At the end of the Cold War, Francis Fukuyama famously wrote that our world may be at the "end of history" where "Western liberal democracy" becomes "the final form of human government."
A quarter century on, such optimism seems naive.
Consider the United States, the paragon of liberal democracy. An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll finds that only 14 percent of the people approve of Congress and only 19 percent approve of the GOP. Seventy-one percent believe America is headed in the wrong direction.
Nor is this the exceptional crisis of a particular presidency. JFK was assassinated. LBJ was broken by race riots and anti-war demonstrations. Richard Nixon, facing impeachment, resigned. Gerald Ford was rejected by the electorate. Ronald Reagan was highly successful — like Nixon, he won in a 49-state landslide after his first term — but during the Iran-Contra scandal of 1987 there was a real threat of a second impeachment. And Bill Clinton was impeached.
Our democracy seems to be at war with itself.
Now there is talk of impeaching Obama. It will become a clamor should he grant executive amnesty to 5 million illegal immigrants.
Political science has long described what seems to be happening. From the tribal leader comes the monarch, whose reign gives way to an aristocracy that produces a middle class that creates a republic, the degenerative form of which is that pure democracy of which John Adams wrote: "Democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There is never a democracy that did not commit suicide." Then comes the strong man again.
Is that our future? Is Western democracy approaching the end of its tether, with the seeming success of authoritarian capitalism in China and Russia? Recent history provides us with examples.
World War I, begun 100 years ago, brought down many of the reigning monarchs of Europe. The caliph of the Ottoman Empire was sent packing by Kemal Ataturk. Czar Nicholas II was murdered on the orders of the usurper Vladimir Lenin. Fighting off a Bolshevik invasion, Marshal Pilsudski rose to power in Poland. Admiral Miklos Horthy ran the communists out of Budapest and took the helm. Mussolini led the 1922 March on Rome. Hitler's Beer Hall Putsch in 1923 failed, but his party utilized democracy's institutions to seize power and murder democracy. Out of the Spanish Civil War came the dictatorship of Gen. Franco. And so it went.
Vladimir Putin may be the most reviled European leader among Western elites today, but he is more popular in his own country than any other Western ruler, with 80 percent approval, for standing up for Russia and Russians everywhere.
Polls in France say that, were elections held today, Marine Le Pen would replace Francois Hollande in the Elysee Palace.
Eurocrats bewail what is happening, but, inhibited by secularist ideology, fail to understand it. They believe in economism, rule by scholarly global elites, and recoil at the resurgence of nationalism and populism. They do no understand people of the heart because they do not understand human nature. People don't enlist, endure, fight and die for cerebral constructs.
Who, then, will own the future — of Europe, America, the world?
The day of the democratist and transnational elite appears to be passing. In Europe, the Scots, Catalans, Corsicans, Venetians and Flemish seek to secede from England, Spain, France, Italy and Belgium, respectively. Not only the National Front in France, but also the UK Independence Party of Nigel Farage and a dozen other nationalist parties on the continent want out of the European Union and an end to immigration. And they are no longer intimidated by name-calling.
In America, a tectonic shift has taken place in public opinion with the arrival on our border of 60,000 children from Central America and the threat by Obama to issue executive amnesty to 5 million illegals. Last week, Alabama Congressman "Mo" Brooks said there is a "war on whites" in America, being led by Obama, noting that under civil right laws the only group one may discriminate against is white males. Nor has Brooks recanted under fire.
In a Washington Post column answering Brooks, "A Welcome End to American Whiteness," Dana Milbank concedes that, by 2043, white Americans will be less than half of the U.S. population. They were near 90 percent in 1960.
Far from being something to fear, Milbank writes, this "is to be celebrated. Indeed, it is the key to our survival." Immigrants pouring in from the Third World will bring a "fresh labor supply" and "fresh blood to cure us of what ails us." A tired America will be revitalized.
Perhaps. But sociologist Robert Putnam discovered that the more ethnically and linguistically diverse a society becomes, the more its social capital evaporates, and the less do its multicultural members gather together to cooperate in common causes.
And from those recent polls, Americans seem to look on the prospect of an even more racially and culturally diverse America of tomorrow, not with anticipation, but with a measure of dread.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 December 1969 07:00
As of August 1, 2014 there were 1,283 homes on the market in the twelve communities covered by this report. The average listing price was $575,398 and the median price point stood at $269,000. That means there were 641 affordable homes below that $269,000 mark. Last August there were 1,241 homes with a median price of $259,900. The current inventory level represents a 16 month supply of homes to sell which is way, way too much.
Ever since the dawn of home ownership people have tried to protect their property and thwart those that might intrude on them. The second task Neanderthal Man had after moving into his new digs was to start a fire in the mouth of the cave to keep predators from making his family into dinner. His first task was to paint some pictures of his favorite sports on the wall. The Dukes, Earls, and Kings of the dismal dark ages protected their property by digging a big moat around their house to keep the marauding Huns or Vikings from pillaging their property. The ancient Chinese built their homes with squeaky floors on purpose so that ninjas couldn't sneak in on them. They called them cricket floors. Our old New England homes have squeaky floors too, but they didn't make them that way on purpose.
Of course, a good lock is probably the best bet to keep most prowlers out, but if someone wants to get in they will. Fear is also a great deterrent. Dogs have been used to protect homes for centuries and nothing strikes more fear into a would-be intruder's heart than a snarling Rottie or Doberman. A barking dog is an excellent choice to keep burglars out as long as they sound fierce. Minpins and Pekinese don't quite cut it. It doesn't matter that your Rottie is a blubbering lap dog and that he's probably peeing all over the kitchen floor, he still sounds fierce and has the desired effect.
Warning signs work pretty well, too. You know, like the signs that say ADT or Property Protected by Smith and Wesson. You don't necessary have to have a security system or a .45 caliber handgun to display the warning sign, but it could help. I kind of like the sign that has a picture of a handgun on it that says "Never Mind the Dog, Beware of the Owner." Combining man's best friend and a gun toting homeowner should be a pretty effective deterrent. Video cameras mounted outside your home also stop many would-be felons. The camera doesn't even have to be real, either. A dummy camera tends to make burglars back off as they are generally a little camera shy. Something about the post office bulletin board?
Home security systems have been around for more than 160 years and the original was the invention of Augustus Pope from right here in New England down in Sommerville, Mass. He invented a simple switch that mounted on a door or window which when opened caused an electrical circuit to close and ring a battery operated bell. A very loud bell. A bell, that wouldn't shut off. Just like the darn sirens they use today that we, as realtors, invariably set off at least once at our client's home.
A shrewd business man named Edwin Holmes (no relation to Sherlock) bought the patent to Popes invention in 1857 and later combined it with that new fangled invention called "electricity" and transmitted the alarm to a central monitoring station through telegraph lines. Over the years burglar alarm systems have improved and expanded to include video surveillance monitoring and whole house systems monitoring with remote access and control. Today systems can be installed without wiring thanks to new technology and you can even get alerts to your cell phone letting you know that someone is breaking into your house while you are out playing golf. That's pretty amazing stuff. It beats building a fire on your front porch or yelling at your dog to shut up. I don't know though, I really still like my dog...
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 8/1/14. Roy Sanborn is a realtor at Four Seasons Sotheby's International Realty and can be reached at 603-677-7012
Last Updated on Friday, 08 August 2014 07:37
One public service that people really like and count on is the post office — which literally delivers for us.
Antigovernment ideologues and privatization dogmatists, however, hate the very word "public," and they've long sought to demonize the U.S. Postal Service, undercut its popular support and, finally, dismantle it. Their main line of attack has been to depict it as a bloated, inefficient, outmoded agency that's a hopeless money loser, sucking billions from taxpayers. Never mind that USPS doesn't take a dime of tax money to fund its operation — it's actually a congressionally-chartered, for-profit corporation that earns its revenue by selling stamps and providing services to customers. And here's something that will come as a surprise to most people: The post office makes a profit — expected to be more than a billion dollars this year.
Yet, the media keeps reporting that the USPS is losing billions of dollars each year. What they fail to mention is that those are phony paper losses manufactured by Congress at the behest of corporate privatizers.
Late in 2006, the lame duck Republican Congress rammed into law a cockamamie requirement that the Postal Service must pre-fund the retiree health benefits of everyone it employs or expects to employ for the next 75 years. Hello? That includes workers who're not even born yet! No other business in America is required to pre-fund such benefits for even one year. To add to Congress' cockamamie-ness, the service is being forced to put up all of that money within just 10 years — which has been costing USPS more than $5 billion a year. That artificial burden accounts for 100 percent of the so-called "losses" the media keep reporting.
It's like tying an anvil around someone's neck, throwing the person out of a boat, and saying, "Swim to shore, sucker."
As if that's not enough of a weight to carry, the men and women who actually do the work and make service more than just a word in the U.S. Postal Service's name have had another unfair burden hung around their necks: A Postmaster General who has thrown-in with the privatizers. As PMG, Pat Donahoe is the titular head of this proud group of postal workers, letter carriers, mail handlers and rural letter carriers. They take pride in moving our mail to us wherever we are — from inner cities all the way to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, where a Native American Tribe lives.
But Donahoe is not making the workforce proud, for he abandoned them, their millions of customers, and USPS's historic dedication to service. HE is deliberately monkey-wrenching out service — including slowing delivery, reducing staff and hours of service, closing neighborhood and historic post offices, shutting down processing centers, constantly pressing Congress to end Saturday delivery, badmouthing his own agency's performance, steadily corporatizing public functions and transforming decent, union-scale jobs into the low-wage retail economy.
One gross and portentous example of Donahoe's determination to bust the wages and undermine the performance of USPS is the sweetheart privatization scam he's set up with Staples. He's letting this big-box retailer place official postal kiosks in its 1,500 stores — only they're not staffed by highly-trained, publicly-accountable postal workers, but by Staple's own poverty-wage, high-turnover floor staff. In at least one case, Donahoe even cut the hours of service at post offices around a Staples store in San Francisco, and then put a sign directing postal customers to the Staples outlet. Rather than being dedicated to customer service and the public interest, the private "post officettes'" priority is to serve Staples' profit interests.
Mark Dimondstein — the new, feisty president of the American Postal Workers Union — calls Donahoe "Wall Street's Trojan Horse, the privatizer from within." But says Dimondstein, "We intend to stop him." His union has launched a Dump Donahoe campaign as well as a national boycott of Staples stores. For information and support, go to apwu.org.
(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 Thursday, 07 August 2014 09:58
"I'm just saying, you know, if I were Osama Bin Laden — he's a very smart guy, I've spent a lot of time thinking about him — and I nearly got him once. I nearly got him. And I could have killed him, but I would have to destroy a little town called Kandahar in Afghanistan and kill 300 innocent women and children, and then I would have been no better than him."
Did President Clinton say these words a mere 10 hours before 9/11?
It's an "alleged" tape. Kandahar actually has a population of some 400,000.
But, especially in light of the way the media has covered the civilian death toll in Gaza, it's at the very least a great hypothetical.
Would it be worth killing 300 innocent women and children to have killed Osama bin Laden in 1998?
In retrospect, knowing what was to happen three years later (this was, supposedly, a reference to 1998), would it have been worth it to stop 9/11? Is there any doubt? And does that make us no better than him? I think not.
Terrorists who hide among women and children, using them as a human shield, expect that the rest of the world will not "sink to their level." They expect that we will value the lives of their families more than they do. And if you had asked me, hypothetically, before 9/11, before terrorism literally hit home, I would almost certainly have agreed with what President Clinton might have said: We were better than them, because we would not sacrifice their wives and children to kill them, even as they would risk their own family's lives to try to save themselves in hopes of killing us another day.
But none of it is hypothetical anymore, not for us, and certainly not for Israel. Israel is known for its willingness to trade over 1,000 Palestinian prisoners, including hundreds serving life sentences, for the return of a single Israeli soldier. It is also known for giving warnings, where possible, before bombing homes where terrorists are barricaded with women and children. Some of the civilian deaths in Gaza have been the product of local rockets misfiring, or civilians caught in the crossfire; many have been the result of rockets aimed at terrorists who surround themselves with women and children. Women and children who may or may not be their own, may or may not be there willingly, and may or may not known of any warnings.
Is this Israel's fault? I don't think so. Is it their fault that terrorists would surround themselves with women and children, knowing they are targets, in an effort to live to kill another day? If those women and children die — and of course no one wants that to happen — it is the terrorists who are to blame, not the nation seeking to protect their innocent citizens from terror.
Of course, it should not be this way. We should never have to ask how many innocent lives are worth taking to rid the world of an evil person. It is utilitarianism run amok, commodification gone haywire. This is not how we deal with war criminals; they are brought to justice. But how do you bring people to justice in what is, essentially, a terrorist state? There is no justice; terrorists will be celebrated. In Israel, the killers of the Palestinian teenager are being held for murder. In Gaza, a crowd cheered as a dead man with a rifle in his hands was pulled from a bombed building, along with women and children.
And was that his wife? Were those his children? Or had he sent his own family away and was instead using women and children who were hiding as his shields? If this seems to matter, perhaps it is only because it makes even clearer the depth of evil that is at the core of terrorism. We are better than that. It is because of this that we even debate what to do when faced with such evil. And it is because, unlike the Israelis, we do not live under a storm of rockets or on top of a web of tunnels that reasonable people can disagree.
(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 Wednesday, 06 August 2014 10:26
According to Rep. Luis Gutierrez, Obama intends "to act broadly and generously" on behalf of the "millions and millions" of illegal immigrants in the United States today.
Gutierrez, who meets often with the president, is implying that Obama, before Labor Day and by executive order, will grant de facto amnesty to five million illegal immigrants. They will be granted work permits and permission to stay. With his pen and his phone, Obama will do what Congress has refused to do.
There is a precedent. Obama has already issued one executive order deferring the deportation of "dreamers," children brought into the United States illegally by their parents before 2007.
Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions is on to what is afoot. "We must prevent the president's massive amnesty from going forward," he says, and urges legislation to block an executive amnesty. But this divided Congress is not going to pass any such law. Nor would Obama sign it.
Still, would Obama dare deliberately ignite a nationwide firestorm by declaring an executive amnesty for 5 million illegal immigrants? Why not? Consider the risks — and the potential rewards.
On the downside, an Obama amnesty would polarize the country, imperil red-state Democrats and cause even allies to conclude he had become a rogue president who adheres to the Constitution and rule of law only so far as they comport with his agenda.
And what is his agenda? As he has said: to transform America.
Obama wants history to rank him among the transformational presidents like Lincoln, FDR and Reagan. And what better way to transform America than to ensure her evolution from a Western and predominantly Christian country into that multicultural, multilingual, multiethnic, borderless land Teddy Roosevelt inveighed against as nothing but a "polyglot boarding house for the world"?
Obama did not like the America we grew up in. As he told that closed-door fundraiser in San Francisco in 2008, that America was too full of life's losers who "get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiments."
What would be the political benefits to Obama of an amnesty?
It could weld Hispanics to the Democratic Party, would be wildly popular with the ideological and Christian left, and quietly welcomed by those Chamber-of-Commerce Republicans who have silently supported amnesty and secretly want immigration off the table in 2016.
An Obama amnesty would instantly become the blazing issue of 2014, replacing his foreign policy fecklessness, diffident leadership, and IRS, VA, Benghazi and Obamacare foul-ups and scandals.
Among Republicans, a roar would arise from the base to impeach Obama, no matter the consequences. But while impeachment would divide Republicans, a Democratic call to arms to save the first black president from impeachment would unite his party and bring the money rolling in.
Every Republican running for the Senate would face the question: How would you vote on convicting the president, if the GOP House votes to impeach him for high crimes and misdemeanors?
In the long run, an amnesty that puts 5 million illegal immigrants, most of them from Third World nations, along with their progeny, on a certain path to citizenship, would complete the process of turning America blue.
How would such a blanket amnesty affect our country's future?
After this second amnesty, word would go out to the world that if you can get into America, by whatever means necessary, and lay low for a while, there is a near certainty you will be able to stay.
The children pouring in from Central America, we are told, are fleeing repressive regimes. But billions of people in Asia, Africa and Latin America live under repressive regimes.
If all are entitled to come, they will come. And they will remake the West and America in their own image, Obama's image, the image of that Tower of Babel, the United Nations General Assembly.
How many more tens of millions of poor and uneducated people can we absorb before we exceed the carrying capacity of the republic?
How much more diversity can we handle before there is no unity left?
As we boast of our ethnic, cultural and religious diversity, what still makes us one nation and one people? For it is not religion. Not culture. Not custom. Not history. Not tradition. Not language. Not ethnicity.
Is it only a Constitution and Bill of Rights — over the meaning of which we fight like cats and dogs.
What problems of America — from sinking test scores, to collapsing roads and bridges, to endless borrowing to save our social safety net, to income inequality, to culture wars — will be more easily solved with tens of millions more of the world's destitute arriving?
The only problem that will surely be solved by the next 50 million immigrants, who follow the 50 million legal and illegal immigrants who have come since 1965, will be the problem presented by the continued existence of the Republican Party.
Americans should let Obama know what they think of his amnesty now, before he imposes it upon us.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 05 August 2014 09:46