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Susan Estrich - Holder cannot investigate himself; Dems need to stand up

No one should pretend that dealing with leaks of highly sensitive and classified national security documents is easy. I remember hearing plenty of conservatives taking to the airwaves to accuse The New York Times of nothing less than "treason" for publishing materials provided by WikiLeaks. I thought the Times publication was squarely within the bounds of First Amendment law, just as I think James Rosen was acting within the bounds of the First Amendment in the reporting that led to the government's securing a search warrant targeting him in 2010.
The balance between the First Amendment and national security is delicate and difficult, to say the least, and the actions taken against Rosen properly demand a thorough review of Justice Department policy. But the person leading that review should not be the same man who approved the Rosen warrant.
Eric Holder cannot investigate himself.
Any investigation or review led by him will not be taken seriously or accepted as legitimate. Off-the-record meetings with him will not restore confidence in his Justice Department.
I don't know Holder personally, but many people I know do. They say he is smart and thoughtful and decent, an honorable man in an unbelievably difficult job in a bitter and partisan town.
I expect that when he approved the warrant for Rosen's records, a warrant that named Rosen as a potential member of a conspiracy to commit espionage, Holder did so not because he doesn't like Rosen or Fox News, but because he was very concerned about a dangerous leak of sensitive information.
I expect that when he tells Congress he is troubled by warrants aimed at journalists, he really is. I expect that he is determined to lead a fair and thorough review of Justice Department policies, as the president has directed.
But none of that matters. No one can credibly investigate themselves.
An investigation led by the very man whose actions triggered the need for an investigation will be viewed as a whitewash regardless of its conclusion. His efforts to reach out to journalists in an off-the-record meeting were bound to lead, as they did, to rejections from major news organizations (including The New York Times, Fox News and others).
What is startling to me, frankly, is that neither the White House nor Holder seems to "get" this. Have they blinded themselves to so basic a principle as the one that says you can't investigate yourself? Is Washington so overheated that no one can see that everything has to be on the record if you are to restore trust?
Yes, Holder has been the target of partisan attack for much of the past four years. Yes, some of the criticism now is being brought by those who are only too happy to pile on another "Obama scandal. But the answers offered by the administration and the Justice Department — a Holder-led investigation, an off-the-record meeting — are stoking the flames.
To date, Democrats mostly have been biting their tongues. But that won't last.
James Comey, President Obama's choice to head the FBI, made his name as acting attorney general during the famous "hospital room standoff" in which Comey stood up to the Bush White House's effort to try to convince the hospitalized attorney general to reapprove a wiretapping program that raised serious constitutional problems. Comey put law above politics, which is where it belongs.
Prominent Democrats, sooner or later, will have to do the same. They can only get away with being "deeply troubled" for so long. The White House is not only giving ammunition to its opponents, but it's also putting its friends in an impossible position.
Find a prominent Republican who values both the First Amendment and national security. Ask that person to put together an independent task force to review Justice Department policy. This is not that hard. What is hard to understand is why the White House hasn't done it already.
(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 Friday, 31 May 2013 08:52

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Michelle Malkin - Nanny-state 'navigators' are on the way

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius controls a $54 million slush fund to hire thousands of "navigators," "in-person assisters" and counselors who will propagandize and enroll Obamacare recipients in government-run health insurance exchanges. This nanny-state navigator corps is the Mother of all Community Organizing Boondoggles. It's also yet another Obama threat to Americans' privacy.
A reminder about Secretary Sebelius' sordid snooping history is in order here. In August 2009, HHS and the White House Office of Health Reform called on their ground troops to report on fellow citizens who dared to criticize their federal health care takeover. Team Obama issued an all-points bulletin on the taxpayer-funded White House website soliciting informant emails. Remember?
"If you get an e-mail or see something on the Web about health insurance reform that seems fishy, send it to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ," the Obamacare overlords urged. The feds even singled out conservative Internet powerhouse Matt Drudge because he had featured a video compilation of Obama and other Democrats — in their own words — exposing the "public option" as a Trojan Horse for government-run health care and the elimination of private industry.
Texas GOP Sen. John Cornyn protested at the time that "these actions taken by your White House staff raise the specter of a data collection program." The flagging operation was shut down, but a plethora of federal disclosure exemptions protect the Obama administration from revealing what was collected, who was targeted and what was done with the database information.
White House lapdogs dismissed the concerns of conservatives as paranoid delusions. Now, fast-forward three years. In light of the draconian IRS witch hunt against tea party groups and the Justice Department's plundering of journalists' phone records and email accounts, every tax-subsidized Obama "outreach" initiative warrants heightened scrutiny.
Obamacare navigators will have access to highly personal data from potential "customers" to assess their "needs." That means income levels, birthdates, addresses, eligibility for government assistance, Social Security numbers and sensitive medical information. They'll be targeting both individuals and small businesses. Anyone they can lay their grubby hands on. Who's getting the navigator grants and training? "Community groups" in 33 states that naturally include socialized medicine-supporting unions and Saul Alinsky-steeped activist outfits.
On Capitol Hill last week, a top Obamacare official told GOP lawmakers that navigators will not be required to undergo background checks. Criminal records are not automatically disqualifying — and that includes identity theft.
The federal rule-makers will require online training of a measly 20 hours. Health care regulations watchdog Betsy McCaughey adds that navigators "don't have to know math or insurance, but rules announced April 5 specify you have to match the race, ethnicity and language preferences of the neighborhood that will be targeted."
The Obamacare navigator corps smacks of ACORN redux, stocked with demographically tailored Democratic Party recruitment operatives, not objective, informed insurance experts.
Sebelius and her enforcers promise strict neutrality and clean conduct. The bureaucrats say there will be severe consequences for violating citizens' privacy or breaking any other laws. Pffft. The Office of Special Counsel determined that Secretary Sebelius herself violated the federal Hatch Act prohibition on exploiting her HHS leadership position for partisan activity last fall. She then tried to cover up her breach after the fact by classifying the event in which she electioneered for Obama as a "personal" appearance.
Consequences? What consequences?
Sebelius has zero credibility when it comes to reining in overzealous partisans. But she's darned good at unleashing them. During the White House pressure campaign for Obamacare, Sebelius goaded her "brothers and sisters" from the brass-knuckled SEIU. SEIU goon Dennis Rivera joined her on a White House conference call in which he lambasted tea party activists as the "radical fringe" of "right-wingers" whose protests amounted to "terrorist tactics."
Now, the SEIU is on the board of directors of Enroll America, the left-wing, Obamacare advocacy nonprofit for whom shakedown artist Sebelius has been soliciting funds.
Sebelius' corruptocracy runs deep. While she was governor of Kansas, an independent inspector general reported that her appointed health policy board had "applied pressure to alter an audit report, restricted access to legal advice and threatened to fire her for meeting independently with legislators," according to the Topeka Capital-Journal.
Team Sebelius was also embroiled in a ruthless vendetta and obstruction campaign against then-GOP Attorney General Phill Kline, who unearthed damning evidence that the Sebelius administration had shredded key documents related to felony charges against Sebelius' abortion racketeering friends at Planned Parenthood.
Sebelius notoriously threatened private companies and insurers who increased rates to cope with Obamacare coverage mandates. She bullied private companies to meet discriminatory and arbitrary disclosure demands. And she lashed out at newspapers that dared to report on the true costs of the Obamacare regulatory leviathan.
You can't trust sleazy Sebelius to navigate anything with her broken ethical compass. This is worse than the fox guarding the henhouse. She has unfettered authority and a bottomless budget to weaponize legions more foxes who will serve as Obamacare's eyes and ears on the ground. The snitch brigade lives.
(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 Wednesday, 31 December 1969 07:00

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Pat Buchanan - WIll the West wake up?

After a British soldier wearing a Help for Heroes charity T-shirt was run over, stabbed and slashed with machetes and a meat cleaver, and beheaded, the Tory government advised its soldiers that it is probably best not to appear in uniform on the streets of their capital.
Both murderers were wounded by police. One was photographed and recorded. His message: "There are many, many (verses) throughout the Quran that says we must fight them as they fight us. An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. I apologize that women had to witness this today, but in our land women have to see the same. Your people will never be safe."
According to ITV, one murderer, hands dripping blood, ranted, "We swear by almighty Allah we will never stop fighting you."
Both killers are Muslim converts of African descent, and both are British born.
Wednesday also, Stockholm and its suburbs ended a fourth night of riots, vandalism and arson by immigrant mobs protesting the police shooting of a machete-wielding 69-year-old. "We have institutional racism," says Rami Al-khamisi, founder of a group for "social change."
Sweden, racist? Among advanced nations, Sweden ranks fourth in the number of asylum seekers it has admitted and second relative to its population. Are the Swedes really the problem in Sweden?
The same day these stories ran, The Washington Post carried a front-page photo of Ibrahim Todashev, martial arts professional and friend of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who, with brother Dzhokhar, set off the bombs at the Boston Marathon massacre. Todashev, another Chechen, had been shot to death by FBI agents, reportedly after he confessed to his and Tamerlan's role in a triple murder in Waltham, Mass.
Though Tamerlan had been radicalized and Moscow had made inquiries about him, he had escaped the notice of U.S. authorities. Even after he returned to the Caucasus for six months, sought to contact extremists, then returned to the U.S.A., Tamerlan still was not on Homeland Security's radar.
His father, granted political asylum, went back to the same region he had fled in fear. His mother had been arrested for shoplifting. Yet none of this caused U.S. officials to pick up Tamerlan, a welfare freeloader, and throw the lot of them out of the country.
One wonders if the West is going to wake up to the new world we have entered, or adhere to immigration policies dating to a liberal era long since dead.
It was in 1965, halcyon hour of the Great Society, that Ted Kennedy led Congress into abolishing a policy that had restricted immigration for 40 years, while we absorbed and Americanized the millions who had come over between 1890 and 1920. The "national origins" feature of that 1924 law mandated that ships arriving at U.S. ports carry immigrants from countries that had provided our immigrants in the past. We liked who we were.
Immigration policy was written to reinforce the Western orientation and roots of America, 90 percent of whose population could by 1960 trace its ancestry to the Old Continent.
But since 1965, immigration policy has been run by people who detest that America and wanted a new nation that looked less like Europe and more like a continental replica of the U.N. General Assembly. They wanted to end America's history as the largest and greatest of Western nations and make her a nation of nations, a new society and a new people, more racially, ethnically, religiously and culturally diverse than any nation on the face of the earth.
Behind this vision lies an ideology, an idee fixe, that America is not a normal nation of blood and soil, history and heroes, but a nation erected upon an idea, the idea that anyone and everyone who comes here, raises his hand, and swears allegiance to the Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights becomes, de facto, not just a legal citizen but an American.
But that is no more true than to say that someone who arrives in Paris from Africa or the Middle East and raises his hand to declare allegiance to the Rights of Man thereby becomes a Frenchman.
What is the peril into which America and the West are drifting?
Ties of race, religion, ethnicity and culture are the prevailing winds among mankind and are tearing apart countries and continents. And as we bring in people from all over the world, they are not leaving all of their old allegiances and animosities behind. Many carry them, if at times dormant, within their hearts.
And if we bring into America — afflicted by her polarized politics, hateful rhetoric and culture wars — peoples on all sides of every conflict roiling mankind, how do we think this experiment is going to end?
The immigration bill moving through the Senate, with an amnesty for 11 to 12 million illegals already here, and millions of their relatives back home, may write an end to more than just the Republican Party.
(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, 29 May 2013 11:36

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Froma Harrop - World of rotten tax laws

Guy writes a film script full of four-letter words. But when the actors repeat them, he gets all huffy about the dirty language. An absurd reaction, wouldn't you say? But it's not so different from the scene in which our lawmakers scold corporate chieftains for exploiting tax loopholes their legislatures helped create.
There was no little "theater of the absurd" in calling Apple Inc. CEO Tim Cook on the senatorial carpet to explain himself. Apple's clever tax lawyers had created a scheme whereby the company managed to declare itself almost stateless when it came to paying taxes. The strategy let it shuffle revenues to offshore tax havens and escape paying billions in taxes at home.
Here's how it worked in a nutshell: Irish law says taxes are paid where contracts are signed, even if the actual sales take place in other countries. So Apple booked worldwide business at Apple Operations International in Ireland.
Meanwhile, Ireland's corporate tax rate of 12 percent is lower than America's top rate of 35 percent. And Apple managed to extract an even lower 2 percent rate from the Irish government. Though AOI was controlled from the United States, Apple used it to dodge $9 billion in U.S. taxes last year.
As Cook told the senators: "We pay all the taxes we owe, every single dollar. We not only comply with the laws, but we comply with the spirit of the laws."
It's not alone. Google, Amazon and other famous American brand names have their own tax avoidance strategies.
Would the world's business media please stop using terms like "legal but ethically dubious" to describe such practices? Now, a company marketing its products as "designed by Apple in California" might blush a bit over its herculean efforts to avoid supporting the civilization that made its success possible.
Let's not pin a medal on Cook's chest. But law, not ethics, governs the payment of taxes. A company has no moral duty to pay taxes it can legally not pay. Same goes for individuals. I think the deduction for mortgage interest is unfair and ought to go. But do I take it? As long as it's legal, you bet.
Cook was right to call for ending the loopholes and lowering America's corporate tax rate. That would be good for the U.S. Treasury, good for most companies and good for the civic health of the country.
This ancient idea has gone nowhere for a simple and depressing reason: We are asking our Congress to fix a tax code off which its members raise tons of money in campaign contributions and secure future employment.
Other countries can join us in closing the international tax loophole bazaar. Britain, France and Germany are likewise angry at tax avoidance deals — not only that offered by Ireland, but bank secrecy services provided by Austria, among others. Europe loses an estimated $1 trillion a year from tax dodging.
Britain's conservative prime minister, David Cameron, has vowed to discuss such concerns at the Group of 8 meeting scheduled next month in Northern Ireland. Google is under fire in Britain for selling almost $5 billion in product in 2011 while paying only $9 million in corporate taxes — thanks in good part to its use of the Irish tax refuge.
Exotic tax avoidance schemes flourish in chaos. To make the world fairer for companies that don't game the tax laws and workers who can't, our lawmakers must cooperate with each other and with foreigners to clean up the debris.
Can we expect them to pass up lobbyist checks and do what's right for the country? Yes, if the voters start paying attention.
(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, 28 May 2013 09:38

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Roy Sanborn - Going to the dogs

I got a call from an agent last week that was concerned that the last article I did called "Home Thefts Increase in the Lakes Region" might be misconstrued by the general public. The article was as a tongue in cheek recap of some really, really great deals that happened in April. She was very concerned, however, that people might think that there was some hanky-panky going on with some of the transactions that occurred either on the part of the agents or lenders and that someone wasn't doing their job. Trust me, that definitely isn't the case and it was not the point of the article.
If any of you have bought or sold a house in the past year, you understand that you'd have a better chance of stealing the Mona Lisa today than pulling off some kind of shady real estate transaction. Things are just that strict right now in the real estate world. All of the transactions were at arm's length and the agents involved are some of the very best and knowledgeable professionals in the business. These "deals" or "steals" are just a function of where we are in the market place today. My point was that now is the time to take advantage of these great prices and great financing opportunities. I apologize to anyone that might have thought otherwise.
We got a new Boxer puppy this week to keep my older Dobe company and it got me thinking. Mostly about, "what was I thinking?" But what if things take a turn for the worse and my wife throws me out with the dogs. Where would I go? She loves the dogs as much, if not more than I do, but after a sleepless night with a 12 week old puppy anything could happen. It's more likely that she would throw me out before the dogs, but I am considering the worst case scenario here. Anyway, as we always have had a dog and sometimes two or three. We have always put our critter's interests at the very top of the list when we were looking for property. If you love dogs, you know what I mean. You truly believe that a house is not a home unless you have a dog. And, more importantly, you understand that your dog is gracious enough to allow you live with him (or her) as long as you bring home the bacon, so to speak.
For us, a home has to have an adequate yard for the dogs to run and have relative seclusion or privacy. The biggest thing is that the yard has to be fenced and that's hard to find. While an invisible fence works fine for many people, I like to keep the other critters out of the yard. I'm not saying that you should rule out a property that is not fenced if everything else works, but fencing in a half acre or an acre of land can get a little expensive.
So, what's out there for property that you could consider "pet ready?" The open concept ranch at 35 Regan Way in Laconia does have a nice, but small, fenced in back yard. This place is probably more suitable for miniature and small breeds of dogs. Mastiffs should look elsewhere. I mentioned this property a few weeks ago as it is in "move in ready" condition for humans, too. 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, full basement, and a two car garage. This home is offered at $269,900. I showed the MLS sheet to my Dobe and she rates it Two Bones Out Of Five. Our new Boxer has not seen enough property yet to rate anything.
A truly pet ready property is located at 200 Parade Road in Meredith. It is so ready that you can run your own pet boarding and grooming business there. Currently operated as the Four Paws Pet Inn, this property consists of a 1,248-square-foot, open concept three bedroom, two bath home on four acres. It has a converted 800-square-foot horse barn serving to keep fido comfy and three fenced in play yards. This contemporary style saltbox has a large great room with vaulted ceilings and stone fireplace, hardwood floors, a nice kitchen with granite countertops, a screened porch, and a sun deck. This sounds like a great opportunity for someone to take over a going concern and make a living off us crazy dog lovers that think nothing is too much for our furry friends. This property is priced at $315,000 and is rated Four Bones.
My Dobe really liked the property at 241 Intervale Road in Canterbury as it is on a five acre lot with about an acre fenced in. She also liked the fact that it is an energy efficient, Crockett panel, log home with post and beam construction. I had to explain that it was not the Davy Crockett she saw on NetFlix the other day. But the house looks fantastic with 2,684-square-feet of living space, three beds, three baths, great room with cathedral ceilings and stone fireplace, kitchen with granite counter tops, three season porch, and separate guest quarters. There's also a kennel, but she thinks the guest quarters are more appropriate. We'd rate this property at Four Bones. It is on the market for $339,000 so take your pup for a ride and go take a look.
Lastly, there's a Five Bone home located at 261 Clough Hill Road in Loudon. This property has 164 acres with 20 acres of pasture for the pups to roam on, a nine stall dog run, in-floor heat so they stay toasty warm, and a gas fireplace to curl up to. The high quality house was built in 2004 and has 4,328-square-feet of living space, five bedrooms with a first floor master suite, four and a half baths, a custom kitchen with granite counter tops and stainless appliances, library, a sunroom, and even a 48' x 48' four stall horse barn for what my Dobe thinks are very, very tall dogs. As this property is on the market for $995,000 it is obviously not in every dog's price range. Do you know how many bags of dog food you can buy for that much money?
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. Roy Sanborn is a REALTOR® at Four Seasons Sotheby's International Realty and can be reached at 603-455-0335.

Last Updated on Friday, 24 May 2013 10:46

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