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Member since: Sat May 15, 2010, 04:48 PM
Number of posts: 7,176

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The relative silence regarding the decision to send troops back into Iraq . . .

. . . and to build more bases there, is positively stunning. From today's New York Times:

U.S. Weighing More Military Bases in Iraq to Fight ISIS, Top General Says

NAPLES, Italy — The United States is considering establishing a new network of American military bases in Iraq to aid in the fight against the Islamic State, senior military and administration officials said Thursday, potentially deepening American involvement in the country amid setbacks for Iraqi forces on the battlefield.

Speaking to reporters aboard his plane during a trip to Italy, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of staff, Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, described a possible future campaign entailing the establishment of what he called “lily pads” — American military bases around the country from which trainers would work with Iraqi security forces and local tribesmen in the fight against the Islamic State.

General Dempsey’s framework was confirmed by senior Obama administration officials, and comes after an earlier decision this week to send 450 trainers to establish a new military base to help Iraqi forces retake the city of Ramadi, the capital of Anbar Province. The general said that base could be the model for a new network of American training bases in other parts of the country.

“You could see one in the corridor from Baghdad to Tikrit to Kirkuk to Mosul,” General Dempsey said. Such sites, he said, could require troops in addition to the 3,550 that the president has authorized so far in the latest Iraq campaign, although he said later some of the troops at the new bases could come from forces already in Iraq.

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Posted by markpkessinger | Thu Jun 11, 2015, 05:02 PM (18 replies)

Obama lawyers asked secret court to ignore public court's decision on spying

The administration is still as duplicitous as ever on this subject.; From The Guardian:

Obama lawyers asked secret court to ignore public court's decision on spying

The Obama administration has asked a secret surveillance court to ignore a federal court that found bulk surveillance illegal and to once again grant the National Security Agency the power to collect the phone records of millions of Americans for six months.

The legal request, filed nearly four hours after Barack Obama vowed to sign a new law banning precisely the bulk collection he asks the secret court to approve, also suggests that the administration may not necessarily comply with any potential court order demanding that the collection stop.

US officials confirmed last week that they would ask the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance court – better known as the Fisa court, a panel that meets in secret as a step in the surveillance process and thus far has only ever had the government argue before it – to turn the domestic bulk collection spigot back on.

Justice Department national security chief John A Carlin cited a six-month transition period provided in the USA Freedom Act – passed by the Senate last week to ban the bulk collection – as a reason to permit an “orderly transition” of the NSA’s domestic dragnet. Carlin did not address whether the transition clause of the Freedom Act still applies now that a congressional deadlock meant the program shut down on 31 May.

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Posted by markpkessinger | Tue Jun 9, 2015, 03:02 PM (5 replies)

Any Hillary supporter who wants to talk about Bernie's age would do well to remember . . .

. . . that should Hillary get the nomination, she will almost certainly be running against a younger -- possibly considerably younger -- Republican opponent. Hillary is only 6 years younger than Bernie. Ben Carson is the oldest one of the bunch, and he's 63. Jeb Bush, at 62, is five years younger than Hillary. Scott Walker is 47; Rand Paul is 52; Carly Fiorina is 60; Graham is 59; Cruz is 44 . . . do I need to continue? You really might want to think twice before you go down that particular path! Just sayin'.
Posted by markpkessinger | Wed May 27, 2015, 09:37 PM (15 replies)

About that violinist on the derailed train many were so quick to pillory. . .

I posted the article linked in the original thread on this topic to Facebook. An ex of mine (whom I am still good friends with), who is also a classical violinist (and a staunch and politically active Democrat in Putnam County, NY), and who happens to know Jennifer Kim, responded as follows:

Jennifer used to be a member of the American Symphony Orchestra, until she moved down to DC. She is such a sweet, gentle person - and a wonderful violinist and colleague. The only things callous on her are the fingertips of her left hand! Our violins are not only our voice, they are irreplaceable works of art as well. If my 315 year baby was on that train, I'm sure I would have reacted similarly. Jennifer certainly doesn't need social media shaming for her reaction.

And another violinist, a friend of my ex's, also chimed in:

I remember Jennifer. I heard about this nonsense earlier today. Only people who have no clue what it's like to be a professional string player and/or someone who is in shock would react badly to this. Could she have not tweeted this, of course. Was it I bad taste the way it was written, yes. But understanding who she is, what she does, and what she has just been through changes everything.
Posted by markpkessinger | Thu May 14, 2015, 01:17 AM (137 replies)

Sy Hersh Stunner: The Killing of Osama bin Laden

Hersch exposes a series of self-serving lies, as well as double crossings, on the part of the President regarding the killing of bin Laden. Bin Laden's location was not discovered by our crack CIA, but by a walk-in tip from a Pakistani official, he wasn't 'hiding out' in Abbottabad, but had been held in custody by Pakistan since 2006, the Pakistani intelligence services were fully aware of the raid in advance, and even made sure the Seal helicopters would be able to fly in over Pakistani airspace without triggering an alert, bin Laden was not armed and there was no firefight with the Seals, the story about removing garbage bags full of computers and Al Qaeda operational materials was a fiction concocted to justify killing bin Laden rather than taking him into custody, since he was no longer operationally relevant -- it was a premeditated hit. And the President, in making an immediate public announcement of the killing over the objections of Secretary Gates, violated an agreement that had been made with two Pakistani intelligence officials who had cooperated with the raid and without whose efforts the raid would not have been possible. And there's more. From the London Review of Books:

The Killing of Osama bin Laden

Seymour M. Hersh

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Five days after the raid the Pentagon press corps was provided with a series of videotapes that were said by US officials to have been taken from a large collection the Seals had removed from the compound, along with as many as 15 computers. Snippets from one of the videos showed a solitary bin Laden looking wan and wrapped in a blanket, watching what appeared to be a video of himself on television. An unnamed official told reporters that the raid produced a ‘treasure trove … the single largest collection of senior terrorist materials ever’, which would provide vital insights into al-Qaida’s plans. The official said the material showed that bin Laden ‘remained an active leader in al-Qaida, providing strategic, operational and tactical instructions to the group … He was far from a figurehead continued to direct even tactical details of the group’s management and to encourage plotting’ from what was described as a command-and-control centre in Abbottabad. ‘He was an active player, making the recent operation even more essential for our nation’s security,’ the official said. The information was so vital, he added, that the administration was setting up an inter-agency task force to process it: ‘He was not simply someone who was penning al-Qaida strategy. He was throwing operational ideas out there and he was also specifically directing other al-Qaida members.’

These claims were fabrications: there wasn’t much activity for bin Laden to exercise command and control over. The retired intelligence official said that the CIA’s internal reporting shows that since bin Laden moved to Abbottabad in 2006 only a handful of terrorist attacks could be linked to the remnants of bin Laden’s al-Qaida. ‘We were told at first,’ the retired official said, ‘that the Seals produced garbage bags of stuff and that the community is generating daily intelligence reports out of this stuff. And then we were told that the community is gathering everything together and needs to translate it. But nothing has come of it. Every single thing they have created turns out not to be true. It’s a great hoax – like the Piltdown man.’ The retired official said that most of the materials from Abbottabad were turned over to the US by the Pakistanis, who later razed the building. The ISI took responsibility for the wives and children of bin Laden, none of whom was made available to the US for questioning.

‘Why create the treasure trove story?’ the retired official said. ‘The White House had to give the impression that bin Laden was still operationally important. Otherwise, why kill him? A cover story was created – that there was a network of couriers coming and going with memory sticks and instructions. All to show that bin Laden remained important.’

In July 2011, the Washington Post published what purported to be a summary of some of these materials. The story’s contradictions were glaring. It said the documents had resulted in more than four hundred intelligence reports within six weeks; it warned of unspecified al-Qaida plots; and it mentioned arrests of suspects ‘who are named or described in emails that bin Laden received’. The Post didn’t identify the suspects or reconcile that detail with the administration’s previous assertions that the Abbottabad compound had no internet connection. Despite their claims that the documents had produced hundreds of reports, the Post also quoted officials saying that their main value wasn’t the actionable intelligence they contained, but that they enabled ‘analysts to construct a more comprehensive portrait of al-Qaida’.

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Posted by markpkessinger | Sun May 10, 2015, 10:38 PM (79 replies)

Regardless of whether you support HIllary or Bernie, I hope we can all agree. . .

. . . that the Democratic Party looks pretty good right now. I mean, we have two very different potential nominees, both of them serious and substantive (irrespective of what anybody may think of either one). Meanwhile, the other side is closing in on 20 potential nominees, and every one is either a lunatic, an egomaniac, a sociopath or a retread -- or some combination thereof!
Posted by markpkessinger | Wed May 6, 2015, 04:55 PM (11 replies)

VIDEO: Fox Issues Startling On-Air Retraction: 'Nobody Has Been Shot'

Internal conversation at Fox News:

Exec #1: Let's see . . . things are quieting down in Baltimore. But surely we can find a way to milk this story a little more. Any ideas?

Exec #2: HEY, I KNOW! Let's make a false report of a cop shooting a fleeing African American, wait an hour to see what happens, and then retract it, claiming it was a 'mistake!'

Exec #1: Yeah, that's the ticket!

VIDEO: Fox Issues Startling On-Air Retraction: 'Nobody Has Been Shot'

Fox News host Shepard Smith issued a startling on-air retraction on Monday, saying the channel had "screwed up" when a reporter said an hour earlier that he'd witnessed a black man being shot while running from Baltimore police.

"What's happened is we screwed up what it sounds like," Smith said. "I can tell you one thing, Mike Tobin would never — I've been through this. Mike Tobin thought he saw somebody get shot. And there was a gun. And there was a patient on a stretcher. And there was a woman who said she saw the cops gun him down and there's gonna be violence and all the rest of that. And what we have is nothing."

"Nobody has been shot," Smith said. "No police officer pulled the trigger."

Smith said the conditions were unusual and that the news crew had made an "honest" mistake.

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Posted by markpkessinger | Mon May 4, 2015, 08:14 PM (1 replies)

Kent State and Baltimore: A sad parallel

With tomorrow marking the 45th anniversary of the tragic events at Kent State, I cannot help but to see a very sad parallel in the way many Americans reacted to those events at the time and the way many have reacted to the events in Baltimore in recent days. 45 years ago, many Americans responded to the deaths of four college students, and the wounding of nine more, at the hands of the Ohio National Guard, with an attitude of, "It's about time they started shooting some of these dirty, smelly hippies." They focused on the violence of the anti-war protesters that had occurred in the days leading up to the shootings, while remaining willfully ignorant of the violence being perpetrated by our government on the people of Southeast Asia, as well as on a generation of Americans that was being forced to serve as cannon fodder in a totally unjustifiable war. Today, many Americans have chosen to focus on the violence of the demonstrations in Baltimore, while remaining willfully ignorant of the pattern of violence and oppression levied against a particular community, of which the death of Freddie Gray has become such a potent symbol. We never learn.
Posted by markpkessinger | Sun May 3, 2015, 09:26 PM (4 replies)

My take on the oral arguments in the same-sex marriage cases before the Supreme Court

The two questions before the court were:

(a) whether same-sex couples must be permitted by the states to marry on the same terms as heterosexual couples as a matter of constitutional right; and

(b) if the Court decides against recognizing it as a Constitutional right, then are states that do not recognize same-sex marriage required, under the full faith and credit clause, to recognize those same-sex marriages performed in states that do allow them.

IT seems to me as if there are three possible configurations of rulings on the two questions. They are:

(1) On question (a) they could rule that same-sex marriage is not protected by the equal protection clause, and thus the question of whether same-sex marriages will be recognized will continue to be left up to the states; and on (b) they could rule that states are not required to recognize the same-sex marriages legally performed in other states; or

(2) On question (a) they could rule that the equal protection clause does indeed mean that same-sex couples must be permitted to marry on the same basis as heterosexual couples. In this case, question (b) becomes moot, and the Court doesn't have to address it; or

(3) On question (a) they could rule against a constitutional right to same-sex marriage, and on question (b) rule that even though the question will still be left to the states regarding whether to permit same-sex marriages within its borders, that states must still be required to recognize the marriages validly performed in other states.

Question (a) is too hard to call based solely on the oral arguments, so that could go either way (most likely depending upon where Justice Kennedy falls). But from what I heard during the argument for question (b) even the conservative justices were having a hard time finding any coherent basis for ruling that states should not have to recognize the public acts (including same-sex marriage) of another state. So, if I am right about this, scenario (1) is not really a possibility.

I think the conservatives on the court will tend to want to split the baby and go with scenario (3). But if they think about the practical ramifications of that, at least some of them (such as Kennedy and maybe even Roberts), will have to take a step back. The reason is that scenario (3) will create an absurd legal reality, whereby same-sex couples in states that do not allow them to marry will simply get married in states that do, and their home states will be required to recognize their marriages in any case. So IF even one of the conservatives actually applies a bit of rationality to the situation, the only coherent option is scenario (2). But that's a big 'IF'.

At one point, I found myself so angry I was sputtering. It was when Scalia started saying that a constitutional right to same-sex marriage could require Christian clergy to perform same-sex weddings. It's a bogus argument, and Scalia knows damned well it's bogus, the reason being that clergy are not required to perform ANY WEDDING AT ALL, gay or straight. As a matter of the establishment clause, they cannot be required to perform weddings they do not wish to perform. And nothing would change in that regard by extending the right to marry to same-sex couples. It was such an outrageously dishonest position!
Posted by markpkessinger | Thu Apr 30, 2015, 07:54 PM (0 replies)

An apology for (and explanation of) an earlier post

A little earlier today, I posted something that was an attempt at irony, but which unfortunately went over like a lead balloon. It started out with a question: "Why do I find it cosmically ironic that the lawyer who argued before the Supreme Court on behalf of Michigan against gay marriage was this guy?". I followed with an actual professional photo of the guy. His appearance in the photo is, shall we say, rather 'dandy-esque.' (For reference, I'll post it in a separate, follow-up comment.) Unfortunately, through no fault of anyone reading the post, my intent was not clear, and as a result, was misinterpreted. I was quite taken aback by the negative responses: things like, "Stereotype much?" and "No, why don't you enlighten us." I realized immediately that nobody reading, unless they personally knew me, could possibly have the context needed to understand where I was coming from with that post. And for that, I apologize.

But I do want to explain a bit, lest anyone think I am some bigoted, homophobic troglodyte. First, yes, it was poking some fun at the stereotype. I am acutely aware of the stereotype, and the hurtful, malicious ways it is sometimes used against gay people, because I, myself, am a gay man. And although I have made mention of that on numerous occasions here on DU, generally it isn't something I mention unless there is a particular reason to do so.

The irony I saw in the situation was the same kind of irony I see whenever a notorious, right-wing, anti-gay legislator is caught in flagrante delicto with another man, or trying to solicit favors in a men's room stall. The thing is, that lawyer's countenance <i>does</i> match an old, commonly held stereotype of gay men. Jon Stewart even made an oblique, unstated (but certainly implied) reference to it in his monologue last night, which is what prompted me to create the post. As a gay man, I was not offended in the least, because I didn't see it as being a swipe at gay people at all, but rather at the hypocrisy of so many right wingers.

And another friend of mine, also gay, posted the following about this same lawyer to Facebook after listening to the audio of the oral arguments:

Bursch could be coughing up glitter right and left every time he opens his mouth, self-loathing is real."

One person responded that the guy looked too much like a sexless dork to be considered to 'look gay.' To that, I would point out that prime time TV shows have a long history of portraying gay characters as sexless dorks: "Jack" from Will & Grace, for example, or the argyle sweater-wearing gay couple from Modern Family. Indeed, that stereotype seems to be the one TV producers think is most palatable to middle America. Salon ran a good article on this subject a few months back.

This kind of ironic humor has a long and venerable tradition in the gay community: it is referred to as "camp." And it often involves making use of the very stereotypes that have so often been hurled at the gay community in order to make its point. However, context is everything, and context is what was lacking in my post. I apologize for that, but I do not apologize in any way for seeing the irony in that situation and calling it out.
Posted by markpkessinger | Thu Apr 30, 2015, 03:10 PM (12 replies)
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