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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The Trump Chronicles, Volume 9: Climate Change

December 2nd, 2016

In the last few days we’ve heard a great deal about President Elect Donald Trump and possible conflicts of interest.

But one small aspect caught my attention. Donald owns or licenses properties all over the world, and one of them is a Golf Course in Ireland. It’s located on the west coast of Ireland, right on the ocean.

You can read about this here, but basically Donald hopes to build a seawall. And he wants to build it to protect his investment from rising sea levels due to climate change.

And of course we all know that Donald famously claimed four years ago that climate change is a hoax perpetuated by China to make us non-competitive.

I guess he wants climate change to be true for him and false for the rest of us.

The Trump Chronicles, Volume 8: His Views on Flag Burning Shows How Little He Knows (or Cares) About Our Constitution

November 30th, 2016

Yep, he’s at it again. Yesterday morning, in response to a decision by students at Hampshire College to not raise the flag on November 18th after it was burned by unnamed students, he did it again.

President Elect Trump tweeted “Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag – if they do, there must be consequences – perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!”

Burning the American flag offends many of us. Lots of us, like me, grew up reciting the Pledge of Allegiance at the start of the school day. We recognized how fortunate we were to live in a country that was based on the proposition that all of us were created equal. And we learned to revere the Constitution.

Well, most of us. The first 10 amendments compose the Bill of Rights and the first amendment states: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

In her brilliant book The Words We Live By by Linda Monk speaks of free speech not solely as spoken words but also “symbolic speech.” For example, in 1968 the Supreme Court ruled in United States v. O’Brien that burning a draft card is a form of protected speech.

In 1989 the Court ruled in Texas v. Johnson in 1989 that flag burning is also protected speech.

And so Don cannot jail someone for burning a flag, no matter how offended he (and I) find it. We’re joined by Justice Antonin Scalia who said: “If it were up to me, I would put in jail every sandal-wearing, scruffy-bearded weirdo who burns the American flag but I am not king.”

So can he revoke someone’s citizenship? No. If you’re a citizen because you, or one of your parents, were born here, you cannot lose your citizenship unless you renounce it. You can read about it here. The same article shows that naturalized citizens can have their citizenship revoked in only the narrowest of reasons.

None of them allow anyone to revoke our citizenship by exercising our 1st amendment right to free speech.

Sorry Don, maybe your rant will gain you popularity but it just makes you look more uneducated on the job you’ll assume in January.

The Trump Chronicles: David Petraeus? Seriously?

November 29th, 2016

In my last post I wrote about the ongoing reality show to find our next Secretary of State. At the time it appeared to be a cage match between Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney.

But wait! Yesterday we learned that the President Elect played a wild card by interviewing General David Petraeus for the position.

In fairness, General Petraeus was an excellent soldier and (according to my sister who knows him) a brilliant man. But here’s the thing: he has a criminal record. After completing his military service he was named director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in 2011 by President Obama.

But, as a married man, he began an extramarital affair with Paula Broadwell who was writing his biography. In the course of their relationship General Petreaus shared with Ms. Broadwell his calendar which contained classified information.

When this was discovered, General Petraeus was charged with a felony but plead it down to a misdomeanor.

So here’s my irony: For most of the campaign, Don has charged Secretary Clinton as “Crooked Hillary” on the false charge that she shared classified information. It’s not true and an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation showed that.

But now, Don wants us to approve someone for Secretary of State who has been convicted of the crime he falsely accused his opponent of doing.

It’s going to be a long four years.

The Trump Chronicles, Volume 6: Secretary of State Is Not a Reality Game

November 26th, 2016

Certain truths are given. The sun rises in the East. Climate change is real. And the transition team for a new president is a messy, competitive, complicated mess. The President Elect attempts to develop a team who will implement his plans. His transition team also has desires and loyalties, both for themselves and their allies. And a large pool of people from various places imagine themselves in positions of power. It happens every four years.

But as we know, nothing about this campaign or transition is normal. At first blush it appears normal, but there is one aspect that causes me concern: the choice for Secretary of State. At this point it appears to be a race between Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney.

It appears the job will belong to one of these two men. And it shows a split among the Republicans. Rudy’s supporters point to last March when Mitt called Don a phony and a fraud, and urged Republicans to oppose him. They believe Rudy will be loyal to Don’s agenda. Mitt’s supporters point to Rudy’s paychecks from foreign nations and claim he cannot fully advocate this county’s foreign policy while ignoring his own agenda.

But my concern is different: I’m afraid President Elect Trump is treating this as a reality show.

For over a decade before his presidential run, Don starred in a “reality show” called The Apprentice. In different seasons he pitted ordinary people and washed up celebrities against each other and personally chose the winner. The show did well because he was able to manipulate and play off the drama of people competing for his favor. It was good for the ratings but it was also good for his ego. I suspect the enjoyment he received from being the decider first gave him the idea of running for President.

And when I read the news reports of Rudy v. Mitt, I fear Don is doing the same thing. I fear that Don’s choice won’t rest on the question of who will better form and implement our foreign policy, but on who can best grovel to Don.

I hope I’m wrong.

The Trump Chroicles, Volume 5: He Breaks His First Promise

November 23rd, 2016

Dozens of times on the campaign trail President Elect Donald Trump encouraged the chant: “Lock her up!” He was, of course, speaking about Hillary Clinton.

His campaign, and much of the Republican Party, insisted that she was guilty of various crimes even though multiple investigations found no wrongdoing.

In the course of the third debate, on October 9th, he pledged that he would direct his Attorney General to appoint a Special Prosecutor to investigate her use of a private email server.

Today he responded by telling the New York Times “never mind.”

So what’s a Trump supporter supposed to do? As I write this, if you google “lock her up” you’ll get 9,990,000 responses. It’s actually kind of fun to read some of the articles.

The National Review, a conservative magazine founded by William F. Buckley said this: “If there is anything more to Donald Trump than bluster, we have yet to see it. Trump has not even been sworn in as president, and he already is walking away from campaign promises that are too hard to keep, starting with his pledge to pursue the case against Hillary Rodham Clinton.”

The conservative website Heat Street announced that the swamp won. In a previous post I spoke about his promise to “drain the swamp.” Clearly they are not happy.

Here’s what I’ll say: If you voted for Mr. Trump this is far from your last betrayal. All Presidents make promises they find they can’t keep once they get in office (and in humility I’ll recognize President Obama promised to close the prison at Guantanamo).

But I always believed President Obama was sincere in his promises. Mr. Trump, to my thinking, makes promises not because he expected to keep them, but to gain popularity. I think his enthusiasm for phrases like “lock her up,” “build the wall” and others were never true campaign promises and he never really meant to keep them.

In the next four years I believe that Mr. Trump’s supporters are going to find it more and more difficult and painful to support him.

By the way, I encourage everyone to read this article from Robert Reich.

The Trump Chronicles, Volume 4: He’s Baaaaack

November 21st, 2016

During the campaign many of us worried that President Elect Donald Trump was too thin skinned to be our President. His middle of the night tweets and name calling of his opponents caused us to worry that he didn’t have the temperament to lead our nation.

We were told that once elected he would become more presidential and in the immediate days after the election we did not see the rants that caused us concern. He wanted us to believe that he had matured and gained a respect for the office he will soon occupy.

Despite our skepticism we hoped he was right. This past Friday, Vice President Elect Michael Pence attended the Broadway play Hamilton and Mr. Trump fed our gravest concerns.

History buffs like me celebrate the fact that a play about Alexander Hamilton creates buzz. Anything that informs Americans about our history is a good thing.

And I applaud Mr. Pence for attending. At the end of the play, during the curtain call, the actor who played Aaron Burr, Brandon Victor Dixon, read this to Mr. Pence:

Vice President Elect Pence, we welcome you and truly thank you for joining us here at “Hamilton: An American Musical.” We really do. We, sir, we, are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us, our planet, our children, our parents, or defend us and uphold our inalienable rights, sir. But we truly hope that this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and work on behalf of all of us. Again we truly thank you for sharing this show, this wonderful American story told by a diverse group of men, women of different colors, creeds and orientations.

While Mr. Pence was gracious, Mr. Trump was not. Once again he took to Twitter to charge that the cast was “very rude” and demanded that they apologize.

When asked about this, Kellyanne Conway responded by asking why anyone should care.

Ms. Conway, here’s why we should care: Mr. Trump has shown us again and again that his thin skin occupies too much of his attention. The job of President will require him to “keep his eye on the ball” and not be distracted by the petty events.

Frankly I believe that Mr. Dixon showed incredible respect and restraint and I applaud him and the cast of Hamilton.

Starting on January 20, 2017 Mr. Trump take on a responsibility that should consume his attention 24/7. I, along with the cast of Hamilton, and many other Americans, fear that he will focus his attention on settling petty scores instead of ruling our nation.

The Trump Chronicles, Volume 3: Thoughts on Draining the Swamp

November 18th, 2016

For decades we’ve been hearing about term limits on politicians. I think it’s a bad idea but the quaint concept of the “gentleman farmer” who serves briefly and returns to the farm doesn’t appear to be leaving soon.

Never seeing a populist movement he didn’t like, President Elect Donald Trump has recently proclaimed: “Drain the Swamp,” or impose term limits on Congress.

I think term limits are a bad idea because there is a learning curve to governing and right now the more experienced representatives (who, by the way, keep coming back because their constituents like them) mentor the new ones. They have the institutional memory but with term limits they go away. This places the institutional memory with career staffers and lobbyists. I have a great deal of faith with the staffers but if the representatives are still learning the job, the lobbyists have an unfair advantage.

Anyway, back to the swamp. While not true, it’s a common belief that Washington D.C. was built on a swamp. This makes “draining the swamp” a good bumper sticker.

When I grew up in nearby Virginia we thought of swamps as bad places, breeding grounds for mosquitoes and places unfit for swimming or boating. Draining a swamp was seen as progress.

But in the years since, we’ve learned that swamps are critical to the ecosystem and now call them wetlands. And we’ve learned that draining swamps is a bad idea. In 2005 the city of New Orleans suffered horrific floods with Hurricane Katrina. The horrific flooding was caused not just by the rain, but also because of a storm surge that previous wetlands would have stopped. You can read an excellent article here. Basically there were several causes of the disappearance of the wetlands but the result was clear: New Orleans was decimated by Katrina because the wetlands (swamps) were not there to protect it.

As a postscript, Mr. Trump’s nominees include Senator Jeff Sessions who has been a senator since 1997, Mike Pompeo who has been a representative since 2011, and Reince Priebus who, as RNC chairman has lived in Washington since 2011. I guess they won’t be drained.

The Trump Chronicles, Volume 2: This May Begin the Hard Days

November 16th, 2016

As I write this we are in day 8 of Presdient Elect Trump’s planning for his administration. These transitions always look a little chaotic as the President Elect chooses his cabinet and senior advisors. Trial balloons are released and shot down, old friends and colleagues jockey for positions, and anonymous leaks to the press rocket up.

That said, this process appears unusually chaotic. There are several examples, but let me choose one: New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. During the primary process he was one of the first ex-competitors to endorse Mr. Trump (February 26th).

Mr. Trump rewards loyalty and Mr. Christie’s background in law enforcement appeared to give him an advantage in running the Department of Justice as Attorney General.

A few days ago Mr. Christie was “purged” from the transition team with little explanation. Frankly, I originally thought Mr. Christie was seen as tainted because of his involvement in bridgegate and that now appears to be wrong.

There is good reason to believe that his sudden exit has more to do with something that happened in 2005. Mr. Trump’s son in law is Jared Kushner and has become one of Mr. Trump’s closest advisors.

Mr. Kushner’s father, Charles Kushner is a real estate developer. In 2005 he was convicted of making illegal campaign contributions, tax evasion and witness tampering and sentenced to two years in federal prison (he served one). The prosecutor? The United States Senator from the District of New Jersey, Chris Christie.

I guess it’s true that revenge is a dish best served cold.

I don’t make this point to say that Mr. Christie’s past has come back to haunt him, but to say that Mr. Trump’s son in law has harbored this grudge. In a well run campaign and transition, Mr. Christie would never have been seen as a serious candidate for Attorney General. His sudden fall from grace shows that the transition team has little temperament for the job ahead.

The Trump Chronicles, Volume 1: It’s Time to Turn the Page

November 15th, 2016

As I write this it’s been a week since President Elect Donald Trump won the Electoral College 290 to 232.

Many of us, including myself, have spent the last seventeen months telling ourselves and everyone else that this day would never happen. We believed that in the second decade of the 21st Century the American people would never support someone who was racist, misogynist and a xenophobe. Further we would never elect someone with no experience in governing.

We were wrong. We failed to recognize that a scary large percentage of our population had grown so angry at their perception that government doesn’t work for them that they would vote for Donald Trump. We fear that he will attempt to keep his promises and build a wall between the United States and Mexico, deport millions of immigrants, and ban Muslims from entering the United States.

And so what do we do? Many cities, including my own San Diego have seen protests. Much as I sympathize with the feelings of the protesters, I don’t see the point. Nothing anyone can do will change the fact that he will lead our nation from January 20, 2017 until January 20, 2021. Much as we disagree with the election result, we need to accept it.

But that doesn’t condemn us to our silence. This past May James Fallows, a writer for The Atlantic magazine, decided to chronicle Donald Trumps’s campaign. An admitted Democrat he decided that history would benefit from a “time capsule,” a diary of his campaign. He felt that when history is written about this time, historians will benefit from this type of diary.

I propose to do the same. I’ve been writing this blog since November 6, 2004 and it’s taken many paths. I’ve lived through (and voted for) several presidents. I’ve voted for both winners and losers. But I think this election is different. I think Donald Trump is bad for America and bad for our planet. I’ve created a new category, the “Trump Chronicles” where I propose to keep him honest. For the next four years I commit to regularly blog on his promises vs. his results. I don’t do this because I believe he cares about me and those like me, but because he can’t deny a simple fact: those who didn’t vote for him are still Americans and he is accountable to us too.

Stay tuned.

The Election Chronicles, Volume 39: What Happened?

November 13th, 2016

Several of you noticed that after promising a long night of blogging last week, I stopped after 8PM.

This shouldn’t be a surprise but when the tide turned toward President Elect Trump I just couldn’t keep watching. I went to bed praying for a miracle that didn’t happen. Between then and now I’ve just not been able to sit down and write about it.

I know my experience isn’t unique, but I spent the days and weeks before the election convincing my friends and family that Don would never be elected and that the future looked bright. The fact that I’m joined by politicians, pollsters, and analysts gives me no comfort.

I find comfort in only this: The next four years are going to be difficult and painful for our country, but they are going to be particularly painful for Don. He’s going to find, to his horror, that he can’t fire Congress when they get in his way and that much of what he advocates will cost us dearly (both financially and morally). And he’ll have no one to blame but himself.