A former history teacher, Tom is a columnist who lives in Lovell, Maine. His column is published in Maine and New Hampshire newspapers and on numerous web sites. Email: email@example.com
- Name: Tom McLaughlin
Monday, July 27, 2015
After reading Ann Coulter’s recently released “Adios America!” I’m conscious of how our mainstream media deal with crimes committed by immigrants, legal and illegal. While some crimes are reported on locally, the status of the perpetrators is ignored. Coulter gives example after example too numerous to mention here, of how immigrants commit heinous crimes all over the United States, but the word “immigrant” is always conspicuously absent when the perpetrators are described.
As my wife and I drove through Portland, Maine last week listening to WGAN on the radio, we heard about Jimmy Odong’s crime spree. The twenty-five-year-old man was arrested for a carjacking at gunpoint in Portland and the armed robbery of a bank in nearby Freeport the same day. He’s also the chief suspect in another robbery earlier that day. Last February, Odong was arrested for aggravated assault in a Portland domestic incident.
“I’m glad that guy is off the streets,” my wife said as we passed neighborhoods in which some of those crimes occurred.
“Yeah, right,” she said. The broadcast never mentioned that Jimmy Odong was an immigrant from Sudan.
Portland Press Herald, a leftist paper next to which the Boston Globe appears moderate. In it was a picture of Jimmy Odong in police custody. It turns out that long before his most recent crime spree, Odong was well-known to police. In 2009, he was arrested after he “led police on a two-mile car chase through the city’s Bayside neighborhood and downtown Portland. During the chase, Odong crashed into several parked cars and struck a building. After abandoning his car, Odong fled before he was captured in Congress Square. He was charged with reckless conduct with a dangerous weapon, eluding an officer, operating under the influence, operating without a license and four counts of leaving the scene of an accident.” Nowhere in the story did it mention that Odong was an immigrant. WGME and WCSH covered the story too, but neither of those TV stations mentioned it either.
nearly started a riot when a group of young black men surrounded police and shouted: “Killers!” and “Murderers!” Just week before that, police shot a young black immigrant, also from Sudan who had pulled a gun on them. The media identified him as an immigrant only because he could be portrayed as a victim and not a perpetrator. That’s how it is with our mainstream media: if the story is likely to stir up sympathy, mention “immigrant.” If the story is negative, leave it out.
Those of us who don’t limit our information-gathering to mainstream sources know America is experiencing an illegal alien crime wave. In “Adios America!” Coulter reports that fully one quarter of the entire population of Mexico has crossed the border into the United States, illegally in most cases, as well as one fifth of the population of El Salvador. Brietbart.com reports that illegals accounted for 37% of all federal prison sentences in the United States in 2014! Manhattan Institute scholar Heather MacDonald has documented that: “In Los Angeles, 95 percent of all outstanding warrants for homicide (which total 1,200 to 1,500) target illegal aliens.” In 1980, President Carter told Fidel Castro that he could send any Cubans here who wanted to come, so Castro emptied his jails and mental hospitals in the infamous Mariel Boat Lift. Looks like Mexico is taking a cue from Cuba, because we’re certainly not getting the cream of the Mexican crop.
Governor John Baldacci issued an executive order forbidding state employees from inquiring about the immigration status of anyone, anytime, whether applying for benefits or being stopped by police. The result? Thousands of illegal aliens poured into our tiny state, many going on welfare in violation of federal law. Republican Governor Paul LePage is only now turning off the welfare spigot. In 2011, the Center For Immigration Studies reported that, nationally, 57% of legal and illegal immigrants used at least one form of welfare.
Monday, July 20, 2015
Time For Tall Ships
|Rounding Bug Light, Maine Historical Society|
In South Portland, it’s nice to walk out my door in the morning and smell the sea. During summer, it’s a sweet fragrance. I hear the ferries sound their horns as they leave the pier in Portland and head to one of the islands, and I hear the deeper, base sound of tankers as they’re leaving the harbor — a longer blast, not unlike that of cruise ships that come and go in summer and fall.
|Dawn at Portland Pipeline pier|
Several tall ships came down the shipping channel last weekend and I watched them from a high point on the old Fort Prebie, now the campus of Southern Maine Community College. I could see down to Cape Elizabeth’s Fort Williams and Portland Head Light where they entered the channel and starting trimming sails to navigate the narrower passage under power. Some kept a few up though and the effect was stunning, mostly because I could imagine how it was for previous generations who stood and watched from where I was standing. Here was this huge ship, even taller than it was long, using wind and water to move along silently and elegantly. Would those long-dead people have been as enthralled as I was? More so?
|Trimming sails in the channel|
For them it would have been routine, not so special to see stately sailing ships passing by but I’m not used to it. I’m accustomed to what sailors call “stinkpots” — motorized vessels. I even own one that I keep on Kezar Lake in Lovell. Motor boats are not what anyone would call beautiful compared to sailing ships. Nonetheless, I like to watch the big tankers come and go from the various tie-ups of the Portland Pipeline Company on the South Portland side of the harbor. Tugboats help them get around tight corners and then turn around back to port and the tankers head for open sea.
|From the Maine Historical Society|
Perhaps though, those 19th century Mainers appreciated the scene even more than I did. Their world wasn’t as rushed as ours. They were accustomed to waiting for things and didn’t try to jam too much into a day as we do. Perhaps their unhurried life put them in a better state of mind, more able to appreciate the classic lines of a sailing ship — or several of them — all up and down the channel.
At least 10,000 people watched the tall ships last weekend, but the big ships were surrounded by smaller, motorized pleasure boats and that made it difficult to imagine myself back in the 19th century. Browsing the Maine Historical Society’s picture collection last winter, I studied many images of Portland Harbor in the days of sail. Some tall schooners in those pictures were tended by motorized tug boats but other, smaller vessels visible were sailboats too. On the South Portland side of the harbor, down the street from where my house is, were shipyards with enormous schooners under construction.
|My grandson Riley at wreck of Harold W. Middleton|
The bones of a schooner that wrecked over on nearby Higgins Beach in Scarborough are another reminder of those days. They’re all that remain of the schooner Harold W. Middleton that was carrying coal from Virginia and hit ledges offshore. It finally came to rest on the sand near the outlet of the Sprurwink River. Locals made off with the coal and the insurance company salvaged what it wanted, then left the rest in place. Storms storms have covered and uncovered the wreck in the century since.
As a boy in elementary school I loved drawing square-rigged sailing ships. It gave me pleasure to sketch the sweeping lines of the hull and bowsprit, the straight masts and rectangular sails that weren’t perfectly rectangular as they billowed in the wind. I’d draw waves breaking against the bow and imagine how they might appear from high up on one of the masts. Sometimes I’d draw triangular sails on schooners but I liked the square rigs better and I’d always include a flag atop the tallest mast.
|Sunrise at Bug Light South Portland|
Tuesday, July 14, 2015
Signs of Decline
“Vote For Your Grandchildren,” proclaimed the bumper sticker I’d walked by many times. Thinking about what that might mean, I considered our growing national debt of $18 trillion+, which is expected to equal our entire Gross Domestic Product soon, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Others claim we’re there already, but that isn’t a campaign issue I’ve heard anything about in the 2016 race for president. Why is that?
|Some of my grandchildren|
Rather, we’re hearing about Greece’s national debt. Greek debt to GDP was at 100% ten years ago, but now it’s 175% and Greece is telling the world two things: One, that it has no intention of paying it back, and two, that it wants to borrow more money. Talk about brazen! Greeks want to retire at fifty with full benefits and they want the rest of Europe to pay for it because they don’t like paying taxes. Quoted in the Wall Street Journal: “Greeks consider taxes as theft,” said Aristides Hatzis, an associate professor of law and economics at the University of Athens. “Normally taxes are considered the price you have to pay for a just state, but this is not accepted by the Greek mentality.” Taxes are also the price of civilization. It’s not accepted by nearly half the US population either, who pay no federal income taxes.
By the time he leaves office, President Obama will have raised our national debt more than every other president combined. He will have doubled it to about $20 trillion. Do we hear about this in the mainstream media? No, we don’t. What do we have to show for all that money? I don’t see anything, do you? No infrastructure improvements, no projects that were supposed to have been “shovel ready” when he rammed through his $864 billion “stimulus” in 2009.
Do Americans intend to pay off our growing debt? Doesn’t look that way. Like the Greeks, we keep on spending money we don’t have and passing the bill onto our grandchildren. Are we going the way of the Greeks? Seems like it, but there are differences. The entire Greek economy is only about 2% of the European Union economy. If it went belly up, it shouldn’t affect the rest of the EU or the world. But what if we went bankrupt? The whole world would likely go down with us.
|Wife Roseann and her niece Christina on Athens Street|
Traveling around Greece last year, what I remember most is graffiti. In Athens, it was everywhere! There were layers and layers of it on virtually every vertical surface reachable by a human hand holding a can of spray paint. There were countless acts of people using someone else’s property as an easel, as a billboard, to display whatever notion was in their mind at the time. Owners of the property must then expend time, energy, and money to clean it up. It was evident that they couldn’t keep up. It’s vandalism, plain and simple, not unlike that of the original Vandals who assaulted Rome and helped bring down Roman civilization with their wanton pillaging.
|Off Congress St. Portland, Maine|
|Attempting to clean up|
Layers of spray paint don’t bring down a civilization. Rather, they’re a symptom of the underlying decay that brings it down. They’re a sign that those who work to maintain a semblance of order are losing out to those who spread anarchy. As I travel around North America and Europe, the presence or absence of graffiti is my way of taking the temperature of whatever city or country through which I’m traveling. Presence of graffiti is a measure of decline. Lack of effort to clean it up is a measure of cultural despair. Greeks thinking they can live the good life on someone else’s nickel, and thinking they can spray whatever they want on someone else’s property are similar. There’s a connection.
I’m seeing graffiti in more and more places around Portland and it worries me. First it was on boxcars. Watching a train covered with it pass by depressed me. Clearly the railroad company had given up. I used to see it here and there along Forest Avenue and Congress Street, but it wouldn’t remain long before someone cleaned it up or painted over it. Now, however, it’s staying on longer and even being added to. I’ve been seeing the same graffiti for nearly a year and that’s not good. Property owners are responsible to remove it and if they don’t, they’re subject to penalties and fines. But, the will to remove it or to enforce penalties is clearly waning. As the saying goes: The handwriting is on the wall.
As a sixty-four-year-old baby boomer, I was born into a country that had just saved the world from German and Japanese totalitarianism. For that we can thank our parents’ generation, which went on to build the most prosperous, most powerful country the world had ever seen. Unfortunately, my generation began tearing it down, and some of us fear the process can’t be reversed. We cannot be proud of what we’re passing on to our grandchildren.
Monday, July 06, 2015
White Privilege? Oh Please...
Been thinking lately about teachers and cops. Both are besieged by left-wing, multiculturalists and results are disastrous for schools, cities, and everywhere else. The left needs a public perception of pervasive white racism and it’s stoking the fires whenever it can. Reality has little to do with the campaign, and our mainstream media is assisting whenever they can. Former Attorney General Eric Holder saw this effort as his primary responsibility. According to an article in National Review Online:
“When Department of Justice officials arrived in Ferguson, Mo., one day after the death of Michael Brown, it wasn’t just to conduct an investigation on potential civil-rights violations. In fact, officials from one Justice Department office were conducting meetings with Ferguson residents to educate them on subjects such as ‘white privilege.’”
First Holder put out the notion that a higher percentage of black men in prison as opposed to white men was in and of itself proof of racial discrimination by cops and courts, ignoring the overwhelming evidence that black men commit many more serious crimes than whites. Then he and President Obama accused white teachers and principals in public schools for creating a “pathway to prison” by suspending a higher percentage of black teenagers than whites. Again, both ignored overwhelming evidence that black students misbehave much more than white students. It’s racial discrimination, they insisted, ordering schools to reduce black suspensions.
Leftist educators feeling guilty for being white ordered staff indoctrination in “white privilege,” the trendy notion that white people are unconsciously racist and need to acknowledge, then shed their “privilege.” Completely ignored are fifty years of Affirmative Action during which blacks have been given privilege over whites in hiring, granting of public contracts, and college admissions.
The St. Paul, Minnesota school district spent over $3 million to educate white teachers and principals about their “privilege.” EAGnews (Education Action Group) had to file Freedom of Information requests to learn the amount the district spent over a five year period. The money went to an organization called Pacific Educational Group founded in 1992 which offers conferences around the country at which caucasian teachers can flagellate themselves for their “White Privilege” and their sins of unconsciously propagating “Systemic Racism.”
According to a New York Post article by Paul Sperry: “[Pacific Education Group does] the racial-sensitivity training of teachers as part of professional teacher training workshops, reprogramming them to think that THEY are the problem, not the misbehaving kids, that their ‘whiteness’ and ‘cultural insensitivity’ is the reason African-American students tend to be, on average, more disruptive and violent than other students and tend to underperform academically.”
“Some of the teachers come out of the workshops sobbing,” wrote Sperry. “It’s classic brainwashing.”
St. Paul’s school behavioral policies were modified to make sure the number of suspensions for black students was the same as that of white students based on the percentage of each in the student population. That is, there were racial quotas for suspensions. Once the quota for black suspensions was reached, no more could be suspended until the white quota went up too. Meanwhile, misbehaving black students were given “time outs” instead, as recommended by the all-knowing and all-wise Pacific Education Group.
And how is that working? It’s a disaster. According to City Pages:
“At John A. Johnson Elementary on the East Side, several teachers, who asked to remain anonymous, describe anything but a learning environment. Students run up and down the hallways, slamming lockers and tearing posters off the walls. They hit and swear at each other, upend garbage cans under teachers’ noses. Nine teachers at Ramsey Middle School have quit since the beginning of this school year. Some left for other districts. Others couldn’t withstand the escalating anarchy.”
On another level, cops face a similar quandary. President Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder, and countless mainstream media outlets fabricate the narrative that “racist,” white cops are to blame for the crimes of young black men. When they’re told to stand down in the face of looting and arson in Baltimore, to use only one example, chaos reigns. “No,” insisted Baltimore’s black police chief Anthony Batts, according the New York Daily News. Cops were not told to stand down. Rather, they were instructed: “Do not engage,” as if there were any difference.
Teachers are demoralized when told they are the reason for disruptive behavior by black students. They back off and chaos takes over. Cops are demoralized when they are blamed for the crimes of young black men. They back off and crime skyrockets. Chaos reigns in cities across the country.
Even in rural Maine where I live, cops are demoralized. They go into law enforcement thinking of themselves as the good guys who are there to protect people from bad guys. They take their “To Serve and Protect” motto seriously. The Obama Administration and mainstream media assault on the character and integrity of all police has enormous effect on morale. That 95% of “racist” incidents are fabricated or exaggerated is the worst part. It’s all so unnecessary.
How will it all end? Not well, I’m afraid. We still have another year and a half before it can even begin to get better.
Monday, June 29, 2015
Long Time To Pass
|Carrying Ryan in his backpack|
I now belong to an exclusive club no one wants to join: parents who have lost a child. “I cannot imagine how you must feel,” say other parents not in the club. Neither could I before it happened but I knew it would be awful, and it is.
What happened wasn’t my worst fear, but close. I feared our son might die alone, and he didn’t. He lingered in the ICU for nine days. During the first five he was in and out of consciousness, knew all his loved ones were with him and had the Last Rites. There’s nothing for me to fear anymore, but sadness and grief have taken fear’s place. Those two will be with me, and my family, a long time I think.
I don’t know which is worse but fear had become familiar. Addiction is a terrible thing, debilitating for the addict, but also for his family and for everyone else who loves him. It’s a progressive disease and a fatal result was inevitable unless he could stop, and he couldn’t. Ten years ago I joined a 12-step group for families of alcoholics and it helped me cope, helped me live with the fear and anxiety. The program reduced but didn’t eliminate those two crippling emotions. Now there are two more with which to wrestle.
We buried our son’s body last week but I know his spirit survives, and I will see him again when my own body finally gives out. That knowledge is a comfort, and will it ultimately trump both sadness and grief. He passed peacefully, even if life offered little peace during his last years. He has eternal peace now. I know that, but sometimes I forget and have to remind myself that he’s in a better place.
As a columnist for twenty-two years, editors have tried to influence me to write more about this or that, but I’ve always written about what was most on my mind any given week — except my son’s addiction. Very often that was what I thought most about, but I’ve never written about it until now. Readers of the newspapers in which this column runs know my son died because his obituary appeared in their pages, but other readers around the country don’t know. Hence, this piece.
My wife and I are helping each other through this ordeal and I’m grateful to have her. Our children and our grandchildren help too. While we were sitting next to our son’s coffin tearfully listening to the priest’s homily, our four-year-old granddaughter, Lila, came into our pew to hold our hands and console us. She helped enormously. When days later I thanked her, she said: “Friends are supposed to help each other.”
Before Ryan died, we had been at the hospital more than a week consulting with doctors and other specialists. Most of another week was taken up with funeral arrangements. People in our church community and friends in the wider community were sympathetic and solicitous. Everyone in our immediate family gathered pictures to display at the reception in our church hall following the burial. Assembled pictures of Ryan were both endearing the heartbreaking to look at. People hugging me and expressing their condolences triggered more tears. It’s going to take a long time to wring them all out but, as my wife the therapist says, “If you can let it flow, you can let it go.” And that’s the goal, isn’t it? I have to let him go.
I’ve had some practice with that. I’ve had to let go of my obsession with his addiction. My program teaches the “Three Cs”: You didn’t cause it. You can’t control it. You can’t cure it. I had to love and support my son as he struggled for all those years. Thirteen times he went into treatment. He had stretches of sobriety lasting several months, but always slipped back. He was much harder on himself than we ever were on him, and now his struggles are over.
Knowing I won’t be able to talk with him anymore this side of heaven makes me miss him desperately. It’s going to be a while before that longing diminishes to bearable levels, but with God’s help, I’ll make it. When it gets hard I have to consider all the good things in my life, and there are many.
Friday, June 12, 2015
Think I’m going to sell our boat this summer. It’s tied up to a slip at the Kezar Lake Marina and this may be the last season. Even though I’m semi-retired, I simply don’t use it enough to justify the cost of maintaining it. There’s nothing like going out there with a book and drifting along on one of Kezar’s three bays on a hot, humid day. If I get too hot while reading, I put the book down, jump in the lake, then climb back up the ladder to towel off and go back to reading. My wife likes to sit in a tube tied to the back. We’ll miss it, but she agrees. It’s time to think about selling.
|Mine is small one top center with blue cover|
|Middle Bay Kezar Lake|
Then there was a raft the older boys constructed on a nearby pond by nailing a few boards onto a couple of logs. Our mothers told us never to go out on it. When we did and someone saw us, we were subjected to blackmail lest they tell. My next craft was a canoe I had for years as an adult. I’d fish with the children and paddle down the Saco with my wife. When the children were old enough, I’d strap it on the truck so my wife and I could slip away for some alone time alone exploring smaller ponds.
When the kids starting leaving the nest about twenty years ago, we splurged on an old, fourteen-foot Corson with a forty-horse Mercury outboard. It was very cheap to run and we’d trailer it around exploring area lakes. Mostly though, we went out on Kezar and noticed there were lots of Corsons tied up at docks. They’re simple boats — fiberglass hull, a windshield and seats — and very light.
People get attached to their Corsons. They were made in Madison, Maine by a family of boat-builders by that name. My wife called ours “Baby Boat” and we enjoyed it for years. The previous owner had a place on Kezar and he would contact me periodically to ask how his old boat was doing. When I sold it to my daughter and son-in-law to use at their place on Crescent Lake in Raymond, Maine, I notified him that the old Corson wasn’t on Kezar anymore but would be well taken care of. He thanked me for letting him know. Several years ago we traded up for the 18-foot Stingray we have now. It’s a thirty-year-old inboard/outboard with comfortable seats to stretch out, but we’re not so attached to it as we were to the Corson.
One morning during a run at Bug Light in South Portland last month, I saw some workmen backing their boat down the launch and recognized it as a big Corson. It had their distinct fiberglass top but was twenty feet long. I didn’t know they came that big and I chatted with the owner and two of his friends. All were heading out to work on Peak’s Island.
|Launching Corson at Bug Light|
“So, government regulation destroyed the company then?” I asked.
We still have a couple of kayaks we don't use enough, and they're easier to handle than that old cement-mixing tub I started with. If you're interested in our Stingray, let me know.
Monday, June 01, 2015
Catechism is Hate Speech?
About three years ago I began wearing a crucifix 24/7. It identifies me as a Christian. Among Christians, it identifies me as a Roman Catholic. Atheists who see it may think me an intellectual lightweight who could just as easily believe in the Tooth Fairy, or that the earth was created six thousand years ago.
Back in 2002 when the homosexual priest scandal broke, I almost left the Catholic church. There are still issues the American Conference of Catholic Bishops champion that make me cringe. Some things Pope Francis says make me uncomfortable too. Nonetheless, to follow the Magisterium (official teachings of the Catholic Church) is to believe abortion kills a human being and homosexuality is “intrinsically disordered.” That puts me on a collision course with the progressive Thought Police who would force me to shut up about what I believe.
Chicago’s Cardinal Francis George, who I’ve quoted in this space before, died a few weeks ago. Five years ago, he said something prophetic: “I’ll die in my bed. My successor will die in prison. His successor will die a martyr. His successor will pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilization, as the church has done so often in human history.” Two years later in 2012, he said he was being “overly dramatic.” Here in 2015, however, rhetoric coming from Democrat and Republican candidates for president in 2016 indicate he was more right than he knew.
|The late Cardinal Francis George|
He did die in his bed. Will his successor die in prison? That might have been plausible if Pope Francis appointed conservative Cardinal Raymond Burke to take his place after removing him from a key Vatican post. Burke stands his ground, and that’s probably why he didn’t fit in at the Vatican. Instead Pope Francis banished the conservative Burke to Malta and appointed someone more likely to go with the “progressive” flow in Chicago.
Last month, the leading Democrat presidential candidate for 2016 said: “Laws have be backed up with… political will… and deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed.” Hillary Clinton was speaking about “reproductive health care,” her favorite euphemism for abortion, but her remarks indicate how far the left may go pushing their social/political agenda. They’re throwing down the gauntlet for conservative Christians — ready to use the power of government to make us change what we believe about the very nature of God and human life. Obamacare mandates to pay for abortion-inducing drugs were only the beginning.
Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio seemed to pick up Hillary’s gauntlet when he said last week that anyone who believes marriage is between one man and one woman is labeled: “a homophobe and a hater. The next step is to argue that the teachings of mainstream Christianity, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, is hate speech…”
Canada’s Supreme Court ruled two years ago that biblical speech opposing homosexual behavior is a “hate crime.” The Province of Alberta passed its Education Act three years ago under which “homeschoolers and faith-based schools will not be permitted to teach that homosexual acts are sinful as part of their academic program.” How long until such rulings are passed down in the USA?
It’s not as if the Catholic Church in America is conservative. With the exception of Cardinal Burke and a few others, it’s not. I attend mass every Sunday in Maine or New Hampshire, and never in the last ten years have I heard a sermon about abortion. Only once was homosexual “marriage” discussed when Maine’s Bishop Malone urged parishioners to vote against a homosexual “marriage” referendum in 2009. Rather, parish priests seem to go out of their way to avoid those subjects. That’s why I was surprised to hear Pope Francis say: “We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods… it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time.”
Perhaps it’s different in Rome or in Argentina where Pope Francis comes from, but up here in Maine and New Hampshire, they’re not talked about “all the time.” They’re not discussed at all, and silence implies assent. Prior to Francis, we had two conservative popes in Benedict and John Paul II. Although Francis hasn’t tried to modify the Magisterium, he’s signaling a willingness to bend, even cozying up with President Obama on several issues. Leftists who dominate in our mainstream media are predictably thrilled. Out here in the trenches, however, conservative Catholics are dismayed.Some of us feel we have more in common with conservative protestants than with many of our Catholic leaders in the United State, in Europe, and in the Vatican itself.