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markpkessinger

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Member since: Sat May 15, 2010, 04:48 PM
Number of posts: 5,418

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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)

Saw this on Facebook today . . .

. . . works for me!

Posted by markpkessinger | Tue Jul 22, 2014, 12:46 AM (5 replies)

Just goes to show that a little attitude . . .

. . . goes a long way!

Posted by markpkessinger | Mon Jul 21, 2014, 05:37 PM (2 replies)

The NYPD is a rogue, out-of-control criminal enterprise!

Chokeholds are illegal, yet the Civilian Complaint Review Board has over 1,000 complaints of its use by cops over the past several years. Fucking outrageous! From The New York Times:

Chokehold Complaints Are Focus of City Study

By JOSEPH GOLDSTEIN and NATE SCHWEBER JULY 19, 2014

The city agency that investigates allegations of police misconduct is studying the more than 1,000 complaints it has received in recent years about police officers using chokeholds, the agency said on Saturday, two days after a man died following a police encounter in which the hold appeared to be used.

The study by the Civilian Complaint Review Board follows an announcement on Friday by Police Commissioner William J. Bratton, who said a plainclothes officer on Staten Island appeared to have used a chokehold on Thursday in trying to arrest the man, Eric Garner.

The department’s patrol guide prohibits chokeholds, which it defines as including “any pressure to the throat or windpipe, which may prevent or hinder breathing or reduce intake of air.”

< . . . . >

The board said that it had received complaints about 1,022 instances, since 2009, in which the police were accused of using chokeholds, but that in only nine instances had the board discovered enough evidence to determine that a chokehold had been used. In hundreds of other cases, not enough evidence was available to make a determination, the board said, or the investigations stalled when the person making the complaint could not be found or refused to cooperate.
< . . . . >


Posted by markpkessinger | Sat Jul 19, 2014, 11:29 PM (14 replies)

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)
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