Monthly Archives: September 2009

What Happens When You Try to Bomb a Building

I spent part of the morning today in Federal Court, reporting on the arraignment of the 19 year old Jordanian arrested for trying to blow up an office building in downtown Dallas yesterday afternoon. I have seen plenty of crooks up close, vandals, racketeers, a murderer or two. I have never seen a terrorist across a room. It was a different sort of thing.

Regular bad guys commit crimes for reasons that are more understandable…not acceptable, clearly, but somehow within the brain’s capacity to comprehend. Money, drugs, anger, passion. This guy, Hosam Maher Husein Smadi, had religion as a motive. Death to the west. Jihad, martyrdom, all that. I can’t get that.

He was very small, about 5’4″ or five, skinny. He wore a black shirt, unbuttoned at the neck, and baggy black trousers. His legs were shackled, hands cuffed on the way in, and out. He did not look scared or concerned, even. He looked expressionless, like he was waiting for a train. He answered questions in English. His hair looked wet. In a sting operation, he set off fake explosives set up by FBI guys posing as a sleeper cell. He dialed a number on a cell phone, thinking it would detonate the car bomb he drove into the skyscraper’s parking lot minutes earlier. Instead, he reached the FBI. 

We are good to people like this, I saw in the courtroom. Smadi was given options to contest his detention and could contact the consulate of his own country. Even though the government was ready to have a hearing today, he gets a ten-day delay. He will get a translator for the hearing next week. And his Public Defender touched him gently on his back. Afterwards, he said he was a “scared boy with no family here.” 

I didn’t think he looked scared. If he wanted his family around him, he could have stayed in Jordan. The Public Defender said he had a lot of investigating to do between today and next week, even though his client was followed for six months and caught red-handed. That is nice, that we do that for people. 


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My Own Personal Fashion Week

Oh the days of walking by Bryant Park, feeling fashionable. Strutting the cross-over strut. Swiveling the shoulders. Whatever I was wearing. Being in the midst was enough. I was mod. I was chic. I was it. I had it. 

I still have it, sort of, but it is not the same. It is not the same when you can’t walk by Bryant Park at lunchtime, when you are 26, and can tell your editor that you were out “scouting” or “researching” or being enterprising, somehow. Oh, I was just being enterprising. Fashion Week in New York is a nifty thing. Of course, I never participated in it on any professional level, other than the aforementioned private sidewalk modeling, but it was nifty anyway. It was distinctively New York. Sort of like the Stage Door. 

I do not take part in fashion these days, on any regular basis, other than to get dressed in the morning. Which, I should be honest, might not qualify, given my sartorial selection. T-shirt, shorts, flip-flops. In cooler weather, T-shirt, shorts, flip-flops, sweatshirt. Tres chic, non? Mais oui. When you’ve got it, you’ve got it. 

My children nominated me to be a candidate on “What Not To Wear.” They took my photograph. Put on your oldest shirt, Mommy. And look pathetic. Snap snap. They have not heard back from the show’s producers, but they are confident that I will snag a spot. Just look at your closet. The truth is, I do not go into my closet anymore, except to add to the give-away bags on the floor or to haul out the box with the small electronic appliance accessories. I do not often need an extra phone cord, but sometimes. Other than that, I do not retrieve a garment from the closet. They are all old and silly-looking and they do not suit my lifestyle. I do not need to put on a blouse with a ruffled neckline and pink platform sandals to sit at my desk in the enclosed former porch that is my office. I do not require an orange blazer, either, in the enclosed former porch. I should toss everything out.

But this week, as an homage to the goings-on back home, I have had my very own Fashion Week right here in Texas. I have upgraded the T to a V-neck, without writing on it. I have worn pants, and even a necklace. And shoes. I have applied under-eye concealer. They use that a lot on the runway. And, I have felt fabulous. Together. Swank. It. Will It last? I do not know. I have been a little uncomfortable in the shoes. And the necklace bangs on the computer keys and the oven door. But it has been useful. I have felt the connection, sensed the psyche, joined the people at the Park. I am with you, yes I am. Watch this…I’m strutting to the mailbox. Cross, cross.  Swivel swivel.



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Listen To This

So…my kids come home from school and ask about the speech. My eighth grader tells me that her English teacher wanted to show it, “but wasn’t allowed.” She rolled her eyes and confirmed that we are a country that advocates free speech. Right?

We figured that their other teachers might have liked their students to listen to the President, too, but “they would probably lose their jobs.”

Imagine that. Thinking that your teacher could be fired for supporting the idea that kids should work hard, do their best and stay in school. 

We watched the speech, which I had recorded. They thought it was great. We talked about how it was relevant for all kids, no matter their personal situation. They applied the ideas to their own lives.

Thank you, President Obama, for a heartfelt and critical message, even if we did have to stay up late to rewind it.

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Right-Wing Conservatives Should Drop Out of Sight

I am appalled by the continued efforts by right-wing conservatives to manufacture lies, rally ignorant supporters and oppose every great thing that President Obama was elected to do. 

The latest campaign to denigrate the President’s message to schoolchildren, a message that he has not yet given, is repulsive. Disrespectful to the office. Damaging to children, who now think it is okay to ignore remarks about doing well in school, setting goals and achieving something in life. Do these people really think that kids don’t model behavior? 

 Every four minutes, one high school student decides to drop out of school. The graduation rate for the country…that is, kids who complete school…is just 69.2 percent. Interestingly, of the five to six states who will not air the speech on Tuesday, three of them are below the average. In fact, one of them, Georgia, can be proud of the most drop-outs in the nation. Florida, with its vociferous GOP leader, comes close to the bottom, with a whopping 59 percent of teenagers getting a diploma. Woohoo. Make Mama proud.

Here in Texas, also on the “Oh my God he’s a Socialist don’t show the speech, and he’s black, too” list…67 percent of high school kids actually finish, still under the embarrassingly low national average. And in Dallas, we just learned that we are on the top of one very important list…the most repeat teenage pregnancies in the country. Yay for Dallas. Such distinction.

I would venture to say that the kids who drop out of school and have babies do not have much parental supervision at home. The ones who do have guidance at home probably don’t need to hear the speech; they hear it every day at the dinner table. Though hearing the message another time, from our President, is hardly a bad thing. The speech could make the most impact on the first group, though….I’d be curious if those parents, if they can be found, would really mind if someone stepped in to help. 


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