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 May, 2017

The Trump Chronicles, Volume 68: The Ongoing Unraveling of the Story of Mr. Comey’s Firing

Tuesday, May 16th, 2017

Today marks a week since the firing of FBI director James Comey. It’s been quite a week and it’s hard to imagine a week that’s shown better how President Trump can create chaos.

My best example comes from the series of explanations President Trump gave for the firing:

  1. It wasn’t my idea. In the letter Mr. Trump sent to Mr. Comey, he claimed he was simply responding to the recommendation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rob Rosenstein. This didn’t last long as Mr. Rosenstein threatened to resign unless the White House admitted that he wrote his memo at the direction of the President (he has since denied this).
  2. It was because of his treatment of Hillary Clinton during the Presidential campaign. This didn’t last long as there was tape of Mr. Trump praising Mr. Comey last October 31st. Last Thursday Mr. Trump sat down with NBC News anchor Lester Holt and said this (I did some editing for clarity the previous link takes you to the interview):
    Mr. Trump: [Rob Rosenstein] made a recommendation. He’s highly respected. Very good guy, very smart guy. And the Democrats like him. The Republicans like him. He had made a recommendation. But regardless of recommendation, I was going to fire Comey knowing there was no good time to do it. And in fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself — I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story. It’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should’ve won.

    In other words he didn’t act on Mr. Robenstein’s recommendation because he had already decided to fire Mr. Comey (and fired him for a different reason).

  3. Mr. Comey led the FBI poorly. In the same interview with Mr. Holt, Mr Trump said this:
    “Look, he’s a showboat. He’s a grandstander. The FBI has been in turmoil. You know that, I know that, everybody knows that. You take a look at the FBI a year ago, it was in virtual turmoil — less than a year ago. It hasn’t recovered from that.” It’s worth noting that the FBI’s interim director, Andrew McCabe said this: “I can tell you that I hold Director Comey in the absolute highest regard. I have the highest respect for his considerable abilities and his integrity and it has been the greatest privilege and honor in my professional life to work with him. I can tell you also that Director Comey enjoyed broad support within the FBI and still does until this day. We are a large organization, we are 36,500 people across this country, across this globe. We have a diversity of opinions about many things, but I can confidently tell you that the majority — the vast majority of FBI employees enjoyed a deep and positive connection to Director Comey.

It’s been my experience that when someone gives me several reasons for an action or decision, it’s usually because he doesn’t want me to know the real reason. Today we learned that in February Mr. Trump asked Mr. Comey to end the Russia probe. It’s not a stretch to think that Mr. Trump fired Mr. Comey out of disloyalty. Mr. Comey chose serve his country over his boss. If this is true, bravo Mr. Comey.

Celebrating Our Ordination

Sunday, May 14th, 2017

On the morning of May 14, 1994 I was ordained a Catholic priest as a member of the Paulist Fathers along with Fr. Paul Reynolds, Fr. Don Andrie, and Fr. Jerry Tully. By the way, if you click on Jerry’s page he talks about his ministry in Tennessee but he’s now assigned to St. Paul the Apostle in Los Angeles.

Alas, a little over three years after my ordination I fell in love and left the Paulist Fathers to get married. But I still celebrate my ordination and still think of myself as a priest. As a hospice chaplain I’ve celebrated the sacraments of Reconciliation and Anointing when a local priest was not available.

I don’t regret my seminary formation, and Nancy and I continue to support the Paulist Fathers financially. I don’t know how the Paulists view me, but I continue to keep in touch with several of those I met as a Paulist. I hope they celebrate with me.

The Trump Chronicles, Volume 67: You Really Don’t Get Why We Think Firing James Comey Was a Bad Idea

Thursday, May 11th, 2017

Dear Don:

Wow, it’s hard sometimes to understand your thinking. Tuesday evening you shocked us with the news that you fired FBI director James Comey.

Mr. Comey has directed the FBI since his appointment on September 4, 2013. He was appointed by President Obama for a ten year term. While FBI directors serve at the pleasure of the President, it’s assumed that they will fulfill their term, and the ten year term assumed they would not be dependent on the occupant of the White House.

Yeah, that’s not what happened. During the campaign, Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was investigated for her use of a private email server at her home in New York. On July 5, 2016 Director Comey announced that while Secretary Clinton showed poor judgement in using this private email server, neither she nor her staff broke any laws. This robbed the Republican party of what they convinced would lead to her being led off in handcuffs. Well, they kept making that charge, but we all knew that wouldn’t happen.

On October 28th, days before the election, Mr. Comey wrote a letter to Congress that emails surfaced that may reopen the investigation. Even though nothing in those emails implicated Secretary Clinton, and even though Mr. Comey announced (two days before the election), “never mind” it impacted how some voted.

Many of us, including the respected blog Five Thirty Eight, feel his October 28th letter cost Secretary Clinton the election.

At the time you cheered Director Comey, as you can find here. As a matter of fact, on January 22nd (two days after your inauguration) you hugged him.

But when the FBI began to look at possible ties between your campaign and Russia, things began to unravel. And that’s where it gets interesting. In March Mr. Comey refused to back up your false claim that President Obama wiretapped you.

But I suspect Mr. Comey’s exit happened when he requested more funding for the investigation of Russia’s meddling in the election. Interestingly enough, Mr. Comey approached deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. I attempted to provide a hotlink, but when I clicked on his webpage I got this broken link.

You see, Don, I think Mr. Comey wasn’t fired for any other reason than this: he was getting close to finding a link between you, your staff, and Russia. The fact that your explanation of the events of the last 48 hours continues to unravel makes my case as well as anything can.

Seriously, Don, call me. You’re running out of time.

The Trump Chronicles, Volume 66: Apparently You’re Not Smarter Than a Fifth Grader

Wednesday, May 3rd, 2017

Dear Don:

Don, Don, Don, what are we going to do with you? A few days ago you sat down with Salena Zito of the Washington Examiner and said this about the Civil War:

I mean, had Andrew Jackson been a little later you wouldn’t have had the Civil War. He was a very tough person but he had a big heart. He was really angry that he saw with regard to the Civil War, he said ‘There’s no reason for this.’ People don’t realize, you know, the Civil War, if you think about it, why? People don’t ask that question, but why was there the Civil War? Why could that one not have been worked out?

I’m still wrapping my head around this quote, but I think you were trying to make the point that if President Andrew Jackson were still President in 1861 he could have prevented the Civil War.

When it was pointed out to you that President Jackson left office in 1837 and died in 1845, you doubled down on Twitter and claimed that “President Andrew Jackson, who died 16 years before the Civil War started, saw it coming and was angry. Would never have let it happen!”

Yeah, that’s not true. President Jackson owned slaves and almost certainly would have opposed the election of Abraham Lincoln and supported succession.

OK, you’re a real estate developer and I’m a history buff and I’m trying to be understanding about this. I don’t expect all of us to know our history, but I do expect our President to have a basic understanding of the history of the nation he leads.

So Don, let me school you on the causes of the Civil War. It’s really all about slavery.

We really need to begin with the first few years after the Declaration of Independence. Starting in 1781 we were governed by the Articles of Confederation. Slavery, which began in the American Colonies in 1619 had, by the 1780s, survived almost exclusively in the Southern States.

But the Declaration of Independence declared that all men (and we hope women) are created equal in the eyes of God. The Articles of Confederation, written in 1777, said nothing about slavery, but soon our founders met to “update” the Articles in 1787.

This led to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in the summer of 1787. Delegates from all thirteen states grappled with values, dreams, hopes, fears, and their faith. In the end they created a Constitution that we all admire and promise to protect.

But while valuing separation of church and state, free speech, and countless other interests, they failed to decide the future of slavery. Southern delegates, like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson recognized the irony of owning slaves in a “free” country but couldn’t bring themselves to call for abolition. To use a modern term, they kicked the can down the road.

But by the early 1800s our new nation faced the can they couldn’t kick: While the Constitution did not prohibit slavery, it decreed that slaves counted as 3/5 of a person for the purposes of the census. This benefited Southern slave owners as 60% of their slaves were counted in the census but didn’t vote.

You see, Don, the Southern economy depended primarily on agriculture, and with the invention of the cotton gin in 1794, cotton became incredibly valuable and created the large plantation system. Most Southern farmers didn’t own slaves but the Southern economy depended on slave labor.

At the same time our nation was growing. Until 1803 the Mississippi River constituted our Western border; that year we purchased the Louisiana Territory that brought us to the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. By 1853 we owned all the land we now call the 48 contiguous states.

And that created a problem. Everyone knew that these vast territories would eventually coalesce into states, but the Southern (slave) states feared that the newly formed abolitionist movement, founded in the Northern states, would gain enough influence in Congress to abolish slavery. They demanded that Western expansion allow for the expansion of slavery, at least in the Southern territories.

By 1850 Congress attempted to admit states in pairs: one slave state and one free state.

But the election of 1860 made war inevitable. This is hard to imagine but the Democrats divided over the issue of slavery. Northern Democrats didn’t want slavery to expand West and backed Stephen A. Douglas. Southern Democrats backed John Breckenridge who found the expansion of slavery as necessary for their survival.

Democrats split their vote between Stephen Douglas and John Breckenridge, and Republicans voted for Abraham Lincoln. As he was an opponent of slavery, 11 states seceded.

Don, I’m telling you this because this war was inevitable. You may admire President Jackson but he would have been more of a problem than a solution. He was a Democrat and a slave owner.