you don’t need to creatively edit Trump to highlight how awful he is

There is an image is going around today, & damn, it’s appealing. It sums up all the class of Obama, all the crass of Trump.

It’s also not quite accurate. Whomever made the image condensed quite a lot of Trump’s words to make him sound even more buffoonish by taking the extreme eye-roll bits and shoving them together; it’s indicated by the ellipses, but it’s a lot of text and tiny ellipses, and to shove everything together – well. It’s problematic.

Is it the truth? Kind of. Trump did say those things. But I imagine I could probably creatively edit Obama’s speeches to sound much more vacuous and self-important; imagine how the image would change if this text, from the same National Prayer Breakfast, was used:

Giving all praise and honor to God for bringing us together here this morning. Motorcading up here at the heart of D.C.’s rush hour, I suspect that not all the commuters were blessing me as they waited to get to work. But it’s for a good cause, haha! A National Prayer Brunch doesn’t have the same ring to it.

Obviously it’s not the same degree of eye-roll – but I also like Obama. I imagine for folks who didn’t, the idea of the president laughing about making people late to work so he could have breakfast wasn’t funny at all.

Mind, I’m not defending Trump – his speech was asinine and juvenile, full of his favorite topics: himself and revenge. It would be easy to make graphics side-by-siding the graceful humility of Obama with the vulgar vanity of Trump. But in doing so, we should be honest in our depictions: editing Trump to make him sound worse isn’t necessary, is dishonest, and it muddies the waters of effectiveness. He’s a horrible person as is, and needs no help proving it.

self-care and staying in your own lane

Normally, when we hear the phrase “stay in your own lane,” it’s a chastisement that you’re swimming outside the waters you know, and you need to get back into your area of expertise and let experts be experts without your meddling. It’s a phrase I’m guilty of using quite a bit when talking about the anti-bioethics sort that inhabit the harder sciences, and it’s in general a bit of a hard push back on folks who want to opine about everything regardless of pesky details like, I dunno, knowledge.

So Chris Geidner’s tweet about voluntarily staying in his lane of expertise is one worth highlighting, underscoring, and otherwise supporting:

Sometimes, staying in your own lane, your own area of expertise, isn’t one of “getting back” but knowing where to place your priorities and energies. And right now, in the current political climate, resistance fatigue, where people just roll their eyes at another protest, where you feel the weight of the world pressing heavier and harder because every day, hell, every hour, there’s another thing to resist and protest and pitch a fit against…. well, it’s a serious concern. This is a marathon, not a sprint, and you need to conserve your energy as much as you can – and one way to do that is staying in your own areas of expertise.

This doesn’t mean you don’t support everyone else, it just might mean you don’t have to organize every single act of resistance. Let other people stand up and take over, let them write the posts on topics they know best, let them be the speakers whose voices you amplify.

Take at least a day off, every week – yes, it’s hard to put everything away and be out of touch when you know bad shit is happening while your back is turned. Trust that other people will catch it while you’re gone, and be willing to hand off the protests when you come back, refreshed.

Your own self-care is now an act of resistance, especially as they seek to wear us all down. There’s nothing wrong with staying in your own lane, and utilizing the best skills, expertise, and resources you have, to make the most difference – especially if you’re high-fiving the folks in the lane next to you as you do it.

After 36 hours of chaos, a spot of calm in Boston

Self-care, with yes, a dose of privilege, demanded stepping away from the Internet on Sunday, and the continued infuriating and illegal actions of our temper-tantrum-tossing tangerine toddler. It was an exhausting 48 hours, and we just needed to spend time together – privilege, yes, because we can do that, but don’t mistake it, either, for the root fear driving it: the anger ifrit has shown that with a stroke of a pen, everything my husband and I know about our life could be overturned, and neither of us take that lightly. Neither of us take the hatred and threats to immigrants lightly, even while most people forget Nick is an immigrant – or try to excuse it with “oh but he’s Australian” when they mean “oh he’s white.”

That meant catching up some on the news this morning – while fighting off whatever the latest cold going around is, because apparently a university professor picks up about as many bugs as a preschool teacher. The news tells me that Boston continues to be awesome, the toddler’s team wouldn’t understand consistency if it bit them on the ass, and that the nation is still in chaos, but still standing (tho maybe listing heavily to one side).

Some lawyers are advising green card holders to fly through Logan International, in Boston, because of a Massachusetts judge’s seven-day restraining order on the executive action.

The ruling, which goes further than similar ones in New York and Virginia, prevents both the detention or removal of approved refugees and visa or green card holders from the seven affected nations.

Additionally, this order required Customs and Border Protection officials to notify international airlines that valid VISA holders (green cards, approved refugees, or valid VISA holders of any stripe) will not be detained or returned solely based on Trump’s orders, which in effect means that airlines need to let folks on the planes to get to Boston, which was still a major impedement with the New York and Virginia rulings.

Of course, the temper tantrum in the White House is growing – and they can’t manage to stay on message. I can’t imagine why folks are confused about what the fuck is going on at any given time, since not even the White House appears to know if the ruling applies to green card holders, with them saying yes on Saturday and no and yes on Sunday. Oh, okay then. THAT clears things up.

Based on the chaos, all I can say is this: if you are outside the country right now, and have a valid VISA or green card, make sure you are carrying copies of all current federal rulings before you head to your airport to fly back to the USA; try to fly in to an airport that is following the current stay on the executive action, and consider making that airport Logan International; be sure you’ve tagged someone in the USA as your travel buddy, who will keep an eye on litigation and court stays while you are in the air and out of touch, and who can contact lawyers on your behalf if there are problems when you land. Be sure your phone has charge, and that you let your travel buddy know when you are on the ground, before you head into customs and immigration. Make sure they have a plan – they know what immigration lawyer to contact if you don’t appear after a decided-upon period of time. (I’d go for three hours, but that’s just me and based on the reports people have given of “enhanced security screening.”) If there is a problem, demand to see an immigration judge. Do not sign any paperwork. Do not give up your passport, your green card, or any other paperwork if they ask you to relinquish it. Know who your lawyer is, be polite, and repetitive in asking to see them and the judge, should it come down to it. Hopefully it doesn’t, and you’re quickly through the airport and back where you belong.

And if you have a few minutes and you’re not involved directly in any of this, and have the luxury of being on the sidelines, contact your representatives to tell them how reprehensible this executive action is – how inhumane, how it’s a repetition of the horrors of what America did to Jewish folks in World War II, and how America should be better than the executive order implies. And maybe send a note of thanks to federal judge Allison Dale Burroughs, who wasn’t afraid to go where other judges didn’t, and made sure people had an avenue to get home.

Trump’s Telling Lies – Again. This Time, About Terrorists

On Friday, Trump signed an immoral (and almost certainly illegal) executive order titled “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States.” Section 1 states the purpose of this act:

The visa-issuance process plays a crucial role in detecting individuals with terrorist ties and stopping them from entering the United States. Perhaps in no instance was that more apparent than the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, when State Department policy prevented consular officers from properly scrutinizing the visa applications of several of the 19 foreign nationals who went on to murder nearly 3,000 Americans.

While signing the executive order, Trump said, “We only want to admit those who will support our country and love deeply our people…We will never forget the lessons of 9/11, nor the heroes who lost their lives at the Pentagon.”

Sadly for Trump, actions speak louder than words, and in this case, his actions show that in fact, he has already forgotten an origin lesson from 9/11: while the order is expected to freeze travel from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen,1 the 9/11 hijackers came from Egypt, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

None of those countries are expected to be subjected to Trump’s “extreme vetting measures.”

They are also the same Muslim-majority countries where Trump’s businesses either have interests or are pursuing them. Coincidental, I’m sure. Completely coincidental.

To be clear, I am not suggesting that Trump should extend his already-illegal, immoral, inhumane executive order to include Egypt, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. I am merely pointing out that the justification given for the ban is completely false – the seven countries banned are not responsible for the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, or any sort of massive terrorist export center. In fact, and again, as the FBI has been warning for years now, most terrorism in the United States is domestic terrorism, committed by Americans.

Yes, there is a terrorism threat in America – it’s coming from inside our borders, not out.

Edited at 8:55pm ET to add: Yes, I know that I included South Sudan in this image. At the time I made it, multiple news organizations were questioning whether they intended to ban South Sudan when discussing “Sudan.” The original list of seven – created by Obama – only included Sudan. But at least at 3am last night, when I was working on this map because I couldn’t sleep, multiple people thought Trump meant to include both Sudan and South Sudan, largely because he didn’t realize there WAS a South Sudan. As soon as anything official comes up, I’ll update accordingly.

VISA Interview Waiver Programs, VISA Waiver Programs, INA Sec 222, What?

So hey, how about these last 7 days, eh? Have we figured out how to stop this ride? No? Not yet? Cuz we really, really need to – our tangerine toddler can’t write worth a damn, and it’s starting to cause some problems.

Buried in the orange anger ifrit’s latest assault on civil rights and human decency is a section that boils down to a lot of head-scratching and confusion. Section 8 of the vile executive action that violates US immigration laws while consigning Syrian refugees to death reads:

Sec. 8. Visa Interview Security. (a) The Secretary of State shall immediately suspend the Visa Interview Waiver Program and ensure compliance with section 222 of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1222, which requires that all individuals seeking a nonimmigrant visa undergo an in-person interview, subject to specific statutory exceptions.

Waitwhat – suspend, immediately, the Visa Waiver Program? The VWP is an agreement between the US and 35-odd other countries that lets their citizens travel to the USA for 90 days or less without first securing a VISA, provided they meet a list of requirements. This facilitates travel and tourism, minimizes US costs in other countries, and is generally a nice thing – especially for those of us who have ex-pat spouses and family we adore in other countries.

Suspending this would be catastrophic, and Section 8 seems pretty clear – all nonimmigrants must undergo an in-person interview, pursuant to section 222 of the INA, 8 USC 1222, unless that’s waived by something like the VISA Waiver Program. The language seems pretty clear that “all individuals seeking a nonimmigrant visa undergo an in-person interview” – those statutory exceptions are listed in section 222 of the INA, but are your basic consular/diplomatic type things. Certainly, they’re not “travel tourists!”

Yeah, I know. Click to embiggen.

Except, there’s also an Interview Waiver Program, which has been completely scrubbed from the main State Department website, but you can still see (as of 3am Saturday the 28th of January – oh hey, gong xi fa cai) on the State Department’s Indonesian website. They talk about an interview waiver program, which is essentially the VISA Waiver Program, but for countries who are not officially designated VWP countries:

Many Indonesians who wish to renew their visas may qualify for the interview waiver program which allows for visa renewal without an interview. If qualified, applicants only need to pay the visa application fee, fill out the visa application form, print out a Drop-Box Confirmation Letter, and drop off documents at the RPX Document Drop-off Location any weekday between 10am and 3pm. Qualified applicants do not need to appear at the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta or the U.S. Consulate General in Surabaya for an interview.

Okay, that maybe clears – hang on. The “additional resources” page (see picture) is just redirecting folks to the VWP page. So basically, the IWP is just the VWP (and note that if you can find any US government web page that talks about an interview waiver program separate from the VISA Waiver Program, they refer to it as a IWP; the “VISA” bit isn’t included, perhaps in an effort to eliminate the confusion going on right now.)

Australian and New Zealand newspapers are running with two stories: that this does and does not affect their citizens (as both countries are designated VWP participants). So what does this mean? Does the VWP still exist? Is this VISA Interview Waiver Program different?

I think the answer to all is “…who knows.”

Given that search results still pull up an Interview Waiver Program, and there are still results live on country-specific State Department websites, it seems safe to say that, cloudy and awful language aside, the intent of Section 8 of the horrid human rights fail of an executive order is attempting to stop interview-free travel for trustworthy citizens of non-VWP designated countries. But as we all know, the problem with “intent” is that you can have Intent A and still end up with Effect B; in this instance, I see nothing in Section 8 that says by “ensuring compliance with INA,” they mean “ensuring compliance by nonimmigrants from all countries except VWP participants.” Do you?

Now, add to that and keep in mind that admission into the USA – even if you’re from a VWP-participating country – is completely up to the customs and immigration agent you’re talking to, and their understanding of the law, and you can see why people are freaking out. The executive order is unclear, appears to be smooshing together two separate VISA-waiving programs, and reiterates that all nonimmigrants must have valid VISAs to enter the USA.

So what’s going to happen when someone tries to enter the US with a VWP, now?

I’d like to say business as usual, they’ll be admitted, no problems – but I can’t. All I can say is, if you’re from a VWP-participating country and have plans to visit America, call your consular office first thing Monday morning and see what they say. Follow their advice, ask if they have an updates email service, and check back with them frequently. Make sure your documents are all on the up-and-up for travel, be polite to agents you’re dealing with when entering the USA, and hope that clarification comes sooner rather than later (or that the entire thing is just dropped – the order itself is illegal seven ways to Sunday, not that that’s stopped our tiny-handed kleptocrat).

With thanks to Jeremy Youde for pointing out the second SBS tourism article and helping me think through the issue.