Thursday, March 26, 2009

Hi, I'm Pat. Will you hire me?

It's downright depressing.

I am 48, with a J.D. and a lot of life skills under my belt, with a recent work history with a former supervisor who is willing to praise me to the skies at a workplace where (I have been told) I am still much missed, and for all intents and purposes I am an entry level employee.

You see, I was at my last job less than three years. And it was a part time job, at that. Before that? A homemaker for twelve years.

Volunteer work? Doesn't count -- not paid. Legal work and law school? Doesn't count, too long ago. Anything before law school? Forget it.

I can write. I can oversee projects. I can coordinate. I can problem solve and troubleshoot. I am a big-picture person. My people skills, according to an art instructor who called to see under what conditions I would return to work at PAL if she could get them to pay me, are "phenomenal." I can get along with just about anyone -- my customer service abilities are kick ass. (I'm not that good of a sales person, though.)

At my last employer, I developed a reputation for calm under fire. (Oddly enough, I often totally fail to bring this quality to my personal life.) I was the one who talked to the difficult instructors, the difficult students. And you know what? I didn't mind doing so. People who would be routinely abusive towards other staff would back off with me.

Oh, and I can data-mine, and I know Word and a limited amount of Excel, and am taking classes in April in Power Point and Access.

I would be an asset to your organization.

Problem is, I am an entry level employee at a time when there have been mass layoffs in my area. Employers are asking for people with two to five times my level of experience -- and getting them -- because they can. Add to this my necessity for a flexible schedule, and I am going to have a damn hard time finding a full-time job, or even a part-time job that pays what I need it to.

I am having a difficult time figuring out even what I should be looking for. I have not seen a lot of jobs in the public/private sector that correspond to my former non-profit job. I did an online job assessment, and some of the answers came back: counselor, clergy, and librarian. In other words, occupations which would take yet more schooling, for which I don't have the time or money. Or, in the case of "Clergy," no calling and possibly not the temperament. The only one that seemed slightly reachable was "First Line Supervisor of Maintenance Personnel."

So I am at a crossroads. I need a job, sooner rather than later, and it is almost certain I will end up with something less than my abilities can contribute. Hopefully I will end up with an employer who will give me an opportunity to grow the job to fit who I am.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Anyone who knows me for any length of time knows that I am irretrievably opposed to capital punishment. Nonetheless, some people just deserve to be taken out and shot: the doctor who published the study linking autism and the mumps, measles and rubella vaccine has been reported to have falsified data to get the results.

I am the mother of a high functioning autistic teenager. Although my son is now doing quite well, it has been a long, hard slog to get to where we are. I understand the frustration and the desire to find an answer -- any answer -- to "why did this happen?"

The MMR study was pernicious. Aside from creating unnecessary guilt in parents and unwarranted anger towards the pharmaceutical industry, its claims led thousands of parents to refuse to have their children vaccinated, on the grounds that they were risking a disease which was presented as almost worse than death.*

There is a reason vaccines were developed against these diseases. To dismiss them as "childhood diseases" ignores the fact that they can kill. When they strike adults, they can cause sterility, or in pregnant women, birth defects. (One of the questions I plan to ask my sons' fiancees when they get engaged is "Have you been vaccinated against rubella? If not, why the hell not?") And it's not just the MMR -- there are parents who refuse to allow their children to have any vaccines.* I have heard some argument about the chickenpox vaccine, and am less dogmatic about that one, but the MMR? And the Diptheria Pertussis Tetanus vaccine? Every child should have those.

Fortunately, we eradicated smallpox -- and polio in the Western world, although it still occurs in Africa and parts of Asia -- before the anti-vaccination hysteria took hold.

There are people who cannot be vaccinated due to honest to God allergic reactions to the vaccine or the ingredients they are made from. But when most people have been vaccinated (i.e., above 95%), the society as a whole becomes immune, protecting even those few individuals who cannot be immunized otherwise.

Vaccination is not merely to protect the individual, it is a civic responsibility; to shirk it is not just poor parenting, it is a failure of proper citizenship.

*And do not get me started on the people who claim that they can "cure" autism, like Jenny McCarthy. Just don't.

Do you like it?

New Administration, new look.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

So this week, in his first week in office, President Obama* signed an executive order stating that the detention center at Guantanamo Bay was to be closed in a year. There were immediate protests.

A few, from the very far left, complained that a year was a long time . Well, duh. Due process, which is what is needed here, takes time. You can't simply dismantle something as large as Gitmo, and arrange for the proper disposition of the detainees.

Some of these people are dangerous. Very dangerous. They need to be treated as such.
Some of these people are not dangerous. They need to be treated as such.

Figuring out which is which will take time and the operation of law, the same as it would for any criminal.

The other protest comes from the right, and can be best summed up by the Fox News Headline : "Do you want terrorists in your backyard?"

Funny thing, that. We already have terrorists in our backyard. Remember Eric Rudolph, guilty of abortion clinic bombings and the centennial park bombings? And then there are the Oklahoma City conspirators. We had Timothy McVeigh up until we executed him. Terry Nichols is serving life. Mike Fortier, who testified against McViegh and Nichols at trial for the Oklahoma City bombings, got only twelve years in prison. We have the Unibomber, Ted Kaszinki, and the terrorists behind the 1993 World Trade Center bombings.

We have serial killers. We have mass murderers. We have serial rapists. Somehow we are able to accommodate all these very violent criminals in our system, and keep the rest of us safe.

That's what maximum security prisons are for.

In any case, the purpose of Gitmo was so that suspects could be rounded up and kept under lock and key without due process of law, without the benefits of either the Geneva Conventions or habeas corpus. The Bush Administrati0on fought tooth and nail to delay actually letting any of the detainees have their day in court. Not that they didn't have enablers: the Military Commissions Act passed by Congress in 2006 stripped detainees of some of their most basic rights. (The Military Commissions Act was struck down by a 5-4 vote in the Supreme Court in June, 2008.)

Consider the case of Mohammed El Gharani, who was 14 years old when he was captured in Pakistan some seven years ago. He has been at Guantanamo since then. The U.S. government, according to the findings of U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon, had relied mainly upon statements from two other Guantanamo prisoners in determining that El Gharani was an enemy combatant. These statements, the judge found, were inconsistent, unverified, and not backed up by any other evidence. In short, the sort of thing that would have been tossed out of court had the young man been tried in the U.S. seven years ago when he was first brought in to Gitmo. Judge Leon ordered his release and for the government to the make all arrangements forthwith.

Seven years. Seven years based on unverified reports by other prisoners already in the hands of people who have admitted to using "enhanced interrogation techniques." I do have a concern that this young man is dangerous -- that we have radicalized him by his detention and treatment. That does not mean that we can continue to ignore our ideals, just that we may have increased risk to ourselves.

And then there is the case of the Chinese Uighurs. The Uighurs are a religious minority in China. They cannot be sent back there because they would be persecuted. The Justice Department doesn't want them sent to the United States. so they sit in detention at Gitmo, in limbo. The government claims that they would be a danger to the United States because they have had military weapons training.

So have many members of white supremacist groups. And, as my husband said, "we made the mess, we need to clean it up." And how can we ask other countries to take detainees if we won't ourselves?

In his inaugural address, Barack Obama said:
As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our founding fathers ... our found fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience's sake.
Nobody said it was going to be easy.

*Hee hee. The joy of saying that has not worn off yet.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

I don't know about you, but one of the things I am looking forward to with the new administration is the capacity to feel outrage over my government again.

For years, the Bush administration committed atrocity after atrocity. There was torture, there was the wiretapping without warrant of members of the public and the military, there was the blatant stifling of science in the name of political and religious agendas, there was the outing of a career CIA operative for political revenge, there was the politicization of the Justice Department and other parts of the administration which should never have been politicized, and I could go on. The Supreme Court had its share of bad decisions -- the Ledbetter decision chief among them -- and Congress, too, disappointed mightily, most notably in its refusal to hold people accountable.

After a while, it began to be too much. Another outrage against conscience, law, or common sense on the part of the President, the Court, or the Congress, elicited an emotional response of "Yeah, it happened again. So what else is new?" Burned out and jaded, I suffered from "outrage fatigue." When you expect absolutely the worst from your government, nothing it does can come as a surprise or a shock.

But this is a new day, to use a hackneyed phrase. I have hope and expectations for and from my new president, and from the new Congress. (I view the Supreme Court as a lost cause, at least for now.) I have standards they need to meet.

They are going to fail in some of them. In some cases it will be a difference of opinion, in some cases because I think they are just plain wrong, and in some cases dangerously wrong. Indeed, there are already one or two areas where I see the Administration heading off in what I think is the wrong direction. (Afghanistan? Really? And in a rather more trivial matter, we could discuss Rick Warren. Or not.)

Over the next four to eight years, I fully expect to be outraged by some of the decisions made by my government. It is an institution made by man, with all that that entails. The men and women who inhabit its branches will fall short, although hopefully from error rather from corruption.

But I have hope that they will not fail so much of the time. This, more than anything, makes the possibility of outrage so much more palatable than its certainty.