Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Home of the Brave?

I'm visiting Washington, D.C.

The last time I was here was waaaay back in 1988. I remember walking up the Capitol steps and looking out toward the Washington Monument.

Today there are ugly metal crowd barriers blocking the steps. And a security person perched up on top of the steps, looking down at you. Watching for suicide bombers, I suppose.

What happened to the Land of the Free? The Home of the Brave?

When did we become the Land of the Secure? The Home of the Wary? Security tightened after the Oklahoma City bombing, and then again after 9/11. It seems to me our reaction to terrorists should be "walk softly and carry a big stick." Big, visible changes like cancelling white house tours, blocking off roads, and security bollards everywhere must give would-be terrorists a warm-fuzzy feeling: "look what we accomplished!"

Of course, it's easy for me to say the politicians should suck it up and be brave in the face of potential terrorism; I don't live or work in a famous place that's a big potential target for terrorist attack. But I'd bet the risk of a Senator dying from a suicide bomb attack on the Capitol, even if there was just 1970's style security, is a lot less than the risk they'll die in a car accident travelling to or from D.C.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Olver's Pets

Let's see what my representative wants to spend our money on today:

$1,500,000.00 on the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge. I'd rather the Nature Conservancy or some other private group take care of our wildlife conservation (the US government is the biggest polluter, after all-- seems like foxes guarding the henhouse)... but at least this IS federal money being spent on a federal project.

$150,000.00 on the William Cullen Bryant Homestead. Never been there. Looks nice.

$1,400,000.00 for the City of West Springfield, Pioneer Valley Planning Commission for the Connecticut River Combined Sewer Overflow Clean-up. Hmmm. Seems like the people in West Springfield should be cleaning up their own, ummm, stuff.

I really want an RSS feed for all the earmarks that my senators and representatives are putting into all the spending bills (hmm, that could be an interesting summer project...)

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Three years ago today...

Three years ago today I took the Oath of Citizenship in Boston.

I was born in Melbourne, Australia, but moved to the U.S. when I was a wee lad. My mum had applied for citizenship for me a couple of times when I was growing up, but the INS managed to lose the paperwork and/or lose track of us (we moved around a lot when I was growing up).

I liked being an "alien"-- it was just a random interesting fact about me, and besides not being able to vote, it didn't really affect my life much.

Then sometime in the 90's they made green cards expire once a decade or so. Up until that time, my green card was cute-- it had a picture of 5-year-old me on it. I hate dealing with bureaucratic nonsense, and figured I'd have less to deal with in the long run if I went ahead and became a citizen. Here's what the process was like for a white, professional, spotlessly-clean criminal record, been-living-here-for-25-years college graduate:

I sent in my citizenship application in 1996. Then waited.

After six months, I sent in the "hey, do you still have my paperwork?" form.

Then I waited.

After a year, I sent in the "hey, are you processing my application?" form again.

After a while I get a letter saying that I have to send in fingerprints. So, off to the local police station, get fingerprinted, get them to sign the appropriate paperwork, and send that in.

A couple months later-- get told that the fingerprints aren't good enough, I have to have them done again. Ok.... back to the local police office, they do it again, send them in.

Then more waiting. I was happy to get a letter in the mail telling me to show up at the INS office next Wednesday-- even though that meant a three hour round trip to the nearest immigration office. After waiting an hour for my name to be called, I spend about 10 minutes taking the citizenship exam and talking with a bureaucrat. I think the bureaucrat was an immigrant, too-- his english was a little hard to understand.

Now comes an interesting twist-- while waiting some more, we move from Wisconsin to Massachusetts. I fill out the form that tells them that I'm moving and send that in. Then send in a "hey, are you still processing my application?" form again (even though I'd never actually gotten a response to any of those, I figured it couldn't hurt).

I really hoped the move wouldn't mean I'd have to start the process all over again (I'd been waiting three years at this point). And Yay! I didn't! In January of 2004 I get a message from the BOSTON immigration office that I must drive to Boston (a 4 hour round trip...) and get my fingerprints taken AGAIN. Next Thursday. At 10:30AM.

Yes Sir, whatever you say, Sir. And I guess the third time was the charm-- because Lo and Behold, a Miracle! A short 4 months later I get a letter telling me to come to Boston in a few weeks for my naturalization ceremony.

And that's how I became a citizen on Flag Day, June 14, 2004.