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, September 29, 2010

Pampered, Selfish Robin Hoods


Liberals love to pat themselves on the back for giving away other people’s money. Latter-day Robin Hoods, they love to tax the “rich” and give to the “poor,” but they’re as tight as the bark on a tree with their own money. Do they rationalize that they give away so much of our money that they don’t need to give away much of their own? “It’s more blessed to give than to receive,” goes the proverb, and liberals believe it’s most blessed to give what isn’t theirs.

Most of what federal government takes from me and about about half of all other Americans is used for social programs. The other half of Americans pay no federal income taxes and receive most of the benefits from those programs. All this was designed by those who called themselves “progressives” at intervals of Democrat rule during twentieth century. Whoever might disagree with them were, by implication, regressive. Progressives called themselves “liberals” later on, but now they again wish to be called “progressives” here in the twenty-first century because “liberal” has taken on a negative connotation. Whatever they’re called, their aim is the same: take as much as they can get away with from the most productive and give it all to the least productive. They use big, bloated government for this redistribution because they don’t want to use bows and arrows and live in the forest like Robin Hood. They want the support Robin Hood received, but also the creature comforts beyond even what the Sheriff of Nottingham’s lifestyle provided. They love performances at the Kennedy Center and lavish parties at the White House paid for by taxpayers.

Whenever progressive liberal Democrats are in charge, they ramp up promises beyond what government could possibly afford. FDR’s New Deal promised Social Security pensions for the elderly. That’s been increased since to include disability payments for people of all ages and may soon be extended to millions of illegal aliens as well if they get their way. Al Gore used to talk about a “lock box” for the money FICA takes from our paychecks, but that was a myth. All the money we send to the federal government for our old-age pensions is spent immediately by that bloated government. All Al Gore’s lock box would contain is IOUs. In 2016, there won’t be enough money to back up the millions of checks it sends out every month. Looking further ahead, deficits for Social Security run to $100 trillion over the several decades.

Liberals in LBJ’s Great Society gave us Medicare thirty years later. Projected deficits for that run into the tens of trillions. Also, Barack Obama gave us health care “reform” that will take $500 billion from Medicare that isn’t really there and spend trillions more that we don’t have either. What he’ll do is try to borrow more and add that red ink to the $14 trillion deficit he already run up. All this debt and the prospect of still more is what’s really depressing the economy today.

Meanwhile, the Obama Administration has been using FDR’s Keynesian defibrillator to apply trillion-dollar jolts to an economy that continues to flatline. While running trillion-and-a-half-dollar annual deficits that alarm our creditors so much they’re balking at lending us more, he wants to use the “progressive” federal income tax to soak even more out of the “rich.” He’s also using the Federal Reserve to buy US Treasury bonds nobody else wants, and pay for them by printing over $3 trillion. It’s not a question anymore about if it’s all going to come unravelled - it’s only a question of when.

Up to now, the half of Americans who pay no federal income tax have been inclined to vote for presidents, senators and congressmen who promise more and more benefits at the expense of the other half who pay for it all. Along with the votes of guilt-ridden, trust-funded liberals, they swept “progressives” into power in 2006 and 2008. Their policies, however, are killing the goose that laid the golden egg. Cities and states like Detroit and California that progressive liberals have been in charge of longest are the closest to bankruptcy. Enough of the bottom half of Americans are watching their over-extended neighbors default on their mortgages and credit cards and realizing that our federal government is doing the same thing. Uncle Sam won’t be able to backstop it anymore. They’re realizing that if they keep voting for progressive liberals and their socialist policies, it will all come crashing down.

It’s going to be very interesting when votes are counted the evening of November 2nd.

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Saturday, September 25, 2010

Rocks

I like rocks. Always have. They're solid. They're old. Each one has a story millions, even billions of years old. If I see an interesting rock small enough, I'll sometimes take it home. If it's too large, I'll photograph it.Saw this one on a hike up Whiting Hill in Lovell, Maine last week. It's white quartz with light brown feldspar - pretty typical for a hilltop in western Maine.Here it is closer up. The black outline of weathering around the crystals pleases me.Like to climb over rocks too, especially along Maine's coast. This is part of the bedrock near Biddeford Pool on the southern Maine coast. Maine has some of the most varied geology to be found anywhere on earth. It's not only interesting; it's beautiful. The amateur geologist in me thinks this is sedimentary, metamorphic, turned up 90 degrees and weathered by the surf.This is just a few yards away, but from another age entirely, and that's how Maine bedrock is. This rock heated and swirled more than the one above it.Only about four feet away is this one in a seam where iron oxidized, creating dark red staining.Looks like chemical reactions I don't understand at all are creating different textures as well.Albany, Maine stone wall I found in an abandoned neighborhood last spring.Carrickabraghey Castle on Isle of Doagh, Donegal where we visited two years ago. My ancestors built this "keep" - all that remains of the 14th century castle that was about ten times bigger than what you see here.It's mostly limestone around that area, but some granitic outcrops are scattered about. Glashedy Island is offshore. Glashedy means "green on top." It's a big rock with ten acres of grass on it. Locals brought sheep out there to graze.View out to sea from inside the keep. I love the way the limestone weathers inside - so different from the granites and feldspars of Maine. Easier to work as well.View out another window.And another.And out a door with my wee wife outside.And a high window.A long beach nearby deposits weathered rocks in terraces. When waves recede, millions tumble against each other. The sounds they make are as charming to the ear as the polished limestone specimens are to the eye. The wee wife has found a beauty to smuggle home. Ireland won't miss it.

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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Strong Wind To Starboard


Some still don’t take the Tea Party seriously, even after they’ve gathered over and over, all around the country, in huge numbers, and protested big government’s unconstitutional expansion. Mostly they’re smug liberals who consider themselves to be intellectuals. They think they know what’s best for the rest of us and they’re running the country - right into the ground. Bernie Marcus, one of the guys who founded Home Depot, thinks they’re tenured academics and “They don’t have a clue of what they’re talking about.”

“They come out of Harvard,” he said. “They come out of Yale. They’re all on tenure. Tenure means they get paid whether they work or not. Tenure means they’re on insurance for the rest of their lives. Tenure means they don’t ever have to worry about anything because they were there for a number of years, but America is not that way . . . If the president got out of the White House and started moving among the peasants, which is everybody else in the world except for Washington. Washington has their own insurance plan. They got their own pensions. They don’t abide by the rules everyone else abides by . . . When I talk to people who are creating jobs today - these are not villains. These are not monsters.”

“And you think they’re being portrayed that way [by the White House]?” asked the host.

“Oh, there’s no question about it. Yeah, we’re monsters and we are disgusting human beings . . . for creating 300,000 jobs
. . .”

Marcus is pissed. So is the Tea Party. The elitists still don’t get it. They will after November 2nd though.

These tenured liberals have lived all their lives in academic echo chambers and think they know how to run the world - its health care and its economy. They’re still predicting an economic recovery to follow the $800 billion stimulus that spent $2 million for each job it created. But ordinary Americans understand that no recovery is going to happen that way. They know Obama, Pelosi and Reid only made things worse by putting us $800 billion further into debt. They know our health care system was much better before that triumvirate “fixed” it by making it more complicated, more expensive, and less effective. They know we won’t have a recovery until they take back their government - and they will.

Senator John Kerry, for whom I used to work when I was a young and foolish liberal, made some nasty remarks about Tea Party victories in last week’s primaries. “The news from Delaware is crystal clear: It’s Sarah Palin’s party now. We [must] defeat the Tea Party extremists.”

Extremists? The Tea Party is extremist? Not smug elitists like himself who tripled our deficit and turned recession to depression? Tenured elitists think Republicans are being hijacked by the Tea Party and they’re right. The Tea Party wants to pull the Constitution out of mothballs, dust it off, and apply it the way the founding fathers intended. That’s extremist to Ivy League elitists like Kerry, who think they’re much smarter than Jefferson and Madison. They don’t want government to be hampered by the Constitution. They know better how to create jobs better than people like Bernie Marcus too, even though he’s actually done it and they haven’t.

They’re right that the Tea Party has been concentrating on Republicans - to clean liberals like Castle, Murkowski and Crist out, because there’s no point having two liberal parties. That makes other RINOs (Republicans in Name Only) like Maine Senator Olympia Snowe nervous. If Mike Castle can lose a primary in a liberal state like Delaware, Snowe can lose one in liberal Maine too - and she’s up in 2012. Some expect her to come out of the closet as a Democrat soon. Will Susan Collins be far behind? She’s up in 2014.

Now that the primaries are over, the Tea Party will focus on defeating liberal Democrats in November. How many will drop? Hard to tell. I happened to be passing through Portland, Maine last Monday when Lady Gaga showed up to pressure our two Lady RINO senators into breaking ranks and repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” The pierced and tattooed turned out to cheer their liberal Democrat heroes who warmed up the crowd with speeches - like 1st District Congresswoman and Pelosi Pet, Chellie Pingree. The contrast between that crowd and a Tea Party crowd in nearby Westbrook where Pingree’s opponent, conservative Republican Dean Scontras, spoke the day before could not be more profound. Pingree’s web site pledges to “Stop the Tea Party,” but which constituency will prevail in Maine and America on November 2nd? Maine’s 1st district is the bluest part of a very blue state in the azure northeast - a sanctuary state with generous welfare benefits for illegal immigrants and a homosexual haven. Pingree is ahead in opinion polls 48% to Scontras’s 37%, but 15% are undecided. Scontras is a tireless campaigner and Pingree is worried. She looked pretty haggard when I saw her Monday. She knows that 15% is likely to break for Scontras and sink her.

If Scontras beats her November 2nd, our two Lady RINOs will probably start tacking to starboard as John McCain has in Arizona. In spite of Lady Gaga’s pressure, they didn’t break ranks when “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” came up in the US Senate on Tuesday. They have their fingers in the wind - which will become a gale in about five weeks.

With Carol Shea Porter (D-NH) on one side of me and Chellie Pingree (D-ME) on the other, it’s been difficult, but both may well go down in only forty days. I can’t wait.

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Thursday, September 16, 2010

Waning Summer

Most people know I'm a teacher around here. "Summer's over," they tell me at the Post Office, the store, the gas station, because school started three weeks ago. But it's not over. Waning, yes, but it hasn't ended just because the school busses are running. It started early and it's been a grand one.There was very little rain. Water grass on Lower Kezar Pond exposed some nice red stalks. It was a nice day for kayaking.Out for a walk one day with granddaughter Claire and daughter Annie. Another granddaughter is incubating about three feet down to the lower right. Can't wait to see her. Life is good.Claire likes me.Saw a bald eagle annoyed with an osprey one day over Kezar Lake. Chased him all over the sky for about a minute. It was quite a show.The sun came up behind a spider web the next day. I was running late, but stopped anyway for this. Got my shoes all wet in the dew, but it was worth it. Gotta take time for beauty.Afternoon clouds gathered in the western sky.Alway liked mills like these in Saco. Oak logs were floated down the Saco River - possibly from here in Fryeburg/Lovell - to hold up the floors. Local brick, local wood, power from the river. All so ruggedly built, they survive to this day. Many have been gutted and await commercial tenants looking for office space, but a slow economy and glut of commercial real estate threaten these magnificent old buildings. Hope this sunset over the mills isn't foreshadowing.Sunset over Kezar Lake. Is that a dolphin? A character from "Neverending Story"?

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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Sneakers, Cars, and Clothing


Sneakers and cars are things I have to purchase periodically, but I’m getting annoyed lately at the choices available when I shop for them. So is my wife. She needed a new car last fall and we started looking around. I had bought a pickup recently, but it had been several years since either of us looked at cars. “Why do all the new sneakers and cars look like they come from outer space?” she asked.

They do. We eventually bought a year-old, silver-colored Subaru Forester. It looks like an oversized bicycle helmet - the kind real bike nuts wear - those guys all bent down close to their handlebars in their florescent spandex outfits. But then, so does nearly every other make and model of car we checked out. It’s hard to tell them apart, but at least her new car blends in with the others on the road.

Last fall I decided to start using my legs more while they still work, so I sprinted down the road in front of my house in an old pair of sneakers. Though I was running as fast as I could and it felt like sprinting, anyone watching might have described it as jogging. Whatever it was, my wife said I shouldn’t be running like that in my old sneakers. She insisted I needed running shoes or I might hurt my feet. Because so many other parts of my body hurt, I didn’t notice my feet that much until I’d been doing it for a couple of weeks. So I went over to the outlet stores in North Conway to look for running shoes and the first thing I noticed was that there was no such thing as cheap. The least expensive pair cost $45 and there were no plain-looking ones either. They all looked like multicolored bicycle helmets too.

I bought the least expensive pair. They provide cushioning for my feet and they’re well-engineered with good structural support. They’re light and well-ventilated. They’re great in every other way, but I’m embarrassed to wear them in public. I don’t want to look like Spider Man or like I’m trying out for the Olympic team - I just want to run as comfortably as possible. I don’t wear any special running clothes - no spandex, no warm-up pants - I go in whatever I’m wearing that day. Usually that’s an old pair of Dickies pants or shorts and a T-shirt in the hot weather. That’s another reason space-age running sneakers look stupid on me. I dress plainly and then I have these things on my feet. I haven’t worn them at night yet, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they glowed in the dark.

And while I’m on the subject, I don’t like it when manufacturers put their names and corporate symbols all over their clothing. It says “Reebok” in four places on my spacey sneakers, not counting the logos. I don’t like to be an unpaid walking billboard for the company. People must like all the labels because companies wouldn’t put out T-shirts, hats and sweatshirts emblazoned with their names if people didn’t want them. What’s up with all that? Status? Fashion? I don’t know.

My Dickies pants are made of strong fabric that holds up well and looks acceptable (by my standards) for more than two years before it starts to get tattered. Pretty good for twenty bucks. They also make flannel-lined khakis for winter which I love because with them I don’t need long underwear. They’re both excellent products, but I remove the sewn-on labels as soon as I get them home.

I buy Carhartt “work/dry” T-shirts and polo shirts because they’re comfortable, durable, shed perspiration well, and they all come with breast pockets for my pen and pencil, which I especially like. They’re not cheap at about twenty and thirty dollars respectively, but they’re worth the money. When I get home though, I take the labels off them too. For a year, I can wear them to school, to church, and places like that, and then I can wear them kicking around town for another year or two before they start ripping. After that I can use them for painting, cutting wood, weed-whacking, and such things. By the time I’m done with them, neither the Salvation Army nor Goodwill want them.

That’s the way it is with my old sneakers, cars, or trucks too. When I’m done with them, they’re not much good to anyone else. Then I have to go shopping again.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Remembering September 11th, Or Not


For eight years, I’ve started the school year asking my eighth graders where they were when they first heard about the tragic events of September 11, 2001, but I didn’t do that when school started last week for two reasons:

First, this year’s students were pre-schoolers when the twin towers were hit - they were four years old. Some may have noticed the adults around them becoming upset, but it’s not likely they would have had much understanding of why. For them, September 11, 2001 isn’t the burned-in emotional experience it has been for students who are now college age. For most in kindergarten through twelfth grade, September 11th isn’t that big a deal. Unless they sat through my class, or had a teacher like me somewhere else, my guess is that few would be able to identify who our enemies are and why they want to kill us.

Second, media coverage of September 11th has diminished each year to the point where it doesn’t make sense to continue. We no longer have saturation coverage in the weeks leading up to the anniversary. Last year there was so little so I decided to abandon my ritual. Later this year, I’ll still deliver my lessons about our enemies being followers of Radical Islam, but not in September unless something else happens to capture the media’s attention.

This year will be different in one other very important way: what I teach will be in direct conflict with what our commander-in-chief - our president - apparently believes, or says he does at least, about who we’re fighting. I’m quite mindful of this and it greatly disturbs me. I’ve had to question myself because I’m an ordinary public school history teacher and he’s the leader of the free world who hears daily intelligence briefings from expert advisors. However, according to Raymond Ibrahim, writing in The Middle East Forum on April 9th of this year:

The Obama administration has just announced its intent to ban all words that allude to Islam from important national security documents. Put differently, the Obama administration has just announced its intent to ban all knowledge and context necessary to confront and defeat radical Islam.
I’ll have to point this out to my students. I’ll have to explain to them that the experts now running our war do not see our enemies as I do. Last month, the Pentagon issued it’s report on the Fort Hood massacre in which Major Nidal Hasan murdered thirteen fellow American soldiers and wounded thirty-one others while shouting “Allahu Akbar!” which is what our enemies do just before they destroy themselves to kill infidels like us. There was no mention, however, of his radical Islamist beliefs in the report. The massacre was described as “workplace violence” and not motivated by his infection with the wacky jihadist ideas of our enemies, though it clearly was.

For more than nine years, I’ve been helping my students understand that their fathers, brothers, uncles, and friends who have served our country in Iraq and Afghanistan have been fighting Radical Islam. When my principal poked his head into my classroom at about 9:15 AM on Tuesday, September 11, 2001, I had just written “jihad” on the blackboard and was explaining how it was understood by two Radical Islamists who had just killed or wounded dozens of Israelis by blowing themselves up on September 9th. When he told me what happened that morning in New York City, I knew right away who was behind it.One of the reasons I became a teacher was that I wanted to do a better job than my teachers had done for me and my peers back in the 1960s. I went to high school between 1965 and 1969 when graduates who didn’t go to college were drafted into the army and sent to Vietnam. None of my teachers, however, were covering the war in class. Graduates (and dropouts) were heading to southeast Asia with very little idea of what that war was about. I was determined to do a better job.

As a US History teacher with responsibility to teach current events, it’s been my job to understand the conflicts in which our country is engaged - and I’ve studied them intensely. That my teaching is now at odds with both the president and the Pentagon makes me very uneasy, but I’ll continue to teach what I believe to be the truth until someone can show me how President Obama and his Pentagon advisors are right and I am wrong.

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Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Remember in November

Good often comes from bad, as seems to be happening after the election of November, 2008. The left took over our federal government and started implementing their socialist agenda - driving America into bankruptcy and turning a recession into depression. Americans realized what the left wants: a huge central government controlling every aspect of our lives, and the backlash began. By April, 2009, what we know now as the “Tea Party” was born. It’s called the Tea Party by those of us favorable to it, but it’s called the “Tea Baggers” by those who hate it - a slang term denoting a kind of sexual practice I cannot describe in a family newspaper.

What the Tea Party actually is, most aren’t sure. It’s still amorphous, but if you look at their huge rallies in Washington, DC and cities across the country, you see ordinary people. Many wave or display American flags. They’re unhappy with what Republicans and Democrats have done to their country, but they’re especially mad at Democrats for tripling the national deficit since January of 2009 and expanding the power of government beyond what the Constitution intended. A few things about the Tea Party are becoming clear: they’re conservative, they see government as more a problem than a solution, and they’re unimpressed by those who consider themselves the “intellectual elite.”Their most recent gathering was last Saturday at the Lincoln Memorial. Some say 300,000 were there. Some say 500,000. Congresswoman Michelle Bachman said there were 1,000,000. Glenn Beck, organizer of the rally, was expecting 100,000. He told people to leave their political signs at home because “America today begins to turn back to God.” This is the kind of thing that scares the elites in media, academia, and politics. To them, anyone who seriously professes a religious faith must be a rube - one of those simpleton Americans President Obama said, “. . . get bitter and cling to guns or religion.” They’re the kind of Americans the New York Times’ Ross Douthat describes as: “middle-class white Christians--square, earnest, patriotic and religious.”

If you look at Beck’s crowd singing “Amazing Grace” to bagpipe accompaniment, you see average people - the kind who pay their taxes, volunteer in their communities, put money in the collection plate, bring their kids to scouts, aren’t ashamed to say the Pledge of Allegiance, and get a lump in their throat when they sing “America The Beautiful.”

Liberal TV networks played down the rally any way they could, describing it as “predominantly white” as if there were something wrong with that. That shouldn’t be a surprise considering almost 80% of the country is white and 90% of black Americans vote Democrat. It’s even more understandable when one considers what the Washington Examiner reported: that Obama and other Democrats got 88 percent of 2008 political contributions by TV network executives writers, and reporters. It’s what liberals do when they have no arguments to make, no facts to cite, no points to make - they cast aspersions of racism, homophobia, hate, bigotry, or some combination thereof. There’s clearly a huge disconnect between ordinary Americans and elitists in government, academia and the mainstream media. They’re in one world, and ordinary Americans live in another. No wonder the mainstream media is hemorrhaging money and viewers while Fox News and talk radio are thriving.

The “Reverend” Al Sharpton staged a counter rally at a nearby high school and got 3000 people. Representatives from from Code Pink and the SEIU (Service Employees International Union, whose thugs have been accused of assaulting Tea Party people at several congressional district town meetings) spoke, including Jaime Contreras president of the SEIU-32BJ local, who gave his own “I have a dream speech.” He said [about the Glenn Beck rally across town]: “Shame on them. We still have a dream. We are here to let those folks on the Mall know that they don't represent the dream. They sure as hell don't represent me. They represent hate-mongering and angry white people. The happy white people are here today. We will not let them stand in the way of the change we voted for!”Contreras’s local SEIU-32BJ, however, doesn’t even know how to spell American. They proudly carried posters on which it’s spelled “AMERCAN.”

President Obama was golfing on Martha’s Vineyard that day, and told NBC’s Brian Williams he ignored Beck’s rally. According to the Washington Examiner, however, his close friend and Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan who spoke at Sharpton’s rally, sent an email to his employees three days before the event, saying: “ED staff are invited to join Secretary Arne Duncan, the Reverend Al Sharpton, and other leaders on Saturday, Aug. 28, for the ‘Reclaim the Dream’ rally and march.”

I wonder if our Education Secretary noticed the misspellings. Be hard to miss in such a small gathering.

Mainstream media reports gave as much or more coverage to Sharpton’s rally though he got less than one-one hundredth the turnout Beck did. Rather than being annoyed though, I’m hoping the political/media elitists and public-employee-union parasites continue their arrogant condescension when referring to the Tea Party. I hope they keep it up right on into the first Tuesday in November, because that will drive even more patriotic Americans to the polls. “Remember in November” is one of their slogans.

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