Archive for the ‘United States’ Category

The ruin of US colleges

May 22nd, 2015 at 3:15 pm by David Farrar

Kirsten Powers at The Daily Beast writes:

The root of nearly every free-speech infringement on campuses across the country is that someone—almost always a liberal—has been offended or has sniffed out a potential offense in the making. Then, the silencing campaign begins. The offender must be punished, not just for justice’s sake, but also to send the message to anyone else on campus that should he or she stray off the leftist script, they too might find themselves investigated, harassed, ostracized, or even expelled. If the illiberal left can preemptively silence opposing speakers or opposing groups— such as getting a speech or event canceled, or denying campus recognition for a group—even better.

In a 2014 interview with New York magazine, comedian Chris Rock told journalist Frank Rich that he had stopped playing college campuses because of how easily the audiences were offended.

We live in the age of offence, where people think they have a right not to be offended.

Instead, the politically correct university is a world of land mines, where faculty and students have no idea what innocuous comment might be seen as an offense. In December 2014, the president of Smith College, Kathleen McCartney, sent an email to the student body in the wake of the outcry over two different grand juries failing to indict police officers who killed African-American men. The subject heading read “All Lives Matter” and the email opened with, “As members of the Smith community we are struggling, and we are hurting.” She wrote, “We raise our voices in protest.” She outlined campus actions that would be taken to “heal those in pain” and to “teach, learn and share what we know” and to “work for equity and justice.”

Shortly thereafter, McCartney sent another email. This one was to apologize for the first. What had she done? She explained she had been informed by students “the phrase/hashtag ‘all lives matter’ has been used by some to draw attention away from the focus on institutional violence against black people.”

Insane. She had to apologise for saying “all lives matter”.

On today’s campuses, left-leaning administrators, professors, and students are working overtime in their campaign of silencing dissent, and their unofficialtactics of ostracizing, smearing, and humiliation are highly effective. But what is even more chilling—and more far reaching—is the official power they abuse to ensure the silencing of views they don’t like. They’ve invented a labyrinth of anti-free speech tools that include “speech codes,” “free speech zones,” censorship, investigations by campus “diversity and tolerance offices,” and denial of due process.

And we saw this in Australia where some staff and student groups basically blackmailed the university into revoking the appointment of Bjørn Lomborg, as he doesn’t buy into their view that the world is doomed.

Or how about the Brandeis professor who was found guilty of racial harassment—with no formal hearing—for explaining, indeed criticizing, the word “wetbacks.” Simply saying the word was crime enough. Another professor, this time at the University of Central Florida, was suspended for making a joke in class equating his tough exam questions to a “killing spree.” A student reported the joke to the school’s administration. The professor promptly received a letter suspending him from teaching and banning him from campus. He was reinstated after the case went public.

And all this in the land of the 1st amendment.

The list goes on and on. The University of Wisconsin-Stout at one point had an Information Technology policy prohibiting the distribution of messages that included offensive comments about a list of attributes including hair color.

Get suspended for making a ginga joke!

One student alleged that when the professor changed her capitalization of the word “indigenous” to lowercase he was disrespecting her ideological point of view.

And he was accused of racial microaggression and suspended.

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Seymour Hersh’s claims

May 13th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

So far Seymour Hersh’s extraordinary claims regarding the operation that killed Osama bin Laden have been met with either denial, withering scorn or, on the part of most of the broader media, uneasy quiet.

In a 10,000-word piece published on Sunday in the London Review of Books, the famous investigative journalist claims that Osama bin Laden was not tracked down in Pakistan by CIA work, but was located in Pakistani military custody due to a tip off.

Hersh writes that the Pakistani military had captured bin Laden as far back as 2006 and was using him as leverage over Taliban and al Qaeda forces in Afghanistan.

He writes that after America became aware of this, the Pakistan military agreed to help stage the raid in order to keep the US on-side and protect itself from unrest that might be caused if it handed over bin Laden, who remained a popular figure.

Hersh has done some good journalism in the past, but this does not look like one of them.

Despite that Peter Bergen, a CNN security analyst and author of a book on the manhunt of bin Laden, has already written scathingly that the piece is, “a farrago of nonsense that is contravened by a multitude of eyewitness accounts, inconvenient facts and simple common sense”.

And his recent history is not good.

In a (slightly) more gentle takedown Vox’s Max Fisher notes that more recent stories by Hersh, also alleging conspiracies, have either not been independently confirmed or have been debunked. “A close reading of Hersh’s bin Laden story suggests it is likely to suffer the same fate,” he writes.

Even back in 2004, one commentator calculator that Hersh claimed to have anonymous sources within 30 foreign governments and almost every US agency in existence.

Some specific rebuttals from the CNN analysis:

Common sense would tell you that the idea that Saudi Arabia was paying for bin Laden’s expenses while he was living in Abbottabad is simply risible. Bin Laden’s principal goal was the overthrow of the Saudi royal family as a result of which his Saudi citizenship was revoked as far back as 1994.

Why would the Saudis pay for the upkeep of their most mortal enemy?

Indeed. This quote best sums him up now:

The story simply does not hold up to scrutiny — and, sadly, is in line with Hersh’s recent turn away from the investigative reporting that made him famous into unsubstantiated conspiracy theories.

The fact the author of the conspiracy theory was once a good reporter doesn’t make the theory credible. What makes it credible is proof.

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Social change in the US

May 10th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

socialchange

An interesting graphic from Bloomberg showing how fast social change has happened in the US on various issues.

Inter-racial marriage bans took 180 years to abolish, with around 35 states doing so until the Supreme Court ruled in 1967.

Prohibition took 75 years to get over-turned.

It took around 30 years from the first state to allow women the vote, to the 20th amendment.

It took only a few years for states to start allowing abortion, before Roe v Wade in 1973. arguably that is still so hotly contested as federal action occurred at a time when less than 20 states allowed it.

Same sex marriage has gone from 0 to 36 states in just a few years. And we will get a Supreme Court decision on it this year.

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Clinton’s cash problem

April 26th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The NY Times reports:

The book does not hit shelves until May 5, but already the Republican Rand Paul has called its findings “big news” that will “shock people” and make voters “question” the candidacy of Hillary Rodham Clinton.

“Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich,” by Peter Schweizer — a 186-page investigation of donations made to the Clinton Foundation by foreign entities — is proving the most anticipated and feared book of a presidential cycle still in its infancy.

The book, a copy of which was obtained by The New York Times, asserts that foreign entities who made payments to the Clinton Foundation and to Mr. Clinton through high speaking fees received favors from Mrs. Clinton’s State Department in return.

“We will see a pattern of financial transactions involving the Clintons that occurred contemporaneous with favorable U.S. policy decisions benefiting those providing the funds,” Mr. Schweizer writes.

His examples include a free-trade agreement in Colombia that benefited a major foundation donor’s natural resource investments in the South American nation, development projects in the aftermath of the Haitian earthquake in 2010, and more than $1 million in payments to Mr. Clinton by a Canadian bank and major shareholder in the Keystone XL oil pipeline around the time the project was being debated in the State Department.

Correlation is not causation, but what you may still have here is foreign governments thinking this is a way you could thank the Clintons for favourable US decisions.

The book will be very interesting. I don’t think anything can stop her winning the nomination, but this could hurt her in the general election. Americans seem to accept their politicians being on the take for US companies, but may be less tolerant if they think you are on the take for foreign governments,

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Why not Harry Potter?

April 24th, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Times Free Press reports:

Following the second straight day of often-fiery debate, the state House voted 55-38 today to make the “Holy Bible” the official book of Tennessee.

It’s a best seller, but it has a disjointed plot, and isn’t really set in Tennessee.

I think a better choice would have been Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

 

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The GOP and the last 16 years

April 23rd, 2015 at 11:20 am by Lindsay Addie

Charles Cooke in the National Review discusses the strategy the Republican party should adopt with the 2016 Presidential elections in mind.

It should by now be obvious to conservatives that the last American Golden Age obtained not during George W. Bush’s rather disappointing tenure, but in the mid- to late- 1990s, when the Republican party ran both houses of Congress and Democrat Bill Clinton ran the executive branch. If they are to run a successful campaign — and, crucially, if they are to capitalize upon the electorate’s present dissatisfactions — Republicans will need to acknowledge that they are not only running against the Obama administration, but against a broader national melancholia to which they themselves have contributed.

What Cooke is arguing is that if Jeb Bush is the GOP nominee (considered the frontrunner by many) will that force the GOP into defending the George W Bush Presidency?

Despite his early wins, moreover, both Barack Obama and his agenda have descended into unpopularity and into fatigue. But it would be a considerable mistake to conclude from this that there is any great yearning to return to 2005. If they are offered a choice between “Clinton” — a name that evokes peace and prosperity — and “Bush” – a name that has been rather run through the mud – they will almost certainly choose the former.

I don’t agree that Hillary Clinton is a near certainty to defeat Jeb Bush but in a ‘back to the future’ style contest between the two she wouldn’t be without a realistic chance of winning. The Clinton political machine is looking rather clunky at times, but is the Bush machine any better?

So what does Cooke think the GOP should do?

Instead, the conservative play should be to put up an attractive newcomer and to hope that he can persuade the electorate to turn its back on the established machine. Who should that be? Well, that depends primarily on aesthetics rather than policy. I take no pleasure in writing this: In an ideal world, our elections would be held on paper, our candidates would be expected to eschew the superficial, and the president would be heard from only if there were a war or a tsunami. Policy, and not television commercials, would rule the political roost. In the real world, however, messaging matters a great, great deal. If they are serious about winning in 2016, conservatives should make sure that they pick a candidate who is capable not only of tapping into the contemporary dissatisfaction, but of breaking with his own party’s past, too.

An ‘attractive newcomer’ as Cooke calls them would also I think need to have some sort of executive experience and be able to motivate conservatives AND moderates/independents to go the polling booths and vote for them. Neither Romney nor McCain excited the conservative base in their respective campaigns for President.

Finally to come back to the premise of Cooke’s article, I agree with him that the GOP should run against the last 16 years. They also need to come up with some sound new policy ideas and not just for the next year and a half rail against Obama and Hillary Clinton (assuming she is the nominee).

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Patent trolls getting worse

April 19th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The same week that Alex Haro and Chris Hulls raised $50 million for their mobile app, Life360, the business partners got a letter.

It said they had three days to pay licensing fees to a company they had never heard of because their app violated its patented technology.

Haro and Hulls traced the company, Advanced Ground Information Systems, to a coastal home in Jupiter, Florida, with a phone number that initially went to an anonymous voicemail.

They couldn’t find any employees on LinkedIn.

To Haro, it was “a punch in the gut,” he said.

On the other side of that letter was Malcolm “Cap” Beyer, Jr., a 76-year-old who had filed patents a decade ago on cellphone mapping.

He said his attorney told him that he had a strong case against the start-up, even though the general technology had been widely used for years.

Beyer insists the mobile app’s $50 million in fundraising had nothing to do with it.

In the end, a jury sided with Life360 on all counts – but not before Haro and Hulls shelled out nearly $1.5 million in legal fees.

Winning can still be losing. They will probably never get their costs back. This is what patent trolls rely on – that it is cheaper to pay them some money, than fight them in court.

The bill has become a top lobbying priority this year for the tech industry, which says it repeatedly fends off frivolous lawsuits because of poorly written software patents and laws that favour patent holders.

NZ has intelligently removed software from being patentable. It can be copyrighted, but not patented. Patents and intellectual property laws are very important, but if the laws are unbalanced, they can cause more harm than good.

“Patent trolls” generally refer to businesses that buy up patents, particularly in technical areas like computer chips, cloud computing and wireless routers, with the sole intention of filing lawsuits or demanding licensing fees from tech companies, particularly start-ups around the time of their public offering.

Not wanting to pay for a protracted legal fight, the defendants almost always settle even if they think they’d win.

Kramer calls it a vicious cycle – the more companies settle, the more lawsuits are filed.

“It’s like a legal version of a mob protection racket,” said Noah Theran, a spokesman for the Internet Association, a coalition of web-based companies.

Patents are meant to protect and foster innovation, but with patent trolls they actually stifle innovation.

Last year, the House passed the “Innovation Act” by House Judiciary Chairman Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va.

The bill would toughen requirements when filing patent challenges in court, such as limiting the amount of documentation that can be demanded before a judge makes an initial ruling.

The bill also opens the door to a requirement that plaintiffs pay legal bills of the defendants if they lose.

Supporters said they suspect trial lawyers with close ties to then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., helped scuttle the bill.

Reid is now minority leader with plans to retire next year.

Likely to replace him as the Senate’s top Democrat is Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. – an advocate of patent reform.

President Barack Obama has said he supports patent reform.

So it might happen with Harry Reid out of the way.

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The left against free trade rather than the US

April 19th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

I’m a strong supporter of free trade agreements. Freer trade has lifted hundreds of millions out of poverty, and the empirical evidence that trade helps both exporting and importing countries is very strong.

Whether any individual trade deal should be supported comes down to the details of it. There are provisions being pushed by the US in the proposed TPP deal which I oppose. There are provisions being pushed by NZ which I strongly support. If there is an agreement, then we’ll be able to see whether the deal over all is a good one.

(Some of) The Left in NZ is very anti the TPP. They do nothing but highlight the worst aspects of the provisions being pushed by other countries, and never ever focus on the benefits. Their opposition is often seen as being traditional anti-US sentiment.  It is painted as the US bullying NZ to get a deal that sells out NZ interests to benefit the US

But the left in the US is just as opposed to free trade, as much of the left in NZ. Politico report:

The most important trade bill in a decade has pitted Harry Reid against President Barack Obama. Liberal Democrat Rosa DeLauro against moderate Democrat Ron Kind. Labor unions against pro-business Democrats. And Elizabeth Warren against virtually everyone who supports a landmark piece of legislation that would allow the president to close what could be the biggest free-trade deal in history. …

Most other Democrats in Congress, too, are skeptical of Obama’s free-trade agenda and are expected to vote against the trade promotion authority legislation, which will fast track trade deals through Congress by limiting amendments and subjecting the agreements to up-or-down votes.

So the NZ left think the TPP will be bad for NZ and the US left think it will be bad for the US. Why? Well basically because most (not all) of the left don’t think free trade is a good thing. They are protectionists.

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Chief Justice called for jury duty

April 18th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

CNN reports:

Most Americans often seek ways to avoid jury duty. But one potential juror in Maryland on Wednesday morning had quite the excuse.

Chief Justice John Roberts was seen at a Montgomery County courthouse performing his civic duty as a prospective juror for a car crash case, according to a report first published by The Washington Post.

Although Roberts ultimately was not chosen to serve on a jury, that’s probably just as well, because oral arguments before the Supreme Court are scheduled to last through April 29.

The Post reported that Roberts answered questions regarding his relatives, and told the local court that his sister is a nurse in Indiana and his brother-in-law is with the Indiana State Police.

This could never happen in New Zealand. Lawyers (and judges) can not be jurors. But fascinating that in the US even the Chief Justice could be picked as a juror.

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Libertarians in the US

April 14th, 2015 at 10:04 am by David Farrar

silver-datalab-libertarians

Nate Silver writes at 538:

It’s correct to say that few Americans identify as libertarian. Only 11 percent said the term “libertarian” describes them well, according to a 2014 Pew Research poll. …

But how people label themselves is one thing. Americans sometimes leave a different impression when polled about specific issues. Often, their views are reasonably heterodox and not well represented by a one-dimensional political spectrum.

Take two issues that are taken as emblematic of the split between liberal and conservative viewpoints: gay marriage and income inequality. If Krugman is right, you should see few Americans who are in favor of same-sex marriage but oppose government efforts to reduce income inequality, or vice versa.

As it turns out, however, there are quite a number of them; about 4 in 10 Americans have “inconsistent” views on these issues. TheGeneral Social Survey asks Americans whether they favor or oppose gay marriage. It also asks them to rate, on a 7-point scale, whether the government ought to reduce income differences through higher taxes on the rich and income assistance to the poor.1 Here’s how Americans’ responses lined up in the poll in 2010 and 2012.

The most popular position (34 percent) is to favor both gay marriage and income redistribution. But 22 percent of Americans are in favor of gay marriage and opposed to government efforts to redistribute income. Another 20 percent are opposed to gay marriage, but favor income redistribution.

The terms libertarian and/or classical liberal don’t resonate with most people.

But as Silver explains, that doesn’t mean there are not a significant number of people who are socially liberal, yet not economic interventionists.

It might not be the biggest quadrant but one I’m happy to be in.

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No surprise – Clinton confirms

April 13th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

This is the least surprising announcement in recent times. From the day she stood down as Secretary of State, this was obviously the game plan.

Her chances of getting the Democratic nomination are very high. The average of the polls has her at 60%, Joe Biden at 12%, Elizabeth Warren at 12% and then Bernie Sanders at 5%.

Warren has said she won’t stand. Sanders is more a socialist than a Democrat and unelectable. Biden is seen as too buffoonish.

So long as Clinton doesn’t appear to be taking the nomination for granted, she should win t comfortably to become the first female nominee for President from a major party.

Becoming President will be harder. However she currently polls around 10% ahead of Jeb Bush and Scott Walker in general election match ups. Her challenge will be not to be seen as an extension of the Obama presidency.

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Cop charged with murder

April 9th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

A white police officer who gunned down a fleeing, unarmed black man appeared to plant his service-issue Taser gun at the side of the victim’s lifeless body, according to shocking videotape which emerged in the wake of the senseless killing.

Patrolman Michael Slager, 33, opened fire on father-of-four Walter Scott, 50, in North Charleston, South Carolina, on Saturday morning after reportedly stopping him over a broken tail light.

Slager was charged with murder on Tuesday and could face the death penalty after the incendiary footage emerged. The officer had previously defended his actions, saying he feared for his life after Scott wrestled his Taser gun from him during a scuffle.

However, cellphone footage from the scene showed Scott getting around 15-20 feet away before Slager opened fire with seven shots in quick succession followed by an eighth. The 50-year-old U.S. Coast Guard veteran was hit five times.

Thankfully there was cellphone footage of what happened.

You don’t shoot an unarmed person eight times in the back, for fleeing from Police.

And you don’t try and plant manufactured evidence on him that he was armed.

It does make you wonder how often this happens, without video footage to contradict the official version?

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Rolling Stone not sacking anyone for fake story

April 8th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Washington Post reports:

Rolling Stone magazine just plain got it wrong.

That’s the conclusion of the massive (and massively long) piece penned by three officials at Columbia University journalism school, a report that details the fact that the story of a gang rape of a woman named “Jackie” at the University of Virginia was, in fact, simply not right.

So, that’s bad enough. What’s worse is that the errors made by Sabrina Rubin Erdely, the article’s author, and the rest of the Rolling Stone editorial chain were entirely avoidable and encompassed the sort of basic reporting that every student in journalism school should know.

Not only were none of the claims by “Jackie” checked out, the journalist who wrote the article actually lied about having tried to contact certain people.

And yet, Rolling Stone has apparently decided that this whole episode was just a blip on the radar and not at all the sort of thing that Erdely, her editor or anyone else should lose their job(s) for. “Sabrina’s done great work for us over the years and we expect that to continue,” Rolling Stone Managing Editor Will Dana told The Washington Post via e-mail.

Um, WHAT?

I am not one to call for other reporters’ heads when mistakes are made, as I have made mistakes before and had my head called for. But there are mistakes and then there are MISTAKES. A poorly chosen tweet or, in my case, a poorly conceived and unfunny parody, is one thing. Totally misreporting allegations of a gang rape in a hugely high-profile magazine story is another. One is poor judgement, often in the world of Twitter expressed (and regretted) in a millisecond. What Erdely did is journalistic malpractice, failing to do the basic blocking and tackling of reporting because, frankly, the story she had was just too good to check.

Erdely also lied, as well as being negligent in not checking.

The Post also reports:

The University of Virginia chapter of Phi Kappa Psi said Monday that the fraternity house will file a lawsuit against Rolling Stone, calling the magazine’s discredited reporting of an alleged gang rape by some of its members “reckless.”

The fake story had real world impact. The chapter was closed down. Its members were smeared and called rapists.

“Irresponsible journalism unjustly damaged the reputations of many innocent individuals and the University of Virginia,” Sullivan said. “Rolling Stone falsely accused some University of Virginia students of heinous, criminal acts, and falsely depicted others as indifferent to the suffering of their classmate. The story portrayed University staff members as manipulative and callous toward victims of sexual assault. Such false depictions reinforce the reluctance sexual assault victims already feel about reporting their experience, lest they be doubted or ignored.”

Actual victims of rape, may be those most harmed by this awful fake story.

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Urban charter schools are succeeding—so get out of their way

April 6th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Fortune reports:

Here’s an approach to charter schools that should seem obvious—to those on both sides of the acrimonious debate on the future of charters in public education.

In places where charter schools are not achieving results, they should be suspended or at least curtailed until whatever isn’t working can be fixed.

And in cities where charters are making striking gains compared to traditional public schools, enrollment opportunities should be expanded, so that more kids can take advantage of them.

Absolutely. Close down the failing ones, and expand the successful ones.

The Center for Research on Education Outcomes(CREDO), at Stanford University, has done that in a new study, and it turns out that charters, in general, are strongest exactly where the need is greatest—in urban areas. In some cities, such as Boston, students are achieving six times the growth in math knowledge as are their traditional school counterparts; in reading, four times as much.

And in NZ the parties of the left are dedicating to closing charter schools down.

CREDO’s new study took an unusual tack. It studied students in multiple areas of the country—and exclusively studied urban areas. Three points emerged. When suburban charters were excluded, the smaller average gains registered in previous studies were suddenly magnified. In other words, charters seem to be remedying a particular defect of schools in the most challenged areas. Second, within those schools, gains were greatest among students—those in poverty, African-Americans, Hispanics, English-as-a-second-language (ESL) students—whose performance typically lags. Disadvantaged students gain the equivalent of months (or more) of extra learning for every year in a charter school.

So we may not need charter schools in Epsom, but we do in South Auckland.

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Fighting back with social media

April 5th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Tim Blair reports:

In tiny Walkerton, Indiana – population 2144 – a local pizza shop recently became a target of national hatred:

When asked by local press the hypothetical question of whether or not they’d prefer to have their family owned business, Memories Pizza, cater a gay wedding, the owner said no citing their own religious beliefs as the reason.

Rather than allowing this family to simply have their opinion, which they were asked to give, outraged people grabbed the torches and began a campaign to destroy this small business in small town Indiana.

All for having an opinion that is rooted in faith.

No one was turned away. No one was discriminated against. It was a hypothetical question asked by a news reporter who had questionable motives to begin with.

The hatred and threats were so intense that the pizza shop shut down and the proprietors went into hiding.

The pizza shop said they would serve gay people, just that they wouldn’t want to cater for a gay wedding. They’re entitled to their view, just as people are also entitled to say they’d rather not frequent there.

But people are not entitled to threaten them and talk of burning their shop down. That is the true intolerance.

But it doesn’t end there, and has what I consider a good ending:

Texan journalist Lawrence Jones launched a funding drive for the shop, with the modest initial aim of raising $25,000. Let’s see how that campaign is going:

It has now raised $778,321!! What better way to strike back against intolerance.

Of course threats are now being made against Lawrence Jones, but I think there is a lesson learnt here – you can express disagreement with the policy of a store, and even express a desire to not patronise them. But if you unleash a hate campaign against a small business, well it may backfire – at it has in this case.

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The problem with binding referenda

April 1st, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

For advocates of binding referenda, consider this story from The Atlantic:

California has always done democracy a bit differently than most other states. Every other year, voters in the Golden State cast ballots not just for people to represent them, but for many of the actual laws that govern them. It’s not quite the ancient Athenian model of citizens gathering on a hill to make decisions, but it’s a version of direct democracy deeply-embedded in California’s political culture. Over the years, voters have answered for themselves weighty questions of taxation, same-sex marriage, election laws, and the legalization of marijuana, among many others.

Yet that system is now facing something of a threat from an attorney named Matthew McLaughlin, who wants to use the ballot initiative to authorize the mass murder of gays and lesbians. He has formally proposed the Sodomite Suppression Act, which refers to homosexuality as “a monstrous evil” and an “abominable crime against nature.” It would ban communicating messages of tolerance to minors; bar gays and lesbians, or anyone who voices acceptance, from holding government jobs or public office; and authorize mass murder

His specific proposition:

the People of California wisely command, in the fear of God, that any person who willingly touches another person of the same gender for purposes of sexual gratification be put to death by bullets to the head or by any other convenient method.

I suspect he is deeply repressed. At a minimum he is deeply fucked up.

The fear isn’t that McLaughlin’s proposal would ever pass—he is highly unlikely to secure anywhere close to the 365,880 signatures needed merely to get the referendum on next year’s ballot, much less to secure a majority at the polls. And the courts would immediately throw out the law, as they have with a number of less extreme measures that Californians have approved. But the mere possibility that McLaughlin could get formal clearance from state officials to begin collecting signatures for a genocidal proposition is raising questions about California’s permissive ballot initiative system.

The NZ CIR Act doesn’t seem to have any prohibitions on questions, so presumably someone here could also submit a proposed question for approval, and then gather signatures for it.

Overall I much prefer representative democracy.

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Was Bowe Bergdahl really worth five terrorists?

March 26th, 2015 at 10:33 am by Lindsay Addie

The Washington Post reports that Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl who the Obama Administration swapped for five terrorists is to be tried for desertion.

Eugene Fidell, Bergdahl’s attorney, told The Washington Post that his client was handed a charge sheet on Wednesday. Army officials said in a statement that Bergdahl has been charged with desertion with intent to shirk important or hazardous duty and misbehavior before the enemy by endangering the safety of a command, unit or place. His case has been referred to an Article 32 preliminary hearing, which is frequently compared to a grand jury proceeding in civilian court.

Bergdahl is unlikely to face the death penalty if found guilty but could face a long prison sentence. Also it is worth noting that although Bergdahl isn’t the only US soldier who has deserted in either Iran or Afghanistan. His case is different because he  allegedly deserted from a battlefield.

Bergdahl’s case has prompted questions over whether the Obama administration handled the prisoner swap legally. Susan Rice, President Obama’s national security, also provoked criticism when she said after Bergdahl’s recovery that he had served “with honor and distinction.” She later acknowledged the remark was controversial, and said she was referring to the soldier’s decision to enlist in the first place.

“That, in and of itself, is a very honorable thing,” she said.

This is a big faux pas by the Obama administration and Susan Rice for uttering these words. Doing some proper check-ups on Bergdahl first would have probably avoided this embarrassing mess. His fellow soldiers have been saying for ages that he was a deserter.

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Boston charter schools

March 24th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Boston Globe reports:

Boston charter school students outperformed their counterparts at traditional public schools and at charter schools in other urban areas by a striking margin over a recent six-year span, a Stanford University study found.

The strides at Boston charter schools — in both math and reading — equaled what students would have learned if they had been in school hundreds of additional days each year, researchers said in the report, released Wednesday.

The disparity held true for black, Hispanic, and low-income students in both math and reading, and was particularly strong for black and Hispanic students who live in poverty.

As you read this, remember that the two parties that most go on about poverty, are the two who want to abolish charter schools.

In Boston, the average yearly academic growth for charter school students was more than four times that of their traditional school peers in reading. In math, the academic growth was more than six times greater.

Exceptional.

This month, Los Angeles administrator Tommy Chang was named as the next superintendent of Boston Public Schools. Chang, a former charter school principal, has a reputation for giving schools more freedom to hire and develop budgets, and said he plans to narrow the achievement gap with a focused effort to improve classroom instruction.

Make every school a charter school! Give public school boards the ability to become a charter school and fully manage their own budgets and staffing.

The study compared standardized test scores of charter school students with the scores of Boston Public Schools students with similar demographic backgrounds.

It found that the average academic growth of charter school students surpassed public school students in both mathematics and reading, and at each level from elementary to high school.

So they compare like with like.

Jon Clark, co-director for Brooke Charter Schools, which has schools in Mattapan, East Boston, and Roslindale, said charter schools provide a longer school day and give students intensive personal attention.

Principals have the freedom to hire a staff and craft a budget as they see fit, he said.

That’s the key – local flexibility and control.

Clark rejected the “cherry-picking” argument and said the success charter schools have shown with low-income black and Latino students is the true indicator.

“If you really care about the achievement gap, you can’t look at these numbers and dismiss them,” he said.

But they do.

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US politics cartoon of the week – 23.3.15

March 23rd, 2015 at 3:29 pm by Lindsay Addie

Middle eastern politics and terrorism was the prevalent theme with the cartoonists this week.

This cartoon is by Gary Varvel (whose cartoons are consistently funny and thought provoking).

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© Gary Varvel – found at Real Clear Politics. Lots more of Varvel’s work can be found here.

The obvious dislike between Obama and Netanyahu must be music to the ears of Israel’s enemies in the Middle East. This is something I find very troubling as Israel and USA need to stand together now more than ever. In my opinion ISIS and friends are winning the war on terror. It pains me to admit it, but ISIS and friends are more organised than America and its allies. It is certainly reminiscent of the 1930’s when fascism was growing.

Also why is Obama so bent on agreeing to a deal with Iran? It seems like a very risky strategy to me.

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Fiorina vs Clinton

March 22nd, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The National Journal reports:

“Like Hillary Clinton, I too have traveled hundreds of thousands of miles around the globe,” said Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett Packard. “But unlike her, I’ve actually accomplished something. You see, Mrs. Clinton, flying is not an accomplishment; it is an activity.”

Ouch.

Fiorina, the only Republican woman actively considering a run for the White House, is taking on Clinton more forcefully and directly than any other GOP contender. It’s a deliberate strategy meant to make headlines, differentiate her from the pack, and elevate her position on the national stage. And in the process, it’s winning her friends, as Fiorina assumes an attack role that many Republican strategists think male GOP candidates need to avoid.

Smart. A female candidate can attack another female candidate without risking gender based attacks.

But Fiorina’s offensive is in a class of its own, and for one reason: She’s a woman, so she can.

“She tweets about women’s rights in this country and takes money from governments that deny women the most basic human rights,” Fiorina said at CPAC. “She tweets about equal pay for women, but won’t answer basic questions about her own office’s pay standards—and neither will our president. Hillary may like hashtags, but she doesn’t know what leadership means.”

Wouldn’t it be amazing if both parties’ nominees were women!

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Why charter schools do or don’t work

March 22nd, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

David Osborne at USA News reports:

The critics also love to repeat that charters perform no better than other public schools. This statement may have been true in 2009, if one accepts the critics’ favorite study, from Stanford’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes or CREDO. But a closer look at those results reveals a deeper truth. Where charter authorizers do their jobs, charters vastly outperform traditional public schools, with far less money. Where authorizers fall down on the job, letting failing charters live on just like traditional schools, the average charter performs no better, and sometimes worse.

So the key is to be selective with whom you authorise and move swiftly on failing schools.

In 2003 Ohio gave non-profit organizations both the right to authorize charters and a financial incentive to do so, opening the floodgates to mediocre schools.

In Massachusetts, by contrast, the state board was careful who got a charter and closed schools where kids were not learning. CREDO found that the typical charter student in Boston gained the equivalent of 12 extra months of learning in reading and 13 extra months in math every year, compared to demographically similar students in traditional public schools.

So the debate in NZ should not be about whether to allow charter schools. It should be about what is the authorisation policy.

New Orleans, with 92.4 percent of students in charters, is probably the fastest improving city in America. Graduation rates, ACT scores and college-going rates have all soared. If current trends continue, in fact, New Orleans may become the first major city to outperform its state. CREDO found that charter students in the city gained more than four months of additional learning in reading and five months in math, compared to their peers in traditional schools.

In Washington, D.C., where Congress created a Public Charter School Board, 45 percent of public school students attend charters. Among cities tested by the National Education Assessment Program (which do not include New Orleans), D.C. is now the fastest improving. CREDO found that charter students gained the equivalent of 72 days of extra learning per year in reading, 101 in math, compared to traditional public students.

If we could get those sort of results in South Auckland and Northland, it would be exceptional.

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US politics cartoon of week 9.3.15

March 9th, 2015 at 3:46 pm by Lindsay Addie

I haven’t had the time to keep up with has been going here at Kiwiblog but I imagine the topic of the cartoon has been discussed already.

Hillary Clinton’s email server at her home is now a real problem for her as Gary Varvel observes.

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© Gary Varvel – Found at Real Clear Politics

Now I’m not a Clinton hater and think that Bill Clinton despite his obvious faults was a better POTUS than G W Bush and Barack Obama. But that said the Clinton’s would have to be the equal of Richard Nixon when it comes to playing dirty, tricky, sneaky political games to keep ahead. If a GOP Secretary of State did what Hillary has done and set up their own email server they would have been crucified by the US media.

As for Hillary as a presidential candidate, she looks more and more like in political terms she’s over the hill. If I was a Democrat I’d be concerned.

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Apple case shows need for patent reform

March 5th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Apple has been ordered to pay nearly $US533 million by a federal jury that found the company’s iTunes music store uses software that infringes on patents held by a Texas company.

An attorney for plaintiff Smartflash LLC praised the verdict. Apple immediately announced plans to appeal and said the case shows the need for Congress to reform the US patent system.

The case involves three patents that Smartflash holds for software used in storing data files and managing access through an online payment system. The outcome will likely add fuel to a broader debate over the federal patent system and complaints that it’s easily abused by companies that make most of their revenue through patent lawsuits.

“Smartflash makes no products, has no employees, creates no jobs, has no US presence and is exploiting our patent system to seek royalties for technology Apple invented,” Apple said in a printed statement.

The statement added: “We rely on the patent system to protect real innovation and this case is one more example of why we feel so strongly Congress should enact meaningful patent reform.”

I agree with Apple.The US should follow NZ and not allow patents for software. You have scores of companies that file patents on as much software as possible, just so they can then sue someone who comes along with a similar idea. As in this case, they never produce anything with their patents – they just use them for lawsuits.

It is likely the decision will be overturned on appeal, but it is a shame so much money is wasted on endless patent lawsuits between IT companies.

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Agassi’s charter schools

March 4th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

His campaign began 14 years ago, with the establishment of the Andre Agassi Preparatory Academy in a run-down part of Las Vegas, and is still expanding.

By the end of this year, Agassi hopes to have extended his tally of charter schools (which are similar in spirit to our own free schools) to more than 100, spread from Nevada to Tennessee.”

The USA has dropped to 29th in the world when it comes to educating our children,” Agassi told The Daily Telegraph. “The demand for good schooling is huge, but the infrastructure is not there.

“Rather than wait for the government to do the job, I wanted to create a model that would be scalable and sustainable.

The idea is to find partners on each job, investors who aren’t looking to give their money away, but neither do they insist on having an annual return of 20 per cent.

I’m in an exciting place where I can raise $175 million of funding in 15 minutes of phone calls, and the total we have gathered so far is well north of $1 billion.”

Superb. And from Wikipedia:

In 2001, Agassi opened the Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy[151] in Las Vegas, a tuition-free charter school for at-risk children in the area. He personally donated $35 million to the school.[152] In 2009, the graduating class had 100 percent graduation rate and expected a 100 percent college acceptance rate.

Also:

In 1997, Agassi donated funding to Child Haven for a six-room classroom building now named the Agassi Center for Education. His foundation also provided $720,000 to assist in the building of the Andre Agassi Cottage for Medically Fragile Children. This 20-bed facility opened in December 2001, and accommodates developmentally delayed or handicapped children and children quarantined for infectious diseases.

Those charter school funders are really evil aren’t they.

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Netanyahu’s Speech to Congress

March 4th, 2015 at 10:11 am by kiwi in america

Today at 11am EST Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave his third speech to the US Congress joining Winston Churchill as the only other foreign leader in history to have addressed a Joint Session of Congress three times. On the eve of final negotiations between the US (and other powers) and Iran over a proposed nuclear deal with Iran, Netanyahu came to lay out the case for rejecting the deal proposed.

Unlike his two previous addresses, this one was shrouded in controversy in that the invitation by Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner was not sanctioned by the Obama Administration. Various administration proxies have used time in the run up to the speech to criticize Netanyahu (who faces a Knesset election in Israel in 2 weeks’ time) of politicizing the negotiations with Iran. The intense opposition from the Obama administration has seen 37 Democrat Representatives and Senators boycott the speech – an action itself unprecedented.

Netanyahu acknowledged the controversy and paid as much tribute to Obama as he could muster given how fraught their relationship has become but he wasted no time laying out why the proposed deal with Iran is bad. A good percentage of his speech was a lesson in recent Iranian history and of the many acts of terrorism perpetrated by Iran on Middle Eastern states, US interests and Israel. Netanyahu has stated many times that the greatest threat to world peace is militant jihadist Islam married to nuclear weapons. As Prime Minister of the state of Israel, job One is the protection of the Jewish state.  Whilst many world leaders saw the replacement of the belligerent Ahmadinejad with the more demur and softly spoken Rouhani as President of Iran as a sign of the softening of the Iranian regime, Netanyahu lays out the actions and statements of Rouhani since assuming power as evidence that the jihadist and terrorist mindset of the Islamic republic has not changed.

Netanyahu made six key points:

  1. The leopard has not changed its spots – Iran remains an implacable enemy of Israel AND the US.
  2. The allure of using Iran to combat ISIS is a mirage – that in the case of ISIS, the enemy of my enemy is still my enemy and that to adopt such a strategy might mean the battle against ISIS is won but the war against militant Islam is lost because Iran is by far the more dangerous of the two due to its armies, missiles and quest for nuclear weapons enabling Iran to strike far beyond just the Mesopotamian reach of ISIS.
  3. The proposed deal doesn’t impede Iran from getting nuclear weapons – it provides a pathway to such weapons. The proposed inspection regime is similar to the one that failed to contain North Korea from obtaining the bomb because rogue regimes and dictatorships never comply with agreements or feel compelled to honour treaties.
  4. No deal is not worse than this deal – the option to this bad deal is a better deal; one that continues to contain and constrain Iran.
  5. If Iran wants to be treated like a normal nation it should act like a normal nation – it should renounce terror in the Middle East and globally and it should cease to threaten to annihilate Israel. It should be allowed to continue a nuclear programme only if it behaves like other nations that seek peace.
  6. After acknowledging in the gallery Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel (a holocaust survivor), Netanyahu reminded the world that if necessary Israel would act alone. He repeated the cry “never again” and said that the Jewish people after 100 generations could now finally defend themselves.

Netanyahu is a bold and uncompromising figure. It was an open and direct challenge to Obama’s attempt at a legacy-making historic deal with Iran. Such a defiant challenge to a sitting US President has left some Israelis and many US Jews nervous of the damage to US relations. Whilst it is easy to dismiss this speech as a re-election ploy, it is important to note that Obama has shifted the stance of the US on a nuclear Iran from a “no options are off the table” to prevent Iran obtaining the bomb to a wishy washy regime that has enough holes that a duplicitous state anxious to get its own way can easy thwart. There is a sense amongst progressive elites that a nuclear Iran is inevitable and to cut the best deal possible.

This attitude was reminiscent of the prevailing elite opinion in Britain in the 1930’s as Hitler rose to, and gained in, power. Churchill’s warnings were dismissed as the ranting of an out of touch political has-been past his prime….until he was proven right. In the midst of an Israeli media firestorm of opposition, the taunts of his political opponents in Israel and the best efforts of Obama’s water carriers to denigrate the speech and Netanyahu’s “unhelpful” world view, he went over all their heads straight to the only people who can stop Obama doing a bad deal – the US Congress. Judging by the rapturous reception he got, he stands a good chance of succeeding hence why Obama was so implacably opposed to the speech. Netanyahu came across as confident, factual and determined whereas Obama as cerebral, inconsistent (shifting red lines) and the appeaser he has become.

Finally Netanyahu announced what I had long believed to be his bottom line – that if the US won’t lead the charge to prevent Iran getting nukes, that Israel would act alone militarily to at least blunt and delay what is rightly seen as an existential threat to the very existence of Israel.

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