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markpkessinger

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Member since: Sat May 15, 2010, 03:48 PM
Number of posts: 7,555

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Saw something today that I just cannot get out of my head . . .

. . . It's not the first time I've seen it, nor will it be the last. Indeed, what I saw was a replay of something I've seen probably hundreds of times over the years. The setting may change, and the persons involved may be different, but the dynamic is unmistakeable.

So, I'm on the subway today. Seated opposite me in the car are a young couple, a man and a woman, could be married or just dating, in the midst of a very intense exchange. They're voices are low enough that I cannot make out what they're saying from where I sit. The young woman is seated, her body and head facing straight ahead, her eyes cast downward. She appears to be embarrassed for the two of them; she's clearly uncomfortable, and looks as if she would give just about anything for this little drama to be playing out somewhere -- anywhere -- other than in this public setting. The young man is seated next to her, his body turned towards and leaning into her, crowding her. His head and eyes are staring straight at the young woman, his flushed face less than two inches from hers. He is going on and on about something; although I can't hear his words, I can see the intense energy that is going into his enunciation of them and the pulsating veins in his neck and forehead. There is a menace in the young man's energy towards her; everything about his body language suggests an implied threat of violence, an intent to intimidate. Here and there, she appears to try to respond, although she never turns her head to look at him, and she never allows her eyes to look upwards or outwards, lest she catch the gaze of those around her, but the young man's rant continues. Finally, after the young woman has given up even trying to respond to him, it appears as if he has finished. His body turns to face forward again, his back comes to rest against the back of the set, his arms cross and he turns his head as if to look in the opposite direction from her. A look of relief begins to spread across the young woman's face, and the tension that had gripped her body seems as if it is about to abate. But only momentarily. After no more than 5 or 10 seconds, he's at it again.

As this all continues to play out, I know -- I KNOW -- there is much more, and much worse, that happens between them behind closed doors and out of public view. Inside my head, I am saying to her, "Don't let him do this to you! Don't let anyone do this to you! Drop him like the scum he clearly is!"; and to him, "Who ever told you that you had a right to do that to her or to anybody else?". For a moment, I think about giving actual voice to those thoughts. But no, I reason with myself, they're total strangers, and it isn't my place to intervene. And in any case, I don't know the whole story between the two of them. I pull out my phone and start reading my text messages -- anything to try to ignore what is happpening a few feet away, and to convince myself my conscience is clear. But that little voice continues to nag: "Hmm . . . 'Not my place to say anything' -- sounds a lot like rationalizing your own inaction. How many others whose paths have crossed with this couple have similarly rationalized looking the other way?" My internal debate is interrupted by the sound of a computer-generated, female voice intoning, "This is . . . Seventh Avenue . . .Fifty-Third . . . Street." The couple exits the train, and I am inwardly relieved that the decision of whether or not to speak up has been taken out of my hands, that my little crisis of conscience has been resolved for me. Until the next time, that is. And, barring my own untimely demise, there almost certainly WILL be a next time.

Ultimately, of course, I realize that if I had presumed to say what I wanted to say to this young couple, it might have had the unintended result of making things a whole lot worse for this young woman when the couple got home. But two questions continue to bother me (even though they are both really rhetorical ones): (1) who teaches young men that they are entitled to control, to own, the women they date and/or marry; and (2) who teaches young women that they should ever accept that kind of controlling behavior from someone else?
Posted by markpkessinger | Wed May 1, 2013, 04:57 PM (15 replies)

NY Times/Bruni: The Lesson of Boston

Note: Frank Bruni is not my favorite Times columnist, but this piece is perhaps one of the most insightful I've seen to date concerning the Boston bombings and our myriad reactions to them. I will post an excerpt, followed by the text of my own published comment to the article.


[font size=4]The Lesson of Boston[/font]

< . . . >

Our insistence on patterns and commonalities and some kind of understanding assumes coherence to the massacres, rationality. But the difference between the aimless, alienated young men who do not plant bombs or open fire on unsuspecting crowds — which is the vast majority of them — and those who do is less likely to be some discrete radicalization process that we can diagram and eradicate than a dose, sometimes a heavy one, of pure madness. And there’s no easy antidote to that. No amulet against it.

There’s also a danger built into the American experiment, the very nature of which leaves us exposed. Our rightly cherished diversity can make the challenge of belonging that much steeper. Our good fortune and leadership mean that we’ll be not just envied in the world, but also reviled.

< . . . >

While we can and will figure out small ways to be safer, we have to come to terms with the reality that we’ll never be safe, not with unrestricted travel through cyberspace. Not with the Second Amendment. Not with the privacy we expect. Not with the liberty we demand.

That’s the bargain we’ve made. It’s imperfect, but it’s the right one.


And here is my published comment to the article:

Mark Kessinger [font color="gray"]New York, NY[/font]

Mr. Bruni gets to the core of the matter as no one I have read to date has managed to do. In the wake of the Marathon bombings, we have seen everything from predictable, reactionary xenophobia and sectarian bigotry, to opportunistic political posturing from both ends of the political spectrum, to well-intended (and mostly hopelessly ineffective) suggestions for new security procedures in the hope that we can ward off the next incident. I saw one suggestion that all trash receptacles and mailboxes be removed during public events. And today it was reported that Mayor Menino is seeking surveillance drones for next year's marathon. (Mayor Menino failed to explain exactly how surveillance drones would accomplish any measure of increased protection against an unhinged individual or group bent on sowing mayhem. I mean, what do you do: program drones to track all young men carrying backpacks in a crowd of hundreds of thousands?)

I submit that all of the "enhanced security" procedures we have put into place since 9-11 -- from removing belts and shoes at airports, to confiscating toiletries that are half an ounce over the 2-ounce limit, to random bag checks at subway entrances, to virtual strip searches and intrusive patdowns at airports -- all of them fail to make us one iota safer. Collectively, they amount to an elaborate game of security Whack-A-Mole, each one aimed at the _last_ incident, and each of which will be factored into the plans of any future would-be 'terrorist.'

[link:http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/28/opinion/sunday/bruni-the-lesson-of-boston.html?comments#permid=30|April 28, 2013 at 2:57 a.m.
]


Posted by markpkessinger | Sun Apr 28, 2013, 02:38 AM (2 replies)

W's sick, demented comment about the 9-11 exhibit at his new library

In an interview, George W. Bush, speaking about the 9-11 exhibit at his new library, says, “It’s very emotional and very profound, One of the reasons it has to be is because memories are fading rapidly and the profound impact of that attack is becoming dim with time.” (I haven't provided a link, but if you Google the quote you'll find dozens upon dozens of articles in which the quote is reported.)

Am I the only one who finds that statement to be utterly appalling? I mean, for starters, the suggestion that the memories of 9-11 are "fading" is simply ridiculous -- no one who lived through it will ever forget the events of that day. But the suggestion that, after 11 and a half years, we should still be wallowing in the complex swirl of grief, fear and anger we experienced in the immediate aftermath of those events is frankly just twisted and sick. It is made all the more so when it comes from a man who so shamelessly manipulated those emotions in order to lead the country into a PRE-PLANNED war of aggression against a country that had never attacked the U.S. and had nothing whatsoever to do with the events of 9-11.

Bush and his cronies in the private defense contracting industry want to keep us, collectively, in a perpetual state of 'fight or flight,' all the better with which to manipulate us into their next war-for-fun-and-profit. Our 'fight or flight' response is a great evolutionary tool for survival should we happen to find ourselves confronted by a hungry lion on the African plain. But it serves no useful purpose whatsoever in determining how to approach threats over the long term, and it's a really shitty basis on which to base policy decisions.
Posted by markpkessinger | Sat Apr 27, 2013, 01:05 PM (33 replies)

So the debate is over, and Krugman won. Did anybody tell the President?

. . . I mean, surely he'll want to withdraw his proposed budget, since its deficit reduction emphasis has been found to have been based on a faulty premise. I mean, won't he??

Posted by markpkessinger | Sat Apr 27, 2013, 03:39 AM (9 replies)

Something about the reports of the Toronto/NY train terror plot troubles me . . .

. . . Mind you, if they have genuinely disrupted a plot, I'm grateful. But they keep saying the alleged terrorists were operating on instructions from Al Qaeda in Iran. Al Qaeda in Iran??? Al Qaeda is a Sunni organization; Iran is a Shia country. Sunnis and Shiites despise each other almost as much as they despise the U.S. That doesn't make any sense to me. Maybe I'm wrong, but color me skeptical.
Posted by markpkessinger | Wed Apr 24, 2013, 05:03 PM (17 replies)

NYTimes: Legal Questions Riddle Boston Marathon Case

The article excerpted below notes that there are a "host of freighted legal issues" surrounding this case, concerning the type of charge, which court to try him in, whether the act was a crime or an act of war, etc. All of these "freighted legal issues," it seems to me, arise from the fact that we are trying to turn what looks as if it was a heinous crime by a couple of disturbed individuals into an act of terrorism. The Justice Department is charging him with terrorism. I suspect that decision was intended to quiet conservative critics as much as anything (Krauthammer had a piece in the Washington Post the other day lambasting the President for being too timid about naming the Boston bombing a "terrorist" act). Here's a question that I think clarifies the issue: did anybody even suggest trying the Aurora, CO shooter as an enemy combatant, or to charge him with terrorism? No, of course not. He was simply a mass murderer. What is really the difference between the two cases, other than that the Boston bombers were Muslims? Nothing of substance that I can see. But it is a mistake to think that every crime committed by a Muslim is necessarily part of some wider movement, particularly when there is nothing that really suggests that was the case.

So, if my theory about the Justice Department's decision is correct, because the Administration doesn't want to risk accusations of being "soft on terror," although they know charging him as an enemy combatant wouldn't hold water, they think they can placate Republicans by charging the guy as a terrorist. But for this Administration to think that they can mollify Republicans in any way at all, given the history of the past four years, would be absurdly naive. Republicans will scream and stomp their feet and yell "Socialist!" and all manner of other things they typically do irrespective of whatever this Administration decides for or against doing. So, since you're not going to quiet that side of the room in any case, why not follow a more correct course -- trying him as any other mass murderer (unless evidence of a real terrorist link emerges) -- that doesn't incur the kinds of legal complications trying him as a terrorist incurs?

[font size=4]Legal Questions Riddle Boston Marathon Case[/font]
[font size = 2 color="gray"]By ETHAN BRONNER, CHARLIE SAVAGE and WILLIAM K. RASHBAUM
Published: April 20, 2013[/font]

The capture of the Boston Marathon bombing suspect raises a host of freighted legal issues for a society still feeling the shadow of Sept. 11, including whether he should be read a Miranda warning, how he should be charged, where he might be tried and whether the bombings on Boylston Street last Monday were a crime or an act of war.

< . . . >

¶ President Obama described the attack that Mr. Tsarnaev and his older brother, Tamerlan, 26, were accused of committing as “terrorism.” Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed.

¶ The administration has said it planned to begin questioning the younger Mr. Tsarnaev for a period without delivering the Miranda warning that he had a right to remain silent and to have a lawyer present.

< . . . >

Still, there is not yet any public evidence suggesting that Mr. Tsarnaev was part of Al Qaeda or its associated forces — the specific enemy with which the United States is engaged in an armed conflict. And some legal specialists also doubted that the Constitution would permit holding a suspect like Mr. Tsarnaev as an enemy combatant.

< . . . >
Posted by markpkessinger | Sun Apr 21, 2013, 03:21 AM (4 replies)

A letter I sent today to Sens. Baucus, Heitkamp, Begich and Pryor

Dear Senators Baucus, Heitkamp, Begich and Pryor:

I write, as a fellow Democrat, to express my utter disgust for the complete lack of humanity you demonstrated with your cowardly vote against allowing a vote on the bill requiring universal background checks for gun purchasers. I expected as much from Republican senators, who have long since given up even the pretense of trying to do the right thing for the country. I did not expect it from any Democrat.

I understand you were concerned that voting to allow a vote on the bill might have made you vulnerable to attack by the NRA, and thus might have been a risk to your retention of your Senate seat. But as a moral matter, your first obligation is to do what is right for the American people, NOT to protect your own political hide! That you could take such a vote, even as the families of Newtown victims looked on from the Senate gallery only serves to underscore your own moral depravity. You are a disgrace to your Party and to the office you hold, and if you had so much as a shred of decency, would promptly tender your resignation.

Sincerely,
Mark P. Kessinger

Posted by markpkessinger | Thu Apr 18, 2013, 12:58 PM (21 replies)

The Great Security Delusion

In the wake of the Boston bombings, we are hearing all sorts of suggestions from folks trying to be helpful about how to "improve" security -- usually involving restricting use of something or instituting some new screening procedure. It is as if we believe that somewhere out there in the universe there is some perfect combination of security procedures, policies, surveillance and hyper-aggressive policing that will protect us from future attacks by committed terrorists, if only we could just discover it. So, after the 9-11 hijackers employ box cutters, a ban on bladed tools (such as screwdrivers) is put in place. And when one man tries unsuccessfully to ignite a shoe bomb on board an airplane, we institute a policy that has forced hundreds of millions of travelers to remove belts and shoes at airports. A foiled liquid bomb plot in London means half the contents of that lovely Clinique for Men skin care basket your sister gave you at Christmas gets seized at the airport. Thanks to an unsuccessful underwear bomber, those same travelers now get to endure either a virtual strip search or a humiliating pat down. In the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings, there is a current thread here on DU calling for removal of mailboxes and trash containers during public events.

Every one of these newly instituted policies rests on the same fundamental fallacy: i.e., that because terrorist X tried to do (or succeeded in doing) Y utilizing Z, the entire public's use of Z must be drastically curtailed or modified in order to keep us "safe" from a future attack of the same nature. The problem, of course, is that every one of these new policies and procedures is aimed at the LAST terrorist attack or attempt, and committed terrorists, intending not to get caught and always wanting to play on the element of surprise (a key ingredient in fostering terror), will always look for a method of carrying our their plans that is specifically designed to evade whatever mechanisms and procedures happen to be in force in any given place or time. And the simple, harsh truth of the matter, which many of us are unwilling to face, is that there is absolutely no way to plan for every contingency or prevent every plot. There is no security procedure or combination of procedures that can ultimately prevent a person intent on doing harm to others in a public setting from doing so. Sure, a few procedures might make sense -- there is no reason to make it easy to get a gun on board an airplane, for example, so metal detectors certainly make sense -- but beyond a few common-sense practices and procedures, this ever-escalating spiral of layer upon layer of security procedure accomplishes nothing more than creating a delusion of security. And while some of us might find comfort in that delusion, at a certain point all of these new procedures not only fail to enhance anybody's real security, but they become a colossal waste of resources as well.

I think there's a reason the Constitution makes no mention whatsoever of "public safety" or "public security." I think our founders understood well that the world is often a very dangerous place, and that in a society where we enjoy (relative) freedom of movement, there is necessarily an inherently greater relative risk that someone committed to doing us harm may, on occasion, succeed in doing so. Ben Franklin's famous quote points precisely to this trade-off: "Those who would purchase a little temporary safety by sacrificing essential liberty deserve neither safety nor liberty." Horrifying as these events certainly are when they occur, it is worth remembering that they remain exceedingly rare in this country. And in terms of probability, the likelihood that any particular individual will be injured in or die from one of these terrorist events remains a long way down the scale of probability from, say, getting struck by lightening.
Posted by markpkessinger | Wed Apr 17, 2013, 09:52 PM (1 replies)

Reflections in the Aftermath of Terror

[This was originally a Facebook status update of mine.]

Am finding myself at a loss for words in the wake of yesterday's events. I am already thorougly disgusted with all the speculation about who might have been responsible, by media pundits, as well as the general public, from across the political spectrum. New York Republican Congressman (and former IRA gun runner and overall pig of human being) Peter King was on the news whipping up the anti-Muslim hysteria, solemnly intoning that the bombings had "all the earmarks of Al Qaeda." The trouble with a statement like that is that terrorist acts, irrespective of who or what group happens to be behind them, ALL look like that more or less. I was likewise, and equally, appalled by pundits and others from the left/progressive end of the spectrum rushing in to declare yesterday to have been the work of some violent right wing fringe group. Either one of those is certainly among the possible explanations. Then again, it might just be some deranged, Unabomber type. We just don't know, and thus far don't have enough information to even begin to make an intelligent guess. So all that speculation serves no good purpose whatsoever.

I do worry a great deal, though, how we, as a nation, will deal with and respond to the events of yesterday. The fact is, our track record for handling things in a constructive and healing manner in the aftermath of things like this is abysmal. The raw emotion we feel, as a nation, when something like this happens is all perfectly healthy and natural. So is the transformation of our emotions we experience, as our sorrow begins to morph into anger and then on into blind rage. We have tended, as a society, to allow those raw emotions drive our response to events like this. After the Japanese government bombed Pearl Harbor in 1941, that kind of blind rage led an entire nation to see absolutely nothing wrong with rounding up hundreds of thousands of American citizens of Japanese descent. As a nation we didn't blink an eye as these citizens, many of whose families had been living here, as Americans, for several generations, were stripped of their property and livelihoods, and whole families shipped to remote, isolated internment camps based on not a scintilla of evidence that they were in any way involved with the Japanese government or were in any way disloyal to the U.S.

LIkewise after 9/11, most of the country thought nothing at all of the fact that Muslim Americans (particularly those of Middle Eastern descent) were being widely harrassed, and in some cases even detained for long periods without charge, for no other reason than that they happened to be Muslims. That collective, blind rage was then seized upon by an opportunistic administration as it led the nation into a war of aggression againt a country which had not attacked us and had nothing whatsoever to do with 9-11 (and which turned out to be an unqualified moral disaster and economic debacle for us). No matter, they played on that collective rage shamelessly as they proceeded to build a fraudulent case for carrying out their pre-planned war.

It was the toxic mixture of that sense of rage with an overriding sense of fear that caused the vast majority of us to stand complacently by while politicians passed laws that effectively eliminated some of our most cherished Constitutional freedoms and protections, and as our cities were effectively transformed into police states. Most of us bought into it because we desperately want to believe that there is some perfect combination of surveillance technology, random, intrusive searches and aggressive policing that will be able to shield us from such acts in the future. But the hard fact of the matter -- a fact we desperately need to come to grips with -- is that there is NO such combination that can or will protect us from someone who is truly determined to do us harm. There's a reason why the phrase "public safety" appears nowhere in the Constitution: our founders understood clearly that the world is a dangerous place. They knew that to live in a society where there is (relative) freedom of movement means to live in a society where there is a (relatively) higher risk that someone intent on causing harm to others may, on occasion, succeed.

I dearly hope that this time around, before we start persecuting yet another ethnic minority and before allowing our fears to demand ever more numerous and intrusive measures and policies in the name of "keeping us safe," we can instead begin to carefully contemplate what conditions might have given rise to a person or group feeling as if terrorism was their best chance of being heard (whoever that individual or group might be). And I also hope more of us, this time, will remember that terrorism is still a very rare occurrence here, and that the likelihood of any particular individual dying in a terrorist incident is far, far down the scale from being struck by lightening. That's what I hope for. But I gotta tell you, I'm not terribly optimistic about it actually working out that way.
Posted by markpkessinger | Tue Apr 16, 2013, 01:03 PM (3 replies)

Truthout/Democrats Hide When Asked About Ending High-Income Loophole to Assure Social Security's Fut

Fucking cowards.

[font size=4]Democrats Hide When Asked About Ending High-Income Loophole to Assure Social Security's Future [/font]

< . . . >

Public support for elimination of the payroll tax cap is high. According to a National Academy of Social Insurance Survey conducted in 2012, 68 percent of Americans favor eliminating the cap.

< . . . >

Nevertheless, these routes to ensuring the promises made to workers that they could rely Social Security benefits are kept is little discussed on Capitol Hill. And even though the national Democratic Party has presented itself as the defender of Social Security, Remapping Debate discovered a profound unwillingness among most Democratic senators to identify their position on the issue.

< . . . >

For the majority of Senators, when we left a message for the appropriate press person, that representative never replied. For example, we reached out to Senator Patty Murray’s (D-Wash.) office six times, but no one got back to us. We left the press secretary for Senator Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) five voicemails with no response. We then tried Donnelly’s communications director through voicemail and email and did not receive a reply. We tried Senator Maria Cantwell’s (D-Wash.) press office a total of eight times, and left voicemails for her communications director and deputy communications director, but neither returned our calls or emails.

Remapping Debate also never heard back from the press offices of Senators Max Baucus (D-Mont), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), William Cowan (D-Mass.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Tim Johnson (D-S.D.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Christopher Murphy (D-Conn), Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), and Tom Udall (D-N.M.).

< . . . >
Posted by markpkessinger | Mon Apr 15, 2013, 03:35 AM (6 replies)
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