Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Consulting the Magic 8 Ball to Make New Year's Predictions

In 2015, I begin my 65th year on this earth and my husband completes his 75th year.  Between the two of us, we have 140 years of history and memories. Insignificant in the realm of universal time but not bad by human standards. Our lifetimes pretty much overlap although he has that whole 40's decade that I cannot relate to. Looking back, my husband and I have a treasure trove of cultural icons and symbols that connect us.  We both can remember the toys of the 50's and the crazy new fads and fashions of the 60's.

Of course, we remember the tremendously popular Magic 8 Ball which was a toy first introduced in the 1950's.  I remember getting a Magic 8 Ball as a Christmas present and spending hours with it as it told me the answers to the questions I had about the future.  That little cultural icon is emblematic of the "magical thinking" a lot of us had in the 1950's and 60's as we sought accessible answers to an increasingly complex world.

So what does 2015 hold for us?  Will we be happy? Will there be world peace?  Ah, ask the Magic 8 Ball.  The answers you'll get probably are just as good as any other predictions out there.

Happy New Year!


Monday, December 29, 2014

Look who came to visit me this morning

All the finches and jays near the bird feeders were in alert mode making quite a fuss. Then I saw it...

a Great Horned Owl sitting on my fence.

He (or she) was about 20 inches tall and quite unafraid as I got in close to take a picture.

They breed and nest in January or February.  I suspect it was looking for a mouse, squirrel or bunny that live in the natural park behind my house.

I was glad my kitties were safely inside.  I lost one kitty to an owl or coyote in the mountains where we used to live.  I have seen a Great Honed Owl in-flight carrying a full size rabbit in Estes Park, Colorado.

This is the first time I have seen a Great Horned Owl since living in New Mexico.  I have heard their calls at night when they are usually active.  But this was about 8AM in the morning.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Sunday, December 21, 2014

" 'Tis the season to be jolly"....Sensing the Anomie Among Us

We are in the midst of the December Christmas holiday season with all its upbeat music, glittering decorations and consumer spending.  But amid the high spirits and joy of the season, a sense of anomie is emerging.

The stock market which has been a charging bull for the past couple of years took a polar bear plunge this month, primarily due to declining oil prices to a new low of $54 a barrel.

U.S. Stocks have gone up to record highs in the past two years

The recession which broke the back of the American economy in 2008 and ended officially in September, 2010  has resulted in the average American experiencing a loss of about 40% of their net worth since 2007.  The results of the aftermath of the Great Recession are mixed.  People who own stock, including those with retirement accounts with stock funds, have generally benefited from the hot stock market, at least on paper.  Timing is everything in the stock market and when retirees take their money out of the stock market is key to whether they are winners or losers.

Young people under 35 years of age are heavily indebted and have not been able to grow their wealth at all having spent their first 10-15 earning years on a roller coaster economy.  The minimum wage is stagnant with its real dollar value (accounting for inflation) more than $2 less than what is was in 1968.

Gasoline prices at the pump have declined to an average of $2.41 per gallon of regular  This has benefited consumers tremendously with lower commuting expenses and lower prices on items that fluctuate in price due to transportation costs (e.g. airline tickets, groceries, etc.).  It also creates instability in markets and damages alternative energy industries like electric cars and solar power as oil becomes cheaper.  On the other hand, OPEC nations and countries where oil is their chief export (Russia, Venezuela and Middle Eastern Islamic nations) have lost billions of dollars and face an economic Armageddon

And among all the economic ups and downs, the world news is dire with inexplicable violence, religious terrorism, natural disasters, increasing censorship, endless wars and noisy, chest-thumping dictators. People of reason, in the USA and elsewhere in this world, need to pay attention to what is happening in the world at this time.  Ignoring the signs of crisis will be at our peril.  But a feeling of anomie seems to be overwhelming individuals. 

For many people in the U.S.A., coming off an extremely negative election season where billions of dollars were spent to demonize candidates seeking office, they will turn more and more to their personal electronic devices to listen to music, play games and share monosyllable messages and pictures with their ever-enlarging circle of "friends".  More and more people in the world's leading democracy are "taking a pass" on the responsibilities of citizenship and, instead,  engage in private pleasures in this "brave new world".   Yesterday's Winthrop Quigley's column in the Albuquerque Journal took on this very subject as he shared his correspondence with Mark Rudd, a figure of 1960's radicalism:

’60s radical hears sounds of silence
By PUBLISHED: Saturday, December 20, 2014 at 12:05 amALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The electronic mail system brought an intriguing and depressing series of questions recently from Mark Rudd, a 40-year Albuquerque resident, retired CNM math teacher, former member of the Weather Underground, a leader of the 1968 student strike at Columbia University, a former leader of Students for a Democratic Society and now a self-described member of the Democratic Party’s progressive wing.
Has the American population become de-politicized? Rudd asked. Do ordinary citizens think about the common good anymore? Does anyone believe the political process is worth one’s time and energy? Are people so self-involved that they don’t have room in their lives for the public square?
Rudd was reacting to my assertion in the Dec. 11 UpFront that the American people’s response to years of disclosures about the CIA’s torture program has been silence. What followed was an exchange of multiple emails and a two-hour conversation over coffee concerning the state of public engagement in America.
This was before polling organizations published surveys showing a majority of Americans approve of torturing our enemies, or at least feel that torture can be justified. American silence could simply be a sign of American support for torture.
But there is more.
They held an election last month. Hardly anyone came. About 40 percent of registered voters voted in the gubernatorial election. Voter turnout reached 70 percent in the 2008 presidential election.
Rudd points out that about as many people thronged to hear candidate Barack Obama speak in Albuquerque before the 2008 election as turned out to vote in the 2012 Democratic primary election. None of our kids seems to us to be particularly engaged politically. I find myself avoiding political conversations with people I don’t know fairly well.
Rudd thinks declining political engagement is a result of “the growth of the power and size of capital, which controls the government, the media, the defense establishment, every federal bureaucracy and most state legislatures.” He says that “we’ve learned to lead our real lives, our emotional lives in private.”
I sent Rudd a column I wrote three years ago that said political operatives have learned from product marketing experts that you can divide the electorate into tiny collections of people with a shared identity and grievance. Campaign staffs use advertising and other marketing tools that appeal entirely to that identity and grievance.
They cultivate anger and hatred and use that to motivate their supporters to get to the polls. When the election is over, it’s very difficult to pull all of these shards of the population together into a united people ready to engage in the tough work of solving a democracy’s problems. They continue to live in their own world of identity and grievance, I said.
“Maybe only those who see themselves as part of the civic community vote,” Rudd replied. “Everybody else might as well be a John Galt individualist.” He senses the nation has lost hope in its future. “There is almost total confusion on what this country stands for,” Rudd said.
Some of our angst is likely nostalgia. We both came of age in a time of civil rights agitation, the Vietnam War, the draft and Watergate. Politics seemed then like a matter of life and death. It is a lot harder to get worked up over the size of the federal deficit and whether the federal government should require people to carry health insurance.
Brian Sanderoff, who runs Research & Polling, probably knows more about political attitudes in New Mexico than anyone else, so I asked what he thinks.
“People are fed up,” Sanderoff said. “Their expectations have become very low.” The endless din of negative campaigning (and these days someone is always campaigning) suppresses voter turnout and increases cynicism about the process, he said.
Modern political campaigning gives a voter the sense that whoever is elected will be, at best, ineffective “because I just listened to six months of people being called a dog, and I don’t know who to believe or what to believe,” Sanderoff said.
Not only are people splintered; the media are splintered. In the old days, there wasn’t right-wing Fox News and left-wing MSNBC, Sanderoff said. There was network news, which tended to be a little left of center but which strived to be an honest broker. Now people can look for media that confirm what they already believe and which tell them that the other guy’s media, whether liberal or conservative, are not to be trusted. Information becomes suspect.
Those holding or seeking power have found a formula that works, but for how long? Sanderoff says voters hate the negativity in their political lives, they know the political classes are serving up bull, and they want justice in the world. Angry people demand change, as Rudd and I both learned as young men in the time of civil rights and Vietnam. Brace yourselves.
UpFront is a daily front-page news and opinion column. Comment directly to Winthrop Quigley at 823-3896 or wquigley@abqjournal.com. Go to ABQjournal.com/letters/new to submit a letter to the editor.

I fear that the "checks and balances" required for our democracy to thrive are gone with a plutocracy that controls our elections, especially accelerated by the "Citizens United" Supreme Court decision. The voting populace has shrunken to an all-time low and "The People" that Jefferson so counted on to insure a democratic nation are largely poorly educated on not only the issues affecting them daily but also on history, science, government, etc. The shrunken conscience of our politicians and the increasing inability or refusal to convey ideas and facts through our sources of media allow for simple propagandistic thought to prevail as "common truth".  I happened to listen to a right-wing "talk radio" show the other morning and was amazed to hear such an alternative reality as described by the host.  His alternative reality attributed to President Obama and other Democratic politicians a world of horror and malice, I shuttered to think that anyone could believe this but America's enemies.  But all I need do is look at the blogosphere and listen to such "truths" repeated by some of our friends  to see that the propaganda is effective.   Absent some sort of national crisis to focus our attention  with laser-sharp focus to unite us, I do not think the US democracy can "bounce back". The very rich own us and until we experience wide-spread deprivation and loss, I fear that elections will change nothing in the immediate future as we fracture into smaller and  smaller groups based on identity and grievance.   In the meantime, many of us have gone missing from public life, focusing our attention on the most meaningless and ephemeral "feel good" activities deep within our own personal refuge.

Monday, December 15, 2014

A December Video Postcard from New Mexico

It's that time of the year again.  Holidays, Christmas lights and luminarias, tamales and green chile stew, and snow.   Sister Patricia came to visit us.  I celebrated my 64th birthday at Ojo Caliente soaking in their warm spring waters and dinner with family and friends in Albuquerque.  We enjoyed holiday events like the River of Lights in the Albuquerque BioPark.  Sister Patricia and I hiked the beautiful Kasha Katuwe Tent Rocks.  Here is a musical video postcard of the week that Sister Patricia spent here in New Mexico. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Memories of My Life and Family in Mid-Century Southern California

My parents got married in February, 1946.  This is their first Christmas card.
My father and mother were both children of the midwestern America.  My mother, Hellyn, and my father, Carl, were born in 1921 and 1922, respectively, in Kansas and Minnesota.  They were both members of large families that were at the bottom of the economic ladder where the only way to go was up.  The Great Depression that began in 1929 devoured their youth and formed them as people with habits of thriftiness and a strong work ethic they would have for the rest of their lives.  Their life decisions had profound benefits for my own life.

My dad left high school early and joined the Marine Corps when he was only 17 years old.  He hated the bitterly cold winters of St. Paul, Minnesota, and he hated the hard work on a horse stable where his father was a care-taker.  He was sent to San Diego, California for his basic training. 

My father in 1940 at Mission Beach in San Diego, California

My Dad in 1940 on a visit to Tijuana, Mexico.
My Dad at Camp Elliot (San Diego County) in 1941 where he did his weapons training

Before the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in December, 1941, I think he felt he had arrived in paradise in warm coastal California in 1940. 

My father, Carl  (c. 1945), spent 21 years in the Marine Corps.
My mother was the second eldest of a large Kansas family.  She was a bright girl in a dirt poor family and she longed for much more.  So after graduating from high school at the top of her class but with no money to attend college, she worked different low-paying clerical jobs with an eye on getting out of Kansas as soon as the opportunity presented itself.  When she saw an ad by a fellow who offered a ride to Los Angeles, California for $13, she borrowed an additional $5, took the ride and never looked back.  She moved in with friends who had moved to L.A. before her. 

My mother (left) in Los Angeles with her girlfriends (June 6, 1942)
She worked in a printing company and then joined the Marine Corps Women's Reserve in 1943.  Among all the young soldiers that flooded L.A. in the early 1940's,  my father met my mom.    After the war ended, they eloped to Yuma, Arizona in February, 1946. 

My mother, Hellyn (c. 1947)

After being discharged from the Marine Corps after the war, my father became an apprentice carpenter for his Uncle Tom who was a builder of homes in the Los Angeles area.  He also tried his hand at photography during this time.  But with the first baby born (my sister) in 1949 , money was tight, so my father re-enlisted in the Marine Corps as the Korean War approached. He got a sign-up bonus to re-enlist and bought his first home in Baldwin Park, California in 1949.  The now famous fast food burger place, In-N-Out Burger had just established its first  restaurant there in 1948.  Southern California was "taking off" with exponential growth after many GI's settled there after the war.
Their first child, Jeanne, was born in January, 1949.

They bought their first home in Baldwin Park (a suburb of  Los Angeles) for $7150.

Jeanne playing with the family's first TV

I was born in December, 1950 and the family was complete

Our family in 1951 in Baldwin Park, CA
Here's a picture of Jeanne and Vicki in 1951 (just before we moved to Hawaii) 
We moved to San Diego for a short time in 1951.  We lived in the Naval base housing before my dad was transferred to Hawaii.

Our home and car in San Diego. 1951 

Our family moved to the Territory of Hawaii  after my father was transferred to Honolulu in 1951

My sister went to a private kindergarten in Hawaii.
Here she is as an angel during a school Christmas play
 For three years, we lived in the Kaneohe base housing at Mokapu  called "Termite Village".  It was an idyllic time for our family.  Near her death in 1999, my mother recalled this as the best time of her life.   My parents were young and living on an island paradise.  They enjoyed partying with other Marines Corps families and luaus on the beach.  My father was an E-8 rank of Master Sergeant who provided technical leadership in communications.  He was fortunate not to have been sent to fight in Korea where the US was at war.

In 1954, my father was transferred back to California, this time to Camp Pendleton in Oceanside, California (located in San Diego County).  My father bought a "fixer-upper" for $5000 on slightly less than 3 acres in what was then rural Oceanside on Canyon Drive.  As a man of great skill in carpentry, he rebuilt the small 4 room house to suit his taste.  The house was halfway up a canyon and was originally built around a 1929 trailer home.  The single bath had an old-fashioned claw-foot tub.  The bedroom my sister and I shared had a clerestory window for us to view the sky from our bed.  The home was heated by an oil heater that I always was scared of because when I viewed the tiny window of the stove, there were flames and black smoke.  The living room had huge windows covered with bamboo curtains from Hawaii.  The view was of massive eucalyptus trees growing around the house, giving one the impression of living in a tree house. It was a home I have so many memories of, living there from 1954 to 1957 and then again from 1961 until 1964.  My sister and I built "forts" with eucalyptus branches on "Christmas Tree Mountain" - the name we gave the canyon hillside that towered above Canyon Drive -- that had a few straggly cedar trees growing among the chaparral and sage. My family sold walnuts for 35 cents a pound that we harvested from our English Walnut trees and we girls sold bunches of wild sweet pea flowers for 10 cents.  We had apricot and almond trees and my mother canned apricot and loquat jelly and my father brewed beer and root beer.

We kids pretended we were Indians and made our own bows and arrows. We had dogs and "secret" trails and a grass hill to slide on in late summer with large pieces of cardboard.  We swam and fished at the local beaches.  With our friends, we worked for many hours building a mud playhouse we called "Adobe Wells". It was a pretty good time and place to grow up.  My mother worked as a linotypist for the local newspaper, The Blade-Tribune, then owned by the iconic liberal writer and politician, Tom Braden.  Braden had recently left the CIA and borrowed $100,000 from Nelson Rockefeller to buy the paper in 1954.

In 1957, my father was transferred to the Terminal Island base (Long Beach, California).  We moved again and rented a home in Buena Park, California (a suburb of Los Angeles located in Orange County). I went to 2nd Grade at Buena Terra Elementary School.  We lived less than a mile from Knott's Berry Farm and my family frequently strolled the grounds there where we could walk through an old "Ghost Town," ride a mule or pan for gold.

There were few rides there then (before it became a huge amusement park). Mostly it was a family farm where chicken dinners and berry jam were sold. My mother got a job as a printer with her former employer, Moore Business Forms, in nearby Fullerton.  We kids were sleepily transported next door to our neighbors for care until school started. Our neighbors, Tomisina and Alfonso were from Mexico and I still can remember her hand-crocheted starched dollies on the furniture and warm, hand-made four tortillas with butter when we got back from school each day, and pinatas at birthday parties.  I loved Tommie and Al as if they were family. My best friend then was Scott, a neighbor-boy from down the street, who was an albino and had webbed hands with few fingers and a cleft lip.  It was my first experience with a friend who had disabilities and I became sensitive to the bullying of such people from 7 years of age.

In 1958, we bought a tract home in Anaheim, about a mile from  the new Disneyland Park that opened in 1955.  There were still a lot of orange groves in Orange County and a small farm with an orange grove still existed at the end of our street where we neighborhood kids played baseball in the street. I attended Jonas Salk Elementary School from the 3rd to the 6th grade.  It was a brand new school with almost 100% white students.  There were very few hispanic students and no black kids at all. Racial segregation as practiced in Southern California was primarily housing segregation and the new desirable housing developments in Orange County were "off-limits" to black buyers.  I remember living in Anaheim as a dizzying and fast-paced time.  Anaheim was the fastest growing city in the entire USA in the late fifties and early sixties. Indeed, all of Southern California experienced a time of rapid change and urbanization with freeway construction, fast-food restaurants, the film and aerospace industries replacing farming -- all led to increasing growth for the Middle Class.  Orange County was a bastion for conservative politics and even today, places like Anaheim are touted as a "Best City for Conservatives".  Today, the demographics for Anaheim have changed so that whites are a minority.  The KKK has begun to exhibit an ugly response.  A violent riot resulted when they marched in Anaheim on February 27, 2016.

My family at Disneyland in 1959 

In 1960, my father was transferred to Okinawa in Japan for 13 months.  Mom, my sister and I stayed in Anaheim.  I was halfway through the 6th grade when my dad returned.  He moved us back to our Oceanside house because his new duty station was MCRD in San Diego.  I remember I felt like I was dropped into "Hicksville" when I transferred to Mission Elementary School in the much slower-paced Oceanside.  

Now, looking back, I know moving back to San Diego County was the best thing to happen to me. Oceanside is a small town where a large Marine Corps base dominates the culture and demographics. Oceanside was racially diverse and so were the schools.  We had a student body of mostly White, Black, Hispanic, Samoan, and Japanese kids.  The fact that so many kids of different races and nationalities went to school together meant we didn't have the racial prejudices and conflicts other places had in the 1960's.

I went on to Jefferson Junior High in 1962.  I worked on the school newspaper in the 8th grade.  I vividly remember when President Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963.  I had just had lunch in the cafeteria and went into the library when the loudspeaker announced the event.  I sat down and penned an article (a memorial) right there which got printed at the front page of The Falconer, our school newspaper. We watched the events play out on TV in real-time, the arrest of Lee Harvey Oswald, the shooting of Oswald by Jack Ruby, the funeral in Washington, the caisson with the President's casket, the riderless horse, the grieving widow and children, the salute graveside by "John-John", the President's small son.....  As a girl about to turn 13 years old, I was profoundly affected by these events and was experiencing a common mourning with the rest of America.  But my father who was a very conservative Republican, hated Kennedy and he made many disparaging comments that made me question his political views forever after.  The man that I had always looked up to said such ugly things about this young President who was killed tragically that I experienced a life-changing epiphany.  This was the first moment for me "to question authority" which became a clarion call for my generation in the 1960's.  

I had my first boyfriend in the 8th grade.  Martin gave me his shop ring to wear around my neck and his red and black Pendleton board shirt to wear (these were the symbols of young love in 1964 southern California).  "Going steady" didn't last too long for me and Martin.  He was painfully shy and he could not even bring himself to hold my hand, let alone kiss me as we sat in a darkened movie theater.  We "broke up" within a few weeks of his asking me to "go steady" and I sadly returned his ring and shirt.  

My 6th grade class in Oceanside, California (I'm in the 2nd row, 4th from the left).  Martin  (my first boyfriend) is in the top row, 2nd from the right.

A clay sculpture I did in 1968
I went on to Oceanside High School for 4 years (1964-1968). I spent idyllic summers on the beach and got a surfboard and attempted to be a surfer (that didn't last very long). I listened and danced to the wonderful music of the sixties. I avoided using drugs completely but did learn how to get drunk. I was on a College Prep track but also took a lot of arts classes.  I spent 4 years as a Thespian and won Best Actress for a One Act Play High School hosted by San Diego State College (later "University") and was awarded a one year scholarship to major in Theater at San Diego State.  I took four years of art and entered sculptures and paintings into art exhibits.  I even painted the sets for my high school plays and for the local community theater production of The Fantasticks. I still have 2 pieces of art from high school.

An acrylic painting I did in 1968

I got politically active in high school. We students supported our teachers who went on strike in 1966 as we brought out our own grievances about the school administration.  My boyfriend then was the high school ASB President, Bill (Will) Bagley.  He was a champion debater and award-winning extemporaneous public speaker.  Today, he is a well-known writer and historian in Salt Lake City.  I found my niche in a group of bohemian-leaning super-smart students who listened to Bob Dylan, did theater and folk music and read philosophy.

My boyfriend, Bill, is on the right
 in the tie and jacket leading the student protestors.
In my senior year of high school, I was passionately against the war in Vietnam and I volunteered to work for Sen. Eugene McCarthy for President.  Many students joined Jack Estes, a OHS Civics teacher, to work on the McCarthy campaign.  We were all together at a "Victory Party" on the night of the California Primary, June 6, 1968, when we watched "live" the assassination of the primary winner,  Robert F. Kennedy.  After Martin Luther King's assassination in April, 1968, it seemed our generation was to be plagued with endless political violence.  I continued to work for McCarthy and wrote a letter to the head of the California Delegates, Speaker Jess Unruh, to swing his Kennedy votes to McCarthy. Years later, I found out in his biography that my letter was not only read, but considered seriously, by Jess Unruh.  But Gene McCarthy's candidacy was to be "quixotic" as the Democratic Convention in Chicago turned into a police-state like confrontation with the forces of democracy.

My 1968 high school graduation picture
The 1960's were turbulent with the civil rights movement, the Vietnam War, race riots, the Farm Worker's Union Movement, the assassinations of political figures, the Hippie Movement. The  "boomer generation" of children produced by the children of The Great Depression were very much full of themselves.  Through the financial support of their increasingly middle-class and upper-middle class parents, the people of my generation went to college in great numbers.  My father had retired from the Marines Corps by 1964 and was receiving a military pension but he continued to work in the Civil Service as a Maintenance Worker at Camp Pendleton.  My mom worked as an encyclopedia salesperson, a Gallup Poll interviewer, and a clerk-typist.  She changed jobs from a clerk-typist in the Civil Service to a "Packaging and Preservation Specialist" at Camp Pendleton where she unpacked, cleaned, and repacked equipment returning from the war in Vietnam.  A terrible car accident in 1964 caused my mother to be hospitalized with a broken neck.  She experienced extreme pain for the rest of her life and retired with a disability retirement.  My family bought our first "new" home in 1966.  It was a 3 bedroom, 2 and one half bath split level ranch-style home at 320 Kennedy Lane in Oceanside.  We bought it while it was still under construction for $19,750. We had a recreation room and bought a pool table for it and it was the location for many teen-age parties.  My mother bought  new French Provincial living room furniture.  I had my own bedroom, finally, and the place was new and shiny.  I think it was the first time I felt "we had arrived" to the Middle Class.

After graduating from high school in 1968 I went to the local community college for my freshman year (my parents were adamant about equal treatment for my sister and I, and since she went to the community college her first year, I had to do the same).  I fell in love with Roy Cook at MiraCosta College.  Roy was 7 years older than I.  He was the Vice-President of the college ASB and the Editor of the college newspaper.  He was was a Jump Master in the Army Special Forces Reserve (the Green Berets) who loved parachuting and mountain climbing.  He was proud of his heritage as part-Native American and part-Mexican American and part-White. 

Roy Cook (c. 1969)
He transferred to San Diego State College in 1969 and I followed, majoring in Theater Arts so I could use the scholarship I had won in high school.  A boy from Tucson, Arizona, from poor economic circumstance, Roy wanted to study Business Law and be a corporate lawyer.  He eventually became an artist, teacher and leader in the Californian Indian and Veteran communities.

Vicki in 1970 (on top of Mt. Soledad, La Jolla, California)
I transferred to the University of California San Diego in 1970 and graduated in 1972 with a B.A. (Sociology).  In those days, college fees for the public-supported University of California were only $100 an academic quarter and there was no tuition.  The then-Governor, Ronald Reagan, increased the fees to $300 an academic quarter in 1971-72 and they've kept climbing so that today they are out of reach to the average middle-class student without student loans, scholarships or grants.

For my family, I was the first to get a college degree and my parents were extremely proud of my accomplishment.  It was, after all, what they wanted for me and my sister, academic and economic success - the Middle Class Dream of the last century.

My grandmother and mother on a visit to Death Valley, California in 1970

When my father retired from the Civil Service at the age of 52 and my mother began receiving permanent disability from Social Security,  they sold their home in Oceanside in 1974 for $34,000.  They stored their personal property and took off with a  17 foot travel trailer to travel full time.  They had always dreamed to see Europe but never made it as illnesses prevented the achievement of that goal.  They finally settled down in Yuma, Arizona until their deaths in the 1990's.  I think they looked back at their lives and their children with great pride and accomplishment.  They came a long way in their own lives and achieved just about everything they set out to do.  One cannot ask for more in this life.

My parents with me (c. 1978) in San Diego, California.
My father had just been diagnosed with heart disease and was to undergo quadruple heart by-pass surgery.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

In New Mexico, Republican Controlled State House and Governor Are Taking Out Their Knives To Gut Workers' Rights

In the most recent November election, a Republican Governor was re-elected and the State House of New Mexico went Republican for the first time since 1953.

Elections have consequences.  And the consequences of a dispirited and disengaged majority Democratic electorate who didn't vote in the November election will be severe, indeed.

New Mexico has the largest disparity in income between its wealthiest citizens and its poorest citizens of all the states. It's economy has lagged and faltered while the rest of the nation has steadily recovered since the recession ended in 2009.  The majority of New Mexicans have suffered economically and societally to the point that they have turned their back on the politicians who appeal for their support at election time.  The Democratic candidate for Governor lacked the charisma, the political support of the Democratic Party, and the money to gain the attention of the voters against a daily barrage of negative political ads paid for by overwhelmingly out-of-state conservative corporate and political interests.  The absence of a winning candidate for the governorship hurt many down-ticket Democrats including those running for the State House of Representatives. The fact that the Republican Secretary of State eliminated "straight ticket voting" as a voting option also hurt down-ticket Democrats who were less well-known on a very long ballot.  Again, elections have consequences.  When the first Republican SOS (Diane Duran) in NM in 80 years made a decision to eliminate straight party voting in 2010, they knew that this would benefit the Republican Party in future New Mexico elections.  The Albuquerque Journal wrote in June, 2012:
Straight party votes accounted for 41 percent of ballots cast statewide in the 2010 general election. About 23 percent of the election’s total votes were Democratic straight-ticket ballots and 18 percent were Republican, according to the Secretary of State’s Office.
What remains unclear is whether elimination of the straight-ticket option will disproportionately help or hurt Democratic or Republican candidates.
“This could have major implications,” said Brian Sanderoff, an Albuquerque pollster and longtime observer of New Mexico elections.
It’s far from certain whether voters who cast straight-ticket ballots in the past will continue to support only the candidates of their favored party by marking ballots in each individual race. People might simply skip voting in lower profile races as they go through a potentially long ballot.
“Would one group be more likely to split their ticket when they don’t have an opportunity to vote for a straight ticket? Would one group be more likely to fall off and not vote for the down-ballot races? How would it affect local races and legislative races? These are big questions,” Sanderoff said.

Now that the election is over and the state House, the Governor, and the Mayor of the largest city in New Mexico are Republican, what can the working people of New Mexico expect from their elected leaders?  Knives are already being pulled out to gut laws passed that protect workers rights, wages and benefits.  High on their list is something the Republican Governor failed to achieve in the last legislative session when Democrats who controlled both the Senate and the House refused to do: make New Mexico a "Right-to-Work" state.  "Right-to-Work" legislation is a scheme of Republican politicians to break unions and eliminate one of the most powerful voices and source of political contributions against their corporate agenda.   The Republican Mayor of New Mexico's largest city of Albuquerque, who has mismanaged an out of control police force and failed in two terms as Mayor to bring significant economic recovery to the city, quickly seized the Republican mantra that somehow unions are at fault for a city rapidly disintegrating under his command:
He [Mayor Richard Berry] said that he's spoken to several in the legislature about changing the state's laws that today require anyone joining a unionized force to also join the union. This year, several are expecting the measure to pass the New Mexico House of Representatives, which is newly Republican controlled.
"It's a political sword, and I know that," he said. [Emphasis added}

Scott Walker, GOP Governor in Wisconsin, when facing a disintegrating economic situation  in his state, used the same political playbook when he went after public unions in his state.  Walker promised in 2010 when he was elected that he would "get government out of the way of employers ... will then help Wisconsin create 250,000 jobs by 2015, and as we create those new jobs, we will be able to add 10,000 new businesses.”  But Scott Walker has a problem:  despite his heavy handed destruction of public employee's bargaining rights and incurring divisiveness among the people, he has failed to deliver on his promise that new economic opportunities would materialize.  Walker also is the same guy to say that a $7.25/hour minimum wage is a "living wage" and refused to increase it in his state.  Sounds a lot like the position NM Governor Susana Martinez and Mayor Berry have on the issue where one sixth of New Mexico's workforce would have an immediate benefit from a raise to the minimum wage.   The Republican argument for RTW laws sounds a lot like their support for "free trade" laws and protecting off-shore profits from taxation when manufacturing companies abandoned the USA for the lowest wage countries without unions, minimum wage laws or other worker protections and environmental regulations.  

So, do so-called "Right-to-Work" laws really benefit workers,  or only corporate interests?  On this issue, Media Matters has some interesting facts here.  I can speak personally about my own experience working for 27 years for a large (Fortune 500) defense contractor in San Diego, California.  For twenty of those years,  I was a union member.  We had a Union Security clause in our contract which required all hourly workers in the bargaining unit to join the union (IAM&AW, AFL-CIO).  Political objectors could make a request to only have dues  taken out that represented their  "fair share of dues used directly for representation"  which meant any dues used for political or union organizing, social events (our local had tickets for the Padres games as door prizes at union meetings), or anything else not related to representing the worker would not have to be paid for by an "objector".  In this way they did pay for full representation in grievances and collective bargaining. When I got hired in 1977, I was a 26 year old single woman working for NCR in San Diego (a non-union company) where I was earning $2.90 an hour as an electronic assembler.  I was hired at General Dynamics as an electronic assembler for $3 an hour and received a "cost-of-living" increase (per negotiated contract) of 11 cents just two weeks later.  I got company-paid dental, medical, life insurance after 90 days of employment, 5 days sick leave and two weeks paid vacation per year.  I was also earning credit toward a retirement pension and was eligible for a stock and savings investment plan where I got $1 of company stock for each dollar I set aside in a savings plan (this was before 401k plans).  So I was very happy and feeling much more secure economically.  My union steward met me on the job in the first 5 days and gave me a copy of the bargaining agreement.  He answered all my questions and supported me whenever I needed back-up with company management.  Most important of all, I was accruing seniority for every day I worked (which was very important when layoffs happened years later).  I got several promotions and won grievances when I was treated unfairly (like the time I applied for a new job as a printer and was the only employee in-house with printing press experience when the manager hired his friend from the outside). 

All the salaried (non-union employees) eagerly awaited the conclusion of collective bargaining every 3 years because they got wherever the union successfully bargained for. In the 1990's, the company wanted to eliminate pensions for employees and have everyone voluntarily fund their own retirement through risky 401k plans.  The union said "no" because we had a contract; the salaried employees lost the right for future pension credit.  I was laid off once in 1995 and was out for a year.  I was recalled (thanks to 18 years of seniority) when work picked up and I left my non-union job that paid $9/hour (no benefits) to return to my union job that paid more than $11 an hour and I still had all my benefits and retirement pension credit intact, thanks to our collective bargaining agreement.  I was now a single mom with two children, so I took a higher paying salaried job in 1997 and lost my seniority and union security.  But as a 20 year employee, I had earned 6 weeks of paid time off per year (thanks to our collective bargaining agreement). I worked salaried for another seven years when the company laid me off at age 54.  The company replaced me with a college-hire with no pension, lower salary, fewer benefits.  Because of the collective bargaining agreement, I was able to take early retirement at age 55 and receive my pension which was nearly $900 a month.  

Now I can look at my good fortune and totally credit it to my union membership.  If California had been a "right-to-work" state, I am sure I would not have been so fortunate as the union would have been extremely weak in its bargaining position with a large and powerful employer.   I paid my union dues for over 20 years and feel it was totally worth it.  As I look at my fellow citizens in New Mexico, I know that those who work union are much better off than those who do not.  I know that if the Republicans are successful in breaking the unions here in New Mexico, then the few fortunate workers who have made it to middle-class comfort will be pushed into poverty and those low wage non-union workers who aspire to climbing out of poverty will be blocked in their aspirations.

Don't sit this one out, my fellow New Mexicans.  "United we stand, divided we fall."  The Democratic NM state senate will need to stay strong and resist any "deals" to make this state a "Right-to-Work-for Less" state.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Cold and Getting Colder...

 Good bye, autumn. It was nice to know you.

Guess I'll not be having coffee on my little patio
for the next several months
Well, our warm fall weather is history.  Our temperature dropped to 34 degrees F. this morning with tomorrow's low forecast to be 28 degrees F.  We may even see snow by this weekend.  Very early for Albuquerque to see such cold temps. The rest of the nation, except for California and Florida, is experiencing a deep freeze as a result of a polar invasion pushed down by a huge typhoon that hit the Aleutian Islands of Alaska.

I was happy to see China and the US (the two biggest nations contributing to global warming) announce they have agreed to reduce carbon emissions in the atmosphere.  Now let's see if they have the political will and power to do it.  I'm afraid of these "know-nothing" types who have been elected to Congress who have no respect for science and only pander to coal and oil producers will not support the President in a "goal to achieve  26 percent to 28 percent less carbon dioxide in 2025 than it did in 2005"


Our first fall snow hit Albuquerque this morning, Sunday, Nov. 16th.

A dusting of snow at my house this morning.  It's 34 degrees F. at 9AM and the temperature is falling

Sandia foothills to the west of my house are getting snowfall.