Science fiction author Charlie Stross has canceled future trips to the US:

As for my worst case nightmare scenario? Given the reshuffle on the National Security Council and the prominence of white supremacists and neo-nazis in this Administration I can't help wondering if the ground isn't being laid for a Reichstag Fire by way of something like Operation Northwoods. In which case, for me to continue to plan to travel to the United States in eight months time would be as unwise as it would have been to plan in February 1933 to travel to Germany in September of that year: it might be survivable, but it would nevertheless be hazardous.

Charlie is a socialist Scot or some such, so we might expect him to be more than normally apprehensive of Donald Trump. But I'm a pretty ordinary California Democrat, and I feel the same way.

I don't mean that I think we'll be at war with Mexico later this year, but George Bush used 9/11 as a justification for the PATRIOT Act, ubiquitous surveillance, the resumption of torture, and an insane war in Iraq. But even Bush was smart enough to always make it clear that we were fighting terrorism, not Islam. Trump has no such smarts and no such restraint.

So what will Trump do if there's another major terrorist attack on US soil? He's practically begging for one, after all. I don't know, but I might not want to be a foreigner traveling in the US when it happens either.

What's the evidence that President Trump's immigration order is, despite his protestations, effectively meant to be a temporary ban on Muslims entering the country? Here's the bill of particulars:

Article 1: In late 2015, Trump explicitly called for "a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country's representatives can figure out what is going on."

Article 2: Trump subsequently tasked Rudy Giuliani with developing his immigration policy. On Saturday Giuliani told Fox News that "when he first announced it he said Muslim ban," but Trump then called and said, "Put a commission together, show me the right way to do it legally." This strongly suggests that Giuliani's job was to find something that was effectively a Muslim ban without explicitly mentioning Muslims.

Article 3: According to Giuliani, the "right way to do it legally" was to focus on "areas of the world that create danger for us." There are several plausible possibilities here. The most obvious one is to ban entry from residents of countries that have been designated as state sponsors of terrorism. However, that includes only three countries (Iran, Sudan, Syria). Alternatively, the State Department has a list of terrorist safe havens. But this includes places like Egypt, Pakistan, the Philippines, Colombia, Malaysia, and Lebanon, which the Trump administration apparently didn't want to include. Another possibility is countries that have been the site of major terrorist attacks. However, according to the Global Terrorism Database, in 2014-15 this included several majority-Christian countries (Nigeria, Ukraine, Kenya), several US allies (Egypt, Turkey, Pakistan) and excluded several countries that Trump has specifically called out (Iran, Libya).

After exhausting these obvious possibilities, Giuliani's team finally dug up the far-from-obvious list of places that have been designated as "countries of concern" under the Visa Waiver Act. Conveniently, this includes seven countries that are collectively 97 percent Muslim, but none of which are sensitive US allies.

Article 4: Nobody from the seven countries covered by the VWA has been responsible for any terrorist fatalities in the United States. Conversely, residents and former residents of several countries not on the list (Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Russia) have been responsible for fatal terrorist attacks, yet they're not included in the entry ban.

Article 5: According to news reports, the immigration order was written with no interagency review, and without the input of either counterterrorism officials or the Office of Legal Counsel. Administration officials couldn't even agree on simple things like whether it applied to green card holders, and immigration officials around the country were left with almost no guidance about how to apply the order. All this suggests an effort to hastily produce a policy that reflected Trump's wishes for a "Muslim ban" rather than something that makes sense.

Article 6: A day after his policy went into effect, Trump himself made it clear that he continued to be obsessed with Christians as victims of terrorism:

Legally, I doubt that this is enough. I Am Not A Lawyer™, but I gather that courts don't generally take account of arguments that rely on evidence of hidden intent unless there's truly a smoking gun. The text of the executive order carries most of the weight, and the president has extremely broad authority in immigration law. Most likely, the bulk of Trump's order will remain in effect.

In the court of public opinion, however, the evidence suggests pretty strongly that Trump's order was, in fact, little more than a thinly disguised attempt to ban Muslims from the Middle East—except for those from a few favored allies. Pretzel-bending arguments aside, it's really pretty obvious what's going on here.

Before the day is over, I want to interrupt immigration-gate to acknowledge the following news. First this:

And this:

Federer's match with Rafa was just fantastic, exceptional tennis. Neither man deserved to lose, but I'm thrilled that Federer has now won at least one more slam before he retires. Rafa still has the French Open coming up, after all.

Federer and Williams were born seven weeks apart and are both 35 years old, which is ancient in tennis years. It used to be, anyway. That makes this a victory not just for them, but for all of us old folks. We are privileged to live in an era that has produced the best tennis players in history on both the men's and women's side.

Liberalism Lives!

There's nothing funny about any of the stuff going on right now, but I still managed to get a little laugh out of the guy holding the sign below. Is this the most stereotypically liberal protest slogan ever, or what?

This is nuts:

  • On Friday, the Department of Homeland Security determined that President Trump's immigration order didn't apply to green card holders.
  • Later on Friday, Steve Bannon overruled them and said it did.
  • Saturday night, DHS confirmed that the order applied to green card holders.
  • Today, chief of staff Reince Priebus apparently overruled Bannon and said it didn't apply to green card holders after all.

Who are Bannon and Priebus speaking for? Neither one of them has the authority on their own to issue these directives. DHS Secretary John Kelly has the authority. Whoever's running the Department of Justice has the authority. Donald Trump has the authority. When are we going to hear from one of them?

Harold Pollack on President Trump's immigration fiasco:

The President’s team had months to prepare this signature immigration initiative. And they produced...an amateurish, politically self-immolating effort that humiliated the country, provoked international retaliation, and failed to withstand the obvious federal court challenge on its very first day.

Given the despicable nature of this effort, I’m happy it has become a political fiasco. It also makes me wonder how the Trump administration will execute the basic functions of government. This astonishing failure reflects our new President’s contempt for the basic craft of government.

This sure seems to be the case. For the barely believable story of just how incompetent the whole exercise was, check out this CNN story. It will leave your jaw on the floor. And yet, there's also one tidbit that makes me wonder if the chaos attending the rollout was quite as unintended as we think:

Friday night, DHS arrived at the legal interpretation that the executive order restrictions applying to seven countries — Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Sudan and Yemen — did not apply to people who with lawful permanent residence, generally referred to as green card holders.

The White House overruled that guidance overnight, according to officials familiar with the rollout. That order came from the President's inner circle, led by Stephen Miller and Steve Bannon. Their decision held that, on a case by case basis, DHS could allow green card holders to enter the US.

The decision to apply the executive order to green card holders, including those in transit, is almost insane. Whatever else he is, Steve Bannon is a smart guy, and he had to know that this would produce turmoil at airports around the country and widespread condemnation from the press. Why would he do this?

In cases like this, the smart money is usually on incompetence, not malice. But this looks more like deliberate malice to me. Bannon wanted turmoil and condemnation. He wanted this executive order to get as much publicity as possible. He wanted the ACLU involved. He thinks this will be a PR win.

Liberals think the same thing. All the protests, the court judgments, the press coverage: this is something that will make middle America understand just what Trump is really all about. And once they figure it out, they'll turn on him.

In other words, both sides think that maximum exposure is good for them. Liberals think middle America will be appalled at Trump's callousness. Bannon thinks middle America will be appalled that lefties and the elite media are taking the side of terrorists. After a week of skirmishes, this is finally a hill that both sides are willing to die for. Who's going to win?

Earlier today the ACLU filed a motion for an emergency stay against President Trump's immigration order. The hearing was held in New York in front of federal judge Ann Donnelly:

This is a very partial victory. It applies to green card holders and others with legal residence status who are on US soil but are being detained in airports. They do not have to be allowed entry into the country, but they cannot now be sent back to their home country. Their eventual status will be determined in subsequent hearings. However, the overall refugee ban stays in place, and the overall entry ban for those from seven Muslim countries also stays in place. Those who are overseas are—for now, anyway—still banned from entering the US, even if they are green card holders.

UPDATE: Here's a copy of Donnelly's order. It applies to "individuals with refugee applications approved by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services as part of the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program, holders of valid immigrant and non-immigrant visas, and other individuals from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen legally authorized to enter the United States."

In situations where most people get angry, I mostly get depressed. Today I feel like hiding under a rock.

Yesterday President Trump made good on his campaign promise to halt immigration of Muslims into the United States "until we know what's going on." An explicit ban on Muslims would be illegal, of course, even considering the president's broad authority over immigration, so instead he picked seven Muslim countries and banned their citizens from entering the US for 90 days—by which time, presumably, Trump will have figured out what's going on. He also banned refugees from everywhere for 120 days. The result has been rampant chaos and pointless suffering because no one knows precisely who this applies to or how it's supposed to work.

A friend writes: "I'm amazed at how badly Trump, et al. have been handling the executive orders they've been churning out. Don't they know the orders are legal documents, not corporate memos?" That's a good question. As near as I can tell, Trump is treating his executive orders the same way he treats his tweets: they're designed as communiques to his fans, and that's about it. The actual consequences hardly matter.

What other conclusion can you draw from this latest bumbling fiasco? Consider:

Not a single Muslim extremist from any of the seven designated countries has ever committed an act of terrorism on American soil.

But residents of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Pakistan, and other US "allies" are exempt, even though their citizens have committed acts of terrorism here. By coincidence, these are also countries where Trump has commercial interests.

The executive order mis-cites the relevant immigration statute. Ed Whelan wonders if this means the Office of Legal Counsel is out of the loop:

The refugee ban is heartbreaking, especially for folks who have sold everything and were literally in the airport waiting to board a plane when they were turned back. But the order also applies to green card holders. These are legal residents. If they were overseas at the time the ban went into effect, they can't return home.

There's no excuse for this. The EO could have exempted green card holders. At the very least, it could have gone into effect for them after a warning period. But nobody in the White House gave a damn. So now airports are jammed with legal residents who are trying to return home to their families but are being denied entry.

The Secretaries of State and Homeland Security are allowed to issue exemptions on a case-by-case basis. Does this mean either of them can, or that both have to sign off? Because there is no Secretary of State right now.

Republicans are mostly too callous, or too craven, to speak up about this debacle. I don't need to bother checking to see what Breitbart and Ann Coulter think. I'm sure they're thrilled. But even mainstream conservatives are largely unwilling to speak up about this. The Wall Street Journal editorial page has been unable to rouse itself so far to express an opinion. Ditto for the Weekly Standard. I thought the same was true of National Review, but no: they roused themselves to mostly approve of what Trump is doing. Paul Ryan, who once thought this kind of thing was terrible, is also on board. So is Mitch McConnell. And Mike Lee. And most of the rest of the GOP caucus. This is how we got Trump in the first place. Is it really worth it just for another tax cut?

Airports are now flooded with stranded travelers. People who have lived in the US for years are unable to return to their homes. Nobody knows if any exceptions will be forthcoming from our Secretaries of State or Homeland Security. It's chaos everywhere.

And for no reason. Refugees are already extremely tightly vetted. Visas are tightly vetted too from the countries on Trump's list. The green-card chaos could have easily been avoided if anyone had cared enough to think through the executive order before issuing it. Or if Trump had thought that any high-ranking Republicans would make him pay a price for being so ham-handed.

But they didn't. As always, Republicans are ruled by a mean-spiritedness that's just plain nauseating. They're perfectly willing to go along with a plan that will cause tremendous hardship for other people even though they know perfectly well it will do nothing for national security. Its only real purpose is to send a message to a GOP base eager for a show of bravado against the rest of the world. Is that worth a bit of senseless cruelty aimed at defenseless foreigners? Of course it is. Hell, that's the whole point. And the suffering this causes? As usual, they just don't give a damn.

Donald Trump wants American corporations to invest in America, and he's promised to enact policies that will make America First. So how do we measure whether he's successful? I don't know, but I'll toss out a possible metric:

During the past eight years, US corporations invested about $300 billion overseas each year. If Trump is successful, this number should go down.

Or, perhaps some ratio would be a better measure: foreign investment as a percent of total investment. Or maybe something entirely different. In fact, I'm mostly publishing this as a provocation: if this is the wrong measure, what's the right one? What's the best way of knowing if US corporations start to direct more of their investment dollars into domestic expansion instead of building or buying overseas? Any trade economists want to weigh in on this?

Here's a chunk of President Trump's executive order banning refugees:

The Secretary of State shall suspend the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) for 120 days....Upon the resumption of USRAP admissions, the Secretary of State, in consultation with the Secretary of Homeland Security, is further directed to make changes, to the extent permitted by law, to prioritize refugee claims made by individuals on the basis of religious-based persecution, provided that the religion of the individual is a minority religion in the individual’s country of nationality. Where necessary and appropriate, the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security shall recommend legislation to the President that would assist with such prioritization.

In practice, the temporary suspension of the refugee program chiefly affects majority Muslim countries, which means that it's designed to stop the flow of Muslim refugees into the US.

Or is it? I suspect that was indeed the intent, since the plight of Christian refugees has been a hobbyhorse on the right for years—something that Mike Pence is keenly aware of. But the actual data begs to differ. Here are the top ten countries that the United States accepted refugees from in 2016:

Syria gets all the attention, but the top refugee contributor was the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which is 80 percent Christian. Among the top ten countries, we accepted about 44,000 refugees from majority Muslim countries and 43,000 from other countries.

Likewise, once the 120-day suspension is over the "minority religion" provision will affect both Christians and Muslims relatively equally. Favoring Christian refugees may well have been the intent of this provision, but in practice it doesn't actually seem to favor any particular religion. This was not what I expected when I decided to take a look at the data. But that's what it shows.

POSTSCRIPT: Just in case it's not obvious, I'm talking here only about refugee prioritization after Trump's 120-day ban is up. Trump has also barred the entry of anyone from seven Muslim-majority countries for the next 90 days, and barred Syrian refugees indefinitely. Those are different provisions of his order, and they pretty obviously target Muslims.

Also, we'll have to wait and see what orders the State Department issues at the end of the 120-day suspension. Right now we don't know what they'll do.

UPDATE: I got the refugee numbers wrong in the original version of this post. Both the chart and the text have been corrected.