politics spot: Great questions, not so great candidates (Republican Primary Debate #1)

politics spot: Great questions, not so great candidates (Republican Primary Debate #1)

The moderators of the evening's debate.  (Image Credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
The moderators of the evening’s debate. (Image Credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

I never thought I would say this, but Fox News did an excellent job hosting the first official Primetime Republican Primary Debate last night. Moderators Megyn Kelly, Chris Wallace, and Brett Baier had the task of wrangling together the top ten national polling candidates and get them to attempt to respect some simple debate guidelines. While the format was easy enough, of course the group of men couldn’t respect anything. The questions posed to the ten candidates were well structured, but the answers varied from somewhat sensible to absolutely out of touch. Here are some brief takeaways and clips from last night.

#GOPDebate, Issue by Issue

Women & Women’s Rights.

  • An initial slammer was delivered by Megyn Kelly when she asked Trump to comment on his degrading comments towards women. There’s something to be said when you can visibly hear laughing in the audience at the idea of calling women “fat pigs, slobs, and disgusting animals.”
  • In another delightful exchange, Kelly asked Trump when he actually became a Republican, given that he’s sounded off on pro-choice opinions before and has even on some occasions referred to himself as a Democrat in most choices. Trump’s response? Well, he’s just as Reagan as the rest of them.
  • When pushed by Kelly (if you couldn’t tell, she was on fire that night), Sen. Marco Rubio (R- FL) said he actually didn’t favor a rape and incest exception to abortion laws, noting he thinks “future generations will look back at this history of our country and call us barbarians for murdering millions of babies who we never gave them a chance to live.”

More applause. It’s a rowdy republican time in Cleveland, Ohio – and an unfortunate time to be a woman listening to these candidates.


  • Donald Trump correctly remarked the following during a question on immigration: “So, if it weren’t for me, you wouldn’t even be talking about illegal immigration, Chris. You wouldn’t even be talking about it.” He’s right; thanks to his crude remarks about Mexicans during his announcement speech, immigration will now define part of the election.
  • Probably the most interesting answer on this topic went to Jeb Bush, who acknowledged the moral complexities of immigration. However, he then slammed into the sanctuary city policies, which are known to shelter and protect immigrant communities from draconian federal immigration laws.

LGBT Rights.

  • Ohio Governor John Kasich gave the most startling answer on this topic, almost mirroring that of any traditional Democrat: “Because somebody doesn’t think the way I do, doesn’t mean that I can’t care about them or can’t love them. So if one of my daughters happened to be that, of course I would love them and I would accept them. Because you know what? That’s what we’re taught when we have strong faith.” 
  • Cut to Sen. Rand Paul (R- KY), with a classic Libertarian position of less government regulation of individual activities and more freedom for individual liberty.

Foreign Policy.

War! What is it good for? Absolutely nothing. Well, the GOP ten that night would beg to differ.

  • You’ll read this quote from Mike Huckabee for a while: “The military is not a social experiment. The purpose of the military is kill people and break things.”
  • Ben Carson’s not satisfied with the size of our military. “You know, we turned our back on Israel, our ally. You know, and a situation like that, of course Obama’s not going to be able to do anything. I would shore up our military first, because if you don’t get the military right, nothing else is going to work.”


Let’s be real, we all weren’t expecting this subject to come up whatsoever. Yet Governor Scott Walker (R-WI) was asked the following well-composed question:

Governor Walker, many in the Black Live Matter movement, and beyond, believe that overly-aggressive police officers targeting young African Americans is the civil rights issue of our time. Do you agree? And if so, how do you plan to address it? And if not, why not?

  • Walker’s answer wasn’t half bad, either: “It’s about making sure that law enforcement professionals, not only in the way in to their positions but all the way through their time, have the proper training, particularly when it comes to the use of force. And that we protect and stand up and support those men and women who are doing their jobs in law enforcement.” 

What’s missing? Was there a winner?

Well, plenty. But here are some key issues that weren’t discussed:

  • Student debt
  • Climate change

And some other things I’m sure I’ve missed. Did anyone “win” the debate? Well, it’s August. The Republican candidate will not be announced until the Republican National Convention in Cleveland sometime during summer 2016. Between now and then, there is plenty of time for candidates to rise and fall in the polls and within public opinion. No one did enough to answer the questions asked of them; hopefully future debates will continue to push the candidates to make clearer stances. One thing’s for sure – we haven’t seen anything yet. -Celene Barrera

The next debate is scheduled for September 16, 2015 and will be hosted by CNN. Details to follow. For live tweeting during any and all 2016 related events & news, follow Celene @celenebeats

Image Credit: Northeast Ohio Media Group

sound spot review: Louis La Roche, TO REST IS TO RUST

sound spot review: Louis La Roche, TO REST IS TO RUST

The first thing that you notice about Norwich-based DJ and Producer Louis La Roche’s new album is the title. It is a bold claim, scientific in nature and practice: TO REST IS TO RUST. Certainly, La Roche’s music is the opposite of that. A careful infusion of classic disco beats with contemporary electronic dance vibes, To Rest is to Rust is another notch in the belt of someone who refuses to stay steady when there exists plenty of material to remix and create.

Another immediately recognizable element of To Rest is to Rust is the presence of La Roche himself – his lead vocals characterize the album, as each track is lined with La Roche’s falsetto. Combined with his disco fusion techniques, and one almost thinks they’re listening to an early Daft Punk album. Instead, it is a trip through time as tracks like “Undercover Lover” with 80’s sounding synths make for a perfect accompaniment for a drive down the night highway. And if you need something lighter for those days at the beach, “Let Me Go” is equal parts summer and dance party.

To Rest is to Rust is the furthest thing from a timid debut. It is the product of a sonic discovery; carrying hints of La Roche’s earlier EP’s, such as Dusty Cassette and ComposureTo Rest is to Rust shows a clear evolution – the tracks exude a confidence of someone who is continually testing out new ground, new methods, but including many of the same signature musical twists and turns that others have come to recognize him by.

You can’t stay rusted if you’re moving, and this album is a definite testament to that. -Celene Barrera

What’s next for La Roche? Check out his recent DJ set for BBC’s Radio 1.

Image Credit: Artist’s Bandcamp 

spot updates: an invitation to another ongoing project

My apologies for the delay in posting; I have been in a geographic whirlwind these last eight months, and I’m finally settling down into my last year as an undergraduate. With that, I would like to invite the few (but beloved) readers I have to view a new project I’m doing: a blog documenting my experience writing a senior thesis.

Here is a post I recently wrote for it (it’s quite hot off the press). I will occasionally cross-post, but for the most part, you’ll find it over there. Without further ado, here’s a post from my blog, “F-ck Your Borders:”

Tonight, I went to a discussion about “Going Big” and what it means to pursue the concept of a “human family” in the midst of inequities, violence, overworking, underpayment, etc. The conversation was, to put it lightly, abstract and at times scattered. Some days I leave events at my school feeling disheartened instead of invigorated.

I pulled out the book that I quoted yesterday, Reform Without Justice: Latino Migrant Politics and the Homeland Security State and read some of the passages that I had already furiously begun to mark. So often at idealistic schools such as my own college we celebrate our promise to do, when in fact there is so much that needs to be done.

It made me think of the motivations behind this giant senior thesis I’m embarking on. Immigration is something that does not seem to affect me from the outside, but weighs heavily on my mind often. I am a privileged person, and I recognize that almost instantly.

It is because I know that when I step into college classrooms, I am doing something that my great grandmother did not, that my grandmother did not. I am doing something that my mom did while she carried me inside of her. I think about the young Latina mothers who feel that they can’t pursue their education because they need to work or sustain their family. I think about all the nights that my mother went without so that she could give to me. She crossed the border as a child, not even knowing that she would bring into this world a child who would study the very concepts of migration.

I have been asked many times why it is that I am so interested in immigration reform and migration politics. Typically I say something about my geographic location (Southern California) and how it’s an issue that permeates into the consciousness of most Californian residents.

But it’s so much more than that. It’s about the fact that I think of the pure sacrifice and struggle that my family and other Latin@ and other migrant families are undergoing just to live in this global capitalist society. Just to survive in this place we call the land of the “free.”

I think about that. I think about the fact that the United States is indeed what I call home, but it is not my heart. My heart is in my ancestry, it is in my blood, and it is with the countless migrant dreamers who are fighting to sustain their visions for a brighter future.

This project is going to take a lot out of me, but I am going to give it everything I have.

politics spot: a day at the polls (wish you were here)

politics spot: a day at the polls (wish you were here)

This is the first in a series of pieces I’m doing on my life this summer. They are meant to be a mixture of fact and carefully constructed fiction. I hope you enjoy. 

I wake up at 5:15am on Tuesday, June 3. It is the Statewide Direct Primary Election for the state of California, and I have decided to volunteer my time as a poll worker. My eyes are bleary as I debate whether there’s enough time to fry up an egg sandwich; I don’t know when I’ll have lunch. Eggs scramble into a sandwich bun and in a blur, I’m in the car and off to Monte Vista Elementary school, arriving just in time for 6AM set up.

I recognize my Inspector immediately. He is wearing a polo shirt that is the color and design of an American flag, but with a bald eagle on a motorcycle. He has a metallic dark blue cane and is posting up a polling place sign. I know there are other Inspectors at this location, but believe without any doubt that his voice will match the one I heard on the phone a few days ago.

Working at the polling place is simple. I had never worked at the polls a day in my life, but refused to let the two hours I spent training at the senior citizens center go to waste. My Inspector thought I was an expert; turns out, I’m just a good listener. Everything is set up quickly and efficiently.

When the polls open an hour later, I’ve already finished my first cup of coffee.

The first person to walk in for our precinct is a regular voter; when he enters the room, it is just after 7AM. When he signs his name the beginning is faded because the pen has yet to become acquainted with the paper of the roster. The next voter does not arrive for at least another fifteen minutes, and my guess is that the polls are taking a while to warm up.

Monte Vista’s janitor walks in, a man with tattoos on the backs of his forearms and a greying beard. As he looks at the machine that counts up the ballots, he talks about technology and how it created a gap in the workforce. I tune in late to the conversation. I infer what’s already been said by his last remarks:

“So, I got a job that a computer can’t do. I work with my hands. A computer can’t move tables, scrub toilets, wipe up vomit.”

Voting is slow, to put it lightly. The Street Index clerk mentions that we haven’t had a single voter on a major street. This isn’t too surprising to me; our precinct is surrounded by a fair amount of smaller, residential streets. I’m more surprised by the fact that in some blocks of time, I can count the number of voters we get in an hour on one hand. It makes me pause.

What I can say about the people who vote is that they’re remarkable- mainly senior citizens who hobble in and can’t hear half of the words I’m saying. I remember to speak louder and slower. Sample ballots in hand, they take their time getting to the voting booth. They tell me they’ve been voting for years. In my head, I translate that into decades.

Decades, I think. Voting for more years than I’ve been alive. Later, the Inspector and Street Index clerk will talk about the years they’ve seen; assassinations (Kennedy, King, Malcolm X), war (Vietnam), and plenty of elections. They’re desensitized to images of war and gore; skeptical of what they hear in the media. I think of how we don’t even have the chance to be desensitized, how we’re not only kept from information of drone strikes in Pakistan and exploitation of Afghan lands, but we’re lost in our own version of conspicuous consumption, summarized in .gifs by pointless Buzzfeed articles. Our generation does not vote. We don’t know what it means.

At first, this realization is gentle. I know there are things I cannot change, and that if I can, it will be slow and steady. Part of me is thankful that we are not jolted into becoming another generation that lives on rations during war. Yet the other part knows that this is the generation that currently holds a great deal of power in voting electorates. The Baby Boomers are walking into my polling place, come hell or high water, and they are voting. This does not bother me.

Older married couples walk in, arms linked. Others have canes or power chairs. Some merely walk slow and take their time getting to the voting booth. It is only when a blind man walks in that I begin to feel angry.

Other countries experience rigged elections and are trapped in oppressive regimes while we complain of corruption in politics and sit on the sidelines. We don’t even know the beginning of the corruption iceberg. American government condemns countries for having manipulated elections while candidates and elected officials accept unsettling amounts of money for their political campaigns, only to have minuscule turnouts. The so-called fundraising game is spent on a populace that thinks we’re too far gone to do anything.

The polls close at 8PM, and I make sure our numbers match up. We have under 100 ballots. Perhaps around 5% of the precinct has voted. Later, I am told that the news said all day that no one was at the polls. The argument is brought up that perhaps more people are voting by mail, but I dismiss the idea instantaneously.

I think of the blind man, carefully listening to his ballot being read to him. I think of the people who can hardly walk into the polling place, yet smile at me when they leave, “I Voted” sticker on their chest. I wonder if, fifty years from now, we will even having polling places.

Fifteen hours since I first put it on, I take my election clerk name tag off, and set it on my desk. I think of the people who have changed history with their votes, and belatedly wish they were here.


thought spot: my experience with french in morocco

thought spot: my experience with french in morocco

If there’s one thing I’ve learned during my stay in Morocco, it’s that to survive, you’ll need every word in every language you know. I came to this country with what I figured were passable skills in French and Spanish; though I’m learning Modern Standard Arabic and Moroccan Arabic, French has been my saving grace throughout this trip.

Last week, I was reading a chapter from Valérie K. Orlando’s Francophone Voices of the “New” Morocco in Film and Print for my Islamic Society and Politics (more specifically, Chapter 4: “Sexuality, Gender and the Homoerotic Novel of the New Morocco”) when I realized that I could read all of the excerpted French passages with few problems. I knew I had been practicing my French in overdrive since my arrival- it’s the only way I can communicate with my host mom or the people of Morocco- but it was only as I was reading this homework assignment that I realized my French has progressed significantly… dare I say I may even be semi-fluent?

Truly, there is no better way to learn a language than to become immersed in it. Coupled with some study, it’s a sure path to fluency. Once I had this revelation, I went to a local bookstore and purchased Abdellah Taïa’s Une Melancolie Arabe (An Arab Melancholy), a book that has been on my wishlist for years… in the original French. Being able to read Taïa’s words in the language he chose to write in is something truly special. Sure, I have to look up a word here or there, but it takes time and patience to absorb a whole new lexicon.

Writing down some vocab for memory... practice makes improvement!!
Writing down some vocab for memory… practice makes improvement!!

Two years ago, I read a brief article from the New York Times about Taïa; two years later, I am reading his words for my class in a Moroccan university. The coincidence unnerves yet soothes me. Though I’m not sure what the future holds, I feel confident in what I’ve come to accept as a simple truth: I am exactly where I need to be, studying what I’ve been destined to. That in itself is one of the fundamental reasons this study abroad experience has proven unforgettable. I move forward with no regrets, no expectations: just the knowledge that each day is another opportunity to learn something new.

photo spot, morocco: free as a bird

photo spot, morocco: free as a bird

Morocco is a photographer’s dream, for it is a land of mystery, contradiction, and enchantment.

For me personally, it means a new environment to photograph my favorite subject: birds. I’m by no means pursuing it to the depth of Eliot Porter, but I’m having a good time nonetheless.

In many ways, I have felt a growing companionship with birds as I travel around Morocco and the world. My home “nest” is almost 6,000 miles away, and I’ve flown away to find something new. I travel with my fellow flock of ISA students, and together we have the most bizarre and wonderful experiences. Yet even though we travel and learn together, there are times when I feel lonely, lost, and confused. For all the bad days, my good days outweigh my former feelings of dismay. I have no regrets about embarking on this experience, because Morocco has given me more than I could have ever dreamed of intellectually, culturally, mentally, spiritually…

I have so many friends and family that I can share my journey with; they walk with me through all the changes and new experiences. I’m free as a bird and unimaginably lucky. In 47 days, I will make my way back home, but for now, I will sing the praises of my travels, taking in the unexpected and finding contentment in the strangest of places.

Here are a few of my personal favorite photos so far.

Stork in Ifrane
Stork hiding in Ifrane
Bird perching on a cloudy Meknes morning
Bird perching on a cloudy Meknes morning
Birds in the Meknes countryside
Birds in the Meknes countryside


Birds at sunrise in Meknes
Birds at sunrise in Meknes

sound spot: v-day music for that special someone (you)

Hello ladies and gents, cats and dogs, people of the Internet world. I realize that today is a “weird” day, probably for a good number of reasons. What is Valentine’s Day, anyways? If you know your history (or how to do a Wikipedia search), you’ll find that it is the feast of Saint Valentine, and it wasn’t associated with romantic love until the 18th century. All this V-Day business we have was invented by Hallmark + giant candy companies + greedy florists + every “fancy” restaurant in the world to make you feel obliged to spend it with someone, or express yourself in some romantic/platonic/something way. Sounds like a lot of work and money, if you ask me.

Regardless, you may need some tunes to get you through the day. And that, my friends, is what I’m here for. Here’s an eclectic mix of tunes I hope brightens up your v-day. May you laugh, cry, smile, frown, jam, dance, whatever have you… and remember, it’s just another day on the good ol’ Gregorian calendar. (And that there will be sales on candy tomorrow. Someone mail me a box of kit kats, I’m in Morocco.)