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, March 26, 2008

Why We Fight


We’re the good guys. They’re the bad guys. It’s that simple really, but Americans don’t know it and that’s why we’re in danger of losing this war. Many hear that we’re the bad guys and our enemies are justified. Most recently it was Barack Obama’s minister, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright preaching “White America” got what it deserved on September 11th. Before him, it was former University of Colorado Professor Ward Churchill who called the 3000 victims “Little Eichmans” after the Nazi murderer. Before him, University of New Mexico Professor Richard Berthold taught that: "Anyone who can bomb the Pentagon has my vote."

Others scoff at my good guys/bad guys synopsis, insisting it’s not that simple. There’s no good/bad, right/wrong. Everything is gray. Everything is relative. Anyone who sees this war as I do is unintelligent at best and a warmonger at worst.

Still others insist that, while it may seem wrong that radical Muslims want to kill us, they’re following the dictates of their culture and we cannot condemn them because all cultures are equal. Ours is no better than theirs. When we fight back, we make Islamofascists angrier, producing more terrorists.

Then there are the pacifists with bumper stickers professing: “War is Not the Answer” no matter what the question - even if it should be “How can we stop those proclaiming ‘Death to America’ from killing us?”

The Democrat Party is largely comprised of people who embrace some combination of the above, constantly reinforced by a Mainstream Media reporting only when the war is going badly for us. It’s no wonder America is divided. Clearly we’re losing the propaganda war, which is becoming the most important theater in our struggle against Radical Islam. We haven’t even begun to fight it.

Soldiers think propaganda isn’t as important as winning battles on the ground, but our reasons for fighting are vital to civilians who sustain the war. Soldiers offer themselves to be killed as sacrifices because they believe our country is more important than they are. Their home, family, land, and way of life are worth dying for. They know enemy soldiers think this way too but our soldiers must be ready to kill them because they would impose their way of life on us. American soldiers and the people back home must both believe our way of life is better than our enemy’s. We must believe it so strongly that we’re willing to kill and die for it, but too many Americans don’t - not because it isn’t true, but because they don’t know what’s at stake.

Our enemy is winning the war of ideas because they have no opposition. Propagandizing doesn’t have to be lying the way our enemy uses it, it’s making our case. It’s teaching Americans what our enemies want to do to us. It’s outlining the choices all the world has to make, including people in Iran and Syria and every other country supporting terrorism. Do you want to live under Sharia Law or not? Do you want schools teaching your children to become suicide bombers? Decide. Then take a side. There’s no middle ground.

We fought an effective propaganda battle during World War II when General George C. Marshal asked Hollywood Director Frank Capra to make propaganda films, Capra hesitated because he made comedies and dramas. Could he make a documentary? Should he? Capra saw Leni Riefenstahl’s “Triumph of the Will” as a brilliant Nazi propaganda film and wondered, “How can I possibly top that?” Well he did. used our enemy’s own propaganda to show American soldiers and civilians what we were up against. We need to do exactly what Capra did and use Islamofascist propaganda against them. The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) collects Islamofascist films from the Palestinian Authority, Iran and the terrorist groups it supports like Hamas and Hezbollah that is used to brainwash children into becoming suicide bombers We must saturate the world with these films to shine light on what Islamofascists are: a megalomaniacial death cult. Perhaps it will shame moderate Muslims enough that they will summon the courage to publicly condemn the radicals perverting their religion.

Our enemies propagandize so effectively that, although they shoot rockets into Israel every single day, the world sees them as victims. Hamas terrorists know Israel must kill civilians to take out their rocket launchers and this generates more grist for the propaganda mill. When it threatens to stop supplying electricity, fuel and water to the very people trying to kill them, Israel is condemned! Can propaganda be any more effective than that? I don’t see how.

“Obsession” is a terrific, privately-produced example of what could be done if our government ever gets serious about fighting the propaganda war. They better not wait much longer or the good guys will indeed finish last.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

For Crying Out Loud


Good grief. Brett Favre cried on live TV. He was announcing his decision to retire as quarterback of the Green Bay Packers and he didn’t just get a little choked up - he sobbed - and was unable to talk for minutes at a time. He would start and stop, too emotional to continue. I was watching during my lunch break at work and I felt ambivalent. I sympathized, but I was also embarrassed for him. Others had similar reactions, both men and women, judging from what I heard on radio and television afterward. I’ve been thinking about it a lot since.

Favre is admired by football fans across the country. Men admire his athletic talent, his abilities to think quickly and lead his team against another team of talented athletes trying to make him and his team look foolish. He’s taken a lot of physical punishment and continued to show up ready to play year after year. He’s won championships and compiled one of the best records in pro football. Women admire those things, and also consider him attractive. Whatever Favre is, he’s a man upon whom many project their images of what a man should be, so his behavior that day continued to reverberate. The way we react is a window on our culture, an insight into Americans male and female.

Laura Ingraham, a syndicated, conservative, radio talk show, hostess, had a profoundly negative reaction to Favre’s crying. She acknowledged all his accomplishments and the esteem in which Green Bay fans held him, but she believed he should have been able to suck it up better when he made his announcement. When she opened it up to comments from her listening audience, the reaction of most men to Favre’s crying was distinctly different from that of most women callers, but not in the way I expected. Generally, the men thought it was okay for Favre to cry, but the women didn’t. They agreed with Laura Ingraham that it was unmanly.

Most men respect Favre because they know he’s not a wimp. They believe he has a right to display what many consider weakness because his strengths are beyond doubt. Strong men can actually admired for displays of weakness. Only semi-tough men are afraid of them. The semi-tough ridicule weakness it because they fear it. They fear it because they hide their own from others. Some hide it even from themselves and have a mostly unconscious negative reaction when they see it.

Most women who called in that morning agreed with the hostess and disapproved of Favre’s crying. That surprised me because women I’ve known criticize men, me included, for not showing enough emotion. Could be they just wanted to kiss up to Laura Ingraham, the show’s hostess. Whatever their reasons, I sensed they wanted to protect and preserve their own proclivity to cry, but to do so believing that strong men were around to keep their composure and rationally deal with whatever situation caused a woman’s grief. When Favre cried, it disturbed that feeling of security.

American soldiers on a web-based military forum discussed Favre’s crying and many poked fun at the episode, claiming that according to the “Man Book,” crying is only allowed for a man “when mother dies, his dog dies, or when Christina Aquilera gets married.”

My favorite forum comment was by “MightyB” who said: “Talk about the Libs, downgrade the Democrats, rip the Conservatives, Demonize the Republicans… BUT DON'T YOU SAY A DAMN THING ABOUT ONE OF THE GREATEST QBs to ever suit up . . . I've seen some real badasses cry in my day. I once watched someone cry as he d*** near beat another man to death. I've also seen men cry upon taking a life. Men got to get over [calling] a field warrior like Brett a [wimp]. I don't know for sure, but could anyone of us here take a solid hit from Strahan and stay in the game? [Wimp] indeed!”

Under MightyB’s name was the quote: “Bravery isn’t the absence of fear but the conquest of it.” I like that.

Maybe I wasn’t embarrassed for Favre. Maybe what I felt was compassion for a good man suffering a loss. Most men have strong feelings but we don’t usually know what they are. They sneak up on us sometimes and we don’t even know what to call them, much less how to deal with them.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Californicating Homeschoolers


Teachers’ unions are pro-choice on abortion, but not on education. They use their enormous political capital with the Democrat Party to block voucher initiatives in whatever state or municipality proposes them, including in California. Consequently, many parents homeschool their children at their own expense, even though they still have to pay local property taxes which are spent mostly on public schools their children do not attend. Right now, about 166,000 California children are taught at home. Last week, an California appeals court declared that all children must be taught by a “credentialed” teacher. That means most homeschooling parents without teaching credentials would be violating California law and subject to prosecution. That is going to touch off a political conflagration.

The teachers’ unions love it. "We're happy," said Lloyd Porter, who is on the California Teachers Association board of directors, to the San Francisco Chronicle. "We always think students should be taught by credentialed teachers, no matter what the setting." A.J. Duffy, president of United Teachers Los Angeles, said he agrees with the ruling. "What's best for a child is to be taught by a credentialed teacher," he told the Los Angeles Times.

Teachers’ unions would like to stop being embarrassed by home-schooled kids who continually outperform those taught by “credentialed” teachers in national contests. According to a 2002 article by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy: “Only 2 percent of U.S. students are home schooled. Yet, in the [National Geographic] geography bee, 22 percent of the national finalists and 40 percent of the final 10 students were home schoolers. Such a showing is nothing short of phenomenal.” Home-schooled kids dominate the Scripps-Howard National Spelling Bee as well. In 2000, home-schooled kids took first, second, and third place. Last year, home-schooled kids won both the National Geography Bee and the National Spelling Bee.

Meanwhile, we learn that those “credentialed” teachers so prized by California courts and teachers’ unions compare very unfavorably to people credentialed in other professions. To become “credentialed,” teachers have to major in education. According to economist Walter Williams: “Students who have chosen education as their major have the lowest SAT scores of any other major. Students who have graduated with an education degree earn lower scores than any other major on graduate school admissions tests such as the GRE, MCAT or LSAT. Schools of education, either graduate or undergraduate, represent the academic slums of most any university. As such, they are home to the least able students and professors with the lowest academic respect."

Clearly, too many “credentialed” teachers don’t know much. Or, to paraphrase Maine humorist Tim Sample: “They don’t even suspect much.” The slow ones - and trust me, there are a lot of slow ones in public education - don’t want any light shining on just how slow they are. That’s why they fight standardized testing for teachers. The first time Massachusetts forced new teachers to take a basic competency test in 1998, an astonishing 59% of them failed. These were college graduates (education majors) taking a test that Massachusetts House Speaker Thomas Finneran said: “a reasonably educated ninth grader could pass.

Former Boston University President and Massachusetts Board of Education Chairman John Silber wanted to eliminate teacher certification, or “credentialing” as California calls it, because it was keeping really bright people out of the teaching profession. Teachers’ unions blocked him however. Why would unions favor credentialing when they disdain standardized tests? Because it’s easy to pass college education courses and difficult to pass standardized tests which cannot be fudged. I’ll bet a lot of the 59% who flunked the teacher test graduated with honors from their college education departments. Grade inflation there is rampant.

Silber knew there were many mature, successful, college-educated professionals from other fields who wanted to teach and he didn’t want to discourage them by requiring they take two more years of largely useless education courses in order to be certified or “credentialed.” My school district participated in the University of Southern Maine’s “Extended Teacher Education Program,” or ETEP for several years in which aspiring teachers described above could become certified with only one year of coursework and student teaching. I was on teams interviewing promising candidates for whom I might serve as “mentor teacher” during part of that year. As the teams discussed candidate suitability, a disturbing pattern emerged. Several of the above-described “mature, successful, college-educated professionals from other fields” were naturally confident, competent, and bright - as you would expect. But, as such, they were threatening to the insular academics from the university cloister who would have to supervise them. Some interviewers came right out and said the candidates were “too sure of themselves.” They were not typically obsequious, worshipful, college students enthralled by anyone with a Ph.D who calls himself “doctor” and so they were passed over.

There are still excellent public school teachers out there, but mediocre ones are increasing and so are the downright terrible ones, thanks to teachers’ union protection. They may be happy now, but California’s decision on homeschooling will touch off a firestorm the unions are going to regret.

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Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Multiculturalism Kills



Marked for death, his life will never be the same. He and his wife move constantly under police guard. Kurt Westergaard did what he was told: he drew a cartoon of Muhammed for his employer, the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten. He had no idea that by doing so he would have to spend the rest of his life hiding from Islamofascists who want to kill him. Watching him interviewed on Danish TV, it occurred to me that Westergaard’s situation symbolizes the utter failure of Multiculturalism. Most Europeans still don’t get it and neither do most Americans. They still insist that we all tolerate a culture which pledges to destroy our own. Westergaard’s interviewer epitomizes smug, multicultural ignorance.

His cartoon depicted Muhammed with a bomb in his turban because he wanted to show “that there are terrorists who get their spiritual dynamite or their spiritual ammunition from Islam.” Radical Muslims proved him right as they rioted across the realm of Islam. His Danish interviewer asked if he felt responsible for a hundred riot deaths. “I see the riots as something which was staged by some governments in some badly managed countries,” responded Westergaard. They were staged because governments in Muslim countries want to divert popular attention from their failure. “But that is not my responsibility,” he concluded, and he’s right of course.

“But Kurt Westergaard, they would not have been in the streets of it hadn’t been because of your drawing,” said the interviewer. “What does it make you feel? You drew a few lines on a piece of paper. You took less than an hour to make that drawing and it has actually caused riots which cost more than a hundred people their lives. As a human being, how do you feel about that?”

He said he felt bad that those people were killed and repeated: “It’s not my responsibility. There were [radical Muslims] who had an interest in using [the drawing] more globally.”

“Why is it so important for you to draw that drawing that even these very large consequences does [sic] not create doubts in your mind?” the dedicated multiculturalist asked yet again.

Westergaard said it was important to express the dangers of radical Islam in the debate. “It should be reasonable to comment on something of a most alarming nature which goes on in this world today: this terror . . . Then we get this clash around freedom of speech, we experience . . . a cultural friction where there are two cultures which . . .”

“You mean the Islamic and the western culture?” asked the thick-headed interviewer.

“Yes.”

“What values are you defending with a drawing like that?”

“I fight for Western values. I fight for freedom of speech . . .” said Westergaard. “We live in a secularized society, so it is clear that religion cannot demand any special status.”

“But do you think about that you could be causing trouble with such a drawing instead of fighting against self censorship?”

“Well I hope that such a satirical drawing works in some way when it is being seen.”

“And how is it supposed to work? How can you create freedom of speech with such a drawing of a prophet Mohammed with a piece of dynamite in his turban?”

“Well I think I serve freedom of speech when I make such a drawing. Freedom of speech has been put under some pressure. We experience museums which have to remove pictures. We experience an opera in Berlin which has to close down for a period of time and we experience that intellectual, cultural personalities who speak against Islam are threatened. Van Gogh [in] Holland was murdered. Hirsi Ali has to live under protection. I think there is good reason for us to demonstrate that freedom of speech is something which we cherish. We cannot live without it.”

Danish police recently arrested three Danish immigrants from Tunisia plotting to kill Westergaard in his own home.

“What do you think about that situation?” asks the interviewer. Westergaard said he and his wife were depressed about having to move around so much to avoid being murdered. He says he’s angry about being threatened and sentenced to death by fanatics. Then the Danish government released one of the Tunisian plotters. “You could risk meeting him in the walking street in Aarhus tomorrow,” said the interviewer. Then he summed it all up: the threats, the moving around, the hundred deaths, and the deportations. Given all this, does Westergaard regret making the drawing?

“No. I don’t.”

“Why not?”

“There would have been a similar confrontation, so this friction between these two cultures is there all the time. What has to be done in the future is that our culture, the . . . superior culture will win and we may see some more modified version of Islam which fits better in a secular society.”

This is anathema to multiculturalists who insist that all cultures are equal.

“So there are no regrets in your mind I can hear?” said the increduluous interviewer.

“No. We have to get a grip on it.”

Indeed. Liberal multiculturalists who dominate government in Europe and North America have to get a grip. The western culture they disdain is superior to, and must be defended against, Islamofascism. If they don’t give up their silly notions and wake up, we’re doomed.