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Tom Rinaldo

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Member since: Mon Oct 20, 2003, 06:39 PM
Number of posts: 18,575

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Iran in U.S. Senate Crosshairs.

Pending legislation actively supported by a significant minority of the U.S. Senate, including 15 Democratic Senators, establishes strict economic sanctions to be imposed on Iran should it not adhere to actions demanded of it during the current interim six month negotiating window regarding it's nuclear program. The Obama Administration opposes the Senate Bill, arguing that talks with Iran are at a fragile and sensitive stage and any further talk of sanctions at this point runs the risk of scuttling them. Not surprisingly the Senate sponsors of this bill deny any desire to torpedo the current negotiations with Iran. They claim their intent is to provide incentives to Iran to negotiate in good faith. Their actions, they say, increase the likelihood of reaching a negotiated outcome with Iran consistent with long stated U.S. security concerns. They may say that, and some of them may even believe it, but their actions are far more likely to increase the chances of a war with Iran.

No knowledgeable observer can deny that powerful forces, some inside Iran, others associated with the U.S. and our allies, are unsettled if not unabashedly alarmed, at the direction the current nuclear talks have taken. That type of concern seems to flare up whenever long time adversaries show mutual signs of breaking loose from deeply entrenched opposing positions. International disputes ultimately are settled in one of two ways. Either one side essentially capitulates in the face of threats, up to and sometimes including the use of force against them, or some type of settlement of outstanding differences is negotiated. The former often leads to war. The latter almost always involves some degree of compromise, but hardliners on BOTH sides of a dispute usually oppose the granting of any real concessions to their adversaries.

The motives of those opposed to the current negotiations over Iran's nuclear program on both sides may differ wildly, but the short term tactical goal is identical; derail any real diplomacy that proposes anything other than a blueprint for the terms of the other side's surrender. When hardliners lose an internal struggle with more moderate elements to shape their nation's stance in an international dispute, they will try to inflame extremist passions on BOTH side of the dispute. They know it makes no difference which side ultimately disrupts negotiations. All that matters is the failure of the negotiating process.

No doubt opponents of the current peace process inside of the Iranian regime are doing all that they can to poison the well; to stoke up as much hatred of and suspicion toward America as possible. Opponents of the current peace process inside of America, Israel, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere are counting on exactly that. There is a phrase that gets used in diplomacy that we seldom stop to ponder the meaning or implications of, and that term is “in good faith”. It's not the sort of precise criteria that is easily verifiable, but whether or not each side believes that the opposing side is negotiating in “good faith” is critical to the success of most negotiations. Another important diplomacy related concept is “trust building initiatives”. There seems to be a diplomatic consensus that trust building measures are crucial before real progress can be made resolving long standing disputes between nations with an entrenched distrust of each other.

If it is possible for a party to be recognized for “negotiating in good faith” it is equally possible for it to be accused of “negotiating in bad faith”. The latter is actually the more likely outcome when negotiations occur against the backdrop of deeply held suspicions. And that is precisely why trust building measures are so central to diplomacy, and why they are needed now during the standoff with Iran. Diplomacy at the highest levels has resumed between the United States and Iran. It is an historical breakthrough. Both sides are intently studying how this breakthrough is being perceived by the other, across the great divide. Is it being viewed with relief, and at least cautious optimism, or is it a cause for greater concern, with an expectation of failure and worse days to come?

Cue the United States Senate, where lobbyists representing the interests of other nations aligned with the United States are hard at work behind the scenes trying to influence U.S. policy toward Iran during the current stand off regarding Iran's nuclear program. Clearly there are honest differences of opinion over if and how to proceed with negotiations. Those differences have been at the heart of countless debates within the U.S. State Department and have been the focus of endless consultations with our allies. They were fully weighed, they were fully considered, and the current negotiations with Iran are the product of those deliberations.

Secretary of State John Kerry could not be clearer in warning that new Congressional initiatives regarding Iran policy at this point in our relationship with that nation are not only counter productive, they are dangerous and undercut the chances of successfully defusing our impasse with Iran, and significantly increase the likelihood of armed conflict with that nation. Those warnings have not deterred those who object to the diplomatic process now underway, but they have influenced the tactics that they are using to undercut those negotiations

An initial flurry of voices rose in stark opposition to the 6 month interim agreement reached with Iran when it was first announced, until the American people weighed in on the deal. Most polls have shown a clear majority of Americans supporting it. As a result, rather than directly opposing the current six month window for negotiations, opposition strategy has shifted toward more subtly undermining it. Hence the current emphasis on providing “incentives to Iran”, in the form of specifically defined threats. Yes, it is argued, they will not take effect unless the negotiations fail, but the effect of those threats is to increase the likelihood of that failure. New threats from America coincident with the first hesitant warming of relations between our nation in over 30 years, predictably play poorly inside of Iran, and that plays directly into the hands of hard line Iranian elements who thrive on opposing America.

That is the real goal of the threats the U.S. Senate is weighing against Iran. The neocons may have lost the last few Middle East rounds but they have not exited the field. They still want to topple the Iranian regime, just like they wanted to depose Saddam Hussein. They still are promising the American people that it will be a “cakewalk” to liberate Iran from oppression, just like it was supposed to be in Iraq. Just a few more hard turns of the economic screws and the regime will crumble in the face of domestic unrest, “Don't stop now, we're winning” is their mantra. And if it comes to blows there is always shock and awe.

The neocon position is known and understood by the government in Iran. What they are unsure of is how much support that position has in the United States government. Iran is no more likely to make critical concessions to an opponent negotiating in bad faith than we are. If the U.S. Senate succeeds in lining up new sanctions against Iran now, when trust building rather than saber rattling is a prerequisite to any long term diplomatic settlement. the fate of the interim negotiations is sealed. American hardliners, and their counterpoints in Iran, will have carried the day, and they can then get on with pursuing the mortal conflict that they believe to be inevitable.

The Official video for John Lennon's 'Merry Xmas (War Is Over)'. Not upbeat but powerful.

So I was putting together a short holiday greeting to two young women (in their mid 30's - to me that's young) who are kind of like step children to me, and I thought, why not send them a video of "Merry Xmas (War is Over)? I turned both of them on to John Lennon as a solo artist when they were 17 and they have liked him ever since.

So I did a search for it and found multiple versions - along with other great Beatles related stuff by the way. Far as I can tell there is no live performance video of John and Yoko singing this but there are lots that have good visuals to go along with the music. All the highlighted recommended versions were by and large upbeat, with some emphasizing the idealistic sentiments of the song. I was having fun viewing some, trying to decide which to send them when I noticed a version that was described as "The Official video for John Lennon 'Merry Xmas (War Is Over)'" It wasn't one of the recommended options. The music is the familiar upbeat song we all know, but the visuals are haunting and very sad, actually jarring to look at because they are a condemnation of war.

I had never seen it before, I knew nothing about it. It wasn't as easy to view videos or song films in 1971 as it is now, back when there wasn't an internet or Youtube. I thought twice about sending them the actual version that John and Yoko released, it is not cheerful holiday viewing, but of course I finally just did. I did so with this comment:

"This song coupled with this video goes a long way toward explaining why I loved John Lennon so much, and why I had so much respect for him and Yoko. I hope you both are having a happy Christmas Day. John and Yoko wished that for all of us."

Here is the video:

It really is this simple. American capitalism in its current form is failing the American people

That doesn't necessarily prove that Marxism would work better for most of us, but that isn't the point. Objectively, our form of capitalism is failing for most Americans. Failing the way that a liver fails, or a kidney fails. Failing the way eyesight fails. Our situation is deteriorating, things are getting worse and they have been getting progressively worse for a long time. There is a trend line, it's not just statistical noise, the trend in clear. Poverty is increasing, good paying jobs are becoming scarcer, the number of people who are surviving from pay check to pay check keeps growing. Fewer people can save for their retirement and more people are spending down savings that were once meant for retirement in order to just stay afloat.

The abstract merits and demerits of capitalism will always be debated, but pure capitalism is rarely practiced in the industrialized world, or anywhere else for that matter. We, like most nations, have a mixed economy. The stare has a role in our economy. The devil is in the details, in the mix, in the role that government plays. Few outside of the most extreme libertarians argue that the government has zero legitimate role in the economy. Even the ownership class wants some government involvement, but on their own terms of course. They want crop subsidies for corporate farmers.They want "investment friendly" tax loopholes for their favored industries. They want their trademarks and patents protected by the courts. They want their bank accounts to be federally insured. They want public education to provide workers with the minimal skills they expect from whatever work force they require, and they want federal, air flight controllers watching over their corporate jets etc.

While many in the ownership class would love to freely assemble monopolies so they can crush the opposition and subsequently gouge consumers, America already tried that social experiment and most of us weren't happy with the results. Back in the day a Republican President, Teddy Roosevelt, helped reign in the worst excesses of that unregulated system. Americans have long known and mostly agreed that unfettered, unregulated capitalism is a dangerous and potentially inhumane force. We once had no child labor laws, and children were exploited without mercy. We once had no worker safety laws and workers were endangered without mercy. Without a small army of government inspectors food safety was once routinely dangerously compromised in slaughterhouses and food processing plants across the nation. Why were such terrible business practices once embraced by many American capitalists? Simply because they were profitable and they helped the bottom line. Just like slavery once did also, another highly profitable American business practice that was only curtailed by government intervention. The free market would have let slavery continue for at least a few decades longer than it did.

The profit motive ia amoral. The competitive spur it provides for innovation and growth is at root no different than the incentive that the money armored cars carry provides to would be robbers of them. Morality is an overlay on the profit incentive that is not evenly applied. For some individuals their own internal moral compass has always prevented them from owning slaves, or recklessly endangering their workers, or selling rancid food, or from robbing banks, or from supplying steel to America's enemies during a time of war. .Clearly though not all moral compasses are created equal, as the history of capitalism (and crime) has shown.

When full time American workers can not afford to live even marginally on the wages that they earn, the capitalist system is not working for us. It may be working for the ownership class and the high ranking lieutenants that they employ, but not for the American people. Even beyond those minimum wage workers themselves, it is failing the entire shrinking middle class in more ways than one when millions of Americans can't earn a living wage. For those of us who live and work on "Main Street U.S.A." the economy is slowly grinding to a halt, whether we work for minimum wage or a half way decent salary; whether we have an employer or own our own small business. Money is draining out of our daily lives - there is less of it to go around in the circles that we live in. People can't spend what they don't have, and businesses can't sell what people can't afford to buy. It goes beyond that though. We are given a draconian choice. Either we, the people, must step in to mitigate the horror of what run-a-way unchecked capitalism is now doing to the American people. or we must allow our souls to calcify. Either we have to subsidize the uninsured in hospital emergency rooms through our taxes or turn a blind eye to their suffering and death. Either we, the people, have to put food on the table of hungry workers who can't earn enough to feed their families,through government assistance, or become indifferent to the hunger of children. Either we, the people, have to pay subsidies to ensure the availability of affordable housing for tens of millions of Americans who otherwise can't find it, or become numb to stepping past homeless elders and vets huddled in doorways and sleeping in parks under a blanket of newspapers.

God knows there is money in America, trillions of it, and it isn't disappearing, wealth is actually growing, but it is increasingly concentrated into fewer and fewer hands. For that lucky oligarchy, capitalism is working for America. For the rest of us it is failing, and for many of us it has already failed completely. The question isn't whether or not capitalism is or isn't good in any of its possible forms, relative to whatever alternatives to it there may be. The question is whether this form of capitalism, the way it is operating in America today, is good for the American people. Increasingly the answer is a clear and simple no.

The most successful propaganda phrase the Right ever deployed in the U.S is: "the liberal media".

Ever since they made that an accepted "buzz phrase" the preponderance of broadcast and print media in this country shifted significantly further to the right. I think the rapid rise of false equivalency reporting that overtook true journalism started to really gather steam when major media outlets began to bend over backwards to prove that they didn't have a built in liberal bias, and that includes National Public Radio also.

The stark truth remains however that major media has always had an intrinsic conservative bias simply because of the economics of ownership - ownership of major broadcast media and print outlets has always largely been out of the economic reach of the laboring classes in America. Furthermore that is compounded by the financial model that most media outlets employ, namely advertizing revenue covering operating expenses. The interests of the currently well to do are "baked into the mix" when major media decides what is and what is not news, and how it should be covered.

The apt counter to the term "liberal media"I believe is "corporate media". The term "mainstream media" in comparison to "liberal media" is unfocused and poorly defined. I intend to banish "mainstream media" from my vocabulary. Ever since the term "corporate outsourcing" became entrenched in the American vocabulary, "corporate" as an adjective has registered increasingly negative in the public mind The left has to regain the populist mantle. We will do so in ways both large and small. The phrases we use is part of that.
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