Sunday, July 31, 2016

Our nation is a secular one. There is no official religion with good reason

n which was carefully constructed in and protected by the Constitution.There were reason for it: our founder saw the witch hunts and persecution in the colonies which did try to establish by law an official religion, and who thought freedom meant to practice only their brand of belief, but it did not apply to others. Our founders also realized that having an official state religion had led to the persecution in England and Europe from which they had fled. Let us not forget that. The truth is as relevant today as it was then. There are many reasons American democracy is exceptional, but the first amendment is one of them. Having a state religion enforced by law and authorities is an excuse , a rationale , and a motivation to persecute or discriminate against opponents, political or relgious.

As we celebrated the independence of our country, let us also celebrate our founders of independence who later put into our constitution an amendment to protect the freedom to

Friday, July 29, 2016

President Obama's most important declaration of the meaning of democracy

President Barack Obama's magnificent speech to the Democratic National Convention made some profound points about his views of the Constitution and the meaning of democracy.  So often  in this country there have been those whose views contradict the intent of that document as constructed by our founding fathers.  The writers of that document had  seen and experienced such bad governance in Europe that they come to the new world to escape it. When they set about the writing of that document and argued and compromised to get agreement and approval of the various states, they righted some of the ills that plagued how men were governed in the old country. They did it by reflecting the will of their people and they established a representative democracy.

What is clear it was a "we the people shall".  What was so profound about that it was not an "I will", but a "we will".  The president's point:  it is not about the power of one man but the power of us all. A contrast was explicitly made as a slap against Donald Trump who represents himself as a strong man who will fix what ails you because he is a strong man.   He has made his race about him, but not about how he would do any of this. Perhaps the most disturbing line in Trump's convention speech was his promise to establish law and order on the day he is sworn in.  His unbalanced advocacy for the crack down against dissenters and demonstrators (no doubt meaning Black Lives Matter, or immigrants that he paints with a broad brush as rapists and murders and terrorists) is that we do not have law and order in this country. He does this  while exaggerating crime statistics and striking fear that "others", meaning those of different colors and religions, are threats. Fact checkers have had a field day providing reams of statistics to shoot holes into his fear mongering assertions. The "how" is troubling.  I kept wondering if he was going to send in "brown shirts" to do the job for him, it was so close to the promises made by a certain leader in Germany in the 1930's.  It is also frighteningly close to a plague that sickens so many countries in this world:  fear and poverty cause those to look to a strong man as their savior but do not look behind the face to understand how he will save them.  Once in power, the "cult of personality" becomes the reason such leaders stay in power...until their is a revolution, usually bloody.

The Constitution and the "we the people", the bases of this country's stability, are our best protection against such happening in the United States and President Obama eloquently reminded us of that in his speech.  The power is the hands of us...the people..not in the hands of one man and that power to determine our destiny is protected in the structure of the Constitution and its amendments.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

FactChecking Day 3 of the GOP Convention

FactChecking Day 3 of the GOP Convention

What is clear about this and other fact checking, is to scare the daylights of voters to support him, Trump and others have to distort and lie in order to make their points.  What is also clear is that few care whether what he says is true because what he says rings true with their own opinions, guesses, hunches,  prejudices, and fears. Trump's deceits only verifies them and gives them a voice.  He makes it politically correct for them to express what was before politically incorrect, whether it is racism or based on ignorance.

 It is this kind of populism that frightened our country's founders who sought to set up a government with checks, balances, protection of rights, that would prevent such strong men from ever dominating the new country. They had seen too much of that in their past lives, both in Europe and England from which most came, and in mistakes made by colonialists.    The problem is that Donald Trump has no concept of any of this.  What it would mean if he became president is sheer chaos as he tried to bull his way through the safeguards of the Constitution against a would be dictator.  What we can see happen are   fights  over supreme court appointees as he tried to stack the Court with those who agreed with him, gridlock beyond anything we have yet seen in Congress, and protests of size and intensity of what we have not seen yet.

More fact checking:

For even more, simply google Fact check Trump Republican convention  and choose your sources: My two: the independent Fact and the Associated Press.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Trump...fixing conflict with conflict?

Fixing conflict by creating conflict: Donald Trump's solution to what ails America

Review his speech to the Republican convention:  read it carefully and understand that he says that only he can fix it...That his platform is promoting fear and disunity. He and the convention have placed themselves solidly against Black Lives Matter...that he and they fail to recognize they African-Americans have any basis for complaints. A police power of law and order is his solution, and basis his reasoning on cherry picked statistics that are contradicted by so many other facts when one takes in the trends in the country as a whole.   There is absolutely no balance between the cops and the blacks. There in lies the scary part.  If this country seeks to have more racial conflict, and even more income inequality, Trump is the Man.

What is startling is missing his platform how he would help those left behind in our economy, the ones he says with whom he has empathy:  Their problems are economic; their blame falls on others; it is solely an import  and immigrant problem. . Ignored are changes in the manufacturing sector and an underlying problem of the changing needs in the workforce. Many in the rust belt of manufacturing  do not   have the education and the skills to compete in our modern world. (The most unemployed are those with only a high school education at two to one ratio)

.Yet, not mentioned is his speech are his proposals to fix the economic ails other than to bargain harder in trade negotiations on behalf  those engaged in manufacturing, ignoring those eleven million who work in the new economy of technoology and whose services to the rest of the world create  a positive balance of payments.  Here is what he has proposed in the past:  no minimum wage (starting salary in manufacturing now is $12 per hour, below a living wage); a flatter tax that would decrease the taxes on the very rich and place a greater burden on the middle and lower income classes.  That is just for starters.

So far as his foreign policy goes: he cuddles up to Russia and even North Korea: It is no wonder he is admired by Russia since he wants to disband NATO unless the participants pay more into it. His proposals suit Russia's foreign plicy, not America's.  (Pay more is not a bad thing, but threatening to disband it because he calls in obsolete, as he has done,  is another) He ignores land grab of everything Russia can grab that does not belong to NATO: Georga, Ukraine/Crimea. One wonders whether ending a mutual defense  treaty, which is what NATO is, would open many doors for Russia to reassemble its old Soviet boundaries from those whose defense we no longer support.  That is just for starters. When some of his proposals run contrary to international law, especially reinstating torture, his first answer: change international law. When he opposes the domestic check on his plans to ignore anti discrimination laws or the first amendment, both having to do with freedom of religion,especially regarding the "Muslim ban",  his answer is to stack the Supreme Court.

He skipped over the "how's" of how he would fix the problems he identified, but instead peppered his oratory with simple:  ""we will"; "I will"..and not much more.
His basic solution to problems: trust me; I know how to do it because I have done it in business.  It is me who will save you.    In reality, his solution if more racial conflict and an economic policy that would make income disparity worse.

I have seen too much of the strong man approach in Europe.  The cult of personality plagued many during the Comminist era in Eastern Europe.  I have seen the same appeal used by a Serbian strong man to rise to power by reminding unemployed coal miners of their economic problems and appealing to a Greater Serbia as it cleansed minority e thnics.  So have

most Europeans who are in shock of a prospective Trump presidency. As one European observer told me: if Trump is elected, all Europe will boycott America and she followed up with the question: How could America ever support such person as Trump. My answer: the same currents that led to the Brexit vote: anti immigrants and a search for simple answers to economic woes: just leave the EU. Britain awoke after their vote  to a mammoth economic hangover .  Theirs was a vote of the "heart", but unlike them, we need to vote with our heads.

Muftic: Obamacare revisited: heads up for good, bad, and ugly proposals |

Muftic: Obamacare revisited: heads up for good, bad, and ugly proposals | Just as certain as hot temperatures in summer, repeal and perhaps replace Obamacare is a topic of party platforms and soaring oratory at the party conventions. What is certain

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Bernie's diehard supporters need to take a deep breath

Bernie Sanders' supporters fall into a couple of categories: they will reluctantly support Hillary Clinton, since he endorsed her and so many of his issues were incorporated into the Demicratic platform. A minority say they will vote for Donald Trump.  And a few say they will "vote FOR someone instead of against someone", not buying Sander's criticism of Trump as a motivation for voting for Clinton. And some may consider voting libertarian or for the Green Party.  Some will opt to skip that part of the ballot or stay home on election day.

Here are my thoughts:  Because of the overwhelming numbers of dedicated supporters to either Trump or Clinton, voting for someone who has not chance of winning, such as a lLbertarian or a Green,  may be a vote on priciple but it is an evasion of decision making. . it is as good as throwing away your chance to influence the  outcome that will be either Trump or Clinton.  If you were a possible Clinton vote, but you opt to vote third party or not vote for president at all, consider your actions as a vote for Trump because it takes away from the potential vote for Clinton (The reverse is true for any possible Republican vote for Trump, including those who sit on their hands or vote Libertarian. That only helps Clinton. )

If you are serious about voting Libertarian and you were a Sanders supporter, then find out what they stand for first.  If your reasons for supporting Sanders' were the issues  he prioritized them and proposed solutions to problems he espoused, brace yourself. You may like the Libertarian approach on social issues, but the core of Sanders' platform was a more active government, from single payer to college financing.  Libertarians want only a skeleton of government and more government programs are an anathema to them.  They would not happen and you are at that point be in effect  undermining the possibility of  enacting most of Sanders' positions.

If you are acting out of sheer anger at being left behind in the economy or resentment of the wealthy, then you may be  the victim of unintended consequences of public policies that arre not in your iinterests in some other way. For example some of Donald Trump's policies contain  continuation of greater income disparity and lack of enforcement of environmental or consumer protection laws, or removing the minimum in wages paid,  or lower taxes on the rich.  It is not unlike those in Britain who voted for Brexit because they didi not like EU regulations and disliked immigration, but awoke the next morning to find their pound had lost value and corporations were considering moving headquarters to Ireland, and foreign investment in the UK was dead in the water.   That was not the intention of those who voted for Brexit.  The lesson: voting because of anger only may have unintended consequences.   Look before you leap.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Words  matter in racial conflicts: a President Trump could put oil on the fires

The horrifying events of last week, videos of police killing of black men with excessive force in Baton Rouge and Minnesota and the sniper murders of five white police officers in Dallas dramatize the violent racism infecting our country that has surfaced once again. How the leader of our nation sets the tone with words either puts oil on the fire or cools the flames. 

 Donald Trump’s divisiveness and willingness to tolerate racist supporters and to get a rise from his audiences with his name calling of others than white males make him unsuited to lead this country.  Instead of the fair and even handed response of a Barack Obama to the violence in Baton Rouge, Minnesota, and Dallas, imagine for a moment a President Trump.  We can expect more hatred and violence in this country than we already have. Racial hatred begets racial hatred and retaliation begets never ending retaliation.

 Trump shoots from his lip with a stream of consciousness and his base of supporters include white supremacists.  He at minimum lacks sensitivity to the issue of race relations or he feigns ignorance, as when he pretended he did not know David Duke personally ( a leader of the KKK) so he could not condemn his support. Postings by such race hating groups show their leaders encouraging their members to vote for Trump. This is not new news; it has been reported frequently and often in the press for the past six months. Trump has a history of retweeting tweets from such racist groups either out of ignorance of the source, or not caring, and, worse, because he agreed with the contents.   However, his oratory and his past are giveaways of where his heart lies. Saying quietly through spokespeople or in his own words that he does not welcome white nationalist groups’ support is hardly sufficient.  I cannot remember his flamboyant oratory ever soaring to the same passion disavowing hate groups’ support.  Yet at the same time he called with vigor for Muslim bans or anti- immigrant wall building, characterizing   Mexican undocumented immigrants as criminals and rapists. He was the most outspoken birther voice in America in an attempt to delegitimize President Obama by claiming he was born in Kenya and not in Hawaii. Those should be clues of his racist and divisive persona that have been on record since 2011.

 Here is the problem: words matter.  Trump’s blessing of “political incorrectness” is a code permitting many  to be  speaking openly about their  hostile attitudes toward minorities that before  were uttered under their breaths. Their words encourage others to repeat them aloud, too, making slurs acceptable in certain quarters of society.  Failure to condemn racists and disrespecting minorities not only fails to still the violent waters of racial conflict, it gives tacit permission for those attitudes to flourish.  Failure to be even handed and calming in the face of racial violence or police attitudes and actions toward minorities would make this country an even more dangerous and tense place.  

In times of such raw racism and strife this summer, imagine how a Donald Trump would emerge as a champion of racial harmony.  I cannot, for one, imagine it.

and too much more to list: Just google Trump white supremacists.

Obamacare revisited: Heads up for the good, bad, and ugly proposals

Just as certain as hot  temperatures in summer, repeal and perhaps replace Obamacare is a topic of party platforms and soaring oratory at the party conventions.    What is certain is that Obamacare needs tweaking or replaced. What is not an option is simply to kill it.  24 million would lose their insurance now.

 The political problems are thorny: How much of government participation can the majority tolerate and what benefits are covered.  To what extent are we willing to cough up the money in co pays, higher deductibles, more expensive premiums, or taxes.  

I received a livid call from a subscriber to an Obamacare policy bought through an exchange not in Colorado. His premium just increased by 25%. (In Colorado, this year’s increase was close to the national average of 11%). I congratulated him for having too high an income to get a premium subsidy. In many ways Obamacare is successful. Government subsidies make it affordable for either the near poor via Medicaid expansion or lower middle income.  Benefits have greatly improved for everyone, including employer provided insurance. All insurance must cover pre-existing conditions and free annual physicals and cancer screenings and more. The costs of premiums and all of health care went up less quickly than if Obamacare  had not been in place and the number of uninsured has been more than halved. In fact, cost savings to the government added years to the solvency of Medicare.

So why have those premiums jumped? Per the Motley Fool’s Sean Williams ( the healthier have not enrolled as originally projected because the penalties have not been enough to force them into a health plan. The result: there are not enough healthy paying in to pay for the sick and there are no effective controls of private insurance premiums. There is no effective non-profit competition, either. Now, nearly all insurance in exchanges are provided by private for profit insurers.

New replacement plans are being proposed. The Democratic plank is shaping up to having government  play a larger role, by lowering the age to qualify for Medicare, and providing a government provided option which would be cheaper than private ones, providing competition to  private for profits. Donald Trump's earlier proposal would leave 18 million without health insurance.

 Another, like Bernie Sanders’ proposal of Medicare for All, a single payer system, is on the ballot this fall in Colorado, but it would require much  higher taxes on payroll, all  income, and  on businesses to pay for it.  Lower wage earners, middle class workers and small businesses would feel the pain the most.

Ezekial Emanuel and Tophir Spiro writing in USAtoday, July 1, looked at the GOP replacement plan just proposed by House Speaker Paul Ryan. The plan would gut Medicaid, partially privatize Medicare,   eliminate,  prescription drug, maternity and mental health care coverage, increase average deductibles by more than $2700 and  repeal limits on out of pocket costs. It eliminates subsidies for low income Americans and it costs $25 billion to cover few people in high risk pools who would still have to pay high cost premiums. It would give less tax advantage to employers’ coverage and the estimate is that 6 million workers would lose insurance by 2019. An estimated 5.5 million seniors would be thrown off Medicare as the eligibility age would rise to 67 years old.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

More thoughts on the FBI decision not to recommend charging Hillary Clinton

More thoughts on the FBI decision:

The problem is showing intent. That is essential to criminal charges. The FBI could not find proof of intent. Without that they could not charge her. The shrill spokesperson for the RNC kept saying she intentionally set up her server to avoid scrutiny. That is exactly what the FBI could not prove. That she was careless is no doubt, but the strategy of the GOP to get her indicted was a true bust. An indictment would have gotten her out of the race. That she was careless did not rise to the criminal prosecution standard of gross negligence, just extremely careless.That was Comey's call and conclusion. Expect the GOP to question his judgment call. I spent 7 years as a white collar crime DA investigator and another 8 enforcing election contributions I understand the differences. I also understand that DA's standard for prosecution is: can we win or at least probably win and they often refuse to file or indict.

How does one prove intent?  Some direct evidence such as statements of record is one way, but Comey did not find that evidence. Another is a pattern of behavior. Yes, some of the classified material was referred to in the chains of  emails, though if you listen carefully, she received those chains sent by others in the State Department to her, but it was not clear how many  marked classified Clinton initiated  herself or were sent to her by staff. The key is that those that were sent through the server were few compared to the whole body of the of the emails.  She may have lied if she had knowledge or memory of that, but that she knowlingly had initiated classified material  marked that way or was it that she had received them : Her intention was that she did not send it. That is difficult to determine intent because it is a very weak set of evidence to prove a pattern of behavior.  Even Rudy Giuliani who was first to criticize the Comey decision admitted, as a former prosecutor himself, intent is difficult to prove.  That gross negligence clause in that statute was a provision that had never been charged before, said others on MSNBC. . The question is why? Is it the fuzzy definition of it?  Last but not least, is there any evidence of the harm it did to national security, or was it just the potential of harm that could have been done, but was not.  That is a question for the CIA and we will never know that answer.

What the fallout is that Hillary Clinton survived to be the Democratic nominee and she received such a black eye, that it will still hurt her ability to gain the trust she seeks.  If she were running against anyone by Donald Trump, who fact checkers have designated the liar of 2015 and who keeps sticking his foot in his mouth with racist and chauvinistic comments, it would be more harmful.   

ps. Trump's response this morning: " Comey was bribed."   

It turns out that only 3 emails with portions marked classified (c) are in question about whether Clinton sent them.  Two were marked classified mistakingly.  That is 3 out of 30 thousand.  Comey once again thinks she did not know the "c" meant those lines in the email were classified. In those cases, the headings should have been marked classified, but the transmission did not have the required heading.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Firecracker duds: Benghazi and a private email server

Firecracker duds: Benghazi investigations and a private email server

A lesson for voters: where there is smoke there is not always fire and a lit fuse does not necessarily mean fireworks follow.

Like firecracker that failed to go off, the $7million House Select Committee Ben Ghazi  investigation and report failed to blast Hillary Clinton out of the race.  The eighth report on Ben Ghazi was issued in two partisan reports by a “bi partisan” House subcommittee, but Clinton herself was not fingered with guilt  in any of them.

 In addition, the attacks against Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server grew out of the Ben Ghazi hearings and Tuesday, the FBI director announced he would   recommend to the Justice Department  not to prosecute her for intentionally conveying classified information on it or for being guilty  of gross negligence in handling of such sensitive material.  The reason, there was not enough evidence for any reasonable prosecutor to prove a criminal case.   The State Department was criticized for sloppy handling, but in a criminal case  a prosecutor must be able to prove a case beyond a reasonable doubt of intent and criminal negligence.  One other outcome was that there was no evidence the private server had been hacked by anyone, though it could have been possible.

This is becoming a pattern: Donald Trump or the GOP Congress to make charges to tarnish Clinton and then find out later they were not true or lacked sufficient proof.  Over a year ago the House Select Committee dominated by Republicans set about to dig into the Benghazi incident once again, even after other investigations preceding it had found  no guilt to pin on Clinton herself. Democrats saw it as a witch hunt to try to damage Clinton. The political purpose was inadvertently confirmed on September 29, 2015, when Republican Rep.  Kevin McCarthy said the following during an appearance on Hannity: “Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping. Why? Because she’s untrustable. But no one would have known any of that had happened, had we not fought.” (McCarthy tried to back peddle a few days later). Donald Trump had also made accusations against Clinton that Clinton was asleep during the attack and decision making. That charge was so outrageous and without proof, even he backed down the next day.

Regarding Benghazi, the select committee did discover that administration SNAFUs  resulted in miss spoken, missed opportunities, lack of security planning in the face of  CIA warnings about the dangers of going to Benghazi , the failure of the military to execute orders, and erroneous  public statements issued in its aftermath about the details and causes  fed by White House staff to spokespeople.  What is clear, though, the death of the Ambassador and three Americans with him was a tragedy that did not need to have happened.

What we can now expect is that conspiracy theorists will go to work trying to find the proof that the FBI did not find everything or some sort of collusion. FBI  Director  James B. Comey  took unusual public  pains to be transparent about the investigation. As he said, what matters are the facts, so let us see what facts theorists present.

More thoughts on the FBI decision:

The problem is showing intent. That is essential to criminal charges. The FBI could not find proof of intent. Without that they could not charge her. The shrill spokesperson for the RNC kept saying she intentionally set up her server to avoid scrutiny. That is exactly what the FBI could not prove. That she was careless is no doubt, but the strategy of the GOP to get her indicted was a true bust. An indictment would have gotten her out of the race. That she was careless did not rise to the criminal prosecution standard of gross negligence, just extremely careless.That was Comey's call and conclusion. Expect the GOP to question his judgment call. I spent 7 years as a white collar crime DA investigator and another 8 enforcing election contributions I understand the differences. I also understand that DA's standard for prosecution is: can we win or at least probably win and they often refuse to file or indict. For more: this and more are contained in a subsequent follow up posting: More thoughts on the FBI....

Sunday, July 3, 2016

As we celebrated the 4th, let us also celebrate our freedom of religion, too.

On this 4th of July week, as we celebrated the independence of our country, let us also celebrate our founders of independence who later put into our constitution an amendment to protect the freedom to practice one's religion. It should be a reminder to those who would discriminate against believers in a religion and for us to condemn those who use hatred, ignorance and fear as a way to rise to political power. Unfortunately we are seeing much of this in Donald Trump's rhetoric and in his promotion of a Muslim ban. Even more unfortunate, many of his supporters agree. Somewhere along the way they missed or forgot that chapter about the First Amendment in their civics/social studies/American history classes but it is an element that makes this country the exceptional experiment in democracy that it is.

The First Amendment “prohibits the making of any law respecting an establishment of religion, impeding the free exercise of religion…”We have had waves of religious hatred in our past, anti-Semitism, anti-Catholicism, even in my lifetime and sadly now, but our ship of democracy rights itself because of the provisions in the Constitution and the reminders of the values our founders set in it. We have seen discrimination in institutions that refuse to let practitioners of certain religions become members and we turned away boatloads of Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany. I remember the slurs uttered when John F Kennedy was a candidate for president, the first Catholic to be elected.

Churches, mosques, and temples are still being desecrated and burned and practitioners have been targets of mass shootings.  There are those who argue their freedom means they can discriminate against those of a different religion and impose by law elements of their religion’s belief on others who do not share their doctrines. Ironically, those who irrationally fear the imposition of Sharia law in the United States as part of their fear of Muslims are also protected by the First Amendment’s forbidding the establishment of a state religion.(though banning Sharia law courts ruled is discriminatory). Fortunately court rulings have upheld the original meaning of the amendment and hate crimes have special penalties in our statute books.

I was interviewed by chance, waiting for a ride home outside the Denver Center for Performing Arts in Denver this  winter after a breathtaking performance by Shen Yun, .a New York based
Chinese performing dance company. The interview landed in a New York international newspaper focusing on uncensored Chinese news, the Epoch Times. It accurately portrayed my remarks about freedom of religion and explained my passion about that right. For the full interview, go to

Here is an excerpt:
“I’ve been through an awful lot, I’ve seen an awful lot,” said the 78-year-old journalist. Ms. Muftic had lived through the Cold War, married an Eastern European in Berlin at the time, and seen many people persecuted for their faiths under totalitarian regimes in Eastern Europe during her career.
So learning that New York-based Shen Yun was reviving a divinely inspired culture lost under China’s communist regime, and seeing those events played out in the dance, was hopeful to Ms. Muftic.
“I understand the persecution of that. I’ve seen it myself, I’ve felt it myself, I know what it is about. The hope of that to me is wonderful. And I don’t think we can lose that hope.”

Note: An attempt to ban Sharia law by Oklahoma was also unconstitutional, per a court ruling, because it would be discriminatory.  This is not the same as establishing a state religion, however.

One of the controversies regarding freedom of religion has also been whether a merchant who disagrees with the beliefs of a customer can refuse to serve them.  Is permitting that impeding a person's freedom of religion? Or is it impeding the right of the customer to practice their religion?  The issue is not freedom of relgion. It is an attempt to use religion to rationalize practicing discrimination in a public accommodation. That violates  another amendment to the Constitution forbidding discrimination. In my mind, as a business person serving someone with whom I disagree is not the same as a government keeping me from going to church and praying to my God  nor in my private life does it keep me from chosing my friends based on their beliefs.