Friday, October 10, 2008

Hola. Hope everyone is doing okay.
Still got three dogs at my house, but they seem to be settling in. Of course, just as soon as they get used to being in a new house with new rules they'll be headed back home again (kind of a shame, because Lucy seems to be getting the hang of not jumping up at the back door and of laying at the food of my bed until I get up rather than crying and trying to wake me up whenever she's ready to start her day).
I came home from work on Wednesday to find three little flags planted in my front yard and a flyer telling me that my house had been selected for the NeighborWoods Program. The flyer from NeighborWoods told me that my house had been picked for the delivery of up to 3 trees which would be delivered to my home free of charge if I agreed to plant them (preferrably within 10 feet or so of the little flags they had put in my yard) and water them for at least two years. The program is designed to combat what urban planners call the "heat island" effect, in which rooftops, sidewalks, and especially roads all tend to absorb heat from the sun during the day and then hold onto that heat so that it doesn't dissipate very effectively overnight. Heat islands develop around urban areas and tend to keep cities considerably warmer than surrounding rural areas. This leads to higher energy costs for air conditioning (air conditioning, by the way, tends to also increase heat levels in outdoor urban areas), uncomfortable climate conditions, and it may even influence things like local weather patterns (reducing rain totals) and local plants and wildlife.
Anyway, the idea is to plant as many trees as possible, thereby providing a foliage canopy which will help block the sun and stop roadways and rooftops from absorbing so much heat.
I think it's a great idea. Who doesn't like trees?
Anyway, they offered a couple of different trees to pick from, but I picked Mexican Oaks because they supposedly grow fast, live a pretty long time, and, of course, provide good shade.
Anyhoo, I just wanted to blog about the NeighborWoods program because I think it's cool (no pun intended) and it shows a lot of foresight in terms of keeping Austin the kind of town that's great to live in.
And there's a big investigation getting underway into the voter registration activities of ACORN, the Association of Community Organizers for Reform Now. Apparently the group has submitted thousands of fraudulent voter registration forms, and is suspected of having done so in a number of states. Voter registration forms have been submitted by ACORN which have, among other violations, the names and information for people who are known to be deceased, forms with addresses for people which are clearly false because there are no residences at those addresses, and large numbers of other forms which all seem to have the exact same signature and handwriting.
The accusations and evidence are both confusing and disappointing. The accusations are disappointing because ACORN seems, on its face, to be an organization with a fairly honorable, noble goal- getting people out to vote (the conservatives aren't a big fan of the program because ACORN tends to focus on registering the urban poor and disenfranchised who might otherwise feel that it's pointless to vote, and this population, once registered and energized, often tends to lean toward the left). The accusations are confusing because it's not really clear what someone might hope to gain by fraudulently registering a bunch of fake voters who are, presumably, never going to show up at the polls on voting day (voters typically have to show ID in order to vote at the polls, so it would be quite difficult for a large number of frauduluent voters to assume the identities of dead people of fictitious people or whatever), and it's equally unclear why someone involved in such a scheme might go about their illegal activities in such an obvious, easily discovered way (I mean, the exact same handwiriting on hundreds of forms is bound to catch someone's attention, as are the use of fake addresses or the identities of dead people).
The whole thing is very strange. I guess I see two major possibilities. One is that I would say that some people working for ACORN got greedy and/or lazy (maybe they get paid more or think they will look more impressive to their peers if they get more people signed up to vote, so they took some large and poorly-thought-out shortcuts). On the other hand, ACORN and similar groups have been facing allegations of voter fraud and corruption for years and you would think that ACORN workers would be aware that they're under a great deal of scrutiny. A second option is that I wouldn't rule out the possibility that someone with an anti-ACORN agenda turned in a bunch of obviously fraudulent ACORN registration forms (how hard is it to get ahold of one of their forms and then photocopy a bunch of them?) in the hopes of getting ACORN into trouble (basically a frame-up). I know that this kind of conspiracy theory probably makes me sound like a totally wild eyed liberal, but Rush Limbaugh and similar pundits have been blasting ACORN and similar groups for years (accusing them of fraud and wrongdoing when they weren't simply bemoaning the fact that ACORN was helping people to register who were "too lazy to do it for themselves"), so it wouldn't take much for me to see some rabid conservative supporters trying to take matters into their own hands to try to derail this organization.
Anyhoo, it'll be interesting to see how it all unfolds. This kid of stuff has been going on for awhile, but the intesity seems to have been turned up through the last few elections. Typically the Republicans accuse people of the left of voter fraud and the fraudulent registration of voters, while the Democrats end up accusing Republicans of voter suppression (i.e., finding ways of making it very difficult, if not impossible, for voters in Democratic areas to vote on election day. Suppression tactics involve moving polling locations at the last moment, intentionally creating extremely long lines which are very inconvenient to wait in, or even spreading rumors that police will be checking for traffic/child support/criminal warrants at the polls). All of this doesn't even take into account the arguments from both sides about ballot manipulation or possible tampering with electronic voting machines. Given how high emotions are running for this campaign, I predict that there are going to be plenty of allegations to go around on both sides before this whole thing is over.

Well, that's about all that I have for the moment. It's looking to be a good weekend, so I hope you guys enjoy it.

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