Tom McLaughlin

A former history teacher, Tom is a columnist who lives in Lovell, Maine. His column is published in Maine and New Hampshire newspapers and on numerous web sites. Email: tommclaughlin@fairpoint.net

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Mexican Border in Arizona - Part II

Arizona is divided. Illegal immigration is the hottest issue on people’s minds in that state, but discussion seems to vary depending on who is there. In the southwest I’m an “Anglo,” as opposed to a “Latino.” Though I was in Arizona only a few days, I got the sense that it’s discussed openly when Anglos are present, but if there’s mixed company with Latinos present, the topic doesn’t come up. Arizona is about 30% Latino and the percentage is higher the closer you get to the border where I was.On the plane from La Guardia to Tuscon I was seated with two women flying home. One was an Anglo about my age and the other a young woman of Mexican descent. They were friendly and chatty at first, and eventually asked me why I was going to Tucson. I explained that I wanted to see, smell, feel and hear the desert southwest because I’d never been there before, and that I wanted go down around the border area and see how much of what I’d been hearing about circumstances there was true. Both tensed up. We discussed illegal immigration, but only in guarded terms.

In last week’s column, I wrote about what I saw in the Nogales area and my dealings with the US Border Patrol. Agents in the field talked openly until I told them I was a writer. Then they referred me to up to their office in Tucson, but nobody there would sit down with me and discuss things on record. Spokesman Mario Escalante said he’d answer questions on the phone or via email, but not face-to-face over a recording device. I wasted half a day between phone calls while they brushed me off as a small-time columnist.The next day, I drove to Douglas, Arizona about sixty miles east of Nogales. There I saw a new border fence under construction, but the construction bosses I spoke to on site told me they were pulling out after building only a mile for $5 million. What they’d built was a formidable double fence with a ditch in between, but as one supervisor said, “They’ll just go a mile further east and jump there as we saw two of them do this morning right over there.” He pointed to the end of the new fence he built to an older section just like the one in Nogales.At nearly sixty, I believe I could climb over it easily. I looked east to see a straight line of such fencing clear to a distant horizon.It was the same when I turned around to look west.There are two thousand miles of border between the US and Mexico, and a mile of new fence here and there are so many drops in the bucket. When President Bush got $800 million from Congress to build 800 miles of “virtual” border fence, it ended up costing $15 million per mile rather than the $1 million per mile projected.

Meanwhile, the smuggling of illegal aliens and drugs from Mexico continues. Open battles in Mexico between the Mexican military and well-armed drug lord armies are so bad that Mexican citizens aren’t sure who will win. Some foreign policy experts are concerned that Mexico may become a failed state if it isn’t already. That lawlessness has spread into the border states like Arizona to such an extent that the Bureau of Land Management is warning US tourists in five national parks near the border of dangers posed by armed drug smugglers. Arizona Governor Jan Brewer said the other day that the majority of illegals coming into Arizona are smuggling drugs. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said this week: “You’re never going to totally seal that border.” She seems to be making the case here that it’s impossible to prevent millions of people from invading our country, so why try.

Napolitano is following the Obama Administration policy on illegal immigration, which he articulated in a private meeting with Arizona Senator Jon Kyl a few weeks ago. Kyl told contituents in Phoenix that Obama said: “The problem is, . . . if we secure the border, then you all won’t have any reason to support ‘comprehensive immigration reform.’”“In other words,” said Kyl, “they’re holding it hostage. They don’t want to secure the border unless and until it is combined with ‘comprehensive immigration reform.’”

Comprehensive Immigration Reform is nothing but a euphemism for amnesty. President Obama and the Democrats would solve our illegal immigrant problem with a stroke of the pen: They would grant amnesty to the 20 million or so illegals already residing here because they would become 20 million new Democrat voters.Hat tip: One-simple-idea.com

Democrats don’t want to secure the border and shut off the constant flow of a million new Democrats every year.Many Republicans are reluctant to address illegal immigration because they represent businesses which profit from cheap Mexican labor.

The majority of Americans, meanwhile, are doing a slow burn over the issue and expressing themselves through their state governments. Arizona’s new law allowing police to arrest anybody in the US illegally is just the beginning. Expect other states to follow as our federal government abdicates its responsibility to stop the invasion of America from the south.

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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Tense At The Arizona Border In Nogales

My wife left a message on my cell phone that the US Border Patrol called our house in Lovell, Maine three times. “I picked up the third time,” she said. “They asked what your date of birth was and I told them. Hope that was all right.” It had been an interesting day on the border at Nogales, Arizona - Nogales, Sonora on the Mexican side.

I had called her earlier to report that I survived my foray into Mexico and was on the highway driving back to Tucson. I told her that I’d been escorted off the US Border Patrol facility in Nogales, AZ and I’d explain later why, but that I was fine and not to worry.

I’d driven down to Nogales from Tucson where I’d been staying because I’d been hearing so much about goings-on there. Arizona and other border states are overrun with illegal aliens from Mexico and I wanted to see for myself. I discovered that the reports are quite true, and, if anything, they’re played down. “This is the busiest border station in the country,” one agent told me. I'd listened to US Senator Jon Kyl interviewed on an AM Talk station as I drove south on Route 19. He'd told constituents in Phoenix the other day about a private meeting with President Obama during which Obama told him: "The problem is, . . . if we secure the border, then you all won’t have any reason to support ‘comprehensive immigration reform.’” [Audible gasps were heard throughout the audience.] Sen. Kyl continued, “In other words, they’re holding it hostage. They don’t want to secure the border unless and until it is combined with 'comprehensive immigration reform.'" That, of course, is a euphemism for amnesty.

After walking over to the Mexican side for a few hours (seeing Obama's and Napolitano's pictures prominently displayed behind US border officials), I walked back and drove along “International Street” on the American side. The road parallels the border fence, and BP vehicles move constantly chasing illegals sneaking in. One BP agent was sitting in his modified Dodge pickup - modifed by wire mesh installed over the vehicle’s windows the way some Range Rovers have screens over their headlights. “You can’t go past here,” he said as I pulled up alongside and lowered my window.

“Why not?” I asked.

He abruptly put up his hand to an earpiece and said, “Gotta go.” He gunned it in reverse to get around me then shot up a steep hill in a cloud of dust.We were within the Nogales city limits, no more than 300 yards west of the border crossover point into Mexico I’d walked back and forth over that morning. I watched as he and two other BP agents scrambled around and talked into their head-mounted communication devices. I locked my rented SUV, strolled around and took pictures, very glad I’d invested in a 18-270 mm lens last year. When two BP vehicles parked next to each other up a steep gravel road, I got into my SUV and drove on up the steep rise where they were talking. I expected them to be angry and to order me away, but instead one uniformed agent, the one who had to scramble away so quickly, told me it was dangerous for me to be up there. “If you get hit in the head with a rock, don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

“Is that why you have that wire mesh over your windshield?” I asked.“Exactly,” he said.

“Do you guys need help keeping a lid on things here?” I asked.

“This is the busiest section of border in the country,” he said. “We arrested 57,000 illegals last year and that was down from 100,000 in 2007.”

“Right here in Nogales?”

“Yup. Right here in Nogales.”

“Probably have no idea how many got by you, right?”

He shrugged. "Somebody can cut a hole in that fence in about forty seconds."

"I saw where somebody had cut a doorway in it right over there," I said, pointing, "and somebody else welded it back up."

"Um-hmm."

“It looks like the federal government wants to seem like it’s controlling the border without really controlling it,” I said. “Would you agree with that?”

He hesitated. My sense was that he did agree, but didn’t want to say. I’d revealed that I was a columnist from Maine and he was from Maine as well. “I suggest you talk to the Public Information Office about that. I don’t want to comment.” He referred me to Jorge Uques and wrote down his phone number. “We’re so busy here in Nogales, we’ve got our own Public Information Officer.”

“Where is he at?”

“1500 West La Quinta in Nogales. About three miles from here.”

I thanked him, plugged that into my GPS, and drove off.Looking through border fence from Nogales, AZ yesterday

1500 La Quinta looked like a military base. There must have been hundreds of green-and-white Border Patrol vehicles as well as horses and ATVs. I waited at the guard shack by the entrance but nobody came out, so I drove on in, parked in the designated visitors’ parking lot and walked inside. I stated my business to a receptionist who called Mr. Ugues on the phone.

“He’s not in. His grandmother died and he’s away. Someone else will come down.”

Agent Richard Funke, pronounced “funky,” came down the stairs and we shook hands. We exchanged business cards and I asked if he minded me recording our conversation. Wrong move. “Actually, you’ll have to talk to our Public Affairs Officer in Tucson,” he said. “He handles media relations.” We shook hands again and I walked out. I saw agents training with what looked like blue M-16s on a hillside and took pictures.Prominently posted in Nogales, AZ Historical Society building

Then a vehicle drove up and another agent told me “This is a federal facility and you shouldn’t be walking around without an escort. How did you get in here?” I explained, but that didn’t satisfy him. “What did you take pictures of?” He took my camera and erased the ones I took at 1500 West La Quinta, and gave it back. Then he called two other agents to escort me off the property.

Don’t know why they wanted my date of birth. Must be investigating me. I’ll be talking to the Public Information Officer in Tucson today.

More later.

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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

A Grave Matter

For twenty-five years I’ve been taking care of properties around Kezar Lake in Lovell, Maine. At first, I would do most of the work myself, but now I make sure things get done by others. I’ve done carpentry, plumbing, wiring, tree work, and so forth. I’m not that great at any of them but I know enough to recognize quality work by those who are, and I know which tradesmen are dependable. Getting good people for clients is pretty much the service I provide now.

Some jobs, however, I still do myself and one involved digging up a grave. The property went up for sale and a family member named Ernest was buried on it. My clients, Ernest’s adult children, wanted his remains and his stone moved a town cemetery and I said I would take care of it.The grave was in a grove of large white pines with extensive root systems and Ernest had been down there for about twenty years. The previous caretaker, an older man named John, had shown me around the property and he had really liked Ernest. “He was the greatest,” said John.

John explained that the family had purchased a grave stone in the shape of a bench, engraved it with Ernest’s vital statistics, and had it set up in the pine grove. Then they gave him an urn with Ernest’s ashes in it and asked him to bury it somewhere near the bench. They also told him they didn’t want to know exactly where he put it. “So I took it in there, dug a hole, and buried it,” he explained.

“Hmm,” I said, never knowing that I’d be asked to dig it up some day. If I had, I’d certainly have asked him exactly where he dug and how deep.

John was a gregarious guy and he told me he’d been asked to do this kind of thing several times. “One family sent me some ashes and asked me to spread them on the lake, so I did. Then they called to say they were coming up to have a little ceremony in the boat as I sprinkled them.”“Uh-oh,” I said.

“Yeah,” he said, chuckling. “So I just spooned some ashes out of the wood stove, put them in the urn, and did it again while they said nice things about the guy. Nobody knew the difference.” While out checking his remaining properties a short time later, John died too.

I was thinking about all this the first June morning after school got out. Still, I didn’t think I’d have much problem finding Ernest’s urn. I put a long-handled spade, a pick, and a steel rod in the back of my pickup, headed over to the site, and figured I’d start looking right under the stone. It was sunny and already humid as I lifted the three segments of granite bench and set them aside. The steel rod was an old axel with one end sharpened, and I used it to gingerly probe beneath the surface hoping not to damage Ernest’s urn. With the second probe I clinked on something solid, so I took the spade and dug carefully. About twelve inches down I found a stone the size of my fist.

Examining the sides of my shallow hole, I didn’t see evidence that anyone had ever dug there. The strata of humus, loam, and mineral soil were intact, so I took up the pointed rod and started probing in an ever-increasing radius. I chopped through lots of roots, swatted hundreds of mosquitoes, and got soaked in sweat as I dug a dozen virgin holes and found a dozen fist-sized rocks. I went back home for lunch in frustration.The afternoon was hotter and more humid. I did more probes and dug another dozen holes with the same results, until the last hole showed evidence that someone had dug there before me. Then I noticed streaks of a light, gray material mixed on the edges of the hole and the pile next to it. After finding still another stone at the bottom, I realized that Ernest was urnless. That was him in the gray material scattered around, and I wondered how I was going to explain this to his surviving family.

I got a tablespoon from one of the houses and carefully extricated as much of Ernest as I could from the soil into which he was mixed and put him into an old mason jar. I brought the gravestone to the new family plot in the town cemetery and set it up. Back home, I put Ernest’s mason jar in a place of honor on my mantle piece and called his daughter.“I found Ernest’s ashes,” I said, “but there was no urn . . .” I told her the story as earnestly as I could. She came up to Lovell shortly after and I gave her the mason jar. She and her brothers took Ernest to the town cemetery and buried him again. This time, hopefully, for good.

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Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Jews Will Not Go Meekly To Slaughter Again


While I was in Israel three years ago, Hamas took over control of the Gaza Strip. Israel had pulled out two years earlier, and the fight was between two Palestinian terrorist groups: Fatah and Hamas. Our Palestinian guides advised us to call home and tell relatives we were okay because there was widespread media coverage of the fighting and they would be worried about us. We were about thirty miles from the fighting at the time and safe enough. Every since, Hamas has been shooting rockets into Israel from Gaza daily. Israel sends fuel and electricity into Gaza, yet Israel is the villain and Hamas the victim in the eyes of the world. It’s Theatre of the Absurd in the mainstream media.

There are 1.5 million Arab citizens of Israel and 5.5 million Jews and I was struck by contrasts. Jewish towns and cities are orderly, blooming and booming. Arab towns and cities are strewn with trash, graffiti and idleness.Palestinian Town in Israel

The contrast is even sharper in the mostly-Muslim West Bank. It’s a microcosm for the entire Arab Middle East. With huge deposits of oil and the trillions of petrodollars for Arab countries, they remain primitive. Yet, with no oil, industrious Jews from around world have made the desert bloom in Israel. They’ve built a thriving economy, and fought off three invasions by much larger, fanatic, Arab-Muslim neighbors. It’s the ultimate humiliation to have tiny Israel existing in their midst and providing a constant contrast to their backwardness. Rather than taking lessons for their own improvement, they hate Israel with a passion and rabidly plot its destruction.Arab East Jerusalem

When I’m teaching about the Arab Muslim invasions of 1948, 1967 and 1973 to my US History classes, I tell students to imagine a kindergarten kid waiting alone at a bus stop and being jumped three times by several large, high-school boys. Imagine how the big boys feel after the kindergarten kid thrashes them single-handedly all three times. Their humiliation is unbearable and it’s their own fault.

There can be no such thing as a peace process in Israel without the destruction of Israel’s enemies. Neither Fatah nor Hamas wants a Palestinian State. Palestinians want Israel gone and they’re willing to play victim poster-children for the wider Islamic world’s propaganda against Israel and the United States.After the 1967 invasion, Israel took territory from Egypt, Syria and Jordan as buffers against future invasions - including the Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza Strip from Egypt. In the Camp David agreement, Egypt took back the Sinai in return for recognizing Israel’s right to exist, but didn’t really want Gaza. Nobody does. It’s an insane asylum full of Palestinians who have been indoctrinated since infancy with hatred of Jews and groomed to become “shahids”: suicide bombers. Israel pulled out in 2005 but terrorism increased. So much for leftist claims that Israel’s occupation is the cause of Palestinian terrorism.

After years of daily rocket attacks against its civilian population, Israel went back into Gaza to take out launch sites, which Hamas puts in or near schools and hospitals. Palestinian terrorists hide behind children, but the UN ignores this and instead investigates Israel for war crimes if civilians are killed.Hamas is a terrorist proxy for Iran, who supplies the rockets raining on Israel, and who promises to wipe Israel off the map. The United Nations does nothing as Iran builds the nuclear weapons with which to perpetrate a second Holocaust while denying the first ever happened. Under the noses of UN “peacekeeping” forces, Iran supplies Hezbollah with rockets and other weapons in southern Lebanon that are periodically shot at northern Israeli civilians. Why we continue to support an inept and corrupt organization like the United Nations, I cannot fathom.

Israel’s strategy now is to blockade Gaza to prevent Hamas from importing more Iranian rockets but Turkey, which had hitherto been the most supportive of Muslim countries toward Israel, is now leading the effort to break the blockade. There’s been a profound policy shift in Turkey’s relations with Israel. Looks like the Turks have stopped westernizing and, by demonizing Israel, are allying with Syria and Iran. Not good for regional stability.

According to its own charter, Hamas is dedicated to the destruction of Israel and killing all Jews, yet Turkey’s President Erdogan insists Hamas is not a terrorist organization. The man has no credibility, but he’s a hero in the eyes of the American and European left and their media sycophants. Meanwhile, President Obama has shined up to Hamas. He’s obsequious with Iran, and he’s distancing himself from Israel.

Israel has faced existential threats since its birth in 1948 and met them head on. It will meet today’s threats and tomorrow’s as well. Israel will do what it must to survive. A preemptive strike against Iran - with nuclear weapons - is a very real possibility. This is a nation founded on the ashes of the Holocaust. Israel’s Jews will not submit meekly to slaughter again.

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Wednesday, June 02, 2010

States of Unrest

States are unhappy with the federal government, for doing what they shouldn’t be doing - and not doing what they should.

We call our country the United States, and the key word is states. Washington has forgotten that. They united in 1776 to throw off an oppressive foreign government and establish their own, constricted central government. States prized their autonomy and strictly limited the new federal government when writing the Constitution. In case there should be any doubt about their intention about restricting its powers, they emphasized it again at the end of the Bill of Rights:

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

That is the Tenth Amendment, and the federal government is behaving like it doesn’t exist. This is a problem as states are finding themselves more and more in conflict with Washington. They believe Washington is seizing powers the Constitution didn’t delegate. At least thirteen states filed a lawsuit in federal court claiming Congress and the president violate the Constitution by forcing a health care mandate on them without providing money to pay for it. So-called health care “reform” sparked a grassroots rebellion growing rapidly throughout the country over the past fifteen months. People are outraged when their congressmen vote for huge bills with enormous price tags that they haven’t even read.Conservative Americans expect the federal government to defend the country, coordinate interstate communications and transportation infrastructure, run the post office, and maintain a currency. Other than that, most want government to leave them alone to take care of themselves - and this may be the last place on earth where that’s true for a majority if citizens. Greeks riot because government isn’t doing enough. Americans in the expanding Tea Party movement peaceably assemble to protest because government is doing too much. To them, government as a necessary evil which should be as small as possible and they’ve set out to shrink it. They’re fed up with Democrats and Republicans who enable a bloated, inefficient and power-hungry federal government.How do the two old parties deal with Tea Party? So far, it looks like Republicans are trying to kiss up to them while Democrats and their mainstream media minions are trying to demonize them as racists or right-wing fanatics, but neither approach will work. To understand what the Tea Party is about, all they need do is read the signs. The first ones protested health care “reform.” Members knew more about the pending bills than their representatives in congress did, most of whom hadn’t read them. They were outraged that Congress would vote on something they didn’t understand. Now they’re protesting Nanny-state socialism, unaffordable entitlements and unsustainable debt. They’re trying to prevent Washington from squandering their children’s and grandchildren’s heritage and driving America off a cliff. Most are disgusted with Democrats and don’t trust Republicans.Other Americans, however, want government to take care of them. They’ve willingly given up their liberty to the Nanny State to be supported from cradle to grave, and they vote Democrat. The Democrat party sees 12-20 million illegal aliens who sneaked into our country as new voters after they pass “comprehensive immigration reform” which is code for amnesty. Democrats represent Americans who want to live off the labor of other Americans.

The federal government is abdicating its responsibility to defend the states. It’s not even pretending to control the invasion by tens of millions of illegal aliens anymore. Lately, it’s blatantly refusing. Border states like Arizona are overrun and trying to cope but how do the feds respond? US Attorney General Eric Holder has threatened to file suit against Arizona claiming it’s new law is unconstitutional, though he hasn’t even read it! US Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano condemns the law too but hasn’t read it either though it’s only ten pages long. I give my eighth graders more to read for homework, but smug cabinet officers make threats against a state without doing theirs.

This is bad. How bad?

The president of Mexico went to Washington DC recently and accosted Arizona for trying to prevent an invasion by millions of Mexicans - which he encourages - in our Capitol! How did Congress respond? By giving him a standing ovation! This guy is president of a country run by warring drug lords, who encourages his people to sneak into ours with impunity while harassing poorer people coming into his country from the south. And he dares lecture Arizona for trying to deal with an invasion by hundreds of thousands of foreign scofflaws and criminals?

Allahpundit says it best on hotair.com: “If the feds can’t handle this issue, fine; just don’t cry when state and local governments decide that they can.”