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From President Washington's 1796 farewell address:
. . . (N)othing is more essential than that permanent, inveterate antipathies against particular nations, and passionate attachments for others, should be excluded; and that, in place of them, just and amicable feelings towards all should be cultivated. The nation which indulges towards another a habitual hatred or a habitual fondness is in some degree a slave. It is a slave to its animosity or to its affection, either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interest. Antipathy in one nation against another disposes each more readily to offer insult and injury, to lay hold of slight causes of umbrage, and to be haughty and intractable, when accidental or trifling occasions of dispute occur. Hence, frequent collisions, obstinate, envenomed, and bloody contests. The nation, prompted by ill-will and resentment, sometimes impels to war the government, contrary to the best calculations of policy. The government sometimes participates in the national propensity, and adopts through passion what reason would reject; at other times it makes the animosity of the nation subservient to projects of hostility instigated by pride, ambition, and other sinister and pernicious motives. The peace often, sometimes perhaps the liberty, of nations, has been the victim.
So likewise, a passionate attachment of one nation for another produces a variety of evils. Sympathy for the favorite nation, facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest in cases where no real common interest exists, and infusing into one the enmities of the other, betrays the former into a participation in the quarrels and wars of the latter without adequate inducement or justification. It leads also to concessions to the favorite nation of privileges denied to others which is apt doubly to injure the nation making the concessions; by unnecessarily parting with what ought to have been retained, and by exciting jealousy, ill-will, and a disposition to retaliate, in the parties from whom equal privileges are withheld. And it gives to ambitious, corrupted, or deluded citizens (who devote themselves to the favorite nation), facility to betray or sacrifice the interests of their own country, without odium, sometimes even with popularity; gilding, with the appearances of a virtuous sense of obligation, a commendable deference for public opinion, or a laudable zeal for public good, the base or foolish compliances of ambition, corruption, or infatuation.
Posted by markpkessinger | Mon Mar 2, 2015, 06:34 PM (3 replies)
Another "jewel in the crown" of the DOJ under the ever-fabulous Eric Holder!
From the New York Times:
Justice Dept. Won’t Charge George Zimmerman in Trayvon Martin Killing
MIAMI — The Justice Department on Tuesday closed its investigation into the shooting death three years ago of Trayvon Martin, the unarmed black teenager in a hoodie who became a symbol of racial profiling and expansive self-defense laws, without filing hate-crime charges against the gunman George Zimmerman.
The department began a civil rights investigation shortly after a national furor erupted over Mr. Martin’s death, which set off protests, demands for justice and an emotional response from President Obama. The shooting was the first in a string of racially tinged cases involving the death of young black men that have prompted a rethinking of the nation’s criminal justice system and police procedure.
Mr. Zimmerman was acquitted in a state court of second-degree murder in 2013; some jurors said they believed that Mr. Zimmerman had shot Mr. Martin, 17, in self-defense.
The conclusion of the Justice Department investigation came as Attorney General H. Holder Jr. completed his term in office and was one of several racially fraught cases that he said the department would finish investigating before he stepped down. The Justice Department is also conducting two separate civil rights investigations into the shooting death of Michael Brown, another unarmed black teenager who was killed by a white police officer in Ferguson, Mo., last August. In that case, violent demonstrations sometimes erupted after the shooting. A grand jury declined to indict the officer.
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Posted by markpkessinger | Tue Feb 24, 2015, 05:05 PM (7 replies)
The Terror We Give Is the Terror We Get
By Chris Hedges
We fire missiles from the sky that incinerate families huddled in their houses. They incinerate a pilot cowering in a cage. We torture hostages in our black sites and choke them to death by stuffing rags down their throats. They torture hostages in squalid hovels and behead them. We organize Shiite death squads to kill Sunnis. They organize Sunni death squads to kill Shiites. We produce high-budget films such as “American Sniper” to glorify our war crimes. They produce inspirational videos to glorify their twisted version of jihad.
The barbarism we condemn is the barbarism we commit. The line that separates us from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is technological, not moral. We are those we fight.
“From violence, only violence is born,” Primo Levi wrote, “following a pendular action that, as time goes by, rather than dying down, becomes more frenzied.”
The burning of the pilot, Jordanian Lt. Muath Al-Kaseasbeh, by ISIS militants after his F-16 crashed near Raqqa, Syria, was as gruesome as anything devised for the Roman amphitheater. And it was meant to be. Death is the primary spectacle of war. If ISIS had fighter jets, missiles, drones and heavy artillery to bomb American cities there would be no need to light a captured pilot on fire; ISIS would be able to burn human beings, as we do, from several thousand feet up. But since ISIS is limited in its capacity for war it must broadcast to the world a miniature version of what we do to people in the Middle East. The ISIS process is cruder. The result is the same.
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Posted by markpkessinger | Fri Feb 20, 2015, 09:29 PM (0 replies)
That much is true: President Obama wasn't raised by a violent, ne'er-do-well-thug-turned-mob-enforcer. Nor, thankfully, were most of us. From a July 4, 2000 article by Wayne Barrett in the Village Voice (back when the Voice still had some journalistic teeth):
The Shocking Secret History of Harold Giuliani, the Mayor’s Ex-Convict Dad
By Wayne Barrett, Jul 4, 2000
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On April 12, (1934) in the case of People v. Harold Giuliani indicted as Joseph Starrett, Giuliani was charged with four felonies: robbery in the first degree, assault in the first degree, grand larceny in the second degree, and criminally receiving stolen property.
The crime occurred on April 2, 1934, at 12:05 p.m. in the unlit first-floor corridor of a 10-family residential building at 130 East 96th Street in Manhattan. Shortly before noon, Harold Giuliani and an accomplice positioned themselves in shadowy recesses near the stairwell. Within 10 or 15 minutes Harold Hall, a milkman for Borden's Farms, entered the building to make routine payment collections. As he began to make his way up the stairs, Giuliani emerged from the shadows and, according to the indictment, pressed the muzzle of a pistol against Hall's stomach. "You know what it is," he reportedly said. He forced the man into a nook behind the stairwell, where his counterpart was waiting. The other man plunged his hand into Hall's pants pocket and fished out $128.82 in cash.
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Giuliani grabbed Hall's pants and yanked them down to his ankles. He told Hall to sit down. He grabbed the man's hands, pulled them behind his back and bound them with cord. Squatting, his back to the wall, Giuliani leaned over his victim and began tying his feet together. Before he was finished, a police officer, Edward Schmitt, burst in the front door of the building.
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And then there's this:
One afternoon, a man reluctantly entered the bar to apologize to Harold, saying that he didn't have the money—could he have just one more week? Frowning, Harold reached under the bar, out of sight, and gripped his baseball bat. As the man before him continued pleading for an extension, Harold swung the bat, cracking him flat across the face, sending him back a few feet. "Don't be late again," Harold said, according to an eyewitness.
That was the gist of Harold's job: enforce Leo's law through threats or violence. He shoved people against walls, broke legs, smashed kneecaps, crunched noses. He gave nearby Kings County Hospital a lot of business.
Posted by markpkessinger | Fri Feb 20, 2015, 12:09 AM (3 replies)
History Shows Why Germany Should Help Greece
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Germany was granted a waiver on its external debt, including the deferral of interest payments, from 1947 to 1952 as the Marshall Plan was implemented. In 1953, the U.S. also imposed the London Debt Agreement on its wartime allies, which wrote off Germany’s external debt.
Albrecht Ritschl, an economic historian at the London School of Economics, estimated earlier this year that the total debt forgiveness West Germany received from 1947 to 1953 was more than 280 percent of the country’s 1950 gross domestic product, compared with the roughly 200 percent of GDP that Greece has been pledged in aid since 2010.
Greece also contributed to the postwar German debt relief. Signatories to the London agreement, including Greece, agreed to defer settlement of war reparations and debts incurred after 1933 until a conference to be held after Germany’s reunification. Although Germany paid compensation to individuals in the 1960s, the conference never took place and many Greeks think that more was due.
The bailout of Germany was at least as controversial as the Greek one today. Just like Greece, Germany’s tax system in the 1950s was imperfect. Difficulties in changing it had led to revenue shortfalls in the interwar period.
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Posted by markpkessinger | Thu Feb 19, 2015, 07:28 PM (0 replies)
I just heard from two friends on Facebook who have had posts concerning Prescott Bush's connections with the Nazis taken down by Facebook. In response, I posted a 2004 Guardian investigative piece on the subject, "How Bush's grandfather helped Hitler's rise to power." So far, my post is still up.
Has anyone else here encountered this? If so, Facebook needs to be called out in a very public way for it. In the meantime, I would urge those who have Facebook accounts to post this or other articles on this topic. Facebook should not be permitted to scrub clean the Bush family's troublesome past!
Posted by markpkessinger | Thu Feb 19, 2015, 03:35 PM (20 replies)
Democrat Says Obama Administration Dodging Request To Read Trade Deals Without Restrictions
WASHINGTON -- A Democratic congressman has accused the Obama administration of dodging his request for "unimpeded" access to two controversial trade agreements -- reigniting a dispute over transparency as the president presses legislators for so-called "fast-track" authority, which would block members of Congress from offering amendments to either deal.
Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas), a senior member of the House Ways and Means Committee, wants to view an unredacted copy of the proposed text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). He wants to bring his chief of staff, who has a top security clearance, and he wants to be able to take notes privately. He also wants to review documents that show the position of each country participating in the agreements, as well how the U.S. position has changed over the course of the negotiations.
In a letter this week, Doggett accused Michael Froman, the United States Trade Representative (USTR), of avoiding his requests since January. "USTR has provided no legal justification for denying such Member and staff review," wrote Doggett.
The text of TPP is treated as a state secret -- to a degree. Access to TPP texts is limited to members of Congress and staffers on the Senate Finance Committee and House Ways and Means Committee who have an official security clearance. Hundreds of corporate lobbyists and executives are also given access, along with dozens of representatives of labor unions, nonprofits and other consumer groups.
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Posted by markpkessinger | Fri Feb 13, 2015, 07:05 PM (11 replies)
FBI DIrector James Comey, in his widely acclaimed speech a couple of days ago that essentially boiled down to an apologia for police bias and abuse couched in nice-sounding language, said he wanted to talk about some "hard truths." Well, I had a few "hard truths" for Director Comey, which I posted as a comment to a New York Times article.
Some more "hard truths" for Mr. Comey to consider::
Ill say this much for Comey though: he does earnest really well.
Posted by markpkessinger | Fri Feb 13, 2015, 04:33 PM (0 replies)
I posted this in a thread on Facebook about the moratorium declared on the death penalty by PA Gov. Wolf, and thought I would share it here as well.
Mark Kessinger - Steve, I realize not everyone agrees with this. I have been unequivocally opposed to capital punishment for the whole of my adult life. Like Gov. Wolf, my opposition is not grounded in some misplaced sympathy for murderers. To be perfectly honest, there have certainly been cases involving particularly brutal murderers in which I didn't lose a great deal of sleep over their particular executions. But I think we need to look at the entire picture, not just some individual cases considered in isolation from all the others. There are many reasons I am opposed to it. Among them (and in no particular order)::
(1) The most oft-cited rationale for the death penalty is that it is necessary as a deterrent to other would-be murderers. The problem is that there has never been any evidence to support that idea. And in fact, there has been some evidence that suggests that maybe the opposite is true. The website deathpenaltyinfo.org has analyzed crime and death penalty statistics provided by the FBI. They have found that in every year since 1991 when such statistics began to be collected, the average per capita murder rate for every single year has been higher across states that use the death penalty versus the states which do not (see http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/deterrence-states-without... ).
(2) Capital punishment is unfairly imposed along racial lines -- and not just in terms of the race of the murderer, but just as importantly, according to the race of the victim. Amnesty International has pointed out that while whites comprise 75% of the U.S. population, and blacks 7.5^, the number of murder victims i the U.S. is roughly the same for each. Yet 80% of the cases in which a murdere has been sentenced to die have been cases in which the victims were white. A 2007 Yale study found that in cases where the victims are white, African American defendants receive the death penalty at THREE TIMES the rate of white defendants,. The racial bias is indisputable.
(3) Our criminal justice system is far too prone to both error and corruption to be handing out irrevocable, unreversible sentences. District Attorneys are politicians who must run for office to get, and keep, their jobs. They build political campaigns based on their prosecution stats. Thus there is far too great an incentive for DA's to overcharge defendants, to prosecute defendants who may, in fact, not be guilty, and to push for the harshest possible sentences in every case. We know for a fact that innocent people are sometimes convicted of crimes. We also know for a fact that innocent people have been put to death for crimes they did not commit. Since our justice system does, in fact, make serious mistakes sometimes, and since no justice system is ever perfect, I believe no justice system has any business meting out ultimate sentences for which there is no possibility of correcting should the convictions later prove to have been wrong.
(4) Related to #3 above, there is a long-standing principle that has informed Anglo-American criminal jurisprudence, as well as Western, and specifically Judeo-Christian, notions of justice. It is sometimes referred to as Blackstone's Formulation. In 1769, William Blackstone wrote: "the law holds that it is better that ten guilty persons escape, than that one innocent suffer." The 15th century English Chief Justice, Sir John Fortescue, wrote in 1470: "one would much rather that twenty guilty persons should escape the punishment of death, than that one innocent person should be condemned and suffer capitally." During the Salem witch trials, Increase Mather adapted Fortescue's statement when he wrote: "It were better that Ten Suspected Witches should escape, than that one Innocent Person should be Condemned." And the 12th century Sephardic Jewish philosopher and legal scholar Maimonides argued that executing an accused criminal on anything less than absolute certainty would progressively lead to convictions merely "according to the judge's caprice. Hence the Exalted One has shut this door" against the use of presumptive evidence, for "it is better and more satisfactory to acquit a thousand guilty persons than to put a single innocent one to death."
(5) When all of the arguments made by death penalty supporters have been refuted, supporters typically fall back onto some theory of "retributive justice." But I have yet to hear an argument that credibly explain how 'retributive justice" differs (except in being called by a fancier name) than plain old vengeance and bloodlust, neither of which, in my view, has any place in a civilized society.
Posted by markpkessinger | Fri Feb 13, 2015, 03:32 PM (4 replies)
The article is titled, "Surprising Speech by F.B.I. Chief Focuses on Police and Race." Comey said some good things in his speech, but I found myself more troubled by what he didn't say than what he did. Here was the comment I posted:
It is worth noting that Mr. Comey heads an agency that found its agents 100% faultless and totally justified in 150 out of 150 shootings of suspects -- 70 of them fatally -- from 1993 to 2011. Likewise, under Mr. Comey, the FBI exonerated itself for the highly questionable killing of Ibragim Todashev --a friend and associate of the Tsarnaev brothers -- during questioning by FBI agents after the Boston Marathon bombings. Simply based on the law of averages, a finding that shootings were justified 100% of the time is highly suspect. Thus, while I respect the eloquence and erudition of Mr. Comey's speaking and writing, I remain very skeptical that he is in any position to present the "hard truths" he purports to present in an objective way.
Nowhere in Mr. Comey's speech -- and yes, I read the full text -- did he address himself to the problems in American police culture. The old "blue wall of silence" seems to have changed little since the days Frank Serpico walked a beat. Sure, there are many cops who do not themselves engage in wrongful conduct. But officers good and bad are nearly universal in honoring that code of silence with respect to the wrongdoing of their colleagues (the occasional Frank Serpico or Adrian Schoolcraft notwithstanding). This turning of a blind eye towards wrongdoing within their ranks stands in direct conflict with Comey's assertion that police officers are "overwhelmingly doing the right thing for the right reasons."
Below is a video clip of the speech, and here is a link to the full text of it.
Posted by markpkessinger | Thu Feb 12, 2015, 09:30 PM (3 replies)