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Jim Hightower - A $250M can of whitewash (FOR TUESDAY)

Big doings in Big D — the George W. Bush Presidential Library is open for business!
What a piece of work it is: a $250 million, 226,000-square-foot edifice on 23 acres in Dallas. His brick-and-limestone structure is certainly imposing, but once inside, you quickly see that it's a $250 million can of whitewash. Of course, all ex-presidents want libraries that show their good side, and Bush himself was organizer-in-chief of this temple to ... well, to himself. What's most striking is not what's in it, but what's not.
For example, where's that "Mission Accomplished" banner that he used as a political prop in May 2003, when he strutted out so fatuously on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln wearing a flight suit to pretend like he had won the Iraq war? And how about a video loop of him finally showing up in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, cluelessly praising his infamously incompetent emergency management honcho with the now notorious shout-out: "Heck of a job, Brownie."
Also, while there are 35 featured videos, a replica of W's oval office, narrated presentations by top Bush officials and even statues of the family dogs — where's Cheney? Shouldn't there be an animated exhibit of the perpetually snarling veep in his dark chamber, scheming to shred our Constitution and set up an imperial presidency (or, more accurately, an imperial vice presidency)?
Another essential element of George's tenure that goes unportrayed could be called "The Dead Garden of Compassionate Conservatism." It could feature such mementos as him cutting health care funding for veterans, closing of the college gates for 1.5 million low-income students and turning a blind eye as 8 million more Americans tumbled down the economic ladder into poverty on his watch.
Then there's a shady exhibit that deserves more exposure. It's the list of $160 million-plus donors to the center, with each name chiseled into bricks that form what should be called "The Brick Wall of Special Interest Government." Among those chiseled-in are AT&T, casino baron Sheldon Adelson, Rupert Murdoch's Fox News empire, several billionaire funders of right-wing politics, the founder of GoDaddy.com, and even the royal rulers of Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates.
The 160 names are by no means all of the corporate and fat cat donors — many more gave, but shyly requested that their involvement be kept from the public. Present law allows such unlimited, secret donations, even while a president is in office, still wielding the power to do favors for donors. Bill Clinton used this undercover loophole, and George W. happily chose the same dark path.
On May 1, the doors to Bush's Pharaonic "Presidential Center" opened to the public, allowing us commoners to dig deep into the shallowness of his achievements. The enormous building itself sets the tone: sharp edges, high brick walls and the welcoming feel of a fortress. Yet the ex-prez insists that it's a place for public contemplation of his legacy, "a place to lay out facts," he says.
How ironic is that? After all, the Bush-Cheney regime was infamous for its disregard of facts, as well as its hiding, twisting and manufacturing of facts to fool people. From going to war over Iraq's nonexistent weapons of mass destruction to its plan to gut and privatize Social Security — facts were whatever Bush, Cheney, Rummy, Rove and Condi imperiously declared them to be.
More ironic is the centerpiece of the library's attempt to whitewash George's eight awful years: an interactive exhibit called "Decision Points Theater." And theater it is, portraying George heroically as "The Decider." Visitors to this rigged exhibit can use touch screens to see Bush in virtual action, pondering as he receives contradictory advice on whether to save the poor people of New Orleans, bail out Wall Street bankers, rush into Iraq, etc.
The whole show is meant to make you feel sympathy for him, then you're asked to "vote" on whether he did the right thing. Again, irony: We the People got no vote on these issues back when it would've mattered.
There are many, many Bush quotes in this pantheon, but the one that best characterizes him and should be engraved above the entrance to his sparkling new center is this, from August 2002: "I'm the commander. See, I do not need to explain why I say things. That's the interesting thing about being the president. Maybe somebody needs to explain to me why they say something, but I don't feel like I owe anybody an explanation."

Last Updated on Tuesday, 07 May 2013 12:43

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Pat Buchanan - The Pope & godless capitalism (FOR WEDNESDAY)

"This is called slave labor," said Pope Francis.
The Holy Father was referring to the $40 a month paid to apparel workers at that eight-story garment factory in Bangladesh that collapsed on top of them, killing more than 400.
"Not paying a just wage ... focusing exclusively on the balance books, on financial statements, only looking at personal profit. That goes against God!"
The pope is describing the dark side of globalism.
Why is Bangladesh, after China, the second-largest producer of apparel in the world? Why are there 4,000 garment factories in that impoverished country which, a few decades ago, had almost none? Because the Asian subcontinent is where Western brands — from Disney to Gap to Benetton — can produce cheapest. They can do so because women and children will work for $1.50 a day crammed into factories that are rickety firetraps, where health and safety regulations are nonexistent.
This is what capitalism, devoid of a conscience, will produce.
Rescuers at the factory outside Dhaka have stopped looking for survivors, but expect to find hundreds more bodies in the rubble.
The Walt Disney Co., with sales of $40 billion a year, decided — after an apparel plant fire in November took the lives of 112 workers — to stop producing in Bangladesh. "The Disney ban now extends to other countries, including Pakistan," says The New York Times, "where a fire last September killed 262 garment workers."
Not long ago, the shirts, skirts, suits and dresses Americans wore were "Made in the USA" — in plants in the Carolinas, Georgia and Louisiana, where the lower wages, lighter regulations and air conditioning that came after World War II had attracted the factories from New England.
The American idea was that the 50 states and their citizens should compete with one another fairly. The feds set the health and safety standards that all factories had to meet, and imposed wage and hour laws. Some states offered lower wages, but there was a federal minimum wage.
How did we prevent companies from shutting down here and going to places like today's Bangladesh to produce as cheaply as they could — without regard for the health and safety of their workers — and to send their products back here and kill the American factories?
From James Madison to the mid-20th century, we had a tariff. This provided revenue for the U.S. government to keep other taxes low and build the nation's infrastructure. Tariffs prevented exploiters of labor from getting rich here on sweatshops abroad.
Tariffs favored U.S. companies by letting them compete for free in the U.S. market, while a cover charge was placed on foreign goods entering the U.S.A. Foreign producers would pay tariffs for the privilege of competing here, while U.S. companies paid income taxes.
Foreigners had to buy a ticket to the game. Americans got in free. After all, it's our country, isn't it?
But in the late 20th century, America abandoned as "protectionism" what Henry Clay had called The American System. We gave up on economic patriotism. We gave up on the idea that the U.S. economy should be structured for the benefit of America and Americans first.
We embraced globalism.
The ideological basis of globalism was that, just as what was best for America was a free market where U.S. companies produce and sell anywhere freely and equally in the U.S.A., this model can be applied worldwide. We can create a global economy where companies produce where they wish and sell where they wish.
As one might expect, the big boosters of the concept were the transnational corporations. They could now shift plants and factories out of the high-wage, well-regulated U.S. economy to Mexico, China and India, then to Bangladesh, Haiti and Cambodia, produce for pennies, ship their products back to the U.S.A., sell here at the same old price, and pocket the difference.
As some who were familiar with the decline of Great Britain predicted, this would lead inexorably to the deindustrialization of America, a halt to the steady rise in U.S. workers' wages and standard of living, and the enrichment of a new class of corporatists.
Meanwhile, other nations, believing yet in economic nationalism, would invade and capture huge slices of the U.S. market for their home companies, their "national champions." The losers would be the companies that stayed in the U.S.A. and produced for the U.S.A., with American workers.
And so it came to pass. U.S. real wages have not risen in 40 years. In the first decade of the century, America lost 5 million to 6 million manufacturing jobs, one in every three we had, as 55,000 factories closed. Since Bush 41 touted his New World Order, we have run trade deficits of $10 trillion — ten thousand billion dollars! Everybody — the EU, China, Japan, Mexico, Canada — now runs a trade surplus at the expense of the U.S.A.
We built the global economy — by gutting our own.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 07 May 2013 08:43

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Roy Sanborn —The Under $275,000 No Apology Tour

As of May 1, 2013 there were 1,060 residential homes on the market in the twelve Lakes Region communities covered this report. The average asking price was $491,334 and the median price point was $261,750. This compares to 1195 homes on the market last May 1 at an average price of $500,195 and a median price point of $257,000. The current inventory level represents a 13.6 month supply of homes to sell.
As real estate agents, it's always nice to have a house listed that looks great, shows beautifully, and that you don't have to make apologies for. You know, you don't have to say to buyers things like "Well, he's going to fix that when he gets time," or "Sorry, they are still cleaning up and need to get some painting done," or "Well, they had a cat but you'd want to put new carpet in anyway, wouldn't you?"
A quick spin around the MLS to look at the listings that have come on the market recently revealed some great homes that I am pretty sure won't need excuses. Let's call this the Rockin' Reelters No Apology Tour. No acoustic low key concert here, just good old rock and roll and houses you can dance through.
The first home is at 136 Watson Road in Stonewall Village in Gilford. Built in 2003, this contemporary, open concept ranch has 1,736 square feet of living space. The master suite is located on one side of the home,there's a central living area, and the other two bedrooms on the opposite end. This place is perfect if your son is a drummer and on tour with our band or your mother-in-law comes to visit a lot. This home has a well appointed eat in kitchen, hardwood floors, and two sliding glass doors that lead out to a large deck looking out to a private back yard. There's a full basement and a two car garage to provide plenty of storage. Stonewall Village is a condominium form of ownership and the fees include landscaping, plowing, and trash removal to make your life even easier. This home is priced at $265,000 and definitely worth a look.
Down in Alton at 27 Ridge Road is a beautiful, 2,576 square foot, three bedroom, two and ½ bath, cape built in 2008. It has wonderful curb appeal and the pictures of the inside also look pretty nice. This home has a beautiful kitchen with stainless steel appliances, granite counter tops, and hardwood floors that extend in to the living room. Other no apology amenities include a spacious first floor master bedroom suite, a finished walkout basement, central air, a gas fireplace, a two car garage, a charming farmer's porch, and some pretty good landscaping to boot! This home is priced at $268,400. Not sure where the $400 came from, but it looks good to me...
If you're looking for in-town Laconia, then check out the open concept ranch on Regan Way. This 1,560 square foot, three bed, two bath home was built in 2007 and features hardwood and tile floors, cathedral ceilings, an eat-in kitchen, a deck, a fenced yard for the pets, full basement, and a two car garage. This home is in "move-in ready" condition and is offered at $269,900.
Another home just down the street, at 773 Elm Street, is a meticulously maintained four bed, three bath, colonial with 2,146 square feet of space built in 2004. The agent says this house is like new and "shines." I know this agent pretty well, and I know he doesn't exaggerate. Even the pictures back up his claim so I know you won't be disappointed when you go look! This home has a kitchen with a breakfast bar, maple cabinetry, stainless steel appliances, and gleaming tile floors. There's a first floor master suite, spacious living room, hardwood floors, a full, unfinished walkout basement, deck, and a two car garage. This home is priced at an even $270,000.
Also priced at $269,900 is a quality construction, three bedroom, four bath contemporary home at 585 Cherry Valley Road in Gilford. I am assured by the agent that it fits our stringent "no apology tour" criteria. This home was built in 2004 and has 2,404 square feet of living space. It boasts a large kitchen with center island and hardwood floors, a master suite with a private deck and lake views, an entertainment room in the finished lower level, tiled and heated breezeway/mudroom, a heated two car garage, and a large covered porch. This is billed as a "must see" home so go take a look at it and let me know what you think! If the agent apologizes for anything, I want to know about it. We gotta keep this tour real you know...
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 5/1/13. 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 May 2013 10:17

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Michael Barone - Obama blinks — twice

"We're eyeball to eyeball, and I think the other fellow just blinked," Secretary of State Dean Rusk famously said during the Cuban missile crisis.
Barack Obama has been doing a lot of blinking lately. On Syria especially.
"There would be enormous consequences if we start seeing movements on the chemical weapons front or the use of chemical weapons," he said back in August 2012. Chemical weapons were a "red line."
Presumably the president hoped that his statement would deter Bashar Assad's embattled regime from using chemical weapons. And presumably he hoped that his demand in 2011 for Assad to relinquish power would be obeyed.
Obama surely hoped back then that the Syrian dictator would be overthrown quickly, as his counterparts in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya had been. Unfortunately, Assad has proved to be tougher and more ruthless.
Last December, the U.S. consul in Istanbul reported evidence of chemical gas attacks in Syria to the State Department. Last week, it was reported that all U.S. intelligence agencies believe that sarin gas has been deployed there. But Obama has been unwilling to change his policies significantly. He has not ordered imposition of a no-fly zone, as Bill Clinton did in Kosovo in the 1990s.
He has not pledged support for the Syrian rebels. Instead, he has indicated that intelligence "assessments" are not conclusive. "We've got to do everything we can to investigate and establish with some certainty" — an interesting standard — "what exactly has happened in Syria," he said at a press conference on Tuesday. "We will use all the assets and resources that we have at our disposal. We'll work with the neighboring countries to see whether we can establish a clear baseline of facts. And we've also called on the United Nations to investigate."
These are conditions that seem impossible to meet. The United Nations will not act because of the veto of Assad-supporting Russia.
Other nations' intelligence services have already chimed in, concluding that chemical weapons are indeed being used in Syria. Our ability to "investigate and establish with some certainty what exactly has happened in Syria" is limited.
This president, like his predecessors, has to make decisions based on incomplete and imperfect information. It comes with the job.
The red line has been crossed, but the president has decided not to change the game.
This could have perilous consequences. Will Israeli leaders take seriously Obama's pledge that he will not allow Iran to deploy nuclear weapons? Will our Asian allies be confident of our backing in their disputes with China over islets in the East China Sea? Will China be deterred from attacking them?
Blinking at the evidence that Syria has crossed what he called a "red line," Obama may be hoping to avoid getting bogged down in a military quagmire there. But weakness is provocative, and appeasement can lead to a wider war.
Last week, Obama also blinked on the sequester, as Senate Democrats led the charge to give the Federal Aviation Administration explicit flexibility after the agency furloughed air traffic controllers. He had said earlier that he would veto legislation giving administrators flexibility in adapting to spending cuts. But — blink — he signed the bill, instead.
"The Democrats have lost on sequestration," wrote the liberal Washington Post blogger Ezra Klein. By agreeing to "ease the pain," he said, "Democrats have agreed to sequestration for the foreseeable future."
That's probably right. Obama's prediction of dire consequences from sequester cuts was undermined by the administration's two most visible cuts in service. The idea that mandatory cuts required cancelling White House tours didn't meet the laugh test. Fodder for late-night comics. And the idea that a 4 percent cut in FAA funding required delaying 40 percent of airline flights was equally laughable.
It antagonized two classes of strategically placed frequent flyers: members of Congress and members of the press. No way they were going to tolerate needless flight delays.
Obama's acceptance of the sequester means ratcheting spending levels down in the future, just as the Obama Democrats' stimulus package ratcheted spending up. That's a policy defeat for liberals, but the general public will probably not suffer much from Obama's sequester blink. The consequences of his Syria blink could be much more ominous.

Last Updated on Friday, 03 May 2013 08:57

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Susan Estrich - A gay man in the NBA

It is almost unbelievable that this is a first. But it is. Jason Collins is the first male athlete playing in a major sport to "come out."
Yes — the first in any of the five major leagues.
The president applauded him for his courage. Chelsea Clinton, his college classmate, and her dad both spoke out in support of him. So did Kobe Bryant, who two years ago was fined $100,000 for making an anti-gay slur to an official. NBACommissioner David Stern praised Collins for assuming a "leadership mantle on this very important issue."
Collins deserves all of this praise and more.
Of course, Collins is not your ordinary professional athlete. He is far better educated, more articulate and more sophisticated than at least 90-something percent of the men who play professional sports. He attended one of the finest and most elite prep schools in the country, Harvard-Westlake, with the children of some of the wealthiest and best-connected people in the world. He went on to Stanford, where he hung out with the president's daughter. Surely none of this should take away from his courage, but it does make clear just how far professional sports have to go.
It is simply not possible that Collins is the only gay man playing professional sports in America. Not possible. That even Collins, with his education and connections, felt the need to stay in the closet so long speaks volumes about why his announcement matters. It was only last February that Chris Culliver of the San Francisco 49ers said he would not accept a gay teammate. (He was forced to apologize, but frankly, so what?) Grant Hill of the Clippers was quoted, this season, as saying that gays are "still taboo in the locker room."
Still taboo in the locker room. The last plantation of intolerance?
Not in the military. Not in Congress. Certainly not in Hollywood. Nine states and the District of Columbia allow same-sex couples to wed. Rhode Island is about to be the 10th. If you ask me, the United States Supreme Court will soon hold that the federal government cannot discriminate against same-sex couples and that California cannot revoke their right to marry. If not this year, then soon, I expect the court to hold that the Constitution requires such recognition.
So why can't a gay man play football or basketball or baseball without hiding his sexual orientation? Who cares who he sleeps with if he can catch and throw and make the shot?
That gays should be taboo while brutality, abuse and violence have been accepted is stunning, to say the least.
Collins has made a stand and in public, anyway, is receiving broad and vocal support. What's being whispered in locker rooms is no doubt another story. Ignorance is not eliminated by the courage of one man and the support of two presidents. And Collins, a free agent, is officially unemployed. Whether another team will hire him, who knows?
But for gay kids who are playing sports in playgrounds across the country, there is finally a beacon, a role model, a man to look up to, to realize that you can be a great male athlete, still showering in the locker room (assuming he does for at least another season), and a proud gay man.
It should not have taken until 2013. There should be more than one man standing up. But last week there were none. Progress may be slow, but it is still progress. It is clear which way the wind is blowing. Once, Jackie Robinson stood alone. Someday we will say the same of Jason Collins.
(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 Thursday, 02 May 2013 08:20

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