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Pat Buchanan - Let Allah sort it out

On U.S. military intervention in Syria's civil war, where "both sides are slaughtering each other as they scream over an arbitrary red line 'Allahu akbar' ... I say let Allah sort it out."
So said Sarah Palin to the Faith and Freedom Coalition conference. And, as is not infrequently the case, she nailed it.
Hours later, Gideon Rachman of the Financial Times, at length, echoed Palin: "Those who are urging the U.S. to get more deeply involved in the Syrian conflict now are living in the past."
Four fundamental changes make it "no longer realistic, or even desirable, for the U.S. to dominate" the Middle East as we did from the Suez crisis of 1956 through the Iraq invasion of 2003.
The four changes: the failures of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, the Great Recession, the Arab Spring and emerging U.S. energy independence.
Indeed, with $2 trillion sunk, 7,000 U.S. troops dead, 40,000 wounded, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and Afghans dead, and millions of refugees, what do we have to show for this vast human and material waste?
Can a country with an economy limping along, one that has run four consecutive deficits in excess of $1 trillion, afford another imperial adventure?
On the Shiite side of the Syrian civil war are Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Hezbollah and Syrian President Bashar Assad. On the Sunni side are the al-Qaida-affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra, Sunni jihadists from across the Middle East, the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
Is victory for either side worth yet another U.S. war?
Ought we not stand back and ask: What vital interest is imperiled here?
And even if Americans favor one side or the other, how lasting an impact could any U.S. intervention have? The region is in turmoil.
Since the Tunisian uprising that dethroned an autocratic ally, dictators have fallen in Egypt and Libya. There have been a Shiite revolt in Bahrain, a civil war in Yemen and a civil-sectarian war in Syria that has cost 90,000 lives. Iraq is disintegrating. Al-Qaida is in Pakistan, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, the Maghreb region and Mali.
Now the muezzin's call to religious war is heard.
"How could 100 million Shiites defeat 1.7 billion (Sunnis)?" roared powerful Saudi cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi, calling for a Sunni-Shiite war. Al-Qaradawi denounces Assad's Alawite sect as "more infidel than Christians and Jews" and calls Hezbollah "the party of the devil."
"Everyone who has the ability and has training to kill ... is required to go" to Syria, said al-Qaradawi.
In Afghanistan, the Taliban have made a comeback, and the United States is negotiating with the same crowd we sent an army to oust in 2001. And the press reports we will be leaving behind $7 billion in U.S. military vehicles and equipment when we depart.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the most successful Turkish leader since Kemal Ataturk, appears to have lost his mandate, with hundreds of thousands pouring into streets and squares both to denounce and to defend him.
The United States, says Rachman, "has recognised that, ultimately, the people of the Middle East are going to have to shape their own destinies. Many of the forces at work in the region — such as Islamism and Sunni-Shia sectarianism — are alarming to the West but they cannot be forever channelled or suppressed."
Did those clamoring today for intervention in Syria learn nothing from Ronald Reagan's intervention in an earlier Arab civil war, the one in Lebanon? Result: 241 dead Marines, the U.S. Embassy in Beirut bombed and hostages taken.
Reagan left office believing his decision to put Marines in Lebanon was his greatest mistake. And to retrieve those hostages, he acceded to a transfer of weapons to Iran, an action that almost broke his presidency.
Yet it is not only in the Middle East that we are "living in the past," in a world long gone. As Ted Galen Carpenter writes in Chronicles, under NATO we are committed to go to war with Russia on behalf of 27 nations.
If Russia collides with Estonia or Latvia over the treatment of their Russian minorities, we fight Russia. For whose benefit is this commitment?
Today Japan spends 1 percent of its gross domestic product on defense. Yet the USA is committed to go to war to defend not only the home islands but the Senkaku islets and rocks in the East China Sea that China also claims.
Are the Senkakus really worth a war with China?
NATO was established to defend Europe. Yet Europe spends less on its own defense than we do. Sixty years after the Korean War, we remain committed to defend South Korea against North Korea. Yet South Korea has an economy 40 times as large as North Korea's.
Former Rep. Ron Paul asks: Why, when U.S. debt is larger than our GDP and we are running mammoth annual deficits, are we borrowing money abroad to give away in foreign aid?
Good question. As for those ethnic, sectarian and civil wars raging across the Middle East, let Allah sort it out.
(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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Sanborn - Don't be derogatory...

May was a great month for residential home sales with 99 transactions at an average price of $303,580 and a median price point of $192,500. That just edges out last May's total of 97 sales at an average price of $251,717. That's pretty darn good, but I wanted to break that elusive 100-sales-in-a-month mark! Couldn't one other person have bought a home!?! As usual, the majority of the sales are still below that $200,000 price point as buyers take advantage of the bargains currently available in the Lakes Region.
Unfortunately, we are still seeing a number of homes going to foreclosure or being sold as short sales. In the towns listed in this report, there were 72 bank owned homes sold plus nine other properties sold through the short sale process through the first five months of the year (at least according to the MLS). That represents about 23 percent of all the sales. In typical government fashion, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae have come up with a term for foreclosures, short sales, and bankruptcies; they call them "Derogatory Events". Now, I think I would have called it something different instead. The definition of derogatory includes; degrading, demeaning, disparaging, slighting, and uncomplimentary. After all, aren't we supposed to be a kinder, gentler, and politically correct nation now? As any school child (used) to know, if you said something derogatory to someone you could end up standing in the corner instead of going out to recess.
Well, it's kind of the same thing with Fannie and Freddie backed loans if you've done something "derogatory" such as a short sale. Except you stand in the corner a lot longer when it comes to getting financing for a property again. I am not sure that all home owners understand this. Some may think that a short sale doesn't affect their ability to get a loan down the road, but it does. Fannie and Freddie have guides and matrixes explaining the rules and time lines that apply to borrowers that have had a "derogatory event" or "financial mismanagement" problem. They might even have drones but that's another issue entirely.
For example, to get financing from Freddie you will have to wait four years to get another loan and the loan to value ratio would be a maximum of 90 percent. Fannie can provide financing at 80 percent loan to value after two years or 90 percent loan to value mortgage after four years. This is, of course, dependant on your credit scores. The majority of conventional loans do follow Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae guidelines, but some lenders may have stricter requirements and their own credit overlay, so Freddie and Fannie's "wait-times" are the minimum. And, should you want to buy a vacation home or income property you'll have to wait seven long years so don't think you're going to run out and start a real estate empire anytime soon.
So, what if there are "extenuating circumstances?" Well, you won't have to stand in the corner quite so long if something bad happens that was well beyond your control; like the loss of a primary income earner or a long term uninsured disability. But even that has to be very well documented. I think they ask for your dearly departed to be brought into their office and propped up in the corner. Extenuating circumstances does not include a decline in market conditions and the fact that your home lost a third of its value. Something like, "It's not my fault. My dog ate my homework" just doesn't cut it either. Should you be able to convince them of circumstances extraordinaire, both Freddie and Fannie can reduce your time in the corner to two years with a maximum of a 90 percent LTV mortgage.
Now apparently the FHA criteria are a lot more lenient and say that you may be eligible for a new loan after just one year. Remember the key word in that sentence is "may" and while the FHA rules "may" allow it many lenders that write the FHA backed loans could be a little more than reluctant to write such a loan.
I am not saying that a home owner in distress should avoid a short sale. He just needs to be aware of what happens after. The consequences for a short sale are certainly less than a seven year waiting period resulting from a foreclosure under the Freddie Mac guidelines. That's more like a very, very long detention. My best tip for you is to behave yourself, don't be derogatory, and stay in school.
Thanks to my friend Jennifer McCall at Merrimack Mortgage in Meredith for schooling me on this issue...
And, oh yes, she says they change the rules all the time so check with your lender if you are currently still in the corner.
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 6/19/13. Roy Sanborn is a REALTOR® at Four Seasons Sotheby's International Realty and can be reached at 603-455-0335.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 December 1969 07:00

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Susan Estrich - The teacher's ex

She lost her job for reasons having nothing to do with her and everything to do with her ex-husband.
Carie Charlesworth is a teacher and a mother. She has 14 years of experience working for the San Diego Diocese and four kids.
Her ex is a felon, due to be released from prison later in June. In January, he came to the Catholic school where she was teaching, in violation of a restraining order. The school was put on lockdown. The teacher was put on paid leave.
The school director let her know they would not be offering her a contract for next fall. "Please understand," the director told her, "that this was a very difficult decision to make, and we are deeply, deeply sorry about this situation. We will continue to pray for you and your family."
"I followed all the things they tell domestic abuse victims to do," Charlesworth told the press in going public with her story. "Now I feel I was the one who got punished. This is why other victims do not come forward."
After the first incident at school, school officials had their lawyer check her ex-husband's record. It turned out to be a long one: a 20-plus-year history of violence and abuse. He pleaded guilty to felony counts of abuse and stalking. His lawyer says he still loves his wife. God help her.
Should Charlesworth be punished because of her ex-husband's violence? Of course not.
And how would you feel if your child was assigned to her second-grade class?
After the January episode, a number of parents apparently told school officials that they would pull their children from the school if steps were not taken.
After the news broke last week that she was being terminated, causing a public uproar, a group of about 30 parents rallied to support the school's decision, saying they feared for their children's safety. "Decisions had to be made that would protect all of our kids, her kids included," one of the parents told a local television station. "Those were hard decisions, and our principal and the Diocese had to do the best they could. And they did."
As I write this, news has just broken that an unidentified private school in the Los Angeles area has offered Charlesworth a job. "If nothing else, I'm more than happy to simply say to her, 'There's somebody out there that cares,'" the official at the Los Angeles school told the press.
Actually, my guess is that there are plenty of people who care about Carie Charlesworth and her children. Caring isn't the problem. Protecting her is.
Two other news stories this week make clear just how big a challenge that is. On Saturday, Michelle Kane, a 43-year-old mother of two, was stabbed to death by her estranged husband — the day after the victim went to LAPD to complain that he had violated a restraining order. Her husband, by the way, was a teacher. On Monday, an Orange County man, John Agosta, was convicted of shooting his estranged wife nine times in the chest after following her from the preschool where she worked as a teacher's aide.
Much has changed in public attitudes toward domestic violence, once considered a "private" matter and not the serious crime that it is. Laws have been changed. Police cars in Los Angeles sport bumper stickers promising zero tolerance. Women are encouraged to come forward — the way Michelle Kane did, the way Carie Charlesworth did. Police do their best, which may not be enough.
Agosta's attorney, Frederick Fascenelli, told reporters the shooting was a crime of passion and his client will appeal.
A crime of passion? I don't think so. An act of utter savagery is more like it — and by a man no parent would want within a thousand miles of their children.
The answer can't be that women with dangerous ex-husbands become professional outcasts. They cannot spend the rest of their lives in shelters, unemployed and unemployable. The alternative is that we do a better job of protecting them and of permanently incarcerating their dangerous husbands.
This week, at least, you can understand why the San Diego parents were worried. Of course it's wonderful that Carie Charlesworth has been offered a job teaching in Los Angeles. But that's easy for me to say. My youngest is in college. I don't know what I'd be saying if he were going to be in Ms. Charlesworth's class this fall.
(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 Wednesday, 31 December 1969 07:00

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Michael Barone - Is libertarian trend a good thing for America?

Are Americans becoming more libertarian on cultural issues? I see evidence that they are, in poll findings and election results on three unrelated issues — marijuana legalization, same-sex marriage and gun rights.
Start with pot. Last November voters in the states of Colorado and Washington voted to legalize marijuana, by a 55 to 45 percent margin in Colorado (more than Barack Obama's margin in the state) and by 56 to 44 percent in Washington.
In contrast, California voters rejected legalization 53 to 47 percent in 2010. These results and poll data suggest a general movement toward legal marijuana.
State legislatures in Denver and Olympia have been grappling with regulatory legislation amid uncertainty over whether federal law — and federal law enforcers — override their state laws. But marijuana has already become effectively legal in many of the states that have reduced penalties for possession of small amounts or have legalized medical marijuana. You can easily find addresses and phone numbers of dispensaries on the Web.
Same-sex marriage, rejected in statewide votes between 1998 and 2008 and most recently in North Carolina in May 2012, was approved by voters in Maine and Maryland in November 2012, and voters then rejected a ban on it in Minnesota. Since then, legislators in Delaware, Minnesota and Rhode Island have voted to legalize same-sex marriage. A dozen states and the District of Columbia now have similar laws that would have been unthinkable two decades ago.
I have yet to see signs of political backlash. Polls show that support for same-sex marriage is well nigh universal among young Americans, but it has also been rising among their elders.
To some it may seem odd to yoke together marijuana and gay rights, generally thought of as causes of the left, with gun rights, supported more by the political right. Yet in all three cases Americans have been moving toward greater liberty for the individual.
One landmark was the first law, passed in Florida in 1987, allowing ordinary citizens to carry concealed weapons. Many, including me, thought that the result would be frequent shootouts in the streets. That hasn't happened. It turns out that almost all ordinary citizens handle guns with appropriate restraint, as they do with the other potential deadly weapon people encounter every day, the automobile.
Concealed-carry laws have spread to 40 states, with few ill effects. Politicians who opposed them initially, like former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, have not sought their repeal.
In contrast, voters have reacted negatively to gun control proposals, even after horrific events like the Newtown massacre. That was apparent in the Senate's rejection of the Toomey-Manchin gun registration bill.
What about the cultural issue that most pundits mention first, abortion? Attitudes have remained roughly the same: Most Americans think abortion should be, in Bill Clinton's phrase, safe, legal and rare.
Young Americans, contrary to their libertarian leaning on same-sex marriage, are slightly less pro-abortion rights than their elders. They've seen sonograms, and all of them by definition owe their existence to a decision not to abort. And from the point of view of the unborn child, abortion is the opposite of liberating.
Back in the conformist America of the 1950s — a nation of greater income equality and stronger labor unions, as liberals like to point out — marijuana, homosexual acts and abortion weren't political issues. They were crimes. And opposition to gun control measures in the 1950s and 1960s was much less widespread and vigorous than it is today.
Is this libertarian trend a good thing for the nation? Your answer will depend on your values.
I'm inclined to look favorably on it. I think the large majority of Americans can use marijuana and guns responsibly. Same-sex marriage can be seen as liberating, but it also includes an element of restraint. Abortions in fact have become more rare over a generation.
But I do see something to worry about. In his bestseller "Coming Apart," my American Enterprise Institute colleague Charles Murray shows that college-educated Americans have handled liberating trends of the 1970s like no-fault divorce with self-restraint. But at the bottom of the social scale we have seen an unraveling, with out-of-wedlock births, continuing joblessness, lack of social connectedness and civic involvement.
In conformist America the old prohibitions provided these people with guardrails, as The Wall Street Journal's Daniel Henninger has written. In today's more libertarian America, the guardrails may be gone.
(Syndicated columnist Michael Barone is senior political analyst for The Washington Examiner, is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Fox News Channel contributor and co-author of The Almanac of American Politics.)

Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 December 1969 07:00

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Jim Hightower - Repeal the Patriot Act

It's back. The Patriot Act — that grotesque, ever-mutating, hydra-headed monstrosity from the Bush-Cheney Little Shop of Horrors — has risen again, this time with an added twist of Orwellian intrusiveness from the Obamacans.
Since 2006, Team Bush, and then Team Obama, have allowed the little-known, hugely powerful National Security Agency to run a daily dragnet through your and my phone calls — all on the hush-hush, of course, not informing us spyees. Now exposed, leaders of both parties are piously pointing to the Patriot Act, saying that it legalized this wholesale, everyday invasion of our privacy, so we shouldn't be surprised, much less upset by NSA's surreptitious peek-a-boo program.
When the story broke, Obama quickly began dissembling, calling these massive and routine violations of the Fourth Amendment "modest encroachments on privacy" that are "worth us doing" to make us more secure. He added disingenuously that Congress is regularly briefed about the program. In fact, however, only a handful of members are briefed, and even they have been lied to by Obama's director of national intelligence, James Clapper, who flatly denied in Senate testimony in March that NSA was gathering information on hundreds of millions of our citizens' phone calls. Yet, Sen. Diane Feinstein, chairwoman of the intelligence committee, loyally defends spying on Americans, claiming it protects us from terrorists. But she then admitted she really doesn't know how the mountains of data are being used.
This is nothing but the "Great Bottomless Trust-Us Swamp," created by the panicky passage and irresponsible reauthorization of the Patriot Act. Secretly seizing everyone's phone records is, as the ACLU put it, "beyond Orwellian." A New York Times editorial rightly says, "The administration has now lost all credibility on this issue." But no administration can be trusted to restrain itself from abusing the unlimited power of the Patriot Act.
It's not enough to fight NSA's outrageously invasive spying on us — the Patriot Act itself is a shameful betrayal of America's ideals, and it must be repealed.
When whistleblower Eric Snowden literally blew the lid off NSA's seven-year, super-snooper program of rummaging electronically through about a billion phone calls made every day by us average Americans, Al Gore tweeted: "Is it just me, or is secret blanket surveillance obscenely outrageous?" It's definitely not just you, Al — this latest explosion of the Fourth Amendment is so mega-awful that authorities had to conjure up a new word for the process: Metadata mining.
Most shocking, however, is the tin-eared, who-cares reaction by both Republican and Democratic leaders to this outrageous meta-surveillance. For example, GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham blustered that, "It doesn't bother me one bit that NSA has my number." Hey, Lindsey, it's not your number we're worried about. It's NSA's collection of our entire country's numbers. Then came Sen. Saxby Chambliss: "We have not had any citizen who has registered a complaint," he blathered. Hello, Sen. Clueless: No one knew to complain since y'all kept the program secret from us! Remember?
Even more ridiculous was President Obama's feeble effort to rationalize this spookery by declaring that Congress knew about it, as did a special spy court that routinely reviews and blesses it, so it's all legit. In a perplexed voice, Obama added: "If people cant trust the executive branch, but also don't trust Congress and don't trust federal judges ... then we're going to have some problems here."
Gosh sir, We the People have now learned that all three branches of government have furtively conspired for seven years to violate our privacy — so, no, we don't trust any of them. And, yes, that is a biiiiiiig problem.
(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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