Friday, September 26, 2008

Dressing the part for the polling place?

Like wildfire, rumors have been spreading--via the radio as well as the Internet--that voters wearing candidate paraphernalia--Obama t-shirts, political buttons--may be turned away from the polls for electioneering. This debate-within-a-debate, to dress up or not, has more legs than a centipede. In fact, the Maryland Board of Elections had to put a "Rumor Control" section on its website in order to address such speculation!

So, in Maryland, voters CAN wear all manner of campaign paraphernalia to, and into, the polling place. However, once you are done voting, you cannot loiter or linger behind the polling place. The vagueness of the election law as written is probably what gave rise to such rumors, as it does not define "electioneering." Also, commentors on the DailyKos website have commented that sometimes they have been hassled for wearing campaign articles to polling places. I wouldn't want to take a chance that a poll worker might find a way to tamper with my vote somehow, after having broadcast my intended choice via my clothing.

Maryland's elections website has also had to inform voters via rumor control that foreclosure does not keep one from voting. (However, such voters will need to update registration before October 14 in order to vote in this year's general election, as that is the deadline to be registered to vote in Maryland.) Folks voting by absentee ballot need to have a request in by mail or fax before October 28.

The last day for Virginia residents to register to vote is the close of business October 6. An application for an absentee must be received by the voter registration office by October 28.

However, DC voters should watch themselves! Not only is the DC board of elections' website woefully vague regarding registration deadline dates (or has buried them deep undercover), according to the ruling, Marlin v. District of Columbia Board of Elections and Ethics, 236 F. 3d 716 (D.C. Cir. 2001), DC voters CAN be stopped from voting if wearing any kind of campaign paraphernalia. The gentleman at question in the above court case, David Marlin, was a DC resident who went to his polling place to vote wearing his sticker in support of mayor candidate Anthony Williams, but was informed by a poll worker that he "could not cast his ballot while wearing the sticker." He was told that he would not be permitted to vote in the general election if wearing "any sticker, button, emblem, or clothing that showed support for a candidate." Whoa!

Unfortunately for Mr. Marlin, the court ruled in favor of the Board of Elections.

* * *

Skip the drama, vote for Obama, but don't let your clothing do the talking for you!

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Rockin' that Vote...

It's crunch time for real in the election cycle. I mean, the storied young people who are supposed to be turning out in droves for the upcoming election--do they know that not only should they be registered, or register NOW--but they should also, if in college, ask about getting an absentee ballot? That way, even students who are unsure of whether they might be able to make it home to vote on that Tuesday can still vote, with plenty of time left over to continue studying. (That would be a benefit, right?)

The one caveat is that absentee ballots must be completed and mailed back two weeks or so before the general election in November, if I remember correctly (having voted via absentee ballot back in the dark ages), so you have to get the process started of getting the absentee ballot sent to you NOW. The life you save may be your own.

Saving More Lives?

While there has been much recent promotion of a new website,, a site designed to help people find which streets in their region have the most collisions, and their causes of said crashes, an admirable aim, the public might be unaware of the shortcomings of the data compiled, possibly leading to a skewed view of the factors most likely to cause, and contribute to, collisions in the first place.

Kent Sepkowitz of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City recently opined that speed as a factor in automobile fatalities is grossly underestimated, as states analyze auto fatalities in differing ways, often leading to low-balling of speed as a factor in these crashes.


Another day, another collision into a building (the third within the past month in the Washington area)--this time, into a townhouse in Clinton. It's believed that the driver may have fallen asleep while driving--a common, dangerous practice--which may have caused the driver to lose control. Unfortunately, this person seems to have been badly injured, in addition to making the house uninhabitable.

Also unfortunate is that there seemed to be quite a bit of yard in front of the townhouse before it was plowed into, enough that if the driver had been driving the speed limit for a residential area before nodding off (you know, 35 miles per hour or so), the car might have simply rolled a few feet onto the grass, and been well clear of the house when it finally stopped.

I am convinced that speed is a contributing, if not causal, factor in many of these crashes, which seem to be more frequent. (They seem to have been fairly rare before the middle of the 1990s.) Not so much because people occasionally lose control when they drive, but that they seem to hit something, or someone, hard when this happens, which is inevitable at high rates of speed. Just sayin'...

Going Dutch...

Now, you'd think that the Dutch Village Farmers' Market in Upper Marlboro would be an odd place to find culinary bargains, and you'd be right. However, there are deals to be found there, as there are at any other store. (However, the most dangerous bargain was the most heavily promoted--the giveaway of two free glazed donuts with any purchase from the bakery!)

While it's true that there were pricey canned goods, such as specialty jellies and conserves, my attention was captured by healthy cheap eats, as well as cheap sugar traps.

As for the healthy stuff, there was a surprisingly large selection of flours, seeds, etc., in bulk sizes. There were bags of both regular and golden flax seeds for less than $3, a true find, as well as tubs of natural peanut butter for about $2.50. Of course, around the corner from the healthy goodies were all the candies you remember from childhood--pixie sticks, giant swirly lollipops, twizzlers in all flavors (grape, orange), as well as fudge, chocolates, and caramel (some pieces for 35 cents each).

The lines for the various prepared hot foods snaked around inside the building, so I avoided them; the bakery was my real goal in the first place, and it did not disappoint. The prices for the goods was quite reasonable, and would make a good place to pick up rolls for the holidays, or a nice pie or layer cake. The bakery also offers many half-cakes and pies for sale, which is great for small households; apparently, caramel icing is a specialty, as there were many signs proclaiming "caramel frosting" and such on the layer cakes. Yum...

Oh, and the market has good-looking fresh produce as well as meats, so greens were on the menu again (rape greens, a hard-to-find delicacy ever since a local health food store was forced out of business by its landlord).

Had I known that such a commercial item existed at the time, I would have looked for Vrapple, vegan scrapple, when I was there. Oh well...


Regarding meat and the environment, Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, an economist who is the chair of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC, which won the Nobel Peace Prize, along with Al Gore), said that people should have at least one meat-free day a week, as one effective, yet relatively easy action (among many) to help curb global warming. (The Observer, via The Guardian.) Unlike Al Gore, however, Dr. Pachauri is a vegetarian, so he at least practices what he promotes.

Pachauri's views are confirmed by a study put out by the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization in late 2007, Livestock's Long Shadow, a 407-page report detailing the stresses that commercial livestock agriculture places on the environment, in terms of methane emissions, etc. (Methane is an even more drastic global warming agent than carbon.)

To quote Dr. Pachauri, "In terms of immediacy of action and the feasibility of bringing about reductions in a short period of time, it clearly is the most attractive possibility. Give up meat for one day [a week] initially, and decrease it from there."

Even the UK's chief scientific advisor for the Department of Environment Food and Rural Affairs, Professor Robert Watson, said that his government could do more to help educate the public about the benefits of eating less meat, in that "Eating less meat would help, there's no question about that, but there are other things."

Food for thought.