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 February, 2017

The Trump Chronicles, Volume 48: “Enemy of the People” Is Not a New Charge

Monday, February 27th, 2017

President Trump’s displeasure with the press is well known. In a tweet last week he called the press the “enemy of the people.”

That comment perked the ears of many of us history buffs. We were certain we had heard this charge before and we were right. I encourage you to read an excellent article from the Washington Post that traces this phrase through the speeches and writings of Adolph Hitler, Vladimir Lenin, Josef Stalin, and Mao Tse Tung.

If there are any Republicans reading this, I’m sure you’re screaming at me that President Trump didn’t mean it in that context. Fair enough, but as I wrote last December, words matter. I don’t expect President Trump to be a history buff and recognize the danger of this charge, but I do expect that he chooses his words carefully.

The Trump Chronicles, Volume 47: At Last We Hear the Voice of Reason

Sunday, February 26th, 2017

I live in the Catholic Diocese of San Diego and we are led by Bishop Robert McElroy. He’s been our bishop since March of 2015 and he’s been wonderful. On January 29th he responded to President Trump’s executive order on immigration. I’ve never been prouder to be a Catholic:

For the Catholic community, the Gospel mandate to ‘welcome the stranger’ is a searing responsibility, not only in our personal lives, but also in guiding our efforts to create a just society in a world filled with suffering and turmoil.

For this reason, the historic identity of the United States as a safe haven for refugees fleeing war and persecution is for American Catholics both a source of justifiable pride and an unswerving religious commitment, even as we recognize that at shameful moments in our nation history prejudice, fear and ignorance have led our country to abandon that identity.

This week is just such a shameful moment of abandonment for the United States.

The executive order signed by President Trump on Friday [Jan 27] professes to be a necessary step in securing the safety of Americans. But the design of the order – and its chaotic implementation – unmask the reality that this presidential order arose not from a careful effort to balance the needs of security with our commitment to welcome refugees amidst the greatest refugee crisis since World War II. Rather, this executive order is the introduction intolaw of campaigning sloganeering rooted in xenophobia and religious prejudice. Its devastating consequences are already apparent for those suffering most in our world, for our standing among nations, and for the imperative of rebuilding unity within our country rather than tearing us further apart.

This week, the Statue of Liberty lowered its torch in a presidential action which repudiates our national heritage and ignores the reality that Our Lord and the Holy Family were themselves Middle Eastern refugees fleeing government oppression. We cannot and will not stand silent.

Bravo Bishop McElroy.

The Trump Chronicles, Volume 46: Tariffs Are Counterproductive, And Here Is An Here Is a Perfect Example

Friday, February 24th, 2017

I’m a big fan of the National Public Radio’s economics podcast Planet Money. Most of what I know about economics comes from listening to this podcast.

Planet Money explains wonky economic terms in ways laypeople like myself can understand and they also use historic examples to explain current events. In a recent podcast they spoke about the danger of tariffs and protectionism.

In 2010 Argentina elected Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner President on her promise to bring back jobs.

This is a broad topic but she demanded that all cell phones sold in Argentina be manufactured in Argentina. Some companies, like Apple pulled out of the Argentinian market, but Blackberry agreed to build a factory in Argentina.

President Fernandez then demanded that Blackberry build their factory in a place that supported her Presidential bid: Tierra del Fuego, Spanish for “Land of Fire.” It’s at the southern tip of the country, the place where explorers begin their journey to the South Pole. Blackberry soon learned that they needed to pay workers enormous wages to locate there.

Two years later, when the first Argentinian Blackberry came off the assembly line, it was two years out of date and twice as expensive as the current Blackberry sold in the United States.

This phone was a bonanza for the black market. Smugglers made horrific profits smuggling Blackberries into Argentina and Argentinians paid less money for newer, better phones.

Because of this and other protectionist policies, inflation rose to 40% per year. The factory in Tierra del Fuego couldn’t sell the Blackberrys they were turning out. After cutting production for two years, Blackberry closed down the factory because they couldn’t find a way to sell the expensive obsolete phones.

And the protectionism wasn’t just with Blackberrys. Instead of finding ways the Argentinian government could invest in valuable exports they spent their energy propping up unsustainable manufacturing. As for their exports, if you’ve tasted an Argentinian Malbec, you know what I’m talking about.

The Trump Chronicles, Volume 45: Sweden? Please Stop Getting Your Briefings from Faux News

Tuesday, February 21st, 2017

This past Saturday President Trump held a campaign rally in Florida. In the course of the rally he said this:

We’ve got to keep our country safe. You look at what’s happening in Germany. You look at what’s happening last night in Sweden. Sweden, who would believe this? Sweden. They took in large numbers. They’re having problems like they never thought possible. You look at what’s happening in Brussels. You look at what’s happening all over the world. Take a look at Nice. Take a look at Paris.

The problem? Nothing happened the night before in Sweden. Of the nations who have welcomed refugees, Sweden has taken the lead. They have accepted 30,000 Syrian refugees. I assume Mr. Trump was attempting to make the point that Sweden has paid a high price for their welcome.

When asked what he was talking about, he tweeted that he got his information from a report on Tucker Carlson’s show on Fox News and later claimed he wasn’t speaking of a specific event, but a general rise in crime that he linked to immigration.

So is it true? I know, I know, truth generally means nothing to Mr. Trump, but it means something to me. Tucker Carlson interviewed documentary film maker Ami Horowitz who did claim that there has been an increase in gun violence and rape in Sweden that the Swedish government has covered up. He, of course, gave not evidence of this.

I’ve written about this before. Mr. Trump regularly ignores security briefings. Turns out he gets them from Faux News.

It’s going to be a long 1357 days.

The Trump Chronicles, Volume 44: Executive Order 9066 Matters (and He Has No Clue)

Sunday, February 19th, 2017

This may be obscure to many, but it shouldn’t be. Seventy five years ago today President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066.

February 19, 1942 came a little over two months after the attack on Pearl Harbor and the entry of the United States into World War II.

Inevitably war leads to a demonizing of the enemy. During World War I, in this country, “sauerkraut” was renamed “victory cabbage” and during Operation Iraqi Freedom “french fries” became “freedom fries.”

Oftentimes this demonizing is harmless, but not always. The demonization of Japanese led to the false belief that Japanese Americans couldn’t be trusted. Executive Order 9066 led to the mass deportation of 110,000 people of Japanese descent. It didn’t matter if you were a citizen, or that you pledged loyalty to the United States. If you had Japanese ancestors, you were eligible to be moved. If you had a home, you couldn’t stay there. If you had a farm, you needed to leave. If you owned a business you were forced to abandon it. Many were given less than a week to sell what they had, and nearly all of them lost everything.

When they were released at the end of the war, almost all of them needed to start over.

I write this today because today’s demon isn’t Japanese but Muslim. On December 7, 2015 (the anniversary of Pearl Harbor), Candidate Trump called for a complete ban on Muslims entering the United States.

Late last month I wrote about Mr. Trump’s Executive Order restricting entry into the United States from seven countries. He insists that this isn’t meant as a ban on Muslims but we’re not fooled.

Seventy five years ago today we assumed Japanese Americans couldn’t be trusted. Today our leadership assumes Muslims can’t be trusted.

We have learned nothing from past discrimination.

The Trump Chronicles, Volume 43: Did President Elect Trump Collude With Russia?

Saturday, February 18th, 2017

December 29, 2016 was a busy day, and only in the last few days have we learned how much.

In the weeks before that, the administration of President Obama learned that high levels of Russia’s government (and likely Vladimir Putin) worked to sway the Presidential election toward Mr. Trump. In response President Obama ordered expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats and sanctioned several individuals. We expected Russia to retaliate.

Unknown to us at the time, Mr. Trump’s pick for National Security Advisor, General Michael Flynn made a phone call to Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak. It was reported at the time that this was a “courtesy call” and the sanctions were never discussed. We’ve since learned that wasn’t true and that he spoke about sanctions.

Later that day Mr. Putin (after previously threatening), elected not to retaliate.

Then President Elect Trump tweeted that Mr. Putin was “very smart.”

When asked about the call between General Flynn and Ambassador Kislyak, Vice President Pence reported that it was a simple courtesy call and they did not discuss sanctions. General Flynn was fired this past week when it was reported that they did talk about the sanctions.

I’m a firm believer in Occam’s Razor, the belief that “when you have two competing theories that make exactly the same predictions, the simpler one is the better.”

In other words I find it most plausible that last December 29th Mr. Trump directed General Flynn to call Ambassador Kislyak and tell him not to worry about the sanctions as they would be rolled back after January 20th. General Flynn is an experienced Army officer and previously served as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency and certainly would have known not to make that call unless he was given a direct order.

I have no confidence that there will ever be a full investigation of this, but I find it telling that Mr. Trump had no problem throwing someone else under the bus to save his own reputation.

The Trump Chronicles, Volume 42: Amateur Hour Part 3

Tuesday, February 14th, 2017

After the election I created a category I called The Trump Chronicles. Now I’m thinking I need to create a sub category of the Trump Chronicles called “Amateur Hour.” So far I’ve chronicled missteps of both President Trump and Kellyanne Conway. Now we can add White House aide Stephen Miller to this revered community.

Like most people, I hadn’t heard his name, but he lit up the skies this past weekend. On Sunday he appeared on ABC’s This Week, NBC’s Meet the Press, CBS’s Face the Nation, and Fox News Sunday.

From what I could gather, he was sent to talk up Mr. Trump’s executive orders on immigration. That’s find, but it seems nobody told him that he might be asked questions that were not on his talking points. It didn’t go well for him.

Yesterday I spoke about about how Mr. Miller advanced the false claim of voter fraud. Not satisfied with that, he just kept going and going. I’m certain I’ll be writing about this, but we’re finding that National Security Advisor Michael Flynn may have improperly communicated with the Russian ambassador about sanctions.

When asked about this by George Stephanopolous he responded: “Well, I don’t have any news to make today on this point.” Mr. Stephanopoulous responded: “Then why are you coming on if you can’t answer the questions being posed about the White House?” Mr. Miller responded: “I don’t have any information, George, to change anything that has previously already been said by the White House on this matter. General Flynn has served this country admirable and with distinction. He is a three star general. He served in the Defense Intelligence Agency. There’s no information that I have, as a policy director for this White House, to contribute any new information to this story this morning. And I’m sorry to disappoint you, but that’s just where things stand.”

Later, Mr. Miller appeared on Meet the Press with Chuck Todd. Asking about General Flynn and whether or not Mr. Trump still has confidence in his National Security Advisor, Mr. Miller responded that Mr. Todd should ask the President or his chief of staff. When pressed he answered: “They did not give me anything to say.”

Wow. I’m not sure who came out worse. The poor, stupid kid who was in way over his head or the idiots who sent him out there unprepared.

For what it’s worth, Mr. Trump’s response (on twitter, of course) was this: “Congratulations Stephen Miller- on representing me this morning on the various Sunday morning shows. Great job!”

The Trump Chronicles, Volume 41: They Just Aren’t Going to Let This Voter Fraud Thing Go

Sunday, February 12th, 2017

I’ve written here, here, and here about the claim by President Trump and others that massive voter fraud cheated him out of winning the popular vote.

We saw the latest example this morning on This Week With George Stephanopoulos. White House Senior Policy Advisor Stephen Miller claimed that Mr. Trump lost New Hampshire only because “thousands” of people were bused from Massachusetts to vote illegally. When he was pressed for evidence by Mr. Stephanopoulos, Mr. Miller offered nothing but claimed that “[e]verybody‚Äôs aware of the problem in New Hampshire.”

Right. The “everybody knows” line comes up only when pressed on evidence that doesn’t exist. Neither Mr. Trump, nor Mr. Miller, no anyone else has evidence of massive voter fraud because it simply does not exist.

At the end of the day this isn’t much of an issue except that it’s a stupid argument that a thin skinned little man (who, alas, is our President) won’t let it go.

It’s going to be a long 1366 days.

The Trump Chronicles, Volume 40: Amateur Hour Part 2

Friday, February 10th, 2017

I wrote previously about how Presidential Counselor Kellyanne Conway violated federal ethics rules by hawking her boss’ daughter’s clothing line on national TV. She wasn’t flaunting the law, she was simply, and stunningly, ignorant.

On the same day, we learned her boss also showed his stunning ignorance and lack of preparedness for the job. On January 28th President Trump was on the phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin when Mr. Putin suggested extending the terms of the New START treaty. Mr. Trump then asked his aides what Mr. Putin was talking about. When it was explained to him, Mr. Trump told Mr. Putin that it was a bad deal for the United States.

A little background: START is an acronym for “STrategic Arms Reduction Treaty” and has been around since 1982 when negotiations began between U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev. The treaty has gone through several revisions, and turned into “New START” in 2011.

Now I don’t expect most of us to know what START is, but I do expect our President to know. He’s now claiming that he knew what Mr. Putin was talking about and just needed some advice from his aides, but I don’t think anyone believes this. Mr. Trump famously brags about not reading much and after his election he declined most of the classified briefings he was offered. Given this, I don’t imagine he was reading about START and New START when they were in the news, and I don’t imagine he showed up when someone wanted to tell him about it.

Ignorance may have served him well when he ran for President, but it doesn’t serve any of us well when he leads our nation.

The Trump Chronicles, Volume 39: Amateur Hour Part 1

Friday, February 10th, 2017

President Trump and his administration have famously bragged about their lack of experience in government. His supporters think this is good, but it’s not. Public service brings with it tremendous responsibilities that this administration does not care to honor.

But unfortunately they are also slow to understand that they need to follow the law, even laws they’re not aware of. Yesterday Kellyanne Conway appeared on Faux News and was asked about Nordstrom’s decision to stop carrying Ivanka Trump’s fashion line. Never passing a chance to play the victim, Ms. Conway responded by encouraging viewers to buy Ms. Trump’s merchandise.

That’s illegal. The Office of Government Ethics clearly prohibits a federal employee from using his or her office to promote private gain. Clearly she did this. Rules like this are in place to prevent federal employees from profiting either themselves or someone else. This opens her to a charge that she did this to curry favor with her boss (President Trump).

I am the son of a retired federal employee and the brother of a current one. I can’t count how many other current or present federal employees I know. And the all, they all, recognize that they may not use their influence to do anything other than serve the American people.

So once again the Trump administration has shown us their contempt for our laws and the Constitution he promised to defend. Only 1368 days left until the next election.