Thursday, December 20, 2007

On Feminism - and Being Male

Being Male is something that I've had issues with since I was a boy. Feeling "different" being bullied by three boys two years older then me, being a loner and various other things isolated me from the worlds of: "country club cool boy", "stud", "star athlete", and other images I remember faintly from my distant youth.

Several days ago I read another rant of a long-time seeming activist to me saying that - many, many famous men and women have come from households without a father, and that "needing" a father is well over-rated. The tone and words that he wrote of strongly pushed a feeling that: "men are bad" and that "I don't identify with being a (real) man". (He's written similarly over the past 20 years.)

I agree that "needing a father" is not critical in being a healthy person. As children we need nurturing and love from adults - who may be of either gender and not necessarily simply our parents. I also recognize that the failures that I've had as both a son - feeling sad and angry thoughts related to my own father who died when I was 13 and more importantly as a father and now step-father are important to me. I believe that most men have issues related to their fathers, if they have them, as well as related to their children when we are fathers.

In the feminist male blogging community there are differing perspectives from one who works with young men and women both through teaching and his Christian youth groups (and generally says mostly quite insightful things), a young caring father, a blogger who speaks insightfully of being of Color and Male, and others who often write a lot about both what is bad about "maleness" and in some cases how they see us needing to do better as men to be the allies of women and more whole people.

Where there is a lack of what I think most important, it feels to me like it is a connection to other men in more than token numbers. Activists such as Steven Botkin, a most wonderful man, build community with men in important ways. They find male allies and talk through their issues and deal with their issues as men over many years, not relying primarily upon women for their emotional support and growth. They also build programs which work with men and deal with our issues relating to dominance and control in areas such as domestic violence and rape as well as working in areas where men are - such as being athletes. Such men confront men where they are at as both allies and men challenging their beliefs.

It is far, far easier to talk at men and talk with women. Seeking and getting the praise of many women is relatively easy when one can show that one is "different" from "those men". It is much, much harder to realize that while we as individuals may feel "different" - we are still men (primarily). For most women we are still different being male. For most men we are still one of them in important ways.

Men who work with men and connect with men can really be true allies and friends of women in ways that can be much harder absent such connections.

I was in my first men's group in about 1981, when I was 30 years old. Now I'm trying another time to connect and re-connect with men in my life. Several evenings ago after much effort four of us met in our first meeting as a men's support and consciousness raising group. I'm also working on an effort to have regular meetings with other men to do outreach work related to domestic violence and "our maleness" as part of a men's group that deals with domestic violence.

I've made my share of mistakes as a man in my life as many of us have. I'm ashamed of things that I've done and wish I had done better. I wish that more of my life as a single male and before I became a parent had had more of a focus towards helping others. Often it's easy to simply try to "have fun" and "fit in" and similar. One of the things I admire in many women is how they help others - their children, others' children, their parents, their closest friends and many more in their lives - reaching well beyond what is necessary.

As a man - I think it most important that we Do More rather than Say More! There are of course many other paths where we as Men can do good and help others. In speaking of working with men I don't want to sound like it's not equally important to work with children, the elderly, disabled people, in racism related areas and in many other important areas.

Thank you!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Moving Ahead - Trying to Leave the Ark

Today was an encouraging, though tiring day.

This morning I completed the paperwork for our claim with the City, besides the issue of how much money we feel that they should owe us. That we won't be able to figure out until at least this weekend, if then. In the early afternoon I filed the claim at City Hall.

The mechanical contractor and worker arrived putting in our new furnace. It is much calmer to have a furnace when it's 30-40 degrees, rather than a few space heaters. To be able to go to the bathroom and not freeze is no longer a luxury.

M - a most helpful and wonderful city employee - came through as promised with our dumpster -and all except a large carpet piece and about 10-15 bags of drywall and wood paneling made it into it before it was filled up. M told me the dumpster will be replaced with an empty one tomorrow morning and it can stay or be moved until all get their debris loaded. He also mentioned how he was working with others to try to ensure that now and in the future calamities will have coordinated, more efficient responses that will reach those who need assistance and where relevant get them to whatever city services can best help them.

I'm totally exhausted, but at least today got important things done. Thanks!

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Noah's Ark - Almost the time when the Storm Began - a Week Ago

Yesterday I took off a few hours and played duplicate bridge. When my partner said: "that was stupid" or "why did you do that?" or similar - I was lost in feelings as to how playing a card or bidding something could matter - in the midst of what we've lost and what we're facing now.

I came home and began moving mostly sandbags from the back to near the curb. It was messy and exhausting. It also felt good to be accomplishing something and to be doing something that was necessary.

This morning after exercising I moved a few more things and then reached a point where I could only do more with the help of others. Fortunately the couple on the next block who had offered to help called me back responding to my message and came over immediately to help us.

After close to two hours of their help we'd taken most everything out of the back yard that needed to be moved to curbside as well as emptying our house and garage of that which we needed to let go of. Most heartbreaking perhaps was the trunk of '78s - from B's mother - soaked and soiled along with the trunk itself.

I feel a little cleansed - having gotten this done. We got a lot of work done this weekend. B and L - our friend who's visit with us - ended up being a rescue mission organized our upstairs so that it's livable and as good as we can make it. I bought a third new heater - in addition to the first two that they'd bought - so that all our bedrooms are warm - with no furnace. Hopefully Tuesday we'll have a functioning furnace. Hopefully late this week or thereabouts the work may begin to rebuild our downstairs' walls and tile the areas that previously had carpet.

The hard parts are the feelings and (financial and emotional) fears that we have individually and as partners. Walking in stores and in public - we are "different". We're lucky its what it is. I can't imagine the feeling of walking in public with non-visible terminal cancer or similar - feeling isolated from those around one.

It is hard to be a partnership now - to support each other - when we're each so raw and hurting inside and struggling to take care of our own feelings. B - asks me to - "fall apart in front of me" - instead of - keeping the rawness often invisible. That's hard for me - sometimes I have anger - that might be directed at her or the kids. I want to support her - but I fail at that often. I want to wake up - and have clear hope and just normalcy.

It will happen. It will take time. I don't want "sympathy cards" and similar. I appreciate the humor and love - from our new neighbors - K and D - who have been wonderfully supportive and loving through this - having just finished their remodeling of their new house - and suddenly struck with significant loss themselves (not as "bad" as ours, but significant).

Around the corner - was an elderly man - who's wife just died - and needs oxygen due to his poor health. His child has taken him in and his house - is empty and not cleaned up. V - two doors away - is 85 or 86 - in poor health and in shock at his loss. His children are trying to help him as best they can.

The sad part of all this is that the storm didn't cause the damage. Most of our City - had the same storm and little or no damage. A culvert - that was clogged with various materials - helped create a sort of dam - which made our creek a Lake. Other "failures" - related to maintenance of protective means being stripped away due to poor (or no) - work being done where it should have been done. It didn't have to be this way!! Hopefully the City will make necessary changes so it can't happen again.

Hopefully the dumpster we've been promised by a city employee - (he gave us all his card) will arrive (and shortly) and allow us to have our lost physical parts - taken away. Hopefully the city will pick up the sandbags - we have at least 75-100 of them - that have polluted creek water making them unhealthy to keep. Hopefully the huge, huge financial losses we've sustained will be mostly reimbursed - if they aren't (which could happen) - we will face incredible difficulties.

I hope that within a few months - our house will return to the clear image - shown from May, 2007 here - rather than how it looks now- in the other pictures here.

Most importantly - hopefully our hearts and souls will heal and grow - from this. Thank You!

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Noah's Ark + 5

Rawness - seems the most apt word now.

Feeling like we're "sucker punched" in a moment, unalterably changed, wanting to move to what I'd call a: "simple normalcy". Our daily temperatures go up to around 43 degrees (F), with nights down around 32 - with no furnace until 95% certain sometime Tuesday (it's Saturday now) we'll have our new furnace and heat. The boys' rooms have space heaters and we have our living room fireplace evenings for warmth. Our bed heats us also.

We're not the "Poor People of the Lower Ninth Ward" - or similar. The main floor of our house wasn't damaged at all.

IF we are able to get the City to pay for most of the damage we will be solvent. IF not, we will have horrific debt for many years into the future.

Sunday late night and into Monday we got 5 inches of rainfall. Our house is on a creek. A culvert downstream - got completely jammed with trees and debris (it took 3 large truckloads of material to take it away during the late parts of our storm). It created a dam - which moved steadily upstream as water continued to poor down the stream. The city reacted very slowly at dealing with what was going on.

When the culvert was cleared, the floodwaters receded within an hour. We went from having 2 1/2 feet or a little more water throughout the lower level of our house and garage to seeing the water within its banks easily in that time.

In front of our house (the other side) a lake built up Monday morning that at its peak was about 200 feet long - the street entirely flooded and as it built up the water flowed down our driveway into our garage and then similarly across the street from us (they aren't on the creek at all) flooding their lower level and garage as well. So our floodwaters came from both directions as the storm sewers had no space due to the creek flood.

The pond upstream which was supposed to hold water and prevent flooding overflowed itself. A 96 inch emergency drain - directly to the Lake evidently wasn't opened or was clogged itself - so water couldn't drain, as it was supposed to, out to prevent the pond from overflowing.

Apparently water was held back from coming downstream as the storm built late Sunday night and then - the water "exploded" downstream - getting stopped by the culvert - creating a total mess.

The creek now is perhaps 8-10 feet wide and maybe 18 inches deep. The water level had to have come up at least 10-20 feet or more with what happened. The 10 foot width shifted behind our house to being around 100 feet wide and near us to at least 150 feet wide.

We are lucky in many ways, but it doesn't feel that way! We are middle class people who have access to resources. We don't have savings to cover our expenses, but we can access debt at least. We can speak and often others listen.

We appreciate the good feelings that others share with us! Our neighbors and beyond here have been wonderful! We have had mixed assistance and a lack thereof from the City and other authorities. FEMA has still not declared the harder hit areas a "disaster area" and we have no chance in that area until they are declared with whatever has to happen.

What we really need though is physical and emotional release - peace - normalcy - our lives back in one piece. When we have heat - that will be one step. When the work begins and then is completed to fix our house that will be another step. IF we get financial assistance eventually that will change things dramatically from having been HAMMERED and STUCK to simply having been hammered.

I'm hopeful! It's hard to support my partner when I'm hurting as I am. It's harder on her emotionally. She has other unrelated hurts on top of this - which makes it at least triply hard for her. I'm thankful. I'm hopeful. I'm crying inside and sad. Thanks!

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Day 4 - After Noah's Gone

Feelings begin to flow in waves, No Longer in the - "I've got to do it phase", but despair at what we are in and have to look forward to in the coming days and weeks, joy - at how our neighbors have helped and been with us, fear of needing to pay off much new debt on top of our older obligations, hope that we can get the City to Pay for Much of our Expenses, Anger - that we have to face another difficult situation, and simply exhaustion - physically and mentally from all of this. Above are a mixture of today and Monday - it's cold in the house and it will be at least until Tuesday or more likely Wednesday - when we'll have a working furnace - It's Thursday now. I will learn and feel - what lessons I need from this. It's hard for my partner and our children. Life does and will move forward! Thanks!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Noah's Ark Revisited

Thankfully the waters are down! We had about 3 feet of water coming both from the creek in back as well as from the street in front of our house - Monday - was quite a day! Besides a new furnace, tearing out work to cut down on bacteria and similar from the creek and major repair work downstairs - many destroyed items, everything's just fine. I'm exhausted, but doing well given what we've been through. It's very, very hard on my partner!

Note: The pictures - first two are of the house and yard well before the flood. The third picture is of the downstairs after the waters receded and we'd stripped the carpet off. The fourth picture is of the toilet - after the waters went down - dirtied on the seat from the crud/water. The remaining pictures are of the front and back of the house as well as inside the garage, playroom and laundry room areas. Click on individual pictures to enlarge them to fill your page if you wish to see any images more closely. (Hopefully you won't face such a calamity in your life - ever! ) The lesson for us though is that material possessions aren't what matters most in our lives. Thanks!

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Mike Huckabee - ? - His Own Words from his Website

Mike Huckabee seems to be the "rising star" in the 2008 Presidential Elections. I find it illuminating to read the words from his website. He certainly says some "good things". I do find what follows problematic! I find Huckabee scary - as Bush is - as a potential president.

Thanks! (the words below are directly copy and pasted from the website).

I support and have always supported passage of a constitutional amendment to protect the right to life. My convictions regarding the sanctity of life have always been clear and consistent, without equivocation or wavering. I believe that Roe v. Wade should be over-turned.

We don't need universal health care mandated by federal edict or funded through ever-higher taxes.

But I am running to completely eliminate all federal income and payroll taxes. And do I mean all - personal federal, corporate federal, gift, estate, capital gains, alternative minimum, Social Security, Medicare, self-employment.

The FairTax will replace the Internal Revenue Code with a consumption tax, like the taxes on retail sales forty-five states and the District of Columbia have now. All of us will get a monthly rebate that will reimburse us for taxes on purchases up to the poverty line, so that we're not taxed on necessities. That means people below the poverty line won't be taxed at all. We'll be taxed on what we decide to buy, not what we happen to earn. We won't be taxed on what we choose to save or the interest those savings earn. The tax will apply only to new goods, so we can reduce our taxes further by buying a used car or computer.

The FairTax will instantly make American products 12 to 25% more competitive because the cost of those goods will no longer be inflated by corporate taxes, costs of tax compliance, and Social Security matching payments.

I support and have always supported passage of a federal constitutional amendment that defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman. As President, I will fight for passage of this amendment. My personal belief is that marriage is between one man and one woman, for life.

Iraq is a battle in our generational, ideological war on terror. General Petraeus and our troops are giving their all to provide a window of opportunity for the Iraq government to succeed, while the Democrats are running for the exit doors.

· The Second Amendment is primarily about tyranny and self-defense, not hunting. The Founding Fathers wanted us to be
able to defend ourselves from our own government, if need be, and from all threats to our lives and property.

· Second Amendment rights belong to individuals, not cities or states. I oppose gun control based on geography.

· I consistently opposed banning assault weapons and opposed the Brady Bill.

· As Governor, I protected gun manufacturers from frivolous law suits.

· I was the first Governor in the country to have a concealed handgun license.

Paternity - Fathers - and Sperm Donors ?

"Melville, N.Y. - A New York man who said he donated sperm to a female co-worker as a friendly gesture and sent presents and cards to the child over the years likely will owe child support for the college-bound teenager, according to a judge's ruling" - Sophia Chang, Newsday, p.A5, Seattle Times, December 1, 2007.

The article is somewhat confusing, hence some of my thoughts on this matter could be rendered "wrong" if I'm misunderstanding unstated things in the case.

A. "the man's interactions with the child over the years had a patriarchal nature" -per the legal representative of the mother,
B. Per the man - he donated sperm after learning that his co-worker and her (female) partner wanted to have a baby - and her son was born July 26, 1989
C. "The man, married at the time, agreed he would not have any rights or benefits in rearing the child, but the oral agreement never was put in writing..."
D. "But he took the unusual step of allowing his name to appear on the child's birth certificate because he thought it was in the child's "best interests that he would have an identity when he grew older..." (per the man).
E. Before the child's family moved in 1993 to Oregon the man had contact with the child.
F. The man sent the boy money, gifts and cards and letters signed "Dad" or "Daddy".
G. The man spoke to the boy approximately 7 times over the past 15 years.
H. The child has signed an affidavit stating that the man is the only father he's known.
I. Per the mother's attorney: "The fact of the matter is that he held himself out as the child's father for 18 years until he asked for DNA testing."

I have some problems with the conclusion of child support being owed based upon the accuracy (if so) of the statements above.

A. I see nothing of the allegations of the mother - related to the accuracy of the statements of the man and presume that these facts have not been contested. (IF there are discrepancies, one would need to interpret the credence of the conflicting statements).
B. It would appear to me that the man's name on the birth certificate is problematic. IF it could, for example, allow him to carry the boy on his health insurance through work, or otherwise give him rights as the man's child, responsibilities as "the father" would certainly apply. Otherwise there would appear to either be a potential issue of either fraud or the man claiming rights, but not responsibilities.
C. I do not find the issues of the contact that the man had with the boy in itself as establishing "paternity" or being "the father". Assume, for example, that the man had met the mother while she was pregnant and then lived with her for a period of time - where he was "the father" to the child and others. He would be a "step-father", not "father" in legal terms in such a situation most logically. Adoption or other legal actions might establish parental rights and obligations.
D. I find it important to distinguish between the: "deadbeat father" - who is the biological father of a child and would thereby have potential parental responsibilities and in some cases rights and a man or woman who is involved in the life of a child "as a parent". Such a situation might be problematic in the situation described above related to parental rights of the "second mother" in the event of a split between she and the birth mother. I do not see situation of the birth mother's life partner as similar to the situation of this man.
E. It is troubling to me absent other clear extenuating circumstances as to why this man should suddenly be liable for child support, when he had no seeming rights or responsibilities as the child's "father" for the first 18 years of the boy's life. IF he was the "biological father" as opposed to "sperm donor" I could see the right of the mother to demand financial support.

Perhaps I'm missing something here! Thanks!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Moaning and Groaning or Being Thankful

Many of us have lot to be thankful for. Often the hard things in our lives seem to take over in our heads and we take much for granted. I'm generally aware of how good I have it.

Today in the health club I talked at length with a young man I first met close to a year ago, his first day in the club after his accident. 1400 pounds had crushed one foot and he was tentative and slow moving onto equipment from his scooter. Gradually he used the scooter less and less and by last summer he was walking without the scooter to work out and while working out.

Then I didn't see him for a few months. He was back with his foot in a cast, having had a setback with more surgery. Today he told me a lot which really made me think. His doctor had told him that with the removal of the pins from his surgery he'd be walking in 2-4 weeks. A month later the doctor told him that he was sorry, but it would be four more months before he could walk.

Yes, he has few choices, but he's really trying, not knowing if he'll ever be free of pain, but hoping to be able to walk.

A high school classmate just finished a year of cancer treatments that greatly weakened her. Her energy is back and she thinks that she's succeeded, but one can't know. This isn't the first time such cancer has threatened her life.

I live in the most wonderful house I've ever lived in in my life. I've succeeded in retiring at age 55 and have the time to do some things I've wanted to do for many years. I have a loving partner and family.

My body isn't as pain free as it was a few years ago and won't let me do some things that mean a lot to me. I'm lucky in so many ways to be healthy and free to live a life with a lot of choices.


Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Shadow Side of Maleness

Shlomo Carlebach was a charismatic "singing rabbi" who had a large following among some Orthodox Jews such as my brother. Particularly after his death, various women discovered that they were not alone in having been seduced by him during his travels (which was clearly outside of bounds for his purported religious beliefs).

Within the Pro-Feminist Men's Movement some years ago a well known musician and leader was outed in a similar way.

Among "liberal" (and not quite as "liberal") male politicians such as Senators Ted Kennedy, Robert Packwood and Daniel Inouye (see: issues of sexual harassment seem to arise fairly regularly.

It seems as though our male drive towards power and recognition seems to correlate for far too many of us with a need for either female (sexual based) approval or for power over individual women (through harassment).

I would think that particularly amongst male leaders of the left that some of them would find much more inner peace as well as more effective long-term (inner based) success (as well as ethical "goodness"), if they were more grounded in their sexual and general personal identities. I would hope that a rooted, deeply ingrained Feminist consciousness might help some of these men.


Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Going Against The Norms - Significant or Not ?

As a teenager in the mid-1960's I used to walk around West Lafayette, Indiana, USA - where I grew up - particularly on Purdue University's campus barefoot. This was being "different" in a way that really had little significance for me or others.

In the summer of 1969 or 1970 - playing the French Horn in the Lafayette Citizen's Band - I bucked "the rules" and wore a Non-White dress shirt with my tie at one of our regular Sunday afternoon concerts. Why one couldn't wear a modest yellow or blue shirt - was "tradition" I guess - in those days - White was "the norm". Soon other boys (though not the older men) were sometimes wearing non-White shirts. Did this matter? Not much then I guess!

In 1976 I convinced my partner of the time to keep her "maiden name" when we married (in early 1977). Women in Chicago didn't do that then very frequently. I think that this was helpful for both of us and am glad I saw things as I did, though I didn't formally discover Feminism until around 1981.

Somewhere around 1977 or 1978 while working at the Chicago North Social Security Office - in a world where smoking was allowed most everywhere, I put a sign at my desk saying to claimants and co-workers - "No Smoking" (at my desk). Surprisingly I got a lot of respect from both claimants and co-workers who smoked everywhere else most of the time.

In 1987 my son Ben was born carrying his mother's surname as his last name - allowing her family name to move into another generation - which it wouldn't otherwise do. My son is my son - his last name - isn't something that belongs to me because I am male.

My father spoke out against the War in Vietnam to family at least as early as August, 1962 - he died in November, 1964 - before US troops escalated their efforts in 1965 (after President Johnson faked the Gulf of Tonkin "incident" to justify a massive war effort).

I grew up without television - my father's choice to ensure that we'd read a lot not allowed to have any kind of guns - including squirt guns - because they were guns.

Thinking independently - can be helpful - particularly when working through things in good ways. Sometimes it may be frivolous - other times more significant!


Monday, October 29, 2007

Pacific Northwest "Humor"

The Pacific Northwest is heavily influenced by very White - Norwegian (and neighboring) folks whose humor is "different" (particularly to that of my Black Partner).

Saturday - at Arco Gas Station - a deafening car stereo (fairly unusual here - usually in a car of an 18 year old White Boy - with an ancient junk car) - booms at all of us there. Late 40'sish White Man says to me: "It's after 5:00 p.m. so I can't turn up Prairie Home Companion" (it goes off the air at 5:00 p.m.) - and we both laugh! (Not funny to my partner!)


Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Iran-ing It

Reading an excellently recently written writing of Seymour Hersh in the New Yorker about Iran and Iraq was most informative! He believes that the - "scare them about the Nuclear Threat" - strategy related to Iran has failed with the USian public. Now, he indicates there is an effort to convince us "uninformed folks" that there is a great terrorist threat - Al Quaida - based coming from Iran.

Hersh points out the internal contradictions in current U.S. policy and how so much is trying to get the political spin right (what else is new!). Supporting the Iraqi Government is supporting Shiite leadership which is allied (somewhat at least) with Iraq. Iranians have strong economic and religious ties to Iraq - going to shrines in Iraq, etc. - based to a significant degree on the facts that Iran is a Shiite country and Iraq's largest population is also Shiite.

We are also pushing the supposed success of alliances with Sunni forces outside of the Shiite Areas of Iraq. Purportedly we are getting these forces to turn against Al Quaida. The problem with this is that - much of the end result is - ethnic cleansing - of Shiites from Sunni areas and vice versa.

We are pushing supposedly for a unified government and a single country remaining, while our actions in many ways may lead towards partition into 3 separate countries.

From Hersh's picture, which seems well thought out and researched, it seems obvious that US policy remains confused and not thought out, as it has always been in Iraq. One can only hope that "the politicians" - will heed the warnings and help prevent Bush, Cheney, etc. - from attacking Iran before the 2008 Election.


Friday, October 12, 2007

Why ?

Do I
Hurt the One
I Love - So Much?

with Excuses
and sometimes
No Excuses

I had feelings
of Anomie
or similar

Excuses -
More Excuses

Now - I've
No Idea
I'm hurting
but Why
should that translate
to being Insensitive
and Lost
in the Moment

I Hope
I'll do
Not Only
..... but

Much Better
so - I won't
Need to say
these words

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Goodbye B-mer - Hi Little Wagon!

This morning was farewell to our '98 BMW and welcome to our new 2008 Toyota Matrix. We needed better Rojo (dog) space, and the B'mer - was having far too many - little - not-so-little expenses. I'm happy to have a much smaller and less powerful car - much simpler - more at my level. I'm not happy at all our debt!

I never liked the B'mer, though at times it was convenient. I always felt like I didn't belong in it - having trouble parking it at times, feeling - like I belonged in a smaller, simpler vehicle. The B'mer designers seems like idiots! They spend so much money on their engines and similar - which makes the car ride very nicely and rapidly. They scrimp so, so much on cup holders and similar - which are cheap and for us caused numerous spills in the car. It seems so silly - that they can't take care of the "little things" which cost relatively little.

Before yesterday there was plenty of back-and-forth - until my partner finally agreed reluctantly that such a small, for her unattractive, type of car was the best alternative that I would agree with - for the vehicle that I drive 90+% of the time. It felt good that I could have my priority respected!


Monday, October 08, 2007

Confronting our Privilige

Several months ago an 86 year old area character in the subdivision I live in shocked me when I stopped to tell him about our new neighbors-to-be. His first question was "Are They White?" Given that my partner is Black, I like to think I'm a little sensitive and aware related to issues of race and tolerance.

Then he commented on how beautiful my (Black) car is using the "N" word twice in extremely racist ways. I ended the conversation immediately and left - stunned. I told my partner later what happened and she asked me about Confronting his Racism. I lamely said that he, an 86 year old wouldn't change.

The next morning I confronted the man. (I realized that my passivity was part of the problem!) Bob didn't know that my partner is Black - obviously! He apologized. I've never talked with him directly since then by choice though I see him all the time. IF his words of apology or actions thereafter had indicated a desire to share and talk and change it would be different for me. I don't want to tacitly support his racism.

My natural reaction to areas like this that bother me a lot is to think and "care", but not really to do much to change things.

In the 1960's as "Black Power" gained strength and "Civil Rights" became less common, we White Folks were told over-and-over again that it was time for us to begin the serious work of ending Racism in the White Communities of the U.S. It was time to let Black People lead their Movement and for we, the "bad people", to make serious change where it needed to be made.

To a large degree we've never done our job and racism continues to this day largely as a result of this.

We may be "liberal" and thereby "aware". We tend, however, not to translate our purported insights to action.

Racism may be the best example of this however it also applies in other areas. We men don't work with other men to end sexism. In a slightly different way We who oppose the War in Iraq don't really seriously work to end the War.


Sunday, September 30, 2007

Presumptions and "Our Interests"

In approximately 1960-1961, at the age of about 9-10, I remember being in a march around the County Courthouse in Lafayette, Indiana protesting some atrocity against Blacks in the Deep South. There weren't that many of us and others out shopping stared at us, most likely never having seen a demonstration before.

The word "atrocity" - above clearly shows my prejudiced perspective. Social justice, non-violence, and liberal-radical political perspectives have always shaped my essence.

In other households in the U.S. - "God" - and through one's vision religion may similarly shape views which may range from radical social activists to fundamentalist families where the word of The Father is supreme.

If I wish to understand and talk with those whose perspectives are radically different from mine I need to listen very carefully and seek a common ground which may be difficult to find.

Apart from differences in perspective often our ideologies color our vision and sometimes lead us astray. It is simple to look at how Bush Administration figures totally misread Iraq before and shortly after The U.S. invaded to "liberate" it. It is harder though to look at how we speak out and turn others against the causes we believe in Not recognizing how our words do the opposite of what we wish them to do at times.

As men we often don't learn to listen to women. As (often White) Americans we make presumptions about both others abroad and minorities within our countries.

In 2004 my partner and I were in London and Italy not long before the November elections. It was fascinating to see worlds where English language television talked about American politics (including CNN) - in fairly open, diverse ways, not stuck in the polarization and limited perspectives we see in the U.S.

I hope that I will find better ways over the rest of my life in working for change in areas such as: Male - violence, Racism, as well as building World Peace - including Palestine, Iraq, Iran, North Korea and beyond.


Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Respect - and a World Leader

In reading of the controversial appearance of the Iranian leader at Columbia University yesterday I find it difficult to accept the "introduction" that Columbia University's President gave before the Iranian leader was allowed to speak.

I need not have any appreciation of the Iranian leader to feel like an introduction of him as a speaker should show some basic respect for him. I think it important to distinguish between respecting one invited to speak before one and questioning such a person - seeking answers to specific questions.

In the 1980's I went to see Louis Farrakhan speak at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Hearing him speak was an "education" and very helpful for me. I clearly heard him as a charismatic - indeed spellbinding speaker who was very intelligent. He seemed quite rational and on target in many ways. Unfortunately Anti-Semitism - was dominant in his thoughts and intervened regularly as Blaming Jews - being totally irrational and indeed crazy in this area - got in the way of most everything he spoke of.

Listening to Farrakhan - it was clear that he had the "surface" support of many, predominantly poorer Black people, but was hardly a political force to be reckoned with. Understandably many, particularly Jews, thought him a serious threat.

Hearing Farrakhan helped me understand a lot! Not having an opportunity to hear him would have denied others and me a good opportunity to learn various things.

I think that it is a good idea to listen to others whose ideas we may find distasteful! It is important to "protect" ourselves from threats to our being. It is unclear to me how we can not both take seriously any potential threats from countries such as Iran, while listening and respecting someone such as this man who was invited to speak at Columbia University.

Clearly - when he said that there were no Gay/Lesbian people in Iran, we have a right to react to his words. Respecting him as a person need not mean that we find his words accurate or always respecting others or ourselves.

It was sad when Senator Obama was ridiculed for saying that he would meet with "enemy" leaders if asked to do so by them in his first year as President of the U.S. Meeting with "the enemy" is a good idea! We all can learn from our "enemies". In some cases we can break down barriers that separate us. If they truly are "bad", we should have enough respect for ourselves and our leaders to feel that our leaders could see through attempts to mislead us.

Talking and listening is important! Silencing others doesn't work. Iran's leader evidently has a lot of respect because he will stand up to President Bush/The U.S. and speak out against Israel.

It would be nice if we could honestly work in the U.S. both to create a just peace in Palestine/Israel/Gaza and more generally to have a lot more respect in The Arab World as well as in many other countries.

I am sad and angered! Thanks!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

National Health Insurance - Again

I heard Richard Viguerie, a right wing figure, speaking of the weaknesses of the Democratic proposals for National Health Insurance in the US. His framing of the problem was telling. He indicated the necessity of creating disincentives (and incentives) for "younger, healthier people" getting more than the cheapest possible health insurance to counter the costs of the more expensive, more comprehensive policies being held solely by presumably: "older, less healthy people".

A good example of this type of pricing differential is visible on the OPM Federal Employees' benefits website ( ) where employees and retirees in 2008 will pay their portions of Higher Option Blue Cross - $314.47/month and GEHA - $401.79/month vs. some lower costs plans that are $163.85 and $189.37/month.

Employees and retirees with high medical needs will likely pay the higher premium plans which have better benefits, while those with perceived lower medical needs will use lower cost plans.

I know as a Man and as a Human Being that I don't look at things and say to myself: "Well, someday I'm likely to have a stroke or get cancer so I should enroll in a most comprehensive health plan Now to cover that possibility."

I also know that when one has a family and one's baby is born with serious complications and lifelong disabilities, one's life is turned upside down. When one develops diabetes or has a stroke (in one's 40's for example) or similar one has a totally different outlook upon medical care. What also is the young adult to do who works hard despite having serious diabetes issues or other medical needs that cost a lot of money.

I am "socialist" in the sense that I believe that medical care is a right! Unless we all share the costs of those whose medical needs are high, we create a system of "haves" and "haves not" totally separate from issues of our socioeconomic class.

In creating a viable National Health Care System we need some important features:

1.) All are covered
2.) The costs both for coverage and for out-of-pocket expenses take into consideration normal incomes and savings. (One can't expect someone with an income of $50,000/year - to pay 25% of their income on medical care - unless they have very large savings perhaps.)
3.) Provisions need to take care of the needs of lower income people,
4.) Cost containment provisions need to be in place that cut the paperwork costs and really help control costs, rather than simply squeezing middle and lower class USians financially.

Tax incentives as most Republicans propose will work logically for those with high incomes, but not for those who lack a high income.

Choice is a good idea, but choice alone - "the free market" - doesn't make health insurance affordable. Health insurance is not "competitive" in important ways.


Monday, September 17, 2007

"Socialism" and National Health Insurance - in the US

Hillary Clinton proposed her ideas for a national health plan today. She was clear to avoid anything that might create a "bureaucracy" or be a single-payer-plan, having learned that "socialism" is not appealing to many in the U.S. Her plan will require all to have coverage, employers to pay towards health coverage (in ways that are unclear to me now), and subsidies for low income people.

Per 2006 US Census data, the median family income for a family of four in 2006 (for most states this number of family members had the highest median income) for a random set of states in the U.S. was:

60,298 - 75,775 - 66,711 - 67,897 - 72,591 - 66,095 - 67,560 - 59,663 - 78,413 - 71,559 - which averages between $68-69,000/year.

The current costs of health insurance for the average family appear to be roughly: $12,000/year - as per the data below.

The Kaiser survey found three out of five employers (60%) offered coverage, down from 69% five years earlier, with most losses in small companies. Among employers with 200 or more workers, 98% offer health coverage.

This year, the average annual premium for family coverage hit $10,880

The average annual premium for family coverage amounts to $12,106 in 2007

The percentage of people covered by employer-based health insurance fell to 59.7 percent in 2006, down from 60.2 percent in 2005. It was 64.2 percent in 2000.

It is unclear to me how families of four who lack health insurance with incomes in the range of $60,000 - $75,000 (besides the obvious impossibility for lower income people) at the very least could possibly afford to pay most or all of the costs of health insurance costing them $12,000/year, where they don't have health insurance through work or retirement/disability pensions.

It is one thing to talk about "subsidizing" the health insurance needs of "low income people". Unfortunately middle income people will need assistance as well.

It's unclear to me why I, as a retired Federal Employee, should pay roughly $2,400/year for quite good health insurance while others who lack employer coverage or similar should have to pay almost five times as much as we pay for comparable coverage.

I think that some form of Single Payer Health Insurance is the only viable way for us to have a faintly logical health care system. I can imagine employers being taxed - based upon their income or gross receipts or similar. It seems illogical to me to penalize employers by taxing them for each employee that they employee. Obviously if insurance will be "affordable" to employees it will be "unaffordable" to most small employers (who tend not to have health insurance plans today). Current law (and other plans that tax employers by employee) provide an incentive to have "contract workers" rather than "employees" and to avoid adding to one's payroll.

My pet health insurance idea is in an old blog entry of mine from my early blogging days.

I hope that others will push for single payer!


Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Looking Backward: 9-11 - and Beyond

"The main mistake continues to be the capacity to view one's own country, values and policies as righteous, innocent and well-intentioned, while viewing the enemy as evil and dangerous. We've seen this attitude among Arabs and Israelis, Americans and Islamic militants, Turks and Kurds, Syrians and Lebanese and other such pairs of foes. " (09/11/2007)

Rami Khouri, in his consistently insightful blog, captures the heart of USian blindness today as we've been for a long, long time!

Listening to NPR - I hear over and over again - how we poor, unappreciated benevolent USians just can't force those Heathen A-rabs to takeover the "good fight" for their country. The key issues now relate to Our Inability to Win the War (not the immorality of our cause) as well as the related cause of stopping the Horrific Al-Quaida (Iraq) - who evidently will be invading the golf courses and beaches of Hawaii and Florida and areas around Hollywood soon without the Good Fight continuing. (While there certainly are real threats today, they rarely come in the ways our leaders speak of them.)

Perhaps - some sane voices will prevail, though it seems more likely that they'll be a lot of posturing and 6 more months will be bought - for more continuation of the present craziness.

I wonder more and more if somehow something like bombings of Iran - will be the patriotic push in 2008 - to try to pull the elections in favor of the Republicans.

Rarely do forces of rationality prevail in showing how we readily build extremists with our policies and are so consistently backwards in seeing what we do abroad as well as unfortunately in the U.S.

It is sad - that we in the U.S. of A. - really do have the potential to do so much good in helping end poverty and needless deaths both within the U.S. and in the rest of the world. Why we hide our heads in the sand in Cuba, Venezuela as well as Iraq and Elsewhere in the Middle East. General P or Ambassador C - was talking of how Iraq was now starting to be a significant purchaser of U.S. Weapons yesterday- as if - fomenting the Arms Race - and helping our precious corporate entities - who help share the killing of others further and further around the World.

It is sad! I hope that we can and will do better! Thanks!

Friday, August 31, 2007

Rojo's First Birthday - August 31, 2007

Today we celebrate Rojo's 1st Birthday (though we don't know his exact date of birth). He's been a delightful pup - accepting of the "abuse" our 8 year old has given him, being flexible to the whims of all of us and just being an enjoyable member of our household. He's a sociable - Doofuss - looking back on walk and running into things, with no concern - moving immediately into the next moments of his life. He loves the attention of people and dogs and sometimes overwhelms others, because "subtlety" is not exactly his middle name.

I took him on his first walk by our pond and enjoyed seeing a beaver and a great blue crane. Later on we "woofed" Happy Birthday to him - as he alternately enjoyed the attention and looked very puzzled.

Happy Birthday Rojo!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Being Open with Other Men - My Penis and Me

I have tried off-and-on over the past 26 years to connect with other men in a variety of ways. The Pro-Feminist Men’s Movement has helped me significantly, particularly in the 1980’s. My first men’s gathering was so meaningful for me that I helped coordinate the planning for another one which was very successful.

In 1983 I moved to Madison, Wisconsin, USA. I went with a number of fellow members of the Madison Men’s Center to the Upper Midwest Men’s Conference in St. Paul, Minnesota in October, 1983. We were greatly inspired by Andrea Dworkin’s first speech to a predominantly male audience. Out of the initial efforts of eight of us, we formed Men Stopping Rape, Inc. of Madison which did some incredible work helping share and educate men about rape related issues in the Mid-1980’s and beyond.

Fathering my son in the late 1980’s as well as moving to Oakland, California (where of financial necessity I began working full-time) curtailed most of my activist work. A few years ago I joined a men’s support group in the Bay Area which helped me connect with men in some ways and frustrated me in other ways.

I have found it hard to connect at a deep level with other men. To a large degree my issues may relate to how alone emotionally I grew into adulthood from my childhood. It is hard as a man to connect with others at a deep emotional level. This is of course doubly hard when one hasn’t learned to connect deeply within one’s birth family and with peers.

Recently I’ve read a lot on various blogs related to (heterosexual) men and our sexuality. Though I have had male lovers in my distant past, I would at a minimum identify myself as: “straighter”. Much of what I’ve read has fascinated me, both where I’ve found commonality and differences with other men.

Though it feels scary to talk about my own body as well as my feelings and life experiences, I would like to share some of me. I hope that over time more other men will be honest and share more of who they really are underneath the webs of silence, as well as varying levels of dishonesty (at least among some of us).

I grew up feeling very alone as a child. I was a tall, awkward young boy who rarely had playmates. I remember visiting the houses of others with kids to play with. I don’t remember having a “best friend” as a child. I loved sports. I had season tickets (alone) at Purdue University (men’s) basketball games starting either at age 7 or 8 and walked alone close to one mile to the (night) games. My parents and younger brother had no interest in sports. I was in swimming classes and for several years a youth Saturday morning sports program. Though I enjoyed much about physical activity, I wasn’t good at everything I tried.

I remember first being aware that I was developing pubic hair just before my 12th birthday when we were in Israel. Moving into adolescence I don’t have a lot of clear memories in many areas related to my growth. I remember being 13 in the summer of 1964 away from home for the summer having a peer group of at least two boys and I think two girls. I remember having a crush at one point on Betsy Linton from Philadelphia, but I don’t remember being with her alone or any reciprocal feelings on her part.

After my father’s death later that year my grades in school went up significantly. My abilities at running improved as my physical growth slowed, though I never was a great runner. I went to several dances at the beginning of ninth grade, but simply sat on the sidelines alone and didn’t know “what to do” with others. In the late fall I was terrified when a female classmate asked me to go with her to a Sadie Hawkins (“girls invite the boys”) dance. I declined the invitation. The summer ninth grade I asked the same girl out for my first date. The experience was traumatic for me. I don’t know what I expected, but I found that we seemed to have nothing in common.

During the 10th grade I had no dates and went to no dances. In the 11th grade I began dating Carol Denenberg, a 9th grader, whose family I knew. Late that school year I found out that we had “split up” without my knowledge. She was with another classmate. Though I held Carol’s hand, I never kissed her. I was na├»ve!

Late in the 12th grade I briefly had another girlfriend who I kissed – she was 19 and I was 17. Shortly after I graduated from high school I lost my virginity (technically at least) with another young woman who was also older than me. I was scared and inept and ejaculated very quickly. I’m sure that I gave no pleasure to my partner!

It wasn’t until I was in my last semester of college that I had sex feeling like I had significant control over my penis and the sex itself. Sex was still focused completely on penile-vaginal intercourse. I remember waking up with my girlfriend – having sex – and not remembering how it started. That was a thrilling feeling!

As a teenager I was certainly a slow learner! I had no peers to discuss things with – certainly among boys we didn’t talk. The world of “girls” was a mystery to me. My “relationships” lasted weeks and I didn’t know my “girlfriends” very well. Occasionally I had fairly platonic relationships that lasted a little longer, but lacked closeness.

I remember being 19 years old and discovering masturbation for the first time while taking a bath. I’d been with several female partners having “sex”, but hadn’t masturbated previously. My high school class was “The Class of 69” – but I didn’t have a clue about the sexual meaning of that – which was obvious to most of my classmates.

As a teenager my sexuality was probably most vivid in “wet dreams” when I ejaculated. I didn’t know much about them and didn’t get pleasure from them. The other part of my “sexuality” was waking up in the morning with “piss hard-ons” some of the time, which went away when I went to the bathroom. Pretty boring!

Reflecting back upon my early sexual development it seems congruent with the distance that I had from my peers and parents. We didn’t have television because my father felt it would keep us from reading a lot. Dad never talked with me about sex. Nudity in our household was accepted but sexuality seemed distant. It wasn’t that anything was “forbidden”. The emphasis in our lives seemed to be on being “good, upper-middle class Jews” who achieved. As an 11th grader I lettered in track and cross country, was in the band, the orchestra and the dance band and was taking college economics classes at Purdue University with juniors in college. I had no social connections beyond the brief time with my girlfriend at dances, movies and similar.

At 20, I was floored when my mother out-of-the-blue – asked me: “George, are you a virgin?” to which I replied “no”. She said: “Good, your father wasn’t a virgin either and I was very glad of it.”. That was the end of my single “sex” conversation with my mother.

At 25 I had my first lasting girlfriend and we were married about eight months after we first dated.

In my 30’s and early 40’s I first really discovered my sexuality in positive ways. Because of the influence of Feminism in my life, I moved very clearly away from a focus upon “performing” with my partners. I didn’t mostly focus upon my penis and “routine sex”. When I had good sex it was a time of celebration with my partner, losing track of time and place and other “realities”. It was being in the gentle sexual touch we shared.

There was no correlation between time, orgasms or similar and “good sex”. Good sex was simply a wonderful few hours of being with a partner I loved making love with.

Little did I know how good I had it in those days at least sexually. In my mid-40’s I began to notice an increasing inability to get and sustain erections, particularly with a partner. Nothing physiologically was “wrong” with me – from exams with my doctor.

In 1998 – I was jarred into reality when I really “couldn’t get it up” repeatedly – I couldn’t deny to myself the issues that were moving gradually in my body. The only ways that I could really feel my sexual connection with my penis was when masturbating. Gradually over time even that has varied in how difficult it is to orgasm or get partially erect. Often when I do orgasm it isn’t with a very erect penis.

It may sound crass and silly, but it really is a weird and discomforting experience to not know – without touching one’s penis with one’s hands, whether and to what degree one has an erection. It is a strange feeling to feel very aroused – and then to find out that one isn’t erect at all. It is confusing to occasionally be erect and not to know it. Gone too are the piss hard-on’s except once recently – which pleasantly surprised me.

After some years and pressure from my second wife, I began trying to use Viagra. It seemed helpful at first and gradually became more inconsistent in effectiveness. Viagra, to be effective (for some at least), needs to be taken on an empty stomach. It’s hard to be spontaneous at all on a weekend to need to plan to have sex at least 4-5 hours after eating. When one’s partner isn’t a morning person and doesn’t want sex on a weekend morning generally, it’s hard to find a time when Viagra will work effectively. I didn’t realize the effects of food until my doctor referred me to a urologist at my request. After seeing him, I wrote my doctor to suggest telling other Viagra patients the food issue.

Most recently I went to another urologist who pleasantly shocked me. She suggested I try something and a few minutes later I injected my penis with a solution (Trimix) which brought about an strong and lasting erection within a few minutes. Unlike Viagra it didn’t seem to depend a lot upon my mood/emotions and other things. It felt much more like I used to feel before my mid-40’s. I masturbated after I got home feeling Very Much Better than I had felt in a long time when masturbating. After masturbating I still had “strength” in my cock which gradually lessoned over the next half hour or so.

Since then I’ve had mixed success with Trimix. It’s moderately expensive. It doesn’t necessitate not eating before it. The solution needs to be refrigerated. I overcame my fright at injecting myself. My partner hasn’t taken to it. For now - it'll be not tried anymore.

I can and do enjoy my sexuality! Feminism thankfully has given me a base to recognize that I’m not my cock. I can enjoy the feelings I get and get aroused (if not always within my penis). I can have orgasms fairly regularly, but I can’t generally have successful intercourse with my partner.

I’m not seeking sympathy from others! I do hope that other men will share their sexual lives particularly when they have issues – as I’ve had in my life. It’s not like this kind of thing is talked about more than the Viagra ads and ads for seeing high priced doctors who promise to make us “whole”.

In some ways what I feel relates to the increasing aches and pains that I feel in my mid-50’s and other ways that I feel myself aging. In other ways it feels different. It feels sad to get excited when I feel my cock – tingle a little and react – as it did quite frequently when younger –and now does perhaps 1-3 times a year – in normal day-to-day life.

I never felt that because I felt mild or stronger feelings in my cock, that it meant anything in of itself. I never “needed sex”. Physiological sexual feelings sometimes came from feeling sexual excitement and sometimes just “happened” – for no apparent reason.

It feels ironic that as I grow and presumably am maturing in some important ways in my life, my sexual being faces limitations far more significant than the lessoning of sexual activity that many men feel as a “normal” effect of aging. I presume that with the popularity of Viagra and sexual-healing clinics for men, that I’m far, far from alone in my issues.

I can only imagine that many, many other men must feel very alone and inadequate when they find their penis weakening sexually as I’ve felt. It didn’t feel good when I got up the courage to share what I was feeling with my men’s group several years ago and found that the others couldn’t or wouldn’t relate to what I expressed. They let me talk, but clearly much of what I said made them uncomfortable.

I hope that as men others are doing a much better job than I did relating to each other in our various lives as: sons, fathers, uncles, cousins as well as best friends, good friends, workmates and our other life roles. Gay men may have issues I don’t face. We each have our own issues.

I’m thankful for much in my life! I accept my penis as it is. It gives me pleasure as well as doing its other functions as advertised.


Sunday, August 05, 2007

Reflecting upon the Minneapolis Bridge Collapse

When I think now of the tragic collapse of the I-35 Bridge in Minneapolis now I think of a way of life we live in and look at in the U.S. today. My visions are not of one bridge or many bridges, but rather of how we look at our infrastructures and economies in general as well as how we see our connections as "people" together and separately.

I remember being in Switzerland as a child and hearing my parents talk afterwards of how the Swiss were planning the highways, train system and similar for the coming decades to meet the perceived needs of the country for the long-term future. I also remember being in Israel 25+ years ago and hearing how then (at least) it was not possible for people to speculate investing in land around the major urban areas to profit from and control the economic development of the country.

In the U.S. we far, far most commonly live in a variety of worlds of what I would call "smoke and mirrors". Our major corporations often must look for short-term profits, else their leadership will be replaced. Our large industries of the past such as the automobile industry have huge numbers of retiries who are dependent upon health benefits and pensions that seemingly will not be payable for the long-term.

We have plenty of long-term needs in this country for things that are being deferred or otherwise underfunded including our bridges and highways. We have necessary immediate needs such as the funding of our wars and military. We also have bleeding cancers such as our healthcare system and our general system for our military veterans where we never seem to solve the basic issues that remain unpaid for and not planned for.

I am 56 years old. My generation is beginning to "get old" and be replaced in the workplace by my 20 year old son's generation. Twenty to thirty years from now those who are working are not going to want to pay for the healthcare and other needs of my generation. We should be saving as a society for the debt needs of the future.

Some individuals are saving for the future. As a society though we are borrowing and deferring things to the future - both individually and within our government entities and similar.

The solutions to many of our problems are both complex and simple. We need to end the power of those who look at our lives through microcosms of "looking out for themselves" (only) and seeing life in naive visions of the past (fictional) worlds of the past.

We live in a world now where many people have many major health needs in some cases related to lifestyle choices that they make, but in other cases related to luck. We can not afford indivually to pay for the huge costs of cancers, birth defects, diabetes, heart conditions and many other ailments.

We live in worlds of many people who are not super wealthy and can not afford to pay the huge costs that exist for housing, healthcare and other major expenses in their lives. We need to change our taxation systems so that those who have money pay sufficient taxes to support our needs for now and for our future lives in the coming decades.

We need to recognize that "we" are people who are not Mostly White, Christian, in their 20's, 30's and 40's, Heterosexually Married with 2 Children, in good health, while some of us are that way and we all need to figure out better ways to live together.

In our current worlds we have the ability to dialogue and work together through our politicians, schools, places of worship and in many other places. It is hard, but we need to start working out our problems from the local level to national and international levels of our lives.

We have many things we an improve in our society. We can have a rational healthcare system. We can have a political system which isn't controled by "payoffs" to politicians and others to get short-term and long-term gains for the few at the cost of the many. We can help families raise healthy children who get healthcare, education and a way-of-life that celebrates the natural beauties of our lands and our spirits and hearts, rather than simply - television, video games, professional sports - and a craving for that which we never seem to have - the "beauty industry" of the perfect bodies of thinness and whatever - in the distance beyond.

Getting there is difficult - we need to try!


Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Impeach GW - Why Focus There ?

It was invigorating recently while in the Midwest in Madison to see so many: "Impeach Bush and Cheney" lawn signs in the neighborhood I stayed in.

I then return(ed) to a world where the Republicans and a few Democrats in Congress repeatedly rebuff most everything that might pressure GW to change his policies.

Until or unless far more people feel that they are negatively effected by The War in ways that really threaten the complacency of those "middle of the roader politicians" it seems likely we will continue to have posturing and more games, but no real change. People oppose the War - not because it "is wrong" but because we're not "winning".

Pressure on impeachment seems good only as a "cheerleading" towards a much larger cause. GW deserves to be impeached, but others have let him and his cronies do so, so much damage and have often been complicit in what has happened.

I hope that in September Congress will begin to really move to push GW. I fear that the Republicans will continue to speak out of both ends of their mouth, feeling that they'll not pay a price in the 2008 elections.

Time will tell both as to what will happen this fall and in 2008.

I hope for the best. I'm cautious in wondering both if the Democrats will blow things as well as wondering IF 2008 proves a great year for the Demos, if they'll really be effective at changing things for the better. GW being out of office should be an addition by subtraction, but that isn't enough. The Supreme Court alone will be a thorn for decades.

I hope that my cynicism proves short-sighted. I hope that more younger people will do more and that the changes in our lifetimes will finally move towards a better path in various ways.


Friday, July 20, 2007

Returning to My Past

Over the past week I've been in Chicago and Madison - where I lived most of the time during and after college from 1969-1989. I've visited old friends and old haunts of my earlier life.

It is interesting for me to see the feelings that come out, particularly in relation to areas of both pain and pleasure in my past and present. To see where I lived with my ex-wife when we were first together, to see how the cities have changed and not changed, to see some I'd not seen in 25 years - as we are gray and "aging" - is both sobering and satisfying.

To reflect upon the mistakes and joys of my earlier life is helpful. Tomorrow I will return to the Pacific Northwest and move back towards "normalcy".

I've enjoyed parts of what I've experienced. Parts of it have also been hard for me.


Friday, July 06, 2007

Kayaking on the Lake

Recently I bought an 11.5 foot long kayak. Finally on Tuesday I made it out on the lake nearest to our house on a fairly hot morning. Having never been in a kayak before I was initially tentative, not wanting to flip it over. I quickly saw that I should have brought a hat and gloves for my hands, but otherwise I was fine.

The kayak skimmed along and was easy to control. I try to be careful with the wakes of motor boats and similar, though as I get more comfortable and used to the water, the easier it gets.

It is relaxing and beautiful to move along the shore in my new boat. My arms and shoulders tire, but I can rest as I wish and move in my new world. In the boat I see a whole new view of land and water. Hopefully next week I'll get out for at least 4-5 hours and have more time to explore.


Monday, June 25, 2007

Sadness, Memories, and Mixed Feelings

My ex-mother-in-law died late this afternoon at age 94 peacefully with her only child and grandchild, our 20 year old son at her bedside the last several hours. My son had called me in tears yesterday telling me that she was near death.

I brought flowers when I first met Peg in 1976 which she very much appreciated. Over time our relationship became difficult, particularly after she moved to Oakland when widowed. She was a wonderful, doting grandmother. It was very hard for our son to see her lose her independence over the past years. She got her purse snatched, then not that long after broke her hip and deteriorated greatly over the last 5 or so years of her life.

I have memories both of a most caring person and one who could be very, very tough, particularly on her only child. Peg's father had moved their family from Windsor, Ontario to Nova Scotia for work and then died, leaving a widow and three young children. Not being able to support her family, her mother moved the four of them back to Windsor where family could support them. No doubt being the oldest child this greatly affected her for the rest of her life.

I remember the story (just before my time) of when my (now ex-) wife B and her mother visited B's best friend's mother. The mother was explaining how hard it was coping with her daughter living with her boyfriend/fiance (who she later married). Peg was saying how kids were different these days and one had to understand and accept them. B was thinking to herself: "Gee, Ma sure has changed her views dramatically in a good way!". Just after they got out the door, mother said to daughter: "Now if you ever do that, I'll kill you!"

Hopefully daughter and grandson will remember Peg mostly as the good person she was. I will always have my mixed memories. I wish that I had been more patient and accepting of her than I was. She wasn't happy living well beyond when she could control her own life. B will be freed from the burdens the last few years increasingly put on her. Most of Peg's friends have already passed on, but a memorial mass will celebrate her life in her Oakland parish.

I hope that all will find peace within their memories!

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Gaza - an Excellent Perspective

Mitchell Plitnick, one of Jewish Voice for Peace's ( has written an excellent summary of the situation in Gaza which I highly recommend reading at:

JVP itself has plenty of insightful reading on its website related to Israel and Palestine. It supports a peaceful, just solution to Israel's, The West Bank's and Gaza's issues relating to the need for an independent, positive Palestinian State. Affirming the need for peace as Jews and Americans is important to me! Avoiding and opposing Anti-Semitism while working for a just peace is important.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Two Palestinian States ?

I find the actions of Israel and more importantly perhaps the U.S. related to the split between Fatah/Hamas and West Bank/Gaza difficult to accept and fully understand. I can understand how the U.S. and Israel desparately want a "moderate" force - e.g. Fatah to support. It is perplexing though to think that Gaza can be essentially ignored and put on the back burner along with Hamas.

Listening to NPR I heard several Middle Eastern (e.g. "Arab") speakers both speak of the need of supporting the (former) Unity Government and dealing (talking) with Hamas.

Talking with Hamas is important. Talking does not mean supporting.

IF Israel and the U.S. were willing to begin a pullout of Israelis from All the West Bank Settlements and in that way to push aggressively with their own population to seek a lasting peace perhaps I could understand things.

As it is Fatah lacks the legitimacy it needs because it isn't the elected government. Neither the U.S. nor Israel has significant standing with any other forces in the Middle East. It is difficult to understand how the plight of the Palestinians in Gaza - which is desparate - will be dealt with successfully. Equally importantly it is hard to understand how releasing monies that should never have been held back will somehow magically resolve things. I don't see how things now can evolve in more than a repeated "patching" of little things, while ignoring the much larger issues.

I hope for the best! I fear that things will get a lot worse!


Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Compliance verses Compromise

Several days ago I heard mention of the U.S. interrogation techniques with "terror suspects" with all kinds of coercion including various levels of torture. The commentator talked of how pressure techniques including these could bring compliance, but not compromise. As a result he noted that pressured individuals would say what they felt their interviewers wanted to hear and/or whatever would get the pressures upon them lessoned. The truth, of course, was generally far, far from what was gotten nearly all the time!

The interviewer talked of how one could also interview prisoners and similar and seek to get them to compromise their beliefs and cooperate and give information which would be true. This would of necessity take time and effort and not always succeed. When it did succeed the knowledge gained likely would be true. In the former situation one never could know if what was said was true. Most commonly information gained through "compliance" is not true.

The discussion of these two different approaches seems relevant to me for how we deal with our interpersonal relationships often (with pressure - not torture). When we seek "compliance" often others may agree with us, but what do we gain? When we seek "compromise" we may both get at truths and understanding of each other.


Monday, June 11, 2007

40th Anniverary- The Occupation - Some Thoughts

The 40th Anniversary of Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza is passing now - and with it thoughts and feelings come into and out of me - as an American Jew.

It was sickening and frightening to hear a women talk of having been in Hebron recently and heard Settlers (Jews living in a Settlement within Hebron - an otherwise Palestinian city) - who were mostly American immigrants - talking openly of Palestinians - referring to them with the "N" word. The blatant racism is scary to me.

Certainly Israelis are killed and hurt and scared of both within Israel because of Palestinian suicide bombing, missiles from outside of Israel, etc. At the same time we - the others in the U.S. and within Israel - can not possibly understand the depths of fear and loathing that Palestinians face every day within The West Bank and Gaza.

Israel - has the power. The U.S. is tilting the power more strongly towards Israel.

Palestinian radicalism and violence - is a natural response to 40 years of occupation and the failure to end the occupation in peaceful ways. Most Palestinians are peace loving and not violent.

Peace will be hard to achieve - but it is most necessary and important now!


Monday, June 04, 2007

Taxation - Values and Perhaps the Economy

This morning I heard an "expert" explain how if all the CEO's salaries and compensation packages were lowered from their extremely high figures it wouldn't raise the wages of the hourly workers who make a fraction of their top boss'es earnings.

I realize that I'm a "crazy radical" and naive as anyone! It seems to me that our taxation policy should reflect certain key values. We should encourage people to work. We should encourage employers to hire workers. We should do all that we can to allow people to live independently and not be dependent upon the government or others.

Why should employers be responsible for paying much more than the wages that they pay to their employees? Why should health care and other benefits beyond perhaps vacation pay be their responsibility?

Why shouldn't employees simply pay income taxes and no other taxes on their income? Why should "passive income" and "unearned income" be protected in various ways from taxation and wage earners pay as many taxes as they pay?

I realize that I'm a crazy dreamer!

I could imagine in my wildest dreams a society in the U.S. where wage earners paid progressive income taxes and no other taxes on their income. Social Security and Medicare costs should be paid out of the revenue from all taxation. Healthcare should be a nationally funded program that families and corporations pay based upon income (and in some cases "receipts" as income is endlessly avoided and deferred in some cases).

Taxes should be paid on income and on inheritance and minimally on our purchases that we make. We should have a fairly high deduction for ourselves and our families, and then perhaps two or three tax brackets.

I'm part of a family of four with two children and two adults. Perhaps we should have a deduction of $10,000 for each adult and $2500 for each child. Thus we have $25,000 tax free.
Then perhaps we should pay 10% taxes on our first $50,000 in taxable income and maybe 35-40% on all additional income. There are no other deductions. Based upon our taxable income we pay for our medical treatment with a deductible, copayments and a family maximum that we pay.

Under such a system a family of four, like ours would pay taxes (if 35% highest rate) as follows:

Gross Taxes Percent

$25,000 $0 0%
$50,000 $2,500 5%

$75,000 $5,000 6.667%
$100,000 $13,500 13.5%
$125,000 $22,500 18%
$150,000 $31,250 20.83%
$200,000 $48,750 24.375%
$500,000 $153,750 30.75%
$1,000,000 $328,750 32.875%
$10,000,000 $3,478,750 34.7875%

If the marginal rate were 40% the rates would be marginally higher at lower incomes and moderately higher at higher incomes.

Now estates could be taxed perhaps with an exemption of somewhere between: $5,000,000 and $10,000,000. This should exempt most "small business people".

This to me is a fairly simple, progressive tax system. The real estate industry would oppose it because there is no real estate exemption to benefit mostly middle and upper income home owners. Charitable organizations would oppose this because donations would lose their tax savings particularly for higher income individuals.

Lower and middle income workers would be a lot better off! Those with investments but not a lot of income from them would similarly do well. Small employers would no longer be paying a lot of payroll taxes and benefits for social security, medicare, and health benefits.

Yes, the super-rich might be hurt! Yes, the reasonably rich might be hurt!

Sorry! Thanks!