Trump won — So did marijuana, gun control and minimum wage


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❝ …Not all is doom and gloom. While Democrats lost big, liberals won some of the big initiatives that were on statewide ballots. It wasn’t a total sweep — several states, for example, affirmed the death penalty — but there were gains on some issues, including marijuana legalization, minimum wage, and gun control.

The full results paint a much more mixed picture than the top-ballot results suggest: The Democratic Party got clobbered, but some of the major policies Democrats support also won big.

1) Democrats mostly — but not entirely — lost in the state races

Four houses in 3 states – including here in New Mexico went the other way. And liberal control of our state Senate expanded. Not an accident. Hard work since the racist danger of tea party Confederates became obvious – has paid off.

2) Three — and maybe four — states legalized marijuana

❝ Voters in California, Massachusetts, and Nevada opted to fully legalize marijuana for recreational purposes. They join Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, Washington state, and the District of Columbia in legalizing pot.

Legalization was also on the ballot in Maine, but the race is too close to call…

Voters in Arkansas, Florida, and North Dakota also opted to legalize medical marijuana. And voters in Montana voted to ease their state’s rules on medical marijuana. No state voted against allowing pot for medicinal purposes.

3) Four states approved a higher minimum wage

❝ Arizona, Colorado, Maine, and Washington state all considered raising their minimum wages to $12 an hour. And the proposal won in all four of these states.

4) Three states passed new gun control measures

❝ California, Nevada, and Washington state all approved new restrictions on guns, while Maine narrowly rejected more gun control measures.

Progressive and Liberal policy ideas had a better night than the Democrat establishment. Many local ballot initiatives succeeded in moving the quality of life forward in states and cities around the country.

Guess what? The kind of activism that produced those victories need to continue and multiply if we’re going to maintain any semblance of sanity. Get ready for the mid-term election in 2018. Prepare yourself for the redistricting fight beginning in 2020. Time to sort out one of the major avenues of backwards political thought in Western Democracies.

“No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public”

Don’t mourn, organize.

That’s not saying you should rely on joining the Democratic Party and their coming “opposition” to Trump-style fascism. I’m not confident this has been enough of a shock to liberal and moderate political hacks to force them into sprouting courage.

Recent years in New Mexico have encouraged that – to a certain small extent. After all, Hillary won New Mexico by close to 10%. Democrats took back the House in our state legislature, extended control in the state Senate. Progressive candidates in our district won – one close, one knocked it out of the park.

This only happened after a decade of Dems in charge going to prison for corruption – and getting Bon Voyage farewells thrown by their peers. This only happened after a decade of Democrats picking and choosing candidates for governor whose main qualification was – “It’s their turn!”

Hopefully, Americans will feel the results of their ignorance in time to prevent further gerrymandering after the 2020 census. Maybe take that power away from pols the way other democracies did decades ago.

Will the Dems have the backbone to stonewall reactionary legislation the way Republicans decided that gridlock was payback for a nation electing a Black president? Might be a stretch too far – for courage, for principles. Obamacare, medicare, social security are all now at risk. Does the Democrat political establishment care enough to fight for the rest of us?

How much will Google influence the presidential election?

❝ Even if you don’t believe lizard people and the Illuminati secretly run our planet, the world really is filled with unseen influences. The languid music in the grocery store makes us walk slower and spend more money, and product placements in TV and movies leave us inexplicably craving things like Coca-Cola and Spicy Sweet Chili Doritos…

With the presidential election around the corner, Science asked experts in computer science, business, and law to weigh in on how companies like Google and Facebook, which function as the primary gateway to online information for millions of voters, could influence the outcome…

❝ Last summer, Science reported on something called the search engine manipulation effect. Because companies like Google have gotten so good at providing the best links first, the higher an item appears on a list of search results, the more users trust it. That’s OK if you’re looking for the best place to buy a set of kitchen utensils or back-to-school supplies, but the study’s lead author, Robert Epstein…showed that by simply putting links for one candidate above another in a rigged search, he and his co-author could influence how undecided voters choose a candidate…

The effect was largely invisible to the study participants; most had no idea they were seeing biased results. But even if they did, they thought the search engine was merely doing its job and ranking a better candidate higher than his or her opponent…

❝ By Epstein’s calculations, biased Google results could shift the vote in November by up to 2%, or about 2.6 million votes. This may not seem huge, but many presidential elections in the United States have been decided by margins narrower than that…

Is there any evidence to suggest that internet gatekeepers are taking advantage of this power?

No. But this question gets at the real crux of the problem because, for now anyway, there’s really no way to find out. Generally, regulators can’t audit Google or Facebook or any other tech giant to find out how their proprietary algorithms determine the content we see on a screen. Intellectual property laws allow these companies to keep private the specifics of search and newsfeed algorithms, making it extremely difficult to parse out any bias in content that users see.

RTFA if you want even more details to worry about. Inevitable questions about security vs privacy, federal government oversight vs individual freedom to act stupid arise. Think about it.

Paddy Power paying off for a Hillary Clinton victory over Trump

❝ Paddy Power, an Irish betting market with a large presence in the UK, has already declared a winner of the US presidential election.

The market said Tuesday that it is paying out more than $1 million worth of bets on the Democratic nominee because it looks as though Clinton has sealed a win over Republican nominee Donald Trump.

“With national polls showing a healthy lead for the Democratic candidate and Donald Trump’s campaign running into scandal after scandal, Paddy Power believes it’s a done deal and that Hillary is a nailed-on certainty to occupy the Oval Office,” Paddy Power said in a statement.

The move by the betting market comes as Clinton’s odds have edged up in most models, including hitting 85% on the data site FiveThirtyEight’s polls-plus model and 91% on The New York Times’ Upshot model. She has also expanded her lead in national polls to an average of 6.9 points, according to RealClearPolitics.

❝ The betting market saw a similar decrease in probability for Trump.

Couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch of gamblers. If I could access them legally – even though I’ve rarely wagered more than a dollar on anything – I’d place occasional bets with Paddy Power.

When the Texas of Canada elects a government committed to the environment…


The starting line for the tar sands boondoggle

Alberta is sometimes called the Texas of Canada. It’s home to one of the largest rodeos in the world, a respectable number of annual tornadoes, and a plethora of oil and gas reserves. Falling in the not-quite-so-Texas category: blankets of winter snow, the way they pronounce their vowels, and most recently, a tax on carbon emissions.

The tax, which goes into effect January 2017, will add a few cents onto every dollar spent on coal, oil, and gas. When formerly cheap fossil fuels are forced to compete on even economic playing field with renewables, the thinking goes, people will choose sustainable energy…

A US Energy Information Administration study shows that a carbon tax like Alberta’s could reduce CO2 emissions by as much as half by 2040 (bearing in mind that comparing Alberta to the entire US is not quite apples to apples). You might recognize this strategy—using money to shape your behavior—from taxes on cigarettes, booze, and Keno. Pretty simple, pretty darn effective.

Cap and trade, the other economic climate strategy, is kind of like an inverted carbon tax. Instead of using taxes to reach a certain emissions goal, economists begin by deciding the maximum amount of carbon emissions they’ll allow. That’s the cap. But let’s think of it more like a pie, because then the regulators slice it up and auction the pieces off to energy companies.

“Some people look at tax like it’s a dirty word,” says Yoram Bauman, the economist who crafted British Columbia’s carbon tax. But taxes have their benefit, too. Many investors prefer a carbon tax because it doesn’t fluctuate along with external market factors. That stability lets them make long term plans. It’s also good for smaller economies, which is why Finland chose to implement the first in 1990.

Of course, given the choice most energy companies would choose neither tax nor cap—they’d just keep thrashing the commons. But the Paris climate talks are looming, and most world governments have already committed to some sort of emissions cuts. Heck, even Texas might come around.

But, uh, don’t hold your breath. The Democrats in Texas ain’t winning much and they don’t come close to the New Democrats in Canada.

Erdoğan, Turkey’s ruling party lose votes to pro-Kurdish, progressive HDP


HDP Co-Chairman Selahattin Demirtas voting

Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has suffered his biggest setback in 13 years of amassing power as voters denied his ruling party a parliamentary majority for the first time since 2002 and gave the country’s large Kurdish minority its biggest voice ever in national politics.

The election result on Sunday, with almost all votes counted, appeared to wreck Erdoğan’s ambition of rewriting the constitution to establish himself as an all-powerful executive president. Erdoğan’s governing Justice and Development party, or AKP, won the election comfortably for the fourth time in a row, with around 41% of the vote, but that represented a steep fall in support from 49% in 2011, throwing the government of the country into great uncertainty.

The vote was the first time in four general elections that support for Erdoğan decreased. The fall coupled with an election triumph for a new pro-Kurdish party meant it was unlikely that the AKP would be able to form a majority government, forcing it to negotiate a coalition, probably with extreme nationalists, or to call a fresh election if no parliamentary majority can be secured within six weeks.

The new party, the HDP or Peoples’ Democratic party, largely representing the Kurds but also encompassing leftwing liberals, surpassed the steep 10% threshold for entering parliament to take more than 12% of the vote and around 80 seats in the 550-strong chamber.

The HDP victory denied Erdoğan’s party its majority.

RTFA for a long, detailed description and discussion of all the main factors in the election. Unlike, many journalists, many politicians outside of Turkey, I am not confident in continued democratic progress. I think there is a possibility of a power-hungry opportunist like Erdoğan forming a fascist alliance with the military and throwing out elections altogether.

I think he would count upon promises to wreck what’s left of the original secular constitution of Turkey, to install something he’d characterize as an Islamist state to pacify conservative rural voters. I think the United States would continue to treat him as their ace player in the Muslim Middle East.

I ain’t alone.

Billionaires Party(s) retain control of Congress

A new poll indicates that billionaires are likely to retain control of the United States government.

The poll, conducted by the University of Minnesota’s Opinion Research Institute, shows that the proxy candidates of billionaires are likely to win ninety-eight per cent of…Tuesday’s races, with the remaining two per cent leaning billionaire.

Although the poll indicates that some races are still “too close to call,” the fact that billionaires funded candidates on both sides puts the races safely in their column.

Davis Logsdon, who supervised the poll for the University of Minnesota, said that…Tuesday should be “a big night for oligarchs” and that both houses of Congress can be expected to grovel at the feet of their money-gushing paymasters for at least the next two years.

Calling the billionaires’ upcoming electoral romp “historic,” Logsdon said, “We have not seen the super-rich maintain such a vise-like grip on the government since the days immediately preceding the French Revolution.”

I think most folks who wander by this blog would be hard-pressed to consider this piece to be satire. I think it’s as accurate as anything available through the whole bloody election cycle.

Let’s save it for 2016.

1st-round win for centrist Rohani – Iran’s next prime minister

rohani

Iran was on the brink of an extraordinary political transformation on Saturday night after the moderate cleric Hassan Rouhani sensationally secured enough votes to succeed Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Rouhani’s victory delighted reformers who have been desperate for a return to the forefront of politics after eight acrimonious years under Ahmadinejad.

It will also lift the spirit of a nation suffering from its worst financial crisis for at least two decades as a result of the sanctions imposed by western powers in the dispute over its nuclear programme.

Rouhani, who favours a policy of political openness, as well as re-establishing relations with the west, is likely to soothe international tension. He has been described by western officials as an “experienced diplomat and politician” and “fair to deal with”.

Iran’s interior minister, Mostafa Mohammad-Najjar, announced on state television on Saturday night that 72% of 50 million eligible Iranians had voted, and Rohani had won just over the 50% of the vote required to avoid a runoff.

Rouhani, a PhD graduate from Glasgow Caledonian University and a former nuclear negotiator, has pledged to find a way out of the current stalemate over Iran’s nuclear programme, which is the cause of the sanctions crushing the economy.

Minutes after he was announced as the winner, thousands of jubilant campaigners and people across Iran poured into streets to celebrate. “Ahmadi Bye Bye”, chanted a large group in central Tehran, according to witnesses, in a reference to Ahmadinejad. Car horns were honking in larger streets in Tehran and Rouhani supporters chanted.

The Iranian currency, the rial, recovered in value against the dollar by at least 6% on Saturday. Later on Saturday night, Rouhani issued a statement on television, saying “a new season of solidarity” had begun following a result that brought “rationality and moderation” as well as “peace, stability and hope”…

The turnout for Friday’s vote was so high that polling stations stayed open for five hours longer than planned.

Speaking after casting his vote in Tehran, Khamenei had urged a mass turnout to rebut suggestions by American officials that the election enjoyed little legitimacy.

“I recently heard that someone at the US national security council said, ‘We do not accept this election in Iran’,” he said. “We don’t give a damn.”

All of the papier-mâché lovers of democracy from the UK to the US, from Cameron to Obama, have lined up to give advice. The best thing they could do – for a change – is keep their sticky fingers out of the pot of oil and natural gas that belongs to Iran and shut up for a change.

All prior blather about negotiating in good faith with Iran never came to pass. Just election-speak. Fact remains that even under the strictures of the Iranian theocracy, the turnout for the election was greater than anything Uncle Sugar has turned out in decades. A multi-party, multi-choice election unlike anything allowed in the United States.