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.