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markpkessinger

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Member since: Sat May 15, 2010, 03:48 PM
Number of posts: 7,569

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There is a rather bitter irony . . .

. . . in the DOMA arguments, in that some of the very same same conservatives who are so terribly concerned about the unprecedented nature of a case in which a President asks the court for a determinative judicial ruling where it already agrees with a lower court's ruling on the matter, had no problem with the Court's unprecedented action in stopping a recount and appointing a President.
Posted by markpkessinger | Wed Mar 27, 2013, 06:02 PM (3 replies)

What I WISH Ted Olson had said to Justice [sic] Scalia . . .

I read that Ted Olson stumbled a bit today when asked by Justice (sic) Scalia (or is that sick-justice Scalia?), "When did gay marriage become a Constitutional right?". His response should have been, "When did heterosexual marriage become a Constitutional right?" The issue is -- or should be -- equal protection under the law as guaranteed by the 14th Amendment!
Posted by markpkessinger | Tue Mar 26, 2013, 03:44 PM (7 replies)

Be careful about assuming all churches are like the Roman Catholic Church

Christian churches vary widely in their polity and governance, and in their corresponding ability to effect change from the bottom up. Lydia Leftcoast, in message #22 above, mentions the Episcopal Church (of which I am a member). But not only the Episcopal Church has made tremendous strides. So also have the Lutherans (ELCA), Presbyterians, Methodists, United Churches of Christ/Congregationalists and the Disciples of Christ. What these denominations all have in common, apart from being among the churches that were once known as "mainline Protestants" and each of them having roots in one or more of the various 16th C. reform movements against the Roman Catholic Church, is that they all have, to varying degrees, a democratic structure that provides a process by which such change can be effected.

For example, the Episcopal Church is governed by a General Convention and a Presiding Bishop. General Convention consists of two legislative houses: the House of Bishops and the House of Clerical and Lay Deputies. (Hmmm...a presiding executive and a bicameral legislature -- sound familiar?) Each diocese is represented in the House of Deputies by four clergy and four lay deputies, who are elected at conventions of each respective diocesan convention (at which there are representatives of each local parish). Diocesan bishops, too, are elected by the dioceses they serve. All of this is very, very different from the structure of the Roman Catholic Church, even though, in many outward appearances, the two bodies appear to be similar in some respects.
Posted by markpkessinger | Thu Mar 21, 2013, 05:48 PM (1 replies)

MSNBC: Bush promised Iraqi civilians a better future. What are their lives like now?

This is not a bad article on the whole, but what I really want to draw attention to is the article's opening sentence:

"Honest people can still disagree about the ethics and wisdom of pre-emptive war.


In light of everything we now know about the way the Bush administration pushed intelligence agencies to find a link between 9-11 and Iraq even when those agancies tried to tell them no such link existed, about the CIA'S knowledge that there was no WMD program, and about the cherry-picked intelligence used to build a case to war, I am simply astounded that any journalist would begin an article with the words, "Honest people can still disagree about the ethics and wisdom of pre-emptive war." Don't they think journalists failed the country enough during the lead-up to the war, and during the war itself?

I'm sorry, but no, honest people cannot still disagree about the ethics wisdom of the Iraq war (which had absolutely NOTHING to do with preemption)! And by saying that there can still be honest disagreement about it, the author serves only to feed continued disinformation about the war.

Here's a fuller excerpt and a link :

Honest people can still disagree about the ethics and wisdom of pre-emptive war, but the available evidence makes a cruel joke of the former president’s pledge. By the barest possible count—violent deaths recounted in news reports and confirmed through morgue records—the war has claimed 133,251 Iraqi civilians since March 2003. That figure alone is 28 times the toll for U.S. and allied troops, but it doesn’t fully capture the war’s humanitarian impact. The effort to topple a dictator ended up displacing 3 million people, poisoning the country’s environment, damaging water and sanitation systems, and crippling an already shaky health care system.

Modern wars always claim more civilians than soldiers, but international law has long sought to reduce civilian harm. Under the fourth Geneva Convention, an occupying power must not only secure food and medical supplies but quickly restore social and health services after toppling a government. The State Department knows this drill: during the run-up to the war, its Agency for International Development (USAID) devised a $4.2 billion plan to address the inevitable humanitarian disaster. But President Bush quietly killed that effort just three weeks before promising the Iraqi people a brighter future. In a Decision Directive dated Jan. 20, he placed the Pentagon in charge of the relief effort as well as the invasion—a move that greatly complicated the public-health response. Ten years later, the results are on full display.

The State Department started planning for a disaster in 2002, as the Bush administration raised the stakes in its standoff with Saddam Hussein. When the nation is involved in armed conflicts, USAID normally coordinates relief efforts with international groups, keeping the military at arm’s length to protect the relief workers’ neutrality. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld wanted a different arrangement for this war. He foresaw a quick campaign that would topple Saddam with minimal damage to the country’s civil infrastructure. In his dream, U.S. forces would get out quickly, and the relief organizations would step in to work directly with a new Iraqi government to rebuild. In short, we would be liberators rather than occupiers. The president acquiesced.

Dr. Frederick “Skip” Burkle is a seasoned disaster-response expert who helped direct the State Department’s planning efforts. He had managed war-related health emergencies since Vietnam, and he’d worked closely during the first Gulf war with Jay Garner, the retired U.S. Army lieutenant general Rumsfeld tapped to head his relief effort. Rumsfeld and Vice President Dick Cheney were purposely minimizing the State Department’s involvement—a source of great irritation to Secretary of State Colin Powell—but they cleared Garner to name Burkle as Iraq’s interim health minister. Burkle knew the Defense Department was hostile territory, but he still wanted the job. “I’d been in five wars and I knew how to deal with the aftermath,” he says. “I knew that wars kill civilians by knocking out water, power, sanitation and medical care. I knew we had to restore those services quickly and set up a disease-surveillance system to tell us where people were most vulnerable.”


Full article at: http://tv.msnbc.com/2013/03/18/president-bush-promised-iraqi-civilians-a-better-future-what-are-their-lives-like-now
Posted by markpkessinger | Tue Mar 19, 2013, 02:34 PM (0 replies)

"We Are Wisconsin" -- full film available for free viewing through midnight tonight (3/11)

Through midnight tonight, you can see the full, final version of the documentary, "We Are Wisconsin," online for free at:

http://vimeo.com/user4501259/31113

I highly recommend it!
Posted by markpkessinger | Mon Mar 11, 2013, 02:03 AM (3 replies)

Queen Elizabeth II to Sign Historic Pledge Against Discrimination, Signal of Gay Rights Support

Queen Elizabeth II will sign an historic pledge against discrimination that does not explicitly mention gay people but is being seen as a powerful gesture on gay and women's rights, the Daily Mail reports:

In a live television broadcast, she will sign a new charter designed to stamp out discrimination against homosexual people and promote the ‘empowerment’ of women – a key part of a new drive to boost human rights and living standards across the Commonwealth.

In her first public appearance since she had hospital treatment for a stomach bug, the Queen will sign the new Commonwealth Charter and make a speech explaining her passionate commitment to it.

Insiders say her decision to highlight the event is a ‘watershed’ moment – the first time she has clearly signalled her support for gay rights in her 61-year reign.


Read more: http://www.towleroad.com/2013/03/queen-elizabeth-ii-to-sign-historic-pledge-against-discrimination-seen-as-signal-of-gay-rights-suppo.html#ixzz2N5vkIKwP


To which I say, "God Save the Queen!"

Posted by markpkessinger | Sat Mar 9, 2013, 08:08 PM (0 replies)

Rachel Maddow segment w/Nicolle Wallace re. GOP support for gay marriage

Last night, Rachel interviewed Nicolle Wallace, former communications director for G. W. Bush. Rachel makes the point that while many former or retired GOP officials have been willing to sign on to Ken Mehlman's amicus brief in support of gay marriage, NO elected Republicans have done so. Ms. Wallace makes the claim that "Ken Mehlman is leading our party to places we've never been before." Sorry, not buying it. First, the suggestion that Ken Mehlman, or any other gay Republican, is a serious mover and shaker in today's GOP is simply laughable. Second, the fact that all this alleged "support" for gay marriage is coming only from former Republican officials is no accident. They are rather like many rank-and-file Republican voters who are quick to assure their LGBT friends and loved ones that they don't agree with the most extreme stances their party has taken, yet they go to the polls and continue to put the same old bigots back into office.

And it isn't only on LGBT issues that they do this. Republican voters and those retired from elective office do this thing with other hot-button social issues as well: abortion rights, reproductive rights, minority voting rights, you name it. But virtually NEVER do these folks take any kind of public stance against the extremism their party has come to embrace. Until I see elected Republicans actively renouncing their party's most extreme elements, and standing against the extremist policies those elements continue to advocate, I see folks like Ms. Wallace as little more than enabling co-conspirators to those extremists.

Here's the segment:

http://www.nbcnews.com/id/26315908/ns/msnbc_tv-rachel_maddow_show/#51060234
Posted by markpkessinger | Wed Mar 6, 2013, 01:11 AM (0 replies)

Libertarianism deconstructed in three simple sentences . . .

. . . from a Facebook comment by my friend, Frank Dana:

Libertarianism is a great idea in exactly the same way flying cars are a great idea. They make sense as long as you assume that conditions for everyone else will be different, because you're the only special person for whom those rules apply. And even then, you still have to hope nothing goes wrong for you.
Posted by markpkessinger | Sun Mar 3, 2013, 04:40 PM (1 replies)

Link to integrated audio & transcript of Supreme Court oral argument in Voting Rights Act case

This is an audio recording, along with a transcript, of the oral argument before the Supreme Court in Shelby County v. Holder, the case involving the Voting Rights Act that is now before the Court. Below the audio link, I've provided a little background on the case and some of my reactions.

(NOTE: click on "Expanded player," and you will see a rolling transcript which you can scroll through. You can click on any portion of text and select "Play" from the pop-up the appears. Or you can search for text, and in the search result window, click on a result and again select "Play." And there's a third tool: in the lower right-hand pane of the expanded player, you can select the buttons next to each speaker's name, and color-coded sections will appear on the audio progress bar showing where in the recording that speaker can be heard. It's really worth listening to the entire 75 minutes, though.)

http://www.oyez.org/cases/2010-2019/2012/2012_12_96/argument

Shelby County, Alabama, a predominantly white county with a long and troubled history of attempting to find ways of discouraging minority voters from exercising their right to vote, has asked the Court to overturn Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, the section of the law dealing with enforcement measures designed to intercept instances of attempted voter suppression before they occur. Section 5 provides that voting districts in states that have a documented history of such attempts must clear any changes to their voting rules with the Federal Elections Commission. They can be released from such Federal oversight if they go for a period of 10 years without any attempts to change voting rules that are deemed by the FEC to be attempts to suppress minority participation in elections. Shelby County argues that the problem the Voting Rights Act sought to address has been resolved. They argue that the problem was specifically one of attempts to interfere with actual voting and/or voter registration. Since those specific issues have been addressed, the county argues, there is no longer a need for Federal oversight of changes to their voting rules, and continuing to be under such oversight represents an intrusion upon the state's sovereignty. They further argue that Section 2 of the Act, which provides citizens the right to sue if they have been discriminated against in the electoral process, is an adequate remedy, and that the prior oversight, again, is no longer necessary.

The counter argument (which is more borne out by the historical record, I might add), is that the problem the Act sought to address was not the specific tactics used to interfere with voting (i.e., literacy tests as a condition of voter registration), but was rather the larger problem of attempted discrimination in general in the rules governing voter participation (i.e., last-minute changes in the locations of polling places, severely restricted voting hours, etc. -- indeed, many of the tactics we saw in the most recent election cycle), and that since such attempts are still occurring, Section 5 is still very much needed. The counter argument contends, correctly I believe, that the reason the problems are not occurring in Alabama today are _because_ Section 5 continues to work. They point out that Alabama has continued to have many proposed rule changes that have been successfully challenged under Section 5, which would indicate that attempts to discriminate are still very much in play. As for Shelby County's suggestion that Section 2 ex post facto litigation is a sufficient remedy, the counter argument is that federal litigation is prohibitively expensive and thus out of reach for many voters who might be discriminated against, and that in order to ensure that people's ability to exercise their right to vote is honored, it is important to head off discriminatory practice before they occur.

One thing that really struck me as I listened the various justices as they questioned the lawyers. The conservatives, Roberts, Scalia, Alito and Kennedy (Thomas, as per usual, had nothing to say), all based their questions on abstract theoretical bases, whereas the liberals, Breyer, Ginsburg, Kagan and Sotomayor, based their questions on what was actually happening on the ground. Abstract theory, of course, is a great way to shield oneself from what happens in real-world, practical application.

Scalia's comment that Section 5 creates a "racial entitlement" is possibly one of the most vile things I've ever heard a Supreme Court justice say. (ThinkProgress reported yesterday that in the lawyers' waiting room, which has a live audio feed to the proceedings, there were audible gasps when that comment was made.) Justice Roberts, quite disingenuously, suggests that the operative question is whether residents of southern states are more racist than those in northern states. That isn't the proper question at all. The proper question is whether the states that have been identified as falling under Section 5's federal oversight provisions have had a greater history of attempted voter discrimination than the states not so identified; and the answer to that is an unequivocal yes.

The questions and comments of Justice Sotomayor and Justice Kagan both stand out as exceptional, in my view, although Justices Ginsburg and Breyer are quite impressive as well. When I think of the racist and bigoted things that were said by right wingers during Justice Sotomayor's confirmation process impugning her intelligence, I find her performance here to be all the more gratifying.

Posted by markpkessinger | Sat Mar 2, 2013, 04:18 PM (1 replies)

(1) Yes, Scalia's an asshat; and (2) No, we shouldn't call for his impeachment . . .

. . . at least not on the basis of what is likely to be his ruling in the case involving the Voting Rights Act, how ever vile his reasoning. Look, it goes without saying that the man's statements in this case (among many others) were utterly despicable. But, leaving aside, for the moment, the fact that impeachment doesn't stand a snowball's chance in hell in the House, consider this: if we were to go down the path of impeaching a Supreme Court justice based on his ideologoical stance, it would set a dangerous precedent -- a precedent Republicans would seize upon at the first available opportunity in order to remove a more moderate or liberal justice whose rulings they disliked. Do you really want to open up that can of worms?
Posted by markpkessinger | Thu Feb 28, 2013, 09:10 PM (9 replies)
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