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
. . . always trying to blame the other guy. Be responsible for your own actions or inactions.
. . . acting like a trash-talking athlete who is always trying to "dis" (disrespect) his opponent. It almost always comes back at you, showing you as being immature or petty.
. . . talking . . . you're overexposed. Paraphrasing writer Peggy Noonan, there comes a time when people get tired of all the words and just tune you out.
. . . making every issue a "political" one . . . try putting country before party and see how much more respect the people will have for you.
. . . demonizing businesses. Recognize that virtually every cent of tax revenues paid to federal, state, and local governments had its origin in some business enterprise.
. . . talking about "waste, fraud, and abuse" and do something about it.
— when the country was shown pictures and videos of Federal employees in lavish hotel surroundings, in hot tubs with their glasses of champagne, or being taught how to dance, were any actions taken to ensure that type of excess would not be tolerated? And, by the way, has that excessive amount of money spent on "partying" been removed from those departments' subsequent budgets?
— when departments such as Energy and Education have failed for years to meet the objectives for which they were created, why is the answer to always reward that failure with more funding . . . why aren't they closed as any failed business would be?
. . . protecting the guilty. When appropriate suspend them without pay or fire them.
. . . giving those who violated the law and abused their offices "paid vacations" as "punishment" is a dereliction of duty and clearly falls into the category of "waste, fraud, and abuse".
. . . telling the public that those who have violated their public trust have "lost their positions", only to find out later that they lost nothing, they were simply transferred to another position, is a compounding of the violation of the public trust by even higher level individuals.
. . . stonewalling. The Congress is charged with oversight responsibility and it is their duty to investigate and get answers pertaining to actions such as the Benghazi attack, the IRS abuses of power, the Justice Department failure to fulfill its constitutional responsibility to enforce duly enacted laws, the Justice Department not providing truthful testimony to Congress concerning wire tapping of a reporter, his family, and his fellow employees.
. . . attacking the Separation of Powers. Ff you don't like a Supreme Court ruling you can seek to have a law written that will accomplish what you think is necessary and will satisfy the court that it meets its constitutional requirements.
— Publicly "dis"ing the Supreme Court is abhorrent behavior on the part of the Executive Branch. It is the responsibility of the Executive, through its Justice Department, to ensure that the rulings of the court are enforced, not ignored or challenged.
— Publicly "dis"ing the Congress and continually stating that you intend to by-pass its authority if you don't get your way. Such action is not only petty and petulant, it's dictatorial threats diminish the highest office in the land.
. . . challenging constitutional limits of Executive Branch power . . . making "recess appointments" as a thumb in the eye to the power of Congress to make its own rules.
— While this Executive Branch's action was overturned by the courts, during President Andrew Johnson's term of office, a similar act by him was cause for writing Article 3 of his Impeachment.
— Executive Branch arbitrarily changing implementation dates called for in the Affordable Care Act is an example of the Executive taking dictatorial actions. Again, it is the responsibility of the Justice Department to see that all laws are faithfully executed. In this case it appears the Justice Department simply chooses to ignore Executive Branch changes to the law, and it fails to meet its own constitutional responsibility.
. . . turning "regulations" into "laws" that defy comprehension or understanding.
— The Affordable Care Act is 2,409 pages long and there are an additional 19,000 plus pages of regulations already written. It is expected that it will take a total of 10 years to write all of the regulations.
— There is an old saying that "Ignorance of the law is no excuse." How is it that we have let the federal government so over-power people and businesses with words of legalese that no normal business will have the ability to reasonably understand what is expected of them.
— The sheer volume of laws and regulations will require countless more people to be added to the already bloated Federal bureaucracy, just to administer them.
. . . violating the First Amendment right to Freedom of Religion . . . by using edicts, regulations, and Executive Branch interpretations to restrict religious institutions and individuals by confining that freedom to only within the walls of their church, synagogue, or mosque.
— Because of those demands, religious, heretofore untaxed, institutions will now be taxed, essentially paying for those things which are contrary to their beliefs.
Please . . . stop it!
(Bob Meade is a Laconia resident.)
Last Updated on Monday, 16 September 2013 10:03
As of September 1, 2013 there were 1,249 residential single family homes on the market in the 12 communities covered by this report. The average asking price stood at $498,590 with a median price point of $259,800. The current inventory level represents just under 15 months worth of homes on the market.
The real estate industry and the way consumers look for real estate continues to evolve at warp speed. Pretty soon, there is going to be a Star Trek Home Shopper Mobile App that will "beam me up, Scotty" right to the exact location of the new home you want to see. That device will simultaneously beam your real estate agent without notice to the same locale despite the fact that he has just sat down for dinner with the family. That will be only slightly more inconvenient than it is today, but if he is sitting down for dinner with the in-laws at least he won't have to make excuses.
Real estate is going mobile in a big way. A recent study by Google and the National Association of Realtors reports that 48 percent of home buyers used a mobile device to look for a home and 45 percent used the device to request more information on a property. About a third of the visitors to my own site, lakesregionhome.com, are using mobile devices. As the tech industry produces more affordable devices, more people buy smart phones and tablets, those numbers are likely to increase substantially. It only stands to reason that consumers will use them to look for their new home from the comfort of their living room sofa instead of on their desktop PC.
The study reports that 90 percent of buyers use the internet to search for homes. That number rose to an amazing 96 percent for those under the age of 44. Searches for real estate on Google has risen 253 percent over the past four years. That's pretty amazing.
But, getting back to mobile devices, apps make it easy for you to search for property when you are in your car and find a neighborhood you would like to live in. I would strongly suggest that you pull over to the side of the road before using it or have your co-pilot be in charge of it otherwise you are more apt to have an accident than not. Most major real estate search sites have apps specifically designed for use on smart phones so that you can pull up to the front door of a home that's for sale, hit the search button, the phone's built in GPS does its thing, and the somehow Scotty beams you all the information on the house.
To get one of these apps, all you have to do is go to your favorite real estate website and download their mobile app and you're in business. Some apps even provide location and phone info on area attraction, restaurants, marinas, and where to find the closest gas station if you are running out of gas.
Once you have reviewed the homes info and looked at all the pictures on your mobile device there's a little button you can click to email or call the listing agent to see the property. Like I said, the next generation app will immediately transport the listing agent to your vehicle, but that's still a couple years off...
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. Data was compiled using the NNEREN MLS system as of 9/1/13. Roy Sanborn is a REALTOR® at Four Seasons Sotheby's International Realty and can be reached at 603-455-0335.
Last Updated on Friday, 13 September 2013 08:16