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Tom Rinaldo

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Member since: Mon Oct 20, 2003, 06:39 PM
Number of posts: 15,375

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Incoherent on the Middle East

Probing for a weakness to exploit, Mitt Romney’s campaign has turned to attacking President Obama on U.S. policy in the Middle East. Romney claims U.S. leadership is lacking in the region, and that U.S. interests are suffering as a result. He points to recent outbreaks of extremist Islamic anti-American sentiments in Libya, Egypt and elsewhere in the Arab world, and to civilians being slaughtered by the Assad regime in Syria, as evidence of U.S. impotence in the region. He blusters on Iran, insinuating that the Obama administration has withheld support from our stalwart ally Israel, while failing to deter Iran from developing nuclear weapons. Mitt Romney argues that the Middle East is not how we would like it to be, and offers that as an indictment of Obama, but fails to make the case for how he would make it better. Romney’s proscriptions open onto worse scenarios. His policies could push us from the frying pan to the fire.

On Iran Romney offers absolutely nothing new, but that hasn’t stopped him from criticizing the President. Is he opposed to the harsh sanctions that the U.S. has led much of the world to imposing on Iran? Of course not, since they represent the only overt means available to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, short of forceful military actions that our own Pentagon acknowledges would likely lead the U.S. into another major regional war. Does Romney advocate taking the U.S. into another Middle East war? Of course not, because the American electorate is not prepared to support that currently. It’s clear that both the President and his challenger support covert actions against Iran, but by definition they can’t really be debated. There isn’t an inch of daylight between Romney and Obama on their stated positions toward Iran, so instead Romney tries to attack Obama on how those positions are stated.

A Romney spokesperson interviewed by Andrea Mitchell acknowledged that Obama and Romney are backing the exact same policy toward Iran regarding nuclear weapons; prevention not containment. President Obama publicly asked Mitt Romney recently if he was now arguing for going to war with Iran, but his spokesman ducked and covered rather than answering. Romney, he said, believes that the potential use of American military force against Iran must remain a credible threat in order for diplomacy to hopefully succeed. That of course is consistent with the stated policy of the U.S. government, with the President clearly stating that “all options remain on the table” whenever he is asked about the possible use of force against Iran. So what does that leave Romney with as a political line of attack against Obama?

Romney’s spokesperson argued that no one really believes that Obama actually means it when he says all options remain on the table. Pause here for full implications to sink in. Barack Obama holds the office of President of the United States. His words are official U.S. policy, and America’s friends and foes alike weigh them while determining their own course of action during international conflicts. Surely by now Mitt Romney understands that not only is Barack Obama the United States President today, there is at least a decent chance he will remain our President for four more years. If Mitt Romney believes that the possible use of American force against Iran during this nuclear crisis must remain a credible threat in order for diplomacy to succeed, then his campaign just undermined the very policy he claims we should pursue. Romney’s position is incoherent. But it doesn’t stop there.

Mitt Romney argues that American leadership is lacking in the Middle East. He also belittles Obama for the naiveté he supposedly showed for starting his first term in office showing a willingness to negotiate directly with Iran over issues outstanding between our nations. In doing so Romney displays a key ignorance over how American diplomacy works. President Obama’s oft stated willingness to deal in good faith with Iran if that good faith were reciprocated was a crucial factor in gaining international support for strong economic sanctions against Iran. The U.S. can’t force sovereign nations to back economic sanctions against Iran, they must agree to. Had President Obama pursued a bolted door policy toward Iran from day one, it would have been far more difficult, and in some significant instances impossible, for him to have won broad based international support for the economic sanctions now in place against Iran.

Here again Romney’s position is incoherent. The sanctions policy that Romney says he supports against Iran was enabled by Obama first making an effort “to give peace a chance”, before moving on to harsher alternative when Iran failed to respond positively. Mitt Romney’s anti-diplomacy tough guy posturing only undercuts his own stated diplomatic policy objectives in building a broad coalition against Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

There is nowhere Mitt Romney’s incoherent Middle East policy is more obvious though than it is in regards to current unrest in the region and the Arab Spring. If there is one word that Mitt Romney loves to use above all others in this campaign season, that word is “freedom”. Freedom he says is the well spring of societal progress. Well freedom is afoot in the Middle East but it isn’t always delivered in an antiseptic package. Our own American journey toward greater individual freedom has not been free of strife. Basic civil rights have been fought over here ever since the American Revolution gave birth to our nation. Why would the path be smooth in Libya, Syria, or Egypt?

Romney’s foreign policy team is dominated by Neo Con ideologues who last were in ascendancy during the prior Republican Administration. Ridding the Arab world of dictatorships was a cause they heartedly embraced, not only as a noble cause, but as a tenet of U.S. foreign policy in pursuit of U.S. interests. The lack of liberty in the Middle East, they intoned, fed unrest on the Arab street and pushed frustrated youth into the hands of Islamic militants who blamed the West for the ills of their own corrupt societies.

The American invasion of Iraq was partially defended by Neo Cons as a mission to help bring Democracy to the Arab world (especially after weapons of mass destruction inside Iraq were found to be sorely lacking). What followed that American invasion was chaos and bloodshed on a scale that totally dwarfs anything that has happened in Libya or Syria to date. The Democracy we left behind in Iraq is seriously flawed by any standard we would apply here at home, yet Mitt Romney will not disown it, nor argue that the people of Iraq were better off with a iron fisted dictator. Anti-American protests broke out in Iraq also in response to the Anti-Muslim propaganda film that was filmed in the United States. Today Iraq is on warm terms with its Shiite neighbor Iran although, just like Egypt, Mitt Romney would certainly not characterize Iraq as an enemy of America. How much more leadership, how much more strength, how much more money and how many more lives should America have committed to bring about the results we see in Iraq now, let alone better ones?

Compare what was accomplished in Iraq after ten plus years of American occupation, to the situation that confronts us in Libya and Egypt today, less than two years after dictatorships were replaced by democracies in those nations. Would there be less anti-American sentiments in those nations today if the United States had fought to thwart the Arab Spring that brought increased liberty to those people? Would we have more leverage in Egypt now had we stuck by Hosni Mubarak until he was lynched, or until Egypt dissolved into a Civil War like Syria’s?

The Obama Administration rightfully recognized a turning tide of history inside the Middle East, and wisely chose not to rage against it to no avail. As a result we still have productive open channels with the governments that the Arab Spring spawned, imperfect as they might be. That was not a preordained outcome. It took effective American leadership to accomplish. We all saw what happened in Iran when the U.S. clung to the Shah far too long until the Iranian people deposed him. Mitt Romney bemoans that we don’t retain enough influence over Egypt’s current government; while also lamenting that Egypt’s first free democratic elections resulted in a Muslim Brotherhood President. That position again is fundamentally incoherent. Unless Mitt Romney is prepared to advocate for yet another American Middle East invasion, it is dubious that his bad mouthing the current elected Egyptian government will lead to greater U.S. influence over it.

Israel is counting on Egypt to honor their mutual peace treaty in these turbulent times; Mitt Romney might want to reconsider the advantage of Egypt having a government that is credible with non extremist Islamists, that the U.S. still retains real ties with. Mubarak, like Iran’s Shah before him, isn’t coming back.

A man earning $30,000 giving $300 to charity sacrifices more than a Billionaire giving away millions

The creed of false equivalence gets used to bludgeon common sense, and often obscures our grasp of true morality. A portion of every persons income is needed to support life itself. Another part allows for simple pleasures. Beyond that lies realms of ascending privilege, that lead toward self aggrandizement, and ultimately wanton gluttony. Once the latter was viewed by Christianity as a sin.

It is good when those with wealth donate large sums to worthy charities - that money is sorely needed for important causes and wealthy individuals are blessed with the means to give ample assistance to them. Our society does not shun nor shame those who choose not to become benefactors, so it is therefor appropriate to acknowledge those who take on that role voluntarily. Yes it is good that Mitt Romney gave millions of dollars to charity, but the fact still remains that he has150 million put aside in an IRA and untold amounts more stashed away in secret bank accounts.

It is not a matter of begrudging anyone success. There are very few among us who would not gladly embrace similar good fortune should riches somehow come our way. But keeping perspective is important, especially during a political year when talk about the need for Americans to make sacrifices to reign in future entitlements is a common refrain. Perspective is needed when negative aspersions are cast upon those who labor at minimum wage jobs because, unlike those who receive much higher compensation, they don't make enough to pay income taxes.

The working poor never earn glowing headlines when they donate $25 to their volunteer fire department's annual fund raising drive, or when they buy 5 boxes of girl scout cookies to help a neighbor's kid afford some enriching experience. But their charity comes at far greater personal sacrifice than the millions that someone like Mitt Romney is in a position to donate. Some people simply have plenty they can give without hurting, and some people's survival isn't at risk when they are forced to "sacrifice" just a little bit more for the essentials of life.

When Worker Productivity Goes Up & Worker Pay Goes Down - That Is Wealth Redistribution

The U. S. is a capitalist nation and our wealth primarily flows through our national "market place". Who ends up with that wealth is an unambiguous result of how that wealth is distributed. When corporations generate more money than they need to operate, decisions must be made where to allocate those surplus fiscal resources. They can go toward upgrading facilities, toward research, toward marketing, toward employee compensation, or toward owner profits. These are conscious choices.

The hands that guide that distribution are not some invisible unseen market force. They belong to managers and owners and corporate boards. They belong to the one percent and to their most trusted agents. Together they have directed a massive redistribution of American wealth away from middle class Americans to the wealthiest among us. When both worker productivity and corporate profits rise while the income of the average American family falls, that isn't preordained and blameless. It is the ownership class in America furthering its own interests by redistributing the fruits of the American economy disproportionately into their own pockets simply because they can, and they are counting on no one stopping them. That's why they want a smaller government, and that's why they are willing to invest heavily in the political process in order to buy one.

We know wealth redistribution in America. It is the class warfare that most of us currently are losing.

Romney wants more Americans with good paying jobs paying income taxes.

Too bad he was a pioneer in outsourcing those types of jobs to China. Still there is work to be had in America, at the prevailing minimum wage, but those people don’t earn enough money to pay income taxes under our current Republican crafted tax codes. Ronald Reagan was quite proud of signing the earned income credit for the poor into law. He wanted people to work for their poverty.

There are a whole lot of people working grueling 40 hour a week jobs who don’t even make enough to pay income taxes now. Mitt Romney thinks that is a problem. He thinks they might stop feeling like victims entitled to food and shelter, if only they paid income taxes too, just like richer Americans like him - well maybe not like him personally – but like some richer Americans at least.

The good news is that this can be arranged. Republicans could accomplish Romney’s goal simply by supporting raising the minimum wage to a living wage. Democrats would certainly back that type of Republican leadership, and many of the grubbers would finally have the means to start caring about themselves again. As it is now patriotic businesses that want to do right by hard working Americans are being punished by businesses who want to mooch off the strenuous efforts and high productivity of American workers. There must be plenty of businessmen who Mitt Romney knows personally who would love to pay their workers more, if they didn’t fear being undercut by competitors paying poverty wages stealing their clients away due to lower costs.

It’s an elegant solution. Since most of the good paying jobs in America have been lost overseas due to the pioneering efforts of Bain Capital and their cohorts, we can encourage more deadbeat American moochers to become real income tax paying Americans worthy of Mitt Romney’s respect simply by paying them more at the lousy jobs that remain. Surely Mitt Romney will support raising the minimum wage. It must be part of his secret plan.

The Romney Campaign reminds me of McGovern in 1972

I better explain what I mean. First off, I loved George McGovern then and I still do now. I think he would have made an excellent President. Second, no I do not believe that Mitt Romney will lose this election as badly McGovern as lost in 1972 either. That isn't the point.

The similarity that strikes me is this: Romney has been playing catch up in this race from day one; from before then actually if you set day one as his acceptance speech at the RNC. Romney got off on the wrong foot and he has never regained his stride, if he ever had one. That is what happened to George McGovern with the Eagleton fiasco. The problems with McGovern's campaign became the focus of the ccoverage he received.

When that happens it's like a ship loosing power and floating dead in the water in an area uinfested by pirates. The seige is certain to follow and a death spiral commences. Lots of other things may have changed, but in that key way this is feeling like 1972 agan.

It sounds familiar, doesn't it?

"My job is is not to worry about those people."

Thats Mitt Romney caught talking to wealthy donors about the "47% of voters who will vote for the President no matter what... there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them". That's damn near half the nation who Romney figures it's his job not to worry about while he runs for President

"I'm not concerned about the very poor".

That too was Mitt Romney speaking earlier this year, that time about people who presumably form a subset of the 47% of Americans who he thinks it is his job not to worry about. At least Romney is consistent in not worrying about tens of millions of Americans who almost certainly did not start out life with all the advantages that Mitt Romney had.

In admitting his lack of concern for the very poor, Romney justified that lack of interest in their needs by further stating; "We have a safety net there. If it needs repair, I'll fix it."
There Mitt Romney must be referring to all those entitlements that 47% of Americans, you know, those self identified victims, depend on. They ended up hooked on health care, food, housing, you-name-it. We all know the type; Veterans with disabilities. small children born into poverty, millions of retired folks getting by on Social Security, people whose jobs got outsourced to China when who can't find jobs paying a living wage to replace them with. Yup, the roll call of Americans who Mitt Romney knows will never take personal responsibility and care for their lives.

Somehow they all got the notion that their government is supposed to care about them. That to Romney is a problem. Their dependence on a safety net to survive is a problem, one that Romney no doubt intends to repair. You can’t depend on something that no longer is there.

The Politics of "Bring it On!"

That notorious quote from President George W. Bush continues to echo in today's Republican Party. The same macho posture, the same "our troops can handle anything the enemy throws at us, so let them try" invitation to even greater carnage. It was easy for George W. Bush to say, he sat 7,000 miles away from the action surrounded by the Secret Service

The last time I looked Mitt Romney wasn't stationed in the Middle East either. Nor does he have children stationed there. Nor does he work for an airline that flies there, or even an Oil Company that works there. For all of his devotion to the Mormon Church, Mitt Romney doesn't toil for Christ as a missionary in Africa, and he isn't an aid worker there either, feeding and caring for families at risk of dying from malnutrition.

No, Mitt Romney is safe here inside America, running for President of the United States. He isn't in physical danger when passions surge over religious issues in Africa or the Mideast. He can afford to act tough and try to score political points against the President while American lives are at risk. Because his isn't. It's only those who find themselves in harms way who have anything to worry about. The troops Romney so conspicuously failed to mention during his acceptance speech, for example, and our diplomatic personnel who risk their lives daily serving American interests in the four corners of the world. Yes Republicans love the military. It’s just the soldiers they can't bring themselves to support.

Does Mitt Romney condone hate speech against other religions? Does he favor sticking it to people of a faith that is not his own? That might explain his defiant rejection of any attempt to calm the waters as mere "sympathy for terrorists". Perhaps that is it. It's more likely though that Romney is just a politician trolling for votes during an election campaign, indifferent to the fate of innocent lives that his crass bravado puts at greater risk.

“More Of The Same” With Obama

Politicians spit it out like an epithet; “only more of the same!” As if that’s always the worst option possible, give us anything but more of the same. Democrats and Republicans instinctively belittle the day when nothing new is offered beyond the oft ridiculed more of the same. Except when times are good of course. When times are good the temptation sets in to change absolutely nothing, not even your jersey if you’re a baseball pitcher on a winning streak. Keep a good thing going and don’t tinker with success. Politics flickers like a bad fluorescent light bulb; change, freeze, change, freeze. What gets lost in the strobe lights is usually common sense.

We know better in our own lives, at least most of us do. Our personal decisions are less mechanical. Just because drinking that first vodka and tonic brought about generally desirable results is no reason to assume that drinking a second, third, or fourth one will do the same. Most of us resist that blind assumption. Common sense and experience kick in instead. Likewise with life’s adversities. You start running a high fever so you see the Doctor. She says you have a bad infection and prescribes antibiotics as a treatment. You go home and take a full dose but still feel absolutely awful. Same thing happens in the morning: Little or no improvement. What do you do that evening? You go for more of the same.

It is the nature of calamities that destruction comes in s relative blink of an eye, while recovery can seem to drag on for eternity. An assassin nearly took Gabby Giffords life. The world she knew was obliterated in an instant. It required drastic action to save her, but there was no rapid way to restore her health. Gabby is an inspiration and an American hero. Everyday she faces more of the same; more stressful physical therapy, more frustrating mental exercises. Over and over the prescription essentially remains the same, because slow as it may be, that is the best route to her recovery.

We have all been schooled well about the weather. We know the difference between a category one, two, or three storm. Hurricane Cindy struck Louisiana during the same year that Hurricane Katrina did. Recovery from the former was rapid, not so the latter. Americans understand that not all hurricanes are the same. Neither are recessions. Over the past hundred years the United States has experienced numerous recessions, but only one was a category 5, and that was The Great Depression. Recovery from that one dragged on for nearly a decade, and many believe it would have taken even longer had it not been for World War II.

The Recession that President Obama inherited the first day he stepped into the oval office might not have clocked in then as a category 5, but it certainly rated a high category 4, the deadliest economic storm our nation has faced since the 1930’s. When Hurricane Cindy first struck Louisiana in July 2005 it was initially categorized as a Tropical Storm, but was later upgraded to a Category 1 hurricane in the post-storm analysis. Something similar happened with The Great Recession.

While President Obama fought to prevent an economic slide into a second Great Depression, he assured America that we could turn adversity around; that our worst fears would be averted, and that strength would be restored to America’s economy. As FDR once famously stated, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself”, and Barack Obama worked hard to resstore consumer confidence in the American economy by proclaiming his own confidence in America’s future. He staked his political reputation on an economic recovery, and we are in one today.

Our recovery is slower than the President initially forcast, but it turns out that the recession itself was far worse than how experts were characterizing it when Obama actually made his recovery projections. That fact was revealed in revised figures documenting the actual GDP loss during the recession that were retroactively released by the U.S. Department of Commerce Bureau of Economic Analysis:

“The overall pattern of quarterly changes during the downturn was similar in both the revised and previously published estimates, though the revised estimates show larger decreases for 2008:Q4 (-8.9 percent compared with -6.8 percent) and for 2009:Q1 (-6.7 percent compared with -4.9 percent).”
http://www.bea.gov/faq/index.cfm?faq_id=1004

Americans love Super Glue and Duct Tape, but there isn’t always a quick fix for every problem. Some solutions play out over time, and require perseverance to achieve. Sometimes it takes more of the same. Sometimes it even takes four more years. One thing though is certain. No disaster victim is ever well served by sending them back to a disaster zone. Wrong policies caused our economy to crash in 2008. Restoring those who advocated them to power in Washington would be a change from “more of the same”. It would be more of what caused the disaster in the first place.

This Democratic Convention has a Lord of The Rings feel for me

Emotionally, that's what just came up for me, with the emphasis on Part 3 "The Return of the King", and no I'm not making a specific reference to Bill Clinton here. I'm not tempted to assign direct character comparisons to actual real Democrats- with one possible exception.

There is something about Chris Mathews that is reminding me of the Dwarf; Gimli son of Glóin. It's the way Mathews has seemed transformed during both parties national conventions; from a grumpy one step removed commentator whose glory days were in the past, into a happy warrior with renewed purpose youth and vigor. It's become politics with conviction for a cause that he believes in again for Mathews, not just a game of Hardball.

But it is the feeling present at the Democratic National Convention that is evoking the Lord of The Rings trilogy for me - not similarities with a specific cast of characters. There is just something epic in the air, the struggle is joined, the outcome is momentous. The days of sleep walking are over; the days of shirking from conflict are passed. An ancient coalition, ragged from years of distrust and neglect, is reassembling for battle. The Elves are reengaged, Gondor is rising again. You can feel it in the crowd at the Democratic Convention. We can feel it in ourselves. Finally we confront the Right head on, in a fight for America's future.

There is a bigger than life feeling to what we are witnessing now. But that is what life feels like when, animated by core principles, we take on a battle with life or death implications for millions.

Some headers are priceless: "Purses that Cost More Than A House".

It's hard to come up with a populist political statement that even approaches the punch that this teaser for a empty calories video found on Yahoo carries. Purses that cost more than a house; when millions of Americans have recently lost their homes to foreclosures, and millions more have been living on the streets for years. We all know there are Super Rich people in the world. Usually we are numbed to what that means, but it's hard to avoid the implications here. The video itself is drivel but it does name drop a little if that type of thing interests you. Here is the full "text" for the story:


Most Expensive Handbags: Did you know that one purse can cost as much as a house?
Fri, Aug 31, 2012 - Who Knew? 2:02 | 376,933 views

Hobbies can be pricey, especially if you are into collecting expensive, luxury handbags. The most costly purses are covered in diamonds and are in fact a rarity. Check out some of the most exorbitant handbags and the celebrities who own them.
http://news.yahoo.com/who-knew/most-expensive-handbags-did-you-know-that-one-purse-can-cost-as-much-as-a-house-30465076.html#crsl=%252Fwho-knew%252Fmost-expensive-handbags-did-you-know-that-one-purse-can-cost-as-much-as-a-house-30465076.html

America is a nation that is said to celebrate wealth - even while children starve. Speaking for myself only, I wouldn't so much mind the super wealthy spending houses for a purse if we housed the homeless first and fed the hungry children who live among us.

I know, I know, the market doesn't work that way, and government is "heavy handed". There is some truth in both those claims. But there is also something wrong about a nation that smiles while the super rich stylishly carry the equivalent of a house or two off their shoulder to a party while children starve. There just is, and most Americans in their gut know it.

Our economy, our society itself, is constructed around the premise that wealth is an incentive to productivity. OK, fine. But how much incentive do the Super Rich need to contribute to our nation's productivity? I think at the point where they start purchasing $100,000 purses the potency of that incentive has already been spent.

No one within hiking distance of the mainstream in American politics advocates putting a cap on personal fortunes. I'm not advocating that either. But there is something deeply morally repugnant about the feverish efforts on the Right to LOWER the tax rates the Super Wealthy must pay in this country, one that gives them the liberty to burn through millions on impulse purchases while fellow citizens die from lack of affordable health care.
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