Springtime in the Skagit Valley of Washington State

See the header picture on my blog?  That was taken a few years ago in the tulip fields of the Skagit Valley in Washington State.  Hubby and I took a drive up there this afternoon, and it was a perfect day for it.  Sunny, but with beautiful clouds in the sky, and temps in the low 60s.  All of these pictures were taken out the window of the car where I was a passenger.  There were fields that were plowed and ready for planting.

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We saw some beautiful barns, no two exactly alike.  We Washingtonians tend to be free thinkers and idiosyncratic.

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Given that it is the last week of the annual Tulip Festival, there were the roads, with cars parked along every side.

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And this is what everyone was looking at, and taking pictures of.

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We are so fortunate to live in such a beautiful part of the country, and to have these farms and fields so close to our suburban home.  It never gets old, ever.

Is this Cruel and Unusual Punishment?

Is this Cruel and Unusual Punishment?

I was reading an article in the Wall Street Journal this week.  Here are some sentences describing someone’s imprisonment.

  • Alone in his cell, he isn’t permitted to leave (on weekends) for the 30 minutes of fresh air he gets on weekdays.
  • The lights burn 24 hours a day.
  • He can’t wear a watch, and sometimes finds himself disoriented.
  • Authorities state this is “normal treatment”.
  • He has been interrogated for up to five hours a day, with no lawyer present.
  • Prosecutors can sometimes harangue suspects who choose to remain silent for ten hours a day.
  • The person is forced to sign statements in a foreign language that he cannot read.
  • Family members are not allowed to visit.
  • The cell has a window, but it is very deep in the wall and the prisoner cannot see out.
  • Prisoner is allowed a shower twice a week (three times a week in summer).  Cold water is all he gets from the tap in his cell.

So, what do you think of this punishment being meted out, to a person imprisoned for a non-violent, financial crime?  It sounds cruel and unusual to me, especially for a person charged with a white-collar crime, who has not yet had his day in court.  He has not been convicted, or even tried, for this crime.  He is being treated like a violent criminal, subject to conditions often found in high-security prisons.

Where do you think this might be happening?  Some third-world country in Africa or Latin America? Nope, this is Japan.  And the prisoner is a gentleman named Carlos Ghosn, who until recently was the CEO of an alliance between automakers Nissan of Japan and Renault of France.  Mitsubishi of Japan was also a party to this alliance.  The companies had been thriving, and producing cars for the world in multiple countries.  He was very highly thought-of, and a well-paid globetrotter, often jetting around the world to attend meetings and watch over all the factories.  He has been accused of understating his salary, and skimming funds from his corporations to pay for things for his family and himself.  He has lost all of his jobs, and has been in prison in Japan since mid-November of 2018, with only one month out of jail before being re-arrested and sent back to confinement.

This seems to me to be cruel and unusual punishment for a non-violent crime.  How the mighty has fallen.  I don’t think he deserves this kind of punishment.  What do you think?

“Peaceful Religion” you say? More proof that…

“Peaceful Religion” you say?  More proof that…

Islam Is Evil.  Pure Evil.

Hundreds of innocent worshippers all over Sri Lanka were murdered at their Easter services, by massive bombs placed among the pews at their churches.  The death toll is hundreds, and climbing.

This is your “peaceful” religion.  This is heartbreaking.  This is what should inspire justified outrage among Christians and Jews everywhere.

And life flows on, within you and without you…On turning 70

And life flows on, within you and without you…On turning 70

And still being a productive member of society.  Today is my 70th birthday, and I don’t feel a day over 69!  Today was a day much like any other.  Wake up at 5:10AM, dress, eat breakfast (after feeding the owner), leave for work and arrive at 6:00 on the dot.  Do my normal job, fend off dozens of emails, place some orders…  We have a “birthday meeting” in our department, and the birthday person gets their choice of sweets.  We had my favorite pineapple, and 2-bite cupcakes.  And nobody sang Happy Birthday.  Well, not until after work, when we went to a great local Chinese restaurant for Happy (birthday) Hour.  That was fun, and my boss, and her boss both came.

I simply can’t imagine being retired, and not earning my keep.  I love my work, and I learn something every day.  I help solve problems, and keep the company running.  It just feels great to be valued.  I don’t want to stop working, and have to live off others, even if I’ve earned it.  I like making my own decisions, and having something to get up for in the morning.  I’m on the Clint Eastwood Retirement Plan.  He is over 90, and still working at his trade, directing and starring in movies.  When he retires, maybe I’ll think about it.

[Edit] Silly me! I forgot the one duty I have that especially keeps me going! That would be the monthly task of compiling the ISM-Western Washington Report on Business, which I have been doing for 20 years, since 1999. In all those 20 years, I have only missed one month. Yep, just one; that was June of 2006, when my husband and I spent two weeks in New York, after I played Carnegie Hall with the Everett Symphony. I have made new friends, contributed to my chapter (which won the ISM Chapter of the Year this year), and performed a vital service to ISM and the business and financial communities. If I am late sending out results, I receive emails from recipients wondering why they have not received them. It is very gratifying to be able to contribute to the Chapter and to National. Even after I retire, I plan to continue compiling the Survey.

So I think I’ll just continue on the Rabbi Daniel Lapin Retirement Program.  Don’t.

Want to join my Network on LinkedIn? No Mainland Chinese Citizens Accepted.

China.Is.A.Communist.Country.

I do not voluntarily deal with those who live in Communist, totalitarian, countries.  I refuse to buy a product of a Chinese company.  I won’t buy a Volvo car (Volvo is owned by Chinese company Geely).  I would not buy a Chinese-branded phone (Xiaomi or Oppo).  I currently have a long-term-care insurance policy from Genworth.  There is a Chinese company trying to buy them, and if they succeed, I will seriously consider dropping my policy that I have paid into for nearly 20 years.  I will never visit China, for any reason, no matter how beautiful it might be.  I am well aware of the total social control emerging in China, with facial-recognition systems deployed everywhere.  China denies its people access to the world-wide Internet; maintaining its Great Firewall of China. And no matter how strenuously the managers at Huawei deny that they would never use their Internet-backbone products to spy on another country, I know that to be a lie.  Any company in China is required to allow the Communist Party access to its products.

I don’t deal with countries who kidnap their people abroad and take them back to China to prison.  I don’t deal with countries who arrest booksellers.  I don’t deal with countries who murder their own people for speaking their minds.  No matter how economically prosperous China might seem, it is still a Communist country, with a state-planned economy.  China should never have been admitted to the World Trade Organization, and I advocate their immediate expulsion.  China has a world-domination agenda, and I believe they should be strenuously combated everywhere.

I only joined LinkedIn in the first place because I was constantly being hounded by out-of-work friends (even though my own company was not hiring).  And, funny thing, I get requests regularly from people all over the world wanting to “join my network”.  It’s nice to be thought of as having a valuable network, but I pay little attention to LinkedIn.  And I wish they had a “Refuse” button to go along with the “Accept” button.  But there is none, and I simply delete requests by those who I have no interest in knowing.  That includes every request from anyone in China.

Dispatches from the NW Loony Bin, AKA Seattle

Dispatches from the NW Loony Bin, AKA Seattle

Sometimes it seems like the residents of Seattle are completely detached from reality.  While those of us in the real world are hard at work at our jobs, Seattleites are rallying in the streets, protesting Chase Bank’s “Alleged Fossil-Fuel Investments“.  Please enlighten me.  Why, pray tell, would anyone give a rat’s ass whether a bank has fossil-fuel investments?  The said bank isn’t even headquartered in Seattle!  Maybe what they’re really protesting is the bankruptcy of the Seattle institution, Washington Mutual, in the 2008 financial crisis.  Chase bought WaMu out of bankruptcy, and the locals have never quite forgiven them for it.  But ANY institution with any kind of “fossil-fuel” ties gets protested around here.

And then, there’s the story of employees at Seattle’s second-largest employer, Amazon.com, who are irked by Amazon’s “growing ties to the oil industry“.  Just like with the Google employees’ protesting their employer’s work for the US Military, Amazon employees think it’s actually their business whether Amazon works with the oil industry!  These inmates seem to think they run the asylum.  I sure hope Amazon management lets them know that they do not, and it’s really none of their business who Amazon customers are.  They are just acting like the spoiled brats they are.

In the Dubious Distinction category, Seattle has made the list of the most drunken driving cities.  Maybe the drivers in Seattle get really tired of all the traffic congestion, due to city government’s efforts to get them out of their cars and into government transportation, so they just get drunk.

And, finally, in the Entitled Inmates Thinking They Own the Asylum category, residents of one of the “tiny house villages” for the homeless in Seattle locked out workers from the City government, and employees of the contractor who runs the Village.  These residents think they OWN the place, when they are really living there at the expense of the taxpayers of the city of Seattle.  Oh, I actually think the City Council forgets they are spending the taxpayers’ money, and not their own!

Are you worried about how Facebook and Google use data they collect about you?

Are you worried about how Facebook and Google use data they collect about you?

That will seem like elementary school, compared to the new tie-up between two financial-data providers.  Be afraid, be VERY afraid.  You voluntarily sign up for a Facebook account, and you make a conscious decision to use Google products, like internet search, Gmail, and YouTube.  You can decline to use Facebook, and there are alternate search engines (I only use DuckDuckGo now).

But you, as a consumer, have NO say in how your bank, credit union, or credit card companies report your intimate financial data to the Big Three Credit Bureaus.  In fact, I’d hazard a guess that most Americans don’t even know that there are three, or what their names are.  I’d also hazard a guess that most people paid very little attention to the huge data-breach at one of those credit bureaus a couple of years ago.  Unbeknownst to most of the victims whose financial data were stolen, Equifax mostly notified big financial institutions, and did not suffer much reputational damage.  I read the Wall Street Journal religiously, so I was able to follow the story closely.  I’ll bet you didn’t.

Every time you apply for any kind of credit, from a department store, to an oil company or credit card company; to a bank for a mortgage or auto loan; those companies pull your “credit report” from one or all three of the big credit bureaus (Equifax, TransUnion, or Experian).  And do they ask you if you want them to pull your report?  Or do they tell you that your information is provided to the bureaus, and retrieved from them, without your knowledge or consent?  Of course they don’t.

Those three companies are the biggest repositories of data about you, that you have never heard of, and probably don’t pay much attention to.  Well, just recently, two companies, Equifax and Fair-Isaac (the company that invented the FICO score, which determines credit-worthiness), have teamed up to SELL CONSUMER DATA TO BANKS.  Yes, that is you that they are selling to banks.  And did they bother to ask you if you wanted them to sell you?  Nope.

Because you are not their customer.  You aren’t even the end user.  You are just the product.  Now, do you have any information about the security of all this data they are selling about you?  Are you aware of any protections they offer, for your valuable financial data?  Nope, because they don’t offer any.  In this age of constant exposure of you, your family, your friends, and your accounts on social media, most people don’t give any thought to the potential repercussions from cyber-thieves getting ahold of all this information about you.  After the big Equifax breach in 2017, the company offered free “credit-watch” services for awhile, but didn’t contact everyone whose data were stolen, and the worst effect they suffered was their CEO finally resigned, months later.  Personally, I am alarmed at the offhanded way these companies play fast and loose with your data, and make lots of money off of selling you to all their real customers.  Why should I have to go through all the conniptions to freeze my credit files, and all the effort to correct errors in a file I had NO say in at all?

So it might behoove you to get more informed about who has your data, and why.  Ask who determines your fitness to be granted credit, and how.  Ask what data your bank reports to the credit bureaus, and if you can see it.  Pull your own credit score from EACH of the big three at least once a year, and make them correct any errors you find.  Just keep your eyes open, and take care with your credit, because no one else will.