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
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
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
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
New Year's Day should be a time of fresh beginnings and forward motion. But for the family of 13-year-old Jahi McMath, the holiday season has been suspended in a cloud of unfathomable pain and suffering: A routine tonsillectomy gone wrong. A beautiful child declared "brain dead." Lawyers, TV cameras, tears.
The McMaths are fighting for life. On Monday, they won a court order that prevents Children's Hospital of Oakland from pulling the plug on Jahi until Jan. 7. Her relatives have been attacked as "publicity hounds" for doing everything possible to raise awareness about the young girl's tragic case. They've been criticized as troublemakers for challenging powerful hospital officials. They've been labeled "selfish" and ignorant because they are praying for a miracle.
Why, many observers ask, don't they just "accept reality" and let go?
As the mother of a 13-year-old girl, I would have done everything Jahi's mom has done to this point. Everything. Here's reality: Children's Hospital faces serious malpractice questions about its care of Jahi. Hospital execs have a glaring conflict of interest in wielding power over her life support. According to relatives, medical officials callously referred to Jahi as "dead, dead, dead" and dismissed the child as a "body."
The McMath family refused to be rushed or pushed around. They demanded respect for their loved one. I say more power to them.
There are plenty of reasons to question the medical establishment's handling of catastrophic cases involving brain injury and "brain death." In 2008, doctors were dead certain that 21-year-old Zack Dunlop was legally deceased after a horrible ATV accident. Tests showed there was no blood flow to his brain. His hospital issued a death notice. Authorities prepared to harvest his organs. But family members were not convinced. A cousin who happened to be a nurse tested Zack's reflexes on his own one last time as the hospital swooped in. The "brain dead" "body" responded. Forty-eight days later, the supposedly impossible happened: "Brain dead" Zack Dunlop walked out of the hospital and lived to tell about his miraculous recovery on the Today Show.
The immense pressure Jahi's family faces to give up and give in reminded me of another child written off by medical and government officials: Haleigh Poutre.
She's the miracle child who was nearly beaten to death by her barbaric stepfather. Hooked to a ventilator in a comatose state, she was then nearly condemned to death by Massachusetts medical experts and the state's criminally negligent child welfare bureaucracy, which hastily declared her to be in a hopeless vegetative state and wanted to pull the plug on her life.
The "experts" were wrong. Haleigh breathed on her own; a caring team of therapists nursed her back to health. Soon, she was brushing her hair and feeding herself. She lived to testify against her abusive stepfather, now behind bars. Her survival is a stark warning against blind, yielding trust in Big Nanny and Big Medicine.
We don't know what God has planned for Jahi. But I do know this: America has become a throwaway culture where everything and everyone — from utensils to diapers to cameras to babies — is disposable. Elites sneer at the sanctity of life. The Terri Schiavo case brought out the worst, most dehumanizing impulses of American medical ethics debates. And from the attacks I've seen on the McMath family, little has changed.
Schiavo's brother, Bobby, knows exactly how it feels to battle the culture of death and medical expediency. His group, Terri's Network, and other pro-life organizations are trying to help with Jahi's transfer to a long-term care facility. In the meantime, Jahi's plight serves as a teachable moment for those with ears, eyes and hearts open. This is a gift. "Families and individuals must make themselves aware of what so-called 'brain death' is and what it is not," Schindler advises. "Additionally, families and individuals must educate themselves regarding their rights as patients, the advance documentation that must be completed prior to any medical procedure as well as how to ensure best any patient's rights."
Jahi's story should also prompt family discussions about living wills, durable powers of attorney, "do not resuscitate" orders, revocable trusts and advance directives. It's never too early to broach these uncomfortable matters of life and death.
I want to thank Naila Winkfield and the McMath family for not "letting go" so easily. Their plight is every parent's worst nightmare. Their fight reaches beyond ideology, race, and class. The united front of the family and the public testaments of their faith in God are gifts. The Instagram image of Naila clasping her daughter's hand at her hospital bedside — the hope, the desperation, the abiding love — is universal. At the start of 2014, the greatest gift of Jahi is her transcendent reminder that all life is precious. Let it not be taken for granted.
(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