Obama gets four more years – of dealing with Republican losers!

Heading off to bed, right now. In the morning, I’ll review what has been achieved.

The very old Party-formerly-known-as-Republican sounds like nothing will change. Karl Rove won’t let Mitt Romney concede the election – proving the neocons are still in charge of the money, the tea party in charge of religious ideology.

But, President Obama has sufficient electoral votes right now – and will have more than enough by tomorrow morning – and even more when all the crap and legitimate problems [as well] are sorted in a couple of weeks. The same holds true for the popular vote.

CNN’s John King did a fine analysis that I hope they don’t hide – on young people, minorities, women, people with better than a high school education all voting for Obama. As an earlier post characterized it, Republicans and Romney relied on angry old white men – and got 72% of that demographic. Not enough anymore. A demographic that continues to diminish in political power and deserves to.

Something I figured out fifty-three years ago when I left the Republican Party. I was an angry young white guy then. Now, I’m an angry old white guy; but, what makes me angry is the same: bigotry, racism, sexism, superstitious people afraid to learn, to study, to change, people who turn their back on history, science, knowledge accumulated over centuries. The Democrats don’t have any enormous edge on all of that; but, they’ll listen to people like me once in a while. The Republicans would rather stop me from voting, from talking.

See you in the morning. Still another couple of scheduled posts coming before then.

Israel sorted out medical marijuana — Why can’t the United States?

Moshe Rute

Moshe Rute survived the Holocaust by hiding in a barn full of chickens. He nearly lost the use of his hands after a stroke two years ago. He became debilitated by recurring nightmares of his childhood following his wife’s death last year.

“But after I found this, everything has been better,” said the 80-year-old, as he gingerly packed a pipe with marijuana…

Now, Israel’s Health Ministry is considering the distribution of medical marijuana through pharmacies beginning next year, a step taken by only a few countries, including Holland, which has traditionally led the way in Europe in legalizing medical uses of the drug.

Marijuana is illegal in Israel but medical use has been permitted since the early 1990s for cancer patients and those with pain-related illnesses such as Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, and even post-traumatic stress disorder. Patients can smoke the drug, ingest it in liquid form, or apply it to the skin as a balm.

In stark contrast, medical use is still hotly contested in the United States, with only 17 states and Washington, D.C. permitting medical marijuana for various approved conditions. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration says smoked marijuana is not medicine, and “has not withstood the rigors of science.” In Europe, Spain, Germany and Austria have allowed or decriminalized some degrees of medical marijuana use.

“When push comes to shove, and people see how suffering people are benefitting, I’m sure everyone will get behind it,” said Yuli Edelstein, Israeli Minister of Public Diplomacy, as he toured Israel’s largest marijuana growing farm, Tikun Olam, on Thursday and lauded the facility as an example of Israel’s technological and medical advancements.

Rute, the nursing home resident, said the cannabis may not change his reality, but makes it easier to accept…

“I’m now 80 and I’m still a Holocaust child, but I’m finally able to better cope.”

One thing that’s obvious is that even with a state religion Israel isn’t wasting time making medical decisions on the ground of that specious commodity – morality. Here in the United States, we’re not only limited by the bought-and-paid-for version of morality, we get the additional scourge of looneybirds who think their bible is a guidebook to politics and social justice.

Certainly Israel has the latter component – and the former – but, there’s also a pragmatic current in governance prompted by necessity. Our political hacks dedicate their greatest responsibility to those who fund their electoral machine.

Federal Court in Oz rules S&P credit ratings misled investors

Australia’s Federal Court has ruled that credit ratings agency Standard & Poor’s (S&P) misled investors before the global financial crisis.

S&P gave its safest credit rating, AAA, to complex and risky securities, which later lost most of their value.

In what is regarded as a landmark ruling, the court ordered S&P and the bank which arranged the product, ABN Amro, to pay damages to investors…

The ruling is the first of its kind on a rating agency’s liability for investors’ losses.

Federal Court Justice Jayne Jagot said that both S&P and ABN Amro were “misleading and deceptive” in the rating of two structured debt issues in 2006, which she agreed were “grotesquely complicated”.

She said the agency had published false information and given “negligent misrepresentations” to potential investors about the riskiness of two financial products…

The judge was also critical of the actions of ABN Amro, saying it was “knowingly concerned” in S&P’s misleading and deceptive conduct, and used the AAA rating on its products to denote a reliability that it knew was not accurate…

The case was brought against S&P and ABN Amro Bank by several Australian local governments which lost millions when the value of the investments was virtually wiped out during the financial crisis.

Judge Jagot said S&P and ABN Amro would have to pay 30 million Australian dollars in damages to the authorities.

Overdue. The sort of criminal proceeding which should be brought in the United States against all the rating agencies. Anyone in the market for a spell learns they are a joke; but, many covenants exist in pension plans and government agencies requiring these ratings as part of a borrowing or investing scheme.

The ratings companies were a critical part of the phony derivatives market that built the real estate bubble that led to the Great recession. Of course, they are no less likely to admit to their guilt than the politicians who built-in the disaster by making certain there was no real oversight of these investments.

Unreported economy story: CNG could solve US foreign oil dependence within 2-3 years

Filling up a CNG-powered RAM pickup truck

Fiat and Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne said during the weekend before last at an industry convention in China that it is “most shocking” that the United States auto industry is not throwing its might behind natural gas, which has been found in abundance in its home country.

“A rapid adoption of CNG as a fuel source for automotive applications would almost instantly kill the reliance on foreign oil, and it would bring about a substantial reduction in emissions,” said Marchionne. “Those are opportunities that need to be grabbed and they need to be industrialized. Especially with large vehicles like pickups and large SUVs, we could probably accommodate the installation of CNG tanks within the next 24 to 36 months…”

But though Marchionne’s newsworthy views were offered on the sidelines of the convention in Shanghai, his talk about the paradigm-shifting potential of CNG was not reported. Instead reporters chased down answers to politicized questions as to whether Jeep production would be outsourced to China.

Concerns by reporters focused on whether production priorities would cost jobs in the U.S., or Italy. Both of which Marchionne answered for the umpteenth time with a “no.”

Poor reporting by unscrupulous bloggers has been partially blamed for the rumor that Jeep production would be outsourced from Toledo, Ohio, to China. Actually an original story on Oct. 22 by Bloomberg had the facts straight, but others overstated the purported sell-out to the Chinese story to the point that even Mitt Romney got it wrong…

Romney knew better. He’s just a liar.

But while reporters were chasing the seeds of that false Jeep-to-China report with Marchionne in Shanghai, they missed a true story on his considered views on how to cure U.S. dependence on foreign oil and to curb global warming.

And while he is at it, Marchionne says he doesn’t think ethanol has much future in the U.S. He said alcohol works as a fuel for Brazil where, “from a global standpoint, producing ethanol probably is the most efficient use of their sugarcane.” It was tried in Africa, and it failed. And, said Marchionne, he is “making no comments on the U.S. side of ethanol production which relies on grains.” We take it, Sergio doesn’t think it’s a good idea.

With little local infrastructure or broadcast access to CNG here in Santa Fe, the folks I know with cars running on natural gas have been paying the equivalent of $1.61 per gallon. Nationwide, still less than $2/gallon. That’s enough to get me thinking seriously about our next family vehicle being a factory conversion to natural gas – or something we might do after market.

The reasons are the same for our perpetual consideration of an electric car – or plug-in hybrid like the Chevy Volt or Ford’s C-Max. 99.9% of our driving is my wife’s work commute and our weekly grocery run plus the usual errands about town. An EV is still too high for us to consider the initial purchase – even though we’re the kind of family that keeps a motor vehicle 12-20 years. The payback is reasonable. The upfront cost is intimidating.

Northern New Mexico is an ideal location for CNG to be added to filling stations. Cripes. We’re a natural gas exporting state. The only handicaps are the usual: politicians stuck in the past, small business owners who can’t or won’t risk the investment. Both of which would be resolved by Feds willing to risk the sort of loans they make to the most undeserving segment of our economy – Big Oil and Big Coal.

How secure is your electronic vote?

Elect Romney and those armed observers on rooftops will attend everything we do in public

In an era when shadowy hackers can snatch secret government files and humble big businesses with seeming ease, it’s an unavoidable question as Election Day approaches: When we go to the polls, could our very votes be at risk?

According to voting-security experts, the answer can be boiled down to a bit of campaign-speak: There are reasons for concern and there is work to be done but, by and large, we’re better off now than we were four years ago.

“In general terms, the nation as a whole is moving toward more resilient, more recountable, evidence-based voting systems and that’s a good thing,” said Pamela Smith, president of the Verified Voting Foundation. “We’re better off than we were a couple of election cycles ago by a long shot and we’re better off than we were in the last election…

More than 45 million U.S. voters, or one out of every four who go to the polls, will cast a ballot on a machine that stores votes electronically, but doesn’t create a paper ballot, according to Verified Voting.

Six states — Delaware, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, New Jersey and South Carolina — use those machines exclusively and they’re used by a “heavy majority” of voters in another five — including presidential battleground states Pennsylvania and Virginia. Some of these paperless machines are also used in the key states of Ohio, Florida and Colorado, where the presidential race is expected to be close.

Here’s the problem, advocates say. When there’s no physical ballot, it becomes next to impossible to determine whether there has been tampering, or some other kind of irregularity, in a close election…

The same thugs responsible for the criminal abuse of the vote in 2000 took office – and they designed the half-assed protocols in the new voting machines. Of course.

“Congress gave funds to the states immediately, so the states bought large numbers of voting systems that were then available, before new standards were developed and adopted; it’s a good example of the maxim denoting precipitous action, ‘Ready, fire, aim!’ ”

Analysts…agree that the first concern with these systems is mechanical failure or human error. They cite cases like a 2006 Florida election, in which electronic machines in one county recorded no vote in a congressional race on 18,000 ballots, even though it was the most high-profile contest on the ticket…

…A standard, touchscreen voting machine could have its data changed with $20 worth of hardware and a paper clip, a fact that gets more troubling now that expanded early voting has put votes on machines stored in schools, churches and other polling places for weeks before Election Day…

I’m not wandering back through posts at several blogs over the years to give you chapter and verse; but, a number of electronic machines used in the US in 2004 were also used in countries like Venezuela – setup as originally designed by Olivetti [for example] to provide a ballot receipt. They were distributed from Florida for cripes sake. Not a difficult retrofit.

At least one state uses mail ballots exclusively and is ready to convert to online voting. It’s not more difficult to secure than online banking. And before you jump up and down about banks being hacked – damned few ever are and those are almost exclusively inside jobs. The protocols used by my local community bank are the same as giants like HSBC – and they don’t get hacked.

There are whole countries that vote online – countries with as many skilled hackers as Estonia – without a problem. Think we can catch up to Estonia?

British Prime Minister trying to control scandal over child sex abuse ring inside Tory Party

The government is racing to stay ahead of the swirl of allegations about child abuse in the UK by announcing two further inquiries into an alleged abuse ring in north Wales in the 1970s and 1980s.

The first inquiry will look into the conduct of the original official inquiry into the child sex abuse ring and the second into the police handling of complaints at the time.

Faced by allegations that senior Conservative politicians may have been involved in the scandal at the time, David Cameron, while on an official visit to the Middle East, announced he would establish an urgent investigation into the conduct of the official inquiry held between 1996 and 2000.

In addition, the prime minister’s spokesman in London said a separate inquiry will be held into the way in which the police handled the investigation.

The spokesman conceded as many as five different inquiries were now underway, or imminent, looking into aspects of child abuse…

Cameron rushed to act as the media threatened to identify the senior Tory figure close to Lady Thatcher alleged to have been involved in the child abuse.

The Labour MP Tom Watson also urged the government to act after victim Steve Messham said that the Waterhouse inquiry of 2000 only covered a fraction of the alleged assaults…

In an extraordinary letter to the prime minister, Tom Watson praised Cameron for acting swiftly, saying: “You have sent an important message about how seriously you take this matter.”

However, he also made a series of further allegations. “It is certainly important that government departments trawl their archives to see what documents they hold,” said Watson. “But my experience of uncovering massive establishment conspiracies leaves me in no doubt that what you have suggested does not go anything like far enough. Its limited scope may even slow things down, muddy waters, damage trails. What is needed is a much wider, but equally immediate, investigation.”

He adds: “Since sharing my concerns with you at PMQs, a number of people have come forward to say that they raised their suspicions with the police, but investigations were not carried out. One allegation involves alleged child abuse and a former cabinet minister. We both know that many untruths are told about politicians, but this allegation was specific, informed and appeared well corroborated.”

The arrogance of that particular sub-species of conservative that spawn a Margaret Thatcher with appalling regularity is part of English tradition. They have natural allies, political kin this side of the political pond, of course. Joe McCarthy, George Wallace, Lester Maddox, Bull Connors – the proclivity for violence and abuse seems to increase as we work our way down the pay scale. But, I rather think that’s only a reflection of the power of position equipping criminals to better cover their tracks. They have easier access to police officials who would rather kiss political butt instead of arresting the corrupt.