Tom McLaughlin

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:

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Left and Right

You could call it the “Wayne’s World” of politics. Every other Wednesday, I go to the Valley Vision studio in North Conway, New Hampshire and argue politics for an hour with a liberal named Gino. We call the show “Left and Right” but I keep suggesting we call it “Right and Wrong” instead. Gino doesn’t agree. Each episode runs over and over in different time slots for two weeks until we tape another. Only people who subscribe to the local Time Warner Cable franchise can watch it on channel three, and we have no idea how many tune in. I think my mother would, but she has a satellite dish.
Gino and I are both political junkies who keep up on issues of the day. Each of us keeps notes on whatever is happening to bring up on the show, but I have an advantage: I used to be a liberal and I remember how I thought back then when I was young and foolish. Gino, however, was never a conservative. It would be accurate to say that I’m a personification of the adage: “If you’re not a liberal when you’re twenty, you have no heart. If you’re not a conservative when you’re forty, you have no brain.”
Churchill's biographers say they can't find the quote, but someone said it.

The left/right dichotomy has strongly influenced my life for decades. When I was teaching in the public schools, my history textbooks were slanted liberal. I provided balance by offering a conservative point of view to contrast the book’s perspective. Lately I’ve been teaching a group of ten home-schooled, high school-age students in Auburn with whom I’m doing something I’ve always wanted to try: using both a liberal text and a conservative text, and assigning them readings on a particular period in history from two perspectives. Each student has “A People’s History of the United States” by the late Howard Zinn - a closet communist. They also have “A Patriot’s History of the United States” by Schweikart and Allen. I’ve got students only once a week for two hours, and we cannot cover too much in one year, but it’s very instructive to compare and contrast the two points of view. Authors of both books claim to be unbiased, but neither Zinn nor Schweikart, nor Allen are of course. Neither am I, but I try to be. No one is really, but we should keep our minds open.
When I started teaching in 1975, I was pretty far to the left. After dropping out of college in 1972, I worked with liberals in John Kerry’s failed congressional campaign in the Massachusetts 5th district that year. I also worked with “community organizer” disciples of Saul Alinsky and Noam Chomsky in Lowell, Massachusetts. After all that I went back to school to become a teacher and began my long metamorphosis from left to right. When I first started publishing columns in 1989, I was still straddling the fence. By about 1993, however, I had become a full-fledged conservative.
Around that time, I began publishing regular weekly columns for local newspapers in which I expressed my opinions without reserve. Many readers on the left assumed I taught my history classes the same way I wrote my columns. At first, they wrote letters to the editor suggesting I was unfit to teach and these were published frequently. Several leftists went further by trying to influence principals, superintendents, school boards, and state teacher licensing agencies to discipline me, silence me, or pull my teaching certification. By the time I retired, I had amassed quite a paper trail documenting their efforts.
For the past three years, I’ve been working on and off writing a book about this, being careful to get it all down as it happened. Last month, I thought, “Okay, I’m done. It’s all down there in black and white.” I printed it off, made some copies, and asked friends to read it with the condition that they be ruthless in their feedback. Well, that feedback is trickling in and I’m thinking maybe I’m not all done. Looks like I need to expand it. Some suggest I add more on what caused me to move from left to right. Others said it reads too much like “just the facts, ma’am” written by a detective or a reporter, and I need to put in more about what it felt like as events unfolded.
Then there’s the business of book publishing. It’s not like publishing columns, except that both are changing rapidly. The more I look into it, the more I realize how much I still have to learn. It looks like I may have been premature when I announced on the “Left and Right” show that my book about moving from left to right was finished. It was hard enough to get down what happened. Now I’m going to have to write about my feelings? That’s not something I’m used to or very good at either, but it appears to be still another thing I have to learn.

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Monday, February 23, 2015

It's Not Easy Being Green

Portland Harbor from South Portland February 2015

Portland Harbor froze over for the first time in thirty-five years. That presents a dilemma for people around the southern Maine area for several reasons. Ice breakers are necessary to keep shipping lanes open. Ferries to the islands get more difficult too, but the hardest thing is explaining how this could happen when you and your fellow greenies — the dominant species around the greater Portland area — have been wailing about the dangers of global warming for decades. The polar ice cap was supposed to have disappeared by now, but locals are looking over their shoulders this winter for fear that ice cap may creep south and take over our state the way it did four times before — and melting the last time only 12,000 years ago. This month will go down at the coldest February on record. 
Poor Adam (From Portland Press Herald)

Adam Souza’s car was destroyed in Portland last weekend when huge ice chunks fell on it from a five-story building. “They told me my insurance doesn’t cover an act of nature,” he said. I have to wonder: what if the car had been submerged by rising ocean waters the greenies predicted? Would he be able to sue oil companies? Would he have been able to insist it was human-caused, and not an act of nature? Other Portland residents are reminded they have to shovel snow off sidewalks in front of their houses, but they wonder where they’re going to put it. Snowbanks are already so high they have to drive halfway onto the street to see if there are any cars coming. Body shops say there are three times more cars with collision damage compared to past winters.

Then there are the endless stories from other greenies in Boston where winter snows keep piling up and below normal temperatures prevent any of it from melting back. Environmental cassandras like Robert Kennedy Jr and Bill McKibben are still insisting it’s all caused by global warming. “Climate change is a time test,” claims McKibben. “If we don’t act very quickly — well, Boston is getting a taste right now of what a changed climate looks like.” He’s the leading cassandra of the global warming movement and likely will be the last to admit it’s really mass hysteria.
Coo-Coo McKibben

Kennedy, meanwhile, is trying to convince Harvard to divest from fossil fuels to prevent catastrophic global warming. He wants to lead “Heat Week” sit-ins for students to pressure the university. They’re going to have to shovel out some space for the students to sit, unless they want fashion Cambridge’s enormous snow banks into chairs somehow.

Greenies at the Washington Post are struggling desperately to keep their “climate change” house of cards from collapsing with a recent headline: “What the massive snowfall in Boston tells us about global warming.” They just won’t give up, insisting: “It doesn’t yet for most of us, but sooner or later we’re going to have to get past the idea that global warming and huge amounts of snow are somehow contradictory.” Contradictory? Who would ever think that? Kermit The Frog warned us all a long time ago that it’s not easy being green. These are indeed very difficult times for greenies. As Kermit sang:

When green is all there is to be
It could make you wonder why, but why wonder?
Why Wonder, I am green and it'll do fine, it's beautiful!
And I think it's what I want to be.

Penn State’s Michael Mann, author of the dubious “hockey stick graph” touted by Al Gore, still insists all this snow and cold is indeed caused by global warming: “storm[s] will be feeding off these very warm seas, producing very large amounts of snow as spiraling winds of the storm squeeze that moisture out of the air, cool, it, and deposit it as snow inland.” Warm seas? They don’t appear warm to me when I look out over the ice in Portland Harbor.
Portland from Bug Light Park last week

Scott Peck, a psychiatrist who had some best-selling books back in the 1980s, described the greenie dilemma well: “Our view of reality is like a map with which to negotiate the terrain of life.” He said we construct one in adolescence and try to use it without modification throughout life. It’s tough to admit we’ve been wrong even in the face of overwhelming evidence. “Life is difficult,” he said. To even consider we may be wrong about the way we understand things is hard enough. Admitting it to ourselves and others is even harder. Constructing a new life map is the hardest of all, so most of us never undertake the effort.
Portland Head Light last week

It’s especially hard for the head greenies like President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry, who keep insisting that global warming is more dangerous to us than Islamic terrorism, I mean “extremist violence.”

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Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Walker Would School Them All

I was a teacher. Still am, some say. Two comments last week from web sites on which my column runs claimed that I was educating them — and if they say so, then it’s true. What I wrote informed them about something or helped them see something in another light. For that, I’m glad. Some teachers say they're educators, but I always thought of myself as a teacher.
Was I in the education business? No, because education is not a business, not in the public schools in which I spent 34 years. If it were, it would be more effective, but it’s a union-controlled institution with the inherent inertia too many such institutions possess. Businesses have to remain competitive but government institutions do not. Neither do they have to be accountable, because they’re not elected; they’re funded by taxpayers in an indirect way. Educational institutions like public schools and colleges suffer from the same inertia objects do as observed by Isaac Newton: they have a tendency to remain at rest until acted upon by an outside force. They need to be shaken up if they’re ever going to change.
What might accomplish that? Competition, that’s what — in the form of vouchers. If parents could have a choice about where they sent their children to school, including the choice of private and religious schools, and get just half of what public schools would spend to teach a child year to year, it would revolutionize education at the elementary and secondary level.
Many are coming to believe lately that a college education has been way oversold. Parents with a child living in their basement after graduation, saddled with tens of thousands in student loan debt, and no way to pay it because he has no job, are doubting its value. So are the graduates themselves. What is a college degree worth? Depends on that the major was. If it was engineering, medicine, or one of the other hard sciences, it might be worth something. If it was in something like art history? Gender studies? They’re unproductive. There’s no market, unless it’s to teach in the gender studies or the art history department at Liberal U.
When I decided to become a teacher, I had to go back to college after I had dropped out for two years to do things that were more interesting. After I went back it took me another year and a half for a BS, then two more years for an M. Ed. Did those degrees prepare me to teach? Not really, no. For the BS (aptly named, that) I had to do six weeks of student teaching. That prepared me, but none of the education courses I took along with it did, and I took dozens. The states of Maine and Massachusetts required that I get those degrees to license me, but I’d have been better off learning more about the subjects I taught. I became a better teacher after years of doing it, not studying to do it.
Wisconsin teachers called in sick to protest Walker

As conservative Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s presidential poll numbers have climbed, liberal media drones have zeroed in on his having dropped out of Marquette University in his senior year to accept a job. “What?” they exclaimed. “He doesn’t have a college degree? And he’s running for president? Is he smart enough to be president?” He got elected governor in 2010. He fought off government unions, the media, and the entire Democrat political machine in a 2012 recall election, then was officially reelected in 2014 — and all that while actually governing effectively in a very liberal state.
Our media elite, however, still question his intelligence because he’s a conservative and a Christian. To them, believing in Jesus Christ is akin to believing in the tooth fairy and the Easter bunny, so he must be a moron. One asked Walker if he believed in evolution. They think anyone who professes belief in Christianity is convinced the earth was created 6000 years ago. In one week, they’ve put more effort into scrutinizing Scott Walker’s college records than they’ve put into President Obama’s over the past eight years. Why, for instance, did Obama seal his college records? What is he hiding? Liberal media elitists don’t want to know.
To be a teacher, one must first have learned, and learning should never stop during any teacher’s lifetime. There are many paths to knowledge and college is only one — probably not the best one either if Obama’s tenure as president is any guide.
At least two of our best presidents, Abraham Lincoln and Harry Truman, did not have college degrees. Neither does Bill Gates, so don’t worry about Scott Walker. If he’s elected president, he’ll do just fine, especially compared to the community organizer he will have succeeded.

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Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Picture Power

Images are powerful, stronger than words. It was video of ISIS beheading two Americans that spurred President Obama to finally take action he was doing his best to avoid. Video of ISIS burning a Jordanian pilot alive last week got King Abdullah angry enough to quote Clint Eastwood in his promise to strike back. His actions since prove it wasn’t an idle threat.
ISIS was holding a woman named Kayla Mueller from Prescott, Arizona who was captured while doing charity work for “Doctors Without Borders.” It claimed last week she was killed when Jordanian planes struck an ISIS building housing weapons, and the family confirmed today she’s dead. What would happen if ISIS had burned her alive and filmed it? Reaction would have been fierce. Would it have been enough for Congress to declare war on ISIS? It seems that’s what it’s going to take because President Obama isn’t likely to do much more on his own initiative, even if though he’s asked for the authority.
Pictures of mistreated puppies move millions to enact strict animal cruelty laws that have imprisoned hundreds. Brian Williams claims to have once rescued a puppy from a burning building. If he had a picture of the puppy, he might still be anchoring the NBC Nightly News.
Pictures have enormous political power. One shot of a little girl running away after being burned by napalm in Vietnam turned countless Americans against the war. Another of a Viet Cong soldier being executed, and then a video of a Buddhist monk immolating himself had enormous effect on millions of Americans back home.
Teaching about the Holocaust, I used to hold up a grainy, black and white photo of an SS soldier shooting a Jewish mother and her baby in Poland. I’d ask, “Is this soldier evil?” Then I’d moderate a forty-minute discussion on whether he was or wasn’t. Students wanted to keep talking about it after the bell rang. I’d have to end the discussion and kick them out. Images of bodies in liberated Nazi death camps shocked the world in 1945. Nobody could deny the Holocaust after that and those pictures led to UN recognition of Israel as a Jewish state in 1948. Try as it might, Iran cannot negate the power of those images in its effort to delegitimize Israel’s right to exist in the world’s eyes by denying the Holocaust ever took place.
When al Qaeda posted video of American journalist Daniel Pearl’s beheading in 2002, I told students that I chose not to watch it and advised them not to either “unless you want the image to stay in your head.” Pictures of Iraqi POWs being humiliated at Abu Ghraib turned many Americans against the war and led to Barack Obama’s election in 2008. I won’t watch video of ISIS burning the Jordanian pilot for the same reason. I saw one still photo and that was enough.
He was charged with eight, but his staff said he murdered hundreds

Good liberals all, our liberal mainstream media wasn’t about to show any pictures of dead babies during the Kermit Gosnell murder trial in 2013. They refused to even cover it for three weeks. Then they gave weak excuses: “It’s a local story,” when they were finally smoked out and even then gave it scant mention. They certainly didn’t show any pictures — except of Gosnell’s building which he called the “Women’s Medical Society.” No dead babies. No emotional testimony by former employees who witnessed the slaughter either, though there was plenty of both. The old maxim “If it bleeds, it leads” doesn’t apply to abortion stories in the mainstream media.
Feminist Professor Lisa Wade at Occidental College commented on photographer Lennart Nilsson’s Life Magazine cover shot in 1965: “Nilsson’s images forever changed the way that people think about pregnancy, mothers, and fetuses. Before Nilsson, the visual of a fetus independent from a mother was not widespread. His pictures made it possible for people to visualize the contents of a woman’s womb independently of her body.  Suddenly, the fetus came to life. It was no longer just something inside of a woman, no longer even in relationship to a woman; it was an individual with a face, a sex, a desire to suck its thumb.”
Sparing you another picture of an aborted baby, this is an ultrasound

When my students debated abortion in the years before the internet, opposing sides would write away to organizations supporting the pro-life and pro-choice viewpoints. Pro-life students were appalled at images of aborted babies they received. When pro-choice students saw them, they were appalled too and said they could no longer defend the pro-choice side.
That’s why pro-choice feminists so vehemently oppose ultrasound images for pregnant women who might actually see what they’re choosing to destroy. Do they really support a woman’s right to choose? Only if they can keep her ignorant of what the choice actually involves — and especially what it looks like. Anyone making the pro-choice argument who hasn't gone to Google Images, typed in "aborted babies" and looked, should shut up. You don't know what you're talking about.

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Monday, February 02, 2015

Saving Private Bergdahl

Bergdahl sh**storm in the forecast
hat tip
An extremely angry guy from Maine called in to the Howie Carr Show last week. He had served in Afghanistan with Bowe Bergdahl, the American soldier for whom President Obama had, last May, exchanged five hardened Taliban terrorists imprisoned at Gitmo. He was angry at Bergdahl for deserting his post and endangering his unit, but mostly because six of his fellow soldiers were killed after being sent out to look for him. His comments about President Obama, however, were worse. He didn’t swear or raise his voice or call him names, but his words were like ice.
Wish I had written them down but I was driving. He was appalled that, rather than be tried for treason as he should have been, Bergdahl got $300,000 in back pay, two promotions, was made to look like a hero, and given a desk job at an army base in Texas. He blamed the president for spitting in the face of American soldiers like himself who served their country honorably in far away wars. Never having been a soldier myself I couldn't know exactly how he felt, but there was no mistaking his outrage. Other callers, including a former Army Ranger, said Bergdahl should be executed.
Obama had been taking enormous heat last May over the VA Hospital scandal, and he hoped to push that story off the front page with a rather bizarre White House Rose Garden ceremony announcing a “prisoner swap” - Bergdahl for five Gitmo terrorists. Bergdahl’s father looked like he belonged to the Taliban himself with his scrufffy beard and ponytail. Then he spoke in Arabic and an English translation of what he said was: ”In the name of Allah the most gracious and most merciful…” with Obama looking on, smiling. Afterward, the president walked him and his wife back into the White House with his arms around both, satisfied that their performance would turn his press coverage around. Bergdahl’s home town was planning a parade in his honor.
It all went great for a few hours — right up until Bowe Bergdahl’s fellow platoon members claimed Bergdahl was a deserter, not a prisoner of war. Obama went out of the frying pan and into the fire. His spin machine went into high gear with anonymous quotes from White House aides suggesting the soldiers were lying. They were “Swiftboating” poor Private Bergdahl, said NBC’s Obama kiss-up Chuck Todd. Bergdahl’s home town believed them, however, and cancelled the parade.
"You cannot defeat an enemy you do not admit exists."

The Maine guy and other callers claimed the whole affair pointed up the growing split between our rank and file military and our commander-in-chief. Former senior officers claimed the president still lacks a strategy. Obama’s former Defense Intelligence Agency chief General Michael Flynn said last week: “You cannot defeat an enemy you do not admit exists.” Three Obama Secretaries of Defense have resigned. Democrats in the Senate are ready to defy Obama on Iran sanctions. One, Bob Menendez (D-NJ), said Obama’s talking points on Iran nuclear negotiations sound like they’re “straight out of Tehran.”
Retired Colonel Tony Shaffer said Bowe Bergdahl’s lawyers were given a “statement of charges,” the military equivalent of an indictment for desertion, before Pentagon spokesman Admiral Kirby denied it. Looks like still another scandal will be buried indefinitely by the Obama Administration — just like the IRS, Benghazi, Fast and Furious, and all the rest with mainstream media cooperation. What happens to those who don’t cooperate? Ask former CBS correspondent Sharyl Attkisson, who says anyone who crosses Obama is treated like an “enemy of the state.” Consider how closely and relentlessly the mainstream media probed deflated Patriot footballs. If they gave half that scrutiny to just one Obama scandal, the president would be impeached. As Tom Brady put it: [This] “isn’t ISIS. No one’s dying.”
We’ve all seen “Saving Private Ryan,” and I can’t help thinking of it when hearing about the six guys who died looking for Bergdahl. I got choked up when Tom Hanks, playing Captain Miller, told Matt Damon’s Private Ryan: “Earn this.” I got choked up again when Ryan returned as an old man with his family to the graves of the men who saved him. Didn’t you? It was fiction, yes, but it was a very American thing. We know the guys in Bergdahl’s platoon were telling the truth when they said he was a deserter. Only diehard Obama robots have any doubt.
That makes Obama’s screw up extremely damaging and he knows it. The Pentagon wrapped up the Bergdahl investigation in October, so how long can the president keep the lid on? And there are all his other scandals. He’s still got almost two more years before he leaves office.
The guy from Maine isn’t the only American who has had enough of this commander-in-chief.

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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Multicultural Follies

“Nothing to do with Islam.”
That’s what our political leaders keep telling us when radical Muslims enslave, rape, crucify, behead, and otherwise slaughter people by the thousands all over the world. It has nothing to do with Islam.
Teaching in public school a few years ago, I showed students pictures of burning cars in France. French media said it was exuberant “youths” torching the cars — well over a thousand vehicles in one night. NBC News also called them “youths.” French and American media both averted their eyes from the plain truth that youths burning cars all over France were Muslim.

Reuters said only 1137 cars were burned on New Year’s Eve in 2009, while 1147 had been torched the year before. Responding to what it called, “another wave of reader complaints that we don’t brand these arsonists as Muslims,” Reuters explained: “Sure, there were Muslims among them — but there were non-Muslims as well. What value do we add to a news story by using a questionable religious label to describe a political and socio-economic phenomenon?” Nothing to do with Islam. The arsonists were victims of western capitalist greed, they suggest.
When my students asked why media refused to call the “youths” Muslims, I told them it went against their cherished concept of “Multiculturalism.” They looked at me with blank faces, having no idea what multiculturalism was. I told them to look it up on their laptops.

Some recited the Wikipedia definition, which said: “Multiculturalism refers to the historical evolution of cultural diversity within a jurisdiction, incarnated by its selection policies and institutionalized by its settlement policies.”
“Okay now?” I said. That should clear it up.” Some laughed. Most remained confused.

“Countries in Europe have formed into something called the ‘European Union,’” I explained, “kind of a United States of Europe. Elite EU leaders made ‘multiculturalism’ one of their founding principles, and it basically means that all cultures are equal. No culture or religion is any better or any worse than any other. They’re all the same.”
Then I explained how Muslim imams were like priests of Islam, and when many encouraged Muslims in the mosques to kill the rest of us, that made it hard for European leaders to continue insisting that Islam was no worse than any other religion. So what do European leaders do in the face of Muslim violence? “They pretend it isn’t happening, that’s what. Don’t call the arsonists Muslims. They’re just ‘youths’ getting a little rambunctious.”
More than forty thousand cars are torched in France every year. Nothing to do with Islam, though.

Then I showed them media accounts of how radical Muslim US Army Colonel Nidal Hasan shot forty-three American soldiers at Fort Hood in Texas while shouting “Allahu Akbar!” I told them Obama Administration officials insisted the shootings had nothing to do with Islam. The president said: “Well, look, we -- we have seen, in the past, rampages of this sort. And in a country of 300 million people, there are going to be acts of violence that are inexplicable.”
I told them how the Pentagon investigated and published an 86-page report that never mentioned jihad, Muslim, Islam, or Koran. My students knew what all those words meant. Ultimately Obama’s Department of Homeland Security explained the Fort Hood shooting as “Workplace violence.”

Nothing to do with Islam.
Muslims believe Mohammed was “The Prophet” of Islam and the “Hadith” is an ancient record of Mohammed’s sayings, secondary only to the Koran. The Hadith prohibits making images of Mohammed. Radical Muslims kill people who draw cartoons of Mohammed, but President Obama and socialist French President Hollande insist those killings have nothing to do with Islam.
When the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) murders thousands of Iraqis and Syrians in the name of Islam, President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry, and Attorney General Eric Holder maintain it has nothing to do with Islam. When Islamic terrorists from al Qaeda, Boko Haram, and al Shebaab torture and murder thousands of people across Africa and the Middle East in the name of Islam, our leaders assert it has nothing to do with Islam.
When the Koran, the holy book of Islam, instructs Muslims: “…cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Therefore strike off their heads and strike off every fingertip of them,” it has nothing to do with Islam. So what if there are over 100 sections of the Koran encouraging followers to commit violence against non-believers? If our leaders are right, we must conclude that the Koran has nothing to do with Islam.

Get it? The teachings of Mohammed — the Prophet of Islam, the teachings in the Koran — the holy book of Islam, the teachings of imams in the mosques of Islam, and the actions of millions of Muslims around the world — have nothing to do with Islam.

Islam is a religion of peace. If not, multiculturalism would be seen as a fraud, and we can’t have that.

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