Friday, February 25, 2011

Mandates and recent lower court rulings

Below is a posting I did on the Muftic Forum Facebook profile Dec. 13, 2010. In addition to the comments in the posting are some more thoughts.  Besides expanding the size of the pool, the other advantage of requiring all to carry health insurance is that everyone is paying something they can afford into the system...which helps pay for health care reform. Before healthcare reform, 30 million paid nothing in premiums; with Obamacare, all but the very poor of them will pay something if not all toward their premiums. Only the very poor get off with not paying something toward their insurance; everyone else pays in with premiums based upon their ability to pay taking in consideration family size and income level.  For those not able to afford health insurance, if they buy insurance in the exchange, they will be discounted (subsidized) to the level they can afford. Everyone else who does not get any subsidy will still benefit from the stiff competition of the private insurers who compete within the exchange for their business..  That gives consumers a competitive market from which to choose. 
"About the recent Federal judge ruling on insurance mandates: While the judge ruled one way, two other federal judges have ruled another way, 18 more cases are still in various courts.  This pretty well makes sure that the issue will go before the Supreme Court.
I will not second guess the legal arguments, but I will comment on the fall out if the mandates are thrown out:
Above all, freeloaders will run up the cost making it nearly impossible to insure those with pre-existing conditions and the entire cost of the health care system will be impacted.
 The reason is that healthy and well as unhealthy must be included in a big pool to make the odds work and spread the risk around.  Freeloaders who choose not to participate will get sick, go to the ER, and, as we know, use of the ER now is extremely expensive medicine. Patients who go there are usually already very sick, prevention is not included in ER treatment, and abusing the ER as primary care doctor is expensive in itself. This is one reason health care costs twice as much per capita as it does in other industrialized nations.
The other cost is in covering those with pre-existing conditions. It will not happen without a large infusions of tax payer money or some other method of funding. One way to do it would be to establish high risk pools and subsidize them, segregating those expensive to insure from the others.  Republicans have proposed covering their cost by reforming mal practice or increasing cross state competition, which I any case, but whether it could raise enough money and how it would do it is a very big question that has not been resolved or have projections been made by the Congressional advisers (Congressional Budget Office)  or independent sources, that I know of.
Otherwise, the state by state exchanges, the other provisions to ensure the uninsured who did not have pre-existing conditions, extending coverage to those up to 26 years old, and the consumer protections which are not conditioned upon pre-existing conditions would continue.  The state exchanges would exclude those with pre-existing conditions and bump them into some kind of high risk pool covered by tax dollars.However, others may enjoy the lower prices provided by the pools which give the private sector a level field to provide choices that meet certain standards in an above board competitive system.   Those not insured by their employers who are able to qualify for insurance may still find policies that are affordable in the exchanges.
 What I find angering is the glee many express at the possibility of the freeloading ruling succeeding.  It appears to me that they want health care costs to rise and those with pre-existing conditions to cost us more than Obamacare. They will not kill health care reform; just cut out the savings and make it more costly than it needs to be.
The only ones winning if the Supreme Court rules against the mandates are those who intend to freeload the system.  The rest of us will have gotten screwed."

How we care about our children and grandchildren

Current GOP mantra: do not pass national debt to our children and grandchildren . We care so much we slash their ability  now to get a good education, a Pell grant, attract good teachers? Something is wrong with this picture. No matter which side we take in the budget/deficit debate, the next generations are getting the screw. If we older generation really cared, we would stop fighting "Obamacare's"  ending of subsidies to private insurers to administer Medicare and agree to raising the retirement age to 70.  There is nothing more precious to our children's future, or for that matter, to their country's ability to be able to compete with the rest of the world, than a great education. The other choice is to admit that we older folks are more concerned about putting our ideology into practice, subsiding agriculture and oil interests, do not want to pay taxes for the benefits we demand,...and support government defense contracts for weapons systems even the Pentagon does not want, etc. No: those are sacred cows. Touch them and some politician will get stomped in the ground. Instead, since the young cannot vote, we balance the budgets on their backs while hypocritically rationalize our preferences for whatever we do in the name of the interests of the younger generation.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Round two of the Great Health Care Debate...or whatever happened to the "repeal"part?

Round two of the great debate on health care reform has begun. The Obama administration won the first round. Their proposal is now law.

The second began last Friday in Congress as Republicans voted to defund it as part of the budget approval process. Since Democrats still control the Senate and the White House, this round is likely to be a draw.

GOP strategy for the third round, to use it as a campaign issue in 2012, is irresponsible, mostly ideologically based, and sometimes contradicts other conservative principles.

In January, the Senate voted down Republican efforts to repeal “Obamacare.” The GOP strategy appears to have shifted. The “replacement” element of last year's slogan of “repeal; replace” rarely crosses a Republicans' lips. Republicans have buried replacement proposals in the locker room of four House committees with no deadline to report out.

Instead, House leadership is doubling down on their “kill Obamacare” slogan, using this battle cry to elect more in 2012 who can deliver the knock out punch.

Last session, Republicans made some informal proposals to replace “Obamacare.” Those proposals have been evaluated by the nonpartisan, independent Congressional Budget Office as falling short of what “Obamacare” would achieve, including contributing to debt reduction two times more than anything proposed by the GOP so far or, adding 12 years to the solvency of Medicare, or funding consumer protection provisions. While previous Republican assertions have been health care costs can be lowered using other methods, the CBO figured GOP plans would make health care costs affordable to no more than the 3 million of the 30 million of those who cannot afford it now. Big deal.

Republicans voted Friday to defund “Obamacare” without presenting a comparable replacement plan. That is fiscally irresponsible. Without an effective plan to cut health care costs, families will soon pay half of their income for insurance and our national debt will be blown out of the water.

Instead, to avoid embarrassing cold arithmetic should the replacement proposals see daylight again, the GOP is making a pre-emptive punch below the belt. They are attempting to kill the messenger, the independent, nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

Republicans dismissed in advance of hearings as garbage in/garbage out any CBO projections that did not support their talking points while accepting other CBO estimates.

What about amending the law to make it more palatable? That was nowhere on the house agenda last week. According to Politico, Teaparty founder Dick Armey urged Congressional Teapartiers to reject any such attempts. He feared if the bill is made more popular, opponents would have more difficulty killing it.

The GOP is continuing to play to fears about government takeover and control, centering the debate on provisions mandating that all must have health insurance coverage if they do not have insurance through employers or other means.

What terrible insurance are the uninsured being mandated to buy? Insurance similar to the one Congressional members tap: It is a large pool group plan, but comprised of competing private, non governmental insurers and administered by the government. Such a plan seems OK for Congress members, but not for anyone else.

The constitutionality of the mandate issue will be decided by the Supreme Court. Killing mandates is popular to many, but also a provision popular with many is requiring insurers to cover pre-existing conditions. The mandate provisions makes coverage of pre-existing conditions fiscally practical.

To keep costs low require that the healthy are included in the pool and risks are spread around. The GOP bases their opposition on an ideology that opposes government requiring anyone to buy something.

Mandates also protect us from freeloaders who demand medical care without paying for insurance. They would stick the rest of us with their unpaid bills. Charity and expensive ER care costs get passed onto insurance subscribers. Since when has freeloading been a conservative value?

But no one ever claimed ideology must be practical or free of contradictions.

For more commentary, go to; to comment, go to www.skyhidailynews. com
Thia is the column that appeared in the print edition of the Sky Hi Daily News, Feb. 23, 2011

Friday, February 18, 2011

Wisconsin may help Obama in 2012

One of Pres. Obama's weakest links in 2008 was the lack of enthusiasm among the  rank and file of union members  in the crucial , battleground rustbelt states of  Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana, where unions are still powerful.  The governor of Wisconsin's combining debt reduction with union busting may have just given union members extra motivation to turn out in force with enthusiasm to elect Democrats in 2012, helping the president win those crucial states.  While it has never been a secret that Republicans are not union friends, and that sometimes other issues such as ethnic/racial background , 2nd amendment rights,or national security take priority over union interests , in the minds of ordinary blue collar workers, the right of unions to bargain collectively is also sacred.  It was that right the Wisconsin governor threatened and it will serve as a strong reminder to union members elsewhere to turn out in force on behalf of Democrats in 2012.  Organizing for America, the Obama campaign organization must have seen this as an opportunity too when they rallied their forces to join the demonstrators in Wisconsin.
Republicans will be wondering for some time to come whether it was absolutely necessary to join the two issues of wage and benefit cuts and union busting together or if there was another way to negotiate and get through the Wisconsin state legislature cuts in state spending.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Kudos to Winter Park and Grand Lake town councils

Bravo to the town councils  for stepping up with cash to keep Fraser Elementary and Grand Lake Elementary schools open for the short term.  It says loads about the priorities of the residents in Grand County, Colorado.  Long term solutions may well involve raising sales taxes and I favor it.  May this be a lesson to all of us: when the federal government steps back from supporting education or providing stimulus money to keep teachers hired, and the State has no money either, someone has to pay for education for our children. There is no free lunch. 

While there are many who rail against Federal control, big government and big spending and tout state balanced budgets, what really happens is that taxpayers still have to pay for services they treasure and the burden is shifted from federal taxes and state taxes to the local level....higher taxes nonetheless.  Local control also means taking the responsibility for local funding...whether in higher sales taxes or property taxes.  Tax payers still pay the bills, no matter what.

What we also must realize is that the ability to get grants to go to college, build and maintain highways, regulate interstate commerce, provide accessible health care, provide for our national defense, and many other functions cannot be provided by local governments, no matter how high they raise local taxes. Cost cutters need to ask themselves to whom are they shifting the burden of financing. Are they shoving it from higher levels of government down to lower ones just to be able to claim they have balanced a budget or reduced a deficit?

For more information, go to  February 11 and  February 16, 2011 editions,
available on the e edition if it is still not posted on the on line edition.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Breathing easier in Egypt

The column for this week is now posted on the mufticforum website. It has a special meaning for me because it describes our family's encounters with dictatorships and explains why I feel I am one with the revolutionaries in Egypt.  It also gives my reasons why I believe that Egypt will not slide into a military dictatorship or be ruled by radical Islamists.

The column which appeared in the Sky Hi Daily News 2 15 2010:
It is Feb. 11, 2011: I was shedding a joyful tear when I heard the news that Hosni Mubarak had resigned and I felt as one with those in Tahrir Square.

Why? After all, the U.S.' national interest in the region may be affected, and not favorably. Instability is always dangerous and an unknown. I should be fearful. Instead, I cheered the revolutionaries' success and I have good reason not to fear the results.

I am no stranger to authoritarian regimes. I was a student in West Berlin from1958-1959 in the middle of the Cold War and I was able to visit East Berlin. The time was a tense one, just before the Wall was erected.

I met my Mike, my husband-to be, a medical student who was from Yugoslavia, in Berlin. The experience of being subjected to an iron-fisted government ruled by Tito was still part of his aura of fear and he was visited by the secret police, which resulted in his fleeing to Switzerland.

Nine years later, when the Yugoslavian communist regime declared amnesty for refugees, we with our family of young children made a visit to Dr. Mike's homeland, the first of many. At one airport he was pulled from the plane to identify his luggage. It was much to do about nothing, but he had nightmares about it for months. Fear of unfair persecution with no legal rights can be terrifying.

We in America don't know what it is like to have to guard every word we say or fear that some deviation from political correctness overheard by an informant might result in a midnight knock at the door. We have never had to retreat into a shell where the only outlet for safe personal expression is to cheer a sports team. As Dr. Mike said, it is enough to make you paranoid. It is a suffocating blanket that throws your subconscious into a low grade depression spiked by adrenaline rushes of fear.

Once before I had rejoiced when an authoritarian regime was toppled. I pulled my car to the shoulder of a Denver freeway to cry when I heard on the radio that the Wall had been pulled down. Like the East Germans, the heavy burden of fear had been lifted from young Egyptian shoulders and they now see the possibility of a bright future ahead.

The chances are very good that Egypt will not evolve into a permanent military dictatorship or an Islamist state.

The nature of the revolutionaries themselves would not tolerate a backslide to any kind of authoritarian regime, military or radical Islamist. Their numbers were their strength, and people from all walks of life participated. Their universally shared goal was secular democracy of the kind we in America enjoy, free from oppression and an end to corruption that was robbing economic development and limited their ability to find jobs. They were not demonstrating to form an Islamist state, nor did the Islamic Brotherhood play a pivotal role, since their agenda was not a secular democracy.

Demographics are a factor in any future elections. Young people, prime movers of the revolution, outnumber the older generations and the same demographics are reflected in Egypt's conscript military, a military that the generals cannot trust to fire on their own.

With the military in control during the transition period of six months, those same young people will have time to form a large enough voting block to offset proponents of radical Islam or continued military dictatorship. They have already demonstrated they have the self discipline and the and grasp of modern technology to organize peaceful civil disobedience quickly. If they could do that, they certainly have the ability to organize politically.

Revolutions will never be the same: Twitter, Facebook, and texting combined with the protest techniques of Gandhi and Martin Luther King are tools more powerful than any sword.

— For more commentary, visit; to comment, go to

Budget fight. Why bi partisanship?

Budget debate: Bi partisanship, anyone? Any candidate  who advocates cutting entitlements  is facing a loss in 2012 unless unless both parties take the fall together. Neither party right now  wants to take leadership  and for one party to point the finger at the other  for failing to lead is nothing more than the pot calling the kettle black. Tinkering with social security and Medicare, if polls are to be believed, is very unpopular. Both the President and Republicans know it. Both are falling all over themselves to force the other to tackle the thousand pound gorilla in the federal deficit room and nothing will be done until 2012...unless both parties take the responsibility simultaneously and give  bi-partisan cover to anyone who includes it in their campaign platform, so long as their opponents do likewise.   In truth, Social Security is not yet critical, being sound until 2037, but we must begin soon, 2013 is good enough, to head off the jolt in 2037. Medicare is a very sensitive  bone of contention, and the most pressing.  "Obamacare" prolonged its life 12 years, and Republicans want to defund that, without offering a replacement proposal. that is popular. Neither raising the eligibility
to 70 years old nor privatization putting the  retirement safety net in  risky financial markets. . are popular, either.  To overcome the  political hump, both parties will have to wait until after 2012 and come up with a plan for which both can take responsibility together  and be on the same page.

The other gorillas  in the room is the defense budget. Cuts proposed by the Obama administration is only a beginning. The very real problem is that to make real cuts, we must get out of  both Afghanistan and Iraq and cut unnecessary weapons systems that even the Pentagon does not want.
However, as Dwight Eisenhower so famously said: beware the military-industrial complex.  So many of those weapons systems and defense facilities are pork barrel plums  for  Congressional and Senate members. Another truism: all politics are local. There in lies the difficulty.   The peace dividend resulting from dis-entanglement from Afghanistan is a long way off, it appears.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Secular democracy: It should be a goal for us, too

We have cheered  revolutionaries in Egypt  who risked their lives for a secular democracy.  Come to think about it, that is what our country's founders wanted as well and they protected that goal in the amendment guaranteeing the separation of church and state. However, there are those in our nation and in Congress who want to impose their particular religious belief on the rest of us, as if we should be subjected to a particular interpretation of the Bible only their faction of one religion holds. They want us to accept the fact that abortion should be illegal in any and all instances, that life begins at a certain point they specify, and that science has it wrong: the Earth was created in 7 days or seven thousand years ago.  There are also those who like to proclaim that the "US is a Christian nation".

 Full disclosure: I am a Christian, too.However, this nation has  not established any official religion and it is clear that our founders were opposed, to doing that  as well, in writing the amendments.  We are a nation that is made up  of  individuals who believe in a wide variety of religions, or no religions, or not even  any God or gods at all. We are a nation that respects all of religious practitioners, including Muslims, which certain quarters have set upon a road of hatred based condemnation and fear, lately: loudly proclaiming their right to practice religions while indicting them as un American or beating the drums of fear that we now have a choice between Christianity and Sharia law,that Obama is a Muslim with loyalties to some Muslim Brotherhood as a way to explain him to their fellow travelers. It is as  if we were revisiting the era of McCarthy where we feared Communism was going to take us over and anyone to the left of our PC beliefs was a red commie to be hunted down and destroyed.   Oh My God...who looks down at this in wonder as both Christians and Muslims worship Him. We should set as our goal too:  preservation of a secular democracy.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Why I was so emotional when I heard Mubarak stepped down

February 11, 2011: I shed a joyful tear when I heard the news  that Mubarak had resigned and I felt as one with those in Tahrir Square.  Why? I had never been to Egypt and I knew no one from there. I had visited Tunisia, two years ago, where I made a quick and superficial observation that there were many young professional looking people walking  around  but they were  looking depressed. The economy appeared anemic with no new construction  and public spaces were not well kept. I have been in countries like that which were ruled by oppressive, authoritarian governments.
There is a certain feel to them. I am not surprised Tunisia  had  a pro democracy revolt.

I was happy for Tunisia and these young people showed the way to others  how a peaceful demonstration organized quickly using new technology could succeed.  But the size, scope and the role Egypt plays in the Arab world had a special significance that got my emotional attention . Why should I feel such  special joy for the Egyptians' success?

After all, the US's  national interest in the region may be affected, and not favorably.  Instability is always dangerous and an unknown.  I should be nervous and worried. I was not.

I have had a hands on familiarity with authoritarian regimes. I was a student in West Berlin  in 1958=1959 in the middle of the  Cold War and I was able to visit East Berlin. The time was a tense one, just before the Wall was erected. I lived in a dormitory with many from the East, as well.

I met my husband to be   in Berlin, Mike Muftic, a medical student who was from Yugoslavia. The experience of being subjected to an iron fisted government ruled by Tito was still part of  his aura of fear and he was visited by the secret police, which resulted in his fleeing to Switzerland. Nine years later, when the Yugoslavian communist regime declared amnesty for refugees, we with our family of young children made a visit to Dr. Mike's homeland, the first of many.. I remember his nervousness and at one airport he was pulled from the plane to identify his luggage. It was much to do about nothing, but he had nightmares about it for months later. Fear of unfair persecution with no legal rights can be terrifying.

I do not think that we in America know what it is like to have to guard every word we say, fear that some deviation from political correctness might result in a midnight knock at the door. We have never had    to keep a low profile and simply retreat into a shell where the only outlet for safe personal expression is to cheer a sports team. You know informants are everywhere. As Dr. Mike said, it is enough to make you paranoid. I do not think we know what it is like to only have access to government approved media and to only learn about what exists beyond our borders by looking at Hollywood movies approved by a censor. No western newspapers or magazines were available for years in Yugoslavia. To leave the country legally  you had to leave your spouse behind as a security deposit on your return.  It is a suffocating blanket that throws your subconscious into a low grade depression spiked by adrenalin rushes of fear.

Sitting in a glass case in our living room is a chip of the Berlin Wall.  I pulled my car to the shoulder of a Denver freeway to cry when I heard on the radio that the Wall had been pulled down.  I had that same feeling when I watched the revolutionaries in Tahrir Square today.  A burden of fear had been lifted from their shoulders and they now saw the possibility of a bright future ahead of them. I knew how they felt.

Here is why I think Egypt will continue to move to a form of  secular democracy and civilian control instead of either a permanent military dictatorship or an Islamic state.

The movement in Egypt was huge and people from all walks of life participated.; their universally shared  goal was secular democracy of the kind we  in America enjoy , free from oppression and an end to corruption that was robbing economic development and limited their ability to find jobs. They were not demonstrating to form an Islamist state .I do not expect that they will allow one tyranny to be replaced by another tyranny and they will take to the streets again if they see that either the military does not turn loose of power after a reasonable time or if religious fanatics try to establish their brand of governance.

I do not believe the women of Egypt interviewed in the square and, who at least have known Western style equality  for many years even in a time of  dictatorship,  would stand for some radical Islamist style of takeover. They will have a vote and a voice and I do not see their permitting their genie of freedom to be put back into a bottle.

The voice and vote favor the pro democracy movement because of the demographics.  There is a large bulge in the numbers of educated young people who made up the pro democracy revolt. They outnumber the older generations.

The US still supplies a significant amount of aid to Egypt, a parity with Israel required by treaty. This still gives the US leverage to encourage  the military to move the country to democracy.

The consensus of Egyptian experts commenting on TV today was reassuring: The military will not be a threat to the populace  because it is a conscripted military requiring universal service by all and it is a cross section of the nation.  The lower ranks and the foot soldiers could not be trusted to fire on their own and the military had announced they would not fire on the demonstrators days earlier.  In fact, CNN today acknowledged Pentagon intelligence that the Egyptian  military leaders feared that if the lower ranks had been ordered to fire on the revolutionaries, most would have shed their uniforms and joined those in Tahrir Square.

While the US supports the concept of human rights, the military may still be able to keep its anti terrorist vigilance  alive until democracy takes hold, much like the military that still hovers in the background in Turkey.

The Muslim Brotherhood did not appear  to have played a leadership role in the revolution and in fact became a participant late in the game.  No one interviewed in or outside of Egypt gave them more  support than 30% of potential voters.  They may be the only organization currently viable, but their viewpoints are not those of either the revolutionaries or of the young people of the country whose people power is calling the shots

.With the military in control during the transition period, those same young people will be twittering and facebooking and have time to form a voting block that will support their goals when the time comes to exercise their voting rights.They appear  too smart, too clever, too well educated and sophisticated  to fall for some sham democracy or for another dictatorship, whether imposed by the military or by some radical Islamic group.

Do these neophytes to the democratic process have the ability to organize themselves politically to become an effective force that can offset the Islamists and wanna be dictators? My optimism is based on the self discipline and the self organization of the pro democracy revolutionaries demonstrated by  their use of the techniques of peaceful civil disobedience that kept them from being baited into a situation where government violence could have been rationalized. Gandhi and Martin Luther King would have approved and cheered them on.

 The pro democracy revolutionary's ability to use Facebook and Twitter and cell phone texting and  their  access to international satellite TV gave them a perspective and tools for organization unmatched by traditional political movements.  In the past, cells and underground means of communication were subject to brutal police raids. Organized protests could be anticipated by secret police and nipped in the bud with brutality. But by the time an oppressive Mubarak government could take down the internet, the cat was already out of the bag. Even then, as the Google organizer of the  Egyptian protests noted to CNN, satellite TV provided alternative information. Egypt's economy  depended upon the Internet as well. Their economic system was brought to a halt since banking depended upon it and they had to switch access back on.  There are also means others outside the country can use to get around a shut off internet.

The Egyptian people shook off fear and became masters of their destiny in two weeks. That is a spirit  and the knowledge of how to organize they can draw upon again  if the need arises.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Column this week: Turkey could show the way for democracy in Egypt

Column is posted on and

Egyptian military is the key and the US must influence them

Whether or not Egypt will ever be democratic depends upon whether the military remains neutral and how the Mubarak security apparatus treats the dissidents.  Watching Anderson Cooper on CNN last night brought home those two points, as he reported on the brutalizing of the demonstrators by the secret police and the unstated threat of force by the military.  Both point to the Mubarak regime acting like the brutal military dictatorship it has always been and using the same tactics to cow and control their population. Their promise to the West to transition to democracy and reform is no better than a double cross. We are off to a very bad start.
So far, the demonstrators have not called for dismantling of military power but if the Egyptian military overtly supports Mubarak as he cracks down or tries to disperse the demonstrators, the military  may find themselves the object of the revolution and inflame the revolution even more. The military’s best way to protect their perks and power and be the force behind any democratic governance, a la Turkey, is at least to stay neutral during the process or even give tacit support to the revolution. No doubt the military is gambling that they have the tanks and guns to do what they wish in spite of the price they may pay in support from the West or  causing an all out blood bath in the country and an uncertain outcome.
Those in the square know their lives are endangered if they cease their actions…the police have their photos and their names…and unless the US pressures the Egyptian military to stop the brutalizing of them by the secret police and intelligence services, then the future will not be democracy but bloodshed and violence. The country then could be open to militants from other Arab nations to take advantage of the outrage and anger and support dissenters with weapons and leadership. That would be a disaster for the US interests in the region and the future of democracy in Egypt since those foreign influences are there to promote their own terrorist and Islamist agendas.
 Let us hope that the 1.3 billion dollars the US gives the military can influence the Egyptian’s military’s actions and that sooner than later, the military engineers Mubarak and his police to step down, whether by coup or by other means.
 I do not buy the US claim that we have no ability to control the outcome. We do; that is one advantage of our foreign aid money. While we may keep hands off the process that determineswho wins or leads a democracy once the democratic process is established, we can and should  keep our hands into foray to insure that the democracy happen.  The best  and highest use of that is to pressure the military to remain neutral or to side with the revolution. Let us hope that is what the Obama administration is doing behind the scenes.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Tanya Streicher's profound, moving commentary on the Egyptian revolt

Tanya Streicher is a member of this blog and posted this on The Muftic Forum Facebook Group
Egypt is inspiring me to revisit our US History. Too many colonists and British stood on both sides and lost their lives, along with members of our original Nations... We need to celebrate our country's Democratic Republic and understand the price of revolution- not package it as a political or media outlet's slogan. Lives are lost at time of political revolution -courage, sacrifice, honor, integrity are the fuel fanning the fires of change. Revolution is a HUMAN issue of crisis- not a time to armchair quarterback! Egyptians dying in the streets (on both sides) are parents, children, siblings, cousins, spouses, friends, and neighbors..... PEACE - what is the price?

As an avid student of history, I am amazed at the trivializing of our country's history. The lack of thoughtfulness and true understanding of our nation's struggle to achieve a Republic (we are not a true Democracy by definition) is horrifying to me. What do we instill in our children when we do not accurately speak of the Declaration of Independence, the US Constitution or the Boston Tea Party? Do we demean those who lost their lives in the revolution as we change the reason they fought to satisfy our current political needs? Yes, we do.

There are politicians rewriting history to match their polling numbers. We should be alarmed. Capitalizing on phrases established by those courageous patriots like "Don't Tread on Me" demean the significance of those phrases. At the time of the American Revolution, citizens of the colonies had no representation in England. Since 1789, we have had free elections which allow eligible voters to fairly elect representation in the Congress. We are not at all in the same situation today as those patriots who threw tea into the Boston Harbor. It is an insult to our nation's history to throw out those phrases – people died fighting for or against those principles demanding representation in the government: They did not fight to avoid paying future taxes.

We have a viable republic in the US. We are obligated to pay taxes as a citizen of this great nation. We have elected representation by the people. We have the right to vote. Henceforth, I am calling for the ceasing of capitalizing on historical phrases just to keep a book deal alive or a media appearance catapulting in the ratings. It is historical blasphemy and a gross underrepresentation of the great patriots of our nation. The battle cries of the Palin's and Bachmann's of this country have be-smudged those cries shouted by Adams, Henry, Jefferson, and Franklin. The misrepresentation of our American Revolution, espoused by these visible and shrill women, has unfairly re-written history.

As I watch the events of Egypt unfold, I wonder how in years forward, some Egyptian will try and rewrite the events of Tahrir Square for his or her political gain? Will they use the senseless and countless deaths to make sure their book deal is more lucrative? Will they manipulate the situation to grow fear in their constituents so they can gain power in the government?

I sit hopeful and grateful that brave members of the press - risking their lives for the world and in the name of truth- are capturing the events on video. I would pay anything to have video of the American Revolution events in order to show those followers of these false prophets in Alaska and Minnesota that they are defacing our history. A picture is worth a thousand words - a picture is worth PEACE. Dear Egyptians, do not give up! We stand with you and know that your lives are worth the fight. Today I am a sister of Egypt and a daughter of history"

Friday, February 4, 2011

Some very personal observations about the Egyptian revolt

I do read history and I am old enough to have experienced some of it. .I do not think the Muslim Brotherhood will take over anytime soon in Egypt...but I am currently immersed in one possible model ...the history of modern Turkey written by the New York Times correspondent Stephen Kinzer, "  Crescent and  Star." Dr Mike Muftic, my husband of 50 years, is from a part of the world shaped by Turkish influence   so I think I have more than a passing feel for the area.  I have never been in Egypt but I was in Tunisia briefly 2 years ago..  These three  countries strike me as more secular than Islamic.  I have also written extensively on moderates in the Muslim world. (See the blog of Feb 4) .

Tunisia superficially appeared to me to be western leaning in dress and attitude and economically underdeveloped.  I am not surprised it was the country that kicked over the hornets nest and the spirit that has escaped is stinging the entire Arab world.

The only fear I have is that the longer this Egyptian revolt drags out and chaos reigns, the result will not be a restoration of Mubarakism but it could happen eventually that the only political organization with any teeth or ability to which a fearful, security seeking populace turns to  is the Muslim Brotherhood. This has been a spontaneous revolt that was anti Mubarak's regime; it was not a revolt to replace it with any structured political party or leader so that there are not many leaders around which those who are revolting can embrace.

 It is true revolutions that result in anarchy and chaos have a way of being picked off and taken over by the biggest organization around, even if it is composed of a minority and does not have extensive popularity.  It certainly is what happened in Yugoslavia post WW II and in the Russian revolution...when Communists were the minority but they were the  only game in town able to seize control.  The Egyptian revolt is anti existing governmental system, similar to Russia's initial stage of revolution. A weak form of leadership and government  first tried to provide stabiliity, but it took the Communist Party to provide the final shape.

There is one major difference, though.Unlike Russia and Yugoslavia, there is a powerful force in Egypt to fill a vacuum...the military. Turkey is an interesting case to look for possible predictions of how this Egyptian revolt will proceed. Like Egypt, the Turkish army was the stabilizing controller of all that happened since Ataturk until recently. It now has a moderate, democratically elected  Islamist government. The army's influence is still strong, but waning, according to those I know who have recently done business there.
Istanbul is still secular, however. . I visited there in September 2010.  The Eastern part of Turkey, I hear, especially southeastern, is not, nor has it ever been secular.  

I have spent considerable time in Bosnia, visiting it nearly annually since the end of the Balkan wars and for the 30 years preceding them.  My first visit was in 1958. Muslims there were secular  Kemalist (Turkish) in culture and practice before Communism and they emerged secular after the fall of Communism until the Balkan wars of the first half of the 1990s.   Now there is more evidence of Islamist influence there. ..head scarves and covered women dot about 20% of the groups of women in the Turkish quarters, a sight not seen there for nearly a century.  Saudi Arabia has poured money into that country to restore mosques. Dr. Mike and I plan to spend some extended time there this summer and I am curious to see if any of the attitudes among the Muslims have  become less secular to a significant extent..

Shortly after the end of the Balkan wars in 1995 to early 2000, and  especially in early 2000, Bosnia served as an Al Qaeda gateway into Europe and NATO clamped down on it arresting many.  We should not be blind to the possibility of that happening in Egypt either.

What President Obama must do is to get in front of the Arab street parade for independence and economic development in order to make  long term gains there and to offset anti American sentiment. He cannot win hearts and minds by looking pro Mubarak. However, he is running smack dab into Israeli interests who fear the end of the peace pack between Egypt and Israel if some Islamist government or power group other than the military takes control of Egypt.  It is a wretched foreign policy dilemma he faces. So far Obama is walking a clever line of forcing the military regime to go along with the demands of the demonstrators yet still providing the billions of dollars of aid the military depends upon. Whether the result will be the retirement  of Mubarak sooner than later is unknown as I am writing this, but I do not see the control by the Egyptian military to be given up   easily in the near future if Turkey's experience is applicable.

 The risk will be in the election process whenever that occurs, and it is a risk those who believe in fair and free elections must take even if it brings Islamists into more powerful positions.
My emotional sympathies lie with those in Tahrir Square; the risk we take is that the majority of Egyptians will not  reject Islamist rule in spite of their traditional secular inclinations.

 What we in the US must not become is the object of hate Islamists can use to rise to power in a democratic Egypt. For that reason, we must also embrace the wide spread desire of Egyptians to gain the freedoms they crave and demand the military powers to  allow democracy to happen.

The control of the Suez Canal and the transit of oil of course are at stake...and we are not yet rid of our dependency on oil  that flows through the Canal.  This fear that the Suez could fall into unfriendly hands, might kick us into higher gear in support of developing alternative energy, but the last time the Suez was threatened. and the Arab oil embargo happened, it seemed to make no difference other than move us to downsize  to smaller cars...a change in a market demand  that lasted until SUVs became fashionable.

Partisan strategies for repealing replacing "Obamacare"

Now that the House and Senate members have their votes registered for or against repeal of “obamacare”, and campaign promises have been fulfilled,  not much will happen until the Supreme Court rules. In the meantime, both parties are strategizing with an eye toward the 2012 and both are gambling. Democrats have reason to have hope. The fat lady has not yet sung.
 Funny how Republican appointed judges have ruled against its constitutionality while Democratic appointed judges have voted in favor. Strategically speaking, if you want to have a case settled by a lower court judge and you have an issue that could have venue in many courts, you shop around and  take it to the court and its  judge you think will rule in your favor.  That is why we have the Supreme Court, to be the buck that stops shopping. One swing justice also in the Supreme Court could determine the outcome in an ideologically closely divided bench. Such will be the situation in the Court’s  decision on health care reform.
In the meantime, the Republican dominated House . has buried the debate in four committees. knowing that they could never put enough garbage in to the Congressional Budget Office to make the figures come out to  show that their substitute proposals would do what :”obamacare” does:  reduce health care costs, generate the financial conditions  to protect consumers with  pre-existing conditions or make health care affordable  to more than 27 million cut out of the system now or extend the life of Medicare.  Instead, Republicans  are banking on a  Supreme Court decision declaring mandates unconstitutional or, less likely, finding health insurance is not interstate commerce so the federal government has no jurisdiction.
In the meantime, Republicans have launched a campaign to discredit any prior Congressional Budget Office analyses that could be cited as proof…off handedly dismissing  it  as “garbage in, garbage out”.  We should demand from Republicans to show us what they call “garbage in”.  (Much about the requests to the CBO  can be found on the Muftic Forum website…  Read the Committee chairs request, and you will find not much in their requests conditioned upon certain mathematical input. I supposed Republicans want us to rely on conservative CATO institute type think tanks or those such as the Lewin Group which is closely tied to the health insurance industry.)
In January listening to Sunday morning network talk, I heard  Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo) hint that the trick to getting around a negative Supreme court decision was to find another way to get enough paying customers in the insurance pool to spread the risk around so that those with pre-existing conditions could get covered and all health care costs would be reduced.
 The mandate issue centers on that one point: can we force those who want to freeload to buy insurance or is there a way to provide incentives.  I suspect that in the Democrat’s hip pocket may be such a plan B, less satisfactory than a mandate, but effective enough to provide the needed participation in the insurance pool to make it economically feasible.  

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Politicians who tinker with medicare, social security could get burned

My column is posted today at and

If Egypt goes forward to democracy

As Egypt will find out,  Democracy has its risks and the outcome may surprise them, but perhaps they can take a page from what happened When Russia and Eastern Europe toppled their Communist rulers or Turkey evolved from Kemalism to a more open democracy and avoid some of the pitfalls.  Those emerging from Communist dictatorships mistook democracy as economic and political anarchy. The old guard scrambled to keep economic power and privilege by taking advantage of the plums of enterprise firesales and the oligarks  and  the habit of corruption of the past carried on into the new order.  It has taken a decade to get over  the cowboy capitalism and political corruption that followed.  Turkey could be a template of how democracy could function in a Muslim country. While Islamist governments have been elected and is less  secular than Attaturk would have wished, the country still marches on toward a more Western style democracy.
The most important  factor that will determine whether Egypt truly becomes democratic in the western liberal sense is how those winning power treat he losers in any political struggle or campaign for office in the future. .  If the winners  fall back to a habit of treating the losers  like disloyal citizens and do not protect the rights of  the dissenters, a dictatorship of the majority could be just as oppressive as the dictatorship of the military or a head of the country. This means that minority rights, free press, the right to assemble peacefully and to express dissenting views must be protected with vigor or else the type of democracy  Egypt and Tunisia practice could become  as corrupt and burdensome as the prior regime.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Are there other moderate movements in the Muslim world?

Our best hope is that the educated, young Egyptians are those who shape the future of democracy in Egypt. Under the radar a more moderate movements have been taking hold in other Muslim countries.
Aside from the  moderate democratic Muslim governments Turkey and Indonesia, there are. I identified some of these in a column I wrote in mid January 2009. An excerpt:
"Are there any street level movements   that could eventually replace the lure of the violent  jihadists to the disaffected youth?  It  varies from country to country, but there are some encouraging signs.
          The internet and cable TV and study abroad have brought a new kind of learning that is not based upon  traditional  fundamentalist Islamic schooling.  There is new brand of Muslim evangelists, preaching a more moderate, non politicized  approach to Islam, emphasizing the moral teachings of the Koran.  In Egypt and Saudi Arabia, these young evangelists have attained rock star status, drawing huge crowds to their events.
In Pakistan, the  Sufi movement is a 1200 year old Muslim sect that is peaceful, mystical, and ecumenical.  It supports governments and laws that are secular, not religious.   Their movement is picking up power.  In northern Pakistan, a Taliban gathering  to behead someone does not bring out a crowd; the Sufi can draw several hundred thousand to one of their joyous festivals.
 Turkey is a western  leaning Muslim nation .  In the Denver Post(travel section, January 4,2009), Rick Steves, the travel guru, wrote  that  “time in Muslim places like Turkey…reminds me how travel takes the fear out of foreign ways. …things I learn about Islam in the United States fill me with fear and anger. Things I learn about Islam in Muslim countries fill me with hope”.   
If Barack Obama’s “smart power” foreign policy takes the wind out of the violent Jihadists sails and allows more  peaceful movements to grow,  the world will be a less dangerous and threatening place. Let us pray he succeeds."