Archive for the ‘United States’ Category

Vive la US military

August 23rd, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

US servicemen overpowered a gunman armed with a Kalashnikov who opened fire on a high-speed train travelling from Amsterdam to Paris.

Vive le US military.

As I understand it, they were unarmed, and took him on.

The gunman had a Kalashnikov, an automatic pistol and a box cutter, one police source said.

The suspect, who was arrested when the train stopped at the northern French town of Arras, was a 26-year-old from Morocco or of Moroccan origin who was known to the intelligence services, French investigators said.

So much for claims it might not be a terrorist attack.

“Then the man, who was bare-chested, returned to carriage 12 and someone in a green T-shirt, with a shaved head, saw him and jumped on him and pinned him to the ground.”

Only pinned him? Somewhat disappointing.


A bit more than pin him according to USA Today:

“As he was cocking it to shoot it, Alek just yells, ‘Spencer, go!’ And Spencer runs down the aisle,” Sadler said. “Spencer makes first contact, he tackles the guy, Alek wrestles the gun away from him, and the gunman pulls out a box cutter and slices Spencer a few times. And the three of us beat him until he was unconscious.”

Trapped on a train, the death toll could have been scores if he hadn’t been stopped.


$175,000 per Green job

August 21st, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Washington Examiner reports:

In 2012, California voters were peppered with grandiose promises, such that they could not resist approving Proposition 39. The measure, created and backed by wealthy environmentalist Tom Steyer, sought to raise taxes on corporations and use the money to fund green energy projects in schools.

He promised it would create 11,000 new jobs each year. What could go wrong?

The NZ Greens also promote Green jobs. By that they means jobs which they think are needed, rather than jobs there is a market demand for.

Naturally, it did not work at all. On Monday, the Associated Press reported that the program has “created” just 1,700 jobs in three years — just under 600 jobs per year or roughly five percent of what was promised, at the cost of $175,000 per job.

And even if you think it is worth paying $175,000 to create a job …

Even that paltry figure fails to account for opportunity costs — i.e. jobs lost statewide because of the forced diversion of economic resources away from productive industries and toward green energy. The number of net jobs created is likely zero or less than zero, which is to say that probably a few hundred or a few thousand jobs have been destroyed so far at a cost of $300 million.



So what does Donald Trump believe?

August 20th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Washington Post has an article detailing the different positions of Donald Trump on various issues. Now these are not different positions over a couple of decades, or even a couple of years. These are different positions over just a couple of months.

They find:

  • 7 different positions on how to defeat the Islamic State
  • 6 different positions on illegal immigration
  • 6 different positions on tax reform
  • 2 different positions on the Iran deal
  • 4 different positions on Obamacare

So that’s just in the last couple of months.

Further back, and you will find he changed sides on almost all the big issues in the US.

He was a registered Democrat back in 2001.

In 1999 he was fully pro-choice for abortion. He swapped to pro-life in 2011.

In 1999 he promoted a one off extra tax of 14% of wealth to pay off the national debt.

Went from anti-drugs to advocating in 2011 they should be legalised.

In 2008 was pro free trade and in 2015 advocated for an import tax of 35%.

Was for an assault weapon ban in 2000 but now against gun control

Called for universal healthcare in 2000, now against Obamacare

Those who support Trump because they think he is conservative might get a nasty shock if he ever achieved elective office.


Birth certificate names

August 17th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The first couple to be issued a same-sex marriage license in Florida sued the state Thursday, saying that the statistics bureau still won’t allow hospitals to list both same-sex parents on birth certificates.

Cathy Pareto and Karla Arguello of Miami, who had twins last week, filed the lawsuit in court in Tallahassee, Florida. Two other married, same-sex couples also are part of the lawsuit.

In the hours after giving birth, Pareto said she and her wife were told by the hospital records manager that both of their names couldn’t be on the birth certificate.

“We went through the whole fertility process together,” Pareto said. “The whole thing has been a unified front as a married couple. To then be told I couldn’t be on my own children’s birth certificate? It was degrading.”

I presume only one of them was pregnant?

But I guess the comparison is with a heterosexual couple where say the male is infertile and they use a donor. If the male partner would get his name on the birth certificate despite no biological connection, then I’d expect the same of a female partner.


A cunning Democrat

August 17th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill writes in Politico:

It was August 7, 2012, and I was standing in my hotel room in Kansas City about to shotgun a beer for the first time in my life. I had just made the biggest gamble of my political career—a $1.7 million gamble—and it had paid off. Running for reelection to the U.S. Senate as a Democrat from Missouri, I had successfully manipulated the Republican primary so that in the general election I would face the candidate I was most likely to beat

So how did she do this?

Tom Kiley, my pollster, turned up some findings that seemed crazy to me. For example, less than one quarter of the likely Republican primary voters believed that Barack Obama had been born in the United States. These were the voters who could help tip a Republican primary to an archconservative, but that conservative would have a hard time winning the state. Yes, it was a three-way primary of equally viable candidates, but a subset of energized people with strong religious convictions and serious aversion to gay people, public schools, immigrants and reproductive choice could help elect someone like Akin.

Pollsters can be useful to not just understand your voters, and swinging voters, but also your opposition.

His extreme positions on social issues and ridiculous public statements made him anathema to many independent voters. He sponsored an amendment that would define life as beginning at conception, thereby outlawing common forms of birth control. He voted against repeal of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” legislation. When the Affordable Care Act was being debated, he stood on the House floor and asked for God’s help in keeping the nation from “socialized medicine.” In 2008, he claimed in a House floor speech that it was “common practice” for doctors to conduct abortions on women “who were not actually pregnant.” He had made speeches calling for America to pull out of the United Nations and claiming the government had “a bunch of socialists in the Senate” and a “commie” in the White House.

So how could we maneuver Akin into the GOP driver’s seat?


Akin went on during the campaign after he claimed that women who are victims of “legitimate rape” rarely get pregnant. This not only cost him the seat, but possibly the Republicans the Senate.

Using the guidance of my campaign staff and consultants, we came up with the idea for a “dog whistle” ad, a message that was pitched in such a way that it would be heard only by a certain group of people. I told my team we needed to put Akin’s uber-conservative bona fides in an ad—and then, using reverse psychology, tell voters not to vote for him. And we needed to run the hell out of that ad.

Clever – you make him your main opponent, which makes him more attractive to Republican voters.

My consultants put together a $1.7 million plan. Four weeks out we would begin with a television ad boosting Akin, which my campaign consultant Mike Muir dubbed “A Cup of Tea.” The production costs were pretty low, about $20,000, because we didn’t have to film anything. We just used pictures and voice-overs. We would spend $750,000 at first and run it for eight or nine days. Then we’d go back into the field and test to see if it was working. If it was, we’d dump in more “McCaskill for Senate” money, and we’d add radio and more TV in St. Louis and Kansas City. The second TV buy would approach $900,000. We hoped that some of our friends watching the TV ads would catch on and some of the outside groups would augment the last week with mail and radio. Sure enough, a radio ad calling Akin “too conservative” that went on the air in the closing days of the primary was paid for by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. We would later find out that their rural radio buy was $250,000.

As it turned out, we spent more money for Todd Akin in the last two weeks of the primary than he spent on his whole primary campaign.


That’s a big call – spending almost $2 million not on promoting your own candidacy, but trying to get Republicans to rally around Akin.

But it worked. I wonder how many other candidates have spent money trying to influence the opposition primary?

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Sort of logical

August 16th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A US politician said he won’t resign after planting a fake story that he was caught having sex with a male prostitute to deflect attention from a real affair with a fellow lawmaker who is also a home-school mum.

Both lawmakers are Christian conservatives who frequently refer to their faith.

Michigan state Representative Todd Courser, a married father of four, said in an audio recording that by anonymously emailing supporters about the male prostitution allegations, he intended to create a “complete smear campaign” of false claims so that a public revelation about his relationship with state Representative Cindy Gamrat would seem “mild by comparison”.

Sorts of makes sense, except he couldn’t even smear himself properly!

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A reader writes in on the US visa case

August 11th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Some readers may have seen this article by Linda Scott, who basically compares her detention by US border authorities to Nazi Germany.

A reader writes in:

So, to sum up this article in two sentences: Ms Scott applied for a USA work visa, was denied, and then attempted to subsequently enter on a tourist visa. She then wondered why she encountered issues at the border.

Consider this: if a foreign national, say from a “third world” country applied for a work visa here, got denied, then turned up anyway at AKL saying they are now a tourist, what would the reaction be? That they are genuinely a tourist? Or attempting to get in via a “back door” and will actually be planning to work or overstay, in contravention of their tourist visa?

Having worked in the border security industry, I can guarantee that you in this situation would be answering a lot of tense questions, and would quite likely be denied entry to NZ. As Ms Scott stated, the airline transporting a passenger into a country generally is then required to transport that person back if they are refused entry. Until that happens (i.e. their next flight, which could be anywhere between 4 hours to the following week away) you would be detained in a holding cell at AKL. This is standard procedure in almost all western countries, from the UK to Canada to Australia.

As for Ms Scott saying “Osama won” in her article what I have described above has been standard practice for decades, well prior to Sept 2001.

While law enforcement in the USA is harsh (and I agree with Ms Scott I would not want to be in a US prison), I am left wondering what exactly her expectations were here upon arrival? That they wouldn’t see through her deception? That when her name came up on their computer that her failed attempt to obtain a work visa wouldn’t be there? That she wouldn’t be detained? That your cell phone wouldn’t be taken from her while a prisoner? Do she think prisoners get to keep cell phones while in custody here in New Zealand?

The article – a kind of whine about American law enforcement having the temerity to be targeting you – an educated white woman from a western country lucky enough flying premium economy… seems quite analogous, albeit in reverse to the recent article in the Huffington Post by Janis Powers complaining about her treatment at the hands of NZ Police. Janis Powers didn’t understand the laws in NZ, and neither, it seems, does Ms Scott at an international border.

My personal view is that US border security is often over the top, but as the author points out, failing to get a work visa, and then turning up on a tourist visa is not a good idea.

I recall an acquaintance who once got held by the US for six weeks because his visa had expired by a day – and he was literally crossing the border to leave into Canada! That to me is a far better example of stupid overreach by the US, than this case.

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Fiorina emerges

August 10th, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Washington Post reports:

Carly Fiorina took the stage at a conservative summit here Friday to a standing ovation, her first of four. She smirked and said: “I think we kind of won last night. What do you think?”

Fiorina spent the day traveling, bouncing between television interviews, taking selfies, fielding calls from giddy supporters and trying to capi­tal­ize on her highly praised performance in a debate for lower-tier Republican presidential candidates Thursday night.

The two things that I have heard time and time again were about Donald Trump attacking Megyn Kelly, and Fiorina doing very well in the lower-tier debate.

Here on Friday afternoon, a reporter asked Fiorina why she criticized Trump for being cozy with the Clintons when she was a featured speaker at an event hosted by the Clinton Global Initiative. Fiorina’s eyes narrowed as she stared down the reporter.

“So, you really don’t understand the difference between getting a personal phone call from Bill Clinton and showing up at a conference?” she said.

A great answer.

That became the focus of an interview Fiorina did that night as a guest on MSNBC’s “Hardball with Chris Matthews” — a show many Republicans avoid in favor of Fox News Channel appearances. Matthews asked Fiorina why she would paint a possible opponent as an all-out liar.

“I was very specific, very fact-based — actually, you were the one who has made a generalized comment about her,” Fiorina said, refusing to let Matthews cut back in while rattling off critiques of Clinton.

Some of Fiorina’s most devoted followers point to that interview as more of a success than the debate.

Clinton will be the Democratic candidate and Fiorina may be the Republican who can make the strongest case against her.

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Is the Trump candidacy a Bill Clinton masterstroke?

August 9th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

USA Today reports:

In what would have been a fascinating telephone conversation to overhear, The Washington Post reports that Donald Trump, the leader in every recent poll of GOP presidential candidates, and Bill Clinton, the 42nd president and husband to the leader of every poll of Democratic White House contenders, had a “casual chat” about politics in late May.

The Post cites “four Trump allies and one Clinton associate” who said that, in the call, Clinton encouraged the billionaire real estate developer to take on a more active role within the GOP. …

Current campaign rhetoric notwithstanding, Trump and the Clintons have been friendly in the past, as evidenced by the former first couple’s attendance at Trump’s 2005 wedding as well as past donations from Trump to Hillary Clinton’s Senate campaigns.

The major beneficiary of the Trump candidacy is Hillary Clinton. If Bill was behind Trump standing, then he is even more cunning than James Carville.


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The 10 Republicans in the first debate

August 7th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Fox News has announced the 10 top polling candidates who will make the first debate today. They are:

  1. Donald Trump 10.4%
  2. Governor Jeb Bush 43.5%
  3. Governor Scott Walker 18.4%
  4. Governor Mick Huckabee 4.0%
  5. Dr Ben Carson 1.7%
  6. Senator Ted Cruz 3.1%
  7. Senator Marco Rubio 7.7%
  8. Senator Rand Paul 3.9%
  9. Governor Chris Christie 3.3%
  10. Govenor John Kasich 4.1%

I’ve included the current probability to get the nomination each are at with Betfair. It will be interesting to see how this changes after the debate.


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Best travel expense claim ever

August 6th, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar


Buzz Aldrin tweeted his travel claim form. The only thing cooler than writing down travel by spacecraft from Cape Kennedy to the Moon, is the return trip from Moon to “Pacific Ocean”.


And even astronauts have to go through customs, declaring moon rock and moon dust!



Republican candidate favourability

August 3rd, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar


This graph is from 538’s Nate Silver who explains:

On Twitter yesterday, I likened Trump to the bandNickelback: disliked by most people but with a few very passionate admirers. The best contrast to Trump is Marco Rubio: like a “lite rock” radio station, he’s broadly acceptable but few people’s favorite. Rubio’s favorable ratings are much higher (56 percent) than The Donald’s, and his unfavorable ratings are much lower (16 percent). But only 6 percent of Republicans list Rubio as their first choice.

Note these are favourability ratings just from Republicans. To win you need to not just get 90% of Republicans voting for you, but the Independents also.

Anyone with only 20% unfavourability from their own party’s supporters would struggle to win an election. This means Bush may have problems also.

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Clinton favourability dropping

August 2nd, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Washington Post looks at Hillary Clinton favourability poll numbers.

Some decline was inevitable as she went from Secretary of State to candidate, but the degree of change is pretty huge. Here’s het net favourability by year”

  • 2012 +37%
  • 2013 +33%
  • 2014 +19%
  • 2015 – 3%

Her current breakdown is interesting also:

  • All -3%
  • Democrats +70%
  • Republicans -68%
  • Independents -24%
  • Whites -26%
  • Non-whites +33%

Your politically correct guide to language

July 31st, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

NY Mag has a copy of The University of New Hampshire’s bias-free language guide. Some examples:

Preferred: people of advanced age, old people*

Problematic/Outdated: older people, elders, seniors, senior citizen

*Old people has been reclaimed by some older activists who believe the standard wording of old people lacks the stigma of the term “advanced age”. Old people also halts the euphemizing of age. Euphemizing automatically positions age as a negative.

Preferred: person living at or below the poverty line, people experiencing poverty

Problematic/Outdated: poor person, poverty-stricken person

Preferred:  person of material wealth

Problematic: rich

Being rich gets conflated with a sort of omnipotence; hence, immunity from customs and the law. People without material wealth could be wealthy or rich of spirit, kindness, etc.

Preferred: people of size

Problematic/Outdated: obese*, overweight people

Preferred: person who is blind/visually impaired

Problematic: blind person, “dumb”

Preferred:  U.S. citizen or Resident of the U.S.

Problematic: American

Preferred: White people, European-American individuals

Problematic: Caucasian people

Preferred: Folks, People, You All, Y’all

Problematic/Outdated: Guys (when referring to people overall)

Preferred: Other Sex

Problematic/Outdated: Opposite Sex

Preferred: Children who are gender non-conforming, Children who are gender variant

Problematic/Outdated: Girlie or Tomboy

So the sentence:

“Guys, I had lunch with Sheldon Adelson, an American senior citizen who hates anybody who is not Caucasian, and he insisted we go Dutch, even though he is really rich and I am poverty-stricken.”

would have to be:

“People, I had lunch with Sheldon Adelson, a US citizen of advanced age who hates anybody who is not a European-American, and he insisted we go Dutch, even though he is a person of material wealth and I am a person experiencing poverty

I wonder how many staff ours went into the salaries of the language police who produced this.




July 30th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar


Stuff reports:

A Satanic organisation unveiled a controversial bronze Baphomet sculpture in Detroit just before midnight on Saturday, after trying in vain to have it installed near a 10 Commandments monument in Oklahoma.

Due to planned demonstrations, the group, which is opposed to Bible-themed displays on government land, kept the location of the unveiling of its 2.7-metre-tall monument secret until the last moment, when it emailed the information to ticket holders.

The Satanic Temple unveiled the one-ton statue at an industrial building near the Detroit River just before 11.30pm local time as supporters cheered, “Hail Satan”. Some of the hundreds in attendance rushed to pose for photos.

It could become a major tourist attraction. They could charge for entry, because I imagine most satanic temples are not open to the public.

Baphomet was originally a name given to an idol the Knights Templar were accused of worshiping by King Philip IV of France. Probably all trumped up charges as this is the same King who arrested the Pope and accused him of urinating on the cross.


How to beat hate

July 22nd, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar


The Herald reports:

The black director of South Carolina’s public safety agency said he was surprised a photo showing him helping a white man wearing a racist T-shirt went viral. But now that it has, he is hoping it will be a catalyst for people to work toward overcoming hate and violence.

Leroy Smith said in a statement that the photo, taken at a Ku Klux Klan rally, captured “who we are in South Carolina” and represents what law enforcement is all about: helping people “regardless of the person’s skin colour, nationality or beliefs.”

“I consider myself like every other officer who was out there braving the heat on Saturday to preserve and protect,” he said.

The photo, taken by Gov. Nikki Haley’s spokesman, shows Smith leading the unidentified man, who is suffering from the heat, to shade at the top of the Statehouse steps, to be treated by local emergency workers. The man has a swastika on his T-shirt.

The photo shows just the hand of black Columbia Fire Chief Aubrey Jenkins, who also was assisting the man.

“I hope this photo will be a catalyst for people to work to overcome some of the hatred and violence we have seen in our country in recent weeks,” Smith said.

There’s times when our faith in humanity is justified. A black police officer helping a member of the KKK, because he needed assistance. Hopefully the KKK member concerned, and some of his colleagues, might reflect on the dignity and decency of Leroy Smith.

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Tomi Lahren on radical Islam

July 21st, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

This video is going viral. The host is aged just 22 but has struck a real chord with many.

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Trump vs McCain

July 20th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

I didn’t think it would take long for Donald Trump to implode, but this was even quicker than I expected.

Trump said John McCain wasn’t really a war hero because he got captured.

There are few things that unite Americans, but those who serve in the military is one of those – and especially those wounded doing so.

Trump has never served at all. McCain was a bombing pilot in the Vietnam War and after being shot down spent five and a half years as a POW. He actually could have got released quite early on as his father was an admiral and the North Vietnamese wanted to appear merciful for propaganda. McCain refused until every POW captured before him was also released.

During his 66 months in captivity he lost 50 pounds, had his hair turn white, was beaten constantly and spent two years in solitary confinement. To this day he can’t lift his arms above his heads.

To have Trump criticise McCain as not being a hero because he got captured goes beyond offensive.

When Hillary Clinton becomes President, she should send a thank you card to Trump. Interestingly she attended one of his weddings, so maybe he is a plant from her!

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The Trump nighmare

July 14th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Washington Post reports:

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, whose caustic comments about Mexicans have inflamed the immigration debate, told thousands of cheering supporters here Saturday that “we have to take back the heart of our country.”

In a rambling, defiant speech delivered in this border state that has been the epicenter of the nation’s divisive battle over immigration reform, Trump declared: “These are people that shouldn’t be in our country. They flow in like water.” One man in the crowd of 4,200 shouted back, “Build a wall!”


On the back of such rhetoric, Trump is now leading the Republican field on 16%, ahead of Jeb Bush 13% and Ben Carson 10%.

This is a nightmare for the Republicans. Trump won’t win the nomination, and is unelectable as President. But his statements will poison the brand of the Republicans.

Most people standing for President moderate their remarks because they hold elected office, and can’t get away with being so inflammatory. Those who don’t tend to get very little publicity. But Trump is getting the headlines, and ramping up the rhetoric.

There is a problem with illegal immigration in the US.  But suggesting that the Mexican Government is actually deciding who to send over the border, is fanciful. It’s nothing to do with the Government, and everything to do with Mexicans thinking they can have a better standard of living in the US.

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The Confederate flag goes down

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

The Herald reports:

The Confederate flag no longer flies anywhere on the South Carolina Statehouse grounds for the first time since the 1960s civil rights movement, after it was removed in a swift ceremony Friday before thousands of people who cheered as the rebel banner was lowered.

Many people believed the flag would fly indefinitely in this state, which was the first to secede as the pro-slavery Confederacy began fighting the American Civil War. But the killing of nine black church members during a Bible study in Charleston last month changed that sentiment and reignited calls to bring down Confederate flags and symbols across the nation.

The votes were overwhelming. It needed a two thirds majority and passed 94 to 20 in the state house and 36-3 in the state senate. Both chambers are controlled by Republicans – they hold 77 of the 123 house seats and 28 of the 46 senate seats. The Governor is also Republican.

I think this move was long overdue. Regardless of arguments about its original symbolism, the confederate flag today is a deeply hateful one for many African Americans. You can argue all you like about it representing states’ rights, but again symbols change. The swastika is originally a Buddhist religious symbol, and the actions of the Third Reich have changed it.

Having the flag fly at the State Legislature was inappropriate. It does belong in a museum.

That doesn’t mean though you ban it from culture. The banning of reruns of the Dukes of Hazzard because their car (The General Lee) has a confederate flag is barmy. There’s a difference between the state parliament and a TV show.


A post Charleston poll

July 1st, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

USA Today reports on a poll in the wake of the Charleston shooting:

  • 42% says confederate flag is racist and should not be flown in public, and 42% disagree
  • 56% say tighter gun laws would not prevent more mass shootings, 40% disagree
  • 76% say easier access to guns would not prevent more mass shootings, 18% disagree
  • 78% say Congress will not pass gun control legislation, 15% disagree
  • 52% do not want gun control to be a major focus of the 2016 election, 43% disagree

Supreme Court rules 5-4 that same sex marriage is a constitutional right

June 27th, 2015 at 12:44 pm by David Farrar

The Washington Post reports:

A deeply divided Supreme Court on Friday delivered a historic victory for gay rights, ruling 5 to 4 that the Constitution requires that same-sex couples be allowed to marry no matter where they live.

The court’s action rewarded years of legal work by same-sex marriage advocates and marked the culmination of an unprecedented upheaval in public opinion and the nation’s jurisprudence.

Marriages began Friday in states that had previously thwarted the efforts of same-sex couples to wed, while some states continued to resist what they said was a judicial order that changed the traditional definition of marriage and sent the country into uncharted territory. As of the court’s decision Friday morning, there were 14 states where same-sex couples were not allowed to marry.

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, who has written all of the court’s decisions recognizing and expanding gay rights, said the decision was based on the fundamental right to marry and the equality that must be afforded gay Americans.

“Under the Constitution, same-sex couples seek in marriage the same legal treatment as opposite-sex couples, and it would disparage their choices and diminish their personhood to deny them this right,” Kennedy wrote. He was joined in the ruling by the court’s liberal justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.

I have mixed feelings on this. I welcome the outcome, but not the method.

I think it great that all Americans now have the right to marry the person they love (with rare exceptions such as family). And to have the US Supreme Court rule that gay Americans have a constitutional right to marry their loves ones, with mean a huge amount to gay Americans.

So just as I fought hard for same sex marriage to be legal in New Zealand, I welcome it in the United States.

All four of the court’s most conservative members — Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. — dissented, and each wrote a separate opinion.

The common theme in their dissents was that judicial activism on the part of five members of the court had usurped a power that belongs to the people.

“If you are among the many Americans — of whatever sexual orientation — who favor expanding same-sex marriage, by all means celebrate today’s decision,” wrote Roberts, who for the first time in his tenure marked his disagreement with a decision by reading part of his dissent from the bench.

“Celebrate the achievement of a desired goal. Celebrate the opportunity for a new expression of commitment to a partner. Celebrate the availability of new benefits. But do not celebrate the Constitution. It had nothing to do with it,” he wrote.

Scalia called the decision a “threat to American democracy,” saying it robs citizens of “the freedom to govern themselves.”

I do agree with the Conservative Justices though that while the outcome is to be celebrated, the process is not. I think it is a stretch to claim that a document written 200 years ago was intended to allow same sex marriage – considering same sex activity was a criminal offence at the time.

Having a court of nine appointed judges decide on such a massive issue, makes it less likely to gain widespread acceptance than a decision made by referendum or an elected legislature.

The wonderful result in Ireland, where a staunchly Catholic nation voted to legalise same sex marriage was the best way for it to happen. No one could attack the legitimacy of the decision. No one could say it was out of touch politicians or activist judges. In fact having the public vote it in, sent a message to religions that if they want to retain followers, they may have to change with the times.

In the US, it was elected legislatures that gave women the vote. This made it far less controversial, than if the US Supreme Court had done it (which inevitably they would have). By contrast the reason abortion is such a massively controversial issue in the US, is because the Supreme Court decided it for the whole country, rather than let voters or elected legislatures decide. That resentment is why it is such a toxic issue today.

However I think this ruling will be less controversial over time. That is mainly because so many states had already legalised same sex marriage, and public opinion on same sex marriage had dramatically changed over a decade – possibly the largest change on a social issues ever in such a small period of time.

Another difference between the controversy over the abortion Roe vs Wade ruling and this one, is that with same sex marriage, the opponents of it are not directly affected. Yes they think it is wrong, but it is hard to point to a concrete harm except a generic changing of society’s morals. However with abortion, opponents believe that an eight week old foetus is living human being, and that abortion is not far removed from murder.

So I think it is unlikely that in a few years, this will be an issue at all in US politics. In fact some analysts are saying (and I agree) that this has done Republican politicians a favour as they can now say that the issue is settled regardless of their personal views, and don’t have to worry about being off side with a large majority of the population.

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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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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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