Benny's World

Friday, April 13, 2007

Thank you from Elizabeth Edwards

This message reminds me her PSA last fall in which "Decency Costs Nothing." People who know Mrs. Edwards (as I am acquainted with her personally) know that this is her true spirit.

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

And So It Goes, Kurt Vonnegut

My alert from the NYT:

Kurt Vonnegut, whose dark comic talent and urgent moral vision in novels like "Slaughterhouse-Five," "Cat's Cradle"and "God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater" caught the nity and cruelty of Germany.”

Good night, Kurt, you writer of Indianapolis. We will miss you.

Elizabeth Edwards seemed to know Vonnegut's writing in our exchange nearly a year ago:


Hello, Mrs. Edwards

Nice to see you here

I had a dear friend tell me that JRE was great in Brussels. His speech on NATO was very well received.


I really like this chat room, Mrs. Edwards

Elizabeth Edwards:
"Greetings" is the message from Cat's Cradle by Vonnegut, wasn't it? The message that all the earth's history was designed to help convey.

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Edwards Works Shift to Raise Awareness for Health Services Workers

Yes, that's John Edwards on the right.

Dressed in jeans and a blue work shirt, Edwards, the 2004 vice presidential nominee,
helped awaken Irving Zywoto and tried to explain to the 83-year old resident who he was.

Later, Edwards donned rubber gloves to rub moisturizer on Zywoto's legs and gave him his morning shave.

From the AP:

His visit was part of the "Work a Day in My Shoes" program sponsored by the influential Service Employees International Union, where presidential candidates spend time with health care workers to understand the challenges of their jobs. Edwards was paired with certified nursing assistant Elaine Ellis, an 18-year employee of the Sarah Neuman Nursing Home who escorted him on her early morning rounds.

This is what Ellis had to say about John Edwards, the candidate, after working with him on her shift:

Every day I bathe, dress, feed and care for nine patients before many people are awake. Now that he’s cared for patients with me, I think Senator Edwards has a better understanding of what it’s like to work in a nursing home. I also think he has a deeper appreciation for what people like me go through to give our families a future.”

"I think all politicians should take a page from his book," she told reporters.

Health care service was a natural fit for Edwards in which in he wanted to do a day's work in shadowing and helping. This was his comment afterwards:

It's important for the president of the United States to understand how difficult these jobs are, and how important they are," he said. He also touted his proposed health care plan, which he said would help cover the cost of long-term care at nursing homes.

More pics here.

Edwards comfort level with all ages and willingness to work to promote awareness for our health services workers really impresses me. But he's just like that.

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John Edwards on and Iraq

Transcript of the Townhall:

And now, I’m happy to introduce the first presidential candidate of the night, Senator John Edwards.

John Edwards grew up in a small North Carolina town, where he worked with his father at the local textile mill.

The first in his family to attend college, Edwards went on to earn a law degree and become an advocacy lawyer before being elected to the Senate in 1998, where he wrote key legislation on port security and protection from biological threats. In 2004, he was the Democratic nominee for Vice President.

John Edwards and his wife, Elizabeth, were married in 1977, and raised their children in North Carolina. Senator Edwards is the former director of the Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Law.

Welcome, Senator Edwards, and thank you for joining us. Our first question to you, which we’ll pose to every candidate, is simple and it comes from MoveOn Member Anita Todras (TA-dras), a mortgage loan officer from Coconut Creek, Florida:

(audio)Anita Todras: My name is Anita Todras, in your opinion, what is the best and fastest way to get out of Iraq?

SENATOR EDWARDS: Well, thank-you. First of all let me say for the past nine months, MoveOn members have accomplished amazing things for the progressive movement. Last year you helped elect a new congress, and thanks to your relentless grassroots pressure you helped shift the national debate about ending the war in Iraq from a question of if, to a question of how soon. Thank you. As you probably know I voted for this war. I was wrong and I take responsibility for that. Every day this war drags on is worse for Iraq, worse for our troops, worse for our country. We don’t need more debate. We don’t need symbolic resolutions, we don’t need abstract goals. What we need are binding requirements, and we can’t wait until this President takes off in 2009. Here’s what I think ought to happen. Simply put, Congress should use its funding authority to force President Bush to end the war, and start immediately bringing American troops home from Iraq. I’ve been advocating for Congress to use its funding authority since I voted against the first $87 billion supplemental back in 2003. That funding authority’s still the most powerful check we have. If congress is willing to use it. I propose we begin by capping funding levels at 100,000 troops to stop Bush’s escalation and force an immediate withdrawal of 40 to 50,000 troops which would come out of the north and the south of Iraq. During that time, we should not allow Bush to deploy any replacement troops to Iraq that do not meet real readiness standards, and that have not been properly trained and equipped. Our withdrawal will help us to directly engage the Iranians and the Syrians to help stabilize Iraq. The withdrawal of all combat troops should be completed in about a year. So, that’s the outline of my plan for what out to happen.

But we should not be talking hypothetically, because we’ve already reached a critical moment, and what we do right now will make all the difference. Thanks in part to your hard work, both Houses of Congress have passed spending bills to set a time-table for withdrawal. President Bush has promised to veto that funding, calculating that he could use the bully pulpit to intimidate Congress and get them to back down. But this is not the time for political calculation, this is the time for political courage. This is not a game of Chicken. This is not about making friends or keeping Joe Lieberman happy. This is about life and death. This is about war. We are done letting George Bush manipulate the rhetoric of patriotism, only to use our troops as political pawns. If Bush veto’s funding for the troops, he is the only one standing in the way of the resources they need. Nobody else. Congress must stand firm. They must not write George Bush another blank check without a timeline for withdrawal. Period. If Bush veto’s the funding bill, Congress should send another funding bill to him with a binding plan to bring the troops home. And if he veto’s it again, they should do it again. The American people are overwhelmingly in favor of ending this war. If our side stands firm, if we show courage now, we can finally bring our troops back home, and bring this war to an end. Thank-you.

ELI PARISER: Thank you, Senator Edwards. And now, another question from MoveOn member C. Davey Utter, a retired NBC broadcaster from Venice, California

(audio)C. Davis Utter: “What are you going to do about prosecuting war profiteering in Iraq?”

SENATOR EDWARDS: Well, let me say first, I will end war profiteering in Iraq. What the Bush administration has done is they signed no-bid contracts with Halliburton and Bechtel, and complete billions of dollars of work in Iraq. Not only does war profiteering waste taxpayer dollars, it undermines the credibility of America’s reconstruction efforts in the eye of the world. We need to do everything in our power to get rid of fraud and abuse in Iraq. We need to hold powerful corporations like Halliburton accountable for no-bid contracts they’ve secured through cronyism. None of you would be surprised to hear that I believe in using the US Judicial system to hold powerful corporations like Halliburton responsible for their wrong-doing. I’ve done it for a long time. For all new Iraq contracts, we should impose a cap on profits from Iraqi reconstruction. Contracts should be permitted only for a reasonable profit on their Iraq contracts, based on the average profits on comparable competitively bid government contracts. This is a version of the excess profits tax that was imposed during the first and second world wars. As President Franklin Roosevelt explained: In a time of war the few should not gain from the sacrifices of the many. We should also bar corporations, senior executives, lobbyists, and directors, from making donations to presidential candidates, and political parties, at least a year before or after bidding on a major government contract. Finally, we ought to break the link between government procurement and private sector contracting jobs. Private sector executives seeking government contracts would not be able to take official contracting jobs for 12 months, and similarly, those with the responsibility for contracting would not be able to go to firms seeking contracts for 12 months.

ELI PARISER: Thank you Senator Edwards. I have one final question for you: The Iraq bill recently passed by the House included a version of Rep. John Murtha's proposal forcing the President to certify that troops going to Iraq meet the Pentagon's standards for sufficient training, proper equipment, and overall readiness to fight. Do you support this approach and do you think it should be in the conference committee's final version of the Iraq bill?

SENATOR EDWARDS: Yes. Representative Murtha’s bill echoed the policy that I actually announced in February of this year. I believe in it strongly. In my policy I have prohibited funding to deploy any new troops or any replacement troops to Iraq that do not meet real readiness standards, and have not been properly trained and equipped. So that American tax dollars are used to train and equip our troops, and not used to escalate this war. Requiring this President to make sure that the troops are prepared is actually the best way to stand by our troops, and is also the best way to force this President to change his policy. The members of the conference committee have to stand strong on this requirement. They should stand up to this President’s veto threat and they ought to pass this legislation and stand behind it.

ELI PARISER: Thank you, Senator Edwards. And now, please take a minute for your closing remarks.

SENATOR EDWARDS: I spoke earlier about the need for political courage and the need for political courage to trump political calculation. We know George Bush and Karl Rove will deploy the full-fury of their PR machine to blame Democrats for Bush’s choice, Bush’s choice to veto funding for the troops. There are many people in Washington that are gonna be tempted to cry uncle, and they’ll say, they’re gonna let Bush win another round in this fight, so where will Congress find the courage to stand firm? I’ll tell you where they’ll find it: they’ll find it in your letters. They’ll find it in your calls. They will find it in your voice. Forty years ago, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave a sermon speaking out against the war in Vietnam. He said, “There comes a time in all of our lives where silence is a betrayal.” That has never been more true than it is today. It’s true because in the weeks and months to come, our voice has extraordinary power to really change things. And that means we have an absolute responsibility to use that power to the absolute fullest. So, that’s what I’m committing to: using every opportunity I have in this campaign to speak out for immediate action to end this war. And it is what you’re doing through your work with MoveOn and in your communities. Together I believe we’ll succeed, and it is a great honor for me to join you in that effort. Thank you all very much.

ELI PARISER: Senator Edwards, we thank you so much for being the first candidate in our first Virtual Town Hall.

See Taylor Marsh's analysis here.

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John Edwards Picks Up Key LGBT Endorsements

Edwards is on a roll again. He picked up some key endorsements from the lesbian and gay community yesterday.

  • Skip Paul, Corporate Executive
  • Darren Star, TV Producer
  • Julie Johnson, Human Rights Campaign Public Policy Committee Co-Chair
  • Eric Stern, Former National Stonewall Democrats Executive Director; Former Democratic National Committee LGBT Outreach Director
  • David Mixner, Former Bill Clinton for President Adviser; LGBT activist, fundraiser, author
  • Dennis Erdman, TV Producer/ Director
  • Mary Snider, Human Rights Campaign Board of Directors Executive Committee Member
  • David Tseng, Kerry-Edwards 2004 National LGBT Advisory Committee Co-Chair; Former Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) National Executive Director
  • David Mariner, Former Out for Howard Dean Co-Chair; Founder,
  • James Duff, TV Producer
  • Ramon Gardenhire, National Stonewall Democrats Black Caucus Co-Chair; Former DNC LGBT Deputy Outreach Director
  • Scott Benson, Majority Leader Minneapolis City Council
  • Shane Larson, AFL-CIO Pride @ Work National Executive Board Member; Association of Flight Attendants (AFA)-Communications Workers of America (CWA) Government Affairs Director
  • Scott Wiener, Human Rights Campaign Board of Directors Member; San Francisco Democratic Party Chair* (for identification purposes only)
  • Jeff Gardner, Garden State Equality Vice Chair; New Jersey for Democracy Co-Chair
  • Lynne Wiggins, Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) National Leadership Council Member; Former Human Rights Campaign Board of Governors Member
  • Ken Keechl, Broward County Commissioner; Former Dolphin Democrats President
  • Linda Elliott, Human Rights Committee Board of Directors Member
  • Dave Garrity, Former Democratic National Committee Member
  • Mark Periello, Former Human Rights Campaign staff member; Democratic strategist
  • Ron Ginsburg, LGBT Community Activist; business owner
  • Randall Kelly, LGBT Community Activist; attorney
  • Stephanie Kornegay, LGBT Community Activist; business owner
  • Robert D. Horvath, Mautner Project Board of Directors Member
  • Patrick J. Lyden, LGBT Community Activist; Homeland Security Advisor


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Sunday, April 08, 2007

Flower Communion

This thread was inspired by being at Taylor Marsh's blog today, in which she has a really nice piece about the framing of faith by our Founding Fathers and yet in this century thus far, our onward Christian/PNAC soldiers, Bush Co, continues to put us into debt and make us pay a very heavy price for a war 71% of Americans wish we would get out of sooner, than later.

This is what my comment was on her blog:

The separation of church and state, albeit not explicit in our Constitution, is one of the more important aspects of the Founders' framework to keep sacred. Last year and the year before, when I watched the confirmation hearings of Roberts and Alito, I was concerned that their faith might color their judgment and not uphold this separation of church and state. So far, we have been fortunate that not much has appeared before the court that has tested them in this regard.

I'm from the same group of Jefferson and Adams, both who were Unitarians, whereas that group merged with Universalists in 1961, thus the term UU for Unitarian Universalist. Most of us are for peace, support community actvism for the good, and seek out ways that even Jesus told us: to comfort the poor. For us, that is a moral imperative.

Today I am reminded of a UU tradition which is the Flower Communion, often held on Easter Sunday. To borrow from Pastor Margo McKenna, here is the story of the tradition of it:

The first part of how we arrived at the ritual we celebrate today begins with Rev. Norbert Capek (1870-1942), who founded the Unitarian Church in Czechoslovakia. He introduced this ritual to his congregation on June 4, 1923. He had felt the need for symbolic ritual to bind Unitarians together, and chose to use the “communion service,” as it was familiar to many Unitarians who had left Roman Catholicism. He also felt strongly that Unitarians should not allow Christians to claim the word “communion” solely for christological purposes, rather, wanting to return to the original use of the word which is defined as: drawing together.

Rev. Capek chose flowers as the symbol of this ritual. It was his way of honoring the native spring blossoming of Czechoslovakia, drawing Unitarians closer to the earth, a nod to the agrarian life of most members, and a ritual to draw Unitarians together. To him, the significance of the Flower Communion is that as no two flowers are alike, so no two people are alike. Each flower contributes its own unique scent and color to the larger bouquet, and thus has a unique contribution to its overall beauty. The flowers, joined together, form a spectacular splash of color and scent that transforms a room. So, each person sitting here is unique and colorful and brings a contribution to our whole bouquet - our congregation! Our common bouquet would not be the same without the unique addition of each individual flower, and so it is with each UU congregation. Flower communion is a statement of this community.

By exchanging flowers, we show our willingness to walk together in our search for truth, setting aside attitudes and actions that work to divide, rather than unite us. Each person takes home a flower brought by someone else, thus symbolizing our shared celebration in community.

The second part of our story today, is the larger history of Unitarians and Universalists. Before the UU merge in 1961, there was a rather large divide on the issue of celebrating Easter. Universalists, who had largely remained liberal Christians, and who believed that Jesus died and was raised again to save all humanity, loved to honor Easter Sunday. Unitarians, who had largely become humanist and/or atheist through the years, usually did not celebrate Easter, due to its connotation of a need for blood sacrifice to a deity, in order to save humanity. This difference was a large one for these two groups as they were discussing merging in the 1950’s. So, when the Unitarians and Universalists decided to merge in 1961, discussions about how to handle Easter were long and heated.

This brings us back to Flower Communion…As I mentioned at the beginning, Flower Communion was first celebrated in Czechoslovakia on June 4, 1923, not on Easter Sunday. Rev. Capek seems to have done this for two reasons: First, the spring blossoming did not arrive in Czechoslovakia until June, and second, Unitarians did not honor Easter.

Though Rev. Capek died in a Nazi concentration camp in 1942, Unitarians were already celebrating his Flower Communion service here in the U.S. by 1940. It was being held yearly in many Unitarian congregations just before the summer recess, and continued to be honored for the reasons Rev. Capek had first dreamed of, and in his memory after WWII was over.

The long and heated debate about Easter was resolved when someone suggested a recommendation to congregations: that they honor the Unitarian ritual of Flower Communion and celebrate it on Easter Sunday for Universalists. Thus, in the Flower Communion, the symbol of “drawing together” as envisioned by Rev. Capek is still honored, and when celebrated on Easter, continues to honor those who come out of the Christian tradition.

Given our poor situation in Iraq and the thousands of not only Americans, but Iraqis, Brits, Italians, Koreans etc have died and the violence continues to surge as we are embroiled in Iraq's civil war, I'd like to take a moment to give thanks to all of them who risk their lives each day. I also want to commend those on the ground boots here, serving a meal to the elderly, the homeless, or perhaps inviting a single person to a seder.

At the Flower Communion service, each person brings flowers, either from their yard or elsewhere, and puts them in a community basket. Then at the end of the service, each person goes by the basket (or if a smaller congregation, the basket is passed around) and takes one as a symbol of love, peace, and remembrance.

Here are some baskets from Second Parish's Flower Communion (I'm sure they will share), and I am passing it to BW and Taylor's readers to take a symbolic flower.


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