Monthly Archives: July 2014

HOW I DISCOVERED HAWAII

…and I’m glad I did!

I moved to Los Angeles in September of 1969 to assume the position of EVP of the Electric League of Southern California.  In a previous blog, I told you about the job interview and the final interview question asking for a definition of “management.”

When I arrived in L.A., it was a busy time trying to organize industry-wide appliance store promotions to increase the household use of electrical energy.  By 1972, I drafted a five-year strategic plan to reorganize and expand the association in a number of directions.

After some lengthy discussions, the executive committee and the board approved the plan and life became even busier.  We changed the name and had a roadmap to expand membership, as well as use consumer promotions rather than sales incentives to increase electric appliance sales.

In January of 1974, the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) announced that their annual convention would be held in early August at the new Sheraton Waikiki in Honolulu.  The association executive community in Southern California was excited ASAE was finally holding their convention here in the west (so to speak).

One day on an airport shuttle I ran into Don Rosen, an association executive friend who had applied for my job but didn’t get it.  In the course of conversation, he asked if I was planning to go to the ASAE convention in Hawaii.  I said, “I don’t think my board would be that generous.”

His reply was, “Win an award.  They’ll feel obligated to send you.”

Hey, that sounded like an idea worth trying.  So I did a little research and entered our five-year strategic plan as an entry for a management achievement award.  It must have been a soft year because we were chosen for one of the awards.

When I told my board of our good fortune, they asked where the award would be presented (just liked I hoped).  I was happy to tell them it would be presented at the ASAE national convention in Honolulu.

They accused me of sneaky, underhanded manipulation but agreed to budget my attendance.

The event was spectacular with warm breezes, helicopters, fireworks and some interesting sessions.  All the outer island hotels were there anxious to have you come visit for two or three days after the convention.  They were eager to pay the interisland fare, enjoy their hospitality, and do a site inspection.

How could I refuse?  We went to the Maui Surf.  It’s now been rebuilt as the Westin or Kaanapali Beach.  It was terrific.

A few years later, we brought the Western Association of Equipment Lessors (WAEL) to the hotel for our first offshore meeting.  It was an outstanding conference and we went back to Hawaii every couple of years.

In addition to holding conferences for WAEL, I had to make additional site inspection trips and now Hawaii was becoming a regular visit.

All told, I’ve now been to Hawaii 20 to 25 times, more recently on personal vacations.  It’s paradise—warm tropical weather with a tepid ocean to match, spectacular sunsets and people who speak our native tongue.

I’ve been on all five major islands—Oahu, Maui, Molokai, Lanai and Hawaii (the big island); seen most of the islands’ sights, including submarine rides to see the underwater gardens of fish, helicopters over the volcanoes and the lush green forests and waterfalls.  Pearl Harbor is a truly unique experience.

I’ve snorkeled, hiked, and dined in great restaurants with wonderful views, and there’s so much more in a totally relaxed environment.

I’ve stayed in a variety of hotels and pretty regularly in a condo on Makena Beach in Maui.  Loved them all!

Never had a bad trip; never been bored.  About 1992, I thought about moving there.  If they had better and more convenient medical facilities, I might have done it.

Thank you, Don Rosen, for a great suggestion.

ArtSchwartzSig

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WHAT THE MEDIA DOESN’T TELL YOU ABOUT THE ISRAELI/PALESTINIAN CONFLICT

It’s a terrible human tragedy what’s happening in the Gaza Strip today, but it could be stopped in an instant and should never have started.

If the Palestinians kept their rockets at home or stopped sending them into Israel, there would be no bombings, nor any incursion by Israeli forces.

The people who send the rockets from Gaza simply don’t care about any consequences.  Last week, Israel, the U.S., the Arab League and most of the international community all endorsed an Egyptian proposal for a cease fire.  Hamas just kept firing rockets.

Writing in the L.A. Times, columnist Jonah Goldberg points out some things you may not know about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict:

  1. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, “We’re using missile defense to protect our civilians and they’re using their civilians to protect their missiles.”  AN ABSOLUTE FACT.
  2. Mahmoud Abbas, head of the Palestinian Authority, recently condemned Israel for committing genocide in Gaza.”  Plainly, NOT SO.  The Palestinian population has exploded over 100% since 1970.  If the Israeli military is so ruthless, don’t you think they could have done a better job?
  3. If the Israelis wanted to wipe out as many Palestinians as possible, never mind commit genocide, they probably wouldn’t issue warnings to Gazans (by phone and leaflet) to get out of harm’s way.  Nor would Israel continue to allow hundreds of trucks of food and medical aid to enter Gaza even as hundreds of rockets leave Gaza.
  4. If Hamas was really concerned with protecting Palestinian lives, it would not implore Gazans to stay in their homes—serving as human shields and inflating the body count as a propaganda prop to increase international pressure on Israel.
  5. The Israelis have the Iron Dome defense system, which intercepts the rockets aimed at civilians.  They also have bomb shelters, the Palestinians do not.  They have these shelters because, as Netanyahu said, “Israelis are interested in protecting their citizens.”
  6. No one is asking why the Palestinians don’t have bomb shelters.  The assumption seems to be that the Gazans don’t have the wherewithal to build them.  This is untrue because they do have bomb shelters—they just reserve them for Hamas’ leaders and fighters.  Indeed, Hamas has dug thousands of tunnels under Gaza, largely so it can smuggle in, and store, more rockets to fire on Israel.  Better those tunnels were used as shelters for civilians, but that would mean not letting them die for the greater “good.”

Goldberg concluded saying, “It was the Nazi’s who said if you tell a big enough lie (or omit the truth) and keep repeating it, eventually people will come to believe it.”

In those poignant words of former Prime Minister of Israel Golda Meir, “We will only have peace with the Arabs when they love their children more than they hate us.”

ArtSchwartzSig

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SOME GOOD NEWS ABOUT TEENS

A bi-annual survey tells us that American teens are smoking less, drinking less and fighting less…but they’re texting behind the wheel and spending a lot of time on video games and computers, according to the government’s latest study of worrisome behavior.

Generally speaking, the news is good.  Most forms of drug use, weapons use and risky sex have been going down since the government started doing the survey every two years in 1991.  Teens are wearing bicycle helmets and seat belts more, too.

“Overall, young people have more healthy behaviors than the did 20 years ago,” said Dr. Stephanie Zaza, who oversees the study at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The results come from a study of 13,000 U.S. high school students last spring.  Participation was voluntary and required parental permission, but responses were anonymous.

There are highlights of the study released in June.

Smoking

Fewer than 16 percent of the teens smoked a cigarette in the previous month—the lowest level since the government started doing the survey, when the rate was more than 27 percent.  It’s “terrific news for America’s health,” said Matt Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.  “Even so, there are still about 2.7 million teens smoking,” he said.

The survey did not ask about electronic cigarettes, which have exploded in popularity in the past few years.

Meanwhile, more than 23 percent of teens said they used marijuana in the previous month—up from 15 percent in 1991.  CDC officials said they could not tell whether marijuana or e-cigarettes have replaced traditional cigarettes among teens.

Texting

Among teen drivers, 41 percent had texted or emailed behind the wheel in the previous month.  That figure can’t be compared to the 2011 survey, though, because the CDC changed the question this time.

Drinking

Fewer teens said they drank alcohol.  Drinking of soda was down, too.  About 35 percent said they had had booze in the previous month, down from 39 percent in 2011.  About 27 percent said they drank soda each day.  That was only a slight change from 2011 but a sizeable drop from 34 percent in 2007.

Sex

The proportion of teens who had sex in the previous three months held steady at about 34 percent from 2011.  Among them, condom use was unchanged at about 60 percent.

Suicide

The percentage who attempted suicide in the previous year held steady at about eight percent.

Media Use

TV viewing for three or more hours a day has stalled at around 32 percent since 2011.  But in one of the largest jumps seen in the survey, there was a surge in the proportion of kids who spent three or more hours on an average school day on other kinds of recreational screen time, such as playing video or computer games or using a computer or smartphone for something other than schoolwork.  That number rose to 41 percent, from 31 percent in 2011.

Health experts advise that teens should indulge no more than two hours of recreational screen time a day, and that includes all screens—including Xboxes, smartphones and televisions.

Although video-gaming is up, particularly among teen boys, some researchers believe most of the screen-time increase is due to social media use.  And it’s probably not a good thing, they say.

“Through texts and social media, young people are doing more communicating and living in an online world in which it’s easier to think they’re the center of the universe,” said Marina Kromar, a Wake Forest University professor who studies teen screen time.  “That can lead to a form of extended adolescence,” she said.

“It can also distract youngsters from schoolwork, exercise and other healthy activities,” she said.

Fighting

Fights at school fell by half in the past 20 years.  And there was a dramatic drop in kids reporting they had been in a fight anywhere in the preceding year—about 25 percent, down from 33 percent two years earlier.  “The addition of more guards and other security measures may be a factor,” said school violence expert Todd DeMitchell of the University of New Hampshire.

With any luck, teenage behavior will continue to improve.

ArtSchwartzSig

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THE MENTAL HEALTH CRISIS – PART II – THE ELEPHANT IS OUT OF THE CLOSET

Understanding Mental Illness

When I started exploring this subject, there were a number of related assumptions I wanted to address and determine their validity; i.e., there is much more mental illness today than there was 10-20 years ago.

This is probably true but there appears to be no statistical history available to prove or refute that because the definition and criteria for mental illness have expanded greatly.

At the same time, any objective analysis can confirm the pressures and complexities of life have certainly increased over the last few years, as well as the economic downfall and uncertainties.  All this adds to the fragile psyche and helps explain why there appears to be much more mental illness.

A second assumption is one about the amount of funding.  It would appear there is more funding available today than there was 10-20 years ago; but, because of tightening budgets at all levels of government, there is certainly less than there was five years ago.

So, let’s concentrate now on what we can know for certain to understand mental illness.

What is Mental Illness?

A mental illness is a medical condition that disrupts a person’s thinking, feeling, mood, ability to relate to others and daily functioning.  Just as diabetes is a disorder of the pancreas, mental illnesses are medical conditions that often result in a diminished capacity for coping with the ordinary demands of life.

Serious mental illnesses include major depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and borderline personality disordcr.  The good news about mental illness is that recovery is possible.

Mental illnesses can affect people of any age, race, religion or income.  Mental illnesses are not the result of personal weakness, lack of character or poor upbringing.  Mental illnesses are treatable.  Most people diagnosed with a serious mental illness can experience relief from their symptoms by actively participating in an individual treatment plan.

Specific Mental Illnesses Cover a Wide Range of Problems

  • Anxiety Disorder – 40 million people
  • Autism Spectrum Disorders
  • Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADD/ADHD) – affects 4% of youth ages nine to 17
  • Bipolar Disorder – 6 million people
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Illness
  • Eating Disorders – affects 1% to 4% (mostly females) in their lifetime
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
  • Posttraumatic Stress Disorder
  • Schizophrenia – 24 million people

Numbers of Americans Affected by Mental Illness

  • One in four adults—approximately 61.5 million Americans—experiences mental illness in a given year.  One in 17—about 13.5 million—live with a serious mental illness such as schizophrenia, major depression or bipolar disorder.
  • Approximately 20 percent of youth ages 13 to 18 experience severe mental disorders in a given year.  For ages eight to 15, the estimate is 13 percent.
  • Approximately 26 percent of homeless adults staying in shelters live with serious mental illness and an estimated 45 percent live with severe mental illness and/or substance use disorders.
  • Approximately 20 percent of state prisoners and 21 percent of local jail prisoners have “a recent history” of a mental health condition.
  • Seventy percent of youth in juvenile justice systems have at least one mental health condition and at least 20 percent live with a severe mental illness.

Getting Mental Health Treatment in America

  • Approximately 60 percent of adults, and almost one-half of youth ages eight to 15, with mental illness received no mental health services in the previous year.
  • African Americans and Hispanic Americans used mental health services at about one-half the rate of whites in the past year and Asian Americans at about one-third the rate.
  • One-half of all chronic mental illness begins by the age of 14; three quarters by age 24.  Despite effective treatment, there are long delays—sometimes decades—between the first appearance of symptoms and when people get help.

The Impact of Mental Illness in America

  • Serious mental illness costs America $193.2 billion in lost earnings per year (that’s a big dent in the economy).
  • Mood disorders such as depression are the third most common cause of hospitalization in the U.S. for both youth and adults ages 18 to 44.
  • Individuals living with serious mental illness face an increased risk of having chronic medical conditions.  Adults living with serious mental illnesses die on average 25 years earlier than other Americans, largely due to treatable medical conditions.
  • Over 50 percent of students with a mental health condition age 14 and older who are served by special education drop out—the highest dropout rate of any disability group.
  • Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the U.S. (more common than homicide) and the third leading cause of death for ages 15 to 24 years.  More than 90 percent of those who die by suicide had one or more mental disorder.
  • Although military members comprise less than one percent of the U.S. population, veterans represent 20 percent of suicides nationally.  Each day, about 22 veterans die from suicide.

These statistics are alarming.  They all come from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), a division of the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH).  The comments, except mine, come from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).

Note:  We haven’t mentioned “dementia and alzheimer’s disease” that manifest many of the same signs as mental illness.  Technically, these are classified as neurological diseases which continue to increase as our population ages.  It is estimated that over five million people have some form of dementia and 70% of this group have alzheimer’s.

In the next few blogs, we’ll discuss some specific areas of mental illness; children, suicide and prisons.  We’ll end up this series by attempting to outline what is being done and what more is needed.

ArtSchwartzSig

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IS CLIMATE CHANGE A CRISIS OR A DISTRACTION?

The uber liberal environmentalists are cranking up the publicity and regulatory machines to further their efforts to solve the “Climate Crisis.”  Al Gore’s first start in this campaign was to call it “Global Warming.”  Unfortunately, the facts have not borne this out totally, so now it’s called “Climate Change.”

It probably doesn’t matter much what it’s called, the science and proof is suspect and the logic of the solutions are faulty at best.

Quite frankly, all this hoot and holler appears to be a transparent dodge to distract us from the most immediate problems this administration hasn’t solved; the economy, jobs and the scandalous lack of administrative competence and accountability on Benghazi, the IRS, Fast and Furious, the VA and Obamacare, as well as a real crisis on our southern border.

Let’s look at history of environmental concerns and crises.

Early on, there was the ice age and no one was burning fossil fuel then.  The dire prognostications of those events as well as those which followed had very disappointing results.

We were told that the world’s population explosion would make everyone hungry and millions would die (The Population Bomb, Paul Ehrlich circa 1970), but that didn’t come true.  Another example was that banning DDT was necessary to save the world’s population from extinction (Silent Spring, Rachel Carson 1962), but she was wrong and her impact was most devastating for the millions of folks in the tropics who died of malaria.  Another example is the suggestion in the 70s that the world was getting colder and humanity would freeze to death.  Once again, it didn’t happen.

Let us be clear, we do have climate change and we have always had climate change.  To address this phenomenon, we must consider two absolute facts:

Fact No. 1:   No one knows exactly to what extent man and fossil fuels contribute to this change.

Fact No. 2:   It is not a U.S. problem, it is a world-wide problem that the U.S. cannot solve alone.  We’re 300 plus million people—the world population is about 8 billion.  China and India alone will continue to build hundreds of coal-fueled electric generating plants each year rather than sacrifice their economy.

Let’s not be taken in by the doom and gloom of “we must act now” or else catastrophe awaits.  They’ve been wrong before, as well as their euphoric hopes that we can give up fossil fuels within the next 35 years or so and rely on solar, wind and?

When that happens, do we shut down all the high rise buildings and put all the airplanes and trains in mothballs?

President Obama and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) suggest a “revenue-neutral carbon incentive that will put market pressure on fossil fuels to create the economically viable pathways to green energy.”  Let me translate:  Increase taxes on gasoline and all energy from coal, oil and natural gas until such time as green energy becomes less expensive.  The fact that gasoline will cost more, perhaps lots more, and all things transported, like food, will cost lots more doesn’t seem to concern these do-gooders.  Who gets hurt the most when food and gasoline prices go up significantly?  You can figure that one out.

We like green energy and believe efforts in that direction are worthwhile.  Like every American, we want clean air and reliable water.  But at the same time, we need to be interested in policies that help the middle class and those less fortunate to climb into the middle class.

Once again, Obama is trying to bypass Congress who wouldn’t give him the time of day on his Cap-N-Trade proposal in 2010 by having the EPA pass regulations that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fueled power plants by 30% by 2030 over 2005 levels.

Since the natural gas supplies have increased through hydraulic fracking, emissions have fallen by 10% since 2005 without any new rules.  According to the Center for Atmospheric Research, used by the EPA, the new rules would, if implemented, immediately (unlikely) reduce global temperatures in 2050 by less than a hundredth of a degree.

In two decisions last week, the Supreme Court sent a somewhat mixed message on the EPA’s ability to create regulations to limit greenhouse gases.  On the one hand, the court said the EPA has every right under the Clean Air Act to establish standards for big stationery polluters like coal-fired power plants.

On the other hand, in a separate ruling, the court took the EPA to task for over-reaching its authority to attempt to require small businesses to conform to similar standards.

Seems like this is more like the politics of distraction and trying to look good rather than accomplishing meaningful results.

Critics say all this do-good effort to address climate change will increase the cost of energy as well as all consumer products, kill more jobs and weaken an already fragile economy.

All told, this appears to be far more about politics than science or compassion for the world.

(My thanks to ongoing consultant Gary Wechter for his input on this blog.)

ArtSchwartzSig

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