Category Archives: politics

Some Thoughts on the US-Mexico Border

The REAL ID Act allows the Department of Homeland Security to disregard all environmental laws to protect our borders. I don’t think they’ve started filling in the canyon on the border near the Tijuana Estuary yet, something that will cause all sorts of environmental problems with run off, erosion and effect plenty of birds, but it’s in the works.

Today I just read a story about the DHS using the REAL ID Act to start building roads in designated wilderness east of San Diego in preparation of building the triple border fence. Wilderness designation is supposed to keep the land free of human influence, a road and border fence are definitely human influence. A couple of years ago a border patrol spokesman said the area wouldn’t need fencing because the rugged land was fence enough, but apparently something has changed and they’re going ahead with it anyways.

One of my favorite things about much of the designated wilderness areas east of San Diego on the border are that they’re not wilderness for humans. There are few trails, few natural wonders for people to visit, but plenty of wide open space for the environment to be left alone. What wilderness designation was meant for. But no longer for the Otay Mountain Wilderness Area.

The blog post linked above (and here it is again in case you missed it, because I think it’s important to get the word out) is the first mention of this I’ve seen. Nothing in the newspapers, no other press. The DHS is doing a lot of stuff with very little public input.

Random bits on literature

I’m almost done reading The Elementary Particles. I started off not liking it, but it’s grown on me a bit. I’ll try to say something more about here after I finish reading. I also started reading Everyday Drinking by Sir Kingsley Amis. The book is essays on drinking and various types of alcohol, I think collected from a magazine column, but I’m not sure. It makes for good bed time reading because the essays are fairly short.

Yesterday I listened to parts II and III of the KCRW podcast Bookworm‘s An American Bookworm in Paris. The host recently went to Paris and recorded interviews with Parisian writers. On part II he talked with Camille de Toledo author of Coming of Age at the End of History, a look at growing up in our post-modern culture.

On part III he spoke with Emmanuel Carrère, a french author who wrote a book called The Mustache. A couple months back I watched a French movie called La Moustache which was based on this book. I hated the movie, it was poorly made in my opinion, but after hearing the author I now want to read the book.

The New Yorker Book Bench blog talked about Literary Halloween costumes. They set up a flickr group for people to upload pictures of their literary costumes. I’ll post pictures of mine next week. I’m not going to mention yet who I’m dressing up as, but I’m pretty excited about it.

Russia! Magazine posted a guide to translations of classic Russian Lit. Sadly they only list six authors and one book by each. Anyone know of any good guides to English translations of popular foreign novels?

Deb Olin Unferth, a short story writer who just published her first novel, was asked by The Week about her favorite books. She included Trout Fish in America by Richard Brautigan (a favorite of mine) on her list, and had this to say about it: “A classic. Better than On the Road. Better than whatever’s better than On the Road.”

Someone recently asked John McCain and Barack Obama to list their favorite books, I’ve seen the lists all over the web. According to NPR, both candidates listed Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls. I’ve seen it listed elsewhere that McCain also listed All Quiet on the Western Front. What I haven’t seen and would like to, is a report asked McCain to reconcile the anti-war themes of both novels to his foreign policy views. As well as explain his views on the socialist and fascist concepts in For Whom the Bell Tolls. Personally I don’t think they would reconcile very well with his views.

California’s Prop 8 and other thoughts on this election season

I feel like I’ve done a darn good job of avoiding the typical run-up-to-the-elections-political-bullshit that happens every election year the weeks (and even months) before the elections. I don’t have a television, so I don’t see those repetitive advertisements during commercial breaks. There’s plenty of things to read on the internet other than politics. And until recently I avoided most of the political chatter on radio shows.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m going to be voting, and I consider myself an informed voter, but rather than following what in my opinion resembles a circus more than politics, I read up on the issues in a few editorials, talked with friends whose opinions I respect and then did a pretty good job of shutting it all out.

That all changed recently when my favorite radio show, KPBS’s These Days (affectionately referred to as “The Tom Fudge Show” around here) started talking politics nearly every segment sometime last week. I started getting annoyed, but kept listening, at least while in the car, segments that I missed when they originally aired I would just delete from the podcast before listening to them.

One segment I did listen to was the debate over Proposition 8, the measure to define marriage in the state constitution as only between a man and a woman. I’ve known how I was going to vote on this since the moment I heard about it. So I started listening to the debate knowing that nothing either side said could sway my opinion, I just wanted to hear what they were saying.

I was half listening when Ron Prentice, (the yes on prop 8, meaning anti-gay marriage) guest on the show, President of the California Family Council and chairman of the Protect Marriage dot-com Coalition said something that totally caught me off guard. As is often the case in these loosely moderated debates they got slightly off topic and started talking about children growing up with gay or lesbian parents, then Ron said:

“I think it would be beneficial to say, lets go back to the reasons that governments and societies over the course of ages have chosen to give a special right to a man and a woman in marriage. And that purpose is not for two people in love, that purpose has been for societies sake for the next generation.”

I couldn’t believe what I just heard. Is this guy arguing marriage isn’t about love but about a duty to society and the next generation? Sure, I understand the societal aspect of marriage. But to me marriage always seemed like something a lot more than that duty to society. I have to wonder, what is the role of marriage in society when the divorce rate is somewhere around 40 percent?

If I felt like that were the purpose of marriage, I would unequivocally say right now that there is now way in hell I’d ever get married. And I would wonder why anyone would want to get married under that definition. That definition seems to lack authenticity, to betray oneself and ones partner, even if the two people getting married are in love, their marriage should be about their love, not for societies sake.

You can listen to the segment on These Days at their website.

The joys of technology

Even before I read the book Black Box Voting: Ballot Tampering for the 21st Century a few years ago I was weary of technological improvements in voting systems. I have a love-hate relationship with technology it seems, sometimes I love new tech gadgets, other times I think we shouldn’t mess with what works, and reading that book definetely pushed me over the edge from just being concerned about electronic voting, to downright distrustful.

Amy Goodman reported on Democracy Now today that early voters in multiple states have already had problems casting votes on electronic voting machines. Many of these electronic voting systems have no paper trail or verifiability. Once you push the button you just have to trust that your vote gets counted for candidate you intended. There’s no way to ever got back and double check like with paper ballots. Many of these electronic voting systems are closed-source, meaning no one has examined the source code to make sure there are no bugs that can cause votes to not be counted properly, or ensure that there is no malicious code to change votes.

Many states have withdrawn approval for certain electronic voting machines, but other states are still using them.

Wikipedia has good summaries of the controversies surrounding two of the electronic voting machine companies Premier Election Solutions and Sequoia Voting Systems.