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Tom Rinaldo

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Member since: Mon Oct 20, 2003, 06:39 PM
Number of posts: 21,880

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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.

Anyone familiar with this quote? I just came upon it while reading...

"If we are to have another conflict in the near future of our national existence, I predict that the dividing line will not be Mason's and Dixon's, but between patriotism and intelligence on the one side, and superstition, ambition, and ignorance on the other."

Though not uttered recently, it retains a certain relevancy, n'est pas?

The problem isn't disinformation, misinformation, or lack of information. It's toxic loyalties.

The problem isn't that Fox news spews lies and propaganda to the millions who tune into it, the problem is that millions tune into Fox news because of the lies and propaganda that it spews. In an era where the internet is ubiquitous, where cable TV and/or streaming content services are widely available, and where Radio broadcast services that allow listeners to choose between dozens of content channels proliferate, "the full story" is easier to access now than it ever was before. The problem isn't that, because of a bewildering proliferation of information sources, people have a hard time differentiating truth from deception. People can be forgiven for confusion over which "facts" are true and which aren't, if in fact they are sincerely interested in sorting truth from fiction but, in truth, millions have no interest in making that effort. For a man who goes to a diner each night craving a bowl of pasta, it doesn't matter what healthier alternatives might also be on the menu, pasta is what he will consume. As the saying goes, none are so blind as those who refuse to see.

Democrats and progressives in general are mistaken to rely on a strategy that counters lies with truths to reach those who politically adamantly oppose them, even if support for Democratic governance would seem, objectively, to be in their self interest. You might as well ask a Red Sox fan to wave a Yankee pendant in Fenway Park. For many millions of Americans, identity is defined by loyalty to "their side", in a world which they perceive is made up of competing teams.

So what can progressives do to break through to those who seem to live "to root against" them?. The answer, I believe, is something the Biden Administration and Democrats in Congress are already pursuing; that is to hit them where they live. If there is one single factor most likely to make a Yankee fan into an ex-Yankee fan, it has nothing to do with the line-up that team may field from one year to the next. While that might be marginally relevant to some, and even a source for sustained grumbling within the fan base, it doesn't hold a candle to literally moving the ground that they stand on. The surest way to turn a Yankee fan into a Mariners fan is a job transfer from New York to Seattle.

I don't suggest the forced migration of millions in order to turn red states blue, but I do advocate fundamentally changing hard realities on the ground, and nothing is more fundamental to most Americans than a sense of, or lack of, basic economic security. It colors how we all perceive our world. Rhetoric, originating from any point on the political spectrum, carries the substance of a cheer leader driven pep rally, it does little if anything to alter anyone's team loyalties, it just ratchets up passions. The same holds for political buzz words, each side maintains a handy check list of them which function as the political equivalent of team colors. They get chanted every year as reliably as the coming of spring training. But seldom does actual action taken by a President, done with the highly partisan support of one side only in Congress, fundamentally alter day to day reality in the lives of millions of families. That is what changes loyalties. That is what shifts political identities as powerfully as a sports fans relocation thousands of miles away from their former "home team" can alter the sports jersey they henceforth wear in public.

The Covid rescue bill, and all that is contained within it, has the power to remold political loyalties for millions of Americans who are about to have an impossible fiscal burden lifted off their backs. Being able to adequately provide for ones children is as primal a drive as exists in this or likely any other worl. Fox news can't spin that reality away for those who are about to experience it.

The Covid Relief Bill Will Be A Massive Political Game Changer

Republicans don't understand what is about to hit them. Tens of millions of families are about to receive hundreds of dollars a month to provide for their children. Not just once, but every month into the fall. Most taxpayers of course will receive $1400 each in the near future. And rescue is on the way for renters who fear loosing their homes. And many who can not afford medical insurance are about to receive a substantial break. And small businesses are about to receive a lifeline...

This relief is as concrete as anything that comes out of a cement mixer. It doesn't nibble at the edges, like a payroll tax "holiday" that then has to be repaid. It will make a huge and immediate positive difference in the lives of most Americans. There is one political party responsible for making this happen, and one political party that united to attempt to stop it. It simply doesn't get clearer than this. The distinction between the political parties, when it comes to the economic survival of millions, hasn't been clearer since LBJ's Great Society. That truth will be driven home in April, and again in May, and again in June, and again in July...

The benefit to Democrats will be clearly evident in the next two national elections. Resentment over a Dr. Suess book going out of print can't compete with the relief of being able to provide for your children, and the return to strong economic growth that we're now on the verge of. Democrats won't need to break through and reclaim the votes of all of the so-called Trump Democrats. If Republicans lose even a fifth of them (and they will easily lose that or more) they are screwed.

Eventually the Republican Party will be forced to embrace some version of economic populism in order to appease white blue collar workers whose votes they have increasingly become dependent on. I expect the rise of Right Wing economic demagogues who will not hesitate to massively rob from future generations in order to secure their power now. They will push their cultural war and racist agenda to the max while promoting themselves as "populists" who will temporarily shower hundreds, and in some cases thousands, of dollars onto the middle class while at the same time funneling billions to the super rich. They will then gladly leave America as a smouldering ruin behind them and flee our shores with their ill begotten gains, if they can get away with it. But here's the thing. Those future demagogues will have to arise from the mud anew. All current Republican members of Congress, along with any GOP Governors who backed them in attempting to block Biden's relief package, cast their lot against the people in what will soon be viewed as one of the most consequential votes in a generation. Henceforth they must wear that indelible scarlet letter.

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