Sunday, February 26, 2017

A day off blogging


I expect to finish the draft of my second Western novel today.  It's the sequel to 'Brings The Lightning'.  I'm going all-out to get it done, so that I can do a preliminary read-through on Monday and Tuesday, then get it off to the publisher for editing.

That being the case, I won't put up blog posts today, but concentrate on my book instead. I hope you'll forgive the lack of fresh content, and amuse yourselves in the archives, or with the blogs listed in my sidebar.  They write good stuff, too!

See you tomorrow.

Peter

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Those were the days . . .


The Devil's Panties cartoon strip for February 24th, 2017, made me laugh.  Click the image for a larger view at the cartoon's home page.




Yes, I remember those days . . . in fact, I still live in them.  I frequently leave my cellphone at home, or switch it to silent mode if I need to concentrate on writing.  And, yes, I get uphill from my friends on occasion when they've been trying to reach me, and I don't answer:  but I refuse to be a slave to an electronic gizmo!

Peter

How to groom an emu


Courtesy of Australian reader Snoggeramus, here's a very funny video clip.





Where I come from, we had ostriches, rather than emus . . . but I'm sure not going to try grooming one of those suckers!




Peter

Friday, February 24, 2017

It's about time!


I'm delighted to see that over 200 allegedly violent and/or otherwise criminal protesters have been indicted for their actions at demonstrations during President Trump's inauguration.

Called out for individual acts of vandalism, violence and destruction, prosecutors alleged Tuesday that 214 protesters engaged in "black bloc" tactics on Jan. 20 during President Donald Trump's swearing-in, causing damage to vehicles and property. Six police officers were also hurt during the riots as they exchanged flash-bang explosives with protesters hurling rocks and firecrackers at them.

. . .

"Black bloc" protest tactics, which have been used by some protesters for decades, include dressing in black or dark colored clothing while concealing one's face using scarves, masks and sunglasses. Some of the protesters brought with them hammers, crowbars, bricks, rocks, flares and firecrackers.

There's more at the link.

Earlier, alternative news site gotnews.com published the full list of all those arrested during the demonstrations.  I understand some were journalists caught up in the situation, but most will be among those charged today.

I'll be very interested indeed to see whether, and how many, of these people were also active (and violent) in other protests around the country.  One allegedly complained on social media about being abandoned by organizers and paymasters after being arrested (EDITED TO ADD:  You can read it here - thanks, Capt. Tightpants!).  'Useful idiots' is a phrase that comes to mind . . .

Peter

The CIA, Google, the NSA, and the rest of the alphabet


Back in 2015, an interesting two-part article was published on medium.com. It purported to show how the Central Intelligence Agency was the early impetus behind Google, and how the latter then spearheaded the National Security Agency's drive to collect any and all data available on everything and everybody.  The two parts are:





I hasten to add that the articles are clearly written from a particular political perspective, one with which, in the main, I don't agree.  Nevertheless, they raise questions and make allegations that are disturbing, if true.

The articles aren't new, but in the light of the current media war against President Trump, I think they deserve renewed attention.

From the first article:

Google styles itself as a friendly, funky, user-friendly tech firm that rose to prominence through a combination of skill, luck, and genuine innovation. This is true. But it is a mere fragment of the story. In reality, Google is a smokescreen behind which lurks the US military-industrial complex.

The inside story of Google’s rise, revealed here for the first time, opens a can of worms that goes far beyond Google, unexpectedly shining a light on the existence of a parasitical network driving the evolution of the US national security apparatus, and profiting obscenely from its operation.

And from the second article:

Mass surveillance is about control. It’s promulgators may well claim, and even believe, that it is about control for the greater good, a control that is needed to keep a cap on disorder, to be fully vigilant to the next threat. But in a context of rampant political corruption, widening economic inequalities, and escalating resource stress due to climate change and energy volatility, mass surveillance can become a tool of power to merely perpetuate itself, at the public’s expense.

A major function of mass surveillance that is often overlooked is that of knowing the adversary to such an extent that they can be manipulated into defeat. The problem is that the adversary is not just terrorists. It’s you and me. To this day, the role of information warfare as propaganda has been in full swing, though systematically ignored by much of the media.

. . .

It is this sort of closed-door networking that has rendered the American vote pointless. Far from protecting the public interest or helping to combat terrorism, the comprehensive monitoring of electronic communications has been systematically abused to empower vested interests in the energy, defense, and IT industries.

Obviously, the article is not specific to the results of the 2016 Presidential election.  Nevertheless, if one reads it in the light of recent events . . . it makes one think.  It's even more thought-provoking when one hears about news media partisanship, and social media's determination to censor freedom of speech, and manipulate discussion so that it trends in favor of 'politically correct' topics.

Your thoughts?

Peter

Immigration: The hypocrisy and propaganda are astounding


The Intercept has just published a hair-rending, hysterical-screaming article about proposed new Department of Homeland Security regulations concerning illegal aliens (note:  NOT 'undocumented immigrants', as some on the left prefer to call them - there are, by definition, NO 'undocumented immigrants' in the USA.  I should know.  I'm a documented immigrant - and very grateful to be one, thank you very much!)

The hysteria starts in the title of the report:  'Donald Trump Plans to Bypass the Courts to Deport as Many People as Possible'.  Eeeeek!  Ooh!  Aah!  Panic stations!  Except . . . that's not true.  For a start, Donald Trump has not personally issued (or probably even read) these proposals.  They originate with the Department of Homeland Security, which has all the authority in law it needs to issue new regulations.  The DHS proposals are based on existing US law, as already tested in and approved by US courts, to streamline administrative functions.  They don't deprive people of access to the courts at all - they merely invoke and apply existing provisions to people who are, by legal definition, in violation of US law.  Their access to the courts remains intact.

The first few paragraphs of the report are very thin on fact, and extremely long on hand-wringing emotional reaction.  For example:

“I expected bad based on Donald Trump’s campaign rhetoric,” added David Leopold, a Cleveland-based immigration attorney and past president of AILA. “Then when I read the executive order, I expected really bad … but I’m absolutely shocked at the mean-spiritedness of this.”

Hmmm . . . news report, or opinion piece?  Facts, or feelings?  Decide for yourselves.

The meat of the matter comes in two paragraphs.  I've underlined a few phrases, and followed each by a number in parentheses, which I'll use below to comment on them.

The guidance tracks closely with the executive orders Trump signed in January, confirming, for example, that ICE is now prioritizing the deportation of virtually all immigrants in the country without authorization (1), including individuals with no criminal records and others whose only offenses (2) involve low-level, nonviolent immigration violations or the falsification of documents to obtain work. According to experts, this range of individuals includes essentially all of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S., with the exception of the roughly 740,000 individuals protected under the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. The memos also institutionalize a hardening of the nation’s asylum system and call for the criminal prosecution (3) of immigrant parents who attempt to have their children transported to the U.S. without authorization.

. . .

Crucially, the guidance expands the use of a deportation procedure called expedited removal — the means by which the government can swiftly deport an individual who is not authorized to be in the country without a hearing or a judge’s approval. Under the Obama administration, the process had been mostly limited to undocumented immigrants detained within 100 miles of the border who could not prove they had been in the country continuously for 14 days or more. The Trump administration has scrapped that policy, opting instead to use the full force of the law (4) to expand expedited removal nationwide and require immigrants to prove (5) up to two years of continuous physical presence in the country in order to avoid deportation proceedings.

Key points:
  1. There are no 'immigrants' in the country without authorization.  Those people are illegal aliens.  Can we please get the terminology right here?  It's a legal definition.
  2. Their 'only offenses' are precisely that - offenses.  They are offenders - in other words, criminals.  That's not a matter of opinion, but of fact. They have violated US law by their very presence here.
  3. 'Criminal prosecution' of so-called 'immigrant parents'?  In other words, illegal aliens (see 1 above) who try to bring their children here in order to make them illegal aliens as well.  That's criminals trying to make criminals out of their children.
  4. 'Full force of the law'?  Precisely.  The Trump administration is enforcing the rule of law.  The Obama administration frequently did not, at least as far as immigration law is concerned.  These regulations and guidelines were not sucked out of thin air.  They implement US law, as the Department is legally required to do.  If you don't like the law, don't blame the Department - change the law.
  5. 'Require immigrants to prove' their presence for up to two continuous years?  Why not?  That's what the law requires.  When I obtained, first my work visit visa, then a residential work permit, then a green card, I had to jump through each and every hoop specified in the law.  It cost me a lot of time, a lot of money, and sometimes a great deal of difficulty (such as driving a round trip of over 200 miles, the day after an ice storm, for one interview that could not be rescheduled.  Guess what?  I made the drive, in the ice, at about 20 mph the whole way!)  If I can do what the law requires, why should another immigrant (legal or otherwise) not be required to comply with exactly those same requirements?

Want more?

The expansion of expedited removal has immigration lawyers, and some U.S. immigration officials, deeply concerned. Chief among those concerns is a fear that DHS will make passing credible fear screenings more difficult, thus allowing more people to be deported without seeing a judge. According to one senior U.S. immigration official, speaking to The Intercept on condition of anonymity, those changes are already in the works. As DHS rolled out its memos earlier this week, leadership at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services distributed new guidelines making a number of changes to the credible screening process. The guidelines detailed in the internal communications, reviewed by The Intercept and set to go into effect next week, would place added requirements on asylum officials to confirm that the fear described by asylum seekers is credible, including through a new checklist of questions and submission of a written analysis in cases where a positive determination is made.

“Immigration advocates should prepare for a storm of negative screenings,” the official said.

Again, where's the problem?  Claims of 'credible fear' have been completely undermined by the previous administration, and by activist organizations.  Some of the latter merely publish extensive guidelines as to how the asylum process works (in other words, they ensure that those wanting to 'game the system' know it works, to make the process easier). Others actually brief potential asylum claimants, sometimes even prior to their arrival, as to exactly which 'magic words' or key words or phrases or excuses to use.  (Follow those links for more information.)  As one report noted about the previous administration's policies in this regard:

The misapplication of “credible fear” and lack of detention are not only breaches of law according to Jan Ting, a law professor at Temple University. Ting said the expanding definition of “who is legal” puts the entire system in jeopardy.

“Asylum is the trump card of immigration,” said Ting. “Credible fear was an informal procedure intended to keep people out, what’s its doing now is letting people in. People have learned the right words and phrases whether true or not.”

According to Ting, poverty and violence are not grounds for asylum and officials are watering down and misapplying the basic threshold.

“A natural disaster or flood of bullets flying around your neighborhood doesn’t meet the standard,” said Ting. “If the government wanted to deter illegal immigration, they would alter the cost-benefit analysis. Instead, they are looking for ways to help them stay.”

Ting said the situation is a legal and economic “formula for permanent dysfunction” and a core reason for the lack of jobs for Americans and stagnates wages.

“It isn’t border security if all you need is a story,” said Ting.

There's more at the link.

To get back to the Intercept article, here's another excerpt that ignores the reality of the situation.

Location aside, Schlanger said the DHS memos indicate a preference for having more immigrants in detention as a means to achieve faster deportations. Outside of detention, immigration cases can take years to adjudicate. That’s typically not the case when the person in question is in custody — though there have been significant and egregious exceptions in that area as well, particularly among women and children seeking asylum from Central America, who were held in family detention centers under the Obama administration.

“It’s quicker because … you don’t have to go get them, you don’t have to go find them,” Schlanger said. “It’s also quicker because it’s much, much harder for them to find and get lawyers when they’re there.” She added, “This looks like an effort to switch everyone from the non-detained docket to the detained docket.”

The fact is that detention appears unavoidable, given that, to cite just one example, "70% of illegal immigrants who traveled to America as a family unit failed to show up to their immigration hearings".  Why release illegal aliens to non-detained status when the majority of them will simply disappear into society, and not comply with the requirements of the law?  At least, if they're in detention, they can't do that.  Makes sense to me.

The last paragraph of the report is also telling.

“I fear that it’s going to be a really effective, comprehensive strategy that will look good on the outside — deportations will go up, ‘danger aliens’ will be in detention, asylum claims will go down, illegal border crossings will go down,” the official said. “My fear is that the likely success in terms of the numbers will drown out the ethical considerations.”

Points:
  1. 'A really effective, comprehensive strategy', provided that it's in accordance with the law, is praiseworthy.  What's the problem here?
  2. 'Ethical considerations' are not the province of DHS - they're the province of Congress, that passed the law(s) in question.  DHS is an executive department.  It implements the law, and in doing so, acts in as ethical a manner as possible - but it doesn't make the laws that it executes.  If you regard those laws as unethical, don't blame DHS - point the finger where it belongs, at Congress, and work to change the laws, not the policies that implement them.  (Of course, that ignores the fact that the US electorate voted for the people who enacted those laws . . . and if they tried to water them down, they know darn well they'd lose votes.  Reality bites, folks.)

What's so hard to understand about all this?  (Except for far-left progressive immigration activists, of course.  They understand it very well . . . they just lie, obfuscate and emote about it.)

Peter

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Quote of the day


Courtesy of a link at Joel's place, we find this letter from Thomas Jefferson in 1807 - two hundred and ten years ago.

Nothing can now be believed which is seen in a newspaper. Truth itself becomes suspicious by being put into that polluted vehicle ... I will add, that the man who never looks into a newspaper is better informed than he who reads them; inasmuch as he who knows nothing is nearer to truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehoods & errors. He who reads nothing will still learn the great facts, and the details are all false.

There's more at the link.

I didn't know that Jefferson numbered prophecy among his many gifts!  His words apply just as well to the mainstream news media today as they did to the newspapers of 1807.

Peter

Note the instant effect of Twitter's censorship


I'm obliged to Gab user Matthew T. McDonald for providing the image below.

This morning, activist James O'Keefe released over 100 hours of video, allegedly showing how CNN's coverage of news was deliberately biased, falsified and redacted to reflect its editorial point of view.  Discussion immediately arose on Twitter (and elsewhere) about it, using the hashtag #CNNLeaks.  Twitter censored that hashtag a short while later, to prevent it becoming even more popular (Twitter being a hotbed of left-wing partisan political activism, as we've discussed here before).

Mr. McDonald notes:

This graph shows the moment when Twitter dumped the #CNNLeaks hashtag. Around 9:30 AM 15,000 ppl were using it, moments later only 600.



Very eye-opening!  Now you see why Twitter, Facebook and other left-wing-oriented social media are censoring alternative viewpoints as hard as they can.  If they can reduce discussion of events or news unfavorable to their side, they can have a significant effect on public opinion and political debate.

That being the case, I guess it'll be up to supporters of free speech and open debate to make sure that all points are aired, regardless of censorship.  I try to do that here, as you saw earlier this morning.

Peter

Michael Moore offers ten points to thwart President Trump


Michael Moore is a hard-core progressive left-wing activist, far more so than the mainstream of the Democratic Party.  I disagree profoundly with his politics, but he is a politically savvy commentator.  Don't forget, he predicted President Trump's victory almost a year before it happened, to mingled scorn, laughter and anger from other left-wing commentators.  He was proved right.

He's now come out with a ten-point plan to thwart the President's aims and objectives, and prevent his re-election.  He claims baldly:  'Do These 10 Things, And Trump Will Be Toast'.  Here's a sample.

6. TAKE OVER THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY: The old guard of the party has twice in 16 years presided over the majority of Americans electing the Democrat to the White House ― only for us all to see the losing Republican inaugurated as president. How is it that we have won the popular vote in SIX OF THE LAST SEVEN PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS ― the Republicans have only won ONCE since 1988 ― and yet, we hold NO power in any branch of government?! That, plus losing 1,000 local seats in this election that the Dems use to hold ― plus watching many Dems in Congress unwilling to stand up to Trump ― PLEASE, the old leadership has to go. God love ‘em for their contributions in the past, but if we don’t enact a radical overhaul right now, we are doomed as far as having a true opposition party during the Trump era. And that, more than anything, will help to usher in the vise-grip of a totalitarian culture.

. . .

7. HELP FORM BLUE REGIONS OF RESISTANCE: People keep saying to me, “Mike - I live in a Blue State - what can I do?” If you live in a Blue State, you have one of the MOST important tasks to complete: Show the rest of America what it looks like when Trump isn’t in charge! Blue States and Blue Cities must do an end-run around Trump and create the America we want to live in. That means New York goes ahead and offers Free College for All. California can create its own Universal Health Care. Oregon can stop mass incarceration of African Americans. Hawaii can enact its own climate change laws. Blue States can show the rest of country how much better life can be. Important historical note: Before Roe v. Wade made abortion legal, California and New York passed their own state laws to make it legal. This greatly helped pave the way for CHOICE being the new normal ― and the enactment of Row [sic] v. Wade.

There's more at the link.

As I said, Michael Moore is politically savvy.  Expect to see elements of this road map adopted by others, and put into practice.  Those of us opposed to it will have to counter its points as they emerge - so consider this a warning shot across our bows.

As a matter of fact, I strongly support point 7 above.  I believe it would be very good for America if those living in states with a strong, dominant Democratic or left-wing or progressive element were to adopt and implement those social policies and entitlement programs that they think are most important.  That way, the rest of the country could see how they work - or don't.  In fact, why don't we use that as a point of argument?  Why should the federal government be involved in any such programs?  Why not send them back to the states, who can fund them - or not - as they see fit, and adopt their own tax structure to do so?

For example, those states that are opposed to socialized medicine can de-fund all except emergency care.  Those states in favor of it can adopt comprehensive, Obamacare-plus-plus programs, or go all the way to a single-payer system such as Canada uses, and levy taxes on their citizens to pay for it.  Individual citizens and residents can decide for themselves which system they prefer, and vote with their feet and their wallets by moving to states that have adopted that system.  The same can apply to almost any program.  Let those who want them, vote for them in their states and pay for them by local taxation.  Those of us who don't want them should be equally free to vote against them and de-fund them.

We'll do well to pay attention to people like Mr. Moore.  We don't have to agree with them.  We just have to understand where they're coming from, and examine our own beliefs in the light of their proposals.  Informed opposition is far better than knee-jerk rejection - on both sides of the political divide.

(I'm obliged to reader Antibubba for sending me the link to Mr. Moore's article.)

Peter

Looks like the ATF is at it again


We all remember the BATFE's 'Operation Fast and Furious'.  So far, its 'score' includes two dead Federal law enforcement officers, several hundred dead Mexican nationals, and who knows how many lives ruined by their loss.  Now it looks like at another arm of the BATFE went so far as to fund their operations off-budget, evading Congressional oversight, by creaming off the profits from an illegal cigarette marketing operation.

Working from an office suite behind a Burger King in southern Virginia, operatives used a web of shadowy cigarette sales to funnel tens of millions of dollars into a secret bank account. They weren’t known smugglers, but rather agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

The operation, not authorized under Justice Department rules, gave agents an off-the-books way to finance undercover investigations and pay informants without the usual cumbersome paperwork and close oversight, according to court records and people close to the operation.

The secret account is at the heart of a federal racketeering lawsuit brought by a collective of tobacco farmers who say they were swindled out of $24 million. A pair of A.T.F. informants received at least $1 million each from that sum, records show.

The scheme relied on phony shipments of snack food disguised as tobacco. The agents were experts: Their job was to catch cigarette smugglers, so they knew exactly how it was done.

There's more at the link.

Would someone please tell me why the BATFE should not be designated a rogue agency, out of control, and the entire damned operation shut down once and for all?  It seems to be a living definition of Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy.  If President Trump is looking for ways to cut costs in the federal government, I suggest that 99 New York Avenue, NE in Washington DC would be an excellent starting point.




Peter

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The media's job is to "control exactly what people think"


That's the extraordinary claim made by MSNBC's Mika Brzezinski earlier this morning.

While discussing President Trump's entreaties to the American people to remain skeptical of the press, Bzezinski worried that if the economy turns south, Americans may end up trusting him over the media.

"And it could be that while unemployment and the economy worsens, he could have undermined the messaging so much that he can actually control exactly what people think," Brzezinski said. "And that, that is our job."

SCARBOROUGH: "Exactly. That is exactly what I hear. What Yamiche said is what I hear from all the Trump supporters that I talk to who were Trump voters and are still Trump supporters. They go, 'Yeah you guys are going crazy. He's doing -- what are you so surprised about? He is doing exactly what he said he is going to do.'"

BRZEZINSKI: "Well, I think that the dangerous, you know, edges here are that he is trying to undermine the media and trying to make up his own facts. And it could be that while unemployment and the economy worsens, he could have undermined the messaging so much that he can actually control exactly what people think. And that, that is our job."

There's more at the link.

That explains a lot about why the mainstream media are so adamantly, categorically, pathologically opposed to President Trump and his agenda.  We've examined several of their falsehoods on this blog in recent weeks.  To mention just a few, from most recent to oldest:


Brzezinski's comments provide a new perspective on such media bias.  They honestly think it's their job to be that way, and for the rest of us to fall into line and digest what they spoon-feed us.  One can't help but wonder what they've been smoking, to give them that idea . . .  After all, if I wouldn't (and I don't) trust any politician or bureaucrat to tell me what to believe, why should I trust any journalist that way?

Peter

"You might be an Alaskan if..."


Rev. Paul has channeled Jeff Foxworthy to produce some very funny suggestions.  Examples:

  • If the entry way to your home doubles as a refrigerator, and sometimes even a freezer, you probably live in Alaska.
  • If you use your old 200lb. console TV for weight in the back of your truck, instead of sandbags, you might be an Alaskan.
  • If you use duct tape to detail and customize your car instead of actually getting a paint or detail job done, you probably are an Alaskan.
  • If you don't wash your car or truck anymore because the dirt is the only thing holding it together, you might be an Alaskan.

There are many more at the link.  Since Miss D. was an Alaskan (by adoption) before she became a Texan (also by adoption), there was much gigglage when reading these.  Thanks, Paul!  You made my morning.

Peter

In haste


I haven't had time to put up a blog post yet this morning.  I'm off to town with Miss D. for an appointment that will keep us busy for a few hours.  I'll put up something when we get back.

In the meantime, please amuse yourselves with my fellow bloggers linked in the sidebar.  They write good stuff, too!

Peter