Thursday, February 02, 2017

A Few Links to Dispel Conservative Myths Part Twelve: Donald Trump's Muslim Ban

"Cowardly and Dangerous"  - The New York Times Editorial Board

"cruel, illegal" - Erwin Chemerinsky for the Los Angeles Times

"Discrimination on nationality alone is forbidden under #humanrights law," "The U.S. ban is also mean-spirited, and wastes resources needed for proper counter-terrorism." - U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad al Hussein

We're talking of course about President Trump's January 27 executive order on immigration. From Liam Stack the New York Times: "The order indefinitely barred Syrian refugees from entering the United States, suspended all refugee admissions for 120 days and blocked citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries, refugees or otherwise, from entering the United States for 90 days: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen." Furthermore, "After the order was signed, students, visitors and green-card-holding legal permanent United States residents from the seven countries — and refugees from around the world — were stopped at airports in the United States and abroad, including Cairo, Dubai and Istanbul. Some were blocked from entering the United States and were sent back overseas."

I have already written about the bigotry and lies spread by Republicans regarding Muslim refugees and Muslims in general. I could write an entire book about everything that is illegal, immoral, bigoted, cruel and counter-productive about Trump's executive order. These things aside, the order has produced an interesting phenomenon: conservatives are trying to claim the order is justified by citing the actions of previous Presidents, especially Barrack Obama. Unsurprisingly, they are not telling the truth.

Part Twelve: Donald Trump's Muslim Ban

: "It's not a Muslim ban." - Donald Trump, 1/28/17
Fact: By any reasonable definition, the order is the fulfillment of Donald Trump's pledge to ban Muslims from the U.S.. In December of 2015, (from Jenna Johnson and Dave Weigel of the Washington Post: "Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump called Monday for a "total and complete" ban on Muslims entering the United States, barring followers of the world’s fastest-growing religion because he considers the faith rooted in hatred and violence."

The Post's generalization regarding Trump's beliefs is accurate. "Islam hates us," Trump has said. He's also claimed that, "large segments of the Muslim population" favor Sharia (Islamic law) and violence against Americans. William Saletan of has a good summary of Trump's many bigoted statements, and his long-standing plans to keep Muslims out of the U.S..

The "smoking gun" here might be former New York mayor Rudy W. Giuliani, now a key Trump operative. From Amy B. Wang of the Washington Post: Giuliani said in an interview that, "President Trump wanted a "Muslim ban" and requested he assemble a commission to show him the right way to do it legally." Giuliani, an early Trump supporter who once had been rumored for a Cabinet position in the new administration, appeared on Fox News late Saturday night to describe how Trump's executive order temporarily banning refugees came together."

As to whom we should let into the country, Trump has been very clear: in future, persecuted Christians will be given priority over other refugees seeking to enter the United States. Speaking of which...

Myth: "Do you know if you were a Christian in Syria it was impossible, at least very tough to get into the United States? If you were a Muslim you could come in, but if you were a Christian, it was almost impossible" - Donald Trump, 1/27/17
Fact: While it's true that Christians make up 5% of Syrian population but only 1% of recently admitted Syrian refugees, there is nothing to indicate, and certainly no U.S. policy that has the effect that it has been far more difficult for Syrian Christians to come to the U.S. as refugees compared to Syrian Muslims. Regarding the Trump statement, The Washington Post's Fact Checker has said, "The president could highlight that situation without suggesting that something nefarious is going on."

Myth: "My policy is similar to what President Obama did in 2011 when he banned visas for refugees from Iraq for six months. The seven countries named in the Executive Order are the same countries previously identified by the Obama administration as sources of terror." - Donald Trump, 1/29/17
Fact: From Jon Finer of "Contrary to Trump’s Sunday statement and the repeated claims of his defenders, the Obama administration did not "ban visas for refugees from Iraq for six months." For one thing, refugees don’t travel on visas. More importantly, while the flow of Iraqi refugees slowed significantly during the Obama administration’s review, refugees continued to be admitted to the United States during that time, and there was not a single month in which no Iraqis arrived here. In other words, while there were delays in processing, there was no outright ban."

Myth: The order is based on security reviews conducted by President Barack Obama’s deputies
Fact: While it involves the same countries named as places of concern in the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015, Trump's order is in no way "based" on that law or its implementation. Again from Jon Finer: "Trump’s claim that the seven countries listed in the executive order came from the Obama administration is conveniently left unexplained. A bit of background: Soon after the December 2015 terrorist attack in San Bernardino, California, President Obama signed an amendment to the Visa Waiver Program, a law that allows citizens of 38 countries to travel to the United States without obtaining visas (and gives Americans reciprocal privileges in those countries). The amendment removed from the Visa Waiver Program dual nationals who were citizens of four countries (Iraq, Iran, Sudan, and Syria) or anyone who had recently traveled to those countries. The Obama administration added three more to the list (Libya, Somalia, and Yemen), bringing the total to seven. But this law did not bar anyone from coming to the United States. It only required a relatively small percentage of people to obtain a visa first. And to avoid punishing people who clearly had good reasons to travel to the relevant countries, the Obama administration used a waiver provided by Congress for certain travelers, including journalists, aid workers, and officials from international organizations like the United Nations." 

Myth: There is precedent for the Trump order, as President Carter banned Iranians from the U.S..
Fact: Carter's actions in 1979 and 1980 revoked the visas of Iranian students and the temporary visas of other Iranians traveling to the U.S.. He did not halt the immigration the naturalization process for Iranians, nor did he prevent Iranians from continuing to come to the U.S. as refugees.

In the article linked above by Louis Jacobson of, he notes that, "Carter acted after the Iranian government accepted and defended the action by militants who stormed our embassy in Tehran and took our diplomats hostage," said David Martin, a University of Virginia law professor who has written extensively about immigration law. "It was a classic, major, state-to-state confrontation, based on a flagrant violation of diplomatic immunity. Carter invoked a host of counter-measures long recognized as appropriate under international law." So while we on the subject...

Myth: The Trump order is legal, as federal law says, "Whenever the President finds that the entry of any aliens or of any class of aliens into the United States would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, he may by proclamation, and for such period as he shall deem necessary, suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens as immigrants or nonimmigrants, or impose on the entry of aliens any restrictions he may deem to be appropriate."
Fact: An entire nationality cannot be termed, "a class of aliens" under the  law in question, because federal law also specifically outlaws discrimination against immigrants based on national origin.

Six federal judges issued five separate orders blocking parts of Trump’s executive order within 48 hours of it becoming effective. These orders, among other things, 
* Blocked deportations of those detained on entry to the United States.
* Granted a request from the American Civil Liberties Union to stop the deportations after determining that the risk of injury to those detained by being returned to their home countries necessitated the decision.
* Issued a temporary restraining order to block for seven days the removal of any green-card holders being detained at Dulles International Airport and ordered that lawyers have access to those held there because of the ban.
* Ruled that no approved refugee, holder of a valid visa, lawful permanent resident or traveler from the seven majority-Muslim nations can be detained or removed due solely to Trump's executive order anywhere in the U.S.

Myth: Despite the chaos the ban caused at airports due to its announcement without prior notice, it was necessary to make the ban effective as soon as it was announced. If the ban was set to take effect effect some time after the President announced it, potential terrorists would receive advance notice and thus infiltrate the country via its refugee resettlement or tourist visa programs. Or as Trump tweeted, "If the ban were announced with a one week notice, the "bad" would rush into our country during that week. A lot of bad "dudes" out there!"
Fact: From Igor Bobic of the Huffington Post: "That argument isn’t based in reality." People abroad can’t just "rush" into the U.S. The screening process for refugees takes 18 to 24 months, on average. The process for obtaining other types of visas also takes weeks at the very least."

Myth: Key officials at the State Department and Department of Homeland Security we informed of the ban in advance so that they could prepare to implement it when Trump announced it.
Fact: Multiple media reports indicated senior officials at the agencies charged with carrying out the ban were not aware of the changes before its announcement. From Jonathan Allen and Brendan O'Brien at Reuters: "At the State Department, one of the main agencies dealing with visas and immigration, most officials first heard of the executive order on immigration through the media, according to two department officials."

Republican senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham spoke out against the ban, saying, among other things, "It is clear from the confusion at our airports across the nation that President Trump's executive order was not properly vetted," adding, "Such a hasty process risks harmful results."

Myth: The order should not be called a "ban". Only the media are doing that. (This is according to White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer.)
Fact: Trump has repeatedly called the order a "ban." So has Spicer himself.

Myth: As if the order weren't bad enough, (from Richard Perez-Pena of the New York Times)
"the executive order states that many people who enter the country illegally "present a significant threat to national security and public safety." It directs the Department of Homeland Security to publish a weekly "comprehensive list of criminal actions committed by aliens and any jurisdiction that ignored or otherwise failed to honor any detainers with respect to such aliens."
Fact: (From the NYT article linked above) "Several studies, over many years, have concluded that immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than people born in the United States. And experts say the available evidence does not support the idea that undocumented immigrants commit a disproportionate share of crime."

Myth: "We don't know who these people are. We don't know where they're from. We don't know where they're from. They have no documentation. We all have hearts and we can build safe zones in Syria and we'll get the Gulf states to put up the money. We're not putting up the money, but I'll get that done. But you know what? We can't let this happen. But you have a lot of them resettling in Rhode Island. Just enjoy your — lock your doors, folks." - Donald Trump in April 2017, referring to Syrian refugees being resettled in the U.S..
Fact: The current refugee vetting process is incredibly thorough and rigorous. From Stephanie Condon of CBS News:

"The process for any refugee begins with the processing of biographic information (such as an applicant's name and date of birth) and biometric information (such as fingerprints). The information is checked against databases in several different U.S. agencies including the FBI, the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

If an applicant has applied for an overseas visa in the past, their biometric information should be on record. It can be used to ensure that the applicant has had a consistent story about the circumstances that prompted them to seek asylum. 

After that, applicants go through a lengthy, in-person interview process overseas. The interviews are conducted by specially-trained DHS officers who spend at least eight weeks learning skills like how to question applicants and test their credibility. These adjudicators receive special training for interviewing refugees from Iraq or Syria."

Natasha Hall, a former immigration officer with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, describers the grueling process of gaining refugee status here.

Myth: A new "extreme vetting" process for refugees and other travelers to the U.S. will fill gaps in the current process.
Fact: Say, what was the whole point of this ban anyway? Oh yeah, it's so we can introduce "extreme vetting." So what it "extreme vetting"? It's asking applicants how they feel about hot-button political issues. I kid you not. From Lauren Said-Moorhouse and Ryan Browne of CNN:

"The policy would attempt to establish whether applicants' beliefs match US values on gay rights, gender equality and religious freedoms, among others."

I wonder what opinions on gay rights and gender equality tip off Donald Trump as to whether a Syrian refugee is a terrorist. On second thought, I probably don't want to know.

Good night, and good luck.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Predictions: 2018 Senate Races

Overview: (11/25/16). The story of the 2018 Senate races was going to be that of historic gains for the Republican party. Democrats hold 25 of the seats up for election compared to only 8 for the GOP, and the party out of power always does well in the mid-term elections. Of course I expected Hillary Clinton, not Donald Trump to become President. So now it's the Democrats who are the party out of power, and, quite possibly, Democratic voters will be more fired up than their Republican opponents in 2018. Of course it may not matter how energized Democrats are, given the increasing effectiveness of Republican voter suppression laws. This may be an election where few if any seats change hands. Retirements will be key.

Races are categorized as either likely or unlikely to be competitive. This post will be updated continuously until election day.

Likely to be competitive:

Rating: Likely Republican hold
Republican: Jeff Flake (incumbent)
Democrat: ?
Overview: For years now, Democrats have found themselves tantalizingly close to winning statewide elections in Arizona, without actually winning any of them. Jeff Flake's approval rating is only 35% (he doesn't like Donald Trump), making him vulnerable to a challenge from the right. If Flake loses his primary to some right-wing yahoo, the door is open for a competitive race. If Flake is renominated, he's a pretty safe bet for reelection.

Rating: Leans Democratic hold 
Democrat: Bill Nelson (incumbent)
Republican: Governor Rick Scott?
Overview: Republican Governor Rick Scott is term-limited out of office after 2018, and, having nothing better to do, apparently he'd like to continue ruining the state of Florida by becoming a US Senator. If he runs, Scott would be the prohibitive favorite to win the GOP nomination. His approval ratings are however underwater, so for the time being I like Nelson to win another term.

Rating: Toss up
Democrat: Joe Donnelly (incumbent)
Republican: ?
Overview: How the heck did Democrat Joe Donnelly win a Senate seat in Indiana? Well, it seems his opponent, State Treasurer Richard Mourdock, suggested during the campaign that women impregnated by rapists must not have abortions, because their pregnancies are something, "God intended to happen."  Can Donnelly draw another opponent as repellent as Mourdock? I wouldn't count on it, and Indiana is a red state going redder.

Rating: Leans Democratic hold 
Democrat: Debbie Stabenow (incumbent)
Republican: ?
Overview: Stabenow is running for a fourth term, and has easily defeated past Republican opponents. On the other hand, if Michigan can go for Trump just four years after giving President Obama a 10-point victory over Michigan boy Mitt Romney, anything is possible.

Rating: Toss up
Democrat: Claire McCaskill (incumbent)
Overview: Nobody thought Claire McCaskill had a chance of winning another term in the Senate in 2012. As expected, Mitt Romney beat President Obama by a large margin in Missouri. McCaskill however skillfully helped ensure that the Republican nomination would go to the most extreme candidate in the race, Congressmen Todd Akin. Akin then obliged McCaskill by making some truly birzarre comments on rape and pregnancy, and she beat him by 15% on election day. Well, that was then. McCaskill might get lucky again and face a truly terrible opponent, but I wouldn't count on it.

Rating: Leans Democratic hold
Democrat: Jon Tester (incumbent)
Republican: ?
Libertarian: ?
Overview: Tester ran a brilliant campaign in 2012, and won a race that Republicans were counting on. It didn't hurt that the Libertarian candidate ate some of the Republicans' lunch by taking 6.5% of the vote. Tester won't be easy to beat in 2018, but it wouldn't surprise me that much if he lost.

Rating: Toss up
Republican: Dean Heller (incumbent)
Democrat: ?
Overview: Heller narrowly beat a scandal-tarred opponent in 2012. Nevada is trending blue, and if the Democrats nominate a good candidate, this will be a close race.

New Jersey
Rating: Leans Democratic hold
Democrat: Bob Menendez (incumbent)
Republican: ?
Overview: Menendez is facing federal corruption charges. Whether this actually opens the door for Republicans to win a Senate seat in New Jersey remains to be seen. It's hard to imagine voters turning out in a big way for New Jersey Republicans in 2018 given their loathing of Govenor Chris Christie, and the recent convictions in the Bridgegate scandal.

New Mexico
Rating: Likely Democratic hold
Democrat: Martin Heinrich (incumbent)
Republican: ?
Overview: Martin Heinrich has decent approval ratings. He also kind of looks like a model. New Mexico is trending blue, and I don't think Democrats have much too much to worry about here.

North Dakota
Rating: Leans Democratic hold
Democrat: Heidi Heitkamp (incumbent)
Republican: Congressman Rick Berg
Overview: Time was when North Dakota elected liberal Democrats to Congress even as it voted strongly for Republicans at the Presidential level. It looked like those days were over in 2012, however, Heidi Heitkamp miraculously beat her Republican opponent by 3,000 votes even as Mitt Romney beat President Obama by 64,000 votes in North Dakota. This will be a close race, but I think Heitkamp has the popularity to win another term.

Rating: Leans Democratic hold
Democrat: Sherrod Brown (incumbent)
Republican: ?
Overview: In 2012, Republicans had high hopes that Mitt Romney would carry Ohio, and that "rising star" Republican state Treasurer Scott Mandel would defeat incumbent Senator Sherrod Brown. Neither happened, however, Donald Trump's big win in Ohio in 2016 should give Democrats pause. Brown may be a bit too liberal for increasingly conservative Ohio. But his approval ratings are pretty good, and he has a strong chance to win another term.

Rating: Likely Democratic hold
Democrat: Bob Casey, Jr. (incumbent)
Republican: ?
Overview: Bob Casey has good approval ratings and I like his chances to win another term.

Rating: Likely Democratic hold
Democrat: Tim Kaine (incumbent)
Republican: ?
Overview: Even with popular former Governor and Senator Tim Kaine on the Clinton ticket, she barely carried Virginia. Oh well, moving on. While I expect Republicans to mount a serious challenge here, Kaine is a good bet to win another term.

West Virginia
Rating: Leans Democratic hold
Democrat: Joe Manchin (incumbent)
Republican: ?
Overview: Joe Manchin is easily the most conservative Democrat in the Senate. Will that be enough to win another term in very conservative West Virginia? His approval ratings suggest it will.

Rating: Leans Democratic hold
Democrat: Tammy Baldwin (incumbent)
Republican: ?
Overview: I don't know what to say about Wisconsin any more. Barrack Obama carried it easily, now it goes for Trump. Republican Ron Johnson is probably the worst member of the Senate, he has terrible approval ratings, and yet he defeats Democrat Russ Feingold. Republican Governor Scott Walker is a total disaster for the state, yet he easily wins reelection. On paper, liberal Democrat Tammy Baldwin is a good bet for reelection. In reality, given what's happened in Wisconsin in recent elections, who knows?

Unlikely to be competitive:

California: Dianne Feinstein (D) may not run for reelection (she'll be 85), but California is likely to stay blue.

Connecticut: Chris Murphy (D). Republicans have had high hopes for Connecticut in recent elections; those hopes have gone nowhere.

Delaware: Tom Carper (D) has sky-high approval ratings and is in no danger.

Hawai'i: Mazie Hirono (D). Even in Republican-leaning years, the GOP has gotten nowhere in Hawai'i congressional races.

Maine: Angus King (I-Democratic caucus). King is quite popular, and Maine seems to like incumbents. 

Massachusetts (D). The only way Elizabeth Warren is not still a U.S. Senator years from now is if she runs for higher office.

Maryland: Ben Cardin (D). Maryland is too blue for Republicans to make a go of it here.

Minnesota: Amy Klobuchar (D). Strong approval ratings protect Klobuchar from vulnerability.

Mississippi: Roger Wicker (R). As I noted in a post in 2008, here's how voting works in Mississippi in statewide races: white people vote Republican, black people vote Democratic. The population demographics needed for a serious challenge to Wicker just aren't there.

Nebraska: Deb Fischer (R). In 2012, Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning was expected to win this race, but State Senator Deb Fischer surprised most by winning the Republican nomination. She then proceeded to campaign so badly in her race against former Democratic Senator Bob Kerrey that Republicans were forced to inject last-minute campaign funds into a race that should have seen Fischer able to sleepwalk to victory. More recently, she made the brilliant move of calling on Donald Trump to step down from the Presidential nomination after the release of the Billy Bush tape, only to endorse him for President 3 days later. To summarize, it wouldn't surprise me if the inept Fischer were to lose renomination to another Republican. But nothing short of a miracle would make a Democrat competitive in this race.

New York: Kirsten Gillibrand (D). Extremely unlikely any Republican will win a statewide race in New York.

Rhode Island: Sheldon Whitehouse (D). Republicans have made serious inroads in a lot of what were considered blue states in the past few years. But not in Rhode Island.

Tennessee: Bob Corker (R). Corker has strong approval ratings. Democrats have pretty much given up on Tennessee.

Texas: Ted Cruz (R). Some day a Democrat will win a statewide race in Texas. But not very soon.

Utah: Orrin Hatch (R). Hatch will be 84 in 2018. He might retire, and there's the possibility of a primary challenge. Otherwise, nothing of interest here.

Vermont: Bernie Sanders (I, member of the Democratic caucus). There is no more popular Senator among his constituents than Bernie.

Washington: Maria Cantwell (D). Republicans have become far less competitive in statewide races in Washington is the past couple of decades, and with Trump in office, the GOP nominee for this seat doesn't have a prayer.

Wyoming: John Barrasso (R). Watching paint dry will be more interesting than this race.

Sunday, November 06, 2016

2016 Election Predictions

The Presidential Race
Popular Vote:
Hillary Clinton (D) 50.3%, Donald Trump (R) 45.7%, Other 4.0%

Electoral Vote:
Hillary Clinton (D) 323, Donald Trump (R) 215

The US Senate Races

Current Senate: 54 Republicans, 46 Democrats,
New Senate: 52 Democrats, 48 Republicans.

The competitive races:
We seem to have a bunch of coin-tosses.
Likely Democratic pickups: Illinois, Wisconsin
Leans Democratic pickup: NH, PA
Leans Democratic hold: NV
Toss up: IN, MO, NC. All three of these are almost impossible to call. But I'll go with Democrat Evan Bayh to narrowly win Indiana. Very recent polls have show Democrat Jason Kander losing momentum in Missouri, and with Trump way ahead of Clinton there, I have to go with the Republican Roy incumbent Blunt. I think Clinton is slightly ahead in North Carolina, and although Democrat Deborah Ross seems to trail every so slightly in the polls, I think Burr's recent remarks about Clinton will cost him.
Leans Republican hold: FL

The US House Races
Current House
: 248 Republicans, 187 Democrats.  
New House: 234 Republicans, 201 Democrats.

The Gubernatorial Races

Democrats to pickup IN, MO, NC.
Republicans to pickup NH, VT.

Thanks for reading. Joe