The Commonwealth Comment

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Cash for Massachusetts College Grads

When people think of Massachusetts they usually think of a high cost to live here. The name "Taxachusetts" has often come up. As a result the state's population has been getting smaller over the past few years. Another thing people think of when they think Massachusetts is college. Boston alone has dozens; Harvard, Boston University, Emerson College, Boston College, Northeastern, Emmanuel College, Simmons, and the list goes on and on. One state senator is looking to stop Massachusetts' loss of residents by turning to the mass of students that call the state thier home during the school year.
Democratic Senator Brian Joyce, of Milton has proposed a bill that would give any graduate of a Massachusetts college $10,000. The catch? They are required to live in the state for at least 5 years and must use the money for a downpayment on a home. Also, their annual salary cannot exceed 135% of the community's median income. If they leave, they'll have to pay the money back to the state with interest.
Joyce has suggested that the state put aside $25 million for this project initially, and see how many students sign up for the program. Some people have criticized the idea saying that $10,000 isn't nearly enough to help buy a home in Massachusetts. They say that in order to make Massachusetts a more attractive place for young people to live is to have the legislature help create jobs, affordable housing, and lower tax rates.
Students have had a mixed reaction to the proposal. Yet, most seem to agree that the amount the state is offering simply isn't enough.

My Opinion: I think that this is a great idea that has some real potential. With this project in place Massachusetts will retain some of the knowledge and professionals that were taught here and have called Massachusetts their home for the past 4+ years.
BUT, I must say that $10,000 isn't going to get me five years in. Most college grads start off with good starting salary, but nothing spectacular. Then there is the cost of property in Massachusetts; hundreds of thousands of dollars for land, let alone the building itself. My rent on the tiny little 10x15 studio apartment in the Back Bay costs $895 per month, that doesn't include electricity, cable, and internet. So, $895 x 12 months = $10,740. That's for one year before utilities. So, yea, Massachusetts is gonna have to do better than $10,000. It simply costs too much to live here. Something that they're going to have to examine if they want to keep the graduates of the area colleges.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Oscar Noms Out Today

The prestigious list of films, actors, and actresses nominated for Academy Awards came out early this morning. Leading the pack for the 79th annual event is Dreamgirls, the movie based on the Broadway musical of the same name, earned a total of 8 nominations. Yet, it was shut out of the Best Picture category.
And the nominees are...
Best Picture
The Departed
Letters from Iwo Jima
The Queen
Little Miss Sunshine

Best Actor
Forest Whitaker, The Last King of Scotland
Ryan Gosling, Half Nelson
Peter O'Toole, Venus
Leonardo DiCaprio, Blood Diamond
Will Smith, The Pursuit of Happyness
Best Actress
Penélope Cruz, Volver
Judi Dench, Notes On A Scandal
Helen Mirren, The Queen
Meryl Streep, The Devil Wears Prada
Kate Winslet, Little Children

Best Supporting Actor
Alan Arkin, Little Miss Sunshine
Jackie Earle Haley, Little children
Djimon Hounsou, Blood Diamond
Eddie Murphy, Dreamgirls
Mark Wahlberg, The Departed
Best Supporting Actress
Adriana Barraza, Babel
Cate Blanchett, Notes On A Scandal
Abigail Breslin, Little Miss Sunshine
Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls
Rinko Kikuchi, Babel

Best Director
Clint Eastwood, Letters From Iwo Jima
Stephen Fears, The Queen
Paul Greengrass, United 93
Alejandro González Iñárritu, Babel
Martin Scorsese, The Departed
It is most certainly going to be an entertaining show come February 25th. This year's host is the ever popular and funny Ellen DeGeneres.

Fun fact of the day: This Meryl Streep's 14th Academy Award Nomination, a new record.

My Opinion: Some real surprises this year. Dreamgirls didn't get a Best Picture nomination?! I'm very happy that Little Miss Sunshine did get a nom over the musical. I'm excited for 10 year old Abigail Breslin being nominated for her heart warming role as the nerdy beauty queen wannabe, also in Little Miss Sunshine.
Here are my picks:
Best Picture goes to The Departed (though I am pulling for Little Miss Sunshine).

Best Actor is DiCaprio. He's been waiting for a long time, and even though it's not for The Departed, he deserves it for a year of hard work and excellent acting.
Best Actress goes to the Devil herself, Meryl Streep.

Best Supporting Actor...I'm going out on a limb and saying Eddie Murphy. He was given a great opportunity to shine in Dreamgirls, and that is just what he did.

Best Supporting Actress will be Jennifer Hudson. The American Idol runner up will silence Simon forever. Her powerful voice and emotional performance in Dreamgirls has won her this category. I am pulling for little Abigail though!

Director will be Martin Scorsese. His Boston mob movie was an extremely entertaining work, with outstanding acting and plot.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Congress Looks to Shake Their "Do Nothing" Title

Americans have long been angry with the U.S. Congress. They have been labeled as the "Do Nothing" Congress in the past few years. However, in November the American people had had enough of their lack luster legislators. They elected a new Democratic majority to the House of Representatives and the Senate. The Democrats in the House implemented their "First 100 Hours", which finished up today. In which they were going to pass several measures. After 12 years of Republican rule, the Dems completed their "100 Hours" of legislative power with great success.
Here's a recap of what was passed:
In the world of spending the House passed a measure that would restrict any spending that would add to the nation's growing deficit. One such restriction would be tax breaks. This measure states that tax breaks cannot occur unless there are corresponding cuts in government spending to make up the difference, or increased taxes in other areas to make up the difference.
Democrats have long been referred to as the party that would let the terrorists win. They went on to show that that wasn't the case by passing a measure that would implement the 9/11 Commissions' recommendations. This passed by a vote of 299-128. It will require full inspections of cargo entering the United States and will give more funding to cities considered "high-risk" targets of terrorism.
The Dems also seem to like the idea of cleaning up the political scene. With several members of congress arrested in the past year or so, it has become apparent that lobbying restrictions had to be put into place. By a vote of 430-1 the House passed a measure that bans any lawmaker from accepting gifts from lobbyists.
The House finally passed measure to raise in the federal minimum wage. The current minimum wage sits at $5.15 an hour. If passed by the Senate and signed by President Bush, the new wage would be $7.25.

The House passed a measure approving more federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. A measure that would require the government to negotiate lower prescription drug prices passed the following day by a vote of 255-170. President Bush opposes this legislation, and has said he will veto it if it passes through the Senate.

Students across the nations will rejoice to the news of less debt after college. On January 17, the House passed a measure by a vote of 356-71 to reduce student loan interest rates from 6.8% to 3.4% over the next 5 years.

The final piece of the "100 Hour" agenda was a environmentally friendly move. The measure, which was passed by a margin of 264-163, would drastically reduce the tax subsidies given to major oil companies. With this legislation the companies would be required to pay more taxes and fees to the government. The money generated from this will go towards the advancement of renewable fuel sources.

The Democrats finished their legislative blitz in 87 hours.

My opinion: Its about time! 12 years is way too long for a Republican majority, and the past 6 years have been even worse with Dubbya in office. The measure passed by the House, if signed into law will go a long way in making sure that the important issues facing the United States. No flag burning bans, or gay marriage bans. Those aren't pressing issues that will have an impact on every American. Healthcare, education, alternative energy, security, minimum wage; these things should hold value to every person living in the United States of America, because they will be affected by each of those things at one time or another during their lives. I'm glad to see that the voters finally woke up and realized that something had to be done, and a Democratic majority and a balance of power between the legislative and executive branches was crucial.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

An Apple A Day

Apple, Inc. announced last week the newest addition to the line of iPod family. It's called the iPhone. It combines all the features of an Internet ready cell phone, and iPod into one handy little gizmo.
Apple, Inc. co-founder and CEO Steve Jobs unveilved the new iPhone. Jobs is a gazillionaire at this point in his life. According to his net worth is approximately $4.9 billion. But, who's counting?
What has made this man so wealthy? Let's take a look. A computer animation company that Jobs bought in the mid 1980's for $5 million was purchased last year by Disney for $7.4 billion. You may know it as Pixar, the company responsible for Toy Story, Finding Nemo, and Cars. Then there's Apple. If there's technology in the world, it seems as though Steve Jobs can put and "i" in front of it and it will sell. iMac, iBook, iPod.
But what about the newest iPhone? With a heavy price tag of $500 for the 4GB or $600 for the 8GB, is it worth having a combo iPod/cell phone? Jobs has been pushing the notion that the cost of an iPhone would be less than if an individual purchased a "smart phone" and and iPod separately. But, it may prove difficult to convince some consumers.
Some states have already been denied iPhones simply because of their location. The Boston Globe reported today that Apple, Inc. has an exclusive iPhone deal with AT&T Cingular Wireless. "The iPhone service won't be available in all or large portions of Alaska, Colorado, the Dakotas, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, upstate New York, Oregon, Utah and Wyoming, among other places."

My Opinion: Is this really necessary? Am I gonna have to go on another gadget rant like I did with the PS3? *sigh* I suppose so. Why does anyone need to spend $500+ on an iPhone? I have an iPod, and I love it. I just got a new cell phone for Christmas. They're both great. But I can guarantee you they didn't cost $500 combined. It just seems so superfluous to me. I know of many more things I could use $500 dollars on; textbooks, rent, tuition, bills. Who is this thing supposed to be geared towards? Several older people don't use technology as often as young people, and a majority of young people; college students can't afford it.

Now, Bill Gates is frantically trying to get people to buy Microsoft's "Zune" and Steve Jobs sleeps on a bed of money.
In the meantime, I'll sleep better at night with my iPod, cell phone on the desk and an extra $500 in my checking account.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

No PATS Allowed?!

Remaining tickets for this Sunday's AFC Divisional Playoff game between the San Diego Chargers and the New England Patriots went on sale Monday. They sold out in minutes. Why wouldn't they? The 14-2 Chargers and MVP LT vs. the 3x Super Bowl Champion Patriots and Tom "Terrific" Brady; it's going to be a great game.
But, the fact that tickets are sold out isn't what has Pats fans angry. It's who was allowed to get the tickets for the playoff game in California. When Patriots fans wanting to travel to San Diego for the game went online to purchase tickets on Monday morning they were met with a warning. "The San Diego Chargers have restricted sales to the Divisional Playoff game to residents of Southern California and the surrounding area only. Residency will be based on your credit card billing address. Orders by residents outside of Southern California will be canceled without notice and refunds given," read the Ticketmaster website.
Bill Johnston, a spokesman for the Chargers said "Our goal has always been to fill our stadium with Charger fans and supporters of the team. This also helps give our team the best home-field advantage possible." Filling the stadium with Charger fans has left the Pats fan steamed. Many of them are insulted; they feel as though they're being told their money is no good.
Johnston went on to say that IF the Chargers beat the Patriots the same ticket policy will be enforced for the AFC Championship Game. The Patriots organization was quick to point out that they have never restricted ticket sales.
Apparently, the Chargers aren't the only team doing this for the playoffs. The Chicago Bears have blocked sales to Seattle Seahawk fans by restricting sales to residents of Illinois and Northwest Indiana.
Yet, Pats fans won't be turned down. Representatives for online ticket vendors and AceTicket said they they've been receiving calls and orders for tickets all week. Jim Holzman, president of AceTicket said "Tickets are available. We have been getting lots of calls, and it seems to be a fair amount of Patriots fans are going to the game."
The Patriots have an outstanding record of 7-1 this season while traveling on the road. While their reasoning for ticket restrictions is logical, it has raised a serious question that the NFL will have to address before the start of the 2007 season.

My Opinion: The Chargers are the best team in the NFL this season. They have a record of 14-2. LT is the NFL's MVP, and has broken the rushing touchdown record for a single season. They're sending 9 players to the Pro-Bowl. Yet, apparently they don't have enough confidence in their ability as a team. So, they need to block any Patriot fans from getting into the stadium in San Diego. This move by the Chargers organization only gives the New England Patriots motivation. The team of the 21st century, my New England Patriots, will find a way to win the way they have done in recent history.

In Bill We Trust.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

With Liberty, Justice, and Healthcare for all

Massachusetts' Senior Senator Ted Kennedy is promoting a Universal Healthcare program for the United States. He would like to see the program in place by 2010.

Kennedy has used Massachusetts for his model. In 2006 the state became the first to require all residents to have health insurance. "Patients and health professionals, business leaders and community advocates, members of the Democratic State legislature and Republican Governor Romney all rolled up their sleeves and worked together to enact a state health plan that put aside ideology and partisan divisions for the greater common good; affordable, accessible health care coverage for all the citizens of our Commonwealth," he said in a recent address. He put emphasis on the bipartisan effeort between the Democratic legislature and Republican governor.

California's Republican governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger has set a goal for universal healthcare in his state. It would become the second state to have such a program.

Kennedy has been a longtime advocate for the "little guy". He has been trying for years to increase the nation's minimum wage, and it is finally going to become a reality with the new Democratic congress. Now it is time for all those without health insurance to have it. "Members of the House and Senate have a guaranteed health plan for ourselves and our families. It's time to provide the same guarantee for every man, woman and child in the nation," he said. Rising healthcare costs have been a burden on low income families across the U.S.

The estimated number of citizens living without insurance is staggering. "America’s failure to assure the basic human right to health care to all its citizens was one of the great public policy failures of the 20th century. Recent data emphasizes the urgency of redressing this failure. Forty-six million Americans are uninsured, and the most recent Census Bureau figures show that the number of uninsured increased by nearly one million Americans in 2005 alone," Kennedy said.

The United States is the last First World country not to implement a universal healthcare system.

Text of Kennedy's Address

My Opinion: 46,000,000 Americans are living without health insurance. That is simply disgusting and unacceptable. The preamble of the Constitution states "promote the general welfare". I understand that to mean that the government is supposed to ensure the welfare of it's citizens. Universal healthcare will do just that. The United States should've been one of the first nation's to have such a system. However, it is embarassingly, the last of the world's leading countries.

Hopefully, the newly elected Democratic congress can work with their Republican counterparts and get this important legislation passed in the not to distant future. It should not be a state by state matter, the federal government needs to take the lead.

Friday, January 05, 2007

"Ideal of Equality"

It has become apparent that the 2006 Elections have been elections ushering in change. Along with that change has come a series of political firsts. Massachusetts elected it's first African-American governor, and Minnesota elected the first Muslim to the U.S. Congress. However, the one first that stands out is that of Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) becoming the first woman elected Speaker of the House. She beat out John Boehner 233-202 to win the prestigious seat.
As Speaker of the House, Pelosi, 66, is second in line to the presidency. She is the highest ranking woman in the history of the American federal government.
Pelosi's address to the House emphasized the importance of cooperation between the two parties, as well as acknowledging the historical aspects of her election. "I accept this gavel in the spirit of partnership, not partisanship, and I look forward to working with you, Mr. Boehner, and the Republicans in the Congress for the good of the American people", she said.
"And today I thank my colleagues. By electing me speaker you have brought us closer to the ideal of equality that is America's heritage and America's hope... For our daughters and our granddaughters today we have broken the marble ceiling. For our daughters and our granddaughters now the sky is the limit. Anything is possible for them," she said of her being the fist female speaker.
She went on to ask for a new direction in Iraq and for the United States.
She ended with a call for bipartisanship. "Let us stand together to move our country forward, seeking common ground for the common good."

My opinion: After 12 years of Republican control of the United States' legislative branch, I'm glad to see Democratic control and a balance of power with an overbearing executive branch. Hopefully 2007 will prove to be a year of change in the United States, and in Iraq.

I'm pleased to see that a woman has the chance to hold such an influential office in government. I trust that Nancy Pelosi will do her best to create a workable atmosphere in the House of Representatives to accomplish a great deal within the first "100 hours".

Thursday, January 04, 2007

The Improbable Dream Come True

Today, on the steps of the Massachusetts State House history was made in front of a crowd of citizens. Deval L. Patrick was sworn in at the Commonwealth's 71st governor. He became the first African-American governor in Massachusetts history and only the second in United States history. It was also the first inauguration of a governor held outside in Massachusetts history.

History proved to be a common theme with in today's ceremony. Patrick was sworn in on a special Bible held by his wife. The Bible belonged to former President, and Massachusetts native John Quincy Adams. It was sent to Adams by captives from the slave ship, Amistad. Adams successfully defended the slaves in the 1840's before the nation's Supreme Court. "As a gesture of thanks and respect, the Africans gave Adams a Bible, called the Mendi Bible, after their tribal homeland," explained Patrick.

Patrick began his inaugural address by thanking all the people that have helped him throughout his life. "My journey here has been an improbable one. From a place where hope withers, through great schools and challenging opportunities, to this solemn occasion, I have been supported and loved and lifted up. And I thank the family, the mentors, the teachers – every one of whom is here today in body or in spirit – just as I thank the tens of thousands of campaign volunteers and millions of voters across the Commonwealth who shared this improbable journey with me."

Deval Patrick closed his address echoing a common theme used throughout his campaign; Togetherness. "To the earliest settlers of this Commonwealth, as we have been reminded on a couple of occasions today, this Commonwealth was their shining “City on a Hill.” To this kid from the South Side of Chicago, Massachusetts is my shining city on a hill. For every mother living month to month; for every student struggling to get through school; for every dad working two jobs and wondering which one is going to be shipped overseas; for every fisherman wondering whether this year’s catch will do; for every immigrant wondering whether the American Dream is a myth; for every teacher, every bus driver, every government clerk, every firefighter, every small business owner doing your best and wondering whether anyone appreciates you; for every one of God’s children who calls Massachusetts home – let’s rebuild our “city on a hill,” and make it shine again."
My Opinion: I'm looking forward to Deval's time in office. He is a refreshing change from the cold and closed Romney-Healey administration. He seems open to all points of view and wants everyone in the state to participate in his administration. When was the last time any politician encouraged such an idea? The way he speaks is extremely inspiring. I'm proud to live in Massachusetts, because as Deval pointed, Massachusetts invented America. This history rich Commonwealth has always been on the forefront of innovation and civil rights. I hope to be a part in the rebuilding of our shining "city on a hill", and I urge everyone in the state to do the same, because together we can, and together we will!
Congratulations Governor Patrick and good luck!
God save the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.