war on ISIS: world-wide whac-a-mole once again

howitzer, mortar, grenade

WikiImages (CC0), PixabaySo it seems we can’t leave Iraq alone.  Now it’s a war on ISIS–the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria which now refers itself to as simply the “Islamic State.”  The U.S. government just doesn’t seem to know how to stop pouring gasoline on the fire.

Of course, the rise of ISIS is a horrible development, but is one in which our country had a hand in creating.  Al-Qaeda had no presence in Iraq (despite the Bush administration’s insistence to the contrary) until after the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, when the resulting instability created internal wounds that drew in outside forces and acted as a recruiting tool for Al-Qaeda and its offshoots.

Look what our bombs accomplished in Libya.  Our nation’s leadership believed there was an urgent humanitarian crisis when rebels faced government forces in 2011. Is Libya now a functioning democracy?  No, Libya is a failed state engulfed in civil war with fundamentalist radicalism there on the rise.

The U.S. has a horrible record of bombing non-state actors out of existence.  The Taliban is still a major player in Afghanistan, nearly thirteen years after the U.S. and allies invaded. The killing of Osama bin Laden did not end either al Qaeda or the radicalism associated with it.

The reason is simple: as I’ve said before, we are continuing to fight a 21st century war via 19th and 20th century means. It’s easy to take over a government via military force, but it’s impossible to defuse an idea by the same means.  ISIS, itself a Sunni organization, was able to take advantage of vast Sunni frustration with an Iraq government dominated by Shi’as. Air strikes and other military actions kill civilians and disrupt civilian lives, and then these areas become fertile recruiting grounds for the terrorist groups–or related splinter cells.  Even if the organization were to cease to exist, its members could reform into another splinter organization.

We are digging ourselves into deeper and deeper holes as the Middle East becomes more and more unstable. With every bomb the U.S. drops, the risk of another terrorist act on U.S. soil grows.  If we wanted to maximize the chance of another major attack on U.S. soil, the foreign policy the U.S. has engaged in since 2001 is precisely the way to achieve this.   We have been needing to clean up the mess we’ve created for ourselves since the 9/11 attacks, and unfortunately, we are just creating a bigger and bigger mess.



another home birth in the co-op house

For the second time in three years,we have been blessed by a home birth in the co-op house. Yesterday around 6 p.m. we gained a new member in room five. It’s a boy!

I have lived in my current co-op house for six years now, and it says something about how much of a home this can be when a new life comes into being in this house. It’s something to be proud of and I think it says something about the house when residents feel at home enough to let this miracle happen here.

I joke that now that rooms four and five have been blessed with home births, we should work on the other rooms.  Of course, it is neither a practical or desirable goal, and in one or two rooms, this feat would be physically impossible.

The expecting couple led discussions at a couple of house meetings about their needs and expectations a few weeks before the baby was due, and we also held a baby shower here. To some extent, the whole house was preparing for the baby.

But just in case anyone was wondering, this home birth, like the previous one, was a private family affair–and I mean biological family. We didn’t have the entire house watching and gawking–the room was only for the husband, wife, baby, midwives and doulas.  Even the new grandparents and aunt and uncle were waiting downstairs.

As of yet, I have not seen (or really even heard) the baby.  The last time we had a home birth it was several days before we saw the baby, and it took weeks before we saw him very often. I imagine it would be overwhelming for a new baby to be introduced too soon to so many people.

But the children do eventually adapt to co-op life.  Indeed, they seem to often thrive from contact with so many others.  I was quite close to the previous baby born in this house, as well as his older sister, who moved here with her parents when she was but a month old.

I thought it would be appropriate to include a video for the Cloud Cult song, “You Were Born.” It’s a sweet, pertinent, and a delightful song.

Oh, and, what the heck–I might as well include this song too as lead singer Craig Minowa reportedly wrote it for his newborn baby.

critical month for democracy: citizens united, net neutrality and scotland

Public views of the Citizens United v. Federal...

Public views of the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It turns out that this month of September is going to be a critical month for democracy on many levels. The U.S. Senate will be voting on a constitutional amendement to overturning Citizens United most likely sometime this week.  For the first time, every U.S. Senator will have to go on record as to whether they believe money is actually speech (meaning that those with more money have more of a voice).  As can be seen from the graphic on the right, party affiliation has little bearing on the public’s stance on Citizens United–the public overwhelmingly disagrees with the Supreme Court’s ruling on the case.

net neutrality world logo

net neutrality world logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Next week on 15 September, the comment period for the  Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) proposal to allow big telecom companies to turn the Internet into a pay-to-play scheme.  In this proposal, anyone who pays enough money can have their sites more accessible while the rest of us are relegated to an Internet “slow lane.”  Since the mid 2000s, AT&T, Verizon, Comcast and other big players have resisted every effort to make “net neutrality” the law of the land. But more recently, in rather Orwellian language, they have argued that setting up a two-tier Internet somehow actually protects Net Neutrality.  I think a lot of start-up businesses, small businesses and other independent producers of content would firmly disagree. This Wednesday 10 September has been designated “Internet Slowdown Day”

in which a number of websites, including Reddit, Vimeo, WordPress, Meetup and this website will demonstrate the impact of an Internet slow lane in a very, well, graphic way.

Flag of Scotland. Ratio 3:5. The blue used is ...

Flag of Scotland. Ratio 3:5. The blue used is “royal” blue (Pantone 300), following the Scottish Parliament’s recommendation of 2003. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Finally, on 18 September, citizens of Scotland will vote to decide whether they will remain part of the United Kingdom or become an independent country.  Ethnically, I am about half-Scottish from both sides of my family and descended from multiple Scottish families. Recently, polls show a dead heat for the referendum. While my heart is for Scottish independence, this is the decision for the Scottish themselves to make, and I am reluctant to weigh in.  But my observation is that a smaller, more localized government can be held more easily accountable by its citizens than a larger, more distant government. Not always, of course (especially in places that have ethnic and racial minorities), but I have very much noticed the difference between living in Chicago and Madison, and I find the government in Madison much more accessible and democratic.  Furthermore, government surveillance in the United Kingdom is as worrisome as that in the United States

I find this interesting because besides being about half Scottish, I am also one-fourth Lithuanian and Hungarian.  (I reportedly also have smaller bits of German, English, Irish, Dutch and Slovak ancestry as well, and perhaps even Native American).  With my ancestors primarily coming from Scotland, Hungary and Lithuania, I find it noteworthy that of these three ancestries, only one of them–Hungary–was an independent country when I was born, and its independence was somewhat questionable given that the Soviet Union intervened to overthrow the Hungarian government in 1956 after it promised reform after an uprising.  But Hungary won its independence from the Soviet bloc in 1989 and  Lithuania declared independence in 1990. Might Scotland be next?