The Thoughts and Musings of Tom Allain

If this is going to be a Christian nation that doesn't help the poor, either we have to pretend that Jesus was just as selfish as we are, or we've got to acknowledge that He commanded us to love the poor and serve the needy without condition and then admit that we just don't want to do it

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(b.1964)

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The Trump Chronicles, Volume 45: Sweden? Please Stop Getting Your Briefings from Faux News

February 21st, 2017

This past Saturday President Trump held a campaign rally in Florida. In the course of the rally he said this:

We’ve got to keep our country safe. You look at what’s happening in Germany. You look at what’s happening last night in Sweden. Sweden, who would believe this? Sweden. They took in large numbers. They’re having problems like they never thought possible. You look at what’s happening in Brussels. You look at what’s happening all over the world. Take a look at Nice. Take a look at Paris.

The problem? Nothing happened the night before in Sweden. Of the nations who have welcomed refugees, Sweden has taken the lead. They have accepted 30,000 Syrian refugees. I assume Mr. Trump was attempting to make the point that Sweden has paid a high price for their welcome.

When asked what he was talking about, he tweeted that he got his information from a report on Tucker Carlson’s show on Fox News and later claimed he wasn’t speaking of a specific event, but a general rise in crime that he linked to immigration.

So is it true? I know, I know, truth generally means nothing to Mr. Trump, but it means something to me. Tucker Carlson interviewed documentary film maker Ami Horowitz who did claim that there has been an increase in gun violence and rape in Sweden that the Swedish government has covered up. He, of course, gave not evidence of this.

I’ve written about this before. Mr. Trump regularly ignores security briefings. Turns out he gets them from Faux News.

It’s going to be a long 1357 days.

The Trump Chronicles, Volume 44: Executive Order 9066 Matters (and He Has No Clue)

February 19th, 2017

This may be obscure to many, but it shouldn’t be. Seventy five years ago today President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066.

February 19, 1942 came a little over two months after the attack on Pearl Harbor and the entry of the United States into World War II.

Inevitably war leads to a demonizing of the enemy. During World War I, in this country, “sauerkraut” was renamed “victory cabbage” and during Operation Iraqi Freedom “french fries” became “freedom fries.”

Oftentimes this demonizing is harmless, but not always. The demonization of Japanese led to the false belief that Japanese Americans couldn’t be trusted. Executive Order 9066 led to the mass deportation of 110,000 people of Japanese descent. It didn’t matter if you were a citizen, or that you pledged loyalty to the United States. If you had Japanese ancestors, you were eligible to be moved. If you had a home, you couldn’t stay there. If you had a farm, you needed to leave. If you owned a business you were forced to abandon it. Many were given less than a week to sell what they had, and nearly all of them lost everything.

When they were released at the end of the war, almost all of them needed to start over.

I write this today because today’s demon isn’t Japanese but Muslim. On December 7, 2015 (the anniversary of Pearl Harbor), Candidate Trump called for a complete ban on Muslims entering the United States.

Late last month I wrote about Mr. Trump’s Executive Order restricting entry into the United States from seven countries. He insists that this isn’t meant as a ban on Muslims but we’re not fooled.

Seventy five years ago today we assumed Japanese Americans couldn’t be trusted. Today our leadership assumes Muslims can’t be trusted.

We have learned nothing from past discrimination.

The Trump Chronicles, Volume 43: Did President Elect Trump Collude With Russia?

February 18th, 2017

December 29, 2016 was a busy day, and only in the last few days have we learned how much.

In the weeks before that, the administration of President Obama learned that high levels of Russia’s government (and likely Vladimir Putin) worked to sway the Presidential election toward Mr. Trump. In response President Obama ordered expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats and sanctioned several individuals. We expected Russia to retaliate.

Unknown to us at the time, Mr. Trump’s pick for National Security Advisor, General Michael Flynn made a phone call to Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak. It was reported at the time that this was a “courtesy call” and the sanctions were never discussed. We’ve since learned that wasn’t true and that he spoke about sanctions.

Later that day Mr. Putin (after previously threatening), elected not to retaliate.

Then President Elect Trump tweeted that Mr. Putin was “very smart.”

When asked about the call between General Flynn and Ambassador Kislyak, Vice President Pence reported that it was a simple courtesy call and they did not discuss sanctions. General Flynn was fired this past week when it was reported that they did talk about the sanctions.

I’m a firm believer in Occam’s Razor, the belief that “when you have two competing theories that make exactly the same predictions, the simpler one is the better.”

In other words I find it most plausible that last December 29th Mr. Trump directed General Flynn to call Ambassador Kislyak and tell him not to worry about the sanctions as they would be rolled back after January 20th. General Flynn is an experienced Army officer and previously served as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency and certainly would have known not to make that call unless he was given a direct order.

I have no confidence that there will ever be a full investigation of this, but I find it telling that Mr. Trump had no problem throwing someone else under the bus to save his own reputation.

The Trump Chronicles, Volume 42: Amateur Hour Part 3

February 14th, 2017

After the election I created a category I called The Trump Chronicles. Now I’m thinking I need to create a sub category of the Trump Chronicles called “Amateur Hour.” So far I’ve chronicled missteps of both President Trump and Kellyanne Conway. Now we can add White House aide Stephen Miller to this revered community.

Like most people, I hadn’t heard his name, but he lit up the skies this past weekend. On Sunday he appeared on ABC’s This Week, NBC’s Meet the Press, CBS’s Face the Nation, and Fox News Sunday.

From what I could gather, he was sent to talk up Mr. Trump’s executive orders on immigration. That’s find, but it seems nobody told him that he might be asked questions that were not on his talking points. It didn’t go well for him.

Yesterday I spoke about about how Mr. Miller advanced the false claim of voter fraud. Not satisfied with that, he just kept going and going. I’m certain I’ll be writing about this, but we’re finding that National Security Advisor Michael Flynn may have improperly communicated with the Russian ambassador about sanctions.

When asked about this by George Stephanopolous he responded: “Well, I don’t have any news to make today on this point.” Mr. Stephanopoulous responded: “Then why are you coming on if you can’t answer the questions being posed about the White House?” Mr. Miller responded: “I don’t have any information, George, to change anything that has previously already been said by the White House on this matter. General Flynn has served this country admirable and with distinction. He is a three star general. He served in the Defense Intelligence Agency. There’s no information that I have, as a policy director for this White House, to contribute any new information to this story this morning. And I’m sorry to disappoint you, but that’s just where things stand.”

Later, Mr. Miller appeared on Meet the Press with Chuck Todd. Asking about General Flynn and whether or not Mr. Trump still has confidence in his National Security Advisor, Mr. Miller responded that Mr. Todd should ask the President or his chief of staff. When pressed he answered: “They did not give me anything to say.”

Wow. I’m not sure who came out worse. The poor, stupid kid who was in way over his head or the idiots who sent him out there unprepared.

For what it’s worth, Mr. Trump’s response (on twitter, of course) was this: “Congratulations Stephen Miller- on representing me this morning on the various Sunday morning shows. Great job!”

The Trump Chronicles, Volume 41: They Just Aren’t Going to Let This Voter Fraud Thing Go

February 12th, 2017

I’ve written here, here, and here about the claim by President Trump and others that massive voter fraud cheated him out of winning the popular vote.

We saw the latest example this morning on This Week With George Stephanopoulos. White House Senior Policy Advisor Stephen Miller claimed that Mr. Trump lost New Hampshire only because “thousands” of people were bused from Massachusetts to vote illegally. When he was pressed for evidence by Mr. Stephanopoulos, Mr. Miller offered nothing but claimed that “[e]verybody’s aware of the problem in New Hampshire.”

Right. The “everybody knows” line comes up only when pressed on evidence that doesn’t exist. Neither Mr. Trump, nor Mr. Miller, no anyone else has evidence of massive voter fraud because it simply does not exist.

At the end of the day this isn’t much of an issue except that it’s a stupid argument that a thin skinned little man (who, alas, is our President) won’t let it go.

It’s going to be a long 1366 days.

The Trump Chronicles, Volume 40: Amateur Hour Part 2

February 10th, 2017

I wrote previously about how Presidential Counselor Kellyanne Conway violated federal ethics rules by hawking her boss’ daughter’s clothing line on national TV. She wasn’t flaunting the law, she was simply, and stunningly, ignorant.

On the same day, we learned her boss also showed his stunning ignorance and lack of preparedness for the job. On January 28th President Trump was on the phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin when Mr. Putin suggested extending the terms of the New START treaty. Mr. Trump then asked his aides what Mr. Putin was talking about. When it was explained to him, Mr. Trump told Mr. Putin that it was a bad deal for the United States.

A little background: START is an acronym for “STrategic Arms Reduction Treaty” and has been around since 1982 when negotiations began between U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev. The treaty has gone through several revisions, and turned into “New START” in 2011.

Now I don’t expect most of us to know what START is, but I do expect our President to know. He’s now claiming that he knew what Mr. Putin was talking about and just needed some advice from his aides, but I don’t think anyone believes this. Mr. Trump famously brags about not reading much and after his election he declined most of the classified briefings he was offered. Given this, I don’t imagine he was reading about START and New START when they were in the news, and I don’t imagine he showed up when someone wanted to tell him about it.

Ignorance may have served him well when he ran for President, but it doesn’t serve any of us well when he leads our nation.

The Trump Chronicles, Volume 39: Amateur Hour Part 1

February 10th, 2017

President Trump and his administration have famously bragged about their lack of experience in government. His supporters think this is good, but it’s not. Public service brings with it tremendous responsibilities that this administration does not care to honor.

But unfortunately they are also slow to understand that they need to follow the law, even laws they’re not aware of. Yesterday Kellyanne Conway appeared on Faux News and was asked about Nordstrom’s decision to stop carrying Ivanka Trump’s fashion line. Never passing a chance to play the victim, Ms. Conway responded by encouraging viewers to buy Ms. Trump’s merchandise.

That’s illegal. The Office of Government Ethics clearly prohibits a federal employee from using his or her office to promote private gain. Clearly she did this. Rules like this are in place to prevent federal employees from profiting either themselves or someone else. This opens her to a charge that she did this to curry favor with her boss (President Trump).

I am the son of a retired federal employee and the brother of a current one. I can’t count how many other current or present federal employees I know. And the all, they all, recognize that they may not use their influence to do anything other than serve the American people.

So once again the Trump administration has shown us their contempt for our laws and the Constitution he promised to defend. Only 1368 days left until the next election.

The Trump Chronicles, Volume 38: She Will Not Be Silenced (And Neither Will We)

February 9th, 2017

President Trump has chosen a stunning number of cabinet members who don’t posses basic skills for the job, or who have a troubling history. His pick for Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, belongs in the second category.

He is from Alabama and in 1986 he was nominated to be a federal judge. His nomination was blocked when it came to light that he had made some racist comments. Additionally, Coretta Scott King wrote a letter opposing Mr. Sessions’ nomination.

Fast forward to this week. Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, during the senate debate, attempted to read Mrs. King’s letter. Idaho Senator James Risch objected and invoked Rule 19 that states: “No Senator in debate shall, directly or indirectly, by any form of words impute to another Senator or to other Senators any conduct or motive unworthy or unbecoming a Senator.” Until his appointment as Attorney General (and at the time of the incident), Mr. Sessions was a senator from Alabama. After Senator Risch made the charge, the senate voted along party lines and Senator Warren was removed from the debate.

Many (myself included) immediately saw this for the sexist attack that it is. I’m certain I’m not the only one who had never heard of Rule 19 and there’s a reason for that: it’s a complicated process.

In fact, I found only one time it was invoked, in 1979. It’s been threatened a few times.

But the senate’s history brims with members impute another. My best example comes from 2015 when Texas Senator Ted Cruz called Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell a liar.

It’s also worth noting that after Senator Warren was silenced other (male) Democratic senators finished reading Mrs. King’s letter.

The Trump Chronicles, Volume 37: Can Someone Explain to Him About the Balance of Powers?

February 9th, 2017

As children we all learned that our nation is led by a a government that is balanced by three branches. The Legislative Branch makes laws. The Executive Branch enforces laws. The Judicial Branch interprets laws.

The Framers of our Constitution did this on purpose. We declared our independence to flee the absolute rule of one king.

I will be the first to admit it hasn’t always worked well. In 1798 Congress passed the Alien and Sedition Act that prohibited anyone from criticizing the government. In 1857 the Supreme Court ruled in favor of slavery in the case of Dred Scott v. Sandford. In 1942 President Roosevelt ordered the internment of Japanese Americans.

But these exceptions are rare. And respect for all branches undergirds our very democracy. But respect does not undergird our President.

Last June, while he was defending Trump University against a lawsuit, he charged that the judge couldn’t preside fairly because he’s Mexican (though born in Indiana).

I wrote about President Trump’s executive order on immigration last week. Lawsuits began almost immediately. Judge James Robart, a Republican appointee of President George W. Bush, halted the executive order; President Trump called him a “so called judge”.

After (we assume) hearing the oral arguments he said this:

You could be a lawyer, or you don’t have to be a lawyer. If you were a good student in high school or a bad student in high school, you can understand this, and it’s really incredible to me that we have a court case that’s going on so long. I was a good student. I understand things. I comprehend very well, OK? Better than, I think, almost anybody. And I want to tell you, I listened to a bunch of stuff last night on television that was disgraceful. It was disgraceful because what I just read to you is what we have. And it just can’t be written any plainer or better and for us to be going through this.

And so, to sum up, when he disagrees with a court ruling, he claims the judge couldn’t be fair, or the judge isn’t legitimate, or that he’s smarter than the judges.

Stay tuned, I’ll be writing more.

The Trump Chronicles, Volume 36: Did He Just Sell Us Out?

February 8th, 2017

Those of us who supported President Obama learned early on that we needed to develop a thick skin. From his first days in office he was accused of not being an American. But perhaps the most puzzling false accusation was this: he doesn’t love America.

We listened to the same speeches, and we couldn’t understand how anyone heard anything that indicated he wasn’t a patriot. And in fact, none of them ever pointed to an example: a speech, a remark, a photo op.

And so we couldn’t believe what we heard on Super Bowl Sunday. President Trump, in an interview with Bill O’Reilly made comments we never expect a U.S. President would ever say.

The birth of the Soviet Union in 1917 began a century long competition between them and the United States for world domination. This competition accelerated after World War II and is commonly known as the Cold War.

Many of us believe the Cold War ended in 1991, in large part due to the policies of United States Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush Mikhail Gorbachev.

Most of us find no nostalgia for those days. But today, in 2017, we recognize that our current leaders in the United States and Russia do not share that nostalgia. And as Americans we should be worried.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, commonly referred to as a thug and a murderer, yearns for the days of the Soviet Union and the quest for world domination.

And so during the interview Mr. Trump spoke of the respect he has for Mr. Putin. In response Mr. O’Reilly called Mr. Putin “a killer.” Here is how Mr. Trump responded: “There are a lot of killers. Do you think our country is so innocent? Do you think our country is so innocent?”

I’m going to let this sit in, but at the very least he said this country is no better than Vladimir Putin. His fawning need to be liked by Mr. Putin apparently means more to him than his love of our country.

And President Obama is the one who doesn’t love this country?