Necessary respite (reading notes), plus a few election comments

posted in: Books, Current Affairs | 0

If you live in the United States and haven't voted yet, Tuesday, November 4, is your day. Get in there and register your opinions officially.

I'll be at one of our local vote centers as an election judge from 6 a.m. until the work for the day is done. The initial time commitment was until 8 p.m.; that extended last week until "at least 10 p.m." We have been assured that we won't need to stay all night.

Makes just showing up to vote look more do-able, doesn't it, even if there's a line? In our state (and I think most places . . . I've voted in five different states over the years), if you're in line when the polls close you can still vote.

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In response to indicators of incipient personal burn-out, I did work on several necessary items this weekend but I also cooled my jets over the past week with some reading, none of it heavy-going (I couldn't have handled that).

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From left to right:

Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us, by Seth Godin: Not a how-to book but a call to breaking out of molds and marching to our own drummers, gathering like-minded folks along the way. Lots of people I know are doing this, or on the cusp. This book encourages and articulates. Highly recommended for the conceptually minded.

Brave New Ballot: The Battle to Safeguard Democracy in the Age of Electronic Voting, by Aviel Rubin: I saw this book at the library, where the librarians had gathered
election-related titles on a special display. I'm grateful that they
put it there.

Avi Rubin is a computer scientist who specializes in security. While there has always been a risk of voting fraud, no matter what technology has been used, he differentiates between retail fraud (which affects a limited number of sites) and wholesale fraud (which can compromise a whole election). Previous systems were vulnerable to retail fraud. Electronic systems are vulnerable to wholesale fraud.

Rubin is not opposed to electronic voting—and he outlines the type of system that would allow electronic voting to be reliable, accurate, voter-verifiable, secure, and auditable—but he knows exactly how the systems we've been using fall short of what we need to make sure democracy remains democratic.

It's extremely well-written—as good as many mysteries—and clear and easy to understand, even for a non-tech-type. I learned some things about computer science that I'll actually remember.

Published in 2006, the last national election the book covers is 2004. I hope (and trust) that some of the safeguards mentioned have been put in place in time for the current election. I do know what the concerns are, why they matter, and how they can be fixed. That's HUGE.

Yes, I voted on a paper, with a mail-in ballot. That's my top choice of voting methods anyway, because I like the paper ballot and I prefer to have all the time I want for marking my selections (thus mail-in). Brave New Ballot confirmed that I'm not just being a stick-in-the-mud, at the same time that we do need a good electronic system to make voting easier for many people, including but not limited to people with disabilities.

Highly recommended for anyone who is old enough to vote, or will be.

The Shiniest Jewel: A Family Love Story, by Marian Henley: A graphic memoir (like a graphic novel, only true), this tells a story of near-50-year-old Marian Henley's journey to finding a family, including a son. It's funny and touching and a quick read. Thanks to Susan for leading me to it.

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Question: Are these people in our neighborhood in favor of or opposed to the McCain/Palin ticket?

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That blue yard sign on the left is the usual McCain/Palin combination. There are two of those people with their heads (well, entire upper bodies) sunk in the ground, although only one can be easily seen in the photo (there's one foot of the other one sticking up at the far left). And a lot of other ominous symbols here.

The signs on the tree say, "BEWARE! / TURN BACK NOW!"

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? ? ?

We live in a politically very mixed area, and I'll be interested in how our precinct results turn out tomorrow.

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And last night, an election-year tradition: a comedy/musical/parody show by an established group of local performers, the Mostlies (started out as "Mostly Not Ready for OpenStage Players," referring to what was then the only (?) community theater group). I've been going to their shows for about fourteen years.

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They usually announce that no one will leave unoffended. I went with a
group of friends (not all in agreement on politics), and we all laughed until our sides ached. It felt
great.

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Our state, Colorado, is being treated as a battleground or swing state.

I've appreciated some ads our regional ABC-affiliate is running. They last fifteen seconds. They consist of videos representative of Colorado, a bit of type that says "political ad-free break," and a countdown indicator giving the number of seconds of relief remaining in the interlude. My daughter tells me there have been trees with snow blowing past, a ski slope with the lift ascending, and (earlier today) a really cute one with a puppy in the snow.

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