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December 31, 2015


I think that, in the interests of keeping my blood pressure down, I'm going to focus my predictions on the upcoming election on the state and local level. There, at least, I can see some hope for an increase in sanity. In both parties. Not a guarantee, certainly, but at least some hope. I'd be interested to see how those elsewhere in the country see local (as opposed to national) politics playing out.

Anyone who would describe Jeeves as not that great is not to be trusted. But, of course, Jeeves had human intelligence far beyond any extant AI and the vast majority of people. It was somewhat wasted on its target, but robot butlers would be too.

...I just realized Munroe is referring to the old search engine "Ask Jeeves" aka ask.com, which was advertised with extravagant claims about its natural-language-parsing capability, though in truth it was worse at it than Google today. I'd completely forgotten about it.

2015 was a raging disaster.


Increased sanity in *both* parties?!?!!?? How is this happening? Are your local Republicans not going down the Tea Party/Burn It All Down path?

Dr S, California Republicans went down the rathole first. As in, by 1995 they were about where the national party was in 2010 or so. Ideological purity demands and all. So they have had longer to get smacked upside the head with the results. (Not least because this is a rather more liberal, or at least libertarian on cultural issues, state than many.)

As a result, we are starting to see Republican candidates who have actually spent time in local public office, and have some clue about what works and what doesn't. And gradually, those councilmen and mayors are working their way up.

For ecxample, we had the Mayor of Fresno running for Secretary of State last time around. She couldn't manage to overcome the party label, but she did at least manage to get the nomination. Fresno is smack in the middle of the conservative agricultural part of the state, but her views on culture-war issues were quite moderate.

Locally, we've got a Republican Assemblywoman in this seriously blue district -- that's over 60% registered Democrats. She's a fiscal conservative, but definitely liberal on social issues (pro-choice, etc.). Of course, it helped that her campaign that her opponent was an ex-statewide union president . . . and we had a nasty public transit strike a year or so before.

Baby-steps, admittedly. But hopefully straws in the wind.

The year starts nicely with the North Pole 50°C too warm and Erdogan in Turkey using Hitler as a positive example on who run a country (while talking about his plans for political 'reform').
Meanwhile Washington is thinking about new sanctions against Iran in between some new votes to repeal Obamacare (and declaring Paul Ryan a RINO traitor).

"The year starts nicely with the North Pole 50°C too warm "

I read this, but all of the temperature readings I could find Wednesday night were -20. Did it come and go?

never mind, it did come and go. Plus there are no actual readings other than the buoy readings I was looking at.



The real curiosity, to me, is that your Republican *voters* seem to have moved away from purity tests & other Tea Party behavior. How is this accomplished, when they're exposed to the same media as the GOP gets nationwide? Are they somehow less marinated in it? Less influenced?

2016 could be good for the world economy:

(2017 not so much...)

I could understand a GOP 'voter' anger. They feel (or do) 'work hard', and all they get is crappy jobs, declining wages, and economic insecurity. It's the relative standing that is all important, and white working class folks may be losing ground to those "others" (blacks, hispanics, women). That combination is simply intolerable to them.

The culture wars just add fuel to the fire.

These voters mouth the economic agenda of the GOP elite, but they never have really taken it to heart. At one time, they had good union jobs! Unions, mind you. They don't really hate on Social Security or Medicare.

Now the roof is crashing down, and they are looking for a strong leader and easy answers.

It comes as no surprise that there are those out there claiming to be that leader and have those answers.

Absent some change, these folks are destined to die angry. You can build a wall. You can maintain racial disparities, you can kick illegals and Muslims out of the country.

But their standard of living is gone and won't come back by voting for people who will simply crush workers, shrug their shoulders about globalization, and continue to cut taxes for the wealthy.

wj: Dr S, California Republicans went down the rathole first.

California leads the nation :-)

Dr. S.: ... science fiction & fantasy ... good books ...

I read Elizabeth Moon's Paksenarrion series over the holidays. Very good. A little violent, especially near the end.

Hooray for xkcd!

Well, Moon is a former Marine... :)

More and more, the really interesting things in my state are the citizen initiatives (thank you Justice Kennedy, you California boy, you, for your vote on Arizona v. Arizona). The item already qualified for the ballot is a state single-payer health insurance plan. The petition form for changes to the state's independent ethics committee has been approved. Titles have been approved for initiatives that would establish an independent redistricting commission, make voter registration much more opt-out than opt-in, and tax high-earners in order to fund a tax credit to be paid to anyone who casts a ballot in the general election. The state's big chain grocers will be pushing an initiative to allow them to sell full-strength beer and wine. Later on we'll probably get an anti-fracking initiataive.

Dr S, I think the way it happens is this. It has become abundantly clear here that being ultra-pure conservative is a way to lose state-wide elections. Repeatedly.

It's possible to keep that belief for the national party, because they haven't actually tried it with a Presidential candidate. But we've been there. And the only difference nominating a more "conservative" (read "radical reactionary") candidate makes is that the size of the loss goes up.

I used the phrase "smack upside the head" for a reason. It took election after election of losing -- and therefore getting more and more state legislation that was seriously objectionable -- before the idea got thru our thick heads.

But it is finally starting to penetrate: if you refuse to compromise, you don't get everything. You get nothing. Or less than nothing. The fanatics will never learn, of course. But those who have to live in the real world (e.g. local officials, mayors, etc.) do seem to get it.**

As for the Republican voters, they have similar experiences. They see the same national media, so their view of the ideal world may not have changed. But they do seem to be learning that, at least here in California, compromises will have to be made. They still may not like it much, but the idea has started to get through.

** Governor Brownback in Kansas points up the fact that some politicians are immune to reality, even while in office. (Although even he pushed thru a sales tax increase to plug the hole that his income tax cuts made.) But that seems to have faded here.

California's initiatives are a mixed bag. The initiative has allowed us to do some things that would have been difficult to get thru the state legislature. (That, after all, is the purpose that it was created for.)

But it has also become a way for folks with lots of money to get less desireable stuff onto the ballot. And, with a sufficiently deceptive campaign, even get it passed.

Also, some (most?) initiatives, even the good ones, have serious flaws as drawn up. But to fix those requires a whole new vote by the voters; initiative legislation cannot be amended by the legislature. The reasons why not are obvious, but it still can leave us with serious problems until the next election day when we can fix things.

On balance, I'm glad we have the option. But nobody considering it for another state should be blind to the down-sides.

Initiatives are a mixed bag everywhere. Your best point is that it's a miserable way to write statute, which generally has to be rather detailed. Colorado's system, where it's as easy to get an amendment to the constitution on the ballot as a statute, has strengths and weaknesses. On the down side, it's allowed the constitution to get larded up with all sorts of details that ought to be statutory. On the up side in more recent years, it allowed for writing things like the renewable energy requirement in very simple form -- by 2015, at least 10% of the electricity delivered by investor-owned utilities must be from a short-list of renewable sources -- and left all of the statutory details to the legislature. Which did all the things one would expect: hold hearings, negotiate with the utilities, assign all sorts of measurement and accounting responsibilities to the PUC, decide how to fund that, etc.

Like you, on balance I'm glad we have the option. Even though some of the initiated amendments made my life difficult while I was on the legislature's non-partisan staff.

The year starts nicely with the North Pole 50°C too warm

Should we talk about the weather?

Meanwhile Washington is thinking about new sanctions against Iran in between some new votes to repeal Obamacare

Should we talk about the government?

Michael Cain:

The Tabor Amendment in 1992, authored by conservative crime boss Douglas Bruce, for me, outweighs any upside of the initiative process in Colorado.

It's second only to the Jarvis tomfoolery in California in the damage category.

As I recall, the initiative movement had its roots in a grassroots conservative effort to throw sand in the wheels of government -- not some government, all government.

Conservatives aren't so hot on the idea any more, considering that liberal interests are now using the process to some effect.

As for Bruce and many anti-government conservatives, limiting taxes and shrinking government just wasn't enough.

Zero taxes and zero government were the goals.

How do we know this?


Relevant passage. His own initiative wasn't good enough for him. Of course, he hasn't paid me back yet for stealing my money when he worked IN government in various positions, including the Colorado Legislature and previously in California as a gummint prosecutor.

"Crime, trial, conviction and sentence

In 2010, Douglas Bruce was charged with money laundering, attempted bribery of a public official, and tax fraud after he was discovered to be using a small-government charity he founded to hide millions of dollars from the state taxman, pocketing interest and using the funds to further his political agenda.[10] The case went to trial during which Bruce acted as his own attorney and, after eight days of trail, on Dec 22, 2011, after only four hours of deliberation, jurors convicted Bruce on four counts.[10] On 13 February 2012 he was sentenced to two consecutive 90-day jail terms and six months of probation, during which he will have to make extensive financial disclosures to the court aimed to ensure he does not become a repeat offender. This was less than the two years of prison the District Attorney had asked for. He was also ordered to pay around $21,000 to cover the cost of prosecution and about $29,000 to cover the taxes that were owed.[11]

State Assistant Attorney General Robert Shapiro said,"Mr. Bruce, for personal, selfish and narcissistic reasons, took advantage of our charitable-giving process. He was able to cheat Colorado for the better part of a decade."[10] Douglas Bruce defiantly denounced the trial, saying without contrition, "This was the dirtiest trial I have seen in 38 years, regardless of the outcome."[10] On February 13, 2012, Denver District Judge Anne Mansfield sentenced Bruce to six months in jail and six years on probation, imposing strict conditions that will require him to disclose in detail his financial life, even allowing the government access to his personal computers.[189][190] Mansfield said she doubts Bruce will successfully complete his probation as Bruce himself would show up tardy to trial and introduced evidence by throwing documents onto the floor, the judge said. “The defendant has absolutely no regard for the rule of law. His behavior during trial was reprehensible,”Manfield said.[189][190] Assistant Attorney General Robert Shapiro said the outcome was fair, “Mr. Bruce’s life is going to be extremely transparent. That’s all we ever wanted,” he said.[189][190] Bruce remained defiant, saying, “They will be able to have my body, but they cannot have my soul,” he said.[189][190] Bruce began serving his sentence 17 February 2012."

So far, there hasn't been an initiative placed on the ballot on behalf of the taxpayers of Colorado to halt the movement of my money from my pocket to feed, cloth, and provide medical care to Douglas Bruce as he rots in jail.

He's the biggest welfare queen going. I haven't heard any conservatives in Colorado whine about Bruce's dependence on the State coffers and the theft of my tax dollars every time he opens his gob to fill it with prison food.

Grover Norquist should have it so good.

And he will some day. Sooner than he expects.

That's why Norquist loads up on the guns and ammo because he knows what's coming to him.

"Anyone who would describe Jeeves as not that great is not to be trusted. But, of course, Jeeves had human intelligence far beyond any extant AI and the vast majority of people. It was somewhat wasted on its target, but robot butlers would be too."

- Matt McIrvin

Ridiculous. Jeeves was always bailed out by Wooster.


"2016 could be good for the world economy:

(2017 not so much...)"

Ah, right-wingers screaming 'inflation!!!!!!!!1!1!1!!!!!!!111!!'

Ah, right-wingers screaming 'inflation!!!!!!!!1!1!1!!!!!!!111!!'

it's one of conservatism's traditional hymns.

The oil and mining industry in this country could use a little inflation to bail them out of their over-leveraged positions.

The fracking industry, regardless of one's opinions about the extraction method, is expensive vis a vis other extraction methods and demands higher fuel and natural gas prices to service the debt accrued from the extra capital expenditures.

The right-wing would be happy to comply given how the oil industry pays them to think so, not that they don't also try to pay off the Democrats.

The right-wing also knows that one of the surest ways to an inflationary world is War, the bigger and more expensive the better.

Thus the constant beating of the war drums.

There is one piece of "inflation" the right wing will not abide. After the past seven years of ridiculing and attempting to punish the unemployed, especially the lower class unemployed, and while conservative interest interest groups, mostly the wealthy and Wall Street have seen their remuneration for their labor exponentially inflated, now that we are reaching the lowest employment in decades and wages finally are showing a little upward movement, again for the lowest paid among us, well, now, THAT's INFLATION they will not abide.

In their minds, it's time to remove the punch bowl and get the newly employed and the newly insured and the newly paid off the employment rolls once again, mainly so the right wing can roll down their car windows and tell the unemployed to "Get A Job!"

If the poor want a job, they can volunteer with the military and fight endless and expensive wars abroad and THAT's the right-wing method of inflating a faltering economy, not that Democrats are immune to this kind of bullsh*t thinking as well.

We won't be able to increase the pay of gravediggers at Arlington and other military cemeteries, of course, because THAT would be inflationary too.

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