Rep. David O. Huot - Unraveling how N.H. government works

A lot of people tell me they don't understand how government works very well, or how laws are made. One of the things I hope to do is deliver a little practical material on Civics for those of us who haven't been to high school in a while. The whole issue of government, its value, organization, and operation, as well as the people who run it, commands a lot of public debate, to say nothing of the volume of fodder it provides for the media, and folks like me who try to understand it.

I will be trying to unravel a little of it on a regular basis. Mark Twain once observed that "No man's life, liberty or property are safe while the legislature is in session." Well, the New Hampshire legislature begins its session this week, and it lasts until late June. During this time I'll be focusing on legislative issues.

At this time there are no bills pending in either the House or Senate. Filing bills can start this week. What we do know, at this point, is the title of Legislative Service Requests (LSR'S), which are ideas Senators and Representatives have submitted to the Office of Legislative Services for having bills drafted. I've looked at close to a thousand of them and can already identify one issue that is going to be of great interest to, not only the City of Laconia, but also to each of the 10 towns in the county and the county as well.. That is, undoing the repeal by the Legislature in 2011 (effective in 2016) of the state's payment of 25 percent of the local government amount of the employer's share of contributions to the New Hampshire Retirement System of local public employees. You may have heard this referred to as "downshifting."

As a representative from Laconia, I'll be dealing a lot with issues of particular interest to Laconia; but, as The Laconia Daily Sun is read widely in Belknap County, I'll try to cover issues pertinent to county government as well. Some issues of statewide importance will also come up now and then.

At this point, I need to point out that The Daily Sun is not the only reason county issues will crop up. You see, unlike state senators, state representatives are involuntary participants in county government. All representatives of the cities and towns in New Hampshire's 10 counties constitute, by law, a group called "The County Convention." I'll deal with what county conventions do in future editions of this column, but, I'll give you a clue: most of it deals with money.

I'm planning to provide my thoughts to The Daily Sun every other week for as long as I can find interesting ways to demystify government. It may take a while.

(Democrat David Huot represents Laconia in the N.H. House. His legislative email address is This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

 

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Pat Buchanan - Is Iran nuclear deal dead or alive?

Though every Republican in Congress voted against the Iran nuclear deal, "Tearing it up ... is not going to happen," says Sen. Bob Corker, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee.

Hopefully, the chairman speaks for the president-elect.

During the campaign, Donald Trump indicated as much, saying that, though the U.S. got jobbed in the negotiations — "We have a horrible contract, but we do have a contract" — he might not walk away. To Trump, a deal's a deal, even a bad one. And we did get taken.

In 2007 and 2011, all 17 U.S. intelligence agencies assured us, "with high confidence," that Iran did not have an atomic bomb program. Yet our folks forked over $50 billion for an Iranian show and tell to prove they were not doing what our 17 intelligence agencies told us, again and again, they were not doing. Why did we disbelieve our own intelligence, and buy into the "Chicken Little" chatter about Iran being "only months away from a bomb"?

Corker also administered a cold shower to those who darkly warn of a secret Iranian program to produce a bomb: "In spite of all the flaws in the agreement, nothing bad is going to happen relative to nuclear development in Iran in the next few years. It's just not."

Under the deal, Iran has put two-thirds of the 19,000 centrifuges at Natanz in storage, ceased enriching uranium to 20 percent at Fordow, poured concrete into the core of its heavy water reactor at Arak, and shipped 97 percent of its enriched uranium out of the country. Cameras and United Nations inspectors are all over the place.Even should Iran decide on a crash program to create enough fissile material for a single A-bomb test, this would take a year, and we would know about it.

But why would they? After all, there are sound reasons of state why Iran decided over a decade ago to forego nuclear weapons.

Discovery of a bomb program could bring the same U.S. shock and awe as was visited on Iraq for its nonexistent WMD. Discovery would risk a pre-emptive strike by an Israel with scores of nuclear weapons. Saudi Arabia and Turkey would have a powerful inducement to build their own bombs.

Acquiring a nuclear weapon would almost surely make Iran, a Persian nation on the edge of a sea of Arabs, less secure.

If, however, in the absence of a violation of the treaty by Iran, we tore up the deal, we could find ourselves isolated. For Britain, France and Germany also signed, and they believe the agreement is a good one. Do we really want to force these NATO allies to choose between the deal they agreed to and a break with the United States?

If the War Party is confident Iran is going to cheat, why not wait until they do. Then make our case with evidence, so our allies can go with us on principle, and not from pressure.

Also at issue is the deal signed by Boeing to sell Iran 80 jetliners. Airbus has contracted to sell Iran 100 planes, and begun delivery. List price for the two deals: $34.5 billion. Tens of thousands of U.S. jobs are at stake.

Is a Republican Congress prepared to blow up the Boeing deal and force the Europeans to cancel the Airbus deal? Why? Some contend the planes can be used to transport the Iranian Republican Guard. But are the Iranians, who are looking to tourism, trade and investment to rescue their economy, so stupid as to spend $35 billion for troop transports they could buy from Vladimir Putin?

The Ayatollah's regime may define itself by its hatred of the Great Satan. Still, in 2009, even our War Party was urging President Obama to publicly back the Green Movement uprising against the disputed victory of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

In 2013, moderates voted Hassan Rouhani into the presidency, where he began secret negotiations with the USA. New elections will be held this year. And while the death of ex-President Rafsanjani this weekend has removed the powerful patron of Rouhani and strengthened the hard-liners, Ayatollah Khamenei is suffering from cancer, and the nation's future remains undetermined.

Iran's young seek to engage with the West. But if they are spurned, by the cancellation of the Boeing deal and the reimposition of U.S. sanctions, they will be disillusioned and discredited, and the mullahs will own the future.

How would that serve U.S. interests?

We still have sanctions on Iran for its missile tests in violation of Security Council resolutions, for its human rights violations, and for its support of groups like Hezbollah. But we also have in common with Iran an enmity for the Sunni terrorists of al-Qaida and ISIS.

We are today fighting in Libya, Yemen, Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, as the War Party works to confront Beijing in the South China Sea, Russia in Ukraine and North Korea over its nuclear and missile tests.

Could we perhaps put the confrontation with Iran on hold?

(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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Froma Harrop - Getting through to ordinary people

That went over well.

In the darkness of night on a federal holiday, House Republicans voted to kill the Office of Congressional Ethics. That would have shut down independent investigations of corruption in Congress.

You could almost hear the wheels turn: Lobbyists are hot to gut regulations and steer taxpayer money into their clients' pockets. Deal man Donald Trump will soon be running the show and does not seem averse to big federal spending. So what better time for some of us to personally grab a piece of the action? Blowing up the ethics office would clear the road.

Then — to the surprise of jaded observers — the skies opened, and down poured condemnation. Watchdog groups on the left and the right bashed the sneak attack on the ethics rules. Constituents deluged the wayward reps with angry calls. And Trump issued two tweets criticizing the Republican House members for taking up the contentious matter as their first order of business.

The sun rose the next day, and Republicans ditched the plan to kill the independent ethics panel. It was a good ending to a really bad start for the 115th Congress.

Many attribute the reversal to Trump's disapproving tweets, and they may have moved things along. But the power of an aroused electorate is what truly nixed the game plan.

The public blowback to the offending individuals was impressive. But even more significant were the demands on social media to know how the representatives had voted. That implies consequences for actions.

Newspapers of yore would routinely print the rundown of who in Congress voted "yea" and who "nay" on important pieces of legislation. Reputable online news sources can now offer such information and make it easily searchable.

Trump is an undisputed master at assessing what gets through to ordinary people. Robert Goodlatte, the Virginia Republican who orchestrated the secretive assault on the ethics office, is not a master. Goodlatte responded to the criticism by predictably blaming the media. His reward was such tweets as "You are a traitor to the Constitution you swore to uphold." That's not the sort of thing a right-winger wants to hear.

Now, it's premature to assume from the recent Trump tweets that the incoming president is serious about "draining the swamp" of Washington corruption. A two-cent analysis of Trump's personality might conclude that he wants to be top alligator — that he considers attempts by the salamanders in the hinterlands to get in on the deals to be presumptuous.

Another consideration: When awkward questions inevitably arise about Trump's conflicts of interest involving his family business, he can point to the tweets as evidence of his passion for clean government. And chances are good that the right-wingers he left out to dry won't exact revenge. They're too scared.

Besides, this move by Goodlatte and friends was not only brazen but also awesomely stupid. Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham put it succinctly when he told Fox News Radio, "It's the dumbest fricking thing I've ever heard."

Bear in mind that the run at the ethics office followed an earlier unsuccessful effort to restore funding of pet projects (also known as pork), a controversial practice that had been banned. House Speaker Paul Ryan nipped that suicide raid in the bud, though he did promise to bring it up later this year. Something tells us he may not.

Trump had managed to corral anger against Republicans, as well as Democrats. Many voted for him fully aware of his checkered business conduct. Perhaps, just perhaps, they'll rise up when Trump tries to pull a fast one. There's now more reason to hope.

 

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E. Scott Cracraft - Privatization of presidential security cause for concern

Since, the 1980s, the United States has seen unprecedented "privatization" of services traditionally run by the national, state and local governments. Ultra-conservative economic ideologies have been accepted as the norm and increasingly, any opposition to them is seen as "un=American." A distinguished professor at a well-respected college, who was lucky enough to escape the terror of the U.S.-backed coup in Chile in 1973, once told this writer that Chile was our first experiment in neo-liberal economics. People speak of a "Chilean Miracle" under this system but many forget that while it made some Chileans very rich, it did little of the working classes. And, of course it was "successful" in the sense that it was implemented when everyone was too afraid to speak out against it.

In the last three decades, we have privatized more and more public services and the list grows longer. The private sector has been allowed to make profits on providing these services at taxpayer expense. The areas affected include health care, social services, mental health service, and education.

If President-Elect Trump and his proposed administration, advisors and supporters have their way, we will undoubtedly see even more privatization of public services from Social Security to Medicare to veterans' benefits. In spite of what conservative propaganda tries to tell us, privatization is not of benefit to the normal working or middle-class American taxpayer. The taxpayer will still pay taxes, only those taxes will go toward making a profit for private corporations. Although people often rightly complain about "bureaucracy" when the government runs something, public agencies are not innately more bureaucratic or less competent than private ones. In fact, private companies than be even more bureaucratic. And, there is the additional incentive of profit for private agencies to deny or cut back on services.

One of Mr. Trump's more disturbing proposals is to privatize his own security and to pay for it himself. On the surface, this may seem appealing, considering the much higher cost of security since Trump's family wants to continue to live at Trump Towers. But, there are serious problems with the idea.

First, there are the practical considerations. Who is going to be in charge? Congress has tasked the Secret Service with the duty of not only protecting the president and vice-president but also political candidates, foreign dignitaries, former presidents and former presidential family members. Who is going to be ultimately responsible for decisions regarding the president's security details: the U.S. Secret Service or the private security force?

Obviously, whether one agrees with a president or not, almost all Americans would agree that the protection of our chief executive and a world leader is of the highest priority. Will a private security force be better than what we have had in place for decades and one that has been mandated by Congress? The Secret Service, which, as an agency of the Department of the Treasury, is also responsible for fighting counterfeiting of our currency, has been trained for decades in protecting the president and his family.

Overall, they have done a very good job. Since the Secret Service became responsible for the president's safety, we have had only one presidential assassination, one assassination of a presidential candidate, and relative few "close calls" such as those involving Presidents Harry Truman, Gerald Ford, and Ronald Reagan. Will conflict between the Secret Service and a private security detail loyal only to Mr. Trump stand in the way of the best possible presidential security? Since he seems to dislike advice and even intelligence briefings, will Mr. Trump ignore the procedures which have helped protect presidents for decades?

Another concern is that such a security force would be subject only to Mr. Trump who already, by his words, has indicated that he does not respect the law, the Constitution, or even common decency. This opens the door to possible abuse. There are "bodyguards" and there are "bodyguards." With all due respect to the honest, dedicated people who do these jobs, there are not a few thugs in the profession. After all, in Germany, didn't the S.S. start out as Adolf Hitler's relatively small security detail?

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

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Roche Realty reports greatest sales volume in company's history

MEREDITH — Frank Roche, President of Roche Realty Group, Inc., with offices in Meredith and Laconia, has reported a record year in sales volume for the 12 months ending Dec. 31, 2016. The firm produced a sales volume of $161,189,304, involving 584 transaction sides, resulting in an increase of 27 percent over 2015's sales.

"This figure represents the highest sales achievement in our company's 25 year history," Roche said, "We surpassed our 2004 sales volume of $131 million, which was the strongest year in New Hampshire's history for real estate sales. I attribute this record-setting year to our dedicated real estate professionals and our hard-working administrative and marketing staff. Their commitment to superior service day in and day out certainly made things happen. The company averaged $3.1 million in sales volume per week during 2016. The average selling price amounted to $276,009."
He continued, "We invested a significant amount to improve our worldwide internet exposure. We have continually upgraded our website, www.rocherealty.com, our internet optimization and our marketing presence on approximately 80 national and international websites. In 2017, we will launch a new and improved state-of-the-art website, which we have been working on for two years. Through our worldwide connections with luxuryrealestate.com, luxuryhomes.com and other portals, we have increased our market reach immensely. Rocherealty.com is one of the most visited websites in the Lakes Region."
Since 1997, when statewide statistics started, Roche Realty Group, Inc., has sold more than $1.8 billion of New Hampshire properties, involving 6,799 transaction sides and has ranked in the top 10 real estate firms in the state of New Hampshire out of 2,285 firms reporting sales during this 20 year period.
The company produced a strong showing in 2016 in waterfront sales on many of the lakes throughout the Lakes Region, likewise, the semi-retirement and second home markets also produced strong results fueled by a growing economy and low interest rates. Communities such as South Down Shores, Long Bay, Lake Houses at Christmas Island, Misty Harbor, Nature's View, Samoset, Lakewood, Patrician Shores and the other water access communities showed excellent activity.
Roche, a 40-year veteran of Lakes Region real estate, said, "I'm proud the company has continued to maintain a group of very knowledgeable and experienced Realtors. We were also fortunate to have several younger associates join our firm who have had an exceptional year. I'm particularly proud that our firm has grown consistently on its own, unaffiliated with any national franchises. We always want to stay a local, family-owned, independent firm. Today, we are one of the largest, volume wise, in the entire state of New Hampshire."

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