Jim Hightower - Weed: from demonization to legalization to celebration

Earlier this year, music legends Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard teamed up to make a pro-marijuana video titled "It's All Going to Pot."

And, apparently they were right, for I've now learned that even the state fair is going to pot — literally. A press release from the organizers of the D.C. State Fair exclaims: "It's true! For the first time ever, we're hosting a new contest for local cannabis growers to show off their plants' finest buds." They're not just blowing smoke, for it turns out that Washington, D.C., voters passed a referendum in November to legalize marijuana — even to allow locals to grow up to six plants at their residences.

With the nationwide renaissance in urban agriculture, why not invite the proud cultivators of the happy weed to show off the finest produce from their pot plots? After all, state fairs already have contests for the best ice cream, pickles, homebrew, compost, flower arrangements, crafts and such — so it's not a stretch to see who can win the Marijuana Bud Blue Ribbon. The buds are to be judged on characteristics such as appearance, smell and stickiness, but not such consumer-satisfaction qualities as "duration of high" or "development of mellowness". In fact, contrary to the judging of the Tastiest Tomato category, the entry form for the Best Bud Contest specifies rather sternly that judges "will not sample or consume your submission." That's probably smart, since the whole panel of judges could dissolve into uncontrollable giggles halfway through the sampling.

From the demonization of marijuana to legalization and now to celebration — it's a trajectory of progress that reflects some mellowing in society itself. As the D.C. State Fair people put it, "Now that it's legal, we wanted a way to highlight this new freedom while also showing off the agricultural talents of the district's people."

And with marijuana prohibition finally ending in states and cities across the land — including full legalization and/or commercialization not just in Washington, D.C., but also Alaska, Colorado, Washington State and Oregon — who better than our friend Willie Nelson to lead the way for weed quality and social responsibility?

The iconic musician and intrepid fighter for justice has announced that he will market his own marijuana brand, "Willie's Reserve," and open a group of stores selling top-quality pot and paraphernalia.
"I feel like I was buying so much of it, it's time to start selling it back!" Willie excitedly said of his new weed venture. "I am looking forward to working with the best growers in Colorado and Washington to make sure our product is the best on the market." A tireless champion of small farmers, civil liberties, the environment, common sense and the common good, he plans to start rolling out his stores and products (including hemp goods) this year, and he'll expand further as states' laws allow. In the typical Willie way, the stores will be "the anti-Walmart model," with a core purpose of helping expand the market for small, energy-efficient, environmentally sound growers.
Over the years I have cited Willie's work in calling for legalization and restoration of hemp farming in America. I've also called repeatedly for an end to the Orwellian, Kafkaesque drug war that has criminalized the cannabis equivalent of cocktail hour — 750,000 people are arrested each year for marijuana-related offenses.

And now, I salute the innumerable grassroots activists who've steadily pushed America from the darkness of marijuana madness to being able to light up a "Willie" without getting busted! So to Willie, Merle, the DC State Fair and all the longtime champions of this struggle for normality, "This bud's for you!" Find out more about marijuana legalization at the Marijuana Policy Project (mpp.org) and the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (norml.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".)

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Pat Buchanan - Who decides American foreign policy? Israel?

In his desperation to sink the Iran nuclear deal, Bibi Netanyahu is taking a hellish gamble.

Israel depends upon the United States for $3 billion a year in military aid and diplomatic cover in forums where she is often treated like a pariah state. Israel has also been the beneficiary of almost all the U.S. vetoes in the Security Council. America is indispensable to Israel. The reverse is not true.

Yet, without telling the White House, Bibi had his U.S. ambassador arrange for him to address a joint session of Congress in March — to rip up the president's Iran nuclear deal before it was even completed.

The day the deal was signed, using what The Washington Post calls "stark apocalyptic language", Bibi accused John Kerry of giving the mullahs a "sure path to a nuclear weapon" and a "cash bonanza of hundreds of billions of dollars ... to pursue its aggression and terror."

Bibi has since inspired and led the campaign to get Congress to kill the deal, the altarpiece of the Obama presidency.

Israel Ambassador Ron Dermer, a former Republican operative now cast in the role of "Citizen Genet," has intensively lobbied the Hill to get Congress to pass a resolution of rejection. If that resolution passes, as it appears it will, Obama will veto it.

Then Israel, the Israeli lobby AIPAC, and all its allies and auxiliaries in the think tanks and on op-ed pages will conduct a full-court press to have Congress override the Obama veto and kill his nuclear deal.

Has Bibi, have the Israelis, considered what would happen should they succeed? Certainly, there would be rejoicing in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, and Bibi would be crowned King of Capitol Hill. But they will have humiliated an American president by crushing him by two-to-one in his own legislature. Such a defeat could break the Obama presidency and force the resignation of John Kerry, who would have become a laughing stock in international forums.

The message would go out to the world. In any clash between the United States and Israel over U.S. policy in the Middle East, bet on Bibi. Bet on Israel. America is Israel's poodle now.

With the Gulf nations having joined Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia in backing the deal, Israel is isolated in its opposition. And, two weeks ago, Kerry warned that if Congress rejects the deal, "Israel could end up being more isolated and more blamed." Hardly an outrageous remark.

Yet, Israel's ex-ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren, fairly dripped condescension and contempt in his retort: "The threat of the secretary of state who, in the past, warned that Israel was in danger of being an apartheid state, cannot deter us from fulfilling our national duty to oppose this dangerous deal."

But this is not Israel's deal. It is our deal, and our decision. And Israel is massively interfering in our internal affairs to scuttle a deal the president believes is in the vital interests of the United States.

When the U.S. and Israel disagree over U.S. policy in the Mideast, who decides for America? Them or us?

Why does Barack Obama take this? Why does John Kerry take this?

One can only imagine what President Eisenhower would have done had he seen Bibi at the rostrum of the U.S. House of Representatives, ripping apart his Middle East policy. Or had Ike learned that an Israeli ambassador was working the halls of Congress to kill an arms deal he and John Foster Dulles had just negotiated.

Lest we forget, Ike told his wartime colleague, Prime Minister Anthony Eden, to get his army out of Suez or he would sink the British pound. Ike then told Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion to get his army out of Sinai or face U.S. economic reprisals.

Eden and Ben-Gurion did as they were told.

That was an America respected by friend and foe alike.

When Harry Truman felt that Gen. Douglas MacArthur had been insubordinate in resisting presidential restrictions on his actions in Korea, Truman fired the general and astounded the nation. Yet this president and John Kerry have been wimpishly seeking for weeks to placate Netanyahu. And Bibi is no Douglas MacArthur.

Time to stop acting like wusses. The president should declare Dermer persona non grata and send him packing, then tell the Israeli government we will discuss a new arms package when you have a prime minister who understands that no nation interferes in the internal affairs of the United States. None.

That could bring Bibi's government, with its single-vote majority, crashing down. And why not? After all, Bibi was a virtual surrogate for Mitt Romney when Mitt was trying to bring down Obama.

Obama and Kerry are never running again. Deep down, they would surely relish taking Bibi down. And they could do it.

Deal or no deal, it is time America started acted like America again.

(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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Jeanie Forrester - People & programs will suffer if we don't override governor's budget veto

On April 2, 2015 a good friend of mine lost her 21-year old son to a heroin overdose. A few days ago she sent me an e-mail and asked that I look at her facebook page. This is what she posted:

"To the NH Legislature:

Allow me to speak in the vernacular you understand.
First let me remind you the definition of a constituent. Any one of the people who live and vote in an area.

If I knew that my constituents wanted a healthy budget;
And if I knew that my constituents in my community continue to die due to the current drug epidemic;

And if I knew that my constituents with mental health issues were not receiving the help they need;

And if I knew that many other programs, important to my constituents, were not being funded due to a single person's opinion that the budget passed was not what that single person wanted and vetoed it;

Then I would need to uphold my duty to my constituents and override the budget veto on September 16th."

The budget the governor vetoed included a 75 percent increase in funding for prevention, treatment and recovery efforts, a total of $42 million to fight the substance abuse epidemic facing New Hampshire.
The budget the governor vetoed also included full funding of the mental health settlement and the necessary funds to expand bed capacity at New Hampshire Hospital.
Because of the governor's veto, the state is in a holding pattern on many important issues — the substance abuse epidemic being one. Because of this, I question her commitment to this crisis. We know that back in August 2014 the governor declared a state of emergency because 40 people overdosed on synthetic cannabinoid (aka "Spice"). Also in 2014 there were 321 drug-related deaths, 97 from heroin overdoses alone. In 2015, by all accounts we are headed on the same trajectory. Where is the sense of urgency? Shouldn't this be considered a state of emergency too?
I also question the governor's sincerity in advocating for our most vulnerable citizens based on her actions during and after the budget process. She attempted to raid money dedicated to nursing homes and the home health agencies like Granite State Independent Living and visiting nurses. Fortunately — working with the House — we restored funding to the nursing homes and provided a 5 percent increase in rates to home health providers — the first since 2006. Now these agencies won't receive their rate increase for at least six months.
Crotched Mountain Hospital, which serves individuals with disabilities, was in critical need of increased funding. Although we provided that funding, they will have to wait too. The governor also cut funding to community health centers, like Mid-State Health (Plymouth & Bristol) and Ammonoosuc Community Health Services (Warren & Woodsville). During the budget negotiations, she did not list them as a priority in restoration of funding.
Finally, I question the governor's sincerity in wanting to work together towards a budget we can agree to and pass.
As an example, Governor Hassan's recent proposal at a compromise budget was delivered via a press conference rather than with budget writers in the House and Senate. The action was disappointing and poorly conceived.
Her recent proposal increases spending by $100 million and adds $100 million in new taxes and revenues. In an about-face from her previous position, the governor now proposes a more aggressive business tax cut in a shorter time period. In order to pay for the more costly tax cut, she wants to increase taxes on drivers, smokers, and small businesses.
We have met regularly with the governor's office and will continue to do so. But it appears that, much like in the last session when the governor would not work with us on a New Hampshire solution for Medicaid expansion, it will take legislative leaders from both sides of the aisle in both houses to move the state forward once again.
The Legislature has its priorities right. We made substance abuse, mental health, and our most vulnerable citizens a priority. We provided tax relief to New Hampshire's private sector employers with a very modest tax cut spread over three budget cycles. We balanced the budget and rebuilt the Rainy Day Fund without raising taxes. As a reminder, the House budget proposed a 3 percent spending increase over the FY14/15 budget. The governor's proposed increase was 7 percent; and the Senate's was 5 percent.
We delivered a fiscally responsible, conservative and compassionate budget.
On September 16th the Legislature will return to the Statehouse to vote on the Governor's veto of the FY16/17 budget. My hope is that we will come together and override the veto. My fear is that if we don't, people and programs will continue to suffer.

(Meredith Republican Jeane Forrester represents District 2 in the N.H. Senate.)

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Susan Estrich - The GOP Debate: Trump has the nerve

What should you look for if you happen to be one of those dedicated Americans who watches "primary" debates? For sheer entertainment value, of course, everyone will be watching "The Donald". His just showing up should help raise the ratings meter even as it lowers the gravitas quotient, which would be hard to maintain anyway, given the crowd.

So what do you do when the average time you're going to be able to talk is measured in minutes (or seconds) and you're just another reasonable conservative white male whose name is not Bush or Trump? No one is going to remember your name afterward. This simply won't do.

Thus the perennial preoccupation with "stunts" — those moments in debates, usually more anticipated than you think, when someone gets off a punch. Someone sits down and says, "I am paying for this microphone" (Ronald Reagan). Or someone turns to his opponent and says, "Where's the beef?" Or of course there's Lloyd Bentsen's "I knew Jack Kennedy" line, which was not exactly a stunt, but an idea that came up in debate prep and Bentsen kept in his back pocket, just in case Dan Quayle mentioned Kennedy.

The truth is that not many people actually watch political debates, certainly not the whole thing. What they watch, or hear about, are the clips that make the late shows or the talk shows: "the moments". These moments can actually be quite awful (Gov. Rick Perry hopelessly trying to remember what the three departments were that he wanted to cut) or just plain funny (Cain's 9-9-9). Debates are opportunities, but they can also be sinkholes, as any candidate who has made a bad mistake in a debate will tell you.

Usually you win a debate by being as aggressive as you can. It's not that being aggressive is inherently attractive, but there's heat and light, which is enough for debates. The trick in the Republican debate is to determine whom to attack. The Donald can attack everyone and anyone, because nothing will really start counting until after this debate, when the press finally starts treating him like a real candidate (i.e., investigates him down to his boxer shorts, with all the messy details of money lost and promises broken, eventually pushing him to lose his temper and lose his support). Just my prediction.
But in the meantime, The Donald has something most of the other candidates don't have. Supporters. And while you may want to appeal to the grown-ups (or so they call themselves) in the Republican party by taking on the Donald for cheapening up this whole race and not taking the defeat of Hillary Clinton seriously enough, the one thing you don't want to do is alienate his supporters. These are people who care enough about politics (or are just so bored) that they go to political events in August, and who most likely won't end up actually voting for The Donald.

So do you try to cozy up to Trump and say stupid things like, "Every one of us on this stage is more qualified to be president than Hillary Clinton"? Or do you do what Trump himself would do, which is to call out the imposter who has no business on the stage, and tell him to stop playing ego games with our democracy. Trump would do it. That's why he's popular. But I don't expect many of the others will have the nerve.

(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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How to pick an agent...

By Roy Sanborn REALTOR®

Four Seasons Sotheby’s International Real Estate

 June was a great month for single family home sales in our Lakes region communities with 112 transactions taking place at an average sales price of $325,548. That brings the total number of transactions for the first half of 2015 to 417 at an average price of $309,625. That is up from last year's first-half total of 408 transactions at an average of $299,623.

How do you choose a real estate agent to work with you to buy or sell your house? There are a thousand or so agents in the Lakes Region, so there's plenty to choose from. And, like any other group of people, the agent pool consists of a wide cross section with diverse personalities, talent, and dedication to the profession that they have chosen to be in.

So where do you start? Do you choose a top producing agent, or would you pick someone new? Do you pick someone because you liked their photo? Or, do you go with your sister's cousin that just got into the business and you want to help get her started? Do you pick a national franchise agency or a locally owned agency? After all, buying or selling a home is likely the biggest transaction you are going to do in a while, so picking the right agent is really a pretty big deal. It's not like you can send the uncooked fish you were just served back to the kitchen or play a second game of one on one basketball with your 16-year-old after he whips your butt. A real estate transaction is monumental and you don't get do-overs.

There are a lot of articles about how to pick a real estate agent on the internet that you can read. They point out that you could base your choice on how many houses an agent sells or how long he (or she) has been in the business. But just because someone hasn't sold many houses yet doesn't mean he is not a great agent and wouldn't do a fantastic job for you. The agent may be just getting started and is smart as a whip and will do a better job than the agent that's been in the business for 20 years who perhaps hasn't kept up with new technology and marketing strategies used today.

Educational credentials are always a plus and make sure the agent is a Realtor as it signifies he is a member of the National Association of Realtors and subscribes to its strict Code of Ethics.

So, yes, while these are good things to check, get some recommendations from friends, acquaintances, or family members and pick three agents to interview. An agent with a good personality that you can relate to is a pretty key component. You could be looking for a home or trying to sell the house you own for months, so you better like who you have hired to do the job or it could be a long row to hoe. Interview the agents, pick one you like and work with him or her for a while. If you are buying a house you don't have to sign a buyer agency agreement right away. Get to know each other and see if it is a good fit. It's a partnership. It has to work for both parties. If it doesn't, find another agent.

If you are selling a house, the choice can be a little harder. You need to really be choosey because when you list your property you are entering into a contractual relationship right away. You really want to know what the agency is going to do for you and what they and the agent bring to the table.

First find out how and where the agency markets properties. The agent's listing presentation should spell it all out and leave no doubt in your mind that his is the agency that can do the best job for you. Does the agency have a great web presence? Do they produce great marketing materials? Do they provide professional photography, virtual tours, and color brochures?

Find out what the agent does above and beyond the services offered by the agency. Find out if he embraces new technology (today's buyers do...), does he know what it takes to sell a home in this market, does he invest in and promote himself as an agent and you as a client, is he visible on the internet, is he hungry for business? How well does he communicate? Does he assist all showings or are showings unassisted? Find out what he has sold and what he currently has listed. Has he sold similar properties? Does he know your area?

Lastly, is the agent full-time or is he part-time? While a part-time agent can do a good job, remember he is only available part time. That not only limits your access to him but also limits other agents from being able to reach him. If he is part-time, does he have an agent that covers for him when he is at his other job?

To me that's it. Pick someone you really like that has talent, is personable, and a real dedication to his craft and you should be in pretty good shape!

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 compiled using the NNEREN MLS system as of 7/20/15. ​

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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