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An Overlooked (and Alarming) Piece of Trump’s Immigration EO

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The Executive Order that halts all refugees admissions and bans the nationals of seven predominantly Muslim nations is mean-spirited, dangerous, and unconstitutional for all the reasons many, many others have discussed. Thanks to the hard work of the ACLU, National Immigration Law Center, International Refugee Assistance Project, CAIR, and numerous other organizations and individuals, legal challenges are protecting individuals from being unconstitutionally detained or deported. And I fully expect that much of the Order will be declared unlawful and unconstitutional, as it clearly is. (Read here, here, and here for excellent commentary as to why.) Meanwhile, the damage to individual lives—and our national security—is profound.

I write now to highlight one additional aspect of the Order that hasn’t been given any attention to date, but is quite concerning nonetheless. Specifically, Section 6 of the EO states the following:

Rescission of Exercise of Authority Relating to the Terrorism Grounds of Inadmissibility. The Secretaries of State and Homeland Security shall, in consultation with the Attorney General, consider rescinding the exercises of authority in section 212 of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1182, relating to the terrorism grounds of inadmissibility, as well as any related implementing memoranda.

What’s this all about? In order to be granted admission into this country, non-citizens must be checked against numerous criminal law, health, security, and, yes, terrorism-related bars on admission. It’s a vetting process that can take years and is subject to numerous reviews –thereby achieving exactly the national security benefits that Trump claims he seeks to achieve, but in ways that are lawful and highly effective. It’s by no accident that over the past 40 years, only three Americans have been killed by refugees in terrorist-related attacks – and all of those were in the 1970s.

The terrorism-related bars on admission are particularly stringent and far-reaching. They cover those who engage in the kinds of activities we normally associate with terrorism, i.e., hijacking planes, use of a weapon of mass destruction, and membership or support in any specifically designated foreign terrorist organization. But the bars also reach much broader—defining just about any group of two more people who unlawfully use a firearm or dangerous device—as a “terrorist organization,” and anyone who provided “material support” to such organizations, no matter how small or what the circumstances.   They are so broad as to, on their face, cover foreign troops and fighters that fought alongside the United States and those that supported the United States, such as Hmong and Montagnards that fought alongside the United States in Vietnam, Iraqi interpreters who assisted U.S. forces in Iraq, and Yazidi rape victims who have been enslaved and forced to cook or clean for their captors. Members or supporters of groups that the US has long supported – including Burmese resistance groups that long fought the military junta and the African National Congress (ANC) – have also been labeled terrorists under the terms of the statute.

In an effort to ameliorate these unintended consequences, Senators Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) jointly sponsored legislation—added to the 2008 Consolidated Appropriations Act (see Sec. 691)—that exempted 10 named groups from the definition of terrorist organization. The list including several Burmese resistance groups, Cuban Alzados that had fought against Castro, and Hmong and Montagnards in Vietnam. (Separate legislation exempted the ANC.) The legislation also granted the Secretaries of Homeland Security and State, in conjunction with the Attorney General, discretionary authority to issue further exemptions. It soon became apparent, however, that while the legislation covered those who supported the listed groups, it didn’t actually offer any protections for those who actually engaged in covered activity on behalf of the group – such as those that actually fought alongside the United States in the Vietnam War and those Burmese resistance fighters that actually sought to defend their villages from attack. Thus, in June 2008, the Bush administration issued an exemption to ensure that the actual participants in the 10 named groups, plus the ANC, could be eligible for admission, so long as they passed the numerous other security reviews and did not target noncombatants in their activities. 

A handful of other discretionary exemptions have since been issued – but only after extensive interagency discussions, numerous intelligence and security reviews, and careful vetting. These include exemptions for the Iraqi National Congress; Kurdish Democratic Party and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan; Iraqis who worked alongside or served as translators for U.S. troops or contractors; those who were forced to provide material support to a terrorist organization under duress (i.e. rape victims enslaved by their captors); doctors in conflict zones who, consistent with their ethical obligation, provided care to the wounded without regard to their group affiliation; and individuals who provided a bowl or rice or glass of water to fighters coming through their village, well aware of the consequences to them and their family if they failed to comply.

Importantly, nothing in these exemptions requires or even encourages the issuance of a visa or any other immigration benefit. Rather, they merely lift one of the many bars on admission. Individuals still need to pass all of the other numerous security, criminal, terrorism-related and other background checks. Individuals cannot be admitted if they engaged in or materially supported any terrorist activity that targeted noncombatants. And they must be affirmatively determined not to pose a danger to the United States in order to be admitted or granted any other immigration-related benefit.

These exemptions are all now about to be reviewed, with the implicit implication that they should go. But rescinding these exercises of discretionary exemption authority would be, like so much of the rest of the EO, not only mean-spirited but also counterproductive. These exemptions are critical to allowing a range of foreign leaders to enter the United States for UN meetings or diplomatic discussions with the State Department; they protect against Iraqis that have assisted U.S. troops and helped save U.S. lives from being labeled terrorists for their activities; and they are necessary to ensure that rape victims and other victims of terror are not equated with the terrorists that terrorize them.

Absent these exercises of the exemption authority, each and every individual who met one of these categories would have to be issued a discretionary waiver, in his or her name, issued directly either by the Secretary of State or Secretary of Homeland Security. If history is any guide, few, if any, cases would reach this level. Those outside the United States – such as those who aided U.S. troops and were terrorized by terrorists—would never even make it to the stage where their case would even be reviewed by the relevant Secretary. Once deemed ineligible for terrorism-related reasons, there would be no reason to engage in the further security reviews to even determine if he or she would be eligible but for the terrorism-related bar and thus eligible for such an exemption. Those already in the United States, including refugees and asylum-seekers that have lived in the United States peacefully for years and were seeking legal permanent resident status or the opportunity to naturalize would be out of luck—unless they happened to get the ear of the Secretary of Homeland Security.  But why in the world would the Secretary want to invest his limited resources in personally reviewing each such individual case?  Answer: He almost certainly doesn’t.  The likely result: most, if not all, would be summarily denied.

Here’s to hoping that those doing the consideration take all of this into account. Otherwise the United States will be  further defining key allies and victims of terror as terrorists in ways that not only bely our history as a nation of immigrants, but will also have negative diplomatic and security costs down the line.

Image: Warrick Page/Getty Read on Just Security »
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ninecormorants
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Frederick Douglass on Immigration

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Let’s recognize Frederick Douglass more and more for his terrific views on immigration:

I submit that this question of Chinese immigration should be settled upon higher principles than those of a cold and selfish expediency.

There are such things in the world as human rights. They rest upon no conventional foundation, but are external, universal, and indestructible. Among these, is the right of locomotion; the right of migration; the right which belongs to no particular race, but belongs alike to all and to all alike. It is the right you assert by staying here, and your fathers asserted by coming here. It is this great right that I assert for the Chinese and Japanese, and for all other varieties of men equally with yourselves, now and forever. I know of no rights of race superior to the rights of humanity, and when there is a supposed conflict between human and national rights, it is safe to go to the side of humanity. I have great respect for the blue eyed and light haired races of America. They are a mighty people. In any struggle for the good things of this world they need have no fear. They have no need to doubt that they will get their full share.

But I reject the arrogant and scornful theory by which they would limit migratory rights, or any other essential human rights to themselves, and which would make them the owners of this great continent to the exclusion of all other races of men.

See also this earlier post by Ilya Somin.

The post Frederick Douglass on Immigration appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.

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ninecormorants
21 days ago
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freeAgent
22 days ago
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Maybe Trump could actually learn some things from Douglass--who is great, very great, by the way.
Los Angeles, CA
dukeofwulf
21 days ago
He's a yuge part of this nation's history. And some people don't know anything about him, but talk as if they do. Sad!

Liquid Lunch

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Human flesh: the ingredient in the mysterious food product in the 1973 thriller Soylent Green. In 2013, engineer Rob Rhinehart gave his meal replacement drink the same name, though with a less sinister recipe. According to Lizzie Widdicombe’s 2014 New Yorker profile of Rhinehart, the tech entrepreneur just wanted to make something he could afford to eat on a startup budget. To save on food costs and code nonstop, Rhinehart crushed up vitamins and minerals and ground them into a goop that he hoped could supplement his frozen pizza intake. He named the goop after the 1966 novel that inspired the film, and after a well-timed Kickstarter campaign, the goop became more profitable than his startup.

This liquid meal diet was genius and unprecedented — except it wasn’t. Substances like Soylent had been sold to consumers since at least 1977, argued Guardian journalist Nellie Bowles, as meal replacement diet drinks like SlimFast. The effects are largely similar: In his blog entry “How I Stopped Eating Food,” Rhinehart noted that after three weeks on Soylent he was “two belt loops down,” and by week four he had lost so much weight he wrote that he “started getting chilly.” Vice journalist Brian Merchant documented a 10-pound weight loss in his 30-day Soylent-only diet.

“What makes Soylent unique,” wrote Adrian Chen in his 2013 Gawker profile of the drink, “is that it is the first of these ‘functional beverages’ developed for and by young, male tech geeks,” specifically Silicon Valley “biohackers,” a group that believes “every moment they don’t spend coding a world-changing app might be a loss for humanity” and that “feeding yourself is a time-wasting problem that can be solved with technology.” This group skews predominately male.

Soylent and SlimFast exist in an ad space that presumes gender is binary and nonfluid. Women are sold bodies without minds, and men are sold minds without bodies

Meal replacement diet drinks signify flirty commercials and bottles shaped like hourglasses. In 1988, Oprah attributed her weight loss to a meal replacement drink called Optifast, and dragged a red wagon full of fat onto her television stage; the world had watched her lose 67 pounds, and would later demean her for putting it back on. SlimFast ads have mostly featured women in their commercials — in 1990, baseball player Tommy Lasorda became the company’s spokesperson, but research demonstrated that he was particularly persuasive to women consumers. (He was reportedly even more credible because he was a man admitting to weight problems.) An ad from 2015 shows 12 women and two men twirling in tight clothing and bikinis while clutching and kissing SlimFast bottles. Women appear in Soylent ads, though they are rarely the focus.

Soylent’s origin story works to associate the drink with the culture that founded it. Soylent adheres to its tech roots; its commercials are about “hacking” and “maximizing efficiency” and “food product.” Its label is sleek and minimalist, and its products never filmed far from a laptop. If it’s also a weight loss drink, it doesn’t want us to know.

Soylent’s slogan “use less, do more,” implies that a body is only good insofar as it is a tool for mental optimization. Its shape is secondary, unmentioned, and because it is not named, unimportant. In contrast, SlimFast ads never mention productivity or efficacy; consumers’ professional desires or work schedules are secondary to their physical attributes. Soylent and SlimFast exist in an ad space that presumes gender is binary and nonfluid. Women are sold bodies without minds, and men are sold minds without bodies.


“I just want to look good naked,” says the protagonist of 2013’s SlimFast ad campaign, Get What You Want.” Our protagonist is a middle-aged woman, who speaks to her mother on her cell phone while wearing a pink pajama set. “Two kids ago, I was doing the reverse cowgirl with the lights on!”

“Did you say something?” her husband interjects, carrying a load of laundry.

“No,” she says.

“I heard cowgirl,” he says through a smile.

“Not happening,” she says, stone-faced, and he leaves.

She bites her lip, and grins. “Just when I’m twisted up like a Russian gymnast,” she continues wistfully, “it would be nice to actually look like a Russian gymnast.”

This commercial feels progressive, if only because it features a husband doing laundry, and a woman allowed to talk about sex — “non-traditional” sex that places the woman in a position of power. Nowhere do we see a man tell the protagonist what is wrong with her; instead, she regulates herself. Having sex with the lights on would be to allow herself to be seen in a way that she is not permitted to be seen, so, contrary to the ad’s title, she withholds from herself what she wants. The ad sells negative space — the loss of mass from a woman’s hips — as well as accusation, and instruction. If you aren’t actively working to make yourself more slender, then you should be. To be a competent woman, you must show that you are working to look better, that you are always striving. This self-enhancement is primarily self-serving: the woman only looks to embody an ideal.

Soylent’s first ad, from 2014, features Rhinehart sitting in a warehouse while clouds of chemical formulas materialize around his head. It’s half tech ad and half TED talk, casting Rhinehart as both peddler and prophet. “Everything is made of parts,” he says at one point, staring off into the middle distance.

A robotic-sounding female voice introduces the commercial. “Soylent began as an idea to create the ultimate food,” she says. Onscreen, vintage film of wheat fields, grocery shoppers, and “Nutrition Facts” move in black and white over the image of a clear glass cup. “The goal wasn’t to replace food, but to provide a better alternative to what we usually eat.”

“It takes a little bit of perspective to see that food really is made up of chemicals. It is reducible,” Rhinehart continues in a milquetoast monotone. “And we can build it back up, and make it better.”

The commercial insists that Soylent is food technology, that Rhinehart is an engineer. “Everything is made of parts,” he says, staring off into the distance

The scene switches to a sleek apartment, all chrome and dark wood. A muscular, bespectacled man wearing a mesh athletic top pours a glass of beige food product, then returns to his laptop and standing desk. The commercial insists on reminding us that Soylent is food technology, that Rhinehart is an engineer who studied electronics and computation. The commercial never calls Soylent food; rather, it’s “a sustainable food source designed to keep the body in a balanced state of ideal nutrition.” Humans become collections of cells; food becomes the intricate technology that prevents these parts from rusting. “We know what we’re made of,” Rhinehart says, “and that’s what Soylent is.”

The next scene shows a woman in an office, her glass of Soylent resting next to her laptop. A man and woman go for a run, pack Soylent in Nalgenes for a nature hike. The bespectacled man from the beginning of the video is chill, we learn; he sips his Soylent while reclining in a recording studio, bantering with a tattooed dude. The Soylent-drinking woman speaks up in the office.

“By using Soylent as a resource, you can guarantee your body gets the nutrition it needs,” the robotic narration continues, “as a low cost way to be healthy, and save yourself some time.” Bodies in this commercial are vehicles for productivity and progress, not ends to themselves. When Soylent’s consumers free their minds from the cumbersome routines of food consumption, the world profits.


Meal replacement food technology telegraphs your preferred mode of bettering yourself, upgrading your personal brand to its next glittering iteration. By emblematizing the absence of food, both Soylent and SlimFast fetishize self-denial and austerity — one makes distraction a sinful indulgence, as the other does consumption — and promise transcendence through self-denial.

Soylent’s mode of optimization centers on mental enlightenment: Soylent, branded explicitly as technology, is material of the mind. Soylent drinkers have a Mission: they care about food system innovation and increased access to quality nutrition. Their goals are serious and high-minded, not carnal but utopian. “We strive to create a world where access to affordable, complete nutrition — one of the most basic human needs — is no longer a challenge, but a means of empowerment,” Soylent’s website proclaims. SlimFast’s method of self-improvement is purely corporeal: Optimization begins and ends with the body, which, unlike the mind, is burdened with bulging imperfections. The SlimFast website tracks before and after images of smiling women (and one man), and locates their transformations within personal testimonials. The outcome is personal satisfaction.

Today, the body is finite, and the mind transcendent. In either case, optimization is a Sisyphean task. The body is perpetually lacking; “improving” it is a matter of striving for adequacy. The mind, with its world-saving potential, must be perpetually upgraded.


When I danced in high school, I noticed that a few dancers in my class started substituting specific tea for their water bottles. Its packaging was distinctive; the deep green of dark moss, serious and vaguely medicinal. Three silhouettes of ballerinas arched out of a teacup. My classmates called it “Ballerina Tea,” though I had never seen my dance instructors drink it. These classmates often placed the boxes of teabags where they could be seen: atop the radiator, against the windowsill, resting above the tangled ribbons of their pointe shoes. I think I registered what this tea was before my friend confirmed it, smiling conspiratorially.

Ballerina Tea is not just for ballerinas, apparently, nor is it made from tea leaves. Instead, it’s made of malva verticillata and cassia angustifolia (Chinese mallow and senna), both powerful laxatives and diuretics. “Be sure to discuss this with your physician before using,” an article on Livestrong cautions. “Follow the directions on the box and monitor your physical reactions, because overuse, or use by people with sensitive systems, can cause problems.”

By emblematizing the absence of food, both Soylent and SlimFast fetishize austerity — one makes distraction a sinful indulgence, as the other does consumption

The name is either a dig at the ballerina stereotypes or a projected result.

In this rarified world, austerity felt necessary for excellence. “Optimizing” your body into a more muscular, sleek version of itself felt directly proportional to the kind of career you would have. I am shorter than average, my body more stubby than willowy. When straight, my knees still protrude and break the line of my arabesque, giving the impression that I am never fully stretched, or that I am always falling. At a ballet summer intensive program when I was in high school, I listened to a young dancer tell me about her time training at a ballet company abroad, about how the instructors wouldn’t let you into partnering classes if you didn’t make the weight limit for your height, lest you strain the arms of the male dancers lifting you. Another classmate professed to have a formula for success.

“You know how those dancers get so thin?” she asked the crowd of us. “They eat only a single orange a day.”

I knew this was ridiculous — you would die if you did that — but for the rest of the five-week program my classmate refused the plastic boxed lunch our program prepared for us, demurely withdrawing a single clementine from her dance bag. I watched my other classmates look at her, heard them talking behind her back. The conversations were cautionary, but always tinged with admiration. People admired her willpower in the same sentence they told her to stop.

To excel in an art form that valorizes female fragility both onstage and off, I believed that needed to maximize my body’s efficacy. I cut pictures of famous dancers out of magazines; I charted my weight in apps like LoseIt! and willed myself to want to stop eating so much. Once I scrolled through a Thinspiration tumblr. I clicked out three minutes later, face hot.

I did not want these distorted bodies. Nor did my desire to optimize my body into ideal dance equipment ever manifest into anything distinctly self-destructive. (I haven’t danced seriously in four years and I look exactly the same as I did then.) I didn’t want to be thin, I realized; I wanted a body that would let me dance how I wanted to dance without getting in my way. But more than that, I wanted the approval of the other dancers, their recognition of my diligence. I wanted anyone who looked at my body to know that I was aware of its failings, and that I was trying to improve it. If I was not demonstrating that I was making my body into what I wanted to be, then I was tacitly accepting that my body was as good as it was going to get, and that I didn’t mind it.

Body was not always “low-brow,” and mind was not always supreme. When women dominated tech in the 1940s and ’50s, “the accompanying pay and prestige were both relatively low,” according to Rhaina Cohen’s Atlantic article on “What Programming’s Past Reveals About Today’s Gender Pay Gap.” As Dr. Grace Hopper explained to Cosmopolitan in 1967: “Women are ‘naturals’ at computer programming,” which is “just like planning a dinner.” When men make up the majority of the field, these same traits are considered to be inventive and societally beneficial, and the product, like the computer scientists who drink it, is considered to be innovative rather than frivolous.

In her article about intermittent fasting, Nitasha Tiku profiles WeFa.st, a community predominately made of young male tech workers who fast in order to achieve “peak productivity and readiness for a future where technology is king and the smartest man wins.” These biohackers fast in order to “do more work and generate more revenue,” according to Tiku; instead of “competing on a physical plane,” they are “competing with the rest of the world.” Skipping meals is considered “monkish,” and disordered eating a productivity hack. In this community, like my ballet classmates, the appearance of austerity morphed into austerity for its own sake. The results, in either case, were eternally projected.

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ninecormorants
28 days ago
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tante
29 days ago
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Great piece on the gendered austerity that SlimFast/Soylent expresses
Oldenburg/Germany
fxer
28 days ago
Weird you post this a few hours after I discover the Silicon Valley fasting trend, making apps to help you not eat https://twitter.com/synopsi/status/823383291357118465

By Ghidorah in "The inauguration of the 45th President of the United States of America" on MeFi

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The end of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead has been running through my mind a lot recently. In the film, at least, they are standing, nooses around their necks, and one of them says something along the lines of "There must have been a moment when we could have stopped this. There must have been a moment when we could have said 'no,' but we missed it." Then the floor drops out, and they die.

Some day, when time and distance have allowed historians to truly write the history of this mess, someone will pinpoint the moment in history when someone, somewhere could have said no, or done something. The thing is, it wasn't the election, or the debates, or the conventions, or even Brexit. The nagging voice inside me says that that moment, the one where things could have turned differently, was at least ten years ago, and we missed it, and today, the floor drops out from under us.
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Alan Warburton: Spectacle, Speculation, Spam

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Alan Warburton: Spectacle, Speculation, Spam

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Kent Jones is going everywhere

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