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: tomthemick@gmail.com

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

In Vino Veritas

For me, it’s coffee in the morning and tea in the afternoon, both served hot. Then it’s red wine in the evening served at room temperature with a well-prepared meal. Twice a year my dental hygienist tells me they all stain my teeth, but I’m okay with that. At my age, I’m thankful to have teeth. On the rare occasions I drink white wine, I like it chilled. By the time I finish sipping it though, it’s room temperature.
On Vacation in Madison, Maine 2010

There’s only one way to tell if a wine is good: taste. If you like it, it’s good. That’s the rule. Nothing else matters. When I find a red I like at a price I can afford - usually in the $5 to $8 per bottle range - I stock up. Then I’m content, at least until the next vintage comes out. Sometimes it’ll taste differently the following year and I won’t like it as well. When that happens, I have to go back to doing research until I find something else that fits my criteria. That’s what I’m doing right now.
Malbec country Argentina

Usually I start by sampling what’s out there for Malbec and Syrah, or Shiraz as it’s called in Australia. Some Malbecs I like, some I don’t. I’m that way with every variety of grape. I like my red wine dark, rich, and dry, but the variety isn’t as important as the way it’s made. Some Cabernets and Merlots taste really good to me too. Pinots are generally too thin for my liking, but I’ve had some good ones, usually out of my price range. Also good, and in my price range, are some of the blends put out by the French and Italians generally called “red table wine.”
A friend has a sign in the pantry where he keeps his wine proclaiming: “Life is too short to drink cheap wine.” I appreciate the sentiment, though I don’t always agree with it. Some inexpensive wines taste very good to me. More often than not I’ll really like the wine he pours. It’s always good, but sometimes it’s wasted on me because I’ll prefer my much less expensive wine to his. When I’m a guest for dinner there, I’ll always bring a bottle of whatever I’m liking at the time and everyone will try some. Then he opens some of his. Sometimes, it’s outstanding, but way out of my price range. I enjoy it as a special treat, realizing that I can’t drink it regularly unless I’m willing to re-mortgage my house.
If I ever become more prosperous, perhaps I will buy more expensive wine on a regular basis. There is some correlation between high price and good quality as I define it. It takes more research to find a wine I like in my price range, yet when I find one, it somehow tastes even better when I think about how little it cost as I sip.
At home, I’ll have my first glass with dinner. Sometimes I’ll start my second before I’m done eating, and finish it just sipping and talking to my wife about the day. Two is my limit. If I have more, I usually regret it that night, and sometimes into the next day too. That doesn’t happen often, especially as I get older. If I’m at a dinner party I’ll usually have one before dinner and the second during. My regular bedtime is around nine, but I’m up later at those aforesaid dinner parties, and I’ll sometimes take the third. I might get away with it if I drink lots of water before going to sleep. Then again, I might not.
It was only when I started appreciating good food that wine became important. When I was a young man, quality of food wasn’t as important as volume and I seldom drank wine. I ate as much as I wanted then and didn’t grow horizontally. When my metabolism changed sometime between twenty-five and thirty, I had to put limits on myself. Then quality of food became much more important than volume and that’s when I began cooking. I’d attempt to prepare entrees I had especially liked in restaurants or at dinner parties and I discovered that good wine always enhanced whatever I made. Now I enjoy cooking on days my wife works. She’s better at it than I am, but each of us is always careful to prepare something good enough to deserve a glass of good wine with it.

Come to think of it, if I can afford to live this way every day, I guess I’m prosperous enough already.

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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Mandating Political Correctness

One must consider context with bumper stickers. One sticker is a hint. A cluster offers a clearer indication of what the vehicle’s owner thinks. “Question Authority” is often found next to “Obama/Biden,” and “Love Your Mother” with an earth for the O, and “COEXIST” with the Islamic crescent for the C, a peace sign for the O,  and so forth. The vehicle is usually a Volvo or Prius owned by a greenie Democrat careful to be politically correct in everything said.

Political correctness is largely self-imposed and I don’t do it. Regular readers know this. Most Americans self-censor though, and that has implications for me in casual conversation with family, friends, and acquaintances. I don’t go out of my way to make others uncomfortable by stating my opinions, and lately I prefer to remain silent until asked for input. I get forum enough publishing a weekly column in this space.
I’m seeing a fearful trend lately, however, and I do mean fearful. Political correctness is being imposed. Just this month Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a woman I greatly admire, was offered and honorary degree at Brandeis University in Massachusetts. Then the offer was withdrawn after pressure from a terrorist-funding organization called CAIR, the Council on American Islamic Relations.
CAIR was named an un-indicted coconspirator in the Holy Land terrorist funding trial. While it poses as a civil rights organization, its clandestine purpose is to funnel money and support to radical Muslim groups like Hamas, which is dedicated to the destruction of Israel and killing of every Jew there, among other horrific things. Islam also tacitly accepts genital mutilation of girls, and this was done to Hirsi Ali in Somalia when she was very young. 
Islam tacitly accepts forced marriage too, as Hirsi Ali’s father tried with her. She was supposed to marry an older, male relative in Canada, but she got off in Amsterdam where she was to board a connecting flight and was granted asylum. She was eventually elected to Dutch Parliament and produced a movie called “Submission” with Theo Van Gogh, grandnephew of the famous painter. The film depicted Muslim male violence against women, something about which Hirsi Ali had first-hand knowledge. For making Submission, Van Gogh was murdered on the streets of Amsterdam by a Muslim terrorist. A note was pinned to his body with a dagger promising Hirsi Ali would be next. Ever since, she’s had armed guards around her 24-7.
Hirsi Ali doesn’t support coexistence with Islam because if its treatment of women, and out of fear of being labeled “Islamophobic” by CAIR, Brandeis disinvited her. “Islamophobic” means “irrational fear of Islam,” but Hirsi Ali’s fear is anything but irrational given Islam’s fatwa against her. A Jewish university like Brandeis would be irrational for not fearing an organization like CAIR that raises funds for Hamas, which pledges to kill Jews and Christians “to the last one.” So why did Brandeis cave? Was it fear of CAIR, or fear of being seen as politically incorrect by the rest of academia? Looks like both to this writer.
The same week, Brendan Eich was forced to resign as CEO of Mozilla, makers of web browser Firefox and a company he co-founded. He had given a $1000 donation to Proposition 8, passed by the voters of California defining marriage as between one man and one woman. That’s politically incorrect. He was told to make an unequivocal statement in support of homosexual “marriage” or be fired immediately.
Brendan Eich
Another fearful example last week was revealed in an article by former DOJ official J. Christian Adams: “Emails obtained by Judicial Watch through the Freedom of Information Act reveal Lois Lerner cooking up plans with Justice Department officials to talk about ways to criminally charge conservative groups that are insufficiently quiet.”
Being a Roman Catholic American is also politically incorrect. To follow the Magisterium, or teachings of the Church, is to believe abortion kills a human being and homosexuality is “intrinsically disordered.” That puts us on a collision course with the progressive Thought Police. As the former president of the American Conference of Catholic Bishops, Francis Cardinal George of Chicago, said in 2010: “I’ll die in my bed. My successor will die in prison. His successor will die a martyr. His successor will pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilization, as the church has done so often in human history.” Two years later, Cardinal George said he was being “overly dramatic.” Let’s hope he was, but I can't help wondering what he would say in 2014.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Corrupt Democrat Machine Calls Voter ID "Racist"

“Vote early and often for Curley,” was a lyric from one of Democrat Mayor, Congressman, and Governor James Michael Curley's campaign songs I heard often while growing up a Boston-Irish-Catholic-Democrat in the 1950s. Democrat voter fraud was not only winked at, it was celebrated from the early 20th century onward. Sticking it to Yankee Republicans was a way of life when you grew up Irish in Massachusetts. Oppressed in the 19th century, the Irish ruled Boston and the state during the 20th and the spoils system became a way of life. By the time I was growing up, it was who you knew or who you were related to, and there was nothing wrong with that in the Boston-Irish-Democrat code of ethics. It’s the way things were done, and it swept the Kennedy dynasty into power during its heyday.
My father is standing with his jacket open. To his left is JFK. Bottom left is US House Speaker John McCormack at early organizational meeting for SEIU

Kennedys are gone from the scene now. The Democrat coalition today comprises unions, blacks, Hispanics, homosexuals, feminists, single women, and aging Irish pols like Richard Daley, John Kerry, and Joe Biden. Election fraud committed by people in any of those groups is winked at and publicly denied by Democrats and the mainstream media, which look the other way. They don’t sing songs about it anymore the way Curley’s people did. They celebrate it privately now.
Into a similar, but Texan Democrat political arena waded small business person and political neophyte Catherine Englebrecht. Starting in their garage, she and her husband Bryan had built a small manufacturing business outside of Houston which, after two decades employed thirty people. Then she started volunteering at the polls where, according to national review.com, she became “appalled and dismayed to witness everything from administrative snafus to outright voter fraud.” She started attending local Tea Party meetings, eventually founding “True the Vote,” an organization that aimed to clean up voter fraud. Then she filed for 501.C.3 status with the IRS.
Englebrecht Manufacturing

That put her in the sights of the national Democrat political machine. “I had no real expectation or preparation for the blood sport that American politics is,” she told Nationalreviewonline, but she found out quickly. In twenty years of doing business, she and her husband Bryan never had contact with the federal government, but soon federal agents were crawling all over them like maggots. Testifying before the House Committee on Investigations in February, she said:
“In 2011, my personal and business tax returns were audited by the Internal Revenue Service, each audit going back for a number of years. In 2012, my business was subjected to inspection by OSHA, on a select occasion when neither my husband nor I were present, and though the agency wrote that it found nothing serious or significant, it still issued fines in excess of $20,000. In 2012 and again in 2013 the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms conducted comprehensive audits at my place of business. Beginning in 2010, the FBI contacted my nonprofit organization on six separate occasions – wanting to cull through membership manifests in conjunction with domestic terrorism cases.”

Whew. "Not even a smidgeon of corruption"?
There are hundreds of cases like Englebrecht’s, and when the IRS scandal broke last May, President Obama called it “outrageous.” Two months later he called it a “phony scandal” and blamed Republicans for hurting the economy by focusing on it. The Obama Administration continues to stonewall investigation and its mainstream media allies continue to play down the scandal. Republicans in the House have not pressed it nearly hard enough, even though they have subpoena power with which to do so.

Allegedly Reverend Sharpton
Last week, President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder both spoke at the lavish convention put on by the allegedly Reverend Al Sharpton’s “National Action Network” (NAN). Sharpton, the FBI snitch, Anti-Semite, race-hustler, and liar, was paid a quarter million in salary by the NAN, which had no problem getting its non-profit status from the IRS in spite of owing $1.9 million in payroll taxes to the IRS and State of New York for 2006, the last year for which records were available.

In his speech, Obama actually blamed Republicans for trying to "prevent people from voting". If he was talking about dead people he would have been correct, but he wasn’t. Obama is against requiring voters to present identification at the polls, which would prevent not only dead people from voting, but also others from voting “early and often” as early Democrat shyster James Michael Curley encouraged.
Obama’s Attorney General Eric Holder actually dismissed charges against the New Black Panthers for wearing paramilitary garb, waving night sticks at white voters, and threatening: “You are about to be ruled by the black man, cracker!” One was a Democrat Party operative and credentialed poll watcher named Jerry Jackson.

That kind of poll watching was okay with Attorney General Holder, but voter identification is “racist,” as he claimed when suing the state of Texas for requiring it. James Michael Curley would be proud.

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Tuesday, April 08, 2014

If It Can't Go On Like This, It Won't

Republican leaders don’t like Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, or Congressman Trey Gowdy of South Carolina. Both are trying to do what they promised their constituents: shrink government. In the process they’re driving Senate Minority Leader McConnell and House Speaker John Boehner crazy. McConnell and Boehner don’t really want to change Washington. They only want to talk about it. They’re both big government, career politicians who go along to get along.

The Republican Party as exemplified by its congressional leadership is not conservative The so-called Tea Party Wing of the Republican party is. Though I usually vote Republican in a lesser-of-two-evils effort, I’m a conservative first. That means I believe in small government and consider the monstrous growth of our federal government America’s biggest problem. I believe in the US Constitution because it exists primarily to limit government, though you’d never know it given what’s been happening. Our federal government has taken power from states and we need to put that process into reverse.
The Democrat Party champions two things: big government and abortion. It exists for people who look to government and not to themselves to solve every problem that comes along. It exists for people who want government to regulate every part of everyone’s life except sex. But, they want government to pay for their contraception. And if they still become pregnant, they want government to “fix” that for them by providing abortion. If they get a sexually transmitted disease, especially AIDS, they want government to “fix” that too by paying for expensive drugs to keep them alive. They want to play with whomever they want, whenever they want, and if anything goes wrong, they want government to take care of it. Meanwhile, if they don’t feel like working, they want government to provide their food, clothing, shelter, medical care, and education. If they have children, they want government to take care of them too. And, Democrats want open borders, so people from other countries who want to sneak in here can have all those things too.
Let’s see. Have I left anything out? Oh yeah: all that is expensive and Democrats object if government spends so much on military defense that it cuts into providing the other stuff. When that happens, the military budget should be cut. Doesn’t matter that military defense is the only thing I’ve mentioned so far that the Constitution allows government to do. It should still be cut to pay for all the other things government does that the Constitution never intended. And, if there still isn’t enough money, then our bloated government should borrow it. If we have trouble paying back what we borrow, we should print money to keep paying for all that stuff the Founders tried to prevent.
Is that everything? No, wait: when people getting all those government handouts complain it’s still not enough, Democrats blame evil corporations, especially oil companies, especially if they’re owned by the evil Koch brothers. They tell us that government would give out even more stuff if only those evil corporations and the evil Koch brothers weren't hoarding so much money for themselves.

Democrats, especially our president, are trying their best to take money away from all those evil rich people and spread it around, because they know who deserves it and who doesn’t. They know how much people should have. They could give away more stuff if it weren’t for people like Ted Cruz, Trey Gowdy, and those other Tea Party Republicans. Democrats hate them as much as they hate the Koch brothers. Republican leadership hates them too.

We Americans have to have to have our taxes paid next week, the half of us who actually pay federal income taxes, that is. We’ll give over $3 trillion to the feds and $1.5 trillion to the states. That’s more than we spend on food, clothing, and shelter, and it still won’t cover what our bloated government actually spends. It doesn’t cover what we borrow, and it doesn’t cover what we print either. Even if we took 100% of income over a million dollars from those evil rich people, we could only fund government for a few months. Obviously this cannot go on forever. And what happens to things that cannot go on forever? They don’t.
So how is it going to stop? One of two ways: either we shift into reverse and shrink the federal government or it all collapses. Democrats pretend it can go on forever. Republican leadership says we have to do something, but when it comes to actually doing it, they give in to Democrats and on it goes. Only Tea Party Republicans actually want to stop it before it’s too late. All the rest call them extremists.

Will any of this change after the November elections? We’ll see.

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Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Objective Truth

“What do you know for sure?” the old man would always ask me after letting me in and giving me a cup of coffee.

“Not much,” I’d answer.

“Neither do I.”

I was a twenty-year-old field supervisor for a private security company and Ernie was a guard. We worked the third shift and had many late night conversations. Ernie was in his sixties and spoke with a Tennessee drawl. He had been raised down south but left home early and wandered around early 20th century America. He always carving something between rounds and he’d push out little chips of pine while telling me stories. He’d worked with stone for a while helping Gutzon Borglum carve Mount Rushmore but pine was easier, he said. He went to Europe afterward and fought in the Spanish Civil War. Not knowing much then about what that war was about, I didn’t even think to ask what side he took, but I suspect now he fought with the Republicans. That was the side of anarchists, socialists, and communists.

Ernie was a young man then. As Winston Churchill is reputed to have said: “If you're not a liberal at twenty you have no heart. If you're not a conservative at forty, you have no brain.” That old man had a brain when I knew him.

During WWII he served as a crew member on an American bomber that was shot down over the North Sea. Rescued by Germans, he was a POW until the end of the war. Ernie was ethnic German and spoke the language and his captors treated him fairly well, but they did a lot of tests on him because they wanted to learn how he survived in frigid water longer than their own airmen were able to. Later, he took home a German war bride.
At the time, I was moving leftward in my own politics while Nixon was finishing his first term. Ernie was patient with me and listened to my utopian ideas about how the how the world should be run. He would ask questions, which now I realize were efforts to help me examine my ideas more deeply. He’d say sometimes that the more he learned, the less he knew and that’s why he asked so many questions. His was an interesting history and it left him with at least two things I found attractive: a sense of humor, and humility.
Of all the history I’ve learned, there’s not a lot I can be sure of because it’s written by human beings. Primary sources like Ernie are best, but imperfect. Things we see with our own eyes can be subjectively interpreted based on our preconceived ideas about how the world works. While I do believe objective truth exists, we humans never perceive it flawlessly. We should strive to, but be constantly aware that we always fall short.

Still, it’s helpful to read as many imperfect history books as we can. Biography is good because it’s one human writing about another, which produces a more objective account than autobiography. Others see our qualities and faults more realistically than we do.
Last week President Obama met with Pope Francis in Rome. I’m not sure who else was in the room while they talked, but at least two vastly different versions emerged about what they discussed. The Vatican issued a statement saying they focused “on questions of particular relevance for the [Catholic] Church in [the United States] such as the exercise of the rights to religious freedom, life, and conscientious objection,” a clear reference to the schism between the US Catholics and the Obamacare mandate that employers provide abortion-inducing drugs and contraception. A lawsuit against the Obama Administration being argued before the US Supreme Court as the two men met.

When asked at a press conference after their meeting, however, President Obama said: “We didn’t actually talk a whole lot about social schisms in my conversations with His Holiness,” and Francis “actually did not touch in detail” on the mandate.

Interpretations of historical events by third parties are even more subjective. One of those accounts has much more credibility to me than the other, for example. Let’s just say I tend to agree with the Tweeter who described it as a meeting between “the pope and the dope.”

How will history record their meeting? Several historians will write it up, and each account will vary according to the individual historian’s imperfect understanding of how the world works.

What is the truth about what happened in that room? Only God knows for sure.

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