Archive for the ‘United States’ Category

A terrible crime

June 19th, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A 21-year-old white man suspected of killing nine people at a historic African-American church in Charleston, South Carolina was arrested on Thursday after an attack that the United States is investigating as a hate crime. …

Roof sat with churchgoers inside Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church for about an hour on Wednesday before opening fire, Mullen said. The victims, six females and three males, included Reverend Clementa Pinckney, who was the church’s pastor and a Democratic member of the state Senate.

“He just said, ‘I have to do it. You rape our women and you’re taking over our country,” Johnson said.

What a terrible crime and slaughter of innocents. Whether the killer is mad or bad (or both) will be determined in due course.

Any attack on innocents is terrible, but there is something particularly chilling about it happening in a church.

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Transracial?

June 18th, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Fraudster Rachel Dolezal has claimed she is not a fraud, but she is transracial – a black woman born into a white body, just as a transgender person is someone born in the body of the wrong gender.

Syretta McFadden in the Guardian is not impressed:

After days of speculation, Rachel Dolezal appeared on the Today show and declared herself transracial – and blamed other people’s misunderstanding of the term on why she came to be identified as black. “I was actually identified when I was doing human rights work in north Idaho as first transracial”, she said – in a construction that conveniently negated her agency in that decision – and explained that she never corrected subsequent media reports that she was biracial or black.

“I identify as black”, she said during the interview, though she admits to having identified as white at other points – including when she sued Howard University for racial discrimination because she was white. (She lost.)

But transracial does not mean what some white Americans like Dolezal apparently wish it to mean. The term originates from adoptive and academic circles to describe the very lived experience of children raised in homes that are phenotypically and culturally different from their birth – people like my colleague Rebecca Carroll, who is black. She was raised in a white household and her white birth mother attempted to define her as “culturally white, and cosmetically black”.

The fact Dolezal once sued Harvard for discriminating against her as a white woman, speaks volumes about how genuine she is.

Dolezal’s messy theft and fiction of a black American identity uses the currency of a subculture of privilege that is rooted in white supremacy too. If anything, to believe that one can transfer one’s identity in this way is a privilege – maybe even the highest manifestation of white privilege. The ability to accept marginalization, to take on the identity of blackness without living the burdens of it and always knowing you could, on a whim, escape it, is not a transition to blackness; to use it to further your career or social aspirations is not to become black.

It is interesting to think about what it would mean if people could legally change their race, just as they can legally change their gender (which I support). Could you join an Iwi? Could you enrol on the Maori roll? Could you use a preferential entry scheme for university? Dolezal may set off a revolution!

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Will it be Bush vs Clinton again?

June 17th, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Jeb Bush has announced he is standing for the US Presidency. This is not unexpected, but is news. Donald Trump has also said he is standing. That is now serious news.

Could it be Bush vs Clinton again? Let’s look at the current polling for each primary.

Bush is averaging 9.7% in the heavily contested Republican race, behind Marco Rubio 12.4%, Scott Walker 11.0% and Ben Carson on 10.1%. Behind behind the flaky Carson is not good.

Clinton is averaging 58.5%, miles ahead of socialist Bernie Sanders on 12.0%.

What are their respective favourabilities?

Bush has 32% favourable and 50% unfavourable for a net -18%

Clinton has 46% favourable and 49% unfavourable for a net -3%

In a direct match up the average is Clinton 51%, Bush 42%. A landslide.

Of course 16 months to go, but hard to see Jeb Bush in the White House.

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95% of TSA checkpoints are insecure

June 7th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

ABC reports:

An internal investigation of the Transportation Security Administration revealed security failures at dozens of the nation’s busiest airports, where undercover investigators were able to smuggle mock explosives or banned weapons through checkpoints in 95 percent of trials, ABC News has learned.

The series of tests were conducted by Homeland Security Red Teams who pose as passengers, setting out to beat the system.

According to officials briefed on the results of a recent Homeland Security Inspector General’s report, TSA agents failed 67 out of 70 tests, with Red Team members repeatedly able to get potential weapons through checkpoints.

So let’s abolish them. The security checks today are stifling and bureaucratic, and as the audits have shown won’t actually stop an actual terrorist – just passengers with water bottles!

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Now this is good customer service from an airline

June 6th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Conservative Tribune reports:

Uhle had already boarded a flight from Chicago to Columbus that was about to take off, when it suddenly went back to the concourse and she was told to exit the plane.

“I figured I was on the wrong plane. The gate agent told me to check in at the desk and when I did she told me to call my husband,” Uhle said.

According to Fox News, that is when Uhle learned from her husband in Colorado that her son had slipped into a coma after suffering a traumatic head injury in an accident.

Uhle also soon discovered that Southwest had already taken care of making arrangements for her to abruptly change her travel plans, rebooking her on the next non-stop flight to Denver, without any additional fees or charges.

“They offered a private waiting area, rerouted my luggage, allowed me to board first, and packed a lunch for when I got off the plane in Denver,” Uhle said. “My luggage was delivered to where I was staying, and I even received a call from Southwest asking how my son was doing.”

 

That is very impressive and caring.

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Stupid teacher

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

Stuff reports:

An American sex education teacher has drawn the ire of parents after taking high-school students on a field trip to an adult novelty store in Minneapolis.

Gaia Democratic School director Starri Hedges took about a dozen students to the Smitten Kitten last week. Hedges told the Star Tribune that she wanted to provide a safe environment for students to learn about human sexual behaviour.

Besides offering adult books, videos, toys and other products, the store also has educational workshops, which the students attended.

“What I saw happening on our trip, I thought it was beautiful because kids could talk to these sex educators without any shame, without any fear,” Hedges said. Some of her students bought condoms, she said.

The small Minneapolis school has a motto that promises academic freedom, youth empowerment and democratic education. Parents say it has about 25 students. 

Parent Lynn Floyd’s 11- and 13-year-old daughters were on the field trip. Floyd said the trip was “a major breach of trust” and has withdrawn his children from the school. Floyd said he is most troubled that parents were never notified before the trip.

Sex education is a good thing. Taking school kids to a sex shop is a bad thing as part of that.

If the teacher can’t work that out, they’re in the wrong job.

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Rand Paul stops the NSA mass phone record programme

June 2nd, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

For the first time since September 11, 2001, Congress curtailed the National Security Agency’s authority to track suspected terrorists as lawmakers struggled to restore approval for mass collection of phone records and other surveillance methods.

No solution was likely before Tuesday (Wednesday NZT) at the earliest. The high-stakes drama played out as Congress debated significant changes prompted by the disclosures of Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor who revealed the phone records collection and other main surveillance programs.

While intelligence officials publicly warned of danger, they said they were not deeply concerned with a lapse of a few days or weeks, given that the authorities remain available in pending investigations. What they most fear is a legislative impasse that could doom the programs permanently.

Republican Senator Rand Paul, a presidential candidate, took credit for blocking the Senate from extending the surveillance powers in an extraordinary Sunday session. That forced the Senate to take up a different bill passed by the House of Representatives, which then stalled on Monday (Tuesday NZT) as Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other leading Republicans sought changes.

It is good to see push back against ever increasing surveillance powers. Some powers are necessary, but they should be targeted at those under suspicion, not trawling through the entire population.

And the reality is that mass phone number programme has never been credited with actually helping detect or prevent a terrorist attack.

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The Madison Fund

June 1st, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Charles Murray makes the case for conservative civil disobedience in a book called Rebuilding Liberty Without Permission. A review:

In parallel, the legal system has become a vehicle for progressive social aims, growing arbitrary and subjective. Murray points to lower bars for bringing lawsuits, broader rules of discovery and the rise of strict liability that doesn’t require specific negligence to find guilt. All this has conspired to create a system in which defending yourself is prohibitively costly, laws are so complex as to be unintelligible and prosecutors enjoy corrupting discretionary power. Instead of a world where acts are criminalized because they are malum in se (wrong in themselves), Murray argues that a large proportion of crimes in the federal code are “malum prohibitum — not things that are bad in themselves but things that warrant criminal penalties because the government has said they do.”

Think of the case of the pension in Paraparaumu taken to court by the Council because she had someone cut down a tree on her property.

So how do how small-government conservatives conduct civil disobedience in practice? Sit-ins at the EEOC? Occupy OSHA? Or maybe thousands of senior executives chanting, “Hey hey, ho ho, innovation-stifling regulatory regimes have got go!”

Murray’s proposal is less dramatic and more ingenious. The regulatory state has two related weaknesses, he explains: It relies on voluntary compliance, and its enforcement capabilities are far inferior to its expansive mandate. So he proposes a private legal defense fund — the “Madison Fund,” honoring the father of the Constitution — that businesses and citizens can rely on for representation against federal regulators. By engaging in expensive and time-consuming litigation on behalf of clients that refuse to comply with pointless rules, the fund drains the government’s enforcement resources and eventually undercuts its ambitions. The state can compel submission from an individual or company with the threat of ruinous legal proceedings, Murray writes, “but Goliath cannot afford to make good on that threat against hundreds of Davids.”

I think this is a great idea. It would be the equivalent of the ACLU. Imagine in the US a billion dollar fund that will help people fight against mindless regulations that serve no public good.

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Hehir on Republicans not being dumb

May 31st, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Liam Hehir writes:

There’s a presidential election in the United States next year and that means you can look forward to many editorials, columns and opinion pieces by New Zealand writers about what dummies the Republican contenders are.

It won’t make any difference to point out that Senator Rand Paul and Ben Carson are highly trained surgeons. Senator Ted Cruz may have been regarded “off the charts brilliant” by liberal Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, but that won’t help him. Never mind that Carly Fiorina was the first woman to lead a Fortune 20 company and was responsible for one of the biggest tech mergers in history.

This is because all of these contenders will take policy stances at odds with what is considered wise or prudent by New Zealand opinion-makers – who will therefore inevitably declare a received wisdom that the Republican field consists mostly of airheads, numbskulls and know-nothings. 

Yep.

In the 2000 election, there was a persistent narrative around Bush being intellectually inferior to Democratic nominee Al Gore. You might be surprised to learn, therefore, that a comparison of their respective university transcripts shows Bush to have the superior record. In fact, despite somehow having acquired the cachet of scientific expertise, Gore seems to have fared particularly badly in science courses.

The record also shows Bush was a slightly better student than 2004 opponent John Kerry. According to military testing undertaken by both when they were in their twenties, Bush probably had the higher IQ.  Again, however, the campaign press usually portrayed Kerry as the more cerebral of the two.

Bush actually passed all his courses while Gore failed a natural sciences course and was in the bottom fifth of his year.  John Kerry got Ds in history, geology and political science.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that Bush was a better president than Gore or Kerry would have been. While people tend to fixate on intelligence, it is hardly the be all and end all of enlightened leadership. On the contrary, there are many other factors that go into making an effective leader, including humility, patience, decisiveness and human decency.

And in the absence of countervailing influences, intelligence often leads to hubris. Nemesis is rarely far behind.

Few people would doubt that Robert Muldoon or Richard Nixon were highly intelligent men. Their cleverness, however, led them to overestimate their ability to control a complex system like a developed economy. Both were arrogant enough to centrally regulate prices and wages and the result in both cases was economic damage that took years to mend. 

Herman Goring was highly intelligent (he had a measured IQ of 138).  He also signed off on the final solution. Clearly his brainpower did not give him moral clarity enough to oppose the murder of millions of innocent men, women and children.

 

You need politicians to be smart, but not super smart. So long as they are not actually stupid, then other factors such as character, and judgement come to the fore.

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Democrat lawmakers much older than Republicans

May 27th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

OpLives-npfom2-1

An interesting infographic from the US. People see the Republican Party as dominated by old men, but in fact they are significantly younger than the Democrats.

The breakdown in the House is:

  • Over 80 – four Democrats and two Republicans
  • 75 to 79: 12 Denocrats and Two Republicans
  • 70 to 74: 21 Democrats and 10 Republicans
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The ruin of US colleges

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

Kirsten Powers at The Daily Beast writes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Get suspended for making a ginga joke!

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

And he was accused of racial microaggression and suspended.

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Seymour Hersh’s claims

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

Stuff reports:

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

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

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

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

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

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

And his recent history is not good.

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

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

Some specific rebuttals from the CNN analysis:

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

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

Indeed. This quote best sums him up now:

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

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

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Social change in the US

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

socialchange

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

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

Prohibition took 75 years to get over-turned.

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

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

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

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Clinton’s cash problem

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

The NY Times reports:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Why not Harry Potter?

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

The Times Free Press reports:

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

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

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

 

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The GOP and the last 16 years

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

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

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

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

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

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

So what does Cooke think the GOP should do?

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

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

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

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Patent trolls getting worse

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

The Herald reports:

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

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

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

They couldn’t find any employees on LinkedIn.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

President Barack Obama has said he supports patent reform.

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

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The left against free trade rather than the US

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Chief Justice called for jury duty

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

CNN reports:

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

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

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

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

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

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Libertarians in the US

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

silver-datalab-libertarians

Nate Silver writes at 538:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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No surprise – Clinton confirms

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Cop charged with murder

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

The Herald reports:

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

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

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

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

Thankfully there was cellphone footage of what happened.

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

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

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

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Rolling Stone not sacking anyone for fake story

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

The Washington Post reports:

Rolling Stone magazine just plain got it wrong.

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

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

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

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

Um, WHAT?

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

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

The Post also reports:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fortune reports:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Fighting back with social media

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

Tim Blair reports:

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

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

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

All for having an opinion that is rooted in faith.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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