Bob Meade - Ho, ho, ho. . .

Christmas . . . the season when hope is accentuated.

It all started when a young Jewish girl named Mary, a virgin, was asked if she would be the mother of the hoped for Christ child. She agreed, and Christmas is the time when we celebrate His birth.

The birth of the Christ child brought hope for peace in the world. While some defy the hoped for peace, most people continue to hope and pray that it will come. As strange as it may sound, many have fought and died in an effort to rid the world of tyranny and to achieve peace in the world.

As people shop in hope of getting that perfect gift for a friend or loved one, we remember that God gave us the perfect gift . . . the gift of forgiveness and the hope of life everlasting . . . when the Christ child paid for the sins of humankind.

Today, children hope that Santa will overlook their misdeeds and remember only the pleasure they brought to others. Of course they also hope that that Santa will remember to put that hoped for toy or toys under the Christmas tree.

Mom and Dad hope that the kids will be pleased with their gifts, and hope their day will be filled with joy.

There is hope too, that those who believe the universe and all life forms are simply because of a series of coincidences, will have their road to Damascus moment. The hope is that they become enlightened so that they may share in the hope and happiness enjoyed by those who believe.

During the Christmas season, as hopes and prayers for peace abound, charity of spirit towards others just seems to become easier to do. We hope that charity of spirit will ease the racial tensions that have been recently heightened.

As we see the Salvation Army kettles, we have multiple hopes that cross our mind . . . we hope that those in need can have their prayers answered . . . we hope that the joy of Christmas will give them comfort and bring them hope . . . and we hope the families will find their way to better days . . . and we give thanks for those in the Salvation Army who devote their lives to bringing hope to those less fortunate.

We read the signs in from of St. Vincent de Paul telling us how many families need help in filling their larder so that they can have a festive meal, and we hope as those families do, that the joy of the season will cause people to share in their bounty. And we are thankful for all those at St. Vincent de Paul who work to make that happen.

We are thankful too, for all those individuals and organizations that work and contribute their time, effort, and money, to hopefully ease the burden of those in need.

And, we hope that our military serving in locations across the globe will be safe as they work to bring peace where there is conflict. And we give them our grateful thanks and hope and pray they will return home safely to their family, friends, and loved ones.

We hope too, that those who are in harm's way will have their peaceful moments as they, hopefully, enjoy a phone or Skype call and share their love with their families so far away.

And we hope that carolers will bring the spirit of Christmas to those in nursing homes and to neighborhoods so all can feel the joy of the season.

We hope that our Churches are full as children present the nativity scene and, as the play ends, the lights are dimmed as each member of the congregation holds their lighted candle and reverently sing all the verses of "Silent Night".

On that eve of Christmas, we hope that there is no one who is homeless, that a room at the inn has been found for everyone.

As we head off to bed, we hope that we will wake to see that Santa Claus and his reindeer remembered the address to our house. We hope too, that he drank the milk and ate the cookies we left for him . . . and, of course, we really, really hope that he got our Christmas letter telling him the things we wished for.

A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all.

And, by the way, Ho-Ho-Ho is short for Hope-Hope-Hope.

(Bob Meade is a Laconia resident.)

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Sanborn — How to hatch a house

There were 67 residential home sales in November 2014 in the communities covered by this real estate market report. The average price came in at $286,956 and the median price point was $201,000. Last November we had 89 sales at an average price of $227,738. That's a pretty hefty drop in the total sales number but at least the average sales price is up!

Just about everyone knows a young couple that's getting married. And like most newlyweds-to-be, they are probably dreaming of buying their first home together but struggling to save enough money for a down payment. I was surfing around the internet looking at real estate articles the other day and found a website that just might help them. It is cleverly called Hatch My House.

A lot of couples today have been living together for awhile and quite likely have accumulated much of the day to day items a married couple would need. So, instead of registering at Williams and Somoma, Bed, Bath and Beyond, or Macy's or gambling that you won't get three salad bowls, four toasters, and three Keurigs as wedding gifts why not register at Hatch My House allows your "guests" to give toward a down payment for your first home. Seems like a better idea than returning a bunch of duplicate items you don't need.

This website was developed by a couple who were living together and had all the "stuff" they needed. But they were living in San Francisco where a down payment for a home seemed to be an unobtainable goal. They thought that with a small start from friends and family, they might actually be able to get a place of their very own. They created a website for their own wedding asking that in lieu of gifts they would love to receive money toward a home down payment. Their friends and family were more than happy to help them get their first home. In 2011 they turned the idea into a business venture and launched Hatch My House.

Here's how it works. First you go to the website to register and then you design your home choosing the style, color, and setting. There's a section where you can eloquently describe your goals and dream home. You know, tug on the heartstrings a little. You then would set up a Pay Pal account and link it to your bank account so that Uncle Pete or Aunt Clara can easily use their debit or credit card to send you a much deserved and generous gift. You even get to choose the price of the gifts but your guest can always change it to whatever they want. As your guests scroll over the house you designed they will see that they can "buy" you a window for $200, a door for $100, or go inside and "buy" a vanity or kitchen table for $150. Kind of neat actually.

Wedding guests often struggle with what to give the bride and groom and they sometimes hesitate to give cash but Hatch My House makes giving a cash gift a little more meaningful and practical. The website is full of testimonials and actual samples of previous registries for you to look at. The website could also be utilized for a young couple who already own a house together but need to do renovations that they can't afford.

Now that I've seen this site, there should be one for us older people celebrating many years of marriage. You know, it could be called or I think I'm gonna work on that...

P​ease feel free to visit 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 12/17/14. Roy Sanborn is a realtor at Four Seasons Sotheby's International Realty and can be reached at 603-677-7012

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Pat Buchanan - Obama throws Fidel a rope

The celebrations in Havana and the sullen silence in Miami tell you all you need to know about who won this round with Castro's Cuba. In JFK's metaphor, Obama traded a horse for a rabbit.

We got back Alan Gross before his communist jailers killed him, along with an American spy, in exchange for three members of a Cuban espionage ring. Had we left it at that, the deal would have been fine.

But Obama threw in an admission that all nine presidents before him pursued a "failed policy." Calling for recognition of the Castro regime as the legitimate government of Cuba, Obama said, "Isolation has not worked."

"Not worked"? What is he talking about? Isolating Cuba during the last 30 years of the Cold War helped bankrupt and bring down the Soviet Empire, which had to carry Cuba on its back.

Obama's admission is being seen in Cuba as vindication of half a century of hostility to the United States. But with the new Congress controlled by Republicans, it will be a while before the U.S. embargo is lifted, Cuban goods begin to flow across the Florida Strait, and U.S. dollars flow back to sustain one of the last of the Leninist regimes in its terminal stage.

But why did Obama choose now to bail out Cuba?

With the Soviet Union dead and gone, with Russia no longer able to buy up Cuba's sugar crop at inflated prices, with oil prices having tanked and Venezuela on the brink of default, unable to ship free oil to Cuba indefinitely, the Castro brothers were staring into the abyss.

Then Barack Obama rode to the rescue.

Nevertheless, though he has handed Fidel and Raoul a diplomatic triumph, their regime is not long for this world, as its maladies are incurable. Marxist ideology, the political religion in which the regime is rooted, is a dead faith. The world communist revolution was a god that failed. It is over, finished. Outside of North Korea and Cuba, who preaches that Marxism-Leninism is the future toward which mankind is heading? Who still believes that?

Consider the record of the regime with which Obama wishes to restore diplomatic relations. Before Fidel, Cuba had the fourth highest standard of living in the hemisphere. Today, her standard of living is not much higher than that of Haiti and Cuba is less free than under the dictatorship of Batista.

Castro may go down in history as one of the great antagonists of the American superpower. But what, enduring, did he accomplish?

In his youthful days, Fidel allowed Nikita Khrushchev to put ballistic missiles on the island, and brought about the gravest crisis of the Cold War, perhaps the gravest in world history.

For three decades his homeland was a satrap and strategic base of an odious empire that no one mourns. For those same decades, Cuba provided troops to advance communist revolutions in Africa, the Caribbean and Central America. Now the whole rotten enterprise has gone to seed.

Who looks upon Castro's Cuba today as a model to follow?

When Castro goes, his monuments may remain. After all, Lenin's corpse is still entombed in Red Square, as is Mao's in Tiananmen Square. But how long can the successor regime hang on?

Vladimir Putin's Russia and Xi Jinping's China are nationalistic and autocratic. They have embraced state capitalism. When the Castro brothers pass on, how will their successors justify their police state and permanent monopoly of power — if U.S. tourists are walking the streets of Havana?

When Cuban-Americans travel all over the island, Cuba's young, who know nothing of the revolution, will surely ask: Why do we not have what these Americans have?

This is not to say that Cuba is headed for a democratic future. There remains the possibility, as happens in Latin America, of a new charismatic strong man emerging. A Cuban Hugo Chavez.

But, today, dictators have to deliver. Or they, too, have to resort to greater repression. Or they, too, have to go.

Castro is a famous man from the 20th century. But consider the price the Cuban people have paid for his fame. Two generations of Cubans have lived without freedom. Heroic Cuban dissenters have gone to the wall and died in the thousands in his jails and prisons. Refugees have been machine-gunned off the Cuban coast. The toxicity of Marxism-Leninism has polluted Cuba's culture.

Some Cubans may remember Fidel with admiration. After all, even Stalin still has his admirers.

There was once a time in America in the 1960s when useful idiots of the New Left plastered posters of Che Guevara in dormitory rooms and traveled to Cuba to cut sugar cane to identify with the revolution.

On seeing the adulation Fidel yet receives, even from some in our own land, one begins to understand how the ancient Egyptians could have worshipped an insect.

(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.)

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Jim Hightower - Inequality among yacht buyers

In this season of mass commercialism, let's pause to consider the plight of simple millionaires.

Why? Because we now share a common cause: Inequality. You don't hear much about it, but millionaires are suffering a wealth gap, too, and it's having a depressing impact on both their level of consumption and their psychological well-being. While it's true that millionaires certainly are still quite rich — indeed, they're counted as full members of the 1-percent club. But that generalization overlooks the painful and personally grating fact that mere millionaires today are ranked as "lesser 1-percenters." They don't dwell in the same zip codes as the uber-rich few, who comprise the uppermost 100th of the 1-percenters, with wealth starting in the hundreds-of-millions of dollars and spiraling up into multiple-billions.

No doubt you'll be saddened to learn that this divide between The Haves and The Have-It-Alls is widening. Astonishingly, plain old millionaires are being abandoned by retailers that are now catering to the most lux of the luxury market. For example, have you checked out what is happening in the yacht market recently? Sales of your 100-to-150-footers are down by as much as 50 percent from 2008, and that is just one indicator of the hidden suffering being endured by the merely rich.

In the same time period, however, yacht sales of your 300-footers, with price tags above $200 million dollars, are at all-time highs. As noted by Robert Frank, a New York Times wealth columnist (yes, such a rarefied beat does exist), "For decades, a rising tide lifted all yachts. Now it is mainly lifting megayachts.

"Whether the product is yachts, diamonds, art, wine, or even handbags," says the Times' chronicler of American wealth, "the strongest growth and biggest profitsare now coming from billionaires and nine-figure millionaires, rather than from mere millionaires." What this reflects is not the widely acknowledged wealth divide between the 1-percenters and the rest of us, but a stunning concentration of America's total wealth in the vaults of the ever-richer 0.01-percenters.

They are the elitest of the elites, an extravagant moneyed aristocracy, sitting so high above our society that they largely go unseen. This exclusive club includes only a tiny fraction of American families, with each holding fortunes of more than $110 million. The riches of these privileged ones keep snowballing — their outsized share of our national wealth has doubled since 2002, and their holdings are expanding twice as fast as other 1-percenters.
Their growing control of wealth is distorting high-end consumerism, including not just yachts, but private jets as well. Sales of your common millionaire-sized jets are down by two-thirds since the 2008 Wall Street crash. So jet makers have shifted to the billionaire buyers, including some who are spending eye-popping levels of lucre to possess such pretties as their very own Boeing 777-300 — which normally carries 400 passengers, rather than one gabillionaire.

Imagine how this makes people with only a few million dollars feel. This extreme, obscene concentration of wealth is creating an intolerable inequality that will implode our economy and explode America's essential, uniting sense of egalitarianism. It's important to remember that money is like manure — it does no good unless you spread it all around.

In the spirit of holiday harmony and good will toward all, I say it's time for you working stiffs (and even those of you who've been badly stiffed and still can't find work in this jobless economic recovery) to extend your hands in a gesture of solidarity with America's millionaires. Let's reach out to comfort our downcast brothers and sisters. Tell them, "We're all in this inequality fight together," and invite them to come to the next rally in your area to raise America's minimum wage above the poverty level.

(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".)

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James Pindell - Would Ayotte run for Senate & VP at same time?

Some U.S. senators, like Marco Rubio and Rand Paul, have to weigh their home state laws preventing them from running for both president and re-election to the Senate in 2016. If that year it comes to U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte getting tapped as the Republican vice presidential nominee next year, only politics will stop her.

Ayotte as a potential vice presidential candidate continues to be the talk of Washington and Republican donor circles. In fact, a recent gathering of major Republican donors in New York drew four big name potential presidential candidates. Ayotte was also there as the only person the crowd heard from who could be the vice presidential pick.

The New Hampshire Secretary of State's office said this week there is legally nothing blocking Ayotte from running for Senate and vice president on the same ballot next fall. In fact, the idea of someone running for two different positions on the same ballot is hardly new. The late North Country icon Ray Burton spent decades running and winning seats on the state's Executive Council and the Grafton County Commission.

So logistically Ayotte might be fine, but maybe not politically. Consider the case of Joe Biden. In 2008, Biden was on the fall ballot running for re-election to his Senate seat and as the vice presidential nominee to Barack Obama. Logistically it is the same situation Ayotte would face. Politically it is another world.

That year Biden beat his opponent by 30 percentage points. Ayotte is likely to be seeking re-election in one of the most competitive campaigns in the entire country.

Just consider the very real choices she would have to make were she to continue running for re-election and run as the vice presidential candidate:

Would Ayotte participate at a New Hampshire Senate debate? Would she spend more time raising money for her campaign or for the national campaign? What happens if the Republican presidential nominee has a position on an issue that is unpopular in the Granite State? If she says no to any of the questions above could it make the difference in her not getting re-elected and what would that say?

Threading the political needle could make it impossible for Ayotte to be picked as the 2016 running mate. Republicans are considering holding their national convention in June 2016. The convention could either be during or immediately after the New Hampshire candidate filing period. Ayotte could sign up to run and if she doesn't face a primary, she could drop her bid for re-election and Republicans could name someone else to run. If she faces even a token primary for someone random this scenario wouldn't work.

But for the sake of argument let's suppose it did work and Ayotte removed her name from the ballot. (And there is a serious question as to whether she would legally be able to do that.) If Republicans found a new candidate — let's call that person Scott Brown — he would have to immediately raise funds from scratch for a five-month sprint to the November election. This scenario would be wild for political observers, but it would also put Republicans at a major disadvantage.

This disadvantage is so great that could be make the whole Ayotte for VP thing a nonstarter idea for incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Republicans will only have a 54-seat majority in the next session. There isn't a large margin for error for Republicans to keep the Senate in 2016. McConnell probably believes that Ayotte is the best candidate to win in New Hampshire and doesn't want anything to jeopardize that.

Being tapped for vice president is something that would not happen for another year and isn't in Ayotte's control. What she can control, however, is increasing her profile and finding a good Republican candidate for governor.

After all, she if wins the jackpot and wins both re-election and becomes vice president, she'll want a Republican governor to pick her replacement in the Senate.

(James Pindell covers politics for WMUR. You can see his breaking news and analysis at and on WMUR-TV.)

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