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Should Iraq Be Split In Order To Survive?

September 23, 2014

In 2006 then senator and now Vice-President Biden made the argument that perhaps the best way to remedy the political problems in Iraq is to divide the country.

The first is to establish three largely autonomous regions with a viable central government in Baghdad. The Kurdish, Sunni and Shiite regions would each be responsible for their own domestic laws, administration and internal security. The central government would control border defense, foreign affairs and oil revenues. Baghdad would become a federal zone, while densely populated areas of mixed populations would receive both multisectarian and international police protection.

In the past months as ISIS has grown and expanded it is clear the Kurds are capable of fighting to protect their interests, and also support the larger needs of the region.  But make no mistake there is a larger game plan underway, and one that the United States should very much consider.

The incursion of ISIS presents the Kurds with both opportunity and risk. In June, the ISIS army swept out of the Syrian desert and into Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city. As the Islamist forces took control, Iraqi Army soldiers fled, setting off a military collapse through the region. The Kurds, taking advantage of the chaos, seized huge tracts of territory that had been claimed by both Kurdistan and the government in Baghdad. With the newly acquired land, the political climate for independence seemed promising. The region was also finding new economic strength; vast reserves of oil have been discovered there in the past decade. In July, President Barzani asked the Kurdish parliament to begin preparations for a vote on self-rule. “The time has come to decide our fate, and we should not wait for other people to decide it for us,” Barzani said.

European powers thought it best to craft this area into a country for mostly British interests, and clearly not for those who had to abide within the boundaries.  With the absence of a powerful enforcer who used brutal tactics–such as Saddam Hussein–the nation is not able to govern itself or meet the needs of the people.  In no way am I desiring a tyrant to gain control in Iraq.  Instead let of us agree the aspirations of the people in Iraq need to be recognized and perhaps the best route to meet that goal is to again look at the separation idea that Biden advocated almost  a decade ago.

10 Most Challenged Books Highlighted During Banned Books Week

September 23, 2014

This is the week that occurs each fall when the American Library Association sponsors events to alert all of us at the attempts made by some to not allow certain books to be read as they shock, offend and generally make Americans uncomfortable.   It never fails to amaze me how others would try to stop certain books from being read by others as they do not meet some standard.  How anyone thinks they have–or should have–such power is simply mind-numbing.

The list of challenged books this year according to the association which came under attack include popular children’s books such as The Hunger Games”, the “Captain Underpants” series, and “The Perks of Being a Wallflower”.

Here is the list of the top 10 “most challenged” books in 2013. The list was complied by the American Library Association, which defines a challenge as a formal written request to remove a book from the shelves of public and school libraries. Few if any books were pulled from shelves and all of the books are still readily available.

• “Captain Underpants” (series) by Dav Pilkey. Reasons: Offensive language, unsuited for age group, violence.

• “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison. Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, violence.

• “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” by Sherman Alexie. Reasons: Drugs, alcohol and smoking, offensive language, racism, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group.

• “Fifty Shades of Grey” by E.L. James. Reasons: Nudity, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group.

• “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins. Reasons: Religious viewpoint, unsuited to age group.

• “A Bad Boy Can Be Good for A Girl” by Tanya Lee Stone. Reasons: Drugs, alcohol and smoking, nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit.

• “Looking for Alaska” by John Green. Reasons: Drugs, alcohol and smoking, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group.

• “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” by Stephen Chbosky. Reasons: drugs, alcohol and smoking, homosexuality, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group.

• “Bless Me Ultima” by Rudolfo Anaya. Reasons: Occult, Satanism, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit.

• “Bone” (series), by Jeff Smith. Reasons: Political viewpoint, racism, violence.

Missile Strikes Correct Action Taken In Syria

September 23, 2014

There was no way the news that has dominated from northern Syria over the past 24 hours could not have moved the main players in the international arena to act in the fashion they did late tonight.   With clarity of purpose on our side the United States and our allies launched airstrikes against ISIS in Syria.

It takes a world power to act and lead in times of crisis.  If matters were left to others the absolutely unconscionable situation would continue to become even more dire and the numbers of casualties and displaced persons would grow and prove even more problematic in terms of resolving.  What was happening over the past hours prior to the missile strike was the unrelenting attack from ISIS militants on the Kurdish communities near the Syrian border.    The fact that a massacre type scenario was developing meant that only one course of action could take place.

No more dickering or meeting to talk about what more can be done with or without congressional consent.  That ship has sailed while the feckless members of congress from both parties shied away from taking a firm and resolute stand on the matter.    Ducking and hiding their funding for Syrian rebels in a budget resolution is the height of cowardice and no one–be they Democratic or Republican members–can feel any honor over the way the vote was handled.    Waiting to hold a vote on military action against ISIS until after the mid-term elections means there are 435 members of the House of Representative who seriously need to reevaluate whether they have the capacity to continue in office.

I am very pleased that Bahrain, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates took part in the strikes, and this proves both the seriousness that ISIS poses to the region and the diplomatic skills that President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry have employed in recent weeks.

The months ahead are uncertain and surely to hold much chaos, confusion, and military moves.  But there is a mission underway–finally–to take the battle to ISIS in the only terms they understand.   That battle must not cease until the goals are met and the territory that this crazed and savage bunch of butchers have taken has been returned to the ones who call it home.

Finally, and once more, let us recognize that Islam is not the issue here, nor is ISIS in any way an Islamic movement.  ISIS has let the world know by their actions what they are and for that we will now destroy them.

Can Democratic ‘Ground Game’ Save Election Night?

September 22, 2014

I am looking at a political map that is all uphill for Democrats this fall.   With more of our seats being competed for in states where Mitt Romney won in 2012, and a series of polling numbers that show Democratic candidates not getting enough traction there is a general concern about what Election Day will bring.

But not everyone is quite as glum–in fact there are some who think chances for Democratic victories are quite good.  While I would like to hope for such an outcome I frankly do not see the energy this election cycle with Democrats.

But in politics there is always hope, right?

Another reason things might not turn out for Republicans is if the highly touted Democratic Senate ground game comes together. Clearly the Obama campaign and Democratic allies had a superior voter-identification and get-out-the-vote operation two years ago. Earlier this year, Senate Democrats announced the Bannock Street Project, a $60 million program with the goal of putting in place 4,000 paid workers to use techniques perfected and put to work in 2010 by DSCC Chairman Michael Bennet in his race, and again two years ago by the Obama campaign. While some Republicans have scoffed at the likelihood of Democrats being able to mount such an effort, they concede that the Democratic ground game was superior two years ago. In midterm elections, if Democrats can crank up the turnout among young, female, and minority voters, then their chances of success this year increase.

Wisconsin Voters Need To Be Held Accountable, Too

September 21, 2014

Everyone of us– regardless if we are Republican or Democrat–makes the same argument, often in heated tones.  We want government to work, and desire our elected officials to be smart and competent.  Voters have high expectations about those we place in office, and are not slow to criticize when someone fails to perform the way we want.

But what degree of responsibility do the voters have when it comes to the lack of awareness over the issues of the day?  What happens when the misguided and inaccurate ideas of the citizenry only embolden the heated rhetoric and misguided polices to be ramped up by the elected ones we heap scorn upon?

Such is the case that is now taking place in Wisconsin when it comes to the dreadful outcome of the recent federal court ruling over the voter ID law.

Last week another of the much anticipated polls from the Marquette Law School was released.  And not for the first time did the sampling weigh in heavily, this time at 61%, supporting the ID requirement when casting a ballot.  If you listen to the reasons for such widespread backing for the law you will hear over and over the refrain that the law is needed so to construct a needed wall against voter fraud.

Governor Scott Walker stated after the the federal appeals court ruling that now it is “easier to vote and harder to cheat.”  Republicans have continually and exhaustingly repeated the idea that there are many illegal votes being cast that are undermining our democracy.

The problem with the Republican partisan spin, and the fact that the average voter needs to know is that voter fraud and impersonation is not happening in the manner that is claimed and poses no threat to our state.    This whole sorry episode that has consumed so much public attention has always been simply a GOP partisan tactic.

But the public has been slow to come to grips with the facts of the voter ID law, and what is really at play when Republicans work overtime to depress turnout and prohibit people from voting.

At some point, however, we need to stop blaming politicians or political parties and look into the mirror to get a better sense of what is wrong in Wisconsin.

There are no shortage of ways to be informed about state news or the policy fights of the day.  Countless newspapers are printed and internet information is only a mouse click away.  If people have enough time to watch the Packers be defeated in a nearly 3 hour game they have time to understand that no large volume of arrests have been made for voter fraud and that no court records exist of judges hearing cases about voter impersonation.  There is no way to justify why 61% of the public thinks voter ID is a valid law.

By not arming oneself with the facts about (in this case the voter ID law) and allowing only the assumptions repeated ad nauseam by Republicans has now placed our state, and I would argue one of our most treasured rights come this November’s election, in a most dreadful place.

And yes, while it is politicians who created the ID law, and spin it in the face of the facts, it is the voters who seemingly refuse to come to terms with their role in our democracy who also must be held accountable.  Taking the time to separate out the wheat from the chaff–the facts from the falsehoods–is part of the responsibility of those who call themselves a Wisconsin citizen.

When we fail to do that fact-checking we only allow those who have placed us in this situation to believe they can continue.  They will unless they are stopped by arming ourselves with the facts.

Failure By Vast Majority To Place Hand Over Heart During National Anthem At Madison Symphony Orchestra

September 21, 2014

This is opening weekend for the Madison Symphony Orchestra, and once again James and I look forward to a monthly outing with great music where we get to dress up and head out for the evening.  As is the case with each new season conductor John DeMain started the opening performance with the National Anthem.   Since we have a box seat it was easy to look across at the sea of faces who were also ready for a musical extravaganza.   There certainly was plenty to anticipate with the first selection being Strauss’ Also Sprach Zarathustra. 

But as I stood with all the others Saturday night I was struck by the fact the vast majority–at least 98%–did not place their hand over their heart when the anthem was played.  There were many in the house who knew the words as the voices were clearly audible over the brass and pomp of the musicians.    But except for a few older people in the filled house–and not even all of them–hardly any placed their hand over their heart.  On the other side of Overture Hall in the box seats only two people who were at least in their 70’s had the proper hand placement.

I am not sure when the tradition ceased to be observed but the lack of proper etiquette when the National Anthem was played was most noticeable.  The failure to place a hand over the heart looked really second-rate for Madison which has been titled this past week as the best place to live in the United States.

Madison is clearly a special place and one I hold dear to me but for all my fellow citizens who also love where we live let me end this post with what we all learned in at least third grade.

When the National Anthem is played, citizens should stand and hold their hand over their heart beginning with the first note and holding throughout the song until the very last note.

Now be seated and take the message to heart.

Has the Secret Service Started Locking The Front Door Of The White House?

September 20, 2014

And it not, why not?

The intruder who was apprehended yesterday could very well have had chemical, biological, or radiological weapons on him when making it past the doors of the North Portico of the White House.  That is just unacceptable, no matter how one tries to spin or justify the actions of the Secret Service.

Someone has some explaining to do when it comes to this security lapse.



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