Monthly Archives: July 2015

ADVERSITY STARTED MY CAREER

At about age five, I fell and broke my collar bone.  That’s how they discovered I had very poor eyesight.  I mean really poor—20/200!

Remember, this was a time when babies and toddlers did not have every inch of their bodies examined and evaluated by parents or the family doctor.  Today, they would have discovered my poor vision much sooner.

My parents took me to some strange guy two subway rides away who thought he could help me with eye exercises.  Didn’t work!  I was then fitted with geeky glasses and soldiered on.  Of course, I proceeded to break at least one pair every year, to the escalating frustration of my parents.

Growing up in that era in one of the five boroughs of New York, about 30 minutes by subway from Manhattan, there weren’t any after-school community programs to organize and schedule activities for kids.  There was no Little League or Pop Warner, no Boys & Girls Clubs or YMCAs.  We, the kids, had to organize whatever sports or activities we wanted to do.

So, somewhere around age 12, my group—we weren’t a gang!—decided we wanted to play organized baseball.  We tired of the hastily-arranged pickup games that always seem to be a few players short.  Because my eyesight meant I could hardly see the baseball when it was hit, I became the “manager.”  We recruited enough for a team, and then cleaned a vacant weed-and-rock-strewn lot and ran raffles to buy equipment and uniforms.  We were the Spades.  Couldn’t we have been the Kings or the Chiefs?  Anything a little more macho than the Spades!

We won some, lost some, and had a great time all spring and early summer for a few years.  With this success fresh on our resume, we decided to expand and start a football program.

There was a group of older guys who had carved out another better vacant lot and even had some makeshift bleachers for spectators.  Since they were the Dukes, with their blessing we became the Junior Dukes.

We rented a garage across the street to use as a locker room; and between some hand-me-down equipment from the Dukes, and raising money of our own, we got ourselves jerseys, and were ready to roll.

As with the Spades, I was the manager and in charge of all the non-playing activities.  On a few occasions, when too few players showed up for a game, I was recruited.  I played on the line as a guard.  On offense, I just had to block the guy in front of me—that was okay without my glasses.  On defense, it was hard for me to discern who had the ball and who to try to tackle.

I’ll never forget on one series of plays they told me to play in the backfield.  Okay, I thought, I’ll just try to block anyone coming into the backfield.

Then the quarterback called a pass play and told me I was to be the receiver.  I said, “What, are you crazy?  I can’t see a thing!”

He was insistent, and there wasn’t timer to argue.  The play went off and I was saved from embarrassment when the defensive back batted the ball down before it got to me.  I was glad he could see it.  At that point, I was delighted to go back to being the manager.

Looking back, I can see this was the beginning of learning and developing organizational skills.  If it hadn’t been for my poor eyesight, I would have been at best a mediocre player.  It was never my dream or plan to get into association and event management; but, looking back, I can see those early boyhood experiences helped pave the way.

They say necessity is the mother of invention.  In my case, adversity was as well.

How did you get your start?

ArtSchwartzSig

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SOME DIFFERING VIEWS ON THE SUPREME COURT

There are a wide range of reactions to the opinions of the Supreme Court, as well as marked differences on the overarching influences on the court’s actions.

It should be interesting to take a look at some of these differing perspectives.

The editorial board of the N.Y. Times has promoted a fairly popular theory that, during the 10-year tenure of Chief Justice Roberts, the court has taken an activist role that mostly came out the way liberals wanted and it is therefore tempting to see a leftward shift among the justices.

According to the N.Y. Times, “That would be a mistake.  Against the backdrop of the last decade, the recent decisions on same-sex marriage, discrimination in housing, the Affordable Care Art and others seem more like exceptions than anything else.  If they reflect any particular trend, it is not a growing liberalism, but rather the failure of conservative activists trying to win in court what they have failed to achieve through legislation.”

Even when a majority of the justices rejected conservative arguments, the decision to hear those cases in the first place showed the court’s eagerness to reopen long-settled issues.  For example, in last month’s ruling on the Fair Housing Act of 1968, the court held 5-4 that discrimination could be illegal under the law even if there was no evidence that it was intentional.  This might seem to be a “liberal” result, except that 11 federal appeals courts had agreed on this reading for decades.  There was no legal dispute, in other words, only the persistent efforts of some justices to reverse accepted law because they didn’t like it.

At the same time, the powerful have been given a helping hand.  As the most business-friendly court in decades, it has ruled again and again in favor of corporate interests.  In one campaign finance case after another, most notably Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the conservative majority has helped the wealthiest Americans raise their voices even louder in the political sphere.

Through it all, Chief Justice Roberts, who during his confirmation hearings promised judicial restraint above all else, has presided over a court that has been far too willing to undermine or discard longstanding precedent.  Among the biggest examples of this are District of Columbia v. Heller, which upended the long-accepted meaning of the Second Amendment; Citizens United, which overturned decades of rulings and laws to allow unlimited campaign spending by corporations and unions; and Shelby County v. Holder, which gutted the core of the Voting Rights Act.

His votes to protect President Obama’s signature health care reform law showed he was not willing to leap into the deep end of conservative activism.  “In every case, we must respect the role of the legislature (Congress) and take care not to undo what it has done,” Roberts wrote.

Certainly, the most popular view of the court is that more than ever it is a Kennedy court, Richard Hasen, Law Professor at UC Irvine, writing in the L.A. Times, said:

“Forget the debate over whether the Supreme Court has taken a liberal turn.  It is not a liberal court or a conservative court.  It’s a Kenned court.  On major constitutional and statutory questions, Justice Kennedy’s views matter more than anything else.

“Liberals do have more to celebrate this term than in the recent past, from the same-sex marriage and Obamacare decisions, to a major housing discrimination case, to a surprising win for minority plaintiffs in a voting rights lawsuit.  In those cases, Kennedy was in the majority, and all but one—Obamacare—were decided 5 to 4.

“Indeed, there were only a handful of important cases this term in which Kennedy was on the losing side of a 5-4 split.

“Looked at over the long run, Kennedy’s influence seems even greater.  Think of the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision in the 2010 Citizens United case striking down the ban on corporate spending in elections, which has opened the floodgates to “super PACS” and big money in politics.  Or consider the court’s 5-4 decision in the 2013 Shelby County case, which eviscerated a key provision of the Voting Rights Act.  Kennedy was in the majority in each instance.

“How does the court’s swing voter choose sides?  The evidence suggests that Kennedy goes with his gut and personal sense of morality rather than well-thought-out and consistent jurisprudential theory.

“Consider, for example, the contrast between the court’s decision last term in an affirmative action case called Schuette and its decision last week in the Obergefell case finding a constitutional right to same-sex marriage.

“In Schuette, Kennedy wrote that Michigan voters could pass a ballot measure banning the use of affirmative action in college admissions.  Arguing in favor of judicial restraint, he said the decision was best left to the democratic process.

“Yet when it came to same-sex marriage, Kennedy was just as content to take the question away from the voters.  He wrote for a different 5-4 majority in Obergefell:  ‘It is of no moment whether advocates of same-sex marriage now enjoy or lack momentum in the democratic process.  The issue before the court here is the legal question whether the Constitution protects the right of same-sex couples to marry.’”

Kennedy certainly has been and will in all probability continue to be the swing vote on all major issues.

Now, I’m not a constitutional scholar.  I’m not even a lawyer, but I have some difficulty understanding the logic of some of the opinions by the Supremes.

I personally agree with the result of the opinions regarding gay marriage, congressional redistricting by an independent commission, and allowing federal subsidies for people in non-state exchanges.  Even though I agree with the outcomes, for the life of me I cannot find any logistical explanation for how they could arrive at those conclusions.

Chief Justice Roberts has said, “Let Congress pass the laws, not the court,” but how can he rule in favor of the subsidy issue when the law explicitly states the opposite and how can he know the intent of Congress when their Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, “We have to pass this law to find out what’s in it.”

The Constitution says nothing about marriage, gay or otherwise, and the Constitution specifically says the State Legislatures shall decide on districting.

Last, but certainly not least, I am confounded by the 2010 ruling in Citizens United case, preventing Congress from restricting independent political expenditures made by corporations and unions.  This to me was the most overreaching, impossible-to-understand decision of the last 20 years.

“Unlimited campaign expenditures ‘impair’ the democratic process,” retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens (a liberal) told senators, urging Congress to amend the Constitution to allow “reasonable limits” on election spending.

“While money is used to finance speech, money is not speech,” Stevens said.  “After all, campaign funds were used to finance the Watergate burglaries—actions that clearly were not protected by the First Amendment.”

“Elections are contests between rival candidates for public office,” Stevens said.  “Like rules that govern athletic contests or litigation, those rules should create a level playing field, not distort the election process.”

ArtSchwartzSig

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THE BUSINESS SIDE OF RELATIONSHIPS

Not everyone likes to think of it that way, but a personal, committed relationship—whether living together or in marriage—is also a business relationship.  It creates a community which needs to be administered just like any business.

If living together, there needs to be a cohabitation agreement before it starts.  It can be verbal or in writing and can be amended or changed, but it needs an agreed-upon starting point.

If you’re living together, you will benefit by having an agreement in writing and/or looked over by an attorney.  If you’re getting married, particularly at a middle or later age where there are some assets, it is smart to have a pre-nuptial agreement.

Neither of these documents takes anything away from the care and affection you feel for your partner.  As a matter of fact, it can avoid a lot of disappointment and tension that can easily arise if you haven’t settled on the shared responsibilities—or don’t always clearly remember all the details of what you may have discussed.

Here’s an outline of how Gabriele and I agreed on what to include in our joint/ community expenses:

Auto and home insurance

Rent or mortgage payments

Cleaning and laundry

Home furnishings

Medical costs and insurance

Food

Household supplies

Entertainment

Drugstore

Clothes

This is best handled through a separate, joint bank account.  The contribution by each partner can be determined by each person’s relative income or assets, or any other formula you agree on.

A lawyer-drafted co-hab agreement may not have all the details outlined above, but it will include a formula for contributions of shared expenses and memorialize some general provisions, i.e., separate and joint property, separate obligations, waiver of estate rights, and arbitration of any disputes.

In addition to what maybe in a formal agreement, there needs to be a discussion and agreement on responsibilities.  Here again is how we divide responsibilities:

My Responsibilities:

Empty the dishwasher

Take out the garbage

Get and distribute the mail

Make dinner reservations

Secure take-out dinners

Travel planning

Movie searches

My breakfast and lunch

Gabriele’s Responsibilities:

Food shopping

Preparing dinner

Laundry

Banking and bookkeeping

House cleaning

This isn’t all fixed in cement.  Depending on available time and schedules, we often pick up the other partner’s responsibility.  If Gabriele was busy I did some food shopping, as an example.

You, of course, don’t have to follow this model.  You can create any set of community expenses and responsibilities you both agree on.

The advantage of having these kinds of agreements is the conversations which lead up to the documents.  You don’t have to rely on your memory because sometimes it may fail you.  It can avoid disagreements and unfulfilled expectations.  It brings out into the open how the participants expect to live together.  Without these conversations and agreements, you are opening yourselves up to a heating pressure cooker.

Both agreements will also insure against the concern and possible agitation of children and/or parents about the responsibilities of the participants, particularly if one of the partners is incapacitated or passes away.

The details of our agreements were ours.  The details of your agreement can be anything you mutually agree on.

ArtSchwartzSig

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50 PLACES YOU OUGHT TO SEE IN NORTH AMERICA

In prior posts, I’ve given you some places I have truly enjoyed and was glad I got to see all over the world.  There are an equal number of places right here close to home which are great to see as well.

Here they are, in no particular order:

  1. Yosemite National Park in California – great in summer or winter
  2. Yellowstone National Park in Montana and Wyoming
  3. Salt Lake City with the Mormon Temple complex
  4. San Juan and Gulf Islands off Washington State and Canada
  5. San Francisco, Golden Gate Bridge and the Bay Area
  6. Vancouver—what a delight—1 of 3 most beautiful cities
  7. Whistler—even if you don’t ski
  8. Victoria and Butchart Gardens
  9. Niagra Falls—especially on the Canadian side
  10. The Great Lakes—especially on the Canadian side
  11. Jackson Hole, Wyoming
  12. Grand Canyon—best viewed over 24 hours
  13. Canyon de Chelly in N.E. Arizona
  14. Sedona and the red rock country
  15. Finger Lakes in upstate New York
  16. Acadia National Park in Maine
  17. The coast of Maine and New Hampshire
  18. Boston and Environs
  19. Washington, D.C.—our fabulous national capital
  20. The fall foliage in New England
  21. New York City—the Big Apple
  22. Charleston, South Carolina, and Savannah, Georgia—the old south
  23. Williamsburg, Virginia—early American history
  24. Biscayne Bay, Miami, Florida
  25. New Orleans—the jazz and the cuisine
  26. The Mississippi River—up and down
  27. Nashville
  28. Natchez
  29. Chicago—windy but a great city
  30. Toronto—one of the Canadian jewels
  31. Quebec—one of the Canadian jewels
  32. Montreal—one of the Canadian jewels
  33. Santa Fe, New Mexico
  34. Taos, New Mexico
  35. Mesa Verde, S.W. Colorado
  36. Bryce National Park, Utah
  37. Zion National Park, Utah
  38. Arches National Park, Utah
  39. Snow Canyon outside St. George, Utah
  40. Las Vegas and all the lights and entertainment
  41. Lake Tahoe—what a beauty
  42. Banff, Canadian Rockies
  43. Lake Louise—star of the Canadian Rockies
  44. Jasper, Canadian Rockies
  45. Jekyll Island, Georgia
  46. Alaska—a state of beauty
  47. The Military Academies
  48. Gettysburg—you can almost feel Lincoln
  49. Durango to Silverton railroad in Colorado
  50. Hearst Castle—a real castle in California

And I can’t leave out:

  1. The Berkshires in Massachusetts
  2. San Diego, California—great weather, great town

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DID YOU KNOW ICE CREAM SINGS?

You may have seen this before but it bears repeating.  To celebrate the 2015 half year, we bring you the story of how ice cream sings.

One day I had lunch with some old friends.  John, a short, balding, golfer-type, 85-years-old, came along with them; all in all, it was a pleasant lunch.

When the menus were presented, my friends and I ordered salads, sandwiches and soups, except for John, who said, “A large piece of homemade apple pie, heated please, (I wasn’t sure my ears heard him right, and the others were aghast when John continued completely unabashed) along with two large scoops of vanilla ice cream.” We tried to act nonchalant, as if people did this all the time, but when our orders were brought out, I didn’t enjoy eating mine.

I couldn’t take my eyes off of John as I watched him savoring each bite of his pie a-la-mode.  The other guys just grinned in disbelief as they silently ate their lunches.

The next time I went out to eat, I called John and invited him to join me.  I lunched on a tuna fish sandwich, while he ordered a chocolate parfait.  Since I was chuckling, he wanted to know if he amused me.

I answered, “Yes, you certainly do, but you also confuse me.  How come you always order such rich desserts, while I feel like I must be sensible in my food choices?”

He laughed and said, “I’m tasting all that is possible for me to taste.  I try to eat the food I need and do the things I should in order to stay healthy, but life’s too short, my friend.  I hate missing out on something good.  This year I realized how old I was (he grinned).  I’ve never been this old before so, while I’m still here, I’ve decided it’s time to try all those things that, for years, I’ve been ignoring.

“I haven’t smelled all the flowers yet,” he said.  “There are too many trout streams I haven’t fished.  There’s more fudge sundaes to woof down and kites to be flown overhead.

“There are too many golf courses I haven’t played.  I’ve not laughed at all the jokes.  I’ve missed a lot of sporting events and potato chips and cokes.

“I want to wade again in water and feel ocean spray on my face.  I want to sit in a country church once more and thank God for His grace.

“I want peanut butter every day spread on my morning toast.  I want untimed, long distance calls to the one I love the most.

“I haven’t cried at all the movies yet, or walked in the morning rain.  I need to feel wind on my face.  I want to be in love again.

“So, if I choose to have dessert instead of having dinner, then should I die before nightfall, I’d say I died a winner, because I missed out on nothing.  I filled my heart’s desire.  I had the final piece of pie before my life expired.”

With that, I called the waitress over.  “I’ve changed my mind,” I said.  “I want what he’s having, only add some more whipped cream.”

This is my gift to you on this Happy Half-Year and on annual Friends Day!  If you get this twice, then you have more than one friend.  Live well, love much, and laugh often.  Be happy and enjoy doing whatever your heart desires.  You only go around once on this crazy planet.

Be mindful that happiness isn’t based on possessions, power, or prestige, but on relationships with people we like, respect, and enjoy spending time with.  Remember that while money talks, ICE CREAM SINGS.

ArtSchwartzSig

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