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, August 26, 2014

Left-Wing Worries

There are lots of lefties in the Greater Portland area and their view of the world is very different from my own. Issues that concern me like looming national bankruptcy, burgeoning radical Islamic threats, media justification of young black men rioting and looting, the illegal alien invasion across our southern border - those things don’t seem to bother lefties at all.
Legalizing marijuana gets people excited down there. South Portland is pushing an ordinance to that end. People cross the bridge in Portland legalized it last November on a 3-1 vote, and now York wants to do it too. A friend speculated recently that at least 75% of Mainers smoke it. That seemed much too high to me, no pun intended. Perhaps it’s true in Greater Portland, but up north? Maybe it’s because I don’t want to believe it, but I hope my friend was wrong. Some may have voted for legalization based on libertarian principles, and not because they smoked it themselves.
Very few of the issues that crank people up in southern Maine do I think are important. As I’ve written before in this space, they get all worried that the Portland Pipeline Corporation (PPC), which has been safely sending crude oil from here to Montreal for seventy-five years, cannot be trusted to do the same thing in reverse. They pressured the South Portland City Council to pass an ordinance preventing the PPC from ever reversing flow. That ordinance will eventually go to the courts for final decision.
Going about my business down there - to the supermarket or town hall - people have ask to sign petitions about the oil pipeline, the bear baiting referendum, and so forth. When not doing that, they march in the streets celebrating homosexuality. They file suit to allow panhandling on median strips, continue welfare payments to illegal aliens, and to prevent development in areas where homeless people like to hang out. They worry that Maine is too white and needs more “people of color.” A guy at a supermarket asked me for a donation to a fund that protects feral cats. “What are you going to do? Feed them? I asked. He didn’t answer me.
A continuing controversy in nearby Cape Elizabeth involves the Spurwink Rod and Gun Club. It has been operating for sixty years, but lately some citizens have pressured the town and the state to choke off the club. The town passed an ordinance to regulate the club’s shooting range for safety, noise, and hours of operation. It’s trying to comply, but local residents who club president Tammy Walter claims want to shut it down completely, have been putting obstacles in its path. In Lovell, Maine where my primary residence is, guns are a necessary part of life. Nearly every household has at least one. Down there in Greater Portland though, guns are bad. People who own them are suspect. People who actually shoot them are anathemas.
Dog lovers and bird lovers are still glowering at one another in nearby Scarborough after a dog attacked a cute little piping plover chick on one of the beaches last year. Ordinances were passed to protect birds and control dogs. There’s a new sidewalk in front of our house and there are far more people walking dogs up and down than there are people with children. The same is true wherever I go down there. Dogs are everywhere. So are little plastic bag dispensers for people to put over their hands and pick up their poop. You have to really love your dog to pick up that squishy, smelly stuff every day and carry it home. Not all dog-walkers pick it up though, as attested by the land mines I find on my lawn.
I like to run at Bug Light park mornings and I’m careful to look down at the asphalt to avoid dog turds. Evenings, I like to stroll along there with my wife and look at Portland’s lights across the harbor while ferries come and go. But at night I can’t see the dog turds. So far I haven’t found any the hard way but it’s just a matter of time before I step in some.
Nobody knows me down there and that’s kind of nice. My column hasn’t run anywhere in Portland for over twenty years so I can walk around as an anonymous conservative observing the natives. If my wife isn’t with me I can question some of those lefty petitioners and listen to them expound on what passes for logic in their mindset. If the marijuana ordinances expand to other municipalities and even statewide, that mindset will harden and spread even further. Decades ago when I was a lefty, marijuana was part of the bonding ritual.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Staying In The Day

One glance at the sunrise sent me back into the house for my camera. Light came through trees over the summit of Christian Hill. Its rays lit the morning mist. You’re not supposed to shoot into direct sunlight with a digital SLR, but the scene moved me and I did so anyway. Then I recalled psychiatrist M. Scott Peck recounting a conversation with a friend who told him: “Perhaps it’s because I’m an artist, but lately I’ve begun to think that God is light.” Peck answered in a manner he later realized was somewhat pompous. “Light has always been one of the synonyms for God…” he said. But she interrupted him. “No. I’m not sure you understand. I think that perhaps God really is light.”

I’m not an artist, but I’ve been taking pictures for more than forty years and I’ve come to appreciate the way painters perceive and depict light. No one can take pictures without it but I avoid using artificial flash. I much prefer natural light and my camera is with me wherever I go. If it’s not hanging over my shoulder, it’s in my vehicle nearby because I always expect to see something beautiful. If I don’t, I’ve come to understand that it’s because I’m not in a good state of mind. If several days should go by without taking any pictures, I realize I’m in a funk and I need to snap out of it.
Sunrise over Christian Hill

That morning I was in a hurry and I didn’t have time to download the images from the camera onto my computer. I seldom use the camera’s LCD panel because I’d rather see them on a larger screen. I was already showered, shaved, dressed, and ready for whatever the day would bring, and that beautiful sunrise seemed an auspicious beginning. I tried hard to keep the God-and-Light connection in my consciousness as I went about my activities.
Grandson Alex Checks out Fort Preble

My obligations entailed going here and there to pick up tools and supplies, checking up on projects, and finally meeting with someone in the early evening. All done and driving homeward at dusk, I watched the sun as a glowing ball lowering itself slowly through a red/orange haze. Rather than pull over and photograph it, I drove on in hopes that it would still be above the horizon when I got back home. It was, hovering just above Mount Washington as I pulled into my driveway. I parked and aimed my camera at the sunset while standing about twenty yards from where I stood fourteen hours earlier to photograph the sunrise.
Roseann on rocks in Cape Elizabeth, Maine

Then I felt rushed to prepare dinner and didn’t download the images. More days passed during which I felt moved to photograph other beautiful images in my path. I visited my grandchildren in nearby Sweden, Maine. Another day I took them for a boat ride on Kezar Lake. When we brought them home our twin, 16-month-old grandsons were exploring their yard in only their sneakers. Our daughter, Annie, said it was a good way to toilet-train them while the weather was good. Her girls were housebroken early, but I doubted the boys would be. We males are somewhat behind the female of the species that early in life, but we catch up and pass them by after forty sometime.
Grandson Luke

iPhoto, my computer program, organizes my images by “events” - periods of 24 hours duration. By scanning the mouse over each day, images pop up sequentially. Taking as many pictures as I do, I see again facsimiles of what I encounter day-to-day and I feel fortunate. That’s because I am, and it’s not all my own doing. The Creator of all has a hand in that during every part of every day. We’re all better off when we “stay in the day,” so to speak. It does us little good to regret the past or worry about the future, though I often relapse into such a mode.
Luke and Henry at the beach

This time of year is easiest to maintain what is for me a healthy rhythm. There are about sixteen hours between sunrise and sunset, and eight hours of darkness in which to sleep. I like to get up before the sun comes up and in bed again shortly after it goes down.
Sunset over Mount Washington from the back yard

And, it’s easiest to recognize God at dawn and dusk when his light pours over the eastern horizon and colors the western sky. Maybe the saints can maintain awareness of the divine all day, but in spite of my best efforts I often get too busy and forget who is lighting our way in between.

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Monday, August 11, 2014

Progressive Bigots

While I can’t understand everything that’s happening in the world, I pay attention and try to at least form working hypotheses to explain things. Hypotheses, by definition, are subject to modification as evidence accumulates. At no time should evidence be ignored. It should always be held up against ideas to see if it fits our basic understandings. If it doesn’t, we have to re-shape them - our understandings, not the conflicting evidence.

If you insist you’re right about your view even when a preponderance of evidence points in another direction, you’re a bigot - a word habitually misunderstood. Bigot, according to the World English Dictionary, means “a person who is intolerant of any ideas other than his or her own…” If we look around us with clear eyes, who would best fit that definition? Those who continue saying and doing the same things in the face of overwhelming contrary evidence. People calling themselves progressives were in complete control of the Congress for four years after 2006, and half of Congress since 2010. They’ve controlled the White House for the past six years, and how are they doing? Looking at just two areas we can see they’re screwing up badly. Our economy continues to flounder, and foreign policy is a disaster.
Historical accounts of the Harding and Coolidge Administrations indicate that leaving the economy alone is best. World War II and its Cold War aftermath teach us that actively carrying a big stick works best in foreign affairs. So-called progressive beliefs, however, are opposite for each situation. They increase economic regulation while simultaneously cutting America’s influence in world affairs.
Harding and Coolidge

Progressives firmly believe that expanding government by spending enormous sums of government money - and regulating nearly every aspect of the economy - are the ways to stimulate economic growth. When Hoover and Roosevelt tried out their own “shovel ready” projects like the Hoover Dam and the CCCs of the New Deal, as well as FDR’s hyper-regulatory policies in the National Recovery Administration, they together prolonged the Depression for more than a decade. Obama has gotten a similar result with the weakest economic “recovery” since the Depression - in spite of borrowing and spending trillions, and raising the national debt from $10 trillion to $17 trillion! Undeterred by those debacles, progressives like Paul Krugman insist that we’re still floundering only because we didn’t borrow and spend enough! Evidently he considers taking over 17% of the US economy with Obamacare to be small potatoes.
In the area of foreign policy, President Obama believes that shrinking our military and its activities abroad is the way to go. He firmly believes that most of the world’s problems stem from previous US administrations using America’s enormous economic and military strength to influence world affairs. He started by assuring the world that he was not Bush, and that because his father was Muslim and he was such a nice guy, things would be different. He would both pull back and cut back the US military, and the world would be better off. There simply isn’t any more than that to his foreign policy. To say that it’s been disastrous would be an understatement. Our allies have stopped trusting us and our enemies have stopped fearing us. From Russians to Radical Muslims, the world’s bad guys are having a field day.
When the Harding/Coolidge Administration took office in 1921, it inherited an economic situation much worse than Obama/Biden did in 2009. It was a Depression we don’t hear much about because it didn’t last long. Richard K Vedder and Lowell E. Gallaway, writing in their book Out of Work: Unemployment and Government in Twentieth-Century America claim: “By far the most important business cycle development of the first three decades of the twentieth century was the very sharp economic downturn of 1920 and 1921.” GNP was down 24% and unemployment was in double digits. Rather than expand government intervention the way Hoover, Roosevelt and Obama did, Harding cut it back. He cut taxes and regulation before he died suddenly in 1923, then Coolidge continued those policies when he took over. He was the last president to post a budget surplus in every year of his administration - and the economy soared.
The evidence against excessive government control of America’s economy is voluminous, but do progressives pay it any mind? Obviously not. The Pax Britannia in which England controlled the seas lasted centuries while the world prospered. The Pax Americana has lasted about seventy years, but it’s fraying rapidly under Obama. Will it survive? Not as long as the progressive bigots remain in power. They'll continue doing what they always do and America will go under. We’ll see what the November election brings.

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