America’s voters chose Obama and the future

And so, America did the right the ting and chose the future.

The historic election of 2008, when the American voters made Barack Obama the nation’s first African-American president and bade farewell to the old America, was re-enforced yesterday when Barack Obama got enough support for another four years in the White House.

His victory was not quite as overwhelming as four years ago, when Obama beat John McCain by ten million votes and won 365 electoral votes to McCain’s 173, but it was a solid, even sweeping, victory. The coalition that Obama built up with the young, women, African-Americans, Hispanics and white union members in the Rust Belt, lost only two states, Indiana, traditionally Republican, and North Carolina, both of which Obama surprisingly had won in 2008. Yesterday, he won the rest of the battleground states: Nevada, Colorado, Iowa, Wisconsin, Ohio, New Hampshire, Virginia and Florida, although his victory in Florida is not yet official. If his lead there is confirmed he will win 332 electoral votes against Romney’s 206.

When Obama gave his victory speech in Chicago, the joy and jubilation from the Obama coalition of whites, African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians, young, old, knew no bounds. They belonged to the new and once again victorious America, and they represented the country’s new politics. Over 90 percent of the country’s black voters chose Obama; over 70 percent of the Hispanics and the Asians voted for the president; over half of the women gave him their support; and the trade unions members in the Rust Belt also voted for the man who had saved the auto industry early in his first four years in the White House.

They did not want to retreat and turn back to a time that had led to two wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and to the deepest U.S. economic crisis since the ’30s depression, to return to the old America, dominated a white electorates, like that overwhelmingly white crowd in Boston who had voted for Mitt Romney but who now somberly, almost in shock, listened to their candidate’s concession speech.

That old America was not enough yesterday, as it had not been in 2008, to win a presidential election. The conclusion must be that it is no longer possible for the Republicans to win a U.S. presidential election only with the support of the country’s white voters. There are simply no longer enough white voters – 72 percent of all voters yesterday were white – to win. That trend will continue and even strengthen in the coming years because of the continued demographic changes in America’s population. America will be less and less white. Republicans need to think about and change, but if they are able to do so is an entirely different matter.

Much of the campaign focused on polls and forecasts and many questioned if they were right in their predictions. They were. Forecasters such as Nate Silver on his New York Times blog FiveThirtyEight had predicted 307 electoral votes for Obama, and Simon Jackman, the Stanford professor, who in his Huffington Post blog also had predicted over 300 electoral votes for Obama

More later today. Meanwhile, here’s President Obama’s rousing victory speech last night in Chicago.

Uphill for Ryan — only 39 percent are happy with him

The first opinion poll is in and the verdict is not encouraging for Paul Ryan, the new Republican vice presidential candidate.

According to USA Today/Gallup, only 39 percent of Americans are satisfied with Romney’s choice while 42 percent are dissatisfied. It is the most negative numbers since George H.W. Bush in 1988 chose Dan Quayle as his running mate. Support for Ryan is even lower than for Sarah Palin four years ago, when 46 percent felt that her appointment was “excellent/very good,” while 37 percent deemed it “weak/bad.”

Now, Bush/Quayle won anyway, so there is still hope for Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, especially since 39 percent of Republicans in the poll called the appointment “excellent” and 29 percent “pretty good,” which is promising for the Republican voter turnout in November.

Romney’s choice of Ryan has stirred up the campaignpot plenty, and just in a couple of days the previous debate on the weak economy, high unemployment and Obama’s handling of the economy, has become a whole new debate about how America’s future should look like and how the American society should meet and resolve the major economic issues.

In this debate, Obama’s/Biden’s vision of justice — “fairness,” where the rich help to share the burden through higher taxes and where the government and the government plays an important role in protecting the elderly and the poor stands in stark contrast with Romney’s/Ryan’s vision where the rich get more tax cuts and where the social security program is radically cut down as the role of the government is gradually reduced.

Paul Ryan is the Republican Party’s chief spokesman for the anti-government, super capitalistic America, and Mitt Romney, now with Ryan as his number two, is closely tied to that vision. With Ryan, Romney has been transformed from a moderate Republican, a man of the Republican establishment, to a member of the radical Republican right wing, where the born-again Christians and the Tea Party supporters feel so at home. And the Obama campaign will not let Romney and the American electorate forget that.

So, have President Obama’s chances of being reelected increased with Paul Ryan’s appointment? Yes, is the short answer. Ryan does not broaden the support for the Republican ticket — the independents find him too far right, the seniors want to keep Medicare, the poor need their Medicaid, and the women are largely pro-choice.

But let me add that vice presidential candidates do not directly decide elections, and two thirds of respondents in the Gallup poll said that who is that person does not affect how they will vote. Thus, the election in November will be a choice between Obama and Romney, although in a close race, Ryan can be a decisive handicap.

“Cooking Like a Viking”

Great headline in my New York Times this morning, but, for some reason, the article is called “A Return to Nordic Roots” on the paper’s website.

In any case, good Swedish food is not easy to find in America — and, believe me, it’s a lot more than meatballs and pancakes — so the new wave of Swedish restaurants in the Twin Cities in Minnesota, where almost ten percent of the population has Swedish ancestry — is exciting. Got to go and try them out!

More and more Americans are overweight

It may not be particularly surprising to Europeans that Americans are fat. You see them all the time on vacation in every country in Europe.

But the fact that almost 70 percent of adult Americans are overweight or obese is a shocker. And the fact that one third of all American children are overweight or obese is an even greater shocker.

The new figures from a study by the Institute of Medicine have created a stir, especially the fact that one third of American kids born in 2000 is expected to become diabetic in their lifetime. Obesity now costs America $190 billion a year.

Something needs to be done, it is said. But it’s been said many times before and all the indications are that the crisis is just getting worse.

Situation is most serious in the South and at its worst in the state of Mississippi, where 34.5 percent of the population is overweight. Here are the numbers!

In another for America gloomy report, the United States came in 25th place in world ranking over countries where it’s best and worst to become a mother. It is best in Norway, with Iceland in second and Sweden in third place, and worst in Niger in Africa, with Afghanistan second worst, according to Save the Children’s new mothers’ index ranking.

Yes — repeal the “Shoot First” laws

The best thing that could happen as a result of the tragic shooting of Trayvon Martin is that Florida’s so-called self-defense law “Stand Your Ground” and the similar laws in two dozen other States are repealed.

It’s hard to think of a worse law, and I was heartened to read on the Wall Street Journal’s Law Blog that prosecutors in Florida have grave doubts about the law and that they are poised to recommend changes in the law, even its repeal. The law is presently being invoked by many to justify shootings, even by gang members when killing members of rival gangs.

It’s clear who is behind the “Stand Your Ground” law, or the “Castle Doctrine, as it’s also called. It’s the powerful National Rifle Association (NRA) – just check out the New York Times on what happened in Wisconsin after a major campaign by the NRA. It’s not only about the right to bear arms it’s also about the right to carry them everywhere and to use them.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has long been a leading voice on strict gun control, has launched a nation-wide campaign to reform or repeal these, what he calls, “Shoot First” laws.

“In reality, the NRA’s leaders weren’t interested in public safety. They were interested in promoting a culture where people take the law into their own hands and face no consequences for it. Let’s call that by its real name: vigilantism…These laws have not made our country safer; they have made us less safe…all Americans already have a right to defend themselves with commensurate force, but these ‘Shoot First’ laws have nothing to do with that or with the exercise of Second Amendment rights. Instead, they justify civilian gunplay and invite vigilante justice and retribution with disastrous results.”

Well said, Mr. Mayor!

As Connecticut goes, so goes, hopefully, the nation

The State of Connecticut voted this week to abolish the death penalty, making it the 17th State to do so.

Since capital punishment was reintroduced in the U.S. in 1976, 1,290 people have been executed – with Texas leading the sway with 481 executions. 3,199 are presently death row in America’s prisons. This year twelve executions have taken place across the country, a steadily declining number since the highpoint in 1999, when 98 executions took place.

Almost two-thirds of Americans prefer other punishment than the death penalty for murder, according to a survey from 2010, and in the fall voters in California will decide on the death penalty there.

So, maybe, things are moving in the right direction, albeit slowly, and maybe there is hope, that the United States, one day, will move away from the present dubious company of China, Iran, North Korea, and other undemocratic countries, where the death penalty is actively used against their  citizens.

“There is something stunningly disgraceful about the company we (the U.S.) keep on this issue,” columnist Robert Scheer wrote once. It’s also sad.

Oh, those Danes…still the most content

Oh, those Danes…they continue to be the most satisfied with their lives in the whole world, according to the recent worldwide Gallup survey on quality of life in 146 countries. Denmark has had the top spot since 2009.

On average, Gallup asked 1,000 people in each country and divided the responses into three categories, “thriving,” “struggling,” and “suffering.”

Seventy-four percent of the Danes said they “thrived,” according to Gallup, followed by Canada and the Netherlands with 66 percent, and Sweden and Israel with 65 percent. Of the world’s largest countries, the United States landed on 12th place with 56 percent sayng that they thrived, while the numbers for Russia and China were only 22 and 18 percent, respectively.

In 87 countries, less than one quarter of the population said they were satisfied, with Cambodia in last place with 2 percent. In Europe, only 5 percent of the Bulgarians said they thrived. Numbers were also low in Italy (23 percent), Greece (16 percent), and Portugal (14 percent).

The biggest positive change since 2010 has taken place in Ghana, where those answering that they now thrived had increased by 19 percent, while the largest negative change occurred in El Salvador, minus 22 percent.