Restore rights to ex-offenders

A recent forum in Chicago on the expungement of criminal records of ex-offenders, held at Roberto Clemente High School, featured a diverse panel of elected officials and community leaders. We learned about state legislation awaiting Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s signature to give persons with non-violent misdemeanor convictions a second chance by establishing an expungement program that would recognize factual innocence, provide for a certificate of disability and good conduct, and assist ex-offenders in finding jobs.

Ex-offenders in the audience were asked to identify employers who rejected their job applications because of their criminal record. Some of the ex-offenders told their stories and were directed to persons who could help them. Our elected officials and community leaders asked for our help, our massive and committed support. Our voices, addressing the rights and concerns of ex-offenders and their families, need to be heard loud and clear, including picketing and boycotting offending employers.

One of the clearest challenges for us as a community, city, and state is to change the perception of “once an ex-offender, always ex-offender.” At the end of the forum, the ex-offenders availed themselves of legal assistance, job help, and job training opportunities. I left the forum both educated and inspired.

David NekimkenChicago IL

Terminator as ‘farce’

When Karl Marx wrote, about the rise of Napoleon III, that history repeats itself, the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce, modern mass media had not yet given us the rerun. If Ronald Reagan’s political career was a farcical replay of the McCarthyite 1950s (in 1965, he initially told a group of wealthy backers that he did not know if he could be an effective governor of California because he had never played a governor in the movies), Arnold Schwarzenegger’s entering the bizarre California recall election is recycled and very low farce.

The former Mr. Universe, known for his portrayal of mythical barbarians and robots from the future, has thrown his barbells into the ring with a pledge that he will “clean house” in Sacramento (he does have servants) and stand heroically above special interests. When another Austrian came to Germany after WWI and made similar promises, it had disastrous consequences for the world. California’s fiscal crisis is a direct result of the disastrous policies of the Bush administration and a federal government which spends the people’s tax money for military and corporate subsidies and trickles down responsibilities for basic human needs to state and local governments.

Today, the entire California state debt, a center of the crisis, is a little more than two weeks of Bush administration military spending. Absorbing California’s debt would be a real solution to the problems facing California. Putting Arnold Schwarzenegger in the governor’s mansion would only increase job opportunities for comedians.

Norman MarkowitzNew Brunswick NJ

Child tax credit denied

I did not qualify for the child tax credit. I make more than minimum wage, but I only work 36 hours a week. My income is about $22,000 a year. I want to know if this is going to be bill passed or has it already passed for the low income families to receive the child tax credit.

Dedravia e-mail

Editor’s note: An amendment to extend the child tax credit to households earning less than $26,000 has been blocked by the Republicans in the House of Representatives. About seven million families, with about 12 million children, are being cruelly denied this benefit. Child advocacy and labor groups urging citizens to put pressure on Congress and Bush to pass the amendment when Congress reconvenes.

Signs for peace and justice

The Olympia Fellowship of Reconciliation vigils two times every week at two prominent locations in downtown Olympia. Although some of our signs are rather pointed (e.g., “Bush lied” has been getting good responses), I much prefer signs that are worded positively rather than negatively and signs that invite people to a better way rather than blame them implicitly or explicitly.

Effective vigil signs should have the fewest possible words, so people can quickly read them as they pass by. Here are some examples: “All nations are ONE human family,” “All people are ONE human family,” “Bush’s pals get rich from war,” “Dissent is how America makes progress,” “Feed the people, not the Pentagon,” “It is about oil,” “Protect our troops from this reckless foreign policy,” “Speak truth to power,” “Yes, YOU can do something for peace.”

Glen AndersonLacey WA