Trump seems to be bargaining with individual American’s lives when he tweets on North Korea; Senator Kaine’s plan for diplomacy and treaty

Well, here we go again.  President Trump responds to a New Year’s Day message from Kim Jong Un with a tweet about button size (I can think of an analogy, as can we all).  One immediate problem is that Trump is implying an unstable nuclear standoff is acceptable to him because “we” would win the warz’. That means Trump is willing to bargain away the lives (or personal futures) of many individual Americans in more vulnerable areas because we have something to lose, while the average North Korean has nothing at all.  That’s not to mention South Koreans and Japanese. This is deeply offensive in a personal way.  A life that is ruined by the actions of another is still ruined.  It’s time for some objectivism and existentialism.

I could say that Twitter ought to consider suspending Trump’s account as a matter of national security and possibly preventing an unintended war, maybe even with catastrophe to the homeland, as speculated by Jeffrey Lewis of the Washington Post on December 8.  I’d say, “We Were Warned”. (That’s ironically the title of a 2007 film about an earlier fuel crisis)  I’ll balance this with an earlier Huffington piece by Elvibyn Aghayev.   If you connect the dots with the Sony hack over a movie from Sony Pictures in 2014 (“The Interview”), you have to wonder if it is possible for asymmetrically delivered content from private company or even citizen to provoke war.  Although North Korea blocks the world wide Internet to its own people, some of it leaks, and Kim Jong Un obviously has access to everything and seems easily insulted.  Young and personable CNN correspondent Will Ripley (“Secret State: Inside North Korea“) has expressed specific concerns on the insult risk.

Tim Kaine, democratic Senator from Virginia, outlines a broad plan to start some kind of diplomacy after all.  A key concept is whether North Korea and South Korea would accept a formal peace treaty (technically they are still at war) with North Korea’s calming down its missile programs.  Another key problem is whether the United States would have to lower its presence in the region, particularly if North Korea broke the treaty later. This sounds like the old McNamara Domino Theory from the Vietnam days (and from my own summer in the Pentagon while in the Army in 1968, as I outline in Chapter 2 Section 10 of my own DADT-1 book).  Kaine gives a useful reference to an AP article on Bloomberg by Richard Gardner on the authority of Congress to supervise the president on going to war.  Congress needs to be more diligent on this.   Senators like Feinstein, McCain, Graham, and various House Armed Services Committee members need to be actively involved. Congressional supervision needs to be bipartisan.

I’ve written here before about another complication, the EMP wildcard.  The media, seeming noseblind, have not provided reliable reports on whether North Korea is capable of detonating fission (E1) or even thermonuclear (E3) weapons in space from orbit.  For example, instead of a missile launch North Korea could do another satellite launch and claim EMP capabilities, which we don’t seem to be able to deny.  That follows on James Woolsey’s claims last March, and NPR has a spoofy piece on this here.

The idea that the threat of war can affect private citizens has certainly been with us since 9/11 with respect to radical Islam (even more so in Europe recently), but now Communism or post-Communist statism seems to be roaring back.   Russia arguably was able to affect the 2016 election and sow more divides among the American people because Putin correctly senses that “elite” Americans don’t personally care about people in disadvantaged classes or pay attention to how the latter perceives information (even the film “The Florida Project” which I saw yesterday seems to make that point).  Putin managed to turn the asymmetry of Internet debate, which I have leveraged myself, on individual speakers.

I also have experience in my background with the Vietnam era draft, with the student deferments on one side and “McNamara’s Morons” as cannon fodder on the other. (I will soon review Hamilton Gregory’s book “McNamara’s Folly” soon.)  I know what it means for governments to play with individual people’s lives.  I guess when I was a math instructor at the University of Kansas as a grad student before I was drafted myself I was complicit in the process.  What karma.

(Posted: Thursday, January 4, 2018, at 11 AM EST)

Update: Friday, January 5 at 3 PM EST

Again, let us reinforce the singularity of the existential threat to our way of life the EMP (especially E-3) could lead to. It hasn’t happened. In a difficult time of my own life, when I was a patient at NIH in the fall of 1962, after my own college expulsion almost a year before, we lived through the Cuban Missile Crisis, and I wondered if we “deserved” to live if something happened.

The Washington Times (again, a conservative paper) has an op-ed Jan. 4 by Henry Cooper summarizing how we have slept on this threat, here. Where is is The Washington Post on reporting this?  The article doesn’t distinguish E-1 (a lot more likely in practice) from E-3 but it correctly notes that Kim Jong-Un would not need to demonstrate re-entry survival to use EMP.  It also notes that Russia has in the past delivered “low yield Super EMP technology” to North Korea (it sounds like E-1).   It mentions the threats also to transoceanic cables.

I also note that, despite other recent reports that Trump has become aware of the EMP issue (Dec. 22), the administration apparently shut down the EMP Commission in October (“The Hill” report).

On the other hand, there seems to be a “ray of hope” in the diplomacy between North and South Korea before the Winter Olympics (CNN analysis).  But, as we know from the “McNamara Theory”, even this diplomacy has its downstream risks.

Huffington Post has been running a series on North Korea’s potential EMP threat, and now seems to have a solution

In previous posts I have noted that the discussion of the EMP threats to the United States, from weapons acquired by terrorist organizations or (as of much more concern recently) rogue or hostile smaller states like North Korea (and possibly Iran in the future) have largely taken place in conservative media.  It is true that a fewer high profile conservative politicians like Newt Gingrich have discussed the threat, but their warnings tend to be forgotten.  The most notable Democratic (Clinton era) appointee to talk about this has been former CIA director James Woolsey, who thinks that North Korea already could have the ability to launch such an attack from a satellite as well as an ICBM.

It is also true that the Department of Energy (in Oak Ridge TN) and National Academy of Sciences have been publishing peer-reviewed papers on the threat (most notably with respect to large solar storms) for a number of years, as I found when I made a personal trip to Oak Ridge in July 2013, which I have already covered on older blogs.

On Dec. 20, Dennis Santiago, Managing Director, Total Bank Solutions and US National Policy Strategic Thinker published a piece in the “liberal” Huffington Post, “Neutering North Korea’s EMP Threat: Making the US Power Grid Impervious Is Achievable”.  (I thought, that meant neutering Kim Jong Un like he had been a tomcat, something Milo would say.) Quickly, I discovered that Santiago had presented two other sophistries (first, second) in Huffington, in  September; so my complaint that the liberals have been sleeping on the EMP threat is no longer entirely correct.  But I only found out about the current article from a tweet this evening from New Hampshire-based Resilient Grid.   The September Issue reported an explicitly EMP threat from North Korea, but Fox had reported this too.

In the second article, Santiago had covered some of the technicalities of missile defense against especially FOBS, which may be related to Shining Star and the threats Woolsey had mentioned.  It’s really quite intricate.  But the interception strategies against an orbiting device may be more sophisticated than those against a “conventional” (oxymoron) ICBM.

Santiago’s recommendations comprise three major areas.  First, he supposes that a possible EMP attack might offer a lead time as long as 90 minutes.  He recommends that electric utilities rehearse war games to draw down the grids, with brownouts or blackouts, so that transformers can’t be overloaded so much.  He and others have also talked about newer methods of grounding transformers so they are less vulnerable.  Dominion Power of Virginia has recently aired TV spots (especially on CNN) saying that it is developing a smart grid that can anticipate failures.  I hope this means they are implementing some of these suggestions.

He then points out that America as a whole needs to decentralize its power generation.  That would logically mean that most owners of single family or large townhomes ought to be incentivized to provide their own solar panels or other power sources like gas.  I recently downsized and moved into a highrise condo.  In the house, I actually had a generator that came into heavy use after the derecho of 2012. Had I stayed, I probably would have needed to consider not only a new roof but also a solar system. But making highrise condos and apartments and commercial buildings less grid-dependent sounds like a challenge.  Ironically, Dominion Power recently forced a short outage in my own new location to install new underground cables and, I hope, some of the newer grounding technologies.

He also points out that regulations often discourage decentralization (that’s normally a conservative position, rather analogous to opposing legally driven network neutrality).  The securities markets, especially bonds, could be rattled by sudden changes in energy policy, or even by unfavorable publicity, which I am probably giving them with this blog posting. But he says markets could be legally reformed rather easily to encourage local homeowners and businesses to become more self-sufficient in their own energy management, and even to be able to sell solar or wind power pack to the grid.

There’s another aspect to the newest article that seems striking: Santiago seems to suggest that the administration, most of all DOD and DHS, is well aware of the EMP threats and are perhaps paralyzed as to what to do.  The administration does not seem to want to take a public position on the issue and force reforms on utilities perhaps out of fear on the effect on the markets.  I have tweeted “Real Donald Trump” myself about the issue, and I’ve wondered if Trump cognitively understands the nature of the threat given unprecedented American and western dependence on technology.  Santiago apparently thinks the president does understand. But if the U.S, could neutralize the EMP threat, and go public with its policies, it could afford to become much more aggressive in its policies toward any future provocations (like missile tests with actual weapons over the Pacific Ocean), as the ransom of American civilian technology life would be removed from the table.

It seems more likely that North Korea could detonate a fission weapon (or some sort of microwave device) in the air than a thermonuclear hydrogen bomb; so the real practical threat to the US homeland is more likely to be the E1 threat, which affects electronics more than the grid itself, than E3, which is more like a Carrington solar storm. As I indicated before, this would raise questions about how well companies have secured their data centers from external microwave-like pulses (with Faraday-like protection and distribution of cloud data with multiple redundancies).

I won’t belabor it here much, but the whole question of decentralization also begs the question of what “we” expect of individuals and families along the line of “The Survival Mom” thinking. Hyperindividualism and weaker social structures (vertical and horizontal) become pertinent.  The gravity of this topic seems far afield from most of their irreverant complaints about the current administration and “President Poopiepants” (or, as David Brooks once wrote, the idea that the president is a child), along with fat-shaming of Kim Jong In, quoting our own president (and Milo) that you can find on Facebook.  Not only is there weaker social cohesion in out outspoken civilian society;  there is little respect for current leadership (most of all in social media), which is something, related to resilience at a citizen level, that enemies have already noticed.  Look at what the Russians have done already, and North Korea seems so much more fanatical, a kind of communist Al Qaeda.

(Posted: Thursday, December 22, 2017 at 10:15 PM EST)

Update:  Sunday, December 24, 2017 at 10 AM EDT

Various media sources report that North Korea calls the newest UN sanctions as an act of war.

There is also a threat of deploy biological agents by missile, or covertly.

If James Woolsey were right, based on his announcement in March, Kim  Jong Un could launch an E1-level EMP (frying unshielded electronics but not the power grids) over eastern US when his shining star satellite orbited into the right position, right now.

At 2 PM EST

The Washington Examiner, a conservative paper, reports, in an article by Paul Bedard,  that President Trump  will address the electromagnetic pulse threats explicitly and is the first president to do so. The implies that the topic has been coming up at national security meetings, probably even at Mar a Lago (no, I haven’t been invited, yet). I have tweeted Trump explicitly on this topic several times since early July and mentioned the important distinction between E1 (far more likely) and E3 to him.  I’ve also discussed this with OANN and with WJLA (Sinclair).  Maybe the corner is being turned.  Still, the mainstream media companies largely choke on this topic. I’d expect to see Breitbart and Milo weigh in!

One more question: how long will it take the power companies to do what Trump supposedly promise (upgrade grounding circuits, for example, which Dominion Energy seems to be doing) and for the tech companies and server farms to have their centers fully “Faraday” shielded?  Recovery won’t be as easy as the 2001 movie “Oceans 11” makes it look.

 

USPS may have been complicent with Trump’s (not-) funny games on DACA

I haven’t followed the immigration issues as much as I did in 2016, as other issues recently have captured my attention.

But let’s jump into the DACA issue and note the Vox stories on Osman Aroche Enriquez by Dara Lind, the second of which appears here.  Osman was one of a number of DACA immigrant adult children who filed for an extension of protection from deportation due to the provisional (depending on Congress) DACA “wind down”, and whose application was “lost in the mail” just long enough to arrive late.  The story in Vox seems to have pressured ICE to review a number of these cases.   One question I would have would be, if he marries his fiancée, does that change anything?  The public may be surprised to learn that marrying a US citizen does not usually make the undocumented person’s stay legal, so the idea of pressuring a US citizen to marry someone for, say, humanitarian reasons (now in LGBT situations with same-sex marriage), would usually not work (source)

In the mean time, while Congress frets with Trump, DACA immigrants find that their own lives are bargaining chips for what others do even through they did nothing wrong.

There are other debates going on, especially chain immigration, which indeed seems more likely to present security issues (as with a recent incident near Port Authority in NYC).  Chain migration may reduce the vetting of individual people that would normally be done. Trump’s second or third travel ban went back into effect under the temporary permission of the Supreme Court.

Trump talks about using a merit system for immigration but still wants to reduce the volume of legal immigration. He seems unwilling to consider the nuance it will take to balance compassion (and some economic wisdom) with genuine security concerns.  There is no such thing as a policy that has mathematically zero risk for members of the public, even me (previous post).

There’s no question that he still plays to group biases:  some of his base feel that immigrants collectively threaten their job and their personal security, both notions of which are probably wrong statistically, as numerous studies (like by Cato) have shown.

As we think about individual rights in relation to our surrounding community, we have to ponder the extent we become vulnerable to other people’s contact and our perceived similarities to others within group membership.  That’s one reason I don’t like to think about making political changes by group.

When I visited the network neutrality protests this week, I noticed that the ICE building was just across the street (just south of the Smithsonian Metro stop).

Dara Lind of Vox has also offered an essay on the children of DACA adult kids — many who have no clue.  This is becoming a multi-generational problem.

Posted: Friday, December 15, 2017 at 11 PM EST)

North Korea, EMP, and martial law: mainstream media needs to wake up and do the fact-checking now

On Sunday, July 1, 2018, a favorite gay disco of mine, Town Danceboutique (Washington, D.C.), closes (after a year of notice) for real estate development.

But Wednesday July 4, 2018, the entire country could well be in North Korea’s nuclear crosshairs, if the timetable that seems to emerge from recent news really holds. And I’ve had at least one person claim to me that by them much of the nation could see martial law.  I’ll come back to that.

We know that on November 28, North Korea tested its largest missile ever, on a parabolic path that took it 2800 miles up, to land short of Japan with no payload. Your Physics 101 test problem would have its maximum range if fired on a “baseball home run” path to be about 8000 miles over the Great Circle, enough to reach all of the continental U.S.

Experts seem to disagree on how much the weight of even a miniaturized thermonuclear weapon would reduce the range. Credible analysts also say that the missile seemed to break up on re-entry, into perhaps three pieces, and that other aspects of the North Korean photos, like the background star constellations, were doctored.  All of this may suggest that technically it is still much more difficult for North Korea to lob a thermonuclear weapon over the US than the doomsday preppers believe.  Still, six months sounds like a reasonable benchmark.

So Trump may feel pressured to create a pre-emptive attack   well before June 2018, even given the horrific predictions of what happens to South Korea, and perhaps Japan, even Guam.  “The war will be fought in their back yard, not ours”, Senator Lindsey Graham rants.  This is one game where there is no home field advantage, no walk-off win;  you have to win on the road.

Recently NBC News reported (story and video by Cynthia McFadden et al, link) on the possibility that the US could disable North Korean missile control with a stealth cruise missile or fighter attack (similar to those in this week’s controversial maneuvers with South Korea) blaring non-nuclear flux microwaves (E1 level), which would destroy electronics but not kill people, most of whom (outside the privileged in Pyongyang) live without electricity anyway. But the missiles are certainly hidden underground and perhaps shielded in Faraday fashion. Still, this sounds like the “least bad” military option Trump has.

That leaves us with one other nagging problem that the mainstream media doesn’t want to talk about.  That is, the possibility of an EMP attack, not only on South Korea or Japan, but even on the continental U.S.

Former CIA chief James Woolsey has already warned us (March 7, 2017 post) that North Korea could launch a small device from its “Shining Star” satellite.  But the more obvious question would be, is it easier technically for North Korea to detonate a weapon at high altitude in flight, possibly over north central US, than at the end of the route at a target?  No mainstream publication seems to have taken this question up yet.

Last week, Fox News ran a story reporting that Kim Jong Un had threatened such an attack (see Nov. 7) – and it’s pretty obvious that he would.  I see from YouTube that Fox has run similar stories before,  But the mainstream news sites have given very little explicit attention to these possibilities.  I do recall a story on Vox concerning solar storms (Sept 13, 2016) and a later similar one in the Wall Street Journal. And I also see that I’ve covered the mainstream media’s reticence on this matter on Sept. 8, 2017.

Still, it seems that the mainstream media owes us a major factfinding effort on questions like (1) the preparedness of the three major power grids for huge transformer overloads (there is talk of “neutral ground circuit technology”), and (2) the preparedness of the tech industry for extreme disruption, by distributing cloud data (which they already do) around the world, and the possibility of building Faraday-like protections for their servers.

Keep in mind, the electromagnetic pulse threat has two major components.  The E3 component, which is a delayed effect from thermonuclear weapons and is similar to extremely large coronal mass ejections from solar storms, is destructive to power grid transformers and other circuitry, at least with current technology. The E1 component is what destroys consumer electronics and ignitions of many cars.  (There is a good question as to whether solid state drives are more immune than traditional hard drives, for example, since they the new stuff is less sensitive to ordinary magnets).  The E1 component can come from smaller (fission) nuclear weapons (more likely from a DPRK ICBM or mid range missile or possibly satellite), and also comes from non-nuclear microwaves (which are much more local because they are usually detonated at low altitude closer to targets – the US military can use them in Afghanistan now).

With all this discussion, we should not lose sight of the cyber threats, which I think are more difficult for an enemy to carry out (against infrastructure) than popular legend suggests, but here is a prediction for an incident even this week.

Conventional reporting suggests that Kim Jong Un’s insistence on becoming a nuclear power is purely defensive.  I would wonder if the old Vietnam era Domino Theory applies:  he could later try to force us to leave South Korea or lift all sanctions.  The EMP peril is a very novel threat because of our unprecedented dependence on technology.  An enemy could conclude, if his own people will eat grass, that we aren’t resilient enough personally as civilians to recover from loss and hardship and be ever more tempted into aggression. North Korea has almost certainly tried to work with other terrorists like ISIS out of shear resentment of western values.

It does seem that the mainstream media is distracted by the more obvious stories about Trump’s presidency:  the Flynn and Manafort investigations, Trump’s claim he can get away with “obstruction of justice”, the Jerusalem move announced today.

I won’t moralize here about civilian preparedness (like “The Survival Mom” on Facebook) as I have before and will again. But that does bring back the idea of martial law, which an authoritarian president presumably could want to find an excuse to implement so that he has more “control”.

The Wikipedia article (on martial law in the U.S.) gives a detailed history of is use, most recently in 1961 in Montgomery Alabama as a response to the “Freedom Riders” – that was shortly before I graduated from high school, and I don’t recall this news.  Hawii was under martial law from Pearl Harbor until 1944.   It is difficult to suspend habeas corpus under US law, given especially the Posse Comitatus Act, which is supposed to shield civilians from military intervention – yet enemies are likely to regard American civilians as (un)deserving combatants.

I am not so cynical as to believe that Trump wants to see half the country without power for a year so he can seize control.  Consider Dan Trachtenberg’s film “10 Cloverfield Lane” (2016). That reminds me of conspiracy theories where right-wing authorities start war and live in luxury underground.  Who wants that?  The sci-fi conspiracy to escape from Earth (if possible) makes more psychological sense to me.

I would be more concerned that if a real catastrophe occurred, and most of the country were without power for months, the entire government would fall and foreign powers, which could be China, or could be Islamist, could take over.  That does bring up personal morality again, and that’s another post that’s coming.

We’d better not blow this.  It’s hard for me to join “identity groups” so concerned about narrow oppression (bathroom and “religious freedom” bills) when there are issues like this, at least as potentially dangerous to me personally as was the Vietnam War (I stayed out of combat because of education and “privilege”) and later AIDS (I never got infected).  The lessons that Scarlet O’Hara had to learn sound appropriate.

I will challenge the major networks and news outlets to get to the facts (and not leave this to conservative sites and groups like Resilient Societies), and I am available for hire (at 74, in “retirement”) to help them do this.  I’ve really collected and organized a lot of material. What a way to go back to work.  I even bought a suit and updated my Linked-In profile, while there is still time.

I wish I could get back to believing in Google’s plans for quantum computing as our future.

Update: Dec 7  (“Pearl Harbor Day”): 10 AM EST

Probably by coincidence I got a letter to my own mailbox in my condo building about a planned power outage for “improving a portion of the energy grid that serves your area.”  Upon checking, this may be related to a specific problem some months ago before I moved in. But Dominion Energy of Virginia has been mentioned as one of the few companies so far preparing to install neutral ground circuits that are supposed to protect transformers from extreme surges, as with solar storms or possibly terror attacks.

The mainstream media really does need to start “connecting the dots” on this one and not leave it to right-wing sites, amateur bloggers, and suspense and sci-fi novelists to figure out.

 

(Posted: Wednesday, December 6, 2017 at 11 PM EST)

Cato Institute holds forum on North Korea and escalation of tensions while Trump visits

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.

(Posted: Tuesday, November 7, 2017, at 9:30 AM)

Update: Nov. 29, 2017, 8:45 AM EST

Here is a typical detailed story  (Jonathan Cheng), from the Wall Street Journal, on DPRK’s highest-ever missile test Tuesday Nov. 28.  The missile may have actually broken up before landing, which could mean it is less “successful” than North Korea claims. Here’s a WSJ article from July on the reentry issue.  It does appear that North Korea could place a missile anywhere over the continental US, even Florida (the farthest Great Circle point). The media still sleeps on the EMP (levels 1 and 3) issue.  This issue will get another detailed post soon.

Also, Anthony Furey at Fox News reports that North Korea has stated an EMP threat rather explicitly, which the “non-conservative” networks haven’t picked up yet.  I will definitely follow-up on the credibility of this claim.  Resilient Societies reports that a Pacific nuclear test by DPRK would disrupt the trans-Pacific cable.

I was at Cato again Nov. 28 (see).

On All Saints Day, I ponder, who has the right to claim group rights from systematic oppression?

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.

(Posted: November 1, 2017 at 3 PM EDT)

From Outright: “Russia and Egypt attack sexual orientation protections in Olympic truce at U.N.”

 

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.”

Petition for signature is here at this link.

Outright also provided a link to the new press release, here.

(Nov. 8)

 

On immigration and health care, Trump seems all too willing to play with individuals’ lives as political bargaining chips

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.)

 

Cato Institute analyzes Trump’s RAISE Act and debunks “myths”; National Review looks at the ironies of “legality”

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 post in 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.

Charles Cooke has a piece in National Review today, in a piece called “the Corner”, “But I thought you were only against illegal immigration.” Cooke makes a comparison to the Canada system.

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.

(Posted: Wednesday, Aug. 2, 2017 at 9 PM EDT)

HR 391 could make asylum application approvals much more difficult; what about LGBTQ?

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.

This is a developing story.

(Posted: Wednesday, July 26, 2017 at 5 PM EDT)