Have you ever had an annoying acquaintance that thinks they are your best friend – and you can’t get rid of them? No matter how hard you try to shake them, they keep calling or texting. Such people are like shoe gum, they attach easily are nearly impossible to scrape off.
Which brings us to Iraq – the ultimate example of shoe gum. No matter how fast we sprint away, we can’t shake the mess from our feet. We spent more than $2 trillion dollars to fix the Humpty Dumpty that George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld shattered. And yet this duct taped rotten egg keeps falling off the wall.
If you listen to this show regularly, you know that I have been steadfastly against intervening in Iraq’s civil war. My position has been:
1) Our intervention often seems to make things worse
2) We should not risk American lives to stop an ancient civil war.
3) If the Shiites want to protect holy shrines from destruction, let Iran step in and do the fighting. Let our sworn enemy squander its money, spill its blood, and weaken its military. The “Great Satan” shouldn’t take sides in a struggle without a clear strategic interest.
Unfortunately, heartbreakingly, saddeningly – if that’s a word — the situation has drastically changed in Mesopotamia. American military forces may be called into action. The medieval barbarians known as The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, aka ISIS, are on the march. They are sweeping though the Fertile Crescent inflicting savagery on a massive scale.
ISIS put out a statement this week that said:
“Our Islamic forces are still fighting in all directions and we will not step down until the project of the caliphate is established with the will of God.”
ISIS is an evil entity that will bring nothing but pain, misery, poverty, suffering, and death to this chronically embattled region. This group is beyond intolerant. These terrorists force people of other faiths to convert or die. They force women to wear the veil and accept second-class citizenship. They slaughter anyone who is openly gay. They behead their foes and place the severed heads on fence posts to serve as an example to others. ISIS is a hate crime disguised as a religious army. This group is the antithesis of modernity. They are diametrically opposed to anything remotely progressive. They want to drag that region back to the Middle Ages.
I’ve been opposed to American intervention in the Sunni vs. Shiite battle, whether in Syria or Iraq – because there are no good guys. However, ISIS is now attacking the Kurds, which has been a steadfast American ally. While far from perfect, the Kurds have been an island of decency and stability in a sea of violence and fanaticism. We simply cannot stand by idly while our friend is threatened with oblivion.
The conventional wisdom held that the formidable Kurdish militia, the pesh merga, would be able to fend off the advancing Sunni militants. Ironically, ISIS is routing the Kurdish militia by using sophisticated American weapons captured from the Iraqi Army. This is precisely why I usually oppose the United States arming rebel groups – who eventually turn the weapons on our allies or us.
However, the Kurds are proven allies who represent a better future in the Middle East. I reluctantly believe that America should immediately arm the pesh merga. We should also, in defense of the Kurds, deploy drones and launch airstrikes against fighters from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
ISIS should not be able to operate in the open without being bombed. Each time the US sees this terrorist army advancing across the barren landscape, we should make them pay a heavy price. These aren’t the jungles of Vietnam where the enemy can hide. If a large number of ISIS fighters move towards Erbil or Baghdad – we can use our superior technology to beat them back.
As a progressive, I believe that using military force should always be a last resort – but time is of the essence and the Kurds face a dire situation, with ISIS militants edging closer to the Kurdish capital of Erbil. If the barbarians storm the gates of Erbil, it will be slaughter and the end to regional decency or any glimmer of hope for peace in the Middle East.
Tens of thousands of persecuted religious minorities – including Christians — are under threat of elimination. 40,000 Yaz-i-dees are trapped on the harsh and forbidding terrain of Mount Sinjar. They are suffering from hunger and dehydration. 40 children have already died on the mountain. The US has dropped food, water, and medical supplies, but that is not enough. Military force is needed to run ISIS out of the area.
Indeed, we may have waited too long. I support President Barack Obama’s policy of getting the US military out of Iraq – which was draining our nation’s resources and costing American lives. I agree with his hands off policy in the region. However, hands off cannot mean we keep our eyes off an unfolding catastrophe.
The US should have acted before ISIS gained control of crucial oil fields that are now bankrolling terror. The United States should never have allowed ISIS to take over militarily strategic dams that let these monsters control the water supply for Iraq’s cities. Aside from extorting money for water, these dams are a critical military asset that is now run by fanatics. If ISIS gets desperate, they can open the Mosul Dam and unleash a horrific 65-foot tsunami that would flood much of northern Iraq.
If you think ISIS wouldn’t do this – think again. They have already turned the Fallujah dam into a terror weapon, flooding parts of Anbar Province and creating thousands of refugees. These are delusional religious zealots who have no scruples and will sacrifice human life with not a pang of conscience if they believe it will advance their caliphate.
Now, this isn’t our neighborhood, so we should avoid ground troops. We don’t want an eternal presence in Babylonia. However, if there was ever a group worthy of receiving weapons and military intelligence, it is the Kurds.
If we don’t help the Kurds in their desperate hour of need America will shred its credibility. We cannot shrink from this challenge, unless we are taking a deliberately isolationist, if not disastrous, turn with our foreign policy.
Allowing ISIS to significantly impact the world energy supply will create havoc across the globe. It would likely lead to higher gas prices and allow Islamic extremists to hold the world hostage. This would also empower Russia – who would gladly fill the vacuum created by any disruption to the flow of Mideast Oil. Vladimir Putin would use those profits to bully its neighbors, divide Europe, and sideline the influence of the America.
Given these consequences, we have to do something, and do it now before it’s too late.
Am I afraid it will be a slippery slope? Yes
Am I afraid it’s a shoe gum that we can’t scrape off, that will drag us into a quagmire? Yes, absolutely.
But what are the alternatives?
If ISIS eventually wins by slaughtering enough Iraqis to cow them into submission – I predict the situation in the region will quickly deteriorate.
1) ISIS will leverage their power to double down in Syria – and eventually overthrow the Bashar Assad regime.
2) ISIS will destabilize Lebanon causing a civil war. Or, they will simply take it over after a bloody fight with Hezbollah.
3) Once ISIS was in full control of Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq – they would essentially have the virulently anti-Western caliphate that they desire. However, they wouldn’t stop there. They would begin a campaign to portray the ruling Saudi regime as morally compromised and an impure, illegitimate caretaker of Mecca. This could lead to the overthrow of the Saudi regime and the extension of the ISIS caliphate.
4) Having unified the Sunni world under the black ISIS flag – the awful stage would be set for all-out war with their Shiite rival Iran. All hell would break loose in a gruesome, take-no-prisoners holy war that would be fought to the death. This would cause a regional conflagration and have unforeseen consequences worldwide – not least of which would be a severe disruption of the energy supply.
If we don’t do something to stop ISIS now – we will live to regret it. I’m not suggesting American ground forces. I am saying that humanitarian aid, arming the Kurds, and American air support is warranted in this dreadful situation.Read More »
As Americans we like to think of ourselves as living in a First World country – but we have a Third World rail system. America’s fastest passenger train is Amtrak’s Acela, which reaches a pathetic top speed of 150-MPH. However, the average train speed is a glacial 80 MPH.
In stark contrast, Japanese bullet trains reach speeds of 220 MPH.
Where has America’s “can do” spirit gone? Where is that desire for adventure and quest for greatness that our country is known for?
Ongoing Republican hostility to high-speed rail is bizarre and goes against everything they purport to believe in – such as the idea that they are pro-business. But time is money and an Acela trip between New York City and Washington takes two hours and forty-five minutes. The same trip on a real bullet train would take only 90 minutes. That gap in time is lost productivity in the marketplace.
Bullet trains would also revolutionize job hunting. Currently, we are slaves to our geography – only able to find careers in our immediate vicinity. What you get with bullet trains are extended economic zones that drastically increase the breadth of one’s job possibilities. Imagine living in Washington, DC – yet being able to comfortably work in Philadelphia, New York, Providence, Richmond, or even Boston? That welcome change would dramatically increase the area in which one could find gainful employment without having to move cities, which can be prohibitively expensive.
Additionally, it would give employers a wider selection of workers, thus improving the quality of a company’s workforce. With bullet trains, both employers and employees win.
Building high-speed rail would also put the unemployed back to work. An infrastructure project of this magnitude would be an ongoing source of job creation. It would help those most in need – young men without college educations.
In 2009, President Barack Obama made high-speed rail a priority. His administration has already spent $11 billion on laying the groundwork.
Predictably, Republicans have fought him at every turn. GOP governors in Ohio, Florida, and Wisconsin returned federal funds for high-speed rail projects. This is penny wise and pound-foolish economic policy.
How could Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) not understand that connecting Milwaukee to an economic engine like Chicago would be good for business?
How could Gov. Rick Scott (R-FL) fail to see the potential monetary value of connecting the I-4 corridor of Central Florida to the bustling international cities of Miami and Fort Lauderdale? Doesn’t Gov. Scott realize how many residents in South Florida would take weekend trips to Disney World in Orlando if it were only an hour and a half train ride? Or, how many landlocked Orlando residents would spend money for weekend getaways at Miami Beach?
Can’t Ohio’s Republican governor, John Kasich, see the economic value of creating a high-speed rail project that links business opportunities in Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati?
The problem is that if you look at a Congressional map, you quickly realize the GOP is a rural party. Their constituents are the most unlikely to use trains. So, Republican lawmakers are shamelessly pandering to their base, instead of supporting the public good and doing what is right for America.
There are some private rail projects underway – such as All Aboard Florida and Texas Central Railways. The Florida Company would like to connect the busy route of Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and West Palm Beach. The Texas project would connect Houston and Dallas.
However, it is important that the government be intimately involved because private companies often fail. The free market works fine if it’s a clothing store or a restaurant that shuts down. But what happens if a transportation company closes its doors? All the people who depend on it for work are doomed. It would cost jobs, decimate lives, and increase traffic.
It is time that America joins the 21st Century and builds the sleekest, sharpest, bullet trains in the world. Our trains should be the envy of the globe.
I’d ask you call your Congressman to urge high-speed rail, but it won’t do any good. They have left Washington and are on vacation for the next five weeks. And, sadly, when they are back in DC they actually do less than when they are idling on the beach.Read More »
We could create a new horror genre based on this Congress: Friday the 113th. It would star no one, there would be lots backstabbing and bill killing and it would leave our nation in critical condition.
Having accomplished virtually nothing for this country, the 113th Congress is slithering off for its summer vacation. Because if anyone deserves to relax in a hammock and drink lemonade by a shade tree – it’s your local Congressman.
Thanks to intransigent Tea Baggers, this Congress may be our worst ever. The New York Times reports that these losers have passed just 142 laws — 34 of them ceremonial — compared to the 151 passed by the same date by the last Congress, which produced fewer laws than any in history. By comparison, the infamous 1947-48 “do nothing” Congress passed 906 laws.
The GOP is the party of “no” and has been wrong about everything, even as they don’t actually do anything. With no record to run on, 40 percent of all midterm political campaign ads are anti-Obama. Thirty percent rail against Obamacare, as if insuring the poor and those with preexisting conditions is the epitome of evil.
Here is what is wrong with Congress:
1. The Supreme Court sold America out to corporations and billionaires who flood campaigns with unlimited contributions. Thanks to the Scalia/Roberts court, we are poised to shatter records with $2 billion spent on television ads on congressional races. This represents a sharp 70 percent rise since the 2010 midterm election. This grossly distorts the political process and elevates the favored issues of a few over the pressing issues of the many. The Supremes say that money is speech. If this is true, some Americans are now born with more speech than others.
2. Gerrymandering: the partisan drawn districts have made lawmakers captive to extreme special interests. This is especially true for Republicans. If they don’t spew the Party Line they will face lavishly financed Tea Bagger primary challenges. This has erased any chance for compromises – and without give and take, productive lawmaking ceases to exist.
3. The shortsighted Republican Party and stooges like Grover Norquist have relentlessly demonized all taxes and all government. This is why traditionally non-controversial issues, such as infrastructure projects or raising the debt ceiling, have lately become political footballs. It’s outrageous that filling potholes has become politicized. When purchasing concrete to fix bridges becomes controversial, don’t expect anything concrete to get accomplished on Capitol Hill.
4. The barely concealed racism against Obama. I’m not saying that the majority of Republicans are racist. But I am saying that racists are welcome in the Republican Party’s big tent. Gays aren’t welcome. Hispanics are tossed to the curb. But they always seem to have a place for the David Duke wing of the party. This has made it nearly impossible to be seen with Obama, no less cut deals with the president, because it is the equivalent of cutting a deal with the Devil.
5. Voter suppression. Having alienated virtually every minority, the GOP is losing demographic turf. Republicans realize that they can’t consistently win if they play by the rules. So they cheat. They have created obstacles and bogus issues such as voter ID laws to stop the virtually non-existent problem of voter fraud. They have closed polling stations or shortened weekend voting – or basically any measure that would make it easy for minorities to vote. This is bad for America and makes people lose interest in politics.
6. The media. The so-called liberal media is anything but. They are so terrified of being branded liberals by aggressive conservative hacks and flaks, that they often refuse to assign blame to Republicans for causing gridlock. In the effort to be fair and balanced, they create unfair and unbalanced stories in which Democrats and Republicans are equally culpable for Congress’ dysfunction.
7. The language and self-righteous certitude of the Religious Right has infected Congress like a virus. If God has positions on legislation – as the Religious Right asserts – then voting the “wrong way” is now a vote against God. This makes it nearly impossible to compromise because even the most basic issues are tied up in a paradigm of principles.
8. Voter turnout for the primaries this year is 14.8 percent. If people would just get off their rear ends and show up to vote we could fundamentally transform this country for the better. But they aren’t, so the wealthy puppet masters have even more power to manipulate the outcome of races or rent members of Congress.
It is up to you to save this country. You can either be demoralized or you can shape our nation’s destiny. I know what kind of country I want to live in. Do you?Read More »
Let’s talk for a moment about the National Football’s League’s grossly irresponsible message to America’s children.
Baltimore Ravens star running back, Ray Rice was suspended for a mere two games for knocking his then fiancé out cold on an elevator during a disagreement.
The penalty for taking steroids is four games.
There is no excuse for such leniency for Rice – except to sell tickets and increase television ratings at the expense of teaching our children to treat woman with respect.
Commissioner Roger Goodell should be ashamed of himself for such a contemptible decision.
If you wonder why date rape is such a problem on college campuses it is because messages like this. If you are a big man on campus, and in this case the NFL, you don’t have to play by the same rules. In this paradigm, women aren’t real people — they are “sort of people” to be controlled for a man’s pleasure — or to beat in an elevator to express displeasure.
The National Football League really dropped the ball and did society a disservice. The bare minimum should have been a five game suspension for Ray Rice. There is nothing more cowardly and despicable than a man slugging a woman. Rice’s time away from the game should have fit the crime.
But that’s not the only disgrace in the NFL this week.
Former NFL coach and broadcaster Tony Dungy – a devout fundamentalist Christian – made headlines when he said that he would not draft Michael Sam, the openly gay Missouri Tigers star who was drafted this year by the St. Louis Rams.
According to Dungy, he wouldn’t draft Sam because he would be a “distraction.”
I guess that same irrational logic could have been used to keep Jackie Robinson from becoming the first black player in major league baseball. I suppose it could have been used to keep Barack Obama from becoming the first black president or Michael Steele from becoming the first African American leader of the Republican National Committee.
Natalie Nakase is working as an assistant coach for the Los Clippers in the National Basketball Association. She is on a trajectory to become, at some point, the first woman to coach an NBA team.
Clearly, some players will feel uncomfortable being coached by a woman. To avoid this so-called distraction, would Tony Dungy deny her a chance to break a barrier and coach in the NBA? Maybe his Christian beliefs also hold that Nakase should be in the kitchen and not the basketball gym with men?
Tony Dungy has clearly crossed a line. He’s entitled to his personal religious beliefs. It is his right to be prejudiced against Michael Sam. He’s even allowed to despise Sam’s life and to find homosexuality objectionable
However, he is not entitled to is to use his bigotry to end a person’s career. Dungy’s position is, no matter how hard a gay player like Michael Sam works – not matter how talented he is – no matter how much he might contribute to a team – he still isn’t worthy of wearing an NFL uniform because of who he is. It is outrageous to suggest that Sam, who has done nothing wrong, ought to be punished and have his career short-circuited, simply because there might be over sensitive bigots in the locker room who are insecure with their manhood.
You can apply Dungy’s logic to discrimination against gays anywhere in the workforce. A gay CEO? Forget it – it will cause a distraction.
But that same logic could also be applied to Tony Dungy and other fundamentalist Christians. The coach’s ostentatious displays of religiosity were also a distraction. There were probably many players on his team that felt uncomfortable around his oppressive proselytizing. Dungy also can’t be naïve enough to think that his award from a hate group that he earned for his opposition to gay marriage wasn’t a team distraction. No doubt many players on his team secretly disagreed with his public stance on this controversial issue.
We need to judge people in the workplace based upon performance, not who they are. If Dungy isn’t able to separate his private beliefs from his hiring practices he should not be a coach or a television football analyst.
The good news is that a place exists for devout Christians who only want to work with those who have like-minded beliefs – it’s called a church. If Tony Dungy wants to become Pastor Dungy – then I’m perfectly fine with him not hiring Michael Sam as a deacon. But as far as I can tell, the NFL is supposed to be about football, not faith.
Whether it is the slap on the wrist for Ray Rice or the discrimination expressed by Tony Dungy – the NFL needs to go back to the huddle and come up with some new plays before anymore unforced fumbles occur.Read More »