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, August 29, 2012

The Big Rock Candy Mountain

People on both sides of the political spectrum believe our country is more polarized than ever, and it is accelerating. I believe they’re right. Why is that? Full disclosure: for those of you who are not regular readers of this column, I’m a conservative. I write from that perspective and with that bias, but I spent fifteen years as a true-believing, politically-active leftist before moving rightward in my world view. Others have followed this left-to-right path including Ronald Reagan and it gives us a wider view of what’s going on around us. Recent rhetoric emanating from the presidential election campaign is focusing my thinking on this political dichotomy.

Into this maelstrom of thoughts last Sunday came my parish priest’s sermon, or homily as we Catholics call it. He reminded us there were not enough priests anymore to say mass at the various “cluster” churches. I called him our parish priest, but he’s actually serving several parishes because priests who serve only one parish are a luxury the Portland, Maine diocese can not longer provide. Hence the clusters of parishes, but even this recent reorganization isn’t enough to provide the basic services we Catholics used to take for granted. Church buildings are closing and being sold on the already-glutted real estate market.St. Andre's in Biddeford, Maine up for sale

So what’s the connection? What resonated in me listening to the homily? Several things, but here I’ll offer a few. I looked around at the people in the pews and the demographic was the now-familiar one in Catholic churches all over Maine and Massachusetts: most of the heads were white or bald. The old vastly outnumbered the young. Numbers-wise, things are bad for Catholics in New England and getting worse. We have too many buildings and not enough people. Too few of the people remaining want to attend mass anymore. Too few men want to serve as priests anymore. Too few babies are being born.

Plenty of people are having sex - probably more than ever - but babies are being prevented or killed when they do form in the womb - about 50 million since Roe V Wade in 1973. Of those allowed to be born, one-in-three have single mothers, three-out-of-four among blacks. The big, ornate, old churches being closed up and sold were built by small donations of immigrants and the children and grandchildren of immigrants who came to the United States to build lives for themselves - religiously, politically, and economically - because they were free to do so here in a country that prized those freedoms above all others. They “asked not what their country could do for them, but what they could do for their country,” to paraphrase that great-grandson of immigrants who was inaugurated president in 1961.
Immigration is increasing, but a growing percentage of immigrants have very different motives for coming here. More than one-in-three now ask what the country can do for them rather than what they can do for the country. They go right on welfare even though many are illegal aliens. Both political parties recruit them, but especially Democrats. Obama Administration officials even recruit them in Mexico with promises of welfare when they arrive.

Maine Governor LePage observed recently that we have more people receiving welfare here than we have taxpayers. Similar trends are evident nationally. Nearly half of Americans pay no federal income taxes and many or those receive checks from the IRS instead of sending them in the form of the Earned Income Tax Credit. Nearly half of Americans receive some form of assistance from the federal government.Nonetheless, an article in the Washington Examiner described a US Government web site “usa.gov”: “More Americans rely on their families for assistance than the government, so federal officials have undertaken an effort to help people to apply for federal assistance.”

There it is. The Obama Administration wants people to depend on more on government than on their families.

“Ask not what your family can do for you.”

“Ask not what you can do for yourself.”

“Ask what government can do for you.”

Those are the principles of the Democrat Party and so-called moderate Republicans. Don’t look to your faith, your family, yourself. Look to government. God is not omnipotent. Government is. Government will pay for your contraception, and if we can get those conservative Republicans out of power, government will pay for your abortions too. Don’t worry. Be happy. This can go on forever. We’ll just keep borrowing from the Chinese and then pay them back with printed money from the fed.Poster signed by Pete Seeger for sale on Ebay

Don’t listen to those conservatives who say we’re heading for bankruptcy. Life is good here on “The Big Rock Candy Mountain” as it says at the end of verse five of the anthem sung by old, communist Pete Seeger:
I'm bound to stay
Where you sleep all day,
Where they hung the jerk
That invented work
In the Big Rock Candy Mountain.
Don’t strain yourself pulling that wagon. Hop on and take a ride. Vote for Obama.

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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Historic Controversy


I spent decades teaching US History and stayed at it so long because I loved it. Still do. I’m a history geek, and a recent book about where early Americans came from has me all excited. It’s called “Across Atlantic Ice,” and it’s shaking up the history world.

The new theory is that at least some early Americans arrived from Europe across the Atlantic along the edge of pack ice during the last glacial maximum - that period 22,000 years ago or so around the time when the Atlantic would have been frozen furthest south. Every US History text I’ve ever used taught that the first Americans came across a land bridge from Asia - where the Bering Strait now separates the two continents - no earlier than 14,000 years ago, as if were established fact. That always bothered me, because we simply couldn’t know that for certain. When I was teaching, I’d always point out to students that their textbook was making an unsubstantiated claim. Evidence pointed in that direction, yes, but it wasn’t a certainty. While it is proven that some early Americans migrated from Asia, we simply couldn’t be sure that they were the first to come here. I’d always caution students to qualify such a claim by saying something like: “As far as we can tell . . . ”The general rule of thumb would be that the further we go back in history, the less we can be sure of. When we’re trying to figure out what happened tens of thousands of years ago, it’s mostly speculative. The authors of “Across Atlantic Ice” are nothing if not humble. The book is filled with qualifiers because it’s authors know their idea is a theory, and because professionally, Dennis Stanford and Bruce Bradley are sticking their necks out. Because he’s Director of the Smithsonian’s Paleoindian/Paleoecology Program, Stanford’s book has to be taken seriously in the archaeology community. His and Bradley’s theory isn’t new, but until now, the case hasn’t been put forth as comprehensively as they have done, so there’s lots of heated discussion. That’s as it should be in any scientific or academic community.

Those who insisted that people from the so-called “Clovis” culture were the first Americans, and that they came exclusively from Asia after the 14,000-year mark, are the most threatened by “Across Atlantic Ice,” and it’s time they were seriously challenged. Even though evidence of previous Americans hadn’t shown up until relatively recently, the “Clovis First” crowd should have understood the possibility that it might. Because there’s no evidence for something doesn’t mean it never happened. Because we’ve found no remains of boats from 22,000 years ago doesn’t mean there weren’t any. They would have been made of perishable materials like wood, animal hides and such and wouldn’t be preserved except under unusual conditions. The authors contend that Europeans came along the ice margin in small watercraft while hunting marine mammals much the way the Inuit did in historical times.Stone, or “lithic” material as archaeologists call it, has been preserved, and Stanford and Bradley are expert at gleaning information from stone artifacts. Most evidence in support of their theory comes from examining techniques of shaping stone into usable tools.Those early Europeans who allegedly crossed that Atlantic ice are known as Solutrean and they were masters at working stone and other materials. The earliest identifiable sewing needles were found at their habitation sites. I never realized how much skill went into the manufacture of stone knives, scrapers, arrowheads and spearpoints until I read “Across Atlantic Ice.” It was Solutrean techniques showing up in North American artifacts that first caused archaeologists to theorize about migration to what is now to the United States from Europe during the end of the last Ice Age. Methods for making artifacts earlier archaeologists labeled “Clovis” may well have come from Europe and not from Asia as first thought. Solutrean-like artifacts showed up on this side of the ocean but the stone they were made from came from North America. If a Solutrean point were to appear made of stone from Europe, well, that might be enough to convince skeptics.So, when a Solutrean point found in Virginia in 1971 was determined to have been made from a flint originating in France, it looked like proof. However, it was found near the remains of a colonial era home and could have been carried over during historical times, so it’s not the smoking gun it might otherwise have been.Meanwhile, the research continues. Exciting times in the history-geek community.

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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Asinine Education Officials

September’s coming, so let’s look at the latest way our federal government screws up public schools.Black students are suspended or expelled far more than white students - 350% more. President Obama’s Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, claims it’s because of white racism. I think that’s baloney. Black students are disciplined more because they misbehave more, but it doesn’t matter what I think. Liberals are in charge of the US Department of Education, most state education departments, and all teachers’ unions. What they think is what matters. They think they can solve the problem the same way they try to solve so many other social problems - by blaming it on racism and spending money on it.

The result is always the same too: It gets worse and we go further into debt because nearly half the money they spend is borrowed from China. Obama Administration officials and civil rights advocates like to repeat one phrase, according to Heather MacDonald, writing in her City Journal essay Undisciplined: the “school to prison pipeline.”

They think racist schools steer black students to prison. They believe white racist discrimination causes poverty and poverty causes crime. They’re completely stuck in that sixties mindset and cannot think any other way. That would be fine, but they’re running our schools and spending billions. MacDonald points out that white boys are suspended or expelled twice as often as Asian or Pacific Islander boys, but administration officials ignore that. It doesn’t fit their world view.Neither do they seem to notice correlation between black misbehavior in schools and the black murder rate. “The homicide rate among males between the ages of 14 and 17 is nearly ten times higher for blacks than for whites and Hispanics combined,” writes MacDonald. “Such data make no impact on the Obama administration and its orbiting advocates, who apparently believe that the lack of self-control and socialization that results in this disproportionate criminal violence does not manifest itself in classroom comportment as well.”Why the blindness? It’s easy to explain. These officials are all devout members of the multicultural priesthood. They mustn’t look at cultural clues among black students like fatherlessness, drug use, (c)rap music, domestic violence, graffiti, sexual behavior, “ebonics,” generational welfare, domestic violence - to name just a few. It’s okay to bring up those things if you’re going to blame them on racism, but if you were to suggest that the black community itself might share responsibility for any of it - or might even foster it in some cases - you’d be quickly labeled “racist” and shunned.

In graduate school during the 70s, I was trained to apply standardized tests to students measuring intelligence, achievement, and various other learning abilities. If I obtained low scores measuring intelligence, there were items to rule out lest it skew an individual student’s profile, and one was “cultural deprivation.” It had to be considered when trying to determine if a student had enough gray matter to learn what the school was trying to teach. In other words, he might be intelligent but his culture was holding him back. But as I said, that was back in the 70s. Writing anything like that in a student’s folder today would be dangerous to one’s career.

When black students or any other students are suspended or expelled, follow them out to their cars. Watch them struggle to get in with their pants hanging down below their asses and their hats on sideways. What do you hear as they pull away? Even if you’re deaf, you would likely feel the air around you literally vibrate from a deep base box in the trunk with a (c)rap music beat. Listen to the anger and hate in the “ebonic” lyrics. There are definite cultural clues there about what may be affecting their behavior, but Arne Duncan and his ilk have to ignore them. To acknowledge them would force a modification of their entire world view.

(C)Rap is the signature music of a sick, black subculture. Unfortunately though, it’s celebrated in countless award ceremonies televised around the world. It’s worshiped and glorified by Hollywood and by students of all races and it’s not good. It’s poison, and the solid black Christian culture from which emerged people like the Reverend Martin Luthor King Jr. wanes as the sick, black subculture spreads.American Heritage Dictionary defines multiculturalism as: “The view that the various cultures in a society merit equal respect and scholarly interest. It became a significant force in American society in the 1970s and 1980s as African-Americans, Latinos, and other ethnic groups explored their own history.”To the multicultural priesthood, I’m obviously a heretic and I don't march in their parade. I believe that good and bad are perfectly fine adjectives to use when describing culture. Cultural trends that degrade women and kill children are bad. Cultural trends that nurture them are good. Our educational elite doesn’t seem to get this because they drink multicultural Kool-Aid every day. That’s how they “race to the top” of their profession. And yes, the puns are intentional.

Regardless of race, students who misbehave must be removed from classrooms lest they deprive others students of their right to education. Anyone who doesn’t understand that shouldn’t be making education policy. They shouldn’t be in the profession at all.

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Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Hairy Legs, Culture, and Chicken

The legions of left-wing loonies with whom we share this continent have continued their antics, as a few short items from last week indicate.

Item 1: Seven women with hairy legs are suing the police department in Toronto. They’re alleging they were profiled because of their hairy legs, and a few other things. “[Police] followed a profile that was created by senior Toronto Police Service officers in targeting these seven individuals,” said their attorney, Davin Charney. “That profile included markers such as people who have backpacks, lawyers’ numbers on their arms, people with Quebec licence plates, people speaking French, people wearing black clothing,” Charney added. “My clients fit into that profile, to some extent. And that is why they were arrested, and that is why many people were arrested during the G20 [summit].”

Hmm. This is the kind of stuff you just cannot make up. Attorney Charney didn’t say anything about Birkenstocks, tattoos, knit hats, COEXIST bumperstickers, dreadlocks, hairy armpits, or odors, but that doesn’t mean Toronto cops didn’t take those clues into consideration as well.
The article said: “Plaintiff Alicia Ridge further alleges she was sexually assaulted during a roadside strip search.” The first of the 20 comments following the story was from “Stan M” who said: “I doubt Alicia Ridge was ‘sexually assaulted.’ There is a picture of her with the story.” I went back and looked at her picture and I think Stan had a point. Not only was she unattractive, but she had that petulant, Gloria Allred “I hate men” look going on. Maybe Alicia and her fuzzy friends have a case. I don’t know the laws about preventative detention in Canada, but I do appreciate the comic relief they provide as I follow the case.

Item 2: Across the ocean, the in-the-tank, Obama-supporting, mainstream media was in high dudgeon over Mitt Romney’s speech in Jerusalem. In the media throng were semi-covert agents of the Multicultural Police who accused Romney of racism after he referenced a correlation between Israel’s economic success and their democratic, Jewish culture that prizes education, equality, justice and human rights. Romney contrasted per capita GDP in Israel and the West Bank and attributed the difference to Israel’s culture of entrepreneurship. Thought Police in the Mainstream Media immediately inferred a slam on Palestinian culture. Now, at some level the MSM has got to know today’s Palestinian culture is sick. They must know kindergarten students in government schools are encouraged to become “shahids” - suicide bombers. They must know girls and women are murdered in “honor killings” if they dress like the women in the MSM dress every day. They must remember how Palestinian cousins in Egypt sexually assaulted 60 Minutes reporter Lara Logan a few months ago, shouting “Jew! Jew! Jew!” But they overlook all that and slam Romney for his “gaffe.”

Why? What kind of mental gymnastics are necessary to juxtapose all that with their cherished concept of Palestinians as victims of Israeli “oppression”?

First, they equate culture with race, though they’re not the same thing. Racism is the belief that one race is superior to another - but they apply that logic to culture. Race is nature. Culture is nurture. One immutable, the other malleable. We used to learn that in Psych 101, but the multicultural brainwashing they got at the Columbia School of Journalism insists that “All cultures are equal!” That’s the mantra for mental zombies of the multi-culti cult and it trumps everything for those true believers who comprise almost 90% of the Mainstream Media.Typical street scene in Palestinian West Bank

I don’t know how many of them have actually been to Palestinian towns in the West Bank, but I have. Cultural clues are everywhere and contrast with Israeli culture is startling. Go into an Arab Muslim town in the West Bank and the first thing you notice is graffiti. The second is trash. It’s everywhere, either strewn about or in overflowing trash containers, and it’s not likely that I just happened to be in each town on trash day. It’s like that every day. Arab towns such as Nazareth in Israel proper are not as bad, but not clean either (over a million Israeli citizens are Arab). The third thing you notice is men hanging around in the middle of the day, smoking and talking. I saw none working, except a few in restaurants we patronized.Lastly, there’s Chick-fil-A. More than 600,000 turned out to support it when homosexual activists and their Democrat minions attacked it last week. After gay “marriage” is part of the Democrat Party platform, left-wing mayors in Chicago, San Francisco, Boston, and Philadelphia strong-armed the company because owners dared express conservative views on marriage. Democrats, the Mainstream Media, academia, and Hollywood have steadily cheered gay “marriage,” but it’s just not catching on - not when more than half a million spontaneously line up against it. The mayors quickly backed off, but it’s too late for Democrats. They’ve jumped in with both feet and it’s going to hurt them, big-time, in November.

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