Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Complete hypocrisy in the immigration debate with undocumented farm workers

Mollie Tibbetts’s death may have driven inappropriate right wing “told you so” comments, but it has alwo unveiled a not so secret practice: large farms hired undocumented immigrants and get away with it.  According to the story by Alan Gomez, 47% of agricultural workers are undocumented.

The policy debate is, if you want to implement e-Verify everywhere, you need a legal guest worker program.

It seems hard to believe that Trump’s base, in so many farm and agricultural states, doesn’t get this.

But other manufacturers are also affected, as with this truck trailer manufacturer in Texas (NBC

There is also a problem in that US citizens are often detained by ICE, and given the physical circumstances often they can’t find the documentation proving citizenship (Cato). 

In fact, citizens born near the border are being investigated for possible "citizenship fraud" when they apply for passports (Washington Post story). 
And how about this case of “family separation”, Detroit metro story. 

Thursday, August 23, 2018

USA Today reinforces the fact: undocumented immigrants have lower crime rates than Native born Americans, despite individual cases (Tibbetts)

Given the death of Mollie Tibbetts and the arrest of an undocumented immigrant for her murder, it’s well to reiterate the statistics.  Alan Gomez runs it in USA Today.
The headline: “No, immigrants don’t commit more crimes than US born people.”

The incarceration rate for undocumented immigrants in jail outside of immigration violations is 0.5%.
For native-born Americans it is 1.53%.

The story in USA today is here.

OK, Breitbart has this story for its echo chambers. 
The biggest problem is assessing risk.  Yes, the nature of risk may be different, and the likelihood if affects an “ordinary American” in a fat tail “Black Swan” catastrophe may be different. That’s what makes the moralizing difficult.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Trump further loosens federal rules on coal to please his base

The Trump administration has announced a new coal ash policy that will relax federal enforcement of anti-pollution standards and turn responsibility back to the states.
The Verge has a story by Rachel Becker, about the implementation of an Affordable Clean Energy Rule (ACE), which replaces Obama’s clean power plan.
There is no doubt that this move placates Trump’s base in coal states, and can result in weaker regulation of mountaintop removal, also (which doesn’t help coal miners keep jobs much).

The New York Times’s Lisa Friedman reports on the projected increase in deaths from subvisible particulate matter released near coal facilities, up to 1400 more deaths a year story.
CNN (Jeremy Diamond and Ellie Kaufman) reports that Trump heads to West Virginia to rally his base, while Dr. Sanja Gupta discusses the medical risks to people in the region.  

Trump just wants to let his base have fun at everyone else's expense -- and their own expense -- for two terms of payback. 
Yes, we'll come back to Cohen and Manafort soon. And Stormy Who??? 

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

At UNC in Chapel Hill, protesters take down "Silent Sam" confederate soldier statue

Various media report Tuesday morning that protesters took down the “Silent Sam” confederate statue on the University of North Carolina (UNC) campus in Chapel Hill.

I’ve never viewed the focus on public sculptures or paintings associated with past racism or with the inclusion of confederate names in schools (like Washington-Lee High School in Arlington VA, which I graduated from in 1961) as particularly effective.   For example, some groups want to remove all the confederate statues on Monument Blvd in Richmond.  I think a better solution is to add more statues (like Arthur Ashe) of prominent African-Americans not necessarily connected to the War Between the States.  Or, one can spend more effort focusing on real policy issues. 

I do know people connected to UNC but see no evidence of any such person’s involvement. Many protesters seem to have come from off campus. 

Video above by Julia Wall.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Fox News is pushing a Convention of States for a balanced budget amendment

A Fox News late Sunday night Aug. 19 talked about the “Convention of States” under Article V of the Constitution.
This is the less common method to amend the Constitution.  It was attempted with the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1980s. It requires that 34 states (two thirds of legislatures) call for Congress to call a convention to make certain amendments. (Interesting question: does it require both houses of each state if not unicameral).  An amendment must be ratified by three fourths of states (now 38).

Conservatives want to use this method to propose a balanced budget amendment, particularly in the context of possible cuts in entitlements (that could affect Social Security, for example). 

Conservatives do not believe Congress will do this by itself (first method).

Some activists fear that such a method could be used to overturn abortion (Roe v Wade) or even gay marriage (Obergefell). Norquist will probably engage this effort. 

Friday, August 17, 2018

Virginia libertarian columnist discusses Trump's auto tariffs

Rick Sincere, who runs a libertarian podcast from Charlottesville VA called “The Score” and also published with a group called Bearing Drift, has an interesting op-ed in the Richmond Times Dispatch on auto tariffs in Donald Trump’s “trade war”.

This isn’t just auto tariffs.  In general, tariffs may help workers in a few selected companies in Trump’s midwestern and southern voter base, but at the expense of many other manufacturing workers who also voted for Trump in these states in 2016.


Trump seems to be arguing for a kind of national autarky, where “America” can somehow play its own Truman Show and cut itself off from the rest of the planet.
Rick Sincere had also organized Gays and Lesbians for Individual Liberty (GLIL) in Washington DC in the 1990s.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

A return visit to a Virginia nuclear power plant visitor center, and a sobering discussion about power grid security

Yesterday, I paid followup “house call” on the Visitor’s Information Center at the North Anna Power Station, one of Dominion Power’s two nuclear power stations in Virginia (the other is Surrey, across the James River from Williamsburg).   I had previously visited in April 2011, and been in the area in 2012 returning back from the intentional community Twin Oaks.

There was a lot of information on how nuclear waste is handled, and also an interesting hands-on regarding how different states of generation (from baseload to peak) tend to depend on different fuel sources. 

I was able to talk to a guide about the various security threats.  He seemed at first to think that the threat from a solar storm came from the flare – it actually comes two days later from the coronal mass ejection.  Utilities could prepare for extreme events by disconnecting some transformers to prevent overloads.  The perception of how to deter EMP is left over from the Cold War and is based on old models for MAD to stop nuclear war. 

I had reported on Wordpress Jan. 15 that Dan Beyer (D-VA, 8th District) had said in a townhall that DHS and utilities were mitigating the transformer overload threat and that Virginia had authorized Dominion Power to spend a lot on security upgrades especially against cyber intrusions. 

At the information center, however, the host pointed out that transformer overload mitigation would not help in an EMP attack that also knocks out electronics, because apparently utilities cannot put faraday cages around all their equipment the way the military can.  The host did reinforce what Beyer had said in the town hall:  since Dominion Power was a regulated monopoly, it needs state approval for major security upgrade spending.

On the Faraday cage issue, it would appear that utilities need to approach military physical security.  Cloud storage companies and finance companies could mitigate by making copies in far-flung geographical locations.   Strategic security of infrastructure could mitigate the potential hand that rogue states like North Korea might have as they remain deceptive in denuclearization.

A thermonuclear weapon produces an EMP that resembles an extreme solar storm (E3 component). It presumably also produces an E1.  A nuclear attack from a rogue state like North Korea would be more likely to include fission weapons, which produce E1.

It is true that the actual power generation components are not connected to the Internet. And there are security rules that prevent external hard drives and thumb drives from being mounted on DOM computers.
There is no indication in public that power stations in Virginia had been compromised by malware, which has been reported (mainly by conservative media websites) among various smaller utilities to have happened since about 2012.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Can states ban militias from public assembly?

Mary McCord, a visiting law professor at Georgetown University, and Michael Singer, on the Charlottesville city council, recommend a simple legal strategy for dealing with many hate groups, in an op-ed Aug. 10 in the Washington Post. 

They are referring to the fact that many states (including Virginia) have laws against paramilitary activities.  The state needs to have a monopoly on the use of organized force in a democracy. 
Obviously, the greatest "threat" right now comes from the extreme right (including white supremacy or neo-Nazism) but it could conceivably apply to the extreme Left as well (the disruptions of conservative speakers on some campuses). 

Of course, I guess you could try to invoke older invocations of the Second Amendment.
I recall the various militia (like the Michigan Militia) in the mid 1990s after Timothy McVeigh’s attack on Oklahoma City in 1995.
This article refers mainly to organized training activity and demonstrations.  To an extent, it would affect freedom of assembly in the First Amendment.  There could be associated issues on free speech – publication – if the point of the speech was to threaten violence or intimidation by others, or essentially plot terrorism.  That, of course, is not protected by the First Amendment.

Thursday, August 09, 2018

Aviation Week has major report on fire safety of lithium batteries in flight; quick work on safer batteries is needed

Aviation Week has an important article by Bill Carey on the risks of allowing lithium ion batteries in checked luggage.   The site is a bit of a pain to log on to, with the way the free membership sign on works. There are also a lot of popups. (Why isn't it https?) 

The article explains the incident where some airlines overseas banned onflight airlines larger than cellphones because of intelligence suggesting terrorists could conceal plastic weapons in laptops.
The problem in checked luggage is if a larger number of devices with lithium batteries are in the same small volume of space.

The article also discusses the development of new fire retardants on planes to replace Halon because of ozone layer depletion.

There is no industry to rent secure computer equipment and access or phones on the group comparable to car rental. That’s because everyone carries their own laptops and phone and often hotspots.

I usually take a high-end but small windows-based ASUS laptop for air travel, and I have TSA’s registered traveler. 

So far I’ve had very good connectivity when traveling when I use a Verizon hotspot. 
There is work to test magnesium batteries as safer. There is also a new dual carbon battery.

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

GOP has lost interest in "voluntarism"; more on national service, even conscription

In the Washington Post Sunday Outlook section, Benjamin Soskis discusses the erosion of conservative ideas of volunteerism.  In print, it is “Any Volunteers?” Online, “Republicans used to celebrate voluntarism and service. What happened?” The short answer is Trump, with cuts in federally sponsored service programs. 

Yet at a local level the social pressures remain strong (to build cross-cultural social capital).

The article discusses the Service Year Alliance, which is trying to create the impulse for all young adults to spend one year in minimally compensated service, like the military.  This is a case of a private group trying to have the force of a public institution. Should older adults be included and be expected to do tours after retirement? 
David Hogg tweeted that he would be registered for the draft at 18, but actually he has to take the step to register.  The Selective Service page on “Why Register?” describes SS as a “relatively low cost insurance policy for our nation”.  Yes, if you’re a male.  (That is a birth male, if trans.)  High cost for you if you are killed or maimed.  But, as Hogg knows, civilians are exposed to hostility too.   In any case, an actual draft (which could include women if the law were changed) seems unlikely – unless we have something like a nuclear or EMP/cyber attack.

Saturday, August 04, 2018

Washington DC Metro has to anticipate possible "United the Right" rally when unions balk

Washington DC is getting concerned about plans for a “United the Right” rally that would apparently take place on Sunday Aug. 12, 2018 at 5:30 PM.  Martine Powers, in a story on the Saturday morning Washington Post, reports that Metro is even considering separate trains for this group of demonstrators.  (The Metro later denied that there would be separate cars.) 
The Orange and Silver Lines would have extremely limited service at those times.

But the transit union says it will not accommodate the hate group, Forbes reports, meaning that a complete system shutdown over the weekend would be possible. There are emergency plans in place to shut down the Metro for any public safety threat. 

Friday, August 03, 2018

Split between Trump and his own intelligence chiefs seems unprecedented, as Russia menaces power grid

Trump called for investigations of Russian meddling to end, and soon Trump’s own national security chiefs were pushing back at POTUS, as in the CBSN video here
CNN has been particularly vociferous in noting that intelligence chiefs don’t know what happened in the meeting between Trump and Putin in Helsinki. 

And intelligence chiefs also sound skittish on how much of a handle Trump has on North Korea.  Some experts think Trump may abandon the idea of denuclearizing Kim Jong Un.
But most alarming are increasing reports that Russians have gotten past air-gaps and have placed even more malware in our power grid components, or other infrastructure, even as the possibility of manipulation of voter rolls seems like the biggest hacking threat.

Wednesday, August 01, 2018

Harvard newspaper urges libertarians to support Democratic Socialists in the short term, out of "consequentialism"

Trevor Levin has an odd article in the Harvard Crimson urging libertarians to ally themselves at least temporarily with the Democratic Socialists of America, article here

The reasoning has to do with a belief that the economic agenda will not be perceived as that extreme but pragmatic (Charles Murray has proposed universal basic income, for example, which Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez have not yet); more pertinent, the DSA platform seems to embrace a libertarian principle: that every individual has a right to migrate to where he/she can earn a living.

The article mentions some disturbing facts. It claims that the Trump administration has tried to deport legal residents and especially naturalized citizens by “denaturalization”.  It refers to deportation of foreign journalists but it isn’t clear if these journalists were actually here legally.

But the most interesting reference is to an essay connecting libertarianism to consequentialism, especially “utilitarian consequentialism”, laying out the circumstances when government coercion is permissible. I had taken up a little of this in my DADT-1 book (Chapter 5) and will cover it on another post soon (Wordpress).  I remember that concept had some attention in 1997 right after I arrived in Minnesota.

I think it's pretty silly to demand "abolishing ICE", when the function it performs is necessary, however questionable some of its actions may have been.  And the border problems really aren't about ICE per se. 

Update: Aug. 2

The Cato Institute reminds us that open legal immigration was part of the 1980 Libertarian Party platform, tweet