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Member since: Sat May 15, 2010, 04:48 PM
Number of posts: 4,730

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A comment I just posted to the NY Times on the shutdown/debt ceiling fight...

This is the text of a comment I just posted, but which has not yet appeared, to the article in The New York Times titled: "House Leaves U.S. on Brink of Shutdown":

Mark Kessinger
New York, NY

Under what theory of democratic governance or constitutional law is an organized fadtion of elected representatives -- elected, ostensibly at least, to represent the people who elected them -- entitled to knowingly and willfully inflict, or threaten to inflict, harm upon the republic as a means of extracting a policy agenda they have been unable to achieve at the ballot box or through legitimate legislative means? Certainly none that I know of. In doing so, the GOP members of the House have created a crisis of constitutional governance if ever there was one.

Unfortunately, the Constitution doesn't contemplate such a scenario (but then, it should be added that neither does that document contemplate a two-party system or the existence of a 'debt ceiling'). What the Constitution is clear about, however, as per the 14th Amendment, that "he validity of the public debt of the United States , , , shall not be questioned. Therefore, the President, pursuant to his oath to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States" and as a matter of national security, should instruct the Dept. of the Treasury to simply ignore the debt ceiling and continue to fund the operation and debt obligations of the government. Protecting the country from the willful infliction of harm by a minority faction would be a perfectly valid and legitimate legal defense for the President in the impeachment effort that would surely follow (and would just as surely fail).
Posted by markpkessinger | Sat Sep 28, 2013, 10:29 PM (7 replies)

ACA subsidy calculator . . .

Find out how much a premium might cost you under the new exchange system once the ACA rolls out next week.

Posted by markpkessinger | Fri Sep 27, 2013, 03:01 PM (5 replies)

NY Times Editorial: A Republican Ransom Note (and a comment I just posted to it)

My comment follows the excerpt.

A Republican Ransom Note
Published: September 26, 2013

On Wednesday, Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew sent the House a very serious warning that, for the first time, the United States would be unable to pay its bills beginning on Oct. 17 if the debt ceiling is not lifted. House leaders responded on Thursday with one of the least serious negotiating proposals in modern Congressional history: a jaw-dropping list of ransom demands containing more than a dozen discredited Republican policy fantasies.

< . . . >

The list would be laughable if the threat were not so serious. A failure to raise the debt ceiling would cause a default on government debt, shattering the world’s faith in Treasury bonds as an investment vehicle and almost certainly bringing on another economic downturn. Unlike a government shutdown, a default could leave the Treasury without enough money to pay Social Security benefits or the paychecks of troops.

The full effects remain unknown because no Congress has ever allowed the government to go over the brink before. The Government Accountability Office estimated that simply by threatening to default in 2011, Republicans cost taxpayers $1.3 billion in higher interest payments because of that uncertainty. The 10-year cost of those higher-interest bonds is $18.9 billion.

< . . . >

To prevent the House from making every debt-ceiling increase an opportunity to issue extortionist demands for rejected policies they can achieve in no other way, the president has to put an end to the routine creation of emergencies once and for all by simply saying no.

And the text of my comment:

Mr. President, it is time to put an end to this nonsense once and for all, for the sake of both the immediate future as well as the long-term health of the country. As a citizen and taxpayer, I urge you to claim authority under Section IV of the 14th Amendment ("The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned"), and declare the debt ceiling to have been raised. No doubt, the House will respond by voting to impeach you, but the Senate does not have the two-thirds majority needed to convict you on such a scurrilous charge. Explain your action fully to the American people in a prime time address before you proceed; explain the risks, both immediate in terms of the economy, and longer term in terms of the right of the American people not to be held hostage to a minority party's ransom, and I believe you will have the support, as well as the deep admiration, of a solid majority of Americans.

I realize that battling an impeachment attempt was not how you envisioned spending the remainder of your time in office. But Mr. President, with all due respect, if you manage to put an end to this kind of minority rule-by-hostage-taking, you will leave a legacy that will be the envy of future Presidents for decades to come.
Posted by markpkessinger | Fri Sep 27, 2013, 03:43 AM (13 replies)

Maureen Dowd's constant snark is really, really tiresome.

Here is the text of a comment I posted to Maureen Dowd's column in The New York Times today:

Mark Kessinger
New York, NY

"The man formerly hailed as a messiah was having a bad day. "

I stopped reading after that sentence. Really, Ms. Dowd -- "hailed as a messiah?" The only people who ever used that term in reference to the President were people on the right, who used it in a sneering manner in order to mock anybody who supported then-candidate Obama. There are plenty of valid criticisms to make of this President. And sure, at least some of the support he received seems to have been a little wide-eyed. But he was never called a "Messiah" among Democrats, and for you to suggest that it was a term employed by his supporters is just dishonest.

Look, I am among those who have been profoundly disappointed on some fronts by President Obama (mostly because he has been a much, much more conservative President than I thought I was voting for). But even with those disappointments, given the same electoral choices we were given in the last two presidential elections, I would vote the same way again. Would I prefer a significantly more progressive candidate? Sure. But this President is still far and away better than either the 2008 or 2012 alternative.
Posted by markpkessinger | Wed Sep 25, 2013, 09:41 AM (36 replies)

"Fox News saved my life" - as seen on Facebook . . .

Posted by markpkessinger | Wed Sep 25, 2013, 04:19 AM (9 replies)

Bloomberg: "Why Met Won’t Bow to Protest of Anti-Gay Law: Peter Gelb"

LGBT activists have requested that the Metropolitan Opera dedicate just one performance in its current run of "Eugene Onegin," by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, the famous gay Russian composer, to oppressed LGBT citizens in Russia. The Met's general manager, Peter Gelb, has declined that request. Below is his op-ed that appeared the other day in Bloomberg explaining his decision.

As I said in the comments to the article, there is a sad irony in the general manager of the Met, America's premier showplace for operatic repertoire, much of which is filled with themes that have historically made opera among the most overtly political of all higher art forms, declaring the institution to be, in effect, 'above the fray' of political expression.

Why Met Won’t Bow to Protest of Anti-Gay Law: Peter Gelb
By Peter Gelb - Sep 22, 2013 4:00 PM ET

With activists preparing to picket the Met’s season-opening production of Tchaikovsky’s “Eugene Onegin” tonight, I think it is important that the public understands why the Met is not dedicating its performance to the oppressed gay citizens of Russia, even though we’re being pressured to do so.

The activists argue that since Tchaikovsky was gay and our performance features several Russian artists who have been associated with Vladimir Putin, the Met must turn our performance into a public rebuke of Russia and, by association, the Russian performers on our stage.

While I’m confident that many members of our company join me in personally deploring the tyranny of Russia’s new anti-gay laws, we’re also opposed to the laws of the 76 countries that go even further than Russia in the outright criminalization of homosexuality.
We stand against the significant human rights abuses that take place every day in many countries. But as an arts institution, the Met is not the appropriate vehicle for waging nightly battles against the social injustices of the world.

< . . . . >
Posted by markpkessinger | Tue Sep 24, 2013, 07:43 PM (0 replies)

Perhaps someone can explain this bit of security theater to me . . .

I work at Fifth Avenue and 53rd Street; the building is on the west side of Fifth Avenue. The subway I use to commute to work stops directly beneath the building I work in. The subway station has two exits on the Fifth Avenue end of the station, one of which comes up under my building, and the other across the street on the east side of Fifth Avenue.

So, here's the thing. Whenever the President is at the U.N., 53rd Street is the route the motorcade takes whenever he leaves the U.N. And, whenever that is expected, there are barricades, and plenty of police officers, on hand to keep people well back on the sidewalk. The President's motorcade must be expected through any minute, because just now, as I arrived for work, the barricades were up and people were lining the street, obviously hoping to catch a glimpse of the President. Here's what I don't get: as I came out of the subway, and began to take the stairs that come up to the street just below my building, two police officers stopped me and told me I couldn't exit there, and would have to use the exit on the east side of Fifth Avenue instead. Fine, no big deal. So I go underground to the opposite side of Fifth Avenue and exit the station, and then cross Fifth Avenue, walking parallel to 53rd Street, to get to the entrance of my building, which is about six feet from the subway entrance the police barred me from using. So my question is this: what was actually accomplished by way of increasing security for the President's motorcade by this little diversion?
Posted by markpkessinger | Tue Sep 24, 2013, 04:31 PM (15 replies)

Interesting NYT Op-Ed by Bill Keller on opening jury service to non-citizens who are legal residents

I haven't entirely decided how I feel about the suggestion, but I certainly wouldn't dismiss it out-of-hand. But I"m not sure Bill Keller makes a very good case for it in this Op-Ed.

In support of expanding jury service to make non-citizen legal residents eligible to serve, Keller points to the high cost of jury trials, which, he claims, have led to a decline in the number jury trials, in favor of summary judgments and out-of-court settlements. I don't doubt that cost has driven that decline, but Keller fails to explain how he thinks expanding the jury pool would bring those costs down. The added costs of a jury trial, it seems to me, are comprised chiefly of the expense involved in accommodating jurors (stipends, hotel accommodations when juries are sequestered, etc.), as well as the added expense of court time needed for jury selection and deliberation. But those costs remain fairly fixed, regardless of how large the initial jury pool might be.

Keller also mentions that it is much more likely these days, if one is called for jury duty, that one will go home without having served on a jury. But that doesn't suggest to me that the problem is that the available jury pool isn't large enough; rather, it seems to me this points to a gross inefficiency in the way jurors are selected. And again, I fail to see how this is addressed merely by expanding the jury pool.

There might be very good reasons to expand jury pools to include non-citizen legal residents, and I would certainly be open to hearing them. Keller's Op-Ed, however, fails to make the case.

Any thoughts?

A Jury of Whose Peers?
Published: September 22, 2013

TODAY let’s take a short break from the dismaying spectacle of everything Washington and celebrate one feature of American democracy that still pretty much works. I refer to jury duty, which, since the abolition of the draft and aside from taxes, is the most arduous chore that comes with government by the people.

The subject is on my mind not only because I spent two days in a jury pool last week, but also because of some interesting news. The great laboratory state of California has just come up with an interesting idea for enlarging this quintessentially American institution: including noncitizens. The State Legislature passed a bill last month opening jury service to permanent legal residents (not, as foxnews.com misreported, “illegal immigrants”) and it is awaiting the signature of Gov. Jerry Brown. We’ll get to that shortly.

A few years back my colleague Adam Liptak — deftly extracting a column from his own days in a jury pool — pointed out that the jury trial is in sharp decline, replaced by out-of-court settlements and summary judgments from the bench. This trend continues, boosted by the financial crisis. Budget cuts in many jurisdictions have raised the threshold for jury trials because they are more expensive. It is more likely than ever that when you are summoned to jury duty you will go home, as I did, without working a trial. This is generally a relief for people who have other places to be but is also a saddening retreat from what is, as one judge enthused to Liptak, “the most stunning and successful experiment in direct popular sovereignty in all history.”

I’m a cheerleader for jury duty. It is one of the few rituals of our political system that respects the experience and common sense of the ordinary citizen, and that puts a premium on an open mind. A collection of strangers from disparate backgrounds, in pursuit of a common purpose — justice — is the founders’ vision in microcosm. Sure, we can all think of cases where a jury was razzle-dazzled by a skillful attorney, or lost in the complications of evidence, or swayed by popular prejudice. But judges are human, too. And a jury can soften the rough edges of the law.

< . . . .>
Posted by markpkessinger | Mon Sep 23, 2013, 06:58 PM (0 replies)

A comment I posted to the NY Times editorial, "The March to Anarchy"

This is the text of a comment I posted last night to a very good New York Times editorial, "The March to Anarcy". The comment seems to have struck quite a chord with many readers, so I thought I would share it here.

Mark Kessinger
New York, NY

If the GOP insists on an economic civil war, then I sincerely hope President Obama gives it to them. The notion that a faction within a party that controls only one house of Congress -- and that only by virtue of gerrymandering -- has a right to dictate policy or legislation, when it hasn't been able to be sufficiently successful at the polls to enable it to pass its agenda through legitimate legislative means, by repeatedly engaging in blackmail and extortion, MUST be stopped, whatever the cost. Republicans seem to be under the very mistaken idea that elections only have consequences when Republicans prevail, and that they, and they alone, are entitled to govern. That is in direct conflict with the system of government our founders created. And no, the claim that "both sides have engaged in this sort of thing" is not valid. Sure, both parties have, in the past, engaged in targeted resistance to particular pieces of legislation, or to a particular nominee. But at no other point in this country's history has an opposition party engaged in such total, across-the-board obstruction, nor tried to force its agenda by extorting the country with the threat of deliberately wrecking the nation's economy if they didn't get their way. That dubious distinction goes solely to today's Republican Party. It is nothing less than economic terrorism, and the President should deal with it the way the U.S. government officially deals with terrorists of any kind: by refusing to negotiate.

Sept. 19, 2013 at 7:16 a.m.
Posted by markpkessinger | Thu Sep 19, 2013, 09:43 PM (15 replies)

Beyond appalling . . .

Here is the text of a comment I just posted to the article:

This is truly one of the most vile, offensive and utterly ignorant articles I've ever seen in the Washington Post, or any other daily paper for that matter. And I say that as a Christian (Episcopalian). None of the world's major religions advocate violence (notwithstanding certain sub-sects within each of them that may do so). And so far as I know, mental illness does not discriminate on the basis of religion. This article, by implying that it might be in any way legitimate to infer anything at all about a major world religion, based on the actions of a single adherent of that religion who is mentally ill, is simply scandalous. Ask yourself: would these two reporters, or the Washington Post more broadly speaking, ever even dream -- indeed, would they ever even have dared -- of trying to draw religious inferences if this killer had been Christian or Jewish?

Further, to pretend that one can even have a meaningful discussion about religious influences or beliefs on a particular individual's actions as if to suggest that there is some direct, cause-and-effect relationship between the two, particularly when the individual in question is clearly seriously mentally ill, is to grossly misunderstand the nature of this kind of mental illness.

Yet more scandalous still is the article's vague attribution of this alleged "debate" to an unnamed "some." The fact that the article fails to identify where, and among whom, this purported 'debate' is occurring makes one wonder what the motivations for writing such a piece were. I will stop short of suggesting that the writers wrote the article because they wanted to foment religious bigotry, but neither the Post nor the writers themselves should be surprised if people interpret it that way..

What an utterly shameful piece of 'journalism.'
Posted by markpkessinger | Wed Sep 18, 2013, 03:08 PM (0 replies)
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