Travel ban versus Muslim ban versus Muslim ban lite!


What's in a word:
In his new executive order, has United States president Donald J. Trump proposed a "Muslim ban?"

Yesterday, the New York Times published two letters on the subject. The second letter writer didn't seem to be buying the use of that term.

He stated no definitive view on the order itself, but seemed to reject the thinking behind the use of the term:
LETTER TO THE NEW YORK TIMES (3/8/17): While there can be reasoned objections to President Trump’s revised executive order excluding six heavily Muslim countries from entry into the United States, the Op-Ed essay by Farhana Khera and Johnathan Smith (“Don’t Be Fooled, Trump’s New Muslim Ban Is Still Illegal,”, March 6) degenerates into an emotionally charged denunciation of the order as an “all-out assault on Islam and Muslims.” They lose all credibility with that indictment of Mr. Trump.

Among the countries not included in the ban are Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. All of them are predominantly Muslim states, and Saudi Arabia in particular is an avowedly Islamic theocracy with a very strict brand of Sunni Islam at the core of its official identity. So how, pray, is President Trump’s visa ban an assault on Islam and Muslims as such?
Excitingly, the opinion column in question had used the exciting term, "Muslim ban." This writer stated no definitive view on the executive order itself, but he seemed to reject the use of that thrilling term.

With respect to the use of that term, we tend to agree with this writer. That could be because, as native speakers of English, we're familiar with the general meaning and application of the familiar term, "ban."

Under the terms of the new order, Muslims will be granted new visas to enter the U.S. from a long list of Muslim nations. Muslims already holding such visas will be admitted from the six nations which are principally affected by the new executive order. (Iraq is no longer affected.)

As such, we aren't sure why a person would want to refer to this as a "Muslim ban." We grant you, though, the use of the term is exciting and signals our moral greatness.

The first letter in yesterday's section stated a different view. The writer of this fiery letter explicitly supported the use of that fiery term:
LETTER TO THE NEW YORK TIMES (3/8/17): The Trump administration does not have a leg to stand on here. It cannot believe that the ban is truly necessary to protect the United States from a terrorist attack; otherwise it would not have delayed the announcement of the revised ban to allow positive press from the address to Congress to sit for a few days. This ban cannot be about public safety either. Study after study shows that the immigrants commit crimes at a lower rate than native-born Americans.

To see this order as anything other than a Muslim ban is willful blindness. This is just another tragic example of this astonishing lack of empathy for anyone the administration believes is different.
This writer opposes the new executive order. He's says you're crazy if you don't view it as a "Muslim ban," but he doesn't remember to explain why he holds that view.

It seems to us that we liberals need to understand the way we're seen by others. Again and again, people read letters like the second one we've posted and come away thinking we're slightly dumb.

It's also true that the second letter we've presented contains a type of shortcoming which Charlie Peters addressed in his essay this Sunday. It seems to us that its writer fails to understand and address the types of objections The Others might have, rightly or wrongly, to current travel practices.

"Study after study shows that the immigrants commit crimes at a lower rate than native-born Americans?" Let's assume that's a valid factual claim. Does the writer understand why some of The Others may say this fact isn't hugely relevant? Has the writer tried to understand the way the world looks to someone who doesn't share his admittedly superior points of view?

At the present time, our liberal team is on the type of stampede which borders on moral rampage. We seem to take pleasure from our use of fiery tribal language.

We seem to enjoy the terms we use and the signals they send about Us and our manifest greatness. Across the country, other people think we're dumb when they see us expounding that way.

Other people roll their eyes. At this point, is it clear that they're wrong?

Solomon splits the difference: Editorially, the New York Times split the baby in half, much as Solomon would have done during an earlier era.

Without explaining their use of the term, the board described the executive order as a "Muslim Ban Lite."

We tend to agree with the newspaper's view of the new executive order. We're still looking for an explanation of the (admittedly thrilling) use of that high-minded term.


  1. During the campaign, particularly when he was fighting off his GOP competitors, Trump threw it out that he would or might ban all Muslims from entering the country. I think it worked for him with a lot of voters. (The terrorist attacks in Europe and in Florida must have helped him a lot against Clinton). Now as president, he has backed off from that. What he is doing now is more likely to inspire a terrorist attack than prevent one. The purpose seems nothing other than to give the impression he is carrying out at least to some extent his original threat to ban all Muslims - it would be more accurate to call this a "ban of at some Muslims" than a "Muslim ban."

    1. AC/MA -- I agree with most of your comment, but not the idea that, "What he is doing now is more likely to inspire a terrorist attack..." We don't know what motivates Islamic terrorists to attack the West. I think it's mostly that we're not Islamic. Maybe they hate us because gays, women, Jews, etc. are treated as equals. In any event, I don't want my country's policies to be determined by what might or might not enrage these murderous thugs.

    2. David, as a southern white guy of jewish heritage married 17 years to an Egyptian woman of muslim heritage, my impression is that Arabs are most angry over what Zionist extremists did to the Palestinians during the creation of modern Israel. The Jews destroyed all of the Palestinian cities, towns and villages and boot kicked those left alive out of the their own country. Israel's current conservative and anti Arab leader and the US' unqualified support for Israel are main motivators for Islamic extremists.

      They do not hate us for our freedoms.

      They hate us for our support of Israel. They hate us because we shovel money to Israel and let Arabs rot in poverty. They hate us because we impose ourselves in their countries mainly due to oil interests, while we allow Israel to have nuclear weapons and help enrich their interests.

    3. D in C - It's a tried and true tactic of governments, authoritarian or not, to stir up the gullible citizens with imaginary or exaggerated reasons to be terrified. The travel ban and inhumanitarian refugee bans are hardly likely to prevent some sort of attack. It's public relations, and it's really low. The issue isn't sparing the feelings of murderous Islamic religious zealots, but possibly giving the zealots a recruiting tool. I think the latter is a more significant danger than allowing in refugees and citizens from the 6 countries.

    4. Silly Boy, thanks for your post. I believe you that, "They hate us because we...let Arabs rot in poverty." Apparently that's a widespread belief, but it isn't true. A Congressional Research Service report, written last December, says, "Since the establishment of limited Palestinian self-rule in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in the mid-1990s, the U.S. government has committed more than $5 billion in bilateral economic and non-lethal security assistance to the Palestinians, who are among the world’s largest per capita recipients of international foreign aid."

      The US has been by far the greatest contributor to the Palestinians, as can be seen from charts at

      Here are the figures, badly formatted:
      Donor Contribution (US$)
      United States of America 408,751,396
      European Commission 139,402,221
      Saudi Arabia 103,519,499
      United Kingdom 95,328,127
      Sweden 79,975,260
      Germany 54,838,742
      Norway 35,911,782
      Japan (including JICA [Japan International Cooperation Agency]) 28,278,535
      Switzerland 27,158,461
      Australia 23,707,542
      Netherlands 22,474,045
      Denmark 22,339,767
      Kuwait 17,000,000
      France 16,800,000
      Italy 10,775,259
      Belgium (including Flanders) 10,772,636
      Finland 8,865,753
      Ireland 8,464,730
      Palestine 8,453,349
      Turkey 8,129,618

    5. David, you misunderstand the aid given to the Palestinian Reservations. The US gives around $400 million per year to the West Bank and Gaza, in contrast to the $3 billion it gives Israel, and most of those funds go to defend Israel from Palestinian attacks and protests, not to aid Palestinians economically - it is in the same report you reference. In fact, pro-Israeli Republicans in the US are concerned some of the funds go to help Palestinian terrorist groups, so they are proposing we cut all aid to the Palestinians:

      The US does in fact let Arabs rot in poverty while it supports Israel with massive amounts of money and props up Arab dictators that are friendly to our oil companies but brutal to their own people whom they keep impoverished. Indeed if ever supposition came close to truth, it is likely that elite Republican leaders are not bothered by Islamic terrorists because they find them a useful tool to keep Americans in fear and money flowing to their buddies in the defense and homeland security businesses.

    6. Silly Boy -- IMHO it's (some of) the Arab leaders who let Arabs rot in poverty. Why does it hurt Arabs if the US gives more money to Israel than to the West Bank? Only because the West Bank leaders decided that Israel is their enemy. With a different approach, Israel could have been a boon for the West Bank and other Arab countries. Having a modern state, with cutting edge technology, medicine, etc. nearby could have helped these countries to moderninze themselves, via cooperative education programs, joint manufacturing, etc. But, some Arab leaders don't want friendship with Israel and don't want modernization.

    7. Reminds me of the old joke:
      Q. What's the difference between Israel and Nazi Germany?
      A. Nothing.

    8. D in C. Humans are not rational creatures, especially when they feel threatened.

  2. Jonny, you put it better than I did

  3. I agree and "my Mexican girlfriend" will pay for the wall... to keep herself in Mexico.

  4. The main effect of the new EO is to reduce the number of Syrian refugees from 110,000 to 55,000. That means 55,000 Syrian refugees are being banned. They are primarily Muslims. You can call this whatever you want but real people are being affected by this EO while Somerby plays his word games with the NY Times.

    1. Real people had their lives affected (for the worse) by George W. Bush's "Great Iraq Clusterfuck". Now the people that rooted on the USA's worst foreign policy disaster of the last 100 years, want to kick those same people while they're down. Also, bonus points for whining about "government waste" and "the debt" after Georgie spent $3 Trillion to do so.
      Why the fuck would anyone ever listen to these mouth-breathers?

    2. You can argue about why radical Islamists exist and no doubt some exist because of the Iraq war. The point is to keep them out of our country.

    3. And that's called bigotry because you are judging them as members of a group and not individuals.

    4. You're judging reality about a group of people who come from countries in which the vast majority holds beliefs about violence against infidels, gays, and others. We do not want these people in our country. We also do not want a large population of people who approve of Islamic law in government. We should require immigrants from these societies to prove they are exceptions to the dominant belief systems about violence and government in their country.

    5. This comment has been removed by the author.

    6. 12:37 PM,
      If the point is to keep out people from areas where the majority holds beliefs about violence against those who worship other Gods than theirs, gays, and others, then we should build the border wall at at the Mason-Dixon Line.

  5. He never made a secret of the fact that his intent was to ban people with certain beliefs about violence. For refugees from these areas, those beliefs are accepted by a large part of their populations and happen to be rooted in their religion. Whatever it's called, the intent is reasonable and if fewer people holding those objectionable beliefs come here, it is a positive policy.

  6. Bob i have learned alot in the 12 plus years i have been reading your site.
    i almost always agree with you in your assessment of how we treat The Others.
    In fact I still agree with you but there is something that bothers me about all this. and I cant articulate it to you but i will try.
    Yes our side treats the other like shit but the fact is the "The Others" also view our side with contempt as well. This is also not just as a reaction to our sides contempt but comes out organically.
    The real only difference is the fact that our side lives where the means of narrative disemination lay.
    The truth is what you constantly illustrate is not so much condesending contempt but pure tribalism and all sides are very guilty of practicing it.
    Dont believe me go into any mega church or NASCAR ralley on any given Sunday and listen to the refrains of pure tribalism.
    It is deeper and more pronounced then you acknowledge and practiced by all.
    I think you should start to address this for what it is and admit that the truth is that too many parties are guilty.
    I am not asking for fair and balanced.
    However a little highlighting the real faults of the others would be helpful.
    As for Al Franken, the difference is that now he is a US Senator and is constrained by the Office.
    Remember when he first came to Congress he was dressed down by Mconnell and admonished the the senate was not Saturday Night Live.It was a humiliating comment from a true piece of shit and Al had to take it.
    Also remember as to McConnell, this was a man who was the protage of the most progressive senator Kentucky ever produced, a person who, no matter the cost, was full square behind the Civil Rights legislation in the 1960's and who gave good o'l mitch his start.
    Well look at how reactionary he turned out, what a slap in the face of one's mentor.
    Just some random thoughts.
    Again bob, I owe you, Krugman, Greenwald and Chomsky so much in my education.
    Spread your critique to all. We know you want us all to be flawless but sometime we need a little love to.

  7. So someone from Yemen with the right beliefs can come in? That isn't how his EO works.

  8. For the time being.


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