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.    

Monday, September 19, 2016

Why Trump is Likely to Win the Presidential Election


The other day my wife, Evie, asked why I’ve been saying for months that Trump will more than likely win the American Presidential election. Following are my reasons.

I will note for the reader that I am an independent voter who will not be voting for the  Republican nominee, Mr. Trump. My reasons for not doing so will be saved for another posting.

Following are reasons as to why I see that Trump will likely win the 2016 presidential election:

1.     As with his primary run, Trump will run an aggressive image marketing campaign defining himself as a glamorous successful man who has the answers to the nation's woes. That he is not as successful in business as he proclaims will not become an issue as he will hide the data from public examination. He will continue to use the old Madison Avenue technique, projecting an image and brand being primary, with the content and depth of policy secondary, and possibly lacking on most issues. As with his primary opponents, Hillary Clinton and her team will run a standard political campaign which is a plan that is not adequate to fighting a populist marketing and branding campaign. An image marketing and branding campaign, even when it lacks depth of policy content, will defeat a traditional formulaic political campaign.

2.     As with the primaries, Trump will successfully rebrand his opponent in a negative light. He is building upon what the Republicans have been quietly doing for decades, demonizing and attacking both Clintons, both subtly and openly. For decades the Republicans have demonized her, creating a strong revulsion and fear towards both Clintons within the party and many independents. Trump’s rebranding work builds off this instilled fear of her.

3.     In a mass marketing, image projection is critical. Projecting charisma is a Trump asset. History is replete with examples, including several since in the 1900s, where nations and people followed an electrifying person who gave them simple shallow answers to complicated fears and issues. Trump has a core of supporters who have bought into his image cult (personality cult?) that even a series of shocking and disturbing actions may not break. Though Clinton is an analytical thinker with thought out policies, she is not charismatic. Clinton lacks the ability to move people or clearly articulate a well defined vision. Without much content Trump will move people to vote for him.  

4.    Trump is a highly skilled pitch man, promising and saying whatever needs to said to close the deal with his targeted audience. That he has a history of over-promising and under-delivering will not be an issue because Clinton will not be able to define him as such. Trump has the ability to sell a clunker car as if it was the greatest thing. He has been using the techniques that he has used for years, and techniques that have been used by populist pitchmen throughout the centuries. His supporters dismiss both his outlandish statements and his significant character issues. His strategy from day one has been targeted to the Caucasian population who is fearful of the changing face of the nation by promising them that he will alleviate and address the causes of their fears.

5.  While not representing the majority of Americans, Trump will continue to tap into the base nature of people, giving voice to their fears while assuring them that he is their savior and will make their lives better. Any national or international mass shooting or terrorist event, or a poor economic report, will be used to fuel fears. To many white people who are fearful of the growing diversity in the nation, he channels their fears while also promising them relief. Though he will not be able to articulate any answers beyond the broad statements and platitudes, his statements and promises that he will have the best people work on the issue will be adequate. When people are in fear, people will believe in empty assurances when they are given with confidence. Do not discount by the high number of the Caucasian vote turn out to off-set the strength of the Hispanic vote.  


6.       Trump will win male blue collar workers by more than 22 pts. This group has tended to vote for Democrats but will not be supporting Clinton. Blue collar men have been more harmed by the international economy. Also, this demographic is the most reticent group to vote for a female for president. Trump’s appeal to the fears of this group will deliver him the rust belt states Ohio, Michigan and even Pennsylvania. Also, the similar segment blue-collar retirees and the large religious right community will help deliver Trump Florida by one or two points.

7.     Clinton has a major problem with men, and the problem is so deep and broad that her advantage with women and minorities will be more than off-set by Trump’s advantage with men and the evangelical Christian community. Because of Clinton, the number of men who will come out in this election will be significantly higher than normal. There is a sizable portion of the male American population who are not prepared to vote for a female for president (they will accept a female vice-president on the ticket) because they feel they are being neutered by a changing society. In contrast Trump comes off as a man's man with beautiful women around him, which will be a major draw to blue collar men and more rural men.

8.     Clinton has a major personality issue and sexist stereotypes attached to her that will impact the results. In the business world, study after study demonstrate that when a woman says and does exactly what a man does, she is perceived more negatively than her male counterpart. As with most women in major leadership positions Clinton is viewed as cold, pushy and harsh. A man doing the same would be viewed as being strong. If she was quiet and reflective, she would be viewed as being week in leadership qualities.

     The same holds true in American politics and business where major female leaders have been viewed negatively by the general public. That she is at best a mediocre campaigner will only reinforce her. Magnifying this image is the negative view of Clinton has been driven by 25 years of demonizing her with harsh language so that she is viewed as being evasive and untruthful, and at moments she has done things that play into that image. While Trump is highly snarly when you cross him and aggressively attacks a person who he sees as a threat, people will overlook and forgive him doing this....possibly saying that he is justified in his crude attacks. They will overlook it because it will play into his maleness, image and charm. While Trump is less truthful and forthcoming than Clinton, he is not viewed in that light, partially because he has been successful projects his shortcomings upon others.

9.     As Trump has not held elected office, there is no public policy record that he has to defend from attack. Any old statements denied as occurring or explained away. A sizable portion of the electorate are very accepting of his lack of clarity. Also, decades of non-disclosure statements for every employ will limit insights into his corporate world processes and conduct. His tax returns will not be released primarily because the returns may well be contrary to what he is projecting with regard to his income, wealth and philanthropic spirit. While he has no public policy record to defend, a personal implosion or an over the top reaction to an issue with outrageous personal attacks could be his undoing if they occur in the six weeks prior to election day.

10. And lastly, the IS factor. We should not be surprised if there is a terrorist attack within the last eighteen days before the election. By fueling anger and the worse of our human natures, the attack(s) will be timed to impact the elections so that the emotions will still be raw in the last days, and thereby impacting the election. IS would love nothing more than to impact the election and against the incumbent president’s party (if a Republican was in office they would try to prevent a Republican from being the next president). If there is a terrorist attack in the last days, Trump will carry the election in a landslide in both the electoral college and in the popular vote.


When all is said and done, the Democrats will regret that they did not measure Clinton's image outside the party, and that she is a deeply flawed candidate. At the end, some may wonder what could have happened if Joe Biden had early support and entered the primaries.

   

Friday, August 26, 2016

Alma Mater Class Names Reflect Evangelical Mindset Changes

From the mid-1970s through to the mid-1980s America evangelicals underwent a highly significant change in how evangelicals saw themselves and in their interaction with the world. A shift in class names at my alma mater reflects how the evangelical mindset transitioned during this period.

As noted in an earlier blog, evangelical churches grew tremendously between 1966 and 1980s with a noticeable decline in mainline denominations. The growth corresponds with enormous social upheaval and stress. This was the period of the availability of the pill, desegregation, Vietnam and Watergate which caused the questioning of traditional social structures and authority, Roe v Wade, and the push effort to pass the Equal Rights Amendment. Also, it was a period of tremendous economic upheaval that two major oil embargoes, gasoline and heating oil skyrocketing, gasoline rationing and odd-even gas purchasing days, and several years of double digit inflation.

Feeling validated by its numeric growth, the evangelical churches became increasingly militant in its language and interaction with the world. Its leadership was speaking how God had blessed them and that much greater growth was ahead. This was the age of mega conferences on church growth and the mantra of following the formula to growth that would double one’s church within 5 to 8 years. With the emergence of Moral Majority and other evangelical political groups this was the period when the evangelical church becomes wedded to the Republican party and the quiet mantra that a good Christian and being a Democrat was an oxymoron became more vocalized.           

At Asbury College (now Asbury University), an evangelical liberal arts college, has a traditions of giving each class a name. A clear transition takes place with the class names. Prior to the class of 1979 not a single class has a name that commonly carries strong religious connotation. Prior to the 1979 the classes were included Patriots, Cavaliers, Aztecs, Titans, Highlanders, Beavers, Eagles, Green Dragons, etc.

The Crusaders, the class of 1979, is the first class with a strong religious connection. If not for what followed, and what Freshmen were told during orientation in September 1975, the title could be viewed outside a non-religious context. During orientation the incoming Crusader freshmen were told that the class were named for the crusaders who defended faithfully the Christian faith and the holy land.

The class of 1980 was the Voyagers, a name not heavily laden with religious language and imagery as such. Starting with the class of 1981, with the exception of the 1988 Olympians, all class names carry a religious imagery and meaning, with names such as, Defenders, Overcomers, Victors, Heralds, Proclaimers, Seekers, Pathfinders, Anointed, Agape, Consecrated, Awakened, Ransomed, etc.

Was this a change triggered by the college's leadership? No, but it does reflect a change in evangelical views of themselves.
      

Saturday, May 14, 2016

The Comic Relief Wins


When Donald Trump entered the Republican race to be the party’s presidential nominee, I did not believe he was a serious candidate.  He was the comic relief out to build his brand.



While he would strongly deny it, Donald Trump did not enter the race to be the nominee. When he announced his candidacy, he lacked a long game. He lacked depth on issues and lacked concern about getting up to speed on issues, because he was not going to be in the campaign long enough to need them. He was slow to hire a staff to help him run a national ground game, a team that would help Trump in the caucus states to track potential delegates, then secure and solidify those delegates. His Iowa ground game was anemic. Why? Was it Trump’s brilliance that saw that none of that was necessary?  While Monday quarterbacking his answer was his plan from the outset, the is highly doubtable. He didn’t have a ground game because he did not think he would win it all.



A master at amassing wealth through image branding, Trump’s goal was to broaden and deep his image, his “brand”. Hence, from the outset, what he did was designed for one purpose, to gain as much media attention possible in the most media intensively covered story that comes around every four years and which he could ride for six to nine months. His outlandish statements and over-simplified controversial solutions did just that, and quickly he was being in more stories than any other candidate.



In the wake a lot of conservative Republican firebrands were left in shock. In Cruz they had a “purist”, a man who was a darling of the Tea Party and who could as president serve as a quasi-evangelist-in-chief in the eyes of the evangelicals and fundamentalist Christians. They had a man who treated compromise as four letter word. As it turns out their ideal champion could not make it out of their own party let alone go on to win a national election. 



So what happened? While many books will be penned and expounded upon for years to come, as an outside observer, and listening to comments by people who voted for Trump, I venture to put forth the following list of what happened.



1.  Rubio, Bush, Cruz, Christy, etc. ran political campaigns. In contrast, Trump ran a brand marketing campaign. Such a campaign is designed to catch media attention, suck up as much attention as possible, create buzz by tapping into the fears of his intended audience, articulate those fears in a stark manner and then give a solution. Not only did Trump define himself he also defined his opponents who were not prepared to fight a branding campaign. As Trump was running a branding campaign, what he said to grab attention and move people may or may not be views he holds.  



2.  For about two decades talk radio and a handful of widely listened to right-wing commentators have increasingly generated anger in their followers. They have spoken of compromise, the basis upon which this nation was founded and the foundation of sound governance, as evil. These commentators sowed the seeds created the ground for dysfunctional government. As such, these stirrers of anger tilled the ground for Trump’s seeds to take hold and bloom. Trump became the standard bearer for their rage. His statements channel their rage and his simplified contentless promise to do something made them feel good.



3.  Coupled with anger is a dysfunctional delegitimized Congress that is accomplishing little helped create an environment for Trump’s success. At the state and national levels our politicians have through their demonizing of those in the opposite party, and an unwillingness to compromise and work together brought into existence dysfunctional government. When proposals by one party are being rejected and opposed by the other, even those proposals that were once one’s espoused by the rejecting party, they were delegitimizing the governing process.



When reasonable proposals are put forth it is not uncommon for the proposal to be framed to contain poison pills knowingly that they are forcing the party opposite to reject the idea. Extreme minorities in both parties through their rigidity have created a deep distrust of politicians across the nation. It is a shame that a nation that prides itself on the process by which it was founded has turned its back upon that founding process and delegitimized government officials, Congress, the Supreme Court and the governing process. Instead of working to make government more responsive to contemporary needs of the citizenry they have been through their bickering destroying government.



In such an environment, why would the general populist line-up behind Bush, Rubio and Cruz when they have Trump as an option serving as the piper with his enchanting song?  As government is delegitimized in the eyes of the average Republican primary voter, when looking at content-challenged Trump they follow him thinking, “Anything is better than one of these idiots. How could Trump do worse.”



4.  Throughout history economic trauma and insecurity gives emergence to voices of protectionism, nativism, xenophobia and outright bigotry. And sometimes major sea changes in a nation’s political life. Trump is tapping into and playing off those fears. He gives voice to those fears and unwashed reactions.



Such voices tend to point to particular groups for the cause of the nation’s woes, and warn that these people will destroy the nation unless they are strongly addressed. They create the ground in which a person of a different ethnicity is viewed by their neighbor with high suspicion. Such voices imply that if the nation stands against “those people” that the woe’s experienced by the citizenry will be reversed.  Trump is channeling and giving legitimacy to such discontent with his “believe me, I will make it so much better” statements.



5.  In the first months, neither the party nor the other candidates directly challenged Trump’s attention catching statements. They did not repudiate them firmly and state how they are clearly unrealistic and/or contrary to the values upon which the nation was founded.



Instead they remained silent or gave an empty and soft objection. It seems they didn’t do so for three reasons. For some they could not challenge him because either they lacked a position and wouldn’t venture forth onto foreign ground.  For others, such as Ted Cruz, they wanted to play nice with the hope to ingratiate themselves to his supporters so as to attract his supporters when he dropped out of the race.    For a few it may well be possible that they remained silent because they had a similar but softer position that Trump stated more starkly. Hence for this third group, Trump turned their right flank them and routed them into a retreat.



6.  A significant portion of the Republican primary voters are older than 55 and white, a demographic that is highly concerned that the government not destroy or tamper with their retirement benefits. Though many of the people drawn to Trump may state that they want small government and have concerns about religious liberty, for these older voters, those issues are secondary to their concern about hawks drawing the nation in additional foreign wars, and protecting their Medicare and Social Security. A hawkish Cruz was likely to tamper with their retirement benefits, and send their grandchildren off to die on foreign soil.   



7.  Trump captured as many evangelical voters as Ted Cruz which indicates that that group is not a monolith. While evangelical voters, and who are primarily 40+ and white, have concerns about religious liberty and various other morality issues, this group are more concerned about a host of other issues. One of those concerns is the coloring of the nation.



Cruz’s pushing his evangelical credentials worked against him with some evangelicals. Recently two evangelicals noted to me that the sincerity of Cruz’s faith was put into doubt in their minds when word came out that he had not been tithing to his church. As tithing is viewed as a mark of spirituality, Cruz not even coming close to doing so for many years raised questions. For these two people, the tithing issue opened them up to voting for Trump.



8.  Cruz tried to portray himself as an outsider and a Tea Party politician, yet as the campaign heated up the outsider image became hollow. Compared to Trump, Cruz was the insider who used insider tactics and techniques like other insider candidates. His effort to get “Trump delegates” to switch to him at a contested convention reinforced the impression that Cruz was a typical politician. 



His ethics and truthfulness came into question. When compared to Trump’s populist unwashed statements, Cruz’s obfuscating statements further demonstrated that he was a typical politician. Cruz’s Trusted signs in the eyes of many resonated as Trust Ted??  His effort to stack state delegates Naming his VP choice was viewed as a sign of desperation, the shooting off the fireworks as the ship flounders.  Trump came across as the true outsider, not carrying what people thought and saying what he was thinking.



9.   Populism triumphs over ideological purity, which differs from the assumption Cruz and his funders hold about the common Republican voter. Cruz and the ideological driven Republican purists advocate that if the party rallied around an ideological stalwart that Republicans would win the White House as well as increase their majority in the Senate and House. It is on this basis that the Freedom Caucus have been conducting themselves as if they represented the majority of the party and the general population (Cruz likely will hold that this is true for he argued recently that the majority of the party supports him. In doing so he is implying that a good portion of those who considered themselves Republicans and voted in the primaries are Rinos and therefore not truly Republicans.) 



Ideological purity does not to give you a victory and if ideological purity does not give you victory within the party, then it is correct to question what would be the results in a general election. 

10. Cruz's team were in error in thinking that as other candidates dropped out that they would get most of the supporters for those candidates. Instead, Trump gaining the lion share of those Republicans showed how limited Cruz's support was in the party, how flawed he was, and that the party would rather go with the comic relief who lacked policy that vote for Cruz.   



11.   Rubio gained no traction. He came off as a man who planned four years ago to run for President but who ran four to eight years too soon. Rubio was too unrefined and poorly articulated his positions. Also Rubio lacked a fire and passion that could have helped off-set his immaturity. Where was his heart?



12.  Jeb Bush was listless, and lacked passion. He gave people no vision and cause to vote for him. He was not prepared to give people a reason to vote for a third Bush to be president.



13.  Kasich lacked a vision around which people who were lukewarm to cold on Trump could rally. He seemed to have no burning fire to move people and stir them to support his run. His greatest argument was that he was a second term governor of Ohio. A major shortcoming was that he was a second term governor of Ohio, a state that economically under her leadership has at best been average.


14.  Bridgegate undermined Christy's run.   

Will Trump win the national election?  The chances are high that he will but will only be a one term president.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

To Cry or To Laugh Over Words Never Spoken


Two days ago was the anniversary of (May 9, 1912) William Booth delivering his final public address to members of The Salvation Army. His final words sought to reassure his followers that all would be well with the organization he founded after he passed away. His words were also intended to inspire his officers and soldiers to continue onward in the fight to help people in need and save souls. Hence, Royal Albert Hall was packed for the address. The press was there to capture his final words and so were the author's of the various Salvation Army publications. 

For nearly nine decades members of The Salvation Army have taken great pride in the following words that are attributed to William Booth on that occasion and held as final words.

“While women weep, as they do now, I’ll fight; while children go hungry, as they do now, I’ll fight; while men go to prison, in and out, in and out, as they do now, I’ll fight; while there is a drunkard left, while there is a poor lost girl upon the streets, while there remains one dark soul without the light of God, I’ll fight-I’ll fight to the very end.”  

The common image is that once William concluded with these words that he then sat down as the crowd embraced his I'll fight charge.  

There is an audio clip on YouTube that some maintain is a recording of Booth. For a 1912 recording, it is not only amazingly clear for the state of the recording technology of the day, and even more remarkable that in an age where national leaders were not being recorded that someone set up what must have been a huge recording device to catch these last words. Given the state of the technology of the era, and the recording’s more recent emergence, for most listeners it is evident that the recording is a modern effort to give life to these dramatic words.

From my early teens I’ve been fascinated with history and the evolution of global/societal thought. Being raised in The Salvation Army I was naturally interested in the history of my faith community. Early I learned that due to various levels of hagiography I needed to be careful in my acceptance of what was considered to be my faith tradition’s history. One of those items that came into question during my college and post-graduate years was the attributing of the above inspiring words to William Booth.

Back in the 1980s, the issue I had was with silence of The Salvation Army’s primary historical documents from the 1910s through to World War I in noting these rousing words and when they were spoken. While William and Catherine Booth were alive, The Salvation Army’s primary publications, “The War Cry” and “All the World” took great care to accurately publish for Salvationists across the Great Britain and around the world, the major addresses of their leaders. Particularly so for Catherine, whose addresses were later gathered together and published in a serious of books.

When I read The War Crys and the All the World from mid May to August of 1912, there were a good number of references to his last address. I was disappointed that none contained these inspiring words, or even portions of them. The reports on The Salvation Army’s publications did note various other statements made by Booth, most of which were far from being inspirational, especially when compared to these immortalized words. The special edition of The War Cry covering the final address made no mention of the address. Later that year in describing his final speech All the World didn’t mention any portion of the words attributed to him. Over the months, Booth’s other well known statements from his final address, as well as lesser known and non-inspiring portions of his address were quoted repeatedly in Salvation Army publications without a mention of even a phrase from the quote in question. Subsequently, in learning that none of the news reporters who covered caught any of these words reinforced my solidifying belief that the words were not spoken by William Booth.

By 1985 I found myself with two options, a) hold that these inspiring words which have resounded in Salvationist hearts for decades was totally missed by the primary recorders of the day, both the news reporters and Salvation Army publication authors, or b) take the position that the primary recorders missed the words simply because these words were never spoken by William Booth.

Back then the heart was pulled in one direction but common sense and the mind directed to holding to option “b”. Years later, in extensively researching Catherine Booth my belief that these words were not William’s firmed further. The wider attribution of these words to William did not commence until 15 years later, in 1927, and even then the two authors that attributed the words to William have significant variance from each other and from the words above.  In 1929 Bramwell Booth claimed his father spoke the immortal words, but Bramwell’s assertion should be viewed in the context that he was embroiled in a leadership fight and was seeking to increase his legitimacy.

Over the subsequent decades, the myth has been perpetuated. So where did these inspiring words originate? First, we must recognize that the words are viewed as inspirational because of to whom they were attributed, and what grew from his work and leadership. If the words were spoken or attributed to a more common person, they would have long been lost. Second, we must recognize that the words and the myth have continued to live on because we want to believe in the words and until recently the organization's leadership has continued to publically attribute the words to their founder. What of those who claim to have heard them that day in May 1912? This can easily be accounted for by common human dynamics. Decades later many of those who were in Royal Albert Hall that day and recounted how they heard those stirring words, and how the address moved them, just thought they heard them. They recall being there and hearing William speak and as the words became attributed to William that day, they claimed to have actually heard them because they wanted to believe that they heard them from his lips and were not wishing to admit that they could not actually recall hearing his immortalized last words.

Do we know the source of the quote? While the true author of the final form may well be lost to history, the first portion of the “I’ll fight” appeared as a poem in a 1906 edition of “All the World”, six years before William was said to have authored them. It appears that core of the quote was penned by an early Salvationist, and possibly added onto by one or two others and then attributed to William.

While I’ve not been a member of The Salvation Army for years, it is my faith heritage and valued by me. At the end of the day I’m conflicted as to whether I should cry in sadness or laugh over how hagiography readily distorts history so that the words he never spoke have become William Booth’s most famous. Hopefully the poem's message will be embraced by the organization and its membership for it speaks to the ongoing spirit which drives them to provide a hand of assistance to those who are hurting and in need in our communities.

Saturday, February 06, 2016

TRUSTed??


Senator Ted Cruz in his run to be the Republican presidential candidate has positioned himself as a sincere Washington outsider who wears his Christian faith not only on his sleeve, but across his chest too. He proclaims that he is a dedicated evangelical Christian by deep conviction and lives by its primary principals. His TRUSTed signs help him push his brand that as a practicing evangelical Christian he is trustworthy and upright. His approached served him well in Iowa, and likely play well in South Carolina.
In light of recent actions will his branding and his claims to be a committed evangelical Christian become the ground of his undoing? Evangelical Christians hold that professed faith is evidenced through one’s conduct and actions. While no one is expected to be flawless, Evangelicals hold one’s profession can be questioned if conduct consistently does not match faith statements.   



One of those primary Evangelical values is the that a person of faith must support one’s church financially. That financial support should be more than a token sum. Most Evangelicals expect that support to be a tithe, 10%, of all one’s income. It is commonly held that if one does not tithe then one’s faith is rightly to be questioned by the church’s leadership. A friend of mine says that he is now favoring another candidate because now Cruz's character has come into question in his mind.



The public has been learning that Cruz has not been financially supporting his church. His statement that he had not been financially supporting his church ring hallow amongst those of who have evangelical roots. Saying that he was building his family’s cash reserves and establishing a family trust is problematic for the vast majority of households in the church have income below Cruz’s and if they did the same as Cruz over 95% of churches would be closed for lack of funds.



Will the news that Cruz has not been financially supporting his church create tensions in the eyes of evangelical voters and cause them to question his profession of faith?  Or will Evangelicals rationalize it, giving him a pass on his lack of tithing even though such a pass would not normally be given to others in their church who seek to be viewed as leaders?



Then just as the Iowa caucus were starting the Cruz campaign spread a rumor that Ben Carson was withdrawing. The same messages instructed their caucus precinct chairs to inform caucus attendees, particularly Carson supporters, that if they supported Cruz attendees would be wasting their votes. Anecdotal reports from caucus Evangelical attendees indicates that that numerous people changed their votes on the news and enlarged Cruz’s win.



Carson had no such plans to withdraw. On Tuesday, the day after the Iowa caucus, Cruz stated it was an accidental error and not something intentionally constructed and pushed by his team. We are all aware that rumors on the lips of one or two can take flight, sometimes creating havoc and destroying lives. Cruz offered an apology to Carson, an apology that was accepted.



Unfortunately, subsequent evidence contradicts Cruz’s Tuesday statement. Copies and the breath of the voice mails, text messages and emails indicate that the messages were not only intentional but were spreading downright falsehoods. The inner circle of Cruz’s team was involved. While Carson accepted Cruz’s apology, he is rightly put out if the apology was offered on false ground. Will Evangelicals now see Cruz as a typical obfuscating calculating Washington insider doing whatever he needs to say and do to win, a scheming chameleon changing to fit the terrain?



Will the TRUSTed brand be start some to wonder if it is not a sign that Cruz is the opposite of the sign?

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

What Gives with “In Bill We Doubt”?


I read yesterday an AP article by unknown author(s) entitled, “In Bill We Doubt” that was published in the local paper. The author(s) are unknown as the article lacked a byline. The author( is a criticism of numerous decisions made by Bill Belichick over the last part of the past season. While I’m neither a Belichick nor a Patriot fan, I have great respect for him. His success as a coach is outstanding. His knowledge of the game, planning and strategies, and the utilization of his team to hamper the other team’s strengths and attack their shortcomings is beyond those held by nearly all other coaches at any level.

 

Belichick has delivered championship teams so frequently that it some, including the article’s author, seems to think that if Patriot’s are not in the Super Bowl every year that something is wrong. In the author’s view, what is wrong is Belichick. The tenor of the article is that Belichick is an exhausted coach who has lost his edge.

As the all wise Monday armchair coach the author lists several “instead if he had….” moments that occurred over the final portion of the season and in the last game against Denver. The implication is that if Belichick was not on the downside that the Patriots would again be winning this year’s Super Bowl instead of being bystanders to the game.  

 

Posturing as an expert this Monday comfy armchair coach is more pompous than balanced. Any  Monday armchair coach from the comfort of his chair and knowledge of the results has the luxury of time to consider and suggest different options. Such Monday coaches can say “they should have done…” as they pick apart particular decisions that did not work out.   

Two of the decisions for which the author lambasts Belichick were two late 4th quarter calls to go for it on the two 4th and short situations instead of kicking field goals. The author reasons that if they had gone for at least one of those field goals, the Patriots would have defeated the Broncos by one or two points. The math seems simple and the conclusion drawn by seems to lack any flaws. Yet there is a significant flaw in the assumption made by the arm-chair coach….that every play would have been the same.

 

The author makes his condemnation on the assumption that Broncos would have played the game in the exact same matter if their lead had been 5 points instead of 8. Highly skilled coaches match a strategy of the moment to the current game situation. Just to tie, the Patriots needed a touchdown and a two-point conversion. An 8 point lead focused the Broncos strategy upon running down the clock, forcing New England to start using their time-outs. Hence, the Broncos narrowed the range of their offensive calls as they became focused upon plays that would run down the clock. With New England in such a posture the Patriots defense enabled the Patriots to focus upon run plays. With the pass game, Manning’s strength, off the table, the Patriots were able to get the ball back more quickly and in better field position than if the Broncos remained in a more aggressive posture with Manning passing at the same rate as earlier in the game.

 

Now if, the lead had as a result of a field goal was down to 5 points, the Broncos would likely have been more aggressive as they focused upon at least off-setting the New England field goal with one of their own. While the Broncos may still have gone 3 and out, it was just as likely that a more aggressive posture would have yielded them two or three first downs and when they kicked the ball, left New England deeper into their own zone and with more plays to run to get down the field to score the winning touchdown.  

Drawing from his knowledge of his team, how the other team responds in one set of conditions versus another, the condition of his players at a given moment and how well his team has been handling the situations the opposing team executed, a coach is called upon to make real-time split-second decisions. The coach making such calls stands on the pre-event/play side of history whereas the arm-chair critic stands luxuriously on the post-side of history arguing for plays that none can attack as the plays were not executed.

The author overlooks three parts of Belichick’s and the Patriot’s successful formula…their comfort with running more risky plays, such as going for the 4th down and short play. They have had better success than most other teams and such success has yielded them championships. Further, they have also had a good level of success in putting their opponents in the uncomfortable position of having to run high risk plays, and to run them with little success. The comfort and success of running high risk plays are common features of championship teams. Few teams that play it safe by taking the safe low-risk options rarely become champions.

Let’s not fool ourselves if Patriot’s had made one of the 4th downs, and then one the game, the attackers would be proclaiming Belichick’s boldness and skills. I doubt few of those who are attacking Belichick for his calls, including the author, were crying out in their living rooms in the seconds before the 4th down attempt, “No, no, kick the field goal.” I suspect that most were hoping that the Patriot’s charm would hold.

 

If Belichick had gone for one of the field goals, and if with a different set of play calls Manning had lead his team deep down the field, what would have been the author’s thoughts if  the Patriots found themselves out of time.  I suspect the author would be attacking Belichick for not showing confidence in his team by going for it on the 4th downs in question and for taking the sure more modest points to narrow the score for a few minutes. The author would be lamenting that Belichick did not go for the victory when a successful 4th down play would have put New England in an excellent position to score a touchdown.

 

And that is the sham of the Monday coach, he is right as he knows what the outcome and one has little ground to criticize an option not exercised. The fact that some calls did not work out, does not diminish my respect. With his record, much more would need to happen before we should question or doubt his judgment.