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
When President Richard Nixon arrived in Beijing in 1972, Chairman Mao Zedong — with his Marxist revolution, Great Leap Forward and Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution — had achieved an equality unrivaled anywhere. That is, until Pol Pot came along.
There seemed to be no private cars on Beijing's streets. In the stores, there was next to nothing on the shelves. The Chinese all seemed dressed in the same blue Mao jackets.
Today there are billionaires and millionaires in China, booming cities, a huge growing middle class and, yes, hundreds of millions of peasants still living on a few dollars a day. Hence, there is far greater inequality in China today than in 1972.
Yet, is not the unequal China of today a far better place for the Chinese people than the Communist ant colony of Mao?
Lest we forget, it is freedom that produces inequality.
Even a partly free nation unleashes the natural and acquired abilities of peoples, and the more industrious and talented inevitably excel and rise and reap the greater rewards. "Inequality ... is rooted in the biological nature of man," said James Fenimore Cooper.
Yet for many people, from New York Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio to President Barack Obama to Pope Francis, income inequality is a curse in need of a cure, as there is today said to be an intolerable measure of such inequality.
But let us first inspect the measuring rod. Though a family of four with $23,550 in cash income in 2013 qualified as living in poverty, this hardly tells the whole story. Consider the leveling effect of the graduated income tax, about which Karl Marx wrote glowingly in his "Communist Manifesto." The top 1 percent of U.S. earners pay nearly 40 percent of U.S. income taxes. The top 10 percent pay 70 percent. The top 50 percent pay more than 97 percent of income taxes. The poor pay nothing. Surely, trillions of dollars siphoned annually off the incomes of the most productive Americans — in federal, state and local income and payroll taxes — closes the gap somewhat.
Secondly, though 15 percent of U.S. families qualify as poor, measured by cash income, this does not take into account the vast assortment of benefits they receive. The poor have their children educated free in public schools, from Head Start to K-12 and then on to college with Pell Grants. Their medical needs are taken care of through Medicaid. They receive food stamps to feed the family. The kids can get two or three free meals a day at school. Housing, too, is paid for or subsidized. The poor also receive welfare checks and Earned Income Tax Credits for added cash.
In the late 1940s, our family had no freezer, no dishwasher, no clothes washer or dryer, no microwave, no air conditioning. We watched the Notre Dame-Army game on a black-and-white 8-inch DuMont.
Among American families in poverty today, one in four have a freezer. Nearly half have automatic dishwashers. Almost 60 percent have a home computer. About two in tjree poor families have a clothes washer and dryer. Eighty percent have cellphones.
Ninety-three percent of the poor have a microwave; 96 percent a color TV, and 97 percent a gas or electric stove. Not exactly les miserables.
Robert Rector of The Heritage Foundation added up the cost in 2012 of the means-tested federal and state programs for America's poor and low-income families. Price tag: $927 billion. There are 79 federal programs, writes Rector, that provide cash, food, housing, medical care, social services, training and targeted education to poor and low-income Americans. "If converted to cash, means-tested welfare spending is more than sufficient to bring the income of every lower-income American to 200 percent of the federal poverty level, roughly $44,000 per year for a family of four."
Then there are the contributions of churches, charities and foundations. Where in history have the poor been treated better? Certainly not in the USA in the 1950s or during the Depression. Why, then, all this sudden talk about reducing the gap between rich and poor?
A good society will take care of its poor. But envy that others have more, and coveting the goods of the more successful, used to constitute two of the seven capital sins in the Baltimore Catechism.
At Howard University in 1965, President Lyndon Johnson declared, "We seek not just ... equality as a right ... but equality as a fact and equality as a result."
Yet the only way to make people who are unequal in talents equal in rewards is to use governmental power to dispossess some and favor others. Alexis de Tocqueville saw it coming: "The sole condition which is required in order to succeed in centralizing the supreme power in a democratic community, is to love equality or to get men to believe you love it. Thus, the science of despotism, which was once so complex, is simplified, and reduced ... to a single principle."
Get people to believe you are seeking the utopian goal of equality of all and there is no limit to the power you can amass.
(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
Lend me your ears. I have come to praise President Obama and bury the myth that Republican presidents are better for the economy than Democratic presidents. Not only do Democrats produce superior economic results but they blow Republicans out of the water in the comparisons.
Let's turn the mic over to Bob Deitrick, a principal at Polaris Financial Partners in Westerville, Ohio. Deitrick crunched 80 years of numbers. Politically, 1929 to 2009 were exactly divided — 40 years under Republican presidents and 40 under Democrats.
He put his extraordinary findings in a book, "Bulls, Bears and the Ballot Box."
Because President Obama was in office for only three years at the time of the writing, Deitrick and his co-author left him out. But Deitrick now has enough of an Obama track record to have recently declared in a Forbes interview, "By all measures, President Obama has outperformed every modern president."
His findings were so lopsided in favor of Democrats I had to ask him whether he is one. He said no. "I really was apolitical until 2000," start of the George W. Bush era. That's when he saw massive mismanagement of the economy at the expense of his middle- to upper-middle-class clients.
"The average retail investor got slammed, where hedge funds were allowed to take advantage of everyone else," he told me.
The best overall economic performance pre-Obama was that of John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson (whom Deitrick put together because of Kennedy's early death). No. 2 was Bill Clinton, with Franklin D. Roosevelt in third place.
The top six included two Republicans. Dwight Eisenhower ranked fourth, and Ronald Reagan sixth, edged out of fifth place by Harry Truman.
Were it not for Herbert Hoover, George W. would have ended up last.
Reagan was a "stimulus addict," in Deitrick's view. His economic growth came through massive spending on defense and deep tax cuts. The price was a tripling of the national debt.
Ordinary Americans did better under Clinton, who also left behind a budget surplus. Thanks to a growing economy and higher taxes on the rich, Obama has lowered the deficit to 4 percent of gross domestic product, down from over 10 percent at the end of the Bush years.
Here's an interesting calculation: Suppose that in 1929, you put $100,000 in a 401(k) fully invested in stocks. Under the 40 years of Republican presidents, you would have ended up with only $126,000. Under the Democrats, you would have amassed a retirement nest egg of $3.9 million! (All numbers are adjusted for inflation.)
If you added Obama, the Democrats' number would be much bigger.
Deitrick believes that presidents largely control the economy — through the bully pulpit and the power to appoint leaders, enact executive orders and issue vetoes. (Not everyone agrees they hold most economic cards.)
Deitrick is a disciple of Marriner Eccles, the rich Republican banker whom Roosevelt named Federal Reserve chairman. Eccles held that putting more money in middle-class hands is key to recovery and that trickle-down economics helps mainly those providing the trickle.
Speaking of income inequality, the gap between the top 1 percent and bottom 99 percent widened 20 percent in the 40 years Republicans ran the Oval Office. In the Democratic presidential years, it narrowed 16 percent.
Obama's greatest successes, Deitrick says, are the auto rescue plan and the Wall Street reforms, which revived faith among investors. The annual compound return on stocks has averaged between 25 and 30 percent (depending on the index) since the lows of March 2009.
Deitrick says he's perpetually shocked that Democrats don't trumpet their economic triumphs. You don't have to be a Democrat to wonder why.
(A member of the Providence Journal editorial board, Froma Harrop writes a nationally syndicated column from that city. She has written for such diverse publications as The New York Times, Harper's Bazaar and Institutional Investor.)
Last Updated on Monday, 30 December 2013 10:32