Saturday, October 25, 2014

Subjects Object

Something shifted in our collective consciousness this month - something basic. It’s like that old children’s story about the emperor’s new clothes. His subjects laughed because the emperor thought he looked wonderful, but his subjects saw he was naked. Our current emperor believes he’s brilliant, but his subjects think things are “going to hell in a hand basket” and “feel like they are out of control right now." While they laughed at the emperor in the children’s story, they’re not laughing now. They don't believe their emperor can or will protect them. They don't feel safe.
A speechwriter for one of the previous emperors named Peggy Noonan summed it up last week: “There’s the sense of an absence where the [emperor] should be.” His “Hope and Change” of 2008 morphed into despair and barely hanging on. When his subjects starting feeling uneasy in 2012, the emperor said: “Bin Laden is dead” and “General Motors is alive” and “al Qaida is on the run.” When al Qaida killed Americans in Benghazi, Libya, he made up a story about how it wasn’t terrorism, only reaction to a film that insulted their prophet Mohammed.” Subjects exhaled, saying, “Oh… okay.”
It was the film

This year his subjects saw internet film of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria terrorists cutting heads off Americans. The emperor’s generals warned that ISIS is more dangerous than al Qaida and the subjects were scared again. The emperor said don’t worry. They’re just “the JV team” and “not Islamic” and he can handle them with “no boots on the ground.”  But they were still scared because they lost confidence in the emperor and didn't believe him either. The internet showed more beheadings and rapes of Christian women and children and ISIS said it’s coming over here to kill and rape Americans too. The emperor’s generals said ISIS can’t be defeated without the kingom's “boots on the ground.” They worry even more when the emperor and his foreign ministers continue to insist the greatest threat to the kingdom is climate change because they're not afraid of climate change. They worry about ISIS, Ebola, their jobs, and their health care.
The emperor sensed their fear so he said he’d put American boots on the ground in West Africa to fight Ebola. He figured TV would report this instead of ISIS so he flew to Atlanta to talk with the Centers for Disease Control about Ebola. His motorcade drove to the CDC headquarters where the emperor announced that: “The chances of an Ebola outbreak in the [kingdom] are extremely low.”
Two weeks later an African flew here with Ebola. They figured the African knew he was infected and lied so he could get free American health care. The emperor’s CDC said they would “stop Ebola in its tracks” because “they knew how to handle it,” but a week later it spread to a nurse, and the next week to another nurse. The emperor’s CDC said the nurses didn’t follow their instruction with bodily fluids like blood, diarrhea and vomit. Then TV showed Dallas city workers “decontaminating” the African’s apartment and using a pressure washer to push his infected vomit from the sidewalk into the gutter. Subjects started thinking the emperor and his CDC don’t know what they're doing.
The Dallas hospital spent $1000 an hour on the African for days before he died. The emperor’s subjects worried about their own health care. They remembered the start of the emperor’s new healthcare plan for them last fall. They remembered how he lied when he said: “If you like your policy, you can keep your policy” and “If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor. Period.” The emperor put off other parts of his plan until after next week’s election because he knew his subjects wouldn’t like them either. Then, some US hospitals said last week they are thinking about withholding care from Ebola-infected Americans.

European and African kingdoms don’t let planes in from Ebola-infected kingdoms, but the emperor lets them in here and his subjects wonder why. The emperor says new airport screenings will prevent infected people from getting in, but then a doctor with Ebola was able to go right through them into New York City.

They hear the emperor is waiting until after next week’s election before he pardons millions of illegal aliens who sneaked into his kingdom. They fear he wants the illegals to be new subjects who will work for less than they do, or who won’t work at all. They worry about what else they may hear about after the election, like: Has the emperor been hiding other Ebola-infected people until after the voting is over?

They’re thinking the emperor isn’ nearly as brilliant as he thinks he is - and when they vote next Tuesday, they’re going to show him they’re not as stupid as he thinks they are.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014


Japanese Maple in autumn

Perspective changes with age. When I was in my twenties, I encountered rot in several places while working on my first old house - a hundred-year-old three-tenement bought for $15,000. My approach was to rip and tear until I got down to solid wood before starting to build back. I would act as if I were cutting out a cancer and wanted to I “get it all” as a surgeon might say to the family after his operation. We sold it a few years later for $23,500 and figured we did well.I had the same attitude with my second house, a hundred-fifty-year-old home in Maine I rehabbed when I was in my late twenties and thirties. We bought it for $27,500 and sold it for $63,000. Then I did the same to a hundred-fifty-year-old cape for my mother. She still has it.
Mt. Kearsarge with the Moats on the left

Around that time I got my first client as a caretaker. It was a compound with several buildings, two over a hundred years old. When I discovered some rotten areas in one building, I brought them to the attention of the owner who was in her eighties. She trusted my judgement but she had a different perspective to things. The rot was in the home she occupied every summer, a magnificent old building designed by architect John Calvin Stevens. Soil had built up over the lowest course of shingles on the uphill side and rotted them. She asked what it would take to repair and how much it would cost. I told her it would have to be dug out first and then pulled apart to ascertain how deeply the rot extended into the sheathing or sill. Then I could tell give her a definitive answer.
Zooming on the Moats for different perspective

She winced when I described the process. “How long will it last if we leave it alone?” she asked. I told her that was hard to say. The building wasn’t sagging and it could be ten years or more before it did. She nodded as I talked, then said she wanted to leave it alone. That went against my instincts to do nothing and let the rot continue, but I had given her my best advice and my job then was to accept her decision graciously. She had done the math and figured the house would likely last longer than she herself would and she was right. She died ten years later in her early nineties.
Our city house with porch

After turning sixty, my wife and I bought another fixer-upper— a ninety-year-old, single-family house that, like our first house, is in the city. We’re both semi-retired now, so we have more time to work on it than when we were young and raising kids. Money isn’t as tight either, but I approach things differently being I’m forty years older. We figured to fix it up and rent it, but we like going down there and use it as a second home. After pulling up some rotten decking on the front porch last summer, I discovered that rot had extended into some of the joists as well. I also noticed that one of the previous owners had done a repair job about thirty years ago. Rather than replace the partially-rotted joists, my predecessor left them in place, then put a new joist next to each one and nailed them together - a process called “sistering.”
Richmond Island, Cape Elizabeth Maine

Forty years ago, the younger Tom would have scoffed at that and proceed to tear the entire floor out. However, the old repair had held up pretty well and other joists were showing rot, so what did the 63-year-old Tom do? I left the partially-rotted joists in place and sistered new ones onto them, just as my predecessor had done. Then I covered them all with ice and water shield and put on new decking. The rot remains underneath, but it won’t progress - and I can sleep easy knowing it will last longer than my wife and I will.
Zooming in on Richmond Island for different perspective

Like I said: Perspective changes with age. I'm better at accepting things that are less than perfect - in myself, in others, and in many situations with which I'm forced to deal.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Crisis of Confidence

A lot going on these days, no? Sometimes I think I’ve lived too long.

Twenty years ago many of my students carried various Stephen King books along with the history book I required them to bring into my class. I told them I stopped reading horror stories because real life is often scary enough. Truth is much stranger than fiction and actual events, past or present, interest me much more than any fiction.

A week later I’d just finished “The Hot Zone” by Richard Preston. On the back was a comment by Stephen King: “The first chapter of The Hot Zone is one of the most horrifying things I've read in my whole life--and then it gets worse. That's what I keep marveling over: it keeps getting worse. What a remarkable piece of work.” So I brought it to class and read them King’s comment. At their insistence I read some of chapter one, but stopped after the first twenty pages. The following week, I noticed a few students carrying Preston’s book.
Ebola in West Africa

Last month, President Obama tried to calm Americans worried about a new outbreak of Ebola in Africa. He told us it was highly unlikely there would be an outbreak in the US. Two weeks later, though, it happened. This week, there were two more cases reported in Dallas, Texas. Hopefully things won’t, as King said back then, “keep getting worse.” Hopefully the CDC will do as it promised and stop the spread of this disease in its tracks.
However, the confidence expressed by Dr. Thomas Friedman in his first press conference was not evident after the nurse in Dallas became infected. He said we need to “re-think” hospital methods to prevent the spread of this very scary disease. As the federal government takes over more and more aspects of our lives, from health care to education, public confidence in its ability to administer them all competently is waning.

It’s been more than three years since I left the public schools. My thirty-four year career in them witnessed ever-increasing federal and state control over what was to be taught and how, from arithmetic to sex education to what can be eaten at lunch. Countless screwball ideas came down from unions and universities as well. Last week, I read a piece by Katherine Timpf in National Review Online in which she writes: “A Nebraska school district has instructed its teachers to stop referring to students by “gendered expressions” such as “boys and girls,” and use “gender inclusive” ones such as “purple penguins” instead.
Gender-bending programs like this have been trickling in for years and I’ve written about some in this space several times. If I were still in public education and instructed to say: “Good morning Purple Penquins” instead of “Good morning boys and girls,” I believe I would have refused. Are there objections out there in Nebraska? None I have heard. What is it going to take before people push back against relentless LGBT propaganda paid for by their own tax money and foisted on their children?
The “Gender Spectrum” curriculum, mandated in the Nebraska district, “…instructs teachers to interfere and interrupt if they ever hear a student talking about gender in terms of ‘boys and girls’ so the student can learn that this is wrong.”

Wrong, mind you. Students are not being told just to tolerate other students who are confused about whether they’re boys or girls. Now it’s “wrong” to refer to the sexes in a “binary manner.” Nebraska public school teachers must now: “Provide counter-narratives that challenge students to think more expansively about their notions of gender.”

Two months ago, my wife and I attended my niece’s wedding in Massachusetts. When she and her husband filled out their marriage license, there were no categories for “husband” and “wife.” No-no. Not in politically correct Massachusetts. It was “Spouse A” and “Spouse B.” How did this happen?

Several years ago, Massachusetts passed a so-called “gay rights” law which slipped in language about “gender expression.” Then came a Massachusetts Supreme Court ruling that it was then illegal to prevent homosexuals from “marrying” one another. Leftist bureaucrats took over and changed official language pertaining to marriage - for everyone in the state, getting rid of “husband” and “wife” because those terms are wrong, I guess. They’re too “binary,” exclusive of those who claim they’re neither male nor female.
The City of Houston Texas passed an “equal rights” law that included aspects of “gender identity” and conservative groups have filed suit against it. Meanwhile, city attorneys have recently issued subpoenas demanding that local pastors turn over to the city any sermons written pertaining to “homosexuality or gender identity.” Does this not violate First Amendment guarantees of freedom of religion and speech? How about Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches and seizures?
Will Houston pastors meekly comply? Will the ACLU step in on their behalf? Be interesting to see.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Duplicitous Democrats

The Maine Democratic Party is bombarding my wife with large colored posters filled with lies about Bruce Poliquin, the Republican candidate for Congress in Maine’s 2nd district where we live. Every time I go to our PO Box it’s jammed full of these things and I have a hard time removing them, they’re so big. I don’t know how much they cost, but I’m sure they’re not cheap. The first one she got is an outline of Maine filled with dozens of women’s faces. Next to it are large pink and black font letters proclaiming: “This Year Alone Nearly 1,200 Maine Women Will Be Diagnosed With Breast Cancer.”
“Wow,” I thought. “That’s a lot for a small state like Maine.” So I turned it over to see the other side. It pictured a young woman seated in what looks like a doctor’s office or medical clinic. Above her, big red headlines blare: “BRUCE POLIQUIN Would Limit Access to Breast and Cervical Cancer Screenings for Maine Women.” Then I’m thinking: “What?” Further down it states: ”Bruce Poliquin said he would block federal funding to Planned Parenthood, a key provider of cancer screenings for women.”
My wife tore it up. I taped it back together

Then it dawned on me: Most people believe Planned Parenthood does mammograms. They don’t. Planned Parenthood is far more interested in performing abortions. They’d rather invest in the equipment to dismember babies than in Xray machines to do mammograms. Planned Parenthood does more abortions by far than anyone else in America - 327,166 abortions in 2012 alone. When President Obama debated Mitt Romney that year, he used the same old lie: “When Governor Romney says that we should eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood,” Obama said, “there are millions of women all across the country who rely on Planned Parenthood for not just contraceptive care. They rely on it for mammograms…”
I’ll say it again: Planned Parenthood doesn’t do mammograms. They do Pap tests, yes, but mostly what they’re set up for is abortions.
Poliquin wants to stop sending millions in federal funds to Planned Parenthood because they’re the biggest abortionists in the country, not because they do Pap tests. Poliquin is pro-life. So is Romney. So am I. So is my wife. Democrats are the party of abortion. It’s their biggest issue, but they don’t like to even say the word. Instead, they use euphemisms like “Women’s Health,” as if pregnancy were a disease and abortion a cure, or “Reproductive Rights,” as if sucking babies out of their mothers’ wombs is “reproduction.” Whenever a nomination is made to the US Supreme Court - the third branch of our federal government - what do Democrats want to know about the appointee? They want to know if he/she supports abortion, that’s what. Every other issue pales by comparison.
So big a lie, I couldn't get it all on my scanner

It’s the biggest issue for the Maine Democratic Party too, but they’ll never come out and say it. Instead they send duplicitous mailings to camouflage what they really believe. They smear Poliquin by portraying him as someone who doesn’t care about cancer in women. That’s low-down. To them, protecting innocent life in the womb is a “War on Women.” Another eight-and-a-half by fourteen cardboard mailing proclaimed: “BRUCE POLIQUIN Wants Politicians and Bosses Making Women’s Health Care Decisions” next to the headline is a women lying in a hospital bed with a worried look in her eyes. Further down it says, “He even supports letting bosses decide whether or not women have access to birth control.”
What unadulterated crap! I’ve never heard of a Republican candidate who is against women accessing birth control. It’s made up out of the whole cloth. Republicans are against being forced to pay for abortion-inducing drugs in employer-paid medical insurance premiums. If a woman wants those pills for herself, she can pay for them herself and birth control pills are $6 a month at Walmart. No Republican anywhere is preventing women’s access to birth control, nor is anyone recommending it.
The Truth is just the opposite

Other fliers sent to my wife are aimed at seniors. They’re big, colored cardboard with pictures of worried-looking older people, and they claim Poliquin would: “Put Your Retirement At Risk” with “changes to Social Security and Medicare.” The truth is just the opposite. The whole federal system is going to collapse if we don’t make the changes Poliquin suggests, like raising the retirement age. When Poliquin took over as Maine State Treasurer, he strengthened the
Maine Public Employees Retirement System for many Mainers. It had been grossly underfunded by Democrats who were in power for decades and would not have survived without Poliquin's and LePage’s fix. Such underfunding has bankrupted cities around the country and threatens several states.

That’s the pension I draw as a retired teacher, and my wife will get after I’m gone. If Poliquin and enough other conservatives are elected to Congress, they’ll fix Social Security and Medicare too.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Were They The First People Here?

We tend think the earliest-known people to inhabit this region were the most primitive, but that isn’t necessarily so. The artifacts they left for us indicate they may have been more sophisticated than subsequent cultures for ten thousand years after.

Not much remains but stone, but what wondrous ways they fashioned it. Their projectile points were meticulously made and quite beautiful to behold. One of the first of these Paleo-American points, and most classic ever found in the state of New Hampshire, was picked up somewhere in Intervale, between Conway and Bartlett, New Hampshire. It couldn’t be precisely dated because the exact site where it was found is uncertain, but it is thought to be about 11,000 years old. It would have to have been found in its original position to be properly evaluated. It’s kept now at the Smithsonian in Washington, DC and was made of Munsungan Chert, for which there is only one known source - 200 miles away to the northeast in Maine. It’s a pretty, red stone, and I’ve found smaller samples of it near the Saco River in nearby Fryeburg. Munsungan Chert and other stone types were used by subsequent cultures as well, and the samples I found aren’t nearly as old as the Intervale point.
Mount Jasper Mine Berlin, NH

Another stone material they used comes from a mine in Berlin, New Hampshire, which was continually used for over ten thousand years by many cultures. It comes in many shades depending on its exposure to weathering elements and I find samples of it in Fryeburg as well. The most common type I find over this way is a dark, gray stone from the Ossipee Mountains just south of Conway. Another common stone I find there is from Mount Kineo on Moosehead Lake, which is a dark speckled gray/blue. The most interesting, however, were two small pieces from far-away Ramah Bay in northern Labrador. Clearly, these early Americans got around much more than we originally thought.
Many of us today live on the side of a hill to enjoy the view. Ten thousand years ago, the earliest-known Americans in these parts did the same thing. I had to clear an acre and a half of trees to get my view over to New Hampshire’s White Mountains, but there were no trees around here ten thousand years ago when Paleo-Americans roamed the landscape. I like the view for aesthetic purposes, but those early Americans, probably liked it to scout game. The landscape they looked out on had the same mountains we have today, but with no trees they could see much more than we can. The lowlands contained grasses and small spruce, but that’s it, so herds of large mammals could likely have been seen from a long way off.
The glaciers had just melted away and the southern edge of the receding ice sheet wasn’t too far off to the north-northwest. There were huge glacial lakes all around. Kezar Lake here in Lovell was about three times its present size. It wasn’t a hospitable environment for humans, but big mammals liked it, especially caribou, but probably mammoth and mastodon too. The big spearpoints they made were evidently effective at dispatching them too. Some anthropologists think their fluted points were so effective, Paleo-Americans hunted these last two species to extinction. “Fluted” means there was a kind of channel fashioned in the center part of the point -probably to facilitate mounting it on a spear shaft.
Jefferson New Hampshire dig in 2011

Other sites in New Hampshire have produced stone - “lithic” - evidence of Paleo-Americans including Effingham, Jefferson, and locations along the Merrimac River. More are turning up as New Hampshire has required archaeological surveys for large construction projects. Maine requires this as well and, twenty years ago, a site in Oxford, Maine containing Paleo-American artifacts was discovered this way along the Little Androscoggin River near the WALMART store being built there.
So far the earliest evidence of humans in Maine comes from what is now the bottom of Aziscohos Lake in Maine near the borders of New Hampshire and Quebec. A fellow named Vail from nearby Stoneham, Maine was looking for lost fishing tackle while the lake was down and came across some interesting artifacts. This was reported to archaeologist Mike Gramly who excavated there for about twenty years, and published the results in several books. Early Mainers were evidently hunting caribou in that area sometime around ten or eleven thousand years ago, long before a dam was built in Wilson’s Mills to form present Lake Aziscohos.
As I sit on my back porch writing this, I can look out over the ancient landscape and imagine what it looked like in Paleo-American times. I can drive my truck and ATV to remote sites, but they most likely walked. I call them Paleo-Americans as Mike Gramly does, because we don’t know if they were ancestors of today’s Indians. Today’s Abenaki Indians in Maine and New Hampshire claim to be descendants of Paleo-Americans, but there are interesting theories being proposed recently that they may have been related Solutrean people from what is now northern Spain who crossed over around 25,000 years ago.