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

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Students Discover Ahmadinejad


When they were done with their world map tests, I told them, they could use their laptops to go online and answer the question I had written on the board: “What does Mahmoud Ahmadinejad believe about the Twelfth Imam?” I told them Ahmadinejad was the President of Iran, and they had learned about where Iran and many other countries were for the test. It was Friday and I knew Ahmadinejad was coming to New York City over the weekend and that his name and face would be all over the news. “Use a search engine and those names for key words in your searches,” I instructed.

Ahmadinejad believes the Twelfth Imam, or the “Mahdi,” is a nine-year-old boy who has been living in an Iranian well for thirteen hundred years, kept alive by Allah. The Iranian president believes that if he can create enough chaos on earth, the Mahdi will emerge from the well and preside over the earth during a thousand-year period of justice and peace.

“Wow,” said a boy as he was reading his screen. “This guy says the Holocaust never happened. Is he crazy?” I looked around the room. Some students were finishing up their tests and others were intently reading from their screens. One girl had her hand up. When I walked to her desk she was pointing to the word “Mahdi” on her screen. “Is that the Twelfth Imam?” she asked.

“That’s him,” I said. “Read on.”

“I don’t have my computer with me,” said a boy as he brought his test up. “It lost its charge.”

I printed a two-year-old article from the London Daily Telegraph with the story of Ahmadinejad’s devotion to the Twelfth Imam. “All the information is in the article coming out of the printer now,” I told him. “Read it.”

“He wants to go to Ground Zero,” said another boy reading from his computer screen. “But the NYPD doesn’t want to protect him because they think he’s a terrorist.”

The following Monday, we were correcting the map tests in class. I had the television on as classes were changing and while I was taking attendance. All day long, the cable news shows were broadcasting heated debates between pundits over whether Columbia University should have invited Ahmadinejad to speak there. I’d let it run a minute or two, then shut off the TV and tell them: “President Ahmadinejad says the Holocaust never happened and that he is going to ‘wipe Israel off the map.’ Against international law, he’s trying to build nuclear weapons with which to do so, but he tells the world he’s only trying to make peaceful nuclear power plants. Nobody believes him. He trains and sends money to ‘Hizbollah’ - the Shiite terrorist group in Lebanon responsible for killing hundreds of US Marines two decades ago and which regularly shoots rockets into northern Israel. Ahmadinejad trains other Shiite terrorists to sneak into Iraq with weapons and explosive devices to kill American soldiers fighting there. Other than that, he’s a nice guy.”

As the last period of the day was beginning, Columbia University President Lee Bollinger was making a live speech to an auditorium full of students. President Ahmadinejad was seated on the stage listening and waiting his turn. I told students in that group that we would watch the speeches and correct tests the next day instead. Some were disappointed. Others watched and listened to the speeches intently. Bollinger excoriated Ahmadinejad for all the things I had been telling students at the beginning of each class earlier that day. It was a blistering speech.

When Ahmadinejad came to the podium, he invoked God and the Twelfth Imam: “Oh God, hasten the arrival of Imam al-Mahdi and grant him good health and victory and make us his followers and those who attest to his right fullness.” Then he responded to Bollinger’s verbal attack essentially by saying it was impolite to invite someone and then say nasty things about him before he speaks. Then Ahmadinejad went on at length about studying science and searching for truth.

“He’s talking in circles,” said a boy.

“He’s not making much sense,” said a girl. Class ended while Ahmadinejad was still speaking. Several students were shaking their heads as they walked past the TV. I watched and listened to the rest of the speech as busses were being called.

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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Interview With Senator Sam Brownback


Telephone interview with Kansas Senator Sam Brownback, Republican candidate for president. Recorded Saturday, September 15, 2007 at 5:45 PM eastern time by Tom McLaughlin for Family Security Matters.

Thank you for calling, Senator. I’m recording this if that’s all right with you.

That is fine.

Good. Have a busy day in Iowa?

Yes. Pulling into Newton right now. Got a little event here and two more yet tonight.

You were at an ice cream social and then you have a barbecue, huh?


Yeah. I’m getting the cart ahead of the horse. I should do the barbecue, then have the ice cream social. That’s all right. I like ice cream.

Okay. I think you got the questions I had prepared.


I got some outline of them, yes.

Okay. Number one: Why and when did you decide to run for president?


Made the official decision last August - not this one, but the year before.

Uh-huh.

Really felt I could and would be able to contribute to the race, and running on rebuilding the family and renewing the culture and reviving the economy, as core issues to focus on so we could grow and prosper and sustain ourselves in this generation-long fight we’re going to be in, and are in, with militant Islamists.

As a middle school history teacher, I can certainly relate to that - reforming the culture. Over my thirty-one year career, I’ve seen it run downhill in increments each year and it’s a sad thing to watch, but ah . . .


My oldest daughter is teaching seventh-grade math in the inner-city in Houston and boy, she’s experiencing some tough settings there.

I would imagine. Oh, yes. Number two: What is our biggest domestic problem?

I think it’s the breakdown of the family.

Um-hmm.

It’s the biggest domestic problem. It’s thirty-six percent now of the children born out of wedlock, it’s seventy percent in the inner cities. Sixty percent of the children will spend a significant part of their time growing up in a single-parent household. I really think it’s that breakdown of the family structure. Abortion in the country and the breakdown of marriage are the biggest set of problems that we have because it’s where you grow your next generation. I think it’s the biggest one that we have to tackle - the breakdown of the family.

Okay. What would you say is our biggest foreign policy problem?

The battle with militant Islamists. No question about that. China is a major issue and confronting the mercantilism from China, but I think far and away the biggest issue - and will be for a generation - the battle with militant Islamists.

A generation.

A generation. This has been going on for some time. 9-11 was the Pearl Harbor of the fight, but we’re in this for a long time, I believe.

Okay. In our struggle against radical Islam or militant Islam, as you refer to it, how important do you see the propaganda war?

Well, I think it’s very important, but I think the bigger piece for us is clarity of who it is we’re fighting against and why we’re fighting. I think our own moral clarity is the big need, particularly right now.

Our moral clarity?

Well yes, on our own part. I think a lot of people just - okay there’s our war on terrorism - but terrorism is a tactic. Who is it that we’re fighting?

Um-hmm.

We’re fighting this real, virulent, dedicated force within Islam. It’s not a majority of people who are Muslim, but a dedicated force that seeks to destroy Israel and come after us. It can be homegrown in our own country. It is in Europe, certainly. That’s what I mean by our own clarity - about who it is we’re fighting and why we’re fighting. This is a group that believes in establishing an Islamic caliphate, Islamic dictatorship, that the Koranic rule of law is the set rule of law. There’s no other option. That’s what I mean by clarity of what we’re fighting here.

Um-hmm - and what we have that we need to defend. I mean perhaps what you identified as our biggest domestic problem is identified by our enemy as a major weakness that they feel as though they can target and defeat - defeat us because if it.

Yes, I think that is part of it. But also, we have a view of democracy and freedom that is different from theirs - of a separation - that the government is separate from religion. We don’t remove religion from the public square, but religion does not run the government. They have a different view of that.

We have an immigration problem in this country - certainly an illegal immigration problem but it spills over into legal immigration because [those who come legally must think, why wait when so many just sneak in?] Here there was a several-second malfunction in the recording device. In brackets is the rest of the question I was reading from.

Senator Brownback’s answer was pretty much what is posted on his web site and I quote: “Securing our borders must be our top priority as a nation. Our Southern border is porous and must be secured. Secure borders make Americans safer.” Senator Brownback has voted to:
* Double the number of border patrol agents over the next five years;
* Increase detention space in order to end “catch-and-release”;
* Build 700 miles of border fencing and 350 miles of vehicle barriers along the Southern border;
* Fund 370 miles of triple-layered fencing and 461 miles of vehicle barriers along the nation's southwest border;
* Deploy cutting-edge technology including cameras, sensors, and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) to patrol the border for illegal border crossers ; and
* Implement a tough, smart border security strategy in order to gain operational control of the border.
He said something else though that I hadn’t heard before. He would ask the Social Security Administration to monitor use of false Social Security numbers and use them to pursue employers whose workers claim them. He would fine employers and deport the illegals thus identified.

I then read my next question from my list: “How do you understand the first part of our 14th Amendment: ‘All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside.’ Would you challenge that justification for so-called anchor babies?”

At this point the recorder picked up the rest of the interview. Senator Brownback said: “The legal expertise that I’ve heard from believes that that is the law the way it is in the Constitution and it would take a Constitutional amendment to remove the ‘anchor baby’ issue. Most legal scholars that I have heard from believe it would take a Constitutional amendment to change that.”

All right. Would you require states or cities who consider themselves sanctuary states or sanctuary cities to restrict federally-subsidized social services to citizens only?

Well I think the better answer here is that we just enforce the law, and enforce it in those cities as well. If they are keeping people that are here illegally, that those people be deported. That’s the way to deal with that. It’s not to go at some sort of lengthy government program. Right now we have the laws and the cities cannot prevent the enforcement of that, and should not. That’s like the city saying, well we just don’t like this law so we’re not going to abide by it. We don’t allow that to take place in anything else and we shouldn’t on immigration either.

So you think it would take care of itself with aggressive enforcement of present laws.

I think we should aggressively enforce the present laws. This is the law. That’s how we’ve enforced it other times. Enforce the law.

Okay. What would victory in Iraq look like?


I think it would look like political stability on the ground to where there is not a civil war going on. I believe in a soft partition. I think we should, ah, the Kurds have their own state already. I think we should allow the Sunnis to have their own state and a weak federal government with most of your power concentrated out in the states. I think that’s a political solution that we can get stability around. It’s going to be very difficult, I think, to get a politically stable environment in the present governmental structure. We’re almost assured of a weak Shia government in Iraq with the current structure and I think you should devolve authority - the Kurds are running their region quite effectively. Anbar has become much more stable under the Sunnis. I think you should let them run their state in the Sunni region and then the Shia south is going to be, I think, more problematic . . .

Um-hmm.

. . . with Baghdad being a federal city.

Um-hmm. How about oil revenues? The Sunnis don’t have a lot of oil.

Shared equally per capita.

Okay. How would you propose that we get there?

I think we should do a political surge, now. Aggressive push. The president assigning a high-level envoy - if it’s a Jim Baker or parking Condoleeza Rice over in the region to cut the deal to get this done. We’ve done a political surge. The military’s done a great job. We need a political surge.

Hmm. Okay. How important do you think democracy is in the long-term solution, regional solution, for the Middle East.


I think democracy is central and it’s important, but I don’t we should let the perfect be the enemy of the good or better. These countries, particularly in the Middle East, have a long way to go. Their underlying philosophy, faith philosophy, is that there is not separation of the government from the religion. This is a tough concept of having a government that is separate from the faith.

The Turkish model.


So you end up, really, with the Turkish model where the securer of the democracy is the military.

Okay.

And I think it’s going to be a long, tough process.

A generation.

I think it could take quite some time.

That’s what I tell my students. Iran looms large in the region. How would you deal with Iran?

I think you have to be aggressive in a confrontation - very aggressive economic sanctions. I think we need to do a lot more, interior, in Iran on developing civil society, supporting labor union movement - getting some of the pieces of a free society - supporting them inside Iran. I think we have to do a lot more communicating to Iranians about what their government is denying them. The freedom is denied them to vote for the candidate of their choice. The candidates are all picked by the ruling mullahs, a committee that they put forward. The denial of women’s rights. I think we need to communicate a lot more of what Iranian society is being denied by their government. I think we have to build a very strong, international coalition against the Iranians. And I think we have to keep the military option as a possibility. This is a regime that is fighting us in the field, on the ground in Iraq, developing nuclear technology. I think we have to keep that military option on the table.

A credible one.

Yes.

What do you think of the old quote: “That government governs best which governs least.”

I like it. I think it goes to the basic notion of what the founders created - maximum personal liberty, limited government, but all that generally requires maximum personal responsibility. It brings you back to family and the development of character and virtues by the family. It brings you back to free faith institutions that push personal governance. I like that philosophy.

Would you try to shrink government?

Yes.

How would you do that?

A couple of ways that I put forward. The one, I think, that we really, really need to do soon is take the BRAC (Base Realignment And Closure) process and apply that to the rest of government. You would have an annual commission report that’s a required vote of Congress on whether or not a group of programs should be eliminated. With BRAC the military looked at which two hundred bases should be closed. It’s required to vote on by Congress - deal or no deal - close all two hundred - keep all two hundred - no amendment - limited time for debate. We need a culling process in the government. What we’re doing in Appropriations (his committee) does not work. That’s one that I would do. I think Republicans and Democrats alike should support it. Many want to free up money to do higher-value things but we can’t get rid of programs that are not working.

Hmm.

The second one is personal Social Security accounts, as an option. It’s not forcing anybody to do that. If you talk about shrinking the percentage that the government is of the economy, that’s probably the biggest step that you could do that would be cheered for across the country, particularly by young people, but would not threaten the solvency of the system for people what want to stay in the system.

So when you suggest the BRAC process for government, would that be all departments?

Yes.

Hmm. Interesting.


Yeah, we have a bill in that’s - I don’t know how many co-sponsors we have on it - but this is the only thing that we’ve shown can work to cull antiquated, wasteful government programs. Otherwise, the system’s just built to spend.

So everybody has to vote up or down, and therefore go on record, and have to be accountable for their vote. There wouldn’t be any more hiding.

Yep.

Hmm. Interesting process.

It worked for BRAC. We’ve never been - prior to BRAC we could never close a military base. All the horse trading would go on, but after BRAC we’ve closed a number of them.

A lot of them up here in my region of the country.


Yeah. A lot of people don’t like the process, but the military likes it from the standpoint that it puts more money in their high-priority areas.

Hmm. Yeah, and they would know best.

Yeah.

How do you interpret the Second Amendment?

Personal right that should be broadly interpreted, umm, as a personal right to bear arms.

So it isn’t for a National Guard. It’s not for hunting. It’s for people to bear arms personally.

Yes.

Okay. Pretty straightforward.

Well I’ve had a lot of votes for the last - I’ve been in Congress since 1995 and I’ve voted in favor of the Second Amendment. It baffles me how you can interpret pieces of the Constitution broadly and others narrowly.

Um-hmm.

I mean either you interpret all of it broadly or all of it narrowly, and the Second Amendment is equal to all other amendments. They’re pieces of the Constitution. I think it deserves a very strong interpretation as a personal right.

How would you handle efforts to resurrect the Fairness Doctrine?


Ah. I think that’s a bad idea. Because it’s going to limit radio that they can listen to and it’s against how the marketplace works. I think it’s against some basic rights. I’m opposed to the Fairness Doctrine. I don’t see much of anything fair about it.

Okay (laughing). Assuming that Democrats like Chuck Shumer who gained power in the US Senate maintain it after the 2008 elections and you find yourself president under those circumstances, you’ve indicated that you intend to appoint judges who would overturn Roe V Wade. What strategy would you use to try and get those judges confirmed in a Senate Judiciary Committee with Chuck Shumer as the chair?

Appoint high-quality individuals like a John Roberts or a Sam Alito that are strict-constructionist of the constitution. I think that’s the combination of how you would get them on through. High quality, but philosophically are strict-constructionist.

Hmm. Not worried about “Borking”?

Well, I think they’re going to try to do that. They tried to do that on Roberts and Alito. The quality of their ability and character what such that, at the end of the day when they went through the grinder of the Judiciary Committee, they shined.

Yeah, they did. I was proud.

I was too and I was there and predicting big, nasty fights and we had them, but at the end of the day the people just had to vote for them. There was no reason they really couldn’t vote for them.

Hmm. Well I hope it works. I certainly do. You’re a very strong pro-life candidate. Perhaps the strongest.

Thank you very much. Good to talk to you. God bless you. All the best.

Thank you very much Senator.

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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Maine's New Religion


Maine issues driver’s licenses to illegal aliens. Some people here think it’s a problem and some don’t. One of the former is Paula Silsby, US Attorney for the district of Maine. “Silsby says not having a residency requirement opens a major loophole in the system and criminals can get through it,” according to a report from Kara Matuszewski on the WCSH Newscenter6 web site. “A drivers license is, in many instances, the keys to the kingdom,” said Silsby.

Among those who don’t think it’s much of a problem is the person responsible for issuing Maine driver’s licenses. “There are reasons why someone may not be a resident, but wants a Maine driver's license, said Secretary of State Matt Dunlap to WCSH. “Students or people who do a lot of business in Maine may want a driver’s license from the state. The system isn’t perfect.” Thanks a lot, Mr. Secretary. You spoke without addressing the issue. Matt Dunlap: the artful dodger.

Another who doesn’t see it as a problem is Maine Governor John Baldacci, a liberal Democrat. He issued an executive order that state employees may not question the “immigration status” of anyone applying for anything in Maine, making this a sanctuary state for illegal aliens. That would include applying for a whole spectrum of welfare benefits which are more generous here than in many other states. It’s no wonder illegal aliens want to come to Maine. How many are coming? We don’t know, because state officials would be penalized if they even ask, so we don’t keep track.

Another who doesn’t seem to think it’s a problem is the executive editor of Maine’s largest newspaper, Jeannine Guttman at The Portland Press Herald. Like the rest of the unconcerned, she’s an evangelist for one of the fastest-growing religions in Maine: Worshipers of Diversity and Multiculturism. They think it’s a problem that Maine’s population is mostly white. “. . . Maine has been one of the whitest states in the country,” she wrote to the American Society of Newspaper Editors. “A decade ago, that statistic blocked serious endeavors to try to diversify our staff. A common misperception was that journalists of color wouldn’t feel comfortable living in Maine because it was too white, so why bother to recruit?” Well, recruit she did in spite of Maine’s “too many white people” problem. People “of color” are replacing people “of pallor” on her rolls. The Press Herald’s new rainbow staff devoutly publishes endless articles in praise of Diversity and Multiculturism.

Backing up this effort, the University of Maine’s coursework requires those training to become teachers, social workers, and others studying the humanities professions to read and discuss Peggy MacIntosh’s essay: “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack.” MacIntosh is a devout believer and evangelist for Maine’s new state religion. She tries to make the case that, just as men are are “overprivileged,” so are white people. “Having described it,” she writes of this alleged overprivilege people of pallor have, we each have to ask ourselves: “what will I do to lessen or end it?”

Lessening “white privilege” takes many forms which include recruiting on the basis of skin color as the Press Herald is so proud of doing, or an executive order by the governor that recruits illegal aliens (who are usually people “of color”) to Maine. Why limit ourselves to American citizens of color when we can recruit illegal aliens worldwide? This grand crusade is financed, of course, by confiscatory tax rates on overprivileged people of pallor. Worshipers of diversity and multiculturalism feel very good about themselves when they spend other people’s money to propagate their religion. Thanks to them, Maine has become the highest taxed state in the country while remaining one of the poorest. It’s also one of only two states whose economy stagnated in 2006, while the other forty-eight prospered. The other state whose economy languished was Louisiana, which suffered enormous damage from Hurricane Katrina. Maine didn’t have a hurricane.

As stated above, we don’t know how many illegals in Maine got driver’s licenses because state employees are forbidden to even ask about immigration status, much less keep records. We can get a hint, however, because according to WCSH, there’s an increasing number of people with the Social Security number 999-99-9999 holding Maine licenses. In 2006, there were 3788. As of May, 2007, there were 5372 - an increase of forty percent.

If any of this bothers you, you’re either racist or mean-spirited - probably both. Maine is getting much more diverse and multicultural and that is, after all, what is most important, right?

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Thursday, September 06, 2007

Power to the People

Control of media is power. There are many candidates for president in both major parties, for example, but Americans don’t know most of them. Why? Because they get little exposure in the media. When people asked me what I did over the summer, I told them I interviewed some presidential candidates. “Really?” they said. “Which ones?” When I went down the list, citing Republican Congressmen Duncan Hunter and Tom Tancredo as well as Democrats Senator Chris Dodd and Governor Bill Richardson, most replied: “Never heard of them.” Consequently, those candidates have little chance of getting elected. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? Depends on your perspective.

Who controls media? Cogent observers would have to say The New York Times is the single media organ with the most power right now. Why? It has a huge circulation - and not just in New York City, but across the country. Also, the three major networks base their evening news broadcasts on whatever appears on the Times’ front page. The big weekly news magazines are strongly influenced by it too and that gives the Times a lot of clout. Since the Times has a pronounced leftist bias, its power a good thing for liberal Democrats. If you’re a conservative Republican, it’s not so good. The enormous power exercised by the Times for many decades is diminishing rapidly, however. Media is not only changing, it’s decentralizing in every way - from sourcing to dissemination.

Historically, people were influenced by spoken words and by symbols - buildings like temples or shrines, and images drawn or sculpted. People had to be physically present - next to them - to be influenced by them. Writing was invented early and could be passed around to influence people more widely, but only the elite could read. The masses still had to be assembled to look, listen, and be influenced by speeches and symbols. Whoever could speak well had power. The expression “The tongue is mightier than the blade” is attributed to Euripedes in the 5th century B.C. As more people became literate the written word gained power to the point where, twenty centuries later, Shakespeare wrote: “. . . Many wearing rapiers are afraid of goose quills.” In 1839, another English playwright named Edward Bulwer-Lytton wrote: “The pen is mightier than the sword.” The Times’ power derived from this.

In the first half of the twentieth century radio, then television, threatened the primacy of the written word, but the Times retained its power. In the second half, however, came the internet. The Times is still on top in 2007, but its publisher isn’t sure he’ll be publishing a hard copy newspaper in five years. Young people aren’t reading newspapers much and circulation is not only declining, the decline is accelerating rapidly.

Maine Senator Ed Muskie was a shoe-in for the Democrat presidential nomination in 1972 until voters saw and heard him cry during a speech in Manchester, New Hampshire. A tape went around the country and his candidacy was over. Vermont Governor Howard Dean looked unbeatable until his famous scream in Iowa three years ago. That went around even faster and his candidacy was over too. Such things travel still faster over the internet and most Americans access it regularly now. When Red Sox rookie Clay Buchholz pitched a no-hitter last weekend, for example, his parents watched him on majorleaguebaseball.com instead of television. How will the new media change politics? Hard to say, but there are a few hints out there.

Someone got ahold of a two-minute clip showing John Edwards primping before a TV appearance, dubbed in Julie Andrews singing “I Feel Pretty,” and posted it in YouTube. After hearing about his $1200 haircuts and hearing Laura Ingraham refer to him as the “Silky Pony,” I thought the clip was hilarious. Widespread viewing could kill Edwards’s hopes of http://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gifbecoming commander-in-chief. Anyone can send it out as an email attachment to http://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gifrelatives and friends, who might each send it out again and so forth. It could go around the world in hours. People with digital video cameras record what candidates say in house parties or anywhere else on the stump. They can post videos on YouTube and be viewed around around the world. Students can record teachers in class and out go videos of lessons to whomever in cyberspace. People will be much more accountable for what we say and do in public.

NowPublic is a startup news agency with a different approach. A July 30th article said, “In part of a trend referred to as ‘citizen journalism,’ NowPublic lets anyone with digital cameras or a camera-enable mobile telephones upload images or news snippets for dissemination via the Internet.” They claim to have 120,000 “journalists” around the world.” Will NowPublic fly? Who knows? Will people visit its web site instead of turning on the Today Show or the CBS Evening News? Maybe. Some already do and it claims to be growing by 35% a month while traditional news broadcasts lose viewers. It it one of the little mammals scampering around the feet of the dinosaur media? How will the new media affect the next election, still over a year away? Hard to say, but it’s bound to be interesting.

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