Archive for March 2015


I don’t understand how someone can just walk off on an obligation without giving two hoots how it hurts others. “You’re the Psychologist,” my son says. “You ought to know the answer.” OK, I can come up with an answer, but that still doesn’t help me really “get” how someone can just walk away.

To tell the truth, I could understand it more easily if it were someone who’s been raised in poverty with little hope for the future. It still doesn’t mean that I ‘d like it. But in this case it’s a young American woman who could afford to go to Australia, apparently with the intention of staying for the year they allow. No, I don’t get it, and I don’t like it.

Given all the awful things going on in the world, this hardly qualifies as one of the more horrific events. But it’s a heartbreaker that should never have happened.

Anyway, here’s the story. Since my granddaughter was in High School she has dreamed of going to Australia. Recently she was finally able to do it having found a program that would allow her to stay and be employed there for a year. In anticipation she had paid off her student loans and earned and saved enough to get there and sustain her until she got a job.

On the way, she spent time in New Zealand where she worked as a Nanny. Then, at the beginning of 2015 she went on to Australia with a work visa allowing her to stay until the end of 2015. She got a job in Brisbane at “Cucina by Toscanis” which she enjoyed and they enjoyed her. All that was left was to move out of the hostel into a nicer home. That happened on February 3 when she and two other American girls signed a lease until the middle of May. Needless to say, her joy delighted us all. Yes, joy. A rare thing in today’s world.

Now here comes the lesson – two, actually. (1) Don’t be too trusting, and (2) Don’t ever sign a lease where you could be responsible for someone else’s debt. What happened? One of the co-signers sneaked off without telling the other two, leaving them with the total commitment; not only for the weeks ahead, but also for the weeks she hadn’t been paying.

My granddaughter was the only one with a job. The other honest signer was paying her obligation with saved money and was looking for a job. The lease was to expire in the middle of May at which time the landlord’s daughter plans to move in.

The cheater left behind at least three victims: my granddaughter, her honest roommate, and the landlord, who insisted the two remaining were responsible for the entire debt, including the payments the deserter had not been paying. Met by an impossible situation, the two honest roommates consulted RTA Queensland and learned that, given the circumstances under which the lease was written, and the delay in discovering the indebtedness of the third roommate, there was no choice but to negotiate directly with the landlord.

Unfortunately none of the three victims was effective in negotiating. The landlord stuck firmly to his legal rights in spite of the fact they simply could not be met. The two roommate victims were unable to meet the demand. So they advertised and found two couples who wanted to rent the unit for the remainder of the lease time and referred them directly to the landlord., expecting one of the couples would sign a lease.

Unable to afford to stay, my granddaughter had to leave her job and get a flight back to the States. Her employer offered her to come back to the job if she was able to return to Australia. The two victimized roommates notified the landlord of their departure date. My granddaughter’s assumption was they would then work out a payment plan for their part of the obligation. All that was needed was information about when the new renters had taken over.

Unfortunately, negotiation requires direct conversation with all parties involved. This did not happen. The landlord insists on full payment of the entire debt. My granddaughter doesn’t know if he has new renters. In short, everyone has been hurt, and no fruitful negotiations have followed. Three people hurt and struggling because of one dishonest, irresponsible person.

The lessons? (1) Trust but verify. (One thing attributed to Ronald Reagan that I find useful.) (2) Never commit yourself to pay someone else’s debt. (3) No matter how legal it may be, one cannot get money out of an empty pocketbook. (4) Sometimes compromise is necessary. (5) Negotiation can’t happen if the parties involved aren’t talking directly to each other with the understanding that each may have to sacrifice something in order to gain.

Two young women recovering from dreams shattered. One very non-joyous granddaughter back in the States, unemployed, trying to pick up the pieces, sort out all that has happened and decide where to go from here. A landlord who leased his property in good faith, left with a loss. Sad lessons learned. And no effort on the part of the one who sneaked off leaving others to suffer the consequences.




I doubt anyone has noticed, but it’s been a long time since I’ve posted to my blog – just too busy trying to do other things. But I have faithfully kept track of the friends I “follow.”

Today is different. I feel a moral obligation to respond to the lie that was told last evening on the latest episode of “Bluebloods.”

If you don’t know the show, I’ll tell you about it. First, though, I want to explain that I was watching it because it’s one of the fictional shows I enjoy at 9:00 p.m. Central Time. I try very hard to be ready to relax by that time so I can lose the day’s stress watching make-believe. I like the show. I like the characters – a good-looking bunch of folks.

It’s the story of a wealthy Irish Catholic family that basically controls an error-free, noble, always just, New York Police Department. It’s clear they are wealthy, because at the end of almost every episode they all gather around a large table in their attractive dining room in their large house for an ample meal accompanied by wine. (The children in the family don’t have wine glasses in front of them.)

At the head of the table is the police commissioner, or his father, the retired commissioner. The rest all serve in one way or another – detective, officer, prosecutor. The children all plan to follow the noble path when they grow up. Often there are political problems with the Mayor who has a bad habit of thinking first of re-election. In between there are the kinds of things one expects to happen in a cop show.

There are some interesting things I tend to mull about when I watch it. For some reason that seems to have nothing to do with the drama, the writers killed off the mother and the grandmother before the show even began – and an older brother who died in the line of duty. (Hm. Sort of makes me think of the Kennedy family.)

Alcohol seems to play a major role. Not only is there the wine at dinner. (Let me be clear, I like wine at dinner.) But there is also the ever handy bottle of bourbon, or whatever it is they drink, when there is a problem to discuss – at home or at the office – and a glass poured at the end of the day to relax. There’s no obvious threat of alcoholism, but I often wonder what was the writer’s purpose in introducing it.

I’m quite sure the writer’s have a political point of view different from mine. On a few occasions they have spoken disparagingly, almost sneeringly, about the ACLU. Not anything long, just sort of a giggly hope that no one they know would be “that” kind of lawyer. No problem. I suspect it even fits the plot line. Lots of people in their line of work don’t especially like the American Civil Liberties Union. As a matter of fact, if my memory serves me correctly, the first President Bush bragged about tearing up his ACLU membership card.

I personally have been a member of the ACLU since I traveled to Germany (among other places in Europe) shortly after WWII. The rubble was still all around. Yes, I’m that old. The thing is, I met so many wonderful people – good people who had let the holocaust happen. I remember one of our student guides saying, “It will come to your country someday.” I learned what I think is an important lesson. It’s true: Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. Hence, the ACLU membership.

But that’s not why I’m furious. They have every right to make their opinions known. No, I’m furious because they basically lied, and misinformed, in an area which is extremely important in the current atmosphere of violence, cruelty, and vengeance.

For no apparent dramatic reason, last night they introduced the concept of “restorative practices,” sneeringly suggesting it might be OK for High School students to apologize for things they do, but …

OK, so the lie. They completely misrepresented the process, thereby distorting the purpose. The subplot starts when a young woman who is about to be married receives a letter from a man in jail – the person who years before had killed her mother, father, and brother apparently in a home invasion. He would like the young woman to meet with him in jail. WRONG! That is not the way a restorative justice interaction begins. Unless something has changed a lot very recently, the perpetrator is not allowed to harass the victim. No, restorative justice began for the relief of the victim, not the criminal. It’s the reason why, for example, victims now have the opportunity to testify before the sentencing. It would have to be the victim who initiated the meeting.

The next WRONG!. When the young woman wants to do it, in spite of the Commissioner’s advise, he insists he is going with her. Here’s where things get to be a big lie. As it’s presented, they just make a date and go to the prison. Once there, she and the killer and a woman — apparently some kind of social worker – meet over a table in a private room. The “social worker” person yields easily to the Commissioners insistence that he will stay, and is ready to end it all if he detects that the prisoner is hurting the woman in any way. THIS IS DEFINITELY NOT THE WAY THINGS ARE DONE.

There would be no such meeting without a long process of preparation – often as much as a year or more– being sure both parties want the meeting and are prepared for it.

Rather than presenting a restorative practice interaction as the serious, important, and productive process it is, they made it look like an amateurish, thoughtless, activity.

Finally, the Commissioner encourages her to maintain her vengeful attitude. She has every right to do that. As one who cares a lot about forgiveness, I’m the first to say that forgiveness coerced is not forgiveness at all. The sad thing, though, is the next day she gets married still harboring the hate. WRONG! Forgiveness is not a gift to the killer. It is a gift to oneself, proved many times over to be important for one’s physical and mental health. She has now begun her married life carrying the hatred and all its potential damage with her.

The fact is, restorative practice is a very practical response to crime. A highly developed legal process in several countries, and less widely in the U.S,, it has been demonstrated to reduce recidivism significantly. To say nothing of the fact that people, both victims and criminals, are rehabilitated. The process saves money and saves lives and the quality of life.

I’m furious with “Bluebloods” because the misinformation is presented for no apparent reason except to degrade an important development in judicial process. I guess it continues to be more important to enjoy the satisfaction of inflicting retributive pain than to work at solving problems.

I’ll keep watching the program. Along with CSI and NCIS and their variants, it is one of my favorites. I know the blood is fake, the gun ammo are blanks, and the actors will get up off the floor.

I’ll also keep doing what little I can to encourage restorative practices rather than pleasure in vengeance that leads to no productive end.

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