Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The List Is Growing

One of the common themes of this Blog, sometimes subtle and sometimes not is “They Don’t Get It.”

From sports fans who continue to finance professional and collegiate teams with over the top players and coaches, idiot, spoiled owners and management. To public and private educators who fail to see the financial aid bubble is coming as they continue to follow a flawed business plan. To ego-driven managers who are overpaid, over hyped, and overdressed.

Now I would like to add another name to this distinguished list: The Fifth Estate.

I read newspapers, watch the network news, CSPAN, I even now and then watch Fox News (don’t tell anyone). Though sometimes it takes plenty of courage I read columnists like David Allen (thought I would mention him to give local news a plug), Patt Morrison, Bill Plaschke, Maureen Dowd, Thomas Friedman, Ann Coulter, David Brooks and though he scares the hell out of me, Charles Krauthammer.

Despite all these viewpoints both conservative and liberal I believe the media is missing something big in the coverage of this U.S. Presidential election. This isn't a race just about characters, or even character. It's about white people outside urban centers who feel like strangers in their own land; about Hispanics and African-Americans facing attacks reminiscent of the '60s; about how all of us are wrestling with the advantages and pitfalls of perpetual social media connection in our politics; about the susceptibility of our short-attention-span minds to the outrageous; and about the scary fusion of reality and fiction at a time when our world is more interconnected and combustible than ever, and in need of new paradigms. Instead, we get character sketches of two untrustworthy and unlikable candidates.

The list is growing of those who “Don’t Get It.” Stay tuned.

WHAT ARE YOU SMOKING? - One day after saying he thinks Vladimir Putin is a stronger leader than Barack Obama, Donald Trump gave an interview to RT, the state-run Russian television network, in which he told the interviewer -- none other than Larry King -- that it was "pretty unlikely" that Russia was behind recent cyber intrusions aimed at disrupting U.S. election systems. Trump said he didn't know who hacked the DNC's computers. Speaker Paul Ryan -- who endorsed Trump's candidacy -- was, again, pretty unambiguous in his blatant disagreement with his nominee. Ryan said Putin is "an aggressor who does not share our interests," and added that Russia has been "conducting state-sponsored cyber attacks" on the United States' "political system" -- referring to the DNC hack. Many national security experts in and out of government have said Russia is to blame.

THE FUTURE??? - Hillary's First 100 Days": "Hillary Clinton took the oath of office as the 45th president of the United States on Friday, Jan. 20, 2017, after defeating the thousandaire Donald J. Trump in the previous November's election. Since F.D.R., the first 100 days have come to be seen as the defining moment of each presidency and are used to measure each new president's accomplishments. Below are the highlights of President Clinton's first 100 days as recorded near the end of her second term, in 2024, by her official biographer, and recovered from a deleted email in 2025.

"Day 1: Inauguration of President Hillary Clinton and Vice President Tim Kaine. Five minutes later, the G.O.P.-led House of Representatives begins impeachment proceedings. Bernie Sanders assures supporters that there is still a way he can win. Day 2: Revealed that Hillary charged the United States $500,000 for her Inaugural Address and refuses to release the transcript. A nation wonders whether Huma Weiner is really single now or if she and Anthony Weiner are just taking a break."

Days until the 2016 election: 56.

Days until the first presidential debate: 13.

APOLLO, THIS IS HOUSTON, DO YOU COPY? - University of Phoenix change in ownership: There's no firm deadline for the Education Department to weigh in on whether a group of investors, which includes some with deep ties to the Obama administration, are effectively allowed to buy the University of Phoenix's parent company. But the company, Apollo Education Group, has previously said in SEC filings that it expects to get the necessary regulatory approvals to complete the sale by the end of this calendar year.

BACK TO SCHOOL??? - A federal crackdown on for-profit colleges is cutting off a lifeline to the once-high-flying industry as the second major school operator in recent years closed last Tuesday, potentially leaving taxpayers on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars in student loans. ITT Technical Institute, among the nation’s largest for-profit college chains by revenue, abruptly closed more than 130 campuses, forcing more than 40,000 students at campuses in 38 states to begin looking for another school after the government banned it from enrolling new students receiving federal aid. ITT got 80% of its cash revenue in 2015 from Title IV federal aid, including Pell Grants and student loans. Meanwhile, a lawsuit seeking class-action status was filed Tuesday on behalf of the 8,000 employees laid off by the closure of ITT’s campuses.

Note: The financial aid bubble is coming…..

COLLEGE CHRONICLES - The president of Franklin & Marshall College, who has drawn attention by more than tripling the percentage of Pell grant-eligible students at the small Pennsylvania liberal arts school, says he's open to Hillary Clinton's free tuition proposal. "Private schools will benefit a lot if public schools are better," said Daniel Porterfield. As Clinton's plan stands now, families making up to $125,000 would be eligible for free tuition at public colleges and universities. That has many private college presidents worried about potentially losing students, and some have strongly opposed the proposal.

The nation should be investing "much more" in Pell grants, Porterfield said. But Porterfield said he would be "very supportive" of any ideas to strengthen federal and state support for higher education. He said it's "troubling" to him that a lot of public universities, after being hit by state budget cuts, became too dependent on "revenue-focused financial aid and out-of-state recruitment" to bring in tuition dollars - leading, he said, to fewer in-state options for low-income students. In Porterfield's five years at Franklin & Marshall, the school has shifted to offering only need-based aid, meaning they're targeting more students who otherwise couldn't afford to go to a private college. His college also has a summer program for promising high school seniors, and works with groups like the Posse Foundation to aggressively recruit "talent" in cities like Miami and New York.

"Rigor helps first-generation kids," Porterfield said. At Franklin & Marshall, the growing portion of the student body who rely on Pell grants have been at least as successful as their peers who come from wealthier, college-going families. The 2016 four-year graduation rate at Franklin & Marshall was 83 percent for Pell students, compared to 79 percent overall, he said. "I think one of the greatest excuses that you hear coming out of some quarters is that we would like to have first-generation college goers or lower-income college goers, but their needs are too great, and we don't want to harm them," Porterfield said. "And that is a myth, I think.

BIRTHDAYS THIS WEEK – Birthday wishes and thoughts this week to Bob Baun (80) Don Mills, Ontario; Heidi Bravo …famous educator, Arnold Palmer (87) Latrobe, PA.; Dan Pugliese …famous hockey Dad.

iPHONE 7 UNDERWHELMS - WSJ's Geoffrey A. Fowler: "In your palm, Apple's iPhone 7 looks like the long-lost twin of the two-year-old iPhone 6. At a demo after Wednesday's launch event, I put the 6 and 7 side by side and played Spot the New Guy. The most discernible difference was the location of the camera. Oh, that and Apple took away something many of us use every day: the headphone jack.

"Apple's latest flagship phone delivers practical improvements ... These were long overdue. But Apple is only catching up to the competition, not flying past it. ... The iPhone 7 shows Apple is either struggling to keep up with its own pace - or trying to reset our expectations. This doesn't necessarily spell doom for Apple. There are many good reasons customers remain loyal to it"

Forget about the headphone jack for a second. Sure, it's pretty ... But you'll get used to it. The absence of a jack is far from the worst shortcoming in Apple's latest product launch. Instead, it's a symptom of a deeper issue with the new iPhones, part of a problem that afflicts much of the company's product lineup: Apple's aesthetics have grown stale.

"Apple has squandered its once-commanding lead in hardware and software design. Though the new iPhones include several new features, including water resistance and upgraded cameras, they look pretty much the same as the old ones. The new Apple Watch does too. And as competitors have borrowed and even begun to surpass Apple's best designs, what was iconic about the company's phones, computers, tablets and other products has come to seem generic"

Apple last Wednesday announced improvements to the iPhone that stopped short of a major overhaul, hoping that the upgrades will revive sagging sales of its flagship product. The new iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus deliver practical improvements that were long overdue, writes our Personal Technology columnist Geoffrey A. Fowler. But Apple is only catching up to the competition, not flying past it. Yet this doesn’t necessarily spell doom for company. The new phones offer longer battery life, more storage and brighter screens than their predecessors, but eliminate the traditional headphone jack. The lack of a must-have feature breaks an Apple tradition of major design changes every other year and poses a crucial question: Will users find enough value in the improved features to upgrade from older models?

BANKERS - WELLS HIT WITH $185M ON MASSIVE FRAUD - Wells Fargo & Co. was slapped with a $185 million fine ... for 'widespread illegal' sales practices that included opening as many as two million deposit and credit-card accounts without customers' knowledge ... Employees at the bank, which has 40 million retail customers, in some instances issued debit cards without customers' knowledge and assigned personal identification numbers without telling them ...

They also transferred funds from authorized customer accounts to temporarily fund ones without customer permission ... sometimes resulting in fees for insufficient funds. ... Wells Fargo neither admitted nor denied the allegations but agreed to pay the fine and submit to a consent order to settle civil claims ... In detailing the widespread nature of the bank's alleged missteps, CFPB said Wells Fargo, has 'terminated roughly 5,300 employees for engaging in improper sales practices.

The executive who oversaw [Wells Fargo's] group of rogue employees, Carrie Tolstedt, conveniently announced plans to retire over the summer and, according to Fortune, is being paid $124.6 million on the way out. (One analyst has called for a clawback of that exit package.) Clearly there is a disconnect between whatever Wells Fargo was telling the public and what was actually going on at Wells Fargo - and that's putting it politely.

LOW INTEREST - Federal Reserve officials, lacking a strong consensus for action a week before their next policy meeting, are leaning toward waiting until late in the year before raising short-term interest rates. It’s a close call. But with inflation holding below the Fed’s 2% target and the unemployment rate little changed in recent months, senior officials feel little sense of urgency about moving and an inclination toward delay. Despite its hesitance, the Fed faces some external pressure to move: J.P. Morgan Chase Chairman and CEO James Dimon said yesterday that he favors increasing interest rates and that the Fed should act “sooner rather than later.” For others, who note that the jobless rate hasn’t moved much this year, the watchword is patience. Meanwhile, the Fed’s decision has become the subject of intense market speculation in recent days.

TOP THREE – Top three sport talk shows:

            1). Chris “Mad Dog” Russo, Sirius XM: 3:00 – 6:00 p.m. ET

            2). The Herd with Colin Cowherd, Fox Sports: 12:00 – 3:00 p.m. ET

            3). Hockey Central, Sportsnet590: 12:00 – 1:00 p.m. ET

FAREWELL TO VIN SCULLY – I have had the pleasure of listening to some wonderful broadcasters: Ernie Harwell with the Detroit Tigers, Phil Rizzuto and Bill White with the New York Yankees, Bob Murphy and Lindsey Nelson with the New York Metropolitans, and of course Vin Scully with the Dodgers.

Vin Scully, who now enters his final month on the job, began broadcasting for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1950 as an apprentice to Red Barber. Three years later, he was the team’s lead broadcaster. By 1958, when the team moved to Los Angeles to play in the Coliseum, he was so vital to fans – many of whom had difficulty following the game in a stadium far too massive for it – that they packed transistor radios so they could listen to Vin in the stands. By 1976, fans elected him the “most memorable personality” in Dodgers history. That was 40 years ago.

Over the decades, the sports-media landscape changed dramatically, and Scully’s once-beloved profession was whittled down to those Johns and Daves and Toms and Joes we like yelling at so much—but he never lost his touch.

The key to Scully’s success is his calm, intimate vibe. While many broadcasters call games as if they’re trying to talk anonymous hordes out of looking at their iPads, Scully is having a conversation with you – and only you. “I've always felt that I was talking to one person," he said in 2007. "But I've never envisioned who that one person is."

To listen to Scully is to be drawn in by a storyteller—and a fellow traveler. Scully has seen nearly 10,000 baseball games but he never sounds like a jaundiced expert. He’s excited to find out what happens just like you. It’s a baseball game. Let’s watch it together.

In 1950, you listened to Vin Scully because you wanted to know if the Dodgers were winning and he was the only way for you to find out. Now, in an age of push notifications and Twitter alerts, it’s difficult not to find out the score. And we have an absurd number of ways to follow along. We can watch the game on our TVs, our iPads, our phones, our video game consoles or even our wristwatches. We can listen to national audio feeds. We can turn off broadcasters altogether and just listen to the crowd. But still we choose Vin.

Ask any baseball fan. When they’re flipping around MLB.tv looking for a default game, just "which game should I turn on right now?" the determining factor is always, always, “Are the Dodgers at home?" Because if they are, Scully's calling the game, and that's the one you choose. Sure, the score of that Diamondbacks-Rockies game might be a little closer. But you’re going to turn down the chance to listen to Vin? In his last season, no less? The Dodgers are in first place, but even if they were on a 100-loss pace, they would be must-watch all season. That’s because of Vin.

Though he’s been around forever, he’s not some nostalgia play. He doesn’t complain that They Just Don’t Play Like They Used To or invoke the Good Ole Days, perhaps because he realizes they’re not behind us.

What unites the newer fans to the past is that they adore Vin Scully. The man in the booth – doing the job we now love to denigrate – is more beloved than the players he describes on the field.

His voice has served as the soundtrack of baseball even as that game, and the way we interact with it, has evolved. We’ll choose him right down to the very end. And then we’ll get back to booing the other guys. Thank you Mr. Scully, enjoy your retirement, you will be missed.

NFL GAME OF THE WEEK – Sunday 9/18, 1:00 PM ET, CBS; Cincinnati Bengals (1-0) at Pittsburgh Steelers (1-0). Too much Big Ben, Steelers win 28 – 17. Season to date (0-1)

COLLEGE FOOTBALL PICK OF THE WEEK – Saturday 9/17, 7:30 PM ET, NBC: #12 Michigan State University Spartans (2-0) at #18 University of Notre Dame Fighting Irish (1-1). The Spartans are tough on the road, The Domers are in trouble; State 40 – 30. Season to date (2-0)

SMALL COLLEGE FOOTBALL PICK OF THE WEEK – Saturday 9/17, 7:00 PM ET, HGTV: #3 Linfield Wildcats (1-0) visit #5 Mary Hardin-Baylor Crusaders (2-0): Northwest meets the Southwest, how good are the Wildcats, pretty good, Linfield wins 24 – 20.   Season to date (2-0)


(NFL, Sept. 18) Kansas City Chiefs (1-0) at Houston Texans (1-0); The Swami is off to a slow start this season, time to get back on track, KC wins 28 – 14.

(NCAA-DIII, Sept. 17) #24 St. John Fisher Cardinals (2-0) vs. #16 Cortland State Dragons (2-0); huge Empire 8 Conference match, we like Cortland 24 – 21.

(NCAA BCS, Sept. 17) #2 Florida State Criminals (2-0) at #10 Louisville Cardinals (2-0), Lamar Jackson is for real, Cardinals win 42 – 32.

(World Cup of Hockey2016, Sept. 17) USA vs. Europe, the World Cup begins, best hockey you will see this year: USA starts fast 4 – 2 over Europe.

(MLB, Sept. 17) New York Yankees (76-67) at Boston Red Sox (81-62), both teams fighting for playoff seeds, Sox win 5 – 4.

Season to date (57 -45)

MARKET WEEK - Summer vacation is over for markets. Investors who had bet heavily on calm seas ahead were jolted on Friday as prices of stocks, bonds, oil and gold all slid amid mounting concerns over the willingness and ability of central banks to prop up markets. The CBOE Volatility Index, which tracks investors’ expectations for volatility in stocks and had bounced near multiyear lows during July and August, jumped 40%. The turbulence has reignited fears that the Federal Reserve is moving further into a rate-raising phase that could leave stocks, emerging markets and commodities vulnerable to a deeper pullback. Whether the retreat is a blip or something bigger could hinge on what the Fed does over the next two weeks. Three Fed speakers are scheduled to speak Monday, after which the central bank enters a self-imposed blackout period before its Sept. 20-21 meeting.

DRIVING THE WEEK - Senate Foreign Relations on Tuesday at 10:30 a.m. holds a hearing on Brexit ... Senate Banking has a hearing Tuesday at 10:30 a.m. on the National Flood Insurance Program ... Retail sales Thursday at 8:30 a.m. expected to dip 0.1 percent headline and rise 0.2 percent ex-autos ... Industrial production at 9:15 a.m. expected to drop 0.2 percent ... Consumer Prices at 8:30 a.m. Friday expected to rise 0.1 percent headline and 0.2 percent core ... Univ. of Michigan Sentiment at 10:00 a.m. Friday expected to rise to 91.0 from 89.8.

Next week: The best cider and words of the month.

Until Next Time, Adios.

Claremont, CA

September 13, 2016


CARTOON OF THE WEEK – Schwartz, The New Yorker

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