Daily Bread for 10.21.17

Good morning.

Saturday in Whitewater will be partly cloudy with a high of seventy-six. Sunrise is 7:16 AM and sunset 6:01 PM, for 10h 45m 03s of daytime. The moon is a waxing crescent with 3.1% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the three hundred forty-sixth day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

BOSTON (July 4, 2014) USS Constitution fires a 17-gun salute near U.S. Coast Guard Base Boston during the ship’s Independence Day underway demonstration in Boston Harbor. Constitution got underway with more than 300 guests to celebrate America’s independence. (U.S. Navy photo by Seaman Matthew R. Fairchild/Released) 140704-N-OG138-866

On this day in 1797, the USS Constitution, later nicknamed Old Ironsides, is launched in Boston Harbor, “Captain James Sever breaking a bottle of Madeira wine on her bowsprit.” On this day in 1897, the Yerkes Observatory is dedicated: “Founded by astronomer George Hale and located in Williams Bay, the Yerkes Observatory houses the world’s largest refracting optical telescope, with a lens of diameter 102 cm/40 inches. It was built through the largess of the tycoon Charles Tyson Yerkes, who rebuilt important parts of the Chicago transportation system after the fire. Situated in a 77-acre park on the shore of Lake Geneva, this observatory was the center for world astronomy in the early 20th century and invited a number of astronomers from around the world, including Japan, for scientific exchange. [Source: Yerkes Observatory Virtual Museum]”

Recommended for reading in full — 

Andrew Kramer reports In Russia, a Bribery Case Lifts the Veil on Kremlin Intrigue:

MOSCOW — The Russian elite, the group of oligarchs and other loyalists around President Vladimir V. Putin who amassed great wealth over nearly two decades of hand-in-glove work with the government, is showing signs of cracking.

As the economy stagnates amid international sanctions and low oil prices, a high-profile bribery case has illustrated how the country’s most privileged players have taken to fighting over slices of a smaller economic pie, seeking an advantage over rivals through the courts and law enforcement officials who are widely seen as vulnerable to corruption.

In recordings read aloud by prosecutors in a case being heard in a Moscow courtroom, two men, both Kremlin insiders, are first heard in an assiduously polite conversation recorded by secret listening devices, even as one was preparing to doom the other to a long spell in prison….

There’s no honor among thieves, but Kramer notes something else, that some thieves are less insightful than others:

In the transcripts, published by MediaZona, a Russian news portal, Mr. Sechin appears to know that his nemesis will soon be arrested and vanish into the penal colonies, and seems to toy with him on pivotal issues that have divided the economic policy elite in Russia for years.

He discusses the success of Rosneft in terms of volumes of oil produced, falling back on a Soviet-era fascination with tons of production, whether steel, coal or oil, regardless of its market value.

Mr. Ulyukayev interjects that investors, who can buy shares in Rosneft on the London Stock Exchange, value the company at only a fraction of other oil companies.

“The asset is worth exactly half as much as comparable” companies, he says. In short, Russia’s most important company is not a market success.

Mr. Sechin brushes aside this objection, and then notes the gifts he has prepared. “Take the basket,” Mr. Sechin says, adding, “That’s all, good luck and thank you very much”….

(Although some Russians have grown so rich as to become oligrachs, the fundamental characteristics of a truly productive, and so propsperous, socilety are missng. Some still think in crude quanitative messaures rather than qualititativelu as a matter of relatively productivity, relative market value. Sechin thinks no more insightfully than a Soviet planner.)

Alexis Madrigal interviews U.S. Senator Mark Warner in Facebook’s Evidence of Russian Electoral Meddling Is Only ‘the Tip of the Iceberg’:

Alexis Madrigal: So, as of today, what do we know about the Russian disinformation campaign on Facebook and other social-media platforms?

Mark Warner: First of all, let’s step back and put the Russian involvement in 2016 in the overall context. It was approved at the highest level. It was coordinated in ways that were unprecedented. It included the things that have been much reported on, like hacking into both political parties and releasing information harmful to one candidate, Clinton, and helpful to Trump.

We know that Russians and even Trump’s Department of Homeland Security have acknowledged that 21 states had their electoral systems probed, if not fully hacked into. We know that this is part of a pattern that has been going on and continues after the election. And it included interventions in the French election, where Facebook was much more active.

I think our government and the platform companies were more than a little bit caught off guard. I don’t think anyone had seen anything of this scale before….

Madrigal: In your mind, what are the key outstanding questions?Warner: All these companies need to come fully clean about what happened in 2016. Don’t tell me they found 450 accounts linked to the American election when they found 50,000 in France. And don’t tell me they found all the ads.

The first pass from Twitter was worse. They took only things that were derivative of what Facebook found. And they found some stuff. But I said, you have to go back and dig in. So, we need to figure out, number one, what happened in 2016.

While I’m trying to not get into the whole editorial-content argument, this notion that we can’t curate at all just doesn’t hold water. They’ve had to do it every time there has been something that has created consequences. Child pornography for example, or terrorist activity, or information on how to create bombs.

A lot of that was forced by the European governments. Areas reach a tipping point, the [platform companies] step in and act. They have to, if you don’t want over-the-top regulation, or worse yet, we allow this to continue and we have some massive upheaval or loss of faith in the democratic process. Because people see how bad this was with relatively small amounts of dollars spent….
Shannon Bearman describes The Rise Of The Accidental Activist (“How millions of women like me became the backbone of the Resistance”):

It was September 1st, 2016. Time to start thinking in earnest about the new school year. Part of that routine that was new involved signing up on Twitter to follow the kid’s bus route delays, specific school events in real time, etc. This would be my first foray ever into social media, and I was really hesitant. But, to make life practical and more convenient for our family, I took the plunge and set up my Twitter account….

Without realizing it, I became an accidental activist. I was sending emails, signing petitions, making phone calls every day and suddenly very passionate about politics. Like many Americans, it’s become part of my daily routine: Have coffee, sign/send petitions, make phone calls- #Resist….

Now that the big, showy displays of massive protest are over, the bulk of the Resistance work involves joining forces online, taking action daily through PAC’s like “The Loyal Opposition” or “Demo Coalition”. These calls to resistance organize masses of followers into the equivalent of a national PTA phone tree, overpowering social media and sending congressional staffers scurrying.

Great Big Story explains How Mario Got His Mustache (and His Name!):

Daily Bread for 10.20.17

Good morning.

Friday in Whitewater will be mostly sunny with a high of seventy-four. Sunrise is 7:15 AM and sunset 6:03 PM, for 10h 47m 48s of daytime. The moon is new, with .6% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the three hundred forty-fifth day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

On this day in 1944, Gen. Douglas MacArthur returns to the Philipines. On this day in 1856, Frederick Douglass speaks in Beaver Dam: “On this date Frederick Douglass arrived in Beaver Dam and spoke about the brutality and immorality of slavery. His speech was also intended to generate support for the abolitionist movement in Dodge Co. and Wisconsin. ”

Recommended for reading in full — 

Ari Berman describes How Voter Suppression Threw Wisconsin to Trump (“And possibly handed him the whole election”):

….After the election, registered voters in Milwaukee County and Madison’s Dane County were surveyed about why they didn’t cast a ballot. Eleven percent cited the voter ID law and said they didn’t have an acceptable ID; of those, more than half said the law was the “main reason” they didn’t vote. According to the study’s author, University of Wisconsin-Madison political scientist Kenneth Mayer, that finding implies that between 12,000 and 23,000 registered voters in Madison and Milwaukee—and as many as 45,000 statewide—were deterred from voting by the ID law. “We have hard evidence there were tens of thousands of people who were unable to vote because of the voter ID law,” he says.

“This particular election was very important to me. I felt like the right to vote was being stripped away from me.”

Its impact was particularly acute in Milwaukee, where nearly two-thirds of the state’s African Americans live, 37 percent of them below the poverty line. Milwaukee is the most segregated city in the nation, divided between low-income black areas and middle-class white ones. It was known as the “Selma of the North” in the 1960s because of fierce clashes over desegregation. George Wallace once said that if he had to leave Alabama, “I’d want to live on the south side of Milwaukee.”

Neil Albrecht, Milwaukee’s election director, believes that the voter ID law and other changes passed by the Republican Legislature contributed significantly to lower turnout. Albrecht is 55 but seems younger, with bookish tortoise-frame glasses and salt-and-pepper stubble. (“I looked 12 until I became an election administrator,” he joked.) At his office in City Hall with views of the Milwaukee River, Albrecht showed me a color-coded map of the city’s districts, pointing out the ones where turnout had declined the most, including Anthony’s. Next to his desk was a poster that listed “Acceptable Forms of Photo ID.”

“I would estimate that 25 to 35 percent of the 41,000 decrease in voters, or somewhere between 10,000 and 15,000 voters, likely did not vote due to the photo ID requirement,” he said later. “It is very probable that between the photo ID law and the changes to voter registration, enough people were prevented from voting to have changed the outcome of the presidential election in Wisconsin”….

Rob Schultz reports New Madison police procedures: Officers should exhaust all options before using a gun:

The Madison Police Department has updated its guide on the use of deadly force, instructing officers to exhaust other options before using a gun in a change lauded by both a police union official and an attorney who has sued the city over the issue.

“When it comes to the rules our police officers are trained to follow, language matters,” said Andrea Farrell, a Madison attorney who earlier this year won a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city on behalf of the family of a woman killed by Madison police.

The police department was ordered by the City Council in May to change its standard operating procedures for how officers use deadly force, as well as one for how they use non-deadly force and to include language emphasizing an officer’s duty to intercede, de-escalate and preserve life. The changes were recommended by a special committee that studied police policy and practices….

(Here’s where we are: this guidance in Madison wasn’t uniformly and everywhere present. Most avenues are not enough avenues: only all avenues are enough avenues.)

Betsy Woodruff reports Exclusive: Senate ‘Russia Probe’ Is Not Investigating Russia:

The Senate Judiciary Committee has demanded documents on Russian meddling from the CIA, interviewed Donald Trump Jr. about his infamous Trump Tower meeting, and subpoenaed Paul Manafort, the president’s Kremlin-friendly former campaign chairman.

In May, the committee held a subcommittee hearing called “Russian Interference in 2016 United States Election.” In June, Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley issued a pair of press releases about his “Russia Probe.” One of them, produced with fellow committee Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, asked for documents from the FBI, citing the committee’s “investigations into allegations of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians.”

But the Judiciary Committee is not, in fact, running a Trump-Russia investigation—at least, not a full-fledged one.

A staffer for Grassley, speaking on the condition of anonymity to give his candid assessment, told The Daily Beast that the committee is instead engaged in routine oversight of the Justice Department—though under extraordinary circumstances….

Ari Melber, Meredith Mandell, and  Mirjam Lablans report Putin Rival Ties Kushner Meeting to Kremlin Bankers:

A prominent exiled Russian oligarch said in an exclusive interview with NBC News that he is nearly certain Russian President Vladimir Putin tried to collaborate with the Trump campaign, and that he believes a top Russian banker was not “acting on his own behalf” when he held a controversial meeting with Jared Kushner last December.

The pointed remarks come from a longtime Putin rival, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, an oil executive who was Russia’s richest man before he was imprisoned and exiled by the Kremlin.

“I am almost convinced that Putin’s people have tried to influence the U.S. election in some way,” Khodorkovsky told MSNBC’s Ari Melber in his first U.S. television interview since Trump took office.

Khodorkovsky says he believes the likelihood that Putin “personally” tried to cooperate with the Trump campaign to affect the election is a “9 out of 10.”

“Whether or not that proposal was accepted, I would let the people responsible for investigating the matter answer that question,” he added.

Khodorkovsky was freed and exiled from Russia in 2013, after spending 10 years in prison for tax evasion. Several international human rights groups have said the prosecution was political retribution for his public criticism of Putin….

Tech Insider lists 5 myths about sugar that you should stop believing:

Sessions Stumbles, Again

In testimony before the U.S. Senate yesterday, Sen. Franken of Minnesota asked Attorney General Sessions about Russian interference in the 2016 election, and Sessions’s shifting statements about his contacts with representatives of Putin’s government.

Sessions’s answers, in content and demeanor, are odd: he sounds hesitant, nervous, defensive, and almost beleaguered. Franken’s intelligent, but honestly one would expect someone serving as attorney general to be so, too. One may meet difficult questions, but difficult questions are not impossible ones; an experienced, competent attorney and former legislator should be able to reply calmly and knowledgeably.

Sessions, at about the eight-minute mark on the video, tries to refute the contention that he testified falsely – and by implication deliberately so – when he, Sessions formerly testified that he “did not have communications” with members of the Russian government. Sessions contends that his broad & general denial of “communications with the Russians” merely applied to a narrow & specific report of a U.S. intelligence intercepts.

That’s unpersuasive, to the point of ridiculousness. When a man is accused of petting a poodle, and then answers that he’s never had contact with dogs, he cannot persuasively contend that he’s answered only regarding poodles.

Astonishingly, Sessions then offers that “you can say what you want about the accuracy of it [his earlier testimony], but I think it was a good faith response…”

If Sessions’s general denial is a good faith response to a specific question, then vast amounts of false testimony would be made legitimate as good faith efforts.

Men accused of petting curly-haired dogs, who deny falsely that they’ve ever touched any canines, are not answering in good faith.

Daily Bread for 10.19.17

Good morning.

Thursday in Whitewater will be partly cloudy with a high of seventy. Sunrise is 7:14 AM and sunset 6:04 PM, for 10h 50m 33s of daytime. The moon is new today, with .1% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the three hundred forty-fourth day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

The City of Whitewater’s Finance Committee is scheduled to meet at 5 PM, her Community Involvement Commission at 5 PM, and the Fire Department Board at 6:30 PM.

On this day in 1781, American and French forces win a decisive victory at the Battle of Yorktown:

The fire on Yorktown from the allies was heavier than ever as new artillery pieces joined the line.[64]Cornwallis talked with his officers that day and they agreed that their situation was hopeless.[65]

On the morning of October 17, a drummer appeared followed by an officer waving a white handkerchief.[66] The bombardment ceased, and the officer was blindfolded and led behind the French and American lines. Negotiations began at the Moore House on October 18 between Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Dundas and Major Alexander Ross (who represented the British) and Lieutenant Colonel Laurens (who represented the Americans) and the Marquis de Noailles (who represented the French).[66] To make sure that nothing fell apart between the French and Americans at the last minute, Washington ordered that the French be given an equal share in every step of the surrender process.[66]

The articles of capitulation were signed on October 19, 1781.[66] Signatories included Washington, Rochambeau, the Comte de Barras (on behalf of the French Navy), Cornwallis, and Captain Thomas Symonds (the senior Royal Navy officer present).[67] Cornwallis’ British men were declared prisoners of war, promised good treatment in American camps, and officers were permitted to return home after taking their parole. At 2:00 pm the allied army entered the British positions, with the French on the left and the Americans on the right.[66]

The British had asked for the traditional honors of war, which would allow the army to march out with flags flying, bayonets fixed, and the band playing an American or French tune as a tribute to the victors. However, Washington firmly refused to grant the British the honors that they had denied the defeated American army the year before at the Siege of Charleston.[68] Consequently, the British and Hessian troops marched with flags furled and muskets shouldered….

Recommended for reading in full — 

Betsy Woodruff, Ben Collins, Kevin Poulsen, and Spencer Ackerman report Trump Campaign Staffers Pushed Russian Propaganda Days Before the Election (“Kellyanne Conway and Donald Trump Jr. pushed messages from an account operated from Russia’s ‘troll farm’ — including allegations of voter fraud a week before Election Day”):

Some of the Trump campaign’s most prominent names and supporters, including Trump’s campaign manager, digital director and son, pushed tweets from professional trolls paid by the Russian government in the heat of the 2016 election campaign.

The Twitter account @Ten_GOP, which called itself the “Unofficial Twitter account of Tennessee Republicans,” was operated from the Kremlin-backed “Russian troll farm,” or Internet Research Agency, a source familiar with the account confirmed with The Daily Beast.

The account’s origins in the Internet Research Agency were originally reported by the independent Russian news outlet RBC. @Ten_GOP was created on November 19, 2015, and accumulated over 100 thousand followers before Twitter shut it down. The Daily Beast independently confirmed the reasons for @Ten_GOP’s account termination.

The discovery of the now-unavailable tweets presents the first evidence that several members of the Trump campaign pushed covert Russian propaganda on social media in the run-up to the 2016 election.

A Twitter spokesperson declined to comment, “for privacy and security reasons”….

Kevin Collier reports Twitter Was Warned Repeatedly About This Fake Account Run By A Russian Troll Farm And Refused To Take It Down (“The account was one of hundreds created by Russia’s Internet Research Agency and drew 136,000 followers by tweeting divisive messages in the name of the Tennessee Republican Party”):

Twitter took 11 months to close a Russian troll account that claimed to speak for the Tennessee Republican Party even after that state’s real GOP notified the social media company that the account was a fake.

The account, @TEN_GOP, was enormously popular, amassing at least 136,000 followers between its creation in November 2015 and when Twitter shut it down in August, according to a snapshot of the account captured by the Internet Archive just before the account was “permanently suspended.”

Some of its tweets were deliberately outrageous, the archive shows, such as one in December 2016 that claimed that unarmed black men killed by police officers deserved their fate. It also trafficked in deliberate fake news, claiming just before it was shut down that a photo of the Cleveland Cavaliers’ NBA championship parade was actually a crowd waiting to hear Donald Trump speak.

Twitter, already under fire, along with Facebook, for being slow to recognize its role in Russian election meddling, declined to comment. A spokesperson told BuzzFeed News that the company does not comment on individual accounts….

Dan Friedman observes Jeff Sessions Again Changes His Story on Meetings With Russian Ambassador (“The attorney general nows says their discussions may have included campaign issues”):

Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Wednesday offered a revised account of his contacts with Russians during the 2016 campaign. During his confirmation hearing in January, Sessions falsely claimed he had no contacts with Russian officials during the presidential campaign—when he was a prominent supporter of Donald Trump. After reports that he met with Sergey Kislyak, then the Russian ambassador to the United States, Sessions changed his story, arguing that they did discuss any campaign-related issues. Yet while testifying before the Senate judiciary committee, Sessions tweaked his explanation again, noting that it was possible that Trump campaign positions did come up with the Russian ambassador….

In June, appearing before the Senate intelligence committee, Sessions altered his story again, saying, “I have never met with or had any conversation with any Russians or any foreign officials concerning any type of interference with any campaign or election in the United States.”

On Wednesday, when Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) pressed Sessions on his contacts with Kislyak, the attorney general once more shifted his account, leaving open the possibility that campaign-related matters may have arisen. “I don’t think there was any discussion about the details of the campaign other than – it could have been in the meeting in my office or at the convention that some comment was made about what Trump’s positions were,” he said. “I think that’s possible.”

Sessions also told Leahy he “did not recall” if he discussed emails—the Vermont senator seemed to be referring to the emails hackers stole from the Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign—with any Russian officials. Leahy, a former prosecutor, said that Sessions has shifted from issuing flat denials of his contacts with Russians to saying that he could not recall his conversations. Leahy later told reporters that Sessions had changed his story and given “false testimony” in January….

Barry H. Berke, Noah Bookbinder, and Norman Eisen present Presidential obstruction of justice: The case of Donald J. Trump:

President Trump’s firing of Comey and the subsequent revelations about President Trump’s earlier exchanges with Comey while he was FBI Director raise the question of whether President Trump obstructed justice by endeavoring to impede those investigations. In June, press reports indicated that Special Counsel Robert Mueller is indeed investigating the very question of whether President Trump obstructed justice.[1] Mueller has since impaneled a grand jury in Washington D.C., issued subpoenas, and has begun seeking interviews with current and former White House officials.[2]

In this paper, we break down and analyze the question of whether President Trump may have obstructed justice and explain the criminal and congressional actions that could follow from an obstruction investigation. Addressing the possibility of criminal behavior by President Trump and the complicated issues it raises is not a task that we take lightly. Dissecting allegations of criminality leveled against an individual who has been duly elected president and who has sworn to preserve, protect, and defend our Constitution is an inherently solemn task. But it is our hope that by presenting a rigorous legal analysis of the potential case against the president, we will help the American people and their representatives understand the contours of the issues, regardless of whether it is eventually litigated in a court of law, the halls of Congress, or the court of public opinion….

Download “Presidential obstruction of justice: The case of Donald J. Trump.”

(This is a serious analysis, applying the law to published facts. Those who have supped on Fox News or Breitbart for their assessments of possible obstruction of justice claims have consumed only slop.)

In Australia, an infrared camera captured kangaroos duking it out:

‘When 20,000 American Nazis Descended Upon New York City’

America has faced movements dark before, not only from abroad, but sometimes from within. It’s worth reminding ourselves, today, that in little over six years’ time after Nazis gathered in Madison Square Garden, the United States – through countless, painful losses and sacrifices – rightly destroyed the very nation that inspired those gathered in 1939.

There was a malevolent cunning to these filthy men, as they mixed worthy American symbols with their own unworthy foreign emblems of a bigoted & murderous ideology. For it all, how detestable – then and now – were those who allied themselves with a foreign dictatorship against their own free society:

In 1939, the German American Bund organized a rally of 20,000 Nazi supporters at Madison Square Garden in New York City. When Academy Award-nominated documentarian Marshall Curry stumbled upon footage of the event in historical archives, he was flabbergasted. Together with Field of Vision, he decided to present the footage as a cautionary tale to Americans. The short film, A Night at the Garden, premieres on The Atlantic today.

“The first thing that struck me was that an event like this could happen in the heart of New York City,” Curry told The Atlantic. “Watching it felt like an episode of The Twilight Zone where history has taken a different path. But it wasn’t science fiction – it was real, historical footage. It all felt eerily familiar, given today’s political situation.”

Rather than edit the footage into a standard historical documentary with narration, Curry decided to “keep it pure, cinematic, and unmediated, as if you are there, watching, and wrestling with what you are seeing. I wanted it to be more provocative than didactic – a small history-grenade tossed into the discussion we are having about White Supremacy right now.”

“The footage is so powerful,” continued Curry, “it seems amazing that it isn’t a stock part of every high school history class. This story was likely nudged out of the canon, in part because it’s scary and embarrassing. It tells a story about our country that we’d prefer to forget.”

Daily Bread for 10.18.17

Good morning.

Midweek in Whitewater will be sunny with a high of seventy. Sunrise is 7:13 AM and sunset 6:08 PM, for 10h 53m 19s of daytime. The moon is a waning crescent with 1.6% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the three hundred forty-third day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

Whitewater’s Public Works Committee is scheduled to meet at 6 AM, and her Parks & Recreation Board at 5:30 PM.

On this day in 1867, the United States takes possession of Alaska:

The transfer ceremony took place in Sitka on October 18, 1867. Russian and American soldiers paraded in front of the governor’s house; the Russian flag was lowered and the American flag raised amid peals of artillery.

A description of the events was published in Finland six years later, written by a blacksmith named T. Ahllund, who had been recruited to work in Sitka only less than two years previously.[22]

Recommended for reading in full —

Peter Overby reports The Court Challenge Begins: Is Trump Taking Unconstitutional Emoluments?:

On Wednesday morning, a federal judge in Manhattan will hear preliminary arguments in a case that claims President Trump is violating the Constitution’s ban on accepting foreign payments, or emoluments.

Here is what is at stake: The Founding Fathers wrote a clause into the Constitution saying U.S. officials cannot accept “any present, Emolument, Office, or Title” from foreign governments without the consent of Congress. Trump’s critics say that by refusing to sell off his global businesses, the president is failing to uphold the Constitution.

But before that issue can be debated, the court first has to decide whether the plaintiffs even have standing to bring their Emoluments Clause case. And that first step is what is happening in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York….

Tim Lister, Jim Sciutto and Mary Ilyushina have an Exclusive: Putin’s ‘chef,’ the man behind the troll factory:

Yevgeny Prigozhin is a Russian oligarch dubbed “chef” to President Vladimir Putin by the Russian press. In 2002, he served caviar and truffles to President George W. Bush during a summit in St. Petersburg. Before that, he renovated a boat that became the city’s most exclusive restaurant.

But his business empire has expanded far beyond the kitchen. US investigators believe it was Prigozhin’s company that financed a Russian “troll factory” that used social media to spread fake news during the 2016 US presidential campaign, according to multiple officials briefed on the investigation. One part of the factory had a particularly intriguing name and mission: a “Department of Provocations” dedicated to sowing fake news and social divisions in the West, according to internal company documents obtained by CNN.

Prigozhin is one of the Kremlin’s inner circle. His company is believed to be a main backer of the St. Petersburg-based “Internet Research Agency” (IRA), a secretive technology firm, according to US officials and the documents reviewed by CNN. Prigozhin was sanctioned by the US Treasury Department in December of 2016 for providing financial support for Russia’s military occupation of Ukraine. Two of his companies, including his catering business, were also sanctioned by Treasury this year….

Casey Michel describes How the Russians pretended to be Texans — and Texans believed them:

In early 2016, while researching some of the most popular U.S. secession groups online, I stumbled across one of the Russian-controlled Facebook accounts that were then pulling in Americans by the thousands.

At the time, I was writing on Russia’s relationship with American secessionists from Texas, Hawaii and Puerto Rico. These were people who had hitched flights to Moscow to swap tactics, to offer advice and to find support. They had found succor in the shadow of the Kremlin.

That was how I eventually found my way to the “Heart of Texas” Facebook page (and its @itstimetosecede Twitter feed as well). Heart of Texas soon grew into the most popular Texas secession page on Facebook — one that, at one point in 2016, boasted more followers than the official Texas Democrat and Republican Facebook pages combined. By the time Facebook took the page down recently, it had a quarter of a million followers….

Greg Fish reports Putin’s Professional Trolls Catfished And Paid Pro-Trump Activists In The US (“After embedding themselves deeply in social media, Kremlin’s trolls are branching out into mass media and activism):

….In the troll factory’s attempts to spill their propaganda into the offline world, they worked with 100 or so activists in the United States who wanted to spread the pro-Trump message. The trolls pretended to be fellow Republicans sympathetic to Trump’s message and reimbursed a number of travel and media-related expenses incurred by those activists. The political junkie from Florida who really wanted to meet like-minded would-be Trump voters on one of the 118 core social media accounts set up by the trolls was actually interacting with a 20 to 30 year old Russian man or woman sitting behind a desk in Northeast Russia after responding to a vague job ad months prior.

This is very much on Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s radar as he investigates Trump’s links to shady Russian interests, but the damage has already been done. These pages and ads on Facebook have been shared hundreds of millions of times before they were deleted, and millions of Americans using the social media platform saw them thanks to hyper-targeted algorithms and a $100,000 ad buy by the trolls. So if you’re wondering how effective these propaganda operations were, the rather disturbing answer seems to be, very. In fact, the targeting was so spot on, one of the questions Mueller’s team is seriously considering is whether the Trump campaign may have helped the troll factories with it.

Trying to empower the political fringes in America is far from their only task. France, Germany, and wide swaths of Eastern Europe are also targeted with the same methods and by the same people. Even Russia itself isn’t safe from its own trolls because last year, the online news portals they ran started hitting the big time with as many as 33 million unique monthly views. This is on par with traffic other major Russia media outlets see individually, so while they’re not dominating the news, they’re definitely influencing the discourse by injecting a pro-Russian, pro-Putin slant into everyday media diets at home and abroad, especially in Russian expat communities….

Here’s Why Penguins’ Feet Don’t Freeze:

The Same Ten People Problem (Revisited)

The Scene from Whitewater, Wisconsin

In a presentation from September on the state of the city (really meaning the state of Whitewater’s municipal government), City Manager Cameron Clapper tackled again the ‘Same Ten People Problem’ (STPP), where only a few people participate in municipal meetings, etc. One can find the full video presentation below; Clapper’s remarks on the STPP appear from 26:20 to 34:02.

A few remarks about all this, below:

Credit Where Credit Is Due. City Manager Clapper has discussed his concern about participation before, much to his credit. It is a problem, although one that some would rather not discuss, so much the better to avoid a solution that might dilute their influence.

Clapper’s (Partial) Solution. In his remarks, Clapper offers POLCO, a web-based community survey provider, as a partial solution to the STPP. That’s novel, actually. POLCO bills itself (mostly) as a way to allow officials to receive community opinion on key issues; Clapper’s now holding POLCO out as a way to entice participation beyond mere survey responses.

I’m not sure how effective POLCO will be, but it’s more likely to be useful as a gateway to additional individual participation than as an accurate representation of community opinion (the problems of collecting an accurate surevy through POLCO are too great, to put it mildy). As a way to whet someone’s appetite, though, Clapper may be right, and may have found a way to make POLCO one part of a solution on participation. (It’s worth noting that he contends it’s one solution, not the only solution.)

The STPP. I’ve written about Whitewater’s STPP before. See The Perimeter Fence and  The Solution to the ‘Same Ten People Problem.’ From the latter post:

In a post from yesterday I wrote about how cultures have perimeter fences, figurative boundaries marking the divide between what they consider acceptable and what they don’t, between those of the community and those outside of it.

Whitewater’s maintained a perimeter fence that is too circumscribed, and by design too impermeable.  It’s more than generational change that limits participation.

We’ve a fence that’s too close and too high….

That’s the source of the STPP in Whitewater: a local culture that expects a few leading figures and the community story be channeled through a few narrow gates of a few high walls.

What’s Coming. I’ve always felt that Whitewater will be better when she evolves more completely into a community with multiple sources of information, and diverse points of view. See New Whitewater’s Inevitability.

The idea of wrapping the community into one package was, as a digital imitation of the Register (when that paper still mattered), was always yesterday’s idea, a retrograde notion. Bundling the city in a box, adding a bow, and presenting ‘Whitewater!’ was always yesterday’s outlook; it was visionary only if one defines myopia as keen eyesight.

The future – for Whitewater and other towns – has always been myriad sources, each independently contributing to a vibrant community.

Truthfully, she’s already part way there: there are dozens of local sources of information, from dozens of community groups, written in the style that suits each group, respectively. Look only in one place, and one misses so much.

It makes sense that Cameron Clapper would want more government participation now; it won’t come that soon, yet it will come. There are likely to be much harder days of challenge between now and then. We would have done better if we had made this transition sooner, of course.

Still, much of what seems so vital now won’t last into a New Whitewater, but then each generation should – and inevitably will – make its own choices.

If City Manager Clapper stays in Whitewater for another decade – and despite disagreements with him, one hopes he does – then he’ll see these changes.

Between now and then, there will be a hard slog in Whitewater, but there’s no better place, in all the world, to be.

Daily Bread for 10.17.17

Good morning.

Tuesday in Whitewater will be sunny with a high of sixty-eight. Sunrise is 7:11 AM and sunset 6:07 PM, for 10h 56m 05s of daytime. The moon is a waning crescent with 5.3% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the three hundred forty-second day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

Whitewater’s Community Development Authority meets at 5:30 PM, and City Council at 6:30 PM.

On this day in 1931, Al Capone is convicted of tax evasion (and sentenced a week later to eleven years in jail). On this day in 1970, Pres. Nixon visits Green Bay: “On this date President Richard Nixon traveled to Green Bay to speak at a testimonial dinner in honor of Green Bay Packers quarterback Bart Starr.”

Recommended for reading in full —

Michael Gerson contends that The religious right carries its golden calf into Steve Bannon’s battles:

….There is no group in the United States less attached to its own ideals or more eager for its own exploitation than religious conservatives. Forget Augustine and Aquinas, Wilberforce and Shaftesbury. For many years, leaders of the religious right exactly conformed Christian social teaching to the contours of Fox News evening programming. Now, according to Bannon, “economic nationalism” is the “centerpiece of value voters.” I had thought the centerpiece was a vision of human dignity rooted in faith. But never mind. Evidently the Christian approach to social justice is miraculously identical to 1930s Republican protectionism, isolationism and nativism.

Do religious right leaders have any clue how foolish they appear? Rather than confidently and persistently representing a set of distinctive beliefs, they pant and beg to be a part of someone else’s movement. In this case, it is a movement that takes advantage of racial and ethnic divisions and dehumanizes Muslims, migrants and refugees. A movement that has cultivated ties to alt-right leaders and flirted with white identity politics. A movement that will eventually soil and discredit all who are associated with it.

The religious right is making itself a pitiful appendage to this squalid agenda. If Christian conservatives are loyal enough, Bannon promises that they can be “the folks who saved the Judeo-Christian West.” All that is required is to abandon the best of the Judeo-Christian tradition: a belief in the inherent value and dignity of every life….

Barbara Radnofsky contends The Founding Fathers designed impeachment for someone exactly like Donald Trump:

….Their writings and debates surrounding the creation of the Constitution make clear that the framers feared a certain kind of character coming to power and usurping the republican ideal of their new nation. Having just defeated a tyrant — “Mad” King George III of England — they carefully crafted rules to remove such a character: impeachment. In the process, they revealed precisely the kind of corrupt, venal, inattentive and impulsive character they were worried about….

Again and again, they anticipated attributes and behaviors that President Trump exhibits on an all-too-regular basis. By describing “High Crimes and Misdemeanors,” the grounds for impeachment, as any act that poses a significant threat to society — either through incompetence or other misdeeds — the framers made it clear that an official does not have to commit a crime to be subject to impeachment. Instead, they made impeachment a political process, understanding that the true threat to the republic was not criminality but unfitness, that a president who violated the country’s norms and values was as much a threat as one who broke its laws.

Gouverneur Morris, who wrote the Constitution’s preamble, and future president James Madison were worried about a leader who would “pervert his administration into a scheme of peculation” — theft of public funds — “or oppression. He might betray his trust to foreign powers,” as Madison put it. Morris, who like many in the colonies believed King Charles had taken bribes from Louis XIV to support France’s war against the Dutch, declared that without impeachment we “expose ourselves to the danger of seeing the first Magistrate [the President] in foreign pay without being able to guard against it by displacing him”….

Natasha Bertrand reports New memo suggests Russian lawyer at Trump Tower meeting was acting ‘as an agent’ of the Kremlin:

The Russian lawyer who met with President Donald Trump’s son, son-in-law, and campaign chairman last June at Trump Tower brought a memo with her to that meeting that contained many of the same talking points as one written by the Russian prosecutor’s office two months earlier.

The memo Natalia Veselnitskaya provided to the Trump campaign last year focused on banker-turned-human rights activist Bill Browder, whose reputation has become inextricably linked to the global human-rights campaign he launched in 2009 after tax lawyer Sergei Magnitsky died in a Russian prison.

Magnitsky was thrown in jail and beaten to death after he discovered a $230 million tax fraud scheme that implicated high-level Kremlin officials, Browder says. The US passed the Magnitsky Act in 2012 that sanctioned high-level Russian officials accused of human rights abuses and corruption….

The document’s language closely mirrored the contents of a memo provided to Republican US Rep. Dana Rohrabacher by the office of Russia’s chief federal prosecutor Yuri Chaika while Rohrabacher was in Moscow last April.

(The similar language isn’t, itself, conclusive; combined with other information, it does strengthen the contention that Veselnitskaya acted as a tool of Russian state authorities when she met Trump Jr.)

Bill Allison reports Trump’s Campaign Paid His Son’s Russia-Probe Law Firm $238,000:

President Donald Trump’s re-election committee paid almost $238,000 in the third quarter to the law firm representing Donald Trump Jr. in connection with ongoing investigations of Russian interference in the 2016 election, according to campaign finance disclosures.

Trump’s campaign made two payments — one in mid July, the other in early August — to the law firm of Alan S. Futerfas, a lawyer for the president’s son, who is facing scrutiny over a 2016 meeting he had with a Russian lawyer while seeking damaging information about Democrat Hillary Clinton. The third-quarter disclosures with the Federal Election Commission didn’t specify what the legal expenses were for.

Futerfas declined to comment. The Trump campaign and the White House didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment. Campaign committees are permitted to pay for the legal defense of a person involved in the campaign as long as the legal services are related to the person’s campaign work….

Cath Le Couteur describes The Threat of Objects Lost in Space:

100 million pieces of “space junk” currently orbit our planet at 17,500 miles per hour. Adrift investigates the fate of these interstellar objects, which threaten to collide with and destroy satellites and spacecraft.
Director and producer Cath Le Couteur recruited Sally Potter to narrate the film from the perspective of the oldest piece of space junk, a solar-powered satellite lost in 1958. Adrift also features interviews with astronomers and scientists, such as NASA astronaut Piers Sellers, who dropped a spatula in space during a repair mission in 2006.

“Space junk,” says Le Couteur, “has become an intriguing but potentially serious and destructive museum of space exploration hurtling above our heads.”

Kate McKinnon as Kellyanne Conway

Over at Saturday Night Live, Kate McKinnon’s in a sketch where she plays Kellyanne Conway as though Conway were the monster Pennywise from Stephen King’s It. She’s portrayed Conway before, but here her especially well. (The full sketch is at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hlt3rA-oDao – the embed above starts part way in.)

In the sketch, Conway, speaking from a storm drain, tries to lure anchor Anderson Cooper (portrayed by Alex Moffat) into the sewer.

McKinnon so cleverly captures the irrationality of Conway’s lies on behalf of Trump – Conway will say anything, however outrageous (and especially if outrageous).

Conway’s not adept at the sophistry of ‘making the making the worse appear the better reason,’ – she’s adept at absurd lies, so fantastical that they’re like what a hallucinatory drug must be like. Nothing she says looks like the ‘better reason’ – Conway’s proffered quotes seem like a lunatic’s obsessions and compulsions. Those who find Conway convincing don’t do so because she offers a better reason – they find her intoxicating because she offers an escape from reason.

McKinnon’s impersonation nicely captures Conway as a deranged, gleeful liar, a liar simply for the dark pleasure of it.

Daily Bread for 10.16.17

Good morning.

Monday in Whitewater will be sunny with a high of sixty-one. Sunrise is 7:10 AM and sunset 6:09 PM, for 10h 58m 53s of daytime. The moon is a waning crescent with 10.8% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the three hundred forty-first day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

On this day in 1859, John Brown leads an attack on the Harper’s Ferry Armory. On this day in 1968, the Milwaukee Bucks begin their first season: “the Milwaukee Bucks opened their first season with an 89-84 loss to the Chicago Bulls. The loss was witnessed by 8,467 fans in the Milwaukee Arena. The starting lineup featured Wayne Embry at center, Fred Hetzel and Len Chappell at forward, and Jon McGlocklin and Guy Rodgers in the backcourt. Larry Costello was the head coach. The Bucks had its first win in their sixth game of the season with a 134-118 victory over the Detroit Pistons. ”

Recommended for reading in full — 

Jonathan Easley writes Trump ramps up the culture war:

….Trump’s culture wars differ from his predecessors in both their ferocity and frequency.

The president stirs the pot on a near-daily basis at rallies, from the Oval Office and over Twitter, attracting accusations from his critics that he’s obsessed with winning empty fights with celebrities because he’s been unable to achieve meaningful legislative reforms.

And the unabashed ferocity with which Trump has gone after his targets is evidence to his critics that he doesn’t care if he alienates or annoys large numbers of Americans, as long as his base sticks by him.

Over the past week alone, Trump and his allies have kept the fires burning with fights against the NFL, ESPN, Facebook, late-night comedians and the news media, provoking retaliatory remarks from athletes, anchors, rappers and comics….

David Barno and Nora Bensahel describe The Growing Danger of a U.S. Nuclear First Strike on North Korea:

….First and foremost, the human costs would be catastrophic. Millions of North Koreans would either be killed or grievously wounded from the effects of fires, blasts, and radiation. The radioactive fallout from such a strike could spread contamination thousands of miles, directly affecting South Korea, Japan, and China, as well as countries and populations across the region and beyond. Global or regional weather patterns could also be disrupted, affecting agriculture and the environment for years to come.

Even if those tragic human costs could somehow be set aside, the cascading range of other consequences would be sufficient to avoid such an attack. China could respond militarily, by moving forces into the parts of North Korea less affected by the strike, for example. This could result in a risky confrontation with U.S. forces seeking to confirm the complete destruction of North Korean nuclear capabilities. Chinese troops could also collide with a potential influx of U.S. and South Korean ground troops trying to establish civil order and provide humanitarian relief to the North Korean populace in the aftermath of the strikes. China might also respond to an attack on its ally more forcefully, by striking U.S. bases in the region or possibly even the U.S. homeland, especially since radiation would inevitably blanket some of its territory….

Finally, the United States would immediately forfeit its moral standing in the world. Initiating a nuclear first strike would abruptly and irrevocably terminate any U.S. claims to be the preeminent world leader, one that claims a deep commitment to the rule of law and accepted norms of international behavior. If the first strike occurred without international support — as would almost surely be the case — the United States would rightly be condemned by the global community for its aggression and blatant violations of international law. A unilateral U.S. decision to use nuclear weapons for first time since World War II by launching a first strike against an adversary without compelling evidence of an imminent attack will be judged harshly for generations — perhaps even by current U.S. citizens as well….

Cameron Easley reports Trump Approval Dips in Every State, Though Deep Pockets of Support Remain:

….The negative swings in net approval ranged from as high as 30 percentage points in solidly blue Illinois and New York to as low as 11 points in red Louisiana. But in many of the states Trump easily carried last year — such as Tennessee (-23 percentage points), Mississippi (-21 points), Kentucky (-20 points), Kansas (-19 points) and Indiana (-17 points) — voters have soured on the president in 2017.

A majority of voters in 25 states and the District of Columbia said they disapproved of the president’s job performance in September, including those residing in Upper Midwest states with large Electoral College hauls that were critical to Trump’s victory over 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton — and some of which are home to some of the most vulnerable Senate Democrats of the 2018 election cycle. Fifty-five percent of respondents in Michigan said they disapproved of Trump, as did 53 percent in Wisconsin and Iowa and 51 percent in Pennsylvania.

Fifty-one percent of voters in Nevada and Arizona, where the Senate GOP’s most vulnerable members are up for re-election next year, also disapproved of Trump’s handling of the presidency….

Aaron Blake writes Steve Bannon totally undercuts Trump’s claim about canceling Obamacare payments:

The White House said it was acting on the recommendation of the Justice Department — that it was canceling illegal federal subsidies that helped sustain the Affordable Care Act. President Trump said what he was doing would hurt the insurance companies only: “That’s not going to people; that’s making insurance companies rich,” he said, adding: “That money is going to insurance companies to prop up their stock price.”

But former top Trump White House aide Stephen K. Bannon told a very different tale this weekend. And it will confirm what every opponent of the move already suspected: that Trump was trying to cause Obamacare to fail.

In the midst of playing up Trump’s accomplishments Saturday at the “Values Voters Summit” in Washington, Bannon turned to Trump’s controversial Obamacare executive order the day before.

“Then you had Obamacare,” Bannon said. Trump is “not gonna make the [cost-sharing reduction] payments. Gonna blow that thing up. Gonna blow those exchanges up, right?”

Here’s the science of why coffee is good for you:

Daily Bread for 10.15.17

Good morning.

Sunday in Whitewater will be cloudy with a high of fifty-four. Sunrise is 7:09 AM and sunset 6:11 PM, for 11h 01m 40s of daytime. The moon is a waning crescent with 18.3% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the three hundred fortieth day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

On this day in 1862, the 3rd Wisconsin Light Artillery Battery engages the enemy for the first time in a small skirmish at Crab Orchard, Kentucky. On this day in 1885, Marinette-Menominee lumbermen strike: “2,500 Marinette-Menominee lumbermen walked off the job to support a reduction in workday hours. Mill owners locked out the workers in an attempt to force acceptance of an eleven-hour workday. The lockout failed as many lumbermen simply moved away from the area rather than agree to work eleven hour days. The employers were forced to negotiate with unions and conceded to a ten-hour work day and cash payment for wages.”

Recommended for reading in full —

Jim Tankersley writes Kansas Tried a Tax Plan Similar to Trump’s. It Failed:

….In 2012, Kansas lawmakers, led by Gov. Sam Brownback, a Republican, enacted a tax cut that eliminated state income taxes entirely for pass-through entities — such as sole proprietorships and limited liability partnerships — which are taxed at the owner’s individual income tax rate. The law also lowered individual income tax rates, cutting the top rate to 4.9 percent from 6.4 percent.

The tax package reduced state revenue by nearly $700 million a year, a drop of about 8 percent, from 2013 through 2016, according to the Kansas Legislative Research Department, forcing officials to shorten school calendars, delay highway repairs and reduce aid to the poor. Research suggests the package did not stimulate the economy, certainly not enough to pay for the tax cut. This year, legislators passed a bill to largely rescind the law, saying it had not worked as intended.

“It caused a lot of budget instability,” said State Senator Jim Denning, a Republican who led the effort to repeal the pass-through exemption this year. Mr. Denning, who earns pass-through income from his interest in a commercial real estate firm, said he had personally benefited from the exemption, but the state’s economy had not….

(It’s always and forever worth noting that libertarianism seeks a smaller, limited government, but the path to a smaller, limited government requires prioritizing government services expressly, and then eliminating some. Ineffectual tax plans that, themselves, neither enumerate and prioritize spending reductions nor even stimulate the economy relative to government spending achieve nothing of a rational reduction in government. They merely foment budget crises that lead to scrambling for ill-considered cuts, or cuts considered only to benefit a majority party’s friends. Walker’s time in office has been like this – not a reduction in government’s size, but merely a redistribution to his favored interests. )

Michael Wines reports Wary of Hackers, States Move to Upgrade Voting Systems:

WASHINGTON — State election officials, worried about the integrity of their voting systems, are pressing to make them more secure ahead of next year’s midterm elections.

Reacting in large part to Russian efforts to hack the presidential election last year, a growing number of states are upgrading electoral databases and voting machines, and even adding cybersecurity experts to their election teams. The efforts — from both Democrats and Republicans — amount to the largest overhaul of the nation’s voting infrastructure since the contested presidential election in 2000 spelled an end to punch-card ballots and voting machines with mechanical levers.

One aim is to prepare for the 2018 and 2020 elections by upgrading and securing electoral databases and voting machines that were cutting-edge before Facebook and Twitter even existed. Another is to spot and defuse attempts to depress turnout and sway election results by targeting voters with false news reports and social media posts.

West Virginia’s elections team has added a cybersecurity expert from the state National Guard with a top-secret federal security clearance. Colorado and Rhode Island will now verify election results via an advanced statistical procedure called a risk-limiting audit….

(The Trump Administration is not part of this effort; even a man of his ignorance has heard the saying that ‘one should not bite the hand…’)

Kenneth Vogel reports Trump legal tab: $4 million and rising:

During his campaign, Donald Trump promised to pay the legal bills of supporters who beat up protesters at his rallies, but a POLITICO analysis found that Trump’s campaign hasn’t always paid its own legal bills in a timely or transparent fashion.

The analysis of court and campaign filings found that Trump’s campaign committee is still spending heavily to defend against ongoing civil lawsuits alleging assault, incitement, threats and other illegal behavior by the president, his supporters and staff. But in at least four ongoing cases, Trump’s campaign had yet to make a publicly disclosed payment to the law firms representing it, paid months late or paid in tiny amounts that don’t appear commensurate with the amount of work performed by the firms.

In some cases, lawyers from the Trump Organization assisted outside law firms paid by the campaign in defending cases that named both Trump’s campaign and his company, blurring the line between Trump’s political and business operations. And there were at least two cases in which Trump’s campaign appears to have settled lawsuits quietly by making lump-sum payments to firms involved in the cases, which it listed in its Federal Election Commission reports as “legal consulting.”

In all, FEC filings show that Trump’s campaign has paid out nearly $4 million in “legal consulting” and “legal fees,” including $556,000 since Election Day. That total is more than twice as much as former President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign spent on legal fees through this point in his first term….

Aggelos Petropoulos and Richard Engel report Manafort Had $60 Million Relationship With a Russian Oligarch:

LONDON — Paul Manafort, a former campaign manager for President Donald Trump, has much stronger financial ties to a Russian oligarch than have been previously reported.

An NBC News investigation reveals that $26 million changed hands in the form of a loan between a company linked to Manafort and the oligarch, Oleg Deripaska, a billionaire with close ties to the Kremlin.

The loan brings the total of their known business dealings to around $60 million over the past decade, according to financial documents filed in Cyprus and the Cayman Islands.

Manafort was forced to resign from the Trump campaign in August 2016, following allegations of improper financial dealings, charges he has strenuously denied. He is now a central figure in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. Investigators have said they are looking into Manafort’s financial ties to prominent figures in Russia.

According to company documents obtained by NBC News in Cyprus, funds were sent from a company owned by Deripaska to entities linked to Manafort, registered in Cyprus….

In Canada, good-hearted people are Warming the Feet (and Hearts) of Canada’s Homeless:

After the passing of his wife in 2010, Bob Rutherford searched for a way to give back to his community. He built two custom-made knitting machines and used them to create socks to protect those in need from the frigid Canadian winters. Now, the 88-year old has expanded his sock operation into a four-person outfit, knitting up and churning out socks en masse. Today, Socks by Bob has warmed the feet (and hearts) of thousands, having knit and donated over 11,600 pairs to homeless shelters across Canada.

Daily Bread for 10.14.17

Good morning.

Saturday in Whitewater will be Sunrise is 7:08 AM and sunset 6:12 PM, for 11h 04m 29s of daytime. The moon is a waning crescent with 28.1% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the three hundred thirty-ninth day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

On this day in 1066, William the Conqueror is victorious at the Battle of Hastings. On this day in 1912, Theodore Roosevelt is shot in Milwaukee:

On the night of October 14, 1912, Theodore Roosevelt was shot in Milwaukee. Roosevelt was in Wisconsin stumping as the presidential candidate of the new, independent Progressive Party, which had split from the Republican Party earlier that year. Roosevelt already had served two terms as chief executive (1901-1909), but was seeking the office again as the champion of progressive reform. Unbeknownst to Roosevelt, a New York bartender named John Schrank had been stalking him for three weeks through eight states. As Roosevelt left Milwaukee’s Hotel Gilpatrick for a speaking engagement at the Milwaukee Auditorium and stood waving to the gathered crowd, Schrank fired a .38-caliber revolver that he had hidden in his coat.

Roosevelt was hit in the right side of the chest and the bullet lodged in his chest wall. Seeing the blood on his shirt, vest, and coat, his aides pleaded with him to seek medical help, but Roosevelt trivialized the wound and insisted on keeping his commitment. His life was probably saved by the speech, since the contents of his coat pocket — his metal spectacle case and the thick, folded manuscript of his talk — had absorbed much of the force of the bullet. Throughout the evening he made light of the wound, declaring at one point, “It takes more than one bullet to kill a Bull Moose,” but the candidate spend the next week in the hospital and carried the bullet inside him the rest of his life.

Schrank, the would-be assassin, was examined by psychiatrists, who recommended that he be committed to an asylum. A judge concurred and Schrank spent the remainder of his life incarcerated, first at the Northern Hospital for the Insane in Oshkosh, then at Central State Hospital for the criminally insane at the state prison at Waupun. The glass Roosevelt drank from on stage that night was acquired by the Wisconsin Historical Museum. You can read more about the assassination attempt on their Museum Object of Week pages.

Recommended for reading in full — 

Hunter Walker and Michael Isikoff report FBI document cache sheds light on inner workings of Russia’s U.S. news (and propaganda) network:

WASHINGTON — On Jan. 23, 2017, the day he started as a Washington correspondent for Sputnik, Andrew Feinberg was emailed a copy of a “style guide” that laid out the organization’s mission.

The 103-page handbook for publications of Sputnik’s Kremlin-owned parent company, Rossiya Segodnya, made it clear that traditional journalistic neutrality was not the company’s mandate. Instead, Sputnik reporters were told they should provide readers “with a Russian viewpoint” on issues and “maintain allegiance” to the country.

“Our main goal is to inform the international audience about Russia’s political, economic and ideological stance on both local and global issues,” the guide reads. “To this end, we must always strive to be objective but we must also stay true to the national interest of the Russian Federation.”

The guide, which was written in English, is included among more than 10,000 internal Sputnik messages on a thumb drive that Feinberg provided to the FBI, which is investigating the agency for possible violations of the law that requires agents of foreign nations to register with the Justice Department. The guide appears to contradict repeated claims by Sputnik executives that they follow traditional journalistic standards and operate independently of the Kremlin. are dedicated to objective reporting. For example, in August, when Sputnik opened a headquarters in Scotland, Sputnik editor and director Nikolai Gorshkov told a local news agency, “No one has ever called me from Moscow”….

(Liars, speaking small truths only to advance greater lies.)

Max Boot observes Russia Has Invented Social Media Blitzkrieg (“And it’s time that America learns to defend itself”):

The tank was a British invention, built to penetrate German trenches during World War I. But it was the Germans who, during the interwar period, figured out how to most effectively utilize the tank, in coordination with aircraft and infantry, for offensive operations. Thus was born the blitzkrieg (“lightning war”) that allowed the Germans to overrun much of Europe in 1939-1940. The British and the French, who still had more and better tanks, were helpless to resist the onslaught.

Something similar seems to have happened with social media networks. All of the leading social media platforms — Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, Reddit, Google — are American inventions. Yet the Russians weaponized them to wage political war.

The 2016 U.S. presidential election was as shocking, in its own way, as the fall of France in May 1940. The complacent French thought they were secure behind the Maginot Line until the German panzers penetrated the supposedly impenetrable Ardennes Forest. Likewise the complacent Hillary Clinton campaign thought it was secure because of its hordes of cash, its extensive on-the-ground operation, and the sheer awfulness of its opponent. Surprise! The Russians stole Democratic Party emails and, acting through cutouts like WikiLeaks, leaked the most damaging tidbits. Then social media did the rest. And lo and behold on Nov. 8, 2016, the unthinkable occurred: Donald Trump was elected president of the United States….

Nick Bilton recounts Donald Trump’s Fake Renior: The Untold Story (“Trump biographer Tim O’Brien talks about his years covering the developer turned reality star turned president—including a bizarre incident involving a fake impressionist painting”):

Years ago, while reporting a book about a real-estate developer and reality-TV star named Donald Trump, Tim O’Brienaccompanied his subject on a private jet ride to Los Angeles. The plane, as you can imagine, was overly ornate; hanging on one wall, for instance, was a painting of two young girls—one in an orange hat, the other wearing a floral bonnet—in the impressionistic style of Renoir.

Curious, O’Brien asked Trump about the painting: was it an original Renoir? Trump replied in the affirmative. It was, he said. “No, it’s not Donald,” O’Brien responded. But, once again, Trump protested that it was.

“Donald, it’s not,” O’Brien said adamantly. “I grew up in Chicago, that Renoir is called Two Sisters on the Terrace, and it’s hanging on a wall at the Art Institute of Chicago.” He concluded emphatically: “That’s not an original.”

Trump, of course, did not agree, but O’Brien dropped the conversation topic and moved on with his interview. He thought that he had heard the last of the Renoir conversation. But the next day, when they boarded the plane to head back to New York City, Trump again pointed to the painting, and as if the conversation had never happened, he pointed to the fake and proclaimed, “You know, that’s an original Renoir.” O’Brien chose not to engage, and dropped the conversation….

Manu Raju and Jeremy Herb report Roger Stone attorney says he complied with request for Assange contact:

An attorney for Roger Stone says the longtime confidante to President Donald Trump has complied with the House Russia investigators’ request for him to provide the identity of his intermediary to WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange.

But Stone’s attorney, Grant Smith, would not say whether that meant Stone had in fact revealed the identity of his WikiLeaks go-between to the House intelligence committee.

“Mr. Stone has complied with the committee’s requests. No further statement will be issued,” Smith said, declining to answer any additional questions….

How Did Wolves Become Dogs?:

Rural America Turns Against Trump

The Scene from Whitewater, Wisconsin One often reads that it’s rural America that elected – and will always stand by – Donald Trump.

In fact, Trump’s support in rural communities is in decline. Chris Kahn and Tim Reid report Trump’s popularity is slipping in rural America:

According to the Reuters/Ipsos daily tracking poll, the Republican president’s popularity is eroding in small towns and rural communities where 15 percent of the country’s population lives. The poll of more than 15,000 adults in “non-metro” areas shows that they are now as likely to disapprove of Trump as they are to approve of him.

In September, 47 percent of people in non-metro areas approved of Trump while 47 percent disapproved. That is down from Trump’s first four weeks in office, when 55 percent said they approved of the president while 39 percent disapproved.

The poll found that Trump has lost support in rural areas among men, whites and people who never went to college. He lost support with rural Republicans and rural voters who supported him on Election Day.

Where his support was once dominant, he’s now only at parity with those in opposition. Trump’s weaker where he cannot afford to be weaker. It’s easy to see why his national support is so low – he’s losing ground even in places once favorable to him.

All those MAGA signs won’t save an autocratic, lying incompetent whose most important supporters – truly – sit in the Kremlin. No crudely designed and cheaply made hats will prove enough. However long the conflict – and it is likely to be long – those in opposition and resistance have as their armament centuries-long political, philosophical, and religious traditions on this continent that will prove overwhelming against Trumpism.

Friday Catblogging: Don’t Pet the Lion

Welsh rugby player Scott Baldwin extended an invitation, one that the lion predictably accepted:

Coach Steve Tandy had no sympathy for his player, suggesting Baldwin had ignored instruction and attempted to pet the animal.

“There was an incident with a lion, but in fairness it was nothing to do with the lion,” he said in a press conference, which was uploaded to YouTube.

“He did bite Scott but when you put your hand in a fence where there is a lion, then you will get bitten.

“It was pretty stupid on Scott’s behalf and he is pretty lucky. It was a good environment and we were told how far back to stand.”

Daily Bread for 10.13.17

Good morning.

Friday in Whitewater will be cloudy, with a high of sixty-five, and a probability of afternoon showers. Sunrise is 7:07 AM and sunset 6:14 PM, for 11h 07m 17s of daytime. The moon is a waning crescent with 38.3% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the three hundred thirty-eighth day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

Today is the two hundred forty-second birthday, from 1775, of the United States Navy (initially the Continental Navy). On this day in 1862, the Wisconsin Minute Men muster in: “Company B of the 28th Wisconsin Volunteer Regiment was mustered into service by Captain J. M. Trowbridge. Known as the “Waukesha Minute Men,” this company was part of the 28th Regiment, recruited during the summer of 1862 in Waukesha and Walworth Counties and organized at Camp Washburn in Milwaukee under the command of Colonel James M. Lewis of Oconomowoc. They spent the next nine weeks training at Camp Washburn before heading south on December 20, 1862.”

Recommended for reading in full — 

Josh Barro writes Trump has been lying a lot about his ‘small business’ tax cut:

President Donald Trump pitched his tax plan on Wednesday in front of a crowd of truckers. He wanted them to know his business tax cuts aren’t just for rich people — benefits would also flow to regular Americans, including truckers.

“The more than 30 million Americans who have small businesses will see — listen to this — a 40% cut in their marginal tax rate,” he said. “Forty percent.”

This was a lie.

Under Trump’s plan, only 1.8% of small-business owners — about 670,000 people, all with family incomes over $400,000 — would enjoy this 40% tax cut….

Denise Clifton reports Twitter Bots Distorted the 2016 Election—Including Many Likely From Russia (“1 in 5 election-related tweets weren’t from real people, research shows”):

The day Donald Trump was elected president, nearly 2,000 Twitter accounts that had pumped out pro-Trump messages in the run-up to the vote suddenly went dark. Then, in spring 2017, these bot-controlled accounts reemerged to campaign en français for Marine Le Pen in the French election, and then once again this fall, to tweet auf Deutsch on behalf of the far-right party in Germany’s election.

The bots were part of a larger group tracked over a month-long period before the US election by University of Southern California researchers, who discovered that bots were deeply entwined in political conversation on Twitter—accounting for 1 in 5 election-related tweets. And the bots were just as effective at spreading messages as human-controlled accounts were, says USC professor and lead researcher Emilio Ferrara, who has studied the influence of bot networks since 2012. “Botnets accrued retweets at the same rate as humans,” he says of the pre-election activity. His most recent research explores how bots are particularly effective at getting a message to go viral among authentic human users.

Ferrara has found that up to 15 percent of all Twitter accounts are run by automated bots. He focuses on understanding bots’ effectiveness, though he doesn’t track their provenance. But researchers for the cybersecurity firm FireEye told the New York Times recently they had determined that possibly thousands of Twitter accounts that campaigned against Hillary Clinton likely were controlled by Russian interests, including many automated by bots….

Craig Timberg and Elizabeth Dwoskin report Facebook takes down data and thousands of posts, obscuring reach of Russian disinformation:

Social media analyst Jonathan Albright got a call from Facebook the day after he published research last week showing that the reach of the Russian disinformation campaign was almost certainly larger than the company had disclosed. While the company had said 10 million people read Russian-bought ads, Albright had data suggesting that the audience was at least double that — and maybe much more — if ordinary free Facebook posts were measured as well.

Albright welcomed the chat with three company officials. But he was not pleased to discover that they had done more than talk about their concerns regarding his research. They also had scrubbed from the Internet nearly everything — thousands of Facebook posts and the related data — that had made the work possible.

Never again would he or any other researcher be able to run the kind of analysis he had done just days earlier….

Trevor Timm contends Trump’s threats amount to a First Amendment violation:

Many have commented on the First Amendment implications if Trump were to actually go after NBC’s license (or really, the licenses of local affiliates since NBC itself doesn’t need a license) or the NFL’s tax status. But Trump need not act on his threats for his actions to be considered a First Amendment violation. There’s a compelling argument Trump is in violation of Constitution right now—after he crossed the line from criticism of protected speech to openly threatening government action.

There’s plenty of case law on this subject from the Supreme Court to appeals courts around the country. Most recently, in a case in the Seventh Circuit called BackPage LLC vs. Thomas Dart, Sheriff of Cook County, Illinois, just-retired Judge Richard Posner articulated exactly why Trump may already be running afoul of the First Amendment merely through his threats.

In Backpage, Dart embarked on a one-man campaign to get Visa and Mastercard to cut off credit card donations to Backpage.com because of its adult section. Instead of prosecuting Backpage for any specific violation, he sent letters pressuring the credit card companies to cut off any payments to Backpage.com for any reason, since some of the Backpage ads, as Posner wrote, “might be for illegal sex-related products or services.”

Posner, citing several decades of case law, made it clear that if the Sheriff can’t sue or prosecute Backpage for legitimate violations of the law, he can’t then turn around and use his power as a government official to make threatening statements in an attempt to censor them in other ways:

a public official who tries to shut down an avenue of expression of ideas and opinions through “actual or threatened imposition of government power or sanction” is violating the First Amendment. American Family Association, Inc. v. City & County of San Francisco, 277 F.3d 1114, 1125 (9th Cir. 2002).

When Trump veers into actual threats of government action for speech he doesn’t like, he is arguably crossing that same line that the Seventh Circuit, and the Supreme Court before it, has condemned.

Tech Insider explains porgs from Star Wars: The Last Jedi:

Whitewater, Rock, and the UW System

The Scene from Whitewater, WisconsinThere’s a UW System plan to pair some two-year colleges with some four-year universities. Reporting on the plan first broke Tuesday night, and since that evening there’s been more information about the proposal (to be considered formally in November, and if adopted to be begun in July 2018).

For the principal Wisconsin stories on the proposal, see UW System will propose merging two- and four-year campuses to cut costs, raise graduation numbers (Journal Sentinel), Merger would keep UW System’s two-year campuses afloat despite steep enrollment losses (Journal Sentinel), and University of Wisconsin officials announce plan to merge Colleges with four-year campuses (State Journal).

The proposal would link two-year UW-Rock as a branch, so to speak, of four-year UW-Whitewater (likely sharing the Whitewater name).

At the bottom of this post, I’ve reproduced the press release from UW-Whitewater’s chancellor, Beverly Kopper. (The press release erroneously implies that within the System, all four-year universities will be paired with two-year colleges. That’s not correct: some universities will not have college pairings.)

A few quick points:

1. Declining Enrollment. The two-year colleges have experienced significant enrollment declines. Even UW-Rock, doing better than most of the System’s two-year schools, has seen a 28% enrollment decline from 2010-2017. (UW-Whitewater, this year, itself saw a decline of about 200 students. They’ve had steady  growth for several years; this decline may be temporary.)In any case, none of these System schools is booming.

The combination of four-year Whitewater with two-year Rock is like asking a woman with a cold to care for a man with pneumonia.

2. An Arranged Marriage. This is a System-issued policy, and it does not reflect Whitewater’s own outreach efforts, no matter how much administrators might try to put a positive cast to their announcement. For years, Whitewater has devoted her efforts to recruiting students from the relatively more affluent Illinois counties of Lake and McHenry. Now, a huge administrative effort will need to be directed to less prosperous Rock County.

It’s not as though, on their own, Whitewater administrators haven’t known where Rock County is – it’s right next door. The plain truth is that on her own UW-Whitewater preferred to look to Illinois rather than Rock County.  UW-Whitewater wanted to date someone dashing; she’s now in an arranged marriage with someone dull.

3. Kopper’s Problem.  These are System-wide policies. It makes sense that Kopper would want to put the best face on a decision from above. Still, it’s hard not to see her problem: she follows one of the worst chancellors any school could have had, and like her currently-serving peers she has less independent authority than chancellors from, let’s say, fifteen years ago. Kopper wasn’t conscripted, of course: she wanted this (even to the point of offering bizarre praise to flatter Telfer when she was seeking the job).

As it is, past errors and present constraints probably make her position as difficult as any chancellor in the System.

4. A Better Approach. Some of the two-year colleges, with the worst enrollment trends, should have been closed. The rest should have been left on their own, so that they would neither burden nor distract from the traditional four-year universities’ respective missions.

Press release from UW-Whitewater follows — 

Dear Campus Community,

Earlier today, University of Wisconsin System President Ray Cross announced a significant proposed change in the structure of the UW System. If approved by the UW System Board of Regents at their November meeting, the University of Wisconsin Colleges will be combined with the four-year universities in their region. It is proposed UW-Rock County will become a part of the UW-Whitewater campus community.

You have my promise that the administration at UW-Whitewater is committed to making this potential transition as seamless as possible. There are many unanswered questions at this point, and as answers become clear we will share them with the campuses. As noted in President Cross’ email, the UW System has established a place to ask questions. Here is the link: http://go.uwsa.edu/restructuringfeedback. We will also create a campus website related to the transition for both UW-Whitewater’s and UW-Rock County’s campus communities to keep up to date on proposed changes.

I am excited about the opportunity this will provide to strengthen our relationship with the people of Rock County, the businesses and community organizations. We look forward to developing new partnerships as well.

We will be scheduling a visit soon to meet with faculty, staff and students at UW-Rock County to begin the process of getting acquainted.

As UW-Whitewater readies itself for a yearlong celebration of our 150th anniversary, we are delighted with the possibility of welcoming the UW-Rock County community to the Warhawk family.

Beverly Kopper

Contact UW-W News
Department University Marketing and Communications
Date Posted 10/11/2017



Daily Bread for 10.12.17

Good morning.

Thursday in Whitewater will be cloudy with a high of sixty-two. Sunrise is 7:05 AM and sunset 6:16 PM, for 11h 10m 06s of daytime. The moon is in its third quarter, with 49.4% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the three hundred thirty-seventh day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

Whitewater’s Finance Committee meets today at 5 PM.

On this day in 2000, seventeen sailors are killed in an attack on the USS Cole. On this day in 1783, Henry Dodge is born: “On this date Territorial Governor Henry Dodge was born in Vincennes, Indiana. The son of Israel Dodge and Nancy Hunter, Henry Dodge was the first Territorial Governor of Wisconsin. Prior to this position, he served as Marshall and Brigadier General of the Missouri Territory, Chief Justice of the Iowa County (Wisconsin) Court. During the Black Hawk War of 1832 he led the Wisconsin militia who ultimately brought the conflict to its tragic end. He served as Territorial Governor from July 3, 1836 to October 5, 1841 and again from May 13, 1845 to June 7, 1848. He also served as U.S. Territorial Senator from 1841 to 1846. When Wisconsin was admitted to the Union as a State, dodge was elected as a Democrat to the United States Senate; he was reelected in 1851 and served from June 8, 1848, to March 3, 1857. He was also twice nominated for President and once for Vice President, all of which he declined. Henry Dodge died on June 19, 1867 in Burlington, Iowa.”

Recommended for reading in full — 

Robert Kagan writes Faster, Steve Bannon. Kill! Kill!:

Rarely has a political party more deserved the destruction the Republican Party may be about to suffer at the hands of President Trump’s former strategist, ideological guru and onetime puppeteer Steve Bannon. It was obvious during the earliest days of the campaign that Trump never intended to be either the leader or the protector of the Republican Party. He had contempt for the party. For one thing, it was a proven loser. For another, it crumpled like stick figures under his steamroller. Who could respect people who fell so easily, and so willingly?…

Should we have rooted for Republican leaders to fight back? Sure. And we did. The party would be worth saving if it contained even a dozen women and men of courage. But of course if it did contain such people, it wouldn’t need saving. Today the definition of a brave Republican is someone who is not running for reelection. So rooting for them is no longer an answer. The best thing for the country may be to let the party go. Let it become the party of Trump and Bannon, and as fast as possible. Let the 35 percent of the country who believe Trump is a suitable president, or who hate Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama so much that they would elect Mussolini to the White House, have their party.

The rest of Republican voters should leave the party until it earns back the right to their support. They should change their registration and start voting for Democratic moderates and centrists, as some Republicans did in Virginia recently, to give them a leg up in their fight against the party’s left wing. A third party of “good Republicans” is a fantasy. This is a two-party country. To defeat one, you have to support the other, either directly or indirectly. Right now the country’s best hope is for a moderate Democratic Party that speaks for that sizable majority of Americans who recognize the peril of seven more years of Trump in the White House. Bannon is doing his part to make that happen. It’s time for Republican voters who care about this country to do theirs.

Betsy  Woodruff and Spencer Ackerman report Russia Probe Now Investigating Cambridge Analytica, Trump’s ‘Psychographic’ Data Gurus:

A data firm backed by some of Donald Trump’s closest allies is now facing scrutiny as part of an investigation into possible collusion between the president’s team and Russian operatives, The Daily Beast has learned.

The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) is looking at Cambridge Analytica’s work for President Donald Trump’s campaign as part of its investigation into Russian efforts to meddle in the 2016 race, according to sources familiar with the probe.

The company is in the process of turning over documents to HPSCI, according to a source familiar with the committee’s work. Another source close to the investigation said that the probe’s focus on Cambridge Analytica is “fruitful.”

Steve Bannon, the former White House chief strategist, had holdings in Cambridge Analytica worth between $1 million and $5 million as recently as April of this year, Bloomberg reported. Bannon, now back as the chairman of the pro-Trump media outlet Breitbart, hasn’t been publicly mentioned as a potential witness for or target of Russia investigators. He previously sat on the board of Cambridge Analytica….

Jennifer Rubin observes Evangelical conservatives are proving their harshest critics right:

For years, Democrats accused Christian conservatives of being closet theocrats, seeking to impose Christianity on the country and refusing to accept, let alone embrace, American diversity. That was a generalization, but it turned out to be more true than not.

The evangelical defense of President Trump has taken on a religious fervor immune to reason. The Post reports:

Although some say the Trump-evangelical alliance harms Christianity, it’s common to hear other conservative Christians say that Trump’s unexpected win — down to the electoral college — shows that God had a more-deliberate-than-usual hand, and has put Trump there for some reason.

Brian Kaylor, a Baptist pastor with a PhD in political communications who has written several books about religion and politics, thinks [White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee] Sanders holds this view of a divine plan and it gives her confidence at the podium.

“When you have to stand up there and defend whatever he’s done, it’s more than you are defending a politician, or even a president; you are defending God’s chosen leader for this time,” he said of Trump’s defenders.

That’s stunning to the many Americans who think the divine right of kings was what we fought against in the American Revolution. A God-chosen president can do no wrong, tell no lie, make no error. And that, it seems, has been the default setting for many of Trump’s most loyal supporters among the religious right….

(N.B.: There is a powerful religious case against Trump; a conservative religious defense of Trump runs counter to this powerful case, and leads one to conclude that it may not be theology, but electoral politics, that underlies a deplorable defense of Trumpism. Indeed, Trump actually does best with evangelicals who don’t go to church.)

Michael Weiss reports The making of a Russian disinformation campaign: What it takes:

….”Between Christmas Eve 1959 and mid-February 1960,” the American journalist John Barron later recounted, “West German authorities recorded 833 separate anti-Jewish acts. Then the epidemic ceased almost as suddenly as and mysteriously as it had begun. Police arrested and interrogated 234 people. Analyzing their motives, the government concluded that 24% acted out of ‘subconscious Nazi motives;’ 8% were inspired by extreme rightist or leftist beliefs; 48% were drunks or thugs; 15% were children; and 5% were mentally deranged.”

Case, then, seemingly closed — but for a few oddities diagnosed in Patient Zero of this epidemic. The two men who had inaugurated the spree of defacements in Cologne had belonged to a minuscule West German neo-Nazi party but, as Barron noted, the authorities discovered “that they frequently made trips to East Germany and one had a Communist Party badge hidden behind his coat lapel”….

It would take a few more years, when defectors from the GDR stole across the Berlin Wall, for the true provenance of the “swastika graffiti operation” to become known.

An operation is exactly what it was, too, cooked up by General Ivan Ivanovich Agayants, who headed Department D of the First Chief Directorate of the Soviet KGB. The “D” stood for Dezinformatsiya, or disinformation, and Agayants, an austere ethnic Armenian, was very good at his job. During his tenure, he oversaw the forgery of documents alleging that the CIA planned to assassinate Indonesian President Sukarno and eliminate Turkish military officials and political actors in the interest of the then-ruling center-right Justice Party.

The 58-year-old provocation may have been a tactical success, but it was a strategic failure: West Germany stayed in NATO and remained an intact liberal democracy immune from the restoration of Hitlerism well into reunification with its eastern neighbor. But the swastika graffiti campaign remains a vivid case study of a poisonous weapon used for decades, not only by the Soviets, but also by their heir, Russian President Vladimir Putin, a former KGB lieutenant colonel, in trying to influence western nations, including the course of American democracy….

NASA’s ScienceCasts presents A Display of Lights Above the Storm:

Transient Luminous Events (TLEs) are flashes and glows that appear above storms and are results of activity occurring in and below those storms. Researchers are working to better understand lightning and thunderstorms, how they form and develop over time, and why storms produce different TLEs in different circumstances.

A Brighter Outlook for Whitewater High

The Scene from Whitewater, WisconsinWhitewater High School has the advantage of a new principal and assistant principal. I’ve written before that I’ve no particular advice for Messrs. Lovenberg and O’Shaughnessy.  See For Your Consideration, Dr. Jonas Salk. (Indeed, in that post I offered only a question, but – to be sure – one that implied how very much their efforts are needed and welcome here.)

For general views on education in this community and elsewhere, see An Opportunity at Whitewater HighAn Opportunity at Whitewater High (Part 2), Mentoring, and The Erosion of Political Norms (Part 3 in a Series).

An optimistic view of recent administrative changes is widely shared in this community. There’s undoubtedly satisfaction – and for some outright & legitimate relief – that Whitewater High has a new team.

An addled nostalgia for the past shows either ignorance of actual conditions or a preference for inferior ones. 

Those committed to high standards and fair practices should expect from a collectively-run school board a collective commitment to Whitewater’s current team. There’s something particularly risible about a single member whose candidacy was based on ‘planning for the future’ but whose outlook is to the past and whose direction is one of retrograde motion. In any event, one could confidently refute each and every contention that single member might make in this regard; it’s no more than a reckless presumption that invites such a refutation.

Longtime readers know that – to be mild – I’m not without occasional words of criticism. (Nor, in now saying so mildly, without a sense of humor and awareness.) And yet, and yet, one criticizes truly from love and hope. It’s this community one loves, this community to which one is forever committed, and this community for which one is hopeful.

We would do well to put nostalgia aside.

To move backward will prove quickly destructive, to remain motionless slowly debilitating, but forward – of all other directions, however unfamiliar by comparison – alone offers a hopeful future.