Tuesday, December 26, 2017

How Trump's love affair with Russia works against US interests

Putting Russia first is not the same as putting America first. Here is where Donald Trump's love affair with Russia hurt US national interests.Tump failed to 
activate Obama era plans to stop their cyberthreats..  In addition, while
Congress authorized further sanctions against Russia for interfering in the
2016 elections, Pres. Trump has failed to implement them.

Before departing office, Barack Obama ordered US spy agencies to plan operations to combat Russian cyberthreats, according to the The Washington Post.

What goes around, comes around. Trump lays groundwork for his future troubles

From the conservative media, https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2017/dec/26/trump-russia-dossier-crooked-hillary-pile-garbage/ who failed to mention that also reputedly Republican Presidential Candidate Marco Rubio first funded the
opposition research conducted by a very respected former English spy.http://www.telegraph.co.uk/…/conservative-website-funded-r…/ The project was then picked up by the Democrats So far, while not all parts of it
have been proved or disproved, most of it has that has been examined has proved to be true. Like everything, from this to Robert Mueller, when President Trump fears what will be exposed, he sets out to
kill the messenger.in advance instead of refuting the substance of what is in it with his own set of facts. What he does with this is peak more curiosity of what is coming down the road that may
be damaging to him. Furthermore, to rally support he dredges up his favorite voodoo doll, Hillary, demands criminal investigation of a former opponent (great if you are a banana republic dictator seizing autocratic power.a favorite ploy, but  it has never done in American history). The precedent he has set may come back later to haunt him if he is out of office: the criminal investigations against him could also be continued then. What goes around, comes around.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Prediction: Impeachment will be the burning issue in the 2018 Congressional elections

Updated 12/22/17 

A version of this was published in the Sky Hi News Dec 27, 2018 https://www.skyhinews.com/news/muftic-impeachment-will-be-driving-issue-in-2018/

With  a President bent on self preservation in the face of impeachment threats, it is quite possible  that the 2018 Congressional elections will turn into a national referendum on the impeachment of President Trump. The  most serious issue on the table  will be whether President Trump   obstructed  justice or conspired  with Russians to throw the 2016 elections to defeat Hillary Clinton. So far evidence of such” misdeeds  and misdemeanors” have not touched  the President himself, but the investigation has not been completed.  Witnesses are still being interviewed and evidence  is still being collected.  It is even possible the Special Counsel led by Robert Mueller will exonerate him and his family members.

However, revealed last week  that there is  an attempt  by elements in the GOP  House meeting secretly  or by President himself to cripple the investigation by firing Mueller or disbanding the Special Counsel investigation, the ultimate  obstruction of justice. Suddenly in mid December the President and his media and Congressional loyalists  ramped up a “fire Mueller” campaign. It looks like they are expecting bad news from the Mueller investigation  and are making a pre-emptive strike to destroy credibility of any of the Special Counsel  findings.

What has changed from Trump’s confidence that he is clear of any  prosecution?  The person in the best position to know the inner workings of the Trump campaign, transition, and administration, former national security adviser Mike Flynn,  has begun singing like a canary to the Mueller investigators.

This past week  President Trump’s  media and Congressional cohorts launched a coordinated talking point effort to destroy the credibility and impartiality of Special Counsel Robert Mueller  and the FBI.  President Trump claimed the whole  FBI was “in tatters” and “corrupt”  because one FBI agent had texted scorn of him, even though Mueller removed that agent from the investigation last summer. He added this new line to his claim the Special Counsel was on a witch hunt and the investigation was a hoax. This  newest propaganda initiative by Trumpists appears to lay the groundwork to get public approval for  the firing of Mueller or President Trump’s  issuing pardons to any of his family or close friends who are in danger of prosecution .

The humor in the Trumpist charge that the Mueller investigation is " faux "so partisan motivated against Trump "is  in spite of  four indictments and two guilty pleas.  This is the same FBI whose director James Comey disclosed   publicly ten days before the  2016 election that Hillary Clinton’s emails were once again under investigation. while  every  FBI agent   involved was keeping it a dark secret that candidate Trump had been under FBI investigation for his Russian connections all along. Many blame the FBI for Clinton’s loss.

Voters are becoming aware  that it is  the House of Representatives  that initiates the  impeachment process,  an action that is much like an indictment. So long as the House  is in the hands of the GOP majority as is the Senate which needs a 2/3 vote to convict. the only way to break partisan resistance  is to elect enough Democrats to both the Senate and the House.. For that reason, my prediction is  the 2018 Congressional election cycle  mostly will be about whether voters think the President should or should not be impeached. Voters who are also unhappy with Trump's assault on health care affordability, the environment, race relations, civil rights, consumer financial protection, women's rights and respect, and even democracy itself, will join the impeachment movement in a unifying focus.





Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Unwrap President Trump's Christmas present and weep

A version of this appeared in the Sky Hi News 12 20 2017

At last we get the “”giant, beautiful” Christmas present President Donald Trump promised.  Some tears will be for joy and others from dismay. The final version has emerged and as you read this, the President may have  already signed it.
The GOP is celebrating because they finally got one piece of major legislation passed and it brings into reality  many of the denizens of the swamp’s visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads. Everyone  else will be affected differently.   Some financial impacts will happen soon  than later.  
If you are already wealthy, an oil driller  in the Arctic wilderness , or  a real estate oligarch like the Trump family, your tears will be of joy. If you love the reduction in corporate taxes to 21%, do a happy dance. You still got your same corporate tax breaks plus repeal of the AMT tax  on top of it.  If your income is mostly from Wall Street, yahoo. That is where most of those corporate benefits will go because  there is no incentive in the legislation for  job creation or wage increases, or even to expand and build more plants. Corporations are already cash rich and already could have done it if they wanted to.
The dismaying damage to pocket books is done by the legislation’s hit on  health insurance. .Your take home check will look bigger beginning this  February due to increases in individual standard deductions and  in withholding due to  tax  reductions in lower brackets for 2018. On the other hand,  if you are lower middle class, 4 million in 2019 with a total reaching 13 million by 2027  will  not be able to afford or want to afford, or be required to carry health insurance.,.Those losing insurance should  be prepared to face  bankruptcy since they will now be billed for the full cost of services. including check ups,  ER visits, birth control pills. and cancer screenings and  treatments .just like the old days before Obamacare.  If your children's health care was covered by CHIP, dig into your own pockets. The program has not been renewed.  If you are rich or poor,  your health insurance premiums will increase by 10% than otherwise  in the coming years.thanks to the removal of the mandate for individuals to carry insurance.
Political fallout could dim the  GOP’s victory glow in 2018 and 2020.. Polls of public  approval  of the tax bills (Marist, CBS, Quinnipiac,Gallup)   earlier in December ranged from below 30% to 35%, split along party lines., but swing independents were even more negative.  Polls reflected a  perception of unfairness,  that the rich benefit more than the middle class, though most of the middle class with  exceptions in upper brackets  will  get some degree of temporary  tax reductions.The final version tinkered  with some  details,  but did  little  to change the math  facts that the rich and corporations still benefit the most. . In 2025   all of these tax breaks to individuals will go away. Tax reductions to  business and corporations are forever.
There are   many media takes on specific  winners and losers in this legislation. . The opinion  that counts is from the  non- partisan Congressional funded Congressional Budget Office  because  it is  more  often  relied upon  by those shaping  legislation,.   The clearest up to date analysis expressed in plain English  and CBO based   I found  was done by the Associated Press and published on Yahoo News. https://finance.yahoo.com/news/look-winners-losers-under-gop-205042006.html.


Saturday, December 9, 2017

Heads up, seniors and soon to be seniors. You are about to be screwed by the GOP

Newest polls...note especially the drop in support of seniors. "Trump also lost approval among older voters—47 percent of people age 50 and older supported the president in February, compared to 38 percent now—and among white evangelical Protestants, 61 percent of whom now support the president, down from 78 percent." Pew Poll. Rightly so
since Trump once claimed he would not touch Medicare and Social Security, but he has ignored the tax "reform" legislation, supporting whatever comes out of Congress . . Immediately, though, it cuts billions from Medicare. https://www.vox.com/…/senate-tax-bill-change-federal-health… The House Majority Leader Paul Ryan is planning to propose cuts in 2018 to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. because their tax "reform" bill caused such an increase in debt. https://www.salon.com/…/paul-ryan-aims-for-medicare-medica…/




Wednesday, December 6, 2017

The GOP makes a Faustian bargain and sells its soul

Version of this published in the Sky Hi News December 13, 2017

Revised December 8, 2017
You may have heard the term , " a Faustian bargain". It means when someone sell one’s soul to the devil to get what they lust after.  The GOP sold its soul for tax reform, setting precedents for years to come. In  Alabama’s Senate race regardless if Judge Roy Moore wins or loses ( election results are unknown as this is being written), Faust’s bargain lives on. With their support of Moore and their tax reform bill, Donald Trump, the Republican National committee and almost all of the GOP lost any credibility as the guardian of fiscal responsibility and with caring about the safety and credibility of women in the workplace.

Why Faust? The greatest work in German literature, Faust, a play in prose and poetry, was authored  in the late 1700’ and revised through the early 1800’s by  Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.  He tackled a basic human dilemma,  a conflicted man  frustrated with failures in life
making a choice between doing what he knows is  moral or losing  out on other personal goals after which he lusted.  In Goethe’s play,  Faust   makes an arrangement with the devil: the devil will do everything that Faust wants while he is here on Earth, and in exchange Faust will serve the devil in Hell.  Faust , with help of the devil, pursued his seduction of his love, Margaret/Gretchen, who in turn killed her mother who opposed their affair . That tragedy is just for starters.  Faust's themes have resonated in opera and drama and have become an icon for the kind of dilemma humans have faced in life and in politics. It is that kind of Faustian bargain that will haunt the GOP for years.

The Republican National Committee  and Donald Trump reversed their  prior opposition to Moore. The RNC  put a million dollars into his campaign and  lost any holy than thou  moral authority in endorsing Judge Roy Moore in Alabama. Moore had been credibly accused of sexual violation of teenagers. Even the GOP Senatorial leadership caved, pontificating that it was up to the good people of Alabama, but, playing both sides, they would have an elected/seated Moore face their ethics committee, of course while or after the tax "reform" bill votes.  The exception: Colorado's Sen. Cory Gardner, chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, who said the NRSC would never support Moore .Gardner voted for the Senate tax "reform" bill version. Most of the GOP still gave the public  rationalization of the party’s continued support of Moore as his vote was needed on tax "reform". The "reform" bill is highly unpopular, polling with 35% approval.

The GOP has forever weakened their ability to use debt and deficits as an argument against supporting or expanding the social safety nets. They have forever wounded their reputation as budget/deficit hawks by approving a tax "reform" that would add one trillion dollars to the national debt. Nearly all independent experts agreed, including Congress' own experts.

Expect the GOP  to make the deficit hawk argument again when the service on the debt eats up so much of the federal budget, they have no choice but to cut medicare, medicaid, and social security and force it to be privatized or cut benefits, House Majority Leader Paul Ryan's goal all along.    Democrats will then be able to throw back in the GOP’s  face the GOP does not care about the debt so why should they?


http://www.businessinsider.com/trump-gop-tax-reform-bill-poll-cbs-2017-12 https://www.salon.com/2017/12/07/paul-ryan-aims-for-medicare-medicaid-social-security-cuts-in-2018/


Monday, December 4, 2017

Trump attorney claims Trump above the rule of law

"President cannot obstruct justice because he is the chief law enforcement officer under [the Constitution's Article II] and has every right to express his view of any case," attorney John Dowd told  Axios."

Of course, this was Trump's attorney speaking, not the president himself. Besides, Trump not only expressed his opinion, he fired Comey, later stating he had the Russian probe on his mind at the time. Trump's recent tweet, allegedly written by his attorney, he fired Flynn because he knew Flynn had lied to the FBI has become another possible indication of his intent to obstruct justice since he knew Flynn had committed a crime of lying to the FBI and asked Comey to go easy on him.   http://www.cnn.com/2Fl017/05/12/politics/trump-comey-russia-thing/index.html
Nonetheless, Dowd's comments  reminds me of Richard Nixon's famous 1977 interview with David Frost in the midst of Watergate, the last time a President overtly claimed his actions were above the law. ".when the president does it, that means it's not illegal". The issue over turning over the tapes that would incriminate him went to the US Supreme Court, which ruled that Nixon's privileges did not extend to this issue. The situation is different here, but if Watergate set the precedence was that Nixon was not above the rule of law.
Nixon's lawyers argued that this was a dispute between   parts of the executive branch over which he had control.  That did not fly.  The Court ruled that while the president had many powers, he could not claim that when other parts of the Constitution were involved, such as the right to a speedy trial. The facts are difference in Trump's case, but the principles are similar.  We do have a different balance in the Supreme Court, too,  with the appointment of Neil Gorsuch. It tilts right. If this ever ends up in the Supreme Court, who knows. Obstruction of justice was the prime charge  that resulted in the Watergate impeachment action.The same defense approach was tried by Bill Clinton in his House impeachment trial, and it, too, failed, though he was acquitted by the Senate for other reasons..

 More than likely, with the House in the hand of the GOP, and the House has to initiate the impeachment process, nothing will happen.  However, this could be the chief Democratic attack in 2018 that could result in a change in House leadership and a Democratic majority.  Aside from the pain certain constituents will feel due to the "tax reform" bill or the failure of "trickle down", I can see Democrats arguing if you want Trump impeached, vote for the Democrat standing for Congress and/or if you want to check the failed absolute rule of the GOP of all branches of government, vote Democratic.  All House seats are up for election in 2018 and there is a numerical chance the House could flip.  That chance does not exist for the Senate in 2018, because only one/third of seats, mostly Democratic, are up for grabs. However, 2020 could see a backlash in both the Senate and White House.


Sunday, December 3, 2017

Fallout from Senate GOP tax plan likely if Conference committee changes little


The fallout from Senate GOP tax reform if included in the bill's final form: for the middle class
One half of Americans will received a tax increase in 2025, cuts are only temporary. Groundwork has been laid for cuts to Medicare and Social Security.
Per Forbes: "Ah...that middle class...the very group of taxpayers for whom this plan was designed, according to those who built it. While the majority of middle-income taxpayers will enjoy a tax cut right away, some won't be so lucky, with the Tax Policy Center estimating that 15% - 20% of those earning between $86,000 and $300,000 will experience an immediate tax increase, resulting from the confluence of lost itemized deductions, eliminated personal exemptions, and slower indexing of the individual tax brackets."
By the time the budget gimmicks prevalent throughout the plan run their course in 2027, however, things are much different for the middle class. If the individual cuts are not extended at the end of 2025, the middle class will not only be left with nothing by 2027, nearly 60% of those earning between $86,00 and $300,000 will pay more than if these cuts were never enacted. Oddly enough, even IF the individual cuts expire, by virtue of the steep corporate cuts, the richest 1% do just fine, with only 16% experiencing an increase relative to current law."



Monday, November 27, 2017

Attack against press freedom is the first step to the end of democracy

Revised and updated: 11/30/17

A version of this was published in the Sky Hi News, 12/6/17   https://www.skyhinews.com/news/muftic-trumps-war-on-press-freedom/

Added January 17, 2018

Added: 12/9/17
Net neutrality is also an element of taking away medium freedom.  To understand why, https://www.yahoo.com/news/future-net-neutrality-repealed-creeping-203030801.html


Everyday I am grateful for this country.  I know that if I lived in Putin’s Russia or Erdogan’s Turkey or any number of countries in the world ruled by “strong men” or  despots, I could could risk my life or freedom by writing  this column that often is in opposition to our country’s Leader’s  view of the world and issues. Fundamentally important first steps  enabling despots to  rise to power and their keeping it was their  destruction of the freedom of press by degrading,  killing,  or imprisoning  journalists and bankrupting opposition press through manipulation by various means.


If citizens only hear one slant on the news, mind control follows. Having many outlets funded by a variety of owners permits those in a democracy to come to their own conclusions which may even be contrary to the interests of their dear Leader. As those who studied the methods of control of media by despots, know that it happens in steps and slowly until it is too late for any opposition to find a platform. For the sake of our democracy, any tendencies of political leaders to try to destroy press freedom must be recognized and nipped in the bud at the beginning before it is too late.

I lived in Berlin in the late 1950’s with a front row seat to the Stalinization of Eastern Germany and I married a refugee from dictator Tito’s Yugoslavia, visiting that Communist  country frequently for many years.  I spent my time in Berlin on a quest of understanding how Hitler rose to power in an educated, western cultural country. What I did learn was that the first step in consolidating power was  destruction of the free press . Our founders even in the 1700s understood that and wrote protections in the First Amendment of  our Constitution. For that reason, media  in the US was once  called the fourth estate, the fourth branch of government  checking each other’s power in addition to the legislative, executive, and judicial branches.

In our  divided country thanks to the Trump campaign and administration,  we have begun questioning any “truth” or “facts” presented by the “other”  side . That is extremely dangerous to any democracy  that depends on open debate of issues  and consensus based on commonly agreed facts.  Claiming there are no credible facts except those presented by the Leader (Hitler called contrary press, the lying press..Lugenpresse) is a tool wannabe dictators  have used to destroy freedom of the press. In fact, at campaign rallies some of Trump supporters aggressively chanted "Lugenpresse" at reporters.

Especially alarming is Donald Trump’s recent attack on CNN and his stated embrace of  only one approved cable news network, FOX News.. Those media outlets who present facts contrary to his pronouncements  or criticize  him are often called “fake news” . Trump Thanksgiving weekend tweeted to  declare that Fox News “is MUCH more important in the United States than CNN,” adding that CNN represents the United States "poorly" to the world. At the same time his Justice Department  sued to block a media merger that critics claimed was a move  to force the sale of CNN, a frequent target of Trump as the conveyor of “fake news”. At the same time, Trump's appointed Federal Communications Commission enacted rules paving the way for the merger of a pro Trump group, Sinclair Media with Tribune Media . At the same time, his FCC approved rules permitting consolidation of local media outlets, including lifting the rule prohibiting print media to also own TV and radio stations, reducing the variety of news sources and interpretations available to viewers. This was overtly favoring and strengthening the media domination of major markets by his chosen media.


The only bright side of Trump's view of what is fake news and what is not is that it has become obvious that the chief conveyor of fake news is Trump himself via his tweets. So outrageous were his tweets in the past couple of weeks, he damaged his own credibility , contradicting his own prior declarations. A recent Trump tweet gave  the link and his accolades to a conspiracy theory media outlet, MAGAPILL.  The site  spouted White Nationalist, anti Semitic, and far fetched paranoia . The following week his tweets linked to a British web site promoting hate mongering anti Muslim propaganda containing a video already debunked by Dutch authorities and raising the ire of the UK Prime Minister and members of Parliament.

An attempt by the right wing group Veritas to try to trap the Washington Post into demonstrating they were the source of fake news backfired last week as well. An undercover worker tried to sell Post reporters on a story that was fake as a way to bait them into reporting a fake news story to damage their credibility. The problem was that the reporters did their due diligence on the story and discovered the sting operation, only proving that the Post's skills and reporting were even more credible and respected, not less.

Do I think Trump read Hitler’s, Putin’s, Erdogan’s playbook about how to turn a democracy into their type of “strong man” governance?  He certainly has shown a nearly fawning admiration of their style, but he also has demonstrated  ignorance of the Constitutional provisions and  lack of interest in American history and seems angered when some judicial body or judge  reigns him in, calling an executive order he issued as  unconstitutional.  The concept of the  rule of law seems to be a puzzle to him. His answer: stack the courts with  appointees with ideologues favorable to his beliefs. He has already tamed all but of few of the GOP members of Congress, who fear meeting his true believers in their gerrymandered district’s primary.   No, I do not think he has read the despots and dictator’s playbook, though he tries to mimic some of their techniques.    He is an organic , impulsive wannabe strong man; it is a part of his nature and his soul.











Friday, November 24, 2017

A warning to the politically smug: What goes around can come around

One of the beauties of our still functioning democracy is that the political pendulum can yet swing.  Yes,  democracy is still intact, a bit wounded, though, and some  tactics that worked for the GOP in the Trump era can also be used by Democrats, too, whenever they become a governing majority. Imagine if the shoe were on the other foot, if Democrats took over the House in 2018 and the  Senate and White House in 2020. Trump era attempts to sabotage  affordable health insurance by executive order or tax breaks for the wealthy could be rolled back. Whatever discriminatory executive  orders regarding Muslims and immigrants , or discrimination  against certain groups under the guise of religious freedom, that  survived judicial scrutiny of their constitutionality could also be reversed.

All reversals and new agenda could happen more easily and quickly, too, since the GOP Senate changed rules in 2017 and set precedence for use of parliamentary procedural tricks. If and when  Democrats became the majority, they too could take advantage of them. The GOP Senate has set  in motion ways to pass legislation and approve judicial appointees with  51, instead of 60 votes, avoiding   filibusters and the need for bipartisan compromise ,  permitting a bare party majority to steamroll over the minority, and ensuring the end of moderation.

The pendulum is still able to swing and  some recent elections indicate a possible  backlash against GOP and  Trump excesses in 2018 and 2020. We still are a democracy. We still have an independent media in spite of Trump’s branding any news that is not favorable to him as fake or his wishing  to get the FCC to take CNN’s licenses away or denying their merger or treating Fox News as  the favored one to be taken as the only  truth tellers. We still have an independent judiciary in spite of fast track efforts by GOP to fill federal bench vacancies .What if there are no Supreme Court vacancies to fill until after 2020 and two occur? The Court’s ideological balance could also swing back to the center or left with Democrats in charge. Policies that both benefit little and hurt many in the middle class while making the rich richer could anger voters  as pocket book pain and disappointments  are felt in real  election time pain and disappointment. It is even more possible there would be a backlash benefitting Democrats  if  Special Prosecutor  Robert Mueller actually puts some of Trump’s close associates in jail or finds proof that Trump himself obstructed justice or was compromised by the Russians.  

What could hamper a pendulum swing?  One is foreign interference in elections and another,  ineptitude of the Democratic party. We know now  from Congressional hearings Russians  were running ads and spreading their pro Trump, false news,  cultural divisive  issue support messages to 146 million targeted  and unwitting  Facebook users. What if they try it again in 2018 and 2020?  Will voters be willing dupes or educated enough to discount those attempts or will Congress require disclosure of foreign media and internet posting  and ad sources?

Given the potential of the GOP to  alienate their moderates, Democrats should be able to ride a swinging pendulum. However, Democrats  are  without a positive  message about what they would differently and without a unifying leader, and face a divide and conquer vulnerability with a  potential fight between the moderates and the Bernie Sanders wing.




Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Judge Roy Moore runs into a cultural shift

A version of this was published in the Sky Hi News Nov. 29, 2017 https://www.skyhinews.com/news/muftic-judge-roy-moore-runs-into-a-cultural-shift/

Updated 12/6/2017: Time Magazine named the cultural shift Time's Person of the Year

The  firestorm over the candidacy of Judge Roy Moore is not the beginning of a heap full of a cultural shift in the US but a catharsis and a result.  On December 12, as Alabama voters go to the polls.  Alabama  is a battleground  among three  currents of thought: those who put moral and fairness values above political concerns; those who  who believe the accusations,  but put political concerns above moral outrage, and those who hear, see or ,speak no evil and thereby  can avoid making the choice between a clean conscience and and achieving  political goals. However the December vote plays out, the GOP  in the US  loses. They lose either a seat in the Senate or they are burdened with  reputation of a party that does not care enough about the personal qualities of their candidates.

Why the shift? What is different now than earlier is that more women are working side by side with men. Plaintiff attorneys have demonstrated a successful technique to find multiple women  victims willing to speak out so  they could  show a pattern of behavior, which makes each accuser  more credible. I date the technique resulting in women being believed instead of being treated as liars and publicity seekers to the Bill Cosby trial.  What has not changed is that the workplace is mostly still male who are in the position of power over women’s career advancement and who have gotten away with taking advantage of women far too long and who missed the signals of changing attitudes. The cultural shift is still a work in progress. In 2016, moral outrage lost out to political expediency when Donald Trump won in spite of the credibility  of multiple  witnesses to  many of his penchant to grab women  and his boasting of his conduct recorded on the Access Hollywood tapes. “Deny, deny” worked well enough  for him and showed the way  for Roy Moore to defend himself.

All cases of  accusations of  unwelcomed male sexual conduct toward women are not alike. Where the  Roy Moore issue  differs from the accused behavior of Donald Trump and Al Franken  or past president’s infidelities is that Moore preyed on children who  were were not considered old enough to make decisions about their sexual choices. He is an accused pedophile. However, the issue has opened the floodgates to ensnare actors, celebrities, politicians, and intellectual icons whose alleged or proven victims were women of legal age.  

While politics and policies are an integral part of the storm, the issue of sexual victimism of women and girls is non partisan.  Bad male behavior toward women used to be mildly  tolerated and expected by women who were beginning to work in jobs once solely occupied by men. Sometimes public exposure  of sexual misdeeds was used  and excused as political weapons  against political adversaries , or it was swept under the guise of locker room talk, while those who came forth were  publicly shamed.  Even in my memory, the sexual escapades of FDR, JFK,  and Bill Clinton  were either ignored by the good ole boy press at the time, passed off as “he said, she said,” or revealed later by historians and investigative  journalists.  Many of the accused now of past  misdeeds will only stand trial in the court of public opinion or the ballot box or Senate ethics processes because the statute of limitations ran out.  The only president to pay the price while in office was  Bill  Clinton who was nearly  impeached.

Some have called it a Faustian bargain to believe the accusations, but to in spite of that think it is more important to ignore them if it advances a political goal.

Why Faust? The greatest work in German literature, Faust,  was authored  in the late 1700’sby  Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.  He tackled a basic human dilemma,  a conflicted man making a choice between being moral or losing  out on other personal goals.  In Goethe’s plan,  Faust   makes an arrangement with the devil: the devil will do everything that Faust wants while he is here on Earth, and in exchange Faust will serve the devil in Hell.   That whether Roy Moore is a devil and those who believe he committed those acts, yet support him because his vote in needed in the Senate for other conservative issues is an over the top analogy is debatable. But it does illustrate a common  human dilemma. In most of the accused of sexual predatory behavior  involved of age women or  who were compromised by slipping them a mickey (Bill Cosby). Where the Moore issue is even more extreme and differs from the behavior of Donald Trump and Al Franken is that Moore is an accused pedophile who preyed on children.  But, as Kellyanne Ann Conway, often spokesperson for Donald Trump, said on cable news, the decision is up to the people of Alabama, but his vote is needed to pass tax reform. The Alabama  chair of the GOP gave the same kind of rationalization in the party’s continued support of Moore.  Faust’s bargain lives on.




Saturday, November 18, 2017

Talking turkey about religious freedom

A version of this was published in the Sky Hi News Nov. 22, 2017 https://www.skyhinews.com/news/muftic-talking-turkey-about-religious-freedom/

Update: Dec. 5, 6, 16 2017: Supreme Court to hear the Masterpiece Cakeshop case:



Hopefully not forgotten  when we feast Thanksgiving   is the reason the Pilgrims risked  the dangerous passage  across the ocean . It was to find a place to practice their religion free of persecution by the English crown.  It took another 160 years before the concept of religious freedom changed from  just for protecting  the practice of the majority group’s  religion to  Constitutionally enshrined   tolerance  of all to practice their religion free  from  government  restrictions and persecution, prohibiting  the establishment of a state religion that meant the separation of church and state.  Those. provisions were incorporated in the First Amendment :“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religions, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof….”

To reach an agreement  from the desire of colonialists to protect only their  own colony’s majorities’ religious practices to protecting everyone else’s took time and  bitter experiences. The Puritans of the Massachusetts Bay Colony hung Quakers for not going along with their concept of purification.  Roger Williams left the Colony to found Rhode Island  as a result. Nearly every colony had established their state approved religion before 1776 and some, like Maryland, found themselves entangled in anti-Catholic  turmoil.

Interpretation of  the meaning of the First Amendment is constantly under pressure for revision  by conservative  religious  groups who want to expand its meaning to suit their own brand of theology, sometimes  to the detriment of others who hold  different beliefs and values. A changing  ideological makeup of the Courts will help  the religious right find success  for years to come

 In our divisive partisan times  there is a concerted  fast track effort  by  the  GOP majority Senate  to approve  young appointees  to lifetime  federal bench  positions who demonstrate  allegiance to a   very conservative  religious based  ideology with less regard of  their professional credentials  and  judicial temperament. In the last Obama administration years, the GOP Senate dragged its heels in approving Obama's nominations, leaving 159 seats (1/8 of the total) vacant for a GOP Senate to fill in 2017-2018. Last week  a GOP dominated  Senate committee gave approval  for a federal judgeship to  blogger Brett Talley,  a  highly partisan Trump administration family member  with no court trial experience and who was  declared unfit to serve  by the  American Bar Association.  With the appointment of  Judge Neil Gorsuch to the US Supreme Court  this year  even past decisions could be in jeopardy  of revision given the tilt of the Court to the right, including the reversal of Roe v Wade and the right to same sex marriage. It is likely to happen..

Could tax payer funded vouchers be issued for students to attend religious based schools?  In Douglas County, Colorado,  an election of a school board that  advocated such  vouchers triggered  suits claiming violation of the separation of church and state,  resulting in stalled  court decisions, and a  successful counter revolution against  the voucher advocates in recent school board elections  this  November 7. Outside groups supporting vouchers  plan to continue the  legal fight.  Courts have ruled against state legislation banning Sharia law on Constitutional grounds .Federal courts overturned President Trump’s “Muslim ban” twice  as  religious discrimination.  However, with a  third revision, the ban was given  partial life by the Supreme Court  on procedural matters, but other challenges on substance remain. A Trump executive order in October permitted employers to stop insurance coverage of birth control on religious grounds. A court case to permit businesses  to refuse service  to gays  because of religious beliefs, Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission ,will be heard and decided by the US Supreme Court in 2018.  

Even the  the candidacy of Judge Roy Moore in Alabama reminds us of his advocacy of the public  government display of the Ten Commandments to discrimination against gays were also struck down by courts on First Amendment grounds.

While Pilgrims and Puritans came to America to practice their own brand of Christianity free of the King of England’s persecution, tolerance of others was not their purpose. It was the son of the Age of Reason, Thomas Jefferson, who wrote the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom in 1779 and his concepts were incorporated in the First Amendment by those who argued for separation of church and state. disestablishment of state churches and protection of religious freedom.

For those who argue our country was founded on Christianity, that this is a Christian nation,  it  may have been  so at the beginning, but it was not  ultimately reflected in our Constitution.  It was the Age of Reason that was the non-religious, non sectarian view which prevailed in the First Amendment.  The new nation  reflected  Judeo-Christian values, if not a specific theology,  of the dominant  western European culture of the time.   Our founders did acknowledge that we had rights endowed to us, the people, by the Creator. Still fought by atheists is whether we are indeed “one nation under God” and much has been made that Masonic symbolism permeates our national symbols and architecture.  The model used as a form of government  by our founders mostly  was Roman. The philosophers drawn upon  in the enlightenment and age of reason  by Jefferson were Greek and their 18th century interpreters. A motivating pragmatic reason may have been the history of bloody wars and divisiveness of the Catholic-Protestant conflict that swept  England and Europe for centuries  after the Reformation, as well as the unfairness of Kings who claimed they had the divine right to govern absolutely.  By banning a state religion and providing for the separation of church and state, those bloody religious based civil wars were made less likely.

Dec. 4 2017 update.
In the recent version of the tax bill that passed out of the Senate and is on the way to conference committee, Orin Hatch sneaked in an amendment that permits tax deductions for the cost of going to a private school...any...including religious. However, for expenses parents may have to attend public school, there is no tax break. Expect this to be challenged in court.





Also, see the 9/19/17  blog posting on this site: Islamphobia Comes to Grand County.