Monday, November 3, 2008

A Letter To My Mother For Election Day

I sent this email to my mother, a life-long public school teacher in New Jersey, and an undecided voter whose only reservations about Obama stem from 1) her anti-abortion beliefs, and 2) a vicious lie a neighbor told her that Obama's tax plan would raise taxes for families making $120,000 or more (instead of families earning $250,000 0r more).

To Mom (Because Daddy always just votes Republican):

Top Five Reasons You Should Vote For Barack Obama

1) A vote for Barack Obama, is a vote for your children's future. And your children's children's future. Barack Obama's policies are forward-thinking. Under his tenure, we would see more investments in energy, education, and nation-building in this country... all of which is good for the future of the economy and our national security. Barack Obama supports green energy, and clean coal technology. The more we invest in green fuel, the sooner we can become energy independent. In the process of "going green", we can create more jobs and fight the effects of job outsourcing to China and India that has occurred over the past decade. If more Americans have jobs, more will have financial security. If more Americans have financial security, then consumer confidence will go up, and the stability of the market will rise with it. This means that your 401k and pension will again increase.

Moreover, Barack Obama supports public schools and in failing school districts, he supports charter schools. On the other hand, John McCain supports school vouchers. So basically, John McCain is saying that when the going gets tough, the answer is to abandon the problem. You and daddy hate vouchers, and you know that vouchers will do nothing but leave public schools behind and make education an enterprise for the rich. I know you are retiring soon, but think of all the younger public school teachers who would be so much worse off if education were privatized. Your vote for Barack Obama is a vote for all those future teachers, and the future of education for your grandkids.

2) A vote for Barack Obama does not conflict with pro-life beliefs. When it comes down to it, pregnancy is a private matter. It is between a woman, her body, and perhaps her spouse or partner. Regardless, Congress and the Supreme Court have gotten involved. The Supreme Court has preserved the woman's right to choose in Roe v. Wade, and no president is going to overturn it. The only potential for limiting Roe is the nomination of another conservative Supreme Court justice, and the Court would have to overturn a decision, violating 30 years of history and the principle of stare decisis. (Basically, this is not going to happen).

Mom, you have raised your daughters well and have done all you can. No president in the White House is going to make us get or not get an abortion. So, you can be rest assured that we are going to produce life should we ever get pregnant. And if you really care about what other women are doing with their bodies, then you can go rally at the local Planned Parenthood, or pray for their souls. (But personally, I cannot tell a person what to do unless I have lived her life or walked in her shoes... I only know that I won't get an abortion, and I am not in a position to judge others who make a different decision).

Finally, the Republican party is completely contradictory when it comes to being pro-life. Republicans are pro-death penalty, pro-guns, and pro-war... doesn't that contradict the belief in "pro-life"? If we had better gun control in this country, think of all the school shootings and crimes that would not occur. And look at all the innocent civilians that have died in Iraq and Afghanistan!!! I understand that the leaders themselves had blood on their hands, but where in the Bible does it say that two wrongs make a right? Or that if our neighbor kills, we kill him? Nowhere in the new Testament does Jesus condone killing of any kind. Republicans are contradictory when it comes to pro-life. A vote for Barack Obama is a vote for policies that support the liberties and freedoms of women, and life all around the world. This is what the Bible is about, and this is what Christianity (free from Republican distortion) is supposed to be about.

3) You will save money on your taxes. You fall into the "$250,000 and below" tax bracket for which Obama would provide relief. Whatever your neighbor tells you is a lie. As a CEO and small business owner, he is likely one of the people earning $250,000 and upwards, so he maybe feels like he has a lot to gain or lose in this election. He is telling you false information. I don't understand what his motivation is, but I know that what he is telling you is not accurate. Here is a link to calculator that helps you determine what your savings would be with an Obama tax plan. Basically, a vote for Barack Obama is a vote to save you and daddy $1800 a year.

Finally, if you still have reservations about taxes, just think about all the good stuff taxes help buy. You and daddy always complain that your taxes are too high, but then you complain that teachers don't get paid enough. Well, your salary has to come from somewhere, and if not from taxes, then from where? Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes once said, "I like paying my taxes. With them I buy civilization." So, before you moan about taxes, think about all the paved roads, new schools, sanitation services, and, perhaps most importantly, teacher salaries that would not be possible without taxes. A vote for Obama is a vote for a better civilization from which we will all benefit as taxpayers and citizens.

4) Obama will do more to energize and unify the country. We are in a huge economic crisis, and everyone is going to suffer at the hands of it... regardless of who is in office. We need a smart leader who can talk to the American people and galvanize the country to action. This means somebody who inspires people to save, volunteer, be smarter with their financial choices, and most of all... to change. To date, Barack Obama has inspired millions of Americans, and brought out millions of new voters. For the first time in American history, Democrats are the ones coming out by the tens of thousands to vote early. Why would he be any different as a leader? This is a man who is clearly inspiring Americans to action, and I think the American people will work hard for change under an Obama presidency. A vote for Barack Obama is a vote for domestic nation-building and national unity.

5) A President Obama would help America re-gain its place on the world scene. George Bush's leadership and policies have left America as the country that is out-of-touch with the rest of the world, and quickly falling behind other countries. Basically, we are the laughing stock. If we put McCain and Palin as our face to the world, we will continue to be the laughing stock of the world. For the first time since World War II, we have lost our dominance on the world scene. We need a leader who can advocate on behalf of Americans to other countries, particularly Europe and China. Currently, Barack Obama has an international approval rating of about 80% or higher. Most importantly, the European Union and China favor Obama. As a result, Obama would have the ability to talk these countries, and help make favorable world policies that will get our country out of the trillions of dollars of debt we have accrued under Bush.

Finally, other nations think that the nomination of an African-American President would send the message of unity, tolerance, and acceptance to all countries. Think about all the countries today with in-fighting because of difference in religion or culture. America's nomination of a black leader would send a message of peace to the world. A vote for Barack Obama would be a vote to make America the role model for change.


And if you are still not convinced.., and feel you must vote for John McCain... then I will tell my future kids that grandma doesn't care about them. I swear, I will!

Your Daughter

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Philly Voters Told "Stay Away From the Polls"

In Philadelphia, a flyer has been circulated telling people not to vote. The flyer is targeted at low-income neighborhoods, and warns that if you don't have a clean record (i.e. traffic tickets, criminal history, etc.) then registering to vote can give you problems at the polls, resulting in a potential arrest. This is obviously an absurd tactic, and clearly Republicans are behind it. What's even more absurd is that some Republican commentators blamed Dems, claiming that the Dems are doing it to make it look like the Republicans are being underhanded. Puh-lease!?! When was the last time anyone needed to do anything to make the Republicans look underhanded? They are doing just fine at being underhanded, they don't need any P.R. help from the Dems. Here's the article:

Friday, September 26, 2008

Dems Blame Lack of Progress on Bailout Negotions on McCain's "Political Theater"

Thankfully the Democratic Congressional Representatives are calling out McCain for turning the negotiations into "political theater," as Christoper Dodd (D-Conn.) so eloquently put it. But Obama's campaign spokesperson said it best:

"... Bill Burton was more blunt, accusing McCain of turning 'a national crisis into an occasion to promote his campaign. It's become just another political stunt, aimed more at shoring up the senator's political fortunes than the nation's economy.'"-Washington Post Article, September 26, 2008.

And E.J. Dionne, an Op-ed columnist for the Post had this to add: "But McCain's boisterous intervention -- and particularly his grandstanding on the debate -- was less a presidential act than the tactical ploy of a man worried that his chances of becoming president might be slipping away."

Basically, I just imagine McCain coming into the talks like a bull in a china shop. What an arse!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

From Sarah Palin, to Sarah Silverman

Have you seen Sarah Silverman's endorsement of Obama? She is just hilarious. Check it out here.

Sarah Palin, Beauty Queen Extraordinaire

I think I nearly choked on my own tears of laughter (or fright?) when I watched this Katie Couric interview of Scary Sarah Palin.

She looks like a beauty pageant contestant who is clearly in over her head during the Q&A. Sarah comes across as a cheerleader for McCain, skirting Couric's pointed questions about the recent Wall Street meltdown with comments like, "McCain's such a maverick!" Or, "McCain has so much experience." But after five minutes of her gloating over McCain, when Katie Couric asks her to name one thing John McCain has done in the past 25 years, she cannot name ONE thing. "But I'll look it up and get back to you!" she says with a smile. She is SUCH a typical Beauty Queen personality (read: clueless bullshit artist).

But I must admit that after watching this, I sort of felt bad for the position that the Republicans put her in. I mean, she really is this small town mom with a BA in communications (and REALLY scary neo-conservative views) who is waaaaay in over her head with all this gosh darn tootin' talk of Wall Street and foreign policy matters. Communications teaches a person how to smile for the camera and convey messages: it is not a discipline that delves into the specifics of law, policy, finance, economics, and foreign diplomacy. So, when pressed by the reporter, she merely flashes her best smile and gives a knee jerk response, saying almost anything just so she has said something.

Out of curiosity, I looked into Palin's education. I found out it took her almost 6 years to get that BA in Communications, which she did by attending 4 different schools in three different states, starting with Hawaii, then two years at community college in northern Idaho, then back to Alaska for pageantry, then back to Idaho to finish. This is not meant to insult Communications majors or those with a college degree or lesser. I merely want point out that what the Republicans are doing to Palin-- namely, putting an inexperienced and unqualified person a heartbeat away from the presidency-- is absolutely cruel. But I feel much worse for the rest of the country, who, if the McCain-Palin duo get elected, will have to suffer at the hand of incompetence.

McCain's Pullout: This guy says it so well.

I would use this post to write about the fact that McCain's pullout to "focus on the economy" is a calculated, spineless political move... But why re-create the wheel? This Washington Post Article, an Op-ed by Meyerson says it so well.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Why the "Average Hockey Mom" is the Worst and Best For the Job

Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and author of "Diplomacy" once wrote:

"A leader who confines his role to his people's experience dooms himself to stagnation; a leader who outstrips his people's experience runs the risk of not being understood."

One can understand how this quote rings true today, applying equally to the campaigns of Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) and John McCain (R-AK)... or rather, campaigns that have now become about the parallel biographical backgrounds of Barack Obama and McCain's VP pick, Sarah Palin. (See WP Post Article). Both are young, dynamic, energizing, and making waves in their respective parties. Both have also been criticized for their lack of experience. But Palin's latest taunt that Obama has "never led anything" shows just how stagnant and inexperienced she is, as per Kissinger's quote. But it also places Obama in that dangerous dilemma of being the severely misunderstood yet overqualified leader.

We know that Sarah Palin is a leader, a resume detail respected by the corporate CEO and blue collar wage earner alike. She had led the town of Wasilla with a population of 5,000. She has led the state of Alaska as Governor. She has also been the leader of her family, raising five children and even sending her eldest off to fight in Iraq on September 11, 2007.

We also know that Sarah has that down-home appeal, a quality that helped President George Bush clinch the White House in two executive presidential elections. Her comment about pitbulls and hockey moms has seemingly made her the darling of the Republican party, and she has energy and a pretty face to boot. But then again, she has no choice but to emphasize her relatability and likability. Because she truly is the "leader" whose experiences are confined to that of the average American.

Palin's lack of foreign policy experience is her softest spot. But over the next few days I am sure we will see the GOP transform Palin's image from Average Hockey Mom to The Next Madeleine Albreight. I have no doubt that she will come equipped with some sound-bytes that might make her look slightly more knowledgeable than the average hockey mom.... But how will she stand up in debate against Biden? I doubt her lipstick jokes will help her navigate her way through an argument about North Korea, Iran, or China. Hopefully, Americans will come to understand that the position calls for more than the average pretty-faced mom, who happened to be elected Governor of one of the more remote and least densely populated states in the nation.

Or maybe the GOP will take the low road. Perhaps they will tell Palin to he honest, admit where she is weak. When Biden takes a shot at her, to back off. Admit her ignorance. Because she only has a BA in Communications, and limited domestic experience. Maybe the GOP will play the card that all Americans want is someone to whom we can relate, and understand. Because perhaps that someone is more likely to understand us, right? And what do we Americans know about complex foreign policy issues anyway? But sports, pitbulls, and lipstick... now those things we understand.

And on the other side of this election is the strange paradox of the intelligent, Harvard Law - educated U.S. Senator, balanced by his grass roots activism, plight as a minority, consistent American values, and charm. A man that is willing to shed his partisanship for national unity, his patriotism for international unity. Now that is wisdom beyond the average American. Resumes, education, experience (or lackthereof) aside, this is a leader who truly outstrips his people.

Sadly, Obama may be too far beyond America... too far beyond what we can understand, appreciate, and desire as our leader. And perhaps we don't want to be outstripped by our leader. After all, such a nomination would send half the nation into a spiral, perhaps causing some people to do things. Like question themselves. Or want change... Oh no, we better stick to what we know, and to what is safe... like recycled lipstick jokes, boilerplate speeches, and a failing economy. Give us more stagnation! Give us McCain-Palin!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Inspire Me, Obama!

“I love my President.” Those words sounds so foreign and strange to say. But they are words that I would actually believe if Barack Obama were elected President.

What separates Obama from the Hillary Clintons and John McCains (and Sarah Palins... but really, who knows anything about her anyway?) of the world, is that he is actually lovable. His ability to say what is on his heart in an unfiltered, uncensored manner makes him a unique politician, or perhaps an ironic politician. I do not get the feeling that when Barack speaks, he is pandering to the masses, or telling people what they want to hear. However, his frank, direct, value-laden speeches are exactly what we didn’t know we need to hear: the truth.

For me, Barack’s appeal is his ability to reconcile contradictions. For example, how a multi-racial man born to a single mother can go to Harvard, become a U.S. Senator, and then run for President… and do in 15 years what most people will never dream of doing in a lifetime. Politically, he is wise to address the contradictions that we Americans are so hung up on: like gay marriage or abortions, and sadly, the war. But he is even wiser to acknowledge that these are issues we need to get over, and the real problem is that most Americans are working for sub-par pay and struggling to make ends meet. The real problem is the state of the economy that George Bush has left in the wake of his presidency.

Watching Obama, I feel inspired to be the change I want to see in this country: I want to go volunteer, work at my church, raise money for good causes. I want to forget what I think are my problems, and focus on making the world right again. I also want to feel stress-free and without fear. I do not think that Obama will necessarily make my life better, but his story sure as heck motivates me to be different, and to be better.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Before You Save The World, Clean Your Closet!

If you haven't yet read Thomas Friedman's op-ed "Who Will Tell the People?" in today's NY Times, you should.  It has been a while since an article regarding national affairs has resonated with me on a personal level.  Friedman eloquently weaves together what were once my mere disjointed thoughts.  

Friedman's main argument is that Americans- although long tired of campaigns and a President starting wars and telling Americans to "go shopping" in times of fiscal and national crisis-  do indeed want to partake in nation-building.  However, we want to start our nation-building right here at home, and not in Iraq, Iran, or Afghanistan.  This is because we feel like our nation is falling apart.  Many of his points got me thinking about the extent to which my life is a product of the times, closely intertwined with world events. 

First, reading this article, my head started spinning thinking about all the ways that Americans have made important, long-term, structural changes in their lives.  The first and foremost that comes to mind is the "Green Revolution," promoting hybrid vehicles, walking or biking, and partaking in other fuel-saving activities. These are the kinds of changes that Bush should have employed, and are the types of  take-it-into-your-own-hands, honest, long-term changes that a thoughtful leader like Obama inspires.  I have to admit that I felt proud of my fellow Americans while reading this article at an urban sidewalk cafe, watching passers-by carrying reusable shopping bags, walking rather than driving, and generally making themselves aware of the much needed shift from oil to more viable resources.  We are indeed taking matters into our own hands.  

My thoughts naturally turned inward, as I contemplated how the world events of late have shaped a very important period in my life.  Less than three years ago I started law school, and will graduate into the worst economy during my twenty-sevens years on this earth.  I started my program head strong, self-assured, and planned to continue working in international trade or business.  Latin America was my passion, and I wanted to continue to partake in the economic revolution of our poor neighbor.  But for all the reasons that law school makes one question their confidence and abilities plus the less-than-stellar shape of the country, I began to question myself.  

I no longer felt I wanted to save Latin America or the world.  Instead, I became fixated on my immediate surroundings.  I soon began volunteering as a Sunday school teacher at my local church, teaching thirteen- and fourteen-year-old first-generation Latinos.  I found the work extremely rewarding, and sought ways to continue reaching out to inner city students, eventually teaching legal rights classes to homeless teens, and working with Street law, a non-profit that teaches law, democracy and human rights to students.  I fell in love with my Education Law course, because I learned how think in terms of making structural changes to education systems.  I also stopped paying attention to international headlines, and barely flinched when learning of the latest fatalities in Iraq, or the fact that a former cocalero became President of Bolivia.  

I do however, remember crying when my roommate's bicycle-- which I had borrowed for the day-- was stolen from its locked-up location outside the law firm where I was working that summer.  This was just a few months after my car had been stolen, and only a few days after someone stole my vaccuum cleaner from the vestibule of the house where I was renting a room-- neither for which I had shed a tear.  But I cried and cried about having to replace a borrowed bike, tears spilling down my red face as I sat across from my boyfriend at a local coffee shop.  "What am I going to do?" I asked.  "How am I going to come up with the cash to pay for this bike?" But the problem went much deeper.  The problem, I confessed, was that I had gotten ahead of myself in life. I was working, volunteering for other causes, and taking out tens of thousands of loan dollars for a legal education, was mired in debt-- and I felt that I had absolutely no grounding.  I realized that if something as small as a $200 setback could send me into such a state, I had to be doing something wrong.  I realized that I needed to clean out my proverbial closet.  

So I did.  I spent the next year getting my finances in order, moved to a safer location with less crime and higher security, and trying to gain more legal experiences in order to figure out whether I had chosen the right profession.  This past year, I made yet another move and cut my expenses nearly in half, earned back my good credit score (and the ability to sign for the last of my law school loans), and dramatically improved my grades by focusing solely on law school.  I recently passed my first standardized test for the bar exam-- the professional responsibility portion-- and now I will take my last school exam in two days,  graduate with my class on May 23rd, and sit for the Bar Exam in July.   Just two years ago, these all seemed like utter impossibilities. 

And now, as I head into the world with a law degree- despite not yet having secured a job-I feel confident, happy, and ready to answer whatever may be my call to action.  I am happy I chose the path I did, and think I will love practicing law. I do not see myself saving the world (at least, not yet), but rather, continuing to acquire skills and confidence to put to use whenever I do get that call.  That probably means continuing to focus on myself, working hard, and earning money to buy financial freedom.  The "American Dream"-- the six-figure job, the wedding, picket fence, and 2.5-- all seem secondary, just pieces of a bigger puzzle that will fall into place on their own terms.  For now, there's still a lot of work to do on myself, and then a lot of work to do for my community, city, and one day perhaps, my country.  But I never would have been so open and happy had I not set to the task of internal cleaning. 

One small anecdote seems like a fitting analogy: a good friend recently told me that he felt like he had to dedicate himself to personal and career goals before he was ready to dedicate 100% of himself to a relationship.  He had lost his love over this realization, but is now open and prepared for whatever his future has in store. Because after all, you can't fully dedicate yourself to anyone or anything until you understand the extent of your capabilities and your place in the world. To me, this is what cleaning my closet has been about: working on myself before "saving the world." So why shouldn't America's "nation building" adhere to this same philosophy? We are getting ahead of ourselves as individuals, following suit to a government borrowing more than it can pay back from neighbors like China and Singapore-- just like when I borrowed that bike.  I fear that if this trend continues, we are going to fall apart as a nation, and the clean-up won't be solved with some tears and re-organizing. This is why we need a leader, as Friedman suggests, that is going to be more than what Hillary deems as "tough" enough to stand up to the Republicans.  This is why we need a leader that will inspire us to take matters into our hands and clean the closets here first.  

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

We ALL make mistakes...

So, I asked Maddy-- a fourteen-year-old I used to babysit, who happens to be a huge Miley Cyrus fan-- what she thought of the Cyrus "scandal." And I have to admit I am impressed by Maddy's defense of Miley, a much more intelligent and and empathetic view of the situation: 

"[Miley] said she felt embarrassed about it.  Also, she wasn't topless... the photo just looks like it... I kind of feel bad for her because she has so much pressure on her to be like everybody else, and also, I think she wants to stay grounded.  But it seems like everybody is out to get her for every little mistake she makes. Also, she's a teenager... and that's what we do... we make mistakes... and learn from them. But only time will tell if she'll learn from her mistakes." 

Well put, Maddy! I'm sorry for beating up on Miley... we all make mistakes ;-)

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Oh, Miley!

The last time I willingly listened to Miley Cyrus was during her televised February 2008 interview with Barbara Walters just before the Oscars.  It was her comment, "I like to think of myself as a light to the world," that made me decide to turn off the radio or television whenever one of her songs aired. (Well, that and the fact that she can't sing and rides on the coattails of famous father Billy Ray).  I also had to stop reading Miley-riddled tabloids at the long lines at Giant, opting instead for substantive news. *Sigh* OK, its one thing to takeover and ruin the radio and tabloids for me, but now THIS? Did she really have to cross into "artistic" territory and ruin for me what was once my favorite celebrity photographer? I mean, for Pete's sake, the girl is only fifteen.  Isn't this illegal or something? (And where are all you child porn whistle blowers when we need you?). Thanks a lot, "Smiley Miley," for the nightmares I am going to have for the next week.  And please-- put your clothes back on or I'm telling your mom!   

It's a Load of CROC

What is just about the worst shoe to venture off the river raft? You guessed it! And now you can officially declare your disdain for the worst fashion statement ever by purchasing one of these tee shirts , which I spotted on a friend's boyfriend.  You can also vent with your fellow Croc haters on the Official I Hate Crocs Blog


Saturday was warm, sunny and despite the swampy D.C. air-- very pleasant.  That is, of course, until I decided to venture out of my Logan Circle apartment for the evening. Buckets of hard rain greeted me as I headed out to meet some friends for a beer at the Saloon. With a sigh, I rolled up my jeans flood-style and crouched under my umbrella.  Luckily, after walking a block from my doorstep and before the rain did too much damage to my new flip-flops, I hailed a cab.   A warm, dry cab with-- get this-- a nice cab driver.  

While I am usually the first one to complain about D.C. cabbies and berate the cab system that relies on zoning to determine fares, I am actually starting to feel bad for the drivers.  Somehow during the four-minute drive, my cab driver and I started talking about the inflated gas prices, which led naturally to a discussion about the economy.  "You know how much a gallon of milk costs now?" he asked.  "Three dollars?" I guessed (I cannot actually recall the last time I bought an entire gallon of milk, though I think it must have been back in college when I shared an apartment with four soccer players).  "It's five dollars!" he complained.  (I inquired whether he purchased this $5.00 milk from Whole Foods, but he said he hadn't).  He went on to say that its not the gas prices that make him feel the pinch, but rather, when he goes home with his pay and realizes that he cannot afford as much food.  

And I had always thought that high price of gas was what hurt cabbies the most. On the contrary, he told me, high gas prices help cabbies.  In a city with one of the highest ratios of cabs per residents (1 per every 1000), D.C cabbies have to fight each other for customers.  So when gas prices go up and more people use metro or some combination of metro and cabs, it becomes easier for cabbies to snag a fare.  They can also charge an additional $1.00 during this so-called gas crisis to soften the blow.  

But what is going to hurt cabs even more during this economic downturn-- and what I don't agree with-- is requiring cabs to purchase a $400 meter, as Fenty's deadline for mandatory meters is approaching.  I wonder why D.C. could not alleviate the burden on cabbies' wallets by trying to get corporate sponsorship for the meters in exchange for ads (for example, like NYC did when it mandated citywide TV installation in its cabs)? I think that the zoning system is definitely a step in the right direction, but requiring cabbies to pay for the installation themselves is a step backwards.  While I hate the old system of zoning, I still appreciate a dry cab on the occasional rainy night out. For a related article, check out today's Washington Post

Monday, April 28, 2008

Supreme Court Upholds Indiana Voter ID

Today the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Indiana voter ID law.  Stevens, writing for the majority, held that the Indiana statute requiring voters to present a photo ID at the polls in order to prevent voter fraud was constitutional.  The court weighed the state's ID restriction as slight compared to its substantial interest in protecting the integrity of the voting process.  The Court failed to view this law as severe a restriction as the poll tax, but rather, as a permissible "time, place, manner" restriction.  (Read the full opinion). 

It seems partisan politics are the source of this case, with the Petitioner-Indiana Democratic Party (and several amici) claiming that the Voter ID statute will significantly deter the poor, the disabled, and the elderly-- who typically vote Democratic-- from casting a ballot in the November 2008 Presidential elections.  As a result, the argument goes, the Democratic party will lose votes.  Petitioners also claim that several voters were already turned away from the polls in a Nov. 2007 local election because of this statute (However, the record in evidence demonstrates that only about 30 people were in fact impacted in this Indianapolis election). 

Of course the State contends that the burden is slight-- what's the big deal, they essentially argue, about presenting a free photo ID at the polls? (In response, petitioners argue that the class in question-- the poor, disabled, and the elderly-- typically do not drive or own vehicles.  Therefore they have neither the requisite driver's license, nor the ready access to transportation to a local DMV to obtain the free photo ID).  But the Respondents also exaggerate their evidence regarding the problem supposedly at issue, namely, voter fraud.  In my opinion, this is where the state's argument really loses its credibility.  Respondents cannot cite one instance of actual voter fraud in Indiana, but rely instead on occurrences in other jurisdictions.  

Personally, I don't agree with the voter ID law, or any law that adds layers of governmental bureaucracy to what should be a basic, fundamental right.  But I also find it hard to believe that Indiana is going to lose any major Democratic votes over the statute.  Whatever issues face the non-ID holders before the election-- i.e. lack of time, money, transportation, etc-- will likely be the same issues deterring that same class on election day.  And whatever tools the Democratic party uses to bring voters to the polls-- i.e. bussing and other GOTV efforts-- can also be employed pre-election day to help voters get a photo ID, get registered, and get ready to cast a ballot.  

I think that Petitioner's case is a waste of precious judicial time and resources.  The claim itself highlights legal hurdles, when we know that no amount of bureaucratic obstacles can contend with what truly draws voters to the polls in droves: excitement and passion.  The Obama-Clinton race has already brought voters to the polls in record numbers nationwide (i.e. the Pennsylvania Primary) and more Democrats are registered than ever before.  And with the May 6th Indiana primary election just around the corner, things are getting heated in the Photo ID state.  According to the WSBT-South Bend poll, 48 percent of Indiana voters favor Barack Obama while 47 percent favor Hillary Clinton.  If this tight race isn't enough to get voters excited about going to the polls, nothing will.  So, whatever loss in votes results from the photo ID law will be counterbalanced by the gain in votes from excited, first-time ballot-casters.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Money Talks

When was the last time you discussed your salary, the cost of a major car or home purchase, or your personal finances with your friends? If you are not unlike the rest of us mid-twenty-somethings, it was probably pretty recently. In today's Sunday Styles section, NYT writer Alex Williams explores the openness of our generation when it comes to personal finances. (See Williams article). Williams attributes the phenomenon of glib to generational and cultural characteristics.

Williams concludes that the reasons we blab, unlike our predecessors, is generally three-fold. First, technology (i.e. blogging, MySpace, and Facebook) helps facilitate a constant flow of communication. Second, we are a generation with a "shared struggle," who have come into our own against the backdrop of 9/11, a sluggish economy, and a major credit crunch-- making us more open and of the mind that "we are in this together." Third, unlike our parents, we don't measure our success in terms of dollars, and therefore don't mind sharing such trifles as salaries. 

I agree with most of Williams' assertions, but for different reasons. First of all, as a graduating law student with nearly $200,000 in student loans (guffaw!), how can I not talk about what consumes every fiber of my being? Second, I am surrounded by peers who share my financial woes and can relate- so talking about it helps alleviate some of the stress and helps us take solace in the fact that we are all in this together. 

Finally, and what I think Williams overlooks, we are caught in what I call the Brooklynization of America. That is, I think many Gen Y-ers find it unappealing to work 120 hours a week for some corporation or law firm because we do not care about the status.  We are a generation raised to believe that our value lies in cooperation, participation, and making a contribution to the greater good.  Growing up, we were told that we were "special," and its not about winning or losing, but how we play the game. So, we talk about salary because it simply does not matter. We don't equate our self-worth with numbers. And, as my friend Ian points out, our high-earner peers talk about money to alleviate their guilt about choosing large salaries over do-gooder work. 

The irony is-- while we are a culture becoming ever the more open about finances and ever the more detached from valuing ourselves according to salary, we are also becoming increasingly materialistic. I think that every one of my girlfriends owns a Coach purse, and a few other choice "status purchases." And the obsession with money is hitting us earlier on in life.  Last summer, while strolling in Manhattan, I saw a girl of no more than thirteen carrying around her accessory puppy in her Louis Vuitton handbag while sipping an iced mocha frappe from Starbucks, all whilst struggling to answer her cell phone. "What is wrong with this country?" I thought to myself.  How are we going to support the up and coming generation, who are becoming material-obsessed at younger and younger ages? 

Maybe our job is to bridge the gap between our elders-- who fear talking about money-- and our successors-- who can't seem to get enough of flaunting their parents' money.  Perhaps opening a healthy dialogue is a good way to alleviate our financial fears, continue to work together for solutions, and combat the up-and-coming cash-crazed culture.