We’ve been Berned before.

So Sanders is running again. How… special.

Look, I don’t care if he runs. I don’t particularly even care if he decides to call himself a Democrat.

What I do care about is that unless the Democratic National Committee shows more spine than a jellyfish they will shovel money and resources — and legitimacy is a resource –to a politician who refuses to be a Democrat except when he is trying to soak the party so he can run his campaign. A politician who is willing to trash his opponent and then only grudgingly support her in the general election.

A politician who overlooks the virulent misogyny of a certain portion of his following. Who shows himself to be a sexist, given the way he treated his opponent. Who was willing to support candidates who opposed reproductive rights. Who claimed that abortion and access to birth control and access to day care were “social issues” and not as important as “economic issues.” In other words, if it appears to affect mainly men, it is worth caring about; if it appears to affect mainly women, it will need to be relegated to whenever we get to it.

A candidate who hired — and did not fire — a campaign manager who arrogantly dismissed as unimportant the votes of millions of Southern voters, most of them African-American. A candidate who decried “identity politics,” discounting that to ignore them sets the default as white men, and brushing off the ways in which race and gender (and sexual orientation and gender identity) intersect with class to cause people to struggle.

A candidate who changed from Independent to Democrat only long enough grab a ton of money and other assets from the party (access to databases of Democratic donors is only the first that springs to mind) before changing back after the election. A hypocrite of the first water; self-involved and arrogant.

As I said, I don’t care if Bernie calls himself a Democrat, but I would bet very good money that if the party refused to give him resources he would quickly go back to be being Independent. He would then spend a lot of time trashing the party and some of their traditional allies, such as Planned Parenthood. Wait! That’s what he did last time, when he claimed he had turned into a Democrat. (It’s been years, and it still gobsmacks me that he sees PP as “part of the establishment.” He seems to view “part of the establishment” to equal “doesn’t support Bernie Sanders for President.”

Although the Russians expended efforts in support of his candidacy, I doubt Bernie was actually a Russian dupe. (Unlike Jill Stein, who had her picture taken with Vladimir Putin.) That doesn’t matter.  He did enough damage on his own.

The DNC cannot give this man money. That money needs to work to get one of the actual Democrats elected.












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Another week, another shooting. My heart breaks for Aurora, Illinois.

But before anyone mentions the failures of the mental health system, consider that, according to the Washington Post, the shooter had worked for the company for twenty years, and had been let go two weeks ago.  Maybe we also need to look at how workers are treated in this country, including how we help workers who have been terminated from the jobs.

Oh, and the guns, of course.

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Well, there goes that resolution.

It’s that time of the year: when New Year’s resolutions to eat more healthily and maybe lose some weight run smack into Girl Scout cookie season.

I had to go to two different Safeways today; I ended up with two boxes of Thin Mints. Admittedly, Thin Mints are wonderful, but I really do not need two boxes.

The first group of Scouts was older: they were smiling, pleasant, business-like. These girls are going to run their own companies when  they grow up. I remembered my own days selling cookies and bought a box of Thin Mints and gave them a donation in leiu of the box of Samoas I would have normally bought. I felt mostly virtuous, diminished by the fact that I really should have doubled my donation and not gotten the cookies.

The second group… let’s just say that they followed the tried and true practice of putting the youngest and absolutely cutest Scouts (usually Daisies and Brownies)  front and center. When I left the store, the youngest Scout was grinning and tunelessly singing “Girl Scout cookies! Girl Scout cookies! Girl Scout cookies! We take credit cards!

How can you resist a pitch like that? I bought another box. (They also had a sign suggesting that you could give GS cookies for Valentine’s Day, and had a “most popular cookies” bundle. You didn’t get a price break, but you were sure of getting your Samoas.) I paid cash; had I used a credit card I would have walked away not with a single box of Thin Mints, but with two boxes of Thin Mints, two of Samoas, and one each of S’mores and Tagalongs.

Maybe I should simply wait to make New Year’s resolutions in March.

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The Washington Post wins.

The Super Bowl was, not to put to fine a point on it, a snoozefest. That teams who were there by virtue of bad calls back down the line only exacerbated my annoyance when they then produced one of the most boring games I’ve seen in the past few years, let alone Super Bowls.

Even the commercials failed to make much of an impression on me. (Although it is nice to know that Anheiser-Busch is using so much wind power. Not that I drink the stuff myself, but maybe it will be a model for other compnies.)

Except for the Washington Posts’s.

The two things I liked about it most (aside from Tom Hanks narrating; the man could add gravitas to the phone book)…

  1. They showed journalists from other media outlets, such CNN and msnbc. This was an ad about the importance of journalism, not just the Washington Post.
  2. When they talked about “dangers to our country,” they did not show the twin towers on fire. Instead, they showed the second largest terrorist attack in U.S. history, the bombing of the federal office building in Oklahoma City.

There are only four “Do you remember where you were when…” moments in my life: 9/11, Columbia, Challenger, and Oklahoma City. I remember the pictures of the fireman carrying the body of the child out of the smoking day-care center. (If there is a hell, I hope Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols are sitting on a bench right next to the 9/11 terrorists.) I recognize that this may resonate with me more than some others because by that time we were a NASA family, but it still seeped into the national consciousness to the point that it is referenced in the musical Rent.

When people talk of terrorism, they far too often think only of Islamist based terrorism. They forget how horrible the militias and white supremacists and neo-Nazis can be. How they pose just as much threat to the country as dangers from abroad.

Oklahoma City is exhibit number 1 of that fact.

And on Sunday, the Washington Post reminded us. And they reminded us of the price journalists pay for letting us all know what we need to know to fight the good fight.

Democracy does indeed die in darkness.

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Another date to remember.

As a friend of mine on Facebook put it, sixteen years ago today Columbia came home.

I had forgotten what day it was today. When he reminded me I felt the tears spring to my eyes. I remember.

I remember frantically running into the bedroom asking the Rocket Scientist, “Did you know people aboard Columbia?” “No,” he said. “Why?” (A friend of his had flown a recent mission and I couldn’t remember which one.) I could barely get the words out, “It broke apart.”

The day after the tragedy, I asked the Rocket Scientist, “Would you go up?” “Tomorrow,” he replied with no hesitation. I asked my Facebook (then Livejournal) friend the same question. He responded immediately and emphatically, “Absolutely.” Although they can’t now, there are men and women in NASA who feel the same way.

We have lost brave men and women. We have brave men and women whom, those other losses not withstanding, would take their place in reaching out into the dark. In an instant.

I’m not sure they will be given the chance. We have lost our way to the stars.

I have never thought of the deaths of Rick D. Husband, William McCool, Iian Ramon (the first Israeli astronaut), Michael Anderson, Kalpana Chawla, David Brown, Laurel Blair Salton Clark (not to mention the Challenger crew or Gus Grissom, Ed white, and Roger Chaffee, the three astronauts killed in the Apollo 1 fire) to have been in vain. Not until recently, that is.

I once said that “exploration is part of who we are, for good or ill: we can no more as a people renounce our desires to boldly go where no man has gone before than we can renounce our passions for sunlight and moonlight.” I now think I was wrong.

As a nation, we have lost our desire to push beyond the boundaries of earth. Yes, we have people in the International Space Station, but we went to the moon fifty years ago, and it took us only ten years to get there. Why do we not have people on Mars? We even abandoned the shuttle program.

Yes, there have been private entities that talk a good game about manned missions to Mars or the Moon. (Hello, Space-X!) But our government seems unwilling to commit the resources necessary to actually get there. They make vague statements about Mars and the Moon, but nothing seems to happen beyond unmanned probes. (None of this is intended as a criticism of the scientists and engineers behind the probes and rovers: I know how hard you work, and for how long, in order to get those instruments out there.)

Among other things, we as a country have become risk averse. We are frightened about another Columbia, another Challenger. Space is an inhospitable place for humans, and that scares us.

As a country, we also just don’t want to spend the money. We spend money on a lot of other things though: if Trump gets his wall, that money equals a quarter of NASA’s budget. (Trump will probably not get his wall; I think perhaps though that he will get other things that cost nearly as much.)

Fear or stinginess, it really doesn’t matter. All of it together means that seventeen people will have died for what in the end was no reason.

We owe them better than that.

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It’s time for the firing squad. Everyone form a circle.

President candidates are now declaring themselves. Democratic, Republican, and Independent, it appears it might be an interesting race.

Donald Trump is running for re-election. The RNC is behind him, of course. There is, however evidence that he is likely to face a challenger in the primaries, almost unheard of for an incumbent president.

Howard Schulz, former CEO of Starbucks, is running as an independent. (I hope that we’ve all learned from Trump that running a govenment is not the same as running a business, and that having a billionaire with absolutley no relevant experience as commander-in-chief is disastrous.) He is spending his time attacking the Democrats for tax and health care proposals that he says will bankrupt the country. They won’t, of course; they will simply hit multi-billionaires like him in the pocket. His yelling about Elizabeth Warren’s wealth tax ignores that one of the healthiest times for this country, the Eisenhower administration, had a 70 to 90% marginal tax rate. (And yes, I know how marginal tax rates work, and I am hoping you do too.)

And then we get to the Democrats. They are mostly women: Eizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Kristen Gillibrand. (It’s fascinating to watch people who swore that they could not vote for Hillary but could vote for Warren tie themselves in knots trying to find reasons that they couldn’t vote for Warren, either. Misogyny is alive and well in the Democratic party. Of course, Kamala Harris gets hit with both misogyny and racism.) Bernie Sanders says he is going to run again — as a Democrat, which is absolutely infuriating since he only identifies as a Democrat when he wants money out of the party.

The discussion of the candidates has taken the same unpleasant turn that it did in ’16 primaries.  Candidates are described in unnecessarily nasty terms. Even otherwise reliable media outlets are falling into the trap, albeit using slightly less inflammatory language: “Kamala Harris: Criminal justice reformer, or defender of the status quo? The record is mixed.”

Politifact is, to me, the gold standard of political fact-finding. It is the site I send people to (along with Snopes) to educate them about the truth (or falsity) of statements by public figures.

This headline is disheartening. It is possible to discuss candidate’s records and policy proposals without getting personal. It is possible to say “Kamala Harris’s record as a DA and AG is concerning” without questioning her character. It is possible to question Warren’s two per cent wealth tax proposal without calling her a socialist.

In other words, we should be talking about issues. Labeling candidates makes it harder to evaluate them in any meaningful way, and loses support from independents in the general election. (Independents not voting — or voting third party — will re-elect Trump.)

Which is just what the Russians want, of course. We have been warned that they will be meddling in the next election the way they did in 2016. (A lot of the misinformation sown about Hillary came from troll farms in Russia and Ukraine. Some of the Bernie bots may have been Russian stooges.) They will use social media to try and disrupt the Democrat’s campaign and insure another Trump victory.

But the Russian efforts only work as long as we allow them to work. If we resist the urge to engage in fearmongering and trafficking in unproven “facts,” if we stick to the issues and consider them in a calm, non-inflammatory way, if we recognize that no candidate will be perfect (we’re looking for a president, not a messiah), we increase our chances of winning come November.

Given the Democratic record and the way thing are shaping up, I doubt that’s going to happen.

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Linus. And Jimmy Stewart.

I loved all the presents I got this year, but as each year some are more special than others.  I have written of the mug The NSLDB got me. My sister-in-law, the fire chief and world’s coolest aunt, gave me a throw.

It’s a lovely throw: dark green plaid velvet on one side, fake sheepskin on the other. It’s warm and comforting. It’s has turned into a transitional object. I’m like Linus and his blanket: I have it with me around the house, when I’m sleeping or watching television. And right now I need a blankie.

It’s not just the news: the craziness coming out of Washington, or the unnerving responses to Democrats declaring that they are going to run for President. Kamala Harris in particular seems to be a lightning rod. I’m sure that her being a woman of color has nothing to do with that. (One of the frustrating things, as someone who has watched Harris’s career for many years now, is how some of the facts that have been used against her are twisted or taken out of context.) If candidates are subjected to unrealistic purity tests (we are looking for a President, not a messiah) we are screwed. It was this sort of crap on the part of Bernie and his people that helped get us Donald Trump. (Although a significant level of misogyny hurt, too. Not to mention Russian interference.)

No, I am facing a physical  challenge that, while not dangerous in and of itself, has some very significant lifestyle impacts. I have vertigo.

I’ve been fighting it for a while: having occasional dizzy spells. It had gotten more frequent, and my neurologist diagnosed it as being due to migraines. (We’ve been working on dealing with them.)  Then last Tuesday I had a spell so severe I could not stand up. It was scary, but went away after a few hours.

Thursday I had another. This time, I went to the “Marc Andreesen and Laura Arillaga-Andreesen Emergency Department” at Stanford. (If you look closely, the names on the sign are slightly larger than the words “Emergency Department.”) The E.D. was really slammed, and since I wasn’t having a heart attack or an apparent broken ankle, it took them a while until they got me out of the waiting room. (To be fair, though, once I got back I did not have to wait a long time before being taken to get a CT scan and after I got back from Radiology it was not at all long before I saw a doctor.)

After reviewing the CT the doctor said that it was clear, and they were talking to their neurologists and my neurologist and he’d get back to me. After about an hour, he came in and told me that both sets of neurologists agreed that this was consistent with my migraines. Damn. I was instructed to see my neurologist within a week. Then he looked me straight in the eye, and spoke the words that struck dread in my heart….

“Until you see your doctor, don’t drive.”

[Emphasis his.] Don’t drive? In the South Bay? Damn. I’m at the mercy of public transit (although if I develop a fit of vertigo it might be hard to walk to the bus) and Lyft. I can’t decide on a whim “I need some fresh air and to see some other scenery, let’s go to Shoreline Park.” I can’t say “Uh-oh, where did all the milk go? I need to go get some more.” If I get a job interview, I have to get Lyft.

I know that not driving is just common sense. When I told my friend Cris about the vertigo, and that the doctor said not to drive, his response was something along the lines of “Well, duh.”

So I’m stuck at home now. I think I am going to grab my blankie and go watch all the back Jeopardy! episodes I have on DVR.

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