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, November 25, 2014

A Very Old War

For homework, I told students to research a 1786 conversation Thomas Jefferson and John Adams had in London with a representative of the Barbary Pirates named Ambassador Adja. Most students found it. Jefferson and Adams asked Adja why his government was so hostile to America which had done nothing to provoke them. His answer was reported by Thomas Jefferson and my students thusly:

that it was founded on the Laws of their Prophet [Mohammed], that it was written in their Koran, that all nations who should not have acknowledged their authority were sinners, that it was their right and duty to make war upon them wherever they could be found, and to make slaves of all they could take as Prisoners, and that every Musselman [Muslim jihadi] who should be slain in Battle was sure to go to Paradise.

Sound familiar? It matches statements we’re hearing from ISIS today. My intent was for students to find out for themselves that Islamic terrorism isn’t new. The United States has been dealing with it since our country was founded. War with ISIS is just the latest chapter of a 1400-year-old war of Islam against western civilization. And yes, I’m teaching American History again, as I reported in my column published September 2nd. 
Evidently Adja didn’t mention the 72 black-eyed virgins with whom the slain Muslims believe they would be provided for their eternal pleasure in Paradise. When Jefferson became president in 1801, he stopped paying tribute to the Barbary Pirates and dispatched the Marines “to the shores of Tripoli” as the Marine anthem lyric goes. Marines are called “Leathernecks” because of the stiff leather collars they wore for protection against beheading by Arab scimitars. Under the command of Maine’s Commodore Preble the United States took the fight to the pirates. Southern Maine Community College in South Portland is on the site of the former Fort Preble, named for the Commodore.
Muslim Siege of Vienna

Their homework assignment for this week is to find out what happened on September 11, 1683 in Vienna. They’re good students, and they’ll come back next week knowing that a Muslim army of 300,000 gave up its siege of that fortified western city and retreated in defeat. The late Christopher Hitchens was the first modern westerner to point out the significance of that September 11th date only three weeks after the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center. “[The siege of Vienna] can rightly, if tritely, be called a hinge-event in human history,” wrote Hitchens in The Guardian. “The Ottoman empire never recovered from the defeat; from then on it was more likely that Christian or western powers would dominate the Muslim world than the other way around.”

And so it was — especially after Ottoman defeat in World War I — western powers did indeed dominate, until oil was discovered under much of the Muslim world in huge quantities. The independent Muslim nation-states we know today became very, very wealthy. Money is power, and several have renewed Mohammed’s goal to take over the world and make it Muslim. Some, like Qatar and Saudi Arabia, try to do it covertly. Others, like Iran, do it openly.
ISIS killing unbelievers
I refuse to post pictures of their many beheadings

Although Turkey’s Kamal Ataturk abolished the last caliphate -- which was based in Turkey -- in 1924 and separated church and state there. ISIS - the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria - has taken up the Muslim mantle of leadership and re-established it after the caliphate’s only known hiatus in its 1400-year war on the west. ISIS is obeying the Quran which instructs them in verse (8:12): “I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Therefore strike off their heads and strike off every fingertip of them.”
The renewed caliphate has beheaded three Americans so far this year. Our leaders, including Presidents Bush and Obama, keep insisting that Islam is a “Religion of Peace.” Trouble is, we’re not seeing much evidence to support their claims. When I go over this week’s homework with my students, I’ll ask them if they agree.

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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Lacking Temper


Keene NH Pumpkin Festival last month

Young men can be crazy. They commit the majority of crimes. Insurance companies charge them huge premiums because they have the most traffic accidents, usually involving more deaths and more property damage. When their baseball or basketball teams win championships, they riot and destroy property to “celebrate.” A seemingly innocuous pumpkin festival in semi-rural Keene, New Hampshire triggered such behavior as young, male college students there went wild last month.
"Celebrating" Giants victory last month

They’re also aggressive because they’re full of testosterone. That makes them good soldiers as long as rigid rules within the military keep them in line. Older men, whether superior officers, fathers, uncles, grandfathers, coaches, teachers, or whatever, can temper excessive and/or destructive behavior to which young men are prone — if the young men respect them. Young women can temper that behavior too, but again — only if the young men respect them in a monogamous relationship.
Young black men are the craziest. Why? Mostly because there are few mature, older men in their lives. Back in the mid-twentieth century there were — when the black families were more intact than white families of today —  young black men weren’t any crazier than young white men or any other kind because it’s not a racial thing. It’s a culture thing, and it goes back to the “War on Poverty” in the sixties. When government started “Aid To Families with Dependent Children or AFDC, it didn’t aid families in the larger sense. It made them weaker because government effectively took responsibility for supporting children away from the men who fathered them. Millions of families were affected, but a much higher percentage of black families. Another reason is that young black men have fewer mutually-respectful, monogamous relationships with young women. Rather, they objectify women as “bitches and ho’s” to be used and abused.
When young men gather in groups, they’re even crazier. Whatever behavioral inhibitions an individual might have tend to disappear in groups. If groups morph into gangs, behavior becomes malevolent. Add guns, alcohol, illegal drugs, and degrading sexuality, should anyone be surprised when all hell breaks loose? Today’s inner cities make the wild west look tame. A typical weekend in Chicago these days has five or six killed and a dozen or two wounded - almost always young black men as both victims and shooters. For some reason, however, our mainstream media considers this a taboo subject. When a young black man is shot by a  white man, though, especially a cop, they’re all over it like flies on you-know-what.
Malignant attitudes now widespread in young, black, male subculture are glorified across America. Everywhere we see young men wearing pants low on their asses and driving around with big base woofers playing “Hip-Hop” music and shaking windows as they pass. Hip-hop “artists” who survive their destructive lifestyle into their twenties or thirties receive awards from Hollywood and fawning attention in the wider media. They’re also invited to the White House.
After two or three decades of it, Americans seem to have accepted this stuff as normal. Back in the 1960s urban riots were explained as righteous anger against racial oppression by federal study groups such as the Kerner Commission. Today’s leftists still wave that banner, but after half a century, the rest of America isn’t so quick to excuse barbarism. They’re not buying the media spin on the incident in Ferguson, especially since the facts of the case don’t support it.
Ferguson riots

Our nation’s attention is focused on what will happen when a Ferguson grand jury refuses to indict the police officer who shot a young black man. Nearby St. Louis is girded for prolonged street violence by hordes of young black men and their leftist enablers. In spite of the evidence in the case, they believe the white police officer killed him because he was racist and not because he feared for his life. That dubious claim has been fueled by liberal media outlets, by Attorney General Eric Holder, and by President Obama who met with “Ferguson activists” like the allegedly Reverend Al Sharpton on November 5th — the day after the midterm election he lost so badly.
Sharpton said the president “was concerned about Ferguson staying on course in terms of pursuing what it was that he knew we were advocating.” Hmm. “Staying on course”? On course to what? Sharpton is a notorious rabble-rouser who has stirred up riots before. Remember Crown Heights? And, he’s a close associate of both Holder and Obama. If Missouri and other areas break out in riots following the grand jury’s report, will they all be held accountable?

They should be.

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Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Forcing Through

“I’m done torturing myself for the day.”

My wife and I often say that on those days we force ourselves through our different exercise regimens. She likes to do hers privately in front of a television screen showing people doing various strenuous moves that she copies. I prefer to do my exercises privately as well but some of it requires running, and that I have to do out on the road in front of my house, or along the waterfront near Bug Light in South Portland when we’re staying down there. Cars go by in Lovell and dog-walkers go by in South Portland, but the rest of my regimen is performed alone in my room.
I hate it all. I only do it because I feel better afterward than I would feel if I didn’t. The running part is relatively new. That I started about six or seven years ago after my brother had his legs amputated due to a condition we both have: Buerger’s Disease. I should use past tense in his case because he died of it a couple of years ago. It’s a rare, hyper-allergic reaction to using tobacco products. He’s dead because he couldn’t stop smoking. I’m alive and still have all my parts because I could. Addiction can be a terrible thing and takes many forms. I cannot run very far because I have diminished blood flow to my lower legs and they cramp up with vigorous use. So, I jog a short distance, let the blood come back, then sprint as far as I can. All this helps increase blood flow to my feet. With exertion, my legs develop what’s called “collateral flow” - the actual formation of new, small arteries, but never enough to get back to what I was born with.

Since I have to force myself to do it each day, I’ve tried hard to focus on the bright side of exercise - or should I say the slightly less-dark side. While running, for example, I’m aware that each season has its own smells. This time of year there’s a kind of sweetness in the air as leaves and other formerly-green vegetation decay, adding another layer of duff covering the forest floor. When the last autumn leaves blow across my path and I can see further into the woods, it brings back many memories. A silvery autumn light shines on bare, light-gray trunks and branches of beech trees, oaks, and other hardwoods. Gray stone walls become more visible and I remember pleasant days spent hunting with my brothers.
Kezar Lake Last Monday

We’re all going to die sometime, but I’d like to live as fully as possible until the end - and exercise helps. That’s what I think about when I force aching muscles through their paces. Entering the stage of life when people are most likely to need it, health insurance is our biggest expense. The Maine Public Employees Retirement Fund only covers about $300 a month in premiums and I have to pay an additional $1300 to cover both of us. There isn’t much left of my pension after that, so I keep working at the part-time jobs I always had while teaching. My wife still works as well, seeing clients two days per week as therapist.
President Obama promised us his Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare,” would bring down health care costs for everyone and reduce premiums by an average of $2500. But none of that has happened. Instead it has had the exact opposite effect. Costs are rising fast and so are premiums. The president has been hiding even greater increases until after the midterm elections were over, threatening insurance companies not to release information beforehand. The bad news of more huge increases is expected any day now.
It’s not encouraging that Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel was the primary author of Obamacare. He just published an article in last month’s Atlantic entitled: “Why I hope to die at 75,” and subtitled: “An argument that society and families—and you—will be better off if nature takes its course swiftly and promptly.”
He’s telling us we’d all be better off dead. This is the guy, brother to Obama’s former chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, who was accused of creating the infamous “death panels” alluded to by Sarah Palin. The left ridiculed her and vehemently denied their existence, but Emanuel’s article last month would seem to lend credence to Palin’s claim. Health care will have to be rationed by government and younger, healthier patients will take priority over older, less-healthy ones.
I’ll be eligible for Medicare in about eighteen months and my wife a year after that, but more and more doctors are refusing to take on medicare patients. All these things motivate me to continue my self-torture each day.

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Monday, November 03, 2014

Maine Things

A pack of coyotes lives near our Lovell, Maine home. Sometimes they wake me up at night with their howling, especially when they’re right under our 2nd floor bedroom window. I can get right back to sleep though and the sound doesn’t disturb me. Yet if I’m woken by dogs barking outside the house next door, I can’t. Their barking bothers me and I’ve wondered why. It has something do with the coyotes being wild and hunting for a meal. When they’ve killed whatever they’re after and eaten their fill, they quiet down. Dogs, however, bark because they’re neurotic and discontented. They go on incessantly with little purpose but to spread their neurosis and discontent. That annoys me.
I hear noises at night outside our South Portland, Maine house too. Being close to the city, there’s a low-level hum that never stops. It’s like white noise though and it doesn’t disturb me. There’s a far-off train whistle I find charming, and I hear tooting from Casco Bay Lines’ ferries as they sound their horns when leaving their Portland harbor terminal on their way to various islands. Those sounds charm me too, and so do fog horns from Cape Elizabeth. Ever-present sirens are part of the urban milieu. They’re not charming, but not too disturbing either unless they’re on our street. Then I want to know what’s happening - not usually enough to put my pants on and actually go outside to look, however.
Elvis and his owners

Feathers are ruffled over in neighboring Cape Elizabeth lately. A rooster named “Elvis” is crowing too much for some neighbors. There’s a huge population of green weenies in Maine’s most affluent town, so there are lots of “Vote Yes on Question 1” to outlaw bear-baiting signs. But the Cape’s animal lovers are conflicted. The town is considering an ordinance prohibiting roosters on lots smaller than 40,000 square feet - about one acre. Presumably, Elvis’s owners live on a lot smaller than that, and if the ordinance passes later this fall, Elvis’s goose may be cooked.
King Julian
We had chickens when my kids were little, including a few roosters, and they crowed often - until we ate them, that is. We had neighbors close by, but none complained. Maybe that was because we invited them over for dinner whenever we cooked one. Those roosters were delicious - best chicken I ever ate. My granddaughters over in Sweden, Maine have a rooster they named “King Julian, and they asked their mother why King Julian is always jumping on the hens. “He likes to wrestle,” she told them. Being three and five years old, that explanation has satisfied them so far.
Claire 5 and Lila 3 play on their dirt pile

Maine’s news has been dominated lately by a vocal nurse who says she doesn’t need to be quarantined after returning from a month-long stint working with Ebola patients in West Africa. People are conflicted about her too. They admire that she went to help people with a dangerous disease, but they wonder why she insists medical quarantine guidelines are too restrictive and bad science. People in Maine are also confused by ever-changing federal government reports about what is safe and what isn’t. The Pentagon quarantines soldiers who do not have contact with infected patients for three weeks, but the CDC says Traci Hickox, who did have contact with infected patients, doesn’t have to be. Until last week, the CDC’s web site said: “Droplet spread happens when [Ebola] germs traveling inside droplets that are coughed or sneezed from a sick person enter the eyes, nose, or mouth of another person.” Then that disappeared from the CDC web site.
Is Ebola a political issue this election season? Many suspect Obama’s CDC of putting politics before science. Nurse Hickox is a leftist Obama supporter. She also worked for the CDC, but mysteriously scrubbed that from her Linked-in profile when she challenged Governor Christie’s quarantine. Why? Democrats running our government insist that fear shouldn’t influence decisions about Ebola, and smugly claim they’re relying strictly on science. But what about their global warming campaign. For that it’s okay to use fear. Unless we switch to windmills and solar panels, polar bears will all die! Coastal cities will be flooded! The planet will boil! It’s all “settled science,” they insist. But it’s based on flawed computer projections: There’s been no predicted warming for twenty years. Ice caps and glaciers that were supposed to be gone by now are expanding. Mainers would like some global warming after last winter.
Fear is used for pipelines too. Greenie Democrats around here want marijuana pipes legal, but oil and natural gas pipes outlawed, including the local Portland Pipeline. Though it’s been moving oil safely for three generations, they’re apoplectic about reversing its flow. Study after study shows the proposed Keystone Pipeline would be harmless, but Greenie Democrats insist on studying it until they find something fearful to scream about.

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