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

Saturday, February 28, 2009

CPAC 2009




It's exciting down here. No doubt about it. Conservatives are fired up. I desperately needed a right-wing re-charge after 12 months in blue-state Maine.

I was surprised, however, to learn that even though Geert Wilders was in town, CPAC sponsors "couldn't fit him in." Was that it? Or did they run short of courage? Lots of mumbling and speculation about that.

Thankfully, some more gutsy new-media types like David Horowitz, Pam Geller, Robert Spencer and Andrew Bostom sponsored a reception for him last night in another part of the hotel - separate from the CPAC function rooms - and I was able to attend.

Surrounded by tough-looking bodyguards, Wilders delivered a stirring speech - the highlight of my visit. He's a brave man.

More later about him.

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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Pork, Lipstick, and Suckers Like Me


From Gateway Pundit


Don’t know much about economics, but the economists I’ve been hearing lately don’t seem to know much either. To this ordinary guy, it looks like a rough road ahead, so I’m just going to trust my instincts and hang on tight.

A couple of months ago, I paid off my mortgage. For the first time since I was eighteen, I don’t owe anybody anything - no car payments, no student loans, nothing. My old truck still runs, but it’s rusting out underneath - kind of like our country. I’ll drive it until the frame breaks while I save up for another. I don’t feel too bad about junking my old pickup, but it’s hard watching Congress and the President junk my country.

My wife and I have worked long and hard. Can’t remember when I didn’t have at least two jobs. We scrimped, went without, raised four kids, sent them to college, and paid our bills. We still work hard, but we’re playing around some too. We have everything we need and our tastes are modest. Trying to figure out what to do with extra money is our problem now. Nice problem to have I guess, but a problem nonetheless. It’s not a lot but I don’t know where to put it.

Don’t know much about the stock market either. I’m not against putting some there , but like so many others, I’m wondering where bottom will be and it looks like we’re not close to it yet. Gold? Many are buying that and it’s up over $1000 an ounce. Maybe I’ll invest some there, but for now I’m listening, thinking, and worrying.

Obama said last Saturday he has a plan for “restoring fiscal discipline.” Uh-huh. That was a few days after announcing he wants to give $75,000,000,000 to people who can’t make their mortgage payments. We all know someone who bought more house than they could afford and defaulted, and someone else who could make payments until they burned through their equity and can’t anymore. According to CBS.com: “Homeowners in states without significant foreclosures will subsidize those in states like California, Arizona, and Florida. And borrowers who initially had affordable mortgages -- but then refinanced during the housing bubble and used their homes as ATMs -- stand to benefit.”

Now you want wagon pullers like me to pull harder because they’re jumping on? This is “restoring fiscal discipline”? Bailing out speculators and irresponsible borrowers? When the re-default rate on them is over 55% in six months? And sending the bill to people like me, my children, and my grandchildren? We’re not going to take this.

The week before, Obama and his “economists” rammed a $900,000,000,000 “economic stimulus” bill through Congress. He doesn’t have that money either. So where’s he going to get it? With the US debt at over $10 trillion and climbing fast, China is reluctant to lend us any more. So, he sent Hillary over there to try and change their minds. If I were a Chinese leader, I’d give her a firm “No.” I’d like to say no too, but my two “Republican” senators here in Maine voted for the $900,000,000,000. I’ve had it with those two RINOs, but that’s another column. My fingers are cramped typing all the zeros.

Last fall, Obama said, “You can put lipstick on a pig,” as the crowd cheered. “It's still a pig.” You were right then, Mr. President, but that’s what you’re doing now. We know pork when we see it. I’m angry, and so are millions of other ordinary guys just like me.

Looks like President Obama is going to print the money. I suspect he already is. I don’t have to be an economist to know that the value of my money, which is in cash, is going to decline unless I do something else with it. But then I think that if inflation goes up, interest rates will too and I’ll be all right. And, my money will be secured by FDIC - the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. That makes me feel better - except for one thing.

I’m no math genius either, but I can add and subtract. FDIC had about $52 billion to cover deposits of over $4 trillion, and that was a year ago before all those recent bank failures. What happens if there’s a bigger run on banks? Will Obama just print more and give some to me to cover my lost deposits? Won’t that lead to more inflation? Oh, but then there’ll be still higher interest rates, so I’ll be all right . . . Now I feel better . . . No I don’t.

It was simpler when I my problem was not enough money. I didn’t have time to think because I was working too hard to pay my bills. What a sucker I was, huh?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Scarey Court Cases



Two recent court cases on two continents make me very nervous. That they’re even being tried is outrageous. That either may succeed is ominous, and few people know anything about either one.

First is the case of Roger Barnett - an Arizona rancher who has been under siege by illegal immigrants and drug dealers. In the Washington Times, Barnett claims illegals “tore up water pumps, killed calves, destroyed fences and gates, stole trucks and broke into his home.” Now sixteen illegals are suing him in federal court for $32 million, accusing him of “conspiring to violate their civil rights when he stopped them at gunpoint on his ranch next to the US-Mexico border.” The sixteen illegals claim Barnett caused them emotional distress by holding them at gunpoint and they want $2 million each.

Chief among our federal government’s responsibilities is to protect American citizens from foreign invasion, but it’s done little or nothing to help Barnett. Rather than protecting him, our government instead enables foreign invaders to sue him. That’s how bad it’s gotten.

The US Department of Homeland Security acknowledges virtual anarchy on the border and warns that Mexico itself is on the verge of collapse. That would come as no surprise to Barnett, who must wonder about his own country as well if it cannot, or will not control its borders. The DHS report states: “[Mexico’s] government, its politicians, police and judicial infrastructure are all under sustained assault and press by criminal gangs and drug cartels. . . . Any descent by Mexico into chaos would demand an American response based on the serious implications for homeland security alone.”

Drug cartel power depends on moving drugs across our border. We are their market. I’d say an American response is overdue already, wouldn’t you? USA Today reported in 2005 that: “First [New Mexico Governor] Richardson, then [Arizona Governor] Napolitano, declared a state of emergency this month in portions of their states along the border with Mexico.”

The second case is that of Geert Wilders in Holland: A Member of Parliament, Wilders has been charged with hurting Muslim immigrant feelings in Holland by “inciting racial hatred.” He made a film called “Fitna” comparing the Koran to Hitler’s “Mein Kampf.” As Dr. Sami Alrabaa reports in Canadian Free Press: “Wilders’ comparison of the Koran to Adolf Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” and describing it as a fascist book is not inappropriate. Hitler referred to the Jews as “rats and vermin” and the Koran and fascist Muslims call the Jews “The descendants of apes and pigs.”

When radical Muslims incite racial hatred in Holland, it’s okay. When a member of Holland’s government points it out, it’s a crime.

Dr. Alrabaa also writes that “Muhammad Sayyid Al Tantawi, president of Al Azhar University [established 975 AD in Cairo] also approves of killing and maiming Christians, Jews, and other infidels. He added, ‘This is not my personal view. This what the Shari’a Law says, the law of Allah, the only valid law on the earth.’”

There. I’ve pointed it out. I’m a criminal too.

Geert Wilders was invited by a member of the British House of Lords to show his film there. When he landed in London last Friday, he was promptly deported. The London Daily Telegraph reported: “Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary refused Mr. Wilders entry because his opinions ‘would threaten community security and therefore public security’ in the UK.”

So, when Muslim clerics in the UK preach hatred and violent jihad against the British government, it’s all right. But when Wilders expresses a negative opinion about that preaching, he’s the threat, not them.

This is what Europe, seat of western civilization and democracy, has come to.

Back here, groups like MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund) use the US Constitution to bring suit against Americans like Roger Barnett when he tries to defend his property. MALDEF doesn’t recognize the US border. Similar radical Mexican groups like MEChA deny the legitimacy of state governments all across the southwestern United States, calling the area “Aztlan” and claiming themselves as indigenous people not subject to US law. MEChA has chapters in most colleges across the American southwest. If you check out their web site here, you’ll see their symbol: an eagle gripping an Aztec war club in one talon and a stick of dynamite with its fuse lit in the other. Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Lt. Governor Cruz Bustamante are former members.

MEChA receives funding from La Raza (“The Race”). Politicians across America go out of their way to pay homage to “The Race.” President Barack Obama and Senator John McCain addressed the organization during the 2008 campaign, where both virtually promised amnesty for illegals. Two out of three voted for Obama.

Barnett and Wilders are brave men defending western civilization on the front lines. If they go down, watch out.

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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Demographic Destiny in Blue




Birth rates in New England are among the lowest in America according to The Boston Globe:

U.S. Census Bureau report says that in 2006, New Hampshire's birthrate was 42 babies per 1,000 women of childbearing age. The national rate was 54.9 births per thousand. Vermont had the second lowest rate, at 42.2. Counting Washington, D.C., Rhode Island was third lowest, at 45; Massachusetts had the seventh lowest rate, at 46.1; and Maine the eighth lowest, at 47.3.

New England is also leaning hard left politically, especially New Hampshire. The Granite State had been a conservative outpost in New England, but not anymore. It’s blue as can be now. Is there a correlation? Definitely. Is there a cause and effect thing going on between left-wing politics and low birth rates? I strongly suspect there is.
Four years ago I read accounts by several people who were noticing that liberal areas of the country were not reproducing. Writing about the election of 2004, David Brooks in the New York Times said:

You can see surprising political correlations. As Steve Sailer pointed out in The American Conservative, George Bush carried the 19 states with the highest white fertility rates, and 25 of the top 26. John Kerry won the 16 states with the lowest rates. In The New Republic Online, Joel Kotkin and William Frey observe, "Democrats swept the largely childless cities - true blue locales like San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, Boston and Manhattan have the lowest percentages of children in the nation - but generally had poor showings in those places where families are settling down, notably the Sun Belt cities, exurbs and outer suburbs of older metropolitan areas."

The red-state/blue-state map isn’t as revealing as the one divided into counties. Hanging in my classroom are the red-county/blue-county maps from the elections of 2000, 2004, and 2008. After looking at these, anyone can see that Kotkin and Frey’s analysis is dead-on. Densely populated liberal cities like San Francisco, Manhattan, Boston, Seattle and Portland are surrounded by a sea of red with a blue island here and there. The coasts are blue-fringed and the rest of America was almost all crimson. New England on the 2008 map, however, is an exception to this pattern. Maine’s Piscataquis County is the only one in all of New England showing up red. It’s Maine’s second-biggest county in area after Aroostook, but it’s the least populated with fewer than twenty thousand people.

Coincidentally, I happened to be up there just before the election last fall and I noticed a majority of lawn signs with conservative candidates. There were twice as many McCain/Palin signs than there were for Obama/Biden, and the same pattern held for the US House and Senate races.

So why is rural New England so blue now? I’m not sure. It could be continuing in-migration of liberal retirees from Massachusetts, New York and Rhode Island. It could be that students indoctrinated by ubiquitous left-wing teachers and professors are voting age and going to the polls. It could be that a left-of-center view of the world prevails in the region because it reached a critical mass early in the 21st century.

How long will the trend continue? Hard to say. It depends on three factors, I think. First: Will Republicans return to conservative roots and articulate their message effectively? Second: Will Democrats in control of our federal government rescue our economy with twelve-figure spending bills, or will they bankrupt us all? Third, will conservative families continue to out-breed left-wingers?

As for why leftists don’t have children, I can only take them at their word. They claim a higher calling to preserve a natural environment as if human activity is outside of, and averse to nature, or rather - Nature - since they tend to deify it. So, having children is a violation because more people means more use of Nature’s resources which are better left in their natural state. Other organisms are more noble, more natural, and more deserving of those resources than homo sapiens.

Leftists champion abortion for America, and everywhere else too. One of Obama’s first acts as president was to authorize American tax money to fund abortions around the world. They’re okay with destroying unborn humans, but every other organism must be preserved at all costs. Even though more than ninety percent of organisms that ever existed on earth are extinct due to natural processes, we must spare no expense to prevent any more from disappearing. Remarkably, leftist environmentalists don’t perceive any contradiction here. They believe they know better what life should be preserved and what life should be destroyed.

Whatever motivates them, blue leftists aren’t reproducing. What does that mean for our future? We’ll just have to wait and see.

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Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Bailing The Failing


Similarities between federal government “helping” the economy and “helping” public education haunt me. Government bails out failing businesses now the same way it’s been bailing out failing students and failing schools. Will Democrat Big Government fix our economy? I’ll answer that question by asking another: Has it fixed public schools? I rest my case.

Although math has always been a weakness for me, I’m fairly good at geometry. Why? Because I failed it in 10th grade. I didn’t fail because I couldn’t understand it. I failed because I goofed around in class, didn’t do my homework, and didn’t study. I had to take it again in summer school and I had to pass, so I did. I paid attention. I did my homework. I studied. Failure was good for me.

However, “Failure is not an option” has been a slogan in many public schools for a while now. If students fail courses, it’s the teacher’s fault for not doing enough to prevent it. Even if students goof around, don’t do assigned work, and don’t study, the onus is on the teacher to do more or expect less. Worse, if there’s a discrepancy between a student’s measured intelligence and his actual performance, a student can even be called “Learning Disabled,” or LD, and demand extensive government services. The LD label implies a perceptual difficulty and most lay people understand it that way, but that’s not how government defines it. That the discrepancy exists is enough, even if it’s due solely to lack of effort. There are certainly students with perceptual difficulties and it the LD label was designed for them. They work hard, but they’re forced to share expensive educational resources with the willfully ignorant who are often disruptive, but are enabled by government regulations. When government subsidizes something, we tend to get more of it.

Under our free enterprise system, we should all be free to succeed or fail. However, government is applying the “failure is not an option” philosophy to greedy individual investors who bought more house than they could afford, and to big corporations. Some are banks that squandered their capital on risky investments. Others are automobile companies that design poor vehicles, make them shoddily, and pander to bloated labor unions. They’re failing because they’re lazy, greedy, and out of touch with consumer wants and needs. They don’t like competition and they deserve to fail. What may save them is being forced to face the reasons they failed. Government bailouts only postpone that. Throwing money at the problem doesn’t solve it. Admitting failure and going into bankruptcy reorganization would force the issue.

Trouble is, union contracts would be suspended in bankruptcy court and auto workers would have to compete as individual workers the way their fellow auto workers in American Toyota plants do. Toyota makes excellent vehicles in the United States, and that’s why they outsell Ford, GM and Chrysler. Competition is good for workers, good for corporations, good for consumers. If the big three can’t compete, they should fail. We won’t run out of vehicles.

The federal government didn’t step in when big airlines were going bankrupt in the ’80s and ’90s. They couldn’t compete with newer, low-cost, low-frills airlines that started up after government deregulated the industry. Their bloated labor unions would not accept reduced pay and benefits to help their companies avoid bankruptcy and went out on strike instead. Eastern Airlines and others folded, but we can still fly wherever we want to go.

For decades, public schools have said they need more government money to fix themselves - and they’ve been getting plenty of it. See much improvement? Look around. School systems like Washington, DC that spend the most ($13,446 per student versus $9,138 per student nationally in fiscal 2006), and have the most big-government intervention, produce the poorest results. They’re beholden to bloated teachers’ unions - the biggest unions in the country - and they hate competition. Even the liberal Atlantic Monthly, says: “For decades, an establishment of Democratic politicians backed by union leaders has ruled the Washington public schools, which by almost any measure—test scores, attendance, safety—are among the worst in the country.” No wonder Barack Obama won’t send his kids there. He’ll send them to private schools, but he won’t allow less-fortunate DC residents that option because the teachers’ unions and the Democratic Party would go ballistic. For teachers’ unions, enemy number one is competition in the form of education vouchers or school choice. Obama is the most “pro-choice” politician in Washington, but not when it comes to education.

Success and failure are both good teachers and one cannot exist without the other. If we think we can eliminate failure by spending money on it that we don’t have, we’re all going to fail.

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