Thursday, August 16, 2012

The [assorted politicians] North Korea Human Rights Reauthorization Act of 2012 (HR 4240)

Big news, everyone! President Obama did not sign a single bill this week that I believe to be beyond the proper scope of government! Of course, he did raid the US treasury to bribe a particular class of supporters at the expense of the (broadly lower and middle class) food eating public, but that wasn't a bill but an executive policy announcement. That, perhaps, makes it worse, but it means that it is beyond the scope of the Thursday feature.

Let me say from the outset that I consider North Korea to be the most evil regime in the world. They take a beautiful culture and stamp on the most effectively brutal state currently in existence and cause mass famine, mass imprisonment, the world's most militarized border, and elevate a single clown to godlike status. Anything that we can do to belittle, mock, or actively tear down the North Korean government makes the world a better place.

HR 4240 is about as small a step forward as can possibly be taken, but it remains a step forward.

Section 1 is the title, and it aggrandizes a pair of dead politicians (the only good kind). When politicians name bills for dead people, it is a cry of sympathy which strongly suggests that something is seriously wrong with a bill. If you have a strong bill, you tell opponents "if you don't support it, this or that consequence will occur". If you have a weak bill named after a dead person, you tell opponents "you are dishonoring the memory of this dead person". When politicians name bills for themselves and their fellow politicians, it is nothing but a self-aggrandizing  activity akin to the boasts of spoiled children, and to avoid encouraging the spoiled children of Washington, D.C., I will not be publishing the names of the two politicians (though in truth I have never heard of either of them).

Section 2 is the findings. If you have never read a findings section in a bill before, you really should. This is where Congress (here meaning the people who wrote the bill, plus often one for each particularly obsessed co-sponsor) writes down a bunch of facts. These facts are broadly true things, like "The United States is home to the largest Korean population outside northeast Asia". These statements have no legal force, are rarely if ever referenced outside the bill (or inside it, for that matter) and are really pointless statements designed more to inform the legislators who may skim the bill once without really understanding it before voting to enroll it into the collection of laws which bind all three hundred million American citizens of why they can feel good about themselves for voting.

Viewed from this perspective, the findings section of HR 4240 shows at once how self-obsessed and ignorant our legislators are on the baffling array of topics they are asked to express an opinion on. The bill has eight findings, three of which are expressly political. The very first finding is that the original version of the bill was passed with bipartisan support. The final and penultimate findings are why the two politicians whose names I will not publish are marginally relevant. The second finding, that a bunch of Koreans live in America, with its subtext of "... and they vote" also only makes sense as a purely political concern, meaning that fully half of the findings of this bill (which the legislators read as "reasons to vote for this bill") nominally devoted to supporting human rights are concerned with how this bill will protect the jobs and legacy of the legislators who vote for it.

One particular finding of note; since 2004 the US has taken in 128 North Korean refugees. This is the largest such program on the planet. The one thing we could do to most dramatically improve the lives of North Koreans, and do it inexpensively and completely non-violently in a way that strengthens our economy, culture, and nationhood, and we have one it one hundred and twenty eight times.

While there is certainly an upper bound for a program like this, we are clearly not trying hard enough, and this alone demonstrates how profoundly unserious Congress is about this issue.

Section 3 is the sense of congress, another non-legally binding section that is not nearly as fun as the findings section. It is the "sense of congress" that bad guys are bad and should stop doing bad things, while good guys (Yay, America!) should work with other good guys to do good things.

In a related note, you should know that the "sense of congress" is related to the "sixth sense" claimed by psychics. While the "sixth sense" is supposed to allow one to know the future, the "sense of congress" allows a person to be a completely ignorant buffoon.

Sections 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10 are the meat of the bill, all of which extend their various programs by another five years.

Section 4 gives the president $2 million per year for grants to organizations that will help North Korea

Section 5 requires a report on how the "beam radio into North Korea" project plans on broadcasting for twelve hours a day. This appears to be an extension of the deadline. They were originally going to submit this report in 2004, but either they did not submit the report or they did not do whatever was in the report because here we are eight years later.

Section 6 gives the president $2 million per year to figure out what the hell is going on in North Korea.

Section 7 authorizes a special envoy to fly around and look all important. The position hasn't accomplished shit in eight years, but maybe another five years is what they need to fix the problems of the peninsula. Oh, congress, how silly!

Section 8 extends an annual report on all aid and humanitarian activity funded by America. I thought that the report might be pretty interesting, but I wasn't able to find it on the US AID website and I could not find it enrolled in the Federal Register. If anyone knows where to look I would love to take a look at them and post them here.

Section 9 gave the president $20 million per year to fund any and all humanitarian assistance to North Korea without the permission of the North Korean government. This has been cut to $5 million per year.

Section 10 requires an annual report of North Korean refugees and immigrants. I could not find this report either, but I did find this GAO report focusing on the efficiency of North Korean refugee processing which contained this interesting paragraph:
From October 1, 2004, through March 2, 2010, at least 33 North Koreans have sought asylum protection to remain in the United States, but the actual number is likely higher. Of the 33 North Koreans, 9 individuals have been granted asylum, 15 are still pending, and 9 are categorized as “other decisions,” meaning their cases have been denied, dismissed, or withdrawn, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) data. The actual number of individuals is likely higher for several reasons including agencies’ difficulties in compiling information. North Koreans can seek asylum protection through two processes—the affirmative or the defensive. In the affirmative process, individuals who are physically in the United States may present an asylum application to USCIS and undergo a non-adversarial interview to determine their eligibility for asylum. In the defensive process, applicants request that the Department of Justice grant them asylum as a defense against removal from the United States. USCIS data do not include information on North Koreans who first claimed asylum before an Immigration Judge in the defensive process. 
 I would give an opinion here, but it was already given.

No comments:

Post a Comment