Jim Hightower - My pick for Speaker of the House

If it were under the big top, it would be a hilarious clown show — with pratfalls, wild posturing, tumbling, juggling and a cacophony of comic chaos.

But alas, it's under the Capitol dome, so it's just the Republican congressional caucus — bumbling, stumbling, and crashing into each other in clownish acts of ideological zaniness, political incoherence and pathetic ineptitude. The present bedlam on the Hill was prompted by House Speaker John Boehner abruptly deciding to zip-a-dee-doo-dah out of office, having finally given up on corralling his caucus of clowns.

Sadly, his withdrawal has only intensified the buffoonery, generating a slapstick intramural contest over which group of far-out right-wingers gets their pick to replace him. Boehner's contingent of anti-government, corporate-hugging extremists want one of their own, while assorted groupings of even fringier, farther-out packs of mad-dog tea party Republicans want someone who'll howl at the moon and literally shut down the government.

When Speaker Boehner gave up his position because he couldn't stand running the show anymore, next in line was Rep. Kevin McCarthy. He started campaigning for the job, but quickly backed off after he let it slip that the House Benghazi hearings were held just to damage Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and really had nothing to do with national security.

For the moment, Rep. Paul Ryan appears to be the most likely pick, except for two problems: One, he doesn't really want the thankless task of clown-herding, unless he can get all factions of Republicans to a level of consensus (good luck with that!); and two, even though he is an Ayn Rand-worshipping, Koch-hugging, laissez-fairyland ideologue dedicated to killing everything from Social Security to Obamacare, Ryan is just not right-wing enough for the howlers. He's considering whether to run for the job, but even if he does — and wins — the spectacle will continue.

The amusing irony in Ryan's predicament is he helped create his own mess! He was chief architect of the 2010 Republican scheme to take over Congress by recruiting and electing the mad dogs who are now biting him on the butt — and turning the U.S. House of Representatives into the House of Ridiculousness. As Rep. Peter King put it: "We look absolutely crazy."
And Rep. King is right. What's at work here is the Crazy Caucus. At one level or another, nearly all Republican House members belong, but the caucus is driven by about 40 hyper-crazies who believe that the greatest problems facing our country are Hillary Clinton's e-mails, Planned Parenthood, the existence of public services and the "hordes" of Mexicans who sneak into our country so they can vote for Democrats. It's the job of the House speaker to try "leading" these mad dogs to an occasional bit of sanity. Who really wants to do that — or even thinks it's possible?

Well, several of the mad dogs themselves say they should be put in charge. Daniel Webster says he's available (not the smart guy who compiled the dictionary, but a tea party bozo from Florida). Bill Flores, a little-known tea party know-nothing from Texas, says he would unite the House by getting all the members to "spend enough time on our knees praying for each other." That's silly, but the idea of keeping lawmakers on their knees is appealing. Mike Pompeo of Kansas, a prince of right-wing pomposity who was elected by the billionaire Koch brothers to be their personal representative in Washington, says he's ready to lead the House toward a Koch-headed plutocracy.

That's pathetic. But wait — we have another surprising choice. It's a little-known fact, but the speaker of our House of Representatives does not actually have to be a member of Congress. So why don't we choose someone like a kindergarten teacher, a minimum-wage worker, an organic farmer or a circus ringmaster to run the show? Or maybe a group psychologist is what the place really needs.

(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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Roy Sanborn Column

A Ghostly Disclosure

Last week I received a call to go out and meet with a homeowner who wanted to possibly sell her home. As I approached the house, which turned out to be at the end of a long dirt road, I noticed several out buildings and a barn all of which seemed to be in great condition. I stopped in the large circular driveway in front of the house and could not help but admire the setting and how well kept the home was.

As I went up the steps to the large front porch of the farm house, I noticed an elderly couple sitting at the far end. The early morning light wasn't great as the sun was behind them, but I could see that the elderly gentleman was rather thin and pale and had long grey hair with a bit of stubble on his face. He was dressed in a worn blue suit, linen shirt, was holding an old wood handled hammer, and on the floor next to his dusty boots was a bucket of hand tools. The woman, who I assumed was the lady who had called me, was dressed in a long floral patterned dress and an apron that reminded me of my grandmother. She looked like a typical spinster with a slight build and her silver hair was neatly up in a bun. I looked twice as I thought she had a chicken in her lap but I realized, thankfully, it was just a feather duster. A broom was leaned against the railing next to her. They just kind of stared blankly, seemingly surprised to see me.

I said "Hi, how you doing?" and as I started to approach them, the old buck nodded toward the front door and pointed a long bony finger in that direction. I had visions of Keith Richards for a second, but got the message and turned back toward the door and knocked. A younger and prettier version of the lady on the porch quickly answered the door to welcome me in. As I started to step inside, I glanced toward the end of the porch and the couple was still there, staring off into space.

The homeowner led me to the living room and told me that she and her husband had bought the property about 10 years ago. Her husband had a job opportunity in another state that he wanted to take so now they had to part with it even though they loved it. The home had belonged to her great uncle and aunt whom she knew only for a short time before they passed away. It had changed hands several times since their passing and when it finally came available again they jumped on the chance to buy it. She said she and her husband, along with two children and a menagerie of dogs, have truly enjoyed the home but now it was time to move on.

She gave me a tour of the home and I couldn't help but be impressed with it even though it was built in the mid 1800s. It was tastefully updated, nicely decorated, and yet retained a lot of the early character of a quaint country farm. And, it was spotless. I mean really spotless. I commented on how clean the home was and the lady said, "You know, this home is the easiest place to take care of that I have ever lived in! Even with two kids and the dogs running through it all the time, it's a breeze to keep up with! Even my husband barely needs to do any maintenance around here other than mow the lawn and the place looks great."

I told her I would go back and do a market analysis for her and get back to her with what I thought the value would be. I then asked if there was anything that she would want a prospective buyer to know. She thought for a moment and whispered, "You know, sometimes we hear strange noises at night. Sometimes it is just banging, sometimes like sawing, and other times it a swishing noise, like someone is sweeping the floor."

I said it was nice that her parents had come to stay with her a while and that I had kind of met them on the porch on the way in. She looked surprised and exclaimed, "My parents live in Florida! Someone was on my porch?!" As we stepped out on the porch, off course, no one was there ... just the broom.

So, let's be clear, if you are buying a home in New Hampshire, you should know that there is no line in the Seller's Property Disclosure to tell you if a house is haunted. Remember, this is the Live Free or Die state. There's bound to be a bunch of dead people still haunting more than few homes around here. So if you are faint of heart, scared of things that go bump in the night, worried about ghosts and demons, afraid to hear moans, groans, screams, and the wailing of souls that are trapped between the living world and the dead, you should definitely ask the listing agent if the house you are looking at is haunted or possessed. I promise, if I know, I will tell you because I don't want you haunting me after you buy the place! But you know, you might just get a spirit that keeps your house clean. They ain't all bad, you know...

September was a great month for residential sales in the 12 communities covered by this real estate market report. There were 111 homes that found new owners with an average sales price of $378,900 and a median price point of $229,900. This brings our total so far this year to 808 sales at an average price of $342,499 compared to 726 sales at an average price of $315,592 for the same period in 2014. That's an 11 percent increase in total sales over last year. Pretty spooky, right? Happy Halloween!

P​ease 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 Oct. 18. ​Roy Sanborn is a sales associate at Four Seasons Sotheby's International Realty and can be reached at 603-677-7012.

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Froma Harrop - Football & gaming: what could go wrong?

They worship at the high altar of football. They're everywhere. I don't give a fig about football, but the cult surrounds me. In the offseason, the devotees were stomping the floor over Tom Brady and a football's air pressure. They demanded to know my opinion on the matter. That I had none amazed them.

The season is in full frenzy, and with it, a new controversy: the explosive growth of gambling on fantasy football. Run by such corporate giants as FanDuel and DraftKings, daily fantasy sports are Internet-based games where one assembles a virtual team of real players and bets on how well it will perform.

Football and gambling — two great American addictions working together. What could possibly go wrong?

Lots, mainly because of the supreme confidence of the zealots. They claim to know all the players and coaches, their weaknesses, their strengths, their girlfriends, their concussions. They know exactly which part of his hamstrings LeSean McCoy of the Buffalo Bills pulled and what that means for the game. So if anyone can get rich betting on football outcomes, they can, so many think.

A 2006 federal law banned online games of chance but left a loophole for fantasy sports betting, viewing it as a game of skill. My friends who've played say they are competing with so many people and there are so many unknowns in the sport that winning is basically, excuse the expression, "a crapshoot".

In any case, few anticipated the boom in online sports betting and enormous profits to be made (for the "house," as always). For the month ended Sept. 15, the fantasy sports industry spent more on commercials during the games than pizza and beer companies.

Whether such online fantasy sports are about skill or chance, they are most certainly about competition for the gambling dollar. Many states have banned the game, including, to no one's surprise, Nevada.

The 2006 law was championed by former Rep. Jim Leach of Iowa. He recently criticized the carve-out for fantasy football as a mistake. "My intent in initiating the law was to constrain a growing gambling ethos in America," Leach said. Right. Iowa is home to over 20 casinos, making it the 10th-biggest gambling state.
When one puts big-time sports, gambling and online moneymaking together, fraud is inevitable. The FBI and New York attorney general are already looking into the possible use of inside information by employees at these online sports sites to wager at another.

A socio-economic question: We keep hearing about the financial squeeze plaguing America's middle class. Where is all this money for sports coming from?

Americans are being charged huge amounts to watch professional football in person, watch football on pay TV and not watch football on pay TV. (The huge sums that sports channels extort from the cable companies get tacked onto the monthly bills of all subscribers.) Never mind the $75 team sweatshirts and the $50 branded throw blankets.

Now there's all this online betting. The average spending per fantasy player is $465 a year, according to the Fantasy Sports Trade Association. If you put $500 a year into an investment yielding 5 percent, you'd have $7,418 after 10 years. Think about it.

When I ask the guys — and they're mostly guys — why they care so much about seeing big men crashing into other big men over four glacially slow time periods, they say, "You'll never understand". And they're right.

What anyone can see is that football is a quasi-religious passion for many — and that the opportunity to bet on one's deeply held convictions about the game may be dangerously seductive. Small wonder the calls are getting louder to regulate online fantasy sports. In the meantime, tie these guys down.

(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.)

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Pat Buchanan - Can Trump be stopped?

Three months ago, this writer sent out a column entitled, "Could Trump Win?" meaning the Republican nomination. Today even the Trump deniers concede the possibility. And the emerging question has become: "Can Trump be stopped? And if so, where, and by whom?"

Consider the catbird seat in which The Donald sits.

An average of national polls puts him around 30 percent, trailed by Dr. Ben Carson with about 20 percent. No other GOP candidate gets double digits.

Trump is leading Carson in Iowa, running first in New Hampshire, crushing the field in Nevada and South Carolina. These are the first four contests. In Florida, Trump's support exceeds that of ex-Governor Jeb Bush and Sen. Marco Rubio combined.

If these polls don't turn around, big time, Trump is the nominee.

And with Thanksgiving a month off, then the Christmas season, New Year's, college football playoffs and NFL playoffs, the interest of the nation will drift away, again and again, from politics.

Voting begins Feb. 1 in Iowa. Super Bowl Sunday is Feb. 7. And the New Hampshire primary will likely be on Tuesday, Feb. 9.

We are only three months out, and Trump still holds the high cards.

After months of speeches and TV appearances, he is a far more disciplined campaigner and communicator. In a year when a huge slice of the nation is disgusted with political correctness, wants to dethrone the establishment, wipe the slate clean and begin anew with someone fresh, Trump is in the pole position.

His issues — secure the border, send illegal immigrants back, renegotiate rotten trade deals that shipped our jobs abroad — are more in tune with the national mood than pro-amnesty, Obamatrade or NAFTA.

Wall Street Journal conservatism is in a bear market.

Trump says he will talk to Vladimir Putin, enforce the nuclear deal with Iran, not tear it up on Inauguration Day, and keep U.S. troops out of Syria. And South Korea should pay more of the freight and provide more of the troops for its own defense.

A nationalist, and a reluctant interventionist, if U.S. interests are not imperiled, Trump offers a dramatic contrast to the neocons and Hillary Clinton, the probable Democratic nominee. She not only voted for the Iraq war Trump opposed, but she helped launch the Libyan war.

The lights are burning late tonight in the suites of the establishment tonight. For not since Sen. Barry Goldwater won the California primary in 1964 have their prospects appeared so grim.
Can Trump be stopped?

Absent some killer gaffe or explosive revelation, he will have to be stopped in Iowa or New Hampshire. A rival will have to emerge by then, strong enough and resourced enough to beat him by March.

The first hurdle for the establishment in taking down Trump is Carson. In every national poll, he is second. He's sitting on the votes the establishment candidate will need to overtake Trump.

Iowa is the ideal terrain for a religious-social conservative to upset Trump, as Mike Huckabee showed in 2008 and Rick Santorum in 2012. But Carson has preempted part of the Evangelical and social conservative vote. Moreover, Sen. Ted Cruz, an anti-establishment man, is working Iowa and has the forensic abilities to rally social conservatives.

Should Trump fall, and his estate go to probate, Cruz's claim would seem superior to that of any establishment favorite. Indeed, for an establishment-backed candidate — a Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, John Kasich, Chris Christie, Bobby Jindal — to win Iowa, he must break out of the single-digit pack soon, fend off Cruz, strip Carson of part of his following, then overtake Trump. A tall order.

Yet, the battle to consolidate establishment support has begun. And despite his name, family associations, size of his Super PAC, Jeb has lost ground to Marco Rubio. Look to Marco to emerge as the establishment's last best hope to take down Trump.

But if Trump wins in Iowa, he wins in New Hampshire. The Iowa Caucuses then, the first contest, may well be decisive. If not stopped there, Trump may be unstoppable. Yet, as it is a caucus state where voters stick around for hours before voting, organization, intensity and endless labor can pay off big against a front-runner.

In Iowa, for example, Ronald Reagan was defeated by George H. W. Bush in 1980. Vice President Bush was defeated by Bob Dole and Pat Robertson in 1988. Reagan and Bush I needed and managed comeback victories in New Hampshire. One cannot lose Iowa and New Hampshire.

Thus, today's task for the Republican establishment: Between now and March, they must settle on a candidate, hope his rivals get out of the race, defeat Trump in one of the first two contests, or effect his defeat by someone like Carson, then pray Trump will collapse like a house of cards.

The improbabilities of accomplishing this grow by the week, and will soon start looking, increasingly, like an impossibility — absent the kind of celestial intervention that marked the career of the late Calvin Coolidge.

(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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Bob Meade - Oxymorons

By definition, an oxymoron is a phrase in which two words of contradictory meanings are used together for special effect, e.g. "wise fool" or "legal murder". Similarly, a dichotomy is a separation where a division within a statement is contradictory . . . for example, "leading from behind". Sadly, particularly in political speak, we are treated to the use of oxymoronic and dichotomic statements on a daily basis. For example some politicians tell us they can grow the economy and create more jobs by raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour. They would have us believe that "everyone" should have a living wage and be able to support his or her family, even if performing only the most menial jobs.

Those jobs are often considered "starter jobs", where young people, mostly teenagers, "learn to earn". They learn to get to work on time and be dependable. They learn that the company has rules on how employees are expected to dress and the grooming standards that are expected. They learn that a portion of their wages will go to pay their Social Security and Medicare premiums, and other taxes, and that they will continue to pay those until they reach retirement age. They learn that their job requires that they be respectful to customers and, as needed, to cheerfully assist them. They learn that mom and dad will welcome their movement towards independence and will find that the "allowance" they had always been given had stopped, but their duty to take care of certain household chores had not. They learn that their boss or supervisor in the work place can make job demands and alter work responsibilities and they must cheerfully comply and do those new tasks to the best of their ability. They learn that they, and their co-workers will be evaluated based on their performance. They learn too, that poor performance can mean the loss of the job, and that stellar performance has rewards in increased wages and promotions. They learn that those who learn a number of other job tasks, and perform them well, are often the ones who receive the increased wages and promotions. They also learn to build a little nest egg, putting some of their earnings aside. They learn that it is up to them to make their own charitable contributions and to pay for the gifts to others, and even to start paying for things that they want that mom and dad had always paid for. And, importantly, they learn that their earnings may not always be as big as their wants.

Because the youngster learns that wants can most often only be satisfied by having more income, he or she learns that those earnings can only come from investing the time and effort necessary to learn a skill or receive an education that will give them the opportunity to advance beyond the minimum wage job. Learning to earn means looking ahead, figuring out just what lifestyle you would like to have for yourself and your future family. It means figuring out just what field of endeavor will bring you the most satisfaction. The old adage, "find a job you love to do and you will never have to work a day in your life" has a lot of truth to it. But, after you figure out what field of endeavor gives you the most interest but not the income to satisfy your wants, it is your decision as to whether you cut back on your wants or choose a career that will give you the necessary earnings to satisfy your wants. No one but you is responsible for receiving/earning what you consider to be a "living wage". The value of the job doesn't change because of your wants, you have to adapt by preparing for and finding a job that that has the value needed to support your wants and needs.

The over-riding issue being foisted on people is that the federal government is the solution necessary to satisfy their wants. As MIT Professor Dr. Jonathan Gruber said about "Obamacare", the president, and Democrat leadership, was depending on the people being too stupid to understand the essence of that program, knowing that if the people understood it, they would reject it. Now, we have Senator Sanders and Secretary Clinton telling us that every person is entitled to not only a "living wage", but also "free health care", and the government should provide it. Please consider this, Medicare, which is for people over 65 years of age, or permanently disabled, has over $36 trillion in unfunded liabilities. The proposals to essentially expand Medicare to the entire 317 million population, and to make it "free", would not be free, it would put 20 of our country's economy in the hands of the federal government . . . and the government 's already bloated bureaucracy would not only levy taxes, it would "control" the health care you receive . . . or more likely, you don't receive. A current example of government controlled health care is the outrageous lack of quality service being provided to our veterans by the VA. Your "freedom" to choose your health care would be greatly diminished or taken away.

Probably the greatest example of an oxymoronic or dichotomic statement was given to us by President Reagan when he said, the nine most terrifying words in the English language are, "I'm from the government and I'm here to help."

(Bob Meade is a Laconia resident.)

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