On All Saints Day, I ponder, who has the right to claim group rights from systematic oppression?

Today, “All Saints Day”, for men whose bodies survive Halloween parties and drag makeup, I have a potpourri of items, and some of it is serious.

The Cato institute sent me an email reminding us of the statistical improbability that immigrants become terrorists like Sayfullo Saipov in NYC yesterday.  But the email names three Uzbek nationals as of March 2017 who had been convicted of terror offenses (Kodirov, Kurbanov, and Juraboev).  At least one was radicalized on the Internet (like Saipov), one had been a refugee, and one had won a green card lottery (similar to Saipov).

Two are awaiting charges, including one who had overstayed a visa and applied for asylum.

Off hand, President Trump’s reinforcing the idea of “merit-based” immigration sounds more reasonable, even if the numbers are low.  But again, to take care of our own, we seem to follow into the grade school tactic of giving detention to everyone for the sins of a few.

Uzbekistan is not one of the countries Trump has singled out; but it’s interesting that some parts of Russia (Chechnya) and former Soviet republics are capable of vehemence against the US, reinforcing the idea of a red scare that carried on underground in the 1980s even if not talked about a lot.  Back then, newspapers (at least in Dallas) carried stories of “academies” in rural areas to train “civilian defense reservists” against what at the time was thought to be a threat of individualized red subversion, still. . In pre-web days, not talked about a lot.

Craig Timberg, Elizabeth Dwoskin and Karoun Dimarjin have a detailed story on the far reach of Russia’s social media disinformation “fake news” campaign, that reached over 100 million Americans.  NBC News offers a piece by Sarah Kindzior showing how Russia’s “divide by tribe” propaganda had been going on, hiding camouflaged in plain sight  at least since 2014.

I certainly saw some of these (crooked Hillary, etc)i in my Facebook feed and generally ignored them.  There’s something about the tone of my own writing, that may seem elitist and “preaching to the choir”, as of the average-Joe masses didn’t matter to me personally. The Russians probably know that people like me won’t pay attention to how easily led people vulnerable to “mass movements” become because “we” tend to think less of them personally.  I notice a sudden drop of about 15 Facebook friends and wonder if these were fake Russian accounts now closed.

I think we’re also in a bizarre funk where we’re deciding who has a right to form a movement or belong to one.  The neo-Nazi and KKK issues are settled and viewed as direct threats to vulnerable group. But the far Left (even Antifa) is not.   Communism is somehow more acceptable than fascism because of history.  It’s as if some people think you can pick Stalin or Mao or Pol Pot (or Kim Jong Un) over Hitler.

I’ll also cite an article in Vox by Ella Nilsen on John Kelly’s remarks on the cause of the Civil War, here.

I want to add an Oct. 30 article by David Bier at the Cato Institute on how green card waits really work (they are very unpredictable) and the role of sponsors (employment, family or personal).  This article may explain some interaction I had this spring with a Facebook “friend” who seemed to be trying to get me to sponsor him.

(Posted: November 1, 2017 at 3 PM EDT)

House Judiciary committee holds hearing on refugees and asylum seekers

On Wednesday Oct. 26, 2017 the House Judiciary on Oversight of the United States Refugee Admissions Program (basic link).

The 96 minute hearing was chaired by Mr. Labrador.

The featured witnesses from the Trump administration were Simon Hershaw, L. Francis Cissna, Scott Lloyd, and Rebecca Gambler, with titles listed on the link.

The overall takeaway from the hearing is that the U.S, should try to be more generous with admitting refugees than the current administration has been willing to, but that security and screening needs to be very nuanced and thought out.

The Trump administration has ended the ban on refugee processing but announced heightened screening for arrivals from eleven countries in the Middle East and Africa (and North Korea).

Some of the general concerns of the committee at the outset were that overly strict refugee policy stirs resentment in some parts of the world and reinforces the ISIS narrative, and that Trump’s antics have damaged security partnerships with allies.  Australia in particular was mentioned at the outset.

There was note at the outset that immigration per se has not added to terrorism risk in the US (paper by Cato Institute).  There was also note that immigrants have been hard workers and have generally shown more entrepreneurial talent and risk taking than most native Americans, particularly in running retail and franchise businesses.

On the other hand, Goodlatte reminded us that two of the 911 hijackers had been admitted legally as refugees.

There was discussion of repatriation, of the possibility of settling refugees in militarily supervised safe spaces closer to home, and of the general expectation that refugees become largely self-sufficient within 90 days of admission.

Henshaw stumbled at 57:00 discussing the RFC program and fraud that has occurred at “the RFC level”.

The discussion then moved to asylum seekers, with great concern that the load and backlog have become untenable.  There was considerable concern that the notions of credible fear and membership in a particular social group would be tightened because of the backlog.  This could have significance for people hosting asylum seekers, who might be less likely than in the past to win their cases and be able to remain here legally.

There was discussion of whether immigrants (especially women and girls, who could face sexual assaults during crossing into the U.S,) are guaranteed the same constitutional rights as citizens.  Jackson Lee and Ms. Jayapal were particularly emphatic on this matter. There was particular concern over recent abortion denial in case where a judge’s order was ignored by the administration

I didn’t hear any discussion of the sponsorship issue per se, where Canada is much more pro-active with getting citizens to support it than the U.S.

(Posted: Friday, Oct. 27, 2017 at 8 AM EDT)

Trump’s travel ban 3.0 falls flat in court; why “lawless government” argument doesn’t work

Trump’s latest travel bans were struck down again last week.  In Hawaii, the decision was reported Oct. 17 with this copy of the opinion from the ACLU.  Ditto recently in Maryland.

The Hawaii judge actually cited a post by Cato’s Alex Nowrasteh noting that there have been no fatalities in the US from immigrants or travelers from those countries.  Cato had also provided an Amicus brief to Hawaii.

David Bier has contributed a major op-ed to the Washington Post, “Why bother?” to the Washington Post, here.   I think his most important argument is that visitors from countries with weak governments or weak security still bear the burden of proof when trying to enter that their purposes for a visit are legitimate.  In individual cases, some people may be able to prove legitimacy.  The overall statistical chances are that many will not.  In many cases, legitimacy would have to do with known family connections in the U.S.

There are good examples of this reasoning.  For example, in the Minneapolis area, there is a well established Somali community, which was never controversial, even after 9/11 (although there have been a few cases of attempted youth recruitment in more recent years in that area).

I’ll note that in my own information technology career, which started in 1971, I often encountered people from India and Pakistan, who dressed and behaved like ordinary Americans and simply never got into issues of religion at work (this was particularly true in the 1980s in Dallas). A major software bridge for an insurance company in Minneapolis that I worked for through Y2K and into the 9/11 period was coded entirely by a C++ (object oriented) and server technology guru from Pakistan who ran his own contracting company of advanced internals coding projects for corporate infrastructure.  He often hosted social events for other techies and no one ever thought anything of his religion.

(Posted: Monday, October 23, 2017 at 1 PM EDT)

On immigration and health care, Trump seems all too willing to play with individuals’ lives as political bargaining chips

Dave Bier of the Cato Institute has a new detailed analysis of all the flaws in Trump’s Faustian demands (call it a “wish list“) on Congress before he’ll go along with letting most of the DACA “Dreamers” stay after six months, as in this link.

The most conspicuous demand was overbuilding “that Wall”, much of which might be ineffective or relatively unnecessary.

But another demand is practically requiring asylum seekers to prove their cases on entry.  This would sound like it could shut down most LGBTQ asylum seeking.

Furthermore, overstayed visas would be treated much more harshly.

At the same time, there is a lot of attention to the “new” (?) travel ban. Jason Dzubow, normally very cautious in his blog posts, takes a cheerier approach on the affect on asylum seekers (in his most recent post), which in many cases, he feels, won’t be important.  People who have already applied and getting some sort of legal and perhaps housing assistance in the US will not fare worse than before.

My own reaction would be to imagine myself in the shoes of a “dreamer” (maybe Jose Vargas in the 2014 film “Documented”).  I would feel that, while the president has claimed a big heart and that somehow things will turn out OK personally, my own life had been made into someone else’s political bargaining chip. It’s easy to imagine that if I were a member of a racial minority in a poorer community subject to police profiling. As a white gay man with some of the typical troubles in the distant past, it is not so clear cut.  I did not perceive myself, when younger, as a member of an oppressed “group”, but rather as someone who individually had difficulty conforming to some of the gender-related expectations made of me which were more understandable in the Cold War world in which I grew up.

Likewise, I’m disturbed that Trump sounds willing to play with the existing health insurance of disadvantaged Americans to claim he is keeping a promise to some people in his base.

AOL has a discussion of the Supreme Court’s actions today allowing one of Trump’s travel bans to stand; likewise Politico.  It’s hard to give much reaction because the sands keep shifting. Here’s the June 2017 opinion for Trump v. International Refugee Assistance Project.

(Posted: Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2017 at 11 PM EDT)

Update: Thursday, Oct. 12, 2017 

Jason Dzubow has a 9-part piece “DACA Reform and it’s Hostages (i.e., Asylum Seekers)” which seems to be a change in tone and alarm level. I would particularly wonder if the application of concepts like “membership in a social group” or “political opinion” would be tightened in a way to affect LGBT asylum seekers already in the U.S. (possibly some in detention seeking parole), especially from non-Islamic countries, including Russia (Chechnya) and Central America.

Sessions says he will ask Congress to tighten the rules on asylum seekers, claiming asylum fraud is widespread, Washington Post story by Sari Horwitz, link. The Center for Immigration Studies had made claims like this in a session reported here May 10 (q.v.)

 

State Department tightens rules in a way to affect asylees; USCIS will likely follow suit

Attorney Jason Dzubow has advised everyone about a new State Department rule that would tighten scrutiny of people who apply for non-immigrant visas, especially at consulates.  His post is “New Rule Spells Trouble for Asylees”.  The rule would penalize persons who “engage in conduct inconsistent with non-immigrant status” within 90 days of arrival.

The column then anticipates that USCIS would apply a similar rule as part of Trump’s “extreme vetting”. That presumably could mean that if someone applied for asylum after having entered the country as “non-immigrant”, that the asylum request would be more likely to be denied.  In practice, Dzubow argues that real deportations would be unlikely.  But the situation could provide more problems for those who would assist or host asylum seekers, who probably would not be allowed to work on their own.

Again, the lack of a formal system of sponsorship (outside of the I864 mechanism for relatives for example) in the US makes it very difficult for those who assist asylum seekers to know their responsibilities.  It throws the whole thing into an under-the-table operation of grass-roots resistance, very much predicated on local social capital.

This development may become particularly troubling for LGBT asylum seekers, especially from countries besides the Middle East (like Russia and Chechnya).

(Posted: Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017 at 12:15 PM EDT)

“Stability” really matters, for people who already have capital (earned or inherited)

OK, I am “retired”, and I “depend” on past accumulated wealth, much earned but some inherited, to keep these blogs going because they don’t pay for themselves.  They don’t require much money (or Piketty-style capital) to run in the grand scheme of things, but they depend on stable infrastructure, security, and stable economic and personal circumstances for me.

Yes, stability.  And judging from the “outside world” events of recent weeks, it doesn’t sound like something I can count on as much as I have.

For most of my adult working life, I was very much in command of the possibility for my own mistakes to undo me and possibly end my stable I.T. career (as with bad elevations into production).

But early in my life I was forced to be much more aware of eternal demands by the community I was brought in.  Gender conformity had to do with that.  Then came the military draft and Vietnam.  There was an expectation of eventually having a family even if running a gauntlet that could expose me to some personal fair share of community hazards.  This had much more to do with my own “mental health” problems in the age 19-21 range than I probably realized (including a brush with nihilism in 1964).

It is true, of course, that my employment could be affected by outside business events like mergers and takeovers, but in my case these actually worked out in my favor.  And earlier in my work life I was concerned about staying near a large city (New York) where it would be easier for me to “come out”;  the energy crisis was actually a threat to my mobility, as was potentially NYC’s “drop dead” financial meltdown when I was (finally) living there.

So it is, in retirement.  If you have accumulated wealth, you want the world to be stable so you don’t have to watch your back, and face sudden expropriation because of political deterioration (maybe combined with a natural catastrophe).  You want to believe if you pay your bills, make good choices, and play by the “rules” you will be OK.  And you find people knocking for attention your life, and you have to deal with the knowledge that they didn’t have the situational stability that “you” did.

It’s possible to find one’s life suddenly becomes a political bargaining chip. For example, Congress could try to means-test Social Security recipients (even current one) as part of its debt (and debt ceiling) issue.

I have to say I do have a gut reaction from “extremists”, whether associated with Communism (North Korea) or radical Islam, who make threats that sound personal, as if they saw someone like me as a personal enemy.  I do understand the racial contact, that some people will take statements (hate speech) made on the alt-right that way, also. But combativeness has become a problem that I had not anticipated throughout most of my working life.

It is true, also, that the most extreme scenarios from foreign enemies could reduce me personally to nothing.  The conservative Weekly Standard, after 9/11, liked to use the term, being “brought low” because of the resentment of others.  In the North Korean threat, there are many nuances.  The right wing talks about EMP, and the major media refuses to mention it.  It could become a real threat, but my own probing of the utility world suggests it is making some progress in making transformers less vulnerable (to “E3” threats, also posed by extreme solar storms).  (The power companies won’t say exactly what they are doing, for good security reasons.)  Personal electronics, cars, and data can face threats from a different mechanism (“E1”) which actually might be easier for an enemy (including retaliation by the DPRK) to pull off.  This is a developing topic that the major media just doesn’t want to cover yet (outside of cyberwar, which is better known, as with the psychological warfare implications of the Sony hack).

I have to say, too, that for one’s life to come to an end out of political expropriation or violence is particularly ugly.  I was privileged enough to avoid Vietnam combat, and I was “safe” enough not to get HIV, which previously could have been the most dangerous threats I faced.  I was economically stable for my entire work career, which sometime after 9/11.  I did have some family cushion.

The basic reaction from most people is to “belong” to something bigger than the self.  I think all this relates to “the afterlife” and I won’t get into that further right here. In retirement, I’ve had to deal with constant reminders of how narrow my capacity for personal intimacy can be, even if it can be intense in the right circumstances.  Yes, now I have to throw the “psychological defenses” (Rosenfels) to maintain my personal independence and stop being dragged into the causes as others.  Solidarity alone seems rather alien to me, even if I can’t count on affording that kind of attitude forever.

Again, as to the “belonging” idea, throughout history, individuals have suffered because of the actions of their leadership.  In Biblical times, it was considered morally appropriate that all members of a tribe be punished together for “disobedience” (to “Jehovah”).  In modern times, it’s the “everybody gets detention for the sins of one in middle school” problem,

I want to reemphasize my intention so see all my own media initiatives through.  That includes getting a novel out in early 2018, trying to market a screenplay, getting some of my music (written over 50 years, some of it embedded in two big sonatas) performed.  The best chance to make some of this pay for itself would be to get some (perhaps conservative) news outlets interested in some of my blog content, especially in undercovered areas (power grid security, filial responsibility laws, downstream liability protections in online speech scenarios including copyright, defamation, and implicit content (which can include criminal misuse like trafficking).  The intention is to help solve problems in non-partisan manners away from the bundled demands common with “identity politics”.

I tend not to respond to demands for mass “solidarity” with so many other causes, and I usually am not willing to “pimp” someone else’s causes as my own.  But I realize I could be riding on partially unearned privilege, which can become dangerous.  Indeed, having inherited wealth subsumes a responsibility to address needs as they arise;  to ignore them would be tantamount to stealing. I tend to think that helping others is easier if you are in a relationship or have had kids (that became an issue when I was working as a substitute teacher).  I think there can be situations where one has to be prepared to accept others as dependents and “play family” (and this often happens in estate and inheritance situations anyway, although it did not specifically in my own situation). We saw this idea in films like “Raising Helen” and in the TV series “Summerland”.

I’ll mention that it looks like I’m selling the estate house and moving out in October. That would remove the hosting opportunities for now; but, after downsizing, it could make other volunteering much easier and even open up the possibility of volunteer travel (although I need to stay “connected” at all times when traveling as it is now).

I have to add that taking on dependents grates against complacency. It means more willingness to sell other people’s messages rather than on sticking to your own.  Our culture has developed a certain split personality: resistance to sales people or middlemen and to being contacted by cold calls (the robocall and cold call problem), yet an expectation of voluntary personal generosity and inclusivity online.

The sudden announcement of the intended termination of DACA is a good example of how instability affects those less fortunate. Although I really believe Congress will fix it in the required six months, today “dreamers” would have to deal with employers or schools who are uncertain as to what their legal status might be in less than a year.

(Posted: Tuesday, September 5, 2017, at 7 PM EDT)

Lawsuit threatened by Texas and other red states could mean DACA ends with a whimper; also, marriage and undocumented people

There has been concern and speculation of what might happen in Donald Trump gradually ends DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals as implemented by the Obama Administration in June 2012.

David Bier of the Cato Institute has a detailed prospective analysis here, what he calls a “Timeline for Expiration”. The three components are (1) deferred priorities for removal, (2) deferred actual removal and (3) some protections of employment authorizations.

Bier quickly mentions Trump’s decision in January to continue DACA, but then presents the serious challenge implied by a letter to Jeff Sessions from the attorneys general of several red states (Texas, Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, Tennessee, and West Virginia) to sue if Trump does not terminate DACA by Labor Day.

Bier’s analysis is detailed, with many charts. I want to focus a moment on the employment authorization issue. Bier tends to suggest that (in various combinations of possibilities) for most DACA “children”, there won’t be changes, and that employers will have to accept employment authorization documents pretty much as they do today, well, probably. But the very idea of such a “threat” could matter to some communities. In the LGBTQ community, for example, that could lead to more calls for hosting and financial support, either through organizations or more focused kinds of sponsorships. This would compare to the current situation for asylum seekers, already discussed on this blog extensively.

I wanted to mention another possible controversy. Can undocumented immigrants get green cards by marrying American citizens or permanent legal residents? The answer seems to be, sometimes (Alllaw link1, link2). There was a change in 2017 involving a 601A Waiver that may help sometimes (link). There are problems with some legal sites on these matters because their articles don’t always carry dates.

A question like this has the potential to become important if people were pressured in their peer groups to consider marrying immigrants to help them. Yes, it is possible to imagine abuse of same-sex marriage in this regard, but I have not heard that this has really happened much.

(Posted: Thursday, August 17, 2017 at 9 PM EDT)

Who “gets to be recognized” as a legitimate “journalist”?

So, who gets to call the self a journalist?

The recent queasiness in Congress and the FCC about matters like Section 230 and network neutrality bring this question back.  Yes, I’ve talked about the controversies over “citizen journalism” before, like the day before the Election on November 8, 2016.  And recently (July 19) I encountered a little dispute about access requiring “press credentials”.

The nausea that President Donald Trump says the “media” gives him seems to be directed at mainstream, larger news organizations with center-liberal bias – that is, most big city newspapers, and most broadcast networks, and especially CNN – he calls them all purveyors of “fake news” as if that were smut.  More acceptable are the “conservative” Fox and OANN.  Breitbart and Milo Yiannopoulos (with his own new site) seem to be in the perpetual twilight of a tidally locked planet.  Perhaps I am in the same space;  Trump doesn’t seem to have the same antipathy (or hostility) to “independent” or “citizen” journalists (which I had feared he would when he said he didn’t trust computers), but a lot of other people do.

I digress for a moment. Coincidentally has set up his “Trump News Channel” on Facebook (Washington Post story) but the URL for it reverts to “Dropcatch”, with Twitter won’t even allow as a link as supposed spam.

The basic bone politicians and some business people pick with journalists is that “they” spectate, speculate and criticize, but don’t have to play, like right out of the script of the Netflix thriller “Rebirth”.  Politicians, hucksters, sales professionals, and perhaps many legitimate business professionals, and heads of families – all of them have accountabilities to real people, whether customers or family members.  They have to go to bat for others.  They have to manipulate others and concern themselves with the size of their “basis”.  Journalists can do this only through double lives.

I could make the analogy to kibitzing a chess game, rather than committing yourself to 5 hours of concentration in rated game.  (Yes, in the position below, Black’s sacrifice hasn’t worked.)

But, of course, we know that renowned journalists have paid their dues, most of all in conflict journalism. Sebastian Junger broke his leg working as an arborist before writing “The Perfect Storm”. Bob Woodruff has a plate in his skull but recovered completely after being wounded in Iraq. Military services actually have their own journalists and public affairs.  Young American University journalism graduate Trey Yingst helped found News2share before becoming a White House correspondent, but had done assignments in Ukraine, Gaza, Rwanda, Uganda, Ferguson, and was actually pinned down at night during the Baltimore riots in April 2015.

That brings us back to the work of small-fry, like me, where “blogger journalism” has become the second career, pretty much zoning out other possible opportunities which would have required direct salesmanship of “somebody else’s ideas” (“We give you the words”), or much more ability to provide for specific people (maybe students) in directly interpersonal ways.

Besides supporting my books, what I generally do with these blogs is re-report what seem like critical general-interest news stories in order to “connect the dots” among them.  Sometimes, I add my own footage and observations when possible, as with a recent visit to fire-damaged Gatlinburg.  With demonstrations (against Trump, about climate change, for LGBT) I tend to walk for a while with some of them but mainly film and report (especially when the issue is narrower, such as with Black Lives Matter).  I generally don’t venture into dangerous areas (I visited Baltimore Sandtown in 2015 in the day time).

I generally don’t respond to very narrow petitions for emergency opposition to bills that hurt some narrow interest group.  What I want to do is encourage real problem solving.  Rather than join in “solidarity” to keep Congress from “repealing” Obamacare by itself, I want to focus on the solutions (subsidies, reinsurance, the proper perspective on federalism, etc).  But I also want to focus attention on bigger problems, many of them having to do with “shared responsibility” or “herd immunity” concepts, that don’t get very consistent attention from mainstream media (although conservative sites do more on these matters).  These include filial responsibility, the tricky business of reducing downstream liability issue on the Web (the Section230 issue, on the previous post, where I said Backpage can make us all stay for detention), risks taken by those offering hosting to immigrants (refugees and asylum seekers), and particularly national security issues like the shifting of risk from asymmetric terror back to rogue states (North Korea), and most of all, infrastructure security, especially our three major electric power grids.

My interest in book self-publication and citizen journalism had started in the 1990s with “gays in the military”, linking back to my own narrative, and then expanded gradually to other issues about “shared risks” as well as more traditional ideas about discrimination.  I had come into this “second career” gradually from a more circumscribed world as an individual contributor in mainframe information technology. “Don’t ask, don’t tell” had suddenly become a particularly rich issue in what it could lead to in other areas.  So, yes, I personally feel that, even as an older gay man, the LGBTQ world has more to worry about than bathroom bills (Pulse).  I think the world we have gotten used to could indeed be dialed back by indignation-born “purification” (as a friend calls it) if we don’t get our act together on some things (like the power grid issue).  But I don’t believe we should have to all become doomsday preppers either.  We should solve these problems.

A critical component of journalism is objectivity and presentation of Truth, as best Truth can be determined. Call it impartiality. You often hear Trump supporters say that, whatever Trump’s crudeness and ethical problems, what Trump promotes helps them and particularly family members who depend on them.  Of course many journalists have families without compromising their work. But this observation seems particularly relevant to me.  I don’t have my own children largely because I didn’t engage in the desires or the behaviors than result in having that responsibility.  I can “afford” to remain somewhat emotionally aloof from a lot of immediate needs.

In fact, I’ve sometimes had to field the retort from some people that, while some of the news out there may be dire, I don’t need to be the person they hear it from.  I could be putting a target on my own back and on others around me.  Indeed, some people act as if they believe that everything happens within a context of social hierarchy and coercion.

My own “model” for entering the news world has two aspects that seem to make it vulnerable to future policy choices (like those involving 230 or maybe net neutrality). One of them is that it doesn’t pay its own way.  I use money from other sources, both what I earned and invested and somewhat what I inherited (which arguably could be deployed as someone else’s safety net, or which could support dependents, maybe asylum seekers if we had a system more like Canada’s for dealing with that issue).  That means, it cannot be underwritten if it had to be insured, for example.  I can rebut this argument, or course, by saying, well, what did you want me to do, get paid to write fake news?  That could support a family.  (No, I really never believed the Comet Ping Pong stuff, but the gunman who did believe it an attack it claimed he was an “independent journalist.”  I do wonder how supermarket tabloids have avoided defamation claims even in all the years before the Internet – because nobody believed them?  Some people obviously do.)   No, they say. we want you to use the background that supported you as a computer programmer for decades and pimp our insurance products. (“We give you the words,” again.)  Indeed, my withdrawal from the traditional world where people do things through sales middlemen makes it harder for those who have to sell for a living.

The other aspect is that of subsumed risk.  I can take advantage of a permissive climate toward self-distribution of content, which many Internet speakers and small businesses take for granted, but which can be seriously and suddenly undermined by policy, for the “common good” under the ideology of “shared responsibility”.  I won’t reiterate here the way someone could try to bargain with me over this personally – that could make an interesting short film experiment. Yes, there can be court challenges, but the issues litigated with CDA and COPA don’t reliably predict how the First Amendment applies when talking about distribution of speech rather than its content, especially with a new literalist like Gorsuch on the Supreme Court.

A lot of “Trader Joe” type people would say, there should be some external validation of news before it is published.   Of course, that idea feeds the purposes of authoritarian rules, like Vladimir Putin or Xi Jinping, or perhaps Donald Trump.  But we could see that kind of environment someday if we don’t watch out.

(Posted: Monday, August 7, 2017 at 4 PM EDT)

Cato Institute analyzes Trump’s RAISE Act and debunks “myths”; National Review looks at the ironies of “legality”

The Cato Institute has shared with me two links about the RAISE Act today.  And (another) conservative periodical, National Review, wrote about the irony of wanting to reduce “legal” immigration.

As Cato explains, the RAISE Act is a bill introduced by Senators Tom Cotton (R-AR) and David Perdue (R-GA) that would reduce legal immigration by 50 percent. Its authors maintain that it would return immigration to “historical norms” but, Cato maintains, in a post by Dave Bier  with some charts and tables, this is inaccurate. Cato maintains that the immigration rate—which controls for the size of the U.S. population—was already 28 percent below the historical average. The RAISE Act would reduce the immigration rate to one-third of the historic average over time and about one-eleventh of the historic highs.

Alex Nowrasteh has a post in which he explains (with a large volume of charts and tables) why the senators’ various other arguments are dubious. The Senators (as does President Trump) claim it would create a “skills-based immigration system,” but the bill doesn’t actually increase employment-based immigration at all. The United States already ranks low among developed nations in terms of total per-capita immigration and skills-based immigration. Alex’s article walks Congress and other readers the through numerical research and studies on the economics of immigration restriction and shows that decreasing the flow of immigrants does not actually increase wages for native-born workers.

Nowrasteh has also posted a higher-level discussion of how to meet alt-right anti-immigration arguments here.

Dave Bier has a column in the New York Times (Aug. 4) “Ignorant Immigration Reform” here.

My basic reaction is this: My first impression is that skills-based immigration is separate from the asylum and refugee issue.  The whole idea of private sponsorship and the potential legal responsibilities of sponsors needs systematic attention.  I think the I864 is just a little piece of this when a family member wants a visa.

Tech companies (including Facebook with explicit statements by Mark Zuckerberg) have, in the past, encouraged the increase in visas for those with very specific job skills.  Throughout my own IT career, I often worked with immigrants from India and Pakistan especially and never thought anything of it.

Charles Cooke has a piece in National Review today, in a piece called “the Corner”, “But I thought you were only against illegal immigration.” Cooke makes a comparison to the Canada system.

I have an earlier post today on a legacy blog, on the “cosmopolitan bias” argument at the White House press conference, here.  It seems especially noteworthy to me that Trump’s “point-based” competitive system for a strictly limited number of green cards would probably exclude older workers with skills.

Other commentators have noticed that economic growth in the US cannot take place without maintaining the current level of immigration of people ready to work.  Immigration also helps maintain the birth rate and population replacement at a stable level, since well-off people born here tend to have fewer children.

It really does seem that Trump’s idea of economic growth slides toward autarky.  The debate will continue.

(Posted: Wednesday, Aug. 2, 2017 at 9 PM EDT)

We need to be prepared, as a nation, to house people quickly after catastrophes

I can remember, even living in Arlington having returned to look after Mother, the shock in that late August morning of 2005 learning when I got up that Hurricane Katrina had been much worse than expected.

I would volunteer some time at the Red Cross in nearby Falls Church (mixing the shifts with substitute teaching at the time) finding with many callers there was very little we could do but tell them to wait hours on the line for FEMA.

Over time, a few hundred people settled temporarily in the DC area.  Many more settled in Texas, and I believe that in some cases families, or especially individuals, were housed in private homes.  I at least wondered if we could be asked to do this.  I’ve entertained this kind of emergency before (May 18, 2016).

The Sunday before Hurricane Sandy (which came inland on a Monday night in late October 2012) the pastor at an Arlington VA church gave a sermon on “radical hospitality”. Fortunately, there was little damage in this area from the storm.

I’ve also documented on this blog some of the issues with hosting asylum seekers, which I have suspended as I consider moving (no more details right now).

And I’ve noted the somewhat informal private hosting website “Emergency BNB”. And the sharing economy, developed by companies like Airbnb, many people, especially younger adults, may be used to the idea of keeping their homes ready to be shared, which is not something that would have been very practical for me during most of my own adult life. Younger adults may be less interested in collecting possessions that could be put at risk from a security perspective. Music and film could be stored in the Cloud.

Younger adults living in “earthy” neighborhoods (like New York City’s East Village) or in certain rural areas, even in collectives or intentional communities, and used to social interdependence, may be more willing to share their spaces with less attention to personal, material or legal liability risks.  Many do not have an economically realistic choice, beyond building on common social capital, as Rick Santorum or Charles Murray would describe the idea.

Along these lines, then, I wonder again about emergency housing in the context of disaster or catastrophe preparedness.  I see I took this up Sept. 22, 2016 (before the Trump election) in conjunction with preparedness month.

A few of my friends on Facebook do indeed come from the doomsday prepper crowd, and it rather alarms me how much they are into it.  A sizable number of people do not believe you can count of civilization to last forever.  They see personal self-reliance in a rural home as a moral prerequisite to participating in a world that goes beyond the immediate surroundings. Indeed, ever since 9/11, we have been warned that at some point, whole generations of people may have to rebuild the world from scratch, as in NBC’s series “Revolution” which predicates a bizarre kind of EMP event.  I say I would have nothing to offer such a world at 74,

We could indeed face a grave threat to personal security in the homeland even in 2018.  War with North Korea might be impossible to avoid, and at least a couple small nuclear strikes on the US homeland might be impossible to prevent.  As a matter of policy, what happens to the people who survive but lose everything?  Insurance doesn’t cover war (whether it covers terrorism is controversial).  Will the government indemnify them?  (It more or less did a lot of this after 9/11.)  Or will we depend on the volunteerism of “GoFundMe”? which to me has sounded self-indulgent and tacky sometimes.

It does seem that we need some kind of “national discussion” or town-hall on this.  Would seniors aging alone in oversized homes be able to take people in?  Would we expect that?  Well, we really don’t do that now with our own homeless.

Any North Korean domestic nuclear strike would probably involve a small low-yield nuclear weapon. If you look at charts like this one, you see that the number of casualties and total property damage in a city might be less than one expects.  The radiation damage is another matter.  But one can imagine calls for people in distant states to house and take in the “victims” as they may never have an uncontaminated habitable home neighborhood to return to (even with Katrina that did not hold).  It is appropriate to consider how effective the manufactured housing industry can be (with Katrina the result was not that good).

Again, another issue is the possibility of an electromagnetic pulse, which would damage all electronics in a very wide region.  Have Silicon Valley companies protected their infrastructure from this sort of thing?  One day we could find most of the Internet (and “GoFundMe”) gone forever if they haven’t.  There is very little written about this.

Nobody likes talk like this to be “thinkable”.  But the preppers have a moral point.  Resilient and prepared people are less inviting targets for an otherwise determined enemy.  Maybe that’s what “America first” means.

(Posted: Wednesday, August 2, 2017 at 3:15 PM EDT)