Why Trump’s Staff Lies

Tyler Cowen, writing at Bloomberg, offers an explanation of Why Trump’s Staff Is Lying:

By requiring subordinates to speak untruths, a leader can undercut their independent standing, including their standing with the public, with the media and with other members of the administration. That makes those individuals grow more dependent on the leader and less likely to mount independent rebellions against the structure of command. Promoting such chains of lies is a classic tactic when a leader distrusts his subordinates and expects to continue to distrust them in the future.

Another reason for promoting lying is what economists sometimes call loyalty filters. If you want to ascertain if someone is truly loyal to you, ask them to do something outrageous or stupid. If they balk, then you know right away they aren’t fully with you. That too is a sign of incipient mistrust within the ruling clique, and it is part of the same worldview that leads Trump to rely so heavily on family members.

In this view, loyalty tests are especially frequent for new hires and at the beginning of new regimes, when the least is known about the propensities of subordinates. You don’t have to view President Trump as necessarily making a lot of complicated calculations, rather he may simply be replicating tactics that he found useful in his earlier business and media careers.

It’s worth noting that Trump’s demand that others lie may derive from a character deficiency, as so is more fiundamental to Trump than either complicated calculations or even useful replicated tactics ever could be.

Hat tip to  for the link.

Tumulty Finds Sycophancy’s Hard to Shake

Trump Press Sec. Spicer gave a dishonest statement about crowd size on Saturday (“White House press secretary attacks media for accurately reporting inauguration crowds“), and spent a bit over an hour in a dishonest and maudlin press conference on Monday (“This time Sean Spicer smiles, spins, pledges not to lie“).

It was a first conventional press conference of ordinary length, an average number of questions, and no particular specificity.

For it all, Karen Tumulty finds sycophancy hard to shake. Despite her colleague Margaret Sullivan’s warning that The traditional way of reporting on a president is dead. And Trump’s press secretary killed it, Tumulty pushed a string of fawning tweets & retweets(from 1:09 PM – 23 Jan 2017 to 2:07 PM – 23 Jan 2017) during Spicer’s press conference:

@PressSec doing a solid, professional job. #reboot

“Knowing what we know now, we can tell WMATA’s numbers were different.” — @presssec”I’m going to stay here as long as you want. … I want to make sure that we have a healthy relationship.” — @PressSec

Jim Sciutto @jimsciutto
It’s official: @PressSec now says WH does not claim Trump’s inaugural crowd was largest ever

Marathon White House briefing. #penance #reboot

Jon Ralston @RalstonReports
All press secretaries evade and spin. By standards set through the years, Spicer is doing very well, I’d say. And calling on a lot of folks.

Mike Memoli @mikememoli
.@PressSec can’t leave without taking a question from Goyal

.@jaketapper: “Let’s hope that this @seanspicer stays with us.”

.@GloriaBorger: “We got some serious information out of Sean today.”

Why so quick to praise after the offenses of Saturday’s press statement, and during a still-dodgy Monday effort? (Spicer claimed during this Monday press conference an entitlement that ‘sometimes we can disagree with the facts,’ suggesting that either he’s still cynical over facts or, at a minimum, too inarticulate to say that sometimes we can disagree over which claims are facts.’ Either way, that’s a poor performance, not a ‘solid, professional job’).

It’s possible that Tumulty’s not up to the task, or that she’s been given the task of obsequious reporter so that her newspaper can soften the blow from other colleagues’ serious questions. (Even this second option doesn’t offer much for Tumulty: it’s like arguing that she’s supposed to be bad, or that she’s so bad she’s good.)

No, Karen Tumulty offers no worthy path forward; it’s Margaret Sullivan who has the sound approach to Trump, his administration, and surrogates.

Film: Tuesday, January 24th, 12:30 PM @ Seniors in the Park: Florence Foster Jenkins

This Tuesday, January 24th at 12:30 PM, there will be a showing of Florence Foster Jenkins @ Seniors in the Park, in the Starin community building.

Florence Foster Jenkins is a 2016 historical comedy-drama about a New York heiress who dreamed of becoming an opera singer despite having a terrible singing voice.

The film is directed by Stephen Frears, and stars Meryl Streep, Hugh Grant, and Simon Helberg. Just this morning (1.24), Meryl Streep received an Academy Award nomination for best actress for her role. The movie has a run time of one hour, fifty-one minutes and carries a rating of PG-13 from the MPAA.

One can find more information about Florence Foster Jenkins at the Internet Movie Database.

Enjoy.

Daily Bread for 1.24.17

Good morning.

Tuesday in Whitewater will be cloudy with a high of forty-one. Sunrise is 7:15 AM and sunset 4:58 PM, for 9h 42m 56s of daytime. The moon is a waning crescent with 11.8% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the seventy-seventh day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

Patrick Marley writes that Teen Lincoln Hills inmates allege excessive pepper spraying: “Madison — Juvenile inmates filed a class action lawsuit Monday against Wisconsin officials, alleging they used pepper spray excessively and kept teens in solitary confinement for weeks or months at a time. Over eight months last year, one 14-year-old boy was kept in solitary confinement for all but two weeks, the lawsuit alleges. Pepper spray was used nearly 200 times over 10 months at Lincoln Hills School for Boys and Copper Lake School for Girls, which share a campus 30 miles north of Wausau, according to the lawsuit. “The state routinely subjects these youth to unlawful solitary confinement, mechanical restraints and pepper spraying,” attorney Rachel Graham wrote in the suit. “Prior to state and federal raids on the facility at the end of 2015, staff also regularly physically abused youth in the facility….In the first 10 months of last year, pepper spray was used 198 times, according to the lawsuit. Often, a brand of pepper spray is used that is meant to protect hikers from bears.”

Michael D. Shear and Emmarie Huetteman report that Trump Repeats Lie About Popular Vote in Meeting With Lawmakers: “WASHINGTON — President Trump used his first official meeting with congressional leaders on Monday to falsely claim that millions of unauthorized immigrants had robbed him of a popular vote majority, a return to his obsession with the election’s results even as he seeks support for his legislative agenda. The claim, which he has made before on Twitter, has been judged untrue by numerous fact-checkers. The new president’s willingness to bring it up at a White House reception in the State Dining Room is an indication that he continues to dwell on the implications of his popular vote loss even after assuming power.”

Patrick Thornton explains that Headlines Matter When Your President Lies All the Time: “The most important part of your story on Trump’s lie is, in fact, your headline. If your headline reports the claim, and doesn’t note it’s false, that it isn’t based on a shred of evidence, it would deliberately misinform the public, no matter what you wrote beneath it. Why? Because for a lot of your audience now, the headline is the story. 72 percent of Americans get news on smartphones, where they discover stories via news alerts (most recipients don’t click through to stories) and social media. Most users catch glimpses of headlines on Facebook and Twitter. Sometimes they click through to read the story, but many times they do not. Journalists must craft headlines that live with the reality of how people actually consume news online. Our job as journalists is not to wish that people slowed down and read every word we write; our job is to deliver information to people in ways that they’ll actually consume and internalize it.”

In Forbes, Ally Bogard and Allie Hoffman describe Resilience: How Laura Dunn Went From Campus Assault Survivor To Groundbreaking Legal Advocate: “Laura Dunn became an activist, an advocate, a lawyer, a litigator, a founder and an entrepreneur – the day that she survived a campus assault. It was the life-defining experience that could have catapulted her into despair, or become the ultimate act of resilience. She chose the latter; today she runs the national nonprofit SurvJustice, which provides vital legal assistance to fellow survivors. Since its founding in 2014, they’ve assisted on 189 cases, and Laura has been recognized by the American Law Institute, the American Bar Association, and the White House for her pioneering advocacy. We hope she inspires you, as she did us….”

The local University of Wisconsin campus, UW-Whitewater, has been the subject of two federal complaints to the U.S. Department of Education and one federal lawsuit, all directly or relatedly concerning reporting of sexual assaults on campus. Atty. Dunn represents two of those survivors. For a category link to posts about these cases, and the topic more generally, see Assault Awareness & Prevention.

Barnaby Dixon doesn’t just make puppets, he makes amazing puppets, including a first-class raptor:

Wes Benedict Tries & Fails Again

I’ve been critical of Wes Benedict, executive director of the national Libertarian Party (1 and 2), but I’ll say this for him: he’s an unfailing failure. In an email he sent today, Benedict wrote to party members, in part, that

We are all waiting to see what our new president does. No doubt he’ll do a few things Libertarians like. No doubt he’ll do other things we strongly dislike.

Benedict writes to members of his party as a proper noun (Libertarians rather than libertarians) and as though there hadn’t been a campaign, inauguration, protests, etc.: ‘we are all waiting to see what our new president does.’

Oh, brother. Those of us who love liberty have already seen, for month after month, what Trump does: he lies, foments racial, ethnic, and religious bigotry, and advocates violence against domestic opponents. He’s a combination of mediocrity, bigot, and liar.

Gessen’s right about opposing Trump’s authoritarianism: it is to be met each day with an increasingly formidable response. We’ll learn as we go, matching him more effectively with each month.

Benedict is free to wait so long as he wishes, and so are the members of his party. Genuine, committed libertarians (including from families within that movement long before Benedict was born) have no reason to delay: we’ve more than enough evidence, from Trump and his inner circle, to justify committed opposition.

Trump Will Force Choices the Local Press is Too Weak to Make

A sound critique of the national print press says that it has a limited time left. See, concerning the work of Clay Shirky, A Prediction of Print’s ‘Fast, Slow, Fast’ Decline. Market forces will also take their toll on the local print press, and even now local papers are useful only for The Last Inside Accounts (rather than inquisitive reporting).

(I’ll share a funny story from a local school board meeting touching on this topic. Some months ago, during a discussion of points the district wanted to make sure were in print, a school board member saw a local stringer in the audience, and called out to him, ‘did you get that?’ Locally, whether in print or online, most local publishing is publishing-as-stenography. Significantly, local reporting in this area is access journalism, designed to give officeholders an unquestioned say in exchange for an interview.)

The national press will not be able to carry on this way, to the extent they did, as Trump is an existential threat to the free exercise of their work. Margaret Sullivan’s right: The traditional way of reporting on a president is dead. And Trump’s press secretary killed it. (Credit where credit is due: Trump, himself, made access journalism unsound in a free society before Sean Spicer ever took the podium.)

It’s possible – one hopes – that through digital publications the national press will find new life in a battle for solid reporting in opposition to an authoritarian administration. (I subscribe to quite a few solid digital publications, and am always on the hunt for more. One can and should criticize weak publications and while firmly supporting inquisitive ones.)

But there’s a local angle in all this: the local press is weak & dysfunctional, living in fear of both dissatisfied advertisers and aging, give-me-happy-news readers. They’re to timid to take a firm stand on Trump, for or against.

On the biggest national (and international) story of our time, the local press is too timid to say much at all. It’s head down, eyes averted, for them.

That makes their work this year even less significant than it was last year. They were already stumbling about, but Trump’s rise demands someone who can walk, determinedly, in a particular direction. They can’t do that.

Trump didn’t set out to make the local press even less significant, of course, and yet, he’s done just that. Those who’ve bet on hyper-local have made a bad bet. (Local affairs through application of national standards was always a more sound approach.) Trump divides all America in ways that force stark choices, and an anemic local press lacks the vigor, let alone the courage, to address the fundamental topics of our time.

Daily Bread for 1.23.17

Good morning.

In Whitewater, we’ll have a cloudy Monday with a high of forty-one. Sunrise is 7:16 AM and sunset 4:57 PM, for 9h 40m 49s of daytime. The moon is a waning crescent with 18.5% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the seventy-sixth day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

Whitewater’s Urban Forestry Commission meets at 4:30 PM.

On this day in 1864, the 23rd Wisconsin Infantry continues its reconnaissance mission on the Matagorda Peninsula in Texas.

Recommended for reading in full — 

Margaret Sullivan writes that The traditional way of reporting on a president is dead. And Trump’s press secretary killed it: “Anyone — citizen or journalist — who is surprised by false claims from the new inhabitant of the Oval Office hasn’t been paying attention. That was reinforced when Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway told “Meet the Press” Sunday that Spicer had been providing “alternative facts” to what the media had reported, making it clear we’ve gone full Orwell. Official words do matter, but they shouldn’t be what news organizations pay most attention to, as they try to present the truth about a new administration. White House press briefings are “access journalism,” in which official statements — achieved by closeness to the source — are taken at face value and breathlessly reported as news. And that is over. Dead. Spicer’s statement should be seen for what it is: Remarks made over the casket at the funeral of access journalism. As Jessica Huseman of ProPublica put it: “Journalists aren’t going to get answers from Spicer. We are going to get answers by digging. By getting our hands dirty. So let’s all do that.”

The New York Times showcases Pictures From Women’s Marches on Every Continent: Crowds in hundreds of cities around the world gathered Saturday in conjunction with the Women’s March on WashingtonHIGHLIGHTS360 VIDEOMAPS.

Esme Cribb reports that Merriam-Webster Gets In On The ‘Alternative Facts’ Fun: “After top Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway coined the phrase “alternative facts” on Sunday, Merriam-Webster decided to weigh in by reminding everybody that some definitions just aren’t that subjective. In an interview Sunday morning, Conway argued that White House press secretary Sean Spicer wasn’t lying about crowd size at Donald Trump’s inauguration—he was just giving “alternative facts.”

 

Krishnadev Calamur offers A Short History of ‘America First’: “From this day forward,” Trump said at one point [during his inaugural address], “it’s going to be only America first. America first….the phrase “America first” also has a darker recent history and, as my colleague David Graham pointed out Friday, was associated with opponents of the U.S. entering World War II. The America First Committee (AFC), which was founded in 1940, opposed any U.S. involvement in World War II, and was harshly critical of the Roosevelt administration, which it accused of pressing the U.S. toward war. At its peak, it had 800,000 members across the country, included socialists, conservatives, and some of the most prominent Americans from some of the most prominent families. There was future President Ford; Sargent Shriver, who’d go on to lead the Peace Corps; and Potter Stewart, the future U.S. Supreme Court justice. It was funded by the families who owned Sears-Roebuck and the Chicago Tribune, but also counted among its ranks prominent anti-Semites of the day.”

Here’s an orangutan, showing how smart she is

Why Trump Press Secretary Spicer Lies

Anna Rascouët-Paz relates an explanation (from someone who worked in a past administration) for Trump press secretary Spicer’s repeated lies about inaugural crowd size.  It’s spot on:

For more on a disinformation strategy based on insisting that nothing is knowable, see The Russian Conspiracy on Behalf of Conspiracy Theorist Donald Trump (“there is a coherent pattern to the discourse he has promoted. It is a comprehensive attack on empiricism. He spreads distrust against every institution, so that the only possible grounds for belief is trust in a person. The suspicion he spreads against every institution protects Trump from accountability.”) and For Mr. Trump, It’s STEM, Schwem, Whatever… (“he insists that the truth is indeterminable whenever he wishes to evade responsibility for his own lies.”).

For Spicer’s calculated statement to undermine truth, see The White House Press Secretary Makes A Statement.

 

Daily Bread for 1.22.17

Good morning.

Sunday in Whitewater will be cloudy with a high of forty-four. Sunrise is 7:17 AM and sunset 4:56 PM, for 9h 38m 44s of daytime. The moon is a waning crescent with 26.2% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the seventy-fifth day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

On this day in 1905, on what’s now known as to Russians as Bloody Sunday, soldiers of Russia’s Imperial Guard fire on petitioners led by Father Georgy Gapon as they march toward the Winter Palace to present a petition to Tsar Nicholas II of Russia. Over one-thousand are killed or wounded. On this day in 1964, the World’s Largest Block of Cheese (to that date) is produced “from 170,000 quarts of milk by the Wisconsin Cheese Foundation specifically for the 1964 New York World’s Fair. It weighed 34,665 pounds (17.4 tons). The cheese was consumed in 1965 at the annual meeting of the Wisconsin Cheesemakers Association at Eau Claire.”

Recommended for reading in full — 

Gary D’Amato writes that McCarthy, Rodgers chase history: “Winning one Super Bowl game as a coach or a quarterback places you among the best of the best and lands you a fat contract extension and TV commercials. Do it in Green Bay and they’ll name a street after you. Winning two Super Bowls? Now that’s a fame-changer. Mike McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers are two victories away from joining the ultra-elite group of head coaches and quarterbacks who have won the Big One multiple times. If the Packers get past the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Championship Game on Sunday and then beat the AFC champion — either New England or Pittsburgh — in the Super Bowl in Houston on Feb. 5, McCarthy will become the 14th head coach and Rodgers the 13th quarterback to have done it more than once.”

Michael Schmidt, Eric Lipton, and Charlie Savage report that Jared Kushner, Trump’s Son-in-Law, Is Cleared to Serve as Adviser: “WASHINGTON — Hours after President Trump took his oath on Friday, the Justice Department issued an opinion saying that his appointment of his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, as a senior White House adviser would be lawful despite a federal antinepotism law. In a 14-page opinion signed on Friday, a longtime career lawyer in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel said that the president’s special hiring authority exempted White House positions from a 1967 law barring the president from employing relatives at a federal agency. Mr. Koffsky’s opinion acknowledged that in several cases since 1978, the Office of Legal Counsel had determined that the antinepotism statute prevented presidents from appointing relatives to positions.”

Tim Wallace and Alicia Parlapiano report that Crowd Scientists Say Women’s March in Washington Had 3 Times More People Than Trump’s Inauguration: “The women’s march in Washington was roughly three times the size of the audience at President Trump’s inauguration, crowd counting experts said Saturday. Marcel Altenburg and Keith Still, crowd scientists at Manchester Metropolitan University in Britain, analyzed photographs and video taken of the National Mall and vicinity and estimated that there were about 160,000 people in those areas in the hour leading up to Mr. Trump’s speech Friday. They estimated that at least 470,000 people were at the women’s march in Washington in the areas on and near the mall at about 2 p.m. Saturday. The two images below show the crowds when they were at their peak density at the two events.”

2017 Trump inauguration (58th Presidential Inaugural Committee)             2017 Women’s march (ABC News Footage)

                                               

Worth remembering for its brevity but more for its nativism, here is link to a transcript of President Trump’s inauguration speech, annotated to show his many false claims even in a short speech.
Why do maple syrup jugs have small handles? Here’s why —

Daily Bread for 1.21.17

Good morning.

Saturday in Whitewater will see morning fog give way to afternoon clouds and a high of fifty-two. Sunrise is 7:18 AM and sunset 4:54 PM, for 9h 36m 42s of daytime. The moon is a waning crescent with 34.7% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the seventy-fourth day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

On this day in 1954, the USS Nautilus (SSN-571), the world’s first operational nuclear-powered submarine, was christened by Mamie Eisenhower launched into the Thames River. On this day in 1945 the Medal of Honor is awarded posthumously to Sgt. Truman C. Olson of Cambridge, WI for “stopping a German counterattack on the beachhead in Anzio, Italy, on January 30, 1944. Twice wounded, Olson nevertheless manned his machine-gun for 36 hours. He killed 20 Germans and wounded many others.”

Recommended for reading in full —

Jennifer Rubin describes how Trump’s America [in his own mind] is a rotten place: “President Trump delivered a campaign speech, not an inaugural address, on Friday. That he and his staff do not understand the difference goes to the heart of his insufficiency as a leader. Addressing a shockingly sparse crowd, he painted a picture of a hellish America that can only be restored by turning inward, deciding the world is a burden and our allies are thieves….He perfectly channels the resentment of the white working class. And in case you didn’t know how rotten a country this is, he described, as he did on the campaign trail, a dystopia bearing little resemblance to the real United States. (“Mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities, rusted-out factories, scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation, an education system flush with cash but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of all knowledge. And the crime and the gangs and the drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential.”) You would not know that unemployment stands at 4.7 percent, crime is down and productivity up. He sees only blight. “This American carnage stops right here and stops right now,” he declared. Carnage. Take that in for a moment. Does he see America as a decimated, destroyed and weak country? Apparently yes — or he would like us to believe so in order to, in a year or so, declare how everything has improved.”

Michael Kruse interviews three of Trump’s biographers who explain that ‘He Has This Deep Fear That He Is Not a Legitimate President’: ‘[Michael] D’Antonio: Those early influences are essential, and I also think it’s correct that he has been conducting his entire life as a vanity show, and he’s been rewarded, most recently since his reality TV show, by ever-greater public interest in him. This is a guy who is a president-elect who describes himself as a ratings machine, which is an absolutely absurd thing for a president to be reflecting on, but that matters to him. But one thing I think that we have overlooked as we see Trump trying to delegitimize others is what I suspect is a feeling he has inside that nothing he’s ever achieved himself has ever been legitimate. This is a person who has never known whether anybody wants to be around him because he’s a person they want to be around or they want to be around his money. And since he’s promoted himself as this glamorous, incredibly wealthy person, that’s the draw he’s always given. So he doesn’t know if he has any legitimate relationships outside of his family, and that’s why he emphasizes family. … He’s always kind of gaming the system—not, in my view, winning on the merits. And even his election was with almost 3 million fewer votes than his opponent. So he has this deep fear that he is himself not a legitimate president, and I think that’s why he goes to such great lengths to delegitimize even the intelligence community, which is the president’s key resource in security, and he’s going to do this demeaning and delegitimizing behavior rather than accept what they have to tell him.”

Anthony Romero offers the ACLU’s 7-Point Plan of Action to Take on the Trump Administration: “The first rock in our slingshot is a Freedom of Information Act request asking several government agencies to turn over documents relating to President Trump’s actual or potential conflicts of interest due to his business and family connections. The American people deserve to know their president will govern in the best interest of the nation and not his self-interest. Our first legal action is part of the ACLU’s Seven-Point plan to fight back against the Trump administration when it seeks to violate the rights and liberties guaranteed by the Constitution. The plan is supported by our new Constitution Defense Fund, established after the election, to provide the manpower and resources necessary to take on the most powerful government on earth. Going forward, the ACLU’s plan of action includes concrete steps….”

Sasha Abramsky explains How to build a moral resistance movement against Trumpism: “Grassroots groups that, for decades, have been preoccupied with their particular, micro-focused issues and identity themes will now have to put aside their differences and campaign en masse, protest in vast and sustained numbers on the streets, and, if necessary, engage in ongoing civil disobedience, to counter the unleashed assault against the progressive values that we hold dear. This resistance will have to emanate from universities, from faith communities, from networks of social justice campaigners, from environmentalists, and from anti-police brutality organisers. It will have to be so large, so loud, so uncompromising, that it will render impossible the implementation of Trumpism.”

Zelda the Canine is adorable, but has trouble fetching (and she’s not blind):

Neither Shocked Nor Awed

In these next months ahead, one should expect that the Trump Administration will do what it can to make statement after statement, in part to impress hardcore supporters and in part to shock and awe opponents.

As a guess, one can reasonably say that immigration deportations will be one of Trump’s prominent efforts. See, As soon as he is inaugurated, Trump will move to clamp down on immigration. Expect ready-for-the-camera deportations on the news.

This is likely to be a focus throughout 2017, with small towns affected as much as big cities. Small, rural towns will offer the Trump Administration the advantage of many collaborators who will aid federal authorities, and many residents who will identify neighbors as targets for deportation. Almost no one in these places will say a word in public opposition; outspoken residents will hail deportation as a necessary part of Making America Great Again.

We’ve a long campaign in opposition ahead, just beginning, and in these early months we can expect loss after loss. Those who expect as much – who see this with clarity – will succumb to neither shock nor awe.

Tragic although these moments will be, it is not how this conflict begins, but how it ends, that should occupy one’s efforts.

Daily Bread for 1.20.17

Good morning.

Whitewater will see morning showers with a daytime high of forty. Sunrise is 7:18 AM and sunset is 4:53 PM, for 9h 34m 42s of daytime. The moon is a waning crescent with 44.6% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the seventy-third day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

On this day in 1942, fifteen high-ranking Nazi Party and German government officials gathered at a villa in the Berlin suburb of Wannsee to discuss and coordinate the implementation of what they called the “Final Solution of the Jewish Question.” On this day in 1865, the 25th Wisconsin Infantry reconnoiters the Salkehatchie River in South Carolina prior to battles in the first week of February.

Recommended for reading in full —

Brendan Nyhan of Dartmouth describes Words as Weapons of Authoritarian Control on Primary Concerns:

David Corn suggests that investigators on the Trump-Russia Beat Should Talk to This Man: “Last week, the Senate Intelligence Committee announced it was commencing an investigation of Russian hacking during the 2016 campaign that would include an examination of connections between Russia and the Trump camp. And a veiled but public exchange between Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), a member of the committee, and FBI Director James Comey during a hearing on January 10 suggested the FBI has collected information on possible ties between Trump associates and Russians and may still be probing this matter. So with subpoena-wielding investigators on this beat, here’s a suggestion: The gumshoes ought to talk to an American from Belarus named Sergei Millian, who has boasted of close ties to Trump and who has worked with an outfit the FBI suspected of being a Russian intelligence front. If they haven’t already. Millian, who is in his late 30s and won’t say when he came to the United States or how he obtained US citizenship, is an intriguing and mysterious figure with a curious connection to Trump.”

Ryan Koronowski writes that Trump made a lot of promises about what he will do as president. We’ve documented 663 of them: “ThinkProgress examined 583 days of Trump’s public statements, from his campaign announcement speech on June 16, 2015 all the way up to the day before his inauguration. This included thousands of radio and television interviews, speeches, tweets, and campaign policy documents?—?well over 4 million words and counting. Our basic criteria were: 1) a statement made by Trump or by a policy document or questionnaire issued in his name, 2) about what would or would not happen during or as a result of his presidency, 3) about which a reasonable person could be disappointed should the promise be broken. Every time Trump made a new statement or claim about what he would or would not do as president, or guarantees about what he’d ensure would or would not happen, it went on the list. This includes instances when Trump straightforwardly said “I promise” or “I guarantee,” but also instances when he said that “we will” do something or that something “will never” happen if he became president.”

Patrick Marley and Jason Stein report that Vos calls for $300 million more for roads: “Madison — Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and other Republicans in his house called Thursday for sending $300 million to state highways over the next two years and cutting taxes by the same amount or more. Catching hold of more than $700 million in new state money now expected through the summer of 2019, Vos essentially called for raising either the gas tax or vehicle registration fees to pay for roads while cutting income taxes or property taxes.”

In So Fly: The Impossibly Acrobatic Martial Art of Tricking, Great Big Story shows what happens “when you combine the ferocious kicks of taekwondo, the grace of wushu, the improvised movements of capoeira, and gymnastics [into] the head-spinning martial art of tricking:

So Fly: The Impossibly Acrobatic Martial Art of Tricking from Great Big Story on Vimeo.

Dumb Show from Trump Now (and Mussolini Then)

Trump wanted to show the world how hard he was working on his inauguration speech, so he published a photograph. The picture is what one might expect from him: the overly-serious stare, the odd writing instrument, the apparently-unused tablet, turned so one could see if he’d written even a word, and the gaudy-but-suspicious-looking setting).

Almost immediately, people dissected the photo as a fraud, one more example of Trump’s love for dumb show, using confidence tricks persuasive only to easy marks. SeeIs Donald Trump Writing His Inaugural Address From a Mar-a-Lago Receptionist’s Desk? An Investigation (note: it’s probably the concierge’s desk).

Chris Hayes describes the photo – and Trump’s staged theatrics – generally:

Trump’s staged setting reminds one of Hemingway’s remarks about a similar stunt from Mussolini:

“The fascist dictator had announced he would receive the press. Everybody came. We all crowded into the room. Mussolini sat at his desk reading a book. His face was contorted into the famous frown. He was registering dictator. Being an ex-newspaper man himself he knew how many readers would be reached by the accounts the men in the room would write of the interview he was about to give. And he remained absorbed in his book. Mentally he was already reading the lines of the two thousand papers served by the two hundred correspondents.

As we entered the room the Black Shirt Dictator did not look up from the book he was reading, so intense was his concentration, etc.

I tip-toed over behind him to see what the book was he was reading with such avid interest. It was a French-English dictionary — held upside down.”

Daily Bread for 1.19.17

Good morning.

Thursday will be cloudy, with a likelihood of afternoon showers, and a high of forty-four. Sunrise is 7:19 AM and sunset 4:52 PM, for 9h 32m 45s of daytime. The moon is a waning gibbous with 54.1% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the seventy-second day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

On this day in 2006, NASA launches the New Horizons spacecraft on a three-billion-mile journey to Pluto. SeeImage gallery: New Horizons’ images of Pluto. On this day in 1939, Ernest Hausen of Ft. Atkinson sets the world’s record for chicken plucking.

Recommended for reading in full — 

Dan Egan reports that the Straits of Mackinac ‘worst possible place’ for a Great Lakes oil spill: “The pipes were not expanded, replaced or thickened to increase the oil and natural gas they carry; the capacity was largely added by increasing pressure on the steel tubes. In 2013, the pipeline owner ratcheted up the maximum capacity on the lines to 540,000 barrels per day. That is a volume far greater than the 470,000 barrels per day planned for the state-of-the-art Dakota Access Pipeline, which drew thousands of protesters to the Great Plains this fall. Many were upset over the risk the Dakota line poses to the Missouri River, though engineers never planned to drape the pipe across the river bottom. Instead, they prepared to tunnel the pipe as deep as 115 feet below the riverbed to protect the waters above. Given the age of the Mackinac lines, and the fact that they were laid in what one prominent hydrodynamics expert now calls the “worst possible” place for an oil spill in the Great Lakes, environmentalists, politicians and Michigan regulators are taking a new look at the old pipes.”

Scott Shane describes From Headline to Photograph, a Fake News Masterpiece: “A few weeks later [after a Trump speech in Ohio], Cameron Harris, a new college graduate with a fervent interest in Maryland Republican politics and a need for cash, sat down at the kitchen table in his apartment to fill in the details Mr. Trump had left out. In a dubious art just coming into its prime, this bogus story would be his masterpiece. Mr. Harris started by crafting the headline: “BREAKING: ‘Tens of thousands’ of fraudulent Clinton votes found in Ohio warehouse.” It made sense, he figured, to locate this shocking discovery in the very city and state where Mr. Trump had highlighted his “rigged” meme. “I had a theory when I sat down to write it,” recalled Mr. Harris, a 23-year-old former college quarterback and fraternity leader. “Given the severe distrust of the media among Trump supporters, anything that parroted Trump’s talking points people would click. Trump was saying ‘rigged election, rigged election.’ People were predisposed to believe Hillary Clinton could not win except by cheating.”

The Pew Research Center shows how Trump, Clinton Voters Divided in Their Main Source for Election News: “According to a new Pew Research Center survey, Americans who say they voted for Trump in the general election relied heavily on Fox News as their main source of election news leading up to the 2016 election, whereas Clinton voters named an array of different sources, with no one source named by more than one-in-five of her supporters. The survey was conducted Nov. 29-Dec. 12, 2016, among 4,183 adults who are members of Pew Research Center’s nationally representative American Trends Panel.

Jonathan Capehart describes, in response to Trump’s criticism of Rep. John Lewis’s congressional district, how Trump wanted to build a project in Atlanta. You can pretty much guess where it was going to be: “if Trump “believes Georgia’s fifth congressional district is ‘falling apart,’ then he believes Atlanta is falling apart.” But here’s the best part. When Trump wanted to slap his name on a project there, it was right there in Lewis’s district. The headline on a February 2010 story by Douglas Sams of the Atlanta Business Chronicle was to-the-point: “Proposed Trump Towers site listed for foreclosure.” The plan was to have two condo towers, luxury shopping and restaurants bearing the name of the Manhattan builder, who Sams reported, also lent his marketing and architectural teams to the effort.”

Peter Stone and Greg Gordon report that FBI, 5 other agencies probe possible covert Kremlin aid to Trump: “WASHINGTON – The FBI and five other law enforcement and intelligence agencies have collaborated for months in an investigation into Russian attempts to influence the November election, including whether money from the Kremlin covertly aided President-elect Donald Trump, two people familiar with the matter said. The agencies involved in the inquiry are the FBI, the CIA, the National Security Agency, the Justice Department, the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network and representatives of the director of national intelligence, the sources said. Investigators are examining how money may have moved from the Kremlin to covertly help Trump win, the two sources said. One of the allegations involves whether a system for routinely paying thousands of Russian-American pensioners may have been used to pay some email hackers in the United States or to supply money to intermediaries who would then pay the hackers, the two sources said.”

Scientists at Scripps Oceanography announced a new species of sea dragon, colloquially known as the ruby sea dragon:

Betsy DeVos: What a Weak Nominee Looks Like

In a confirmation hearing, one might face tough questioning, and those tough questions might – understandably – trip up a nominee. What shouldn’t happen, to someone of normal ability and proper preparation, is to stumble over simple, straightforward questions.

That’s what happened to Trump nominee for secretary of education Betsy DeVos: she stumbled (indeed, almost threw herself to the ground) over direct questions that a capable nominee could have answered: (1) about her wealth, (2) about the difference between growth and proficiency, and (3) about guns in schools. A more capable nominee could have managed these questions easily; she’s not that nominee.

Sen. Sanders asks about DeVos how she became Trump’s nominee:

Sanders: “Okay. My question is, and I don’t mean to be rude. Do you think, if you were not a multi-billionaire, if your family had not made hundreds of millions of dollars of contributions to the Republican Party, that you would be sitting here today?”

DeVos: “Senator, as a matter of fact, I do think that there would be that possibility. I’ve worked very hard on behalf of parents and children for the last almost 30 years to be a voice for students and to empower parents to make decisions on behalf of their children, primarily low-income children.”

How she should have answered: Avoid answering with ‘would be that possibility’; begin with a detailed list of accomplishments in the very first words of her reply, e.g., “There are x contributions that I’ve made to education in this country, and I can list and describe them all, in order, to you now…”

Sen. Franken asks DeVos about the difference between growth and proficiency (where proficiency is hitting a benchmark and growth is about progress from one level of ability to another):

DeVos: “I think, if I’m understanding your question correctly around proficiency, I would also correlate it to competency and mastery, so that each student is measured according to the advancement they’re making in each subject area.”

Franken: “Well, that’s growth. That’s not proficiency.  I’m talking about the debate between proficiency and growth and what your thoughts are on that.”

How she should have answered: DeVos should have known – and made clear she knew – the difference between the two ways to measure progress; contending that she was just clarifying Franken’s question doesn’t mitigate the obvious truth that she didn’t see the distinction between the two. (Franken clearly does understand the difference, so she’s not clarifying his words, she’s making her own error). She either truly doesn’t know the difference, or lacks the intellectual ability or composure to comprehend a question in a formal setting.

Sen. Murphy asks about guns in schools:

Murphy: Do you think guns have any place in or around schools?

DeVos: That is best left to locales and states to decide. If the underlying question is—

Murphy: You can’t say definitively today that guns shouldn’t be in schools?

DeVos: I will refer back to [Wyoming] Sen. [Mike] Enzi and the school he was talking about in Wapiti, Wyoming. I think probably there, I would imagine that there is probably a gun in the schools to protect from potential grizzlies.

How she should have answered: Anything but this. Referring to a senator’s remark about wildlife doesn’t help here. Candidly, she would have been better off contending that guns were useful to defend against Martians: at least she might have been able to later say that she was joking.

Contending that guns in schools are needed to defend against wildlife is world-class buffoonery. A defense, if any, would have to talk about human threats and emphasize limitations to assure those possessing guns were well-trained. The problem here is that there are very few parents who will accept that well-trained means someone other than a police officer. She would have been better off to advocate for more police; even then, there are legitimate concerns about the quality of police training in communities that hire poorly and skimp on training costs.)

Her position is a hard political one to hold in any event, but talking about grizzlies is simply embarrassing.

Trump promised America that he would hire the “best people“; in DeVos he’s picked someone either too dim or too lazy to represent herself adequately, to a level that the vast majority of her fellow citizens easily meet each day.