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Mon Mar 02, 2015 at 06:02 AM PST

The Future of U.S. Israel Relations

by Tom Rinaldo

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.

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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.

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Thu Mar 06, 2014 at 02:52 PM PST

Grenada, the Crimea, and the GOP

by Tom Rinaldo

In 1983 a government of disputed legitimacy in Grenada, a small Caribbean nation well within the long acknowledged U.S. sphere of influence, was itself overthrown by a coup amid social turmoil that resulted in some deaths, including that of the then Prime Minister Maurice Bishop. Within days of that outbreak of political and social unrest, the United States of America militarily invaded Grenada. Quoting from Wikipedia here: “U.S. officials cited the murder of Bishop and general political instability in a country near U.S. borders, as well as the presence of U.S. medical students at St. Georges University, as reasons for military action.” While Wikipedia may not always be the final word in authoritative sources, that's pretty much how I remember things going down also. The recently deposed head of the Ukraine government wasn't himself murdered, like Bishop of Grenada was, but he did feel it necessary to flee his nation for reasons that included his personal safety.

There are other unsettling similarities between the U.S. military invasion of Grenada in 1983 and the Russian invasion of Crimea last week. In the year prior to U.S. use of force in Grenada the then U.S. President, Ronald Reagan, had been expressing alarm over developments there. Quoting Wiki again, and again it is consistent with my own recollections of that period; “In March 1983, U.S President Ronald Reagan began issuing warnings about the threat posed to the United States and the Caribbean by the "Soviet-Cuban militarization" of the Caribbean as evidenced by the excessively long airplane runway being built, as well as intelligence sources indicating increased Soviet interest in the island.” In the year preceding the Russian invasion of Crimea the Russian President Vladimir Putin issued warnings about the threat posed to Russian interests by Western meddling in the Ukraine seeking to draw it closer to an alliance with NATO and Western Europe against “traditional ties” with Russia.

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Want a progressive agenda implemented? "Make me do it" is the presidential reply. That not only applies to President Obama, who actually once said words to that effect, it also applies to every President we are likely to ever see elected in our lifetimes. It is a very long hard climb to reach the presidency and whoever gets there arrives accompanied by a truck load of expensive I.O.U.s. We have a political system that is obscenely skewed by money, but even if money wasn't as disproportionately transcendent in American politics as it is, the presidency is an inherently conservative institution. The federal government, and the cumulative interests that it has served for generations, has tremendous inertia to remain on track, on the track it now is running on. It perpetuates the status quo, which means the people who are getting what they want from the current societal order occupy the drivers seat by default.

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It's the only explanation left for what happened with the George Washington Bridge access lane closures if you take Chris Christie at his word. Sure Bridget had a secure six figure job with a promising path forward for career advancement. Her immediate supervisor was slated for promotion to become New Jersey's Attorney General, opening up his slot as Chief of Staff to the Governor. Her ultimate boss, New Jersey Governor Christie, was being talked about widely as in line to become President of the United State; lots of potentially great new job possibilities lay waiting over that horizon. Life was running smoothly. There was no suspense left in Christie's campaign for reelection to a second term as Governor, everyone knew that he was cruising toward a rout of his Democratic opponent in November. What could go wrong? The future looked bright, and apparently it's a very fine line that separates bright from boring.

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I, like millions of other Americas, have watched the emergence of this new generation of television journalists with delight. Like the whole political world, it seems, I am glued to their collective coverage of the assorted scandals that the Chris Christie administration (and the Port Authority) are now embroiled in. But the sentiment I want to express here is only tangentially connected with that, or more accurately, their Christie coverage is an illuminating example of a promise finally kept which suddenly dawned on me this morning while watching Up with Steve Konaccki.

Their kind of in depth reporting is what I long ago expected would become much more commonplace after the explosion of new TV channels that cable TV opened up, after decades of Americans being limited to television programming provided by three major networks and a handful of independent stations. This is what I once thought CNN would evolve into, and if not them than someone else after hundreds of new channels became available to viewers to choose between.

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Fri Dec 27, 2013 at 08:06 AM PST

Iran in U.S. Senate Crosshairs

by Tom Rinaldo

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.

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This isn't a rant. It's not even really about ideology in any black or white sense. Capitalism, like most human endeavors, isn't static. It evolves, it gets modified and it changes. For all the love bestowed on the U.S. Constitution, it changes also when times and circumstances call for it. We make amendments to the Constitution, we strive for a more perfect union. It isn't reasonable to expect American Capitalism to be perfect either., but we can expect it to function in a manner that helps improve most Americans lot in life, and right now it objectively isn't doing so.

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It's a straight forward argument. If Republicans get some face saving fig leaf in return for backing off the creaking branch that they've climbed out onto, the odds increase that our American political system won't blunder into a miscalculation of historic proportions, failing to raise our debt limit on time and thus plunging the world into some semblance of a depression after a United States default. A Depression isn't a mere political talking point, anything even reassembling one carries horrific suffering for tens of millions of people. It is an extremely heavy price to pay if that is what it ends up costing to defend a sane and functional governing process in Washington. But personally I am very strongly moved by the counter argument; you simply can not reward terrorists for hostage taking, as it always leads to an even larger crisis somewhere not far down the road.

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Thu Oct 10, 2013 at 05:28 AM PDT

The Republican Idea of Compromise

by Tom Rinaldo

So now it is looking like the best case scenario end game to stave off the two headed Republican sponsored monster of government shutdown and defaulting on our fiscal obligations is for Republicans to stand down on their threats for six weeks to allow for "negotiations" with the President to hammer out some reasonable "compromises", while the Republican gun at our collective heads is temporarily holstered. If that is where all this is taking us it shows just how far Republican extortion tactics have already succeeded in bending our nation's future toward an extreme right wing vision of America. Negotiations without hostages being held or a ransom demanded might sound reasonable on the surface, but not if the agenda for such negotiations starts and ends with a list of right wing talking points. And that in a nut shell is the Republican position, and that is fast becoming what conventional wisdom calls “a compromise.”

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I have mixed feelings about this. People always strive to establish order, that’s one of the main things that we do. We set up homes and make friends. We set up governments and make allies. We seek stability. For almost a hundred years America was the world’s policeman. Cops have a lot of power, they exercise lethal force. It’s not always a good thing to have a cop around, but there are times when it is useful. Inside nations like Afghanistan there are people who oppose much of what the Taliban stand for and do, and yet still prefer their harsh yet predictable rule to living among unchecked armed thugs when the Taliban are not around.

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We are just liberals being liberals after all, flitting from one burning cause to another. By Summer at the latest they count on us moving on to something else; it might be GMO crops, or Fracking, or maybe some current event in some corner of the world that hasn't quite become current yet. And of course they are banking on some predictable new Republican outrage to consume us all instead, and make us feel sheepish about ever having beaten up on a Democratic President to begin with.

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