The American story with Syria is intertwined with almost everything the west has done in the Middle East since the end of the 2nd World War. American was the prime enabler of the Assad family rise to to power, and as everything post war seemed to be, all about fighting the rise of Communism and installing “democracy”.
Syria gained its independence in 1946 and in 1948 engaged in the Arab-Israeli war. Later in 1949, the Americans were party, or if you believe many, responsible via the emergent CIA, for the coup d’état that replaced the Syrian democracy with Husni al-Za’im, who was executed later the same year.
The Syrian story since the 2nd World War is complicated, wars, Hamas, Iran, Hezbollah. Assad senior played key roles in much of the 1980’s terrorism, before the US and especially the UK decided that their actual target in the Middle East was Gaddafi, and that they needed Assad’s Syria as an ally their upcoming war.
So, you can be surprised by President Trump’s actions, you can blame it on his trying to appease Russian leader Putin, or you can just believe that this is yet another of President Trump’s rollbacks of President Obama’s actions. Whatever you do though, don’t think American involvement in Syria is just about the defeat of ISIS.
When we ride our bikes north and east of Boulder you can see the gas and oil pipelines an extraction points at regular intervals. But it’s nothing like Texas. Very, Very few oil derricks, certainly in and around Erie, CO there are a number of fracking pad sites, you can see them clearly from Colorado State Highway 52, in places.
But there is nothing like the density I expected given the prominence of the Oil and Gas industry in the state politics. Even when you drive out through north east Colorado, wells yes, but still surrounded by massive areas of open farmland.
So when you see TV ads and claims like this, you have to wonder.
“extreme out-of-state groups” > “thousands of jobs” > “devastate Colorado’s economy for years to come” – All pretty extreme. I wondered.
But I wonder no more. As always the great folks over at CPR News covered this is much detail, there are lots of in-depth articles on their website. I found the Colorado Wonders segment on the radio by Energy and Environment reporter Grace Hood and presented with Journalist and Presenter Ryan Warner.
You can hear them discuss it in full here. It’s the first 12-minutes or so. To save time, and as a form of notepad, here are my notes.
Protect Colorado is outspending Colorado Rising by 32-1.
Depending on how you look at the land affected it could put 85% off limits if Prop.112 passes, or it could put only 54% off limits due to increased setbacks.
The 85% number comes from looking at surface land available for well pads. Except, as anyone who has watched the fracking industry for the last 10-years knows. Drillers can now drill underground and then go horizontal for upto 3-miles. Yep, so your fracking site can be setback 2500 feet from schools, hospitals etc. but they can still drill upto 3-miles underground. Stunning.
So thats who is involved and some numbers to get you started More interesting though are the claims for the impact on the Colorado economy. Here again Grace and Ryan have you covered.
Oil and Gas Industry Impact in Colorado Overall
2014, the peak of the oil and gas boom, Oil and Gas accounted for only 7% of Colorado’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
2016, a low for oil and gas, Oil and Gas contributed just 3% of GDP.
2018 looks to be about 5% of GDP, and is the average over 10-years.
This sort of contribution doesn’t even put the Oil and Gas Industries in the top-10 list in Colorado. So much for the devastating impact.
But I hear you say. Oil and Gas contributes so much more. What about taxes?
Severance taxes(what Oil and Gas pays) from 2012-2017 were between $4-million and $265-million. Sounds a lot, but is less than 1% of the State budget.
Compared to other States, like Alaska, where the severance taxes make up more than 50% of the State budget.
Why the variation and swing in both GDP and Taxes from Oil and Gas? Because it’s all dependant on the price of crude oil and gas. While the oil price has been slowly rising, it’s nowhere near the 2013 peak.
Grace Hood makes the point in her answers that the numbers don’t include oil and gas service workers and service industries. One of which would be the truck drivers who truck water out to fracking sites. Then there are the people directly employed by the Oil and Gas Industry, that must be big?
Employment State-wide is circa 29,000 or just 1% of the workforce in Colorado.
The last note I took while listening to the CPR News item was the biggest impact would be felt in Weld County. You can take the link to find out a bit more about Weld County, but here are some notes I looked up from Wikipedia.
Weld County has an estimated population as of 2017 of 305,000.
Weld County is the richest agricultural county in the United States east of the Rocky Mountains, and the fourth richest overall nationally.
For a relatively rich county, the median family income is just $49,569. So the money is going where?
There are just 76 people per square mile in Weld County, compared to some 450 people per square mile in Boulder County and even more dense in urban areas and cities.
So while it’s easy to see that Weld County, if as populace as Boulder County, would suffer real financial hardship, given the population density and size of Weld County, it’s hard to image that the setbacks will be a real inhibitor there. Unless of course they are all out of sites and places to drill already.
It’s easy to come to the conclusion that you should VOTE YES on Prop.112. I can’t vote as a non-citizen. The TV Commercials by “Protect Colorado” are pure unadulterated fear mongering. Sure, families and workers will be impacted if 112 pases, but hey, they’ll be impacted if the oil prices head south again. The boom and bust of the Oil Industry has been going on for decades, the setbacks won’t change that.
Protect Colorado doesn’t have a leg to stand-on with their extreme claims. I know most people who live near me would be horrified to find that a well pad 2-3 miles away was drilling underneath them. The setbacks are well deserved for safety in urban and more populous areas than Weld County and the like.
n 2017, the real median household income in the U.S. was $61,372, which is roughly what two earners with full-time jobs making $15 an hour would make.
I remain totally confused about class as a term to classify people in America. This article is a prime example. While overall this is good news, if $15-per hour helps the middle class, how little do you have to earn to be working class? And why is that term never used?
As far as I’m aware the amazon deal doesn’t include health insurance, which effectively means before taxes, you’ll have to work for nearly 1-week in 4 just to pay for an individual plan, for a family plan, you’ll be working for just over two weeks every month just to pay your health insurance premiums. Then there’s food, rent, transportation etc. and so who knows where you are going to find the average $4,533 deductibles if you do get sick. Rather than working class, you are the working poor.
If two people have to work for a couple to survive they are working class. Telling them they are “Middle class” if they earn more than $22 is just a great example of gaslighting. To be middle class, surely it means when one of you can chose not to work.
As we approach this year’s open enrollment period for health insurance, I continue to be shocked and disappointed about almost everything I learn about the US Healthcare system. Before I return to notes about my own experiences and my own health, maternity care is another healthcare topic that doesn’t often get discussed, as the average American prepares to pay more than $10,348, per person, per year on healthcare.
While many argue about the definition of single payer, and if it would lead to socialism (and what that is?), the inefficiency, mistakes, cost and just outright expense of what should be routine treatment, continues to make me despair.
America has healthcare snobs, millions of them, they just don’t realize that while they might have great access to medical facilities and Doctors, that doesn’t mean it’s always good, or that the system acts in their best interest. However, any suggested change is met with claims of death panels, socialism and more. Oft heard is also they ‘don’t want the Government in the healthcare.’
Even I was left speechless as I watched a recent CBS Sunday Morning segment on maternal healthcare. Among the points made were:
U.S. “most dangerous” place to give birth in developed world
The United States is ranked 46th when it comes to maternal mortality. That’s behind countries like Saudi Arabia and Kazakhstan.
“Sixty percent of the deaths in the United States are preventable,”
At least two women are dying every day
And it’s not about access to healthcare; it’s not about the poor without insurance; yes, there is a racial element, but it’s not what you’d think. Here is the entire segment, well worth watching before you enroll this year.
I don’t know enough about the European Union General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) but at least on basic reading it seems inadequate in meaningful individual action requirements and legislation that benefits the actual user/person whose information has been exposed.
I’ve been signed up for haveibeenpwned an excellent website by Troy Hunt. You enter your email, and it tells you what breaches your personal information has been found in.
I was going to say “if any”. But of course your data will be there, especially after breaches like the River City Media (RCM) “spammer gate” where 1.4 billion peoples’ email accounts, full names, IP addresses, and often physical address, were exposed. Suffice to say, my two primary email addresses have been exposed in more than 20-breaches.
haveibeenpwned was a great start. CapitalOne, at least among my financial providers, has stepped up the game significantly. Their creditwise arm has incorporated Credit & Identity Alerts in to the app and website. Numerous times recently I’ve received alerts, and while initially the alerts didn’t contain enough information to take action, the most recent alerts have had all the detail I needed.
Among the websites my data has been exposed this year include:
The same is true for more sites than not. No notification. When you login to the site to at the very least, change your password to a new unique one, they more often than not also give you no indication. For many of them it’s also nearly impossible to find out how to delete your account. In the case of ticketfly, I submitted a trouble ticket asking how to delete my account but retain tickets for future events, so far nothing but a generic ‘we’ll get back to you’ response.
It’s time for legislation about what websites/businesses are required to do when they find a data breach. They must be held accountable, and not just through financial penalties that mostly just go into government coffers.
I’d like to see at a minimum:
Mandatory requirement to notify by email, and if the business has a real mail address, by mail.
A default opt-out and deletion period. At discovery, if data breached includes significant personal and/or financial data, the account must be deactivated. After notification, if the business has not heard from the user whose data is breached within 14-days, and the account is not already deactivated, it should be deactivated.
Recovery of a deactivated account should NOT depend on any data exposed in the breach.
When the user whose data is breached logs-in to their account following notification or during account recovery, they must be presented with clear information on what data was exposed. Two, they must be given a simple option at this point to permanently delete their account.
If the user opts to delete their account, any consequences of the deletion must be made obvious at that time. For example, in the case of ticketfly, where I’ve already paid for tickets to future events, those tickets must still be available to me, even after my account is deleted.
In the era of “big data” and “everything online” the only way these businesses/websites will really put privacy and security first is not fines. It’s the actual loss of the customer/user and their data. These companies are often over valued, and paying government fines is just moving magic money from one bucket to another. It has a short term impact on their profitability, their quarterly results, not much else.
As a quick follow-on from yesterdays post, thanks for the emails and messages on linked-in. I was listening to the USCIS MP3 for the 100 Interview questions last night and found this answer, among others pretty imprecise. This is a single question extract from the actual USCIS MP3.
The question this raises is, which States have more representatives but a smaller population, and why? Obviouly this also hightlights the importance of the U.S. Census which measures the population.
Also, google searching for the questions is a great way to find the confusing litany of websites out there to help immigrants learn and practice for exams, most being for profit. ESLbasics being a good example. Here is the same question.
The delivery isn’t quite as monotone, and the answers are EXACTLY the same, the speaker, Andrea Giordano, even looks down to ensure she is reading it correctly.
Andrea sells a complete pack to prepare for the test for $59.99. She also has most of the questions on youtube for free.
It’s become a constant, “why aren’t they citizens?”
Questions over immigration eventually always end up with a debate, almost always unproductive, sometimes angry about why people who live in the US have not become US Citizens.
It’s my view, that people who pose these questions, do so mostly because they’ve never had to apply themselves. They have no idea how expensive the process is, how long it takes, and for many how difficult it is.
I get a weekly email, it contains a 1-byte GIF, which is used for tracking. When the mail reader loads the .gif file via http, I presume the USCIS keep a record rather than depend on email “read/open receipts”. Other than this the email always says:
In my “case” (pun intended), it’s not an application for citizenship, it’s a road block to that application. Turns out sometime late last year while sorting out all my medical billing related issues, I physically lost my green card.
The application for a replacement, cost circa $725. Not a new one, not one that is extended, not a renewal of an expired one, just a replacement/duplicate card. When I applied in the Denver office, and had my bio-metrics done again, I was told to expect a 9 to 11 month delay before I received the card.
I’m waiting for the replacement, so I can legally surrender it during my citizenship process. I wasn’t able to apply until at least May 12th, 2017 as per this very helpful and positive info-graphic. Since I married Kate in October, strictly that would normally mean a 3-year wait, but my 5-year wait was already up.
What does it take to become a US Citizen?
As is often the way, the US Government provides a very helpful and mostly simple set of web pages. The forms can be confusing and intimidating, purely due to the cost of failed application.
The process is initiated through the completion and submission of form N-400. The filing fee is currently $725 including the bio-metrics fee. After that you have to wait for an appointment, depending on state, this can take up-to a year. You also have to respond as fast as possible to any requests for information about your application.
Next up you’ll get you interview. At the Interview apparently the process includes
you will answer questions about your application
take the civics and English tests as required. In a quick vox-pop survey, most of the natural born citizens I’ve asked fail some of the less obvious ones.
You also have to prove a level of proficiency with spoken and written English.
Out of the 100 questions the group studies each week, only six are asked at the naturalization interview, at the most 10, as each person is allowed to miss four.
After which, USCIS issues a written notice of decision. Your application is
Granted—eligible for naturalization.
Continued—you need to provide additional evidence/documentation; or retake the test(s).
Denied—Ineligible for naturalization.
Assuming you are eligible, all you have left is the Oath of Allegiance ceremony.
Why am I waiting?
If you read the webpage details, you can in principle apply, and use the receipt given when I applied for my replacement green card, form I-90. However, when I asked at the office I was told you must have your green card. I asked again today (see left, yes the USCIS uses Salesforce for chat) and was told the same thing.
If I was still working, I could refer the whole thing through to an immigration attorney, but as a stay-at-home Dad, right now I’d like to avoid paying an immigration attorney. Equally, I don’t want to complete and submit my form N-400 and have it rejected, at $725 that’s another expense I don’t want to risk.
I’ve completed the application, minus the final section which lists time outside the country in the last 5-years, only because I have to set aside time to be factually accurate. Until I have my green card that can wait.
So, aside from the expense, it takes a year for most people, which assumes they’ve already been in the country for a minimum of 5-years as a legal green card holder. For most people, that means you’ve been in the country on a visa program before that, add another 2-5 years. Unless of course you’ve can apply for fast-path to green card.
I was an O-1 visa recipient, that didn’t qualify me to be fast-pathed.
Next time you meet someone who isn’t a US Citizen, instead of assuming they are lazy, or don’t want to, have some empathy, it’s an intimidating and fraught process.
On a day when the likelihood is you’ve been bombarded with GDPR emails from companies you’ve done business with, or just whose websites you’ve registered with, there is no better comparison of the difference between how the European Commision and the USA are dealing with our privacy.
While the new General Data Protection Regulation comes into force tomorrow (May 25th), which isn’t as many think, a reaction to the Facebook privacy scandal, the regulation which took seven years of negotiation, and will force changes in a braod range of industries, including, but not limited to technology, advertising, medicine and banking.
Big business is just about making a buck. In the same way as Facebook mostly didn’t care who got your data, and what they did with it, provided facebook got their money, that made it OK. The same has been true for decades for the cable and telephone, cell phone companies.
The questions that Zuckerberg never answered, including this:
How will you be remembered: As one the three big internet giants along with Steve Jobs and Bill Gates who have enriched our world, or as the genius who created a digital monster that is destroying our democracy and society?
Off the back of the British government “Winrush” scandal, The right honorable, David Lammy MP, made the following speech. It exposes the myth of immigration for many, many millions of people.
The same is true for the racial divide here in the USA. They had no choice, they didn’t want to go somewhere, they are all here, because “we” were all there. While it’s not an identical situation here in America, as much of the current immigration furore is about immigrants in the last 5o-years.
There is no British history without the history of empire. I am here because you were there. My ancestors were not British subjects because they came to Britain. They were British subjects because Britain came to them and sold them into slavery. My Windrush speech on our history: pic.twitter.com/kSa6BFD2D9
The same is essentially true for the USA and Europe since 9/11, “we” went “there”, and often disrupted their governments, bombed their countries, killed their family, friends and destroyed their homes.