Tuesday, November 08, 2016

I Cannot Support a Tempestuous Man-Child Who Undermines Democracy

I will not vote for a tempestuous, cold-hearted man-child who is more akin to an elementary school bully who is far from being a balanced thoughtful leader of a nation. He is a thin skinned, blowhard, feckless egotist whose shaky proposals to complex national and international problems is offer “trust me” and a handfuls of empty platitudes. He feels that he knows more than the generals and a host experts on international relations and processes.

I will not support a candidate who feels his own views are better than the nation’s intelligence agencies and thereby dismissing his intelligence briefings, thereby casting doubt upon the various intelligence agencies that have input into the briefing. I cannot vote for a man whose statements regarding the military suggests that the military is not a major power. Further, I cannot support a man who states that he loves war, and who used questionable means to avoid the draft.  

I definitely cannot support a man who is neither capable of accepting criticism nor able to acknowledge mistakes because he is always right. He is a man who is a bully, inside the business world and in society, verbally and who is a major cyberbully.  He is a man of contradictions with regard to women, hiring and appointing women to significant positions in his organization while at the same time speaking of various women in most degrading terms, and treating women as mere sex objects subject to his advances and bedding. He is a man who behaves and thinks in a pre-1998 framework when this nation via the Clinton-Lewinski event rightly went through the redefining what is and is not acceptable behavior between men and women, particularly between those in power positions over those subordinate positions. He acts and thinks that that national redefinition doesn’t apply to him.  

Above all, I cannot and will not support a man who by his word and actions undermines the democratic process, its election system, its institutions and leaders!

That Trump was selected by the Republican masses to become their standard-bearer is most disappointing. That he was selected speaks volumes regarding the party. My respect for the party is greatly diminished, so much so that at this time I would vote for a Green party candidate ahead of any Republican. The big-tent party Reagan envisioned and challenged the party to be has devolved into being a pup-tent party of hate and division that has turned its back upon the Nation’s founding processes and principles. Mr. Trump has not only ridden this dark segment of the party to be the nominee, but he has embraced and enlarged it, bringing it to be one of the dominant forces of the party. I pray and hope the Republican leadership and the balanced portion of the party will undertake some serious soul-searching in the coming years and move back towards Reagan’s big tent so that a Trump like character cannot again be the nominee.

Trump's Obfiscation of Income?

It seems that every time Mr. Trump refers to how much he earns, that the figure is not only highly impressive. While on the disclosure finance form he reported that he made $557 million last year, in September he revised the figure during a debate. He verbally reported that he earned more than $694 million, just over $1.9 million per day.

As evidenced by his two ice rinks it seems he has the Midas touch. He reported that the two rinks he earned him more than $13 million in personal income. The gross income must be staggering, and extrapolating the $13 million to be at least double for the gross, by assuming a net of 50% of gross dollars gives a gross of $26 million. Accounting for other related income at the rinks, it means he is netting well over $1,400 per hour ice rental. To have that net income, the rental rates must be at least a staggering $2,800+/hour. If his rate is well less than 50% of gross say 35%, the rental rates per hour would be well over $3,500 (in 1987 Trump reported that his Wollman rink had a profit of $500,000 on income of $1.5 million).   

Is it possible that the $13 million figure is gross income? The hourly ice rental would be high, and in light of the 1987 Wollman figures, the $13 million would seem to be an inflated gross. If the $13 million is not inflated and is only gross, then Trump defines personal income differently than commonly understood, thereby a significant obfuscation. The redefinition seems to be in keeping with how he seems to continually inflate, redefine and obfuscate, connect and recombine unrelated information, and create grand statements without evidence or even when the facts say otherwise.

If the $13 million figure is gross, then all his other financial statements regarding income must be viewed with askance. Hence the $694 million figure is likely gross. After accounting for salaries, utilities, property upkeep and mortgage, his net income would be a fraction of what he has stated, possibly as little as a 20th, and he may well be losing significant money in some of his operations that he says makes money (much like a capital campaign firm stating that all their campaigns are successful, even those that fall short by 75% for they argue campaign success as it made money for the organization, even though the organization paid much of what they made to the firm and had no money to do even a portion of the capital project they desired).

Even when a critical look and drill down on specific properties and figures seem not to be close to making sense Mr. Trump asks people to accept his word regarding his wealth and success. He asks the nation to trust him without verification or questioning. Not only will I accept his word when statements contradict reasoning and evidence, but his repeated use of “trust me” increases my skeptical and causes me to distrust him for that is a common approach used by despots over the centuries who have channeled populist dreams, frustrations, fears and desires.

Despots ask that we trust without verifying that data. Despots use a kernel of truth to obfuscate and refine reality. Throughout history despots intimidate and threaten those who question and challenge their statements.  Despots talk of others lack of transparency while lacking transparency themselves My conclusion is to take what is presented, and his lack of transparency in light of history over the centuries and view the lack of transparency, inflated statements, obfuscation and volume of  unsubstantiated statements as a being from a highly disingenuous and dishonest person.  

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Has the Lesson From I Samuel 4 Been Lost by Many Evangelicals?

In I Samuel 4 is a rarely noted story which is unfortunate in that it has great importance for modern Christians. In this Old Testament chapter, the Israelites our battling the Philistines who have driven south to invade Israel. On the first day of fighting, the battle does not go well for the Israelites, and they start to wonder why. They come to believe that they lost that day’s battle because they did not have God on their side, and men were sent out to bring the Ark of the Covenant into their camp.

The army celebrates and rejoices when the Ark of the Covenant arrives for it means that God in in their camp and that they will be victorious the next day in battle. The next day, the battle does not go well for the Israelites. The battle turns into a complete defeat with the army running for their lives and the Ark of the Covenant captured as a war trophy by the Philistines.

Besides poor strategy, the Israelites, the people of God also lost the battle because they trivialized God and their relationship with God. They treated the Ark as a lucky rabbit’s foot, that all they needed was the supreme representation of God to be with them to win. The passage indicates that their thinking is wrong and that trusting in a religious object and earthly powers is a fool’s errand. Many centuries later Hosea wrote in Hosea 6:6 that God seeks people’s heart, them living merciful lives and heart level acknowledgment, not their religious ceremonies and their empty routines.

Today have large portions of the American church forgotten this lesson by putting their trust in a dishonest, despicable and bombastic man because he promises them to appoint church friendly Supreme Court justices? Are large swaths of the American church willing to have a leader who undermines the democracy that they value, whose grasps of a plethora of issues is paper thin, and who has by his behavior and conduct indicates that he will restrict the press and short-circuit the judicial system? Are they thinking clearly by trusting a dishonest, self-absorbed man to keep his word just to have a Supreme Court to help safeguard their spirituality and bring them victory?

If the belief that restricting and demeaning those of another faith is appropriate as a means to help safeguard the religious freedom of Christians, and that the Supreme Court is critical to safeguarding the future vitality of the Church, then has not the Church lost its way? While many evangelicals are not voting for Trump, many still are. They make up a significant portion of Donald Trump’s base of support, standing fast with him even when serious questions have been raised about his character, holding to his word and truthfulness. Then as such, has not those believers surrendered the moral ground for speaking to issues regarding upright leadership, leadership, rape, sexual assault, truthfulness and honesty, humbleness, personal sacrifice, and the importance of character?

While the evangelical community is my faith background, and still have the affinity with traditional evangelicalism, the term "evangelical" is a term that I ceased applying to myself for at least fourteen years ago. The term became covered in distasteful and restrictive political clothing versus a broad summary religious believes about the sharing of faith in a respectful and non-imposing manner (as noted in an earlier blog, the Church harms itself whenever it aligns itself with a political party). 

I will not be counted in such a crowd. I will not be casting a vote for a debased, tempestuous, egotist who by his actions and conduct undermines a key foundation of our democracy, freedom of the press and the electoral process.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Crisis in the Evangelical Church?

For over a month I’ve been turning over in my mind Matthew 4, where Jesus is tempted by the devil. Jesus was promised great power, and wealth, that he could have used to better the lives of the people. He refused. He knew the subterfuge and the danger of allowing such earthly bobbles to distract from the spiritual ministry which Jesus was about to launch.    

I’ve thought of that passage in light of the American presidential election which has created a crisis in the American Evangelical Christian community. It is a crisis that has its roots stemming back to the late 70s and early 80s when the Evangelical Church intentionally and aggressively aligned itself with the Republican party. Today, gaining the support of evangelical pastors and key church leaders is a critical early step for a Republican to be successful in a run for state wide or a national office.    

Since the late 1970s the evangelical community, which admittedly is my spiritual roots, has been steadfastly entwined with the Republican party. For decades they have vigorously spoken about the importance of the nation’s leaders such as the President, Vice-President, Speaker and Senate Leader, and Governors, being of solid upright character. Furthermore, the expectations that an evangelical vote Republican, that in many congregations if a person votes for a Democrat, the veracity and sincerity of their faith is questioned by their fellow worshippers. Such an expectation is so strong that there are Christian colleges that allow a student led Republican club on campus but will not allow Democrat club to be formed or operate.

Christians should be involved in politics and stand as candidates in all parties. The church and its leadership should speak to specific issues, particularly those directly related to morality, but without supporting particular candidates and parties. Because of the respect that they are given, clergy much be careful about stating their voting preference. A pastor who says to the press or congregation, “I’m just speaking as a private citizen, not on behalf of my ministry,” is being disingenuous as they know full well that most of those who follow them will follow their lead.

When the church aligns itself with a party, it is compromising the gospel. When its clergy openly involved with a party on behalf of their ministry, they enmeshing the church with a process that tarnishes the church and its spiritual ministry. As has been evidenced again and again, when the church is in bed with a political party, there is an unfortunate tendency for the church and its clergy to remain silent on ills and bad legislation rather than speaking out. When the church and its leaders have remained silent so as not to damage the party, the church has accepted earthly power over its moral and spiritual ministry.

The church must speak to issues and help the whole community to come together, working with people to build consensus for the greater whole. The church is about building people up, thinking the best of people, helping all to find grace and give grace. In contrast, politics involves forging alliances and negotiations, and seeking ways to position yourself to look better while making those in the other party look as bad as possible. It is about the securing and holding of earthly power, pushing one’s agenda forward by whatever means possible.

Recent history demonstrates with parties attacking vigorously policies and legislation that the other party seeks to advance even when that very position they themselves held prior to the other party embracing it. Too often political positions are postures of convenience, conveniences that can be fleeting. When the church and its leaders cease speaking only to issues and instead align themselves exclusively with a party, then the community of faith dismiss good policies and legislation that the other party seeks to advance, and thereby hindering good governance, and the aligned faith community finds itself forced to switch positions when the party changes, to demonize those of the other party, and in so doing the church has harmed the cause of Christ and its moral integrity as it tows the party line.     

Today, as a collective whole and a host of thinking individuals within, the Evangelical Church are facing a crisis because it crawled into bed with a political party. The presidential nominee of that party has demonstrated that he is long removed from the character and morality standard the evangelical community has long claimed as being critical. He is a man who claims to be of faith, yet cannot pronounce II Corinthians correctly when even the most nominal church attendee knows to say “second Corinthians” not “two Corinthians”, and has stated on several occasions that he has not needed to ask God for forgiveness for anything in his life.

Donald Trump is steadfastly supported by evangelicals. This support is most clearly evidenced by the position of the largest evangelical college, Liberty University, whose leadership, staff and students gave their early endorsement, an endorsement that continues to stand even in light of recent reports and actions that do not speak well of his character. 

Has the Evangelical Church and their leadership sold their souls, and thereby diminishing credibility, to a man who has promised them that he will pick Supreme Court judges who will to the liking of Evangelicals?  Have they bought into a untrustworthy man’s promise to make their lives better, to give them full religious liberty while suppressing the same liberties of another religious group? Has the Evangelical Church accepted the deal that Jesus rejected when the Devil offered him power to rule over the kingdoms of the earth? What message is the religious community's silence on atrocious ungodly behavior and bragging of sexual assault, invasion of privacy saying to the community? If there are more reports will evangelicals remain with him? And if they do, how will they reconcile their endorsement with their proclaimed values of family values? What is the religious community saying to its youth and the youth beyond its worship communities when its leaders and adult members explain away or accept ungodly behavior? If the world speaks against Trump's character, conduct and statements, and evangelicals remain strong for him when the world at large repudiates him, does that place the church in the place the Pharisees and Sadducees, saying one thing and doing opposite?  

This politician in question, Trump, for that is what he is and has been for years, has courted Christians while claiming to be a Christian. He has been embraced and enabled by large segments of the Evangelical Community. As this politician has claimed to be a member of the faith community and has actively sought faith community support using such a claim, then it is right to evaluate him on such a basis, and as an insider. Though others may wish to overlook the words of Paul to the Corinthian church leadership in I Corinthians 5, I will not.

I absolutely reject the fear of Supreme Court nominations as being righteous. I reject the promise of religious freedom for Christians from a man who will restrict the freedoms of others. Both are forms of idolatry and entrapments. If the Evangelical Church needs the Court, and a flawed earthly power, to save souls and empower faithful witnessing to the Gospel in both word and deed, then the Church has not only lost its credibility to speak on a host of issues, including morality, but is harming the gospel message. When the freedom of worship is denied or restricted to one group, we are all loose for we are only a step away from adding another group as we stand in the doorway to the room into tyranny of the majority.

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Trump and Paying No Taxes

That Trump has carried forward $916 million over subsequent years to eliminate or greatly diminish his taxes does not really bother me that much. Evidently, we are told by his minions, Trump rightly took advantage of existing tax laws. The same acolytes are shoveling the notion that he is brilliant for doing so, that he knows the tax code better than anyone else, and that only he can fix the tax code. His minions are giving their puppet master too much credit, for Trump has repeatedly demonstrated that while he has the gifts of the golden tongue, confidence and showmanship, the gift of following and knowing the details is an ability that is highly lacking. It is his accountants and tax attorneys who are the real masters of the tax code. He signed off on their work. Trump is taking credit for their work, which shouldn't be surprising as it seems his ego may be in the same league as the beloved of North Korea who is beloved at least by his military. 

That said, I am deeply troubled by numerous points about this $916 million loss in a single year. My concerns are:

·       The size of the loss in a single year is huge, and this from a man who asks that I trust him with the finances of the nation.

·       That the concern over this loss is reinforced by his six business bankruptcies. Reports that his current debt is at least two times larger than he claims is again troubling from one who we are asked to trust with the public coffers. 

·       That even when one of his businesses is struggling, Trump has a habit of pulling significant fees and income from the business into his private funds, and thereby putting the business into greater stress and increasing the risk of its failure.

·       That he claims that the $916 million was a personal loss and using that claim to reduce personal taxes for nearly two decades is most troubling. Most, if not all, of the funds that he lost was not his personal money, but are bank loans made to his companies, companies that then filed for bankruptcy protection. It seems to me to be ethically questionable to take business loss as a personal loss for tax purposes. I’m not clear on the legality of this action, but the ethics and the morality are clear to me...and how can I then respect and trust him? And this is done by a man who seeks to be the nation’s leader, inspiring people and setting the example for our youth?

·       That while his acolytes speak of Trump fixing the tax code, their claim seem to be as solid as the morning mist on a sunny summer day, little content that soon disappears. If Trump is for make an overhaul of such codes, then why has the candidate be absolutely silent about addressing these tax code issues that are overly generous to developers? He speaks of closing and addressing various issues regarding hedge funds and hedge fund managers while remaining absolutely silent about the tax laws he has used to take a free ride, or at least a highly discounted ride. The silence contradicts what his mouth pieces are reporting.