Tom McLaughlin: Living with cognitive dissonance in Europe

It had to be galling. Geert Wilders, a member of Dutch Parliament, was found guilty three months ago of “inciting discrimination against Dutch Moroccans” — the very people who have been trying to kill him since at least 2003. Newsweek reported that he has to go around, “wearing a bulletproof vest and being shuttled between safe houses to avoid assassination. ‘I’m not in prison,’ he says. ‘But I’m not free, either. You don’t have to pity me, but I haven’t had personal freedom now for 10 years. I can’t set one foot out of my house or anywhere in the world without security.’”

The Wilders trial perfectly illustrates Europe’s state of cognitive dissonance. In many European Union countries, one is charged with “hate speech” for criticizing Muslims who are terrorizing the entire continent. Marine Le Pen has also been charged in France, along with Brigitte Bardot.

It was interesting to watch media spin last Wednesday’s Dutch election results as Geert Wilders’ PVV Party, which they always call “far right,” gained five seats (33 percent), yet he was “defeated.” Prime Minister Rutte’s VVD Party lost eight seats (-20 percent), but he won a “great victory.” Prime Minister Rutte’s governing partner in the ruling coalition, the Labour Party, lost 19 seats (-75 percent). How is this a victory? Because Wilders didn’t thump him as badly as polls suggested he might.

I met Geert Wilders seven years ago at CPAC, the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C. He was surrounded by large, shaven-headed, tough-looking, unsmiling, bodyguards with ear pieces who were constantly looking around at the rest of us in the hotel function room. He cannot go anywhere without them and it’ll be that way for the rest of his life. Why? Because he’s “far-right”? No, it’s because he has dared to criticize Islam, comparing the Koran to Hitler’s Mein Kampf as both advocate slaughtering Jews. For that, Muslims put a fatwa on his head. That means Muslims are obligated to kill him whenever they get the chance.

He’s been living like this since he came to the defense of a fellow member of Parliament, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who was a Somali immigrant. Hirsi Ali got off a plane in Holland rather than go on toward Canada where her family had arranged she be married to an aging relative. She was granted asylum and then got elected to Parliament. Hirsi Ali’s Muslim parents had forced her to undergo a genital mutilation procedure when she was a girl.

Together with filmmaker Theo Van Gogh (great-grandnephew of the famous painter) Hirsi Ali made a short film called “Submission” depicting Muslim treatment of women. For his effort, van Gogh was shot and stabbed on the street in broad daylight by a Muslim immigrant. Pinned to his body with a knife was a note declaring that Hirsi Ali was next. In 2003, Muslims staged an hour-long grenade assault on a building in The Hague where Ali and Geert Wilders were working in an effort to kill both. In spite of all this, it’s still criminal to criticize the “Religion of Peace” in Europe.

Angela Merkel and other European leaders said the Dutch election last week was a “good day for democracy” and for Europe because Wilders wants to lead Holland out of the European Union. All across Europe, however, there’s a rising opposition to the E.U.’s open-borders policy of accepting millions of Muslim “refugees” in spite of what more millions of native-born citizens want. That’s one of the factors propelling the rise of other conservative leaders in France, Austria, Germany, Italy and other E.U. countries.

Meanwhile, Turkey is threatening to release 15,000 more Muslim “refugees” a month to “blow the mind” of Europe.

The Turkish foreign minister said, “Soon, religious wars will begin in Europe.” President Barack Obama’s good buddy, President Erdogan of Turkey urged Muslims living in Europe to have at least five children. It’s part of the Islamic concept of hijrah, which Islam historian Robert Spencer calls “jihad by emigration.”

If you ask ordinary Dutch, French, German and British people, they’d say the religious wars are already underway and have been for years. Every day there’s a stabbing, a rape, a bomb, a truck attack or some other Muslim terrorist incident somewhere in Europe, yet Merkel alone let over a million Muslims into Germany just last year. She’s up for re-election in September.

The left in Europe has for decades been pushing for ever more centralized government through the E.U. and the U.N. — and for open borders. To pave the way, they’ve attempted to indoctrinate the populace with the multicultural myth that all cultures are equal. Dutch, French, British, German or any other European culture is no better than Muslim culture.

All should be able to live together in harmony. Ordinary Europeans, however, aren’t buying it.

Tom McLaughlin lives in Lovell, Maine. He can be reached on his website at

Erik Eisele: We’re all in this storm together


There’s something about snowstorms.

Maybe it’s a result of growing up in New England, but when storm warnings hit, it’s an excuse to burrow in. When snow begins falling, everything slows. Cars creep along white streets, school gets canceled, and work gets pushed aside. Life becomes frozen in time. Plans and schedules cease to matter, it’s time to hunker down and watch as Mother Nature wear herself out.

When it’s daylight, snowstorms are one thing but after nightfall, darkness hides the growing blanket as it muffles out everything. Daybreak inevitably comes sparkling blue, and everything lays transformed.

That’s when the digging out begins.

We had one of those storms last week. It started early, and I hid inside as I usually do, fully dormant until the next day. When I finally left home, I came upon a woman scraping her car with one of those tiny ice scrapers meant for morning frost — barely larger than her hand, it was insufficient for a foot of powder.

I jogged over with my extended-handle brush/scraper. “Can I help?” I said, my scraper already digging into the drifts covering her passenger-side windshield.

“Thanks,” she said. “You don’t have to.”

“I know,” I said, smiling. “It’ll only take a minute.”

That’s the other part about winter storms I love: They change the rules of engagement. They force us out of solitary lives and encourage interaction. In a modern world, it’s easy to move undetected and anonymous, but winter snow rips us out of hibernation. It bring us out in front of one another.

I have a friend who moved from New England to California, where the weather is always sunny, warm and beautiful. “People don’t talk to each other,” she told me. “They don’t have to. Nothing forces you. You can get by on your own, no one ever has to call a friend because their door’s snowed shut or their car got buried by the plow. It makes life easier, but it also makes it more isolating.”

Community, forced by the weather.

But storms offer more than that. It’s more than the neighbor who plows you out, or the friend willing to watch your kids so you can go to work. Snow transforms the rules that govern our daily life, leaving them meaningless, arbitrary markers. Norms go out the window, and in their absence the best of us comes out.

Speed limits, for example: The one time I feel least at risk of getting a speeding ticket is during a snowstorm. If you are able to keep your car on the road and avoid collision, you’ve won. You passed the test. No one comes close to 45 mph then, so why even pay attention to what the sign says? The “rules of the road” cease to be the rigid and dogmatic statues we are accustomed to. They are lost guidelines, so meaningless and out of reach they become laughable. Going 5 mph might be too fast, 15 mph leaves us in a ditch and 45 mph is nothing but numbers.

But the police are out on these nights. They are often out in force. But the snow transforms them from law enforcers to public assisters. They help us dig out, give pushes or call tows. This is undoubtedly what most of members of the police force signed up to do in the first place, to help people, but in the muddled mess of life they spend more time telling people what they can’t do than offering the friendly assist.

Snowstorms, however, recalibrate. They slow us down. They remind us there is no hurry, and in remembering that we remember generosity, thoughtfulness. Our police get to be what they always wanted to be for a night, and so do the rest of us. We remember we don’t live alone, that sometimes we need our neighbors, and sometimes we need to be neighbors ourselves.

I wonder what part snowstorms played in early democracy, that foundational American institution. What would New Hampshire town meetings look life if they could skip the harsh winter, if the democratic congregation was held in June, the summer sun stretching until 9 p.m.? With nothing to keep us indoors would we make time to self-govern? Would we abandon civic duty to take an evening walk among the fireflies? The early colonies further south lacked this democratic practice.

The town hall is a New England contribution, one perhaps tied to snow — because there are no luxuries in March. This is when storms often rage most furiously. And in a storm there is nothing more comforting than sitting in a room packed with neighbors dedicated to enduring the same elements, the same harsh wind.

I think of town meetings past when snow blanketed every street and yet conversations continued in gymnasiums and town halls over how to spend communal tax revenue. This is the time for collective decisions, a time when choices on governing are informed by the vulnerable nature of rural life. Democracy is a game best played as a team, and we blessed with days, December through spring, that remind us of exactly who makes our team.

Much of America doesn’t think about it that way. But then again, most of America has never enjoyed one of our snowstorms.

Erik Eisele is a reporter for The Conway Daily Sun.


Russ Lanoie: Students need real world programs

It was very gratifying to see our Career and Techical Center Building Trades’ Tiny House departing Eagle’s Way on its way to the Home Builders Show in Manchester Friday morning, March 17.

It particularly meant a lot to me since I recall a time not long ago when we did not have a building trades program at Kennett High School’s Career and Technical Center.

When the center was first established back in 1977 as the Region 6 Vocational/Technical Center, along with the other programs that still exist at the new center there were building trades and agriculture programs. By 1997, these two programs had disappeared but the need for both of them did not.

It was the task of the Vocational Advisory Committee, a group of citizens who “advise, assist and advocate to help improve the quality of instruction” to put together a program that would help fill the gap left by the loss of these two programs. Advisory Committee members recommended a property management program to the Conway School Board, along with a request for an instructor for the program. This program would attempt to cover all bases, albeit not in the depth that two separate programs possibly could, but would give students a taste of these trades and make use of the facilities at the old location, now the SAU 9 offices adjacent to the Middle School.

The property management program has existed for many years since but recently has returned to a dedicated building trades program.

White Mountain Home Builders has recently become involved in the program, recognizing that its students will be the tradesmen and women of the future here in the valley. This partnership has led to the Tiny House Project that, although it is not quite the same as the full-size house building projects that the original building trades students did back in the late ’70s and ‘80s, it is giving students an opportunity to create a finished product right in their shop.

I emphasize that this program would not exist if it were not for the efforts of what is now called the Career and Technical Advisory Committee. As advisors, it is our task to recommend to the school board what students need to be prepared for real world employment.

Several other programs have either been saved from demise or created by the work of the advisory committee linking the community needs to the center.

Many in the community have little awareness of our state-of-the-art Career and Technical Center at Kennett High School that has led to such accomplishments as the HUNCH partnership with NASA, the state champion Kennett Coders Robotics Team as well as the Tiny House Project and all of the other Career Tech Program achievements.

There are occasional open houses and other activities that serve to introduce the public to the center and its 12 programs. The culinary student-run Mineral Spring Cafe that is open for lunch on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. Find out more at the center’s website at

The Career Tech Advisory Board always welcomes new members who want to contribute their expertise to the center to help guide it into the future. We meet monthly at the Mineral Spring Cafe.

Russ Lanoie, Career Tech Advisory Committee Memberthe Kennett Coders state champion Robotics team and all of the other Career Tech students in the Centers twelve different program’s to demonstrate the effectiveness of the Center in the education of our future work force.the Kennett Coders state champion Robotics team and all of the other Career Tech students in the Centers twelve different program’s to demonstrate the effectiveness of the Center in the education of our future work force.Kennett Coders state champion Robotics team and all of the other Career Tech students in the Centers twelve different program’s to demonstrate the effectiveness of the Center in the education of our future work force.

Mark Hounsell: Thank you, Bill Marvel

As I watched this year’s deliberative portion of the annual Conway Town Meeting on Valley Vision from the comfort of my home, the debate over the budget committee’s recommendation to trim about $9,000 from the library budget pained me.

Even though the money was restored by those voters in attendance and it may be a moot point, there remains some pertinent clarity of the revelations both Bill Marvel and I received while we served together as library trustees.

From 2012 until today, Bill and I were deeply involved in rescuing our beloved institution from some serious difficulties. With myself as chairman and Bill as treasurer, we were instrumental in hiring a new director, revamping many library programs, investing in technology; re-evaluating goals and staffing; fixing the roof, stopping business cards giveaways; and many other important aspects of overseeing a public library. We achieved this with annual increases to the taxpayers being held to less than 1 percent for each of the budget years we served.

Along with regaining the trust of library staff and easing workplace tensions, Bill prepared the monthly financial reports in a clear and concise format that a trustee could depend on. Those same reports from the current treasurer are lacking. They are undependable and, unlike Bill Marvel’s, they do not balance.

I should have been at the meeting the other night to support the cuts — not that I believe anything I would have added would have made a difference. Allowing for the makeup of that gathering, I am certain they would not. I should have been there to stand with my friend, one of the most authentic persons I know, Bill Marvel.

I will not cover all the points that Bill made at the deliberative except to state he is correct. The mission of the library for 2017 could easily have been achieved for the recommended amount presented by the budget committee. Only four of the seven trustees voted to forward this year’s budget to the selectmen this past November. Trustee and former town finance director Lucy Philbrick and I did not vote in support of the library budget. What I believe you might find interesting is my perspective of the conditions at the library.

Library Director David Smolen is a capable man. He is also an expansionist in that he sees an expanded role for the Conway Public Library.

Trustee Linda Fox-Phillips offers no significant vision for the library, and her tenured effectiveness is as an enabler for the director, whomever he or she may be, and to be an obstructionist to the advancement of finer details of policy and budgeting. Fox-Phillips is also the most inept recording secretary I have ever encountered. It is absolutely critical that all true friends of the library be enlightened to this fact. Next year, her term is up. I hope it is her last one — the library cannot thrive with her as a trustee.

This year’s budget contains the seed of future budget increases that will be difficult to avoid. The one-time reduction in the technology line will certainly rebound to last year’s levels. The recent advertisement for a new technology staff person is a clear indication of that.

Soon the library will be expanding services and two things will happen: The library budget will increase as it expands, and we really will have to solve the parking problem. This means the trustees will be eyeballing the library park as they consider paving it to put in a parking lot.

I am compelled to write this report lest people think that Bill Marvel is alone in his comments regarding the library. He is not.

Over the years Bill Marvel has done more for the Conway Public Library than any one person. His commitment to the traditional role of the library is reflective of many locals and natives, including yours truly. Our community is the beneficiary of his candid voice, his research and his dedication.

Going forward, I will look to him on library matters. He is reliable, and as I wrote earlier, Bill Marvel is authentic.

Mark Hounsell is a former Chairman of the Conway Public Library Board of Trustees.