StoryCorps interview of Stephen G Esrati

My father has lived a pretty interesting life. From having to learn three languages and three alphabets by age 10, to being imprisoned in Lebanon in 1948 and subsequently losing his passport, to being investigated by the FBI in the McCarthy era- there is a lot of history and perspective that always intrigues me.

He knew Martin Luther King Jr. before he was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr – as they used to argue at Boston University over how one effects change. He’s written three books- one of which is available for free (for now) on this site: “Dear Son; Do you really want to be an American?” which he wrote to me in 1968-69.

His first book was “The Tenth Prayer. A Novel of Israel” which is available from Amazon.

Review Not only “a good read,” but it recalls the heroic events and ideological struggles that marked Israel’s early days. — Jerusalem Post, May 11, 2001

Product Description Historical fiction about the early years of Israel with an emphasis about the problem of “Who is a Jew?” This question, which has been at the center of controversy since independence, includes such problems as non-burial of the child of an Israeli Jew and an American Baptist.

The book covers a wide spectrum of Israelis, from extreme left to extreme right. One of its principal heroes is Naomi Ben Horin, the broadcaster of the illegal radio of the Irgun Zvai Leumi, who becomes a lawyer after independence. The book ends with her decision on whether to defend Adolf Eichmann.

His last book is “Comrades Avenge Us”- which I read as it came off the typewriter in installments- sort of like reading pulp fiction, in my last years of High School.

Product Description Based on a true story, a novel follows two officers — American and Canadian — who are captured by the German Gestapo while on a mission in Yugoslavia and survive to form a postwar Nazi-hunting operation to avenge their slaughtered comrades.

You can get an autographed paperback directly from the author for $5 pickup or $7.50 if you want it mailed to you. Email me to get a copy.

So when I had a chance to interview him in the mobile StoryCorps booth last Thursday- I tried to get as much of that first hand history and perspective into 40 minutes.

This interview was recorded at StoryCorps, a national nonprofit dedicated to recording and collecting stories of everyday Americans www.storycorps.org

It’s 40 minutes and 20 mb. You can listen here- or download for your mp3 player. Enjoy.

An apology and a poor choice of words: Union + crybabies

I didn’t record my interview with Lynn Hulsey and neither did she. If I did or didn’t say it- it doesn’t matter, it’s in the paper- so it must be true.

“Crybaby” is a strong term- and applying it to the hard working people in Dayton’s proud union shops is in no way how I feel. I have friends who work hard at the truck plant- and, no, they aren’t crybabies.

There is no excuse for my poor choice of words- and I’m sorry.

I ask that you read all three candidates’ positions- and forgive me for one word- and then decide-but, here in all it’s glory is my faux pas.

Three Democrats seek March win to challenge Turner
He said labor unions have a role, such as making sure pay is fair, but not by “protecting people who are incompetent.”

“In fact, one of the reasons that people don’t look at coming into Dayton and putting in their manufacturing plants happens to be the idea that our local auto unions are strike-prone and a bunch of crybabies,” Esrati said.

I am going to clarify my position on unions, since Charles Sanders has made issue of it when I’ve heard him speak.

My father was a member of the Newspaper Guild. I walked the picket lines with him as a kid. He writes about his feelings in Dear Son. I believe in the right to organize, to strike, to protect the rights of employees, to seek safe and fair working conditions, and to keep the balance of power between employers and employees. Slavery ended in this country long ago- however, I still believe that college athletes are a perfect example of why unions are needed- and I would like nothing better than the universities to be forced to abandon the subjugation of “student/athletes” for their gross financial gain.

However, I also remember a woman whom I dated who routinely missed half of her workdays- yet, kept her job due to her tenure with union protection. At some point, unions, just like sports teams, must realize that everyone has to pull equally- isn’t that why we unionize? To give the many strength to battle on equal ground?

However, I am absolutely against union involvement in politics. How dare an organization support policy outside the workplace that may or may not be against my own personal believes and force me to contribute? Take for example the many devout Catholics who belong to unions that support pro-life candidates? Is that fair, or legal? This is why I don’t believe that unions should be involved in politics outside of the workplace.

I hope this clarifies my position, and my apology for an extremely poor choice of words.

Let me have it. I deserve it.

Hot button questions- answered for Bethany from WSU

Bethany from Wright State wrote:

I am doing personal research on the candidates running in the upcoming primary. Could you tell me (briefly, yet thoroughly) what your stances are on the following issues?

  • Education: Do you support No Child Left Behind? If not, what do you suggest replace “the system”? Do you think the governor’s position of absolving the State BoE is a wise one?
  • Homosexuality: Do you support homosexual marriage? Why or why not?
  • Abortion: Do you support the right for choice or the right for life? Why?
  • Health Care: Do you believe it is the government’s responsibility to provide health care? Do you support universal health care?

Thank you for your time in answering these questions. My vote depends on your answers (no pressure).

I’m going to preface- that the hot button issues of homosexual marriage and abortion are questions that I believe shouldn’t be used in determining a candidates score- sort of like the questions on the exam that a professor throws out because there is guaranteed to be about a 50/50 split on the correct answer- making them statistically insignificant.

But- here we go:

Education: The governors decision about the State BOE is not within my purview since I’m a running for a Federal position. I believe that our State should be working first and foremost on finding a way to fund schools that is Constitutional – as the State Supreme Court ordered them to do over a decade ago. The BOE issue is rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

No Child Left Behind is a Federal program that imposes a lot of unfunded mandates. I believe in national standardized testing to provide a tool to measure quality of the overall system- that which isn’t measured, can’t be improved (at least that’s what I learned in Stats 101 with Dr. Cleary at WSU long ago). The use of it to penalize schools that aren’t working with the same caliber of students- ie. poor districts vs wealthy districts- is a misguided idea. I have written extensively on ideas to improve the Dayton Public Schools on this site- and encourage you to look at them.

There are two areas I believe are critical to changing education in this country- laptops for all students, and sponsored Day Care/Head Start programs to make sure children start school properly prepared. As to how to pay for an improved education system nationally, I would like to see a flat rate Internet Sales tax on goods bought online- to be distributed per student, equally, nationally with a simplified collection system- not based on what State a company does business in, or where the buyer is. Eventually – this consumption tax, along with the proceeds of auction of public bandwidth would also provide national free wi-fi to students.

Homosexual Marriage: A hotbutton topic. I believe that our Constitution says all men are created equal. The bible says to love each other. The fact that some of us love people of the same sex- and others love people of the opposite sex, isn’t an area where Government should be imposing value judgements. Marriage is marriage, and love is love. If two people love each other, and want to make a formal commitment, I’m in full support. We need more love in this country and less hate.

Considering how flip Americans have become about heterosexual marriage- with a divorce rate that boggles my mind- the fact that anyone wants to get married and stay married is a home run in my book.

Abortion: I personally don’t like abortion- and my simple answer is, we should spend more time teaching planned parenthood and family planning- that’s SEX ED and CONDOMS and BIRTH CONTROL methods and trying to prevent unwanted pregnancy than fighting the practice of it. Abortion is a lousy form of birth control.

However, if a woman wants to have an abortion, I can’t think of one area that the government should have less say in than this. I fully support a womans right to choose- I just wish we’d have more choosing their partners and their forms of birth control before we get to the abortion issue.

Health Care: I support 100% coverage of all Americans- with the same access to health care granted to members of Congress. How we do it- well, that’s a pretty tough question. Single payer systems like Medicare and the VA seem to do a reasonable job- however there is always room for improvement.

My main complaint is the “Bookie” we use in this country to provide “Health Insurance” instead of “Health Care.” Imagine if we just paid doctors directly to take care of us- instead of paying the bookie to decide what we can be covered on and what we can’t? Considering we’re spending over 30% of our “Health Care” dollars on “Bookies” instead of on providers of “Health Care” I think we have a way already in place to solve the problem- cut out the middle man.

You left out the other hot button question: Assisted suicide. While I believe in the sanctity of life, I also believe in dignity in death. This is very personal to me. Katie Jones, my first true crush (in the third grade, no less) contracted MS at the age of 27. By 33 she had been living in a hospital bed, unable to feed herself, work, move, and eventually talk with ease. She was lucky to have a physician who helped her end her life according to her wishes. She didn’t want me to visit in her last months- because she wanted me to remember her how she was- a beautiful woman, who had worked her way through Ohio State law school- who always had a smile and a ton of energy.

I remember Katie that way. And, for her- I hope to give people the option to end their lives as they wish, without stigma, without criminal charges and without Government telling them that they can’t.

Excuse me while I shed a few tears.

I guess I should also cover the Death Penalty. Although I consider myself a peace candidate, and don’t like abortion, there are some instances where I believe the death penalty is appropriate instead of life in prison. (You can read some other thoughts on prison here). In the case of iron clad proof of murder, with absolute witnesses and no questions, I believe a jury of peers should have that option. I don’t see the use of keeping the likes of a Charles Manson, John Wayne Gacy Jr. or Charlie Dalmer alive at our expense. Life is a privilege, as is living in a free and open society, those who choose to take another’s, should be willing to suffer the consequences.

I don’t know if those are the answers Bethany was looking for. But, they are mine.

Vote accordingly- although, I’m reminded of a question from my friend Dave Bowman in his podcast interview:

Q: What’s the difference between an ad campaign and a political campaign?

A: In an ad campaign, if we don’t tell the truth, we get sued. In a political campaign, you get elected.

These are my honest answers. Try getting the same from others.

DDN endorses Mitakides, barely

With their normal, negative bent, the Eddie Roth-less editorial board begins their “endorsement” talking about losing. Of course, they would have said the same thing about Abraham Lincoln, but no matter. They then go on to say that Turner is unbeatable. Next comes that Jane Mitakides raised impressive amounts of money last time she got spanked with 38% of the vote.

Then they get to me, again, with a negative bent starting with one inaccuracy after another. It’s almost embarrassing that they call themselves a “newspaper.”

My first race was for Mayor- same time as Turner, who wasn’t a contender, until Mayor Dixon took me outside to attack me (the “scuffle” that the paper brought up) for asking where the money was coming from for his campaign. After that, the paper finally took off the gloves, and attacked Dixon as unfit for his questionable job performance at the Dayton Public Schools (where he was taking sick days while traveling on City business). Turner won that election by a mere 400 votes. The DDN goes on to say “Mr. Esrati is also the fellow who later wore ninja masks to city commission meetings in protest of certain rules” – leaving out that 5 courts found me right, and Turner wrong in that case. They make it seem like I did it many times, although, it was only twice, and the second time was to remind the Commission that citizen voices must not be silenced.

Obama poster: Esrati Endorsed Me“Online, Mr. Esrati has said that when he takes those tests one sees occasionally about which presidential candidate one shares the most views with, he comes up with Mike Gravel and Dennis Kucinich. He thinks this is mainly because of his views on Iraq. He says the war there was “concocted to bloster the bottom line of the military industrial complex.”” At least I have a site and say something. However, attempting to line me up with Mike Gravel and Dennis Kucinich, although I clearly state I support Obama is just another attempt to make me seem more of a fringe element. At least the smart people of OH-3 will see that I have enough balls to say something substantial, and they can find information on my site. Try that on their endorsed candidates site: Jane08.com When OHDave asked Jane who she backed- all she could come up with is the party line: “In the Presidential race, Iā€™m supporting the Democrats!”

“He approaches the online world with relish. He is better cut out for blogging than legislating.” is their final dig. Heaven forbid, we have a candidate who actually communicates with his constituency.

They skip over Sanders, who was 30 minutes late to the meeting (which they didn’t mention) and then say Jane “Mitakides is the natural choice of the Montgomery County Democratic Party, which has endorsed her” even though the party refused to endorse her in December, and then chose her last week when they realized I was their only other choice- and I refuse to kow-tow to the unions which make up 50% of the secret society screening committee.

The paper goes on with Ms. Mitakides complaints about Turner supporting the president (he’s a Republican, isn’t that what he’s supposed to do?), that she’s a NRA supporter, and that she wouldn’t be as partisan as Turner- which means what? She’ll vote with the Republican’s more often?

Even though Jane Mitakides couldn’t get a web site up for almost a month after she turned in her petitions, and young voters have been turning out in droves (they all get their info from the ‘net) the DDN still thinks that “if the Democrats are to have any hope of giving Rep. Turner a run, they need a candidate who starts with at least the Democratic base relatively united behind her. Ms. Mitakides, though her credentials aren’t great ā€“ lacking local involvement ā€“ is the best bet.”

Wow. With an endorsement like that, who needs it?

One last thing- the DDN doesn’t even bother to put the endorsement on their site- which meant I had to waste even more time retyping their drivel. They are almost as on-top of this new-fangled-internet thing as my Grandmother (who died in 1995). [update] Finally found the link- it’s so long I’m just making a link here. Here is the link to the support letters that they published.
A second “last thing”- (Steve Jobs II here)- if you want to write a letter to the editor, now is the time- 200 words or less preferred, addressed to edletter@daytondailynews.com Make sure you include all contact info- address, phone, e-mail and REAL NAME (Juan, Gene, Pedro etc.)

David Esrati interviewed by DAVIDeBOWMAN podcast

I can’t knock on 25,000 doors between now and March 4. It’s too bad, because I’d like to meet all the people I need to vote for me for this to continue to November.

While postcards are nice, and this website is even better, sometimes, people just want to hear what a candidate has to say. My blogging buddy, David Bowman came over to interview me today- and has put together a podcast. The sound isn’t studio quality- but it should give you an idea about how I am in a candid interview.

Here is what David wrote to introduce it:

Voices: Episode 2 – David Esrati | DAVIDeBOWMAN
The name of the podcast is Voices, and frankly there are not many people I know more vocal than David Esrati. David, never at a loss for words, sat down to speak with me about what makes Dayton great, the role of the city in the broader region, his run for congress, the impact of technology on the political process, what he thinks Mike Turner has done well, why he wants to be in Congress, the difference between an ad campaign and a political campaign, and more. Love him or hate him, and there are plenty on both sides, David is thought provoking, passionate, and fearless when it comes to expressing his beliefs. His campaign is sure to break new ground as it pertains to the use of the web, and his creativity and candor will make the run for OH 3 something exciting to follow – regardless of your political views. Take a listen for yourself. Thanks to David for agreeing to spend time talking with me. It was great fun.

So far, David gave me the most interesting questions, I’m not sure all my answers are pretty, but, I think my answer of what the difference is between a political campaign and an advertising campaign should make it worth a listen. 39 minutes, 35.9 mb

Esrati interviewed by Ohio Dave

I’m following some other Internet mavens on interview rules: I post my take- they do as they please. Can make for interesting IM interviews.

Dave Riegel at Into My Own, www.ohdave.net asked 4 questions- and here are my responses:

1. First I have to ask you something you wrote in your blog piece about the DDN. Did Saunders and Mitikides both say they had been approached by the GOP about switching parties? That’s really a damning critique of the lack of confidence that they have in local potential Republican candidates. What did you think when they said that?

Mitakides said she had been approached by a local Republican power broker, not the party chair, in the DDN endorsement meeting. Sanders chirped in that he had too.
I mostly sat in disbelief as I listened to Jane talk about herself- and how she’s the answer for OH-3. I don’t think the voters want to trade one person who talks like a politician for another.

2. Do you have any staff at all? Who’s helping you with your campaign? What has been the response from the county and state party?

I have no “paid staff” for my campaign. I have some very dedicated volunteers and a shrewd campaign treasurer in Mike Robinette. I do have a great network of supporters within the blogging community, who have helped with research, and spreading the word. I haven’t so much as heard a peep from the State or National party, who is too wrapped up in the Presidential race. The local parties- no word from Highland or Clinton County- except from the exceptional Chuck Watts who is running an organized site in Clinton- http://www.unionnorthdcc.com/
Warren County bailed on a screening last night. Montgomery County held their screening last night- with the answers to come this evening. Considering they didn’t endorse Jane in December, I’m wondering if they will endorse at all. All seem to have conceded the District to Turner.
After the primary, I’ll gear up and hire staff. Right now, all money needs to go to getting my mailing out and using phone banks. I have some more tricks up my sleeve, but I’ll save those for maximum effect.

3. What do you think is the biggest issue for consituents of the 3rd to consider in 2008?

To quote Bill Clinton, “It’s the economy, stupid.” Followed by the giant sucking sound of money leaving for Iraq. I think the issue that will differentiate the campaign is simply if voters want more of the same, or something new and improved. I think the voters are sick of broken promises, being hammered with stupid nasty TV spots and candidates being sold to the highest bidder. Jane Mitakides clearly showed that she’s just another operator on the election circuit yesterday at the DDN endorsement screening. I think the voters can keep Mike Turner if they just want another insider.

4. Whom if anyone do you support in the presidential race?

The presidential race is one of the most interesting we’ve had in my lifetime. When I take the “which candidate are you” tests- I always come up with Mike Gravel first and Dennis Kucinich second. I think that’s because I believe Iraq is a repeat of Vietnam. We won the war, we’re losing the occupation. Both of them say it’s enough. The current financial crisis isn’t being helped by this war, unlike other wars, because this one was concocted to bolster the bottom line of the military industrial complex.
However, on one of my walks in the cemetery with the dog, I took a different approach to a choice in candidates: I asked myself what would be the boldest move America could make to try to say we’ve changed directions and want to mend fences with the world? When I looked at the contenders that way, the only choice becomes Senator Obama. I think he carries a lot less baggage than anyone else. He’s smart, he’s radically different than any of the other candidates in his social upbringing. I believe he has the potential of being a statesman, not just a president. The reality is, running for president is in itself a Catch-22, if you have the ego to run for the job, you are probably unfit to do the job well anymore. There are no perfect candidates. I think Senator Obama is our best choice.
I still wouldn’t rule out some wildcard options: Al Gore drafted after the candidates have made a mess of each other. Michael Bloomberg as an independent, or the Republicans not being able to reach consensus and having to do a do-over (real long shot).
The economic crisis is going to get a lot worse. I don’t think we’ve seen the really hard questions asked or answered yet.

Hopefully, when Dave does his take on this- he’ll provide a trackback or a link in a comment.