Tuesday, October 29, 2019

In Old Maine Cemeteries

It was mostly in old, family cemeteries that we found graves of Revolutionary War soldiers. Last week my wife accompanied me on an exploration of rural Maine, one of my favorite activities. Since I’ve been up every road within a 25-mile radius of my home town of Lovell, Maine, It’s become necessary to range farther afield if I’m to survey new territory. Heading east, we found ourselves in the Hebron/Buckfield area with my dog-eared Maine Gazetteer. As a retired history teacher, I felt compelled to stop at every cemetery along the way because they provide a quick, thumbnail sketch of local history.

Well, I shouldn’t claim we stopped at every cemetery. From the road, I could tell if each set of plots was old or new. If I only saw modern, granite stones from the 20th century, I’d pass on by, but if I spotted weathering marble headstones, I knew they were from the 19th century. The oldest stones were dark slate and most of those were from the 18th century. Well-tended cemeteries displayed small American flags on graves containing veterans of America’s wars. Each flag was held up by an iron medallion stuck in the ground next to the headstone with an embossed insignia designating the war in which the soldier buried there fought.

Civil War veterans are so designated by an embossed circle with “GAR” in the middle for “Grand Army of the Republic.” Revolutionary War soldiers’ graves show a circle with a period soldier carrying a musket and wearing a tricorne hat. Some of those gravestones were of weathered marble if they survived into the eighteen hundreds, which many did. Acid rain has taken a toll on those stones, but the older, slate stones have held up well and the lettering remains easy to read.

Most roads lead into the center of town in Hebron which is dominated by the well-tended grounds and buildings of Hebron Academy. It was founded in 1804 by Revolutionary War veterans who were given land grants in town in payment for their service by Commonwealth of Massachusetts, of which Maine was a part — until 1820 when it became its own state along with Missouri. Notable Hebron Academy graduates include Leon Leonwood Bean, or L. L. Bean as he is better known, as well as Hannibal Hamlin who was Lincoln’s first Vice President. Other alumni include Freelan Oscar Stanley, inventor of the Stanley Steamer and Maine comedian Tim Sample.

Finding the grave of a Revolutionary War soldier in an untended cemetery off in the woods brought a certain sadness. While all veterans deserve respect, it seems the men who went out from their farms and shops and fought the most powerful military on earth deserve a bit more of it. They risked the most because even if they weren’t killed or wounded, should their side lose they would lose everything. The British weren’t kind to defeated rebels — as they’d shown over and over in Ireland. Those with the most property had the most to lose, and most who signed their names to the Declaration of Independence were men of means.

Those old, untended cemeteries were symbolic of something else that saddened me. They made me reflect on recent trends in public education, especially that study of the subject I taught. American History has been watered down by progressive educators both during my career and after. Fewer young people are learning what those first American rebels risked in the late 18th century when they demanded rights from England and staked everything they had on those demands. Few students today are taught what is unique about the United States of America — that no other country in history was founded on an idea.

That idea is that government exists to preserve our God-given rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. How much happiness one obtains in that pursuit is usually gauged according to individual initiative and perseverance. That’s what those Revolutionary veterans fought for and that’s what has been preserved by veterans of America’s subsequent wars — those buried under the rest of the little flags in those old cemeteries.

Today’s students instead learn a history emphasizing America’s carbuncles as if the United States were the only country to countenance slavery. Ignored are historical facts showing that virtually all nations practiced it, including American Indian tribes living here before Europeans arrived. All that is ignored now as students learn about “white privilege” and old white guys who owned slaves. De-emphasized or ignored altogether are old white guys who led movements to abolish slavery and who died by the thousands in that pursuit.

Men buried in those old cemeteries were not perfect and neither was their country. Such a thing is impossible this side of heaven, but ours is the country likely to get closest — if we stick to the ideas upon which it was founded. Keep that in mind on Veteran’s Day, November 11th.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Left & Right October 23, 2019

Newspaper publisher Mark Guerringue again sits in the left chair and we open with a question from the producer about whether President Trump has improperly profited from his business enterprises as president. I cite the now-dropped plan to use Trump's Doral facility for a G-7 meeting, a resort that has been losing money of late. I question whether Trump meant to let it be used free to taxpayers as he said. Mark cites a Washington Post story of 2500 instances where Trump has profited from government using his facilities worldwide, and that his sons are making plans for future resorts in Asia post-presidency. Mark raises a recent statement by former Ambassador William Taylor, who claims in an opening statement before his secret testimony to Adam Schiff's committee that there was a quid pro quo between Trump and the Ukrainian president. Not having read the 15-page Taylor statement, I question him about details. Mark said I" took my eye off the ball" and I asked what ball? I said the ball his eye seems to be on is getting rid of Trump and I see this Taylor statement as another in a series of "We got him now!" efforts to bring Trump down ever since his inauguration. Mark sums that up as old conspiracy theories. I see Trump's experience dealing with corrupt politicians in NYC as good background enabling him to deal with strongmen in the world. Mark suggested that I think "Cozying up to all the dictators in the world is good foreign policy." I respond that any US leader has to deal with scumbags and sometimes "cozy up" to them to get things done. It's the nature of the job. My stated position is that I agree with what Trump is doing domestically and in foreign policy. Compared to what the Democrat candidates want to do, I'm still with Trump in spite of his sometimes obnoxious behavior. I suggest that Mark looks at most recent political events in the context of getting rid of Trump. He says he isn't. He says there are clear reasons to impeach him: non-cooperation with the House impeachment efforts, emoluments, Ukrainian things, etc. Mark said I look at conspiracy theory web sites and get obscure information that supports my political views. I say I look at lots of web sites, including the ones he looks at but he only visits the ones that support his world views and not sites that offer contradictory information. With five minutes left, we take the second question from the producer: "Which candidates gave the strongest and weakest performances in the most recent Democrat debate?" Having only seen parts of it, I suggest that Buttageig gave a strong performance and Biden gave a weak one, that he's never seemed a very bright guy and now seems to be more and more confused about what he's saying, and maybe he's in the early stages of dementia. Mark saw little of it too, but he thinks Amy Klobuchar and Pete Buttegeig did well. He doesn't think Biden has dementia. "I think Biden's always been Biden," and he thinks the primary process pushes Democrats to the left and Republicans to the right. I close with the 2200 dead babies found by an abortionist from South Bend clinics that Mayor Pete didn't mention for over a month. That the abortionist was an admirer of Adolph Hitler. Mark hadn't heard about it and I said that was because his web sites avoid those issues. He asked why I think they'd avoid the Nazi angle. I suggested that it was because Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger had views on eugenics similar to Hitler's and media would avoid mentioning abortion in that context.

Rich and Poor

It occurred to me a few years ago that I’m a rich man. Many would doubt that if they knew the sum total of my assets and annual income, but it’s true if you accept the definitions of rich and poor my students and I developed over the years: “Poor” is having insufficient funds to supply adequate food, clothing, shelter, and medical care. “Rich” is defined as having all those things and some extra besides. If you have a little extra, you’re a little rich. If you have a lot extra, you’re very rich. 

By that definition, I’ve never been poor because I’ve always had basic necessities. Early in my marriage, however, our family was below the poverty line as calculated annually by the federal government according to income and size of family. I was a low-paid teacher with a stay-at-home wife and four children.

Working the woodpile at our old house
Our house needed constant repair and maintenance. We drove a vehicle that did too, but never did we lack the basics. I had to learn carpentry, plumbing, and electrical skills to fix up my house, and I had to buy or borrow the necessary tools. I had to learn basic mechanics to work on my vehicles because they frequently broke down and I couldn’t afford to have someone else do it. I had to cut my own firewood for heat. Those were our circumstances for most of three decades.

My wife and me
About twenty years ago things changed. Opportunities came up and my income rose. I could start paying down the mortgage and other debts and after ten years I was debt-free. I considered taking early retirement from teaching and a few years later I did — while keeping the part-time jobs I always had. My income went down, but with no payments to make we still lived well. I spent more time on photography, which I enjoy very much, and now I’m making money with that too. Life is good. I have everything I want — another definition of rich.

Although I’ve written the following before in this space, it’s worth repeating. My wife will agree that the happiest times of our lives so far were when we had only those basic necessities and no more —  when we were under the federal poverty line. I worried about paying the bills many months, but we did it. We never threw food away and ate a lot of soup. We shopped at thrift stores and yard sales and we got excited when finding a nice piece of furniture or clothing cheap.

Our youngest in the old kitchen
My late father-in-law came up during the depression and his family didn’t have much. Still, I remember him saying: “I was happiest when we were eating onion sandwiches.” By that, he meant bread and onions were all there was to eat for a while. My own father was the same age and he also came up through the depression His father, my grandfather, was a binge-drinking alcoholic who often burned up his paycheck with booze. He made enough money as a street-car driver in the Carmen’s Union (of which he was president), and somehow kept his job, but his family lacked basic necessities. Those were not happy times for my father, the oldest of his six children. If not for my grandfather’s drinking, his family would not have been poor.

Sad evidence of poor money management
It might be claimed that America won the war on poverty. If we still have people lacking funds for basic necessities, it’s likely because, like my grandfather, they don’t manage their money well. Yes, there are people who have had serious health problems and have run up enormous medical bills. Even if they went bankrupt and had to go on welfare, their basic needs are still met — unless they spend unwisely. Unfortunately, that describes a rising number of Americans

More sad evidence

Their DBT cards are charged up at the beginning of every month but they run out of funds after the first or second week. Can that be helped? Not by government, it can’t. If their allotments were increased, it’s likely they’d continue to spend frivolously and still be poor for two or three weeks of every month. Maybe they’ll run out of food or heating oil. Maybe they won’t have enough for gasoline. Maybe they’ll be late on the rent or the electric bill or the gas bill, or all of those.

Schools used to teach something called “home economics,” but I don’t think it’s part of the curriculum in most schools anymore. Even if people learned those skills, a certain amount of self-discipline is still necessary. My grandfather lacked it, and too many others in America do too. Their numbers are rising. As my old friend, fellow selectman and “Overseer of the Poor,” the late Stub Eastman, said: “We have the poor, and the poor have us.”

Some things never change, and recent promises by 2020 Democrats won’t have any effect either.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Request to Require -- Tolerate to Mandate

In its early days, what we now know as the “LGBT Community” begged society for tolerance of “alternative lifestyles.” Then it asked for acceptance. After gaining some measure of political clout, it demanded “rights.” Lately, it is imposing conformity by legislating civil penalties against people who adhere to biological facts and religious beliefs about LGBT issues. How soon before it criminalizes dissent? How soon will we discover as Cool Hand Luke did that if you don’t, “Get your mind right,” you’ll “spend a night in the box.”

Last week I saw two stories alerting me that it’s just around the corner. The first was in National Review about a former 30-year Emergency Room doctor in the UK who didn’t have his mind right and was fired. His offense? He said he wouldn’t use a “preferred pronoun” when treating a hypothetical “transexual.” He’d refuse to call a man who claimed he was a woman “she.” He said — as a scientist — that it’s impossible for a man to change into a woman. “If somebody has male XY chromosomes and male genitalia,” he said, “I cannot in good conscience call them a woman.” As a Christian, he believes God created humans: “Man and woman he created them,” he said, citing Genesis, Chapter 5: Verse 2.

Dr. Mackereth
Doctors in the UK, however, work for the government and the LGBT lobby mandates conformity from all government employees. It determined that Dr. David Mackereth didn’t have his mind right and could no longer practice medicine. At fifty-five, he was out of a job. Government would force him to ignore science, deny his religious faith, and lie in order to continue practicing. “I knew it could be the end of my work as a doctor,” he said, “but I could not live with myself if I didn’t speak up. It would be dishonest — and I didn’t want to live a lie.”

The second story was in The Federalist: “Starting July 1, 2020, all Illinois public schools are legally required to teach children LGBT history and only buy textbooks that include the topic. NPR affiliate Illinois Public Radio labeled Christian and conservative opposition to this law while it was being considered as stemming from ‘hate groups.’”

According to government-sponsored radio in Illinois, Catholics who believe Catholic doctrine that homosexuality is intrinsically disordered belong to a “hate group.” How long before Catholics are charged with “hate crimes” and imprisoned?

I’ve watched the steady advance of leftist control in public education ever since my own career began in 1975. In 2000, I had to pick out a textbook for 8th graders, but all texts by the standard publishers contained a pronounced left-wing bias and they were costly. I told the principal if I could pick save him money and purchase two cheaper texts for each student: leftist A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn and conservative: A Patriot’s History of the United States by Schweikart & Allen — I could get both for far less the price of one standard text. I could then compare and contrast perspectives in each of my lessons. He said that would be fine if I were to continue teaching, but what if I retired? What was the likelihood that whoever replaced me could do that?

I had to admit it wasn’t likely and had to pick one of the standard, leftist texts: Prentice Hall’s The American Nation, the most-used text in the country at the time. I didn’t like it but figured I would offer students contrasting perspectives from other sources when the bias got too strong. As bad as The American Nation was, it seems middle of the road now compared to what is mandated in Illinois — as well as in California, Colorado, New Jersey, and Oregon where similar laws have been passed. The left controls education thoroughly now, kindergarten to graduate school, and the LGBT lobby is riding high.

Illinois teachers' guide from Human Rights Campaign
Illinois’ Evanston/Skokie schools adopted a curriculum like what will be mandatory next year across the state. The equal sign logo of the Human Rights Campaign — the nation's largest, most powerful LGBT lobby — is stamped all over the materials. Children 3-5 are told about Jazz, a boy who wanted to be a girl. They see a video in which he reads from a book about his transition that made him happy. At the end, Jazz says: “To all the kids out there who are seeing this book for the first time, I just want to say that you can be like Jazz. You can be your true self.”

Illinois teachers' guide from Human Rights Campaign
The left insists homosexuals and transgenders are born that way, but what if they aren’t? Research at Brown University strongly suggests that: “‘Rapid-onset gender dysphoria’ [transgenderism] may be a social contagion linked with having friends who identify as LGBT, an identity politics culture, and an increase in internet use.” Are public schools turning into laboratories for LGBT identity culture?

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Left & Right October 9, 2019

Jim Wilfong of Stow, Maine again sits in the left chair for this show. We open with a question from our producer: "Do you support Trump's decision to pull troops out of Syria?"

Jim doesn't. He thinks it a very bad idea to abandon our allies, the Kurds, who have helped us at least since the First Iraq War under President George H.W. Bush, and in every operation in the region since. I have mixed feelings about the move.

We go on for some time discussing 100 years in the region's history back to WWI, after which the British and French carved up the former Ottoman Empire into the nation-states as they exist today, but they divided Kurdish tribal areas assigning parts of "Kurdistan" to Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Syria, and not one of those countries is well disposed to the Kurdish minority within its borders. All see the Kurds as a troublesome, rebellious minority of which they'd prefer to rid themselves.

We go into Constitutional history in which the Founders gave Congress the power to declare war until Lyndon Johnson was given the power to conduct the Vietnam War by the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution in the 1960s. Then came the War Powers Act of 1973 which limited the president to act only in emergency situations, and then for only 30-60 days until Congress decides the issue. That, however, is being mostly ignored by successive presidents and Congress has allowed them to.

Jim goes into the Petroleum Politics of the region, citing that we are no longer dependent on Persian Gulf oil, but China and Europe are. He says Turkey is strategic as a site for pipelines for getting Russian natural as to southern Europe. Iran and the Emirates are also interested in getting their natural gas out the same way.

We spend more than half the show on these complicated issues in what is collectively called "The Middle East."

Then we shift to impeachment. I read a 1788 Federalist paper quote from Alexander Hamilton on the subject. He saw impeachment as a divisive and political process more than a legal process.

We examine the House "inquiry" going on now and conducted in secret, that media reporting on much of it is by unnamed sources, a "high government official speaking anonymously," and so forth. We compare the impeachment process in the 1860s for Andrew Johnson, in the 1970s for Richard Nixon, and in the 1990s for Bill Clinton with how it's going now. There is a consistent thread for the first three but not for what the Dems are doing to Trump so far in 2019.

Time runs out before we can thoroughly explore the Supreme Court case about a transexual person fired by a funeral home.

Tuesday, October 08, 2019

Happy Indigenous People's Day!

Santa Maria in Portland Harbor
What struck me most about the Santa Maria was how tiny she is. A replica sailed into Portland Harbor last month and I paid ten dollars to go aboard and look around. More astonishing still was remembering that the Nina and the Pinta — the two caravels sailing with the Santa Maria — were even smaller. There’s only one enclosed space on the biggest ship, and that was where the captain slept. Its fifty-two crew members slept on the open deck of the 117-foot ship, only going below with the cargo when the weather was bad.

Good Columbus

Americans my age were taught to revere Columbus for his intrepid maritime leadership sailing across uncharted waters, holding a mutinous crew together, and discovering what we call America. Now school children are taught that Columbus was a money-grubbing, European, white guy who slaughtered and enslaved innocent Native Americans who only wanted to help him and his men. When Democrats took over Maine government in 2018, they abolished Columbus Day and ordered Maine citizens to celebrate “Indigenous Citizens Day” instead.

Bad Columbus
Not only that, schoolchildren are now taught that Columbus was too dumb to know he had bumped into two previously unknown continents and thought he was in the Indies. So, he called the people he found “Indians,” and they continued to be called that for the next five centuries until progressives insisted they be called Native Americans. Whenever I meet someone who is a real American Indian and looks nothing like Senator Elizabeth Warren, I ask whether he or she wishes to be called Indian or Native American. So far, all have said, “Indian.” Next time I’ll also ask: “How about calling you ’Indigenous Person’?” but I think I know what the answer will be.

In light of all this, I wonder if I should be wishing people “Happy Indigenous People Day” over the weekend in Maine, and “Happy Columbus Day” in New Hampshire since I’m so often driving back and forth across the state line. Will automobile dealerships in Maine be putting on special Indigenous People’s Day Sales? Is it now illegal to sponsor a “Special Columbus Day Sale” over here on Maine’s side of the border?

Since no drawings or plans of the original Santa Maria exist, we cannot know how closely the ship I explored compared to it. All I can say is that it represents the closest guess of what it probably looked like based on other ships in use at the time. I have to wonder if the Spanish crew members knew about what happened in Maine when Democrats returned to power. Would they have sailed right on by Portland if they knew?

Portland Progressives demonstrate
I didn’t see any left-wing demonstrators down there on Commercial Street while I was touring the ship and it doesn’t take much to get them cranked up enough to staple signs to sticks and march down the street chanting. I expected the arrival of Columbus’s ship would have been enough to turn them out. Doing research for this article, I learned that a replica of Nina sank last April in Corpus Christi Texas, but the articles I read said nothing about foul play and the ship was eventually re-floated.

The City of Portland had earlier (2017) abolished Columbus Day before the whole state did it in 2019 but I don’t recall seeing any Indigenous People celebrating the new holiday and I’m often there during the second Monday of October. Come to think of it, I never saw any Spanish Americans or Italian Americans (Columbus was Italian) celebrating when it was called Columbus Day either. I do see people celebrating other holidays like the 4th of July, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, but those last two are threatened by progressives as well. The Pilgrims, after all, were also white Europeans. Progressive groups are now claiming that Thanksgiving is “celebrating ongoing genocide.”

And of course, Christmas has been under siege by the left for decades now. Public schools no longer mention the word, calling it “Winter Holiday” instead. People paying homage to political correctness are hesitant to say, “Merry Christmas” outside their own household, wish people “Happy Holidays.” It all makes me wonder: what’s next? Labor Day? The diminishing number of unionized workers still marks the occasion but most of our populace gives it a big ho-hum.

Memorial Day is celebrated and we’ve all known soldiers who have died in recent wars. That holiday should be safe, and Veteran’s Day too. Martin Luther King Day? It’s still relatively new so I guess it’ll be okay for a while. I have come to believe most Americans care much more about getting a paid holiday off from work than whatever it is that day is supposed to commemorate.

It’ll be up to the Spanish now to decide whether they’ll pay future voyages of the Santa Maria to Portland, Maine.

Tuesday, October 01, 2019

America's Widening Divide

America’s divisions are deepening. Evidence is everywhere with the primary divide epitomized by the continuing effort to impeach Donald Trump, hatred of whom is palpable. That division existed long before Trump, but he has come to symbolize it since his election in 2016. Opponents see him as a rich white guy and that’s enough to hate him because their world view is that no one becomes a billionaire without robbing the poor and middle classes.
Joe Hill
Hatred of the rich has been a central leftist dynamic since at least the early 20th century when IWW (International Workers of the World) activist Joe Hill inserted his song: The Preacher and the Slave, whose refrain is: “Pie in the sky when you die” into its Little Red Songbook.
You will eat, bye and bye,
In that glorious land above the sky; 
Work and pray, live on hay
You’ll get pie in the sky when you die (that’s a lie).

Hill’s song is a sardonic view of Christians who believe in an afterlife and reflecting the Marxist vision that: “Religion… is the opium of the people” which purports that Christian teaching of earthly suffering leading to eternal happiness is a tranquilizer. The left believes a perfect society is achievable here on earth and Christianity impedes progress toward it. The US Constitution was created to limit government and preserve individual liberty and it, too, inhibits the leftist goal of utopian socialism by restricting the growth of government necessary to implement it. Folk singer Joan Baez sang “I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night” at Woodstock.

That Trump is supported by the religious right and other conservatives in spite of his narcissistic tweets, his extensive history with marriages, groping women, dalliance with hookers, previous pro-abortion views, petty lying, and verbal abuse toward political rivals bewilders and enrages those on the left who want him gone. Opponents have tried to oust him with Russian collusion allegations, claims of illegal emoluments, calling him racist, obstruction of justice allegations, constructing a 25th Amendment contention of insanity, allegations that he violated campaign finance laws — have all failed. Three years of overwhelmingly negative mainstream media coverage about all that and more have neither put Trump on the defensive nor dented his support.

Though opinion polls show all the top 2020 Democrat candidates beating him, Trump’s opponents fear he’ll win anyway. Democrats controlling the US House of Representatives have suspended all other business in their effort to construct a case for impeachment. They think he’ll get credit for any positive legislation coming across his desk so they’re not passing anything. Socialist Bernie Sanders has long raged about “millionaires and billionaires,” and now so does current Democrat frontrunner Elizabeth Warren. Both have proposed wealth taxes that would confiscate 2% or more of their wealth annually and give it to the poor and middle classes in the form of Medicare for all.

Nearly all Democrat candidates call for a huge expansion of government to “prevent climate change” or the world as we know it will be gone in ten years. They would spend trillions in “reparations” for black slavery and purported genocide of Indians. How that would be done or how it would be financed is unclear. They’re all behind the House impeachment efforts — this time over a phone call to Ukraine purportedly asking a foreign government for assistance against a political rival.

Meanwhile, Trump supporters, while recognizing his narcissism, his marriages, his groping of women, his dalliances with hookers, his previous pro-abortion positions, his petty lies, and his verbal abuse toward political rivals, still defend him. Why? Because they fear an unimpeded expansion of government with its excessive regulation, its choking of economic growth, its infringement on personal liberties, imposing progressive notions of “non-binary” sexuality, and public financing of abortion. They fear leftist control of the federal judiciary, creeping globalism, open borders, socialism, and threats to national sovereignty — all of which they see Trump fighting against.

Trump’s supporters see mainstream media as in league with the Democrat Party and Never-Trump Republicans. They don’t trust the media and are not persuaded by them. When Trump calls the media “the enemy of the people,” they cheer. They know Trump’s opponents consider them unenlightened at best and “irredeemable”; “deplorable”; “xenophobic”; “homophobic”; and “Islamophobic” at worst. They believe Obama Administration officials spied on Trump’s campaign and his transition. They’re convinced that an anti-Trump “deep state” within the federal government continues to sabotage his presidency.

James Hodgkinson before firing on congressional Republicans
Both sides worry about violence. Trump opponents suggest a recent mass shooting in Texas was inspired by Trump rhetoric, as well as demonstrations and a death in Charlottesville last year. Trump supporters point to beatings of conservatives by ANTIFA thugs and a Bernie Sanders supporter opening fire on congressional Republicans. Both sides fear civil strife will escalate after the 2020 elections no matter which side wins. Individual families avoid political discussion fearing it gets so heated that it damages interpersonal relationships.