Here's a quick roundup of this afternoon's news on President Trump's immigration order. You might be especially interested in the last one:

  • Hundreds of State Department employees have signed a "Dissent Memo" arguing that Trump's order is disastrous for American interests. I don't think I have to tell you Trump's reaction to this.
  • The acting attorney general, a holdover from the Obama administration, ordered the Department of Justice not to defend the order in court.
  • Trump quickly fired her.
  • A handful of congressional Republicans are annoyed by Trump's insistence that he sought their input. Here's the Washington Post: "Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said Monday that he was not briefed before the order was signed....Asked whether he was consulted in the drafting of the order, Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Tex.), the No. 2 Republican in the Senate said simply: 'I wasn't.'...Senior House leaders, including Ryan, did not see the text of the order until after it was signed Friday....Spokesmen for Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah), Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) said the senators were not consulted about the order."
  • Democrats slowed down the confirmation hearing of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in retaliation for the immigration order.
  • The LA Times reports that Steve Bannon views the immigration order as just the start. Brian Bennett and Noah Bierman say that Bannon sees himself as "launching a radical experiment to fundamentally transform how the U.S. decides who is allowed into the country and to block a generation of people who, in their view, won’t assimilate into American society."

Rep. Tom Price has been dogged for weeks by allegations that he got a special deal on stock in Innate Immunotherapeutics Ltd. thanks to his status as a senior member of the House leadership (he's chairman of the Budget Committee). Price says it's all hooey: the deal he got was available to anyone who had invested in the company.

But now that turns out to be—what's the word? A falsehood. You know, the deliberate kind. Here's the Wall Street Journal:

In fact, the cabinet nominee was one of fewer than 20 U.S. investors who were invited last year to buy discounted shares of the company—an opportunity that, for Mr. Price, arose from an invitation from a company director and fellow congressmen.

The shares were discounted 12% off the traded price in mid-June only for investors who participated in a private placement arranged to raise money to complete a clinical trial. The company’s shares have tripled since the offering.

....The discounted stock offer in Innate Immuno, as the company is known, was made to all shareholders in Australia and New Zealand—but not in the U.S....[Price] said he paid the same price as other investors in the private placement but didn’t say that the 12% discount wasn’t available to ordinary investors or that he was one of a select few who were invited to participate in the deal.

This was a "friends and family" deal, which is not uncommon for small companies doing private placements. The question is, why did Price lie about it? It's not illegal, and I don't think it violates congressional ethics rules. So what's going on here? Price doesn't even work for Donald Trump yet, but apparently he's already adopted the Trumpian habit of lying about everything even if you don't need to. It's good practice, I guess.

Anyway, as you can see the stock was a helluva deal for Price, rising from 29 cents (25 cents with the discount!) to $1.77 over the course of seven months. Sadly, on Friday and Monday there was a sudden selloff, and now the stock is down to 78 cents. Apparently the recent press attention has spooked a few investors. Still not a bad return for a few months' work, though.

Here's a list of Republicans who oppose President Trump's immigration order in one way or another. They range from outright opposition to weasely concerns with "implementation" and "confusion." I tried to find most everybody who's spoken up, but I'm sure I missed a few.

Welcome to the next four years:

President Trump said Monday that Lockheed Martin has cut $600 million from its next lot of 90 F-35 Joint Strike Fighter planes, capping weeks of private meetings with Lockheed Martin chief executive Marillyn Hewson and public criticisms of the program’s cost.

....The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter costs about $100 million per plane, though the company says it already expects the cost of the plane to drop to $85 million as the company ramps up its volume of production. It was unclear from the president’s statements how much if any of the $600 million cost-savings were new, or whether they contain savings that the company had already planned.

More here:

Trump, who has publicly criticized Lockheed on Twitter since his election and called the program costs “out of control” just last month, now says the program is “in great shape” and called the F-35 “a great plane.”

“I appreciate Lockheed Martin for being so responsive,” he said. Citing years of delays and cost overruns, he said, “We’ve ended all of that. We’ve got that program really, really now in great shape.

Lockheed has been involved in negotiation for the next batch of F-35s for more than a year....Cutting the cost of the F-35 also isn’t new from the Pentagon perspective, either. Late last year the Pentagon announced a $6.1 billion contract for the 57 F-35’s included in the ninth batch of jets. That represented a 3.7 percent reduction in the average price of the airplanes from what it paid in the last order and an overall 58 percent cut from what it paid when the first planes were produced.

In a mere ten days, Trump has whipped the entire F-35 program into "great shape"! What an amazing guy.

Needless to say, Lockheed-Martin is happy to go along with this fiction. They were already planning on a lower price for the tenth batch of jets anyway, and if Trump wants to take a fake victory lap over this, that's fine with them. They have a keen understanding of the benefits of good relations with Beltway politicians.

Next week I expect Trump to claim credit for reducing greenhouse gases. Or preventing a terrorist attack that would have happened if not for his immigration order. Or maybe for the decline in illegal immigration over the past decade. Who knows what his next gusher of PR nonsense will be about?

I've written before about the possibility that repealing bits and parts of Obamacare—which is all Republicans can do—will destroy the individual insurance market. Not just the Obamacare exchanges, but the entire market. Insurers would still be required to insure everyone who applies for coverage, but there would be no subsidies and no mandate. The result would be a flood of super-expensive patients like me, and virtually no healthy people to balance out the pool. If that happens, insurers will simply exit the individual market rather than take huge losses.

A few days ago, a recording of a private meeting among congressional Republicans surfaced. This recording made it clear that Republicans understand this problem perfectly well:

Washington Post: These leaders acknowledged in Thursday’s meeting, as they have before, that Obamacare cannot be fully undone — or replaced — without Democratic cooperation.

Politico: Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.) fretted about what would happen to the insurance market after Republicans pass a repeal bill but before an alternative is put in place....“My concern is the post-reconciliation market could be one in which the client plans [prices] go up or ... are not available, and that is the market that Republicans will own,” he said.

Here's the only reaction I could find from the insurance industry:

"At a time when the individual market faces challenges, we need as many people as possible to participate — so that costs go down for everyone," said Kristine Grow, spokeswoman for America's Health Insurance Plans.

This wasn't even a reaction to Obamacare repeal, either. It was a reaction to the Trump administration's childish attempt at sabotaging signups for 2017. Basically, the insurance industry has been curiously quiet about the whole thing.

Why? They know the stakes better than anyone. Recent premium hikes hold out the promise that after years of losses, their Obamacare business will finally turn profitable this year or next. But a ham-handed repeal effort does just the opposite. The individual market would become massively unprofitable, and insurers would have to decide whether to ride it out for a year or two, or simply abandon the individual market altogether. These are really lousy alternatives.

This makes their silence hard to understand. Are they biding their time? Have they given up? Are they lobbying hard, but doing it very quietly? Aside from the people who would be left without medical care under a Republican repeal, insurers stand to lose the most. Why aren't they being more public about this?

Here are Donald Trump's favorability ratings since Election Day. I'm putting this up as a benchmark. It's currently 41.8 percent according to Pollster, and that's before any new polling has been done following the chaos of Trump's immigration order. In a couple of weeks we should have an initial read on whether this has helped or hurt him.

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?