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Susan Estrich - Welcome to the big leagues, Governor Chris Chrisite

My wishfully thinking Democratic friends are hoping that Bridgegate will sink the presidential ambitions of "frontrunner" Chris Christie, the New Jersey governor whose independent streak and straight-talking authenticity have earned him the mostly meaningless crown three years out.

In case you've been under a rock, Bridgegate is the mean bit of New Jersey politics in which the Democratic mayor of the town of Fort Lee was "punished" for not endorsing the Republican governor for re-election with crippling traffic jams on the George Washington Bridge on the first day of school. The governor had denied any political motivation or any involvement at all in the closures. Turns out one of his top aides e-mailed one of his top allies to teach the mayor a lesson. Scandal No. 1 of campaign 2016.

Presidential politics looks easy until you try it.

Better now than in 2016.

Bridgegate is the sort of scandal that could kill you if it were timed right. Christie is a candidate whose strengths and weaknesses are opposite sides of a fine line. People like the fact that he is a down-to-earth tough guy who takes charge, which is just a short jump away from being a Jersey boss who has to control — and win — everything. Authentic is good. So Christie has a temper. That makes him real. Until it makes him mean.

Luckily for Christie, it's 2014, and so far, he's done everything right, according to the playbook for handling political scandals. He's apologized and fired the supposedly responsible party; he'll cooperate with the investigation; he is suitably shocked and chagrined. It might all just go away as long as there are no e-mails or text messages that suggest he knew what he claims he didn't know (in which case, his denial is a dangerous tack and not a smart one).

But the press will be looking for "more" like this. Expect to read more about that traffic stop during which he supposedly threw his weight around when he was a U.S. Attorney. It didn't work when his Democratic opponent Jon Corzine used it in an anti-Christie ad, but it surely will be part of the developing narrative of Christie as the arrogant and power-abusing New Jersey boss. Was he a bully in junior high? Trust me, we'll find out.

To be sure, Christie is no Herman Cain. Not as funny. Also, he's run twice in a big state. But the second time was a cakewalk, and the first time, his opponent was in an uphill fight, to say the least. Christie has never had a really tough race, and he's certainly never felt the hot lights of presidential scrutiny, much less the rigors of 24/7 coverage of your every move and mistake in an era in which anyone over 5-years-old knows how to make a video. Politics has never been harder. There are no freebies anymore.

So, for those of us watching, it should be interesting, if not fun. Christie is a smart guy, and presumably, so are those around him. But almost no one is as smart as they should be when it comes to e-mail and texting.

I sometimes do a presentation for my clients where I hold up an ancient piece of technology — a telephone — and commend its use. People say things in e-mails and texts that they would say around a water cooler, but there are no cameras and recorders at the water cooler. E-mail is forever. It has the potential to do to candidates what it has done to any number of white-collar defendants. The old days when you could deny a true story and it might go away are over.

So Christie's first scandal has a message and a warning: The lights are on. Be careful what you write — or wrote.

(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 Wednesday, 31 December 1969 07:00

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Jim Hightower - The militarization of our local police

What a Christmas little Bastrop had! It's still a mystery how Santa Claus got it down the chimney, but Bastrop got a nifty present that most children could only dream about: a big honkin', steel-clad, war toy called MRAP.

But Bastrop is not a 6-year-old child, and an MRAP is not a toy. Bastrop is a Texas county of some 75,000 people, and MRAP stands for "Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected." It's a heavily armored military vehicle weighing about 15 tons — one of several versions of fighting machines that have become the hot, must-have playthings of police departments all across the country.

Are the good people of Bastrop facing some imminent terrorist threat that warrants military equipment? No, it's a very pleasant, laid-back place. And while the county is named for a 19th century land developer and accused embezzler, it's never been a haven for particularly dangerous criminals — indeed, the relatively few crimes in Bastrop today don't rise above the level of routine police work.

Even the sheriff's department, which is the proud owner of the MRAP tank, says it doesn't have a specific use for the machine, but "It's here if we need it." Well, yeah ... but that same feeble rational would apply if the county decided to get an atom bomb — you just never know when a big mushroom cloud might come in handy!

What we have here is the absurdly dangerous militarization of America's police departments. Our sprawling Department of Homeland Security and the Pentagon (which gave the MRAP to Bastrop) are haphazardly spreading war equipment, war techniques and a war mentality to what are supposed to be our communities' peacekeepers and crime solvers.

Having the technology and mindset for military actions, local authorities will find excuses to substitute them for honest police work, turning common citizens into "enemies." As a spokesman for the Bastrop sheriff's department said of the MRAP, "With today's society ... there's no way the thing won't be used." How comforting is that?
But now, let's turn from the battlefield to the gridiron.

In the ever-escalating competition to be the No. 1 big-time college football program in the nation, Ohio State University bulked up last fall with a monster recruit named Maxx. Actually, it's not the coaching staff that signed up this brute, but the OSU campus police department. And the recruit's full name is MaxxPro — not a player, but a 19-ton armored fighting vehicle built by a pentagon contractor to withstand "ballistic arms fire, mine fields, IEDs, and Nuclear, Biological and Chemical environments." Wow, college games really have gotten rough!

But the campus PD, which received the MaxxPro as a gift from the Pentagon (ie, us taxpayers), says it's not just playing games, but deploying Maxx for things like hostage scenarios, killers loose on campus, and extreme flooding of up to three feet. Well, have such things been a problem at OSU? Uh ... no. Would a huge, slow, gas-guzzling vehicle designed for warfare be effective if any of the above were actually to occur? No response.

Oh, by the way, operating these machines requires specially trained personnel — is anyone in the department qualified? Again, no answer. Also, the vehicles are subject to frequent rollovers, and they lack the ability to go off-road or to maneuver in confined areas. That doesn't sound ideal for a college campus. Not to worry, though, for the gendarmes said they were adjusting Maxx to fit their needs. How? Removing the top gun turret and repainting the vehicle.

OSU police finally admitted that Maxx would mostly be used to drive them around campus and provide a police "presence" on football game days. Great — police authorities now believe they need a show of military force to keep tailgaters in check.

(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

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Bob Meade - A New Year, or Same-o, Same-o

From the time we were youngsters, we have heard the phrase, "Ring out the old, and ring in the new". But, as John Kerry might say, were that it were true. The reality of life is that we simply cannot dispose of our problems with one tick of the clock. If we had problems at 11:59 p.m. on December 31, 2013, it's a pretty safe bet those same problems were with us at 12:00 Midnight, on January 1, 2014. By the same token, the good things that we enjoy in life are generally on the same time schedule. But that doesn't mean we can't change and rid ourselves of some of those problems, or that we can't retain that which is good. It's not magic . . . it's attitude, that makes the difference.

As I've mentioned before, the essence of management is preventing things from happening that you don't want to happen. Determining those things that might possibly upset your plan(s), and taking steps to prevent them, can be the key to achieving the good things you want. To be sure, that's easier said than done. While we can all try to eat healthy, not overindulge, exercise, and do all that's recommended, that may not prevent us from coming down with some affliction. That shouldn't stop us from trying though, because having done the right things might help in avoiding or overcoming an illness. The key is to try and determine what we need to do to prevent the unwanted things from happening.

It doesn't matter if we're talking about our personal life, or a business, or our government. The same principles can be applied. For example, what follows are some of the things our elected leaders should be concerned about, because they are things that we don't want to happen. So, what kind of plans does our government have to ensure these type of things don't occur. What if . . .

— China decides to invade Taiwan. We have had a mutual defense treaty with Taiwan since they broke away from Communist China. Do we honor our treaty or do we not, thereby nullifying virtually all of our treaties.

— Iran thumbs its nose at our lifting of sanctions and continues to enrich plutonium and gets closer to building an atomic weapon. Do we take decisive action or do we sit idly by as Israel does what is necessary to protect itself? And, do we fully and forcefully support our ally, Israel?

— The unspoken of war between the Sunni and Shia Muslims becomes open warfare as the Saudis and Iranis take aim at each other. Do we intervene? If so, which side do we ally with? And, if so, do we know how the other Muslim countries that are in various stages of civil war are going to align themselves?

— If the above happens, who is going to protect and keep open the Suez Canal? What are the consequences of a virtual shutdown of the Middle-East's oil supply? It's impact on China? The U.S.? The middle east itself? And the environment?

— Russia has vast oil and gas reserves and is Europe's basic supplier. What if Russia uses the Mid-East wars to exert dominance over most of Europe by turning its fuel provisioning on and off at its whim, leaving Europe virtually frozen, with no place to turn?

— Canada, tires of our political gamesmanship concerning the Keystone pipeline extension, and decides to build their own pipeline westward to Vancouver and the Pacific Ocean so that they can sell their oil to China? What does that do to our neighborly relationship . . . and our lost jobs, and the commerce that goes with our being the depot for that oil?

— The IRS keeps targeting citizens or groups because of their political views? After over a year, do we know what steps have been or are being taken to ensure that never happens again? Do we even know if anything has changed?

— Cabinet level people continue to lie to Congressional oversight committees? To date, that has happened repeatedly with no apparent consequence to any of the perjurers. What steps have been or are being taken to ensure that the department charged with enforcing the laws, does so with honesty and integrity?

— The Federal Reserve pulls back on its "quantitative easing" (the pumping of $88 billion per month, or roughly $1 trillion per year of "free money" into banks and financial institutions), possibly causing the inflated stock market to tumble? Or, conversely, what if the Federal Reserve continues its program thereby causing the value of the dollar to continue shrinking? Does anyone know how much interest people have already lost on their bank CDs and IRAs because of the quantitative easing? That easing caused banks to pay their customers/savers little or no interest, essentially making we the people compete with the free money the banks have been receiving from the Federal Reserve.

How much confidence do you have that we have solid plans in place to address these and countless other things that we don't want to happen?

(Bob Meade is a Laconia resident.)

Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 December 1969 07:00

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Susan Estrich - Another victory for independence

My friend Greg Jarrett from Fox News was the first to point out the irony. A few days earlier, I had made the point that it was a George W. Bush appointee on the federal bench who struck down the National Security Agency surveillance program that the Bush administration (as well as the Obama administration) relied upon. Three cheers for an independent judiciary. So what happens next? A different federal judge, this one a Bill Clinton appointee, has now declared that President Barack Obama's NSA plan does not violate the Constitution. As I told Greg, I really do love it.

It means that as hard as the Senate and the interest groups have tried — and boy, have they ever — to make it impossible for people who have passionate convictions (that they have ever talked about) or unpredictable views (best never mentioned) to be confirmed as judges and as hard as both sides have tried to turn the judiciary into a thoroughly investigated high-level collection of political shills, it doesn't (always) work.

Oh, I know there will be people shaking their heads on the Sunday talk shows about how this just proves that there's no "law" here and no certainty and how this is a failing of the rule of law and not cause for Champagne.

Respectfully, I disagree. Of course judges have personal views and life experiences and philosophical beliefs and political views, all of which will influence the still mysterious process by which, at least on some occasions, smart and honorable individuals reach conclusions that they might have thought, before they dug in to all the facts and law, they would never have even entertained.

This is known as "judging" — at its best. Take a smart and experienced person; have able lawyers lay out the issues; think; read; consult; decide. "Right?" "Wrong?" Sorry, but on something such as this, there really is no right or wrong. I may agree or disagree (probably some of both, with both decisions), but that doesn't make anyone right or wrong.

By definition, we have here a situation in which reasonable people — that is, respected judges considering the Constitution and precedent — disagree, which means we can, too. We may never agree on what's "right," but we will agree on what's "final" when the Supreme Court finally decides the issue. Between now and then, we also will likely see some opinions by appeals courts, including all those supposedly left-handed powerhouses on the District of Columbia Circuit (who may or may not agree with the leaders of the parties who appointed them; in fairness, party leaders aren't exactly marching in unison on this).
What all this means politically is, actually, a bit easier.

NSA is going to have to figure out ways to "clean up its act" without compromising on our security. Impossible? That's actually irrelevant, given the situation the agency and administration now find themselves in. This is not a quiet discussion among a specially charged task force. We are dealing here with a huge political (as well as policy) issue that could play in unexpected ways in the midterm elections. Right now, the Democratic Party is all over the map (if there were a Republican president, my bet is Democrats would be very united — against him), while an increasingly active and "well-connected" (by social media) movement is growing. The big companies are rightly concerned about getting sued for privacy invasions, even for doing no more than abiding a government request made in the name of terrorism.

So what next? Well, we could have some responsible and bipartisan leadership here — seeing as we aren't perfectly split on partisan lines, not in the judiciary, much less in the polls — in drawing that balance and making clear (without telling our enemies what we are doing) that average Americans have absolutely nothing to fear. (They'd best not.)

Or, because that might be too much to ask for in the new year, how about a judiciary that continues to show its courage and commitment — and especially its independence.

(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 Wednesday, 31 December 1969 07:00

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Sanborn – Redneck real estate

Wow, 2014 is really here! Most people start the New Year with a fresh perspective. It's a new beginning, so to speak, and a time to put the past behind you and move forward. New Year's resolutions are made and sometimes that includes purchasing a new home which is good for all of us in the real estate business. It is also a time to pause and reflect on things that have happened over the past year and a time to put together a plan for the coming year.

Looking forward at possible real estate trends in 2014, the only real question is whether or not high end redneck real estate will really take off or if it will be a short lived fad. Fueled by the recent Duck Dynasty debate, inquiries for high end redneck real estate have been pouring into to our office and jamming the phone lines. Getting through to us has at times been like trying to sign up for health care, but our website has never faltered or been down.

Now you may ask yourself, what exactly is "high end redneck real estate?" Well, if you watch Duck Dynasty at all, you will note that Phil and Kay's digs are pretty nice but really not spectacular. The key element for redneck real estate is the availability of, and access to, redneck activities. It's a lifestyle, so to speak, and it spans all socioeconomic levels. Redneck lifestyle activities can vary from state to state and within the different price levels of redneck real estate. For example, down in Louisiana you have more swamp related activities such as gator or hog hunting whereas in New England we would lean toward ice fishing and deer hunting. But there are also some commonalities, like the popularity of playing corn hole or horseshoes that cross all economic and regional boundaries.

The high end redneck real estate buyer looks for properties where they can take the redneck lifestyle up a notch or two. They want not only a place to play corn hole, but demand things like a fire pit, water access for bass fishing and water sports, access to ATV trails, at least a three car garage, a storage area for hunting and fishing equipment, and a man cave. The Lakes Region of NH is a virtual redneck paradise. You can step outside your front door and be on a deer run usually within ten minutes. The great outdoors is, well, right outdoors. What redneck would not die to have a boat on one of our many lakes? Plus we have that additional ice and snow bonus which propels many rednecks into snowmobile heaven.

So, I think it's pretty safe to say with the enormous availability of redneck related activities in the Lakes Region that this real estate boom is here to stay. With that said, I am working on a plan to capitalize on this trend and capture my share of the redneck real estate market in the coming New Year. I have been working very closely with the fellows at Duck Dynasty and I have decided to provide a Duck Commander duck call to the owner of each new listing I get that meets my redneck living criteria! Homeowners will be encouraged to use the call, especially on the weekends, to attract like minded buyers. Any ducks they attract will be considered a bonus. My only question for you, is will you answer the call?? After all, there is a little redneck in all of us.

As Phil Robertson would say, Have a Happy, Happy, Happy New Year.
As of January 1, 2014 there were only 749 single family residential homes listed in the Lakes Region communities covered in this report. I say only, because the inventory level seems to be coming down. The current level represents about a 10 month supply of homes compared to an 11.3 months supply on January 1, 2013 and a 14.5 month supply on January 1, 2012. The inventory level still needs to drop some more to create a healthier market, but at least we are headed in the right direction. There will be a surge of listings that have expired coming back on the market later this month and I would expect some reduced prices as well.
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 1/1/14. Roy Sanborn is a realtor at Four Seasons Sotheby's International Realty and can be reached at 603-455-0335.

Last Updated on Friday, 03 January 2014 08:52

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