Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Division Dynamics

Some call him the most divisive president ever. Some say he’s also the worst while others say he’s the best. He’s been in the White House a year now. Will he serve out the four-year term for which he was elected? Not if Trump-haters have their way. They’ve been looking to prevent that since before he was inaugurated.

Even his supporters acknowledge his numerous and obvious flaws, but will overlook them so long as he fulfills his campaign promises. Many expected his narcissism to subside but, alas, it has not, nor is it likely to. President Trump has suffered the most relentlessly negative media coverage in living memory, perhaps of all time, but it hasn’t diminished his opinion of himself. Even former President Carter remarked: “I think the media have been harder on Trump than any other president certainly that I’ve known about. I think they feel free to claim that Trump is mentally deranged and everything else without hesitation.”

According to Justice Antonin Scalia's friend, Brian Garner, “Scalia thought it was most refreshing to have a candidate who was pretty much unfiltered and utterly frank.” That’s a summation of Trump upon which both his supporters and detractors will agree. Scalia may have liked him as a candidate, but whether he’d have liked Trump to be elected we’ll never know because he died ten months before election day. One of Trump’s first actions as president was to nominate a Supreme Court justice as much like Scalia as possible.

Hoping to cripple him or remove him, Trump-haters focused at first on alleged collusion between Trump and Vladimir Putin to win the election. That comprised the bulk of media coverage ever since he defeated Hillary Clinton even though no evidence has emerged to support it after intense investigation by the FBI, several congressional committees, and a special prosecutor for over a year. The only evidence of Russian collusion found so far has involved the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton Campaign, but Trump-haters are not inclined to follow those threads.

Collusion allegations have thus faded. To get rid of Trump, detractors are searching for other means. The special prosecutor isn’t limited to Russian election collusion; he can investigate anything he chooses, and he is. The special prosecutor who went after President Clinton two decades ago was appointed to investigate a shady Arkansas real estate deal called Whitewater, but instead probed not only sexual harassment but consensual sexual escapades as well. When Clinton lied about those under oath, he was impeached. Something similar could happen to President Trump.

As President Carter pointed out, some detractors claim he’s deranged and would invoke the 25th Amendment to remove him. That’s never been attempted and would be a long shot at best. So now what? Mainstream media are currently in high dudgeon about allegations that Trump used the S-word to describe El Salvador, Haiti, and some African countries while negotiating immigration policy with Democrats. Accusing the president of saying sh** isn’t going to outrage many people so media are claiming the president is “racist.” Though not so in El Salvador, most people in Haiti and African countries are black. Therefore, calling them “sh**hole countries” is tantamount to racism, they insist. It’s a stretch, but mainstream media are riding it for as much mileage as it will bring them.

During a visit by the prime minister of Norway, Trump is said to have asked why we can’t have more immigrants from that country. Because most people in Norway are white, media continued piling up their “Trump is racist” coverage. Locally, Maine’s Portland Press Herald editorialized:

“This was the white nationalist vision of America that was promoted by Trump and his disgraced adviser Steve Bannon in the campaign. It is a view of America that was embraced by some large numbers of voters, who cheered Trump’s vision of a fortress America, where dark-skinned immigrants were kept out by a great wall.”

Really? Trump and Bannon “promoted a white nationalist vision of America”? Their slogan was “America First” and that’s certainly nationalist, but where and when did either of them ever say anything about skin color? Trump organized a lot of rallies and made a lot of speeches. Can the Press Herald cite anything he said to support its claim? The paper has promoted the “Russia/Trump collusion” story for a year without evidence. Now it has jumped to accusations of “white nationalism” without evidence as well. 

Is Trump dividing America, or did America’s divisions exist before he was elected? What might those divisions have been? Left vs right? Class divisions? Coastal elites vs heartland? College-educated vs non-college-indoctrinated? All of them? Was Trump elected because of those divisions? Whatever divisions there were, they’ve widened considerably since the election, but who is driving the wedge? Trump supporters or Trump haters?

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Dilly Dilly!

Sir Brad is ready to begin the Pit of Misery tour

Wild Card Weekend was wonderful. It was much too cold to go outside Saturday and Sunday here in Maine, but there were two football games between high-level teams to watch both days. What’s not to like? Next weekend will be similar: two games Saturday — including one with the hometown Patriots at Gillette Stadium — and two more on Sunday. Tremendous athletes at the top of their abilities will compete and I’m a football fan again.

Readers of this column know I’m a political junkie, studying the latest developments for at least two hours every day. I watch Sunday morning political programs on at least two networks, but when afternoon comes I don’t want any more politics. I want to watch football. This season, however, politics creeped into the game during the national anthem and that put a damper on Sunday afternoons for millions of us. It wasn’t good for the teams as they saw lots of empty stadium seats. It wasn’t good for TV networks or the NFL either because they lost viewers. I kept watching Patriots games but some of the shine had gone.

Mainstream media gave national anthem sit-downs and kneel-downs plenty of attention at first. Then it all backfired after President Trump weighed in and accused players of lacking patriotism. Many fans agreed and voted with their feet by staying away from games. They voted with their remotes by refusing to tune in at home on their TVs. Revenue declined. After that, media stopped their political coverage by refusing to film the playing of the national anthem before gametime. Politics went out the exits. Football fields went back to being exclusively athletic arenas and politics didn’t make the playoffs. Hurray for that.

When my family was young there wasn’t time to watch football, but by the Tom Brady era our nest had emptied and suddenly there was time. I could again experience total immersion in a sea of testosterone. Football is a male world and I hadn’t realized how much I missed it. Don’t misunderstand; I love women. I’ve been sleeping next to one for almost forty-seven years. I have a mother, four sisters, three daughters, two granddaughters and love them all. I also spent thirty-six years in education — a female-dominated profession. Even our two family dogs were females. Can I be forgiven if sometimes I prefer the exclusive company of men? Too bad if I can’t.

It’s not just the football that I enjoy. Televised games are full of commercials aimed at men too. They’re mostly ads for pick-up trucks and beer and some are very funny. In one, various people bring gifts of Bud Light beer to a medieval king, who thanks them by saying, “Dilly dilly!” Others present raise their bottles in toast and repeat: “Dilly-dilly!” Then, an unfortunate fellow puts some mead before the king, who is displeased. The king looks at him and says: “Please follow Sir Brad. He is going to give you a private tour of the pit of misery.” As the king’s torturer, Sir Brad, drags the poor guy away, others hold up their beers in toast, chanting: “Pit of misery! Dilly dilly!

The commercial doesn’t sound funny in the least, right? But somehow it is. There’s no explanation beyond that it probably reminds men of ridiculous things they’ve done and laughed about while drinking beer together. It’s 21st century code for, “Eat, drink, and be merry!” It’s completely unserious and beckons others to join the mirth. If “dilly dilly” has any real meaning, nobody can find it.

So what’s the purpose of football? What’s the point of eleven men carrying, throwing, catching, and kicking an oblong piece of inflated leather a hundred yards down a field while eleven other strong, swift men try to stop them? It’s a guy thing, like war without the killing. It satisfies something in the male psyche, but it’s not unrestrained violence. It has rules all participants must obey or be penalized, even ordered to leave the field. Players are judged by their physical ability which is remarkable, their mental acuity under pressure, their teamwork, perseverance, and heart.

And there’s nothing new in all this. The earliest Olympic Games in the 8th century BC were exclusively for men as I learned when visiting the site in 2014. Married women were banned both from competition and from viewing as well, but “maidens” were allowed. Why that distinction was made our guide didn’t say. Perhaps the “maidens” were an ancient equivalent of today’s cheerleaders. Perhaps it was because the men competed while oiled and naked, but then homosexuality was widespread in ancient Greece by some accounts. Maybe it was that.

Whatever the reasons for men wishing to spend time away from women once in a while, they go back a long way. It may have become politically incorrect in the 21st century, but it’s not going away.

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Limits of History

Everyone has a history. A birth certificate proves my existence since 4/7/1951. My town of Lovell, Maine was incorporated in 1800. Some settlers prior to 1800 kept diaries. Indians lived here but they didn’t record much. European colonists wrote of who and what they saw when they arrived but not until about four hundred years ago in these parts. Darby Field came through Fryeburg in 1642 and described Pequawket (or Pigwacket) — the Indian village existing there at the time. Everything before then is prehistoric by definition. Earliest human records anywhere go back only five thousand years. We consult archaeologists for anything earlier.

Other Abenaki subclassifications 

They tell us people have been around here for about eleven thousand years, maybe longer. No artifacts that old have been found in Lovell or Fryeburg yet but probably will be someday. To the west, a beautiful spearpoint from that era was picked up near the scenic overlook in Intervale, NH around 1888. To the east artifacts approximately that old were discovered near the Lewiston/Auburn airport in the 1980s. To the north, even older artifacts were discovered near Lake Aziscohos in Maine, and to the south near the Ossipee River in NH.

The only professional archaeological dig so far conducted in Fryeburg was six-day effort in July, 2009 by Arthur Spiess and his team from the Maine Historic Preservation Commission. Results of that have not yet been published, but the site is thought to be from what’s called the Woodland Period. That goes back only three thousand years at most, and what was found is probably younger than that. It was only two miles from my house as the crow flies and some of my students participated.

Some of the John Gray collection

Amateurs have collected artifacts in the Fryeburg area over the years including Eve Barbour, Benjamin Newman, John Gray, and others. The queen of them all, however, was the late Helen Leadbeater of Fryeburg Village. Her studies and explorations seem to have been her principal occupation for over twenty years from the 1950s to the 1970s. When I retired from teaching in 2011, Helen’s son, Arizona Zipper, gave me access to both her artifacts and her records. With the assistance of Fryeburg’s Diana Bell, I spent three weeks photographing her extensive collection while Diana scanned her maps, notes, and journals.

Helen Leadbeater

Helen not only collected, she read everything available on Indians in Maine and New Hampshire, especially those along the Saco River. If she heard about a find, she chased it down and either verified it or debunked it. She got permission from private landowners to explore their property. She kept extensive notes and drew very good maps. Many of her thousands of artifacts are individually labelled and she sketched them as well.

She was especially knowledgeable of ceramics, which go back three thousand years in the Upper Saco River Valley. She published an article on her local ceramic research in the Maine Archaeological Society Journal. She reassembled an entire pot from fragments she found in Fryeburg and donated it to the Maine State Museum (MSM) in Augusta where it remains on display. Another of my former students, Bill Rombola, published a description of all her artifacts in the same journal while he was attending the University of Southern Maine. Senior archaeologists in both Maine and New Hampshire came to Fryeburg to see her collection. So did two other professional archaeologists with whom I’ve spoken. They told me they hope it’s eventually donated to the Maine State Museum.

Mike Gramly, a former director there, especially coveted one of Helen’s artifacts called a “banner stone,” because the MSM doesn’t have one. Trouble is, the piece was found just over the state line in Center Conway. It’s a curious piece with a hole in the middle and wings on the sides and resembles a wing nut. They’re found all over the country and sometimes called “butterfly stones.” It’s function is thought to be as a weight for a spear thrower called an atl-atl — a device, probably wooden, that would give the thrower leverage to throw a spear further and with more force. Other archaeologists dispute this use of the curious bannerstone and claim it must serve some other purpose. 

When time permits, I explore some of the sites Helen identified, but few are plowed and harrowed anymore so surface collecting isn’t possible. She and Eve Barbour would dig but I won’t — not since someone explained to me that, if I did, I’d be obligated to do more. I’d have to have a hypothesis. I’d have to use tedious archaeological technique allowing only the use of a trowel and screen in small test pits, and I’d have to publish my results. All this would require time I do not have, so ethics require that I leave it all in the ground for those who do.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Into The Jail

They come from many different backgrounds but they’re alike in certain ways. At least three out of four are addicted to drugs or alcohol. Many are “co-occurring” as well, meaning they also have a diagnosed mental illness of one kind or another. I never ask them what they did to get in there, but it often comes out in conversation. Every Thursday afternoon for the past eighteen months, I’ve been going into the Cumberland County Jail in Portland, Maine to lead a one-hour bible study.

The jail is divided into pods with about eighty-five inmates in each. Security cameras cover everything. After passing through a metal detector in the lobby and signing in, someone is always watching me walk through the corridors, each separated from the next by a heavy steel door which unlocks with a loud metallic click that echoes down the hallway as I approach. The fourth accesses my assigned pod.

Each oblong, six-sided pod is identical with twenty double cells below and twenty in the upper tier that are accessed by two staircases, one on each end. In the middle of a large open area below is a station for the Corrections Officer, or CO, on duty. That is surrounded by steel tables bolted to the floor and plastic chairs stacked nearby. When I come through the sally port the CO will press a button to unlock the little classroom I use, then announce the Bible Study to all the inmates. I stand by the classroom door watching dozens of men playing cards, watching television, or doing pull-ups on bare-bones gym equipment. There’s an outside basketball court surrounded by a very high cinderblock wall with coils of razor wire on top, but few go out there in cold weather.

Anywhere from four to sixteen men will saunter into the classroom, two or three carrying Bibles. Some have tattoos going up to their chins and occasionally beyond. They’re dressed in orange or blue — blue if they’re trustees who work in the kitchen, library, or on the grounds. For most, their times in jail are intermittent periods of sobriety in lives dominated by substance abuse. They’re in and out a lot and discuss that freely. I listen. 

Their accents reflect their origins: Sudan, Somalia, Tennessee, New York City, Maine, and so on. With a concrete floor and cinderblock walls, acoustics are terrible. My hearing aides don’t help and I have to struggle to understand them. None claim to be jailed unjustly; they own whatever they did. I tell them I’m a retired history teacher and not a Bible scholar, and I’m learning along with them. Some know scripture better than I do, and most of those are black and raised in the south. 

If they brought a Bible I’ll ask what they’ve been reading lately. Often it’s Proverbs in the Old Testament or the Book of James in the New. Sometimes it’s the Book of Job or Psalms. Whatever they tell about may morph into the lesson of the day. Others come in with zero knowledge and little conception of what the Bible might contain beyond a vague idea that it would probably be good for them. Occasionally someone will say they came in because there’s not much else to do in jail and I tell them they’re all welcome. I’m never sure who is going to walk through the door. Thats a challenge when preparing a lesson, but I always have something with which to begin. After that it goes wherever it goes.

Frequently one will say he’s going to be released soon and he’s scared. He’s afraid he won’t be able to control himself and he’ll go back to drinking or using drugs. He’ll disappoint his wife, his kids, his parents, or whomever, and he’ll end up back in there again. Others will nod as he talks because they too have done that over and over and a profound sadness permeates the room. As such times I search for something that will offer hope. Usually it’s Paul’s 2nd letter to the Corinthians in which he says: “…[God] said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

Reverend Jeff McIlwain, Chaplain CCJ
Never sure what’s going to help and what isn’t, I go back in each week to see where it will go, remembering Matthew 18:20: “Wherever two or more of you are gathered in my name, I am there with them.” After the hour is up we re-stack the chairs. They thank me and we shake hands. I assure them that I get more by being there than I give.

And I do.

Monday, December 18, 2017

What Happens At 443 Congress Street?

A small demonstration was going on when my ten-year-old grandson and I were walking together on a Congress Street sidewalk last summer. I’d forgotten that the Planned Parenthood clinic had moved there from Forest Avenue a while ago. It was a Friday morning and that’s when they do abortions. One group of about eight people was holding pro-life signs and smaller group of older women had signs saying: “I stand with Planned Parenthood” and "PLANNED PARENTHOOD PROVIDES VITAL HEALTH CARE." Two more people in pink vests stood one on each side of the entrance to 443 Congress Street. A Portland cop leaned against a mailbox watching everything.

The older women didn’t try to engage my grandson but some of the younger pro-life demonstrators talked to him. As we walked on past he asked me what abortion was. I thought for a minute and said, “When some women get pregnant, they’re very happy and look forward to when the baby is born. Other women aren’t happy to be pregnant, so they come here to have the baby removed before it can be born.”

“They do?” he said.


He looked troubled, but at that moment we came upon a pickup truck parked next to the curb with multicolored splotches of paint all over it that looked like it had been applied by Jackson Pollack. It also had matchbox cars and skulls glued to the top edges of the truck bed and my grandson was fascinated. He walked all around it looking carefully at its many details. I told him I knew the truck’s owner, an artist named Zoo Cain. There were no more questions about abortion and we proceeded further up Congress Street toward the Maine Historical Society, our original destination.

They go on everywhere
The pro-life demonstrations were happening on the sidewalk at 443 Congress Street before our encounter that day and have continued afterward. Andrew March, pastor of a Lewiston, Maine church, has organized some of them and literally made a federal case out of them. Portland police confronted March telling him he may not raise his voice so it disturbs women coming there for abortions. Writers at the leftist magazine Slate call it, “religious invective.” Well, “invective is defined as “insulting, abusive, or highly critical language.” Was the Reverend March using insulting, abusive, or highly critical language? Or, was he simply telling the truth?

Portland Police were trying to enforce an order from Maine’s pro-abortion Attorney General and Democrat candidate for governor Janet Mills. She claimed that Maine Civil Rights law could restrain the volume of Reverend March’s voice. March asked the police how loud a voice he could use to get his points across, but they wouldn’t say.

March claimed there were much louder noises coming from climate-change marchers and others who had just gone by, so the real issue was what he was saying and not how loudly he was saying it. March sued in federal district court in Portland, Maine on First Amendment grounds and won. In May, 2016 U.S. District Judge Nancy Torresen ruled that Maine’s Civil Rights statute violated March’s 1st Amendment right to freedom of speech. Then Attorney General Mills appealed to the First US Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston which overturned Judge Torrensen’s ruling last August. According to Slate Magazine, Mills won by claiming that pro-life demonstrators were “so loud that [they] could be heard within the examination and counseling rooms of the building . . . [that it] jeopardize[d] the health of persons receiving health services within the building . . . [and that it] raised stress levels, respiratory rates, and blood pressure” of the women about to have abortions.

When my grandson asked me what abortion was, I could have used the Maine Attorney General’s and Planned Parenthood’s language. I could have told him that abortion is “women’s health care.” Would that have been truthful? I could have described what we had just witnessed as “women trying to get ‘medical care’ while people on the sidewalk were shouting ‘insulting, abusive, and critical language’ at them.” Would that have been truthful?

Instead, I used simple English to describe as truthfully as I could what happens at 443 Congress Street in Portland, Maine every Friday morning. My ten-year-old grandson deserved that. So would anyone else who may happen to pass by there and wonder what’s going on.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Left and Right Show December 13, 2017

Gino and I discuss the Alabama senatorial election, DOJ investigation of racial discrimination by Harvard in its admissions, civil lawsuits by Asian-Americans against Ivy League colleges about same, what racism is and isn't. Trump will move US Embassy to Jerusalem. DOJ will investigate Planned Parenthood for selling aborted baby parts. David Dalieden wins civil lawsuit against biotech firms in California which which purchased baby parts from Planned Parenthood for resale. Tom describes abortion on demand. Plus, Tom and Gino select Good news/bad news as well as winners and losers from the past two weeks.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Codes of Conduct And Lack Thereof

My mother didn’t like me hanging around with Jack. She sensed that he lacked a moral compass or control to check his impulses. It was about 1966 when my best friend Philip and I hitchhiked to Hampton Beach, New Hampshire, which was then the coolest place for fifteen-year-old Tewksbury, Massachusetts boys like us to hang out, and Jack somehow managed to tag along. We strolled along the boardwalk and met a trio of pretty girls our age.

We made introductions, paired off for walks along the beach, and made a plan to meet back at the boardwalk in two hours. Philip and I got on well with the girls we accompanied, but upon return we saw Jack being arrested. “You’re arresting me for swearing?” Jack said to the cop. “That’s against the law here?”

“Yup,” he said as he walked Jack toward the cruiser.

“He’s a garbage mouth!” said the girl who made the complaint. “Come on,” she said to the girls with us. “We don’t want to be with these guys.” Jack was actually arrested for making making lewd and lascivious remarks in public. Philip and I hitchhiked back to Tewksbury without him and with soiled reputations for being associated with him. It was my first exposure to what we now call sexual harassment.

The way some men act, they should be ashamed but they aren’t, and that’s the problem. When exposed they say they’re ashamed, but are they really? I don’t think so. Jack wasn’t. They regret their facade of respectability is gone, but that’s not shame. Sexual harassment has been around forever but fifty years ago it wasn’t tolerated in the company of good men. Then it was for decades. Now suddenly, it isn’t. Women are reporting it again like that poor girl who ended up with Jack.

The fathers in my neighborhood were role models for us and they treated females with respect — when we were around anyway. Jack’s father, a WWII vet like almost all of them, had died young of a heart attack before I met him and Jack’s widowed mother couldn’t handle him. The rest of us had fathers who enforced codes of conduct. We were interested in sex the way all fifteen-year-old boys are and we talked about it a lot with each other, but not in mixed company. I had older and younger sisters and treated all girls as I treated them. Jack would never have disrespected my sisters because he knew I would pound him. He acted like a gentleman because he had to.

That’s how it was in the mid sixties where I grew up, but the sexual revolution changed things. After a few years it was okay to “talk dirty” the way Jack did to that girl. Whatever the lyrics to “Louie Louie” actually were (and no one could really decipher them), high school boys and girls would sing whatever salacious versions they imagined while dancing. By the seventies and eighties, boundaries dissolved in the name of “liberation” from “oppressive sexual norms.” Sex wasn’t procreation, but recreation. There was birth control for everyone, and if that failed, abortion. It became item one on the list of “women’s rights.” Pregnancy was disease to be “treated” in “women’s health care clinics.”

Men who had been boys like Jack were delighted by these developments. Then one was elected president in 1992. He was a big supporter of abortion and when his sexcapades became public, feminists defended him. It didn’t matter that he was credibly accused of sexual harassment, groping, and even rape. Feminist and journalist Nina Burleigh who covered the White House for People and Time, said in 1998: “I would be happy to give him a ******* just to thank him for keeping abortion legal. I think American women should be lining up with their Presidential kneepads on to show their gratitude for keeping the theocracy off our backs.”

Defending her remarks nine years later in 2007 for the Huffington Post, Burleigh wrote: “The insidious use of sexual harassment laws to bring down a president for his pro-female politics was the context in which I spoke.” Pro-female politics? Clearly she meant abortion. If Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas supported abortion, would feminists have tried so hard to block his nomination nine years earlier?

Today Nina Burleigh teaches at the prestigious Columbia Journalism School. The so-called “Burleigh rule” prevailed for nineteen years until Harvey Weinstein’s sexcapades went public. He and a long list of other pro-abortion men in Hollywood and mainstream media have been brought low. What’s going on? Are things changing again?

My friends have not heard from Jack in decades. If he’s still out there I’ll bet he’s concerned.