Archive for the ‘United States’ Category

Trump goes hard left on trade

June 30th, 2016 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The WSJ reports:

Donald Trump offered a starkly protectionist view on trade policy, pledging for the first time on Tuesday to scrap the current North American Free Trade Agreement while saying he would label China a currency manipulator and kill America’s involvement in the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

“I’m going to tell our NAFTA partners that I intend to immediately renegotiate the terms of that agreement to get a better deal for our workers,” said Mr. Trump, adding that if they don’t agree to favorable terms, “America intends to withdraw from the deal.”

Trump on trade is to the left of the Greens. I don’t think even the Greens advocate tearing up trade agreements already in place.

Democrats not opposing TPP

June 29th, 2016 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

NBR reports:

Party unity will keep US Democrats from opposing the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), despite both of the party’s leading presidential nominees saying they are against the deal.

Members of the Democratic National Convention platform committee have decided to move against including a specific opposition to the TPP to the party’s platform (essentially, it’s manifesto for the November election).

The attempt failed because both members appointed by Hillary Clinton and DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz say it is inappropriate to oppose the TPP when US President Barack Obama is supportive of the deal.

Clinton’s opposition to TPP is insincere. Her husband did the same – campaigned against NAFTA, but then endorsed it.

If Clinton wins, I’d say there is a reasonable chance it will pass in the lame duck session of Congress with support from mainly Republicans but also some Democrats.

If Trump wins, then far harder for Republicans to vote for it, when the President-Elect has campaigned so vigorously against it.

So the best chances for Jane Kelsey and co of stopping TPP, is for Trump to win.

Trump drops 7%

June 28th, 2016 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

News.com.au reports:

HILLARY Clinton leads Donald Trump by double digits in a new national poll — a stark reversal for the mogul, who one month ago led the same poll by two percentage points.

The Washington Post/ABC News poll finds Clinton at 51 per cent to Trump’s 39 per cent — her largest lead in the survey since last fall.

A month ago, the same poll had Trump at 46 per cent and Clinton at 44 per cent, reports the New York Post.

So he is down 7% and she is up 7%. And this is even before the conventions. The Democratic convention will be a fairly unified affair with keynote speeches from Obama, Biden, Bill Clinton, Sanders and of course Hillary.

The Republican convention is struggling to find anyone prominent to attend, let alone speak!

Trump is not just going to cost the Republicans the presidency against a candidate whom was very vulnerable, but also the Senate and much of their House majority. Oh, and also the Supreme Court for maybe the next 20 years or so.

A major Trump u-turn

June 27th, 2016 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Washington Post reports:

Donald Trump has revised his proposed ban on foreign Muslims, with spokeswoman Hope Hicks saying Saturday that the presumptive Republican presidential nominee only wants to ban Muslims from countries with heavy terrorism. …

This firm new position is a dramatic deviation from those Trump took on Dec. 7, when he called for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.” The next day Trump said the ban would be “temporary” and have a series of exceptions, including ones for dignitaries and athletes. More recently, Trump has said that the ban and all of his policy proposals are merely suggestions open to negotiation.

This is almost a complete u-turn. If Trump gets elected, who knows what he would actually do as President. He might ban immigration from any countries without a Trump hotel.

US Governors not paid much

June 25th, 2016 at 3:38 pm by David Farrar

USA Today has a list of salaries for US Governors.

The highest paid is Pennsylvania at $190,823 and the lowest Maine at $70,000 where the Governor’s wife works as a waitress to supplement their income.

This reminds me that the Mayor of Auckland is paid a salary of (NZ)$259,500 putting them ahead of every US Governor (ignoring exchange rates for now). The Deputy Mayor gets $146,200 which is higher than 30 of the 50 US Governors.

No increase in teen cannabis use after legalisation

June 23rd, 2016 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Washington Post reports:

Rates of marijuana use among Colorado’s teenagers are essentially unchanged in the years since the state’s voters legalized marijuana in 2012, new survey data from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment shows.

In 2015, 21 percent of Colorado youths had used marijuana in the past 30 days. That rate is slightly lower than the national average and down slightly from the 25 percent who used marijuana in 2009, before legalization. The survey was based on a random sample of 17,000 middle and high school students in Colorado.

The key data is for 2011 just before legalisation and 2015 afterwards. Basically flat at 22% in 2011 and 21% in 2015. The rate for ever used in their life also flat being 39% and 38% respectively.

Still await with interest other data on drug use and abuse and associated harms before and after legalisation. But this data is useful in showing teenage use did not increase with legalisation.

The person who reported Mateen to the FBI

June 22nd, 2016 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Mohammed Malik writes:

Donald Trump believes American Muslims are hiding something.

“They know what’s going on. They know that [Omar Mateen] was bad,” he said after the Orlando massacre.

“They have to cooperate with law enforcement and turn in the people who they know are bad. . . . But you know what? They didn’t turn them in. And you know what? We had death and destruction.”

This is a common idea in the United States. It’s also a lie.

Firstly, Muslims like me can’t see into the hearts of other worshippers. (Do you know the hidden depths of everyone in your community?) Secondly, he’s also wrong that we don’t speak up when we’re able.

I know this firsthand: I was the one who told the FBI about Omar Mateen.

And he is not alone in this. In many countries the best source of information on radicalised Muslims comes from other Muslims.

Soon after Omar married and moved to his own home, he began to come to the mosque more often. Then he went on a religious trip to Saudi Arabia. There was nothing to indicate that he had a dark side, even when he and his first wife divorced.

But as news reports this week have made clear, Omar did have a dark outlook on life.

Partly, he was upset at what he saw as racism in the United States – against Muslims and others. When he worked as a security guard at the St Lucie County Courthouse, he told me visitors often made nasty or bigoted remarks to him about Islam.

He overheard people saying ugly things about African Americans, too. Since September 11, I’ve thought the only way to answer Islamophobia was to be polite and kind; the best way to counter all the negativity people were seeing on TV about Islam was by showing them the opposite. I urged Omar to volunteer and help people in need – Muslim or otherwise (charity is a pillar of Islam). He agreed, but was always very worked up about this injustice.

Good advice.

After my talk with the FBI, I spoke to people in the Islamic community, including Omar, abut Moner’s attack. I wondered how he could have radicalised. Both Omar and I attended the same mosque as Moner, and the imam never taught hate or radicalism. That’s when Omar told me he had been watching videos of Awlaki, too, which immediately raised red flags for me. He told me the videos were very powerful.

After speaking to Omar, I contacted the FBI again to let them know that Omar had been watching Awlaki’s tapes. He hadn’t committed any acts of violence and wasn’t planning any, as far as I knew. And I thought he probably wouldn’t, because he didn’t fit the profile: He already had a second wife and a son.

But it was something agents should keep their eyes on. I never heard from them about Omar again, but apparently they did their job: They looked into him and, finding nothing to go on, they closed the file.

So while he was not stopped, Malik did his best.

I had told the FBI about Omar because my community, and Muslims generally, have nothing to hide. I love this country, like most Muslims that I know. I don’t agree with every government policy (I think there’s too much money in politics, for instance), but I’m proud to be an American. I vote. I volunteer. I teach my children to treat all people kindly.

Our families came to the US because it is full of opportunity – a place where getting a job is about what you know, not who you know. It’s a better country to raise children than someplace where the electricity is out for 18 hours a day, where politicians are totally corrupt, or where the leader is a dictator.

Dr Malik sounds like a great American.

Trump sacks campaign manager

June 21st, 2016 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Donald Trump’s campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, is leaving the campaign, following a tumultuous stretch marked by missteps and infighting.

Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks said Monday that “Lewandowski will no longer be working with the campaign”. She paid tribute to his “hard work and dedication” and wished him the best.

Two insiders told the New York Times that Lewandowski was let go.

Lewandowsky deflected any criticism of his approach, pointing instead to campaign chairman Paul Manafort. “Paul Manafort has been in operational control of the campaign since April 7. That’s a fact,” Lewandowski said, declining to elaborate on his dismissal.

You only sack your campaign manager when you’re in real trouble.

But he’s not the one who should have been fired. Trump needs to fire Trump.

State Dept staff dissent on Syria

June 20th, 2016 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Observer reports:

Dissenting State Department officials are demanding President Barack Obama wage war on the Assad dictatorship—which is a short step away from demanding regime change.

Late on June 16 The Wall Street Journal reported that the “near collapse” of the current ceasefire had spurred 51 “mid-to high-level State Department officers involved with advising on Syria policy” to sign a “dissent channel cable” calling on the Obama Administration to target Syria’s Assad regime with repeated “military strikes.”

The Obama strategy seems to be to do as little as possible and hope someone wins.

Journal reporters who personally reviewed the cable described the document as “a scalding internal critique of a longstanding U.S. policy against taking sides in the Syrian war, a policy that has survived even though the regime of President Bashar al-Assad has been repeatedly accused of violating cease-fire agreements and Russian-backed forces have attacked U.S.-trained rebels.”

The dissenters argue “Failure to stem Assad’s flagrant abuses will only bolster the ideological appeal of groups such as Daesh, even as they endure tactical setbacks on the battlefield.” The Journal adds that Daesh is an Arabic acronym for Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Having 51 mid to senior staff sign on to such a dissent is not something I can recall in recent times.

A win for net neutrality

June 20th, 2016 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Q: What’s this court decision all about?

A: In a 2-1 decision, the Federal Communications Commission won a sweeping victory against a number of suing internet providers. The FCC was accused of writing a set of strict rules for Internet providers that went far beyond what it was allowed to do under its mandate. And by filing a lawsuit, telecom companies hoped to get those rules thrown out.

Q: But instead the companies lost?

A: Yes, pretty much across the board, surprising almost everyone on both sides of the issue.

The conventional wisdom in Washington was that the court would agree to let some of the rules slide, but not all. Analysts predicted that the three judges in the case would throw out an attempt by the FCC to apply its rules to cellphone data as well as regular, fixed home broadband. But in the end, the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit granted even those provisions.

Q: Remind me again what these rules are for and what they look like?

A: In a nutshell, they’re aimed at making sure the internet stays an open platform and that cable and telecom companies can’t use their position in the marketplace to unfairly benefit themselves and shut down competition.

More specifically, the rules come in several parts. The first part contains a series of total bans on certain kinds of tactics – things like blocking or slowing down the websites you’re trying to reach while favouring the sites that a cable or telco may own or have a commercial relationship with. These flatly aren’t allowed under what the FCC calls its “bright-line rules”.

This is a good thing. You don’t want your ISP deciding for you how fast or slow your connection to websites are, based on their commercial relationships. You want your ISP to treat all sites you want to access, the same.

Basically this is about stopping vertical integration where a dominant player can use their position unfairly. A comparison would be with airports. You would not want (for example) Auckland Airport to be owned by Qantas, and then make all non-Qantas flights wait twice as long to depart.

Net neutrality is unlikely to be an issue in NZ, because we have good competition among ISPs. But in the US, it is a more valid concern – so the ruling is welcome.

Trump’s numbers get worse

June 19th, 2016 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Donald Trump has hit a new low in polling, with 70% of Americans having an unfavourable view of him, including a massive 56% who say their view is strongly unfavourable.

Here’s his unfavourables by demographics:

  • All 70%
  • Republicans 34%
  • Independents 68%
  • Conservatives 52%
  • Moderates 73%
  • Women 77%
  • Men 62%
  • Whites 59%
  • Non-whites 88%

Clinton is now at 75% probability to win in the prediction markets. I’d be tempted to buy some Clinton stock as it is hard to see Trump having a path to victory now. If 56% of the electorate strongly dislike you, that is hard to change.  Even in demographics that should be supportive of him, he has over 50% unfavourables – conservatives at 52%, men 62% and whites 59%.

A self loathing killer

June 18th, 2016 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

CNN reports:

Despite mounting pledges of allegiance to ISIS, some say they believe Mateen was actually fueled by struggles with his sexuality — and may have latched on to ISIS as a vehicle for his anger.
Several regulars at the gay nightclub said the gunman visited frequently over the past few years. Cord Cedeno said Mateen saw him at Pulse and messaged him on Grindr, a gay dating app.
Cedeno said he wasn’t interested in Mateen, but his friend was.
“One of my friends … has been speaking with him since 2007, on and off,” on another gay dating app, Cedeno said.
“(Mateen) sent him a picture of his private part, and my friend actually was attracted to him. He almost went and hooked up with him.”
So he was gay (well if you are sending men pictures of your dick on Grindr, probably fair to say you are) but possibly so torn with self loathing as it went against his religious beliefs, he killed 49 people at a gay nightclub.
However more complicated than that, as was also considering shooting up Disneyworld.

What happened when an Orthodox Jewish congregation went to a gay bar?

June 17th, 2016 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld writes in the Washington Post:

When our synagogue heard about the horrific tragedy that took place at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, it was at the same time that we were celebrating our festival of Shavuot, which celebrates God’s giving of the Torah.

As Orthodox Jews, we don’t travel or use the Internet on the Sabbath or on holidays, such as Shavuot. But on Sunday night, as we heard the news, I announced from the pulpit that as soon as the holiday ended at 9:17 p.m. Monday, we would travel from our synagogue in Northwest Washington to a gay bar as an act of solidarity. …

Approximately a dozen of us, wearing our kippot, or yarmulkes, went down as soon as the holiday ended. Some of the members of our group are gay, but most are not. We did not know what to expect. As we gathered outside, we saw one large, drunk man talking loudly and wildly. I wondered whether we were in the right place. Then my mother, who was with me, went up to a man who was standing on the side of the building. She told him why we were there. He broke down in tears and told us his cousin was killed at Pulse. He embraced us and invited us into the Fireplace.

We didn’t know what to expect, but it turned out that we had so much in common. We met everyone in the bar. One of the patrons told me that his stepchildren were actually bar-mitzvahed in our congregation. Another one asked for my card so that his church could come and visit. The bartender shut off all of the music in the room, and the crowd became silent as we offered words of prayer and healing. My co-clergy Maharat Ruth Friedman shared a blessing related to the holiday of Shavuot, and she lit memorial candles on the bar ledge. Then everyone in the bar put their hands around each other’s shoulders, and we sang soulful tunes. After that, one of our congregants bought a round of beer for the whole bar.

Everyone in the bar embraced each other. It was powerful and moving and real and raw.

Some us faith for bad ends, other use faith for very good ends – such as this.

No tag for this post.

Or should we blame the father?

June 17th, 2016 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

A disturbing picture is emerging of Orlando nightclub shooter’s troubled childhood, as former teachers and classmates share confronting memories of him from his primary school days.

Their stories reveal Omar Mateen, then known as Omar Seddique, was having homicidal and misogynistic fantasies as early as age 10.

Leslie Hall, who was Mateen’s classmate at Mariposa Elementary School in Florida and target of his bullying, remembers him getting suspended in the fifth grade for threatening to shoot up the school.

Other classmates and a former teacher have similarly unpleasant recollections of Mateen, describing a boy who was driven to school in a limo, often taunted less affluent kids and even stole toys.

They remember how “all the girls were scared of him”, even his mother and sister.

According to staff members, numerous attempts by the school to intervene failed because of the “enabling” nature of Mateen’s father, Seddique Mateen, who was considered to be the source of his attitude towards women and girls.

I guess when your father is pro-Taliban, then you grow up with a very negative view of women.

Katherine Zurich, 62, who taught Mateen in the fourth and fifth grade, said she tried to reach out to him but found his attitudes too deeply entrenched to penetrate.

“He felt that women were beneath him,” Ms Zurich said.

“He was taught to disrespect them. His mum, his sisters were afraid of him. They had to be subservient to him because he was the son. They treated him like the father, with respect.”

The teacher alleged Omar claimed his father often told him he did not have to listen to women, which was a problem at Mariposa, where most of the faculty at the time was female.

“He seemed to be so disturbed and violent, it was hard to make him change,” the teacher said. “Hard to look back and say what we thought would come true did.”

Ms Hall, who was bullied by Mateen, said he would also take out his aggression on teachers, throwing chairs in class and worse.

“He was very disrespectful,” she said. “He was spitting in teachers’ faces.”

And his father still says he was a good boy who did nothing wrong!

Trump stealing Winston’s slogan

June 17th, 2016 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Donald Trump greeted Twitter on Flag Day with two words in all caps: “AMERICA FIRST!”

He has made this slogan a theme for his campaign, and he has begun using it to contrast himself with President Obama, whose criticism of Trump’s rhetoric on Tuesday was answered with a Trump statement promising: “When I am president, it will always be America first.”

He wasn’t quite promising “America über alles,” but it comes close. “America First” was the motto of Nazi-friendly Americans in the 1930s, and Trump has more than just a catchphrase in common with them.

During the early 1930s, as the Nazis consolidated control over Germany, the US media baron William Randolph Hearst began touting the slogan “America First” against President Franklin Roosevelt, whom he saw as dangerously likely to “allow the international bankers and the other big influences that have gambled with your prosperity to gamble with your politics”. Hearst regarded Roosevelt’s New Deal as “un-American to the core” and “more communistic than the communists” – unlike Nazism, which he believed had won a great victory for “liberty-loving people” everywhere in defeating communism.

With the beginning of World War II in Europe and the Germans’ swift conquest of the continent, Roosevelt began to commit his administration more firmly to the aid of the those fighting Nazism. He incurred the ire of various anti-intervention constituencies, ranging from committed religious or principled pacifists to American communists, who supported the Nazi-Soviet pact and therefore the notion that the United States should stay out of the European war.

But the most prominent of his opponents were the founders of the America First Committee, formed in September 1940. The committee opposed fighting Nazism and proposed a well-armed America confined largely to the Western Hemisphere. It soon afterwards adopted the noted aviator and enthusiast of fascism, Charles Lindbergh, as their favoured speaker. Lindbergh accepted a medal from Hermann Goering “in the name of the Fuhrer” during a visit to Germany in 1938, and “proudly wore the decoration”, the New York Times reported. He thought democracy was finished in Europe, that the western powers could not effectively resist the Nazi war machine and that the United States had better make terms with Adolf Hitler.

I think Trump stole the slogan off Winston, not Lindbergh!

Should the wife be charged?

June 16th, 2016 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Orlando gunman Omar Mateen’s wife knew he was planning a mass shooting, went on location scouting trips, accompanied her husband to buy ammunition and never warned authorities, new reports claim.

The only thing Noor Zahi Salman did to prevent the worst gun massacre in US history was try to talk her husband out of it, FBI sources told NBC and ABC.

Salman, 30, admitted she was with Mateen, 29, when he bought his ammunition and holster.

And she drove him to Pulse nightclub and other target scenes – including Walt Disney World – “because he wanted to scope them out”.

In fact, they visited Disney World more than once to survey the area before Mateen opted for Pulse, law enforcement sources told CBS.

However, Salman never made any attempts to contact authorities about the impending terror attack.

According to the NBC report, authorities are “considering” charges against Salman for not reporting her husband’s massacre plan. The FBI said she is cooperating fully with the investigation.

Unless there are exceptional circumstances (she had been threatened if she said anything) then I think there is a clear case for her being an accessory.

Was Mateen gay?

June 15th, 2016 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

US law enforcement officials are investigating reports that the man who killed 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando may have been gay himself, but not openly so, two officials said, with one describing the massacre as a possible “self-hate crime.”

Omar Mateen, who was shot dead by police after a three-hour standoff early on Sunday, left behind a tangled trail of possible motives.

He also called police during his rampage to voice allegiance to various militant Islamist groups. …

The two US officials, both of whom have been briefed regularly on the investigation and requested anonymity to discuss it, said that if it emerged that Mateen led a secret double life or had gay impulses that conflicted with his religious beliefs, it might have been what the same official called “one factor” in explaining his motive.

“It’s far too early to be definitive, and some leads inevitably don’t pan out, but we have to consider at least the possibility that he might have sought martyrdom partly to gain absolution for what he believed were his grave sins,” one of the officials said.

I imagine we’ll never know. What I know is that all religions need to preach that life is sacred, and nothing ever justifies killing another human being – not being an apostate, not being gay, publishing cartoons you don’t like etc.

US confidence in media at record lows

June 15th, 2016 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The latest Gallup polls shows the percentage of Americans who have trust in newspapers and television news has hit record lows of 20% and 21%. Both of these are 10% lower than a decade ago.

Did the GOP win the spending war?

June 15th, 2016 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Paradox reports:

When I first came into the political scene, it was through my interest in numbers. My first snarky comment was in the form of an absurd little internet video that made a light mockery of some of the empty promises to reign in spending from the Obama administration. Obama promised to find $100 million in cuts to make to a nearly $4 trillion budget. I found the paucity of that promise to reduce spending funny in light of the enormity of scope of the federal government.

I followed this up with a dive into Obama’s first budget. This first budget stunned me in that, while the Obama administration was predicting a rather stunning and rapid recovery from the Great Recession, he was also predicting enormous federal spending increases as far as the eye could see.

It seemed strange that the answer to fixing the recession was “more spending” and then, after the recession was fixed, the answer was still “more spending.”

Sounds like Labour in NZ. They:

  1. Called for even more spending during the recession
  2. After the recession now call for even more spending
  3. Criticise National for having run deficits!

Obama’s budget, on the other hand, anticipated a massive spending increase in the first year (due to stimulus spending) followed by pretty typical increases of about 6 percent per year.

That “6 percent” is important because in 2009 it was the rate at which federal spending had grown year over year for almost 30 years. So that is the number the Obama team used as their standard for how quickly spending should keep growing.

And this is far too much. Spending should grow no faster (preferably slightly slower) than the economy as a whole. If it gros faster than the economy is growing, then the private sector shrinks.

But after Republicans took control of the House of Representatives in 2011, despite what you may have heard, they really did put a brake on federal spending. A really good brake. In fact, since 2011, federal spending has increased at only 1.3 percent per year … the slowest rate since the aftermath of World War II.

This means that spending is $697 billion lower than Obama wanted it.  That’s huge.

The difference between Obama’s 2015 spending projection and what was actually spent was an astounding $697 billion dollars. That’s more money than we spent on Medicaid.

Let that sink in. 

In five years, the Republicans managed to hold back Obama’s spending increases by more money than if they actually got rid of Medicaid. And so far 2016 looks like it will hold to that trend.

This suggests some of the anger at establishment Republicans is misplaced. The House has actually done a reasonable job of standing up for fiscal conservatism.

I think the anger is better directed at the Bush Presidency. He failed to control spending, and ran ever growing deficits. This led to the Tea Party, and has meant the Republican controlled House is now more focused on spending restraint.

If you took the difference between Obama’s projected spending and the actual spending appropriated by Congress for all five years, it’s a jaw-dropping difference of $2.5 trillion.

Obama held a press conference to announce his plan to reduce spending by $100 million. If the GOP Congress had held a press conference every time they actually reduced spending from Obama’s projections by $100 million, they could have held a press conference every two hours of every day since they took control of the House in 2011 until now. 

Great stat.

Their success in corralling federal spending is a feat unparalleled in my lifetime. The GOP’s work to block Obama’s spending should be cause for major celebration from serious fiscal hawks. Unfortunately, conservatives don’t seem to even know that this has happened, much less how to celebrate these wins. The narrative of a feckless “Establishment” betraying the electorate is more potent than the facts on the ground.  

Paul Ryan for President in 2020 I say. Make Clinton a one term President.

Shi’a Muslim scholar who urged death for homosexuals spoke in Orlando in March

June 14th, 2016 at 12:12 pm by David Farrar

Fusion reports:

On March 29, 2016, Farrokh Sekaleshfar — a British-born medical doctor and Shi’a Muslim scholar — was invited to speak at the Husseini Islamic Center just outside Orlando, Florida.

His sermon, “How to deal with the phenomenon of homosexuality,” at the Sanford-based center, happened behind closed doors, but it alarmed local gay and lesbian leaders. Only three years before, in another U.S. speaking engagement, the scholar and sheikh had described in characteristically sotto voce what it meant to do the compassionate thing for gay people:

“Death is the sentence. There’s nothing to be embarrassed about this. Death is the sentence.”

He continued: “We have to have that compassion for people. With homosexuals, it’s the same. Out of compassion, let’s get rid of them now.”

This is the different between Islam and almost all other religions. While the views of Dr Sekaleshfar are of course a minority view, you have a number of religious leaders in Islam who go around promoting these views. In other religions such as Christianity, people holding these views are deeply marginalised – the Westboro Baptist Church for example. They are shunned by pretty much everyone else (and are not so much a church as one extended family).

But here you have religious leaders invited to speak, and saying such things. It creates the climate for extremism.

Fusion got in touch with Dr. Sekaleshfar, who lives in the holy city of Qum in Iran and is currently traveling in Sydney, Australia.

Asked what his reactions are to today’s attacks, he told Fusion through Facebook, “I am totally against the barbaric act of violence that has happened. In no way at all can such a killing be justified Islamically.”

He called Orlando shooter Omar Mateen Siddiqui “an ill and perverted, animalistic entity who has abused an ideology to satiate his sad, twisted desires.”

Asked specifically about his March comments about gays in Orlando, as well as his better-known 2013 speech, Sekaleshfar called his approach an “academic discussion” in which he was describing the “theoretical angle as to what Islam says.”

“I never gave the call to a death sentence,” he said, adding that lines of his 2013 speech had been taken out of context. “I was explaining what Islamic law – in a country whose people democratically desired Islamic law to be exercised – states in relation to NOT homosexuals, but rather in relation to when the act of anal copulation is executed in such an aforementioned public,” he said.

Now there is a difference between saying the state should executive homosexuals and that individuals should do so. But it is about the climate. When a dozen or so Muslim countries do have the death penalty for homosexuality, when some Muslim scholars do say we should get rid of homosexuals, then it is perhaps no surprise that an individual may take that to mean that God wants him to kill homosexuals.

Again there is a difference between moderate Muslims, extremist Muslims and jihadist Muslims. But we delude ourselves if we think the problem is only the jihadists who actually pick up a gun. The extremist views of Dr Sekaleshfar provide a climate which fosters jihadism. Of course in this particular case, we don’t know if there was a link, but the point is no religious group should invite any religious leader to spread a message that homosexual acts should result in death.

Romney may vote for Johnson

June 13th, 2016 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Telegraph reports:

On Friday Mr Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, said he would consider voting Libertarian.

It would be the highest profile support yet for the third party, potentially spurring significant numbers of mainstream Republican voters to switch.

The Libertarian Party has traditionally been viewed as a fringe, and somewhat chaotic, group with some outlandish policies. In 2012 it secured just one per cent of the vote.

But the ticket this time has an exceptional amount of experience. Mr Johnson’s running mate is Bill Weld, the former Republican Governor of Massachusetts, who led that state before Mr Romney.

Mr Romney said he had “enormous respect” for Mr Weld, and described him as a “fine friend”.

He told CNN: “It would be very easy for me to vote for Bill Weld for president. “I’ll get to know Gary Johnson better and see if he’s someone who I could end up voting for. That’s something which I’ll evaluate over the coming weeks and months.”

A Romney endorsement would be huge and I think be enough to get them over 15% in the polls, and into the debates.

Libertarian policies, summed up as “minimum government, maximum freedom,” appeal strongly to many Republicans who want to slash taxes, eviscerate government spending, extend gun rights, and avoid overseas military commitments.

Immediately after Mr Trump secured the party’s nomination online searches for “Libertarian” quintupled.

As Governor of New Mexico from 1995 to 2003 Mr Johnson’s fiscal conservatism was legendary, earning him the nickname “Governor Veto” as he set national records for refusing to sign spending bills.

As president he would eliminate numerous government departments and replace all income and corporate taxes with a national 28 per cent sales tax, which he claims would create tens of millions of jobs.

And their budget actually balances.

Some eyebrows were raised when America’s powerful National Rifle Association recently endorsed Mr Trump, rather than Mr Johnson, but he still hopes to pick up the votes of many gun owners.

Asked if there should be any gun control at all, he said: “We should be controlling a nuclear-tipped hand held device.”

Heh.

Mr Johnson’s key goal is to get into the televised presidential debates, which he describes as the “Super Bowl”. To do so he needs to hit 15 per cent in the polls, just three points higher than the 12 per cent he scored in a Fox News poll released on Thursday.

I hope they make it.

50 dead in Orlando

June 13th, 2016 at 9:35 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

At least 50 people have died and 53 are injured following a mass shooting at a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender nightclub in the Florida city of Orlando, in the United States.

The gunman was named as Omar Mateen, a US citizen aged 29. He called 911 to pledge allegiance to Islamic State (Isis) before opening fire.

I think this is the worst mass shooting in the US.  An awful assault on not just the families and friends of those at the night club, but the entire US.

Actually more than the US. This is one of numerous assaults on basically any country which doesn’t run its government based on 7th century teachings.

Terrorism in the past had goals generally aligned to some sort of political or geographical dispute. It might be UK our of Northern Ireland, a civil war in Sri Lanka, even US foreign policy.

But Islamic State is different. There is nothing that will appease them, even if you wanted to. They want a global caliphate and have a message of hate that appeals to tens of thousands. Any target in any country is fair game. Their justification is people living a lifestyle that is at odds with their 7th century beliefs.

While wider Islamic terrorism will be with us pretty much forever, the Islamic State version need not be. Their legitimacy and power comes from holding actual territory. Their appeal will be diminished if they are evicted from their cities across Iraq and Syria and Libya.

The history of women in US politics

June 12th, 2016 at 10:00 am by David Farrar
  • 1756 – Lydia Taft is first woman allowed to vote in America – in a Massachusetts town meeting
  • 1869 – women get the vote in Wyoming
  • 1870 – Lousia Swain 1st woman to vote in a general election
  • 1872 – Victoria Woodhull runs for US President
  • 1887 – 1st female Mayor – Susanna Salter elected Mayor of Argonia
  • 1917 – 1st female in Congress – Jeanette Rankin elected Rep for Montana
  • 1920 – 19th Amendment gives women the right to vote
  • 1925 – 1st female Governor – Nellie Ross elected Governor of Wyoming
  • 1931 – 1st female elected Senator – Hattie Caraway elected Senator from Arkansas
  • 1933 – 1st female Cabinet member – Frances Perkin appointed Secretary of Labor
  • 1981 – 1st female Supreme Court Justice – Sandra Day O’Connor appointed to Supreme Court
  • 2007 – 1st female Speaker – Nancy Pelosi elected Speaker
  • 2016 – 1st female major party nominee for President – Hillary Clinton

Meanwhile in some countries, women are not allowed to drive!

Public pools should be for everyone

June 11th, 2016 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

News.com.au reports:

A PUBLIC pool that maintains female-only hours so that Hasidic Jewish women can swim with no men present has sparked debate in the US.

For several hours a week, the Metropolitan Pool on Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg, Brooklyn bars men from entering, allowing local Orthodox Jewish women and girls to swim while maintaining their modesty.

The popular recreational centre in New York City’s thriving neighbourhood, just a few blocks from a predominantly Orthodox Jewish community, has kept women-only pool hours since the 1990s. But the practice only came to the attention of the wider public recently after complaints to the city’s Commission on Human Rights.

Commission spokesman Seth Hoy said they received an anonymous complaint “a few months back” that the indoor pool — one of NYC’s oldest — might be violating the city’s human rights law, which bans gender discrimination in public accommodations.

Jewish law forbids women to bathe in front of men and, according to New York State Assemblyman Dov Hikind, a politician who represents the Orthodox Jewish district in Brooklyn, many Hasidic women were “very distraught” after learning the female-only pool hours might be discontinued.

If it is a public pool, it must not discriminate.  Religious beliefs should not get preference under the law.

If members of a religion want a pool that is female only at times, then they can establish their own private pool.

WSJ on ending corporate welfare

June 9th, 2016 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The WSJ:

Competition is at the heart of America’s economic success, but not every type of contest benefits society. Consider the growing trend of businesses cajoling states and politicians to compete for who can dole out the most corporate welfare. It’s especially frustrating because there are already plenty of ways to promote job growth without robbing taxpayers.

General Electric is one of the latest companies to shamelessly demand taxpayer-funded goodies from government. The company’s senior tax counsel Bobby Burgner spoke freely about the firm’s strategy earlier this month at a panel hosted by the National Bureau of Economic Research. Mr. Burgner declared that GE would generally avoid states with congressional delegations opposed to federal-subsidy programs like the Export-Import Bank, which hands out taxpayer-backed loans and guarantees to businesses like GE. This followed the company’s refusal last summer to relocate its headquarters to Dallas, because some prominent Texas lawmakers opposed reauthorizing the bank.

Increasingly, major companies determine where to maintain, expand or relocate facilities based on how much money they can take from taxpayers’ pockets in the process. They sometimes hold jobs and entire communities hostage until they get their way.

And taxpayers are the losers.

The most frequent tactic is to demand tax credits or direct subsidies from state governments. In 2010 John Deere secured $15 million from Iowa to maintain roughly 300 jobs at a Waterloo plant. A year later in neighboring Illinois, Sears and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange Group threatened to relocate their headquarters unless the state forked over about $100 million in tax breaks. General Electric was in on the game as early as 2010 when it sought $25 million in tax credits from Massachusetts to maintain 150 local jobs.

That’s around $150,000 per job subsidy!

And then there’s Boeing. In 2013, the company, which assembles jetliners in the world’s largest building in Everett, Wash., announced that it was looking for a location to build its new 777X. This spurred a furious scramble by multiple states to win the company’s favor. Although most kept their bids under wraps, Missouri tried to tip the scales by passing a bill containing $1.7 billion in tax incentives.

That still wasn’t enough, and Boeing decided to stay in Washington. The price? An $8.7 billion package, the largest such giveaway in American history, that included tax breaks on airplane production, a sales-and-use tax exemption for new buildings and taxpayer-funded training for employees.

Imagine if all the states refused to play the game, and the decision would then be based on location not welfare. And taxpayers would have saved $9 billion.