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Member since: Sat May 15, 2010, 04:48 PM
Number of posts: 8,077

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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)

Democratic election lawyer Marc Elias on why he does NOT support the proposed Electoral Count Act

This gave me pause . . .Democratic election lawyer Marc Elias has pointed out that the bill has a flaw that isof particular concern. He writes:

"At the heart of my concern with this bill is the requirement that at least six days before the Electoral College meets, each governor must submit a “certificate of ascertainment” identifying their state’s presidential electors. According to the new bill, that document is “conclusive with respect to the determination of electors appointed by the state.”

Conclusive is a very strong word. Typically, in legal construction, a fact or piece of evidence is conclusive when it is settled and cannot be contradicted by other facts or evidence. For decades, the U.S. Supreme Court has reasoned that if something is conclusive, it is “incapable of being overcome by proof of the most positive character.”

Under such an interpretation, the declaration by a governor that a Republican presidential candidate received more lawful votes than the Democratic presidential candidate could not be challenged even if there was strong evidence to the contrary. If elected this November, a future Gov. Kari Lake (R-Ariz.) or Gov. Doug Mastriano (R-Pa.) could certify the “Big Lie” presidential candidate as the winner even if the best evidence showed that he or she had lost the presidential election. That “conclusive” determination would be the end of the analysis."

For the full article, see https://www.democracydocket.com/news/reforms-to-the-electoral-count-act-miss-the-mark/
Posted by markpkessinger | Sun Jul 24, 2022, 05:58 PM (14 replies)

How NYC is responding (and other cities should respond) to COVID

The following was shared as a post on the Facebook page, Hell's Kitchen Neighbors (Hell's Kitchen is my neighborhood in Manhattan). I thought I would share it here for the benefit of anyone who might need the information. Would that all cities adopted such a model!

"If you live in NY and test positive, call the NYC Covid hotline--1-(844) 692-4692--and they will take care of you. In under ten minutes, I was interviewed by a literate and compassionate fellow who took my health history, asked me how I knew I'd been exposed, and explained how Paxlovid works. It interferes with the virus's replication which is why it's very important to take it early.
My Paxlovid is being delivered in an hour or two--they promise to get it to you within 24 hours. Must admit I was stunned by the city's bureaucratic efficiency in getting this program going. Every state should adopt this model. It's also gratis."
Via a friend with thanks.
Posted by markpkessinger | Sun Jul 24, 2022, 02:05 PM (6 replies)

No Democrat Should Be Applauding the Senate Bill to "Protect" SC Justices "Privacy," and Here's Why

First of all, the bill is unnecessary and redundant. 18 U.S.C. § 1507 already states:

18 U.S. Code § 1507 - Picketing or parading

Whoever, with the intent of interfering with, obstructing, or impeding the administration of justice, or with the intent of influencing any judge, juror, witness, or court officer, in the discharge of his duty, pickets or parades in or near a building housing a court of the United States, or in or near a building or residence occupied or used by such judge, juror, witness, or court officer, or with such intent uses any sound-truck or similar device or resorts to any other demonstration in or near any such building or residence, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both.

So this new legislation is wholly unnecessary. And besides that, neither the Supreme Court justices nor the members of their families have faced any actual threat of physical harm. The MOST they have faced is perhaps a little unpleasantness. But considering what they are about to do, not just to the women of this country, but to anyone whose rights rest on the foundation of a right of privacy which the decision overturning Roe will eviscerate, that's a pretty small burden!

Second, passing this legislation feeds the right's false narrative about "violent leftists." It drives home in the mind of the public that pro-choice advocates are "violent extremists" who are just waiting for an excuse to act out. Consequently, it also feeds the narrative that our divisions are being driven by extremists on "both sides," which is complete and utter bullshit. The problem of violence, and of violent rhetoric, has been coming almost exclusively from the right!

Senator Chris Coons, and the other Democrats who supported this legislation, how ever well intended they may have been, were absolutely brain dead in not thinking this through, and in not considering that by supporting this legislation, in reality they were helping the Republicans do their dirty work!

Posted by markpkessinger | Sun May 15, 2022, 02:40 AM (10 replies)

An analysis of Alito's draft opinion on Roe v. Wade

This was posted by a friend of mine, The Rev. C. Eric Funston, who besides being an Episcopal priest also happens to be a lawyer. I think it is an excellent breakdown of some of the many problems with Alito's opinion!

So ... I read the damned draft opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health and these are my initial thoughts:
1. Alito asserts that the language of the Constitution itself “offers a ‘fixed standard’ for ascertaining what our founding document means.” (p 9) This is nonsense! If this is so, if the Constitution is self-explanatory then there's been no need for 240 years of SCOTUS jurisprudence. It clearly is not a self-interpreting document (no document is) and it's application to differing and changing times and circumstances requires (and there has always been) a flexible standard: meaning varies as context varies.

2. “[W]e must ask what the *Fourteenth Amendment* means by the term ‘liberty.’” (p 14) The 14th Amendment in and of itself doesn't "mean" anything; it is an object, an "it." Meaning only arises in the interactions between subjects, between "I's" and "thou's" -- the amendment does not determine what it itself means; it is the people who live with and under it, through their political and judicial institutions, that determine what it means.

3. Alito just summarily dismisses the amicus brief of American Historical Association and Organization of American Historians and its discussion of anti-Catholic bias motivating abortion laws (p 28), basically saying that societal context is irrelevant. And then turns around and goes into great detail summarizing the historical and societal attitude to abortion in the mid-19th Century. Either societal context is irrelevant or its relevant. You can't have it both ways.

4. Then there's his notion of “ordered liberty” which he defends saying, “In some States, voters may believe that the abortion right should be more even more [sic] extensive than the right that Roe and Casey recognized. Voters in other States may wish to impose tight restrictions based on their belief that abortion destroys n ‘unborn human being.’” (p 31) — in other words, “ordered liberty” is not ordered at all; it differs from place to to place. "Ordered liberty" is chaos!

5. The “critique” (more in the nature of a ranting put-down) of the “quality of the reasoning” of both Roe Casey and is scurrilous. He basically insults the authors of those opinions! This is not the way SCOTUS should be writing! (p 41 et seq)

6. The notion that “the most important historical fact” relevant to the decision is “how the States regulated abortion when the Fourteenth Amendment was adopted” is premised on the “fixed meaning” notion, above. (p 43) And it contradicts his dismissal of "quickening" rules and his dismissal of the historians' brief: again, either historical social context is relevant or it's not. Which is it?

7. I'm very concerned that this opinion would seem to create a hierarchy of the personal choices and judgments included (or not included) in “the right to make and implement important personal decisions without governmental interference.” (p 45) The reasoning through which Alito dismisses and overrules precedent can be used to cancel any of the rights found to be within the penumbra of Constitution. Anything not specifically named in the document is at risk.

8. He dismisses out of hand Roe’s acknowledgment of “the demands of the profound problems of the present day” as “the sort of explanation that might be expected from a legislative body” as if Courts should not consider the current societal context, which is willful judicial blindness. This is the sort of mindset that will give (has given) the court the "stench" about which Justice Sotomayor was concerned.

9. “On what ground could the constitutional status of a fetus depend on the pregnant woman’s location?” (p 48) This statement is made with regard to the quality of hospital care in cities vs rural areas, but isn’t this exactly what “returning” regulation to the States accomplishes? Isn't this what Alito's "ordered liberty" accomplishes.

10. Criticizing Casey, Alito says, “[D]etermining whether a burden is ‘due’ or ‘undue’ is ‘inherently standardless.” (p 53) This is nonsense! What about the Fourteenth Amendment's “due process” clause? The same issue of determining “due” or “undue” is present there And courts do that all the time!

11. The rules of Casey, says Alito, “call on courts to examine a law’s effect on women, but a regulation may have a very different impact on different women for a variety of reasons …. a court needs to know which set of women it should have in mind and how many women in this set must find that an obstacle is ‘substantial.’” (p 54) This is BULLSHIT! If a regulation has an effect on the rights of ANY woman, it's suspect!

12. “Nothing in this opinion should be understood to cast doubt on precedents that do not concern abortion.” (p 62).This, too, is bullshit. The **reasoning** (if it can be called that) of this decision betrays they “originalist” bias which casts doubt on any of the “privacy right” cases decided within the penumbra of the 14th and other amendments.

13. “This Court cannot bring about the permanent resolution of a rancorous national controversy simply by dictating a settlement and telling the people to move on.” (p 64) This is incorrect in that this precisely the Court’s role, but I predict that this sort of reasoning will be the basis on which it will overturn Obergefell….

14. The appendices are rather dishonest. They purport to tabulate the state of State laws on abortion in 1868 when the 14th Amendment was adopted, but seven of the State laws and seven of the Territory laws listed post-date that amendment.

The state of SCOTUS jurisprudence has certainly bottomed out at a new low.
Posted by markpkessinger | Sat May 7, 2022, 06:34 AM (12 replies)

"It's not just about the women . . . "

A friend posted this on Facebook -- I thought it was worth sharing here:

It's not just about the women. It's about their husbands, their boyfriends, their parents: everyone who supports them in any way. It's about the other children in the family, it's about the jobs that the women will struggle to keep. And of course it's about the women who because of extreme youth/age or health reasons should absolutely not be risking pregnancy and childbirth.
Posted by markpkessinger | Tue May 3, 2022, 09:32 PM (7 replies)

Biden 'not prepared' to support ending Senate filibuster to pass abortion rights law

Oh, FFS, Joe! What is it going to take? From the Guardian:

Biden ‘not prepared’ to support ending Senate filibuster to pass abortion rights law

[ . . . . ]

Overriding the procedural filibuster rule, seen as a nuclear option by congressional watchers, would reduce the requirement to 50 - but Biden says he’s not on board. At least not yet.

“I’m not prepared to make those judgments now,” Biden replied to a reporter’s question asking him directly if the senate should do away with the filibuster to codify the Roe v Wade ruling that gives a constitutional right to abortion.

He did say, however, that such a law “makes a lot of sense”:

[ . . . . ]

I'm sorry, but at this point what the hell is holding Biden back?
Posted by markpkessinger | Tue May 3, 2022, 08:15 PM (45 replies)

All of the talk of holding Putin accountable for war crimes is just that: talk

All the talk by Biden and others of holding Putin accountable for war crimes before the International Criminal Court (ICC) is just that: talk. Although the U.S. was heavily involved in the promulgation of the Rome Statute, the treaty that created the ICC, the U.S., during the Bush administration, refused to ratify it. Under Obama, there was initially hope that he would be more supportive of the ICC, but he, too, undermined it for fear that American service personnel could be held responsible for war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan. And under Trump, there was no support at all for the work of the ICC.

From a 2014 memorandum issued by President Obama, quoted at https://justiceinconflict.org/2014/02/04/unfortunate-but-unsurprising-obama-undermines-the-icc/`:

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, and consistent with section 2005 of the American Servicemembers’ Protection Act of 2002 (22 U.S.C. 7424), concerning the participation of members of the Armed Forces of the United States in certain United Nations peacekeeping and peace enforcement operations, I hereby certify that members of the U.S. Armed Forces participating in the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali are without risk of criminal prosecution or other assertion of jurisdiction by the International Criminal Court (ICC) because the Republic of Mali has entered into an agreement in accordance with Article 98 of the Rome Statute preventing the ICC from proceeding against members of the Armed Forces of the United States present in that country.

[emphasis added]

If President Biden wants the ICC to hold Putin accountable, he will first have to reverse the policy of his three predecessors. Accountability must apply to U.S. leaders and service personnel as well as to those of other countries.

I long for the day when the U.S. is willing to practice what it preaches, when it will hold its soldiers and leaders accountable to the very same standards it expects those of other countries to abide by. But I am not optimistic that I will live to see that day. Far too many Americans are far too wedded to the childish notion that our men and women in uniform never do anything wrong -- that the U.S. represents the "good guys" in every situation -- and to the equally idea that underlies it, namely, American Exceptionalism. (In that respect, it must be said that we are not so very different from those Russian citizens we see on the news who refuse to believe that their Russian soldiers could possibly be doing anything wrong in Ukraine, are we?)
Posted by markpkessinger | Tue Apr 5, 2022, 03:30 PM (18 replies)

This is far and away the best statement I've seen on the Will Smith/Chris Rock brouhaha . . .

Posted on Facebook:

Father Nathan Monk

A few years back, I found a lump in my chest. When I decided to talk about what was happening publicly, it was terrifying. Somehow that made it real. A friend of mine reached out to me right after that because her cancer had just come back, and she was starting chemo again. She was losing her hair for the second time. We met for drinks to talk about it. She told me about how she didn’t feel beautiful anymore. About how she wasn’t sure she could do this again. “Maybe it’s time to just check out.” Before I could even respond, an acquaintance of ours walks up and says, “Hey, baldy!” And rubbed her head.
We both laughed. It wasn’t funny.

I suppose we laughed because that’s what a lot of us do in uncomfortable situations where we don’t know how to stand up for ourselves.

A few weeks later, right before I got my test results, I was out with Tashina and some friends. They were trying to cheer me up and convince me everything would be okay. A friend of ours walked up and made a joke about how he would probably come to my funeral if the cancer got me. Then he said, “if for nothing else to hit on your newly single wife.”

In both of these situations, I saw red. My heart was pounding outside of my chest. I could feel my hands turning into a fist. I wanted to do something violent.

I didn’t.

But the feeling was there. There have been countless situations where people have made jokes at someone else’s expense that made me want to react. Sometimes I’ve stood up against those people with words. Sometimes I’ve sat silently with fear or anger.

Tonight, as I watched Will Smith go through those range of emotions, I felt a lot of empathy. He laughed at the joke that wasn’t funny. I’ve been there. He made a choice that I can understand, even if I don’t think it was the right choice. I think it would have been better if he had used his words instead of his fist. I think it would have made a bigger impact if he had found just the exact right words to say, but he didn’t.

However, I think if we are all honest with ourselves, we’ve had moments where that’s what we wanted to do, even if we didn’t.

Jada has been open about her health struggles for a long time now. It’s been part of the public discourse, and the joke Chris Rock made was in poor taste. It was ableist and cruel. It was the definition of punching down, and that makes it not a joke but bullying.
As I’ve watched some of the public discourse happening, I think there are a lot of things at play here all at once.

First, two things can be wrong at the same time. Will Smiths' reaction was wrong, but so was Chris Rock’s joke. We can’t lose sight of how wrong what Chris said was just because his wrong was met with another wrong.

When that acquaintance made that joke to my friend, my fear was that she would think this was the final justification for her to choose to no longer life here with us anymore. That was what we were discussing, and then she was met with a cruel joke. At that moment, I was so angry. I made a different choice than Will did at that moment. But we have no idea the conversations that have happened privately between them. Life is not always easy.

I also think racism is playing a huge part in this. I’ve seen so many comments that have made me cringe. You could see it on Denzel Washington’s face; you could see it in Tyler Perry’s reaction, and in the words of Diddy. They knew instantly how public perception was going to be. And I’m seeing it in many of the comments.

I’ve also seen a lot of comments justifying hatred toward Will and Jada because they are open about the non-monogamous structure of their relationship. As if that has anything to do with this? How consenting adults construct their relationship is none of anyone's business. It certainly doesn’t justify cruelty.

Ultimately, they are famous, and people love to imagine that with fame comes entitlement to their existence. But they are just human beings dealing with pain like everyone else.

I wish Will had just used his words, but he didn’t. He will have to deal with the consequences of that, just as Chris must face the consequences of his cruel joke. But I’m really sad to see some of the exterior conversations happening around this unfortunate situation. I think everyone should take a real step back and realize how cringe it is when you use phrases like, “he should have acted like a professional.” Professionalism has been weaponized against the Black community for a long time. I’ve seen folks make commentary about what Jada should do to conceal her baldness. Let me tell you, right now, Black women's hair has been weaponized too. So let’s just not.

Two wrongs happened tonight.

Chris Rock made a cruel and ableist joke.

Will Smith chose hands instead of words.

But one wouldn’t have happened without the other. Be mindful that even though Jada and Will are rich and powerful and will likely never hear your words about them. But someone you love who is struggling with their body does near you. They hear you loud and clear. And maybe it’s time the whole world gets a metaphorical slap to the face as a reminder that punching down is never okay.

In moments like this, I’m reminded of the Terry Pratchett quote, “Satire is meant to ridicule power. If you are laughing at people who are hurting, it's not satire; it's bullying.”
Posted by markpkessinger | Mon Mar 28, 2022, 09:25 PM (67 replies)

I was a little disappointed that Judge Jackson agreed to recuse herself . . .

. . . in an affirmative action case involving Harvard. Mind you, I'm not suggesting that her recusal is inappropriate. But I wish she had said something like this:

Senator, the Court at present has no coherent recusal policy, other than the self determinations of individual justices. As a result, we saw Justice Scalia refuse to recuse himself in a case involving a hunting buddy, and Justice Thomas has sat on cases involving political organizations with which his wife has been closely involved. If and when the justices of the Supreme Court come up with a coherent recusal policy that applies to all justices equally, independent of their self determinations as to their ability to remain impartial, I will happily abide by it. Until then, I will make my own recusal decisions as and when those cases come before me, the same as all of the other justices on the Court.

And yes, I understand why she didn't say that. But hey, a guy can dream, can't he?
Posted by markpkessinger | Wed Mar 23, 2022, 05:47 PM (7 replies)
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