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Tom Rinaldo

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Member since: Mon Oct 20, 2003, 05:39 PM
Number of posts: 18,205

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No Independent Commission to investigate Trump Team ties to Russia? No Gorsuch confirmation vote

This should now be a firm non negotiable Democratic position. No more business as usual when Republicans are using their investigatory powers blatantly, inappropriately, in support of what increasingly appears to be a coverup.

Government can not function when the very basis for it is now seriously called into question. Democrats should draw that clear linkage, and use that as a fundamental basis to not "consider Gorsuch on his merits" at this time. A filibuster on principle is now the only responsible position that Democrats can take at least until there is a consensus impartial means established to get to the heart of the questions surrounding the Trump Administration and their potentially illegal activities, both before and after the election.

If the Republican Chairperson of the House Intelligence Committee can shed any pretense of regular order and bipartisanship, Democrats must use all tools possible to see that a true and impartial investigation of Trump's team occurs.and that includes their participation in any Supreme Court confirmation procedures. These matters should now be directly linked, and all Democratic Senators should take that position regardless of what they may otherwise individually feel about possibly confirming Gorsuch - Blue Dogs in Red States included.

It shoud be clear to all now why Trump flew into such a rage when Sessions recused himself

Sometimes it really is simple. As head of the Justice Department Trump trusted Sessions, as his total loyalist, to be his failsafe firewall against a FBI investigation concluding that any crimes were committed by Team Trump. Had Lynch not recused herself after that meeting with Bill Clinton likely Comey would have been held in check regarding Hillary. History can turn on things like that. Trump was counting on his man Sessions to save him. He lost his ace in the hole, get out of jail free card.

(With much Regret) I Lean Pragmatic on Gorsuch

I'm not happy about it. I'm not happy about him. I know that Republicans stole that seat by refusing to even give Garland a hearing. I hoped and believed that we would, as a nation, do much better than Gorsuch when President Hilary Clinton submitted her nominee to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court. Instead Donald Trump got to choose a nominee, and Gorsuch is having a Senate hearing as I type this.

Now, in real time, what options do Democrats have? Many progressive voices who I admire argue for total resistance, and make a compelling case for just that. Theft should not be rewarded. Unfortunately I believe theft will be rewarded. Barring new, highly unsettling and gravely negative revelations, Gorsuch will be confirmed to sit on the Supreme Court. Simply put, I believe he will either win 60 votes for confirmation with the support of a least 8 Democrats, or the filibusterer will be abolished, and Gorsuch will be seated with a simple 51 vote majority threshold passed.

There is, however, a third disturbing option. Republicans could allow Democrats to successfully filibuster the Gorsuch nomination, and have his nomination rejected. Then of course Trump would be forced to choose a new nominee. That, I suspect, might be when Republicans finally trigger the nuclear option. Not before Gorsuch goes down in defeat, but after he does - in time for Trump's second nominee to sail through the Senate under simple majority rule.This scenario offers some real advantages to the Republican conservative hard right. Something tells me that, with the filibuster already abolished, the next nominee Trump would make would make Gorsuch look like Snow White in comparison. That would suit Trump's vindictive temperament.

For starters, everything I have read so far seems to indicate that Gorsuch is just about as close to the mainstream of legal thought as any person that a Trump/Pence/Bannon/Ryan regime will ever nominate. I would not be surprised if risking his defeat was their tactical intent all along, offering up the classic win/win scenario for Trump and the Republican Party: Under option A) Gorsuch breaks a Democratic filibuster and gets seated - sowing discord within Democratic ranks in the process. Trump and Republicans celebrate, and bask in the "glow" of winning significant bi-partisan support for the elevation of a "highly respected" and "respectable" conservative jurist onto the Supreme Court.

Then there is option B) whereby Democrats sustain a filibuster and force Trump to submit a second nominee to fill the Supreme Court vacancy. I suppose this scenario would be made moot should Senate Republicans abolish the filibuster prior to an actual vote on Gorsuch being held. Of course they very well might do just that, since Democrats do not have the means to stop them. Whether Republicans would abolish the filibuster to allow Gorsuch to win confirmation, or allow him to go down to tactical defeat instead, is uncertain. What seems clear to me however is that the Republicans will not allow two consecutive Trump nominees to be defeated by Democratic filibusters. One defeat they could use as a justification to trigger the nuclear option, and thus allow them to install a more extreme right nominee onto the Supreme Court instead of Gorsuch while simultaneously blaming Democrats for the abolishment of the filibuster because it was abused to block an "eminently qualified" Justice from being seated. Two nominations blocked by Democratic filibusters however would be viewed as a sign of their weakness, and Republicans will not allow that to happen.

A less radical Republican regime than the current one might conceivably move further toward the center with their second Supreme Court pick, should Gorsuch be rejected for not having sufficient bipartisan support. There certainly is modern precedent for that political course of action. But there is no modern precedent for this Republican regime. One way or another either Gorsuch, or someone even worse than him, will be seated on the Supreme Court this year. We are only 60 days into this presidency and Republicans hold the majority in the Senate. Unlike the Republicans with Garland, Democrats do not have the tools needed to run out the clock on this nomination. Should Republicans be punished for stealing a Supreme Court seat? Yes of course. The best time for that was the 2016 elections where they should have been held accountable for their flagrant disregard of the Constitution. Instead they retained a majority in the Senate and Trump became President. These are unfortunate facts.

When Republicans, one way or another, fill this Supreme Court vacancy it will restore the balance of power on the Court that existed before Scalia died. The next vacancy may shift it, and we don't know when that will occur. For all we know that could occur late in 2018, roughly at the same point in the presidential election cycle as when the Scalia vacancy happened. If the filibuster no longer existed at that point Republicans would not allow a little thing like hypocrisy stop them from quickly stacking the court in their favor. They may not however be willing to risk the political backlash of so blatantly changing the long standing traditional rules of the Senate, in the thick of a Presidential election, to ram through a controversial nominee.

And then of course there is the long term game, of wining back control of the U.S. Senate, which is essential to our ability to change the direction that the nation is now heading under unified Republican control of government. Not only must we wrest some Senate seats currently held by Republicans away from them, we need to retain the seats we now hold in purple and red states that Trump won in 2016. In a lot of ways the old axiom that all politics is local still holds true. Here in New York State where I live there is no political risk for a Democratic Senator to filibuster the Gorsuch nomination, rather the political risk would lie in the refusal to do so. I can't say with certainty though that the same is true for all of the Democratic U.S. Senators facing reelection in 2018. For all of these varied reasons, as things stand now, I am not certain that progressives should seek to punish every Democratic Senator who refuses to filibuster Gorsuch when his confirmation vote is finally held. His hearings have just started. For all I know new negative revaluations about him may have emerged while I was composing this post. But the big picture as I see it now remains ugly, with no great options open to us. It is easy to play a strong hand in Bridge, playing a weak hand is a much greater challenge.

The heath care profession is one of the few substantial growth sectors left in our economy

And it is just about the only one that still offers a robust full spectrum of entry level positions, offered at various pay levels - including many well above starvation wages with further upside possibility.

Not only has the Affordable Care Act facilitated millions of Americans receiving health care that would otherwise have been beyond their means, it has simultaneously expanded good career opportunities for millions more. Jobs that are difficult to outsource, jobs that can support the raising of families with a modicum of built in security. In addition, unlike those laboring in the fast food industry, health care workers of all kinds can take some personal pride in helping their neighbors live lives more well, not ones sickened further by poor nutrition.

What more productive work force is there than one that helps our citizens live long and healthy lives? With a focus on prevention and proactive measures to increase wellness, the Affordable Care Act supports our ability to receive support for our health, both inside our own homes and through local out patient practitioners, rather than through crisis response management via high stress emergency room interventions. And this includes mental health care as well, at a time when money for low income mental health clinics in recent decades had substantially withered.

When less people have access to health care, less people have access to career opportunities inside of health care. Mining jobs are not returning. Automation churns relentlessly on, and soon even professional drivers will become obsolete, not to mention checkers and store clerks. It may not be the most immediate, nor the most deadly consequence of unraveling the Affordable Care Act and scaling back the services now being delivered through it, but job losses that will result from that are yet another dagger aimed at our shrinking middle class.

Excluding Iraq From Muslim Ban Lays Bare the Lie

The travel ban offers nothing for national security, rather it threatens it. Sure there is a fig leaf of verbiage concealing the naked truth ("Iraq will work with us on screening criteria" but that provides about as effective a cover up as fig leaves offer for nudity. Essentially none. If any nation fits the description of a likely source for terrorists attempting to enter the U.S. (aside from Saudi Arabia of course which actually was), Iraq fits the bill perfectly.

To quote our current President: "Isis started in Iraq". ISIS controls territory in Iraq. Terrorist infiltrated Iraqi members of security forces have murdered Senior American military officials inside of Iraq. Car bombs blow up inside Iraq every day, even in the tightly secured Green Zone. Iran supported militia's operate openly inside Iraq, and Iranian Revolutionary Guard Generals train them. But Iraq is now exempted from the travel ban.

Good, it should be. Along with the other six nations also. Including Iraq in the travel ban in the first place literally threatened our national security. Had Trump not removed it we might have alienated a key U.S. ally active in the fight against ISIS. The current Iraq government whose soldiers are fighting and dying to defeat ISIS was put in a very difficult place by the original order, as were our soldiers stationed there. It turned public opinion against America inside of Iraq as it did throughout the entire Muslim world. The new travel ban, like the old one, emboldens our enemies and weakens our friends.

If national security reasons required Iraq to be removed from the ban (which they did) than national security argues against the wisdom of an entire policy based on fabricated fear. The Trump Administration has twisted itself into a knot in an effort to justify keeping a campaign promise to its xenophobic base, at the very real expense of weakening our national security against terrorism in order to do so.

Just release your tax returns Donald. That will stop those critics in their tracks

You have nothing to hide, right? Twenty years worth should do it. You already got elected President, remember? You already have billions, and one of the most famous names in the world. No audit's gonna take that away from you, no matter what the IRS says. Go ahead, prove 'em all wrong - release your returns and show them that your son was wrong about all your dealings with Russia.

You're not shy, are you?

Even if Trump is jailed for treason and Pence exposed for complicity

Climate control will be gutted, millions will lose health care, Medicaid will loose guaranteed federal fiscal support, the ultra rich will be given hundreds of billions in "tax relief" forcing essential services to forfeit funding, diplomacy will be jettisoned to pay for mega weapons, public education will be starved, consumer protections will end and so much more, if the Republican budget plans become law. And it will take more than just protests to reverse those moves once made with Republicans still in control of the White House and both Houses of Congress, regardless of what happens to Trump.

I am as riveted, alarmed and angered as anyone else is while watching the high crimes and misdemeanors of Trump's White House and our Democracy's attempt to fight them off. But I worry when I find myself transfixed by that to the inadvertent exclusion of sustained nuts and bolts organizing among those who will most be hurt by the drastic cuts in services, benefits, and protections that loom before us. It is hard to focus on anything except the unique threat that Trump embodies. I think Republicans in Congress and their handlers in the oligarchy are counting on that.

So, let's see if I have this right

Many of us don't want to in any way court the votes of anyone who voted for Trump in 2016 - even ex-Obama voters - because, essentially, they chose to vote for an unqualified autocratic self serving rich bigot, who betrays America's ideals and will harm millions, so we don't want or need their kind of votes now.

Many of us have no use for blue dog Democrats in deeply red state America, who vote along with the majority of their respective Democratic caucus members in Congress the vast majority of the time, because they break with a majority of the Democrats in Congress to vote, on some important matters, in ways that support some part of Trump's agenda. Because of that, who needs them? Or, for example, a majority in the Senate?

Many of us show some animosity toward Bernie Sanders who, along with several other candidates, conducted a primary challenge for the 2016 presidential nomination against Hillary Clinton for "an open seat." In so doing he won roughly 45% of the votes cast, and energized the largest base of small donors ever seen in American politics while attracting large numbers of new voters, disproportionately young, to Democratic politics. Still, he lost after a spirited campaign where contrasts were drawn between the leading candidates and some sharp elbows got thrown - but by all relatively objective counts far fewer than normally get thrown in this type of prolonged competition. Though he subsequently campaigned for Hillary and later was named to the Democratic leadership team by the Senate's Democratic leader- many of us are dismissive of Sanders for, among other things, not being a true Democrat, and/or for having somehow contributed to Trump's victory by, among other things, not doing enough to unify the Party then (or now). Disdain for Bernie Sanders translates, for some who were drawn into the Democratic Party political process because of him, into disdain toward them as well. Many of us, it often seems, have little respect for those voters if their loyalty to the Democratic Party is so shallow that it can be shaken by attacks on the man who inspired them to become so active. Do we really need them?

Many of us show some animosity toward Hillary Clinton, who also chose to seek the 2016 Democratic Party nomination for President in 2016, won the most votes in the primaries, and then lost the General Election despite wining almost 3 million more popular votes than Trump. In so doing she retained the fierce loyalty of millions of Democrats, representing hope and change to many women in particular. Clinton developed that loyalty over the course of decades of hard committed work, mastering the ropes of leadership as we have known it, both inside and outside of the Democratic Party as we have known it also, during those very same decades. She excelled in a system that some of us have now grown tired of or disillusioned with. So many of us, it can easily seem, have little respect for Hillary's accomplishments, or of those who still highly value them. That, to put it simply, undermines cohesion in today's Democratic Party, but many of us it appears, are untroubled by that. Purity has been redefined, let mass purges begin. Who needs a broad based coalition if truth is on your side?

Many of us ridicule those who voted Third Party in 2016, neither for Trump nor Clinton. We act as if Democrats had a right to their votes, because those voters did not support Donald Trump for President. We place the blame on them if they are alienated from the current two party system, not on the major parties that make up the current two party system. We ignore the fact that Third Parties have almost always been a part of America's democracy - sometimes playing critical long term roles, even in defeat. We overlook the fact that the Libertarians, who did not negatively focus on Hillary Clinton during the last campaign, won far more votes than the Greens did, and that younger voters in particular increasingly identify less with either major Party than did recent generations before them. Quite frankly, many of us call them all stupid or worse for helping enable Donald Trump to win. And in these attitudes toward them, many of us increase the alienation that a lot of third party voters have toward the current Democratic Party. But, given how high the stakes were in that election, many of us don't now want the support of those too stupid to vote for Hillary in 2016.

And of course we all agree that our Republic itself, and the essential well being of tens of millions of Americans is now gravely periled by the Trump Administration and the Republican majorities in Congress. Above all else, we must do everything possible to resist and seize political power away from them.

Where will we find the votes to do so?

A few words on the use of the term "Deplorables"

First, I do not at all question that it is an accurate description for millions of people who supported Donald Trump for President. For exactly how many is a fair matter for debate. Personally I would estimate that well below ten million justly qualify for that particular slur, probably less than five million, but of course that depends on where you draw the line. Now if you open it up to include those who are narrow minded or very poorly informed, and those who harbor some prejudices, that number greatly expands. I don't include the latter categories for defining "deplorables". Virtually all of us harbor prejudices, including many of us who are continually working to confront and rid ourselves of them. Some of us have it worse than others, it's an often lethal social disease that tends to kill not the hosts, but those who are exposed to it. It's evil, I make no apologies for it. But I note a distinction between those who are infected with it, and those who proudly embrace it. A white person who routinely locks their car doors whenever they drive through a "minority neighborhood" is infected. A white person who frequents white supremacy web sites openly embraces overt racism - which clearly is deplorable.

Here's the thing though. "Deplorables" don't mind it in the slightest when liberals and progressives call them that. They wear it as a badge of honor, and they see our use of that term as a political gift to them. Why? Because it is vague and oddly nondescript. The literal haters, the openly racist, the ideological bigots, and the true fascists love to blur the lines. They argue that liberals are inherently elitists, who love to look down on "ordinary people". That is their desired "us vs them" dichotomy: "out of touch hypocritical snobs" on one side vs "everyday Americans". So they gleefully appropriate the "deplorable" terminology and claim that is how progressives dismiss each and every person who voted for Donald Trump.

I am not here to defend anyone for voting for Donald Trump. I believe that those who supported that man for President all made an egregious mistake. And I cut zero slack for the openly racist, for true haters, for proud bigots, and for fascists. But that is exactly what those who deserve it should be called; haters, bigots, and fascists: people who are all inherently Unamerican. That is where the wedge needs to be driven. Be careful not to let them take cover under a term that doesn't explicitly name them for what they are, and which they happily can twist into a viscous equal indictment of everyone who, for whatever reason, voted for Donald Trump in November. It only plays into their political narrative, and ultimate game plan.

I'm a leftist who is, in the big picture, strongly "Pro-American" & "Anti-Russian"

Our nation and it's leaders have participated in innumerable evil acts in the long course of our history. Russia has a magnificent cultural legacy and a strong, resilient, and industrious people. There is much to deplore in America. There is much to admire in Russia. But in the large sweep of world history the evolution of liberal democracies is to be encouraged, and the concentration of power in the hands of autocrats is to be fought. I believe the ends do not justify the means, I believe the means determine the ends. I believe that there can at times be "benign dictatorships" but that they are, where found, temporary at best exceptions to basic human nature - that will inevitably end up badly. I believe that democracies are inherent with some risks as well, ranging from susceptibility to mass manipulation, to mob rule and the utter trampling of minority rights. But nothing is as ruthlessly efficient at wielding concentrated power as an autocracy or full blown totalitarian state. And in the big picture I fundamentally believe that "power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely". In all of the above I can find some common ground with the most principled of Libertarian Conservatives.

I seek no conflict with Russia, and certainly not with the Russian people. Human civilizations are massive centuries long experiments in social evolution. None of us (even with robotics and breakthroughs in medical science) can ever hope to live long enough to see full harmony in this world. We will always have to find a way to coexist to the extent possible with those with whom we have fundamental disagreements, be that a Putin or a Trump. But the ongoing path forward for humanity is always an embrace of both Liberty AND Justice, one can not be sacrificed at the alter of the other.

Capitalism at best in amoral, coupled with greed it quickly lends itself to immoral pursuits. Putin and those in Russia who think like him have much to legitimately fear from Western expansionism. The West has a long and deep tradition of colonialism. But the growth of democratic institutions in Western Europe helped check the manipulation of nationalistic sentiments by self serving despots, who had constantly plunged that continent into war, time and time again, over the preceding millennium. Today we face an exceptional challenge. Not only must we continue the fight to expand and perfect our democratic institutions and our values pertaining to human rights, human dignity and individual freedoms that underlay them (the right to life liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all of humanity) as President Obama so often alluded to. We must simultaneously fight to protect against their literal erosion.That is the battle today. And it is happening on fronts both local and global.

Fascism is never dead, and it is constantly mutating into new forms. At it's core it existed long before we called it fascism, and it will exist long after that specific construct has fallen from regular usage. Fascism is revitalized now throughout Europe, though it still is being held at bay. Some seeds of it are sprouting here as well. Putin's Russia does not advance democratic values and it sees no value in preserving them. But, for various geo-political and economic reasons it does see significant value now in disrupting the democracies of both Western Europe and America. I see that as dangerous, with potentially very long lasting negative consequences. If that puts me, in this instance, on roughly the same page as John McCain, so be it.
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