2018-08-08

BBC shilling for illegal immigration AGAIN

I don't want to claim that this is a trend but they have recent history in this area.

Today Ms Taylor Kate Brown, DC-based BBC reporter temporarily reporting from Mancos CO, reports on the plight of Rosa Sabido who's sheltering from ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) in the local United Methodist Church who have decided to provide sanctuary to anyone breaking the law as long as it's just related to immigration. Anyone familiar with today's UMC will not be falling off their chairs in surprise.

I searched for the word "legal" in the article, and the only instance relevant to her actions was reported speech from an ICE spokesman:

She entered the country illegally and ignored multiple orders to depart
which, I note, nothing in the article tries to refute apart from a quote from Ms Sabido:
I've been trying all this time to become a citizen... I just tried to do the legal thing and in the end all I get was an order of deportation
The "legal thing" - presumably ignoring the (repeated?) deliberate illegal immigration into the USA which was the root cause of the pending procedures?

At least Ms Brown is honest about the motivation of Ms Sabido:

It is an extreme option and one that extracts a high and potentially lasting price.
Really? What "price" are we talking about? Presumably by Ms Sabido's calculations, it's worthwhile - what benefit might she be anticipating?
Rosa keeps busy but her time in the church is about waiting - waiting for a new Congress, waiting for a potential private bill, waiting for a different president.
Basically, a broad amnesty for people already in the US illegally. How nice to have a substantial fraction of a foreign government working directly for your benefit without any thought of payment - save, perhaps, a future vote in their direction?

However, I find the hints about the church itself of particular interest:

But sheltering Rosa was never the original plan. The church had spoken to a nearby organisation that believed there were a handful of families in the area at risk of deportation, all of whom had lived there for at least 10 years.
"They were our brothers and sisters," he says.
A few people left the church over the decision, but more have joined in support of Rosa, says Paschal.
Aha. I'm sure. So the pastor led the congregation into approving the sanctuary policy in support of a few people that they knew, but it turned out to be available to anyone in the neighborhood. Who knew?

Here's the church. Total congregation: 70. That means fewer than 30 people turning up regularly for services. In a town of 1500 with a total of 5 churches that doesn't look like a particularly successful church, and honestly I don't know how 30 people's contributions are funding a full-time pastor. One assumes that the United Methodist Church - or rather, their national congregational contributions - are covering the deficit. So the pastor doesn't have to have much local buy-in, he gets the $ from the mothership. Nice job, if you can get it.

Anyway, Ms Brown is officially no longer reporting for the BBC:

so this is presumably her swan-song. If she's moving out west in a career growth move, it's almost certainly to California so presumably this article is a final burnishing of pro-illegal-immigration credentials...

2018-07-23

BBC shilling for illegal immigration

I shouldn't be surprised at the BBC any more, but their article My life trapped in an American city was so egregious that I feel it deserves a thorough fisking.

My family and I migrated to Phoenix, Arizona, when I was eight years old. I'm now 22 and a student of engineering at the University of Texas at El Paso.
I'm not a criminal yet in a way I'm treated like one.

Well, your parents arranged to violate the immigration laws of the country in which you find yourself, so it's not surprising that the way you could be treated is analogous to the way that others who have broken the laws are treated. And I can't help but notice that you're not blaming your parents for this situation despite the fact that they explicitly arranged for it to happen.

El Paso has checkpoints around it where immigration officers ask for your documents, documents I obviously don't have. I can't leave the city or I risk deportation. Fortunately, my parents became US residents two years ago but, unfortunately, this isn't the case for my sisters, aged 25 and 18, and me.
When they got their papers they moved back to Phoenix in search of more job opportunities after four years of living here. But I risked putting my college education in jeopardy and getting deported if I crossed the checkpoint and was asked for my documents.

I also wonder whether your parents' immigration status would be jeopardized if USCIS found out that they were actively working to conceal other illegal immigrants - you and your sisters, specifically.

My parents visit me once every three or four months - because of work and other things they can't be here more often. But since they all moved I haven't seen my youngest sister. Her high school graduation was last month and I was unable to go even though everyone in the family was there. And I know neither one of my sisters will be able to attend mine.

On the other hand, you get a gratis US taxpayer funded high school education, and I can't help but notice a complete lack of gratitude for this.

I try not to complain since I'm the first of my parents' children to go to college. I feel very lucky. On the other hand, there are days when I'm just tired of it.
I feel like I don't have rights.

Well, you have all the regular rights of anyone within the United States, citizen or otherwise, as enumerated in the Constitution - in fact, a heck of a lot more than in Mexico. What you mean is, you don't have the right to be treated like a legal resident of the country - because you aren't. That's like me visiting Paris and complaining that I don't have the right to be treated like a French citizen. I'm not a French citizen, there's no prospect of me becoming one, and just because I'm touring the Eiffel Tower doesn't give me any rights to that status.

When they ask me "Why aren't you working? or "Why don't you drive?" I have to make them believe that I'm lazy. So they just stop asking. The truth is I'm unable to work or get a driving licence.
As soon as we crossed the border I had to assimilate myself. I learned English and as I was learning it as a child, our teachers would straight out say "Stop speaking Spanish. You're in America now". A few months later I would win spelling bees - compete against white people who only spoke English - and still win.

You've done a great job of learning the language: fantastic! Just curious: what did you learn about the laws of the country you're living in, and the need to respect them? Because that's also kinda important.

After the 2008 recession my dad, a civil engineer, couldn't find a job in Phoenix and we lost the house we had. So we had to go back to Mexico.
I had such a terrible time, it was probably the worst of my life. I was so Americanised that I didn't fit in. That's what they ask you to do to be accepted in the American culture. I had lost my Mexican identity. We were there for a year and a half before we came back.

Looking at your age (22 now) this looks like: left Mexico at age 8, returned to Mexico at age 12, came back to USA at age 13/14. Pardon me for scenting a certain amount of license with the truth here. At age 8 you'd be speaking fluent Mexican Spanish. After 4 years in the USA you'll certainly have an American accent, but you'll be immersed in an immigrant community and frequently hearing and speaking Spanish. The problem is, you didn't like being back in Mexico because it wasn't as nice as being in the USA - even with all the illegal immigration limitations you document so heavily.

I know so much history about this country, more than average US nationals, and I have so much respect for it seeing as I get myself involved in politics to help improve this country's current state. I involve myself more than citizens, people who should worry more about this nation given that it really is theirs.

I see. So you don't think that, for instance, politics in the USA should be reserved for those who are actually citizens and bear voting rights and responsibilities? In fact, by the sound of it, you consider yourself better informed and more responsible than they are? I can't imagine that generating any resentment at all.

It's difficult to dream in a country that, regardless of everything I've done, which is what most immigrants do, doesn't welcome you even if you've seen it as home for most of your life.

I've found the USA very welcoming to immigrants. But then, I came here by following the rules that the USA had laid down for immigrants. Almost as if Americans don't appreciate those trying to end-run around the rules that others are following. Go figure.

I understand that they have the right to choose to whom they grant citizenship. I just wish they would give me some sort of help. I've given up part of my culture, my roots, to be accepted here. I've already given some of me.
Why can't this country give something back?

What, like a free high school education? A community which is so attractive that you'd rather live there illegally than in your home country legally? Legal status for your older sister and parents? Yes, you've really been hard done over by the USA.

Three semesters from now, when I graduate, I may still be deported. And I may never see my sisters again until they can get papers, which by the looks of it will probably be in 12 more years.

You should go and talk to Indian or Chinese H1-B visa holders and ask them about their timelime to permanent resident (Green Card) status. They'd love to only have to wait 12 years. If you want to see your sisters again, you can always go to Mexico after you graduate. What you're actually saying is that you prefer the economic and educational benefits of living in the USA to seeing your sisters. That's a perfectly rational choice, but it's your choice, and it's a bit much to blame the USA for the situation that you can't have your cake and eat it.

You can't deny that this has affected me. This shouldn't be happening.

Right. Your parents shouldn't have repeatedly violated US immigration law in the first place to put you in this invidious position. And yet that doesn't seem to be your point, for some reason...

Pull your head out of your ass, girl. If you really want to stay in the USA, find an American citizen and marry them. I assume that's how your older sister got her residence status. It may be a sacrifice - you might already be in love with someone who's not a USA citizen - but you have to decide what's most important to you.

2018-07-19

Redundant quotes in the news

Man scalped by grizzly bear says he's 'lucky' to be alive

OK, in what universe is he 'lucky' to be alive? Would anyone like to propose that the expected result of being scalped by a bear is anything but death? Anyone? Bueller?

He fought back, kicking the bear and punching its face. The bear released him and he ran inside. The bear had bit his abdomen and torn away part of his scalp and his ear, and he was bleeding profusely.
"There's a lot of blood I'm sure up and down the stairs," he said.
Without cell reception or a landline to call for help, Mr Carbery ran to his car as the bear chased him and drove himself to the nearest hospital.

While full of admiration for this gentleman's tenacity and instinct for self preservation (ignoring his questionable decision to approach a pair of grizzly bears without any kind of firearm, let alone one chambered in .700 Nitro express) I don't think we can ascribe his survival to anything other than sheer luck:

...the bear caught up with him at the door, picked him up by the skull and tossed him to the ground, he says.

If an anecdote in your life includes the words "picked me up by the skull", and you're recounting it, you're clearly luckier than the average.

2018-07-09

On politeness, and abuses thereof

Coming out of the supermarket today, I was assailed in the foyer by a lady in her early 30s standing in front of a poster advertising some kind of pet shelter charity, asking me:

"Do you prefer dogs or cats?"

I'm normally quite a polite person, but this lady was clearly exploiting the polite human instinct to respond to a apparently innocuous question as a hook to draw me into some conversation about the terrible conditions dogs/cats would exist in were it not for the sterling work of this shelter. Once you try to exploit my politeness, darling, you lose all your rights to it.

"Depends: roasted, or stewed?" I replied, and strode out to the car park. A sharp intake of breath and "Oh!" from behind me suggested that I'd hit my mark.

I've had it with the attempted exploits on decent behaviour - politeness, courtesy, fear of giving offence - with the aim of using it to further a political or commercial agenda. I've seen enough of it to be able to recognise when someone's trying it on, and they can expect a withering contempt in response. If more of the public took this approach, it might just dissuade the offenders from this abusive anti-social dialogue.

(For the record, I'm a cat person. Wash in my own spit, the whole deal.)

2018-07-08

How to kill Trusteer's Rapport stone dead

If you, like me, have had to wrangle with a slow and balky family member's Mac, you may have found the root cause of the slowness to be Rapport. This is an IBM-branded piece of "security" software, and has all the user friendliness and attention to performance and detail that we expect from Big Blue - to wit, f-all.

I therefore followed the comprehensive instructions on uninstalling Rapport which were fairly easy to step through and complete. Only problem - it didn't work. The rapportd daemon was still running, new programs were still very slow to start, and there was no apparent way forward.

Not dissuaded, I figured out how to drive a stake through its heart. Here's how.

Rapport start-up

Rapport installs a configuration in OS X launchd which ensures its daemon (rapportd) is started up for every user. The files in /Library/LaunchAgents and /Library/LaunchAgents are easy to remove, but the original files are in /System/Library/LaunchAgents and /System/Library/LaunchDaemons and you need to kill those to stop Rapport.

However, System Integrity Protection (SIP) on OS X El Capitan and later prevents you from deleting files under /System - even as root.

Given that, the following instructions will disable SIP on your Mac, remove the Rapport files, and re-enable SIP. You should be left with a Mac that is no longer burdened by Rapport.

Check whether Rapport is running

From a Terminal window, type
ps -eaf | grep -i rapport
If you see one or more lines mentioning rapportd then you have Rapport running and you should keep going; if not, your problems lie elsewhere.

Disable SIP

Reboot your machine, and hold down COMMAND+R as the machine restarts. This brings you into Recovery mode. From the menu bar, choose Utilities → Terminal to open up a Terminal window. Then type
csrutil disable
exit

Now reboot and hold down COMMAND+S as the machine restarts to enter single-user mode (a black background and white text).

Find and delete the Rapport files

You'll need to make your disk writeable, so enter the two commands (which should be suggested in the text displayed when you enter single user mode):
/sbin/fsck -fy
/sbin/mount -uw /

Now
cd /System/Library/LaunchAgents
and look for the Rapport files:
ls *apport*
You can then remove them:
rm com.apple.RapportUI*
rm com.apple.rapport*

Then
cd ../LaunchDaemons
and look for the Rapport files there:
ls *apport*
You can then remove them too:
rm com.apple.rapportd*

Restore SIP

Rapport should now be dead, but you should re-enable SIP. Reboot and hold down COMMAND+R to go back to Recovery mode. From the menu bar, choose Utilities → Terminal to open up a Terminal window. Then type
csrutil enable
exit

Reboot, and you should be done. Open a Terminal window, type
ps -eaf | grep -i rapport
and verify that rapportd no longer appears.

2018-03-24

Any mentions of Peter Wang or Chris Hixson at today's Marches for Gun Control?

I've been watching the gun control march speeches and Twitter today for mentions of Peter Wang or Chris Hixson - I may have blinked and hence missed it, but it's safe to say that Peter's sacrifice saving 15 of his classmates, and Mr. Hixson's sacrifice for his students, have not been prominent in today's discussions.

Might this be because the organizers find distasteful any possibility that there might be glorification of the military in this event? Peter was a JROTC member, posthumously accepted to West Point military academy, and Chris Hixson was a military veteran.

This whole "March for Lives" thing stinks of politics. This is not a spontaneous grassroots reaction to a school shooting. There's a carefully directed message coming from a central organization somewhere, and it ain't from a bunch of Florida high school students.

2018-03-17

Commando - the Russian Remake

I spent most of today trying to my US taxes, and mostly failing. Wrestling with the American Inland Revenue Service's forms is like wrestling with a pack of disgruntled alligators, except that the IRS is much more motivated than your average alligator to keep tearing off your limbs, and then patiently wait for them to regrow before tearing them off again.

I'm sorry, I got distracted in a mini-rant. Anyway, as part of my procrastination I discovered (don't ask how) that the Russian film industry had made an 80%+ shot-for-shot remake of everyone's favourite 1980's Arnie film "Commando" as "День Д" (D-Day), starring a chap called Mikhail Porochenkov who's every bit as manly as 1980's Arnie, but has much more comprehensible dialogue. Even though the film is in Russian without subtitles.

And, glory of glories, the movie is available in its entirety on YouTube:

For burning 90 minutes of your tax-preparation time, it's hard to beat. You can even play it at 1.5x or 2x speed, and not miss any significant dialogue or plot points.

Mr. Porochenkov delivers a very good alternate to Arnie's character, and the girl who plays his daughter isn't Alyssa Milano but she gets the job done. The Bennett (Vernon Wells) equivalent is awful, he's just a hulk of barely-speaking muscle rather than Wells' scarily crazy character, but the climactic fight between the two is, honestly, much more homoerotic than the original. It's quite disturbing.

The Cindy (Rae Dawn Chong) equivalent is a bit short on the emoting front, but is acceptably attractive, and within five minutes you're praying for their version of Sully (David Patrick Kelly) to suffer a long and painful death as long as it's a) soon and b) mostly off-screen. I suspect the Russian director's decision to move the shopping mall scene to a poolside location was strictly to increase the fanservice component of the film - for all sides of the audience,but at least they kept in a version of "This is my weak arm":

It's well worth 90 minutes of your time - or 60 minutes, or 45 minutes, depending on playback speed and your desire to hear the dialogue - to compare with and contrast to the original. Oh, those Russians.

2018-03-11

You can't spell "POLICE" without "ICE"

The shameless pandering of open-borders mayor Libby Schaaf of Oakland, CA has really been gripping my chaps. For a weapons-grade bit of trolling, and if I were particularly tired of life, I'd recommend walking the streets of Oakland with a T-shirt:

SUPPORT THE POLICE

Because, let's face it, you can't spell "POLICE" without "ICE".

2018-03-04

Bay Area digital road signs - some new messages

While driving along the freeway today (6 lane divided highway, 65 mph speed limit) there was one of the CalTrans digital information signs mounted on a trailer on the shoulder. These sometimes warn you of local hazards ("SHOULDER CLOSED AHEAD") or maybe more general public information ("SERIOUS DROUGHT HELP SAVE WATER"). This one caused my eyebrows to raise because it said "WATCH OUT FOR PEOPLE IN ALL ROADWAYS". Not the specific "ROAD WORK AHEAD, MEN IN ROAD" but instead an almost completely useless message with no specificity of time or location. And yet, someone had taken the time to add the message and show in on the freeway, so I can only imagine that random people wandering along the freeway is, or has been, a real problem.

This got me thinking about what messages might actually be useful and relevant to Bay Area drivers, based on the past few years of experience driving on their roads. I would suggest:

  • MIRRORS: THEY'RE NOT JUST FOR YOUR MAKE-UP
  • WHEN YOU REVERSE, THINGS COME AT YOU FROM BEHIND
  • INDICATORS: NOT JUST FOR WHEN YOU'RE PARKED IN A FIRE LANE
  • YOUR F-350 TRUCK IS NOT AN ELECTRIC VEHICLE, DON'T PARK IN THOSE BAYS
  • DRIVER WEIGHING 400LBS DOES NOT MAKE YOUR CAR A HIGH OCCUPANCY VEHICLE
  • LOOK FURTHER AHEAD THAN THE CAR IN FRONT ONCE IN A WHILE
  • PUT YOUR FUCKING PHONE DOWN, WE'RE NOT KIDDING
  • DON'T PARK DIRECTLY ON A CORNER
  • LET MERGING TRAFFIC IN AHEAD OF YOU, YOU SELFISH GIT
  • INSURANCE: IT'S NOT OPTIONAL
  • DON'T DRIVE AND EAT TAKEOUT FOOD FROM YOUR LAP
  • THERE'S A TRUCK IN YOUR BLIND SPOT
  • CHECK YOUR DAMN TIRE PRESSURE ONCE IN A WHILE

and let's not forget:

  • VISITING THE DMV? ABANDON ALL HOPE

2018-01-21

Prospects for unionizing in Silicon Valley

A topic I've heard increasing buzz about at parties[1] is the idea that Silicon Valley tech workers should be unionizing. The New York Times was discussing unionization in digital media a month ago:

Daniel Marans, a reporter at HuffPost, said the treatment of employees at digital media companies should not remain stuck in a time when websites were small and scrappy, staffed by younger workers who were happy to see their names in pixels.
"That comes to things like transparency on pay, having a decent pay scale that allows a ladder of sustainability where you can support yourself on such an income, and having due process and a guarantee of severance in the case of layoffs," Mr. Marans said.
Ooh, that looks like a great slate of demands, straight out of the union playbook. Let's unpack it.

The union demands

Transparency on pay
Know what everyone else is paid based on level - no practical scope for varying pay based on the positive or negative impact to the company. Any perceptible skew by race, gender or other minority status gets jumped on. This ties in to the next point very well.
Ladder of sustainability
a.k.a. "pay by seniority". The longer you work here, the more pay you get. No concept of "you haven't materially contributed more - or even as much - this year than you did last year, no rise for you." Per the above point, if you're a mother who's been working short hours to match with your daycare needs then you should be paid as much as a single man who's been employed for the same duration as you but has put in twice the hours. (Also as much as a single woman in the same situation as the man, which is even more invidious, but for some reason the law doesn't care about this situation.) And if you've spent 75% of your working day on Twitter supporting the Resistance Against Trump, or endorsing Chelsea Manning for Senate, that is a perfectly appropriate component of your day job.
Due process
Several states in the USA - including California, home of Silicon Valley - follow employment at will where a company can fire a worker just because they don't like them. They don't have to conduct a specific act of misconduct, it's just "it's not working out between us, goodbye!" There are carefully crafted exceptions in each state's laws, but the basic principle holds true for most employees. This violates one of the fundamental tenets of union laws worldwide - employees should not be fireable except in the most egregious circumstances.
Where you can support yourself on such an income
This refers to the lower-level employees - in practice, contractors - and the minimum wage. The more money union employees earn, the higher the dues that the union can ask for. "You're getting $15/hour? We Fought For Fifteen!" Of course, the employees who lost their jobs because their labor wasn't worth $15/hour don't really benefit from this. But screw them, right?
Guarantee of severance in the case of layoffs
As noted above, unions don't really believe in layoffs unless you're irretrievably conservative or Republican - in which case, fuck you. But if severance is unavoidable, you may be out of luck. I was surprised to learn that even in California, severance pay is not required although in practice it's present in most contracts.

Where is this coming from?

My personal opinion - which you should take with a whole bag of salt - is that this drive is a reaction to the past year's tepid (by Social Justice Warrior standards) reaction by Silicon Valley engineer peons to the cases of "hate speech" by such luminaries as Googler James Damore. The 2014 ousting of Mozilla's Brendon Eich seems to have been a misleading catalyst for social justice organizing: the perception was that the relatively small number of social justice crusaders had disproportionate power to influence media opinions and drive online lynch mobs.

The carefully union-unaffiliated Tech Workers Coalition has been pushing this line for a while:

The Tech Workers Coalition is a home for progressives in tech in the Bay Area. We’re an all-volunteer community organization. Our active participants include workers in the tech industry, members from labor union locals, community organizers, and friends.
"Labor union locals", huh? Why am I not surprised?
And now unions are concerned about the possibility of a nationwide “right-to-work” law which would effectively gut their funding. Tech workers need to stand with service workers in these fights.
Translation: we need tech money to fight the union-gutting right-to-work law. California in particular is not a right to work state - if you want to be a public school teacher, for instance, you're going to pay union dues.
Certain things are safer than others, and safer for different people. An undocumented contract worker is in a very different situation than a salaried citizen worker.
Well, there's the teeny tiny issue that the contract company is clearly breaking the law of the nation, so yes...
For tech, it’d be cool to see the strike weapon on the table. History shows us the tactics that will change the world for the better — the tactics that will not only get rid of Trump, but change the conditions that we’re all forced to live and work under.
Oh, that'll be an interesting one. Tech workers striking - "Facebook will go dark for 24 hours unless FB guarantees contractors the right to employ undocumented workers". How exactly do you expect the tech company leadership to react to this existential threat?

You should also give careful scrutiny to Coworker.org who has been publicly allying with union-oriented Silicon Valley employees. It looks to be funded principally by New Venture Fund (a $315M turnover organization whose turnover doubled from 2014 to 2015, and whose 2016 and 2017 turnover I'd be extremely interested to see. In turn they get "advised" by Arabella Advisors who have a very interesting management team with cited connections to e.g. Barack Obama's secretary of commerce, a company focus on regional food and divestment from fossil fuels.

Will it work?

What do I think? Twitter, Facebook and Google offices in the USA are going to be hit with unionization efforts in the next 12 months, initially as a trial in the most favorable locations but if they succeed then this will be ramped up quickly nationwide. This will be framed as a push to align the companies to approved socially just policies - which their boards mostly favor already - but will be used to leapfrog the activist employees into union-endorsed and -funded positions of influence. That approach neatly nullifies the increasing concern about their lack of material contribution to the company as they spend more time on Twitter and producing social justice memes than actually writing code and making the applications work better.

I wonder, though. The bulk of Silicon Valley engineering employees - who are still the majority of the company - are white, Indian and Chinese males. They are used to ruthless meritocracy from the age of, oh, eight or so. The prospect that some slacker [foreign epithet] could supplant them in promotion or pay just by unfireably hanging around the company while they sweat blood, or block them from a union-favored sinecure by dint of being black / female / transgender / identifying as a dragon is unlikely to be something they'd lie down and accept. I fear that the social justice crusaders are mistaking silence for acceptance, and the settling of accounts after the unionization effort will be (metaphorically) bloody indeed.

I doubt this will get off the ground with Apple. They are notoriously controlling and will both detect and ruthlessly act on any twitches of unionization.

For Amazon, of course, it's much more simple. Any Amazon employee pushing unionization will be deniably but publically killed by an Amazon warehouse robot. I can't imagine Jeff Bezos taking such a challenge to his authority lying down.

TL;DR - there will be a big unionization push for Silicon Valley companies in 2018, and it will go horribly wrong.

[1] You almost certainly don't want to go to the kind of parties I go to. There are no kegs, vol-au-vents, or mini sausage rolls. There's organic Chardonnay, sushi of dubious provenance, and acceptably ethnic cuisine like Vietnamese bánh cuốn and Mexican chilaquiles. I happen to like bánh cuốn, but am under no illusion that the food and beverages are based on what the guests find appealing.