Maine Writer

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My blogs are dedicated to the issues I care about. Thank you to all who take the time to read something I've written.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Retirees on Social Security - giving back reported in The Charistian Science Monitor

All the more reason to sustain and improve Social Security!

Retirees are leaving the workforce on schedule, but they'r are not checking off a "bucket list", as many widely believe. In fact, they're apparantly "giving back".....nice commentary from The Christian Science Monitor.  (It's a nice way of supporting the importance of Social Security.)

Winston Churchill (1864-1965) 
"We make a life by what we give..."

Interesting article from Christian Science Monitor:
The Christian Science Monitor's View Retirees’ secret to happiness? 
Giving back:  "...following Winston Churchill’s advice: 'We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give'.”

Thinking of a retirement full of cruises to each of the Seven Seas? Or maybe an expedition to Antarctica, or lolling in a bungalow in Bora Bora?
For those who’ve carefully stuffed their pennies in their piggy banks for years an exotic trip or two may be an eye-opening and rewarding experience.
But a retirement based on trying to check items off some kind of bucket list of novel experiences may only leave people feeling “depressed and disconnected,” cautions psychiatrist Marc Agronin in a recent commentary in The Wall Street Journal.
What really generates happiness, he says, are connections – to family, friends, and to some wider community. In fact, if you travel too often you may begin to feel like a stranger in your own home while, at the same time, those important human connections have begun to wither.
Some 76 million baby boomers born between 1946 and 1964 have now begun to retire in large numbers. 
During the recent recession. demographers wondered if they might decide to stay in the workforce longer because of financial concerns. But they seem to be leaving full-time paid employment pretty much “on schedule” based on historical norms. What should they do now?
Merrill Lynch and Age Wave, a consultancy that looks at retirement trends, recently asked retirees which of two things would make them happier: “spending money on themselves” or “helping people in need.”  Three times more of the respondents said “helping people in need” than “spending on themselves.”
Retirees who give of themselves in the form of financial support or through hands-on volunteering report benefits that include more self-esteem, better health, and, yes, more happiness than those who don’t donate or volunteer.
They also report that their chief reason for making financial contributions as “making a difference in the lives of others” – far more important than being able to take a tax deduction.
The Merrill Lynch-Age Wave study predicts that over the next 20 years retirees will voluntarily give back to society some $8 trillion – $6.6 trillion in cash to charitable causes and another $1.4 trillion in the value of the 58 billion hours of volunteer work they will perform.
Volunteering, it turns out, returns many rewards to the giver. Retirees report that it’s not the income but the friendships and camaraderie that they most miss about their working lives. Volunteer work can open new paths to connect and find social interaction.
While the age group with the highest percentage of adult volunteers are those with school-age children, their volunteer activities tend to center around those that directly benefit their children. 
But because retirees are free of work and child-rearing duties they are able to offer much more of their time as volunteers – and they do.
In whatever way they choose to give back, many retirees will be doing it with a sense of gratitude for the good they have experienced in their own lives. 
They’ll be following Winston Churchill’s advice: “We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.”
Thank you, Christian Science Monitor
If reitrees didn't have Social Security and support for imroving the retirement system.....what would this article be saying, instead?

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Wednesday, March 30, 2016

American people are disgusted by Republican divisive politics - so where are the people who support them?

Donald Trump's celebrity status has garnered him $2 billion in free media time, reports Gwen Ifill, on PBSNews Hour.
Donald Trump has a loyal following but they may be taking the Republican party off a political cliff, sat pundits.
"He’s going to get killed in the general election, absolutely slaughtered, and it will be a disaster for the Republican Party."- Stuart Stevens.

But Trump has a tenaciously loyal following. A politically distressed friend in Maryland sent me this email:

Dear Friends, he writes....

"I just can’t get it with Trump supporters! Not the idiot Racist, Bigots, and totally stupid, I can (sort of) accept that. I mean, the somewhat normal and fairly intelligent folks including some classmates, and some of my former co-workers or classmates. Certainly, there are those that range from "just don’t know any better" to being "dumb as a stick in the woods". I guess I have to accept it, there are those that aren’t stupid, but just can’t accept a government/nation that helps the needy, even though that includes helping some that don’t deserve it. I’m sure there are those that are brainwashed by either a spouse or listening to FOXNews etc. (Who I'm concerned about are...)..It’s the kind and fairly well educated folks that troubles me – are they really part of one of the above groups or is there (yet) another group? I can accept that some are just so blindly anti-government, anti-social programs or anti-Democrat, but my God, how does that translate to supporting someone like Trump? Don’t they watch him speak or think about what he says? I am truly stumped."
Image result for Donald Trump
Donald Trump has an ability to capture the news cycles, regardless of the issue, but he doesn't provide solutions to any of the problems he says exists. Now, he's calling on punishment for women who receive abortions.  As though women's prisons aren't full enough with real law breakers?
Well, Friend from Maryland, although these people are mystifying to me, because they are also among my friends, the pundits on the Public Broadcasting Systems (PBS) "News Hour' may help you, because the report gave me some solace. Certainly, it's not possible to psychoanalyze our mystifying colleagues, but we can look beyond their wrong minded opinions to find some political perspective.  

Here's the transcript with Judy Woodruff:

Trump and the media - with Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff

How Donald Trump turned media spectacle into campaign wins
March 30, 2016 at 6:40 PM EDT
Donald Trump, front-runner for the GOP nomination, has been able to turn celebrity and controversy into nearly $2 billion in free media attention this election cycle. What’s driving his appeal and how has the electorate changed? Gwen Ifill talks to Stuart Stevens, former chief strategist for Mitt Romney, McKay Coppins of BuzzFeed News and Kathleen Hall Jamieson of the University of Pennsylvania.

GWEN IFILL: Donald Trump has now been leading in the polls for eight months, making him the prohibitive favorite to win the Republican Party nomination this summer.

His celebrity has driven media coverage, which in turn has boosted his celebrity. The result? The New York Times found Trump has received nearly $2 billion of free media attention during the campaign, nearly twice as much as the original entire 17-member field.

Today, he once again demonstrated one of his greatest skills, hijacking the news cycle with a provocative comment, this one about abortion.
(Video clip)
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC: Do you believe in punishment for abortion, yes or no, as a principle?

DONALD TRUMP, Republican Presidential Candidate: The answer is that there has to be some form of punishment.

CHRIS MATTHEWS: For the woman?

DONALD TRUMP: Yes. There has to be some form.

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Ten cents, 10 years, what?

DONALD TRUMP: I don’t know. That, I don’t know.


CHRIS MATTHEWS: Well, why not?

DONALD TRUMP: I don’t know.

CHRIS MATTHEWS: You take positions on everything else.

DONALD TRUMP: I find — I do take positions on everything else. It’s a very complicated position.

GWEN IFILL: Today, both pro- and anti-abortion forces rejected Trump’s latest controversial statement.

So, why does he survive? And how has he upended politics?

We zero in on what’s behind Trump’s appeal and what’s changed about the electorate with Stuart Stevens, Mitt Romney’s chief political strategist in the 2012 election, McKay Coppins, a senior writer for BuzzFeed News who has covered Trump and is the author of a book on the Republican Party’s efforts to take back the White House called “The Wilderness,” and Kathleen Hall Jamieson, professor of communications and director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania.

Kathleen Hall Jamieson, how much has Donald Trump exploded politics as usual?

KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON, University of Pennsylvania: Donald Trump has changed the way we talk about politics, the kinds of things that are covered in news, and the ways in which politicians gain access.

Essentially, his free airtime is what anybody else in an earlier campaign would have paid for and called advertising.

GWEN IFILL: McKay Coppins, has he changed inherently the way the GOP is formulated, the way it functions, the kinds of candidates it will nominate in the future?

MCKAY COPPINS, BuzzFeed News: I think he’s exploited a shift in the GOP over the past eight years or so in the Obama era, which is basically the crumbling of the traditional GOP establishment, the party committees, the fund-raisers, the donors, who used to wield all the influence, and now has kind of taken advantage of this new right-wing counterestablishment that is made up of new right-wing media outfits and pressure groups, and really figured out how to court them and ride a wave of influence into becoming basically, you know, the six-, seven-, eight-month front-runner of the Republican Party nomination fight.

GWEN IFILL: Stuart Stevens, it hasn’t even been four years since you were helping to run Mitt Romney’s campaign, yet so much seems to have changed. You have been pretty outspoken in your criticism of Donald Trump.

But take a step back as an analyst and tell me, why do you think this is right now?

STUART STEVENS, Chief Strategist, Mitt Romney’s 2012 Campaign: Well, I think there’s two ways to look at Donald Trump.

One is that he’s a function of a weak field that miscalculated what I would call the “Guns of August” — I refer to that great book about the beginning of World War I. No one wanted it to happen, and yet it’s happening.

The other would be that actually, maybe it’s not that unusual, that we have seen, in crowded fields, where Republican primary electorate will nominate someone who says things and does things that makes him unelectable in the fall. We saw this in Indiana with Mourdock in the Senate race. We saw it with Todd Akin in the Missouri Senate race, with Sharron Angle in Nevada.

So, what could be happening here is just, on a national scale, we have seen played out in states, which might not be that crazy, because, really, a national primary is not really a national primary, but a series of states that are playing out. It’s the same people that vote in the states. We just haven’t seen it happen in a presidential primary.

GWEN IFILL: One of the things, Kathleen Hall Jamieson, which seems different about Donald Trump is, he has great skill at changing the topic and of stealing the headline from anybody else who seems to be having a good day. Is that also part of what you see that is different?


When Trump — when a vulnerability opens up for Mr. Trump, and the news cycle begins to feature the vulnerability, he effectively changes the topic by attacking, by doing something outrageous or eccentric, and suddenly the entire news agenda shifts. And instead of focusing on the serious potential exchange and the vulnerability that has initially been exposed, we’re galloping off in some other direction.

And the electorate isn’t informed about the substantive reason that there might have been concern about the original statement.

GWEN IFILL: This is interesting, because you make that point on a day when we have been — we’re watching a lot of the kind of coverage of his statement about abortion.

And he has since put out a statement, McKay Coppins, saying that’s not exactly what he meant. Is that an example of what Kathleen is talking about?

MCKAY COPPINS: Yes, I do think that Trump has a remarkable skill for hijacking news cycles.

I also think that it’s what drives him more than almost anything else. I remember I spent some time with him in 2014, and I ended up on his plane, you know, the massive 757 Trump jet, and I remember watching him. He had just given a speech that morning in New Hampshire. I remember watching him spend 20, 30 minutes changing the channel back from MSNBC, to CNN, to FOX News, just searching desperately for some coverage of the speech.

And I remember that the thing that struck me the whole time I spent with him was how much he cared about media coverage, how much he cared about attention. And in a sense, his entire presidential campaign has been one long media spectacle.

I don’t know how much it prepares him or shows whether he’s ready to be president, but it certainly shows his — shows off his skills as a marketer, and he really does have unparalleled talent in that regard.

GWEN IFILL: So, Stuart Stevens, let’s pivot back to what you were saying a moment ago about what happens in the fall campaign.

We have seen polls in Wisconsin today, a new one, that shows that Donald Trump is at 70 percent unpopularity. We have also seen national polls which show him as unpopular as well. What does that say, what does that mean about the GOP’s chances in the fall?

STUART STEVENS: Well, I think that we shouldn’t talk about Donald Trump as a success. He’s running the worst campaign we have ever seen in modern history.

The reason he’s able to hijack news cycles is that he doesn’t care what he says and he doesn’t care about the ramifications about it. When you’re willing to do that, when you’re willing to sort of put on a suicide vest and pull the cord, you will get attention, but you will lose a general election.

He’s going to get killed in the general election, absolutely slaughtered, and it will be a disaster for the Republican Party.

GWEN IFILL: But, Kathleen Hall Jamieson, the Trump voters, we have seen, are loyal, and they are steadfast, even if they are presented with evidence that what he is saying is not true. So, is that the brand that we see at work?

KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: What we see, I think, is a candidate who very artfully has capitalized on a large-scale sentiment in the American electorate that says that government doesn’t appear to be working well, politicians have promised and not delivered.

And here’s someone who comes outside the political establishment, outside any political background, and argues, I have a different kind of competence, a competence that will let us win again — that’s the first part of his brand — that is demonstrated by what I have already done as a businessman. I’m highly successful.

Second part of his brand, he has all these photo-ops in places that he’s built. And, third, I’m uncorrupt and uncorruptable. I’m financing myself.

Now, if you assume that everybody else who is seen by these voters in some ways to them politics as usual, then the Trump alternative looks like change, even if at times he’s inconsistent, even if at times he says outrageous things, even if those voters don’t actually believe he will do some of the things he says he will do.

We saw that in Peter Hart’s focus group, Annenberg Public Policy Center Voices of the Voters. Some of his own voters said, no, I don’t actually believe he’s going to build a wall or deport all those people. I like him anyway.

GWEN IFILL: McKay, I want to ask you about — I know you’re covering more than just the Republican side of this.

So, does Donald Trump’s ability to dominate the headlines, dominate the day, does that help or hurt the front-runner on the Democratic side? Does that hurt Bernie Sanders? Does it help Hillary Clinton?

MCKAY COPPINS: Well, I think Stuart is right that the way that Trump has managed to dominate media is by saying outlandish, provocative things that have made him actually, one poll recently showed, the most unpopular presidential candidate since David Duke ran for president.

So he is nationally very unpopular. But I do think that there is something to be said for the fact that so much attention and so much coverage has been focused on Donald Trump, on the Republican side of the race in general, but on Trump in particular, that it does have a fascinating dynamic that has played out in the Democratic side, where Hillary Clinton actually might face a lot of tough scrutiny in the general election that she hasn’t necessarily faced on a wide scale in the primary.

I still, though, think that Trump has done so much damage to his own brand, as you were just talking about, with the national electorate, that it’s going to be hard for him to fix that before November.

GWEN IFILL: Stu Stevens, why is it that when Mitt Romney came out, not once, not twice, maybe multiple times, and criticized Donald Trump, tough — using tough language, why didn’t that stick?

STUART STEVENS: Oh, I think it has stuck.

He did it in Ohio, and Trump lost Ohio. He did it in Utah and he lost in Utah. And I think that there is good indication here that this is beginning to sink in with Republican voters. The latest numbers showed him 10 points behind in Wisconsin to Ted Cruz, who probably is not going to be accused of being one of the great natural politicians of our day.

I think Republicans are probably taking a second look here. Look, on average, the polls show that Donald Trump is 17.5 points behind Bernie Sanders. You have to really think about that. Very quickly, you’re into a discussion not about holding the White House, not about holding the Senate, but about holding the House.

Hillary Clinton has 50 FBI agents looking into her, according to The Washington Post, and Donald Trump still is 10 points considered less honest than Hillary Clinton. That’s hard to do. We don’t have a lot of Hispanic Republicans, and 60 percent of the Hispanic Republicans don’t like Donald Trump.

So, this is a toxic candidacy, and I think that before Republicans embark on that, I think they’re beginning to take a look at what it would mean for the party. You’re seeing a lot of conservatives. Ben Sasse, a deeply conservative senator from Nebraska, said that he will not support him and he will look for an alternative.

So, I think that there is something happening here, and I hope that Republicans will go in a different direction.

GWEN IFILL: Thank you all very much.

For the record, “NewsHour” has requested an interview repeatedly with Mr. Trump. And we have yet to make that happen. They have yet to make that happen. We will keep trying.

McKay Coppins, senior political writer for BuzzFeed, Kathleen Hall Jamieson at the Annenberg School of Communications, and Stu Stevens, former Romney strategist, thank you all very much.




So, Dear Friend In Maryland, I know some voters, who live in open voting primary states, are actually choosing Donald Trump just because they deliberately want the Democrat to run against him in the fall presidential election. Of course, those aren't the people who you are identifying in your observant message. Nevertheless, if three PBS experts agree- two of them being Republicans- about the train wreck forthcoming for the party if Trump is the GOP nominee, then we might want to encourage our misguided friends and support them in their delusional opinions about "Trump the Chump".  If the Republicans truly fall off the proverbial political cliff in 2016, then the Democrats will finally have the chance of a lifetime to reclaim the progressive agenda we have fought decades to protect from Republican nihilism.

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Climate Change impacting wine making in France & Maple sugar in Maine

Republicans who are anti-science and climate change denyers have their heads in the drying sands, caused by earth's rising temperatures. "...dry soils, less moisture evaporates to cool the surface; a drought..." Wine Spectator.

French wine will experience the long term impact of climate change NASA and Harvard Experts report on the impact of climate change on French wine makingRising temperatures improved quality in recent decades, but also changed the relationship between rain and vine, suggesting looming trouble.
Warming temperatures are causing grapes to ripen weeks ahead of schedules.

What's wrong with this picture? Maple tree tapping in Tophsam, Maine with no snow!  February 2016
Climate change is also impacting on Maple Syrup production.

From Wine Spectator by Dana Nigro
After looking at more than 400 years of harvest and climate data from France and Switzerland, researchers from Harvard University and NASA have concluded that in recent decades, warmer temperatures have pushed wine grape harvests in those countries more than 10 days earlier than in the period from 1600 to 1980—regardless of whether the growing seasons brought damp conditions or drought.

"It's evidence we have fundamentally shifted the climate system," said study co-author Elizabeth Wolkovich, assistant professor of organismic and evolutionary biology at Harvard. "It used to be that these early harvests happened in dry, hot years."

In dry soils, less moisture evaporates to cool the surface; a drought, in effect, turns up the heat to accelerate ripening in a vineyard. But average temperatures in France climbed about 2.7° F in the 20th century. "What we see happening in the 1980s is that you no longer need a dry summer," said Wolkovich.

This insight has important ramifications—good and bad—for future wine quality. In analyzing vintage ratings for Bordeaux and Burgundy from 1900 to 2001, researchers found that higher-quality wines have been typically linked to early harvests in the cooler regions of Europe. The best wines came from years with above-average rainfall early in the growing season, a warm summer and a late-season drought or dry conditions that generated a heat spike and shifted the focus of vine growth from leaf production to grape maturation.

"Wine quality also depends on factors beyond climate, including grape varieties, soils, vineyard management and winemaker practices," said lead author Benjamin Cook, a climate scientist at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies and Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, in the announcement of the findings. "However, our research suggests the large-scale climate drivers under which these local factors operate has shifted. And that information may prove critical to wine producers as climate change intensifies during the coming decades in France, Switzerland and other winegrowing regions."

A tipping point may soon come, cautioned Wolkovich: "Climate change is the reason we've had so many great vintages of Bordeaux in the last 20 to 30 years. It's also the reason you might not get a good Bordeaux in the next 50 years. Take this forward: We've only experienced a small proportion of the warming we have created and will see in the next 50 to 80 years, and that will have radical consequences for wine regions."

As an example, she pointed to the 2003 vintage, when a record deadly heat wave across Europe resulted in the earliest harvest in their study, but mixed quality, producing some exceptional wines and some that were unbalanced.

The research, published March 21 in the journal Nature Climate Change, analyzed records in eight regions—Alsace, Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, Languedoc, the lower Loire Valley, the Southern Rhône Valley and Switzerland's Leman Lake—from 1600 to 2007 to get a big-picture view covering a range of climates, soil types, slopes and grape varieties with different flowering periods and maturation rates.

Thanks to reports kept by religious orders and databases compiled by other researchers, "We had these incredible long-term harvest records," said Wolkovich. "It was a rare opportunity to see how something works before and after climate change."

As grape quality and wine character are so closely tied to climate and weather, wine is often used in climate-change modeling as an attention-getting agricultural canary in the coal mine. Over the past decade, several climate studies have predicted dramatic changes in the viability of warmer winegrowing regions—with more northern regions such as England expanding while long-established appellations see famed sites become less suitable or are forced to switch grape varieties and wine styles. But much of the research has focused on recent timeframes or future predictions.

While this isn't the first report on the longer-term shift in European harvest dates, what's unique about Cook's and Wolkovich's work is how they looked at whether the climate driving the harvest dates has changed, comparing different historical periods, with 1980 marking a dramatic turning point. They examined centuries of records of temperature, precipitation and soil moisture (an indicator of drought)—from data collected by 20th-century instruments as well as from historical documents and tree-ring analysis.

"Temperature is a similarly strong driver [of harvest] before and after [1980]," said Wolkovich. "But what changes is drought and precipitation—they become much less coupled to harvest after 1980." The team looked at other 30-year periods, such as the one around the 19th-century phylloxera outbreak in France, when rootstocks and grape varieties were replaced, to see if climate had become decoupled from harvest at any other time, she said. "And the answer is no."

Prior research has found that each increase of 1° C (1.8° F) in average temperature bumps up the grape harvest by about six days. So when might the crucial tipping point come?

That's going to depend on the individual vineyard—which grape variety is planted, the soil type, slope, altitude and orientation and other factors—something the study's large-scale, broad analysis cannot project. (For example, in hot, stony soils, it will take less warming to tip the scales.) Along with replanting to more heat-tolerant grape varieties, winemakers can respond to climate change in they way they manage their vineyards—from pruning to canopy management to cover crops to water management.

"The silver lining, at least for me, is that the climate diversity for wine grapes as a whole is very high," said Wolkovich. "It's a question of how well the market and grower are willing to exploit that diversity."

But she added a cautionary note: "I hope people will take away that the quality of wine will be one of their lower concerns if we don't shift climate change."

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Angus King attended White House State Dinner for Prime Minister Trudeau

Portland Press Herald - The Franco-American Blog
Senator King discusses his friendship with Franco-Americans and his experience at the White House
State Dinner hosted for Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on March 10, 2016, hosted by President and Mrs. Obama.

Thank you Senator Angus King for this interview to discuss the White House State Dinner and your friendship with Franco-Americans- blog link


Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Republicans cut mental health programs then advocate against prescription drugs

It makes no sense for Republicans to advocate against prescription drugs to treat chronic pain conditions, just because they want to wage a war against addiction. Instead, Republicans should take a big picture approach and advocate for strong mental health care. to combat the root causes for addictionn and support substance abuse treatment.
Mental illness treatment continues to experience cuts to reimbursement, while addiction to prescription medications are being blamed on prescribers and patients, who need medication to treat chronic pain.  Republicans should take a big picture approach to mental illness and addiction disorders and stop blaming others for their failed social welfare policies.

The Hill reports:
Obama dares GOP for mental health reforms
President Obama is pressuring congressional Republicans to make good on their promise to fix the nation’s broken mental health system, which the GOP has frequently blamed for gun violence.

As part of his wide-reaching efforts to rein in gun violence, Obama on Tuesday called for a half-billion dollars in new mental health spending, taunting the GOP on their failure to pass a mental health reform bill since pledging to do so in 2013.

“For those in Congress who so often rush to blame mental illness for mass shootings as a way of avoiding action on guns, here’s your chance to support these efforts. Put your money where your mouth is,” Obama said during an emotional speech at the White House.

Unlike his other proposals, which will be made through executive actions, the $500 million allocation must come from Congress — something that Obama said Republicans should be feel obligated to support.

In a briefing after the speech, White House spokesman Josh Earnest reiterated that he doesn’t expect the GOP to support the funding request because the party is unwilling to support the president’s health efforts generally.

“It’s hard to take seriously [Republican] claims that they’re actually interested in ensuring that people have access to mental healthcare,” Earnest said.

“If they are actually willing to work seriously with the administration to invest $500 million in expanding access to mental healthcare, I’m happy to be proved wrong,” he said.

The remarks intend to push congressional Republicans who have pledged to strengthen the mental health system as an alternative to new restrictions on guns, but have been unable to coalesce around a plan.

GOP leaders first pledged to bolster the mental health system in 2013, shortly after the shooting in Newtown, Conn. Since then, Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.) has struggled to gain widespread support for his mental health bill, though it has gained momentum in recent months.

Murphy’s office delivered a sharp rebuke of Obama's funding proposal in a statement Tuesday.

"The federal government spends billions of dollars on mental health programs that are uncoordinated, lack oversight, and simply don’t work," Murphy's statement reads.

Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), who leads the House Energy and Commerce Committee, also released a statement, disputing the Obama administration's claims that Republicans have ignored the issue.

“Mental health reform has been and continues to be a priority for 2016," Upton wrote in a statement. "We’ve been on the case to reform our mental health system, and we welcome the president to the discussion."

Oh America's embarrassing homeless problem persists and gun violence reoccurs with frightening regularity, it is evident that little is being accomplished to improve the plight of the mentally ill.  

Nevertheless, Republicans are now hypocritically waging a war on opioid addiction by blaming prescription drugs on the growing problem of dependency and substance abuse.  

Rather than blame people, like the prescribers and the patients, the Republicans should, instead, apply more energy, money  and public resources on fixing the nation's broken mental health system.  This fix would obviously include addiction disorders.

Patients and prescribers are not the root cause of mental illness.  Likewise, they  are not the cause of the addiction problems.

Rather, Republican irresponsible social welfare policies have failed the American people and, as a result, the mentally ill are suffering.

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Monday, March 28, 2016

Second Amendment guns everywhere except where lawmakers gather

Menally ill people are somehow getting guns. Today's (March 28th) shooting at the US Capitol is evidence of how easily a mentally ill person obtained a gun.  Neverhteless, right wing Republicans continue to ignore any attempt to reduce the rate of gun violence in America, Oh, wait!  There's one exception.  Republicans want everybody to own guns, except if the weapons risk being pointed at one of them- like at the US Capitol or the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.  
US Capitol experiences another shooting incident- all gun violence is preventable

The Daily Beast reports:
U.S. Capitol Shooter Identified (Clearly, the gunman was delusional and a danger to himself and others- in other words, he should have been in a psychiatric hospital.)
Washington (CNN)U.S. Capitol Police shot a Tennessee man Monday afternoon after he pulled out what appeared to be a weapon at the Capitol Visitor Center, law enforcement officials said.
A female civilian bystander was injured by shrapnel, but no U.S. Capitol Police officers were injured.Multiple news outlets identified Larry Russell Dawson of Antioch, Tenn., as the suspect who alleged drew a gun at the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center on Monday afternoon. As The Daily Beast previously reported, in October 2015, the 66-year-old minister was arrested after shouting "I'm a prophet of God" inside the U.S. House, allegedly assaulting a police officer during his removal.

Verderosa would not confirm or deny the suspect’s identity as Dawson, but said the perpetrator was known to police thanks to a previous incident at the Capitol. On Oct. 22, 2015, Dawson yelled “I’m a prophet of God” from the balcony of the House of Representatives.

Hello?  How did this delusional person obtain a gun and return to the US Capitol?  This is plainly ridiculous if not crazy!

Dawson allegedly ran from cops and resisted arrest, according to a police report exclusively obtained by The Daily Beast. Cops cuffed him for assaulting a police officer and unlawful conduct at the Capitol. The Washington Post reports that Dawson missed a court appearance in November, writing a letter to the court that said, "I have been called chosen and sent unto you this day. I am not under the law!. . .Therefore I will not comply with the court order, nor will I surrender myself to your office.” (OMG this is unreal- didn't anybody try to find this guy? He needed hospitalization because, clearly, he was a danger to himself and others.)
— Additional reporting by Betsy Woodruff from Washington, D.C.

Meanwhile- the Secret Service squelched a petition for Republicans to carry  guns to the Republican National Convention in Cleveland in July 2016.  No kidding?  I wonder if the NRA will sue the Secret Service and take their case to the US Supreme Court to file an injunction against the restriction of Second Amendment rights?

Obviously, Republicans support Second Amendment rights for everybody so long as it doesn't put them in the line of fire or the victims of collateral damage.  More right wing hypocrisy.

In fact, all gun violence is preventable. Those Republicans who refuse to stand up to the National Rifle Association should remember how they, too, are vulnerable to the gun violence they refuse to fix. Although I have no problem with the decision of the Secret Service to keep guns out of the National Republican Convention, the fact is, 43,000 people said they wanted to bring guns to the gathering, for what reason, I have no idea. These right wingers just want to show off their Second Amendmentn Rights, regardless of how offensive they are to others.

It's outrgeous for Republicans to ignore the need for Second Amendment reforms. It makes no sense for a mentally ill man, who was known to the police, to have access to to a gun, whereby he was able to shoot at the US Capitol. Moreover, Republicans who prevent Second Amerndment reforms have no regard for protecting others; while they use the Secret Service to shield them from their own ignorace and to protect them from their incompetence.

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Sunday, March 27, 2016

Pope Francis pleads for desperate refugees

Refugees desperately fleeing Syrian carnage are causing chaos in Europe, while their plight worsens and world leaders wring their collective hands about how to solve the crises. Warmer water temperature will raise the refugee numbers. 

It's possible a human tsunami of refugees are likely to invade the shores of Europe, as spring and summer improve Aegean Sea water temperatures, making crossing from Greece to Turkey somewhat less risky. It seems to me, these refugees have nothing to loose by creating a proverbial flotilla of boats, loaded with desperate people, who are seeking political asylum from Syrian war, tyranny and oppression. Yet, I also believe the refugees have little to loose by organizing a mass migration back to their Syrian homeland. Nevertheless, they are now committed to migrate from Greece and to move north to Europe.

Unfortunately, the welcome gates in Europe are now closing to the refugees. Although their plight is increasingly desperate, the truth is, the root cause of their crises is the Syrian President Assad. One man is the root cause of this carnage because he refuses to help his own nation and people.  In fact, Assad is guilty of genocide against his own Syrian people.  He will eventually be tried and convicted or war crimes, living or dead.

Meanwhile, Pope Francis in the Vatican is calling on the world to help.  Tragically, nothing appears to be happening. 

Yet, it's Easter, a season of hope and Pope Francis is trying again:

Pope's message condemns failure to help migrants:

Pope Francis condemned those who fail to help migrants, during his traditional Easter speech in Rome.

The Pope said migrants often met "rejection from those who could offer them welcome and assistance".

He also condemned terrorism as "a blind and brutal violence" that should be fought with "weapons of love".

The Pope was delivering his "urbi et orbi" (To the city and the world) message to thousands amid tight security in St Peter's Square.
Pope Francis in Rome, 27 March
Pope Francis prays for the Syrian migrants and refugees

Syrian prayer:
A Prayer For The People Of Syria
Almighty eternal God, source of all compassion,
the promise of your mercy and saving help fills our hearts with hope.
Hear the cries of the people of Syria;
bring healing to those suffering from the violence,
and comfort to those mourning the dead.
Empower and encourage Syria’s neighbors
in their care and welcome for refugees.
Convert the hearts of those who have taken up arms,
and strengthen the resolve of those committed to peace.

O God of hope and Father of mercy,
your Holy Spirit inspires us to look beyond ourselves and our own needs.
Inspire leaders to choose peace over violence
and to seek reconciliation with enemies.
Inspire the Church around the world with compassion for the people of Syria, and fill us with hope for a future of peace built on justice for all.
We ask this through Jesus Christ, Prince of Peace and Light of the World, who lives and reigns for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Pope said: "The Easter message of the risen Christ... invites us not to forget those men and women seeking a better future, an ever more numerous throng of migrants and refugees... fleeing from war, hunger, poverty and social injustice.  

Although the Pope's message is essential to alert the world to the refugee genocide, the fact is, the same message must also include a message to Syrian President Assad.  

Indeed, Assad  must be told that he will be held accountable for his war crimes, dead or alive.

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Military strategy on the Internet- time to declare war on ISIS

Posting a war strategy to defeat evil ISIS- the declared Islamic State terrorist group- on the Internet is an unfamiliar warfare tactic Yet, the Military Times news explains, in plain English, how to win the war against ISIS, describing operations like a strategic "Dungeons and Dragons" game. Hopefully, the strategy will work. A cliff notes edition of the detailed article is easily summarized in one sentence: Defeating ISIS is going to take American military leadership a long time.

It seems to me, however, that the US Congress must support the ISIS military initiative with a declared Act of War.
Image result for dungeons and dragons
Military Times provides the strategy for defeating ISIS it's as clear as the rules of a Dungeons and Dragons game- but the world as we know it order is at stake.

The War Powers Resolution is a law and the US Congress must act. By keeping US military in the Middle East rrequires the President to notify Congress within 48 hours of committing armed forces to military action and forbids armed forces from remaining for more than 60 days, with a further 30 day withdrawal period, without a Congressional authorization for use of military force or a declaration of war by the United States. The resolution was passed by two-thirds of Congress, overriding a presidential veto.

It has been alleged that the War Powers Resolution has been violated in the past – for example, by President Bill Clintonin 1999, during the bombing campaign in Kosovo. Congress has disapproved all such incidents, but none has resulted in any successful legal actions being taken against the president for alleged violations.

In other words, by not declaring war against ISIS, the US Congress is breaking the law it passed, in spite of a presidential veto.

It's time for the US Congress to start reading the Military Times, Surely, the job of Congress is to figure out what the American tax payers are paying for and how much treasure our military is putting at risk to defeat evil ISIS. It's a goal in need of affirmation because, otherwise, the Congress is breaking it's own law passed in the War Powers Resolution.

(By the way - the important information reported in Military Times is as close to classified intelligence as I've ever seen made public and makes what's in the  stupid email controversy aka "Hillarymail", seem like gossip in comparisom.)

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Saturday, March 26, 2016

American military involvement is explained to defeat ISIS- Military Times

Publicly the Obama administration says its strategy to defeat ISIS has not changed significantly, but realities on the ground and discussions at home indicate otherwise.- Military Times

It won't matter how much Donald Trump or the Republicans carry on about how to destroy ISIS because the US military seems to be front and center of the campaign. 

Politics doesn't seem to be a consideration into how the US Military is creating a strategy to defeat the evil Islamic State.

Military Times explains a "new"strategy to defeat the Islamic State "ISIL". It doesn't strike me as anything "new" at all but, rather, a rationalization for more American involvement.

A detailed plan is posted on line, that involves a good deal of information- all of it led by American troops and driven by US Military strategy.

This is the Pentagon's new strategy to defeat ISIS- it involves a lot of old school war fighting and could require more American on the ground to support unproven allies - by Andrew Tilghman

IRBIL, Iraq — The U.S. military headquarters here is outfitted with maps showing a "forward line of troops" — a FLOT, in military-speak — that divides northern Iraq's Kurdish region from territory held by the Islamic State group. The line is precisely drawn, following the contours of specific roads and berms. A mere 40 miles west, the terrain is pocked with trenches, fighting positions, razor wire and armed checkpoints. It's like a scene from Europe during World War I, one American official says.

It's a jarring change for the personnel who've spent much of their careers fighting on far more ambiguous battlefields. Steadily, though, they are coming to grips with it as, during the past several months, the Pentagon and the White House have fundamentally shifted their strategy for defeating ISIS. The way forward will mean potentially more key U.S. support troops on the ground to back friendly local forces who will wage the fight to retake ISIS-held territory.

The new plan calls for fighting the terror group like a conventional enemy, relying on traditional military tactics such as maneuver-style warfare and attrition. This has replaced last year’s approach, dubbed the “Iraq First Strategy," which was widely criticized as ineffective, especially after ISIS fighters seized the city of Ramadi in May. Instead, the U.S. and its allies now intend to confront the extremist group and its force of about 30,000 fighters, targeting their strongholds and resources across Iraq and Syria simultaneously.

Secretary of Defense
Secretary Ash Carter explained the military strategy for this Military Times in depth article

Publicly the Obama administration says its strategy to defeat ISIS has not changed significantly, but realities on the ground and discussions at home indicate otherwise. Details about the shift became clear during the past several weeks, after a series of interviews that Military Times conducted with top commanders in Iraq, senior defense officials in Washington and outside military experts keenly familiar with the Pentagon's war plans.

Political considerations in Washington and Baghdad will limit the size of the U.S. force on the ground, so the campaign relies heavily on a dizzying patchwork of local ground forces — often with competing agendas — moving in large formations to isolate and ultimately invade the two major ISIS strongholds: Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria. In Mosul, the plan calls for the Iraqi army to attack from the south, while the Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga squeeze Islamic State forces from the north and east. In Syria, U.S. forces will support friendly militias in the northeast as they push south toward the Islamic State's defacto capital.

"Our campaign plan's map," Defense Secretary Ash Carter told soldiers at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, on Wednesday, "has got big arrows pointing to both Mosul and Raqqa."

In a secondary front, the Iraqi army will move west from Ramadi, the recently reclaimed capital of Anbar province, up the Euphrates Valley and toward the Syrian border. Another key pillar of this strategy requires cutting off the Islamic State's primary supply line to the outside world by pressuring Turkey to seal its border with Syria.

The new strategy coincides with the October appointment of an Army stalwart, Lt. Gen. Sean MacFarland, former commander of the First Armor Division, as the first flag officer to oversee all anti-ISIS operations in both Iraq and Syria. "Before that, the senior guys on the ground were pretty much from the special ops community," said retired Army Col. Peter Mansoor, a former top adviser to U.S. commanders in Iraq who now teaches military history at the Ohio State University. "And now to put in someone who has a more conventional background … does signal that this is going to be a much more conventional fight than the [Obama] administration had first calculated."

Meanwhile, Iraqi leaders have begun imposing restrictions on the size and scope of the U.S. military force in their country. Factions within Baghdad’s Shiite-led government are influenced by neighboring Iran and thus oppose expanding the American military mission there. "Iraq is proving to be a lot trickier than we thought," said Michael Knights, a military expert with the the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. "You’ve always got the risk that you can unbalance the government if you do too much. ... We've learned that it can be a lot simpler operating in an environment where you have no sovereign government [like Syria] than to operate in a place where you’ve got one, like in Iraq."

The new battle plan has many potential pitfalls, of course. And there are no clear plans for ousting ISIS militants from their strongholds in Syria west of the Euphrates River, where several rebel factions are fighting to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who has been buoyed by Russian military forces that have established an air base along the Mediterranean coast. For the U.S. and its allies, Russia's presence and activity in the region only further complicates an already convoluted pocket of Syria’s five-year-old civil war.

This campaign will take years to execute, officials say. But it is underway, both operationally and politically. Carter's recent trip to the region, which included stops here in Irbil, Baghdad and Turkey, set things in motion.

How Mosul will fall

By severing the ISIS supply line between Raqqa and Mosul, military officials hope to carve up the group's territory into smaller pockets that can be defeated through isolation and attrition or direct assault. This began with the November attack on Sinjar in Iraq's northwest. The fight was led by Kurdish peshmerga forces, with U.S. warplanes and combat advisers providing support. 

Their effort was mostly successful, although ISIS continues to move some people and supplies between the two cities using secondary roads.

"It doesn’t eliminate or cut off their ability to resupply," Army Brig. Gen. Mark Odom, the top U.S. commander in Iraq’s Kurdish region, told Military Times in December. But those secondary roads, some of them unpaved or in very poor condition, will be difficult for big tractor-trailers and tankers. "Even the best roads," Odom added, "don’t support vehicle movement at more than 35 miles per hour, and they are not going to support an increased amount of traffic. Both in terms of congestion and in terms of speed, those routes to the south present some real problems on the economy."

The U.S. and its allies targeted these secondary roads with airstrikes Dec. 25 and 26, further degrading the transit routes. Those strikes also targeted some roads around the Iraqi city of Tal Afar, another ISIS stronghold situated along the same Mosul-to-Raqqa route.

It's not yet clear when the assault on Mosul itself will begin. Some surmise it may not even happen this year. But when it does, the Kurds will be central to the effort. The peshmerga’s forward line now surrounds about half the city to the north and east. To incentivize them, Carter had a face-to-face meeting with Iraqi Kurdish officials in Irbil and promised to give them two brigade-size equipment sets. That includes weapons, tactical vehicles, communications gear and other supplies to outfit a fighting force of up to 4,400.

The U.S. battle plan acknowledges that the peshmerga cannot be the primary invasion force, though. Mosul is a predominantly Sunni Arab city, where ethnic tensions would make Kurdish forces unwelcome. Instead, the Kurds will help “encircle” the city, officials said. Kurdish cooperation also will be vital for handling the humanitarian crisis that's expected to erupt as many of the estimated 700,000-plus civilians who remain inside Mosul flee the fighting.

Officials estimate that between 1,500 and 10,000 ISIS fighters are entrenched in Mosul. If the Kurds apply pressure on the city's north and east, ISIS would have to spread its forces more thinly across the city’s entire perimeter, drawing manpower away from the Iraqi army forces coming up from the south, through the Tigris River valley. The strategy calls for that Iraqi force to be a massive formation — likely more than 10,000 soldiers.

However, many experts question the Iraqis' capability and will to fight, which poses complications for determining the timeline. First, the Iraqis will have to fight ISIS elements distributed throughout a 100-mile corridor stretching from Mosul south to Bayji. And any effort to sustain long-term supply lines will be vulnerable to ISIS guerrilla-style suicide bombs and improvised explosive devices.

The Pentagon has acknowledged that the Iraqis will need help. "Reaching and retaking Mosul will not be easy, and it will not be quick. There'll be many engagements in between," Carter said Wednesday. When he met with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi last month in Baghdad, the secretary promised to ratchet up U.S. military support for these upcoming operations. Specifically, Carter offered U.S. attack helicopters, critical for close-air support in a dense urban battlefield like Mosul. He also offered to deploy a new cadre of ground-level U.S. combat advisers to embed with Iraqi army units at the brigade level, a move aimed at magnifying the effectiveness of U.S. airstrikes and real-time intelligence capabilities.

The Iraqis declined such support for the recent fight in Ramadi, a clear sign that anti-American politics in Baghdad may limit the U.S. military’s ability to operate inside Iraq. As such, the U.S. will send more troops and helicopters only if the Iraqis issue a specific request. So for now, it’s a standing offer. "We're prepared to do that and the government of Iraq knows we're prepared to do that," MacFarland said. "We're prepared to say yes if requested."

The U.S. also is ready to help secure the Iraqi army's supply line toward Mosul. "As the Iraqis move themselves farther and farther up the Tigris and Euphrates River valleys, pushing the enemy out of Iraq, sustainment becomes more of a challenge," MacFarland said. "... Your lines of communication are getting longer.

“Nobody does sustainment, nobody does expeditionary operations better than the United States of America, so there are ways that we can help them with that."

Finally, the Iraqis will need to lock down their traditional border with Syria. To do that, security forces will have to clear out ISIS fighters as they push west from Ramadi to al Qaim. "The next step is to continue clearance of the Euphrates River Valley," said Army Col. Steve Warren, a Baghdad-based spokesman for U.S. and coalition forces battling ISIS. "Next stop Hit. Next stop Haditha."

Once al Qaim is secure, friendly forces will be within striking distance of the lucrative oil production facilities that ISIS controls in Syria. And this would remove another option for ISIS to retreat from Raqqa. If successful, this part of the plan also would isolate Fallujah, a notorious hotbed of jihadism on the outskirts of Baghdad. ISIS has controlled Fallujah for two years, which suggests that any invading force will find heavy defenses and a sympathetic population. Both U.S. and Iraqi military leaders dread the prospect of a block-by-block fight there.

There are currently about 3,500 U.S. troops deployed to Iraq and up to 50 special operations troops in Syria, defense officials say.

Stopping ISIS in Syria
and sealing Turkey's border

U.S. Special Forces teams entered war-torn Syria for the first time in December to meet face-to-face with friendly militia leaders. The meeting was to verify the militias’ size, assess their capabilities and talk to leaders of the individual factions about their own local agendas and how to align them with the broader U.S. battle plan. For the planned assault on Raqqa, the forces receiving U.S. support have several possible approaches.

From the north, the militias are moving from the Kobani area, along the Euphrates. In late December, they captured a key dam, rolling back ISIS-held territory to about 70 miles from Raqqa. With control of the dam and its bridge, they've also cut a key ISIS supply line to the area it controls around Allepo and Manbij. And to the northeast, other militias receiving U.S. support are mounting offensive operations in the Hasakah area, which sits on the Syrian side of that vital transit corridor between Mosul and Raqqa. "In the coming weeks, you're going to see significant fighting in that area as ISIL realizes that Shadadi is a key node in their lines of communications," said Air Force Col. Pat Ryder, a spokesman for U.S. Central Command.

American officials describe their relationship with these friendly forces as “transactional,” meaning the U.S. will provide weapons, ammunition, close-air support and other assistance if and when specific factions of the so-called Syrian Defense Forces show progress on the battlefield. Meanwhile, U.S. airstrikes continue to target infrastructure affiliated with Syria's oil production, a vital revenue source for ISIS. Most of these oil fields are in the lower Euphrates valley, southeast of Raqqa, not far from the Iraq border.

As in Iraq, the U.S. must consider ethnic identities in their battle plan for Syria. Syrian Kurds, though reliable and effective allies, are not an ideal invasion force for Raqqa, a Sunni Arab city. That’s why the U.S. encouraged the creation of the Syrian Defense Forces, an alliance publicly announced for the first time in October. U.S. officials frequently highlight the SDF's non-Kurdish components, but the true extent of Arab support remains unclear.

“The U.S. has figured out that it wants Arabs to do the job" in Raqqa, said Aron Lund, a Syria expert with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Sweden. "They realize they need that. If they sent in this ultra-secular Kurdish group into a city of rather conservative Arab tribal groups, that would not work out very well." The U.S. has tried to "play down" the SDF's Kurdish element and "make it into a multietchnic, multisectarian thing," Lund added. "They see that as being the only way to take Raqqa. But in reality, it’s very clear that for the command and control for all of the offenses, the Kurds are doing this. It's the same Kurdish force doing the heavy lifting."

Raqqa is a focal point of the new campaign not only because it is a political stronghold for ISIS but because it is geographically central, and seizing it would fracture the group’s existing territory. It's also a primary route for shipping oil into black markets in Turkey. It's unclear exactly how much influence the U.S. has in this region, however. Lund believes officials are "moving ahead piecemeal, trying to put pressure on the Islamic State and thinking as they go."

"If we do this, what will happen? Is there a road we can cut? Is there a village we can take? Is there an oil field we can dislodge them from?" he said. "The hope is that with enough pressure, the support for the Islamic State will crack."

The Islamic State's lifeline to the outside world — for money, weapons and people — runs through Turkey's porous southern border. Convincing the Turks to seal off that area is central to the new strategy. A rocky alliance between Washington and Ankara got an important boost in July, when the Turks began allowing U.S. combat aircraft to fly from Incirlik Air Base, putting ISIS safe havens in Syria within easy reach. And now the U.S. is leaning on the Turks to do more. "The single most important contribution that their geography makes necessary is the control of their own border," Carter noted while speaking to Military Times and other media traveling with him in December.

The most important border zone is near the city of Marea. This so-called Marea line is a part of ISIS-controlled territory in Syria. Many experts say this region is not a priority for Turkey, which for years tacitly supported ISIS in its fight against Assad. "The Turkish government has not shown the inclination nor the ability to interdict any of this," said Christopher Harmer, an analyst with the Institute for the Study of War in Washington. "If part of the U.S. strategy is that Turkey is suddenly going to crack down on the border, that’s unrealistic."

Yet the Turks may change their priorities as the U.S. military empowers Syrian Kurdish forces, known as the YPG. Turkish leaders have been engaged in a decades-old conflict with its own Kurdish minority and do not want to see the Syrian Kurds expand. For now, the U.S. has agreed not to support Syrian Kurdish operations west of the Euphrates River. However, if Turkey fails to seal off its side of the border, the U.S. could move to help the YPG try to block ISIS in that zone.

"The border is going to get cut one way or the other, either by the Syrian Kurds or Turks," Knights said. "If Turkey wants to maintain any type of non-YPG controlled Syrian border area, it's probably going to have to play ball with the U.S."

The U.S. battle plan includes few details for the ISIS strongholds west of the Euphrates River, including Aleppo. Assad still holds large swaths of territory there, as do groups linked to al Qaida. Russia also is active in that region, and without a major ally on the ground, the U.S. has few good options. Bottom line: Any major American-backed operation in northwestern Syria would have several unknowable second- and third-order effects. “We just don’t know," Knights said, "if we’d be doing more harm than good."

What happens once ISIS is defeated

Among the greatest questions that remain is timing. U.S. military officials have been talking about Mosul for months, while saying little about Raqqa. But Raqqa may emerge as a more achievable near-term goal. "I bet you Mosul is going to prove difficult and that maybe we end up doing Raqqa first. The target is not as hard as Mosul," said Knights, who was a member of a military advisory group in Iraq a few months ago. "I think it’s something we can do in the first half of 2016, whereas I don't think Mosul really is."

But another unknown is the true depth of ISIS support in these cities. Many U.S. officials hope that once an invasion force arrives, armed resistance will erupt inside these cities and help expedite the extremist group's defeat. "I do think that when the Islamic State starts to lose control over these areas, it could happen pretty quickly," Lund said. "If they start to weaken and can't pay their fighters and can't protect their fighters, then some of them might split off and become neutralized. I don't think we’ve seen much of that yet. There are certainly a lot of groups that would probably like to rise up against the Islamic State, but they don't see that as a viable option. If the U.S. is able to bring a force to that region of Arabs and Kurds and others, with an air of inevitability, then maybe that calculus would change."

That raises this question: What happens when — and if — ISIS is defeated? Who will control these two conservative Sunni Muslim cities?

Mosul is home to many former Baathist military officers and Islamic extremists. "The sort of people who stand up and liberate Mosul are likely to be al Qaida," Knights said. "That is the reality of it. It’s going to be interesting to see who takes over the city."

American veterans of the previous Iraq war warn that a counterinsurgency phase may follow the collapse of ISIS's statelike institutions. "There will be a lot more conventional aspects to the fighting, but it doesn’t negate the need to control the population once conventional operations are over," Mansoor said. "So the force on the ground should not disregard the lessons of the past 13 years."

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