Michelle Malkin - Bilious Baltimore Babble

It's never enough. American taxpayers have surrendered billions and billions and billions of dollars to the social-justice-spender-in-chief. But it's never, ever enough.

The latest paroxysm of urban violence, looting, and recriminations in Baltimore prompted President Obama on Tuesday to trot out his frayed Blame The Callous, Tight-Fisted Republicans card. After dispensing with an obligatory wrist-slap of toilet paper-and Oreo-filching "protesters" who are burning Charm City to the ground (he hurriedly changed it to "criminals and thugs" mid-word), the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize winner got down to his usual business: hectoring his political opponents and grousing that America hasn't forked over enough money for him to make the "massive investments" needed to "make a difference right now".

If we are "serious" about preventing more riots, the president declared, then "the rest of us" (translation: all of us stingy conservatives) have to make sure "we are providing early education" and "making investments" so that inner-city youths are "getting the training they need to find jobs".

Narcissus on the Potomac wheedled that "there's a bunch of my agenda that would make a difference right now." Me, me, me! His laundry list of the supposedly underfunded cures that he can't get through Congress includes "school reform," "job training" and "some investments in infrastructure" to "attract new businesses".

I'll give POTUS credit: He can lay it on thicker than a John Deere manure spreader.

Let's talk "massive investments," shall we?

In 2009, Obama and the Democrats rammed the $840 billion federal stimulus package through Capitol Hill under the guise of immediate job creation and economic recovery. An estimated $64 billion went to public school districts; another nearly $50 billion went for other education spending. This included $13 billion for low-income public school kids; $4.1 billion for Head Start and childcare services; $650 million for educational technology; $200 million for working college students; and $70 million for homeless children.

How's that all working out? Last week, economists from the St. Louis Federal Reserve surveyed more than 6,700 education stimulus recipients and concluded that for every $1 million of stimulus grants to a district, a measly 1.5 jobs were created. "Moreover, all of this increase came in the form of nonteaching staff," the report found, and the "jobs effect was also not statistically different from zero."

More than three-quarters of the jobs "created or saved" in the first year of the stimulus were government jobs, while roughly 1 million private sector jobs were forestalled or destroyed, according to Ohio State University.

President Obama later admitted "there was no such thing" as "shovel-ready projects." But there were plenty of pork-ready recipients, from green energy billionaires to union bosses to Democratic campaign finance bundlers. About $230 billion in porkulus funds was set aside for infrastructure projects, yet less than a year later, Obama was back asking for another $50 billion to pour down the infrastructure black hole.
In 2010, President Obama signed the so-called Edujobs bill into law — a $26 billion political wealth redistribution scheme paying back Big Labor for funding Democratic congressional campaigns. A year later, several were spending on the money to plug budget shortfalls instead of hiring teachers. Other recipients received billions despite having full educational payrolls and not knowing what to do with the big bucks.

In 2012, with bipartisan support, Obama signed the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act "to encourage startups and support our nation's small businesses."

In July 2014, with bipartisan support, Obama signed the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act to "help job seekers access employment, education, training, and support services to succeed in the labor market and to match employers with the skilled workers they need to compete in the global economy." (Never mind that a GAO review of the feds' existing 47 job-training programs run by nine different agencies "generally found the effects of participation were not consistent across programs, with only some demonstrating positive impacts that tended to be small, inconclusive or restricted to short-term impacts.")

In December 2014, the White House unveiled nearly $1 billion in new "investments" to "expand access to high-quality early childhood education to every child in America" from "birth and continuing to age 5."

That's all on top of the $6 billion government-funded national service and education initiative known as the SERVE America Act, which was enacted less than a month after the nearly $1 trillion stimulus with the help of a majority of Big Government Senate Republicans. The SERVE America Act included $1.1 billion to increase the investment in national service opportunities; $97 million for Learn and Serve America Youth Engagement Zones; and nearly $400 million for the Social Innovation Fund and Volunteer Generation Fund.

The "social innovation" slush fund was intended to "create new knowledge about how to solve social challenges in the areas of economic opportunity, youth development and school support, and healthy futures, and to improve our nation's problem-solving infrastructure in low-income communities." The biggest beneficiaries? Obama's progressive cronies.

Apparently, the richly funded "social innovators" haven't reached the looter-prone neighborhoods of Baltimore yet. But it's not ideologically bankrupt Obama's fault. It's ours.

(Syndicated columnist Michelle Malkin is the daughter of Filipino Immigrants. She was born in Philadelphia, raised in southern New Jersey and now lives with her husband and daughter in Colorado. Her weekly column is carried by more than 100 newspapers.)

  • Category: Columns
  • Hits: 665

Susan Estrich - Summer in the city

What is a major league baseball game without any fans there to cheer? No one selling hot dogs, no one hawking programs, no need for any ushers. Welcome to Baltimore, where the first two games of a three-game series were postponed and the third was played with no people, lest what should be a sporting event degenerate into a race riot.

And so, in the spring of 2015, we add Baltimore to the list that seems to have started with George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch killer, and then the riots in Ferguson, Missouri, with police on watch across the country.

I was a kid in the summer of 1968, but I remember sitting in front of the television, literally shocked that my country seemed to be on fire on hot nights. But that was 1968.

I remember pulling down all the shades in my house, as they told us to on television, and huddling with my 2-year-old baby as we complied with the curfews that were imposed after the Rodney King riots. But that was 1992.

How can this be happening now? We have an African-American president, we had African-American attorney general, now succeeded by the first African-American woman attorney general, not to mention an African-American head of Homeland Security. And yet, the level of suspicion and distrust, the huge perception gaps between blacks and whites, the fear you can almost feel and touch making clear that race relations, so perfect at the top when we see our magnificent "First Couple", have hardly changed for the less fortunate.

And there is the rub. The rich have gotten richer. The poor have not. White boys with clever ideas parade on television talking about the billions they have made. Sometimes it even rubs me wrong, and who am I to complain?

How would I feel if I were a boy that same age, who never had the chance to make a legal dollar from a decent job, let alone billions based on skills they don't teach in lousy inner-city public schools. Probably very angry, I would guess. My son has been on the computer since nursery school. How many of the young men in the back of police cars had that opportunity? Technology, which so many of us hoped would bring us together and provide access to learning and information that so many lack, has created a gap of its own.
In 1968, police departments were overwhelmingly white, and those who were arrested were disproportionately black. Many of these departments were sued, and rightly so, for arresting ministers and the church handyman and even the almost all-white high school's star black quarterback. Courts ordered reforms, new tests, goals; police departments today are significantly more diverse than they were 40 years ago. Community policing, which was popularized in the 1980s, is just a fancy way of saying that the police were supposed to work hand-in-hand with the community — not only to reflect the community demographically, but to know the difference between the star quarterback and a drug dealer from the other side of town. They don't look alike.

It reminds me of a lesson I learned from the honorable Harry Edwards, now a senior judge on the Court of Appeals in Washington, but back in the '80s, a visiting professor at Harvard. "How do you like it here?" I remember asking him. He sighed. Boston in the '80s was still reeling from the ugly failure of busing to achieve integration. "At Fenway Park," he said sadly, "they don't know that you teach at Harvard."

No. And as one mother explained to me, when white kids wear "street clothes", no one thinks they're gang members. Not so for her son. She dressed him like a white preppy kid, not because she favored the style, but because she hoped it would be safer.

The last thing we need is a summer of racial violence. If you can't remember the summer of 1968, take it from me. Barack Obama ran on "change". It is proving to be harder than any of us once thought.

(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.)

  • Category: Columns
  • Hits: 515

Gretchen Gandini - Recreation trail along lakeshore: an old idea coming to life

I was 2 years old, Jimmy Carter was the President of the United States, and South Down Shores did not even exist when the City of Laconia first proposed building a lakeside bike trail within the State of New Hampshire-owned railroad right of way.
According to the long ago published Lakes Region, N.H. Bikeway System Report, "the railroad right of way was well suited for the trail for a variety of reasons: its close proximity to the homes of year round and seasonal residents; the level grade and separation from automobile traffic made it attractive to very young and older riders; and the route combined scenic beauty with access to the region's busiest commercial areas, providing opportunity for those who might use their bicycles for commuting."
Although the proposal received a great deal of community support and enthusiasm, plans were stalled in Laconia because of the high cost associated with fencing requirements by the state. Meanwhile, communities around the country developed rail trails and began enjoying significant health, economic and recreation benefits.
Fast forward to present day Laconia and the concept of a recreation trail in the state-owned right of way again enjoys a great deal of community support and enthusiasm for many of the same reasons. As well, conversations about fencing requirements remain in the news.
Let's talk about this.
Contrary to recent reports, split-rail fencing or some amenable alternative has, indeed, been approved by the Department of Transportation Bureau of Rail and Transit along the waterfront properties for Phase 2 of the WOW Trail. We are grateful for this unprecedented exception by the State of N.H. and look forward to continued conversations in this regard.
Rails-with-trails have become a common part of the recreation landscape in the United States in recent years, representing nearly 10 percent of all rail-trails in the country. There are currently 161 rails-with-trails in 41 states, a 260 percent increase since 2000. There is no federal standard regarding fencing. Some states require chain link fencing, others require vegetation or grade separation, while others require no separation at all.
According to the Rails to Trails Conservancy's 2013 Rails-With-Trails report, out of thousands of fatalities on railroad corridors in the United States in recent decades, only one involved a trail user on a rail-with-trail. This suggests that a well-designed pathway provides a safe travel alternative and reduces incentive to trespass or use the tracks as a shortcut.
Even more, there's no denying that Phase 1 of the WOW Trail has fast become a unifying landmark and point of pride for the City of Laconia. A growing number of community leaders recognize that a completed WOW Trail will be a game-changer for this community. Not only will it enhance the quality of life for year round and seasonal residents, but it will attract new visitors to the area and help current and future businesses attract and retain a quality workforce by making the city a more desirable place to live, work and play for my generation of young families. We can look at case studies of communities around the country who have seen transformative change by implementing comprehensive, regional trail systems. But, ultimately, it's up to our community to say yes to the idea here, advocate for a more walkable, bikeable city and, most importantly, help usher this project along by investing in its construction.
Let's finish what the City of Laconia first proposed for the Lakes Region in 1980. It's about time we get this project done. I'm ready, are you?

(Gretchen Gandini is the executive director of the WOW Trail. She can be reach via e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..)

  • Category: Columns
  • Hits: 762

Pat Buchanan - Why is Yemen our war?

For a month now, the Saudi air force has been bombing Yemen to reverse a takeover of that nation of 25 million by Houthi rebels, and reinstall a president who fled his country and is residing in Riyadh. The Saudis have hit airfields, armor and arms depots, and caused a humanitarian catastrophe. Nearly 1,000 dead, 3,500 wounded and tens of thousands homeless. The poorest nation in the Arab world is near collapse. Dependent upon imported food, Yemen faces malnutrition and starvation.

And the United States has been an accomplice in the Saudi bombing of Yemen. Why? Why is Yemen's civil war America's war?

What did the Houthis ever do to us?

While they bear us no love, their Houthi rebellion was an uprising against a pair of autocrats who had been imposed upon them, and against al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula. The Houthis' main enemy, AQAP, is America's worst enemy.

Why are we then making ourselves de facto allies of al-Qaida?

For while the Saudis have been bombing the Houthis, easing the pressure on al-Qaida, AQAP effected a prison break of 270 inmates, including scores of terrorists, and seized the port of Mukalla.

The Saudis claim the Houthi rebellion is part of an Iranian Shiite scheme to overrun and dominate the Sunni Middle East. But Pakistan is not buying it, and not sending troops. The Egyptians seem reluctant to enlist. Nor is there hard evidence Iran armed or incited the Houthis who have been fighting for years. Tehran reportedly advised the rebels not to take the city of Aden, and is calling for a ceasefire and peace talks.

Saudi propaganda portrays the Middle East as caught up in a great Muslim struggle, with a Shiite Crescent led by Iran seeking to swallow up the Sunni states. But is this true? Or is America being dragged into fighting yet another war where we have no vital interest, against an enemy that has not attacked us and has no plans to do so?

In today's chaotic Middle East, who are our real enemies, those attacking and killing Americans and murdering our friends?

First on the enemies list are al-Qaida and ISIS. No terrorist group has killed more Americans than al-Qaida. No terrorist group has behaved with more savagery toward U.S. citizens, Christians, and friends of ours than ISIS.

And who is most fiercely resisting these enemies of ours? The Saudis? The Gulf Arabs? Our NATO ally Turkey?

By no means. All, at one time or another, have abetted the al-Nusra Front or ISIS in Syria. And none has sent troops to fight the Islamic State in Iraq.
Yet the Houthis, two of whose mosques in Yemen's capital were blown up in March by ISIS, with 135 dead and 350 wounded, have been actively battling these terrorists.

In Iraq, it is Shiite militias, admittedly no friends, Iranians, and Kurds who have been aiding Baghdad in battling the Islamic State.

It is Hezbollah and Iran who have been backing Damascus with arms and troops in Bashar Assad's war against ISIS and the al-Qaida affiliate.

When it comes to battling our enemies, our Sunni friends have been dragging their feet, or even collaborating. But the Shiite Crescent we are supposed to fear as the new Persian Empire has been actively fighting those same enemies.

In his Wall Street Journal column on the Middle East, Yaroslav Trofimov reports that the Saudis are euphoric over their successes in bombing the Houthis, and are looking forward to new wars: "This display of military might has already unleashed patriotic fervor in Riyadh. It has spurred talk that once the Houthis are dealt with, Saudi Arabia's Sunni coalition should move against a more formidable Iranian ally, the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad, and destroy the Syrian air force. 'The massacres in Syria should stop and its regime there should go,' said Khalid al-Dakhil, a Saudi sociologist and prominent commentator. 'The right thing to do after Yemen would be for the Gulf countries and Egypt, Jordan and Turkey to go into Syria to dislodge that regime.'"

About this coming Saudi-led blitzkrieg, several observations: First, while the Houthis have been bloodied they are not beaten. The Saudis may have just thrown a rock into a hornets' nest.

Second, how would Hezbollah, Iran, Iraq and Russia respond to a Saudi-led war to overthrow their allies in Syria?

Third, if Bashar Assad falls in Syria, who rises to power if not the al-Nusra Front and ISIS, the only effective forces opposing him today?

Terrible as is the war that Assad is waging in his own country, is not his regime preferable to what ISIS in Raqqa and al-Nusra in Idlib have on offer to us?

Reportedly, the Americans are trying to coax the Saudis out of their war in Yemen. Wise move. Kings don't tend to last in long wars, especially in wars they themselves have started.

(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: 643

Sanborn — Where's the appreciation?

I recently had a home for sale that went under contract at the full list price. This home was very nice with lots of upgrades and nicely maintained. It was a house that you didn't have to make any excuses for when I showed it. It's the kind of house that many buyers want, in fact, the first buyer that looked at it put in the offer. The buyer was using FHA financing with 3.5 percent down and needed some cash back to help with closing costs which is a fairly common scenario. Unfortunately, the house did not appraise for the purchase price. We still got the deal together, but at a lower price. And that got me thinking.

I have always gone under the assumption that in a free market place, supply and demand for any commodity is the key factor in causing prices to go up or down. One only needs to look at gas prices and oil production to see that. When home inventory levels drop and there are a lot of buyers you begin to see multiple offers with some exceeding the asking price. To me, that's how home values increase or at least they should. Buyers and sellers must agree on what a home is worth. But, there is a hitch. If the buyer of a home is getting a loan, that home's value has to appraised based on recent sales of similar homes in the same area. But if you are always looking in the rear view mirror, those sales prices are always lower, except perhaps for the occasional cash deal.

Say a buyer and seller agree that the value of a house is $300,000. The buyer is putting 20 percent or $60,000 down and financing 80 percent of the purchase price. If the bank appraisal comes in at $285,000, that is all the bank will lend on. Then, there are at least three paths to take. The seller and buyer have to come to new terms at a lower number, the buyer has to make up the difference for the lender, or the deal doesn't happen at all. When a buyer is willing to put $60,000 of his own money into a home purchase I'd say he has a fair amount of "skin in the game" and is probably a pretty good risk for any lender. A good plausible fourth option to me would be that the lender should be able to take a little more risk, particularly if the buyer has stellar credit and wherewithal, but apparently they can't do that.

Obviously, the appraisal process is there to protect both the lender and the buyer, but like everything else today that the government gets involved in, the appraisal process has become a lot more difficult not only because of new guidelines and requirements but also the lack of good comparable sales in many areas. Then you add in the lender's underwriting department review, scrutiny, and oversight and things seem to be getting to the point of being overly restrictive. Appraisers today have a hard job and they definitely don't get paid enough.

So then, how are property values supposed to increase based on the rear view window appraisal process? One article I read sites findings by Robert Shiller, a Yale economist and expert on home values. He says real home values over the long term have remained relatively the same when adjusted for inflation. He found that between the years 1900 and 2000 that the national average of the real rate of appreciation was just 0.2 percent. He estimates that a house that costs $200,000 today would likely cost about $250,000 ten years from now, not due to increasing property values but rather because inflation will cause the dollar will be worth less. It should be noted that Shiller bases his findings on national averages, but real estate is very local and it is all about location, location, location. Of course, there are always exceptions to every rule. There are parts of the country or areas in various communities where home values outpace appreciation by a lot and then there are some areas that under perform. He feels that a home is not really an "investment," but a place to live and obviously gain some tax write offs. I disagree with him there, as I still believe a home is truly an "investment," it is just a long term one.

So while home prices seemed to have dropped off the cliff back when the housing bubble burst, it is pretty clear that there will be a slow climb back.

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

  • Category: Columns
  • Hits: 675