On Monday, November 6, 2017 the Cato Institute in Washington DC held a three-part, three hour forum (9AM -noon), “How Do You Solve a Problem Like North Korea?”
I did not have time yesterday to get to it, so I watched the live feed. It’s pretty effective, although the volume is low and sometimes the sound is out of sync with the lips. Here is the basic link for all of the video. The link gives the syllabus and identifies all the speakers.
But what was said is critical.
In the first session “Pyongyang’s Capabilities and US Policy”, the last speaker Joe Cirincione from the Ploughshares Fund was quite blunt. He said that the U.S. probably does not have the capability to stop all incoming missiles over the U.S. once North Korea masters the ability to send them with thermonuclear weapons. There was some mention of the probabilities of war (some as high as 50%), literally like at the beginning of “Gone with the Wind“. Earlier Joshua Pollack (“The Nonproliferation Review”) said that North Korea had only to master “old technology” well known from the Soviets and from China. Suzanne DiMaggio, of New America, spoke also (her NYTimes piece, “How Trump Should Talk to North Korea“, followed).
The last session, “New Approaches to Solving the North Korea Problem”, saw Michael Austin (Hoover Foundation) in particular raising questions as to whether being South Korea’s protector indefinitely could remain a sustainable best interest of the United States. Doug Bandow of the Cato Institute seemed to echo a similar concern. While some speakers today agree with the theory that Kim Jong Un’s insistence on having nuclear weapons is simply his strategy for surviving (given what happened to Saddam Hussein and Gadaffi) there was also some skeptoicism, that, once he has the ability to hit the U.S., Un might start demanding that the U.S. halt all exercises near South Korea or even withdraw completely, or lift sanctions. That sounds like the “domino theory” that led to the escalation in Vietnam during the Johnson Administration, where I wound up getting drafted myself in early 1968 (setting up, ironically, my own subsequent involvement in repealing “don’t ask don’t tell” decades later). Bandow, particularly, talked about how the Soviet Union and particularly Communist China (as during the Maoist Cultural Revolution of the 1960s) were seen as an existential “political” threat to the American way of life that North Korea cannot be, as repulsive as the regime may be now. But the speakers also noted the apparently docility and gullibility of the people, who will sacrifice and “eat grass” for their fat little leader (“fat little Rocket Man”, to quote Donald Trump with a little seasoning from Milo Yiannopoulos, although not during Trump’s current Asia trip).
Will Ripley had reported on North Korean people on CNN recently (the notorious “no chest hair” line) and now reports on CNN on Trump’s trip. Trump wants to put the DPRK on the list of state sponsors of terrorism, and indeed there is concern that Iran or terror groups in Muslim world will get nuclear technology underground from North Korea.
No one on the panel or in the audience mentioned the possible EMP threats from North Korean missiles. I did tweet a question about it but it was not read.
Wikipedia link on North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction.
Here is a link with the text of Trump’s speech in South Korea later Tuesday (Wed AM there).
UBS (n September) created a link for its investors with discussion of North Korea, with a link to a 37-minute podcast to a retired admiral. The audio says that US atmospheric defenses are much more advanced than deep space systems, which have slowed down on the theory that the Soviets could have overwhelmed anything Reagan had wanted to do with his “Star Wars”. There is also a whimsical note that people watch the Pentagon parking lot and Metro for increased activity. There really hasn’t been much lately. I make mental note on Uber or cab rides home from the bars late weekends.
Today, “All Saints Day”, for men whose bodies survive Halloween parties and drag makeup, I have a potpourri of items, and some of it is serious.
The Cato institute sent me an email reminding us of the statistical improbability that immigrants become terrorists like Sayfullo Saipov in NYC yesterday. But the email names three Uzbek nationals as of March 2017 who had been convicted of terror offenses (Kodirov, Kurbanov, and Juraboev). At least one was radicalized on the Internet (like Saipov), one had been a refugee, and one had won a green card lottery (similar to Saipov).
Two are awaiting charges, including one who had overstayed a visa and applied for asylum.
Off hand, President Trump’s reinforcing the idea of “merit-based” immigration sounds more reasonable, even if the numbers are low. But again, to take care of our own, we seem to follow into the grade school tactic of giving detention to everyone for the sins of a few.
Uzbekistan is not one of the countries Trump has singled out; but it’s interesting that some parts of Russia (Chechnya) and former Soviet republics are capable of vehemence against the US, reinforcing the idea of a red scare that carried on underground in the 1980s even if not talked about a lot. Back then, newspapers (at least in Dallas) carried stories of “academies” in rural areas to train “civilian defense reservists” against what at the time was thought to be a threat of individualized red subversion, still. . In pre-web days, not talked about a lot.
Craig Timberg, Elizabeth Dwoskin and Karoun Dimarjin have a detailed story on the far reach of Russia’s social media disinformation “fake news” campaign, that reached over 100 million Americans. NBC News offers a piece by Sarah Kindzior showing how Russia’s “divide by tribe” propaganda had been going on, hiding camouflaged in plain sight at least since 2014.
I certainly saw some of these (crooked Hillary, etc)i in my Facebook feed and generally ignored them. There’s something about the tone of my own writing, that may seem elitist and “preaching to the choir”, as of the average-Joe masses didn’t matter to me personally. The Russians probably know that people like me won’t pay attention to how easily led people vulnerable to “mass movements” become because “we” tend to think less of them personally. I notice a sudden drop of about 15 Facebook friends and wonder if these were fake Russian accounts now closed.
I think we’re also in a bizarre funk where we’re deciding who has a right to form a movement or belong to one. The neo-Nazi and KKK issues are settled and viewed as direct threats to vulnerable group. But the far Left (even Antifa) is not. Communism is somehow more acceptable than fascism because of history. It’s as if some people think you can pick Stalin or Mao or Pol Pot (or Kim Jong Un) over Hitler.
I’ll also cite an article in Vox by Ella Nilsen on John Kelly’s remarks on the cause of the Civil War, here.
I want to add an Oct. 30 article by David Bier at the Cato Institute on how green card waits really work (they are very unpredictable) and the role of sponsors (employment, family or personal). This article may explain some interaction I had this spring with a Facebook “friend” who seemed to be trying to get me to sponsor him.
I don’t reproduce press releases from advocacy groups on this blog often, partly because the scope of many releases is too narrow to really affect many people. But this one, from Outright, seems more important. It maintains that some countries, especially Russia and Egypt, are trying to influence Olympic committees to jettison their protections for LGBTQ athletes and fans.
Remember that in February 2014, when the winter Olympics were held in Russia, Vladimir Putin had actually asked gays to “leave the children alone,” in response to the international condemnation of the 2013 law in Russia prohibiting promotion of homosexuality, much of this based on, in Russia’s case, concern over a low birth rate and the idea that many women especially might feel empowered to refuse to give men more children.
It’s worth remembering that a disproportionate percentage of the cases of LGBTQ asylum seekers in the U.S. seem to come from these two countries (and will probably include Chenchnya in Russia — that region’s president has made some of the most horrific statements imaginable in encouraging family honor killings), rather than Central America.
It’s worth noting that the 2017 Pyeongchong Winter Olympics in South Korea sound under a cloud because of tensions over North Korea’s rapid progress with nuclear weapons and the fear that Trump could start a war at any time.
For this press release, the media contact is Rashima Kwatra at 1 (917) 859-7555. The title is “Russia and Egypt Attack Sexual Orientation Protections in Olympic Truce at the UN”.
Here is the text of the release:
“Over the next two weeks, a decision will be made at the United Nations (UN) on whether governments globally will accept discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation at the 2018 Olympics in South Korea. While the UN General Assembly cannot remove the ban on discrimination from Principle 6 of the Olympic Charter itself, Egypt and Russia are leading a stealth attack on the Olympics at the UN General Assembly that is laden with meaning and must be stopped.
“Every two years, member states of the UN General Assembly negotiate the “Olympic Truce Resolution”, which calls for peace among nations during the Olympics and the one week preceding and one week following the games. Since 2015, Principle 6 of the Olympic Charter has banned discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Now, Russia and Egypt are aggressively trying to remove all reference to Principle 6 from this year’s Olympic Truce Resolution.
“In recent weeks, Egyptian authorities have arrested 60 people perceived to be members of the LGBT community, and last week, a member of parliament introduced a bill that would criminalize life, speech, and activism for LGBT Egyptians and their allies. In recent months, the Russian government has turned a blind eye to the one hundred plus gay men in Chechnya arbitrarily arrested and tortured.
Jessica Stern, Executive Director at OutRight Action International, commented:
““’Egypt and Russia are not simply fighting over symbolic language but over the levels of violence governments are allowed to use against LGBT people. After systematic attacks on LGBT people in their own countries, they are now setting their sights on promoting violence and discrimination in every country of the world. The Olympics Games are supposed to be a time for sport, technique, pride and community, not for politicking, hatred and violence’”
“In 2015, the UN General Assembly, under the leadership of Brazil, included the principle of non-discrimination in the Olympic Truce Resolution with a reference to Principle 6 of the Olympic Charter. Since that year, Principle 6 has included sexual orientation as a prohibited grounds for discrimination, a development deemed necessary following Russia’s attacks on gay and lesbian people in the lead-up to its role as host of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games.
“In the back rooms of the UN Headquarters over the last two weeks, Russia and Egypt have proposed an ultimatum: remove explicit reference to Principle 6, or they will not sign the Truce. Their ultimatum has put South Korea, leader of the negotiations as the 2018 Olympics host, in a precarious and difficult position.
As in the style of UN negotiations, the removal of reference to Principle 6 from the Olympic Truce Resolution this year could mean never seeing these protections in the peace agreement again. Recognizing the high stakes, a cross-regional group of States has come out against the ultimatum by Egypt and Russia.
“OutRight has utilized its access to the UN General Assembly to monitor developments and advocate throughout the closed-door negotiations. OutRight has worked with key States to ensure cross-regional support for the inclusion of Principle 6. OutRight continues to triangulate information between governments and civil society, encouraging stakeholders to remain informed and actively engaged.
“In reaction to this threat, Stern concluded,
“’Russia and Egypt are known anti-LGBTI campaigners at the UN, and they are prepared to sacrifice the Olympic spirit to do it. We cannot allow this type of bullying to target LGBT people or undermine the principle of global community’.”
Posted: Monday, October 30, 2017 at 7:30 PM EDT
Update: Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2017 at 1 PM ESR from Outright
“Today, 17 professional athletes came out against attempts by Egypt and Russia to thwart non-discrimination protections based on sexual orientation in the United Nations Olympic Truce Resolution. The letter, endorsed by respected athletes such as Billie Jean King, Greg Louganis and Martina Navratilova, is part of the #OlympicSpirit campaign spearheaded by OutRight Action International and Athlete Ally. It calls on countries to ensure that sexual orientation remains grounds of protection in the Olympic peace agreement.
“The Olympic Truce Resolution promotes civility among nations during the Olympics and the one week preceding and one week following the games. It is negotiated by all 193 United Nations Member States every two years. In 2015 it included, by unanimous consensus, a reference to Principle 6 of the Olympic Charter. Principle 6 prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation at the Olympic Games.
“Breanna Stewart, 2016 US Olympic basketball competitor, commented on the situation, saying,
“Sport and society thrive when we embrace the diversity of our world. The Olympic spirit is grounded in inclusion, fair play and solidarity, and the explicit mention of Principle 6 within the Olympic Truce Resolution sends a clear message that we take these values seriously.””
“This year, the inclusion of Principle 6 has come under attack, with States, such as Egypt and Russia, trying to remove all reference to Principle 6 from the Olympic Truce. Both countries have openly persecuted and criminalized lesbian, gay, and bisexual people at home and exported their homophobic agenda to the United Nations.
“The letter released today emphasizes that, “At a moment when oppressed communities around the world remain under attack, we can’t afford to turn our back on our most vulnerable communities. Explicit reference to Principle 6 in the Olympic Truce Resolution sends a strong signal of our community’s support of respect, inclusion and diversity — values sport holds inherently close. Afterall, regardless of where in the world we practice sport, the rules are the same and apply to everyone. They are based on our shared values.”
“Layshia Clarendon, a WNBA basketball star, also voiced her opinion on the inclusion of Principle 6, stating,
“Athletes and fans deserve the opportunity to enjoy the Olympic Movement free of the fear of discrimination, and should have the ability to live openly and authentically — regardless of sexual orientation. I believe sports performance happens at its highest level when one feels unburdened and free to focus on their games. The explicit mention of Principle 6 within the Olympic Truce Resolution sends a clear message that we take inclusion seriously.”
Luckily, with thanks to cross-regional support and pushback from key Member States, the efforts of Egypt and Russia have so far failed and Principle 6 still remains in the Truce. However, there is still time for Egypt and Russia to thwart a consensus and challenge the inclusion of Principle 6 in the Olympic Truce.
Hudson Taylor, Founder and Executive Director, Athlete Ally, commented,
“We’re witnessing the greatest expansion of athletic activism in modern history — never before have we seen athletes speaking out so regularly for the protection and inclusion of the LGBTQ community. Today, the athletic community stands with its LGBTQ constituents and commits to not being sidelined in the fight for equality.”
Seventeen professional athletes have signed on to the letter and reject any opposition by Egypt and Russia, as well as any other State, that is attempting to undermine the spirit of the Olympics. OutRight Action International and Athlete Ally stand with all the athletes in calling for public support of States to include reference to Principle 6 in the Olympic Truce.
A vote on the Olympic Truce Resolution will be made on November 13th, 2017.
Jessica Stern, Executive Director of OutRight Action International, concludes,
“Egypt and Russia are invested in promoting discrimination at the Olympics, undermining the very spirit of the games. Thankfully, there are other States which recognize that there is no place for discrimination at the Olympics. Today, we hear clearly from these Olympians that the Games is a place for friendly competition, athleticism, and diversity, not a place for politics and divisiveness.”
Dave Bier of the Cato Institute has a new detailed analysis of all the flaws in Trump’s Faustian demands (call it a “wish list“) on Congress before he’ll go along with letting most of the DACA “Dreamers” stay after six months, as in this link.
The most conspicuous demand was overbuilding “that Wall”, much of which might be ineffective or relatively unnecessary.
But another demand is practically requiring asylum seekers to prove their cases on entry. This would sound like it could shut down most LGBTQ asylum seeking.
Furthermore, overstayed visas would be treated much more harshly.
At the same time, there is a lot of attention to the “new” (?) travel ban. Jason Dzubow, normally very cautious in his blog posts, takes a cheerier approach on the affect on asylum seekers (in his most recent post), which in many cases, he feels, won’t be important. People who have already applied and getting some sort of legal and perhaps housing assistance in the US will not fare worse than before.
My own reaction would be to imagine myself in the shoes of a “dreamer” (maybe Jose Vargas in the 2014 film “Documented”). I would feel that, while the president has claimed a big heart and that somehow things will turn out OK personally, my own life had been made into someone else’s political bargaining chip. It’s easy to imagine that if I were a member of a racial minority in a poorer community subject to police profiling. As a white gay man with some of the typical troubles in the distant past, it is not so clear cut. I did not perceive myself, when younger, as a member of an oppressed “group”, but rather as someone who individually had difficulty conforming to some of the gender-related expectations made of me which were more understandable in the Cold War world in which I grew up.
Likewise, I’m disturbed that Trump sounds willing to play with the existing health insurance of disadvantaged Americans to claim he is keeping a promise to some people in his base.
AOL has a discussion of the Supreme Court’s actions today allowing one of Trump’s travel bans to stand; likewise Politico. It’s hard to give much reaction because the sands keep shifting. Here’s the June 2017 opinion for Trump v. International Refugee Assistance Project.
(Posted: Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2017 at 11 PM EDT)
Update: Thursday, Oct. 12, 2017
Jason Dzubow has a 9-part piece “DACA Reform and it’s Hostages (i.e., Asylum Seekers)” which seems to be a change in tone and alarm level. I would particularly wonder if the application of concepts like “membership in a social group” or “political opinion” would be tightened in a way to affect LGBT asylum seekers already in the U.S. (possibly some in detention seeking parole), especially from non-Islamic countries, including Russia (Chechnya) and Central America.
Sessions says he will ask Congress to tighten the rules on asylum seekers, claiming asylum fraud is widespread, Washington Post story by Sari Horwitz, link. The Center for Immigration Studies had made claims like this in a session reported here May 10 (q.v.)
The Cato Institute has shared with me two links about the RAISE Act today. And (another) conservative periodical, National Review, wrote about the irony of wanting to reduce “legal” immigration.
As Cato explains, the RAISE Act is a bill introduced by Senators Tom Cotton (R-AR) and David Perdue (R-GA) that would reduce legal immigration by 50 percent. Its authors maintain that it would return immigration to “historical norms” but, Cato maintains, in a post by Dave Bier with some charts and tables, this is inaccurate. Cato maintains that the immigration rate—which controls for the size of the U.S. population—was already 28 percent below the historical average. The RAISE Act would reduce the immigration rate to one-third of the historic average over time and about one-eleventh of the historic highs.
Alex Nowrasteh has a postin which he explains (with a large volume of charts and tables) why the senators’ various other arguments are dubious. The Senators (as does President Trump) claim it would create a “skills-based immigration system,” but the bill doesn’t actually increase employment-based immigration at all. The United States already ranks low among developed nations in terms of total per-capita immigration and skills-based immigration. Alex’s article walks Congress and other readers the through numerical research and studies on the economics of immigration restriction and shows that decreasing the flow of immigrants does not actually increase wages for native-born workers.
Nowrasteh has also posted a higher-level discussion of how to meet alt-right anti-immigration arguments here.
Dave Bier has a column in the New York Times (Aug. 4) “Ignorant Immigration Reform” here.
My basic reaction is this: My first impression is that skills-based immigration is separate from the asylum and refugee issue. The whole idea of private sponsorship and the potential legal responsibilities of sponsors needs systematic attention. I think the I864 is just a little piece of this when a family member wants a visa.
Tech companies (including Facebook with explicit statements by Mark Zuckerberg) have, in the past, encouraged the increase in visas for those with very specific job skills. Throughout my own IT career, I often worked with immigrants from India and Pakistan especially and never thought anything of it.
I have an earlier post today on a legacy blog, on the “cosmopolitan bias” argument at the White House press conference, here. It seems especially noteworthy to me that Trump’s “point-based” competitive system for a strictly limited number of green cards would probably exclude older workers with skills.
Other commentators have noticed that economic growth in the US cannot take place without maintaining the current level of immigration of people ready to work. Immigration also helps maintain the birth rate and population replacement at a stable level, since well-off people born here tend to have fewer children.
It really does seem that Trump’s idea of economic growth slides toward autarky. The debate will continue.
The House of Representatives is considering an Asylum Reform and Border Protection Act, H.R. 391. This bill would appear to strengthen the legal requirement that asylum seekers establish their claims “by a preponderance of the evidence” when arriving at a border (or in an airport, for example) rather than by the current “credible fear” standard.
Authors of the bill claim that it is necessary because if a surge of asylum seekers, but this seems not to be born out by facts.
Dave Bier, of the Cato Institute, submitted the following “Statement for the Record” to the House Committee of the Judiciary.
In the past, most asylum claims have been “affirmative”, rather than done “defensively” when the government is attempting to deport someone or keep the person in detention.
I would be concerned as to how this measure could affect LGBTQ asylum seekers. It would sound very unlikely that a credible claim could be made at entry under the new law. It is not as clear if this law would affect asylum applications already filed, for seekers already in the country for some time, who may need support and still be ineligible to support themselves with work or obtain other immigration benefits. There are some concerns, as Jason Dzubow has pointed out, that recent Trump appointments could make some asylum applications unlikely to be approved. This development could conceivably create legal complications for US citizens trying to assist or even house them. But the concerns don’t seem to be focused particularly on LGBT applicants or related to the idea that in some foreign countries LGBTQ becomes a “particular social group” or invokes the idea of political opinion.
In the past days, there has been a lot of reporting to the effect that one of the major motivations for Vladimir Putin’s encouraging interference with the 2016 US presidential elections was specifically the provisions of the 2012 Magnitsky Act, which punishes at least eighteen Russian officials for the death of Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky in 2009.
The punishment apparently impounds significant Russian assets previously held in the U.S. banking system. These might be connected to other assets, like expensive urban (especially New York City) real estate. Some commentators have suggested that the financial impact could inspire internal dissension in Russia that threatens Putin’s hold on power. Putin retaliated by banning adoption of Russian children by Americans, which could also reflect concerns about low birthrates.
The law seems fairly narrow as described. But in 2016, the act was expanded to include “human rights abusers everywhere” according to Fox News. Obviously, the gay community in the U.S. would wonder about connections to abuses (most notably in Chechnya) and the tendency of extrajudicial violence in Russia against various people perceived as unpopular. And one could wonder about connections to aggression in Ukraine, the Baltics, conceivably Finland later on.
There are also issues for US companies and charities that would employ people overseas, sending them to Russia or to other countries, especially in the Middle East, sometimes SE Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa, that are hostile to homosexuals, whatever their non-discrimination policies at home. One wonders if someone like me who is visible on social media and Google could get into trouble if even trying to visit Russia, say, just St. Petersburg, on a train from Finland. Possibly my posts critical of Putin, or discussing Putin’s concern over the birth rate could be seen as undermining the willingness of younger Russians to have children when they find my material. Imagine being held in a prison and being forced to remove all my social media presence before going home. I wonder if something like that can happen.
Matthew Yglesias of Vox has a particularly disturbing commentary today on Donald Trump’s attitude about this whole thing. We don’t have someone of character (let’s say John McCain) in the Oval Office right now.
Recently I’ve noticed that overseas contacts (from poor countries) on social media, especially “Friends” on Facebook, inquire about assistance coming into the United States. Sometimes the messages seem overly personal, even confrontational, as if well-off Americans have a moral obligation to provide for them out of unearned privilege. This may be particularly true for Americans who have written about the issue and attracted attention, as if they somehow had magical connections to play international superman. That is an illusion.
I looked up a few links from reputable law firms and references, including USCIS.
Here are some general conclusions. No question, this issue has become more difficult under Trump than it would have been with Hillary Clinton in office.
It appears that foreigners overseas looking to come to the US are responsible for submitting and tracking their own applications. US citizens here cannot submit applications for them.
But there may be occasional situations where a person in the US owns or manages a business that has an unusual need for workers with certain skills, that is not easily filled domestically. And sometimes there are businesses (like agricultural) where there could be a sudden large demand for relatively unskilled and manual labor jobs that Americans don’t want. A particular American on Facebook may own such a business or have close connections to someone that does. But in general, this would be an improbable “long shot” for the typical blogger who gets a request like this from a social media message, to provide this kind of assistance, even if he/she wanted to.
Of course, a solid work opportunity in the US could facilitate getting a green card and lawful permanent residence in the US
It is possible to get visas to visit people, who usually have to be legitimate relatives or known to the person in the real world (not just online). This is harder right now with Trump’s travel restrictions. A critical point is that the visitor must intend to return to the home country in a specified period (not overstay), or at least not announce an intention to stay. This gets to be a legally tricky point that sounds like “don’t ask don’t tell” or “silence is golden” or “I don’t know”.
In some cases the American may have to file an I-864, an “affidavit of support”, especially for longer stays. The U.S., however, does not have a “private sponsorship” program for refugees comparable to Canada’s (libertarian groups like Cato have argued that the U.S. should develop one).
There are many stories on the Internet of people who have tried to bring people here “illegally”. This is not a practice I can have anything to do with.
Understand that “Friendship” on social media is not the same thing as a long term association (familial or not) in the real world, in what it might make the friend want to do.
In some cases, a person overseas is better off still trying to find the best job in “their” home country. That may be particularly true in countries where US companies have outsourced a lot of jobs (consider call centers in India, for example). Of course, pay is low, and sometimes there is dorm living (like in China). That is something Donald Trump says he wants to change. I get the moral issue of American consumers becoming addicted to cheap “slave-like” labor overseas.
Of course, anyone who contemplates emigrating to the U.S. should seek professional legal assistance at home first. You can’t get reliable legal help on Facebook alone (or from blogs like mine),
My own perception of the greatest external threats to “my world” seems fickle and to change over time, sometimes suddenly.
When I was writing and editing my “Do Ask, Do Tell I” book in the mid 1990s (July 11, 2011 will be the 20th anniversary of publication) and building my arguments about how to lift the ban on gays in the military, I perceived another war in Korea as the most likely threat. At the time, I was not really aware of the potentially grave threat to the homeland that radical Islam (then in the form of Al Qaeda) could pose, as 9/11 was still several years out. I had been aware of the economic consequences of oil embargos since the 1970s, but that threat had receded with the oil gluts of the late 80s (with a real estate recession in Texas, where I had been living).
Indeed, until 9/11, I still believed Communism, or post-Communism (which North Korea exemplifies, although with a bizarre royal history) the biggest threat. And, indeed, where the biggest threat within Communism lay had changed with time. I remember a day at the Reception Station in US Army Basic Combat Training in Fort Jackson SC in early 1968 where soldiers were saying it was much safer to go to Korea than to Vietnam. At that time, it was. It would not be now, as Korea is a flash point (with the whole of South Korea held hostage), whereas Vietnam is a more or less acceptable country. (I wouldn’t move there, but Anthony Bourdain had a good time there on his “Parts Unknown”.) And although the Vietnam War got discredited with time, in the middle 1960s the “Domino Theory” to which President Johnson subscribed (and which Nixon had to solve by a fractured “peace with honor”) seemed credible enough to many of us, leading to the 1965 documentary “The War Game”. Much of the argumentation in my first book regarding the military gay ban (“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”) referred back to earlier controversies over the male-only military draft and the possibility of “getting out of things” (as my own mother’s moral language put it) with student deferments. It turned out, over time, that this unusual argument would be more effective than many people (who had forgotten the draft) expected Discussions of resuming the draft (partly at the instigation of Charles Moskos) ignited again after 9/11. They still go on, with a recent proposal to include women in Selective Service registration.
How serious is the threat to “average Americans”? I’ve put together a few links in mainstream sources that analyze the risks and policy choices.
A few general observations are in order. One is that there is still some residual controversy over whether the July 4 test represented a true ICBM or an intermediate range device. But the best intelligence suggests that the missile comprised two stages, with the upper stage a new design. ICBM’s have two to four stages. Another observation is that North Korea is making much faster progress with missile technology than had been expected even a yea ago. Still, DPRK would face tremendous challenges guiding a missile all the way to the continental US (as Tom Foreman has explained on CNN). And the DPRK does have nuclear weapons, but miniaturizing them to fit on ICBM’s will still be a major feat. Still, the acceleration of DPRK’s progress is alarming. It sounds conceivable that an ICBM nuclear threat to the US west coast could exist as early as 2019. It’s not clear from media reports (and from classification of information) just how effective NORAD would be at stopping a missile, although there have been successful defensive tests recently.
In the meantime, North Korea can hold civilians in South Korea and even Japan hostage with its current weaponry.
North Korea’s motive is said to provide a deterrent from American attempts to upend the regime of Kim Song Un, who (like his father) is well aware of what happened to Qadaffi and Saddam Hussein. Fox News may well call North Korea a mob state (“mobocracy”) that will do anything to survive as a mob family. But Un seems particularly sensitive to personal insults (as is Donald Trump, ironically). There is evidence of the DPRK’s engagement of computer hackers (sending its own prime to school for this) even to punish western private companies like Sony Pictures (“The Interview”). Could this extend to western private citizens? Could he throw a tantrum and release a missile over an insult, despite his desire to “survive” obvious retaliation?
There is still another disturbing wrinkle. Wednesday night, July 5, former CIA director James Woolsey appeared on Don Lemon’s show on CNN at 10 PM EDT and reiterated his claim that North Korea can launch an EMP attack against the US now from a satellite and has been able to do so since 2013. Woolsey said that Trump is naïve about the real threat at that the ICBM issue really is superfluous. I had covered this grim possibility in a posting here March 7. Many other authorities consider this claim largely discredited, however.
Anthony Cordesman, however, this morning suggested on CNN that Trump could consider a limited military strike including an EMP attack on North Korea (which does not require nuclear weapons for more local effects). But if North Korea has EMP attack capabilities from a satellite now, wouldn’t that invite an EMP attack on the U.S., as catastrophic retaliation (“One Second After”). DPRK could even retaliate this way to a private insult (the Warmbier tragedy is indeed a dire warning). I have no idea whether NORAD can disable or remove a hostile foreign satellite.
Of course, all of this brings up the question of civilian disaster preparedness and even “radical hospitality”. I see a lot of material from doomsday preppers on Facebook all the time, on topics ranging from “bug-out” locations to sewing skills (especially from “Survival Mom”). I’m personally an existentialist when it comes to these matters, and I won’t get further into the personal moralizing today. I do think an issue like this calls into question a kind of “rich young ruler problem”, about putting all of one’s own life into orderly civilization and depending on it.
But another question comes up, why does an amateur blogger like me even dare to touch a subject like this. Blogs are supposed to help people with specifics, so says Blogtyrant. A lot of people see this kind of posting as rude, because most people believe they can’t do anything about external global catastrophes anyway (although they will march in climate change demonstrations, before returning to their identity politics). My own life as an individual, however, has always been on the precipice of being affected by major events. True, it may be related to my aversion to unwelcome personal interdependence. More about that later.
I do think there are a few issues where the media has totally missed the boat, and not out of desire to spread fake news or support political correctness. Power grid security is one of the biggest of the issues, and the conservative media companies (like Sinclair Broadcasting) seem closer to covering it right.
The government (DHS and TSA, and Trump Administration, as well as European and “responsible” middle Eastern country governments) and the tech industry, and the travel industry (airlines and on-land rentals) need to get their acts together – and fast – on the proposed electronics ban in cabins on planes.
The latest information is that the DHS is seriously weighing requiring that all electronics larger than smart phones be in checked luggage, on all flights from Europe and the UK, or probably all inbound flights to the US.
CNN aired a comment early Saturday morning (May 27) that this ban might include outgoing flights.
At the same time, the TSA is requiring laptops be removed from bags (overruling the TSA-approved laptop bag practice) in many airports for domestic US screening. It’s likely that this will require that laptops boot up successfully without external power.
At this point, a traveler has to wonder, would an electronics ban eventually apply to all domestic flights? Could it eventually include smartphones if there is more new intelligence? The issue is further beduffled by the Trump administration’s carelessness in divulging intelligence from allies to the Russians, or allowing media leaks (one of I which I reported on a legacy blog, about Manchester, from the New York Times).
The idea of placing laptops with lithium ion batteries in the cargo hold seems to contradict concerns about the safety of lithium batteries unattended in general, although there are rebuttals that the density of lithium is spread out over a wide volume. The is also some research on developing aluminum batteries for laptops that would be safer.
Moreover, the TSA has always advised travelers from putting laptops, in particular, because they might be damaged in flight by rough handling, weight of nearby cargo, cold, and high altitude. No one has tried to rebut this previous advice in current discussions. Here’s a USA Today article on current TSA advice on checking laptops and other electronics in today’s domestic fights. It doesn’t jive with the new concerns. No one has an reply to this.
It would be reasonable to ask travelers to consider alternatives. If a traveler is going to be away for several weeks and stay on the ground, should she ship the laptop by UPS or FedEx? Should these companies and laptop manufacturers develop industry standard ways to ship laptops without damage? Could containers for packing for cargo checkin be sold by manufacturers? Because this problem has developed so suddenly, there seems to be no industry standards. The tech industry needs to solve this problem fast, but it needs to know what DHS really needs to do.
Could “travel-safe” electronics be developed? (That includes not using lithium.) It sounds like it is possible to work with a smartphone and keyboard. What I need on the road is the ability to do social media and blog posts with simple text, a few photos and short videos (after YouTube uploading). But the equipment needs to work. A couple years ago Lenovo was selling a travel laptop based on inner BlueTooth connectivity which broke down a lot. Such devices need to work reliably when on the road after air travel and transport.
On the other hand, could a ground rental industry be developed? You rent a computer the way you rent a car. When you turn it in the hard drive is wiped clean for security, and you store all your work in the Cloud or on thumb drives or min hard drives (which have to go back home).
But this industry will not develop unless it has to. And we need to know what DHS really wants to do.
In my own circumstances, travel without normal access to electronics is not possible. I’m not prepared to go dark on vacation for a month. Indeed, people could run the risk of losing their accounts or content if they cannot respond to problems (after notification) when on the road. This could become an increasing problem in the future.
There is some talk that the ban (and the new policy about taking laptops out of bags) will not affect pre-cleared passengers.
It was common 20 years ago, before 9/11, for passengers to be asked to start laptops at airports. I was asked to do this only once (with an old Compaq Windows 95 machine). But in those days, I did not always carry the laptop. I did not take it to Europe in 1999 and again early 2001. Sometimes I depended on Kinkos (now FedEx), or other Internet cafes, when all I needed was AOL for email and to check my one domain at the time. I did not try to update it on the road, but I would check that it was up when on the road (about every other day). Page request volumes would go down by about 40% when I was not actively updating it.
Hotel business centers today are woefully inadequate for heavy use by travelers, because they know travelers carry their own (which is why they offer free Internet). The one exception was that a hotel in Bilbao Spain had a huge business center for guests back in 2001.
CNN has a nice op-ed by Bruce Scheier questioning the sense of the in-cabin electronics bans.