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Jim Hightower - Let us commence towards the common good

Ironically, June is both the month of the summer solstice and of America's biggest annual blizzard. I don't mean a weather event blowing in from the Arctic, but a merciless storm of words blowing from the mouths of commencement speakers at high school and college graduation events.
This year, I was one of the blowhards, the chief speechifyer for some 260 graduates of my old high school in Denison, Texas. While it was an honor to be chosen as their ceremonial yakker, it's also a truly humbling experience, since I was the person that the degree recipients and their 5,000 supporters in the audience were least interested in.
Plus, commencement pontificators are expected to offer some sage advice to guide the grads as they moved on, and I was all out of sage. So, I resorted to three admonitions I once learned from a West Texas cowboy: "Never squat with your spurs on;" "Always drink upstream from the herd;" and "Speak the truth — but ride a fast horse."
Then I hit them with my main message: Now that you've had a dozen years in the classroom and earned this important credential, DON'T BE AN IDIOT! I used "idiot" in the same way that ancient Greeks originally meant it. Idiotes were not people with low-watt brains, but individuals who cared only about themselves, refusing to participate in public efforts to benefit the larger community — to serve the common good.
The Greeks, I told the students, considered such people selfish, contemptible and stupid ... and so should we.
The encouraging news is that this crop of graduates from Denison High nodded in agreement. After all, they've seen that the idiots are running things in Washington and on Wall Street, and the youngsters seem to be hungry for less selfishness and more togetherness as our society's guiding ethic.
To stress the rich possibilities of a society working together, I noted that any of us who rise in life do so because many helpinghands give us a lift.
While this night of celebration belonged to the students, the achievementbeing celebrated belonged to the whole community — the families, friends, teachers, taxpayers and others who were part of the lifting.
I told them about Harrell's hardware store, located near my home in Austin, Texas. It's an independent un-chained, small-box store with a knowledgeable staff willing to help customers figure out how to do most any project. Harrell's slogan is, "Together, we can do it yourself."
Like most commencement droners, I urged the bright faces beaming from beneath their funny square hats to do "Big Things" in life. But my point was that bigness cannot be measured in terms of personal wealth and self aggrandizement (the narcissistic ethic presently being preached and practiced by today's corporate and political elite). Rather, only by joining with others in democratic actions can you achieve something bigger than yourself.
As Bill Moyers noted in an earlier graduation speech: "Civilization is not natural. It's an accomplishment of culture. It is not just 'what happens,' it' is what we make happen." The key word there is "we," for no "I" is big enough to do the job. But together, as Harrell's hardware says, "we can do it."
The proof of this was sitting right in front of me at the graduation ceremonies. When I was in their place in 1961, every single person in my class and the audience was a white Anglo. Our schools and town were totally segregated. On this night, though, the ceremony taking place on a beautiful night in the football stadium was a glory of Anglo, African, Latino, Arab, Asian and other ancestries.
Denison became a better, more civilized place only because so many people (including some of the grayheads in this audience) had dared to stand together to make it happen. The class of 2013 applauded this ethic of social progress, and they gave me hope that they and others like them will pull our country together again, e pluribus unum.
(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".)

Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 December 1969 07:00

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Michelle Malkin - To Obama, 'smarter enforcement' means none

Welcome to Opposite World again. As the U.S. Senate geared up for the Gang of Eight illegal alien amnesty bill debate, President Obama goaded Capitol Hill to pass what he called "smarter enforcement, a pathway to earned citizenship and improvements to the legal system" of immigration. Bullcrap. The White House has already bulldozed a traffic-jammed superhighway for immigration law-breakers by executive fiat.
Obama and his open-borders pals pay lip service to fairness and the rule of law for the cameras. But behind closed doors and beyond the reach of public accountability, they've already paved the way for mass deportation waivers. Read their actions, not their lips. The official White House operating policy is: No illegal alien left behind. "Smarter enforcement" means no enforcement.
Remember: Exactly one year ago this week, the president announced he would halt all deportations and start granting work permits to an estimated 2.1 million illegal aliens who entered the country as children.
This blanket amnesty through administrative non-enforcement has been plagued by questions of fraud from the get-go. According to the Center for Immigration Studies, statistics from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services show that the feds have rubber-stamped applications at a whopping 99.5 percent approval rate. And fraudulent use of Social Security numbers is no problem for the so-called "DREAM"-ers. The feds reassured them last fall that they wouldn't have to disclose how many and which phony or stolen Social Security numbers they've used.
"Smarter enforcement"? Tell that to the rank-and-file Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents who refused to look the other way at Obama's executive subversion of the law. ICE agent Christopher Crane and eight other officers filed suit against the White House over the DREAM deportation waiver program's usurpation of their ability and authority to do their jobs. The Gang of Eight plan would provide the executive branch "virtually unlimited discretion" to cut off immigration enforcement officers at the knees.
As Crane testified in a searing statement on Capitol Hill in April: "Lawmaking in our nation has indeed taken a strange twist. Senators invite illegal aliens to testify before Congress ... but American citizens working as law enforcement officers within our nation's broken immigration system are purposely excluded from the process and prohibited from providing input. Suffice it to say, following the Boston terrorist attack, I was appalled to hear the Gang of Eight telling America that its legislation was what American law enforcement needs."
In April, a federal judge in Texas agreed with the ICE agents that King Obama could not order them to ignore immigration laws at his whim. A decision on their motion for preliminary injunction is expected any day now.
Kansas Secretary of State and immigration enforcement legal eagle Kris Kobach broke it down for me yesterday: "The federal judge in Crane v. Napolitano has ruled that the ICE agents are likely to prevail in their argument that the Obama administration is ordering them to violate federal law. Think about that: This administration is ordering career law enforcement personnel to break the law. Now, the administration is pushing for an amnesty bill that contains almost nothing to improve immigration enforcement. All that the American citizens will get in return for the amnesty is the promise from the Obama administration that they will try harder to enforce the law. The administration has already shattered that promise, doing exactly the opposite. This is a stark warning to Congress. I sincerely hope that they hear it."
Will they listen? Suicidal Republicans have supported illegal alien amnesties dating back to the Reagan era. They have paid a steep, lasting price. As bankrupt, multiculti-wracked California goes, so goes the nation. The progs' plan has always been to exploit the massive population of illegal aliens to redraw the political map and secure a permanent ruling majority.
Now, in the wake of nonstop D.C. corruption eruptions, SchMcGRubio and Company want us to trust them with a thousand new pages of phony triggers, left-wing slush-fund spending and make-believe assimilation gestures. Trust them? Hell, no. There's only one course for citizens who believe in upholding the Constitution and protecting the American dream: Stop them.
(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.)

Last Updated on Friday, 14 June 2013 10:26

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Sanborn – Lakes Region waterfront sales report

May showed a little uptick in waterfront sales on Winnipesaukee with 14 transactions at an average sales price of $907,196 and a median price point of $826,000. Four sales came in over the million dollar mark. Last May we had twelve transactions on the big lake at an average sales price of $638,231.
Not unexpectedly, the least expensive sale was on an island, 97 Bear Island in Meredith, to be exact. This is certainly not a luxury property but it got someone onto Winnipesaukee for only $165,000 which is over $100,000 less than the tax assessed value of $269,900. The property consists of a 1950s vintage, 1,245 square foot, two bedroom, one bath cottage on a .43 acre lot with 100' of frontage on the east side of Bear. This property was originally listed in November of 2011 at $229,000, was subsequently relisted in February of 2013, and sold after a total of 406 days on the market. I suspect someone is happy with a bargain basement buy on the big lake...
The property at 7 Red Sands Lane in Alton best represents the median price point sale. This is another 1950s vintage year round home with 984 square feet of living space, a classic knotty pine interior, hardwood floors, two bedrooms, one bath, and long range views up the lake. The 1.61 acre lot has 183' of frontage and a grandfathered docking system with a 31' x 13' deck over the water and two 10' x 30' docks. That's pretty darn nice and the new owner must have thought so, too. This property was on the market at $849,000 and sold for $803,000 after 147 days on the market. The current tax assessment is $775,700.
Honors for the highest sale of the month go to the property at 64 Timber Lane in Alton. This home is a newer construction, high quality, 7,296 square foot, Adirondack home built in 2009. It has 14 rooms, five bedrooms (including a first floor master suite with its own fireplace,) and six baths. The impressive, exposed post and beam great room has soaring cathedral ceilings, a massive stone fireplace (there are a total of six in the home), and fabulous views of the lake through a wall of windows. The chef's kitchen has a commercial grade gas range, two sinks, two dishwashers (I guess people can be messy here), cherry cabinetry, and granite countertops. Of course the walkout lower level would not be complete unless it had a fantastic game room, double sided fireplace, and lounge. Outside, you'll find bluestone patios, decks, and a granite set of stairs leading down to 150' of frontage with a U-shaped dock and breakwater. This home was first listed in January 2011 for $2.799 million, relisted in February 2012 at $2.699 million, and sold for $2.5 million after a total of 784 days on the market. The current tax assessment is $2.15 million. Pretty impressive.
There were no waterfront sales on Winnisquam last month. Zip, zero, nadda, none... But there were two on Squam. And someone appeared to get a good buy up there at 17 Marden Point in Holderness! This 1942 vintage, two bedroom, year round cottage is but twenty feet from the lake and was owned by the same people for over 50 years. It has an open concept living/dining area, a fireplace, and large screened porch. What else do you need? The cottage sits on a third acre level lot with 124' of water frontage. The property was originally listed at $694,000, was reduced to $489,000, and sold for $459,100 after 662 days on the market. The $100 was probably for the fishing gear the owner left there? The current tax assessment on the property is $700,830. I think that was a pretty good buy, don't you?!!
Another below assessment Squam Lake sale was at 69 NH Rt 113 in Holderness. This is an 1,880 square foot contemporary home that was built in 1995. It is across the street from the lake but has a separate lot on the water with 65' of frontage and a double dock. This move-in-ready home has three bedrooms including the master suite, three baths, a wood fireplace in the living room, a family room in the lower level, and great views of the lake. It also has a charming separate guest house with its own kitchen, living room, bedroom, and bath. Perfect for when Mom comes to visit. This home was listed at $580,000 and sold at $550,000 after just 15 days on the market. It is assessed at $613,220. Now that tells me this is a nice property and it was priced right!
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 6/11/13. Roy Sanborn is a REALTOR® at Four Seasons Sotheby's International Realty and can be reached at 603-455-0335.

Last Updated on Friday, 14 June 2013 06:45

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Pat Buchanan - Is Big Brother our Gaurdian Angel?

"Gentlemen do not read each other's mail," said Secretary of State Henry Stimson of his 1929 decision to shut down "The Black Chamber" that decoded the secret messages of foreign powers.
"This means war!" said FDR, after reading the intercepted instructions from Tokyo to its diplomats the night of Dec. 6, 1941.
Roosevelt's secretary of war? Henry Stimson.
Times change, and they change us.
The CIA was created in 1947; the National Security Agency in 1952, with its headquarters at Ft. Meade in Maryland. This writer's late brother was stationed at Meade doing "photo interpretation'' in the years the CIA's Gary Powers, flying U-2s at 70,000 feet above Mother Russia, was providing the agency with some interesting photographs.
This last week, through security leaks, we learned that the NSA has access to the phone records of Verizon, Sprint and AT&T. Of every call made to, from or in the U.S., NSA can determine what phone the call came from, which phone it went to, and how long the conversation lasted.
While NSA cannot recapture the contents of calls, it can use this information to select phones to tap for future recording and listening.
Through its PRISM program, the NSA can acquire access, via servers such as Apple, Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Microsoft and AOL, to all emails sent, received and presumably deleted or spammed. And if the NSA can persuade a secret court that it has to know the contents of past, present or future emails, it can be accorded that right.
Our ability to intercept and read communications of foreigners and foreign governments seems almost limitless. In the Nixon years, Jack Anderson reported that we were intercepting the conversations of Kremlin leaders in their limos, and listening in on Mao Zedong and Leonid Brezhnev. Our capacity today is surely orders of magnitude greater.
Last week, we also learned that Barack Obama, by Presidential Policy Directive 20, has tasked our government to prepare for both defensive and offensive cyberwarfare to enable us to attack whatever depends on the Internet anywhere in the world.
Lately, the U.S. and Israel planted a Stuxnet worm that crippled scores of centrifuges and disabled Iran's nuclear enrichment plant at Natanz. If we can do this in Iran, can we not do the same to nuclear plants all over the world, creating two, three, a hundred Chernobyls and Fukushimas?
Is it too much to imagine that, one day, if not already, the United States will be able to cyber-sabotage the power plants, electrical grids and communications systems of any country on earth?
With its ability to locate and listen in to terrorists, to track by satellite and kill by drone, America has acquired an extraordinary ability to protect its people and prevent and punish terrorist attacks.
But was any of this really surprising? Were we all in the dark as to what the CIA, the NSA and the Pentagon could do?
And as we think back on 9/11, of our doomed countrymen jumping to their deaths from the World Trade Center, the dead and maimed at the Boston Marathon, will not most Americans say, "Thank the Lord we have this power, and God bless the men and women who are using it to defend us"?
While this power is extraordinary, it is still not of the same magnitude as the 50,000 nuclear weapons we had 50 years ago, at the time of the Cuban missile crisis, when war could have led to scores of millions of American dead.
Nevertheless, for a people whose proud boast is that our nation was conceived in freedom, this brave new world is sobering. Our own government has the power to intercept and listen to every phone call we make, to read every e-mail we send or receive, to track us with cameras we cannot see, and to wage secret cyberwar against enemies real or perceived without a declaration of war.
Yet, we can no more uninvent the technology that enables our government to do this than we can uninvent the atom bomb. And rival powers like China are surely seeking the same capabilities.
Thomas Jefferson instructed us that "in questions of power, let no more be heard of confidence in men, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution."
But, ultimately, what other option do we have than to place our confidence in those whom we have entrusted with this power?
Congress is not going to pass a law telling the NSA that it may not coordinate with AOL, Apple or Google to access information that might prevent a terrorist attack. And if a terrorist attack hits this country, and our security agencies say their hands were tied in trying to protect us, all bets would be off as to what intrusions upon their freedom Americans might accept.
In the end, we ourselves are going to have to strike the balance between freedom and security.
But the question lingers.
If Big Brother is our guardian angel now, could he become Lucifer?
(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.)

Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 December 1969 07:00

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Froma Harrop - Prop 13: Message for another time

If the national tax revolt has bookends, the first bracket was placed 35 years ago this month. That's when California voters passed Proposition 13, a law curbing tax increases.
Of course, taxes have been a subject of complaint in this land for centuries. But the complaints were of a different nature. It was more like "no taxation without representation" than "no new taxes, ever."
Prop. 13 set off a national whirlwind. Shortly after passage in 1978, Congress passed an array of tax cuts, including a reduction in the capital-gains rate. And future talk of raising taxes became especially emotion-laden.
But Prop. 13 was really about local concerns. The prices of California homes had been spiraling upward for several years. Because property taxes in California were based on current market values, homeowners watched their property taxes soar with house prices.
For owners, it was nice to see a modest home bought for $65,000 six years earlier now worth $200,000. Having to pay property taxes at luxury-home levels was not as nice. Many owners were forced to sell.
Other things were going on, as well. A recent California Supreme Court ruling had equalized per-pupil school spending throughout the state. That meant homeowners no longer associated their property taxes with superior education for their own children.
And other state taxes were already high, thanks in part to a recent big-taxing governor. He was Ronald Reagan.
Gov. Reagan had inherited large budget deficits from his Democratic predecessor, Pat Brown. Rather than beat the living daylights out of every public service, Reagan in 1967 endorsed a $1-billion-a-year tax hike — the equivalent of a $17 billion tax increase today.
It was "the largest tax hike ever proposed by any governor in the history of the United States," journalist Lou Cannon observed. Reagan pushed through another big tax increase in 1970.
"In the end," writes Bruce Bartlett, an economic historian who served in President Reagan's Treasury, "it is clear that Reagan presided over an astonishing expansion of taxes in California."
Prop. 13 capped increases in home valuations for property tax purposes at 2 percent a year. House values would be reassessed to reflect market conditions only when the property changed hands. Unfortunately, this moved the heavy tax burden onto young homebuyers. And longtime owners became stuck in place.
The law also gave state lawmakers the power to divvy property-tax revenues among towns and cities. The result was that local governments had to lobby Sacramento for money they once could spend out of local levies.
Prop. 13 also required a two-thirds majority by both houses of the state legislature on measures that would increase state revenues. A tax-phobic minority could therefore block efforts to fund California's famous university system and other public services.
But did Prop. 13 solve California's high-tax "problem"? Not quite. Before passage, California was the fourth-most-heavily-taxed state, according to the Tax Foundation. Today it is the fourth-most-heavily-taxed state.
The other bookend — marking the tax revolt's waning days — could be California voters' approval last November of a temporary tax increase to avoid up to $6 billion in education spending cuts. The voters also gave Democrats a two-thirds majority in the state legislature, meaning conservative Republicans can no longer stop tax increases.
Of course, arguments over taxes are never over, nor should they be. But one can hope for a different kind of conversation.
Perhaps the cries of martyrdom greeting almost every plan to raise government revenues can be replaced with a more dispassionate discussion: What do we want government to do, and how can we best pay for it?
As always, no one has to like paying taxes.
(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.)

Last Updated on Tuesday, 11 June 2013 08:02

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