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Susan Estrich - We celebrate our streak of independence

"I feel I have an obligation to do everything I can to keep this country safe. So put that in your pipe and smoke it."
That's how Sen. Dianne Feinstein explained her view, which is winning her buckets of liberal criticism, as a defender of the NSA program.
Edward Snowden's leaks? "An act of treason."
She is 80 years old, and she is not pulling her punches. Right on.
This is what politics should be about. She is not doing what most of her friends want her to do. She isn't even playing around with some kind of middle ground — some yes, I'm for security, and yes, I'm for privacy, and of course there doesn't have to be a tradeoff between the two.
Actually, there does.
I can't really say I agree with Feinstein. How could I? She chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee. She knows as much about this program — how it works, what we've learned, plots that have been thwarted — as anyone.
I don't. I know there are tradeoffs. I know the threats are real. But as for evaluating the effectiveness of this program, how can anyone who doesn't know the details do that? As for specific abuses of privacy, we don't know about that, either, with the exception of the most egregious, which is of course Snowden's abuse.
What I find so admirable about Feinstein's stand is just how nonpolitical it is. It isn't based on a poll. A poll would never tell her to go so hard on this one. And why would she need a poll, anyway?
It has nothing to do with who has given her money in past campaigns. Liberals give her money. I'm sure she's hearing from them. But so what?
It isn't intended to win friends. She'll still be reviled for her ardent support of gun control by many of those who agree with her on this. She's a longtime supporter of gay marriage. Feinstein is never going to be the darling of the right, and I don't think she cares two whits about that.
She is doing what she thinks is right. She is standing up because she thinks it's what's needed to protect our country.
Agree with her or disagree with her, I defy you not to smile a little on this July 4th weekend and remember that standing on principle for what a leader believes is right — throwing the usual rules of "politics" to the wind — is the essence of the miracle we call America.
That's why we want "great" men and women in public office and on the bench. Most of the time, in the run-of-the-mill vote or decision or dispute, you may not need "greatness" to pick a side. "Greatness" is not a very good predictor of how someone will do at fundraising or whether they can endure months or years of canned speeches and town halls without making a ridiculous mistake. "Greatness" is not necessarily the same thing as never having done anything in your life that you wouldn't want to go viral.
We need great men and women for important moments, when what counts is courage and conviction, when you need to risk the wrath of your friends in order to seek what you believe to be the larger good.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein has always been known for a streak of independence. It's what makes a great senator.
It's what we celebrate with joy on the Fourth of July.
(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, 03 July 2013 10:01

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Pat Buchanan - Why Reagan Democrats drifted back home

On Nov. 3, 1969, Richard Nixon, his presidency about to be broken by massive antiwar demonstrations, called on "the great silent majority" to stand by him for peace with honor in Vietnam. They did. Within days Nixon's approval surged to 68 percent. The ferocious Republican partisan of the 1950s had won over millions of Democrats.
Why? Because sons and brothers of those Democrats were doing much of the fighting in Vietnam. If Nixon was standing by them, they would stand by him.
In 1972 Nixon would win 49 states. Ronald Reagan, backed by his "Reagan Democrats," would win 44- and 49-state landslides.
Yet since Reagan went home, Democrats have won the popular vote in five of six presidential elections. The New Majority is history. The Reagan Democrats have departed. What happened?
Answer: For a generation, when forced to choose between Middle America and corporate America, on NAFTA, most-favored nation for China, and free trade, the GOP establishment opted to go with the Fortune 500. In the GOP the corporate conservative rides up front; the social, cultural and patriotic conservatives in the back of the bus.
Consider who has benefited most from Republican-backed globalization. Was it not corporate executives and transnational companies liberated from the land of their birth and the call of patriotism? Under the rules of globalization, U.S. corporations could, without penalty or opprobrium, shut their factories, lay off their U.S. workers, erect new plants in Asia, produce their goods there, and bring them back free of any tariff to sell to consumers and kill the U.S. companies that elected to stay loyal to the U.S.A.
They then used the profits from abandoning America to raise executive salaries to seven and eight figures.
And how did the Reagan Democrats make out?
Real wages of U.S. workers have not risen for 40 years. One in three U.S. manufacturing jobs vanished between 2000 and 2010. The nation that used to produce 96 percent of all it consumed depends now on foreigners for the clothes and shoes we wear, the TV sets we watch, the radios we listen to, the computers we use, the cars we drive. A nation that used to export twice what it imported has been running huge trade deficits for decades. China now holds $1 trillion in U.S. debt and can buy Smithfield hams out of the petty cash drawer.
With 50,000 U.S. factories closing in this new century, the greatest manufacturing power in history has been hollowed out, as Beijing booms at our expense. Corporate America is building the new China that is pushing Uncle Sam out of the western Pacific.
"Where did the 'America' in corporate America go?" asks Robert Patterson in National Review.
The Bush aide hearkens back to "Engine Charlie" Wilson, Ike's first secretary of defense, who said, "For years I have thought what was good for our country was good for General Motors and vice versa." Wilson's words were twisted by a capitalist-baiting press, but he saw GM as first and foremost an American company.
Before Wilson there was William Knudson, the dollar-a-year man of FDR's war effort who converted GM and Detroit into the great arsenal of democracy, a story movingly told by Arthur Herman in "Freedom's Forge: How American Business Produced Victory in World War II."
"In the good old days," writes Patterson, "Americans could at least count on business leaders being pro-American. Beloved or not, major corporations functioned as true stakeholders of America: fortifying American industry and building American factories, spreading American innovation, paying billions of dollars in American taxes and creating millions of high paying 'family-wage' jobs that helped create and sustain an expanding middle class."
And today?
"No longer committed to a particular place, people, country or culture, our largest public companies have turned globalist, while abdicating the responsibility they once assumed to America and its workers." Citing Joel Kotkin's work, Patterson adds, "the worst offenders are Apple, Facebook, Google, the high-tech firms secluded in Silicon Valley, a dreamland where the information age glitterati make Gilded Age plutocrats look bourgeois."
Google has five times GM's market capitalization but employs only one-fourth the number of GM's American workers. Steve Jobs' Apple has "700,000 industrial serfs" working overseas.
Since we bailed it out, GM has become "General Tso's Motors," creating 6,000 new jobs in China while shedding 78,000 U.S. jobs here.
Marco Rubio today leads Senate Republicans in doing the bidding of corporate America, which, in payback for its campaign contributions, wants amnesty for 12 million illegal aliens.
Agribusinesses need more peons. Restaurant chains want more waitresses, dishwashers, busboys. Construction companies want more ditch-diggers. Silicon Valley demands hundreds of thousands more H-1Bs — foreign graduate students who can be hired for half what an American engineer might need to support his family.
"Merchants have no country," said Thomas Jefferson. "The mere spot they stand on does not constitute so strong an attachment as that from which they draw their gains."
Amen to that.
(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 Tuesday, 02 July 2013 08:38

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Froma Harrop - Get government out of the marriage business

The Supreme Court's boost for same-sex marriage was just and overdue. But the arguments, pro and con, begged a bigger question: Should government be involved in marriage at all? The answer would seem "no."
Marriage should be the business of clergy and ship captains. The government should bestow its blessings only on civil unions, however defined. Several comments of the past week bolster this view.
"Now I can marry the person I love," was the victory refrain of gays suddenly able to wed in California. Let us toast the impending nuptials.
But government doesn't grant marriage status to certify love. It does so to designate who qualifies for the rights and benefits attached to being in a government-sanctioned marriage. Lots of married people don't love their partners. Lots of unmarried people do. But love or no, married people do receive thousands of government bennies.
The Supreme Court did good, ditching the part of the Defense of Marriage Act denying gays legally married in a dozen states the federal benefits available to married heterosexuals. "By extending health insurance and other important benefits to federal employees and their families, regardless of whether they are in same-sex or opposite sex marriages," Attorney General Eric Holder announced, "the Obama administration is making real the promise of this important decision."
Very nice, but why do married couples get this help with long-term care insurance, retirement and countless other things, and sisters caring for each other do not? It doesn't compute now and never did. Then there are the legal rights.
One of last week's cases was brought on behalf of Edith Windsor, hit with a $363,000 tax on the estate of her gay partner. Although they'd been together for 42 years and had married in Toronto, the federal government did not recognize their marriage as legal. Had they been heterosexual and married, the property would have passed to the surviving partner free of estate tax.
The court ruled that the federal government had to recognize marriages deemed legal where they were performed. That's fair, but tell us why a brother and sister similarly caring for one another should have to pay estate taxes if one dies. Or consider television's "Golden Girls" — rest in peace, Bea Arthur — sharing that lovely house in Miami.
When you think about it, only one thing distinguishes marriage from these other relationships: sex, or the presumption of sex.
Social conservatives opposed to gay marriage rest most of their case on the presumption of children. Their claim that a strong marriage provides the best structure for raising children seems solid. It does not quite follow, though, that the parents must be of different genders.
Marriage doesn't necessarily lead to procreation, and being gay does not necessarily mean being childless. Justice Anthony Kennedy, having noted that a law banning same-sex marriage did "legal injury" to 40,000 children in California living with gay parents, argued that DOMA "places same-sex couples in an unstable position of being in a second-tier marriage."
The point that centuries of tradition dictate that marriage be a mystical bonding between man and woman ignores the 21st century. Former model Christie Brinkley enjoyed all the rights and benefits of marriage with all four of her husbands. One must ask either "why?" or "why not?"
If nurturing children is a goal of government, government should nurture children. There are child tax credits, day care, aid for education and many other ways to further that mission.
Tying financial benefits to this fuzzy institution called marriage makes no sense. Let other authorities marry people for religious, romantic, spiritual or whatever reasons. Government should get out of this business.
(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 Wednesday, 31 December 1969 07:00

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Roy Sanborn - Good deals under $200k?

A whirl around the active listings on the multiple listing service revealed some potentially good deals around the $200,000 mark that might be worth a look if you are in the market for a new home. If you'd like to be in one of Laconia's nicest neighborhoods and have water access to one of the best beaches on Winnisquam, the home at 205 Shore Drive might just fit your needs. This four bedroom, two bath home was built in 1950 on a third acre lot and has a total of 1,863-square-feet of living space. The home has a newer addition with a permitted in-law apartment or you could quickly convert it to a single residence before your mother-in-law finds out about it. There are hardwood floors hidden under the carpets, a wood fireplace, screened porch, a one car garage under, and a newer boiler, recent roof, and vinyl clad windows. This home may be across the street from the water but you do have partial views of the lake and the association beach is diagonally across the road. How great is that? This home is priced reasonably at $199,900 which is already at 88 percent of the assessed value of $227,600. It's in a great location with access to a fantastic beach and it could be a great deal if it is right for you.
Also priced at $199,900 is a 2,464-square-foot contemporary built in 1986 at 26 Mountain Drive in New Hampton. This location feels a little more like Meredith as it is just a short drive down to the center of town to get fish and chips at the Town Docks. This home has an open floor plan, a master suite, two guest bedrooms, another full plus a half bath, beamed ceilings, fireplace with a wood stove insert, solid wood doors, tile floors, and a two car garage under. The home sits on a 2.86 acre lot with lush lawns and seasonal mountain views. This home is priced at 74 percent of the current assessment of $270,700. I think these guys are looking to move this home.
If you're looking to get on the lake, the property at 6 Winter Way in Alton is being offered as a short sale for $219,900 which is $70,000 less than assessed value. The home has great views overlooking Alton Bay and 140' of deeded lake access across the street with dock usage on a rotational basis. Not sure how this really works, but it will get you onto Winni. This is a log home constructed in 2003 and has 2,805-square-feet of living space, three bedrooms, one and a half baths, natural pine woodwork inside, exposed beams, cathedral ceilings, woodstove, radiant heat, and a one car garage under. There is some exterior finish work to be done and the property is being sold as is.
Also on the market in Laconia, at 2698 Parade Road, there is a 2,371-square-foot, three bedroom, one and three quarter bath cape built in 1960 on a 2.96 acre lot. It has been owned for the same family for the past thirty years which is a rare thing these days. This home a large eat in kitchen, family room with wood fireplace, formal dining room, mud room, two car garage, and a screened in porch overlooking beautiful perennial gardens which no doubt have been enhanced by being just down the street from Pedal Pushers. This well maintained home is offered at $219,000 or 79 percent of its assessed value. Go check it out and stop by and get some petunias while you're there.
Please feel free to visit the new, updated www.lakesregionhome.com to learn more about the Lakes Region real estate market and comment on this article and others. 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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Michael Barone - Supreme Court offers mixed verdict - 752

This has been a big week for the Supreme Court. In four separate cases, it applied stricter scrutiny to racial quotas and preferences in higher education, overturned part of the Voting Rights Act, ruled unconstitutional the Defense of Marriage Act and dismissed an appeal of a case overturning California voters' ban on same-sex marriage.
At the same time, it pointedly declined to declare that there is a constitutional right to same-sex marriage.
There were victories and setbacks here for political and cultural conservatives and for political and cultural liberals.
Only one of the four cases was decided by the familiar 5-4 split between supposedly conservative and supposedly liberal justices. In the other three, as often this year, there were different lineups.
The common thread I see is that this is a court that has mostly tried to keep the three branches of the federal government and the states from interfering with each other.
This was arguably true in Fisher v. University of Texas, the case on racial preferences in college and university admissions. The decision was written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, who had dissented from the 2003 decision allowing quotas. But Kennedy declined to rule them out altogether, as Justice Clarence Thomas urged. Rather, Kennedy said courts should apply "strict scrutiny" to preferences that must be "narrowly tailored," as he argued in his 2003 dissent.
Justice Stephen Breyer, in the majority then, agreed with this narrowing, forming a 7-1 majority. Only Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dissented.
Fisher may discourage schools from employing racial quotas, and it could lead them to consider giving preferences to disadvantage applicants not classified as black or Hispanic. That could result in less litigation.
The court did strike down a federal law in Shelby County v. Holder, Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act. That provision requires certain states and localities, based on low black turnout in elections between 1964 and 1972 (mostly but not all in the South), to get preclearance of any election law changes from the federal Justice Department.
The criteria make no sense today and Congress should write new ones, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote. The problem is that today black turnout rates are higher than white ones in Mississippi, while the state where they lag farthest behind is Massachusetts.
So Congress may not be able to come up with new criteria. That would mean less federal interference with the states. Individuals and the Justice Department can still sue to stop racial discrimination in voting where it exists under Section 2.
The Defense of Marriage Act, signed by Bill Clinton in 1996, bars the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages authorized by states, and allows states not to recognize same-sex marriages from other states. It was overturned 5-4 in U.S. v. Windsor, written by Kennedy.
That means that same-sex couples can file joint federal tax returns and qualify for the spousal exemption in federal estate tax. It may mean that same-sex couples can get divorces in states that don't allow them to marry. It may overturn any state law barring same-sex couples from adopting children. Other wrinkles are left to the states to sort out.
But the court was unwilling to impose same-sex marriage on states that don't want it. That was the practical effect of Perry v. Hollingsworth, which left in place a California federal trial court decision overturning California's Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage.
The state declined to defend the law on appeal, and the chief justice wrote that the private parties who appealed lacked the standing to do so. He got the votes of the unusual coalition of justices Antonin Scalia, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan.
Ginsburg supports Roe v. Wade but has spoken with some concern about the furor the court caused by legalizing abortion across the nation. She and some colleagues may have dreaded a similar furor if the court legalized same-sex marriage everywhere. The practical effect is that California now has same-sex marriage. But polls indicate that California voters stood ready to reverse Proposition 8's narrow 52 to 48 percent margin if the issue again got on the ballot.
These decisions, which tend to restrain branches of government from interfering with each other, were the product of no single coalition. No justice voted with the majority in all four cases, but each voted with the majority in two or three. A thought-provoking session.
(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 Friday, 28 June 2013 08:03

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