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 29, 2013

Outgoing Secretary Of The Statement

“What difference does it make?” That’s the mantra of the Obama Administration now, and it’s not just about what happened in Benghazi. It’s about many things, like twice taking an oath to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, so help me God - and then ignoring it. “What difference does it make?”
 It’s about quadrupling our deficits for the last four years after promising to cut them in half. What difference does it make? It’s about using the Federal Reserve to print trillions of dollars with nothing to back them up. What difference does it make? It’s about infringing on the right to keep and bear arms in spite of the Second Amendment. What difference does it make? It’s about making “recess appointments” when the Senate isn’t in recess and appointing “czars” to make policy without congressional confirmation or authorization. What difference does it make?

Guess we could call Hillary Clinton our outgoing “Secretary of the Statement” since she made that infamous remark in the form of a rhetorical question. After shedding crocodile tears about her friend “Chris” and the other three dead Americans whose bodies were flown back to America, Mrs. Clinton pounded the table in feigned indignation yelling: “Was it because of a protest or was it because of guys out for walk one night who decided they’d go and kill some Americans?” It was neither of those things Madame Secretary, but as you said: what difference does it make?
What difference does it make that you (ignored) didn’t receive your friend Chris’s repeated pleas for more security? What difference does it make that you and/or President Obama and/or the Secretary of Defense (refused) didn’t know enough to send help to the former Navy Seals who, thinking for seven hours that help was on the way, died bravely trying to defend surviving Americans? What difference does it make that you all sent out UN Ambassador Susan Rice to lie to the American people about it five times the next Sunday morning?
What difference does it make that our Secretary of State just wants to go on her way without being accountable to questions about her competence, questions concerning her lies about some video being the cause of the attack, or questions about her lack of accountability to the US Senate that confirmed her? What difference, at this point, does it make?
What difference does it make if our soldiers’ morale plummets after realizing their commander-in-chief cares more about an election than about the very lives of brave soldiers under his command? What difference does it make that our president talked tough about the terrorists - promising to “bring them to justice” but hasn’t done a thing, even after one of the terrorists talked about it with a New York Times reporter at a cafe? What difference does it make when the same terrorists with the same weapons are so unafraid of President Obama that they took American hostages when attacking an oil rig in Algeria a couple of weeks ago?

What difference does it make when the Obama Administration censors any references to Islam or jihad from government documents about the war in which we’re engaged? What difference does it make that we’re afraid even to call our enemy by its true name? What difference does it make that our enemies think President Obama is a wuss and that America is a paper tiger?
 What difference does it make that Iran doesn’t take seriously President Obama’s promise that “The United States will do what we must to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.” What difference does it make that Israel doesn’t take our president seriously either and so will be forced into a pre-emptive attack on Iran to save itself? What difference does it make if that drives up the price of oil to $500 or $1000 a barrel and sinks the whole world’s economy? What difference does it make if a nuclear war breaks out in the Middle East and we’re led by a cowardly, incompetent administration?

Hard to see why any of this would be a big deal.

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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Subsidizing Stupid

I don’t want to buy any windmills and I don’t want to buy any solar panels. Most especially though - I don’t want to pay for other people to buy them either. But my government is taking my money and giving it to them. I don’t like that. I don’t like it one bit. If hippie greenies are foolhardy enough to pay more for their heat and electricity because it’s “green,” they’re free to do that. It would be none of my business as long as I didn’t have to pay for their silliness.
 
I don’t want to buy an electric car either - and I don’t want to pay for other people to buy them. But again, my government is taking my money and giving it to people who manufacture those cars - and more of my money to still other people who buy them. I don’t like that. It annoys me greatly.

There are lots of reasons why windmills don’t cut it as a power source, but the biggest is this: calm days. Sometimes the wind doesn’t blow. Sometimes it doesn’t blow for several days running. Ergo, no electricity. Whatever activities require it are not possible until the wind blows again whenever that may be. Sailboats have the same trouble; that’s why they’re only used for recreation now.

Here’s why solar panels don’t cut it: the sun doesn’t shine at night and days are often cloudy. What do we do on calm, cloudy days? We have to use the good old coal, oil, or natural gas generators. We have to keep that whole infrastructure in place and maintained on calm, cloudy days. Hippie greenies haven’t solved those problems and probably never will, but that doesn’t stop them from voting for “green” politicians who siphon money from my pocket to pay for their ridiculous notions.
 
There’s yet another major problem with windmills: When the wind blows hard for a day or two, the power generated - which the electricity utility is forced by government to buy at above-market rates no less - could burn up the whole grid causing extensive, long-term blackouts! Because of this, Maine utility companies have to spend $1.4 billion to beef up transmissions lines against those windmill surges driving up their transmission rates by 19.6% as of July 1, 2012. Transmission costs are about half my total monthly electric bill here in western Maine. In spite of enormous, long-term government subsidies - money from me and you, that is - windmills remain the most expensive way to generate electricity by far, and there’s nothing on the horizon to indicate that will ever change.

I have a generator to use when the grid shuts down, but I don’t want to generate my own power because it’s cheaper and more reliable to buy it from Central Maine Power (CMP). However, even when I send checks to CMP each month, much of that money goes to greenies and their windmills. That’s because CMP is forced by government to buy excess power from their windmills whether it’s needed or not and at inflated price as well! That means self-righteous hippie greenies can buy power at market rates when the wind doesn’t blow - and sell it at above-market rates when it does. This infuriates me.

I don’t want ethanol in my gasoline either, but I cannot buy gasoline that doesn’t contain it. Hippie greenies have forced that on me too. Worse, government is making me pay for ethanol even though it costs more than gasoline - and I get less energy from it. I have to pay for its subsidies in my taxes and I have to pay for it again when I pump it into my gas tank. I know government does dumb things, but I especially hate it when it forces me to cooperate in its stupidity. We’ve known since at least 2005 that it takes at least 29% more energy to produce a gallon of ethanol than you get from it when you burn it. Worse still, it damages small engines like my chainsaws, lawnmowers, four-wheelers, generators, and every other small gasoline engine most of us have. Can we please, please stop this ethanol craziness? Please?

Maine’s Governor LePage is negotiating with Quebec Hydro to buy cheaper, more reliable electricity, but his biggest opponents are the hippie greenies who want to keep their windmill gravy train rolling here. Since the November election, they’re back in control of Maine’s legislature and likely to thwart LePage’s efforts. Greenies love President Obama because he wasted somewhere between $80 billion and $90 billion of taxpayer money on “Green Energy” development, while doing his best to shut down cheaper, more reliable, more dependable sources of energy from fossil fuels.
Looks like I’ll be forced to subsidize all this greenie government foolishness for the next several years at least. Sometimes I wish I were as stupid as they are, because then it wouldn’t all piss me off so much.

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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Good Guys And Defiance

We want guns when seconds count and police are minutes away. Gun owners support police, but know they cannot be everywhere all the time, so we protect ourselves.

Gun buy-back programs don’t make the community safer. They’re feel-good programs for anti-gun people. Only law-abiding people are going to turn in guns. No bad guys will, so what’s the result? Not a safer community, because the number of bad guys with guns stays the same but there’s a net loss of potential good guys with them.
Bad guys aren’t going to register their guns either, nor will background checks stop them because they don’t buy their guns legally. Why would government want a registry of good guys with guns? So it can confiscate them should it decide to? We need armed good guys because Wayne Lapierre was absolutely right when he said: “The only thing that will stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”
Americans who protect themselves and Americans who support themselves are usually the same people. Also correlative are Americans content to depend on government for protection and those who depend on government for support. Used to be that most of us Americans were proud to take care of ourselves and our families against bad guys and proud to provide for all our own needs as well, but not anymore. The election last November 6th proved that America has changed fundamentally. I don’t like it, but I have to accept it.
If independent Americans depend on anything, it's networks of family and friends, and often church communities. Our Founding Fathers recognized that a nation of such individuals is much stronger than one in which people depend totally on government.

We want guns in case our government becomes tyrannical and tries to restrict our liberty. As America is becoming more politically polarized, and as government continues fueling anti-gun hysteria, we worry that its ultimate aim is to seize guns. If it comes to that, people are not going to sit  back and watch it happen.
A Texas lawmaker wants to jail federal officials who try to enforce new gun laws in that state. A Texas congressman is threatening the president with impeachment if he issues executive orders restricting guns. Former US Attorney General Ed Meese says it’s not far-fetched.
Wyoming is considering a bill that would nullify federal gun control measures under consideration by both the congress and the president and Wyoming’s governor thinks it will pass. The bill would also jail federal agents for up to five years who might try to enforce those measures. According to an article in the “The Daily Caller”: “It also contains broad language prohibiting any ‘public servant … or dealer selling any firearm in this state’ from enforcing ‘any act, law, statute, rule or regulation of the United States government relating to a personal firearm, firearm accessory or ammunition that is owned or manufactured commercially or privately in Wyoming and that remains exclusively within the borders of Wyoming.’”

But dissent in the hinterlands is not just about guns. There are nullification movements out there around a host of federal issues including domestic use of drones, Obamacare, the Patriot Act, and the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
And it’s not just the right that is getting wary either. As the Democrats now controlling Washington, DC continue to consolidate power in the federal government, several other states are considering nullification bills on several issues. Tenth Amendment Center executive director Michael Boldin said recently: “A lot of people want to paint this as some kind of Republican movement to stop Obama. It’s not about party politics. It’s about freedom, liberty and controlling power. A wide coalition from left to right is supporting efforts to oppose indefinite detention in the NDAA. Heck, we expect four more states to consider weed legalization. Not exactly part of the Republican platform.” Boldin said. “It’s simple. Americans are saying, ‘We want to make decisions on issues at the local level. We don’t want mandates and dictates slammed down our throats from D.C. And we will not let the federal government spy on, grope and kidnap people with impunity.’”
Federal power has been growing for a long time under both Democrats and Republicans. Just re-elected is a president who believes redistribution of wealth by taking it from those who create it and giving it to those who don’t. As his policies drive America toward bankruptcy, lots of Americans get increasingly fearful of financial collapse and resulting societal breakdown. When that same president threatens expanded executive power to restrict the right to bear arms as he did last Monday, he’s playing with fire.
The Catholic Church is defying the Obamacare mandate. States are nullifying federal laws. People are frantically buying guns by the millions as he president threatens to restrict them. Will 2013 be the happy new year we all wished for each other a few weeks ago?

It’s not shaping up that way.

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Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Our Alleged Leaders

Bankruptcy is usually shameful, but not always. It means something has gone seriously wrong. Sometimes it cannot be foreseen, as when serious illness or death of a key person means survivors can’t make payments or keep a business running. No shame there. Others are willing to help in those situations.


 When bankruptcy results from irresponsible behavior, there is shame, or should be. Those undergoing it shouldn’t be trusted with authority or power until they demonstrate change. When the hammer falls on them, they try to shift blame for their ineptitude and others are disinclined to help.

What does it look like when governments go bankrupt? We get an idea watching cities deal with it. The most recent is Stockton, California, which has many problems but like most governments, their biggest problem is pensions. Politicians promised more than governments could deliver but they don’t want to admit that. Cities are facing the same crunch our federal government is, but neither Stockton nor the feds want to take responsibility. They’re looking for others to blame and observers are not inclined to help until they admit culpability.

When discovering it couldn’t pay for pie-in-the-sky pensions, Stockton didn’t cut back. Instead, it borrowed money by issuing bonds. Now, it cannot afford to pay for either pensions or bonds and is trying to stiff bondholders. Better to confront investors than confront government unions. They’ll have to scale back pensions too, but they’re refusing to for now. Bond holders will lose almost $200 million. Can’t imagine who would ever lend money to Stockton again, so how will it pay for those pensions now? One former police chief retired at $204,000 a year after serving only eight months. How can this continue? How many times can a city go bankrupt?
San Bernardino went bankrupt too, a few months before Stockton. One third of its 210,000 thousand citizens are below the poverty line but a police lieutenant can retire in his fifties at $128,000 a year, and, according to Reuters, that’s after getting “$230,000 in one-time payouts on his last day.”
Unions provide campaign contributions go to politicians who vote them pension benefits. Want to guess which political party gets those union contributions? Hint: it isn’t the Republicans. Democrats will bankrupt a city before confronting the unions.
A Detroit city councilwoman asked President Obama for a bailout last month: “Our people in an overwhelming way supported the re-election of this president and there ought to be a quid pro quo,” she said. Maybe she didn’t hear that President Obama is busy trying to dodge a bankruptcy crisis of his own.
States are in flirting with bankruptcy too and for the same reasons: Government union pensions, especially for teachers, police and firemen. Even a liberal news outlet like the Huffington Post admits there’s a crisis: “[Illinois has] the nation's worst case of underfunding state employees' pensions,” it declared, “a problem approaching $100 billion and mounting by $17 million per day.” Illinois recently raised income taxes by 62% but even that didn’t make a dent.
Several other states are in danger of bankruptcy too. Will states that manage their affairs be expected to bail out states that don’t? I hope not. Will federal Democrat “leaders” try to bail out fellow Democrats running blue states? Will the United States itself go bankrupt? These are open questions as we watch irresponsible political “leaders” limp along with last-minute deals and continuing resolutions month to month.
There’s one important difference between the feds and the states: the US government can print money. States cannot. Democrats who control both the White House and the Senate refuse to deal with our looming unfunded liabilities in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Observers with rudimentary knowledge of arithmetic see impending bankruptcy unless there are huge cuts immediately. When federal Democrats try to borrow more money, creditors are reluctant to lend. Bond sales have few buyers, so what to do? Get the Federal Reserve to create digital money out of thin air and buy up unsold bonds.
Do our Democrat leaders think we’re any different than Weimar Germany or Zimbabwe? Do they think they can print funny money forever without inflationary consequences? I guess. Will they ever admit their New Deal and Great Society predecessors promised more than they could deliver? Not likely. Meanwhile, they blame “the rich” for “not paying their fair share” as if taking more from them will make it all add up.

It won’t. Even if we took 100% of what “the rich” make, it wouldn’t put a dent in our ever-expanding debt. Thus we drift toward unparalleled catastrophe - because if we go belly up, there’s no one else left out there to fix it.

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Wednesday, January 02, 2013

The Tragic Vision

Violence. Avoid it whenever possible but be prepared to use it. Why? Because there will always be others to use it against us. That’s the conservative view. I’m a conservative too, and that’s our view of how humans interact. The human race can improve, but it will always be imperfect.

If you’re a secular conservative, you know there will always be sociopaths, and you should be prepared for encounters with them. If you’re a believer, you know there will always be evil this side of heaven, and we should be prepared when we meet it. Both the secular and the theist views are based on something we conservatives call “The Tragic Vision.” It’s the concept first coined by economist Thomas Sowell that there are no ultimate solutions to problems in the human condition, only trade-offs. This contrasts the liberal view that a utopia is attainable, that we can perfect both ourselves as individuals and the societal human condition as well - and government is the vehicle to attain that perfection. The conservative refrain is: “Human nature being what it is . . .” whereas the liberal refrain is: “If only . . .”

Which brings us to the newly-renewed gun control debate. Conservatives believe that “Human nature being what it is . . . we need armed guards in schools.” Conversely, liberals believe “If only . . . we could ban guns altogether our schools would be safe.” The conservative looks at what happened at that Connecticut school and thinks what Wayne Lapierre said: “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” A liberal looks at Connecticut and thinks what John Lennon said: “Imagine all the people living life in peace.”
Liberal elitist David Gregory used his “Meet The Press” show to ridicule Wayne Lapierre’s NRA for it’s support of semiautomatic rifles and putting armed guards in schools. That’s fine for Gregory who put his own children into a private school with eleven armed guards. Last Sunday President Obama - who sends his kids to the same school - went on Gregory’s show threatening to restrict access to guns for the rest of us ordinary Americans. He said he’s fully behind Senator Dianne Feinstein’s bill to renew and assault weapons ban.

President Obama, Senator Feinstein, and Attorney General Eric Holder all want to disarm Americans, and they’re exploiting the Connecticut school shooting to re-invigorate that long-time liberal dream. Knowing this, millions of ordinary Americans are frantically buying guns at an unprecedented rate. Obama’s election in 2008 and especially his reelection in 2012 have spurred gun sales, but the torrid anti-gun rhetoric since Newtown has really done it. bigtime. There’s a domestic arms race underway.

Not only are citizens arming themselves, but so are domestic government agencies- seemingly against a potential domestic uprising. I don’t know how else to account for it. Not only does the IRS need to hire 15,000 new agents to enforce Obamacare, but according to an article in “Business Insider,” it’s buying shotguns for its investigators. It’s one thing for the IRS and Homeland Security Departments to buy ammo, but the Department of Education? The EPA? DHHS? What do they need thousands of rounds of hollow point bullets for? They’re all stocking up. It makes one wonder what the heck is going on.
Eric Holder at Columbia


Remember Senator Obama when he was campaigning for president in affluent Marin County back in 2008? He talked disdainfully about ordinary Americans bitterly clinging to their guns and religion. AG Eric Holder of the “Fast and Furious” assault weapon scandal said in the 1990s: “We have to be repetitive about this [in our schools]. We need to do this every day of the week, and just really brainwash people into thinking about guns in a vastly different way.” When pushing her first assault rifle ban around the same time, Senator Feinstein said she would favor confiscating weapons from Americans if she could only get the votes. It’s scary to contemplate what might happen if the Obama Administration tried anything like that in its second term. That’s what the British tried to do in Lexington back in 1775.
Lexington

Anti-gun liberals like Feinstein are always careful to give a nod to hunters, as if Americans only want their guns to hunt deer, but they misunderstand. Most Americans I know want their guns for two other more compelling purposes than hunting: to protect themselves against criminals and to protect themselves against their own government, should that become necessary. Handguns usually suffice against criminals, but assault rifles would be needed against government.

It’s not just about deer hunting, Senator Feinstein. It’s about liberty and freedom.

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