About Me

My Photo

I'm a single Mormon Democrat, an NPR & BBC news junkie, a dog lover, opera buff, bookavore, migraineur, knows just enough about technology to be a danger to myself, fan of James Bond and Godzilla. 

Micah 6:8; D&C 11:20 

"do justly, walk humbly, judge righteously."

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Top Two Primary vs Voter Apathy

In today's Tri-City Herald, the FAST FOCUS question was: "What are your thoughts on our top two primary system?"

My personal view is there is nothing inherently wrong with the the system. The problems arise when we factor in voter apathy. If the majority of people actually voted in my district, I hazard a guess that the top two winners would not both be Republicans.

RL Guillen of Kennewick writes: "The top two primary system ... was reinstated by former Attorney General Rob McKenna (R) ...  to enable Republicans to successfully hijack everyone's right to vote for anyone other than Republicans in November! Republicans knew that few people show up to vote at primaries and that by reinstituting a top-two primary system would help them to force voters to vote only for Republicans!"

A true accounting of the system as it functions in eastern Washington State, I'm sure. However, does it need to be so? If the Republicans are actually the majority of the those motivated to participate in democracy - as it appears to be - why is that? Should the system be thrown out because Democrats and other non-Republicans can't be bothered?

Guillen continues: "It is shameful that voters have not learned the lesson that your right to vote is important, and that you need to actively exercise that right. Because lethargic voters did not show up at the primary election, today eligible voters are being forced to vote only for two Republicans who have no interest in the real needs of the people in the 4th Congressional district they will represent."

It is shameful and appalling. That the future of the 100,000 registered voters of Benton County will be decided by around 20,000 people - as I have written about previously - is shameful. But it is not the fault of the system, not does it make the system partial to Republicans.

The fault is in us - the voters. I had great hopes for this latest primary. The Republicans seem to be out to alienate and disenfranchise - and even demonize - so many of the American people - women, African Americans, Latinos, the poor and the middle class. All of these have been affected negatively by the words and deeds of today's Republicans. 

So, I had great hopes. I felt sure many of these people would rise up against people like Didier. Unfortunately, things are much worse off than I thought. Online - on social media - there is a big push to get people registered. I feel, though, that voter registration is not the issue. The real issue is the actual act of voting. If only 37% of the registered voters are actually voting, what good does registration do? 

In the end, the enemy of democracy is not the top two primary or even party politics, it is US.

I welcome your contributions to this conversation.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Vote - A Duty, A Responsibility, A Privilege

I was originally going to write a letter to the editor of my local paper, the Tri-City Herald, complaining about the winners of the 4th Congressional District (Washington State) primary race. But I thought that sounded too much like "sour grapes". 

So I want to talk about something far more disturbing. Voter participation. It is appalling. Now, I have been voting in elections - ALL elections - since 1984 when I turned 18. When I say all, I mean all. I have voted in elections where the only thing on the ballot is a school bond issue. I have voted since the days where I had to go to a polling place (a local elementary school, usually) and wait in line. I have voted in presidential elections since the days when the networks - all 3 of them - declared the winner long before the polls in Washington State ever closed. 

So, I am suitably appalled at my fellow Benton County residents. According to bentonelections.com, out of the 99,283 ballots issued, 37,413 were returned. That means 37.5% of registered voters decided the future of Benton County. If this had been a school bond election, it wouldn't even be valid as 60% of the registered voters have to actually vote in those.

Our county has a population of 182,398 (as of 2012) - are you comfortable with the fact that 37,413 people have decided your future? In fact, it is probably not even an evenly distributed 37,413 that voted. Studies have shown (nationwide) that the majority of those voting in midterm elections are old and white. Do you think they will be voting in your best interests? 

Why don't you vote? I have heard over the years a few excuses:

#1 My vote doesn't count

Well, first of all, that's not the point. The point is to vote. Do the Afghanis worry about that? No - they risk their lives to cast their ballot and proudly show their inked finger to prove they have. Ar you proud to be an American? Do you celebrate Independence Day? If you say yes to those questions and don't vote - you've missed the point entirely.

Second of all, the one thing we learned from the Bush v Gore election is your vote DOES count.

#2 They're all the same

Really? Do you truly believe that? If they were all the same, why can't they agree on anything? One believes corporations are people, the other does not. One believes in separation of church and state, the other believes in the preservation of religious liberty. One believes in a social safety net, the other believes in protecting businesses.

These are just a few differences. What are the issues you care about? What makes your blood boil? Ask yourself, which candidate will protect and fight for your values?

#3 It's inconvenient

Oh, please. Washington State is 100% vote-by-mail. It is also one of the easiest states to register to vote in. Watching, listening, and reading the news, I am very grateful to live in this state. I don't live in a state that is establishing Voter ID legislation and restricting the right to vote. I don't have to live in a state where I continually have to re-register to vote. (I registered at my local library in 198 and have only had to make address changes since.)

#3 I only vote in presidential elections

I want to address this point. In my (humble) opinion, the President has very little impact in my life. (Except, perhaps, when he interrupts my favorite television program for an important message.) Think about it, which political or government figures have direct impact on your life?

Judges, sheriffs, city and county council members, these officials have a huge impact on your lives. Property taxes, use of public lands, law and justice, these are issues that are a daily influence in your life!

Also, since most functions of government are carried out by the state government  - and the US Supreme Court is frequently re-emphasizing this - the state elections are very important.

Even your Congressman has more impact on your life than the President. The President is answerable to all Americans as his (or her) constituency. Your Congressman (or woman) is answerable to his State's citizens (if a Senator) or his Congressional District (if a Representative). 

We need to vote. It is out duty, our responsibility, and our privilege. It is also in our best interest to vote. If only 30% of the registered voters actually vote, doesn't that make their votes worth three times as much as they would in an election where everyone voted?

A final thought... we always talk about how our fighting men and women are fighting for our way of life, that they are fighting for democracy. Does that mean that they are dying, they are being maimed, they are suffering from PTSD, so that you can NOT participate in the democracy they fought for?

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Exercising One's Second Amendment Rights Faster and Cheaper Than A Tax

Here in Benton County (in eastern Washington State), we are trying to pass a Public Safety Tax. It would be 3 cents on every 10 dollar purchase and would go towards things like hiring new police officers, sheriff's deputies, putting in a Mental Health Court, etc, yet many have written letters to the editor expressing their reasons for opposing it.

Many of the reasons are ideological: no tax is okay, ever!

Many are a little hard to understand: why do we need to have more police, we're safe. (Let's ignore the fact that there have been 3 police shooting in one month!)

But the one in yesterday's Tri-City Herald was ludicrous: "Exercising one's Second Amendment rights would be faster and cheaper than a tax." 

I cannot even begin to explain how wrong - how outrageous - how evil this thought is!

Who's going to take care of them?

That's what Santiago Moncado, a 65-year-old Austin resident, was quoted as saying in an Associated Press article in today's Tri-City Herald: POLL: IMMIGRATION CONCERNS RISE WITH TIDE OF KIDS

What bothers me with this attitude isn't that Moncado is obviously Hispanic. Or that no one seems to care that children are sleeping on cold concrete. Or even that more and more Americans just want to get rid of the problem. No, it's this:

We are supposed to be the country that defends human rights. That stands up for the little guy. That as it says on the Statue of Liberty:

Those of you that reject this. That reject these children. That want to send them back to some of the most perilous countries. Those of you that believe we are still an "exceptional" nation, let me ask you this:

What would you say about this situation if it were a different country being inundated with these children? Would you still want those children to "go home"?

What if these children were coming from Canada or from Europe or -- from Cuba? Would you still want these children to "go home"?

What would your answer be then? When I hear Americans refusing to help children -- I no longer think of us as an "exceptional" nation. Do you know what I think I hear Americans talk about "exceptionalism"? I think it means "everyone except us"!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Reading Around The World -- Let's Visit the Rose City -- Portland, Oregon!!

I'm a little behind on this stop. I actually finished the book last month. But we took a real road trip to Boston to see my brother tie the knot!

This whistle stop is the city of Portland, Oregon, the most populous city in the Beaver State. Portland is also known as the Rose City or the City of Roses. It's had this nickname since 1888 and even has had a Rose Festival since 1907.

The Grand Floral (or Rose) Parade is the second largest all-floral parade after the Rose Parade in Pasadena, California.

The book I read that featured the fair city of Portland, Oregon, was Murdermobile by B.B. Cantwell

This was a fun cozy mystery with engaging characters and a touch of romance. I've already purchased book 2 in the series, Corpse of Discovery.

The main character in the book is librarian Hester McGarrigle who works in the magenta-colored Mobile Library Unit (bookmobile) for the Portland City Library. This is what it looks like now, but the book is set in 1990's Portland.

Hester's route takes her down Skyline Boulevard "offering a 360-degree view of forested hills."

When she got done with her route, Hester liked to relax with a glass of Oregon pinot noir.

Another stop Hester has is at Mt Tabor Park, "home to the only extinct volcano inside city boundaries in the United States."

Unfortunately, Hester's day was interrupted by finding the former head librarian stuffed in a cupboard in the bookmobile (hence the title of the book Murdermobile). The murder is where Hester meets her love interest, Detective Nate Darrow who was "several inches taller than Hester, who stood 5-feet-11 in her Birkenstocked feet. His slim build accentuated broad shoulders and a thatch of prematurely graying hair contrasted with luxuriant, chestnut-colored eyebrows.")

Hester has a roommate a huge Maine Coon cat named Bingle T.

Hester's friend, Pim, likes to go to Dogs Aplenty for a kielbasa-on-a-stick for her lunch.

Unfortunately, Pim gets arrested for murder and Hester has to get involved to save her friend. One place she meets handsome Nate Darrow is for coffee at Pioneer Courthouse Square.

If Nate, Pim, or Hester were so inclined, one place they could visit in Portland is the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry.

Nate likes pizza. He orders "sumptuous, huge slices of herb-laced cheese and tender crust" from "Escape from New York" pizza and paired it with a Thomas Kemper root beer.

Hester and her friend Karen attend a meeting of "Women Who Care About Children" at the Mumfrey Mansion, "a historic eyesore in the west hills of Portland." (I couldn't find MM when I looked on-line, but I did find the Pittock Mansion.)

The history of the fictional Mumfrey Mansion is that the home was "erected with grand pretense but a minimum of expense 60 years earlier by Captain Mathusalum Mumfrey, a founding member of the Columbia River Pilots Association." These pilots help guide ships "into the mouth of the mighty Columbia" otherwise known as the "Graveyard of the Pacific."

Karen and Hester prefer to go to Jitters Coffee Co., "Portland's local rival to Seattle's snooty purveyors of caffeine." Apparently, Karen orders a "Black Ocelot espresso that made your ears waggle." That sure sound interesting. 

Karen's husband is an architect who isn't doing well, even though "all over Portland, architects are doing wonderful things like the Portland Building; KOIN Tower; RiverPlace."

Pim lives out on the edge of the Sandy River where she can hear great horned owls hooting. This is where she is when she is arrested. 

She is taken to the Portland Justice Center or "chokey" as she calls it.

Hester has breakfast downtown at the Heathman Pub and Bakery on Friday morning. It seems very ritzy. Hester has a "nine-grain bagel smeared with ricotta cheese and tart gooseberry preserves" and "strong Italian coffee ... served in mugs almost as generous as their pint ale glasses."

Hester walks past a statue of Teddy Roosevelt on horseback while contemplating the murder. She also walks past St James Lutheran Church and sits on a park bench watching Salmon Street.

Karen convinces Hester she needs a "Girls Night Out" to take her to Six Tepees Over Oregon, "a glitzy combination of Indian casino, thrill-ride park and rock-concert amphitheater." This is a fictitious place. However, there are plenty of places like this in the Pacific Northwest. The closest one to Portland is Spirit Mountain Casino in Grand Ronde, 60 miles SW of Portland. 

The casino Karen and Hester go to is "20 miles up into the scenic Columbia River Gorge." The Gorge is a wonderful and beautiful place to go to. 

On their way to this fictitious casino, they pass a "one-truck fire station" for Multnomah County in the fictitious town of Corbin.

The casino was ostentatious, as they walked on a Pendleton rug.

When Hester goes to work she can see "Mount Hood's shark-tooth peak" and "the low hump of Mount St. Helens."

Hester's favorite breakfast spot is in the Pearl District.

Nate likes to go running in Forest Park.

For lunch, Hester's co-worker suggests Char-Burger in Cascade Locks

In the climax, Hester and her co-worker pass some famous sights in the Portland Area.  Such as Bridal Veil Scenic Highway, Multnomah Falls, Wahkeena Falls, Vista House, Shepperd's Dell

After the climax, Hester and Nate go to Tad's Chic Dump on the Sandy River, "a venerable rural roadhouse dedicated to good old-fashioned comfort food."

I hope you liked this trip to Oregon and the Rose City. For my next book, I will be travelling down to California. My first stop will by Lassen Volcanic National Park in Northern California in Nevada Barr's Anna Pigeon Series, Firestorm!!

Bon Voyage!!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Reading Around the World: Getting Hot and Bothered in Seattle, Washington!

On this stop, I read Come Away With Me by Kristen Proby - a contemporary (and erotic) romance set in Seattle. I originally planned to read Truth Like The Sun by Jim Lynch.

Seattle is known as the Emerald City and is named after Chief Sealth of the Duwamish and Suquamish tribes.

Seattle is ranked the most literate city in the country. It has the highest percentage of residents with a college degree or higher. Seattle had the first general strike in the country in 1919 -- the Seattle General Strike.

Seattle is known as the Rainy City. However, its annual rainfall is 37.1 inches. This means it receives less rain than New York City, Houston, Atlanta, and most cities on the Eastern Seaboard! It was also NOT listed on the list of the 10 rainiest cities in the United States.

Seattle is currently home to four professional sports teams, the Seattle Seahawks of the NFL, the Seattle Sounders FC of the MLS, the Seattle Mariners of the MLB, and the Seattle Storm of the WNBA.

Wikipedia shows that 81 films have been set in Seattle. Arguably, the most famous of these is Sleepless in Seattle with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. 

Many television shows were set there as well, most noticeably Frasier.

I really enjoyed this romance. It was very sexy and very fun and had engaging characters. The female and male leads are independently wealthy. (She inherited after the loss of her parents and he is a former actor and a current movie producer.) So, the book had the handicap to being unrealistic to me on that bent. However, the love, vulnerabilities, and the sex were great. You can find my full review and other reviews on my GoodReads site: Kirsten on GoodReads

Places featured in the book are:

Thanks for joining me on my trip to Seattle. This finishes up my trip to my home state of Washington. I love Washington State and highly recommend people to visit. We have some great parks to visit, including:

I hope everyone out there will consider a trip to our great state some time soon!

I will be moving on next to the Beaver State - Oregon - and more specifically the Rose City - Portland. I will be reading the cozy mystery Murdermobile, a Portland Bookmobile Mystery, by B.B. Cantwell

Thanks for joining me!

Support your local public library!