David Fuller and Eoin Treacy's Comment of the Day
Category - General

    Hillary Clinton has enough electoral Votes to Win the White House in final Fix map

    The presidential election ends — we hope! — Tuesday.

    Below we offer our last ratings of the race, our look at the truly competitive states on the eve of this most unpredictable of elections. While we are moving two states in Donald Trump’s direction on this second-to-last day of the campaign, the overall map still clearly favors Hillary Clinton: She has 275 electoral votes solidly or leaning her way — five more than she needs to win the White House on Tuesday night. In fact, even if Trump holds all of the states either solidly or leaning his way and wins all three states currently rated as “toss-ups,” he is still seven electoral votes short of 270.

    Our big change on the eve of the election is to move North Carolina from “lean Democratic” back to “toss-up.” From mid-September to mid-October, Clinton led in 19 of the 20 polls conducted in the state. But, of the nine most recent polls, four show Clinton ahead, three show Trump in the lead and two project a tie. Trump has a 1.4 percent edge in the RealClearPolitics polling average.

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    The Upside of Russian Interference

    Figures on both the left, such as journalist Glenn Greenwald, and the pro-Trump right, such as the Republican nominee's friend Roger Stone, have spoken of a "new McCarthyism."

    I'm not ready to subscribe to that notion yet, if only because, as a Russian citizen, I am not merely able to work for a mainstream U.S. news organization: I've been welcomed by the many Americans I have interviewed while covering this campaign. These span a political spectrum from fiery progressive Liz Garst in Iowa -- a person that, to me, embodies the best of Russia's old-time influence on the U.S. -- to far-right militia members in northern Florida, who are perhaps the most susceptible to the current brand of Russian propaganda.

    Americans are generally nice to visitors -- and uncommonly helpful to journalists -- but they used to be far more suspicious of Russians while the Soviet Union was still around. Despite the best efforts of supposedly progressive Hillary Clinton, that suspicion has not yet returned. It may do so if the Russia-bashing continues after the election; I suspect it will die down somewhat as the electoral battle recedes into history.

    In any case, it's worth considering how the U.S. will internalize the real and perceived Russian meddling this year. Americans are hard-headed and used to doing things their own way; they turned the previous Russian influence campaigns, often waged with the worst of intentions, to their advantage. Can Putin's propaganda and perhaps cyber-espionage campaign also serve a useful purpose?

    I believe it can. Putin is providing a useful service to the U.S. by holding his malicious mirror to its political establishment. It's a troll's mirror, but it does reflect a nasty reality: A complacent, clannish elite that has written convenient rules for itself but not for the society it governs. Much of this society, both on the right and on the left, doesn't like what it sees.

    As with previous Russian attempts to change the U.S., this one should lead to a realization that it's time to clean up U.S. democracy and make it more representative and inclusive, perhaps by stripping away some obsolete voting rules, perhaps by breaking the destructive stranglehold of the ossified two-party system.

    The country I have seen this year -- the big cities and small towns I've explored, the progressives and Second Amendment zealots I've met, this whole vast, great land -- deserves far better than what I watched it live through. I'd like to help in my small way, and I think my country will end up helping, too, even though it may be trying to inflict damage.

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    Referendums Are Now Part of Our Democracy. If Judges Reverse Them, We Are In a Dangerous Place.

    'Remember, remember the Fifth of November” some of us chant on this day. The rhyme goes on about how Guy Fawkes wanted to blow up the King and Parliament: “Threescore barrels of powder below/ Poor old England to overthrow.” We do things differently nowadays. For “barrels of powder” read “QCs arguing”.

    The legal confusion about how to trigger Article 50 has left both sides in the Brexit story striking some odd attitudes. The Leavers – of whom your columnist is one – look as if they are saying that Parliament should not have the power of decision over Article 50. Yet it was they who spoke so often about recovering parliamentary sovereignty.

    The Remainers, many of whom have devoted more than 40 years to undermining our national independence, have suddenly decided to uphold the rights of our sovereign Parliament. Human rights lawyers who have argued for entire careers that Britain’s home-grown tradition of rights is grossly inadequate for the modern world have gone all gooey about the Bill of Rights of 1689 and the limits it sets upon the royal prerogative.

    Personally, I have particularly enjoyed watching Lord Kerr of Kinlochard stepping forward to speak for England. John Kerr, former UK Permanent Representative to the European Union, former head of the Foreign Office, billed by the BBC as the “author” of Article 50, is known by former colleagues as “Machiavelli” (with emphasis on the “Mac”, Lord Kerr being Scottish). He is a man of great charm and brilliance. I have always profited from my conversations with him about the life of Lady Thatcher. But I must admit that I had never before seen him as the defender of this nation’s ancient liberties.

    Now The People’s Kerr explains that Article 50 is not irrevocable, and every possible opportunity must be given to Parliament and electors to vote again. Come to think of it, I don’t know why I am surprised: it would be entirely in character for the inventor of the device for leaving the EU to have so drafted it that it forces us to stay.

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    Not With A Bang But A Whimper (and other stuff)

    Thanks to a subscriber for this report by Ben Inker and Jeremy Grantham for GMO which may be of interest. Here is a section:

    At GMO we have put particular weight for identifying investment bubbles on the statistical measure of a 2-sigma upside move above the long-term trend line, a measure of deviation that uses only long-term prices and volatility around the trend. (A 2-sigma deviation occurs every 44 years in a normally distributed world and every 35 years in our actual fat-tailed stock market world.) Today’s (November 7) price is only 8% away from the 2-sigma level that we calculate for the S&P 500 of 2300.

    13. Upside moves of 2-sigma have historically done an excellent job of differentiating between mere bull markets and the real McCoy investment bubbles that are likely to decline a lot – all the way back to trend – often around 50% in equities. And to do so in a hurry, in one to three years.

    14. So we have an apparent paradox. None of the usual economic or psychological conditions for an investment bubble are being met, yet the current price is almost on the statistical boundary of a bubble. Can this be reconciled? I believe so.

    15. There is a new pressure that has been brought to bear on all asset prices over the last 35 years and especially the last 20 that has observably driven the general discount rate for assets down by 2 to 2.5 percentage points. Tables 1 and 2 compare the approximate yields today of major asset classes with the average returns they had from 1945 to 1995. You can see that available returns to investors are way down. (Let me add here that many of these numbers are provisional. We will try to steadily improve them over the next several months. Any helpful inputs are welcome.) But I do believe that readers will agree with the general proposition that potential investment returns have been lowered on a wide investment front over the last 20 years and that stocks are generally in line with all other assets.

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    Voters could legalize marijuana for quarter of all Americans

    This article from Reuters highlights one of the more important decisions to be taken by US voters today. Here is a section:

    In California, where medical marijuana has been legal since 1996, a recent poll by the Public Policy Institute of California showed 55 percent of likely voters supported a ballot initiative that would authorize the state to tax and regulate retail cannabis sales much like it does alcoholic beverages.

    That was similar to the numbers favoring legalization from opinion polls in Massachusetts and Maine. Slimmer majorities or pluralities also point to legalization in Arizona and Nevada.

    Approval by California alone, America's most populous state with 39 million people, would put nearly a fifth of all Americans living in states where recreational marijuana is legal, according to U.S. Census figures. That number grows to more than 23 percent if all five state measures pass.

    Backers of legalized marijuana sales have tried for decades to win support at the ballot box, with little success until the past few years, starting with victories in Colorado and Washington state in 2012.

    Experts say the latest initiatives include more sophisticated regulatory mechanisms aimed at keeping cannabis away from children and banning the involvement of criminal gangs and drug cartels. Public opinion has rapidly swung toward favoring legalization.

    "It's changed in the minds of these voters from being like cocaine to being like beer," said University of Southern California political scientist John Matsusaka.

     

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    Adobe gets experimental: Photoshopping voices, drawing hacks and VR editing

    This article by Emily Ferron for Newatlas may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

    According to Jin, the software needs about 20 minutes of voice recording to learn the speech patterns and wave forms of the original speaker's voice. Then, the user can simply type in the edited version of the text and hear the desired changes played back practically instantly. In the demo, Jin playfully altered a sentence, "I kissed my dogs and my wife" to "I kissed Jordan three times." New words that were not in the original recording were re-created in the speaker's tone and timbre.

    While this technology has obvious applications in the entertainment and voiceover industries, it could have long-reaching societal repercussions as well. Just as Photoshopping allegations come into play when the veracity of an image is suspect, VoCo could open voice recordings to the same kind of scrutiny. To counter security concerns, Jin said that features like watermarking and anti-forgery measures are on the way.

    Other notable Adobe "sneaks" include Project Stylit and CloverVR. The former is a tool for creating digital art with traditional fine art looks. The latter tackles a more-cutting edge issue, introducing new methods for editing 360-degree videos for virtual reality applications.

     

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    Copper Enters Bull Market as Declining Stocks Ease Glut Concerns

    This article by Joe Deaux for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

    “We’re getting the idea that these markets are a lot tighter than many people think, particularly as China continues to do pretty well,” Bart Melek, the head of commodity strategy at TD Securities in Toronto, said in a telephone interview. “The PBOC is saying interest rates are in line with fundamentals, meaning they won’t be doing anything new and they see stability there.”

    Copper for delivery in three months rose 2.7 percent to settle at $5,235.50 a metric ton in London. That marked a more- than 20 percent gain from a low in January, meeting the common definition of a bull market. The metal touched $5,250.50, the highest since October 2015.

     

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    Clinton 3 Points Ahead of Trump in Final Bloomberg National Poll

    Hillary Clinton leads Donald Trump by three percentage points among likely voters nationally, the latest sign that her campaign's painstaking focus on women, Latinos and blacks could help propel her to the White House.

    The final Bloomberg Politics national poll before Tuesday’s election has Clinton ahead of Trump, 44 percent to 41 percent, when third-party candidates are included. In a two-way contest, she's also up by three points.

    Interviews were conducted Friday evening through Sunday afternoon, before FBI Director James Comey announced his decision that Clinton shouldn’t face criminal charges related to use of a personal e-mail server as secretary of state.

    Comey’s initial letter informing Congress—11 days before the election—that the FBI was conducting a review of newly discovered e-mails breathed new life into Trump’s candidacy at a time most polls showed Clinton with a bigger lead. The FBI's decision Sunday brings a positive burst of news for Clinton in the campaign’s critical home stretch.

    The tightness of the race highlights the importance of turnout for both sides, as the final wave of campaign events, door-knocking, e-mailing, and phone-calling comes to a close.

    More than a third of likely voters, 37 percent, say they’ve already voted and Clinton is leading Trump with that group, 46 percent to 38 percent.

    The results offer a national snapshot of the race, but they fail to reflect the reality of the state-by-state pursuit of the 270 electoral votes needed to win the White House. Trump has strong support in the South, the survey shows, while Clinton has the advantage in the Northeast, Midwest and West.

    “The poll reflects a tight race, for sure, but what is so striking is the sour mood of the electorate,” said pollster J. Ann Selzer, who oversaw the survey. “Looking forward, they see scandals aplenty and sizable segments of each side vow to keep fighting even after all the votes are counted.”

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