Thursday, December 27, 2007

My Choice

Time to make up my mind about who I want for president and I’ve narrowed it down to two. Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter drove himself from Manchester to Conway while campaigning in New Hampshire last week. He was doing the best he could with his limited budget and staff. A few days later, former Republican governor Mitt Romney came to Conway with his driver. Two advance men were at The Conway Daily Sun (one of the papers running my column) when I arrived last Saturday morning, twenty minutes early for the interview by the Sun’s editorial board. It’s an example of what it’s like for Hunter as a back-of-the-pack candidate. Romney is among the leaders.

Hunter answers questions with a yes or a no, then explains his position. I interviewed him over the phone last July for the web site Family Security Matters. He knows what he thinks and I agree with him on nearly every issue. He’s is a conservative and always has been - no question about that. I also agree with Romney on nearly every issue, but on some issues important for a conservative like myself, he’s only recently come to the right. Abortion, illegal immigration and gay “marriage” are the biggest examples. That troubles me about Romney just as it does many conservatives when deciding who to support. Then I consider how I’ve moved right myself over the years. I’m an unwavering conservative now, but who am I to doubt Romney? Perhaps it’s an advantage to know how the other side thinks so as to be able to work with them when hammering out deals in congress? On the other hand, having a president whose conservative principles are bred in the bone the way Hunter’s are is comforting, especially after seeing what President George W. Bush has done with the growth of government and illegal immigration.

Hunter is a former soldier. He served two combat tours in Vietnam jumping out of helicopters. He’s served on the House Armed Services Committee for twenty-two years. When Republicans controlled the House, he was chairman. We’re at war and will continue to be for the foreseeable future and we need experience like his. Hunter’s son served three terms in Iraq as a Marine. There’s little question that Hunter would make an effective commander-in-chief. Romney’s military background? He doesn’t have any. That doesn’t disqualify him, but it’s a weakness if you’re going to lead a country in wartime. As governor of Massachusetts, he ordered the state police not to guard former Iranian president Mohammed Khatami, a supporter of Islamic terrorism, when Harvard foolishly invited him to speak in Cambridge. Good move, but that’s about the extent of Romney’s foreign policy experience.

Hunter has a determination about him that shows in his face and in his manner. He looks like a warrior. Romney looks like he was sent over by central casting. That can be an advantage, but it can also be off-putting. Hunter has little administrative experience except as a junior officer in the army. He’s a legislator. Romney, however, has had vast experience as a business executive, running the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, and as governor of Massachusetts. In all three capacities, he’s been extremely effective. This is a clear advantage for Romney because the president is, after all, the chief executive.

Both men speak well. Hunter is direct. Romney is smooth. Each has his strength and we’ve seen how important communication skills are over the past seven years by observing George W. Bush’s lack of them. The president of the United States leads the most powerful country in history and is a major world leader as well. It’s important for him to explain things to the American people and encourage them to follow his lead during troubled times. Watching President Bush trip over his words when he wasn’t reading from a script has been embarrassing at times. Both Hunter and Romney would be improvements, but again, Romney has an advantage here as well.

There are more candidates in this presidential election than I can remember in my lifetime and I’ve been voting for thirty-five years. It’s also been one of longest elections in our history and it’s still almost a year away. We’ve seen and heard commercials and debates by candidates for both parties, so there’s been ample opportunity for us to make up our minds about whose name to put a check next to. I’ve had the opportunity to personally speak to and ask questions of six - four Republicans and two Democrats. All are good at relating to people. I’m finally mature enough to realize that I’ll never find a perfect candidate on everything. Each is flawed in some way just as we all are.

Though Hunter is the most conservative candidate and a good, courageous man as well, would I be wasting my vote for someone who has never risen above the low single digits in opinion polls? Shouldn’t I vote for Romney and help him get by Huckabee, McCain, Giuliani and Thompson who are leading the pack? Maybe, but there’s only one poll that really matters - the one in the voting booth. If I don’t vote for the man I believe would make the best president, wouldn’t I be further corrupting the process? Each of us had to use his brain and his gut to determine whom to vote for. I have. Maybe I’m a sucker the underdog, but I’m voting for Duncan Hunter. I urge you to do the same.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Bethlehem, Then and Now

Political Poster in Bethlehem

The Bethlehem of 2007 years ago when Jesus Christ was born bears little resemblance to the Bethlehem of 2007, which I visited last May. Or does it?

Growing up in New England - land of the white Christmas, I sang carols in the snow outside my neighbors’ houses. I got cards with shepherds, Persian kings and manger scenes depicting that first Christmas in Bethlehem. How authentic were those images? That’s hard to say, but they were imprinted in my imagination nonetheless, just as they were for millions of others. Bethlehem in 2007, however, didn’t look anything like that.

It’s is a depressing place - literally walled off from greater Jerusalem where I was staying. The wall is about 20 feet high with barbed wire above that. It’s black and ominous with guard towers at regular intervals. From the bus window, I saw it snake down the valley and over the hill in the distance as we inched up toward the security checkpoint. Graffiti, including a large lion devouring a dove, were painted on the wall. The message was anything but “Peace on Earth” or “Good will to men” as we entered the “little town of Bethlehem.” Administered by the Palestinian Authority, Israelis are not welcome there. Tourists are allowed only if guided by Palestinians, which we were. Our bus driver and our guide were Palestinian Christians - a dwindling minority in Bethlehem after comprising the majority for centuries. That’s because the Palestinian Authority is made up of radical Muslims intolerant of other religions. Christians are ruthlessly harassed and are moving away in great numbers. If present trends continue, there won’t be any more Christians in Bethlehem before long.

Inside Bethlehem were overflowing dumpsters and graffiti on the ground-level walls of nearly every building down the main road through town. Men - young, old and middle-aged - loitered on street corners and stairs and smoked. Nearly every one had a cigarette going. Aside from cab drivers and waiters at the restaurants where we ate, I saw no one working, though there was obviously plenty to do just cleaning up trash. There were posters of the late scumbag terrorist Yassir Arafat and, here and there, posters of Hamas terrorists holding AK-47s. The approach to “Shepherd’s Cave” where the carols proclaim that “shepherds watched their flocks by night,” was lined with barbed wire. The bathrooms had no water and the cave entrance, which had been a natural limestone formation, was bricked up with bars on windows. The site of the manger is now inside the Church of the Nativity, which was occupied by Palestinian Muslim terrorists for over a month in 2002. They urinated on the floor, set an adjacent Franciscan study afire, and a statue of Mary was hit by a bullet. Israeli security forces had come to arrest them, so they holed up in the Church of the Nativity and effectively held the holy Christian shrine hostage. The terrorists threatened to blow up the church, which is the oldest in Christendom, unless the Israelis withdrew. The siege broke when Israelis did withdraw and terrorists melted back into Bethlehem’s population.

No. Today’s Bethlehem bears little resemblance to the Christmas cards. Thinking about this for the past few months as Christmas approaches for the the 2007th time, I’m realizing that the Israel Jesus was born into was full of conflict too. Romans occupied it and the Jewish king Herod, who the Romans allowed to stay in power, was no prize. Was he as bad as Arafat? A case could be made. He ordered the slaughter of every male infant in Bethlehem after hearing that a king had been born there. Hamas? Yeah, they’re terrorist scumbags too. They’re rocketing Israel every day from the Gaza strip. When I was there, Hamas and Fatah (considered the “good” Palestinian terrorists by President Bush) were killing each other. During Christ’s time, Jews were chafing under Roman rule. Some kissed up to the Romans while others conducted hit-and-run attacks against them. Romans practiced pagan rituals which were insulting to pious Jews. There was religious and political violence aplenty. John the Baptist was later beheaded by Herod’s son and his cousin, Jesus, was crucified by the Romans after being set up by some Jewish religious leaders.

Though it doesn’t resemble the Christmas cards, the Israel Jesus was born into 2007 years ago wasn’t too awfully different from the country I visited. Political and religious conflict - which were often the same thing, then and now - were either playing out in violence or brewing under the surface waiting to erupt again. Shortly after Jesus Christ’s time, there was a large-scale Jewish revolt. Romans slaughtered a million Jews, destroyed their temple, and scattered the rest in the Great Diaspora. Two thousand years later Israel exists again, but for how long?

One in five people on earth believe the most important lifetime in history began in Bethlehem and ended eight miles away in Jerusalem - so important that we measure time according to what happened before it and what happened after it. Though many try to obsure this by calling our time the “Common Era,” we know that it’s 2007 AD - Anno Domini - the “Year of Our Lord.”

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Strange Bedfellows

“The enemy of my enemy is my friend,” is a generally unsavory principle I use as a history teacher to explain why our country has associated with scumbags at various times. Practical politics dictate that it’s sometimes necessary to do business with a person, a group, or a country with whom we would never associate otherwise. When at war with Hitler’s Germany, for example, we sent military aid to Joseph Stalin’s Soviet Union - a country which had murdered more people than the Nazis. We helped Saddam Hussein when he was at war with Iran and we helped the “Mujahideen” who were allied with Osama Bin Laden’s cause when they were at war with the Soviet Union in 1980s Afghanistan. My students grasp the realpolitik behind those unfortunate alliances as a “lesser of two evils” thing. Once our common enemies were vanquished, alliances ended.

Lately, I’ve been using the principle to shed light on the unlikely alliance between the Western political left and Islamofascism. Who could have predicted that leftists, whose most cherished causes include women’s rights, homosexual rights, abortion and pacifism, would be apologists for Islamofascists who are against them all? There’s only one explanation: they both hate Western Civilization and the United States as its epitome. They have a common enemy and it’s us. Islamofascists call us “The Great Satan” and the left calls us “The Evil White Patriarchy.” Islamofascists see us, correctly, as the biggest obstacle to achieving their goals of converting everyone in the world to Islam, restoring the Caliphate, and the universal application of Islamic law - Sharia. Leftists see us, also correctly, as the biggest obstacle to achieving their goals of one-world-government socialism with taxpayer-funded healthcare including abortions, homosexual marriage, and state-mandated multiculturalism.

For example, the liberal ladies on “The View” declined to criticize Sudan for arresting British school teacher Gillian Gibbons whose class named a teddy bear “Muhammad,” even when she was about to get forty lashes and Muslim mobs were literally calling for her head. Co-host Sherri Shepherd said, “. . . you would think that with her being in Sudan, she would know the rules and customs . . .” whereupon Whoopi Goldberg responded, “ . . . you’d think if you were going overseas [you’d be] learning the customs and knowing what is cool and what isn’t cool . . . It’s just one of the reasons we’re called the ugly Americans.” The National Organization for Women declined comment entirely.

Leftists who dominate our universities act as apologists for bizarre Islamofascist practices like female genital mutilation. Referring to a debate at the American Anthropological Society’s Annual Meeting, a New York Times article asks: “Are critics of this practice, who call it female genital mutilation, justified in trying to outlaw it, or are they guilty of ignorance and cultural imperialism?” Hey, maybe it’s okay to snip off a girl’s clitoris, right? What do you think Whoopi? Sherri? Barbara? Let’s hear your views. I’d even listen to Rosie O’Donnell on this one.

How about 200 lashes for the victim of a gang rape in Saudi Arabia? You read that right - the victim. She was raped 14 times by seven men, but she was guilty of getting into a car with a man who was not her relative. Can’t have that.

How about Muslim “honor killings”? In certain Muslim communities, a young woman may be killed by her brothers or her father if she “dishonors” her family by having sex with someone not her husband, even if she’s raped - even if the rapist is one of her brothers. I’m not making this up. This would be an “honor killing” and it’s practiced not only in Muslim countries, but in expatriate Muslim communities in Europe and the United States as well. Occasionally, feminist groups have condemned the practice, but when scholars are invited to college campuses to discuss it, they’re shouted down and accused of “hate speech.” Often discussion of such horrible Islamofascist practices (be warned: this link is disturbing) is banned altogether at our universities because talking about them may be offensive to Muslims. Women’s Studies Departments virtually ignore them.

Then there’s the execution of homosexuals. Records are scant, but some claim reports of 200 to 4000 killed in Iran since the Ayatollahs took over, which could be why Ahmadinejad claimed there were none in his country when he spoke at Columbia recently. Why don't homosexual activists and other leftists protest? Heck, Columbia University won't let our military on campus because of “Don’t Ask - Don’t Tell” but they invite a leader of a country that kills them? Doesn’t make sense unless you apply “The enemy of my enemy is my friend” principle. Both hate America, therefore they’re on the same side.

The only other explanation is that the American and European left is too cowardly to criticize Islamofascists because, unlike Americans, they don’t tolerate criticism. They kill you. It's okay to throw the Eucharist on the floor at St. Patrick's Cathedral, but stay away from mosques. Boy Scouts don’t want homosexual leaders in their tents on camping trips? Go after them. Leave Islamofascists alone.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Growth, Change, Awareness

When I was a boy I didn’t like onions. Didn’t like mushrooms or olives either, but now I like them all. Tastes change. Other things change with age too - like fears. I remember being struck by fear the first time I encountered a dead cat. I was walking alone along a stream bed hunting for frogs and turtles to catch when I smelled something bad. Looking around carefully for the source of the awful odor, I noticed the cat’s head with parts of its jaw and teeth exposed in a hideous expression. It must have been hit by a car on the roadway above where I had left my bike. I could feel the trauma of its death still hanging in the air. Maggots crawled under what fur remained on the rotting corpse. It looked and smelled horrifying and I climbed out of the gully in a panic. I had seen dead frogs, turtles and snakes often, but not a larger mammal like a cat. I had petted cats and now had had a close encounter with a dead one. It struck me hard that everything dies and that some day I would too. That’s what I feared.

We all know this at an intellectual level sure as we’re born, but we usually avoid thinking about it, especially when we’re young. I’d been to funerals for grandparents and seen them laid out in caskets, but with so much make-up on faces and hands folded unnaturally around rosary beads, they looked more like mannequins than humans. That cat delivered me death’s unvarnished reality at an emotional level.

While a college student I worked as an orderly at a Massachusetts state hospital on the second shift. It was a chronic-care facility and people didn’t get better and go home. They only left when they died. When one did, part of my job was to wash the body, attach a toe tag, wrap it in a shroud, and take it down to the morgue. My first week there I had three. Luckily I was partnered with an experienced orderly because I was freaked. After a few months though, I got used to it. I had taken care of some patients for months as they got closer to their deaths and sometimes I discussed the subject it with them. I played cribbage with them. I met their relatives. I fed them, lifted them into bed, changed them, joked with them. Some died serenely. Others were consumed by fear. The difference was in how they perceived their deaths. After they passed, it was plain to me that they still existed somewhere, just not in the bodies I knew. As I took their empty bodies to the morgue where the undertaker would pick them up, I realized they had ceased to be people - they were more like abandoned houses no one lived in anymore.

Death can still scare me, but not my own. What I fear is the pain I’ll feel if a loved one should die before I do. There’s nothing I can do about that potentiality, so when it intrudes I put it out of mind. After two and a half years on that orderly job, some of death’s mystery dissipated. Awareness that it’s a certainty for each of us doesn’t diminish life - just the opposite actually. It enriches life. I don’t want to know when death is coming, but I’m better when I live like it could come soon.

Out for a sunset drive in my truck the other night, my wife and I drove up to the top of a hillside cemetery in Waterford and parked. The sun had set and we looked down the hill irregular lines of stones with hills beyond in fading twilight. A full moon came up and the air was crisp. Being in a cemetery at night used to scare me but I’m comfortable with it now. I guess that’s because I know now that death isn’t the end. It’s only the end of a stage and the beginning of another. Time was I had doubts about whether that was really true, but those doubts are gone now. I don’t feel the need to convince others because we all have to come to it in our own way. So don’t worry: I’m not going to preach. I only mention it because it changes the way I look at things - not just death, but almost everything. I don’t doubt anymore that there will be something beyond, but sometimes I forget it. Sometimes for hours I forget it, but then one thing or another will remind me. It might be a baby, a sunset, gently-falling snow, a smile - many different things can spark me to know it again. The duration of those forgetful periods is getting shorter. I hope there’ll come a time this side of the grave when the awareness is constant.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Lacking Generosity

Grandpuppies and grandkitties. When aging baby boomers talk about the newest generation, that’s the lament I’m hearing from many. They wish they could take care of grandchildren for a weekend when their grown-up children go away, but there aren’t any grandchildren because their grown-up sons and daughters aren’t producing any. Instead, they raise dogs and cats, so they ask their boomer parents to watch their pets for them when they go to Bermuda or Cancun, or wherever. That’s what it has come to. It’s one unforeseen result of the fervent boomer belief that our planet is overpopulated.

Boomers grew up during the fifties when families produced a lot of children. When their turn came, however, they wanted fewer children than their “Greatest Generation” parents raised. Was it because birth control became more widely available? Must be a factor since they were certainly having sex often enough. This they proclaimed to the world as their “sexual revolution.” They separated sex from reproduction and family life, claiming marriage and family were too constricting. The institutions which had held society together for millennia were “oppressive.” “If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one[s] you’re with.” Opposite sex? Same sex? Both? Didn’t matter. Boomers “liberated” themselves. They insisted it was all to the good. They still do in spite of mountains of contrary evidence. The Democrat Party platform reflects their “values.”

In spite of birth control, all that sex resulted in many pregnancies. “Liberated” feminists insisted they had a constitutional right to abortion and convinced a liberal majority on the US Supreme Court of this. Boomers would abort the children they didn’t want and many would insist that government (meaning people other than them) pay for the ones they did want. Democrats called it the “War on Poverty.” Forty years hence they say “It Takes A Village” to raise a child. It’s the same concept though. Fathers and Mothers aren’t important anymore. They would get rid of “Mothers’ Day” and “Fathers’ Day,” claiming such terms are “sexist.” They insist gender roles are artificial but homosexuality is natural. Government knows what is best for kids, not parents. How will government pay for all this? Raise taxes on the “rich” or course. The rich are defined as people other than them.

Not all boomer-raised children swallow that entire philosophy. They avoid children because raising kids is very expensive, requiring a lot of work and enormous sacrifice of time and emotional energy. They pursue a lifestyle in which kids would just be a drag. If they should get lonely, it’s much easier to get a dog or a cat. They can be left alone all day without a babysitter. On extended vacations, they can be boarded somewhere or left with friends or with their boomer parents. If pangs of guilt about their refusal to reproduce should intrude, they can justify their selfishness claiming they’re conserving resources and shrinking their “carbon footprint.” Their “green” lifestyle is saving the earth. They’re doing homage to Gaia. They’re preserving habitat for other organisms by not reproducing themselves.

Aging liberal boomers should be rejoicing that their children are living out their philosophies, but the ones I’ve talked to don’t seem to be. Rather, they seem sad. They feel they’re missing out on something and they are, of course. Western civilization’s advances have enabled them to live longer lives, but they can’t spend those extra years with the grandchildren if their children aren’t producing any. Similar things are happening in Japan where doll manufacturers are now making artificial, robotic dolls which function as surrogate grandchildren for the grandchildless. I’m not kidding.

Population in Europe is declining too. They’ve increased immigration from Muslim countries to the south to compensate, but that is presenting another set of problems and a backlash has begun against it in Holland, Switzerland, Italy, France and Germany. Europe’s population is aging and there are fewer young people to support the old folks because the generation in between hasn’t generated much. Liberal European retirement benefits cannot be sustained much longer.

Lamenting this situation with a Spanish priest I met in Jerusalem last May, I asked him why he thought young Europeans or Americans were not having children. His answer was simple and succinct: “They lack generosity,” he said. I had been inclined to discuss the subject further but I paused. He was right. It was that simple. When all is said and done, that’s what it comes down to. The “It Takes a Village” to raise a child view is misleading. What it really takes to raise a child is generosity and self-sacrifice, so let’s just say it out loud: Village or no village, today’s young people don’t have what it takes.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Cherishing Victimhood

“Well, the cowboys beat the Indians again,” said Rick Doyle, governor of the Passamaquoddy Reservation near Eastport, Maine. He believes Maine voters discriminated against Indians by voting down their second effort to open a casino. “Every time we propose something, we get put down. It feels to me that we continue to be oppressed by the dominant culture.” (Portland Press Herald 11-8-07)

We’ve been hearing it a long time now. Indians are victims. White people took their land and destroyed their way of life. They’re a separate nation within our nation. They receive the benefits of being US citizens as well as maintaining certain other rights the rest of us don’t have like fishing, hunting, educational scholarships and opening casinos. They’re entitled to special treatment.

My wife is half Abenaki. Her mother’s ancestors were Indians from the reservation at St. Francis, Quebec, formerly known as Odonak. My children are one-quarter Abenaki with genealogy records to prove it. One of them learned that she could go to graduate school on scholarship if she could be officially admitted to the “tribe,” so she pursued it. Abenaki tribal headquarters are in Swanton, Vermont near the Canadian border, so she called and wrote to them repeatedly. April, the woman who was chief, was never able to come to the phone and never answered her mail either. After months of this, my daughter and I drove to Swanton with all her paperwork after assurances that the chief would be there on a certain day.

Headquarters were in something resembling an old laundromat. Unused computer stations lined the walls and long tables in the middle. People were playing cards at the tables and smoking so much it was difficult to breathe. Amber stains from years of burning tobacco covered walls and ceiling. The computer stations were piled with papers, dust and other detritus. And, wouldn’t you know it, the head woman wasn’t there. She was out checking an archaeological site at an expanding road project nearby, we were told. We drove out to the site but we couldn’t find her. We spoke to archaeologists from the University of Maine working the site and they were interesting, but they hadn’t seen the head Indian lady either. Back at the headquarters again the chief still among the missing, we were assured that the tribe wanted to do everything right. They had applied to the US Government for official tribal recognition (so they could open a casino I suggested, though they denied it) and they wanted to be very careful. They would examine my daughter’s genealogy records and get back to her, they said, but we knew they wouldn’t. To admit another member would mean a smaller slice of the casino pie for each of them. We knew they would go back to smoking, playing cards and making excuses. My daughter eventually gave up.

The Indians as victims rhetoric is getting old. I’m tired of hearing it and, judging from last week’s vote, the reservoir of white guilt in the rest of Maine is running out too. The day after the vote though, I heard someone read the result and lament their plight, saying: “Well, we took all their land.” I responded that I didn’t know what he might have done, but I didn’t take land from anyone. Whatever happened more than a hundred years ago is history. No white people alive today took land away from Indians. None of their fathers or grandfathers did either. It’s time to move on.

Life is difficult. Of that we can be sure. It’s more difficult for some than others, but nobody really escapes. We’re dealt a hand in life and we have to play it out. Whining about our cards doesn’t get us anywhere. As long as we have equal opportunity to play them out, how we do it is up to each of us as individuals. We have nobody but ourselves to blame for what we do. We should help each other along the way as much as we can, but we must realize that we can’t help people who aren’t willing to do the work necessary to help themselves.

According the November 8th Press Herald article by Josie Huang:
There are plans to build a liquefied natural gas terminal in Passamaquoddy Bay, and strong interest in harnessing tidal waters and the wind for energy production ventures. But the tribe has focused for nearly 15 years on getting a gambling facility, and the latest setback only reinforced nagging suspicions that voters were discriminating against the tribe . . .

Same old - same old. The energy projects sound too much like work. Much easier to let some out-of-state outfit come in and build a casino in the Indians’ name so tribe members can sit back, collect the revenues and whine about what victims they are.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Vouchers Please

It’s my misfortune to have been a public school teacher during more than three decades when public education has been in decline. The reasons are too voluminous to account for here, but I’ll point out two: increased power of teachers’ unions and increased intervention by big government.

The teachers’ unions make it so expensive to get rid of bad teacher that administrators usually just try to just work around them. One report claims it costs an average of $200,000 in legal fees to fire someone if the union contests it. How can a principal build an effective team if (s)he can’t get rid of deadwood? Under most contracts, the only easy way to get rid of a teacher is through the RIF process - Reduction In Force. If a budget is cut or if student enrollment declines, teachers can be laid off, but administrators still don’t have the option of laying off dysfunctional teachers. It has to be “last hired, first fired.”

Then the federal government enters the picture and mandates that local districts spend more and more on students who don’t function well. Trouble is, many slow learners for whom this spending was originally intended over thirty years ago are being dropped from services. They get help in their early grades, but then they’re tested again in middle school and even though they’re still struggling, regulations say they’re operating at the level they’re capable of and they’re declared ineligible for services. Meanwhile, students who are quite capable but who won’t function for whatever reason, receive most of the help. They get an increasing share of services while many slow learners are cut loose to fend for themselves. Regular classroom teachers are expected to tailor their curricula to slow learners who have been reclassified as “low normal.” At the same time, they must put up with the presence of the others who can work but won’t and they must try to keep bright, motivated students interested - all in the same room at the same time. Educational “experts” insist this can be done if teachers receive training in “differentiation.” One result of this is the grade inflation prevalent at nearly every level of education.

As in so many other social programs since the 1960s, millions and millions of our tax dollars are spent to subsidize dysfunction in public education. Why should we be surprised when it increases? Such students learn that the less they do for themselves, the more someone will step in and do it for them. It’s called “learned helplessness” and it has a pronounced effect on the atmosphere of a class. Such kids do nearly nothing for themselves because they’ve learned that there are essentially no consequences for drifting along. They’re passed along year after year. Few ever stay back anymore because the “progressive” experts insist it does them no good. And, they insist that students be grouped heterogeneously - that is, the functional ones are in the same classes as the dysfunctional ones. This way, a whole class is held back rather than just the students who refuse to learn. This condition is most pronounced in middle school, because in high school students may choose advanced courses after the first year and the many dysfunctional students drop out along the way. The “experts” are afraid of grouping students according to their ability and their willingness to do the work necessary to learn, because bright, motivated students would progress so much that the gap between the functional and dysfunctional would become a chasm and attract scrutiny.

The teachers’ unions are the biggest constituents of the Democrat Party and major donors as well. With their pronounced leftist bias, they push the party to port and are largely responsible for bringing Planned Parenthood sex education programs and homosexual activists into public schools with all the accompanying propaganda. Students down to kindergarten level are exposed to it. What’s going on at Portland, Maine’s King Middle School lately - prescribing birth control to middle schoolers is a good example of how far that envelope is being pushed.

Whatever money is left over in teachers’ union coffers after contributing to Democrat candidates is used to fight voucher initiatives in whatever city or state they might arise. The unions know that if low and middle income parents had a choice about where to send their children to school, it wouldn’t be the local public school for many. With the choices vouchers would offer, the enormous political power of the teachers union monopoly would be smashed and public schools would have to compete for students. Unions insist that voucher initiatives would “take money away from public schools,” but one wonders what kind of fuzzy math they use to make those calculations. It costs an average of over $10,000 per year for each student in public schools. Voucher initiatives which the unions have defeated over and over call for less than half that amount to be spent for students to go to private schools. Parents would kick in the rest. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that vouchers would leave more money for public schools, not less.

In spite of all this, my career has provided much reward because I’ve had the freedom to deliver my curriculum the best way I can and it’s been my privilege to work with almost three thousand Maine children, most of them terrific kids. Also, I know that although union power is at its greatest right now, cracks are beginning to form. Utah's legislature approved a voucher initiative and it was signed by the governor. Teachers' unions pushed through a petition forcing a referendum, outspent the proponents, and defeated it at the polls yesterday. New York City is considering one too. Eventually it's going to happen somehere and then spread, but probably not until after I retire.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Defining Deviancy Down

Have we had enough? It’s beginning to look that way. The final straw? Maybe. Kids, 11-13, can now get birth control pills at Portland’s King Middle School, possibly without their parents’ knowledge. Boys’ voices haven’t changed yet but the school gives them condoms. Five students told the nurse they were sexually active and she decided that the school should prescribe them birth control. The School Committee in that bluest city of the very blue state of Maine agreed with a 7-2 vote. According to the Portland Press Herald: “Of 134 students who visited King's health center during the 2006-07 school year, five students, or 4 percent, reported having sexual intercourse, said Amanda Rowe, lead nurse in Portland's school health centers. ‘This is a service that is totally needed,’ Rowe said. ‘It’s about very few kids, but they are kids who don’t have the same opportunities and access as other students.’”

Opportunities? What is she talking about? She wants to offer them opportunities to behave irresponsibly and avoid some of the consequences? What will she offer next? A taxi service to Planned Parenthood’s Abortion Clinic? Or, is she offering the rest of us an opportunity to keep our blinders on, to avoid taking a hard look at how low our culture has sunk? Students need parental permission to take Tylenol, but not to take strong hormonal birth control pills or injections - or even to get an abortion. Parents of school kids might object if they knew their unborn grandchildren were going to be killed. Better that they never know there was a pregnancy. What they don’t know won’t hurt them.

The blue “progressives” who rule this state believe we must catch up to Canada and Europe with their enlightened permissiveness and socialized medicine. They agree with Hillary Clinton that It Takes A Village to raise a child and parents sometimes get in the way. Some mothers and fathers here in Maine don’t believe the varied versions of sexuality so popular in Portland are wonderful things. They still think a lot of them are just plain wrong and they don’t want parades to celebrate them. So it becomes necessary for Hillary Clinton’s Village People to go around bigoted parents and use schools to influence their kids “progressively” - make students more like those sophisticated Europeans. It’s for the children.

When the story broke, Maine’s Christian Civic League (CCL) demanded that state Attorney General Stephen Rowe investigate Portland’s school-based health clinics for not reporting underage sexual activity as Maine state law requires. That was awkward, because Rowe is married to Amanda Rowe, the lead nurse who wants to pass out the birth control. Cumberland County District Attorney Stephanie Anderson did investigate, however, and determined that the CCL was right - sexual activity by thirteen-year-olds violates Maine law and has to be reported. According to the Press Herald:
Although Portland officials intend to comply with the law, exactly what the law requires remains unclear, [Portland City Attorney Gary] Wood said. Having sex with a 13-year-old is clearly illegal, he said, but the law doesn't address the possibility of the other person involved being 13 years old, too. "I think (Anderson) has raised a legitimate point," Wood said. "I'm just not sure that consensual sexual activity (between two 13-year-olds) constitutes abuse." If Anderson's office received a report of two 13-year-olds having sex, she said, each minor would be considered a victim and a perpetrator and the case likely wouldn't be prosecuted. Wood said he plans to seek guidance from Maine Attorney General Steven Rowe.”

Around and around it goes. Where the buck stops, nobody knows - not in Portland anyway. Maybe the Village People there can look to those sophisticated Europeans for guidance about what to do next. An Oslo, Norway paper reported last week that:

Norwegians woke up Tuesday morning to news that a respected Oslo pre-school teacher, backed by child psychologists, thinks children should be allowed to openly express their own sexuality, not least through sex play and games in the local day care centers known as barnehager, or kindergartens. . . . Pia Friis, leader of the popular Bjerkealleen Barnehage in Oslo and a well-known pre-school educator, told newspaper Dagbladet on Tuesday that children should be allowed to express their own sexuality at day care centers. She doesn't want to stifle what comes naturally. Children, she said, should be able "to look at each other and examine each other's bodies. They can play doctor, play mother and father, dance naked and masturbate.”

I wish I were making all this up but, sadly, I’m not. It’s outrageous of course, but so was the idea of “marriage” between two men or two women only ten years ago. As Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan said four decades ago, we’re “defining deviancy down.” How low can we go? There’s evidence that we may finally be nearing bottom. In Norway, there’s a backlash to the idea of naked, masturbating kindergarteners similar to the backlash Portland’s Village People are feeling about their idea of birth control for eleven-year-olds. Have people finally had enough? Maybe. About time, huh?

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Survey Said . . .

“The Portland School Committee voted last night to give birth control pills to middle schoolers,” I told the class, holding up a copy of the Portland Press Herald. Several students were quick to tell me and each other that they had seen the story on the news. “Okay! one person speak at a time! Please!” I said over the din. “Raise your hand if you have something to say. Can one of you sum this up?”

A girl down back said, “Kids at the King Middle School will be able to get birth control pills if their parents give permission, but they won’t necessarily know about it.” Others were holding up their hands enthusiastically, waiting for me to call on them.

“That sounds contradictory,” I said. “Parents give permission, but they might not know about their kid getting birth control pills?”

“It’s confusing,” she said, “but parents give permission for their child to go to the health clinic for something else. Then the nurse, or whoever, might give them birth control and the parents won’t know. There’s a confidentiality thing going on with the kid and the nurse.”

“I get it,” I said.

“Why would sixth graders need birth control, Mr. McLaughlin?” asked a boy.

“Good question,” I answered. “It says here in the sidebar that: ‘The percentage of middle school students in Maine who reported having sexual intercourse dropped from 23 percent in 1997 to 13 percent in 2005, according to the Maine Youth Risk Behavior Survey.’ Now you guys filled out that survey in 2005 when you were in sixth grade,” I continued, “and you can see that the results from it are being used here to justify the school committee’s decision. Do you think the surveys are accurate?”

They looked at each other for a second, seemingly perplexed. “Oh yeah,” said a girl. “I remember that.” Several others nodded as they recalled the survey too.

“The survey indicated that, back in 1997 when you were only three years old, about one out of four middle schoolers were having sex,” I continued. “So, of course you were too young to know if that’s accurate or not. But you were eleven when you filled out the survey in 2005 and those results indicated that one in eight middle schoolers were having sex. Those are your answers and the answers from other kids around the state that are being used here. Does that one-out-of-eight statistic sound right to you?”

“You can’t go by what kids wrote on those,” said a boy. Most other students also voiced skepticism. A dozen side conversations sprang up.

“Okay,! Okay!” I said, trying to bring them all back. “Why not?”

“Nobody’s going to tell the truth on those,” someone said.

“Why not?” I asked again. They all wanted to talk at once. “One at a time!” I said again. Raise your hands!”

“First of all,” said a girl, “kids would be afraid the teacher would know what they wrote.”

“But they were supposed to be anonymous,” I said. “You didn’t put your name on them.”

“But teachers would know what your handwriting looked like and they could find out,” she said.

“Or they’d get the results back from the state saying there were X number of kids at Molly Ockett Middle School having sex, and the teacher could probably figure out who those kids were,” said another student. “They sort of suspect already.”

“Or they’d be afraid the kid sitting beside them would see what they wrote,” said another.

“I see,” I said. “So, were the results under-reporting sexual activity among middle school kids? Over-reporting it? Or were they just unreliable?” I asked them.

“Well,” said a boy, “Boys would probably put that they were having sex more than they really were, and girls would probably put that they were having it less. That’s the way it is.”

“I see. So would they balance each other out?”

“It’s all unreliable,” said a girl. “They shouldn’t go by what was on those surveys.”

“I think kids would be more tempted to have sex if the school passed out birth control pills,” said a boy.

“Why is that?” I asked.

“Because it’s like the school is saying it’s okay when they give students pills for it.”

I posed the question to several classes. Did they think middle school students were more likely to have sex if they got pills from the school? Overwhelmingly, they did think so. There were two or three in each group who didn’t, saying that kids who decided to have sex were going to do it anyway, no matter what the school did.

“This story is getting a lot of attention across the country,” I told them. “We haven’t heard the last on it. Keep watching the news, okay?”

Degree of Value?

Know any young people with college degrees working in restaurants, retail stores, or somewhere else for which their degree is worthless? Do they owe tens of thousands in student loans? There are lots of them out there. Perhaps they are reevaluating the worth of a college education. I’m not talking about people who want to be engineers, nurses, biologists, or something else in the hard sciences. I’m talking about some of the the so-called “soft sciences” like Women’s Studies or Art History, or some other useless course of study. Only people with huge trust funds should pursue these majors.

A man who graduated from the University of Iowa in the early forties told me three weeks of summer work could pay for a year’s tuition there at the time. I earned undergraduate and graduate degrees in the Massachusetts State College system in the sixties and seventies by paying my own way throughout - no loans, no parental assistance, no financial aid of any kind. I just worked. I wanted to be a teacher and I needed at least one degree for that. My courses of study didn’t actually prepare me for the classroom, but they did get me certified. Can young people do that today? It would be much more difficult, if not impossible.

The cost of college has risen faster than nearly everything else while the quality has declined drastically. Government is contributing more and more for “higher education” and getting less and less. The federal government has $448 billion out there in student loans and put out $74 billion in new aid for the 2004/5 school year alone. Are we getting better citizens with all that investment? Doesn’t look like it. According to an April, 2007 article in The Eagle Forum:

The Intercollegiate Studies Institute contracted with the University of Connecticut's Department of Public Policy to undertake the largest statistically valid survey ever conducted in order to find out what colleges and universities are teaching their students about U.S. history and institutions. They surveyed 14,000 randomly selected college freshmen and seniors at 50 colleges and universities. The students were tested with 60 multiple-choice questions to measure their knowledge in four subject areas: American history, American government, America and the world, and the market economy. Freshmen and seniors were given the same test, and here are the results. Seniors scored only 1.5 percent higher, on average, than freshmen, and at 16 schools, seniors scored lower than freshmen.

So, what are we getting for our investment? Looks like less for more. Which are the institutions where seniors know less than freshmen? They’re some of our “prestigious” universities like Yale, Brown, and Georgetown with tuitions nearing $40,000 per year. It’s not just tax money being wasted either. The big foundations like the Ford, Carnegie, Mott, Rockefeller and Mellon Foundations have invested tens of millions in Women’s Studies, African-American Studies as well as Gay and Lesbian Studies. What can a person with a degree in one of those majors do? Teach Women’s, African American, or Gay and Lesbian Studies courses, I guess. Nothing else comes to mind. According to a 1996 City Journal article by Heather MacDonald:

Not content with setting up separate departments of ethnic and gender studies, foundations have poured money into a powerful movement called “curriculum transformation,” which seeks to inject race, gender, and sexual consciousness into every department and discipline. A class in biology, for example, might consider feminine ways of analyzing cellular metabolism; a course in music history might study the hidden misogyny in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony—actual examples. One accomplishment of the curricular transformationists is to distinguish bad, “masculine” forms of thinking (logic, mathematics, scientific research) from good, “feminine” forms, which subordinate the search for right answers to “inclusiveness” and “wholeness.”

Uh-huh. You can’t make this stuff up. Do you wonder what Henry Ford, Andrew Carnegie or John D. Rockefeller would have say about how their money is being spent? Clearly, our colleges and universities suffer from a problem of too much money rather than not enough. Our young people will probably be able to live normal lives without searching for the “right” answers to “inclusiveness” and “wholeness,” much less incurring huge debt to do so. I know I have.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Prestigious University?

Am I the only one who is tired of hearing Columbia referred to as “prestigious”? I mean, what have they done lately? They used to employ and graduate talented people who went on to do great things for their country in various fields, but the institution hasn’t had much to brag about for a while and Columbia might more rightly be called a formerly-prestigious university. As we all know, they invited a racist, terrorist dictator, who is perhaps the biggest enemy of the United States, to speak there. The United Nations had to let him come, but Columbia chose to invite him. Is that what prestigious universities do? Not in my opinion, and it’s part of a decades-long pattern.

When criticism arose about the terrorist Ahmadinejad’s invitation, Lee Bollinger fell back on the “freedom of speech” excuse, as if that would explain his school’s latest quasi-treasonous action. Does Bollinger remember who preserves Columbia’s freedom of speech? Soldiers, that’s who, but Columbia won’t allow ROTC on his “prestigious” campus. He allows military recruiters at the law school only because the US Supreme Court upheld the Solomon Amendment recently and Columbia would lose federal funds if he continued to ban them. Even though students voted nearly 2-1 to ease restrictions on ROTC following the September 11th attacks, the administration still refuses to allow it. Columbia’s faculty and administration claim our government discriminates with its “Don’t ask; don’t tell” policy toward homosexuals in the military. Columbia claims to ban all forms of discrimination - unless it’s against patriotic Americans. That kind of discrimination is encouraged, nurtured even. Are the “adults” there to the left of students now? Seems like it.

In 2003, an assistant professor named Nicholas De Genova called for the death of American soldiers in Iraq, saying: "Peace is not patriotic. Peace is subversive, because peace anticipates a very different world than the one in which we live--a world where the U.S. would have no place. The only true heroes are those who find ways that help defeat the U.S. military. I personally would like to see a million Mogadishus." To those who considered such statements treasonous, President Lee Bollinger fell back on his usual explanation: "Assistant Professor Nicholas De Genova was speaking as an individual at a teach-in. He was exercising his right to free speech. His statement does not in any way represent the views of Columbia University,” he said.

Is that right, Mr. Bollinger? Then why does your university hire people like that? Why do you promote them? Until his recent death, Edward Said was a university professor - the highest rank for a professor at Columbia. Said believed that Yassir Arafat - the father of modern terrorism - was not aggressive enough toward Israel. Hijackings, murders, assassinations and suicide bombers are too gentle for Professor Said. “The stones and slings of young men [of the Palestinian Intifada] are now offering courageous resistance to a demeaning fate meted to them by Israeli soldiers armed by the United States, policed by Arafat's apparatus with U.S. military and financial aid," Said wrote. The Columbia professor was actually caught on film joining in the stone-throwing himself. His Palestinian allies were also filmed as they danced in the streets after hearing of the September 11th attack.

The Ahmadinejad fiasco is only the latest in a series of anti-American outrages at Columbia going back to 1968 when they let radical leftist students occupy their administration building for eight days so the media could fawn over them and their anti-war views. MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough once asked a guest, Daniel Pipes, Director of the Middle East Forum, this question: “What's wrong with Columbia University where they let somebody like Said teach there and they celebrate his teachings and they also allow another professor to root against America in their war in Iraq?”

“They're too superior to feel patriotism for the United States,” Pipes answered. “These are internationalists who look at the world from, you know, a kind of lunar position, you know, far away, no allegiances. They feel genuinely distant from the United States. They don't like this country very much.”

Sounds like the kind of “unbiased” perspective we see in many of our mainstream media personalities. It’s not fashionable to wear American flag lapel pins or say “our” troops when reporting the War with Radical Islam. It makes me wonder how many of them are graduates of the Columbia School of Journalism. After studying curricula in which courses in western civilization have been dropped in favor of others purporting that heterosexual, capitalist, white men are responsible for most of the world’s problems, we shouldn’t wonder why they turn out that way.

They’ve been called prestigious so often that many who teach at Columbia, with its $6 billion endowment and $37,000 per year tuition rate, believe themselves way above other Americans who love their country and are willing to fight and die for it. It’s past time that Columbia be disabused of its pompous notions.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

The Fair: Like It Or Not

Everybody knows when it’s Fryeburg Fair week. You can’t live in western Maine with being affected. Everyone’s routine changes because, even if you never go to the fair, you have to plan on leaving earlier to get someplace if you’re going anywhere near Fryeburg village. A week earlier, all the highways leading into western Maine are filled with unusual-looking vehicles carrying fried dough stands and carnival rides. Seeing all this strange-looking cargo, school kids get keyed up and by the time the fair opens, they’re wired. Some work there, especially if their parents run a small business and depend on the income they earn in a booth during that frenetic week. Some park cars for property-owners near the fairgrounds. Others just go and hang out there every day. Whatever their reasons, a lot of school kids are tired or wired, or both. Others are just absent.

When my children were young, I took them to the fair. Money was tight in those days and I had to say no to them often. If I had to pay at the entrance I don’t think I could have afforded it, but I usually knew someone who worked there and would let us in free. I couldn’t pay for them to go on the rides until the last night when bracelets were sold for about $5 or $10 apiece, allowing them to ride them all until closing time. I’d buy a bracelet for myself too and we’d all be pretty tired when we got home. By the time my kids were teenagers, however, they wouldn’t want to be seen with parents in a public place like that, so my duty was to drop them off and pick them up. Once they got old enough to drive themselves to the fair, I stopped going altogether.

There’s one thing at the Fryeburg Fair I’ve never seen, however, and would really like to, and that’s Woodsman’s Day. For about twenty-five years, I cut wood from my family’s wood lot in West Lovell and from my own property here on Christian Hill. I’d work up at least seven or eight cords every year until my life got so busy with other jobs that I heat with oil now. Back in those days I was interested in tractors and chain saws and trucks and I wanted to watch the guys who were really good at it show off their skills. Woodsman’s Day is held on the Monday of fair week when school is in session. I couldn’t call in sick and show up at the fair because too many people knew me. Guess I’ll have to wait until I retire from teaching before I can finally go.

When my own and the area kids went off to college and it wasn’t too far away, their first visit back home was usually during the long Columbus Day weekend - which was also fair week. It became almost obligatory for the new freshmen to flash their faces and meet old friends at the Fryeburg Fair. After a few more years, grandchildren started coming along. My first grandson wasn’t quite a year old when his mother and his two aunts wanted to be present for his first fair experience as he was pushed around in a stroller. It became a rite of passage to watch the first member of the newest generation to experience his first Fryeburg Fair. He’ll never remember it of course, but my daughters will, and we have the pictures.

Though I hadn’t attended for five years or so, I returned to the fair this year with my now seven-year-old grandson. It was fun to follow a boy his age around the grounds and see it all through his eyes. Though my legs got tired faster than his did, his enthusiasm was a balm for this late-middle-aged columnist as we checked out rides, gaming booths, food stands, animal barns, and grown-up toys like ATVs, snowmobiles and trucks. What he seemed to like most was the sheep dog competition.

Fairs have a long history going back several centuries - to middle-age Europe at least where they were important social, political and economic events. In Old England, fairs were commissioned by the king and lots of wealth changed hands just as it does today. Our local fair shows no signs of waning early in the twenty-first century either. Like it or not, we’re all going to have to enjoy it or endure it every year for the foreseeable future.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Students Discover Ahmadinejad

When they were done with their world map tests, I told them, they could use their laptops to go online and answer the question I had written on the board: “What does Mahmoud Ahmadinejad believe about the Twelfth Imam?” I told them Ahmadinejad was the President of Iran, and they had learned about where Iran and many other countries were for the test. It was Friday and I knew Ahmadinejad was coming to New York City over the weekend and that his name and face would be all over the news. “Use a search engine and those names for key words in your searches,” I instructed.

Ahmadinejad believes the Twelfth Imam, or the “Mahdi,” is a nine-year-old boy who has been living in an Iranian well for thirteen hundred years, kept alive by Allah. The Iranian president believes that if he can create enough chaos on earth, the Mahdi will emerge from the well and preside over the earth during a thousand-year period of justice and peace.

“Wow,” said a boy as he was reading his screen. “This guy says the Holocaust never happened. Is he crazy?” I looked around the room. Some students were finishing up their tests and others were intently reading from their screens. One girl had her hand up. When I walked to her desk she was pointing to the word “Mahdi” on her screen. “Is that the Twelfth Imam?” she asked.

“That’s him,” I said. “Read on.”

“I don’t have my computer with me,” said a boy as he brought his test up. “It lost its charge.”

I printed a two-year-old article from the London Daily Telegraph with the story of Ahmadinejad’s devotion to the Twelfth Imam. “All the information is in the article coming out of the printer now,” I told him. “Read it.”

“He wants to go to Ground Zero,” said another boy reading from his computer screen. “But the NYPD doesn’t want to protect him because they think he’s a terrorist.”

The following Monday, we were correcting the map tests in class. I had the television on as classes were changing and while I was taking attendance. All day long, the cable news shows were broadcasting heated debates between pundits over whether Columbia University should have invited Ahmadinejad to speak there. I’d let it run a minute or two, then shut off the TV and tell them: “President Ahmadinejad says the Holocaust never happened and that he is going to ‘wipe Israel off the map.’ Against international law, he’s trying to build nuclear weapons with which to do so, but he tells the world he’s only trying to make peaceful nuclear power plants. Nobody believes him. He trains and sends money to ‘Hizbollah’ - the Shiite terrorist group in Lebanon responsible for killing hundreds of US Marines two decades ago and which regularly shoots rockets into northern Israel. Ahmadinejad trains other Shiite terrorists to sneak into Iraq with weapons and explosive devices to kill American soldiers fighting there. Other than that, he’s a nice guy.”

As the last period of the day was beginning, Columbia University President Lee Bollinger was making a live speech to an auditorium full of students. President Ahmadinejad was seated on the stage listening and waiting his turn. I told students in that group that we would watch the speeches and correct tests the next day instead. Some were disappointed. Others watched and listened to the speeches intently. Bollinger excoriated Ahmadinejad for all the things I had been telling students at the beginning of each class earlier that day. It was a blistering speech.

When Ahmadinejad came to the podium, he invoked God and the Twelfth Imam: “Oh God, hasten the arrival of Imam al-Mahdi and grant him good health and victory and make us his followers and those who attest to his right fullness.” Then he responded to Bollinger’s verbal attack essentially by saying it was impolite to invite someone and then say nasty things about him before he speaks. Then Ahmadinejad went on at length about studying science and searching for truth.

“He’s talking in circles,” said a boy.

“He’s not making much sense,” said a girl. Class ended while Ahmadinejad was still speaking. Several students were shaking their heads as they walked past the TV. I watched and listened to the rest of the speech as busses were being called.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Interview With Senator Sam Brownback

Telephone interview with Kansas Senator Sam Brownback, Republican candidate for president. Recorded Saturday, September 15, 2007 at 5:45 PM eastern time by Tom McLaughlin for Family Security Matters.

Thank you for calling, Senator. I’m recording this if that’s all right with you.

That is fine.

Good. Have a busy day in Iowa?

Yes. Pulling into Newton right now. Got a little event here and two more yet tonight.

You were at an ice cream social and then you have a barbecue, huh?

Yeah. I’m getting the cart ahead of the horse. I should do the barbecue, then have the ice cream social. That’s all right. I like ice cream.

Okay. I think you got the questions I had prepared.

I got some outline of them, yes.

Okay. Number one: Why and when did you decide to run for president?

Made the official decision last August - not this one, but the year before.


Really felt I could and would be able to contribute to the race, and running on rebuilding the family and renewing the culture and reviving the economy, as core issues to focus on so we could grow and prosper and sustain ourselves in this generation-long fight we’re going to be in, and are in, with militant Islamists.

As a middle school history teacher, I can certainly relate to that - reforming the culture. Over my thirty-one year career, I’ve seen it run downhill in increments each year and it’s a sad thing to watch, but ah . . .

My oldest daughter is teaching seventh-grade math in the inner-city in Houston and boy, she’s experiencing some tough settings there.

I would imagine. Oh, yes. Number two: What is our biggest domestic problem?

I think it’s the breakdown of the family.


It’s the biggest domestic problem. It’s thirty-six percent now of the children born out of wedlock, it’s seventy percent in the inner cities. Sixty percent of the children will spend a significant part of their time growing up in a single-parent household. I really think it’s that breakdown of the family structure. Abortion in the country and the breakdown of marriage are the biggest set of problems that we have because it’s where you grow your next generation. I think it’s the biggest one that we have to tackle - the breakdown of the family.

Okay. What would you say is our biggest foreign policy problem?

The battle with militant Islamists. No question about that. China is a major issue and confronting the mercantilism from China, but I think far and away the biggest issue - and will be for a generation - the battle with militant Islamists.

A generation.

A generation. This has been going on for some time. 9-11 was the Pearl Harbor of the fight, but we’re in this for a long time, I believe.

Okay. In our struggle against radical Islam or militant Islam, as you refer to it, how important do you see the propaganda war?

Well, I think it’s very important, but I think the bigger piece for us is clarity of who it is we’re fighting against and why we’re fighting. I think our own moral clarity is the big need, particularly right now.

Our moral clarity?

Well yes, on our own part. I think a lot of people just - okay there’s our war on terrorism - but terrorism is a tactic. Who is it that we’re fighting?


We’re fighting this real, virulent, dedicated force within Islam. It’s not a majority of people who are Muslim, but a dedicated force that seeks to destroy Israel and come after us. It can be homegrown in our own country. It is in Europe, certainly. That’s what I mean by our own clarity - about who it is we’re fighting and why we’re fighting. This is a group that believes in establishing an Islamic caliphate, Islamic dictatorship, that the Koranic rule of law is the set rule of law. There’s no other option. That’s what I mean by clarity of what we’re fighting here.

Um-hmm - and what we have that we need to defend. I mean perhaps what you identified as our biggest domestic problem is identified by our enemy as a major weakness that they feel as though they can target and defeat - defeat us because if it.

Yes, I think that is part of it. But also, we have a view of democracy and freedom that is different from theirs - of a separation - that the government is separate from religion. We don’t remove religion from the public square, but religion does not run the government. They have a different view of that.

We have an immigration problem in this country - certainly an illegal immigration problem but it spills over into legal immigration because [those who come legally must think, why wait when so many just sneak in?] Here there was a several-second malfunction in the recording device. In brackets is the rest of the question I was reading from.

Senator Brownback’s answer was pretty much what is posted on his web site and I quote: “Securing our borders must be our top priority as a nation. Our Southern border is porous and must be secured. Secure borders make Americans safer.” Senator Brownback has voted to:
* Double the number of border patrol agents over the next five years;
* Increase detention space in order to end “catch-and-release”;
* Build 700 miles of border fencing and 350 miles of vehicle barriers along the Southern border;
* Fund 370 miles of triple-layered fencing and 461 miles of vehicle barriers along the nation's southwest border;
* Deploy cutting-edge technology including cameras, sensors, and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) to patrol the border for illegal border crossers ; and
* Implement a tough, smart border security strategy in order to gain operational control of the border.
He said something else though that I hadn’t heard before. He would ask the Social Security Administration to monitor use of false Social Security numbers and use them to pursue employers whose workers claim them. He would fine employers and deport the illegals thus identified.

I then read my next question from my list: “How do you understand the first part of our 14th Amendment: ‘All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside.’ Would you challenge that justification for so-called anchor babies?”

At this point the recorder picked up the rest of the interview. Senator Brownback said: “The legal expertise that I’ve heard from believes that that is the law the way it is in the Constitution and it would take a Constitutional amendment to remove the ‘anchor baby’ issue. Most legal scholars that I have heard from believe it would take a Constitutional amendment to change that.”

All right. Would you require states or cities who consider themselves sanctuary states or sanctuary cities to restrict federally-subsidized social services to citizens only?

Well I think the better answer here is that we just enforce the law, and enforce it in those cities as well. If they are keeping people that are here illegally, that those people be deported. That’s the way to deal with that. It’s not to go at some sort of lengthy government program. Right now we have the laws and the cities cannot prevent the enforcement of that, and should not. That’s like the city saying, well we just don’t like this law so we’re not going to abide by it. We don’t allow that to take place in anything else and we shouldn’t on immigration either.

So you think it would take care of itself with aggressive enforcement of present laws.

I think we should aggressively enforce the present laws. This is the law. That’s how we’ve enforced it other times. Enforce the law.

Okay. What would victory in Iraq look like?

I think it would look like political stability on the ground to where there is not a civil war going on. I believe in a soft partition. I think we should, ah, the Kurds have their own state already. I think we should allow the Sunnis to have their own state and a weak federal government with most of your power concentrated out in the states. I think that’s a political solution that we can get stability around. It’s going to be very difficult, I think, to get a politically stable environment in the present governmental structure. We’re almost assured of a weak Shia government in Iraq with the current structure and I think you should devolve authority - the Kurds are running their region quite effectively. Anbar has become much more stable under the Sunnis. I think you should let them run their state in the Sunni region and then the Shia south is going to be, I think, more problematic . . .


. . . with Baghdad being a federal city.

Um-hmm. How about oil revenues? The Sunnis don’t have a lot of oil.

Shared equally per capita.

Okay. How would you propose that we get there?

I think we should do a political surge, now. Aggressive push. The president assigning a high-level envoy - if it’s a Jim Baker or parking Condoleeza Rice over in the region to cut the deal to get this done. We’ve done a political surge. The military’s done a great job. We need a political surge.

Hmm. Okay. How important do you think democracy is in the long-term solution, regional solution, for the Middle East.

I think democracy is central and it’s important, but I don’t we should let the perfect be the enemy of the good or better. These countries, particularly in the Middle East, have a long way to go. Their underlying philosophy, faith philosophy, is that there is not separation of the government from the religion. This is a tough concept of having a government that is separate from the faith.

The Turkish model.

So you end up, really, with the Turkish model where the securer of the democracy is the military.


And I think it’s going to be a long, tough process.

A generation.

I think it could take quite some time.

That’s what I tell my students. Iran looms large in the region. How would you deal with Iran?

I think you have to be aggressive in a confrontation - very aggressive economic sanctions. I think we need to do a lot more, interior, in Iran on developing civil society, supporting labor union movement - getting some of the pieces of a free society - supporting them inside Iran. I think we have to do a lot more communicating to Iranians about what their government is denying them. The freedom is denied them to vote for the candidate of their choice. The candidates are all picked by the ruling mullahs, a committee that they put forward. The denial of women’s rights. I think we need to communicate a lot more of what Iranian society is being denied by their government. I think we have to build a very strong, international coalition against the Iranians. And I think we have to keep the military option as a possibility. This is a regime that is fighting us in the field, on the ground in Iraq, developing nuclear technology. I think we have to keep that military option on the table.

A credible one.


What do you think of the old quote: “That government governs best which governs least.”

I like it. I think it goes to the basic notion of what the founders created - maximum personal liberty, limited government, but all that generally requires maximum personal responsibility. It brings you back to family and the development of character and virtues by the family. It brings you back to free faith institutions that push personal governance. I like that philosophy.

Would you try to shrink government?


How would you do that?

A couple of ways that I put forward. The one, I think, that we really, really need to do soon is take the BRAC (Base Realignment And Closure) process and apply that to the rest of government. You would have an annual commission report that’s a required vote of Congress on whether or not a group of programs should be eliminated. With BRAC the military looked at which two hundred bases should be closed. It’s required to vote on by Congress - deal or no deal - close all two hundred - keep all two hundred - no amendment - limited time for debate. We need a culling process in the government. What we’re doing in Appropriations (his committee) does not work. That’s one that I would do. I think Republicans and Democrats alike should support it. Many want to free up money to do higher-value things but we can’t get rid of programs that are not working.


The second one is personal Social Security accounts, as an option. It’s not forcing anybody to do that. If you talk about shrinking the percentage that the government is of the economy, that’s probably the biggest step that you could do that would be cheered for across the country, particularly by young people, but would not threaten the solvency of the system for people what want to stay in the system.

So when you suggest the BRAC process for government, would that be all departments?


Hmm. Interesting.

Yeah, we have a bill in that’s - I don’t know how many co-sponsors we have on it - but this is the only thing that we’ve shown can work to cull antiquated, wasteful government programs. Otherwise, the system’s just built to spend.

So everybody has to vote up or down, and therefore go on record, and have to be accountable for their vote. There wouldn’t be any more hiding.


Hmm. Interesting process.

It worked for BRAC. We’ve never been - prior to BRAC we could never close a military base. All the horse trading would go on, but after BRAC we’ve closed a number of them.

A lot of them up here in my region of the country.

Yeah. A lot of people don’t like the process, but the military likes it from the standpoint that it puts more money in their high-priority areas.

Hmm. Yeah, and they would know best.


How do you interpret the Second Amendment?

Personal right that should be broadly interpreted, umm, as a personal right to bear arms.

So it isn’t for a National Guard. It’s not for hunting. It’s for people to bear arms personally.


Okay. Pretty straightforward.

Well I’ve had a lot of votes for the last - I’ve been in Congress since 1995 and I’ve voted in favor of the Second Amendment. It baffles me how you can interpret pieces of the Constitution broadly and others narrowly.


I mean either you interpret all of it broadly or all of it narrowly, and the Second Amendment is equal to all other amendments. They’re pieces of the Constitution. I think it deserves a very strong interpretation as a personal right.

How would you handle efforts to resurrect the Fairness Doctrine?

Ah. I think that’s a bad idea. Because it’s going to limit radio that they can listen to and it’s against how the marketplace works. I think it’s against some basic rights. I’m opposed to the Fairness Doctrine. I don’t see much of anything fair about it.

Okay (laughing). Assuming that Democrats like Chuck Shumer who gained power in the US Senate maintain it after the 2008 elections and you find yourself president under those circumstances, you’ve indicated that you intend to appoint judges who would overturn Roe V Wade. What strategy would you use to try and get those judges confirmed in a Senate Judiciary Committee with Chuck Shumer as the chair?

Appoint high-quality individuals like a John Roberts or a Sam Alito that are strict-constructionist of the constitution. I think that’s the combination of how you would get them on through. High quality, but philosophically are strict-constructionist.

Hmm. Not worried about “Borking”?

Well, I think they’re going to try to do that. They tried to do that on Roberts and Alito. The quality of their ability and character what such that, at the end of the day when they went through the grinder of the Judiciary Committee, they shined.

Yeah, they did. I was proud.

I was too and I was there and predicting big, nasty fights and we had them, but at the end of the day the people just had to vote for them. There was no reason they really couldn’t vote for them.

Hmm. Well I hope it works. I certainly do. You’re a very strong pro-life candidate. Perhaps the strongest.

Thank you very much. Good to talk to you. God bless you. All the best.

Thank you very much Senator.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Maine's New Religion

Maine issues driver’s licenses to illegal aliens. Some people here think it’s a problem and some don’t. One of the former is Paula Silsby, US Attorney for the district of Maine. “Silsby says not having a residency requirement opens a major loophole in the system and criminals can get through it,” according to a report from Kara Matuszewski on the WCSH Newscenter6 web site. “A drivers license is, in many instances, the keys to the kingdom,” said Silsby.

Among those who don’t think it’s much of a problem is the person responsible for issuing Maine driver’s licenses. “There are reasons why someone may not be a resident, but wants a Maine driver's license, said Secretary of State Matt Dunlap to WCSH. “Students or people who do a lot of business in Maine may want a driver’s license from the state. The system isn’t perfect.” Thanks a lot, Mr. Secretary. You spoke without addressing the issue. Matt Dunlap: the artful dodger.

Another who doesn’t see it as a problem is Maine Governor John Baldacci, a liberal Democrat. He issued an executive order that state employees may not question the “immigration status” of anyone applying for anything in Maine, making this a sanctuary state for illegal aliens. That would include applying for a whole spectrum of welfare benefits which are more generous here than in many other states. It’s no wonder illegal aliens want to come to Maine. How many are coming? We don’t know, because state officials would be penalized if they even ask, so we don’t keep track.

Another who doesn’t seem to think it’s a problem is the executive editor of Maine’s largest newspaper, Jeannine Guttman at The Portland Press Herald. Like the rest of the unconcerned, she’s an evangelist for one of the fastest-growing religions in Maine: Worshipers of Diversity and Multiculturism. They think it’s a problem that Maine’s population is mostly white. “. . . Maine has been one of the whitest states in the country,” she wrote to the American Society of Newspaper Editors. “A decade ago, that statistic blocked serious endeavors to try to diversify our staff. A common misperception was that journalists of color wouldn’t feel comfortable living in Maine because it was too white, so why bother to recruit?” Well, recruit she did in spite of Maine’s “too many white people” problem. People “of color” are replacing people “of pallor” on her rolls. The Press Herald’s new rainbow staff devoutly publishes endless articles in praise of Diversity and Multiculturism.

Backing up this effort, the University of Maine’s coursework requires those training to become teachers, social workers, and others studying the humanities professions to read and discuss Peggy MacIntosh’s essay: “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack.” MacIntosh is a devout believer and evangelist for Maine’s new state religion. She tries to make the case that, just as men are are “overprivileged,” so are white people. “Having described it,” she writes of this alleged overprivilege people of pallor have, we each have to ask ourselves: “what will I do to lessen or end it?”

Lessening “white privilege” takes many forms which include recruiting on the basis of skin color as the Press Herald is so proud of doing, or an executive order by the governor that recruits illegal aliens (who are usually people “of color”) to Maine. Why limit ourselves to American citizens of color when we can recruit illegal aliens worldwide? This grand crusade is financed, of course, by confiscatory tax rates on overprivileged people of pallor. Worshipers of diversity and multiculturalism feel very good about themselves when they spend other people’s money to propagate their religion. Thanks to them, Maine has become the highest taxed state in the country while remaining one of the poorest. It’s also one of only two states whose economy stagnated in 2006, while the other forty-eight prospered. The other state whose economy languished was Louisiana, which suffered enormous damage from Hurricane Katrina. Maine didn’t have a hurricane.

As stated above, we don’t know how many illegals in Maine got driver’s licenses because state employees are forbidden to even ask about immigration status, much less keep records. We can get a hint, however, because according to WCSH, there’s an increasing number of people with the Social Security number 999-99-9999 holding Maine licenses. In 2006, there were 3788. As of May, 2007, there were 5372 - an increase of forty percent.

If any of this bothers you, you’re either racist or mean-spirited - probably both. Maine is getting much more diverse and multicultural and that is, after all, what is most important, right?

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Power to the People

Control of media is power. There are many candidates for president in both major parties, for example, but Americans don’t know most of them. Why? Because they get little exposure in the media. When people asked me what I did over the summer, I told them I interviewed some presidential candidates. “Really?” they said. “Which ones?” When I went down the list, citing Republican Congressmen Duncan Hunter and Tom Tancredo as well as Democrats Senator Chris Dodd and Governor Bill Richardson, most replied: “Never heard of them.” Consequently, those candidates have little chance of getting elected. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? Depends on your perspective.

Who controls media? Cogent observers would have to say The New York Times is the single media organ with the most power right now. Why? It has a huge circulation - and not just in New York City, but across the country. Also, the three major networks base their evening news broadcasts on whatever appears on the Times’ front page. The big weekly news magazines are strongly influenced by it too and that gives the Times a lot of clout. Since the Times has a pronounced leftist bias, its power a good thing for liberal Democrats. If you’re a conservative Republican, it’s not so good. The enormous power exercised by the Times for many decades is diminishing rapidly, however. Media is not only changing, it’s decentralizing in every way - from sourcing to dissemination.

Historically, people were influenced by spoken words and by symbols - buildings like temples or shrines, and images drawn or sculpted. People had to be physically present - next to them - to be influenced by them. Writing was invented early and could be passed around to influence people more widely, but only the elite could read. The masses still had to be assembled to look, listen, and be influenced by speeches and symbols. Whoever could speak well had power. The expression “The tongue is mightier than the blade” is attributed to Euripedes in the 5th century B.C. As more people became literate the written word gained power to the point where, twenty centuries later, Shakespeare wrote: “. . . Many wearing rapiers are afraid of goose quills.” In 1839, another English playwright named Edward Bulwer-Lytton wrote: “The pen is mightier than the sword.” The Times’ power derived from this.

In the first half of the twentieth century radio, then television, threatened the primacy of the written word, but the Times retained its power. In the second half, however, came the internet. The Times is still on top in 2007, but its publisher isn’t sure he’ll be publishing a hard copy newspaper in five years. Young people aren’t reading newspapers much and circulation is not only declining, the decline is accelerating rapidly.

Maine Senator Ed Muskie was a shoe-in for the Democrat presidential nomination in 1972 until voters saw and heard him cry during a speech in Manchester, New Hampshire. A tape went around the country and his candidacy was over. Vermont Governor Howard Dean looked unbeatable until his famous scream in Iowa three years ago. That went around even faster and his candidacy was over too. Such things travel still faster over the internet and most Americans access it regularly now. When Red Sox rookie Clay Buchholz pitched a no-hitter last weekend, for example, his parents watched him on instead of television. How will the new media change politics? Hard to say, but there are a few hints out there.

Someone got ahold of a two-minute clip showing John Edwards primping before a TV appearance, dubbed in Julie Andrews singing “I Feel Pretty,” and posted it in YouTube. After hearing about his $1200 haircuts and hearing Laura Ingraham refer to him as the “Silky Pony,” I thought the clip was hilarious. Widespread viewing could kill Edwards’s hopes of commander-in-chief. Anyone can send it out as an email attachment to and friends, who might each send it out again and so forth. It could go around the world in hours. People with digital video cameras record what candidates say in house parties or anywhere else on the stump. They can post videos on YouTube and be viewed around around the world. Students can record teachers in class and out go videos of lessons to whomever in cyberspace. People will be much more accountable for what we say and do in public.

NowPublic is a startup news agency with a different approach. A July 30th article said, “In part of a trend referred to as ‘citizen journalism,’ NowPublic lets anyone with digital cameras or a camera-enable mobile telephones upload images or news snippets for dissemination via the Internet.” They claim to have 120,000 “journalists” around the world.” Will NowPublic fly? Who knows? Will people visit its web site instead of turning on the Today Show or the CBS Evening News? Maybe. Some already do and it claims to be growing by 35% a month while traditional news broadcasts lose viewers. It it one of the little mammals scampering around the feet of the dinosaur media? How will the new media affect the next election, still over a year away? Hard to say, but it’s bound to be interesting.