The decisions that determined the fate of the great nations and empires that failed to survive the 20th century are well known.
For the Kaiser's Germany, it was the "blank cheque" to Austria after Sarajevo. For Great Britain, the 1939 war guarantee to Poland. For the Third Reich, it was the June 1941 invasion of Russia. For the Empire of the Sun, the decision to attack Pearl Harbor.
And for the Soviet Empire, it was the invasion of Afghanistan.
As for the United States, historians may one day concur with the late Gen. Bill Odom. For the lone superpower to survive that century, the decision to invade and occupy Iraq was the most disastrous blunder in its history.
George W. Bush held out the promise of a peaceful Mesopotamian democracy as a magnet for all Arab nations. What we produced is a broken land awash in blood, a country severed by tribe and faith: a Kurdish north, Shia south and a Sunni west controlled by the savages of an "Islamic State" even al-Qaida hates and fears.
In Syria, where the United States has been aiding rebels to bring down Bashar Assad, that Islamic State now controls the northern and eastern half of the country. In Libya, where we delivered the air and missile strikes to smash Col. Gadhafi's forces, Islamist fanatics have gained the upper hand in the civil war for control of that country.
In all three countries, the United States, which claimed to be battling dictatorship to bring democracy, helped to create the power vacuum these Islamists have moved to fill.
We are the enablers of the Islamic State.
How grave is the threat?
ISIS is a "direct threat to our homeland" says Rep. Peter King. "An existential threat" echoes Sen. Lindsey Graham, "I think of an American city in flames." The Islamic State "is beyond anything we've seen," says Sec. Chuck Hagel, an "imminent threat to every interest we have." America is "in the most dangerous position we've ever been in," says Sen. Jim Inhofe, "They're crazy out there. And they are rapidly developing a method to blow up a major U.S. city."
Undeniably, these are bloodthirsty religious fanatics who revel in beheadings and crucifixions and have exhibited battlefield bravery and skill. But are 17,000 jihadi fighters in landlocked regions of Iraq and Syria really an imminent and mortal threat to an America with thousands of nuclear weapons and tens of thousands of missiles and bombs and the means to deliver them?
How grave is this crisis? Consider the correlation of forces. Who are the vocal and visible friends and fighting allies of ISIS?
They are nonexistent. The Turks, Saudis, Qataris and Kuwaitis who, stupidly, have been aiding ISIS in bringing down Bashar Assad and blowing a hole in the "Shia Crescent" of Tehran, Baghdad, Damascus and Hezbollah, have lately awakened to their idiocy and are cutting off aid to ISIS. Moderate Sunnis detest ISIS for its barbarism and desecration of shrines. The Christians and Yazidis fear and loathe them. The Kurds, both the Syrian YPG and PKK, which broke open the exit route for the Yazidis from Mount Sinjar, and the peshmerga despise ISIS.
Lebanon's army, Syria's army, Hezbollah and Iran have been fighting ISIS with Russian assistance. Vladimir Putin himself warned us of the absurdity of our attacking Assad last year, arguing that we would be allying ourselves with the same terrorists who brought down the twin towers. Was Putin not right?
Even al-Qaida and Hamas have repudiated ISIS.
We need no boots on the ground in Syria, for it is the presence of "Crusaders" on Islamic soil that is the principal recruiting tool of the jihadists. What we need is diplomacy beyond the simple-minded, "Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists!" a diplomacy that invites old enemies into a coalition for a cause on which we all agree.
If Assad is willing to go in for the kill on ISIS, let us work out a truce and amnesty for the Free Syrian Army and call off that part of the rebellion, so Assad's army can focus on killing ISIS.
George H. W. Bush made an ally of Hafez al-Assad in Desert Storm. Why not make an ally of his son against ISIS?
We should next tell the Saudis, Qataris and Kuwaitis that any more aid to ISIS and they are on their own. We should inform the Turks that their continued membership in NATO is contingent upon sealing their border to ISIS volunteers and their assistance in eradicating the terrorist organization.
We should convey to Iran that an end to our cold war is possible if all attacks on the West stop and we work together to exterminate the Islamic State. Why would they not take the deal?
As for Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the self-proclaimed successor to Muhammad, my bet is that he closes out his brief career as caliph at an unscheduled meeting with Seal Team 6.
(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 Friday, 29 August 2014 05:41
There were 89 residential home sales in July in the twelve communities covered by this report. The average sales price was $383,974 with almost half the sales being under $200,000. The median price point was exactly $200,000. This compares to 110 sales last August at an average of $299,469.
As a real estate agent, I have to answer a lot of questions each day from customers, clients, and other realtors. You know, like what are the taxes, when was the home built, and where are the boundary lines? One of the most often asked questions I hear is "How much is this place?" It kind of amazes me that someone, either the buyer or his agent, scheduled the appointment and is standing in front of me but doesn't know how much the property is on the market for. But, there are lots of questions and sometimes you know the answer and sometimes you don't. One of the cardinal rules is that you should never make up an answer if you don't know it. That will do nothing but get you into deep trouble. However, no one ever said you couldn't have some fun.
Many times when we are at a property that is just a little bit off the beaten path and I am dealing with a buyer from out of the area they will often ask "Do they plow the road here?" My standard answer is "Once every winter." That usually brings a puzzled look and then a smile.
When asked why the water appears to be so low in the lake I like to respond that the tide is out just to test them. Buyers that aren't familiar with the lakes sometimes will ask if you can get from Winnipesaukee to Winnisquam by boat to which I will say "Only if you go really, really fast." Or they ask if you can drive to that $230,000 island property. The answer is usually "No, unless you are driving a boat." "How long does it take to get to Wolfeboro?" "Well, that would be about 30 minutes unless you take the tunnel and then it would be ten minutes."
And buyers sometimes will ask questions for which there are obvious answers like "Where's the basement?" Around here it is usually under the house. Or "Where does the sun set?" "That would be in the west." To be fair, that is a hard one sometimes, but I have a really cool app that shows you exactly where the sun rises and sets. Technology is great, isn't it?
It also amazes me when I am showing a home that I have listed that a buyer will often ask "How much will they take for this place?" I guess that's the real estate equivalent of the $64 million question to which the answer is always "Why don't you write up an offer and we'll see."
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 8/18/14. Roy Sanborn is a realtor at Four Seasons Sotheby's International Realty and can be reached at 603-677-7012.
Last Updated on Friday, 22 August 2014 08:08
War is Hell.
Major General Harold Greene could certainly tell you all about that — but, sadly, he's dead. On Aug. 5, General Green became the highest-ranking American soldier to die in our unfathomable, 13-year war in Afghanistan, joining 2,339 other service members who've paid the ultimate price for being sent by warmongering politicians into that fight for ... well, for what?
No president or congressional leader has ever offered a coherent or credible answer, much less a compelling one, for why our troops have been made to sacrifice so much for so little. Indeed, how bitterly ironic that the general was not killed by the Taliban or al Qaeda, whom we're supposedly fighting, but by one of the Afghan government's own soldiers, whom we're supposedly helping.
Another blunt reminder of the hellish absurdity of our political leaders' quick-draw approach to war can be seen in a recent report by the Congressional Research Service. Military budget analysts in this non-partisan Congressional agency keep track of how much the Afghanistan and Iraq wars are costing us taxpayers. The tally has now topped a trillion dollars — and that amount doesn't count the cost of the the future health care bill for veterans or the enormous interest payments that'll be made on that debt, which will multiply the trillion-dollar outlay three-or-fourfold.
And the meter is still running. The Pentagon, White House and Congress intend to keep a contingent of soldiers and trainers in both countries for the foreseeable future, plus provide more billions of our tax dollars to both countries for building their infrastructure and education systems. Meanwhile, a trillion dollars and so many American lives later, Iraq is in chaos and falling apart, and Afghanistan is mired in corruption and facing a Taliban takeover.
And — ready or not — here we go again. Our military has been hurled back into the chaos of Iraq. Apparently, "Mission Accomplished" is "Mission Never-ending."
We're told that, for now, America will provide only jet fighters, drones, weaponry, humanitarian airdrops, military advice, training — and, of course, our money — to the cause of making this unworkable country work. At least President Obama has put his foot down and sensibly pledged that there will be no American "boots on the ground."
However, in the politics of Iraq, don't count on "sensible" surviving the chaos. The Shia-Sunni-Kurdish divide still rages on there, now exacerbated by the theocratic Islamic State's sudden sadistic invasion. Plus, Iraq's former prime minister (a corrupt autocrat who our foreign policy geniuses installed during the disastrous Bush-Cheney reign of errors) was so detested by practically everyone that the parliament dumped him. However, he added slapstick to Iraq's chaos by desperately trying to cling to power, finally having to be almost physically hauled away.
But the least sensible factor affecting Iraq is our own red-faced, militaristic, warmongering members of Congress, demanding that we must go to war. For example, GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham is filled with bloodlust over the ferocious rise of the Islamic State in Iraq, so he says we have no choice but to return there to destroy the fanatics.
Of course, by "we," congressional warriors like Lindsey don't mean them, their loved ones or anyone else they actually know.
Since the end of World War II, practically every American president, backed by Congress, has sent our troops to die in wars of lies and political flimflam. From Vietnam to Grenada to Iraq, our soldiers have been in senseless wars nearly non-stop for 70 years. It's time to tell the perennial political sword-rattlers that they should wield the swords themselves. War is hell ... and this one is stupid.
(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, 21 August 2014 10:39
The short answer is: everything.
I'm not talking about the killing of Michael Brown. A tragedy, whatever the facts. But what the facts are is something we don't yet know. There are two conflicting stories: one of an unarmed teenager shot six times while his hands were in the air; the other of an aggressive man who, unbeknownst to police had just robbed a local store (of a box of cigars) and was shot after he attacked the police officer in the police car. Both cannot be true. However much some people might want to protect the officer, there are too many people watching, starting with the president of the United States, to do that if he is in the wrong. On the other hand, if the teenager attacked the police officer, then the officer must be protected from unfair punishment. Justice will have to be done.
Having a black president and a black attorney general should help. If Ferguson had similar representation in its own police force, we might not all be writing about this.
Twenty-two years ago, Los Angeles, where I lived, erupted in riots after the acquittal of white police officers that had been charged with beating a black man, Rodney King. We had looting and rioting and curfews. We had a police department that was overwhelming white, largely divorced from the community it was policing, a white police chief who didn't speak to the black mayor, a police department so mistrusted by the community that O.J. Simpson managed to get acquitted two years later.
Two weeks ago, an unarmed black man, some say seriously mentally ill, was killed by police officers. A few hundred people rallied peacefully on a weekend afternoon. If I weren't paying so much attention to the Brown story, I might have missed it.
And why not? The police commission will surely review the police investigation. This is a different city now. The police department, to a degree unimaginable back then, reflects the city. We have a white chief because we passed the point of "needing" a black chief as a symbol of a white department. Since the bad old days, we've had two black chiefs and two white ones.
How could Ferguson be so far behind the times, when, frankly, Los Angeles came late to the understanding that community policing by a police force that reflects and is part of the community is the most effective technique for restoring order, reducing crime and decreasing fear. Why is it — after years of "black flight" to suburbs like Ferguson as the "white flight" went to the exurbs — that some 3 of the 53 police officers in a town that is 67 percent black are black? Think about it. The town is 67 percent black and the police department, including the chief, is 94 percent white.
So when an unarmed black teenager is shot, you get thousands of people protesting in a small town (compared to only hundreds in the nation's second largest city). You get the police overreacting, which makes things worse. You get a community divided, and lots of good reasons, some having nothing in particular to do with Michael Brown, for people to be angry. You get a young man whose death may or may not be the product, in part, of that very atmosphere of distrust and resentment. You get a young police officer whose career is, rightly or wrongly, ruined, and whose life is also being threatened. And you get a stark reminder that the fact that the country has a black president and a black attorney general comes in handy in a time like this, not because of how far we've come, but precisely because we have not come far enough.
(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, 20 August 2014 08:57
Sometime in the future, perhaps not too long from now, people are going to ask, what were those people thinking? and/or, why would anyone do that? Those questions will be asked as they apply a historical look-back at what has been happening in the world since the mid 1980s. Not just in the United States, but in the world. For example . . .
In the United States we have great concern about the murder rates in states and cities across the country. Nationally, since 1985, there has been a continuing decline in the murder rates per 100,000 populations, dropping from a high of 8.0 in 1985, down to 4.7 in 2012.
In the year 2000 the five worst were, the District of Columbia, which had a murder rate of 41.8, followed by Puerto Rico at 18.2, Louisiana at 12.5, Mississippi at 9.0, and Maryland at 8.1. Our state of New Hampshire was near the bottom, at 1.8. By 2012, D.C. had dropped its murder rate down to 13.9, Puerto Rico had increased its murder rate to 26.2, Louisiana dropped to 10.08, Mississippi to 7.4, and Maryland to 6.3. New Hampshire also showed a decline down to 1.1
While those trends are generally good, the real story is found in the larger, urban areas. A study by the Pew Research Center revealed horrifying statistics which showed that our nation's capital, and five other cities, New Orleans, Flint, Detroit, Birmingham, and Richmond, have "swapped with each other for worst murder rates in the past 27 years" . . . ranging from a low of 42.1 to a high of 94.7 murders per 100,000 population.
It appears, that in urban areas there are gangs. Gangs battle each other over territories to sell their drugs and their "protection" services . . . and many innocents get caught in the crossfire. Like any successful business, gangs continually try to expand their territory and their market base, so it is likely that expansion will be from cities, to suburbs, to rural areas.
In spite of what you may have heard and read about murder rates in this country being higher than anywhere else, consider that our neighbors to the south in Central America have a staggering murder rate of 31.1, the Caribbean rate is 15.8, and South America is 22.6. Europe ranges from a low of .9 to a high of 5.9. Northern Africa has a modest 3.8, but the rest of that continent ranges from 11.l to a high of 31.0. Asia's murder rates appear to be the lowest, ranging from a low of 1.0 to a high of 5.8.
Now, as the late Paul Harvey would say, "The rest of the story" . . . abortions. In this country, between 1.2 and 1.3 million unborn babies are aborted each year. This compares to . . .
China, a country four times the size of the United States, aborts more than 13 million babies each year. While normally there are 1.3 females born for every one male, because of their one child policy, and the fact that sons are supposed to take care of their parents, many Chinese choose to get pregnant and carry the baby until its gender can be determined. If it is female, it is more likely to be aborted than if it were male. An NBC News report stated that Chinese people now birth 120 males for every 100 females. There are already over 19 million Chinese males under the age of 15 than there are females, and, within eight to 10 years, it is expected that there will be about 60 million males in China, for whom there are no women. The looming gender crisis has China re-thinking its one-child policy, as it has created an unbalanced population sex structure. The problem looms large on the horizon.
India, with a population of 1.25 billion people, has also been heavily involved in sex selection abortions . . . and, it's getting worse. Instead of the 1.3 females for every male child, sex selection abortions have resulted in there being only 914 girls being born for every 1,000 boys. Another untenable crisis on the horizon.
According to a Reuters report, Russia, a country with less than half of our population, now aborts about 1.3 million babies a year . . . and that is significantly less than in past years. However, in the total scheme of things, Russians abort 73 babies for every 100 that are birthed. That is the highest percentage abortion rate in the world. Their shrinking population has caused Russia to institute a policy of paying women to get pregnant and bear children. Another serious crisis nearing.
In this country, there are almost 1.3 million abortions a year. According to Randy O'Bannon, PhD, in Life News, two thirds of those abortions are performed on minorities. Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood, in 1939, initiated what was called her Negro Project. The National Black Pro-Life Union stated: "The objective of the "project" was to infiltrate the black community by presenting birth control as a health option for women to kill off the black race. Kill them off by limiting the growth of the population by abortion and sterilization." (http://www.nationalblackprolifeunion.com/Margaret-Sanger-and-The-Negro-Project.html)
As we watch the horrors of war on our televisions, do we lose sight of all these other ending of life's? Thou shalt not kill.
(Bob Meade is a Laconia resident.)
Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 December 1969 07:00