Sunday, July 17, 2005

sacramento days, part 2... 

Part 1 can be found here.

Thursday, June 16th dawned bright and early. Too early for a group of folks that had been on the move since 5am the previous day and no rest until approximately midnight, but since the hearing started at 10am, was about forty-five minutes away with morning traffic (we weren't sleeping in Sacramento proper - our fabulous hosts live in Antelope) and we were planning to meet the rest of the group at 9am to strategize, well, out of sofa and bed we were by 7am at the latest Coffee and breakfast cereals awaited us upon our rising, of which Mimi, a fourth CEPN person that spent the night, and I accepted the coffee (I wasn't quite awake enough to eat - besides, cereal has the strange effect of making me hungry unless I eat multiple bowls - I know, it's weird, but it's the truth) and MusicianMan accepted both. Then many thanks and hugs were passed around our adorable hosts and us, and off we went.

We made excellent time, arriving at the Secretary of State Building by 8:50am. Plenty of time to grab coffee from the cart in the lobby and a huge breakfast burrito from the second floor cafeteria where we were meeting the rest of the group. And we sat and went over ideas and talked. I had assumed that I would just be observing and timing the various speakers as requested the previous night. We'd heard the day before that all speakers were going to be limited to two minutes, including experts, which was unheard of in these sorts of hearings. From what I understood, speakers from the everyday public were usually allowed four minutes to speak and experts were allowed unlimited time. The expert time limit was not good for several reasons, one of which was that one of the groups affiliated with CEPN - BlackBoxVoting.org - had flown in an expert from Finland who had been able to hack into Diebold machines used in Florida. Even more surprising - no speaker would be allowed to yield their time to another speaker. Something else that was unheard of.

We soon learned, however, that the expert limit had been rescinded, though too late for the experts to prepare accordingly. It was very likely that the time limit was rescinded due to the intervention of a state senator, Debra Bowen (whom I'd already met and spoken with a couple of times before the hearing and whose campaign for Secretary of State I've decided I'm going to help out with). Good to have the time limit rescinded, but a shame that it had been so last minute. However, speakers were still not going to be allowed to yield their time.

Soon it was time to descend to the hearing room. I decided at the last minute that I would sign up to speak to the panel, as an ordinary voter and citizen expressing my concern, so I quickly filled out the appropriate card.

I won't go into the details of the hearing, as it was a full day that was fascinating to me and others so inclined, but might be more than a little boring to those readers who don't get into the excitement of politics. If y'all are curious, check out the notes over at BlackBoxVoting.org and Kim Alexander's blog. But again it was great watching Mimi speak with her controlled passion and, as always, MusicianMan, though quite soft-spoken, had a way of drawing an entire audience in, speaking concisely and with great conviction while talking extemporaneously to a governing board (it wasn't the first time I've seen him talk to a group like that).

The hearing was supposed to be only one day, but the large number of ordinary citizens that showed up to speak against Diebold (which was very, very cool to watch) forced the hearing to be held over to Friday. That meant that I wouldn't be up to speak until the next day, since I had signed up to speak under "Other Business", which was the last item on the agenda. I was a little disappointed, but I realized that 1) it would give me more time to polish the little speech I'd been writing and re-writing in between timing the speakers and 2) I would be able to spend more time with some interesting folks.

Mimi and I talked a little bit about finding motel accommodations for the evening, but it turned out such a discussion wasn't necessary. MusicianMan hopped on the cell phone to our hosts from the previous evening to see if they might be able to put us up for another night. Their response: "We're throwing the sheets in the washer as we speak." Did I mention that our Antelope hosts rock? Because they do, ya know. As I told them when we arrived later that night, after asking them if they would please adopt me. To which they replied, "Sure! There's plenty of room!" It's only because I have a responsibility to my four cats that I'm not living on the outskirts of Sacramento as I type. That and, well, I have grown rather attached to my friends and family and apartment here in Los Angeles. But I was *thisclose* to moving up north, I tell ya.

Before the traveling to the wonders of Antelope, the most of the group traveled to a bar and grill/brewery for more strategizing and a little drinking. I myself had a dirty martini (one of my favorite drinks), but, unlike the day before, I did not get outrageously tipsy from it.

(Did I not mention that before? Oops! Well, on Day One, after the lobbying and before the voting machine presentation, a few of us got together for a dinner - which was not as quick as we'd hoped, thanks to some awful service, including unapologetic spillage of food on one of our members by the rather bad waitress - and I had a dirty martini on a nearly empty stomach and absolutely no sleep for over thirty hours. Not much of a surprise that I got tipsy so quickly. Poor MusicianMan was sitting next to me and Mimi was across from me, so I daresay they received the brunt of my tipsiness. And still they talked to me afterwards. Proof that they are good people. Or that they found me somewhat entertaining. Not sure which, to be honest. Anyway, back to our Day Two Tale...)

Anywho, while I didn't talk all that much during the dinner, I kept my ears open and absorbed as much of the swirling political conversation as I could. And traded occasional lingering glances with MusicianMan across the square of four tables. Granted, that's all we ever trade (and all we're ever gonna trade, truth be told), especially when we've consumed a wee bit of alcohol, but it's fun, nevertheless.

Then back to Antelope we went. Tired after a full day of looking serious and business-like in suits (Mimi and myself) and dress shirt and slacks (MusicianMan - he's a sweater and jean kinda guy, but he was unbelievably handsome all dressed up - the boy cleans up well), the three of us slipped into our sleeping clothes and stayed up to watch most of the Tivo'd Downing Street Minutes Hearing that Representative John Conyers, Jr. held. (And how outrageous was it that he couldn't get a proper room for the hearing? I'm still pissed off about that.)

Then off to beddie-bye for us. I stayed up a little bit to work on my short speech, but was asleep within an hour or so. Plenty of rest to prepare me for the most exciting - for me - day of all...

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Carol/Female/36-40. Lives in United States/California/Los Angeles/San Fernando Valley, speaks English. Spends 40% of daytime online. Uses a Normal (56k) connection.
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