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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Tom's Homilies 2014

Tom's Homilies 2015

Tom's Homilies 2016

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The Election Chronicles, Volume 34: Why is Hillary Unpopular? You May Not Like My Answer.

August 11th, 2016

This will surprise nobody, but we will elect a new President in less than 100 days. I’ve been eligible to vote since 1978 and I’ve never missed an opportunity. It’s the least I can do to express my gratitude to our Founding Fathers and everyone who fought in the American Revolution.

But in the 38 years since I’ve been an eligible voter, and the 56 years that I’ve been alive, I’ve never witnessed an election so polarized.

And let me say this as a Democrat: Donald Trump isn’t a bad choice. He’s a dangerous choice.

But that’s not my point. Instead, I wish to talk about why Hillary Clinton is so unpopular. I believe it’s latent sexism.

Eight years ago the election of Barack Obama unleashed racism that many thought was in our past. But we heard thousands of voices who criticized President Obama as someone who won’t lead all Americans because he is African American. He (and his people) care “only for their own people” and don’t care “for the rest of us.” In fact, look at him: he can’t be one of us. He must have been born somewhere else.

Now, his same party has (once again) nominated someone who cares only for “her people.” In the same way that the candidacy of Barack Obama uncovered latent racism, the candidacy of Hillary Clinton exposes latent sexism. Just as racism has informed much of our history with people of color, sexism continues to inform our belief in the relationship between men and women.

Most Christians, myself included, cringe at the belief that women are “temptresses” because in the Book of Genesis the character of Eve gives the forbidden fruit to Adam. I don’t think any reasonable person still believes it, but this was a common belief in the Middle Ages.

I find the idea of women as temptresses inane but archaic. But I’m more troubled by the persistent idea that women should not occupy positions of authority. You can read about it here. A small but noisy corner of the Christian world misuses the words of St. Paul to argue that women should not be in positions of authority over men.

But I’m most offended (as a husband, son, and brother of exceptional women) by the idea that women are, by nature, bitchy and conniving. They can’t be believed and they can’t be trusted.

Not only that, but strong, intelligent, and decisive women wish only to emasculate us. Women who want to “wear the pants in the family” are to be feared.

I first learned about Hillary when her husband Bill ran for President in 1992. Since then I’ve heard the following charges against her:

  • Whitewater: When Bill was running for President he faced accusations that he and Hillary invested in, and benefited by, a development in Whitewater, Arkansas. They didn’t. In fact, they lost a great deal of money in their investment. They were accused of throwing their partners under the bus but they didn’t. They lost money.
  • Health Care: In 1993 Hillary proposed universal health care for all Americans. It didn’t work and she was accused of trying to destroy America by sinking it in piles of debt.
  • Vince Foster: In 1993 Clinton friend Vince Foster shot himself in Ft. Marcy Park in Virginia. Even though he suffered from depression and fear that he would lose his security clearance if he sought help, Hillary is still suspected of killing him and dumping his body. She was devastated by his death but continues to be accused of killing him.
  • Benghazi: On September 11, 2002 four members of our diplomatic corps were killed in Libya by a terrorist attack. At the time Hillary was the Secretary of State. While she grieved the deaths of her friend Chris Stevens and others she was accused of causing this to happen. House Republicans, led by Darrell Issa have spent $7,000,000 in a failed attempt to blame her for the attack. Darrel, by the way, is in danger of losing his seat.
  • Email: The foolish investigation into Benghazi showed that Hillary used an email server not connected to her State Department account for emails that were not, at the time, considered secret. Given the false accusations of her in the past we can hardly fault her for her concern over her privacy. Nevertheless we do need to look into this. We all do email and most of us don’t worry about who is reading what we write. Our privacy depends on the fact that most people don’t care about our correspondence. Hillary does not have that luxury. I’m satisfied that she served us well in her positions as First Lady, Senator, and Presidential Candidate.

I will vote for her in November because I believe she will lead our country well. I also think that our first woman President will honor my wife, my mother, my sister who are exceptional.

The Election Chronicles, Volume 33: I Alone Can Fix It. Really?

July 30th, 2016

This week we are watching the Democratic Convention but I have to confess I still can’t get over last week’s Republican Convention. Frankly it’s something I can’t unsee

But one line from Donald’s speech continues to haunt me. I wrote about this two months ago but Don is simply not a Republican: he is a Fascist.

Don himself made my point last week when he announced that I alone can fix it.

Taking aside the fact that no one alone can fix it, we should all be frightened. In a little over 3 months we will elect a president but Trump apparently believes he will be elected king.

I’ve spoken about this before, but the framers of the Constitution viewed our President as the leader of the Executive Branch, one of the branches of government.

Don does not. He calls on us, the voters, to give him the power to do whatever he wants with the promise that he will protect us from those who wish to harm us.

But in the end, he will harm us the most. Concentrating power in one person never works in the long run. That dictator, sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly, eventually makes decisions that benefits him at the expense of others. Even when the others helped him achieve his power.

If we truly listen to him, Don has spent his campaign telling us who he will benefit: rich, white, men.

He has spoken with contempt on women, Mexicans, Muslims, African Americans, and poor people.

Who has he supported? He has spoken well of Vladimir Putin. He tried to duck question about the Ku Klux Klan’s favorite son David Duke falsely claiming he didn’t know who Duke was.

Our Constitution famously opens with the phrase “We the people of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

In a real sense, a vote for Donald Trump is an abdication of “we the people” for ” you alone can protect us.” He has made it clear that he has no interest in compromise, discussion, or shared leadership.

Vote for him at your own peril.

Brexit: See What Happens When You Use Your Vote To Send a Message?

June 29th, 2016

Last week citizens of Great Britain voted whether or not to remain a part of the European Union. The EU began its formation after World War II as a way to prevent events that caused world wars that informed much of the 20th Century. It found its roots in 1950 but most people point to 1993 when the “Single Market” was completed with the free movement of goods, services, people and money. Most countries adopted a common currency (the “euro“) and you didn’t need a passport to travel between countries in the EU.

Implementing these reforms hasn’t always been easy, but like the blending of any family, its members attempted to reach for the common good and recognized that each of them did better when they all did better.

But an undercurrent of opposition has always found its place among conservatives who felt individual countries traded away some of its sovereignty. They also felt it opened them up to unfair burdens imposed by immigrants.

Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron supported membership in the EU. But facing opposition from his own party he promised, in January 2013, that he would call a referendum to leave the EU sometime before the end of 2017. This past February 22nd he announced June 23rd as the date of the referendum.

Smart money and bookies never thought the referendum would call for Britain to leave the EU. But it did, by a margin of 52% to 48%.

This led to great consternation and concern over the last few days. Virtually every economist believes that this will be economically devastating to Britain, and to a lesser extent Europe and the world (including the United States). There’s wisdom to this: limiting trade and immigration has historically devastated nations (history nerds like me point to the Smoot Hawley Act of 1930).

Panicked reaction to Brexit comes not only from those who voted against it, but also from those who voted for it thinking it wouldn’t pass. Simply put, they used their vote to send a message. Using an old, anonymous quote: If you want to send a message, use Western Union.

There is reason to believe that thousands of Britains voted to leave the EU not because they wanted to leave the EU but because they wanted to express their nostalgia for the 1800s when “the sun never sets on the British Empire.”

Now they recognize that their votes have backfired. As an American, what do I take from this?

Well, it’s worth noting that we’re in the middle of a Presidential election.

Hilary Clinton believes Britain should have voted to stay in the EU. She feels that Britain, and the rest of us, would have done better if they had remained. On the other hand Donald Trump claimed that the vote was good because it benefits him.

The same economists who fear Great Britain leaving the EU also fear Donald Trump. Nearly half of US voters tell us they will vote for Donald out of anger at “the establishment.” But many of them will vote for him not because they want him to lead our nation but because they want to send a message that they don’t feel their needs are being met.

OK, I get it. Many voters feel that the “American Dream” is gamed toward the wealthy and we need a revolution to even the playing field. But much like the vote to leave the EU, a vote for Donald Trump will make everyone’s lives worse, not better. Xenophobia and protectionism hurts everyone, but it mainly hurts those without a safety net. It hurts the waitress when her customers can no longer afford to go to breakfast after church. It hurts the local police officer, firefighter, or teacher whose salary depends on property taxes that fall of the cliff when property values plummet. And it hurts people who are depending on their 401(k)’s for a secure retirement.

This is my call to American voters: use your vote to decide who will best lead us for the next four years. If you want to express your displeasure over today and/or your nostalgia from a time when your life was better, send a telegram.

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.