Border Patrol Easing Lie Detector Exams To Boost Hiring

❝ For the past three years, the U.S. Border Patrol has been using recruitment videos and job fairs to fill a gap in its ranks. It’s the largest law enforcement agency in the country but is still shy nearly 2,000 people from a target of 21,000.

That was the case even before President Donald Trump’s mandate that it bring in 5,000 more…rejection rates are high and it takes about 200 applicants to finally fill one position.

❝ “One of the things we do: we go to job fairs. We partner up with colleges and universities to look for candidates that are within the demographic of agents that we’re looking for,” Vicente Paco, a spokesman for the Border Patrol’s Tucson Sector, said.

The Border Patrol also looks for military veterans and former police officers. But some agency critics said its strict lie detector tests are part of the reason it has such a hard time filling vacancies…

❝ Customs and Border Protection officials said a 2010 anti-corruption law requires it to administer these exams…The agency does appear to be trying to ease the application process by waiving the polygraph for applicants who have already worked in sensitive jobs such as certain military positions…

❝ Kevin McAleenan, the acting CBP commissioner…wrote that the Border Patrol receives 60,000 to 75,000 applications a year and since 2013, has hired an average of 523 agents a year but lost 904 agents a year to attrition.

McAleenan wrote that the agency will need to hire 2,729 agents a year to achieve the president’s order within five years.

Reliability of lie detectors is questionable. Results are still not admissible AFAIK in courts of law in the United States.

The chuckle remains – does anyone think Trump could pass a lie detector test. For anything?

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How a Cold War major asked a forbidden question — it cost him his career.

❝ It was a risk. Dedicating a book to someone I’d had had a five-minute phone conversation with three decades ago. Someone who, last I’d heard, had become a long-haul trucker and whom I’d given up trying to track down.

❝ But I went ahead and dedicated my new book, How the End Begins: The Road to a Nuclear World War III, to Maj. Harold Hering because Maj. Hering sacrificed his military career to ask a Forbidden Question about launching nuclear missiles. A question that exposed the comforting illusions of the so called fail-safe system designed to prevent “unauthorized” nuclear missile launches…

❝ Get ready to twist your launch keys in their slots and send anywhere from one to 50 missiles rocketing toward Russia. World War III is under way.

Or is it? Your launch order codes are “authenticated,” everything seems in order, the seconds tick away. But in what may be the last seconds of your life — for all you know Soviet missiles are about to rain down on the plains — a thought crosses your mind. About “authentication.” It’s supposed to ensure that the launch order comes from the president himself, or (if the president has been killed) from the surviving head of the nuclear chain of command.

❝ But what about that person at the top of the chain of command, the person who gives the order? Has he been “authenticated”? Who authenticates the authenticator? Can the president start a nuclear war on his own authority — his own whim or will — alone?…

Maj. Hering decided to ask his question anyway, regardless of consequences: How could he know that an order to launch his missiles was “lawful”? That it came from a sane president, one who wasn’t “imbalance[d]” or “berserk,” as Maj. Hering’s lawyer eventually, colorfully put it?

RTFA. It’s long, complex, a couple different narratives bound together by Hering’s question. Stick with it and read it all.

Alabama immigration law — Trumpkin politicians guarantee rotting crops

❝ Brian Cash can put a figure to the cost of Alabama’s new immigration law: at least $100,000. That’s the value of the tomatoes he has personally ripening out in his fields and that are going unpicked because his Hispanic workforce vanished literally overnight.

❝ For generations, Cash’s family have farmed 125 acres atop the Chandler mountain, a plateau in the north of the state about nine miles long and two miles wide. It’s perfect tomato-growing country – the soil is sandy and rich, and the elevation provides a breeze that keeps frost at bay and allows early planting.

For four months every year he employs almost exclusively Hispanic male workers to pick the harvest. This year he had 64 men out in the fields…Then HB56 came into effect, the new law that makes it a crime not to carry valid immigration documents and forces the police to check on anyone they suspect may be in the country illegally.

The provisions – the toughest of any state in America – were enforced on 28 September. By the next day Cash’s workforce had dwindled to 11

❝ Cash says that losing his pickers is much more than a commercial disaster. “Many of these people are friends and like family to us. They have been working for my family for years.”

The crew leader for Cash’s fields has been working for his family for 17 years. “He’s my age and we pretty much grew up together,” he says.

Cash has sponsored him in his application for American naturalisation – a process that the immigration authorities have said will take up to nine years and cost up to $17,000.

❝ The crew leader already has permanent residency status and his two children are US citizens, but because his wife is undocumented he was fearful of the new law and left abruptly along with the others the minute the provisions came in.

RTFA. Take the time to step past the lies and propaganda conservative and bigoted Congress-critters, state and local scum-suckers blather to pass laws like this. Itinerant foreign migrant labor is nothing new in my life. For decades migrant farm crews returned to the Connecticut River valley to follow the harvest season south until it was time to return home. In those days, mostly back to the Caribbean.

Middle of the road, traditional – and solid – defense of a Free Press

No comment. I’m not interested in changing this part of our Constitution – even if the TeaPublicans, neo-cons, Trumpkins and other proto-fascists appear to be headed in that direction. Truth-telling is still a good defense.

Public outcry over USDA removal of animal welfare documents precedes lawsuits

❝ The U.S. Department of Agriculture released a statement this morning regarding the removal of animal welfare reports from its Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) website…

Lies and bullshit. When you click through to the article you’ll find exactly what you expect. The 2016 date is correct only because that’s when the USDA bureaucrats owned by puppy mill lobbyists made their most recent try at hiding licensing and inspection info. Before this one. And turned down by Obama.

❝ This morning, Speaking of Research, an international organization that supports the use of animals in scientific labs, also weighed in on the issue. In a blog post, the organization says it has “considerable concerns about the wealth of information that has been removed from the USDA website in the last week.” The post continues, “When information is hidden … the public wonders what is being hidden and why, and researchers must devote even more resources to combatting the public perception that they are not transparent.” The group has uploaded some of USDA’s past reports on its website.

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) today put USDA on notice that it intends to use legal tools to force the agency to restore tens of thousands of documents on animal welfare that it removed from its website on Friday.

❝ In this letter to the U.S. Department of Justice, the animal welfare organization reminded the government that under the terms of a 2009 legal settlement with HSUS, USDA had agreed to make public some of the records it has now scrubbed from its public database. HSUS, its lawyers write, “is exercising its rights under [the 2009 settlement] and intends to take further action unless USDA agrees to reconsider this bizarre reversal of the agency’s longstanding policy” of making inspection records and others publicly available.

The animal organization’s letter notes that under the terms of the 2009 settlement, the two parties, HSUS and USDA, now have 30 days to settle their differences. After that, HSUS can ask the court to reopen the lawsuit.

You can look at this coverup as the latest in Trumpublicans unwillingness to allow transparency. Licensing and inspection records are requisite in most publically-funded agencies. In this case, there are state and city agencies that require the access previously available by a click to update their own records on animal care, animal sales.

Trump, like most of today’s Republicans, feels profit takes priority over transparency, honesty, common decency.

The ACLU got $24 million in donations this weekend — response to their courage!


Anthony Romero, ACLU head, on the streets, in the courts, all weekend

❝ In the weeks after the Nov. 8 election, when Donald Trump secured a surprise victory to become president of the United States, the American Civil Liberties Union received so much money in online donations — more than $15 million — that an official with the 100-year-old organization called the flood “unprecedented in our history.”…

…then Trump spent his first week as president signing executive orders and making good on some of his campaign promises, spurring massive protests across the country and the world — about women’s rights, the environment and what Trump calls his “extreme vetting” of travelers to the U.S. from seven predominantly Muslim nations…

❝ This weekend alone, the civil liberties group received more than $24 million in online donations from 356,306 people, a spokesman told The Washington Post early Monday morning, a total that supersedes its annual online donations by six times.

In an interview with CNN, the ACLU had a one-word reaction: “Wow.”

Having lived through a couple of attempts to bring fascism to power in the United States, I’m encouraged. Groups like the ACLU are usually a front-row target of lard-brained right-wingers like Trump and Bannon. Civil liberties – and their defenders – are an automatic target of creeps who front themselves as “strong leaders” and other code words for wannabe dictators.

Early days of McCarthyism,there were beaucoup folks with good intentions, civic understanding – and no guts – who would donate “cash only” to an organization of constitutional lawyers willing to fight for preservation of American standards. That folks have more courage – and greater willingness to drop their hard-earned buck$ on the barrel-head to support the fight for freedom is more than encouraging. It bodes well for the continuing battle.

Pic of the day


Click to enlargeAndrew Kelly/Reuters

Iraqi immigrant Hameed Darweesh walks out of JFK with Congressman Jerrold Nadler (L) and Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez (R) after being released

The whole world is watching. Trump’s official bigotry is halted for a brief while. The Republican Party’s acceptance of official bigotry is halted for a brief while. Congress’ acceptance of official bigotry on behalf of the United States of America – is halted for a brief while.

Creeps like Trump love science — when used for mass surveillance

❝ Nearly every drug you snort, inject, smoke, butt-plug, vaporize or freebase eventually ends up back in the water supply via your excrement. The fish love it—well, maybe not the ones mutating from it. But apparently crabs and trout aren’t the only ones sifting through your waste.

Across the globe, researchers at wastewater treatment plants are testing for psychoactive substances passed by drug users through their feces and urine. The data can be incredibly valuable, letting scientists and law enforcement quickly track drug use trends and identify new substances on the market. It can also measure the impact of drug policy strategies, even highlight which days of the week drug use spikes (cocaine on the weekends, anyone?).

But with this research comes some ethical entanglements. Testing waste could help anticipate the sharp rise in carfentanil or fentanyl overdoses, for example, by detecting the drug in sewage. But the same strategies can be used to stigmatize against certain populations, and as we’ve seen with the War on Drugs in the US, this could have lasting consequences for those communities.

❝ The ability to work upstream to find individual drug users is available to law enforcement, if they choose—for now, such a narrow focus is too costly to be worth it…

In the meantime, it has been suggested police use wastewater data to “guide decisions at strategic and/or operational levels” or “assess the market share held by criminal groups.”

Mr. Holier-than-thou has made it clear he doesn’t approve of legalizing cannabis. His soon-to-be Attorney General is even more backwards prattling 1930’s monologues about weed as a gateway drug. So, keep on eye on what new official government vehicles show up at your local sewer plant. They may be testing for more than coliform bacteria.

Brits’ new Surveillance Law will be a global model – for repression

Civil rights advocates are up in arms over a sweeping new digital surveillance law in the United Kingdom, and not just because they say it intrudes on the privacy of people in the U.K. Some worry that the law sets an example other democratic nations will be tempted to follow.

The legislation…is called the Investigatory Powers Act (or, by its critics, the “Snooper’s Charter”). It enshrines broad new authority for U.K. law enforcement and intelligence agencies to conduct online surveillance, hack into devices deemed relevant to investigations, and make technology companies provide access to data about their users — even by forcing them to change the design of products. It also gives investigators the authority to use these powers in “bulk,” meaning they can access large data sets that may include information about people not relevant to investigations. They can even hack into devices owned by people who are not suspects in a crime.

…The most high-profile fight is over a new authority for the government to compel Internet service providers to retain “Internet connection records”—including websites visited or mobile apps used, the times they were accessed, and the duration of use — for up to 12 months for all their customers. Investigators won’t need a warrant from a judge to access this data. “There is no state in the Western democratic world that has anything similar,” says Eric King…former deputy director of Don’t Spy on Us, a coalition of nongovernmental organizations that advocates for surveillance reform…

Brazil and Australia have also recently instituted data retention laws. The U.S. has not, but the U.S. Department of Justice has advocated for mandatory data retention before, as have members of Congress. After the Snowden revelations, President Obama issued a policy directive limiting bulk data collection by the federal government itself. But Donald Trump could rescind that or work with Congress to require Internet service providers to retain data so investigators could access it later—a step that would be modeled on the U.K. legislation. “If the Trump administration wants to expand its surveillance powers, or seek sanction for more aggressive use of its existing powers, it could unfortunately point to the U.K.’s new law as precedent,” says Camilla Graham Wood, Privacy International’s legal officer.

RTFA for a peek at the brave new world brought to us in part by fools who vote for phonies like Donald Trump. That doesn’t exempt the chickenshit Establishment of Democrats and Republicans who roll over and stick all four feet into the air every time some surveillance pimp prattles about fear.

“Robots? We don’t serve their kind here!”

❝ For the time being, robots don’t need civil rights — they have a hard enough time walking, let alone marching — but the European Union doesn’t expect that to be the case forever. The European Parliament’s committee on legal affairs is considering a draft report, written by Luxembourg member Mady Delvaux, that would give legal status to “electronic persons.”

❝ Delvaux’s report explores the growing prevalence of autonomous machines in our daily lives, as well as who should be responsible for their actions. It’s not intended to be a science-fiction thought experiment…but rather an outline of what the European Commission should establish: what robots are, legally; the ethics of building them; and the liability of the companies that do so.

“Robots are not humans, and will never be humans,” Delvaux said. But she is recommending that they have a degree of personhood — much in the same way that corporations are legally regarded as persons — so that companies can be held accountable for the machines they create, and whatever actions those machines take on their own.

Robots can donate to Super-PACs!

❝ Delvaux’s report does suggest that the more autonomy a machine has, the more blame should fall with it over its human operators. But robots are generally only as smart as the data they learn from. It might be difficult to determine what a robot is responsible for, and what was because of its programming — a sort of robot version of the “nature versus nurture” argument.

Nice to see that some political beings, public political forums, have the foresight to consider potential problems before they arise. Of course, that can be taken to extremes.

But, in the United States? We’re lucky if Congress considers, say, flood protection before rising waters reach the top step.