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, November 29, 2011

Change Course Or Collapse? Choose


Hard times are ahead. As a nation, we’re marching toward a cliff and the question is: Will we continue and go off the precipice or will we change course? Anyone with a basic knowledge of arithmetic knows things cannot go on as they are. Political leaders have promised that we can provide medical care for the poor, the elderly, and now everyone else as well - forever. They talk as though it will be possible to provide food, clothing and housing for anyone who asks too. I’m no math genius, but even I know that’s impossible. Yet our political leaders insist that if we increase taxes on the rich we’ll be able to keep marching. They have to know that even if we taxed the rich at 100% it would only provide enough revenue to keep going for a few more months before bankruptcy.

So many Americans have depended on government for so long, they don’t know how to take care of themselves. But if the country goes bankrupt - if we march off that cliff - all that government assistance will end abruptly. Then what? Chaos, of course. Many are preparing for exactly that scenario to one degree or another and I see what they see, but isn’t there still some way to avoid it?

That we cannot continue as we’re going is indisputable, but what’s the alternative? How can we avoid marching off the cliff? Can we make cuts to the checks and programs slowly? Can we do it slowly enough to both avoid the cliff and give dependent Americans time to adjust to making their own way? Will they? There was a time in America - still in the memory of living citizens - when people did live by their own labors. Those who could not were supported by families or by churches and private charities. Can we gradually return to that kind of nation? Maybe I’m too optimistic, but I prefer to think we can. I prefer to think there are still enough Americans who realize the path we’re on leads to bankruptcy and chaos. I prefer to think there are enough of us to elect a congress and president who will cut the behemoth government has become - cut it surgically, systematically and incrementally. If we do it gradually, can we avoid chaos? Can we avoid violence? Whoever we elect must also be capable of explaining to the American people in terms they can understand why cutting is vital to our survival, why it has never been possible for government to fulfill the promises it made. Look at Social Security alone: it can only work when there are more people being born than are growing old - as long as children in American families outnumber parents. That’s how it was in America while I was growing up, but it isn’t that way anymore. Those who dreamed up Social Security during the New Deal and added more expensive social programs during the Great Society, then started preaching about over-population. They championed birth control and abortion to prevent births, then justified it all by preaching that “the planet” couldn’t sustain them. What they conveniently overlooked was that the world they thereby created couldn’t sustain their beloved Social Security either. The children they prevented or the 45 million they killed in the womb since Roe v Wade in 1973 would not be paying FICA taxes. Social Security is a Ponzi scheme with elderly baby boomers as its beneficiaries until it collapses. Those children they did allow to be born are the ones who get stiffed. Medicare and other Great Society programs have similar scenarios. The handwriting is on the wall. Unlike Babylonian king Belshazzar, we don’t need a biblical prophet to translate it for us. We don’t even need a calculator because the arithmetic is simple. The handwriting on the wall for 21st century Americans reads: “Change course or collapse.”

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What Comes First

Family, that's what. The older I get the more I realize it. Here are Lila (my newest granddaughter) and her mother (my daughter Annie) in their pew just before Lila's baptism.Love in in my daughter Annie's face.

Here, Lila becomes a child of God thanks to Father Paul Dumais. Andrew is Lila's father.Water must drip off her head for an official Catholic baptism

Looks like it took.
Lila is pleased

We take the granddaughters home to give Annie and Andrew a break sometimes. They're still little enough that both fit in the kitchen sink for a bath.Claire and Lila

Before you know it though, they'll be teenagers amazed that they were ever that small.

My wife Roseann and I went walking on Westport Island, Maine where we've been staying over Thanksgiving. These two guys were doing off-season carpentry work on a vacation home and took a lunchbreak sitting on sawhorses. Beyond the lamp post on the left is the lighthouse on Southport Island in the distance. Beyond that, the Atlantic.Lunch break on Westport Island

We were all together in the big rental house for five days - grandchildren, adult children, sons-in-law.Riley, Alex, Sarah, Claire

It went good. I'd forgotten how it was living in a house full of children. It's nice, but as you hear so many grandparents say - it's good when it's over too.Coloring with Auntie Annie

I love oak trees. My ancestors used to worship them in Ireland before St. Patrick set them straight.Oak trees and ocean

Next morning the sun rose through more oak trees outside our bedroom.Sunrise over Sheepscot River

Then it went down over the other side of the island.Sunset over Westport Island, Maine

Tomorrow we head back home. It was a nice Thanksgiving with family.

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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thanks for November

Don’t think I’ll ever want to go south for the winter. I’m a New Englander. As such, I savor the smell of each new season. Though I’ve experienced sixty of each, I love the feel - the changing light, the scents wafting on the breeze. I love the crunch of new snow underfoot, and when I feel it for the first time each winter, memories of all the similar sensations from previous years come right back, and I feel that this is where I belong.Smart's Hill in November

Late November sun illuminates but doesn’t warm much. There just isn’t as enough of it. What there is doesn’t last as long and seems more precious as a result. In July we take it for granted, but not during these short days. We who live in the woods become more aware of sun at this time because leaves have dropped from most of the hardwoods except for oaks and beeches. Its angle in the sky is lower too so it illuminates the exposed bone structure of those hardwoods. After the brilliant color of October’s foliage, we see hardwoods as grayish frames. Smooth bark on upper branches shows light gray against darker gray shadows. On a distant hillside, a thousand skeletal treetops mesh into soft grays interspersed with dark greens of pine groves.

Animals and plants know to prepare for winter when late fall is evident all around. Some humans know too but others remain unaware of the changing season - insulated from nature in buildings, their sense of the world filtered through television or computer screens they stare at all day. They don’t hear wind rattle branches, only sounds produced in studios - electronically filtered through magnetized speakers. No smells come with electronic sights and sounds - no feelings either except for whatever has been stored away from past experiences.Kezar Lake looking north from Pleasant Point in November

November has been warm and peaceful around here this year. For three consecutive days, Kezar Lake was so smooth and tranquil that just being around it was calming. Water mirrored sky and shore more perfectly than I’ve never seen, and so quietly the sound of my camera’s shutter seemed to echo.Looking northeast toward Quisisana

November also brings Thanksgiving. To Whom do we give thanks? When I was teaching, I’d ask students that question and most of them would say it was “Indians.”

“Where did you learn that?” I’d ask.

“In school,” they’d answer. That’s because God is persona non grata in public schools and has been so for decades. American history is being distorted to push God out - with consequences beyond historical ignorance. But that’s for another column.

Thanksgiving is a time for Americans foster an attitude of gratitude, focusing on what we have rather than what we’d like to have.That’s a good thing, especially in these challenging economic times. We’re more likely to be thankful for simple things like a warm home, a job, good health and the presence of loved ones.For all this, I'm thankful

That’s especially true in my family this year, it being only a few weeks since “little” brother Paul was diagnosed with stage-four throat cancer. He begins chemotherapy as I write. Family and community are pulling together to support Paul and his family of wife and seven children. He’s self-employed in the plumbing and heating business and we often talk early mornings since he does all that work on the properties I manage. He’s a big, jolly guy always quick with a joke. He told me he’s going to be “Chemo-Boy” this winter and I said “How about we call you “Kemo-sabe”?Paul with daughter, Aimee

He laughed, though his throat was sore after removal of a cancerous tonsil. Radiation follows chemotherapy and laughing will be more painful - but if I know Paul, that won’t stop him. He’ll laugh through his eyes.

A benefit supper for him and his family will be held at the Lovell Fire House - intersection of Hatch’s Hill Road and Main Street in Lovell Saturday, December 3rd from 4:00-7:00 pm. Spaghetti - with and without meat - rolls, dessert for $8.00 per person.

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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Occupy Wall Street Focused? Come On


Occupy Wall Street (OWS) isn’t “focused” as Nancy Pelosi claims. It’s about as many grievances as there are people in attendance at its multiple sites around the country. I’ve questioned people at two local sites in my futile search for unified themes, but the only constant I found other than discontent was class envy. Those who have worked through envy know it when they see it - and it’s always ugly. That’s why envy is one of the seven deadly sins.

Democrats fertilize and exploit envy, especially of the rich. Evidence indicates they catalyzed OWS through their public-employee unions and remnants of ACORN. Pelosi and Obama both endorsed it but it may backfire on them. Violence, drug dealing, overdoses, sexual assaults, filth, disease, and death are all escalating as OWS gets crazier every day, especially on the left coast. John Nolte of Biggovernment.com is keeping a running tally of lawlessness at all the OWS sites, lately called “Obamavilles” by those of us who see Saul Alinsky fingerprints. Each Obamaville is a microcosm of the Democrat Party: socialists, communists, anarchists, homosexuals, revolutionaries, trust-funders, students, and others including radical Islamists in their keffiyehs spouting anti-semitism. By the time this is published, more violence may have occurred as cities evict left-wing squatters from public parks this week - especially on the left coast.From Zombietime

The old saying that “It’s as if the country were turned up on its side and all the loose nuts rolled into California” is verified again by OWS Obamavilles in the Bay Area. There are left-wing loonies everywhere of course, but San Francisco and Oakland have the highest concentration. Traditional Democrat constituencies at these Obamavilles aren’t getting along with each other though. They’ve segregated themselves in Oakland as evidenced by a Zombietime.com photoessay. One area is fenced off with pink ribbon and a sign declaring “Women, Queer + Trans ONLY.”From Zombietime

Another sign declares “PEOPLE OF COLOR TENT!” Some Obamaville homosexuals “of color” had an identity crisis over what victim group they most identified with, so another area was designated “POC/QPOC - People Of Color - Queer People Of Color - information - conversation.”From Zombietime

If they can’t reconcile, there’s a giant white board featuring workshops to attend at the OWS Oakland Obamaville including: “Medic training with the Black Cross” (What’s the Black Cross? I’m sure I don’t know); “Anti-capitalism”; “Anarchism & Anti-colonialism”; “Marxism 101”; “What To Do When The Police Come”; “Resistance Training”; “Gang Injunction Presentation”; followed by “What Are Gang Injunctions?”; followed by “Student Speaking Out About Gang Injunctions”; followed by “Ken Knabb: The Occupation From A Situationist Perspective.” Yoga and Meditation workshops interspersed all others.From Zombietime

Don’t those sound exciting? What else would we expect from the Bay Area -headquarters for the Land of Fruits and Nuts?

When leftists around Conway, New Hampshire got the urge to join the OWS movement, I had to drop in to ask questions. About 40-50 people occupied four street corners for an hour, and I visited each. At the first corner I asked a man holding a sign declaring: “GET BIG $$ OUT OF POLITICS!” how he proposed to accomplish that.

“Who are you?” he asked, and I identified myself. “I know you,” he said disdainfully. The local Conway Daily Sun has published my column with a picture for years. Others on that corner murmured and cast sidelong glances my way.

“You’re about as welcome as chlamydia!” Someone said over my shoulder. Turning, I recognized a radical feminist who wrote columns in the Sun critical of me and whose email address was “Madamovary@[something-or-other].com”

“You’ve had chlamydia?” I asked her.

“No,” she said, as the conversation continued downhill. A short, bearded guy with a hostile look came over holding a big microphone and I thought it prudent to walk over to another corner. Madamovary mentioned my visit on her web site describing me as “Our local purveyor of hate speech.”

At the next corner another woman recognized me and shouted: “You’re the devil incarnate!”

“And you’re abrasive,” I said.

“I wondered what I’d do if I ever met you - and here you are!” she said.Woman on right called me the devil incarnate

“Yup. Here I am,” I responded, and then spoke to an older couple about their sign as she continued glaring. They were peeved that some corporations paid no income tax but weren’t sure what to do about it. I asked if they would support a flat tax with no deductions for corporations and people. They would, they said, and we found ourselves in agreement.Guy Fawkes guy on right

At the next corner were the local Unitarian/Universalist minister with the obligatory rainbow banner, someone wearing the obligatory Guy Fawkes mask and holding a sign proclaiming: “THE PEOPLE ARE TO (sic) BIG TO FAIL,” and others holding signs you’d see at any OWS site. I wanted to ask the Guy Fawkes guy if he advocated violence - given that the real Guy Fawkes stockpiled gunpowder under the House of Lords in 1606 in an unsuccessful attempt to destroy Parliament. The hour was nearly over however and I didn’t get a chance.

I found no one at local OWS sites who understood Constitutional government. People were angry and resentful but had little idea how to address their myriad grievances. OWS is anything but focused. It’s a discontented mass that could devolve into an ugly mob if history is any guide.

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Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Time, Money, and Government


Government should stay away from regulating time, just as it should most other things. It bugs me that I have to set all my clocks back in the fall and ahead again in the spring. Even though I figured out how to change the time on my pickup truck clock last spring, that doesn’t mean I remember how to do it again this fall. Six months is too short an interval for the procedure to stick in my feeble brain. The procedure is different in my little car and in my wife’s car of course. I can’t remember them either and I’m sometimes driving while I fidget with various buttons in my effort to remember how it’s done. Not a good thing. Most of us are perfectly capable of screwing things up all by ourselves without government complicating things further.

Time zones were not invented by government. It was private business - particularly railroads - first in England, then in other countries. People didn’t have to comply with those zones if they didn’t want to, but most eventually discovered it was advantageous to do so. Government doesn’t have to be involved then and doesn’t now either, but it is of course. Benjamin Franklin had lots of good ideas, but Daylight Saving Time wasn’t one of them. Some people think it’s wonderful to “get an extra hour of daylight” as if they really did. Neither do I change the batteries in my smoke detectors at this annoying interval either. I wait until I keep hearing that irritating beep for a day or two before I start searching around for another nine-volt battery.

There are mechanical clocks and digital clocks and body clocks. My body clock sets itself it adjusts to the gradual diminishing of sunlight in fall and the gradual increase of it in spring. It gets me up before dawn and puts me to bed after sunset, except during winter when I say up a few hours after the sun goes to bed. I don’t like it when government interferes with that process twice a year and I have to rely on alarm clocks to wake me. Though some government-lovers may think it really can control the sun, it only pretends to. Barack Obama can’t control the ocean levels either no matter what liberals may believe.

Speaking of things government screws up, President Obama announced that Fannie Mae will now refinance people with mortgages under water up to 25%. Government should get out of the housing business altogether. The “troubled assets” still plaguing our economy were caused by the same sort of thing: government forcing banks to lend to people those banks considered bad risks, and then taking over and guaranteeing those sub-prime mortgages through Fannie Mae. That put taxpayers on the hook - not only by bailing out Fannie Mae, but also banks and insurance companies who invested in various forms of those shaky mortgages - now called troubled assets. These assets were troubled by giving mortgages to people who never should have gotten them. Further tinkering of the type Obama announced last week won’t fix it.

Government intervention in the form of artificially low interest rates set by the Federal Reserve and then making mortgage guarantees it couldn’t afford to make has caused the bubble in housing prices. That bubble needs to deflate entirely. Prices have to bottom out if the housing market is ever going to recover. Long-postponed foreclosures must be processed. All that foolish spending by people and banks must wash out eventually so let’s just get it over with. Lots of people are waiting for that before they invest in real estate again. Last-minute Obama-bandaids only postpone the inevitable and cost taxpayers further billions as government tries to fix what it screwed up in the first place.Government has always controlled our money. The Constitution gave Congress power to coin it - which means print it, or create it digitally, or in whatever other forms it may take - but has chosen to give over that power to the Federal Reserve. Its chairman - bald, bearded Ben Bernanke - has been creating trillions of dollars out of thin air and buying Treasury bonds nobody else wants. That makes the dollars in our wallets and in our bank accounts worth less and less. Government, through him, is stealing our wealth. That’s why so people many are buying gold - they don’t trust the Federal Reserve or Congress, and who can blame them?

Ben Franklin was right about at least one thing when he said: “Time is money.” My wish is for my government to stop messing around with either one. We’d be better off making our own decisions about such fundamental things and dealing with those consequences as individuals.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

"Shut Up!" She Explained


Why is there any such thing as the “Congressional Black Caucus”? Its defenders purport that it exists to advance the interests of black people. This, however, begs the question: are the interests of black people any different than the interests of any other people in America? If they are, then we have a problem.

Undeniably, black people were discriminated against in our history. That organizations like the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) came into existence to fight that is understandable, but it was outlawed forty-five years ago - two generations ago. If it still exists anywhere in America, it can be prosecuted. To those who claim it does, I ask: Where? Show me. If discrimination doesn’t exist, we get back to the original question: Why is there any such thing as the Congressional Black Caucus?

The CBC is with us because it enjoys immunity from criticism in the liberal mainstream media as it works to preserve and expand racial preferences for blacks. With the exception of its newest member, Florida Republican Congressman Allen West who opposes racial preferences, its members are all left-wing Democrats. As such, they’re allowed to say and do outrageous things for which they’re seldom held accountable in the press. For example:

In an astonishing display of incompetence, a CBC congressman from Georgia questioned an admiral about deploying a group of Marines on the island of Guam, a US possession in the Pacific Ocean. He asked how big Guam was and how many native people lived on it - because he was afraid the island might tip over if too many Marines were landed there! I’m not making this up. This is dumb on so many levels I’ll leave it to the reader to ponder them. The embarrassing exchange was videoed and posted on Youtube last year a few months before congressional elections. With the exception of Jay Leno, the mainstream media chose to ignore it. Relatively few Americans ever heard about it and Congressman Hank Johnson (D-GA) was reelected in November, 2010 with over 70% of the vote in his Georgia district. As intellectually challenged as he is, Congressman Johnson looks like a genius next to the woman he defeated - former CBC member Cynthia McKinney (D-GA)- after she punched a Capitol Police officer.

Hank Johnson may be dumb but he seems like a nice guy. Several women of the CBC, however, are not only dense, they’re obnoxious.

In another display of ignorance, a CBC congresswoman from Texas declared that: “Today, we have two Vietnams, side by side, North and South, exchanging and working. We may not agree with all that North Vietnam is doing, but they are living in peace.” This woman got a BA in political science from Yale in 1972. She’s a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. How could she not know that America lost the Vietnam War and north and south were reunited? You’d think there must be some mistake, but this is the woman who asked NASA if the Mars Rover would take a picture of the flag Neil Armstrong left there. Let me point out that she sits on House Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics too. She’s been in Congress since 1995 representing Houston where they’re prone to hurricanes. Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX) wants to change how hurricanes are named. Rather than “lily white” names, she wants the National Hurricane Center to use names like “Keisha, Jamal and Deshawn.” Although the mainstream media ignores her remarks, conservative bloggers, radio talk show hosts and Fox News gave as much attention to them as they could. Jackson-Lee’s response? “Shut up!” she explained.

Another congresswoman from Los Angeles lectured oil company executives, saying: “Guess what this liberal would be all about?  This liberal would be about socializing … uh, umm.  … Would be about, basically, taking over, and the government running all of your companies.” The word she couldn’t find, of course, was “nationalizing” their companies. This congresswoman called the 1992 LA riots a “rebellion . . . a spontaneous reaction to a lot of injustice and a lot of alienation and frustration.” She excused looting by explaining:

One lady said her children didn't have any shoes. She just saw those shoes there, a chance for all of her children to have new shoes. Goddamn it! It was such a tear-jerker. I might have gone in and taken them for her myself.

Columnist Michelle Malkin said: “This is a woman who visited the home of Damian Williams, the infamous thug who ‘expressed himself’ by hurling a chunk of concrete at white truck driver Reginald Denny and performing a victory dance over the innocent bystander.”

In case you never heard of her, I’m talking about Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA). She’s facing an ethics investigation for using influence on behalf of her husband’s bank. The investigation’s outcome is likely to follow that of that other CBC member. Charlie Rangel (D-NY), who was censured.

Running out of space here, but I have to include Frederica Wilson (D-FL). The only thing she loves more than her funny-looking hats is playing the race card. She, like all the CBC ladies I mentioned above, despises the Tea Party - which would shrink the big government they depend on. “The real enemy is the [racist] Tea Party!” chants Congresswoman Wilson who blames 40% unemployment among black youth on “racism” despite ubiquitous racial preferences imposed nationwide at all levels.

If these people weren’t left-wing Democrats, the mainstream media would be all over them like flies on you-know-what. If you don’t believe that, look what they’re doing to Herman Cain on the basis of unsubstantiated, anonymous complaints. Then ask yourself: If it’s all right to have a Congressional Black Caucus, why not a Congressional White Caucus?

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