James Pindell - Gridlock in Concord on the horizon

A year ago, when the federal government shutdown due to politics and gridlock in Washington, Concord politicians wagged their fingers down south to DC. In New Hampshire, both parties worked together on several pieces of legislation, including passing a state budget 24-0 in the Senate.

But in the aftermath of the 2014 midterm elections, political logic suggests that next year it will be Washington politicians working together and pointing their fingers up north at the political gridlock in New Hampshire.

The hot Potomac fever will now be on the Merrimack.

Structurally Washington and Concord will look the same next year. Both feature Republicans dominating the House and Senate with a Democratic executive on top. The difference, however, is that in Washington President Barack Obama is a lame duck and not running for president anymore. In Concord, Gov. Maggie Hassan is most assuredly running for something in two years, whether for re-election or to take the local GOP's biggest name: U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte.

Since Obama has just 793 days left in office his political incentive is to focus on what he can do for his legacy. This might mean unilateral executive action like he is proposing to do on immigration this upcoming week or working with the Republican Congress on a broader immigration bill, on a veteran's jobs bill, tweak the health care law, reform Social Security, or pass some kind of tax reform bill.

Republicans also have the political incentive to work with Obama. As is stands the only approval rating lower than Obama's is the national approval of Republicans. Republican Texas Gov. Rick Perry pointed out in New Hampshire that in the midterm election, voters weren't exactly voting for Republican ideas. Exit polls prove Perry right, with 6 out of 10 voters said they are dissatisfied with Republicans. (The same percentage said they were dissatisfied with Obama.)

Heading into the 2016 presidential election, Republicans in Washington are already talking about the need to stand for something other than just opposing Obama's agenda. With control of Congress they will be called upon to propose their own ideas that Obama can accept, amend or reject. This is particularly true of potential Republican presidential candidates, who need to add legislative achievements to their resume.

Either way, in Washington there is the incentive of both sides to talk.

In Concord, there is incentive to stay in their own corners and complain about the other side. In theory, Hassan wouldn't reject signing into law some major piece of legislation, but politically she cares more about her approval rating number than the number of bills that become law.

The sad reality of politics is that is it often better for a politician's approval ratings to not get something done if they can convince voters that it is someone else's fault. For Hassan she can tell voters that if only Republicans didn't block her agenda everyone in the state would have a job and that all Nor'easters would be confined to ski areas. She might be right or might be wrong, but at least she will have someone to blame if the state goes in the wrong direction.

This is part of the reason why this week's vote on who Republicans will pick to be House Speaker matters. Both of their options — Bill O'Brien and Gene Chandler — have their own baggage from previous stints as speaker. However, O'Brien is the more polarizing option. Fearing Hassan would just make O'Brien a boogeyman, it is not surprise that Ayotte forcefully endorsed Chandler last week. Ayotte and Republicans want to keep the focus and criticism on Hassan and minimize how much it goes the other way back on Republicans.

All that said, like in Washington, New Hampshire Republicans still have to deal with the fact they don't have majorities so large they could override votes on major bills. If Republicans continue to push bills that would make their base happy they are risking that a Hassan veto would play well for them. It is possible that it will, but it is often hard to take on a governor no matter which party holds the office.

As a new Congress and a new Legislature is sworn in there could be a lot more handshakes in Washington and bruises in Concord.

(James Pindell covers politics for WMUR. You can see his breaking news and analysis at WMUR.com/politicalscoop and on WMUR-TV.)

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Pat Buchanan - The oil weapon in American hands

In July of 1941, after Japan occupied French Indochina, the Roosevelt administration froze Japan's assets in the United States. Denied hard cash, Japan could not buy the U.S. oil upon which the empire depended for survival. Seeing the Dutch East Indies as her only other source, Japan prepared to invade. But first she had to eliminate the sole strategic threat to her occupation of the East Indies — the U.S. battle fleet at Pearl Harbor.

FDR's cutoff of oil to Japan was thus a primary cause of WWII in the Pacific, which led to hundreds of thousands of U.S. war dead, the destruction of Japan, Mao's triumph in China and a U.S. war in Korea.

A second stunning use of the oil weapon came in 1973. Arab members of OPEC imposed an embargo in retaliation for Nixon's rescue of Israel with an airlift in the Yom Kippur war. Long gas lines helped to bring Nixon down.

Now the oil weapon appears to be back in America's hand.

Due to the substitution of natural gas for oil in heating homes and buildings, horizontal drilling, and hydraulic fracking, which enables us to bring oil and gas out of shale rock in places like North Dakota, U.S. production has exploded. We now produce more oil than Saudi Arabia and the benefits are not only economic, but geostrategic.

Cuba excepted, there is no more hostile regime in Latin America than Venezuela's Nicolas Maduro, the successor to Hugo Chavez. Oil accounts for 95 percent of his nation's exports. Iran is almost wholly dependent upon oil sales for hard currency. Russia is the oil and gas supplier for much of Europe.

With the price of oil having fallen from over $100 a barrel to below $80 this week, all three nations are suffering plunges in revenue. The United States and Europe are also punishing Russia and Iran with sanctions on their energy sectors.

Iran's production has fallen sharply. Oil-drilling equipment and the latest U.S. drilling technology that Russia has sought to bring on stream its vast Arctic reserves are being denied to her.

As the oil weapon was used by us against Imperial Japan and by the Saudis against us, we are now wielding this sword. We should remember that it is double-edged.

While it would seem natural for Saudi Arabia, the largest producer in OPEC, to cut production to tighten the oil market and let prices firm up and rise, the Saudis have continued to pump as the price has fallen.

What is Riyadh's game? Is the Saudi strategy to let prices fall to where it is no longer profitable for Americans to begin new fracking? Are the Saudis thinking of doing to the new oil-producing champion, USA, what we are doing to Venezuela, Russia and Iran?

Riyadh may want to let the price of oil sink below where it makes sense for energy companies to prospect for new sources of oil or invest more billions in expanding production.

Are the Saudis out to cripple us with an oil glut?

Today, not only are Iran and Iraq producing below potential, so, too, is Libya. And we have been bombing ISIS' oil facilities in Syria.

A contrarian's question: Would we not be better off if these countries not only restored oil production, but also expanded production and put more oil on the market than they do today?

Demand creates supply, and a world oil market where there is more supply than demand would seem to be to America's benefit. For we remain the world's largest consumer of petroleum products. And surely it is to our benefit to enlarge both the reserves and production of oil and gas in North America.

Price pays a huge role in creating, and shrinking, supply. And price, Adam Smith notwithstanding, is something we can control and manipulate, even as China manipulates its currency.

In "America's New Oil Weapon" in National Review, Arthur Herman of the Hudson Institute urges the United States to take bold steps to increase our supplies of oil and gas.

We should relax the rules on drilling in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, which has 10 billion barrels of oil locked up. We should use as an economic weapon against OPEC the 700 million barrels in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. We should allow the export of oil from the United States to enable us to cope with OPEC cutbacks. We should build the Keystone XL pipeline, and the other oil and gas pipelines between us and Canada now sitting in limbo.

What Herman is urging upon us is a new nationalism, a new way of thinking about international economics that puts the U.S. and its allies first, and uses our economic leverage to advance national rather than global interests.

Something the GOP Congress might think about when Barack Obama asks them to surrender their right to amend trade treaties with fast track.

(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.)

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E. Scott Cracraft - Congress should have declared war on Mexico?

The good news is that Marine Sgt. Tahmooressi, a combat veteran suffering from PTSD, was released from a Mexican prison after being arrested for bringing illegal firearms into that country. Mexican jails are horrible places and the Mexican government is to be commended for releasing him on humanitarian grounds.
The bad news is that a lot of conservative "Obama Bashers" want to politicize this case by claiming that the Ppesident did not "do enough" to secure Sgt. Tahmooressi's release. This is a preposterous charge. Of course, for some people, Obama will never do anything right but in this case, there was actually little even the president could do. In reality, more was done in this case than is usually done by the U.S. government for Americans incarcerated abroad. Even when cases are resolved diplomatically, it often takes time.
This was not a unique case. Actually, Sgt Tahmooressi was very lucky. Dozens of Americans are arrested every year in Mexico-including members of the military-for disobeying Mexico's gun laws. It does not matter that Sgt. Tahmooressi's military-grade weapons were legally registered in the U.S. Mexico is not the U.S. Even if they are not enforced uniformly, Mexico has very strict gun laws and when they are enforced, they are enforced harshly.
Anyone who travels abroad should know that when an American citizen is arrested overseas, there is little the U.S. government can do to secure his or her release. Passports come with a clear warning that while in a foreign country, you are subject to that country's laws, not U.S. law. It does not matter that your actions were legal in the U.S. Other countries have different laws and often, different legal systems where a person may spend a long period of pre-trial confinement while the case is investigated.
If those who criticize Obama on this issue were to read U.S. State Department and consular notices and policies (available online) regarding the arrest of a U.S. national overseas, they would realize that Mexico has strict gun laws. Claiming you did not know the law or that you did not know you had the guns will not help you.
They would also know that U.S. consuls, under international and U.S. law, can do very little to help an imprisoned American. They can visit the prisoner, inform family and friends, forward money, provide a list of local English-speaking lawyers, explain the local legal process, and perhaps make diplomatic representations about inhumane treatment.
But, they cannot demand the release of a U.S. citizen. Even if the local system is slow or corrupt, a U.S. citizen must go through the legal process of that country. This has been U.S. consular policy for years, long before Obama took office.
State Department official policy is to respect the sovereignty of other countries. Many conservatives are obsessed about surrender of "U.S. sovereignty." How would they feel if another country demanded that we release their citizens charged with breaking our laws?
Nor is it appropriate to compare this case to the case of Army Sgt. Bergdahl. The Right is demanding to know why Sgt. Bergdahl was welcomed back by the president but Sgt. Tahmooressi was not. The two cases are not similar. Sgt. Bergdahl was a P.O.W. and, until a military court-martial rules otherwise, that is all he is. Those who want to politicize this case accuse him of desertion to the enemy, but have they forgotten that even under military law, an accused person is innocent until proven guilty?
Sgt. Tahmooressi was not a P.O.W. or a political prisoner. He was arrested, rightly or wrongly, for violating Mexican criminal law. Virtually no one released from custody for criminal offenses overseas gets a Presidential welcome. His supporters likely would not be upset about the numerous other Americans in jail overseas who have been charged with crimes. Do these conservatives really think we should have declared war on Mexico over this issue? It is disturbing that some wish to use this issue to further their own agendas.

(Scott Cracraft is an American citizen, taxpayer, veteran, and resident of Gilford)

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Sanborn — Winni Waterfront Sales Report October 2014

There were 15 residential waterfront sales on Winnipesaukee in October at an average price of $896,640 and a median price point of $582,500. Three sales exceeded the million dollar mark. This brings the tally this year to 108 sales at an average purchase price of $1,076,055 compared to 117 sales at an average of $952,393 for the same period last year.

The entry level sale for the month was at 4 Black Bird Lane in the Balmoral community in Moultonborough. It is a bit of a stretch to call it Winni waterfront as it is actually on Shannon Brook but it does lead out into the main lake and you have 42' of frontage and a dock, so it is close enough! This 1976 vintage, 768 square foot, five room, two bedroom, one bath cottage is located close to the beach and other Balmoral amenities. It has a knotty pine interior, cute kitchen, large deck, and a one car garage for the toys. This property was offered back in 2010 for $278,500 and was relisted this year by Jim Ramhold of Berkshire Hathaway Verani in Moultonborough for $229,900. It sold in 175 days for $177,600. The current tax assessment stands at $230,700. I'd say the buyer got a pretty good deal.

Over on Paugus Bay, at 99 Birch Haven Road in Laconia there is a 1,248 square foot, four bedroom, one and a half bath ranch built in 1970 that also found a new owner. The main selling feature of this property is the .77 acre level lot with 100' of frontage, an 80' dock, beautiful sandy beach, and great views down the bay. I suspect you might see a new home built here. This home took a while to sell. It was first listed back in September of 2011 for $799,000, in November of 2012 for $649,000, and then in October of 2014 by Steve Banks of ReMax Bayside for $629,000. It finally sold for $545,000 after a total of 803 days on the market. The City of Laconia has the property currently assessed for $661,100.

At the top end of the scale the property at 34 Pipers Point Lane in Alton took only 9 days on the market to garner a full price sale at $2,249,000! This stunning, high quality, 5,577 square foot contemporary was built in 1995. It has four bedrooms including a first floor master suite that has its own fireplace and private deck plus two additional en-suite bedrooms upstairs. The custom kitchen features granite counters, high end appliances, and cherry cabinetry. The spacious living room has a floor to ceiling stone fireplace and soaring ceilings and there is a family room with built-ins, wet-bar, and fireplace in the lower level walk out basement. Every room in the house offers fantastic views of the lake. Outside, the gently sloping, well landscaped .75 acre lot has 140' of frontage, a sandy beach, and a 60' dock. This truly outstanding property was listed by Adam Dow of Keller Williams in Wolfeboro who said, "The sellers sold the house, the furniture, and even the boats. The buyers were very attracted to the 'bring your toothbrush' approach and it made this listing more attractive than two others on the list. There is always a market for a Lake Winnipesaukee move-in condition home that is priced right!" This home is assessed at $1,738,500.

Over on Winnisquam there were two sales in October. The highest sale was at 136 Black Brook Road in Meredith. This 3,206 square foot home was constructed in 1999 and has two bedrooms (plus a den/guest room), two and a half baths, a custom kitchen with Shaker style cabinets, l-shaped bar, and hardwood floors, a large living room with gas fireplace and sliders out to the deck, and a great lower level family room finished in knotty pine. Very nice throughout! The house offers great views of the lake and sits on a .29 acre lot with 76' of frontage, a sandy beach, and a dock. This great property was listed by Ellen Mulligan of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage of Center Harbor for $649,000, was reduced to $624,900, and sold for $595,000 after 141 days on the market. The current tax assessment is $521,100.

​P​ease 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​ ​1​1​/​10​/14. Roy Sanborn is a realtor at Four Seasons Sotheby's International Realty and can be reached at 603-677-7012​.​

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Sanborn — A Pottery Barn Lakes Region Christmas

It is just about here. The Christmas holiday buying season is, well, right around the corner. Gotta get through the turkey first. And when you open your mailbox this holiday season and you find your new Pottery Barn catalog has arrived, you may not realize it, but you are looking at scenes from the Lakes Region of NH!

You see, back in the first week of April with the grip of winter waning and days getting longer the production crew from Pottery Barn landed right here to do a photo shoot for their Christmas catalog! They were attracted to the area because of a property in Gilmanton owned by Doug Towle, a well known and renowned old home restoration expert.

Doug has created a true masterpiece collection of early American architecture on a 12 acre parcel of land with amazing views on top of Frisky Hill on Rt 107 south of the Gilmanton Corners. The property, known as the Farley House, is a 1665 Pilgrim era garrison home originally built in Billerica, Mass. It was carefully dismantled, stored, and painstakingly reconstructed on this site. An early 1800s "El" section from Deerfield was attached to create a kitchen area along with a wonderful three car carriage house. Other buildings include a late 1700s barn from Deerfield, a water tower from the late 1800s from Brentwood, a 1700s corn crib from Epsom, and a one room school house from Gilmanton. The real marvel of this property is that everything in this home is original and correct for its period and is seamlessly blended with all the desired modern conveniences making this a uniquely livable, comfortable, and completely manageable residence. The property is currently in the market for $1.495 million, which is a fraction of its cost.

This landmark property has received national exposure on real estate related blogs on Yahoo, Houzz, and HGTV's Front Door and it caught the attention of the powers to be at Pottery Barn. They were completely enthralled and captivated by its beauty. After a preliminary location scout of the Lakes Region in February, a green light was given for the product shoot. A crew of fifteen photographers, set designers, stagers, and even special effects snow makers arrived along with Pottery Barn's art director Christopher Winn. With them they brought two truckloads of new exterior Christmas decorations and product to be featured in the catalog. They also brought a fair dose of Hollywood magic.

With a holiday twinkle in his eye, Christopher directed what seemed to be a chaotic flurry of activity similar to St Nick's preparation for his evening sleigh ride. It quickly became apparent, that, just like Santa's yearly production, the folks at Pottery Barn had done this many, many times before. Product was unloaded, sorted, and organized. Christmas trees were set up, expertly decorated, un-decorated, moved and re-decorated, wreaths were hung, lights were strung, and reindeer pranced on the snow covered lawn. And where there wasn't snow, snow was relocated to produce mid-winter scenes. A crane was on site for three days to decorate high atop the barn...you need snow up there, too!

What quickly became very clear was the photographic expertise and work done to achieve that perfect shot. This was definitely not just an amateur point and click deal. Expert care went into the composition, lighting, angle, and exposure of every single photo. It was not uncommon to wait for hours for just the right light. The right tone. Subtle differences could be huge. Photos were critically reviewed, tweaked, and approved on their computer (there's no re-shooting when they get back to California.) After four days at the Farley House, the crew moved to the Canterbury Shaker Village for some additional exterior photos of product on their amazing buildings.

You can see a behind the scenes video of this photo shoot at Pottery Barn's Facebook Page or at www.lakesregionhome.com.

As of November 1, 2014 there were 1,137 residential homes on the market in the communities covered by this real estate market report. The average asking price was $601,877 with a median price point of $269,000. That means there were 568 homes available below $269,000. That's a lot of affordable housing! The current inventory level represents a 13.5 month supply of homes on the market.

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 ​1​1​/1/14. Roy Sanborn is a realtor at Four Seasons Sotheby's International Realty and can be reached at 603-677-7012.

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