May 2, 2021

Posted by orrinj at 11:35 AM

THE GREAT UNIFIER:

Country optimistic after Biden's 1st 100 days: POLL (Kendall Karson, May 2, 2021, ABC News)

Nearly two-thirds of Americans (64%) are optimistic about the direction of the country in the poll, which was conducted by Ipsos in partnership with ABC News using Ipsos' KnowledgePanel.

The last time the country came close to that level of optimism about the coming year was in December 2006, when 61% said they were optimistic about where the country was headed, according to previous ABC News/Washington Post polls. Shortly before the 2016 election catapulted Donald Trump to the Oval Office, only 42% of Americans were optimistic about the future, compared to 52% who were pessimistic.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM

THE CULTURE WARS ARE A ROUT:

The Strange Bipartisan Appeal of Ted Lasso (JOANNA WEISS, 05/02/2021, Politico)

It's ironic that so many people have hung the American self-image on a show with its roots in a mildly condescending joke about ugly Americans. The Ted Lasso character originated in a pair of cheeky NBC Sports promotional videos from 2013 and 2014, when the network had bought broadcast rights to Premiere League games. The Ted in those old spots is cocky and clueless, parading around the soccer pitch in short shorts and aviator glasses. The joke is that he tries to impose an American way of doing things on the Brits, without a hint of self-awareness: When his players start calling him "wanker," he assumes it's a sign of respect.

The Apple TV+ series came six years later, a passion project of Sudeikis, who partnered with Bill Lawrence, the creator of the upbeat sitcoms "Scrubs" and "Cougartown." And while some dialogue from the original NBC promotional spots is lifted almost word-for-word--jokes about how Ted doesn't realize British football can end in a tie, and can't grasp the concept of "offsides"--the mood and meaning are completely different. The character has taken a subtle but important shift: Now his naïve optimism represents, not self-centeredness, but openheartedness. This version of Ted fully acknowledges that he knows nothing about the game the rest of the world calls football. He understands what it means to be called a wanker, but he accepts the jab as part of a coach's job. And there's a poignancy to his situation: He has accepted the job because he promised his unhappy wife that he would give her space--a whole ocean apart, if it helps.

The characters around Ted, meanwhile, start off as cynical and combative as anyone on social media these days: an aging football star, bitter that his best days are behind him; an arrogant franchise player who won't share glory with his teammates; a billionaire team owner who is consumed with fury at her philandering ex-husband. (The show's conceit is that, unbeknownst to Ted, she has hired him to run the team into the ground.) Ted knows how hard it will be to get through to them. But he tries anyway, with relentless positivity and an American can-do attitude that some viewers have taken as a statement of purpose. In a Slate review headlined "Ted Lasso Makes America Good Again," Willa Paskin wrote that "the show vends a soothing vision of a red state-coded American as a kindly, gentle internationalist, as well as a world in which American soft power still works and does good."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM

THE REVOLUTIONARY

George W. Bush is a stranger in a strange land in today's GOP ( W. James Antle III, Apr. 27th, 2021, Washington Examiner)

When Bush was president, Republicans who disagreed with him on foreign policy, trade, or immigration were outliers within the party. Some party leaders said then-Texas Rep. Ron Paul should be excluded from future Republican presidential debates or even ejected from the GOP for his criticism of the Iraq War during one such event in South Carolina in 2007.

But the most recent Republican president, Donald Trump, disagreed with Bush on all three policy areas. Trump also criticized Bush and the war in Iraq from a South Carolina debate stage in 2016. Instead of credible calls for his ouster from the party, Trump won the state's primary and en route to the nomination and the presidency while Jeb Bush, the 43rd president's older brother and the former governor of Florida, dropped out of the race.

"That was some weird s---," Bush reportedly said after attending Trump's inaugural address in 2017. The son of a Republican president and grandson of a Republican senator hasn't seemed quite as comfortable in the party since. He recently said he wrote in former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for president last year.

W began is presidential campaign by calling out the extremism of the Gingrich House in particular, could not get the party to pass the immigration reform he won on twice, not the SS personalization, had to browbeat them into passing the HSA/prescription drug bill, and they initially blocked TARP before the market crash scared them into being mildly responsible.  He was always a bad fit with the Right wing, as Obama was with the Left. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM

XI WHO?:

Cracks appear in China's New Silk Road (Deutsche-Welle, 5/02/21)

The Australian government may have only halted a couple of small joint-infrastructure projects with China, but the response from Beijing to the decision was one of rage and threats. The Chinese embassy in Canberra called the halt "unreasonable and provocative" and vowed revenge.

Canberra stepped in last year to pass a law that allows the federal government to overrule agreements made by Australian states with foreign countries. The decision followed deals signed by the state of Victoria in 2018 and 2019 to cooperate with China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) -- often dubbed the New Silk Road -- a massive infrastructure plan that aims to smooth trade links with dozens of countries.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne said the deals were incompatible with Australia's foreign policy and were not legally binding. The cancellation could also mean an end to further Sino-Australian cooperation in the fields of industrial production, biotechnology and agriculture.

Heribert Dieter, from the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP), thinks that the cancellation is an "extremely difficult loss of face" for China. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM

DONALD WHO?:

Biden Cancels Billions For Trump's Military-Funded Border Wall (Kerry Eleveld, May 02 | 2021, National Memo

"Consistent with the President's Proclamation terminating the redirection of funds for border wall, no more money will be diverted from other purposes to building a border wall," a Biden administration official said Friday. "Today, the Department of Defense will begin cancelling all wall projects using the diverted funds, and will take steps to return remaining unobligated military construction funds to their appropriated purpose as permitted by law."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM

GONNA NEED AN AWFUL LOT MORE:

Developer looks to experiment with 'micro-loft' housing near River Park in West Lebanon (TIM CAMERATO, 5/01/21, Valley News)

The units would be built by Bequall, creators of the 345-square-foot "BePod," a manufactured tiny home that made its first appearance in Chelsea, Mass., earlier this year.

The company's creators have touted the home as a potential solution for housing shortages, taking little time to build and costing less to rent than the average apartment.

On its website, Bequall says the homes are geared to single adults and couples without children, with a specific eye to renters who cannot afford the down payment for a traditional home.

"We saw a sort of philosophical alignment, if you will," Chet Clem, president of Lyme Properties, said in a phone interview Monday. "They're trying to solve a really important nationwide issue now in terms of housing shortages. We like to be experimental and push the envelope, too."

A 2019 housing survey commissioned by Dartmouth College and Dartmouth-Hitchcock found there was a demand for 1,300 units between the two institutions.

Since then, people have continued moving to the area during the coronavirus pandemic, and a new report issued recently by three regional planning commissions in the Upper Valley found that 10,000 new housing units will be needed by 2030.

While Clem's proposal is based on the "BePod," the homes that would be installed at 215 N. Main St., would be roughly double in size -- 690 square feet.

'It's pretty much insanity': Pandemic-weary out-of-staters make Upper Valley housing market a feeding frenzy (JOHN LIPPMAN, 5/01/21, Valley News)

The Vermont Center for Geographic Information, using property-transfer tax addresses collected by the Vermont Department of Taxes, found that property sales in Vermont to out-of-state buyers increased 38% in 2020 over the prior year. Among individual Vermont towns in the Upper Valley, the surge to out-of-state buyers is even greater: up 97% in Woodstock (36 sales to 71 sales), 29% in Hartford (106 sales to 137 sales) and 113% in Norwich (8 sales to 17 sales).

Those findings sync with an analysis of address changes published last month in The New York Times, which, relying on U.S. Postal Service data, shows that the Lebanon area had one of the biggest influxes of population in the country, ranking 7 out of 926 metro areas measured with a 3.7% positive net shift in in-migration from 2019 to 2020.

Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal published a list in conjunction with Realtor.com of the most-sought places in the country for home buyers seeking appreciating values with "appealing lifestyle amenities" and ranked Lebanon-Claremont 183 out of 300 metro markets (Concord, N.H., was No. 8, Manchester-Nashua, N.H., was No. 9, and Burlington, Vt., was No. 92).

That sounds about right to Paul Rea, a Randolph real estate broker who specializes in Orange County.

"It's a lot of folks from Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, all around the country, who are looking for the safety and security that Vermont offers," Rea said of the buyers he's seen over the past 17 months.

Rea, who normally sells 35 to 40 houses a year totaling around $6 million in sales, said he sold 64 properties totaling $10 million in sales in 2020, exceeding his prior 2018 record of 42 properties totaling $7.5 million in sales.

But the result of record-breaking real estate sales means that the number of homes available for sale has depleted, in some Upper Valley towns to near-zero levels, a nadir real estate agents say they never recall seeing.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM

THE DYING DRAGON:

China set to report first population decline in five decades (Sun Yu, APRIL 27 2021, Financial Times)

China is set to report its first population decline since the famine that accompanied the Great Leap Forward, Mao Zedong's disastrous economic policy in the late 1950s that caused the deaths of tens of millions of people.

The current fall in population comes despite the relaxation of strict family planning policies, which was meant to reverse the falling birth rate of the world's most populous country.

The latest Chinese census, which was completed in December but has yet to be made public, is expected to report the total population of the country at less than 1.4bn, according to people familiar with the research. In 2019, China's population was reported to have exceeded the 1.4bn mark.