The word "help" is so uplifting, conveying our best humanitarian values. How odd, then, to see it used in this New York Times headline: "Banks' Lobbyists Help in Drafting Financial Bills."
I'll bet they did! We all know how altruistic, beneficent and kindhearted Wall Street lobbyists are — when it comes to helping themselves, that is. The article explains that a small army of high-dollar influence-peddlers are not merely asking our lawmakers to free big banks from pesky rules that limit their reckless greed, but instead the lobbyists are helping to write the laws themselves.
There's that word again. In this case, "helping to write" is a euphemism for "dictating" the language, turning the members of Congress into obedient stenographers.
For example, one key bill that zipped out of the House finance committee in May is essentially a do-it-yourself lawmaking product of Citigroup. In a concise 85 lines, it exempts big chunks of dangerously high-risk Wall Street speculation from any bothersome regulation. More than 70 of those 85 lines were penned by Citigroup lobbyists with "help" from other banks. The committee even copied two key paragraphs word for word from the language that Citigroup handed to the members.
This group of DIY bill-writers insists that nothing is amiss here — we're not trying to gut the Wall Street reform package passed just three years ago, they say, we're simply trying to reach "a compromise." I was born at night, but it wasn't last night! The 2010 reforms were a compromise, and the American people would like to see them made much tougher, not weaker.
Wall Street, of course, feels entitled to snake inside, assume the role of lawmaker and pervert the public will. As one lobbyist puts it, "We will provide input if we see a bill we have interest in." After all, they just want to help.
But why are our elected solons so willing to buddy up with such self-serving helpers? Here's one member of Congress who finds the whole relationship distressing: "It's appalling," said Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn., talking about the money that special interests stuff in the pockets of lawmakers. "It's disgusting ... and it opens the possibility of conflicts of interest and corruption," he added.
So, naturally, he promptly joined the disgusting system that has turned our Capitol into a wide-open bazaar for buying and selling legislative favors.
"It's unfortunately the world we live in," the Connecticut Democrat shrugged. Even though Himes is only in his third term, he's become an aggressive trader in this bazaar, heading up fundraising for his fellow Democrats in the U.S. House.
Why him? One, as a member of the committee that oversees Wall Street, he can attract campaign cash like honey attracts flies — especially when big banks are lobbying furiously to get exemptions from legislation that restricts some of their destructive profiteering. Two, Himes has proven to be a trusted ally of the wheeler-dealer bankers, supporting their dereg bills. And three, he is one of them, having been made a millionaire as a Goldman Sachs banker.
Republicans are totally in Wall Street's pocket, but Democrats are sinking into it, too. With the admirable exception of Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., and a handful of other Dems who stood with consumers, most Democrats on the committee joined every Republican member in May to do the bank lobby's bidding.
Six days later, Himes' fundraising operation arranged for the seven freshmen Democrats on the committee, each of whom had stood with the bankers, to trek up to the heights of Wall Street for a personal bonding session with the CEOs of Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase. Thus are forged the ties that bind.
Hey, Democrats, don't just deplore this corrupt system, stand with us to overthrow it. To learn how, go to PublicCampaign.org.
(Jim Hightower has been called American's most popular populist. The radio commentator and former Texas Commissioner of Agriculture is author of seven books, including "There's Nothing In the Middle of Road but Yellow Stripes and Dead Armadillos" and his new work, "Swim Against the Current: Even Dead Fish Can Go With The Flow".)
Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 December 1969 07:00
We had 99 residential home sales in June in the 12 towns covered by this Lakes Region real estate market report. That's pretty good! The average sales price came in at $329,928 with a median price point of $203,000. Once again, 50 percent of the sales were at or below $200,000. Last June there were 92 transactions with an average sales price of $251,218. For the first six months of 2013 there have been 447 sales at an average of $279,082 compared to 412 sales in the first half of 2012 at a slightly higher averages sales price of $291,352. That's an 8 percent increase in total sales while the average price is down a little over 4 percent.
The dog days of summer are upon us with seemingly unrelenting high temperatures and humidity. If you are out looking for a new home, probably one of the most noticeable and welcoming features upon entering the front door is if there is air conditioning. On days like we have had this past week a.c. becomes a huge selling feature. That refreshing cold blast of air that greets you wasn't always as common as it is today.
You might not know it but the father of modern air conditioning was a man named Willis Carrier, or Willie to his friends. Despite the urban legend, air conditioning was not invented by LL Kool J. You might recognize the name Carrier as it is still one of the major manufacturers of a.c. units today. I think Willie also had something to do with Carrier pigeons, but that's another story. Anyway, Willie was able to perfect the production of cold air by compressing gases, somehow inexplicably changing the heat generated in the process to ice cold air. It seems like only air conditioning repair technicians understand this process and thus a whole service industry was created to fix a.c. units that invariably break down on the hottest day of the year. Here is a little history lesson on keeping cool.
Man has always sought relief from the heat. In prehistoric times, the cavemen got out of the sweltering heat of the mid day sun by heading down to their cave. Everyone knows that getting below ground into some dark hole is a cool place to be. The Neanderthal's gift to modern civilization, the man cave, is still a very cool place to go especially if it is in the basement. No a.c. is necessary down there, just a wide screen and a big old stuffed chair. Of course, an off shoot of the air conditioning technology, the kegerator, is a highly desirable component of staying cool in a man cave and something that adds immeasurable value to any home.
Way back in the second century, the Chinese invented a seven bladed, rotary, hand cranked fan which produced cool breezes for the members of the royal palace. In ancient Rome, the Emperor had mountains of snow trucked in (by donkey cart) from the high mountaintops and placed in his courtyard to keep things cool. That's not very cost effective way to do things but their government was not that much different than ours and, well, we know what happened there.
Air conditioning was kind of lost in the dark ages. Probably the coolest place back then was in the dungeons, but I suspect no one went there seeking comfort from a blistering heat wave. Visitors to the dungeons might have stayed cool for a while but then lost their heads over something entirely different.
For centuries, people have sought relief from the summer heat by going to cooler places like the mountains and the seacoast to take a dip in the water. The summer heat is actually responsible for the tourism industry here in the Lakes Region and elsewhere. Who doesn't have fond memories of lying awake in bed in a small rustic cabin on a sweltering summer evening listening to the frogs chirp and praying for a breeze? These days vacationers may be awake at night listening to a noisy a.c. unit but at least they are cool.
Shortly after the invention of electricity, the electric fan was invented by Schulyer Wheeler in 1886 at the age of 22. His middle name was Skaats. (That's true, look it up.) He obviously had too much time on his hands, but it was an all important step toward the development of the a.c. unit itself. Everyone knows you gotta have a fan inside that thing to get the cold air out.
The first attempts at building air conditioning systems utilized toxic and flammable gases like propane and ammonia as the refrigerant. Unfortunately, when the machine malfunctioned and leaked, the escaping gases were fatal to the heretofore cool occupants of the building. This was the origin of the phrase "Guns don't kill people, Air Conditioners do" was ever used.
Even the unionized Fan Workers of America could not halt the steady march toward being cool 24/7. Willie Carrier's invention of the first modern air conditioner in 1902 is his contribution to modern society and will never be forgotten as long as there are air conditioning repairmen. LL Kool J's contribution to society; not so much. The first window air conditioner was invented by Robert Sherman of Lynn, Massachusetts in 1945. Who said nothing good ever came out of Lynn?
So, if you are selling a home and have air conditioning make sure it is cranked up for each showing. If you don't have a.c. and this weather doesn't improve, go buy a window unit and be cool. Either that or try selling your home in December. Your choice...
Please feel free to visit www.lakesregionhome.com to learn more about the Lakes Region real estate market and comment on this article and others. Data was compiled using the Northern New England Real Estate MLS System as of 7/17/13. Roy Sanborn is a REALTOR® at Four Seasons Sotheby's International Realty and can be reached at 603-455-0335.
Last Updated on Friday, 19 July 2013 06:09
Crenshaw was one of the hot spots 21 years ago when Los Angeles exploded after the acquittal of the white police officers who had been captured on tape beating Rodney King. For years, the broad thoroughfare was lined with empty buildings. But things have been changing in one of the last African-American neighborhoods in the city. Back in 2006, an African-American investor led a major renovation of the "mall." It now includes a Wal-Mart where area residents both shop and work.
So why riot and loot your neighborhood retailer?
That is, of course, precisely what happened this past Sunday night, when the Los Angeles Police Department, suited out for "riots" and "mass arrests," broke up not so much a riot but a crowd of looters protesting the acquittal of George Zimmerman?
I ask again: Why does damaging a store that serves the African-American community, in a mall whose primary investor is African-American, whose very purpose was to provide both retail and employment opportunities in the African-American community, why does doing that in Los Angeles serve the cause of social justice for African-Americans?
I can understand the frustration many feel with the Florida verdict. As a law professor, I can explain to you why it is understandable and even entirely predictable that the jury would have "reasonable" doubt about who started a fight when only one of the participants is alive to tell his story (albeit without taking the stand and facing cross-examination). I can try to convince you that it is not the job of the criminal justice system to solve the social ills of our society, real and deep though they are, and that when jurors try to do that, they often do more harm than good. Even if you disagree, why destroy a store that serves the very community that is understandably feeling injured?
I have no doubt that something went very wrong the night Trayvon Martin was killed by George Zimmerman. An unarmed kid should not be killed on the way home from buying candy. He should not be killed even if he was obnoxious and aggressive; and he certainly should not be killed because the man who pulled the trigger was afraid of other young men in hoodies, even if that fear was — at least judged statistically — painfully rational.
I heard some commentators trying to explain how it was that race had nothing to do with the verdict. Maybe they believe that. I'm certainly not accusing any of the jurors of acquitting Zimmerman because he is white and Martin was black. I have to assume, and I think we all should, that they did their best to look only at the evidence presented to them, without regard to race, and analyze whether the elements of self-defense had been met.
But let's be serious: Would George Zimmerman have had the same reaction to a white kid in a Lacoste golf shirt? Would any of us?
The problem isn't George Zimmerman and it certainly isn't the Crenshaw Wal-mart.
It's that young black men are way too likely to be criminals. Not because they are young and black. We are talking about a correlation, not a causal connection.
The African-American attorney general appointed by the African-American president can give all the speeches in the world criticizing state self-defense laws, but the real problem with those laws is that they become the avenues through which our tragic fears are translated.
Rev. Jesse Jackson admitted more than a decade ago to feeling relieved when he turned to find that the footsteps behind him were not those of young black men. Tragic relief.
If this administration wants to do something to get race out of the criminal justice system, then they are going to have to start at pre-school, and do it. Break the correlation between being young and male and black and in trouble with the law. Break that, and you don't need to loot the local Wal-Mart's. Don't break it, and the looting will confirm — and not undermine — a tragic verdict.
(Susan Estrich is a professor of Law and Political Science at the University of Southern California Law Center. A best-selling author, lawyer and politician, as well as a teacher, she first gained national prominence as national campaign manager for Dukakis for President in 1988.)
Last Updated on Thursday, 18 July 2013 09:45
Welcome to the Obama administration's cringe-inducing non sequitur of the week. On Tuesday, Attorney General Eric Holder continued stoking the fires of racial resentment over a Florida jury's acquittal of George Zimmerman. In an address to NAACP leaders, who are demanding federal intervention, Holder attacked Stand Your Ground self-defense laws.
All together now: Squirrel!
"Separate and apart from the (Trayvon Martin) case that has drawn the nation's attention, it's time to question laws that senselessly expand the concept of self-defense and sow dangerous conflict in our neighborhoods," Holder opined. He then baselessly claimed that such laws are creating "more violence than they prevent" and used his platform to promote citizens' "duty to retreat."
So, what exactly do Stand Your Ground laws have to do with Zimmerman and Martin? Absolutely nothing, of course. Outside your own home, common principles of self-defense dictate that unless you have reasonable fear of deadly force or harm, you must flee if possible rather than use deadly force. But a "duty to retreat" rests on the ability to retreat. And "duty to retreat" was irrelevant in Zimmerman's case because — pinned to the ground with Martin on top of him, bashing his head on the concrete — he was unable to retreat.
This didn't stop the NAACP crowd from cheering their heads off when Holder tossed out his red meat. Holder's racial-grievance-mongering agenda has also been bolstered by media propaganda outlets, who've been dutifully bashing Stand Your Ground regardless of the facts.
The New York Times, for example, falsely claimed in an editorial preceding Holder's speech that the jury "reached its verdict after having been asked to consider Mr. Zimmerman's actions in light of the now-notorious Stand Your Ground provision in Florida's self-defense law." Rolling Stone made a similarly inflammatory claim, calling Martin a "victim of Florida's Stand Your Ground law."
All nonsense. The jury received standard instructions. Zimmerman did not invoke the Stand Your Ground provision. Zimmerman later waived his right to a pretrial immunity hearing under the Stand Your Ground procedures.
And as National Review's Sterling Beard points out, "The only time Stand Your Ground came up during the trial proper was when a prosecution witness stated that he'd taught a class Zimmerman had attended that covered Stand Your Ground."
Even the prosecution rejects the cynical attempt to tie Martin's death to Stand Your Ground.
Prosecutor John Guy couldn't have made it clearer during the trial: "This case is not about standing your ground." During their post-trial press conference, as conservative talk show host Victoria Taft first noted, a Miami Herald reporter asked the prosecution team specifically whether Stand Your Ground "affected the facts in this case and whether this case could have been won, perhaps, pre the changes in the law."
Prosecutor Bernie De La Rionda replied: "You know, self-defense has existed for a long time. And we've dealt with it in Jackson for a long time. We've tried a lot of self-defense cases; I've personally tried 10-15 self-defense cases. They're tough cases, but we accept it so ... the law really hasn't changed all that much. Stand Your Ground was a big thing, but really the law hasn't changed. We have a right to bear arms and a right to self defense."
In short, Stand Your Ground did not kill Trayvon Martin. Stand Your Ground did not sway the jury. Stand Your Ground saboteurs don't have a leg to stand on. Columnist Jacob Sullum observed drily: "You might think that, given all we now know about Zimmerman's actual defense, critics of 'stand your ground' laws would have to find a different, more apposite case to illustrate their concerns. Instead they just barrel along, citing the same phony example again and again, without regard to the facts. It does not inspire confidence in their argument."
Nope, it inspires exasperation and contempt. Once again, Eric Holder's Department of Selective and Social Justice is grasping for straws. Holder now vows to "continue to fight for removal of Stand Your Ground laws" that had nothing to do with the Zimmerman trial. He promises to ban "racial profiling" in the aftermath of a local crime incident that — according to Holder's own FBI employees — had nothing to do with race.
This is all a transparent pretext, of course, for undermining a plethora of state laws enacted by pro-Second Amendment legislatures. (Never mind that eight of 15 states that adopted Stand Your Ground legislation were helmed by Democratic governors at the time of passage.) Even more insidiously, left-wing groups have exploited the Martin case to launch broader attacks on the political speech and activities of limited-government groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council, which supported Stand Your Ground.
The Obama administration's cynical campaign against Stand Your Ground laws is a racially charged weapon of mass distraction. The goal isn't public safety or community harmony. The goal is for conservative political opponents to Surrender Your Ground. Silence, as always, is complicity. Political self-defense, as with physical self-defense, begins with self-assertion.
(Syndicated columnist Michelle Malkin is the daughter of Filipino Immigrants. She was born in Philadelphia, raised in southern New Jersey and now lives with her husband and daughter in Colorado. Her weekly column is carried by more than 100 newspapers.)
Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 December 1969 07:00
Trayvon Martin was an unarmed teenager walking home from a convenience store with Skittles and iced tea, when he was shot to death by a racist, profiling wannabe cop named George Zimmerman.
In the Big Media, which has relentlessly sought out the voices of those most incensed by the verdict in Sanford, Fla., that is how the Saga of Trayvon Martin is being told. And from listening to TV reports of the rage across black America, that is what is widely believed there.
But is that what happened? Well, not exactly.
Trayvon Martin was not shot while walking home.
He was shot after sucker-punching George Zimmerman, breaking his nose, knocking him down, jumping on top of him, beating him martial arts style and banging his head on a concrete walk, while Zimmerman screamed again and again, "Help me, help me."
This is what George Zimmerman said happened.
It is what the sole eyewitness to the fight, John Good, says happened. It is what Sanford police believed.
It is what the defense proved beyond a reasonable doubt. It is what that jury of six women came to believe.
Why, then, do so many in the black community believe Trayvon was profiled and murdered, when even most of the analysts on the cable news shows were saying in the last days of the trial that the prosecution had failed completely to make its case?
Answer: Many had convicted George Zimmerman in their hearts before the trial began. Here, as this writer noted a year ago, are some of the voices that had declared Zimmerman guilty of murder before a witness had been called.
"Blacks are under attack," railed Jesse Jackson. "Killing us is big business." Trayvon was "shot down in cold blood by a vigilante ... murdered and martyred."
"A hate crime," said Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif. Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., said Trayvon had been "executed."
The Grio compared his killing to the lynching of Emmett Till in Mississippi in 1955. The New Black Panther Party put Zimmerman's face on a "Wanted Dead or Alive" poster, called for 5,000 black men to run him down and said Trayvon had been "murdered in cold blood."
Spike Lee twittered Zimmerman's home address.
And President Obama? Did he calm the waters? Hardly. He signaled whose side he was on. "If I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon," he said.
Not only did they all inflame the black community into believing a racist atrocity had occurred, others still do so, even after the weeks of testimony that raised far more than a reasonable doubt.
Moments after the verdict, Al Sharpton ranted, "This is an atrocity." He went on to explain the moral outrage that the ladies of the jury had just committed.
"What this jury has done is establish a precedent that when you are young and fit a certain profile, you can be committing no crime, just bringing some Skittles and iced tea home to your brother, and be killed."
Did the ladies of the jury really establish such a "precedent"?
The four-term mayor of Washington, D.C., Marion Barry, has now brought his healing touch to the proceedings.
The Zimmerman verdict was "awful," he said, another example of "institutionalized racism." But look to Marion to find a bright side.
"The good news is that Zimmerman will never be in peace. He won't be able to get a job. He'll have to go underground, travel incognito and never live in peace. That's the good news for me." Now a comment like that might befit a James Earl Ray. But George Zimmerman? Who turned this neighborhood watch fellow, well-liked by all in his community, into some racist monster?
The night of the verdict, Mark O'Mara gave America the answer.
George "didn't know why he was turned into a monster," O'Mara told the assembled journalists. "But quite honestly, you guys had a lot to do with it. You took a story that was fed to you, and you ran with it, and you ran right over him, and that was horrid to him."
Like his partner Don West, O'Mara exhibited moral courage in that post-verdict press conference, as did that jury of six women, who rejected the prosection's pleas to at least give them manslaughter or child abuse.
President Obama might now exhibit a little moral courage of his own, by directing his Justice Department to halt this scavenger hunt for a "hate crime." If Sanford police and the FBI could not find a hate crime, and the prosecution could not prove racial profiling or malice, what reason is there to believe any such motive ever existed?
If Barack Obama and Eric Holder capitulate to Al Sharpton's demand for "Plan B" and the NAACP's demand for a second trial of George Zimmerman for a crime of which he has been acquitted, most Americans will come to believe this is no search for justice, but a drive for racial retribution and revenge. And they will be right.
End this persecution of George Zimmerman, Mr. President.
Shut it down.
(Syndicated columnist Pat Buchanan has been a senior advisor to three presidents, twice a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination and the presidential nominee of the Reform Party in 2000. He won the New Hampshire Republican Primary in 1996.)
Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 December 1969 07:00