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Member since: Sat May 15, 2010, 04:48 PM
Number of posts: 5,402

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The NY Times' Adam Liptak: False Equivalence Monger

On edit: I originally stated that my comment had not yet been published. It now has been published, so the text below is edited accordingly.

There is a column by Adam Liptak in today's Times, titled, "The Polarized Court" (excerpt appears at the end of my comments below). Liptak blathers on about the 'polarization' of the Supreme Court and points out that it reflects a similar polarization in the electorate. Yet, to read the article, one would think that the two parties had moved in opposite directions, when in fact both moved in the same direction: one party by a radically large degree, the other by s smaller degree. But there is NO discussion of the fact that to the extent polarization has occurred, it has occurred as a result of the GOP shifting radically rightward. To the extent Democrats have moved, it has also been (sadly enough), to the right also. Here is the text of a comment I just posted to the piece.

Mark P. Kessinger
I wonder if perhaps Mr. Liptak has been spending a bit too much time inside the Beltway of late, for he seems to have succumbed to a certain malady that affects many pundits and journalists who spend too much time there: False Equivalence Syndrome. To speak of our politics as merely being "polarized," without mention of the very significant rightward shift of our entire political spectrum over the last 33 years is to miss what has really been going on, and suggests, incorrectly, that the two parties have moved in opposite directions.

What has happened, though, is that the Republican Party, beginning with the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980 and continuing to the present day, has moved radically to the right, abandoning a middle ground on many issues on which there had previously been, if not full agreement on how to address issues, at least a broad consensus on what the issues were and the importance of addressing them -- things such as public education, a robust social safety net, and at least nominal support for organized labor. The broad center, comprised of Democrats and Republicans alike, did not demonize government. But Reagan, with his "Government is the problem" mantra, changed that. That was the point of departure.

Sadly, Democrats moved to the right as well. So it is hardly adequate to speak of 'polarization' when one party has moved radically to the right, and the other closer to the center.

Here is an excerpt from the article:

The Polarized Court

MAY 10, 2014

WASHINGTON ó WHEN the Supreme Court issued its latest campaign finance decision last month, the justices lined up in a familiar way. The five appointed by Republican presidents voted for the Republican National Committee, which was a plaintiff. The four appointed by Democrats dissented.

That 5-to-4 split along partisan lines was by contemporary standards unremarkable. But by historical standards it was extraordinary. For the first time, the Supreme Court is closely divided along party lines.

The partisan polarization on the court reflects similarly deep divisions in Congress, the electorate and the elite circles in which the justices move.

The deep and often angry divisions among the justices are but a distilled version of the way American intellectuals ó at think tanks and universities, in opinion journals and among the theorists and practitioners of law and politics ó have separated into two groups with vanishingly little overlap or interaction. It is a recipe for dysfunction.

< . . . .>

Posted by markpkessinger | Sun May 11, 2014, 01:34 PM (4 replies)

"Ain't it a pretty night . . ."

My brother-in-law snapped this photo of the night sky over my hometown of Beech Creek, PA. It brought to mind immediatly an aria, titled, "Ain't it a Pretty Night," from the opera, "Susannah," by American composer Carlisle Floyd. Here are the lyrics, and elow them is a link to a recording of the aria sung by soprano Mary Mills, from a production by the Philadelphia Opera:

Ain't it a pretty night!
The sky's so dark an' velvet-like, and it's all lit up with stars.
It's like a great big mirror reflectin' fireflies over a pond.
Look at all them stars, Little Bat! The longer y'look, the more y'see.
The sky seems so heavy with stars that it might fall right out of heaven
an' cover us all up in one big blanket of velvet all stitched with diamon's.

Ain't it a pretty night!
Just think, those stars can all peep down an' see way beyond where we can:
they can see way beyond them mountains
to Nashville an' Ashville an' Knoxville.
I wonder what it's like out there, out there beyond them mountains,
where the folks talk nice, an' the folks dress nice,
like y'see in the mail order catalogs.
I aim to leave this valley some day an' find out fer myself:
to see all the tall buildin's and all the street lights
an' be one o' them folks myself.

I wonder if I'd get lonesome fer the valley, though,
fer the sound of crickets an' the smell of pine straw,
fer soft little rabbits an' bloomin' things
an' the mountains turnin' gold in the fall.
But I could always come back if I got homesick for the valley.
So I'll leave it someday an' see fer myself.
Someday I'll leave an' then I'll come back
when I've seen what's beyond them mountains.

Ain't it a pretty night!
The sky's so heavy with stars tonight
that it could fall right down out of heaven
an' cover us up, an' cover us up
in one big blanket of velvet and diamon's.

Posted by markpkessinger | Sat Apr 26, 2014, 04:49 PM (0 replies)

The Teabonics Hall Of Fame ó 60 Iconic Misspelled Protest Signs (PHOTOS)

The Teabonics Hall Of Fame ó 60 Iconic Misspelled Protest Signs (PHOTOS)

By Tiffany Willis on April 15, 2014

One of the biggest fails of the Tea Party movement has been their epic misspellings on protest signs. We arenít sure whatís up with that. Are their kids making the signs for them? Are they writing them in haste and canít take the time to spell correctly or use correct grammar? Either way, itís hilarious. Here is the Tea Party Protest Sign Hall of Fame.

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< . . . . >

Posted by markpkessinger | Tue Apr 15, 2014, 11:29 AM (18 replies)

So the President is allowing the CIA to take the lead in declassifying the Senate Report . . .

. . . what could possibly go wrong?
Posted by markpkessinger | Tue Apr 8, 2014, 07:50 PM (5 replies)

My response to one NY Times reader regarding the Supreme Court . . .

In the comments to an editorial in today's New York Times titled, "The Court Follows the Money," one reader wrote:

< . . . . >

If reform is impossible, then a revolution is needed. What kind of revolution? How to proceed? Many paths are possible, none are easy. Let me suggest two places we might start.

First, stop voting. At the least, never again vote for the lesser of two evils. Again, if the system is irredeemable, then the sooner it fully breaks, the better off we will be in the long term. Working for the election of Democrats leads to nothing but heartbreak. That energy is better spent elsewhere. The more the tea-party and like minded elements succeed, the quicker the collapse of the system will arrive. Scarry? You bet.

< . . . . >

I couldn't let that one stand. Here was my response (which has not yet posted to the site):

Terence Stoeckert advises: "First, stop voting. At the least, never again vote for the lesser of two evils."

If we stop voting, we play into the oligarchs' hands -- so that suggestion is possibly the worst advice one could possibly give.

As for voting for the "lesser of two evils" ("LTE"), while LTE voting my well be worthy of criticism, I would remind you that this ruling did NOT come about as a result of voters choosing between the lesser of two evils. All five of the justices who voted to overturn the aggregate contribution limits in McCutcheon were nominated by presidents of ONE of the two parties: the GOP, and ALL FOUR who dissented were nominated by Democratic Presidents. Similarly, in Citizens United, the SAME FIVE JUSTICES were in the majority, three of the dissenters were nominated by Democrats and one, Justice Stevens, was a liberal Republican nominated by Gerald Ford.

Whatever criticism one may have of Presidents Clinton and Obama, it was the Justices they nominated who did NOT stand with the majority in this case. And it was the Justices nominated by Reagan, Bush I and Bush II that WERE the majority. But that probably doesn't sit well with your "both aprties are the same" narrative, does it?

Posted by markpkessinger | Thu Apr 3, 2014, 08:45 AM (68 replies)

Text of Justice Breyer's blistering dissent

I have extracted Justice Breyer's dissent from the decision and have made it available on my Google drive, for anyone who might be interested in reading it:

Posted by markpkessinger | Wed Apr 2, 2014, 06:20 PM (11 replies)

Chris Hedges' Brilliant, Impassioned Debate Presentation at Oxford regarding Snowden

Hedges was one of eight speakers in a recent debate at Oxford on the question, "Is Edward Snowden a Hero?" I've included the Hedges speech here, but you can hear the other speakers also if you go to an article on Truthdig titled, "Chris Hedges at Oxford University: Is Edward Snowden a Hero?

Posted by markpkessinger | Thu Mar 27, 2014, 12:09 PM (0 replies)

"You sell stencils"

Posted by markpkessinger | Thu Mar 27, 2014, 09:58 AM (2 replies)

Here's a point about the Hobby Lobby case that no one is addressing . . .

OK, so here's a point concerning the Hobby Lobby case that was argued yesterday before the Supreme Court that I've not seen addressed anywhere. Hobby Lobby is a privately held corporation (Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc.), whose shares are owned by founder David Green and members of his family. By virtue of incorporating his business, Mr. Green and his family enjoy the chief benefit of incorporation: the shielding of their personal assets from the debts and liabilities of the business. (Google "benefits of incorporating" and you will see that that freedom from personal liability is cited in virtually every article on the subject as being the primary reason to, and benefit of, incorporating a business. Once a business is incorporated, as a matter of law, the business is treated as a wholly separate entity from its individual shareholders, even where, as here, there may be only a handful of shareholders who are all members of the same family. The corporate entity, and not the shareholders, becomes solely responsible for the debts and liabilities of the business. And generally speaking, only the corporate entity can be sued over any disputes involving the business. (There is something called "piercing the corporate veil," where one can go after shareholders and officers individually, but that is only available under very exceedingly rare and narrow circumstances.) Owners of unincorporated business -- partnerships, sole proprietorships, etc., don't enjoiy these same protections.

So, given that Hobby Lobby is a completely separate entity from its owner-shareholders in every other respect, how is it that the owners, individually, can claim that their religious liberty is in any way infringed when the _corporate entity_ -- from whose interests they have legally and voluntarily separated themselves -- is required to comply with a regulation that requires it to do something the individual shareholder-owners have a religious objection to doing? Seems to me they are enjoying all he benefits of having legally separate interests, yet are seeking, in this one particular area, to claim those interests are one and the same. If they are going to enjoy the benefit of limited liability, should they not also be barred from imputing matters that are purelye a matter of individual conscience onto that separate corporate entity?
Posted by markpkessinger | Wed Mar 26, 2014, 03:48 AM (70 replies)

Why do we tolerate mega-wealth?

This is a Facebook Note written by a friend of mine, Frank Dana, that was so good I thought folks here might enjoy reading it.

Why do we tolerate mega-wealth?
By Frank R. Dana

(I wrote this about a year ago, initially as a comment on someone else's post, then as a status update of my own. In honor of the information I posted today, based on an Oxfam report, that EIGHTY-FIVE people control the same amount of wealth as the lower half of the *world* population, I'm reiterating...)

...Why do we tolerate mega-wealth? ó Not mere millionaires, but really obscene, couldn't-possibly-use-it-all accumulations of untold multiple billions of dollars? Your Bill Gateses your Saudi sheiks, your Apple Computers. (And this isn't about Apple's corporate value, but its wealth ó some say they could be sitting on as much as $100 billion.) Societally, I mean, why do we accept, admire, even praise the "achievement" of consolidating so much wealth into the control of one entity?

If your small fishing village was experiencing a famine, or if your country had instituted wartime rationing of food, it wouldn't be considered "okay" for some morbidly obese glutton to be stuffing himself to death with food while everyone around him fought not to starve. Even if he obtained the food fairly, heck even if he produced every bite of it himself, it would still be viewed as shameful to be wallowing in such excesses of consumption. It wouldn't have to be illegal, or even "wrong", to be viewed as morally lacking, and most people would take a dim view of someone with such a gluttonous appetite, and so little self-awareness or empathy for the other members of the community. Fatso would get the stink-eye, for sure.

Yet, when someone scrapes together a pile of gold big enough to choke the Nile and shoves it in their basement, we marvel at their achievement and praise their "success", as if what they've accumulated are merely points on a scoreboard, and not actual, fungible resources. (Money, dammit, IS a commodity, if perhaps a uniquely volatile one.) Why do we drool over Apple's $100 billion corporate bank account, and devour breathlessly-written pieces on what a "problem" they have trying to figure out how to spend all that cash, without even raising the question of whether their massive wealth is a good thing? How could it not be, right?

Wouldn't it be appropriate (perhaps even more appropriate) to instead react with something like, "Holy shit, Apple so overprices their products, and/or underpays their employees or suppliers, that they're sitting on $100 billion in CASH from being the peddlers of wildly unnecessary digital toys."? Why would it be wrong to consider their massive wealth and the process by which they achieved it just as gluttonous, shameful, and reprehensible as our theoretical food-hoarder?

Or, take Bill Gates. Now, he's done a lot of really amazing things with his wealth, things which are undeniably praiseworthy. I have absolutely no desire to diminish the incredibly generosity he's demonstrated, with his incredibly vast personal fortune. But, thing is, he didn't HAVE to do that. (Which makes it all the more laudable, of course.) He could just as easily have sat on the entire $70+ billion or whatever it was, or swam around in it like Scrooge McDuck. So, why would we (again, societally) favor people having that option? Why was it even "okay" that he became worth so much to begin with, regardless of what he did or didn't ultimately choose to do with the money? Why are we so unquestioningly worshipful of financial gluttony?
Posted by markpkessinger | Tue Mar 25, 2014, 02:17 AM (68 replies)
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