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markpkessinger

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Member since: Sat May 15, 2010, 04:48 PM
Number of posts: 5,036

Journal Archives

Two events that opened my eyes to what police are capable of . . .

I've posted about these in the past, but given the news of the past week, it seems like an appropriate time to post about them once again.

I moved to NYC in 1982, right out of college. Having grown up in a very small, rural town in Pennsylvania, I was taught to view law enforcement as "the good guys," so when I moved to New York, I carried with me that default view of the NYPD. But I personally witnessed two incidents that forced me to see that my view of the essential goodness of the NYPD, and of police in general, had been very naive. Both of these incidents occurred during the Giuliani administration, and had I not witnessed them first hand, I might have had a hard time believing they actually occurred.

The first was in 1998, just a few days after the murder of Matthew Shepard in Laramie, Wyoming. That event touched many people very deeply, myself included. Early one afternoon, I got word from a work colleague that there was to be an impromptu vigil in memory of Matthew at 59th & Fifth Avenue (in front of the Plaza Hotel) at around 4:30 p.m. He said that several other folks from the office were going, and invited me to join, which of course I did. My colleague said he thought it would be a pretty small affair, since it was basically just a word-of-mouth thing that had been organized within the previous 24 hours. The vigil's organizer's, as I understand it, expected maybe a couple hundred people to show up. So they, and everyone else, was shocked when something like 5,000 people assembled. Since we were overflowing the plaza area in front of the hotel, some folks decided perhaps the thing to do would be to make a silent march down Fifth Avenue to Washington Square Park as a memorial to Mr. Shepard and a statement against the violence that took his life. The NYPD quickly stepped in to inform folks that under no circumstances would they be permitted to march, since they hadn't secured a permit in advance. But the crowd's emotions were simply running too high. The police were unprepared for the number of people, but they ultimately agreed to let the march proceed provided it remained on the sidewalk and didn't block traffic on Fifth Avenue. But there were simply too many people to be able to confine them successfully to the sidewalk (although the organizers did try), and the crowd began to spill out onto the avenue as the silent march proceeded.

At about 44th Street, the police managed to split the crowd in two, forcing on half to turn right onto 44th Street, in the direction of 6th Avenue. The police told marchers they would be permitted to go down 6th Avenue instead of Fifth. The crowd complied, because we were not there to pick a fight with the police; we merely wanted to complete our silent vigil/march. When about half of us had been herded onto 44th Street, it quickly became apparent that the police had laid a trap. About two thirds of the way down the block, there was a solid line of policemen in full riot gear, along with equestrian units. Once they got the entirety of the rear half of the crowd onto the block, they corralled us in from behind with netting. And then the line of policemen literally charged the crowd. Even the mounted units charged full speed ahead, with horses stepping on people. The policemen on foot and on horseback began indiscriminately swinging nightsticks at the marchers. Many were injured, and many were herded into police vans and arrested. I managed to get out by ducking into a camera store and pretending to shop. At the time I remember thinking to myself, "this cannot be happening here, in this country, in 1998." But it happened.

The second incident was some months later. I was riding the subway on my way home to Brooklyn in the wee hours of the morning. There were only three or four passengers in the car I happened to be riding in, one of whom was a sleeping homeless guy who had stretched out along the length of one of the benches. If the man owned shoes, he wasn't wearing them. His feet, obviously badly infected, were swollen, mottled messes of black and purple. At one of the stations, two transit police officers boarded the car. They went over to the homeless guy and tried to rouse him, but he couldn't immediately be roused -- he might have been drunk, or maybe he just hadn't slept in days. After a few minutes of shaking him, yelling at him, etc., none of which was successful in waking him, one of the officers took out his nightstick in two hands and swung it, baseball bat style, directly into the soles of the man's feet. Of course, the man immediately sat bolt upright screaming in pain. By then we were approaching another station, were the officers roughly dragged him from the car (presumably to ticket him). For those not from NYC, you can be ticketed for lying down on the subway benches. But this was 3 a.m. in the morning, when next to no one was riding the train, so it's not like he was preventing anyone from being able to sit. Yet these officers, in a display of wantonly thuggish abuse of power, had to make this poor soul's sad life that much more miserable. Cruel, sadistic assholes. They did what they did merely because the could. And they knew that in NYC, even if someone were to complain about their abusive behavior, such complaints generally disappear into the bureaucratic neverland that is the Civilian Complaint Review Board. They knew there would be no consequences whatsoever.

It nags my conscience to this day that I didn't say something to those two police thugs. But if I had, I very likely would have found myself at the business end of that nightstick. To witness that kind of brutality first-hand really changes a person's perspective -- or at least, it really changed mine.
Posted by markpkessinger | Fri Aug 15, 2014, 11:20 PM (13 replies)

Lauren Bacall - Gay Bar Scene From Broadway Musical Applause

This is from a 1973 telecast of the musical "Applause!" (which, btw, was a musical version of the film, "All About Eve"). Great scene!
Posted by markpkessinger | Wed Aug 13, 2014, 03:42 PM (3 replies)

Robin Williams I'm an Episcopal

As an Episcopalian myself, I particularly enjoyed this!

Posted by markpkessinger | Wed Aug 13, 2014, 02:05 PM (12 replies)

NY Times: "Obama Warns of ‘Long-Term’ Iraq Strikes" (And we're off to the races!)

Who could have predicted it? Jesus Fucking Christ!

Obama Warns of ‘Long-Term’ Iraq Strikes

By MICHAEL D. SHEAR and TIM ARANGO AUG. 9, 2014

WASHINGTON — Laying the groundwork for an extended airstrike campaign against Sunni militants in Iraq, President Obama said Saturday that the strikes that began the day before could continue for months as the Iraqis build a new government.

“I don’t think we’re going to solve this problem in weeks,” Mr. Obama told reporters before leaving for a two-week vacation on Martha’s Vineyard. “This is going to be a long-term project.”

The president repeated his insistence that the United States would not send ground combat troops back to Iraq. But he pledged that the United States and other countries would stand with Iraqi leaders against the militants if the leaders build an inclusive government in the months ahead.

Hours before Mr. Obama spoke, Sunni militants in northern Iraq ordered engineers to return to work on the Mosul Dam, the country’s largest, suggesting that the extremists who captured the dam last week after fierce battles with Kurdish forces will use it, at least for now, to provide water and electricity to the areas they control, and not as a weapon.

< . . . . >
Posted by markpkessinger | Sat Aug 9, 2014, 01:53 PM (28 replies)

NY Times: A Healing That Wasn’t: Liberal Activists and the Police Assail City Hall--and my comments

Several comments I posted to this article were published. They appear below the excerpt.

A Healing That Wasn’t: Liberal Activists and the Police Assail City Hall
After Chokehold Death, de Blasio Seeks a Tricky Balance
By NIKITA STEWART and MICHAEL M. GRYNBAUM AUG. 6, 2014

Mr. de Blasio had hoped for a healing moment last Thursday at City Hall, gathering police officials, clergy members and social activists to show that New Yorkers could unite after a black Staten Island man’s death in police custody. But the event quickly turned into a spectacle.

The Rev. Al Sharpton, unaware he would be asked to share the stage with William J. Bratton, the police commissioner, delivered a provocative attack on law enforcement as Mr. Bratton sat stone-faced, inches away. With Mr. Sharpton to his left and Mr. Bratton to his right, Mr. de Blasio sounded more moderator than mayor, trying to mollify both.

It hasn’t worked. By Wednesday, as police unions threatened a slowdown, Mr. Sharpton and scores of liberal activists were making plans to ratchet up pressure on City Hall, hoping to force an end to the so-called broken-windows approach to policing — cracking down on little crimes to deter bigger ones — that Mr. Bratton pioneered and that Mr. de Blasio has so far defended. “We really need to step up on this,” Mr. Sharpton told the group, recommending a march this month across the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.

Now, Mr. de Blasio is turning to his closest advisers, including the strategists who guided his mayoral campaign and crystallized his position against stop-and-frisk tactics, to help him better communicate his message.

< . . . >


And here are my posted comments:

Mark Kessinger
9 hours ago
The hoped-for healing that didn't take place will never, and indeed can never, occur so long as the NYPD considers itself above the law and unaccountable to the citizens it purports to serve. And if anyone thinks that saying the NYPD regards itself as being above the law is an overstatement, consider this: in October 2011, when 16 police officers were arraigned on corruption charges in the ticket fixing scandal (whereby police officers "fixed" traffic and parking tickets for each other, and their families and friends), hundreds of off-duty police officers converged on the Bronx Courthouse to CHEER their corrupt colleagues (all of whom pleaded guilty), to JEER the prosecutor, and to insist that ticket fixing was, in Patrick Lynch's words, "part of NYPD culture." Yes, Mr. Lynch -- it WAS part of the NYPD culture; and that's (part of) the problem! It was a disgraceful demonstration that displayed utter disregard for the law the NYPD is supposed to uphold, and utter contempt for the citizens it serves.

And for me, and I suspect many others, the PBA and Mr. Lynch have long ceased to have any credibility in these discussions because of their history of reflexively defending anything any member of the NYPD does. The louder the NYPD complains about civilian oversight and accountability, the stronger case it makes that such accountability and oversight is, in fact, very much needed.



Mark Kessinger
3 hours ago
I agree that inviting the Rev. Sharpton to be present at the briefing was ill-advised, for the simple reason that his polarizing presence provides to defenders of police thuggery an all-too-convenient, ready-made distraction to seize upon (as indeed they have) to shift attention away from the issue at hand, which is hyper-aggressive, hyper-violent policing on the part of the NYPD.



Mark Kessinger
3 hours ago
For those who defend the "broken windows" policy of aggressive enforcement of petty "quality of life" violations, a question: can anybody honestly claim that his or her quality of life is diminished one iota by a guy selling untaxed cigarettes down the block?



Mark Kessinger
42 minutes ago
In all of the discussion about whether police used appropriate force or not in arresting Mr. Garner, of the pros and cons of "broken windows" policing, and of whether or not Mr. Garner resisted arrest, there remains one question I have not seen addressed anywhere. That is, why was it even necessary to take Mr. Garner into custody at all? Why could not the police have simply issued a summons?

Posted by markpkessinger | Thu Aug 7, 2014, 05:30 PM (3 replies)

A quote printed in today's edition of Metro: "NYC is not scared of Ebola. . . ."

". . . We've survived far more virulent infections, such as Donald Trump." (Metro is a free newspaper distributed in subway stations in NYC)
Posted by markpkessinger | Wed Aug 6, 2014, 04:57 PM (0 replies)

What's the difference?

Posted by markpkessinger | Sun Aug 3, 2014, 09:43 PM (6 replies)

My comment to NY Times article on CIA's admission of spying on Senate Intelligence Committee

Here is the text of my comment (I will provide a link and an excerpt below, followed by a few additional thoughts):

Mark Kessinger

If any citizen had illegally hacked his or her way into a government computer, or even a computer of a corporation, that citizen could expect to be prosecuted, and quite aggressively so, by the Feds or the state (as determined by the statute under which the citizen had been charged). Will these CIA hackers be held to the same standard of legal accountability? Of course not.

Government agencies -- ALL of them, even those dealing with matters of intelligence and national security -- must remain accountable to the elected government of the people they serve. The Senate, through its Intelligence Committee, is the body charged with oversight of the CIA; therefore, the very idea that the CIA can, of its own accord and in the midst of a Senate investigation into its own conduct, determine what its overseers are permitted to see is itself anathema to any notion of representative government. While it is true that providing such unfettered access to the Senate Intelligence Committee could result in an incremental increase in the potential for an intelligence breach, the desire, or even the need, to maintain secrecy in the interest of national security must never be permitted to become so paramount that the agency becomes effectively free of oversight. An unaccountable agency is, by definition, a rogue agency.


Here is an excerpt of, and link to, the article:

C.I.A. Admits Penetrating Senate Intelligence Computers

By MARK MAZZETTI and CARL HULSE JULY 31, 2014

WASHINGTON — An internal investigation by the Central Intelligence Agency has found that its officers improperly penetrated a computer network used by the Senate Intelligence Committee to prepare its damning report on the C.I.A.'s detention and interrogation program.

The report by the agency’s inspector general found that C.I.A. officers created a fake online identity to gain access on more than one occasion to computers used by members of the committee staff, and tried to cover their movements as they rooted around the system, according to an official with knowledge of the investigation’s findings.

< . . . . >

The Justice Department has already declined to investigate the matter, so the inspector general report brings a degree of closure to the issue — and vindication for Senator Dianne Feinstein, the Democratic chairwoman of the committee who excoriated the C.I.A. in March when the matter became public.

< . . . . >

The White House publicly defended Mr. Brennan on Thursday, saying he had taken “responsible steps” to address the situation, including suggesting an investigation, accepting its results and appointing an accountability board. Asked whether the results of the investigation present a credibility issue for Mr. Brennan, Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary, said, “Not at all.”

< . . . . >


So General Keith Alexander lies to Congress, and suffers no repercussions as a a result. And now the director of another agency lies to Congress, and this Administration remains behind him 100%. Absolutely unconscionable! And once again, the promises by this President, when he was a candidate, to hold the intelligence community accountable for misconduct and overreach are revealed to be nothing more than cant. I am beyond disgusted by this.
Posted by markpkessinger | Thu Jul 31, 2014, 08:27 PM (2 replies)

Has anyone run across the term "DU Bagger?"

I got this rather nasty message in response to a comment I posted to an article at Truth-Out. And does anybody know what the term is intended to suggest?

Posted by markpkessinger | Sat Jul 26, 2014, 01:24 AM (5 replies)

There is NO middle ground on the death penalty

A commonly heard argument by those who acknowledge many of the current problems with the death penalty in this country,but who are unwilling to oppose it, is that while they recognize that there are problems with it that need to be addressed, they nevertheless continue to support it because some crimes -- such as {insert heinous exemplar here} -- are so utterly heinous that the death penalty 'seems' the only fitting punishment. They go on to say that they support it when a case rises to a level of heinousness deemed by . . . whom, exactly? . . . that the death penalty is obviously, as far as they are concerned, 'appropriate,' and where there is absolute certainty of guilt.

There are numerous problems with this stance both as a legal matter and as a matter of ethics.

First, we know that our legal system sometimes wrongly convicts people, and that people have been wrongfully executed. This is not a matter of debate. But, these folks argue, those aren't the cases they are talking about. They are only talking about those cases in which guilt is 100% certain, right? Problem is, as a legal matter, our system does not make any provision whatsoever for varying degrees of certainty concerning guilt. One either meets the standard of guilt "beyond a reasonable doubt" or one does not. To suggest that Defendant X's guilt, having been convicted, is less certain than that of Defendant Y, convicted of the same crime, is to suggest that there is reasonable doubt as to Defendant X's guilt in the first place, and is an argument for setting aside Defendant X's conviction altogether. That is hardly an argument for imposing an irreversible punishment on Defendant Y. So there is, both as a practical and as a legal matter, simply no way to ensure that the death penalty will be imposed only in these cases of 'absolute certainty,' because that is a legal fiction.

Second, the question of whether a crime, or of which crimes, rise to a level of heinousness is inherently subjective, and thus is inappropriate for use as a standard in a court of law. People have very different ideas about what constitutes a crime so heinous that it merits the death penalty. So who decides?

There is an ethical bottom line here to which death penalty supporters must reconcile their consciences: if you support the death penalty, then, in fact, you support the sacrifice of a certain number of innocents in order to satiate a collective desire for vengeance. That is the uncomfortable fact of the matter that simply cannot be avoided.
Posted by markpkessinger | Wed Jul 23, 2014, 09:25 PM (21 replies)
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