Monthly Archives: February 2016

SOMEWHERE OVER THE RAINBOW

As we approach this year’s Oscar Awards this Sunday, we’re reminded of the 2014 Oscars.  They celebrated the 75th anniversary of the release of the “Wizard of Oz” by having Pink sing “Somewhere Over The Rainbow,” with highlights from the film in the background.

What few people realized, while listening to that incredible performer singing that unforgettable song, is that the music is deeply embedded in the Jewish experience3.

It is no accident, for example, that the greatest Christmas songs of all time were written by people of the Jewish faith who don’t celebrate Christmas.

For example, “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer” was written by Johnny Marks and “White Christmas” was penned by a Jewish liturgical singer’s (cantor) son, Irving Berlin.

But perhaps the most poignant song emerging out of the mass exodus from Europe was “Somewhere Over The Rainbow.”  The lyrics were written by Yip Harburg.  He was the youngest of four children born to Russian Jewish immigrants.  His real name was Isidore Hochberg and he grew up in a Yiddish speaking, Orthodox Jewish home in New York.  The music was written by Harold Arlen, another cantor’s son.  His real name was Hyman Arluck and his parents were from Lithuania.

Together, Hochberg and Arluck wrote “Somewhere Over The Rainbow,” which was voted the 20th century’s number one song by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA).  In writing it, the two men reached deep into their immigrant Jewish consciousness—framed by the pogroms of the past and the Holocaust about to happen—and wrote an unforgettable melody set to near prophetic words.

Read the lyrics in their Jewish context and suddenly the words are no longer about wizards and Oz, but about Jewish survival.

********************

Somewhere over the rainbow
way up high
there’s a land that I heard of
once in a lullaby.

Somewhere over the rainbow
skies are blue,
and the dreams you dare to dream
really do come true.

Someday I’ll wish
upon a star
and wake up where the clouds are far behind me.
Where troubles melt like lemon drops
away above the chimney tops
that’s where you’ll find me.
Somewhere over the rainbow bluebirds fly

Birds fly over the rainbow
why then, oh what can’t I?
If happy little bluebirds fly
beyond the rainbow
Why, oh why can’t I?

********************

The Jews of Europe could not fly.  They could not escape beyond the rainbow.  Harburg was almost prescient when he talked about wanting to fly like a bluebird away from the “chimney tops.”  In the post-Auschwitz era, chimney tops have taken on a whole different meaning than the one they had at the beginning of 1939, when the song was part of the movie.

Pink’s mom is Judith Kugel.  She’s Jewish of Lithuanian background.  As Pink was belting the Harburg/Arluck song from the stage at the Academy Awards, I wasn’t thinking about the movie.  I was thinking about Europe’s lost Jews and the immigrants to America.

I was then struck by the irony that for two thousand years the land that the Jews heard of “once in a lullaby” was not America, but Israel.  The remarkable thing would be that less than ten years after “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” was first published, the exile was over and the State of Israel was reborn.

Perhaps the “dreams that you dare dream really do come true.”

(Thanks to John Kermguard for passing this along.)

ArtSchwartzSig

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GEORGE WASHINGTON WAS THE ONLY EXCEPTION

If this primary election battle continues on this unusual fiery path, there may well be an independent candidate offered up as a more “consensus” alternative?  Here’s some background an independent candidate will have to face:

No candidate outside of the two major parties has broken one percent of the popular vote in the last three decades, but four of six presidential elections from 1980 to 2000 featured impactful outsider candidates:

In 2000, Ralph Nader infamously played spoiler to Al Gore by garnering 2.7 percent of votes, including nearly 100,000 in pivotal Florida where Gore lost by the tiny margin of 537 votes.  The effectiveness of Nader’s campaign in convincing significant numbers of voters that the two parties were wanting, especially when it came to the treatment of big  business, put Democrats on notice that they needed to attend to their left flank.

Speaking a businessman’s outsider language that somewhat resembles Trump’s, H. Ross Perot became a phenomenon in 1992, winning almost 19 percent of the popular vote in November, although he got zero electoral votes.   He partially reprised his earlier run in 1996, establishing the Reform Party and winning eight percent.  Perot probably did not swing either election (since his supporters were largely irregular voters and he did not “steal” disproportionately from either party), but his participation changed the tenor of those campaigns, and perhaps even helped lay the groundwork for the dramatic, anti-Washington Republican victory in the 1994 midterms.

More germane to a Trump 2016 scenario is John B. Anderson, the moderate Republican Illinois House member who broke from his party in April 1980 to run a “National Unity Campaign.”  Anderson, who had run a surprising but hopeless third place in the early Republican primaries behind Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, rejected Reagan’s doctrinaire, ideological conservatism and sought to occupy the political center.  By June, Anderson was polling at 26 percent and looked genuinely viable.  His high-minded, detail-oriented political style favorably contrasted with the cynical, partisan feel of normal campaigns, and, at his peak, he was the top choice of college graduates, professionals, and suburbanites.  But the campaign wore off Anderson’s shine.  Given the heights of Anderson’s promise, it seemed a disappointment when he finished with just 6.6 percent of the national popular vote—though clearly that level of support would be more than enough to swing many elections.

The greatest object of speculation along these lines is Michael Bloomberg, whose wonkish and nonpartisan success as Mayor of New York from 2002-2013 endeared him to America’s business community and to many self-identified centrists.  Bloomberg’s immense wealth, impressive record as an executive in both business and politics, and ability to attract socially liberal but fiscally conservative Democrats would make him a formidable third party force to reckon with.

Bloomberg (soon turning 74) has consistently deflected suggestions that he run, saying he doubts that a “short, Jewish, divorced billionaire” could be electable.  He has a point.  Then again, he’s apparently been taking the electorate’s temperature, so it’s not out of the question.  He’s well known and well thought of in the east, but not as much west of the Hudson.

Some analysts like Norm Ornstein in the Washington Post are quick to dismiss the chances of an independent winning within our current voting rules.

Ornstein, in his op-ed, focuses on the alleged barriers created by the Electoral College.  He postulates that if an independent candidate and the major party nominees each won about a third of the vote, “no candidate would come close to the majority of 270 required, under the Constitution, for victory,” thereby throwing the choice of president to Congress and its bizarre rules of the Senate picking the vice-president based on one Senator, one vote and the House picking the president based on one vote per state delegation.

Independents have won seats in Congress and a few governors won election, although their record of success has been spotty at best.  On the presidential level, they have mainly been spoilers.

A somewhat different view is taken by Don Rumsfeld, whose long career in government service allows him to offer a different perspective.

Rumsfeld feels we are somewhat unique in having a two-party system which serves us well and needs to be preserved.  An independent, he feels, can win if he declares during his candidacy which of the two major political parties he would “caucus with,” if elected.

I personally think Rumsfeld stayed a year or two too long at Bush’s dance party.  He does have a very extensive resume in all facets of government however.

Not at all sure any independent candidate will see the wisdom of that position.

Another scenario being discussed is that no Republican candidate will be able to emerge from the primary scrum with the 1,144 delegates needed to secure the nomination.  The result of that possibility will be an “open convention” and all the cartoon-like images of smoke-filled rooms of wheeler and dealers.

If Hillary were to get indicted for her email shenanigans, it would open the door for Joe Biden to resurface with prexy Obama’s support or maybe even John Kerry.

Chances of an indictment, however, are very slim.  Don’t believe Obama would okay the indictment of Hillary.

May just have to live with who we have.

Oh, l before I forget.  In all our history, George Washington was the only independent candidate to ever win the presidency.

ArtSchwartzSig

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MANDATORY JOB CHANGES

A blog of two back we offered a discourse called “Life Is About Purpose.”  This post is somewhat of a companion piece that postulates one way to keep the purpose/passion is to voluntarily or be forced to change jobs.

Let me explain.

Had some good news from friend Barbra Held last fall.  After 11 years with the Australian government’s G’Day USA, the largest foreign country promotion held annually in the U.S., she was appointed Vice President of Event Production for the Television Academy.

Barb’s transition to the TV Academy reminded me of a theory I’ve had for many years, i.e., people should be forced to change jobs at the end of about 10 years.

The reason I believe this is that after this long in the same position, it is difficult to avoid getting stale or complacent.  Not sure you can keep the challenge going to improve and expand after that long of tenure.

You may enjoy the job and what the job entails, but is it helping you grow and take on more responsibility?  I’m not sure that without a promotion or the assumption of significant additional responsibility you and/or your organization will profit from keeping you in the same job for that long.

This certainly is an exciting new opportunity for Barb and her timing fits my theory perfectly.  Delighted she got this new gig and fondly remembers her getting her start in L.A. with us at MAS as a trade show coordinator.

Another example brought this into focus just recently.  Jennifer, a friend, had been in a management position in the Public Defender’s office of Juveniles for over 12 years, having been with the PD office a total of 25 years.  She was competent and doing her job well.  The fire wasn’t burning as brightly, however, and she was beginning to look forward to retirement in two years.

Then when out of the blue she was asked to take over one of the five management positions in the adult division—a whole new ball game.  Much more complex cases, some of which involve the death penalty.

This would be a demanding new challenge requiring a much broader scope of responsibilities and direction.  She now had a spring in her step and was changed up over this new assignment.

Cindy, who posts my blogs, even chimed in to say she was chairperson of the annual Marina del Rey Holiday Boat Parade for 12 years.  It was two years too long, she reflects.

So once again my original premise on the need to force job changes after 10 years or so was validated.

So, how come I stayed with MAS for over 25 years, you ask?  MAS was constantly changing so the job was never the same.  We started managing trade associations, and over the years we added trade shows, then publishing and then some consumer events.

John Gardner, former Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare, said it best and certainly applies to staying in a job too long.  He called it “personal stagnation.”  He said, “we build out prisons and serve as our own jailers.”

According to Gardner, “Young countries, businesses and humans all have several key commonalities:  they are flexible, eager, open, curious, unafraid and willing to take risks.”  However, over time these organisms experience, “complacency, apathy and rigidity…(and) it is at this junction that great civilizations fall, businesses go bankrupt, and life stagnates for people.”

Probably can’t pass a law to make job changes mandatory, but voluntarily you should really look at the advantages this prescription offers.

You have to keep shuffling the deck, create new challenges and explore new avenues to keep your interest high and your energy flowing in the right direction.

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IOWA TURNOUT GIVES THE POLLSTERS AND US TWO SURPRISES

Whoa, Nellie!  The pollsters were fooled by the turnout in the Iowa candidate casino caucuses last Monday.

Surprise No. 1:  The Republican Elephant gave the delegate prize to Ted Cruz by four points over Donald Trump.  The polls predicted the reverse.  Marco Rubio came in third, right on Trump’s tail.

Surprise No. 2:  The Democratic Donkey split the delegates close to 50/50 between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.  Seems like Hillary’s having 2008 problems all over again.

The establishments in both parties are more concerned than ever that their Iowa winners have serious electability problems and are not sure what to do.

Let’s take a closer look at all the horses on this merry-go-round:

Ted Cruz – bombastic, bomb thrower, the most disliked member of the Senate for his disruptive political fireworks constantly threatening to shut down the government.  He had the better ground game in Iowa and it helped him win.  His conservative posture makes Ronald Reagan look like a raving liberal.

Donald Trump, who rarely smiles, and always looks angry, still thinks we’re all his candidates on the “Apprentice” and threatens to fire us.  He’s fast on the trigger to voice the frustration of many, but woefully short on workable solutions for our mounting problems.  Iowa may have humbled him some.  Too soon to write him off.  He’ll probably do better in New Hampshire and South Carolina.

More on how he got this far in a bit.

Marco Rubio – like a well-oiled juke box, pop a question and he has a slick polished answer.  He’ll be a viable candidate in 2020; too early now.

Benny Carson – naïve neurosurgeon who should have run for Congress rather than president, where he has no operating room skills.

Jeb Bush – early favorite, qualified with a lot of big $$$ support, but so far a bust as a candidate.

Rand Paul – Who?  Where did he disappear?  Was he ever really here?  His foreign policy is “stay home.”

Chris Christie, John Kasich and all the other trailing wannabes are often entertaining, but don’t get any traction.

And on the other side, there’s:

Hillary Clinton – she, of the questionable email ethics, as well as the conflicting Benghazi stories and the foreign millions that have been funneled into the family foundation, she’s not Bill, but she is still the frontrunner.

Bernie Sanders – perhaps the most interesting of all the candidates – an avowed socialist with a naïve program to give everything in life away for free that would easily double our national debt to $40 trillion plus.

He’s not the first socialist to run.  There was Eugene Debs in 1912 and three more times; Upton Sinclair, the writer, who ran for California Governor in 1934; and Norman Thomas, who was always running for president in the thirties—six times I think.

His popularity is rising because too many people would still vote for Bill, but don’t like Hillary, and he wants to give away everything for free.  Who would be against that?

Conventional political pundits have always maintained that the presidential candidate wins who has the most energetic, positive vision of his plan and the future.  It’s gonna be tough this year.  They all seem sullen and negative.

To try and understand Trump’s phenomenal rise, we refer to David Axelrod, Obama’s chief cheerleader, who admits, like many of the rest of us who dismissed Trump as a “summer fling” who would fade in the fall.

Now, according to Axelrod, “seven months later Trump has broken just about every rule of conventional campaigning.  Short on policy prescriptions and long on provocation, he has dominated all the early oxygen in the debates and in the media.”

Axelrod wrote, “If I had only re-read my own words, written nine years ago to another aspiring candidate, I would have taken the Trump candidacy more seriously from the start.

“In late 2006, when Barack Obama was a first-term senator pondering a long-shot race for the presidency, he asked me to write a strategic memo exploring his prospects.

“Here’s the gist of that memo:  Presidential elections are shaped by perceptions of the style and personality of the outgoing incumbent.  Voters rarely seek the replica of what they have.  They almost always seek the remedy, the candidate who has the personal qualities the public finds lacking in the departing executive.”

A young, energetic Jack Kennedy succeeded the grandfatherly somnolent Dwight Eisenhower, promising “a new generation of leadership.”  In a slight variation, a puritanical Jimmy Carter, offering “a government as good as its people,” defeated the unelected incumbent Gerald Ford, who bore the burden of the morally bankrupt Nixon era.

Even George H.W. Bush, running to succeed the popular and larger-than-life Ronald Reagan, subtly made a virtue of his own lack of charisma and edge.  The pattern followed in 2008, as Mr. Bush’s son completed his final term in office.

Senator Obama had publicly opposed the Iraq war from the start, which separated him from most of the Democratic field.  But more than that, his profile, temperament and approach offered the sharpest departure from those of the embattled, retiring president he would ultimately replace.  For those who found President Bush wanting, Senator Obama was the most obvious remedy.

Unlike in 2008, when Mr. Obama’s appeal reached a majority of independents and even some Republicans, polling suggests that if he were nominated, Trump or Cruz would face a steep uphill battle in a general election.  As of today, they have the lowest standing, by far, of any major Republican candidate among Democrats and independent voters.  Their nativist rants have walled them off from the growing Hispanic vote, which could hold the key to several important swing states this fall.

I think Axelrod’s analysis makes a lot of sense.  He didn’t carry it quite far enough, i.e., Trump has succeeded, because he is the exact antithesis to Obama.

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