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

Happy July 4th

MV5BMTM5MDY5MDQyOV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMzM3NzMxMDE@._V1_SY1000_CR22,0,630,1000_AL_[1]This year is my 15th July 4th, as a Brit’ abroad, I take my annual message to the occupiers of the former British Coloney, now known as America, seriously. This July 4th, as you ponder the growing inequality, and the gap between the rich and poor, consider this quote:

this summer when you’re being inundated with all this bi-centennial, fourth of July, broo-ha-ha just remember what you’re celebrating- that’s the fact that a bunch of slave-owning aristocratic white males didn’t want to pay their taxes

from the teachers speech in the Linklater classic, Austin TX based film, Dazed and Confused. The film is set in 1976. Somethings never change.

War, what is it good for?

as we head towards the American 2016 Presidential Primaries, and given the continuing falling apart of the manufactured countries in the middle east, there will again be the inevitable warmongering hawks who’ll claim that we should bomb this, bomb that, or that we should have never pulled the troops out.

Yesterdays staggering revelations by Tim Weiner on Fresh Air, about American President Nixon, and Nixons utter contempt for the American public, and the total waste of lives among those who fought, and suffered Nixons war, contrasted magnificently with a docu-drama about London in the 2nd World War that I caught on TV Sunday afternoon while surfing channels.

Before you think I’m about to get all holly and sanctimonious about the British, I’m not. The documentary, available in 2-parts on YouTube(see below). It’s not significant because it’s about the British, or London, or anything related to my ancestry. It’s significant because as you listen and watch

“My feeling was one of anger, this is my city, whats happening out there, how dare they? It was ones’ own history burning, and who has any right to do this? How would you feel if you’d watched it? Your own home city burning. Put yourself in the shoes of the people that were watching that night” – Jessica Jacob

“The more we were hit, the more we had this spirit. I think they thought they could actually bomb us into submission, but it did the opposite. The more that was done to us, the more we responded by OK, we can take it, get on it with it, we are not going to submit.” – George Wheeler

“If someone came to your house and said I’m going to destroy it, and you’ve got a wife and children, you are going to fight like fury to save it, and thats what happened here. I’m not going to forget it, I don’t want to forget it.” – Richard Holsgrove

It is not about Britain, not even about America, watching the documentary about the London firestorm it is easy to imagine bombers bombing Iraq; the British bombers over Dresden; anonymous, invisible drones over Afghanistan; Japanese fighters flying into Pearl Harbor; the words of Jacob, Wheeler and Holsgrove would ring true from any human.

War, what is it good for?

npr embed


US Government over performing

Yesterday I received a letter congratulating me on becoming a permanent resident and telling me I’d receive my “green card” within the next 3-weeks. Much to my surprise, it showed up in the mail today, along with a small envelope that said “We recommend use of this envelope to protect your new card and to prevent wireless communication with it.”

So the first thing I did was to scan it with my NFC enabled Google Android phone, didn’t work. Anyway cheers to the USCIS Texas processing center for getting my card out so quickly. I’ve already printed USCIS Form N-400 and will be tracking all my trips outside the USA for the next 5-years. The plan is then to send it the form… I’m not worth Eduardo is, yet, but as one person leaves, another arrives.

What kind of country do you want?

It’s fascinating to watch, and participate in the change in America. Sometimes it starts to look like a distinctly 2nd rate country. I’ve met reasonable people who are out of work through no fault of their own, who can’t afford to see a Dr or a Dentist unless its a life threatening emergency. Period. Then I hear from Oli in the UK that he’s finally gone to the dentist and had his teeth fixed, two fillings, and a root canal, total price to him, 49 UKP or about $60.

In this weeks This American Life they ask the question, what kind of country? They cover a number of angles as always, again the most interesting is saved until the end. The question is should you pay more tax and does cutting services actually save money? It’s more a question of trust I think, and people seem intrinsically not to trust the government. Which is weird given they deliver so much.

If asked would I pay an extra $200 to keep the existing services going, or pay $300 to cut loads of services and just pay the annual bill for street lighting, I’d go with the $200, not because it was cheaper, but because I believe honestly in the commons. You’ll be surprised what a lot of people were willing to pay. This American Life, Episode 459 (mp3).