01 August 2020

Question Nancy & California Ballots

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How will Californians vote this coming November? Should citizens go to the polling booth? Apply for an absentee ballot? Or should the State mail out ballots to every person on their list of registered voters? There is no doubt that Nancy Pelosi and her minions will continue to push for mail-in ballots, an option fraught with danger here in the Golden State.

There are around 20 million registered voters in the California. Just how many of these people are still alive, registered at more than one address, or are actual US citizens, is a mystery.

My own experiences shed doubt that everything is on the up and up here on the West Coast. For example, my mother’s name was still on the books at the polling station several years after she passed. Then a few years ago I had filled out an absentee ballot before my plans changed. With my completed ballot in hand, I entered the polling station and asked the worker to please cross my name off her list. She would not do it. I explained that I was about to drop my ballot into the box and wanted to make sure I was checked off the list. Why? She asked. So that no none could come in and claim my name and vote, I said. Why would anyone do that? She asked. Then she got snippy and told me to get out of the way because other voters needed to get inside. I don’t know if anyone actually claimed they were me, but I am pretty sure my absentee ballot was never counted as results were broadcast before any precinct person had time to open all the absentee ballots.  

As to illegal aliens voting, there is plenty of reason to be concerned. California basically merged voter registration with the DMV a few years back. This is especially troubling when you understand that one can be here illegally and get a drivers license just as easily as a citizen, if not easier. And once you get that license, you are automatically added to the voting roles.

Try as I may, I have found nothing that assures me that illegals are not automatically registered to vote when they receive their driver’s license. My own experience with DMV is proof their methodology is questionable. I have been a registered voter since I was 18. Yet when I renewed my driver’s license last year I received a congratulatory letter from the State telling me I was now registered. Obviously, nothing was cross-checked to show that I did not need to be registered again.

Nancy wants mail-in ballots and I am sure she would have a response to my concerns.  Even if she has not considered the above problems with voter registration, how does she plan to insure all those California voters will get their ballot in the correct language? Currently, ballots are available in English, Spanish, Hindi, Japanese, Khmer, Korean, Tagalog, Thai, Vietnamese, Punjabi, Hmong, Syriac, Armenian, Persian, Arabic, Cantonese, Mandarin, Formosan, Ilocano. Nearly twenty languages other than English. And, I kid you not, they have an American Sign Language voting option.    CA Voter Info Guide

In fact, to get a 100% English ballot is not an option. All my voter information and ballots are always bilingual, English/Spanish. Granted, I speak Spanish well enough to read a ballot, but why should I have to do that? It is completely disorienting, trying to fill out a bilingual ballot in a dingy garage, with glaring florescent lighting, and chattering people.

Then there was last March, on Super Tuesday. I walked in, gave my name, (no ID ever required), and the lady tried to hand me a Democrat ballot. I explained that I was non-partisan and that is the ballot I wanted. We don’t have any, was her reply. Couldn’t I just take a democrat ballot?  I told her to check to make sure. I was prepared to sit there until they delivered the proper ballot, if necessary. Ten minutes later, after digging through box after box, she handed me a bilingual English/Chinese non-partisan ballot.

Personally, I love languages. I speak several of them. But I should be able to vote in the language of our nation, which is English. My father’s family were all bilingual, but they voted in English. It would never have occurred to any of them to have done otherwise. My mother’s immigrant parents learned English when they arrived in the early 1920’s. They received no language accommodations and would not have accepted any. How is it that the pride in being American and speaking English has been lost?

I do not trust voting integrity in California, and neither should anyone.

14 July 2020

Schools Closed Until November 4th

The combination of powerful teachers unions, along with democrat-controlled cities and states, could only lead to one sad finale: schools will not re-open in most of California this fall. There is a very good chance they will not resume until after the election in November.

In mid-March, many schools sent their students home. Extending Spring break from one week to three weeks is not an ideal plan for educational standards, but somewhat understandable. Then the three weeks turned into six weeks, and that turned into two months, which crept on until the end of the school year. The final blow is that no student will be permitted to return in the fall. How has this been allowed to happen?
Within the first month of school closures it became evident that little, if any, instruction was going on in the public schools. Excuses of no computers or slow internet speed have been cited as the reason, a justification that does not stand up to the facts. A more acceptable reason would have been to acknowledge that children parked in front of a screen for five hours a day just does not work. However, if the unions and districts were to admit that, it would be that much harder to continue the charade of unsafe classroom environments.
There is no reason to cancel the start of the fall semester. If so, why have schools opened in Germany, France, Sweden, and all of Europe? The same information about the effect of Covid-19 on children under the age of eighteen is available to all the teachers unions and school boards. They have it. They have read it. The sad fact is that it does not fit their political agenda to open schools.
Teachers say they are scared of getting the virus. These are the same people who, in the past, went to work every day and were exposed to a menagerie of virus, colds, flu, and assorted other pathogens. It is one of the perils of life in a classroom. Yet we do not shut down schools every winter when colds and flu are rampant.
What seems to be left out of the argument for keeping students at home, is the extreme detrimental effects that far outweigh any slight risk of virus transmission. The loss of months of education is by itself reason enough to reopen schools. However, that is only one part of the problem. Children need socialization and a structured environment. A very small percentage of students might be lucky enough to have a parent who can teach all the course work, arrange for interaction with schoolmates, keep up with the homework, and all the other daily activities that are now missing from that child’s day. But what about all the other students? It is doubtful they have had any instrution since mid-March.
The isolation has taken its toll on countless young people. I shudder when I think of children who have been locked inside abusive homes for the past four months. The special needs children have been particularly hurt by the lack of assistance that they would have received at school.
If the teachers refuse to do their job, the taxes we pay for the schools should be refunded. It seems every two years another measure or two is passed increasing our taxes by hundreds of dollars. Some other day I might go into the deplorable state of what is actually being taught here in the Golden State. Rather, what is not being taught. At this point, I really do not care. I only want the kids back in the classroom.
Parents need to stand up and let their voices be heard. But that will not happen in a town where free speech is not allowed, in a state where anyone who questions school closures is labeled as in favor of death.
My question again is, how has this been allowed to happen in the United States of America?

04 July 2020

The 4th of July in Crazy Town

4th of July 2020

I took a walk today and wondered if I would see even one American flag. Shockingly, I did. The lone flag was not on the street in front of the house, but tucked away behind a fence and down a path. My neighbors must have known as well as I that an American flag, even on the 4th of July, will invite vandalism. That is how far downhill this city has gone.

In contrast, every other house has some sort of Politically Correct poster proclaiming that they are not racist. We Support….  We Stand Against Hate, All Families Welcome. In fact here in Crazy Town, if you do not display such signage, then you are obviously a racist.

Our less-than-patriotic city council has just cut over 9 million dollars from the police budget to pay for reforms with the goal of transforming how public safety is achieved, and to reimagine what public safety looks like.

I must have missed something about our fabulous men and women in blue and why they need to be transformed and reimagined. They are the ones who are told to stand down when hoodlums wreak havoc and loot. They are the professionals who must endure vile verbal assaults. They are the ones who have had tear gas and pepper spray removed from use. They are not, and have never been, anything but the best.

As a teenager, I saw lots of problems with the United States. And I still do. But what really made me aware of just what a fantastic country I live in, and when I truly became a patriot, was after having served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the late seventies.

Try living in a country where it is illegal to speak up against the government. Or where if you are born in poverty there is nary a chance in hell that you will be able to rise above it. Hear the stories of friends' relatives who were disappeared at midnight in government raids. These examples and many more, made me thank my lucky stars I had been born American.

So where are our leaders standing up for our country and the American way of life on this 4th of July? Where are Nancy, Diane, and Kamala? These gals are actually from San Francisco. Why do they remain silent while mobs intimidate, loot, vandalize, and exhort the public? By staying quiet, they are endorsing the lawlessness. Why are they bowing down to Marxist anarchists groups? They are all old enough to have been in school when they used to teach history. A question, ladies: when did Marxism ever work out?

As much as I would like to attend a City Council meeting and stand up for the police and voice my objection to many of their measures, I cannot. This is not a free city.
I am, unfortunately, stuck here, and I hate it. My plans for escape have not been realized. I honestly thought that if I wrote some great, light, fun books, I just might be able to make enough money to leave.

Up until recently, I’ve stayed away from politics in my professional writing career. In my younger days, I read all the heavy books and attended enough political speeches to last a lifetime. There is enough death and destruction in the real world that I would never make it part of a novel. Along with that, I have always felt that my mission in life was to make people smile. However, times have changed. I now feel emboldened to speak up, especially since the local city and state politicians are staying silent.

For any of you out there who would like a fun, enjoyable, trip inside a book to take your mind off the present situation in our country, why not try one of mine?

Happy 4th of July out there to all of you who realize just how fortunate we are to live in the best country on earth.

23 June 2020

What Happened to My City?

      Essay written in Feb 2017.  Published June 2020

I was born and raised in Berkeley – something I had, at one time, been proud of. However, so much has changed since the 60’s, that I barely recognize my city.

I was in 6th grade during the Free Speech Movement and my elementary school was less than a mile from the Cal campus. The majority of my classmates had parents who were in some way affiliated with the university; some had studied there while others were faculty members. Therefore, it was not surprising that the kids at my school were rather well informed about the historic situation unfolding just down the road. It would have a lasting impact on all our lives.
It was even more exciting for me because my friend’s father was a prominent Political Science professor at Cal with connections to the leaders of the Free Speech Movement. I remember being at her house when the phone would ring, she would answer, then call out to her father that it was for him. She would then run over to me and whisper in awe, It’s Mario Savio! He had rock star status, even to a couple of 12-year-old Berkeley kids.

A large number of our parents were 60’s liberals and democrats. They believed in a country for all. They believed in tolerance. They believed in civility. Many had come from working class backgrounds, and all the dads had served in the military in WWII. Most had used the GI Bill to get their university degrees at Cal and some stayed on to become faculty members. All of our mothers and fathers were hardworking and did not expect handouts. Perhaps these are some of the reasons there is such a difference between today’s liberals and those of my youth.

Much of my junior high and high school years were spent peacefully protesting the war in Viet Nam, defending the right of People’s Park, and engaging in debate about the future of our country. Conversations could become quite heated, yet I do not remember anyone being frightened of physical repercussions should their views oppose another’s. There were police altercations; some of them rather intense. But to the best of my knowledge, there were never any bands of black-clad anarchists intent on destroying the campus and city, with a total disregard to the views of others.

Berkeley, to me, now represents the opposite of the Flower Child ideals of my youth. It has turned into a city of close-mindedness, intolerance, and the belief that there is only one correct avenue of thought. And although I still hold one or two of my 60’s beliefs, I will never accept the methods by which these now seem to be promoted. Regrettably, this new paradigm begins long before students arrive at UC Berkeley.

When I was growing up, we may have guessed at the political views of some of our teachers, but not one of them ever preached what their students should believe. We were encouraged and allowed to express our own opinions. As a lifelong educator, I still uphold the edict that was taught to me during my college courses. We were instructed that we could never even display political buttons on our clothing or divulge which candidate we supported. This tenet was to allow for students to come to their own conclusions as well as to protect the views of their parents who might have differing political affiliations.

My, how that has changed in the ensuing years. One example is a secondary school teacher in Berkeley who is one of the leaders of the movement to tear down our country. In February 2017, during destructive riots on the UC Berkeley campus, this teacher stood in front of a crowd with a megaphone screaming “…. if we stick together and stay united…. We can shut this f***er down. We can get rid of Donald Trump.” (I believe she is still employed by the district.) Then there was the elementary school Peace (protest) March on the day of the inauguration with 6-year-olds holding Not my President signs. And the 7th grader whose I Have a Dream essay began: “Donald Trump should be killed,” because “he hates women”. Walk into any school in the city and you will find these same sentiments on the walls and in the classrooms, coupled with a complete lack of tolerance for any opposing views.

So vile is the rhetoric against President Trump in my city, that I am fairly sure the inauguration was not shown at most, if any, of the public schools. As a politically aware child of the 60’s, I have made sure to watch every inauguration. It does not matter that I may have disagreed with the incoming president on any number of issues. I have always seen it as my civic duty to witness one of the great hallmarks of our nation, the peaceful transfer of power. Jan 20, 2017 was no different. Regrettably, my local state official did not share my view. Along with many other House Democrats, she chose to boycott the inauguration. I had wanted to call her office and register my objection. After all, I am one of her constituents and strongly felt that my district should be represented for this momentous occasion. But one cannot do that in Berkeley. When one lives in a city, district, and state that is so vehemently opposed to the president, it is not wise to speak out in favor of civic duty and responsibility.

I remember when Nixon was elected in 1969, and how terribly upset that made me feel. I could not believe that it had happened. My parents had been equally unhappy about the outcome. But it was my die-hard Democrat father who pointed out that the American people had spoken, and it was something I had to accept.

Growing up in this city in the 60’s is why I became an educator. I truly believed that I could change the world through education. At this point in my life, I am totally disillusioned with a profession that seems to have taken two steps back for every step forward. I grew up in the city where the Free Speech Movement originated. We were the first city in the nation to integrate its schools. There have always been strong ties between the University and the public schools, both in research and innovation. One would think that we would now be a sterling example of how to educate young children. We are not.  

What has happened to freedom of thought, freedom of expression, and the first amendment on which my city built its reputation? The Berkeley I knew no longer exists. 

04 June 2020

The Oakland A's and Hot Pants Day

No live sports for months. This may be the worst part about the lockdowns.

We should all be watching baseball. Spring Training has come and gone and who knows when the boys will take the field again.

I’ve been left to watch replays in my mind, recollecting the Oakland A’s of old. We had a great team back then, filled with the superb players; Vida Blue, Rollie Fingers, Catfish Hunter, Sal Bando, Campaneris, Tenace – the list goes on. Owner Charlie Finley, quite a character, came up with gimmicks to promote the games. Hot Pants Day, June 27, 1971, had to be a favorite.

That particular day was hot and sunny – not a given in Oakland, for the game against the Kansas City Royals. The word went out: show up at the Oakland Coliseum in Hot Pants and you gained free admission. How good was that? And these weren’t bleacher seats being given away. A pair of hot pants got you a great spot in the stands.

Women in the thousands showed up to fill the Coliseum. During the 7th inning stretch, the gals were invited to walk down out of the stands and parade around the infield. It doesn’t get much better for a baseball fan than setting foot onto sacred grounds and passing within one foot of Reggie Jackson and the rest of the boys.

Perhaps sometime this year I will be able to turn on the TV and watch a live game. I long to hear the crack of a bat when it connects to a fastball. Or watch a right fielder dive for an impossible catch and make it. Perhaps the A’s will have an exceptional season. Honestly, I’d settle for any type of season at this point if it meant filled stands and great plays.

Hot pants have come and gone, but will forever be linked to a fabulous day at the Oakland Coliseum.

03 May 2020

Question Authority

I grew up in the sixties in perhaps the most liberal city in the country, albeit when liberalism was quite a different animal. Back then, civil liberties mattered. As a teenager, my friends and I protested against the Viet Nam War. We demonstrated against the draft. We valued our freedoms and revered the First Amendment. Question Authority may have been the most popular bumper sticker of the times. 

The Gulag Archipelago, and 1984, were among mandatory reading material for the enlightened youth of my day. We well knew of the Soviet means of controlling their populations. We found it difficult to comprehend how a populace could go along with such measures. (Granted, there were more than a few who idolized Che and Cuba, or carried Mao’s Little Red Book, but that’s a topic for another day)

So why is it now, in 2020, that I am chastised by the old guard who used to cry foul when our civil liberties were at stake?  Why is it deemed wrong to express the opinion that we can both protect the vulnerable and get back to work and open schools? Why does no one seem to mind Big Brother intruding on our liberties a little more with each passing day? For the mere mention of what I consider to be huge government overreach that is causing far greater damage than any virus ever could, I am reprimanded.  

At some point during the lockdown, I decided it might be nice to check in with a few people I have known over the years just to make sure they were all well. In emails and texts, I calmly stated my thoughts regarding the situation and mentioned that it was time to get the economy going. I also expressed my distaste for the Stasi tactics of snitch lines, and my extreme anger at China for having done this to the world.

The replies I got were scathing. I was basically accused of being selfish, wanting people to die, and labeled an outright racist for calling out China. To say the least, I was shocked. One friend left a ranting voicemail that I needed to quit spreading far-right conspiracy lies. Afterall, she pointed out, she had read the truth on Facebook. I honestly did not know that people of my generation relied on news from Facebook. As I recall, we were all brought up to check references, as well as memorizing the adage: Don’t Believe Everything You Read.

As a self-described loner, who thought I would not be bothered by the isolation, I am finding that it really is getting to me. It has nothing to do with sitting alone in my house. It is the isolation of thought. I cannot express my opinion to friends, nor to any of the regular folks in line at the grocery store in this birthplace of the Free Speech Movement. I’m a mellow gal, and do not rant and rave. It’s not my style. Humor and smiles are my preferred mode of communication. However, if I say anything about the lockdown or China, I get a stern look, a shoulder shrug, along with we have to save people. I feel absolutely and totally alone in my views.

Except for when I talk to the workers holding things together, something I have always done, and make an extra effort to do these days. We commiserate, complain about the insanity, and laugh. I’ve worked in the service industry. I know what a friendly word, a thank you, or compliment means when you’re stuck behind a counter or stocking the aisles.

My new favorite place is Home Depot. Actually, it’s always been a favorite place, especially the garden center. I talk to the employees, the workers buying materials, and the few plant buyers. What could be better than walking around in the sunshine and sharing gardening tips? I feel alive and happy.

But then I get home and realize just how alone I am in my beliefs, surrounded by people who seem happy to give up their rights and bow to the whims of government control, all while disregarding the lives being devastated by the shutdown. Or the fact that Big Tech is currently censoring opposing views. It is quite depressing.

I have lived in countries where voicing an opinion that contradicted government policy landed you in the clink, at the very least. That experience is where I truly learned the greatness of our First Amendment. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that Americans might be in danger of losing those rights.  Furthermore, not in a million years did I ever think my compatriots would allow it to happen.

25 April 2020

Twitter, 2nd Attempt

Honestly, I just do not understand Twitter. Rather, I do not understand how people use it. Do they follow a list of IMPORTANT people and then just stare at their screens all day?  Or are they more like me who hears about tweets on the newscasts?

Recently, I've found that I do check one person's tweets on a daily basis, because it generally makes my day. But that's once a day. And only one, sometimes two, people. 

I somewhat understand the desire to respond to a particular tweet. But then I think, Why?  Who the heck cares what one unknown, albeit quite marvelous, author thinks? Answer: No one.

All the same, in these desperate times of unemployment, I am trying to come up with more marketing strategies.  Everything I've read tells me that authors must have Facebook. Several attempts at following that recommendation ended with deletion of my account. Facebook is entirely to voyeuristic and creepy for me. I tried the Twitter account a few years back. Did it get me noticed as an author? Of course not. Does anyone care what Kate McVaugh thinks? Most likely not. 

Then yesterday, I opened a brand new Twitter account. Believe me, I am never at a lack for things  to say. I can rattle on forever about a myriad of topics. Again I asked myself, who cares? At least who cares when its a few lines typed into a box. The answer remained the same: No one.

Therefore, all I have up on my new Twitter is my name, a link to my Amazon page, and one minor observation. I'm not following anyone. I have not Liked any tweets and, so far, have kept my opinions about other people's tweets to myself.  

Yet, according to the stats, 50 people have seen my tweets and 5 have Engaged. Huh? How is that possible? What does Engaged mean?

For right now, it's another experiment. So far, I have no reason to delete my account. It does not come with the icky feelings I experienced with Facebook. Will it make me a Bestselling Author? Rather doubtful, but it doesn't hurt to try. Something has to work!

09 April 2020


Cedar Waxwings in the Cedar
It has been a month since I have been able to buy tofu...or maybe only three weeks. Lately, the days all seem to run together. However long it's been, I am thrilled.

Week one of lockdown I was only able to buy three cans of beans and a dozen eggs from 7-11.  The following week I managed to score the last whole chicken at Safeway. Then today, not only did Trader Joe's have tofu, but also tortillas. 

Forget hand sanitizer, bleach, alcohol, (not the drinking type), Lysol, or anything else one is supposed to use to kill the germs. Shameless hoarders.

Mostly, it's nice to get out and stand in line, six feet apart, from other early morning shoppers. We still manage to converse and share tales of the supply wars. 

Inside the shops, I make sure to thank all the workers doing a job that has to be wearing on mind and body. I would always do this, but especially now when those checkers and shelvers tell me tales of customers who yell at them for not having a product available. They seem to be verbally abused on a daily basis. Here in the Land of Peace and Love, I find that quite disturbing. This morning, I witnessed a bit of that nastiness first hand.

A small group of about five people stood socially-distanced in front of CVS,
waiting for them to open at 9AM. Mostly 70+ year-old hippie types, so harmless enough. I turned when I heard one old gal scream at another old hipster to Get To the End of the Line! He returned with F*ck You! To which she yelled back F*ck You!    

Fortunelty, it was then that the doors opened. These two kept at it a while longer. I suppose they had forgotten their peace signs and ohm shirts at home.

Now, if only the sun will come out, it might just be a perfect day!

21 March 2020

Free Books on Kindle

There is not much I can personally do to help out during these stay-at-home days, or so I thought. But of course I can!  I write books. I can give away free kindle copies.

Free kindle Downloads   March 23 - March 27   (5 different titles)

An added feature is that my works are mostly fun mysteries & capers, light-hearted, take-your-mind-off-the-world, laugh a lot books. 

How about a trip to Bali Broadsided in Bali 

Or Tel Aviv ?   Murder, Jaz, & Tel Aviv  -   Jaz, Tall Men, & Mayhem

Travel from Monterey, California to Mexico. Bad Accounts

And a bit of Magical Realism in Brazil, with The Many Wonders of Costa Contente.

I am trying to set up a free promo with my latest A Neapolitan Intrigue, but am having a bit of trouble. That should be resolved soon.

Please enjoy!

18 March 2020

Day 2

Plans for getting a lot of writing done were not realized today. I blame it on the fog and cold. Try as I may, this brain does not creatively function in such conditions.
Yes, I do realize that is a rather poor excuse.

To anyone stuck at home and thinking of writing, how about turning the next month into a NaNoWriMo extravaganza? What people are able to accomplish during the event that takes place every November, never ceases to amaze me. They actually do have a physical headquarters, which I visited a few years ago.
The Office of Light and Letters

One could also use the time to read some light-hearted, fun, escapism books. All of my titles would suit the bill. If you have Amazon Prime, kindle editions are free.

Tomorrow, I hope will prove to be more productive!