The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

The MAVNI program

My current project involves military enrollment, so I am following the story of the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest (MAVNI) program, recently suspended by the Pentagon:

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Friday that he supports reactivating a program designed to attract foreign military recruits who agree to serve in exchange for fast-tracked U.S. citizenship.

Speaking with reporters at the Pentagon, Mattis said the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest program, or MAVNI, was suspended a year ago and additional security measures were put in place to guard against “espionage potential” among U.S. military recruits born in other countries. Those new regulations left the program paralyzed, ending a reliable stream of high-quality troops.

“We are taking the steps obviously to save the program, if it can be saved,” Mattis said. “And I believe it can.”

The MAVNI program has produced more than 10,400 troops since 2009 — personnel who possess language and medical skills deemed vital to military operations and in short supply among U.S.-born troops. The military continues to process those who enlisted before the program was suspended.

It may seem odd that people who enlisted over a year ago still require processing, but this is pretty normal. The Delayed Enlistment Program (DEP) affects nearly all applicants as military needs and space in Basic Military Training (BMT) and advanced schools are both limited. People who enlist can take up to 545 days to ship.

Also, an interesting bit I just learned, if an alien enlists in the DEP and then drops out before shipping to BMT, that person is forever ineligible for US citizenship (8 USC 1426). Also see 8 USC 1429 for how to become a naturalized citizen through military service.

Busy day link round-up

I have some free time coming up next Friday, but until then, there's a lot going on. So I have very little time to read, let alone write about, these stories from this week:

Back to project planning...

Starship Chicago

Via CityLab, a new short video argues that the Thompson Center needs to be preserved:

Says CityLab:

Few of the film’s interviewees seem to find the Thompson Center beautiful—noted Chicago architect Stanley Tigerman calls it “a piece of shit.” But he, like the rest of the talking heads in the film, believes the building should be preserved for its architectural significance. It was a boundary-breaking structure when it was completed in 1985, becoming one of the first curved buildings in downtown Chicago’s hard, rectilinear cityscape, and catapulting its architect, Helmut Jahn, to stardom.

The Thompson Center captured Chicago’s imagination, if not its heart. The building’s rounded, all-glass exterior, as well as its cylindrical interior atrium, made it look like an alien visitor, earning it the “starship” moniker. The design was actually a riff on the classic American statehouse, with glass walls representing government transparency and the large skylight capping the atrium meant to evoke a dome. The busy interior of the atrium is painted in red (or salmon), white, and blue, perhaps the structure’s most jarring design element. 

Here's a view of it from just after it opened in 1986:

My favorite article of the day

I'm chilling in my hotel room on the second day of my trip, not sure how much longer I'll remain awake. (Waking up at 5am sucks, even more so when it's 4am back home.) This is a problem in that I need to write some code before tomorrow.

So I've spent a few minutes perusing the blog feeds and news reports that came in today, and I have a favorite. The favorite is not:

No, though all of those brought little flutters of joy to my heart, the story that London is going to make Oxford Street a pedestrian utopia by 2020 really got my interest. Since I have never driven a car anywhere in Zone 1 and have no intention of ever doing so, I think blocking 800 meters of Oxford Street to cars is fookin' brilliant.

A bit of good news for our side

Ah, business travel. What could possibly improve upon eating a turkey sandwich in a faux-chic room at an Aloft outside BWI airport while reading all the articles I queued up earlier? Certainly not the need to get up at 5:00 tomorrow morning—Eastern time, an hour ahead of Chicago—to get someplace by 5:30.

But when I got off the plane, I saw this bit of good news:

Democrat Ralph Northam was projected to win Virginia’s race for governor Tuesday over Republican Ed Gillespie, as Democrats appeared headed for a big night across the board in races for lieutenant governor, attorney general and several key seats in the House of Delegates, based on exit polls and early returns.

Virginia’s elections have been closely watched nationwide as a test of President Trump’s status and impact on the tenor of politics in every state.

If the results hold, it could signal a big win for Democrats in Virginia. In another closely watched race, in Prince William County, Democrat Danica Roem became the first openly transgender person to win a seat in Virginia’s House of Delegates. She beat longtime Republican incumbent Robert G. Marshall by a wide margin. At least four other Republicans lost their seats.

It was part of a wave of apparent victories for Democratic candidates, including what looked like a sweep of statewide offices. Democrat Justin Fairfax appeared headed to win as lieutenant governor over Republican Jill Holtzman Vogel, and Attorney General Mark R. Herring was headed for reelection over Republican challenger John Adams.

This is Virginia, former home of the Confederacy, but lately a growing blue bump on the bright-red South.

Also, the turkey sandwich wasn't bad. It just needed some mayo.

Breaking: Chris Christie, chief wart on the pock-marked ass of New Jersey, will be replaced by Democrat Philip D. Murphy.

Travel day; link round-up

I'm heading back to the East Coast tonight to continue research for my current project, so my time today is very constrained. I hope I remember to keep these browser windows open for the plane:

So much to do today...and then a short, relaxing, upgraded flight to BWI.

It doesn't work like that!

Jimmy Carter captained nuclear missile submarines. Bill Clinton was a Rhodes Scholar. Barack Obama was a Constitutional Law professor at one of the top-5 law schools in the country.

Donald Trump thinks...well, I'll let Japan Times explain:

Trump said ‘samurai’ Japan should have shot down overflying North Korean missiles

U.S. President Donald Trump has said Japan should have shot down the North Korean missiles that flew over the country before landing in the Pacific Ocean earlier this year, diplomatic sources have said, despite the difficulties and potential ramifications of doing so.

The revelation came ahead of Trump’s arrival in Japan on Sunday at the start of his five-nation trip to Asia. Threats from North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile development programs were set to be high on the agenda in his talks with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Monday.

Trump questioned Japan’s decision not to shoot down the missiles when he met or spoke by phone with leaders from Southeast Asian countries over recent months to discuss how to respond to the threats from North Korea, the sources said.

[T]he Self-Defense Forces did not try to intercept the missiles, with the government saying the SDF had monitored the rockets from launch and judged they would not land on Japanese territory.

But the altitude and speed of the missiles would have made it very difficult to destroy them in flight, while failure would have been embarrassing for Japan and encouraging to North Korea.

Defense Ministry officials confirmed this view and said there were also legal issues to clear.

Reagan thought we could call back nuclear missiles. Trump thinks we can shoot them down. And the Republican rank-and-file think we who want competent leadership are elitists.

We might be doomed.

Anti-union plutocrat kills local Chicago and New York news site

Via Crain's Chicago Business, Joe Ricketts is shutting down DNAInfo and Gothamist because the underpaid, overworked journalists there had the temerity to ask for better working conditions:

A week ago, reporters and editors in the combined newsroom of DNAinfo and Gothamist, two of New York City’s leading digital purveyors of local news, celebrated victory in their vote to join a union.

On Thursday, they lost their jobs, as Joe Ricketts, the billionaire founder of TD Ameritrade who owned the sites, shut them down.

At 5 p.m., a post went up on the sites from Mr. Ricketts announcing the decision. He praised them for reporting “tens of thousands of stories that have informed, impacted and inspired millions of people.” But he added, “DNAinfo is, at the end of the day, a business, and businesses need to be economically successful if they are to endure.”

The decision puts 115 journalists out of work, both at the New York operations that unionized, and at those in Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington that did not. They are getting three months of paid “administrative leave” at their full salaries, plus four weeks of severance, DNAinfo said.

The decision means that local Chicago news will now be covered only by mega-corporation Tribune Media, mega-corporation Hollinger (who owns the Sun-Times), and...nope, that's it. And with ultra-right-wing Sinclair Media trying to buy Tribune, that does not bode well for local news here.

Then there's this:

In September, Mr. Ricketts, a conservative who supported President Trump in last year’s election, raised the ante with a post on his blog titled “Why I’m Against Unions At Businesses I Create,” in which he argued that “unions promote a corrosive us-against-them dynamic that destroys the esprit de corps businesses need to succeed.”

Maybe because American owners think unions are against them. Because Volkswagen and other European manufacturers don't seem to have that problem, even going so far as to encourage their American workforce to unionize.

Ricketts hates unions because he wants to squeeze every ounce of profit out of his workforce. And here, he'd rather kill the business itself than submit to something so fundamentally against his ideology.

Oh, the Ricketts family also owns the Cubs, and is turning Wrigleyville into Disneyland.

Russia is screwing with everyone

Following up on my post this morning, here is the New Republic's analysis of Russian cyber-warfare tactics and strategy:

Western democracies are uniquely susceptible to this form of attack. The key insight of autocratic governments like Russia’s may be the recognition that democracies have a weakness: They are open societies committed to free speech and expression. That characteristic is and continues to be exploited. What’s more, other countries are already aping these techniques in their own struggles. Russia is the world’s most open cyberwarfare aggressor—but it’s far from the only one. IranIsraelNorth Korea, and the United States, and perhaps other countries, are all active. These conflicts often play out between familiar rivals: Russia and the United States, Iran and Israel, North and South Korea. It may be that information warfare simply reinforces old rivalries. But at the same time, it will likely have a deep and lasting impact on the fabric of the societies that come under attack. When social media and information itself are weaponized, the bonds of trust in society and within institutions are undermined, and the task of assuring information integrity becomes a matter of national security.

The question is how the West can maintain the core values of freedom of speech and the free flow of information while protecting itself from the constant presence of malevolent geopolitical actors. For centuries, Eastern European countries such as Estonia relied on walls, watchtowers, and fortresses to keep out invaders. The United States became the world’s most powerful country in part because it was insulatedfrom foreign threats by vast oceans on two sides. In the internet age, those traditional borders are less effective. To survive in the era of information warfare, the West will have to create new, safer borders capable of withstanding cyberattacks. Blockchain technology, the underlying protocol of cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin, might, for example, function as a sort of digital fortress protecting the secure exchange of information online. Whatever form these defenses take, democratic countries will have to focus more resources on finding and spreading potent and reliable technologies, whether in partnership with private companies, or in government cyber labs in Estonia or the United States. But we will also have to accept the sobering reality that these attacks, like guerrilla warfare and suicide bombings, aren’t going away. They are the new costs of living in a connected world.

Freedom is expensive. But it's better than any alternative.

How Russia is screwing with us

That the President hasn't condemned Russian interference in American politics demonstrates how unfit for office he and his associates are. Because Russian interference has real consequences. Via TPM, the Russians have had extraordinary success dividing Americans through social media:

Last year, two Russian Facebook pages organized dueling rallies in front of the Islamic Da’wah Center of Houston, according to information released by U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, a North Carolina Republican.

Heart of Texas, a Russian-controlled Facebook group that promoted Texas secession, leaned into an image of the state as a land of guns and barbecue and amassed hundreds of thousands of followers. One of their ads on Facebook announced a noon rally on May 21, 2016 to “Stop Islamification of Texas.”

A separate Russian-sponsored group, United Muslims of America, advertised a “Save Islamic Knowledge” rally for the same place and time.

On that day, protesters organized by the two groups showed up on Travis Street in downtown Houston, a scene that appeared on its face to be a protest and a counterprotest. Interactions between the two groups eventually escalated into confrontation and verbal attacks.

Burr, the committee's chairman, unveiled the ads at a hearing Wednesday morning and said Russians managed to pit Texans against each other for the bargain price of $200.

Russia wants to render the US unable to defend its own interests in the world. The President, and by extension Republicans in Congress who are letting him off the hook, don't care.

Let me be clear: It is in the interests of Russia and China, but not in the interests of the United States, for us to be debilitated by internal divisions. Trump may not care, because he wants wealth and power for himself, not for the country. But the rest of us should care deeply.

Russia has been trying to do this since just after World War II. Now, they're getting so good at it, Americans can't even come together to say it's a hostile act by a foreign power, let alone fix the problems it's caused.