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markpkessinger

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Member since: Sat May 15, 2010, 04:48 PM
Number of posts: 5,096

Journal Archives

Monty Python's precient tribute to Hobby Lobby


Posted by markpkessinger | Fri Jul 18, 2014, 10:24 PM (3 replies)

In memoriam: Elaine Stritch, 1926-2014

Shown here performing at the White House in 2012:



And here, in another Sondheim song that was one of her signature pieces:



Posted by markpkessinger | Fri Jul 18, 2014, 03:17 PM (2 replies)

A friend's remarkable FB posting: "The Charity of Change"

A friend of mine posted this on Facebook. I thought it was quite remarkable, and so have reproduced it here, with his permission.


Timothy L. Havener
THE CHARITY OF CHANGE

Our charitable efforts in this world are both evidence of the nobility within humanity, and, at the same time, evidence of our collective pettiness and greed. The causes of hunger and poverty are systemic, not individualistic. Everything we are coming to understand about human behavior through the fields of psychology and neuroscience contradict the common wisdom that so many of us use to pass blame and condemn others for their condition. Choice has little to do with where so many of us end up, even in a so-called free country like the United States. If you are a child in an impoverished home, the probability of where you will end up in life is drastically impacted by your environment and access to quality education.

It has long been known that poverty, violence, and ignorance are cozy bedfellows linked by causality, yet, in our society driven by 'free' markets, we have created the illusion that self motivation can lift the poor, and that those who are poor stay there because they want it, or deserve it somehow. The pundits and talking heads always seem to leave out the historically driven trends of disenfranchisement, racism, and class based enmity that perpetuate environments where generational poverty hobbles the aspirations of most children born into those homes.

Meanwhile, a little higher up on the ladder, working and middle class families in first world nations chase the carrot on a stick pursuing a dream they will never attain by statistical probability. The higher you go, the levels of wealth become so disproportional on a scale compared to most people that the top 85 wealthiest people in the world have more combined wealth than the the bottom 3.5 billion. Yet, when social policies are brought forward to help end the cycles of poverty and violence in our poorest neighborhoods, those who are barely getting by in the middle class are told that it is the poor who are their enemy, not the ultra wealthy who are hording so much money, and power they can no longer comprehend the struggle of the average person.

Many of us are watching as what is left of even the middle class erodes away in front of us. Those of us who were living comfortably and saving money on a regular basis are living week to week, and those who were barely getting by are treading water trying desperately to stay afloat. The signs are all around you that something is drastically wrong. In the United States, as infrastructure crumbles, our police are being militarized, and our population is being imprisoned at a rate that shames even the most brutal dictatorships. The humorless joke we call a justice system chews up the poor and spits them back out into a broken system waiting to profit again from their misery through privatized prison systems aided by unjust laws that turn everyday people into criminals, and which isolate them from future economic opportunity.

Education, one of the key factors to ending the ignorance that drives poverty and crime, is constantly under assault, while our government spends trillions on global warfare to benefit the interests of the corporations who control our political system through lobbyists and the money they use to buy our elected officials. With no sense of the cruel irony at play, we recruit the disenfranchised, uneducated poor en masse as cannon fodder to fight the poor of other nations who are victims of the same cycle. Adding insult to injury, we label these resource based wars as humanitarian efforts to spread freedom and democracy as we live in a nation that is a functional oligarchy.

This is the place we call home, and unless we start to change how we do things on a global scale, the human race will end up as a giant plantation with most of us serving the needs of a few who live in opulence above the rest of humanity. The time is coming when we will face a choice to accept our would be masters, or stand together to fight for a better world for our children and ourselves. The uncomfortable reality is that change will not come by dropping money into an offering plate, or by donating a small fraction of our incomes to feed the hungry in a world with more than enough food and money for everyone. In the face of a worldwide economic system driven by greed and power, these efforts will amount to nothing more than the alleviation of our own guilt, not the revolutionary ideas required to make charitable actions unnecessary.

Now that you know the state of things, one question remains: What will you do?
Posted by markpkessinger | Thu Jul 3, 2014, 02:03 PM (3 replies)

STUNNER in Sunday's NY Times concerning Blackwater!

Before Shooting in Iraq, a Warning on Blackwater

By JAMES RISEN JUNE 29, 2014


WASHINGTON — Just weeks before Blackwater guards fatally shot 17 civilians at Baghdad’s Nisour Square in 2007, the State Department began investigating the security contractor’s operations in Iraq. But the inquiry was abandoned after Blackwater’s top manager there issued a threat: “that he could kill” the government’s chief investigator and “no one could or would do anything about it as we were in Iraq,” according to department reports.

American Embassy officials in Baghdad sided with Blackwater rather than the State Department investigators as a dispute over the probe escalated in August 2007, the previously undisclosed documents show. The officials told the investigators that they had disrupted the embassy’s relationship with the security contractor and ordered them to leave the country, according to the reports.

After returning to Washington, the chief investigator wrote a scathing report to State Department officials documenting misconduct by Blackwater employees and warning that lax oversight of the company, which had a contract worth more than $1 billion to protect American diplomats, had created “an environment full of liability and negligence.”

< . . . . >

His memo and other newly disclosed State Department documents make clear that the department was alerted to serious problems involving Blackwater and its government overseers before the Nisour Square shooting, which outraged Iraqis and deepened resentment over the United States’ presence in the country.

< . . . . >

(Emphasis added.)
Posted by markpkessinger | Mon Jun 30, 2014, 03:57 AM (19 replies)

Full documentary on Aaron Swartz now available on YouTube . . . .

.Highly recommended!

Synopsis (from IMdb):

The Internet's Own Boy follows the story of programming prodigy and information activist Aaron Swartz. From Swartz's help in the development of the basic internet protocol RSS to his co-founding of Reddit, his fingerprints are all over the internet. But it was Swartz's groundbreaking work in social justice and political organizing combined with his aggressive approach to information access that ensnared him in a two-year legal nightmare. It was a battle that ended with the taking of his own life at the age of 26. Aaron's story touched a nerve with people far beyond the online communities in which he was a celebrity.


Posted by markpkessinger | Sun Jun 29, 2014, 08:46 PM (2 replies)

The Internet's Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz (full documentary)

The complete documentary about the extraordinary life and tragic death of Aaron Swarts, "The Internet's Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz" is now available for viewing on YouTube.

Synopsis (from IMdb):

The Internet's Own Boy follows the story of programming prodigy and information activist Aaron Swartz. From Swartz's help in the development of the basic internet protocol RSS to his co-founding of Reddit, his fingerprints are all over the internet. But it was Swartz's groundbreaking work in social justice and political organizing combined with his aggressive approach to information access that ensnared him in a two-year legal nightmare. It was a battle that ended with the taking of his own life at the age of 26. Aaron's story touched a nerve with people far beyond the online communities in which he was a celebrity.


Posted by markpkessinger | Sun Jun 29, 2014, 07:40 PM (10 replies)

A red-letter day for the Courts!

First, there was the Supreme Court's ruling against warrantless cell phone sesarches of those who are arrested. Then there was a Federal District Court's ruling that the no-fly list is unconstitutional, and finally the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals has struck down Utah's ban on same-sex marriage.

Days like this give me hope!
Posted by markpkessinger | Wed Jun 25, 2014, 01:11 PM (1 replies)

James Baldwin Debates William F. Buckley (1965)

I had no idea there ever was a formal debate between one of my all-time favorite authors, James Baldwin, and William F. Buckley, let alone that there was any video of it available. This is truly great stuff!

Posted by markpkessinger | Sat Jun 21, 2014, 01:38 AM (10 replies)

David Brooks (somewhat surprisingly) gets it exactly right on Bergdahl

Can't say I'm a fan of David Brooks -- much of the time I find him clueless. But in this column in today's New York Times concerning the deal to secure the release of Sgt. Bergdahl, Brooks gets it exactly right. And even the rather mild criticism he makes of the Obama Administration is, I think, a fair one. In any case, kudos to Brooks for a much-needed injection of sanity into the discussion.

President Obama Was Right

JUNE 5, 2014

< . . . . >

These commitments (of soldiers not to leave any American behind), so crucial, are based on deep fraternal sentiments that have to be nurtured with action. They are based on the notion that we are members of one national community. We will not abandon each other; we will protect one another; heroic measures will be taken to leave no one behind. Even if it is just a lifeless body that we are retrieving, it is important to repatriate all Americans.

The president and vice president, the only government officials elected directly by the entire nation, have a special responsibility to nurture this national solidarity. So, of course, President Obama had to take all measures necessary to secure the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. Of course, he had to do all he could do to not forsake an American citizen.

It doesn’t matter if Bergdahl had deserted his post or not. It doesn’t matter if he is a confused young man who said insulting and shameful things about his country and his Army. The debt we owe to fellow Americans is not based on individual merit. It is based on citizenship, and loyalty to the national community we all share.

< . . . . >

It is not dispositive either that the deal to release Bergdahl may put others at risk. The five prisoners released from Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, in a swap for Bergdahl seem like terrible men who could do harm. But their release may have been imminent anyway. And the loss of national fraternity that would result if we start abandoning Americans in the field would be a greater and more long lasting harm.

< . . . . >
Posted by markpkessinger | Sat Jun 7, 2014, 11:31 AM (3 replies)

Very powerful response to the Bergdahl nonsense by a retired US Navy Chief Warrant Officer

I have never read any of this blogger's work until today, when a friend shared it with me on Facebook. The blogger's name is Jim Wright, a retured US Navy Chief Warrant Officer who lives in Alaska and writes the Stonekettle Station blog. The utter disgust and contempt he feels towards those who suggest Sgt. Bergdahl should have been left behind is positively palpable in this piece. I've posted an excerpt below, but do yourself a favor and go to the link to read the entire piece, because a 4-paragraph excerpt doesn't begin to capture it..

Monday, June 2, 2014
Negotiating With Terrorists

< . . . . >

I didn’t think these people could dishonor the spirit of this country any more than they already had, but I was wrong.

Oh, I get it. I understand that frightened people become more and more irrational, especially when they are allowed, encouraged, to feed incestuously on each other’s fear. And I get that they are afraid. I can see it in their faces, I can hear it in their voices. I get that they’re afraid of change. I get that they’re afraid of the future. I get that they’re afraid of the past. And I get that they’re afraid of the present. I get that they’re afraid of losing power and privilege and prestige. I get that they’re afraid of their capricious and childishly vengeful god. I get that they’re afraid of different races and different cultures and different accents and different religions and different sexual orientations and different viewpoints and different politics. I get it, they’ve screamed their small fears over and over and only a dead man could possibly miss it.

I get that they are so consumed with rage and so filled with naked hate and so programmed with their diseased ideology that it poisons their minds like a computer chip submerged in acid.

I get that they are so utterly terrified of the world that they piss themselves in abject fear at the mere thought of going to the grocery store without a goddamned gun stuck in their pants like an extra oversized prick.

< . . . . >


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Posted by markpkessinger | Wed Jun 4, 2014, 05:41 AM (100 replies)
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