Jim Hightower - Who says crime doesn't pay?

Hey, can we all just stop complaining that our government coddles Wall Street's big money-grubbing banks?

Sure, they went belly-up and crashed our economy with their frauds, rigged casino games, and raw greed. And, yes, the Bush and Obama regimes rushed to bail them out with trillions of dollars in our public funds, while ignoring the plight of workaday people who lost jobs, homes, businesses, wealth, and hope. But come on, Buckos, have you not noticed that the feds are now socking the bankers with huuuuuge penalties for their wrongdoings?

Wall Street powerhouse Goldman Sachs, for example, was recently punched in its corporate gut with a jaw-dropping $5 billion for its illegal schemes.

Wow, $5 billion! That's a stunning amount that Goldman Sachs has agreed to pay to settle federal criminal charges over its shameful financial scams that helped wreck America's economy in 2008. That's a lot of gold, even for Goldman Sachs. It's hard to comprehend that much money, so think of it like this: If you paid out $100,000 a day, every day for 28 years, you'd pay off just one billion dollars. So, wow, imagine having to pull Five Big B's out of your wallet! That's enough to make even the most arrogant and avaricious high-finance flim-flammer think twice before risking such scams, right? Thus, these negotiated settlements between the Justice Department and the big banks will effectively deter repeats of the 2008 Wall Street debacle... right?

Actually, no.

The chieftains of the Wall Street powerhouse say they are "pleased" to swallow this sour slug of medicine. It's not because they're contrite and eager to make amends. Wall Street bankers don't do contrite. They are pleased (even thrilled) because this little insider secret: thanks to Goldman's backroom dealing with prosecutors, the settlement is riddled with special loopholes that could eliminate nearly $2 billion from the publicized "punishment."

For example, the deal calls for the felonious bank to put a quarter-billion dollars into affordable housing, but generous federal negotiators put incentives and credits in the fine print that will let Goldman escape with paying out less than a third of that. Also, about $2.5 billion of the settlement is to be paid to consumers hurt by the financial crisis. But the deal lets the bank deduct almost a billion of this payout from its corporate taxes — meaning you and I will subsidize Goldman's payment. As a bank reform advocate puts it, the problem with these settlements "is that they are carefully crafted more to conceal than to reveal to the American public what really happened here."

Also, notice that the $5 billion punishment is applied to Goldman Sachs, not the "Goldman Sackers." The bank's shareholders have to cough up the penalty, rather than the executives who did the bad deeds. Goldman Sachs' CEO, Lloyd Blankfein, just awarded himself a $23 million paycheck for his work last year. That work essentially amounted to negotiating the deal with the government that makes shareholders pay for the bankers' wrongdoings — while he and other top executives keep their jobs and pocket millions. Remember, banks don't commit crimes — bankers do.

One more reason Wall Street bankers privately wink and grin at these seemingly huge punishments is that even paying the full $5 billion would only be relatively painful. To you and me, that sounds like a crushing number — but Goldman Sachs raked in $33 billion in revenue last year, so it's a reasonable cost of doing business. After all, Goldman sold tens of billions of dollars in the fraudulent investment packages leading to the settlement, so the bottom line is that crime can actually pay — if it's big enough.

(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".)

  • Category: Columns
  • Hits: 295

Sanborn — The disappearing clothesline

I was skimming through this month's issue of the Northern New England Journey magazine put out by AAA and on the last page there was a short article about clotheslines called, "For the Love of Laundry." Basically, the writer was expounding on how she was happy to get back to hanging her laundry out on the line after a long winter and how doing so was a relaxing and enjoyable chore for her. It reminds her of her childhood days and trips to a cottage by the sea where bathing suits and towels were strung out on the line to dry. I say it does for me too... not the hanging the clothes part, but being reminded of simpler times.

It got me thinking that you really don't see many clotheslines anymore. It is one of those things akin to the once prevalent and ugly TV antenna that adorned just about every home in the country at one time. At least clotheslines are colorful. And, you don't see many five foot round wire mesh satellite dishes any more. Improved technology has reduced dishes to a fraction of the size but these miniature versions aren't very aesthetically pleasing either...

Modern innovation has replaced the clotheslines full of sheets, dresses, jeans, T-shirts and underwear with a wide array of dryers that not only dry your clothes, they can "talk" to the repair man on the phone, connect to your NEST thermostat so it can set a longer dry time at a lower temperature to save you money when you're gone and they also play music to boot (although their jingles can be a bit annoying.)

But, back to clotheslines. Many subdivisions or associations have banned clotheslines for aesthetic reasons. I heard that it all started in California because Mama Cass's neighbor didn't like looking at her mumu and under things being strung up on the line and started a petition. Maybe it was because she was three sheets to the wind (pun intended) and it was the mumu she was wearing at the time that she hung on the line. Michelle probably could have pulled it off without a complaint? But the clothesline prohibition caught on in many of the "high class places." I guess some folks think looking at colorful clothes drying on the line to be very undesirable. I've never seen a clothes line in Long Bay or Governor's Island, have you?

If you want one, you will have to decide on which kind of clothesline you would like. There are the kind that go between poles, the rotary style, and the kind on pulleys. I like the pulleys the best as you can also send secret messages across the yard. You also need to decide on the kind of clothespins and then you need a clothespin bag. There's a lot that goes into this!

There's lots of information and tips on the internet about how to use a clothesline. Believe it or not, it could get complicated... for some people. There are tips on how to hang laundry like "if you wear it in the top hang it from the bottom and if you wear it on the bottom hang it from the top." You should hang the sheets and blankets on the outside and hang the unmentionables and undies on the inside so the neighbors don't see them. And, don't hang clothes on an extremely windy day or the undies could be in the neighbor's yard. Don't hang clothes when it's freezing out. In the old days they used to boil the clothesline bag in water and heat the clothespins by the stove so their fingers wouldn't freeze. You also shouldn't hang clothes when it's raining out... they will get wetter.

Using a clothesline is supposed to reduce your carbon footprint and save a polar bear or two. But, one tip to prevent towels from feeling scratchy is to warm them up in a dryer first for five minutes. That makes sense... they might be dry in ten? You can also do an extra spin cycle in the washer so stuff isn't so wet. Maybe we could hook up a bicycle to the washing machine so we save some juice there? But dryers do use the most electricity per hour of anything in the household. The refrigerator uses far less but we run it way more compared to the dryer. They estimate it will save you $120 per year if you use a clothesline instead of the dryer. You could use that money to buy beer to put in the refrigerator. You might as well make this venture worthwhile. Of course using that dryer that "talks" to your Nest thermostat might save you about half of that but it would cut down the amount of beer you can buy. Maybe that would be a good thing.

While the iconic clothesline might be disappearing, people are still getting hung out to dry, getting twisted in the wind, and kids are still hanging around a lot. So, I guess the clothesline will always live on in that respect.

There were 921 residential homes on the market as of May 1, 2016 in the 12 Lakes Region communities covered in this report. The average asking price was $518,237 but don't despair, the median price was $269,500. That means there were 460 homes below $269,500 so there are plenty of affordable homes to go around.

P​lease 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 compiled using the NNEREN MLS system as of 5/1/16. ​Roy Sanborn is a sales associate at Four Seasons Sotheby's International Realty and can be reached at 677-7012

  • Category: Columns
  • Hits: 343

Pat Buchanan - Why Russia resents us

Friday, a Russian SU-27 did a barrel roll over a U.S. RC-135 over the Baltic, the second time in two weeks. Also in April, the U.S. destroyer Donald Cook, off Russia's Baltic enclave of Kaliningrad, was twice buzzed by Russian planes.

Vladimir Putin's message: Keep your spy planes and ships a respectable distance away from us. Apparently, we have not received it.

Friday, Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work announced that 4,000 NATO troops, including two U.S. battalions, will be moved into Poland and the Baltic States, right on Russia's border.

"The Russians have been doing a lot of snap exercises right up against the border with a lot of troops," says Work, who calls this "extraordinarily provocative behavior."

But how are Russian troops deploying inside Russia "provocative," while U.S. troops on Russia's front porch are not? And before we ride this escalator up to a clash, we had best check our hole card.

Germany is to provide one of four battalions to be sent to the Baltic. But a Bertelsmann Foundation poll last week found that only 31 percent of Germans favor sending their troops to resist a Russian move in the Baltic States or Poland, while 57 percent oppose it, though the NATO treaty requires it.

Last year, a Pew poll found majorities in Italy and France also oppose military action against Russia if she moves into Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia or Poland. If it comes to war in the Baltic, our European allies prefer that we Americans fight it.

Asked on his retirement as Army chief of staff what was the greatest strategic threat to the United States, Gen. Ray Odierno echoed Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, "I believe that Russia is." He mentioned threats to Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Ukraine.

Yet, when Gen. Odierno entered the service, all four were part of the Soviet Union, and no Cold War president ever thought any was worth a war.

The independence of the Baltic States was one of the great peace dividends after the Cold War. But when did that become so vital a U.S. interest we would go to war with Russia to guarantee it?

Putin may top the enemies list of the Beltway establishment, but we should try to see the world from his point of view.

When Ronald Reagan met Mikhail Gorbachev in Reykjavik in 1986, Putin was in his mid-30s, and the Soviet Empire stretched from the Elbe to the Bering Strait and from the Arctic to Afghanistan. Russians were all over Africa and had penetrated the Caribbean and Central America. The Soviet Union was a global superpower that had attained strategic parity with the United States.

Now consider how the world has changed for Putin, and Russia. By the time he turned 40, the Red Army had begun its Napoleonic retreat from Europe and his country had splintered into 15 nations. By the time he came to power, the USSR had lost one-third of its territory and half its population. Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan were gone. The Black Sea, once a Soviet lake, now had on its north shore a pro-Western Ukraine, on its eastern shore a hostile Georgia, and on its western shore two former Warsaw Pact allies, Bulgaria and Romania, being taken into NATO. For Russian warships in Leningrad, the trip out to the Atlantic now meant cruising past the coastline of eight NATO nations: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Germany, Denmark, Norway and Great Britain.

Putin has seen NATO, despite solemn U.S. assurances given to Gorbachev, incorporate all of Eastern Europe that Russia had vacated, and three former republics of the USSR itself. He now hears a clamor from American hawks to bring three more former Soviet republics — Moldova, Georgia and Ukraine — into a NATO alliance directed against Russia.

After persuading Kiev to join a Moscow-led economic union, Putin saw Ukraine's pro-Russian government overthrown in a U.S.-backed coup. He has seen U.S.-funded "color-coded" revolutions try to dump over friendly regimes all across his "near abroad."

"Russia has not accepted the hand of partnership," says NATO commander, Gen. Philip Breedlove, "but has chosen a path of belligerence." But why should Putin see NATO's inexorable eastward march as an extended "hand of partnership"?

Had we lost the Cold War and Russian spy planes began to patrol off Pensacola, Norfolk and San Diego, how would U.S. F-16 pilots have reacted? If we awoke to find Mexico, Canada, Cuba, and most of South America in a military alliance against us, welcoming Russian bases and troops, would we regard that as "the hand of partnership"?

We are reaping the understandable rage and resentment of the Russian people over how we exploited Moscow's retreat from empire.

Did we not ourselves slap aside the hand of Russian friendship, when proffered, when we chose to embrace our "unipolar moment," to play the "great game" of empire and seek "benevolent global hegemony"?

If there is a second Cold War, did Russia really start it?

(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.)

  • Category: Columns
  • Hits: 487

Flat Mountain Pond and a hike through history

view across Flat Mountain Pond to Whiteface Mountain

View across Flat Mountain Pond to Whiteface Mountain

Gordon DuBois 

In the early Twentieth Century, New Hampshire's White Mountains were laced with logging railroads. From Berlin to Plymouth, the rail lines were crowded with trains, hauling thousands of logs and pulpwood, from deep within the forest to mills around the Granite State. Over a dozen logging railroad companies and hundreds of miles of tracks formed a web of rail beds that are still visible today. Logging railroads such as the Saco Valley, Wild River, Zealand Valley, Success Pond, Rocky Branch and Sawyer River ran through New Hampshire's mountain country. The best known and largest of these companies was the East Branch and Lincoln which operated from 1892 to 1947. Rail beds were laid through the rich stands of virgin forests in the Pemigewasset wilderness. The company, located in Lincoln, was owned by the lumber baron J.E. Henry and his sons. As with many of these now abandoned rail lines, they no longer carry a Shay locomotive, log cars and loggers, but have become walking, biking and hiking trails that now take outdoor enthusiasts deep into the forest of northern New Hampshire.

Last week I decided to hike the one of the now abandoned rail beds of the Beebe River Railroad. This rail bed actually starts in Holderness, and winds its way along the Beebe River, continuing through a valley south of Sandwich Mountain and then climbing into the Flat Mountain Pond region, ending at the base of Whiteface Mountain. Along the route of the rail bed can be found reminders of a bygone era, when lumber was king: log rail ties, clearings where lumber camps once stood, rusty bed frames, parts of cook stoves, saw blades and much more.

The Beebe River Rail Road was started in 1917 and completed in 1921. It was owned and operated by the Woodstock Lumber Company and the Parker Young Company. The company not only built the rail line into the wilderness and an accompanying saw mill, but also constructed a village with homes for its workers, a hotel, company store, boarding house and even a movie theater. Trees harvested from the forest were turned into stock for piano manufacture, lumber and other products. Poorer grade logs were shipped to the Lincoln Paper Mill. In 1924, the Draper Company purchased all the holdings for the manufacture of bobbins used in the cotton and woolen mills to the south. At its peak, the mill produced 100,000 bobbins per day and employed up to 350 people. Today you can still visit the small village of Beebe River off Route 175 in Campton and see the abandoned mill, mill pond and general store. It's truly a unique experience.

When I planned this hike I was assuming spring would be well underway, but thanks to Mother Nature we were hit by a snow storm that dumped several inches of wet snow throughout portions of Northern New England. However, I wanted to keep to my plan and I invited a couple of hiking friends with me, Steve Zimmer and Ken Robichaud. Of course Reuben was assuming he would also join me, as he always does. The plan was to hike the Bennett Street Trail, to the Flat Mountain Pond Trail and then bushwhack into abandoned logging camps via the network of rail beds that were laid in the beginning of the 1900s. We would then continue on the Flat Mountain Pond Trail that would take us to our waiting car at the White Face Intervale. As our hike began at the trail head we encountered one of the first signs of spring: a mass of Trout Lilies and Purple Trillium sprouting up through the snow, ready to unfold their beautiful flowers. My spirit was uplifted, knowing that the snow wouldn't be around very long and we were heading towards summer.

The gradual incline of the trail followed along the bank of Pond Brook. Here we encountered roaring cascades with numerous deep pools, ideal for a dip on a hot summer day. This however wasn't summer, so we quickly moved along to the junction with the Flat Mountain Pond Trail and the Beebe River rail bed, where the railroad ties are still visible. The hike from this point forward was a gradual climb along the road bed into the Flat Mountain Pond valley, so called because the pond lies between two mountains, North and South Flat Mountain. At the south end of the pond are several campsites along with a lean-to that overlooks the pond, Lost Pass and South Tripyramid Mountain. This is a picturesque setting that would make for a great overnight camping experience. It was here that we took a break for lunch. A stiff cold breeze blew across the pond, but the bright sun warmed our faces.

Following lunch we made our way along a rough trail high above the pond. We could look down and see the old railroad ties lying underwater where they once guided logging trains up and down the mountain. The trail brought us to the north end of the pond and we followed barely visible road beds that took us to a logging camp, probably abandoned in the early 1940s. The rails were torn up at that time and used to manufacture armaments for the war effort. At one site there was a plethora of bed frames, cooking gear, saw blades, an old cook stove and other effects that were a part of everyday life of the loggers and the logging camp, where they once lived, months at a time. There were additional camps that we would have loved to visit, including the Hedge Hog camp located at the base of Whiteface Mountain, but it involved a difficult bushwhack of over a mile. We decided that we needed to begin the five mile hike down the Flat Mt. Pond Trail to our waiting vehicle at the Whiteface Intervale.

This intermediate hike of ten miles is wonderful for anyone who wants to relish in the beauty of a mountain stream, a scenic pond, breathtaking vistas and explore the history of the logging industry and the associated railroads that once dominated this state's economy. For more information on this trail, check out the AMC Guide. Also, there are several good books on logging railroads in the state including, Logging Railroads of the White Mountains, by C. Francis Belchert, and Logging Railroads of New Hampshire's North Country, by Bill Gove. The Campton Historical Society has a display and information on the Beebe River Railroad, the Beebe River village and the Draper Mill.

Gordon has hiked extensively in Northern New England and the Adirondacks of New York State. In 2011 he completed the Appalachian Trail (2,285 miles). He has also hiked the Long Trail in Vermont, The International AT in Quebec, Canada, Cohos Trail in northern New Hampshire and the John Muir Trail in California. Gordon has summited the New Hampshire Hundred Highest peaks, and the New England Hundred Highest in winter. He spends much of his time hiking locally and in the White Mountains with his dog Reuben and especially enjoys hiking in the Lakes Region due to the proximity to his home in New Hampton. He is also a trail maintainer for the BRATTS (Belknap Range Trail Tenders) and can be found often exploring the many hiking trails in the area. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

  • Category: Columns
  • Hits: 329

Howard — What is quality of life?

Mega-cities are literally building into the clouds raising questions around scale and quality of life.  94th Street and Third Avenue in Manhattan.

Mega-cities are literally building into the clouds raising questions around scale and quality of life.  94th Street and Third Avenue in Manhattan.

By ELIZABETH HOWARD

Two weeks ago I was in London and had an opportunity to attend and participate in a program around building homes, actually desperately needed housing, on land designated as green belts. London is an elegant, gracious city with exquisite parks. The English love their gardens and the exhibition, Painting in the Modern Garden – Monet to Matisse, currently on view at The Royal Academy is sold out on most days. The idea of encroaching on nature is highly controversial, so the conversation was fascinating, particularly for an American.

Then I traveled on to Vienna for a Monocle conference on "Quality of Life." If you are interested you can watch it (monocle.com/film/affairs/urban-provocations/) on the Monocle website.

The world is becoming increasingly urban and the mega-cities are being stretched for more housing, modes of transportation, clean water and green space. The Monocle conference was designed to generate conversation and ideas around these issues. Most of the participants at the conference travel from one major city to another across continents, so their insights represented many cultures and perspectives.

When I returned to New York I kept thinking about the phrase, "quality of life." We hear it often. People move to the country for reasons related to quality of life. Or they move from a cold climate to a warm climate to improve their lifestyle.
It seems to me that much of the political rhetoric that is swirling around and keeping us in a thick fog is essentially about quality of life. Where is community? Where is the desire to work together? Where is the desire to sit down and think about what we can do to boost job opportunities? Together. It isn't just about housing and green space.

Shinola (shinola.com) is a company in Detroit that is producing beautiful products that are manufactured in the United States. It is the creation of jobs for Americans in Detroit that the company is most proud of.

What can we do to stop the bullying and disagreement that seems to be pulling at the fabric of who we are as Americans? On Tuesday evening, 10th of May, Abby Disney's film Armor of Light is being broadcast on PBS. The film follows an evangelical minister and the mother of a child who was murdered in Florida and raises questions around those who are pro-life and pro-gun.

It is a film that plays a role in helping Americans understand how we can break down some of the issues that separate us. Abby invited me to one of the first screenings and I had the opportunity to view it for the second time last week in Harlem. As it ended and a discussion followed, the words quality of life came into my mind again.

People live in a community like Laconia for the lifestyle it offers. Summers on the lake, picturesque winters with opportunities for winter sports. Soon, Laconia will have a new theater, and hopefully this will bring more activity downtown. Yet, I sense there is much that could be done to improve the quality of life. It isn't an individual thought. It is only achieved when people embrace one another. When people accept that we are all different, but somewhere there are threads that link us together. It is what connects us, not what differentiates us that is most important.

Armor of Light begins with the often-cited Dietrich Bonhoeffer quote on the screen.

"Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act."

Elizabeth Howard's career intersects journalism, marketing and communications. Ned O'Gorman: A Glance Back, a book she edited, will be published in May 2016. She is the author of A Day with Bonefish Joe, a children's book, published by David R. Godine. She lives in New York City and has a home in Laconia. You can send her a note at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

  • Category: Columns
  • Hits: 247