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Member since: Sat May 15, 2010, 04:48 PM
Number of posts: 7,221

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An argument I wish the President had addressed last night

Just had a chance to watch the President's town hall on guns, which aired last night. All I can say is, if people watch this, and still think President Obama seeks to take away their guns, then they are believing that because they want to believe it, not because there is any rational basis whatsoever for that belief.

Personally, I wish the President had taken on the "protection" argument, although I understand why he didn't. One woman who questioned him recounted her story of having been raped in her home, and how she now wants a gun to protect herself. Here's the thing about that belief -- and this is a point the Australian comic, Jim Jeffries, makes so brilliantly in his Netflix special, "Bare" -- in order for a gun to be of any use for self-protection in such a circumstance, that gun would have to be both loaded, and be within reach of the person, AT ALL TIMES. I don't know anybody who carries a loaded gun with them 100% of the time, even as they go about the house. And if a person keeps a loaded gun lying around the house and readily accessible, then the risk that a child or someone else might get their hands on it rises exponentially, and that person has thus voided any claim to being a "responsible gun owner." It may be that the woman from the town hall who had been raped derives some sense of security from having a gun on hand, but as a practical matter, that sense of security is entirely illusory.
Posted by markpkessinger | Fri Jan 8, 2016, 04:04 PM (31 replies)

Posted this to FB today, in response to accusations that the President's tears were "an act"

Posted after a distant relative (among many other folks) made a comment that "He should get an Oscar for that performance." (The context was a post of mine in which I shared an exchange with another NY Times reader. That reader commented: "Can you imagine a JFK or FDR with tears streaming down their faces during a press conference?" My response: "Some of us find it refreshing to have a President unconstrained by the emotional dysfunctions of the privileged class of a bygone era!"

Okay, I have to say this -- and not everyone will like it, but I'm saying it nonetheless. In the seven years of President Obama's term in office,I have listened to conservatives' endless barrage of false accusations and ridiculous conspiracy theories concerning this President. Most of them have been barely worth the energy required to roll one's eyes. But nothing -- and I do mean NOTHING -- has disgusted me more than the comments I've seen in the past 24 hours suggesting that the emotion displayed in the President's speech yesterday about gun control was just an act. You don't have to agree with anything the President said in that speech. But there is a line of fundamental decency here folks, and when you deny this President, even if you disagree with his politics, the humanity of his own emotion on an issue he cares passionately about, you have crossed it. This is simply a vile accusation.

Here is a video of the President's speech yesterday. If anybody can listen to it and still level an accusation that the President was "acting," then it says a whole lot more about the person making the accusation than it does about the President. And frankly, regardless of whether or not you agree with the President, if the thought of those 21 5- and 6-year-olds at Sandy Hook, along with the dozens and dozens of others whose live have been cut short in mass shooting after mass shooting, doesn't evoke a strong emotional response within you, then you seriously need to check your own humanity, or lack thereof!

Posted by markpkessinger | Wed Jan 6, 2016, 04:42 PM (49 replies)

Why I don't buy Uretsky's story, and why that doesn't get the DNC off the hook

I have worked in IT for decades, in areas ranging from database design and management to IT security. When I initially heard Josh Uretsky's story that the queries against the Clinton campaign's proprietary data were performed as part of an effort to investigate the extent of exposure of the proprietary data of the Sanders, it sounded like a perfectly reasonable and even likely explanation. Then I read the specifics of the queries that were run. From CNN's reporting:

The Sanders team, which consisted of four people, ran multiple searches in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, South Carolina and about 10 March states, including Florida and Colorado. In Iowa and New Hampshire, the Clinton campaign has ranked voters on a scale of 1-100 for turnout, enthusiasm and support, the senior Democrats said. The Sanders campaign ran two searches: "Show me all the Clinton people rated higher than 60" and "Show me all the people rated less than 30." This would be a key way of knowing who Sanders should target in the final weeks before voting: Ignore those above 60, while focus on those below 30, because they are looking for a Clinton alternative and might be open to Sanders.

So, this index of turnout/enthusiasm/support, is a database field created by, and the property of, the Clinton campaign. If Uretsky's intent had been merely investigative, he could have included that field in a select query, with no particular selection criteria specified, in order to test whether proprietary fields were exposed. There would have been no need to place any particular selection criteria on that field in the query, much less to filter it in a way that would yield information that could be specifically useful to the Sanders campaign. As for not attempting to cover his tracks, I'm sure Uretsky was aware that it is EXTREMELY difficult to get around a database's audit logs (that is, it is extremely difficult if the designers of the database had even minimal competency), and thus knew better than to even try (as the attempt itself would have raised red flags). Instead, he figured that if the queries came to light, he could pass them off as having been investigative in nature. Uretsky knew the security vulnerability was there. I think he figured that since they had previously reported that vulnerability, and nothing had been done about it, he could get away with exploiting that vulnerability to the benefit of the Sanders campaign, and that if any question should arise, he could claim his intent was investigative, citing the fact that he didn't try to cover his tracks to support that claim.

In the end, it was a monumentally stupid move by a campaign staffer, and he deserved to be fired because of it. When it came to light, the Sanders campaign took immediate, appropriate and effective remedial action. And THAT fact -- i.e., that the Sanders campaign had already taken timely, appropriate and effective remedial action, is what made the DNC's attempt to 'punish' the Sanders campaign so outrageous. The DNC's and Wasserman Schultz's disingenuousness is revealed for exactly what it is by the fact that the DNC was notified of a major security flaw in October, and two months later, no corrective action had been taken. I work in legal IT for a major international law firm. In my world, if a flaw like that had come to light, the vendor relationship would be immediately terminated, because it demonstrates the vendor's rank incompetence in database design. So why had the DNC not compelled NGP VAN to fix the flaw? That's anybody's guess. Why did the DNC not terminate the vendor relationship with NGP Van? Gee, do you think it could possibly have something to do with the fact that Stu Trevelyan, the CEO of NGP VAN, was a '92 staffer in the Clinton-Gore campaign, and a White House staffer during the Clinton presidency?

Wasserman Shultz is correct that an "open door" does not provide cover for someone who exploits it in order to access something they would not otherwise have access to. But there's another part of that analogy that points a finger back at the management of the DNC under Wasserman Schultz. Think of a retail store whose manager one night forgot to lock the doors upon closing, and the store, as it happened, was robbed that night. The owner of the store will certainly want to press charges against the thieves; but that owner will also most certainly fire the person who left the door open in the first place!

Presented with evidence of wrongdoing by a few of its staffers, the Sanders campaign took immediate and effective remedial action. Notified of a major security vulnerability in the DNC's database, Debbie Wasserman Schultz sat with her thumbs up her ass for two months, and then had the gall to self-righteously expound about an "open door." What's her excujse?
Posted by markpkessinger | Sun Dec 20, 2015, 04:53 PM (63 replies)

Is anybody else here taking Toujeo?

My doctor switched me to it (from Lantus) two weeks ago. Instead of 28 units twice a day, I'm taking 50 units once a day. Since I started on it, I have had only one reading above 110 (and that was only 141). The rest of my readings have been between 88 and 110. I couldn't be more pleased!
Posted by markpkessinger | Mon Dec 14, 2015, 11:55 PM (4 replies)

Perspective (on San Bernardino, terror, and Trump)

(Posted this a little while ago to Facebook, after reading that fear of terrorism in the wake of the San Bernardino shootings is driving a rise in Trump's poll numbers.)

Perspective --

* Two disturbed, white American high school students shoot up Columbine High School, killing 13 and wounding 20; and Americans wring their hands, ask, "What ever shall we do," and then go about their business as if nothing had happened.

* A white, middle-aged stock trader in Atlanta shoots up a couple of office buildings in Atlanta, killing 12 and injuring 13, and Americans wring their hands, say, "Isn't that horrible," and then go about their business as if nothing had happened. as if nothing

* .A white, middle-aged guy shoots up an Amish school in Nickel Mines, PA, and American wring their hands, commend the Amish for their remarkable capacity to forgive, and go about their business as if nothing had happened.

* A young, white guy shoots up a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, killing 12 and injuring 70, and Americans wring their hands, ask, "Oh, what shall we do," and then go about their business as if nothing had happened.

* A young, disturbed white guy shoots up an elementary school in Newtown, CT, killing 26, including 20 children, and Americans wring their hands -- a little longer this time -- then go about their business as if it had never happened.

THEN . . .

* A Muslim American man and his Pakistani wife, self-radicalized in 2013 before ISIS was even a thing, and acting entirely on their own, go on a shooting spree in San Bernardino, CA, killing 14 and injuring 20, and "OH, MY GOD, IT'S THE END OF WESTERN CIVILIZATION AS WE KNOW IT!"

Seriously, people -- GET A GRIP!
Posted by markpkessinger | Fri Dec 11, 2015, 01:38 AM (14 replies)

The security illusion

Safety, security -- these are illusions. Always have been, and, short of each of us living in armored pods hermetically sealed off from our fellow human beings (including, I might add, from our own families, since most of us, statistically speaking, stand a far higher risk of being injured or killed at the hands of a family member than by terrorists), always will be. Neither the people of Paris, nor the rest of the world, are any less safe because of the Paris attacks than we were before. The only thing that has changed is that our precious illusion of safety has momentarily been shattered. The attacks amount to barely a microscopic upward blip in the statistical risk faced by anyone of bring injured or dying in a terrorist attack.

And frankly, the sheer hypocrisy surrounding the hysteria over Syrian refugees is astounding, particularly in a country where, with mind-numbing regularity, scores are killed in one mass shooting after another, and yet most of us are content to go about their lives as if nothing had happened every time. In case anybody has forgotten, neither you, nor your child nor any other loved one, will be any less dead having been killed by a crazed, young, white American male with a gun than having been killed by a terrorist. So, 'safety,' you say? I don't want to hear it!
Posted by markpkessinger | Thu Nov 19, 2015, 06:33 PM (3 replies)

Paris in Perspective

What happened in Paris is an unspeakable horror, but no less horrific is the daily terror we have been raining down from the sky upon people across the Middle East for many years now. Some defend our "collateral damage" by pointing out that we "don't intend to target innocents" with our drone strikes. But that is a pretty weak defense, given that we target individuals while they are present at social gatherings -- weddings, funerals, etc. -- where we full well know innocent people will die in the strike. And in any case, I suspect that distinction between 'intended' and 'unintended' comes as cold comfort to any surviving family members.

The expressions of solidarity with and support for the people of Paris are commendable. But even as we make those gestures, we should, lest we become rather too righteous in both our sadness and our anger, remember that our own perceptions of 'innocence' are often skewed, our compassion and empathy not as universal as we like to tell ourselves, our outrage and indignation selective, and often quite conveniently so. I mean, when was the last time people en masse changed their Facebook avatars to the flag of Yemen, or gave such an outpouring of support for the people of that country, after one of our drone strikes took out dozens of innocent Yemeni citizens? Indeed, when was the last time anybody even gave a moment's thought of doing so?
Posted by markpkessinger | Sun Nov 15, 2015, 06:33 PM (35 replies)

About that "41% Lead" in Iowa . . .

. . . In a thread in GDP, Jeff47 correctly pointed out that that Monmouth University poll was skewed because its qualifying criteria effectively excluded any voters under the age of 26. Another DUer asked for a citation. Here is the text of my post in response:

From page 4 of Monmouth University's release of the poll (on Monmouth's domain):

The Monmouth University Poll was sponsored and conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute from October 22 to 25, 2015 with a statewide random sample of 400 Iowa voters drawn from a list of registered Democratic voters who voted in at least one of the last two state primary elections and indicate they are likely to attend the Democratic presidential caucuses in February 2016. This includes 300 contacted by a live interviewer on a landline telephone and 100 contacted by a live interviewer on a cell phone, in English. . . .

As Jeff47 explains above in message #7, the bolded text above, by definition, means that it must be someone who is at least 25 (okay, so 26 is off by one year). Remember, there was no presidential primary in 2012, because we ran an incumbent. That means every recipient had to have voted in either 2004 or 2008. If someone was 18 in 2008, they are 25 now, and will be 26 in 2016.

Fut here is what I found even more telling: the table indicating the distribution of respondents by age group (also from page 4 of the linked document):

44% Male; 56% Female
96% White, non-Hispanic; 5% Other

7% 18-34
17% 35-49
37% 50-64
39% 65+

But of course, we know that 7% of voters who are "18-34" is really 7"25-34," because of the requirement of having voted in one of the last two Democratic primaries (in either 2004 or 2008). Yet, according to the Pew Research Center, the 17-29 age group comprised 22% of the total Democratic turnout in 2008, and 17% in 2004. So how can a poll that so negatively weights its sampling of the younger vote group with a 15-percentage point lower representation than that group had in the last Democratic Primary possibly be considered to be a valid poll?

Posted by markpkessinger | Thu Oct 29, 2015, 08:56 PM (9 replies)

Bernie did NOT categorically oppose gay marriage . . .

The Salon article that is being discussed alleging that he once opposed gay marriage, based on his interview with Rachel Maddow last week, fails to mention what he actually said about that in response to her question.

Bernie opposed a SPECIFIC marriage equality measure that was being proposed in Vermont, at a SPECIFIC time for a SPECIFIC reason, which he spelled out very clearly in that interview. He pointed out that when that measure was proposed, it had only been a few years since Vermont had passed its civil unions law -- which he had fully supported -- which had bitterly divided the state. Bernie said he felt it was too soon to push further on that front, and that the state needed to "let the dust settle."

I am a 54-year-old gay man who has supported the cause of marriage equality for the past 35 years, ever since I came out in 1980 at the age of 19. And had I been a Vermonter, I likely would have agreed with Bernie's calculus at that time. I've been around long enough to understand that great damage can be dealt to a cause -- even a righteous cause -- by pushing too hard at the wrong time.

This has to be one of the most outrageous lies perpetrated by the Clinton camp yet (besides Hillary's attempt to rewrite the history of DOMA's passage, that is). For me, it raises a question: has either Clinton ever taken a position, pro or con, on any issue, that has been based on anything other than political expediency for their own, personal political ambitions? Do either of them even know what a principled stand looks like?
Posted by markpkessinger | Tue Oct 27, 2015, 09:58 PM (42 replies)

Obama is about to throw Medicare and SSD recipients under the bus in pursuit of a budget deal

The deal would increase spending by $80 bill over two years, and would be offset by Social Security Disability and Medicare benefit cuts. A Democratic president, striking a deal on the backs of those who can least afford it. I have no words for this. (Well, actually I do, but nothing I'd care to repeat in polite company.)

From The New York Times:

[font size=5]Congress and White House Near Budget Deal[/font]

[font size=2]By DAVID M. HERSZENHORN | OCT. 26, 2015[/font]

WASHINGTON ó Congressional leaders and the Obama administration are close to a crucial budget deal that would modestly increase domestic spending over the next two years, make cuts in social programs and raise the federal borrowing limit. The accord would avert a potentially cataclysmic default on the governmentís debt and dispense with perhaps the most divisive issue in Washington just before Speaker John A. Boehner is expected to turn over his gavel to Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin.

While congressional aides cautioned that the deal was not yet clinched, officials briefed on the negotiations said the emerging accord would increase spending by $80 billion, not including emergency war funding, over two years above the previously agreed-upon budget caps.

Those increases would be offset by cuts in spending on Medicare and Social Security disability benefits, as well as savings or revenue from an array of other programs, including changes to the nationís strategic petroleum reserves.

If the deal happens, it would represent a significant breakthrough after years of gridlock in Congress, especially on fiscal issues, as each side compromised on a core issue. It also would give Mr. Ryan a clean start as speaker and Republicans a reset on trying to convince voters that they can be an effective governing majority.

< . . . . >
Posted by markpkessinger | Mon Oct 26, 2015, 08:37 PM (183 replies)
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