Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Does time lessen the crime?

Hard to imagine Timothy McVeigh serving less than a decade for the terrorist attack he helped orchestrate at the Oklahoma City Federal Building. Hard to imagine releasing any of the Guantanamo Bay prisoners for the time the six or so years many have spent there. So where is the outrage over the release of Sara Jane Olson?

Having been a toddler during the period that the Symbionese Liberation Army wreaked havoc on California in the 1970s, there is little in my memory to put the events of those days into context. Were they a disciplined group to be feared or simply a hodge podge of disorganized radicals bent on getting attention? Who was it that defended the SLA’s aggressive tactics and who was it that found their methods repulsive? How did this radical group fit into the political culture and dialogue of the time? Did they have supporters or were they deemed a common enemy of public safety and American life? Hard to know given the scant news coverage that Sara Jane Olson’s parole is generating. There is little to find other than the standard wire story detailing the conditions of her release to her husband, her relocation to Minnesota and an ultra-brief almost clinical recap of her crimes.

But terrorist – domestic or international – is a word that strikes fear in our hearts. And it applies to Sara Jane Olson. Olson was convicted of planting homemade nail bombs under a police car and of participating in a bank robbery and shootout that resulted in the death of an innocent woman. The bank robbery was intended to fund the SLA operation. Serious crimes and the work of domestic terrorists, no doubt. But Olson’s seven-year prison sentence has been determined sufficient punishment for the crimes.

Are Olson’s positive contributions after her SLA days and while she was on the run from authorities swaying opinion in her favor? After all, living a new life in Minnesota she was known to her neighbors as a caring community volunteer, dedicated mother and wife, and regular church-goer. Did this evidence of a changed character make her worthy of a lighter sentence? Or was justice less severe because her crimes were committed decades ago, those memories faded in the public memory?

I have no idea, but it does make me wonder if today’s terrorists will one day be viewed as “harmless” when their hair has grayed and their idealistic passion faded.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Stimulus is not a bailout

If I hear one more person say, “I’m against the stimulus because they screwed up last fall’s bailout” I am going to scream. A lot and very loudly – right in that stupid person’s ear. The two are not the same thing – they are not even close. The bailout was just that – a handout (welfare if you will) to the banks so that (in theory) markets would still function. It was rushed through and now we are stuck with no oversight and little transparency as to how the banks are using the money. Questionable policy that was dismally executed.

But the plan under consideration now is not another bailout. It is a completely different beast that President Obama is desperately trying to get through Congress. And there are plenty of reasons not to like it. Will it create anything close to the 4 million jobs lost over the past couple of years? And will those be good-paying jobs that will last longer than the six months it takes to complete a construction project? No way to say for sure. Too expensive, too many tax cuts, not enough tax cuts, too much spending, earmarks that belong in annual appropriations bills not a stimulus package…the list of criticisms is long. But opposing the stimulus package because of what happened with last fall’s bailout is simple ignorance.

Stimulus comes with strings (in theory). The money handed out to states and municipalities would get projects moving quickly, putting people to work and pushing money around. This is money that would eventually land in the hands of actual working people. It would create jobs and provide services. It would mean fewer layoffs in the government sector and more jobs in the private sector as companies bid on service and construction projects. There is no bailout. Consider that Nevada will have difficulty accessing some of the money available in the stimulus package because existing state services don’t meet requirements for a bigger federal check.

Will the Stimulus plan stop the economic freefall of the past few months? No one knows. More probably needs to be done to deal with the foreclosure epidemic. Still, economists warn of the dire consequences of doing nothing. And though a few disagree, most economists are saying the government must do something. Doing nothing would be disastrous.

This is also what we elected Barack Obama to do. We elected him to implement a vision. And we need to trust that he will not let us down. It’s arguable that he has more to lose than just about anyone if this effort fails. Hard working Americans can climb out of whatever hole is dug and start anew. We’ve done it before. Not so much for President Obama – if this thing fails, so does his presidency.

So go ahead and oppose the Stimulus plan. Just be clear about what it is that you’re against.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

An Open Letter to My Republican Friends

Dear Friends,

I know how you feel today. It is near impossible not to get swept up – at least a little bit – in the heady patriotism that overtakes us all every four or eight years when we witness the peaceful exchange of leadership of our country. Even when it’s not your guy or gal who emerged the victor and stands before us all to take the oath of office, it takes a cold heart not to be captured by the pageantry and sense of history that is evoked on Inauguration Day.

I understand that mix of emotions. Eight years ago, I watched with bittersweet pride as George W. Bush took the oath of office. I did not vote for him. I did not like the policies he proposed during his campaign. I did not like what he stood for and I was apprehensive about the direction he would take the country. But when the clock struck noon on that January Day in 2001, I supported him. Despite the controversy, our democratic process had resulted in his election as President and I supported him. I put my faith and trust in him and the office he swore to protect and putting my apprehension aside, I claimed him as my president.

When the unthinkable occurred on Sept. 11, I looked to him for strength and leadership. And I supported him. When he vowed revenge on those who had devastated the lives of thousands of Americans, I nodded my head in agreement. And I supported him. When he ordered our service men and women to war in Afghanistan, I supported him. I protested going to war in Iraq but once he made the call as our Commander-in-Chief, I supported him. That is what Americans do.

I did my best to support President Bush for as long as I could. It wasn’t until I felt that the trust and faith I had put in him had been abused and cast aside, that I stopped supporting him. When my dissention became reason to be called un-American, I could no longer support him. I will always respect the office but how could I support the man who had clearly stated that if I wasn’t with him, I was against him. It is sad day when Americans are chastized for speaking their minds when it is that type of discourse that makes America unique.

But today is a new Inauguration Day. And like it is every four or eight years, this day marks a new beginning. A clean slate and a chance to lead America and its citizens to the greatness possible only in our amazing country. So, I ask my Republican friends to do their best and support our new President. Give him a chance. Let him give you a reason to lose your faith and trust before you take it from him.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Go Away Joe

So Joe the pseudo plumber is now going to be Joe the pseudo journalist? I’m going to be sick – and not in the pseudo sense.

Seems that anybody with a pen, paper, and a decent set of eyes is calling themselves a journalist. Adding your voice to the public dialogue is a civic duty to be sure, but that doesn’t translate into every voice claiming the professional title. Don’t misunderstand – anyone and everyone should and must participate in a public dialogue about the issues we face. Everyone must be a part of the conversation if we are to find real, sustainable solutions. Democracy is about all voices being heard.

But Joe? This character embodies everything that is divisive and hollow about politics and the media today. What could have been an insightful dialogue between a candidate and a voter was distorted and aggrandized into a sound bite feeding frenzy that has forever embeded “Joe the Plumber” into our vernacular. What value has that contributed to the public dialogue? It’s just another distraction that sucks up so much air in the room that the real issues – a broken health care system, failing schools, a shattered economy – lie suffocating and straining to be heard.

I wish Joe’s 15 minutes were up already. I’m tired of the distraction when we’ve got work to do.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009


In the final scene of the film “Doubt” Sister Aloysius Beauvier, played by Meryl Streep, shatters all perceptions of her as stoic and hard-fast in her belief in the Church and the absolute code of right and wrong that she follows. She collapses into the arms of Sister James, played by the amazing Amy Adams, and through her tears cries out, ‘I have doubts.”

It’s been two days since I saw this movie and that scene is stuck in my head. There are many powerful scenes in this film – especially moving is the scene between Sister Aloysius and Mrs. Miller in which much of the backdrop to this story becomes clear. But the final scene with the two sisters has gripped me and won’t go away. How can someone so absolute in herself, her role in life, and her dedication to God have doubts? I am bewildered as I have always envied believers for possessing a certainty about all things that escapes me and my secular life. From what follows death to what to eat, people of religious faith have seemed to me to have absolute answers. A strict code to live by – black and white with little, if any, gray to muddle things up.

I think this scene sticks with me because Sister Aloysius' doubts have given me permission to give myself a break. Without faith to guide me, I am left to my own devices and who knows if my compass is indeed accurate. Am I good enough? Nice enough? Smart Enough? Tough enough? Attractive enough? I’m sure these self-doubts are common but I often think there’s no way that others doubt themselves the same harsh way that I do. Coming home from a dinner, party or meeting, I will run the entire events’ conversation through my head. Did I say something silly or inappropriate? Did I offend in some way? Was I clever or more of a bore? What do those who just shared my time think of me, what I did, what I said? And at the end of this litany I always arrive at the same two questions: What can I do about it now and does it really matter as much as I think it does?

The answers are invariably very little and no. So, I think logically, I should stop doubting myself and move on. While I’m worrying about what just happened, others are likely moving on to what will happen next. Now, thanks to Sister Aloysius (and the amazing writer John Patrick Shanley), perhaps I can actually do that. It took a movie to show me that everyone has doubts, even those who seem certain. Maybe now I will spend less time doubting and more time just doing.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

First Post -- Welcome!

Now my husband can stop bitching. Or maybe I can stop bitching. Not sure which of us this will be more helpful/cathartic for. If the poor guy can't get out the door before I've read the paper and seen the morning news, he is doomed to at least a dozen rhetorical questions related to the ridiculousness/stupidity/insanity of whatever I've heard or read.

He's been pushing me for a LONG time to channel all of that into a blog. A fan of many blogs, My Baby says that there are those out there who will find and read it. And even think it is interesting. I suppose I buy into the first two -- the third, well, we'll see.

So, I will regularly post and I hope someone reads it -- besides My Baby, that is! Even more, it is my sincere hope that what lives here will be entertaining to read and give something for brains to chew on. Feedback is crucial so please gimme whatcha got.

So here it is Baby. Thanks for the shove.