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Member since: Sat May 15, 2010, 04:48 PM
Number of posts: 8,191

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Came across a wonderful New York story about Harry Belafonte . . .

. . . In 1958, when he was already an international start, Belafonte and his wife were looking for an apartment in Manhattan. He saw one that he really wanted -- a 21-room, 6-bedroom sprawler at 300 West End Avenue. At the time, though, many Manhattan landlords would refuse to rent to black tenants, even very prominent, wealthy ones like Belafonte. So Belafonte sent his white manager to fill out the application and paperwork as if for himself, and then, when it was approved, signed the lease in his own name.

When the landlord found out he had a black tenant, he promptly asked Belafonte to leave. Belafonte was so furious at the insult that he bought the entire building. And one of the first tenants he brought in was singer Lena Horne, who rented the penthouse. She and her white husband had been living for years out of hotels because of the same prejudice!

Belafonte eventually converted the building to a co-op, and he continued to reside there for nearly 50 years!
Posted by markpkessinger | Wed Apr 26, 2023, 03:50 PM (0 replies)

Cultural norms and the danger of parochial moral absolutism

If the kerfuffle over the Dalai Lama's interaction with a young boy demonstrates anything, it should be to drive home the danger and folly of viewing the customs of a foreign culture through a lens of moral absolutism grounded in the values of our own culture only, even, and especially, when we are a little too arrogantly sure that our society's values are oh-so-enlightened. Reading some of the comments on this board made me think that perhaps all of us are in need of a refresher in Anthropology 101!

The reality is that customs that look very weird and inappropriate in the context of our culture might be thoroughly appropriate in the context of another. (If you haven't yet watched the video posted by Richard D in which a young Tibetan man explains the context for kissing on the lips and sticking out tongues, I urge you to do so (see https://www.democraticunderground.com/1017820070 ).

The important thing to remember is that a gesture that seems, and indeed may be, wildly inappropriate in one cultural context can be utterly benign in another. And when we lose sight of that, even the most progressive among us can wind up looking like cultural boors!
Posted by markpkessinger | Thu Apr 13, 2023, 04:37 PM (4 replies)

Trump warns of 'death and destruction' if he's indicted in NY case

At what point does this become a terroristic threat?

From the NY Daily News Evening Edition:

Trump warns of 'death and destruction' if he's indicted in NY case

Former President Donald Trump Friday warned of “death and destruction” if he is indicted for paying hush money to porn star Stormy Daniels.

Raising the rhetorical heat, Trump suggested that his supporters will respond with fury if he is criminally charged in the case as early as next week when a grand jury reconvenes to deliberate.

“Potential death & destruction in such a false charge could be catastrophic for our Country,” Trump wrote on his social media site.

Trump falsely claimed last weekend that he would be arrested in the case on Tuesday and urged his supporters to “protest, take our nation back.”

[ . . . .]
Posted by markpkessinger | Fri Mar 24, 2023, 04:13 PM (25 replies)

Sorry, but I do not trust Alvin Bragg

An article in yesterday's NY Times, titled "The Legal Intricacies That Could Make or Break the Case Against Trump" (see https://www.nytimes.com/2023/03/21/nyregion/trump-indictment-legal-theory.html?searchResultPosition=10) does a nice job of laying out the legal complexities of Bragg's case against Trump. As the articles notes, DA Bragg "may have to pull off a difficult maneuver, connecting the hush-money cover-up — a potential violation of state law — to a federal election." The article goes on to explain:

The details of any indictment that may be handed up as soon as this week are not yet known, and Mr. Bragg could charge any number of crimes. But there is a possibility that the case will rely on a legal theory that has never been evaluated by a judge.

[ . . . . ]

The case could hinge on the way Mr. Trump and his company, the Trump Organization, handled reimbursing Mr. Cohen for the payment of $130,000 to Ms. Daniels. Internal Trump Organization records falsely classified the reimbursements as legal expenses, which helped conceal the purpose of the payments, according to Mr. Cohen, who said Mr. Trump knew about the misleading records. (Mr. Trump’s lawyers deny that.)

In New York, falsifying business records can be a crime, and Mr. Bragg’s office is likely to build the case around that charge, according to people with knowledge of the matter and outside legal experts. The false business records charge is the bread and butter of the district attorney’s office white-collar practice — since Mr. Bragg took office in 2022, prosecutors have filed 117 felony counts of the charge, against 29 individuals and companies, according to data kept by the office.

But for falsifying business records to be a felony, not a misdemeanor, Mr. Bragg’s prosecutors must show that Mr. Trump’s “intent to defraud” included an intent to commit or conceal a second crime. That crime could be a violation of election law, under the theory that the payout served as a donation to Mr. Trump’s campaign, because it silenced Ms. Daniels and shut down a potential sex scandal in the final stretch of the campaign.

Although the district attorney’s office need not obtain a conviction on the election law violation, or even include it in the indictment, that second crime might be the aspect of the legal theory that is most vulnerable to attack.

So why do I distrust Bragg?

Here's the thing: just over a year ago, two highly experienced prosecutors, Mark Pomerantz and Carey Dunne, resigned in protest over Bragg's refusal to proceed with a racketeering case against Trump and the Trump Organization, which they believed was strong and which was ready to go. So how is it that Bragg went from refusing to prosecute a case involving a much more legally significant charge that two much more experienced prosecutors believed was solid and were ready to prosecute, to a year later being willing to try a case based on an untested legal theory, involving a much lesser charge? That really doesn't make much sense, and it makes me wonder what game Bragg might be playing.
Posted by markpkessinger | Thu Mar 23, 2023, 11:25 AM (47 replies)

NYC Mayor Adams dismisses separation of church and state principle, says he's 'servant of God'

Can we ditch this guy, already? Now, please!

From the New York Daily News:

Mayor Adams dismissed the notion that there should be a separation between church and state in U.S. society on Tuesday, drawing ire from fellow Democrats who contended that line of argument runs counter to long-held American values.

Adams, who’s Christian, has over the course of his political career spoken extensively about how important faith is in civic life and said as recently as last February that “God” told him to become mayor.

But his comments Tuesday morning, delivered at an interfaith breakfast at the New York Public Library’s central branch in Manhattan, took it a step further.

The tone was set by Ingrid Lewis-Martin, Adams’ chief adviser in City Hall, who introduced him at the event by declaring that the mayor’s administration “does not believe” it must “separate church from state.” “Ingrid was so right,” Adams said once he took the stage. “Don’t tell me about no separation of church and state. State is the body, church is the heart. You take the heart out of the body, the body dies. I can’t separate my beliefs because I’m an elected official.”

Jesus Fucking Christ!
Posted by markpkessinger | Tue Feb 28, 2023, 04:00 PM (13 replies)

If House Republicans had even an ounce of sense . . .

. . . they would nominate Liz Cheney as Speaker. Sure, they would lose the hard core MAGA types, but enough Democrats might be persuaded to go along out of gratitude for the integrity she displayed on the 1/6 Committee!

Mind you, as a Democrat, that wouldn't make me particularly happy, because Liz Cheney, whatever her good traits, can also be a royal pain in the ass, and would be a tough adversary for Democrats to deal with! But Republicans are too caught up in their Trump-love to be able to see that!
Posted by markpkessinger | Wed Jan 4, 2023, 06:29 PM (10 replies)

Great comment by a NY Times reader . . .

. . . and one that very much reflects what I've been feeling!

Mark 5 hrs ago

81 years ago next month, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. We did not waste time asking why the Japanese attacked us or who was to blame for not having better defenses.

24 hours after the attack, FDR was standing before Congress asking for a declaration of war. Within 4 hours, he got it.

The GOP intends harm to our country, and they have the means to do it. The relevant question is not how did we get to this point. The relevant question is, what are we going to do to stop them before they can do even more damage?

When we ask that question, we need to be looking at responses within a Pearl Harbor time frame, and not a Merrick Garland timeframe. Having to wait more than two years to stop an enemy is useless.

Here's a link to the comment: https://www.nytimes.com/2022/11/08/opinion/midterms-republicans-election-denialism.html#commentsContainer&permid=121378932
Posted by markpkessinger | Tue Nov 8, 2022, 06:13 PM (43 replies)

Responding to a letter to the NY Times' Ethicist

Today I had to respond to a letter that appeared in the NY Times' The Ethicist column (see https://www.nytimes.com/2022/08/30/magazine/elderly-assistance-racism-ethics.html ). It is the third letter in the column. It reads:

We are a group of gay men who have known one another for several years. One of the men came out a few years ago. I’ll call him John. John recently came out again, now as transgender. John’s desire that we call him by a new name (correcting us when we refer to him as John), his need to talk with us incessantly about his transition, his change of clothing, the slow physical effects of the hormones he is taking — all of this has become a challenge for the rest of the group when we hang around together.

But our real concern is that we recently planned a gay tour in Mexico. The tour is very structured, with little personal time. Our group makes up a majority of the tour.

John seems to think that we should all accept his new identity without reservation, with as much cheer and acceptance as he does for himself, not thinking or caring about how any of us might feel.

As superficial as this sounds, we no longer want our friend John to join us. There are reasons that gay men enjoy traveling together, and it’s not to hang around with a woman.

Straight people imagine that gay men view trans men/women in the same inclusive bubble as other gay men. We are all, so the acronym implies, part of that big, progressive L.G.B.T.Q.+ umbrella. Not true. In general, gay men (for all of our performances of femininity) do not understand trans identity — we don’t commonly socialize together.

The bottom line is that John’s presence will spoil a much-anticipated and expensive vacation. Do we just put up or shut up? Should we talk? If so, about what? Name Withheld

Here is the comment I posted in response:

I am a 61-year-old, cisgender gay man, and I have to say I have zero patience with gay men who express sentiments such as those expressed by LW#3!

Look, I don't fully "understand" (whatever that even means in this context) the experience of a transgender person, because I am not transgender myself. I have never had any inner conflict concerning my own gender identity as a man. That said, the simple reality is that I don't _need_ to understand it in order treat a transgender person, be they friend, acquaintance or foe, with the dignity and respect of addressing and identifying them as they have chosen to be addressed and identified! And I don't have to live their lives -- only they do.

And to any of the men in LW#3's group who feel similarly to LW#3, I would question whether you all are, or ever were, really friends. Sounds to me as if you are all more of a (rather shallow) affinity group.

And to any gay man who thinks the transgender members of the LGBTQ+ community have nothing whatever to do with gay people, I would respectfully submit that you really need to reacquaint yourself with the history of the LGBTQ+ struggle for civil rights and equality before the law!
Posted by markpkessinger | Tue Aug 30, 2022, 10:58 PM (6 replies)

Justice Alito's Crusade Against a Secular America Isn't Over

If you haven't yet read Margaret Talbot's very long but very revealing article in The New Yorker about Sam Alito, it really is a must read! It's too long and too detailed for me to begin to summarize here, but here's the link:


My takeaway: Sam Alito has been a cultural misfit his entire life, and he has built up 72 years' worth of resentments over it. And now he is looking to exact his revenge!
Posted by markpkessinger | Tue Aug 30, 2022, 01:40 PM (11 replies)

Stunning New Yorker piece on Trump's war with his own generals

Inside the War Between Trump and His Generals

How Mark Milley and others in the Pentagon handled the national-security threat posed by their own Commander-in-Chief.

By Susan B. Glasser and Peter Baker

In the summer of 2017, after just half a year in the White House, Donald Trump flew to Paris for Bastille Day celebrations thrown by Emmanuel Macron, the new French President. Macron staged a spectacular martial display to commemorate the hundredth anniversary of the American entrance into the First World War. Vintage tanks rolled down the Champs-Élysées as fighter jets roared overhead. The event seemed to be calculated to appeal to Trump—his sense of showmanship and grandiosity—and he was visibly delighted. The French general in charge of the parade turned to one of his American counterparts and said, “You are going to be doing this next year.”

Sure enough, Trump returned to Washington determined to have his generals throw him the biggest, grandest military parade ever for the Fourth of July. The generals, to his bewilderment, reacted with disgust. “I’d rather swallow acid,” his Defense Secretary, James Mattis, said. Struggling to dissuade Trump, officials pointed out that the parade would cost millions of dollars and tear up the streets of the capital.

But the gulf between Trump and the generals was not really about money or practicalities, just as their endless policy battles were not only about clashing views on whether to withdraw from Afghanistan or how to combat the nuclear threat posed by North Korea and Iran. The divide was also a matter of values, of how they viewed the United States itself. That was never clearer than when Trump told his new chief of staff, John Kelly—like Mattis, a retired Marine Corps general—about his vision for Independence Day. “Look, I don’t want any wounded guys in the parade,” Trump said. “This doesn’t look good for me.” He explained with distaste that at the Bastille Day parade there had been several formations of injured veterans, including wheelchair-bound soldiers who had lost limbs in battle.

Kelly could not believe what he was hearing. “Those are the heroes,” he told Trump. “In our society, there’s only one group of people who are more heroic than they are—and they are buried over in Arlington.” Kelly did not mention that his own son Robert, a lieutenant killed in action in Afghanistan, was among the dead interred there.

“I don’t want them,” Trump repeated. “It doesn’t look good for me.”

[ . . . .]

Read full article at: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2022/08/15/inside-the-war-between-trump-and-his-generals
Posted by markpkessinger | Mon Aug 8, 2022, 05:09 PM (6 replies)
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