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Pat Buchanan - Is Big Brother our Gaurdian Angel?

"Gentlemen do not read each other's mail," said Secretary of State Henry Stimson of his 1929 decision to shut down "The Black Chamber" that decoded the secret messages of foreign powers.
"This means war!" said FDR, after reading the intercepted instructions from Tokyo to its diplomats the night of Dec. 6, 1941.
Roosevelt's secretary of war? Henry Stimson.
Times change, and they change us.
The CIA was created in 1947; the National Security Agency in 1952, with its headquarters at Ft. Meade in Maryland. This writer's late brother was stationed at Meade doing "photo interpretation'' in the years the CIA's Gary Powers, flying U-2s at 70,000 feet above Mother Russia, was providing the agency with some interesting photographs.
This last week, through security leaks, we learned that the NSA has access to the phone records of Verizon, Sprint and AT&T. Of every call made to, from or in the U.S., NSA can determine what phone the call came from, which phone it went to, and how long the conversation lasted.
While NSA cannot recapture the contents of calls, it can use this information to select phones to tap for future recording and listening.
Through its PRISM program, the NSA can acquire access, via servers such as Apple, Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Microsoft and AOL, to all emails sent, received and presumably deleted or spammed. And if the NSA can persuade a secret court that it has to know the contents of past, present or future emails, it can be accorded that right.
Our ability to intercept and read communications of foreigners and foreign governments seems almost limitless. In the Nixon years, Jack Anderson reported that we were intercepting the conversations of Kremlin leaders in their limos, and listening in on Mao Zedong and Leonid Brezhnev. Our capacity today is surely orders of magnitude greater.
Last week, we also learned that Barack Obama, by Presidential Policy Directive 20, has tasked our government to prepare for both defensive and offensive cyberwarfare to enable us to attack whatever depends on the Internet anywhere in the world.
Lately, the U.S. and Israel planted a Stuxnet worm that crippled scores of centrifuges and disabled Iran's nuclear enrichment plant at Natanz. If we can do this in Iran, can we not do the same to nuclear plants all over the world, creating two, three, a hundred Chernobyls and Fukushimas?
Is it too much to imagine that, one day, if not already, the United States will be able to cyber-sabotage the power plants, electrical grids and communications systems of any country on earth?
With its ability to locate and listen in to terrorists, to track by satellite and kill by drone, America has acquired an extraordinary ability to protect its people and prevent and punish terrorist attacks.
But was any of this really surprising? Were we all in the dark as to what the CIA, the NSA and the Pentagon could do?
And as we think back on 9/11, of our doomed countrymen jumping to their deaths from the World Trade Center, the dead and maimed at the Boston Marathon, will not most Americans say, "Thank the Lord we have this power, and God bless the men and women who are using it to defend us"?
While this power is extraordinary, it is still not of the same magnitude as the 50,000 nuclear weapons we had 50 years ago, at the time of the Cuban missile crisis, when war could have led to scores of millions of American dead.
Nevertheless, for a people whose proud boast is that our nation was conceived in freedom, this brave new world is sobering. Our own government has the power to intercept and listen to every phone call we make, to read every e-mail we send or receive, to track us with cameras we cannot see, and to wage secret cyberwar against enemies real or perceived without a declaration of war.
Yet, we can no more uninvent the technology that enables our government to do this than we can uninvent the atom bomb. And rival powers like China are surely seeking the same capabilities.
Thomas Jefferson instructed us that "in questions of power, let no more be heard of confidence in men, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution."
But, ultimately, what other option do we have than to place our confidence in those whom we have entrusted with this power?
Congress is not going to pass a law telling the NSA that it may not coordinate with AOL, Apple or Google to access information that might prevent a terrorist attack. And if a terrorist attack hits this country, and our security agencies say their hands were tied in trying to protect us, all bets would be off as to what intrusions upon their freedom Americans might accept.
In the end, we ourselves are going to have to strike the balance between freedom and security.
But the question lingers.
If Big Brother is our guardian angel now, could he become Lucifer?
(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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Froma Harrop - Prop 13: Message for another time

If the national tax revolt has bookends, the first bracket was placed 35 years ago this month. That's when California voters passed Proposition 13, a law curbing tax increases.
Of course, taxes have been a subject of complaint in this land for centuries. But the complaints were of a different nature. It was more like "no taxation without representation" than "no new taxes, ever."
Prop. 13 set off a national whirlwind. Shortly after passage in 1978, Congress passed an array of tax cuts, including a reduction in the capital-gains rate. And future talk of raising taxes became especially emotion-laden.
But Prop. 13 was really about local concerns. The prices of California homes had been spiraling upward for several years. Because property taxes in California were based on current market values, homeowners watched their property taxes soar with house prices.
For owners, it was nice to see a modest home bought for $65,000 six years earlier now worth $200,000. Having to pay property taxes at luxury-home levels was not as nice. Many owners were forced to sell.
Other things were going on, as well. A recent California Supreme Court ruling had equalized per-pupil school spending throughout the state. That meant homeowners no longer associated their property taxes with superior education for their own children.
And other state taxes were already high, thanks in part to a recent big-taxing governor. He was Ronald Reagan.
Gov. Reagan had inherited large budget deficits from his Democratic predecessor, Pat Brown. Rather than beat the living daylights out of every public service, Reagan in 1967 endorsed a $1-billion-a-year tax hike — the equivalent of a $17 billion tax increase today.
It was "the largest tax hike ever proposed by any governor in the history of the United States," journalist Lou Cannon observed. Reagan pushed through another big tax increase in 1970.
"In the end," writes Bruce Bartlett, an economic historian who served in President Reagan's Treasury, "it is clear that Reagan presided over an astonishing expansion of taxes in California."
Prop. 13 capped increases in home valuations for property tax purposes at 2 percent a year. House values would be reassessed to reflect market conditions only when the property changed hands. Unfortunately, this moved the heavy tax burden onto young homebuyers. And longtime owners became stuck in place.
The law also gave state lawmakers the power to divvy property-tax revenues among towns and cities. The result was that local governments had to lobby Sacramento for money they once could spend out of local levies.
Prop. 13 also required a two-thirds majority by both houses of the state legislature on measures that would increase state revenues. A tax-phobic minority could therefore block efforts to fund California's famous university system and other public services.
But did Prop. 13 solve California's high-tax "problem"? Not quite. Before passage, California was the fourth-most-heavily-taxed state, according to the Tax Foundation. Today it is the fourth-most-heavily-taxed state.
The other bookend — marking the tax revolt's waning days — could be California voters' approval last November of a temporary tax increase to avoid up to $6 billion in education spending cuts. The voters also gave Democrats a two-thirds majority in the state legislature, meaning conservative Republicans can no longer stop tax increases.
Of course, arguments over taxes are never over, nor should they be. But one can hope for a different kind of conversation.
Perhaps the cries of martyrdom greeting almost every plan to raise government revenues can be replaced with a more dispassionate discussion: What do we want government to do, and how can we best pay for it?
As always, no one has to like paying taxes.
(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, 11 June 2013 08:02

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Bob Meade - A new kind of war

A very long time ago I read a book that I believe was entitled "The Feather of an Eagle". The reason for that name was that the eagle was killed by an arrow that was guided by a feather that the eagle had lost.
The story was about a different kind of war, a citizen's war in which they attacked the government military by night, and folded back into routine society by day. Some would call it guerrilla war. No uniforms. No generals directing waves of troops. No tanks or heavy artillery. No airplanes dropping bombs or strafing troops. Simply citizens stealthily destroying the dominant army of the government, and doing so with hand made devices or the tools that were available. I liken that story to what is happening around the world today.
A single person can attempt to blow up an airplane with a "shoe bomb". Another can be caught with a car full of explosives aimed at blowing up a portion of mid-town New York. A domestic terrorist can use a truck filled with fertilizer to explode outside a federal building, killing 168 innocents. A teen aged immigrant and his 26 year old brother can wreak havoc on a major metropolitan area, a state, and the nation, with their home made bombs killing and maiming fellow citizens. A single soldier, a (physician) major in the Army, can kill 13 fellow soldiers and wound more than thirty others. The only thing in common for most of those people is their religion, and their desire to deny our freedoms and impose their way of life.
The problem is not confined to the United States . . . it is world wide. Western countries try to figure out how to cope with immigrant populations that are growing so rapidly, that it is becoming a pitting of their youth against the aging populations of their host countries. And, the activities get more brazen every day as we witness a near beheading of a 25 year old British soldier, in the street, close to his barracks. Surprisingly, what had been proudly worn as a symbol depicting a defender of freedom, British soldiers are now told not to wear their uniforms in public lest the new populations to their country take offense.
Our country watches as nations in the mid-east undergo, or are undergoing revolutions to depose dictatorial regimes. In most cases, the ensuing governments have not brought peace and stability, but have created a combination of theocratic dictatorships and anarchy. Christians are murdered, or are targeted and beaten, and driven from their homes, many fleeing across borders to other countries in search of a safe haven. Threats against our ally Israel are mounting.
In Egypt, on the anniversary of 9-11, we watched as mobs attacked our embassy and we listened as they chanted, "We are one and a half billion bin Ladens". Their defiant chant countering a political slogan, "bin Laden's dead, General Motors is alive." Other mobs attacked our embassies and consulates, desecrating our flag, defacing our facilities, and murdering our representatives. Our leaders tell our would be rescuers to "stand down" and not attempt to save any and all possible. And then our leaders attempt to defend their actions with a shameful series of lies. But they are exposed. No one knows where the president was during all of this . . . and he's not telling!
In his recent speech at Fort McNair, (http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/05/23/read-president-obamas-speech-on-the-future-of-the-war-on-terror/) the president told us that the war against terror is unsustainable. He split hairs when, in the speech, he said that we have not had a successful attack by "al Qaeda" in this country since 9-11. Of course, the victims of the shooting at Fort Hood, or their surviving family members, would take issue with that al Qaeda nuance, as would the family of the soldier killed at the recruiting station in Little Rock, Arkansas, and the families of those killed and wounded by the Boston bombers. Are terrorist attacks only to be counted when they're inflicted by certified al Qaeda members?
While we hear some acknowledgement of individual acts of terror, we hear virtually nothing about how this new kind of war will be addressed. Will we establish some form of monitoring for those here on student visas? Those who never attend a class? Will we revert to old time immigration rules where a newcomer has to have a responsible resident sponsor who will be accountable for them? In a free and open society, built around the Bill of Rights, how do we ensure that the millions of aliens in our midst are not here to do us harm? Are there those among the millions of immigrants who fancy themselves as an army of one?
Just how do we deal with this new kind of war? Truth may be a start.
(Bob Meade is a Laconia resident)

Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 December 1969 07:00

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Weirs Martha? A look at the cottages of the Vineyard and the Weirs

As of June 1, there were 1,190 residential homes available in the 12 Lakes Region communities covered by this report. The average asking price stood at $480,614 with a median price point of $264,950. Last June 1 there were 1,318 homes on the market at an average asking price of $493,820. The current inventory level represents a 15 month supply of homes available which is down from the 18.5 month supply as of June 1, 2012. That's pretty good!
I just spent a few days down on Martha's Vineyard and discovered that there are a lot of similarities between that beautiful island and our own Lakes Region. For example, there is a strong Indian history at both locales with the Wampanoag tribe originally inhabiting the Vineyard while we have the Algonquian and Abaneki to thank for the names of places that keep our tourists tongue tied. Both are big tourist destinations with water sports, boating, and great restaurants in abundance. While we both have some pretty expensive waterfront property, the Vineyard outdoes us by a lot in that regard. In 2012 the average sales price for a single family home on the Vineyard was $972,000 compared to $302,188 for the towns covered in this report.
The Vineyard, and specifically the town of Oak Bluffs, has something else in common with our own Weirs Beach area. Pulling into the harbor on the ferry you immediately notice the brightly painted cottages and homes that line the main street along the water. I immediately thought of the homes along Lakeside Ave in the Weirs with their bright colors and Victorian style architecture. These homes were built a decade or so after the civil war by members of the NH Veterans Association and were known as the Regimental Buildings.
The cottages in Oak Bluffs were also built at the end of the Civil War but they were constructed by members of the Methodist Church who traveled here in the summer for a week long regimen of intense spiritual inspiration. Originally though, the Methodists just pitched tents in a circle with the center of the circle designated as the church. The Methodist camp meeting was born in Oak Bluffs in 1835. It was called the Martha's Vineyard Camp Meeting Association and the area was called Wesleyan Grove. Eventually, the tents became a little more sophisticated and comfortable. They added wooden floors, a front porch, wooden sidewalls, and a canvas roof. The camp meetings became very popular as there was not much to do back then as NetFlix hadn't been invented yet. Pretty soon the circle of tents grew larger and larger as people decided to stay longer on the island and refresh the body as well as the soul.
The tents were soon replaced by small cottages built in a new whimsical architectural style with ornate filigree and embellishments that was dubbed Carpenter Gothic. I suspect it became somewhat of a contest as to who could create the most colorful and eye pleasing cottage. These cottages were typically long and narrow like a shot gun house with two or possibly three rooms on the first level. A set of double doors opened out onto the front porch mimicking church doors. The bedrooms were located up a set of very steep stairs on the second level and there was generally a balcony over the front porch. The kitchen and privy were located outside the house. Now the Methodists had to be a friendly lot as the front porch served as an outdoor living room and you could reach out and almost touch the cottage next to you because the lots were originally just big enough to hold a tent.
By 1880 there were over 500 of these cottages gathered in a radial-concentric pattern on 34 acres with small paths connecting the smaller circles of homes. Today around 300 cottages remain in a remarkable state of preservation along with a church, chapel, and a wrought iron Tabernacle which itself is an extraordinary building with soaring arches and unique construction. This place is well worth visiting if you ever get the chance.
The Methodist Camp Meetings also found a home in the Lakes Region when Methodists discovered that Weirs Beach provided the perfect backdrop for their summer religious meetings. In 1874, 13 acres were purchased for camp-meetings and by the 1890's the area called "Methodist Circle" had grown into a small colony of cottages on the shores of Winnipesaukee. The worshippers constructed an auditorium in the center of the circle and eventually built a church on Tower Ave in 1886. That church burned in 1924 but was rebuilt in 1926 and still stands today.
To get to Methodist Circle you go over the wooden bridge just up past the boardwalk on Lakeside Ave. There you will find a number of the original cottages and while they might not be quite as fancy or ornate as the ones in Oak Bluffs they are still pretty cool.
There is also another well known camp meeting area in Alton which began in 1863 and was called the Second Advent Campground. These early worshippers also started with tents but were finally given permission to build wooden structures to stay in because there seemed to be a delay in the coming of the Lord. Initially, they were not allowed to paint their structures as the day of resurrection was supposed to be imminent and the church leaders didn't want anyone to waste money on an unnecessary paint job. Eventually, the rules were loosened and the cottage owners were allowed to preserve their buildings with a good old coat of Benjamin Moore. The only problem was many were built so close together you couldn't get between them to paint them or do any maintenance. Fires have destroyed many of these cottages. The largest fire was in 1945, but one as recently as 2009 claimed over 40 structures.
To see photos of many of the Oak Bluffs cottages and some of our own cottages at the Weirs visit www.lakesregionhome.com. Data was compiled using the NNEREN MLS system as of 6/1/13. Roy Sanborn is a REALTOR® at Four Seasons Sotheby's International Realty and can be reached at 603-455-0335.

Last Updated on Friday, 07 June 2013 09:57

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Susan Estrich - The morning after

If you're having trouble following all of the twists and turns in the saga relating to the availability of what is commonly referred to as the "morning-after pill," you're not alone.
First some basic facts: The emergency contraceptive must be taken within five days of unprotected sex, and contrary to claims of certain anti-abortion activists, it prevents fertilization in the first instance (rather than causing a miscarriage). There are two versions: the original two-pill version and a more recent one-pill version.
It's been nearly a decade since the lawsuit that has been winding its way through the courts (and onto the front pages) was filed. At that time, the only version was two pills, which is why (as best as I can tell) the latest decision from the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ordering the government to lift all age restrictions on purchases until it decides the merits of a pending appeal applies only to the two-pill version.
The appeal is from a decision by a federal district judge holding that all versions of the pill should be made available to all ages over the counter. The Obama administration sought to "stay" the judge's decision (meaning it should not be allowed to go into effect) and has argued that access should be limited to girls over 15, overruling a recommendation from the FDA that would have lifted all restrictions (like the judge's decision).
Then, last month (if you're still with me), the FDA announced that one of the one-pill brands should be made available to girls over 15, provided they show identification. The appeals court rule doesn't apply to that version.
What is really going on here? According to the respected federal judge who decided this case, it is simple: politics. Judge Edward R. Korman has not minced words, criticizing the "bad faith, politically motivated decision of (Health and Human Services) Secretary Sebelius, who lacks any medical or scientific expertise."
I think so.
The argument against the morning-after pill is that it will encourage young people to have sex. I find it hard to believe that 12- and 13-year-olds are deciding whether to have sex based on the availability of emergency contraception. If only such decisions were made in the kind of rational, logical way that would involve a weighing of such factors. Seriously.
As for the danger of the drug, most scientists seem to believe acetaminophen carries more risk — not to mention pregnancy. Most studies find that it's largely adults who use the morning-after pill, not teens. But requiring a government-issued ID to prove age may limit access to the pill for those of any age, and keeping it locked up behind the counter will make it more burdensome or embarrassing for those who need it to ask for it. I used to be embarrassed buying sanitary napkins at that age. Asking a pharmacist for the morning-after pill? Why make it any more difficult? Do we really want these girls to get pregnant?
No one, including the president, likes the idea of children having sex. Back in December of 2011 (when, perhaps not coincidentally, the president was in the middle of a re-election campaign), he endorsed Sebelius' decision, saying that as a father, it made him very uncomfortable to think of young girls having access to the morning-after pill without a prescription.
Of course it does. But the prescription is hardly the reason. Children should not be having sex. Can't we all agree on that?
But even more fundamentally, children should not be having children. One thing is for sure: The risks to an 11-year-old that come with an unwanted pregnancy — in terms of both her physical and mental health — are far greater than the risk associated with taking one or two pills to prevent fertilization. If we have a safe and effective way to prevent that, why wouldn't we allow it?
(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, 07 June 2013 07:11

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