Benny's World

Saturday, December 17, 2005

With Thanks

Yesterday, I received this e-mail from JRE:

Dear Benny,

As Elizabeth and I look back on the past year, we feel blessed to have you as a supporter and a friend. When I think of what we've accomplished together — the candidates we've supported, the initiatives we've championed, the thousands of lives we've touched — I know that none of it would have been possible without you. You've been one of our most vital supporters. You've made generous contributions, which are the very lifeblood of a grassroots organization like this one, and you have been right there with us as we've worked to reduce poverty and to get our country back on track. Elizabeth and I thank you for all that you've done, and we are inspired by your firm commitment to the many causes we share.

I want to start by letting you know that Elizabeth is doing very well. She completed her treatment earlier this year, and she feels great and has her energy back. Throughout this ordeal your compassion and loving support have given us great courage and strength. You've become a part of our family, and we're so glad that you've been there for us in our time of need.

I want to talk a little about the issues we care about so deeply. Sadly, millions of Americans still suffer in poverty every day, and it took a disaster like Hurricane Katrina to remind many Americans how dangerous and tragic this poverty is. But you and I have known about the true nature of poverty for a long time, and that's why we've been working tirelessly all year to shine a spotlight on poverty around the country, especially among working Americans. Together, we have pushed for important anti-poverty initiatives like increasing the minimum wage and expanding the earned-income tax credit, and in the coming year we will continue to push for these initiatives and others so that thousands of working Americans have a real shot at getting out of poverty and creating safe, stable lives for their families. Fighting poverty is the most basic and important cause we share, and Elizabeth and I are so glad that you've joined us in that fight.

In fact, this fight against poverty is so important that I believe it will become the cause of the next generation. That's why this past fall I went on a college tour to encourage students to join us in this fight. At ten campuses across the country I spoke to young people about the ways that we can work together to lift thousands of working Americans above the poverty line, and I encouraged them to apply their tremendous energy and creativity to our all-important effort. I knew that young people would be particularly eager to get involved, but I admit I was overwhelmed by the support I saw. Thousands of students signed up, and the devotion they've shown so far has been amazing.

Thanks to your generous support I've also been able to commit my time to traveling the country, rallying our fellow Democrats and telling others why I think America needs the Democratic Party. We know that it's important to project our message all over the country — not just in our Democratic strongholds — because we know that in every state there are Americans who are eager to fight poverty and to get this country back on track. Like you, I believe that our Party fights for the core American values — educating our children, expanding health care, governing with integrity, recognizing the dignity and honor of hard work, and making sure our workers have a voice at work. When I speak about these values in states around the country, I know that I speak for you as well, and that makes my voice stronger. Thank you for always being right there by my side.

I'm also glad that you've committed to strengthening our Democratic Party from the ground up, and together we have helped raise over $4.5 million to help elect Democratic candidates around the country. This money we've raised is so vital. With these candidates in office, we can pass crucial reforms at every level — reforms that will fight poverty, improve health care and education, and raise the minimum wage. These candidates will also serve as the future leaders of our Democratic Party, providing a foundation at the state level that we can build on nationwide, and that's why our Raising the States program is so important. All Democrats want our Party to be stronger, but you set yourself apart — you made the Party stronger by stepping forward and supporting our candidates. I am so proud of what we've done through the Raising the States campaign, and you should be proud to know that none of it could have happened without your generous contributions.

It's amazing to think about how much we've already accomplished together. Just this past September we started the College for Everyone pilot program. This program helps low-income North Carolina high school students in a poor rural county by offering them a bargain: if they earn admission to participating state universities or community colleges, if they pledge to work at least ten hours a week during their first semester (either at a job or doing community service), and if they pledge to abstain from alcohol and drugs and stay out of trouble, then we will pay for their tuition, books and fees. I feel like we are already making a difference for these kids and I can't wait to see the paths they decide to take once they finish college.

We've also done some great work abroad. I had a chance to meet with British leaders Tony Blair and Gordon Brown when I visited London earlier this year to discuss the fight against poverty in America and in Britain. I traveled to India in November to see how the Indian government is dealing with the rampant poverty there, and I had an opportunity to discuss the issue in-depth with not only the leaders of India, but also with a number of Indians who struggle with poverty every day. And on behalf of the Council on Foreign Relations Task Force on American-Russian Relations, I traveled to Moscow with Jack Kemp to determine how America should help Russia become a more open, free, and democratic society.

These are only a few of the many things we have accomplished together over the past year. I'm so proud to think of how many lives we've touched with our efforts, and you should be proud to know that your generous contributions made these efforts possible. I thank you for the tremendous work you've done, and I look forward to the even greater work we have yet to do.

God Bless you, and I hope you and your family have a wonderful holiday season.


Friday, December 16, 2005

News from the Edwards Camp

First, OAC announced today Elizabeth has been named one of the Newsmakers for 2005 in People magazine. It's not online at the moment, so one has to buy the hard copy. I look forward to spending a little to see Elizabeth in it. It's exciting as Elizabeth's story of being a survior of cancer needs to be told so that many women will be encouraged to fight the cancer and get examinations.

Second, John and Elizabeth will be releasing their second bookcast sometime soon; hopefully next week.

Third, the OAC Blog will be changing format and will include tools for starting diaries and voting for the best post--what John and Elizabeth called a "blogocracy". That is a new word in my vocabulary.

And, to hear more about what else is going on in the Edwards Camp, click here to download their latest podcast. You may need Ipodder or Itunes to hear it.

What a day! And the Senate is fillibustering the Patriot Act extension. Five elephants voted with the majority; two donkeys defected. The tally: 52-47. As a librarian, this is great news because one of the hot buttons was the gag order for FBI seizures of library "patron" records. Funny as the FBI agents in frustation have called librarians "radical militants".

Ants marching..

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Poverty is a Moral Issue for Everyone

By ELIZABETH WHITE, Associated Press Writer Wed Dec 14, 4:31 PM ET

WASHINGTON - U.S. Capitol Police arrested 115 religious activists who were protesting a House Republican budget plan's cuts in social programs when they refused to clear the entrance to a congressional office building Wednesday.

"These are political choices being made that are hurting low-income people," said Jim Wallis, the event's organizer and founder of the Christian ministry group Sojourners. "Don't make them the brunt of your deficit reduction and fiscal responsibility."

This was in response to:

WASHINGTON - Congressional Republicans made progress on twin tracks Wednesday toward their end-of-year budget goals, passing a bill freezing or cutting back spending on medical research and education and nearing agreement on cuts to the Medicaid health care program for the poor.

The first measure, a $602 billion bill funding a wide variety of health, education and labor programs, passed the House on a 215-213 vote. It would cut federal aid to education for the first time in a decade, and spread about $1.4 billion in cuts across the departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education.

And will these same people donate more books, less clothes, and a little bit more money while they are drinking the finest champagne. I like fine wines, have tasted them more than once, but it was at some tasting; occasionally at a celebration or a fundraiser for PBS/local charity that was reasonable for most middle incomed folks to get a ticket into and enjoy.

In general, I think if people have numerous bundles of discretionary income, they should also think of those who have less resources than they. They do with funding private institutions and some of those students get scholarships; privileged kids who attend Ivy Leagues are Congressional interns, often for little or no pay. I suppose that's a service to us, but I would argue many of them don't worry about their energy bills or that they don't have to worry about rent.

Sadly, we have turned into a theocracy in which those who can pay tithes for sins (sorry, the Catholic rules of long ago that I studied in history come to mind) get better service or privileges (tax cuts) than most, especially in the rural or very urban areas. I suppose fiefdoms will be next, but with the hope there will be another Magna Carta that is called "the Constitution" to evolve for government policy.

I know people who have looked for jobs for 4 years. That's too long.

"I refused to consider the vigil a partisan affair, saying the religious and political spectrum was widely represented. "The media seems to think only abortion and gay marriage are religious issues," Wallis said. Poverty is a moral issue, it's a faith issue, it's a religious issue.

JRE has the same message via the "Two Americas" theme.

Monday, December 12, 2005

UUA Opposes Alito Confirmation as Threat to Civil Liberties

The Unitarian Universalist Association today announced its opposition to the confirmation of Samuel Alito to the U.S. Supreme Court. The UUA's opposition is based on concerns over civil liberties, including religious liberty, the right to privacy, and due process.

The UUA has never before opposed the confirmation of a nominee to the Supreme Court. In a statement issued to over 1000 congregations that make up the Association, the UUA's Washington Office for Advocacy Director Rob Keithan said:

"The decision to take a position on a judicial nominee is not one the UUA takes up lightly. The nomination of Judge Samuel Alito Jr. is significantly different from that of Chief Justice John Roberts or Harriet Miers, in that he has an extensive judicial record that clearly reveals his judicial philosophy on a wide range of issues. After extensive research, Unitarian Universalist Association staff agreed that Judge Alito's rulings revealed a pattern of views that were outside the mainstream and hostile to established precedent favoring civil liberties."

LINK to press statement

While we all know the UU'ers are progressives, generally they don't take stances against specific people. I approve of the stance, but I hope UUA doesn't get into hot water either about being a nonprofit. I have a funny feeling the Bushies will come after them via the IRS, but I also believe UUA wouldn't have made such a statement if they didn't think they could handle it legally either.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Democrats Test Themes for `06 and `08

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - To hear Democrats tell it, an anxious and isolated public craves a sense of national community and would galvanize behind a leader who asks people to sacrifice for the greater good. John Edwards says he's that leader.

"There is a hunger in America, a hunger for a sense of national community, a hunger for something big and important and inspirational that they all can be involved in," Edwards, the party's 2004 vice presidential nominee, told delegates at a weekend convention of Florida Democrats.

"Americans don't want to believe that they are out there on an island all alone," the former North Carolina senator said.


"The world is watching, and they are waiting for us. And they are waiting to see what we're made of." --JRE, 12/09/2005