Tom McLaughlin

A former history teacher, Tom is a columnist who lives in Lovell, Maine. His column is published in Maine and New Hampshire newspapers and on numerous web sites. Email:

Monday, July 28, 2014

More Fundamental Change From Our President

Four years ago I flew to Tucson, Arizona, rented a Jeep, and drove down to the Mexican border at Nogales. I wanted to see for myself what was going on down there. I turned right just before the Mexican crossing and drove west along International Street on the US side of our primitive border fence. There, I encountered several modified, four-door, white and green, Dodge pickup trucks scurrying around in a futile effort to stop the flood of illegals constantly sneaking over, under, and through the flimsy international “barrier.” 
International Street in Nogales

The first agent I was able to speak with was, lucky for me, from Maine. He talked freely at first, telling me they arrested over 57,000 illegals just in Nogales during the previous year, down from over 100,000 two years previously, but he indicated that many more than that got through. Somewhere between twelve and twenty million are in the US illegally. Many are on welfare, including thousands in Maine. When I told the agent I was a columnist (wish I’d never done that), he clammed up and referred me to “public information officers” back at headquarters in Nogales who gave me the runaround, erased pictures from my camera, and escorted me off the base. The Border Patrol hierarchy under the Obama Administration wanted to keep a lid on information back then, and it’s only gotten worse since.
Border in Nogales

Illegal aliens are coming across our southern border because they can. Life on our side is better than it is where they come from, whether they want to work under the table or just go on the dole. Neither Democrats nor establishment Republicans want to stop them, but ordinary Americans do. Why? Because while life improves for the illegals, their presence here makes life more difficult for working-class Americans. According to a study last month from the Center for Immigration Studies and reported at National Review Online: “Net employment growth in the United States since 2000 has gone entirely to immigrants, legal and illegal.” Taxes have risen dramatically in many US states and cities to pay for education, healthcare, housing, food, and jails for illegals and their children. Hospitals and schools are overwhelmed in border states, and wages are driven down for blue-collar workers here, especially blacks.
Now President Obama is expected to grant amnesty to five million of them by Executive Order. Tea Party Republicans in the House are threatening impeachment if he does. The Christian Science Monitor quotes senior White House Advisor Dan Pfeiffer saying: “The president acting on immigration reform will certainly up the likelihood that [Republicans] would contemplate impeachment at some point.” Ironically, Obama seems to relish that prospect, perhaps because it will encourage more Democrat voters to go to the polls in November, trying to keep control of the Senate.
Obama wants almost $4 billion for judges, lawyers to process hundreds of thousands of illegal “children” who are unlikely to even show up for their hearings. He’s flying them all over the country and releasing them wherever he can. He claims he must abide by a law passed at the end of the Bush Administration mandating court hearings for OTM, or “Other Than Mexican” illegals who come here from non-contiguous countries. The law was passed to fight sex trafficking, not for what Obama is doing, but Democrats refuse to modify the law. Obama is using it as a fig leaf and doesn’t want to change it. He’s obeying that law while refusing to enforce virtually every other immigration law on the books. He sued Arizona when it tried to enforce them at the state level.
Senior Border Patrol officials are still muzzling agents about what’s really going on down there. Like the one I met, they won’t talk. Cameras are banned and even congressmen aren’t allowed into facilities. Are they afraid pictures of “children” with facial and neck tattoos will circulate? They only want us to see pictures of cute little kids, though according to the Lieutenant Governor of Texas last week last week: “unaccompanied children represent some 12%-20% [of recent illegal immigrants]. We're focused on that [other 80 or 85%] of which a quarter, according to the border patrol, have a criminal record.”
Retired Border Patrol Agents claim the Obama Administration has manufactured the present crisis to put political pressure on Congress to pass amnesty. When the president blames the current flood of immigrants on violence and gang activity in Central America, he’s lying. By issuing his unconstitutional executive order DACA - Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals - he choreographed it.
Former US Attorney Andrew McCarthy agrees, writing last week that: “The January 2014 solicitation published by DHS’s bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement foretells (a) the arrival of 65,000 ‘unaccompanied alien children, and, tellingly, (b) the administration’s intention to transfer them to ‘Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) shelters located throughout the continental United States.’”

Obama is lying - again - when he claims he’s going to deport them. They’re staying, as still another way to fundamentally change America.

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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

All Riled Up

It’s always easier to organize against something than for something. My experience in two big “against” campaigns were both kind of fun for me as a young leftist/liberal. We could easily portray ourselves as the good guys stopping bad guys from ruining our lives. The first was against a highway through our neighborhood in Lowell, Massachusetts in the early seventies and, the other was against a nuclear waste dump under our town in Maine during the late eighties. We won each after only a couple of months of hell-raising and I learned much. You can tell a lot about people by what riles them.
In rural western Maine where I live, many people have gotten worked up the past few years about Poland Spring selling water out of the aquifer under the towns of Fryeburg and Denmark. Most residents of those towns have their own wells and worry that Poland Spring may pump too much causing the water levels in their wells to go down. They imaging their situation as ordinary people each with a small straw drinking from a big bowl and then a giant sticks a huge straw into the same bowl and starts sucking enormous amounts of water. Their fears don’t seem completely unreasonable given that big aquifers out west have declined because of large agricultural and industrial users pumping out more and more water. The underground aquifer, or  “bowl” if you will, is constantly being replenished by rain, but will that keep up with increasing demand? Then I think of Sebago Lake. Unlike Fryeburg’s invisible aquifer, it is a huge bowl of water visible to everyone and supplies Greater Portland. I never see it go down unless it’s done intentionally by the Portland Water District or others adjusting its outlet dam in fall. It seems like there’s more than enough clean, fresh water in Maine for everyone.
Last summer a dog jumped on a bird at a beach in Scarborough, Maine and killed it. That’s what dogs will do, but animal lovers in that southern Maine shore town have been up in arms for a year over it. On one side are bird lovers who are appalled because the bird was a “piping plover” which is “endangered” according two the state and “threatened” according to the federal government. On the other side are dog lovers who like to let their animals run free on southern Maine beaches mornings and evenings. First it was the bird lovers and greenie federal officials who prevailed on the town council to pass a town-wide leash law. Dog lovers flipped out and overturned the council’s action by referendum. Bird lovers then got the council to pass more limited restrictions. At this writing, Scarborough animal lovers are still fighting each other.
Piping Plovers

My level of concern in this matter can be measured in units of micro give-a-sh**s. If I had to pick a side, it would be for the birds. Unleashed dogs on southern Maine beaches mornings and evenings outnumber children, and they’re annoying. But then millennials in the Greater Portland, Maine area would rather have dogs than kids. Children would cramp their lifestyle and increase their “carbon footprint.”
Next door in South Portland, Maine, green weenies are all worked up because they don’t want Canadian oil to coming into town through the Portland Pipeline. Even though tankers have been unloading oil there and safely piping it north to Canada since 1941 or so, greenies in South Portland insist the pipeline cannot safely reverse flow and bring Canadian oil south. They’re part of a wider, nationwide, green weenie movement that wants to leave petroleum in the ground. They want us all to put up wind mills and solar panels, and if we can’t ride bicycles, then drive Priuses as a last resort. They’ve successfully pressured President Obama to block the Keystone Pipeline for the same reasons. They’re knocking on doors to scare people about “Tar Sands Oil” ruining our environment and causing global warming.
Canada will sell its oil to China and India if they can’t sell it to the United States. Even if you believed that humans cause global warming (which I don’t), stopping any of these pipelines won’t reduce carbon in the atmosphere that purportedly causes warming. It will only hurt us because we’ll have to get our oil from much more volatile places like Venezuela and the Middle East. Greater Portland’s green weenies lost a referendum to stop importing Canadian oil last winter, but they’re still pushing. South Portland’s City Council enacted a ban on exporting crude oil from the city and that is likely to trigger still another referendum.

And on it goes.

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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Living on the Fumes of Greatness

Only men over sixty have ever been subject to the military draft in America. Knowing you could be forced by government to fight in a war focuses one’s attention on what’s happening in the wider world beyond the peaceful shores of the Unites States. Today, however, our military is all volunteer. Fewer than 1% of Americans serve now and that’s been true for decades. If you don’t want to, you don’t have to. Is that a good thing? I’m not so sure.

Americans under sixty have led a remarkably pampered life by world historical standards. They’ve grown up in the most powerful country the world has ever seen and have never been forced to seriously consider how brutal other humans can be when they’re allowed. The vast majority of people who lived out their lives on this planet did so in walled cities or constantly looking over their shoulders as they moved about with weapons close at hand.
Some of us, though, have paid attention to what goes on outside our borders. Some have studied history and have come to understand that the Pax Americana we’ve known all our lives is more the exception than the rule. Most, however, never consider Orwell’s observance that: “People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.” We don’t appreciate how fortunate we are to have been born in late-20th-century America. We still have rough men ready to do violence on our behalf, but we don’t have a government that either appreciates them or knows how to use them properly.
I hate to point this out, but we’re not just getting fat, dumb, and lazy; we’re already here, and have been for some time. Obesity is epidemic. We don’t know much about history, geography, civics, or anything else, and more than 90 million of us have dropped out of the workforce. The evidence is overwhelming that our citizenry is in serious decline. Consequently, so is our nation. More and more of us are dependent on government entitlements and, due to our ignorance of simple arithmetic, we are unaware that those expensive programs are mathematically unsustainable. Bankruptcy looms, but we keep on spending as if it weren’t.
We keep reelecting a government that is a reflection of us. Paradoxically however, opinion polls indicate that we don’t approve of the government for which we keep voting. Why do we continue to reelect congressmen, senators and a president we dislike? Is it because they tell us what we want to hear? Perhaps the lyric in the Sheryl Crow number applies to us: “Lie to me. I promise, I’ll believe,” she sang. How long can this continue though? When I ponder that, something columnist Mark Steyn wrote comes to mind: “Sometimes societies become too stupid to survive.”
Peggy Noonan, former Reagan speechwriter and Wall Street Journal columnist, penned something last week that also haunts me. Commenting about the illegal alien crisis on the Mexican border, she observed: “America is the house that is both falling apart and under new stress. Those living within it, those most upset by what they're seeing, know America has big problems—unemployment, low workforce participation, a rickety physical infrastructure, an unsound culture, poor public education. And of course discord of all sorts… They know America can't pay its bills. They fear we're living on the fumes of greatness. They want us to be strong again.”

“Living on the fumes of greatness.” Yes. That is indeed what we’re doing.
Peggy Noonan

Noonan was describing Americans who do pay attention, who understand history, who know we cannot go on doing what we’re doing. But I’m afraid such people are in the minority now. Remember: 52% of us reelected Barack Obama two years ago in spite of what he did in his first term. The Wednesday morning after that sad election day I was forced to realize that yes, the America in which I grew up has fundamentally changed.
First generation immigrant Dinesh D’Souza just released a movie titled, “America: Imagine The World Without Her.” I haven’t seen it yet, but I know what’s in it. He sees what I see. I have been imagining such a world and it isn’t a pretty one, because I know there are brutal people out there who ponder it gleefully. They smell American decline and they extend their probes further and further to see what they can get away with. How far will that be? I’m afraid to think.

I still choose to believe in spite of mounting evidence to the contrary that it’s not too late, that enough Americans are beginning to understand we simply must turn things around. We have to start this November if we’re to have any hope of resurrecting the America we used to take for granted.

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Monday, July 07, 2014

Aliens Are Not Immigrants

Were you to draw a picture of the United States, it would show the familiar outline of our borders with Maine sticking out at the top right, Florida on the bottom right, Texas in the south, and so on. But what’s a border? It’s a boundary within which people declare, uphold, and adhere to a set of principles. People outside it don’t. Principles within are outlined in two founding documents: The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. It’s those principles that have made the United States the strongest, most prosperous, and greatest country the world has ever seen. Without them and the borders within which they’re enforced, the United States would not exist.
People outside the boundaries have seen and heard how good it is here and they want to come in. There’s a process for that called immigration, and most of us are descended from people who followed it. During the first half of the 20th century, about 12,000,000 did. None got any welfare because it didn’t exist. After the Roosevelt and Johnson Administrations there were some welfare programs, but immigrants weren’t eligible until they became citizens.
Early immigrants didn’t come here for freebies. The opportunity to work and build a new life in a free country is what drew them. Over the past 25 years or so, however, another 12,000,000 or so snuck in here without going through the immigration process and cannot properly be called immigrants at all. They’re illegal aliens. There are many more government welfare benefits available now and in most states they’ve been given to illegals. As word gets around, more illegals are drawn here. Why are we surprised? For more and more illegals, their reasons for coming here are different from those of our ancestors. They’re not as interested in building as they are in taking. They’re a net drain on the nation.
People dependent on government are the base of the Democrat Party. That’s why Democrats push amnesty so hard, but they don’t call it amnesty because they want to change the terminology. They call it “Comprehensive Immigration Reform,” as if immigration laws needed reform. They don’t. What they need is enforcement, but President Obama the his party don’t want to enforce them. They don’t like borders and they don’t like to obey the Constitution either.
Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) went to the Texas/Mexico border last week to say, “We are all Americans, north and south in this hemisphere,” as if our borders didn’t exist.” Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) handed out lollipops. Republican congressman Joel Bridenstine, however, was barred from seeing illegal alien children being housed in his own district at Fort Sill. The Obama Administration isn’t allowing media to see the aliens either and threatens reporters with arrest. American medical staff is threatened for talking to media about appalling medical problems illegal aliens have in Lackland Air Force Base in Texas where they’re being held. “There were several of us who wanted to talk about the camps,” said one, “but the agents made it clear we would be arrested. We were under orders not to say anything,” reported a psychiatric counselor quoted by Fox News. Their cell phones were taken away. “They’re [the latest illegals] going to crush the system,” a nurse told Fox. “We can’t sustain this. They are overwhelming the system and I think it’s a travesty.”
The New York Times reported that the Obama Administration has bussed over 290,000 illegals from the border to locations all across the United States in recent months, sparking protests in communities where they’re being dumped. The National Association of Former Border Patrol Officers issued a statement saying, “This is not a humanitarian crisis. It is a predictable, orchestrated and contrived assault on the compassionate side of Americans by her political leaders that knowingly puts minor illegal alien children at risk for purely political purposes.”
Meanwhile, Maine Governor LaPage has cut off the 90% state share of welfare costs cities and towns pay to Maine’s illegal aliens. Democrats in Portland and other cities are in high dudgeon. Why? Because they’ll gladly funnel other people’s tax money to illegal aliens, but they’re very reluctant to give their own.

Also, the Obama Administration instructed ICE officials (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) to stop referring to the flood of young illegals as UACs or “Unaccompanied Alien Children” even though virtually all our case law on immigration uses the term alien. Now they’re officially just “Unaccompanied Children” and if you’re against bringing busloads of them into your town, you’re obviously a racist hardass.
And speaking of language and immigration, the Obama Administration is suing a private Wisconsin business for requiring that it’s employees be able to speak English, calling it discrimination based on national origin!
After fed-up citizens in Murrieta, California blocked busses full of illegal aliens ICE agents wanted to dump in their town last week, local police say federal agents will come next time with riot gear and shields to push the crowd back. How will local citizens deal with that? Will ordinary Americans put up with this all over the country? I don’t think so.

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Monday, June 30, 2014

Hope And Change Circle The Drain

The Obama Administration is actually doing what the Nixon Administration only dreamt. Nixon was forced to resign for even thinking about using the IRS to harass his political enemies, but Obama’s minions actually do it, and so far, have gotten away with it. Why? The Mainstream Media. They went after Nixon tooth and nail, but they treat Obama with kid gloves. Should we be surprised? No. The Mainstream Media gave him to us, and they’ve been protecting him ever since.

The president is powerful. Congress is too. Each is jealous of its power and each bristles when it’s infringed by the other. The media, however, are more powerful than both. Why? Because of the old aphorism: “In politics, perception is reality.” And who controls perception? The Mainstream Media. When they chose to go after Nixon for covering up the Watergate break-in, they crippled him. They covered the congressional investigation into Watergate relentlessly, and nothing motivates politicians like television cameras and newspaper ink. It’s like pouring gasoline on a fire. They fueled the process that forced Nixon to resign or face impeachment. Congress just went along. Ultimately, so did Nixon.
When John Dean gave then-IRS Commissioner John Walters an enemies list with 200 names on it, Walters was shocked. According to TaxProfBlog, Mr. Walters said in a 1997 interview with The Washington Post. “‘John, do you realize what you’re doing?’ he remembered saying. ‘If I did what you asked, it’d make Watergate look like a Sunday school picnic.’” Well, Walters didn’t do it, but Lois Lerner did. So did many other IRS officials, and not just the “rogue” agents in Cincinatti. They said their orders came from Washington, DC. I believe they came from the White House. Can I prove it? Not yet. Not until those emails are found. Do I believe they accidentally disappeared? No. Neither do 76% of Americans according to a recent poll, including a plurality of Democrats. They believe the Obama Administration deliberately destroyed those emails in a cover up. America smells a rat, and the all the kings reporters and all the kings spin can’t put it together again.
Watch Trey Gowdy shred IRS Commissioner Koskinen

Still the Mainstream Media choose to ignore the story, even after the president repeated his claim last week that the IRS scandal and other were “fabricated issues, they're phony scandals that are generated. It's all geared towards the next election of ginning up a base,” said Obama with unmitigated gall. What did The New York Times - flagship of the Mainstream Media - do with it? It devoted its front page to bridge traffic and buried the missing emails IRS scandal on page fourteen.
Nonetheless, it’s getting so that the only thing that pushes an Obama scandal off the stage is another Obama scandal, and there are still two and a half years to go in his second term. Obama’s poll numbers are worse than Carter’s or Bush’s. Even Obama kiss-up George Stephanopoulos asked him last week: “More than half of the Americans have lost confidence in your ability to lead the country and get the job done. That must have been stunning to you. Disappointing?” Obama blew off the question.

Clearly, the president is tanking fast in the eyes of the average American when only 11% believe the IRS loss of emails was an accident. All Obama knows how to do is make speeches. He will continue to lie eloquently, but what will the effect be on the majority of Americans who voted for him twice? Credibility, once lost, is extremely difficult to recover. How will his former supporters explain why they continue to support a narcissistic, incompetent, lying buffoon? And how will they reconcile this situation with their progressive world view?

Hard to predict, but it could come down to two scenarios: One, the American public will realize that their cherished “progressive” world view is inherently flawed. They’ll see that the VA is incompetent because it’s completely run by the federal government. They’ll make the intellectual leap and generalize their understanding that Obamacare will onlyl become a larger version of the VA - a completely government-run health care system and they themselves will be dying on secret waiting lists waiting for appointments that never come. They’ll extrapolate and realize that big government isn’t the way to fix problems, but that it is the problem.

Or not.

More likely, it will be scenario two: proud “progressives” will rationalize the failed Obama presidency by telling themselves that it isn’t progressivism causing the collapse; the cause is Obama himself. Either he isn’t competent to be president, or he is a schemer and has been all along - the wrong man to lead us all to progressive utopia. If we could only put the right person in there, everything would be fine. This is the more likely course.
Meanwhile, what do we do with the pathetic Mr. Hope and Change? How will the Mainstream Media handle him for the next 2 1/2 years? Be interesting to see.

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Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Magouliana, High In The Peloponnesus

It was while we were burying my father-in-law, Ted, at Arlington National Cemetery eighteen months ago that my wife’s family started organizing our trip to Greece. Ted was a disabled veteran of WWII whose father immigrated from Magouliana (Mah-GOOL-yah-nah), a small, high-mountain village in the Peloponnesian Peninsula of Greece. Ted never wanted to visit there even though he could have afforded to, but his wife did. He was proud of his Greek heritage, spoke the language, and attended a Greek Orthodox Church in Lowell, Massachusetts. He liked to hang out with other veterans at the Greek/American Club in Lowell, but he considered himself an American. Like his father, wanted to cut ties to the old country. His widow, however, did not consider a trip there to be disloyal to America.
Roseann at her father's grave in Arlington, VA

The only road in to Magouliana

Four days into our Greek tour, we were leaving the area of Mycenae from where King Agamemnon set off to conquer Troy. We drove inland to Vytina, a mountain ski town closest to Magouliana and big enough to have a few hotels. There we stayed the night. Nearby Magouliana has only one tavern and no hotels. There’s only one road in and out and it has the highest elevation of any inhabited village in the Peloponnese. The views are spectacular from inside a high semicircle cut by nature out of a mountainside. I wondered why they built their houses so far up instead of in the small valley below. Then, surprisingly, I discovered the village was originally built even further up around the very top of the slope. That village, however, was destroyed by the Turks when they invaded in the 15th century. They forced villagers to rebuild it on the present site. Turks occupied Magouliana and the rest of Greece for four hundred years until they were driven out in the mid-nineteenth century. I learned later that the war for independence began right there in Vytina and Magouliana. Now I have an idea about where my wife’s sometimes fiery nature may have originated.
High in the Mountains

Beautiful setting

Our licensed guide was an older woman from Athens named Dora. She’d been guiding groups around Greece for forty years and had never heard of Magouliana. Neither had she heard of my wife’s maiden name of Kosiavelon. A clerk at Ellis Island had substituted the “n” at the end in place of the original “s” when her grandfather, Athanasios Kosiavelos was processed through in 1902. There are still people by that name living in Magouliana and they’re relatives. Ted’s widow had done extensive genealogical research and contacted some of them. One branch lives in Athens but maintains a vacation house in the old village. Although they didn’t speak English and we didn’t speak Greek, we were able to communicate through our guide, Dora, who was wonderful. The language gap didn’t seem to matter much though. Warm feelings went back and forth in spite of it.
What language barrier?

Dora helps translate

Greek mountain hospitality

We were all treated to a mega-dose of Greek hospitality at their home high on the mountainside. They fed us three kinds of meats, homemade baked goods, vegetables, desserts made from walnuts grown on their own trees, and wine they made from grapes they also grew themselves. We were all quite moved by their warmth and graciousness. There had been about 2200 people in the village when Athanasios Kosiavelos left for New York via Naples, Italy in 1902, but fewer than 300 now. Athanasios had four brothers, but only the oldest stayed, inheriting whatever property the family owned. We found the house where Athanasios lived, which is only partially occupied now and had formerly housed a grocery store run by his family.
Roseann at her grandfather's house

Checking out her grandfather's church

Dora explains why so many young men left around 1900

My wife, Roseann, wasn’t sure what to expect and feared finding a poor, backward village with similar people, but that wasn’t the case at all. It appeared quite prosperous and the spectacular location enhanced the charm of the people still living there. The emotional greetings of the Kosiavelos relatives moved me in ways I did not expect because I’m only an in-law. They opened up the now unused church and school so we could see where Athanasious worshiped and became literate. There’s another church in use now and the village’s two remaining students are bussed to Vytina. 
Referring to the family tree

Magouliana in 1900 when Athanasios left for America

In the center of town was a statue of the man who led the mid-nineteenth rebellion against the Turks from Magouliana, but I couldn’t decipher his name because it was printed in the Greek alphabet. Much of the fighting in the Greek civil war following WWII also took place in the area, a struggle which ended in victory over communist forces. The village, like the country, had seen many changes in its long and storied history. I was proud that my children and grandchildren are descended from the warm and courageous people who called it home.

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Monday, June 23, 2014

Historical Reckonings In Democracy's Birthplace

(This column ran last week in the newspapers. Didn't have time to post it while traveling.)

Flying over the Peloponnesus on the way to Athens from Rome, I was struck by how mountainous it was below me, much more so than New Hampshire or Maine. Zig-zagging switchback roads climbed even the biggest mountains. Some serviced the numerous windmills and cell phone towers up there, but others led to high villages on steep slopes. One of the smallest, called Magouliana, is the one from which my wife’s grandfather emigrated to America in 1902. More about Magouliana later. It needs its own column. “Wow!” I thought from the plane. “That’s rugged country.” This impression was confirmed when, two days later, we began our tour of the huge peninsula called Pelopponesus, the largest in Greece.

Roseann and Me at Parthenon
(That's a bra for the camera around my waist)

A small Mercedes bus met us at the airport near the sea on the outskirts of Athens. There were nine in our party, all members of my wife’s extended family making the trip. My first feeling was sadness because of the graffiti I saw defacing virtually every vertical surface as we drove to our hotel downtown near the Acropolis. The hotel was nice but a four-story building across the street was unoccupied and not well maintained either. Wherever I travel I notice how much graffiti there is because I see it as a barometer of civilizational decline. Thankfully, there was none visible at the Acropolis itself, a very impressive site, especially considering its antiquity going back three thousand years.
Parthenon from our hotel dining room in early evening

Impressive columned temples built up there by the Mycenean Greeks were destroyed by the Persians after the Battle of Thermopylae, then rebuilt during the Classical Period after 480 BC. I was impressed that people like Socrates, Plato and the Apostle Paul walked those same streets upon which I was strolling. I’d grown up reading and hearing about them over and over. It was from Socrates’ methods that I developed the teaching style I used for nearly my entire career.
People we met in Athens were friendly and most spoke English, a good thing since none of us spoke very much Greek. They made eye contact on the sidewalks, unusual for inhabitants of a big city in my limited traveling experience. Our tour guide was an older woman from the city named Dora, who had been doing that job more than forty years and spoke five languages. 
What happens when the EU closes the Euro spigot

After two days in the Athens, we headed for the Peloponnesus via Corinth, a city on the isthmus connecting to mainland Greece. All along the way were unfinished buildings: concrete skeletons with steel rebar sticking out, some with building materials stacked inside and bleaching in the sun. They were projects begun and never finished after European Union funds dried up. Many older buildings were abandoned too, some residences, but mostly businesses. Graffiti covered them. It was depressing to see it everywhere as we proceeded down the highway. Some evidently was political. Some was sprayed on in support of soccer teams. I recognized anarchy symbols and native Greeks I questioned explained symbols of soccer teams. Most, however, was mindless. Past Corinth, in rural areas of the Pelopponesus, there was considerably less of it.
Roseann, Christina, graffiti as we walk back to our hotel in Athens

My wife’s niece, Christina, who was living in Greece and visited us in Athens, told me the official unemployment rate there was 28%, but the real rate was double that. Our guide, Dora, said the economy had been depressed for about three years. As she explained it, the socialist government under Papandreou promised to eliminate poverty and for twenty years, it borrowed and spent. He knew the bill would come due eventually, but it wouldn’t be until after he was dead. I got the impression that her politics had morphed rightward as she apprehended the process Margaret Thatcher described: “Socialism works until you run out of other peoples’s money.”
Real markef forces are asserting themselves in Greece now as they inevitably must anywhere. The adjustment is quite painful, but necessary for a real economic recovery. It reminded me that we in the United States will soon run out of other people’s money as well. We’re putting off that reckoning with our “quantitative easing” policies of money-printing, but that cannot go on forever either. Postponing the inevitable only makes it more painful to bear when it finally comes. I used to think that would be after I was dead too, but now I’m thinking it will be here sooner, and I will have to watch as American decline accelerates. It will be a test of our polity. Can we withstand the crisis to come? Will the veneer of civilization keep hold over the seething mass of humanity?
Our guide was a scholar and offered perspective on Greek history though from Myceneans, to Dorians, to Persians, to Romans, to Byzantines, to Turks, to Nazis. After “periods of decadence” as she put it, come periods of decline and suffering. Greeks have endured it many times, but their history is so much longer than our own. As we toured Athens, Mycenae, Epidaurus, Olympia, Delphi, and Kalambaka, we were shown how, for millennia, people at each locale endured tumultuous reckonings after those “periods of decadence.”
Can we forestall that suffering here in the United States? In the face of mounting evidence that it may be too late for us, I continue to choose optimism. I don’t want to spend any more time than necessary in the state of mind produced by its opposite.

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