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

Stephen Colbert
(b.1964)

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Some Days Are Hard to Love

June 12th, 2016

I had plans to write today about the case of Loving v. Virginia. On this day in 1967 the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that states do not have the right to prohibit marriages between people of different races. It’s called Loving v. Virginia because the plaintiff was Richard Loving (1933-1975). He sued the Commonwealth of Virginia to be allowed to marry Mildred Jeter (1939-2008). Richard was white and Mildred was black and several states (including Virginia) prohibited their marriage.

Because June 12th commemorates the day people of all races could marry the person they love, it’s become known as “Loving Day” and I wrote about this in 2008 and 2012.

Several times I’ve drawn the line from Loving v. Virginia to Obergefell v. Hodges which was decided last June. In 1967 the justices allowed a person to marry whom he loves even if that person belonged to a different race; last year the justices allowed a person to marry whom he loves even if that person is the same sex.

That’s the essay I was going to write until I woke up today and saw the headline that earlier this morning a man walked into the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida and opened fire. By the time he was done, 50 were dead and 53 were wounded. The shooter was also dead.

Pulse is known as a gay club and the shooter recently made anti gay comments. It’s not a stretch to believe that the shooter chose this club because of his homophobia. The phrase “hate crime” finds no better home than this.

So how do we react? It’s not enough for us to call for an end to hate. We need to do more. These crimes continue, in no small part, because good people lack the courage to call out and condemn the hate we see and hear when we see and hear them. We live in a society that celebrates victimization and revenge, where it’s become fashionable to “take matters into our own hands” because “the government won’t protect us.”

From what we’ve learned in the last few hours, the shooter saw two men kissing each other a few weeks ago and became enraged. In his mind this gave him justification to engage in mass murder.

It didn’t. It’s not enough for the rest of us to not want to kill gay people. We need to embrace the fact that people like me (who married someone of the same race and different gender) don’t have the right to decide who is allowed to kiss or marry.

And it starts when people we know make racist or homophobic statements. We need to challenge them only because our silence falsely translates into consent. When the shooter made his homophobic comments I wish someone had called him out. I wish someone reminded him that people who offend him have the same right to love that he does.

And I wish that this Sunday morning had been another boring Sunday for 103 people in Orlando.

The Election Chronicles, Volume 32: No Don, It is Racism

June 7th, 2016

I think most of us know this, but Donald Trump is being sued by former of “students” of “Trump University”. They claim that they were pressured to spend $35,000 to learn how to make their fortune in real estate. They were told that their investment would provide them with mentors “handpicked” by Don (who made his money in real estate). Further, they claim that the mentoring never happened and that his promises (once their check cleared) vaporized.

The lawsuit is being heard in Federal Court here in San Diego. Federal Judge Gonzalo Curiel was assigned to hear the case. He was born in Indiana to parents who came from Mexico.

Reviewing the case, Judge Curiel ordered the release of the instructions given to the “mentors” of Don’s “university” and Don recognized how this damaged his case.

So what do you do if you are Don? Well, he looked at the judge’s first name and recognized an opportunity. Remembering his inflammatory calls to “build a wall” on the Mexican border he decided that his best defense was a good offense: claim that because the judge is of Mexican descent he can’t possibly be a good judge.

It never occurred to him that we would recognize the racism in his comments, even when House Speaker Paul Ryan did. He now claims that his words were misconstrued.

They weren’t. Don claims that Judge Curiel can’t do his job because he was born of Mexican parents. Simply put, this is not different from someone who says: “Don’t hire an African American because those people are lazy,” or “Watch that Jew who lives next door because they are known to steal.”

Today Don tried to claim that he charged the judge because he disagreed with the judge’s decisions.

Yeah, right. Don never charged that Judge Curiel wasn’t a good judge or that his ruling was flawed. He didn’t explain how he disagreed with the ruling.

He could have. But the fact that he didn’t tells us what we need to know about Don. Like bullies from the beginning of time he will do or say anything to advance his cause. Truth doesn’t matter. Facts don’t matter. Only his ambition matters.

But at the end of the day, he is subject to the voters. We have the power deny him what he wants most. And we should.

The Elections Chronicles, Volume 31: I’m About to Retire the Delegate Tracker

June 6th, 2016

Perhaps I’m the only one who has noticed this, but I’ve lost interest in keeping track of the delegate tracker in the last several weeks. Truth be told I found much of this purposeless. Since Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio dropped out of the race, Donald Trump is now the presumptive Republican nominee. Meanwhile the race for the Democratic nominee has gotten dramatically nastier.

I know this is the last time I’m going to update the tracker because by this time tomorrow both races will be locked down.

When I set up this table I promised to gather the numbers from several sources. At first this seemed silly as most news outlets came up with the same numbers. But as the primary season went on, the numbers appeared to diverge and I felt good about providing a variety of results. And now, at the end of the race, almost all the sources have returned to similar numbers.

At least I’ll be well set up for 2020.

Reflections on Memorial Day 2016

May 30th, 2016

Shortly after the end of the Civil War, also called The War Between the States, families began to gather in cemeteries to remember those who died. At first it was called Decoration Day.

By 1868 General John A. Logan (1826-1886) proclaimed May 30th a day to remember those who died in battle. He was the Commander in Chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of Civil War veterans. It has since been moved to the last Monday in May.

Eventually Decoration Day became Memorial Day and it was made a federal holiday in 1971.

We’ve all heard the phrase “freedom isn’t free” and our history is replete with young men and women who gave their lives for our freedom. We can never know how many and my attempt to dive into the weeds proved fruitless. Suffice it to say that we need to honor all of them.

And so let me begin my soapbox. We find ourselves in an election year and in November many of us will have the opportunity to choose our leaders. And not without reason it’s become fashionable to lament the lack of worthy leaders. But if we allow this to keep us home on election day we disrespect those who we claim to honor today.

In many arenas we are tasked with choosing between less than ideal selections. Our responsibility to those who gave their lives is no less important in 2016 than it was in 1788 or 1860.

Let’s vote people!

The Election Chronicles, Volume 30: We Need To Stop Calling Donald Trump a Republican

May 24th, 2016

As I write this, Donald Trump appears to be the presumptive Republican nominee for President. Problem is, he’s not really a Republican.

I’ve written about this before, but the Republican party has undergone many changes. The GOP (Grand Old Party) rose from the ashes of the Whig Party when it split over the issue of slavery. Southern Whigs joined the pro slavery Democratic party while Northern Whigs formed the Republican Party. Both parties have undergone tremendous changes, but the last 40 years of the GOP centered on certain core values: lower taxes, smaller government, and Christian values.

But it also stood for a belief that government works best when all three branches (legislative, executive, and judicial) work together. Famously in the 1980s President Reagan, a Republican, and House Speaker Tip O’Neill, a Democrat, opposed each other on most issues, but at the end of the day they met and hammered out agreements that made us a better nation.

The days of Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill are gone. Now a Republican victory is recognized only if accompanied by a Democrat defeat: a “win-win” is no longer seen as a win.

And the desire of Republicans to destroy the Democratic party has, ironically, turned on them. Donald Trump came into the campaign carrying the banner of hate better than any of his opponents, and now he is the presumptive nominee.

Last July he described Mexicans as “rapists.” Later that month he told us that Senator John McCain was not a war hero because he got captured by the North Vietnamese while fighting for our country. (Don stated: “I like people who weren’t captured”).

When asked by Fox News correspondent Megan Kelly about his treatment of women he chose to attack her.

In November he spoke nostalgically of “Operation Wetback,” the mass deportation of Mexicans in the 1950s.

And as much as he’s trying to distance himself from his remarks it’s not working.

Simply put, I (as a Democrat) need to call out Donald Trump. He is not a Republican: He’s a Facist. I know this word incites people, but hear me out. A fascist (even one who is elected) convinces people that democracy simply doesn’t work and they need a leader with unlimited power to govern. Only that leader will make his followers “great again.”

But he won’t. In the 1922 Benito Mussolini (1883-1945) was named Prime Minister of Italy by King Victor Emmanuel III. Mussolini then consolidated his power and was the sole ruler of Italy by 1925.

Meanwhile, Adolf Hitler (1889-1945) was appointed chancellor by President Paul von Hindenburg. Hitler then used his power to gain more authority, and when von Hindenburg died in 1934, Hitler proclaimed himself ruler of Germany.

I know this sounds far fetched in the United States in 2016 but few saw it coming in Italy in 1922 or Germany in 1933. Let’s look at some facts:

  • Donald almost never talks about working with Congress. He speaks often of how “I will build a wall” but I’ve never heard him talk about signing legislation from Congress to build the wall.
  • He insists he can do things that are not currently possible. He has often called for a ban on allowing Muslims to enter our country but he hasn’t given any indication of how he will do this. Passports don’t list our religion.

So what is President Trump to do? If elected he’s already proven he doesn’t play well with others. How long do you think it will take him to decide that Congress is getting in his way and acting as Commander in Chief of the military gives him the right to dissolve the legislative branch?

When told that we can’t ban Muslims because we can’t know their religion from their passports, how long will it take him to decide that passports should list religion? Or perhaps he will demand that Muslims wear a badge (like a crescent moon) on their clothing.

Ordinary citizens in Italy and Germany in the 1930s were horrified that leaders of their choosing became the monsters we now recognize. It’s easy for us, 80 years later, to criticize their blindness. But we can’t criticize them with any integrity if we vote for Donald Trump today.

A year from now if you’re horrified by President Trump, don’t tell me. I warned you.

The Election Chronicles, Volume 29: Don, If You Want To Run the Country, Here Are the Things You Need to Know

April 17th, 2016

Dear Don:

I’m writing you this letter in the hopes that you will learn. I write sincerely hoping you will read this in humility. The Presidency requires some basic understanding of how our nation runs and it’s clear that you’re behind the curve.

Last June you announced your intent to run for President as a Republican even though your party affiliation is questionable. I wrote about this here but let’s face it: Your credibility as a Republican is suspect at best.

Given that, it’s not surprising that your complaining of the process of choosing a candidate is unfounded.

You see, you’re complaint boils down to this: The process of choosing a nominee cheats you and your supporters.

But it really doesn’t. The process is complicated and Byzantine but it’s ultimately intended to put forth a candidate who has the best chance to win the general election.

But more to the point, your remarks point to your ongoing refusal to pay attention to the process of how candidates are chosen. You complain that “this is not a democracy.”

In fairness, you’re right: we are not a democracy. We’re a republic. I know this is complicated, but I’ll make it as easy as I can.

In a democracy voters make all the decisions: all legislation is voted on by all the voters. A republic, on the other hand, elects people (members of congress) who represent us, and they vote on legislation. This makes sense on a few levels. Even back in the 1700s it would have been arduous for every voter to vote on every piece of legislation. But it would be impossible now. Since January of 2015 the 114th Congress has passed 143 laws (out of 9,095 proposed).

But that’s not the only reason. In 1787 and 1788, James Madison, John Jay, and Alexander Hamilton wrote a series of essays we now call the Federalist Papers. They were written under the pen name “Publius.”

The Federalist Paper, Number 10 was written by James Madison and he spoke to this issue. He wrote about the danger of factions and Don, I think you should look closely at this.

James was afraid that a faction would gain enough votes to push this new nation into a bad direction; he recognized that, even before social media, we could get caught up in this “dangerous vice.” He felt that electing representatives (congress) would prevent this.

Don, I’m writing this because you clearly haven’t done your homework on how our nation runs. This has become evident in the last few days when you’ve argued that the delegate selection is rigged.

But, and I say this with all due respect, it isn’t rigged. All political parties make their own rules on how they choose their nominee. When it comes to the Republican Party everyone else running has done their homework and you haven’t. Now that this has been found out, you can’t blame the teacher, you can’t blame the principal, and you can’t blame the school board. You have only yourself to blame.

I pray you don’t become our next President, but if you do, you need to do your homework. You’ll be called to negotiate complex multinational treaties. You’ll be called to meet with other world leaders who have done their homework who will expect that you’ll be able speak with some intelligence and competence. And you’ll be called to make hard decisions where there just isn’t time to “bring you up to speed.”

I know this isn’t easy for you to hear, but you need to stop being lazy. You’ve run your campaign without doing the hard work of learning how to be President. You’ve filled halls with people who like you and you’ve made certain that nobody with hard questions gets anywhere near you. Of the few times where you’ve actually taken questions you haven’t done well (do you really believe that women who have abortions need to be punished?).

We choose a President every four years and we do so with great expectations. We expect a President who will keep us safe but we also want more. We expect a President who has a vision of who we are and where we are going. We don’t want a President who speaks to our worst fears and governs by exclusion.

Don, get to work.

Sincerely,

Tom

The Election Chronicles, Volume 28: According to His Measure, I’m More Successful Than Donald Trump

April 5th, 2016

Donald Trump’s campaign makes several claims. I’ve been fascinated by one: Vote For Me Because I’m Rich. He has essentially said that he can be successful as President because he’s been smart enough to get rich.

But here’s where it gets hard. Don claims to be worth $10 billion but there’s really no way to verify that. Some believe his net worth is half that.

But that’s OK. Let’s take him at his word and believe him when he says he is worth $10 billion.

Many times during his campaign he’s bragged that he started his career with a “small loan” of $1 million from his father. But he won’t tell anyone when he got the loan or how long it took him to pay it back.

In any case, let’s accept the fact that he got the loan shortly after he graduated from college in 1968. Assuming his math and timeline, he has turned $1 million in 1968 to $10 billion in 2016. That’s a gain of 10,000%. That’s impressive.

But let me tell my own story. I’m much younger than Don, and I graduated from Woodbridge Senior High School in 1978. My parents gifted me with an electric razor that was probably worth $35.00

Now don’t think I was cheated. My father was weary of my using his razor and gave me one of my own. And this was long before high school graduations commanded trips to Europe, SUV’s or other lavish gifts. Most of my classmates received gifts of a similar nature and none of us felt cheated.

Fast forward to now. In the 38 years since my graduation I’ve done many things, but now my wife and I are worth about $2 million. This comes from the value of our house, our cars, and the money we’ve saved for retirement. I won’t bore you with the details, but here’s my point:

Donald has increased his value by 10,000%. I’ve increased mine by 57,000%.

Full disclosure: I’ve been blessed. Much of my education at George Mason University, Boston College, St. Patrick’s Seminary, and Catholic University were paid for by my parents, the Stigmatine Fathers, and the Paulist Fathers.

But unlike Donald I’ve never declared bankruptcy. He claims he has never filed for “personal” bankruptcy but his companies have filed four times.

By Donald’s measure, I’m more successful than he is.

The Election Chronicles, Volume 27: Does Anyone Believe in the Future of the Republican Party?

March 31st, 2016

Last October I suggested that this election would mark the end of the Republican Party.

I argued that registered Republicans may claim the same party but hold different views. Almost all Republicans claim allegiance to President Reagan and view his Presidency with nostalgia. They all claim to be “Reagan Republicans.”

But they aren’t.

The “mainstream” Republicans looked to Jeb Bush and expected to have wrapped up the nomination by this time. Jeb favored smaller government and garnered significant popularity from his time as governor of Florida. His wife, Columba, was born in Mexico. They married in 1974 and she became a US citizen in 1979. Clearly he was the best candidate to reach out to the fastest growing demographic in our country. And, by the way, Jeb had the best argument to claim the mantle of Ronald Reagan. His candidacy never got footing, and now most of his supporters are looking at Ohio Governor John Kasich.

Christian Conservative voters looked to Ted Cruz. They recognized that his successful Texas Senate campaign in 2012 made it clear he did not join the Senate to make friends. Most Senators recognize that they best serve their constituents by cooperating and working together with other Senators. But Ted and his supporters believe they are not following their own agendas, but God’s. And if you believe you are advancing God’s agenda, any compromise with your opponents diminishes your commitment to God’s agenda and places your soul in peril. In October of 2013, against the wishes of the Republican leadership, Ted forced a 2 week shutdown of the federal government over his call to repeal the Affordable Care Act. It didn’t work, it made his party appear out of touch, and it made much of the Republican Party hate him. But for his supporters it made him appear brave and visionary.

The libertarian wing of the Republican party has always attempted to find their voice. They believe that government should provide for a national defense and almost nothing else. They claim that the framers of the Constitution worked hard to limit the role of government in the lives of individual Americans and the expansion of government, particularly in the last 80 years, has betrayed their memory. They hold that only the free market can adequately pick winners and losers and social welfare programs incentivize the wrong people. They favored Rand Paul (and earlier his father Ron Paul). This wing never had much of a chance but they were OK with that.

The greatest surprise of the 2016 campaign (and the topic that will be written about for decades to come) comes from Donald Trump. He is a real estate developer and has never held elective office. When he began his presidential bid in June of 2015 he wasn’t given much of a chance. But he successfully tapped into long simmering anger among many Americans, and he drew huge numbers of people to his cause. And so what is his cause? It’s hard to pin down but Don’s rhetoric comes down to this: Washington is broken. The people you have elected for the past 50 years have betrayed you. They promised to serve you and make your life better but instead they made themselves comfortable at your expense. It’s time to throw them out and “make America great again.” I’m wealthy and smart and I know how to get things done. I will fulfill the promises the establishment promised.

So here’s the problem: John Kasich simply does not have the support he needs to lead. Ted Cruz’s promise of a “Christian Caliphate” emboldens conservative Christians but frightens the rest of us. There just aren’t enough libertarians to go anywhere. And Donald’s ongoing xenophobic, misogynist, racist and hateful remarks only shows us he cannot lead.

This doesn’t make headlines, but there are Republicans who have already recognized that they don’t have a candidate who can beat Hillary. Neither Trump or Cruz will have enough votes. But a Cruz nomination will at least keep the GOP intact while a Trump nomination will not.

If the GOP dies in 2016, conservatives will regroup, but it’s hard to know how.

A Day To Remember

March 24th, 2016

I know that we all carry certain dates in our memories: our birthday, the birthdays of our spouse, children, siblings, friends, etc.

Today is one of those days for me.

On this day in 1909 my maternal grandmother, Imelda Mailloux Cazeault was born in Gardner, Massachusetts. Blessed by good fortune I was able to spend part of my summers growing up with her and my grandfather, Thomas Joseph Boyle Cazeault. She died on August 9, 1981 and I was blessed to be one of her pallbearers. I miss her still.

My grandmother was blessed with 72 years among us. Alas, the other memorial is sadder. My father’s older brother, Andre Joseph Allain (who continues to be known as “Tonto”) was born on March 24, 1928. He died tragically and accidentally on July 4, 1964. I was four years old and don’t remember him. But my parents, cousins, aunts and uncles have filled in the blanks. By all accounts he would have become the “cool uncle” that I would have revered. That said, I had several “cool uncles:” Uncle Chet, Uncle Ed, Uncle Joe, Uncle Norman (who is still alive), Uncle Ziggy, Uncle Al, and Uncle Roland.

That said I’m sad I didn’t get to know Uncle Tonto. Happy Birthday to you both.

Happy Birthday to my Prius. It’s 10 Years 0ld and has 218,860 Miles

March 17th, 2016

Ten years ago today I drove off with my brand new Toyota Prius. At the time I wasn’t sure how long I would keep it, but I generally keep cars for as long as they last. Ten years and 218,860 miles it’s still getting me where I need to go.

Three years ago I had to replace the large battery and that was a few thousand dollars. But other than that, a few minor repairs, and routine maintenance, it’s been great. The first battery lasted seven years and when I replaced it I assumed I’d keep it for the life of the second battery. There’s no way to know how long this battery will last, but assuming I have four years left, that may do it.

I’ve averaged 21,886 miles per year (and assuming all trends continue) the odometer will read 306,404 on March 17, 2020. At that point it will be a 14 year old car and I don’t imagine I’ll pony up for another battery.

But who knows?