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This blog serves my columns as an archive, a place to add footnotes, and unedited previews and drafts of my weekly column for the Sky Hi News.(www.skyhidailynews.com) Often these drafts are posted on my Facebook page, The Muftic Forum, which is used as my main method of electronic distribution and comments from my readers.
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2015 could be Washington’s year of mandate miscalculations. If Republicans rely on the 2014 midterms as
their legislative compass and their interpretations miss the mark, they could lay the groundwork for a backlash in 2016 . Their challenge for the GOP in Congress is trying to decipher what are and what are
not voters’ mandates to pass certain legislation when most of the electorate did
not vote and other factors contributed
to their reelection.
This was the lowest
turnout since 1942 with only one third of the electorate bothering to
vote. In presidential elections the
average is over 60%. To claim there was
a mandate that represents widespread views about issues is a stretch.
The Associated Press
pollster’s conclusion about this November election was: “Those on either side
of the aisle express sharply divergent views on top issues, making it difficult
for lawmakers to discern a clear mandate for governing “.
Adding to the
confusion, voters voted one way on ballot issues, yet voted for candidates who
believe the opposite. The only conclusion is that party loyalty trumped dedication
to issues in 2014. In Colorado a personhood amendment went down in flames yet
Cory Gardner was elected Senator (by a 2.5% percentage point) even though his
name remained on a personhood- like bill in Congress. 70% in
a recent NBC Wall Street Journal poll favored the elements of the Senate bi
partisan compromise on comprehensive immigration, but 48% opposed presidential
action depending upon party affiliation.
Every GOP candidate in the Midterms
preached repeal of Obamacare, many winning races, yet other polls show 60% of
voters did not want repeal and liked the individual elements. Disapproval of
Obamacare followed party affiliation per a Gallup poll. Four red states voted
to raise the minimum wage while their party has fought it tooth and nail in
If there was a
mandate, it was for parties to work together per a Wall Street Journal/NBC
poll. That is wishful thinking. Partisanship runs deep and is heavily determined
by demographics, a phenomenon that could be called tribal, a “people like us
against them” mentality. Per the AP exit
poll, 87% of Republicans vs 61% of Democrats were white. Women outnumbered men in
the Democratic electorate; the ratio was reversed with Republicans. 20% of those backing Democrats and only 12% of
Republicans made less than $30,000 per year. 40% percent of Republicans were
church going white evangelical Christians, while only 11% of Democrats were.
Republicans “are disproportionately southern” and rural compared to Democrats.
Complicating the mandate picture are special interests and a
deepening divide between establishment and Tea Party Republicans. Most within the GOP may agree on the
problems, but they see solutions and priorities differently.
In the end, the
interpretation of voter mandates matters little for legislators who are more
concerned whether their political contributors’ ox gets gored or is well fed. Given the enormous cost of campaigning
and the loosening of campaign laws to permit more contributions from
corporations and the wealthy, that should be no surprise to anyone.
A version of this appeared in the Jan. 2 2015 Sky Hi News www.skyhidailynews.com
Peace on earth, goodwill toward men, one of the messages of
Christmas, is sorely needed in our troubled world. This year has been less about
major wars, but more about individuals gone berserk and sudden rise of terrorist
jihadists acting in regions or as lone wolves anywhere. Modern media has been both the messenger and
the tool of the perpetrators that give acts of violence world-wide impact. We have
yet to find a consensus for the best response.
In the United States
there are two schools of thought. One is always to meet violence with violence
and the other is to search for peace. President Obama seems determined to leave
office with a more peaceful world by resolving some nagging conflicts and addressing
recent explosions of violence both at home and abroad, but he faces some tough
Since he cannot run
for re-election, he at least is freed from the consequences of a political
backlash if he takes controversial measures. Using his executive powers, he is
burying the hatchet with hostile regimes and bringing together those who feel
they have been treated unfairly.
Beginning with dialogues with Iran and historic reverse of a
fifty year policy toward Cuba, Obama has taken steps to bring Peace on Earth. Obama had already stopped torture of prisoners
immediately when he took office and he is consistent in condemning past torture
practices brought to light by a Senate report.
Our country is plagued by riots and police assassinations from
Ferguson to the boroughs of New York, heated by racial tensions and angry speech
from by both sides of the racial divide. The violence is an accumulative effect
of high profile incidents of apparent racial profiling by police ending in death of Black men and youth. Obama is threading the needle between empathy
with minority communities and finding ways to bring communities and policing
together. It is a delicate balance, but
it is a uniquely credible opportunity given he is the first Black president.
The case for peace is as much a matter of pragmatism as it is
a moral imperative. Violence begets more violence. One kind of violent action
becomes a template used by others who are, or who are not, fighting political
causes. Some fueled by personal revenge, hate, or mental health issues copy the
latest violent techniques so they, too, can go down in a blaze of publicity.
Abroad, we have learned that using military force works only
in the short term. Our ultimate goal
should be to win over hearts and minds so that jihadists lose fertile ground in
which to plant their flags. Otherwise we will be involved in a never ending or reoccurring
warfare. Sadly, Iraqi villagers seem willing to exchange ending strife for ISIS
order no matter how cruel and oppressive. Oppression eventually breeds revolt and a
search for a better way. The very difficult challenge for Obama is to craft policies
that appeal to the better angels in the long term while helping Iraq halt ISIS’
military advance and doing it without our full military engagement.
If the Senate report on
CIA torture practices in the early post 9/11 days revealed anything, it
was when fear for national security prevails, the US behaves like most
other countries. We become unexceptional.
We trample human rights and engage in practices for which we would be ashamed
under normal circumstances. Those who boast of American exceptionalism need
to temper their flag waiving.
That we are willing to
admit that violating our own values is wrong decades later may set us apart and
is indeed exceptional behavior. Most nations do not do this. Without condemning
such actions, we become the pot calling the kettle black in calling out others
for brutal treatment of POW’s or violation of human rights. At least the report
clarifies our standards for others to follow.
Sen John McCain (R-AZ),
a former tortured POW himself, attested on the Senate floor torture does not
work, but (that)…” isn’t the main reason to oppose its use. … It’s about who we
were, who we are and who we aspire to be. It’s about how we represent ourselves
to the world.”
The GOP shouted the
report was a partisan move and it was full of (unspecified) untruths, that
circumstances justified it, it worked, our brutal treatment is less brutal than
others, and it will stoke our enemies’ fire.
The report presents truths no one has yet
refuted. Even current CIA Director John Brennan could not deny the “techniques”
called enhanced interrogation (EIT) did
take place and detainees died or were subjected to “ harsh, abhorrent”, and
Left to debate was
whether it worked. Brennan said the
“program” did provide “useful” intelligence, saying it was “unknowable” if saying EITs were
responsible for extracting that information. Firing back, Senate Intelligence
Committee chair Diane Feinstein (D-CA) said the report clearly documented the
intelligence extracted took place before the water boarding or other “EIT”s
Consider the times,
respond the report’s critics, as if to say we can excuse our behavior in the
fog of fear of future attacks post 9/11.
Our country has been there before: in 1798 the Federalist controlled Congress
passed the Alien and Sedition Acts claiming a fear of a French war on our
shores. The acts allowed us to deport and imprison those we thought might subvert
us and allowed us to confiscate their property during wartimes. The Sedition
Acts muzzled those criticizing the US government. All were contrary to the Bill
These Acts, too, were entangled
in politics. The Federalists were proponents of the Alien and Sedition Acts;
the Democratic-Republican Jeffersonians opposed. The descendants of the Federalists, the GOP
(McCain excepted), are now trying to justify EITs use. They are being true to their
earliest roots of throwing under the bus our first amendment protections
whenever national security is threatened.
The sedition acts later expired. The alien laws survived and were used to
detain, imprison, and confiscate property of American-Japanese in World War II.
Those acts, too, were condemned by history, just as the EIT program is being
condemned a decade later. ---------------- A version of this appeared in the www.skyhidailynews.com December 19, 2014
If there is any one reason for Obamacare (ACA), this is it. The ACA will not eliminate debt because there are still deductibles some will be obligated to pay, but fewer will go insurance naked, some states still have not extended Medicaid to the near poor who do not have enough income to qualify for ACA insurance, and some ACA plans have high deductibles. From the New York Times Dec. 11, 2014: "One in five American consumers — 43 million people — have blemishes on theircredit reportsbecause of overdue medical bills, whilemedical debtsmake up more than half of collection items on credit reports, according to a newly released federal report.