Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Palestine/West Bank/Israel

As a Jewish American whose family most fortunately lost almost no family members to the Nazi's atrocities, despite having many family members in Germany in the early 1930's, I am certainly aware of some of the fears of fellow Jews.

I am also most aware of how many of the words commonly used about Palestianians were used in a different context about Jews before 1948. Palestinians are people who have a history which we as Jews should relate to of being exploited by others when we weren't lucky enough to be ignored by them.

Why do the Palestinians not want a state as the Israelis tried to give them and are trying to bring about today? I can't imagine living in a state with barriers all around me and borders that chop up what I would see as "our land" into separate chunks of land. I can't imagine trying to go 10-20 or 30 miles and needing to cross borders within the West Bank.

Water and other resources are important to the West Bank. Israel - similar to the U.S. - uses a disproportionate amount of the available resources.

But why are the Palestinians so violent? Sadly, there is a history of not giving the Palestinians what they want when things are peaceful. We asked for the Palestinians to "be democratic" and they voted for Hamas. We don't respect their political choice(s).

But why is Hamas so militant and so violent? Did the Israelis and Americans - support the "other side" in Palestinian politics? Why should the Palestinians accept a corrupt, "middle-of-the-road" government which gets them next to nothing. Doing things "the American Way" hasn't worked. Surprise - Surprise!

Unfortunately much of the rhetoric we use and accept speaks against our interests! Israel is The Nuclear Power in the Middle East. Israel has The Strong Military in the Middle East. Though we often still think of Israel as the "underdog" it has turned into the "oppressor" and the "bully" in many ways.

But isn't "giving" the Palestinians anything going to further their desire to "drive the Jews into the Sea?" Certainly there are parts of the Palestinian public who would like to destroy Israel. There also are Israelis who seek to kill Palestinians and wish to expel them from the West Bank. There are many, many Palestinians who will be happy to have peace and will live peacefully if there is true peace around them.

Building a true peace with the Palestinians is Very Risky and unpredictable in important ways. Not making peace in the short-term is just as risky! Currently Israel is "strategically important" to the U.S. and other western countries. As the oil supplies lesson in the Middle East in the coming decades the entire Middle East will be much less important to Western Interests.

It is much, much easier to make peace from a position of power, rather than from a position of weakness. Israel currently has the potential to take risks and make peace. 20-30 years from now such options may not exist.

There are clear areas where there could be consensus in the building of a Palestinian State on the West Bank. They require negotiations, not unilateral partialing of "ghettos" as is now talked about by the Israeli Government. Nearly all of the West Bank should be Palestinian. There is No Valid Precedent for maintaining Israeli settlements deep in the West Bank.

Israel will hopefully seek to create a real Palestinian State on the West Bank. Jerusalem and its immediate vicinity may well require negotiations "down the road" and trust building before it can be worked out. No Palestinian leadership can make peace as things are now proposed by the Israelis and the Americans.

Full, simple and clear recognition of Israel's right to exist must be coupled with a scaling back of Israeli settlements (which continue to grow outward) and a true beginning of a real peace. There are certainly risks for the Israelis. At the same time they have been the "victors" and the "dominant force" for 39 years since the 1967 war.

The Powerful must take the big steps and take risks! Doing anything else is asking for things to get worse and drag on for another generation. We must do our best to prevent further massive killings of Jews. We must also recognize that we are oppressors now and morally and on a practical level shouldn't continue as we have to date.



Monday, May 29, 2006

Memorial Day - Some Thoughts

Today - Memorial Day in the US - I am sad at the loss of life that soldiers and civilians face and have faced as a result of wars both involving the USA and ones that haven't involved us. Whether one loses a child, brother, sister, father, mother or friend - in this country or any other country it is an equal tragedy.

I am sad that the people of the United States continue to support the policies of our leaders in needlessly causing the deaths of millions of people worldwide. Yes, there are plenty of people that are angry at our country. Some of them will kill - whether in Iraq, the West Bank and Gaza, or in the USA.

So rarely do we as a people look deeply at why others hate us and in some cases want to kill us. It seems clearest when we have scandals of the murders of innocent people - such as apparently happened in Iraq - when US Marines killed 20 or perhaps many more civilians in retaliation for some incident that may have killed some US soldiers.

It is equally sad to see how we "invade" the lands of others exporting: tobacco, toxic waste, rampant consumerism, "Christianity" as well as arms, helping destroy many countries, while trying to take their wealth from them.

Do we ever ask "The People" rather than finding leaders we can bribe in many ways?
Do we ever consider that we're not magically "better" than other people?
Do we ever listen to others and really hear what they want and don't want?
Do we ever consider that our history is filled with despicable actions and that we continue that path in so many ways today?

I hope - without a lot of faith - that we will - as a people find new ways to live so that Memorial Days of the future don't need to be such sad days for so many people.

We can use our religions, our spirits, our good will - our love - much more than we already do in caring for our families, friends and country. We can find new ways! We, as a people and as individuals, do many incredible, wonderful things already in our lives.

We can change our local communities and our country so that we nurture and support others around us in the USA as well as throughout the world!

Memorial Day could become a day when we remember those we have lost not from wars, but from living good, healthy affirming lives. We should not forget those before us. We should, however, learn from others and find better ways.



Sunday, May 28, 2006

Blues Music - Another Tale/Image

Last Night B and I heard the Steven Segall Blues Band perform. Having never heard of Segall, his "name" as an actor/personality meant nothing to me. TO B and others his name and image obviously meant a lot more.

Segall's band came onstage just before him. It included two guitar players, a bass player, a drummer, an organist, and single male and female backup vocalists. They contrasted with him being all Black (he's White), and appearing to be roughly age 30-40 in general, while he is considerably older.

The band was tight and quite good. Despite a sound system which couldn't handle an eight piece band, they stuck together and clearly showed both their musicianship and poise.

It was interesting to watch Segall perform! He looks at least part Native American, is around 6'5" tall, and is a somewhat heavy (though not excessively so) man who was dressed in a bright orange top, with non-descript blue jeans, with his hair back in a pony tail, etc.

Musically to me he seemed "different" in various ways. Technically he could play the guitar quite rapidly, and with obvious skill. His vocals were at best "moderate", and I couldn't imagine anyone finding him "exceptional". The songs were played without any evident ad libbing or freedom of the performers to express themselves freely. They were very good musicians, but seemed to be "on a tight leash".

Most leaders of blues bands blend in with their groups or simply have the groups back up whatever it is that they give to their audience. Segall's style and personna appeared to me to show him as the "loner" in the midst of music he obviously loves. He seems to me to be only tangentially a deep part of that music. His "Whiteness" in the center of "Black Music" seemed visible. He could "play the notes" in some ways, but he seemed to miss the real feeling of most of the music. Much of the audience found him "wonderful"!

Over the past 35+ years I've heard much blues music! Lonnie Brooks and his band played at a party for my first marriage in 1977 with Honeyboy Edwards sitting in. In the mid-1970's I regularly saw musicians like Jimmy Dawkins, Otis Rush, Magic Slim and many others initially in Black Westside and Southside Blues Clubs in Chicago and later in Northside Clubs.

It is sad to see the true artists who usually, though not always, are Black seemingly be upstaged by White "stars" who lack the real soul of the music, but have the marketing presence to draw the money and attention. Segall clearly didn't feel a need to stand out from his group through "being better" or totally dominating the music. His respect for the music was apparent.

I feared that B would think the music "incredible" and it would be a point of division between us. Surprisingly to me, she found Segall a big disappointment - feeling very differently from me.

I would hope that those who want to hear "real blues" will discover some of the many blues musicians available to them. Segall is no more a "blues find" than John Belushi and Dan A. - in the "Blues Brothers" were stars. Each had and has his own expertise, but not in Blues Music, which isn't to say that their shows couldn't be entertaining.

I believe that IF Segall really wanted to "play the blues" he would either play in a trio with a bass player and drummer where he could "be the star" - and sole focus of the Group, or would play in a quartet/quintet with another guitar player alternating lead and rhythm, a bass player, a drummer and (if a quintet) with a keyboard player. Such groups could focus on "the music" instead of being "a show".

I enjoyed the evening! It was interesting!



Friday, May 26, 2006

Staying Connected - In Relationship

In my past major relationship I did not stay emotionally connected with my Partner. When things were hard between us silence was the norm. Being passive and passive-agressive was of course not effective in maintaining a good relationship.

Staying connected has been very important for both my current partner and myself. Sometimes being connected is very simple and "natural". At other times it takes serious work and is very hard.

For me staying connected is always remembering that the relationship is much bigger than any hard moment. Staying connected necessitates taking care of myself so that I can be focussed both on B and what my feelings of the moment are, free from baggage (with her or others).

Staying connected includes listening to and hearing things that aren't always positive. It can be taking in the Part of some words spoken to me that they are important and helpful, without taking in B's self, issues and energy.

Staying connected includes acknowledging that I am wrong, when I see that I messed up. It also includes appreciating and acknowledging B as my loving partner.

Staying connected is an ongoing process. It is hard. It is important for me.



Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Believing in Ourselves

Who we are - on the outside and Who we are - on the inside don't always fit together well.

We may be very confident in one and very insecure in the other.

Sometimes - it may reflect major life experiences which have hurt us at our core - selves. We can work around what hurts bad, but the core may be too singed to allow us to move beyond its poison.

It can be hard to believe in ourselves - particularly during difficult times.

It is also nice to really both believe - and feel oneself moving within a plane of confidence, without cockiness.



Monday, May 22, 2006

Being Alone - as a Man/Boy

Growing up as a Boy, I learned in many ways to be independent. In some ways it was good as I didn't need to be held back by others. In other ways it accentuated the worst parts of "being male".

I remember three neighborhood boys, two years older than me, who enjoyed bullying me when I came upon them (which I tried to avoid). Memories of playmates are vague and limited to particular moments, not to periods of time.

Being independent gave me a lot of freedom and opportunity. It also was a trap, helping make me a poor partner in my initial long-term relationship as well as a not-very-good father to my only "natural" (sic) (boy) child.

As males, we are allowed to and encouraged to "be independent". In the family housing complex at a large midwestern university where we lived, I would frequently see the boys out alone or in small groups on their bicycles exploring their worlds around them. The girls, when of a similar age, were often taking care of younger siblings.

We learn to compete in school academically, in music (or the arts) and perhaps most vividly in competitive sports. Our sport teams teach us to "bond", but not to be intimate or otherwise deeply connected with each other in exploring and developing feelings - besides expressing anger. With friends, we "do things". We don't learn to "be" to know how our friends are really feeling.

We also don't learn to understand and express our own feelings, unless they are directed in aggressive ways towards other boys and later on towards girls and young women.

Being alone - is "safe", as long as we're not ridiculed by other males. We're usually not harassed due to our looks, clothes or how we carry ourselves as girls may be. Our fears of assault - relate to other boys beating us up. I can't imagine fearing that something I might say might bring about or relate to being followed, whistled at, or being sexually assaulted.

I can't imagine walking somewhere in the dark and fearing that some stranger might assault my being. Having been held up at gunpoint in the dark twice, I know a little of the fear of potentially being assaulted, but it is different.

Being alone and independent is something that many of us men can identify with - to varying degrees. Whether we are "nerds", "geniuses", "weirdos" or those who make the newspapers as stalkers and murderers of former partners, we are more than a token part of the worlds around us.

We also avoid "responsibility" - for the care of our families - when we are reasonably young, our friends, our parents as they age and others around us. The emotional connections that we miss have crippled parts of me. For the rest of my life I will be trying to connect better with others who mean a lot to me.

It is good to take the positive - out of most of our life experiences. It's also important to me to learn where I can do better and be happier as I grow.



Friday, May 19, 2006

A Better U.S. Federal Income Tax System

Many people in the United States are unhappy with our federal income tax system. The key complaints seem to be that it is "unfair" and that it is too complicated.

How the system is unfair depends upon who one is. For some it is unfair because they feel that taxes should be low, "not high". This may mean that others should pay higher taxes or that the federal government should simply tax much less.

I believe that my generation - "The Boomers" is going to take an increasing amount of money to live as we become older and have increasinging medical and other needs. The younger generations are going to rebel when told that they need to pay extremely high taxes to pay for all of us.

I believe that we need to cut federal deficits significantly, if not totally, and eliminate the smoke and mirrors related to "borrowing from the Social Security trust fund" and simply not putting expenses such as for the Iraq War in the budget at all.

I believe that a new federal tax system could be fair and simple.

Assume the following:


1.) Individual - $10,000
2.) Spouse - if any - $10,000
3.) Children - if any - $5,000 per child up to $15,000
4.) Charitable deductions up to 5% of Gross Income - with a cap of $100,000
4.) IF deemed politically necessary - mortgage interest on a Single Residence which is one's primary interest up to a maximum of $20,000/family per year

Taxation Rate:

25% - Taxable income - $100 - $50,000
35-40% (to be determined) - ALL income above $50,000

ALL - other deductions - eliminated and all earned and other income is fully taxable including capital gains, interest, etc.

Examples of Income Tax Due:

* Single Taxpayer earning $12,000 - close to minimum wage - with no children and no charitable contributions:

$12,000 - $10,000 = $2,000 x 25% = $500 = 4.16%

* Single Taxpayer earning $20,000/year with no children and no charitable contributions:

$20,000 - $10,000 = $10,000 x 25% = $2,500 = 8%

* Fairly Low Income Family earning $40,000 with two parents and one child with no charitable contributions:

$40,000 - $25,000 ($10,000 x 2 parents + $5000 - child) = $15,000 x 25% = $3,750 = 9.37%

* Moderate Income Family earning $80,000/year with 2 children, $1000 in charitable contributions and $9,000 in mortgage interest

$80,000 - $40,000 ($10,000 x 2 parents + $5000 x 2 children + $1,000 + $9,000) =
$40,000 x 25% = $10,000 = 12.5%

* Higher Income Family earning $150,000/year with 2 children, $5,000 in charitable contributions and $15,000 in mortgage interest

$150,000 - $50,000 ($10,000 x 2 parents + $5,000 x 2 children + $5,000 + $15,000) = $100,000 = $50,000 x 25% = $12,500 + $50,000 x 35% = $17,500 = $30,000 = 20%

* Even Higher Income Family earning $300,000 - same as above except $10,000 in charitable contributions and $30,000 in mortage interest

$300,000 - $60,000 ($10,000 x 2 parents + $5000 x 2 children + $10,000 + $20,000 [interest at maximum allowable]) = $240,000 = $50,000 x 25% = $12,500 + $190,000 x 35% = $66,500 = $79,000 = 26.33%

* Very High Income Family earning $1,000,000/year similar to above except $50,000 in charitable deductions = $1,000,000 - $100,000 (parents/children = $30,000 + $50,000 + $20,000) = $900,000 = $50,000 x 25% = $12,500 + $850,000 x 35% = $297,500 = $310,000 = 31%

Such a system would tax those who:

1.) can afford to pay taxes a significant tax burden, but not a "prohibitive tax burden",

2.) have high middle income an increased burden than they pay now,

3.) have lower-middle income people a reasonable amount,

4.) have lower income - low, if any taxes.

It would be simple and relatively fair!

I suggest this as a model, needing tinkering.

Thanks for listening!


Thursday, May 18, 2006

The Beauty - of Waters

Our wedding was
next to the Pacific Ocean
as the sun disappeared
and we moved
ahead in our lives - together

Living by Water,
hearing the waves
the flow of the Creek
as we have
our new House

Raises my Spirits,
Giving me Energy
Relaxing me as
I expand and grow.

The Waters of Life
our Growth
Today, Tomorrow
and Beyond


Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Andrea Dworkin + Respect + Learning

In mid-October, 1983 along with 150-200 other men I heard Andrea Dworkin speak to her first predominantly male audience at the Midwest Men's Conference in St. Paul, Minnesota. Her words helped inspire me and allies of mine in starting Men Stopping Rape, Inc. of Madison, Wisconsin which became perhaps the most influential men's anti-rape group in the United States.

Dworkin spoke to us directly and clearly about how men in the past and continuing into the present did many horrible things to women and girls because they were female. She told us that we had two ways that we could react to our knowledge of Misogyny. We could react with guilt and wallow in it and do nothing except feel sorry. Alternately we could feel shame at what men had done (and continue to do) to women and work for meaningful change with Men supporting women.

Predictably the men in the audience reacted in two distinct ways. For some of us Dworkin was "accusing us of being bad because we are male". These men essentially said: "I've been oppressed .... (e.g. as a gay man, being abused as a child...) so don't point the finger at me. My oppression is just as important as yours (as a woman)".

Other men found Dworkin inspiring and her insights helpful. We did work for change. We continue to be influenced by much of what we heard in our lives many years later.

I think that Andrea Dworkin was very good for those of us who heard her speak (as well as others who have read her writings and been influenced by them). In Madison we subsequently debated the focus we wanted to go in and decided that educating men focussing on rape, rather than pornography was where we wanted to go.

We didn't agree among ourselves on how we should react to pornography, though we had consensus about signficant harm that is caused by it.

We could have taken Dworkin's words and said: "She's Wrong on this, so she's not of help to us..." related to some of her stands on pornography. We chose to struggle and move ahead seeing the larger picture.

Dworkin did not fit any male stereotypes of being a physically attractive woman. She also didn't play up/down to us and try to "look attractive". Some men were turned off by her appearance, though she was neat and clean and just like many of us in how we looked or paid attention to how we looked.

Dworkin was a powerful woman who taught me a lot! She recognized the importance of reading and knowing a lot about those who had contrary (and "worse") views of our world(s) around us. "Know your Enemy" - is a less polite way of saying this. She was a scholar, but not an "academic" (lost in a world of hypothetical ideas and intellect alone).

As men we often look at the world around us in a "present focus" seeing only our current reality not seeing the bigger picture. When we are young, we don't worry or think about getting older. When healthy, we don't think about the fact that we could be in poor health. We may believe that either the world is fair and we need to work hard to succeed in it or that the world is unfair and we have to fight for the scraps we can get. In either case we miss much of what is around us - the feelings, the spirits, the heart and soul of our own lives.

We often miss the world of children unless and until we become fathers. In many cases as fathers we fail in ways similar to what our fathers did with us.

Far too often, we miss the emotional lives of those we care about. We take care of the financial and practical affairs of our aging parents. Women often take care of the emotional needs of their parents.

I have been fortunate to have learned so much from Dworkin and other feminists. I wish that I had done a better job learning from them. I am trying to do "better".



Tuesday, May 16, 2006

A Meaningful Moment

One Month from Retirement
Age 55
Looking Ahead
and Back
at a Past
Filled with Memories
I See
and Concerns

for a Life
of Happy Challenging
into the Flowing Waters
of my Soul
May 16, 2006

Monday, May 15, 2006

Reflections - Past and Present

As my son finishes his first college year today and flies back tomorrow and we both approach our birthdays (19/55) it is sad and nice to reflect upon many things.

I'm happy that for my son college has been a positive, successful experience.

I'm happy that I have a loving partner, a good son and two wonderful step-sons - all who add a lot to my life.

I'm appreciative that I'm healthy and mobile and have many opportunities that many others don't have. My father died when he was almost 9 years younger than I am. My brother has had a life with many heartaches, though thankfully he is happy now in his life.

I love our new house and hope that our life in it will be a new, wonderous part of my life. I love the creek in back, the birds, the trees, and the many flowers and other shrubbery. I love the new area we live in with so many wonderful places to go on bicycle, foot, by bus or by car.

Most importantly - I'm happy to try to grow and explore and learn from my mistakes moving forward living in my present and future.



Sunday, May 14, 2006

Mothers Day - Recognition etc.

Today is Mother's Day. In a few days I'll have my 55th Birthday and my son his 19th Birthday (the same day). A month later I will have my last day at work before I retire.

In all these celebration days/events I have the issues of recognition and what we do with myself and others that I care about.

Two days after my 17th birthday, my mother said: "G, don't you have a birthday coming up soon." My parents, within a year of my brother's birth (2 years after mine) had confused one or both of our birthday dates. For them these things weren't important, except perhaps my Bar Mitzvah when I was 13.

For me it has been hard to see the meaning in such ritual days. It's not hard to recognize the importance of affirming my wonderful B, the love of my life, but it is easier to do that on occasions not tinged with the "you must" syndrome.

It's also hard to say to others: "recognize me". I'm more comfortable in the background, wanting to be respected for individual and collective things that I do (quietly and privately), rather than hearing: "you're a great guy" - for something like my birthday or retirement.

I'm learning how to be more "normal" in such areas. My learning curve varies depending upon my mood and lots of other things. I really enjoyed my wedding in 2004. That was a welcome surprise for me.

Happy Mother's Day y'all!

Friday, May 12, 2006

Non-Custodial Fathers - My Thoughts

I can certainly relate to some of the issues related to staying connected with one's children as a non-custodial father from my own experiences. I felt some guilt related to my part in my first marriage. Paying child support wasn't an issue for me. I suggested a payment level that was "generous" and terms that were if anything "more than generous".

For me maintaining connections with my son were harder. My relationship with my son wasn't good when my marriage ended. Understandably my ex-wife had no sympathy for my plight and told me that I'd need to do what I could do to connect with him.

Often money issues intervene into the area of visitation and the father/child relationship. A large percentage of fathers pay less than they are supposed to pay in child support. Mothers understandably use the failure to pay as an excuse to make it harder for men to see their children.

I want to separate the issue of child abuse - from situations where abuse is not an issue. A child should (of course) never been forced to be with an abusive parent to face potential future abuse or to face the issue of dealing with past abuse without necessary support.

I believe that money issues should be separated from the area of visitation and the father-child relationship to the degree this is possible. One way that this could be done seems best to me.
I think it could be debated whether a system such as I propose below should be uniform, or apply only where there are allegations that payments aren't being made in full on a timely basis.

If child support payments were an obligation to the State (e.g. Federal Government) and monies were received by the custodial parent regardless of the payment status, one huge barrier would be lessoned between such former-couples. The recipient of monies would never know the status of the payments by the former partner. The person paying child support would have an issue with the State when payments weren't made as required in the court order for child support. IF there were problems, they wouldn't be between the former partners related to the payment of child support.

Such a system could more effectively deal with delinquincies in payments as it would cost the State money when payments weren't regularly made in full.

Child support payments should be an obligation that a parent pays to a governmental agency. The Agency should be paying the legal recipient of child support to the custodial parent (usually the mother) regardless of the status of payments made by the non-custodial parent.

If things were done as I suggest here fathers could focus their energy on being better fathers more easily. Mothers could have more financial certainty and not have one more reason to fight with their former partners.



Thursday, May 11, 2006

US National Health Insurance

Medical care in the United States and the payments for it are an incredible mess!

Roughly 40 million people have no health coverage. Medical providers spend well over 10% of their expenses on billing insurance companies and related expenses. The average non-subsidized medical insurance plan costs an individual at least $600-800/month. Employers are dropping insurance plans and making workers pay increasing amounts for weakened coverage. Prescription drugs cost far, far more in the U.S. than in other countries. The new Medicare Prescription Drug Plan is a mess. Many people can not afford to switch jobs or go into business for themselves because they can't afford "pre-existing condition clauses" or other reasons that will cause medical treatment to be unaffordable.

We have various models to look at in seeking a better health care system. We can look at the Canadian system as well as various European systems. In these systems there is universal coverage which in some cases "rations" particular parts of health care. There also tends to be affordable health care which takes less of the gross national product of these countries. There also tends to be a system which doesn't reward some people based upon their wealth and punish others based upon their lack of assets and income.

The Medicare Program which most USians 65 and older as well as long-term disability recipients use in 2006 has the following basics:

Cost - Doctor's Coverage = $88.50/mo = $1062/year
Deductible - $124
Co-Insurance after deductible - 20% + amounts over the "customary and reasonable charge"

Hospital Coverage (zero cost for most) - $952 for covered expenses for first 60 days hospitalized in a "benefit period".

Drug coverage while not hospitalized - has a maximum deductible of $250/year with varying costs and co-payments.

The Federal Government has its own health benefit plans for its employees, their dependents as well as its retirees. These plans have varying costs, deductibles, copayments etc. Areas of the country which have more competitive medical markets have more choices at better prices than other areas.

The coverage we will have shortly is a national plan which costs $190/month for family coverage (= $2280/year) with a $20/deductible for doctor's visits ($30 specialists) - roughly $300 per hospital stay, $10 per generic prescription ($30 for non-generics), etc.
Increasingly popular are health care plans which allow the user to have pre-tax income be used for their expenses saving money on income taxes and the payment for plans which have lower costs but very high deductibles - e.g. $1500-2500.

Doctors, hospitals and other providers complain increasingly about reimbursement levels for health insurance including medicare. Coverage for psychiatric treatment is increasingly limited. Seeing specialists is increasingly scrutinized. Hospitals face various pressures including releasing patients very quickly and trying to get dying patients into hospice or other care outside so that their "morbidity statistics" are lower.

Uninsured and under-insured people often rely upon emergency rooms for their basic care when they are to the point where medical care becomes a necessity. Such care is extremely expensive.

Chronic alcoholics and homeless people often incur extremely high medical bills which must be paid for out of public funds or out of non-reimbursable funds hospitals pay for. People in their last 60 days of life often incur extremely high medical expenses. As we age - over age 75 and then 85, our medical expenses tend to increase substantially. Health plans which pay for older people tend to be very expensive even as supplements to Medicare.

I am about to retire after 31 years employment with the US Federal Government. I will be able to get health benefits for life for my wife, minor children and myself at a reasonable cost. Others pay much more for lesser health coverage or have no coverage at all.

I do not "deserve" any better health care and health insurance than anyone else does. I'm lucky! It's one of the perks of the work that I have done for most of my working life.

I would like to suggest a model for a national insurance health plan that I think would be the best option for the United States. I've not read of similar proposals elsewhere. I am happy to discuss this with others.

In the explanation below I will give sample numbers, which are only rough ideas I have of what they might be. Such numbers could be adjusted up or down.

Basics of my Proposed Health Plan:

1. Each citizen of the United States becomes entitled to national health insurance which includes a Family Identification Code and and individual identifier within it.

2. Medical Providers and Suppliers have their own separate identification codes.

3. A Federal Agency is established to handle the new health care system probably through the existing HCFA (Health Care Financing Agency) which handles Medicare and Medicaid.

4. The Federal Agency either independently or in coordination with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has a new taxation management system.

5. The Federal Agency together with likely contracts with insurance companies handles the entire payment and reimbursement program with all medical providers.

6. Individuals and Families pay their medical expenses on a yearly basis either as a part of their federal income tax or in a parallel tax tied to the income tax.

7. The medical tax payments due are based upon the expenses incurred as well as the taxable income of the family unit (or individual).

8. By "tax day" - April 15th, individuals and family units are responsible for paying for their medical costs for the prior taxable year.

9. Individuals have a series of costs for medical treatment. Examples of this might be:

a. Deductible - $500 - Year - Total Expenses
b. Co-Payment per Doctor Visit - $25
c. Co-Payment per Hospitalization - $200
d. Co-Payment per Prescription - $25

10. Caps on Costs might be:

a. Family Deductible - $2000 (would only apply if family had 5 or more members)
b. Prescription Costs - $200 once $500 deducdtible had been met
c. Individual Total Expenses - $2000
d. Family total Expenses - $5000

11. The deductibles, caps and some other costs for the individual or family would be reduced as their taxable income was below certain levels - perhaps $30-40,000/year taxable income for a family of 4 for example. Thus a family with taxable income of $10,000 might end up paying a total tax of a token amount such as $100 perhaps.

12. Medical providers would accept their patients based upon various guidelines and reimbursement policies, but with no necessary concern of them having health care coverage or any particular kind of such coverage.

13. Cost containment policies, audits and related procedures would attempt to minimize fraud and waste.

14. Workers and the Federal Government would need to work with employers and others in terms of liability for worker's compensation and other issues of liability.

15. Other than related to worker's compensation, employers would have no expenses for medical insurance.

16. Individuals could choose to pay 100% of the costs of any medical care outside of the national healthcare system if they chose to do so for whatever reasons they wished.

17. Medical providers could choose to not participate in the national healthcare system, however there might be tax incentives to do so if the "market" alone wouldn't make it financially to their advantage to do so.

18. Certain medical care might be not-covered by the national healthcare system such as elective plastic surgery that had no clear medical value.

19. This health plan would result in the end of Medicare and Medicaid. It would include all these programs recipients in it.

In such a healthcare system poor and chronically ill people could get more equal medical treatment. Almost no one would be bankrupted by medical expenses. Employers could afford to hire employees with medical conditions as well as having one huge expense they need not deal with. Everyone could get medical care as they need it. Where individuals are healthy, there would be incentives to not "overspend" with the deductibles and co-payments.

Obviously such a system is far more complex than my explanation can cover. It is however I think a model for a future national health plan for the United States that I hope others will consider.



Wednesday, May 10, 2006

As Men How We Benefit from Feminism

I believe that looking at "men helping women through feminism" is a difficult path for most men. It's not really how we are likely to move for the most part. Where we do travel on such a path, it has potential problems. (This is not to say that we may not help women through such a path, but rather that it's not how we really are as male people.)

Men who want to help women often look at this in very literal ways. It's dangerous for young women on college campuses to walk on campus and near campus in the dark, so we should help the women by escorting them where they want to go at night.

I certainly wouldn't want to discourage men offering such assistance to women who know and trust them. In other situations I would want to know How women are to feel safe with such men? Do "pro-feminist men" have some "Seal of Good Escort Keeping" which makes them different from the men who may assault or simply antagonize such women (trying to hit on them)? I think not! Do we also want to continue the message that women need be dependent upon men?

I think that men who find a traditional world view fitting their lives neatly will only find feminism useful as a tool to get what they want, e.g. sex with a "cute girl". For such men their desires of the moment and their histories of success within their lifeview are going to be most important to them. Such men may well have a double-standard where they don't want their sister or mother treated in such a fashion, yet they ignore the inconsistencies in their own lives.

Other men are not happy and comfortable with important parts of their lives. They may be affected by other men's

1.) Put-downs - as "sissies" or simply not "as good" in sports, looks, earnings, job, grades (in school) or in many other areas,
2.) Threats of being beaten up or experiences of being physically attacked

as well as feeling very alone.

As men we often don't learn how to be close to other people except as it relates to having a girlfriend or wife (and there often we don't know how to relate well). We may be able to talk with others about sports, music, movies or "women", but we aren't used to dealing with feelings except for seeing and expressing anger.

We may have not been close to our fathers. When we are fathers we may have trouble relating to our sons and daughters. It is far easier to go to see our child play a sport or be in a play, than to deal with their emotional lives as they grow.

Feminism can help us escape the homophobia and other isolation that keeps us apart from other men. We can learn to try to support our fathers and brothers as well as sisters and mothers.

Feminism can help us understand how scapegoating women and others in general doesn't give us anything tangible. Feminism can help us see how Patriarchy isn't "men vs. women" but a system where Power - often Men With Power - "grow" and "survive" - through power over others. Men are over other men, most women, and children.

Power can be based upon our collaboration with the System. When we work 80-100 hours a week as a slave of our jobs, we may seemingly have power. When we burn-out or otherwise fail, we oftenno longer possess the Power. When our employer reorganizes our power may diminish greatly. When we're disabled or "old" we often lose our power.

As men we may react to our life situation in various ways. It is a challenge for us to find life-affirming paths that help us grow, rather than escaping through drugs, seeking material possessions, or other methods of escaping who we are.

We can learn from women. We can learn from children. We can learn from each other.

In the end we generally need to find or own paths through life. Feminism may help us in many ways use spirituality, live a more healthy lifestyle - diet/exercise/listening (for a change) and in many other ways.

When we find such paths, we (hopefully) will be able to move beyond a narcissism and general neediness. We can then begin supporting others: women, men and children. At first it may come out of either a practical need or an ethical desire, but in the end it becomes a part of our inner core. We are changed and it comes from inside of our inner selves.

We can love and support ourselves and through that be loving, caring people among our families, friends, allies and others we may not know.

Thank you!


Tuesday, May 09, 2006


Partnering can be incredibly fulfilling as well as most difficult to do successfully!

For me learning patience is and has been key. I can't control my partner. I can't control her feelings. I can't control most everything about her. I don't want to control her.

I do want to distinguish between my feelings about B from B herself. What I feel about her often reflects much more about me than about her. Where I do react to things she says or doesn't say or whatever - the levels of joy or fear or anger or whatever depend greatly upon how I'm feeling and what my expectations are.

Listening to what I take to be criticism is helpful for me. I know that usually a piece of what is said is of use to me. Separating that piece from B's words is also important. I don't want or need her issues - her feelings, or other things, though I want to respect and acknowledge what she is feeling.

Partnering has opened me up to many things; silliness, new ideas and much, much more!

Monday, May 08, 2006

Favorites and Biases

Today I'd like to share some of my biases, favorities and other odds and ends.


History/Political Outlook book on the U.S.: - A People's History of the United States - Howard Zinn - no competition here that I know of

Fiction Authors: Dan Brown, Faye Kellerman, Tammy Hoag (many left out here!)

Favorite Magazine I read regularly: The New Yorker

Activist Group: - A Jewish Voice for Peace - - This San Francisco Area based group is expanding to other areas. They speak a message I find very important - speaking for communication with and seeking peace with the Palestinians in the West Bank - not a message of "self-hatred", nor "Jewish guilt", but speaking to and with Jews and others trying to build a viable, honest peace that will recognize both the rights and needs of both Palestinians and Israelis (Jews). This is a really difficult area - where polarization often comes forth.

Music: - the early songs from the mid-60's - of Curtis Mayfield and the Impressions - before Superfly

Professional Baseball Team: The Oakland Athletics - simply my favorites!

Type of Place to Be: Along the water - hearing and feeling a flow or waves, sun reflecting in it, feeling the wind and the energy - put forth.

Cities to Visit: Paris, London, New York City, Chicago

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Being There - as a Man

When my son was a young baby, I was home with him two weekdays each week (alone), as well as on weekends. When I went out such as to our neighborhood food store, I had numerous situations where I really could use the help of others with small things.

Both men and women would open a door for me as I struggled with his stroller. Women consistently would "think ahead" and ask me if I wanted assistance with many smaller things. Men rarely offered similar assistance. The women were varied - young/old, lesbian/het etc.

What really bothered me at the time was the recognition that I would have been one of those men before B was born!

Thinking over the years over what this relates to I think of many things related to how we are socialized as boys and men. Young girls often are taking care of younger siblings. Young boys are often out on their bikes or playing elsewhere.

About five years ago I listened and watched outside my window in our condo complex seeing a group of girls playing together. They were around 5-6 years old. They were "playing having an argument". Each of them was playing a role and they were talking about their acting as they went along.

These girls were acting and interacting in a social world around themselves. My son never learned in such a world. His world was much more playing with blocks and later in sports and other physical activity.

As men we often learn to take care of our parents, by making financial arrangements and otherwise "taking care of things". Often women take care of their parents and others by being with them and helping take care of their emotional needs.

I'm trying as I grow, to be more present and to focus more on the relationships, the bonds, the emotional community that I can help be a part of. It's not easy for me.



Friday, May 05, 2006

Feminism - As a Man

Feminism has meant a lot to me for many years. Around 1981-2 I joined my first men's support group. Out of it some of the men in the group moved into defending themselves among each other from their various romantic split-ups - "supporting" - was I saw as their misogyny. I went to my first men's gathering and started seeing how gay+/bi+/straight men could choose to listen and understand more of who we are as men.

In 1983 in Madison, Wisconsin, USA - after hearing an inspiring speech by Andrea Dworkin at a Men's Conference in St. Paul, MN - a group of us started Men Stopping Rape, Inc, which likely has been the most active men's anti-rape group in U.S. history. We started out talking and talking and talking and listening and listening and listening and struggled to work with each other.

Eventually we had a weekly table at the Saturday Farmer's Market on the Wisconsin State Capitol and began doing workshops at the University of Wisconsin and elsewhere in the local community. As we became credible to the local feminist Women's Community we began working in support of their work and did some things jointly. We learned rather quickly that we needed to relate to other men as "we" rather than as "they". We were and are "those men" who had been sexist in our actions and were and are struggling to work through our own issues.

Pushing guilt upon men and saying how "good" we are is counter-productive. Trying to "protect" women perpetrates the misogny around us. Developing closeness and support among our male friends, regardless of who we may seek as our primary partners, is important.

Feminism has taught me a lot about being male! Reading, listening and feeling have helped me grow, though further growth is always desirable and necessary. I have a long way to go and will probably feel that way for the rest of my life.

I'll address more in some of my future writings here.

Thanks! Be well!


May 5, 2006 Musings - Judiasm+

Being Jewish has always been an important part of my life. As a child I felt very alone when in school the "Christian World" clearly made us outsiders. I remember being told that we got presents for Chanukah each of 8 nights, while Christians only had a single day - Christmas and how that just didn't cut it making me feel ok. I guess that a significant part of my negative feelings related to the fact that I didn't feel like we belonged in the Jewish community either in the social/religious worlds of Reform or Conservative Judiasm. I saw seemed welcome and warmth in the moments we were at the Temple/Synagogue. For me the kinship ties rarely felt anything beyond the Sabbath or the holidays when we were with others.

For my father public observances were not valued. He had a grown up in a religious household where public observances of Judiasm were not the norm; the religion was personal and largely private. I remember enjoying the singing of the songs, but this was a rare part of my religion that I enjoyed. The other good part was the food when there was food for Bar Mitzvah's and special occasions.

The part of Judiasm that meant a lot to me was in our home life before my father's death (when I was 13). For the Sabbath meal (Friday evening) we ate in our dining room, with things more formal. We had freshly baked Challah my mother had made, which I liked very much and my mother's lighting of candles. This was the one meal of the week when we couldn't read at the table.

I also remember building Sukkahs in the fall, Passover Seders with (welcome) guests with us, and Chanukah particularly alternating nights with our family friends the H's. Sadly, after my father's death in 1964 we didn't follow the rituals anymore. Probably my brother and I didn't seemingly want them and my mother's emotions relating to the loss she had no doubt played a part also.

I didn't like Hebrew and Sunday School - the "work" of being Jewish. The lack of connection to the "formal" part of Judiasm, the lack of community for me, led me to being totally non-observant for over 30 years after my childhood.

Now I'm interested in reconnecting in various ways with my Jewish self. Being with my wife has helped me see more of the importance of ritual, celebration and my spiritual self. Getting older may also affect this.

Being Jewish has also impacted me greatly in my political feelings and awareness. I'll explore that more in future writings here.

Be well!


Thursday, May 04, 2006

Hi There!

Approaching my 55th Birthday, in transition - retiring soon and moving to the Pacific Northwest I hope to share with you some of my feelings, thoughts and ideas. Responses are of interest to me.

I tend to ramble, but will try to learn to be a little more succinct over time.

I was born in Michigan, grew up in Indiana, went to the University of Wisconsin, Madison as an undergraduate and ended up living in Chicago due to my love of blues music in 1973-4, moved back to Madison in 1983 and then moved to Oakland, California in 1989. I have lived in several parts of the East Bay Area working most recently in San Francisco for the Social Security Administration until 1992 and the U.S. Department of Labor in several capacities since then. June 16, 2006 will be my last day of work, ending 31 years with the Federal Government, and shortly thereafter my family and I will be fully moved from California to the Pacific Northwest.

I first married in 1977 to essentially my first long-term girlfriend "B1". On my 36th birthday my son "B2" was born. My first marriage had long-term problems and ended in 2002 when I met "B3". We've been happily (mostly) together since then. Her sons: "M1" and M2" are 10 and 7.

Feminism has had a huge influence on my life since the early 1980's. I helped co-found an incredible Men's Anti-Rape Group in 1983 and this work helped me grow over the years. Parenting my son and now my step-sons has been another strong influence on my life. My feminist ideals have often been challenged by the realities of who I am, not always with the best results. I've tried, but have certainly repeated some patterns I'd prefer to break free of.

Liberal-left politics have long been an interest of mine. I tend to be interested in exploring ways that we can better influence the results we face in the United States. Areas such as national healthcare, U.S. foreign policy, taxation and various other areas interest me a lot.

I love to be outdoors walking, bicycling and just being in the sun, the light rain, under the moon and in many other settings. Being near water and exercising are both important to me.

I read a fair amount - a majority non-fiction - biographies, history, etc. - and also some popular fiction.

I'm looking forward to retiring soon! I will tutor in my step-sons' public school, do other volunteer work, exercise much more, try to keep up our new, wonderful house, be a house-husband taking care of my step-son's basic needs - to/from school - after school etc. and explore new areas in my life.

Be well!