Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Something to Know - 28 June


We are all totally consumed with the mundane noise of GOP health carelessness, Trump's Tweets, the Russian Money trail into Kushner and Trump deal making, and Injustice at the Justice Justice Department.   Back away from that and read about this story, which is like a Sci-Fi thriller masterminded by a a couple of guys in an undisclosed location using Steve Bannon's playbock to deconstruct the global economy as we know it.  The reality is that it happened just a few days ago, and these guys were just testing the system:



TECHNOLOGY

Cyberattack Hits Ukraine Then Spreads Internationally
By NICOLE PERLROTH, MARK SCOTT and SHEERA FRENKELJUNE 27, 2017

Computer systems from Ukraine to the United States were struck on Tuesday in an international cyberattack that was similar to a recent assault that crippled tens of thousands of machines worldwide.

In Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, A.T.M.s stopped working. About 80 miles away, workers were forced to manually monitor radiation at the old Chernobyl nuclear plant when their computers failed. And tech managers at companies around the world — from Maersk, the Danish shipping conglomerate, to Merck, the drug giant in the United States — were scrambling to respond. Even an Australian factory for the chocolate giant Cadbury was affected.

It was unclear who was behind this cyberattack, and the extent of its impact was still hard to gauge Tuesday. It started as an attack on Ukrainian government and business computer systems — an assault that appeared to have been intended to hit the day before a holiday marking the adoption in 1996 of Ukraine's first Constitution after its break from the Soviet Union. The attack spread from there, causing collateral damage around the world.

The outbreak was the latest and perhaps the most sophisticated in a series of attacks making use of dozens of hacking tools that were stolen from the National Security Agency and leaked online in April by a group called the Shadow Brokers.

Like the WannaCry attacks in May, the latest global hacking took control of computers and demanded digital ransom from their owners to regain access. The new attack used the same National Security Agency hacking tool, Eternal Blue, that was used in the WannaCry episode, as well as two other methods to promote its spread, according to researchers at the computer security company Symantec.

The National Security Agency has not acknowledged its tools were used in WannaCry or other attacks. But computer security specialists are demanding that the agency help the rest of the world defend against the weapons it created.

"The N.S.A. needs to take a leadership role in working closely with security and operating system platform vendors such as Apple and Microsoft to address the plague that they've unleashed," said Golan Ben-Oni, the global chief information officer at IDT, a Newark-based conglomerate hit by a separate attack in April that used the agency's hacking tools. Mr. Ben-Oni warned federal officials that more serious attacks were probably on the horizon.

The vulnerability in Windows software used by Eternal Blue was patched by Microsoft in March, but as the WannaCry attacks demonstrated, hundreds of thousands of groups around the world failed to properly install the fix.

"Just because you roll out a patch doesn't mean it'll be put in place quickly," said Carl Herberger, vice president for security at Radware. "The more bureaucratic an organization is, the higher chance it won't have updated its software."

Because the ransomware used at least two other ways to spread on Tuesday — including stealing victims' credentials — even those who used the Microsoft patch could be vulnerable and potential targets for later attacks, according to researchers at F-Secure, a Finnish cybersecurity firm, and others.

A Microsoft spokesman said the company's latest antivirus software should protect against the attack.

WHO HAS BEEN AFFECTED

Governments and companies in Europe and the United States have been impacted. Here are several:

  • Ukrainian institutions

    Including the Infrastructure Ministry, central bank, state postal service and largest telephone company.
  • Rosneft

    A Russian oil company.
  • A.P. MOLLER-MAERSK

    The world's largest container-shipping company.
  • Merck

    A U.S. pharmaceutical company.
  • Saint-Gobain

    A French construction materials company.
  • WPP

    A British marketing company.
  • DLA Piper

    Law firm.
  • Deutsche Bahn

    German railway company.


The Ukrainian government said several of its ministries, local banks and metro systems had been affected. A number of other European companies, including Rosneft, the Russian energy giant; Saint-Gobain, the French construction materials company; and WPP, the British advertising agency, also said they had been targeted.

Ukrainian officials pointed a finger at Russia on Tuesday, although Russian companies were also affected. Home Credit bank, one of Russia's top 50 lenders, was paralyzed, with all of its offices closed, according to the RBC news website. The attack also affected Evraz, a steel manufacturing and mining company that employs about 80,000 people, the RBC website reported.

In the United States, the multinational law firm DLA Piper also reported being hit. Hospitals in Pennsylvania were being forced to cancel operations after the attack hit computers at Heritage Valley Health Systems, a Pennsylvania health care provider, and its hospitals in Beaver and Sewickley, Penn., and satellite locations across the state.

The ransomware also hurt Australian branches of international companies. DLA Piper's Australian offices warned clients that they were dealing with a "serious global cyber incident" and had disabled email as a precautionary measure. Local news reports said that in Hobart, Tasmania, on Tuesday evening, computers in a Cadbury chocolate factory, owned by Mondelez International, had displayed ransomware messages that demanded $300 in bitcoins.

Qantas Airways' booking system failed for a time on Tuesday, but the company said the breakdown was due to an unrelated hardware issue.

The Australian government has urged companies to install security updates and isolate any infected computers from their networks.

"This ransomware attack is a wake-up call to all Australian businesses to regularly back up their data and install the latest security patches," said Dan Tehan, the cybersecurity minister. "We are aware of the situation and monitoring it closely."

A National Security Agency spokesman referred questions about the attack to the Department of Homeland Security. "The Department of Homeland Security is monitoring reports of cyberattacks affecting multiple global entities and is coordinating with our international and domestic cyber partners," Scott McConnell, a department spokesman, said in a statement.


Computer specialists said the ransomware was very similar to a virus that emerged last year called Petya. Petya means "Little Peter," in Russian, leading some to speculate the name referred to Sergei Prokofiev's 1936 symphony "Peter and the Wolf," about a boy who captures a wolf.

Reports that the computer virus was a variant of Petya suggest the attackers will be hard to trace. Petya was for sale on the so-called dark web, where its creators made the ransomware available as "ransomware as a service" — a play on Silicon Valley terminology for delivering software over the internet, according to the security firm Avast Threat Labs.

That means anyone could launch the ransomware with the click of a button, encrypt someone's systems and demand a ransom to unlock it. If the victim pays, the authors of the Petya ransomware, who call themselves Janus Cybercrime Solutions, get a cut of the payment.

That distribution method means that pinning down the people responsible for Tuesday's attack could be difficult.

A screenshot of what appeared to be the ransomware affecting systems worldwide on Tuesday. The Ukrainian government posted the shot to its official Facebook page.

The attack is "an improved and more lethal version of WannaCry," said Matthieu Suiche, a security researcher who helped contain the spread of the WannaCry ransomware when he created a kill switch that stopped the attacks.
In just the last seven days, Mr. Suiche noted, WannaCry had tried to hit an additional 80,000 organizations but was prevented from executing attack code because of the kill switch. Petya does not have a kill switch.

Petya also encrypts and locks entire hard drives, whereas the earlier ransomware attacks locked only individual files, said Chris Hinkley, a researcher at the security firm Armor.

The hackers behind Petya demanded $300 worth of the cybercurrency Bitcoin to unlock victims' machines. By Tuesday afternoon, online records showed that 30 victims had paid the ransom, although it was not clear whether they had regained access to their files. Other victims may be out of luck, after Posteo, the German email service provider, shut down the hackers' email account.

In Ukraine, people turned up at post offices, A.T.M.s and airports to find blank computer screens, or signs about closures. At Kiev's central post office, a few bewildered customers milled about, holding parcels and letters, looking at a sign that said, "Closed for technical reasons."

The hackers compromised Ukrainian accounting software mandated to be used in various industries in the country, including government agencies and banks, according to researchers at Cisco Talos, the security division of the computer networking company. That allowed them to unleash their ransomware when the software, which is also used in other countries, was updated.

The ransomware spread for five days across Ukraine, and around the world, before activating Tuesday evening.

"If I had to guess, I would think this was done to send a political message," said Craig Williams, the senior technical researcher at Talos.

One Kiev resident, Tetiana Vasylieva, was forced to borrow money from a relative after failing to withdraw money at four automated teller machines. At one A.T.M. in Kiev belonging to the Ukrainian branch of the Austrian bank Raiffeisen, a message on the screen said the machine was not functioning.

Ukraine's Infrastructure Ministry, the postal service, the national railway company, and one of the country's largest communications companies, Ukrtelecom, had been affected, Volodymyr Omelyan, the country's infrastructure minister, said in a Facebook post.

Officials for the metro system in Kiev said card payments could not be accepted. The national power grid company Kievenergo had to switch off all of its computers, but the situation was under control, according to the Interfax-Ukraine news agency. Metro Group, a German company that runs wholesale food stores, said its operations in Ukraine had been affected.

At the Chernobyl plant, the computers affected by the attack collected data on radiation levels and were not connected to industrial systems at the site, where, although all reactors have been decommissioned, huge volumes of radioactive waste remain. Operators said radiation monitoring was being done manually.

Cybersecurity researchers questioned whether collecting ransom was the true objective of the attack.

"It's entirely possible that this attack could have been a smoke screen," said Justin Harvey, the managing director of global incident response at Accenture Security. "If you are an evildoer and you wanted to cause mayhem, why wouldn't you try to first mask it as something else?"

Correction: June 27, 2017 
An earlier version of this article referred incorrectly to the occupation of Justin Harvey. He is the managing director of global incident response at Accenture Security, not the chief security officer for the Fidelis cybersecurity company.


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****
Juan
 
Patriotism is not a short and frenzied outburst of emotion but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime.
- Adlai Stevenson





Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Something to Know - 27 June


The "news" is getting to be a strain to find interesting.   Trump gets a partial Hoo Haa on is travel ban, the Senate GOP guys are exposed by the CBO as a bunch of selfish old cranks, Trump blames Obama for obstruction.......    I mean it really is time to turn it all off, turn up the fans in the heat here in California, and then..... this Guardian article on drinking habits caught my eye.  Having grown up in California, and then living in Georgia for 24 years, I always found the Blue Laws and rules on the sale of booze in Dixie to be quite provincial and indicative of the intolerant culture of the South.   If you want a change of pace, pour yourself a Sweet Tea, plunk in a mint leaf.....and spike it with a good Kentucky distilled Bourbon as you read this.  Maybe tomorrow's news will be more tolerable:



When some residents in the area around Chickamauga, Georgia wish to imbibe, they will drive 15 minutes into nearby Chattanooga, thinking that distance will give them anonymity to drink in public. Grown adults, 40 years old or so, will not drink in front of their parents.

Customers ask Skip Welsh, the co-founder of Phantom Horse Brewing Co in Rock Spring, to put their beer into a Styrofoam or red solo cup. They don't want anyone to know what they are drinking.

In the heart of the Bible belt, alcohol is still steeped in stigma.

For years, blue laws and a cultural condemnation of alcohol has kept much of the rural south dry, or at least sipping light beer. Yet there is a growing embrace of alcohol in this corner of the country.

In 2010, Welsh had planned to sell domestic beers on tap like Bud Light, Coors Light and Shock Top at Pie Slinger, his pizzeria. A year and a half later, he abandoned the taps. Beer wasn't selling the way he expected, and he lost customers because he offered it.

That's why Welsh expected pushback last year when, after discovering craft beer in 2014, he decided to take his homebrewing operation pro. Phantom Horse was the first brewery to open south of the state line in north-west Georgia.

He was surprised there was no public outcry. At first, there were looks when patrons entered to see Welsh and Randles mixing brews. But those changed, Welsh said, when they realized they were creating and building flavor profiles.

The switch began, Welsh said, when local kids went to college in the cities, and came back around 2011 with a taste for craft beer. They drank in front of their parents, and they approached drinking differently – to enjoy the taste of it, not to get drunk.

Growing up in Alabama, Welsh said beer was viewed as sin. His father would buy a six-pack when he was angry and fighting with Welsh's mother. "I'm a God-fearing man, and I'm quite proud of what we do," said Welsh. He sees little support in the Bible for a prohibition on alcohol. Jesus turned water into wine and the original Greek made it clear it contained alcohol, he said. The key, Welsh said, is responsibility.

Over the last few years, the beer industry has been a bright spot in US job growth. "Beer has never been more dynamic, which is reflected in economic numbers," said Michael Uhrich, chief economist for the Beer Institute, an industry organization headquartered in Washington, DC. "Employment among brewers is growing at nine times the rate of total US employment."

"Georgia has 78 permitted breweries today, compared to 48 in 2014," Uhrich continued. "Today in Georgia, 1,721 people have a job in a brewery, up from 1,473 in 2014." A similar story is occurring in Tennessee, where the 69 permitted breweries in 2014 grew to 108 two years later.

Towns across the area are taking notes: loosening their local ordinances could boost their economic potential.

In March, voters in Rossville, Georgia passed ordinances that legalized liquor by the drink and Sunday packaged beer and wine sales. Adjacent Fort Oglethorpe has had liquor by the drink for several years, allowing restaurants like O'Charley's, Applebee's and Buffalo Wild Wings to spring up along its main strip.

Employment among brewers is growing at nine times the rate of total US employment
Michael Uhrich
But alcohol isn't just a local issue. It's a state one too, and whiskey startup Chattanooga Whiskey Co had to find out the hard way: to get up and running, they first had to change Tennessee law.

About 100 years ago, before Tennessee passed prohibition, Chattanooga's Market Street was home to 20 distilleries. In 2009, the Tennessee legislature finally passed a law that re-opened the state up to distilling. However, lawmakers were able to opt their regions out of the bills, and so Chattanooga was passed over.

Doing what most startup whiskey companies do to quickly have a product, Chattanooga Whiskey purchased a whiskey made in Indiana, and sold it under its brand. It also launched a "vote whiskey" campaign to lobby, first at the county level, for a change in the law. It got it in April 2013 when the state bill went through.

"We've lived [the startup phase] for five years," Tim Piersant, co-founder of the distillery, said. "We've had to change laws, raise capital, build a distillery, learn how to distil. We've almost come out with our product. Now, we've built a second distillery, learned a second operation on a larger scale." Whiskey barrels take at least two years to age and the first of Chattanooga Whiskey's genuine, locally-distilled product will be ready in July.

Recently, Chattanooga Whiskey expanded past its 5,000 sq ft experimental distillery in the heart of Chattanooga, and opened a second location in a former car dealership where they have begun to scale up operations.

Meanwhile, there are reasons why people in this area do not participate in the changing alcohol culture. Jordan Metzger, 33, doesn't drink because it would undermine his ability to be a role model and minister as a youth pastor to sixth- to 12th-graders at Oakwood baptist church, located in Chickamauga, Georgia.

"If I was seen drinking in public, having a beer, a glass of wine, it would affect my ministry, the kids, the parents, the whole nine yards," Metzger said.

Growing up near Baltimore, it was a non-issue if a church leader at a nondenominational church had a glass of wine while eating out with the rest of the staff.

At Oakwood, the question of alcohol is "a debate that's alive and well," Metzger said. The conflict, he sees, is split between the older generation'scultural values versus a new generation's view. It's part of a larger discussion about how to balance cultural expectations and reaching out to a new generation while staying true to the doctrines of Christian faith.

When Oakwood's leadership discussed candidates for lay positions, the question of alcohol consumption came up as a criterion. Metzger believes the Bible does not forbid alcohol; that Paul wrote in the New Testament it is permissible, if perhaps not beneficial, although definitely not beneficial if it passes into drunkenness.

Metzger understands the old Baptist ethic that avoids activities and situations (such as dancing) because it might lead to sin. "The problem, the rub, comes in when you start judging others with the standards you set for yourself," he said.

Like several Christian colleges in the area, Covenant College forbids its students from consuming alcohol. It's a policy that has been on the student handbook since 1955 and has remained "remarkably consistent," said Brad Voyles, vice president of student life at the college associated with the Presbyterian Church of America (PCA).

Through the years, the college has clarified exemptions. Outside the academic school year, students, if they are of age, can drink. "You should feel free to consume responsibly," Voyles said. Other exemptions include wine while taking communion and married students who live off campus.

A prohibition on alcohol isn't something that's found in the Bible, the college believes. "This policy is an extra-biblical requirement," Voyles said. "We're saying in this season of life as a student of Covenant College, set that freedom aside."

The reason for the alcohol-free campus is more pragmatic. Voyles cited American Psychosocial Association statistics that say alcohol is often a contributor to sexual assault, rape, violence, fights, property damage. Academically, the abuse of it can pull down grades and cause students to miss class. "It makes sense from an academic standpoint and a life-together standpoint," he said.

Still, views against alcohol have remained entrenched in this area for generations.

An hour drive north from, Bryan College sits on a hill overlooking Dayton, Tennessee. The college was founded in honor of William Jennings Bryan, a three-time presidential candidate and populist politician of his time. Before he died in the town, Bryan, an advocate for federal prohibition of alcohol, said Dayton would be an ideal place to start a Christian college.

The current Bryan College student handbook says: "The use of or possession of narcotics, illegal drugs, or alcoholic beverages is grounds for immediate suspension."

 Younger southerners have developed a taste for alcohol.

Dayton sits in Rhea County, which is technically dry, according to Tom Davis, the county's administrator of elections. But that hasn't stopped local cities from dipping their toes in. Dayton legalized liquor by the drink in 2010 and voted in April to allow package store sales of alcohol inside city limits.

"I like to call the south the last frontier of craft brewing," said Kirby Garrison, 27, co-owner of Monkey Town Brewing Company, which sits on a side street in Dayton's downtown. The company, which Garrison started with his father, offers food, spirits and the craft beer brewed in the steel 270-gallon tanks in a room off the dining area. Residents from neighboring towns regularly visit.

Growing up in Dayton, Garrison and his family left when he was 14 to live on eastern Long Island. They wanted to start a brewery but thought Long Island or Chattanooga would be too crowded. So they went back to Dayton. "This area we chose because we know [people] would appreciate it the most," Garrison said.

When Garrison returned, there were more empty shops and for-rent signs in Dayton's downtown than he remembered. Unlike New York City, a small town like Dayton derives its identity from its history, Garrison said. If you're local, people will spend minutes trying to figure out where you hang on one predominant family tree or another. "A name means something here," he said.

When Garrison first started building out the space, he would see people slowly driving their cars past. Other times, people would go right up to the windows to peer in. They were curious, watching from a distance. The community warmed when they learned Monkey Town offered more than just alcohol.

Part of Garrison's job is education. About a dozen times a week, if a patron expresses interest in craft beer, then Garrison pulls 2oz samples. Most people assume India Pale Ales are bitter hop-bombs. Garrison brewed his cloudy IPA to capitalize on the hops' diverse flavor, to make something that tastes as if fruit was brewed into it.

"We're changing something," Garrison said. "I don't like teaching anything other than beer. Anything else, I'm impatient. But with beer, I have no problem starting from scratch with somebody."

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****
Juan
 
Patriotism is not a short and frenzied outburst of emotion but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime.
- Adlai Stevenson





Saturday, June 24, 2017

Something to Know - 24 June

There are two articles from today's NY Times that are worth your read.   There is this one regarding kids who are graduating from high school, with no desire or apparent need to attend college.   You get the sense that young HS graduates accept the difficulties in trying to craft their futures out of minimum wage jobs, and saving at least enough money for a car and insurance to figure out their futures.   The hard reality is that the best of these kids will probably find a way of enlisting in military service for lack of anything better.   This then segu├ęs into this next article that will take those who came of age in the 50s and 60s through the maelstrom the draft and what the Vietnam War did to us.   We now have essentially a mercenary army, where people are hired instead of drafted.   There could be a relationship between the two articles, and one worth thinking about.  Is the reality of our economy creating fodder for a War in Afghanistan and the Middle East?



I Picked Prison Over Fighting in Vietnam
 Vietnam '67
DAVID HARRIS VIETNAM '67 


Growing up in Fresno, Calif., I believed in "my country, right or wrong," just like everyone I knew. I could not have anticipated that when I came of age I would realize that my country was wrong and that I would have to do something about it. When I did, everything changed for me.

I went from Fresno High School Boy of the Year 1963, Stanford Class of 1967, to Prisoner 4697-159, C Block, maximum security, La Tuna Federal Correctional Institution, near El Paso.

I was among the quarter-million to half-million men who violated the law that required us to register for military service and face deployment to Vietnam — the draft. About 25,000 of us were indicted for our disobedience, almost 9,000 convicted and 3,250 jailed. I am proud to have been one of the men who, from behind bars, helped pull our country out of its moral quagmire.

I was just 20 when I first stepped outside the law. After months of late-night dorm-room conversations and soul searching, I decided doing so was my duty as a citizen. It was 1966 and draft calls were escalating every month as the American Army in Southeast Asia built up to half a million men, dozens of whom were coming home in coffins every week. I had just been elected Stanford student body president on a "radical" platform calling for an end to the university's cooperation with the war, and I had already refused to accept a student deferment that would have allowed me to avoid the draft and probably sent a poor person in my stead. But I knew that even such valuable protest was an insufficient response to the moral arithmetic of sending an army thousands of miles from home to kill more than two million people for no good reason.

At stake was not just the nation's soul but mine as well. So I took the draft card I was required by law to have at all times and returned it to the government with a letter declaring I would no longer cooperate. Carrying that card had been my last contribution to the war effort. If the law was wrong, then the only option was to become an outlaw.

Some would call me a draft dodger, but I dodged nothing. There was no evasion of any sort, no attempt to hide from the consequences. I courted arrest, speaking truth to power, and power responded with an order for me to report for military service. While delaying that order with a succession of bureaucratic maneuvers, I helped found the Resistance, an organization devoted to generating civil disobedience against conscription. Three or four of us lived out of my car and crashed on couches, going from campus to campus, gathering a crowd and making a speech, looking for people willing to stand up against the wrong that had hijacked our nation.

On Oct. 16, 1967, the Resistance staged its first National Draft Card Return, during which hundreds were sent back to the government at rallies in 18 cities. We staged more rallies and teach-ins. Hundreds more draft cards were returned, at two more national returns as well as individually or in small groups. We provided draft counseling for anyone, whether he wanted to resist or not.

At draft centers, we distributed leaflets encouraging inductees to turn around and go home. At embarkations, we urged troops to refuse to go before it was too late. We gave legal and logistical support to soldiers who resisted their orders. We destroyed draft records. We arranged religious sanctuary for deserters ready to make a public stand, surrounding them to impede their arrest. We smuggled other deserters into Canada. We even dug bomb craters in front of a city hall in Florida and posted signs saying that if you lived in Vietnam, that's what your front lawn would look like.

Then we stood trial, one after another. Most of us were ordered to report for induction, then charged with disobeying that order, though there were soon so many violators that it was impossible to prosecute more than a fraction of us.

I was among that fraction. On Jan. 17, 1968, I refused "to submit to a lawful order of induction." I had my day in court that May. As was the case in almost every draft trial, my judge refused to allow me to present any testimony about the wrong I had set out to right, saying the war was not at issue. Nonetheless, my jury stayed out for more than eight hours before finally convicting me. I was sentenced to three years. I appealed my conviction, but abandoned that appeal in July 1969 and began my sentence.

My fellow resisters and I brought our spirit of resistance to the prison system, organizing around prisoner issues of health care, food and visits. I was a ringleader in my first prison strike while still in San Francisco County Jail, awaiting transfer. After being sent on to a federal prison camp in Safford, Ariz., I was in three more strikes, at which point I was shipped to La Tuna. My first two months there, I was locked in a punishment cellblock known as "the hole" with three other ringleaders from Safford. When I was finally moved upstairs, I learned that our Army had expanded the war into Cambodia several weeks earlier.

My home was 5 feet by 9 feet. I was frisked when I was sent to work in the morning, when I returned from work in the afternoon and when I both left for and returned from evening recreation.

Doing time well required a Buddhist state of mind, of being present where you are and not thinking of yourself in places where you couldn't be. The latter is slow torture for a prisoner. Doing time well also required being your own person despite the guards' efforts otherwise. "They've got your body," we used to say, "but they can only get your mind if you give it to them." The result, in my case, was a running series of disciplinary violations for the likes of refusing to make my bed and return trips to the punishment cellblock.

Nonetheless, the parole board released me on March 15, 1971. The war was still going on; not long after I first reported to my parole officer, a group of Vietnam veterans protested the war in Washington and threw the medals they'd been awarded onto the steps of the Capitol.

Draft calls were now steadily shrinking as air power replaced ground troops, and military conscription would soon be gutted altogether. My parole ended the following summer. I stopped organizing eight months later when peace agreements were finally signed.

Several years after that, I was invited to testify at a Senate hearing considering pardons for our draft crimes. I told the senators I had no use for their forgiveness, but I would accept their apology. I'm still waiting to hear back from them on that.

I am now 71 and the war that defined my coming of age is deep in my rearview mirror, but the question it raised, "What do I do when my country is wrong?" lives on.

For those looking for an answer today, here are some lessons I learned:

We are all responsible for what our country does. Doing nothing is picking a side.

We are never powerless. Under the worst of circumstances, we control our own behavior.

We are never isolated. We all have a constituency of friends and family who watch us. That is where politics begins.

Reality is made by what we do, not what we talk about. Values that are not embodied in behavior do not exist.

People can change, if we provide them the opportunity to do so. Movements thrive by engaging all comers, not by calling people names, breaking windows or making threats.

Whatever the risks, we cannot lose by standing up for what is right. That's what allows us to be the people we want to be.

David Harris, a journalist, is the author of "Our War: What We Did in Vietnam and What It Did to Us."

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****
Juan
 
Patriotism is not a short and frenzied outburst of emotion but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime.
- Adlai Stevenson





Sunday, June 18, 2017

Something to Know - 18 June


This article from today's LA Times addresses the fitness of #45.  As the Commander-in Chief of our armed forces, it might be natural to evaluate him as the Army Field Manual would evaluate anyone in leadership positions is to be rated.  Fitness Rating is part of an officer's file, and follows him or her up the line for judgment to higher rank and positions within the military.  Let's see how the man at top would rate:

 Trump mentally fit to be president? 
Let's consult the U.S. Army's field manual on leadership
Prudence L. Gourguechon - LA Times

Since President Trump's inauguration, an unusual amount of attention has been paid to the 25th Amendment to the Constitution. That's the measure, ratified in 1967, that allows for removal of the president in the event that he is "unable to discharge the powers and duties" of the office. What does that mean, exactly? Lawyers surely have some ideas. But as a psychiatrist, I believe we need a rational, thorough and coherent definition of the mental capacities required to carry out "the powers and duties" of the presidency.

Although there are volumes devoted to outlining criteria for psychiatric disorders, there is surprisingly little psychiatric literature defining mental capacity, even less on the particular abilities required for serving in positions of great responsibility. Despite the thousands of articles and books written on leadership, primarily in the business arena, I have found only one source where the capacities necessary for strategic leadership are clearly and comprehensively laid out: the U.S. Army's "Field Manual 6-22 Leader Development."

 The debate over President Trump's mental health
The New York Times published a letter signed by 35 psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers. The letter suggests Trump's "grave emotional instability… makes him incapable of serving safely as president." (Feb. 21, 2017)
The Army's field manual on leadership is an extraordinarily sophisticated document, founded in sound psychological research and psychiatric theory, as well as military practice. It articulates the core faculties that officers, including commanders, need in order to fulfill their jobs. From the manual's 135 dense pages, I have distilled five crucial qualities:

Trust

According to the Army, trust is fundamental to the functioning of a team or alliance in any setting: "Leaders shape the ethical climate of their organization while developing the trust and relationships that enable proper leadership." A leader who is deficient in the capacity for trust makes little effort to support others, may be isolated and aloof, may be apathetic about discrimination, allows distrustful behaviors to persist among team members, makes unrealistic promises and focuses on self-promotion.

A good leader 'demonstrates an understanding of another person's point of view' and 'identifies with others' feelings and emotions.'
Discipline and self-control

The manual requires that a leader demonstrate control over his behavior and align his behavior with core Army values: "Loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity, and personal courage." The disciplined leader does not have emotional outbursts or act impulsively, and he maintains composure in stressful or adverse situations. Without discipline and self-control, a leader may not be able to resist temptation, to stay focused despite distractions, to avoid impulsive action or to think before jumping to a conclusion. The leader who fails to demonstrate discipline reacts "viscerally or angrily when receiving bad news or conflicting information," and he "allows personal emotions to drive decisions or guide responses to emotionally charged situations."

In psychiatry, we talk about "filters" — neurologic braking systems that enable us to appropriately inhibit our speech and actions even when disturbing thoughts or powerful emotions are present. Discipline and self-control require that an individual has a robust working filter, so that he doesn't say or do everything that comes to mind.

Judgment and critical thinking

These are complex, high-level mental functions that include the abilities to discriminate, assess, plan, decide, anticipate, prioritize and compare. A leader with the capacity for critical thinking "seeks to obtain the most thorough and accurate understanding possible," the manual says, and he anticipates "first, second and third consequences of multiple courses of action." A leader deficient in judgment and strategic thinking demonstrates rigid and inflexible thinking.

Self-awareness

Self-awareness requires the capacity to reflect and an interest in doing so. "Self-aware leaders know themselves, including their traits, feelings, and behaviors," the manual says. "They employ self-understanding and recognize their effect on others." When a leader lacks self-awareness, the manual notes, he "unfairly blames subordinates when failures are experienced" and "rejects or lacks interest in feedback."

Empathy

Perhaps surprisingly, the field manual repeatedly stresses the importance of empathy as an essential attribute for Army leadership. A good leader "demonstrates an understanding of another person's point of view" and "identifies with others' feelings and emotions." The manual's description of inadequacy in this area: "Shows a lack of concern for others' emotional distress" and "displays an inability to take another's perspective."

The Army field manual amounts to a guide for the 25th Amendment. Whether a president's Cabinet would ever actually invoke that amendment is another matter. There is, however, at least one historical precedent. The journalists Jane Mayer and Doyle McManus tell the dramatic story in their 1988 book, "Landslide: The Unmaking of the President 1984-1988."


Before he started his job as President Reagan's third chief of staff, in early 1987, Howard Baker asked an aide, James Cannon, to put together a report on the state of the White House. Cannon then interviewed White House staff, including top aides working for the outgoing chief of staff, Donald Regan. On March 1, the day before Baker took over, Cannon presented him with a memo expressing grave concern that Reagan might not be sufficiently competent to perform his duties. Reagan was inattentive and disinterested, the outgoing staff had said, staying home to watch movies and television instead of going to work. "Consider the possibility that section four of the 25th Amendment might be applied," Cannon wrote.

After reading the memo, Baker arranged a group observation of Reagan for the following day. On March 2, Baker, Cannon and two others — Reagan's chief counsel, Arthur B. Culvahouse Jr., and his communications director, Tom Griscom — scrutinized the president, first at a Cabinet meeting, then at a luncheon. They found nothing amiss. The president seemed to be his usual genial, engaged self. Baker decided, presumably with relief, that Reagan was not incapacitated or disabled and they could all go on with their business.

Much has changed since the Reagan era, of course. Because of Trump's Twitter habits and other features of the contemporary media landscape, far more data about his behavior are available to everyone — to citizens, journalists and members of Congress. And we are all free to compare that observable behavior to the list of traits deemed critical for leadership by the U.S. Army.

Prudence L. Gourguechon, M.D., is a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst in Chicago.

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Juan
 
Patriotism is not a short and frenzied outburst of emotion but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime.
- Adlai Stevenson





Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Andy Borowitz


SATIRE FROM THE BOROWITZ REPORT
MAN RAVAGED BY AMNESIA SOMEHOW ABLE TO HOLD DOWN DEMANDING LEGAL JOB
By Andy Borowitz   June 13, 2017

borowitz-jeff-sessions-hearing
PHOTOGRAPH BY BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI / AFP / GETTY
WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—An Alabama man whose brain was ravaged by severe amnesia is somehow able to function in an extremely demanding legal job, leading neurologists reported on Tuesday.

The man, whom neurologists are calling a "medical mystery," has performed highly exacting tasks in one of the country's top legal positions despite having virtually no short- or long-term memory.

Dr. Davis Logsdon, the chairman of the neurology department at the University of Minnesota Medical School, said that the Alabaman's brain "defies explanation."

"In all the medical literature, we have never seen an example of someone capable of holding down such a high-powered job while having no memory whatsoever of people he met, things he said, places he has been, or thoughts he has had," Logsdon said. "It's the stuff of science fiction."

Logsdon said that his team of neurologists was studying video of the man in the hopes of understanding the paradoxical functioning of his brain, but Logsdon acknowledged that such a task was challenging. "After listening to him talk for hours, your own brain starts to hurt," he said.

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Juan
 
Patriotism is not a short and frenzied outburst of emotion but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime.
- Adlai Stevenson





Something to Know - 13 June



A friend of #45 has leaked information that Trump is considering firing Mueller.   This seems to set the stage for the actual event.  Maybe there is not enough solid evidence to persuade the GOP controlled House right now to pass on articles of impeachment based on the Comey vs. Trump attempt to obstruct justice.   However, if Mueller is fired, Trump does not emerge smelling like a rose.   The obstruction allegation will just be one item in the shopping cart.  As today's hearing with Sessions starts, the state of Maryland and Washington D.C. are suing Trump for his business practises that lead right to violation of the emoluments statutes in the Constitution (more items into the shopping cart).  As time goes on Trump will be revealed to be complicit in many dark chargeable issues and his survival as we skate into the 2018 primaries will be unsupportable by the spineless and cowardly GOP.   Just look at the video of his cabinet offering a sickly display of obsequious fawning to an authoritarian who demands loyalty.


 THE NATIONAL INTEREST
June 12, 2017
Trump Is Crazy Enough to Fire the Special Prosecutor
By Jonathan Chait

Image

Robert Mueller. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Christopher Ruddy, CEO of Newsmax (a right-wing media organ) and a close confidante of President Trump — indeed, Ruddy visited the White House on Monday — tells Judy Woodruff that Trump is considering firing special prosecutor Robert Mueller. The prospect has struck many people as the kind of outlandish move Trump might rant about in private, but would hesitate to actually do. But the administration has declined to repudiate the trial balloon. (Sarah Sanders says only that Ruddy "speaks for himself," a non-response.)

Trump will probably not fire Mueller right away. But the odds that he will fire him eventually are quite strong, perhaps 50-50 or higher.

First, Trump has a very strong motive to fire Mueller: He is probably guilty. Several of Trump's associates have obscured or lied about their meetings with or financial ties to Russia, Trump has taken a curiously pro-Russian approach to a series of diplomatic issues (including handing over sensitive information to Russian diplomats), and his son-in-law tried to establish a secret communications line to Moscow. Even if Trump and his inner circle turn out to be innocent of the underlying crime, he is obviously guilty of obstructing justice: demanding loyalty of the FBI director and asking him to halt an investigation into a presidential crony, asking other intelligence officials to make this request as well, firing the director, and then publicly admitting he did it to quash the Russia investigation is comically transparent fact pattern.


Trump continues to take actions that are difficult to explain if he is innocent and only sensible if he is guilty. A year ago, it seemed implausible to imagine that he could actually make it through the campaign without releasing his tax returns. What could he possibly have to hide that would be worse than the appearance of guilt he was inviting? Perhaps the answer is the same as why he might fire Mueller. What would be worse than the backlash from firing Mueller? The outcome of Mueller's investigation, maybe.

Second, Trump has no intrinsic respect for political norms. He fired Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York who had investigative authority over some aspects of Trump's business, after trying to ascertain his loyalty. He fired Comey after the same process. He pursues vendettas against those who challenge or threaten him with irrational vengeance. His need for deference and flattery is abnormal by the standards of either human beings in general or non-dictator politicians in particular. Trump is an instinctive authoritarian; the existence of an independent law enforcement system beyond his control is intolerable to him.

Third, Trump has endlessly violated a series of norms that appeared to be inviolable. From the outset of his candidacy, party officials warned him that his behavior — the absurd and promiscuous lying, refusal to disclose his tax returns, refusal to divest his business interests as president, undisciplined tweeting, and on and on — would have to stop.

These experiences have taught Trump that the caterwauling Republicans have no real power to hold him back. He can accuse Ted Cruz's father of killing Jack Kennedy, and call his wife ugly, and however angry Cruz gets, Cruz will come crawling back. Republican warnings have always proved empty.

Why should the firing of Mueller play out much differently than the firing of Comey? The pro-Trump right will back him enthusiastically on Fox News and talk radio. The anti-anti-Trump right, a smaller and weaker faction, might initially object, but will quickly turn its attention to quibbling with or mocking his critics. (Get a load of this Berkeley professor who says firing Mueller is like the Reichstag fire! Or what about the time Bill Clinton or Barack Obama did something bad?)

Trump is not impervious to public opinion. He has already dropped to the 38-40 percent of the country that constitutes his hard-core base. But firing Mueller will play out as a process debate. The arguments conservatives will see on Fox News — that firing Mueller is legal, that Mueller had surrounded himself with suspiciously liberal lawyers — will carry the day with the base. The Republican Congress will put up no more resistance than it did in the face of the equally shocking act of demanding loyalty of Comey and then firing him. Only failures with tangible effect, like a recession, a failed war, or a bungled disaster response, could drive Trump's approval rating down into the 20s, which is what it would take for Republicans in Congress to contemplate impeachment.

Finally, Trump's erratic personality makes the firing of Mueller a mathematical probability. The way to game out the odds is not to try to figure out the factors playing in Trump's mind, or the arguments mustered by competing advisers. This is far too rational. It assumes the decision will be made in a singular moment.

Trump is a creature of impulses. Every time he is reminded of Mueller's existence, there is some chance he will immediately move to fire him. The chance that he will act upon his urge at any given moment is small — say, one percent — but the number of the moments will be high.

And it is probably realistic to assume that every time Trump is persuaded to repress his instinct to fire Mueller, the difficulty of maintaining his discipline the next time rises. If there is a one percent chance Trump fires Mueller the next time he sees a Russia story on cable news, perhaps the odds rise to one and a half percent the next time, and two percent the time after. These numbers are obviously pure guesses. But the general principle accords with the style of decision-making Trump has displayed from the outset.

Trump is almost characterologically bound to test the limits of the system until he finally goes so far he cannot go any further. Firing the special prosecutor is the next unthinkable step before him, very much like all the other unthinkable steps he has already taken.


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Juan
 
Patriotism is not a short and frenzied outburst of emotion but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime.
- Adlai Stevenson





Monday, June 12, 2017

Something to Know - 12 June



The Bannon Program to "Destabilize and Deconstruct the Government" is steadily working its way as we are all fixated on the Big Media attention on Russian meddling of our elections, Comey's testimony, possible impeachment, and who says what about Flynn, and the money trail.   Yes, that is all important, but while that is going on, this story from the NY Times points out that the offices in the bureaucracy that are installed to regulate and keep things in clean working order are being snuffed out.  Dodd-Frank regulations are cut back by the house, Federal Prosecutors are being fired and not replaced, important jobs the keep the affairs of state, are not being filled, and agencies established to protect us from the ravages of greed and neglect are being weakened to the point of extinction.   Not to mention that the EPA is now in ruins.  Trump is the distraction, and Bannon is running us into the ground:

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/12/opinion/mr-trump-goes-after-the-inspectors.html?emc=eta1

The Opinion Pages | EDITORIAL
Mr. Trump Goes After the Inspectors
By THE EDITORIAL BOARDJUNE 12, 2017

Just before the inauguration, Michael Horowitz, chairman of the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency, was at a hockey game when he began getting calls from other inspectors general in federal agencies. The inspectors — independent officials who investigate waste, misconduct, mismanagement and criminal activity — were furious. Trump aides had let them know they might be replaced; for the first time ever, a president might fire them en masse.

The administration later backed down. But it has continued to undermine the inspectors' role by failing to hire for open positions and planning to slash the offices' budgets, one of the many ways the White House has found to diminish the oversight functions of the federal government.

Every major federal agency and program has an inspector general, a nonpartisan, independent official whose staff investigates cases of wasteful spending, criminal activity, employee misconduct and plain bad management. These are watchdogs with real teeth.

Mr. Horowitz, who is also the inspector general at the Department of Justice, recently told Congress that in fiscal 2015 alone, the offices identified $26 billion in potential savings and recovered an additional $10 billion through criminal and civil cases. That's a return of $14 for every dollar in the offices' budgets.

The list of good works is long and impressive. In 2008, for instance, the Interior Department's inspector general, Earl Devaney, delivered three reports to Congress detailing widespread corruption and conflicts of interest in the division overseeing the oil industry, leading eventually to a thorough departmental reorganization. He later reported that President George W. Bush's political appointees had run roughshod over agency scientists who had recommended stronger protections for endangered species.

In a similar vein, the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction found weaknesses in planning, executing, and sustaining $488 million worth of American investments in Afghanistan's extractive industries; inspectors at the Department of Homeland Security unearthed technical problems that resulted in cost overruns of 480 percent while increasing national security risks; and the inspector general for the Social Security Administration discovered $345 million in underpayments to 50,000 people.

Today nearly one-quarter of inspector general offices have either an acting director or no director at all, including the offices at the C.I.A., the National Security Agency, the Department of Defense and the Social Security Administration. Acting directors can be reluctant to make extensive changes or take bold action, particularly if they hope to be nominated for a permanent appointment.

The inspectors' offices are deeply affected by the current federal hiring freeze and would be further harmed by the administration's proposed budget cuts. The budget takes unexplained specific aim at the Office of the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, created in part to monitor the $700 billion taxpayer bailout for big banks.

That office has gone after 96 bankers; at least 36 went to prison. In 2015 its investigators helped prosecute General Motors for covering up a defective ignition switch responsible for at least 15 deaths, securing a $900 million settlement. The administration wants to cut its budget in half, to $20 million; as a result it has stopped accepting applications to its foreclosure prevention program.

The cuts in staff and budget would force inspectors general to do less, just as a new administration generates new matters to investigate.

Congress has demonstrated bipartisan willingness to step up for inspectors general in the past, and last year it expanded the types and scope of protection offered to government whistle-blowers. Now it needs to protect the watchdogs from an administration that wants to starve them.

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Juan
 
Patriotism is not a short and frenzied outburst of emotion but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime.
- Adlai Stevenson





Saturday, June 10, 2017

Something to Know - 10 June


Okay..... The Washington Week of Trump vs. Comey (Act 1) has concluded.   Where Mueller continues the show, is being screen written now.   Putting things into perspective, I can't help but think that Trump, in his desperate attempt to regain control of the news cycle, really hit his stride on the White House lawn yesterday.   Any good lawyer would have told the besieged 45 to just say "....under the advice of counsel, I have no comment at this time", or at least "I cannot comment on something that is under investigation".  But NO, Trumpy just had to be Trumpy.  Gail Collins puts this into the can for you.   More cans will be open and closed, and then opened next week:


Trump Talks; America Trembles
Gail Collins JUNE 9, 2017

President Trump at the White House on Friday. CreditAl Drago/The New York Times

You know, it might be less terrifying if Donald Trump had cannily tried to obstruct justice, plying his F.B.I. director with flattery and carefully scripted suggestions.
At least we'd think he had some control. Instead, we know the country's being run by a guy who wanders around in an ego-filled cloud, saying whatever the heck pops into his head. It's a combination of id, ineptitude and bad intent.

On Friday the president denied that he had asked then-F.B.I. director James Comey to go easy on Mike Flynn, the disaster-ridden former national security adviser. "I will tell you I didn't say that. And there'd be nothing wrong if I did, according to everybody that I've read today," he told a press conference.

He probably meant nothing indictable. But we have a chief executive who says there'd be "nothing wrong" if he asked the F.B.I. director not to investigate a former member of his administration suspected of having improper relations with a country that tried to interfere with our election.

Trump was at a press conference, his first chance to speak to the American people in messages longer than 140 characters since Comey's testimony. And he used the opportunity to:

A) Brag about having won the election. ("It's almost impossible for the Democrats to lose the Electoral College, as you know.") Actually nobody knows that, since the Republicans have a huge advantage in the Electoral College. That hasn't stopped Trump from saying it constantly.

B) Brag about meeting with Muslim leaders in Saudi Arabia. ("It was truly historic. There has never been anything like it before and, perhaps, there never will be again.")

C) Lash out at Qatar for being "a funder of terrorism at a very high level" about an hour after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had called on gulf nations to go easier on Qatar.

He was standing next to visiting Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, and you had to wonder what Iohannis's advisers told him to prep for the event. How to react if the president said Romania was part of Italy? For sure they told him to flatter his host. Iohannis came through with a paean to Trump's "strong leadership" in NATO, and a reminder that Romania had heard his call and stepped up to the alliance targets for spending on national defense.

As a reward, Trump suggested that members who hadn't been hitting that mark before should make up for "the many past years where you haven't paid."

"Now I know no president has ever asked that question, but I do," he preened. This is perhaps because previous presidents had less trouble understanding that the NATO guideline was not like dues to a golf club. Or maybe because some of them felt an impoverished and debt-ridden country like Romania has better things to do with its money than buy more tanks.

But we digress. The bottom line here is that our president appears to be unnervingly loony. Not just in the normal political way, with bad judgment or an overblown sense of importance. Loony like your cousin Fred who lives with his mother and isn't allowed out of the house with more than $2 in pocket money.

He has a minimal ongoing relationship with reality, let alone truth. During Comey's testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, the fired F.B.I. director said that the first time he met the president-elect, he was so freaked out that when he got back into his car he typed up a memo of everything that had happened, just to protect himself. ("I was honestly concerned that he might lie about the nature of our meeting. … It led me to believe that I gotta write it down and I gotta write it down in a very detailed way.")

It sounded believable. There certainly wasn't any outcry on the part of top Republicans that the value-free bully Comey described wasn't the Donald they knew. The best defense House Speaker Paul Ryan could come up with was, "He's new to government." The 70-year-old billionaire doesn't know any better.

Do you think Trump has to go, people? The Comey crisis won't get him impeached, but something else will come up. If he did leave, he'd be replaced by Mike Pence. Then Pence would ram ahead with a social-conservative agenda on every topic having to do with people having sex. He'd also be much more efficient at liberating Wall Street from post-crash reforms and cutting taxes on the wealthy.

Unlike Trump, Pence is very boring. So instead of spending the next three and a half years in a state of perpetual outrage, you'd be in a state of perpetual depression.

Can't help imaginin'.

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Juan
 
Patriotism is not a short and frenzied outburst of emotion but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime.
- Adlai Stevenson





Friday, June 9, 2017

Something to Know - 9 June


Taking your mind off of the noise in Washington D.C. is appropriate today.  Trumpy is going to New Joisey to pretend to be enjoying golf, while his handlers are shadowing him to make sure he stays off his Tweeting device.   So, fixate on the fact that the House (by party line) gutted Wall Street financial regulations, and look at this fallout from Trump's regulations on immigration.   If you have ever been to Mackinac Island in Michigan, you know that it reeks of a playground for the 1%, or at least the upper 5%.   I found myself there several years ago while the state GOP was having its convention; interesting people.   Anyway the tourism industry and swanky places there are finding difficulty enough workers to staff their plush sites.   Here it is for your amusement and distraction.  Let Robert Mueller assemble the dots and pieces while we pay attention to other matters:


Cecilia Wooley opening the dining room at the Harbor View Inn on Mackinac Island, Mich. She now does some housekeeping, a job previously done by foreign workers under the H-2B visa program. Credit Alyssa Schukar for The New York Times

Visa Shortage Spurs Vacancies, for Jobs, at a Tourist Getaway
By MIRIAM JORDANJUNE 8, 2017



Mackinac Island has a permanent population of about 500 people and just as many horses, but no cars. From May to October, the picturesque Michigan getaway relies on about 3,000 workers to power its economic engine: summer tourism.

Historically, up to a third of those workers are foreigners, including Mexicans, Filipinos, Canadians and Jamaicans, who are hired on seasonal visas. But when many of the island's business owners applied for those visas this year, they heard from the government that none were left.

So at the Iroquois Hotel, a Victorian property on the waterfront where rooms command up to $1,200 a night, the owner is trying to figure out how to maintain its high standards without 30 Jamaican housekeepers. Other hotels are contemplating closing off whole sections. Even those who own the ubiquitous horses are wondering if they will have enough workers.

"It's urgent for us to get more visas to save the season," Brad Chambers, who operates horse tours and taxis, said.

The island whose selling point is being stuck in time is now suffering because it is stuck in the middle of a modern-day struggle over jobs and who should be doing them. So, too, are a number of the regional industries that define the American summer but have increasingly relied on non-American workers, from vacation spots in Maine and Minnesota to Gulf Coast shrimpers and the salmon fisheries of Alaska.

Shantel Scarlett, a Jamaican, clearing dishes at the Grand Hotel's afternoon tea. The hotel has been hiring seasonal foreign workers for decades. Credit Alyssa Schukar for The New York Times
The visas in question, known as H-2Bs, have an annual nationwide quota of 66,000, divided between winter and summer. But the summer allotment was exhausted quickly because Congress, concerned about the program's impact on American workers, chose in December not to renew a provision that allowed workers who had H-2Bs in some previous years to work without being counted against the quota. That decision effectively sliced the number of visas by at least 50 percent.

Congress has also given the homeland security secretary, John F. Kelly, the authority to release more visas, and a bipartisan group of lawmakers urged him in a May 12 letter to do so swiftly.

Citing the importance of the $5.8 billion seafood industry to her state, Senator Lisa Murkowski, an Alaska Republican, told Mr. Kelly during a recent Senate hearing that a "short-term fix is urgently needed."

Mr. Kelly responded, "For every senator or congressman who has your view, I have another who says, 'Don't you dare. This is about American jobs.' "

He added that he would probably release additional visas but did not specify when or how many. Even if he does, it would take two to four weeks for new workers to arrive because they must first pass an interview at an American consulate in their country of origin to obtain a visa.


Visa workers from Mexico, from right, Lidia Rendon, Lupita Flores and Concepcion Romero after a shift at the Grand Hotel. Ms. Rendon has worked at the hotel for 22 years, Ms. Flores for 13 and Ms. Romero for 18. Credit Alyssa Schukar for The New York Times

President Trump — who uses H-2B workers in the winter at his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Fla. — campaigned on a promise of reducing immigration and protecting American jobs. And while the H-2B, the offshoot of a temporary work visa created in 1952, has spawned less controversy than the H-1B visas for tech and other skilled workers, critics say the program displaces Americans just the same.

Unions, citing low wages, dispute employers' assertions that they need the visas because domestic workers will not take the low-skilled jobs. In a 2015 report, the Labor Department's inspector general expressed concern that employers were not trying hard enough to recruit Americans, as they are required to do before applying for the visas. The department has also documented cases of exploitation of foreign workers.

"Immigration flows are often driven by a desire to exploit a new foreign labor pool," said Dan Stein, the president of Federation for American Immigration Reform, which advocates stricter immigration policies. "Nowhere is there more evidence of this than in the illegal and temporary foreign labor pools."

Employers say that they would not use a program they regard as bureaucratic and expensive — they must pay fees for lawyers and for workers' transportation to the United States — unless they had to. And they complain that they are falling victim to a dysfunctional immigration system, even as they do the right thing by hiring legal workers.

Simply put, the companies say, Americans are not very interested in menial, short-term work.

Eric Haugen, who runs a landscaping company in the Denver area, regularly posts ads in newspapers, on Craigslist and on street signs for positions that pay $14 to $25 an hour, with health care and benefits.

Erik Schubert, a farrier, looked on as Shelbie Mosley cared for a horse's hooves at the Mackinac Island Carriage Tours stable. In previous years, this job fell to the company's longtime farrier, who lives 50 miles away in Canada but who was not granted an H-2B visa despite his previous 22 years of service on the island. Credit Alyssa Schukar for The New York Times
"We hire every single person who shows up" for an interview, he said. "We are lucky if one reports to work."

Mr. Haugen has offered current workers $100 bonuses for referrals, to no avail. "The labor pool really doesn't exist," he said, which is why he turns to the H-2B program for part of the year. He has secured 32 visas for Mexican workers who arrived in April.

Making matters more difficult is the tight labor market. In Maine, where unemployment is 3 percent, innkeepers and other employers have been hit hard by the dearth of H-2B visas. Last month, Gov. Paul R. LePage, a tough-on-crime conservative, conditionally commuted the prison sentences of some low-level offenders to help fill tourism jobs.

In late May, dozens of employers phoned in to an emotional 90-minute conference call with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, which administers the visa program.

On the call was Andrea Hance, president of the Texas Shrimp Association. The industry, which has been buffeted by cheap Asian imports, is now "in crisis" because of the visa shortage, she said. Some 400 to 500 H-2B visa holders, mainly Mexicans, work on vessels that ply the Gulf of Mexico from mid-July to early November. Efforts to find Americans willing to spend 30 to 60 days at sea have failed, Ms. Hance said.

During the salmon run, Alaska Glacier Seafoods in Juneau operates two shifts seven days a week to process the catch. The company typically relies on H-2Bs to fill 60 out of 200 positions but did not get any this year. "That may cause us to buy less fish, which would impact fishermen and their families," Mike Erickson, the company's president, said.

He dispatched two human resources workers to recruit in other states. In a month, they hired only 12 people. "At the end of the day, a lot of Americans think working in a fishy, smelly environment is not the thing for them," Mr. Erickson said.

On Mackinac, Mr. Chambers, the horse-tour operator, said he had found five workers to fill 20 positions for which he sought H-2B visas.

"We have done recruiting over the internet, in newspapers and in horse country to get people to come," he said.

His great-great-grandfather wrote a bill in 1898 banning cars, giving the island in Lake Huron its vintage appeal that draws a million visitors annually.

The 393-room Grand Hotel, the setting for the 1979 movie "Somewhere in Time," starring Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour, has been hiring seasonal foreign workers for decades. "Without them, we would be looking at changing our entire business model," Jennifer King, general manager of the property, said.

The hotel got the visas it needed. Other businesses on the island have not been as lucky.

Phil Harrington, the sous chef at Yankee Rebel Tavern, has been coming in at noon instead of 3 p.m. to make sure preparations are complete before dinner guests arrive. "With the shortage of visas, it's more stress on me and others who have to work longer hours to do more of the grunt work," he said while chopping herbs, a task usually relegated to foreign workers.

Patti Ann Moskwa, the owner and a fourth-generation restaurateur, has been washing dishes herself.

"This is a legal program to supplement American workers," she said of the visas. "We aren't taking jobs from anybody".
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Juan
 
Patriotism is not a short and frenzied outburst of emotion but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime.
- Adlai Stevenson