Monthly Archives: March 2017

KIDS NEED TO ASPIRE TO MORE THAN JUST SINGING OR DUNKING

The following blog, from Rodney Johnson of Dent Research, is an interesting take on what would help our kids today.

“The world needs people with all kinds of talent.

“But judging from current television offerings, you’d think the world has two success tracks for kids:  singing and sports.  Right now, for instance, college basketball is all over TV.  I think we need more than that for our country to flourish.

“The experience in my household, with my kids, illustrates my concern about this.

“My older daughter is the middle child.  She’s definitely bright, but she’s also clever.  One day after pre-K, I asked her about her day.  She wasn’t interesting in talking, so she said it was a secret.

“I told her that I wouldn’t share it with anyone, so I would keep it a secret, which I thought was a witty answer.  She replied that if she didn’t tell me at all, it would still be secret.  I knew I’d have to watch this one closely.

“As she grew up, she started crafting, making wallets out of duct tape (a real thing with 11-year-old girls), and putting burn marks in her bedroom floor with a glue gun as she built stuff.  She also did well in school, eventually earning the physics award at her high school.

“Then came the question.  What to do with all of this talent?

“Her guidance counselors gave her the old, ‘What do you want to do?’ speech, and guided her toward prestigious universities.

“I tried to help out, but, coming from the business world, my knowledge of careers where people make stuff is fairly limited.  She interned at a friend’s engineering and architectural firm, and decided that mechanical engineering was the way to go.

“Six weeks into her freshman year at Georgia Tech, she called to let me know she’d found the perfect major—Industrial Design.

“‘Great!  What do they do?’ I said.

“The basic answer:  An engineer develops how cell phones communicate, but an industrial engineer develops the physical unit.

“It’s been a perfect fit.  I applaud Georgia Tech for helping her change majors and catch up with her classmates.

“She and her peers tackle real-world problems, designing and building prototypes of solutions almost every semester.

“Last week, she and a teammate competed in the final round of ‘Inventure,’ which the college kids call ‘American Idol for Nerds.’

“The contest pits hundreds of college student inventors against each other and the field is progressively narrowed to six finalists.  The winners got $20,000 and the university files a patent on their behalf.  Second prize is $10,000 and a patent.  She didn’t win, but it was thrilling to be there for the competition!

“It was televised…on Georgia Public Television.  Which gets back to my concern.  We are hiding such careers and majors in plain sight, even though communication is cheap and video is easy.

“With three kids in the house for the last 24 years, we’ve seen a lot of television.  During that time, reality TV came into its own.  Television programmers realized they could get millions of viewers without paying actors.  Instead, they could have people actually compete to be on the shows.  And yet, advertisers would still pay big bucks to sponsor the programming.

“What a windfall!

“With just a few celebrity judges, you can have thousands of people pour their hearts out on stage, looking for their big break.  Think American Idol, The Voice, America’s Got Talent, etc.

“At the same time, there’s always been sports on television, with ever-bigger contracts for players, as well as the standard fare of fiction thrown in.

“I love sports, and I enjoy music.  I’m glad we have both and that many young people aspire to those professions.  But precious few people will earn a living in either of these areas.  That’s a shame, but that’s the reality.

“We need doctors, lawyers, accountants, bricklayers, carpenters, phlebotomists, police officers, writers, industrial designers, or guys like my colleagues Harry, Adam, Charles and John, and a host of others to not only keep this country running, but to help us flourish in the years to come.

“With the ability to shoot video on our phones, and television programming exploding through streaming services, why don’t we have shows dedicated to what is possible for the next generation, whether through competition or simply exploration, beyond playing fields and microphones.

“On broadcast television, maybe the bar is too high.  Program directors need shows that will attract five to 10 million viewers, and it’s hard to see where ‘Cool Careers’  would draw such a crowd.

“But streaming services are a different story.  Making programs available this way is cheap.  It the cost of production were equally cheap, then perhaps such a show would be worth the modest investment for Netflix, AppleTV, or even Amazon Prime.

“The goal would be simple—expose kids to a host of opportunities that they’ve never heard of, but are vital to the health and growth of the nation, and then explain the path through either apprenticeships, vocational training, or college.

“We’re great at telling kids they can be anything they want to be.  We need to do a better job of giving them ideas as to what is possible.”

Sounds like a good idea to me.  Anyone know a show runner?

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THE PHOTOGRAPHS IN MY MIND

From our travels in 81 countries and all seven continents, there are a number of indelible images I have retained in the camera of my mind.  We stopped taking pictures years ago because they kept piling up on my desk with only one real look after we first came home.

So, before my memory disintegrates any further, let me recount some of the outstanding images I’ve retained.

They have all been impactful in their own way, and they are in no particular order of importance or value.

  • The migration of thousands of animals in Tanzania. Sitting on an expanded Jeep-like vehicle, we had to stop for at least 45 minutes to watch this incredible movement of animals headed to Kenya for the summer.  They’ll be back in the fall.  Some 1.5 million wildebeests, 300,000 Zebra and antelopes gather up their young to make the 1,800 mile trek to search for food and water.  Many thousands are lost to lions, crocodiles and other predators along the way.
  • Kenya – the two-room tent in the Masai Mara fully equipped for our stay; bedroom, bathroom with shower and a guard outside with a gun to make sure no stray animals wandered our way…and there were animals a plenty.
  • Tree Tops (in Kenya) built up on high stilts overlooking a salt lick where the animals came at night to savor the delicacy. A buzzer alerted us to the entrance of the more exotic animals.

Each and all the safaris are different and amazing!

  • Anartica – Our trip to the White Continent was filled with spectacular sights. Disembarking the ship after we reached the mainland of the continent we waded through a little water and then through hundreds of penguins.  We took amazing tours by Zodiak through gardens of ice sculptures which had calved off the glaciers.  Without the wind, it was kind of sunny and almost warm.
  • Las Vegas – My reaction on my first trip (about 1953) was that, with all the lights and clatter and crowds, it was a Hollywood designed movie set to the extreme. It was awesome and I still feel the same each time I go back.  I’ve been back almost 15 times, mostly for business.
  • New Zealand has many photo memories, starting with the plane landing in Auckland. Most landings around the world take you over old industrial areas or watery swamps.  In Auckland, we landed over a maze of lush greenery.  Then there were the trees and parks of Christchurch and the snowy mountains around Queensland.  Great people – great country – great sights to see.
  • The Amazon (part one) – The lower part outside of Manaus, Brazil, where two rivers—black and brown—merge and you clearly see the difference. It’s the Amazon and the Rio Negro River’s dense jungles and the people (Ribenos) still living on the rivers as they have for hundreds of years.  Visiting one of the small villages warped in time was a real highlight.
  • The Amazon (part two) – Then on a second trip to the upper Amazon with National Geographic was outstanding. Great accommodations on an enlarged houseboat and delicious food, colorfully prepared with a variety of tastes.  We were entertained by pink dolphins and the greatest array of colorful birds you could ever imagine.  Terrific guides, great hikes and villages not quite as primitive as the lower.
  • Hiking in the Red Rocks of Sedona and Snow Canyon (St. George, Utah) – Incredible beauty and energizing spirit. Although not red, Zion was also a treat of green grandeur.
  • Bryce Canyon – The startling and very different raw beauty of a special place. Lots of orange and yellow jagged rock sculptures and a harrowing horse ride to the bottom.
  • Lyon, France – With almost 2,500 restaurants, Lyon is known (I didn’t) as the gastronomic capital of France. I stayed there first about 25 years ago.  We were in a small, really small hotel and asked for a nice place for a dinner.  The hotel recommended the restaurant next door.  Can’t remember the name but it was amazing—never had anything like it.  Went back again 10 years ago.  Fancier, more pricey but just as great.
  • Bike Trips in Vermont, the Loire Valley and the San Juan Islands – Each had special moments. The leaves changing in Vermont; conquering the big hill in the Loire Valley—our first bike trip along with the wonderful manor houses and superb food; and the San Juans, a sleeper trove of islands and communities from a simpler bygone era outside of Washington State.
  • Inle Lake in Burma – Watching the men paddle their canoe-type boats with one foot and the communities of people living on manmade islands and hydroponic tomato farms. All made real with a great guide, WaWa.
  • Luang Probang in Laos – A UNESCO World Heritage Town, a neat, orderly French-designed community on the Mekong River, amidst the usual haphazard unevenness of Southeast Asia villages.
  • Peru – Machu Picchu was amazing, as expected. Who built it?  For what purpose?  How has it survived?  So we still wait for answers.  Cusco and the Sacred Valley were great too.  The real hidden gem and surprise was Lake Titicaca, a huge lake with communities living on reed-made islands was fascinating.
  • London with all its wonderful museums, gardens, parks and theaters offered some outstanding treats; the Duke of Wellington home at Hyde Park and the Wallace Collection in Manchester Square, very, very special. Perhaps the most telling memory of all was a performance by the combined Corps of British Guard units playing and re-enacting the 1812 overture in the Royal Albert Hall.  Wow!
  • Vancouver – We first met Vancouver in 2000. Flew in on a helicopter from Victoria.  It was a glorious flight in over the gulf islands.  As we approached Vancouver, the pilot turned north, flying up the Strait of Georgia about five miles or so and then a nifty turn around to the south.  What an incredible sight.  Lovely city, good restaurants and some interesting museums.  Many interesting areas, including Stanley Park, the Gaslight District, Chinatown and Granville Island.
  • Capetown – Perhaps the most beautiful city in the world. It is certainly on my list.  Framed by Table Mountain as a backdrop to this sprawling metropolis, it’s a great eye pleaser.  We stayed at the Cape Grace Hotel, one of the best anywhere.  I asked where I could buy shaving cream.  They delivered two canisters—no charge.  It was adjacent to the waterfront area of trendy shops and the fabulous Bahia Seafood Restaurant.  It’d love to go back.

Next month we’ll visit Part II of The Photographs In My Mind.

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EARLY INCIDENTS FROM MY CHECKERED PAST

It was the year of our lords (to each his own), One Thousand Nine Hundred Thirty One, and my mother had enough of me keeping her pregnant.  So on the 11th day of March, just ahead of the Roman Ides, she introduced me to the world at the Rockaway Beach Hospital on the south shore of Queens, one of NYC’s five boroughs.

Two years later, the hospital burned down.  The rumor was they were trying to destroy all the evidence.  We lived, I am told, on Highland Court, a one-block street, three houses up from my Uncle Isadore and Aunt Pauline; and that’s a story for another blog.

The fire at the hospital must have been a sign.  As soon as the embers cooled, we moved to the north shore, into the leafy Queens suburb of Jackson Heights, where most of my father’s other siblings resided.

We occupied the bottom floor of a two-story house, where my father was responsible for keeping the coal-fired heating system going in the winter.

In about 1939 I was playing some kind of game with some neighbor kids trying to spin around fast.  Not sure what kind of idiotic game it was, but I got dizzy, fell and broke my right collar bone.

Because I couldn’t play much while my shoulder healed, my father occasionally took me by some construction sites.  I looked on with great fascination.

I was especially intrigued with the building of LaGuardia Airport, about 1-1/2 miles or so north of our abode.

The one positive effect of that broken collar bone was that it led to the discovery that I had very poor vision—I mean, really poor.  Uncorrected, it was about 20/200.

Our neighbors were mostly Irish, and a few Italians and Germans.  By the time WWII got going in 41/42, we were immersed in rumors about who were spies and who were not.

I’m still fascinated with building construction and often stop to check out nearby sites.

Right after my arm came out of the sling, I inherited a camera and thought I might be interested in photography as a hobby or maybe even as a vocation.

As the war efforts were getting underway, I took my new camera and hiked down to the airport and started taking some pictures of the Pan Am International Terminal area.  I wasn’t there more than five minutes when two big burly Army MP’s swooped down on me, grabbed my camera and told me I was under arrest.

Remember, they looked that big because I was only 11 years old and all adults looked big.

After some questioning and the fear of God they gave me, they agreed I probably wasn’t a spy and let me go.  I got the camera back, without the film.

Because I thought I knew the LaGuardia Airport area pretty well, a few years later I decided to get one of my Boy Scout merit badges for mapping there.  So off I went, recording all my calculations on a rough drawn map.  When I got home, I tried to finish it all clearly and neatly.

It didn’t come out quite right but I hoped it would be close enough to get my badge and attain my star rank.

My good friend Ralph’s father, Harold,,, was the Scout Commissioner in our district and he agreed to check out my mapping.  He definitely took pity on my error-filled mapping exercise and passed me through.

A couple of years later, I was hitchhiking on Route 17 in the middle of the Catskills, N.Y. and here was a big burly state trooper approaching me.  I was a little older and a little taller but at 16 he still looked awfully big.

I was able to escape arrest with a warning.  At that point, I realized I was trying to hitch a ride right in front of the Highway Patrol office in Monroe, NY.  Talk about inviting trouble!

Wandered down the road maybe a mile or so and got a ride without another police intercept.

I escaped childhood without an arrest on my record but with enough scars to keep me honest.  Probably a good thing!

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THIS N’ THAT IN THE NEW YEAR

  1. I’ve parted my hair on the left side for about 30 years or so. A few weeks ago I changed to the right side to see if it would cover up the growing bald spot on the left side.  Surprise!  There was just as big a bald spot on the right side.
  2. 89th Street between 3rd and 30th Avenue in Jackson Heights, New York was a good downhill street for sledding.
  3. If President Trump had started taking Tylenol PM and given up all his ill-advised tweeting, we all would probably have slept better.
  4. Why does everyone think their websites are so user friendly and easy to navigate? At least half of them aren’t, except for the techies who created them.
  5. I don’t miss working at all. I miss having a secretary.  Judy Hart, where are you when I need you?
  6. If they could move Hawaii two hours closer, I’d go for some weekends.
  7. I’ve never visited a national park I was disappointed in.
  8. Undercover Boss is an interesting TV program until the end when the boss unveils himself to the employees he’s deceived and offers them all sorts of largesse. If I worked for that company, I’d be pretty p.o. that those employees were getting all the prizes.
  9. Donald Trump was not a conventional candidate and he’s not a conventional president. We all need to get used to it.  He doesn’t always get his facts straight and he often harps on worn-out themes; but like it or not, he is pursuing and accomplishing quite a lot in fulfilling the campaign promises that got him elected.
  10. If there is not a two state solution in the Israel/Palestinian conflict, there is NO solution. Nothing else has any chance of being workable.
  11. Why did we think older people slept a lot when we were younger, when in fact most older people seem to have sleep issues.
  12. Television provides better coverage of every sporting event then you can see live, but you can’t feel the energy and excitement of a live sporting event watching TV.
  13. For charm, ambiance and smaller crowds, I like Vienna better than Paris.
  14. Will you sign my petition? I want to join the Beatles in their quest to make it “8 days a week.” We’d have 46 weeks in a year instead of 52.  And you wanna know why?  You see, at my age it’s hard for me to go to the gym two days in a row.  I need to go every other day; but with seven days a week, it doesn’t work too well.  So tell me you’ll sign my petition.
  15. Things my mother told me…
    1. Feed a cold, starve a fever
    2. Early to bed, early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise
    3. Eat your spinach, people are starving in Europe
    4. Don’t be penny wise and pound foolish
    5. Slow down or brake into a curve, power out of a curve (that was probably my father)
  16. Trump is different (maybe even bizarre), but he was duly elected by the rules we have in place. Why are the anti-Trump people protesting, destroying property and distorting everything he does? Why are the government workers threatening to sabotage all the departments they work in?  This is not responsible opposition, it’s anarchy.
  17. The most exciting sporting event I ever attended was a Lakers/Knicks playoff game packed in with about 750 rabid fans in the Palladium here in L.A. The noise level and yelling over each basket was incredible.
  18. I am deeply moved to the point of tears when I hear music like “Memories” from Andrew Lloyd Weber’s musical “Cats” and by the underdog who struggles to reach beyond his grasp in movies like “Rocky I” or “Phantom of the Opera.” I feel their pain right in my gut.
  19. “Take heart,” the acclaimed management guru Peter Drucker said, “most executives make poor staffing decisions in spite of all they know about the subject.” By all accounts,” Drucker said, “an executive’s batting average is no better than 333. At most, 1/3 of hiring decisions turn out right and 1/3 are minimally successful and the remaining 1/3 are outright failures.”
  20. Nikki Haley, Trump’s new U.N. Ambassador, held a news conference after her first Security Council meeting. She said she was appalled and shocked the entire meeting discussed alleged transgressions by Israel with no mention of Iran, North Korea, ISIS, Russia or the other flaming atrocities being committed around the world.
  21. Marcus Lemonis, the host of CNBC’s “The Profit,” who buys into small, troubled businesses and works to revive them, has a simple guiding principle he uses to restructure: “process, people, products.”
  22. Can you imagine the Oscar was about to be awarded to the wrong movie? A lot of people think it was a set-up stunt. I’m not sure which is more unbelievable.  Could that happen at the Electoral College?
  23. There is an intense debate over illegal immigration in the media, the courts and among our elected officials. But what do the folks think? A recent survey conducted by the Harris Poll is a bit surprising.
    1. An overwhelming majority oppose so-called sanctuary cities.
    2. A slim majority oppose a wall.
    3. A slim majority support the executive order to suspend the refugee program for 120 days.
    4. A slim majority feel 100,000 Syrian refugees are too many.

Maybe the media, the courts and our elected officials ought to let the people end the debate.

  1. Trump’s address to Congress last week was in the presidential mode. Even his hair has finally become restrained.
  2. I have no doubt the Russians were actively involved in trying to influence or at least muddle up our election last year. Keep in mind that this is not something new; our CIA, as well as the Russians have been working to influence elections around the world for years.

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WHAT KILLED THE MIDDLE CLASS?

Everyone agrees the middle class is dying.  I don’t know anyone who disagrees with that, but trying to find an answer to what is responsible is a horse of another color.

The conservatives tend to just want to ignore the question.  The liberals are anxious to blame it on the natural outgrowth of capitalism and Reaganomics.  The Reagan administration has been gone for a long time and their actions to stimulate the economy by printing money doesn’t appear to have stemmed that tide very much either.

Let’s try to examine some facts and see if we can draw any conclusions.

The facts and figures which follow were primarily offered by Harry Dent of Dent Research who concentrates on demographics for his investment advisory services.

“Our middle class has been shrinking substantially since the 1960s and ‘70s.  Today, their share of wealth here in the U.S. is the lowest in the world, at a mere 19.6%!

“Could it be the outsourcing of manufacturing jobs to China and other Asian countries?  Maybe the flood of illegal and legal immigrants into U.S. jobs?  Or possibly the growing wealth of the top 1%, and the insatiable greed on Wall Street?

“All are viable candidates to take the blame.  But most other developed countries face the same competition from the emerging world, and many have some degree of influx of lower-skill immigrants and most are also seeing their rich get richer…yet they haven’t been losing nearly as much of their middle class.  So, what gives in the U.S.?

“Extreme political polarization and income inequality!  We’re the highest on both.”  Is that another contributor?

“Today real incomes of the middle class are 5% lower than they were in 1970 and 12.4% lower than in 2000…when they peaked!

“Here’s the big insight:  When we take out the affluent 10%, we see the bottom 90% average only $32,352 in income per year.  The top 10% skew the overall average dramatically, so the $55,132 you hear isn’t accurate.

“In the meantime, the top 0.1% have seen their share of wealth go up  four times, since 1975!  And, since 1970, the “super elite” 0.01% has seen their incomes grow a whopping 628%!

“Along with the most extreme political divide between red and blue parties, which makes it difficult to pass any effective legislation that would bring relief to the middle class, it’s no wonder we face massive civil unrest ahead and surprisingly strong candidacies from Trump and Sanders.”

The U.S. has the narrowest middle class in the world.  The only smaller middle class are in China, Brazil and India—all emerging countries.

Australia has the broadest middle class.  The Aussies have high immigration rates, but they’re being smart about it:

  1. The education and incomes of their largely Asian immigrants are much higher; many are affluent.
  2. They have very high home ownership and appreciation to benefit the everyday household
  3. The Australian government has a forced private retirement savings program instead of social security.

Residents enjoy higher appreciation which shows up on their household wealth.  Our social security in the U.S. and many other countries does not contribute to wealth.

Since 1975, the top 0.1% in the U.S. has seen their share of income go up four times while the bottom 90% have gone from a 68% share of income to a low of 49%.

The percentage of wealth of the middle class by countries:

  • Spain 50%
  • Netherlands 46%
  • Japan 45%
  • South Korea 44%
  • Italy 44%
  • Germany 40%
  • United Kingdom 39%
  • Canada 38%
  • France 38%
  • S. 19.6%

Dent says, “The Bottom Line… This level of social unrest sweeping across the middle class is at a breaking point…  Just like it was before the American Revolution against the British rule…  And just like it was before the French Revolution, where people literally lost their heads!  Our 250-Year Revolution Cycle has come full circle.  We may be due for the next major revolution…”

Let’s try to recap and summarize.

The reasons the middle class is shrinking and the top 1% are soaring appear to be a combination of factors:

  1. Our haphazard and unlawful implementation of immigration laws.
  2. The outflow of middle class manufacturing jobs to Mexico and Asia.
  3. The Mexico and Asia investment opportunities and growth are far more abundant here and have spurred the disparity in income equality.
  4. The disenfranchisement that fueled the campaigns of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders will continue to fester and could lead to a revolution of sorts—or, with any luck, some better candidates.
  5. The growth of robotics, automation and technology has increased production in manufacturing and all areas of business while reducing employment.

If President Trump’s attempts to revise the tax code, standardized lawful immigration and fund infrastructure projects come about, it may help, or at least slow down, the decline of the middle class, but it’s hard to see that it’s reversible.

Sorry about that.  We need a strong viable middle class.  They spend money and keep the economy healthy.  There’s probably little change of bringing back what was.  We have to address and tune into a different economy.

ArtSchwartzSig

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