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Tom Rinaldo

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Member since: Mon Oct 20, 2003, 06:39 PM
Number of posts: 21,912

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Joe Biden doesn't negotiate in public. Not with Netanyahu, not with Manchin either.

We can guess what is being said between Biden and Manchin, but we can't know. Here are some things that we do know however. First and foremost, we know that Joe Biden is an accomplished politician well versed in the legislative process. The same is true for the current Democratic leadership in Congress. We know that Joe Manchin is far from an unknown quantity to top Democrats. From all reports he enjoys a positive personal relationship with both Chuck Schumer and Joe Biden. That's all I need to know to realize that top Democrats don't need advice from me, and certainly not my approval, to cobble together a strategy best designed to accomplish as much of President Biden's agenda as possible during the current legislative session. The path to so doing runs directly through Joe Manchin's office.

Like it or not that is simply a fact. It almost wasn't so. Democrats came perilously close to being in the minority in the Senate this year. Had that happened, the path toward salvaging any of President Biden's agenda would have run through the offices of Lisa Murkowsky, Susan Collins, and Mitt Romney instead. Had Donald Trump just woken from his Fox news stupor long enough to actually engage in last Fall's negotiations around that session's Covid relief bill, and insisted to Republican's in Congress that they issue $2,000 stimulus checks (under his signature) to tens of millions of Americans rather than the $600 checks that they agreed among themselves to back, likely Republicans would have held onto their two Senate seats in Georgia. Instead of counting on a trio of so called moderate Republicans to pass anything meaningful through the Senate, even using reconciliation, thanks to Georgia, Biden now counts on the support of moderate to conservative Democratic Senators like Joe Manchin to accomplish almost anything.

There aren't ten Republican votes in the Senate to back any bill that will make Joe Biden and the Democrats look good to American voters prior to the mid term election. An endless negotiation strategy is destined to lead nowhere, later rather than sooner. There simply aren't enough Republican Senators like Susan Collins who actually need to occasionally burnish their so called moderate credentials with their voters back home. Biden is more than smart enough to know this, so why is he engaging in the charade? Simply put, because he doesn't have the votes to do otherwise. Not yet anyway. Biden may seem to be negotiating with Republicans but actually he's bargaining with the Democratic center instead. Knowing Joe Biden, taking him at his word, the real grit of that bargaining is happening behind closed doors.

I have a long personal track record of being a tad cynical about just how hard leading Democrats have in the past been willing to fight for working class Americans against the counter interests of corporate America. You may or may not have held similar views. I say this only to underline that I do not automatically fall behind the views of a Democratic President simply because he or she is a Democratic President, but Joe Biden has earned my support and trust. His sponsorship and passage of the 1.9 Trillion dollar American Rescue Plan, with the plethora of progressive initiatives it embraces, by itself is more than enough to win him my loyalty for the foreseeable future (which admittedly isn't as long a time horizon as it once was.)

As noted above, I'm not privy to Joe Biden's game plan but I know this: When you don't have the votes to win you don't call for an immediate vote, not unless your intent is to score political points by losing, which is a very poor substitute for winning instead. Many have already opined that the most effective strategy for getting a moderate to conservative Democratic Senator (which is a grouping larger than just Joe Manchin) to abandon their publicly stated commitment to pursuing bipartisan solutions for our nation's problems, is to go the extra mile in attempting just that -- even if common sense dictates that any such effort is doomed to failure. This is especially true when there is precious little political leverage available to otherwise compel cooperation from a Senator who runs over 40 points ahead of the National Democratic ticket inside of his own home state.

Here is something else that we unfortunately understand: Just because something is deemed essential doesn't guarantee it can be done. It was essential for the French army to defend Paris against invading Nazi's early in WWII, but that didn't stop the Nazis. Eventually however Paris was retaken and today it again is free. I don't know how much of President Biden's agenda can pass through Congress this year, but more of it already has been accomplished than would be true had Democrats fallen short in Georgia. I am confident that more good work will still be accomplished toward that end, though I can only guess at how much. I strongly suspect that there's a lot more going on now behind the scenes than currently meets the eye. We are only about five months into Joe Biden's presidency. We have not run out of runway yet for this session of Congress, and when it breaks for the Fall as it always does it will reconvene in January with a renewed chance for making essential progress prior to the 2022 midterm elections. If "bipartisanship" goes nowhere in the intervening months that will strengthen the case for go it lone Democratic initiatives come January instead. Hopefully we won't have to wait that long .

You might think from what I've written above that I am explicitly or implicitly criticizing progressive Democrats in Congress for being impatient with the pace of change, or that I fear them becoming more apart of the problem now than the cure. No, I don't. A senator such as Joe Manchin needs to know that real pressure on Joe Biden is real and growing from the left. I honestly believe that Joe Manchin does not want to fatally undermine Biden's presidency. He wants to shape it, sure, and he (pretty much like all of those in politics) wants to point to his fingerprints and on its accomplishments, but not to destroy it. In football terms, we are still in the middle of the first quarter, and while half time is a more significant marker in a presidential term than it is in a football game, there are a lot of plays yet to be run befor then. If the left (which I consider myself a part of) oversteps it's bounds now and starts accusing the Biden Administration of ineptness in it's dealings with congressional Republicans, or worse yet of capitulation to the Republican political agenda, that will NOT be helpful. Acute expressions of frustration and the articulation of a sense of real urgency however do serve a positive function. It provides a backdrop for President Biden to convey to the likes of Manchin, during his private undisclosed negotiations, that he doesn't have unlimited rope to work with, an end game is rapidly approaching less his Democratic coalition ultimately fall apart.

None of this is easy, and nothing is guaranteed to succeed. We chose our leadership team and it is a good one. They have their work cut out for them. Like with any expert medical or legal team, victory can never be assured. But we have the right people on the job and I am inclined to trust in their ultimate expertise and judgement to accomplish as much as can be accomplished, under the present circumstances..

I'm tired of hearing about "Intelligence Failures" concerning the insurrection

Sure there were some. Some errors can always be found in hindsight with just about everything. Sure there were also some instances of "poor communication." That too is not exactly rare. But discussion about those "failures" doesn't begin to capture the magnitude of what went wrong on 1/6/21 and the weeks leading up to it. Front line first responders say that they were "betrayed", and that I think comes closer to the truth. Someone needs to just come out and say it. There was more going on than mere "intelligence failures." There was direct conspiracy with the insurrectionists by some in government service, and there was overt intelligence sabotage with the direct intent of leaving our Capital vulnerable to the insurrectionists. No other explanation will explain what happened.

Putin will make certain that Russian relations with the U.S. do not improve anytime soon

Instead Putin will do all that he can to destabilize the U.S. and will accept any related risks posed by potential U.S. retaliation. Cyber attacks will continue, disinformation campaigns will intensify, provocations will increase, and the courting of potential American right wing allies will expand even further.

Putin has NO incentive to improve or normalize relations with the United States now. He has every incentive to embrace brinkmanship, and advance barely veiled hostility toward the Biden Administration. The President of the United States has acknowledged (accurately) that American democracy in imperiled. Democratic leaders in Congress have basically said the same, and those elements of America's media that are not already aligned with Republican insurrectionists daily cover the growing authoritarian threat to our democratic form of government. This is a once in several generations opportunity, on a scale not seen since WWII, for Putin to strike a devastating blow against the nation he regards as his primary ideological foe. A potentially deadly attack that he can pursue without directly risking full frontal military conflict to achieve his ends. From Putin's perspective it is a chance that must be seized upon. Therefor he will do nothing that might potentially ease the stresses that our society currently faces but rather throw more fuel on the fires. The upside for Putin's "meddling" is simply too great for him to be deterred by whatever downside risks overt hostility to the Biden Administration might expose his own rule to.

If Putin goes for the golden ring of wide spread American civil strife and the disintegration of our democracy, and falls short of achieving those ends, his no doubt recognizes that his malevolent efforts now could end up costing him. Some. But when Putin crunches the odds and numbers, that risk is more than outweighed by the possible rewards success at achieving those goals would bring Putin. He'll take those odds and pursue those goals until such time as the anti-democratic American forces of white Supremacists and authoritarian insurrectionists are thoroughly routed. Then and only then will Putin sue for peace, and a return to "normalcy" between our governments.

I expect the upcoming summit between Biden and Putin to be a very frosty and combative affair.

Critical Reform Needed: "The Principles of Democracy" should be a required public school curriculum

I would propose it as a mandatory course for juniors in High Schools. For too long Americans have taken our revolutionary democratic heritage for granted, and now it has reached a point where it is slipping through our fingers, partially as a result. All American youth should be educated about democracy, comparing its advantages and disadvantages to other forms of government. Various models for democratic forms of government should also be looked at, showing how the American model compares to that used by other world democracies. Even more importantly, the fundamental prerequisites for maintaining a healthy functional democracy should be studied. That would include the infrastructure needed by a well functioning democracy, both human and technical.

The curriculum should cover such basics as the role of checks and balances, the need for governmental transparency, and the need for equitable access to mass media by potential candidates for government so that a democratic government can represent the full spectrum of it's citizens and not end up dominated only by those with exceptional personal means and/or those disproportionately indebted to those with concentrated wealth. The concept of "the market place of ideas" should be explored, with an emphasis on what is required to ensure that malicious falsehoods not drown out the truth. The origin of core premises such as "one man one vote" should be taught, as well as the history of the expansion of the right to vote from our nation's founding to the current day.

That's just scratching the surface, I'm sure others can think of additional essential topics that would fall within "The Principles of Democracy." This is not and need not become a partisan exercise. Democracy is not a partisan issue, it is our shared American heritage, but it does not flourish with neglect. That should be obvious to many by now.

It's not Trump's Hate, Greed, Corruption, Arrogance, Lawlessness or Incompetence...

It's the fact that, in the face of all of the above, with huge mountains of evidence to support each and every one of those severe indictments made against him, that Trump is still virtually worshiped by a third of our nation that absolutely horrifies me.

Evil and vile as one man may be, he is still just one man, and in a democracy we collectively have the means to deal with any one person, once the truth about him is known. That however assumes both a functioning democracy, and citizens willing to see the truth. Both of those core premises are way too much in question now to take much comfort from them.

We have the President I've been waiting for most of my adult lifetime

And I say that with utmost respect toward all of the prior Democratic presidents I previously voted for, going back to Jimmy Carter. I still give special praise to the "Great Society" enacted under LBJ, who was President while I was a teenager and then unable to vote, but his role in the Vietnamese war can neither be ignored nor forgotten. One can say that Joe Biden benefits in stature from the times during which he has been called upon to lead, and the unique challenges he confronts in doing so. That may be, but Joe Biden has risen fully, even heroically, to meet those challenges. He does so with grace, warmth, clarity and strength. Most importantly he refuses to underestimate either the magnitude of those challenges or our ultimate ability to overcome them. Biden is masterfully mobilizing the resources needed to do so on multiple critical fronts.

Jimmy Carter inherited and restored a democracy nearly broken by the increasingly autocratic tendencies displayed by Richard Nixon, the last U.S. president elected before him. I give Gerald Ford a degree of credit also, but it was primarily Jimmy Carter who restored inherent humility and decency to the American presidency, and a moral compass to America's role in the world. Bill Clinton had to confront a runaway train of right wing economics that had gathered breakaway momentum under 12 years of Reagan/Bush. He was tasked with the proverbial task of reversing the course of an aircraft carrier, and we are fortunate that he took the helm when he did. He made significant progress but that job remained unfinished

Barack Obama is a very special case, his was truly a great presidency. He took office with our nation in economic free fall, with our country embroiled in two hot geographic wars and an international struggle against terrorism. Obama restored American prosperity and furthered the cause of peace while still preserving our national security. Barack Obama shattered one of the most seemingly impenetrable glass ceilings in American history, forever making obsolete the term "old white men" for describing American Presidents while affirming the deep ties that bind all of us to each other as Americans. And Barack Obama secured passage of the Affordable Care Act, something neither the New Dean nor the Great Society was able to accomplish, ultimately saving hundreds of thousands of lives by doing so.

One man, or woman, can only do so much no matter how great she or he may be. Any president must play the hand that is dealt to him or her. Joe Biden has been given the hand of justice to play: economic justice, racial justice, sexual and gender justice, justice in the eyes of the law and justice at the ballot box where the rights of all Americans must now be preserved and protected. As chance would have it I am reading a biography of Thomas Paine, and I am struck by how, over the course of centuries, the true calling of American destiny remains essentially the same. You can read it in "Common Sense." You can read it in our Declaration of Independence. You can read it in the speeches of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr, and we watched it being read to us last night by Joe Biden in his address to Congress.

America always has (and likely always will) fallen far short of its calling, but it remains our core aspiration. That calling has always been our North Star, to look to when we are in danger of losing our way. We are in danger of losing our way now and Joe Biden is pointing toward that guiding star, and setting a course to resume our progress toward that goal. After four decades of growing economic inequality in America we have a President determined to reverse it. The red hot embers of white supremacy still erupt in America 150 years past Reconstruction, but we have a president fully mobilized to combat it.

I wasn't alive for FDR. Joe Biden is the president I've been waiting for.

Think of Joe Manchin as a Republican who somehow votes with Democrats most of the time

Only a Republican can win a state wide office in West Virginia. Joe Manchin won a state wide office in Virginia. Hence, Joe Manchin, essentially, is a Republican. Probably the last of the so called Liberal Republicans to still sit in the U.S. Senate. Except he has a "D" next to his name, and he votes for Chuck Schumer to be the Senate Majority Leader. The hard sad truth is that Joe Manchin is no more blocking Joe Manchin's legislative agenda than is Susan Collins, Mitt Romney, or Lisa Murkowski. Actually less so than any of those.

We need more Democratic Senators

First Controlled Flight on Mars: NOW!

Well, almost now. They are broadcasting the Martian helicopter pre-flight show at this moment. Footage from the hopefully successful flight will arrive from Mars in about ten minutes after traveling many millions of miles to reach our computer screens.

Anyone else watching? Here is the link:

"In the days of the long hair you were so right and I was so wrong"

My father (who is long since departed) wrote me that note, which I cherish deeply, over 40 years ago. He had suffered a stroke some time before that and his use of words, which once came effortlessly to him, had become much more labored. But I knew exactly what he meant, and it couldn't have been more moving to me. In 1967 I became a freshman in college, the first member of my family to attend a university. Intensified by the times we were then living through, my natural liberal tendencies flourished in that liberated atmosphere, and yes I began to let my hair grow long.

I grew up in a working class family in a predominantly middle to upper middle class town. I didn't appreciate all of the contradictions inherent in my upbringing until later when I was exposed to subjects like sociology in college. My father had an eighth grade education. His parents, who had immigrated to America from Sicily, needed help from their children who were old enough to work, in order to keep the family afloat. So my father had little formal education, but he was a brilliant man.

He was also a warm and gracious man whose affections flowed freely. His politics, from what I could understand at the time, leaned clearly Democratic. Dad was a working man with no pretensions of social climbing, but though he wasn't overtly religious, his cultural values veered intrinsically conservative. When the sixties swept over our nation he found it profoundly unsettling. My father quietly coexisted with the then prevailing social order. He thought social mores existed for a reason. He believed authority should be respected. I, however, became a card carrying member of the Question Authority Generation.

Looking back I would have to describe my father as essentially a George Wallace Democrat when I was in my late teens. I have no doubt that my father harbored clear racial prejudices, but he wasn't at his core a racist. Dad accepted each person on their individual merits and accorded everyone personal respect, but succumbed to wide spread racial biases about people "on the whole." The overt racism of someone like George Wallace wasn't the hook that grabbed my father, it was his fear of the nation descending into lawless chaos, the pillars of society potentially dissolving, that drew my father toward right wing populism then.

As I increasingly became an anti-war radical and racial justice activist, my father didn't know the half of what I was up to, and I made sure that he didn't. I avoided having a direct political showdown with my father over my activities, but not because he held any power over me by then. I feared triggering am irrevocable emotional rupture between us. So we had our unspoken dance. Like I said above, Dad was a brilliant man. He may not have known half of what I was up to, but he still knew more than enough to understand that I had chosen a different path for my own life than the one he might have hoped for. My hair grew very long, and my life soon revolved ar0und one cause or another and my father understood that, even if the details remained for the most part unspoken.

My father watched, he listened, and he learned. And one day years later he penned that note to me. The stress our nation is undergoing today is as profound, if not more so, as what he went through in the sixties/early seventies. Many older Americans are, for whatever reasons, now FOX news junkies. They are my chronological peers. I hope their children and grandchildren, while remaining steadfast in pursuit of racial and economic justice in America, manage to avoid burning bridges inside those families. I never knew the exact moment when my father crossed the bridge over the divide that "politically" separated us. Our love refused to sever, and we stood together before he died. That is a testament to my father's benevolent spirit. I am lucky, I know. I could not have turned my father if ultimately he hadn't been open to turning. Some never will see through the fear, and even hate, that blinds them now. Hopefully, though, enough eventually will and our nation will exit these turbulent times with our core ideals intact.

Prejudice is at the root of so much injustice, but the deepest "sin" is indifference towards it

Prejudice seems to be a natural default setting for many if not most humans, probably flowing from the fear of strangers and anyone not belonging to ones own trusted clan. People who manifest in some way differently than those one is accustomed to being around can be seen as "unpredictable" in a way that "familiarity" can begin to dissipate, and a lot of people instinctively revert to feeling guarded when things are unpredictable.

Prejudice can, to some extent, be rationalized as an instinctive first reaction when confronted by something (or someone) new and different. I can almost understand it as a manifestation of reflexive caution during early encounters, but that's as far as I can take it. I grew up in the 50's and 60's in a homogeneous white suburb. The only diversity I was ever faced with in my home town on Long Island was that some kids were Jewish rather than Christian. I honestly can't remember when I first realized that homosexuality even existed, but I'm pretty sure that is wasn't while I was in grade school. There was only one Black kid that I was aware of in my high school class, but I never got to know him. TV was almost exclusively white back then, except for Amos and Andy. It was a century after the Civil war began, and I grew up in a Northern State, but the world I perceived was straight and white and almost exclusively middle class. It was a false perception that I ultimately realized I was morally obligated to see past and I have since, too frequently not diligently enough, attempted to do so.

A lot of people still, to some extent, inherit initial prejudices "honestly", by natural osmosis of a sort seeping in from their daily sheltered lives. I honestly believe that Americans, as a whole, are less instinctively prejudiced today than when I was a kid. But the extent of the prejudice that still exists is absolutely HORRIFIC because there is no, zero, zilch justification for any of it to continue as it does. The America we live in today is long past first encounters with diversity, or second encounters, or third encounters, or fourth... We live in a fully diverse nation and we have been a diverse nation for many generations. There are no "strangers" in our midst, just a wide variety of "neighbors."

Most Americans (straight whites in particular) have remained willfully prejudiced for generations because we are too fucking indifferent to the often lethal consequences of our ingrained and unchallenged prejudices. It's not that we are completely unaware of the price others pay for "being different", though we do tend to underplay it. There is always ample evidence around us of suffering that prejudice causes, even if we personally only see a tenth of it Frankly, when it comes down to it, we don't give a damn. We refuse to be bothered understanding how the world looks through the eyes of others because that isn't "our" own reality, nor does it impact on our reality unless "riots" and the like break out. If the game is rigged in our favor is it really worth all the trouble of overturning the game board? We didn't rig the game, it isn't "our fault."

True White Supremacists at least are honest about it. They approve of unwritten racist rules and want them strengthened and made explicit. Many white Americans refuse to give it a thought. Most of the rest of us are content, when it comes down to it, with occasional expressions of "disapproval" while we go on with our daily lives. In the face of something so abhorrent that qualifies as complicity.
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