Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Why Islamphobia again in 2017?

This is an update of at least two prior postings.  However, the subject has arisen again in my own county. An organization in Grand County sponsors a week to celebrate the Constitution and to understand it, a noble undertaking usually, but often they have a speaker that is quite controversial, usually not a mainstream Constitutional scholar and often from the fringes of political positions and they did it again this year.  I have updated this posting to reflect this.

Every once in a while there is a flurry of Islamphobia coming into my Facebook pages. It cropped up again in Grand County with a controversial speaker recently at Constitution Week in Grand Lake.  I did not attend nor did I hear the speaker, but I am relying on the report in the Sky Hi News. http://www.skyhinews.com/news/controversial-speaker-during-constitution-week-talks-islam-sharia-law/

 I first noticed anti-Muslim shout-outs  in 2011 and blogged about it then and several times since .  The viewpoint  mostly promotes fear that Sharia law will become the law of the US, or it is asked in terms, "do you want your neighbor to practice Sharia law and be able to beat their wives ".  Recently I am getting some such postings and I was puzzled why. It appears that the only reason must be to justify something that is happening in the US. The newest wave seems to have started with Donald Trump's proposal for a Muslim ban.  However, it has risen to a new pitch since the November elections.  Why:  I have, I think, found the key: It had to do with Donald Trump's appointment of General Michael Flynn to one of his close advisers in the White House. (Flynn  since resigned in the midst of controversy and is a major figure in the Russian connection investigations).

First, my answer to such postings and sentiments.  Yes, of course Sharia law is not compatible with our Constitution.  But also thanks to our Constitution, we cannot establish any state religion. Religious practices which contradict US criminal law are also considered criminal and subject to prosecution, including domestic violence and assault. Practically speaking it will not happen. To gin up fear of Sharia law in the the US only adds to the hatred of all Muslims. Muslims have no political clout since they have less than 1% of our population. Our own US criminal laws would punish assault, domestic violence regardless of religious motivation, including those who assault anyone claiming "my religion made me do it", Christian or Muslim. Sharia law is interpreted many ways in many different countries and this type of abuse is not condoned by all Muslims and clerics, and Islamic scholars. The only purpose I can see to these kinds of postings is to promote hatred of all Muslims and somehow to excuse bigotry and bigots and to legitimize and justify anti- Muslim policies.

Second: the Flynn connection. He has made statements that condemn all Islam as a cancer that needs to be excised and ginned up fear of Sharia law. Fact checkers of similar statements and postings in the past by others rated this "pants on fire". Instead of just repeating his hate speech and his bigotry myself, visit http://www.politifact.com/florida/article/2016/nov/22/donald-trumps-security-adviser-pick-michael-flynn-/

What was interesting as reported by the Sky Hi News, is that the speaker felt confident she could be as safely outspoken against Islam as she could because there were no Muslims in Grand County. I wonder how many in Grand County have ever met a Muslim. That may explain why such one sided,
extreme  opinions have such fertile ground to grow here. I have spent a good part of my lifetime interfacing with Bosnian Muslims, since my encounter with it in the late 1950's. Bosnian Muslims   are closer to the Turkish more moderate practice since they were a province of Turkey for five hundred years. Ironically, General Flynn did  not let his anti-Muslim  sentiments stand in way of his being an agent of the Turkish government and is under fire for not having registered as a foreign agent.

 I translated that personal experience into independent study of Islam's interface with the West  in my senior year in Northwestern and I have followed the subject closely, writing about it frequently in my blog.  Those who practice Islam are  more diverse in their application of their scriptures  and theology than even Christianity.  The practice of Islam varies from country to country and cultural and customs are as much an influence as the interpretation of theology.  Even within those predominately Muslim countries, there are debates and sects about the role of government in enforcing and applying Sharia law. There are extremists and moderates and secularists  (separating religion from government)  throughout the Islamic world. The largest numbers of Muslims are in India and Indonesia, not those encountered by the Constitution Day speaker.  Extreme applications of Sharia law are concentrated in a minority of countries, such as Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan.  Isis is considered by most Muslims to be heretical. Blanket indictments of all Muslims and their practitioners is part of  the current wave of Islamphobiacs  who  want you to believe the exceptions are the rule. Their viewpoints  are often  based upon ignorance, political bias,  and/or  limited personal experience, or, evangelical  Christian zeal (the perspective of the Constitution Day speaker). The danger is that divisive hate and bigotry are increased by them and then get translated into domestic and foreign policy that harms our ability to get along with a major part of the rest of the world. The Muslim ban is the most obvious outgrowth of  such sentiments.

Also, not to repeat other of my  blog postings on the subject, and additional links to the subject  visit:





Thursday, September 14, 2017

Graham-Cassidy health care bill: Beware a wolf in states rights clothing:

 Senators Lindsey  Graham and Bill Cassidy, are jamming through a bill that  is a wolf in states rights clothing.  It will eat alive your ability to buy affordable health insurance and eventually cripple  Medicaid.To beat the  September 30  deadline to pass bills through the budget reconciliation process, the two Senators are making a last ditch efforts to kill/replace Obamacare.  Budget reconciliation permits the Senate  to pass repeal-replace Obamacare legislation  with 51 instead of 60 Senate votes that would need some Democrats to join in.

 Graham/Cassidy  would give states block grants to administer Obamacare. These block grants are designed to take federal money from blue states who have expanded Medicaid and directs the funds to red states.  It is a strategy to overcome red states opposition that sank  the prior bill. It a) does not repeal or replace Obamacare:  it reduces funding by a third and changes the way money is distributed; b) would leave millions without health insurance . It has not yet been "scored" by the Congressional Budget Office that  to estimates costs and impact,. c)It  would lead to the collapse and affordability of whatever insurance is left since it removes mandates of healthy individuals and   businesses to participate and provide   health insurance, leaving mostly  the expensive to treat  sick in the pool. d) It would hasten the single payer system due to its failure and and causing suffering and harm, making even Medicare for All look even better; e) destroys federal  Medicaid and federal block grants by 2026, leaving states to shoulder the costs.f) It removes essential benefit requirements including coverage of pre-existing condiitions. 

Graham/Cassidy  has never gained much traction until now. It has been on the Senate table during the summer so that it has had  some scrutiny.    While its impact has never been scrutinized by the Congressional Budget Office, other green eye shade authoritative non-profit  groups did in July. Digging into it  the Center on Budget and Policy  Priorities found that the Graham-Cassidy plan would 
  • "Eliminate premium tax credits and cost-sharing reductions that help moderate-income marketplace consumers afford coverage and care, and eliminate the ACA’s enhanced match for Medicaid expansion starting in 2020.
  • Replace the marketplace subsidies (premium tax credits and cost-sharing reductions) and Medicaid expansion funding with a block grant set at levels well below what would be provided under current law.  States apparently could use these funds for a broad range of health care purposes, not just coverage, with essentially no guardrails or standards to ensure affordable, meaningful coverage.  After 2026 block grant funding would end altogether.
  • Maintain the Senate bill’s provision to convert virtually the entire Medicaid program to a per capita cap, with large and growing cuts to federal funding for seniors, people with disabilities, and families with children.  "  
 There are some temporary  fixes to Obamacare  being examined by Congressional committees now. The Kasich/Hickenlooper repair bill now in a Senate committee would retain mandates for Americans to buy health insurance but would give tax exemptions for insurers that offer plans in underserved counties  and give them access to existing federal plans and create a reinsurance program, propping up and stabilizing the insurance market to keep premiums from soaring..  

That Bernie Sanders and large number of Democratic Senators have signed on to his Medicare for All is significant.  While it has no chance of gaining 60 votes to pass, it is now a serious alternative  that is on the table and close  to becoming a Democratic party platform plank in the  near future.  The more GOP legislation takes insurance away from those who need it, the more likely the public will turn to single payer. However, in the process many people will be harmed and will suffer.  Democrats should beware that the GOP is trolling, hoping to split the party over the issue by putting Sander's plan as a bogey man, a "horrible" plan (per Pres. Trump's press person).  In the short term, Democrats will only feed success of  the truly  horrible  Graham-Cassidy bill  if they tie themselves in knots over the issue.








Monday, September 11, 2017

Be careful what you wish: Trump hurricane budget; impeachment downsides

A version of this was published in the Sky Hi News, September 13, 2017; additional footnotes were added during week

The political world is not a Disney movie. Not all stories end with  a handsome prince or finding true love.  Sometimes politics  gives you the wicked witch instead.  Hurricane relief  and the specter of impeachment are two cases risking the witch effect.

The role of government suddenly had a new meaning to those who believed no good comes from Washington, DC.  Those who once shouted states rights and were  and deficit hawks,  suddenly found themselves demanding federal money no matter what the impact was to federal finances. Harvey  and Irma gave them  a dose of reality.  Sometimes only the federal government has resources to deal with the magnitude of a disaster.

Ideologically driven  dreams  pre Harvey and Irma proved foolish when the Administration advocated  reducing the ability to respond to natural disasters as part of budget  and regulation reductions. President Trump presented his budget wish list to begin October 1 in the form of a “blueprint”. In it, he asked for. $667 million to be cut from  from the  FEMA pre-disaster mitigation grant program and require all grants to be matched by non-federal funds.. Even before Harvey, there was evidence that $1 in mitigation saves  $4 in later damages. The budget proposed by the Trump administration  for forecasting hurricanes  has a 17% cut.

More foolishness: Trump’s proposed budget called for the elimination of the federal flood insurance program which made flood insurance affordable. I recall  a good  friend who survived Katrina and  who had that flood insurance and was able to rebuild even though his home was severely damaged.. While only 20% of Harvey’s victims have flood insurance, it will be their welcomed salvation. It is not only coastal areas that benefit , but  in Denver parts of the neighborhood in which I once lived were on floodplains that qualified for the subsidized, underwritten insurance. Floods are not unknown in Colorado like  Boulder and northern Colorado experienced in 2013.  

The left’s dream is  that Donald Trump will be impeached.   Reasons I suspect are mostly politically motivated.to stop  Trump’ agenda of dismantling the Obama legacy,  his racism,  or a contempt for his persona. Alone these are not  the “high crimes and misdemeanors” standard for impeachment in the Constitution. Whether he is fit to serve refers to the 25th Amendment and the process to determine fitness..  Former  Director of National Intelligence  James Clapper added gravitas to the  impeachment movement when he questioned Trump’s fitness, calling Trump’s Phoenix  post Charlottesville divisive   speech “downright scary and disturbing”. . Heavyweight Democratic leaders have differed from impeachment advocates.  In August  Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) California   proposed “ patience” for Donald Trump to learn  and  said  he could  become a “good “ president..  David Axelrod,  former Obama adviser, opined  that with  30% plus  of voters still supporting Trump, an attempt to impeach him could be viewed as a  bloodless  coup  and a danger to the constitutional process. In June, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi told impeachment talkers to “calm down” and wait for “solid proof”.  That makes sense. . The   most credible proof of misdeeds  or exoneration is Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s  investigation of the Russian connection. Any sabotaging of  the investigation by Trump or the GOP should be fought tooth and nail.






Monday, August 28, 2017

Pieces of the Russia puzzle are creating a picture


Pieces of the puzzle are beginning to fit into a recognizable picture.
Is this what was motivating Trump to cozy up to Putin? I suspected he had hopes of financial gain in Russia and wrote about it then, but I thought there was still more there that motivated such an obvious and publicly stated "bromance" between the two. Speculation has been that Russia knows information of his questionable financial dealings they could hold over him. The Mueller investigation may or may not reveal that. In any case, it smells like Trump was being played by Russia and Trump was willing to go along, seeing it to his advantage in business if were not elected.

. It may explain the puzzle of why so many of those with Russian connections and dealings to be a major part of Trump's campaign staff and the West Wing. They were on the same wavelength, at minimum. The Russian interference in the election shows mutual interests flowed both ways whether or not there was collusion or actual coordination.. All of this was speculation in the 2016 campaign but was either considered fake news, conspiracy theories, or, if considered to be true, it was sadly accepted as being OK by those who otherwise considered themselves as red blooded Americans who put America first and voted him into office.

See the posting on this blog 6/19/16 Donald Trump's position on NATO has a Grand County impact,
and Trump's Foreign policy: Make Russia great again 9/8/16