Sunday, October 19, 2008

Pick Your Color -- Gray or Black?

From gray to blackest black, all the news stories this weekend really offered very few bright threads, but we have to take them where we find them. It is increasingly obvious that the whole country – news media included have one hope and that is that this election is over soon and that the candidate who offers the most hope for the future wins by an unquestionable margin.

One of the brightest threads of the weekend was Colin Powell’s endorsement of Obama on “Meet The Press”. One of the darker tales was the story of A.I.G., the insurance giant bailed out by taxpayers for $123 billion. Just when we thought they had finally been shamed into stopping their post-bailout spa treatments, luxury sports suites, Vegas and California post resort retreats, it was discovered much to our amazement, that some A.I.G. execs were cavorting at a lavish shooting party at a British country manor. Check out Maureen Dowd’s Op-Ed piece to read about the undercover reporter who followed the “feckless financiers on their $86,000 partridge hunt as they tromped through the countryside in tweed knickers, and then later as they slurped fine wine and feasted on pigeon breast and halibut.” Dowd says that these days she’s feeling pretty much like what Charles Dickens described as the “vengeful and bloodthirsty Madame Defarge sharpening her knitting needles at the guillotine”. I can relate to that.

Then, how about where British citizens, municipalities and universities – including Cambridge had their savings parked? When Tom Friedman checked out the Icesave Web site he discovered the headline: “Simple, transparent and consistently high-rate online savings accounts from Icesave”, but underneath in blue letters was the following note appended: “We are not currently processing any deposit or any withdrawal requests through our Icesave Internet accounts. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause our customers.” That’s more than an inconvenience – we’re talking total panic. See Tom Friedman’s column for more details.

But then there is an upside to all of this, a bright thread – can you believe that? A recession could actually save your life! According to Christopher Ruhm, an economist at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro, the death rates go down during economic slowdowns. Now, granted, the suicides rise but total mortality rates drop, as do deaths from heart attacks, car accidents, pneumonia and most other causes.

Some experts are skeptical. But in downturns we drive less and so car accidents decline, while less business activity means fewer job accidents and less pollution. In addition to the fact that in recessions people have more leisure time and seem to smoke less, exercise more and eat more healthily. For more good news regarding recessions see Nicholas Kristoff’s Sunday column.

However, as far as I’m concerned I have had more than enough of politics, politicians, debates, recession, and fear-mongering. There has still, it seems to me, been more bad news than good for much of the time. Let’s hope the next fifteen days hurry by and that MAYBE we can finally see the light at the end of what has seemed to be an endless eight year tunnel.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

A Hummingbird Morning!

Posted by PicasaA friend of mine in Portland took this
photo of a hummingbird dining off their
deck ! I love it!
Have a lovely Sunday!

Puget Sound

Posted by PicasaIt is gorgeous here today and I took the camera and went
to a park very near our house that overlooks the Sound.
There were lots of people in lots of sail boats making the
most of the weather. As usual there were lots of puffy,
white clouds, blue sky, blue water and the beginning colors
of autumn. Not like on the east coast, but beautiful none the
less. So, take a sail with me! and enjoy!

Happy Saturday!

Posted by PicasaI know it's not Sky Watch Day, but I was out playing with
the camera and had such fun that I thought I'd share some
from Seattle on a gorgeous day! Enjoy the weekend! Can
you tell I'm looking for things other than Nov. 4 to think

Friday, October 17, 2008

Growing Old

When I first began to blog, one of the first things I posted was a poem that I had written for a poetry class that I took several years ago. Today I ran across that poem and it seemed as real, as meaningful, as revelant to me today as it did to me then. So I thought I would share it again with those of you who are more recent readers.


Some days I can find the beauty in growing old,
Time to read, write, explore cyberspace.
Time to knit, try new recipes or fix old favorites.
Sleeping in, staying up late -- no schedules.

Time to read, write, and explore cyberspace,
Which in turn leads me to discover things now out of reach.
Sleeping in, staying up late -- yeah, no schedules.
It's suddenly far too easy to discover just what's wrong with that.

Which in turn leads me to discover things that I miss,
The excitement of meeting a deadline on a project, a night on the town.
It's suddenly not so easy to find what's wrong with that.
And looking forward to a night of dancing the tango, oh, the best!

The excitement of meeting a deadline on a project, a night on the town.
I miss that kind of "busy", the feeling that my life had a real purpose,
And looking forward to a night of dancing the tango -- still the best.
I am learning new things, doing new things, but it's not the same.

I miss that kind of "busy", the feeling that my life had a real purpose,
Not just time to knit or try new recipes or fix old favorites,
And I am learning new things, doing new things, but it's not the same.
Still, some days I can find the beauty in growing old.

Ready for a Peaceful and Beautiful Evening?

Posted by PicasaNo politics tonight, just a wish for you all to enjoy a lovely break, some beautiful music, some heart and belly warming food, a comfy chair, something fun to watch or do or share. We can take on the world again tomorrow.

Where Do We Go From Here? Does Anyone Have a Map?

Up and down, up and down, that’s been the only news out of this manic-depressive stock market for what seems like weeks now. So, how and when will this level out? It seems pretty clear to everyone – well, everyone who has a functioning brain and is willing to look at the situation realistically – that rescuing the banks is just a first step. The next step is aid for the desperately needy nonfinancial economy.

According to Paul Krugman, we need to put some prejudices aside, forget about being politically fashionable and ranting against government spending and demanding fiscal responsibility. Like it or not, for now increased government spending is exactly what our country needs and we should put our concerns about the budget deficit on hold.

Retail sales have fallen off the cliff and so has industrial production. Unemployment claims are at steep-recession levels, manufacturing is falling at the fastest pace in almost 20 years. All these things point to a nasty and long economic slump. And just how nasty? The unemployment rate is already above 6 percent and it looks pretty certain that it will go above 7 percent, possibly 8 percent and this would make it the worst recession in a quarter-century. It looks as though it could be some time before we see any improvement.

The policy response to the last recession, which followed the bursting of the late-1990s technology bubble, on the surface looks like a success story in spite of there being a lot of fears that the US would experience a Japanese-style “lost decade”, but that didn’t happen – the Federal Reserve was able to engineer a recovery from that recession by cutting interest rates. But it was a slow recovery and came about only because the technology bubble was replaced by Alan Greenspan with the housing bubble.

And now that bubble has burst and we have another huge mess on our hands and right now it seems the initial results of the efforts to rescue the banking system and unfreeze the credit markets have had disappointing results. If there’s another bubble waiting to happen, it’s not obvious and it looks as though Fed will find it even harder to get traction this time.

So, what’s the answer? Krugman feels there’s a lot the federal government can do for the economy – well, McCain and a lot of Republicans won’t like the answer, but it sounds good to me. The federal government can provide extended benefits to the unemployed, which will help distressed families cope and put money in the hands likely to spend it. It can provide emergency aid to state and local governments, so that they aren’t forced into steep spending cuts that both degrade public services and destroy jobs. It can buy up mortgages and restructure the terms to help families stay in their homes.

And once again, and how many times have we heard this from many people lately, engage in some serious infrastructure spending. And why do we keep hearing this? The usual argument against public works as economic stimulus is that they take too long; by the time you get around to repairing that bridge and upgrading that rail line, the slump is over and the stimulus isn’t needed. Think again, the chances that this slump will be over anytime soon is all but nonexistent, so let’s get with it and get these types of projects rolling.

Right now we need government spending and that is most definitely not the road that John McCain will take. Barack Obama doesn’t have the same knee-jerk opposition to spending but he will have to deal with those who would tell him that he has to be responsible, that the big deficits the government will run next year if it does the right things are unacceptable.

Krugman’s answer for Obama is to ignore them – the responsible thing, right now, is to give the economy the help it needs and stop, at least for now, worrying about the deficit. Now that’s a map that makes sense to me – after all, Krugman is the guy who won the Nobel prize for economics, not those “inside-the-beltway” types.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Sky Watch

It doesn't get any better than this. And I'm at my own home.

On my own deck! How cool is that?
Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A Situation To Be Aware Of

This is an article written about the ex-wife of our next door neighbor.
It’s an unfortunate, sad and unhappy situation that I’m sure none of
us would want to find ourselves in. It’s interesting the difference between how the Canadians dealt with their citizen in the same situation compared to how our government has dealt with ours. I felt like people all over this country should be aware of incidents such as these.

Margie Boule writes for The Oregonian.
Rebecca Roth's incarceration in Mexico
An ordinary Oregonian in paradise falls into the deep hole they call the Mexican justice system
Sunday, October 12, 2008
The Oregonian

You're an American citizen, one of many Americans living in Mexico. You moved from Lake Oswego to Puerto Vallarta with your teenage sons in 1999 because your bad asthma goes away in Mexico.
Then one day in 2006, Mexican authorities arrive and arrest you. They put you in the back of a pickup and drive you overnight to a maximum-security prison, where you're dumped in a crowded room with murderers and the mentally ill. There's no translator; no one tells you why you've been taken.

You assume the U.S. government, the most powerful government in the world, will come to your aid. Help ensure your rights are protected under international treaties and Mexican law.

You're wrong.

Ask Rebecca Roth. The former Oregonian has been sitting in a Guadalajara prison for 21/2 years for a crime nobody can prove she committed and that the real criminal has sworn she had nothing to do with. Still, she was convicted after a ludicrous hearing and sentenced to nine years; the prosecutor is appealing, asking she be kept in prison for 23 years, the maximum sentence.
Her crime? For three months in 2001, Rebecca worked for a wealthy Canadian in Puerto Vallarta, making his travel arrangements and standing in line to pay utility bills for the properties he owned. (In Mexico you can't pay by check; someone must pay in cash in person.)
It turned out the Canadian man, Alyn Waage, was one of the largest Internet scam artists in history. He, associates and family members stole more than $60 million from investors all over the world. The U.S. convicted him in 2005, and he is in prison in North Carolina.

A year after Waage's U.S. conviction, Rebecca and Alyn Waage's cook, a Canadian woman, were arrested by the Mexican police, charged with organized crime and money laundering.

Each had received money when Alyn was first arrested, in Mexico, to continue their work for him. Rebecca consulted with Alyn's attorney -- who had also been attorney for Mexican president Vicente Fox -- and she remembers being told it was not illegal to work for someone in prison. Funds were transferred to her bank account, and she paid his utility bills. She has receipts and bank records to prove she received no more than utility costs and her salary.
She assumed those receipts, which prove her innocence, would lead to a not-guilty verdict in April, when her case finally came before a judge.

She didn't stand a chance.

Canada had certainly lived up to its national anthem, standing on guard for its own citizen. The Canadian cook was visited in prison by Canada's prime minister; politicians and diplomats appealed to Mexico; the Canadian press splashed her case coast to coast.

Rebecca's sister, Barbara Roth, received no help from the U.S. State Department, the consulate in Guadalajara or elected representatives from Oregon. No one made appeals to Mexico. No politicians visited Rebecca in prison.

There's no question her international rights were being ignored; her case should have been thrown out simply because of the violations. She was placed in prison with convicted criminals. Mexican guarantees of due process were violated. Interpreters were not provided. She was not told she was a suspect when she was interrogated. She was denied legal counsel. She was not given the time or the right to prepare an adequate defense.

In the end, Rebecca had to make her own charts and write her own defense, sitting in prison. Months after she was convicted, she was told the judge had dated his written verdict before the hearing was even held.

Since I last wrote about Rebecca several months ago, the Canadian cook has been returned to Canada and released. She's writing a book about her experience.

Rebecca still sits in the Mexican prison, waiting for her appeal to be heard.

She may not have the power of her government, or the sympathy of her entire country, but she's not alone.

Her ex-husband, David Dickinson, has now joined her fight.

"Quite honestly, when this started, I figured it would end with a false-arrest-type thing," David says from his home in Seattle.

He and the rest of the family were told not to make a fuss because it might anger Mexican authorities.

David is utterly certain Rebecca committed no crime. In the years they were married and in the years of friendship since their divorce, he's admired her strong ethics. "It would be completely out of character for her to go to Mexico and become a criminal," he says.

Rebecca owned a boutique and ceramics business in Puerto Vallarta. She took Alyn Waage's part-time job to tide her over in the tourist off-season, David says.

David was outraged when Rebecca was convicted. "I started making phone calls to senators, sending e-mails," contacting the national press. "It had no effect. I was absolutely amazed."

After I wrote about Rebecca's situation in The Oregonian, I received several e-mails from U.S. citizens who've worked abroad. They are not willing to have their names published but said the U.S. is known not to protect its citizens in situations like this. "If anyone had a problem, we headed straight for the Canadian consulate," one wrote.

Recently, David's hopes were raised when NBC appeared to be interested in doing an hourlong program about Alyn Waage's crimes and the injustice Rebecca has faced. Alyn has made sworn statements to U.S. judges insisting Rebecca knew nothing about his financial business.

But the U.S. Bureau of Prisons refused the network's request to interview Alyn. The network told David there will be no story without the interview.

It seems as if every time Rebecca is given a faint hope of assistance, her hope is broken. David hired a Mexican attorney who met with the Mexican appeals court judge, to explain why her conviction should be overturned. Rebecca's sister, Barbara, also met with the judge, to make a personal appeal.

"We were told it was a good judge, an impartial judge," David says. The Mexican attorney and Barbara told David the meetings had gone well.

Then, just a few days ago, Rebecca's case was transferred to another state, another appeals judge.

"This is shocking news and it has us all spinning," David says. "It's like starting all over again."

Still, they won't give up.

Rebecca could accept the guilty verdict, be transferred to the U.S. and finish her sentence in U.S. prisons. But the crimes Mexico convicted her of carry much higher sentences in the U.S. She could be released, or she could be imprisoned far longer than Alyn Waage, the man who stole $60 million.

Rebecca did not participate in or benefit from the scam, say all involved. She has little money. She does not want to live the rest of her life as a convicted felon. Before this, she'd never even been arrested.

So she persists in her appeal in Mexico, hoping others will join her fight. To that end, David Dickinson has started an informative blog (
Among other fascinating nuggets, he quotes a letter he received from Waage that claimed Rebecca is in prison because she's being held hostage by a Mexican prosecutor who was promised a half-million-dollar bribe by Waage; Waage skipped bail and never paid up.

There's also a quote from a Canadian government official, saying Rebecca may have been arrested so former President Fox could brag he'd imprisoned a "leader" in the Waage scandal.
Rebecca's family believes if she'd had money to pay a bribe early on, she'd never have been imprisoned. But she had no money. She was just an ordinary Oregonian in paradise, until she fell into the deep hole they call the Mexican justice system.

"She is very despondent," David Dickinson says, "feeling very ignored and unrepresented by her country. She was in tears when we last spoke."

But she's not suffering in silence anymore.

In an open letter Rebecca wrote recently, she says she's learned "how dangerous Mexico is for Americans desiring to retire here, how powerless foreigners are here. . . . It is not possible to get a fair trial.

"I don't belong in jail. I never did. My family is suffering, as well. I decided to write this because of a conversation with my youngest son. He told me, 'We have no hope. The system is corrupt and the U.S. doesn't care. There's no one to turn to.'

"I hope he's wrong."

Margie Boule: 503-221-8450;

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Investment Tips For 2008

With all the turmoil in the market today and the collapse of Lehman Bros. and Acquisition of Merrill Lynch by Bank of America, this might be some good advice.

For all of you with any money left, be aware of the next expected mergers so that you can get in on the ground floor and make some BIG bucks. Watch for these consolidations in later this year:

1.) Hale Business Systems, Mary Kay Cosmetics, Fuller Brush, and W R. Grace Co. Will merge and become: Hale, Mary, Fuller, Grace.

2.) Polygram Records, Warner Bros., and Zesta Crackers join forces and become: Poly, Warner Cracker.

3.) 3M will merge with Goodyear and become: MMMGood.

4) Zippo Manufacturing, Audi Motors, Dofasco, and Dakota Mining will merge and become: ZipAudiDoDa .

5.) FedEx is expected to join its competitor, UPS, and become: FedUP.

6.) Fairchild Electronics and Honeywell Computers will become: Fairwell Honeychild.

7. ) Grey Poupon an Docker Pants are expected to become: PouponPants.

8.) Knotts Berry Farm and the Nat ional Organization of Women will become: Knott NOW!

And finally...

9.) Victoria 's Secret and Smith & Wesson will merge under the new name: TittyTittyBangBang