Monday, October 27, 2008

Massachusetts Question 2: Decriminalizing Marijuana Possession

Massachusetts voters will have the opportunity to vote on November 4 for a proposal that would decriminalize the possession of less than an ounce of marijuana, replacing the current criminal penalties with a $100 fine. Although not specifically addressing the Massachusetts proposal, I found this program, "It's Time for a Conversation" helpful in providing context and perspective on the issue.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Sunday, October 26, 2008

2008 Voter Turnout

By all accounts, voter turnout in 2008 is expected to set records. Most of the discussion in the media has been the effect that this higher turnout, and the influx of first time voters, is expected to have an impact on the presidential election.

There are other ramifications, however. In Massachusetts, we have several initiative proposals on the ballot. Question 1 proposes eliminating the state income tax, and Question 2, if passed, would reduce the current penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana. Question 3 would ban greyhound racing in the Commonwealth.

Question 2, in particular, will be affected by the number and demographics of the voting population. Young, liberal voters would be probably be more apt to vote for decriminalization than older conservative types.

The ballot questions generally get little press--and its not unusual for voters to show up on election day not having read or researched the issues that are behind the questions.

So the question I have is--are all these new voters conscientious enough to do their homework on the questions, as well as the candidates, before November 4?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Princess Nudelman

Did you hear about the dead goldfish that was sent voter registration materials? Princess Nudelman, late of Illinois, received registration materials in the mail.

Back in the dark ages, when I registered, it needed to be done in person, at Town Hall-- and I needed to produce a sealed copy of my birth certificate to prove that I was a citizen.

My daughter turned 18 a few weeks ago. In September, she received a form in the mail, filled it out and mailed it in. A few days before her birthday she received a confirmation back in the mail that she was now a registered voter in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts -- no evidence required.

The Nudelman family chose not to attempt to register Princess to vote--after all, as the Daily News noted
"The only "agent of change" Princess ever supported was the person who freshened the water in her fishbowl."

...But you have to wonder how many "Princess Nudelmans" did wind up registering?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Drive-Through Voting

When I first saw the title, "Fries With That? O.C. Offers Drive-Thru Voting" , I was sure it was a hoax--drive through voting? Sure enough, in the latest variation on early voting and absentee ballots, voters in Santa Ana, California will have the opportunity to exercise their civic responsibility without leaving their car on October 20.

Voters will also be able to register without leaving their car. October 20 is the last day to register in California. Election officials estimate that approximately 3,600 people will register on the last day, either traditionally or by car.

The drive-through facility will be open until midnight.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

The Next Bailout

If I seem a bit obsessed with student loan debt, it could be because of the ages of my children -- financing college is a big topic in our house. Discussions about "name" schools vs. affordable schools occur frequently--almost daily these days with a high school senior in the house. Last week I blogged about my concerns about what the levels of student loan debt would do to the economy several years out-- but it appears that it may exacerbate the current crisis, as well.

The New York Times has an article this morning, discussing the job prospects of graduates from top business schools. They mention one student who expects to graduate with $200,000 in debt. Think about that--$200,000--generally repayable over a 10 year period, at a 6-7% interest rate...with payments starting shortly after graduation.

How many of these kids are there? And without jobs, how will they pay these loans? And will taxpayers whose children have made trade-offs so they don't need to assume the level of debt required by a big-name school be expected to bear the burden of loan forgiveness for these bad choices?

We live in scary times, I think.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Pumpkin Cupcakes

While Jenny over at The Inner Bean has been working on her great Halloween Tombstone Project, I've been thinking about food. Halloween presents a great opportunity to "play" with food, and one of the easiest ways to do this is with cupcakes. Halloween cupcakes can range from simple desserts--topping a cupcake with candy corn, for example, to elaborately constructed monsters. Pumpkin cupcakes are a quick and easy variation-- you can put them together in about the same amount of time it takes to frost a plain cupcake.

What you need:

*Cupcakes of your choice, cooled and ready to be frosted
*Container of vanilla frosting
*Orange food coloring
*Orange decorating sugar
*Pretzel rods, broken into short pieces about 1" long

Step 1: Scrape the container of frosting into a mixing bowl.

Step 2: Add several drops of food coloring, and combine with an electric mixer until blended. Repeat if the color isn't dark enough, continuing until you're happy with the hue.

Step 3: Mound frosting on the cupcake, smoothing the top as much as possible.

Step 4: Roll each cupcake in decorating sugar.

Step 5: Use a bamboo skewer to draw segments radiating out from a bit off center of the cupcake. (A toothpick will make too thin a line).

Step 6: Insert a piece of pretzel rod where the segments meet.

If you feel like branching out into more elaborate productions, decorated cupcakes are fairly simple to reverse engineer. Here are some great photos that might inspire you!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Absentee Ballots and Civics Education

I don't always agree with commentator George Will, but he has a thought provoking piece in Newsweek about absentee ballots. He concludes that the increasing emphasis on voting early is eroding the national institution of Election Day.
"The great national coming-together that Election Day has been and should be is a rare communitarian moment in this nation of increasingly inwardly turned individualists who are plugged into their iPods or lost in reveries with their iPhones....The coming of the public into public places for the peaceful allocation of public power should be an exhilarating episode in our civic liturgy."
I agree with him. While absentee ballots are important to ensure that those who will not be geographically located near their assigned polling place on election day will not be disenfranchised, something is lost when voting is made too easy.

One point that Will doesn't make, however, is about the role election day plays in the education of children. I can still remember accompanying my mother to vote as a child. She took the opportunity on the walk to and from the polling place to talk to me about voting, about what it means to be an American, and the responsibilities we have as citizens. I did the same when my children were young. Of course, parents could talk to their children about these things at any time -- but election day is a structured opportunity for civics education.

By making the choice to treat voting as something that needs to be done hurriedly, without gravitas, we're missing an opportunity to impart our civic values to our children, and leaving that job to MTV.