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Italy: 60/40

The exit polls on the Italian Constitutional Referendum are showing the Yes side of PM Matteo Renzi losing bigly. 60% No, 40% Yes.

Popular anger at everything from the Euro to unfettered African and Middle Eastern migration on to the perpetually sketchy Italian economy all came into the mix. However, having followed the campaign a bit, my sense is that this is a purely populist reaction against the perceived globalist elite. Renzi was appointed – not elected – to office a couple of years ago. Whatever his politics he was seen as a tool of a technocratic, Europhile elite and, as such, when the people had the opportunity to voice their displeasure they took it.

This does not finish the EU. It will take the election of M. LePen to accomplish that; but it does signal a large scale rejection of the centralizing impulse which drives the EU. I expect there will be a fair dose of commentary linking Brexit, Trump and the defiance of the Italians. I doubt that there was much of a link other than the growing realization that the current situation of mass migration, unbalanced budgets and growing governmental interference with people’s lives is unsustainable.

The Italians are having to deal with a wave of African and Middle Eastern migration which they do not want and cannot afford. Their government seems hell bent on spending money it does not have to rescue, feed and house these migrants. Elites, imbued with an internationalist, multicultural orthodoxy, can’t imagine why their citizens are looking askance at migrants who are better treated than the Italians themselves. Unwanted migration is not the only reason for anger but it is the most visible.

The divergence between elite and popular opinion on the question of migration is the fulcrum of anger which is grinding away the pretensions of elite opinion. “Italy for the Italians!” can no longer be dismissed as irrelevant racist cant. Rather, it will begin to inform the actions of any government which hopes to rule Italy.

Today’s Italian vote may well signal the beginning of serious Italian nationalism.

As a general rule elites and Europhiles decry nationalism because they are convinced that that nationalism will set European state against European state a la WWI and II. I don’t think it will. Rather I think the nationalism will set the dominant European culture against the Muslim and/or African migrants/colonists flooding the borders. In the process that nationalism will start rooting out the now discredited ideology of multi-culturalism. In which case, today’s vote was a victory for Italy and the idea that Italian culture is worth defending.

The major loser in all of this is the EU. For the EU the idea of “Italian” was somehow to be submerged into the idea of “European”. The problem was that “European” was not very attractive as it gradually descended into unswerving support for unlimited migration, politically correct multi-culturalism and a deep belief that bureaucrats could make better decisions than Italians about how Italians lived and worked. 16 years of economic stagnation in the Euro strongly suggests that Brussels adds very little to the Italian mix.

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Drugs

fentanyl, marijuanaOver at Small Dead Animals there is a post on “The New Normal” in Vancouver. Kate didn’t post it but the chap who did seems to want to throw pot shops and fentanyl into the same “end of the world” bucket. I commented:

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I just published a book on Starting and Running a Marijuana Dispensary or Pot Shop (http://amzn.to/2g3Oqn4) I looked hard and could find next to no serious scientific evidence as to the medical efficacy of pot. Even the anecdotal material was pretty useless as it rarely dealt with dosage. Medical pot is, generally, a wedge issue to open the gates of legalization. And it worked.

The dispensary/pot shop movement is very strong in Vancouver and Victoria with the municipal governments on board and the police and Crowns uninterested in prosecuting offences concerning what is still an illegal drug. In other jurisdictions there is more of an appetite for prohibition.

Which way the federal government is going to jump will become clearer when the McClellan Task Force reports. This could be as soon as next week. My bet is that Canada will have legalized and heavily regulated recreational marijuana using a “top down” model and attempting to eliminate the grey market. Not, by the way, because this is good policy; rather because the multi-million dollar, publically listed, legal marijuana growing industry has been lobbying hard to put the competitive dispensaries out of business.

The fentanyl driven overdose epidemic is a whole other story. It is not confined to the meaner streets of the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver. In my little Lake Cowichan community, two people have died in the last few months. Nor is it confined to injectable drugs – apparently fentanyl is turning up in cocaine with fatal and near-fatal consequences.

Fentanyl is dangerous enough, and cheap enough, that it will kill a lot of people in the next few years. Some of those people will be the down and outs of the DTES who, for some reason, people on SDA seem willing to write off as losers who made “bad choices”. It is certainly a position but it is hardly a moral position or a Christian one.

However, unfortunately, the people who are “trying to help” at Insite and the pop-up injection sites, are not willing to face the fact that nothing that they are doing is more than a strategy of postponement. They are unwilling to accept that addiction left untreated will kill eventually. Getting addicts through “a day at a time” is an expensive and almost certainly doomed approach.

There is a tendency to malign “do-gooders” but, unfortunately, for the wrong reasons. The biggest error of the “do gooders” lies in the fact they believe that they should treat addicts as autonomous, adult, agents with all of the rights of functional citizens. The police, social services, the justice system all buy into this view and, frankly, it is not working.

To actually “do good” systems and legal mechanisms and funding have to be put in place to remove these people from the toxic environment in which they live their addiction, place them in involuntary care, treat the addiction and monitor the recovery – often for years at a time. Facing that nasty reality is, apparently, harder than watching addict after addict overdose and, eventually, die.

A serious program of involuntary care is one side of the equation. The other side is to prosecute dealers and suppliers who adulterate the drugs they are selling. Basically, create a new offence of “adulteration” and put in a 15 year mandatory minimum sentence. Have as part of the offence “provision of adulterating substances” with the same sentence. And, just to make the point clear, set this as a “strict liability” offence so that the defence “but I didn’t know it was fentanyl” is unavailable.

The marijuana ship has sailed. It is a colossal waste of time to whine about legalization although how legalization occurs in Canada might be worth paying attention to.

The question of what to do about harder, more deadly, drugs needs serious re-examination. What we are doing now is not working. It is killing people and safe injection sites are a band aid at best.

That’s where my comment ended. The idea that addicts might be subject to compulsory treatment seems, at first and second glance, profoundly anti-libertarian. However, we have very little difficulty in requiring the mentally ill, after appropriate medical certification, to be confined and treated if they are deemed to pose a threat “to themselves or others.” A position we justify because we believe that at a certain level of cognitive impairment, an individual loses agency. They are no longer functionally responsible for themselves.

I think much the same argument can be made about addicts. While there are certainly addicts who are very good at managing their addiction and the rest of their lives, there are also addicts who are simply incapacitated. It is a determination which can and should be made by doctors and tested before a judge before any compulsory order is made. And such an order should be routinely reviewed.

The infrastructure to treat addiction is pretty piecemeal in Canada. There are a few public beds, a few secure facilities (mainly for alcohol issues) and a significant, for profit, sector. To treat addiction seriously would require big commitments at both the federal and provincial levels.

Might be a good idea to earmark the revenue from recreational pot – as much as a couple of billion a year – to getting the addiction rehab initiative underway.

She Skates?

Grrrr….

There is just so much wrong with this: http://nypost.com/2016/11/22/trump-wont-pursue-charges-against-clinton/

First off, it is not Trump’s decision to make. The basic principle is that the Attorney General makes the call as to whether and when to appoint a special prosecutor. That is designed to prevent politics from getting in the way of the operation of law.

Second, sending your ex-campaign manager off to deliver the news is entirely wrong. If you are serious you need to appear serious. Either Sessions or Trump himself should have dropped this particular bomb. Coming from Kerryanne Conway it is not in the least clear what, in fact, was decided. Does this mean there will be no investigation ever? Or is it the current view of the incoming administration subject to revision in the light of new evidence. Does it just include Hilly or does the “stay” include the Clinton Foundation, Huma, Cheryl Mills and so on?

Third, what does it say about the idea of the rule of law? It is all very well to talk about “healing” but not at the expense of having a justice system which operates differently for elite players.

I completely understand the impulse to be gracious in victory and to avoid even the appearance of trying to jail your political opponent. At that level it is a political decision and one which might be defended at a political level. However, at a process level and a legal level, this is exactly the sort of seat of the pants decision making which creates contempt for the Office of the Presidency.

Not smart Trump, not smart at all.

UPDATE: 

“I’m not looking to go back through this,” he explained to reporters at the New York Timesoffices on Tuesday.

When asked if he was taking prosecution off of the table, Trump said “no,” but he appeared eager to move on.

“My inclination would be for whatever power I have on the matter is to say let’s go forward,” he said. “This has been looked at for so long, ad nauseum.“

Trump argued against prosecuting the Clintons, suggesting that it would be better for the country and his administration if they moved on.

“I think it would be very, very divisive for the country,” he said. breitbart

That leaves the door open but it is still a lousy way to deal with a question of law. Nice as it is for Trump to have an “inclination” the correct way to proceed is to leave the door wide open until Sessions is confirmed by the Senate and has conduct of the file(s).

Part of the reason for electing Trump was to restore some semblance of the rule of law and respect for process. Short cutting that process is not helping.

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Press Out

By convention the major news networks and several newspapers and organizations form the White House Press Corps replete with office space in the West Wing and daily press briefings from the “Press Secretary”. This convention goes back to the end of the 19th century and has become more formalized with the passage of time.

Need it continue?

I think it is fair to say that the establishment media in the US has been universally hostile to President Elect Trump. Editorially that would be one thing, but it is pretty clear that the reporters and opinion columnists (and is there really a difference any more?) can’t stand Trump. And Trump cordially returns the favour calling out dishonest reporters and what he sees as biased coverage.

Perhaps it is time for there to be a bit of distance between the President and the Press. Physical distance. Setting up a briefing room and offices for the Press Corps in a basement at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building across the street from the White House would make clear the Press Corps’ status in a Trump Presidency. And a weekly rather than daily briefing would be more than sufficent to cover the routine matters an Administration has to announce. Yes, the media would howl. But so what?

At the moment Trump can get any coverage he wants or needs when he wants or needs it from any number of non-traditional media outlets. Breitbart, Daily Caller, Drudge…Hell, the Daily Mail does a better and less biased job of covering Trump than the US mainstream media.

“Draining the swamp” means more than kicking the lobbyists out of government, it also means breaking up the media cabal which has enabled the swamp to fill up in the first place. Dumping the Press Corps into a basement half a mile from the center of power will make their actual importance very clear.

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Steve Bannon

The defeated left is going all in on Breitbart’s (and soon the White House’s) Steve Bannon.

The smears are as fact free as they are nasty and it is a direct and simple challenge to Trump. People like Harry Reid and Elizabeth Warren are slagging Bannon and threatening not to co-operate (as if) with Trump.

So now Trump gets to decide: keep Steve or underbus him in the face of a determined lefty smear. I think it is an easy decision; but it will also be a telling one. If Trump backs his pick he wins bigly, if he waivers, even slightly, he will have created a huge problem for himself and his Presidency. We should know how this turns out by the weekend.

If you want to read what this notorious “anti-Semite” and “racist” and white supremacist thinks go read his remarks to a Vatican conference on poverty.

https://www.buzzfeed.com/lesterfeder/this-is-how-steve-bannon-sees-the-entire-world?utm_term=.jgq2dB2Wq#.tw3ywEyX5

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A Week Later

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About this time a week ago most people thought Hilly had the election in the bag and were resigned to four years of, at best, uninspired American Presidential leadership. While very few people were enthusiastic about Hilly there was a sense of inevitability about her.

And then it happened. The polls were, largely, wrong. Trump managed an upset for the ages and we now have President Elect Trump.

Several million words of analysis later we discover a couple of things. First, as I suspected, black voters did not turn out for the nice white lady in the same numbers as they had for Obama. I can’t help but think this was baked in and should have been reflected in the turnout models the polling people use. But, apparently, it wasn’t. Second, deplorables showed up and voted. Again, not surprising. Third, these two factors put states into play which the HRC campaign – pathetic as it was – believed were locks for Clinton. Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Michigan(!) all jumped to Trump. Not by much but by enough.

It turned out that the scare mongering about Trump – which, realistically, was all the HRC campaign had – played great in New York City and coastal California, but it didn’t pull many votes. Turnout, overall, was down.

This left mainstream media and the pollsters it relied on looking deeply dumb. The major newspapers and networks did not even try to conceal their support for Clinton and their contempt for Trump and his voters. While Hilly can shamble off the national stage to her well-deserved obscurity (and one hopes indictment and conviction), MSM has to show up for work knowing that it managed to get the 2016 election entirely and completely wrong.

There are, of course, assorted post-election melt downs. Apparently, a small but vocal subset of university students need grief counselling and another sub-set of alleged Hilly supporters think that roaming the streets with baseball bats will make a difference. #notmypresident had its moment and sunk.

Now the left is, rather predictably, making unsupported claims about Trump being surrounded by racist/fascist/anti-Semitic/homophobic/islamophobic/misogynists. Eviltons to a man. I suspect this will go on for a while as Trump appoints people whose positions are not congruent with the pernicious political correctness which has characterized the Obama years.  The very idea that conservatives and people on the right may be part of a Trump administration seems difficult, if not impossible, for lefty commentators to accept. I suspect Trump does not care.

Trump, and the Republican Party which took both House and Senate, has received a “change” mandate. He set out policies from immigration reform to calling out the Global Warming hoax which represent a clear break from business as usual. Not only was he elected but Republicans in their droves were elected too. Now the question is will they deliver?

At this moment Trump has the wind at his back and the enormous reservoir of goodwill an incoming President always begins with. We all know that goodwill dissipates very quickly, but if Trump can work out an agenda with Congress he may be able to get a great deal done very quickly.

Of course, the Europeans are freaking out. But this is not a surprise and not really important. Putin is showing willing, the Chinese are proffering olive branches and the rest of the world seems willing to wait and see. Right now Trump can, simply by being friendly, drain a good deal of the venom which has built up over the years of incompetent Obama administration foreign policy.

The single biggest thing Trump has going for him at the moment is the ignorant contempt of the mainstream media, the left and many foreign “leaders”. By casting Trump as a Yahoo, a buffoon, they set the bar very low for Trump success. It is not that these people underestimate Trump, it is that they don’t estimate him at all preferring to cling to a caricature. This gives Trump a huge advantage.

Now we’ll see how he uses that advantage.

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What does Comey know?

11 days before the General John Comey announces to Congress that there have been emails turned up in another investigation (Weiner’s sexting a 15 year old apparently attracted FBI attention) which “appear to be pertinent to the investigation.” of HRC’s private server.

Comey is not an idiot. If these were emails about yoga arrangements even if they came off the Clinton private server, he would not decide to continue an investigation he effectively, if incorrectly, ended a couple of months ago.

Realistically, these have to be significant. Exactly how significant will emerge as the investigation progresses; but I suspect they are significant enough that:

  • the investigating agents could make a clear case that they might change Comey’s earlier conclusion
  • that if further investigation was not triggered and the emails came out the FBI would be deeply compromised – even more deeply than when Comey took his dive
  • there was no way that they would not be coming out

Comey is an experienced Washington insider. He is not going to launch a torpedo at the good ship HRC 11 days before the Election unless he absolutely has to.

All of which leads me to conclude that whatever the FBI found on Weiner and Huma’s devices is utterly and irrefutably damning. Or it could be wedding planning. Sure it could.

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Preference Cascade

A few months ago I wrote that I believed that the American Presidential election would be a landslide but I was unsure which side of the mountain was coming down. Wiki-leaks hurt Hillary by exposing the sheer cynicism and routine corruption of Clintonland; but Trump talked about groping women a decade ago so the big guns of the media ignored Wikileaks and concentrated fire on Trump’s sex life.

But today the first boulder of the landslide came crashing down the mountain:

The FBI will investigate whether additional classified material is contained in emails sent using Hillary Clinton’s private email server while she was sectretary of state, FBI director James Comey informed Congressional leaders Friday.

The announcement appears to restart the FBI’s probe of Clinton’s server, which previously ended in July with no charges. The explosive announcement, coming less than two weeks before the presidential election, could reshape a campaign in that Clinton, the Democratic nominee, had been leading in public polls.

In a letter to congressional leaders, Comey said that the FBI had, in connection with an “unrelated case,” recently “learned of the existence of emails that appear to be pertinent to the Clinton investigation.”

Comey wrote that he had been briefed on the new material Thursday. “I agreed that the FBI should take appropriate investigative steps designed to allow investigators to review these emails to determine whether they contain classified information, as well as to assess their importance to our investigation,” he wrote. washington post

Two weeks to election day the FBI re-opens its investigation into Hilly. That is something the MSM cannot suppress and it is something that the average voter can take onboard.

Politically the minutia of Wiki-Leaks was gaining traction but, realistically, probably too slowly to reverse Hilly’s momentum. Trump – contrary to the consensus polling – was, in my view keeping the election close. But he was not able to break through and start running up the score in the states he needs to win. The FBI re-opening its investigation will knock the HRC campaign back on its heels. Now Trump’s far greater positive appeal has a chance to create a genuine landslide.

 

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Legitimacy

In the Canadian political system the Prime Minister is the leader of the party which can muster a majority in the House of Commons. The members of that House are elected by paper ballots in 338 constituencies and a plurality of votes in each constituency elects. There are lots of procedural things about Writs and Returns of Writs but that is the basic structure. To vote you need to identify yourself “show one piece of government-issued identification with your photo, name and current address; show one piece of identification with your name and a second one with both your name and address; or, show two pieces of identification with your name and have someone you know attest to your identity.” You have to be 18 and you have to be a Canadian citizen.

It is a remarkably simple system and, of course, the Liberals are thinking of screwing it up with “electoral reform” but even then the basics of paper ballot voting and voter ID are not going to change. And Canadian Federal elections are governed by the Canadian Federal Government. The rules are the same across the country.

Our American cousins have a rather different system for running elections.Or, realistically, they have 50 different systems run by 50 different states with an added layer of potential complexity in the form of the Electoral College which actually elects the President but has no other role in government.

In each of those fifty systems the ID requirements are different. You have to be an American citizen, be 18 or over and meet the residency requirements of the state in which you are voting. The ballots in every state are different: some are paper, some are electronic.

To add a little confusion, not only are Americans voting for their President they are also voting for a Representative, perhaps a Senator, State Officials, Judges, ballot measures and even municipal issues. (Here is a sample ballot for an address in San Francisco.)It is little wonder that every election there are polling stations which are overwhelmed, ballots which are spoiled and a certain sense of barely controlled chaos. But it is all wonderfully democratic.

In Canada there are election lawyers but not very many and they mainly deal with issues going to the very stringent election financing rules which we have. There are, occasionally, recounts in particular ridings. In 2011 there were 6 judicial recounts. Non-judicial recounts are triggered automatically in really tight races and it is open to any citizen to file a complaint alleging electoral fraud which does happen once in a while.

In the US there is a large, active and litigious election bar. Flocks of lawyers monitor the activities of the state election officers and are primed to pounce on irregularities. Not for nothing did the term “hanging chad” enter our vocabulary in the wake of the 2000 contest between Bush and Gore.

There is a long and rich history of voting and election fraud in America with the delivery of the 1960 Election to JFK by Richard Daley’s Chicago machine as, perhaps, the most notable case.

Any Presidential candidate needs to be aware of that history and be prepared to act where fraud is apparent. Trump has kept that option open as has Hilly. But, as the expression goes, “if it isn’t close, they can’t cheat”. But what if it is?

The flocks of hungry election lawyers take wing at the merest hint of impropriety and engage the Courts in a determination of which ballots count and which don’t. It is not efficient but it does ensure a level of scrutiny. Yes, the evil George Soros and his flying monkeys may try to tamper with voting machines and, on the night of the election, fake results might make it into the tallies. But they are unlikely to last there very long.

Widespread systemic voting fraud is not impossible; rather it is almost impossible to conceal. American elections are deeply public events held in public places, monitored by people appointed by both parties. Anomalies are likely to be detected and reported. Not every anomaly but enough that a concerted campaign of reanimating the dead for electoral purposes or bussing large numbers of people across state lines to vote a second time will likely show up.

One of the strengths of the American Presidential election system lies in its diversity. Assume that the fix is in in Chicago – the dead vote, voters are able to vote several times – and Hillary wins a tremendous victory. Big enough that she takes the Illinois Electoral college votes just like JFK did 56 years ago. That one state is only 20 of the 270 EC votes she needs to win.

The legitimacy of the winner of the American Presidential election rests only partially on how “true” the vote actually is. Even if a JFK sized fraud could be hung around the neck of one of the candidates, that would not likely be enough to destroy their claim to office if they had won convincingly in other states where no fraud could be proven. This is particularly true if the EC votes from the state where the fraud occurred were surplus to the 270 needed to win in the EC.

Where it gets dicey – and where people like Al Gore and his supporters – can maintain an election is “stolen” and therefore the winning Presidential candidate is illegitimate, is when the overall election is very, very close. In 2000 Gore won the popular vote outright. He lost in the Electoral College by 5 votes and then because the Supreme Court of the United States stayed a recount in Florida. My lefty friends never ceased to say that Bush had stolen the election and was “selected” not elected.

Whatever one may think of Al Gore, and I think very little of the man, the fact was that he had a perfectly good reason to contest the 2000 election. The fact that he lost in the Supreme Court in no way detracts from the position he took in the face of real uncertainty. But once the Supreme Court had made its decision, legally, the matter was closed.

A President’s legitimacy is only partially derived from an electoral victory. That victory has to be inside the bounds of the law. Was did Bush outlawyer Gore? Possibly, but Gore was represented by a brilliant legal team led by David Boies.

In fact, ultimately, Gore chose to stand down his legal team notwithstanding the SCOTUS leaving the door open for further legal action in Florida. Perhaps he did not like his legal chances, or perhaps he realized that the Presidency itself would be undermined if he persisted.

Trump is fully entitled to say that the 2016 election is rigged – there is no doubt that the old school media hates him and is protecting Hillary  by suppressing the vast weight of evidence of her corruption – but that is not the same as saying its eventual winner lacks legitimacy as the next President. Even provable cases of voter fraud on a relatively small scale, while certainly evidence of just how nasty the Democratic machine and its creature are, does not undermine the legitimacy of the next Presidency. Nor would hard evidence that Putin personally hacked John Podesta’s email account sound as de-legitimating a Trump victory.

To lose legitimacy a candidate and a campaign would have to a) win, b) by a tiny amount that c) could be proven conclusively to have come about by fraud or other illegal means. And that fraud would have to be really, really, really clear: a confection of exit polls deviating from actual results is not, in my view, going to be enough.

However, all that said, if I was running the Trump campaign I would encourage all my voters to wear red on Election Day. If there are as many as Trump says there are, and there is every chance that he’s right, an ocean of red will be hard to ignore and harder to disenfranchise through fraud.

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Healthy as a Horse

Nice to see concerned staffers sending Hilly information on Provigil…anti-narcolepsy, off label for Parkinsons. https://wikileaks.org/clinton-emails/emailid/25404

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