One of the hardest things to understand about the whole Bowe Bergdahl exchange is how the White House could be so hopelessly tone deaf as to not understand what was going to happen next.
They knew that the circumstances surrounding Bergdahl's capture raised serious questions as to whether he had deserted his post.
They knew that other soldiers had risked, and reportedly lost, their lives searching for Bergdahl.
They knew that Congress not only had expressed concerns in the past about such an exchange, but also established a 30-day consultation period before prisoners could be released from Gitmo.
Yet they did not consult with anyone in Congress.
And — worst of all in terms of optics — they actually staged a celebratory press conference on the White House lawn, effectively pumping up the media balloon with so much air that it was bound to explode with equal force. As it has.
Why? "How could they be so stupid," friends ask me.
It's a hard question because the short answer is absolutely clear: You may agree or disagree with Barack Obama, approve or disapprove of his performance, but when it comes to politics, the one thing you have to admit is that the president and his team are not stupid. They beat today's 600-pound gorilla, Hillary Clinton, in the primaries. Only two Democrats since FDR have won two terms in office, and Obama is one of them. Even if they were once newcomers to Washington, that is hardly the case anymore. At six years in, Obama and his team understand this game.
So how did they end up playing it so poorly? Even the Democrats in Congress are confused and angry.
Didn't anyone say in any of the meetings leading up to the announcement, "We'd better get in touch with key members of Congress"? Sure, we all know that Congress leaks like a sieve. I'm not suggesting that they should have done an "all points bulletin" to every member of Congress. But you at least consult with the leadership. You lock in some allies before you begin. You convince them to take the lead with their colleagues. You don't blindside Dianne Feinstein.
And the press conference on the White House lawn, with the parents, who just "happened" to be in Washington? One of the worst ideas in the world. Here you have a soldier who may or may not be facing a court-martial, from a unit whose members have been told (and with good reason) not to speak publicly about the incident lest they further endanger Bergdahl's life, but who certainly will tell their stories upon his release, stories not only of his disappearance (or desertion), but of lives lost trying to find him, and you stage a press conference on the White House lawn, as if Osama bin Laden had just been found and killed. A day of celebration? That's what they were calling it. But what was there to celebrate? I'm not saying Bergdahl deserved to die at enemy hands. Hardly. I'm not convicting him in advance of any trial. Exchanging him as we did might have been our only option. But it was hardly a cause for celebration.
This is not the stuff of political genius. Everything that has happened since that Saturday press conference has been totally predictable, except apparently to the White House.
I wasn't there, of course, so I can only speculate. But from my experience in politics, one of the hardest things to do is to speak truth to power. Telling a powerful leader something they don't want to hear is more difficult than you can imagine. Eisenhower's chief of staff used to tell the story of setting up meetings with the president's critics and encouraging them to voice their criticism, only to have them enter the Oval Office and tell the president what a great job he was doing.
What a president needs from his team is not blind loyalty, but honesty and courage. He needs people who don't need their jobs, who don't need the patina of the White House, who could walk any day. Otherwise, it's just too hard to say no. If this president doesn't have people like that around him, he should find them.
(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, 11 June 2014 09:28
For 10 days, Americans have argued over the wisdom of trading five Taliban senior commanders for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.
President Obama handed the Taliban a victory, critics contend, and imperiled U.S. troops in Afghanistan when the five return to the battlefield. Moreover, he has inspired the Haqqani network and other Islamists to capture more Americans to trade.
But which represents the greater long-term threat to the safety and security of our people and nation: sending those five Taliban leaders to Doha, and perhaps back to Afghanistan, or releasing into the U.S. population last year 36,000 criminal illegal aliens with 88,000 convictions among them?
According to a May report of the Center for Immigration Studies, of the 36,000 criminal aliens who, while awaiting deportation, were set free by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, 193 had been convicted of homicide, 426 of sexual assault, 303 of kidnaping, 1,075 of aggravated assault, 1,160 for stolen vehicles, 9,187 for possession or use of dangerous drugs, and 16,070 for driving drunk or drugged.
Those 36,000 criminal aliens are roughly equivalent to three-and-a-half divisions of felons and social misfits released into our midst.
And this does not include the 68,000 illegal aliens against whom ICE declined to press criminal charges last year, but turned loose.
How goes the Third World invasion of the United States?
According to the AP, the U.S. Border Patrol's Rio Grande Valley sector made 148,017 arrests from Oct. 1 to May 17, while 62,876 were caught in the Tucson sector, the second-busiest crossing point.
That is almost 211,000 illegal aliens caught in just over half a year in just two sectors of the border. And that figure only tells us how many were caught, not how many got in, or how many of those caught were released and now reside among us.
Among those caught crossing into Texas these last seven months were 47,000 unaccompanied children. Border Patrol estimates that by Sept. 30, apprehensions of children and teenagers in this fiscal year could reach 90,000.
According to Gov. Jan Brewer, the feds have begun shipping illegal aliens, adults as well as children, from Texas to Arizona, "dumping" them into her state.
"This is a humanitarian crisis and it requires a humanitarian response," says Maryland Sen. Barbara Mikulski of the surge in children from Central America across the U.S. border.
Attorney General Eric Holder has risen to the crisis. The U.S. will now provide lawyers for children who enter illegally, to fight their battle in U.S. courts to stay. "We're taking this historic step," says Holder, "to protect the rights of the most vulnerable members of our society. How we treat those in need — particularly young people who are fleeing violence, persecution, abuse or trafficking — goes to the core of who we are as a nation."
Somehow the core contention of James Burnham's "Suicide of the West," out 50 years ago this year, comes to mind. "Liberalism," wrote Burnham. "is the ideology of Western suicide."
America and the West must face up to what is happening to our countries and our civilization. Or we are going to lose them both forever.
Treating with contempt U.S. and European laws, peoples from failed states of the Third World are steadily filling up our countries and reducing our native-born into slowly shrinking national majorities.
If this continues over many more decades, Western nations as we knew them will disappear forever, and be remade in the image of those who have newly arrived, and the countries whence they came.
When, ever, did Americans vote for this?
What would constitute a pro-American immigration policy?
A moratorium on all immigration until unemployment among U.S. citizens falls below five percent. A 15-foot security fence from San Diego to the Gulf, with Border Patrol outposts every 10 miles. Fines and community service for businessmen who hire illegal aliens.
Europe is facing the same crisis. This past weekend, 5,200 migrants were caught on boats crossing from Africa to Italy. Spain and Greece, too, are major crossing points from sub-Sahara Africa and the Arab and Islamic world into the heart of Europe.
Yet as we saw in the May European parliamentary elections, the peoples of Europe are not going quietly into that good night that their elites have prepared for them.
They want to preserve the unique countries that they once were. Frenchmen want France to remain France, as the Brits want to remain British.
And despite the names they are being called, there is nothing wrong with that. As Euripides wrote, there is no "greater grief than the loss of one native land."
The Republican establishment of Jeb Bush, John Boehner, Eric Cantor, and the Senate hierarchy is prepared to collaborate with Barack Obama on a halt to deportations and partial amnesty. If so, we shall find out whether the Republican Party still has a heart and soul, or whether, in the last analysis, it comes down to the money.
(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 Tuesday, 10 June 2014 09:24
I think we need to make politicians pass some sort of common sense test before they're put on a ballot. There are a few "givens" they must recognize. First is that American people are addicted to low prices, for everything. Everyone is always looking for the next sale or the best deal they can find. That addiction has led to jobs being moved overseas where less costly labor markets are available.
In my lifetime, jobs have migrated from New England to various southern states because of a less costly labor market. Then, those jobs in the south lost the labor market competition to other countries . . . Guatemala, Bangladesh, China, India, and others. For the most part, the quality of the products didn't suffer as many foreign providers followed the quality control processes of W. Edwards Deming and Joseph Juran. (The outstanding contributions to society of these two men may appear in a later column.)
The stimulus in creating job migration to other labor markets is easy enough to understand . . . it is the cost of producing the finished product. And, as we all recognize, the single greatest contributor to the cost of producing a product is the cost of labor. Labor, in this country, also includes the cost of matching Social Security and Medicare taxes to be paid by the employer, along with the employer's contribution to health benefits, a variety of employee "perks" such as holidays, sick days and vacation, and, of course, either employer provided retirement plans or employer contributions to the employee's 401K plans.
We recently read that Seattle, WA, is going to implement a plan to raise their minimum wage to $15.00 per hour. While that may make some people jump for joy, their joy will be short lived. Before going into the various consequences of such an action, let's look at the numbers.
If the minimum is $15.00 per hour, that is $600.00 per week, $31,200.00 per year. The employer then incurs these other costs:
— The employee and the employer each must contribute 6.2 percent of that amount for FICA (Social Security), and 1.45 percent for Medicare; $45.90 each per week; $2,386.80 per year.
— The employer benefits may include a two week vacation, five or more holidays, and perhaps a sick day allowance of five or more days; $2,400.00 per year.
— Under the new health care laws the employer must offer and contribute to the employee's healthcare insurance. A fairly modest plan may cost about $500.00 a month, or $6,000.00 per year. At 60 percent, the employer's share would be $3,600.00.
— Many employers provide matching funds for an employee's 401K retirement savings plan. As an example, if the employees contribute 6 percent of their salary, and the company offers a 3 percent match, the employer would incur another $936.00 in benefit costs.
These costs amount to $9,322.80, which is to be added to the $31,200.00 annual minimum wage . . . 30 percent more in costs to the employer.
The minimum wage was intended for entry level jobs, not for skilled labor. Young people get paid to "learn to earn" so they can develop their skills and move up the compensation ladder. The consequence of demanding the so-called "living wage" for entry level jobs will result in a further migration of jobs to other countries . . . where that additional $9,322.80 in costs would not be incurred, nor would the gross wage of $31,200.00 be paid. And part of that is because Americans demand their addiction to low prices be satisfied.
Another consequence will be an increase in automation. Companies will find that there are some jobs being performed by unskilled labor because that is less costly than making a capital investment in machinery or equipment that could perform those jobs. With higher wages and overhead costs, companies will re-look at their options and, in many cases, will make decisions to automate, not hire.
An additional likely consequence will be that companies will expect, demand, more maturity and more productivity from their workers because the minimum wage in cost and benefits will exceed $40,000.00. The days of high school kids being paid to "learn to earn" will be a thing of the past.
The truism is, if you make something cheaper, or if you make it easier to do, more of it will happen. The corollary is that if you make something more expensive, or if you make it harder to do, less of it will happen.
Be careful what you wish for.
(Bob Meade is a Laconia resident.)
Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 December 1969 07:00
Let's talk about deeds. There are good and bad deeds. First, a good deed is something that you might do to lend a hand to someone in need. You know, like helping that old lady across the street even though she hit you with her purse and yelled at you all the way over. A bad deed is something you might not be proud of or even illegal. That's when they say "the deed is done!"
In real estate there are also good deeds and some deeds that are not as good as others and you might want to know the difference. After all, the deed you receive when you buy a property is what describes your property and transfers the ownership or title to you. You might wanna read it!
The best kind of deed to get is what is called a Warranty Deed. This is not because you get a 5 year/50,000 mile warranty with the property! That would be nice of course, especially if it covered free maintenance and oil changes. A warranty deed does, however, give the buyer (called the grantee) the most extensive assurance of good title that is possible. A warranty deed comes with the implied promise that the seller (or the Grantor) has lawful title to the property and has the right to sell it. It also means that the property is being conveyed free of encumbrances (other than those stated in the deed) and that the seller warrants and will defend the grantee's title against all claims. The sellers, therefore, are providing a warranty.
Another common deed is called the Quitclaim. This type of deed offers just limited warranty for claims arising during the time of the grantor's ownership. It seems like we see these deeds used mostly between family members, in divorces, or between business partners. That has always seemed a little strange to me. We guarantee that the property is free of all encumbrances to a total stranger but not to a family member. That could make for a nasty Thanksgiving dinner someday.
Another kind of deed is the "fiduciary" deed. A "fiduciary" is a person that is appointed to handle the affairs of someone deceased or someone incapacitated by an extended major illness, dementia, or who is deemed "incompetent" by the courts. A fiduciary deed is used to sell a property on behalf of the owner. Obviously, if the owner has passed away or is incompetent, there is no warranty of title unless somehow the former owner has an internet connection and scanning capabilities on "the other side."
The foreclose deed, unfortunately, has been prevalent for the past few years as a result of all of the foreclosures. This deed is different than other deeds in that it is not a voluntary transfer of the real estate. It is a deed by which a lender takes title to the property away from the homeowner that failed to make his mortgage payments. While lenders must clear all known liens in order to resell the property, they just aren't going to warranty anything beyond the short time they were in possession of the property. Do you blame them? They will generally issue a Quitclaim Deed to transfer the property to a new owner.
If you are getting a loan to buy a property, the bank is going to require that you purchase what is called title insurance to cover their investment in your property. At the same time, you should strongly consider owner's title insurance as well. This is your extended warranty, so to speak. While it doesn't cover oil changes and brake pads, it does cover claims against your title due to things like errors and omission in deeds, fraud, forgery, undisclosed heirs, or improperly recorded documents. Title insurance is very affordable, is a onetime fee paid at closing, and is something I encourage all my clients to purchase. It may be the cheapest insurance policy you will ever buy....
As of June 1, 2014 there were 1,139 single family residential homes for sales in the Lakes Region in the twelve communities covered by this report. The average asking price was $581,412 and the median price point was $264,000. The median price point of $264,000 means that half the homes available were below that price and half were above. That means there are a lot of affordable homes out there! The inventory level has jumped up from the 973 available as of May 1 and but is lower than the 1190 on the market last June. The current inventory level represents a 13.5 month supply of homes on the market.
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 6/1/14. Roy Sanborn is a realtor at Four Seasons Sotheby's International Realty and can be reached at 603-455-0335.
Last Updated on Friday, 06 June 2014 06:54
Not only has the Wall Street bailout restored the banksters who wrecked (and are still wrecking) our economy to full prosperity but it's also paying off very handsomely for the bank overseers who orchestrated the bailout. Perhaps you've been wondering: How are good ol' Ben and Little Timmy doing these days?
Extremely well — thank you very much.
As chairman of the Federal Reserve for six years, Ben Bernanke presided over most of the 2008 financial crash, the Wall Street bailout that poured trillions of public dollars into Wall Street's vaults, the Great Recession that followed, and today's "recovery-that-isn't," since 90 percent of Americans still have not recovered. Now that he has stepped down as head of the Federal Reserve, Ben is on a global "Show Me Some Love" tour. Going to bankster gatherings to bask in their glowing gratitude — and collecting his cut of the bailout loot. Pocketing as much as $400,000 for each speech he delivers to the financial giants he rescued with our money.
In one week in May, Bernanke was in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday, Johannesburg on Wednesday and Houston on Friday, speechifying to global bankers, hobnobbing with hedge fund billionaires and sharing his special brand of insider insight with economic titans. Each of these private chats put $200,000 or more into Ben's deep pockets. He's doing beaucoup of these cash-on-the-barrelhead BenFests for the likes of JPMorgan Chase, Blackstone Group and Morgan Stanley. In conferences and in small dinners at four-star restaurants, Bernanke is offering his "words of wisdom" to the barons of high finance he bailed out, in exchange for a ridiculous fee that most could not have paid without those rescue funds that the Fed chief extracted from you and me.
But here's an irony that's gotta be chapping Ben's butt — some of the banksters he saved are refusing to play the payback game.
Not because they're bothered by the totally corrupt ethics involved, but because they're balking at his sky-high fees. Goldman Sachs, for example, which got a $10 billion bailout and whose CEO, Lloyd Blankfein, took $23 million in personal pay last year, says Bernanke's $200,000 tab is too steep of a price to pay.
Is there no honor among thieves? What's this world coming to when the robber barons won't toss a couple of hundred thousand bailout crumbs to Ben, their loyal servant?
But don't worry about poor ol' Ben. He'll be just fine because the revolving doors in Washington keep turning.
Just take a look at little Timmy Geithner, whose chief responsibility as head of the New York Fed had been to regulate Wall Street's reckless banks so their monstrous greed wouldn't cause a nationwide financial crisis. But — oops! — they did just exactly that on Timmy's see-no-evil, speak-no-evil watch. Still, having proven himself a real banker's man, Geithner was promoted to be America's top financial policy maker as President Obama's Treasury Secretary. There, he insisted that the government's priority must be rescuing greedy bankers with our taxpayer dollars, rather than saving the millions of American homeowners stuck with bloated mortgages, facing wage cuts and joblessness, and who were sinking deep into debt and plunging into poverty.
But, being a good banker's man, Geithner was not punished for his inept and morally deplorable policies. Rather, he was richly rewarded with a top executive position as — what else? — a Wall Street banker. Now, he has published a book about his years of public screw-ups. Oh, sorry, I meant "public service." Concluding that his policies were correct and courageous, Geithner's book should've been titled: "Heckuva Job, Timmy!"
So, Wall Street hucksters are prospering and Ben and Tim are wallowing in wealth — and the real economy remains mired in the ditch of joblessness, low wages, heavy household debt ... and rising anger at the Wall Street/Washington cabal of self-serving elites who shoved them into that ditch.
(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 Wednesday, 31 December 1969 07:00