Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Debate Report Card

"Thank you"

Before Monday night’s debate I told my wife that I didn’t think that Trump had to win the debate. He just had to show that he could hold his own on the same stage with a candidate with much more political experience.  

It is hard to judge who won the debate since bias will always enter into one’s evaluation. This bias was certainly evident in watching the spin doctors and commentators offer their own analysis. From my viewpoint I do not believe that there was a clear winner. There was nothing like the first Obama/Romney debate four years ago when even the President’s advisors had to admit that he had taken a beating.

If I was grading the performance of both candidates, I would give both of them a “C”. I give Clinton a passing grade because she largely handled herself well and seemed knowledgeable in her responses. She made no major gaffes. Actually, I would have to say that Clinton was at the top of her game but, in my opinion, that is a high as she will go. She does not have an “A” game. Even one of the commentators at PBS had to sadly admit that Clinton did not inspire. She exhibited no passion, emotion, or vision. In the debates to come I don’t believe that she will be able to rise above the pedestrian politician we saw last night. 

On the other hand, Trump was full of fire, emotion, and a sense of purpose. I give him a “C” not just because of a couple of embarrassing answers, but because he missed a number of opportunities to drive his message home.

On taxes, he could have given a two-minute lesson on how lowering the corporate income tax will do more than just keep American companies home, and bring massive overseas earnings home. Lowering the corporate income tax has the potential to reduce the cost of goods to the American consumer. Corporations do not really pay taxes. All corporate expenses, including taxes, must be included in the cost of goods and services sold to the consumer. How could a company afford, for example, the huge cost of a Super Bowl ad if it didn’t pass the cost along to the consumer.

When it came to his own tax returns, Trump could have explained that it is not un-American to minimize your tax burden. He could have pointed to the well-to-do Massachusetts liberals who have chosen to migrate to next door New Hampshire where there is no state income tax. He could have pointed to six figure pension recipients who have left Connecticut to relocate to Florida where there is no state income tax.

More tellingly, he could have asked why there is a Clinton foundation, a Gates foundation, or a Buffett foundation. Why did these wealthy people choose to funnel massive sums into these foundations where they would be free of Federal Income and Estate taxes? Is it possible that these individuals thought they could achieve more than the Federal government could?

I also thought that Trump could have done a better job of wondering why Clinton thinks that there is so much that needs to be done to fix this country. President Obama has been in office for almost eight years. Why didn’t he accomplish all that Clinton and the Democrat platform now advocate? Sometimes, Clinton seems to be running against President Obama.

Trump could also have done a better job on foreign policy. His best line of the night was almost a throwaway. He noted that Clinton has experience but it is bad experience. He allowed himself to get sidetracked on his opposition to the Iraq war, and let Clinton largely off the hook on the disastrous results of the Arab Spring that has led to chaos in Libya, Syria, and Egypt. He even let her off the hook on Benghazi. Why did she participate in the Administration's YouTube video scam?

Finally, I think that both candidates missed the boat on the last question that went something like, “If you lose the election, will you support the President?” Why didn’t either have the wisdom to mention that there has always been room for a “loyal opposition” in America. I know that there are times when we must stand united behind the President but I would have liked a candidate to say that they would continue to fight for the cause they represent no matter what the result of the election.


Friday, September 23, 2016

Deplorables and Islamophobia

In the now famous “Deplorables” speech that Hillary Clinton gave before an LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) meeting she added Islamophobia to the list of phobias possessed by half of Donald Trump’s supporters. For Clinton “Islamophobia” is a foolish, irrational and dangerous reaction to the recent bombings and shootings carried out by Moslem fanatics in this country.

So far Islamophobia has not led to even local persecution of the Moslem population in this country. In fact, the fanatics who carry out these crimes are given all the protection of the laws. As Donald Trump noted the Chelsea bomber will receive the best of medical treatment while recovering from his wounds, and then free, professional legal advice when he is brought to trial. He will not be publicly humiliated and tortured before having his head cut off while millions watch on the Internet.

It is hardly surprising that Clinton never seems to notice or speak out about the widespread persecution of Christians in many Moslem dominated countries. How serious is Islamophobia compared to the murder, rape, looting, and devastation visited on Christian communities in places like Iraq, Syria, Egypt, and Libya?

In fact, the Obama, Clinton policy of support for the so-called Arab Spring and various rebel groups has led to one of the most brutal persecution of Christians ever witnessed in the past 2000 years. It is true that President Obama and Secretary Clinton supported rebel groups in Egypt and Libya and succeeded in overthrowing dictators in both countries. The result has been devastating for Christians in both countries.

Even after the Egyptian army overthrew the radical Islamic government, the persecution of Christians in that country has continued. Our support of rebels in Libya has led to total chaos in that country highlighted by the terrible attack on the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi.

Things are not much better elsewhere. A friend of mine compiles a daily report, “Today’s Martyrs”, that highlights the everyday atrocities perpetrated against Christians throughout the world. Here is a recent excerpt of how our Kurdish rebel friends behave in Iraq. 
Archbishop Jacques Behnan Hindo (UPDATE: narrowly missed death when Kurdish militia fired into his residence, said "At that moment, the area was presided over by Kurdish militias, and there were no other armed persons nearby...Whenever the Kurdish militia enter in action to reaffirm its military hegemony over the city, the epicenter of their raids and acts of force is always the area of the six churches, where most of the Christians live. In many cases they expelled the Christians from their homes under the threat of Kalashnikovs. And where they enter, they loot everything"

The situation in Syria is much the same. The Obama administration has armed and supported the rebels fighting the Assad dictatorship. The rebels may oppose the Assad regime but their rockets seem to be directed at Christian targets. Here is another recent excerpt from “Today’s Martyrs.”           

Fr Ibrahim Alsabagh OFM (aged 44; UPDATE: said "we were awakened by a rocket that fell near here [which] hit the Syrian Catholic bishop's residence...Neither the bishop nor his vicar were present at the time, this prevented casualties or injuries. The damages to the building remain", added that the cathedral had "been targeted by rockets and mortar fire for a while" by rebel forces)

The first Presidential debate will take place this Monday night. These debates could be decisive in determining the winner. I believe that it will include a discussion of foreign policy. Islam and Islamophobia may come up for discussion in the debate, but I doubt if the persecution of Christians by the rebel friends of the Obama administration will be an issue. ###

Friday, September 16, 2016

Bashing Mother Teresa

My Yahoo home page headlines anti-Christian articles almost as often as it does accounts of scantily clad women attending entertainment award ceremonies. The latest was from a scientist who in addition to the usual atheist diatribe against God saw fit to slam Mother Teresa on the occasion of her canonization as a saint by the Catholic Church.

Not only did the scientist claim that the two miracles credited to Mother Teresa were bogus, but he also believed that her whole life’s work in serving the poor and the helpless was bogus. He claimed that she was a religious fanatic and suspected that she misused the millions of dollars donated to her and her order by religious dupes.

I am not one of those who believe that miraculous healings are necessary to establish the saintliness of someone’s life. I also know that the Catholic Church today is very careful when it comes to evaluating claims of miracles. I do believe that many people, even though they will never be canonized, could be called saints because of the life they led, the work they did, and the way in which they did it.

As far as I can tell, Mother Teresa not only talked the talk but she walked the walk. Just one incident from her life was enough for me. At the very outset of her work in Calcutta, she happened upon an elderly man left for dead in the street. His body was covered with maggots that she removed herself. She continued to care for the man although he did not live long. Before he died, he said that for the first time in his life someone had treated him like a human being.

The religious order she founded carries on her work of ministering to the poor. Strangely, some of her critics blame her and her sisters for their volunteer work. They believe that such private, volunteer work detracts from the work that should be done by the state. They also claim that states can do it better and that their facilities are superior.

Some critics actually complain that the hostels run by the sisters are sub-par. They even went so far as to hire a doctor to conduct an investigation, but must have been disappointed with his evaluation.

So the most important features of the regimen are cleanliness, the tending of wounds and sores, and loving kindness.

Such complaints remind me of the remarks made by a Roman Emperor way back in the fourth century. He complained that Christians were more active in helping the victims of the plagues that repeatedly struck the Empire.

      The impious Galileans support not only their poor, but ours as well, everyone can see that our people lack aid from us….
      I think that when the poor happened to be neglected and overlooked by the priests, the impious Galileans observed this and devoted themselves to benevolence.

For the Emperor, the word Galilean meant Christian. Despite the fact that the Christians were doing the work that government officials (pagan priests) were supposed to do, the Emperor still felt it necessary to persecute the Christians. This same fate is being shared by Christians throughout the world today.

Perhaps the most scandalous charge against Mother Teresa came from the posthumous public disclosure of thoughts she confided in her own diary or journal. She claimed that early in her career she ceased to have a personal relationship with Jesus.

A few years ago I attended an exhibition of the materials that had been brought together by those promoting her canonization. The exhibition did not try to hide Mother Teresa’s frank admission. Some have claimed that she had experienced a “dark night of the soul” that is not uncommon with mystics. Others believe that her feeling of abandonment by Jesus mirrored the abandonment felt by those she ministered to.

However, at the exhibition I came to see that Mother Teresa’s door to Jesus seemed to close when she first began to care for the sick and hopeless on the streets of Calcutta. It seemed to me that she came to see Jesus in those she helped. After all, He had said in the famous passage in Matthew’s gospel, “When I was hungry, you fed me, when I was thirsty, you gave me drink, and when I was naked you clothed me.”
For most of her life Mother Teresa felt that she did not have a personal relationship with Jesus. I can understand her feeling and believe it is shared by most people today. In fact, I tend to be suspicious of those who claim they do, but won’t give you the time of day.

But she did the work and found Jesus among the poorest and most helpless. In that sense, I believe that she is truly a modern saint. Most of us will not be able to attain her heroic saintliness but whether we consider ourselves religious or not, we should be able to heal the wounds and lessen the burdens of those we know. We can work to make our spouses, our children, our parents, our neighbors, our friends, and our workplace associates feel like human beings.