Lots of things are possible

The appeals court hearing on the restraining order on the ban (three levels, we can do three levels) is happening.

The broad legal issue is whether Trump acted within his authority in blocking the entry of people from Iraq, Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Libya, Syria and Yemen, or whether his order essentially amounts to a discriminatory ban on Muslims. The judges must also weigh the harm the ban imposes, and whether it is proper for them to intervene in a national security matter on which the president is viewed as the ultimate authority.

It’s very unfortunate that we have an arrangement where one person is viewed as the ultimate authority on such matters, especially since – as we now realize – we have no way at all to filter out completely inappropriate unqualified uninformed irresponsible adventurers. We thought we did but we don’t. Any damn fool can get the job, and proceed to fuck things up from here to Sunday.

Testifying before the House Homeland Security Committee, Kelly forcefully defended the measure as a necessary “pause” so officials could improve vetting procedures. He said that it is “entirely possible” that dangerous people are now entering the country with the order on hold — as Trump has said via Twitter — and that officials might not know about them until it is too late.

“Not until the boom,” he said when asked if he could provide evidence of a dangerous person coming into the country since the ban was suspended.

Of course it’s possible – but an infinite number of things are possible, and that doesn’t mean we have to take punitive measures to try to prevent them – especially since it’s also true that it’s possible that the punitive measures will set off a cascade of new possible disasters.

It’s always possible that dangerous people are entering the country, because that’s just how life is. It’s possible that you’ll fall down the stairs and break your neck, it’s possible that a tree will lose a huge limb just as I walk under it, it’s possible that a sudden plague will kill us all. The fact that it’s possible does not justify extraordinary steps to prevent it. You need more than “possible.”

Kelly’s view does not reflect the consensus of the national security community. Ten high-ranking diplomatic and security officials — among them former secretaries of state John F. Kerry and Madeleine Albright, former CIA director Leon Panetta, former CIA and National Security Agency director Michael V. Hayden — said in a legal filing there was “no national security purpose” for a complete barring of people from the seven affected countries.

Because however possible the “dangerous person” scenario may be, it’s not particularly likely, given the measures already in place.

The difference between “possible” and “likely” is a pretty important difference.

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