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Good Reading -- November 2017

Good Reading -- November 2017

Philip C. Ordway Books

  • Iacocca: An Autobiography -- This book is obviously 30+ years old, but it has aged well. I'm a sucker for biographies in general, and this one is above average in its candor and insight across Iacocca's fascinating life. The historical parallels are interesting too -- there is even a chapter titled "Making America Great Again." The politics and proposed solutions are different, but the economic arguments will sound familiar: free trade and better/smarter competition from Asia (Japan), spiraling healthcare costs, a lack of investment, an eroding industrial base, a shrinking middle class, crumbling infrastructure, high taxes and entitlements, an overactive Fed and distortions from goofy interest rates, expectations of a lower standard of living for the next generation, etc. etc.

  • Glory, Lost and Found: How Delta Climbed from Despair to Dominance in the Post-9-11 Era -- This book is an excellent "business biography" of Delta Airlines, but it's also far more than that. It's also a really interesting examination of the industry, its structure, and its participants, and the implications and applications are much broader. It's long, but I finished it wishing it were even longer.

Quoted "The essence is simplicity." -- Lou Simpson (see below)

Facts and Figures

  • Kentucky's state pension system already has more people drawing pensions than it does people working and paying into the system. Now retirements are skyrocketing too.

  • Alameda County (CA) spends more than 13% of its budget on pension costs. (Source)


  • The Family That Build an Empire of Pain -- A long look at the Sackler family and Purdue Pharma, the company behind OxyContin. As one professor comments in the article, "The real Greek tragedy of this [is] that so many well-meaning doctors got co-opted. The level of influence is just mind-boggling." Later the article notes that in the decade ending in 2015 Purdue and painkiller producers spent almost $900 million dollars on lobbying and political contributions.

  • "One of the Investment Greats" Explains his Portfolio Strategy -- A short Q&A with legendary investor Lou Simpson. As he puts it, "the essence is simplicity."

  • A Conversation with David Swensen -Interesting on a range of topics: cutting Yale's expected return to 5% after 30+ years >8%; hedging market valuation fears; emerging markets disappointments and the relative attractiveness of the U.S. and Japan; China worries; private equity as a "superior form of capitalism"; the importance of character; public pension worries their absurd discount rates; and more.

  • Meet the Camperforce, Amazon's Retiree Army -- This is pretty incredible, especially because most of the stories have direct roots in the housing/financial crisis of a decade ago. (Thanks to Craig for sending this.)

  • J-Rod! Jennifer Lopez and Alex Rodriguez on Love, Beauty, and Redemption -- I never thought I'd read Bethany McLean dish on J-Lo + A-rod = J-Rod. But I tried it, and beyond the writing quality the article was actually quite interesting. For the investing crowd she even got Buffett to talk on the record about A-Rod and his business acumen.

  • Why Economists Need Tolstoy -- Roger Lowenstein discussing an interesting new book titled "Cents and Sensibility" which posits that an undue reliance on math and an avoidance of liberal arts has ruined economics. I haven't read the book but I'm going to pick it up.

  • How to Be a CEO, from a Decade's Worth of Them -- Some interesting comments culled from hundreds of interviews.

  • Google Has Chosen an Answer For You -- It's Often Wrong -- This is just bonkers. The source for one Google query's answer was "a Canadian elementary school student's report posted online." It doesn't get any less insane from there.

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