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Tom Rinaldo

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Member since: Mon Oct 20, 2003, 06:39 PM
Number of posts: 15,644

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The Future of U.S. Israel Relations

You will not hear any American or Israeli politician deviate from this script: “The U.S. Israel relationship is rock solid, and deeper than any possible disagreement between any two leaders.” True enough, but the rock solid relationship between Israel and the United States has fault lines running through it. How could it be otherwise? It's in the nature of rock itself for fractures to embed that may subsist for decades or generations without shifting, until accumulated stress creates a rapture. It is foolish for Israel's leaders to believe otherwise/.

The current Israel is not so old as countries go, it's age is counted in double digits, much like mine. Even so support for Israel has shifted in my lifetime. It has its ups and downs, in Europe certainly, but also here in the United .States. Support for a Jewish homeland was historically powerfully strengthened by, and Israel's rebirth as a nation itself is the direct result of, the evil that was the Holocaust. Antisemitism is many centuries old, but the Holocaust isn't. Still actual Holocaust survivors continue to die off, as time will always have it. Though what happened then will never be forgotten, it may not always be remembered quite as sharply for many as it still is today. History, unfortunately, is predictably layered with horrors, of greater and lesser brutality. All of them eventually age with time. Some do so quickly, others more slowly. The memory of each lingers longest in those whose direct ancestors were victims.

I was born in 1949, shortly after Israel itself and after the evil that caused the Holocaust was vanquished, the son of a soldier who participated in the liberation of death camps. I am not Jewish, but growing up on Long Island brought me Jewish friends, and familiarity with Jewish culture. My family wasn't very political nor was I while growing up. World issues were rarely discussed

The Holocaust was little more than 20 years distant back then but I usually only thought of it in the context of the Viet Nam War which was raging as I reached draft age, wondering could I really be a conscientious objector if I would have volunteered to fight Hitler? Israel captured my interest most then during two wars it became embroiled in with its Arab neighbors, the 6 Day War in June of 1967 and the Yom Kippur War in the Fall of 1973. Oddly those seemed to bookend the peak years of the U.S. engagement in Viet Nam, which added to their seeming relevence. I supported Israel's in those wars unhesitatingly back them, linking those conflicts in my mind to the Jewish struggle for existence during World War II. I remembered only dimly at best when the United States actually opposed Israeli military actions during the Suez Crisis of 1956.

I knew little about Arab Countries or the Muslim world in general back then, aside from realizing that Egypt's Abdul Nasser was a leader of the non alligned nation bloc during the ongoing Cold War. It took another Egyptian President, Anwar Sadat, to awaken sympathy in me for people who previously I thought of mostly as adversaries of Israel. Like most Americans of my generation, I grew up inheriting strong sympathies for Israel, and I saw no good reason to question them.

That is how a “rock solid” relationship with another nation manifests: it rests on a foundation of widely shared essentially unquestioned loyalty that takes on the form of a self fulfilling prophesy, precisely because it is so widely shared. The aftermath of World War II cemented that status for Israel among several generations of Americans. Of course we also have shared values with Israel, of course there are strong and historic ties between our people. The same can be said even more so regarding America and France, but that didn't prevent a strong backlash of anti-French sentiments here when France was less than enthusiastic about the U.S. invading Iraq. The glow is off the French American relationship although we have mostly remained allies.

Israel counts on nonpartisan and widely felt American loyalty today, and it has good reason to be confident of that, today. But for how many tomorrows can that confidence extend? Israel counted on American support during the Yom Kippur War, in an existential sense it virtually depended on it. Israel still remains a mostly Jewish spot in an overwhelmingly Muslim region. 40 years after the Yom Kippur War unbending American support is just as essential to Israel as it ever was, maybe even more so. There is little reason to believe the same won't be true in another 40 years. But there are clear signs today that that the previous level of unquestioned support for Israel is beginning to erode among increasing numbers of younger Americans in particular.

That may not yet be apparent inside America's Halls of Power dominated as they are by the over 50 set. At least it hasn't been prior to Israel's current Prime Minister's willingness to exploit American partisan differences in service to his perception of Israel's interests, and seemingly his own short term political needs. A potent security threat to Israel lies below the surface, among younger generations of Americans who grew up exposed daily to horrors more recent than the holocaust, who increasingly see the state of Israel’s actions in regards to the Palestinian issue in far less than a wholly positive light. And who now see Israel's Prime Minister arriving in Washington in a blatant effort to undermine sensitive negotiations that America's twice elected (with strong youth support) President says is the last best chance to prevent Iran from acquiring the means to produce nuclear weapons.

Should those negotiations fail it seems probable that America will end up fighting a new war with Iran in support of Israel, with impossible to predict long term adverse consequences. If Peace is NOT given a chance, and America is plunged into a new round of Middle East wars before, in the eyes of many Americans, all other options are exhausted, what will be the fallout in long term American public opinion toward Israel? How will that effect future American support for that state whenever they need it again?

If support for Israel's Prime Minister is employed as a political club in the Republican Party's continuing domestic war against a President they never have accepted, when will support for Israel cease to unquestionably be nonpartisan inside an America where increasingly few issues remain above that fray? And how will THAT effect Israel's long term security?

Soon as the media pandered to the false equivalency game on climate change the floodgates opened

The forces of know nothingism were home free, and not just on global warming but on anything that is objective fact based. As long as differing opinions can be produced on a topic (sometimes purchased and delivered) any assertion of fact is is now called "a side" in "a controversy". Scientific facts are increasingly deemed disputed "theories". And when science isn't honored anymore education itself becomes suspect. And when education becomes suspect false populists run against it, calling it nothing but an elitist agenda dictated by the state, and so on. Truth is now a commodity for sale on the "free market", a product of market research packaged and peddled, with bold bald assertions carrying the same weight as anything that emerges from a rigorous application of scientific method. And this now dominates our politics.

When the Right attacks Obama for not being "Pro American" they insult Voters who twice elected him

The Republicans have remained frozen in their 2008 campaign mode for a full six years. They seem almost biologically incapable of recognizing that the majority of the American electorate firmly rejected the Barack Obama as an anti-American figure narrative that Sarah Palin in particular spearheaded that year. They can't stop flogging their straw man; Barack Obama the terrorist lover who is clearly a socialist but may actually be an outright Marxist, who is not really American, who seems closer linked to Islam than to Christianity (let all evidence to the contrary be damned), who just so happens to be Black - which only matters in this case (they aren't racists you know) because Obama probably learned to hate America from his absent Kenyan father.

Yes Republicans try to update and refresh their Anti-Obama talking point factoids periodically, continually injecting their all purpose buzz scare term Benghazi into the 2012 campaign for example, but they still doggedly stick with the same failed narrative. And they don't even bother to retire their old stale talking points when they obviously implode. Obama as potential Muslim is left over from 2008 but is still kept in play, and no one doubts for an instant that Benghazi will continue to be fawned over in 2016. While "fawned over" is indeed an offensive characterization to apply to an incident that saw the death of several Americans, unfortunately its use here is appropriate. The Republican Right keeps treating those deaths like a treasured shiny weapon bestowed on them for their political arsenal, even when the actual families involved plead with them to stop it.

This is all part of a political narrative that has been fully vetted by voters. Twice. Americans, who presumably love America, chose Barack Obama to be their leader in 2008, and then again in 2012. What does the frozen Republican narrative about Barack Obama say about those tens of millions of Americans, the literal majority of voters? Either that they are stupid fools who should not believe their own lying eyes or ears, or that they too must not love America. Take your pick, neither could be characterized as particularly flattering. Republicans push the argument that Barack Obama is actually rooting against America, wanting us to fail, which marks him as an Un-American President. But what most people see is a political party dominated by leading voices who want the President who Americans themselves elected to lead America, to fail. And for millions of voters that calls into question exactly who is acting Un-American after all.

Barack Obama wasn't on the ballot in 2014, and that is the main reason Republicans scored well that year (aided in part by gerrymandered Congressional districts). Were 2014 a Presidential election year, like 2008 and 2012 both were, Republicans would have lost again, because more Americans play closer attention to politics in Presidential election years than they do in the off years in between them. Actually were it not for the massive Ebola hysteria being fanned by the media in the immediate run up to the 2014 election, where Obama was daily lambasted for following expert medical advice and refusing to lock down our borders, Democrats might have done a little better than they ultimately did. Obama didn't panic, the media did, but they weren't on the 2014 ballot either.

Unfortunately for the Republican Party, 2016 will once again be a Presidential Election year. And from most current indications they seem to have learned as much from their 2012 defeat as they did from their 2008 one.

I Don't Know If Scott Walker Is A Human

I've never had the chance to ask him that in person. There are multiple other possibilities; Android, Extra Terrestrial, Holographic Projection, you name it. I'm not a scientist so I would rather not venture an uninformed guess. Opinions vary on what makes some one or thing human. Anyone really curious about it should directly ask Scott Walker in person, or rather in entity, his opinion on the matter.

Why is the left so focused on Warren when Bernie Sanders is actively considering running?

OK, granted, I love both of them, and IMO of the two Warren does have a better overall chance of winning in a general election over a Republican candidate. But Warren is extremely reluctant (at best) to run. That translates into she almost certainly will not oppose Hillary for the nomination, as long as Hillary wants it and continues to be viewed as a highly viable candidate.

What would make Hillary no longer seem so viable? Well something out of her control like a serous illness could stop her, just like it could stop any potential candidate, Aside from that the only thing I can think of remotely capable of derailing the self fulfilling prophecy of her as the inevitable Democratic nominee would require her getting very seriously dinged up by a challenger from the left. But there always is a risk in seriously dinging a leading presidential candidate; they may well win the nomination anyway and then go on to run as damaged goods in the general election. That's a potential conundrum for those of us who want a more progressive candidate because Hillary is so far ahead of the Democratic "pack" (or whatever one calls her possible Democratic opponents) that the pull to unify around her is being strongly felt by many, including Elizabeth Warren.

A very good thing about both Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders is that both of them are classy, neither of them is the type to initiate a mud bath campaign. I would not be overly concerned about either one of them trying to personally tear down Hillary Clinton rather than engaging in a principled debate on the issues. I think it would be great for the Democratic Party and the Nation if at least one of them challenged Hillary Clinton in the primaries. But as it stands now it's not likely to be Warren who will do so. Yet while Elizabeth Warren keeps repeating that she is not running for President, Bernie Sanders openly states that he is seriously considering running in the Democratic primaries.

Bernie Sanders is superb at progressively framing the issues is blunt no nonsense terms that most Americans can easily understand and relate to. If you ask most Americans if they want a socialist for President they will predictably say no, but if you ask them if they agree with statements Bernie Sanders actually makes the results can be radically different. The problem is very few voters outside of Vermont actually get to hear Bernie Sanders speak (unless they regularly watch MSNBC). Running in the Democratic presidential primaries would significantly address that deficit in exposure that Bernie Sanders now suffers from. As a sitting U.S. Senator with a national following on the left, he could not be omitted from upcoming presidential debates any more so than Dennis Kucinich could be in 2004. And unlike 2004, the Democratic debate stage in 2016 is unlikely to be cluttered up with 8 candidates vying for precious few TV minutes to make their key points in.

But Bernie Sanders, despite his very real interest in doing so, has not yet decided to enter the race. He is weighing such a run right now, in real time. It reminds me a little of 2008 when Wes Clark had a sincere and genuine interest in running again, but only if support for him doing so reached a certain minimum threshold which ultimately he decided it hadn't. During that period when Clark was weighing his options many of those who were dissatisfied with Hillary Clinton (and some who admittedly underestimated Barack Obama's chances) kept holding out hope that Al Gore would enter the race instead. Al Gore always said he wasn't going to run in 2004, and as it turns out he didn't. I am also reminded of 1968, when Bobby Kennedy seemed disinclined to run for President against LBJ, but Gene McCarthy decided to take on the prohibitive favorite for the 1968 Democratic nomination in New Hampshire. Lyndon Johnson found himself heavily dinged by a challenger from the Left in that primary and ultimately pulled out of running for the Presidency. With LBJ sidelined, RFK entered the field an was poised to win the nomination, and ultimately the presidency, before he got assassinated.

Can anyone deny Clinton the nomination if she wants it this time? Uncertain, most likely not, but yes still possible. But only if someone steps forward soon with a strong leftist populist message to challenge her. Bernie Sanders can be that someone, and he actually seems interested in being that someone. But the national progressive media, such as it is, and organizations like Move On, still remain fixated on coaxing Elizabeth Warren into the race rather than encouraging Bernie Sanders to indeed step forward. Tactically, I fear we are making a big mistake not rallying more to Sanders now, when it really matters.

Obama should remind Republicans how much they respected "the electorate's voice" in 2008 and 2012

They could care less. Those Republicans who managed to remain in office those years claimed they were elected to do their job and they planned to do just that regardless of how well Obama or other Democrats did in their own races, and they never bothered to stop claiming that they spoke for "the American people" whenever they disagreed with Obama.

And, oh year, many millions more of the American people voted in 2008 and 2012 than voted in 2010 and 2014

Yes Democratic strategy sucked in 2014. it was an odd election, now it's over.

Think of every sports metaphor you remember about playing not to lose, and how those who play that way usually do just that. On the national level, on the media message level, it was all about holding onto Senate seats in red states and trying to avoid anything that might spook centrist to center right voters into handing the Senate over to the Republican Party. Surprise surprise, it didn't work. This election Democratic Party leaders was conspicuously silent when it came to crowing about any progressive stands apart from reproductive rights. That daring departure no doubt rested on demographic research that concluded more women vote than men and even states like Mississippi reject personhood amendments. Democrats this year couldn't distinguish a clarion call from a noon whistle when it came to rallying voters.

This year they adapted a prevent defense for a game geared toward red state fields, forgetting perhaps that even with its obvious flaws a prevent defense only makes a smattering of sense if you already hold a clear lead. I suppose they were counting the number of incumbent Senate seats they could afford to give up and still cling on for a "victory" by running out the clock

2016 will look nothing like 2014. Americans turn out in presidential election years, and next time around it will be Republicans having to worry about holding on to seats they hold in ideologically unfavorable terrain. In 2016 it will be ideological war, and Republicans won't shy away from it because they know they have no real defense other than a strong offense.Democrats damn well better fight this time.

I believe Jihadists must be forcefully countered

Forcefully does not always mean "with force", but sometimes it does mean that, and I believe the use of force is an important aspect of countering Jihadists now. I have always resisted the use of force, essentially by anyone anywhere. But there are always exceptions to that for me, though rarely if ever at the full scale of war. Not all jihadists are the same, obviously, but a virulent strain has been growing at the fringes of Islam. Even Al Qaeda as we knew it was not as extreme as ISIS or Boko Haram have become. Bin Ladin initially fought against the Russians for invading Afghanistan, and he first turned his sights onto America because we established military bases in Saudi Arabia, the home of Islams must sacred sites. Al Qaeda justified terrorism using convoluted religious arguments, but it did not call for the death of "non-believers"precisely because they were "non-believers". That is the trajectory the most extreme jihadists are on now.They are seeking a holy war because they see holy war as intrinsically desirable in order to spread their own version of their faith.

It is an ideology/theology that sanctions genocide as a morally justifiable, virtually required, means towards their end. It is an ideology/theology that embraces literal slavery as an institution to practice and spread in the name of God. And they are gaining momentum, territory and adherents. They represent a brutal expansionist force more akin to naked colonialism as it was practiced from the 16th into the early 20th Century than to more traditional organized Islamist movements such as Hamas or the Muslim Brotherhood. It is more like an early stage of Germany's Third Reich, with a potent virulent belief system that openly justifies the most barbaric acts against those who it does not assign basic human rights or dignity to on a mass level. Like with hard core Stalinism the end will justify any means, and those beliefs are enshrined at the highest level of the movement, openly and proudly. In their version of reality it is immoral NOT to act in that way.

That level of moral sanction given to inhuman behavior, that extreme a black and white world view without inconvenient moral ambiguities clouding the certainty of judgement, can be deceptively potent if not forcefully challenged head on. The problem is that the United States of America is in critical ways ill suited to lead that challenge. We do exercise real power and power has a role to play, but power devoid of moral authority will not win this struggle, not soon and not easily- that much seems certain. to me

If Islamic leaders, both in and out of government, need the encouragement of American military backing to take on this fight full force, we can play a role. For that reason I for the moment support the military actions taken by the Obama Administration against ISIS. I support even more its intense diplomatic efforts to expand the coalition of resistance to murderous jihadism. This could became the epic struggle of our generation or more. Done with caution, done within a unifying framework much broader than the U.S. and it's European allies, this is an imperative struggle of a different scale and purpose than mere territorial and resource ambitions that often lie at the root of most wars. We may blow this in a near infinite number of ways, and distort the conflict to serve narrow capitalist and imperial interests, but we are now up against a growing ideology that is anathema to almost all of our core values.

I rarely "Fall in Love" with a Presidential Candidate

I don't expect to in 2016. To be blunt, I don't let myself get too excited about anyone who doesn't stand a realistic chance in hell of getting elected for one thing, so that eliminates some otherwise tempting possibilities. Actually I do think that Elizabeth Warren could possibly be electable, and SHE would excite me as a candidate. But I believe Warren when she says she isn't going to run. If that changes my attitude will also.

If Hillary Clinton decides not to run, it still could get interesting, but I believe she will run. In a totally open field it is not inconceivable that a Howard Dean or a Bernie Sanders type could emerge from the pack, though I would be surprised to see that happen. I am all for Hillary Clinton having an articulate Democrat challenge her from the left in the Democratic primaries. I would oppose anyone running a scorched earth campaign against her however, even if I agreed with her challenger more on the issues. By scorched earth I mean attempts to tear into Hillary personally, rather than focusing on areas of policy differences. Bernie Sanders is an example of someone I believe could pull off the latter without falling into the former, and that would be healthy both for the Democratic Party and for our nation.

Though she is significantly right of me on many issues I will have no problem supporting Hillary Clinton for President if she wins the Democratic nomination. I expect to have problems supporting a number of her positions if she does become President however. I had no problem supporting Barack Obama for president after he won the Democratic nomination. I have had problems supporting a number of his positions since he became President however. I fully expected that to happen and I haven't regretted supporting Obama through two elections for an instant. He is notably more responsive to pressure from activists like me than his Republican opponents would have been.

I do not expect any President who we are likely to elect under current political conditions to lead us into any semblance of the progressive promised land. If we fight hard enough and organize effectively enough though we may lead him or her part way there. That is a lesson I learned in the 60's when we the people pulled our society to the left, and that even extended to Dick Nixon who founded O.S.H.A. and the E.P.A during his time in office.

This is the most powerful song I've heard since "Blowing in the Wind"

My partner Janet and I run a small concert series in the Catskills and we discovered this Canadian singer- songwriter, Jon Brooks, a few years back when his agent contacted us (the web site for our concert series is www.flyingcatmusic.com in case anyone is curious).

Jon spent some time in Bosnia shortly after cessation of formal hostilities there. This song came from that context and is rooted in it, but it's scope is much larger than that war alone. We have him coming to do a concert for us Sunday night which is why I'm thinking of him now - but more people should know about him, especially those who value incisive commentary:

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