Monday, May 26, 2008


This Memorial Day, let's remember that those who paid the ultimate price did NOT give their lives so that billionaires could be safe from taxes on their dividends, capital gains, and estates. We deserve a country whose leaders recognize that war truly is the last- not the first- resort.

Here's a reprint from an article I wrote before the Iraq invasion was launched in March of 2003:

The picture sits on top of my tv. A handsome young man, in a Marine Corps dress uniform, hat (cover, they call it in the military) tucked under his left arm, his right arm, right hand with white glove, encircling a stunning young woman. When the photo was taken at the Marine Corps Birthday Ball in 2002, my son was enrolled in college while serving as a member of the Marine Corps Reserves. A little more than one year earlier, he had been at his reserve unit at Anacostia Barracks in Washington, D.C., on the morning of September 11, 2001, and saw the smoke rising across the Potomac in the West from the Pentagon crash site. After the tragedy of September 11th, he expected to be called up any day.

Days went by, then weeks, then months, but his reserve unit wasn't called up. Eventually he realized that he would have to go on with his life, his classes at the University, and his training for the Marine Corps.

Meanwhile, Vice President Cheney, supposedly ensconced in an undisclosed location for purposes of National Security, twice visited a billionaire's plantation here in South Georgia to hunt quail (not Dan).

During Christmas break in 2001-2002, my son went to NBC school- no, not television-Nuclear Biological Chemical warfare school- to learn how to protect himself and his fellow Marines from weapons of mass destruction, if such a thing is possible. In the Spring of 2002 he went to a U. S. military survival school in Southern California to learn how to deal with the rigors of a hostile environment.

And President Bush and Congressional Republicans proposed eliminating the tax on the estates of millionaires and billionaires, ostensibly to help save small family owned businesses and family farms from being sold to pay the tax. Since the surplus from the Clinton Administration had miraculously turned into a hundred sixty billion dollar deficit in less than 24 months, I wondered why they didn't just exempt small family businesses and family farms instead of eliminating the tax entirely, throwing out billions of dollars in revenue -and deepening the deficit.

From June through August of 2002, my son went to Officer Candidates School in Quantico, Virginia. While his classmates at college were enjoying their summer vacations, my son was helping train college ROTC students from around the country who would become Marine Corps Officers upon their graduation. Although he was technically also a student, he had already been through boot camp at Parris Island two years earlier- he was selected from the 500 recruits to be the Company Honor Graduate- and the instructors at OCS relied on him and others like him to help train his fellow officer candidates in drill and other essentials to becoming a Marine.

In the summer of 2002, the Bush administration continued its public opposition to increasing fuel economy standards (CAFE) to reduce our dependence on oil from the Mideast, and argued that SUV's and pickup trucks shouldn't be subject to the same CAFE standards as cars. Vice President Cheney fought the public release of records of his Enron executive laden committee to set a National Energy Policy. Documents coming out of the collapsing, bankrupt Enron Corporation revealed that the company had helped manufacture a false energy shortage in California the year before in an effort to jack up prices and increase profits.

In January (2003) my son's unit was called up to active duty. At the time he had four months and a few courses to go to get his B. A. degree. He had a smart and beautiful girlfriend who was planning to go to graduate school. He was looking forward to becoming a Second Lieutenant upon graduation, buying a new car (he's been driving the 12 year old sedan I loaned him after he got out of boot camp in 2000), and starting his life as a productive adult. All of that is on hold now. He spent a month on a ship in the Atlantic Ocean with several hundred other Marines, headed to the Middle East. He and his girlfriend agreed to break up because they had no idea when- or if- they would see each other again. He withdrew from college. He's a sergeant, and will remain an enlisted man past the May 2003 date when he would have received his commission. (He's okay with that- and it bodes well for his future in the military that he will have had a significant opportunity to follow orders before he's asked to issue them.) And he had to say goodbye to his family and friends as he gave up his normal life as a college senior. As I wrote those words, he was crammed into the troop ship, sharing a room with a dozen of his fellow Marines, bunks stacked four high. The one time I was able to speak to him, he told me that he would be spending the next few weeks on board helping train his comrades for the dangers and hardships they will face in the months to follow.

Back here on the mainland President Bush called for tax relief for the rich who have to pay a single tax on the corporate dividends they receive. The President told us that it was unfair to tax the same dollar twice, once from the corporate end, once from the stockholder's end. I figure I'll probably save about $150 on my taxes next year if the proposal is passed. President Bush and Vice President Cheney will probably save about $500,000 in taxes on the dividends from their blind trusts.

Meanwhile, as for my son, who has given up his girlfriend, his family, his education, his commission, his friends, the comforts of home- each dollar of his pay- like every wage earner's pay- is taxed four times: once for federal taxes, once for Social Security, once for Medicare, and once for State taxes. And he pays taxes on the taxes- he doesn't get a credit for the part already taken for federal taxes when he pays his Social Security tax, and so forth.

It's funny- not the laughing kind- how our political leaders have no compunction about calling on ordinary Americans in the military and their families to make sacrifices of all we hold dear- including, God forbid, the ultimate sacrifice. But ask the wealthiest among us to pay taxes on their estates and their stock dividends to reduce the deficit or pay a decent wage to the members of our military sent overseas to protect us? Not a chance.

Sunday, May 25, 2008


Judging presidential campaigns by the company they keep? It's a wash- one deranged pastor ("God damn America!") = a second deranged pastor (The Catholic religion is a "whorish religion" and Jews were killed by Hitler because they refused to emigrate to Israel)

I got the following e-mail with a link to an Obama attack video from a former significant other whose political views swung from liberal Democrat in the early 1980’s to right wing Republican Bushbot in the early 2000’s. Following her letter was my response:

“At the risk of inducing a whole string of your too-long-to-read pontifical posts, I'd thought I'd send you this. I bet you will not forward THIS to your whole distribution list, if you even take the time to watch it. Actually, I'm sure you will try to discredit it in any way.”

Dear __________,

"Pontifical posts." Good alliteration!

When your name is "Finkelstein," as is mine and my family's, you learn early on that making fun of somebody- or judging them- because of their name or their religion, is neither fair nor logical. It is the path taken by bullies and bigots, and I've personally seen a lot of both because of my name and my religion. So I am not impressed by the name calling of Barack "Hussein" Obama or the references to his religious upbringing. Those references only serve to illuminate the lack of character of those who are trying to demonize him.

As for the substance of the Obama attack video- which I did watch- you will see a lot more of it from right wing sleazeball groups who realize that they can't win this election on the merits or on substance. As for me, when I vote for a person for public office, I use the leaky faucet analogy. When my bathroom sink is leaking and the bathroom is flooding, when the plumber shows up at my door, I don't ask what his race, gender or religion is. I don't ask if he is gay, or if he supports gay marriage, or if his pastor ever said anything stupid, or if he went to an Islamic school as a child. I don't ask if he has a flag pin in his lapel or where he puts his hand when the national anthem is played. I just want my leak stopped, and the sink fixed.

Well, America has a leak. A very big, very bad leak. And of the three remaining candidates, I think Mr. Obama will do the best job fixing what is broken. As for anyone who attacks him on trivial or irrelevant matters, then they are admitting that he will do the better job at getting us out of a devastating civil war in Iraq, and that his policy decisions on righting the economy will be sounder.

There are sick people out there- smart, but sick- who excel at "conflating." They put together the video, and they are shooting for the lowest common denominator in the general population. Ignorant people, bigots, narrow minded, fearful people. So they put images of Che Gueverra, the hammer & sickle, words like "mass murderer" and "Barack Obama" in consecutive sentences, the same way that George W. Bush conflated "9-11" and "Saddam Hussein" in successive sentences back in 2002 and early 2003 to get the majority of ignorant Americans to believe that Iraq and Hussein were behind the 9-11 attacks.

By the way, the Obama attack video has a nice juxtaposition of the Pope, Catholicism and the Cross versus the hammer & sickle (that is so 1950's!), with the Pope condemning "secular humanist Black Liberation Theology." Ironic as hell, considering what Pastor John Hagee, who endorsed and embraced McCain, has said about the Catholic religion. So when you are sending around the video on Obama, don't forget to include these clips, which are just as [ir]relevant to the Presidential race, pastors with whom candidates are affiliated, and the endorsements they seek and accept:


Monday, May 19, 2008

Kathleen Parker: op-ed columnist, bigot, racist

Kathleen Parker's photo on her op-ed columns is finally updated to reflect the tenor of her commentary

Reading op-ed columnist Kathleen Parker’s May 19, 2008, column titled “Voters look for ‘full-blooded American” reminded me of the infamous 1935 Nuremberg Laws enacted in Nazi Germany. These laws effectively “denaturalized” German citizens if their racial purity didn’t include four grandparents of “German blood.” German Jews whose families had lived in Germany for centuries were instantly turned into a lesser class of humans in the beginning of the downward spiral which led towards the Holocaust. Persons with one or two Jewish grandparents were called Mischlings, crossbreeds of "mixed blood," even if they were practicing Catholics or Protestants. Six years later they were exterminated along with millions of Jews.

Ms. Parker opines that the presidential campaign and attitudes of West Virginia voters who rejected Barack Obama can be explained by “blood equity” (whatever that means), “heritage” (a decades old euphemism for Southern Jim Crowe racial segregation policies) and “commitment to hard won American values” (which is a fantasy made up by right wing bigots to create divisions among Americans of every race, religion, and national origin).

The column is disgusting even without regard to its Nazi historical antecedents. As a Jew who is a “real American” (at least as the United States Constitution defines citizenship) I can hardly express my disappointment in the Albany Herald for printing this kind of brazen bigotry.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Can't we be smarter this time?

We Democrats have done an excellent job of nominating complete dorks who can't understand how their command of substantive policy issues means far less to voters than how they look in a helmet.

Yes, the Republicans have beaten us Democrats over the head with ridiculous non-issues like flag burning, the pledge of allegiance, gay marriage (in States where it was already illegal!), and so forth. Yet, yet, we have complete dunderheads like Dukakis and Kerry who can't figure out how to deal with it, even when the means are literally right before their eyes. I told a staffer for Kerry in 2004 that he needed to hire the Daily Show's writers to do all of his campaign commercials and Aaron Sorkin (West Wing) to write all of his speeches. The Daily Show kills the bad guys every night, simply by running video clips of them saying one thing one time and another thing on the same issue a few months later, or by running them saying the same thing over and over until the absurdity sets in (like how many times we have "turned the corner" in Iraq over the last 5 years).

In other words, our candidates have to be smarter. Running an ad of McCain saying "a hundred years" over and over, with images of American soldiers in caskets or in hospital wards would win the election even if no other commercials are added. But the same thing could be done to him on jobs and health care with little difficulty. So how is it that our candidates can raise hundreds of millions of dollars but can't spend even a little of it on imaginative ad writers and producers like those on the Daily Show?