Ireland – “A quiet revolution has taken place”

❝ Ireland’s prime minister on Saturday hailed the culmination of “a quiet revolution” in what was once one of Europe’s most socially conservative countries after a landslide referendum vote to liberalize highly restrictive laws on abortion.

Voters in the once deeply Catholic nation backed the change by two-to-one, a far higher margin than any opinion poll in the run up to the vote had predicted, and allows the government to bring in legislation by the end of the year…

❝ No social issue had divided Ireland’s 4.8 million people as sharply as abortion, which was pushed up the political agenda by the death in 2012 of a 31-year-old Indian immigrant from a septic miscarriage after she was refused a termination.

Campaigners left flowers and candles at a large mural of the woman, Savita Halappanavar, in central Dublin. Her parents in India were quoted by the Irish Times newspaper as thanking their “brothers and sisters” in Ireland and requesting the new law be called “Savita’s law”.

Overdue, just. A profound beginning that shouldn’t be a surprise in a nation that set aside ideological crap-meisters a few years back to dedicate a disproportionate chunk of government funds to raising the educational level of the whole nation. Too bad we haven’t that kind of courage in Congress or the White House.

Ireland got expanded personal freedom. We got chump change.

Nearly three-quarters of Florida voters approve solar tax relief


AP/Alan Diaz

❝ Solar advocates finally got a win in the Sunshine State on Tuesday, as voters approved a measure to get rid of property taxes on solar equipment.

With more than 1,970,000 Floridians checking ‘yes,’ the measure, known as Amendment 4, received more support than the state’s two U.S. Senate primary winners, Marco Rubio (R) and Patrick Murphy (D), combined.

❝ It’s not surprising that the measure passed, although the overwhelming support was a morale boost for the industry, which has faced hurdles in Florida. Amendment 4 received 72 percent approval overall — and needed only 60 percent to pass…

Supporters are hoping the tax break will spur companies such as Walmart, IKEA, and Costco, which have made massive investments in solar elsewhere in the country, to install solar panels on their Florida stores. It will also allow solar leasing companies such as SolarCity to improve their margins.

❝ According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, a Washington, D.C.-based industry group, Florida has the third-most potential for solar in the country, but it is only 14th in amount of installed solar — even while installing 90 percent more solar in the past year. Massachusetts, Colorado, and North Carolina all have more installed solar.

Not that Republicans, Blue Dog Democrats and other fossil fuel pimps have given up. They still have Amendment 1 on the horizon for November.

❝ If Amendment 1 passes, it will prohibit Floridians from selling their electricity to third parties. In effect, it would do away with Floridians’ rights to lease solar panels, since, in that situation, the owner of the panels generally sells the electricity to the homeowner. Leasing solar systems has been an effective and popular way to allow homeowners to go solar without paying for the system up front…

Amendment 1 will also face a 60 percent threshold for approval, but there is expected to be a significant media campaign encouraging people to vote yes on 1.

What? You actually believe the Trumpkin crap that the owners of mass media are all lefties and liberals. Don’t kid yourself. They believe wholeheartedly in kissing the butt of corporate advertisers.

California got enough signatures to allow referendum on legalization of marijuana

Californians are set to decide whether to make recreational marijuana use legal, as other Western states have done, after the California Secretary of State’s office said on Tuesday the issue could be put to voters in the November ballot.

The proposed so-called “Adult Use of Marijuana Act,” which is supported by Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom among others, would allow people aged 21 and older to possess as much as an ounce of marijuana for private recreational use and permit personal cultivation of as many as six marijuana plants…

The measure would also establish a system to license, regulate and tax sales of marijuana, while allowing city governments to exercise local control over or disallow commercial distribution within their borders…

Opinion polls show attitudes have shifted more in favor of liberalized marijuana laws since California voters defeated a recreational cannabis initiative in 2010.

California led the way in legalizing marijuana for medical purposes in 1996, with 22 other states and the District of Columbia following suit, although cannabis remains classified as an illegal narcotic under U.S. law.

Voters in four states – Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska – plus the District of Columbia, have gone a step further since 2012 in permitting recreational use for adults. Voters in several more states will consider similar legislation in November as well.

We’ll have to see if the range of stodgy to backwards politicians here in New Mexico will allow such an opportunity. There are few places where hypocrisy so thoroughly rules a question like smoking or otherwise consuming weed. I’ve witnessed coppers chasing a suspect where neither vehicle was going faster than 25 mph! 🙂

California weed smells more like real business every day

After decades of thriving in legally hazy backyards and basements, California’s most notorious crop, marijuana, is emerging from the underground into a decidedly capitalist era.

Under a new state law, marijuana businesses will be allowed to turn a profit — which has been forbidden since 1996, when California became the first state to legalize medical cannabis — and limits on the number of plants farmers can grow will be eliminated.

The opening of the marijuana industry here to corporate dollars has caused a mad scramble, with out-of-state investors, cannabis retailers and financially struggling municipalities all racing to grab a piece of what is effectively a new industry in California: legalized, large-scale marijuana farming.

And with voters widely expected to approve recreational marijuana use in November, California, already the world’s largest legal market for marijuana, gleams with the promise of profits far beyond what pot shops and growers have seen in Washington or Colorado, the first states to approve recreational use…

Twenty-three states allow some form of legal marijuana, and up to 20 will consider ballot measures this year to further ease restrictions.

California is now making the largest effort in the country’s history to pull marijuana out of the black market. Medical marijuana sales in California hit $2.7 billion last year, accounting for nearly half of all legal marijuana sales in the country…Approval of recreational marijuana use in November could double the market here by 2020, experts said.

Legalization brings jobs and tax revenue to a state. I’m not surprised when some states with an old dope-smoking culture still drag their feet. Face it. Even stoner politicians from either of the two old parties are chickenhearted when it comes to challenging the folkways of church and 14th Century morality – no matter how out-of-date and useless.

But, as the wave of good sense sweeps across a nation sparked by a couple new generations of education and backbone – encouraged by a Great Recession the old politicians rolled over for – change has to come to social behavior whether Liberals approve or Conservatives whine.

RTFA for lots of detail. Some of it silly and irrelevant, of course.

Crimea parliament votes to join Russia – referendum to follow

The Crimean parliament has voted to join Russia, with the Ukraine region’s deputy prime minister saying the decree was effective immediately and that Russian soldiers are the only legitimate forces in Crimea.

The parliament unanimously adopted a motion on Thursday for the strategic peninsula to join the Russian Federation…

The Crimea parliament also said a referendum on the region’s status was being brought forward to from March 30 to March 16. Temirgaliev said there would be two questions on the ballot.

“The first: Are you in favor of Crimea becoming a constituent territory of the Russian Federation. The second: Are you in favor of restoring Crimea’s 1992 constitution.” According to the 1992 constitution, Crimea is part of Ukraine but has relations with Kiev.

However, Al Jazeera’s Hoda Hamid, reporting from Sevastopol, said there were serious questions about the legitimacy of the parliament and prime minister.

“The prime minister came to power arguably at gunpoint when the parliament was taken over,” she said. “Then there is a question of legitimacy in the constitution, which says parliament cannot take such a decision…”

As opposed to the democratic thumbs up or thumbs down of insurgents occupying Independence Square in Kiev which validated the current Ukrainian Parliament, eh?

The Crimea parliament, which is afforded some autonomy under current Ukrainian law, voted 78 – 0 with eight abstentions in favour of holding the referendum.

The US president, Barack Obama, meanwhile issued an executive order on Thursday saying that Russia’s involvement in Crimea constituted “an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States”.

While Putin has about the same level of moral authority in global politics as, say, Dick Cheney, he foretold occurrences like the Crimean move to regain independence from Ukraine when the UN and the US recognized Kosovo. For, regardless of the historic circumstances leading to the move for independence, the context is much the same, e.g., a single ethnicity being the majority of a region and then taking that region into secession.

Nations, even states, which prate about democracy find themselves with their nickers bunched over this question time and again. The LDS Church, American Mormons, were forced to resettle from state-to-state until they picked up and moved to faraway Utah to live their own lives. The US Constitution was ignored by their Midwestern Christian neighbors who said they had a moral imperative to keep Mormons from voting. Still, the LDS hierarchy had to revise their ideology to join the union of the United States of America. And they had no Mormon next-door neighbor to acquire their new state. Kosovo, for example, has Albania – should they so choose. Crimea has Russia.

Again and again, the motivations for secession are often grounded either in hopes for profit – so many of my nationalist friends in Scotland; freedom from ethnic suppression – La Raza in the American Southwest or the Quebecois in Canada; or truly reactionary hatred – today’s Tea Party Confederates mostly in the American South but anywhere else that harbors militia-level paranoia.

Only the egregious deny the likelihood of Crimea voting to claim full independence from Ukraine, tried previously in 1992, and rejoin Russia. Crimea returned over 70% vote for Janukovych in the last election. Their joining to Ukraine was a welfare check to Kiev, payment from the Soviet Black Sea navy. Uncle Sugar will make up that welfare check and more until – and unless – some future election involving all of Ukraine displeases Washington. When Catholic western Ukraine decides it really is Poland…and Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine prefers independence from the west.

Then, we can play the same game all over again.

In many of these nations, from Scotland to Ukraine, I have old friends and relatives on both sides of the individual questions. Depending a lot on their influence on this old brain, my own position may fluctuate. I try to stick to whatever fits within my understanding of political economy. For a more detailed relation of the history of the Balkans and everything east of the Danube, I’d suggest wandering through Ina Vukic’ blog.

Voters in Switzerland tighten executive paychecks

Swiss residents voted Sunday to impose some of the world’s most severe restrictions on executive compensation…

The vote gives shareholders of companies listed in Switzerland a binding say on the overall pay packages for executives and directors. Pension funds holding shares in a company would be obligated to take part in votes on compensation packages.

In addition, companies would no longer be allowed to give bonuses to executives joining or leaving the business, or to executives when their company was taken over. Violations could result in fines equal to up to six years of salary and a prison sentence of up to three years.

The outcome of the referendum was a triumph for Thomas Minder, an entrepreneur and member of the Swiss Parliament…who turned a personal fight against the management of Swissair, the flagship airline that collapsed in 2001, into a nationwide referendum against “rip-off merchants.”

Almost 68 percent of Swiss voters backed Mr. Minder’s proposals, according to results announced late Sunday…

Read the gory details in the article. The point remains that the best analysts gauging executive salaries deny this vote will diminish Switzerland’s business climate – in fact, encouraging investors to come in where they now have more of a voice recognized by corporate directors.

Tea Party nutballs kill project worth millions to Michigan city


Here’s the Tea Party mayor on equal rights for all Americans

Officials are already doing damage control after City Council’s vote late Monday to scrap a federally funded transit center project.

Troy Chamber of Commerce President Michele Hodges says the controversial decision is causing some fallout in the business community, which was outspoken in its support for the project. The transit center would have combined train, bus, taxi and future light rail service at a three-acre site near Maple and Coolidge…

In a private email to Hodges that went viral Tuesday, Frank W. Ervin III, the manager of government affairs for Magna International Inc., thanked the chamber president for her efforts, adding it’s disappointing that Troy’s legislators are “narrow minded when it comes to the future of Troy and the future of Southeastern Michigan.”

In the email, Ervin also informed Hodges that he plans to draft a memo to all Magna group presidents and corporate executives “strongly recommending that Magna International no longer consider the City of Troy for future site considerations, expansions or new job creation.”

He added that he’ll also recommend “that where ever and when ever possible we reduce our footprint and employment level in Troy in favor of communities who act in the best interest of both the residents and business and not simply use their public position to advance their own private agenda…”

State transportation officials have said that if Troy turned down the federal funding for the transit center, it would be reallocated to another rail project, possibly in another state…

The decision to forfeit the $8.4 million in federal funds passed by a 4-3 vote after the panel listened to about 40 residents and stakeholders share their views for and against the decade-old project…

The center was to be a regional transportation hub and would be built around Birmingham’s Amtrak line and station and provide a transfer point to SMART bus service, taxis and limousines. The facility would include a bridge, elevators, four SMART bus slips and reconfiguration of 116 parking spaces behind the Midtown Square shopping center.

Construction would have required no local or state funding. Just jobs for the folks hired to buid the project – and there would have been DOT funds to aid in hiring fulltime employees after completion in 2013.

Presumably, the citizens of Troy will have sufficient sense to kick the Kool Aid Party types off the city council before then – not that it will do much good at reviving the project months down the road.

Boycott wins – in South Korea’s first social referendum


Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

Low turnout in South Korea’s first vote on a social policy on Wednesday left in place a program in Seoul providing free lunches for 810,000 elementary and middle school students, a victory for the liberal opposition, which had urged a boycott.

Though the voting, like the lunch program, was confined to Seoul, the capital, it took on national proportions with all political parties joining the debate in a sign that, after decades of bickering over civil liberties, the economy and North Korea, they were now entering the unfamiliar field of social welfare.

Mayor Oh Se-hoon, urging more restraint in welfare spending, had asked voters to limit free lunches to only lower-income children, at an estimated savings of $100 million a year. His conservative ally, President Lee Myung-bak, supported him by joining in his denouncement of “populist welfare.” The liberal opposition urged supporters of universal free lunches not to vote, so the result would not be valid.

When the polls closed, only 25.7 percent of the city’s 9.4 million eligible voters had voted, lower than the 33.3 percent minimum for a valid result, leaving in place the broad lunch program set up in January by the opposition-dominated City Council. By law, the votes of an invalidated referendum are not counted.

“I humbly accept the voting result,” Mr. Oh said. Earlier he had vowed to resign if the proposal he backed lost.

The opposition called on Mr. Oh to immediately step down. “Because of one politician’s selfish decision,” said Lee Yong-seop, spokesman for the opposition Democratic Party, “our society had to suffer a terrible ideological conflict and social unrest.”

RTFA for the ins and outs of the discussion, of the considerations forced on voters because of beancounter politicians who wanted to save money by exaggerating class differences.

Sound familiar?

Berlusconi humiliated by voters in Milan and Naples


Voters in Milan say goodbye to Berlusconi’s candidate, Letizia Moratti
Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

Italy’s prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, suffered a humiliating and politically ominous defeat in his home city of Milan on Monday when his party’s choice for mayor, Letizia Moratti, was ousted in a runoff by a local leftwing lawyer, Giuliano Pisapia.

There was yet more bad news for the right in Naples where the candidate of the fiercely anti-Berlusconi Italy of Principles party, Luigi De Magistris, stormed home with more than 65% of the votes…

Milan was one of 90 towns and cities where runoffs were held after clear winners failed to emerge from the first round of voting on 15 and 16 May.

The contest there was by far the most important. Milan is the city from which Italy’s flamboyant prime minister launched his political career, 17 years ago. It is also the city in which he is on trial for a range of alleged financial and sex-related offences. And, not least, it is the stronghold of his key allies in the populist, Islamophobic Northern League…

Berlusconi tried to turn the ballot into a vote of confidence on his private life and his government. The results suggested that was a disastrous error of judgment…

The left’s victory was all the more remarkable, since its candidate was not the choice of the mainstream Democratic party but one whose past is tinged with radicalism. Pisapia, who once defended the Kurdish separatist leader Abdullah Ocalan, was elected to parliament in the 1990s as an independent on the slate of the hardline Communist Refoundation party.

His initial sponsor in the mayoral race was the Left, Ecology and Freedom party, which is led by the gay, formerly communist governor of Puglia, Nichi Vendola.

All the people Berlusconi loved to hate + ordinary citizens of Italy = kick this sleazy, corrupt, baronet of right-wing politics out on his wrinkly butt.