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!

Sunday, June 03, 2007

We're So Kind - RE: Iraq!

Per a newspaper article I read from last week's paper,

1.) Per UN figures - 40,000 Iraqi's must flee their homes and become refugees monthly,

2.) Supporting the U.S. - such as being a translator for the U.S. and/or otherwise helping the U.S. Government/Troops - can easily help make one a target - for being killed or becoming a refugee,

3.) So - aha - how many Iraqi refugees have been accepted by the United States recently?

Would 1% - or 400 - perhaps seem "reasonable" or is that too small a figure?

Would you believe it - we've been SO GENEROUS - and let in 69 (sixty-nine) people in total over the past 7 (seven) months.