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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(b.1964)

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Archive for March, 2016

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

Thursday, 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

Thursday, 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

Thursday, 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?

Lead in Our Water? How Did This Happen? That’s Easy.

Monday, March 14th, 2016

In the last month or so we’ve been hearing about unacceptable levels of lead in the drinking water in Flint, Michigan. How did happen?

First some background: Like cities all over the country, Flint looks to its past for it’s best days. In the first half of the 20th Century, Flint prospered from the automobile industry. But when their plants closed in the 1980s their population dwindled and it became harder to raise the money to run the city.

Previous to 2014 Flint purchased its water from the city of Detroit who got water from Lake Huron (you can read about this here). But in an effort to save money the leaders in Flint decided to switch over and get their water directly from the Flint River. Almost immediately residents of Flint noticed a change in their water quality. You can find an excellent article here.

But the real danger was not the color or smell of the water, but elevated levels of lead. In response to ongoing protests by Flint’s citizens the city began to test the water. There are a few heroes here, and one of them is LeeAnne Walters. She was a loud critic of the water and when the city tested the water coming out of her tap, they found something alarming.

The Environmental Protection Agency claims that no lead is acceptable, but by law 15 parts per billion (ppb) is allowed. The water coming out of the Walter’s tap: 400 ppb. When she had her children’s lead levels tested, they all tested positive and one of them received a diagnosis of lead poisoning. Lead levels in children cause irreversible brain damage.

LeeAnne, digging through city documents, learned that when Flint switched water providers they failed to provide “corrosive controls” that prevented lead from water pipes to leach into the water supply. During this time local and state officials continued to insist that the water was safe even when they knew it wasn’t.

So how did this happen? Alas, this has led to the hand wringing and finger pointing that has become all too common in our current political discourse. There are calls for the resignation of Governor Rick Snyder.

This won’t solve anything. I’m frustrated by the fact that whenever we uncover a crisis we look for a scapegoat instead of looking to a permanent solution. The phrase drinking the Kool Aid owns a place in our vocabulary for a reason. In 1978 nine hundred and thirteen people willingly committed suicide by drinking cyanide laced Kool Aid because they were told to by Jim Jones.

Since 1978 the phrase “drinking the Kool Aid” has expanded to people who sacrifice their integrity for job security. This, I believe, informs what happened in Flint. This, I believe, explains why officials in Flint and Lansing continued to lie to the good people of Flint about the safety of their water. They sacrificed the safety of children they will never meet to ensure they won’t lose their job.

Really? Yes. It’s hard to imagine but job security matters to people. Fear is a frighteningly powerful motivator and the fear of losing our job easily leads us into dangerous territory. Flint and Lansing are full of bureaucrats who lied about water safety and prayed they would get away with it.

The other factor is even worse. Those in power knew that they would likely never meet the people their decisions would affect. The African American population in Flint is currently 53.27%. They are poor and black and easy to ignore. Lying about the dangers to children you’ll never meet is easier than lying about your neighbors.

Sadly I’ve witnessed times where people I knew “drank the Kool Aid.” I’ve seen people who, under pressure to “not make waves” or “go along” or “not be a problem” have remained silent when they should have said something. And even more sadly, I have to admit there have been times when that person was me. I pray those times not happen again.

That said, there are heroes in Flint right now. I told you about LeeAnne Walters. I also want to give a shout our to Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha.

Let us all aspire to be LeeAnne’s and Mona’s and let us pray that no more children are damaged by cowardice.

The Election Chronicles, Volume 26: Super Tuesday in the Rear View Mirror

Thursday, March 3rd, 2016

Many of us (or at least some of us) spent last Tuesday watching the news to see how the different candidates fared on “Super Tuesday.”

We learned that it was a good day for the frontrunners. Of the 11 state races in the Republican race, Donald Trump won 7, Ted Cruz won 3, and Marco Rubio took 1 (Minnesota).

Meanwhile on the Democratic race, Hillary Clinton won seven and Bernie Sanders won four.

At this point in the election cycle it appears that it’s Hillary’s and Donald’s to loose. For Democrats it’s the news that surprises no one. Bernie has successfully awakened several groups: young Democrats, socialists, people who believe that wage unequality makes us weaker, and people who strongly favor Single Payer Health Care. But Hillary has been a household name for 24 years since her husband was elected our 42nd President.

On the other hand the Republican party is in full panic mode. Last October I posted the possibility that this election could well lead to the death of the Republican Party. I argued that the current GOP consists of several factions that are only coming into view now.

Trump speaks to Republicans who feel the United States is no longer the leader of the world and need to reclaim it. They believe that we Americans are under attack by immigrants from Mexico, Muslims from Syria, and the Chinese who benefit from trade deals that steal American jobs.

Cruz speaks to Republicans who have a strong belief in a Christian God. They believe that God chose America to be (as Ronald Reagan called it) a shining city upon a hill. America will be judged by God based on whether we follow God’s laws. Abortion, gay marriage, and cooperation with Muslims anger God and will make us weaker. Our country needs to reclaim “family values” and our worst enemies are those who choose “political correctness” over faithfulness to our Creator. A vote for Cruz guarantees God’s blessing.

Rubio speaks to the “establishment Republicans.” They speak to an America where government is limited, free enterprise is valued, and laws are passed only when they need to be. In previous election cycles he would have claimed the best road to the nomination. Unfortunately he is seen as “part of the mainstream” and an upstart.

The panic over the concept of Trump nomination has caused the GOP to run in several directions. Some, like Chris Christie have sold out and back Trump, hoping for a cabinet post.

This morning we listened to a speech given by Mitt Romney. Mitt warned that Trump has no idea what he’s doing and that he’s suckering his supporters.

It appears there is no realistic path to Trump coming into the GOP Convention with a majority of delegates. But if he doesn’t come with more than 50% of the delegates we will have what’s often called a brokered convention. The hope then lies in Trump’s opponents coalescing around one candidate and the combined delegates outvote Trump.

Many of us see this as a possibility but I still think the more likely path forward is that another Republican announces an independent candidacy. My money is still on Ted Cruz but other possible candidates include Michael Bloomberg or even Mitt Romney.

Fasten your seatbelts. It’s going to be a wild ride.