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Michael Barone - Obama's emphasis on economy is all talk

We have a president who loves to give campaign speeches to adoring crowds, but who doesn't seem to have much interest in governing.

That was apparent Wednesday, when Barack Obama delivered the first of several promised "pivot to the economy" speeches at Knox College in Galesburg, Ill., where he spoke eight years ago as a newly elected U.S. senator.

The hour-long speech started off with some characteristic self-referencing — he didn't have gray hair then, he noted, or a motorcade — and ended with a quotation from Galesburg native Carl Sandburg.

But in between there was not much in the way of serious public policy. Nothing much that seems likely to speed up the nation's sluggish economic growth or to increase the lowest-in-three-decades labor force participation.

Obama called for increasing the minimum wage. That always tests well in polls. But in real life it tends not to create but to destroy jobs, especially for young people with few skills and little work experience.

He also called for job retraining, a Community College to Career Initiative. Unfortunately, studies have shown for years that government job training programs aren't very effective.

In the meantime, the administration and congressional Democrats have been launching attacks on for-profit higher education firms, many of which do a better job of equipping young people for the job market.

Obama mentioned in passing his administration's efforts to connect 99 percent of students to high-speed Internet. But it's not a lack of connectivity that is holding the economy back.

The president said more about his proposal for universal pre-school education. But the administration's own studies have shown that the four-decades-old Head Start program produces little in the way of lasting educational gains.

This looks more like an expensive attempt to create more jobs for teacher union members — and more union-dues money to help elect Democratic politicians — than a serious attempt to stimulate the economy.

Amazingly, Obama called for more money to create jobs in wind and solar energy. No mention was made of the hundreds of millions in loan guarantees lavished on the now bankrupt Solyndra and A123 Systems.

To that list he added natural gas. But the boom in natural gas has occurred more despite, not because of administration policies.

More serious perhaps was his call for more investment in infrastructure, and for once Obama did not tout his ludicrously expensive plans for high-speed passenger rail — a technology half a century old and liable to be rendered obsolete by self-driving cars. But neither his administration nor Congress has been able to come up with financing to supplement the gasoline tax, which no longer provides sufficient revenue for road-building.

Obama noted that Atlantic ports are not prepared to handle the supertankers that will be coming through the widened Panama Canal in 2015. What has his administration been doing about that?

Infrastructure was not the only policy on which the president provided slogans rather than specifics. He called for expansion of tax-free savings programs as part of tax reform. But has the administration made any serious effort to engage with the tax-writing committee chairmen on the subject?

Similarly, he decried high earners' "generous tax incentives to save" — whatever those may be. But any hope of increasing revenues from high earners depends on a Democratic takeover of the House next year.

Obama called for giving every homeowner a chance to refinance their mortgages, something that many have done, although administration programs to do so have helped far fewer than predicted.

And, ominously, he added, "I'm also acting on my own to cut red tape for responsible families who want to get a mortgage, but the bank says no." But didn't the granting of mortgages to non-creditworthy borrowers trigger the collapse of the housing market?

Inevitably, Obama talked about the Affordable Care Act and predicted gamely that people will be able to "comparison shop in an online marketplace, just like you would for TVs or plane tickets," even as fellow Democrats are predicting a train wreck.

But Obamacare is, as recent polling suggests, an increasingly hard sell. Voters seem to have gotten the idea that it's causing businesses not to hire or to cut back workers' hours.

The problem Obama faces on this latest pivot to the economy is that most voters believe his policies have retarded rather than stimulated economic growth and job creation. This speech is not likely to change their minds.

(Syndicated columnist Michael Barone is senior political analyst for The Washington Examiner, is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Fox News Channel contributor and co-author of The Almanac of American Politics.)

Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 December 1969 07:00

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Sanborn - Condominum report

It seems like we are having a little resurgence in the condominium market in the Lakes Region. Just a little bit, but every little bit helps. Prices have dropped from the peak years and there is a pretty good supply of units available in all price ranges. Halfway through 2013 there have been 81 condominiums sold in Belknap County at an average price of $178,947. That total is up from the 72 transactions at an average of $157,002 per sale for the first half of 2012.

Laconia has the most condominium complexes of any town in the area. Consequently, it has the most units for sale and has had the most transactions with fifty two units changing hands during the first half of the year. Everything from cottage condos along Weirs Boulevard to higher end free standing townhomes are selling. And there are some bargains.

There were eleven units that sold below $100,000 in Laconia with five of those in the Meredith Bridge association over in the Weirs. These units typically are just under 1,000 square feet in size and have two bedrooms although there are some one bedroom garden units. They come with a garage or carport and the association has a nice clubhouse, pool, and gym. Plus, you can walk down to Weirs Beach and take a dip, play ski ball, or get lunch and two margaritas at Crazy Gringo's and make it back home without getting into trouble. Condos here are selling in the $65,000 to $85,000 range which is really pretty affordable for a vacation getaway or primary residence especially considering they were selling between $125,000 and $150,000 back in 2006 and 2007.

There were sixteen sales in the gated communities of South Down and Long Bay over the first six months of the year ranging from $147,474 for a 2,261 square foot, four bedroom bank owned unit at 5B Fells Way all the way up to $540,000 for a free standing 3,600 square foot home at 29 Prides Point. The homes in Long Bay are also a condominium form of ownership. There are a number of different associations within Long Bay with some providing full landscaping and snow removal services while others leave the lawn care for the owner. Of course, residents get the use of all the fabulous amenities including the beaches, docking facilities, walking trails, pools, and tennis courts. And it is these amenities that make these condos so desirable and saleable year after year. Imagine owning a condo in South Down for less than $200,000 and having all of these amenities! As of this writing I counted at least four available in that range.

There were sixteen condo sales in Gilford ranging from quarter shares in a one bedroom unit at the Fireside Inn and Suites (a.k.a. B Mae's Resort) for a mere $17,500 all the way up to $465,000 for a wonderful front row, three bedroom, four bath, 2,500 square foot unit in the desirable Broadview Condominium complex on Belknap Point Road. This unit has stunning views and the amenities include tennis courts, sandy beach, and docks. Of course, the Samoset Resort on Route 11 headed toward Alton is always a great place to settle in for an extended vacation with a great beach, pool, tennis courts and docks also available. A 1,173 square foot, six room, two bedroom, two bath unit sold here back in February for $186,500 while two other larger units came in at $260,500 and $280,000.

There are over two hundred and forty condos currently on the market in Belknap County. You can find a number of units for less than $100,000. Or maybe a spectacular new Adirondack style unit with great lake views in the Town Homes at Meredith Bay on Scenic Road in Laconia is more your style. Those will set you back something in the $500,000 to $600,000 but you're worth it, right? I guess the point is, whether you are looking for a primary home or vacation retreat there is something out there for every taste and budget. So let's get cracking and get out and buy that new vacation property...

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 7/24/13. Roy Sanborn is a REALTOR® at Four Seasons Sotheby's International Realty and can be reached at 603-455-0335.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 December 1969 07:00

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Susan Estrich - Huma Abedin for mayor of NYC

Huma? Yes, the beautiful and brilliant former aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who, in a role she certainly never sought, has been playing "The Good Wife" on cable news.

Her husband, former Congressman Anthony Weiner, is the one who is actually running for mayor of New York City, which is itself something of a minor miracle considering he was hounded from Congress just two short years ago after he was caught in a "sexting" scandal (texting nude photos of himself to women he met online) while his then pregnant new wife was working 100-hour weeks for Clinton.

"It took a lot of work and a whole lot of therapy to get to a place where I could forgive Anthony," Abedin said at a news conference this week.

But she did, apparently. They posed for a New York Times Magazine cover, which was what we used to call a "wet kiss," that became the launching pad for his entry into the mayor's race. With his war chest already full from pre-scandal donations and with his wife by his side — along with the usual claims that he had changed and grown and the like — he immediately became a contender.

But therapy has its limits. This week, the gossip site TheDirty.com quoted a 22-year-old woman saying Weiner approached her online 13 months after he resigned from Congress, using the alias "Carlos Danger" to send "penis pictures." According to the site, the young woman and Weiner shared nude pictures of themselves and had phone sex. They stayed in touch until the end of 2012 (she claims he offered her a job and an apartment), and then he got back in touch with her this April (one month before entering the mayor's race) to ask her what she thought of his reactivated Facebook page.

There was enough truth to the accusations to force Weiner to hold a news conference on Tuesday, with Huma by his side, to admit that he'd had (another) inappropriate relationship, which he certainly knew when he got into the race in May. But it didn't stop him then, and it isn't stopping him now.
And then he turned the mike over to Huma.

"So really what I want to say is: I love him, I have forgiven him, I believe in him, and as we have said from the beginning, we are moving forward."

As for Weiner, this was his line: "There is no question that what I did was wrong. This behavior is behind me."

Here's my problem, and my guess is I'm not alone: I believe Huma. I believe she loves him and has forgiven him, or she wouldn't be standing next to him. I wish her only the best — particularly because I don't believe a word that came out of her husband's mouth.

When the scandal first broke two years ago, Weiner lied. He repeatedly denounced the story and attacked those who were asking questions he didn't want to answer. Only when he was trapped by his lies did he finally 'fess up. And of course, he claimed it was over, he learned his lesson, never again, all the rest. All lies.

While he was doing all of that work and all of that therapy with his wife, he was also back at it, sending pictures of his genitals to a 22-year-old.

I don't pretend to understand what it is that Weiner gets out of such a relationship, much less why it's worth risking his marriage and career. That part isn't my business: Weiner's sex life is properly his business and that of his wife. But his judgment is another matter.

I've spent my life in politics, which is full — on both sides of the aisle — of arrogant men who think the rules don't apply to them and are used to getting rescued by the wives they take for granted. But Weiner really takes the cake.

So I'm with Huma. When she's ready to go, I'm there. In the meantime, her husband needs to start practicing being a supportive husband. He clearly has a long way to go.

(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 Thursday, 25 July 2013 08:38

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Pat Buchanan - Obama leading from right behind Sharpton

"The First Black President ... Spoke First as a Black American," ran the banner headline of Sunday's Washington Post.

But why, when the fires of anger over the Zimmerman verdict were dying down, did he go into that pressroom and stir them up?

"A week of protests outside the White House, pressure building on him inside the White House, pushed him to that podium," said Tavis Smiley on "Meet the Press." Black leaders demanded Obama come out of hiding and stand in solidarity with the aggrieved and outraged.

Belatedly and meekly, Obama complied.

"Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago," said Obama.

But which Trayvon?

The one walking home with Skittles and tea? Or the one who sucker-punched Zimmerman, decked him, piled on, pummeled him martial arts style, hammered his head on the sidewalk, ignored his screams for help and got shot by the guy he was assaulting?

For that is the story Zimmerman told, Sanford police believed, the lone eyewitness confirmed, the defense argued, the prosecution could not shake and the jury believed. Not guilty, on all counts.

If Obama thinks the verdict was justified, why did he not urge that the demonstrations, marches, vandalism and violence cease?

If he agrees Zimmerman got away with murder — "an atrocity," Al Sharpton said of the verdict — why did Obama hide behind this mush: "Once the jury's spoken, that's how the system works."

The president sent his "thoughts and prayers" to Trayvon's family.

To George Zimmerman, painted as a racist monster for 16 months, hiding in fear of his life, his Peruvian mother and family under threat — not a word of compassion from the president.

Obama moved swiftly off the trial and into a rambling discourse on the black experience and racial profiling.

But why? The jury said Trayvon was not profiled.

What is Obama up to? Answer. A law professor, he knows this case, based on evidence and testimony, was open and shut. And he knows Eric Holder is not going to file any hate-crime civil rights charges. Because Holder and Obama know they would be seen as caving to Sharpton & Co., they would get stuffed in court, and the nation would react with outrage to a double-jeopardy, murder-charge, racial prosecution of this persecuted man whose innocence was established in a court of law.

So Obama swiftly changed the subject.

"There are very few African-American men who haven't had the experience of walking across the street and hearing the locks click on the doors of cars. That happens to me ... before I was a senator."

"There are very few African-Americans who haven't had the experience of getting on an elevator and a woman clutching her purse nervously and holding her breath until she had a chance to get off."

"That happens often," said Obama. Undeniably. But why do black males awaken such apprehensions and fears? Is it their color?

Well, 13 percent of our population is black. Half of that — say, 6 plus percent — is male. Of that 6 percent, one in six — just 1 percent of the U.S. population — consists of black males age 18 to 29.

Of all black males 18 to 29, writes Ron Unz in "Race and Crime in America," 28 percent are in jail or prison, or on probation.

The "liberal Sentencing Project organization," says Unz, estimates that "one-third of all black men are already convicted criminals by their 20s, and the fraction would surely be far higher for those living in urban areas."

Twenty years ago in Chicago, where black kids are gunned down daily, Jesse Jackson was quoted, "There is nothing more painful to me at this stage in my life than to walk down the street and hear footsteps and start thinking about robbery. Then look around and see somebody white and feel relieved."

That's the same apprehension, Mr. President, those women feel on that elevator.

Obama traced the "violence ... in poor black neighborhoods" to "poverty and ... a very difficult history".

But slavery and segregation were far closer in time to the black America of the 1950s, and poverty was far greater. Yet we never saw crime and incarceration rates like we see today in Black America.

As Unz writes, El Paso, Texas, and Atlanta are cities of equal size and poverty rates. Yet Atlanta has 10 times the crime. Oakland and Santa Ana, Calif., are equal in size and poverty numbers. Yet Oakland "has several times the rate of crime." Why?

Why are white folks nervous about strange young black men in the neighborhood? Perhaps because they commit interracial muggings, robberies and rapes at 35 times the rate of whites.

As newspapers avoid the issue of black racism and rarely give the stats on interracial crime, Obama dwelt lovingly on the indignities of racial profiling — without really addressing the root cause.

It was an uncourageous commentary. Weak as Kool-Aid, said Tavis.

But Obama was where he likes to be, leading from behind — this time behind Al Sharpton.

(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, 24 July 2013 09:01

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Voters look past the politician if they like the politics

Much has been written about adulterous politicians and the public's apparent willingness to look past their infidelity. This lumps very different kinds of cheating into one neat sin, equally applicable to all sneaks. But just as "theft" covers everything from armed bank robbery to lifting a bag of chips, cheating on one's spouse may entail a wide range of misdeeds and gray areas.

Following are five shades of gray, a kind of scoring system for judging the political import of a politician's extramarital affairs:

1. How they affect job performance. Former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer and Louisiana Sen. David Vitter were both caught visiting prostitutes. These transactions were fast and out of the office. They had minimal effect on the men's ability to do their work. That was not the case with former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, who despite being his state's chief executive, disappeared for days to conduct a tryst in Argentina.

For the record, Democrat Spitzer is polling well in his quest to become New York City's comptroller, and Republican Vitter won another term. Sanford, meanwhile, was recently elected to Congress.

2. The cruelty factor. When straying husbands and wives are found out, they can often patch things up. But when "love" enters the affair, things get more painful for the spouse left out. This is no longer a case of a partner needing to meet an animal physical need. Something deeper is going on in the extramarital relationship and less so in the marriage. In terms of humiliation for a wife, Sanford's press conference declaring love for his mistress beats the band.

3. How weird the behavior is. New York Democrat Anthony Weiner had to leave Congress after he was found to have tweeted photos of his crotch to various and assorted women he didn't know. He didn't really commit adultery in the common carnal sense of the word. For strange, exhibitionist, narcissistic, easy-to-get-caught antics, however, Weiner set a high bar. He's also doing well in his race for New York City mayor. President Bill Clinton's oral sex in the Oval Office was another example of nutty risk-taking. He's now as popular as ever.
4. Hypocrisy. He who talks a socially conservative talk should walk a morally conservative walk. Should we finally give up on this, sinning Bible Belt politicians being so legion?

While campaigning, Sanford invoked "the God of second chances" and told family-values voters of plans to tie the knot with his Argentine lady. As of this writing, he remains a single man.

The hypocrisy is not limited to the politicians but includes electorates that say these things are very important to them. For many of Sanford's voters, a Republican affiliation may have trumped their strong belief in the sanctity of marriage. That's fine. Let's just say so.

5. The wife's response. Jenny Sanford divorced the guy. Wendy Vitter stood in silent agony during her husband's confessional press conference. Silda Spitzer is neither divorcing Eliot nor willing to campaign for him. All conventional reactions.

Things get more complicated for political wives who don't care what the old man is doing. For appearances, they should pretend they do. After Colorado Sen. Gary Hart, a Democratic candidate for president in 1987, was photographed frolicking with another woman, his wife compounded the mess by saying she didn't care. The Harts might have done better had they shown discomfort and vowed to work on the marriage.

Clearly, sexual hanky-panky, whatever shade of gray, no longer automatically kills a politician's chances. And while the nature of the betrayal does say things about the person's judgment and character, in the end, the voters are hiring the man, not marrying him.

(A member of the Providence Journal editorial board, Froma Harrop writes a nationally syndicated column from that city. She has written for such diverse publications as The New York Times, Harper's Bazaar and Institutional Investor.)

Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 December 1969 07:00

Hits: 221

 
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