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Member since: Sat May 15, 2010, 04:48 PM
Number of posts: 7,209

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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, 07:57 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, 03:56 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, 05:10 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, 12:54 PM (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, 06:38 PM (34 replies)

An important point that is getting lost amid the Russian Hacking scandal . . .

We can certainly all agree that any attempt by a foreign government to exert influence on American elections is unacceptable, and must be thoroughly (and independently) investigated. But there remains an important point that appears to be in serious danger of being obscured. That is, that had the leaked DNC emails not revealed what they did, in fact, reveal -- i.e., a very corrupt DNC that was improperly putting a thumb on the scales on behalf of a particular candidate during the primaries -- then the leaked emails would have had little impact. By all means, let's investigate Russia's involvement. But if the Democratic Party chooses to focus only on Russia's involvement while glossing over the corruption and duplicity of the DNC, we will have failed to learn the lessons of 2016.
Posted by markpkessinger | Wed Dec 14, 2016, 01:40 PM (18 replies)

Harry Reid was the ONLY Senate Democrat who did the right thing . . .

. . . in voting against the override of the President's veto. The rest were a bunch of gutless wonders!
Posted by markpkessinger | Thu Sep 29, 2016, 10:58 PM (4 replies)

Campaign Hillary needs to get its act together

A friend of mine who lives in Ohio -- a key battleground state in this race -- posted this today on Facebook:

OK... I'm voting for Clinton. There's no doubt about that and pretty much regardless of anything that happens 'twixt now and November 8, that's what will happen.

BUT! – 16 days ago I made a contribution to her campaign and ordered a yard sign for my home. I think it important to put that up and out there in a town where I've seen NO Clinton signs, but I have seen Trump signs (I pass four of them on my way to the office everyday and have seen others elsewhere in town and county).

After 14 days of not receiving the sign (for which the shipping charge was $12), I filled out a "contact" form on the Hillary website. Today I received a reply which included this: "Thank you for reaching out. If you have made a donation and are expecting a piece of merchandise in return, please allow approximately 6-8 weeks for delivery."


8 WEEKS? The election will have happened before I get my sign. There will be no public display of support for a Clinton presidency in my neighborhood.

Is this any way to run a campaign? If you want your supporters to show their support, you'd sure as hell better get their public signs and bumper stickers and whatever else to them faster than "approximately 6-8 weeks"! Especially if you're charging them $12 for shipping a flimsy sheet of plastic and wire frame!

It's the little things that drive you crazy!

The "little things," indeed! Like me, my friend was a Sanders suporter during the primaries and now is supporting Clinton. This is a tight race, and a "little thing" like this, insofar ad it indicates the campaign's lack of responsiveness to supporters, is the kind of thing that could blow it in November.

One of the things that is critical to getting out the vote is making your supporters feel as if it is their campaign as much as it is yours. This is something Bernie's campaign did brilliantly (in some cases, almost too brilliantly). An aloof campaign will not win this election.

Get your shit together, Campaign Hillary!
Posted by markpkessinger | Wed Sep 14, 2016, 01:14 PM (191 replies)

So I hear Trump, that P.T. Barnum of American politics, has a new campaign theme song . . .

Posted by markpkessinger | Mon Sep 12, 2016, 03:52 PM (0 replies)

Calling out the extremely toxic effects of repressive hetero-normative culture is NOT homophobia...

. . . nor is it "victim blaming." I say this as a gay man who has been out and proud for 36 years (since age 19). Rather, it is about recognizing how truly toxic a virulently repressive, hetero-normative culture can be in some instances. In the case of the Orlando shooter, you can agree or disagree that his own, internal conflict over his sexual identity was at issue, but to say that any suggestion that it might have been so is "homophobic" or represents "victim blaming" is to profoundly misunderstand what is being said (and what isn't being said). This isn't blaming his outburst on the fact that he might have been gay himself, but rather is blaming the repressive culture in which he grew up that lay at the source of his internal conflict.

In fact, I would go so far as to say that by denying that this could possibly have been a factor, what you are actually doing is getting hetero-normative culture off the hook for its own toxicity!
Posted by markpkessinger | Tue Jun 21, 2016, 09:13 PM (15 replies)
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