Archive for the ‘United States’ Category

Speaker Ryan?

October 12th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

In more bad news for Republicans:

The outsiders are still dominating the Republican presidential race, according to a new CBS News poll.

Donald Trump still leads in the new national poll with 27%, followed by Ben Carson at 21%, CBS News reports.

No other GOP candidate finished in double digits. Ted Cruz is third in the CBS poll at 9%, followed by Marco Rubio (8%), Jeb Bush (6%), and Carly Fiorina (6%). No other Republican candidate finished with more than 5%.

No surprise that Trump and Carson lead but Cruz coming third is a surprise.

I think a Rubio/Fiorina ticket could beat Clinton. Trump and Carson would implode during the campaign and Cruz is hated by most of his colleagues.

Meanwhile USA Today reports:

The head of the House Freedom Caucus that helped upend last week’s planned choice of a new speaker predicted Sunday members of the rebellious group would “look favorably” on Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan for the top job.

Ryan also won praise from more centrist representatives and even from a congressman who has announced his own campaign for speaker. But the 45-year-old chairman of theWays and Means Committee, who spent the weekend with his family in Janesville, Wis., remained mum on whether he was willing to accept a role he had previously rejected.

Ryan is the only one who could unite the House Republicans but he really doesn’t want the job. Will he do it for the good of the party though?

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No one wants to be US House Speaker!

October 10th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Politico reports:

The doubts haunted Kevin McCarthy.

Publicly, he projected an air of confidence, the appearance of the man who would be the next speaker of the House. But in private, his allies told him the pursuit for power was changing him and he wasn’t himself. Some said that even if he won, he couldn’t govern.

“We need somebody to get us 247,” McCarthy said in an extensive interview with POLITICO Thursday, referring to the total number of House Republicans. “And I was never going to be able to get 247.”

The majority leader’s longtime allies — the people he recruited and helped get elected to Congress — told him they were getting hammered back home, and that it would be difficult to back him on the House floor.

Other friends said McCarthy’s pursuit of the speaker’s gavel had become a staggering weight on his shoulders and was already starting to change him.

Conservatives — namely members of the House Freedom Caucus — were making demands he believed he simply couldn’t deliver on.


The job of Speaker of the House is the second most powerful in the United States, after the President. They basically solely decide what bills and issues get voted on in the House. In the absence of a President, they are the de facto leader of their party.

Yet the Republican civil war has made the job an awful one. Some Republican representatives have demands so unreasonable, that no Speaker can meet them, and hence no Speaker can govern – unless they rely on Democrats.

So we have not only seen Boehner resign as Speaker, but his No 2 drop out of the race to replace him.

The Republicans have the House and Senate, and Clinton is looking beatable if she is the Democratic nominee. If they had unity, they could win the presidency next year, but if they don’t they will lose, and possibly lose the Senate also. That would be bad as a further Democratic administration could see major changes in the Supreme Court, which would give the liberal wing a majority.


The battle for the IP chapter

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

This will be a long blog post, but an important one. It is about the TPP, the IP chapter, and how a group of NZ organisations actually managed to help beat back the US Government and the corporates they were fighting for.

First I want to talk about critics of the TPP, and how you can divide them into three categories. They are:

1 – Opponents of all trade deals

There are some people who are opposed to all trade deals. They have a honest belief that either trade deals are bad, or trade is bad. A couple of examples are Jane Kelsey and the Greens.

Jane Kelsey has opposed (as far as I can tell) every trade deal NZ has ever signed up to. It doesn’t matter what the details are, she has campaigned against it. She has a world view that is basically protectionism is economically good, and no amount of evidence will sway her views.

Kelsey has every right to her views (though I do grumble that she seems to spend a large proportion of her time as a taxpayer funded academic running campaigns), but the reality is that Kelsey will never influence the details of a trade detail, because people know that nothing they agree to will ever stop her being a critic. She can make a deal more unpopular with voters, but no one in Government ever asks the question “Will this satisfy the demands of Jane Kelsey”.

I’m not trying to personalise it on Professor Kelsey. There are many others like her, who are against petty much all trade deals.

The Greens have voted against against (I think) every trade agreement. Their opposition seems to be more because of their belief that trade harms the environment, and we should grow and produce everything we need locally. So again, no one ever asks what is needed to get the Greens do support a trade deal – it is basically impossible.

2 – Opponents because of who the Government is

This is basically the Labour Party, and some of their supporters. If Labour were in Government I have no doubt the TPP would look very similar to what was announced this week, and they would be signing up to it. They are not opposed to the TPP (well not most of their caucus), but because National is in Government they just see it as a weapon to attack with. Just like the flag referendum.

I don’t mind oppositions attacking Governments for things which they honestly disagree on – for example labour laws and the like. But it does get tiring when you know their opposition is only because they are not in Government themselves. It is worth remembering the TPP started under Labour. They also did a great trade deal with China, which has been hugely beneficial. If it was National that had done the trade deal with China, I suspect Labour would be condemning it.

So in the end these opponents do not get much traction either, because their opposition is more about who the Government is, than what is in the TPP. That doesn’t mean their criticism do not have validity, just that their motivations are more about bashing the Government.

3 – Opponents of some proposed details

The last category is what I want to focus on. It is individual and groups who have been critical of what might be in the TPP, because they think certain aspects would be bad for their area of interest if included.

These opponents are not against the TPP regardless of what is in it. They’re not for it either. They’re people saying “We don’t want X in there” but if X is not there, then we don’t have a view on it.

That might be a health group on keeping the Pharmac model, or ICT groups on the details of the e-commerce and intellectual property chapters. The latter is what I want to focus on, and tell a story about the battle here.

The US wish list on intellectual property

The first post I can find I did on the TPP was about how despite being a big supporter of free trade, I was concerned about the US wishlist in TPP. I quoted Rick Shera on how it could affect us:

  • Rights holders would be allowed to prevent parallel imports
  • Massive extension of terms, from life of author plus 50 years, to 70 years
  • Circumventing a Technological Protection Measure (TPM) will to be a criminal offence even if the work it protects is in the public domain or you want to exercise fair dealing rights like educational use or current affairs reporting
  • The return of guilt upon accusation three strikes Internet termination laws
  • Forcing us to reverse the decision recently taken to exclude software from being patentable
  • Introducing statutory damages (which give rights holders windfall damages up to 3 times their actual losses)
  •  ISP policing of IP rights including a requirement for ISPs to give up their customers’ identities when they receive a mere allegation from a rights holder
  • Criminal liability even where the infringement has no commercial value at all
  • Pushing Courts to impose imprisonment as the default sentence for infringement even where no monetary benefit is obtained

These provisions would have been truly horrible, if they had been agreed to. The good thing is that with the exception of the extension of the term (which is more a copyright than Internet issue) the US got beaten back on pretty much all of this. I’m not saying the IP chapter is great (there are still a couple of areas of concern which we need to see the detail on) but this truly horrible stuff is not in there – software is not patentable still, parallel importing remains legal, you can circumvent TPMs for legal purposes, ISPs don’t face extra liability, no changes to our three strikes law for filesharing infringing (which rights holders don’t like).

So why did the US not get its way on much in this chapter? Is it because it was an unimportant chapter? No, far from it. For several years it has been said that the IP chapter will be one of the most difficult. Many in the media thought the big battle was Pharmac, but in reality that was never at great risk. The PM and others had often said that the IP chapter was one of the big challenges.

This was a concern, as those of us against the US demands, were worried that the IP chapter would be traded at the lost moment with the US, in order to gain a better deal elsewhere. We wanted to stop that happening, and make the price of compromising on the IP chapter too high, so what did we do.

By we I mean groups such as InternetNZ, IITP, TUANZ and NZ Rise. I don’t speak for any of them, this is just my views as someone who was involved.

Set the tone right

It was important that we were not seen as just against TPP regardless. We were against an IP chapter that was bad for NZ. While we would work with other critics such as Jane Kelsey (and inform them of our concerns), it was vital not to be seen as anti-TPP regardless. You lose influence if you do that.

We also tried to have it about ICT and Internet industries being important for NZ’s future and don’t trade away their interests for those of commodity industries.

Be specific

Another key was not just to rant about secret negotiations (even though criticism of the process was made), selling out sovereignty, attacking Hollywood corporations. It was to be specific as to what measures were opposed, the impact on NZ of them, and putting up alternative provisions.

Meet NZ negotiators

Many meetings were arranged with negotiators with MFAT and MBIE. And they were extremely professional, and useful. The negotiators do not set policy (Ministers do), but they will tell you what their position is, listen to your concerns, and make sure they understand them.

They would also share information on the negotiations. They are not allowed to sit down with you and show you a copy of the proposed texts (unless every negotiating country agreed). But they could tell you in some detail what the issues are, and what the NZG position currently was. And thanks to texts being leaked on Wikileaks, we actually got verified that the NZ negotiators were advocating exactly what they told us they were, and resisting the US demands.

They also were useful in giving us some idea of which countries were with us on these issues, and which were not, and which were yet to take a position. Again, not in exact detail which would breach confidentiality, but some useful steers.

The key here is that while the exact negotiating texts were secret, stakeholders could gain information on proceedings by engaging with the process – and not just corporates, but civil society groups also. Engaging with the process works, rather than just shouting slogans.

Also at least one meeting was held (possibly more) with the Trade Negotiations Minister, Tim Groser. I did not attend, but understand he was very up to speed with the issues around the IP chapter. Meetings were also held with the ICT Minister, so she could be a voice for the industry if Cabinet discussed details.

It also became apparent to me that other Ministers, up to and including the PM, were aware of the issues around the Internet and the IP chapter. In fact as I said earlier, the PM said fairly early on that the IP chapter might be the toughest.

Meet TPP supporters

We met supporters of the TPP such as NZ International Business Forum (Stephen Jacobi). We explained that our potential opposition was issues based. If certain provisions were in the TPP, we would be opposing and criticising it. But if they were not there, then mostly we would have no view.

We know that most business groups would support the TPP, regardless of the IP chapter. What we wanted to get across, was that if they could use their influence to get an IP chapter that was more palatable to us, then there would be less domestic opposition.

The meetings were cordial, and useful.

I can’t recall exactly other meetings we had, but off memory there was some dialogue also with the US Embassy and Federated Farmers.

Attend the Negotiations

Staff were sent to some of the international negotiations rounds. Why, if you are not allowed in the negotiating room? Well, a lot happens in the side events and public forums. You can set up stands handing out information on your views, you can chat to NZ negotiators, you can get to meet the negotiators from other countries, and also develop links with other third party groups who share your concerns.

The staffer who attended some of these for the NZ group did an excellent job in building networks, organising events and getting our message across. It was an excellent investment in sending her.

Build a coalition locally

A local coalition was set up – called the Fair Deal coalition. It was set up to critique and oppose the US demands, but also to put pressure on the NZ Government to stick to its position. We wanted to make any backing down politically painful. A quote from the site is:

The US wants copyright standards that would force change to New Zealand’s copyright laws. We want you to know more about what’s at stake so that you can have a say now, before the deal is done.

The good news is that we know – from another leaked document – that the NZ copyright team went into TPP talks looking for fair copyright (and other intellectual property) standards. Now is the time to stand behind our team and  support a Fair Deal for New Zealand.

NZ members were InternetNZ, NZ Rise, Creative Freedom Foundation, Blind Foundation, TUANZ, Consumer, IITP, Trade Me, NZ Open Source Society, LIANZA, Tech Liberty and Scoop.

The tone wasn’t to attack the Government, but to pressure the Government to stand firm.

Build a coalition globally

At the beginning of the negotiations, NZ was quite exposed. The US was pushing hard for their wishlist, NZ was the most staunch against, and we had few allies. Many were not focused on it much, and Australia even seemed to be backing the US.

The NZ negotiators made it pretty clear that if we are alone there, then we need to compromise more. So we went about building a wider coalition.

Through attendance at the actual meetings, links were made to other groups in the countries negotiating the TPP. An alliance was formed with Public Citizen, Open Media, Australian Digital Alliance, Consumers International, EFF etc. Gradually more and more countries came to siding with the NZ position.

Note I am not suggesting this is solely or even mainly due to the work of the alliance, but I do believe it did have an impact.

Also crucially, we tried to soften the US position. Their position was reflecting the demands of Hollywood associated creative industries. In fact many of the staff in the IP area of the Trade team, had worked for lobby groups there. But then big US IT companies started lobbying, saying they did not support some of the US position. This helped weaken the US stance, as it was no longer unambiguous what Us businesses wanted.

Host the negotiations

Auckland hosted the 15th round of negotiations in December 2012. This was great as it gave us a great opportunity to interact. There were a number of initiatives as part of that, but the most significant was we hosted a lunch for all the IP negotiators from all the countries. I think they all had someone attend, and most importantly the US did.

Over the lunch a few of us spoke, on various aspects and outlined what our issues and concerns were. My role was to talk about the politics, and explain how NZ had just had several big fights on IP law – the blackout campaign, ACTA, patent law, a new copyright act – and I doubted any Government would want to be explaining why the hard fought compromise that had been achieved was now going to be upended. I also talked on Dotcom and how he is alleging Key and Obama did a deal with Hollywood to lock him up, in exhchange for the TPP – and while that may be nonsense, could they imagine a NZ PM standing up and saying “We’ve decided to change our copyright and IP laws to please Hollywood”. The point was that if you demand something a Government is simply politically unable to deliver, then you won’t get an agreement (like Canada on dairy – political cost too high).

And this is partly why the only major change appears to be length of copyright, rather than stuff more directly affecting the Internet. And don’t get me wrong – I am against the extension, but from my point of view it is less harmful than what else the US was demanding, and if we had to compromise on something – that is the lesser evil from an Internet point of view.

Constructive opposition does make a difference

The point of all this, is that constructive engagement, criticism and even at times opposition can make a difference. When you work with the Government and negotiators in good faith, you can have influence and get better outcomes (even if still sub-optimal) than without your involvement. You do a mixture of loud noisy activism (postcard campaigns, petitions, public meetings) and behind the scenes diplomacy – but always with a consistent principled message that we are not anti TPP (or pro TPP), just anti these provisions.

I’m actually very proud that the NZ ICT industry and civil society managed to run a very effective and principled campaign, that was overall remarkably successful – especially against the power of the US Government, and very wealthy and powerful firms in the US. One can be cynical about aspects of politics (such as the secrecy), but one can also celebrate that spending time and money on sticking up for your beliefs can work, and logical well reasoned arguments can beat vested interests.

Again do not take any of this to suggest the ICT industry now thinks the TPP is great. I don’t speak for them, and from what I have observed views are as diverse within it, as elsewhere. Some still think it is the worst thing ever and the end of democracy, and others think it is a great deal. I personally think it is an overall positive deal, and actually pleasantly surprised that we managed to get a deal, with most (not all) of the nasty IP provisions defanged.

But there is a lesson here for other groups, and individuals. Constructive opposition and criticism can achieve far far more, than just blanket negativity and attack.

The groups involved in the Far Deal coalition, both locally and globally, should be proud of what they managed to achieve, against formidable odds.  Also I give credit to the professional negotiators from MFAT and MBIE who I think did a very good job of holding the line.


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Bipartisan support in US for saner sentences

October 8th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The NYT editorial:

The sentencing reform bill introduced in the Senate on Thursday falls far short of what is needed, but it is a crucial first step on the long path toward unwinding the federal government’s decades-long reliance on prisons as the answer to every ill.

For starters, it is worth noting the bipartisan nature of this legislation. In a Senate that can’t agree on the time of day, top Republican and Democratic senators — most notably Senator Charles Grassley, Republican of Iowa and chairman of the Judiciary Committee, as well as a longtime supporter of harsh sentencing laws — negotiated for months to produce a concrete set of fixes.

Among the most significant are those that would reduce mandatory-minimum sentences for many drug crimes. These sentences are jaw-droppingly long — from five years for a first offense up to life without parole for a third. The new bill would cut the life sentence to a 25-year minimum, and would cut the 20-year sentence for a second offense to 15 years.

A minimum five year sentence for a first strike drug crime is just nuts. Yes you need sanctions, but this is a very expensive policy which has not reduced drug sales or use, and has people in prison for decades.

Half of all federal inmates are in prison for drug crimes. In NZ the comparative figure is 10%.

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California legalises euthanasia

October 6th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Guardian reports:

California will become the fifth state to allow terminally ill patients to legally end their lives using doctor-prescribed drugs after Governor Jerry Brown announced Monday he signed one of the most emotionally charged bills of the year.

Brown, a lifelong Catholic and former Jesuit seminarian, announced he signed the legislation after thoroughly considering all opinions and discussing the issue with many people, including a Catholic bishop and two of Brown’s doctors.

“In the end, I was left to reflect on what I would want in the face of my own death,” the governor wrote in a signing statement that accompanied his signature on the legislation. “I do not know what I would do if I were dying in prolonged and excruciating pain. I am certain, however, that it would be a comfort to be able to consider the options afforded by this bill.

Fascinating that a staunch Catholic decided not to veto the bill.

I’ll predict that within two decades, most states in the US will allow euthanasia.


TPP negotiations concluded

October 6th, 2015 at 6:50 am by David Farrar

It’s taken eight years, but the TPP negotiations have now been concluded. They started under Labour and Phil Goff in early 2008 and it has expanded from five countries (the original P4 and USA) to 12 countries, with another six saying they may join also.

Before I look at the substance, I think it is worth reflecting that just getting an agreement is significant. The Doha round of WTO multi-lateral negotiations has been going on for 15 years, and is far from complete (and may never complete). This is the largest trade agreement since the Uruguay round completed in 1994.

The New Zealand Government has had many negotiators working on this for the last eight years – from MFAT, and from other agencies such as MBIE. This has been their life month in and month out with 19 rounds of negotiations.and 23 meetings of chief negotiators and/or ministers. I’ve got to meet a few of them over the years and they’re extremely dedicated and effective public servants, who will be very pleased to see this work complete.

In terms of the substance, there seem to be three broad themes.

  1. Eventual elimination of all tariffs in all industries except beef and dairy
  2. Minor concessions from Canada on dairy but better deal with Japan on beef (tariff dropping from 40% to 9%)
  3. Most of the potentially “bad” stuff has been resisted (change to Pharmac model, the US demands on ISP liability for copyright, tobacco companies can’t use ISDS provisions)

This is not a gold plated deal, as was the aspiration. Canada and Japan especially have been unwilling to fully open up their markets to competition. Canada has almost a soviet style dairy system where a 30 cow farm has a quota worth $1 million. Some cows sell for almost $200,000 due to the law restricting either domestic or international competition. So incumbents quota owners fight hard against losing their quota, just as taxi firms fight hard against Uber.

With the benefit of hindsight, it may have been better to not allow Canada and Japan to join the TPP. They promised in joining that they understood the aim was the elimination of all tariffs. But their domestic pressures were too great. However the argument to have them in, is that the US would have been less able to get fast track approval through Congress without those two large economies as part of the deal.

But while the benefits are less than what they could have been, it will still be a beneficial agreement for NZ. As Helen Clark said, you’d be basically nuts to walk away from a deal with 40% of the world’s economy. And the net benefit to the NZ economy through the tariff removals and overall agreement is (I understand) in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

There are always some dead rats to swallow in deals, but we appear to have avoided the larger nastier ones. When the full text is released in a month, we’ll have a clearer idea, but the US Trade Representative has a summary of each of the 30 chapters. The removal of tobacco companies from ISDS provisions will reassure many, the US failed to get much progress on extending drug patents, the Pharmac model is unchanged, and the early US demands on Internet and intellectual property issues (some of which were deeply concerning) appear to have fallen away, and the current chapter seems reasonably palatable. That is not to say there won’t be some stuff in there which we’d rather not have at all. For example the length of term of copyright looks set to be extended by 20 years. This is stupid, when in fact copyright terms (life + 50 years) are already too long in NZ. But from what I can see the negatives in the TPP are outweighed by the positives by a very considerable margin.

The FTA with China has been hugely beneficial to New Zealand. Parties such as NZ First and the Greens which opposed it should be embarrassed, as exports to China skyrocketed since the FTA, resulting in billions of extra dollars into the NZ economy. The history of our trade deals is that the benefits and increases in exports have almost always been far greater than anticipated.

UPDATE: The Beehive site has some details on the deal. The savings on tariffs, once full implemented by sector are:

  • Dairy $102 million
  • Meat $72 million
  • Fruit and vegetables $26 million
  • Other agriculture $18 million
  • Wine $10 million
  • Manufacturing $10 million
  • Forestry $9 million
  • Fish $8 million
  • Wool $4 million
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Keall on the Dotcom case

September 30th, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Chris Keall writes at NBR:

I’ve previously written that Megaupload’s cash-incentive payments would loom large in Kim Dotocom and co’s extradition case.

And so it proved yesterday as the Crown alleged one user of Mr Dotcom’s file sharing service was paid more than $US50,000 as a reward for uploading files that proved popular with Megaupload members.

Files uploaded by user “H” – just one of many to take advantage of the cash-incentive rewards scheme – generated 1.2 million downloads between 2006 and 2011 (the expanded FBI evidence summary covers it in detail here).

The US Department of Justice, plus major Hollywood studios and multinational record labels, say most of the files covered by the cash-incentive scheme were copyrighted works and that Megaupload was rewarding piracy.

This is at the heart of the case, and the argument that Megaupload was not just like Dropbox – because it paid users for sharing content that got widely downloaded.

Mr Dotcom has also pointed out that YouTube gives uploaders of popular files a share of the Google Ad revenue generated by their clip. That could well be construed as an incentive programme. But to get a share of that Google Ad money, you have to be a trusted user. And if, in its vetting process, YouTube notices there is copyright-infringing music (for example, a zany wedding dance clip features a Taylor Swift soundtrack), the service then approaches the artist or rights-holder concerned and offers to either a) take the clip down or b) leave it up but cut them in on the revenue. Megaupload never gave a cent to an artist or rights holder when it generated an alleged $US175 million in membership fees and ad revenue generated around their material.

It is no surprise they were unhappy. It is possible though Megaupload did not breach US law. They certainly knew they were making money through encouraging copyright infringment. But they may hev done just enough to comply with the US MDCA which has a process for dealing with complaints.

Mr Dotcom has also styled Google as a giant piracy machine, saying it makes it easy to find copyright-breaching material, whereas Megaupload featured no search engine or other mechanism to help users find files stored by other members.

But the Crown has already focused on FBI evidence, gatheredthrough intercepted Skype conversations, that the Megaupload crew worked with third parties to make offending content on Megaupload easily discoverable.

Again quite damning.

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Even Obama says political correctness going too far

September 28th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Vox reports:

People concerned about liberal political correctness on college campuses have a powerful ally: President Obama.

At a town hall here on college affordability on Monday afternoon, one student asked Obama to respond to Republican presidential contender Ben Carson’s proposal to cut off funding to colleges that demonstrate political bias.

Unsurprisingly, Obama didn’t like it much. “I have no idea what that means, and I suspect he doesn’t either,” he said, then continued: “The idea that you’d have somebody in government making a decision about what you should think ahead of time or what you should be taught, and if it’s not the right thought, or idea, or perspective or philosophy, that person would be — they wouldn’t get funding, runs contrary to everything we believe about education,” he said. “That might work in the Soviet Union, but that doesn’t work here. That’s not who we are.”

After that criticism, he went on to give his opinion about what’s been called the “new political correctness” on college campuses:

It’s not just sometimes folks who are mad that colleges are too liberal that have a problem. Sometimes there are folks on college campuses who are liberal, and maybe even agree with me on a bunch of issues, who sometimes aren’t listening to the other side, and that’s a problem too. I’ve heard some college campuses where they don’t want to have a guest speaker who is too conservative or they don’t want to read a book if it has language that is offensive to African-Americans or somehow sends a demeaning signal towards women. I gotta tell you, I don’t agree with that either. I don’t agree that you, when you become students at colleges, have to be coddled and protected from different points of view. I think you should be able to — anybody who comes to speak to you and you disagree with, you should have an argument with ‘em. But you shouldn’t silence them by saying, “You can’t come because I’m too sensitive to hear what you have to say.” That’s not the way we learn either.

The word Obama chose is telling. The idea that college students are demanding to be “coddled” comes up frequently in debates about how much colleges should accommodate requests from students for trigger warnings on syllabuses, for example, or how they should respond to criticisms of graduation speakers or even comedy shows. A recent Atlantic article on the phenomenon was headlined “The Coddling of the American Mind.”

Self-censorship on US campuses is reaching massive levels. Controversial speakers (only from the right of course) are banned because they say something that offends someone.

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A moving story

September 24th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Rebecca Cohen writes in the Washington Post:

In coming days, the Senate is expected to consider a federal ban on abortions at 20 weeks. Before lawmakers cast their votes, I would like them to hear my story.

If such a ban had been in place a year ago, I would have been condemned to carry and give birth to a baby who had no chance at life.

I have been happily married for more than a decade, and I have two beautiful children. When my husband and I found out last year that I was pregnant again, we were overjoyed.

At 20 weeks, my husband and I went for our favorite prenatal visit: the detailed ultrasound anatomy scan that shows your baby’s heart, kidneys, bladder, stomach, spine and brain and whether you’re having a girl or a boy. I could barely contain myself as I sat on the exam table, eager to meet our baby more intimately. My husband and I chit-chatted with the ultrasound technician, gabbing and laughing when we recognized familiar features on the ultrasound images.

But after five minutes, only my husband and I were talking. The technician had grown quiet. She just kept printing picture after picture and pressing the wand deeper into the gel on my stomach.

Over the next week came referrals to high-risk pregnancy specialists and more, longer, in-depth ultrasounds. In our baby’s brain cavity, where gray matter should have been visible, there was only black. The diagnosis was the same from every doctor: Something — we would learn it was not genetic or chromosomal — had caused two leaks in our baby’s brain, one on each side, destroying it almost entirely.

We would have done anything to save the baby. We asked if there was any possibility for repair, if the brain tissue could regrow. There wasn’t. My baby would either die in the womb or shortly after birth.

Our child would never gain consciousness.

Our little one was gone.

I have never known horror quite like that. Adding to the pain, the brain stem was not affected, so the baby’s body was still moving involuntarily. But I knew there was no person in there anymore. I couldn’t sleep and could barely eat, and every time the baby jerked, I suffered and mourned.

I didn’t know what to tell my kids. They kept kissing my belly, feeling for kicks and singing to the baby. I didn’t know what words to choose, but it hardly mattered, because I couldn’t finish a sentence without sobbing.

Even after we made that decision, it was difficult to find an available provider, even in an area with as many medical providers as the District. The hospitals had weeks-long waits. In the end, we were able to schedule an appointment at a surgical clinic for the following week.

My pregnancy was 21 weeks on the day of my abortion.

I mourn the loss of my baby every day. But I have no doubt that I made the right decision for myself and my family, and I am grateful that it was my choice to make. …

Congress should not take this decision away from any woman — any family — who is in need. Banning abortions after 20 weeks would be arbitrary, and its consequences would place an unimaginable burden on women like me.

When an abortion was the best of only horrible options, I was beyond grateful that one was available in a safe, compassionate medical establishment. And that my family could begin to heal.

An incredibly sad story with no good options, only a range of horrible options. I find it hard to imagine someone can argue that the law should prevent this woman from making the choice she did.



Walker quits

September 22nd, 2015 at 9:47 am by David Farrar

The Washington Post reports:

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is suspending his presidential campaign Monday, according to several Republicans briefed on his plans, effectively ending a once-promising GOP presidential bid that collapsed amid tepid debate performances and other missteps. He planned to speak to reporters at a 5 p.m. CT press conference in Madison, Wis.

Walker, had enjoyed from top-tier status when he launched his bid earlier this year, had seen his candidacy wilt in the heat of a summer dominated by Donald Trump.

Walker’s backers saw a campaign discombobulated by Trump’s booming popularity and by his provocative language on immigration, China and other issues. They saw in Walker a candidate who — in contrast to the discipline he showed in state races — continued to commit unforced errors, either out of lack of preparation or in an attempt to grab part of the flamboyant businessman’s following.

Walker had great promise. He was probably my preferred candidate as he actually had a track record of governing, and stood up to the unions.

But the combination of a poor campaign and the Trump circus saw him fade away. He was at just 1% in the most recent poll.

His withdrawal is significant, more so than the earlier one of Rick Perry. Perry was always a favourite son candidate only. But Walker was one of three establishment candidates who were front-runners – along with Bush and Rubio.

I don’t see Trump or Carson getting the nomination. Both say too many stupid things. It doesn’t dent their core support, but it means they are unlikely to get a majority of Republican delegates voting for them.

Fiorina is on a rise, and credible. She could attack Hillary like no-one else can. But her record at HP is a millstone that can sink her, as it has in the past.

My pick at the moment would be Rubio. His youth and energy would be a counter to Hillary, and he is really really smart. Has become a real expert on foreign policy. However his downside is his lack of governing experience.

Bush is okay, and has a great record as governor. My worry is Bush vs Clinton will go the same way as 1992.

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Tax free pot

September 19th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

An accounting error in Colorado is paying off for marijuana consumers Wednesday, when a quirk in a state tax law prompts the state to suspend most taxes on recreational pot.

The one-day pot tax holiday means Colorado won’t collect 10 percent sales taxes on pot.

The state is also suspending a 15 percent excise tax on marijuana growers.

The tax break is happening because Colorado underestimated overall state tax collections last year. Under the state constitution, the accounting error triggers an automatic suspension of any new taxes ” in this case, the recreational marijuana taxes voters approved in 2013.

Retailers are hoping for big crowds, rolling out bargains to attract shoppers. The state had no estimate on how many shoppers might turn out.

The taxes revert to 25 percent on Thursday.

I quite like this law. If your tax revenues are higher than forecast, then taxes drop or get suspended!

The final tax numbers covered the first full fiscal year in which adults over 21 could legally buy both marijuana and alcohol.

Alcohol excise tax collections were up 2.4 percent, to about $42 million. Marijuana-specific taxes came in at about $70 million.

The figures don’t include a statewide 2.9 percent sales taxes. In other words, alcohol likely still produces more overall tax money than pot, though the state doesn’t keep data on how much general sales tax comes from alcohol. Recreational pot is taxed much more steeply than alcohol.

The Government here should do the same – tax it, not ban it.


$100 million per rebel fighter!

September 19th, 2015 at 6:56 am by David Farrar

The Washington Post reports:

The Obama administration is moving toward major changes in its military train-and-equip program for the Syrian opposition after the acknowledged failure of efforts to create a new force of rebel fighters to combat the Islamic State there.

In comments that appeared to shock even many of those involved in Syria policy elsewhere in the government, Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, the head of the U.S. Central Command, told Congress on Wednesday that only “four or five” trainees from the program, a $500 million plan officially launched in December to prepare as many as 5,400 fighters this year, have ended up “in the fight” inside Syria.

That has to win some sort of record for wasteful spending. $500 million on training to get four or five fighters!!

And people wonder why so many of us are sceptical of government spending.

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14 year old arrested for making a clock!

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

The Washington Post reports:

Fourteen-year-old Ahmed Mohamed just wanted to get noticed by his teachers.

Instead, he got arrested.

In an incident that has raised allegations of racism and made a Texas school district the target of online outrage, the ninth-grader was pulled out of school in handcuffs after a digital clock he built himself was mistaken for a bomb.

Mohamed, a self-assured kid with thick-framed glasses and a serious expression, had just started at MacArthur High School a few weeks ago. The Irving, Tex., ninth-grader has a talent for tinkering — he constructs his own radios and once built a Bluetooth speaker as a gift for his friend — and he wanted to show his new teachers what he could do. So on Sunday night, he quickly put together a homemade digital clock (“just something small,” as he casually put it to the Dallas Morning News: a circuit board and power supply connected to a digital display) and proudly offered it to his engineering teacher the next day.

But the teacher looked wary.

“He was like, ‘That’s really nice,’” Mohamed told the Dallas Morning News. “‘I would advise you not to show any other teachers.’”

The teacher and school are idiots. If they had any concerns at all about the device, they should have just asked to see how it worked more. But considering it was something a 14 year old is showing off to an engineering teacher (not something that he was hiding and they found), it was taking paranoia to a new level.

“I think this wouldn’t even be a question if his name wasn’t Ahmed Mohamed,” Alia Salem, CAIR’s executive director for the Dallas-Fort Worth region, told WFAA.

Sadly he is right.


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Guest Post: Cactus Kate attends a Donald Trump rally

September 17th, 2015 at 2:48 pm by David Farrar

Kiwiblog foreign correspondent Cactus Kate bravely attended a Donald Trump rally on behalf of Kiwiblog, so she could report back on what is actually happening there:

“I don’t care much for the chances of ever implementing Donald Trump’s “feed me less” tax policy coupled with promised massive spending or his ridiculous stance against gay marriage.  I also don’t care much for the identity of the US President because alone in the US political system they cannot make that much a difference in the real world.  Obama has proved this to be true more than any other.  So many promises and hope and yet so little delivery for his adoring fans.

Trump admires marriage so much he has had three weddings and god knows how many women on the side, but with an open mind I travelled down to San Pedro for the day to the USS Iowa for Kiwiblog to hear Trump’s short impromptu rally to Veteran’s For a Strong America, a group who have now curiously endorsed him.

The most appealing proposition was to go on a battleship. I mean who is going to turn that down? I’ve never been on a battleship. The event with national anthem, pledge of allegiance and chants of “Trump” was as spectacularly American as the post Summer Slam WWE Monday Night Raw I attended last month in Brooklyn.


Yes I too like possibly hundreds of million if not a billion  people would like to live in the USA but I can’t. I can only spend 90 days at a time here then I have to leave and re-enter and woman-up to the bitchy face customs again. Unlike the many illegal economic immigrants (and they are not refugees) crossing the border from Mexico still, I accept this law and the sovereignty of the USA attached to decide who she likes to have living and visiting here and for how long. I wasn’t alone in the paying audience some who had parted with $1,000 for their seats. The impotent rabble outside whinging don’t understand this. Yes even us white folk from nice countries like New Zealand have to follow immigration laws. Shocking.

Every speaker reminded the crowd that men and women fought so the rabble could come and protest. Every speaker also reminded the crowd to large applause that illegal immigrants were receiving better healthcare than these veterans. The protestors were better behaved and orderly than anything outside a National Party meeting. This may though have something to do with a thousand Americans coming on and off a battleship, many veterans and many very possibly packing heat.

Donald Trump, who once famously appeared on WWE fighting Vince McMahon in the “battle of the billionaires” (when neither actually probably was) make no mistake is a show biz politician. But then so really was Ronald Reagan and today Trump will be joining the other candidates debating in his library. Reagan didn’t turn out too badly. Fortunately David Farrar’s influence with the GOP didn’t extend to getting me a ticket to that yawn fest and I can do something more American like go to the movies and eat the world’s largest popcorn and drink the world’s largest coke.

Trump has turned himself into the candidate of the people. the anti-candidate. Like in New Zealand the Beltway typically do not understand the voters at all and like the repeater from NBC behind me who repeatedly falsely claimed the protestors were drowning out the speakers, misses the point of Trump completely.

The Media Party were in attendance, just like in New Zealand they overblew the protestors and focused on the most radical people in the audience they could find to say things.  The star was a young Mexican man who like plenty in America actually arrived and are here legally and support Trump’s most outrageous campaign wish – to erect a wall on the Mexican border and have Mexico pay for it.  I doubt this young man’s soundbites were cut in any other way than to make Trump sound Mexican-hating.


So in Trump we have an otherwise dodgy loud multi millionaire telling us that he is the rebel and the underdog. He’s not a Bush (my wife is Mexican and I speak Spanish) or a Clinton (my husband is Bill and you may like to wink wink pay his “speaking fee” instead of donating directly and openly to my campaign). The Republicans with Bush, Cruz, Christie, Huckabee, Rubio and Trump have what I would only studiously term some very serious chop chop to execute before the inevitable face off with The Robot that is Hillary. The woman best remembered as extorting her husband into standing by her side for her Presidency charade after forgiving him for blowing a cigar in the vagina of another woman.  Oh and don’t forget The Hill-bot from her private server has personal emails so boring that someone should really check her pulse regularly.  The best thing her campaign team could do right now is to leak some fabricated dirty emails between the Clintons just so some voters may actually believe they are real.

Don’t get me wrong Trump’s few announced policies make absolutely no sense and from a purist point of view he has been and will get destroyed in debates. But he is a candidate for our time. He can get away with blue murder on the campaign trail and needs to keep doing precisely what he has been doing – letting loose. This is what makes his campaign a must watch and why tickets are being scalped to attend these sorts of events. It is theatre at its finest. I couldn’t work out however if this woman was Trump’s hairdresser or a repeater not that interested in interviewing people accurately:


Middle America are dismissed by idiotic polisnobs (such as the knobs on Twitter polluting us all with their free snide opinions) as “uneducated”. These people are anything but.  They *are* America and they all vote and unlike the illegal immigrants all up in arms at Trump and having the political left speak for them, they’re actually eligible en masse to vote. Many like WWE, actually understand Honey Boo Boo, Duck Dynasty, shooting, God and the NRA. Underestimate their power at your peril. America isn’t about Los Angeles and New York, what the tourists and stereotypes on exported TV are. The bits in between are the most important and unless you have spent a decent amount of time with actual Americans not the Democrat liberal flower apologists for America you will misunderstand this.

I sat next to a man who had served on the USS Kittyhawk. To say he was euphoric about Trump is an understatement. Every second he seemed to turn to his wife and grab her hand harder, every word was induced through first the nose then the lips like a fine glass of Screaming Eagle. During parts of the speech the entire row of buttocks surrounding me came off their chairs with glee. Trump has made this Presidential race exciting.

The issue the Democrats will have with Trump is that he isn’t really attracting the religious far right who will infect his campaign. They are uneasy with him. Therefore to campaign against him they can’t write him off in one carefully constructed poll driven swipe.

The best they are doing now is predictably calling him racist and that he is a joke.  Having stayed at the Trump Soho last month I can report that there is no race boycott at that hotel and many of the guests were African-American, most of the entertainment at the hotel were too.

Trump’s blatant sexism and snide off the cuff remarks aren’t motivated by religion. I don’t think he’d really care about a lazy abortion or two with his shagging record or to beg and bully any mistress to actually have an abortion if the need arose so I think he’s just genuinely repulsive in a way that you would get in New Zealand if you crossed Bob Jones with Winston Peters if New Zealand had a Presidential race.

That though makes him genuine and dare I say it from polls currently and what I saw on the good ship USA Iowa with slogans such as “illegal immigrants get better healthcare than Veterans”, “the silent majority are not silent anymore” – fast becoming in a diverse land still ruled by middle America, highly electable.

Just when you thought that Trump couldn’t get any more theatrical he insists like a Commander on leaving the ship first for his waiting limousine, stopping right in front of the protesters and smiling and waving at them.

It is enough to make the left wingers and professional protesters who forget what they are actually angry about, spit out their Taco Bell.  Which is why Trump should always be welcome in this Presidential campaign and why it is not the worst thing in the world if he ends up as President.


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Kiwiblog to report on Trump rally

September 15th, 2015 at 5:25 pm by David Farrar

I’ve managed to get a ticket to the next Donald Trump rally. It is on board the Battleship USS Iowa, so should be a doozy.

A Kiwiblog Foreign Correspondent has been dispatched to the event, and will blog on it here.


The Iranian Nuclear Deal

September 12th, 2015 at 4:52 pm by kiwi in america

On July 14th the Obama Administration announced that an agreement (known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA) had been reached with the Iranians regarding their nuclear programme. It was sold heavily by Secretary of State John Kerry and President Obama as a good deal that will constrain Iran’s nuclear ambition and bring ‘peace in our time’. The deal was quickly ratified by the UN Security Council but faced a rockier road in the US Congress.

The US Constitution (Article 2, Section 2, Clause 2) states that all foreign treaties must be ratified by a 2/3rds majority of the Senate. With Republican control of the Senate, that would have been a hard ask. Obama decided to deal with the Iranian agreement the same way as he dealt with his immigration reform, do an end run around Congress where both Houses are controlled by his opponents. Obama announced that the Iranian agreement would be promulgated by Executive Order only. His Administration can also unilaterally refuse to enforce the sanctions without Congressional approval; all else to do with the deal does not have the force of a formal treaty which means that an incoming new President in January 2017 can merely rescind the order and the US side of the deal would collapse.

To overcome the legitimate objection that this hugely important agreement was going to be rammed through bypassing the usual constitutional treaty ratification process and at least give the impression of SOME consultation with the Senate, Obama agreed to submit the JCPOA to a process negotiated with both parties in the Senate. The agreed upon process was passed into law called the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, often called in the US the Corker – Menendez – Cardin law (after the Republican and Democrat senators who sponsored the bill). The Senate would get the chance to review the agreement but the Constitutional approval process was turned on its head stating that the agreement would be deemed to be approved by Congress unless effectively 2/3rds of the Senate vote against it.

For the opponents of the agreement, the Corker law erected a very high barrier because of the other Senate procedures and Constitutional checks and balances. In order for the Senate to even pass a Motion of Disapproval, opponents must first muster 60 Senate votes to overcome the Minority Democrats likely filibuster. Republicans would need to be unified and get 6 Democrat Senators to defect to get the 60 Senate votes needed to defeat a filibuster which would send the Motion to President Obama for his signature. Obama has already announced he would veto it and to override a Presidential veto, you need a 2/3rds majority in both Houses of Congress. Whilst a number of high profile Democrat senators announced their opposition to the deal (including likely new Democrat Senate Minority leader Chuck Schumer of New York), last week Obama secured the support of the 34th Senator in favour of the deal thus ensuring his veto would be sustained in the Senate. Today (Friday 11 September) the House voted 269 to 162 to reject the deal, a margin of 107 which included 25 Democrat defections. However Nancy Pelosi, the Democrat House Minority Leader, says she has at least 150 Democrats who will vote against a veto override meaning the House would fall short of a veto.

On Tuesday 8 September, Administration officials announced that 41 Democrat Senators had announced support for the deal making it possible for Senate Democrats to block via filibuster the Motion of Disapproval obviating even the need for President Obama’s veto. As of right now, Republicans are toying with a series of amendments to the agreement that encapsulate the most egregious and unpopular aspects to force Senate and House Democrats into a series of embarrassing votes in favour of the worst aspects of the deal. This tactic worked a few months ago with a child trafficking bill that Democrats tried to add abortion funding amendments to and then tried to filibuster the whole law. In the end, the threat of filibuster was withdrawn. But even if the GOP succeed in having the Senate Democrats withdraw their filibuster of the Motion of Disapproval enabling it to pass, Obama will still veto it.

It is important to note that the JCPOA is very unpopular amongst the US voting public. All reputable independent polls conducted by the large polling companies (as opposed to pro deal lobby group polls) point to an almost 2:1 opposition to the deal with a recent Pew poll putting support for the deal at barely 21%. This post examines the reasons for this opposition and why, in my opinion, it is a bad deal.

Iran is not a trustworthy player

Since the overthrow of the Shah in 1979 and the ascension to power of the Islamic mullahs, Iran has conducted numerous of acts of aggression against enemies of its Islamic fundamentalist ideals beginning of course with the 444 day captivity of all but six of the staff of the US Embassy in Tehran.

Iran has been an aggressive funder of, and provider of weapons for, Islamic terror groups across the Middle East including Hezbollah in Lebanon (who provoked a war with Israel in 2006, who massacred 241 US Marines in 1982 and assassinated numerous Druze and Christian politicians in Lebanon), Hamas in Gaza (whose indiscriminate shooting of rockets into Israel has led to three Gaza wars with Israel), Houthi rebels in Yemen (recently overthrowing the Yemeni government) and a number of attacks on Israeli or Jewish targets around the globe with the most devastating attacks being in Argentina.

Iran engaged in an 8 year long war with Iraq (then seen more as a US proxy) with overall casualties topping 1 million. After the US led invasion of Iraq in 2003, Iranian Revolutionary Guards and Quds forces acted to foment Shia on Sunni sectarian violence in Iraq that was not quelled until the Petraeus led surge of US troops in 2007.

Iran cannot be considered as anything other than an extremist repressive theocracy. There are no free elections, no trade unions, no free press, an extensive and brutal secret police to stamp out opposition, woman are subservient as Islamic laws that treat them as second class citizens are enforced and homosexuals are routinely beaten, hung or thrown from high buildings [correction: Iran has hung over 4,000 gays since 1979 according to gar rights groups – throwing gays from buildings is a hallmark of ISIS].

The whole purpose of the JCPOA arose from the long efforts of the Iranians to build a nuclear weapons capability. The entire sanctions regime that was under review was imposed on Iran because it continued to develop this capability in spite of UN Security Council resolutions and the original opposition of the US and its allies.

Disappearing red lines

The US entered these talks with a number of so-called red or bottom lines. As the negotiations wore on in Geneva, the US progressively caved on each red line:

* The closing down and dismantling of the underground facility at Fordow. Now Fordow can continue to operate with nothing more than ineffectual Russian oversight.

* Inspections were initially going to be “anywhere – anytime”. These have been negotiated away to a farcical regime that gives the Iranians the ability to effectively police themselves.

Toothless inspections regime

The Bush Administration’s sanctions, its action to depose Saddam Hussein in Iraq then the IAEA’s (International Atomic Energy Agency – the UN’s nuclear inspection agency) inspections regime in Libya effectively brought an end to Muammar Gaddafi’s nuclear ambitions. Here was a peaceful precedent as to how to snuff out of a nascent nuclear weapons programme. But for it to work, any inspections regime must have teeth. With regards to inspections, there are three types of nuclear sites in Iran:

1st – Known nuclear sites. Policing of these sites will be more rigorous under the JCPOA. For this reason, the Iranians will migrate the weaponisation programme from these heavily policed sites (that are the most talked about) to secondary sites. These known sites are where the Iranians will very publicly reduce the numbers of centrifuges to give the impression of freezing their nuclear programme.

2nd – Secondary suspicious sites. It is activity at these sites where the scope for Iranian flouting of the JCPOA will first occur. The regime for inspecting these sites is frankly pathetic. The IAEA, the US and allies have long suspected the facility at Parchin to be a nuclear weapons development site. But in a secret side deal between the Iranians and the IAEA (that the Obama Administration refuses to show to Congress), the Iranians are allowed to monitor themselves at Parchin. This side agreement specifically makes Parchin off limits to US inspectors. No wonder Kerry and Obama wanted to keep Congress from seeing it.

3rd – Unknown sites. The Iranians will cheat the most at small unknown sites. The inspections regime makes finding suspicious activity at these sites all but impossible. If suspicion arises, the IAEA must first provide evidence to a P5 + EU committee which must approve of inspections (this will take months and the Russians and Chinese will delay and object) and only if the committee agrees, THEN the Iranians will be given 24 days warning of a formal inspection; enough time to clean up any nuclear material despite claims of technology to find even cleaned up sites. According to former IAEA inspector Ari Knownen, the chance of catching Iranian breaches of the JCPOA at these sites is zero.

JCPOA merely attempts to freeze capability not dismantle it

The Agreement makes no genuine attempt at dismantling Iran’s nuclear bomb development. It temporarily forces Iran to give up only SOME of its infrastructure for 10 years only to give it back after 10 years. The best example of this is the Arak Heavy Water facility. Heavy water only has ONE use – inside a nuclear bomb. Furthermore, there is no evidence of any extensive civilian nuclear power infrastructure (the claimed purpose of the nuclear programme).

Has the Iranian regime been required to halt research and development of the faster centrifuges that will enable it to break out to a bomb more rapidly than is the case right now? Answer: No. The deal specifically legitimizes ongoing R&D under certain eroding limitations. Iran can commence testing on the fast IR-8 single centrifuge machines as soon as the deal goes into effect and can commence testing on an additional thirty IR 6 and IR 8 centrifuges in 8½ years’ time enabling it to race to the bomb even faster.

Snap back provisions weak and ineffectual

Assuming that the IAEA IS able to detect Iranian breaches of the JCPOA what then? The entire sanctions infrastructure will have been shredded with almost no ability to effectively re-implement them for any Iranian bad behaviour. The so-called snap back provisions are far from that. It took many years to set in motion the sanctions. Whilst the US Congress could quickly re-impose restrictions on the flow of funds through US banks, without buy-in from the EU countries and Russia and China (two countries who opposed sanctions in the first place and sought ways to circumvent them), there would not be nearly the same deleterious effect on the Iranian economy from what the JCPOA proposes would happen in the unlikely event that Iranian subterfuge is caught by the severely weakened inspections regime that Obama’s people caved on.

‘Signing bonus’ of $100 billion in sanctions relief + bonuses Iran never asked for

The agreement gradually lifts the sanctions that had progressively become quite draconian and had severely constrained Iranian economic activity. Indeed the sanctions can be credited for bringing Iran to the negotiating table in the first place. The JCPOA provides for a massive $100 billion shot in the arm to the regime in the form of front end sanctions relief – a so-called signing bonus. The Iranians would like to have the west believe that this money will be spent on domestic improvements and infrastructure. A short examination of Iranian foreign policy tells us that plenty of this money will be spent by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards (the elite fanatical well trained and armed special force that is Iran’s primary method of exporting terror) to further arm Iran’s Shi’ite proxies in Lebanon, the West Bank, Yemen and Gaza. Where else does Hezbollah get its huge arsenal of rockets to fire into Israel and Hamas to build its terror tunnels and its own arsenal of Israel bound rockets? The IRG will also continue to prop up the Assad regime in Syria and its own vicious civil war with ISIS.

The JCPOA will effectively fund a new round of Iranian sponsored terror in the Middle East further corrupting any hope of a proper democracy in Lebanon, any peace in Syria and significantly increasing the likelihood of Hamas and/or Hezbollah provoking another war with Israel.

Obama was so desperate to do the deal that Iran got other bonuses it didn’t even initially ask for.  First, it got the P5 to lift the ban on conventional weapons. This means that the signing bonus money can be spent on perfecting medium to long range conventional missiles that can threaten not just Israel but Europe (and beyond) as well. And you can plan on any accelerated development of Iranian missile delivery of conventional warheads to have cross over applicability to its parallel pursuit of nuclear weapons.

Second, Iran got a guarantee from sabotage of its nuclear programme. It’s not sufficient that the US gave away its “anywhere anytime” inspections goal, the agreement requires the P5 to protect the arrangement from external manipulation. Quite what that will mean in reality is hard to specify because the agreement is silent on how this obligation would be fulfilled. Will for instance the US be now required to prevent Israel from sabotaging Iranian nuclear facilities (like the joint US-Israeli Suxtnet virus that set back Iran’s programme several years)? How far would the US go in this matter? All the way to militarily preventing an Israeli strike?

But don’t the P5 and a lot of US and Israeli former military and intelligence staff support the JCPOA?

Britain will do whatever Obama asks. Germany wants to appear to be all in for peace meanwhile France and China are chomping at the bit to do business with Iran (indeed both countries have been at the forefront of sanctions circumvention) and as for Russia, they want to increase their trade and influence in the region and care nothing for the fate of Israel.

A war of words has erupted in the US between different groups of retired military and intelligence officers. In terms of the sheer number and quality, the signatories of those opposed to the deal far outweigh the numbers and previous rank/experience of those who support the deal.

The same is even truer in Israel. The left leaning western media are anxious to appease Iran (as they were to appease Hitler in hailing Chamberlain’s Munich Agreement as a breakthrough) and have found a small handful of retired Israeli intelligence officers who support the deal. Israeli politics is fiercely partisan with vocal proponents of the left and right and their supporting newspapers and other media. Unique in this country of constant, loud even brutal partisan political confrontation is the unanimity among the major Israeli political parties especially now from the left leaning Zionist Union coalition led by Isaac Hertzog (who initially supported the negotiations and campaigned against Netanyahu’s bold attempt to sway the US Congress by his personal appearance). Hertzog’s view of the deal is now the same as the right leaning Likud Party, its high profile PM Netanyahu and its coalition partners. Similarly, all recent opinion polls in Israel put public opposition to the deal at around 80%.

 The future

I see four important likely outcomes (assuming the Motion either fails to pass or, if passed, is vetoed and the veto is sustained):

1 – Almost all Republican candidates vying for their party’s nomination for the 2016 US Presidential elections have committed to rescind the Agreement by Executive Order. Because the agreement was not enacted by the normal treaty process but by Executive Order, it lacks the formal status of a treaty, and if rescinded by the same process, it would thus no longer be binding on the US. Only Donald Trump seems to be advocating for some modification to the JCPOA as opposed to the outright rescission proposed by the next highest polling candidates.

2 – Conventional war with Israel is more likely given that the sanctions thaw and signing bonus will have the effect of significantly ramping up Iranian arming of its anti-Israel proxies; an outcome ironically admitted to by key Obama Administration officials such as Kerry and National Security Adviser Susan Rice.

3 – A nuclear arms race will commence in earnest in the world’s most dangerous region. The Saudis may have been temporarily placated by the promise of more US arms and military aid but as the prominent Sunni Arab nation, it will not stand by idly and allow Shi’ite Iran to ramp up its regional hegemony with a nuclear bomb. Egypt, as the next largest Arab nation, will likely follow suit as may the Kuwaitis.

4 – Israel will not allow Iran to go nuclear. Because this deal makes that possibility MORE not less likely, so the likelihood of an Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear facilities is now more likely especially if a Republican President is elected in 2016. Remember that Israel has its high profile prior form on this matter. In June 1986, the Israeli Air force destroyed Iraq’s fledgling nuclear bomb development programme at Osirak. They did the same to Syria’s similar attempt (assisted by North Korea) at Al Kibar in September 2007. Unlike many in the west who brush off the steady stream of annihilation rhetoric from Iran’s leaders as domestic political puffery, the Israelis remember similar dismissal of long published Nazi Jewish extermination goals and have vowed “never again”. Netanyahu has reiterated the threat of an Israeli military strike in the event that Iran ‘breaks out’ on more than one occasion. On matters like this, it would pay to take the Israelis at their word!

Few recall Obama’s campaign promise in 2007 to negotiate with Iran without conditions; a policy that, at the time, placed him to the left of even his Democrat rivals. With his showcase domestic reform (Obamacare) faltering and proving to be both costly and unpopular, with his presiding over the most devastating electoral losses for his party at the national and state level in over 70 years, after a raft of shambolic foreign policy catastrophes (Syria – need I say any more), Obama was hungry for a legacy building showpiece achievement. John Kerry’s appeasing instincts were on display soon after he returned from active duty in Vietnam so he made the perfect negotiator for Obama. After Obama ignored his Syrian red line over chemical weapons, stood by idly as the Russians took the Crimea and allowed militia incursions into Ukraine and ramped up the rhetoric against Israel, the Mullahs in Tehran knew they were dealing with a weak, pacifist dilettante anxious to sign any big agreement with them. The US gave away pretty much all its previous bottom lines and prostrated itself before the savvy Iranian negotiators in Geneva and have effectively given Iran a green light to obtain nuclear weapons AND arm their global terrorism activities for a generation. And for this I’m sure Obama and Kerry will be awarded a Nobel Peace prize such is the inverted world we now live in!

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Reporter covering Walker signed petition to sack him!

September 11th, 2015 at 7:14 am by David Farrar

The American Mirror reports:

A Gannett reporter who writes for both the Appleton Post-Crescent and USA Today covering local and Wisconsin politics, including Gov. Scott Walker’s presidential bid, signed a petition in 2011 to recall Walker from office.

Madeleine Behr is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin Madison, and she wrote for a number of publications before joining Gannett earlier this year.

Her first story for the Post-Crescentappeared online on July 2, and since thenshe’s published 35 stories, including four that focus on Walker’s presidential bid, and others that cover the political aspirations and maneuvers of high profile Democratic candidates.

Another example of why trust in media is so low.  But she is hardly alone:

In 2012, then-Post-Crescent publisher Genia Lovett disclosed that 25 Gannett journalists, including nine at the Post-Crescent, signed Walker recall petitions

This was not a meaningless petition. It was a petition to sack the Governor that forced a recall election.


Little can shake Trump supporters

September 10th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

An interesting focus group of Donald trump supporters:

 “Nothing disqualifies Trump.”

That was the takeaway of Frank Luntz, the public opinion guru, after leading a focus group Monday night of supporters of Donald Trump’s Republican presidential campaign.

For two and a half hours, Luntz quizzed a group of current and past ardent Trump fans about their views on the businessman. He discussed the candidate’s past liberal stances and played past video of Trump saying provocative things about women. Yet when the focus group was over, not a single person who was planning to vote for him said they had changed their mind.

At one point, Luntz bolted from the room with the focus group to make sure the handful of reporters observing on the other side of the glass understood how big of a deal this was. “My legs are shaking,” he admitted.

“This is absolutely for real,” Luntz said of the intense and loyal support for Trump. “And he is not going away. And he is as strong as every survey shows. All those people who think he’s going to implode have not sat and talked to these voters the way that they should have.”

This is very interesting. It suggests that Trump’s support is locked in and nothing short of a monumental disaster will shake his supporters.

Yet the one thing nearly everybody took issue with was Trump’s past comments questioning former prisoner of war John McCain’s heroism.

“His statement about John McCain, that rubbed me the wrong way,” said one man.

But most signaled they are willing to look past it.

“He’s done some good things,” said a man. “The only real negative I had was his P.O.W comments. Everybody makes comments. You can’t judge his entire candidacy on a comment he made probably on the top his head.”

All this means the rules of politics don’t seem to apply to Trump. Things that would probably damage — or end — other campaigns don’t dent Trump at all.


I thought the McCain comments would kill him. I was wrong. They didn’t like it but they are not letting his comments change their support.

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Clinton struggling in New Hampshire

September 8th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

An NBC poll in New Hampshire finds:

  • Sanders 49% (+15% from July)
  • Clinton 38% (-9%)
  • Clinton Net Favourability -24% (all voters)
  • Sanders Net Favourability +13%
  • Jeb Bush Net Favourability -17%
  • Donald Trump Net Favourability -25%

And in general election matchups:

  • Bush 48% Clinton 43%
  • Trump 45% Clinton 46%

Trump leads Clinton for the first time

September 6th, 2015 at 8:05 am by David Farrar

The Hill reports:

Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump leads Democrat Hillary Clinton head-to-head, according to a new poll released Friday.
The poll by SurveyUSA finds that matched up directly, Trump garners 45 percent to Clinton’s 40 percent.
In other head-to-head matchups, Trump beats out Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) by 44 percent to 40 percent; Vice President Joe Biden by 44 percent to 42 percent; and former Vice President Al Gore by 44 percent to 41 percent.
Trump’s surge past Clinton marks a dramatic turnaround in the polls.
A CNN/ORC sampling of national voters in late June — just days after Trump entered the race — found that 59 percent supported Clinton to 34 percent picking Trump in a head-to-head race.
So Trump is up 11% and Clinton down 15%. A huge swing.
Polls at this early stage aren’t generally that important. It is still highly likely Clinton will be the Democartic nominee and highly unlikely Trump will be the Republican nominee.
However momentum is important, and this Shows Trump has it and Clinton going backwards. A major argument against Trump is he could not win the general election. A few more polls like this, and that conventional wisdom will go the same way as all the other conventional wisdom Trump has smashed.
The demographic breakdowns are interesting:
  • Men – Trump +15%
  • Women – Clinton +5%
  • Under 35s – Clinton +19%
  • 35 to 49 – Trump +12%
  • 50 to 64 – Trump +15%
  • 65+ – Trump +17%
  • Whites – Trump +17%
  • Blacks – Clinton +34%
  • Hispanics – Clinton +19%
  • Asians – Trump +2%
  • Independents – Trump +13%
  • Moderates – Trump +4%
  • North East – Clinton +4%
  • Mod West – Trump +18%
  • South – Trump +6%
  • West – Clinton +2%
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A defiant county clerk

September 2nd, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

USA Today reports:

Defying the Supreme Court, a county clerk says she was acting under “God’s authority” Tuesday while continuing to deny marriage licenses to gay couples, whose lawyers asked a federal judge to hold her in contempt of court.

The Supreme Court refused Monday to allow Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis’ office to deny the licenses because of her religious beliefs. However, on Tuesday morning, she turned away at least four couples.

“To issue a marriage license which conflicts with God’s definition of marriage, with my name affixed to the certificate, would violate my conscience,” Davis said in a statement on the website of her lawyers, Orlando-based Liberty Counsel. “It is not a light issue for me. It is a Heaven or Hell decision. For me, it is a decision of obedience.”

Yet Ms Davis herself is on her fourth marriage!

But her detractors mock her moral stand, noting that Davis was married and divorced three times before marrying her fourth husband.

Pretty sure God says divorce is wrong also.

Davis won her $80,000-a-year office in November, running as a Democrat, and succeeded her mother who served as county clerk for 37 years, according to The Morehead News.

County Clerks don’t get to decide which laws they obey.  Her job is to implement the law, not to place herself above it.

Later in the morning, lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union filed two motions in U.S. District Court to hold Davis in contempt of court and compel her to start issuing marriage licenses again to those who apply. They want her to be severely fined, not jailed.

Maybe an $80,000 fine to match the $80,000 salary she is paid.

Regardless of your view on same sex marriage, it is the job of public officials to uphold the law.


A wall to keep the Canadians out also!

September 1st, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Guardian reports:

The Republican presidential candidate Scott Walker said on Sunday that building a wall on the US northern border with Canada was “a legitimate issue for us to look at”.

Asked in an interview on NBC if he wanted to build a wall on the Canadian border, the Wisconsin governor cited his experience talking to voters “including some law enforcement folks” in New Hampshire, an early voting state in the Republican primaries. Such people, he said, were concerned about terrorists potentially crossing over from Canada.

“They raised some very legitimate concerns, including some law enforcement folks that brought that up to me at one of our town hall meetings about a week and a half ago,” Walker said. “So that is a legitimate issue for us to look at.”

So a 2000 km long wall on the southern border and one of the same size on the northern border.

But what about the east and west coast? Terrorists could come in by boat.I think they need a 100 metre high wall along both coasts.

New Zealand may have to look at this also. We have no wall preventing Australian terrorists crossing over the Tasman Sea by boat.


Sanders closing on Clinton in Iowa

August 31st, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Washington Post reports:

Hillary Rodham Clinton’s once-commanding lead in Iowa has shrunk to just seven percentage points, while Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has surged in the state whose caucuses will kick off the race for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, according to a poll released Saturday evening.

The Des Moines Register-Bloomberg Politics poll, considered the gold standard of Iowa surveys, found Clinton with the support of 37 percent of likely Democratic caucus-goers, followed by Sanders at 30 percent.

There is little doubt that Clinton’s campaign is in trouble, and that she is inspiring Democrats.

However that does not mean she will not win the nomination. She almost certainly will. It is more about how much damage she takes along the way.

It’s not good when the most left wing Senator in the United States is only 7% behind you. In May she led him by 40%.

What is interesting is the net favourabilities (with Iowa Democrats) for the three possible contenders:

  • Biden +65%
  • Clinton +58%
  • Sanders +67%

Obama by the way is +79%.

If you look just at those who are strongly favourable, and strongly unfavourable the net differences are:

  • Obama +39%
  • Biden +23%
  • Clinton +18%
  • Sanders +35%

Sanders supporters are more excited about him.

Sanders is also leading the polls in New Hampshire by 3%. So he could win both Iowa (1 February) and new Hampshire (9 February).

However after that it is Nevada and South Carolina, where Clinton should romp home. Sanders has little support outside a small geographic area. However the danger to Clinton is that if he wins Iowa and New Hampshire, the media attention he’ll get might move others towards him.

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Was Flanagan mad or bad or both?

August 28th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports on killer Vester Flanagan:

Flanagan, 41, clashed repeatedly with photojournalists, belittling them in public and intimidating them with his violent temper, according to internal reports.

He was also censured for wearing an Obama sticker while recording a segment at a polling booth during the 2012 US Presidential Election – a clear breach of journalistic impartiality.

The complaints are outlined in court papers that include a scathing performance review carried out prior to his termination in February 2013.

The station filed the documents to rebutt a wrongful termination claim which he had brought, claiming he was the victim of discrimination because he was black and gay. The station won the case.

It’s an awful case. Any killing of innocents is terrible, but one live on air and them promoted on social media is so chilling.

Whether it was just a workplace killing, or also a political agenda is hard to work out.

Flanagan also claimed he was assaulted by a photographer, subjected to a hostile working environment and wrongfully terminated.

He demanded a jury comprised entirely of African American women and independent investigations by the FBI and Justice Department.

He seemed to be someone who blamed his failings on racial discrimination, and it seems became a racist himself:

In a 23-page “manifesto” letter sent to ABC News two hours after the shooting, Flanagan claimed the Charleston, South Carolina church shooting earlier this year was the final straw that prompted him to buy a gun.

So it was partly revenge for that. How very sad.

I saw a tweet on Twitter that reported that in ever single week of 2015, there has been multiple mass (4+) shootings in the US. 247 mass shootings over 238 days.


How to go up in the polls

August 27th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

This will send Donald Trump even higher in the polls.