Your Views


It Pays to Pay Attention

To The editor,

A week ago, I got an exciting start to my morning as I was nearly run over by a car while out for a run in my neighborhood.

The driver was coasting through a stop sign while looking for oncoming traffic in the opposite direction. She heard my hands hit the hood of her car as I attempted to get out of the way. With a horrified look on her face she slammed on the brakes and immediately inquired about my health in a worried tone. I chose to shoot her a glare and be on my way.

Later, I felt bad because by the look on her face it was clear to me that she was a nice person and suffered a momentary lapse of attention. It happens to all of us. So if you were making a right turn close to the King Street Metro Station in a grey/silver SUV around 9:30 a.m. on Friday, October 24, 2008, Im sorry for the nasty look I gave you and I am indeed quite fine.

My letter today is to all drivers (and joggers). Please take time to be careful out there. Not just for my sake, but for the sake of your own families. Too often, we are all carried away in the immediacy of demands in our own lives and we forget to do simple things like being safe drivers. Since we live in a litigious society, being a safe driver is in your best interest. For those occasional lapses of attention, we also need to make sure we have proper car insurance coverage.

In my work as a financial advisor, I educate clients on the importance of maintaining proper protections. In this case, maintaining protection from a lawsuit in the event of a car accident. A driver that hits a pedestrian and causes them to be out of work for a long time or even permanently in the case of death may get sued for lost wages. A 35-year old person may work for another 30-years. My neighborhood has folks that earn anywhere from $20,000 to upwards of $400,000 a year. For the sake of my letter, well choose a $100,000/year earner that is permanently disabled or killed due to negligent driving.

The economic term for this calculation of the lawsuit award is called Human Life Value (HLV). For a person in their 30s, their HLV is roughly 20 times the income, or $2 million. Your current car insurance coverage may be woefully inadequate to protect your familys future wealth from this unintended event. For a few hundred dollars a year, you may be able to stack additional coverage (called Umbrella Insurance) that can help protect you from this type of event.

In closing, please be careful driving out there a decision not to can change your life forever in an instant. If you dont have Umbrella Coverage, I encourage you to call your agent today and learn more about it.  As for me, Ill choose to be more careful when crossing intersections while jogging.

  John W. Crane,

Moran of Mordor

To the editor,

To quoteth (paraphrase) your current congressman Moran:  Republicans suffer under the misapprehension that people with money should be allowed to keep their money.  You folks in the rolling hills of Fairfax, Alexandria, Falls Church, George Mason U et al., just made history …. you elected the most honest Democrat in the House in decades.  I cannot thank you enough.  For you I can only quote Gandalf, hanging off a rocky precipice in the caves of Mordor….

Fly, you fools!

He then plunged into seeming years of darkness and pain, and came back a conservative in a nice white suit, and killed lots and lots of bad guys.

Grant L. Manhart, D.M.
Professor, Northern State University
Aberdeen, SD

Community Organizer in Chief

To the editor,

If nations are imagined communities, the practical experience and outlook President-elect Obama acquired as a community organizer in Chicago are among his most vital attributes in leading the United States through its most recent transition through history. In much the same way communities experience waves of transitions from poor to rich and back, nations, too, must find ways to navigate past recession and insecurity. The unremarkable history of a community in Washington D.C., provides useful parallels and lessons for how President-elect Obama and former community organizer might draw on his own unique experiences to navigate his imagined community over the course of the next four years.

On November 4th, 2008, I spent the morning inside a coffee shop run by Ethiopian immigrants in Washington, D.C. The coffee shop is situated in what local real-estate pamphlets call a transitioning neighborhood.  The neighborhood is one of Washingtons oldest. It lies behind Union Station, off the railroad tracks. There are old buildings Unique Pre-wars! as one real estate agents advertisement exclaims with ornate facades but failing foundations. Bricks that have fallen off the side of the buildings build up blocking the sidewalk. Homeless, bearded and mostly black males sleep in the crevasses that separate the piles either oblivious or utterly conscious that at any point another brick may come crashing down on them.

Signs of hope, though, are on the horizon. Recently, the city has invested in community organizing initiatives that have revitalized businesses, job opportunities and provided incentive to large developers. One developer, already, has built luxury condos at the heel of the neighborhood, providing some legitimacy to increasingly risk-averse investors. So, yes, the community is transitioning. Its transition is one that residents can feel cautiously optimistic about, though. The direction it appears to be surging towards is positive: towards growth, more safety, security and prosperity for its residents.

The scene in this neighborhood in Washington D.C. on November 4th, 2008, is cast against the image of a nation which is also in transition. But in transition, it seems, in the opposite direction. Already the falling bricks of its foundation are visible, piling up in the form of defaulted loans, market failures and tremendous strategic challenges, from Iraq and Afghanistan to North Korea and Pakistan.

Its status within the international system is blighted. The BRICs countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China), as Goldman Sachs identified and on which it currently relies for its solvency, are fast approaching Americas economic stature and are soon to overtake it. Americas economy is in a free-fall, economists are clueless as to its cure. The bailout plan engineered to save the system on which much of Americas economy might rest, has already been issued its own bailout. In its post-mortem, AIG, the largest international insurer and the eye around which the economic storm revolves, has already shown it to be in worse condition than originally thought. The economys foundation is fast becoming a pile of bricks.

Economic problems beget foreign policy problems. As countless historians have shown, where ones economy goes so too does its influence in trade and military affairs. While one war has reached a stasis, another rages on. Russia, Iran and Pakistan remain intransigent strategic challenges to the international system. Climate change, healthcare and social security, normally big-ticket issues, have already been put on the backburner.  And if polls are any indication, the administration which President-elect Obama will pick up after is among the most failed in recent American history. The United States, then, is in transition.

Community organizers take over when politicians and administrations fail. In 2005, when Hurricane Katrina left thousands displaced and stranded, community organizers helped coordinate, communicate and rebuild. Community organizers offer alternatives to intractable political treaties, such as Kyoto, that have failed to create global consensus and action. The mantra think globally, act locally is born of a community organizing ethos and poses practical steps forward in its focus on grassroots acti
on. Faith-based outreach groups, which are essential outgrowths of community organizing projects, help to drain the swamp of want and need that breads violence and insecurity.

Barack Obama speaks positively of his community organizing days, The best education I ever had, better than anything I got at Harvard Law School. And his wife, now First Lady-in-waiting, Michele Obama, thinks him more a community organizer than politician, [H]es a community activist exploring the viability of politics to make change. President-elect Obama will have to draw deeply on his community organizing days and act progressively to ensure the transition is a good one for the United States in order for it to once again show itself to be a flourishing community in a neighborhood of nations.

Eliot Pence
The writer was Deputy Field Organizer for Barack Obamas presidential campaign in Alexandria.