Mark Finkelstein has a B.S. from Cornell University, an Ed.M. and a J.D., magna cum laude, from SUNY Buffalo, and an LL.M. from Harvard Law. In 2011, Mark moved to Pecan Plantation, Texas from his long-time home in Ithaca, NY where he hosted "Right Angle," an award-winning local political talk show. Mark is an aviation buff and holds an instrument rating.  He spent ten days in Iraq in November, 2006, mainly in Anbar Province. Email: mark.finkelstein@gmail.com
 

Latest from Mark Finkelstein
March 20, 2008, 9:28 AM EDT
Time editor Rick Stengel made his regular Thursday Morning Joe appearance today, revealing the magazine's cover to be published tomorrow. But while we learned that the Dalai Lama's photo will appear there, the bigger story is the "cover" Time is trying to provide for Barack Obama's Rev. Wright problem.

Here's the gist of Time's defense of Obama, a distillation of Stengel's statements and Time articles by Amy Sullivan and Joe Klein:
  • An important aspect of the problem is that white Americans are incredibly ignorant about black churches in America.
  • In fact, Rev. Wright's church isn't that radical as black churches go.
  • It was understandable for Obama to have joined Wright's church. At the time he was a 27-year old bi-racial man trying to figure out his identity as the son of an atheist father and skeptic mother and needed a church "he could learn from."
  • It's understandable that Obama didn't leave the church: it's like reading a book--you don't necessarily agree with the author.
  • Obama's speech was a "triumph," and Americans will be thinking "small" if they make the Wright thing a big issue in the campaign.

View the video here.

March 19, 2008, 2:03 PM EDT

There's a new entry next to Mika Brzezinski's name in the annals of MSM elitism. The Morning Joe panelist today lamented blue-collar whites who "can't hear" the message Barack Obama propounded. Poor benighted souls. Joe Scarborough called Mika on it.

Brzezinski's comment came in response to Scarborough's exposition of why he didn't think Obama's speech would work with many blue-collar whites.

View video here.

March 19, 2008, 8:54 AM EDT

Like so many of his colleagues, Jeff Greenfield comes to the MSM from a background in Dem politics, having served as a speechwriter for RFK. But more than most, the CBS senior political correspondent demonstrates an ability to put partisanship aside in his analyses.

Witness Greenfields's comments on this morning's Early Show regarding Barack Obama's speech on race on this morning's Early Show. The show's intro referred to the speech as "a defining cultural moment in America" and a "moving moment." Greenfield was considerably more restrained in his praise, suggesting that Obama failed by declining to disassociate himself from a "crackpot."

Co-anchor Maggie Rodriguez spoke with Greenfield and pollster Frank Luntz.

March 18, 2008, 4:56 PM EDT
Playing the moral equivalence card in his speech this morning, Barack Obama said this:
I can no more disown [Rev. Wright] than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother - a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.
Which sent me scurrying to Google for the quote I was sure I remembered. And sure enough:
There is nothing more painful to me ... than to walk down the street and hear footsteps and start thinking about robbery, then look around and see somebody white and feel relieved. -- the Reverend Jesse Jackson, as quoted in US News, 3/10/96
March 18, 2008, 12:39 PM EDT

The statements that Rev. Wright made that are the cause of this controversy were not statements I personally heard him preach while I sat in the pews of Trinity or heard him utter in private conversation. -- Barack Obama, Huffington Post, March 14, 2008
The key question before Barack Obama today was the one going to his integrity: was he was telling the truth when he claimed in his HuffPo piece of March 14th that he never heard Wright make, in public or private, the remarks "that are the cause of this controversy"?

I listened carefully. Obama dodged the question.
March 18, 2008, 8:24 AM EDT

Could this photo be a first? It shows a card-carrying member of the MSM shooting a handgun. That's Jan Crawford Greenburg, an ABC News legal correspondent. The clip, pun intended, of Greenburg on the firing range was part of a segment she narrated on today's Good Morning America on a case to be argued before the Supreme Court today. At issue is the District of Columbia's law banning handguns. The case comes before the Supreme Court after the U.S. Court of Appeals for D.C. invalidated the law. The decision could be a landmark, potentially the first time the Supreme Court rules squarely on the issue of whether the Second Amendment establishes an individual right to bear arms.

The segment was surprisingly respectful of the right to bear arms. Beyond Greenburg's personal marksmanship demonstration, the segment began with a sympathetic depiction of the plight of Shelly Parker, the DC resident who started the case by suing the city over its gun ban.

View video here.

March 17, 2008, 11:31 AM EDT

The Early Show did its best this morning to help Barack Obama climb out of the hole he's dug for himself with his close association with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

In a set-up segment, CBS's Dean Reynolds rhetorically asked: "the question is whether the rhetoric is so remarkable, because in African-American churches pastors often seek to rouse their congregants to self-reliance by speaking harshly about the country's troubled racial past and the need to overcome it."

Nice try, but how does accusing the US government of introducing AIDS and giving black people drugs equate to a call for self-reliance?

Reynolds concluded by stating that the Obama campaign is concerned that its candidate has been "victimized" in the same way the Trinity church claims Rev. Wright has.

Then it was on to a Russ Mitchell interview of the Rev. Dr. Calvin Butts, III of Harlem's famed Abyssinian Baptist Church. The thrust of Mitchell's questions and Rev. Butts' responses was that the controversy is being blown out of proportion, that fiery rhetoric is a tradition in black churches with roots in the Bible and even in the words of Jesus. Moreover, it would be wrong to expect congregants to criticize their pastors' words.

View video here .

March 17, 2008, 7:06 AM EDT

One set of facts, two diametrically different NYT op-eds addressing it this morning. The fact: that Barack Obama is backpedaling as fast as he can away from the hateful anti-American rhetoric of Jeremiah Wright. The op-eds: Bill Kristol's, offering a dose of sobering realism about Obama's feet that if not of clay, then are certainly those of a garden-variety politician.

And then there's Roger Cohen's, the Obama fan who, in a bit of breathtaking revisionism, would explain away Barack's moonwalk on the theory the candidate has simply "grown beyond" the problematic preacher. And Cohen's just fine with that.

Compare and contrast . . .

March 16, 2008, 8:07 PM EDT
Far be it from NB to suggest any correlation between liberal political orientation and a propensity for prostitution. But in the wake of the Spitzer scandal, the New York Times has run an article profiling three call girls, and we couldn't help but look for telltale signs of their politics. There were no particular hints regarding one of the ladies. But as for the other two . . . well, let's say it's unlikely they'll be turning up anytime soon as contributing editors at NewsBusters.

Ava Xi’an is the apparently apolitical pro. She claims to have gotten into the business to pay for a heart bypass operation for her father . . . who doesn't have health insurance. Bush made her do it, you might say.

As for the other two, Sally Anderson is "an unapologetic feminist" who was "raised in a fancy New Jersey suburb with what she described as 'very progressive parents.'” Oh, and she's planning to leave the profession "to study social work in graduate school." I'd say that wraps it up.
March 16, 2008, 2:59 PM EDT

How much trouble is Barack Obama in over the extremism of Jeremiah Wright? Enough that Dem strategist Donna Brazile has been reduced to arguing that as black preachers go, Wright is relatively moderate. Enough that the normally affable Brazile got a bit short with Time editor Mark Halperin, he of the infamous memo to his subordinates during the 2004 presidential campaign while serving as ABC News political director.

The comments came during the panel discussion on today's This Week with George Stephanopoulos on ABC.

View video here.

March 16, 2008, 9:19 AM EDT

David Petraeus was diplomatic in his language and careful to honor the primacy of civilian authority over the military. But the commanding general of multi-lateral forces in Iraq has left little doubt that if a new president wanted to withdraw from Iraq faster than would reflect Petraeus's considered military opinion, his family would be happy to have him home.

ABC's Bill Weir interviewed the Gen. Petraeus as part of a Good Morning America special today marking the fifth anniversary of the war in Iraq. The opening segment focused almost exclusively on the costs of the war. Some producer had apparently calculated that the war has cost 19 times the annual budget of Los Angeles. Who knew? But a subsequent segment did highlight some of the progress that has been made, notably in terms of former insurgents now come over to the multi-lateral side. Then came the Petraeus interview, which ended with this exchange.
BILL WEIR: You serve at the pleasure of the president. If our new president, a year from now, says general, I want out of here in a year. What do you say? Is that even feasible?
March 15, 2008, 10:32 AM EDT

I've enjoyed Tucker Carlson's show and can't let it pass into history, as it did last night, without a mention here. MSNBC has said that Tucker will remain at the network as an at-large commentator, and I have a feeling that, liberated from show-host concerns, he might become even more uninhibited in the expression of his quirkily conservative/libertarian views.

So let's usher Tucker out by focusing on one of our favorite nemeses, Rosa Brooks, the liberal LA Times columnist who appeared on the show's final episode. The unreconstructed Obama apologist offered the lamest excuse yet for his failure to have disassociated himself earlier from the ugly rhetoric of Rev. Jeremiah Wright: Barack simply wasn’t paying attention in the pews.

View video here.

March 15, 2008, 8:55 AM EDT

How's this for a balanced Today panel to discuss the impact of Rev. Jeremiah Wright's extremism on Barack Obama: two liberals who agree it shouldn't hurt him, with one suggesting the situation might even help Obama?

The panel discussion was preceded by a segment narrated by Lee Cowan, the NBC correspondent covering the Obama campaign who has admitted "it's almost hard to remain objective" about Barack. Cowan buttressed his case in that regard. After playing the clip of Rev. Wright using the n-word to make an invidious comparison between Obama and Hillary, Cowan claimed the words were "old." True--if Cowan considers December, 2007, when Wright uttered them--ancient history.

Then it was on weekend co-anchor Amy Robach's interview of Michael Dyson and Melinda Hennenberger. Dyson, who as Robach noted is an Obama supporter, is a Georgetown professor and MSNBC political analyst. He has in the past garnered headlines for his fierce criticism of Bill Cosby, claiming among other things that Cosby "battered poor blacks" with his calls for self-reliance.
March 14, 2008, 12:28 PM EDT

On today's Morning Joe, Obama fan Mika Brzezinski did her best to defuse the spot of bother Barack is in over the extremist statements made by his personal spiritual advisor, the Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Wright, Jr.

Over the course of the three-hour show, Mika variously and repeatedly:

  • mentioned that Obama has already distanced himself from Wright.
  • pointed out that the Clinton campaign has its own race-related problems, as with Bill in S.C. and the recent Ferraro flap.
  • insinuated that the Clinton campaign might be behind the recent emergence of the Wright tapes.

And then there was my favorite. Mika speculated that the sermon in which Wright used the n-word to make an invidious comparison between Hillary and Obama might have been six years old. That's right. Brzezinski imagined that Wright might have taken to his pulpit to excoriate Hillary back in 2001 or 2002, at a time when Barack was a mere Illinois state senator and the presidency not even a gleam in his eye.

View video here.

March 13, 2008, 10:50 PM EDT

Who cares if our next president has chosen as his "spiritual guide" someone who calls on God to damn America, and believes the US brought 9-11 on itself? Completely off track! Let's get back to the important stuff. You know, like the fine print of the candidate's plan to nationalize health care.

That in a nutshell is Anderson Cooper's kvetch about the controversy over the outrageous statements made by Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Wright, Jr., the pastor of Barack Obama's church and the man Obama has described as his spiritual guide and advisor.

Cooper made his comments on his 360 show this evening.
ANDERSON COOPER: Is this just the kind of thing that happens in campaigns? It seems we're almost at a point now where it's this or other issues for the Clinton campaign where people are just latching onto anything to strike a blow against their opponent. All this seems to have nothing to do with actual issues that the country is facing which these candidates should be talking about and we probably should be talking about.
And a bit later . . .
March 13, 2008, 7:11 PM EDT

Even Tucker Carlson, MSNBC's uninhibited house libertarian, was a bit taken aback. But good Dem Bill Press has had the, um, gumption to say what others may have thought about Hillary Clinton: that she has "balls of brass."

Press's comment came on this evening's Tucker in the course of a discussion of Clinton's shameless assertion that the Michigan primary was "fair" despite the fact that the DNC had agreed it wouldn't count and that Obama's name did not even appear on the ballot.

TUCKER CARLSON: You know this term "Orwellian"? Everything's "Orwellian." But rarely do you hear a statement that is in fact Orwellian. That actually reaches the threshold of "war is peace," "hate is love" and it's this right here. Hillary Clinton talking about the Potemkin primaries in Michigan and Florida and saying this: "If you're a voter from Florida or Michigan, you know that we should count your votes. The results of those primaries were fair and should be honored." They were fair in Michigan? Barack Obama was not on the ballot!

View video here.

March 13, 2008, 10:40 AM EDT

At the end of a Good Morning America segment today about Barack Obama's pastor, the Rev. Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr., an Obama campaign representative complained that John McCain's pastor had not been similarly "vetted." If that's true, then ABC or some other media outlet surely should and will do so.

Let's imagine that upon vetting, McCain's pastor is found to have made statements that were the mirror-image of those that Rev. Wright has made. How long would McCain remain a viable candidate? Judge for yourself, based on Rev. Wright's statements as exposed in the GMA segment that was the result of work by ABC's chief investigative correspondent Brian Ross. GMA aired a number of clips from sermons Rev. Wright gave at his Trinity United Church of Christ.

JEREMIAH WRIGHT: "The government gives them the drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes a three-strike law, and then wants us to sing God Bless America? No, no, no! Not God bless America. God damn America! It's in the Bible, for killing innocent people. God damn America for treating its citizens as less than human!"

View video here.

March 12, 2008, 8:25 AM EDT

Jim Cramer is known for wearing his heart on his sleeve. But the host of CNBC's "Mad Money" normally lets his emotions show over matters financial. In August, for example, he went ballistic at Ben Bernanke, pleading with the Fed chairman to lower interest rates in the face of widespread home foreclosures.

This morning, however, Cramer got verklempt not over the discount rate but at the falling fortunes of his friend Eliot Spitzer. Cramer went to Harvard Law with the embattled governor and his wife Silda, and over the years has defended Spitzer against the torrent of criticism directed at the so-called sheriff of Wall Street for his high-handed tactics.

Cramer appeared on this morning's Today to discuss with Meredith Vieira
yesterday's dramatic Fed move. But at the end of the interview, Vieira
raised the Spitzer situation, and that sent Cramer to the verge of
tears. The transcript below doesn't do justice to just how emotional
Cramer became, so readers might want to view the video.
March 11, 2008, 9:40 PM EDT

Forget the popcorn: it could take a case of Cognac and a humidor of good cigars to fully savor the warfare that's breaking out in Dem ranks. Who could have predicted that Keith Olbermann would be accusing a prominent Clinton team member and former Dem VP candidate of making a "clearly racist" statement evoking the apartheid era in South Africa? And yet . . .

On this evening's Countdown, Olbermann and Newsweek's Howard Fineman were discussing Geraldine Ferraro's remarks about Obama and the way the Clinton campaign, far from denouncing them, sent out campaign manager Maggie Williams to try to turn the tables, accusing Obama of "false, personal and politically calculated attacks" for having the audacity to complain.

View video here.

March 11, 2008, 5:15 PM EDT

In a revealing moment of MSM elitism, WaPo editorialist Ruth Marcus, discussing the decision of Silda Wall Spitzer to appear with her husband Eliot yesterday, wanted people to know Mrs. Spitzer is a Harvard law grad and a "serious" person, not a Tammy Wynette type.

Marcus was interviewed by Contessa Brewer on MSNBC this afternoon, and the pair turned to the question of why political wives tend to appear with their husbands who have been caught up in sex scandals.
RUTH MARCUS: I just don't think that we should also lump all these women together. And to use a line that got Hillary Clinton in some trouble back in the 1992 presidential campaign, Eliot Spitzer's wife is not some Tammy Wynette, stand-by-your-man kind of woman.
She continued . . .