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, January 25, 2011

Just Do It, Mr. President


“President Obama was in Hawaii for his Christmas vacation when Hawaii’s Governor Abercrombie said he wanted to find Obama’s birth certificate,” I said to the class. We were reviewing stories in the news after we returned from our week-and-a-half-long Christmas vacation.

“The New York Times reported on Christmas Eve,” I continued, “that: ‘Gov. Neil Abercrombie of Hawaii, who befriended President Obama’s parents when they were university students here, has been in office for less than three weeks. But he is so incensed over “birthers” — the conspiracy theorists who assert that Mr. Obama was born in Kenya and was thus not eligible to become president — that he is seeking ways to change state policy to allow him to release additional proof that the president was born in Honolulu in 1961.’”

“How can they say Obama’s not eligible to be president?” asked a boy. “He is the president, isn’t he?”

“Yes,” I said. “However, some people insist he was born in Kenya, Africa where his father lived. Such people are called “birthers” by the New York Times and others who think they’re nuts.”

“What do you think?” asked a girl.

“I’ve been hearing that story since before Obama was elected, but I’m skeptical. When I read that local newspapers reported on Obama’s birth in Honolulu back in 1961, I figured it must be true and stopped giving serious attention to the “birthers.” The skepticism had died down when Abercrombie called attention to it again. I hope he finds it and clears this up. If anyone can do it, I imagine the governor can. Of course, President Obama could do it too and I’m not sure why he doesn’t.”
“Have any of you had to get a copy of your birth certificate?” I asked. Several hands went up.

“I had to get one to prove how old I was for a Babe Ruth game,” said a boy.

“I had to get one so I could get a passport,” said a girl.

“I had to get one so I could visit someone in jail,” said another girl.

“So lots of people have to produce birth certificates for lots of reasons,” I said. “ “What if they find out that President Obama wasn’t born in the USA?” asked the girl. “What would happen then?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “It’s never happened before. Let’s hope we don’t have to figure that out. To see what the Constitution says about this, turn to page 879 in your textbooks.” I gave them a few minutes and said, “Look at Article 2, Section 1, Number 5 of the Constitution where it says ‘Qualifications.’ Could someone read that please?”

“‘No person except a natural born citizen or a citizen of the United States at the time of the adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible for the office of president; neither shall any person be eligible for that office who shall not have attained to the age of thirty-five years, and been fourteen years a resident in the United States,’” read a boy.

“Thank you,” I said.

“That’s all you need to be president? he asked.

“Yup. That’s all,” I said.

Two weeks later, I put a story up on the screen with an LCD projector. It was an article from the London Daily Mail with the headline: “Hawaii governor claims record of Obama's birth 'exists in archives' but can't produce the vital document." “Remember when we discussed this a couple of weeks ago?” I asked. “The story here says: ‘[Governor Abercrombie] told Honolulu's Star-Advertiser: 'It actually exists in the archives, written down,' he said. But it became apparent that what had been discovered was an unspecified listing or notation of Obama's birth that someone had made in the state archives and not a birth certificate. And in the same interview Abercrombie suggested that a long-form, hospital-generated birth certificate for Barack Obama may not exist within the vital records maintained by the Hawaii Department of Health.’”

“So now what?” asked a girl. “Will he have to resign?”

“I doubt it,” I said. “The so-called ‘birthers’ will continue to grumble, I guess. The article says: ‘[Abercrombie] acknowledged the birth certificate issue would  have 'political implications' for the next presidential election 'that we simply cannot have.’ So Obama’s friend Governor Abercrombie thinks it may hurt the president politically when he faces reelection in 2012 if he doesn’t come up with a birth certificate before then. People may think: ‘I have to produce a birth certificate when I’m asked. Why doesn’t the president?’”

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Don't Apologize


Did Governor LePage tell the NAACP to “kiss my butt”? Well, yes and no.

The NAACP expects politicians to kiss their butt, and for decades they’ve gotten in line, kneeled down, and puckered up. Many resented it, but they held their noses and laid on the lip smacks anyway. While the NAACP may once have been a legitimate civil rights organization, they have devolved into a condescending, left-wing, special-interest group and their biggest interest is playing on white guilt to further their far-left agenda - especially racist policies like Affirmative Action. Martin Luther King would never have supported it, saying as he did: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”Maine’s new governor is unpretentious. He’s conservative so I’m inclined to like him, but his candor is most refreshing: “I’ve not yet learned to speak out of both sides of my mouth,” he says. Liberals, who have been running Maine for decades, find him appalling. They claim he told the NAACP to “kiss my butt.” He didn’t, actually, but that’s what is going out over national news. Ben Jealous, CEO of the national NAACP, wants LePage to apologize.

To put this into perspective, we must go back a bit. First, LePage is in sync with the Tea Party movement whose primary goal is to limit government to what the framers of our Constitution intended. Thousands of small-government-conservative candidates for state and federal offices across the country were swept into office as the Tea Party changed American politics. Big government liberals are in shock and desperate to stop it. Trying to pin the recent Arizona shootings on them is only their latest in a series of attempts to tarnish them. Maine elected a conservative governor because enough people - even in this very liberal state - see big government as the problem, not the solution.

While LePage campaigned against big government last October, opponents videotaped him saying: "We came from behind because we have a message. We have a message that says:  One, we've had enough of the federal government. We've had enough. Two, we've had enough of the state government. And number three, government should be working for the people, not the people working for the government. And as your governor, you're gonna be seeing a lot of me on the front page saying Governor LePage tells Obama to go to hell."

Well, that last phrase is exactly what liberals in Maine were hoping for as they followed LePage around with a video camera. The comment made national news, but the context in which it was spoken did not. Obama is the quintessential big government liberal. Obamacare is his signature accomplishment and the Tea Party was born in opposition to it. Government will take over 18% of our entire economy and force Mainers to buy health insurance. Obamacare’s constitutionality is being challenged by dozens of states in federal court for exercising power the constitution didn’t grant it. Obama has run up more debt and expanded government more than any other president in American peacetime history, and it all makes life much more difficult for state governors like LePage.

Any criticism of President Obama is assumed by our liberal mainstream media to be racially motivated. They think all conservatives - especially us rural types - are dumb rednecks. Obama himself said: “They get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations."

So, when LePage declined the Maine NAACP’s invitation to an event at the Maine State Prison last weekend, the media pressed him. LePage knew where they were going and he said the NAACP was a special interest group, while he represents all Mainers. A reporter asked how he would respond to those who claim his decision not to attend was part of a negative pattern (in other words - what do you say to people who imply that you’re a racist?), he smiled and said: “Tell them to kiss my butt.” Cameras were running, so it’s on video.Last July, the NAACP accused the Tea Party of racism. There was no evidence, but a lack of evidence never stops liberals from accusing conservatives - as we’re seeing in Arizona. The mainstream media is always ready to amplify baseless accusations because perception is reality in politics. People vote based on their perception of issues and the liberal media, until just recently, have enjoyed monopolistic control over that perception. Lately conservatives have used talk radio, Fox News, and the internet to chip away at their monopoly and that’s driving liberals crazy.One of the first things LePage did as governor was to rescind his predecessor’s executive order banning state employees from inquiring about anyone’s immigration status. Now police, welfare officials, or anyone else can refuse to grant special privileges to illegal aliens. Maine is no longer a sanctuary state. Naturally, Maine chapters of both the far-left NAACP and the ACLU organized a protest against LePage for Martin Luther King Day. In Maine and Arizona, liberals consider those of us who are against paying benefits for illegal aliens sneaking into the United States to be just as “racist” as the Tea Party.

Governor LePage shouldn’t apologize for telling them all to kiss his butt. In fact, he should tell them more often.

Labels: , , , ,

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Propaganda Versus Evidence


“Are we going to have a moment of silence at eleven o’clock?” asked a student first thing Monday morning before classes started.

“What are you talking about?” I asked.

“President Obama wants to have a moment of silence because of the shooting in Arizona,” he said.

“Oh. I didn’t know that,” I answered. Later, the principal came over the loudspeaker to announce that the entire school would observe a moment of silence at eleven. The Arizona shooting clearly dominated everyone’s attention and, being responsible for teaching current events, I postponed my planned Monday lesson plan and used the story to reinforce some earlier lessons on the Bill of Rights, propaganda, and the political spectrum.

“Open your books to page 885,” I said when class started, “and look at Amendment 6 at the top. It reads: ‘In all criminal prosecutions, the accused’ - and that would be Jared Loughner, the alleged shooter in this case - ‘shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law . . .’”

“The ‘state and district’ mentioned would be Tucson, Arizona, which is in Pima County. The sheriff of Pima County is Democrat Charles Dupnik, and he made some controversial statements about why he thinks Loughner did what he did.”

“Sheriff Dupnik blamed former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin and others for stirring up the shooter,” I explained. “Dupnik accused Palin of saying ‘We have people like Gabby Giffords in the crosshairs.’ Actually, Palin didn’t say that, but had published a map of the US showing congressional districts where Democrats like Gifford were targeted for defeat at the polls on election day. After Sheriff Dupnik said that, other Democrats made statements that it was right-wing conservatives in the Tea Party who provoked Loughner to shoot Congresswoman Gifford and the others.”

We had studied the political spectrum in class, so students knew what was meant by left-wing and right-wing. “Some people on the right have accused Sheriff Dupnik of using the shooting as propaganda to damage right-wing politicians,” I said. “I hope you remember what propaganda is.”

“Spreading information to help a cause or hurt an opposing cause,” said a girl.

“Yes,” I said. “We’ll look online for evidence that Jared Loughner was influenced by either right-wingers or by left-wingers. It’s only been 48 hours, but we’ll see if there’s any actual evidence out there to back up these claims, okay?”

They took out their laptops and started searching. On the blackboard, I wrote “Left Wing” on the left and “Right Wing” on the right. Some students read opinions like those expressed by Dupnik and I explained that opinions were not evidence. Then a student said, “Loughner wrote on Youtube that one of his favorite books was ‘The Communist Manifesto’ by Karl Marx. That’s left-wing,” the boy said.

“Right,” I answered. We had studied Marx as the founder of communism and I listed that as evidence on the left.

“Another favorite book was ‘We The Living,’” he added.

“The author of that book would be Ayn Rand, who was Libertarian. That’s conservative, and some might say right-wing,” I explained as I listed it on the right.

“Another book was ‘Mein Kampf’ by Hitler,” said a girl.

“I’ll put that on the right,” I said, “but some think Nazis were leftist. I guess they could go on either end.”

“Loughner could have been reading those books to study both sides,” said another boy.

“Good point,” I said. “I have books by both Marx and Rand in my own library. That Loughner had them is evidence that he may have been influenced politically one way or the other. A piece of evidence is a clue. It’s not proof.”

“One of Loughner’s classmates sald he was a left-wing pothead,” said a girl.

“Okay. That’s a first-hand account and it’s evidence,” I said as I listed it on the left.

“Another classmate said he had serious mental problems and she was afraid of him,” said the girl.

“That’s not left-wing or right-wing,” I said. “There are nutcases on both sides of the political spectrum, so let’s add another column in the middle called “Nutcase.” I did, and listed that description.

“Has anyone found more evidence that Loughner was influenced by left-wing or right-wing politics?” I asked.

There were no hands.

“Okay. How about evidence that he was a nutcase?”

Lots of hands went up.

“His math professor said he was dangerous,” said a boy.

“His parents said he was mentally ill,” said a girl.

“His neighbor said he was disturbed,” said another girl.

The middle column got longer and longer. “Looks like there’s far more evidence that Loughner acted because he was mentally disturbed than because he was motivated politically,” I said. “It appears Sheriff Dupnik was shooting from the hip with his opinions when he should have been looking for evidence.”

Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Humpty-Dumpty


When I was seventeen, some friends and I got in trouble with the police for illegal possession of alcohol. Both friends pleaded guilty. I wanted to also because I was guilty. I wanted to pay the $35 fine and get it over with, but my father insisted I pay $150 for an attorney to get me off - and he told me fee would be coming out of my bank account on which his name appeared under my own.

“Why should I do that?” I asked him.

“Because with this on your record, you won’t be able to get a government job,” he said.

The clannish Boston-Irish-Catholic-Democrat culture I came from was extremely involved with government. It worked for you if you cooperated with it, if you knew the right people, and especially if you had an Irish name. You could get a job when you needed it that would pay fairly well and wouldn’t be too difficult. Little did I know then that I would work over thirty years at a government job as a public-school history teacher.My father is standing with his jacket open. To his left is JFK. Seated in front are Congressman (and later Speaker) John McCormack, Kenneth Lyons of NAGE, and Congresswoman Edith Nourse Rogers - all from Massachusetts.

My father grew up in the Irish enclave of Boston known as Charlestown. Counting his military service during World War II, he worked thirty-three years for the federal government, mostly as a civilian procurement officer for the US Air Force. After claiming a work-related disability, he retired a GS-13 in 1974 at age fifty-two with generous pension and medical benefits. Early in his career, he helped form NAGE - the National Association of Government Employees, which has since morphed into SEIU - the Service Employees International Union which has been supplying thugs for Democrats at Tea Party rallies of late. Government unions like SEIU, NEA (National Education Association), AFT (American Federation of Teachers), and AFS-CME (National Association of State, County and Municipal Employees) are the biggest public employee unions. Public employee unions now dominate the American labor movement.

These unions have been negotiating contracts with cities, states and the federal government containing extremely generous pensions and medical benefits that even in the best of the times would be unsustainable. Both sides must have known it would eventually become impossible to deliver on the terms of those contracts, but they were approved anyway. Employees contributed to the pension fund and the city or state contributed as well for what are called “defined benefit” plans. That means if the pension funds’ investments aren’t sufficient to pay certain specific benefits for each pensioner and spouse - taxpayers are on the hook for them. State and municipal officials who signed those contracts had to know there would come a day when the fund would be insufficient, but it would be far enough off that they’d be out of office and others would have to deal it.

Well, that day has arrived. Dozens of cities and states are on the brink of bankruptcy because of those contracts. Prichard, a small city in Alabama, has simply stopped sending checks to its retired employees because the pension fund dried up and the city doesn’t have the money. According to a New York Times article: “‘Prichard is the future,’ said Michael Aguirre, the former San Diego city attorney, who has called for San Diego to declare bankruptcy and restructure its own outsize pension obligations. ‘We’re all on the same conveyor belt. Prichard is just a little further down the road.’”

Mr. Aquirre mixed his metaphors, but he’s absolutely right. If a city or state goes bankrupt, union pension contracts would be nullified, just as they are when corporation does. Had General Motors been allowed to go under, its generous pension contracts with the UAW (United Auto Workers) would have also. Is that why Democrats in the Obama Administration bailed out GM? Unions are the Democrats’ biggest constituency after all. Even in bankruptcy though, taxpayers may still have been stuck with the bill because there exists another federal agency called the PBGC (Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation) which underwrites pension programs for bankrupt companies the way Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac guarantee foreclosed mortgages.

Government encouraged shaky mortgagees through the Community Reinvestment Act and then couldn’t pick up the pieces when it all came crashing down. The economic mess we’re in now is the result. In spite of what the Obama Administration and its media minions claim, this recession/depression is far from over. In fact, it’s likely to get a lot worse when the pension bubble breaks as it inevitably will.

So maybe I better not retire from my government job after thirty-four years. My pension wouldn’t be all that generous, especially the medical benefits, which would be paltry. With part time employment elsewhere to supplement I could get by all right, but The Maine State Employees Retirement Fund I’ve been paying into all that time is underfunded by billions. What would I do when I’m sixty-five or seventy and the checks stop like they have in Prichard? My father’s generation enjoyed a comfy retirement, but us baby boomers aren’t likely to. Humpty Dumpty is about to fall off the wall. All Obama’s horses and all the Democrat men won’t be able to put their massive entitlement programs together again. They won’t be able to bail out all the cities and states - not with a debt that’s $14 trillion and climbing fast.

Will there be riots like there are in Greece? People in France rioted when President Sarkozy said he'd raise the retirement age from 60 to 62. What will happen here when the checks stop?

Looks like we baby boomers are going to have to keep working until a few years after we’re dead. One consolation is that I won't be arrested for illegal possession of alcohol by a minor in my old age. That's good because I expect I'll be needing a snort now and then after I get home.

Labels: , , , ,