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 Election Chronicles, Volume 37: Is the GOP Coming Apart At the Seams?

October 16th, 2016

Almost a year ago I wrote that the Republican Party appeared to be falling apart. I wrote this against a backdrop of the birth of the GOP that came with the death of the Whig party.

Twelve months later it appears the GOP is fracturing into three different wings:

  1. Government should do fewer things and do them better. Most people who identify as Republicans point here to explain why they are Republican. They don’t feel that the government has any business meddling in who can marry, education, social engineering or a host of other areas. They point to the Constitution as their guiding principles. They don’t mind paying taxes to keep us safe, but they hate the idea of paying income taxes to support people who don’t want to work. They describes themselves as fiscal and social conservatives. Today these Republicans look to House Speaker Paul Ryan as their leader.
  2. We are a Christian nation. This wing takes seriously the fact that our founders were Christians and the phrase “under God” appear on our money and the phase “In God We Trust” finds a place etched in many of our federal buildings. We are not merely one nation among others. We, the United States of America, are chosen by God to be the shining city upon the hill. This is both a blessing and a responsibility. It’s a responsibility because God will judge us based on our worthiness; because God chose us, God will also judge us on how we respond. If we become a nation that allows political correctness and gay marriage, God will withdraw His blessing. Our salvation as a nation depends on the direction we take. Today these Republicans look to Senator Ted Cruz as their leader.
  3. We are under attack. These Republicans remember when being American meant leading the free world. If you were willing to work you could feed your family and own your own home. Other countries eagerly bought what we manufactured and “made in Japan” was code for “cheap.” But we’ve lost our place and other countries now dictate how we live. Time is running out and we need to reclaim our place now or risk losing it forever. Our attackers aren’t just foreign workers who take our jobs, they are also people who come into our country illegally and take our jobs. Our survival depends on our ability to keep out those who want our jobs (or want to plant bombs) but also our ability to recreate those jobs that made us great. This is not time for political correctness or business as usual. Your very survival depends on your willingness to give full power to one person who will fight for you. These Republicans look to Donald Trump.

OK, I’m a Democrat and I’ll admit that the death of the GOP doesn’t cause me much grief. But I recognize that our nation will never consist entirely of people who agree with me. And I pray that the conservative movement follows Paul Ryan instead of Ted Cruz and Donald Trump. I can respect that our government should do fewer things and do them better. But I can’t respect that our government should be a Christian caliphate or a Fascist Government.

I recognize that large swaths of the American people don’t trust Hillary because she’s been beaten up for alleged (but not proven) charges. I’m weary and unwilling to refute these false charges, but let me say this: She’s the only candidate who possesses the skills to lead our country. I’m voting for her because she’s the only candidate who can lead us.

The Election Chronicles, Volume 36: Let’s Look At The Electoral Map

October 10th, 2016

As I write this we are 29 days from the next Presidential election. As I’m sure you know, Secretary Clinton is opening a lead over Mr. Trump. Most polls differ on her lead, but even Faux News shows Clinton with a lead.

But, as we know, the President isn’t elected by popular vote but by the Electoral College. I won’t wander too far into the weeds of how this works, but let me say this: each state gets a fixed number of electoral votes and they determine who wins the Presidency. Of the 50 states, 48 are “winner take all.” In other words if a candidate wins the majority of votes in that state, s/he wins all the electoral votes, no matter the margin of victory. Only Maine and Nebraska allow candidates to divide the electoral votes.

And as we found in the 2000 Presidential election it’s possible to win the popular vote and lose the electoral vote. In that election George W. Bush won the election even though Al Gore won the popular vote.

As I’ve been following this election I have to confess I haven’t paid much attention to national polls and have instead been looking at the electoral map. And I’ve been obsessed with two web pages with excellent content: Real Clear Politics and Five Thirty Eight.

Both track the electoral maps, but they do it in different ways: RCP looks at the polls in each state while 538 looks at the probability of each candidates’ winning a particular state.

As I write this RCP lists Clinton as winning 260 electoral votes, Trump winning 165, and 113 as tossups (could go either way). The toss up states are: Nevada (6 electoral votes), Arizona (11), Minnesota (10), Iowa (6), Ohio (18), Maine (2 of their 3), North Carolina (15), Georgia (16), and Florida (29).

Of these states, 538 projects Clinton the statistical favorite in all but Arizona, Iowa, and Georgia.

The winner next month needs to get to 270 electoral votes. Of the tossup states, Clinton needs to win only 10 more electoral votes. She can do this by winning only one of the following states: Arizona, Minnesota, Ohio, North Carolina, Georgia, or Florida. Or she could lose all those states and win both Nevada and Iowa. Trump, on the other hand, has to win 105 electoral votes. The fewest states he needs to win are these: Florida and Ohio and Georgia and North Carolina and Arizona and Minnesota and either Iowa or Nevada.

RCP also shows us a map with no tossups (that is, they look at the polling and choose a winner even if the numbers are close). It shows Clinton with 340 electoral votes and Trump with 198.

He’s got a tough rode to victory.

The Election Chronicles, Volume 35: What Have We Learned From The First Debate?

September 29th, 2016

Monday we saw the debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

This was a night that both candidates (and their supporters) knew would advance the dialogue and perhaps impact the election. Hillary needed to thread the needle, sounding presidential without sounding bitchy (and yes, this word is sexist) or elitist. Donald needed to sound presidential without looking like a bully or a whiner.

By nearly every measure Hillary succeeded and Donald did not. He continued to lie without apology, asserting that he never supported the Iraqi war even though he did on the Howard Stern show. It’s become a tradition in the last several decades that we learn how much our candidates earned and paid in taxes. Four years ago Mitt Romney attempted to buck this trend but did release his returns after increased pressure and we learned that in 2011 his income was $13.7 million dollars (mostly from capital gains and interest on his investments) and he paid $1.9 million in federal taxes. The fact that he paid only 14.1% troubled many of us, but that’s the law. If you work for a living and live on your paychecks you will pay between 10% (if your income is low) and 39.6% (if your income is above $415,050 and you file as a single person). But if you have enough money to live on your savings your highest tax bill is 20%. In fairness Mitt lowered his tax bill from 20% to 14.1% because of his generosity to charities (including the Mormon church).

Many of us paid a higher rate. In 2015 Nancy and I, filing jointly, were in the 25% bracket and paid 16% due to our charitable donations. I don’t begrudge Mitt his good fortune, but I think that since Nancy and I worked for our income and Mitt sat back and collected wages from work he hasn’t done in years, he should pay more.

Nevertheless, I hold my greatest contempt for Donald. In the debate Hillary suggested that he’s not releasing his income tax returns because he has something to hide. I think she’s right. Maybe he’s not as rich as he says. Or maybe he’s not as generous as he says. But when she suggested that he’s hiding the truth from us because he didn’t pay a dime in federal taxes, he responded by stating: “That makes me smart,” and later, “it would be squandered, too, believe me.”

Does that mean he admits that he didn’t pay federal taxes? It’s hard to know and we’ve learned better than to ask him for clarification. But I believe it’s enough to assume this was a rare moment of honesty on his part. He tried to turn this to his advantage but it backfired.

If he believes that not paying your fair share of taxes is a sign of intelligence, does that make the rest of us who do pay taxes are stupid? If that’s true he needs to pray that the rest of us don’t become as smart as him because government can’t run on nothing. If we all become as smart as Donald there will be no money to support our troops or veterans. You have to figure Isis is salivating over this.

Do you know someone who depends on free school lunches for necessary nutrition? Yeah, they’re going to be hungry.

Do you like being able to take law enforcement on our borders for granted? Give that up. How about the men and women who make sure nobody gets on a plane with a gun? They’re now unemployed. Do you like visiting national parks? They’re gone, or at least the people who make sure have a place enjoy.

How many of you use freeways or highways to go to work or visit loved ones? Didn’t you know they are part of a federal program from the 1950s? Fair enough, you’ve had the luxury of ignoring how they are maintained. Now you need to either slow down for the potholes or get a much stronger suspension system for your car. Or both.

Let’s pray that we are smart enough not to vote for Donald.

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 feared 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!