Monday, January 19, 2009

Cautious Optimism and the Hard Work of Real Democracy

Am I happy that this is George W. Bush's last night in office? You bet. Do I think that Barack Obama will be an improvement from the last eight years? Absolutely. Do I think that he will solve all of our national an international crises? Nope. I am cautiously optimistic. I did vote for Barack Obama because I share many of the political and social values, as well as the policy changes, that he spoke to during his campaign: investing in education and reforming No Child Left Behind, investing in alternative fuels, affordable healthcare for all, etc.

So, why am I cautiuously optimistic instead of completely confident that this country is going to become a haven of social justice within the first 100 days of Obama's term? Here's why. Obama has and continues to be deeply entrenched in the corporate government that has left millions of Americans without access to healthcare, led America into the deepest econmic recession since the Great Depression, and allowed a war based on deceit and fear to take the lives of more than 4, 000 Americans and hundres of thousands of Iraqis (at least).

While millions of Americans donated to and volunteered for Obama's campaign, Obama also accepted millions of dollars from corporations that oppose the values he preached. Obama accepted millions of dollars from top Wall Street firms including Goldman Sachs -$955,223, JB Morgan Chase-$642,948, Citigroup-$633,418. No matter how well-intentioned Barack Obama may be about restoring the economy by bringing jobs to the middle-class, he will have lobbyists from these Wall Street firms reminding him daily of his debt to them.

So why am I evenly cautiously optimistic? Why am I not a complete pessimist ready to escape the country and take up the life of a disgruntled ex-patriot. I actually believe that at his core, Obama really does want to change policies so that all Americans have access to healthcare, teachers have the tools they need to educate the next generation, and that economy must be restored so that Wall Street does not bully Main Street. I also believe that he is a charismatic and competetive individual that is very susceptible to the thrill of power.

That is why it is so important that Americans who supported Obama with their $25 or $50 dollar donation do not allow him to cave to corporate interests that have already succeeded in dictating his appointments. There are some really great websites that are organizing citizen lobbying efforts. On inauguration day, celebrate your freedom an power by pushing your agenda. The corporate lobbyists are very powerful, but not as powerful as millions of citizens. Before I list these sites, I leave you with this thought by citizen activits Edward Abbey.

"A patriot must always be ready to defend his country against his government."

My America Project
Center for Constitutional Rights

Good luck and happy Martin Luther King Day.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Falling into Winter

Once again, it's been a while since my last post. Fall in Vermont was beautiful. I use the past tense for this season of colorful landscapes and bountiful harvests because it snowed today. For those of you that do not live in Northern New England or similar climates, you may think that you read that wrong. Nope. It snowed. So, before I touch on the winter ahead in terms of weather and politics, let me just say that this was one of the most beautiful autumns that I have ever experienced. The red, orange, and yellow leaves that mark this season in Vermont seemed to be particularly intense and long-lasting this year. The picture above shows a few of the many trees that I had the pleasure of resting my eyes own this past month. In addition to enjoying this weather on foot, we were able to enjoy it from our kayaks.
So now most of the leaves are on the ground along with a dusting of snow, the long haul of winter is upon us. I don't say long haul in a completely negative way, just the reality of the fact that winter here will last well into April. In preparation fro this long winter, we have put quite a bit of food away, either freezing or canning. We invested $200 in a 7 cubic foot chest freezer and we have it about 1/2 way full with veggies, pesto, soups, and berries. A couple weeks ago, a friend invited us to harvest one row of trees in a nearby apple orchard at the end of the season. Here I am happily harvesting. It is amazing how many apples one tree can produce. The end result was (this is only an estimate) about 700 apples. I have made a ton of applesauce, Robb has baked about 12 loaves of apple bread, and we have had more than our fair share of apple pie and apple crisp. We are supposed to go over to our friend's house and press the remaining apples for cider this weekend. No shortage of fiber in our diet nowadays.

The cooler weather has also motivated me in the knitting department. I cast on and quickly knit the Odessa hat pattern (free ravelry download) in Mirasol's Hacho yarn. The combination of this very colorful yarn with the swirly pattern made it fun to knit and almost as fun to wear. In larger knitting projects department, cast on the lovely Cobblestone sweater for my DH. I am knitting it in O-Wool balance and it is lovely. Since it's a 50/50 cotton/merino wool blend, I think this will be a three season sweater. It has a lovely texture and handsome tweedy look because of the fiber mix. The 17" of primarily stockinette with a little garter stitch that I am currently working on make it a great mindless project for knit night, movies, or other times when I am trying to multi-task.

I was going to write about how the larger world seems to falling into winter, plus what we are doing to prepare, but I think we all know that and a little distraction from this economic crisis is well deserved by all.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Nothing Funny about Funny Money

Hey, remember when money was something you had to earn and put away in order to purchase something, especially something big like a house or a car or a million dollar company? At some point we forgot about that little financial crisis called the Great Depression and banks had the brilliant idea that they should lend people hundreds of thousands of dollars that they didn't have so that these people could purchase things they couldn't afford (or usually need) like big, fancy houses with heliports and heated swimming pools. This money could be paid back over up to 30 years at an interest rate that seems fair only if you don't do the math. What a great deal...or not. The mortgage crisis, it turns out, has only been the prologue, to what is turning into an epic financial disaster in this country. While individuals do need to take responsibility for their financial choices, home buyers were really just the pawns in this mortgage fiasco (and pawns are easily pushed around). The lenders, like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, were the Kings and Queens that were making loads of money while individual home buyers sunk themselves farther and farther into debt. The American government couldn't let the King and Queen go down , it might hurt the position of the pawns that they had pushed around. So, the King and Queen (aka Fannie and Freddie) were rescued from the mess the made so that the pawns would not completely abandon the chess board.

Of course, this mortgage crisis was only the tip of the iceberg in terms of financial disaster. How could banks lend out all that money neither they nor the borrower had? Investments! Yes, take the small percentage of money that the borrower gave to the bank towards their massive loan and make it grow by funding other corporations. Sound risky? While, it was and still is. From what I can understand, investment banks don't work too well if people are not making investments.

The whole system sounds pretty much broken to me. Apparently, the already financially strapped people of Main Street America are supposed to now support throwing another 700 billion of their tax dollars at what seems to be a sinking ship. This seems like a recipe for disaster.

So far, the politician who has the most logical response to this crisis is Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who said, "if a company is too big to fail, it is too big to exist." So, perhaps it's time to stop propping up dangerously large corporations and figure out how to stabilize the economy by spreading out the wealth.

Just a thought.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Pete Seeger's Message Resonates More than Ever

This past Saturday, I had the amazing opportunity to see Pete Seeger perform live at the Brattleboro's Latchis Theater. Seeger was joined on stage by his grandson Tao Rodriquez-Seeger and Guy Davis. At the age of 89, Seeger doesn't perform as often as he used to. His age is evident in his raspier voice, but his commitment to justice and his joyful spirit is stronger than ever. Watching the dynamic between Seeger, his 30-something year old grandson, and Guy Davis was uplifting and heartwarming. Their respect for one another and their shared belief in the power of music to guide social change sprinkled a little hope on this troubled world.

The performance, a benefit for Strolling of the Heifers (a Vermont non-profit that offers micro-loans to small family farms), included many of Seeger's familiar tunes that have accompanied peace activisits for generations. The lyrics resonated more than ever.

Take these lyrics for instance...

To everything,
turn, turn, turn.

There is a season,

turn, turn, turn.

Notice any political, social, or economic seasons changing lately?

Despite what Washington and Wall Street would like the American public to believe, it looks like the season of constant growth for the American economy, particularly the corporate sector of the economy, is coming to an end. The past year has been marked by a downward spiral of corporate America's control over the global economy. Yesterday's events on "Wall Street" punctuated the economic disaster facing the financial industry when another two of largest investment firms, Lehman Brothers and Merrill-Lynch, were forced to admit their own desperate financial situation, Lehman declaring bankruptcy and Merrill Lynch being bought out by Bank of America. Maybe there is a reason this is all happening. Maybe the seasons are changing on Wall Street. Maybe it is time to re-think an economic system that benefits only a very small percentage of the population and leaves the rest struggling to pay their bills.

I am currently reading Bill McKibben's book Deep Economy in which he speaks to the danger and consequences of unrestricted economic growth. He asserts that the economy can not keep growing in this manner without dangerous political, social, and environmental consequences. So, if we as a human species are to survive, this season of greed and growth has to end.

A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

Thanks for putting things in perspective, Pete. Plus, it was fun to sing along.

To read Robb's perspective of the concert, go to his blog.

Saturday, August 30, 2008


Yes, we are married-Robb, the sweetest radical this side of the Mississippi (well, either side of the Mississippi, but I like that expression), is now my husband. While we have been together for more than three years and lived together for more than two years, it does feel different and wonderful.

After an incredibly rainy summer, we had a gorgeous day. The mud had a week to dry up (yes, there was a bit of a mud season this summer here in Vermont) and the sun was shining. It was a feeling of an incredible joy and comfort to be surrounded by so many family and friends who have shaped and supported us as we celebrated our relationship.

The picture to the left of the ceremony is (from left to right) my two sisters and me.

Ella T. Dogg was waiting for me with Robb as I walked down the "aisle", but was relocated to the front row during the ceremony. Just to make sure that she didn't feel neglected, one of our reading for the ceremony was a revised version of "Falling in Love is Like Owning a Dog" Robb and I certainly are not of the mind that we really "own" Ella, but this reading was too perfect to pass up. Here's a few favorite stanzas.

On Cold Winter Nights, love is warm.
It lies between you and lives and breaths
and makes funny noises.
Love wakes you up all hours of the night with its needs.
It needs to be fed so it will grow and stay healthy.

Love doesn't like being left alone for long
but come home and love is always happy to see you.
It may break a few things accidentally in its passion for love,
but you can never be mad at it for long.

We also had a damn good party with yummy local food, including very fresh chickens from Gaylord's Farm, greens from Pete's Greens, prepared and served with love and elegance by Kismet. There was much drinking and dancing under the full moon with celebratory and soulful tunes by the Dave Keller Band.

Much joy and more to come.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Sweaters, strawberries, and summer scenes

Long time, no post. So, here's a little visual catch up. Right about when the weather turned, I finished my simple cardigan in Fibre Company's lovely Terra yarn. Not to worry, winter will return and I will have plenty of time to wear this sweater. The pattern is A Craving to Knit from Yarn Girl's Guide to Simple Knits. It's a great pattern when you want to really highlight the yarn itself- kind of boring, but very wearable.

About a month ago, I went on a strawberry picking frenzy at a farm about 10 miles from us. I love strawberries and they always seem to be in season for such a short time. So, I decided I would freeze oodles of these delicious berries so I can enjoy year round, while still continuing eat locally. Blueberries are now in season so I will have be heading out for more fruit picking fun in the next week. Nothing like opening your freezer in January (in Vermont) and seeing some colorful food.

Other adventures this summer have included enjoying lots of outdoor dinners with Robb and Ella on our porch, hiking Camel's Hump and enjoying this view, and swimming whenever possible.

In other news,, Robb and I will be "taking the plunge" in a couple of weeks. Here we are literally taking the plunge in the White River on a hot summer day.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Still Here, Less a Working Camera

Long time, no post. This is certainly not for lack of activity. My excuse is that my camera is currently out of commission. Luckily, there are plenty of people taking pictures of my beautiful nephew, Oliver. Here he is hanging out with his chicken. I didn't knit that chicken, but I'm trying to figure out the pattern now.

Speaking of knitting projects for Oliver, I have finished 4 of the six squares for the Rocketry Blanket pattern. Of course, I don't have a camera so there are no pictures to show my progress. So, until I have a working camera again, you'll just have to use your imagination. Also on the knitting front I am one button band and five buttons shy of finishing a cardigan for myself. Just in time for the spring.

On another front, we are busy planning our wedding for this coming August, which is turning into a bit of a sociology experiment. The wedding industry is a fascinating one and seems to really celebrate the consumerism that I usually try to protect myself from. Still, Robb and I do want to celebrate our life together with family and friends so we are finding a way to celebrate not only ourselves, but our values. The chicken for our wedding is coming from a farm across the road from the inn we're getting married at. About 95% of the food is coming from farms within a 100 mile radius of where we live. So, this is actually a wonderful way to share the place we call home with the people we love. I'm sure I will have more humorous details as the plans progress and I am exposed to more ads that tell me things like, "This is the most important roll of toilet paper of your life. Why not monogram it?"