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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Archive for October, 2008

Nancy Means Business

Friday, October 24th, 2008

A few weeks ago Nancy got word that she had been nominated for an award called “Women Who Mean Business.” It’s sponsored by The San Diego Business Journal and every year they choose women who are leaders in their fields. Last night was the awards dinner and Nancy won the award for Community Service. This was her nomination:

Dr. Nancy Graff graduated with a B.A. and M.D. from UC San Diego. After completing residency at UCLA, she returned to San Diego as a fellow at the UCSD Division of General Pediatrics in 1990. She is currently a clinical professor at the UCSD School of Medicine. Graff has always wanted to be sure that everyone has a voice, especially those who can’t fight for themselves. For that reason she decided to focus her career on the prevention of family violence and the health and well-being of children in the foster care system.

Acknowledged as an expert on child abuse, Graff has served as the medical director of the Polinsky Children’s Center clinic since 1994. In this position, Graff meets the needs of children suspected of or found to be at risk of child abuse. Since returning to San Diego for fellowship since 1990, she has also addressed the needs of children and families at El Cajon Community Clinic, The Birthplace and Hillcrest Receiving Home. She worked closely with UCSD’s Academic Center of Excellence on Youth Violence Prevention for a number of years. While working with the center she developed and now leads a Youth Violence Seminar for medical students

Graff directs two programs at the UCSD Division of Community Pediatrics. As the director of Pediatricians and Communities Collaborating Together, a residency training program, she ensures that San Diego’s future pediatricians will competently practice culturally appropriate medicine, as well as understand appropriately respond to and prevent family violence. Graff also directs a program that provides varied developmental and behavioral services for children 0-5 and their families, including developmental/behavioral screening, assessments and evaluations

Graff serves as the State Governmental Affairs Representative for Chapter 3 of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and has chaired the chapter’s Committee on Child Abuse and Neglect since 2002. Currently Graff sits on the San Diego County Juvenile Policy Group Healthcare Committee and is a member of the following Domestic Violence Fatality Review Team, Developmental Screening and Evaluation Project Advisory Board, and San Diego County’s Fetal Infant Mortality Review Advisory Board and Case Review Workgroup. Graff has served on the board of La Cuna, a nonprofit foster family agency that places Latino babies in healthy and loving homes, and is a past chair of the AAP’s Community Access to Child Health Committee.

Graff has participated in the AIDS walk and the AIDS bicycle ride from San Francisco to L.A., where she volunteered as a member of the crew. Graff is also a member of Childrens’ Health is a Legal Duty (CHILD), which fights for the rights of children whoa re prevented from receiving health care due to their parents’ religious beliefs. Consistent with her beliefs that all children deserve health care, she has gone beyond the expectations of a pediatrician to simply treat ailing children, to fight for all children at a policy level.

Not a bad night, all things considered. It’s nice to see that the greater San Diego community recognizes what I’ve known all along: she’s an incredible person (and a terrific wife by the way).

T Minus 15 Days and Counting

Monday, October 20th, 2008

Fifteen days from tonight I will be up most of the night watching the election results. It’s going to be a long few weeks.

I received my sample ballot in the mail last week. You can see I have 37 candidates for President listed. Of those picks, only 6 are listed in my ballot (5 actually because I did not list Alan Keyes who is running on the American Independent Party ticket). My ballot lists only Alan Keyes, Ralph Nader, Barack Obama, Bob Barr, John McCain, and Cynthia McKinney.

I’ve made no secret that I support Senator Obama and I hope he wins. Yesterday on Meet The Press General Colin Powell endorsed Senator Obama. The interview is worth a watch and the transcript is here. General Powell was as gracious as ever and respectful of both candidates but in the final word he articulated good reasons to vote for Senator Obama. Allow me to highlight some of these reasons:

  • The economy. Senator McCain doesn’t seem to have a grasp of the economic troubles we have been facing, famously saying that the fundamentals of the economy are strong. In fairness he is caught between what clearly needs to be done (use government resources to stimulate the economy) and what the Republican Party is demanding (do nothing: look how successful it was for Herbert Hoover).
  • The choice of Sarah Palin. Senator McCain announces again and again that he is a maverick and owes his vote to no one. Yet when he clearly wanted to choose Senator Joe Lieberman as his running mate, he buckled under and chose someone he had only met a few times and is clearly unqualified (meaning no disrespect to the Alaska PTA but that does not qualify someone for national office). The fact that she passes the Republican litmus test on abortion and gay marriage only shows that Senator McCain is not his own man.
  • The negative tone. Everyone knows that politics is hardball and it’s not bad to see how someone responds to being roughed up. But John McCain (whose 2000 campaign was destroyed by Karl Rove’s tactics; there is an excellent explanation in this Boston Globe article) has allowed this to get out of hand. He is an honorable man but he has allowed his campaign to smear Senator Obama with issues that are just plain wrong (he will raise everyone’s taxes) to issues that are simply offensive (he is secretly a Muslim and has an agenda he is hiding from the American people).

My only complaint with General Powell is that he didn’t do this in 2004. He was instrumental in selling the Iraq War in 2003 and it is now clear that he was using intelligence that the Bush administration knew to be wrong. He was the one person who could have blown the whistle and turned the voters against President Bush. I’m sorry he didn’t

Of all the issues, I’m most troubled by the ongoing negative campaigning. I had hoped that Senator McCain would repudiate these tactics but he clearly hasn’t. I’m proud to support Senator Obama who criticizes Senator McCain’s positions but never questions his patriotism or loyalty. The Republican Party, however, continues to hint darkly that Senator Obama is “not one of us” and Senator McCain is unwilling or unable to stop it. If you google “Obama” and “Muslim” it shows 12,100,000 hits, and the sponsored link above the results is McCain for President. The offensiveness here is deep and amazing. It hints that 1) Senator Obama isn’t running to President to serve the country but to destroy it, and 2) The mere fact (sic) that he is Muslim is proof because “they” can’t possibly love the United States.

I call this the Nat Turner strategy. Nat Turner was a slave on a plantation in Virginia; in 1831 he led an insurrection of slaves who rose up and murdered 55 people, beginning with the family that owned him. This led to harsh laws meant to prevent slaves from ever being able to do this again. The name Nat Turner now stands for anyone who appears to be loyal but is really looking for an opportunity to destroy you. In the context of the Presidential campaign the racial undertones are unmistakeable. Only a Obama win will quiet these voices.

My 401(K) Statement Came Postage Due; Is That a Bad Sign?

Sunday, October 12th, 2008

‘Tis the season; like many folk I’m getting statements in the mail with the bad news about our retirement (I’m guessing that I’m not alone in getting multiple statements: I have a Rollover IRA, Nancy and I both have Roth IRA’s, I have a 401(K) from Vitas and a 403(B) from SDHIPM, and Nancy has a 403(B) from UCSD).

I’m certainly not the only one who’s portfolio is bleeding copious amounts of money, but it is upsetting to see that while we’ve been contributing generously, the value of the funds have gone down. I don’t see either of us retiring for at least another 12 to 15 years and in that sense we’re in good shape. As a matter of fact, this is a good time to buy stocks and I’m confident we’ll look back on this and be happy we stayed the course.

The financial meltdown that we’ve all be watching is troubling because it happened, but also because of the reaction. There’s enough finger pointing to go around, and let me add my two cents: It’s everyone’s fault. It’s not just the greedy investors, it’s not just the politicians who demanded that all this stuff be deregulated, it’s not just the people who lied on their mortgage applications, it’s not just the mortgage brokers to told first time buyers not to worry about the adjustable rates, and it’s not just the buyers who didn’t have a plan if the rates went up. It was all of them.

Now I’ll freely admit that Nancy and I have been lucky: we bought our house in 2001 with a fixed rate and refinanced in 2003 to get a better interest rate. We live in a wonderful house in a wonderful neighborhood that we could only have afforded because Nancy’s father lives with us and owns half the house. BUT we bought what (actually less than) we knew we could afford. I saw the monthly house payment and knew that every month for the next 360 months I would have to have enough money in the bank to write that check and I didn’t sign anything until I was sure I could do it. Not everyone did this.

Now come the recriminations, and I have to say that I have the right to be screaming the loudest. As a taxpayer I’m partly on the hook for a $700,000,000,000 bailout when I did nothing wrong. And yet I support this. There is a quotation I love (but whose source I can’t find) that states: “Not everyone is at fault but everyone is responsible.” In other words, despite the fact that I’ve followed the rules and done what I’m supposed to do, I do feel a responsibility to be part of the solution.

I do believe that we can’t do nothing. For better or for worse our economy depends on the availability of credit and we can’t function without it. To allow this to “take its course” would lead to massive layoffs and unemployment. Both Nancy and I work in healthcare and our jobs would be pretty secure but that’s of little comfort if we see friends who work in retail or service jobs lose everything.

There is no way to talk about this without acknowledging the long shadow of the Presidential campaign. We choose a new leader in 23 days and we must choose wisely. I honestly believe that Senator Obama is better able to deal with this than Senator McCain. He and his supporters (Phil Gramm being the most obvious) have been the architects of the problem. We now need architects of the cure.