Prussian Chancellor Otto von Bismarck is sometimes credited with the proverb, "God has a special providence for fools, drunks and the United States of America."
Observing the unfolding of the Syrian crisis, the Iron Chancellor was an insightful man. In August, we were hours away from missile strikes on Syria and involvement in its civil war with the possibility that Hezbollah, Iran and Russia would be drawn in. Seeking a way out of the box into which he gotten himself with his "Assad Must Go!" and "red line" bluster, President Obama announced he was going to Congress to get its backing, before bombing. This ignited a Middle American uprising against Obama's war. Then John Kerry said Syria could evade the terrible swift sword of Barack Obama only by surrendering all their chemical weapons within a week.
Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, watching the United States careening toward a war that Russia no more wanted than did most of Congress, seized upon Kerry's statement and said: Let us work together to rid Syria of chemical arms. Obama grabbed the life preserver.
To say the War Party is apoplectic at Obama for blowing this chance to get us into war with Syria, which held real promise of sucking us into a war with Iran, is an understatement. The worst peace scare in memory is sweeping through the think tanks of Washington.
Conceding the incompetence of how Obama and Kerry got us into this mess, are we not in a far better place than a month ago?
— A U.S. war on Syria has been averted. We are not killing Syrians.
— Assad has conceded he has chemical weapons and has shown a willingness to have inspectors come in and remove it.
— The chilly, almost Cold War-like relations between Obama and Putin have given way to cooperation in getting these chemical weapons chronicled and removed.
— While this disarmament may take years, this is a powerful incentive for America and Russia to bring about a cease-fire, truce or end to this civil-sectarian war that has taken so many thousands of lives.
— There is a rising realization in the United States that the enemy in Syria is not Assad but the al-Qaida fighters and their allies. A victory for the rebels could mean mass martyrdom for Syria's Christians and the annihilation of the Alawites.
— Hassan Rouhani, the new prime minister of Iran, has gone on U.S. television to declare Iran is not only not building an atom bomb, it will never do so. And he has signaled a willingness to prove it in return for a lifting of sanctions and readmission to the world community.
— A U.S.-Iranian meeting appears possible next week at the U.N., which could lead to direct negotiations over Iran's nuclear program.
There is always a possibility an incident could turn the United States back toward the bellicosity of August and put the War Party back in the saddle. But there are reasons to be hopeful. And that hope is not based on some naive trust in the truth of what we are being told by our adversaries, but on what their own cold interests dictate.
Take Russia. A U.S. attack on Syria would surely lead to deeper U.S. involvement, the fall of Assad, the loss of her principal ally in the Arab world and her naval base at Latakia, and a loss of prestige at having been proven unable to protect her Syrian ally from the Americans.
A U.S. war on Assad's regime could also mean a victory for Islamists and their capture of some of Assad's chemical weapons, which could turn up in the Caucasus just in time for the Sochi Olympics.
Take Iran. She is suffering from the sanctions. Failure to do a deal on her nuclear program carries a rising risk the War Party will get its way and the United States will launch air and missile strikes, leading to a war in the Persian Gulf. No matter the damage this might do to America and the global economy, Iran could be set back decades. A breakup of Iran is possible, as Iraq is breaking up.
And what would an atom bomb do for Iran? The Saudis would acquire one, and the Israelis would put their hundreds on a hair trigger.
If America was not intimidated by thousands of nuclear weapons in Soviet silos and on Soviet submarines, does Tehran think an Iranian bomb is going to frighten the Americans out of the Gulf?
Take Syria. Assad wants to survive and emerge victorious from his civil war. That means no war with the United States. That means meeting the Americans at least halfway.
In short, the United States, Russia, Syria and even Iran have a cold interest in no wider war in Syria. Unfortunately, powerful forces across the Middle East, and right here in River City, believe they have a vital interest in bringing about just such a war.
(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 Friday, 20 September 2013 10:05
August was a great month for waterfront sales on Winnipesaukee with a whopping 23 transactions. There were six sales over the $1 million mark, but a large number of low end sales brought the average sales price down to $731,396. That brings the total sales for the year thus far to 84 at an average price of $884,570 compared to 81 sales at $945,453 for the same period last year.
The highest sale on Winni for the month was at 46 Veasey Shore Road in Meredith. This contemporary, Adirondack style home was built in 2009 and has 5,856 square feet of living space to get lost in. The great room features wood cathedral ceilings, a wall of stone encompassing the fireplace, and a wall of windows to take in the view which also leads out onto expansive decking. The custom kitchen, a four season porch, and a master suite round out the main living level. The second level has en-suite bedrooms and a loft while the lower level walk-out has a family room with a fireplace, game room, and an additional bedroom. The home sits on a 2.68 acre lot with 250' of frontage with great long range views, a u-shaped dock, and a bunkhouse at the water's edge. This home had been on the market for around three years with a starting price of $3.85 million and finally sold in "as is" condition for $1.8 million. The current assessed value is $1.91 million.
The home representing this month's median price point of $600,000 is located at 37 Indian Shore Road in Alton. This is a 1975 vintage, 1,872 square foot, three bed, two bath home with outstanding views. The house sits on a .46 acre lot with 100' of frontage and has a covered U-shaped dock. This was the first time this property was offered for sale and the $650,000 list price definitely caught someone's attention as it was only on the market for 28 days before selling at the $600,000 mark. It is currently assessed at $640,400.
Once again, an island property takes the entry level lowest price award. A "cute, cute" one room cabin that is said to contain all the necessities one could want or need at 286 Sleeper Island in Alton gets the honors. I'll have to take the agent's word that it is cute as there were no pictures on-line. This is truly a place to become one with yourself. You may have no choice as it has 192 square feet of living space, but there is a deck that provides additional space to spread out when necessary. There is a separate shed for an incinolet toilet (that's electric, folks) and, as one would expect, the water source is the lake. But hey, it sits on a half acre lot with 100' of frontage. It was listed at $198,500 and sold after only 20 days on the market for $190,000! Its current assessment is $153,100. I think it was the incinolet that really sealed the deal...
There were three waterfront sales on Winnisquam in August bringing the total so far this year to 10 sales at an average price of $498,750. That equals the 10 sales last year at an average of $499,100. That's pretty coincidental! The largest sale for the month was at 35 Lakeside Drive in Sanbornton. This home was being offered for the first time by the original owner and was in pristine condition. Built in 2003, it has 3,260 square feet of living space, four bedrooms, three and a half baths, hardwood floors with radiant heat, granite, tile, beautiful woodwork, a finished walk out basement, and fantastic views across the broadest part of the lake. The house sits on a quarter acre, nicely landscaped lot with 100' of frontage and dock. This home was offered originally at $889,000, was reduced to $830,000, and sold for $793,000 after 194 days on the market. It is currently assessed at $657,600.
There was one sale on Squam in August which occurred at 471 High Haith Road in Center Harbor. This 2,892 square foot residence was built in 1983 and sits on a 13.4 acre lot with 850' of frontage. Not a lot of other info and no internal pictures were provided in the MLS. I guess we'll have to guess about how nice this place is but as it sold for $3.65 million I assume it was probably more than OK...what do you think?
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 9/13/13. Roy Sanborn is a REALTOR® at Four Seasons Sotheby's International Realty and can be reached at 603-455-0335.
Last Updated on Friday, 20 September 2013 08:03
While details are still emerging about Aaron Alexis, the man responsible for killing 12 people at the Washington Navy Yard, this much is already clear. This man never should have had a security clearance that allowed him to enter the Yard. And he never should have been permitted to buy a gun.
This is a man with a history of repeated infractions as a Navy reservist and troubling run-ins with authorities. In one such episode, just last month, Alexis called police in Newport, R.I., to tell them he was being followed by three people whom he alleged had been sent to follow him by an individual he had argued with at a Virginia airport. According to the police report, Alexis complained that his followers were using a "microwave machine" to communicate with him through the walls, floor and ceiling.
A sure sign of mental illness? Yes. Alexis also told police he was a Navy contractor.
To their credit, the Newport police recognized that the Navy needed to know that one of its contractors was seriously unstable, and so they sent over a copy of his comments to the base police at the Navy facility in Newport.
It is not clear what, if anything, happened next. Twice in August Alexis sought treatment at VA hospitals, complaining that he could not sleep. Did doctors at that facility have access to the information provided to the base police in Newport? It seems they did not. He kept his security clearance. He continued to service Navy computers.
"The system didn't pick up the red flags because the red flags in this case had not been fed into the system," a Pentagon official told reporters. "Perhaps we need to look at the 'filters'" that should be part of the files, the official said.
How does a man who had been investigated by police departments in Seattle and Fort Worth for shooting a gun in anger, who was hearing voices in Rhode Island, who twice sought treatment from the VA, who had told his neighbors that he suffered from PTSD and had gone as long as three days without sleep manage to get and hold onto a security clearance that allowed him access to Navy computers?
To what extent did budget issues — which have led to the outsourcing of security checks to for-profit firms — play a role?
And equally important, how is it that such a man could go into a gun store in Virginia and buy a shotgun?
Yes, we all know the official answers. He hadn't been committed or arrested. If that is the bar, as it appears to be, then the bar is plainly too low.
Ironically, the Alexis case also teaches that gun control laws can work. Alexis reportedly tried to buy an assault weapon, but under Virginia law, he was not allowed to purchase one because he was not a Virginia resident.
As horrific as the violence was at the Navy Yard, it could have been so much worse. Twelve people are dead at the hands of a man who never should have been allowed on the base. But many more are alive today because even the most limited forms of gun control save lives.
The NRA likes to say that guns don't kill; people kill. True enough. And all the more reason to ensure that mentally disturbed, angry and troubled people like Alexis are not able to walk into a gun store and purchase firearms. We may not have the facilities to treat every Aaron Alexis out there, but at the very least, we should do everything possible to prevent them from buying guns.
(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 Thursday, 19 September 2013 10:03
Republicans have been getting a lot of advice on how they should change their party ever since Mitt Romney's defeat in November 2012. They need it.
They are in more than the usual disarray that afflicts parties out of the White House. Many members of their majority in the House of Representatives are out of step with the Republican leadership on issues ranging from Syria to defunding Obamacare.
They have a clutch of presidential candidates who are little known nationally and take starkly different stands on issues. Any recent uptick in polls represents more a rejection of the Obama Democrats than an embrace of their opponents.
So Republicans would do well to listen to advice, even from unlikely political quarters and from the far corners of the earth. Two articles in the past week warrant attention, even though they seem to propose opposite courses.
In one corner are William Galston and Elaine Kamarck, Democrats who held top jobs in the Clinton White House, writing in The Washington Post.
They point back to their 1989 manifesto, "The Politics of Evasion: Democrats and the Presidency." Democrats suffered, they argued, from mistaken beliefs that they could win the presidency by some combination of liberal orthodoxy and mobilizing core constituencies. They argued that Democrats' previous victories in congressional and state elections wouldn't continue indefinitely, as conservative Southerners would start to vote Republican. Their analysis proved prescient. Bill Clinton, campaigning as a New Democrat, captured the White House in 1992. And Republicans finally broke through and won a majority in the House in 1994.
Today, they say, Republicans stand where Democrats did in 1989. They need to be more moderate. They should reject "hyper-individualistic libertarianism," "mean-spirited words" and (in an uncharacteristically nasty analogy) "the tea party's Wahhabi-style drive to restore pure, uncompromised conservatism."
A different recommendation comes from overseas. British parliamentarian Douglas Carswell, in a Telegraph blogpost, interprets the Sept. 8 victory of Tony Abbott and his center-right Liberal Party in Australia as a vote for full-throated conservatism.
Abbott opposes abortion and same-sex marriage; he is a skeptic on global warming; and he wants to end immigration of asylum-seekers. The left-wing Oz commentariat said that made him unelectable. Yet he won big.
Carswell's advice to British Conservatives and, by implication, American Republicans is to "stop drifting to the soggy center." Tony Abbott shows you can win.
So which is it — go moderate or go bold? My reading is that there's not as much conflict as initially appears. One reason is that the analogies go only so far.
Galston and Kamarck surely understand that Republicans aren't in as bad shape as Democrats were in 1989. Then Democrats had lost the presidential popular vote in the last six elections by an average of 10 percent. The corresponding figure for Republicans today is 4 percent. Moreover, Republicans have won House majorities in eight of the last 10 elections, on platforms similar to that of their presidential candidates. The party faces challenges but not doom.
And of course Australia is not the United States. Abbott was helped by ferocious splits in the governing Labor Party. Nothing similar is happening, yet, with America's Democrats.
I think the American Democrats and the British Conservatives are offering similar advice in two respects.
Run on the issues of tomorrow, they say, not the issues of yesterday. Kamarck and Galston note that many Republicans offer policies modeled on Ronald Reagan's. But the country faces different problems today.
In Australia, Abbott did not run on the platform of 1996-2007 Liberal (that means Conservative in his country) Prime Minister John Howard. He called for an expensive parental leave program to encourage childbearing, for example.
Most of all — and here is the second point of agreement — the center-right victories in Australia and in Norway two days later owe much to the unpopularity of center-left government policies.
Abbott promised to repeal Labor's carbon tax. Norway's Ema Solberg called for business-friendly reforms to produce the economic growth necessary for an expensive welfare state.
There is no shortage of unpopular Obama policies. Obamacare, for starters, is unpopular and may be headed for a train wreck when it goes into effect next month. Blocking the Keystone pipeline irritates most everyone except hardline environmentalists. Then there's — James Carville's phrase — the economy, stupid. Big government isn't working as promised.
Republicans need to present attractive policies that address future needs. Good policy, more than ideological positioning, is the key to political success.
(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, 18 September 2013 10:04
The week opened nicely with news that Lawrence Summers had taken his name out of the running for the Federal Reserve chairman job. We won't be subjected to the notoriously unpleasant Summers denigrating those who would distinguish between Wall Street's interests and the country's. Still more gratifying is that Democrats, and not just the liberal ones, put the kibosh on President Obama's mystifying desire to put this Wall Street-Washington hybrid in charge of our central banking system.
Sen. Jon Tester, moderate Democrat from Montana, thank you for pulling the plug. Not that President Obama consulted Tester, even though he sits on the Senate Banking Committee. The White House found out on Friday that Tester would not support Summers' nomination after some enterprising staffer thought to call him and ask. Tester apparently felt that as a creature of Wall Street, Summers would be insensitive to the needs of community banks serving Main Street.
Obama issued an inexplicable tribute to Summers' alleged rescue of the U.S. economy. "Larry was a critical member of my team as we faced down the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression," Obama's statement read, "and it was in no small part because of his expertise, wisdom and leadership that we wrestled the economy back to growth and made the kind of progress we are seeing today."
Another view is that Summers was one of the reasons for the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.
As an adviser to President Clinton, he helped block regulation of the derivatives market. Fortunes were made in the speculation that ensued. Then the market collapsed and, with it, much of the economy.
In 1996, the Treasury was about to release a report suggesting that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac be privatized — that is, an end to the implied taxpayer guarantee of the mortgage giants' securities. Then-Deputy Treasury Secretary Summers basically forced the Treasury's economists to rewrite the report. You see, his boss, Robert Rubin, was a pal of Jim Johnson's, the Fannie Mae CEOmaking many millions off the sweet ability to push his risk onto the taxpayers.
"Nobody has bullied me in my adult life the way that Larry did on this one," a Treasury staffer told Gretchen Morgenson, reporting for her book "Reckless Endangerment."
Fannie Mae jumped into the subprime mortgage frenzy. Twelve years later, it had to be saved with a massive taxpayer bailout.
Elevated to Treasury secretary in 1999, Summers cleared the road for the coming economic debacle by helping strike down Glass-Steagall, the Depression-era law forbidding commercial banks to engage in the investment business. He and others celebrated with Champagne and a cake inscribed "Glass-Steagall, R.I.P. 1933-1999."
At the time, an opponent of the change, then-Sen. Byron Dorgan, Democrat of North Dakota, offered this warning: "I think we will look back in 10 years' time and say we should not have done this, but we did because we forgot the lessons of the past and that that which is true in the 1930s is true in 2010."
Dorgan's prediction was off by just two years. "The worst economic crisis since the Great Depression" started in 2007.
Of late, Summers has been busily scooping up millions on Wall Street. He consults for Citigroup and a huge hedge fund and serves on numerous boards. One of them, the Lending Club, links online investors to borrowers, a clever means of evading regulations. He gives speeches at six figures a pop.
His price may fall a bit, now that he won't be Fed chair, but he's doing fine. As for us, let's be glad that Larry Summers is out of the running. Any cake and Champagne left?
(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, 17 September 2013 09:13