Saturday, November 24, 2012

Thanksgiving, 2012

This past Thursday, we celebrated Thanksgiving , a national holiday when contemporary America celebrates the three "F's":  family, football, and feasting.  It isn't inherently a religious holiday so we do not have to give thanks to a deity as part of the annual celebration, but people who are religious thank God on this day for their good fortune, good health or family.  It is a holiday with historic traditions of feasting when the first settlers from Europe endured frightful and harsh conditions and celebrated the fall harvest and gave thanks to God.  The "First Thanksgiving" is popularly credited to a 3 day celebration in October, 1621, when 53 Pilgrims and 90 Native Americans celebrated the first havest of the Plymouth Colony near the cape of present-day Massachusetts.

"The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth"  by Jennie A. Brownscombe
The indigineous people helped the Europeans to survive that first year.  Pilgrims was the name given to a group of Separatists that had fled religious persecution in England to Holland.  Concerned about retaining their English identity, they planned a trip in two ships (including the Mayflower) to the New World bringing families and their Calvinist culture and religion to establish a new colony in what is now the state of Massachusetts on the northeast coast of North America. 

Other Europeans had held annual "Thanksgiving" celebrations in the New World, including the Spaniards and the Jamestown settlement in the Colony of Virginia.   President Abraham Lincoln, in 1863, proclaimed it to be a National Holiday.

For our family, we cook a traditional Thanksgiving Dinner, invite family and friends, and enjoy a football game or two.  This year, we had the following Menu:

Ron getting ready to carve the turkey

16 pounds of turkey done perfectly with herb butter and stuffed with cornbread dressing

Mary stirring the Glazed Carrots

Our neighbor, Cathy, shared the day with us

Matt and Mary

Malcolm and Amanda

Jack, the pug

Tinker is Amanda and Malcolm's newest family member

Thanksgiving came early this year. Usually, it falls the last Thursday of November.  It marks the beginning of the Winter Holiday Season.  Retailers in our country got the jump early on the holiday gift shopping frenzy that Americans embark upon beginning the day after Thanksgiving. Today is "Small Business Shopping Day" where Americans are encouraged to shop at small and local businesses.  Let's hope that the economic climate improves rapidly for everyone!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Disaster Preparation

The terrible loss of property and life due to Hurricane Sandy could not be avoided.  However, we all can be better prepared to deal with natural disasters before they happen, during the disaster and afterwards when our efforts turn to recovery.  Are you ready?  Most people are not. 

Weather-related disasters are increasing in their magnitude and damage that they cause.  Geological disasters like earthquakes, volcanic eruption, and tsunamis can happen anytime and can affect areas previously not known for such disasters. Great ShakeOut Drills are happening in your state or country.  Get involved in your local Red Cross, CERT (Community Emergency Response Team), school, or workplace disaster management planning. If your neighborhood lacks a disaster committee or plan, you can start a Neighborhood Disaster Watch Team complete with an Emergency Plan and Phone Tree (create a phone tree using MS Office or MS Excel),  You should prepare your home for an earthquake to minimize damage and injury.  Here is an interactive game called Beat the Quake that will help you and your family prepare your home in the event of an earthquake.

Although certain seasons are more likely to bring us a higher risk of certain natural disasters, the impact of climate change means that drought and changing weather patterns are creating new challenges for our security and safety.

Fires, whether from drought-fed natural conditions, arson, pipeline eruptions, improper electrical connections, lightning, or carelessness, can happen anytime.  Here are some helpful websites to prepare your home and family for a fire emergency:
Wildfire, house fires, explosions, lightning, and electric shock

And don't underesimate the deadly power of lightning:

 The Winter Holidays and decorating the home with electrical lights and Christmas trees deserve special attention to safety and a natural Christmas tree can explode into fire very quickly:

And for the disaster of all disasters,  here's a video to prepare you for the end of the world December 21, 2012:
(OK, just kidding....)

Sunday, November 11, 2012

First Snowfall

November 10th was cold and windy, then the snow started to fall in light flurries.  The temperature remained 45 degrees well into the afternoon, then the mercury started falling.  By 5 PM it was 32 degrees F. I had started a wood fire in the stove early in the day, to ward off the chill.  Now it was a toasty 72 degrees F. inside. The kind of day to curl up with a blanket on the sofa and read. I spent the afternoon finishing Cormac McCarthy's No Country for Old MenI know, definitely not an upper, but good writing and a page turner to boot.  Then I began to delve into Wally Lamb's The Hour I First Believed and have found it engaging.   The topic thus far deals with personal relationships in the days leading up to the Columbine High School massacre where the main character is a teacher and his wife is a school nurse. Malcolm (my daughter's boy friend) had given Ron and I these two books to read. This weekend was made for reading novels.  My husband preferred football.  So in our separate rooms, we spent the day in a quiet welcoming of Winter. This morning I awoke to find about an inch of snow had fallen.  Blue skies were to the east and gray clouds to the west, promising a mixed day.  The temperature had fallen to 24 degrees F.  Here are photos of our first snow fall for winter 2012-2013 at El Cheapo Ranchito in Sandia Park, New Mexico, USA. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

This is What America Looks Like in 2012

Look at this slideshow of pictures from Election Day here in New Mexico.

Inclusive, not exclusive....happy, not angry.... positive, not negative....forward,  not, not hate. 

You want to know why President Obama was re-elected as our President November 6, 2012?  Check this slideshow out.

Photos by Sukey Ferguson.

Diana and I out to canvass voters on Election Day.

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Long Journey to Election Day

Tomorrow is Election Day in the USA. Almost everyone will be happy to see that day over.   It's been  a seemingly endless campaign with billions spent. You'd think election spending alone is responsible for the positive uptick in our economic growth and employment. 

The campaign has been predictably negative overall.  Americans are deeply divided on issues that were more uniformly embraced in the past....issues of race, sexual orientation, gender equality, women's reproductive rights, taxes, government regulation, education, collective bargaining rights for workers, religious freedom, economic policies, foreign policy, immigration, climate change...oh, and did I mention "health care"?  Indeed, the country is today almost evenly divided on one side or the other of these issues and our leaders  in Congress and in the State Houses seem to be in no mood to compromise.  In fact the "C" word is fast becoming the latest "word not spoken" in the American lexicon.

As much as I see of the negativity of certain politicians and the inability of our government to govern during these contentious times, I also see the American people helping each other in the face of disasters like the recent Mega Hurricane that destroyed so many lives and neighborhoods in the Northeastern US. In my little community, I see ordinary people help the homeless and hungry without regard to the political persuasion of those being helped. A boy down the street has a box in front of his house and he is collecting food for a food bank.  This is what we are as Americans. When I canvass a neighborhood for my political candidate, I have been generously provided food items by residents for a community food bank we have in our election office in Cedar Crest.  We do not ask how people will vote when they pick up items from the food bank.  More than 40 of my neighbors in our rural mountain communities east of Albuquerque became voter registration agents beginning in March of this year and we registered more than 400 voters but, in our efforts to encourage voting, we never once asked the person registering how they would vote. The point I am making is that our country works because we do not see ourselves as part of a "tribe", and although we have our different partisan points of view, our democracy has worked because people have always seen themselves as Americans first. But our democracy and unity as a people has been severely damaged by cynical narrow self-interest of some very dark forces at work in America.

I supported Barack Obama in 2008 because his vision was that we are all Americans first and we can change Washington and take it back from lobbyists and extreme partisan positions that work against the people's interests.  But as soon as Obama was inaugurated in January, 2009, appeals to racial hatred and intolerance began by very powerful and wealthy corporate players through fronts of  non-profit corporations referred to as 501 (c) corporations. 

One of the biggest 501 (c) corporations advocating for the defeat of President Barack Obama is Americans for Prosperity that claims 95,000 individual donors who do not have to have their identities disclosed.  The truth is that two wealthy contributers founded AFP in 2003: oil billionaire David Koch, co-founder of Koch Industries and a failed Vice-Presidential candidate for the Libertarian Party in 1980, and  Richard Fink (a member of the board of directors of Koch Industries).  The AFP was the key sponsor of Tea Party Tax Day rallies in April, 2009, paying for the travel, housing, signs, and meeting expenses for Tea Party organizing forums.  David Koch, as a Libertarian, is ademantly opposed to government period and is using the AFP to attack and defund government through strident appeals of fear to people who have suffered during the collapse of the economy in 2008 due to policies of the George Bush Presidency.  Feeding the anti-government, anti-minority, anti-immigrant, and anti-Muslim sentiments of primarily white workers and senior citizens who are most helped by Medicare, Social Securiity, Medicaid, and jobless benefits, AFP successfully organized in the summer of 2009 to make President Barack Obama the symbol of all their frustration and economic pain. 

President Obama and the Democratic Party-controlled Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to insure health care for Americans amid a ferocious campaign promoted by the AFP and other right wing 501 (c) organiziations. Senate Leader Mitch McConnell declared that the top Republican goal in Congress was to insure that Barack Obama was a One Term President. In 2010, the Supreme Court ruled in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, that corporations were people and that money was free speech so corporations could not be abridged in spending money on political speech. Democrats as well as moderate Republicans who were willing to discuss solutions for improving the economy and compromise on cutting spending and raising revenue through tax increases now were targeted for defeat by politically conservative Super Pacs that could disguise the source of their financial contributions and elections in America changed forever. The anonymous source of spending by 501 (c) organizations dwarfs individuals and political parties.

The digital, broadcast, and print media are the primary sources of information about the political positions of the candidates and they are almost totally funded by secret sources of political power and influence.  Voters are subject to the largest propaganda campaign in all of human history.  Democratic discourse and civil debate on the issues has been almost totally lost in this election.  As a result, voters become "turned-off" and more removed than ever before from the political process.

The Citizens United Decision has unleashed a propaganda war on American democracy that preaches negativity and despair about America's ability to rebound.  The truth is we are rebounding and resilient and a model for the rest of the world. The trend line under this current administration demonstrates positive progress on almost every important factor for Americans:  The Gallup Poll has reported that "key economic and mood indicators are more positive now than in February 2009 when President Barack Obama first took office"  What is truly important to you and your family? Are you looking for job growth?  Do you want the foreign wars we are engaged in ended?  Do you need security in your old age?  Do you need health care at an affordable cost?  Do you want good schools that are funded and supplied with the teachers and resouces appropriate to the 21st century?  Are you concerned that climate change is adversely affecting our cities, our food supplies, and our security?  Do you want women to have control over their own reproductive health rather than the government making your family planning decisions for you?  Are you worried about the high debt you or your student are incurring to get a higher education?  Then you need to vote for Barack Obama.

IT IS the Economy, Stupid.  Despite the most devastating world economic downturn since the Great Depression, we've had an improved economic rate of growth since 2009 that has been better than almost every European country and continues to improve despite the 2011-12 takeover of the House of Representatives by conservatives who have obstructed every attempt to pass economic reform and an American Jobs Bill.  Unemployment has fallen from a high in Oct. 2009 of 10% to  7.9% in October 2012.  Under the Obama administration, American private sector job growth has recovered since a January, 2009 low, and new job growth has exceeded the loss of jobs since February 2010 with 33 straight months of positive job growth and 5.4 million private sector jobs added.

Facts are difficult things to overcome in this campaign, but the outside money propaganda campaign is counting on voters to be swayed on emotion rather than facts.  If you're not paying attention to the facts, you may be voting against your very own interests November 6th.  It's an extremely close election, so go to the polls and vote. Now go call your Zeyde!