Friday, March 24, 2017

Kremlingate Creeps Closer to Trump

Donald Trump, his former campaign manger Paul Manafort, and Ivanka Trump at the RNC. (photo: Getty)
Donald Trump, his former campaign manger Paul Manafort, and Ivanka Trump at the RNC. (photo: Getty)

By Tim Dickinson, Rolling Stone
24 March 17
We've yet to get an explanation for the raging cross-currents of Russian influence and Republican politics
he noose of Kremlingate is tightening – and the scandal increasingly appears to tie Trump associates to a Russian campaign to subvert American democracy.

The FBI is now weighing evidence that Trump associates communicated – and possibly coordinated – with "suspected Russian operatives" about when to release information that damaged the presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton, CNN reports.

This inquiry is part of the counterintelligence investigation that FBI Director James Comey described to Congress this week, examining "the Russian government's efforts to interfere in the 2016 president election ... and whether there was any coordination between the [Trump] campaign and Russia's efforts."

(In January, the U.S. intelligence community concluded that Russian President Vladimir Putin had ordered a "multifaceted" campaign in 2016 to undermine Clinton and promote Trump – including by hacking Democratic Party operatives and relaying "material it acquired from the DNC and senior Democratic officials to WikiLeaks.")

CNN's report linking Trump's inner circle to Kremlingate has surfaced just after a bombshell report by the Associated Press. AP reveals that Paul Manafort – Trump's campaign chairman from March through August of 2016 – had previously been paid tens of millions of dollars by a Russian oligarch, after Manafort pitched him a plan to "influence politics, business dealings and news coverage inside the United States ... to benefit President Vladimir Putin's government."

The AP report is stunning: From 2006 until "at least" 2009, Manafort was paid exorbitant sums – starting at $10 million a year – by Russian aluminum magnate Oleg Deripaska, described in a U.S. diplomatic cable as "among the 2-3 oligarchs Putin turns to on a regular basis." The payments began, the AP reports, after Manafort laid out a scheme to "greatly benefit" Putin.

Manafort's work was covert. He did not report his contract to the Justice Department, a potential violation of the Foreign Agents Registration Act, the AP reports. A statement by Deripaska to the news service says Manafort was paid "to provide investment consulting services related to business interests." Manafort confirmed he'd been paid, but according to the AP, "denied his work had been pro-Russian in nature." 

The New York Times had previously reported that Manafort received $12.7 million in off-the-book payments from a pro-Russia party inside Ukraine, dating from 2007 to 2012. That disclosure prompted Manafort's formal exit from the Trump campaign in August 2016. But Manafort – who reportedly owns an apartment in Trump Tower – reportedly remained in close contact with Trump and running mate Mike Pence.

According to the Daily Beast, Manafort was a pivotal figure in the Trump transition, helping select the top ranks of the new administration. "I think he's weighing in on everything," a former campaign official said in late November. "I think he still talks to Trump every day. I mean, Pence? That was all Manafort. Pence is on the phone with Manafort regularly."

Take a step back. Consider what we're talking about here:

Manafort was previously paid tens of millions of dollars by a Russian oligarch after proposing a secret, multifaceted campaign to influence U.S. politics and media to "greatly benefit" the interests of the Putin government in the United States.

A few years later, as Manafort had risen to become the campaign chairman of the Republican nominee for president, the Putin government engaged in its own multifaceted campaign to influence U.S. politics and media – seeking to undermine Hillary Clinton and ultimately to promote Donald Trump. The U.S. intelligence assessment on Putin's interference in the 2016 election records that active Russian promotion of Trump began the same month that Manafort took the helm as Trump's campaign manager. "Starting in March 2016," it reads, "Russian Government-linked actors began openly supporting President-elect Trump's candidacy in media aimed at English-speaking audiences."

Perhaps there is an innocent explanation for these raging cross-currents of Russian influence and Republican politics. But listen to top Russia hawks in the U.S. Senate and that seems unlikely. "There are other shoes that will drop," Sen. John McCain told Bloomberg of the Manafort affair. "This is a centipede."

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Unanimous Supreme Court overturns Gorsuch decision ... during his confirmation hearing

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 31:  Judge Neil Gorsuch listens as he is nominated by  U.S. President Donald Trump to the Supreme Court during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House January 31, 2017 in Washington, DC. If confirmed, Gorsuch would fill the seat left vacant with the death of Associate Justice Antonin Scalia in February 2016.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Neil Gorsuch
Neil Gorsuch’s belief in reading the law as narrowly as needed to screw ordinary people reared its head again during his Supreme Court confirmation hearing Wednesday, but not because of anything Gorsuch himself said on Wednesday. No, the issue was something the entire United States Supreme Court said—that Gorsuch was wrong in a 2008 opinion dealing with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Ian Millhiser writes:

Under Gorsuch’s opinion in Luke P., a school district complies with the law so long as they provide educational benefits that “must merely be ‘more than de minimis.’”
De minimis” is a Latin phrase meaning “so minor as to merit disregard.” So Gorsuch essentially concluded that school districts comply with their obligation to disabled students so long as they provide those students with a little more than nothing.
All eight justices rejected Gorsuch’s approach. IDEA, Chief Justice Roberts wrote, “is markedly more demanding than the ‘merely more than de minimis’ test applied by the Tenth Circuit.” Indeed, Roberts added, Gorsuch’s approach would effectively strip many disabled students of their right to an education.
Sure, maybe if Antonin Scalia had been alive, the Supreme Court’s decision would have been 8-1, but Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas just said Gorsuch was wrong—and wrong because he would deny disabled kids an education. 

Asked about this during his hearing Wednesday, Gorsuch stuck to his confirmation strategy of appearing as bland as possible and said, “That’s fine.”

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Russians Hit Democracy Already Damaged by Republicans

FBI Director James Comey looks on during the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence hearing on Russian actions during the 2016 election campaign. (photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images)
FBI Director James Comey looks on during the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence hearing on Russian actions during the 2016 election campaign. (photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images)

By William Boardman, Reader Supported News
21 March 17

“The F.B.I., as part of our counterintelligence effort, is investigating the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 president [sic] election….”
– FBI Director James Comey, Congressional testimony, March 20, 2017

BI Director Comey let loose the mechanical rabbit of Russian interference and now all the political greyhounds are chasing it around a circular track is if it were a real quarry worth catching. That gives them all deniability for ignoring the bigger, fatter elephants in the room that actually need to be addressed.

The dominant narrative for the March 20 open hearing of the US House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence was set in the committee’s naming of “its investigation into Russian active measures during the 2016 election campaign.”

Committee chairman Devin Nunes, a California Republican who has resisted any investigation into Russian ties with the Trump campaign or administration, set a sharp anti-Russian tone with his opening statement that blames the Obama administration for ignoring the committee’s warnings. Nunes framed the hearing with his limited exoneration of the Trump operation: “Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said publicly he’s seen no evidence of collusion between the Russians and the Trump campaign, and I can say that the Committee, too, has seen no evidence to date that officials from any campaign conspired with Russian agents.”

Ohio Republican Mike Turner had a darker view, saying, “There is now a cloud over our [election] system…. The goal of the Russians is to put a cloud on our system.”

Mike Rogers, Director of the National Security Agency, agreed that 2016 campaign activities were “calling into question our democratic process.” And Comey said Russian efforts “introduced chaos and discord and sowed doubt” and have worked to undermine and threaten our “wonderful free and fair election system.”

These sentiments, echoed over and over like a conventional wisdom mantra, are really ridiculous. Yes, the Russians interfered with the 2016 election, and maybe even influenced it. Yes, Trump operatives had contact with Russian operatives, and they may even have colluded. Yes, these are real problems, but it’s a groupthink deception, and self-deception, to treat them as if they comprise the entire problem with the American election system.

American elections went off the rails more than two decades ago and they’re been getting worse ever since. Everyone knows this, the government knows this, Congress knows this – and they do nothing to make it better, they work only to make it seem better. The history is in plain sight for anyone who wants to see it, starting well before the 2000 election. 

Money in Politics

Corrupt fundraising from corporations and individuals was one of the major elements in Nixon’s 1972 Watergate scandal, in spite of reform attempted through the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971. Post-Watergate reforms that passed Congress were inadequate, leading to the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (informally known as the McCain-Feingold Act), that also failed to control campaign spending in a rational, democratic way. 

Voter Caging

Florida’s efforts to take Democratic voters off the rolls and to intimidate them at the polls were state policy under Governor Jeb Bush, carried out by his secretary of state, Katherine Harris, both beneficiaries of great inherited wealth. Without that corrupt preparation of the state, George Bush likely would have lost it outright. The closeness of the vote led to the chaotic recount, also abetted by Bush and Harris, setting up the opportunity to win the presidency in the courts. 

Bush v. Gore

The 2000 Supreme Court’s 5-4 partisan decision awarded the presidency to the loser of the popular vote. Al Gore, another beneficiary of great inherited wealth, and the wealthy leadership of the Democratic Party chose not to contest this all-American effort to undermine the American electoral system. The Supreme Court ruled, in effect, that elections could be fairly decided without counting all the votes. That continues to be a cloud over the election system. 

Citizens United

In January 2010, another partisan 5-4 decision by the Supreme Court upheld the notion that somehow money is speech, and those who have the most money are entitled to the most speech, allowing an already corrupted system to spin out of control. Despite their control of both houses of Congress, Democrats responded impotently and went on to lose the House in the fall. 

Voter Suppression

What Jeb Bush oversaw in Florida in 2000 looks almost benign when compared to more recent Republican voter-suppression efforts, and they continue to expand almost unchecked. Even when courts rule them illegal, Republican state legislatures bring them back in modified form. Republican election success depends on reducing the number of voters. 


Already out of control in places like Texas, where Rep. Tom DeLay stage-managed the Texas legislature’s efforts to re-draw districts that increased Republican election winners. As early as 1998, DeLay was the beneficiary of contributions from Russian oil oligarchs. In 2011, DeLay was convicted (and acquitted on appeal) of conspiracy to violate election law in 2002. Gerrymandering has historically been a bipartisan corrupt activity, but the ruthlessness of recent gerrymandering across the country is a largely Republican phenomenon to which Democrats have responded limply if at all. 

Voting Machines

Partisan-controlled, privately-owned voting machines is a blatantly corrupt concept that we have lived with for a generation with little response. Why ANY government, from local to federal, ever tolerated election machines controlled by third parties is one of the abiding mysteries of American life. The impact of these machines cannot be good, although how bad they’ve been is disputed. They seem to be on the decline. At first Diebold and other voting machines were seen as righ-wing conspiracies. In 2016, George Soros was accused of owning voting machines in 16 states. Not that it mattered: Trump won eight of them, including Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. 

Voter Registration Roles

Voter registration is another constant target of Republican voter suppression efforts, which aim at keeping minorities, poor people, and others off the rolls and ineligible to vote. Ruthless voter-roll purging is a common recent Republican technique. The vulnerability of voter rolls to cyber-attacks (by the Russians, for example) is uncertain and came up only briefly at the Intelligence Committee hearing. 

Voting Rights Act

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was a landmark of democratic expansion of the franchise to previously suppressed voting groups, especially black voters. According to legend, when President Johnson signed the act into law, he said that would lose the south for Democrats for a generation. That was optimistic. In 2013, the Supreme Court, in another 5-4 partisan vote, effectively declared that racism was over and gutted the Voting Rights Act. As Chief Justice John Roberts myopically stated: “Our country has changed. While any racial discrimination in voting is too much, Congress must ensure that the legislation it passes to remedy that problem speaks to current conditions.”

Roberts is not known to have commented publicly as to the current conditions of American bigotry as expressed by the Trump campaign and its followers, although his opinions in recent criminal cases are more sensitive to race than those of Justice Clarence Thomas. Once again, Democrats have taken the issue of voting rights and done little with it.

Given this history of the self-inflicted collapse of American democratic process, the Russians seem to be relatively minor players of recent vintage. The greater threats to American democracy by far have been the Republican Party and the Supreme Court, with little resistance from Democrats. Together our three branches of government have collaborated to create the corrupt conditions that spawned the Trump candidacy, an all-American target of opportunity the Russians were only too happy to work with.

The Supreme Court and the President seem unlikely to deal with any of this any time soon. That leaves Congress, a Republican-majority Congress, to figure out whether the country is worth saving at this point. The starting point should probably be keeping Americans from interfering with the American democratic process.

William M. Boardman has over 40 years experience in theatre, radio, TV, print journalism, and non-fiction, including 20 years in the Vermont judiciary. He has received honors from Writers Guild of America, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Vermont Life magazine, and an Emmy Award nomination from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Trumpcare will be a disaster, but GOP doesn't care


We begin today’s roundup with The New York Times and its assessment of the Congressional Budget Office’s scoring of the Trumpcare:
So much for President Trump’s pledge of “insurance for everybody.”
The Congressional Budget Office said on Monday that next year 14 million fewer Americans will have insurance if the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, is repealed and replaced on the terms the president is seeking. That tally would rise to 21 million in 2020 and 24 million in 2026. By then, the total number of uninsured Americans would reach 52 million.
And for what? To give a gigantic tax cut to wealthy Americans.
According to the C.B.O. the loss of health care coverage under the Republican plan stems largely from gutting Medicaid for low-income Americans, even though Mr. Trump has said he would not cut Medicaid. Coverage would also be lost in part because insurance would become unaffordable for millions as subsidies are withdrawn, despite Mr. Trump’s claim that coverage would become “much less expensive and much better.”
Margaret Hartmann:
Just after the Congressional Budget Office said it estimates that under the Republican health care bill 14 million Americans will lose their health insurance next year, and 24 million will lose their coverage by the end of the decade, the White House said it disagrees “strenuously” with that analysis.
“We believe that our plan will cover more individuals at a lower cost and give them the choices that they want for the coverage that they want for themselves and for their families, not that the government forces them to buy,” Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price explained on Monday.
Hours later, the White House’s internal analysis of the American Health Care Act leaked. It confirms that the Trump administration disagrees with the CBO’s findings – but not because AHCA will “cover more individuals.” The executive branch estimates that 26 million people would lose coverage within the next decade, far more than the CBO’s estimate of 24 million. 
Jeff Guo at The Washington Post explains that Trump-supporting areas of the country will be the hardest hit:

Grant County, Nebraska is one of the most pro-Trump places in America. In this rural community of about 700, the President won over 93 percent of the vote in the last election. But Grant County is also a place that has benefited hugely from the Affordable Care Act. In 2016, the law provided more than a quarter of its residents with tax credits to help them purchase health insurance.
Now, under the Republican plan to repeal and replace Obamacare, many Grant County residents would suffer steep cuts to the tax credits they've come to rely on. It's a nationwide pattern: Some of the harshest consequences of the GOP's health bill would fall on rural Republican strongholds — precisely the voters who helped elect Trump.
Glenn Kessler gives budget director Mick Mulvaney four Pinnochios for this wildly false claim:

“It’s there. Anybody can read it. Folks watching on television now can go online and read what the bill is. They can watch the committee hearings. Those are things that were dramatically missing in Obamacare.”
— White House budget director Mick Mulvaney, interview on CNN’s “State of the Union,” March 12, 2017 [...] 
We [had with Obamacare] about 20 hearings, many aired on C-SPAN. That’s 18 more than the current replacement bill. On top of that, the bills were available to read for many days (though, frankly, legislative language is rather dense for most laypeople). So Mulvaney’s comments are clearly wrong. [...]
We’re not sure what Mulvaney has been smoking, except his own propaganda. The process that led to the Affordable Care Act was lengthy and complex, but involved numerous hearings and ample time for public comment and input. Any suggestion to the contrary is ridiculous.
Erin Gloria Ryan assesses the plan’s effect on women:

“What’s going to happen to the 2.4 million women who are folks that are accessing their health care through Planned Parenthood clinics?” Taylor says. “Planned Parenthood is the entry point or access points to health care particularly for low-income women. This is not just about Planned Parenthood as a provider. This is about taking services and health care away from people who really need it.”
Taylor is skeptical that the GOP’s proposed ACA replacement is even fiscally conservative. “In the long term, it does nothing to help women be more economically secure,” she says. “We’re just pushing people further down into the hole of poverty. And that’s unacceptable.”
Damon Linker at The Week analyzes the Republican disarray over the bill:

It would be one thing if Trump recognized how awful the GOP's plan will be for the very people he was elected to help and vowed to fight it. He could turn his ire on Ryan and the factions of the House GOP that support his plans or who think they don't go far enough in gutting ObamaCare. At least these voters would feel like their champion was going to the mat for them. They might even reasonably hope that the president would lead a charge to reform the GOP even further, by supporting "workers party" candidates to challenge Ryan and his ideological allies in the 2018 midterm elections. Such a shrewd, genuinely populist Trump might even come out in favor of a single-payer reform of the health-care system to provide security to American workers (as opposed to the greater health-care "choice" that very few outside of the House GOP's Freedom Caucus seem to be clamoring for).
But instead, Trump is pushing to pass Ryan's bill. That means he will own it — and if it passes and inflicts immense pain on these already angry voters? Then they will likely turn on the law and on Trump for supporting it.
And we close today’s roundup with Jonathan Chait’s take:

This proposal, the centerpiece of the new all-Republican government’s legislative agenda, is an expression of its shared philosophy. Donald Trump has altered the Republican stance on trade and immigration, not to mention self-enrichment by the First Family and the routine propagation of conspiracy theories by the chief executive. But he has hewed closely to the party’s conviction that the central problem in American life is a government that redistributes too much from the privileged to the underprivileged.
It remains to be seen whether enough Republicans have the courage of their convictions to follow through on this plan. Depriving millions of Americans access to medical care would impose pain more directly and widely than any legislative act in modern U.S. history.

Monday, March 20, 2017

A Fox News Poll Just Found That Bernie Sanders Is the Most Popular Politician in America

Senator Bernie Sanders greeting supporters at a rally in Baltimore. (photo: Patrick Semansky/AP)
Senator Bernie Sanders greeting supporters at a rally in Baltimore. (photo: Patrick Semansky/AP)

By Andrew Joyce, Mic
ocialist Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is the most popular politician in the United States, at least according to a new poll from Fox News.

The poll found that Sanders is not only more popular than other major politicians like President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, but also that Sanders is more popular than Planned Parenthood, the Affordable Care Act, sanctuary cities and Wikileaks.

Favorable ratings from Fox poll: 
Bernie +29 
Planned Parenthood +25 
Warren +8 
Pence +4 
Obamacare +3 
Trump -9 
Ryan -10

While the fact that a socialist is the most popular thing in Washington isn't great news for Republicans, it's hardly the poll's bleakest news for the right. The same survey also found that reforming the current health care system ranked near the bottom of Americans' priorities, and a full two-thirds of Americans think that the Republicans' recently proposed health care law makes "too many changes'" to the ACA.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Jeff Sessions Goes Full 'Reefer Madness' on Pot

Attorney General Jeff Sessions. (photo: Getty)
Attorney General Jeff Sessions. (photo: Getty)

By Tim Dickinson, Rolling Stone
16 March 17 

One problem: Sessions has no facts on his side

ttorney General Jeff Sessions continued a personal campaign to demonize marijuana, calling cannabis a "life-wrecking dependency" that is "only slightly less awful" than heroin in a speech on violent crime in Richmond, Virginia, Wednesday.

Insisting that the federal government should return to a Nancy Reagan-style, 1980s anti-drug campaign – "educating people and telling them the terrible truth" about controlled substances – Sessions conflated the nation's opioid addiction and overdose crisis, which now claims 140 lives a day, with marijuana, a drug he said will "destroy your life."

Sessions has no facts on his side. The use of medical pot as a painkiller can provide an alternative to opioids, and many in recovery cite cannabis as lessening the agony of opiate withdrawal. Research published on the federal government's own website finds that states with medical marijuana programs have reported "reductions of 16 to 31 percent in mortality due to prescription opioid overdoses, and 28 to 35 percent in admissions for treatment of opioid addiction."

No matter, Sessions cast his ignorance as bold, "unfashionable" truth-telling. The attorney general's remarks on marijuana follow:

"I realize this may be an unfashionable belief in a time of growing tolerance of drug use. But too many lives are at stake to worry about being fashionable. I reject the idea that America will be a better place if marijuana is sold in every corner store. And I am astonished to hear people suggest that we can solve our heroin crisis by legalizing marijuana – so people can trade one life-wrecking dependency for another that's only slightly less awful. Our nation needs to say clearly once again that using drugs will destroy your life."

Answering reporters' follow-up questions, Sessions added that, "I think medical marijuana has been hyped, maybe too much" and declared himself "dubious" about benefits of smoked marijuana.

Despite the Drug War saber-rattling, Sessions proceeded to offer a vague note of reassurance on the future of state-legal recreational marijuana. The attorney general said that "much" of the Cole memo – the Obama DOJ guidance deprioritizing federal pot enforcement in states that have legalized – is "valid," and he recognized that federal law enforcement is "not able to go into a state and pick up the work that police and sheriffs have been doing for decades."

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Trump is more corrosive than Sharia law

By George Templeton
Gazette Columnist
An Uninformed Engineer's Look at the Immigration Pause 

“Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point, which means, at the point of highest reality.  A chastity or honesty or mercy which yields to danger will be chaste or honest or merciful only on conditions.  Pilate was merciful till it became risky.”  C. S. Lewis
Tolerance is about moral consciousness in conflict.  The writing of St. Thomas Aquinas called conscience “synderesis”.  It is the innate principle in everyone which directs them toward good and away from evil.  Open-mindedness threatens the soul with eternal damnation.  It takes courage to be hospitable to those whom we disagree with, but tolerance is more than personal.  Government can take it away.
The Pilgrims banished and executed those who challenged their religious beliefs.  The early American settlers were not a happy family.  Puritans, Anglicans, Quakers, Baptists, Jews, and Catholics did not get along.  Today we must live together.  Everyone has the right to be wrong. 
Fake Empathy
Should we ask immigrants:  How do you love us?  What is God’s name?  Who was Muhammad?  What is jihad?  Are women second class citizens?  What makes you compatible with modernization, capitalism, and democracy?
The wizard of fake empathy’s frivolous posturing, that we must question immigrants about “respect” for our laws demeans them.  It implies that those who come to America to escape war are criminals.  Law abiding Muslim citizens are feared, because they might endorse some of the values consistent with Sharia law.  But Christians do not endorse every aspect of our culture.
There is no way that Sharia law can be as corrosive to our legal system as a President who argues that a Hispanic judge could not rule in his legal case because of his Mexican heritage.  We wonder how the abrupt firing of a prominent New York attorney, who prosecuted hedge fund fraud, insider trading, bribery, and bipartisan political corruption to the tune of nearly four billion dollars in fines and settlements is consistent with “draining the swamp”. 
Donald Trump’s dystopian reality and ministry of propaganda will create a government department to publicize immigrant crimes.  It’s like the NRA’s Armed Citizen disinformation.  It inflates fear and increases bigotry by showing only the bad side of immigration.  
There will always be a few fanatics.  Disturbed Christians have attacked mosques.  They seem to think that Jesus would have built a wall and turned away refugees.  Home grown Muslim terrorists have committed acts of violence.  What is the price we pay for focusing only on the few hateful Muslims?  Shouldn’t we be more concerned with making friends than fearing enemies?
Perhaps there is a law of nature, as in thermodynamic physics, that describes disorder and increasing diversity.  We can look at vetting immigrants in a more scientific way.
It’s Mathematical
Math gives us a visual landscape and curves that help seeing even without numbers.  It is not necessary to list equations.  The contour of “bad hombres” can be described with words.
Trump has said that we must be certain that there are no terrorists.  What is the nature of that certainty?  Is it intuitional and emotional, or something that can be counted, like the expected outcome that makes gambling casinos the real winners?  Is it concrete and estimated by statistical probability? 
Fake Numbers
The Cato Institute said that there is one terrorist per 3.64 billion people.  That contradicts Trump’s irrational assertion that his executive order had to be a surprise because of the thousands of bad guys waiting at the border who would have scurried in had they seen it coming.   Since 9/11/2001 data records that seventy-two people have been convicted for serious crimes related to terrorism, but they did not actually commit any act of violence.  The Southern Poverty Law Center puts this in perspective when they explain that the number of anti-Muslim “hate groups” grew from 34 in 2015 to 101 last year.
Republicans say refugees have been admitted with less than sixty seconds of investigation.  In contradiction, it is written that the process typically takes more than a year, requiring a half-dozen interviews and review by multiple agencies.
Vetting Immigrants
Trump’s child-like superficiality was on display when he looked into the TV camera, thinking only of good guys and bad guys, and ordered protestors to “stop that”.  If it were that simple the “silent majority” and “moral majority” would have given us nirvana long ago.  Instead, we are stuck in a culture of violence, feeling that high capacity weapons of war are needed everywhere so the good guys can shoot the bad guys.
We could dispense with vetting by charging admission.  That would be in step with the latest election, testifying to the belief that wealth is more than enough.  But people are more than that.  We don’t have the details concerning the efficacy of lie detectors, brain scans, and waterboarding, but quality control engineering applies to every situation where there are a few defects within a larger population.
We cannot classify terrorism without an unambiguous definition of the separate boxes we will put its manifestations into.  If we graph the relative frequencies of characteristics falling into these boxes, we get a frequency distribution, like the bell curve that our teachers used to grade us by.  A more narrow or peaked bell indicates that our prediction is more stable.
There are two things involved here, the individual terrorist and the population of all immigrants.  The statistic is an attribute of the entire population, not the individual.  For it to hold relatively constant, there must be a social cause, more than just “bad hombres”.
Testing Terrorists
We want to design vetting to detect terrorists while still allowing immigration.  To help with discerning bad guys, we would like our process to be symmetrical.  In other words, a terrorist should look the same from any other county.  When immigrants from Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and Iraq are treated differently, symmetry fails and confusion grows.
Suppose we had a test that could detect a future terrorist with 90 percent confidence.  You would think that this would be a good screen against terrorists.  Suppose that out of every group of immigrants one in a thousand will commit an act of terrorism.  When we screen them, our test will incorrectly identify ten percent, or one hundred of them, as terrorists, but only one will actually be a terrorist.  Our leaders do not seem to be taking this into consideration when they say that they will be certain.  Because they use fear to motivate the public, they will claim that all ten were terrorists, making the reported number ten times higher than what it actually is. 
If there are no acts of terrorism, the vetting process will be triumphantly claimed to work.  If there are terrorist acts, law and order will require taking civil liberties away.  It is what every fascist dictator wants.  A quandary remains.  White nationalism needs terrorists, but a safe America cannot tolerate them. 
The discrimination of an imperfect test must be much stronger than what it is trying to screen against.  If only 0.01 percent of immigrants are terrorists, then we need a vetting procedure that is 99.99 percent accurate to avoid false positives.  When it concerns people, that kind of confidence is difficult.
Suppose there were no terrorists at all in the entire population.  No one would be available to slip through screening regardless of what it was. The test could be claimed to eliminate terrorism even though it did nothing at all.
If the Trump administration has 72 captured terrorists, they should submit them to their extreme vetting to see if it can detect them.  It’s human nature to want to proclaim victory, so it is unlikely that they would take this obvious step.  
Coffee Beans and Terrorists
Suppose that it is all good or bad.  Then, it is like the problem caused by rats that frolicked among the coffee beans.  They left a tiny proportion of droppings that ended up in only a few bags.  The only way to have certainty that there are no rat feces in coffee is to inspect all of it, but that would be a lot of work and very expensive.  So, they opened only a few bags and decided what to do with the entire shipment based on that.  Likewise, we can’t thoroughly inspect all immigrants.  We have to pick just a few.
You can’t know everything about anything without looking at all of it.  Anything less is uncertain and it has two errors.  One is that we might decide to screen the entire lot of coffee even though the lot met acceptable standards.  The other is that we might ship the lot of coffee with no further action, even though it contains an unacceptable quantity of rat droppings.  The first case leads to unnecessary effort.  In the second case, a few terrorists slip through.
Our criterion depends on whether we are most concerned with rejecting good coffee or accepting bad coffee.  These possibilities are mathematically graphed, at opposite ends of a probability curve, not equal, and can be selected to reduce one or the other of these errors.  Do we want to turn away those who would make America great, or do we want to risk letting a failure through?  That is the decision we must make.
What we are saying here, is that nothing is perfect.  Our coffee contains some small amount of things we would rather not know about.  Our hearts contain some thoughts that we won’t admit.
Understanding Ourselves
Assume a woman had two children.  If we ask whether either of them was a girl, and are told yes, what is the probability that her other child is also a girl?  We might think that the birth event depends on biology and is one in two or fifty percent, but now it also depends on what we have learned.  A “probability space” shows this.
Consider that a map of the states has to show all of them to be complete.  Otherwise, our trip might take us to a surprise!  Now let’s map our problem, considering the birth of both children while looking for a girl.
The children could be:  boy-boy, girl-boy, boy-girl, and girl-girl.  But we have learned that at least one of the children is a girl, thus eliminating the boy-boy possibility.  So, the actual probability is 1/3 because of what we have learned.
Learning about the probability of terrorism requires knowing all the possibilities, but human beings cannot be completely known.  Our intuition can be misleading.
Think Mathematically
It seems unlikely that math could help us understand terrorism until you consider that highly complex technical problems always have human consequences.  Math helps to reduce our blind spot.