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, December 29, 2009

Too Late?


A guy I know - a former soldier with several tours in the Middle East - told me he didn’t want his son to fight over there, and that surprised me. I asked if it was the military’s rules of engagement and he just smirked. “Well why then?” He was silent again, looking into space while he thought about it. Finally he said he wasn’t sure Americans wanted to win. “Hmm,” I said. It was time for me to pause. He stated what I had been thinking lately, but was afraid to say out loud.

Some of us want to win, but a lot of us don’t. “Our leaders are a reflection of our culture,” my friend said, “and our culture wants our soldiers to fight without hurting anybody.” That’s impossible, of course, but it does seem to be what too many Americans want - and our elected leaders are willing to pretend it’s possible. So we send our finest young men to fight with one arm tied behind their backs because of our asinine rules of engagement. Our soldiers cannot shoot until the bad guys shoot at them first.

Fifty-three percent of us elected a president last fall who thinks he can talk our enemies into liking us. Since his inauguration, he’s traveled the world bowing to foreign leaders and apologizing for America when there’s nothing to apologize for. He says the War on Terror is over and what we’ve got now are “Overseas Contingency Operations,” whatever the hell that means.

His interview with ABC News last July is instructive:

ABC’S TERRY MORAN: Define victory in Afghanistan, or maybe that’s not the right word.
OBAMA: I’m always worried about using the word “victory” because, you know, it invokes this notion of Emperor Hirohito coming down and signing a surrender to MacArthur.

What would be wrong with that? If you ask me, it would be wonderful to see Osama Bin Laden, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Bashir Assad, Mullah Omar, Hassan Nasrallah, and the rest of our enemies lined up to sign unconditional surrenders. Is President Obama forgetting that he’s our Commander-in-Chief? We have a C in C who doesn’t want to even say victory? I want one who’ll settle for nothing less.

Meanwhile, all that bowing and groveling doesn’t seem to be working very well. Iran - the world’s biggest supporter of terrorism - burned Obama in effigy during their annual “Death to Israel” and “Death to America” festival. One of our own army officers shot dozens of American infidels at Fort Hood while shouting “Allahu Akbar” and our president wasn’t even sure he was a terrorist. A wealthy, British-educated, young Nigerian tried to blow up an American passenger plane with 289 people, Obama called him a “suspect” and an “isolated extremist” who “allegedly” tried to set off a device, as if the terrorist were entitled to the same rights American citizens are. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said: “the system has worked really very, very smoothly” and there was “no indication of a larger terror plot.” As if there were no connection between all the RADICAL MUSLIM terrorists who’ve been attacking Americans, Israelis, British, Spanish, Russians, and others for decades.

So many of us are so infected with political correctness, we go to astonishing lengths to avoid calling our enemy by its name. So indoctrinated with self-hating, leftist propaganda about the evils of western civilization are we that we think it’s no wonder they hate us and want to kill us.

An increasing number of Americans don’t want to do what it takes to win because they don’t believe our way of life is worth fighting for. They don’t believe America is unique. Their brains are so addled with multicultural malarkey, they think all countries and all cultures are equal - even if they enslave women, kill homosexuals, execute anyone who converts to another religion, and continually promise to kill anyone who isn’t like them - it doesn’t make them bad people. They’re just another part of the wonderfully diverse human family and should be celebrated like any other part, including ours.

And now we’ve installed an entire national government with that world view. How do you like the way they’re functioning so far America? Do you feel safe?

Just as the leaders we elect are a reflection of us, so are our children. A fellow teacher asked his writing students recently if the America was the best country in the world and most didn’t think so. I teach the same kids, and when I asked them which country was better they looked at me blankly. They couldn’t name one. They just parroted the diversity doo-doo they were raised with.

This is what America is becoming. Is it too late for us? Are we going to lose?

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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Redistribution


After passing back weekly US History quizzes on World War I, I paused a few minutes for the “whad-ja-gets” - students asking each other about their scores.

When they were done I said, “I have a good idea.”

“What?” said a girl.

“Many of you are doing well on these lately, getting hundreds and nineties, but others are still doing poorly - getting only thirties and forties.”

They all knew that after the whad-ja-gets.

“I’m thinking about redistributing grades - taking thirty points from those of you who got hundreds, and giving them to the students who got thirties. That way, the kids with hundreds would still have seventies, which is a C- and not that bad a grade, while those with thirties would then get sixties, which is D- and passing. This way, things would be more equal. How does that sound to you?”

Several looked at me blankly. Some had their mouths open. Students I knew had been studying extra hard were wincing.

“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” said one.

“Okay,” I said. “Does anybody like the idea?”

Only four raised their hands.

“Who else doesn’t like it?”

All the rest put their hands up.

“Alright, why not?”

“We worked for those grades,” said a boy. “It’s not fair to take our points and give them to someone who didn’t study. They shouldn’t get points for not doing anything.”

“Yeah,” said a girl. “If you did that, those kids who don’t study won’t ever do anything. They won’t have any reason to.”

“Plus, other kids wouldn’t want to work so hard if the points they earned were just going to be taken away and given to someone else,” said another boy.

“Well,” I said. “It’s just an idea at this point,”

“Not one of your better ones,” said a boy.

“I haven’t made any decisions yet and I’ll let you know when I do. Meanwhile, would you open your books to page 888 please?”

They did.

“I’d like someone to read the 16th Amendment, ratified in 1913 - almost a hundred years ago. Any volunteers?”

A boy read aloud: “The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several states, and without regard to any census or enumeration.”

“Thank you,” I said. “There had been a temporary income tax during the Civil War and a few times after, but the Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional, so passage of the 16th Amendment was necessary to resume it. The tax was only on people who earned the most money - an amount that would be equal to around $80,000 per year or above today. Soon it turned into something called a “graduated” or “progressive” income tax.”

I drew charts on the board illustrating that with a flat tax of 15%, someone making $10,000 per year would pay $1500 in taxes while someone making $100,000 per year would pay $15,000. So the wealthier would pay more, but the percentage would be the same. Then I explained how under a “graduated” or “progressive” tax structure, the percentage went up enormously for wealthier taxpayers to the point where government took most of what they made above a certain amount. In the 1940s, 50s and 60s, government took over 90% of their earnings. I passed out charts showing the top marginal tax rates since 1913.

“Wow,” said a boy. “There would be no point in working hard if the government takes it all away.”

“Uh-huh,” I said.

“This is what you were getting at with the quiz grades, right?”

“Uh-huh.”

Finally, I explained that the top half of American workers paid just about all the income taxes, while the bottom half paid almost nothing, or government gave them money under something called the “earned income tax credit.”

“That’s like what the communists did in Russia,” said a girl. We had watched “Dr. Zhivago” to learn about World War I, the Communist Revolution in Russia, and the rise of the Soviet Union.

“Similar,” I said, “but not as drastic. There are other taxes the bottom half of Americans pay so nobody escapes paying some kind of tax, but the rich pay for most of what the federal government does. And - the bottom half figured out that they can vote in congressmen and senators who will give them things somebody else has to pay for.”

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Selfishness and Harassment


My baby boom generation and the so-called generation Xers who followed us have aborted over forty million American babies since 1973. It would have required a great deal of personal and financial sacrifice to bear them and then bring them up to adulthood, and they declined. Now, we’re burdening babies we do allow to be born with crippling debt because we want things, we don’t want to pay for them, and we’re passing the bill to the next generation - and whatever children they may have. Congressional Democrats just raised our debt ceiling to $14 trillion. A baby born today inherits a $39 thousand liability and it’s going up. Meanwhile, we’re pulling stem cells from human embryos to prolong our lives.

Any other ways we can squeeze more out of future generations before we die? Christian News Wire tells us that: “Neocutis, a bio-pharmaceutical company focused on dermatology and skin care is using aborted fetal cell lines to produce several of their anti-aging skin creams. . . . Neocutis’ key ingredient known as “Processed Skin Proteins” was developed at the University of Luasanne [Switzerland] from the skin tissue of a 14-week gestation electively-aborted male baby donated by the University Hospital in Switzerland.” Support for this is, sadly, widespread, although most Americans still don’t approve of it. The Roe V Wade Supreme Court decision in 1973 claimed abortion is a woman’s constitutional right and though some of us believe the decision to be deeply flawed, it’s the law and we must accept it until it’s repealed. Nurses, doctors and other medical professionals who believe abortion is murder have, at least until recently, been exempted from performing them.

However, according to HotAir.com: “The Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) has filed a lawsuit on behalf of a Catholic nurse who was forced to participate in an abortion, despite voicing her moral objections well in advance. Catherina Cenzon-DeCarlo, a nurse at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, was instructed to assist in a late second-trimester abortion for a woman 22 weeks into her pregnancy. The hospital had known of the nurse’s religious objections to abortion since she was hired in 2004.”

The hospital told her if she didn’t assist in the abortion, she would be considered insubordinate and risk loss of her nursing license. Apparently, the liberal agenda will now be forced on the rest of us and no dissent will be tolerated. Don’t believe it?

Last month, a Maine social worker was threatened with loss of his license to practice because he appeared in a commercial for the recent “Yes on Question 1” [repeal homosexual “marriage”] campaign. According the Kennebec Journal: “Don Mendell, of Palmyra, is the subject of the complaint, filed Oct. 19 with the state Department of Professional and Financial Regulation. According to documents of the complaint, it was sent Oct. 19 by a person only identified as Ann’ and seeks to have Mendell's license as a social worker revoked.” The complaint states: “[Mendell] does not have the right as a licensed social worker to make public comments that can endanger or promote discrimination.”As a Maine public school teacher, I made the same commercial Mendell did on the same day, but his version was chosen over mine. Would I be facing similar harassment had my commercial been chosen? It wouldn’t be the first time. Austin R. Nimocks, Mendell’s attorney from the Alliance Defense Fund stated: “This threat to Don [Mendell], and his family and his livelihood, reveals that those who want to redefine marriage also want to punish and silence anyone who disagrees.” If there’s another profession more strongly influenced by homosexual activists than the my own, it’s Mendell’s. After receiving a letter from Maine’s Office of Licensing and Registration ordering him to “send a detailed response to the complaint within 30 days,” he got an email saying, “[B]oth executive boards of the Maine School Counseling Association and the Maine Counseling Association have labored over what appears [sic] to be ethical violations that were breached in terms of the advertisement that was aired on behalf of the Vote Yes on 1 campaign. More specifically, you were featured in an [sic] television advertisement and identified as a school counselor voting yes on this issue.”

“We certainly have absolutely nothing to do with this,” said Mark Sullivan of the “No on 1” campaign. Uh-huh. Homosexual activists claim all should be able to practice their beliefs and live according to their chosen lifestyle without harassment, right? Well, maybe not.

Larry Grard claims he was fired from his job as a reporter for the Waterville Morning Sentinel where he’d worked for eighteen years after a complaint about him from the Human Rights Campaign - the biggest homosexual activist group in the country with sixteen full-time lobbyists. CCL sign defaced by homosexual activists in 2005

According to Al Diamon of Downeast.com, “After Grard received an e-mail on Nov. 4 from the Human Rights Campaign in Washington, DC that blamed the defeat of Maine’s gay marriage law on ‘lies and hate,’ he sent the group a response that read, ‘Who are the hateful, venom-spewing ones? Hint: Not the yes on 1 crowd. You hateful people have been spreading nothing but vitriol since this campaign began. Good riddance!’”

As of this writing, Human Rights Campaign acknowledges the email exchange with Grard and emailing an objection to Grard’s editor. Grard’s union, the Portland Newspaper Guild, has filed a grievance about the matter on his behalf, and is waiting for an arbitration date.

Maine Today Media, Inc. which owns the Morning Sentinel, denies Grard’s claims.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Opposing Forces


For decades I figured people would wake up and raise hell before things got this bad, but I’ve been wrong. Last summer, however, I noticed stirrings and wrote “Something Big is Brewing Out There.” Democrat congressmen were shocked by constituent anger when they returned to their home districts during the August recess. Citizens back home knew more than their congressmen in Washington did about the various versions of the Obamacare bill under consideration and they were ripped. Our congressional representatives became so afraid, they wouldn’t meet with people except in the most controlled environments. Now something else is brewing that could be just as troubling for big-government liberals who are running our country into the ground.

When Speaker Pelosi cracked the whip on Democrats during the late-Saturday night vote on the multi-trillion-dollar Obamacare bill, an unforeseen element presented itself: Pelosi got her arm twisted by representatives of the American Conference of Catholic Bishops. She was told that unless she took taxpayer funding for abortion out of the House bill, the Catholic Church would actively oppose it. She buckled and pushed through the Stupak Amendment. Since then, Catholics have teamed up with Orthodox Christians and evangelical Protestants to file the “Manhattan Declaration” just two weeks ago, which declares in part:
We are Orthodox, Catholic, and evangelical Christians who have united at this hour to reaffirm fundamental truths about justice and the common good, and to call upon our fellow citizens, believers and non-believers alike, to join us in defending them. These truths are:
1. the sanctity of human life
2. the dignity of marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife
3. the rights of conscience and religious liberty.
Inasmuch as these truths are foundational to human dignity and the well-being of society, they are inviolable and non-negotiable. Because they are increasingly under assault from powerful forces in our culture, we are compelled today to speak out forcefully in their defense, and to commit ourselves to honoring them fully no matter what pressures are brought upon us and our institutions to abandon or compromise them.
Catholics are teaming up with conservative Protestant Calvinists? Who would have predicted this twenty years ago? It’s happening because they’re both “under assault from powerful forces in our culture” and in our government - like Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi - two of the most pro-abortion and pro-homosexual politicians ever to hold office. When they and their ilk pushed the disingenuously-named “Freedom Of Choice Act” or FOCA that would force conservative Christian doctors, nurses and hospitals to perform abortions, that was bad. When Pelosi, a Catholic, said the Catholic Church isn’t sure when human life begins, she was not only stating a falsehood, she was throwing down the gauntlet to the bishops. They could either slink away as they have been for decades in the face of leftist “Catholic” politicians, or they could accept the challenge. I’m very pleased to see that they’ve summoned some courage at long last. Now, leftist Democrat Senators promise they won’t sign an Obamacare bill with the Stupak Amendment in it. Moderate Democrat Senators say they won’t sign a bill without it. President Obama went up to Capitol Hill last weekend to try to work out what would seem to be an impossible impasse. I hope he fails.

The downside of the Catholic bishops’ position is that they would support Obamacare absent the abortion funding, even if it’s going to cost $2 trillion we don’t have. In that, they’re not on the same page with the Tea Party protesters. Both groups are against Obamacare, but for different reasons.

As a young Boston-Irish-Catholic-Democrat I was foolish in many ways, but my opinions about what are now called “social issues” of abortion and homosexuality were the same then as they are now: Abortion killed babies and homosexuality was a perversion. Neither deserved sanction by government. Though I was liberal on other issues, I’ve never been convinced that either abortion or homosexuality warrants government protection. The Democrat Party had a strong conservative wing in the fifties and even in most of the notorious sixties. There were lots of members with views like mine, but then Democrats moved hopelessly leftward on every issue. Now it barely tolerates any members who oppose abortion or homosexual “marriage.”

Unduly influenced by homosexual priests and bishops for the past thirty or forty years, Catholic leaders in New England and elsewhere shrank away from political battles against “gay rights” legislation - even after being ripped apart by the altar boy rape scandals of 2002. I was disgusted, and like many Catholics, cut back drastically on my donations and even considered leaving the church. Recently, however, the Portland Diocese led a successful fight against homosexual “marriage” here in Maine this year, and that defeat of the “powerful forces in our culture” caused a domino effect in New York and New Jersey immediately after.

Neither Tea Party activists nor signers of the Manhattan Declaration were foreseen by the liberal Democrat machine when they swept to power late last year, but both will be formidable enemies in 2010 against Democrats and the “powerful forces in our culture” with whom they’re so closely allied. They’ve seen their enemies lately, however, and that’s why they’re trying so hard to jam through Obamacare and Climate change fixes before too many more people wise up.

The 2010 election will be very interesting.

Addendum: The Senate rejected an amendment last night that would have blocked abortion funding from its version of the Obamacare bill on a vote of 54-45. Let's see what the Catholic Church does now. Time is very short.

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Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Life Is Good

There are lots of problems living on the side of a hill with water flow during thunderstorms in summer, snow and ice in winter, engineering issues, and so forth - but there's one big advantage: a constantly-changing view.My hard drive is clogged with sunset shots and they're all different. Just when I think I've captured it and start to go back inside, it changes and I shoot it again. Have to stop shooting though because my daughter Annie is coming through the back door with my new granddaughter - who is visiting us for the first time.It took a few minutes for her to adjust to the new surroundings.Grandparents and great-grandmother admire Claire Lowell, newest member of the clan.Working on an article for the Lovell Historical Society Newsletter and not writing a column this week. Last week's piece didn't run in the newspapers on Thursday because of Thanksgiving and will run this week instead. So, I'm posting some recent shots I like of my day-to-day life. Didn't finish with that this morning.

Noticed some frost on the beaver bog between Christian Hill and Shave Hill while driving to school.A few miles further on, the sun was rising over the Old Course of the Saco River.And another angle.Checking the properties on Kezar Lake after school.Another angle.Still another angle with 120-year-old white pines. I know because I've counted the rings on their recently-deceased sister trees. I'm very happy to have my 18-270 zoom lens back.Heading back home over Hatch's Hill Road.Life is good.

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