A Light Hearted Look at Forgetting to Give Anniversary Cards

Karen and I forgot to give each other the anniversary cards we bought before our 51st anniversary on November 29th. Why did we both forget?

DSC_2960Because we shared a tumultuous life beginning casually at dinner on Nov. 14 when Karen shared the pressure she was feeling as President of the Wenatchee Valley Museum & Cultural Center’s Board. This is my personal story and does not reveal Museum business.

She said the Museum needed to hire an Interim Director for two-to six months before Director Brenda Abney left on December 9 to serve in a new position in Tempe Arizona.

Each Board member was soliciting people who could serve.

I listened to the qualifications and on impulse said, “I could do that.”

Over the 51 years we’ve been married, she’s responded to my impulsive claims with calming perspectives, such as ignoring them or saying, “What?” or “You’re kidding, right?” I depend on her to temper my irresponsible impulses.

She said, “I think you could.”

Her response stunned me into silence. She wasn’t intimately sharing. She was soliciting.

I’ve steadily improved my retirement skills for 13 years. Why would I abandon retirement?

Because she thought I could help, that’s why. I’ve served on boards, know finance, raised funds and could make myself available immediately.

I emailed my resume to Abney on Nov. 17 and said, “If you and your search team think I could possibly serve effectively as an Interim Director, I’d be willing to discuss it…”

Once I crossed that Rubicon I imagined reading headlines about my new challenge, but quickly imagined being responsible for thousands of artifacts I didn’t know how a Museum acquired, preserved and exhibited. A Museum staff member had stopped me from touching an historical display.

I’d have to suspend and postpone commitments such as writing for the Empire Press which I love to do. Could I give up sleeping late and napping in the afternoons?

Eliminating morning walks with my dog Haley and Karen would cause problems. Karen would have probably overcome pain from her hip to walk Haley more often. Haley would be alone more often. I’d get less exercise.

All of those were bad, but we’d manage if needed.

I decided the Board wouldn’t need me.

Karen was silent as the Sphinx except to say they had a good pool of candidates. One day she made telephone calls for the Board behind closed doors in our bedroom. I’d volunteered and been excused.

The Board’s consultant called me to set up an interview.

The morning of my interview was weird. Karen wouldn’t attend my interview but was interviewing other candidates. She kissed me and said, “Good luck with your interview. I said, “Good luck with your interview.”

The Committee made a recommendation for Board approval on Monday at noon after Thanksgiving. Karen and I left to celebrate an uninterrupted Thanksgiving and our anniversary with our family. Both of us forgot the anniversary cards we had for each other.

Monday morning I walked Haley, finished my Empire Press articles and ate lunch. I was relieved and about ready for my nap.

Gil Sparks called to offer me the position on behalf of the Board. I went to work the next morning. Our neighbor graciously offered to take care of Haley when needed.

I found Karen’s anniversary cards for me on my computer keyboard one week after our anniversary. That reminded me to put hers on her desk.

I won’t be writing Clear Skies for a while, but hope to share some light hearted thoughts in Fuzzy Skies columns for the next few

 

 

 

Posted in Enjoying the Retired Life, Fuzzy Skies Humor | Tagged , | 4 Comments

Ways We Can Help Politicians Cooperate and Improve Lives

  • IMG_5338The world is making startling progress to improve people’s lives. It doesn’t feel like progress when we’re finally free of the fall campaign rhetoric only to undergo immobilizing squabbling between Democrats and Republicans.

    What gives me hope are my experiences in progress getting politicians to cooperate by participating with ONE, an organization campaigning and advocating to end global extreme poverty and preventable diseases by 2030. ONE works from the ground up by providing basic services that increase economic development and save lives. More healthier people with money to spend get educated, develop global economies and cut population growth rates.

    The surprise is ONE advocated for squabbling politicians to cooperate in the Electrify Africa Act that passed the House with bipartisan support last summer. The Senate’s version is the Energize Africa Act (S. 2508) with bipartisan sponsorship by Senators Bob Mendez (D-NJ) and Bob Corker (R-TN). If passed by the Senate and signed by President Obama, the Act would provide access to modern electricity that would save lives, boost education, alleviate poverty and accelerate growth. The Congressional Budget Office estimates the development income would save the U.S. budget $135 million every year from 2015-2019.

    Local Rotarians and friends funded an extremely small scale project that provided access to solar powered electricity in nine homes in Africa. In February 2014 on a safari they visited the homes with the solar panels near the Nkoilale School in western Kenya. Safari leader Hillary Kosen of Kosen Safaris in East Wenatchee and the inventor of the solar panels, Dr. Claver Hategekiman from Wenatchee Valley College, visited the homes and villagers six months later.

    The results were better than envisioned. Women were increasing their income by making more jewelry to sell to travelers. They had more time during the day to tend their villages and care for their livestock and children.

    One man improvised solar power connections to recharge cell phones and raise his income to $3-5 per day, well above the level of extreme poverty. People plugged lights over their stock pens to cut the economic loss of 1-2 goats per month.

    Parents plan to install solar panels over a new lunch room at the school to provide a study hall at night for resident students. It would be a stage for evening performances where Maasai men and women could see their children blossom with drama skills.

    Imagine the impact of providing reliable electric power to millions of African homes, hospitals and businesses by passing the Electrify Africa Act through the Senate that will save the U.S. federal government $135 million per year from 2015-2019.

    We can act locally and recommend our politicians cooperate to do the same. Write our Senators to support the Energize Africa Act (S. 2508). Then look for small ways to cooperate so our leadership will return to doing the same for us.

Posted in Community Building, Doing Justice and Having Compassion, travel | Tagged , , , , , | 5 Comments

How a Charity Avoided Toxicity and Stopped an Ebola Outbreak

The book Toxic Charity by Robert Lupton describes how well-intentioned donations devastates causes by creating dependencies without investing in people with skills and attitudes for progress. The book cover said Lupton “has been at the forefront of urban ministry” in Atlanta churches and community development for 40 years.”

I purchased a summary of the book from Amazon by an author called The Growing Leader which gives the guidelines to build sustainable development that avoids toxic charity. They resonated with my experience in community development over 40 years. They also match the characteristics of a polio eradication program called PolioPlus that is expecting to declare Nigeria polio free for one year in December 2014.

PolioPlus began as a Rotary Project that gained momentum when it was co-sponsored by the World Health Organization (WHO), the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the Melinda and Bill Gates Foundation.

WHO praised Nigeria’s PolioPlus project as one of the keys to success in halting a terrifying threat of Ebola in Nigeria’s two major cities.

PolioPlus followed the guidelines of successful projects described in Toxic Charity.

First, PolioPlus began with a clear goal to eradicate polio from the planet in each nation on the planet.

Second it focused on  unique programs within each community over the long term, in this instance, nation by nation. Nigeria is battling violence from terrorists that overrun its borders, but it dedicated itself to improving health care.

Third, it focused on assets in the community. Nigeria had a stable government, a strong health department, a medical research university, doctors and nurses. It had Rotary Clubs committed to the goal. The nation had ongoing relationships with world health organizations. Those assets were strengthened and harnessed to serve the polio eradication goal.

Fourth, PolioPlus focused on the front burner issues concerning the people. WHO reports polio was not the front burner issue in Nigeria. Malaria, diarrhea, and diseases like tuberculosis were killing millions of people. Six-hundred-fifty thousand people suffered from Guinea-worm disease, a painful, sometimes fatal disease spread by unsanitary water.

Fifth, charitable donations were used to invest for the long term, not meet emergencies. The Ministry of Health created treatment facilities and staffed them with doctors and nurses to treat the rampant diseases crippling the people. WHO and CDC strengthened medical facilities with equipment and training for doctors, nurses and citizen volunteers. Rotary donated vaccines and volunteers. Rotary International magazine The Rotarian said patients flocked to the centers for primary treatment. After primary treatment patients were informed about the polio and given the vaccine.

The Medical New Today website article How Nigeria Prevented an Ebola Outbreak reported on investments in advanced GPS technology that enabled neighborhood by neighborhood mapping of polio cases. The Nigerians and WHO adapted the technology for the Ebola threat to trace and link 894 people who’d come in contact with two Ebola patients. They monitored each contact daily, isolated them when symptoms appeared and cleared them when they’d had no symptoms after 21 days.

Sixth, PolioPlus focused on leadership development to build capacity. A volunteer, Tunji Funjo, is chair of the Nigeria polio eradication program. The President of Nigeria and Minister of Health supported the polio and Ebola campaigns. They inspired neighborhood volunteers with local dialects. They used social media and well-known video and TV stars. The PolioPlus communication networks quickly transmitted the campaign against Ebola.

Seventh, PolioPlus focused on a deliberate pace that allowed people to accept the project. People trusted the centers that had treated them for disease. When the centers began explaining symptoms of Ebola, how it spreads and how people were being tracked, hysteria was avoided.

Nigeria’s story should reinforce the guidelines for volunteers working with communities and serve as an inspiration for volunteers and assistance programs for people wanting to think globally as well as act locally.

Posted in Community Building, Doing Justice and Having Compassion | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

The Self-Importance of My Dog

Haley and Us Wednesday 120512 009My dog Haley prances as if she’s important. That doesn’t seem possible for 14 pounds of brown and white beagle-terrier mix with white-booted paws and ear tips that bob along as she prances precisely erect to elevate her truncated view.

She has grand views from the banks of the irrigation canal above the first and ninth fairways of the country club. When she spots movement she charges silently and surprisingly swiftly to clear quail from shrubs and squirrels up trees. Every spot cleared is rechecked the next day. She makes our walk more fun. That’s important for my healing heart

She dozes most of the afternoon on the back of our downstairs couch. One day at 4:00 pm I decided she needed exercise and a greater sense of responsibility. I insisted she accompany me out the back door and up the rocky path to get the mail. She seemed perplexed as she looked from me and back to the quiet neighborhood. When we returned I praised her for helping me and she rushed upstairs to tell Karen what she’d learned.

Every afternoon at four pm she responds. She escorts me to the mailbox and sniffs the air like a canine secret service agent. A few days ago I realized she convinced me no one was hiding in the bushes in the gloaming of the fall day. There never has been, but she’ll tell me if there is any threat as I grow more frail over the next decade. My original spoof of an important task made her more important to me.

She creates self-importance she doesn’t deserve. I called her to help me deposit an envelope one night. We walked beside the house waiting for our movement-sensing light to turn on. Just before it lit up, Haley unexpectedly woofed at it. It obediently turned on. I’m convinced she believes she’s learned to turn it on for our  protection.

She’s undeniably important for my bad knee from a sports injury. It stays flexible and pain-free if I get down on the floor and do bicycle kicks every morning. Haley joins me any time my face is lower than hers. She rolls over on her back so I can rub her belly with one hand while kicking. Afterward I nuzzle her with sincere thank-yous. When we’re done she bolts upstairs to tell Karen I’ve done my exercises.

The truth is she often motivates me to do them. When it’s time she puts her paws on my chair urging us to get to work even though I explain to her I have other things I must do, and honestly prefer to do. Her wagging tail and brown eyes remind me it’s fun for her and good for me, so I roll out of my chair onto the floor. While my friends get knee surgeries I don’t feel a need for one.

She’s a wonder.  The importance of our relationship to each other is a greater wonder.

She deserves to prance with importance.

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Ban on Shooting Guns Expanded Along Popular Loop Trail

Douglas County Commissioners restricted firearm discharges from the middle of the Columbia River to a line 50 feet east of the Loop Trail in an area between the City of East Wenatchee and the Odabashian Bridge.

IMG_5187Hunters could shoot from land west of the ordinary high water mark, such as tree trunks along Porters Pond shown here.  They could shoot south across the pond where I saw a couple walking with their dog. IMG_5153

Safety of people and homes along the Loop Trail was the key issue. Janet Crouse of East Wenatchee testified, “We saw camouflaged boats real close to shore in Porters Pond with their decoys.” “It’s a safety issue,” said Renee Harnack, East Wenatchee, whose backyard faces the trail.

Opponents said there’ve been no accidents and wildfowl need to be controlled. “Porters Pond is the quintessential place,” said Rylan Weythman of Cashmere. “It’s practical, shallow water, kind of a gem, a safe place for hunting.”

Jim Brown, Regional Director of Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife entered a letter into the record warning commissioners that hunting was opened up partly to reduce complaints about Canadian Geese populations.

The Commissioners believed more safety was needed with increasing development expected.  Dale Snyder said, “I’m an NRA member and  I know there are few fowl and wildlife places left, but parks like Porters Pond were opened without any development.” Ken Stanton said, “This is no longer a rural area. You can’t tell me all hunters are responsible.” Steve Jenkins told the Wenatchee World he doesn’t believe hunting on Porters Pond controls Canadian Geese populations in other urban parks. “It’s illegal to shoot in the park, so how does that work?”

Posted in Community Building, Politics | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Regulate the Dangerous Energy Trading of Koch Industries

Charles Koch, CEO of the private firm Koch Industries and his twin brother David are known for donating millions of dollars to political organizations that support Republican and Tea Party politicians and dispute man-made causes of climate change.

Rolling Stone published a Sept. 24 article by Tim Dickinson called “Inside the Koch Brothers’ Toxic Empire,” about Koch’s tactics. Koch did not agree to requests for interviews before the article, but responded in a subsequent article to which Dickinson responded.

My column is focused regulating Koch Supply and Trading that has been spectacularly successful trading oil and gas futures since 2000, according to Dickinson. The Koch brothers’ wealth exploded from $4 billion each in 2002 to $40 billion each today. Their $80 billion total rivals that of the richest individual on earth.

Koch Industries does not reveal its finances but is a major transporter, refiner, and producer of products from fossil fuels. It is also owner of companies such as Georgia-Pacific. The University of Massachusetts Amherst’s Political Energy Research Institute lists Koch, Exxon and American Electric Power as the only firms in the top 30 polluters of air, water and climate change carbons.

Koch Industries increased trading when trading in energy futures was exempted in the 2000 Commodities Futures Modernization Act regulated by the Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC).

“The Act completely exempted energy futures from regulation,” said Michael Greenburger with the CFTC. “This market wasn’t covered at all.”

Energy futures were aggressively opposed by lobbyists for Koch Industries, the now defunct Enron and other energy firms and traders.

Dickinson’s article describes how Enron escaped detection while promoting false information about trades for natural gas that allowed it to manipulate prices and cause serious losses for California taxpayers in 2004.

Koch Industries was charged with knowingly participating with false information. It agreed to pay a $3 million fine to avoid confessing guilt, but “is barred from maintaining its innocence,” said Dickinson.

The exemption of energy derivatives is now referred to as the Enron Loopholes.

Consumer protection laws in 2008 were proposed to close the Enron Loopholes.

That year Koch Industries spent $20 million in lobbying fees to keep the energy derivatives unregulated, four times its normal $5 million per year. Twenty-million dollars allows 18 days of lobbying per member of Congress assuming a $250 per hour average cost.

Congress passed legislation closing the Enron loophole in 2008. Nevertheless, no regulations currently exist.

Koch Industries and other energy traders used the Enron loophole in the oil market in 2008-09 according to Dickinson and undisputed by Koch. They bought massive oil supplies which they stored in supertankers in the Gulf of Mexico for future trades. Koch Industries was one of the top five oil traders in the world in 2009. They held back supplies until consumers like you and I paid up to 40 cents per gallon more than we would have under free market conditions.

Traders in regulated commodities prevent firms from buying excessive supplies so markets function competitively.

The Obama administration proposed regulations to close the Enron loophole in 2011, but a lawsuit from Koch Industries and other traders in the International Swaps and Derivatives Association successfully blocked the regulations. Koch Industries and others operate without regulations despite legislation requiring them.

The unregulated energy trading is financially dangerous according to industry financial leaders. A past-president of the Futures Industry Association and the 2012 Chair of the CFTC have raised concerns about the systemic risk that could lead to another meltdown.

Analysts and regulators can’t accurately assess the extent of the Koch Industries risk since it doesn’t report transactions and volumes on trades. Nor does it report whether it has collateral to protect against failed transactions that impact other firms.

Super banks like Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan/Chase report their transactions and positions. Even private trading giant Cargill voluntarily reports.

Legal counsel for Koch Industries told Dickinson it was complying with the law.

Dickinson concluded his article by saying “It appears the very essence of the Koch business model is to exploit breakdowns in the free market.”

Koch Industries energy trades need more regulation in order for you and I and the country to trust our free markets, but at present that means defeating the company’s defenders in Congress.

Posted in Economics, Politics | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

To My Surprise I Enjoyed a Round of Golf

To My Surprise I Enjoyed a Round of Golf

Jim Russell

My golf game has improved dramatically due to serendipity and practice.

As reported in the July 31 2014 Empire Press I would accept invitations to play with foursomes if they’d tolerate me picking up any bad fairway drives (mostly all my drives) and dropping my ball near their better ball locations. I’d announce my honest estimate of the number of strokes it would take me to catch up, shots I wouldn’t enjoy duffing down the fairway while they waited.

Serendipity led me to find a certificate for a round at Highlander, a Scottish Links golf course. Our golfer son planned to visit Labor Day weekend and Scottish links are among his favorite courses. He jumped at my invitation.

I invited a friend, Don, who’s encouraged me to play golf. He invited his son. Golf must be more addictive than I realize if people are willing to endure a game with my level of play.

My game improved! Out of respect for the other players I reluctantly practiced on the driving range twice for half-an-hour. Practice after my one golf lesson last year hadn’t improved my drives, so I’d quit practicing. The first day I discovered how to hit the ball in the air without a slice. The second day I hit longer drives.

Highlander is intimidating. It website proclaims the course “showcases three new canyon-carry holes ingeniously carved into the sheer cliffside above the Columbia River.”

I’ve lost balls in each ingenious canyon. I see views of the Columbia from my condo.

My confidence inspired me to tee-up the first drive in front of our foursome on the first tee despite its mini-chasm that’s swallowed every one of my previous drives. The last time I carried my ball to the other side and accepted the penalty.

I drove over the chasm. Another drive landed close to mine. My drive on the second hole drove my son to say, “That’s the best I’ve ever seen you hit.”

It may have been the best I’ve ever hit.

Of course that didn’t last, but I cleared water that I’d stubbornly dunked three balls into on my last round. My fuzzy score with reasonably estimated imaginary strokes and appropriate penalties was 18 strokes less than my average. My son’s score beat mine by over 30 strokes.

Don’s son picked his ball off one fairway and said, “I’ve enjoyed this hole enough.” He’s my kind of golfing partner.

We finished in four fun-filled hours instead of five humiliating hours for me. Afterward Don said, “Anytime your son comes over to play, we’d enjoy playing with you.”

At a party three days later, Don announced to his golf buddies in my presence, “Jim’s improved! He’s better.”

None of them invited me to play a round.

This winter I’ll be contemplating my golfing future.

Posted in Fuzzy Skies Humor | Tagged , | 3 Comments