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About that second accuser . . .

Posted by markpkessinger | Tue Nov 21, 2017, 05:04 PM (63 replies)

Every last Republican owns a share of responsibility for Charlottesville

[NOTE: This is something I posted to Facebook earlier today.]

Trump's belated and grudging condemnation of white supremacists has rightly been criticized as being too little, too late. But so, frankly, has been the reaction of the Republican Party as a whole, including those Republicans who immediately condemned Trump's initial, tepid response to the events in Charlottesville.

Look, the overt racism that was on display in Charlottesville by the alt-right did not just appear from nowhere. This has been a long time in coming, and Republican politicians and voters alike have had plenty of opportunities to both identify and to call out the growing racist elements within their ranks. But for many Republican politicians, including most of those who have condemned Trump, so long as they could conceivably hide behind a kind of plausible deniability, they were perfectly willing to turn a blind eye to what was happening in their midst merely to gain those folks' vote. It really isn't only Donald Trump who is a day late and a dollar short.

The time to identify and call out your party's growing acceptance of racist rhetoric and undertones was 49 years ago, when Nixon launched his 'Southern Strategy,' which was a deliberate attempt to exploit the anger of Southern (mostly Democratic) whites over the passage of the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1965.

Or it was in 1976, when presidential candidate Ronald Reagan introduced America to his mythical "Welfare Queen," of whom Reagan said: "She used 80 names, 30 addresses, 15 telephone numbers to collect food stamps, Social Security, veterans’ benefits for four nonexistent deceased veteran husbands, as well as welfare. Her tax-free cash income alone has been running $150,000 a year." (Although he didn't specifically refer to race, it was widely understood that he was referring to urban, single black mothers.)

Or it could have been 37 years ago, when Ronald Reagan launched his presidential campaign by delivering a speech just outside of Philadelphia, Mississippi, where just 16 years before three civil rights activists had been brutally murdered, in which he strongly asserted his belief in "states' rights" -- a coded that has been used since the time of the Civil War to signal support for white racists across the South and elsewhere.

We could look also to the presidential campaign of 1988, during which George H.W. Bush ran his infamous Willie Horton ad, that clearly exploited white stereotypes about black men. (William Horton himself never used and was never called by the name 'Willie', but the decision to refer to him using a diminutive nickname was itself a deliberate attempt to play into a stereotype many held of black men.)

Perhaps we could look at the years 1989 through 1991, when Lee Atwater, campaign strategist for both Reagan and George H.W. Bush was chairman of the Republican National Committee. Atwater had been covertly recorded in an interview in 1981 explaining how the Southern Strategy operated:

""You start out in 1954 by saying, "Nigger, nigger, nigger." By 1968 you can't say "nigger"—that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like, uh, forced busing, states' rights, and all that stuff, and you're getting so abstract. Now, you're talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you're talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites.… "We want to cut this," is much more abstract than even the busing thing, uh, and a hell of a lot more abstract than "Nigger, nigger."" (See http://www.esquire.com/news-politics/politics/news/a42254/lee-atwater-grave-south-carolina/ .)

And let us not forget the plethora of outrageously racist signs and placards that were on display at the Tea Party rallies of 2009 and for a couple of years following. For that matter, let's not forget the duration of the Obama presidency, during which Republican voters circulated some of the most outrageously racist jokes and caricatures of President Obama and his family amongst themselves, and during which Donald Trump himself spearheaded a movement based on nothing other than the racist notion that a black man couldn't possibly be a legitimate president, calling into question is citizenship when there was NOT A SHRED of evidence to support the contention that he was in any way ineligible to run for the presidency.

No, sorry Republicans, you do not get a pass on this. Nor do you get to lay it entirely at Trump's feet. Plenty of us on the left tried to point out what was happening to your party right under your noses as the events above, among many others, unfolded. At first, you just shrugged and looked the other way – that is, until you happened upon your catch-all term you now use to dismiss every criticism, how ever valid, that comes your way. From that point on to today, you have dismissed every criticism, irrespective of that criticism’s validity, by waving it away as being “politically correct.” No, Republicans. You -- every one of you -- played a role in the events in this past weekend’s tragic events in Charlottesville.
Posted by markpkessinger | Mon Aug 14, 2017, 08:10 PM (3 replies)

No one will ever convince me . . .

. . .that the white nationalists in Charlottesville, at least half of whom probably couldn't name within a decade the year the Civil War started or ended, are even remotely interested in preserving the historical legacy of Robert E. Lee.
Posted by markpkessinger | Sun Aug 13, 2017, 06:39 PM (4 replies)

Barbara Cook, Broadway Star Who Became a Cabaret Mainstay, Dies at 89

Source: The New York Times

[font size=1]Barbara Cook in concert at Carnegie Hall in 2006. Credit Richard Termine for The New York Times[/font]

Barbara Cook, a lyric soprano whose rousing songs and romantic ballads touched America’s heart in an odyssey that began in the golden age of Broadway musicals, overcame alcoholism, depression and obesity, and forged a second life in cabarets and concert halls, died early Tuesday at her home in Manhattan. She was 89.

Adam LeGrant, her son and only immediate survivor, said the cause was respiratory failure.

In 2011, six decades after her Broadway debut in a short-lived musical, Ms. Cook received Kennedy Center Honors from President Barack Obama. It had been a remarkable journey from a broken home in Atlanta to national renown as a singer who never learned to read music but became one of the finest emotive interpreters of the Great American Songbook.

While her voice had darkened over the years, critics said that even in her mid-80s it retained the richness, clarity and expressiveness of the Broadway ingénue she had been in 1957, when she rendered “Goodnight, My Someone” and a soaring “Till There Was You” as the original Marian, the librarian, in Meredith Willson’s blockbuster “The Music Man.”

Read more: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/08/theater/barbara-cook-dead.html?smid=fb-share

[font size=5]Barbara Cook, Broadway Star Who Became a Cabaret Mainstay, Dies at 89[font]

Barbara Cook and Glen Campbell - on the same day.
Posted by markpkessinger | Tue Aug 8, 2017, 05:28 PM (7 replies)

Syria's war: Who is fighting and why [Updated]

This is a video by Ezra Klein about what is going on in Syria that I think many will find very helpful.

Posted by markpkessinger | Sun Apr 9, 2017, 06:57 PM (0 replies)

Oral argument in Washington v. Trump

(I cannot recommend this highly enough. This is the oral argument that took place in federal court in Seattle, in which the State of Washington sought a temporary restraining order on Trump's travel ban. Note that this is a CONSERVATIVE judge, appointed by George W. Bush. He listens fairly to the arguments of both sides, and he challenges the arguments of both sides, before rendering his decision in favor of the State of Washington, effectively blocking Trump's travel ban until the case can be heard on appeal and decided on its merits. This is a fine judge, who understands what the role of the courts is, and what its limitations are, and he rules accordingly.)

Posted by markpkessinger | Mon Feb 6, 2017, 02:56 PM (3 replies)

Remember when conservatives stood for slow, incremental change?

A new blog post I just published at DailyKos.

[font size=5]Remember when conservatives stood for slow, incremental change?[/font]

by markpkessinger

Remember when conservatives stood for, or at least claimed to stand for, slow, incremental, responsible change?

In recent conversations with a number of Trump voters, I have heard more than one person say that he or she voted for Trump because they (and presumably Trump) believe in “conservative values.’ Those who say they supported Trump because he represents 'conservative values' either don't understand what 'conservative values' has traditionally meant, or they are rank hypocrites. There is nothing at all conservative about Trump's nihilistic agenda. It is a radical agenda, and traditionally, it is radicalism, not liberalism, that has been the polar opposite of conservatism.

To take just one example from the past week: Trump's wholesale suspension of EPA admissions standards, and appointing an EPA director who is intent on abolishing the agency. Look, the EPA was not the invention of some lefty tree hugger clad in earth shoes. It was proposed in 1970 by none other than Richard Nixon, and passed in Congress with broad bipartisan support. And anybody old enough to remember what this country was like in the years prior to the EPA can tell you why. And it has, without question, vastly improved the air and water quality in this country.

Republicans have always been cautious about what they see as over-regulation, because, being the party of big business interests, such regulations impose additional costs on the business interests they have historically represented. But generally speaking, most Republicans of earlier generations could be persuaded to support regulation if it could be shown that such regulation was clearly in the public interest. Democrats, for their part, tended to place a higher priority on public health and safety (along with worker health and safety), and thus, it could be argued, were not always sensitive to the costs involved in proposed new regulations (although in most cases, it was because they placed a higher premium on public health and safety than on corporate profits). But they, too, were often willing to compromise if it was clearly shown that a proposed regulation would be unduly burdensome.

So that was how business was done back when our politics was still more or less functional: both sides recognized a problem that needed addressing, and then the struggle ensued over exactly how to address it. Makes sense.

But over the last 20 years or so -- it's hard to pinpoint, but I tend to think it began in the mid-90s, when Newt Gingrich was Speaker of the House -- this pattern began to shift. Or rather, I should say, one party, the GOP, began to embrace a new strategy, one in which they would no longer argue and negotiate with the opposition over the severity of an issue, or over the extent to which an issue needed to be addressed by legislative or regulatory action, but would instead simply deny outright that entire categories of issues even existed. For Republicans, it became no longer a question of balancing competing, but legitimate, interests; for rather about serving ONE set of interests while completely denying the legitimacy and/or the existence of any competing ones.

Actually, it occurs to me that the ideological underpinnings of this newer strategy lay in the virulent anti-government rhetoric of Ronald Reagan, even if it did not find its fullest expression during his presidency. Reagan’s “government is the problem” mantra was surely one of the most toxic ideas ever to enter this country’s public discourse. But irrespective of where, precisely, one dates this strategic shift by the GOP, it did occur, and was, I believe, a fundamental breakdown in the kind of good faith governance on the part of both parties that is essential to the functioning of the republic under a two-party system such as we have. Whether a party finds itself in the majority or in the minority at any given moment in history, the recognition that the opposition party’s constituency are also still citizens, with legitimate interests that may or may not prevail on a given issue, but must always be considered, remains incumbent upon both parties if the republic is to function.

And that brings us to this past week. Whereas in the past, one could expect a new regulatory standard from the EPA to encounter some serious push-back from Republicans on the grounds of the costs of compliance to certain industries, now they do an end run around all of that, and simply attempt to abolish, or at least neuter, the regulatory agency itself, in effect denying the very existence of the problem the agency was created to address. Debate over whether a regulation goes too far, or costs too much in relation to whatever public benefit might result—that's a healthy debate we should all welcome, because it is in no one's interest to cripple business or the larger economy, and if there truly is some sort of real risk to certain industries or the economy as a whole, that should certainly at least be debated and considered. And indeed, that is, ideally, the role conservatism is supposed to play in public discourse. And likewise, conservatives should welcome serious debate about the public health and safety issues at stake in the same debate, since it is also their health and safety that is potentially at risk. But when one side simply refuses to engage the issue, and instead denies that there even IS an issue, that is NOT healthy. And it most certainly is not conservative in any sense of the word. It is, in fact, the exact opposite of conservatism: it is radicalism. And it's fucking insane.

And that's what we are now seeing unfolding: sheer, fucking insanity by a bunch of neo-confederate nihilists, drunk on the power they now hold and newly enabled by the belligerent, overgrown adolescent narcissist who occupies 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, who are intent on rolling back every bit of progress this country has made in the last 100 years,

Trump and Republicans are playing with fire. I sense there is something in the air: people are simply not willing to sit back and allow this to happen. This is the stuff of which bloody revolutions are made, and if that prospect doesn't scare the bejesus out of you, you haven't read enough history. Because revolutions -- even perfectly justifiable ones -- fail far more often than they succeed, and when they fail, the aftermath can be even worse than what people rose up against. But, one way or another, the current situation cannot, and I believe will not, stand.

Posted by markpkessinger | Thu Jan 26, 2017, 04:10 PM (4 replies)

"Should celebrities comment on politics" is the wrong question here . . .

Lots of discussion around the 'net today on the question of whether celebrities should comment on politics. But here's the thing: Meryl Streep's comments were NOT ABOUT POLITICS -- not a single word of what she said referenced politics in any way. Trump's behavior, when he attempted to silence a reporter (by mocking his disability and trying to publicly humiliate him) who had called him out on one of his outright lies -- that wasn't 'politics'. It was boorish bullying, behavior that was in violation of every adult norm of human decency our society knows. And that kind of behavior deserves to be called out in any and every forum!
Posted by markpkessinger | Tue Jan 10, 2017, 11:54 AM (17 replies)

Senator Bill Nelson on the Fort Lauderdale shooting -- WTF?

CBS is reporting that the Fort Lauderdale shooter had the gun in his checked baggage, that he retrieved his bags, removed the gun, and made his way to a restroom to load it. All the while, they are talking about how much wider the security perimeter needs to be at airports. But, if it is true that he retrieved it from his checked baggage, seems to me the solution is much simpler: ban weapons from ALL air travel, whether checked or not. This would be a simple, and nearly cost-free, solution.

Incredibly, when one of the talking heads raised that idea, Florida Senator Bill Nelson immediately dismissed it, saying, "What about hunters?" EXCUSE ME?? Whatever may be said of the right to own firearms, there is NO Constitutional right to hunt or to carry weapons on an airplane! The idea that the rest of us need to accommodate the convenience of hunters is simply outrageous! Apparently, Senator Nelson thinks the lives and safety of the traveling public should take a back seat to the convenience of the relative minority of people who hunt!
Posted by markpkessinger | Fri Jan 6, 2017, 05:38 PM (34 replies)
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