Howard — The Serenity of August

By Elizabeth Howard

April and August, in addition to sharing an "A," are the two months of the year without major holidays. There are no Hallmark cards designed for events during August. Easter does occasionally fall during April, but not always and April can be fickle, catching us off guard with a dusting of snow or a morning chill. August is the most carefree month. It is ours to enjoy. We bask in the warm gentle breezes, long, light-filled days and the sense that the world has, if just for a few hours, slowed down.

Birthdays in our family are in April and August, so we have reasons to celebrate during these months. Saturday evening we celebrated two family birthdays with a barbecue that ended with a decadent chocolate cake served with our favorite pistachio ice cream. It was already dark as we were finishing our dinner but the lights strung around the umbrella and twinkling over the table offered just enough light so we could finish dessert before pulling on sweaters and retreating to the living room.

I had driven to New Hampshire on Saturday across the state of Vermont via Route 9, East. Along the way I noticed canoes and kayaks in the rivers and ponds. Wistfully I watched as these small, quiet vessels seemed to glide through the water. My thoughts turned to Kenneth Grahame's The Wind and the Willows. "The willow-wren was twittering his thin little song, hidden himself in the dark selvedge of the river bank. Though it was past ten o'clock at night, the sky sill clung to and retained some lingering skirts of light from the departed day; and the sullen heats of the torrid afternoon broke up and rolled away at the dispersing touch of the cool fingers of the short midsummer night. ..." My mother, at 95, still enjoys going out in the canoe and my brothers took her canoeing on Saltmarsh Pond Saturday afternoon. They enjoyed lunch sitting on the mossy banks of the pond.

Robert McFarlane, a British writer, is the author of a book that has recently been published in the United States entitled: Landmarks. It is difficult to describe the book, as it is part dictionary, a bibliography of books about nature and landscape and stories of his experiences researching the words. Essentially the book gathers "thousands of words from dozens of languages and dialects for specific aspects of landscape, nature and weather."

What McFarlane is helping the reader, and writers, with is how to write and describe nature. We reach the summit of a mountain, he reminds us, and say, "wow." Not particularly descriptive but the only word that comes to mind.

When I have been canoeing on bogs and ponds in New Hampshire, as dawn is breaking or just at sunset, I have struggled with writing about the experience. The visual experience remains within our mind's eye, it is difficult to capture in words on the page.

We pulled on sweaters Saturday evening, a reminder that August is coming to an end. And even though canoeing and kayaking is possible until the water is impossibly cold it isn't quite the same. Living in a region of lakes we are fortunate to have the summer months to go bumbelling (verb, Shetlandic) around in the water and relaxing on the soft banks along the edge. There is a certain serenity in August.

Elizabeth Howard's career intersects journalism, marketing and communications. Ned O'Gorman: A Glance Back, a book she edited, was published in May, 2016. She is the author of A Day with Bonefish Joe, a children's book, published by David R. Godine. She lives in New York City and has a home in Laconia. You can send her a note at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Jim Hightower - Why can't U.S. economy promote equality & shared prosperity?

Instead of griping about the greedheads of Wall Street and the rip-off financial system they've hung around our necks — why don't we "Take On Wall Street?"

You don't have to be in "Who's Who" to know what's what. For example, if tiny groups of Wall Street bankers, billionaires and their political puppets are allowed to write the rules that govern our economy and elections, guess what? Only bankers, billionaires and puppets will profit from those rules.

That's exactly why our Land of Opportunity has become today's Land of Inequality. Corporate elites have bought their way into the policy-making backrooms of Washington, where they've rigged the rules to let them feast freely on our jobs, devour our country's wealth and impoverish the middle class.

"Take On Wall Street" is both the name and the feisty attitude of a nationwide campaign that a coalition of grassroots groups has launched to do just that: Take on Wall Street. The coalition, spearheaded by the Communication Workers of America, points out that there is nothing natural or sacred about today's money-grabbing financial complex. Far from sacrosanct, the system of finance that now rules over us has been designed by and for Wall Street speculators, money managers, and big bank flim flammers. So — big surprise — rather than serving our common good, the system is corrupt, routinely serving their uncommon greed at everyone else's expense.

There's good news, however, for a growing grassroots coalition of churches, unions, civil rights groups, citizen activists and many others are organizing and mobilizing us to crash through those closed doors, write our own rules and reverse America's plunge into plutocracy. The "Take On" campaign has the guts and gumption to say enough! Instead of continuing to accept Wall Street's plutocratic perversion of our democracy, We The People can rewrite their rules and reorder their structures so the system serves us.

For starters, the campaign has laid out a five-point people's reform agenda and are now taking it to the countryside to rally the voices, anger, and grassroots power of workers, consumers, communities of color, Main Street, the poor, people of faith ... and just plain folks. The coalition is holding information and training sessions to spread the word, forge local coalitions, and learn how we can get right in the face of power to create a fair finance system that works for all. The coalition's structural reforms include:

— Getting the corrupting cash of corporations and the superrich out of our politics by repealing Citizens United and providing a public system for financing America's elections.

— Stopping "too big to fail" banks from subsidizing their high-risk speculative gambling with the deposits of us ordinary customers — make them choose to be a consumer bank or a casino, but not both.

— Institute a tiny "Robin Hood Tax" on Wall Street speculators to discourage their computerized gaming of the system, while also generating hundreds of billions of tax dollars to invest in America's real economy.

— Restore low-cost, convenient "postal banking" in our Post Offices to serve millions of Americans who're now at the mercy of predatory payday lenders and check-cashing chains.

There's an old truism about negotiating that says: "If you're not at the table, you're on the menu." The "Take On Wall Street" campaign intends to put you and me — the People — at the table for a change.

(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".)

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Pat Buchanan - A lot of smoke here, Hillary

Prediction: If Hillary Clinton wins, within a year of her inauguration, she will be under investigation by a special prosecutor on charges of political corruption, thereby continuing a family tradition. For consider what the Associated Press reported this week:

The surest way for a person with private interests to get a meeting with Secretary of State Clinton, or a phone call returned by her, it seems, was to dump a bundle of cash into the Clinton Foundation. Of 154 outsiders whom Clinton phoned or met with in her first two years at State, 85 had made contributions to the Clinton Foundation, and their contributions, taken together, totaled $156 million.

Conclusion: Access to Secretary of State Clinton could be bought, but it was not cheap. Forty of the 85 donors gave $100,000 or more. Twenty of those whom Clinton met with or phoned dumped in $1 million or more. To get to the seventh floor of the Clinton State Department for a hearing for one's plea, the cover charge was high.

Among those who got face time with Hillary Clinton were a Ukrainian oligarch and steel magnate who shipped oil pipe to Iran in violation of U.S. sanctions and a Bangladeshi economist who was under investigation by his government and was eventually pressured to leave his own bank.

The stench is familiar, and all too Clintonian in character.

Recall. On his last day in office, Jan. 20, 2001, Bill Clinton issued a presidential pardon to financier-crook and fugitive from justice Marc Rich, whose wife, Denise, had contributed $450,000 to the Clinton Library.

The Clintons appear belatedly to have recognized their political peril. Bill has promised that, if Hillary is elected, he will end his big dog days at the foundation and stop taking checks from foreign regimes and entities, and corporate donors. Cash contributions from wealthy Americans will still be gratefully accepted.

One wonders: Will Bill be writing thank-you notes for the millions that will roll in to the family foundation — on White House stationery?

By his actions, Bill is all but conceding that there is a serious conflict of interest between his foundation raking in millions that enhance the family's prestige and sustain its travel and lifestyle, while providing its big donors with privileged access to the secretary of state.

Yet if Hillary Clinton becomes president, the scheme is unsustainable. Even the Obama-Clinton media might not be able to stomach this.

And even Clinton seems to be conceding the game is up. "I know there's a lot of smoke, and there's no fire," she said in self-defense this week.

She is certainly right about the smoke. And if, as Democratic apparatchik Steve McMahon assures us that there is "no smoking gun," no quid-pro-quo, no open-and-shut case of Secretary Clinton taking official action in gratitude to a donor of the family foundation, how can we predict a special prosecutor?

Answer: We are not at the end of this scandal. We are at what Churchill called the "end of the beginning."

Missing emails are being unearthed at State, through Freedom of Information Act requests, that are filling out the picture Clinton thought had been blotted out when her 33,000 "private" emails were erased by her lawyers.

Someone out there, Julian Assange, Russia, or the rogue websites doing all this hacking, are believed to have many more explosive emails they are preparing to drop before Election Day.

And why is Clinton is keeping her State Department calendar secret from the AP, if it does not contain meetings or calls she does not want to defend? She has defied requests and the AP had to sue to get the schedule of her first two years at State. Moreover, the AP story on the State Department-Clinton Foundation links was so stunning it is sure to trigger follow-up by investigative journalists who can smell a Pulitzer.

Then there are the contacts between Huma Abedin, her closest aide at State, and Doug Band at the Clinton Foundation, the go-betweens for the donor-Clinton meetings, which has opened a new avenue for investigators.

These were unearthed by Judicial Watch, which is not going away.

The number of persons of interest involved in this suppurating scandal, which has gone from an illicit server, to a panoply of Clinton lies to the public that disgusted the FBI director, to erased emails, to "pay for play," and now deep into the Clinton Foundation continues to grow.

All that is needed now, to bring us to an independent counsel, is calls for the FBI to reopen and broaden its investigation in light of all that has been revealed since Director Comey said there was not evidence enough to recommend an indictment.

If Clinton controls the Justice Department, calls for a special prosecutor will be resisted, but only until public demand becomes too great. For there were independent counsels called in Watergate, Iran-Contra and the scandals that led to the impeachment of Bill Clinton.

Hillary Clinton says there is no fire. But something is causing all that smoke.

(Patrick J. Buchanan is the author of the new book "The Greatest Comeback: How Richard Nixon Rose From Defeat to Create the New Majority.")

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Bob Meade - The price of 'single-payer' health care? Your freedom!

How many times must we find that when a government/bureaucratic imposed solution fails, the government/bureaucratic answer to that failure is to grow and expand it . . . and always at the expense to, and/or the detriment of, we, the people.

The Obama administration pushed through the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), aka "Obamacare," by using parliamentary chicanery, making un-deliverable promises to legislators and citizens, keeping the actual words in the bill hidden from both, and passing the bill without a single vote from the opposition party Republicans.

The president and other politicians promised citizens utopian benefits that have not been, nor will they ever be, delivered. Thousands of pages of "regulations,, having the force of law, were added. Those regulations included items that would have prevented the original bill from being passed, even by Democrat-only legislators. Among those items that surfaced was the requirement that even religious individuals and organizations had to provide abortion services in violation of the tenets of their faith. When challenged, the government dug its heals in, forcing individuals and religious organizations to spend enormous sums of money bringing their pleas through the court system, right on up to the Supreme Court.

To a great extent, the PPACA/Obamacare threw out actuarial rules and imposed requirements on insurers that, quite frankly, defied common sense. For example, health insurance for a single, post-menopausal woman was required to include coverage for pregnancy, pre-natal care and abortion (e.g. the "morning after" pill). Even if a woman specifically asked not to have such coverage in her insurance policy, the insurance company could not exclude it. The policies were also forced to include "free" contraception for all women, even if such a requirement also violated the tenets of one's faith.
Requirements imposed on the insurance companies and the citizens resulted not in lower costs, as had been promised, but substantially higher costs. Added to that increase were sizeable "deductibles" that often made it impossible for average policy holders to afford visits to their doctors, as they had before. There are even more promises that haven't been fulfilled, but you get the point. And, reputable insurance companies lost hundreds of millions of dollars.

The term, "single payer" is an oblique way of saying that the government is going to "tax" each and every one of us for health care, will determine what medical services we may be eligible for and may be provided to us, and the government will determine what physicians, surgeons, and hospitals will be paid. A frightening thought!

Basically, single payer would expand Medicare to all citizens, the entire population. According to the Kaiser Foundation, in 2015, there were almost 56 million people on Medicare, about 18 percent of our population. According to a study by the state of Connecticut, the unfunded liabilities for Medicare, as it exists today, exceed $13 trillion, growing to a whopping $36 trillion over the longer term. This raises the question as to what the impact on our debt will be if instead of 56 million people being on Medicare, the number becomes almost six times larger, totaling 317 million people, and growing?

Aside from the financial nightmare that will severely bankrupt our country, what is even more frightening is the prospect of turning our excellent health care system over to bumbling bureaucrats who will oversee and dictate what medical services physicians and surgeons may perform. One of the authors of the PPACA was Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, brother of the Chicago mayor. Dr. Emanuel is on the record as saying that when a person reaches the age of 75, he or she would have had a chance to see their children mature, and their grandchildren be born. And, in his opinion, once that age is reached, we should be willing to simply die and not be a burden on society.

In addition to the failures of the PPACA/Obamacare, we have been given a glimpse of government-run health care in the Veteran's Administration. While this is not to indict the dedicated health care workers within the VA, we have seen reports of management staffers cooking the books by repeatedly falsifying patient wait times. In a number of cases, in spite of all the negative publicity resulting from this genuine scandal, little has been done to correct the situation. In fact, the new head of the VA received four Pinocchio's from the Washington Post for his claim that 60 people were fired for their part in the wait time scandal, and Politifact called his claim, false.

Like it or not, if the government cannot effectively manage veteran's health care in spite of enormous increases in funding over the last the three presidencies, has unfunded Medicare liabilities that are twice the size of our national debt, has other failing bureaucratic departments such as energy and education, was unable to fire a single employee for the IRS scandal, how in the world can we even give a thought to allowing the government to take control over what is the finest health care system in the world?

Don't let it happen.

(Bob Meade is a resident of Laconia.)

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Susan Estrich - Trump flunks August

It took a long time, but every record must eventually get broken, and no one is happier about this one than me: Finally, a presidential campaign has had a worse August than we did in 1988. That year, Michael Dukakis came out of the convention with a lead a mile wide and an inch deep, only to turn his campaign plane around and head back to Massachusetts, where he spent August being governor while his lead disappeared.

When I heard the chairman of the Republican National Committee say that Donald Trump would have been better off going on vacation after the convention, I realized the mark had been passed.

Donald Trump has had the worst August of any modern nominee, God bless him.

And that was before he fired well-respected Republican political consultant Paul Manafort, who has run all manner of campaigns, and replaced him with the executive chairman of Breitbart, the right-wing scream sheet.

Who needs a guy who knows how to run campaigns when you have a guy who really knows how to write headlines?

Instead of stopping me in the market to ask me if Trump could win (thankfully, that line of questioning has ended), people ask me how it was that someone so clearly and completely unsuited to the office could have gotten so close — obit time in August.

And you won't convince me it's too early, that it's just spring training, not when you are talking about a candidate who may be a household name but no one actually knows all that much about. What voters are learning in August will shape how they view Trump on the ballot.

This is a man who picks a fight with the family of a Muslim soldier, and then just can't bring himself to apologize. I'm willing to bet money that was not Manafort's idea.

This is a man who refuses to endorse the Republican House speaker — definitely not Manafort's strategy.

How about inviting Vladimir Putin to hack into State Department files? Manafort? No.

There have been many smart people trying to guide Trump the nominee in the hopes of at least salvaging some victories down-ticket. There is no shortage of people who would tell him that it is a bad idea to pick a fight with the family of a dead Muslim soldier. This part of politics is not rocket science.

That Trump did so proves the most troubling thing of all about a man who got so close: He listens to no one. He thinks he knows better than anyone. He thinks in headlines, so he's hired a headline writer to write his campaign. Leadership as Twitter. The heck with those Washington insiders, of all stripes, who mostly keep the country going, even if it is too often to the highest bidder. At least they understand that governing is not a reality show, and that what a nominee for president says does matter.

Fortunately, what had to happen to Trump is finally happening — too late to save the Republican Party, but with time to spare for the general election. Has Trump sunk too soon? I don't think so. The kind of harm he has inflicted on himself this month is not going to be cured by a smart line at a debate.

What Trump needed to do this summer was convince people he really could be president, that he belonged in that small group of people who Americans can imagine in the White House. What he did was just the opposite. Even white men are turning on him. Imagine: Hillary Clinton closing the voting gender gap. Only the Donald could make that happen.

(Massachusetts native Susan Estrich is a law professor at the University of Southern California. She managed the Michael Dukakis campaign for president in 1988.)

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