire season, the freeways are more compacted with school back in session, the Dodger baseball bandwagons are hoping for a World Series title, we all wish the Chargers were still in San Diego, and it seems almost daily we are reading and viewing the growing violence and divisions around the world.
As we move forward to the end of the year, I find the fall season a good time to check in with friends and family I have been neglect in keeping up with and in these chaotic times make sure all is well and at peace.
Plenty of sports in this Fall Equinox Blog, all the other news is too depressing. But more important, hockey season is beginning this week: NHL and College seasons are starting up. Major League Baseball begins their tournament. See our Swami picks below.
WORLD SERIES OR BUST – Way back in April The Swami picked four of the six division winners, the problem is he picked the Detroit Tigers to win the World Series over The Cubbies. Ouch!
Let’s try this again: LA LA Land Dodgers vs. Cleveland Indians in the World Series, Cleveland wins their first World Series since 1948. Laing Kennedy rejoice.
COLLEGE CHRONICLES – University of Southern California assistant basketball coach Tony Bland faces serious federal criminal charges for alleged corruption, bribery, and more.
On the bright side, he’s now a leading candidate to become dean of USC’s medical school.
Annual college rankings: U.S. News & World Report released its annual list of "Best Colleges" rankings on last week, and Princeton University topped the list. College rankings can fuel further economic inequality in higher ed, since the top-ranked colleges are often pricey Ivy League institutions. Bob Morse at U.S. News responded to this observation, saying that rankings aren't the problem: Colleges that burden students with debt and don't support them academically are. Meanwhile, the Chronicle of Higher Education’s were flooded with different colleges' statements about their place in the rankings. But why don't families stop looking at commercial rankings and instead go by standards academe sets for itself?
Academic Leadership Awards: The Carnegie Corporation of New York announced on in September that seven college presidents were each the recipient of a $500,000 Academic Leadership Award to support academic initiatives on their campuses.
Carnegie recognized the presidents for their “excellence in undergraduate education, the liberal arts, equal opportunity, the development of major interdisciplinary programs, international engagement, and the promotion of strong ties between their institutions and their local communities,” according to a news release from the corporation.
The presidents and their institutions are as follows:
Joseph E. Aoun: Northeastern University
Mark P. Becker: Georgia State University
John J. DeGioia: Georgetown University
Nariman Farvardin: Stevens Institute of Technology
Maria Klawe: Harvey Mudd College
DeRionne Pollard: Montgomery College
Barbara R. Snyder: Case Western Reserve University
EQUAL PAY? - The female to male earnings ratio reached 80.5%, the highest ever. However, the gap was closed both by women earning more and men earning less. In dollar terms, the typical man earned $51,640 last year; the average woman received $41,554.
MEDIAN INCOME RISES - U.S. median household income rose in 2016 to $59,039, a 3.2 percent increase over 2015, the Census Bureau reported. But median earnings for men and women who worked full-time over the entire year were essentially unchanged after inflation, with men earning $51,640 and women earning $44,544.
The nation's poverty rate fell to 12.7 percent, returning nearly to what it was in 2007.
But, but, but ... The census report also points to the sources of deeper anxieties among American workers.
Inequality remains high, with the top fifth of earners taking home more than half of all overall income, a record.
The median African American household [earns] only $39,490, compared with more than $65,000 for whites and over $81,000 for Asians.
OUR CONTINUED OBSESSION WITH APPLE - Why iPhones cost so much ... The iPhone X (pronounced "10") will sell for $999 beginning Nov. 3.
That's double what the first iPhone cost a decade ago, and more than any other competing device — as Apple positions itself as "a purveyor of pricey, aspirational gadgets,"
Apple is ... continuing to push its prices higher, even though improvements it's bringing to its products are often incremental or derivative. ... That runs contrary to decades in which high-tech device prices have fallen over time, often dramatically, even as the gadgets themselves acquired new features and powers.
Rival phones — many of them from Samsung — already offer similar displays, facial recognition, augmented reality and wireless charging, if often in cruder forms.
Apple also introduced a TV streaming box that will sell for $179, far more than similar devices, and a smartwatch with its own cellular connection that will cost almost $400. In December, Apple will start selling an internet-connected speaker, the HomePod, priced at $349, nearly twice as much as Amazon's ... Echo.
The premium pricing strategy reflects Apple's long-held belief that consumers will pay more for products that are so well designed that they can't fathom living without them."
More than 1,000 people attended the first public event at Apple's "spaceship" campus on Tuesday September 12, the $5 billion (not a typo) Apple Park.
BIRTHDAYS THIS WEEK – Birthday wishes and thoughts this week to President Jimmy Carter (93); Bill Murray (67); Ava Suffredini …famous niece; belated birthdays to our fond readers – Steve Lesniak, Julius Walecki, and Matthew Witt.
MARKET WEEK – I keep telling my students every term that the bull stock market is coming to end soon, NOT.
It is getting tougher to argue that the bull market is near its end.
In September, U.S. stock benchmarks faced numerous rally-threatening obstacles, from the Federal Reserve’s decision to reduce its balance sheet to escalating rhetoric between the leaders of North Korea and the U.S.
Even so, unruffled investors pushed the S&P 500 to its 39th record of the year Friday. For 2017, the index is up 12.5% after rallying 4% in the third quarter.
Resilient as stocks have been, markets hardly look toppy. A strengthening global economy has bolstered corporate earnings. Rather than dump money heedlessly into stock funds, investors are buying investments such as high-grade corporate bonds. Some $23 billion moved out of U.S. equity funds in the third quarter, while $68 billion went into investment-grade corporate bond funds, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch.
“I find a surprising lack of optimism about the outlook for equities,” wrote Byron Wien, vice chairman at Blackstone Advisory Partners, a subsidiary of the Blackstone Group. “The usual factors that warn of a bear market or recession are not evident.”
Sure, there are a number of nagging concerns, but few obvious catalysts to derail the bull market in the coming months. Topping the list of worries for most investors is how central banks will normalize monetary policy after years of extraordinary measures.
But even that is unlikely to upend the bull market soon. Central bankers have mostly telegraphed their next moves. Financial conditions have been easing and economic growth in developed economies looks sturdy. That suggests any market impact may not materialize for months. And it will likely take a few more interest rate increases in the U.S. before costlier borrowing affects the economy or challenges the notion that, for investors, there are few alternatives to owning stocks.
Another threat is that inflation perks up and triggers hawkish central bank policy, roiling bond markets. This too seems distant, as the Fed’s preferred consumer price gauge Friday clocked in well below the 2% target.
While the S&P 500’s price-to-earnings ratio has been elevated for years, using valuations to time the market is notoriously fraught.
Michael Hartnett, chief investment strategist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, has for months called for a final melt-up rally in risky securities before the market rolls over in spectacular fashion. While he still thinks this scenario will play out, he summed up the current state of markets concisely last week, stating that most investors probably want to stand pat until the path becomes more clear:
“The best reason to be bearish is there is no reason to be bearish.”
DRIVING THE WEEK - Hill Republicans will push forward on a budget with tax reform reconciliation instructions. The House seems solid but the Senate, as ever, could be tougher ... President Trump on Monday hosts a "deregulation summit" and heads to Puerto Rico on Tuesday ...
Former Equifax CEO Rick Smith testifies before before House Energy and Commerce on Tuesday at 10:00 a.m. and Senate Banking Wednesday at 10:00 a.m. ... Wells Fargo CEO Tim Sloan testifies before Senate Banking on Tuesday at 10:00 a.m. ... FHFA Director Mel Watt testifies Tuesday at 10:00 a.m. before House Financial Services ...
Equifax's Smith is before House Financial Services Thursday at 9:15 a.m. ... SEC Chairman Jay Clayton testifies before House Financial Services at 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday ... September jobs report at 8:30 a.m. Friday expected to rise just 75K in the wake of the hurricanes with unemployment at 4.4 percent and earnings up 0.3 percent.
THE NEW REALITY – of old age in America:
People are living longer, more expensive lives, often without much of a safety net. As a result, record numbers of Americans older than 65 are working — now nearly 1 in 5.
Today, 9 million senior citizens work, compared with 4 million in 2000.
Why it matters: Polls show that most older people are more worried about running out of money than dying.
TIRED OF BAD NEWS – here is some good news:
We're wealthier than ever before. Despite growing income inequality and the persistent gender and race gaps in our society, Americans overall are wealthier than they ever have been, including African Americans and Hispanics. There are more rich people and fewer poor people.
We're beating cancer. Researchers have reported a continued decline in overall cancer death rates due to screening, prevention and new treatments.
Teen pregnancies are down 51% from 10 years ago, an extraordinarily fast social change compared to adult smoking, which took 40 years to cut by half. Experts attribute the phenomenon to better use of birth control.
Oil independence: U.S. dependence on foreign oil continues to decrease, with 2016 setting a 30-year low.
The hole in the earth's ozone layer is on the mend with the help of the 1987 Montreal Protocol, which helped phase out ozone-destroying chemicals.
In galaxies far, far away, astronomers say we are entering a new era where we can both see with optical telescopes and hear events occurring deep in space.
Women in Saudi Arabia will be allowed to drive cars for the first time, in June 2018.
In Houston, we witnessed citizens taking boats and jet skis to rescue those stuck in floods after Hurricane Harvey.
The five living presidents, Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H. W. Bush and Jimmy Carter banded together to raise money to aid Hurricane relief efforts in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
RINK RATS PRESEASON Ligue Nationale de Hockey PICKS –
WEST- Pacific: 1. San Jose, 2. Edmonton, 3). Anaheim
Central: 1. Chicago, 2. Nashville, 3. Winnipeg
Wild Card: 1. Los Angeles, 2. Dallas
Conference Champs: San Jose Sharks
EAST - Atlantic: 1. Tampa Bay, 2. CBOT Ottawa, 3. Montreal
Metropolitan: 1. Pittsburgh, 2. Washington, 3. Philadelphia
Wild Card: 1. New York Rangers, 2. New York Islanders
Conference Champs: Tampa Bay Lightning
Stanley Cup Champs: Tampa Bay Lightning
Note: Detroit Red Wings will miss the playoffs for the second straight year, sorry Little Caesars.
SWAMI’S WEEK TOP PICKS –
NFL Football Pick of the Week – Sunday 10/8, 1:05 PM PT, CBS: Seattle Seahawks (2-2) vs. Los Angeles Rams (3-1). The early season battle to see if the LA Rams are for real, they are: Rams 24 – 21 over the Seahawks . (Season to date 3-1).
College Football Pick of the Week – Saturday 10/7, 7:30 PM ET, ABC: Not too many quality college games this weekend, we like (because we will be there) Michigan State Spartans (3-1) vs. #7 University of Michigan Wolverines (4-0). Wolverines have more depth than Sparty, 30 – 20. (Season to date 3-2)
D-III Football Pick of the Week – Saturday 10/7, 2:00 PM MT: #1 Mary Hardin-Baylor Crusaders (4-0) vs. #6 Hardin-Simmons Cowboys (4-0). The American Southwest Conference, the best D-III football conference in the country has a beauty this Saturday. The Cowboys in an upset 35 – 31. (Season to date 4-1)
SCIAC Game of the Week (Men’s Football) – Saturday 10/7, 7:00 PM PT: University of La Verne Leopards (2-1) vs. University of Redlands Bulldogs (2-1). Two seasons ago the Leos upset Redlands at Ted Runner Stadium on their way to a SCIAC Championship. Can they do it again, no, Redlands 38 – 28. (Season to date 5-0)
MLB Game of the Week (10/7) – Game 2 of the National League Divisional Series, Chicago Cubs (92-70) vs. Washington Nationals (97-63). Cubs win, Cubs Win, 5 – 3.
COLLEGE HOCKEY PICK OF THE WEEK – Saturday 10/7, 7:00 PM ET: University of Michigan Wolverines (0-0) vs. St. Lawrence University Saints (0-0). A huge non-conference match up at Appleton Arena, the live stream better be working. Saints win 4-3. Season to date (0-0)
Season to Date (67 - 37)
ON THIS DATE - in 1938, the iconic Michigan winged helmet saw the gridiron for the first time - (Michigan 14, Michigan State College 0).
Next Blog: What student’s ask.
Until next time, Adios
October 3, 2017
CARTOON OF THE WEEK – Robert Leighton, The New Yorker
Monday, September 11, 2017
I received an email last week from a former student of mine from Bogota, Columbia. We have been corresponding lately about possible career changes. He asked me a question I get asked often: “What is my favorite business book?”
That is a no brainer for me, “Business Adventures,” by John Brooks.
Today, four decades after it was first published—"Business Adventures" remains the best business book I've ever read. John Brooks is still my favorite business writer.
A skeptic might wonder how this out-of-print collection of New Yorker articles from the 1960s could have anything to say about business today. After all, in 1966, when Brooks profiled Xerox , the company's top-of-the-line copier weighed 650 pounds, cost $27,500, required a full-time operator and came with a fire extinguisher because of its tendency to overheat. A lot has changed since then.
It's certainly true that many of the particulars of business have changed. But the fundamentals have not. Brooks's deeper insights about business are just as relevant today as they were back then. In terms of its longevity, "Business Adventures" stands alongside Benjamin Graham's "The Intelligent Investor," the 1949 book that I believe is the best book on investing I have ever read.
Brooks grew up in New Jersey during the Depression, attended Princeton University (where he roomed with future Secretary of State George Shultz ) and, after serving in World War II, turned to journalism with dreams of becoming a novelist. In addition to his magazine work, he published a handful of books, only some of which are still in print. He died in 1993.
As the journalist Michael Lewis wrote in his foreword to Brooks's book "The Go-Go Years," even when Brooks got things wrong, "at least he got them wrong in an interesting way." Unlike a lot of today's business writers, Brooks didn't boil his work down into pat how-to lessons or simplistic explanations for success. (How many times have you read that some company is taking off because they give their employees free lunch?) You won't find any listicles in his work. Brooks wrote long articles that frame an issue, explore it in depth, introduce a few compelling characters and show how things went for them.
In one called "The Impacted Philosophers," he uses a case of price-fixing at General Electric to explore miscommunication—sometimes intentional miscommunication—up and down the corporate ladder. It was, he writes, "a breakdown in intramural communication so drastic as to make the building of the Tower of Babel seem a triumph of organizational rapport."
In "The Fate of the Edsel," he refutes the popular explanations for why Ford's flagship car was such a historic flop. It wasn't because the car was overly poll-tested; it was because Ford's executives only pretended to be acting on what the polls said. "Although the Edsel was supposed to be advertised, and otherwise promoted, strictly on the basis of preferences expressed in polls, some old-fashioned snake-oil selling methods, intuitive rather than scientific, crept in." It certainly didn't help that the first Edsels "were delivered with oil leaks, sticking hoods, trunks that wouldn't open and push buttons that…couldn't be budged with a hammer."
One of Brooks's most instructive stories is "Xerox Xerox Xerox Xerox." (The headline alone belongs in the Journalism Hall of Fame.) The example of Xerox is one that everyone in the tech industry should study. Starting in the early '70s, Xerox funded a huge amount of R&D that wasn't directly related to copiers, including research that led to Ethernet networks and the first graphical user interface (the look you know today as Windows or OS X).
But because Xerox executives didn't think these ideas fit their core business, they chose not to turn them into marketable products. Others stepped in and went to market with products based on the research that Xerox had done. Both Apple and Microsoft , for example, drew on Xerox's work on graphical user interfaces.
I know I'm not alone in seeing this decision as a mistake on Xerox's part. Many other journalists have written about Xerox, but Brooks's article tells an important part of the company's early story. He shows how it was built on original, outside-the-box thinking, which makes it all the more surprising that as Xerox matured, it would miss out on unconventional ideas developed by its own researchers.
Brooks was also a masterful storyteller. He could craft a page-turner like "The Last Great Corner," about the man who founded the Piggly Wiggly grocery chain and his attempt to foil investors intent on shorting his company's stock. I couldn't wait to see how things turned out for him. (Here's a spoiler: not well.) Other times you can almost hear Brooks chuckling as he tells some absurd story. There's a passage in "The Fate of the Edsel" in which a PR man for Ford organizes a fashion show for the wives of newspaper reporters. The host of the fashion show turns out to be a female impersonator, which might seem edgy today but would have been scandalous for a major U.S. corporation in 1957. Brooks notes that the reporters' wives "were able to give their husbands an extra paragraph or two for their stories."
Brooks's work is a great reminder that the rules for running a strong business and creating value haven't changed. For one thing, there's an essential human factor in every business endeavor. It doesn't matter if you have a perfect product, production plan and marketing pitch; you'll still need the right people to lead and implement those plans.
"Business Adventures" is as much about the strengths and weaknesses of leaders in challenging circumstances as it is about the particulars of one business or another. In that sense, it is still relevant not despite its age but because of it. John Brooks's work is really about human nature, which is why it has stood the test of time.
FALL MOVIE PREVIEW - FBI battles with the White House. Revelatory government leaks on the front page. Soldiers haunted by unwinnable wars. Courtroom clashes over civil rights. Movies take years to make, but many of this fall's films may feel almost preternaturally programmed for the President Trump era.
Writer-director Peter Landesman ('Concussion') found himself making a film about the FBI battling White House interference while a curiously similar conflict played out between Trump, James Comey and the FBI.
His movie, 'Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House' tells the story of Felt (played by Liam Neeson), the legendary Watergate source known as Deep Throat, who was the No. 2 official at the FBI during the scandal. It's been in the works since 2005.
The film, [out] Sept. 29, gives a close-up to the man previously seen ... as the shadowy figure in the parking garage of 'All the President's Men.'
Similar parallels may also follow Steven Spielberg's keenly awaited 'The Post,' (Dec. 22). Spielberg's drama is about The Washington Post's 1971 publishing of the classified Pentagon Papers, which revealed many of the government's lies about the Vietnam War.
The film, starring Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks, is like an all-star team assembled as Hollywood's response to Trump.
Clint Eastwood, who has previously voiced support for Trump, is prepping 'The 15:17 to Paris' about the 2015 Thalys train attack in France, with the real-life heroes playing themselves.
‘Thank You for Your Service' (Oct. 27) ... is about three soldiers returning from Iraq, adjusting to civilian life and fighting post-traumatic stress disorder.
‘Marshall' (Oct. 13), stars Chadwick Boseman as a young Thurgood Marshall defending a black chauffeur in 1941 against his wealthy socialite employer in a sexual assault and attempted murder trial.
Rob Reiner's 'LBJ' (Nov. 3) stars Woody Harrelson as the 36th president, taking office after the assassination of John F. Kennedy and passing the Civil Rights Act.
Put all these on your to see list in the coming months.
COLLEGE CHRONICLES – COLLEGE HOCKEY INTRIGUE - All-America goaltender Kyle Hayton made it official last week, that he's leaving St. Lawrence and will play for Wisconsin this season as a graduate.
It had been one of the worst-kept secrets this summer that Hayton's intention was to transfer. However, he had to first pass enough courses during the summer at St. Lawrence to graduate. That wasn't known for sure until this past week. I bet one of those courses was Geography.
According to Wisconsin, Hayton passed about a year's worth of courses over the summer, and got 'As' in all of them (hmmm right, a goalie?).
As a graduate transfer, Hayton does not have to wait the usual one-year transfer period. He has one more season of NCAA eligibility remaining and can do that immediately with the Badgers.
"Basically I just wanted a new challenge," Hayton said.
Two weeks ago, Matt Jurusik had announced he was leaving Wisconsin to return to the USHL, signaling Hayton's impending arrival.
"I am lucky enough to have the chance to continue my collegiate career with one of the best coaching staffs in the country and an extremely talented group of players," Hayton said. "I am so excited to get rolling towards a Championship as a Badger."
Hayton, 23, is a native of Denver. His best season statistically came as a freshman, when he posted five shutouts and a .937 save percentage. His save percentage was .935 as a sophomore and .929 last season as a junior.
Hayton is an undrafted free agent in the NHL's eyes.
"I think he's a confident kid, a kid that looks at our program and the goalies we've produced and he wants to be one of those guys," Wisconsin coach Tony Granato said.
Wisconsin's other goaltender is sophomore Jack Berry. Last season as a freshman, Berry started the most games of anyone on the team, but finished with a save percentage of just .898 as the Badgers fell just short of making the NCAAs.
As Wisconsin's publicity office pointed out in a news release, star NFL quarterback Russell Wilson made a similar move after three years at North Carolina State, playing his final season of college football for the Badgers.
"Big shoes to fill," Hayton said. Not too many quotes coming out of the St. Lawrence camp.
Wisconsin plays St. Lawrence in two games in Madison early in the upcoming season, Oct. 27 and 28.
BIRTHDAYS THIS WEEK – Birthday wishes and thoughts this week Maria Bartiromo (50) Brooklyn, N.Y.; Virginia Madsen (56) Chicago, Ill.; Tommy Lee Jones (71) San Saba, TX.
POTUS WEEK - Hurricane Irma: President Trump's week will be dominated by the storm response. Trump said he plans to visit Florida "very soon," according to CNN, but the travel schedule hasn't been finalized, according to a senior administration official.
House agenda: Because so many members will be out of town due to Hurricane Irma, no votes are expected in the House on Monday. Later in the week, House Republicans will pass their eight remaining appropriations bills (sending the full package of 12 spending bills over to the Senate.)
Senate agenda: The defense authorization bill — John McCain's baby — is expected to come up this week. It's unclear how long this traditionally bipartisan bill will take to get through the amendment process.
9/11 remembrance: Monday is September 11. President Trump and the First Lady will lead a staff-wide moment of silence at the White House. They'll then visit the Pentagon.
Foreign visitor: Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak visits the White House on Tuesday.
Hill outreach: Trump hosts a bipartisan dinner with senators on Wednesday night.
Earlier that day, South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, the only African-American Republican in the Senate, will have a one-on-one meeting with Trump at the White House. The topic: race in America. Scott has been harshly critical of Trump on racial issues — especially post-Charlottesville — and plans to expose the president to his own moving life story in forceful terms.
CREDIT HACK - Credit-reporting company Equifax said Thursday that hackers gained access to some of its systems, potentially compromising the personal information of roughly 143 million U.S. consumers. The hack is second in size only to the pair of attacks on Yahoo disclosed last year, which potentially affected as many as 1.5 billion customers. The Equifax breach could prove especially damaging given credit-reporting companies’ gateway role in determining which consumers gain access to financing and how much they get. The attack differs, too, in that the attackers in one swoop gained access to several pieces of consumers’ information—names, Social Security numbers, birth dates and addresses—that could make it easier to commit fraud.
THE NEW iPHONE - Called 'iPhone X: Strings of software code inside of the leaked operating system ... show the expected three new phones will be called the iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, and iPhone X.
The iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus are successors to the current iPhone models, while the iPhone X is the premium version with an all-new design, crisper OLED screen, improved cameras, and a 3-D facial recognition scanner for unlocking the device.
The 'X' in the iPhone's name may be a reference to this model being a special 10th anniversary edition."
This [iPhone] iteration could prove a test of [Apple's] consumer tech dominance as it faces a bevy of challenges: Samsung seems to have resumed its smartphone momentum with the new Galaxy Note 8, Apple trails competitors such as Google in the home hub space, Siri's artificial intelligence isn't as advanced as others, and it is losing to Amazon.com as an entertainment innovator.
Is this the moment [Apple and CEO Tim Cook] reclaim the mantle as tech's top innovator?
Apple fans, who crave the days when the company changed the world with revolutionary products, are eager to see more ... industry-disrupting ideas.
MARKET WEEK - Investors will focus this week on the biggest U.S. company by market capitalization.
Apple Inc. is expected to roll out three new iterations of its popular iPhone on Tuesday, including a larger and more expensive 10th anniversary showcase edition and updates to its two iPhone 7 models that started selling last year.
Excitement for the unveiling has grown all year among investors. The stock is up 37% in 2017, nearly four times the gain of the broader S&P 500 index.
The hype is a perennial feature of Apple releases: The stock has gained 21% on average in the six months leading up to past iPhone launches.
But history suggests that the momentum is likely to fade after Tuesday. In the week after a new launch, Apple shares have averaged a 1.6% fall, according to The Wall Street Journal's Market Data Group.
September is a historically tough month for Apple's stock. It has averaged a 4.2% drop during the 36 Septembers since it went public, according to Schaeffer’s Investment Research. The company has also rolled out new iPhones in September in recent years.
Such performance matters for investors in more than just Apple. The company, valued at $819 billion, makes up 3.9% of the market value of the S&P 500, the highest of any of the index’s companies. That means Apple has an outsized impact on the S&P 500’s performance.
A disappointing product launch could drag on major U.S. stock indexes during an already-volatile month. The S&P 500 is down slightly in September as investors have fretted about a range of issues from conflict with North Korea to recent soft inflation readings and the impact from the hurricanes that have hit the U.S.
That said, Apple has tended to rebound pretty quickly from a post-iPhone launch slump. A month after the release, shares gain 1.3% on average, and six months later they're up almost 14%.
The stock has averaged a 31% increase during the period between new iPhone releases, but not every cycle has been a winner. Shares fell 21% during the 3G cycle, though they rose 94% during the 3GS cycle that followed, the best run on record for an iPhone release. More recently, shares have gained 43% in the current stretch of the 7 and the 7 Plus cycle.
GRAY BEARDS - The NFL season begins with 7 starting quarterbacks who are 35 or older.
The dean, New England Patriots' Tom Brady (40), is joined by the New Orleans Saints' Drew Brees (38), the New York Jets' Josh McCown (38), the Arizona Cardinals' Carson Palmer (37), the New York Giants' Eli Manning (36), the Steelers' Ben Roethlisberger (35) and the L.A. Chargers' Philip Rivers (35).
The Green Bay Packers' Aaron Rodgers — who, inspired by Brady's diet and stretching, thinks it's "realistic" to play past 40 — is 33.
The reason for the crop of graybeard QBs: Quarterbacks are delaying retirement while making more money, eating better, working out year-round and benefiting from rule changes that have resulted in fewer hits and less wear and tear on their bodies. Bolstering veterans' value is the paucity of QBs running the pro-style system in college.
The spate of rule changes over the last two decades that fed the offensive explosion is bearing fruit now that quarterbacks are elongating their peak performance years and prolonging their careers.
P.S. Sports Illustrated's pick for Super Bowl LII, on Feb. 4 at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis: Patriots 31, Packers 27 (Steelers and Vikings also in the final four).
SWAMI’S WEEK TOP PICKS –
NFL Football Pick of the Week – Sunday 9/17, 1:00 PM ET, CBS: Buffalo Bills (1-0) visit Carolina Panthers (1-0). Can Buffalo stay in first place in the AFC East (NOT), Carolina wins in Charlotte 24 – 14. (Season to date 1-0).
College Football Pick of the Week – Saturday 9/16, 8:00 PM ET, ABC: #3 Clemson Tigers (2-0) visit #14 Louisville Cardinals (2-0). Not an easy early season schedule, last week Auburn, now Louisville. Clemson wins in Louisville 38 – 30. (Season to date 1-1)
D-III Football Pick of the Week – Saturday 9/16, 4:30 PM PT: #1 Mary Hardin-Baylor Crusaders(1-0) visit #7 Linfield Wildcats (1-0). A good cross country test for the defending National Champ Crusaders. The purple will be out in full force at Maxwell Field in Oregon, but not enough, Crusaders win 27 – 21. (Season to date 1-1)
SCIAC Game of the Week (Men’s Soccer) – Saturday 9/16, 7:00 PM PT: University of La Verne Leopards (3-1) at University of Redlands Bulldogs (2-3). First place is on the line in the SCIAC Conference, Leos win a big one on the road 3 – 2. (Season to date 2-0)
MLB Game of the Week (9/16) – Los Angeles Dodgers (92-51) at Washington Nationals (88-55), by this time on Saturday if the Dodgers have not stopped their losing streak the Dodger band wagon will be officially empty. Nats win 6 – 2.
Season to Date (53 - 22)
ON THIS DATE - “Star Trek” premiered on NBC today 1966—was a favorite of Martin Luther King for its diversity.
Next Blog: Words of the month and the search committee.
Until next time, Adios
September 11, 2017
CARTOON OF THE WEEK – “Never Forget”