You need to know this. For democrats, the big victories from yesterday's elections were that Terry McCauliffe and Bill DeBlasio defeated their Republican opponents in Virginia and New York. However, there were many other wins, and losses, for progressives around our nation. In Colorado, three different towns voted to extend a five-year ban on fracking in their communities, but in Washington State, Initiative 522 – a GMO labeling law – was voted down 54.8 to 45.2 percent. In New Jersey, voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment to increase that state's minimum wage to $8.25 an hour, and put in place automatic cost-of-living increases for future years. Ballot proposals in three Michigan cities, Ferndale, Lansing, and Jackson, all passed in favor of marijuana legalization, which will permit the use or possession of up to one once of pot by anyone over the age of 21. And, a similar marijuana law passed in Portland, Maine, which allows for possession of up to 2.5 ounces. One of the disappointing results occurred in Colorado, where Amendment 66 – a measure to increase taxes to provide more funding to public schools – was voted down 66 to 34 percent. All of these results demonstrate the importance of our democratic process, and why it's vital to protect our right to cast a ballot. Elections aren't just about candidates, and they can have a major effect on our local communities. Even on these smaller provisions, it's typical to see big money come out against measures that the majority of people support. We can fight back by getting money out of politics, and getting as many people as possible to show up and vote. We are our government, and we have to get involved to make it work for us.
In screwed news... There were huge problems with voting machines in yesterday's elections. According to BradBlog.com, voters in Virginia, New York, and other locations reported trouble using electronic voting machines. One report came from Col. Morris Davis – the former Chief Prosecutor at Gitmo – who was casting his vote in Prince William Country, Virginia. Col. Davis tweeted that it took him four attempts to vote for Terry McCauliffe. He wrote, “I'd touch [McCauliffe] but it would mark Cuccinelli.” In New York, ballot scanners failed across the city, and precinct workers said that many voters simply left after waiting for machines that wouldn't “fire up.” Machines in both states were manufactured by a company called Sequoia Voting Systems – the nation's largest e-voting company in our nation. These are the same machines that flipped votes and caused other problems back in 2008. To protect our democratic process, it's time to get these machines out of our elections.
In the best of the rest of the news...
Today, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Greece v. Galloway. The case was brought by two women who believe that their town is violating the Constitution's Establishment Clause by opening each town board session with a Christian prayer. While lawmakers in Greece, New York argue that they are not involved in selecting the content of the prayer, Linda Stephens and Susan Galloway say that government meetings are not the place for religious practices. The case will be heard by the Justices today, and many worry about how the Court's five conservative justices may rule. It's also hard to see how our nation's highest court isn't biased toward prayer, considering that they start each day with the words, “God save the United States and this Honorable Court.”
According to RadCast.org, radiation levels in much of our nation are back within normal ranges, but there are still a few spikes in some areas. After rising over the past few weeks, levels in the North West are better today. Damascus, Oregon has settled down to 31 counts per minute, and Seattle, Washington is down to 30. Near the East Coast, most areas have come down to normal levels, but Gainsville, Georgia is still high at 57 counts per minute, with spikes of 74. And, Robbinsville, New Jersey is sitting at 58. Some areas of the Midwest are also still seeing high radiation levels. Frederic, Wisconsin is hitting 54 counts per minute, with spikes at 77, and levels in Warren, Michigan are hovering at 59, with spikes at 64. Remember, RadCast.org says that the alert level is 100 counts per minute, and they're always watching to keep us informed.
Former world leaders are calling for an end to the war on drugs. In an op-ed yesterday, Kofi Annan – former Secretary General of the United Nations – and Fernando Henrique Cardoso – former president of Brazil – said it's time for a new approach to dealing with the world's drug problems. Both leaders said that there is “clear evidence” that harsh policies in the global war on drugs have been a failure. Annan and Cordoso have scheduled a special session of the next UN General Assembly in 2016 to address drug policy reform. There are now calls from both inside and outside of the United States to finally put an end to Nixon's failed drug war – perhaps our lawmakers should be listening.
And finally… After various accusations of plagiarism, it looks like Sen. Rand Paul will no longer be published in the Washington Times. It turns out that in addition to copying speeches from Wikipedia, Senator Paul borrowed a few paragraphs from another author in one of his recent op-eds. The times announced that they reached a “mutual decision” with Paul to stop publishing the Senator's column. The paragraphs that Paul published as his own were actually written by Dan Stewart, of “The Week” magazine, who said he's actually not bothered by the plagiarism. Mr. Stewart said he is “flattered” that Paul chose to copy his work and try to pass it off as his own, and said, “worse things could have happened.” As more of his columns and speeches are investigated, I'm guessing that Rand Paul's list of “hacks and haters” may be getting a little longer.