California Election PSA.

Here is  some information about voting  for us in the Bay Area. All the information contained herein has been gleaned from the Santa Clara, San Mateo, San Francisco, Alameda, and Santa Cruz county websites — I did my best to get as much information as possible. (I trawled through them so you don’t have to.)

This is sort of long, and you probably know some if not all of it. If you do, pass it along to people who might:

California’s primary elections are on June 7. The Democratic, Libertarian, and American Independent Parties have open presidential primaries; the others — including but not limited to the Republican Party — do not. Permanent Vote By Mail Voters who are not members of a party need to return their ballots indicating that they need to be sent a Democratic (or Libertarian or AI) ballot, depending upon county (San Francisco you can go online an request a ballot).

All other contests — including for US Senate — are non-partisan. (The Senate race is wild and wooly — thirty-four candidates are vying for the seat being vacated by the venerable Barbara Boxer. Reading the candidates statements for the people running amused me for most of an afternoon.)

Important deadlines:

This upcoming Monday, March 23, is the last day to register to vote.(There are some different deadlines in you are in San Francisco County and you are a new citizen.)  You can register online at the California Secretary of State’s website. You can also pick up a registration application at the DMV or most libraries. You need to hurry — paper applications need to be post-marked by Monday.

May 31 is the last day to request a Vote By Mail ballot, and the last day for Permanent Vote By Mail voters who have received a “no party preference” ballot to return it and get a Democratic, Libertarian or American Independent Party ballot. REQUESTS MUST BE RECEIVED AT THE REGISTRAR OF VOTERS, NOT SIMPLY POSTMARKED BY THIS DATE.  If you wished to vote in the Green or Republican Parties you would need to actually reregister by Monday.

Early voting is now going on.

In the San Francisco Bay Area, hours are:

Santa Clara County:

  • Registrar of Voters, 1555 Berger Drive, San Jose
Monday – Friday May 9 – June 6 8 am to 5 pm
Saturday – Sunday May 28 – May 29 9 am to 3 pm
Saturday – Sunday June 4 – June 5 9 am to 3 pm

Additional locations and times:

Day(s) Date(s) Hours
Saturday – Sunday May 28 – May 29 12 pm to 5 pm
Saturday – Sunday June 4 – June 5 12 pm to 5 pm
  • Gilroy Library: 350 W. Sixth Street, Gilroy, CA 95020
  • Joyce Ellington Branch Library: 491 E Empire St., San Jose, CA 95112
  • Los Altos Library: 13 S. San Antonio Road, Los Altos, CA 94022
  • Santa Clara City Library: 2635 Homestead Road, Santa Clara, CA 95051
  • San Jose Public Library – Education Park Branch: 1772 Educational Park Dr., San Jose, CA 95133

In addition, there is a long list of drop-off locations for VBM ballots.

San Mateo County:

Monday – Friday May 9 – June 6 8 am to 5 pm
Saturday May 28 10 am to 3 pm
Saturday June 4 10 am to 3 pm


You can drop off VBM ballots on Election Day at any City Hall in the county.

Alameda County:

Monday – Friday May 9 – June 6 8:30 am to 5 pm
Saturday – Sunday May 28 – May 29 9 am to 3 pm
Saturday – Sunday June 4 – June 5 9 am to 3 pm
  • Alameda County Registrar of Voters Office, 1225 Fallon Street, Room G-1, Oakland, CA 94612


San Francisco County:

Monday – Friday May 9 – June 6 8 am to 5 pm
Saturday – Sunday May 28 – May 29 10 am to 4 pm
Saturday – Sunday June 4 – June 5 10 am to 4 pm
  • The Voting Center is located outside Room 48 in City Hall, 1 Dr Carlton B Goodlett Pl, San Francisco.


Santa Cruz County:

Monday – Friday May 9 – June 6 8 am to 5 pm
Saturday – Sunday May 28 – May 29 9 am to 5 pm
Saturday – Sunday June 4 – June 5 9 am to 5 pm
  • Santa Cruz County Clerk/Elections, 701 Ocean St., Room 210, Santa Cruz
  • Watsonville City Clerk’s Office, 275 Main St., Watsonville


Election Day, June 7:

Polls are open 7:00 am to 8:00 pm.

DO NOT ASSUME THAT THE POLLING PLACE YOU HAD LAST TIME IS YOUR POLLING PLACE FOR THIS ELECTION. While they are often the same from election to election, there are changes. You can locate your polling place on the back of the sample ballot that you have been sent.  If, like me, you’ve lost your sample ballot, you can look it up  on the websites for the Registrar of Voters:

If you are a VBM voter, you can drop your completed ballot off at the polls, the registrar of voters (or see drop-off lists above), or have it postmarked June 7.  Any ballot postmarked by Election Day and received within three days is valid.

Voting matters. Please exercise your right (and responsibility!) to shape our state and our country.


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Captain America: Civil War

Comments about the movie (which I loved):

  1. There is no film, no matter how good (and this one was), that Martin Freeman does not make better by simply being in it, no matter how small the role.
  2. There is no major multi-governmental building anywhere in the developed world, let alone Germany, that does not have backup generators that kick in when the power goes out. Hell, as the Rocket Scientist observed, in Germany the backup generators probably have backup generators.
  3. They finally got Spiderman’s age right.
  4. Given that some of the major characters end up in legal trouble, I think Matt Murdoch (a.k.a. Daredevil) should represent them. I think he could get them off.

One of the ways I can tell it was a good movie is that I find myself mentally writing fanfic about the characters after the movie. Right now, I am imagining Cap and Spidey meeting under different circumstances.

I loved it. It has gotten me hooked on Marvel movies — so much so I want to go find the ones I haven’t seen, especially Avengers: the Age of Ultron, and Captain America: the Winter Soldier.

I can hardly wait for Dr. Strange in November.

Posted in Culture (popular and otherwise) | Tagged , | 1 Comment

On caucuses.

Last week, I saw an interview that Bernie Sanders gave Rachel Maddow. When the discussion turned to caucuses, Sanders defended them, saying that while he understood that some people might find it difficult to find the time, it was good for people to get together on a Saturday or a Tuesday night and engage in direct democracy.

Good God, I thought. He really believes that. I was stunned.

Caucuses are supremely undemocratic. That notion of joining together on a Saturday or Tuesday evening to hash out our political future may seem inviting, unless you’re a line cook. Or a waitress. Or a nurse. Or a cop. Or anyone who might be able to find time to go to the polls but can’t spend an evening or a Saturday in meeting rooms arguing  about candidates. The inflexibility of the caucus structure favors people who work during the day but who have evenings or weekends free. It can discourage many others.

And it is not just a matter of finding time. Caucuses can damage the opportunity that individuals have to express their political will. Suppose you were a Republican in Alabama and you go to the caucus in the hypothetical high school gym only to find your supervisor from Walmart there. You like Donald Trump; he feels that Trump represents “New York values” and is not a conservative and he favors “my man, Ted Cruz.” Knowing that your supervisor has the power to make your life miserable, and possibly have you fired, would you express support for Trump? Or would you swallow your pride and throw your weight behind Cruz? I know what I would do: not go to the caucus to begin with. How then am I represented in this process?

After all, more than one Republican business owner threatened to cut employees or close up shop if Obama were reelected in 2012. What do you think would happen if one of these men knew an employee voted for Obama in a caucus? Even though caucuses are confidential, don’t you think someone like that would have spies?

The economic forces which Sanders decries at every rally mean that caucuses are unavailable or dangerous for many of the people he cares most to protect.

Then, too, Sanders is a New Englander.  New England has a grand tradition of “town meeting” democracy going back to colonial times.  And perhaps because of all those years in Vermont politics, Bernie Sanders may have a romantic view of the value of public democracy.

I do not.

Unlike Sanders, I am a daughter of the South, born two years before Medgar Evers was gunned down in front of his house, four before the march on Selma. Men and women in the states I grew up in died for the right to vote. Do you honestly think that if not only that they voted but how they voted were known, the brave black men and women exercising their rights to shape their government would be safer? I don’t.

In the South, within memory, voting was not a given. Tragically, for many, voting was a right bought with blood.

Even today, voting can be a fraught exercise — official voter suppression and unofficial voter intimidation are real. I would never ask any of my black, Latino, or Asian friends to walk into a caucus in any of the Deep Red states of the former Confederacy. I would have trouble going to one myself, and I am as white as Wonderbread.

The walls of that voting booth provide security as well as privacy.

Also, caucuses favor activists. They require open declarations of intent. Thanks to cable news, I have at least a small feel for what goes on in caucuses, and I want no part of it. Most states with primaries have prohibitions against campaigning within a certain distance from the voting place precisely because they do not want voters to have to negotiate a gauntlet of partisans on their way into the polls.  I want to be able to vote as I choose without having to publicly declare — and defend — my allegiances.

Then, too, caucuses could potentially damage our personal lives. I have family members who are strong Bernie Sanders supporters.  I am going to enthusiastically vote for Hillary Clinton. Given the depth of feeling on both sides, confronting our differences in a caucus would be extremely uncomfortable, and might possibly hurt an otherwise loving relationship, even if only temporarily.¹

In short, caucuses need to go. If Sanders really wants as many people as possible to participate in the process of selecting a nominee, he should support their elimination.² Otherwise, his stance boils down to “I want as many of my supporters to be able participate, and I’m not really going to worry about others.”³

¹In 2008, The Rocket Scientist supported Hillary Clinton and I supported Barack Obama. The arguments got so heated and so nasty that we had to place a moratorium on political discussions because we were upsetting the kids.  We take our politics seriously in this family.

²Also, superdelegates need to be consigned to the political trash bin. Sanders doesn’t think they should, although he thinks their role should be changed, and he thinks that so many superdelegates should not have declared themselves so early in the race, before his campaign really took off. His thinking that, had they waited, many of them would be in his corner, is unrealistic: a large number of these people are party insiders, and he has spent the latter two months of his campaign essentially saying how awful the Democratic Party is. Although a large number of them have pledged themselves to Hillary, those pledges are not binding, and everyone — Hillary, Bernie, the superdelegates — knows this. And yet there has not been a mad rush of people to switch their endorsement to him.

³He also argues for open primaries. I, on the other hand, believe that people who vote in the primary should show at least minimal allegiance to the party whose primary they are voting in. Otherwise, there is nothing to prevent someone from hijacking a party simply to use it as a vehicle to seek the presidency. This is what Sanders has done, and while he arguably benefits the party, open primaries offer the opportunity for someone to do real mischief. Also, closed primaries make it more difficult for Republicans to cross-vote for the candidate they feel would be most likely to be defeated by their nominee.

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So “smart” they’re stupid.

I happened across a Yahoo! News¹ article about conspiracy theorists who believe that the Mars rover landings were faked, having all taken place in the Canadian Arctic at…. Devon Island. Really.

I followed the link to Anonymous News, a source which is about as trustworthy as you might think, to find a lengthy, well “researched” article about the issue.² Did you know that NASA is merely a front for a gigantic US Navy program that has developed interstellar travel? Most NASA employees are simply stooges, the poor suckers.

As you know, I am more familiar with Devon Island than your average bear.³ I even have a glacial inlet on the island named after me. So I chuckled my way through the article, rolling my eyes so hard they could have spun right out of their sockets.

I clicked on the video of the news conference for the landing of the Mars Curiosity mission. As as I watched, and read the increasingly sarcastic subtitles accompanying the very genuine  joy of the Curiosity team, my amusement turned to anger, to deep roiling rage.

The people who put together sites like this aren’t stupid. It takes a twisted intelligence  to write authentic sounding articles that, if you don’t look closely or think about too much, seem quite plausible. The authors willingly mislead people who maybe don’t have the same intelligence they do, who can’t see through the ridiculous smoke and mirrors, who don’t see that the same Photoshop techniques that they accuse NASA of could just as easily be used to create the “documents” they use.

Nor are they mentally ill.4 Some mentally ill people believe in conspiracy theories, but so do plenty of people who are perfectly psychiatrically normal. The conspiracy theories swirling around the current political season provide ample proof of that.5

No, they are arrogant beyond belief. They self-indulgently feel — no, know — that just because they cannot understand how something has been done it must be fake. They cannot begin to understand the science, so the “scientists” must be lying.6 Hell, I don’t understand the science, and am humble enough to recognize that there are things I just don’t know; that by training or inclination or  capability I can’t know.

They are willing to shit all over the life’s work of good men and women because they aren’t a part of it.

NASA scientists  have spent years of their lives — in many cases their entire professional careers — developing and sending landers to other planets. They spend decades developing rovers and the spacecraft that will get them there. Whether the time that NASA takes is too long may be an open question: Space-X’s announcement that they were going to head to Mars by 2018 was novel and shocking.

The men and women who work on space programs, whether run by governments or private industries (yay for Elon Musk!), are our best hope for leaving this planet and maybe someday, centuries hence, obtaining the stars we are always reaching for.

Of course, by then, these bastards will have moved on to mocking somebody else.

¹The fact that they were willing to give “airtime” to this sort of thing may explain why Yahoo has lost all credibility and is heading down the tubes.

²After some thought, I decided not to link this article. If you feel really compelled you can get to it from the Yahoo! News piece.

³Unless your average bear is a polar bear, of course.

4Stating that people who believe in conspiracy theories are per se mentally ill is an appalling insult to mentally ill people.

5The theory that Hillary Clinton was behind the clusterfuck in Maricopa County during the primaries comes to mind.

6Climate science, vaccines, GMOs: there are a lot of things where people adopt this anti-science attitude. “I don’t trust the large [ag, pharm] companies, so I reject their experts. I reject science. I will become the expert.” All of which leads to people like the Food Babe, and anti-vaxxers. (And no, I’m not linking to those sites, either — I would suggest looking up Science Babe’s Facebook feed.)

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Can’t we just stop this?

Dear Bernie supporters:

I wish I could find the words to make you understand. Yes, I support Hillary Clinton because I think she is the best candidate to handle the job in the running right now. I know we disagree strongly on this.

But I am not a corporate shill. I have not been duped by the “lame stream media.” I am not turning a blind eye to the problems that are facing us as a country and the way in which she may not be the optimum candidate. I came to this decision after a great deal of considered thought. I really wish Martin O’Malley had been able to compete: to the left of Hillary and with the executive experience Bernie lacks, he was really the candidate I supported. I came to support Hillary after he dropped out.

I am firmly in the Al Franken, Kristen Gillibrand, Barbara Boxer, Elizabeth Warren wing of the Democratic Party. We need to pull the party to the left, and Bernie’s candidacy has done that. To tell you the truth, I am pretty stoked about that. If we can regain Congress, with a Democratic president who will nominate a Supreme Court Justice who is not a right-wing ideologue, we just might get Citizen’s United overturned. And Shelby County v. Holder (although that will require Congressional action as well). And we can reaffirm Roe v. Wade, and make sure that Obergfell doesn’t get watered down. With a progressive Congress we can enact job protections for LGBT people. And work to make sure that women have access to reproductive and other health services, as well as equal pay.

But the thought that you might vote for Donald Trump makes my blood run cold. Or that you would sit out the election, helping Donald Trump — as well as Republican Senators and Representatives — to an office which would allow him to destroy the lives of so many Americans makes me want to cry.

So if I seem angry, if I seem to lash out, it’s because I am very, very, frightened. I remember 2000, and the people who thought George W. Bush wouldn’t be that bad, and that it didn’t matter because he would be a one-term president. We all know how that worked out: I have friends who spent time fighting in Iraq, and other friends who have sent sons there. I do not want to see that again.

Every election is important, but this one is crucial. The Republican Party has gone from being conservative to being completely unhinged, and they must not be allowed to prevail in November.

Finally, if you just cannot  bring yourself to vote for Hillary (although I really, really hope you do) please still vote. Vote for progressive candidates in every office from dogcatcher on up. That’s the way that we will change this country. A fifteen dollar minimum wage is important nationally, but in the absence of that we can pass it at the local and state level if we just elect candidates who care about working people. That’s what we’ve done most of the cities in the county where I live. That’s what they did in Seattle. Change can start at the local level, and spread.

Please, for the love of God, don’t sit back and bask in ideological purity while those who do not have that luxury suffer.

Even without Bernie, we can have a political revolution. It just has to start at the bottom up, rather than the top down. Don’t assume that because you can’t have Bernie as the Democratic nominee you can’t make significant change for the lives in your community right now. Just ask the former DAs in Chicago and Cleveland, who are out of a job because the Black Lives Matter movement decided that they needed to go, because they didn’t want to bring the cops who shot young black men and children to justice.

Please. Let’s stop arguing and start talking about making real change for the most vulnerable people in our country.

Posted in Politics | Tagged | 2 Comments

Seriously? No.

Dear Ken Burns,

The National Parks were a great idea. I can’t really think what America would be without sanctuaries for our souls like Yosemite and Yellowstone and the Everglades.  Not to mention the best of all — the Grand Canyon.

But America’s best idea?

Somehow I think that waging — and winning — a war to end slavery, not to mention the Bill of Rights and the 13th, 14th, 15th, and 19th Amendments, were better ideas.


A great fan of both you and the National Parks.

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No, it’s not.

A few days ago, I posted a somewhat snarky graphic about Bernie Sanders and his followers. I see posts like that all the time on my feed about Clinton, and my reaction is to say “pppbbth” and to move on. The Rocket Scientist shared the same graphic, along with a comment that this had been his experience with Sanders supporters, and some of the Sanders supporters on his feed…

Demanded an apology.

He refused, of course, as I would have as well. It’s politics; as a (real) friend of mine would say, “suck it up, buttercup.” Of course, a lot of these people have never deigned to be involved  in politics, so they wouldn’t know this.¹

In the course of this… discussion, loosely called… one of the combatants snarked, after the Rocket Scientist asked how Sanders would fulfill his promises, “It’s not rocket science.”

No, it’s not rocket science. It’s harder.

Rocket science has unknowns — that’s what research is for. But the unknowns are often known, or at least can be guessed.  Government, politics, and economics deal in knowns, and as Dick Cheney said, known unknowns and unknown unknowns. And even unknowable unknowns.

A patriotic, or traitorous, take your pick, NSA contractor leaks extensive details about surveillance programs and then scarpers off to Russia, and  people from Senators down to the mailman become worried about their privacy.

A real estate bubble bursting causes the economy to crash, and with it large automakers, and it becomes necessary to bail out the automakers, because otherwise hundreds of thousands of people will be out of work: autoworkers, supply chain employees, and all the businesses down the line.

A war entered into on the basis of bad — or completely false — intelligence further destabilizes an already unstable region, leading to a decade of fighting and death of thousands of American soldiers and millions of Iraqis and the rise of a terrorist organization more powerful than the one that went before.

And before that, fundamentalist madmen fly planes into the World Trade Center, and all of a sudden  Americans condone torture and the detainment of men on only suspicions.

Being president requires being diplomatic when necessary and kicking ass when required. The president has to deal with Congress and executives and the American people. It is a dance that needs skill and timing and exquisite understanding of the situation at hand.

Compared to that, rocket science is a walk in the park.

¹I fully expect some of these people to demand an apology from me. Not gonna happen. Just saying.




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