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: tomthemick@gmail.com

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Pushback Against Big Government


Elite big government supporters are shocked by the Brexit vote, and they’re not sure what it means. Conservatives believe the smaller the government, the better, so I’m pleased. Elites in Europe fear more countries will pull out of the European Union, while elites over here are finally sensing similar unrest in America.
Moving from big-government Massachusetts to rural Maine in 1977, I quickly learned that local control was prized. There was, for example, a movement to withdraw my new town of Lovell from the Maine School Administrative District #72 which it had joined only a few years before. Lovell had run its own schools for a century and a half and bristled under the new bureaucracy. There had been a choice of three high schools: Fryeburg Academy, Gould Academy, or Bridgton Academy, but no more. I was Director of Special Education, a district-wide job requiring me to travel around to six elementary and junior high schools to supervise staff. The position was created because of a federal mandate and it was all about meetings, paperwork, phone calls, paperwork, and more meetings.
The new district borrowed to build the New Suncook School in Lovell. It wasn’t paid off yet so that was an issue in Lovell’s pulling out. It was overcrowded already and just down the street was the old, unused Annie Heald School, a wooden building owned by the town. The superintendent asked me to attend a Lovell Budget Committee meeting to inquire about the district leasing it. I was new in town, so I introduced myself and made the pitch. The Yankee Republicans who dominated the committee in those days looked at me silently for nearly a full minute after I was done. “Any questions?” I asked. One older guy with sharp eyes and arms folded across his chest said, “Yeah, I have a question.”
Annie Heald School on right

“Okay,” I said.

“Ten years ago, when the superintendent wanted Lovell to join this new district, he said the Annie Heald School was a firetrap and they had to build a new school. Now, after the old school has been sitting there for ten years with nothing done to it, they say they want to use it again?”
“Good question,” I said. I had no idea about any of that and felt that I’d been set up. Locals believed they’d been manipulated by the “bigger is better” argument bureaucrats use, and maybe they had. A few years later, the old school burned to the ground after everyone got out safely. The effort to pull out failed though, because people like me with young families were moving up from Massachusetts and other states. We thought ourselves better educated and believed bigger was better too. I do not believe that anymore.
Shortly after, I was elected a selectman and served with two Yankee Republicans who thought Lovell people knew what was best for Lovell, that their judgement was better than the state’s or the federal government’s and they could govern themselves more effectively if they were left alone. After nine years I became convinced they were right, and that was one of the realizations pushing my political perspective from the big-government left to the small-government right where it has been ever since.
I supervised two federal programs — Title I and Special Education. Since then, the feds have taken over the school lunch program and now curriculum as well. More tax revenue goes to Augusta and Washington and what little comes back has strings attached — most recently, regulations concerning transgenders in locker rooms and bathrooms.
Back then, I was one of only three administrators and two secretaries in a district with 1200 students K-8. Now there are Now there are 1160 students but double the administrators, way more secretaries, way more teachers, much bigger buildings, much more paperwork, many more meetings, and a much bigger budget. Is there more learning going on for all that? After thirty-four years teaching in the district, I have to say no, and I could make a strong case that there’s actually less.
Shut it down
The federal government has also taken over health care — doing about the same with that as they have with schools. Working with the United Nations, the feds are planting refugees all over the country — a hundred here, five hundred there — often without informing local cities and towns they’re coming. Students in Manchester, NH schools speak 82 different languages, a severe strain. The mayor there has asked the feds to stop but they won’t. Washington knows what’s best for Manchester. When Lewiston, Maine’s mayor said his city couldn’t accept any more Somali refugees, big government liberals called him a racist. There are similar problems in Portland, where one out of seven people are foreign born.
Nigel Farage to EU president

Similar problems have been plaguing the UK and other EU countries for decades, and they were a major factor in the Brexit vote. Big government elites running the EU say the UK should take still more refugees. Ordinary Brits want local control and last week they shocked the elites by voting to leave the EU. More countries will follow. As liberal elites push for more central government power, ordinary citizens are pushing back.

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Pushback Against Big Goverment


Elite big government supporters are shocked by the Brexit vote, and they’re not sure what it means. Conservatives believe the smaller the government, the better, so I’m pleased. Elites in Europe fear more countries will pull out of the European Union, while elites over here are finally sensing similar unrest in America.
Moving from big-government Massachusetts to rural Maine in 1977, I quickly learned that local control was prized. There was, for example, a movement to withdraw my new town of Lovell from the Maine School Administrative District #72 which it had joined only a few years before. Lovell had run its own schools for a century and a half and bristled under the new bureaucracy. There had been a choice of three high schools: Fryeburg Academy, Gould Academy, or Bridgton Academy, but no more. I was Director of Special Education, a district-wide job requiring me to travel around to six elementary and junior high schools to supervise staff. The position was created because of a federal mandate and it was all about meetings, paperwork, phone calls, paperwork, and more meetings.
The new district borrowed to build the New Suncook School in Lovell. It wasn’t paid off yet so that was an issue in Lovell’s pulling out. It was overcrowded already and just down the street was the old, unused Annie Heald School, a wooden building owned by the town. The superintendent asked me to attend a Lovell Budget Committee meeting to inquire about the district leasing it. I was new in town, so I introduced myself and made the pitch. The Yankee Republicans who dominated the committee in those days looked at me silently for nearly a full minute after I was done. “Any questions?” I asked. One older guy with sharp eyes and arms folded across his chest said, “Yeah, I have a question.”
Annie Heald School on right

“Okay,” I said.

“Ten years ago, when the superintendent wanted Lovell to join this new district, he said the Annie Heald School was a firetrap and they had to build a new school. Now, after the old school has been sitting there for ten years with nothing done to it, they say they want to use it again?”
“Good question,” I said. I had no idea about any of that and felt that I’d been set up. Locals believed they’d been manipulated by the “bigger is better” argument bureaucrats use, and maybe they had. The effort to pull out failed though, because people like me with young families were moving up from Massachusetts and other states. We thought ourselves better educated and believed bigger was better too. I do not believe that anymore.
Shortly after, I was elected a selectman and served with two Yankee Republicans who thought Lovell people knew what was best for Lovell, that their judgement was better than the state’s or the federal government’s and they could govern themselves more effectively if they were left alone. After nine years I became convinced they were right, and that was one of the realizations pushing my political perspective from the big-government left to the small-government right where it has been ever since.
I supervised two federal programs — Title I and Special Education. Since then, the feds have taken over the school lunch program and now curriculum as well. More tax revenue goes to Augusta and Washington and what little comes back has strings attached — most recently, regulations concerning transgenders in locker rooms and bathrooms.
Back then, I was one of only three administrators and two secretaries in a district with 1200 students K-8. Now there are Now there are 1160 students but double the administrators, way more secretaries, way more teachers, much bigger buildings, much more paperwork, many more meetings, and a much bigger budget. Is there more learning going on for all that? After thirty-four years teaching in the district, I have to say no, and I could make a strong case that there’s actually less.
Shut it down
The federal government has also taken over health care — doing about the same with that as they have with schools. Working with the United Nations, the feds are planting refugees all over the country — a hundred here, five hundred there — often without informing local cities and towns they’re coming. Students in Manchester, NH schools speak 82 different languages, a severe strain. The mayor there has asked the feds to stop but they won’t. Washington knows what’s best for Manchester. When Lewiston, Maine’s mayor said his city couldn’t accept any more Somali refugees, big government liberals called him a racist. There are similar problems in Portland, where one out of seven people are foreign born.
Nigel Farage to EU president

Similar problems have been plaguing the UK and other EU countries for decades, and they were a major factor in the Brexit vote. Big government elites running the EU say the UK should take still more refugees. Ordinary Brits want local control and last week they shocked the elites by voting to leave the EU. More countries will follow. As liberal elites push for more central government power, ordinary citizens are pushing back.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Thinking Too Much


“What do you know for sure?” Ernie Colvin asked me the same question his Tennessee drawl every time I visited. 

“Not much,” was my usual answer.
The implied humility in my answer was a pretense because I thought I knew a lot as most young men do. Now though, as I reflect on our friendship nearly a half-century later, I believe I would answer the same way, but with seriousness. I have learned much since I knew Ernie, but that knowledge has only helped me realize how ignorant I am. As I used to tell my students: “The more you know, the more you know you don’t know.” Most looked at me with puzzlement when I said that, but others got it. The truly educated understand that the best we can come up with after a lifetime of learning and reflecting is a very tentative framework of understanding about the world around us. I like to call it a working hypothesis that should be subject to modification at regular intervals.
Ernie was a veteran of two wars: the Spanish Civil War and World War II, during which he had been a prisoner of war in Germany. He would be sitting at his desk carving wood and looking up with a wry grin when I came by. He was a security guard on the night shift and I was a field supervisor for the company. It was 1970 and I was nineteen, though I pretended to be 21 so I could get a pistol permit which was required for the job. Ernie was in his sixties and he was patient enough to offer thoughtful answers to my many questions. He taught me a great deal during our frequent, late-night conversations.
One of the faults that has dogged me for a lifetime is overuse of my brain and underuse of my heart. Since I became conscious of it, I’ve been trying to bring myself into balance but it’s slow going. Observing my youngest grandchildren helps in this endeavor because they’re full of wonder as they explore the world around them. They seem to feel it more than think about it and I remember being that way too until I got out of balance. My brain was always the favored utensil in my personal toolbox and I used it almost exclusively until realizing there were other tools in there as well.
Somewhere around eight or nine, I remember laying in bed after lights out and pondering the universe — the big one, that is, especially its outer limits. Trying to image our expanding universe fifteen billion years after the Big Bang, I’d imagine space — the nothingness between material things flying out from the central point of the original explosion. How far would things travel into nothingness? Was there a limit to the great nothing into which those things were hurtling in every direction? I knew intuitively there wasn’t. I knew that it was limitless, infinite. I knew also that, though the universe didn’t have limits, my human brain did. It couldn’t fully comprehend infinity. All I could know was that the eternal existed. That realization was extremely frustrating until I accepted it.
Accepting it became the initial basis for my belief in the Creator, but it wasn’t an “Aha!” moment. The process was gradual. Call it intelligent design or ultimate creativeness, but I began realizing that something conceived of the universe and caused it to be — with me in it. Accepting that the Eternal had a capital E helped me relax as well. Let me re-emphasize that the process has been gradual and ongoing. I’m still in it and somewhere along the way I came to believe.
Also along the way came a quote from that brilliant atheist-turned-Christian, Augustine of Hippo. Even though he wrote it fifteen centuries ago, it jumped right off the page at me: “If thou hast not understood, said I, believe. For understanding is the reward of faith. Therefore do not seek to understand in order to believe, but believe that thou mayest understand.”
So now there is something else I know for sure. I don’t feel any compulsion to make others know it. It’s enough that I do. I’m not an evangelist and neither was Ernie Colvin. He never preached; he just was. I sensed something in him that I wanted even though I didn’t know what it was.

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Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Curiouser And Curiouser

As if understanding today’s America weren’t complicated enough in this wild election year, we have the Orlando Massacre to further confuse us. As people reveal their true character when they’re under stress, so do societies. We’re in the middle of an election that surprises everyone. Does Hillary exemplify Democrats? Does Trump exemplify Republicans? Each polarizes his/her their own party, not to mention in the country. Pundits need new roadmaps because everything has changed. It’s a wonder they dare provide analysis. I’d already written a column for this week, but I’m going to save it for another time because I have to address what happened Sunday.
There are at least four major themes: homosexuality, Islam, multiculturalism, and guns. I learned about the massacre at 6:00 AM Sunday while browsing online. I then turned on Fox News for a conservative perspective at about 8:00 AM and learned the scene was a gay nightclub and the perpetrator had Muslim connections according to an FBI spokesman. To watch how liberals were spinning it I tuned in to NBC’s Meet the Press at 9:00 where host Chuck Todd inserted coverage at the beginning of his show.
Todd must have known what the FBI was saying about the shooter’s ties to Islam, but never mentioned it. Instead, he brought on Pete Williams to emphasize the gay connection. Williams, who is homosexual, didn’t say anything about Islam either. Former NBC anchor Tom Brokaw also stressed gun control, saying he was brought up with guns in the midwest, but lost credibility when mentioning a non-existent assault rifle called an “AR-14” He likely confused the AR-15, used in Orlando, Sandy Hook, and San Bernardino, and the M14, used by Americans in Vietnam. No one else mentioned Islam until their token conservative, radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt, twice invoked ISIS. The rest of the panel, liberals all, kept bringing the conversation back to gun control and anti-homosexual hate crimes.
Later I went back and forth between liberal-biased MSNBC which continued emphasizing gun control and hate crimes, and conservative-biased Fox News which continued emphasizing radical Islam. President Obama gave a speech never mentioning Islam either, stressing gun control. Just last week, the Homeland Security Advisory Council prohibited the Department from using the words “jihad”; “sharia”; “umma” and others because they would disrespect Islam, which Sharia itself prohibits. How can DHS fight radical Islam while complying with Islam's own mandates? With zero evidence, President Obama insists that Guantanamo’s existence is a recruiting tool for terrorists and must be closed. There’s voluminous evidence that ISIS’s existence is the real recruiting tool, but Obama only pretends to fight it.
Referring to Florida law that allows concealed carry but not in an establishment serving alcohol, a conservative commenter online asked how many would be dead if Omar Mateen tried to shoot up a country-western bar instead of a gay bar. He seemed to be making the case that gun control is not the solution, but the problem. If the bar’s patrons were packing, Mateen would have been shot much sooner.
Regular readers of this column know I used to be liberal until conservatives converted me by presenting facts that didn’t fit my liberal world view. Now I’m wondering if any of today’s liberals will question liberalism’s dedication to multiculturalism when presented with the paradox they’ve avoided for decades and which Orlando is rubbing it in their faces: Two or their most cherished victim groups — Muslims and homosexuals — are incompatible. It’s always been true, but the Orlando massacre is forcing them to confront it.
Muslims countries regularly execute homosexuals under Sharia Law. A poll by Washington DC’s Center For Security Policy reported in 2015 that most American Muslims believe they should have the choice of being governed according to shariah. Should we really be surprised when a Muslim fanatic shoots up a gay bar? His parents come from Afghanistan where 99% of the population supports sharia law and his father seems as crazy as he is. Seddique Mateen supports the Taliban and declared on his TV show in California that: “Our brothers in Waziristan [Pakistan], our warrior brothers in Taliban movement, and national Afghan Taliban are rising up.” However, Afghan Muslim men are notorious for raping pubescent boys — another paradox.
How can Islam, a religion which teaches that homosexuals should be executed, that wives can be beaten by their husbands, and that no other religion should be allowed but Islam be compatible with the multiculturalism so beloved by liberals? According to the Washington Post, Omar Mateen’s ex-wife said: “He was not a stable person. He beat me. He would just come home and start beating me up because the laundry wasn’t finished or something like that.” Multiculturalism insists that all cultures are equal, but are they? Omar Mateen was a registered Democrat and evidence is emerging that he may have been homosexual as well.
The more we learn, the more complicated this gets.


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Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Eco-Sexual Passion

I almost never remember to bring my own bags into the grocery stores of South Portland, Maine. That city, as well as Portland across the harbor, wanted to ban all disposable plastic bags. Instead their city councils enacted a five cent fee for paper or plastic bags that used to be free. At Shaw’s I could pay ten cents for a reusable plastic bag but I have a dozen of them folded up and bulging out of the inside door compartments of my car. Do I remember to bring them into the store though? Hardly ever, so that means I have to buy still more at the checkout rather than hold up the line by going out to my car and retrieving a couple from my growing collection. In North Conway, NH where I do most of my food shopping at the Shaw’s and Hannaford stores there, bags are still free.
So who benefits? Well, the stores do because they get paid five cents each for bags they used to give away. Greenie city councilors do because they can pose as environmental champions, saviors of ocean creatures who they claim would die from ingesting discarded bags. Greenie citizens do because, when they dutifully carry their reusable bags into the store, they feel like they’re doing their bit to save the planet from evil corporatist, Republicans who all want to poison the environment as well as the people in it. Freeport and other coastal Maine municipalities are considering similar bag ordinances and it’s coming soon to stores near you too.
Have these ordinances been effectively saving ocean creatures? It’s too early to tell. Even though I find them annoying, they’re likely to spread widely in progressive areas. Here’s a clue: according to a National Review Online article I read last week: “A professor at Santa Monica College took a group of students on an ‘EcoSexual Sextravaganza’ trip earlier this month, during which they ‘married the ocean’ and were encouraged to ‘consummate’ that marriage.” There were pictures of blushing brides holding flowers as they waded into the ocean for “consummation.” Given this level of green weenie eco-sexual passion, it’s inevitable.
I don’t return cans and bottles to Maine redemption centers either. It’s just not worth the trip. Like everyone else, I have to pay five cents for the containers my beer and soft drinks come in, and fifteen cents for the bottles in which my wine comes. When I go to the dump in Lovell, Maine where I live — excuse me, I mean when I go to Lovell’s solid waste recycling center — I put the five-cent cans and bottles in the barrels provided. Attendants redeem the beer cans and beer bottles, but they grind up the fifteen-cent wine bottles in the glass-crushing machine because it isn’t worth it for the town to retrieve the deposit. 
New Hampshire has no bottle deposit law either, but most states around the region do, so NH stores sell bottles and cans all imprinted with other states’ deposit laws, but do not collect any deposit money. So, if Maine residents like me buy beer in New Hampshire, we might collect five cents per can/bottle in Maine. But, you would violate laws enacted by Maine’s greenie, world-saving voters who seem to comprise the majority, though I don’t see how they can be enforced.
Glass bottles and aluminum cans don’t pollute the environment when people throw them away, but they’re a kind of visual pollution. My wife periodically picks them up beside our country road and lugs them home for me to take to the dump — I mean the solid waste recycling center. She doesn’t do it for the money, she’s just obsessive that way. Clearly Maine’s deposit law is not preventing litter as intended. 
So who benefits from bottle laws? Well, the state is the primary beneficiary because it gets the money from stores selling the containers. How much money? We don’t know. A study commissioned in 2007 verified that we don't know. It did determine that in 2002 about 750,000,000 bottles were sold and the state collected between five and fifteen cents on each. How many were redeemed? We don’t know, because only about 19% of the surveys sent to stores and redemption centers were returned. 
From this writer’s perspective, Maine’s bottle law is a bother. Are Maine’s highways cleaner than New Hampshire’s? Not that I can see. The law has been in effect since 1978 and it’s not likely to be repealed whether it’s effective or not. It’s another source of revenue
for government-loving Greenies who are ever looking to make the rest of us adhere to the roadmap of their never-ending journey to big-government utopia.

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Monday, May 30, 2016

My Father Would Be Pissed

Eugene James McLaughlin, Sr. 

Last January, I found a file labeled “World War II” in my father’s block printing. In it are his enlistment and discharge papers, and court martial proceedings against him in November, 1943. For background: in June, 1943, he persuaded my mother, then eighteen, to elope with him. They had only one night together, so being a Yeoman 3rd class, he wrote himself passes to see my mother again before shipping overseas. Shore Patrol caught him, then he broke out of the brig for one more visit.
USS Bunch

Lieutenant Commander A. A. Campbell, U.S.N.R. inserted a note saying: “McLaughlin is guilty of all charges set forth by the facts in the specifications. Furthermore, his attitude toward his misdeeds and his predicament is one of calloused indifference… I do not consider any punishment authorized by the Summary Court Martial to be of sufficient severity for this case.”
USS Rich going down

He proceeded to England where his ship, the destroyer escort USS Bunch, started across the English Channel for the D-Day Invasion but had to turn back when damaged. It was replaced by its sister ship, the USS Rich, which was shelled by Germans, hit a mine, and went down with 27 killed, 73 wounded, and 64 missing.
USS Suffolk

From England, he went to the Pacific on the attack/cargo ship USS Suffolk for extended combat in the Battle of Okinawa. He described several days and nights of attacks by kamikaze planes, one taking out the mast. After watching an episode about it on “Victory At Sea,” he told me that’s when he was most scared.
Uncle Bobby became a cop in Medford, Mass after the war

In the file is a May 10, 1945 letter to his brother, my Uncle Bobby, serving in the US Army in Europe: “Received your letter dated 3rd of April and was very glad to hear from you, particularly after all this good news of the war being over, over there.” Then he described seeing our infantry fighting on Ie Shima, near the big island of Okinawa: “Battlewagons, cruisers, cans, etc., were pounding the hell out of it and you couldn’t see a go***** thing for the bursting shells, debris, smoke, etc…. The Japs didn’t have anything outside of a few mortars so all [our] ships were anchored in pretty chose… within 500 yards of the beach where we could see the Japs through our long glasses… pouring fire into our infantry. Ch****, it was awful. Have you fellows got a big surprise coming to you when and if you ever come into this Pacific War. It’s positively the most gruesome thing you ever saw.”
Famed war correspondent Ernie Pyle on Okinawa

“These f****** Japs are veritable maniacs,” he continued. “When we take a place we usually find hundreds of civilians dead, suicides. The Japs fight with a frenzy heretofore unknown in any form of warfare and when they’ve exhausted everything they have, they wait until night and then come up with a Banzai charge with nothing more than bayonets and knives. There’s no such thing as capturing a Jap or having one surrender. They run up to our positions with grenades and dynamite strapped to their bodies. When they’re in their planes they load up with extra gas tanks, bombs, etc. so they can barely take off. They do this in bunches because they’re not very maneuverable… Those that are not shot down just come in on the ships in suicide dives, and you ought to see it Bob, it’s just a huge column of smoke and flame." 
Battle of Okinawa

"I’ve seen quite a few ships get it so far and they sink a good percentage… We’re not supposed to tell anyone about this as it’s bad for morale… the reason I’m getting this out is that I’m mailing it in San Francisco… Of the six ships in our division, four of them were hit with either suicide planes or suicide boats.”
Ernie Pyle's body on Ie Shima

Okinawa was a preview of what to expect during an invasion of the Japanese home islands, then imminent. As I grew up, my father said again and again how relieved he was that we dropped those bombs on Japan to force their surrender, and I thought about it last week when President Obama gave his sanctimonious speech in Hiroshima.
My father would be pissed

Breitbart.com summed it up best: “Obama, a native of Honolulu who grew up near Pearl Harbor, said nothing about the fact that Japan started the war; nothing about the fact that the Japanese were responsible for the slaughter of millions of civilians throughout Asia and the Pacific; nothing about the fact that the Japanese refused to surrender after hundreds of thousands had already been killed in conventional bombing… he left out the moral case for ending the war, and the hundreds of thousands of deaths avoided because of Hiroshima. The contrast to President Harry S. Truman could not have been clearer. Reflecting on the decision to bomb Japan years later, Truman declared: ‘That bomb caused the Japanese to surrender, and it stopped the war. I don’t care what the crybabies say now, because they didn’t have to make the decision.’”

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