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markpkessinger

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Member since: Sat May 15, 2010, 04:48 PM
Number of posts: 6,108

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A lesson I learned a long time ago is that the people who are most to be trusted . . .

. . . are those would never dream of making demands of it. If, in fact, Warren and Brown are lying as the President suggests, then it is within the President's ability to demonstrate that bu releasing the text of the entire document. Even apart from the parts of the TPP draft that have been leaked to date, the fact that he is resisting doing so, expecting the public and most of Congress to simply take his word for it. and at the same time is so uncharacteristically energetic in his attempts to impugn the integrity of critics who are, on most other issue, staunch allies, speaks volumes.

Another thing I learned a long time ago is that when faced with a choice about whom to believe among two parties, each of whom is accusing the other of lying, one rarely goes wrong by asking oneself one simple question: which party stands to gain or lose the most both by misrepresenting an issue, and/or by falsely accusing the other party of lying? Frankly, if the deal is all it is cracked up to be by the President, then I can see nothing that Warren or Brown would have to gain by opposing it. But I can certainly see that a President, now in the home stretch of his Presidency, casting about for a new 'legacy' since the future of his single biggest achievement is in doubt, I can see where he would have plenty to lose if the deal falls apart, and thus plenty to gain by falsely characterizing the deal's opponents as lying.

For me, then, the determination whom to regard as being the most credible between the PResident and Senator Warren is not even a close call.
Posted by markpkessinger | Sun Apr 26, 2015, 01:52 PM (46 replies)

CRUZ FALLOUT: Broadway Cares Cancels AIDS Fundraiser At Ian Reisner's Hotel

From Joe.my.God.blogspot.com:

CRUZ FALLOUT: Broadway Cares Cancels AIDS Fundraiser At Ian Reisner's Hotel

From the executive director of Broadway Cares:

t is with regret that we have decided to cancel this yearís edition of the Broadway Bares Solo Strips fundraiser, which was scheduled for May 10 at the NYC club 42West. We cannot in good conscience hold an event at a venue whose owners have alienated our community, as reflected in an April 23 New York Times story and an April 24 follow-up post. We do business with and accept fundraising support from a variety of people across a wide spectrum of political and religious affiliations. The rich diversity of our community makes what we do together so special. It is a rare instance where the actions of a donor negatively impacts us as an organization and potentially jeopardizes our relationship with others whose support is integral to our success. But when it does occur, in a way thatís blatantly against all we stand and work for, we canít pretend it doesnít come with consequences. Silence is not a neutral position. It is complicit. This is not about partisan politics or punishment. This is about doing whatís right to ultimately ensure that our commitment to the men, women and children we serve cannot be questioned.


Fallout has been equally swift across Manhattan's clubland. Links to the boycott of Reisner's properties have been posted by top New York City club promoters John Blair and Mark Nelson, both of whom have worked with Reisner's clubs in the past. Facebook pages for Reisner's various businesses have been deluged with negative comments and vows to stay away. Also interesting are boycott pledges by summer-long residents of Fire Island Pines, who would have few other options as Reisner recently paid $10M for 80% of the resort town's commercial district. At this writing the boycott's Facebook group has grown to over 4100 members in just one day.

NOTE: Broadway Bares 25 will take place as scheduled at the Hammerstein Ballroom on June 24th.
Posted by markpkessinger | Fri Apr 24, 2015, 05:58 PM (14 replies)

Why I Do This

(Note: This is something I posted earlier today on Facebook. I had shared a comment I had posted to a very fine New York Times editorial on capital punishment. In response, a friend responded that, while he agreed with me in substance, these exchanges were ultimately futile and pointless, because no minds would ever be changed. I certainly understand why he might feel that way -- I feel the same way at times. So I began thinking about why, exactly, I continue to engage on topics on Facebook, on DU and around the Internet. A lot of folks responded very positively to my response, so I thought I would share it here. Here is that response (it was originally three separate comments, but I've placed them all into one here):

I'm afraid I have to disagree about the utility (or futility) of these discussions. When toxic ideas are left unchallenged, they are assumed by some to have a legitimacy they don't deserve. I can certainly understand how you feel -- I feel that way myself much of the time. But I still think it remains critically important to remain engaged.

As an illustration of why I think it is so important to remain engaged, I would point to an issue in which I have a great personal stake: that of LGBT civil rights. I came out in 1980, before we were aware of AIDS. You might be surprised to hear this, but it was a time of great optimism in the gay and lesbian community. A number of major cities across the country had begun to enact anti-discrimination laws, and the wider society seemed to be inching towards greater acceptance.

Then the AIDS crisis hit. Christian conservatives wasted no time in exploiting that crisis to their fullest advantage. People like Jerry Falswell and the execrable Anita Bryant did their worst. And one by one, cities that had enacted laws barring discrimination against LGBT folks began to repeal them. And even worse, some enacted laws that specifically discriminated, barring, for example, LGBT folks from holding positions as teachers or from being adoptive parents. For the LGBT community, faced with the onslaught of death all around us, and at the same time watching helplessly as the country regressed and many of the gains we had made simply disappeared, let me tell you, it was a depressing, demoralizing period of history to live through.

Yet, here we are, 35 years later, with gay marriage now legal in many states, and likely to be made legal in many more. It was certainly tempting, back in the early '80s, to simply give up, to stop trying to engage people in dialogue. There appeared to be no hope on the horizon. But if we had done that, if we had stopped engaging friends, family members, co-workers, etc. in discussions about these issues even when they disagreed with us, none of the gains we have made since would have happened -- and that likely includes, I would add, the development of effective life-sustaining treatments for HIV/AIDS, that have benefited not only gay AIDS sufferers, but all HIV/AIDS patients, both here and around the world. Had groups like ACT-UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) not engaged in the kinds of direct, street level agitation and disruption in pursuit of speedier clinical trials, we might still be waiting for those drugs to be developed.

The lessons for me in that experience were both the need of remaining engaged in issues, as well as the importance, particularly in times of frustration and demoralization, of keeping in sight the longer view of things. Things don't always happen as quickly as we would like. But we have to continue to have hope that progress will eventually come. If we give up on that hope, and give up on pushing towards it, then we will have effectively guaranteed that it will never come. Oh, wait -- there was a third lesson in that as well: never, EVER, allow yourself to be complacent about gains you may have already made!

One final thought: if I ever allowed myself to succumb to the belief that closed minds could not be opened, that hearts could not be moved, that knowledge could not eventually overcome ignorance, that rationality could not eventually overcome irrationality, that bigotry and prejudice could not be overcome -- then this would be a world I would cease to have any interest in continuing to live in. So for me, not engaging in these issues is really not an option. Fortunately, I have seen people's views change -- sometimes relatively quickly, sometimes over many decades.
Posted by markpkessinger | Mon Apr 13, 2015, 11:50 PM (2 replies)

The Fiction of Deterrence and the Immorality of 'Retributive Justice'

Our criminal justice system is broken. We all (or almost all) know it, and we all say it. Prisoners, both violent and non-violent, and among whom are found those that have been rightfully as well as wrongfully convicted, are warehoused under brutal and inhumane conditions that are virtually guaranteed to make violent criminals more violent, to make non-violent criminals violent, and, in some cases, to force people who never before had been criminals to turn to crime, upon their release, merely to survive. We keep people in solitary confinement for weeks or months or even years on end, creating permanent psychological damage. A criminal justice system that is subject to the same human mistakes, failings and corruptions as all other systems devised by humans nevertheless presumes, in some cases, to impose ultimate, irrevocable punishment -- death -- that eliminates any and all possibility of redress in light of any mistakes or failings that may later come to light. Yet, when it comes to the criminal penalties imposed on specific, notorious criminals who have committed crimes we find to be particularly abhorrent or heinous, and about whose guilt we firmly believe we are certain, many of us are all too willing to set aside our commitment to moral and, in some cases, even legal, principle in order to satisfy a very human, but very base, desire for vengeance.

There are two prevailing concepts that are used to rationalize our broken criminal justice system. First is the notion of deterrence. If we impose harsh, brutal sentences upon people who commit crimes, then would-be criminals will think twice before committing such crimes -- or so goes the myth we tell ourselves, despite a dearth of evidence that such deterrent effect actually exists. I have come to believe the entire premise is a faulty one. First, it fails to consider that the majority of violent crimes occur in the heat of passion, in which the emotions overtake rational thought processes. Second, even in the cases involving violent crimes that are premeditated and carefully planned, a theory of deterrence rests, in the first place, on the idea that a would-be criminal undertakes a rational cost-benefit analysis of a crime he or she may be contemplating, much as a careful investor might weigh potential upside gain against potential downside loss. This is, I believe, very rarely what actually happens in the commission of criminal acts. I believe that in most cases, those who commit crimes do so having already convinced themselves, often quite irrationally, they won't get caught, and not because the potential consequences of getting caught are light enough to make the crime worth the risk of committing it. At the point they commit the crime, all thought of getting caught, and of potential consequences that would flow from that, have been put out of their minds entirely. So much for any deterrent effect!

The second concept, an idea very popular with some criminologists, is the idea of "retributive justice" -- i.e., the idea that punishing people for misdeeds is a morally justifiable, and even desirable, end in itself, that need not take account of any rehabilitative imperative or even any consideration for the well-being of the convicted criminal. The idea is that punishment somehow "balances" some cosmic (but never identified) scale of 'justice.' This, it seems to me, amounts to little more than a bunch of highfalutin, meaningless mumbo-jumbo aimed at rationalizing s system that is otherwise indefensible under any cogent system of ethics or morality. It is a way of justifying ourselves in our collective willingness to subordinate ethics and morality to the satisfaction of one of our most base human emotions. In short, the term "retributive justice" is but a gussied up term for plain old (but less acceptable in polite company) vengeance.

Some, of course, will protest that they reserve this kind of rationalization for the "worst of the worst," that what {insert name of notorious criminal of choice here} did was so uniquely heinous that he or she "deserves" whatever might be coming to him or her. But, as I pointed out yesterday in another thread, the problem with this rationale is that:

. . .invariably, we are talking about more than one case or one individual. And regardless of how heinous that one individual's actions may have been, invariably, some not-so-heinous criminals get caught up in it, too. The article mentions one Jack Powers, imprisoned for burglary as a kid, released in 1982. then married and started two businesses, both of which were bankrupt by the end of the decade. He began robbing banks -- BUT WAS NEVER ARMED, he merely passed notes to the teller demanding money. IN prison, a friend of his was murdered by the Aryan Brotherhood. Powers cooperated with prosecutors, believing he could cut a deal to get out of prison earlier, but then had to be placed in protective custody. When he got wind that prison officials were planning on transferring him to the general population, which would have put him at risk for being killed for his role in the convictions of four members of the Aryan Brotherhood, he escaped. So he wound up getting sent to ADX because he was deemed a flight risk, never mind that he was fleeing for his life.

When we talk about the criminal justice and penal systems, the conditions in prisons or the death penalty, it is important to remember that we are NEVER talking about just a single, individual case, and that invariably, people who do not remotely deserve to be kept under such brutal conditions inevitably will be. Any moral or ethical approach to these issues MUST factor in not only the 'easy' cases involving notorious, brutal criminals, but also the harder cases, which often involve less violent, or even non-violent such as Powers, prisoners who will inevitably get swept up into the system.


Society certainly has a right to protect itself by separating from the population those deemed to be a threat to others. But if a society is to call itself 'moral' or 'just,' or even 'civilized' for that matter, that right of protecting the wider society from harm carries no implicit right to abuse, harm or torture convicted criminals under some ethically tortured notion of 'retributive justice' or on the basis of an utterly fictitious narrative of 'deterrence.' And no system of ethics or morals can be called cogent if it provides 'carve outs' for cases that particularly enrage us, no matter how heinous the crime and no matter how understandable, and even justifiable, our collective rage.
Posted by markpkessinger | Fri Apr 10, 2015, 08:24 PM (0 replies)

The Fiction of Deterrence and the Immorality of 'Retributive Justice'

Our criminal justice system is broken. We all (or almost all) know it, and we all say it. Prisoners, both violent and non-violent, and among whom are found those that have been rightfully as well as wrongfully convicted, are warehoused under brutal and inhumane conditions that are virtually guaranteed to make violent criminals more violent, to make non-violent criminals violent, and, in some cases, to force people who never before had been criminals to turn to crime, upon their release, merely to survive. We keep people in solitary confinement for weeks or months or even years on end, creating permanent psychological damage. A criminal justice system that is subject to the same human mistakes, failings and corruptions as all other systems devised by humans nevertheless presumes, in some cases, to impose ultimate, irrevocable punishment -- death -- that eliminates any and all possibility of redress in light of any mistakes or failings that may later come to light. Yet, when it comes to the criminal penalties imposed on specific, notorious criminals who have committed crimes we find to be particularly abhorrent or heinous, and about whose guilt we firmly believe we are certain, many of us are all too willing to set aside our commitment to moral and, in some cases, even legal, principle in order to satisfy a very human, but very base, desire for vengeance.

There are two prevailing concepts that are used to rationalize our broken criminal justice system. First is the notion of deterrence. If we impose harsh, brutal sentences upon people who commit crimes, then would-be criminals will think twice before committing such crimes -- or so goes the myth we tell ourselves, despite a dearth of evidence that such deterrent effect actually exists. I have come to believe the entire premise is a faulty one. First, it fails to consider that the majority of violent crimes occur in the heat of passion, in which the emotions overtake rational thought processes. Second, even in the cases involving violent crimes that are premeditated and carefully planned, a theory of deterrence rests, in the first place, on the idea that a would-be criminal undertakes a rational cost-benefit analysis of a crime he or she may be contemplating, much as a careful investor might weigh potential upside gain against potential downside loss. This is, I believe, very rarely what actually happens in the commission of criminal acts. I believe that in most cases, those who commit crimes do so having already convinced themselves, often quite irrationally, they won't get caught, and not because the potential consequences of getting caught are light enough to make the crime worth the risk of committing it. At the point they commit the crime, all thought of getting caught, and of potential consequences that would flow from that, have been put out of their minds entirely. So much for any deterrent effect!

The second concept, an idea very popular with some criminologists, is the idea of "retributive justice" -- i.e., the idea that punishing people for misdeeds is a morally justifiable, and even desirable, end in itself, that need not take account of any rehabilitative imperative or even any consideration for the well-being of the convicted criminal. The idea is that punishment somehow "balances" some cosmic (but never identified) scale of 'justice.' This, it seems to me, amounts to little more than a bunch of highfalutin, meaningless mumbo-jumbo aimed at rationalizing s system that is otherwise indefensible under any cogent system of ethics or morality. It is a way of justifying ourselves in our collective willingness to subordinate ethics and morality to the satisfaction of one of our most base human emotions. In short, the term "retributive justice" is but a gussied up term for plain old (but less acceptable in polite company) vengeance.

Some, of course, will protest that they reserve this kind of rationalization for the "worst of the worst," that what {insert name of notorious criminal of choice here} did was so uniquely heinous that he or she "deserves" whatever might be coming to him or her. But, as I pointed out yesterday in another thread, the problem with this rationale is that:

. . .invariably, we are talking about more than one case or one individual. And regardless of how heinous that one individual's actions may have been, invariably, some not-so-heinous criminals get caught up in it, too. The article mentions one Jack Powers, imprisoned for burglary as a kid, released in 1982. then married and started two businesses, both of which were bankrupt by the end of the decade. He began robbing banks -- BUT WAS NEVER ARMED, he merely passed notes to the teller demanding money. IN prison, a friend of his was murdered by the Aryan Brotherhood. Powers cooperated with prosecutors, believing he could cut a deal to get out of prison earlier, but then had to be placed in protective custody. When he got wind that prison officials were planning on transferring him to the general population, which would have put him at risk for being killed for his role in the convictions of four members of the Aryan Brotherhood, he escaped. So he wound up getting sent to ADX because he was deemed a flight risk, never mind that he was fleeing for his life.

When we talk about the criminal justice and penal systems, the conditions in prisons or the death penalty, it is important to remember that we are NEVER talking about just a single, individual case, and that invariably, people who do not remotely deserve to be kept under such brutal conditions inevitably will be. Any moral or ethical approach to these issues MUST factor in not only the 'easy' cases involving notorious, brutal criminals, but also the harder cases, which often involve less violent, or even non-violent such as Powers, prisoners who will inevitably get swept up into the system.


Society certainly has a right to protect itself by separating from the population those deemed to be a threat to others. But if a society is to call itself 'moral' or 'just,' or even 'civilized' for that matter, that right of protecting the wider society from harm carries no implicit right to abuse, harm or torture convicted criminals under some ethically tortured notion of 'retributive justice' or on the basis of an utterly fictitious narrative of 'deterrence.' And no system of ethics or morals can be called cogent if it provides 'carve outs' for cases that particularly enrage us, no matter how heinous the crime and no matter how understandable, and even justifiable, our collective rage.
Posted by markpkessinger | Thu Apr 9, 2015, 10:48 PM (16 replies)

Cops remove bust of Snowden from Brooklyn Park; artists replace it with a HOLOGRAM!

Love it!

Hologram replaces Edward Snowden statue in Brooklyn park

NEW YORK ó Hours after police removed an illicit bust of Edward Snowden from its perch in a Brooklyn park on Monday, artists replaced it with a hologram.

The group of artists ó who collectively call themselves "The Illuminator" and are not related to the trio behind the original sculpture ó used laptops and projection equipment to cast an image of Snowden in a haze of smoke at the spot where the sculpture once stood.

They say the action was a message of defiance aimed at the authorities who "censored" the piece, according to a tumblr post.

< . . . . >


The original sculpture:



And the hologram:

Posted by markpkessinger | Wed Apr 8, 2015, 12:02 AM (3 replies)

The deeper hypocrisy of the "religious freedom" argument

NOTE: This is a somewhat more fully fleshed out version of a comment I posted earlier to a superb column by Charles Blow in The New York Times (a column you really should read, btw).

There is yet a deeper level of hypocrisy -- one that I haven't seen discussed anywhere -- on the part of those who claim their "religious freedom" will be violated if they are forced to do business with those whose lives in some way go against their religious convictions. The great majority of those making this argument are not members of separatist sects such as the various Anabaptist groups (Amish, Mennonite, etc.), whose religious faith requires them to remain separate from "the world" in order to maintain moral purity. Indeed, if they were members of such sects, their argument might be at least a little more convincing. These are, for the most part, evangelical protestants who are, in all other respects, fully engaged with the world around them. They do business with "sinners" all the time -- some of them repentant, some of them not. These 'Christian' vendors routinely sell products and services to people they disagree with without so much as even asking the purpose for which the product or service is being purchased. Yet, suddenly, these folks are singling out this one, particular "sin" in a way they have singled out no others, insisting that they, the vendors, are, in this case only, somehow morally or religiously on the hook for how this particular product or service is used.

To counter charges that they are discriminating against LGBT persons, some of these 'Christian' business owners have argued that they will serve LGBT customers, but will not provide products or services for LGBT weddings, because that would be "supporting a commitment to sin." In point of fact, they do not, and indeed cannot, know what the two persons in a marriage ceremony are committing themselves to. Sex, which religious conservative claim is the locus of their objection, may or may not be a part of it -- no one really knows and neither is it anyone's business. Indeed, I have known many long-term gay couples for whom sex long ago ceased to be a component of the relationship, but nevertheless have deep and abiding love for one another. I would add that, by the same token, neither does anyone attending or providing services to a traditional, straight wedding really know the precise nature of the relationship the couple are committing themselves to. For all anyone knows, behind closed doors the couple might be into some things that would make one's hair stand on end. But the important point here is that no one considers it appropriate to ask, concern themselves with or even to contemplate what will go on in the privacy of the straight couple's bedroom after they are married.

These 'Christian' business owners sell products and services to people every day of the week without knowing how or where or for what purpose they will ultimately be used. And in virtually all other cases, they don't even care to know. The hypocrisy is simply stunning.
Posted by markpkessinger | Thu Apr 2, 2015, 05:34 PM (8 replies)

Oh, the irony: Bernie Kerik--Thug Cop now prison reform advocate

It is a rare day indeed when I would choose even to read, let alone share or link to, anything on the right-wing site, Newsmax. But I think an exception is warranted in this instance, if for no other reason than to savor the rich, rich irony of it all! Thug-and-former cop turned thug-and-former NYC police commissioner under thug-and-former mayor Giuliani, who damn near became thug-and-former director of Homeland Security until his nomination collapsed in a heap of criminal allegations for which he was later convicted and sent to prison, is now out of prison and speaking out for prison and criminal justice reform -- saying many of the things progressive reform advocates have been saying for years. Well, imagine that!

Bernie Kerik's Painful Journey From the Jailer to the Jailed

< . . . .>

As New York's top cop on 9/11 and, before that, head of the city's sprawling jails, he literally knows the system inside and out. So Kerik is in a singular position to expose its flaws ó and that's what he does in his new book published March 31, "From Jailer to Jailed: My Journey From Correction and Police Commissioner to Inmate #84888-054" (Threshold).

"I've seen the inside of the system as someone that was extremely knowledgeable of how the system was supposed to work," Kerik says. "I know what it's supposed to do. I know how it's supposed to work. I know what it's supposed to accomplish. I know how to fix it.

"Then to see the system from the inside out was shocking," he adds.

< . . . . >
Kerik was initially confined to a 12-by-8 foot cell with a bed, a toilet and a sink. He was told he was placed in solitary for his own safety.

"There are other ways of protecting people of my stature without putting them in a scenario where they wind up hallucinating, talking to themselves, freaking out, wanting to commit suicide," he says. "Solitary confinement is an overwhelming mental torture that nobody understands unless you've been through it."

< . . . .>


Gotta love it!
Posted by markpkessinger | Wed Apr 1, 2015, 09:49 PM (10 replies)

King Richard III funeral live Leicester. R.I.P RIchard 3

Sharing just because, hey, it isn't every day you get to see a royal funeral for a King who died 530 years ago!

My first reaction was, well, that it was rather a plain box for a king. But it turns out the coffin was built by the descendant of Richard III whose DNA was used to confirm Dick 3's identity. Fascinating!

(Note that that members of the royal family did not attend. This was, after all, the King their ancestor, Henry Tudor, killed in battle, after which HEnry became Henry VII!)

Posted by markpkessinger | Thu Mar 26, 2015, 07:05 PM (9 replies)

Truthout: The Big Dick School of US Patriotism: And What We Make of It

Great read. And what a great description: "Big Dick School of US Patriotism." Indeed!

The Big Dick School of US Patriotism: And What We Make of It
Tuesday, 17 March 2015 13:23
By Nan Levinson, TomDispatch | Op-Ed

Let's face it: we live in a state of pervasive national security anxiety. There are various possible responses to this low-grade fever that saps resolve, but first we have to face the basis for that anxiety -- what I've come to think of as the Big Dick School of Patriotism, or (since anything having to do with our present version of national security, even a critique of it, has to have an acronym) the BDSP.

The BDSP is based on a bedrock belief in how America should work: that the only strength that really matters is military and that a great country is one with the capacity to beat the bejesus out of everyone else. Think of it as a military version of 50 Shades of Grey, with the same frisson of control and submission (for the American citizen) and the assumption that a good portion of the world is ripe to be bullied.

The BDSP is good citizenship conflated with JROTC, hosannas to sniper kills, the Pentagon's commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War -- what are we celebrating there anyway? -- Rudolph Giuliani pining for a president who loves America in Reaganesque fashion, and the organizers of South Boston's St. Patrick's Day, who wouldn't let the local chapter of Veterans For Peace march with their banners because, so the story goes, they didn't want the word "peace" associated with veterans.

Of course, the Big Dick School of Patriotism isn't new -- revolutionary roots, manifest destiny, history as the great pounding of hooves across the plain, and all that. Nor is it uniquely American, even if there is something culturally specific about our form of national hubris on steroids. Still, there have been times in our history when civilians -- some in power, some drawing strength from numbers -- have pushed back against the military and its mystique, or at least have demanded an accounting of its deeds. And of course, until the Cold War bled into 9/11, there was no national security state on the present gargantuan scale to deal with.

< . . . . >
Posted by markpkessinger | Wed Mar 18, 2015, 10:29 PM (0 replies)
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