President Obama's dramatic move to reopen relations with Cuba crystallizes the larger story of his presidency: In many significant ways, he has dragged America into the 21st century. But how long will we stay here? I ask because so many Republicans seem nostalgic for the golden era of Chubby Checker, Elvis Presley and The Shirelles, or the slightly more recent decade when Lionel Richie and Olivia Newton-John topped the charts.
For now, Republicans are sitting in the metaphorical green room of history, waiting for their onstage close-up. They're free to rail against anything and everything Obama does, knowing that his core achievements will be protected for two more years by Senate Democrats and Obama himself. Even the new Republican-controlled Congress can expect filibusters and vetoes if it goes too far in trying to obliterate the Obama era.
The real test will be what the GOP does if and when it has the relatively unfettered capacity to work its will — for instance, if it elects a president in 2016. That person would have to decide whether to roll back the many Obama policies achieved through executive action, regulations and a handful of major laws. Would he or she revive a Cold War with Cuba, stop nuclear talks with Iran, break a climate agreement with China? Revoke temporary legal residency for millions of immigrants? Take away health coverage from millions who are newly insured? Lower the minimum wage for federal contractors? Weaken consumer protections against banks? Reduce tax rates on the rich?
At least a few GOP lawmakers and 2016 prospects must be secretly relieved that Obama is taking the heat for some decisions that were necessary and-or inevitable. We have thriving automobile and renewable energy industries, even as Republicans have been able to rail against government "bailouts" and "picking winners." We aren't sending combat troops into quagmires, prolonging a long-failed isolation policy toward Cuba or courting confrontation with Iran, and the GOP can still hammer Obama as weak, indecisive and naive. America has finally joined the rest of the developed world in offering broad access to health insurance — and Republicans, in an act of political jujitsu for the record books, have ridden the new law to two midterm routs.
The positioning so far in the 2016 presidential race is revealing. Most of the hot GOP prospects have a foot in the 1980s, the 1960s or both. The field is crowded with aggressive interventionists, supply-side tax cutters and climate-change skeptics. Some seem to want to prolong the Cold War. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, whose parents left Cuba well before Fidel Castro's revolution and takeover, has been so emotional and militant in opposing Obama's Cuba shift that The New Yorker's Andy Borowitz wrote a parody called "Rubio Vows to Block Twenty-First Century." ("We cannot stop time, perhaps, but we can defund it"). What's most striking about Rubio's old-school views is his age. He's just 43.
To give them their due, several future contenders are trying to formulate plans for a 21st-century Republican Party. Rubio and Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan are looking at alternative ways to fight poverty, while Rubio and former Florida governor Jeb Bush support comprehensive immigration reform that deals with the millions of illegal immigrants already in America. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky is a warrior for privacy rights and criminal justice reform, he backs Obama on Cuba, and he's against what the libertarian Cato Institute's David Boaz calls "promiscuous interventionism" abroad.
Yet in crucial areas, they and many other GOP prospects are still modeling themselves on an illusory Ronald Reagan. The actual Reagan raised as well as cut taxes, grew the government, terminated a U.S. mission in Lebanon — that is, cut and ran — after 241 military personnel were killed in a bombing, and negotiated with "evil empire" leader Mikhail Gorbachev to reduce nuclear weapons. But who in the Republican field will emulate the practical, flexible Reagan who was open to discussion and compromise?
Paul stands out at this point for rejecting the Reaganesque Republican ideal of America as global supercop with its nose — not to mention its bombs and troops — in everyone's business. He's on the same page as his colleagues, however, when it comes to tax cuts as an economic cure-all. His draconian proposals to cut taxes, slash spending and balance the budget in five years are about as new-fangled as Hall and Oates.
Given his name and his race, Obama's two election victories were potent symbols of a new century and the promise of an increasingly diverse nation. Yet the real 21st-century pillars of his presidency are his policies, from energy and health care to immigration and diplomatic engagement. My fingers are crossed that in their rush to reject all things Obama, Republicans won't reflexively climb into the wayback machine and embrace the ideas of the past.
(Jill Lawrence is nationally syndicated columnist and a writer for Al Jazeera America Opinion. She has covered every presidential campaign for news organizations since 1988.)
Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 December 1969 07:00
I don't think I have to venture too far out on a limb to make this New Year's prediction: Trying to sell your home in 2015 will pretty much be the same as selling in 2014. And that isn't necessarily easy, at least in the Lakes Region of N.H. While other areas of the country and even this State are booming and properties are selling quickly with multiple offers, that is just not the case here. Sorry! While some segments of our market, like vacation properties and entry level properties, are somewhat easier than others, it really is still a buyers' market here especially in the mid-range price residential home market. Now, that's not to say you can't successfully sell your home, you can, just as hundreds of people did in 2014. But just to help you out, here are some tips to help you get it done in 2015.
1. Get a good realtor. If you haven't already worked with an agent in the past and had a great experience with him or her, interview three different agents from different brokerages. See what they, and their company, have to offer in terms of marketing, how well they communicate, and how knowledgeable they are about the market. Ask lots of questions. Find out how dedicated they are to their profession and if they are full or part time. Their availability to you is extremely important, as is effective communication. Ask if they are going to attend every showing on your home, they should, shouldn't they? Do they invest in their own success? Do they have a website to check them out on? Perhaps one of the most important things is to determine how well you think you will get along with them. Personality matters a lot as you are going to be working together for some period of time to sell your home, so make it an enjoyable choice if you can.
2. Get the right price. This is probably the single most important factor in getting your home sold in 2015. Ask each agent that you interview to give you a market analysis and a suggested price range to list your home at. The suggested price range for your home is derived from looking at similar properties that have recently sold. Therefore, the prices recommended should be pretty close although subject to the agent's personal interpretation. If the prices the agents give you vary wildly, ask for further explanation. Never pick an agent based on the fact that he gave you the highest price range to list your home. Your choice of an agent should be based on a number of factors including the marketing program offered.
3. Get the best marketing program. You want a marketing program that casts the widest possible net to find a buyer for your home. You also want one that presents your property in its best possible light with professional grade photography, appropriate and enticing property descriptions, and lots of details. Ask where your property will be marketed, where will it be seen, if video will be part of the program. So part of choosing a realtor to represent you is looking closely and objectively at his marketing plan for your property to ensure it covers all the bases.
There is a term called "ZMOT." ZMOT is an acronym for the Zero Moment of Truth which was coined by Google. ZMOT is the exact moment in time that someone makes a decision to purchase goods or services. In real estate, it could be the moment a buyer decides to go look at a property because he happened upon a home shown in a high quality video on YouTube. It was that compelling to make him pick up the phone or send an email to see the property. Home buyers use many different pathways to home ownership, but by and large the internet is the main vehicle they use to get there. There are also many different components that help a buyer to that ZMOT. Professional grade photography, enticing property descriptions, complete property data, and now even high quality video are a must. The more opportunities a marketing plan has to provide that Zero Moment Of Truth to a buyer the better it is.
4. Get Ready. Your home has to be show ready and at its best to compete in the 2015 real estate market. Ask your agent to help point out what, if anything, needs to be done to make it so. Are there unfinished projects and repairs that need to be done? Your home needs to be clean...no, it must be pristine! De-clutter, organize, and spruce the place up wherever you can. A simple coat of fresh paint makes a world of difference. Simple improvements can make an enormous difference in the way your home shows. Hiring a home staging expert for a minimal cost can provide not only a quicker sale, but higher sales price. So get ready.
5. Be ready to negotiate. More importantly, be willing to negotiate. The chances of you getting full asking price for your property are probably less than winning the Powerball. Buyers want to feel that they got something off the asking price and that they were successful negotiators. Sometimes it doesn't have to be a lot, especially if your home is priced right. Obviously, a lot depends on the offer you get. A low ball offer might tend to alienate you and sour the deal right away, but try and work with every offer. You can never be sure where the final number will end up. Both buyer and seller should remember that the initial offer negotiations are often followed by further negotiations after the home inspections and beyond. So playing nice in the sand box right from the beginning might benefit both parties as things are "needed" further on in the transaction. Negotiation is the art of compromise.
Now, go sell your house!
Pease feel free to visit www.lakesregionhome.com to learn more about the Lakes Region real estate market and comment on this article and others. Roy Sanborn is a realtor at Four Seasons Sotheby's International Realty and can be reached at 603-677-7012.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 December 1969 07:00
There's no denying that Democrats took a drubbing at the polls in 2014. Running cautious campaigns and shying away from Obamacare, Wall Street regulation, the anti-fracking movement, immigration reform and Obama himself — was not a winning strategy.
While the Democrats had a poor showing, populist and progressive ideas surged. Even in red states, pollsters find support for big progressive policy changes (such as living wage laws, Medicare for all, a national infrastructure jobs program, expanded Social Security benefits and free higher education) that would reestablish a vibrant middle-class America. While voters were tossing Democrats aside in this past election, bigger majorities of the same electorate leaped at the chance to say "YES" to an array of unabashedly populist ballot initiatives:
Minimum wage. Even though the crimson-red states of Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska and South Dakota elected GOP Senate candidates, voters rejected the low-wage policies of the Republicans and their corporate backers by approving minimum wage increases. San Francisco voters also raised their wage floor to $15 an hour, and Oakland went up to $12.25. In addition, non-binding referenda calling for raises to $10 or more were approved by 65 percent of the voters in Illinois and by 13 Wisconsin cities and counties, where a whopping 70 to 83 percent of voters OK'd the increases.
Fracking. While ExxonMobil, Halliburton and dozens of huge energy corporations are in a nationwide fracking frenzy — running roughshod over local citizens in the furious rush for fast profits — locals have begun pushing back against the gross pollution, health problems, infrastructure damage and even earthquakes caused by the inherently destructive and intrusive fracking process. Asserting their human and civic rights, local coalitions have, in the last few years, won several referendum fights to ban fracking in their communities.
This year's election saw four more victories added to the list. Bans were passed in Athens, Ohio (78 percent of the vote), California's Mendocino County (67 percent) and San Benito County (57 percent) and even in Denton, Texas (59 percent).
Corporate money. In dozens of communities in five states, people went to the election polls and confirmed what opinion polls consistently report: The overwhelming majority of Americans want corporate money out of our elections. In the midst of the most money-soaked midterm election in global history, multi-partisan majorities said "enough!" They voted for initiatives that said (1) only humans have constitutional rights, (2) money is not speech and (3) "We the People" want to pass a 28th Amendment overturning the Supreme Court's corrosive Citizens United edict.
Ironically, even as the Koch-financed governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker, pulled off a re-election victory, 12 local communities (including his home county of Milwaukee) voted between 70 and 80 percent for local initiatives that call for an amendment to overturn the court's terrible decision. Similar majorities were amassed in statewide in Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts and Ohio: As the national director of the Move to Amend Campaign put it: "The leaders of both parties need to realize that their voters are clamoring for this amendment, and we are only going to get louder."
Paid sick leave. Poverty is sickening enough, but millions of people trying to live on poverty-level wages face a truly sickening choice when they fall ill: Stay at home and lose a few days' pay, or go to work sick, possibly spreading the illness to co-workers and customers. This year, there were four big victories for paid sick leave: Massachusetts (59 to 41 percent), Oakland, California (81 to 19 percent), Montclair, New Jersey (74 to 26 percent) and Trenton, New Jersey (86 to 14 percent).
Conservation. Three major conservation initiatives passed this year: Alaskans voted to prohibit future mining projects that would endanger wild salmon habitat; 75 percent of Florida voters approved a measure to dedicate $1 billion a year in real estate taxes to the protection of water in the endangered Everglades and other areas; and New Jerseyans OK'd an initiative that requires $2 billion in corporate tax revenue be spent on land conservation.
Marijuana. This year both Alaskans and Oregonians voted for full legalization, while Washington DC voted to decriminalize marijuana. And the U.S. territory of Guam approved marijuana use for medicinal purposes.
The day after the election, Obama said: To the two-thirds of voters that chose not to participate in the process yesterday, I hear you." Fine. But will he and the other Democratic leaders make the giant leap from "hearing" to doing? Taking bold, populist actions makes working stiffs and average Americans excited about voting. We need more leaders to champion the populist cause.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 December 2014 09:14
In July of 1870, King Wilhelm sent Foreign Minister Bismarck an account of his meeting with a French envoy who had demanded that the king renounce any Hohenzollern claim to the Spanish throne. Bismarck edited the report to make it appear the Frenchman had insulted the king, and that Wilhelm rudely dismissed him. The Ems Telegram precipitated the Franco-Prussian war Bismarck wanted.
Words matter. And if a picture is worth a thousand words, how much greater impact can a motion picture have? We are finding out.
Egypt has banned "Exodus: Gods and Kings," the $140 million 20th Century Fox biblical epic. Cairo's culture minister Gaber Asfour condemns it as "a Zionist film" containing "historical inaccuracies."
The depiction of enslaved Jews building the pyramids and Moses parting the Red Sea to enable the Jews to flee and drown the Egyptian army is false, says Asfour. Historians date the pyramids to around 2540 B.C., 500 years before Abraham, the father of Judaism.
Paramount's "Noah" was banned in Egypt, Indonesia and Malaysia, for taking liberties with the Quran.
Islamabad is in an uproar over the Showtime series, "Homeland," where Pakistani intelligence services are portrayed as colluding with Islamists trying to kill ex-CIA director Saul Berenson and station chief Carrie Mathison. In the season's final episodes, the U.S. cuts ties to Pakistan and closes the embassy.
The Showtime series "maligns a country that has been a close partner and ally of the U.S.," a Pakistani embassy spokesman told the New York Post, and "is a disservice not only to the security interests of the U.S., but also to the people of the U.S."
The 2014 "Homeland" finale was aired just after 140 Pakistani school kids were massacred in Peshawar by the Taliban.
Islamabad is "a quiet picturesque city with beautiful mountains and lush greenery," said one Pakistani, yet is "portrayed as a grimy hellhole and war zone where shootouts and bombings go off with dead bodies scattered around. Nothing is further from the truth."
Angrier than Egypt or Pakistan is North Korea over Sony's "The Interview." Why would a film company owned by the Japanese, who are not beloved in Korea, think it would be a great fun to make a comedy out of a CIA plot to assassinate North Korea's head of state?
The North Koreans are serious people. They massacred half of the South Korean cabinet in the Rangoon bombing. They have brought down airliners and sunk warships without warning. They have plotted to assassinate South Korea's president.
Their megalomaniac ruler, Kim Jong-Un, just had his uncle-mentor executed, along with his family. Kim has atom bombs and seeks to miniaturize them to put atop missiles able to reach the United States.
He is the most erratic and dangerous ruler on the planet and this assassination-comedy is just the thing to set him off. Says Adam Cathcart, a North Korea expert at Leeds University, "In North Korea it's more or less a fait accompli that the Americans are trying to kill our leader." To sustain its Stalinist dynasty, says the Washington Post, Pyongyang has created a "personality cult that is anything but a laughing matter."
In retaliation for "The Interview," North Korea, says the FBI, hacked into Sony's computers, published confidential emails and threatened retaliation against any who showed the film.
The North has repeatedly denied it hacked into Sony. But it now appears the U.S. has retaliated by disrupting Internet service in North Korea, much to the cheers of the War Party, which wants President Obama to put the Hermit Kingdom back on the list of state sponsors of terror.
North Korea is now using racial slurs to describe Obama.
There is an aspect of reckless immaturity here.
While the Wall Street Journal thinks it would be fun to send DVDs of "The Interview" by balloon into the North, the Washington Post says possession of the film there would be regarded as treasonous, and could bring a death sentence.
No one denies Sony the right to produce a comedy about blowing up Kim Jong Un. Nor was anyone denying theaters or Internet sites the right to show it. What Sony seemed to want was to produce a movie that made the assassination of a dictator appear hilarious, but to be exempt from any consequences.
But we live in a world today where if you produce cartoons of the Prophet with a bomb for a turban, or disparage Islam in videos, books or movies, you can get yourself and others killed.
Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh was butchered in Amsterdam by an enraged Muslim for "Submission," a 10-minute film that excoriated Islam's treatment of women.
In this weekend's Washington Post, Joe Califano, a confidant of President Johnson, writes of how the new film "Selma" demeans LBJ's crucial role in enacting the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
To enrich itself, Hollywood is playing games with religious beliefs and historical truths — and making enemies, not all of whom believe in turning the other cheek.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 30 December 2014 11:43
The state's political establishment has it all wrong when talking about who will take on Republican U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte in 2016. It isn't who the best candidate might be to take on the Republican rising star, it's who will base Democrats pick to do so.
Democratic operatives and establishment types all say they were going with the "operating assumption" that Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan will challenge Ayotte. Certainly this is the matchup that Washington Democrats like Harry Reid are hoping to make happen. If she doesn't run, some Democrats already have their eyes on a different woman to take on Ayotte: U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster.
All this thinking misses a much more obvious option: retiring U.S. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter.
Since 2006, New Hampshire has been the most swing of swing states in the entire country. Nearly every two years since then there has been a violent move from Democrat to Republican. This should have taught us a lesson by now about how New Hampshire politics works lately: What matters most is if a candidate can win a primary, the general election atmosphere cannot be controlled.
There is no better example of this concept that Shea-Porter's three repeat contests with Republican Frank Guinta. The reason voters had the same choices three different times is because neither of these candidates could be defeated in a primary and then they won or lost against each other depending on the political mood of the year.
This is what makes Shea-Porter really interesting as a U.S. Senate candidate in 2016. Should she ever consider it, she definitely has more of a path to victory than Kuster and maybe even Hassan.
Shea-Porter might be the most prominent true progressive ever elected to major office in New Hampshire in a century. She owns the label. She was running for office talking about the "99 percent" five years before it became the rallying cry for Occupy Wall Street protesters.
Her liberal positions matter because in a typical low-turnout Democratic primary for the Senate in 2016 a well-run liberal campaign is the one that will win.
Kuster showed how this played out in 2010 when she ran was the well-funded progressive challenging perceived Democratic front-runner Katrina Swett. In the years since progressives have lost favor with Kuster. One group, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, strongly backed Kuster in 2010 and 2012, only to totally drop her once she starting voting in Congress.
As one top Democratic put it to me: Shea-Porter would beat Kuster 10 to 1 in a Democratic primary for the Senate. Sure, Kuster can raise more money, but Shea-Porter has the Democratic base locked down in the state's 1st Congressional District and would be favored in the more liberal 2nd Congressional District.
In 2012, when Hassan ran for governor the first time, she faced a challenge from the left. Hassan's opponent, former state Sen. Jackie Cilley, lacked fundraising and no one really knew who she was, reasons that she wasn't a perfect candidate. Hassan deserves credit for that win. What few know, however, is that Hassan was flown to Washington and encouraged to take on Shea-Porter in a Democratic Primary. Hassan turned down that idea. In the end, two other Democrats did challenge Shea-Porter, but dropped out before they could even put their name on the ballot.
And unlike Hassan and Kuster, Shea-Porter won't be in office next year and has nothing to lose by running.
Until she takes her name out of contention, watch Shea-Porter.
(James Pindell covers politics for WMUR. You can see his breaking news and analysis at WMUR.com/political scoop and on WMUR-TV.)
Last Updated on Monday, 29 December 2014 11:57