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Pat Buchanan - A Russian fairy tale?

The big losers of the Russian hacking scandal may yet be those who invested all their capital in a script that turned out to based on a fairy tale.

In Monday's Intelligence Committee hearings, James Comey did confirm that his FBI has found nothing to support President Trump's tweet that President Obama ordered him wiretapped. Not unexpected, but undeniably an embarrassment for the tweeter-in-chief.

Yet longer-term damage may have been done to the left. For Monday's hearing showed that its rendering of the campaign of 2016 may be a product of fiction and a fevered imagination. After eight months investigating the hacking and leaking of the emails of Clinton campaign chief John Podesta and the DNC, there is apparently no evidence yet of Trump collusion with Russia.

Former Director of National Intelligence Gen. James Clapper has said that, as of his departure day, Jan. 20, he had seen no evidence of a Russia-Trump collusion.

Former acting CIA Director Michael Morell also made that clear this month: "On the question of the Trump campaign conspiring with the Russians here, there is smoke, but there is no fire, at all. ... There's no little campfire, there's no little candle, there's no spark. And there's a lot of people looking for it." Morell was a surrogate for the Hillary Clinton campaign.

But while the FBI is still searching for a Trump connection, real crimes have been unearthed — committed by anti-Trump bureaucrats colluding with mainstream media — to damage Trump's presidency.

There is hard evidence of collusion between the intel community and The New York Times and The Washington Post, both beneficiaries of illegal leaks — felonies punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

While the howls have been endless that Trump accused Obama of a "felony," the one provable felony here was the leak of a transcript of an intercepted conversation between Gen. Michael Flynn and the Russian ambassador.

That leak ended Flynn's career as national security adviser. And Director Comey would neither confirm nor deny that President Obama was aware of the existence of the Flynn transcript.

So where do we stand after yesterday's hearing and eight-month FBI investigation? The Russians did hack Podesta's email account and the DNC, and while the FBI has found no evidence of Trump campaign collusion with the Russians, it is still looking.

However, the known unknowns seem more significant.

How could DNI Director Clapper and CIA Director Morell say that no connection had been established between Trump's campaign and the Russians, without there having been an investigation? And how could such an investigation be conclusive in exonerating Trump's associates — without some use of electronic surveillance?

Did the FBI fly to Moscow and question Putin's cyberwarfare team?

More questions arise. If, in its investigation of the Russian hacking and a Trump connection, the FBI did receive the fruits of some electronic surveillance of the Trump campaign, were Attorney General Loretta Lynch, White House aides or President Obama made aware of any such surveillance? Did any give a go-ahead to surveil the Trump associates? Comey would neither confirm nor deny that they did.

So, if Obama were aware of an investigation into the Trump campaign, using intel sources and methods, Trump would not be entirely wrong in his claims, and Obama would have some 'splainin' to do.

Is the FBI investigating the intelligence sources who committed felonies by illegally disclosing information about the Trump campaign? Comey would not commit to investigate these leaks, though this could involve criminal misconduct within his own FBI.

Again, the only known crimes committed by Americans during and after the campaign are the leaks of security secrets by agents of the intel community, colluding with the Fourth Estate, which uses the First Amendment to provide cover for criminal sources, whom they hail as "whistleblowers."

Indeed, if there was no surveillance of Trump of any kind, where did all these stories come from, which their reporters attributed to "intelligence sources"?

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has recused himself from any role in the Russian hacking scandal. But the Justice Department should demand that the FBI put the highest priority on investigating the deep state and its journalistic collaborators in the sabotage of the Trump presidency. If Comey refuses to do it, appoint a special counsel.

In the last analysis, as Glenn Greenwald, no Trumpite, writes for The Intercept, the real loser may well be the Democratic Party.

If the investigation of Russiagate turns up no link between Trump and the pilfered emails, Democrats will have egg all over their faces. And the Democratic base will have to face a painful truth.

Vladimir Putin did not steal this election. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama lost it. Donald Trump won it fair and square. He is not an "illegitimate" president. There will be no impeachment. They were deceived and misled by their own leaders and media. They bought into a Big Lie.

(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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E. Scott Cracraft - The politics of bullying?

This writer has worn a lot of ideological labels in his life: liberal, progressive, socialist, and others. But, he came to the realization that most of his social or political views are really informed by one simple fact: he just does not like bullies.

As a former victim of severe bullying, those experiences could have had different effects on him. Like many targets of bullying, he could have become a bully himself. Or, he could have wallowed in self-pity and had those experiences ruin his life. Instead, he made a choice to try to understand bullying and how to stand up to bullies. He also decided, when possible, to expose and confront bullies even when he was not the target.

Of course, bullies come in all varieties and use different methods and styles. There are playground, schoolyard, domestic, workplace, corporate, and political bullies. There are even educators who bully or at the very least are complicit in bullying. And there are journalistic bullies. Experience shows, however, that all generally have the same character defects. A bully is a bully.

Bullies also range widely in the amount of hurt they are capable of doing. Fortunately, most bullies are limited in the amount of damage they can cause because they are usually powerless themselves. For example, your typical school bully may drive a classmate to suicide and while that is certainly tragic, at least there is limit to what they can do. If, on the other hand, you give a bully power, he or she can become a Hitler or Stalin.

If you mix bullying with sociopathy and a narcissistic personality disorder, you get a highly toxic mix. This describes best the current occupant of the Oval Office. It remains to be seen if our system can check him. It is especially frightening when such a person has his finger on the proverbial "red button."

Genocide and similar atrocities are just bullying on a bigger scale. In bullying as in as in genocide, there are three players involved: the bully, the victim, and the bystander. One may not be able to change the bully. The best you can do is to stop them. The victim may be powerless to stop it. The bystander, on the other hand, has choices to make. Some stand around and cheer the bullies. Others, who don't like bullying, still do not speak out because they do not want to get involved.

Still, any bystander of good will has a moral duty to intervene and stop a bully. Of course, we all (including this writer) fail to carry out that duty perfectly. That is understandable; standing up to bullies involves risk. Standing up to a high school bully might get you bullied yourself or, at a time in your life when peer acceptance is important, make you a social reject. In a dictatorship, speaking out against bullying might get you killed or "disappeared." Even so, we all must try. Perhaps it is a over-worn cliché but it is true: if you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.

In recent years, there has been a lot of research into bullying. A lot of it focuses on the bully and what makes him or her tick. There are probably a number of causes. Bullies may have been victims themselves. Or, they may be a result of bad parenting. Remember, if your perfect, entitled kid who can do no wrong is a bully, she or he may grow up to be a Donald Trump — or worse.

While we should understand the bully and try ways to change him or her, we also need to focus on protecting the victims. That should be our first priority.

What comes to mind are the growing number of Trump voters who now regret their choices. That is good. Perhaps if they are really sorry they will join those of us who have been resisting Trump from the beginning. Although this writer may be naïve, he chooses to believe that relatively few humans (including bullies and their cheerleaders) are beyond redemption.

Will you be a bully enabler or resister?

(Scott Cracraft is a citizen, taxpayer, veteran and resident of Gilford.)

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Lakes Region Profiles — Meredith's hidden gems on Lake Winnipesaukee

When most people think about Lake Winnipesaukee they envision natural beaches with water lapping along the shoreline. They also envision hot summer days out on the lake exploring the multitude of islands and eateries of the local villages. Unfortunately, they often associate this wonderful dream with a high price tag attached to it. While this may be the case for many of the waterfront homes along the shores of Winnipesaukee, there are several wonderful water access communities in the scenic resort town of Meredith which offer many of the same amenities at a fraction of the price.


Patrician Shores
Patrician Shores is located off of Route 25 between Meredith and Center Harbor. This lake association includes 84 single family homes, with one of the finest natural sandy beaches you will find on the lake with approximately 500 feet of frontage. 44 individual boat slips are included, which will accommodate boats up to a maximum of 24 feet in length. Additionally, there some PWC moorings, canoe and kayak racks, swim raft, tennis courts, a playing field and a nice recreation hall. A network of interior roads presents an interesting private feel to this community of fine homes and makes it easy to walk down to the beach and boat docks.

 

Sands of Brookhurst
A neighboring community to Patrican Shores, Sands of Brookhurst consists of approximately 35 single family homes, which have access to a natural sandy beach, and come with boat slips, a well sought after amenity for boating enthusiasts. Located off of Route 25, the community is only 3.5 miles to the scenic village of Meredith with fine restaurants and shops.

 

Winnipesaukee Beach Colony Club

A lovely association of 66 single-family homes located off of Cummings Cove Road in Meredith, this community features a beautiful natural sandy beach along 600 feet of shoreline on Lake Winnipesaukee. There are about 60 individual boat slips with canoe and kayak racks, tennis, basketball and shuffleboard. An interesting network of roads meander through the property, creating a forested setting. Additionally, the views are stunning from the beach.

 

For those of you who are considering the purchase of a home on Lake Winnipesaukee, I would strongly recommend taking a look at these three fine water-access communities. For the last few years, we have noticed a very strong uptick in the demand for waterfront homes in the $1,000,000 and under price range. This has put tremendous pressure on the market supply for this range and has created a shortage of inventory. Communities such as the three mentioned above, are perfectly in line to benefit from this shortage of reasonably-priced waterfront homes. By far, in my opinion, it is one of the best alternatives to owning a waterfront home. The affordability of the homes in these communities is very attractive in today's marketplace, which has shown a strong demand for properties of this type. In the future, it will be very difficult to replace communities of this caliber on the big lake because of the scarcity of land and the difficulties in getting local and state approvals. I can see good appreciation in the years ahead.
Please feel free to visit www.rocherealty.com to learn more about the Lakes Region and its real estate market. Chris Roche, GRI, CBR is an associate broker at Roche Realty Group, Inc in Meredith. He can be reached at 603-520-7480.

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Pat Buchanan - Is McCain hijacking Trump's foreign policy?

"The senator from Kentucky," said John McCain, speaking of his colleague Rand Paul, "is working for Vladimir Putin ... and I do not say that lightly."

What did Sen. Paul do to deserve being called a hireling of Vladimir Putin? He declined to support McCain's call for a unanimous Senate vote to bring Montenegro into NATO as the 29th member of a Cold War alliance President Trump has called "obsolete."

Bordered by Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia, Kosovo and Albania, tiny Montenegro has a population roughly that of D.C., and sits on the western coast of the most volatile peninsula in Europe. What strategic benefit would accrue from having Montenegro as an ally that would justify the risk of our having to go to war should some neighbor breach Montenegro's borders?

Historically, the Balkans have been an incubator of war. In the 19th century, Otto van Bismarck predicted that when the Great War came, it would come out of "some damn fool thing in the Balkans." And so it did when the Austrian archduke was assassinated in Sarajevo June 28, 1914 by Serbian ethnonationalist Gavrilo Princip.

Aflame with ethnic, civil and sectarian war in the 1990s, the western Balkans are again in political turmoil. Milo Djukanovic, the longtime Montenegrin prime minister who resigned on election day in October, claims that he was targeted for assassination by Russia to prevent Montenegro's accession to NATO.

Russia denies it. But on the Senate floor, McCain raged at Rand Paul: "You are achieving the objectives of Vladimir Putin ... trying to dismember this small country which has already been the subject of an attempted coup."

But if Montenegro, awash in corruption and crime, is on the verge of an uprising or coup, why would the U.S. issue a war guarantee that could vault us into a confrontation with Russia — without a full Senate debate?

The vote that needs explaining here is not Rand Paul's. It is the votes of those senators who are handing out U.S.-NATO war guarantees to countries most Americans could not find on a map.

Is no one besides Sen. Paul asking the relevant questions here?

What vital U.S. interest is imperiled in who comes to power in Podgorica, Montenegro? Why cannot Europe handle this problem in its own back yard?

Has President Trump given McCain, who wanted President Bush to intervene in a Russia-Georgia war — over South Ossetia! — carte blanche to hand out war guarantees to unstable Balkan states?

Did Trump approve the expansion of NATO into all the successor states born of the bloody breakup of Yugoslavia?

Or is McCain hijacking U.S. foreign policy on NATO and Russia?

President Trump should tell the Senate: No more admissions to NATO, no more U.S. war guarantees, unless I have recommended or approved them. Foreign policy is made in the White House, not on the Senate floor.

Indeed, what happened to the foreign policy America voted for — rapprochement with Russia, an end to U.S. wars in the Middle East, and having rich allies share more of the cost of their own defense?

It is U.S., not NATO defense spending that is rising to more than $50 billion this year. And today we learn the Pentagon has drawn up plans for the insertion of 1,000 more U.S. troops into Syria. While the ISIS caliphate seems doomed, this six-year Syrian war is far from over.

An al-Qaida subsidiary, the Nusra Front, has become the most formidable rebel fighting group. Syria's army, with the backing of Russia, Iran, Hezbollah and Shiite militias from across the Middle East, has carved out most of the territory it needs.

The Turkish army is now in Syria, beside its rebel allies. Their main enemy: Syria's Kurds, who are America's allies.

From our longest war, Afghanistan, comes word from U.S. Gen. John Nicholson that we and our Afghan allies are in a "stalemate" with the Taliban, and he will need a "few thousand" more U.S. troops — to augment the 8,500 President Obama left behind when he left office.

Some 5,000 U.S. troops are in Iraq, helping to liberate Mosul from ISIS. In Kabul, Baghdad and Damascus, terrorist bombings are a weekly, if not a daily, occurrence.

Then there is the U.S. troop buildup in Poland and the Baltic, the U.S. deployment of a missile defense to South Korea after multiple missile tests in the North, and Russia and China talking of upgrading their nuclear arsenals to counter U.S. missile defenses in Poland, Romania and South Korea.

In and around the waters of the Persian Gulf, United States warships are harassed by Iranian patrol boats, as Tehran test-fires anti-ship and anti-aircraft missiles to send the Americans a message: Attack us and it will not be a cakewalk war.

With the death of Communism, the end of the Cold War, and the collapse of the Bushite New World Order, America needs a new grand strategy, built upon the solid foundation of America First.

(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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Susan Estrich - Be well, or else

If President Trump and his party have their way, you'd better be well. Or have a lifetime employment contract with a company large enough to negotiate reasonable group insurance. Or have never been sick in your life.

In the bad old days, I tried to buy health insurance for the woman who helped me raise my children, maybe the most important job in the world to me. I explained that nobody is rich enough (Donald Trump's cabinet excluded) to afford to pay for health care if they get sick, but I was, at least, rich enough to buy insurance for her.

The problem, as it turned out, was finding someone to sell it to me. You see, she had a history of gastritis, resulting in a regular prescription for Nexium. I kid you not; that was the stated reason. No matter how much I was willing to pay, they didn't consider her worth accepting into the network. They figured she would be increasingly likely to actually use the insurance.

Thank God, and I don't say it lightly, for Kaiser Permanente, which was willing to take my money and probably made money off her coverage for at least a decade, until cancer struck. And when it did, she was in surgery faster than my friends who have had to get referrals and approvals; she received phenomenal care from dedicated doctors who scrimped on nothing. She is convinced that Kaiser saved her life. I don't disagree.

Which brings me to President Trump.

It was easy for Republicans to rail against the Affordable Care Act when Barack Obama held the veto pen. For years now, it's been a game — an example of swamp politics at its worst. Republicans repeatedly came close to shutting down the government in what everyone recognized was a purely symbolic effort.

It is not symbolic anymore. And best as I can tell, the president has yet to answer the question that is at the heart of the system: How do you provide insurance at a reasonable cost to higher-risk Americans (e.g., older Americans, people with prior illnesses and people who take medicine every day) if you don't have lower-risk people (the young and the healthy) in the pool as well? The reason for the mandate (or tax, or whatever you want to call it) that requires all individuals to have insurance is to make sure that the pool is not skewed so far in the direction of high consumers of health care that it is impossible for anyone but Trump's Cabinet to afford the premiums.

When I studied taxes in law school many decades ago, one of the first things we learned was that tax deductions are actually tax expenditures: Money that would otherwise go to the government doesn't, making it no different than if the government were to spend that amount of money. The U.S. Department of the Treasury takes the hit for the full amount of a tax credit, so we're paying for that insurance every bit as much as we would be if we paid the private insurers directly. Brilliant. And if you make the tax credit "refundable," as some Republicans are proposing (because they recognize, rightly, that the credit alone might not convince people who already pay little or no taxes), then the Treasury not only eats every dollar spent by people who do pay taxes but also has to mail refund checks to cover the cost of insurance for people who don't pay taxes. Even more brilliant.

And even then, there is no guarantee that this costly expenditure will lead enough of the young and healthy to buy insurance so that we can keep the very popular parts of Obamacare without premiums going through the roof. Because if you look at the polls carefully, while you can certainly find a majority that are against the Obamacare "tax" and "mandate," you can find even bigger majorities who support banning insurers from excluding people based on pre-existing conditions (whether gastritis or cancer) and who favor the provision allowing parents to keep children on their policies until they are 26.

Be careful what you wish for. If premiums skyrocket and people find they can't even buy insurance, nobody will blame Obama for messing up Obamacare. And if the Republicans, having made this their central complaint for the last two elections, now drop the ball and do nothing, the president won't easily tweet his way out of it.

In the meantime — just in case — be well.

(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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