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Pat Buchanan - Obama tiptoes toward war

Barack Obama has just taken his first baby steps into a war in Syria that may define and destroy his presidency. Thursday, while he was ringing in Gay Pride Month with LGBT revelers, a staffer, Ben Rhodes, informed the White House press that U.S. weapons will be going to the Syrian rebels.
For two years Obama has stayed out of this sectarian-civil war that has consumed 90,000 lives. Why is he going in now?
The White House claims it now has proof Bashar Assad used sarin gas to kill 100-150 people, thus crossing a "red line" Obama had set down as a "game changer." Defied, his credibility challenged, he had to do something.
Yet Assad's alleged use of sarin to justify U.S. intervention seems less like our reason for getting into this war than our excuse. For the White House decided to intervene weeks ago, before the use of sarin was confirmed. And why would Assad have used only tiny traces? Where is the photographic evidence of the disfigured dead? What proof have we the rebels did not fabricate the use of sarin or use it themselves to get the gullible Americans to fight their war?
Yet, why would President Obama, whose proud boast is that he will have extricated us from the Afghan and Iraq wars, as Dwight Eisenhower did from the Korean War, plunge us into a new war? He has been under severe political and foreign pressure to do something after Assad and Hezbollah recaptured the strategic town of Qusair and began preparing to recapture Aleppo, the largest city.
Should Assad succeed, it would mean a decisive defeat for the rebels and their backers: the Turks, Saudis and Qataris. And it would mean a geostrategic victory for Iran, Hezbollah and Russia, who have proven themselves reliable allies.
To prevent this defeat and humiliation, we are now going to ship arms and ammunition to keep the rebels going and in control of enough territory to negotiate a peace that will remove Assad. We are going to make this a fair fight.
What is wrong with this strategy? It is the policy of an amateur. It treats war like a game. It ignores the lessons of history. And, as it continues a bloodbath with no prospect of an end to it, it is immoral.
In every great civil war of modernity — the Russian civil war of 1919-1921, the Spanish civil war of 1936-1939, the Chinese civil war of 1945-49, one side triumphs and takes power. The other loses and lives with the consequences — defeat, death, exile.
What is the likely reaction to our escalation from humanitarian aid to military aid? Counter-escalation. Russia, Iran and Hezbollah are likely to rush in more weapons and troops to accelerate the progress of Assad's army before the American weapons arrive.
And if they raise and call, what does Obama do?
Already, a clamor is being heard from our clients in the Middle East and Congress to crater Syria's runways with cruise missiles, to send heavy weapons to the rebels, to destroy Assad's air force on the ground, to bomb his antiaircraft sites.
All of these are acts of war. Yet under the Constitution, Congress alone authorizes war.
When did Congress authorize Obama to take us to war in Syria? Where does our imperial president get his authority to draw red lines and attack countries that cross them? Have we ceased to be a republic? Has Congress become a mere spectator to presidential decisions on war and peace?
As Vladimir Putin seems less the reluctant warrior, what do we do if Moscow answers the U.S. escalation by delivering on its contract to provide A-300 antiaircraft missiles to Damascus, which can cover half of Israel?
Obama has put us on the escalator to a war already spilling over Syria's borders into Turkey, Lebanon, Iraq and Jordan, a war that is now sundering the entire Middle East along Sunni and Shia lines. He is making us de facto allies of the Al-Qaida-like al-Nusra Front, of Hamas and jihadists from all across the region, and of the Muslim Brotherhood. Egypt's President Mohammed Morsi just severed ties to Syria and is demanding a "no-fly zone," which one imagines the United States, not the Egyptian air force, would have to enforce.
Our elites shed tears over the 90,000 dead in Syria. But what we are about to do will not stop the killing, but simply lengthen the duration of the war and increase the numbers of dead and wounded.
At the top of this escalator our country has begun to ascend is not just a proxy war with Iran in Syria, but a real war that would entail a disaster for the world economy. If the ouster of Assad is what the Sunni powers of Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Egypt demand, why not let them do it?
Anti-interventionists should demand a roll-call vote in Congress on whether Obama has the authority to take us into this Syrian 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 Tuesday, 18 June 2013 09:28

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Froma Harrop - Medicare blowing whislte on another way we overpay

Little victories in curbing health care costs can add up. In truth, they seem little only next to the titanic $2.6 trillion Americans spend a year on health care. So let us salute them.
Case in point, the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (Medpac) proposes ending a ridiculously expensive practice: Medicare paying hospital outpatient departments vastly more than it does doctors providing the same routine service in their offices.
Here are two examples, courtesy of The Seattle Times: Woman goes to a dermatologist at Seattle's Roosevelt Clinic for the same treatment she received in an earlier visit to a doctor's office. But this time she gets two bills — $109 for the doctor and $228 for the privilege of seeing the doctor in real estate owned by the hospital. This is the "facility fee."
A retired Seattle doctor offers a similar story. His wife consulted a doctor — no procedures done — in a hospital clinic and received a facility charge of $177 in addition to the doctor's bill of $139. The sum total came to $316 — this for a 15-minute chat in a 10-by-10-foot office space, no water view.
Small wonder hospitals have been buying up physician practices. That way they can drag more patients onto their premises and tack facility fees onto their bills. In Washington state, for example, 2 percent of the cardiologists were employed by hospitals in 2007. Now 42 percent are.
You know the echocardiogram, that test where the doctor sticks those thingies on your chest to check out your heart. For Medicare beneficiaries, the government and patient pay a total of $188 for an echocardiogram in a doctor's office. They are charged $452 for the same thing done in a hospital outpatient department.
There is no conceivable reason for doing a routine echocardiogram in a hospital setting other than improving the hospital's revenue stream. In answer to the question, "What risks are there from the (echocardiogram) test?" the Harvard Medical School responds, "There are no risks."
So Medpac has come up with an eminently reasonable proposal: "Medicare should base payment rates on the resources needed to safely treat patients in the most efficient setting, adjusting for differences in patient severity." Translation: Go to the least expensive setting, while taking the patient's condition into account.
Some private insurers are already on the case. Seattle-based Group Health Cooperative has told the hospital systems it contracts with that it will no longer pay their fees for ordinary visits to the doctor. And, as a nice touch, it won't let them saddle patients with them, either.
Naturally, hospitals don't like this kind of talk. They moan of the costs of their emergency rooms, their expensive regulations and the allegedly paltry sums Medicare pays them for outpatient care (all the while advertising for Medicare patients).
Left unspoken is the soaring compensation of hospital executives. Some get multimillion-dollar pay packages tied to how many bodies they get through the hospital door. Theirs is a good business.
We were speaking of how minor victories in curbing medical costs can add up to healthy savings. Medpac identified 66 groups of services performed in hospital outpatient departments that could be done in a doctor's office.
By paying the doctor's office rate for them, Medicare and its beneficiaries would save $900 million a year. Another $600 million a year could be saved for 12 groups of services commonly performed in ambulatory surgical centers but often done in more expensive hospital settings.
Put these numbers together, and you have $1.5 billion a year in savings. That's not a shabby number, even when floating in the ocean of American health care spending.
(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 Monday, 17 June 2013 09:37

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Jim Hightower - Let us commence towards the common good

Ironically, June is both the month of the summer solstice and of America's biggest annual blizzard. I don't mean a weather event blowing in from the Arctic, but a merciless storm of words blowing from the mouths of commencement speakers at high school and college graduation events.
This year, I was one of the blowhards, the chief speechifyer for some 260 graduates of my old high school in Denison, Texas. While it was an honor to be chosen as their ceremonial yakker, it's also a truly humbling experience, since I was the person that the degree recipients and their 5,000 supporters in the audience were least interested in.
Plus, commencement pontificators are expected to offer some sage advice to guide the grads as they moved on, and I was all out of sage. So, I resorted to three admonitions I once learned from a West Texas cowboy: "Never squat with your spurs on;" "Always drink upstream from the herd;" and "Speak the truth — but ride a fast horse."
Then I hit them with my main message: Now that you've had a dozen years in the classroom and earned this important credential, DON'T BE AN IDIOT! I used "idiot" in the same way that ancient Greeks originally meant it. Idiotes were not people with low-watt brains, but individuals who cared only about themselves, refusing to participate in public efforts to benefit the larger community — to serve the common good.
The Greeks, I told the students, considered such people selfish, contemptible and stupid ... and so should we.
The encouraging news is that this crop of graduates from Denison High nodded in agreement. After all, they've seen that the idiots are running things in Washington and on Wall Street, and the youngsters seem to be hungry for less selfishness and more togetherness as our society's guiding ethic.
To stress the rich possibilities of a society working together, I noted that any of us who rise in life do so because many helpinghands give us a lift.
While this night of celebration belonged to the students, the achievementbeing celebrated belonged to the whole community — the families, friends, teachers, taxpayers and others who were part of the lifting.
I told them about Harrell's hardware store, located near my home in Austin, Texas. It's an independent un-chained, small-box store with a knowledgeable staff willing to help customers figure out how to do most any project. Harrell's slogan is, "Together, we can do it yourself."
Like most commencement droners, I urged the bright faces beaming from beneath their funny square hats to do "Big Things" in life. But my point was that bigness cannot be measured in terms of personal wealth and self aggrandizement (the narcissistic ethic presently being preached and practiced by today's corporate and political elite). Rather, only by joining with others in democratic actions can you achieve something bigger than yourself.
As Bill Moyers noted in an earlier graduation speech: "Civilization is not natural. It's an accomplishment of culture. It is not just 'what happens,' it' is what we make happen." The key word there is "we," for no "I" is big enough to do the job. But together, as Harrell's hardware says, "we can do it."
The proof of this was sitting right in front of me at the graduation ceremonies. When I was in their place in 1961, every single person in my class and the audience was a white Anglo. Our schools and town were totally segregated. On this night, though, the ceremony taking place on a beautiful night in the football stadium was a glory of Anglo, African, Latino, Arab, Asian and other ancestries.
Denison became a better, more civilized place only because so many people (including some of the grayheads in this audience) had dared to stand together to make it happen. The class of 2013 applauded this ethic of social progress, and they gave me hope that they and others like them will pull our country together again, e pluribus unum.
(Jim Hightower has been called American's most popular populist. The radio commentator and former Texas Commissioner of Agriculture is author of seven books, including "There's Nothing In the Middle of Road but Yellow Stripes and Dead Armadillos" and his new work, "Swim Against the Current: Even Dead Fish Can Go With The Flow".)

Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 December 1969 07:00

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Michelle Malkin - To Obama, 'smarter enforcement' means none

Welcome to Opposite World again. As the U.S. Senate geared up for the Gang of Eight illegal alien amnesty bill debate, President Obama goaded Capitol Hill to pass what he called "smarter enforcement, a pathway to earned citizenship and improvements to the legal system" of immigration. Bullcrap. The White House has already bulldozed a traffic-jammed superhighway for immigration law-breakers by executive fiat.
Obama and his open-borders pals pay lip service to fairness and the rule of law for the cameras. But behind closed doors and beyond the reach of public accountability, they've already paved the way for mass deportation waivers. Read their actions, not their lips. The official White House operating policy is: No illegal alien left behind. "Smarter enforcement" means no enforcement.
Remember: Exactly one year ago this week, the president announced he would halt all deportations and start granting work permits to an estimated 2.1 million illegal aliens who entered the country as children.
This blanket amnesty through administrative non-enforcement has been plagued by questions of fraud from the get-go. According to the Center for Immigration Studies, statistics from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services show that the feds have rubber-stamped applications at a whopping 99.5 percent approval rate. And fraudulent use of Social Security numbers is no problem for the so-called "DREAM"-ers. The feds reassured them last fall that they wouldn't have to disclose how many and which phony or stolen Social Security numbers they've used.
"Smarter enforcement"? Tell that to the rank-and-file Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents who refused to look the other way at Obama's executive subversion of the law. ICE agent Christopher Crane and eight other officers filed suit against the White House over the DREAM deportation waiver program's usurpation of their ability and authority to do their jobs. The Gang of Eight plan would provide the executive branch "virtually unlimited discretion" to cut off immigration enforcement officers at the knees.
As Crane testified in a searing statement on Capitol Hill in April: "Lawmaking in our nation has indeed taken a strange twist. Senators invite illegal aliens to testify before Congress ... but American citizens working as law enforcement officers within our nation's broken immigration system are purposely excluded from the process and prohibited from providing input. Suffice it to say, following the Boston terrorist attack, I was appalled to hear the Gang of Eight telling America that its legislation was what American law enforcement needs."
In April, a federal judge in Texas agreed with the ICE agents that King Obama could not order them to ignore immigration laws at his whim. A decision on their motion for preliminary injunction is expected any day now.
Kansas Secretary of State and immigration enforcement legal eagle Kris Kobach broke it down for me yesterday: "The federal judge in Crane v. Napolitano has ruled that the ICE agents are likely to prevail in their argument that the Obama administration is ordering them to violate federal law. Think about that: This administration is ordering career law enforcement personnel to break the law. Now, the administration is pushing for an amnesty bill that contains almost nothing to improve immigration enforcement. All that the American citizens will get in return for the amnesty is the promise from the Obama administration that they will try harder to enforce the law. The administration has already shattered that promise, doing exactly the opposite. This is a stark warning to Congress. I sincerely hope that they hear it."
Will they listen? Suicidal Republicans have supported illegal alien amnesties dating back to the Reagan era. They have paid a steep, lasting price. As bankrupt, multiculti-wracked California goes, so goes the nation. The progs' plan has always been to exploit the massive population of illegal aliens to redraw the political map and secure a permanent ruling majority.
Now, in the wake of nonstop D.C. corruption eruptions, SchMcGRubio and Company want us to trust them with a thousand new pages of phony triggers, left-wing slush-fund spending and make-believe assimilation gestures. Trust them? Hell, no. There's only one course for citizens who believe in upholding the Constitution and protecting the American dream: Stop them.
(Syndicated columnist Michelle Malkin is the daughter of Filipino Immigrants. She was born in Philadelphia, raised in southern New Jersey and now lives with her husband and daughter in Colorado. Her weekly column is carried by more than 100 newspapers.)

Last Updated on Friday, 14 June 2013 10:26

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Sanborn – Lakes Region waterfront sales report

May showed a little uptick in waterfront sales on Winnipesaukee with 14 transactions at an average sales price of $907,196 and a median price point of $826,000. Four sales came in over the million dollar mark. Last May we had twelve transactions on the big lake at an average sales price of $638,231.
Not unexpectedly, the least expensive sale was on an island, 97 Bear Island in Meredith, to be exact. This is certainly not a luxury property but it got someone onto Winnipesaukee for only $165,000 which is over $100,000 less than the tax assessed value of $269,900. The property consists of a 1950s vintage, 1,245 square foot, two bedroom, one bath cottage on a .43 acre lot with 100' of frontage on the east side of Bear. This property was originally listed in November of 2011 at $229,000, was subsequently relisted in February of 2013, and sold after a total of 406 days on the market. I suspect someone is happy with a bargain basement buy on the big lake...
The property at 7 Red Sands Lane in Alton best represents the median price point sale. This is another 1950s vintage year round home with 984 square feet of living space, a classic knotty pine interior, hardwood floors, two bedrooms, one bath, and long range views up the lake. The 1.61 acre lot has 183' of frontage and a grandfathered docking system with a 31' x 13' deck over the water and two 10' x 30' docks. That's pretty darn nice and the new owner must have thought so, too. This property was on the market at $849,000 and sold for $803,000 after 147 days on the market. The current tax assessment is $775,700.
Honors for the highest sale of the month go to the property at 64 Timber Lane in Alton. This home is a newer construction, high quality, 7,296 square foot, Adirondack home built in 2009. It has 14 rooms, five bedrooms (including a first floor master suite with its own fireplace,) and six baths. The impressive, exposed post and beam great room has soaring cathedral ceilings, a massive stone fireplace (there are a total of six in the home), and fabulous views of the lake through a wall of windows. The chef's kitchen has a commercial grade gas range, two sinks, two dishwashers (I guess people can be messy here), cherry cabinetry, and granite countertops. Of course the walkout lower level would not be complete unless it had a fantastic game room, double sided fireplace, and lounge. Outside, you'll find bluestone patios, decks, and a granite set of stairs leading down to 150' of frontage with a U-shaped dock and breakwater. This home was first listed in January 2011 for $2.799 million, relisted in February 2012 at $2.699 million, and sold for $2.5 million after a total of 784 days on the market. The current tax assessment is $2.15 million. Pretty impressive.
There were no waterfront sales on Winnisquam last month. Zip, zero, nadda, none... But there were two on Squam. And someone appeared to get a good buy up there at 17 Marden Point in Holderness! This 1942 vintage, two bedroom, year round cottage is but twenty feet from the lake and was owned by the same people for over 50 years. It has an open concept living/dining area, a fireplace, and large screened porch. What else do you need? The cottage sits on a third acre level lot with 124' of water frontage. The property was originally listed at $694,000, was reduced to $489,000, and sold for $459,100 after 662 days on the market. The $100 was probably for the fishing gear the owner left there? The current tax assessment on the property is $700,830. I think that was a pretty good buy, don't you?!!
Another below assessment Squam Lake sale was at 69 NH Rt 113 in Holderness. This is an 1,880 square foot contemporary home that was built in 1995. It is across the street from the lake but has a separate lot on the water with 65' of frontage and a double dock. This move-in-ready home has three bedrooms including the master suite, three baths, a wood fireplace in the living room, a family room in the lower level, and great views of the lake. It also has a charming separate guest house with its own kitchen, living room, bedroom, and bath. Perfect for when Mom comes to visit. This home was listed at $580,000 and sold at $550,000 after just 15 days on the market. It is assessed at $613,220. Now that tells me this is a nice property and it was priced right!
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 6/11/13. Roy Sanborn is a REALTOR® at Four Seasons Sotheby's International Realty and can be reached at 603-455-0335.

Last Updated on Friday, 14 June 2013 06:45

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