Benny's World

Saturday, February 04, 2006

An All-Star Died Today:Betty Friedan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Betty Friedan, whose 1963 book "The Feminine Mystique" helped inspire the modern feminist movement and who co-founded the National Organization for Women, died on Saturday on her 85th birthday, a relative said.

Friedan died at her home in Washington of congestive heart failure, just before 3 p.m.(2000 GMT), her cousin Emily Bazelon told Reuters.

"For Betty, feminism was an aspect of humanism. And one of her sons said this morning that she demonstrated that sheer intelligence could trump lack of intelligence," Bazelon said.

Friedan was born Bettye Naomi Goldstein in Peoria, Illinois, and attended Smith College, a leading women's college in Massachusetts, where she edited a campus paper and graduated with honors in 1942. She attended the University of California, Berkeley for a year before working as a journalist. In 1947, she married Carl Friedan, a marriage that lasted 20 years and produced three children.

"The Feminine Mystique" emerged from an article about a survey she conducted of fellow graduates at Smith and focused on the restrictions on women of the role of full-time homemaker. It became a best-seller and helped invigorate the women's movement and U.S. feminism.

Friedan co-founded the National Organization for Women, with Pauli Murray, the first African-American female Episcopal priest and served as its first president from 1966 to 1970.

She also helped found NARAL, originally the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws.

Her other books included "The Second Stage, It Changed My Life: Writings on the Women's Movement," and "The Fountain of Age."

She is survived by two sons and a daughter, nine grandchildren, a brother and a sister. Her funeral is planned for 11 a.m. on Monday at Riverside Funeral Chapel in New York.

I guess I'm gettin' old, but it seems like my heroes are dying like flies during the summertime. I'm sad she's gone.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Brokeback Mountain: 3 Stars on My Post

I saw the movie Brokeback Mountain. One blog who reviewed the movie (but recommended it) was a bit squeamish about the love scenes between the main characters. My reaction was the opposite. I was not uncomfortable at all with the intimate scenes between the men. Contrary to that, I was uncomfortable with the intimate scenes between the men and their women, knowing they were just lustful in their minds, but thinking they were trying to do what was right (by society).

I cannot say that I was moved at the very end as I had anticipated, meaning I brought plenty of tissues and didn't need them. If anything, I saw hope in Ennis' daughter. The photography is breath taking, and the music soundtrack is worth buying.

Overall, I found the movie a bit too subtle though, compared to Making Love or especially the very moving performance by Vanessa Redgrave in the trilogy, If these Walls Could Talk.

My real question is this: couldn't someone have written a song (folklike) called "Brokeback Mountain"? The title begs for a great song to accompany the movie. If one can do it for Cold Mountain, someone could have done it for this film. I can hear it in my head. But if no one would, there are chickenhawks in Hollywood/Nashville/etc.

I'd like to see Crash and Good Night, and Good Luck before deciding which of those along with Munich is a better movie. I saw Capote and liked the acting (especially Philip Seymour Hoffman), but to me, it was a remake of In Cold Blood. Wanted to see something beyond that story, but guess there wasn't enough material about Capote after the novel was published.

Still, I recommend Brokeback Mountain and give the Academy one thumb up for recognizing its universal themes.

American View Point--and Not Religious

I guess the Danish Press have most Muslims riled at the moment over a cartoon that illustrated their prophet (or God) with a lighted explosive extension. While that was printed in poor taste, I guess I am accustomed to poor taste in the press, and I favor it over a suppressed press. I am not certain it was intended to be hate speech.

Once in awhile, I lurk at the freeper sites, and I see some conservative view points. Today, in light of this issue, I went to one and found a commentary by Bill Buckley of the National Review. Most of the time, I disagree with Mr. Buckley, but occasionally, we find some common ground, such as he believes in the legalization of drugs (or at least decriminalization). His post today is one of those instances on the topic of the offensive cartoon, and I'm certain it's because I am not particularly religious, and I support American principles of free speech and press.

Click here to read it.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Health Care Savings Accounts Proposed

From WaPo, 1/27/2006:

President Bush laid out a plan yesterday for reducing the nation's spiraling health care costs, proposing tax credits to encourage expansion of health savings accounts and calling for allowing small businesses to pool together for health coverage across state lines.

The main element of Bush's plan would be health savings accounts, which allow people to save money tax-free. The accounts are used for medical expenses up to a preset deductible amount, and once that threshold is met, insurance takes over. Any money not used can roll over from one year to the next, and the cost of the policies is usually lower than that of traditional health insurance plans.


Under Bush's proposal, a family of four earning less than $25,000 a year would receive $1,000 a year toward their accounts. The families also would be eligible for $2,000 in refundable tax credits, which would go toward purchasing their health insurance policies -- which the White House said average $3,300 a year. Families choosing traditional insurance would be eligible for
$3,000 in refundable tax credits to put toward their plans.

I have used these type of accounts from time to time when I knew I was going to have extraneous expenses. 3K towards traditional plans that cost anywhere from 100 to 350 per month, is a drop in the bucket, and doesn't take care of the dental expenses such as braces, especially for adults. The account is not really an account as W makes it sound like; it is yearly fund you create out of your money that cannot roll over, as the article states, and the paperwork is a friggin' headache because you have save every receipt, report on a form what it was for, and the reinbursements take 3 weeks or longer.

For a family who makes 25K or less, they live from paycheck to paycheck and don't have 3 weeks to wait to get their refunds. Sure, they get a bit of a tax break, but not enough to make it worth their while.

What would be better is make all insurance expenses experienced by the consumer into tax credits, including prescription drugs, to start with, instead of the 7% of the income threshold.

Then one could move into a American single payer health care system. Here's what Dem David Gill, a physician running for Congress in my district has proposed and he calls it a "Prescription for America":

The plan that I am proposing would cost businesses no more than a 7% payroll tax; this figure could be even lower if we eliminate the Bush tax cuts for those earning a quarter million dollars per year or more. Currently, business owners pay an average of 8.5% of payroll salaries for employee health care plans and small businesses can pay up to 25% of payroll expenses. A single-payer system lets business owners know exactly what they will be paying for employee insurance.

My plan is much less expensive for individuals. A 2% tax paid by individuals would replace all costs currently incurred by insurance premiums, co-pays and deductibles. The cost for the average family would be $760/year. This would result in substantial savings for most families who typically pay between $1,200-$15,000 per year in combined costs under our current system.

Then, if the families wanted a health care savings account on top of that, great! But it takes a little bit of investment on our part to do it. Some businessmen think the government is intruding by advocating a single payer system, but it's not.

I predict that at some point there may be a trade for Social Security in the future, and it may be having to have a single payer system. I'm not advocating SS as one of the entitlements to be cut because goodness knows it was the safety net for my mother and other elderly (and those who cannot work), but if we have to make tough choices, in the long run, I would opt for a better health care system that is paid for out of my taxes.

In general, we don't, Medicaid will bankrupt our states' budgets.

The world is watching, and they are waiting for us. And they are waiting to see what we're made of. --Senator John R. Edwards

Baking Cookies w/Your Cat (humor for a change)

Elmora is one of two cats in the house; Benson is the other.

Today, I received instructions on how to bake cookies with cats.

1. Look in cookbook for cookie recipe.
2. Get cup of coffee, tea or Diet Coke
3. Get cat off cookbook.
4. Find that special recipe.
5. Get cat's nose out of coffee mug.
6. Go to fridge and get eggs.
7. Get dry ingredients from cupboard.
8. Break eggs in small bowl.
9. Sift dry ingredients in large bowl.
10. Answer the phone.

11. Cat ate eggs; get more from fridge.
12. Get cat out of flour bowl and dust cat off.
13. Get Band-Aids for scratches on hands
14. Throw flour out and get more.
15. Preheat oven for cookies.
16. Looking at cat & wanting to bake cat now.

Cat runs for cover into bathroom.
17. Flour the counter to roll out cookie dough.
18. Big crash in bathroom; run to see what happened.
19. Cat has TP all over floor; stuff spilled and knocked over on top of bathroom counter.
20. Yell at cat. Cat falls in toilet bowl.
21. Can sense cat is angry.
22. Take cat out of toilet to dry cat off.
23. Get bandages to cover more scratches on arms and legs.
24. Clean up bathroom.
25. Hear a thump in kitchen ... Yikes! Now what?
26. Get cat off floured counter in kitchen.
27. Try to pick out cat hairs from flour.
28. Step on cat's tail and get bitten.
29. Get coat, car keys, and go to store to buy cookies!!!

The America JRE (and I) Believe In

JRE posted his version of the State of the Union and how to make it better. It is a refreshing vision that no one in the Congress is talking about, and it's good that JRE has the freedom now to say what he believes:

I am grateful for the opportunity to talk with you about the state of our union on the day of the president’s address to our country. While it is discouraging for all of us to see our country moving in the wrong direction, we need to take this opportunity to offer ideas for how to get the nation back on track.


Our Shared Vision: A Working Society

Above all, we must keep America's promise of opportunity for all. We must build a Working Society--an America where everyone who works hard finally has the rewards to show for it.
In the Working Society, no one who works full-time will have to raise children in poverty or live in fear that one health emergency or pink slip will put them on the streets.

In the Working Society, everyone who works full-time will at last have something to show for it--a home of their own or an account where their savings and paycheck can grow. And in the Working Society, everyone will also be asked to hold up their end of the bargain: to work, to hold off having kids until they are ready, and to do their part for their kids when the time comes.

We must take five important steps to move toward this vision.

First: Work should lead to home ownership. Today, the rich get subsidies and loopholes while the poor get ravaged by predatory lenders. The poor pay higher interest rates on their loans, which is one factor preventing them from building assets, like owning a home. We should do two things. First, we should crack down on predatory lenders and their obscene practices. And we should make this offer to poor families going into the workforce: for the first five years you are working, we will set aside up to $1,000 in an account to help you make home payments. After five years, you'll have up to $5,000 for a down payment on a home of your own.
At the same time, we should give working parents who are poor a chance to move into neighborhoods with better schools by giving them housing vouchers. That will not only expand opportunity; it will build healthier communities through cultural integration.

Second: Work should lead to savings and the creation of assets. We should offer low-income Americans "work bonds"--an extension of the Earned Income Tax Credit that helps families save for the future. Low-income working families would receive an extra credit of up to $500 per year that would be directly deposited into a new account held by a bank or a safe stock fund with low fees. If families put away more, the amount in the account would grow, and it would be available not just for retirement, but also to open a small business - the engine of our economy--or to meet a personal emergency.

Third: Work should give you a good education. We will never end poverty unless we improve our schools and I'd like to just touch on one idea. If you have been accepted to college, stay out of trouble in high school and agree to work 10 hours-a-week your first year in college, you ought to get your first year of tuition at a public university or community college for free. I have talked about this concept of "College for Everyone" for years and right now I am working on a new pilot project in North Carolina to test out this idea in an entire county.

Fourth: Work must pay fairly. We must raise the minimum wage. With the costs of health care, energy and housing shooting through the roof, working Americans living on the minimum wage have seen their pay stay the same for eight years now. The administration's response is that minimum wage is intended for part-time teenage workers and families aren't supposed to live on the minimum wage. But the reality is that they are. If Congress will not raise the minimum wage, or the president threatens to veto a raise, then we have to go state-by-state to raise the minimum wage. We need to go further and end the political grandstanding in opposition to every effort to raise the minimum wage: we should attach the annual federal minimum wage to the poverty line, guaranteeing that the full-time worker in this bountiful country lives a life out of poverty.

Fifth: Finally, we need to work to strengthen families. All of us--parents, teachers, clergy, leaders--we all need to stand together and speak simple truths: it is wrong when boys and young men father children, but don't care for them. It is wrong when girls and young women bear children that they aren't ready to care for. And it is wrong when all Americans see this happening and do nothing to stop it. And there are simple things we can do to strengthen families, including the ones I've outlined above. The 2001 tax bill eliminated the marriage penalty for the middle class, but poor families can still get hit with a $3,000 marriage penalty. That makes no sense. And we also need to finish the job of welfare reform. It helped millions of poor mothers get jobs, but too many young men were left behind. So we should make sure that young fathers get the same deal as young mothers. You have to work and take responsibility for your children. In return, we'll help you find a job.

Got your attention? Read the rest here.

Thank You, Coretta

Coretta Scott King, 1927-2006

Click here for the NYT article

Trouble is not in the Stars; it is Us

Yesterday's vote to continue the debate on the record of Judge Sam Alito failed. It was appalling to see that 19 Democrats couldn't muster the courage to vote no. Perhaps many conservatives did fax or call them to vote for cloture. Hard to say.

I wrote one of my senators, Richard Durbin this morning. Here's what I said:

Dear Senator Durbin:
I wanted to thank you for having the conviction to vote to continue the debate on the confirmation process of Judge Sam Alito. During the hearings, you brought up the most salient points about individual rights being disregarded or dissented by this nominee.

Today, it is now just procedure, and Judge Alito will be voted in. I'm appalled at 19 of your colleagues who couldn't find the courage to vote no. But at least you spoke for many of us, and you deserve the accolade.

I particularly appreciated John Kerry and even the old Lion, Teddy Kennedy, for standing up for what was right.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Kerry Blogs on Huffington Post

The Vote of a Lifetime by John Kerry

Many people seem curious or even skeptical why United States Senators believe it's so important to take a stand against the confirmation of Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court -- why we're willing to take on a fight that conventional wisdom suggests we will lose.

The reality is simple. We care about the future of our country.

We care about the millions of Americans who expect Congress to stand up and fight for their rights and their freedoms, and we also know that the Supreme Court, again and again, is the battlefield on which those rights and freedoms are decided.

Read the rest here.

He's right.