Why You Should Vote in Downticket Races — and a Neat Trick For Doing It

Anyone who cares about electoral politics will tell you how important it is to vote downticket. But actually doing it can be daunting. You hear a lot about who’s running for President, maybe even who’s running for Senator or Governor. But how do you decide between the twelve candidates for judge, the five candidates for city council, the seven candidates for school board? It could take weeks researching their positions and records, and you probably don’t have that kind of time.

I hear you. I have a trick for that. I’ve been using it for years. First, here are some reasons you should care — like, really, really care.

Local elections profoundly affect your everday life. What’s taught in public schools; whether your landlord can raise your rent any time they want; whether streets and sewers are repaired (and which ones get attention first); whether racist cops are disciplined; whether the community college is funded; which buildings can be torn down and put up; whether your city has a minimum wage that reflects economic reality; whether AirBnB gets to ignore hotel and housing laws; whether the homeless people on your block will be sheltered or arrested — all of this and much more gets decided on the local level.

Local elections profoundly affect other people’s everyday lives. See above. If these issues don’t personally and immediately affect you, they affect your neighbors, your co-workers, your friends, your family.

Local and state elections are how national candidates are born. If you want good progressives in national offices in twenty years, start by getting good progressives in local offices now. Most elected officials on the national level get their start in local politics. There are exceptions, of course. Donald Trump has never held office in his life, and while Hillary Clinton had extensive experience in politics before she was elected to anything, her first elected position was in the Senate. But in general, voting in local elections now is a great way to get national candidates in the future who you actually want to vote for.

Local elections move the national party. If you’re wondering how the Republican Party moved so far to the right, look at local elections. The Tea Party got into school boards and city councils across the country. There are other factors, of course — for one thing, the Tea Party has had significant national funding from big corporations. But to a great extent, local elections are how the Tea Party got into power.

So if you want the national Democratic Party to move further to the left, a really good way to do that is to support progressive candidates in local and state elections — especially in primaries. It lets the party know that voters really do want progressive candidates, and will support them. And it lets the party know that progressive voters will consistently vote — not just every four years when we’re deciding on the president.

*****

So now you’re convinced (I hope). Local and state elections are important. But there are so many of them! How do you decide? In one word:

Endorsements.

In a few more words: Find some organizations you trust, whose values and positions are more or less in line with yours — and see who they endorse.

You know all that time it takes to research candidates and ballot initiatives, the time you don’t have? For many organizations, that is literally their job. They do have the time. And they have the knowledge. In many cases, they’ve actually worked with these people. They know that Jane Doe is great on health care, less great on gentrification, and knows City Hall backwards and forwards. They know that Richard Roe is solid on the issues but is a hostile pain in the ass to work with and has a hard time getting anything done. They’ve done the research you don’t have time to do.

Here’s my trick. I look at the endorsements of three or four endorsing organizations. Tenants’ rights groups, TBLG groups, environmental groups, progressive alternative newspapers — you get the idea. I compare them. If they all agree, and I don’t personally know enough about the candidate or initiative to disagree, I do what they recommend. If they don’t agree, I look at the arguments they make for why they’re endorsing the way they are, and see who I agree with.

In San Francisco elections, this usually takes about a hour, maybe two. If I’m super-busy and don’t have that time, I just pick a couple of endorsing organizations to compare and contrast. If I’m completely and utterly swamped, I just pick one.

It’s less than ideal. I think local and state elections are really important — see above — and I do have reservations about trusting my vote to someone else. But if I don’t vote downticket at all, I’m doing that anyway. I’m trusting my vote to everyone else who happens to be voting. I have a lot more reservations about that.

Why You Should Vote in Downticket Races — and a Neat Trick For Doing It
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“We are a miniscule piece”: Meme from The Way of the Heathen

"We are a miniscule piece of the matter and energy of the universe, looking carefully at some of the rest of the matter and energy, and asking, "How would you like to get off?""

“We are a miniscule piece of the matter and energy of the universe, looking carefully at some of the rest of the matter and energy, and asking, ‘How would you like to get off?'”
-Greta Christina, The Way of the Heathen: Practicing Atheism in Everyday Life
(from Chapter 50, “To Give Itself Pleasure: An Atheist View of Sexual Transcendence”)

(Image description: above text, superimposed over image of bed)

I’m making a series of memes/ inspirational poster thingies with my favorite quotes from my new book, The Way of the Heathen: Practicing Atheism in Everyday Life. Please feel free to share this on social media, or print it and hang it on your wall if you like. (The image above is pretty big: you can click on it to get a bigger size if you like.)

Way of the Heathen cover
The Way of the Heathen is available in ebook on Amazon/Kindle and on Smashwords for $7.99. The audiobook is at Audible. The print edition is at Amazon and Powell’s Books, and can be ordered or carried by pretty much any bookstore: it’s being wholesaled by Ingram, Baker & Taylor, IPG, and bookstores can buy it directly from the publisher, Pitchstone Publishing. Check it out, and tell your friends!

“We are a miniscule piece”: Meme from The Way of the Heathen

“Let’s celebrate our bodies”: Meme from The Way of the Heathen

"Let's celebrate our bodies as much as we do our minds. In fact, let's stop seeing our bodies as something apart from our minds."

“Let’s celebrate our bodies as much as we do our minds. In fact, let’s stop seeing our bodies as something apart from our minds.”
-Greta Christina, The Way of the Heathen: Practicing Atheism in Everyday Life
(from Chapter 49, “Atheism and Sensuality”)

(Image description: above text, juxtaposed next to silhouette of person stretching in dance or yoga pose in front of sunset behind mountains.)

I’m making a series of memes/ inspirational poster thingies with my favorite quotes from my new book, The Way of the Heathen: Practicing Atheism in Everyday Life. Please feel free to share this on social media, or print it and hang it on your wall if you like. (The image above is pretty big: you can click on it to get a bigger size if you like.)

Way of the Heathen cover
The Way of the Heathen is available in ebook on Amazon/Kindle and on Smashwords for $7.99. The audiobook is at Audible. The print edition is at Amazon and Powell’s Books, and can be ordered or carried by pretty much any bookstore: it’s being wholesaled by Ingram, Baker & Taylor, IPG, and bookstores can buy it directly from the publisher, Pitchstone Publishing. Check it out, and tell your friends!

“Let’s celebrate our bodies”: Meme from The Way of the Heathen

Godless Perverts Story Hour in SF, Saturday August 27!

Godless Perverts Story Hour Aug 27

We have a Godless Perverts Story Hour coming up in San Francisco on Saturday, August 29! The Story Hour is the performance/ entertainment/ literary reading branch of the Godless Perverts empire — we’ll be bringing you depictions, explorations, and celebrations of godless sexualities, as well as critical, mocking, and blasphemous views of sex and religion. And we’re very excited to be bringing in an out-of-town performer — Heina Dadabhoy!

Heina Dadabhoy

Heina Dadabhoy spent their childhood as a practicing Muslim who never in their right mind would have believed that they would grow up to be an atheist feminist secular humanist and a pansexual genderqueer switch to boot. Heina has been an active participant in atheist organizations and events in and around Orange County, CA since 2007, and on the national stage since 2011. You may have heard them at Skepticon, the American Atheists National Convention, the Huffington Post Live, and Have Your Say on the BBC World Service or read about them in the New York Times.

Our other readers and performers for the evening include Donna Jay, Juba Kalamka, Ember Atwell, Michaela Goldhaber, and co-hosts Greta Christina and Chris Hall.

Juba Kalamka 100
Ember Atwell 100
Michaela Goldhaber
Greta Christina 100
Chris Hall 100

So please join us at the for an evening about how to have good sex without having any gods, goddesses, spirits, or their earthly representatives hanging over your shoulder and telling you that you’re doing it wrong. The evening’s entertainment will have a range of voices — sexy and serious, passionate and funny, and all of the above — talking about how our sexualities can not only exist, but even thrive, without the supernatural.

The event is at the Center for Sex and Culture, 1349 Mission St. in San Francisco, near Civic Center BART. It’s on Saturday, August 29, starting at 7:00 pm. Admission is a sliding scale, $10-$20, with no-one turned away for lack of funds. Proceeds go to the Center for Sex and Culture. Hope to see you there!

Godless Perverts Story Hour in SF, Saturday August 27!

7 of the Less-Noted But Still Very Sexist Attacks on Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton

It’s entirely reasonable to criticize Hillary Clinton. She’s running for President of the United States, after all. If she’s elected, she’s going to be representing all U.S. citizens: we should tell her what we want from her, and speak out when she lets us down.

But a significant amount of anti-Clinton criticism is loaded with sexism. It’s not just the obvious examples, like critiquing her clothing and her voice, microanalyzing her gestures and mannerisms, sexualizing her or targeting her with sexist and misogynist slurs. Much of the sexism against Hillary Clinton flies under the radar. On the surface, it looks like legitimate political commentary: the sexism underlying it is largely unconscious. But when you understand some of the ways sexism commonly plays out, it’s glaringly obvious.

Here are seven examples.

*****

Thus begins my latest piece for AlterNet, 7 of the Less-Noted But Still Very Sexist Attacks on Hillary Clinton. Enjoy!

7 of the Less-Noted But Still Very Sexist Attacks on Hillary Clinton

“Have you ever truly looked at Clinton with the same critical eye?”

Hillary Clinton

Some guy on someone else’s Facebook page: “Have you ever truly looked at Clinton with the same critical eye with an open mind or you just supporting the party?”

Me: “Hillary Clinton is probably one of the most closely scrutinized people in U.S. politics. There has been a decades-long right-wing smear campaign against her (much of which has been bought into by the left), and every mistake she’s ever made has been examined with a spotlight and a high-powered microscope. So yes — I have looked at Clinton with a critical eye. It has been literally impossible not to.”

I would have said more, but I try not to burst into long streams of invective on other people’s Facebook pages.

“Have you ever truly looked at Clinton with the same critical eye?”

Frivolous Friday: A Big Pot of Mac and Cheese with Butternut Squash

many cheeses

A few weeks ago on Frivolous Friday, I posted about cooking up big pots of things and freezing them into little Tupperwares, as an efficient way to cook at home for one or two people. I promised recipes: here is one, with our modifications, mostly in the direction of making it easier.

We start with this recipe from Epicurious. A few modifications:

For this recipe, there is absolutely no reason to bake your own butternut squash. Frozen is fine. I’m a big fan of cooking fresh things, but I’m also a big fan of making things easy when the hard way doesn’t really add anything. In this case, frozen butternut squash is 100% fine: it’s not the dominant flavor, and it’s just going to get mixed up into the sauce so texture is a non-issue. And using frozen cuts a BIG chunk of time and hassle from the recipe. Microwave it so it’s warm when you mix it into the sauce.

In the Epicurious recipe, the proportions of sauce to pasta are WAAAAAAY off. The first time we made it, we ended up with cheesy soup with some pasta in it. The second time around, we doubled the amount of pasta, and it worked perfectly. (Actually, we doubled the recipe and quadrupled the pasta. When we make big pots of things, we do not kid around.)

The crispy Parmesan wheels are nice, and they’re not difficult to make, but they’re not necessary. Ditto the fried sage leaves, although we do still use chopped-up fresh sage. If you’re going to do just one of these, I’d suggest the fried sage leaves, since it’s nice to start the roux with sage-y butter. It’s also nice to grate a little Parm on top when you’re serving it, if you feel like it. Because cheese!

On the advice of the (we think) dyke at Rainbow Grocery, who was obsessed with mac and cheese and spent lots of time talking with us about it, we added Brie and Tallegio to the sauce. It was a nice flourish: it made it very creamy, and the Tallegio gave it a nice little bite. (The recipe can be a little unctuous, and the bite helps.) You don’t need much Tallegio or Brie, just enough to make it creamy and a little tangy without being too rich. Another bitey soft cheese would also work: we used Tallegio because it was on sale, and also the dyke at Rainbow Grocery recommended it, and she was cute and nice and seemed like she knew what she was talking about. Cheap Brie is fine: you’re not putting it on crackers and serving it to the Queen, you’re melting it into mac and cheese. We also substituted Gruyere for some of the Swiss. Yes, that meant we used five cheeses: Fontina, Swiss (Emmentaler, actually), Gruyere, Tallegio, and Brie. Six if you count the Parmesan. What’s your point? (This recipe calls for Fontina and Swiss as the bsae, which work well for us — but if you have cheeses you prefer for mac and cheese, go for it. It’s also fine to just use Fontina and Swiss: we did that the first time, and it was perfectly lovely.)

We’ve found that this recipe is well-served by including chopped-up green veggies of some kind. It makes it more vegetal and vegetally-varied, turns it into more of a full meal in one bowl, and again cuts into the rich unctuousness, which is delish but can be a little much. We’re still working out how to best do that: roasted asparagus worked well, blanched asparagus worked okay but got a little mushy on being re-heated. We’re also going to try peas, and probably cut-up leafy greens of some sort. (If you try this and it turns out well, let us know what you did!)

We added powdered mustard as well as cayenne, which also adds some bite, and apparently also helps melted cheese stay smooth and melty.

We really like a half-and-half mix of white pasta and whole wheat pasta. And we like penne, as it stands up well to being frozen and re-heated.

If you try this out with your own variants, let us know how it goes!

Frivolous Fridays are the Orbit bloggers’ excuse to post about fun things we care about that may not have serious implications for atheism or social justice. Any day is a good day to write about whatever the heck we’re interested in (hey, we put “culture” in our tagline for a reason), but we sometimes have a hard time giving ourselves permission to do that. This is our way of encouraging each other to take a break from serious topics and have some fun. Check out what some of the other Orbiters are doing!

Frivolous Friday: A Big Pot of Mac and Cheese with Butternut Squash

“To give itself pleasure”: Meme from The Way of the Heathen

"We aren't just a way for the universe to know itself. We are a way for the universe to give itself pleasure."

“We aren’t just a way for the universe to know itself. We are a way for the universe to give itself pleasure.”
-Greta Christina, The Way of the Heathen: Practicing Atheism in Everyday Life
(from Chapter 50, “To Give Itself Pleasure: An Atheist View of Sexual Transcendence”)

(Image description: above text, superimposed over image of galaxy and stars in space.)

I’m making a series of memes/ inspirational poster thingies with my favorite quotes from my new book, The Way of the Heathen: Practicing Atheism in Everyday Life. Please feel free to share this on social media, or print it and hang it on your wall if you like. (The image above is pretty big: you can click on it to get a bigger size if you like.)

Way of the Heathen cover
The Way of the Heathen is available in ebook on Amazon/Kindle and on Smashwords for $7.99. The audiobook is at Audible. The print edition is at Amazon and Powell’s Books, and can be ordered or carried by pretty much any bookstore: it’s being wholesaled by Ingram, Baker & Taylor, IPG, and bookstores can buy it directly from the publisher, Pitchstone Publishing. Check it out, and tell your friends!

“To give itself pleasure”: Meme from The Way of the Heathen

Godless Perverts Social Club in Oakland August 18 – Parlor Games!

Godless Perverts Social Club Parlor Games

Godless Perverts are having a Social Club in our wonderful downtown Oakland location on Thursday, August 18. And we’re doing something new this time! Our game nights in San Francisco are among our most popular events — but our meetup space in Oakland doesn’t work for tabletop games. So we’re having Parlor Games Night!

We’ve compiled a list of games that can be played sitting in one place, with no equipment other than paper and pen (which we’ll provide). And some games don’t even need that! Just people, words, and brains. Scroll to the end of this announcement to see a list of games, with brief summaries — or just click here. And if you have favorites that aren’t listed, please let us know! Continue reading “Godless Perverts Social Club in Oakland August 18 – Parlor Games!”

Godless Perverts Social Club in Oakland August 18 – Parlor Games!