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Tom Rinaldo

Tom Rinaldo's Journal
Tom Rinaldo's Journal
December 4, 2023

Israel is trading the lives of civilian non combatants for those of its own troops

There are no good options in the war between Israel and Hamas. Hamas broke a years long cease fire with a brutal surprise invasion of Israel using full blown maximalist terrorist tactics. Though the history of conflict in that part of the world is decades old and tangled, with acts of non defensible violence on all sides, what Hamas did on October 7th was premeditated to provoke a full blown war. It is a war Israel must now fight, and win. How it does so, however, is a matter of choice, and the choice is painful. The only question is how much pain, and to who?

Israel can not destroy Hamas without the death of thousands occurring as a result. War is horrific no matter how "surgically" it is advanced. Each death of an innocent is horrific, the horror multiplies with the number killed. As a matter of official policy, I do not believe Israel - barring individual breakdowns of command - in other words "war crimes" - intentionally targets civilians for the sake of killing civilians. It targets Hamas and its assets. It appears to be doing so now with the added objective of severely limiting Israel Defense Forces casualties. The motivation to do so is self apparent. The consequence of how Israel is now attempting to achieve that objective however borders on, if not fully crossing over into criminal.

To cite an extreme example, far less soldiers on one's side die when an enemy is carpet bombed into oblivion, than when that enemy is engaged via street combat instead. To save the lives of its own troops Israel is sacrificing the lives of civilian non combatants on a massive scale. Israel must achieve victory over Hamas, yes. But not like this.

November 30, 2023

It used to be that some of the ultra wealthy committed themselves to public service, as a career

Think FDR, think JFK, think Nelson Rockefeller. Each of these individuals, who had more disposable income than the budgets of some nations, did not try to enter the realm of politics at the highest possible rung. They served in the administrations of others, or in Congress, or in State Government, and they did so for years before finally running to be President themselves.

On a different, but related, note, high profile celebrities, from Ronald Reagan to Sonny Bono to Al Franken, have entered politics with increasing frequency, but not until recently did they seriously consider doing so at the presidential level.

I find it very unsettling that Fame and/or Fortune alone increasingly now passes as a legitimate qualification to run for President. It does not bode well for our democracy.

November 19, 2023

Israel can't "Go it alone" indefinitely, and Americans won't support Israel indefinitely

Israel is on course for catastrophe. If ever there was a nation that JUSTIFIABLY was paranoid about it's security and ultimate self preservation, it is Israel, which was formed as a homeland for the Jewish people who have faced persecution and periodic genocide for literally thousands of years. Yes, Israel must be tough to survive, but even if every Jew alive moved to Israel and took up arms, all 16 million of them collectively form a drop in the bucket of humanity, surrounded by a sea of Arabs and Persians.

If need be a strong and determined few can fight off a weak and indecisive many, to a point Eventually though that point will be reached, if not in this generation, then in the next, or in the one that follows. Support for Israel is deeply rooted in the United States, but it is not embedded in our national DNA. Antisemitism has deeper roots inside America than does support for a Jewish State.

For now, the deep affinity and common values most Americans share with the citizens of Israel dictate where American sympathies predominantly lie, that and our remaining collective memory of WWII and the holocaust that slaughtered 6 million Jews. Memories however fade, slowly as in the case of an epic event like WWII, but even an event as horrific as WWII seems hardly more present now to a child born in 2016 than does the American Civil War. If Americans of younger generations increasingly see Israel as an aggressor State, which is what is happening now, than as the victim of aggression itself, support for Israel will continue to wane in America

Israel can not exist for long, as time is reckoned by civilizations, based on strength alone. Israel needs allies, and Israel needs neighbors who see benefits to be had through peaceful coexistence with the Jewish State. What Israel does not need, indeed what Israel can not endure indefinitely, is the searing hatred of millions of people all living in very close proximity.

Hamas is committed to destroying Israel, and acts consistent with that goal. Israel, in turn, must now destroy Hamas. But how many more times can Israel repeat this cycle and come out on top each time? Once more, twice, three times? How many times can an iron fist smash its enemies into dust while thousands of civilians perish in the ashes as "collateral damage", before the Phoenix that eventually inevitably rises up does so as the ancient God of War, willing to pay any price for vengeance?

Collateral damage is a real concept, innocents die in every war, no matter how necessary and "moral" it may be. But the dead do not lie still, they inflame the minds of those who yet remain. When all other aspirations for the future die only one is left for those still living, revenge. And it is a powerful one, stronger in many cases than the will to live itself

Israel, under Netanyahu, probed the limits of Peace Through Strength. Not only has his policies reached the point of diminishing returns, they are slipping rapidly into a far more ominous state, that of contrary results, results that only increase the peril Israel faces. Israel needs another Yitzhak Rabin. Desperately.

November 12, 2023

If releasing violently kidnapped children could lead to a ceasefire why aren't protesters demanding it?

I stand with Antony Blinken, too many Palestinians are dying in Gaza, and Israel IMO has done too little to lessen civilian suffering there. I understand worldwide outrage over the thousands of deaths in Gaza. A ceasefire would stop almost all of that. Israel says releasing the hundreds of civilians being held underground as hostages. who were seized during a terrorist act that dwarfs 9/11 in relative scale, is a precondition to serious ceasefire talks. That may or may not be a realistic demand, but it isn't crazy. Hamas could release all their seized hostages within hours if they chose to. Hamas started this war with a premeditated large scale terrorist invasion. They can move toward ending it by freeing those who they kidnapped.

Hamas kidnapped babies and tore apart dozens of families amidst the wanton wide scale slaughter of innocents. They have no moral, let alone legal right to hold those civilians captive. Yes it can be argued that the Israeli response, in return, is deadly, disproportionate and unjustifiable, but if Hamas can possibly save the lives of hundreds of Gazans daily, by freeing civilians who they kidnapped, where is the massive international pressure, both in world capitals and on the streets, for them to do so?

November 2, 2023

Miles of undergrpund shelters civilians can't use, months of fuel hospitals can't have

All of it reserved by Hamas leaders for their "fighters" and themselves. All of it needed to fight Israel, Hamas claims, needed to resist an invasion of Gaza that Hamas willfully initiated, that Hamas meticulously planned on, for years

By intentionally targeting Israeli civilians, by mowing down hundreds of unarmed youth in fields, by burning families in their safe rooms, by tossing grenades into bunkers jammed with defenseless civilians, and by victoriously filming and celebrating their butchery while carrying off infants and elders and everyone in between to Gaza as hostages to be used as human shields, Hamas knew full well how Israel would react.

They prepared for it. Top Hamas leaders are safe in comfortable homes located in other nations. Top Hamas commanders live underground where all but bunker buster bombs can't touch them, dug in below hospitals, mosques and refugee camps. Hamas prepared well for it's own survival, but it did nothing for the people it claims to represent in the land that they govern with an iron fist. other than knowingly bringing down the fury of Israel upon them. Civilian casualties are not a byproduct of the armed conflict underway, they are the goal of the war Hamas started. First the planned slaughter inside Israel, then the inevitable death of innocents inside Gaza when Israel responded.

The loss of thousands of Palestinian lives was premeditated by Hamas. That's why they hoard life sustaining provisions for themselves. Hamas made plans to ensure their own survival, and took actions that ensured innocents in Gaza would suffer. The more Gaza civilians die the more the world demands a cease fire of Israel that will leave Hamas secure in their control of that enclave. The more Gaza civilians die the greater the chance that Hezbollah can be induced to attack Israel also, furthering the Hamas attempt to wipe Israel off the map Hamas wants civilians to die in Gaza. They planned on it.

October 25, 2023

No matter who ends up as Speaker now, he can't raise the money McCarthy could

Unless of course Republicans end up reinstalling McCarthy, which is unlikely (though not impossible I suppose.) McCarthy spent years cultivating a large donor network, none of the current candidates for Speaker can come close to replicating that, Many Republicans donors will be spooked about potentially pouring their money down the drain after the way the House majority has performed so far. Others are just fed up. McCarthy, with his long ties to the donor class, might have been able to sweet talk many of then into giving big again. The others, not so much.

So in addition to all of the reputational damage Republicans in the House have sustained, they've shot themselves in the foot when it comes to fund raising for 2024 House campaigns.

October 24, 2023

I don't like Emmer. Not a bit...

But I'm OK with Democrats voting "present when" selecting a Speaker reaches the full House for a vote. We are in the minority and not in a position to get our own way. Three weeks with half of Congress off line is too long already given what the U.S. faces. Emmer was not a total obstructionist regarding forfeiting on the debt or on reaching a deal to keep our government open. He supports Ukraine. He voted to certify the 2020 presidential election. Those are my bottom lines. Let him have the gavel for now. We will vote him out in 2024.

October 24, 2023

Israel must invade Gaza. Which makes doing more for Gaza's civilians essential.

Israel can no longer live next door to an enclave governed by a force that spent two years planning the mass wanton slaughter of families in their beds, of children in their schools, of youth gathered to enjoy music, and of defenseless elders. Those who now run Gaza set as their goal to murder of as many Jews as possible. They then acted to realize that goal. They can no more be counted on to undergo a future change of heart than Hitler could have been at any point during World War II It is not possible for Israel to coexist now with Hamas under any circumstances. And to eradicate Hamas, Israel must conduct a land invasion of Gaza.

Any honest discussion of the war underway between Israel and Hamas in Gaza must begin by acknowledging that reality. Innocent Palestinian civilians will die when Israel invades Gaza. Virtually every invasion staged in modern times begins with extensive bombing and shelling of the area about to be invaded. Innocent civilians always die during the extensive bombing and shelling of cities. Some options can lessen the loss of innocent lives inside Gaza. But each of those options, to varying degrees, would likely increase Israeli military losses during an invasion. In warfare it is too often the case that he who hesitates is shot, and invaders rarely exercise restraint.

Israel wants to minimize their total loss of lives during the pending invasion of Gaza. Emphasizing restraint during military operations inside Gaza would cost Israeli soldiers lives that an overwhelming use of force there might instead have saved. But what cost will future Israelis have to pay to minimize combat losses today? Tens of thousands of Palestinians, with thousands of those being children, will die when Israel invades Gaza The taking of any innocent life triggers hatred. The taking of tens of thousands of innocent lives fuels a persistent escalating cycle of revenge.

In warfare much value is assigned to seizing and controlling the high ground. Israel is a very small nation, relative to others. Judaism is a very small religion, relative to others. For Israel more so than for most nations, occupying the high moral ground is a precious strategic asset. It enables Israel to rally critical support from the United States and other key nations. Abandoning that high ground would be catastrophic for the security of generations of Israelis yet to come. For Israel's own long term security, it is just as essential that it shoulder risks to protect the lives of Palestinian civilians as it is for Israelis to risk their own lives fighting inside Gaza to eradicate Hamas.

This leads to hard conclusions. For one, Israel must lift its near total siege of Gaza. Throughout world history, sieges have been an effective tool of war. They are brutal, they are unforgiving, and they often lead to victory. When a nation is fighting for its very existence, which Israel can arguably claim to be doing now, defeat is not an option. Therefor Israel laid siege to Gaza. By weakening all of Gaza through a siege, Israel does weaken its sworn enemy, Hamas. But the cost, to Israel, is too high. Not by any standard, let alone a moral yardstick, is the cost worth it to Israel.

Making the literal lives of a civilian population untenable does not further Israel's ends.. A starving population, unable to provide safe hydration for their infant young, becomes increasingly more hateful and more violent. Even if the means to inflict severe harm on those who bring death to their families is at that moment unavailable, the hate will endure until it is.

Israel can defeat Hamas without laying total siege to Hamas, though a number more of their soldiers could die as a result. Those added losses can't justify a siege of millions of civilians. Israel can arguably insist, "Release the hostages and we will lift the siege" but that lowers Israel to the same tactical level as the terrorists. Hamas won't release the hostages to save the lives of Palestinian civilians, so Israel must endanger the lives of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians as a result? Hamas committed war crimes. The collective punishment of over two million Palestinians is also a war crime, done on a larger scale.

It is almost certainly true that Hamas will appropriate some provisions that are allowed to enter Gaza for its own internal purposes. Fuel is a prime example, and to deny fuel to Hamas hampers their fighting ability That is Israel's logic. But Israeli bombings cause civilian casualties. Though some such casualties may be an inevitable byproduct of war, the inability of hospitals to provide medical treatment for innocents is not. Israel is creating civilian casualties through its actions. Israel cut off the transmission of electricity to Gaza. At the very least Israel must allow hospitals to obtain the fuel they require to function so as to save civilian lives. If Hamas appropriates that fuel away from the hospitals that need it, let that be on their heads. Allowing for that possibility is a risk that Israel must take.

Hamas is entrenched in Gaza surrounded by civilians used as human shields. Nothing that Israel can do will guarantee safety to all Palestinian civilians during its war with Hamas, and the inevitable invasion to come. Those in the South of Gaza may be safer than those in the North, but they are not safe. Palestinians have valid reason to feat that should they leave their homeland now they will never be allowed to return to it. None the less many would seek safety outside of Gaza were that available to them. Egypt has its reasons, which can be argued but none the less exist, for not wanting to take in refugees from Gaza. But Egypt is not a direct party to this war. The long term security of Israel hinges on its relationship with the people of Palestine.

I heard an Israeli professor based in Jerusalem float an idea that he acknowledged was unlikely to be under current consideration. Why not allow Palestinian refugees from Gaza to seek safety inside of Israel? He suggested that Israel take in women and children refugees only, to lessen security risks to Israel. He didn't expand on that thought further, he was calling for thinking outside of the box. Presumably Gaza refugees would be confined to refugee camps for the duration of the fighting, or perhaps after a vetting process some could move on to territory in the West Bank where the Palestinian Authority has jurisdiction. But no one would be forcibly moved to refugee camps inside of Israel, it would be voluntary only. If this isn't being considered, why not? WHY NOT? Of course it would entail risks to Israel, but are they greater than the risk engendered by Israel failing to do everything it can to lessen civilian deaths in Gaza?

There are no easy answers here. Calling for a cease fire in Gaza so that the killing will stop is not an answer. From Israel's security perspective the killing MUST continue until the threat from Hamas is eliminated. To allow Hamas to remain in power indefinitely, by freezing the conflict at its current stage, would be akin to urging Ukraine to accept a cease fire after Russia had achieved its maximum censure of Ukrainian territory. A short term cease fire in Gaza, called for a specific defined goal, such as an evacuation of civilians, can be sought and Israel should stay open to short pauses in the fighting to achieve narrowly defined humanitarian ends. But this is a war Israel can't afford to avoid having. Just like Israel can't avoid caring about the immediate fate of Gaza's civilians. Israel's security requires both.

October 20, 2023

Intimidation has reached AND PASSED peak effectiveness

American fascists under Trump rely on intimidation to win victories. They have counted on people of nominal sanity and respect for our institutions to stand down in the face of violent threats and/or actions. Sometimes those threats have been to upset civility and social order in general, other times to undermine the good name and authority of key American institutions. Sometimes those threats have been to bring literal violence down onto our political and governing institutions. And sometimes those threats have been personal, threatening the careers and often the lives of those whose work America's democracy depends upon. be they school board members, election officials, prosecutors or elected officials.

Intimidation is an effective tactic, to a point. Increasingly it looks like that point has been reached. Republicans in the House attempted to install bomb throwers like Jim Jordon onto the January 6th Committee, threatening to undermine its "legitimacy" with the American people should Pelosi reject their choices. She did anyway, and what followed was history that is still echoing today. Today, for the third time, Radical House Republicans attempted to install one of their own, the same Jim Jordon, as Speaker of the House. They used Trump's endorsement of Jordon, Sean Hannity's toxic bullhorn bellowing for Jordon, and personally intimidating threats from the extreme Right's anonymous army of fascist foot soldiers amassed against resisting Republican Congress members, to force through the outcome they plotted for. They failed.

They failed in the same way that they ultimately failed to stop the United States Justice Department from appointing a Special Prosecutor who brought forth multiple serious felony charges against Trump and his coup. The specter of civil unrest looming should anyone lay a finger on Trump failed to prevent him from being indicted. The racist bull horns targeting black prosecutors in NYC,New York State, and Fulton County Georgia, failed to deter them from doing their job enforcing laws against Trump.

The violence itself on January 3, 2001, led to the largest criminal investigation in Justice Department history, which led to hundreds of convictions and actual sedition charges successfully being prosecutors against the ring leaders of the violent foot soldiers. As a result, when Trump called for mass protests at his first two arraignments, they utterly failed to materialize.

Some Republican Senators failed to vote to impeach Trump because of intimidation threats. Some non MAGA Republican Congress members failed to run for reelection in 2022 because of intimidation threats. But today the ranks of Republican Congress members willing to openly oppose Trump's henchman Jordon grows with every vote. Today the number of Trump's fellow coup planners accepting plea deals to flip against him grows also, countering whatever sticks and/or carrots he had been using to try to hold them in line. Surely they knew the far right fringe would now mobilize against them. but those unspoken threats of intimidation were insufficient to keep them loyal to Trump any longer.

Threats of violence, and violence itself, will still be used by the far Right to further their goals, but resistance to them is stiffening. Soon, if not already, they will understand that they have more than met their match at the hands of the untold millions of often silent American patriots who refuse to be intimidated into surrendering our democracy, not without a fight.

October 19, 2023

If Chesebro also accepts a plea deal now, it clears the path for Trump's GA trial

And the pressure is on for Chesebro to flip and take a plea deal now, while the dealing is still good. A $6,000 fine and several years of probation must be looking pretty damn good compared to 5+ years spent in a Georgia prison.

Trump didn't demand his right to a speedy trial, so if Chesebro doesn't go to trial next week that doesn't mean a Trump trial is imminent, but it does mean nothing would stand in the way of setting the date for it, if there isn't an initial trial that must be completed first. It would also mean that Trump wouldn't get to see any preview of the evidence that will be used against him.

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