Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for January 2017

The Immigration Ban is a Headfake, and We’re Falling For It

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Jake Fuentes writes at Medium:

When I read about the incredibly active first week of the Trump administration, I struggle with two competing narratives about what’s really going on. The first story is simple: the administration is just doing what it said it would do, literally keeping its campaign promises. Lots of people won’t agree, but it’s playing to its base. They’re also not really good at this whole government thing yet, so implementation is shaky. The second is more sinister: the administration is deliberately testing the limits of governmental checks and balances to set up a self-serving, dangerous consolidation of power.

A legitimate argument can be made for the former: a relatively extreme and inexperienced administration was just put in place, and they haven’t yet figured out the nuances of government. But a few of the events in the past 72 hours —the intentional inclusion of green card holders in the immigration order, the DHS defiance of a federal judge, and the timing of Trump’s shakeup of the National Security Council — have pointed to a larger story. Even worse, if that larger story is true, if the source of this week’s actions is a play to consolidate power, it’s going really well so far. And that’s because mostly everyone — including those in protests shutting down airports over the weekend— are playing right into the administration’s hand.

I obviously can’t pretend to know the intentions of the new President, but let’s pretend the power consolidation move is what’s actually happening. In fact, let’s pretend we’re the Trump administration (not necessarily Trump himself, more likely his inner circle) for a second. Here’s our playbook:

  1. We launch a series of Executive Orders in the first week. Beforehand, we identify one that our opponents will complain loudly about and will dominate the news cycle. Immigration ban. Perfect.
  2. We craft the ban to be about 20% more extreme than we actually want it to be — say, let’s make the explicit decision to block green card holders from defined countries from entering the US, rather than just visa holders. We create some confusion so that we can walk back from that part later, but let’s make sure that it’s enforced to begin with.
  3. We watch our opposition pour out into the streets protesting the extremes of our public measure, exactly as we intended. The protests dominate the news, but our base doesn’t watch CNN anyway. The ACLU will file motions to oppose the most extreme parts of our measure, that’s actually going to be useful too. We don’t actually care if we win, that’s why we made it more extreme than it needed to be. But in doing so, the lawsuit process will test the loyalty of those enforcing what we say.
  4. While the nation’s attention is on our extreme EO, slip a few more nuanced moves through. For example, reconfigure the National Security Council so that it’s led by our inner circle. Or gut the State Department’sability to resist more extreme moves. That will have massive benefits down the road — the NSC are the folks that authorize secret assassinations against enemies of the state, including American citizens. Almost nobody has time to analyze that move closely, and those that do can’t get coverage.
  5. When the lawsuits filed by the ACLU inevitably succeed, stay silent. Don’t tell the DHS to abide by the what the federal judge says, see what they do on their own. If they capitulate to the courts, we know our power with the DHS is limited and we need to staff it with more loyal people. But if they continue enforcing our EO until we tell them not to, we know that we can completely ignore the judicial branch later on and the DHS will have our back.
  6. Once the DHS has made their move, walk back from the 20% we didn’t want in the first place. Let the green card holders in, and pretend that’s what we meant all along. The protestors and the ACLU, both clamoring to display their efficacy, jump on the moment to declare a huge victory. The crowds dissipate, they have to go back to work.
  7. When the dust settles, we have 100% of the Executive Order we originally wanted, we’ve tested the loyalty of a department we’ll need later on, we’ve proven we can ignore an entire branch of government, and we’ve slipped in some subtle moves that will make the next test even easier.

We’ve just tested the country’s willingness to capitulate to a fascist regime.


Assuming this narrative is true (again, I have no idea what the administration intends), the “resistance” is playing right into Trump’s playbook. . .

Continue reading.

Later:

First, stop believing that protests alone do much good. Protests galvanize groups and display strong opposition, but they’re not sufficient. Not only are they relatively ineffective at changing policy, they’re also falsely cathartic to those protesting. Protestors get all kinds of feel-good that they’re among fellow believers and standing up for what’s right, and they go home feeling like they’ve done their part. Even if protestors gain mild, symbolic concessions, the fact that their anger has an outlet is useful to the other side. Do protest, but be very wary of going home feeling like you’ve done your job. You haven’t.

Second, . . .

Written by LeisureGuy

31 January 2017 at 8:56 pm

Hannah Arendt on “Personal Responsibility Under Dictatorship:” Better to Suffer Than Collaborate

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This post by Josh Jones seems particularly apposite given President Trump’s recent firing of Acting Attorney General Sally Yates. And of course there are the enthusiastic collaborators quite happy to ignore the law, conflicts of interest, and it seems pretty much anything—Paul Ryan is an excellent example. And later he’ll say he had no choice.

Written by LeisureGuy

31 January 2017 at 5:02 pm

Breast cancer odds of recovery differ for left breast v. right breast

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Very interesting article in Quanta by Tim Vernimmen:

In 2009, after she was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer, Ann Ramsdellbegan to search the scientific literature to see if someone with her diagnosis could make a full recovery. Ramsdell, a developmental biologist at the University of South Carolina, soon found something strange: The odds of recovery differed for women who had cancer in the left breast versus the right. Even more surprisingly, she found research suggesting that women with asymmetric breast tissue are more likely to develop cancer.

Asymmetry is not readily apparent. Yet below the skin, asymmetric structures are common. Consider how our gut winds its way through the abdominal cavity, sprouting unpaired organs as it goes. Or how our heart, born from two identical structures fused together, twists itself into an asymmetrical pump that can simultaneously push oxygen-rich blood around the body and draw in a new swig from the lungs, all in a heartbeat. The body’s natural asymmetry is crucially important to our well-being. But, as Ramsdell knew, it was all too often ignored.

In her early years as a scientist, Ramsdell never gave asymmetry much thought. But on the day of her dissertation defense, she put a borrowed slide into a projector (this in the days before PowerPoint). The slide was of a chick embryo at the stage where its heart begins to loop to one side. Afterward a colleague asked why she put the slide in backward. “It’s an embarrassing story,” she said, “but I had never even thought about the directionality of heart looping.” The chick’s developing heart could distinguish between left and right, same as ours. She went on to do her postdoctoral research on why the heart loops to one side.

Years later, after her recovery, Ramsdell decided to leave the heart behind and to start looking for asymmetry in the mammary glands of mammals. In marsupials like wallabies and kangaroos, she read, the left and the right glands produce a different kind of milk, geared toward offspring of different ages. But her initial studies of mice proved disappointing — their left and right mammary glands didn’t seem to differ at all.

Then she zoomed in on the genes and proteins that are active in different cells of the breast. There she found strong differences. The left breast, which appears to be more prone to cancer, also tends to have a higher number of unspecialized cells, according to unpublished work that’s undergoing peer review. Those allow the breast to repair damaged tissue, but since they have a higher capacity to divide, they can also be involved in tumor formation. Why the cells are more common on the left, Ramsdell has not yet figured out. “But we think it has to do with the embryonic environment the cells grow up in, which is quite different on both sides.”

Ramsdell and a cadre of other developmental biologists are trying to unravel why the organisms can tell their right from left. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

31 January 2017 at 3:34 pm

Posted in Science

Survival Plans: Impractical v. Practical

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Written by LeisureGuy

31 January 2017 at 2:09 pm

Posted in Daily life

Mene mene tekel upharsin

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Calming interlude didn’t work. What is happening in the White House seems quite ominous. I hope somebody’s on it. Congress seems unlikely to act quickly. The intelligence agencies seem to be on it, though.

Written by LeisureGuy

31 January 2017 at 1:53 pm

A calming interlude

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Despite all the bad things humanity has done, it also has its moments:

Written by LeisureGuy

31 January 2017 at 1:40 pm

Posted in Music, Technology, Video

The Trump Administration as a sorting device for politicians

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It strikes me that the ongoing events are acting as a filter for politicians, clearly separating those committed to the Constitution and the nation, who are stepping forward, while others vacillate, quivering against the wall, trying not to be noticed. And, of course, there’s a third category: those who happily and enthusiastically embrace whatever Bannon/Trump proposes, regardless of its legality, constitutionality, humanity, morality—those like Paul Ryan.

Written by LeisureGuy

31 January 2017 at 1:02 pm

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