Posts Tagged ‘united states’

South Bend Tops Nation in Home Value

The Today Show recently aired a piece in which they named the top 10 U.S. cities based on home value. Factoring into their list were things such as cost of living, rising home prices and job growth. My hometown of South Bend, Indiana came in at #1 on the list. Not too shabby, I would say.

Real-estate contributor Barbara Corcoran ranked South Bend first among the “Top 10 Cities for Bargain Homes.” She noted that the median “price is just $89,000, and prices have been rising steadily for almost a full year now.”

There’s certainly a lot of potential growth in the South Bend area. Taking advantage of the University of Notre Dame, the city has opened a high-tech research park known as Innovation Park. Right now the city is focused on being a leader in nanotechnology. Last year Notre Dame was awarded the Midwest Academy of Nanoelectronics and Architectures, which will partner with other research universities to advance the technology. Other developments in South Bend include the newly opened Eddy Street Commons, which combines retail, shopping and dining into one multi-use district.

Here is the full Today Show list:

1. South Bend, Ind.
2. Akron, Ohio
3. Topeka, Kan.
4. New Haven, Conn.
5. Tucson, Ariz.
6. Minneapolis
7. Portland, Maine
8. Miami
9. Kingston, N.Y.
10. Trenton, N.J.

Senate Passes Health Care Reform

In the first Christmas Eve session since 1963, the United States Senate today passed a historic overhaul of the nation’s health care system. The final vote was guaranteed days ago as key Democrats cast procedural votes in favor of passage. Today’s 60-39 vote in favor of extending health insurance to 30 million Americans currently without health insurance was the culmination of over 70 years worth of work trying to achieve (near) universal insurance coverage dating back to FDR and the New Deal.

Democrats passed the measure without a single Republican vote, including Olympia Snowe (R-ME), who voted for the bill in committee. Snowe had previously said that she would not vote for the bill if it included a public option – which of course was stripped at the demands of Joe Lieberman. Despite this, Snowe didn’t keep her word. She instead complained that Democrats were rushing the bill. Apparently spending the better part of a year crafting the legislation, debating it and voting on it is not enough time.

When Congress returns from its Christmas recess, the House will have to decide on whether they will accept the language (highly unlikely) or send the process to a conference committee to reconcile the House and Senate bills. The two bills have substantially different language. The House version includes a public option, pays for low to middle income subsidies to purchase insurance with tax increases on the top 1% of income earners and has more restrictive language on abortion. The House version also costs less and reduces the deficit more in the long run. The Senate version does not include a public option, pays for subsidies by taxing “Cadillac” insurance plans and ultimately will cost more than the House version. Both versions ban insurance companies from discriminating against people based on a pre-existing condition.

While I certainly have a good deal of concern over the effectiveness of the Senate version, I am a believer that extending coverage to 30 million people is a significant step that our country should not pass up. The House needs to fight to include a public option in order to keep costs down for consumers. It is one of the more popular elements of this whole reform effort. Moving away from a for-profit health care system should have been one of the main goals all along. I thought it was, but apparently some members of the Senate (i.e. Joe Lieberman) have other interests in mind. At any rate, this is the best Christmas gift that someone without health insurance could possibly wish for. A majority in the Senate and the Democratic Party put the interest of the people ahead of petty politics. Merry Christmas everyone!

GOP Becoming Party of Crazies

The Republican Party is moving far to the right, as was expected following the exit of independent voters in 2006 and 2008. The Tea Party wing of the party is clearly winning out. Two polls confirm the radical thinking of the few remaining members. The polling firm PPP asked respondents whether Barack Obama won last year’s election legitimately. According to the poll, “a 52% majority of GOP voters nationally think that ACORN stole the Presidential election for Barack Obama last year, with only 27% granting that he won it legitimately.”

President Barack Obama won the election by 10 million votes. Not only did he win traditional swing states like Florida, Pennsylvania and Ohio, he also carried states that traditionally leaned Republican such as Indiana, Virginia, North Carolina and Nevada. For an organization with very limited resources, Republicans seem to think that ACORN has the ability to steal elections even in states with Republican governors (such as Indiana, Florida and Nevada) running the show.

A poll taken in September found that “42 percent of Republicans believe that President Obama was not born in the United States, while 22 percent still remain uncertain of his birthplace origin.” Finally, a third poll showing just how crazy the Republican Party has become asks respondents whether the president should be impeached. While only 20 percent of Americans support such action, 35 percent of Republicans believe that President Obama should be impeached.

The only grounds for impeachment, according to the Constitution are for “high crimes and misdemeanors”, something that arguably could be used against say – President Bush for ordering the use of torture and misleading the nation into a war. What exactly President Obama has done that constitutes a high crime – other than enact policies that the country voted for – I’m not quite sure.

These types of beliefs don’t mesh well with mainstream America. Believing that our president is not only illegitimate, but a secret Muslim born in another country is considered loony – even in most conservative circles. The Tea Party movement is clear in what they want to do. “Our goal is to take over the Republican Party,” Matt Kibbe said on Hardball. If the Republican Party does not get their crazy elements under control, a year in which they could make inroads, 2010 may end up seeing more Democrats getting elected to Congress.

Republicans Have an Olympic Sized Bad Attitude

This week saw a flurry of public condemnations make their way towards President Obama from Republican politicians for his trip to Copenhagen to promote the United States’ bid to host the Olympic Games. It seems that nothing can deter Republicans from opposing this president, including the prospect of having the premier sporting event for the first time in twenty years (by the time 2016 rolls around). The Olympics would have brought with it construction jobs, tourists and an opportunity for America to display a more positive image to the world. The Chinese, despite a horrible human rights record, managed to do this during the 2008 Beijing games.

For whatever reason, undoubtedly political, Republicans are proving to be a self-destructive force in their opposition to the president. In some countries, such as Great Britain, the opposition party is known as the “Loyal Opposition”. We have no such opposition party in this country. If President Obama is for getting the Olympics, Republicans are opposed to it. The reaction from Republican politicians is laughable and childish, but has proven to be true throughout President Obama’s short tenure.

“Listen I think it’s a great idea to promote Chicago but he’s the president of the United States, not the mayor of Chicago,” Minority Leader John Boehner said. “And the problems we have here at home affect all Americans and that’s where his attention ought to be.”

Where, Mr. Boehner, was your opposition when President Bush visited Beijing for a week last year as our economy was crashing? What purpose did his presence serve other than to spend more vacation time as president? President Obama actually tries to do something positive, winning the Olympic Games for his country, and all you have to say is that he should be at the White House 24/7 as Republicans in Congress oppose everything that he puts forward anyway. It is truly mind boggling how Mr. Boehner is in a leadership position.

Speaking of Republican “leaders”, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is among the Republicans rooting against America. Gingrich posted a duo of Tweets bashing President Obama for his efforts:

President Eisenhower had a rule that Presidents of the United States went to the meetings after success had been assured

Somehow charm and oratory dont (sic) seem to work in foreign affirs (sic) but historians have warned that foreign policy is different than campaigning

Using Gingrich’s logic, one should never compete in something unless they are guaranteed to win. There was no conceivable way that the White House could have known the outcome of the vote. They figured that the benefits of winning would outweigh the political risk of losing. Clearly the Republican leadership was more interested in sabotaging the President and country for political gain than they were bringing the Olympics home. I might remind people that Democrats did not act this way in 2005 when New York was rejected by the IOC.

Which brings me to my final thought. If Republicans want something to complain about, it should be the IOC. The IOC is not a representative body. There are two members from the United States out of nearly 100 total. They weren’t even allowed to vote since we had a city in contention. The Europeans, meanwhile, have roughly 50 members (depending on your definition of “European country”). That is a 50 to 2 disadvantage that we faced when you compare the number of European members vs. American. This unbalanced approach needs to be addressed before the United States even considers putting up a city again. North America has roughly the same population as Europe. This formula is equivalent to giving Texas 50 electoral votes and New York only 2 when the states are fairly close in population. Only the IOC could come up with a system that is worse than the Electoral College.

Sotomayor Confirmed as First Hispanic Supreme Court Justice Amid Token GOP Support

Sonia Sotomayor was today confirmed by the United States Senate by a 68-31 vote (Senator Kennedy expressed support but was unable to attend the vote due to illness). Justice Sotomayor will be the first Latino ever to sit on the Supreme Court. She is replacing Justice David Souter after he announced his retirement in June. Senate Republicans gave token support to Sotomayor with three fourths of them voting “no” on the nomination, among them the so-called “maverick” John McCain. All of the Senate’s Democrats supported her nomination. The Republicans voting in favor of her nomination include:

Lamar Alexander (Tennessee)
Kit Bond (Missouri)
Susan Collins (Maine)
Lindsey Graham (South Carolina)
Judd Gregg (New Hampshire)
Richard Lugar (Indiana)
Mel Martinez (Florida)
Olympia Snowe (Maine)
George Voinovich (Ohio)

Four years ago Justice John Roberts, who has proven to backtrack on his promise to follow judicial precedent, was confirmed by the Senate with 78 votes, including 22 Democrats. It’s a shame that Republicans chose politics (perhaps it has something to do with the NRA’s threat that a vote in favor would affect their rating of them) instead of supporting a well qualified Latino woman. Four of those Republicans that supported her are retiring. Perhaps they felt free to vote based on qualifications and not just politics.

Why the U.S. should not torture

Several years ago while he was still president, George W. Bush declared vehemently that the “United States does not torture.” Many observers, including this one, knew better than that. Evidence has been leaking from the administration for some time whether it be renditions in foreign countries where we hand over terrorist suspects to governments that we know will torture them or the secret CIA prisons that were revealed. It has been America’s dirty little secret.

Now it’s not so secret and good riddance. America should not stoop to the level of our enemies. We have maintained an image in the world since World War II as a beacon of freedom for the rest of the world only to slowly corrode it over time as we continued down the path toward imperialism. If we allowed the Republicans to have another term then we would have gotten there eventually.

This in itself, however, is not an adequate argument. As evil, inhuman and illegal as torture may be, some people will raise the issue that if American lives are at stake, it is the duty of the government to do anything to obtain this information. Torture advocates often warn of a “ticking time bomb” scenario that is more suitable for Hollywood lore than it is for serious political discourse.

Of course there are people out there that would like to do harm to the United States. We should do everything within the confines of the Constitution, American laws and treaties that we are signatories to in order to disrupt the terrorists that seek the destruction of American lives. Torture is not the way to do that. According to the top experts in the field, torture yields highly inaccurate information that sends our intelligence on wild goose chases. On top of the negative image that it sends putting us back in the PR war against Al Qaeda, we also waste resources.

Arguments have been made, particularly by conservative leaders like Charles Krauthammer that if we have information and know that a suspect has information that can prevent an attack, it is the president’s obligation to use any means necessary to obtain that information. The first problem with this is that it is next to impossible to know that someone has information. Furthermore, even if they did know, we could not confirm its authenticity unless we already knew the information that we obtained through torture. This case would be particularly disturbing since it would not even be necessary.

As unlikely as torture is to provide any meaningful information, it certainly is fully possible for this practice to become widespread abuse. It already has. The Bush administration gleefully employed the technique against suspected terrorists. As CNN puts it: “Interrogators waterboarded Abu Zubaydah at least 83 times in August of 2002; and they used the tactic against Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the self-described planner of the 9/11 attacks, 183 times in March of 2003. That’s about six times a day.” If getting information is all that this is about, as the conservatives claim, then why are we waterboarding someone 183 times in a month? How does that provide useful information? I really would like to know.

I do not sympathize with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. He deserves far worse than what he got. But that is not the place of the United States government. These tactics are treacherous for any nation that claims to be a free and democratic state. Peggy Noonan and other conservative commentators may want to “keep walking”, but people with a conscience have a duty to stand up and object when our government condones this kind of practice. We need a clear, indistinguishable line between ourselves and the terrorists that we are fighting. Torture blurs the line beyond recognition.

House Passes Tax on AIG Bonuses; GOP Votes No

The U.S. House of Representatives voted today to tax the bonuses of AIG employees 90%. This is an effort to recover the $165 million in bonuses that the company gave out, despite receiving over $100 billion in federal bailout money. Amazingly, a majority of Republicans voted against this bill. It seems that they will vote against anything that President Obama supports. Altogether the bill passed with 328-93 support, but 87 Republicans voted “No”. That leaves just 6 Democrats voting “No”. The next time the Republicans complain about President Obama’s letting AIG executives receive bonuses, remind them that they voted against recovering the money.

America Won Last Night, But Gays Lost

With the election of the first African American president, Barack Obama, America won in last night’s election. Not only will he be the first black president, he will also be the first Democrat to win a majority of the popular vote since Jimmy Carter in 1976. With not all of the vote yet counted, Obama stands at 52% to 46% for John McCain. After eight years of enduring the worst presidency in United States history, thank God hope and change beat hate and fear.

We have a lot to celebrate from yesterday’s results, and a lot to be disappointed about as well. The election of Barack Obama as president confirms that we, as a nation, have come a long way since the civil rights movement that gave African Americans voting protections, ended segregation in the South and punished those that commit hate crimes.

While the Civil War was won nearly one hundred and fifty years ago, the electoral map of 2008 vividly displays the divide between North and South. Yet for the first time since 1964, the state of Indiana joined its Midwestern neighbors in backing a Democrat for president. This is astounding in itself, as Obama managed to win heavily white rural counties, including those in Southern Indiana, which were once a hotbed of KKK activity. But it was the counties that include South Bend, Lafayette, Bloomington, Gary and Indianapolis that delivered 15%+ victories to help Obama win a state that George W. Bush carried by 21% in 2004.

He also won in the Southern states of Virginia, which like Indiana has not voted for a Democrat since 1964, North Carolina and Florida. The growth of these states in recent years has brought young professionals from all over the country to seek jobs and a new way of life in cities like Richmond, Charlotte, Orlando and Tampa Bay. Georgia, South Carolina and Mississippi were the closest that they have been since 1996. The “Solid South” in the next few years will begin to be seeing a little more blue.

At the same time as Americans celebrated the election of the first black president, a new class of citizens came under assault. Gay Americans suffered major setbacks as discrimination was written into the constitutions of Arizona, California and Florida. Proposition 8 in California, which passed 52% to 48%, will reverse the California Supreme Court decision earlier this year that legalized gay marriage in the state. With the help of a massive effort from the Mormon Church, who literally flooded the state with volunteers to pass Proposition 8, Californians singled out a class of their fellow citizens as second class by revoking their right to legally marry.

For those that voted for Proposition 8 and others like it, how does a gay person’s marriage affect you? Proponents of banning gay marriage claimed that society would go into chaos, yet that hasn’t exactly happened in Massachusetts, California, Canada or European countries where gay marriage is legalized. The argument against gay marriage is based in religious doctrine and has no place in determining our laws.

For those of you that find yourself on the fence or are confused about the issue, let me explain something that is vitally important for you to know: legalizing gay marriage DOES NOT mean that your church will have to perform gay weddings. It would be unconstitutional for the state to tell a church what they have to do. The question here is whether a gay couple has the legal right, under state law, to civil marriage. If you picture in your head a ceremony and then picture going to the courthouse for a wedding license, the only thing that is affected is the piece of paper that you receive from the state. Gay marriage guarantees equal rights under the law for gay couples. It does not mean that churches will have to perform the wedding ceremony.

The fact that a simple majority can alter the constitution of a state to embed hateful and discriminatory policies towards one group of Americans should be alarming to everyone. I am a strong advocate for your right to practice religion as you want. But that does not give anyone the right to tell me that I can not marry the person that I love. For America, November 4, 2008 will be a day that one group of Americans took a step forward and another group took a step back. The hopes and dreams of a nation now ride on the actions of a newly elected president and Congress that are more sympathetic to the needs of its people than the Republicans and George Bush.

Election Projection 2008: August 5 Update

Our last electoral map update was on June 22. Now that we are in August, you would imagine that a lot has changed over the course of a month and a half. Not really. Surprisingly, the race has remained remarkably steady. The last major event to happen that changed the dynamics of the race was Hillary Clinton’s departure from the race in early June. This event gave Obama a big boost in support from Democrats, securing states like Pennsylvania and re-gaining leads in states like Michigan that have been Democratic for many of the past election cycles.

Looking at the map, the only states that Kerry won in 2004 that appear to be at any risk at all of flipping are New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Michigan. Yet McCain has been unable to connect with working class voters in Midwestern battlegrounds and the voters in New Hampshire, who booted a pair of Republican Congressman, elected a Democratic governor and wrested control of both houses of their state legislature to the Democrats in 2006 seem unlikely to embrace John McCain’s message.

That leaves the race for the White House largely on Republican territory. While Barack Obama is spending heavily in the red states of Indiana, North Carolina, Florida, Montana, North Dakota, Georgia and Alaska, McCain has brushed these ad buys off as diversion tactics meant to siphon resources from the traditional battleground states of Ohio, Missouri, Iowa, Pennsylvania and so on. With polls in Florida and Indiana with Obama ahead, and polls showing a tight race in North Carolina, Montana, North Dakota, Georgia and Alaska, it doesn’t seem that McCain can ignore these states for long.

Below is our latest map based on “safe” states (where either Obama or McCain have a 10% advantage). Compared to June 22, we are moving Wisconsin to “safe” Obama and Louisiana to “safe” McCain. The biggest movement has taken place in the gray area between “toss-up” and “lean” which we define as anything below 10%. Arizona, Arkansas, South Dakota and North Dakota have been moved into this gray area because they are within 10%. No, that’s not a typo. Arizona, John McCain’s home state, is now competitive. Louisiana, West Virginia and Wisconsin have been moved out.

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The next map shows states that we would consider true “toss-ups”. We define this as anything below 5%. Both Obama and McCain have lost ground since our last update as a number of states can qualify as true “toss-ups”. Since June, Colorado, Indiana, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, and South Dakota have been added as “toss-up” states. The only toss-up from June to be removed is Michigan, which is now a “lean” Obama state.

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An interesting pattern is developing, and just goes to show why having a Midwestern Democratic at the top of the ticket can be so beneficial. Every state that Illinois borders in the Midwest is either leaning Obama or considered a toss-up. Wisconsin, Iowa, Indiana and Missouri account for 39 Electoral Votes. Throw in Illinois’ 21 and you reach a whopping 60 Electoral Votes, or approximately a quarter needed to become president. This doesn’t even include the Midwestern giants of Michigan or Ohio, nor does it include Minnesota. It is conceivable that Obama may sweep the entire Midwest’s 107 Electoral Votes, or 40% needed to become president.

Does McCain have a similar type of advantage in the West? Most of these states have been traditionally Republican, anyway, but the West has comparatively fewer Electoral Votes up for grabs than in the Midwest or the Northeast. Looking at the map, though, Arizona’s border states include California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah. Among them, only Utah is considered “safe” with its 5 Electoral Votes. California and New Mexico are “safe” or “leaning” Obama, and both Nevada and Colorado are pure toss-ups. While Obama could conceivably get 60 Electoral Votes out of states that border Illinois (and 107 out of the Midwest), McCain may only get 15 Electoral Votes out of the states that border his home state (including Arizona). Geographically, the Democrats picked the right candidate and the Republicans picked the wrong one.

Election Projection 2008: June 22 Update

This week’s update is going to be a little different than the last. We are now going to have three maps:

 

 

 

  1. Will show states that favor either Obama or McCain and states that are competitive with the difference being less than 10%

  2. The second map will show the same states that favor Obama or McCain, but add a category of “lean” Obama or McCain (between 5-10%) and then “toss-up” (less than 5%)

  3. The third map is my personal prediction of how the Electoral College will turn out on Election Day. This one is not necessarily based on current polling, but trends, demographics, turnout projection and so on.

 

Let’s get to this week’s changes to the map. We have a few things going on here. First, we see that the post-primary bump for Barack Obama is driving up his poll numbers both in state and national polls. A new Newsweek poll has him up by 15% over McCain nationally.

 

The state-by-state picture is even brighter this week than it was last week for Obama. Two states have fallen into our “safe” state category this week: New Hampshire and Pennsylvania, where Obama now leads by greater than 10%. Meanwhile, Florida unexpectedly moves from “leans” McCain to “toss-up” as a poll out this week had Obama up in the state by 4%. McCain’s recent comments about off-shore oil drilling could very well hurt him even more in the Sunshine State where tourism is a key economic issue.

 

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This week we have six “lean” McCain states (which means he is leading between 5-10%). They are: Indiana, Louisiana, Montana, Nebraska, South Carolina and West Virginia. This is not good news for McCain, as five of his six states where he has a small lead are traditionally conservative Republican states, while Obama’s “lean” states include Colorado, Iowa, Ohio and New Mexico, which all voted for Bush in 2004. The only state that voted for Kerry that I have in the “lean” column for Obama is Wisconsin.

 

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Among toss-up states are a few surprises (Alaska, Georgia and North Carolina), while the perennial battlegrounds of Florida, Michigan, Missouri and Nevada all make a showing as “toss-ups”. Virginia is also included in this category. Of the eight toss-up states 7 voted for George Bush in 2004 and only 1 voted for John Kerry in 2004. Like the “lean” category, this means that Obama is expanding the playing field while McCain is stuck with only Michigan as a potential pick-up.

 

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Sources:

 

 

National polls:

 

 

Obama 51, McCain 36 – June 20, 2008 – http://www.newsweek.com/id/142465

 

 

 

State polls:

 

 

Toss-up States

 

 

Alaska:

 

 

McCain 45, Obama 41 – June 15, 2008 – http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/election_20082/state_toplines/alaska/toplines_alaska_presidential_race_june_16_2008

 

 

Florida:

 

 

Obama 47, McCain 43 – June 18, 2008 – https://quinnipiac.edu/x2882.xml?ReleaseID=1187

 

 

Georgia:

 

 

McCain 44, Obama 43 – June 19, 2008 – http://www.ajc.com/search/content/news/stories/2008/06/19/mccain_obama_georgia.html

 

 

Nevada:

 

 

McCain 45, Obama 42 – June 20, 2008 – http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/election_20082/2008_presidential_election/nevada/election_2008_nevada_presidential_election

 

 

North Carolina:

 

 

McCain 45, Obama 43 – June 10, 2008 – http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/election_20082/state_toplines/north_carolina/toplines_north_carolina_presidential_election_june_10_2008

 

 

Competitive/“Lean” States

 

 

Ohio:

 

 

Obama 48, McCain 42 – June 18, 2008 – https://quinnipiac.edu/x2882.xml?ReleaseID=1187

 

 

Safe” States

 

 

New Hampshire:

 

 

Obama 50, McCain 39 – June 20, 2008 – http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/election_20082/2008_presidential_election/new_hampshire/election_2008_new_hampshire_presidential_election

 

 

Pennsylvania:

 

 

Obama 52, McCain 40 – June 18, 2008 – https://quinnipiac.edu/x2882.xml?ReleaseID=1187

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