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markpkessinger

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Member since: Sat May 15, 2010, 04:48 PM
Number of posts: 5,044

Journal Archives

A Facebook posting of mine on the triggering of the "nuclear option"

I posted this just now both as a personal status update and a post on the page, "Liberal Warriors Battleground."

I've seen a lot of weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth in comments around the web today, mostly by conservatives but some by liberals as well, to the effect that in eliminating the filibuster of most presidential appointees, that somehow the "rights" of the minority party have been trampled upon. To that I say, balderdash! Rights, under the Constitution, attach to TWO entities: (1) to citizens as individuals, and (2) to states. The Constitution doesn't even contemplate the existence of political parties, let alone a system wholly dominated by only two, so to speak of any party or political faction as having "rights" is to speak nonsense.

(Actually, the framers did take care to protect one kind of minority right in structuring the legislature as they did. They were concerned about limiting the ability of more populous states to run rough-shod over the interests of less populous states, hence the arrangement of two Senators per state regardless of population. I would argue that they went way overboard in that direction, but I'll leave that for another post.)

Three things are clear. First, the Constitution vests in the presidency the power to fill federal judicial vacancies (and executive branch positions), giving to the Senate AS A WHOLE the role of advise and consent. Second, nowhere does the Constitution provide, nor can any reasonable case be made that it in anyway is intended to provide, for a situation in which a minority party in the Senate can prevent the Senate as a body from performing the role assigned to it by the Constitution. And third, while the Constitution permits each legislative chamber to set its own procedural rules, to suggest that in doing so, the framers intended to create a situation in which a Senate procedural rule (i.e., the filibuster) could be abused by a minority political party in such a way as to impede the Senate from exercising its Constitutionally-appointed role, is simply beyond absurd.

The ability to use a filibuster against executive branch appointees was something that began as a courtesy. Republicans, since President Obama took office in 2009, have employed it in a totally unprecedented way and an unprecedented number of times (roughly HALF OF ALL THE SENATE FILIBUSTERS THAT HAVE BEEN INVOKED IN THE NATION'S HISTORY HAVE OCCURRED SINCE PRESIDENT OBAMA TOOK OFFICE). In doing so, Republicans have abused the courtesy of the filibuster.

All of this has centered on the filling of three vacancies on the Second Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, arguably the second-most important court in the country next to the Supreme Court. The court normally has a panel of 11 judges. Of the eight serving judges, four are liberal and four are conservative. It happened that three seats became vacant during this Presidency. The three nominees the President has put forth are, by any standard, moderate jurists. Republicans have raised no principled objection to any of them, nor is there any known scandal that should prevent their confirmation. This is ultimately about one thing: preventing the consequences that flow from the President having been re-electred.

Republicans have been accusing President Obama of attempting to "pack the court" with liberal judges. "Packing the court" is a phrase that has a particular history in this country. The phrase originates during the term of FDR, who faced a solidly conservative Supreme Court that was attempting to block him at every turn. FDR threatened to increase the number of justices on the court, filling the new seats with his own appointees, if the court continued to obstruct his agenda. (The court backed down under the threat.) It does NOT refer to a sitting President making the nominations he sees fit to fill vacancies that arise during his term.
Posted by markpkessinger | Fri Nov 22, 2013, 12:11 AM (2 replies)

Seen on the subway: the latest ad for Manhattan Mini-Storage . . .

"Our prices are falling faster than the GOP's approval ratings"

LOL!
Posted by markpkessinger | Thu Nov 14, 2013, 05:12 PM (5 replies)

Good news from NYC - Bloomberg's Midtown East Redevelopment plan defeated by City Council!

Mayor Bloomberg's overly ambitious development plan for Midtown East has been defeated by city council! Bloomberg really wanted to push this through before the end of his term. Bloomberg's plan slated 73 blocks in midtown east for redevelopment. It is true that the area has many aging office buildings, some of which should certainly be replaced. But there were also many historic buildings in that zone that should be protected. Somewhere, from her perch on a cloud, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis smiles!

http://e2.ma/webview/3rtwi/79788ef6f3f205a44b82e1b5ad7731ea

Now if we could only find a way to stop the construction of the seven monstrous towers slated for Central Park South!
Posted by markpkessinger | Wed Nov 13, 2013, 04:27 PM (3 replies)

Saw this just now on Faceboobk . . .



I like it!
Posted by markpkessinger | Sun Nov 10, 2013, 03:59 PM (9 replies)

Right-wing talking point on De Blasio's win

Reading comments to various articles at The New York Times and Huffington Post to articles about Bill De Blasio's nearly 50% margin of victory, I've repeatedly encountered the same talking point (I'm guessing it comes from Fox). They are trying to downplay the significance of that margin by pointing to the very low turnout, saying that negates any talk of a 'mandate.' While the turnout was appallingly low (something like 20% of the electorate), the low turnout does not negate De Blasio's win for this simple reason: the results of the election are totally consistent with the pre-election polls, which were representative of the electorate as a whole (or at least of likely voters), not just of the 20% who turned out to vote. As I pointed out to some of those commenters, a likelier explanation for the low voter turnout is simply that many voters, having seen the polling predicting an easy win for De Blasio, simply didn't feel as if it would matter all that much if they themselves didn't vote.
Posted by markpkessinger | Thu Nov 7, 2013, 10:16 PM (4 replies)

An appeal to the NY County Board of Elections . . .

. . . on behalf of middle-aged and older voters: next time around, can you PLEASE have the ballots printed in a slightly larger font?: And in black ink, please, not light blue!
Posted by markpkessinger | Tue Nov 5, 2013, 01:25 PM (5 replies)

A must-watch: "Unmanned: America's Drone Wars"

This very disturbing film exposes the criminal reality of the administration's drone policy. Democrats must pressure the administration to end it.

&feature=player_embedded
Posted by markpkessinger | Mon Nov 4, 2013, 08:58 AM (7 replies)

Have you ever been to a musical where you personally knew the characters of the story?

No, I don't mean the cast. I mean the actual characters portrayed in the play. I'm about to find out what it is like. Let me explain...

Some of you may be familiar with the lesbian cartoonist, Alison Bechdel. Until 2006, she was known chiefly as the artist responsible for the comic strip, "Dykes to Watch Out For." Then, in 2006, her autobiographical graphic novel, "Fun Home," was released. The book was a stunning success, both popularly and critically, and was named Time's Book of the Year that year. The book deals with Alison's relationship with her father, Bruce, a funeral director in her tiny, Pennsylvania town, and an English teacher at the local high school. Bruce was, as it turns out, a closeted gay man. He was also a mad perfectionist whose consuming passion was the restoration of the family's Gothic revival mansion. Bruce died in 1980, while restoring another house he had purchased -- he had crossed the busy road to dispose of some brush he had cleared, and was killed when, as he attempted to cross the road back to the house, he stepped in front of a Stroehmann's bread truck. Alison makes a pretty convincing case that his death was, in fact, a suicide, based on some discoveries she made in the aftermath of his death (he had apparently been discovered to be having an affair with a local teenage boy, and law enforcement was closing in).

It is a stunning book, well deserving of every accolade it has received. And now, the book has been made into a musical, which is playing at the Public Theater in New York, and was reviewed (quite favorably) in the New York Times this weekend.

So here's the thing: that little Pennsylvania town Alison grew up in happens to be the same one I grew up in. And her father was one of my high school English teachers. I was a year behind Alison in school. I worked alongside her mother (who also features prominently in the book) in the local summer stock theater for several summers. I attended numerous cast parties in that Gothic revival house her father restored. One of her two younger brothers was in the same Boy Scout troop I belonged to. Our respective families have associations that go back more than a century and a half. So seeing this musical promises to be a positively surreal experience!

Theater Review
Family as a Hall of Mirrors
‘Fun Home,’ a New Musical at the Public Theater

Cast members in “Fun Home,” adapted from the Alison Bechdel memoir by the playwright Lisa Kron and the composer Jeanine Tesori, at the Public Theater.

By BEN BRANTLEY
Published: October 22, 2013


At moments during “Fun Home,” the beautiful heartbreaker of a musical that opened on Tuesday night at the Public Theater, you may feel you’ve developed quadruple vision, and not just because your eyes are misted with tears. It’s also a matter of those three actresses playing the same character at different ages, a device that usually feels strained in theater, but here comes off as naturally as breathing.

Then there’s that fourth party, someone who is so clearly cut from the same genetic cloth that you have to blink whenever he shares a stage with any or all of those actresses. It’s Daddy, portrayed in searing style by Michael Cerveris, a person whom his daughter, the middle-aged Alison (Beth Malone), will be living with and reincarnating forever.

The title of “Fun Home,” adapted by the playwright Lisa Kron and the composer Jeanine Tesori from Alison Bechdel’s wonderful graphic memoir, is a cozy abbreviation for the small-town Pennsylvania funeral home that Daddy runs. It also refers to the Bechdel family’s Victorian house, which Daddy is endlessly restoring with a perfectionist’s tyranny.

But, more broadly, this musical’s setting is one of those halls of mirrors, both familiar and unique, where most of us grew up. It’s a place where the images of who you once were always linger, and where, no matter how hard you try, you can’t look at anyone else without seeing some of yourself. Such is the curse and the comfort of belonging to a family.

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Posted by markpkessinger | Sun Nov 3, 2013, 11:45 PM (4 replies)

Can you identify the lovely young woman pictured with JFK?

Posted by markpkessinger | Sat Nov 2, 2013, 08:32 PM (29 replies)

NY Times Editorial: ‘Not One More’

EDITORIAL
Not One More

By THE EDITORIAL BOARD
Published: October 27, 2013


< . . . . >

It’s good that Mr. Obama said “us.” It acknowledges his own role in this continuing disaster.

Much of the responsibility to fix what Mr. Obama calls the “broken immigration system” lies within his own administration. He can’t rewrite immigration laws, but he can control how well — or disastrously — they are enforced. He can begin by undoing the damage done by his Homeland Security Department. Mr. Obama has just nominated Jeh Johnson, a former Defense Department general counsel, to replace homeland security secretary Janet Napolitano, who resigned in July. It’s the perfect opportunity for a fresh start. Here is what it might look like:

STOP NEEDLESS DEPORTATIONS The Obama administration has kept up a frantic pace of 400,000 deportations a year, and is closing in on two million. Those numbers are driven by politics, not public safety. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has wide discretion to determine whom it detains and deports. It can retool all its policies to make noncriminals and minor offenders — the people most likely to benefit from the reform now stalled in Congress — the lowest priority for deportation.

The deportation surge is fed by programs like Secure Communities, which does immigration checks on everyone arrested by local and state law enforcement, and Operation Streamline, in which border crossers in the Southwest are prosecuted en masse, with little access to legal representation. Mr. Obama turned the dragnet on, and can turn it off. In marches and vigils across the country, protesters have made one plea on deportations to Mr. Obama: “Not one more.” He should heed it.

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Posted by markpkessinger | Mon Oct 28, 2013, 09:20 PM (4 replies)
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