Friday, September 27, 2019

Left & Right September 25, 2019

Mark Guerringue sits in the left chair for this show. We immediately address the producer's first question: "If President Trump withheld military aid to Ukraine as a means of pressuring them to dig up dirt on Joe Biden's son, should he be impeached?"

Mark says Trump and Giuliani have already admitted it, that's an impeachable offense, and Pelosi had no choice. (I should mention that the transcript of the call hadn't been released at this point in the show).

We compare Trump's possible impeachment with Clinton's impeachment, the process as it was begun under Nixon, and could have been under Reagan after the Iran-Contra scandal. We agree that's it's both a political process and a legal one, but mostly a political one.

We discuss how the Clinton impeachment backfired on the Republicans and speculated about how it could backfire against Democrats if they should proceed against Trump.

While we're talking, the producer brings us print-outs of the whistleblower's transcript just being released. Mark reads it and there's some damning stuff, but no smoking gun. Then again, it's only a few pages of a larger transcript.

Mark pivots to the Democrat primaries saying Elizabeth Warren is catching fire, while Bernie is sinking. I refer to that morning's proposal of a "wealth registry" by Bernie to one-up Warren's proposed "Wealth Tax" of taking 2% of the total assets of wealthy people annually. Bernie now wants to freeze their assets and take even more.

I bring up a transcript of a staff meeting in the New York Times last month in which its editor acknowledges how his paper geared up to cover the "Russian Collusion" story which went bust and how disappointed NYT readers were that Trump was still standing. Then the editor said he was gearing up to cover Trump and racism until the 2020 election. I said it was an example of the NYT and other leftist mainstream media orchestrating stories and narratives.

Mark said it was all okay and that's the way newspapers should operate. I said, "Okaaaay..."

Lastly, he brought up the continuing, extensive coverage of a duck killing by some football players at Kennett High School. I said I was amazed that it got so much attention. "I mean, it's a duck," I said. Mark said it was more the reaction of the community that the coach and other school officials should have handed down worse penalties than a three or four-game suspension. He asked me if I agreed. I said I agreed with the coach.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

At the Highland Games in Lincoln, NH

Binary isn’t a dirty word among the Scots. Yes, many of the men wear skirts, but it wouldn’t be a good idea to question the masculinity of a kilt-wearing man at the recent Highland Games in Lincoln, New Hampshire. Generally, I hate crowds, but I willingly endured the throng that turned out for the Scottish soiree last Saturday. The first thing I did was visit the exhibit tent of Clan MacLachlan [Gaelic spelling for McLaughlin], the Scottish branch of my ancestors. 

Old Castle Lachlan on Lachlan Bay in the Scottish Highlands
Gaelic Scotland was settled from northern Ireland. If you stand on the shore of County Antrim in Ulster on a clear day, you can see across the Irish Sea to Scotland. It’s that close. Just to the west of County Antrim is the Inishowen Peninsula where the largest Irish branch of the clan still lives and where my great-grandfather was born. The July/August 2001 edition of Archaeology Magazine explains it this way:
Ireland in the Early Christian period (A.D. 400-1177) was made up of at least 120 chiefdoms, usually described in surviving documents as petty kingdoms, typically having about 700 warriors. One of these petty kingdoms was Dál Riata, which occupied a corner of County Antrim, the island's northeasternmost part. Around A.D. 400, people from Dál Riata began to settle across the Irish Sea along the Scottish coast in County Argyll. Other Irish migrants were also establishing footholds along the coast farther south, as far as Wales and even Cornwall, but the migrants from Dál Riata were especially noteworthy because they were known to the Romans as "Scotti" and they would eventually give their Gaelic language and their name to all of what is now known as Scotland.

 There remain Gaelic-speaking areas in Brittany too. They’re all Celtic, the last vestiges of the ancient tribe the Greeks referred to as Keltoi, or “tall ones.” The Romans called them “Gauls” and Julius Caesar said they called themselves “Celts.” Their original language will likely join Latin as a dead language in just a few more generations. The “tall ones” characterization describes many of the men participating in the Highland Games, the events of which involve the lifting and throwing of various heavy and awkward objects including stones and logs. At 6’5” and 300 lbs, the contestants were as big and brawny as NFL linemen, and they were all wearing kilts.

Clan pride is still fierce — kind of an extension of family honor, and leading, I think, to national pride. Each clan has its own “tartan,” a unique plaid fabric with certain interwoven colors, configurations of which are “owned” by the clan and used to sew kilts, hats, and an over-the-shoulder sash such as you’d see watching movies like “Rob Roy” and “Braveheart.” Also unique to each clan is its heraldry displaying elements of clan history and a slogan. For Clan MacLachlan, the slogan is “Fortis et Fidus,” which means “brave and faithful.”
Men wearing kilts at the Highland games had a confident bearing as if they had internalized Rule #1 of Jordan Peterson’s Twelve Rules for Life: An Antidote For Chaos. “Stand up straight, shoulders back.” They looked straight ahead. They made eye contact. They knew who they were. So did the women.

Isle of Skye Scotland
Another recent book came to mind as I observed people in the crowd. That would be the just-published Primal Screams by Mary Eberstadt, who claims the sexual revolution and related social upheaval of the sixties in America have “… whittled away at our primary attachments [and] have by now deprived a great many people of traditional answers to the question, ‘Who am I?’ These traditional answers involve our relations to others: I am a sister, mother, aunt, cousin, wife, etc. We define our identities relationally … But for a lot of us today, thanks to family vanishing, those fundamental familial building blocks of identity are harder to come by.”
Dancers with the RCMP Pipe and Drum Corps in Lincoln
Belonging to a clan adds another strong layer to all that. Those in attendance at the Highland Games in New Hampshire last weekend were roused by the frequent and riveting rhythms of pipes and drums, symbolic of Celtic heritage. It stirred something deep within me as if it were energizing my DNA. And, who knows? Maybe it was. I felt a certain pride — like I belonged to an ancient and esteemed tradition.

Spontaneous dancers at Albannach performance

Performances including formal marching pipe and drum bands like one from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police as well as more primal groups like Albannach, which is Gaelic for Scottish. Albannach really got the blood running in the tent where they put on their show. It was quite infectious. At one point they brought a young bagpiper on stage who couldn’t have been more than five years old. He had to stand on a box so the crowd would see him.

The young bagpiper

Monday, September 16, 2019

New Maine Residents

It’s no big deal to see a wild turkey in Maine anymore. They’re as common as crows these days, but it hasn’t been that long, and I remember the first time I saw one around here. My wife was driving a little school bus in nearby Sweden, Maine when she saw one acting funny beside Knight’s Hill Road after dropping off her last student. Thinking it injured, she took it into the bus and brought it home. I’m not sure I could call it wild though, as it seemed unsure of itself — as if trying to decide whether it was wild or domesticated. That wasn’t too long after Maine had first reintroduced turkeys here in 1978. Now, of course, they’re prolific.

Bald Eagle and Osprey over Kezar Lake
Seeing a bald eagle is becoming routine too. The first time I ever saw one in Lovell, Maine, I saw two. Was it twelve years ago? Fifteen? I’m not sure, but I was doing the dishes at the kitchen sink and noticed two large birds circling each other very high up. I had to squint to notice the white tails, then the white heads. A few years later I saw one in a kind of aerial dogfight with a much smaller osprey over middle bay on Kezar Lake in Lovell. More recently I saw one perched on a branch beside the lake trying to eat a fish as it was being harassed by smaller birds. He flew off clutching the half-eaten fish while being dive-bombed by those pesky little birds.

Harassed Bald Eagle over Kezar Lake
I still stop and stare when I see a bald eagle today because they’re just so majestic, and there aren’t that many of them around yet. About six weeks ago, I saw my first golden eagle soaring above the Spurwink River estuary at Higgins Beach in Scarborough, Maine. I had my 150-600 mm lens with me because I was planning to photograph arctic terns as they dove for small fish. They weren’t active that day and I was about to head back to my vehicle when this huge bird appeared over the water. Someone had told me that goldens are bigger than bald eagles and I figured that must be what I was looking at through my lens. It was huge.
Golden Eagle in Scarborough, Maine
The big bird flew in slow circles looking down to the surface of the estuary for his lunch. He evidently didn’t see anything catchable so he flew back to a perch on a limb on the other side of the river mouth. He was in shadow and I couldn’t get a decent shot of him over there so I waited for him to come back out and go fishing again hoping to get a shot of him diving down and grabbing one. Unfortunately, he never emerged before it was time for me to leave. As soon as I got home I downloaded the images and researched golden eagles to make sure of my identification. It was definitely a golden eagle.

Golden Eagle in Scarborough, Maine
So far I’ve only seen opossum as roadkill here in Maine and have yet to see a live one. It shouldn’t be long before I do though because the roadkill was less than a mile from my house. He wasn’t just “playing possum” as his entrails had burst out over the pavement. Guess I’ll have to study up on their habits so I can hopefully get some shots of a live one.

Last fall I saw a small flock of tannish, heron-like birds with red markings on their heads in the back of a large farm field in nearby North Fryeburg, Maine. I wasn’t sure what they were, but when I saw a notice on Facebook of Maine sightings of sandhill cranes this past summer, I realized what they were. Two weeks ago, I was looking for Indian artifacts along the course of the Old Saco River when I heard their distinct, high-pitched “kuk-err, kuk-err” emanating from a nearby field. I went back to my truck, attached the long lens to my camera, and drove over there.

Sandhill Cranes in Fryeburg
They must have heard me coming because all six or seven of them had turned their heads my way from across the field. I emerged, camera-ready, from my truck and walked slowly toward them. “Kuk-err, kuk-err,” I heard again as they got agitated. I kept walking in their direction until they took off, chattering as they cleared the treetops separating that field from the next. According to an article in the Boothbay Register, there have been nesting pairs of sandhill cranes in Maine since at least the year 2000.

Sandhill Cranes in Fryeburg
It’s big and bulky, but I’ll definitely be packing my long lens on future trips to North Fryeburg — or anywhere else in Maine for that matter. I got myself a larger backpack capable of carrying all I’ll need to photograph all the new residents of our state.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Left & Right September 11, 2019

Occupying the left chair for this show is my old friend, Jim Wilfong. He's a Democrat former Maine state representative, a selectman in Stow, Maine, a former Small Business Administration official in the Clinton Administration, a former trade advisor for the Bush and Obama Administrations as well as other titles which you can see at the beginning of the show. I hope he'll come back for future shows as well.

The first question from the producer asked if we think it was appropriate for President Trump to have the Taliban on US soil during the week of 9/11. Jim did not and neither did I. From there, we discussed Afghanistan both historically and today. We discussed where each of was on September 11th.

We discussed how some aspects of the long Cold War between the US and Russia continue. Jim claims our #1 export is weaponry, which was surprising to me. We discussed the positive and negative aspects of that.

From there we discussed the Democrat field of candidates for president, and I recalled Jim's early support in the 1980s of Joe Biden. Now he's intrigued by Andrew Yang and Elizabeth Warren. Yang because of his discussion of technology's impact on employment, especially in the future. He likes the way Warren is critical of Wall Street and big business, him being a small business guy.

Jim goes into the feasibility of alternative energy sources in light of the importance of fossil fuels in developing third-world economies.

I call attention to the rise of socialism in the Democrat Party, especially polls showing a majority of young Democrats favoring socialism over capitalism. I cite Alexandria Ocasio Cortez's election and Democrat chairman Tom Perez saying she's the future of the party. I cite her chief of staff's claim that the Green New Deal is primarily a vehicle to take over the US economy, and not a remedy for climate change.

Jim says the future direction of the Democrat Party remains to be seen, that political winds shift quickly. I hope he's right, but I'm not so sure. He's optimistic about young entrepreneurs he's working with and sees them as capitalists with a concern for their community. I take that to mean that believes free enterprise will prevail among the young so long as small business survives as a big part of our overall economy.

We reflected on the benefits of teaching for a long time in the same community. We get to meet with them and hear from them as they become adults and work in the community.

We end with me citing recent New York Times news-shaping strategies as revealed by a transcript surreptitiously recorded and published in Slate Magazine. We speculate about what news outlets come closest the ideal of straight news sans opinion.

Thursday, September 05, 2019

The Widening Generation Gap

Solid evidence has arrived to confirm what many feared. Despite what has been visibly obvious for the past several years, many held out hope that it really wasn’t so bad, or that it was only temporary and would eventually turn around again. The results of an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll last week dispelled that hope. They were a reality slap and a very painful one at that.

According to the poll, nearly four out of five Americans aged 55+ consider patriotism a strong value, but only about half as many millennials believe that. Two out of three aged 55+ believe religion/belief in God very important, while fewer than one in three millennials do. Lastly, desire for children is way down too. Most 55+ Americans consider having children very important, but fewer than one in three millennials do. There is a little good news, however. Most of us still value hard work, community involvement, and tolerance for others.

The values my generation (I’m 68) considers essential for the continued survival of America as we know it are dying and will soon expire along with us. As conservative essayist Rod Dreher put it: “Those under 40 don’t believe in God, their country, or having children (which is to say, the future), but they do believe in fulfilling themselves. They have nothing to live for except themselves and their jobs.”

While millennials believe in hard work, what about the fruit of their toil? If their money isn’t spent raising a family, what is it for? If it’s not donated to a church, where does it go? Do millennials spend it all on themselves? And why don’t they want children? It’s a question I’ve visited in this space often over the past twenty years. Asking millennials why they eschew raising a family, they cite the high cost of children — a claim for which there is much evidence. Others point to the huge sacrifice of time and energy. Still others want to avoid pregnancy because it can cause stretch marks and sagging breasts.

Also released last week was a very insightful book by essayist Mary Eberstadt called Primal Screams, a collection of essays by several authors which attributes the rise of identity politics to many of the trends highlighted in the above-mentioned poll. During an interview with Kathryn Lopez in National Review, Eberstadt claimed that Americans are becoming more tribal as family support diminishes. They identify with others of their race, sex, and sexuality and Eberstadt claims these trends result from the sexual revolution and social upheaval of the ’60s and ’70s.

When asked what the connection is, Eberstadt said: “In part, it’s simple arithmetic. Think of all the post-revolutionary phenomena that are quotidian facts of life. Abortion, fatherlessness, divorce, single parenthood, childlessness, the shrinking family, the shrinking extended family: Every one of these developments has the effect of reducing the number of people whom we can call our own. And since we are relational creatures, the result is a great vacuum. That’s a lot of what the increasingly panicked flight to collective identities is about.”

As an undergraduate sociology major in the seventies, I recall my left-wing professors still referring to the family as “the basic unit of society.” I doubt sociology departments would countenance that assertion today. Eberstadt points to recent confusion about “gender identity” stemming from the same source. Social upheaval starting in the sixties, she said: “… whittled away at our primary attachments [and] have by now deprived a great many people of traditional answers to the question, ‘Who am I?’ These traditional answers involve our relations to others: I am a sister, mother, aunt, cousin, wife, etc. We define our identities relationally — as the popularity of 23 and Me indicates; as the well-known search for biological relations by children of anonymous sperm donors also affirms. But for a lot of us today, thanks to family vanishing, those fundamental familial building blocks of identity are harder to come by.”

They are indeed. Throughout my long teaching career I assigned students to interview someone seventy or older and ask them: Do you think it’s easier for children to grow up today compared to sixty years ago? Elders said it was easier back then because everyone had the same values. Other questions included: How many brothers and sisters did you have? How many children did the average family have when you were growing up? Did you know any couples who got divorced? To that last question, the answer would often be: “No. I didn’t know anyone who was divorced.” I wanted students to understand, first hand, that it didn’t use to be this way.

The great unraveling began in the late 20th century and continues at an accelerated pace today. Not only are we unable to answer the question “Who am I?”; we can’t even figure out if we’re male or female — or something else entirely.