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: tommclaughlin@fairpoint.net

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Anarchy At The Capitol

Last week, I attended National Review’s "Conservative Summit" in Washington, DC. The hotel is on Pennsylvania Avenue between the White House and Capitol Hill, so I went down a day early to check them out. On a windy-cold Friday morning I walked to the White House, but the gates were closed and a park ranger told me that nobody could go in without getting a pass from his congressman or senator three to six months in advance.

“Hmm,” I said. “When was the last time a citizen could walk up as I have and go in?”

“September 10th,” he answered.

“Hmm,” I said, again. Then I backed off so he could attend to a group with the necessary passes. Soon, a guy walked toward me in one of those dark, knee-length woolen coats businessmen wear and with a curled wire coming down from one ear and disappearing under his collar. Something about the look in his eyes told me he’d killed before or he’d made up his mind that he would if he had to. He looked at me as though I were a potential threat, then stood nearby, keeping me in his peripheral vision. I walked toward him and he turned sharply. “How long has it been since someone like me could walk up to the White House and go in?” I asked.

He softened a bit and said, “I’m not sure. Before September 11th.”

“Is it okay if I take some pictures through that gate?” I asked.

“Sure. You can walk around the curved sidewalk there and take a picture from the front if you want to.”

“Thanks,” I said and did so.

After that, it was two miles to the Capitol where I could watch my Congress and Senate in Action. If it wasn’t so cold and blustery, I’d have walked, but I took a cab which delivered me at the foot of Capitol Hill. Looking up I saw signs declaring the big stone steps in front off-limits to citizens like me. Two Capitol Policemen stood at the bottom of the stairs to keep people away while others prowled further up. One had an assault rifle. I walked up and asked him if I could go in. He pointed back down the hill. “See that tent down there?” he said.

“Uh-huh.”

“Go down there, get a pass, and you can take a tour.”

I waited in line at the tent, shivering, until I got a pass. Then I had to wait another forty-five minutes for the tour to begin. Finally, we gathered near a side entrance to go through a kind of portable security building. I had to empty my pockets, take off my shoes, and walk through a metal detector. The House had taken the day off and I wasn’t allowed into the Senate Chamber. When my tour was over, I investigated wherever there were no signs telling me not to. It wasn’t long before another Capitol Police officer approached, pointed to a door, and told me to leave.

Outside again, I could see workers setting up speakers on the mall in preparation for Jane Fonda’s antiwar demonstration scheduled for the next day. If my conference got boring, I planned to walk over and observe.

It didn’t. The conference was fantastic. I stayed at the hotel until it ended Sunday afternoon, then rushed to the airport. The next day, I saw a link on the Drudge Report about anarchist vandalism at the Capitol. According to an article by Jackie Kucinich in The Hill newspaper:

Antiwar protesters were allowed to spray paint on part of the west front steps of the United States Capitol building after police were ordered to break their security line by their leadership, two sources told The Hill.


“Allowed”? I couldn’t even walk on those steps but anarchists can deface them? Kucinich went on:

Approximately 300 protesters were allowed to take the steps and began to spray paint ‘anarchist symbols’ and phrases such as ‘Our capitol building’ and ‘you can’t stop us’ around the area, the source said.


Who allowed them? Kucinich continued:

[Capitol Police Chief] Morse said, "While there were minor instances of spray painting of pavement by a splinter group of Anarchists who were seeking a confrontation with the police, their attempts to breach into secure areas and rush the doors of the Capitol were thwarted. The graffiti was easily removed by the dedicated staff, some of whom responded on their day off to quickly clean the area.”


Oh really?

[Chief Morse] added "It is the USCP's duty and responsibility to protect the Capitol complex, staff and public while allowing the public to exercise their First Amendment rights … at the end of the day, both occurred without injury to protesters or officers.”


Gee thanks, Chief.

. . . [P]olice had to stand by and watch as protesters posed in front of their graffiti [and were] instructed to make no arrests.”


First Amendment rights? That explanation is supposed to make me feel better? I’m a law-abiding citizen who got kicked out by the same Capitol Police who the next day allowed 300 antiwar anarchists to tag it and pose for pictures next to their graffiti? While our soldiers are fighting and dying overseas? Is this how it’s going to be with Democrats back in control of Capitol Hill?

I’m pissed.

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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Old Enemy

A Muslim has been elected to the US House of Representatives. Should we be worried? Yes.

There would be no problem if he were a moderate Muslim. I’ve heard they’re around, but I wish they’d speak up so I can be sure. Anyway, our first Muslim congressman doesn’t seem to be one. His name is Keith Ellison, a Democrat from Minnesota. He’s is a past (I hope) member of Louis Farrakhan’s Nation of Islam and supported by CAIR (Council on American Islamic Relations), an organization with ties to Hamas, Hezbollah and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. They are not moderate. They are enemies of the United States. This is a problem.

That very few Americans understand it’s a problem is our biggest problem. That’s why the war isn’t going well. People don’t understand what we’re up against. For this, I blame President Bush.

Mr. President? You’re inarticulate and you know it. So hire someone who speaks well to educate America about who our enemies are. First, let’s stop calling this the War on Terror. Let’s not call it the War in Iraq or the War in Afghanistan either. Let’s call it what it is: The War Against Radical Islam. If you like acronyms, call it WARI. We can refer to the Iraq Theater or the Afghanistan Theater but keep reminding us that our enemies are global. You started off well, warning countries that they were either with us or against us, and that if they supported Islamic terrorists, they were enemies. People began to understand that we’re not fighting a country, but a fanatic, transnational movement.

You went into Afghanistan to rout the Taliban and Al Qaeda. Great. Bin Laden escaped into Pakistan and you didn’t go after him. Mistake.

You went into Iraq to rout Saddam. Great. Four American civilians were murdered, mutilated, burned, dragged, stomped on and hanged from a bridge in Fallujah by terrorists. American soldiers were ready to clean out Fallujah in response. Great. But for months you held them back. Mistake.

Moqtada Al Sadr defied you and our soldiers had him surrounded, ready to destroy his Mahdi Army. Great. But you held them back. Mistake.

Iran and Syria called your bluff, sending weapons and terrorists into Iraq to kill Americans and Iraqis. You’ve allowed it for years. Mistake.

People are losing confidence in you.

Our enemy isn’t new and Congressman Ellison’s swearing-in ceremony is instructive here. After some controversy about taking his oath of office with his hand on a Koran instead of a Bible, he sought to neutralize it by using a Koran that belonged to Thomas Jefferson. The irony is that Jefferson very likely used that Koran to study what motivated the Barbary Pirates who sold over a million white Europeans and Americans into slavery. These Muslim pirates had been raiding American and European ships, killing and enslaving men, women and children all over the Mediterranean. Women were sold as concubines while boys were castrated to serve as eunuchs in their harems. With future president John Adams, Jefferson questioned a Barbary representative in London, asking by what right they were raiding and enslaving Americans. As Jefferson later reported:

“The ambassador answered us that [their right] was founded on the Laws of the Prophet, that it was written in their Koran, that all nations who should not have answered their authority were sinners, that it was their right and duty to make war upon them wherever they could be found, and to make slaves of all they could take as prisoners, and that every [Muslim] who should be slain in battle was sure to go to Paradise.”

Sounds familiar, no? Later, as president, Jefferson made war on the Barbary pirates. It’s likely that the same Koran Ellison used for his oath, Jefferson used it to read about the “right” of Muslims to kill, rape and enslave non-Muslims. If a Muslim should be killed in the process, he’d go straight to Paradise (to enjoy the services of 72 black-eyed virgins for eternity, as Jihadists believe today). Jefferson wouldn’t appease the pirates as European leaders and his predecessor President John Adams did. Adams paid them tribute amounting to as much as 20% of the federal budget. Jefferson knew what the Koran said and he got tough. “Millions for defense,” he declared, “but not one cent for tribute.” He sent the US Marines to Tripoli and the rest is history. “From the halls of Montezuma, to the shores of . . .” You know the words.

We face the same enemy Jefferson did, only now they have a worldwide reach and are fueled by petrodollars, giving them access to weapons of mass destruction. Iran, Syria and Pakistan house and support them but deny doing so, and although the whole world knows they’re lying, we’re reluctant to call their bluffs. President Bush started well, but buckled under intense criticism from American appeasers, European appeasers, and their media minions.

Yet he’s our commander-in-chief. He must educate Americans about the nature of our enemy and why we can’t negotiate with them - why we need to take the war to Iran and Syria rather than wait like sitting ducks while they orchestrate cross-border raids on our soldiers in Iraq. The rest of us have to buck up and prepare for the sacrifices necessary to win. That’s what you do in war. Americans - Christians, Jews, moderate Muslims and atheists - must band together and win this. There’s no other way.

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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Bothered By Today

Watching the Today Show bugs me and I try to avoid it. I tend to watch a Maine NBC affiliate for local news, weather and sports and the Today Show comes on as I’m leaving for work. Why does the Today Show bug me?

One thing is the crowd of people outside the studio window trying desperately to get noticed. They act like their greatest ambition in life is to appear on television, even if means that millions of Americans see them behaving like attention-starved adolescents. My guess is they don’t live in New York City. They’re tourists whose idea of an exciting vacation is standing in the cold for hours every morning outside the studio in case a camera should do a three-second pan of them returning from a commercial break. They jump around and wave their handmade signs so they can go back to wherever they came from and tell their friends what they did. Their signs should read: “I don’t have a life!” or “I’m desperate to be on TV so I’ll know I really exist!” or “Dignity? What’s that?” I think it’s the crowd that bugs me the most.

No. Maybe it’s not them. The hosts in the studio bug me too. When it was Katy and Matt, they sat and talked to the cameras while behind them through the windows we saw the crowd of American suck-ups gesticulate in their intense need to be recognized. Producers wanted the fawning crowd as a backdrop while Katy and Matt appeared cool and sophisticated as they told us what stories Americans should consider important. The message for viewers is: See how people want Katy and Matt to interpret the world for them? They know what’s best for us, so listen. The hosts behaved as though all this were the natural order of things. Later, they would go outside and mingle with the peasants as if granting a royal audience. Putting a microphone up to the bumpkins’ lips is like allowing them to kiss the ring. Many seemed about to pee their pants with excitement. Maybe it was the smug hosts that bugged me the most.

But maybe not. Katy Couric has been missing for months. Maybe it’s the incongruous programming that bothers me. Early in the broadcast, important guests visit and are questioned about weighty issues. Presidents and other powerful officials discuss the most pressing problems of our time. Doctors discuss medical breakthroughs. Yet these segments are followed by witless stories about clothing fashions. Anorexic women with pouty faces strut toward cameras wearing ridiculous-looking get-ups while the hosts ooh and aah. Is the show about news or is it about frivolous fashion trends? Politicians are guests. Actors and singers are guests. Last week, Katy’s replacement, Meredith Viera, said to Madonna: “You can kiss me if you want to.” Maybe she was kidding. Maybe not. Is this stuff a reflection of what America has come to? Maybe it’s the frivolous programming that bugs me most about the Today Show. I’m not sure.

Maybe it’s Matt Lauer. If someone bugs me, the shrinks say, it’s because he triggers something I’ve been avoiding in myself and I have to look at that. What is it about Matt Lauer that gets under my skin? Maybe he reminds me of guys I knew in high school who weren’t athletes, but talked about a sport as if they knew more than the people who played it. They were the guys who, when they talked to you, they seemed more concerned about how they sounded than what they were saying. Their words were not for your benefit, but for whomever else might be listening. They’d talk to you only if others more important weren’t available and if some showed up would drop you in mid-sentence and without a backward glance. Also, Matt seems genuinely interested in fashion trends and wedding preparations. No straight guy I know is interested in wedding plans or bridal dresses. A guy has to pretend to be interested if his fiancé is telling him, or if he has to pay for the wedding his wife and daughter are planning. Those are the only times. Okay, maybe one more. If his boss’s wife is talking to him about that stuff he’ll pretend he’s interested.

Wait. I think I have it. Maybe what bugs me the most is that the Today Show has been the most popular morning broadcast for many years running, so it obviously appeals to a broad segment of American Society. That means most Americans really like this kind of stuff and my tastes are out of synch with the rest of the country.

Yeah, that’s it. That’s what bothers me about the Today Show.

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Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Staving Off Extinction

Humans are becoming an endangered species in the northern hemisphere. I don’t care much about polar bears or ivory-billed woodpeckers but I am worried about us. Our young people are not reproducing as they should. Something’s wrong.

In Japan, for instance, grandparents outnumber grandchildren because the birthrate has fallen to 1.3 babies per woman - well below minimum replacement rate of 2.1. Four grandparents compete for the attention of a lone grandchild. There are so few little girls that doll manufacturers were going out of business. Instead of making dolls that look like babies for little girls to pretend they’re mothers, they now make dolls that look like grandchildren for old folks to pretend they’re grandparents. “Grandchild” dolls are programmed with recordings like: “Why are bunnies’ eyes red?” or “I wonder why the stars don’t fall to the ground,” or “Where does the wind come from and where does it go?” - the kinds of things senior citizens would love to discuss lovingly with the flesh-and-blood grandchildren they don’t have. Sad. Very sad.

Look around the rest of the hemisphere and remember that every woman must produce 2.1 children just to sustain a population at current levels: Canada is at 1.5. Cross the Atlantic and Ireland is at 1.87. Germany is 1.3, Spain is 1.1 and Italy is 1.2. Italy. Imagine. Russia is also at 1.2 and China is 1.7. Back in 1979, China’s government ruled that families could have only one child. Women who got pregnant a second time were often forced to have abortions and/or sterilizations.

South Korea didn’t get that drastic, but in 1961 they began pressuring families to have no more than two children. According to an article by Joseph A. D'Agostino of The Population Research Institute:

“Government employees with more than two children were denied promotions. Third and younger children were denied many benefits, and small families received preference in housing allotments. The birthrate plummeted to 1.7 by the ’90s, and South Korea finally abandoned her population control program in 1996. But it was too late. Cultural attitudes and economic realities had changed.”

Now South Korean women have only 1.08 children each and their government has reversed course. Facing the specter of its population shrinking by half every generation, it’s providing incentives for more children, but it fears it won’t be able to change cultural attitudes back to what they were a half-century ago.

It’s not that bad in the United States - yet. American women have 2.07 children each - a teensy bit below replacement level, but the trend is downward. The more America’s secular/progressive blue states emulate shrinking socialist countries of Europe in their politics and mores, the more their birth rates go down. By contrast, religious/conservative red states have much higher birth rates. A recent book by Mark Steyn entitled “America Alone” makes a convincing case that western civilization as we know it is self-destructing and the chief culprit is declining demographics. In a recent companion “Wall Street Journal” piece, Steyn writes: “In America, demographic trends suggest that the blue states ought to apply for honorary membership of the EU: In the 2004 election, John Kerry won the 16 with the lowest birthrates; George W. Bush took 25 of the 26 states with the highest.”

Warnings against those most cherished secular/progressive policy issues of abortion and gay rights - which seek to separate sex from reproduction - are not theoretical. Resulting cultural attitude changes work against the traditional family - the basic unit of society - and have lethal effects on population levels. The biggest enemy of secular/progressive policies in Europe, Canada and the United States is the Roman Catholic Church, which works tirelessly against non-marital sex, abortion and gay “marriage,” and in favor of the traditional family unit all around the world.

Consider the Catholic Nuptual Mass ceremony. The priest asks the couple: “Have you come here freely and without reservation to give yourselves to each other in marriage? Will you love and honor each other as husband and wife for the rest of your lives? Will you accept children lovingly from God and bring them up according to the Law of Love and Compassion?” Assuming the answers are all yes, the ceremony continues: “Since it is your intention to enter into marriage, with your hands joined declare your consent before God and his Church, this community of your family and friends.” From there, they do the “for richer or for poorer” and “forsaking all others” parts.

At the reception, kids run around underfoot. Grandparents look on sagely. Toaster ovens and envelopes with money are given and accepted because everyone has a stake in the marriage. It’s harder to divorce after such public ceremonies and couples are pressured to keep traditional religion and culture alive by producing children and staying together to raise them. That’s the whole point of marriage - staving off extinction. It’s not stifling. It’s not repressive. It’s how we survive. That’s why society has a stake in it. How could we have forgotten something so elementary?

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Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Illegals And The Minimum Wage

Democrats promise a minimum wage hike to $7.25 immediately after they take over Congress. They also want an amnesty for twenty million illegal aliens, though they won’t call it that. They might even use President Bush’s “guest worker program” jargon but we know what it is. So, just what kind of situation would the passage of two initiatives like this create? Likely an even worse fix than we’re in already.

How can we see this forced increase in minimum wage as anything but Democrat demagoguery? Many illegals work completely under the table and for less than the existing minimum wage. When employers can hire workers at such a low wage and without other costs like workmen’s compensation insurance, medical benefits, sick pay, or vacation pay, where’s the incentive to increase the wages for legal workers? It doesn’t exist.

Twenty million illegals working under the table at low-level jobs are driving down wages for American citizens and that’s the real problem here. Whenever employers are busted for hiring illegals - which isn’t nearly often enough - they claim they didn’t know. Yeah, right. They couldn’t speak English and they didn’t have drivers’ licenses, but employers had no reason to suspect anything? Come on.

It’s bad enough that so many legal workers in the trades hide a lot of their earnings. On paper, they can show very little income to be taxed on, qualifying them for bonuses like the earned income tax credit and also free medical care in many states. It’s much worse of course when illegals pay almost zero taxes unless they buy something and pay a sales tax. They send their kids to be educated in public schools at $10,000 a year each - or much higher even if they require special education, bilingual or ESL (English as a Second Language) services which most do. Then it will be $15,000 per year and up.

If illegals get sick or injured, they go to emergency rooms and those costs are passed on to the rest of us in the form of increased medical insurance premiums and increased taxes when they don’t pay. They qualify for free food, rent, medical and dental care in many states like Maine even though they’re not supposed to be here at all. They even qualify for instate tuition rates when legal students do not. All this drives up costs for all Americans while depressing their wages at the same time. If another amnesty passes and we all-of-a-sudden have 20,000,000 new citizens, small businesses will be forced to pay them the increased minimum wage Democrats insist on as well as all the other expenses. How many small businesses will fold due to resulting increases in the cost of labor and benefits? How many larger businesses will increase out-sourcing of jobs?

All this is bad enough, but if our borders were sealed off to prevent any more illegals from sneaking in we would eventually adjust. However, nobody really expects that to happen. The new border fence bill passed last October to much pre-election fanfare looks like it will never be built. The imminent amnesty will only encourage more illegals to sneak in, hide, and wait for the next one, just as they’ve been doing for decades.

Congressional Democrats support amnesty because the vast majority of new citizens will likely vote Democrat. Our Republican president supports amnesty too but for different reasons. Many large businesses that are Republican constituents increase profits by hiring illegals and don’t want President Bush to enforce immigration laws. Instead, we’ll have a few highly-publicized crackdowns like the one at Swift & Co meat-processing plants in Colorado last month, but they amount to little more than eyewash for Americans disgusted with our federal government’s refusal to really do anything about illegal immigration.

Meanwhile, the ACLU is doing everything it can to hamper local governments from trying to handle the problem. When cities pass ordinances prohibiting landlords from renting to illegals or paying to educate their children, they face ACLU lawsuits claiming only the federal government is empowered to do anything about immigration. It’s a frustrating Catch 22 for local governments all over the United States.

Our federal government should enforce immigration laws and leave our economy to take care of itself. If the president and the Congress did what they’re supposed to do and deported the millions here illegally, there would be no need for a minimum wage increase. Businesses would be forced to pay a decent wage to hire American citizens, and it would likely be more than the Democrat-proposed $7.25 an hour.

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