Monthly Archives: December 2015

30 THOUGHTS FOR 2016

  1. I’d kill for a Nobel Peace Prize.
  2. Borrow money from pessimists—they don’t expect it back.
  3. Half the people you know are below average.
  4. 7 percent of all statistics are made up on the spot.
  5. A conscience is what hurts when all your other parts feel so good.
  6. A clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory.
  7. If you want the rainbow, you’ve got to put up with the rain.
  8. All those who believe in psycho kinesis, raise my hand.
  9. The early bird gets the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.
  10. I almost had a psychic girlfriend…but she left me before we met.
  11. Okay, so what’s the speed of dark?
  12. How do you tell when you’re out of invisible ink?
  13. If everything seems to be going well, you have obviously overlooked something.
  14. Depression is merely anger without enthusiasm.
  15. When everything is coming your way, you’re in the wrong lane.
  16. Ambition is a poor excuse for not having enough sense to be lazy.
  17. Hard work pays off in the future; laziness pays off now.
  18. I intend to live forever…so far, so good.
  19. If Barbie is so popular, why do you have to buy her friends?
  20. Eagles may soar, but weasels don’t get sucked into jet engines.
  21. What happens if you get scared half to death twice?
  22. My mechanic told me, “I couldn’t repair your brakes, so I made your horn louder.”
  23. Why do psychics have to ask you for your name?
  24. If at first you don’t succeed, destroy all evidence that you tried.
  25. Experience is something you don’t get until just after you need it.
  26. The hardness of the butter is proportional to the softness of the bread.
  27. To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism; to steal from many is research.
  28. The problem with the gene pool is that there is no lifeguard.
  29. The sooner you fall behind, the more time you’ll have to catch up.

And an all-time favorite:

  1. If your car could travel at the speed of light, would your headlights work?

Have a Happy and Healthy New Year!

ArtSchwartzSig

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RANDOM OBSERVATIONS IN 2015

  1. Are you old enough to remember when you had to walk to the TV to change the channel?
  2. Did you know that women use 30,000 words a day, while men use only 15,000?
  3. 110 American cities and counties are currently refusing to obey the federal government regarding enforcement of immigration laws. They are called Sanctuary Cities.

The federal government should cut off ALL aid to these cities or counties until they give up this ghost of false humanitarianism.  If you don’t like a law, lobby for its repeal.  As long as a law is still on the books, you should be obligated to abide by the letter of the law—no ifs, ands or buts.

  1. I was thinking about how the status symbol of today is the cell phone that everyone has clipped onto their belt or in their purse. I can’t afford one, so I’m wearing my garage door opener.
  1. The easiest way to find something you’ve lost around the house is to buy a replacement.
  1. They put pictures of missing children on milk cartons. They should put pictures of missing husbands on beer cans.
  1. When former Afghanistan Military Commander General McChrystal was called into the Oval Office by Barack Obama, he knew things weren’t going to go well when the president accused him of not supporting him in his political role as president.

“It’s not my job to support you as a politician, Mr. President.  It’s my job to support you as Commander-in-Chief,” McChrystal replied, and he handed Obama his resignation.  Not satisfied with accepting McChrystal’s resignation, the president made a cheap shot.  “I bet when I die, you’ll be happy to piss on my grave.”

The general saluted and said, “Mr. President, I always told myself after leaving the Army I’d never stand in line again.”

  1. A hug is like a boomerang, you get it back right away.
  1. The federal government has “Tomahawk” cruise missiles and “Apache,” “Blackhawk,” “Kiowa” and “Lakota” helicopters—and used the code name “Geronimo” in the attack that killed Osama bin Laden, but officially objects to the name of the Washington Redskins.
  1. If an illegal immigrant is convicted of a felony crime anywhere in the U.S., Mexico should either pay for his incarceration here in the U.S. or accept him into one of their jails for the sentence.

We have enough means to pressure Mexico into accepting this arrangement.  Maybe then Mexico will do something about helping control their side of the border.

  1. Check out linkedin.com/edu. They have a giant database of millions of workers, which it analyzed to see which schools are launching the most graduates into the top firms in a variety of fields. They’re not always what you’d expect.  Accounting?  Villanova and Notre Dame.  Media?  Y.U. and Hofstra.  Software developers?  Carnegie Mellon, Caltech and Cornell.  Whether you want to be a plumber or surgeon, it is useful to know which schools’ alumni keep rising at the leading firms.
  1. The age at which a child can remember a vacation can vary from child to child; but according to psychologists, that age tends to be five or six.
  1. Get copies of all your medical records. Always ask for copies of MRI’s, CAT scans, ultrasounds and blood work. You may need them for a second opinion.
  1. According to John Wooden, the wizard of Westwood, “Failure to prepare is preparing to fail.”
  1. Why do modern-day parents take babies on vacation when they’re three weeks or three months old?
  1. Ten years ago, the USA had Steve Jobs, Bob Hope and Johnny Cash. Today, the USA has no jobs, no hope and no cash.
  1. The Pantages Theater is an absolute wonder from a bygone era. It is an elaborate, overdone, art deco masterpiece. It’s a real wow!
  1. Motown the Musical didn’t sound like much, but it was terrific.
  1. I’d be in favor of public financing of elections if that was all the money a candidate could spend. No outside fundraising.
  1. Unbelievable laws or lack of laws in these United States:
  1. Dual citizenship—being a voting citizen in two countries
  2. Congress and their staffers are exempt from many laws such as Obamacare and repaying student loans
  3. One man-one vote includes non-citizens (Supreme Court)
  4. Ballot measures in multiple languages
  5. Births in the U.S. from illegals are U.S. citizens
  6. English is not the official language
  7. Representation is currently based on everyone living in a given area—including prisoners, illegal immigrants and children—rather than registered voters
  1. In the last century or so, we have seen the creation of television, the computer, the internet, airplane travel and rockets to the moon. All fantastic achievements; however, I believe the greatest invention, hands-down, was the flush toilet.
  1. If only this guy had become president:

“I taught constitutional law for 10 years.  I take the Constitution very seriously.  The biggest problems we’re facing right now has to do with George Bush trying to bring more and more power into the executive branch and not go through Congress at all.  And that’s what I intend to reverse when I’m president of the United States of America.”

–Barack Obama, Lancaster, PA, 3/31/2008

ArtSchwartzSig

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THANKS FOR GIVING US THE BIG APPLE

I was born at the Rockaway Beach Hospital in the southern part of Queens, one of New York City’s five boroughs.  The hospital burned down about two years later.  Guess they wanted to destroy all the evidence.

About that time we moved a little north to Jackson Heights.  Watched them build La Guardia Airport.  As a Boy Scout, got one of my merit badges trying to map that area.

Did my 16-mile hike with Louie Mahler through the old sections of Queens, across the Triborough Bridge into Manhattan and came back across the Queensborough Bridge into the home country again.

My first apartment when I got married was right next to Kennedy Airport.  I think I was always trying to get out.  By 1958, I did.  Off to Phoenix, Arizona, but that’s another story.

For most of the last 20 years I’ve gone back to New York during Thanksgiving week.  It’s a special time in the Big Apple.  Usually cold and crisp, but no snow.  The concrete jungle of tall, very tall buildings in Manhattan shield some of the wind.

We usually go to Westchester for the Thanksgiving feast, but this year we decided to return to Manhattan for a few days before the stuffing.  Kinda our last foray as tourists.

On Sunday, our first tourist day, we visited the Museum of Arts and Design on Columbus Circle.  MAD, as the locals call it.

Went to the top floor, our usual route in any museum, and worked our way down.  On the fifth floor we met Stephanie Beck, their Sunday Artist-in-Residence.  She was expanding her interactive tabletop display of art paper buildings that can be reconfigured by visitors to create a changing cityscape.

It was really neat, very inventive and a delight.

Then it was down to the next two floors to see the furniture sculptures of Wendell Castle.  They were beautifully crafted and gorgeous in their finish.  Because of their size, they were not very practical or functional, but a wonderful display of creative energy.

There was a film on his life and another one on how he crafted these original sculptures in layers.

We followed this with a great lunch at “Robert,” on the top floor overlooking Columbus Circle and Central Park.

In the afternoon we went down to the old meat packing district to see the new Whitney Museum of Contemporary Art.  It was a well designed space featuring an eclectic assortment of contemporary art styles.  For me, the highlight of the visit was the red and purple streaks of a glorious sunset reflecting on the buildings to the east and over the Hudson River to the west.  What a spectacular sight.

While we were at the Whitney, we were able to sneak a peek at the trendy elevated walkway and park called the HiLine.  It’s currently a two-mile creative use of an old railroad trestle and will undoubtedly be extended as it’s becoming a focal point for new apartments and other developments.

On day two we visited my all-time favorite MOMA, the Museum of Modern Art.  The featured exhibit was a display of Picasso’s sculptures.  He sketched what he wanted to create and a sheet metalworker crafted his designs in metal and wood.  Unusual, unexpected and outstanding.

MOMA always has a display from their permanent collection of some of the impressionist masters, which is a total delight, and then a featured gallery of the 20-year evolving work of Jackson Pollack…and much, much more.

On day three we went to the last stop on the “E” subway line.  The 911 Museum was exceptionally well done in the exhibits of photographs, artifacts and pieces of the formidable structures that were demolished that fateful day.  There were also two impactful films featuring the reactions of President Bush, Mayor Giuliani, Condoleezza Rice, Governor Pataki, and several others about their experiences that day.

There are one or two emotion-charged exhibits you can avoid if you choose.  There are also some great exhibits going down seven stories you won’t want to miss.

  1. The Excavation reveals the steel box column remnants that anchored the Twin Towers to bedrock. It is alongside an exhibition about the original construction of the World Trade Center.
  2. Center Passage demonstrates the scale of the 9/11 attacks through monumental artifacts, evoking the magnitude of the World Trade Center buildings and their destruction.
  3. Foundation Hall contains remnants of the original World Trade Center, including the slurry wall and the celebrated Last Column.

It all brought back some memories, but it was not as devastating as I expected.  All in all, most worthwhile!

Then it was next door to the World Trade Center.  To get to the observation deck elevators, you walked through a tunnel carved out of the building’s bedrock.

Once on one of the world’s fastest elevators, you’re whooshed up 102 floors in less than 60 seconds.  There was almost no sensation of movement and the elevator walls were filled with panoramic views of Manhattan over the last 50 years or so.

The observation deck and the restaurant offered spectacular views not to be missed.  The restaurant had small portion lunches with prices that didn’t match, but worth the experience.

On day four we went to see a matinee of “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night” and had dinner at one of New York’s many good Italian restaurants.  The play was exceptional and a wonderfully acted portrayal of a teenage autistic boy on the most imaginative stage design I ever saw.  The crowds around Times Square and the Theater District were huge.  Incredible to see!

In the past, our tourist days in New York have included:

  • The great Metropolitan Museum
  • The Guggenheim
  • Grayline Tours of Midtown Manhattan and the lower Eastside
  • The Public Library on 42nd Street – great art, great building
  • Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty
  • Backstage tour of the Lion King, the Rockettes at Radio City and a visit with a Broadway actor
  • Walks up Madison Avenue and its trendy small shops and 5th Avenue and all the fancy stores. The Christmas windows at Saks are awesome.
  • A visit to Bloomingdale’s on 59th No other store like it.

Then there are still a few things we never got to see:

  • Tour of Grand Central Station
  • The New Yankee Stadium
  • Architecture tour of Manhattan by boat

What a great city to visit!

ArtSchwartzSig

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MORE DANGER SIGNS IN THE MARKET

I don’t pretend to be an investment guru or even claim to understand all the machinations of the stock market or some of the other places to park your money.  By the same token, I read and observe a fair amount about our troubled economy and my concerns are growing.

In my blog on 9/2/15 called “Danger Signals on the Horizon,” I told you about my observations on all the conflicting elements going on in our economy.

Well, nothing really has improved since then and the same negative factors still appear to be in play.  The economy is moribund at best, the market is highly volatile and the job market is tight and depressed.  There are now more economic forecasters who have joined the previous list predicting trouble ahead.

These include Nobel Prize economist Robert Shiller, a September survey of 31 economists, Tory James, Blackstone Group President and rogue economist Harry Dent; some are saying we can expect a crash sometime in the next two years, while some are saying it will happen in 2016.

This is a formidable array of economic forecasters who are saying this is the time to hunker down.

And they’re not alone.  My money is invested with two of the financial industry’s giants; Charles Schwab and Vanguard.  They both appear very concerned about what’s going on and where we’re headed.

A good barometer of how they feel is the asset allocation targets they have been ratcheting down over the last several months.  This clearly shows their concerns.

Vanguard                                                                   Equities                      Fixed*

At the end of July I was at:                                     80%                            20%
In August I came down to:                                      40%                            60%
Currently I’m going to:                                            30%                            70%

Vanguard’s current reecs for age 50:                 75%                            25%
Vanguard’s current reecs for age 60:                64%                            36%
Vanguard’s current reecs for my age:               30%                            70%

*Fixed includes bonds and up to 5% cash

Charles Schwab

At the end of July I was at:                                    55%                            45%
In August I realigned to:                                        45%                            55%
Now I’m planning to go to:                                   30%                            70%

Schwab’s current reecs for me:                           28%                            72%

With a presidential election next year, we better find a candidate with a strong handle on understanding what drives the economy; jobs, consumer spending and private investment.  Otherwise, the downturn will be deeper and last longer.

This for me is THE prime issue for the next election, right up there with terrorism.  All the other issues, i.e., climate change, income inequality, immigration, etc. are side issues meant to only distract.

ArtSchwartzSig

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TO BE, OR NOT TO BE, THE TPP

In mid November, the text of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) was released.  Those members of the Congress who said they read the whole thing are probably fibbing.

There are three ways a befuddled citizen can figure out what to think about a complex deal like the TPP.

The first is tribal:  Listen for signals from the politicians you support and assume they’ve made the right decisions.  But that’s not so easy when it comes to the TPP because the agreement divides both parties.

It’s no surprise that President Obama is strongly in favor of a deal he and his sides just finished negotiating.  “It’s an agreement that puts American workers first and will help middle-class families get ahead,” he said.  “It includes the strongest commitments on labor and the environment of any trade agreement in history.”  The Democratic presidential candidates don’t agree.  Bernie Sanders says the TPP is “even worse” than he expected.  Hillary Rodham Clinton opposes it too, and hopes you’ll forget that she once called it “the gold standard” of trade deals.

Among Republicans, “establishment” candidates Jeb Bush and John Kasich support the agreement, as do Ben Carson and Marco Rubio.  But Donald Trump and Ted Cruz have said they are opposed.

A second approach is to listen to what interested parties say and choose sides based on where your sympathies lie.

Manufacturing workers and their unions think another free-trade deal will inevitably hurt them.  The last half-century of globalization has coincided with a massive loss of blue-color jobs; not all of the erosion was due to trade, but to labor, the TPP looks like more of the same.  “A bad deal for American workers,” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said.

Environmentalists are condemning the deal too, mostly because it doesn’t crack down on climate change.  But this is, after all, a trade deal; talks on global warming are already underway.

Big business is mostly in favor of the deal, although not universally so.  Tobacco companies are unhappy that it deprives them of the right to sue countries that restrict trade by limiting cigarette sales.  Pharmaceutical companies complain that they aren’t getting enough protection for their patients.  (Doctors Without Borders thinks they are getting too much.)

Hollywood, Silicon Valley and agribusiness mostly like the deal, which protects entertainment copyrights, eases the flow of data across borders and opens doors for U.S. experts of meat and rice to Asia.  California would reap benefits that the Rust Belt won’t see.

Now for the final, labor-intensive approach:  Listen to smart people who don’t have a vested interest but are trying to analyze the deal in a comprehensive way.

Joseph A. Massey, a former U.S. trade negotiator with China and Japan who has served as an advisor to Republicans and Democrats made some important points about the agreement.

First, he said, the TPP’s impact has probably been oversold.  “It has benefits for U.S. export industries, but I think they’re modest,” he said.  “It’s clearly good for the entertainment and tech sectors.  But it’s not revolutionary.”

Second, he said, the biggest threat to jobs in the United States isn’t free-trade agreements; it’s domestic policy.  “We’ve neglected our own manufacturing sector,” he said.  “Germany is a party to trade agreements too, but they’ve done a much better job at maintaining a skilled blue-color workforce.  We need more incentives for companies to invest here, employ American workers and invest in their training.”

Third, he noted, the TPP isn’t only about trade.  It’s also about economic reform, higher labor standards and environmental protection in developing countries such as Vietnam and Malaysia.  And it’s a way to knit countries on the Pacific Rim into a trading system that the United States helped design instead of one run by Asia’s growing power, China.

So are we better off with or without the TPP?  If Congress ratifies it, that won’t turbocharge the U.S. economy.  If Congress blocks the deal, that won’t stop globalization.  And like any trade agreement, it creates winners and losers.

One political lesson is clear:  The bipartisan consensus that enabled Bill Clinton and George W. Bush to pass trade agreements has broken down, mostly because, to many Americans, their costs have been clearer than their benefits.

To win Congress’ approval of the deal—an important part of Obama’s second-term agenda and his legacy—the president still has a lot of persuading to do.

The unions have always been opposed to trade deals, but by and large they have worked.  They have raised the economies of other countries and they have increased our exports and jobs.  We should support TPP wholeheartedly.

ArtSchwartzSig

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