Susan Estrich - Summer in the city

What is a major league baseball game without any fans there to cheer? No one selling hot dogs, no one hawking programs, no need for any ushers. Welcome to Baltimore, where the first two games of a three-game series were postponed and the third was played with no people, lest what should be a sporting event degenerate into a race riot.

And so, in the spring of 2015, we add Baltimore to the list that seems to have started with George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch killer, and then the riots in Ferguson, Missouri, with police on watch across the country.

I was a kid in the summer of 1968, but I remember sitting in front of the television, literally shocked that my country seemed to be on fire on hot nights. But that was 1968.

I remember pulling down all the shades in my house, as they told us to on television, and huddling with my 2-year-old baby as we complied with the curfews that were imposed after the Rodney King riots. But that was 1992.

How can this be happening now? We have an African-American president, we had African-American attorney general, now succeeded by the first African-American woman attorney general, not to mention an African-American head of Homeland Security. And yet, the level of suspicion and distrust, the huge perception gaps between blacks and whites, the fear you can almost feel and touch making clear that race relations, so perfect at the top when we see our magnificent "First Couple", have hardly changed for the less fortunate.

And there is the rub. The rich have gotten richer. The poor have not. White boys with clever ideas parade on television talking about the billions they have made. Sometimes it even rubs me wrong, and who am I to complain?

How would I feel if I were a boy that same age, who never had the chance to make a legal dollar from a decent job, let alone billions based on skills they don't teach in lousy inner-city public schools. Probably very angry, I would guess. My son has been on the computer since nursery school. How many of the young men in the back of police cars had that opportunity? Technology, which so many of us hoped would bring us together and provide access to learning and information that so many lack, has created a gap of its own.
In 1968, police departments were overwhelmingly white, and those who were arrested were disproportionately black. Many of these departments were sued, and rightly so, for arresting ministers and the church handyman and even the almost all-white high school's star black quarterback. Courts ordered reforms, new tests, goals; police departments today are significantly more diverse than they were 40 years ago. Community policing, which was popularized in the 1980s, is just a fancy way of saying that the police were supposed to work hand-in-hand with the community — not only to reflect the community demographically, but to know the difference between the star quarterback and a drug dealer from the other side of town. They don't look alike.

It reminds me of a lesson I learned from the honorable Harry Edwards, now a senior judge on the Court of Appeals in Washington, but back in the '80s, a visiting professor at Harvard. "How do you like it here?" I remember asking him. He sighed. Boston in the '80s was still reeling from the ugly failure of busing to achieve integration. "At Fenway Park," he said sadly, "they don't know that you teach at Harvard."

No. And as one mother explained to me, when white kids wear "street clothes", no one thinks they're gang members. Not so for her son. She dressed him like a white preppy kid, not because she favored the style, but because she hoped it would be safer.

The last thing we need is a summer of racial violence. If you can't remember the summer of 1968, take it from me. Barack Obama ran on "change". It is proving to be harder than any of us once thought.

(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.)

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Pat Buchanan - Why is Yemen our war?

For a month now, the Saudi air force has been bombing Yemen to reverse a takeover of that nation of 25 million by Houthi rebels, and reinstall a president who fled his country and is residing in Riyadh. The Saudis have hit airfields, armor and arms depots, and caused a humanitarian catastrophe. Nearly 1,000 dead, 3,500 wounded and tens of thousands homeless. The poorest nation in the Arab world is near collapse. Dependent upon imported food, Yemen faces malnutrition and starvation.

And the United States has been an accomplice in the Saudi bombing of Yemen. Why? Why is Yemen's civil war America's war?

What did the Houthis ever do to us?

While they bear us no love, their Houthi rebellion was an uprising against a pair of autocrats who had been imposed upon them, and against al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula. The Houthis' main enemy, AQAP, is America's worst enemy.

Why are we then making ourselves de facto allies of al-Qaida?

For while the Saudis have been bombing the Houthis, easing the pressure on al-Qaida, AQAP effected a prison break of 270 inmates, including scores of terrorists, and seized the port of Mukalla.

The Saudis claim the Houthi rebellion is part of an Iranian Shiite scheme to overrun and dominate the Sunni Middle East. But Pakistan is not buying it, and not sending troops. The Egyptians seem reluctant to enlist. Nor is there hard evidence Iran armed or incited the Houthis who have been fighting for years. Tehran reportedly advised the rebels not to take the city of Aden, and is calling for a ceasefire and peace talks.

Saudi propaganda portrays the Middle East as caught up in a great Muslim struggle, with a Shiite Crescent led by Iran seeking to swallow up the Sunni states. But is this true? Or is America being dragged into fighting yet another war where we have no vital interest, against an enemy that has not attacked us and has no plans to do so?

In today's chaotic Middle East, who are our real enemies, those attacking and killing Americans and murdering our friends?

First on the enemies list are al-Qaida and ISIS. No terrorist group has killed more Americans than al-Qaida. No terrorist group has behaved with more savagery toward U.S. citizens, Christians, and friends of ours than ISIS.

And who is most fiercely resisting these enemies of ours? The Saudis? The Gulf Arabs? Our NATO ally Turkey?

By no means. All, at one time or another, have abetted the al-Nusra Front or ISIS in Syria. And none has sent troops to fight the Islamic State in Iraq.
Yet the Houthis, two of whose mosques in Yemen's capital were blown up in March by ISIS, with 135 dead and 350 wounded, have been actively battling these terrorists.

In Iraq, it is Shiite militias, admittedly no friends, Iranians, and Kurds who have been aiding Baghdad in battling the Islamic State.

It is Hezbollah and Iran who have been backing Damascus with arms and troops in Bashar Assad's war against ISIS and the al-Qaida affiliate.

When it comes to battling our enemies, our Sunni friends have been dragging their feet, or even collaborating. But the Shiite Crescent we are supposed to fear as the new Persian Empire has been actively fighting those same enemies.

In his Wall Street Journal column on the Middle East, Yaroslav Trofimov reports that the Saudis are euphoric over their successes in bombing the Houthis, and are looking forward to new wars: "This display of military might has already unleashed patriotic fervor in Riyadh. It has spurred talk that once the Houthis are dealt with, Saudi Arabia's Sunni coalition should move against a more formidable Iranian ally, the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad, and destroy the Syrian air force. 'The massacres in Syria should stop and its regime there should go,' said Khalid al-Dakhil, a Saudi sociologist and prominent commentator. 'The right thing to do after Yemen would be for the Gulf countries and Egypt, Jordan and Turkey to go into Syria to dislodge that regime.'"

About this coming Saudi-led blitzkrieg, several observations: First, while the Houthis have been bloodied they are not beaten. The Saudis may have just thrown a rock into a hornets' nest.

Second, how would Hezbollah, Iran, Iraq and Russia respond to a Saudi-led war to overthrow their allies in Syria?

Third, if Bashar Assad falls in Syria, who rises to power if not the al-Nusra Front and ISIS, the only effective forces opposing him today?

Terrible as is the war that Assad is waging in his own country, is not his regime preferable to what ISIS in Raqqa and al-Nusra in Idlib have on offer to us?

Reportedly, the Americans are trying to coax the Saudis out of their war in Yemen. Wise move. Kings don't tend to last in long wars, especially in wars they themselves have started.

(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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Sanborn — Where's the appreciation?

I recently had a home for sale that went under contract at the full list price. This home was very nice with lots of upgrades and nicely maintained. It was a house that you didn't have to make any excuses for when I showed it. It's the kind of house that many buyers want, in fact, the first buyer that looked at it put in the offer. The buyer was using FHA financing with 3.5 percent down and needed some cash back to help with closing costs which is a fairly common scenario. Unfortunately, the house did not appraise for the purchase price. We still got the deal together, but at a lower price. And that got me thinking.

I have always gone under the assumption that in a free market place, supply and demand for any commodity is the key factor in causing prices to go up or down. One only needs to look at gas prices and oil production to see that. When home inventory levels drop and there are a lot of buyers you begin to see multiple offers with some exceeding the asking price. To me, that's how home values increase or at least they should. Buyers and sellers must agree on what a home is worth. But, there is a hitch. If the buyer of a home is getting a loan, that home's value has to appraised based on recent sales of similar homes in the same area. But if you are always looking in the rear view mirror, those sales prices are always lower, except perhaps for the occasional cash deal.

Say a buyer and seller agree that the value of a house is $300,000. The buyer is putting 20 percent or $60,000 down and financing 80 percent of the purchase price. If the bank appraisal comes in at $285,000, that is all the bank will lend on. Then, there are at least three paths to take. The seller and buyer have to come to new terms at a lower number, the buyer has to make up the difference for the lender, or the deal doesn't happen at all. When a buyer is willing to put $60,000 of his own money into a home purchase I'd say he has a fair amount of "skin in the game" and is probably a pretty good risk for any lender. A good plausible fourth option to me would be that the lender should be able to take a little more risk, particularly if the buyer has stellar credit and wherewithal, but apparently they can't do that.

Obviously, the appraisal process is there to protect both the lender and the buyer, but like everything else today that the government gets involved in, the appraisal process has become a lot more difficult not only because of new guidelines and requirements but also the lack of good comparable sales in many areas. Then you add in the lender's underwriting department review, scrutiny, and oversight and things seem to be getting to the point of being overly restrictive. Appraisers today have a hard job and they definitely don't get paid enough.

So then, how are property values supposed to increase based on the rear view window appraisal process? One article I read sites findings by Robert Shiller, a Yale economist and expert on home values. He says real home values over the long term have remained relatively the same when adjusted for inflation. He found that between the years 1900 and 2000 that the national average of the real rate of appreciation was just 0.2 percent. He estimates that a house that costs $200,000 today would likely cost about $250,000 ten years from now, not due to increasing property values but rather because inflation will cause the dollar will be worth less. It should be noted that Shiller bases his findings on national averages, but real estate is very local and it is all about location, location, location. Of course, there are always exceptions to every rule. There are parts of the country or areas in various communities where home values outpace appreciation by a lot and then there are some areas that under perform. He feels that a home is not really an "investment," but a place to live and obviously gain some tax write offs. I disagree with him there, as I still believe a home is truly an "investment," it is just a long term one.

So while home prices seemed to have dropped off the cliff back when the housing bubble burst, it is pretty clear that there will be a slow climb back.

P​ease feel free to visit to learn more about the Lakes Region real estate market and comment on this article and others.
​Roy Sanborn is a sales associate at Four Seasons Sotheby's International Realty and can be reached at 603-677-7012​.​

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Gretchen Gandini - Recreation trail along lakeshore: an old idea coming to life

I was 2 years old, Jimmy Carter was the President of the United States, and South Down Shores did not even exist when the City of Laconia first proposed building a lakeside bike trail within the State of New Hampshire-owned railroad right of way.
According to the long ago published Lakes Region, N.H. Bikeway System Report, "the railroad right of way was well suited for the trail for a variety of reasons: its close proximity to the homes of year round and seasonal residents; the level grade and separation from automobile traffic made it attractive to very young and older riders; and the route combined scenic beauty with access to the region's busiest commercial areas, providing opportunity for those who might use their bicycles for commuting."
Although the proposal received a great deal of community support and enthusiasm, plans were stalled in Laconia because of the high cost associated with fencing requirements by the state. Meanwhile, communities around the country developed rail trails and began enjoying significant health, economic and recreation benefits.
Fast forward to present day Laconia and the concept of a recreation trail in the state-owned right of way again enjoys a great deal of community support and enthusiasm for many of the same reasons. As well, conversations about fencing requirements remain in the news.
Let's talk about this.
Contrary to recent reports, split-rail fencing or some amenable alternative has, indeed, been approved by the Department of Transportation Bureau of Rail and Transit along the waterfront properties for Phase 2 of the WOW Trail. We are grateful for this unprecedented exception by the State of N.H. and look forward to continued conversations in this regard.
Rails-with-trails have become a common part of the recreation landscape in the United States in recent years, representing nearly 10 percent of all rail-trails in the country. There are currently 161 rails-with-trails in 41 states, a 260 percent increase since 2000. There is no federal standard regarding fencing. Some states require chain link fencing, others require vegetation or grade separation, while others require no separation at all.
According to the Rails to Trails Conservancy's 2013 Rails-With-Trails report, out of thousands of fatalities on railroad corridors in the United States in recent decades, only one involved a trail user on a rail-with-trail. This suggests that a well-designed pathway provides a safe travel alternative and reduces incentive to trespass or use the tracks as a shortcut.
Even more, there's no denying that Phase 1 of the WOW Trail has fast become a unifying landmark and point of pride for the City of Laconia. A growing number of community leaders recognize that a completed WOW Trail will be a game-changer for this community. Not only will it enhance the quality of life for year round and seasonal residents, but it will attract new visitors to the area and help current and future businesses attract and retain a quality workforce by making the city a more desirable place to live, work and play for my generation of young families. We can look at case studies of communities around the country who have seen transformative change by implementing comprehensive, regional trail systems. But, ultimately, it's up to our community to say yes to the idea here, advocate for a more walkable, bikeable city and, most importantly, help usher this project along by investing in its construction.
Let's finish what the City of Laconia first proposed for the Lakes Region in 1980. It's about time we get this project done. I'm ready, are you?

(Gretchen Gandini is the executive director of the WOW Trail. She can be reach via e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..)

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Michael Barone - Hillary is out of sync with the times

Presidents are inevitably shaped by the circumstances in which they campaign for — and come into — office. In 1932, Franklin Roosevelt called for "bold, persistent experimentation" and followed through once in office. Had Roosevelt run in another year, or had there been no Great Depression, he would have campaigned and governed differently.

The same can be said, to varying degrees, of the presidents who won open-seat contests since, John Kennedy, Richard Nixon, the two George Bushes and Barack Obama, and of those who unseated incumbents, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton.

The Republicans who have announced their candidacies so far — Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and Marco Rubio — have similarly framed their appeals in contemporary context. That's made easier by the fact that none was in Congress when Barack Obama was first elected in 2008. We can expect something similar from other Republicans.

The lesson from history is that winning candidates and successful presidents show they are in step with the times. The rationale for their candidacies, while sometimes drawing on historical precedent, is rooted in what is contemporary.

This is obviously a problem for Hillary Clinton, just as it would have been for Eleanor Roosevelt if, somehow, she had run for president in 1952 (when she was younger than Clinton will be in 2016). She would have been defined in large part by her husband's record, which was specific to its time.

Bill Clinton was elected president in 1992 as a different kind of Democrat, more moderate on some issues than previous nominees, vastly interested in alternative public policies that he had advanced as head of the moderate Democratic Leadership Council.

His party was prepared to accept him because Democrats were uncomfortably aware that their candidates had lost five of the six previous elections and had won the other one only by a narrow margin. Political scientists proclaimed that Republicans had a lock on the White House. Liberal Democrats were willing to settle for half a loaf to break that lock — which they did.

Democrats have won four of the last six presidential elections and won a popular-vote plurality in another. Liberals no longer feel they need to compromise to win.

Moreover, in the second term of a party's presidency, its wingers tend to get restless. They take their president's achievements for granted and are full of regret at what he didn't accomplish. Thus, conservatives with complaints against George W. Bush fueled the tea party movement. The energy and enthusiasm in the Democratic Party today is clearly on the left.
In their view Hillary Clinton's appeal is, as Robert Merry characterized it in The National Interest, "Vote for me because I will tinker with the problems facing our nation far better than anyone else possibly could." Dovish Democrats remember she voted for the Iraq war resolution and favored military action in Syria at a time when Obama did not.

The Democrats of 1992 accepted a somewhat hawkish Clinton in order to win. The Democrats of 2015 feel no need to do so. No wonder the two-minute video announcing Clinton's candidacy didn't mention foreign policy, even though she served as secretary of state for four years.

The Clinton video was obviously designed to depict her as a candidate of the moment. Most of it consisted of showing cheerful Clinton supporters living their lives, apparently without the support of government programs that were the highlight of the 2012 Obama cartoon The Life of Julia. The video included gay couples, an attempt by Clinton to get credit with young voters for her recent (2013) endorsement of same-sex marriage.

Clinton tried to identify with liberal Democrats' concern with economic inequality. "Americans have fought their way back from tough economic times," she said, "but the deck is still stacked in favor of those at the top." But the solutions she has mentioned — equal pay for women, mandatory pre-kindergarten, increased minimum wages — are either already law or would have only a de minimis redistributive effect.

Following the video announcement, Clinton headed to Iowa in a Secret Service van dubbed Scooby-Doo — after a cartoon program that debuted in 1969, before Cruz or Rubio were born. Behind closed doors, she mingled with a small group at an Iowa junior college while other students and reporters were barred from the hallway.

Hillary Clinton may still be elected president. But she seems out of sync with her party and out of sync with the times.

(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.)

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