Italian referendum could trigger resignation of Prime Minister Renzi and follow on banking crisis.

This Sunday the Italian people vote on a referendum to restructure the constitution to diminish the power of the regional governments and the Senate and “modernize” Italian governing structures. Mr. Renzi has made victory in the referendum a personal goal and there is worry that should the opposition parties who oppose these changes win then he might resign triggering new elections in which the populist and left parties who oppose bank bailouts will come to power triggering a banking crisis in some already very vulnerable mid size and larger banks. These banks according to the European press and the FT are overextended in bad loans and are suffering from low profits such that their loan liabilities far exceed their equity and asset base. The result could be a cascading crisis that will shake the Euro, the financial markets and require intervention from the ECB. So there is plenty to worry about from Donald Trump withdrawing from NAFTA,to Brexit, to Le Pen and now possibly Italy.Some of the criticism of the constitutional changes being proposed are that it undermines regional autonomy, is antidemocratic because it largely abolishes the influence and powers of the senate and it over centralizes power in the office of the prime minister and it was adopted by the governing party without an effort at building a consensus. Given these criticisms it is by no means certain that the referendum will pass.

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François Fillon right wing austerian Republican defeats centrist Alain Juppé in party presidential primary in France 67% to 33 %

The die is now cast in the Republican opposition party in France . François Fillon ran on a budget slashing austerity program and defeated Alain Juppé decisively for the party presidential candidature. The election will be next year and the ultra right National leader Marine Le
Pen is heavily favoured to be one of the candidates who reaches the final round. The conventional wisdom is that Fillon is a stronger opponent to Le Pen because of his Thatcherist politics. The current polls suggest he will defeat Le Pen. But I worry about that and the popularity of his slash and burn approach to government spending. . Le Pen is quite capable of running a populist platform emphasizing both anti-immigrant policies and re-employment strategies designed to focus on working class and middle class resentment a la the rust belt rebellion in the US and Brexit in the U.K. The Left at the moment is running well behind the conservative parties and as usual is not united around a single candidate. This may turn out to be a fateful error. The current polls show Prime Minister Manuel Valls defeating Le Pen. But François Hollande does not. The first round is in late April. Spring may well bring unpleasant surprises in France.

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Fidel Castro Has Died. Born August 13, 1926 he was an Heroic Figure to some an authoritarian Caudillo to others but also a major figure on the world stage for 60 years.

The whole history of Latin America in particular and the cold war in general bears the imprint of Fidel Castro’s influence. Canada despite clear ideological differences over democracy, freedom of speech and human rights was a friend of Cuba and will continue to be so even if American policy shifts away from the the lessening of tensions promoted by President Obama. Many Canadians have visited the island and brought back warm memories of their stay, particularly in Québec. That is not likely to change. At the same time we were often disappointed that Cuba under Castro did not free political prisoners, persecuted gay people and generally behaved too frequently in an authoritarian way. One of our most popular prime ministers Pierre Elliott Trudeau visited Cuba with his family and became very friendly with Fidel and despite American pressure and the embargo established an independent Canadian policy with respect to Cuba and Latin America in general. Many anti Castro Cuban Americans who live in Florida and elsewhere in the United States today would like compensation paid to them for properties and assets they lost to the Cuban Revolution. This is understandable and in the coming years these disputes might be resolved. But for now many Cubans will be grieving the death of Fidel Castro and wondering what the future will bring.

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Jill Stein raises cash to finance recount in Michigan,Wisconsin and Pennsylvania where vote is very close and computer scientists and analysts worry vote tampering might have occurred.

There is a fundraising campaign underway to raise 2.5 million dollars to finance a recount in three key battleground states with a total of 46 electoral college votes. The Green party chief Dr.Jill Stein has already raised 1.9 million $ and appears well on her way to achieving her goal by Friday when she must file a formal request for a recount. Computer scientists at the University of Michigan including the director of the University of Michigan Center for computer security and society have raised the possibility of hacking into the computers that were used in some of the states to tabulate the vote and have observed a possible anomaly where counties that used electronic voting recorded 7% fewer votes for Mrs Clinton than areas where paper ballots and optical scanners were used.
It is possible that this variance in the vote simply coincidently reflects a common demographic pattern but it does seem to suggest further analysis and examination of the vote is needed to validate the results. The computer scientist at the University of Michigan, J.Alex Halderman has suggested in a statement released to the press that the electronic voting machines being used in some areas were in fact vulnerable to being hacked and might have been programmed to alter the actual vote. So it would be prudent in these states where the vote was very close to re-examine the vote and ensure that there were no hacks made. This will be an unresolved controversy unless a recount clears the air.The margin of difference at the moment in Michigan is some 9528 votes, in Wisconsin 22,525 votes and 69,741 votes in Pennsylvania. A shift in as few as 51000 votes from Trump to Clinton after a recount distributed appropriately among the three states could make Hillary Clinton and not Donald Trump the appropriate President elect.

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Hillary wins the popular vote but Trump wins the electoral college and the Presidency: Shocking surprise outcome for most Americans and observers

Well forgive me if I state ‘I told you so” but as I was not shocked by the result in the Presidential election. I knew a close race and a narrow Trump victory was a definite possibility. Indeed, I wrote about it several times on this website over the past few weeks.I knew that if one properly interpreted the polls,understood that with all polls there is a confidence interval where typically one time out of twenty the poll result is absolutely wrong outside the margin of error, their methodological problems where they use on line panels, and was aware of how the media misunderstood them and polling in general,the race was open to either side to win.I was surprised however that Trump won Pennsylvania.
Also apart from the polls there was the political reality that many people in the US electorate were highly open to a populist message on the unfair and uneven distribution of benefits and costs that flowed from the centrist globalization strategy that coupled with a heavy dose of identity politics dominated the political discourse of the establishment. By disparaging the politically incorrect and pushing their agenda in the culture wars further and faster than need be they risked a backlash.

One must never forget the lessons of Weimar and the deep seated psychological needs of mass public opinion which makes a large chunk of the population always susceptible to a populist right wing nationalist appeal, particularly when times are tough. Hillary Clinton’s team appeared to privilege identity politics and character issues over economic issues at a time when economic issues were still very front and centre after the crash of 2008.

In addition it has to be said Hillary Clinton narrowly won the popular vote. Donald Trump finished a close second with over 200,000 fewer votes out of the 123 million votes cast.(As of Nov.23, the gap has grown to over 2 million votes fewer , see below) But because of the archaic institution of the electoral college for the second time in the past sixty years the second place finisher won the presidency.Donald Trump was gracious in victory and seemed to me to be more humble than usual as the realization of the monumental achievement he and his supporters had wrought began to dawn on him. He made what I hope was a sincere invitation to all Americans, no matter whether they had voted for him or not to favour him with their advice and suggestions . I hope Americans take him at his word and he and his opponents can leave behind the divisive rancor of the campaign.
If Mr Trump is serious about rebuilding America’s infrastructure and restoring more prosperity and fairer trade then he should be encouraged. The proposal of Mrs.Clinton was too small given the size of the American economy. The program needs to be much larger. President Obama accomplished many good things and the American economy was slowly healing under his leadership. Mr Trump can accelerate those developments with the proper mix of monetary and fiscal policy and QE and trade reforms.Let us hope that is where he focuses his attention. In Canada we shall have to pay very close attention and adjust our trade and employment and infrastructure strategy accordingly.

As of November 13 Hillary Clinton leads the popular vote count by over 750,000 votes with still more votes to be counted in California, Washington and New York . Clinton has 61,389,633 votes to Trump’s 60,626,853 votes so far counted. The Libertarians, Greens and other candidates have a total of 6,693,023 votes.source David Wasserman@Redistrict, Cook Political Report

Update on popular vote count: As of November 22,2016 the vote count shows a 1.7 million vote advantage for Hillary Clinton.She has 63,759,985 votes . Donald Trump 62,005,118 votes. Others have 7,087,495 votes. It appears that she lost Michigan by 11,712 votes, Wisconsin by 27,257 votes and Pennsylvania by 67,952 votes. She won 48.0% of overall votes. Trump 46.7% others 5.3% . That margin was however reversed in the 13 swing states that decided the election in the electoral college. In these states Trump got 48.5 % Clinton 46.6 % others 4.9 %. In the non swing states she got 48.7 % , Trump 45.7 % and others 5.5% Source: David Wasserman@Redistrict, Cook political report.

Update Nov. 23, 2016 As of today Hillary Clinton has a lead of over 2 million votes over Donald Trump in the popular vote. She has 64,227,373 votes .He has 62,212,752 votes and the gap in Michigan has now narrowed to just 9528 votes in Trump’s favour.The gap in Wisconsin has also narrowed to 22,525 votes but widened to 69,741 votes in Pennsylvania.

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An American Tradition:Dixville Notch votes at midnight. Results announced shortly thereafter

An endearing American tradition will take place again in the tiny Hamlet of Dixville Notch New Hampshire at midnight. The Presidential election polls will open at midnight and the votes will be counted shortly thereafter, since only 12 people live in the northern New Hampshire hamlet located 20 miles from the Canadian border.In the primaries Sanders got four votes, Kasich got 3 votes Trump received 2 votes. So it would seem likely that Clinton will receive more votes than Trump this time. We shall know in the next hour who takes the early lead in the American election ! According to local officials there are one registered Democrat, three registered Republicans and three registered Independents in Dixville Notch this election.We shall see if the early signal indicates Hillary or Trump or one of the two Independents.Two other small towns Hart’s Location and Millsfield will join with Dixville Notch in opening their polling stations at midnight.

The Results Hillary Clinton 4 votes
Donald Trump 2
Gary Johnson 1
Mitt Romney 1

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Potentially a tie despite the gap in the national polls: state by state polls suggest a very close race

The latest state by state polling results in the US presidential race suggest that on the eve of the election there is a plausible scenario which would result in one toss up state determining the election or even more extraordinary there would be a tie throwing the election to the House of Representatives.If we divide up the toss-up states that is those where the difference in the polls is under 5 % as follows :Trump wins North Carolina 15 electoral college votes; Florida 29; Maine district 2 1; Iowa 6; Ohio 18; Arizona 11; Georgia 16; His total incuding all the safe states is 260 electoral college votes. Hillary wins New Hampshire 4; Nevada 6; Pennsylvania 20; New Mexico 5; Maine statewide 2;District one ,1 ;Michigan 16; Virginia 13; for a total including Democrat safe states of 269 electoral college votes. Only the state of Colorado remains with 9 electoral college votes which if Trump wins the two candidates will be tied at 269 votes each ! This is only one scenario but its a plausible one and it indicates how close the election may be.

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