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

What Does It Take?

I’ve been pretty gushy, sweet the past couple of days, but it’s the old, angry broad again today. So, beware!

There are a number of major problems this country needs to deal with – and soon. The whole Wall Street problem is the big issue these days, but it shouldn’t totally distract us from other serious issues. And one of those is in our educational system – particularly in the area of math. A new study finds that we are failing to develop math skills of boys and girls especially among those who could excel at the highest level, and it asserts that girls who do succeed in the field are almost always daughters of immigrants from countries where mathematics is more highly valued.

According to Bob Herbert, the idea that the U.S. won’t even properly develop the skills of young people who could perform at the highest intellectual levels is breathtakingly stupid! Oh, yes, it is indeed, stupid! The American culture does not value talent in math very highly. We’re too busy with other things, like text-messaging while jay-walking. The whole math thing is something for Asians or worse, nerds!

The other major problem is the truly sad state of the U.S. infrastructure. We, as a people, seem to be remarkably oblivious to this issue and according to Felix Rohatyn and Everett Ehrlich, most Americans are totally oblivious on this issue. We’re like a family that won’t even think about fixing a sagging, leaky roof until it collapses on our heads.

There’s the nightmare of Katrina, the collapse of the bridge in Minneapolis and none of these disasters seem to have been enough of a warning for us to get serious about infrastructure maintenance, repair and construction.

As Herbert says, a country that refuses to properly educate its young people or to maintain its physical plant is one that has clearly lost its way – and this on top of an unnecessary war, a clueless central government that is wasting taxpayer dollars by the trillions – say it after me, TRILLIONS, and you’ve got a society in danger of becoming completely unhinged – if we aren’t already.

According to an article in Monday’s Times which spotlighted some of the serious problems that have emerged in the No Child Left Behind law, among the law’s unintended consequences, Sam Dillon reported that it’s tendency to “punish” states that “have high academic standards and rigorous tests, which have contributed to an increasing pileup of failed schools. You’ve got to be kidding, right?

Why isn’t this an issue that is being discussed in the presidential campaign? Why not talk about this during the final debate? Why not interview a few teachers, principals and thoughtful citizens? Yeah, right.

Well, I wouldn’t hold my breath if I were you. Neil Postman warned us years ago about our amusing ourselves to death. We may be closer to that than anyone is, not only unaware of, but too wrapped up in their own personal little world to give a damn about.

It’s our country and it’s our children and grandchildren's future! It’s way past time for us to start giving a damn about it.

Monday, October 13, 2008

A Rose to Say Thank You!

Posted by Picasa
It has been one of those busy – at just what I’m not sure – but busy days and when I was finally able to sit down this evening, I looked back over the truly lovely comments that so many of you left yesterday and this morning on my blog. And, again, it has been and is such a real pleasure for me to have made contact with you, exchanged ideas and thoughts and concerns and I feel such a sense of gratitude – humbling really. So, I just wanted to take a moment to say thank you. I feel very blessed. In the difficult times that we are living in now, there are so many of us that may feel the negative effects of what is happening within our country and it is good to know that we do have the support of friends who share our concerns and understand what many of us feel. Those things alone can make many of the burdens, trials and tribulations – whatever, seem lighter and more bearable. So, I wish you all a peaceful evening and a very lovely tomorrow.

Chicken Instead of Politics

I got up this morning ready to hammer politicians and particularly Republicans. I was ready to rant about the financial crisis. I was prepared to do more research into the martial law threat and the Northern Command. First, though, there was laundry to do – you can’t rant effectively in dirty clothes. But for some reason the drive to hammer and nail the bad guys was lacking – not enough to fuel it? Surely that wasn’t the case. Roger Cohen had an interesting article, “History and the Really Very Weird”, Paul Krugman, our new winner of the economics Nobel Prize, had a great column praising Gordon Brown, the British prime minister, and the Brown government for being willing to think clearly and act quickly regarding the world financial meltdown – I won’t even mention Paulson in that regard. But for whatever reason, I was lacking inspiration, or maybe I was just tired of being pissed off from sun rise to midnight. Whatever, I couldn’t stir up the anger, disgust and frustration, and since that has never been a problem for me, I reached for the thermometer; I must have collided with a virus from the kiddies in the Jump Start class. But, no, my temperature was quite normal. Hmmmm

It was gray and chilly and windy and suddenly I was already hungry for dinner and decided to make a trip to one of my great finds here in our neighborhood – Better Meat Store. We don’t eat a lot of meat, but when we do, I want the good stuff and I only want to buy what I need, not packages of four to six.

The store occupies a small building made of concrete blocks in the middle of a residential neighborhood where it has been in business since 1949. They’re not open on weekends – and, as I found out this morning, on national holidays either. Today is Columbus Day and they weren’t open.

When they are open and you step inside, it isn’t exactly impressive; small offices to the left, a counter down the middle of the relatively small room and a chopping block. Two doors side by side lead into two huge freezers. And that’s it.

They primarily sell meat – all natural, no preservatives – to restaurants, some grocery stores and to the public, those of us lucky enough to find them. It’s a family business and they take great pride in their products.

It’s been a great find and, if tomorrow I still can’t locate my zest for the political scene, I’ll take my shopping bag and load it up with meaty treats for Adam and I and cut to order, perfectly sized bones for Sam and Mojo – it’s their favorite store, too.

Mmmmmm! Hungry Yet?

This is how we eat in the northwest -- not at my house
you understand, but it can be had. Can you tell I've been
obsessing about food today? It's got to be the politics!
Posted by Picasa

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Reflective Musings for a Sunday Afternoon

Posted by PicasaI began blogging fairly recently – in early July. I had never even thought about doing it, had no real interest or even any curiosity, until a friend gave me an article about and written by older bloggers. It did prick my curiosity at that point primarily because I’ve always loved to write and have since I was a child. It had always been my escape from unhappy times, a way to sort out feelings, as well as just for the sheer fun of it. It offered a creative outlet that was important to me. I have published a few things, articles on parenting when my kids were growing up, some children’s stories, but I never really pursued publication for the eight books that I have written over the past forty or more years. Why? Because I was assured by nearly everyone from parents, to well meaning friends that it would just be a futile effort that would leave me frustrated, would eat into the time I needed to – depending on the stage of my life – concentrate on my studies, on my job, on my family. So, I put thoughts of writing for publication pretty much behind me and got on with my life. But I still wrote whenever I could find a few extra hours.
I never felt that I was missing anything as my life was busy, with college, with jobs, more college, teaching, raising a family, getting back into the work place and then suddenly I was retired – well, not suddenly I was sixty seven, but it was retirement I hadn’t planned on, but as those of you who’ve read my blog for a while know, the company was caught in, yes, another of those financial disasters and I found myself without a job. I was devastated, but decided I’d take a year off and then start looking for another job. You see, I didn’t really believe that age discrimination would have any effect on me! I was healthy, active, I had just learned to snorkel, I danced a wicked tango, I spoke Spanish, a little German and a little Japanese and figured I could learn more if I needed to. So, after a year in Mexico, I was ready to tackle the project of finding a new job. It took nearly three years for me to finally concede that there was indeed age discrimination and that regardless of how I felt and thought and/or believed, I was still getting ready to turn seventy!! Me?? Seventy?? Surely not!!
The next four years were difficult, painful, destructive in some ways because I let it all get to me and I felt much of the time that life – or at least an interesting one was pretty much over for me. Oh, I’d get it together much of the time – I took swim classes, I took short trips, went river rafting over class four rapids, jet boat cruises up the Columbia River to Astoria. I took poetry and life writing classes, got to California to spend holidays with my youngest daughter, and to Texas to visit my oldest son, made new friends – good stuff. But there was always that occasional dark night of the soul that led me to wonder what in the hell was I going to do with whatever time I had left.
Then my youngest son, who lives in Seattle, decided that I needed a keeper, built me a lovely space at his house and finally, after three years of talking it up, I was persuaded that perhaps it would be a good move – for both of us. It’s had its difficult moments – we had both lived on our own with only our dogs for company for a lot of years, we both accustomed to having our own space and sometimes the dark clouds would make it difficult to see the light.
And then I found blogging! What started out as a casual glance, was soon occupying most of my days and I had to make myself stop and take time to go my Tai Chi classes, do the volunteer work with the Jump Start program. Suddenly, my life was and is full, exciting, challenging, stimulating and, yes, fun! Even at seventy-five!
So, I’d like to thank my friend, Linda, for opening the door to blogging, and thanks to all the lovely, interesting, fun people that I have met through my blog site. It has become my voice, my place to vent the frustration with, not only growing old, but these days – politics; it’s a place to exchange ideas, to challenge me mentally and emotionally. It’s the best reason in the world to get up early and stay up late, for reading and learning, for sharing laughter and frustrations, for meeting new people, discovering new ideas and best of all providing me with a whole list of new friends.
So, we blog on Elders, just think how much worse off the world would be without our combined wisdom – whether anyone listens to it or not!

Joe Sixpacks, Soccer and Hockey Moms – Pay Attention

I’m not sure what it is about our current economical crisis that some people don’t understand and I’m surely not wise enough or patient enough to try to convince them that their view of the country is badly screwed. I think people everywhere are feeling frustrated, angry, scared, confused and uncertain, but for those who still think that Republicans are the answer, you probably need to see a psychiatrist – and soon.

I could feel some of my own frustration in Bob Herbert’s column today and rather than give you a few quotes, I feel it is well worth the whole read.

October 11, 2008
Op-Ed Columnist

The Mask Slips


The lesson for Americans suffused with anxiety and dread over the crackup of the financial markets is that the way you vote matters, that there are real-world consequences when you go into a voting booth and cast that ballot.

For the nitwits who vote for the man or woman they’d most like to have over for dinner, or hang out at a barbecue with, I suggest you take a look at how well your 401(k) is doing, or how easy it will be to meet the mortgage this month, or whether the college fund you’ve been trying to build for your kids is as robust as you’d like it to be.

Voters in the George W. Bush era gave the Republican Party nearly complete control of the federal government. Now the financial markets are in turmoil, top government and corporate leaders are on the verge of panic and scholars are dusting off treatises that analyzed the causes of the Great Depression.

Mr. Bush was never viewed as a policy or intellectual heavyweight. But he seemed like a nicer guy to a lot of voters than Al Gore.

It’s not just the economy. While the United States has been fighting a useless and irresponsible war in Iraq, Afghanistan — the home base of the terrorists who struck us on 9/11 — has been allowed to fall into a state of chaos. Osama bin Laden is still at large. New Orleans is still on its knees. And so on.

Voting has consequences.

I don’t for a moment think that the Democratic Party has been free of egregious problems. But there are two things I find remarkable about the G.O.P., and especially its more conservative wing, which is now about all there is.

The first is how wrong conservative Republicans have been on so many profoundly important matters for so many years. The second is how the G.O.P. has nevertheless been able to persuade so many voters of modest means that its wrongheaded, favor-the-rich, country-be-damned approach was not only good for working Americans, but was the patriotic way to go.
Remember voodoo economics? That was the derisive term George H.W. Bush used for Ronald Reagan’s fantasy that he could simultaneously increase defense spending, cut taxes and balance the budget. After Reagan became president (with Mr. Bush as his vice president) the budget deficit — surprise, surprise — soared.

In a moment of unusual candor, Reagan’s own chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, Martin Feldstein, gave three reasons for the growth of the deficit: the president’s tax cuts, the increased defense spending and the interest on the expanding national debt.

These were the self-proclaimed fiscal conservatives who were behaving so profligately. The budget was balanced and a surplus realized under Bill Clinton, but soon the “fiscal conservatives” were back in the driver’s seat. “Deficits don’t matter,” said Dick Cheney, and the wildest, most reckless of economic rides was on.

Americans, including the Joe Sixpacks, soccer moms and hockey moms, were repeatedly told that the benefits lavished on the highfliers would trickle down to them. Someday.
Just as they were wrong about trickle down, conservative Republican politicians and their closest buddies in the commentariat have been wrong on one important national issue after another, from Social Security (conservatives opposed it from the start and have been trying to undermine it ever since) to Medicare (Ronald Reagan saw it as the first wave of socialism) to the environment, energy policy and global warming.

When the Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded to the discoverers of the link between chlorofluorocarbons and ozone depletion, Tom DeLay, a Republican who would go on to wield enormous power as majority leader in the House, mocked the award as the “Nobel Appeasement Prize.”

Mr. Reagan, the ultimate political hero of so many Republicans, opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. In response to the historic Brown v. Board of Education school-desegregation ruling, William F. Buckley, the ultimate intellectual hero of so many Republicans, asserted that whites, being superior, were well within their rights to discriminate against blacks.

“The White community is so entitled,” he wrote, “because, for the time being, it is the advanced race...” He would later repudiate that sentiment, but only after it was clear that his racist view was harmful to himself.

The G.O.P. has done a great job masking the terrible consequences of much that it has stood for over the decades. Now the mask has slipped. As we survey the wreckage of the American economy and the real-life suffering associated with the financial crackup of 2008, it would be well for voters to draw upon the lessons of history and think more seriously about the consequences of the ballots they may cast in the future.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Surprising Critics

I’m not usually a reader of, or fan of Gail Collins and David Brooks, both staunch Republican Op-Ed Columnists for the New York Times, but even they have surprisingly strong criticism of Sarah Palin and the Republicans of today, in their columns for the past two days. They are worth reading. I know I was surprised by what they had to say, but I was particularly interested in Brooks’ column.

He began by talking about the fact that there have been substantial changes in the Republican Party over the years, changes that many Republicans are not particularly happy with. Apparently, according to Brooks, conservatives, driven by a need to engage elite opinion, tried to build an intellectual counterestablishment with think tanks and magazines. They disdained the ideas of the liberal professoriate, but they did not disdain the ideal of a cultivated mind.

But over the past few decades, the Republican Party has driven away people who live in cities, in highly educated regions and on the coasts. This expulsion has had, says Brooks, many causes, but the big one is this: Republican political tacticians decided to mobilize their coalition with a form of social class warfare. Democrats kept nominating coastal pointy-heads like Dukakis so Republicans attacked coastal pointy-heads.

He goes on to say that over the past 15 years, the same argument has been heard from thousands of politicians and hundreds of talk-radio jocks. Now the nation is divided between the “wholesome” Joe Sixpacks in the heartland and the oversophisticated, overeducated, oversecularized denizens of the coasts. Hmmm, well, I don't know about you, but I know who I would prefer.

What had been a disdain for liberal intellectuals slipped into a disdain for the educated class as a whole. The liberals had coastal condescension, so the conservatives developed their own anti-elitism, with mirror-image categories and mirror-image resentments, but with the same corrosive effect.

Brooks says that Republicans developed their own leadership style. If Democratic leaders prized deliberation and self-examination, then Republicans would govern from the gut.

According to Fred Barnes, who wrote in his book, “Rebel –in-Chief”, George Bush “reflects the political views and cultural tastes of the vast majority of Americans who don’t live along the East or West Coast. He’s not a sophisticate and doesn’t spend his discretionary time with sophisticates. As First Lady Laura once said, she and the president didn’t come to Washington to make new friends. And they haven’t.”

The Republicans have alienated whole professions. Lawyers now donate to the Democratic Party over the Republican Party at 4 to 1 rates. With doctors, it’s 2-to-1. With tech executives, it’s 5-to-1. With investment bankers, it’s 2-to-1. Brooks says, it took talent for Republicans to lose the banking community.

Conservatives are as rare in elite universities and the mainstream media as they were 30 years ago. The smartest young Americans are now educated in an overwhelmingly liberal environment.

This year could have changed things. The G.O.P. had three urbane presidential candidates. But the class-warfare clichés took control. Giuliani disdained cosmopolitans at the Republican Convention. Mitt Romney gave a speech attacking “eastern elites.” John McCain picked Sarah Palin.

Brooks says that while Palin is smart, politically skilled, courageous and likable – I have to question that description, but then I’m a Democrat – and her convention and debate performances were impressive -- his words, not mine. But no American politician plays the class-warfare card as constantly as Palin. Nobody so relentlessly divides the world between the “normal Joe Sixpack American” and the coastal elite. Now, on that we can agree!

So, politically, the G.O.P. is squeezed at both ends. The party is losing the working class by sins of omission – because it has not developed policies to address economic anxiety. It has lost the educated class by sins of commission – by telling members of that class to go away.

A pretty sad picture, at least for Republicans, but hopefully it means a brighter day for the Democrats and this country.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Body Politics: Sarah Palin's Body Language And Why It Should Worry You

A friend sent this to me and it's worth reading. You can check out more at this website.

Since our last post, we've been asked many times to comment on Sarah Palin's mannerisms. Her Body-Talk is not as blatant as her running mate, probably because she has a background as a performer in beauty pageants and television. She has learned to conceal the smirks and clenches that play so openly across the countenance of John McCain.

In our work we call body language the Five Flags, because there are five major ways human beings react when they're not speaking the authentic truth. Twitches and jaw-clenches are examples of Flag #1, Body-Flags. To understand Sarah Palin, though, you need to understand Flags #2 and #3, Voice-Flags and Attitude-Flags. The English word 'personality' comes from two Latin words, per and sona, "through sound." The Romans knew that the personality comes through in the tone of voice and other vocal aspects.

From thirty-five years of clinical experience, we can tell you a lot about Sarah Palin's real personality and why it makes many people even more nervous that John McCain's.

Attitude-Flag #1: The Aggressive Confidence Of The Con-Person

Sarah Palin has mastered one fundamental requirement of a Republican president: she can smile and look you directly in the eye while telling an outrageous lie. At least when John McCain lies, his body screams his discomfort by putting on an eye-catching display of twitches, phony smiles and robot moves. McCain's body language is so strange that it's easily observable; he appears to be operated by a puppeteer who is a couple of triple-espressos over the line. That's a good thing, though. We'd much rather have a presidential candidate who reads like a comic book when he's lying than one who conceals those whoppers under a grin and a wink. Sarah Palin belts out her deceptions and distractions with a radiant confidence we usually only see in sociopaths and infomercial pitch-persons. The last public figure we saw who could grin and lie with that kind of sunny confidence was O. J. Simpson.

Voice-Flag #1: The Exaggerated Folksiness Of The Huckster

Our partisan colors may peek through subtly from time to time, but we do our best to be non-partisan lie-catchers. We cringed when Bill Clinton did his famous "I did not have sex..." line. We immediately looked at each other and said "uh-oh," because his body language let us know loud and clear that he did indeed have sex with "that woman." About ten minutes after Clinton's declaration, our phone started ringing from producers of talk shows wanting us to comment on Clinton's body language. They knew they'd seen something, but they couldn't figure out exactly what.

More recently, we cringed when we heard Sarah Palin start using more of those pseudo-folksy expressions such as "You betcha" and "doggone-it." She was droppin' so many g's on-stage at last week's debate that the janitorial staff may have had to work over-time pickin' 'em up, by gum. The last eight years have taught us all a sobering lesson: you don't have to be smart to be the President of the United States. However, we hope that America is smart enough to see Palin's exaggerated folksiness for what it is, a cheap trick to cozy up to us so they can sell us four more years of Bush Lite. We hope America will hear those "You betchas" and send Mc Cain/Palin a message right back: Just because you pretend to be dumb and folksy, you don't automatically get to live in the White House.

Voice-Flag #2: The Metallic Shriek Of The Fear-Monger

To emphasize certain points, Sarah Palin takes her voice up the tone scale to a metallic shriek. This tone will be familiar to many of us: it's the voice your mother employed as a last resort to get you out of bed when you were a teenager. It's designed to scare you, to rake fingernails across your inner chalkboard. She often uses this voice when she first takes the stage at a rally. It works quite well there, because it cuts like a knife and jolts any of the faithful who might be dozing to sit up in their seats. We hope Americans are not so sleepy as to vote in favor of hearing this tone of voice for four years.

Here's the bottom line: The McCain/Palin campaign strategy is based entirely on stirring up fear. It's a classic way to distract people from thinking about real issues and to cover up the lack of any real solutions. Their thinking goes like this:

•If we can get people scared that Obama might secretly be a Muslim or a terrorist, maybe we can get them not to think about the real issues.

•If we can get people scared that Rev. Wright might turn the inaugural benediction into an anti-American rant, maybe we can get them to believe America's economic problems are just something cooked up by the elite media as a way to play "Gotcha" on poor Sarah and John.

•If we can scare people into thinking Barack HUSSEIN Obama is going to put Louis Farrakhan in charge of the annual White House Easter egg hunt, maybe people won't notice that we have absolutely no solutions to the real problems they face.

Barack Obama has so far opted to run a positive campaign based on hope and thoughtful solutions. It's our fervent desire that he continue to do so, because it's about time we turned our national attention to positive possibilities. Over the past eight years we've had enough fear-mongering to last a lifetime.


What an unbelievable response! In just 24 hours, more than 100,000 folks sent messages to ABC in support of airing our Repower America ad (see below for more information). But we still haven't heard from ABC.There are only a few hours left before the next airing of 20/20. Let's work to get another 50,000 public comments by then.Will you help? Just go to: only takes a minute. Thanks.-----------------------------------

Tell ABC to air the Repower America ad this Friday on 20/20.Take Action!
Did you notice the ads after the presidential debate?ABC had Chevron. CBS had Exxon. CNN had the coal lobby. But you know what happened last week? ABC refused to run our Repower America ad -- the ad that takes on this same oil and coal lobby.I sent a letter asking ABC to reconsider their decision and put our ad on the air, but still we haven't heard back more than a week later. I think they need to hear from all of us. Can you help? Please send a message to ABC and tell them to air the Repower America ad this Friday on 20/20. Just click here:'re working to get 100,000 public comments to ABC before 20/20's next airing.Our Repower America ad has a clear and simple message -- that massive spending by oil and coal companies on advertising is a key reason our nation hasn't switched to clean and renewable sources for our energy.Here's the script of the ad:
The solution to our climate crisis seems simple.Repower America with wind and solar.End our dependence on foreign oil. A stronger economy.So why are we still stuck with dirty and expensive energy?Because big oil spends hundreds of millions of dollars to block clean energy.Lobbyists, ads, even scandals.All to increase their profits, while America suffers.Breaking big oil's lock on our government ...Now that's change.We're the American people and we approve this message.
You can view the ad on the ABC petition page, here.As our country faces deep economic problems, we need to be able to have an honest debate about the root causes of our problems. As Al Gore has said, "We're borrowing money from China to buy oil from the Persian Gulf to burn it in ways that destroy the future of human civilization. And every bit of that has to change."As oil and coal backed groups outspend even major party committees in this political year, it's outrageous that ABC would deny our ad. Let ABC know what you think. Just click here.Thank you,Cathy ZoiCEO

Why Women Must Vote

See the pictures that Dianne has to go with her story at that graphically displays what women went through to earn the right for us to vote.

See this site for more information about our need to vote in this election.

This is why we vote: Because we can!

The women were innocent and defenseless. And by the end of the night, they were barely alive. Forty prison guards wielding clubs and with their warden's blessing went on a rampage against the 33 women wrongly convicted of "obstructing sidewalk traffic." They beat Lucy Burn, chained her hands to the cell bars above her head and left her hanging for the night, bleeding and gasping for air. They hurled Dora Lewis into a dark cell, smashed her head against an iron bed and knocked her out cold. Her cellmate, Alice Cosu, thought Lewis was dead and suffered a heart attack. Additional affidavits describe the guards grabbing, dragging, beating, choking, slamming, pinching, twisting and kicking the women.

Thus unfolded the "Night of Terror" on November 15, 1917 (a mere 87 years ago), when the warden at the Occoquan Workhouse in Virginia ordered his guards to teach a lesson to the suffragists imprisoned there because they dared to picket Woodrow Wilson's White House for the right to vote. For weeks, the women's only water came from an open pail. Their food -- all of it colorless slop -- was infested with worms. When one of the leaders, Alice Paul, embarked on a hunger strike, they tied her to a chair, forced a tube down her throat and poured liquid into her until she vomited. She was tortured like this for weeks until word was smuggled out to the press.
So, refresh my memory. Some women won't vote this year because--why, exactly? We have carpool duties? We have to get to work? Our vote doesn't matter? It's raining?

Last week, I went to a sparsely attended screening of HBO's new movie "Iron Jawed Angels." It is a graphic depiction of the battle these women waged so that I could pull the curtain at the polling booth and have my say. I am ashamed to say I needed the reminder. All these years later, voter registration is still my passion. But the actual act of voting had become less personal for me, more rote. Frankly, voting often felt more like an obligation than a privilege. Sometimes it was inconvenient.

My friend Wendy, who is my age and studied women's history, saw the HBO movie, too. When she stopped by my desk to talk about it, she looked angry. She was -- with herself. "One thought kept coming back to me as I watched that movie," she said. "What would those women think of the way I use -- or don't use -- my right to vote? All of us take it for granted now, not just younger women, but those of us who did seek to learn." The right to vote, she said, had become valuable to her "all over again."

HBO will run the movie periodically before releasing it on video and DVD. I wish all history, social studies and government teachers would include the movie in their curriculum.We are not voting in the numbers that we should be, and I think a little shock therapy is in order. It is jarring to watch Woodrow Wilson and his cronies try to persuade a psychiatrist to declare Alice Paul insane so that she could be permanently institutionalized. And it is inspiring to watch the doctor refuse. Alice Paul was strong, he said, and brave. The doctor admonished the men: "Courage in women is often mistaken for insanity."Please pass this on to all the women you know. We need to get out and vote and use this right that was fought so hard for by these very courageous women.

-Connie Schultz, The Plain Dealer, 1801 Superior Ave.,Cleveland, OH 44114,, August 2004

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Sky Watch

Skies and clouds over Oregon

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What Defines Patriotism?

Here I go, asking questions again, but everytime I listen to or read anything about Palin, my mind starts filling up with questions. I look for answers, I read, I research and while I find lots of other people's questions and concerns, I don't always find anwsers. During the VP debates last week did you really learn anything positive? I'm afraid I didn't. According to what Palin said in the debate with Joe Biden, if you’re in the middle class, in her neighborhood, it’s not patriotic to pay taxes. Say what??

Thomas Friedman of the NYT wrote a great column today about “Palin’s Kind of Patriotism” and he is surely as outraged as I am by such a statement. He writes that he wishes she had been asked: “Governor Palin, if paying taxes is not considered patriotic in your neighborhood, then who is going to pay for the body armor that will protect your son in Iraq? Who is going to pay for the bailout you endorsed? If it isn’t from tax revenues, there are only two ways to pay for those big projects – printing more money or borrowing more money. Do you think borrowing money from China is more patriotic than raising it in taxes from Americans?” That is not putting America first. That is selling America first.”

He goes on to say, that he grew up in a very middle-class family in a very middle-class suburb of Minneapolis, and his parents taught him that paying taxes, while certainly no fun, was how we paid for the police and the Army, our public universities and local schools, scientific research and Medicare for the elderly. No one said it better than Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes: “I like paying taxes. With them I buy civilization.”

I also agree with Mr. Friedman when he reminds us that our country is in serious trouble right now and like him I wonder if the people so ardently supporting Palin have any idea of just what serious trouble our country is in now?

According to him, we are in the middle of an economic perfect storm and we have no idea how much worse it is going to get. People all over the world are hoarding cash, no bank feels they can fully trust anyone they’re doing business with anywhere in the world. And it’s just the beginning.

Only good governance can save us right now and, according to Friedman, he isn’t sure that this crisis will end without every government in every major economy guaranteeing the creditworthiness of every financial institution it regulates. That may be the only way to get lending going again. Organizing something that big and complex will take some really smart governance and seasoned leadership.

It’s not even a question of whether or not John McCain has the stuff to be president, he is endangering this country by putting a total novice like Palin in a position to possibly have to steer us through the most serious economic crisis of our lives and that is total recklessness and the very opposite of conservative. Well, what about advisors? She can find those can’t she? And if they disagree, what happens then?

I also agree with Friedman when he says his biggest fear about Palin is the fact she is promoting our further dependence on oil, which means further dependence on countries like Saudi Arabia and that surely isn’t patriotic! Patriotic is offering a plan to build our economy, not by tax cuts or punching more holes in the ground, but by empowering more Americans to work in productive and innovative jobs. Friedman hasn’t heard of her having that kind of a plan. And needless to say, neither have I.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Words of Wisdom from Maya Angelou

I do like to pass on occasional words of wisdom when I hear them and these are some of the best.

I've learned that no matter what happens, or how bad it seems today, life does go on, and it will be better tomorrow.

'I've learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way he/she handles these three things:a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights.'

I've learned that regardless of your relationship with your parents, you'll miss them when they're gone from your life.

I've learned that making a 'living' is not the same thing as 'making a life.

'I've learned that life sometimes gives you a second chance.'

I've learned that you shouldn't go through life with a catcher's mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw some things back.

I've learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision.

I've learned that even when I have pains, I don't have to be one.

I've learned that every day you should reach out and touch someone. People love a warm hug, or just a friendly pat on the back.

I've learned that I still have a lot to learn.

I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

Today's Two-Story Outhouse

A friend sent me a cartoon today, one that I’m sure some of you have seen, with a picture of a two-story outhouse – the second floor is designated for Politicians and the first floor for Voters. Hey, sounds about right to me these days! But I want to believe that Obama – you know, “that one” -- is one of us first floor users who is hoping to tear the whole thing down and build a one level house with an indoor bathroom.

What is it about “equality” that McCain and his bunch find so hard to deal with? I do feel that if (hopefully) McCain does lose he will realize that he is as much responsible as anyone for failing to live up to his own – or what use to be his own, personal standard of honor. He was defeated twice by George Bush because of the same kind of no-conscience campaigning and yet here he is running the same kind of campaign with help from one of the people that put him down – twice, Lee Atwater. Atwater, creative monster who helped Bush One defeat Michael Dukakis and McCain himself, with rumors that he had fathered an out-of-wedlock, black baby. And now McCain himself is using almost the exact same rhetoric against Obama. That Obama is one of those liberals who will raise your taxes, take away your guns, won’t protect the country, is a Harvard “elitist” and has a funny sounding name and is on the side of “The Black Man”! Mmmm sounds familiar to me. Surely, at some point McCain has to view his own tactics these days with disgust.

But instead he’s going right along with the same outrageous hype and has released Palin to do the same, only more. And while I do think that at one time John McCain had at least some sense of decency and morals, I can’t say I think the same about Palin who looks to be able to out Cheney, Cheney. Both she and McCain are doing everything in their power to vilify Obama, to picture him as “dangerous”, “dishonorable” and “too risky for America”. I ask you, considering the shape our country finds itself in today, are you really willing to give Republicans another chance? Are you really willing to continue having to use the bottom floor of the outhouse?

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Tuesday's Debate

According to Ari Melber of The Nation, John McCain did not have the debate he needed on Tuesday night. The following is an article by him immediately following the debate tonight. I know The Nation is very liberal, guess that's why I like them, but I do agree with most of what he had to say

McCain's style was aggressive, disciplined and occasionally punchy. He heaped criticism on Barack Obama, blasting his record on taxes, health care and earmarks, and at one point derisively called the Democratic nominee "That One." McCain made over 14 references to the candidates' "records," pleading with voters to put aside Obama's words and inspect his history.
McCain's policy rhetoric was populist, reformist and sometimes contrarian. He floated the name of Obama backer Warren Buffet as a potential Treasury Secretary, and pledged that his administration would swiftly "buy up" all "the bad home loan mortgages in America and renegotiate at the new value of those homes." (Obama's rapid response team immediately noted that the bailout bill already includes "authority" for the Treasury to buy residential and commercial mortgages.) After all the audience questions and Brokaw quips piled up, however, McCain still failed to upend the narrative. It's a major setback in a race that is trending towards Obama and running out of time.

While McCain attacked most of the night -- in spite of the intimate, town hall setting -- Obama stuck to a crisper, measured tone. He still returned fire when necessary, counter-punching a financial attack by noting that "McCain's campaign chairman's firm was a lobbyist on behalf of Fannie Mae." Obama swiftly pivoted, however, to addressing the economy from a regular voter's perspective. "But, look, you're not interested in hearing politicians pointing fingers. What you're interested in is trying to figure out, how is this going to impact you?" Then he touted his plans to "strengthen" home buyers and advance regulation instead of the free market fundamentalism that ruled over the past "eight years."

I think Obama's best moment came when he reprised McCain's attack from the last debate. "Sen. McCain, in the last debate and today, again, suggested that I don't understand. It's true. There are some things I don't understand," he said firmly. "I don't understand how we ended up invading a country that had nothing to do with 9/11, while Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda are setting up base camps and safe havens to train terrorists to attack us. That was Sen. McCain's judgment and it was the wrong judgment. When Sen. McCain was cheerleading the president to go into Iraq, he suggested it was going to be quick and easy, we'd be greeted as liberators," he explained, concluding, "That was the wrong judgment, and it's been costly to us."

Before the debate had even ended, the Republican National Committee was already spinning a disappointing night for McCain. In the 10pm hour, an RNC spokesperson sent reporters a post by Politico's Ben Smith, "Not really a town hall," complaining about the format.

More Jobs, Now!

Okay, so much for lovely memories, it's back to ugly reality and reality seems to be the one thing this country has been avoiding, but we can’t continue to pull the shades over our eyes for much longer. Banks and brokerage houses are failing all around us. Trillions of dollars in bailout money has been added to the nation’s debt burden, families too numerous to count are being driven from their homes. Maybe it’s time to get back to the basics – like good jobs, the primary component of a sustainable family life. But our economy is never going to be anywhere near what it needs to be until this country figures out how to provide work at a decent pay for at least most of the men and women who want to work.

The amount of debt for the typical middle-income family, earning about $45,000, grew by a third from 2001-2004, according to the Center for American Progress. The reason for all this added debt was the rising cost of housing, higher education, health care and transportation. At the same time, wages grew just slightly, if at all. It’s going to take more than work, obviously and don’t even ask about the debt burden of the federal government.

The fact is that there haven’t been enough good paying jobs to sustain what most working Americans view as an adequate standard of living and that is the fundamental flaw in the U.S. economic system. This latest financial meltdown has created widespread outrage over the excessive compensation of top executives, so where have we been??? The rich have been running the table for the better part of the last 30 to 40 years! The earnings of the average men in their 30s have remained almost flat for the past four decades, according to the Pew Charitable Trusts.

Accordingly, disaster was avoided by the wives and mothers entering the workplace and by embracing huge amounts of debt for everything from home mortgages, cars, clothing and vacations to food, college tuition and medical expenses. And guess what? The middle-class and working families are up against the wall and the only way to continue financing a reasonable quality of life is through a paycheck. But nearly 160,000 jobs were lost in September alone. More than three-quarters of a million have vanished over the past nine months.

According to people who know a lot more than I do, the economy won’t be saved by bailing out Wall Street and waiting for that day that never comes, when the benefits trickle down to ordinary Americans. It won’t be saved until we get serious about putting vast numbers of Americans back to work in jobs that are reasonably secure and pay a sustaining wage.

We have a lot of rebuilding to do; we need to put more of us to work rebuilding our country’s collapsing infrastructure, revitalize the public school system, working to create more energy self-sufficiency and try, for a change, to do a re-take on an economy that still leans strongly in favor of the rich.

Now, let’s hear the politicians talk about that for a while and stop the name calling and slander, the “it’s all about” me and “he’s the bad guy” crap and start working together to redeem this country before it’s too late – for us – you know, the guys at the bottom of the pole!

Old Photographs and Memories

I received a letter from a cousin of mine today and enclosed were a handful of old family photos that she had found going through some albums. There were several of my parents and aunts and uncles over the last several years of their lives, but the two on the bottom were the surprise. It was me at eleven years old, wearing a long dress, sitting on a stool in front of one of those big old radios -- remember those? It was taken on February 14, 1945 and on the back of the photo my mother had written that I was going to a valentine party that night at a little club I belonged to and that I was elected Queen of Hearts that night.

I wish I could say I remember the event vividly, but I actually have very few memories of my childhood. It wasn't a particularly happy time except for when the pilots, stationed at the air base near my hometown, and their wives lived with us during the war -- a time I wrote a post about not long ago. As it happened, the dress I'm wearing in the photo was the same one I wore when I was a member of the wedding of one of the pilots. That I remember vividly. Strange what memories stay tucked away in your mind, while others were lost somewhere along the way.

I hadn't seen any of my cousins in nearly forty years when we finally got together again a little over three years ago at my son's house in Dallas, Texas. There are only six of us left, one was unable to make it, but the other four came with wives and husbands from various parts of Texas. My son had just bought his house and I had told them that while it was a great house, he had no furniture to speak of. So, they all brought lawn chairs and coolers and photo albums. We spread out in his big empty den off the kitchen and proceeded to look back over the past forty years. It was marvelous fun!

When I married my children's father, whom as many of you know by now, is black, a couple of my aunts and uncles refused to have me in their house. Now it seemed the time had come to put all that stuff behind us and be the family we had once been. They were impressed with my son -- of course they would be! he's wonderful! We took pictures and laughed and looked old photo albums, ate pizza, toasted the day with a bottle of champagne and it was quite late before they left for their hotel.

We stay in very close touch these days -- of course, email makes that easy, but I'm so grateful we had that opportunity to reunite. Since then the husband of one of my cousins died the next year of pancreatic cancer. About the same time the cousin I use to spend every summer with at our grandmother's house was diagnosed with breast and liver cancer. She's holding on and is amazingly brave.

So, it's been a nostalgic evening, with good memories and sad ones, but the good ones, the lovely ones are the ones to hold on to and we'll all weather the sad ones. Times like these help to put things in perspective. Helps you to realize that the politics will come and go, the country will survive and it is up to each of us to make the very best of our lives, each hour and each day, to enjoy our chilren and families and to let them know just how much they are loved.

So, for tonight I shall push all the grim news of the day, the politics, the doubts, the fears for the future, into the space under the stairway, put on some music, look at the pictures again and remember and be grateful and toast my family with a glass of wine.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Beautiful Summer Memories

It was a lovely summer, time spent with good friends and family, lovely trips, new adventures.
And I would like to share them with you from a seaplane flight, to Pike's Market, the Dahlia Festival, Orcas Island. Some with family, friends, pictures shared by friends of their adventures.
These are the memories, the pleasures that get us through the difficult times we are all experiencing now. I try to focus on the good -- I'm not always successful, but these help.
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Sarah Palin unleashed by John McCain for attacks on Barack Obama - US elections

Sarah Palin was deployed by John McCain as his election "attack dog" at the weekend as the race for the White House entered its final month.

By Toby Harnden in Washington
UK Telegraph

Sarah Palin accused Barack Obama of 'palling around with terrorists who would target their own country' Photo: AFP / GETTY Mr. McCain's aides had kept Mrs Palin, 44, under wraps as much as possible, beginning to fear she might become a liability. But fresh from an assured performance in the vice-presidential debate, and with Barack Obama, the Democratic nominee, surging ahead in the opinion polls, Mr McCain threw caution to the wind and ordered that Mrs Palin, 44, attack his White House rival repeatedly and ferociously.

Let off the leash on Saturday, Mrs Palin accused Mr Obama of "palling around with terrorists who would target their own country" in a reference to him once being a member of a Chicago community group with William Ayers. The former member of the Weather Underground was last active in the domestic terrorist group during the presidential candidate's childhood.

She added: "This is not a man who sees America as you see America and as I see America."
The Obama campaign responded that Mrs Palin's attack was "gutter politics" and other supporters suggested that the McCain campaign was merely trying to distract voters from the economy, on which Mr Obama is deemed to be more competent.

However, more worrying for Mr McCain is that her first pitbull-like assault on Mr Obama appeared yesterday to have backfired spectacularly as Democrats queued up to dish electoral dirt on Mr McCain.

They believe that John Kerry lost to George W. Bush in 2004 because he did not respond strongly enough to Republican attacks. But they do not intend to stand idly by this time.

Paul Begala, a leading Democratic strategist, said that Mr McCain had been on the board of a group for ultra-conservatives that was once condemned by the Anti-Defamation League as being a forum "for extremists, racists and anti-Semites".

"Now, that's not John McCain, I don't think he is that. But you know, the problem is that a lot of people know John McCain's record better than Governor Palin. And he does not want to play guilt by association or this thing could blow up in his face," said Mr Begala.

The Democratic Congressman Rahm Emanuel warned there was plenty of ammunition to launch against Mr McCain if the race soured further.

"If we are going to go down this road, you know, Barack Obama at eight years old somehow responsible for Bill Ayers. At 58, John McCain was associating with Charles Keating." Keating, a lawyer and banker, was jailed for his role in a savings and loan scandal in the 1980s.

Mrs Palin joked at the Republican convention that the difference between a hockey mom - a title she proudly proclaims - and a pitbull was just "lipstick".

Make-Believe Maverick

I would urge you to read this although it is indeed disturbing. Particularly, when you think that this man could end up in the White House as president of this country.
Thursday 16 October 2008
by: Tim Dickinson, Rolling Stone
A closer look at the life and career of John McCain reveals a disturbing record of recklessness and dishonesty.

Searching for a Light at the End of the Tunnel

That’s what I felt like I was doing this morning – I didn’t find it. Instead there were more horror stories as the Dow fell below ten thousand. I usually try to post something humorous in the middle of the day and in the evening, as a way to wind down the day, something of beauty with pictures from around our great country. I could find no humor this morning, the skies are gray and I’ll have to look harder for those beautiful pictures for this evening. What I did find was this article by Roger Cohen, Op-Ed columnist for the NYT, obviously my favorite paper. As I looked at the title I wondered how he was going to connect Kipling and Palin in any sense of the word. But he does it, although it surely didn’t brighten my day any. But it’s a great piece nevertheless and makes you wonder if Kipling was, indeed, able to look into the future.

Kiplin’ vs. Palin
Repeat after me: pigs can’t fly. Repeat after me: if you don’t work you die. Repeat after me: fire will certainly burn.

Perhaps these truths seem self-evident. But let’s face it, the whole Wall Street debacle, with its cost of some $700 billion to generations of Americans, was based on the fathomless human ability to disregard facts and believe in cloud-cuckoo-land.

Risk no longer existed. The penniless could afford a $200,000 house. Real estate prices could only rise. Securities full of toxic loans would prove benign. Debt was desirable, leverage lovely, greed great. Two and two made five. The moon was a balloon and streets were lined with gold.
How could it happen? That outraged question springs now to everyone’s lips. But from Dutch tulips to Californian dotcoms, great heists have happened and will again. No flight from reality is as sweet as the illusion that money grows on trees.

A friend wrote suggesting I take a look at Rudyard Kipling’s poem, “The Gods of the Copybook Headings,” in the light of current events. Written in 1919, when Kipling was 53, in an England drained by the Great War, which had taken the life of his teenage son, the poem makes sobering reading.

A copybook was a school exercise book used to practice handwriting. At the tops of pages, proverbs and sayings (like “Stick to the Devil You Know”) appeared in exemplary script to be copied down the page by pupils. The truisms were called “copybook headings.”

The poem begins:

As I pass through my incarnations in every age and race,
I make my proper prostrations to the Gods of the Market Place.
Peering through reverent fingers I watch them flourish and fall,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings, I notice, outlast them all.
And what are the qualities of these “Gods of the Copybook Headings?”

The fourth verse sets them out.

With the hopes that our World is built on they were utterly out of touch,
They denied that the moon was Stilton; they denied she was even Dutch;
They denied that Wishes were Horses; they denied that a Pig had Wings;
So we worshipped the Gods of the Market Who promised these beautiful things.

The seventh verse reads:

In the Carboniferous Epoch we were promised abundance for all,
By robbing selected Peter to pay for collective Paul:
But though we had plenty of money, there was nothing our money could buy,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: “If you don’t work you die.”

Truth, in short, confronts delusion and utopia.

Kipling is not much in fashion these days, other than for his children’s books. For a politically correct age, he speaks too bluntly of the world’s — and empire’s — cruel ironies. But his vivid evocation of war’s horror, man’s hypocrisy, illusion’s price and power’s passing make him important in this pivotal American moment.

As it happens — life’s ironies — I was reading Kipling after watching the vice-presidential debate, or more precisely Sarah Palin, the winking “Main-Streeter” from Wasilla. And the words of hers that rang in my ears were:

“One thing that Americans do at this time, also, though, is let’s commit ourselves just everyday American people, Joe Six Pack, hockey moms across the nation, I think we need to band together and say ‘Never Again.’ Never will we be exploited and taken advantage of again by those managing our money and loaning us these dollars.”


I’m sorry, Governor Palin, words matter. Life has its solemn lessons. “Never Again” is a hallowed phrase. It’s applicable not to the loss of a mortgage, but to the Holocaust and genocide.
According verbal equivalency to a $60,000 loan and six million murdered Jews, or 800,000 slaughtered Rwandans, is grotesque. Perhaps Palin didn’t mean it, but that’s no less serious. The world’s gravity escapes her.

Not Kipling, who wrote in “Epitaphs of the War” (1914-1918):

If any question why we died,
Tell them, because our fathers lied.
I wonder, after the lying and the dead of the Bush Administration, in the midst of the wars, in the face of 760,000 lost jobs, is Palin’s offer of a “little bit of reality from Wasilla Main Street” enough?

“The Gods of the Copybook Headings” ends:

As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man —
There are only four things certain since Social Progress began:
That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,
And the burnt Fool’s bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire;
And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins,
As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn,
The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!

Palin, Mainstreeter that she is, loves to drop her g’s, so she’d no doubt call the poet Kiplin’. She might have asked, with that wink, to call him “Rud.”

That’s cutesy politics. But pigs still don’t have wings. The world’s still a dangerous place. It’s time for copybook realists in the White House.

A Look at a Different Future for America

I think our country is in for some major changes in the near future, if it isn’t already happening. It has a lot to do with the shrinking of the world in general and of our growing dependence on other countries – a possibility we use to brush off as something that would never happen. But it has, thanks in part to the financial mess we find ourselves in today.

Thomas Friedman had a good piece in the NYT Op-Ed today and he spells it out so much better than I ever could, so here’s the major part of his column.

“Even though the dollar has strengthened a bit lately, we are going to need foreigners and sovereign wealth funds from China, Asia, Europe and the Middle East more than ever to survive this crisis — and they are going to need us to be healthy as well. In the process, we are going to become even more intertwined and dependent on the rest of the world.

Sarah Palin won’t have to worry that she doesn’t know what the Bush doctrine is. No one really knew what it meant. But it had something to do with the unilateral exercise of American power, and the next president’s ability to act unilaterally on anything other than vital national security issues is going to be reduced. As the old saying goes: He who has the gold makes the rules. Well, we no longer have as much gold, and until we get some, we will have to pay more heed to the rules of those who lend us theirs.

At a time when the U.S. government gets half its borrowings from abroad, at a time when the U.S. household savings rate is hovering around zero and China alone is already holding around $1 trillion in U.S. Treasury notes and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac bonds — yes, that’s how you got that cheap subprime mortgage — it can’t be any other way.

Somebody better tell John McCain: We are all Swedes now. Forget about “Live Free or Die.” Until we get our financial act together, our motto is going to be: “Swedish spoken here — or Arabic or Chinese or German ...”

I would also bet that more and more of the foreign investors who come our way are going to want to buy hard, tangible assets — skyscrapers, real estate and real companies — not just mutual funds, T-bills, bank stocks or other equities. No problem. Americans own assets all over the world; foreigners have long owned substantial positions in U.S. companies. That’s globalization — and now you are going to see globalization and financial integration on steroids. It should help us, but also change us.

“The next round of capital that comes in from abroad is going to be much more demanding and move into real assets,” argued Jeffrey Garten, professor of trade and finance at the Yale School of Management. “Being a bigger debtor nation means losing even more of our sovereignty. It means conducting our economic policies with an eye toward whether others approve. It means bearing the advice and criticism that we have dispensed ad nauseam to other countries for over half a century. It means far more intensive consultations with other capitals on our fiscal policies and our monetary policies.”

At the same time, added Garten, “Corporate decisions will become more sensitive to international factors, in part because more non-Americans will be on the governing boards.” Ultimately, this could make American industry even more globally competitive — but for those who can’t pass global muster or enlist global collaborators, the consequences could be harsh.
Of course, neither Barack Obama nor John McCain dare talk about this now. They want to pretend nothing has really changed. The minute one of them steps into the Oval Office, they will tell us otherwise. That will be the January surprise.

There was a lot of talk after Russia invaded Georgia that globalization was over and we were seeing the return of “history” and the primacy of politics over economics. I think not. Politics and economics are always inextricably intertwined. History-making is rarely free. The Russian stock market has been hammered as a result of its invasion of Georgia, and the global slowdown has sunk Russian oil and gas earnings. No country is an island today.

Making history is not simply about the will to do so. It’s also about the way — the resources you have to achieve your ends. Whatever wills the next American president comes to office with, he is going to find that his ways have been diminished and restricted — until we roll up our sleeves and work our way out of this mess.”

Are we ready for a new day? A new role? Let’s hope we elect a president that can deal with the future in a much better way than Bush and the Republicans have dealt with the past eight years.