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Want to make me?

Vie, 20/03/2015 - 14:08

ON WEDNESDAY, while Barack Obama was suggesting to an audience in Cleveland that it might be a good idea to make voting mandatory, my wife was being prevented from voting. My wife, a Dutch citizen, is away on a business trip, so for Wednesday's elections to the Netherlands' provincial assemblies she had filled out a proxy voting form. The proxy form states that a voter can designate "another voter" to cast their ballot. Without giving the matter much thought, she indicated that the "other voter" who would cast her ballot would be me.

That, as I discovered at the polling station, was not allowed. I could cast my wife's proxy ballot in the waterschapsverkiezingen, which choose the boards that run the country's dikes and canals, but not in the provincial-assembly elections, because I was not eligible to vote in them myself. The distinction had not occurred to...Continue reading

A looming threat

Jue, 19/03/2015 - 23:32

UNMANNED aircraft, otherwise known as drones, are becoming common. Many are familiar with America’s use of armed drones in Pakistan, Yemen and elsewhere, but drones are increasingly being used by other parts of the government, as well as by companies and individuals. Drones can be far cheaper to operate than anything that requires an on-board pilot, and they are handy for making maps and taking pictures and videos. The FBI uses a small fleet of drones for law-enforcement surveillance. Customs and Border Patrol uses them to monitor the American border with Mexico (though the programme was recently found to be ineffective and expensive). Commercial drones are now regularly used for real-estate photography and to Continue reading

Lean in, push out

Mar, 17/03/2015 - 17:17

KLEINER Perkins Caulfield & Byers, one of Silicon Valley’s most prestigious venture-capital firms, had promoted only one woman to the position of senior partner by 2011, nearly 40 years after the firm was founded. This isn’t unusual in the world of venture capital, which has long maintained a reputation for being an old boys’ club. Indeed, these firms tend to be even less diverse than the technology companies they fund. The number of female partners in VC firms has actually decreased from 10% in 1999 to 6% in 2014, according to a recent report from Babson College.

Ellen Pao, a Harvard-trained lawyer with a background in business development, joined Kleiner Perkins in 2005. By 2012 she had seen three of her male peers promoted to senior partner while she was passed over. Ms Pao filed a gender discrimination lawsuit in May 2012, citing multiple complaints: men were promoted before women; men were allowed to serve on multiple boards while women were only allowed to serve on one;...Continue reading

¡Adelante!

Sáb, 14/03/2015 - 05:33

THE city’s Latino population has grown 13-fold since 1990, making it one of the fastest growing Hispanic cities in America and a harbinger of the country’s changing demography

 Continue reading

A damn punk in Ferguson

Vie, 13/03/2015 - 04:03

EIGHT months after the fatal shooting of a local unarmed black teenager by a white police officer, tensions still simmer in the streets of Ferguson, Missouri. Last night about 150 demonstrators congregated where they always meet: in front of the police station on South Florissant Avenue. They rallied because of the resignation earlier yesterday of Thomas Jackson, the head of Ferguson police, in the wake of a scathing report by the Department of Justice (DOJ) that found that racial bias and petty harassment was rife in his force. Most of the demonstrators applauded Mr Jackson’s departure, but called for more heads to roll.

The demonstrators were just about to pack up at around midnight when gun shots suddenly rang through the air, injuring two policemen who were part of a cordon of officers standing side-by-side to protect the police station. The two policemen were from the neighbouring St Louis county police department, as the Ferguson force had asked for back-up last night. The department was "lucky by God’s grace we didn’t lose...Continue reading

The path of least disruption

Mié, 11/03/2015 - 15:15

HOW will the Supreme Court decide this term’s two biggest cases? One slightly cynical prediction floating around forecasts a split decision: the justices will announce a constitutional right to gay marriage, a huge victory for liberals, while voting to upend the Affordable Care Act, a dream of conservatives. According to some iterations of this hypothesis, the chief justice, John Roberts, will broker such a compromise—and vote accordingly—in order to maintain his image as the even-handed “balls-and-strikes” caller he claimed to be a decade ago in his Senate nomination hearing. By giving both liberals and conservatives something, but not too much, to cheer about, the chief will save the court from charges of an ideological tilt. As Noah Feldman wrote a few months ago at Bloomberg View, the chief seems loth to have “a court associated with his name...come to be seen as the most activist conservative court since the 1920s and...Continue reading

An enigmatic soul

Mié, 11/03/2015 - 03:47

SUNDAY services at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in New York featured a portrait at the altar of Edward Cardinal Egan, who died on March 5th. After the funeral today his body will be interred in a crypt at the cathedral. The ceremonies in tribute to his life and work have been fairly subdued. This is perhaps apt. Cardinal Egan, who presided over New York’s archdiocese from 2000 to 2009, may have had an imposing presence and a powerful baritone voice, but he kept a low profile. He was rarely in front of a camera. He hardly ever gave interviews. Indeed he was an enigmatic figure for many New Yorkers and a polarising leader among Catholics. He was not universally loved by his flock.

Cardinal Egan arrived in New York in 2000 with an impossible task: to fill the shoes of John Cardinal O’Connor, his beloved predecessor. New York’s cardinals tend to be a charismatic bunch, but Cardinal O’Connor was uniquely powerful. As the unofficial head of the Catholic Church in America, he was courted by presidents. He was not afraid to take on politicians, even well-known Catholics. He threatened to excommunicate Geraldine Ferraro, a vice-presidential...Continue reading

Poor judgment

Mar, 10/03/2015 - 23:30

GOVERNMENT technology is a pain. Anyone who works for the American government—or knows someone who does—knows that sending an official e-mail requires using an authorised device. Logging into Gmail, on the other hand, can be done from anywhere. So Hillary Clinton’s claim that she used a personal e-mail account instead of a government one for the sake of convenience rings true. 

The problem is that Mrs Clinton was no mere government employee, but Secretary of State. And instead of using Gmail, say, she maintained a personal e-mail server in her suburban home in Chappaqua, New York. 

This goes against federal rules that all official e-mails should be stored by government departments. It also means Mrs Clinton can choose which missives she turns over to authorities, which looks suspicious. Complaints of foul play, particularly from Republicans in the House, forced Mrs Clinton to plead her case in a hastily arranged press conference at the United Nations this afternoon. She argued, essentially, that she should be treated like any other minor bureaucrat, and that her secretive personal e-mail account is basically...Continue reading

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