A real proposal to change the face of money

There has been a lot of discussion recently about the decision by Treasury Secretary Jack Lew to replace Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill with Harriet Tubman. In an open letter published April 20, Lew wrote “The decision to put Harriet Tubman on the new $20 was driven by thousands of responses we received from Americans young and old. I have been particularly struck by the many comments and reactions from children for whom Harriet Tubman is not just a historical figure, but a role model for leadership and participation in our democracy.” Continue reading

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U.S. Supreme Court Says if Fifth Circuit Doesn’t Rule on Texas Voter-ID Case by July 20, 2016, It Will Get Involved

On April 29, the U.S. Supreme Court issued an order in Veasey v Abbott, 15A999, the long-pending lawsuit over the Texas photo voter-ID law for voters who vote at the polls. The U.S. Supreme Court says if the Fifth Circuit doesn’t resolve this case by July 20, 2016, the plaintiffs should file with the U.S. Supreme Court. Thanks to Rick Hasen for this news.

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Ninth Circuit Will Rehear Lawsuit over how Tucson Elects City Councilmembers

On April 27, the Ninth Circuit said it will rehear Public Integrity Alliance v City of Tucson, 15-16142. On November 10, 2015, the original 3-judge panel on the Ninth Circuit had voted 2-1 that Tucson’s method violates the U.S. Constitution. The method is to have partisan primaries within each ward, but then in the general election, all the party nominees chosen in the district primaries run citywide. Persons associated with the Republican Party had filed this lawsuit, because the system usually results in wins for all the Democratic nominees in November.

The Ninth Circuit will hear the case en banc. No other circuit grants rehearings as frequently as the Ninth Circuit.

Tucson’s city attorney has probably spent more time defending his city’s method of electing city councilmembers than any other city attorney in the United States. A few years ago he had to fight off a law that the legislature passed, mandating that all cities in Arizona use non-partisan elections for city office. Thanks to Rick Hasen for the news.

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Maine Governor Vetoes Bill to Add $2,500,000 to Public Funding Program

Maine has public funding for candidates for state office. The fund is running out of money. On April 12, the legislature passed LD 1579, a bill putting $2,500,000 into the fund. But on April 25, Governor Paul LePage vetoed the bill. The bill had passed the Senate 26-9, and the House 81-65. It is not clear if the legislature will override the veto.

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Vermont Governor Signs to Bill to Automatically Register Every Adult Citizen Known to Exist in the State

On April 28, Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin signed HB 458. It automatically registers every adult citizen known to live in Vermont. Persons who are signed up automatically are notified, and then given a choice to de-register if they wish.

Vermont does not have registration by party, so there is no problem with determining whether such voters want to choose to enroll in a party. The bill takes effect July 1, 2017. Other states with automatic registration are Oregon, Colorado, and California.

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Vermont Governor Signs to Bill to Automatically Register Every Adult Citizen Known to Exist in the State

On April 28, Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin signed HB 458. It automatically registers every adult citizen known to live in Vermont. Persons who are signed up automatically are notified, and then given a choice to de-register if they wish.

Vermont does not have registration by party, so there is no problem with determining whether such voters want to choose to enroll in a party. The bill takes effect July 1, 2017. Other states with automatic registration are Oregon, Colorado, and California.

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What the Death of the Nexus 9 Really Says About Google

nexus91Yesterday, Alphabet/Google removed its flagship tablet–and the successor to Dark Android Project tablet favorite, the ASUS-developed 2013 Nexus 7–the HTC-developed Nexus 9 from the Google Store. Effectively, the Nexus 9 is dead.

While I’ve recommended the Nexus 9 to some in the past that were looking for something a bit “more” than the 2013 Nexus 7 (which I still recommend, and still gets updated to the latest versions of Android), it is admittedly a device that has been riddled with issues for a good chunk of time after its release (though I think most of the bugs had been worked out as late). And some people questioned the build quality of the Nexus 9 overall, especially for the price tag, but I never felt it was that bad, but in contrast to the rock-solid 2013 Nexus 7 (arguably the greatest tablet ever built), I guess I can understand those gripes.

Originally released in November 2015, this device’s lifespan was only a little over a year. That’s not uncommon for a smartphone, but we’re talking about a tablet here. The Nexus 7’s and the Nexus 10 were available for sale by Google for years and years after their release, so it is strange that it was so quietly removed from the Google Store.

SIDE NOTE: It’s believable that at the upcoming Google I/0 2016 there will be new tablets being released by Google, and there is already evidence that HTC is making new devices again for Google. But keep in mind that in the past Google generally didn’t remove past devices from their store just because a new one had come out.

What does this mean for Nexus 9 owners? Historically, Google has been pretty good about releasing updates for Nexus devices across the board (as I mentioned before, the 2013 Nexus 7–at over 3 years old–is still updated by Google, running the latest Android Marshmallow nearly on release day of the new Android version). But I wonder about the Nexus 9. I wonder about any Google product or service, really. I can’t tell you for certain that your Nexus 9 is going to get Android N, now. A few months ago? I would absolutely have believed that the Nexus 9 would get the next to versions of Android with ease. But now I’m not so certain.

The laundry list of Alphabet/Google products that have been cancelled or removed, regardless of how popular or not-so-popular they are, is lengthier than most tech giants could claim. There’s even a Pinterest page called “Google Graveyard” that has a very hard time keeping up with all of them, and again, some of these were exceptionally popular. And Google has garnered some heavy–and deserved–criticism over their recent cancelling of updates and support for the Revolv Hub.

I hope you’re getting my gist here. I’m getting to the point now where I wouldn’t recommend using a single Google service or Google product. While not supporting products and services that you don’t pay any money for is one thing, dropping support for things you spend hundreds of dollars for–like the Nexus 9 and other devices–is a whole other ball game. That’s your hard-earned money. And it isn’t stretching very far if Google has its way. And as to their free services? Yeah, you can’t complain that they’re gone or get taken away from you, but you’re a fool if you start depending on them in the first place…well, you’re a fool going forward, in my opinion.

SIDE NOTE: I still recommend the 2013 Nexus 7–which you can get for exceptionally cheap–as even if Google doesn’t update it to Android N, it still has such a massive community around it, it’ll get 3rd party support like CyanogenMod for years to come likely. The singular Google “service” that I don’t think is going anywhere is YouTube/Google Play Music. As I’ve theorized on my tech podcast, Sovryn Tech, I think eventually YouTube/Music is going to be most of what Google does. They’ll be an entertainment company, not a search company.

I don’t know exactly what’s going through Alphabet/Google’s head, but they are obviously not living in reality. You can’t go around telling people that you’re giving them or selling them this “amazing new you-didn’t-know-you-couldn’t-live-without” product or service and that pulling the rug out from underneath them. Alphabet/Google’s narrative as a company is full of crap. Some Google fanboys would claim that this is just Alphabet/Google figuring out fast what works and what doesn’t, and this is just a turbulent time, and I could accept that, honestly. But then when they cancel a service or product, they need to open it up. Open-source everything around it, and give control over to the users and consumers (which, to their credit, Google had done with the brilliant and simple Google Sky Map app, which is now completely open-source and is still privately developed). There are right ways and wrong ways to put an end to things, and Alphabet/Google’s track record is generally the wrong way.

SIDE NOTE: Contrast this to Microsoft, which has a successful business model based around backwards-compatibility and support (did you know that Microsoft is only one of two companies with an S&P “AAA” rating still, and that the other company is Johnson & Johnson?). Microsoft likely would’ve “died” as a company a decade ago if they didn’t engage in such support, and ten years from now Google could be in serious danger as a company for not doing the same. Also consider in the gaming industry with the prevalence of classic game re-releases and how popular those are. It would seem to me there is a large consumer base that have a strong desire for software and hardware to last them a long time, perhaps even decades. Ignore that consumer base at your own peril, Google and other tech companies.

Bottom line, the Nexus 9 is still fair hardware, and you’ll likely get a lot of life out of it yet, but beware…Alphabet/Google is clearly sending the message that anything with their branding isn’t long for this world. Caveat emptor. Buyer beware.

Carpe lucem!

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Posted in Android, Android M, Dark Android, Dark Android Blog, Dark Android Project, Nexus 9 | Comments Off on What the Death of the Nexus 9 Really Says About Google

Oklahoma Bill, Lowering Vote Test from 10% to 2.5%, Passes Legislature

On April 28, the Oklahoma Senate again passed SB 896, the bill that lowers the vote test for a party to remain on the ballot from 10% to 2.5%. The vote was 26-14. The bill had already passed the Senate in March, and then it had passed the House. But the House had amended the effective date, so the bill needed another vote in the Senate to agree to the amendment. Assuming the Governor signs it, the only states that will still have vote tests of 10% are New Jersey and Virginia. Two other states, Alabama and Pennsylvania, have even higher tests. But the other 46 states will be at 5% or less.

All of the “No” votes were Republicans, except that one Democrat, Senator Kevin Matthews, also voted “No.” The bill takes effect November 1, 2016.

In 2012, the Libertarian Party polled over 2.5% for President in New Mexico and Montana, and polled 2.48% in Alaska. It is difficult for any third party to poll as much as 2.5% for President, but not out of the question, especially in 2016, with so much voter discontent for the likely major party nominees. Thanks to E. Zachary Knight for this news.

Looking back in history, if the 2.5% had existed in the law instead of the actual vote test (which was 5% 1913-1974 and 10% afterwards), the change would not have made any difference in any election more recent than 1934, when the Socialist Party got 2.66% for Governor. The Reform Party got 10.84% in 1996 and 1.21% in 1998. The American Party got 2.30% for President in 1972, and 20.32% in 1968. The change would also have made a difference in 1924, when the Progressive Party got 7.79%.

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Larry Klayman Sues Republican Party Because Florida Delegates Are Not Bound to Donald Trump After Third Ballot

Courthouse News Service has an article about a lawsuit filed on April 27 by Larry Klayman. The lawsuit, filed in Florida state court, is difficult to understand from this article. Klayman seems to be arguing that the Florida Republican Party delegates to Cincinnati must vote for Donald Trump on all ballots, not just the first three ballots.

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Huffington Post Story on Write-ins for President in the General Election

Nick Baumann has this interesting story on Huffington Post about write-ins for President in the general election. The story’s emphasis is on Donald Trump’s supporters, many of whom say if Trump isn’t the Republican nominee, they will write him in on their November ballots.

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U.S. District Court in Maine Sets New Hearing Date in Libertarian Party Ballot Access Case

On April 26, U.S. District Court Judge John Woodcock set a hearing date in Libertarian Party of Maine v Dunlap, 2:16cv-2. This may be an opportunity for the Libertarian Party to explain why putting the party on the 2016 ballot would not create “chaos.” On April 25, Judge Woodcock had ruled that he would not put the party on the ballot because it would create “chaos”, but that he was not at that time ruling on whether the December 1, 2015 deadline was unconstitutionally early.

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The ASUS Zenfone MAX: Unlliiiimmmiitteeddd…Battery Life

I’ve talked often about the ASUS Zenfone 2 and ASUS Zenfone ZOOM and how they are two of the best smartphones on the market today. The 4GB of RAM (which is slowly becoming common in flagship phones), the mid-range price, and the Intel chipset (as compared to ARM) made all of it a winner in my eyes. Not that the phone I’m going to talk about in this article has any of the above, sometimes to the good, other times to the bad, though it is from ASUS and part of the Zenfone line.

SIDE NOTE: The advantage of having an Intel chipset is that you can run a multitude of operating systems beyond Android on the device. People have already installed Ubuntu and Windows 7 on the Zenfone 2 (and the Zenfone ZOOM is the same exact device, just with a giant camera on its backside).

I present to you the ASUS Zenfone MAX.zenfonemaxLet’s get the defining feature out of the way: This comes with a 5000 mAh battery, and supposedly it can go almost two days between charges, depending on how much you use it and what you use it for, of course. But that’s not the only reason the battery life is so impressive, it also comes with a 720p screen (instead of the 1080p screen most Zenfone models do). As I’ve said before on this blog, smartphone screens with ridiculous resolutions are pointless for starters at the size that they are, and thus needlessly drain the battery the higher the resolution is. So the Zenfone MAX having a 720p screen is a winner for battery life.

As I mentioned at the beginning of the post, the Zenfone MAX does not have 4GB of RAM. It has 2 GB RAM. And it doesn’t have an Intel chipset, it has ARM. It also doesn’t have a mid-range price…it has a low-end price (I’ve seen it on Amazon for well under $200 new). All of this is because the Zenfone MAX isn’t based off of the flagship specs of the Zenfone 2 or Zenfone ZOOM, it’s based entirely off of the Zenfone 2 Laser (which is a fine phone, it’s just lower-end than others in the Zenfone series). To round out the specs, it has 16GB of onboard storage, expandable up to 128GB via MicroSD, Dual-SIM card slots (handy for global travelers), and a Snapdragon 410 quad-core ARM processor (which isn’t the most powerful thing on the planet).

Again, not impressive specs, but that allows for a lower price and allows for the insane battery life. So it’s all a fair trade off, in my opinion. And, thankfully, it doesn’t have a fingerprint sensor (huge security risk, in the opinion of the Dark Android Project). And before anyone asks, yes, the Zenfone MAX is slightly thicker and heavier than your modern smartphone. That’s the cost of amazing battery life.

There’s an argument to be made here for having a slightly lower-powered phone with a massive fucking battery inside, and it’s a case of simple logic: What good is a powerful phone if it has not battery life left and you’re who knows where? Without a wall socket or battery life, that phone becomes useless. So the ASUS Zenfone MAX has a point to its existence, and I think has an audience hungry for a pocketable device with ridiculous battery life.

SIDE NOTE: Yes, there are companies like Zerolemon and others that have sold larger batteries for years that you could add to whatever phone you bought. However, in recent years most smartphone manufacturers have been making their batteries non-removable, so Zerolemon and others have either had to start making portable chargers or add-on cases with batteries built into them. Having a massive battery built into the phone is obviously preferable if batteries are going to continue being non-removable.

I’m waiting for more smartphones to have massive batteries in them, and perhaps with higher specs (not that such is as big a deal to me, personally). Perhaps the Zenfone MAX is ASUS’ way of testing the market to see how this sort of thing sells, and will decide later if they intend to add larger batteries to rest of their Zenfone line. Can’t happen soon enough, in my opinion. I don’t care if my phone is twice as thick and twice as heavy.

At $180 or so (or if you crave great battery life), I would definitely recommend the ASUS Zenfone MAX. If you’re willing to spend twice that, I’d go with the ASUS Zenfone ZOOM.

Carpe lucem!

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Posted in Android, ASUS, ASUS Zenfone 2, ASUS Zenfone 3, ASUS Zenfone MAX, ASUS Zenfone ZOOM, Dark Android, Dark Android Blog, Dark Android Project, smartphones | Comments Off on The ASUS Zenfone MAX: Unlliiiimmmiitteeddd…Battery Life

Pennsylvania Supreme Court Puts Democratic Candidate Back on Primary Ballot Only One Week Before Primary

On April 19, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that Joseph Vodvarka should be on the April 26 Democratic primary ballot for U.S. Senate. The Commonwealth Court had ruled that he didn’t have 2,000 valid signatures, but the State Supreme Court disagreed and put him on. The issue was whether to count signatures of voters who had moved within a county since they had last registered to vote. The Commonwealth Court had invalidated such signatures in its March 30 opinion.

The late timing of the Supreme Court opinion caused confusion in some counties. The ballots in almost all counties had Vodvarka’s name on them, because the ballots had been printed before the Commonwealth Court had removed him. Between the Commonwealth Court decision and the State Supreme Court decision, notices had been printed, intended for each voting booth, telling voters that Vodvarka had been removed from the ballot and that any votes cast for him should not be counted. After Vodvarka was put back on the ballot, the state instructed county election officials to destroy those notices. But, in some polling locations, the notices were placed inside voting booths erroneously.

Also, Washington County reprinted its ballots to delete Vodvarka after the Commonwealth Court ruling, but before the Supreme Court ruling. So in Washington County, a separate ballot just for U.S. Senate, for Democrats, had to be distributed along with the regular ballots. See this story.

The State Supreme Court order is captionedIn re: Nominating Petition of Joseph Vodvarka, J-75-2016. The Supreme Court order is only one page and puts Vodvarka back on the ballot. The court will explain its reasoning later.

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Three Pennsylvania Parties Ask U.S. District Court to Put Them on 2016 Ballot with no Petition

On April 26, the Constitution, Green, and Libertarian Parties asked a U.S. District Court in Pennsylvania to put them on the November 2016 ballot, on the basis that the old ballot access law was declared unconstitutional last year, and the legislature has not passed a new one. Constitution Party of Pennsylvania v Aichele, e.d., 12-cv-2726.

The parties are requesting a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction. Such requests are usually handled very quickly.

The same parties, as well as the Socialist Party, obtained similar relief in Ohio in 2008. The old Ohio law had been declared unconstitutional in September 2006 and the legislature had not passed a new law as of 2008, so a U.S. District Court put the four parties on the November ballot. They not only remained on in 2010, but 2012 and 2014 as well.

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