Government 
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How to Request Presidential Inauguration Tickets

US Capitol BuildingIf you’ve been thinking about going to the inaugural ceremony of the 44th President of the United States, wait in line. A week or two ago, scalpers were trying to sell tickets to the inauguration on sites like StubHub and eBay for thousands of dollars. No one told the prospective buyers that tickets hadn’t even been issued yet! In fact, no one has tickets to sell in the first place because they won’t be issued until early January. There are only 240,000 tickets for the West Front of the Capitol, where the inauguration takes place, but most of those seats don’t have much of a view either. 240,000 tickets – not many at all.

How do you get an inauguration ticket? The best thing you can do is submit a request through your state’s Senators and Representatives (each are supposedly getting 200-500 a piece), though that likely will not result in much as they’ve all been inundated with requests. Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland, one of the Senators I requested tickets from, recently emailed me to say that they received 55,000 requests already and they are estimated to get only 400 tickets (some of which they will likely keep for themselves). All the names will be put into a drawing and winners notified in January.

While people recommend you locate the Senator and Representative representing your district, it probably doesn’t hurt to just ask them all. I don’t think it’d be worth it to ask those outside your home state though.

Expanding the area: The Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, the committee overseeing the inaugural, is looking into expanding the number of people allowed in the official inaugural zone (that 240k area). We’ll see how that goes.

If all else fails, you can always go to the National Mall and try to catch the inauguration on a huge Jumbotron. You won’t need tickets to go to the National Mall but you will have to fight with huge crowds just to get there. Most will be traveling by mass transit, probably the Metro train system, so good luck. If you aren’t a fan of crowds (just to see it on a Jumbotron, no less), you can always just flip on the TV.

However you ultimately choose to view the inaugural, it’ll be historic all the same.

(Photo: martinstelbrink)


 Personal Finance 
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On the 2008 Presidential Election

Last night was a historic night.

However, it’s historic not just because Barack Obama, the first African American nominee of a major political party, was elected President, thought that certainly was historic, or because the margin of victory was so great, there have been bigger.

It was because we saw what hard work and dedication in America can accomplish. So many people, my parents included, come to America seeking a better life for themselves and their children. My dad bought a one way ticket from Taiwan to the United States to go to college. He could have stayed in Taiwan and been quite comfortable. He could speak his native tongue, live where he grew up, worked with people he’s known his entire life, but this was America. The land of opportunity.

Many people point to Barack Obama’s achievements as inspiration that the American dream is still alive, to which I cannot disagree. However, I argue that John McCain’s ascension to the Republican Presidential nominee is equally impressive. Age discrimination is very real in this country, though less offensive to many for a variety of reasons, and we were not far from electing the oldest President of the United States. John McCain was a tireless public servant, a hard working American, and no one can doubt his patriotism – and he was rewarded with the Republican nomination. It did upset me to see him upset last night, you almost never want to see someone of his caliber of character see defeat in that way (McCain’s brief bio on Wikipedia).

Barack Obama’s story is pretty well known (Wikipedia has a quick recap of that) so I won’t rehash it but the fact that he was the Democratic nominee is also impressive. I thought his acceptance speech was clear – this was only the chance to begin the work, not the work itself. It contained all the usual political stuff but I thought the story about Ann Nixon Cooper was very touching. You can read the transcript of the speech here and listen to it here (I’m sure video will be available later if you search for it).

Hard work still pays off in America, that was something we lost faith in for the last few years. Now it’s time to build on it.


 Government 
34
comments

I Voted for Barack Obama

I voted for Barack Obama.

I walked into the polling location, sign in, voted, and walked out in what felt like five minutes. Then my wife and I headed over to Chik-fil-a where we thought they were giving away sandwiches (the one near us wasn’t!). We ate there anyway because Chick-fil-a is a good place and then snagged our free coffee’s from Starbucks across the street. Not a bad voting experience!

Now, I hope you all won’t mind if I share a few thoughts about my decision. I share some of the same feelings about him as Marc Andreessen, who is pretty well known in Silicon Valley and, among other things, helped create Mosaic. Here are some of my other thoughts about him, the Election, John McCain, etc. I don’t write much about politics, I know it’s a heated topic and I try not to play with fire too much, but this is pretty much a brain dump and feel free to share your own in the comments.

There are two things I feel the next President has to do:

  • Improve our standing in the world – The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, how the Bush administration justified it (great and scary Frontline doc about it), and everything else have really knocked the United States down a peg or two or ten. I believe Barack Obama has both the charisma and the humility to improve how the world sees us.
  • Reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, especially foreign oil, and reduce our impact on the environment – Obama has said that our approach to finding alternative sources of energy should mirror that of Kennedy’s approach to landing on the moon, I really think we do need a goal like that. It’s unfortunate that so much of politics is dominated by groups with a huge stake in maintaining our reliance on fossil fuels (coal industry is huge in the swing states of PA and OH, Detroit automakers are detrimentally tied to gas guzzlers, Big Oil needs no explanation).

I don’t think McCain or Obama will be able to cut taxes, the economic conditions are such that cutting taxes is near impossible. Taxes will go up and they will have to go up. I bet we’ll see the Social Security maximum raised, some brackets shifting upwards (less so for the lower brackets), and some tax cuts permitted to sunset. It’s like elder Bush and his famous “Read my lips, no new taxes” line that he had to renege on – the realities of the environment will dominate any promises.

As for the big focus on “wealth redistribution?” We’ve been doing it for years, it’s called the progressive tax system. While it seems like you’re punishing success and being a bit socialist, the alternative is far worse. Imagine a nation where there is an upper class and a very large lower class with few economic opportunities, filled with anger, desperation, and despair, and with very few options. Not pretty huh? America is still the land of opportunity, even if success is taxed a little more.

The funny part is how the Bush’s tax cuts, coupled with ridiculous spending, redistributed wealth from the poor to the rich. It was a little sleight of hand though The cuts lowered taxes on the rich (no one upset by that huh?)by lowering capital gains. Lowering capital gains is a huge coup for anyone who was rich because they were more likely invested in things that give capital gains (stock market, real estate). If you were in the top tax bracket of 35%, long term capital gains is a mere 15%… that’s a 20% discount! This also had the effect of making the stock market more appealing, which boosts share prices, which makes everyone feel richer.

I am a little concerned about how Democrats will control both the Legislative and Executive branches, but I’m OK with it for now. I do like the idea of checks and balances. The bail out bill was four pages long when it was first introduced, thankfully a Democrat legislature and a Republican executive existed to slow it down and put a little framing around it. While I often complain about the slowness of government, in this case I’m glad things weren’t rushed. While having a single party control both branches is a little disconcerting, I’ve come to terms with that.

As for Joe the Plumber? Comedy. Pure comedy. I don’t know how the nation was convinced that someone earning $250K was somehow considered a “regular Joe.” If you make $250,000 (if it’s a business, that’s $250,000 profit), I’d say you’re doing pretty good.

Finally, I have the utmost respect for John McCain. I liked him far more before he adopted his strategy to appear closer to Bush to appeal to the Republican base (something I learned in Choice 2008, another great Frontline doc) but that’s part of the political game. I don’t fault him for his involvement in the Keating Five scandal and I think he’d make a fine President if he were elected.

If you haven’t voted yet, please go and vote.


 Government 
22
comments

Did You Vote Yet?

I Voted - American Flag

That simple question is enough to get a lot of people to vote.

So, I’m curious, did you vote yet? If so, and you are so bold, for whom did you vote for?

This afternoon I’ll post mine if you post yours. :)

(As of this posting, I have not yet voted, but I will soon; I’ll remove this sentence once I’ve voted)

(Photo: orangejack)


 Personal Finance 
6
comments

Don’t Vote (Just Kidding!)

Happy Election Day! Today is Election Day in the United States, where citizens can cast their vote for the person they feel is best fit to be the next President of the United States. You should celebrate your right to vote, one of the rights afforded to you as a citizen and protected every single day by our naton’s bravest sons and daughters, by going to the polls and casting your vote.

Or you could skip it. (watch the video!)

(If you vote today, you can get a free tall brewed coffee from Starbucks for free… or a scoop of Ben & Jerry’s – see? carrot and stick!)


 Government 
3
comments

Barack Obama vs. John McCain Dance Off

To help prepare you for the awesomeness that is Election Day on Tuesday, I think that the next President should, at the very least, win a dance off.

Who do you think is the winner? Statistics has shown that in a head to head dance off, the dance off winner often goes on to win the election 78.5% of the time. That, and 90% of statistics are made up.

Have a great weekend!


 Government 
2
comments

Please Register to Vote

Please watch this video.

If you haven’t registered to vote, please register to vote. It really takes only a few minutes to register and you’ll only have to do it this once. Either go to MTV’s Rock The Vote or Voter Information via Google Maps (or your state’s election website) and register right now. The deadline is coming up soon (in some places, it’s as soon as October 4th) and you can always change your mind about actually voting. If you don’t register, you cannot vote and not even having the option is a sad thing.

Unlike all the emails you write to your friends or the arguments you have with co-workers around the water cooler, you actually get heard when you cast your vote.


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