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

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Evan's Notch Road Beeches

I love the lime-green color of new beech leaves and try to capture it every spring. My shots are never as beautiful as the scene itself, but here's a recent attempt driving up through Evan's Notch on the Maine/New Hampshire line:


The above is on my computer's desktop for a few weeks. Browsing my photos from last fall, I came upon the following image I'd taken from the same perspective, but forgotten about. Stopping so often to shoot pictures can bug my wife, but she tries to be patient with me. Must be something about that spot in the road.

The road was a CCC project during the Depression. It isn't plowed in winter. Only snowmobilers want to go from Stow to Gilead Maine in winter.

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My First Arrowhead

Found my first arrowhead yesterday. It was in a general area where there has been at least four thousand years of Indian activity. I've been researching it lately for a project. It's a translucent stone. Could be quartz which is ubiquitous around here, or it could be Ramah chert from Labrador, artifacts of which have been found hereabouts, though very rarely. If it is, the implications are extremely interesting. I have to investigate it a bit further.

Most adults I've talked to have found an arrowhead sometime in their lives, but I hadn't until yesterday. Naturally, this called for a celebration.


Googling "Ramah Chert," I learned a fluted point made of the material was discovered twenty years ago in Vermont, but only recently determined to have come from Northern Labrador and dated at 10,000 years old. That boggles the mind. Here's are images of that point from Dr. Stephen Loring:

Artifacts of a Vermont chert have been found locally, as well as some made of materials from New Hampshire, New York State, and Mount Kineo on Moosehead Lake in Maine. I'll post more on this in summer sometime, after I've had a chance to do more research. This is how history geeks like me recreate.

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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Thought Police Tribunals


Gay “marriage” doesn’t disturb me as much as “hate crime” laws. Both are driven by pressure groups such as Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD), the Human Rights Campaign, and countless others pushing the Homosexual Agenda. All swear there’s no such agenda, of course, but then the first item on it is to claim it doesn’t exist. When activists pushed “gay rights” and opponents like this writer said gay “marriage” is next, they called it fear-mongering. So what’s next on the Homosexual Agenda?

State and Federal Hate Crime Laws, that’s what. Unleash the Thought Police.

Let’s say J. Edgar Hoover walked into the room wearing a dress. Would we call him “her”? Evidently, Hoover and his lover/assistant Clyde Tolson attended secret parties dressed as a woman and liked to be called “Mary.” Fine for him, but must the rest of us pretend also? If someone thinks he’s Napoleon, we don’t have to call him “Emperor” do we? It’s one thing to wink and play along, but quite another to accept neurotic/psychotic behavior as normal. If we do, aren’t we crazy too? Better not say anything though. With “hate crime” laws, you could go to jail.

After Bruce Freeman of Lewiston, Maine started calling himself “Brianna” and wearing women’s clothes, he used the ladies’ room in a public restaurant. According to the Bangor Daily News, “Another customer complained to the manager about sharing a public restroom with a man . . . ‘The customer was very upset, was irate, had threatened to call police [said the manager]. A few days later, management decided that it would be in the best interest of Denny’s to ask [Freeman] to use the men’s room until sex reassignment surgery.’”

Throughout, the Bangor Daily News referred to Bruce/Brianna as “she” or “her” or “woman.” The lead was: “The Maine Human Rights Commission decided Monday that a transgender woman was discriminated against at a Denny’s restaurant in Auburn when management would not let her use the ladies room until she had sex reassignment surgery.”

If I write an opinion that the plaintiff is a neurotic about to mutilate himself surgically, could I be found guilty of “hate speech” by government entities like the Maine Human Rights Commission (MHRC)? Maybe I already have by calling the plaintiff “he” and “him.” Could it be ruled “harassment” by the MHRC if he files a complaint? Did the BDN play along because it was afraid Bruce/Brianna would sue?

GLAD’s website quotes Maine Law on this: “As a general matter, if a person has filed with the MHRC, completed the process there, and later files his or her case in court, then a full range of compensatory and injunctive relief is available.”

So Bruce/Brianna can sue now. Will he?

A spokesman for the homosexual activist group “Equality Maine,” arguing for Bruce/Brianna before the MHRC, said: “This company needs diversity training to understand what it means to be gender-nonconforming.” Denny’s has already paid legal fees defending itself unsuccessfully. Will it have to pay for “diversity training” too? Will it have to pay Bruce/Brianna for pain and suffering? Will it be forced to build new bathrooms in its restaurants? What will their final cost be for telling a man to stay out of the ladies’ room?

All this has a chilling effect on others who think the world is going crazy and want to speak up about it - and that’s what “gay rights” laws are meant to do. According to the GLAD website again: “The definition of sexual orientation in the [Maine Gay Rights] law includes a person’s ‘actual or perceived…gender identity or expression.’” Gender expression? Anyone can be a man one day and a woman the next and we all have to adjust. You think that’s crazy? You’re worried that any man now has the right to put on a dress, hang out in the ladies’ room, and wait there for your ten-year-old daughter? If you say anything, you’re a bigot, and you better have a good lawyer and deep pockets. The “gender non-conforming” don’t have a problem. You do.

You think the Maine ruling is no big deal? A similar so-called “Human Rights Commission” in Alberta, Canada ordered a minister to pay thousands to homosexual activists for writing a letter to the editor outlining the Christian case against homosexuality and purportedly causing them “pain and suffering.” They further ordered Minister Stephen Boisson to apologize and: “[C]ease publishing in newspapers, by email, on the radio, in public speeches, or on the internet, in future, disparaging remarks about gays and homosexuals.”

The Canadian government ordered a Christian minister to shut up. That’s chilling.

Can’t happen here you say? The First Amendment would protect us? Well, consider this: President Obama vows to appoint judges like Breyer and Ginsburg to the Supreme Court - judges who look to foreign law for guidance and believe our Constitution should be an “evolving document.” Both voted to overturn “Bowers vs Hardwick” because they believe sodomy is a constitutional right. Now he’s appointed Sotomayor, who believes “policy is made” in our courts. Will liberal judges uphold radical-leftist “human rights” tribunals who dictate who can and cannot speak and what they can or cannot say?

As Justice Antonin Scalia puts it: “If [an evolving Constitution] is to mean whatever the current society wants it to mean, sometimes it will give you more liberties, sometimes it will take away liberties.”

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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Got us out of the Depression? Uh-uh


For thirty years, I’ve sent out students to interview elderly people here in the mountains of western Maine. One question is: “Who was the best president during your lifetime and why?” Every year, Franklin Roosevelt is cited most because “He got us out of the Depression.” True or not, people believe it. Growing up a Boston-Irish-Catholic-Democrat whose father and uncles who worked in Roosevelt’s Civilian Conservation Corps, it was unquestionable. Now that I’m a history teacher and a former Democrat, I don’t believe it anymore. Roosevelt’s big-government intervention prolonged the Great Depression.

Much I’m seeing and reading persuades me. I watch what big government does to public schools. I watch the Obama Administration take over the economy and ignore the rule of contract law. My changing view makes me an anomaly with fellow teachers and New Englanders, both increasingly left-of-center and enthralled with interventionist policies of Presidents Roosevelt, Johnson, and Obama.

A few recent books may help to change public perception of Roosevelt’s New Deal. One is “The Forgotten Man” by Amity Shlaes. Published a year before the 2008 financial crisis that Obama rode into the White House, it’s haunting how Shlaes lays out the mistakes of the New Deal now being magnified by President Obama and Congress in their haste to “spread the wealth around.”

Describing Coolidge’s America, she writes: “Compared to the private sector, the federal government was a pygmy. It’s size was less than 2% of the national economy.”

According to usgovernmentspending.com, federal spending is over 40% of GDP in 2009.

Shlaes describes Vice President Coolidge’s lesson that doing nothing is usually best: “During the Harding administration, recession had hit, and the downturn had been hard: one in ten men lost his job. But struggling firms had cut costs by reducing wages, and the country bounced back fast. By 1923, it was hard to find an unemployed man.”

Unemployment is still below 10% in this recession, but Obama is virtually taking over the economy, even dictating what should be printed on a Cheerios box.

In an interview, Shlaes described how she got the title “Forgotten Man” from 19th century Yale economist William Graham Sumner:

Sumner said A wants to help X, with X being the man at the bottom. And B wants to help X too. That’s our philanthropic impulse, we want to help. There’s nothing wrong with that. We all have that impulse to provide charity. It becomes a problem when A and B get together and pass a perhaps-dubious law that coerces C into funding their maybe-good project for X. In Sumner’s original version, C is the forgotten man, the man who pays, the man who prays, the man who is not thought of.

Though it’s a necessary evil, there’s nothing government does better than the private sector. Government takes the Yankee aphorism: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” and changes it to: “If it ain’t broke, we’ll keep fixing it ‘til it is.” During thirty-four years in the classroom, I’ve seen fairly competent, relatively efficient local schools “fixed” by big government. Unfunded federal mandates suck up local tax money and turn teachers into bureaucrats who pack filing cabinets with paperwork. Other bureaucrats check it to make sure locals do only what the feds want them to whether it works or not. Meanwhile American kids barely keep up with students in Slovakia.

Endlessly invoking the New Deal, President Obama believes “only government” can shake us out of recession. In February he said, “The federal government is the only entity left with the resources to jolt our economy back into life.” Rahm Emmanuel and Hillary Clinton say “never waste a good crisis” that enables federal government to increase power and influence. The president and Congress borrow and print trillions of “stimulus” dollars funding Democrat boondoggles.

What will America will look like in four years? Look at California today. That formerly golden state is an exemplar for the same leftist-interventionist policies Obama, Pelosi and Reid ram through Congress. According to Realclearmarkets.com: social spending in California is “about 70 percent more per capita than the national average.”

California happens when an over-regulating welfare state with open borders overtaxes the productive and endlessly expands government. Though it has the world’s 8th largest economy, it’s bankrupt. During the 20th century, entrepreneurs brought their ideas to California. In the 21st century, they’re leaving.

Another book persuading me is Mark Levin’s “Liberty and Tyranny.” On the back, Levin quotes Abraham Lincoln:

We all declare for liberty; but in using the same word we do not all mean the same thing. With some the word liberty may mean for each man to do as he pleases with himself, and the product of his labor; while with others, the same word may mean for some men to do as they please with other men, and the product of other men’s labor. Here are two, not only different, but incompatible things, called by the same name - liberty. And it follows that each of the things is, by the respective parties, called by two different and incompatible names - liberty and tyranny.

Myths die hard. The myth that the New Deal saved us is driving economic policy today - driving us right into bankruptcy. If we “forgotten men” out here don’t exercise what liberty we still have to shatter the myth, that liberty will be gone.

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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

McDonnell Roots


This column didn’t run for two weeks last month because I went back to Ireland to find the cottage where my great-grandmother, Kate McDonnell, lived. Traveling with me were my wife, my mother, Mary (Haggerty) McLaughlin (84) and her brother - my Uncle Joe Haggerty (90). They knew Kate - their grandmother - when she was an old woman and they were children.

My mother and uncle are spry, but I suspected the red-eye flight from Boston would wear them out. We landed in Shannon at 6:30 am Irish time and, figuring they would need to rest, I arranged an early check-in at a B&B in nearby Doolin so they could lay down while my wife and I toured the Burren and the Cliffs of Moher. Instead, they opted to come with us. We toured County Clare all day and came back to O’Connor’s Pub in Doolin that night. After dinner and a couple of pints of Guinness, I was nodding off and I had to drag the two senior citizens out of the pub so I could go to bed. They had more staying power than I did.

The next morning, we took a ferry to the Aran Islands. Weather was unusually good and Joe said it was the best day of his life. Aran natives speak Irish (Gaelic) as a first language, but switched to English as they graciously answered our questions. The next day, we toured Connemara in County Galway. Day four, we toured County Mayo, then went to a pub while my wife climbed Croagh Patrick in the drizzle - a mountain that looks just like Baldface in Chatham, NH. On day five we arrived in Crossmolina.

Great Grandmother Kate McDonnell left a village near Crossmolina in County Mayo and emigrated to Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania somewhere around 1880-85. If people from northern Mayo went to America, that’s where they tended to go because they’d know people who’d gone over before them. I’ve had to reconstruct Kate’s story because a great-aunt’s detailed records were lost in a flood. From what I’ve gathered, Kate wasn’t born in Crossmolina but her father moved the family there “from the south.” South Mayo? South Ireland? We don’t know. The McDonnells went to Crossmolina with another family - the Haggertys or “Hegartys” as they spell it there. Were they poor? Hungry? Politically oppressed? All three? We don’t know. Peter Hegarty evidently wanted Kate McDonnell, but something took him to Donegal. When he returned, he learned Kate had gone to Pennsylvania. He followed her there and married her when she was sixteen. We could think of that as a nice love story, but there’s another version: When Peter went to Donegal, Kate emigrated to avoid an arranged marriage. He pursued her to America and called in the obligation. I’d prefer the first story were true, but who knows? Kate didn’t talk about Ireland. Whatever happened, their first child was my grandfather, John Haggerty, born around 1886. I knew him. He died when I was six.

As was the case last summer when I was in County Donegal looking for Great-Grandfather James McLaughlin’s farm, Mayo people went out of their way to help us find Kate McDonnell’s cottage. Another relative had visited there thirty years ago and found it, but her directions weren’t specific except that it was in a hamlet called “Rathkell” near Crossmolina. There are lots of McDonnells and Hegartys thereabouts, but I couldn’t use the local records because neither Kate nor Peter had been born there, hadn’t died there, hadn’t married there, and didn’t have children there. Also, they left nearly a hundred thirty years ago. However, we found what we believe to be the ruins of her cottage.

The McDonnells and Haggertys interest me because, unlike every other branch of my family, there’s no apparent history of alcoholism. Kate’s father, Mark, had been a schoolmaster banned from teaching, and that jives with Irish history I’ve studied. In their efforts to Anglicize Ireland, British conquerors passed laws prohibiting many aspects of Irish culture such as speaking Gaelic, practicing Roman Catholicism, or teaching Irish history. Most of these “Penal Laws” were repealed by the early 1800s, but discrimination lingered all over Ireland into the early 20th century, and in Ulster into the 21st.

Mark McDonnell taught his own children however, and a good education was unusual in a poor Irish immigrant girl like Kate among Wilkes Barre’s coal-mining families. When her husband, Peter, died at forty of black lung disease in the mines, Kate took her family to Boston so my grandfather wouldn’t follow him into the hole. She placed a high value on education for her children too, and my grandfather was the only one who didn’t go to college. He apprenticed as a cigar roller - a trade that went the way of buggy whip makers. The McDonnell/Haggerty branch of my ancestors were “lace-curtain” Irish, whereas the rest were “shanty” Irish I hate to say, but the more research I do the more that notion is reinforced.

Next I’ll research the Sullivans and the Fitzgeralds, both from the south of Ireland somewhere. Great-grandfather Eugene Sullivan became a cop in Cambridge while Great-grandfather John Fitzgerald played piano in Boston barrooms. Both were known to be over-fond of whiskey. Should be interesting.

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Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Defiance


We’re all going to die. Yup, it’s true. And before we die, we’re going to pay taxes. Those realities haven’t changed since Benjamin Franklin pointed them out more than two centuries ago. We’re all going to die of something, but it probably won’t be swine flu, or H1N1, or whatever you want to call it. And it won’t be global warming, or climate change, or whatever Al Gore or the New York Times are calling it lately either. The only uncertainties about dying are the when and the how. I don’t want to know those things for myself, any more than I wanted to know the sex of my children before they were born. I can wait. Given my druthers though, I’d prefer to eat a well-prepared dinner, drink good wine, make love, go to sleep, and then wake up dead when I’m in my eighties and in otherwise good shape. If that kind of demise isn’t fated for me, then I’d just hope to live my own way - do and say whatever I believe to be right until the day comes. Then I want to die defiantly. Meanwhile, I want to see, smell, hear, feel, taste, and try to understand why everything is the way it is. I never will, of course, but it’s great when I get a clue here and there.

One clue I’m getting is that there are genuine threats out there, but it baffles me that we instead become obsessed about nebulous ones like avian flu, swine flu, and global warming. The two most glaring examples of real threats would have to be Radical Muslims and nuclear weapons. The two are about to come together in both Pakistan and Iran. If they’re not stopped, their first targets are likely to be Israel, the US, Europe, or India. Only the US would be out of missile range, but that our enemies could smuggle a nuclear weapon into one of our cities and detonate it is a distinct possibility - a likelihood even - according to former US House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former UN Ambassador John Bolton. Even if most of us here in the United States are oblivious to these threats, the citizens of Israel are anything but.

Real threats of mass death are quite real to them, and have been for millennia. Israel’s re-creation as a nation-state in 1948 is direct result of the biggest mass murder in recorded history. I’m speaking of the Holocaust, of course. Recognizing this, Iran is doing everything it can to de-legitimize Israel as a country before destroying it. Hence the conferences sponsored by President Ahmadinejad inviting anti-Semites from around the world to argue that the Holocaust never happened.

After several years with the wussy Ehud Olmert, Israel just elected a Prime Minister with fortitude. Benjamin Netanyahu understands clearly that Iran will destroy his country and kill its citizens if he doesn’t strike first, so he will. For years, his country has been rocketed nearly every day by Iran-sponsored terrorists. To Israel’s north, there’s Hezbollah in Lebanon. To the southwest, there’s Hamas in Gaza. Former Prime Minister Olmert made half-hearted attempts to deal with those threats during his tenure, but he lacked the resolve to do what Israel must do if it’s going to survive - attack Iran’s nuclear facilities directly.

The Muslim countries around it want Israel gone. They’ve invaded three times in Israel’s sixty-year history and President Ahmadinejad has repeatedly said that he will wipe Israel off the map. The lessons of history are not lost on Israel. It exists as a nation so it can field a military capable of defending itself against those who would destroy it and Adolph Hitler taught them they must take such threatening rhetoric seriously.

Iran said it will block the Strait of Hormuz at the entrance to the Persian Gulf if either the US or Israel strikes. If we think the world economy is in bad shape now, wait until the Persian Gulf is shut down for even a few months. Four-dollar-a-gallon gasoline will seem cheap. Those of us who remember the Arab Oil Embargo of the 1970s know that, at times, it won’t be available at any price. Would that precipitate a world depression? Indeed, but even that would the least of our difficulties. A wider war in the Middle East with mushroom clouds is the worst case scenario.

Meanwhile, back in the USA, we wring our hands about carbon emissions and gay “marriage,” believing our smooth-talking president will diffuse it all by schmoozing Radical Muslim dictators the way he did the American electorate. Israelis, however, know better. If there’s to be another Holocaust with mushroom clouds,they’re not going to go as lambs to the slaughter like they did in the first one.

No. They’ll go defiantly this time.

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