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Tom Rinaldo

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Member since: Mon Oct 20, 2003, 05:39 PM
Number of posts: 22,203

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How can we effectively use Qanon against the Republican Party?

I know there was an earlier semi-coordinated effort by Democrats to call Marjorie Taylor Greene the poster child of the current Republican Party, with pointed references to some of her prior Qanon supporting statements. I think the problem with that was that it ended up putting the focus more on Marjorie Taylor Greene than on Qanon. She got added publicity and used that as a platform to make more incendiary anti-Democratic attacks (and raise millions while doing so.) Those attacks (calls for "Second Amendment solutions" and claims that Democrats want to destroy America) should have disqualified her as a legitimate political figure, but in this era of hyper division they fell far short of doing so.

Meanwhile the actual substance of the Qanon belief systems have mostly gotten the late night talk show comedy treatment. Waiting for JFK Jr. to reappear has replaced rumored Elvis appearances as grist for the comic mill. Except it isn't really funny. In fact it should be terrifying. "Jewish Space Lasers" got treated as a punch line rather than blatant antisemitism, but Qanon is no joke. Tens of millions of Americans believe wild Qanon "conspiracy theories", with extremely dangerous content: Top Democrats drink the blood of children, government scientists induce genocide with fake vaccines to treat non-existent Covid etc. It is mass psychosis.

Fortunately though, tens of millions of Americans is still a far cry from a majority of our populous. Most Americans don't take Qanon seriously. Even most Republican and Republican leaning voters don't take Qanon seriously. Some might be influenced by some of the less extreme versions of Qanon conspiracy theories currently circulating on the Right, but they would still cringe at being associated with the full blown wild Qanon belief system. Right now right wing Republican office holders, and candidates for office, get to have their cake and eat it too. They can court and count on support from the Qanon "movement" without being directly identified with it. They almost never get pinned down. Is Qanon a friend or foe to America? Do they embrace or condemn its core messages? Are they themselves Qanon believers, and if not, do they think it essentially harmless when Qanon theories proliferate, or should they be vigorously opposed and debunked?

Where do Republicans stand on Qanon? Why, to this day, are most Americans still in the dark about the virulent form of insanity that Qanon spreads?

Sunday, July 3, 2022: Nationwide March for Democracy

The time to start planning is now. In every state, in every city. Preceded by weeks of lectures, films, teach ins, and protests both on and off campuses, sponsored by anti-authoritarian coalitions ranging from progressive leftists to Anti-Trumper conservatives.

America is arguably the world's oldest democracy. This year our democracy can't be routinely celebrated on July 4th, unless we defend it with a massive, anti-autocratic, non violent show of force.

What's getting lost is the unity that Democrats achieved this year

The Democratic Party is not and has not been in literal disarray. It actually reached a remarkable virtual consensus on a broad range of issues of utmost importance to America. Contrary to commentary indicating otherwise, there has been no war between competing wings of the Democratic Party. Moderates and Progressives have not been battling it out, rather they have been working it out with a remarkable degree of success. 97% percent of the Democrats in Congress have stood shoulder to shoulder with President Biden on everything ranging from tax policy, to police reform, to gun safety, to election reform, to expanding the social safety net, to investing in America's future. Democrats representing urban, suburban, and rural constituencies in red, blue, and purple regions of our nation sought and achieved common ground on a way forward for America. That amazing show of unity, to some extent, has been thwarted by a tiny handful of individuals, who you can count on one hand with fingers left to spare.

As much as I want to condemn those exceptions as traitors to our Party, doing so distracts from a perennial political truth. People elected to Congress are distinct individuals as much as they are members of a political party, and it is extremely difficult to hold several hundred individuals together in unanimous agreement on anything, let aloe everything, especially on complex matters of substance. It is extraordinarily difficult to function as a governing majority with essentially no margin of error on any vote. When that is true there can still be wins, but there will also be setbacks. Wafer thin majorities are inherently unstable. In Parliamentary democracies that is when new elections most often must be held.

Now is not the time to doubt the Democratic Party. It by no means lacks vision, unity or resolve. What it lacks is sufficient membership in Congress to govern as decisively as we are capable of were we to gain even a slightly larger mandate. We know what the Democratic Party stands for, it is Prescient Biden's agenda. 2022 can and should be framed as a contrast between the clear path forward for America embraced by Democrats, and a clearly obstructionist Republican Party that is selling out both the legacy and the future of our nation.

Of course energy prices look inflationary...

The world plunged into a COVID recession two years ago. The natural gas spot price a the end of 2020 was $2.36. But it averaged $2.03 for that entire year, which was at a ten year low by far. The next lowest yearly average over that span was $2.52 in 2016. Renewed demand, later in 2021, outstripped recession dampened production levels, which had become a COVID norm. At 2021's close the average natural gas spot price was up to $3.82, pretty damn inflationary one might say,compared to the modern historic lows of the prior year.

Meanwhile America motorists noticed a steep rise to gasoline prices in 2021, a classic telling indicator of inflation. Well, yeah, prices went up sharply all right, topping an average of over $3.40 a gallon by November of 2021. That was quite a rise from one year earlier, when the average retail price of a gallon of gas was $2.09 in November of 2020. At that same point in 2019, the average price was at or above $2.50 a gallon.

In November of 2020 gasoline prices, just like natural gas prices, were at recent historic lows. It takes two numbers to calculate the rate of current inflation; the current price of a commodity or service, and the price pf that same item one year prior. It doesn't take a math whiz to understand that an annual price rise will appear relatively steeper when the base price level of the former year started out abnormally low.

The better inflation commentators do note supply chain problems (like a shortage of computer chips curtailing new car production which explains why used cars are suddenly such a hot commodity.) And they mention pent up consumer demand, but I wish they would more often emphasize the bedrock basics. In many cases "high inflation rates" are at least partially explained by the simple fact that recent prices are being compared to unusually low (and in some cases at or near historic low) prices) from the depths of the global COVID recession.

2022 should be about "America's Agenda" embraced by (virtually) all Democrats

I think Democrats have to nationalize the 2022 Midterms, with a platform that highlights our priorities for America. Usually party platforms are a feature of Presidential elections, but this year, far more than in most midterm elections, it is the Democratic Party running against the Republican Party, representing sharply contrasting visions for America, more so than a typical array of locally focused congressional contests. Democrats presenting a unified national message need not shift the focus off of the Stirling attributes of our individual candidates. Nor will doing so overshadow matters of local concern. Our candidates can personalize why it is they so strongly support "America's Agenda", drawing on their lifetimes of achievement and struggles. And what exactly is "America's Agenda?" Collectively it is the measures that Democrats in Congress will fight for and deliver for the American people should they entrust us with workable governing Congressional majorities after the 2022 elections. It will be specific, and highly relevant to the lives of the vast majority of working Americans. It will be Joe Biden's original "Build Back Better" plan, and more.

OK, obviously it doesn't have to be called "America's Agenda", that's just a working "title" I'm tossing out there for the moment, harkening back to when Republicans ran a unified midterm election campaign under the platform detailed under their "Contract with America." The thing about "Build Back Better" as it was originally proposed is that it crystalized current Democratic Party ideology into specific tangible objectives that, if enacted, would positively transform the lives of most Americans in ways that are immediately recognizable. The elements of "Build Back Better" are highly popular, and easier to campaign on as an American agenda than they are as an omnibus piece of congressional legislation, where the focus gets quickly lost in discussions of specific price tags and deficit projections.

Here's the thing. The national Democratic Party, combining the efforts of the Biden Administration with leaders from across the center left spectrum of Democrats in Congress, achieved a 97% consensus on our American Agenda. And that included a straight forward wildly popular agreement on how that agenda would be paid for: Making the rich pay their fair share by rolling back Trump's huge tax giveaways to super wealthy corporations and individuals, and by closing loopholes that allow some of our biggest corporations to pay zero in corporate taxes, while the wealthiest individuals in America often pay a lower rate in taxes than their secretary's do. Americans overwhelmingly support those reforms, it was just a handful of conservative Democrats in Congress who balked and thus muddied that message, thereby raising a frightening specter of inflationary deficits (while forcing the Pentagon to spend billions more money than they asked for.)

Rather than enter the 2022 midterms on the defensive, having failed to fully deliver on President Biden's 2020 campaign pledges in this congressional session, Democrats should use these elections to go on the offensive; urging Americans to reject an obstructionist Congress where Republicans virtually unanimously opposed Democratic attempts to deliver for Americans on health care, on affordable prescriptions, on day care, on expanded preschool education, on elder care, on affordable housing, on sustainable green jobs, on affordable higher education, on combating devastating climate change, and so much more.

Wherever President Biden's legislative agenda got bottle necked by the Senate this year, that becomes a call to action. America can achieve all of that and more, if voters deliver working majorities to Democrats in both houses this November. Our political agenda should be crystal clear. Americans will benefit from in in 2023 if they elect enough Democrats in 2022.Our agenda is national in scope but the impact of it will be felt in every city, in every hamlet, and on every farm once Republican obstructionists are retired.

The American Agenda is conceptually larger than just Build Back Better however. It restores bedrock American values, like a believe in and embrace of science to address the challenges that confront us in every realm, from public health to climate change. It includes renewed adherence to the core democratic principles that have made America a beacon to all of humanity, however imperfectly that light has all too often shined. 2022 must be a contrast election. We can have the America we want if we just go out and vote for it. It's withing our grasp, but the alternative looms large also. Democrats have an Agenda for America. Republicans have more fear, grievances, and hate.

Want to avoid a Civil War? Bring the showdown with the Far Right to a head sooner rather than later.

I worry about what will happen inside this country if Donald Trump ever faces criminal charges, federal criminal charges even more so. I watched with increasing concern in recent years as far right militia types became ever more brazen in their public struttings and pronouncements. When Bundy and his followers seized federal property at gun point, and then were not dislodged immediately, I found that standoff to be alarming. As the far right continues to gain a stronger footing in Republican controlled legislatures around the nation I take the possibility of secessionist type threats seriously. I expect right wing sheriffs in rural areas to increasingly go wingnut, using their inflated sense of "legal authority" to deputize vigilante mobs opposing federal authority. All of this will explode on steroids, I fear, if and when Donald Trump goes on trial.

But the pressure that explosion will release has been building steadily for a decade at least. The NRA long ago became a front for militias, and militias long ago became a front for white supremacists who actively are seeking civil war. They are organizing at an accelerating rate. They are getting stronger with the passage of time, particularly when the passage of time shows there to be little to no direct overt effort being made to shut them down cold. They are encouraged by any lull before the storm, as that lull gives them to time and space they need to further radicalize more followers to their "cause."

I figure their timeline calls for "right wing revolution" timed with the results of the 2024 presidential elections. A presidential campaign, especially one with Trump at the head of the Republican ticket, creates the ultimate explosive conditions that they seek. Donald Trump facing criminal charges before then would force their hand to quicker action under less than their ideal circumstances. May it be so.

The path for Democrats holding onto Congress has now narrowed to a single option.

Six months ago there were other options. At one point it appeared that a simple return to seeming normality after all the drama of the Trump years could carry Democrats to victory in the midterms. But the electorate is restless now, if nothing else a continuing Covid-19 pandemic has stripped any veneer of normality from our daily lives, replacing any hope for stability with non focused but seething dissatisfaction. The other major card that Biden and the Democrats started out his Administration with was competency, with expertise, and solid judgement paving the way to inevitable progress. By and large the Biden Administration remains rooted in competency, but that glow no longer permeates it in the public mind. Too much seems to be uncertain if not downright out of control for competency to be associated with Democrats at this point in time. Finally, the ace in the hold that Democrats were counting on was "deliverables." Biden's core legislative agenda was crafted to make a real and measurable difference in the lives of average Americans. People who would have benefited greatly from the original Build Back Better agenda, or even the scaled back compromise version that Joe Manchin just blew up, would have had compelling life altering reasons to support Democrats in 2022. Improved roads and bridges, much of that work not slated to begin until after next November's election, do not carry a similar punch.

Through all of the factors noted above, Democrats started out this year with the capacity to seize the center of American politics, unifying our traditional base with sensible moderates and Independents and even some Republicans for a solid and winning coalition., but it hasn't played out that way. The total unraveling of Build Back Better, on top of the continuing pandemic and highly charged ideological flash points, has redrawn every political equation for 2022. Unless something changes dramatically, Democrats will not enter the mid terms with anything resembling an aura of strength, unless we manage to generate that aura ourselves. Fairly or not, we start out this election cycle with the political label "impotent" hanging around our necks.

Build Back Better, the core of President Biden's political agenda, has been brutally shot down. Housing continues to grow more unaffordable weekly, as does the cost of a college education. Women remain locked out of the work place with affordable daycare virtually impossible to find. Drawn out national police reform efforts led to a long and winding dead end street. Attempts to deliver even minimal immigration reform to stabilize the lives of millions of long term American residents living in the shadows, without any clear path forward, to a legal status have gone nowhere. Congress, under Democratic control, has failed to counter on a national level the wholesale assault on voting rights and fair elections being orchestrated by Republicans at the State level in dozens of states unimpeded. Extreme weather events continue to proliferate as the world races towards an environmental tipping point from which there is no return, and the United States has no viable plan left on board to counter that.

What will motivate the core elements of the Democratic base to turn out in record numbers for the 3022 midterms in light of that political track record? It seems each and every essential strand of Democratic core constituencies can find reason to be disappointed, if not utterly disillusioned by the fate of the Democratic agenda to date. That does not bode well for avoiding a potentially fatal "enthusiasm gap" in November. We can not campaign on "Two More Years", let alone "Four More Years" based on our current accomplishments in the current political climate. Instead we must radically alter the current political climate. Democrats have to go on war footing. We have to become passionately aspirational, exhibiting a fierce resolve and fighting spirit to deliver for the American people all of the life affirming policies and priorities that our opposition (from either side of the aisle) have currently prevented us from delivering to date. We need to openly and fervently call for larger Democratic majorities in both houses, so that we can save our climate, and restore the foundations of our American democracy, and provide the economic foundation that so many million Americans require to finally prosper in this life. Those who stand against us must be condemned as the true obstructionists of the American Dream.

The message is we will not be denied again, that we will deliver for the American people with the support of a mobilized electorate. Democrats must be seen as fighting for a cause, and heading up a movement for change that this time will be unstoppable. Doom and gloom has no place in that movement. Instead we must go on the offensive fighting for what we believe in, rather than blurring the lines that separate Democrats from Republicans. Income inequality must be back on the table front and center, no longer shoved off to a small corner in order to appease a Krysten Sinema. We should make no apologies for falling short this legislative session, instead it should be the centerpiece of our argument that the lesson to be drawn from this ti that the legislature itself must be changed through the election of more strong Democrats, who are willing to fight for what the American people need, want, and finally deserve.

Six weeks ago I was adjusting to my new ICU bed after waking up from Quadruple Bypass Heart Surgery

Fortunately the surgery went well and my recovery is proceeding nicely. In my case I skipped right past the typical preceding heart attack directly to fix. If you're gonna have quadruple bypass heart surgery, that's the way to do it. It's scary enough to contemplate heart surgery without factoring in heart damage already suffered. Which leads me to this OP..

There is absolutely nothing unusual for a 72 year old man to need heart surgery, but it sure as hell seemed unusual to me! I had not experienced any obvious signs of any impending heart attack. I've pretty much never been laid low by anything before, neither injury nor illness. I don't take sick days, and I get my share of exercise working part time with dogs. I am accustomed to being fully operational and spry for my age. There was little to warn me that I might be living on borrowed time.

I choose those words carefully. I got a couple of warnings, but they sure seemed subtle at the time. An example: a couple of times last winter while walking a dog who was feeling particularly peppy in 15 degree morning air, I had to restrain her after about 150 yards of sucking in cold air at a near trot pace. I felt momentarily breathless, plus some minor tightening in my chest. Not pain mind you, nothing dramatic, and less than a minute later all reverted to normal again for the rest of our walk.

I'm the type of guy who typically looks for a reason to forget something like that, especially if it "goes away". I almost did in fact, but during my annual physical later in the summer (the one that was already a year late because I wasn't visiting any medical facilities if I could help it before I was double vaxed) I mentioned those few incidents to my doctor. He wasn't exactly alarmed either, but he was concerned enough to give me a referral for a heart stress test. Which I promptly failed to book for another two months before my procrastination failed me. That test came back poetically labeled "abnormal, but the picture painted by a subsequent procedure was less ambivalent: 100% blockage in one artery, 80% in another and 50% in a third. That night a kindly ambulance crew transported me to the Westchester Medical Center for surgery the next morning.

I skated right on the jagged edge between taking care of myself and blowing off my own health for months, even years. Ultimately I fell on the side of taking care of myself, but I was lucky as hell that my body granted me the time it took for me to finally come to my senses and get checked out. I was helped by a good friend, a damn good musician by trade, who at the last concert that he performed for our concert series went out of his way to share with the entire audience the full story of his then recent heart attack, which until then I knew nothing of. He was on tour and due to return home in two days. During a shower he felt shooting pains across his chest. It freaked him out but they went away, and he vowed that he would get checked out as soon as he got home. His heat attack hit the next day. He managed to get help in time, and he is doing well today I am happy to say. The message he had for us that night, the same one he shares now every time he performs, is listen to your body, your life might depend on it.

Like I said, I'm dense. I blocked out the signs for a long time. But in the back of my mind I heard what Gurf said, and when my routine physical was ending I finally spoke up and alerted my doctor. I might not be here to type this had I not.

Build Back Better IS the Climate Bill. Without it we are spectators as climate catastrophes multiply

How many more record breaking extreme weather anomalies can we undergo in one year before New Year's Day flips the calendar? The question is meaningless: whatever record 2021 brings us in all likelihood will be shattered in 2022.

Since the passage of the bipartisan infrastructure bill, the short term advances in the Biden Administration's climate related policies have consisted of releasing billions of barrels of oil from the national reserve while calling on OPEC to increase oil production. Of course I "get it." Those weren't energy initiatives, they were economic initiatives . And they had a strong political component. Rising inflation is hurting Democrats in polls. Democrats losing in 2022 would hobble U.S. efforts to combat climate change. So push for short term increased fossil fuel production...

Does anyone seriously think Democrats have a ghost of a chance to retain control of Congress in the mid terms without a massive mobilization of younger voters who view climate change as an existential threat to their future? Does anyone seriously think Democrats have a ghost of a chance of benefiting from a massive mobilization of younger voters in 2022 if we do not, at the very least, pass into law all of the climate provisions of Build Back Better without further delay or watering down?

It is a moral imperative first and foremost.But it is just as much a political one.

We can argue over who deserves the label, but does anyone still deny there are Corporate Democrats?

I'll try to be fair about this and concede upfront that the way in which elections are financed in America makes any politician who wants to remain financially competitive during election cycles susceptible to outsized influence from corporate lobbyists. I'll even go a step further and acknowledge that many Democrats, who regularly receive above average levels of support from corporate special interests, do still strive to balance the needs of their constituents with those of their corporate sponsors. In so doing they still usually do a noticeably better job of addressing the needs of those truly in need than do Republicans similarly showered with money from corporate lobbyists.

Taking corporate money does not necessarily make one a corporate Democrat. Taking huge hauls of corporate money, at levels way above whatever is "the norm", from specific special interests that clearly expect some degree of loyalty in return, IMO earns one the label "Corporate Democrat." Personally, I considered Joe Lieberman a Corporate Democrat, and I consider Kyrsten Sinema a Corporate Democrat. In some, perhaps even in many cases, I will still work to help someone who I consider a Corporate Democrat win reelection in a November election. All things considered, in some cases I might even support one in a primary over someone "more progressive". But I have lost patience with those who deride the very existence of Corporate Democrats. Yes they dwell inside the Democratic Party's "Big Tent." That doesn't negate what they are.

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