Voter ID and Voter Ego

Do photo-less voter registration cards make it easy to vote often?

Last week, I got my Virginia voter registration card in the mail. My wife’s card also arrived on the same day. So did the card above, which is neither mine nor my wife’s. The address is correct, but the name (blurred intentionally in the photo) belongs to a previous owner of my house.

A previous owner who has obviously not yet moved his registration since he lived here six or seven years ago.

This isn’t merely a credit card application — something the previous owner still receives a lot of at my house — but a voter registration card.

On the card’s information page, it says, “This card serves as an official form of identification (ID) that you can use at the polling place on Election Day.”

Just this week, a Pennsylvania judge suspended a state law until after the election that would require voters to produce a photo ID in order to vote.

My situation shows why such a measure might be a good idea. Were I someone without scruples (I indeed have a few, after all), I could theoretically go in the morning with the above voter registration card (vote early), and cast my ballot Chicago-style as the previous owner of my house. Then, just to give it some space, I could return I the evening and vote as myself (vote often).

There’s little beyond my own moral sense (and fear of God) that could stop this from successfully happening. Mind you, I’m not going to vote twice, I’m simply pointing out how easy it is for fraud to occur without a photo ID.

I still haven’t heard a sensible argument along the “disenfranchisement” lines against photo IDs for voters. If you have, please enlighten me.

Sandlot foreign policy

Strange business is the saga with the Obama administration and that downed drone aircraft recovered by Iran in Iranian territory. It’s bad enough that Iranian officials are using the whole thing as a publicity stunt, but now the Obama Administration is asking Iran to return the drone:

U.S. President Barack Obama, in a session with reporters Monday, refused to comment on what he termed “intelligence matters that are classified.” But news reports say the aircraft with advanced stealth technology either strayed into Iranian airspace from Afghanistan or was spying on Iran’s nuclear program.

Mr. Obama said the United States has asked for the drone back and will “see how the Iranians respond.” But Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that given Iran’s past behavior, “we do not expect them to comply.”

You think?

In the now classic 1993 film, The Sandlot, a group of boys hit a baseball over the fence onto the property of the mysterious Mr. Mertle — which is guarded by “The Beast,” a dog of mythic ferocity. It turns out not to be so bad once they get to know both the dog and its owner. Perhaps the Obama administration has this in mind?

Since we have no expectation that Iran will hand it over willy-nilly, why ask? Have we no shame at all? Someone please explain.

The great humanitarian scandal

The current financial crisis elicits explanations, excuses, and blame from the full breadth of the political spectrum. There are no shortages of would-be saviors to our pallid pocketbooks, and none loom as large as government–sponsored humanitarianism. It’s a view in which the gap between the rich and poor, widened by the abuse of power, must be eradicated by government’s strong hand. Well-meaning humanitarianism is fraught with many dangers, and Herbert Schlossberg’s description of what it really does to us still applies today:

It exalts categories of weakness, sickness, helplessness, and anguish into virtues while it debases the strong and prosperous. In the country of ontological victimhood, strength is an affront. Denying the possibility of strength for the weak keeps them weak. Being freed from dependence would bring the victim back into the human family, responsible for himself and others. How much better to remain a victim, shielded from trouble and responsibility by altruism. Imposing a load of false guilt on the strong, ressentiment elicits a countering resentment that blinds them to the need of repentance for their real sins. Both poor and rich need to be made whole, but nobody can be made whole with a humanitarian understanding of his life. Poor and rich need to be reconciled, but altruism accentuates the self-righteous hypocrisies of both.

(Idols for Destruction: The Conflict of Christian Faith and American Culture, p.70)

Times like ours are ripe for making weakness into a virtue. The problem with this, of course, is that if weaknesses are seen as virtues, they have little need to be overcome.

Weakness should be seen as something to dispense of in favor of growing stronger, but the humanitarian impulse thrives upon weakness and is out of a job without it. In light of so many Americans being out of jobs themselves, we would do well not to feed the humanitarian monster. Blessed are the poor, indeed. But if poverty was really virtuous, the poor wouldn’t need blessing, would they? Better to strengthen through struggle than to keep down through luxury.

Fast food presidents: Obama is a Five Guys guy

President Obama’s visit today to Five Guys in D.C. (a favorite of my own, when I’m in an artery-clogging kind of mood) likely made some burger-flippers happy and some Secret Service officers nervous:

But I couldn’t help remembering this all-too-realistic portrayal of another fast-food president:

White House food must be really bad…

What’s next, Putin on Facebook?

Looks like President Obama should give some serious consideration to missile defense, because the cold war isn’t over — the Russians have now discovered the internet:

One of the Kremlin’s pet new media projects has been a site called It’s been set up under the auspices of the Fund for Effective Politics, a think-tank headed by Gleb Pavlovsky, who has been instrumental in shaping the Russian ideology of the last decade. The official objective of — as articulated by Pavlovsky — has been to tap into the immense creativity of the Russian internet users and involve them in producing ideas that could make Kremlin’s increasingly unappealing ideological package relevant to the younger generations. was meant to become something like Russia’s DailyKos or Talking Points Memo.

Move over Huffington Post, a new bastion of the political left is about to take charge…

How President Bush can save his legacy

President Bush is not a popular man these days.  If his approval ratings fall any lower, they might be mistaken for the current Dow Jones Industrial Average.  The lamest of ducks at this point in his career, a turkey might be the only way for him to salvage his legacy.

Every year, the president is presented with the National Thanksgiving Turkey.  And every year since 1989 — when the Bush’s father granted a stay to the national bird — a turkey has been pardoned by our commander-in-chief.

Now is the time for George W. to differentiate himself.  Don’t grant the pardon. Eat the bird.

Pardons in the waning days of an administration are the stuff of Bill Clinton, not George W. Bush. It would be a final, Machiavellian exercise in strategery.  Sure, PETA would cry foul (or fowl?), but he’ll likely never win their hearts anyway.

There will be a whole host of turkeys headed to Washington in the coming days, many of whom will undoubtedly require post-tenure pardon by the Obama administration.  This Thanksgiving, it’s time for the president to make his mark upon history by returning to the great American tradition of eating turkeys — there will be plenty to pardon later.

Introducing the 2008 Chevy Corvair

Parade of the also-rans:
Ralph Nader

Just when I thought the race was down to two candidates, I realized that I had left out the perennial Ralph Nader.  That’s right, get ready for lots of ballot counting, because Nader has swung into the race faster than an unsafe car to once again capture the heart of the disaffected voter.

Nader is not threatened by fellow also-ran Mike Gravel.  He’s willing to take on the erstwhile Alaskan for the title of weirdest campaign video.  If Gravel can stir up the avant-garde in each of us by staring down a camera, Ralph Nader’s conversation with a parrot can lead us to presidential sanity:

Looks like the Nader campaign is unsafe at any speed…

[This post is fifth in a series on the other 2008 presidential candidates called “Parade of the also-rans.” See the whole series here.]

Better off in 2008

Commenting today on John McCain’s “We’re worse off than we were four years ago” ad, George Will observes that the question of being better off should be quantified in terms of more than one’s pocket book:

Unfortunately, the phrase “better off” is generally understood as a reference to your salary, your bank balance, your IRA and the like. But wait. Are you better off being four years older? That depends.

If you are young, since 2004 you might have found romance, had children, learned to fly-fish and become a Tampa Bay Rays fan. In which case you emphatically are better off, even if since 2004 there has been only a 0.6 percent increase — yes, increase — in the median value of single-family homes.

If you are near “the sear, the yellow leaf” of life, in the past four years your expected remaining years of life have declined. But that does not mean you cannot be better off.

Read the whole thing.  It’s George Will at his best.

As someone who has two more children than he did four years ago, I’m certainly better off.  In an election year we must not forget that our prosperity most often has less to do with presidents than it does providence.

In search of religion without a license

Karl Marx thought of religion as the opiate of the masses, but it is his offspring who have become intoxicated on the suppression of religion.

Take Belarus, for example.  The former Soviet “Republic” seems anything less than a free society these days.  Its president, Alexander Lukashenko, is known in some circles as Europe’s last great dictator, and is no friend to religious freedom.

Belarus’ government required in 2002 that all religious activity be registered — a practice not unlike the one in place during the Soviet regime.  Registration is, of course, much more than just giving a name and an email address.  Registration creates lists, and to be on a list in a country that leans Marxist is not a good thing.  It didn’t take long for violations of this law to pop up.

The past few weeks haven’t improved upon this track record:

Belarus has imposed a fine of more than two months’ average wages on a Baptist who “organised choir singing and conducted conversations on religious topics” outside Ushachi public market, Forum 18 News Service has learnt. After a plain clothes policeman told a group of Baptists from outside the area to stop, Vladimir Burshtyn replied that they were not disturbing public order and cited religious freedom guarantees in Belarus’ Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The fine is, to Forum 18’s knowledge, the highest yet imposed on Baptists for unregistered religious activity. Higher fines have been imposed on members of other communities. Olga Karchevskaya, an official who witnessed the incident, defended the state’s response and the Religion Law’s restrictions because “we need to know who’s coming to us – they could be destructive or acting against people’s interests.” In a separate incident, a Baptist congregation’s worship in Osipovichi was interrupted by officials, and the congregation’s deacon was fined about two week’s average wages for leading an unregistered religious community.

The wall has come down, the “bear” has been put to rest. Perhaps, however, some remnants of the Cold War weren’t quite as thawed as we thought…