msLaura: Modern Mama Laura Hamilton + Dan Baker = Julian Hamilton Baker & Adrian Hamilton Baker "When a woman tells the truth she is creating the possibility for more truth around her."
- Adrienne Rich



These are some of the most recent photos from my photostream on Flickr. Click one of them!
the portable baby


recent posts
My Two-kid Cargo Bike Setup

The Radish

The Golden Rule covers it all - no God required!

I have Uma Thurman's belly

Party time!

Taking our country back

How I'm Voting on November 4th

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November 30, 2008

My Two-kid Cargo Bike Setup

My two-kid cargo bike setup, originally uploaded by mslaura.

My rockin' two-kid setup for my new Radish Xtracycle cargo bike.

I bought two canoe seats from REI ( ) and used three cam straps from Xtracycle to secure them onto the snapdeck of my bike.

The canoe seats have buckled straps underneath as well, so those secured the seats onto the snapdeck and frame nicely. Then I used a cam strap to go all the way around the perimeter of the seats and tighten down the edges that were hanging over.

The final touch was using two more cam straps to go under the frame beneath each seat and act as seat belts.

You can click on the above photo and go to the Flickr page for it, them mouse over to see notes where I point out how I attached the seats. Frankly, I'm thrilled and somewhat amazed that I was able to do all this without tools, just with the canoe seats themselves and a few very secure straps.

It took me about two hours of fiddling around to come up with this configuration, this was probably my fifth attempt. But it works GREAT. It's super secure, I didn't have to drill through my snapdeck or create a second snapdeck. I didn't have to do anything fancy or complicated at all.

We have been on three rides since I rigged this up yesterday... two short five mile rides and then a 10 mile ride today with some hills (nothing major).

With two kids totaling 70 pounds on back, my ass feels like I've had a severe spanking. Then again, it's good exercise and great fun. The kids and I LOVE it. I can barely keep them off the bike and they sing and point things out the whole way.

I don't have to pay childcare fees ($12/hr minimum) to go get a workout, I can run errands, I get to be outside in the fresh air, I don't pay for gas, I don't pollute, and I can carry stuff.

I have not been riding my regular bike at all, so I'm sorely out of biking shape, though I'm in fairly decent shape overall. I can imagine that the hills will get a whole lot easier once my biking muscles start kicking in.

I can carry 4-6 bags of groceries in those expandable pannier bags. Luckily it's TOTALLY flat between here and Trader Joe's, and only about 1.5 miles away. The other stores I regularly go to are the same distance away, or even closer, and all on flat terrain. Our club is the farthest place that I go regularly, and that's about 5 miles away max. There is one hill. A steep one near Jack Fischer Park. But I can walk it for now, and my new fitness goal will be to get up it without getting off the bike. We'll see....

November 19, 2008

The Radish

I just ordered my Radish, check her out:

I've been looking into a bunch of different 2-kid configurations, and finally decided on this one (different base bike, just look at the kid seats):

Except that I got some canoe seats that are more thickly padded on bottom, taller in back (for better upper body support, possibly nappable in Adrian's case?) and a little bit shorter in the seat.

So I will need to attach the seats for the kiddos, and then I got a set of "stoker bars", which is basically a set of handlebars that attach to my seat post, so Adrian will be able to hold on to something if he wants to.

I can't wait to get my new bike. I'll be able to go do my grocery shopping and run errands, go to the gym, pretty much everything.

I went back and forth for a LONG time between this bike and a Bakfiets, which is a Dutch cargo bike also known as the "Amsterdam Minivan"

There is an awesome, very detailed review of the Bakfiets here, if you are interested. And if you want more photos of ALL different sizes and configurations of these Dutch treats, see the Bakfiets Flickr group

I am feeling a pang of remorse right now about not getting a Bakfiets, because MAN, they are really fucking sweet. However, I chose the Radish for a few reasons.

1) It is less than half the price. The Bakfiets delivered (closest dealer is in Portland) comes to about $3250. Expensive for a bike, but totally cheap compared to a car. gas, no oil changes, almost zero maintenance. Still...I don't have that much right now. I saved up about $1500 for my Radish and accessories, and I don't want to have to wait until I can save twice that.

2) The Bakfiets is heavy. It's remarkably nimble, but it does handle better when you have a load of something inside it. Right now I would always have a load of kids + whatever, but a few years down the road, maybe not, and I don't want to have to get a second bike for times that I'm riding without cargo. The Bakfiets is also not all that great on hills, as it was perfected in Amsterdam, which is flat as a pancake.

Still, I do feel some regret. Having the kids in that fine wooden Bakfiets box, safely harnessed into their bench seats...that sounds safer than the two kid seats on the back of the Radish. Plus on the Bakfiets I could actually carpool and carry *several* kids at once, up to four! I can't carpool with anyone now in my station wagon because I can only fit two carseats in my car, which are already occupied.

The Bakfiets also has a lovely rain/cold weather cover for the box, so the kids stay nice and dry and toasty in inclement weather. Oh well, I live in California, so this isn't *too* much of an issue for me.

I would also relish being able to carry more than four bags of groceries + kids, which is my probably limit on the Radish. But hey, I'll just have to start going grocery shopping at Trader Joe's more often, and not wait until the situation is so dire that I need to buy half the store.

Anyway, I am thrilled with my Radish, and I can't wait until it arrives and Mike gets it assembled. I am thinking about carrying them in my store for local customers, already assembled, with the two-kid seats already added.

Speaking of two kids on a bike:

This bike carries up to 8 kids

This Danish model (the Christiana) carries up to 4 kids on two benches:

A front tandem bike that can carry two kids (the front kid can help pedal, or not, works either way)

And there was a totally sweet Dutch bike that I saw yesterday that had two built-in bike seats for kids on the back, and a big cargo basket up front. Gorgeous. Can't find it now though.

Bikes! Screw cars, I can't wait to get my two wheels out on the road.

November 11, 2008

The Golden Rule covers it all - no God required!

The following article took me by surprise. I'm pretty much on the same page with the Humanists, and yet I never knew that this particular philosophy had a name. Go figure.
More discussion after the article....
God, humbug: Humanist holiday ads say just be good
By ERIC GORSKI Associated Press Writer

Nov 11th, 2008 | You better watch out. There is a new combatant in the Christmas wars.

Ads proclaiming, "Why believe in a god? Just be good for goodness' sake," will appear on Washington, D.C., buses starting next week and running through December. The American Humanist Association unveiled the provocative $40,000 holiday ad campaign Tuesday.

In lifting lyrics from "Santa Claus is Coming to Town," the Washington-based group is wading into what has become a perennial debate over commercialism, religion in the public square and the meaning of Christmas.

"We are trying to reach our audience, and sometimes in order to reach an audience, everybody has to hear you," said Fred Edwords, spokesman for the humanist group. "Our reason for doing it during the holidays is there are an awful lot of agnostics, atheists and other types of non-theists who feel a little alone during the holidays because of its association with traditional religion."

To that end, the ads and posters will include a link to a Web site that will seek to connect and organize like-minded thinkers in the D.C. area, Edwords said.

Edwords said the purpose isn't to argue that God doesn't exist or change minds about a deity, although "we are trying to plant a seed of rational thought and critical thinking and questioning in people's minds."

The group defines humanism as "a progressive philosophy of life that, without theism, affirms our responsibility to lead ethical lives of value to self and humanity."

Last month, the British Humanist Association caused a ruckus announcing a similar campaign on London buses with the message: "There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life."

In Washington, the humanists' campaign comes as conservative Christian groups gear up their efforts to keep Christ in Christmas. In the past five years, groups such as the American Family Association and the Catholic League have criticized or threatened boycotts of retailers who use generic "holiday" greetings.

In mid-October, the American Family Association started selling buttons that say "It's OK to say Merry Christmas." The humanists' entry into the marketplace of ideas did not impress AFA president Tim Wildmon.


"It's a stupid ad," he said. "How do we define 'good' if we don't believe in God? God in his word, the Bible, tells us what's good and bad and right and wrong. If we are each ourselves defining what's good, it's going to be a crazy world."

Also on Tuesday, the Orlando, Fla.-based Liberty Counsel, a conservative Christian legal group, launched its sixth annual "Friend or Foe Christmas Campaign." Liberty Counsel has intervened in disputes over nativity scenes and government bans on Christmas decorations, among other things.

"It's the ultimate grinch to say there is no God at a time when millions of people around the world celebrate the birth of Christ," said Mathew Staver, the group's chairman and dean of the Liberty University School of Law. "Certainly, they have the right to believe what they want but this is insulting."

Best-selling books by authors such as Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens have fueled interest in "the new atheism" -- a more in-your-face argument against God's existence.

Yet few Americans describe themselves as atheist or agnostic; a Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life poll from earlier this year found 92 percent of Americans believe in God.

There was no debate at the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority over whether to take the ad. Spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein said the agency accepts ads that aren't obscene or pornographic.


I have never understood people who claim that there is no motivation to do good without the threat of a heavy-handed badass God looming over you. Or alternatively, people who claim that we can't know what good behavior is without the guidelines of the Bible.

Now first of all, there's this little thing called the Golden Rule. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Plain and simple.

That covers a lot of ground as far as ethics and morality goes. Don't lie, cheat, steal, bully, torture, etc. Be a kind, noble and generous person. Help your fellow beings, human and otherwise. Give a hand up to those who are worse off than you, the poor, sick and needy. Comfort those who are hurt or grieving.

This rule also leaves out a lot of BULLSHIT associated with certain aspects of certain religions. Such as discrimination against people who are not like you for whatever reason. Be they a different color, a different religion, or a different sexual preference....the Golden Rule says to treat them all as you yourself wish to be treated by others. That's it.

Now, what is the motivation for following the Golden Rule? If there's no Mr. God up in the sky ready to kick your ass into eternal hellfire and damnation for breaking the "rules", then why waste time playing nice, right? Just go out and grab everything you can. Lie, cheat, steal, whatever you want.

Well first of all, society doesn't function very well if you don't follow the Golden Rule. Civilization starts to break down. Not because of God, but simply because people need to be able to rely on a certain set of expectations.

If you go to work every day, you will be paid and treated fairly. If you need medical help, you can get it. If you proceed through a green light at an intersection, the cross traffic will stop for you and not T-bone your car.

Did God makes traffic laws as well? No. Well then, why do people follow traffic laws? Well, not all of them do, of course. But most do, and they do so because if they didn't, the streets would be complete chaos and you would never arrive anywhere on time, or even in one piece.

Same with the Golden Rule. I know that if I am an asshole and start treating people badly, I will lose friends. I will lose status. I might lose my job, or even my family. If I break my word enough times, no one will trust me anymore. Because I'm breaking God's law? No, because I'm breaking the Golden Rule. I am treating people differently from how I expect to be treated. I am breaking the rules of society.

This doesn't address people who are so abused and down-trodden that they *expect* people to mistreat them, because abuse has become their norm. But I still think that those people can *imagine* how they would like to be treated, and act accordingly towards others. Yes, in a dream world maybe, but if you can't imagine it, you can't make it happen. If we all work together, and look out for one another without regard for petty differences in class, income, skin color or religion, that kind of situation shouldn't happen too often.

If your God helps you to look upon other beings with compassion, kindness and respect, and encourages you to reach out and help those in need of food, clothing, shelter, companionship, comfort....great!

However, if your God points to those who are different from your little group, and asks you to hate them, fear them, fight tooth and nail against them and never imagine yourself as being like, then you need to find a better way. There are a lot of gods out there. You can choose no god too, and that's OK.

I think a huge problem with religion is that many people are simply taught to follow orders unquestioningly. They are taught to obey without thinking. So if critical thinking is suppressed, and blind obedience is encouraged, then yes, there will indeed be a problem if God's Rules are not there, because what else do people have? They can't think for themselves, or think of others in any other way except as Others. They are crippled and cannot mentally apply the Golden Rule, because it requires empathy, and the dissolution of perceived differences between people (not very popular in religions that set their members apart from the rest of the world) . It also take a little bit of thought sometimes. You have to be able to reverse the situation and imagine yourself in someone else's shoes. So in a way, religion can sometimes undermine true morality.

Personally, I think that there is some kind of spiritual energy in the universe. I have felt it from time to time like a deep vibration, underpinning everything. I don't know what it is, and I wouldn't necessarily call it a god. The best word that I can use to describe it is an energy, or vibration.

I have felt protected from the brutal winds of fate in my life. Many horrible things could have happened to me, and didn't. I have had many mystical experiences that were unexplainable. But can I say for sure that there is a GOD as other people understand the word? I don't know. I don't much care. If people want to believe in God and don't hurt anyone over it, then wonderful. Likewise, if people don't believe in God and don't hurt anyone over that, fabulous! To each his own. I really don't care what people in believe in, as long as they treat their fellow beings (and our shared planet) with care.

I think that if there is a God, she won't mind what I believe in, as long as I live my life in a way that improves the world around me....more love and kindness and enlightenment, less environmental damage and hatred. I just can't imagine the kind of vengeful God that would care what consenting adults do in the privacy of their bedrooms, for example, or who would prohibit people from dancing to music and expressing joy and happiness.

I'll keep looking to the Golden Rule for my moral compass. For the rest, I'll rely on Science. No need for a threatening God to keep order in my house, thank you very much. I never was a big fan of those authoritarian types.

Oh, as for Christmas...I celebrate it. I say "Merry Christmas" to people, because I think that it's a seasonal thing that everyone can get on board with. After all, almost every religion celebrates *something* in December. It's the time of the winter solstice, and there's no evidence at all that Jesus was actually born on December 25th, but rather the early Christians co-opted this date because the Romans used it as the birthdate of several of their major gods.

Anyway, I think the more holidays the better, and I'm not at all fussy about celebrating. If people want to choose a certain day to promote peace on earth and goodwill to men (and by that I mean women and children too!), then hallelujah, I'm all for it! I will argue with you on the concrete truth of whether or not Jesus was born on that day, otherwise...take your meaning where you find it!

It's a waste of breath to get offended over the specifics of "Merry Christmas" vs. "Happy Holidays". If someone wishes you well...accept it as the kind gesture that it is meant to be. Only a real grinch would get pissed off about getting the *wrong* kind of seasonal greeting from someone who is just trying to be nice. Come on people, what would Jesus do? ;-)

November 07, 2008

I have Uma Thurman's belly

I just came across this today, and even though it's just celebrity trash, I found it very, very comforting.

When Stars Have Bad Days

Wow, Uma Thurman has the same belly as me! That's awesome. The creepy part is that all the tabloids were like, "What's in her belly? Is she pregnant? Does she have a tumor?" Um, no. She has had two kids, same as me. Looks like she blew out the muscles around her belly button by carrying two big kids. Periumbilical hernia.

I actually have good core strength now, but man, if I turn sideways and bend over like Uma, I look exactly the same. What a relief.

More comforting fun at the link above. Check out Cindy Crawford!

November 05, 2008

Party time!

Because it feels just like this right now:

At the Show: The Lady Tigra [Obama-rama in Spaceland] - "First Black, First Lady" from Spaceland Recordings on Vimeo.

Taking our country back

Obama's victory was a triumph not just for Democrats but for the American spirit and the world.

By Gary Kamiya

Nov. 05, 2008 |

Today the embattled American people stood, and fired a shot heard 'round the world.

Only rarely does one know that one is experiencing history while it happens. Barack Obama's victory is one of those occasions. This amazing day marks a decisive change, not just in America's politics but in its soul. It announces the arrival of a new America, of a multitudinous, multihued people whose time has come and who have demanded a politics worthy of them. Their voice echoes across the land from Stone Mountain to Seattle, and its message rings out loud and clear: We have taken our country back.

We have taken it back from the mean-spirited demagogues who were willing to tear the American people apart to stay in power.

We have taken it back from the apostles of selfishness who pretend naked greed is noble individualism.

We have taken it back from the deluded hawks who cavalierly sent our youth off to die in a war that should never have been fought.

We have taken it back from the incompetent officials who lived up to their antigovernment credo by bungling everything they touched.

We have taken it back from the reactionaries whose intolerance, xenophobia and religious zealotry have been encouraged by a distorted Republican Party for far too long.

Some will say that this election didn't prove that much. They will argue that considering Bush's unpopularity, the war and the financial crisis, this race should never have been even competitive. They will say the race was tied in September and only an inept McCain campaign and the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression tilted it toward Obama. They will say that America is still a center-right country.

But those arguments are like dead trees standing in the path of a spring-snow torrent. A great change has come upon America.

Watching Obama speak after his victory, I was reminded again of the subtle and profound depths of this man. It was a subdued speech, on the surface almost disappointing, but its eloquent restraint spoke volumes about not just Obama's character but what we could call, harking back to another age, his taste. He chose not to mount the messianic pulpit, knowing that if he did he would alienate many Americans. Because of his complex and hard-earned comfort with his own racial identity, he is a self-reflective man, a man of many parts.

We have seen his facets. Obama can parry and thrust with Hillary Clinton. He can be hip with Jon Stewart. He can speak eloquently of race, as he did in his victory speech, without foregrounding his own race. He can reach out to those who didn't vote for him, and his native sensitivity makes his words believable. His rhetoric is soaring but never self-aggrandizing: He is too confident in his own identity to need the fix of adulation. A leader with these qualities, a black man whose racial consciousness is so evolved as to be unreadable, has the ability to take America places it has never been before.

The election of Obama marks a change in what it means to be an American. It is a change that is as true to the essence of conservatism as it is to liberalism, for it has its roots in a generous vision of civic life that both share. And all Americans will benefit from it.

The Obama triumph means the Reagan revolution is over. The antigovernment, antitax, trickle-down, every-man-for-himself ethos collapsed with a whimper during the catastrophic presidency of George W. Bush, and Obama's election put it out of its misery. By electing Obama, the American people have emphatically rejected the selfishness, masquerading as freedom and rugged individualism, that has been the calling card of the American right wing since Barry Goldwater. In its place, they are calling not just for a new and expanded vision of government's role in American life but for a new vision of American society.

That vision represents a return to the idea that Americans are bound together by more than just a flag, that we are all part of the same community, and that the strength of a community, like the strength of a family, is measured by its members' commitment to each other. The America envisioned by Obama is one in which the privileged care about the plight of the less fortunate because that care, that solidarity, is an inseparable part of who we are as Americans.

And that solidarity extends beyond our borders, to the people of the world. More than our wealth and power, this is what has made America a beacon of hope across the globe. After 9/11, Bush had an opportunity to reach out to the rest of the world. In his arrogance and folly, he chose to bully it instead. The election of Obama signifies that America is rejoining the world. How telling it was that in his speech, Obama said that America would defeat not our evil terrorist enemies, the rhetoric we have grown used to, but "those who would tear the world down." His is a larger, calmer vision, one that does not play into the hands of terrorists by exaggerating their threat.

One of the many remarkable things about Obama's campaign is that even its slickest, most professional, most Machiavellian messages -- and how marvelous that Democrats should be slicker, more professional, more Machiavellian than Republicans! -- always communicated the man's essential idealism. Obama's 30-minute infomercial is a case in point. That film was essentially the story of three struggling American families. It was crafted to appeal to voters who would relate to those families, and clearly its main purpose was to persuade them to vote for Obama out of self-interest: If Obama helped the families in the film, he could help them, too. But what is noteworthy about the film, and indeed about Obama's entire campaign, is that it assumed that Americans are capable of going beyond self-interest, that what happens to that family in Ohio matters to us.

For a nation starved for inspiration, that implicit call was like water in a desert. For eight years, and for many years before that, Americans have been told that nothing is required of them as citizens except to make and spend money and jump in fear of terrorism when prodded. Those who tried in their personal lives to take steps to alleviate the greatest threat facing the planet, global warming, were derided by Vice President Cheney as practicing "personal virtue." The country was thirsty for more.

And in his speech, Obama asked us to do more. In words that recalled Winston Churchill's famous declaration in the darkest days of WWII that "I have nothing to offer except blood, toil, tears and sweat," he spoke of "remaking this nation the only way it has been done in America for 221 years -- block by block, brick by brick, calloused hand by calloused hand." He called on us to make sacrifices. Above all, he called on us to come together. "So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism, of service and responsibility where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves, but each other."

His words revealed the gaping fissure in conservatism's moral vision. Conservatives claim to be the upholders of a threatened traditional morality. But their economic ideology is inherently amoral. Their refusal to see American society as a community implicitly rejects both the Christian injunction to "love thy neighbor as thyself," and the oldest moral commandment in the world, the Golden Rule. A party and movement that have rejected the idea that its members should care about their poorer neighbors, or simply denies that the less privileged are our neighbors, is one that has lost its moral compass.

The radical individualism of the right subverts not only its claim to be ethical and religious, but its claim to be patriotic. On what basis can patriotism be established, except on a communal one? Patriotism, if it is to be more than an empty slogan, means making sacrifices for a cause greater than oneself. That moral principle is the same one that underlies governmental policies to reduce inequality, such as progressive taxation. By limiting its vision of community and altruism to military service, the right has hollowed out its own ostensible ethics, and fostered an ethos of selfishness and irresponsibility that subverts the very patriotism and religion whose virtues it so emptily extols. "United We Stand" was never anything more than a bumper sticker under Bush. The party of "family values" embraced an I've-got-mine-Jack ideology that no responsible parent would teach their children.

Americans were aware of this, even if half-consciously. And so Obama's victory in part reflects Americans' deep, if not fully conscious, desire to create a more ethical society, one in which individualism thrives but is not set against conscience, in which capitalism drives the economy but is not allowed complete license, in which patriotism means more than flag waving. A real society. In the words scrawled on a piece of parchment 236 years ago, and which Obama referred to in his speech, "a more perfect union."

Polls show that almost 90 percent of Americans, a record number, believe that the country is on the wrong track. Some of that response is no doubt driven purely by pocketbook issues. But everything we know about the American people -- and the results of this election confirm it -- tells us that their distress has deeper origins. Americans are aware, at some profound level, that they have lost their way. They recognize that this is no longer the country that came together to defeat Hitler, or struggled to overcome the injustice of racism, or whose plainspoken idealism and optimism inspired the admiration of the world. Beneath the neon glitter of our consumer-driven, media-saturated society, beneath the wealth and the spectacle, is a sterility, a purposelessness.

And this is why Obama's victory is a victory not just for the left but for all Americans. The majority of Americans voted for Obama not because he was a "liberal," but because he promised to take America back to what it once was, and carry us forward to where we want to go.

President-elect Obama will face an almost unbelievably daunting set of challenges. He inherits an economy in deep crisis and a nation whose international reputation is in tatters. He must figure out how to responsibly extricate our troops from Iraq, and come to terms with the fact that his hawkish campaign rhetoric about winning a military victory in Afghanistan is misguided. He must take decisive steps to address the transcendental international issue of our time, global warming. He must remake America's decaying infrastructure, using deficit spending to rebuild the country, and raise employment without saddling us with so crippling a debt that we can never repay it. He must tiptoe through a domestic political minefield to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the greatest source of Arab-Muslim anger at the U.S., and the inextricably related issue of how to deal with Iran. He must begin to repair the grievous damage Bush did to the Constitution. He must try to rectify the miserable status of so many black Americans. And he must do all this in the face of a rump GOP that is bitterly opposed to everything he stands for.

No one expects miracles from Obama. It took years for America to dig itself into this hole, and it will take years to dig out of it. But Americans chose a candidate who has the tools to succeed. Forget ideology. Obama possesses qualities that are more important: brains and character. In professional sports, scouts talk about drafting "the best available athlete." Obama was the best available mind. And Americans chose him.

And they chose a black man. All Americans, whatever their political views or party affiliation, should feel an enormous sense of pride today. The bitter legacy of America's enslavement and unjust treatment of black people remains. But Nov. 4, 2008, will go down in history as the day that, on the highest symbolic plane, the Rev. Martin Luther King's dream that one day his children would be judged "not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character" ceased to be a dream and became a reality. Fifty-four years after the Supreme Court ruled that separate schools for black and white children were illegal, 33 years after the Voting Rights Act was passed, and just 31 years after the last miscegenation laws were struck down, a majority of Americans chose a black man to be their leader. How many of us thought that we would live to see this day? The tears and the laughter and the disbelieving exultation across America give the answer.

In his classic defense of free speech, "Areopagitica," John Milton famously wrote, "Methinks I see in my mind a noble and puissant nation rousing herself like a strong man after sleep, and shaking her invincible locks." After eight nightmarish years of Bush, Milton's words feel like a benediction.

For Obama's triumph represents the awakening of the American spirit, one that runs through our entire history. Eight dreadful years cannot kill it.

It is the spirit that animated the blacksmiths and farmers and clerks of Massachusetts and Virginia and Georgia, the despised rabble who everyone knew would turn and run when facing the British army, but who stood their ground at Concord and paid for a nation with their blood.

It is the spirit that inspired the soldiers, "sinewy with unconquerable resolution," as Walt Whitman called them, who died at Gettysburg and Antietam.

It is the spirit of their president, who wrote a 10-sentence document that, if no other evidence of the United States existed, would prove that this nation had the stuff of greatness in it.

It is the spirit that brought the people of an impossibly diverse, far-flung country together, every American part of the same team, men and women, professors and ditch diggers, a mighty democratic brotherhood that defeated the most dangerous tyrant in history.

It is the spirit that led the Freedom Riders to risk their lives to give their fellow Americans the civil rights they had been shamefully denied.

It is the spirit of hope.

America is in for a long, tough fight. But we can now begin to fight it together.

-- By Gary Kamiya

November 03, 2008

How I'm Voting on November 4th

For the record, here's how I'm voting, and why:

President and VP: Barack Obama and Joe Biden

Wow, where do I even start? Obama and Biden are simply better, smarter, and more capable. If you don't think you know enough about Obama by now, you haven't done your homework.

The California Propositions:

1A - YES
Safe, Reliable, High-Speed Passenger Train Bond Act
This one is a no-brainer. Of COURSE we need a high-speed rail line in California between Northern and Southern CA. Duh!

From the CA League of Conservation Voters website
Yes on Proposition 1A: Improve air quality and public transportation through High Speed Rail

Developing viable high-speed rail connecting Northern and Southern California is an essential component of California’s transportation future. A high-speed rail system throughout California would deliver an estimated 117 million travelers into downtowns well-served by local transit, all while reducing the state’s greenhouse gas emissions.

California is one of the largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions in the world, with approximately 40% of the state's emissions coming from the transportation sector. By replacing car and airplane trips with rail trips, high-speed rail will help California achieve the greenhouse gas reductions outlined in the landmark AB 32 legislation, which requires greenhouse gases to return to 1990 levels by 2020 and to achieve levels that are 80% lower than 1990 levels by 2050.

California will grow by at least 15 million people over the next 25 years. Unless we make a serious shift in in-state transportation travel, we’ll have to invest in major freeway and airport expansion up and down the state even sooner. A high-speed rail system would cost less than half of what it would cost to get the same increase in capacity from highway and airport expansion. In addition, the proposition includes specific guidance on protection of sensitive habitat lands. With some of the most congested regions in the country, the urgency of climate change, and limited land and resources for highway and airport expansion, now is the time to invest in a new high-speed rail transportation system.

2 - YES
Standards for Confining Farm Animals
Requires that certain farm animals be given room to fully extend limbs/wings, lie down, stand up and turn around. Another no-brainer, unless you are a psychopath and love animal torture.

3 - YES
Children's Hospital Bond Act
It's a lot of money to spend in a bad economy, but then again, I can't find any compelling reason to NOT update our regional hospital infrastructure. California is a leader in healthcare technology, we don't want to fall behind, plus this will create jobs too.

- Authorizes $980 million for grants to California's 13 regional children's hospitals
- Funds the construction, expansion, remodeling, furnishing, and equipping of children’s hospitals
- Costs the state $64 million a year for 30 years
- Cost divided by CA population = approximately $1.75 a year for each Californian
- 80% of the bond proceeds go to eight regional nonprofit children's hospitals that focus on serious diseases and illnesses and 20% go to five University of California children's hospitals

4 - NO
Waiting Period and Parental Notification Before Termination of Pregnancy

This measure has been on the ballot four times now, and has been voted down every time. Wingnuts just keep on trying, gotta give 'em credit for that. This time the backers have phrased things a bit more deceptively, but it's the same old wolf in sheep's clothing. Proposition 4 threatens a woman's right to choose and puts teens at risk.

Prop 4 states that in order for a woman under 18 to receive an abortion, she must tell her parents. But Prop 4 isn't just about teens notifying their parents before they have an abortion. It was written by the same conservative groups that want to outlaw abortion. Backers of 4 have a clear agenda: they want to limit a woman's right to choose.

And parental notification laws don't work anyway. Not all teens live in homes where communication is possible. Remember that friend in high school who was truly afraid of what her parents might do or say...especially if she got pregnant? If Prop 4 passes, those teens will have nowhere to turn. Scared, desperate teens do scary things...take matters into their own hands, resort to an unsafe, back alley, illegal abortion, or even contemplate suicide.

Imagine the scenario for incest victims..yes, there are exemptions, but would you want to be the pregnant, traumatized incest victim who has to get up in court and explain to a judge why she needs an exemption from parental notification for her abortion? My god, the horror.

Prop 4 threatens Roe v. Wade and is simply another attempt by the religious right to drag California's reproductive rights backwards into the last century. Don't want your teen to have an abortion? Then EDUCATE HER ABOUT SEX AND CONTRACEPTION AND LET HER KNOW THAT YOU ARE THERE FOR HER IN GOOD TIMES AND BAD. Period.

5- YES
Nonviolent Drug Offenses. Sentencing, Parole and Rehabilitation

From the California League of Women Voters website:

There are three essential components of Proposition 5 (sometimes known as “NORA”):

1. Treatment diversion programs for adults
2. Prison system and parole reforms
3. Youth-focused substance abuse treatment reforms.

The League of Women Voters’ support for Proposition 5 is based on the aspects of the initiative that relate to juvenile justice.

As part of a comprehensive, common-sense solution to the prison overcrowding crisis, Proposition 5 will create a system of care for at-risk youth by:

1. Dedicating annual funding of at least $65 million per year for youth treatment programs, as well as about $4 million more from fines collected from adults for low-level marijuana offenses
2. Ensuring that the new system of care meets the spectrum of youth needs, including family therapy, mental health interventions, educational and employment stipends, and more
3. Requiring science-based educational programs and counseling, instead of a misdemeanor conviction, for young people found in possession of small amounts of marijuana.

Too often today, young Californians with drug problems get entangled in the juvenile justice system and may even be incarcerated. During the past few years, juvenile arrest rates have increased 39 percent, and yet fewer than 10 percent of adolescents receive substance abuse treatment programs.

Proposition 5 will:
* Create an independent oversight panel, which would have authority over major aspects of the implementation of NORA
* Provide better opportunities for rehabilitation
* Save prison beds by requiring local sanctions, not prison, to punish minor parole violations by nonviolent offenders
* Require that all prisoners receive appropriate treatment prior to release from prison
* Require that all parolees receive appropriate services for up to one year after discharge
* Build on and improve Proposition 36, the voter-approved initiative of 2000 that provided treatment, not jail, for nonviolent drug users
* Link three existing, but disparate, systems of court-supervised treatment programs in order to provide a continuum of care
* Give priority to treatment for people with mental illness and substance abuse problems
* Provide judges with annual training on drug and addiction treatment
* Allow schools and medical doctors to recommend these treatment programs to their students and patients.

6- NO
Police and Law Enforcement Funding

Puts more money into the prison system to lock people up, while not providing for rehabilitation, and keeping younger people in for longer periods, starting at younger ages.

If Prop 5 was written by the enlightened parent who will communicate and counsel you through tough times, Prop 6 was written by the parent who spanks the crap out of you and then locks you in your room when you screw up, you idiot.

Vote NO on 6.

7 - NO
Renewable Energy Generation

I was really confused about this one until I researched both sides thoroughly.

TheCA League of Conservation Voters is against it.
NO on 7 - Protect small solar producers and encourage solar energy production

The California League of Women Voters is against it too, and their arguments are good.

In 2003 the relevant state agencies adopted a policy that made energy efficiency the highest priority resource in the state’s “loading order” (the order of priority for procurement of energy sources). Proposition 7 fails to consider energy efficiency and reduction in the need for additional generation, the least environmentally damaging and the lowest cost resource.

California has led the nation in fostering ways to conserve energy over the past 30 years. The state’s appliance and building standards are the most rigorous anywhere in the world, and now the state is supporting development of a “smart” distribution grid to foster demand-side management—to encourage customers to decrease their demands for power, particularly at times of peak demand.

Proposition 7 calls for the overly simplistic mandate that half of all the power produced in the state should come from solar, wind and other alternative resources by 2025. For decades California has led the nation in the procurement and use of renewable energy—from solar, wind, geothermal, biomass, and small hydroelectric facilities. Since 2002 the state has had a Renewables Portfolio Standard (RPS) requiring electric providers regulated by the California Public Utilities Commission (PUC) (i.e., the investor-owned utilities and the electric service providers) to increase their reliance on renewable resources to 20 percent of total generation resources by 2010. While sufficient contracts have been signed to meet this RPS, in fact, it is clear that many of those projects will not be operational before 2012 or 2013.

The PUC has conducted a study to determine the reasons for the delays in meeting the current RPS. There are four notable causes: (1) a lack of transmission capacity to carry renewable power from areas in the state where it is abundant to the load centers; (2) the failure of the federal government to renew the investment tax credits that currently are an important inducement to developers of renewable energy; (3) uncertainties regarding the siting of renewable energy projects on lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management, particularly in and around the Mojave Desert; and (4) issues related to the technical maturity of some renewable projects.

Major efforts are currently underway on the part of the PUC, the Energy Commission, and numerous other stakeholders to address the delays associated with achieving the 20 percent RPS, but the state does not have the authority to challenge either federal policies or local jurisdictions that object to expansion of transmission lines. Meanwhile, the governor and the Air Resources Board have called for an expansion of the RPS to 33 percent renewable generation by 2020 in conjunction with implementation of the plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as called for in AB 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act. This expansion would require all energy providers in the state to meet this requirement. The PUC has called for an analysis of issues associated with meeting this 33 percent goal and the establishment of a schedule.

Passage of Proposition 7, with its confusing and sometimes contradictory provisions, would certainly upset this effort to expand the deployment of renewable resources in the state.
The fiscal effects of the proposition are very unclear. We emphasize that the least expensive way to meet increasing demands for electric power in the coming decades will be investments in energy efficiency and in demand-side management.

8 - NO
Eliminates Right of Same-sex Couples to Marry
Proposition 8 is a hate crime made law. Plain and simple. people have kids too. The latest statistic I found is that 30% of gay couples are raising children. Aren't their kids deserving of parents who are able to marry one another?
And what exactly is marriage needing "protection" from?

Protect marriage? Then how about universal healthcare, better support for working families, quality affordable childcare, and low-cost rehab? Addiction, poverty, stress and violence are huge threats to marriage. Two gay people who love one another are not.

From the League of Women Voters of California:

Prior to the court decision, California had extended many rights given to married couples to gay and lesbian couples who registered as domestic partners. As of April 2008, almost half of the state’s same-sex couples were registered domestic partners. However, inequities between domestic partnership and marriage remain. In addition, domestic partnerships may not be recognized when a couple travels out of state, and even if domestic partnership is recognized, the rights that go with it are vastly unequal from state to state. On the other hand, at least one state (New York) recognizes legal same-sex marriages from other states and more may follow suit. Marriage also provides same-sex couples with a status that is understood by society in a way that domestic partnerships are not.

If Proposition 8 passes, rescinding the marriage rights of gay and lesbian couples will affect many families and children throughout the state. Same-sex couples live in every county in California and represent every racial and ethnic group. Nearly 30 percent are raising their own children (biological, stepchildren and adopted children). According to the U.S. Census, the children of lesbian and gay couples are more likely to be younger than five years old, adopted, and disabled than children of opposite-sex couples. All children are affected when their parents’ relationship is not accorded the same dignity and respect as the marriages of other parents in their communities. Without marriage, children may suffer if parents are not legally empowered to support and protect them because of inequalities in the law between marriage and domestic partnership, or if the family travels to a state where domestic partnership is weak or non-existent. Conversely, the concept of marriage, including parental rights and responsibilities, is well-understood and defined in family law.

9 - NO
Victim's Rights. Parole.

From the CA League of Women Voters website,

The League believes that efforts to deal with dependency issues and provide juvenile justice should reinforce a young person’s right to safety, support, respect and justice. Juvenile Courts should be well managed, provide due process, protect the rights of all affected parties, work with community resources . . .

The LWVC Constitution position supports measures to secure an orderly and simplified state Constitution: provisions that enable the legislature to deal with state problems efficiently, flexibly and with responsibility clearly fixed.

The League believes that the California Constitution should permit the legislature and other elected officials to carry out their responsibilities with flexibility, unhampered by unnecessary restrictions, but with safeguards in the public interest. The League is opposed to highly detailed provisions including administrative and procedural detail.

In June 1982, California voters passed Proposition 8, known as the “Victims’ Bill of Rights,” which granted crime victims the right to be notified in advance, attend, and state their views at sentencing and parole hearings. Other separately enacted statutes have created other rights for crime victims.

This initiative would expand the legal rights of crime victims in various ways while undoing many of the rights of prisoners, as well as of parolees facing revocation of their parole, to due process and speedy parole hearings.

Recently, a federal court has ordered the state to hold prompt hearings and to provide legal counsel for juvenile parolees held in Department of Justice facilities while awaiting rulings on whether they have violated their parole.

10 - NO
Alternative Fuel Vehicles and Alternative Energy

From the CA League of Conservation Voters website

No on Proposition 10: Protect the environment and taxpayers — and stop the alternative energy scam

A fossil fuel corporation owned by Texas oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens spent $3 million dollars to put Proposition 10 on the ballot. That same corporation will almost certainly reap the rewards if Prop 10 passes. California taxpayers will be stuck subsidizing big trucking companies at a cost of $335 million per year; they’ll shell out a total of $2.5 billion in subsidies to trucking companies to purchase “clean” vehicles. Prop 10 does not require any reduction in global warming emissions for trucking companies that get “clean” vehicle handouts of up to $50,000 per truck – and Prop 10 excludes hybrids from its definition of a “clean” vehicle.

If Prop 10 passes, Hybrids do get a rebate ($2000 ea.), but only the first 55k sold. Alternative fuel cars (and vans and lightweight trucks) get $10k each. The majority of these cars are not hydrogen or electric, they’re natural gas

The bottom line: California already faces a $15 billion budget deficit crisis, and Prop 10’s raid on the state’s coffers will mean cuts to our schools, our public safety and our health programs. Prop 10 is biased towards investments in natural gas technology— over cleaner alternatives such as wind and solar technology—while draining California’s already over-committed general fund. Although perhaps rooted in a commendable goal of environmental progress, Prop 10 is bad policy for California’s taxpayers and California’s environment. Why spend all that money just to trade one petroleum product for another, instead of investing in clean alternatives?

11 - YES

From the CA League of Women Voters website

Reform of the redistricting process has been a core issue for the League of Women Voters of California for over 20 years. In recent years, we have participated extensively in a number of efforts to achieve meaningful reform of the process by which Congressional, state legislative, and Board of Equalization district lines are drawn. We believe that the process should take place in an open, transparent manner with wide public input; that lines should be drawn according to strict, ranked criteria; and that the body drawing the lines should be an independent body that is selected according to well established conflict of interest rules and that represents the diversity that is California.

Proposition 11, the California Voters FIRST Act, meets all of our key reform criteria. We believe that the formation of the commission, the ranked mapping criteria, and the open, transparent process prescribed by the measure will give voters the opportunity to choose their representatives rather than letting elected officials draw districts that allow them to choose their voters. The League is particularly pleased with the importance given to respect for the Voting Rights Act and to keeping communities and cities and counties whole; the good conflict of interest rules applied to the commission; and the outstanding open process required.

12 - YES
Farm and Home Aid for California Veterans
Provides loans for vets to buy homes and farms. Program pays for itself through loan interest. Another no-brainer.

I looked at a lot of research and various endorsements, not *just* the League of Conservation Voters and the League of Women Voters. But I found that their voter guides explained in detail the motivation behind their decisions, especially the League of Women Voters website. Many other endorsements (from newspapers, for example) just offered a little sound bite on how to vote without much real substance explaining the background of the proposition, the details of it, how it would affect the state financially, etc. That's why I included links to and excerpts from the League of Women Voters website so often above.

Now get on out there and have your say! And then go get a free coffee at Starbucks. You *have* heard that Starbucks is giving away free coffee to voters today, right?

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