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James Pindell - 2 political dynamics to watch in 2015

Observers of New Hampshire politics were certainly spoiled in 2014 on the mere entertainment value of what took place in the state.

There was the most expensive — and wildly unpredictable — U.S. Senate contest between Democrat Jeanne Shaheen and Republican Scott Brown. Casino gambling was stopped by just one vote in the Statehouse. Republicans even agreed to a gas tax increase and to expand Medicaid.

But there already signs that 2015 could be even an more interesting year politically in the state. Here are two political dynamics to watch.

Which direction will the Republican Party take?

Yes, this is a bold question, but the Republican Party appears to be at a political crossroads locally and nationally.

Locally there is a very relevant fight between the party's conservative base and the party's establishment moderates. In 2010, heading into the last presidential primary season, the base was clearly winning, given Tea Party leaders were elected as state House Speaker and to lead the state Republican Party. But 2014, heading into a different presidential primary, the establishment struck back. For the first time since 1986, Republicans nominated a pro-choice statewide candidate. Actually, they nominated two, their nominees for governor and U.S. Senate. Further, the party apparatus is firmly in the grip of U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, who has never been loved by the party's vocal base. The upcoming presidential primary should shift this dynamic.

While locally there are tensions, nationally there is a much more fundamental conversation taking place. For a generation the Republican Party was defined by a three-legged stool of fiscal conservatism, social conservatism and strong national security positions. Now, with polling showing the Republican Party's brand as low as it has ever been, presidential candidates will come to New Hampshire fighting over this definition of the party.

Some potential Republican presidential candidates have raised taxes or expanded Medicaid. Some believe that the party should take a more libertarian approach to social issues like gay marriage. Then there are the likes of Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, who believe the United States shouldn't be so involved in foreign conflicts anymore.

Will the legislature approve of casino gambling and legalized marijuana?

There is a lot of momentum on these two issues heading into the upcoming legislative session.

The reason why the state doesn't have casino gambling already is due to the House consistently rejecting the idea. This session new House Speaker, Shawn Jasper (R-Hudson) has never voted for a gambling bill, but it is unclear just how much power he will this session to impose his will. He has also repeatedly said that he isn't opposed to the concept of gambling, he just opposed the particular gambling bills that have been proposed. This upcoming budget session, Gov. Maggie Hassan and the Republican-led State Senate favor casino gambling and will be looking for more revenue.

Revenue could also be found in taxing marijuana sales, should the legislature pass a legalization bill. Already four states — Colorado, Alaska, Oregon and Washington — have legalized marijuana and it would be consistent with the state's Live Free or Die motto. However, no major legislative leader nor Hassan, are big backers of the idea.

(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 Tuesday, 06 January 2015 10:03

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Bob Meade - Ms. or Mr. President . . .

You, the reader, have just been sworn in as President of the United States. What greets you is a world that is in flames. Our military morale is diminishing. Our spending is out of control, and we are building deficits that will be beyond the ability of our future generations to pay. Our labor participation rate is at its lowest point since 1978. These are but a few of the problems you must deal with urgently, while you try to address and heal the growing racial divide in our country.

You want to put together a high quality multi-racial task force to address the racial divide problems, honestly and completely. You can call on any number of people willing and eager to put together a solution. Among a wide array those who may be available, are some outstanding black executives, including . . .

John Thompson CEO of Virtual Instruments and the independent chairman of Microsoft Corporation. He received his Bachelor's degree from Florida A & M and spent the next 28 years advancing up the corporate ladder at IBM. During that time he received his Master's degree from MIT's Sloan School of Management. He left IBM to join Symantec Corp. as its chairman, president, and CEO. In his 10 years at Symantec he grew the company from $600 million to over $6 billion in revenues. In 2010 he became CEO of Virtual Instruments

Kenneth Chenault, chairman and CEO of American Express, earned degrees from Bowdoin College, Harvard University, and Harvard Law School. He began his career with American Express in 1981 and in 1997 became its president and CEO. In 1995, Ebony magazine listed him as one of the fifty "Living Pioneers" in the African American community.

Kenneth Frazier, president, CEO, and director of pharmaceutical giant Merck and Co. Son of a janitor whose mother died when he was 12 years old, he was able to graduate from high school at the age of 16. He enrolled at Penn State and received his Bachelor's. During that period, he essentially worked his way through school through his own business enterprise. After Penn State he went to Harvard Law School and earned his JD. He went to work for a law firm and one of his clients was Merck and Company. The company hired him as its general counsel and he moved up the company's management ranks becoming its CEO and board member in early 2011.

Ursula Burns, chairman and CEO of Xerox Corporation. She is the first African American woman to head a Fortune 500 company. She received her Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from NYU and her Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Columbia University. Forbes rated her as the 22d most powerful woman in the world.

Dr. Ben Carson, former chief neurosurgeon at Johns Hopkins Hospital, who is credited with the first successful separation of twins who were joined together at the head. Born and raised in Detroit. Overcame childhood temper issues and poor studies to become a top student, graduating from Yale and the University of Michigan's Health System.

Condoleezza Rice, PhD, former professor and then provost of Stanford University, speaks fluent Russian, served as our national security advisor, and was our Secretary of State.

There are also some notable non-business related black leaders such as the Reverend Jesse Jackson and the Reverend Al Sharpton. Sharpton has been identified with "race baiting" since 1987 when he received national attention in the Tawana Brawley case, when he made unfounded charges against a police officer and a prosecutor but he offered no proof. The police officer committed suicide and the court found Sharpton guilty of defamation against the prosecutor, and his two lawyers had their law licenses revoked by the court. It turned out that the young woman admitted to having fabricated the entire story. Subsequently, after a Hasidic ambulance driver accidentally hit a young African American man, Sharpton was credited with inflaming the Crown Heights race riots which resulted in an innocent Hasidic student who was visiting from Australia, being attacked and murdered. A few years after that, the Reverend Sharpton incited another anti-Semitic riot at what was known as Freddie Fashion's Mart and one of the protesters shot several customers and started a fire that killed seven employees. Sharpton attended Brooklyn College.

Out of all those candidates, you select the Reverend Sharpton. Why?

(Bob Meade is a Laconia resident.)

Last Updated on Monday, 05 January 2015 10:17

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Jill Lawrence - Republicans long for return to 20th Century

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

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Sanborn — How to sell your house in 2015

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!

P​ease 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

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Jim Hightower - Populist proposals were winners in 2014

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

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