Monthly Archives: March 2016

THE GAME OF LIFE

There are essentially two kinds of people in this world, each with a different perspective on how to play the game of life.  That’s not exactly a new revelation, but it was brought home clearly to me recently during a group game exercise in a UCLA extension class.

The class was divided into three groups of eight or nine people.  Each participant selected five chips (red, white or blue) at random from a closed bag.  Each chip had a different point value.  Each group was then directed to try to negotiate and barter with each other.  The total points for each participant were then marked on the blackboard.

The object appeared to be to decide who had the highest point total(s).

After several rounds on this level, each group was then given three chips and told to distribute them anyway those chose.

This is where the game got interesting to me.  One person suggested that the chips should be given to people with the lowest scores, although that wouldn’t make a significant difference in their points totals.  Another person (me) suggested the chips should all go to the person with the highest score (that wasn’t me) so they could better compete with the highest scores in the other groups.

After some discussion, our group voted to award the new chips to the lowest point people.

After another round with five chips to each participant, the group was given another three chips and we had the same discussion and the same outcome.

There are definitely people who believe everyone should benefit equally in life and there are some who feel if the object is to compete for top-point winner, then the group should follow that lead.

At that point in the game, one of the three groups was identified (we’ll call Group A) and asked to make up the rules for the final round.  While they were discussing that, our group suggested we combine our points with the other group and be in a position to trump Group A.

Well, they were finally catching on.  The sharing person was disappointed, but it didn’t much matter.  The other group couldn’t quite get the idea of combining the points and Group A won the whole thing.

The game, in a small way, was a microcosm of our society, as well as the current state of our politics.  There are some who want everyone to have equal benefits no matter how much they contribute or produce, and some who believe in a free enterprise capitalist system where the major benefits (as well as the tax burden) go to the winners; those who excel and/or produce more.

We have the best game with the greatest opportunity here in America than any place else in the world.  The best way to preserve our system, I believe, is to build a minimum safety net for the truly needy while controlling our debt obligations within workable limits so the interest in the debt doesn’t kill the economy and continue the vast opportunities available to all.

ArtSchwartzSig

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PROTESTS – ANOTHER EXPLANATION

A few blogs back we tried to offer some opinions on why there seems to be so many protests and bubbling anger all around us (3/2/16).

One of our blog readers offers us another perspective.  He/she says, “If you wonder why we are seeing many protests and unrest, just take a look at what frustrated Americans have witnessed over the last seven years:

  • Attacks on police officers who are accused of hunting down black men.
  • A porous border that invites bad guys to smuggle people and narcotics.
  • A stagnant economy in which wages are declining and prices are rising.
  • A national security apparatus that will not utter the words ‘Islamic Terrorist.’
  • A culture that is overrun by political correctness and is hostile to religion.
  • A left-leaning press corps that describes conservatives as fascists.
  • Universities that charge exorbitant fees to indoctrinate our youth.
  • Cities that give ‘sanctuary’ to illegals, leading to vicious and deadly crimes.
  • A Congress that refuses to pass a life-saving measure like ‘Kate’s Law.’
  • Elites who imply that every ill in the world is somehow caused by the USA.
  • Race hustlers like Al Sharpton and ‘Black Lives Matter’ at the White House.
  • A Justice Department that considers prosecuting ‘climate change’ skeptics.
  • An administration that seems to ignore the deadly carnage in black precincts.
  • A former Secretary of State who falsely blamed four deaths on an Internet movie.
  • A refusal to bring up sensitive issues like the dissolution of the black family.

And then there’s:

  • A dysfunctional Congress that can’t seem to address our problems, no matter who is in the majority.
  • A spiraling national debt approaching 20 trillion dollars.
  • A Secretary of State who installs a private, non-secure, alternative email system.
  • The EPA’s unconstitutional attempt to impose cap and trade taxes that a Democratic Congress refused to authorize.
  • A family of political royals who subvert the law by funneling foreign money into their foundation through Canada and skirt every law they encounter.
  • An IRS who violates the law by denying applications from the people who oppose the administration.

It goes on and on.  Who wouldn’t be angry?

Donald Trump has tapped into the anger that is an understandable result of the above litany.  Like all of us, he is flawed and his rhetoric has at times crossed the line.  Trump should stop the QVC presentation, as Dennis Miller calls it, and outline some real solutions to vexing problems.  Go easy on the insults, begin outlining policy prescriptions.

And, by the way, it’s worth mentioning that many of Bernie Sanders’ supporters seem to be angrier than Trump’s fans.  They rail not against people who enter the country illegally, but against their fellow citizens who have done better in life than they have, at least in financial terms.  Bernie Sanders is the head of a ‘green movement,’ but that green is mostly about envy, not the environment.”

This may be a more accurate picture to understand why all the frustration and angry rhetoric that I believe may be a cry for help.  Only real effective leadership will be able to tone down the anger and find effective solutions.

At the moment there doesn’t appear to be that kind of leader on the landscape from either party.  I’ve always said, we survive the best of our leaders and the worst.  Hopefully that will continue.

We’ll just have to wait till we find a new leader to break us out of this mess.  What we need is someone who can speak like Obama, have the personal charisma of Clinton, the legislative connection like Johnson, the communication ability like Reagan and the steadfastness of Lincoln, who won the battle of keeping our country together.  Know anyone?

ArtSchwartzSig

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USING ADVERSITY TO ADVANTAGE

In previous blogs I’ve recounted the overall success of my small management business, “A Life Fulfilled” (10-14-15), as well as how it all started in “Welcome to La-La Land” (11-11-15).

Now in this third part of my saga, I’d like to tell you how I was able to get my association employer to finance me into my own management business.

After five years in Los Angeles, the family seemed to be resettled comfortably.  We had bought a house with a pool in La Habra, right on the Orange County line, and brought along our beagle named Arrow.

Events at the Electric Association were going quite well.  With a lot of hard work and long hours, our promotions with the 500 plus Southern California appliance dealers to sell more electric appliances had prospered and, as a result of a long range plan, we were now expanding into programs into the commercial side of the electric industry; educational programs, a trade show and promotional programs for commercial lighting and electric heating.

So everything was hunky-dory, as they used to say, until the fall of 1973, when President Nixon told us we were facing an energy crisis.  The lines at the gas stations were long and there was an increasingly dark cloud hanging over the economy.

Since the electric association was so financially dependent on the utilities, it raised a lot of soul-searching questions for me.  The utilities were being pressed by the state regulators to stop promoting increased use of electric energy (our mission) and start promoting conservation.

We launched a P.R. effort in the conservation arena but it was obvious that the fortunes and future of the association were somewhat up in the air.  It seemed to me that I had to look at my options.  Did I want to start looking for a new job?  Should I go back to school to get an MBA in marketing?  Or just maybe this was the time to resurrect an old idea about forming a marketing management business where I could assemble a stable of trade associations and trade shows to forge a profit-making opportunity in the non-profit arena.

After much internal debate, I decided on the third option; i.e., start my own management company with, hopefully, the electric association as my first client.

I started making notes and crafted a somewhat sketchy business plan.  Remember, this was back in the mid seventies and business plans were not as sophisticated as they are today.

With the nucleus of my idea in place, I approached my principal utility member and was able to gain his agreement that my idea offered his company more options and flexibility to bend with the flow of the new regulatory pressures.  At the same time, he agreed this avenue would provide more stability and opportunity for me.

Having his agreement, we set out to introduce and convince the executive committee and then the board of directors on the viability of this proposal.  After eight months of patient planning and discussions, Marketing Association Services (MAS) became a reality in July of 1975.

We took the budget of the league and divided it up.  The rent, staff salaries (there were five of us) and all admin items in the budget became the fee they paid MAS.  All the program items and funds remained with the association’s budget.

So now I had one client and a $6,000 per month fee.  It was a great way to start a business with only about $2,000 of my own money.  From the onset, though, there was one problem looming in the not-too-distant future.

How could we change the monthly fee if the activities of the association expanded as well as the need to adjust for normal inflation in all costs?  To survive, I recognized I had to acquire other accounts as well.  The tricky part was to start doing that only after the new relationship with the electric association was solidified.

After joining a small fledging national group called the Multiple Association Management Institute, I learned from other members that client fees should be based on time devoted to their activities.  Fixed fees were a road to failure.  Now I had the missing ingredient on how to calculate fees, and MAS was really ready to roll.

We took the average salaries for our administrative people multiplied by 2½ (same for staff and executive personnel) and had a formula to apply to estimate the time and cost needed for each project or activity.

We used that formula in making proposals and evaluating each client or project to determine profitability as well as adjusting fees each year.

Over the next 25 plus years, we prospered with an eclectic stable of trade associations, consumer events, trade shows and a regional publication as clients or as self-financed projects.

It was a heady run, supporting upwards of 30 employees at one point with a lot of fulfilling outcomes.  At the end, two employees took over their respective divisions, and the largest trade show was sold to the sponsor.  We found new management for each of the trade associations.

It was now 1997 and I was programmed to slow down and start thinking about retiring.  Over the next 2-1/2 years, I started the slide into retirement with some consulting and exploration of other life choices.

ArtSchwartzSig

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50 PLUS SPECTACULAR SITES TO SEE

Here are 50 plus specific special sites you ought to put on your bucket list if you haven’t seen them already.  Each are worth traveling to:

  1. Migration of animals between Tanzania and Kenya, Africa
  2. The ruins in Sicily
  3. Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast, Italy
  4. Dam on the Yangtze River, China
  5. The canals of Venice, Italy
  6. Pantheon in Athens
  7. The city walls and entrance to Dubrovnik, Croatia
  8. Blue Mosque in Istanbul
  9. Ice sculptures and penguins in Antarctica
  10. Niagra Falls, Canada
  11. Fall colors in New England
  12. The Wailing Wall in Jerusalem
  13. The Sphinx and pyramids in Cairo
  14. Rushmore. It’s really impressive!
  15. The Eifel Tower and Champs Elysees, Paris
  16. Machu Picchu, Peru
  17. Iguazu Falls, (Argentina and Brazil)
  18. Lake Titicaca, Peru
  19. Abu Simbel on the Nile River, Egypt
  20. Red sand dunes in Namibia, Africa
  21. Rafting down the Colorado River
  22. Amazon River, Brazil and Peru
  23. Full Day travel by bus and boat from Chile to Bariloche, Argentina
  24. Sea-planing into Vancouver from Victoria
  25. Salvador de Bahia, Brazil
  26. Lincoln Memorial and all the other monuments, Washington, D.C.
  27. Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, New York City
  28. Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
  29. Calving of the Glaciers, Alaska
  30. Beauty of the Canadian Rockies
  31. Lava flowing into the sea on the big island of Hawaii
  32. The glory of Pompeii, Italy
  33. Fjords of Norway
  34. Panama Canal
  35. Incredible gardens of Japan
  36. Pageant of the Masters, Laguna Beach, California
  37. Beach walk behind Wailea Hotels, Maui
  38. Red Square in Moscow
  39. Taj Mahal, India
  40. Stilt dancers in Mali
  41. The magic of Seville and Madrid, Spain
  42. Ching Le Terra, Italy
  43. Hiking or jeeping in the Sedona red rocks
  44. Lucca, Italy
  45. Marina del Rey, the largest man-made marina in the world with 10,000+ boats
  46. Hiking in Snow Canyon, Utah
  47. Tiananmen Square and The Forbidden Palace, Beijing, China
  48. 1812 Overture in Royal Albert Hall, London
  49. Unbelievable gourmet dining in Lyon, France
  50. The Laundry in Delhi, India
  51. The reconditioned market in Bamako, Mali
  52. Terra Cota soldiers in Xian, China
  53. The Smithsonian and all the government buildings in D.C.
  54. Inman Lake in Burma
  55. The old and new architecture of Berlin
  56. The Pali in Sienna, Italy
  57. Gaude Church in Barcelona, Italy
  58. S. national parks in Zion, Bryce, Arches, Yosemite and Yellowstone
  59. Charm and serenity of Mendocino, California and its music festival
  60. The old glory days of Rome

ArtSchwartzSig

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WHY ALL THE PROTESTS?

What is going on?  We seem to be living in an uncommon age of protests and it seems to be escalating.  There are protests at colleges, in the Black Lives Matter movement and from our presidential primary candidates, and everywhere we seem to turn.

The daughter of my nephew who is in the second year of medical school recently told me protests are going on there as well.  Hard to believe, a few students are protesting the occasional political/gender incorrectness of some of the teachers and guest lecturers.  It must be an epidemic spawned by global warming.

What follows are excerpts from columns by Ross Douthat and Tom Freidman writing in the New York Times about why all the protests.

Douthat says, “Yes, voters are angry; yes, they’re exhausted and disgusted and cynical about everything.  But why is everything boiling over in this particular cycle, in this presidential campaign?

Consider:  The economic picture is better than it was in 2012, when Republican primary voters settled for Mitt Romney and an incumbent president was re-elected pretty easily.  (In both Iowa and New Hampshire, the unemployment rate is currently under 4%.)  The foreign policy picture is grim in certain ways, but America isn’t trapped in a casualty-heavy quagmire the way we were in 2004, when Democratic voters played it safe with John Kerry and George W. Bush won-re-election.

As Michael Grunwald argued recently in Politico, the worst-case scenarios of the post-Great Recession era haven’t materialized.  Obamacare is limping along without an imminent death spiral, and health care costs aren’t rising as fast as feared.  The deficit has fallen a bit, and inflation is extraordinarily low.  The stock market is very wobbly, but we haven’t had a double-dip recession (yet).

On the cultural front, out-of-wedlock births are no longer rising.  Abortion rates have fallen.  Illegal immigration rates are down.

The state of the union isn’t all that one might hope, but it could clearly be a whole lot worse.

The Trumpistsas and Bern-feelers appear to be rebelling against exactly that—the politics of  “it could be worse,” of stagnation and muddling through.  They aren’t revolting against abject failure, or deep and swift decline.  They’re rebelling against decadence, stagnation and a mediocre status quo.

The fact that both of their messages—Trump’s “Make America Great Again” and Bernie’s “Why Not Socialism?”—involve essentially recycled visions of the future, this is a sign of how hard it is for a decadent society to escape the trap of repetition.

With a somewhat broader perspective, Freidman chimes in, “In my view, this age of protest is driven, in part, by the fact that the largest forces on the planet—globalization and Mother Nature—are all in acceleration, creating an engine of disruption that is stressing strong countries and middle classes and blowing up weak ones, while super-empowering individuals and transforming the nature of work, leadership and government all at once.

I asked Dov Seidman, the author of the book “How” and C.E.O. of LRN, for his take on this age of protest.

“People everywhere seem to be morally aroused.  The philosopher David Hume argued that ‘the moral imagination diminishes with distance.’  It would follow that the opposite is also true:  As distance decreases, the moral imagination increases.  Now that we have no distance—it’s like we’re all in a crowded theater, making everything personal—we are experiencing the aspirations, hopes, frustration, plight of others in direct and visceral ways.”

Indeed, we’re being intimately exposed to footage of outrageous police brutality, terrorism victims jumping from the windows of a Paris theater and racially biased/sexist corporate emails revealed by hackers.  Who wouldn’t be aroused?

That we are becoming more morally aroused “is generally a good thing,” argues Seidman.  Institutionalized racism in police departments, or in college fraternities, is real and had been tolerated for way too long.  That it’s being called out is a sign of a society’s health and “re-engagement.”

But when moral arousal manifests as moral outrage, he added, “it can either inspire or repress a serious conversation or the truth.”  There is surely a connection between the explosion of political correctness on college campuses—including Yale students demanding the resignation of an administrator whose wife defended free speech norms that might make some students uncomfortable—and the ovations Donald Trump is getting for being crudely politically incorrect.

“If moral outrage, as justified as it may be, is followed immediately by demands for firings or resignations,” argued Seidman, “it can result in a vicious cycle or moral outrage being met with equal outrage, as opposed to a virtuous cycle of dialogue and the hard work of forging real understanding and enduring agreements.”

Furthermore, “when moral outrage skips over moral conversation, then the outcome is likely going to be acquiescence, not inspired solutions,” Seidman added.  It can also feel the current epidemic of inauthentic apologies, “since apologies extracted under pressure are like telling a child, ‘Just say you’re sorry,’ to move past the issue without ever making amends.”

With all of this moral arousal, it’s as if “we’re living in a never-ending storm,” he said.  Alas, though, resolving moral disputes “requires perspective, fuller context and the ability to make meaningful distinctions.”

That requires leaders with the courage and empathy “to inspire people to pause to reflect, so that instead of reacting by yelling in 140 characters they can channel all this moral outrage into deep and honest conversations.”  If we can do that—a big if—Seidman concluded, “we can regain our equilibrium and get back on our journey towards a more perfect union.”

What I think Seidman is saying is having more effective leadership from the very top down would create a greater sense of comfort and tranquility and, therefore, lead to less protests.

Sounds like a bit of a stretch; but without any other explanation, it might be plausible and workable.

ArtSchwartzSig

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