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Susan Estrich - Our democracy shouldn't be for sale

The Supreme Court has done it again. By a 5-4 vote, with the court's five Republican appointees on one side and the four Democratic appointees on the other, the court struck down limits on total contributions to federal campaigns that have been enforced and were specifically upheld in 1976. What the 1976 court saw in Buckley v. Valeo as a "quite modest restraint upon protected political activity" that serves "to prevent evasion" of the limits on contributions to campaigns, the 2014 court has now held violates the fundamental protection of political speech enshrined in the First Amendment.

The arms race for money is not completely out of control. Sure, an individual still can only give $5,200 to an individual candidate ($2,600 for the primary, and $2,600 for the general) and is limited to $32,500 to national party committees, $10,000 to state and local committees, and $5,000 to other committees. But whereas the old law limited contributions to federal candidates and committees to $74,600 every two years, now there are no total limits at all.

For most of us, of course, these limits are meaningless. How many people can afford $74,600 in political contributions? We are in the world of the 1 percent already. But now those 1 percenters can give millions or tens of millions. Already maxed out on one committee? Believe me, someone will create another. There is no limit to the avenues to contribute and no law against it, thanks to the Supreme Court.

Does it matter? Of course it does. Sure, having more money is no guarantee of victory. But between having more and having less, every candidate alive would rather have more. And they are grateful, most grateful, to have more, however it comes in — including from other candidates and their funds, committees, the party, supposedly "independent" groups and individuals. Very grateful. You don't get a picture in a silver frame when you give this kind of money. You get access and a hearing and maybe a feather on the scale — not something anyone can prove, but enough for it to be a wise business decision and not just an expression of constitutionally protected political beliefs.

And while it is certainly true that both political parties play this game, it is not true that everyone does. As former Sen. Bob Dole famously observed decades ago, every business interest may have a political committee, but poor children don't. There are no million-dollar donations coming in from single mothers struggling to make ends meet, from homeless families seeking shelter, from the 99 percent of Americans who don't even earn enough to make this new decision of any immediate significance to them.

As for the argument that disclosure solves all problems, reality is to the contrary. Oh, once in a while we hear a story about a clumsy contribution from someone who is seeking federal funds at the very same time. Sophisticated donors don't make that mistake. They've figured out ways to avoid disclosure altogether through supposed "grassroots" committees that are anything but.

Moreover, disclosure is a one-day story at best: an enterprising reporter digging through FEC reports trying to match names and companies and issues. But very few people are around for or follow up on the calls and meetings that happen months later. Moreover, the very goal of many big donors is nothing: forestall legislation to assure that nothing is done when something should be. How do you follow that?

Democracy should be sacrosanct. It should not be for sale. The venerable principle of "one person, one vote" is essentially meaningless when a tiny percent of all Americans, by writing checks and forming supposedly independent and grassroots committees, can and do wield undue influence on the process and its elected beneficiaries.

I certainly support the Founders' vision of an independent judiciary: appointed, not elected, and serving for life. But on days like today, I can't help but wonder whether the five-man majority might see things a little bit differently if they had to raise money — and be beholden to moneyed interests — in order to win and keep their jobs.

(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, 31 December 1969 07:00

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Sanborn — Realtors have cure for log cabin fever

There were 54 residential home sales in February, 2014 in the twelve thriving Lakes Region communities covered in this real estate market report. The average sales price came in at $332,695 and the median price point stands at $214,500. Last February there were just 46 transactions at an average price of $268,188.

A guy walked into our office last week and I could tell right away he was extremely ill. He appeared very agitated, irritated, and almost delirious. A vein was practically bulging out of his forehead; he was perspiring and muttering somewhat incoherently. I immediately recognized that he was suffering from both Type I and Type II Cabin Fever. We see that a lot this time of year. It is almost an epidemic.

Type I Cabin Fever is probably the more common of the two types this time of year; especially after the gloomy, cold, and snowy winter we have had. Generally speaking, those afflicted suffer from moderate to severe depression, bouts of uncontrollable anger, and nightmares that you are in an Expedia commercial. This type of Cabin Fever can be treated easily by extended vacations to warmer climates and liberal amounts of alcoholic beverages. These are usually prescribed together.

Type II Cabin Fever is somewhat rarer and afflicts those with a pent up desire to get back to basics and live a simpler life in a rustic log cabin. Type II is harder and much more expensive to cure and unfortunately is not covered by the Affordable Care Act. There's a lot of anxiety associated with Type II, sometimes to the point of being totally debilitating. It can sometimes be put into remission by extended stays in the Alaskan wilderness, but generally it will come back after returning from the wilds.

The only real cure is to buy a log cabin and live in it until all of the symptoms subside. Right now there are over a dozen log cabins available in Belknap County alone ranging from as little as $134,900 all the way up to $1.15 million for those most seriously afflicted. Here are a couple of homes that might provide relief.

One cabin that looks really nice is at 296 Knox Mtn. Road in Sanbornton. This is a 2,574 square foot, high quality, four bedroom, two bath home. It has Brazilian walnut floors, custom kitchen with granite counter tops, a great room with cathedral ceilings and a gas fireplace, a finished basement, loft, and a great wrap-around porch. Built in 2007, it sits on a nicely landscaped half acre lot and is offered at $325,000. There's also an additional 62 acres of land available for $125,000 if you are extremely contagious and don't want to spread the disease.

The cabin located at 1069 Route 140 in Gilmanton also looks like a cure. It has 2,682 square feet of space, three beds, three baths, a great room with a massive stone fireplace, first floor master, eat in kitchen with silestone counter tops, lots of windows to brighten things up, and a farmer's porch. The house sits on a 5.18 acre lot with mountain views. The property is on the market for a mere $349,000 which is a lot cheaper than intensive care these days.

I was going to tell you about this nice water access log home down at 57 Loon Cove in Alton which would have provided intense therapy, but before I could finish writing this it went under agreement. This home was built in 1986 and has 1,984 square feet of living space, three bedrooms, and two baths. It has a well appointed kitchen with center-island that flows into a large dining area, the requisite great room with cathedral ceilings, skylights, floor to ceiling brick fireplace, all wood interior, game room in the basement, and a farmer's porch. This home might not be right on the water, but there is a golf cart path that leads to the lake where there is 150' of frontage and a deeded dock. The house sits on a .69 acre landscaped lot. It was listed at $328,000. While your cabin fever might still be raging, at least one other person is cured. That's what we realtors do: cure people...

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 2/1/14. Roy Sanborn is a realtor at Four Seasons Sotheby's International Realty and can be reached at 603-455-0335.

Last Updated on Friday, 04 April 2014 05:49

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Pat Buchanan - Whose side in God on now?

In his Kremlin defense of Russia's annexation of Crimea, Vladimir Putin, even before he began listing the battles where Russian blood had been shed on Crimean soil, spoke of an older deeper bond.

Crimea, said Putin, "is the location of ancient Khersones, where Prince Vladimir was baptized. His spiritual feat of adopting Orthodoxy predetermined the overall basis of the culture, civilization and human values that unite the peoples of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus."

Russia is a Christian country, Putin was saying.

This speech recalls last December's address where the former KGB chief spoke of Russia as standing against a decadent West: "Many Euro-Atlantic countries have moved away from their roots, including Christian values. Policies are being pursued that place on the same level a multi-child family and a same-sex partnership, a faith in God and a belief in Satan. This is the path to degradation."

Heard any Western leader, say, Barack Obama, talk like that lately?

Indicting the "Bolsheviks" who gave away Crimea to Ukraine, Putin declared, "May God judge them."

What is going on here?

With Marxism-Leninism a dead faith, Putin is saying the new ideological struggle is between a debauched West led by the United States and a traditionalist world Russia would be proud to lead.

In the new war of beliefs, Putin is saying, it is Russia that is on God's side. The West is Gomorrah.

Western leaders who compare Putin's annexation of Crimea to Hitler's Anschluss with Austria, who dismiss him as a "KGB thug," who call him "the alleged thief, liar and murderer who rules Russia," as the Wall Street Journal's Holman Jenkins did, believe Putin's claim to stand on higher moral ground is beyond blasphemous.

But Vladimir Putin knows exactly what he is doing, and his new claim has a venerable lineage. The ex-Communist Whittaker Chambers who exposed Alger Hiss as a Soviet spy, was, at the time of his death in 1964, writing a book on "The Third Rome."

The first Rome was the Holy City and seat of Christianity that fell to Odoacer and his barbarians in 476 A.D. The second Rome was Constantinople, Byzantium, (today's Istanbul), which fell to the Turks in 1453. The successor city to Byzantium, the Third Rome, the last Rome to the old believers, was — Moscow.

Putin is entering a claim that Moscow is the Godly City of today and command post of the counter-reformation against the new paganism.

Putin is plugging into some of the modern world's most powerful currents. Not only in his defiance of what much of the world sees as America's arrogant drive for global hegemony. Not only in his tribal defense of lost Russians left behind when the USSR disintegrated.
He is also tapping into the worldwide revulsion of and resistance to the sewage of a hedonistic secular and social revolution coming out of the West.

In the culture war for the future of mankind, Putin is planting Russia's flag firmly on the side of traditional Christianity. His recent speeches carry echoes of John Paul II whose Evangelium Vitae in 1995 excoriated the West for its embrace of a "culture of death."

What did Pope John Paul mean by moral crimes?

The West's capitulation to a sexual revolution of easy divorce, rampant promiscuity, pornography, homosexuality, feminism, abortion, same-sex marriage, euthanasia, assisted suicide — the displacement of Christian values by Hollywood values.

Washington Post columnist Anne Applebaum writes that she was stunned when in Tbilisi to hear a Georgian lawyer declare of the former pro-Western regime of Mikhail Saakashvili, "They were LGBT." "It was an eye-opening moment," wrote Applebaum. Fear and loathing of the same-sex-marriage pandemic has gone global. In Paris, a million-man Moral Majority marched in angry protest.

Author Martha Gessen, who has written a book on Putin, says of his last two years, "Russia is remaking itself as the leader of the anti-Western world."

But the war to be waged with the West is not with rockets. It is a cultural, social, moral war where Russia's role, in Putin's words, is to "prevent movement backward and downward, into chaotic darkness and a return to a primitive state."

Would that be the "chaotic darkness" and "primitive state" of mankind, before the Light came into the world?

This writer was startled to read in the Jan-Feb. newsletter from the social conservative World Council of Families in Rockford, Ill., that, of the "ten best trends" in the world in 2013, number one was "Russia Emerges as Pro-Family Leader."

In 2013, the Kremlin imposed a ban on homosexual propaganda, a ban on abortion advertising, a ban on abortions after 12 weeks and a ban on sacrilegious insults to religious believers.

"While the other super-powers march to a pagan world-view," writes WCF's Allan Carlson, "Russia is defending Judeo-Christian values. During the Soviet era, Western communists flocked to Moscow. This year, World Congress of Families VII will be held in Moscow, Sept. 10-12."

Will Vladimir Putin give the keynote?

In the new ideological Cold War, whose side is God on now?

(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 Wednesday, 09 April 2014 09:33

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Gretchen Gandini - What a difference a year makes

"Ultimately, it's up to our community to say yes to a comprehensive regional trail system around here, advocate for a more walkable city, and help usher the project along by investing in its construction."
We wrote these words less than a year ago, encouraging the Lakes Region to look at the regional trail system not only as a nice path for residents to enjoy, but as a means for economic development. Since then, the City of Laconia has voted to make a significant investment of Downtown Tax Increment Financing funds in the walkability of the city, including the expansion of the Riverwalk and Phase 2 of the WOW Trail. As well, the Town of Belmont approved two warrant articles that will make it possible to build Phase 1 of their Winni Trail this summer.
Quite simply, enthusiasm for the regional trail effort is being backed by solid investment.
Nationwide, rail trails have proven time and again to be economic anchors that stimulate tourism and maintain and improve property values by fostering redevelopment. The more destinations connected by a trail, the greater the economic impact. Expanding the trail system in the Lakes Region will bring an additional type of tourist, increase overnight stays, and require existing and new businesses to meet their needs.
The regional trail will be a significant enhancement to our economy and it's not just us trail advocates who are saying so. According to downtown Laconia business owner Myles Chase of MC Cycle and Sport, "We have a customer base of recreational riders who seek out and travel to these types of trails as a destination. With the new addition to Belmont and eventually beyond, there is no doubt that riders from afar would do the same for the WOW Trail."
So what's next? Well, thanks to the City of Laconia's significant investment, we are close to funding Phase 2 of the WOW Trail, which will meet Belmont's Winni Trail at the Belmont/Laconia line. But, we need your help with a final fundraising push to make this happen.
Please share your enthusiasm for the trail with your friends and neighbors. Better yet, consider making a donation to the Phase 2 expansion efforts online at www.wowtrail.org or by mail to PO Box 6832, Laconia, NH 03247. Every dollar counts and no gift is too small. Come join us for the 11th Annual WOW Sweepstakes Ball on May 17th. Or, if you can't attend, just buy a ticket and I'll call you that night to let you know if you won the $10,000 grand prize! Tickets are available online at www.meadowbrook.net or can be purchased in person at Laconia Athletic & Swim Club and Patrick's Pub. If you are a business owner, consider writing us a letter of commitment for our upcoming CDFA Tax Credit application. It's a great way to highly leverage your contribution and impact to a significant regional project. E-mail us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more information on this program.
In the Lakes Region we've got something that many rail trail communities nationwide can't offer: access to a wide range of year-round recreation opportunities and a regional trail that will showcase three beautiful lakes. Coupled with the opportunity to link neighboring communities together in a unique way, it's a wonder that trail enthusiasm hasn't hit the region sooner. Thank you for your belief in our efforts to make the Lakes Region a more desirable place to live, work and play. We hope you will join us as we make the final push for expanding the regional trail this summer/fall.
I'm ready for 4.5 miles of continuous trail for walking, biking and running in 2014. Are you?
(Gretchen Gandini is the executive director of the WOW Trail. She'd love to hear from you and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . The WOW Trail is a not-for-profit 501 (c) 3 organization committed to building a 9 mile recreation path through the City of Laconia as a part of the regional rail trail network that will connect Meredith to Franklin. For more information, please visit www.wowtrail.org.)

Last Updated on Thursday, 27 March 2014 08:43

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February waterfront sales report

There were five waterfront homes sold on Lake Winnipesaukee in February, 2014 at an average price of $1.75 million. That's just a little bit better than the three sales posted in February 2013 at an average of $1.26 million.

The least expensive home sold was at 5 Little Bear Island in Tuftonboro. This is a pretty neat property that consists of a nice, 1,200 square foot, three bedroom log cabin built in 2005 along with a separate bunkhouse to hole up in when you get thrown out for staying up too late partying with your fishing buddies. The cabin has a great room with vaulted ceilings, a gas fired fieldstone fireplace, a loft area, a nice little kitchen, and a great rocking porch to tell fishing stories on. The .9 acre lot has 100' of frontage, and a permanent dock. This property was priced at $350,000 and sold for $300,000 after 156 days on the market.

The property representing the mid-priced sale was at 37 Elm Street in Alton...actually West Alton, near Smith Point. This is a 2,000 square foot, three bedroom, one and three quarter bath, contemporary home with panoramic long range views of the broads. The house has an open concept kitchen and living room area with lots of glass to bring in the views, cherry floors, and a gas fireplace. The master suite has a waterfront balcony, tiled bath, whirlpool and double closets. There's a family room over the attached two car garage with built in bunk beds and an additional bonus room over the detached two car garage that needs finishing. The house sits on a level half acre lot with 78' of crystal clear frontage, a sandy beach, and dock. This property was listed at $925,000, was reduced to $899,000, and sold for $870,000 after 484 days on the market. It is assessed at $781,100.

The highest price sale was at 83 Spindle Point in Meredith. This 6,700 square foot, fourteen room, four bedroom, six bath Adirondack home was custom built in 2009. The home features a gourmet kitchen (of course) with tile, granite and stainless, a fabulous great room with a see through fireplace that is shared with the dining room, and a first floor master suite with fireplaces in the bedroom and bath just in case you are cold when you get out of the shower. There are four more bedrooms upstairs plus a family room and down in the lower level there's a family room, game room, and bar area. The home is energy efficient and features a geothermal heating system. A four car garage will hold all your toys and there's a covered boat slip and breakwater for the Formula speedboat you've always wanted. The 1.87 acre lot has 100' of frontage and spectacular Southwest views. This home was offered at $2.86 million, was reduced to $2.45 million, and sold $2.258 million after 274 days on the market. Now this was a short sale, but it did close, so someone has gotta be happy with the purchase. This property is assessed at $2,230,700 by the big city of Meredith.

There were two sales on Winnisquam in February. A 672 square foot , four room, two bedroom cottage at 71-1 Maple Circle in Sanbornton found a new buyer after 151 days on the market. While you won't be able to get lost in this little cottage, the big deal is that it provides access to the broadest part of Winnisquam with 172 feet of sloping sandy frontage that's great for the kids and granny. There's a galley kitchen, a dining/living room area with a fireplace and a nice deck. This property was listed at $479,900, reduced to $431,400, and sold for $421,600. The Town of Sanbornton has the assessed value at $431,200. Good deal, Willie!

The other sale on Winnisquam was in Meredith at 27 Lower Waldron Road in Waldron Bay. This 4,814 square foot contemporary was built in 1999 and has four bedrooms and nine baths. Yes, nine baths! You see it is a long way from one end of the house to the other and you can never be sure if you'll make it. There are five full baths, two three quarter baths, and two half baths. All kidding aside, this is a beautiful open concept home which offer spectacular views for everyone that is not in a bathroom at the time. The main level has copper/slate flooring through the entry way and kitchen, antique maple flooring in the living room and dining area, soaring ceilings and gas fireplace, and a first floor master suite. There's a media room, spa room, second full kitchen, hot tub room, and full bar in the lower level walkout area. An attached three car garage will keep the cars warm and there's a 36 foot dock for your boat. The 1.07 acre lot has 168' of frontage with a perched beach. This home was listed at $1.299 million and sold for $1.16 million which seems like a lot until you break it down. It really cost just $128,889 per bathroom which is less than the assessed value of $130,566 per bathroom. See, it all depends on how you look at things.

There were no waterfront sales on Squam in February to report. I'm sure they'll be on the board next month!

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 3/15/14. Roy Sanborn is a realtor at Four Seasons Sotheby's International Realty and can be reached at 603-455-0335.

Last Updated on Friday, 21 March 2014 09:07

Hits: 485

 
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