Monthly Archives: October 2013

AND WHAT DID YOU DO LAST SUMMER, LIL ARTHUR?

Well, teacher, with a big assist from Medicare, I spent the summer and continuing on into fall on a medical adventure.

Here’s what happened…  Since returning from our cruise (mid July) on the Seabourn up/down the Adriatic (snobby and not much to see), I started on a journey to regain my physical mobility with less pain and discomfort in walking or standing.  It wasn’t terminal, but not quite uplifting either.

I’m getting a little ahead of myself.  Right before the cruise I had an epidural injection to give me the relief to enjoy the excursions, etc., on the cruise.  For the first time, the shot didn’t work at all and made the cruise even less enjoyable.

To try and find a solution, I visited with:

–        Two pain management doctors—the second to check on the first.  Both said they couldn’t get the needle into the space on top of the inflamed nerve.

–        One physical medicine doctor—who confirmed the nerve was damaged.

–        Two chiropractors—who agreed they couldn’t help me if the nerve was damaged.

–        Four orthopedic surgeons—one who wanted to own me, one who wanted to stone me, and two who said they were a friend of mine (The Eagles).

–        One physical therapist—eight sessions, outstanding hands-on pro; however, no significant improvement.  I failed physical therapy.

–        One acupuncturist—who offered no relief after four sessions.

I’ve had an MRI on my back and one on my neck, a CT scan, two back x-rays, an EMG (nerve) exam, and a lot of probing and testing of limbs and body parts, all of which confirm that I have a disk pressing into a nerve in my lower back at L4/5 and about a 30-degree scoliosis (curvature) of the spine and all of which cause discomfort in the back and a lot of pain in my right thigh.

The conclusion from all four orthopedic doctors appears to be that to gain any relief I will need some form of fusion surgery.  They all agreed on the fusion, but each recommended a slightly different way of doing it.

The good news is, Gabrielle, among her many talents, has proven to be a great cane substitute I lean on a lot.

Along the way on this journey a small complication arose (late July) which delayed addressing the main problem of the back/leg pain.  After several days of tests for feeling light headed, no appetite and generally kind of punk, they determined I had a very high level of red blood cells—18.4 when normal is 16.3—and my testosterone was 1,213 when normal is 758.  You guys are probably all jealous of that T number.

To bring the red blood levels back to normal, I’ve had five visits with a hematologist who drained 13 ounces of blood each time.  At the end of September, the draining brought me back to normal—at least in my blood levels.  Nothing about the rest of me is normal.

Because of the appetite loss, I’ve lost about 12 pounds.  Not sure if the appetite loss was due to high red blood cells or the back problem, but it probably doesn’t matter at this point.

Long story, you probably thought I’d never get to the punch line.

So after much vacillation, I’ve decided on a surgeon with the Spine Institute in Santa Monica.  He was the most straight forward and consistent in his recommendation in each visit.

One of the other orthopods was kind of waffling on which procedure he would use.  One was less experienced and the last one wanted to use a somewhat dated procedure.

The first part of my fusion surgery will be at St. John’s Hospital in Santa Monica in mid November.  They’ll make a small incision on the left side and put a spacer between the disk and the nerve.  There will be a second surgery about three weeks later to make the spacer(s) permanent.  The recovery period will be up to six weeks following the second surgery, so we are continuing our travel hiatus until at least sometime in late February.

So you see, Teach, I’ve been pretty busy these last few months doing a whole different kind of homework.

Lessons to be Learned from Medical Adventures

You own the outcome of all tests.  Request copies for you to keep.

  1. Whenever possible, have a second set of ears on the important consultations.
  2. Don’t leave questions unanswered—make requests, follow up to seek answers, ask for meetings or more consults.
  3. Take notes and when you get home, review them and add whatever you can.

Take your time—let it all sink in.

ArtSchwartzSig

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THIS MAY BE THE CENTURY FOR WOMEN

Looking at the news photos during the run up to the debt crisis cliff and the government shutdown last week told a somewhat sad story of disagreement and anguish.  John Boehner looked like he hadn’t slept in weeks; Harry Reid had the appearance of the undertaker’s slow brother; Mitch McConnell looked like he swallowed a lemon; Ted Cruz looked bizarrely smug while everything he promoted crumbled around him; and Obama could only shake his head, bite his lip and loosen his collar, trying to convince us how hard he was working.

A little further back in the news pages were three of the world’s emerging leaders, all smiling and ready to keep tackling what needs to be done.

Janet Yellen, when confirmed by the Senate, will be the most qualified candidate to ever assume the chairmanship of the Federal Reserve.

As a deeply respected economist, she will bring two vital attributes to that role as a steward of our economy.

First, she represents continuity with the Fed’s current low-interest-rate policies to foster employment while controlling inflation.  Those policies, which she has helped to create and sustain, have undeniably boosted the flagging economy.

Just as undeniably, they have generated some controversy and consternation.  Ms. Yellen has expertly addressed those concerns, including the risks inherent in a prolonged low-interest-rate policy, through the most feared effect, inflation, which, as yet, is nowhere in sight.

She also has been realistic about the limits of the Fed’s efforts.  Her grasp of the issues in all their complexity has given her the credibility to lead the Fed in deciding how long to continue monetary stimulus policies and how eventually to ease up and end them.

Second, she also represents a break from Mr. Obama’s circle of policy makers whose reputations were marred by their roles before or during the financial crisis.

Then there’s Angela Merkel, re-elected as German Chancellor.  This is a proven leader who handled the debt crisis with grace while navigating growth expertly.

The leader’s opponents grumble, more out of jealousy than genuine opposition, and loyal supporters hail the leader as a hero.  Meanwhile, unemployment is at an all-time low, and the leader’s nation is looking like its own island of prosperity, a beacon to a suffering continent.

Then we have Christine Legarde, Chief of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).  She is a French lawyer who has been IMF’s Managing Director since July 2011.  As Former French Finance Minister, she came to IMF to overcome the somewhat shameful actions of her predecessor Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

Many were skeptical when 90 years ago the U.S. gave women the right to vote.  In addition to achieving positions of world leadership and power outlined above, women:

  1. With half the U.S. population, out vote men in presidential elections by four to seven million.
  2. Have 55% of the wealth in this country compared to 45% from men.

This is obviously a pattern which needs to be exploited and encouraged to grow.

History has given us many other examples of successful women taking the reins of power.  They include Margaret Thatcher, Golda Meir, Indira Ghandi, as well as many of the monarchs of Spain, England, Russia and Egypt.

They have all been on top one at a time, not like coming in clusters now.

Not to be outdone, I have seen the strength and power of women in my own life.

My mother, Esther, who started work at age 15 and walked the eight flights of stairs to her office because she was afraid of elevators.  Later became head of the PTA and worked for many years as a bookkeeper.

My sister, Ina, who started college at age 16 and after a career as an outstanding copywriter became head of Public Relations for the Nassau County Consumer Affairs Department.

My wife, Gabriele, who is the preeminent  expert witness in the apparel industry, as well as the most sought after professor at the Fashion Institute.

My daughter, Ellen, strongly independent, V.P. of Sales & Marketing at the L.A. Convention Center (new), and a really good friend to many.

Being shy and retiring, it’s been a challenge for me to be around such strong women; however, I’ve enjoyed trying to hold my own.

ArtSchwartzSig

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THE TARZAN THEORY OF MANAGEMENT

Can you hear him?  Listen.  He’s coming.  It’s Tarzan swinging through the trees with his clarion call of ahee…and he’s landing right here at the Jungle Association of Entrepreneurs Annual Conference.

As he strides up to the podium he is bare-chested and dressed in his standard, fashion-forward loin cloth.  He is shadowed by his squealing sidekick, Cheetah (the monkey).

There’s a round of welcoming applause and a stir of anticipation in the crowd.  Tarzan waves to the crowd and says in somewhat halting English:

“I’m pleased to be with you today and share with you my Tarzan Theory of Business Management.  Jane is usually with me to assist with the audio visuals but she had to attend a parent-teacher conference for “Boy,” so we’ll have to do this without her.

“The `T’ in Tarzan is for TARGET.  Your target has to be focused tight, sharply defined, clear expectations of your mission, your goals, your organization, your marketing plan, your strategies, priorities and especially your customers.

“This is the planning part of the management triangle.  It must, of course, be in writing.  If it’s not written down, it’s just dreaming and impossible to review or change.

“Before we leave the `T’ in targeting, you have to decide whether you are a luxury, specialty or a commodity (discount) provider.  Whether you’re offering products or a service, you need to define yourself.  Are you Saks Fifth Avenue or K-Mart?  Are you Neiman Marcus or Walmart?

“Now the `A’ in Tarzan is for ATTITUDE.  You have to be upbeat, optimistic, positive and persuasive; that will be infectious for your employees and your customers.  You must be the cheerleader who works on the premise that the best way to predict the future, is to create it.

“Moving on to the `R’ in Tarzan is for RESOURCES.  The best resources in the world is to gather strong disciples (employees) who are believers, as well as a supportive troop of advisors in law, accounting, HR and other consultants.  These are your palace guards.

“Another resource area is continuing knowledge.  This is easily available in trade magazines and industry associations, as well as community colleges and public libraries.

“Next on the Tarzan ladder is `Z,’ which stands for ZEAL.  The magic part of zeal is making it happen—unending energy and full faith in the mission.  All this is the flow of energy that will carry you, your employees and your customers to your goals.

“In this day and age, zeal is not enough.  Just a few years ago it was predicted that by the beginning of the 21st century less than half the workforce would be holding full-time jobs.  It is definitely happening.  Full-timers will be the new minority.

“We’ve all seen people who stay busy—who even work hard—without adding any real value.  They make the mistake of thinking effort or longevity should earn them a paycheck.  You can respect them for trying, but you can’t justify the cost of keeping them on board.

“You’ll be better off if you think in terms of being paid for performance—for the value you add—rather than for your tenure, good intentions, or activity level.  Prove your worth to the organization.  Make a difference.

“The `A’ in Tarzan is for ACTION.  Get it done.  The founding CEO of Home Depot, Bernie Marcus, said, “Without my partner I’d have dreamed 250 stores and gotten 20 opened.  The world has enough dreamers.  Most people mistakenly believe ideas are the valuable commodity.  The only real payoff goes to people who can put ideas into action.

“The `N’ in Tarzan is to NEGOTIATE.  Negotiate everything about your business.  Explore all the available options.  Don’t talk price—ask questions, lots of them.  Remember, no deal is final.  Don’t win too big and know when to walk away and come back stronger.  Always look for stepping stones.  Never leap from one place to another without looking for some intermediate steps.  The Tarzan Theory of Business Management in essence says, “Never let go of one rope until you have a firm grip on the next one.

“So let’s summarize and add a few points to remember.

“Point 1:  The factory of the future will have only two employees—a man and a dog.  The man will be there to feed the dog; the dog will be there to keep the man from touching the equipment.  Sound farfetched?  The first practical industrial robot was introduced in the 60s.  By 1982, there were about 32,000 robots being used in the U.S. Today, there are over 25-30 million.

“Point 2:  More companies go out of business because their prices are too low.

“Point 3:  It costs 5x more to attract a new customer than get more business from an old customer.

“Sure, experience may count, but maybe not.  It depends on whether that experience makes you worth more today or whether it may have lost all or most of its value because the world has changed and continues to change so rapidly.

“And that, my friends, is my theory of management.  I hope it helps you build your jungle empire.”

The Jungle Entrepreneurs rose as one to give Tarzan a rousing cheer of appreciation for his management insight.

With the cheers ringing in his ear, Tarzan took off into the trees with Cheetah on the way to meet Jane and Boy.

ArtSchwartzSig

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THE TEA PARTY HAVE THEIR RIGHTS

When Tom Freidman of the N.Y. Times writes a column about the Middle East, I want to read it.  Having lived there early in his career, he appears to know more about that part of the world than anyone else I know.

On the other hand, I also know his views on domestic policies and politics are so skewed to the left as to be off the rails.  His column last week, along with the many other flame-throwing pundits at MSNBC and elsewhere, were so outrageous about the Tea Party tactics you wonder what civics courses they flunked.  Here are some of the most outrageous statements:

Tom Freidman, N.Y. Times

“What is at stake in this government shutdown forced by a radical Tea Party minority is nothing less than the principle upon which our democracy is based:  majority rules.

“Where extremists (Tea Party) feel insulated from playing by the traditional rules of our system, then our democracy is imperiled.”

Dana Milbank, Washington Post

“What Speaker Boehner said was the legislative equivalent of the stick up man who says, ‘Give me the money and nobody gets hurt.’”

Cokie Roberts, ABC Commentator

“The Tea Party are racists.”

Tom Freidman, N.Y. Times

“These ‘legal’ structural changes in money, media and redistricting (he’s referring to the inane Citizen’s United court decision, talk radio hosts, web sites and Fox News) are not going away.  They are super-empowering small political movements to act in extreme ways without consequences and thereby stymie majority rule.  If democracy means anything, it means that, if you are outvoted, you accept the results and prepare for the next election.  Republicans are refusing to do that.  It shows contempt for the democratic process.”

Shame on you, Tom Freidman, and all the other Kool-Aid drinking, left-wing pundits and lemmings of our leaderless president.

Here are the facts:

  1. We are not a democracy.  We are a representative republic.  In a democracy all citizens vote on every issue.  If they did, we would not have Obamacare.
  2. Yes, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) passed Congress in spite of a significant majority of citizens against it then as well as now.
  3. The ACA was passed in the middle of the night in somewhat less than a “democratic” fashion, i.e., unread and not understood.
  4. Obama was elected by one constituency.  The Tea Party congressmen were elected by a separate and individual constituency.  Both have the right and the obligation to pursue the expressed wishes of their constituencies.
  5. Contrary to all the hysteria, the so-called government shutdown has affected no more than 30% of all government services.  Wait until you can see the ways the White House is pursuing their political agenda with what’s shut down.  Remember the “sequester” last spring and the horror it would create.  Still looking for it.

Having said all that, I personally think the actions and tactics of the Tea Party are self-defeating and will not advance their cause at all in any way.

Because of the changing demographics, as well as the conservative Republican Party primary candidates, I also believe the Democratic Party will likely control the election of the president for the foreseeable future while the House of Representatives and maybe even the Senate at times will be controlled by the Republicans and the Tea Party.

It’s hardly a rosy picture for anyone who thinks all this Washington polarization is a fad that will pass.

Somewhere, sometime a centrist movement will emerge.

ArtSchwartzSig

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A TEMPORARY STATE OF FOOLS: OBAMACARE & SYRIA

Obama has become the reincarnation of Jimmy Carter and has nowhere to go, but out. He’s made a fool of himself (and us) on the world stage.  He has no clue on how to work with Congress or the world and doesn’t seem to care.  The Republicans at the same time are like the Palestinians who never let an opportunity pass by without digging a deeper hole for themselves.

The grand ole party managed to sabotage their own presidential candidate in 2012 and now they’re setting themselves up to be less relevant in 2016.  We’re witnessing a new Tea Party DOME scandal.

A pox on both their houses, I believe these truths to be self evident:

  1. Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is a train wreck, not well conceived and a disaster about to unfold.
  2. It will never be repealed, nor denied funding, and the Republican knuckleheads will continue to lose by trying.  The worst part is if they even succeeded they have never offered a viable alternative.
  3. The ACA was misnamed and will not be affordable.  We are getting escalating healthcare costs, higher taxes, increased premiums and a continuing stagnant economy.
  4. It is absolutely necessary for the ACA to be reformed, not repealed and the Republicans have no clue on how to make it workable.
  5. There are too many waivers to ACA for big businesses and favorite friends, except the unions, interestingly enough, who were big supporters.  They’re now fighting it tooth and nail.
  6. The income of America’s workers will continue to stagnate as employers are making more and more workers part-time, with no benefits.
  7. Contrary to what you were promised if you join one of the new state exchanges, you may not be able to keep your favorite doctor(s) or hospital.
  8. The Obama eggheads who naively conceived the ACA don’t care how bad it is because they just want it to be a good step to a single-payer, government-run health system.  Like it or not, that’s where we’re headed.  You might as well get used to it.

David Frum, a CNN contributor and former speech writer for George W. Bush, recently said:

“We’re headed to a battle inside Congress that will pose its own grave threat to the U.S. and world economy.

“The most conservative Republicans n Congress are threatening to force default on the nation’s obligations unless the president agrees to defund Obamacare.  Less conservative Republicans prefer a milder version of the threat: not default, but merely shutting down the government.

“Either way, the country plunges into crisis – a crisis Republicans will eventually lose, as they have lost every previous round of this same game.

“It’s way past time for Republicans to find a better way.  These doomed all-or-nothing battles over Obamacare perversely strengthen President Obama.  As Republicans exhaust themselves in grand debates, Obamacare fastens itself ever more tightly upon the country and the states.  Obamacare offers large benefits to many Americans, and benefits once extended are very difficult to remove.  That should have been the lesson of 2012, and unless Republicans get wiser, it’ll be the repeat lesson of 2016.

“These are real-world political tradeoffs.  They are less exciting than the grand drama of repeal-or-bust.  But repeal-or-bust is much more likely to produce a bust than a repeal.  More productive is the challenge of reforming Obamacare so that the nation can live with its costs – and so that all equitably shoulder their share of its burdens.”

If you have questions about your health care, contact my friend Paul Pendorf, independent health care agent, at (800) 497-7504.  He’s up on Medicare supplement plans, drug benefit plans and Obamacare.

ArtSchwartzSig

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