There are about 2.3 million Americans behind bars, and to be sure many of
them are very dangerous people. We spend $55 billion a year to keep them there -
taxpayer money that could go to education, alternative energy or helping the
elderly. Hundreds of thousands of those prisoners are there for using drugs or
selling them, a problem that reflects failure on many levels of our society.
Still, it is hard to believe there aren't tens of thousands of men and women
behind bars who've served enough time and are ready to live productive lives. So
it strikes me as extraordinarily sad that President Bush has chosen to pardon
only 14 people this year, and to commute only two prison sentences. In
his eight years in office, the president has pardoned only 171 people and issued
eight commutations - about half has many as Reagan did during his two terms. At
the same time, there's speculation the president may order immunity from
prosecution for anyone who tortured prisoners under his orders, a crime that
many Americans find unpardonable. Such is the state of justice in America during
the Bush administration.
P.A. MacLean, November 9, 2008
Lance Armstrong's return to pro riding may be the
best recycling story of 2008. At 37 he’s a senior citizen by cycling
standards. He’s not promising to compete for an eighth Tour
de France win, but is likely to take on the Giro
d’Italia, the Italian version of the French grand tour and something
he’s never done. Closer to home, he’ll be in California for the Amgen
Tour of California in February and that provides a great opportunity for
us “gutter jumpers,” the bike commuters who do the daily grind but have
visions of ourselves as a grand tour competitors. All this should provide
inspiration to us boomers who want to keep fit, start
a new sport or get better at the one we love.
Tom Murphy, November 3, 2008
Like tens of millions of Americans, I voted early. Like all, I probably
picked some winners and some losers. I think I chose wisely in all the contests
- don't we all? But I'm not going to be disappointed about the ones I missed. I
never am. We all share the planet, and that includes this country. We
may wish the outcome of an election went a different way, but we can't
change it after the fact. What we can do is work with one another to make the
best out of what we all decided together on election day. The spirit of sharing
goes beyond making a charitable contribution or redistributing wealth. It means
we share the responsibility for our world, our country and our towns. We share
that in the voting booth, and we must accept it afterwards.
Tom Murphy, October 15, 2008
Does it seem odd to you that, after a half-century, Ringo Starr has now asked
his fans to stop sending fan mail? That's right. suddenly it's, "No, no, no, no, I
don't read it no more." At 68, the former Beatle drummer says he's just too busy
to reply to letters, sign photographs and so on. So much for "all you need
is love," I guess. Still, for those of you still writing to Ringo (I'm
afraid I never did when I had the chance), one can only hope you'll find someone
new. I mean, really, look at all the lonely people! How about getting a
pen pal in an assisted living center who can fill you in on what that's like
from the inside? How about writing to your representatives in Congress?
How about writing a love note to your spouse, or - if you're single - someone you have a crush on? Surely you can find a more
practical use of your time. You can start it, "Dear Prudence."
Robin Evans, September 30, 2008
As the holidays approach, so will the solicitations
for charitable donations. For Americans primed for the next Great
Depression, it would be easy to just say no. But the nobility of our country has
always rested on offering a helping hand to the tired, the poor, the distressed
and the oppressed. And the helping hands have often been those very same people.
So those of us who have any resources at all should think twice this year,
despite our fears, and find it in our means to give something. Not just for the
hungry, the homeless, the elderly or their advocates - but for ourselves. The
harder it is to give, the more determination it takes - and the greater its
meaning in our own lives. And that's no small thing. Faced finally with the
bankruptcy of a culture of all-out consumerism and the amorality of an economic
system's complete disregard for anything but profit, we, with even the smallest
stretch to offer up the smallest of gifts, can begin to claim a nobler value for
the use of money.
Tom Murphy, September 13, 2008
Futuristic Vision No. 1: Cash-strapped American cities overrun by 78
million retired baby boomers find themselves unable to provide essential health,
safety and transportation services, leading to poverty, crime and decay.
Futuristic Vision No. 2: Retired volunteers, living in intergenerational
cohousing projects downtown, help cash-strapped cities provide needed health and
daycare services to all generations. If you'd opt for the second choice,
you may also want to pledge to an
innovative journalistic collaboration of RedwoodAge Senior Writer Cecily
O'Connor and Spot.Us, an organization that sponsors great journalism with
support from readers. For $25 or more, you can help produce a series of stories
about how the longevity revolution will affect the future of American cities -
maybe even your town. This is a great way to think about the future and to
share your vision with the world around you. Click
here for more info.
Robin Evans, August 30, 2008
John McCain's choice of vice presidential running mate Alaska
Gov. Sarah Palin seems to me a clear ploy to woo the Hillary women still
distraught over her failure to capture the Democratic nomination. Despite the
vast differences between McCain and Barak Obama, some Hillary supporters were
still threatening to vote Republican on the eve of Obama's official coronation.
It's such a ludicrous posture that I'm not certain Clinton's lauditory halt to
the roll-call vote her supporters had demanded -- which would have reminded
everyone just how close she came to being the first woman to run for president
-- and her admonishment "No McCain, No Way" will change their minds.
Perhaps their drive to have a woman in the White House trumps their desire for
change. Because I certainly wouldn't want to accuse them of emotionalism.
Cathy Bowman, August 18, 2008
Madonna and I, like, have so much in common. We're married with children. We
love to dance and we often wear black. We live in London. Ok, so she earns a wee
bit more, owns multiple houses in fabulous locations and has a better wardrobe.
Did I mention her large household staff, private gym, cook and who knows what? Now
Madge is 50. Amazing. Good for her for being all that she can be
(without joining the army) but don't ask me to make her my fashion icon. I don't
know what it feels like to be 50, but I'm sure I won't be wearing knee-length
knickers over tights on my way to the gym. Madonna's music is great to dance to,
but her children's books are torture to read. Gotta give the girl credit, though
- at least she's not shy about trying new things.
Cathy Bowman, August 9, 2008
The New Yorker does great cartoons. Some of the best feature a
familiar scene: a
therapist, a patient, a couch. They're good for a laugh, even
if therapy isn't what it used to be. I live near London, where shrinks
are about as common as vegans. I was sitting near a lovely manicured garden
recently talking to an Englishwoman who had just described a horrendous
situation facing her sister-in-law. What about therapy? I asked. “Oh no,”
she replied. “The English don't do therapy.” A friend jokes that
Americans run to their shrinks the minute their horoscopes look cloudy. Where
did she get this idea? Probably from reading about Manhattan psychotherapists
$600 per session. OK, so most of us aren't losing sleep over our art
collection (unless your kid just caught you sticking her drawings in the
recycling bin). Still, therapy has its place. People who find it useful should
be able to get it. Just don't expect to find The Bob Newhart Show when
you've tuned in to watch Desperate Housewives.
Cathy Bowman, July 25, 2008
Everyone needs a hero. At least I do. Most of my heroes are my friends and
family – people who inspire me to do my best. I want to believe in goodness,
kindness and a power greater than myself. I want to have hope and live my life
with passion – the kind of passion that filled Randy
Pausch, the Carnegie Mellon University professor who has died at the age
of 47. Millions of people have watched the "last
lecture" that Pausch delivered last year, not long after learning
he had terminal cancer. It's an amazing speech about achieving your childhood
dreams – heartbreaking and exhilarating all at once. Don't underestimate the
importance of having fun, he said. Experience is what you get when you didn't
get what you wanted. It's a sad, sad day now that he's gone – but what a gift
to leave behind.
Robin Evans, July 15, 2008
Caregiving is hard. Losing
the one you're caring for is harder, as Cecily O'Connor reported in her
story. One woman talked of how sad she was because she and her father had gotten closer than ever before. He told her many things he had kept to himself until then. That's not uncommon. My
dad was like that, too. And when he was near death in hospice, unable to speak, I told him many things I would not have had the nerve to otherwise. He had a temper, you see. Which is one of the things I advised him to get control of in his next life. Oh, and sitting there day after day, holding his hand, watching his immobile face, I went into great detail about my Buddhist faith. And I chanted for him, right there. And joked that he would never have put up with it otherwise. We had joked a lot - it was a great cover for a lot of family pain. Now, reading about the woman whose father just died, I, too, feel sad - that it should take the
specter of death to allow the heartfelt exchange for which we all yearn.
Cathy Bowman, July 7, 2008
What makes balloons so magical? Boomers remember Up, Up and Away, the
1967 hit song by the Fifth Dimension. The French film, Le
Ballon Rouge, makes me cry every time. Now
some guy has flown to Idaho in a lawn chair tied to a bunch of balloons.
Sure it's crazy, but the photo of the gigantic, colorful orbs is stunning.
Balloons touch the heart. They touch the soul. It's a shame they are bad for the
environment and a choking hazard for kids. But I am mesmerized by them, and so
are my children. I don't buy balloons but they find us just the same. We were
strolling along a cobble=stoned street near our home in England when a young
woman in black handed me a coupon for an overpriced facial. My 2-year-old got a
black balloon, which she set free in the supermarket. We watched our magic friend hover over the bread aisle,
watching us. It was all for the best - no slow death at home, no me stabbing a
sickly balloon at night to stop its misery. Sometimes it's best not to know the
Cathy Bowman,July 4, 2008
Ah, the Fourth. Fireworks. Parades. Watermelon.
It's always been one of my favorite holidays. So how did I forget about it? I've
lived in England nearly 18 months, and for obvious reasons, the Fourth isn't a
big holiday here. Last year I tried to create an “authentic” meal, but it
was a school night and there weren't any fireworks. It just wasn't the same.
This year, I forgot about the red, white and blue frenzy until my mother asked
me how I planned to celebrate Independence Day. Hmm ... putting the kids to bed
early? I think the fact that I forgot the Fourth is probably a good sign. It
means I'm present in the life that I'm living and longing less for the life I
left behind. The best part of the Fourth of July is getting together with
friends and family. We'll do something here for the kids to remind them of their
roots. Maybe we'll get out the drums and maracas have a parade in the living
room. These days, the simple pleasures count for a lot – even if it's just
sharing potato salad with someone you love.
Cathy Bowman, June 25, 2008
When life gets tough on earth,
there's always heaven to think about. Americans
believe there are many ways to get there, which is good news. I find it
comforting to wonder about the afterlife. Are the fountains filled with
chocolate? Do flowers bloom at night? Does anyone speak French? Recently I read Up
In Heaven, a children's book about a dog named Daisy who dies in her
sleep. It's a tender, beautiful book that follows a little boy as he deals with
his grief. The dogs in heaven are having a fabulous time. No creaky joints, no
leashes, no cats. No wars, no floods, no wobbly housing prices. The mutts sit in
big comfy couches as they discuss how Daisy can comfort the boy she left behind.
In time, Arthur finds happiness with a new playmate. The book reminds me of our
perfect, imperfect time here – and that challenges and joy are all part of the
Cathy Bowman, June 13, 2008
are living longer than ever before. But do you already roll out of bed
and find that your knees ache and your back groans? Do you feel like you're 78?
Do not fret. Some day you will feel 78 and actually be 78. If you're a
woman, you'll probably live even longer. So what's a gal to do with all those
years? A friend e-mailed the text of a
speech J.K Rowling gave recently at Harvard University. She spoke
about the benefits of failure and the importance of imagination. She spoke
poignantly of the time she spent working for Amnesty International helping
people who suffered unspeakable horrors and survived. She talked about how
changing ourselves inside can affect change on the outside. Rowling's words are
beautiful, inspiring and heartfelt – definitely worth a read while
contemplating your coming decades.