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 20, 2010

CPAC 2010 - Saturday Afternoon

Half the time I venture out to another venue here in this huge hotel, I get turned around. So much of both the hotel and this city are laid out in circular pattern and it's counterintuitive for me.

Coming into the home stretch now. Still to come are Newt Gingrich at 2:00 PM, the new Virginia Governor, Bob McDonnell after him, Colonel Allen West at 4:15, Then Glenn Beck at 6:00. Not sure I'll be staying for Beck - see how I'm feeling then. Two consecutive late nights in the lounge are taking their toll on me and I might call my old friend, Dave Morine, early. I'm going to have to find my way through the subway system to a certain stop and he'll pick me up. It's treacherous driving around this city with all the snow piled up everywhere. Many streets are down to one lane. I'm staying with Dave and his lovely wife, Ruth, in Great Falls, VA tonight and flying home tomorrow.Smitty and Crowder
Lots of people come and go here in the bloggers' lounge. PJTV's Kevin Crowder just came through and my new friend Smitty of "The Other McCain" blog asked me to take a picture with him and Crowder. Then someone obliged me to get a shot with him. I show a lot of "Louder with Crowder" clips to my students. He's a sketch.Me and Crowder
Gingrich will be coming on any minute. I remember last year, he didn't enter stage right or left. He came in with an entourage up the center aisle with "Eye of The Tiger" playing loudly - as if he were about to enter the ring and defend his title. It was great. We'll see what he does this year in a few seconds.Newt entering the room
Yup. He did it again.
Newt approaching the podium
The crowd sounds like it's booing, but it's shouting "Newt! Newt!" He isn't using the teleprompter and he's not using notes. He's the smartest Republican leader out there in my opinion. I would never want to be his opponent in a debate. I don't always agree with him, but I've got to respect him.He's drafting a "Contract From America" that, as of now, has 22 points. He's asking for feedback to bring it down to ten, like he did in his "Contract with America" back in 1994 when he took over the House.

Can't type fast enough. Among other things, he said the City of New York spends $50 million a year to maintain a "rubber room" of teachers who have been declared incompetent, but are waiting out the process of being fired by getting full pay and sitting in the rubber room every day reading books, knitting, or whatever. And each one is there an average of seven years, during which time they are accumulating larger pensions. Outrageous.

As I said yesterday, there are candidates coming through the bloggers' lounge all the time. Advance people come through first passing out literature. Patrick Murray is a recently-retired army colonel who happens to be running in Dave Morine's district nearby here.Me and Colonel Murray
I told him I was from Maine, but I'd be staying with a slightly left-of-center friend in his district tonight, and what could I say to him that might get him to consider voting for you? Well, he explained his position on deficit spending. He said we're now at the point where our interest payment on the debt - $600 billion annually - is exceeding the defense budget. Well, that nailed it. If there's anyone who might be cheaper than I am, it's Dave. He's most generous with family and friends, but quite frugal with everything else.

Colonel Murray knew the answer to my signature question I've asked six presidential candidates two years ago: "Who is the 12th imam, or "Mahdi"? Only two of the six knew it in 2008, but Murray answered it right off. He explained that Ahmadinejad believes he can bring the imam out of the well and rule over the world in the end times. Bravo Colonel Murray. He also chuckled when he read my business card with "Heterosexual White Guy Journalists Association" printed prominently in the middle. I'll make my pitch for Murray to Dave and Ruth over dinner tonight.Okay, Colonel Alan West - another good man running for congress in Florida - is addressing CPAC and the house is packed. "Join me in a dream that will preserve the legacy of this great republic for our children and our grandchildren," he just said, and the crowd responded vigorously. He's a very good speaker. The crowd likes him. I hope he wins.

As I go to iPhoto and download images for the past few days, I see a recent shot of my 5-month-old granddaughter, Claire, and my heart swells. I'm reminded of what the most important things are and that I'm a very lucky man.I love Claire
This is my fourth day in the city and I'm lonesome for home. It's exciting here, but I'm always reminded of why I left urban life 33 years ago. I love Maine and I'm homesick. Thinking now that I'll skip Glenn Beck and try to navigate the DC subway system before 10,000 people rush out of this building.

That's all from CPAC 2010. It's been grand.

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CPAC 2010 - Saturday morning

Saw a great film "Atomic Jihad" this morning written and directed by fellow Family Security Matters contributing editor, Joel Gilbert. It'll be released Tuesday and I bought an advance copy. It's a great compilation of Islamic history and I'll definitely be using it in my classroom. I had to miss Andrew Breitbart's big speech to see it, but Joel is a great guy and I wanted to support him.

Ann Coulter is coming up next. She'll energize things and there's an overflow crowd down there. I'll get some pictures from the Bloggers' Lounge with my 270mm lens.She wrote a devastating speech. Started with Kevin Jennings, our Obama-appointed Safe Schools Czar "and his book: 'Queering Elementary Education.'" It's a whole series of one-liners.
She's referring to the Tea Party activists who are all over the place this year. "CNN is calling them 'Tea Baggers,' which is the gayest term since Anderson Cooper."
The crowd loves her. She ended her remarks with "Remember - Keith Olberman is a girl."

She's taking questions from the audience now and she's definitely fast on her feet. "Have you ever dated a liberal before?" some guy asked.

"Umm. They weren't liberal for long," she answered.

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Friday, February 19, 2010

CPAC - Friday afternoon

Wish I could be in several places at once down here. Just came back to the main ballroom while Congresswoman Michelle Bachman was speaking and it was standing room only. She was reciting passages from the Declaration of Independence: ...deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed" and people were following along. I walked through the room and up to the bloggers' lounge to set up my work station again. Dang. Sorry I missed her.

John Ashcroft is at the podium now. Can't help but think about what a contrast he is with our present Attorney General, Eric Holder. Colonel Alan West
My mind is reeling, however, because from 10:00 AM until 12:30 PM, I attended Pam Geller's and Richard Spencer's "Freedom Defense Initiative." Colonel Alan West, Major Stephen Coughlin, Wafa Sultan, Simon Deng, and others.The room
It was the most powerful presentation of the conference so far as I suspected it would be.
Pam Geller
There's just too much to write about here. I'm going to need time to collect my thoughts and write a few columns on what I learned, and it's disturbing. Simon Deng is a human rights activist living in New York City right now, but...
Simon Deng
Congressman Dan Lundgren of California is speaking now in the Maine hall. We get video/audio feeds here in the bloggers' lounge. He's the former Atty General there - a measured speaker and he's talking about the Islamist threat. He's somber and the audience is too. So am I, after the Geller presentation.
Simon and me
... I went back to my room after that presentation which involved a circuitous walk through this huge hotel and, it turned out, Simon Deng's room is in the same tower and on the same floor as mine. We rode up together in the elevator, but we were talking so intently in the back that we rode it up and down several times while others came in and went out. Then we went out into the little lobby and talked some more. I have most of it recorded on my digital audio device and I'll be quoting from him in future pieces, but I'm going to have to do some more research on the history of Christians in southern Sudan where Simon grew up. His accent is still pretty thick and it was hard sometimes to follow all he was telling me.

Simon was kidnapped and sold into slavery for three-and-a-half years to Arab Muslim masters in the north...

Ovide Lamontagne just walked over and we talked about his race for the US Senate in New Hampshire. Seems like a good man. I recorded our interview. More later...

Now I just have to venture out and find a men's room. Back later...

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CPAC - Friday Morning

Here I am back in the Bloggers' Lounge bright and early and Herman Cain is speaking. He's good. He's a businessman from Pennsylvania and a Fox business news contributor. Too bad there are so few people in the room. I'd never heard of this guy before. Wish they'd given him a different slot because he could have pumped up an audience.

Where is everybody? I was in the lounge drinking along with everybody else and I'm here. I went to bed a little after midnight, but maybe they didn't. I didn't start until late because I had to "appear" on a radio talk show in Florida at 9:00 PM with Andrea Shea King, whom I met last year here. She's a sketch and I wanted to float around to the various bloggers' receptions she always hears about.

Met so many great people from all over the country and we're all here for the same reason - we're conservatives. There were as many in the lounge alone as there are in all of Maine.
I attended an awards ceremony at Accuracy in Media (AIM) where Marc Morano got an award for his wonderful work on Climategate. Andrew Breitbart was getting one too for his expose of ACORN and it was a small venue. He's a pit bull with liberals. Love to watch him whenever I can. Both guys gave great presentations. AIM has picked up my pieces a few times in their "guest columns" section and I'm proud to be associated with them in a small way.
Got to get ready for Pam Geller's thing at 10:00. Don't want to miss that! More later.

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Thursday, February 18, 2010

More Surprises at CPAC

Scott Brown just showed up to introduce Mitt Romney. He wasn’t on the program either. Said he had his pickup truck right outside - and he’ll need it to get around this city. There’s way more snow here than there was in Lovell, Maine when I left yesterday.
Romney said, “Whoever thought you’d hear anyone say at CPAC: Thank you Massachusetts!”

Then he said that Leanne Smith has to give back her medal because, as it turns out, “Barack Obama has been going downhill faster than she has.”

Those are good lines and Romney is a good guy. I've heard him speak many times - at every one of these conferences I've attended - and I've interviewed him once at The Conway Daily Sun. He seems to have everything but one essential thing - fire in the belly. He has never convinced me that he's got steel in him. I just don't sense it and that's something the next president is going to need desperately. Colonel West has it as you can see if you clicked on the link in the post above (sorry I didn't add it until just now). West has steel. He has fire in his belly. I don't know him well enough yet as to his positions on other issues, but I'll find out and I'll be watching him.

Author Richard Spencer and blogger Pam Geller of Atlas Shrugs just passed me a reminder of their presentation tomorrow at which West will be speaking along with Stephen Coughlin, Wafa Sultan, and other luminaries who raise public awareness of our battle against Radical Islam. Looking forward to that one. More tomorrow.

Thaddeus McCotter, congressman from Michigan is talking. I like him. He's smart, and a low-key kind of guy. He's a good Catholic and a scholar. Someone said he can play the guitar behind his head, but that's tough to visualize while I listen to him speak.

Having so much fun I haven't eaten anything all day. Supper is going to taste good tonight.

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CPAC 2010 - There's Energy Here

I'm at CPAC again and I'm stoked. I'm recharged already and it's only been three hours. It's worth the time, the expense, and the bother to get here each year. This is my fourth and I've finally gotten smart about how to operate. Got my bloggers credentials and I'm writing from "Bloggers Row." Got wireless access, a table to work on - they even pass out candy to us. I recognize other bloggers from around the country. I'm loving this.
Marco Rubio is genuine. He's about to become the next senator from Florida and he's a real conservative. Charlie Crist thought he was going to walk into the senate seat the way Martha Coakley thought she was going to walk into her's in Massachusetts, but Marco Rubio got in the way. He was 30 points behind a few months ago. He's 10 points ahead now.

He was introduced by Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina, who alone has a 100% conservative rating in the US Senate. He said, "I'd rather have 30 senators like Marco Rubio than 60 like Arlen Spector." Here here. Are you listening Olympia Snowe?

Rubio is real. I was seated close to the podium to tell and he never set off my BS alarm. It never even peeped. He’s the genuine article. There was a crack behind his voice when he talked about where he came from that wasn’t staged. I've heard a lot of politicians tell their stories and darned few passed my gut test. "This guy really believes what he’s saying," I was thinking, and the audience picked that up bigtime. He's going to do great things.

"I was raised by [Cuban] exiles," he said, "by people who know what it’s like to lose their country. I’m one generation removed from a very different life. [I live in] a country that recognizes that our rights come from God and not from anybody else. Americans chose a limited government to protect our rights, not grant them."
He said more things than I had time to type (I've got to get faster), and these quotes aren't necessarily in the order he said them, but say they he did. This guy is good and he's only 39.

"[The] 2010 [election] is a referendum on the very identity of our nation. People get it. They understand that if we get this wrong, there may not be any turning back for America. [Our leaders] are asking us to abandon the things that separate us from the rest of the world."

I love this guy.
This is a Tea Party guy I met in the lobby early this morning. He led the September 12th March on Washington last fall. It was only about 7:00 AM and very few people were around, so he posed for me.

I walked around the lounge last night after unpacking in my room, but didn't sit down and order a glass of wine. The trip exhausted me and I decided to go to bed early. Tonight will be different though. I have to speak on The Andrea Shea King radio talk show in Florida at 9:00 PM. Met Andrea last year and she introduced me to Colonel Alan West - a candidate for Congress from Florida and an Iraq veteran. He's speaking later in the conference and I very much recommend you click on this link to one of his speeches. Good people down there in Florida, huh?

Oh my. Dick Cheney just walked to the podium. He wasn't on the program. His daughter, Liz, was speaking and she brought him along. "As 'arm candy' her father said. Then he said, 'I think Barack Obama is going to be a one-term president."

Here here. I believe he's right.

More updates later. Got to go to the bathroom.

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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Vagina Monologues


The Vagina Monologues” just won’t die. When I first read of the play more than a decade ago, it sounded bizarre. When I saw the playwright, Eve Ensler, interviewed on TV, she was another kooky, man-hating feminist and her play was becoming a rallying point for NOW (National Organization for Women) types and “Women’s Studies” majors across the country. When I spoke disdainfully of it last year in front of a young, female colleague, she asked, “Have you ever read it?”

“No,” I admitted and she offered to lend it to me. I promised to check it out, but not to read it all if it didn’t grab me. It was interesting the way train wrecks are interesting and so short that I read it all. It was even more bizarre than the newspaper descriptions because most of its content couldn’t be published in a newspaper. Women chanted several dozen slang terms for that part of their anatomy - way more than I’d ever heard. Then they described what their vagina looked like, smelled like, what it would say if it could speak, and what it would wear if it could get dressed up. It reminded me of puerile conversations sixth grade boys would have about their anatomy when out of the earshot of adults. But these were grown women.

My wife didn’t want to read the book last year, but I persuaded her to watch an HBO film of the play I rented from Netflix starring its author, Eve Ensler. Her impression was the same as mine - bizarre. Then a local theater company decided to produce it at the Magic Lantern in nearby Bridgton, Maine - a community whose newspaper carries this column. I thought it would be interesting to watch local women willing to shout the C-word to an audience and see if the audience would join in the chant. Again, it would be interesting the way a train wreck is. I bought tickets, but then gave them away when the date conflicted with a trip to Ireland.

Last weekend, a theater company in North Conway, New Hampshire produced it - another community whose newspaper carries this column. My wife said, “Nah. I’ll stay home. You go.” It was a very small venue at M&D Productions, but nice enough and quite reasonable at $15. They even served wine which I could take into the theater with me - very civilized. Most of the actresses were my age - late middle age - and so was the audience - mostly women and about 80% late middle aged. The script was modified with local writers adding monologues, but the flavor was the same. Women offering feminist laments about bad treatment of them and their vaginas by the world at large - especially by men, of course.

Being familiar with the script, I was more interested in watching the audience. Most laughed in that way some junior high school girls will when they’re shocked at outrageous sexual comments made by junior high boys. They don’t consider the remarks funny, but laugh because they don’t know how else to react. It seemed that some of the men laughed because they thought they were supposed to and it would have been impolite not to. I smiled at one performance by a local woman mimicking a triple orgasm. She bettered Meg Ryan’s performance in “When Harry Met Sally.”

The play’s nadir was a monologue by an actress playing a 13-year-old girl describing her seduction by a 24-year-old woman.

“Vagina Monologues” explored many aspects of vaginas except what I would consider their most important one - procreation. Vaginas are, after all, vehicles for pregnancy and birth. Ensler said in a revised version of TVM: “I had been performing this piece for over two years when it suddenly occurred to me that there were no pieces about birth. It was a bizarre omission.”

Um, yeah.

Radical feminists’ disconnect from the maternal is the essence of what’s bizarre about them. Ensler went on: “Although when I told a journalist [about] this [bizarre omission] recently, he asked me, ‘What’s the connection [between vaginas and birth]?’”

Uh-duh. It’s hard to imagine any journalist asking that question. I know there are dumb ones out there, but still. Ensler then described how she was present at a birth and what she saw. I’ve been present at four and it wasn’t a bad piece of writing.

TVM’s forward was written by feminist guru Gloria Steinem, who seems to deny that women have a maternal instinct at all. In his television special “Boys and Girls Are Different: Men, Women, and the Sex Difference,” ABC’s John Stossel asked Steinem: “Aren't women, in general, better nurturers?” Icily, she answered: “No. Next question.” In TVM’s forward, she referred to the women’s movement as an alternative to the “patriarchal/political/religious control over women’s bodies as a means of reproduction.” Is Steinem referring to abortion here? I learned elsewhere that she’s had at least one herself and described it as “a pivotal and constructive experience.”

Constructive experience? Abortion?

Given that vaginas are the vehicle for 40 million-plus abortions in the United States alone, and given that abortion is the single most important issue on the radical feminist agenda, it’s very interesting that it's completely ignored in what has become the iconic feminist play. Maybe that’s because the worst and most horrible violence perpetrated on a vagina is by a woman’s own choice.

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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

We're The Best

A few months ago, the Language Arts teacher in the next classroom asked the following question for a writing assignment: “Is the United States the best country in the world?” Only about 25% of our students thought so. We used to teach that to schoolchildren, but now they grow up hearing more about slavery and killing Indians than the ideals spelled out in our Declaration of Independence and our Constitution with its Bill of Rights. It’s those documents that make us the best. We will remain so as long as we abide by them.

I asked the 75% who said the United States wasn’t the best, which country they thought was better. Although nobody could name one, they were certain it couldn’t possibly be us. For months I’ve been wondering why. There are several possible reasons, and most originated in the 1960s. My generation of baby boomers - the one most famous for rebelling against their parents generation as all generations do - never grew up. If it had, it would have realized that utopia is only a dream - that humans are imperfect and always will be this side of the grave.

I watched a PBS fundraiser last week with Pete Seeger and his fellow leftists performing sixties songs like “Blowing In The Wind” and “If I Had A Hammer.” They’re nice tunes and I still like them, but it occurred to me that my generation really believed it was possible to eliminate war forever.

Bob Dylan wrote and sang nice lyrics like:
“Yes, 'n' how many times must the cannon balls fly
Before they're forever banned?”
and
“Yes, 'n' how many deaths will it take till he knows
That too many people have died?”
Pete Seeger wrote and sang nice lyrics like:
“It's the hammer of justice
It's the bell of freedom
It's the song about love between my brothers and my sisters
All over this land”
Yahoo Answers asked about the meaning of “If I Had A Hammer” and picked the following as the best explanation:
“It was recorded during the early '60s as a song of enlightenment. It tells about the injustice of our society at that time, which really hasn't changed much in 40-plus years. It speaks of the effort by the then baby boomer generation, to set the world straight about freedom and justice for all people regardless of race. We're still waiting!”
Indeed. The baby boomers are still waiting. Many still believe it’s possible to ban war and death and create justice and peace everywhere, and they’re running our universities. They control the mainstream media. A year ago, they took over the federal government. Now their savior, President Obama, goes around the world bowing to foreign leaders, apologizing for our country, and trying to redistribute our wealth.

At ninety-one, Pete Seeger is still a communist. President Obama’s good friend Bill Ayers claims he is a “small c” communist. He trains our public school teachers and writes textbooks about what they should teach. According to an article by Stanley Kurtz: “[Ayers] believes teacher education programs should serve as ‘sites of resistance’ to an oppressive system. The point, says Mr. Ayers in his ‘Teaching Toward Freedom,’ is to ‘teach against oppression,’ against America's history of evil and racism, thereby forcing social transformation.”

Ayers and the University of Illinois are typical of professors and universities who train our teachers all over the country. Their “sites of resistance” are our public-school classrooms. It’s almost exclusively “American oppression” their teachers “teach against” rather than the communist variety, or the more recent Radical Muslim variety because that’s what was drilled into them. Far more students are taught about Japanese internment camps in the US, for example, than about the Americans who died in the Bataan Death March at the hands of the Japanese in the Philippines.

Although it goes against the multicultural shibboleths purporting that all cultures are equal, I would point to strong evidence that the United States is not only the best country in the world, it’s the best country in all of recorded history - a shining city on a hill, as John Kennedy and Ronald Reagan called us. The finest example would be our role in World War II. The war had been raging for years but we were reluctant to enter until attacked by the Japanese. Then we mobilized, fought on two fronts, and won against terrific odds. At war’s end, we possessed a huge military, were the only country with nuclear weapons, and the only country not damaged in battle. What did we do with that hegemony? Unique in all of history, the United States did not establish an American empire. Instead, we assisted other countries to rebuild - even our enemies - and did everything we could to preserve the autonomy in every country on earth large and small.

In the face of all that, petulant, leftist baby boomers still wring their hands and call the United States “imperialist.” I shouldn’t be surprised by the way my students see their country, but I can’t help being saddened and dismayed. Whenever I have the opportunity, I shall emphasize more strongly what is unique and wonderful about the United States. We remain, as Abraham Lincoln described us: “The last, best hope on earth.”

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Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Unsustainable Benefits and Entitlements


Teachers are being laid off. People are having fewer children and enrollments are declining. That, together with state revenue cuts, is forcing a RIF - a “Reduction In Force.” Now, the detested (by me) teachers’ unions are applying their cherished (by them) contract rules so that younger, lower-salaried, and often more-effective teachers will get the ax, while older, higher-salaried, and, oftentimes, sclerotic teachers will not. It’s “last-hired, first-fired” regardless of the effects. All of us - students, parents, administrators, and teachers - know who the good teachers are and who the bad ones are, but thanks to the unions, little of that knowledge will apply in the RIF.

As the most-senior teacher in my school district with 33 years of service, my position is safe. I’ll decide whether to continue teaching year-to-year and, as of now, I’m planning to sign a contract for September, 2010. One factor in my decision about retirement will be whether I can depend on the Maine State Retirement System I’ve been paying into for more than three decades. I simply don’t think I’ll be able to rely on it if I live to be 78, or whatever the average life expectancy is for heterosexual American white guys like me.

Why? Because the Maine State Retirement fund has declined with the economy, just like everyone’s IRA has. Public employee retirement in Maine and other states is guaranteed by the taxpayers if the fund is insufficient to meet the “defined-benefit” obligations to people like me. Therein lie my doubts. If I retire at 60, I’m supposed to get around $40,000 a year and a third of my individual medical insurance premium until I’m dead. That’s not too good compared to what public employees in other states and in the federal government get, but very good compared to what the average Maine taxpayer can expect. Maine is not only one of the poorest states in the country, it’s also one of the highest-taxed. That’s not a good combination. How long will Mainers be willing and able to continue supporting retirees like me and my fellow baby boomers should the retirement fund run out of money? Not too long would be my guess.

Governments at every level are rapidly reaching the point where they cannot continue to deliver what they’ve promised, and millions of people have, unfortunately, learned to expect. It isn’t just me and my pension. It’s Medicare for everyone. It’s Social Security. It’s disability payments, welfare payments. All of it. We know this, but we pretend not to. We put off the day of reckoning as if maybe it won’t really arrive. Rather than cut back on entitlements before the system collapses completely, we increase them. We borrow money from a country like China, which can’t afford to provide these benefits for its own people. Up to now, they’ve lent it to us because we obviously can’t afford it either. Lately, however, they’re getting reticent. They see that we’re printing money so they’re abandoning the dollar along with everyone else in the world.

While the number of students in my school district has remained fairly constant over the past three decades, the number of employees has about doubled. We’re looking at layoffs for next year, but around the country government jobs are increasing rapidly while private sector jobs decline. Government employee unions are now bigger and more powerful than private sector unions. One big reason General Motors and Chrysler went bankrupt is because they couldn’t pay the generous benefits of retired United Auto Workers, which amounted to almost $5 billion in 2006 alone. For every active worker, General Motors was supporting 3.8 retirees and dependents. President Obama and congressional Democrats took over the auto companies to protect bloated union contracts, not to help our economy. Now taxpayers are on the hook for them.
States and cities are going bankrupt. Government unions are strangling taxpayers just as private-sector unions have strangled stockholders. Unsustainable entitlements are growing and Democrats are trying desperately to prop it all up while blaming Bush for it all. Ordinary Americans, however, are seeing through that. The growing Tea Party movement represents grass-roots citizens who want to stop the madness before the whole country goes over the cliff. The November elections are going to be very interesting indeed, just as special elections in New Jersey, Virginia and Massachusetts have been.

Since I can’t expect government to take care of me, I’m being a lot nicer to my children. Meanwhile, I anticipate that I’m going to have to keep working until about five years after I’m dead.

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