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Member since: Sat May 15, 2010, 04:48 PM
Number of posts: 8,263

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People can complain all they want about Biden's age . . .

. . . but at least he doesn't wear his pants pulled up to his chest like these two guys!

Posted by markpkessinger | Sun Sep 17, 2023, 01:22 AM (2 replies)

On McConnell, Feinstein, aging and mandatory retirement ages

In the wake of Mitch McConnell's second "freezing" incident, there is a lot of chatter about imposing a mandatory retirement age for elected officials. Given how much I utterly despise McConnell, and think he has damaged this country in some truly profound ways, it is certainly tempting to jump on the age limits bandwagon. But as I've thought about it further, it seems to me there are some very real and practical issues that deserve careful consideration before we rush into such a major change.

As I said, I despise McConnell. But at the same time, I recognize that he is not a MAGA Republican, and that Biden has been able to work with him on at least a few issues. Wishing him gone from his post might be a question of being careful what we wish for, because his replacement could be far, far worse. And it is not clear to me that McConnell is, as yet, incapacitated by whatever condition he has. Sure, he has these freezing spells, and he has taken some falls of late, but whether he is experience a TIA, a ministroke, a seizure, or some Parkinsonian-like condition, that doesn't necessarily mean he is unable to perform the responsibilities of his position, or that he is incapable of understanding the issues before him.

The situation with Feinstein is, I think, rather different. She is clearly cognitively impaired. Yet, McConnell has said that Republicans on the Judiciary Committee will block any replacement Gavin Newsom might appoint, so if she were to resign, losing her from the Judiciary Committee might well mean the end of any further judicial confirmations under Biden.

As for Biden, it is clear that he has slowed considerably on a physical level, but I have seen no signs that he doesn't grasp the issues he is confronting. HIs occasional verbal stumbles are the result of a stutter he has battle his entire life.

At the same time, there is Bernie Sanders, who despite having had a mild heart attack a couple of years ago, remains as sharp on the issues as he ever was.

I think of Benjamin Franklin, who, nearly 250 years ago, at the age of 70 and afflicted with various ailments including gout, undertook an arduous voyage to France to be this country's first ambassador there, and critically, secured funding and military assistance from the French king, which were so very critical to the success of the American Revolution. That accomplishment took a number of years, and required great patience, which Franklin displayed even when Congress thought he was merely partying it up in Paris. Congress then sent the much younger, and extremely impatient, John Adams, to "work with" Franklin, and Adams became thoroughly exasperated with his elder colleague. But Franklin had the wisdom and experience to know how to play a long game, and knew full well that if he pushed too hard, and at the wrong time, his entire mission would end in failure.

Now, to be clear, I am not, in any way, making a comparison between McConnell and Franklin. Franklin was a statesman of the first order, whereas McConnell is a craven and ruthless political operator, and nothing more. But I just think we need to think all of this through VERY carefully before we set ourselves on a path we might later regret.

In addition, a mandatory retirement age, no matter how you might want to spin it, is a form of age discrimination. Look, aging and its effects are hugely variable from one individual to the next. And the Constitution takes very seriously the idea that the people have a right to choose the persons who will represent them. So, if the people of a given state or district wish to re-elect an octogenarian, who are we to say they shouldn't be able to do so?
Posted by markpkessinger | Fri Sep 1, 2023, 09:18 AM (22 replies)

An open letter to David Brooks . . .

. . . in response to his latest essay in The Atlantic titled, "HOW THE BOBOS BROKE AMERICA."

Dear Mr. Brooks:

I will come straight to the point: although your latest essay in The Atlantic, titled, "HOW THE BOBOS BROKE AMERICA," makes some valid points, there is also so much wrong in the essay that I scarcely know where to begin. In your essay, you describe "Bobos" as being essentially the same thing as Richard Florida's "creative class":

more or less, the same scientists, engineers, architects, financiers, lawyers, professors, doctors, executives, and other professionals who make up the bobos—produced. Enormous wealth was being generated by these highly educated people, who could turn new ideas into software, entertainment, retail concepts, and more. If you wanted your city to flourish, he argued, you had to attract these people by stocking the streets with art galleries, restaurant rows, and cultural amenities. Florida used a “Gay Index,” based on the supposition that neighborhoods with a lot of gay men are the sort of tolerant, diverse places to which members of the creative class flock.

[ . . . . ]

. . . [O]ver the past two decades, the rapidly growing economic, cultural, and social power of the bobos has generated a global backlash that is growing more and more vicious, deranged, and apocalyptic. And yet this backlash is not without basis. The bobos—or X people, or the creative class, or whatever you want to call them—have coalesced into an insular, intermarrying Brahmin elite that dominates culture, media, education, and tech. Worse, those of us in this class have had a hard time admitting our power, much less using it responsibly.

You then proceed to recite a laundry list of things these "Bobos" did, including moving away from their hometowns and migrating to larger cities, and coming to "dominate left-wing parties around the world that were formerly vehicles for the working class," pulling them further to the left on cultural issues, thus alienating the working people for whom left-wing parties traditionally stood. This is, at best, an extremely facile conclusion, and is quite notable for what it leaves out of the equation!

Perhaps a little of my own story will help to illustrate what is so very problematic about your thesis. . .

Like you, I am 62 years old. I grew up as the youngest of five siblings, in a family that had been very traditional Republicans since just after the Civil War, in a tiny borough of about 800 people located in rural, north-central Pennsylvania (situated roughly halfway between Williamsport and State College (Penn State), where our family had lived since the 1830s. Our father was a successful small businessman, very much the model of the "self-made" man, and our mother worked alongside him in his business.

But, although my family's roots ran very deep in that town, I always felt like a fish out of water there. Given that it was located about 30 miles from Penn State, football was practically a religion, and for those who didn't participate in football, it was still expected, particularly of boys, that they would participate in and love some competitive sport of some kind. Well, I didn't. I didn't particularly have a talent for sports, and didn't relate particularly well to people who seemingly were unable to talk about much else. My interests tended to be of a more artistic and intellectual bent, and I was particularly drawn to classical music. To be a boy who didn't like sports was to be essentially invisible, except in those instances when I was called out as a "faggot" or "homo." And as it turned out, those labels, while deeply hurtful, were not inaccurate. As my adolescence proceeded, I increasingly became aware that, in fact, I was indeed gay.

Nevertheless, I was able to find a small group of friends who had similar interests, and managed to carve out something of a niche for myself socially. But I lived with a constant fear of potential violence should the full truth of who I was become known. I protected myself by immersing myself into my interests. I studied piano, organ, voice, and in school, the trombone. Because my interests were relatively esoteric compared to those of other kids my age, it became easy to put up my interests as a kind of protective armor, their relatively esoteric nature serving as something of a distancing and protective mechanism against those whose violence I feared.

I went on to major in opera and minor in organ in college, where I met many, many others whose stories were much like my own. After college, I moved to New York, because pursuing a career in classical music was something that simply couldn't realistically be done in my tiny hometown.

As fate would have it, and for a variety of reasons, a career in music never quite panned out for me. But I remained in New York, and have now lived here for over 40 years. Yes, David, I am a liberal/progressive. But I didn't adopt that identity because I wanted to be accepted by other liberals/progressives. I adopted it because I understood, in a very personal way, what tolerance -- and the lack thereof -- of people who are different in some respect really means. The conservative ideas with which I was raised fell by the wayside because they were incompatible with the reality of my life. I stayed in New York because I wanted and needed to live in a place where I could be who I was, openly and honestly, and without constantly worrying about being "found out."

And you know something: I make no apologies for that whatsoever! I refuse to believe that there was anything wrong with my wanting to live among people who could accept me for who I was. Nor do I make any apologies for making myself somewhat aloof from some of the people in my hometown, whose bigotries and prejudices I had heard throughout the first 18 years of my life. But at the same time, I know also that there were enough exceptions to such bigotry to be found there that I came to see those bigotries and prejudices as a choice. That is, I knew enough people who also grew up there who didn't choose to buy into those prejudices, that I wasn't about to make excuses for those who did. And I still don't make or accept excuses for those folks!

Neither do I think that anybody else who lives in a large, diverse metropolitan area should make any apologies for marrying and living among people who, like themselves, understand both the value and the compassion of social tolerance.

But I am hardly a member of some "creative class" of movers and shakers. I make just enough money to be able to live here. Nor have I ever been about trying to impress those of that "creative class" (which I'm not sure really even exists, at least not in the way rural people tend to imagine it).

You assert that liberals came to dominate the liberal parties that once represented the interests of the working classes. There's some truth in that, but the retreat from the interests of organized labor must be considered against the backdrop of what the opposition party was saying to those same working class voters. Your beloved Ronald Reagan was running around telling people that "government was the problem," when in fact government had been one of the few things that had stood in the way of the very corporate greed Reagan, et al., fostered and encouraged. The Republican Party never missed an opportunity to pit the interests of urban folks against those of rural folks, even as they systematically set about destroying the government supports that had helped to build the middle class. It was the mainstream of the GOP (and not today's radical fringe) that pushed the idea that poorer urban folks were "takers," and that rural folks, those "real Americans," were the makers. That was always a very selective, and hence, dishonest view of things.

In your essay, you mention a man who was a participant in a Trump regatta in Ferrysburg, Michigan, "a guy in a white T-shirt, a MAGA hat, and a modest fishing boat," who complained, "We are always labeled as racists and bigots." But you know, the people who are labeled as such were not labeled based on nothing. In many or even most cases, they did plenty to earn such designations! The fact is that racism and bigotry are rampant in places such as the town in which I grew up. If you don't believe that, then you haven't spent enough time there. That isn't to say that people in those place don't have some very positive traits as well, but whitewashing their prejudices simply doesn't cut it!

There is, among many rural and small-town voters, a kind of civic arrogance, by which they see people like themselves as the only legitimate, "true" Americans, and dismiss those of us who live in large metropolitan areas as some kind of alien species. But here's the tell: it is these same "true Americans" who continue to support a man and a political party that has systematically tried to suppress the political voice of many of their fellow citizens. But you don't see urban liberals trying to deny the votes of rural conservatives. In light of, I think it is not at all unfair of urban liberals/progressives to view themselves as superior defenders of democracy compared with their rural, conservative compatriots!
Posted by markpkessinger | Thu Aug 31, 2023, 04:46 PM (51 replies)

Tom Nichols' brilliant, stunning essay in The Atlantic . . .

If you haven't yet read it, by all means read Tom Nichols' stunning essay in The Atlantic, titled "This is the case.". Truly a must-read! From the essay:

The rest of us, as a nation but also as individuals, can no longer indulge the pretense that Trump is just another Republican candidate, that supporting Donald Trump is just another political choice, and that agreeing with Trump’s attacks on our democracy is just a difference of opinion. (Those of us who share our views in the media have a particular duty to cease discussing Trump as if he were a normal candidate—or even a normal person—especially after today’s indictment.) I have long described Trump’s candidacies as moral choices and tests of civic character, but I have also cautioned that Americans, for the sake of social comity, should resist too many arguments about politics among themselves. I can no longer defend this advice.

The indictment handed down today challenges every American to put a shoulder to the wheel and defend our republic in every peaceful, legal, and civilized way they can. According to the charges, not only did Trump try to overturn the election; he presided over a clutch of co-conspirators who intended to put down any further challenges to Trump’s continued rule by force. . . .

[. . . .]

This is why we can no longer merely roll our eyes when an annoying uncle rhapsodizes about stolen elections. We should not gently ask our parents if perhaps we might change the channel from Fox during dinner. We are not obligated to gingerly change the subject when an old friend goes on about “Demonrats” or the dire national-security implications around Hunter Biden’s genitalia. Enough of all this; we can love our friends and our family and our neighbors without accepting their terms of debate. To support Trump is to support sedition and violence, and we must be willing to speak this truth not only to power but to our fellow citizens.

Trump and his media enablers, of course, will fume that any criticism of choices made by millions of voters is uncivil and condescending—even as they paint other American citizens as traitors who support pedophiles and perverts. Trump has made such accusations, and the implied threat of violence behind them, part of the everyday American political environment. This brutish bullying is aimed at stopping the rest of us from speaking our mind. But after today, every American citizen who cares about the Constitution should affirm, without hesitation, that any form of association with Trump is reprehensible, that each of us will draw moral conclusions about anyone who continues to support him, and that these conclusions will guide both our political and our personal choices.
Posted by markpkessinger | Wed Aug 2, 2023, 12:07 PM (45 replies)

A lot of people seem to have forgotten the earlier incident involving Sinead O'Connor . . .

Two years prior to the SNL incident in which she tore up the photo of Pope John Paul II, O'Connor had refused to perform at the Garden State Arts Center in NJ until they agreed not to do their usual practice of playing the national anthem before every event they hosted. She wasn't trying to make any kind of anti-American statement; it was simply that she had a policy of not having ANY country's national anthem played before her concerts anywhere, because, in her words, "national anthems have nothing to do with music." She was right about that, too, of course. But this was just a couple of weeks after Bush I had deployed troops for Operation Desert Storm, and dozens of media and entertainment figures piled on the criticism of her merely because she had declined to participate in America's pathetic military boosterism!
Posted by markpkessinger | Thu Jul 27, 2023, 02:33 PM (47 replies)

Just when you thought RFK, Jr. couldn't get any more irresponsible than he's already been . . .

There is this, from the NY Post:

RFK Jr. says COVID may have been ‘ethnically targeted’ to spare Jews
By Jon Levine
July 15, 2023 7:55am Updated

Democratic presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. dished out wild COVID-19 conspiracy theories this week during a press event at an Upper East Side restaurant, claiming the bug was a genetically engineered bioweapon that may have been “ethnically targeted” to spare Ashkenazi Jews and Chinese people.

[ . . . .]

“COVID-19. There is an argument that it is ethnically targeted. COVID-19 attacks certain races disproportionately,” Kennedy said. “COVID-19 is targeted to attack Caucasians and black people. The people who are most immune are Ashkenazi Jews and Chinese.”

“We don’t know whether it was deliberately targeted or not but there are papers out there that show the racial or ethnic differential and impact,” Kennedy hedged.

Read full article here.

First, there is NO evidence that the coronavirus was engineered as a bio-weapon.

Second, there is no evidence that Ashkenazi Jews are "immune" to Covid-19! Here in NYC, the Hassidic Jewish community (who are Ashkenazi) was hit especially hard by the pandemic. And a study by Brandeis University done relatively early on, when the death toll stood at 200,000, found that the mortality rate for Jews was roughly the same as for any other group.

Third, given that, historically speaking, people have often tended to believe completely baseless conspiracy theories about Jews, for any presidential candidate to pander to this kind of thinking is beneath contempt! This country's Jewish population has made monumental contributions to this country, all across the arts, sciences and humanities -- contributions that far exceed what one would reasonably expect given their relatively small numbers!

The man is a horse's ass, and embarrassment to the Democratic Party, to his family, and to the country as a whole!
Posted by markpkessinger | Sat Jul 15, 2023, 04:21 PM (13 replies)

Letter to the Democratic Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee on the Web designer case

I sent this this evening to all Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and also to majority leader Chuck Schumer. I would urge others who feel as I do to do the same. Feel free to use my version if you wish, or write your own.

[div]Dear Senator (name):

I write to you in your capacity as a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee ("JC" to ask – no, to demand – that the JC immediately commence an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the Supreme Court's ruling in the case, 303 Creative, LLC v. Elenis, et al., the case involving a putative web designer who didn't want to have to design websites for same-sex weddings.

As you are surely aware, within hours of the Supreme Court's issuing of a ruling, it was revealed in The New Republic ("TNR"(see
https://newrepublic.com/article/173987/mysterious-case-fake-gay-marriage-website-real-straight-man-supreme-court) that among the papers filed with the court by the plaintiff's attorneys was something that was purportedly a request from a potential customer about designing a website for his upcoming wedding to a male partner. This alleged potential customer's name and contact information were included with the filings, and it was presented, presumably, to satisfy the Constitutional requirement, long upheldl by this very Court, of "case or controversy," as set forth in Article III, Section 2, Clause 1 of the Constitution of the United States. This is because the principal of 303 Creative does not now operate, nor has ever operated, a web design business, and she needed to show that she had standing to bring the case.

Article III, Section 2, Clause 1 of the Constitution states: "The judicial Power shall extend to all Cases, in Law and Equity, arising under this Constitution, the Laws of the United States, and Treaties made, or which shall be made, under their Authority;—to all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls;—to all Cases of admiralty and maritime Jurisdiction;—to Controversies to which the United States shall be a Party;—to Controversies between two or more States;—between a State and Citizens of another State,—between Citizens of different States,—between Citizens of the same State claiming Lands under Grants of different States, and between a State, or the Citizens thereof, and foreign States, Citizens or Subjects." Clearly, there was no underlying case or controversy here to be decided.

After the ruling was issued, the TNR reporter followed up by contacting the individual named as a potential customer. Although the person named did exist, and his contact information was correct, he disavowed any knowledge of having made such an inquiry of 303 Creative, adding that he would have no reason to do so, since he was already married (and to a woman). So, in fact, it appears that this case did not fulfill the case or controversy requirement of the Constitution.

Several things must happen if the Supreme Court is to retain any legitimacy whatsoever.

First, the ruling in the above-mentioned case must be set aside. If allowed to stand, it will open the door to all sorts of cases being made up out of whole cloth by parties who want the court to rule in advance on hypothetical controversies, a practice this Court, including under the current Chief Justice, as long disavowed. You and I both know, Senator, that had this case involved any topic other than one that was part of the right's culture wars, it would have been thrown out for lack of standing.

Secondly, the Judiciary Committee should look into several questions related to this whole affair, including:

(1) Did any of the justices know that the potential customer named in order to establish case or controversy had actually been made up? Or did they know, and decide to rule anyway because issuing a ruling was consistent with their political beliefs?

(2) If they did not know that it had been made up, why didn't they? Why did none of the Clerks take the time to verify that the information contained in the papers filed with the cased was accurate? (These questions should also be posed with regard to any lower courts involved in hearing the case.)

And finally, the Court must be pressured to sanction the plaintiff, as well as its principal, Lorie Smith, and the attorneys who helped to perpetrate this fraud upon the Court.

I urge you, both as a Senator and as member of the Judiciary Committee, to take immediate and decisive action in this matter.

Mark P. Kessinger
Posted by markpkessinger | Mon Jul 3, 2023, 12:34 AM (18 replies)

Getting a 403 error when trying to post to General Discussion

But I can post to the Lounge, and here, just fine. What gives?
Posted by markpkessinger | Mon Jul 3, 2023, 12:05 AM (2 replies)


Just tried to post something in General Discussion, and got a 403 error. Not sure why. Posting here as a tests.
Posted by markpkessinger | Mon Jul 3, 2023, 12:03 AM (7 replies)

Had a frustrating conversation . . .

. . . with a friend who was also frustrated, as we all are, about the Supreme Court decisions. The conversation went something like this:

"So Biden should pack the court, already!", he says. Fine, but that would require Congress, and the votes simply are not there to do it.

"Then tie up Joe Manchin and Kristen Sinema in a basement somewhere and beat the shit out of them until they agree to support what Democrats are doing!" Okay, that may be satisfying as rhetoric, but come on, now, it isn't a realistic option. And look, if you come down on them too hard, you'll only succeed in driving them to the Republicans, and in that case, Democrats lose the majority. And if you don't like what you see now, just you wait . . .

"But why is it that Republicans seem to be able to push through whatever they want, and Democrats are so weak?" The fact of the matter is that McConnell is a very savvy player, and knows when he can get away with pressing an advantage and when he cannot. And his caucus is, I'm sorry to say, more unified than the Democrats. There really isn't much Biden, or even the party as a whole, can do given a razor thin majority in just one chamber.

"But Democrats should at least hold the votes, even if they don't succeed." But really, what would that accomplish?

"Yeah, but Democrats need to be more ruthless, like the Republicans. Instead, they always 'take the high road.'" It really has nothing to do with "taking the high road." It's a numbers thing. Biden understands that he can't press an advantage he does not, in fact, have.

"Well, get rid of Clarence Thomas!" The current composition of the senate is 49 Republicans, 48 Democrats and 3 independents (who caucus with the Democrats, thereby giving them the majority). To remove Clarence Thomas would require an impeachment, which would first require a majority vote in the Republican-controlled House, and then a 2/3 majority to find him guilty at a Senate trial. That means we would have to find 15 Republican senators willing to vote to convict him. Again, the numbers simply aren't there.

"Term limits!" That would require a Constitutional Amendment, and a 2/3 majority in both houses, plus a majority of state legislatures. Again, the votes just aren't there to do it.

Look, you're frustrated. So am I. But the fact of the matter is that we're up against some very hard, and very unpleasant, political realities. And demanding that Democrats just start flailing about in all directions simply won't accomplish anything, and may, in fact, be politically self-defeating.

I don't like this reality any more than you, but not liking it doesn't change the fact that it is reality.
Posted by markpkessinger | Fri Jun 30, 2023, 07:20 PM (3 replies)
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