Current Affairs – US

ICE and the insidious process of stripping citizenship from naturalized Americans

As a naturalized American citizen, I may have been way too complacent and entitled about my status.
It is clear, based on recently revealed information from FOIA requests, that ICE is very keen to investigate naturalized US citizens in order to discover any possible grounds for stripping them of their citizenship, which will, in many cases, result in their deportation back to…well, who knows where.
I suddenly have this feeling that, in practical terms, I am not a real American. The unadulterated glee with which many of my fellow Americans are greeting efforts to demonize, marginalize and expel people Not Like Them is forcing me to consider the possibility that I may be living in a society that suffers from a pathological weakness, namely a willingness to be led down the path of exclusionary nativism, to fascism and beyond.
In summary, I am wondering if this is a place where I am going to be happy to spend the rest of my life.

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Sunday thoughts before I head back to work…

1. The Trump decision to help out ZTE
People on the internets are to varying degrees stunned by the decision of Donald Trump to suddenly decide to work with China to get failed Telco ZTE back into business.
This is no suprise.
Donald Trump wants a summit with North Korea.
North Korea is a client state of China, which supports it economically, and is seen by China as a buffer state between itself and South Korea.
There is no way that North Korea will attend a summit with the United States without the tacit approval of China.
China is playing a beautiful game of quid pro quo. Trump wants the prestige of a summit (and by the way, apart from releasing 3 US citizens, 2 of whom were detained since Donald Trump became POTUS, North Korea has made NO concessions whatsoever to the United States so far), but in order to get a summit, he has to give China something in return. China, as it tends to do, has driven a hard bargain, and is attempting to humiliate Trump along the way, to put him in a still weaker position where he needs a Big Win from the summit, and will make further concessions to North Korea and China to get that Big Win.
This is China playing chess while Donald Trump golfs.

2. Yet more Trump support buyer’s remorse
So, once again, we hear whiny businesspeople lamenting “when I voted for Donald Trump, I expected him to screw over The Undeserving Folks. Not good honest Deserving folks like me and my buddies”. This time, Maryland crab fishermen are discovering that when you start to look like a country stuffed full of assholes who don’t want to accept or hire immigrants to do dirty low-wage jobs..well, you have a shortage of people willing to do those jobs.


This should be, to those of us not blinded by partisan mind-distortion, blindingly obvious. Yet the Trump supporters suddenly sound like all of their critical evaluation faculties went AWOL at voting time, and now they are only just realizing that Donald Trump is a venal, self-interested asshole who doesn’t on a human level give a damn about anybody else.
Well, congratulations guys, but you’re a bit slow on the up-take. Now you need to start eating some crow. Right now I have empathy for these folks, but absolutely no sympathy. They should have known what and who they were voting for, and if they did not, well, time to wise up and learn how to engage in due diligence next time round.

3. The bizarre lack of personal responsibility of snowflake authoritarians
Bari Weiss is being dragged on the internets over an article that she wrote that essentially claims that abuse of self-identified conservatives by liberals resulted in a number of them deciding to become Trump supporters.
This idea is intellectually risible. If somebody freely and voluntarily decides to support an asshole, they don’t get to blame other people for making them vote for the asshole. This is a total negation of the entire dictum of personal responsibility that I constantly have to read and listen to from conservatives
Weiss may well be correct that some Trump supporters decided to support Trump because those mean Liberals hurt their feelings. However, as one commenter said, if “abuse” from liberals made them vote for Trump, they were most of the way towards that decision anyway. It’s also not a good look for people when they can be that easily persuaded to vote for an asshole. It makes them look weak, gullible and easily led. So Weiss’s article, which might be read as a logical explanation by some, is in fact a tacit admission that many conservatives are indeed, as I suspected, thin-skinned credulous fools.

4. Another Texas school district scandal (surprise, surprise)
The Katy ISD has a scandal with its superintendent, who was accused (among other things) of bullying.
The school district, unsurprisingly, has decided to get rid of the superintendent, but, lacking the willingness or ability to terminate for cause, it instead has negotiated that he will leave in January 2019 with a payoff of $750k.
At the same time, the district, not content with throwing good money at a departing employee, is also funding lawyers to see if critics of the school district can be charged with defamation.
Apart from the reality that, as a practical matter, it is extremely difficult to prove defamation in the USA, Katy ISD may end up spending a lot more money than it intended. Texas has a robust anti-SLAPP statute, and any defendants may not only apply for dismissal, but may also file under that anti-SLAPP statute to recover costs and lawyers fees.
I have no idea why Katy ISD thinks this sort of officially-sanctioned chickenshit move is a good idea.

5. Mooslems? Antifa? Nope, just another collection of Very Fine People
Another day, another SovCit conviction…the biggest threat from domestic terrorism is angry, twisted white folks.

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Watergate vs. Iran-Contra and what it tells us about American attitudes to malfeasance

When we are faced with the obvious signs of malfeasance by high elected officials in the USA, people often assert that ultimately the malfeasance will be ended and the bad actors punished. The normal approach is some variant of “well, Nixon lost his job over Watergate, so the system corrects itself”.
This is all fine and uplifting, but the reality is somewhat different. For every Watergate, there are multiple scandals where perpetrators not only go unpunished, but they are actually rewarded for their bad behavior.
Like Iran-Contra.
The story is well-known by now. Oliver North, working in the Reagan administration, discovered that on one side of the world were a group of people with missiles but no money. On the other side of the globe were another group of people with money but no missiles. They wanted to buy missiles.
So, in the grand tradition of American entrepreneuralism, North brought the two sides together (totally covertly) and SHAZAM! a deal was done, and both parties were happy.
The fact that North should not even have been dealing with either group, since it was official US policy to not deal with them, was ignored totally. Plus the deal was illegal on multiple different levels.
Oliver North testified (or more correctly, gave limited testimony and then invoked his 5th Amendment right to non-self-incrimination dozens of times) to Congress, under an immunity deal. He was subsequently charged with felonies, tried and found guilty. However, since he had been granted a level of immunity in negotiations with the government over his testimony on the affair, his felony conviction was overturned on appeal.
North then ran for the Senate in 1994 as a GOP candidate for Virginia. Not only did the party eagerly embrace him, he came close to winning the election.
Were it not for the presence of a moderate Republican candidate on the ballot, who won 11% of the vote, North might well have won the election. North was, and still is, seen by many GOP partisans as a hero, penalized by spineless wimps and liberals for Doing What Was Best For America. The fact that, by his own admission, he broke the law and was unrepentant, is seen as a feature, not a bug. Most of the money he raised in his 1994 campaign came from small donors, a powerful illustration that the appeal of authoritarians to the GOP base is a long-standing one, not just a recent affectation.
Now, just in the last couple of days, North has been appointed to be the Chairman of the National Rifle Association. His status as a hero of illegal covert operations has once again catapulted him to a top public role.
Time and time again we see perpetrators of malfeasance suffering either no negative consequences, or at best suffering temporary negative consequences. This is important, since is a significant contributor to a pervasive cynicism about societal and political leaders. This cynicism in turn results in two negative behaviors (1) withdrawal from the political process and voting (2) a willingness to embrace any political candidate who is able to plausibly and superficially pass as an “insurgent” or “outsider” (which, in most cases is on a par with saying “I’m telling the truth, you can trust me”) and who promises to “turn the place upside down”, “drain the swamp” etc. Both of those behaviors, added together, resulted in the election of Donald Trump.

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University sports coach firing scandals

When I arrived in the USA in 1994, I soon discovered that in Texas, just about every school district sooner or later has a scandal break out. (In the case of the Dallas Independent School District, a scandal has appeared like clockwork every 2 or 3 years. Like this one from 2017).
Browsing on the Internets the other day, I found that this might also be true in college sports coaching. There are literally dozens of Google entries documenting how fired coaches all over the country have been suing colleges for being dismissed.
Some of the lawsuits are whistleblower/retaliation lawsuits, basically alleging that the university or college was guilty of Title XI violations, and retaliated against coaches for identifying the violations. A number of female coaches in sports such as softball and basketball also sued colleges for sexual discrimination and/or harassment.
Needless to say, in the grand tradition of civil lawsuiting, nearly all of the cases were settled out of court, with the colleges in question paying sums of money (in some cases, large sums of money) but admitting to no wrongdoing or malfeasance.
One lawsuit that caught my eye was a settlement announced recently between San Diego State University and Beth Burns, who had been the university’s female basketball coach until she was terminated in 2013. Burns was forced at the time to retire with 4 years and $880k left on her contract. The college claimed she was effectively dismissed because of workplace violence, and was given the option to retire, which she accepted. Burns claimed in turn that she had been forced to retire mainly because she had been vocally complaining about the under-funding of female sports at SDSU compared to male sports.
The final settlement announcement was bizarre, for this line from the university’s statement:

“This is a situation where, although we are very confident of our chances on appeal, we decided to reach a settlement and move on. It’s a compromise. It’s something where clearly coach Burns is ready to put this behind her and we’re ready to move forward as well.”

The use of the word compromise is the side-splitter. Burns originally sued the college to be awarded $880k, the amount still owed under her contract, plus lawyers fees. The university low-balled her, so Burns filed a whistleblower lawsuit which went to a jury trial, where she was awarded $3.2m plus costs and fees in 2016.
The final bill to the university is therefore in excess of $4m. That is a compromise? Somebody at SDSU should have been terminated for incompetence for agreeing to actions and tactics that converted a liability that could have been less than $1m into a final cost of more than $4m.
Just to add insult to injury, the university also had to pay over $150k in damages to the assistant coach who was alleged to be the victim of the incident that led to Burns’ leaving SDSU.
However, this may be part of a pattern. This is at least the third lawsuit settled by SDSU in the last 12 years involving female coaches who sued the university. This article documents 2 previous lawsuits filed by departed coaches, both settled by the university. One starts to wonder if SDSU has a systemic problem in this area.
For sure, problem or no problem, it is costing the university and its insurers a lot of money.

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Whisky Tango Foxtrot – Astroturfing in Louisiana

Today’s eye-opening hair-raising story about how an energy company packed a council meeting with paid supporters pulled from the acting profession, apparently via a Los-Angeles based company with the name Crowds For Hire. Crowds For Hire was clearly a “cut out”, the third party that allowed the energy company to (legally correctly) claim that THEY had not paid anybody to attend the council meeting.
You can’t make this stuff up.

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The Joy Ann Reid postings flap – Part 1

Short summary: Joy Ann Reid, assumed by many to be a liberal Democrat commentator, is found to have posted numerous anti-gay comments and articles in the past on the Internets.
Shitstorm erupts.
Reid, after first hemming and hawing and then issuing bizarre and contradictory statements, now announces that her blogs and accounts online must have been hacked. Her representatives are now running around all over the place attempting to persuade the owners of internet archives and other forums to delete her old postings and comments, on the grounds that her accounts were hacked, and have seemingly demanded that the FBI conduct an investigation.
There is a big problem with this approach, quite apart from the reality that it is a really good way of keeping an unflattering story alive. It is unlikely to be true. Here is one reason why.


The idea that your accounts were mysteriously “hacked” by bad actors loses credibility when (for example) contemporaneous commentary and discussion, based on those comments, is found. In order for this to be plausible, you have to accept that there was a Joy Ann Reid impersonator operating on the internets from 2007 or earlier for several years, and that Joy Ann Reid never once noticed. Hmmm. Somehow that seems highly…unlikely.
People do change their views over time. Sometimes people holding exclusionary, odious or obnoxious views abandon them later in life. George Wallace famously abandoned the open racism he espoused in the 1970s towards the end of his life, and publicly recanted many of his previous positions.
And..Americans just love redemption narratives. Think of all the times that people rise, fall and are redeemed. The image of the imperfect defective human failing or falling, only to rise again, is a deeply enduring positive narrative that fuels hundreds of news stories, movies, and books a year.
So, if Joy Ann Reid had held and espoused anti-gay views 12 years ago, it would have been way way smarter of her to have owned up to it, said “look, I used to believe these things, I moved on, I realized that I was wrong, and I ask for forgiveness for my earlier ignorance”, then sure, there would have been a shitstorm for maybe 72 hours, then everybody would have moved on to the latest scandalous utterance by Donald Trump, or whatever the latest media-entrancing shiny object was.
Now, instead of that rapid shuffle out of the limelight, Joy Ann Reid is going to be in the news for days, probably weeks, as thousands of internet sleuths of varying capabilities, seeing prima facie evidence of a cover-up, start digging. And one thing that is true is that just about everybody on the internet has stuff that lurks just below the surface and which can be uncovered.
Along the way, whatever remaining credibility that Joy Ann Reid has will leach away, slowly and irredeemably, just like the inevitable drop of the sand in the hourglass from top to bottm.

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The Posturing Rambo tendency of gun nuts

I know a number of people who own guns.
I know people who own multiple firearms.
As far as I can tell, none of those people are what I could term “gun nuts”. I have yet to see any images of them prancing around in camo gear waving their firearms in the air, pointing them at real or imaginary targets, standing looking purposeful with their main weapon posed next to The Bible, or taking part in the Texas elimination heat of the World Shooting-In-The-Air Competition.
However, there are definitely people who do those things.
There are also people who cannot stop talking confrontational, macho smack online about how they are going to defend themselves and anybody else they feel like defending against all enemies, foreign and domestic, using…their guns.
“enemies”, depending on who you read and whatever is happening in the world, appears to be one or more of a long laundry list of anti-American groups, including (but not limited to):
1. The Government (at whatever level they currently despise the most)
2. Liberals, Communists, Marxists, Atheists
3. Antifa
4. Colin Kaepernick and any other sonofabitch who dares to kneel for The Anthem
5. Scary Brown People (who are assumed, most of the time, to be either terrorists or muslims)
6. Gun grabbers
7. Gun grabbers
8. Gun grabbers
9. Did I say “GUN GRABBERS?”

The verbiage used is wearily familiar, reading like a mutant combination of John Wayne, Arnold Schwartzenegger, Charlton Heston and whatever mangled quote from the Founding Fathers they can recycle (including numerous fictitious or mashed-up quotes they find in the meme bucket).
The premise is simple: there are good reasons why they own firearms, they have a Right to own as many damn firearms as they like, they intend to own those firearms until their dying day, and anybody who they think is Coming For Their Guns can expect to be met with Lethal Force from Their Guns.
The mindset is like reading a cross between the outpourings of a desperate schoolyard bully, and Rambo on an off-day. Here is an excellent example from Twitter:

You could probably create this kind of verbiage using a machine algorithm. That is how predictable this juvenile smack is.
The question is: who are they trying to impress. Not me, that’s for sure. I came to the conclusion that they are really just desperately trying to convince themselves they are Tough Guys. Because, in most contexts this sort of braggadocio simply reads and sounds like desperate chicken-strutting from little guys.

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African-American blindness to discrimination and animus in their own house

Sheesh, here we go again…
One of the more distressing aspects of race relations in the modern USA is the tendency of the African-American community to sign onto anti-Jewish ideas and conspiracy theories, and, when challenged on their public statements, to behave like rhetorical shitweasels.
There is a rich vein of such rhetoric, including the Rev.Jesse Jackson’s infamous “Hymietown” outburst about New York, and Louis Farrakhan’s numerous anti-Jewish references and comments, which he often tries to weasel out of when challenged.
Now we have another eye-opening instance from D.C. Council member Trayon White Sr. (D-Ward 8), who apparently thinks that “the Rothschilds” control the climate. When challenged on the statement, he engaged in rhetorical shit-weaselling of the first order.
This is distressing. It is distressing because, at a time when animus by white nativists is manifesting itself against anybody who does not look white, and is being accompanied by a clear rise in anti-Jewish rhetoric, plus the return of active campaigning to roll back gay equality, communities impacted by this animus should be forming a united front to push back on it, not being divided.
The African-American community in the USA has multiple challenges on this front, since it is dismissing discrimination against other minorities, or itself engaging in the very racially, ethnically and religiously based discrimination that it rightly decries in others. Some commentators seem to realize this, but other leaders in the African-American community engage in rhetorical tap-dancing when asked about (say) the latest pronouncements of Louis Farrakhan.
Some contemplation in front of a mirror is required.
https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/dc-politics/dc-lawmaker-says-recent-snowfall-caused-byrothschilds-controlling-the-climate/2018/03/18/daeb0eae-2ae0-11e8-911f-ca7f68bff0fc_story.html?utm_term=.9f7cbab4bb61

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Delta Airlines vs. Georgia – the next phase in the game

Delta Airlines responded defiantly to the news that the State of Georgia removed a clause from a tax incentive bill that would have given it a break on jet fuel purchases within Georgia. (NOTE – This was not specific to Delta – other airlines would also have benefited from the tax concession; however, Delta had more to gain because its main hub is in Georgia).
Delta also leaked some interesting titbits, the most important one being that a grand total of 13 NRA members had taken advantage of the now-discontinued discount program. If that is the correct number, the program was a waste of money for Delta, even before the public backlash when the existence of the program was discovered. You don’t have to be a math genius to work out that there was no upside to continuing the program.
The decision to strip the fuel concession from the bill was a state-wide political decision. Atlanta is a Democratic city, and rural Georgia is solidly Republican. The decision would therefore have appealed to rural GOP voters as sticking it to the corrupt Dems in Atlanta. All good retail politics in an election season.
The main question is: what next?
Delta is unlikely to leave Atlanta. They just extended for another 20 years with the City to use Hartsfield-Jackson as their man hub. They could leave, but long-term contracts like this one are difficult to get out of. When I visited Nashville in 2002 en route home from ORD to DFW (in the days when I had flight benefits on American Airlines), I found out that American had abandoned Nashville as a hub after 9/11, reducing it to a destination from several other hubs (ORD, DFW and RDU). However, they still had long term leases on close to 20 gates at the airport that they could not get out of. So some of the gates were shuttered, and some of them had been leased to SouthWest Airlines. The AA flights into and out of Nashville were full, but AA was losing money (“loadings are great, but yields are terrible” was the succinct summary of one of the AA gate agent supervisors) because of the combination of high fixed costs they could not get out of, plus competition from SouthWest, who were being subsidized via the cheap sub-leased gates.
So…Delta could leave ATL, but it is unlikely to do so, unless another city comes up with a dizbustingly-enticing tax and/or subsidy package.
What I think is most likely to happen is that the tax concession will be quietly resurrected in another bill, and passed later this year after the fuss has died down. Delta has been a GOP money donor, and the GOP will not be keen to lose donations in the future.
The entire incident is an example of what happens when virtue signalling becomes the main public currency of retail politics. Delta cancelled discounts for NRA members because there was no upside any more, given the backlash after the Parkland school shooting (Virtue Signal #1). The Georgia GOP removed the fuel tax concession from the bill to show that they could punish Delta and energize their base in an election season (Virtue Signal #2). Delta’s CEO informed the public that “their values are not for sale (Virtue Signal #3). If they are smart, the GOP will now repair the damage by quietly re-instating the fuel tax concession.

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