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: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Name: Tom McLaughlin
Tuesday, December 29, 2015
Do voting for president and choosing a mate have anything in common? In both instances, Americans are making an important decision: Whom do they want for a years-long relationship? Immature people and voters tend to look for the perfect mate or the perfect candidate. The more mature recognize there are no such things. None of us have to marry, but as citizens we have a duty to vote.
The end of a marriage or of a presidential term is often unpleasant, but the beginning of each is a honeymoon. The partners cannot get enough of each other, and both sides revel in a glow. During the 2012 election cycle, actress Lena Dunham of the HBO production “Girls” made an ad urging young women to vote for Barack Obama. In it she said: “Your first time shouldn't be with just anybody, you wanna do it with a great guy.” Although Obama was running for reelection, Dunham was pitching to young women or “girls” in her demographic who had just reached voting age and would be voting for the first time. As Dunham described it: “My first time voting was amazing. It was this line in the sand. Before I was a girl, now I was a woman.”
Some ostensible conservatives were infatuated with Obama during the 2008 cycle. One, New York Times columnist David Brooks, wrote about meeting then-Senator Obama for the first time: “I remember distinctly an image of — we were sitting on his couches, and I was looking at his pant leg and his perfectly creased pant, and I’m thinking, a) he’s going to be president and b) he’ll be a very good president.” Brooks got over his Obama crush, but others have not. Leftist MSNBC host Chris Matthews was infatuated with Obama too, describing “a thrill going up my leg” when listening to an Obama speech, and evidently he’s still in love.
In response to the Lena Dunham “First Time” ad, the conservative “Independent Women’s Forum” put one out called “Boyfriend” in which a young woman is talking to an older woman on a couch, above which hangs a “Hope” poster of President Obama. She opens saying: “I was so excited at first. He seemed so perfect.” The older woman responded, “They always do.” The younger one asked: “Why do I always fall for guys like this?” and the mature woman concluded, “You know you deserve better,”
Some terms are cut short earlier like those of President Carter and the first President Bush, both of whom were considered too wimpy to lead after only four years, but the average lately is eight. According to the McKinley/Irvin family law firm: “The average length of a marriage that ends in divorce is eight years.”
Approximately 126 million people voted in 2012 and there were almost 59 million married couples that year, or about 118 million people. Campaigns seem to get longer each four-year cycle and maybe candidates’ flaws will be evident sooner. Maybe voters have wised up a bit and will make think longer before “tying the knot.”
Or, maybe not.
Tuesday, December 22, 2015
What the left sees as progress — a flood of diverse, multicultural, unassimilated migrants from Mexico, Central America, as well as the Muslim countries of Africa, and the Middle East, many other Americans see as the disintegration of America as they know it. They’re watching similar changes in Europe and worry that western civilization itself is unraveling. They elected a Republican majority in Congress to stem immigration and the enormous growth of the federal government, then watched that Congress capitulate to the president’s big-government, open-borders agenda. These Americans are not in the minority, but their view is scorned as racist and xenophobic by establishment leaders in government, in academia, in mainstream media, and in the entertainment industry, who consider themselves more enlightened.
They’re the people candidate Barack Hussein Obama spoke disdainfully of when addressing elite donors in Marin County, California back in March, 2008: “They get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”
These Americans are rebelling now against what they see as an elite establishment coalition. As they watch the West decline, they’re realizing the leaders they elected, as well as the media who report on them, seem okay with the transformation of American that so worries them. So far the rebellion is political with Republican support for candidates they perceive as outsiders. Donald Trump/Ted Cruz Republicans believe big business and big government are symbiotic and prefer a smaller, decentralized government with more power returning to states. Others see no important differences between the two major parties and call for a third.
Their concern is exacerbated by increases in radical Islamic terrorism in both Europe and the United States that governments seem unable to deal with effectively. (Just Monday, however, the UK officially labeled the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization — breaking with Obama who praises the MB.) A recent essay by historian of Islam Raymond Ibrahim sees Islamists rushing into a vacuum created by western decline in Europe and in the United States. Ibrahim calls the unraveling described above as the West becoming a self-hating civilization, and he takes a long view:
“Once upon a time, the Islamic world was a super power and its jihad an irresistible force to be reckoned with. Over two centuries ago, however, a rising Europe—which had experienced over one millennium of jihadi conquests and atrocities—defeated and defanged Islam. As Islam retreated into obscurity, the post-Christian West slowly came into being. Islam didn’t change, but the West did: Muslims still venerate their heritage and religion—which impels them to jihad against the Western “infidel”—whereas the West learned to despise its heritage and religion, causing it to be an unwitting ally of the jihad.”
Ibrahim scoffed at President Obama when he: “counseled Americans to get off their ‘high horse’ and remember that their Christian ancestors have been guilty of similar if not worse atrocities. That he had to go back almost a thousand years for examples by referencing the crusades and inquisition—both of which have been completely distorted by the warped postmodern worldview, including by portraying imperialist Muslims as victims—did not matter to America’s leader.”
Many Americans have a limited understanding of historical Islam and don’t detect Obama’s distortion. Some do. Others just sense that his explanation is hokey.
The horrors ISIS and other radical Islamist groups are perpetrating today have been more the rule than the exception over the 1400 years of Islamic imperialism. We’re seeing is its resurgence enabled by the retreat of a breast-beating, mea culpa western establishment trying to do penance — Europeans for their colonial past, Americans for using their powerful military to curtail communist expansion and keep oil flowing out of the Persian Gulf.
Though establishment leaders play down resurgent Islam’s threat and trumpet “Islamophobia,” fewer Americans are buying it. They’re fed up with the flood of illegals from our south seeking “aslyum” as well as others from Africa and the Middle East who may or may not be refugees. Our establishment elite portrays both as oppressed, brown-skinned victims of Western imperialism. More Americans are seeing them as foreigners looking to get on the welfare gravy train and drive up the national debt, or, at best, as unskilled laborers who would take jobs away from them and drive down their wages. They also know thousands of illegals from our south have committed serious crimes and they question whether others from Muslim countries will assimilate as Americans.
They see both Democrats and Republicans belonging to the elite establishment and maintaining the status quo and they want to change course. I hope that comes through the ballot box and worry about what may happen if it doesn’t.
Tuesday, December 15, 2015
What The Hell Are We Doing?
If America would ask its young men — and now women — to fight a war, the rest of us must be willing to go all-out to win it. If we’re not, it’s immoral to send them. Soldiers and citizens must understand what’s at stake and have confidence in our commander-in-chief to defeat the enemy. Half-measures won’t suffice. War is all hell, as General Sherman said, and when you’re going through hell, don’t stop until you come out the other side. Go all-out or don’t go.
So, are we going to defeat ISIS or not? It’s not clear. President Obama promised to degrade and destroy ISIS more than a year ago, but admits he doesn’t have a strategy. He’s been bombing ISIS for a year, but not most of the oil trucks carrying oil from ISIS-controlled oil fields, and then only after he drops leaflets first giving them a 45-minute warning! After the ISIS attack on Paris, France bombed hundreds of these trucks and that left Americans wondering. If we’ve been bombing ISIS for a year, why are there so many trucks left for the French? Where are those oil trucks making deliveries? There are only a few possibilities given that they are, after all, trucks.
When ISIS set off a bomb aboard a Russian passenger jet, and Turkey shot down a Russian fighter plane, Russia accused Turkey of buying oil from ISIS. Could that be true? Turkey is allied to the United States. It belongs to NATO. The Obama Administration insisted Turkey is not buying ISIS oil, but ISIS makes $4 million per day selling it and there are only so many places a truck can go, right? Turkey is right next door.
Last month, the UK Guardian reported that: “Turkish businessmen struck lucrative deals with Isis oil smugglers, adding at least $10m (£6.6m) per week to the terror group’s coffers.” The Jerusalem Post’s Caroline Glick reports that: “For nearly two years, we have known that Turkey is Islamic State’s major arms supplier. And for six months we have known that they are their partners in oil exports.” The Daily Beast reports that fifty US intelligence agents filed a formal complaint with US Central Command that intelligence reports were being doctored by senior intelligence officials in the Obama Administration for political reasons. When America special forces killed an ISIS finance guy, they seized his computer with information on ISIS oil sales to Turkey.
Monroe Mann, one of my former students, returned from northern Iraq where he’d been a US Army intelligence officer working with the Kurds. He delivered a presentation to all five of my US History classes and his esteem for Kurdish soldiers as allies of the United States was enormous. After Obama was elected, he pulled all US forces out of Iraq and the Kurds were on their own. Today, most analysts recognize them as the only effective opposition to ISIS on the ground — but Obama won’t send them military aid. Why? Because Turkey doesn’t want him to. Historical Kurdistan overlaps Syria, Iraq, Iran, and Turkey — and Turkey is afraid of a Kurdish independence movement. So are the other countries.
Confused yet? It gets worse. After Obama allowed Bashar Assad to overstep his red line on chemical weapons, Russia moved in to support Assad. Iran supports him too. Obama has walked on eggshells negotiating his ill-advised nuclear treaty with Iran and didn’t want to upset the mullahs by undermining their ally Assad. Even though Obama declares over and over that Assad has to go, he has no strategy to accomplish that either. Meanwhile he’s overseeing feeble military efforts against both Assad and ISIS while Russia and Iran openly support Assad and Turkey secretly supports ISIS. Should we be sending any US soldiers into a conflict in which we’re not sure who we’re fighting for or against? When we don’t know who our enemies are or who our friends are?
“War is the locomotive of history,” said Bolshevik commander Leon Trotsky. Teaching US History, my approach was to analyze each war’s causes, major battles, and most of all — its effects, after which students were tasked to consider whether it was worth fighting. Then I’d tell them to imagine themselves as 18-year-old males during each war and ask themselves if they would have volunteered to fight in it. I also taught current events and we followed Desert Storm, the Afghanistan War, and the Iraq War as they happened. Like Monroe Mann, many went on to fight. Some still are.
They’d ask me what I’d have done, but I’d defer until each had taken a position and defended it. If I were teaching about the situation in Syria and Iraq today, I’d have to tell them I would stay home until we figure out what the hell we’re doing.
Tuesday, December 08, 2015
“Why do radical Muslims want to kill us?”
For the last ten years of my teaching career, that was the essential question I wanted students to think about from day one in September. As the educational jargon goes: “Essential questions foster the kinds of inquiries, discussions, and reflections that help learners find meaning in their learning…” When my last principal required us all to write up every unit of instruction we used and title each with its essential question, that’s what I chose for unit one.
It’s also the question President Obama has been avoiding his entire two terms as commander-in-chief. I had good reasons for focusing on that question, and President Obama has his reasons for dodging it. I know what my reasons were. When I think of what President Obama’s reasons might be, it scares me. He’s our commander-in-chief. His primary responsibility is keeping America safe, but fewer Americans believe he knows how to do that — especially when he won’t even name our enemy.
My essential question assumed the obvious: radical Muslims wanted to kill us and were doing so by the thousands ever since 1979 when the Islamic Republic of Iran declared war on the United States in 1979. President Obama ignored our state of war when he authorized Secretary of State John Kerry to negotiate a nuclear arms treaty with one of our biggest enemies. We’re not at war with Islam, insists President Obama. So did his predecessor, President Bush, but Iran, the most powerful country in the Islamic world, has long been in open war against us.
Radical Muslims are those who live their lives in adherence to Quranic verses such as Quran (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” and Quran (5:33) - “The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His messenger and strive to make mischief in the land is only this, that they should be murdered or crucified…” and more than a hundred others. It doesn’t matter whether they call themselves Shia, Sunni, Boko Haram, al Shabab, Hezbollah, al Qaida, ISIS, or whatever. They all pledge to make the world Muslim and kill or enslave anyone who resists.
It doesn’t matter whether they’re Africans, Asians, Europeans, or Americans either. They’re all seduced by fundamental Islamic theology. What do they all have in common? They’re Muslims. That’s the simple fact President Obama and every Democrat who wants to succeed him avoids with their ubiquitous “religion of peace” rhetoric. Another essential question is: when Obama was campaigning for reelection in 2012 claiming just before the Benghazi attack that al Qaida was “on the run,” was he a liar or a fool? When telling George Stephenopoulos the morning of the Paris attacks that ISIS was contained? Same question. When he told America a week before the San Bernardino massacre that “there was no specific or credible threat to America during the holiday season,”? Same question.
I began teaching about our state of war a few years after the Islamic Republic of Iran declared it in 1979. During the 1980s the war got little attention. It got more during the 1990s when suicide bombers were blowing themselves up in Israeli busses and restaurants. My job was to teach students what motivated them. They had to learn terms like: jihad, sharia, intifada, Quran, etc. After September 11, 2001 our war came front and center. After that my lessons began on the first day of school when our media was hyper-focused on observing anniversaries of the attack, year after year.
Our leaders describe most Muslims as moderates. In response, President Obama’s ally, Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan said: “These descriptions are very ugly, it is offensive and an insult to our religion. There is no moderate or immoderate Islam. Islam is Islam and that’s it.”
Many of my former students went into combat against radical Islam in its various forms, but it continues to grow. So does the myopia of our president who tells America that climate change is a much greater threat. According to the UK’s Financial Times President Obama said the recent slaughter of over a hundred Parisians was a “setback,” and the Paris climate change talks immediately following it were his “rebuke” to the terrorists.
Tuesday, December 01, 2015
Our Leaders Are Losing It
I’m not the smartest guy in the world and I can still be fooled once in a while, but I’ve learned a few things and my intuitive BS alarm works pretty well. For example, as soon as I heard of Sigmund Freud’s Oedipus Complex — that we males are born with a sexual attraction for our mothers — I knew it was hokey. Lately though, my alarm is going off so often I have an almost-constant headache.
On display were some of Reich’s devices including what looked like an old telephone booth but actually was an “orgone energy accumulator.” The UK Guardian described it as “an almost magical device that could improve its users' ‘orgastic potency.’” The Guardian article continued saying: “The accumulator was used by such countercultural figureheads as Norman Mailer, JD Salinger, Saul Bellow, Paul Goodman, Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, Dwight Macdonald and William S Burroughs.” Reich also recommended that his “patients” should be massaged while naked to “loosen their body armour.”
Some of the Bernie! supporters I see around Maine and New Hampshire remind me of the starry-eyed docents I met at the museum. Do they know Senator Sanders continued his obsession with Reich until he was at least thirty? After moving to nearby Vermont, Sanders wrote articles referring to Reich in the Vermont Freeman, an alternative newspaper. Mother Jones reported that: “His early writings reflect a political worldview rooted in the fad psychology and anti-capitalist rhetoric of the era and infused with a libertarianesque critique of state power. Sanders feared that the erosion of individual freedom—via compulsory education, sexual repression, and, yes, fluoridated water—began at birth. And, he postulated, authoritarianism might even cause cancer.”
Authoritarianism may cause cancer? Some of us think it’s time for Sanders to retire to his orgasmatron, but he’s a leading Democrat candidate for president of the United States. How many of his supporters know about the his obsession with Reich? I’m afraid to ask, but now Bernie is claiming that terrorism is caused by "climate change" and not radical Islam.
Though Islamist terrorism in Paris put France into a three-month state of emergency a few weeks ago, the biggest concentration of world leaders ever is meeting there to “save the world” from climate change. It all reminds me of how crazy-worried our leaders were about Y2K, which turned out to be nothing. Our “leaders” pretend all that paranoia never happened but they’re right back at it with President Obama playing the role of Chicken-Little-in-Chief. He’s about to cripple America’s already anemic economy by jacking up energy costs “before it’s too late.” He insists climate change is a much bigger threat than ISIS, our $20 trillion debt, or anything else. So he says.
Retired NASA scientist and “world-renowned climatologist” James Hansen claims Obama is not going far enough. Hansen warns that climate change causes “flying boulders” too. It whipped up storms so powerful they blew boulders weighing thousands of tons up onto cliffs in the Bahamas 100,000 years ago. Hansen’s claims are so out there that even the liberal Washington Post worries that: “some critics wonder whether the man [Hansen] who helped spawn the whole debate about the dangers of climate change has finally gone too far.”
Only some critics wonder that?
Wilhelm Reich, Bernie Sanders’ psycho-psychoanalyst, also built a “cloudbuster" machine I saw at the Rangeley museum. He claimed it could be put into reverse and draw in “orgone energy” from the atmosphere, which could then be infused into his orgasmatrons. Is something similar on the table in Paris? According to Bloomberg, today’s climate geniuses propose “replicating the planet-cooling effect of a volcanic eruption… The idea is to mimic [Mount] Pinatubo by using a fleet of modified business jets to inject fine droplets of sulfuric acid into the stratosphere, where they would combine with water vapor to form fine sulfate particles that reflect sunlight away from the earth.”
As I said, I’ve learned a few things over my sixty-four years, like Rudyard Kipling's warning to “keep your head when all about you are losing theirs...”