Dystopian Future it is then

In his acceptance speech, President elect Trump said, among other things:

We are going to fix our inner cities and rebuild our highways, bridges, tunnels, airports, schools, hospitals. We’re going to rebuild our infrastructure, which will become, by the way, second to none. And we will put millions of our people to work as we rebuild it.

This from a man, who tweeted:

I’ve no idea what to expect now from the Trump Presidency, but it’s an amazing  coincidence that the original Blade Runner film was set in In Los Angeles in November 2019, just two years from now.

Hopefully Blade Runner isn’t a metaphor for a Trump Presidency; the weather and the blade runners, especially Gaff, do not foreshadow Trumps Immigration cops; and hopefully the Los Angeles in the film, nothing like the real LA in 2019; and the replicants not an extreme of the automation I wrote about yesterday.

blade-runner

What we don’t know is how Trump will do this. Just running up the deficit doesn’t seem likely given he’s from the GOP/Republican party. Taking much of what he’s said, closing tax loopholes, defunding Nato, closing overseas bases in place like Germany, Japan and more won’t likely save enough money. Your move President Trump.

What’s the deal with guns?

Again, skirting around the election, whenever the topic of guns in America comes up, usually after yet-another-mass-shooting, I simply don’t understand. I have no context.

I recently had the chance to hear Guardian journalist Gary Younge discuss his new book “Another Day in the Death of America: A Chronicle of Ten Short Lives” (via @amazon), with BBC Radio London, broadcaster and journalist, Robert Elms.

So much rang true. It was great hearing two people discuss guns and the bizarre attitudes towards them in the USA. Among the qoutes, and the serious discussions about 10 kids being killed by guns, the best summary of their exchange was this in the opening seconds.

YOUNGE: I was there for 12-years as a correspondant, and there were two things I never got. I never got healthcare, why would you not want that? And I never got guns…
ELMS: Why would you want that?

Gary Younge on twitter

Robert Elms on Twitter

The appearance of impropriety [Boulder Weekly]

It’s still hard to imagine the whole Donald Trump Presidential run is serious, but it is. At the same many other communities are fighting, or trying to fight the Oil & Gas Industry over fracking; at the same time  a record-tying 5.6 magnitude earthquake took place in Oklahoma early Saturday morning and state officials have ordered the shutdown of 37 disposal wells used for fracking. Meanwhile, in Colorado, voters were unable to get meaningful measures to protect Colorado from the results of fracking.

What do these three have in common? Little on the face of it! In the current Boulder Weekly, before the Oklahoma earthquake, Joel Dyer writing an OpEd, captures in one article I think the dissatisfaction people feel with the current political system, but have been unable to express.

wreckball_590_476[1]If you take time to read the piece, don’t read about Colorado, don’t read about the failed fracking measure, read about the about the political system where everyone is an insider; and because of the way big money works, there is little difference between the people, the parties are just labels.That’s the frustration that I think most people feel.

Our state government has a very real credibility problem and it doesn’t matter if it is the result of impropriety or simply the appearance of impropriety, because both are equally destructive when it comes to the political process.

whatever you think of Clintons campaign, or Clinton personally it does matter if you believe what’s said about her, what matters is the appearance of impropriety. The opposite seems to be true of Trump, no matter how much he lies, because he is not seen as an insider, they are prepared to cut him some slack.

It doesn’t matter if you are a Boulder fractivist, a gun-rights proponent from Grand Junction, a religious conservative in Colorado Springs, an environmentalist in Durango or a fifth-generation farmer from the San Luis Valley, as long as the oil and gas industry and its millionaire backers are deciding who gets elected in this state, you lose.

This is bigger than any one issue. This is about whether we are going to choose to restore our democracy or continue to be governed by a handful of the state’s wealthiest individuals and corporations. And it’s our choice not theirs. So follow the money before you check that box on your ballot. It may be the most important thing you’ll do this year.

 

Source: When it comes to the Secretary of State’s office, the appearance of impropriety is a big deal – Boulder Weekly

The Greatest Social Challenge of our Generation — Strong Towns

This is one of the best blogs of many on the Strong Towns blog. American suburbia is only viable with heavy government subsidy and planning — It would be unaffordable otherwise.

As we see the Growth Ponzi Scheme unwinding and the first decades of what journalist Alan Ehrenhalt has called The Great Inversion, Americans are experiencing a return to normal living conditions. In many ways, it’s a traumatic transition; who-moved-my-cheese on a continental economic scale.

Source: The Greatest Social Challenge of our Generation — Strong Towns

She said, he said

Friday evening we were waiting for a table for dinner, or a place at the bar, everything was looking pretty busy. I stood at the bar by a couple that looked like they were finished eating, but couldn’t get the attention of the bar staff. “She” spoke up to get the barmans attention. I thanked her and after we’d got our drinks, and cleared up that I wasn’t from Australia, the conversation went like this:

Her: How are things in Europe?
Me: Not so good, Nice sounds terrible. I suspect though at 7pm tonight, at a bar somewhere in Europe a couple were chatting and saying “what about all the gun violence in America, it’s not safe to go there anymore”.

Her: Oh, I hadn’t thought of that perspective.

Global Warming’s Terrifying New Chemistry | The Nation

This is bad news all around, but once again confirms there is no such thing as cheap energy. Fracking likely has many long term problems, no one saw this one coming though.

http://www.thenation.com/article/global-warming-terrifying-new-chemistry/

Laughing at US Banks

aka too big to do anything useful.

So, most mornings lately, during breakfast, Chase Bank has been running these commercials on TV. Yep, they are selling their bank on the basis of being able to make easy check deposits. Most US Banks and Credit Unions provide some form of ATM check deposit, similar to this…

no-checks-400x506[1]So while most western countries are running from checks as fast as they can, some have even announced the end of checks/cheques as we know them, the US is not only persisting with the check model and clearance process, they are making ATM’s better at accepting checks and spending money to promote it.

Meanwhile, I can login to my UK Bank, and for free, transfer money to my Son in Berlin in a different country, and different currency and it is in his account in about an hour. To send money to people in the UK, it’s even quicker, less than 15-minutes on average. I’ve had the account for nearly 15-years and not had a checkbook for the last 12-years.

The easiest, simplest and by far thecheapest way for a person in the USA to send me money is to write a physical check, take a picture of the check on their cellphone, and email me the picture. I remote deposit it in either of my USA Bank Accounts. Way to go USA.

We are all anchor babies

Trump is such an ass, he typifies the greed and avarice of the last century. Despite all his boasts, he really hasn’t done much except bully his way through life.

I’m delighted to see Richard Digance has finally seen the light and allowed much of his 1970’s song and some of his poetry material to make it on to youtube. He, or his record company, had previously fought and issued take down orders for anyone trying to provide copies, and in some cases, even links to copies.

I saw Digance twice live, and was there for one of the nights at the Rainbow Theatre in 1974 when his “Live” album was recorded. Of those tracks, “How the West was lost” was pretty influential on me at the time.

A couple of years later when recovering from knee surgery after a motorcycle accident, I spent a lot of time in the library researching American history. Digance songs, and his poems were intelligent, articulate, and often funny, quite the opposite of Trump.

Letting “them” win.

US AlertThe “media” (rather than actual news) is all over the US State Departments general, extended travel warning. The warning is pretty useless, anyone paying attention should have assumed most of this already.

Despite the worldwide spying, intelligence, phone hacking, the NSA has carried out, this is the best they can come up with?

At the same time governments are using this as a reason to demand more intrusive technology, and less privacy for us. Remember, the French bombers did not use encryption… yet the cries to break or insert back doors into encryption grow daily.

I’m travelling anyway…  If two planes get blown up,  or 100 Americans killed,  that would be terrible, but you are still more likely to die of heart disease or a traffic accident,  or shot by a white guy with a legal gun in the cinema or at a school. The fact that 100,000 people every year are wounded  or killed in America by guns every year, puts the Paris tragedy into context.

The worst thing about these vague, generalized threats is they are being used as a justification for more war, even boots on the ground. There is no easy answer, but lets remember that the middle east is a western created mess going back over 100-years.

The US never really fixed Korea, or Vietnam, or for that matter Afghanistan. The memorial wall for the Vietnam soldiers alone killed in action contains some 58,000 names. Does anyone really think that letting in Syrian Refugees in would cost 58,000 lives? If you have kids, are you willing to let your kids be part of the draft?

It’s impossible to imagine we can fix the Middle East by bombing alone. [See this, and this].

Remember, if you have NOT been protesting the bombing done in our names, you have no right to protest the refugees.

Don’t be intimidated over travel, ask yourself,  what would chuck Norris do…  Otherwise you are letting them win…

Them being the war mongering American politicians,  and ISIS.

You can’t handle the truth – 2

Daniel Lin @DLin71 nicely captured the current xenophobia here in the USA over the Syrian crisis, in one tweet.

Of course, with over 8,000 bombing raids and more than 28,000 bombs dropped on Syria, you could argue that the whole Syrian population all have the potential to strike back at some point.

If you have not been protesting the bombing, you have no right to protest the refugees. < Mark Cathcart

The most effective way for a foreigner to get into the USA, is actually through the Visa Waiver Program. I spent sometime last week talking to a reporter [on background] about the program. I certainly traveled on an earlier version of the VWP some 20-times.

The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) allows citizens of participating countries* to travel to the United States without a visa for stays of 90 days or less, when they meet all requirements explained below. Travelers must be eligible to use the VWP and have a valid Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) approval prior to travel.

VWP Countries

There are of course background checks on VWP applicants, I have no idea how in-depth or detailed they are. However, once approved, you by a return airline ticket and you are in. As someone of has come to the US on many different forms of visas, I know that the information required for the VWP is way less than any other. Also, the VWP application process, much, much quicker.

And that’s what the politicians don’t want you to know. It is easy to grandstand about refugees, make grand xenophobic political gestures. In reality there much easier and quicker routes into America, and the VWP is it. Approximately 19-million people PER YEAR visit the USA each year under the VWP.

Restricting the VWP will have an significant impact in two ways.

  1. It will have a direct financial impact, slowing down, and possibly halting a major group of visitors to the US.
  2. The countries that are impacted by the changes are likely to have some pushback. Either restricting US Citizens ability to visit reciprocal countries, or possibly refusing to grant US authorities access to the additional information needed to verify the applicant.

So, remember, everything has a price, and the fallout from this isn’t really security, it’s the result of a series of xenophobic, and potentially racist policy changes. Instead, we could just let the refugees in and follow the normal process. Scott Hicks wrote the following description of the refugee application.

Most of my friends know I practice Immigration law. As such, I have worked with the refugee community for over two decades. This post is long, but if you want actual information about the process, keep reading.

I can not tell you how frustrating it is to see the misinformation and outright lies that are being perpetuated about the refugee process and the Syrian refugees. So, here is a bit of information from the real world of someone who actually works and deals with this issue.

The refugee screening process is multi-layered and is very difficult to get through. Most people languish in temporary camps for months to years while their story is evaluated and checked.
First, you do not get to choose what country you might be resettled into. If you already have family (legal) in a country, that makes it more likely that you will go there to be with family, but other than that it is random. So, you can not simply walk into a refugee camp, show a document, and say, I want to go to America. Instead, the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees) works with the local authorities to try to take care of basic needs. Once the person/family is registered to receive basic necessities, they can be processed for resettlement. Many people are not interested in resettlement as they hope to return to their country and are hoping that the turmoil they fled will be resolved soon. In fact, most refugees in refugee events never resettle to a third country. Those that do want to resettle have to go through an extensive process.
Resettlement in the U.S. is a long process and takes many steps. The Refugee Admissions Program is jointly administered by the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) in the Department of State, the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and offices within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) within DHS conducts refugee interviews and determines individual eligibility for refugee status in the United States.

We evaluate refugees on a tiered system with three levels of priority.

First Priority are people who have suffered compelling persecution or for whom no other durable solution exists. These individuals are referred to the United States by UNHCR, or they are identified by the U.S. embassy or a non-governmental organization (NGO).
Second priority are groups of “special concern” to the United States. The Department of State determines these groups, with input from USCIS, UNHCR, and designated NGOs. At present, we prioritize certain persons from the former Soviet Union, Cuba, Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq, Iran, Burma, and Bhutan.

Third priority are relatives of refugees (parents, spouses, and unmarried children under 21) who are already settled in the United States may be admitted as refugees. The U.S.-based relative must file an Affidavit of Relationship (AOR) and must be processed by DHS.

Before being allowed to come to the United States, each refugee must undergo an extensive interviewing, screening, and security clearance process conducted by Regional Refugee Coordinators and overseas Resettlement Support Centers (RSCs). Individuals generally must not already be firmly resettled (a legal term of art that would be a separate article). Just because one falls into the three priorities above does not guarantee admission to the United States.
The Immigration laws require that the individuals prove that they have a “well-founded fear,” (another legal term which would be a book.) This fear must be proved regardless of the person’s country, circumstance, or classification in a priority category. There are multiple interviews and people are challenged on discrepancies. I had a client who was not telling the truth on her age and the agency challenged her on it. Refugees are not simply admitted because they have a well founded fear. They still must show that they are not subject to exclusion under Section 212(a) of the INA. These grounds include serious health matters, moral or criminal matters, as well as security issues. In addition, they can be excluded for such things as polygamy, misrepresentation of facts on visa applications, smuggling, or previous deportations. Under some circumstances, the person may be eligible to have the ground waived.

At this point, a refugee can be conditionally accepted for resettlement. Then, the RSC sends a request for assurance of placement to the United States, and the Refugee Processing Center (RPC) works with private voluntary agencies (VOLAG) to determine where the refugee will live. If the refugee does have family in the U.S., efforts will be made to resettle close to that family.
Every person accepted as a refugee for planned admission to the United States is conditional upon passing a medical examination and passing all security checks. Frankly, there is more screening of refugees than ever happens to get on an airplane. Of course, yes, no system can be 100% foolproof. But if that is your standard, then you better shut down the entire airline industry, close the borders, and stop all international commerce and shipping. Every one of those has been the source of entry of people and are much easier ways to gain access to the U.S. Only upon passing all of these checks (which involve basically every agency of the government involved in terrorist identification) can the person actually be approved to travel.

Before departing, refugees sign a promissory note to repay the United States for their travel costs. This travel loan is an interest-free loan that refugees begin to pay back six months after arriving in the country.

Once the VOLAG is notified of the travel plans, it must arrange for the reception of refugees at the airport and transportation to their housing at their final destination.
This process from start to finish averages 18 to 24 months, but I have seen it take years.

The reality is that about half of the refugees are children, another quarter are elderly. Almost all of the adults are either moms or couples coming with children. Each year the President, in consultation with Congress, determines the numerical ceiling for refugee admissions. For Fiscal Year (FY) 2016, the proposed ceiling is 85,000. We have been averaging about 70,000 a year for the last number of years. (Source: Refugee Processing Center)
Over one-third of all refugee arrivals (35.1 percent, or 24,579) in FY 2015 came from the Near East/South Asia—a region that includes Iraq, Iran, Bhutan, and Afghanistan.

Another third of all refugee arrivals (32.1 percent, or 22,472) in FY 2015 came from Africa.

Over a quarter of all refugee arrivals (26.4 percent, or 18,469) in FY 2015 came from East Asia — a region that includes China, Vietnam, and Indonesia. (Source: Refugee Processing Center)
Finally, the process in Europe is different. I would be much more concerned that terrorists are infiltrating the European system because they are not nearly so extensive and thorough in their process.

Posted by Scott Hicks on Thursday, November 19, 2015