Whitewater’s looking for a new police chief, and has two candidates from which to choose. During a hiring process, it’s conventional to solicit community opinion on residents’ preferences and views on policing. Whitewater, expectedly, has done so, too.
(There are, however, significant limitations with surveys of Whitewater’s kind, as I’ve noted. Whitewater’s method will produce self-selected, skewed samples that will not show the true demographics of the city. SeeThe Limits of Community Surveys.)
A sharp reader pointed out a surprise with Whitewater’s survey: the three questions oddly omit a conventional question about what could be done better.
List the top three characteristics you feel are important traits for a Whitewater Police Chief.
As we look toward the future, what do you believe is the major challenge facing law enforcement in the City of Whitewater?
What is something you feel the Whitewater Police Department is currently doing well and you would like to see continue to grow and prosper?
Yes, there’s not a single question about what could be done better. Just about every ordinary survey asks what could be improved from existing practices, for example using a ‘Start-Stop-Continue’ or ‘Strengths-Weaknesses-Opportunities’ method, etc.
The local survey omits a simple question about what could be done better that’s present on thousands of surveys submitted across American each day.
Is Old Whitewater that brittle, that rigid, that she will not ask the simple question that America’s finest organizations & institutions (including the United States Armed Forces, SpaceX, Apple) ask of themselves routinely? Those institutions and organization lead the world in part because they confidently ask those questions, from others, about themselves.
There is no better example for Whitewater than the best of American competitiveness. We should embrace the confident method of inquiry that underlies the most extraordinary country in all the world.
Thursday in Whitewater will be mostly cloudy with a high of thirty-seven. Sunrise is 6:39 AM and sunset 5:36 PM, for 10h 56m 21s of daytime. The moon is a waxing crescent, with 42% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the four hundred sixty-ninth day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.
Whitewater’s Alcohol & Licensing Committee meets at 6 PM, the Whitewater Fire Department has a business meeting scheduled for 6:30 PM, and Common Council also meets at 6:30 PM.
On this day in 1922, an ice storm brings havoc to Wisconsin: “Unprecedented freezing rain and snow assaulted the Midwest February 21-23, 1922. In Wisconsin the central and southern parts of the state were most severely affected, with the counties between Lake Winnebago and Lake Michigan south to Racine being hardest hit. Ice coated trees and power lines, bringing them down and cutting off electricity, telephone and telegraph services. Cities were isolated, roads were impassable, rivers rose, streets and basements flooded, and train service stopped or slowed.
Near Little Chute a passenger train went off the rails, injuring several crew members. Appleton housed 150 stranded traveling salesmen, near Plymouth a sheet of river ice 35 feet long and nearly three feet thick washed onto the river bank, while in Sheboygan police rescued a flock of chickens and ducks from their flooded coop and a sick woman from her flooded home. Icy streets caused numerous automobile accidents, but the only reported deaths were a team of horses in Appleton that were electrocuted by a fallen power line.”
Given these realities, many experts in government ethics believe that Trump had an obligation to take extraordinary measures to insulate himself from conflicts of interest once be became president — up to and including divesting himself from a wide range of foreign assets. Of course, Trump refused to do any such thing. Instead, he vowed to place his assets into what he referred to as a “blind trust,” but was actually an entity that would allow him perfect knowledge of his holdings — and that would be managed by his adult sons, Eric and Don Jr. The president’s sole concession to ethical propriety was the stipulation that neither Eric nor Don Jr. would have any role whatsoever in his administration.
“The company and policy and government are completely separated,” Eric Trump assured the Washington Post last year. “We have built an unbelievable wall in between the two.”
But Don Jr.’s trip to India represents a kind of “coming-out party” for the Trumpist kleptocracy: According the the Washington Post, the manager of the president’s “blind trust” will travel to Mumbai this week to promote his family’s real-estate projects, sell access to himself for $38,000 a head, and give a foreign policy speech (ostensibly) on behalf of his father’s administration at a global business summit ….
But Friday’s indictments from Special Counsel Robert Mueller, and the president’s response to them, point to a more troubling and increasingly likely motivation: President Trump does not want to stop Kremlin interference intended to sway our elections in his favor. Rather, he welcomes it.
The Special Counsel’s revelations provided a detailed description of part of the modern information warfare Russia has waged against our country since at least 2014. It was a highly-coordinated assault, employing foreign agents on U.S. soil as well as Moscow-based internet operatives.
And yet, in response to this news, the president still couldn’t muster a forceful rebuke of Putin’s regime. Nor would he vow to hold it accountable and deter future attacks. On the contrary, he tried to spin the entire ordeal as an exoneration.
This is either willful ignorance or, more likely, disloyal opportunism. That’s because, whether he admits it or not, the president must know that the story he publicly calls a “hoax” is real. We have detailed evidence of Moscow’s subversion of our democracy. But it seems unlikely that the president will change his tune and take action to counter it.
“I can’t say I’ve been specifically directed to blunt or actually stop” Russian influence operations, NSA Director Mike Rogers shockingly revealed to the Senate Intelligence Committee this week. Rogers and the nation’s other top intelligence chiefs were on the Hill to provide their annual Worldwide Threats Assessment.
(Donald Trump reveals himself as worse even than a fellow traveler – he’s effectually a fifth columnist for Putin. Indeed, he’s likely the highest-placed fifth columnist in modern times.)
In 2016, America’s elections were targeted by a foreign nation-state intent on infiltrating and manipulating our electoral system. On September 22, 2017, it was reported that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) notified 21 states that were targeted by hackers during the 2016 election.1 Among those states notified by DHS were: Alabama, Alaska, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Washington.2 Arizona, California, Iowa, Texas, and Wisconsin were also among those states originally contacted by DHS. However, those states have denied that their election systems were attacked.3 Ultimately, hackers only reportedly succeeded in breaching the voter registration system of one state: Illinois.4 And while DHS did not name those responsible for the attempted hacks, many believe the culprits can be traced back to Russia.5 Experts have warned that a future attack on our election infrastructure, by Russia or other malicious actors, is all but guaranteed.6
In August 2017, the Center for American Progress released a report entitled “9 Solutions for Securing America’s Elections,” laying out nine vulnerabilities in election infrastructure and solutions to help improve election security in time for the 2018 and 2020 elections.15 This report builds on that analysis to provide an overview of election security and preparedness in each state, looking specifically at state requirements and practices related to:
Minimum cybersecurity standards for voter registration systems
Voter-verified paper ballots
Post-election audits that test election results
Ballot accounting and reconciliation
Return of voted paper absentee ballots
Voting machine certification requirements
Pre-election logic and accuracy testing
This report provides an overview of state compliance with baseline standards to protect their elections from hacking and machine malfunction. Some experts may contend that additional standards, beyond those mentioned here, should be required of states to improve election security. The chief purpose of this report is to provide information on how states are faring in meeting even the minimum standards necessary to help secure their elections.
(One reads that Wisconsin is no better than average in her election security: “Wisconsin adheres to minimum cybersecurity best practices related to voter registration systems and conducts its elections using paper ballots and voting machines that provide a paper record. But the state’s failure to carry out post-election audits that test the accuracy of election outcomes leaves the state open to undetected hacking and other Election Day problems.”)
Michael Screnock 46%
Rebecca Dallet 36%
Tim Burns 18%
For Walworth County overall, Screnock took 58.1% of the vote, and for Jefferson County overall, he took 54.9% of the vote.
Now look at the City of Whitewater, all wards:
In the City of Whitewater, even in a low-key race, the two liberal candidates easily took about 58% of the vote, while in the full rural counties of which Whitewater is a part, Screnock took a similar majority.
There’s your City of Whitewater political story: Whitewater votes farther left than either the counties of which she is a part or the state. Conservatives in the city proper are a political minority (and have been for a while); conservatives in the school district towns nearby, however, are a political majority (and are likely to say as such for a long while).
Politically and culturally, the city is likely to look less and less like nearby towns, and is less and less likely to share the same politics as smaller towns immediately beyond the city limits. It’s a slow process, but one that will prove inexorable nonetheless.
Liberals in the city might hope these changes will be faster, but they will move at their own pace; conservatives in the city might wish to forestall these changes, but they come nonetheless.
Wednesday in Whitewater will be sunny with a high of thirty. Sunrise is 6:41 AM and sunset 5:35 PM, for 10h 53m 31s of daytime. The moon is a waxing crescent, with 30.42% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the four hundred sixty-eighth day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.
On this day in 1885, the Washington Monument is dedicated: “some 800 people attended a dedication ceremony for the Washington Monument, an obelisk situated roughly due west of the U.S. Capitol and due south of the White House. After construction had been suspended in 1876 due to lack of funds, Congress passed a concurrent resolution, appropriating $2 million to complete the monument to the American Revolutionary War leader and the nation’s first president. Sen. John Sherman (R-Ohio), chairman of the Joint Congressional Committee for the Monument, noted that the edifice was “simple in form, admirable in proportions, composed of enduring marble and granite, resting upon foundations broad and deep.”
On this day in 1918, the Wisconsin Assembly rejects a denunciation of La Follette: “a move to denounce Sen. Robert La Follette and the nine Wisconsin congressmen who refused to support World War I failed in the State Assembly, by a vote of 76-15. Calling LaFollette “disloyal,” the amendment’s originator, Democrat John F. Donnelly, insisted that La Follette’s position did not reflect “the sentiment of the people of Wisconsin. We should not lack the courage to condemn his actions.” Reflecting the majority opinion, Assemblyman Charles F. Hart retorted that “The Wisconsin State Legislature went on record by passing a resolution telling the President that the people of this state did not want war. Now we are condemning them for doing that which we asked them to do.”
In early 2016, after a legal affairs website uncovered old court cases in which a female former Trump business partner had accused him of sexual misconduct, Mr. Cohen released a statement suggesting that the woman, Jill Harth, “would acknowledge” that the story was false. Ms. Harth said the statement was made without her permission, and that she stands by her claims. It was not the last time Mr. Cohen would present a denial on behalf of a woman who had alleged a sexual encounter with Mr. Trump.
In August of that year, Mr. Cohen learned details of a deal that American Media had struck with a former Playboy model, Karen McDougal, that prevented her from going public about an alleged affair with Mr. Trump. Mr. Cohen was not representing anyone in the confidential agreement, but he was apprised of it by Ms. McDougal’s lawyer, and earlier had been made aware of her attempt to tell her story by the media company, according to interviews and an email reviewed by The New York Times.
Two months later, Mr. Cohen played a direct role in a similar deal involving an adult film star, Stormy Daniels, who once said she had had an affair with Mr. Trump. Last week, Mr. Cohen said he used his own money for the $130,000 payment to her, which has prompted a complaint alleging that Mr. Cohen violated campaign finance regulations. Legal experts also have noted that the payment on behalf of his client may have violated New York’s ethics rules.
Mr. Cohen, who is still described as Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer although he is no longer on the Trump Organization payroll, has denied any wrongdoing and insists the arrangement was legal. In an interview, he disputed details of some of his other activities that were described to The Times. But he has never shied away from his role as Mr. Trump’s loyal defender. “It is not like I just work for Mr. Trump,” Mr. Cohen said in an interview in 2016. “I am his friend, and I would do just about anything for him and also his family.”
Critics of Mueller’s investigation have been quick to suggest the indictment proves that no collusion took place between the Trump campaign and Russia. President Donald Trump reiterated as much in a string of tweets on Saturday and Sunday, in which he argued yet again “that the only Collusion was between Russia and Crooked H, the DNC and the Dems” and that the Russians “are laughing their asses off in Moscow!”
And although this indictment does not make the allegation of Trump campaign collusion explicitly, it may be too early to jump to any definitive conclusions. As a lawyer and former FBI agent who conducted counterintelligence investigations, I believe Mueller achieved five things with this indictment, all of which suggest this is not the end of the story.
1. Neutralizing Russia
The most extraordinary aspect of Mueller’s indictment is that it lays out, in great detail, one aspect of a large-scale Russian intelligence operation against the United States. It’s not surprising that the FBI uncovered the operation: As part of its counterintelligence mandate, the FBI’s job is to identify and disrupt the activities of foreign spies in the United States.
MOSCOW — Trolling political opponents has become so routine in Russia, such a part of the everyday landscape, that operations are typically performed without much effort to cover any tracks.
So when Russian trolling techniques were exported to the United States as part of the effort to influence the 2016 presidential election, it seems to have been done with the same lack of discipline that characterizes the practice in Russia.
That devil-may-care attitude helped make possible the identification and indictment of 13 Russians and three Russian companies, with the United States accusing them of trying to subvert the election, including efforts to bolster the candidacy of Donald J. Trump and undercut the campaign of his opponent, Hillary Clinton.
Just because the operation was thinly veiled, however, does not mean that the Russian trolling — creating provocative online posts about immigration, religion and race to try to sway voters — lacked high-level support.
Indeed, ever since the first reports surfaced in 2014 about the existence of a troll farm called the Internet Research Agency, there have been questions about its Kremlin ties.
Whitewater’s looking for a new police chief, and our small city has two candidates from which to choose. There’s a time to consider all this in greater detail; for today, two simple observations are enough.
1. Competency, Not Ideology, Has Always Been Key. Whitewater’s policing challenges have not been between left and right, or between those who back the badge and supposed others. It’s a false choice – residents of all kinds have wanted and hoped for competency.
Indeed, a reflexive support from a few for any chief has only delivered mediocre chiefs. Other nearby towns have moved to police chiefs of stronger credentials years ago, while Whitewater has persisted with a lesser standard. Those other nearby towns aren’t radical places, honest to goodness – they just expected more for themselves than a few insider Facebook friends and buddies delivered for thousands in Whitewater.
2. Whitewater’s a College Town – She Needs a Chief Who Can Function Well Here. Fish swim in water, and camels walk in the desert heat. They’re suited to their environments. No one asks a fish if it likes the water, or a camel if it likes the desert – they’re naturally adapted to those environments.
A community survey only works well if one correctly understands the demographics of one’s community. (Yesterday’s post on this topic, The Limits of Community Surveys, was a planned prelude to this post.)
Strong credentials (overdue in Whitewater) are a necessary but only partial condition for success. The holders of those credentials – like fish in water or camels in the desert – need to be suited to the real conditions in which they will live.
Whitewater has always deserved a chief who is competent and truly suited to our environment.
Tuesday in Whitewater will be rainy with a high of forty-three. Sunrise is 6:43 AM and sunset 5:33 PM, for 10h 50m 44s of daytime. The moon is a waxing crescent, with 22% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the four hundred sixty-seventh day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.
On this day in 1962, John Glenn becomes the first American to orbit the Earth.
On this day in 1950, “in a six-hour speech delivered before the U.S. Senate, Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy claimed he had the names of 81 U.S. government officials actively engaged in Communist activities, including ‘one of our foreign ministers.’ “
“For everyone, it was a distraction or a reprieve,” said the White House official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to reflect internal conversations. “A lot of people here felt like it was a reprieve from seven or eight days of just getting pummeled.”
The official likened the brief political calm to the aftermath of the October shooting in Las Vegas that left 58 dead and hundreds more injured. That tragedy united White House aides and the country in their shared mourning for the victims and their families.
“But as we all know, sadly, when the coverage dies down a little bit, we’ll be back through the chaos,” the official said.
(There is the perversity of Trump and his ilk: for them, the Parkland shootings are an opportunity to be seized as a distraction from Administration misdeeds. Not merely and wholly a tragedy, but for them an opportunity.)
Aside from the blizzard of lies, one is struck by how frantic Trump sounds. The number and looniness of the tweets arguably exceed anything he has previously done. His conduct reaffirms the basic outline of an obstruction charge: Desperate to disable a Russia probe that would be personally embarrassing to him, he has tried in many ways to interfere with and end the investigation. In doing so, he, at the very least, has abused his office. In turning on his inquisitors rather than to the job of protecting America from Russian influence, he confirms his peculiar fidelity to Vladimir Putin and reminds us he continues to violate his oath of office. There is no doubt he has, based on what we already known, committed actions constituting an abuse of his office. What, if anything special counsel Robert S. Mueller III intends to do about it remains to be seen. Trump’s meltdown over two days is likely to re-raise questions about his mental stability and temperamental fitness to govern.
In a short string of tweets, in other words, Facebook’s vice president for advertising [Rob Goldman] twisted and obfuscated the issues almost beyond recognition. For one, the indictment states clearly that the Russians were not merely buying ads: It alleges that they used fake American identities, fraudulently obtained PayPal accounts and fraudulent Social Security numbers to set up Facebook pages for groups such as “Blacktivist,” “Secured Borders” and “Army of Jesus.” They did indeed use those pages to spread fear and hatred, reaching tens and possibly hundreds of millions of people.
They [the Russians] began this project in 2014, well before the election. And when the election began, they were under clear instructions, according to the indictment, to “use any opportunity to criticize Hillary [Clinton] and the rest (except [Bernie] Sanders and Trump—we support them).” By the time the election began in earnest, the attempt to “divide America” was an attempt to elect Trump. They pushed anti-Clinton messages on websites aimed at the far-right fringe and tried to suppress voter turnout on websites aimed at minorities. I’m not sure where Goldman’s idea that “swaying the election was not the main goal” comes from, but it is diametrically opposed to the content of Mueller’s indictment. No wonder Trump tweeted this on Saturday: “The Fake News Media never fails. Hard to ignore the fact from the Vice President of Facebook Ads, Rob Goldman!”
But Goldman is right to be afraid. The social media companies, including Facebook as well as Twitter, YouTube and Reddit, really do bear a part of the responsibility for the growing polarization and bitter partisanship in American life that the Russians, and not only the Russians, sought to exploit. They have not become conduits for Russian propaganda, and not only Russian propaganda, by accident. The Facebook algorithm, by its very nature, is pushing Americans, and everybody else, into ever more partisan echo chambers — and people who read highly partisan material are much more likely to believe false stories.
During the presidential transition, Kushner was a lead contact for foreign governments, speaking to “over fifty contacts with people from over fifteen countries,” according to a statement he gave to congressional investigators. Before joining the administration, Kushner was also working to divest his interests in Kushner Companies, the family company founded by his father. In early 2017, Kushner also divested from the 666 Fifth Avenue property that his family’s company purchased in 2007 for $1.8 billion. The interests were sold to a family trust that Kushner does not benefit from, a spokesperson said at the time.
One line of questioning from Mueller’s team involves discussions Kushner had with Chinese investors during the transition, according to the sources familiar with the inquiry.
A week after Trump’s election, Kushner met with the chairman and other executives of Anbang Insurance, the Chinese conglomerate that also owns the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York, according to The New York Times.
At the time, Kushner and Anbang’s chairman, Wu Xiaohui, were close to finishing a deal for the Chinese insurer to invest in the flagship Kushner Companies property, 666 Fifth Avenue. Talks between the two companies collapsed in March, according to the Times.
It’s expensive to survey opinion, scientifically, using standard statistical principles. Whitewater, like many small places, understandably relies on community surveys (for the city proper, for her school district). Surveys of this kind are an approximation of overall sentiment. One wouldn’t expect an end to these surveys, but they have obvious, significant limitations. (This is true of online surveys either through Google Docs, SurveyMonkey.com, or POLCO.)
A few remarks:
Whitewater’s survey samples are often small.
These responses are from self-selected respondents.
Some of these small numbers are residents of neither the city nor the school district.
In Whitewater, the majority of the city’s residents (57.5%) are aged 15-24, while most of the ‘community’ responses to surveys come from the much smaller percentage of respondents (only 16.1% of the city) who are 35-59. Indeed, all residents over 35 amount to only about 27% of the city.
Just about every press release, news story, and announcement speaks in the language of ‘the community,’ but a majority of this community’s residents are only a minority of those survey respondents.
Even among all residents 25 and older, Whitewater has a same-ten-people problem.
This leaves Whitewater’s public institutions mostly populated with a demographic minority of a minority.
It’s possible to govern this way, of course, as Whitewater has been. It’s evidently hard, however, for those representing a smaller, revanchist view as though it were all the community’s opinion to accept that they’ve actually a minority position.
More work should be done surveying in places that the city’s majority frequents.
Monday in Whitewater will be rainy with a high of forty-five. Sunrise is 6:44 AM and sunset 5:32 PM, for 10h 47m 56s of daytime. The moon is a waxing crescent, with 13.8% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the four hundred sixty-sixth day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.
As a young boy, he taught himself photography. His family eventually moved to the Puget Sound area of Washington state. He settled in Seattle and opened a photography studio in 1897. A chance meeting on Mount Rainier resulted in Curtis being appointed official photographer on railroad magnate E.H. Harriman’s expedition to Alaska. Curtis also accompanied George Bird Grinnell, editor of Field and Stream magazine, to Montana in 1900 to observe the Blackfoot Sun Dance.
After this, Curtis strove to comprehensively document American Indians through photography, a project that continued for over 30 years. Working primarily with 6 x 8-inch reflex camera, he created over 40,000 sepia-toned images. His work attracted national attention, most notably from Theodore Roosevelt and J. Pierpont Morgan, whose family contributed generously to his project. His monumental work, The North American Indian, was eventually printed in 20 volumes with associated portfolios. Curtis’ work included portraits, scenes of daily life, ceremonies, architecture and artifacts, and landscapes.
The Factory, at that time [three years ago], was operating from a building in the suburbs of Saint Petersburg at 55 Savushkina Ave., but earlier this month it moved into a seven-story business center with multiple exits. So now it is harder for the observers to count and identify the Factory’s employees.
“The bot farm is working today. Thousands of people are involved in the propaganda machine attacking U.S. and European Union democracy. I believe there is more than just one building,” Savchuk told The Daily Beast. “There must be trolls in the United States, too, but in Russia we have cheap labor, people happy to work as slaves for a miserable fee.”
In 2015, there was a security camera over Savchuk’s desk, she said, watching as she wrote “casual posts about Ukraine and other international affairs.” The special project she was assigned to work on was the LiveJournal blog of a fortune teller that is still up on the web.
Savchuk said that every employee at the Factory reported to “a tall, bald guy named Oleg Vasilyev,” she was surprised not to find Vasilyev on the Mueller’s list. The former mole said she had known a few of the Troll Factory Thirteen, including Gleb Vasilchenko, Mikhail Bystrov, and Mikhail Burchik. And when she checked Facebook friends of people from the indictment list she found Sergei Karlov and Robert Bovda, who also were “men I saw at the Factory.”
John Sipher, an expert on Russia’s intelligence services, who retired in 2014 after twenty-eight years in the C.I.A., told me that the details in the indictment lay bare how audacious the Russian effort to get Trump elected President was in its brazen, repeated contact with American citizens. “You see a willingness to take risk that you hadn’t had before, because Putin was so hateful toward Hillary Clinton. They had a unity of effort, because they had one enemy: the United States. We’re focussed on China, North Korea, Iran, Afghanistan. I don’t think it was brilliantly thought out, but they put an army out there to do what they can.”
Ordinarily, U.S. prosecutors are wary of releasing highly specific accounts involving foreign-intelligence targets, in order to protect the “sources and methods” that allow the government to pierce electronic communications and hidden dealings. But, Sipher said, this thirty-seven-page indictment suggests that Mueller’s team made a strategic decision to include a level of detail that will help it elicit relevant documents from businesses and banks. The indictments open the way for “discovery that otherwise may not be allowed or would be hard to do without a charging document,” he said.
In its particulars, the indictment, which charged thirteen Russian nationals and three organizations with multiple conspiracies and frauds, fills in the details of an “active measures” campaign that had been described in general terms by analysts and journalists over the past year. It offers a playbook for manipulating American democracy using a mix of classic espionage, private-sector social-media tools, and partisan ideology. The operation, centered on the now infamous troll farm known as the Internet Research Agency, extended to scores of undercover staff and associates in multiple countries, including the United States, and deployed a range of political gambits.
The tentacles of the “Translator Project” reached deeply into American political life as at least 80 employees of the Internet Research Agency worked with unwitting Trump supporters to organize rallies, stoke concerns about Clinton’s honesty and health and suppress the turnout of key voting blocs, including African Americans, according to the indictment by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.
The campaign unfolded in a way that largely evaded public notice at the time, as Russians used American social media platforms, American payment systems and stolen American identities, birth dates and Social Security numbers to infiltrate American debate at its most unpredictable and intense.
The Russians involved in the campaign executed it with almost perfect pitch — learning to mimic the way Americans talk online about politics so well that real Americans with whom they interacted found them in no way suspicious.
Such deception did not happen by accident. Russian trolls worked hard to sound like Americans and camouflage their political messages in other content.
Imagine if, after 9/11, the president had said that the World Trade Center and Pentagon could have been attacked by “China” or “lots of other people.” Imagine if he had dismissed claims of al-Qaeda’s responsibility as a “hoax” and said that he “really” believed Osama bin Laden’s denials. Imagine if he saw the attack primarily as a political embarrassment to be minimized rather than as a national security threat to be combated. Imagine if he threatened to fire the investigators trying to find out what happened.
Imagine, moreover, if the president refused to appoint a commission to study how to safeguard America. Imagine if, as a result, we did not harden cockpit doors. If we did not create a Transportation Security Administration and a Department of Homeland Security. If we did not lower barriers between law enforcement and intelligence. If we did not pass a USA Patriot Act to enhance surveillance. And if we did not take myriad other steps to prevent another 9/11.
That’s roughly where we stand after the second-worst foreign attack on America in the past two decades. The Russian subversion of the 2016 election did not, to be sure, kill nearly 3,000 people. But its longer-term impact may be even more corrosive by undermining faith in our democracy.
The evidence of Russian meddling became “incontrovertible,” in the word of national security adviser H.R. McMaster, after special counsel Robert S. Mueller III indicted 13 Russians and three Russian organizations on Friday for taking part in this operation. “Defendants’ operations included supporting the presidential campaign of then-candidate Donald J. Trump (‘Trump Campaign’) and disparaging Hillary Clinton,” the indictment charges.
Sunday in Whitewater will be mostly sunny with a high of forty. Sunrise is 6:46 AM and sunset 5:31 PM, for 10h 45m 09s of daytime. The moon is a waxing crescent, with 7.3% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the four hundred sixty-fifth day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.
On this day in 1930, a Clyde Tombaugh discovers Pluto: “Tombaugh’s task [at the Lowell Observatory] was to systematically image the night sky in pairs of photographs, then examine each pair and determine whether any objects had shifted position. Using a blink comparator, he rapidly shifted back and forth between views of each of the plates to create the illusion of movement of any objects that had changed position or appearance between photographs. On February 18, 1930, after nearly a year of searching, Tombaugh discovered a possible moving object on photographic plates taken on January 23 and 29. A lesser-quality photograph taken on January 21 helped confirm the movement. After the observatory obtained further confirmatory photographs, news of the discovery was telegraphed to the Harvard College Observatory on March 13, 1930.”
We’re only at the beginning of having an answer to this question because we’ve only just begun to ask some of the right questions. But Mueller’s indictment shows that Russian accounts and agents accomplished more than just stoking divisions and tensions with sloppy propaganda memes. The messaging was more sophisticated, and some Americans took action. For example, the indictment recounts a number of instances where events and demonstrations were organized by Russians posing as Americans on social media. These accounts aimed to get people to do specific things. And it turns out—some people did.
Changing or activating behavior in this way is difficult; it’s easier to create awareness of a narrative. Consistent exposure over a period of time has a complex impact on a person’s cognitive environment. If groups were activated, then certainly the narrative being pushed by the IRA penetrated people’s minds. And sure enough, The themes identified in the indictment were topics frequently raised during the election, and they were frequently echoed and promoted across social media and by conservative outlets. A key goal of these campaigns was “mainstreaming” an idea—moving it from the fringe to the mainstream and thus making it appear to be a more widely held than it actually is.
This points to another impact that can be extracted from the indictment: It is now much more difficult to separate what is “Russian” or “American” information architecture in the US information environment. This will make it far harder to assess where stories and narratives are coming from, whether they are real or propaganda, whether they represent the views of our neighbors or not.
This corrosive effect is real and significant. Which part of the fear of “sharia law in America” came from Russian accounts versus readers of InfoWars? How much did the Russian campaigns targeting black voters impact the low turnout, versus the character attacks run against Clinton by the Trump campaign itself? For now, all we can know is that there is shared narrative, and shared responsibility. But if, as the indictment says, Russian information warriors were instructed to support “Sanders and Trump,” and those two campaigns appeared to have the most aggressive and effective online outreach, what piece of that is us, and what is them.
The Russians overseeing the operation, which they named the Translator Project, had a goal to “spread distrust toward the candidates and the political system in general.” They used a cluster of companies linked to one called the Internet Research Agency, and called their campaign “information warfare.”
The field research to guide the attack appears to have begun in earnest in June 2014. Two Russian women, Aleksandra Y. Krylova and Anna V. Bogacheva, obtained visas for what turned out to be a three-week reconnaissance tour of the United States, including to key electoral states like Colorado, Michigan, Nevada and New Mexico. The visa application of a third Russian, Robert S. Bovda, was rejected.
The two women bought cameras, SIM cards and disposable cellphones for the trip and devised “evacuation scenarios” in case their real purpose was detected. In all, they visited nine states — California, Illinois, Louisiana, New York and Texas, in addition to the others — “to gather intelligence” on American politics, the indictment says. Ms. Krylova sent a report about their findings to one of her bosses in St. Petersburg.
Another Russian operative visited Atlanta in November 2014 on a similar mission, the indictment says. It does not name that operative, a possible indication that he or she is cooperating with the investigation, legal experts said.
The operation also included the creation of hundreds of email, PayPal and bank accounts and even fraudulent drivers’ licenses issued to fictitious Americans. The Russians also used the identities of real Americans from stolen Social Security numbers.
43-year-old Marat Mindiyarov, a teacher by training, spoke by phone with The Washington Post on Saturday from the village outside St. Petersburg where he lives. Mindiyarov worked in a department for Russian domestic consumption. When he took a test in December 2014 to move to the factory’s “Facebook department” targeting the U.S. market, Mindiyarov recalled, he was asked to write an essay about Hillary Clinton. Here are lightly edited excerpts of the conversation.
What was your first reaction when you heard about the Mueller indictment?
I congratulate America that they achieved something — that they put forward an indictment rather than just writing about this. I congratulate Robert Mueller.
What was the working environment like — was it really like a factory?
There were two shifts of 12 hours, day and night. You had to arrive exactly on time, that is, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. There were production norms, for example, 135 comments of 200 characters each. … You come in and spend all day in a room with the blinds closed and 20 computers. There were multiple such rooms spread over four floors. It was like a production line, everyone was busy, everyone was writing something. You had the feeling that you had arrived in a factory rather than a creative place.
How did the trolling work?
You got a list of topics to write about. Every piece of news was taken care of by three trolls each, and the three of us would make up an act. We had to make it look like we were not trolls but real people. One of the three trolls would write something negative about the news, the other two would respond, “You are wrong,” and post links and such. And the negative one would eventually act convinced. Those are the kinds of plays we had to act out.
Did you know that the factory was also targeting the United States?
We didn’t visit other departments, but I knew there was a “Facebook department.” … It wasn’t a secret. We all had essentially the same topics, they were focused on American readers and we were focused on Russians.
While the indictment does not accuse Facebook of any wrongdoing, it provided the first comprehensive account from the authorities of how critical the company’s platforms had been to the Russian campaign to disrupt the 2016 election. Facebook and Instagram were mentioned 41 times, while other technology that the Russians used was featured far less. Twitter was referred to nine times, YouTube once and the electronic payments company PayPal 11 times.
It is unprecedented for an American technology company to be so central to what the authorities say was a foreign scheme to commit election fraud in the United States. The indictment further batters Facebook’s image after it has spent months grappling with questions about how it was misused and why it did not act earlier to prevent that activity.
Jonathan Albright, research director at Columbia University’s Tow Center for Digital Journalism, said the indictment laid bare how effectively Facebook could be turned against the country.
“Facebook built incredibly effective tools which let Russia profile citizens here in the U.S. and figure out how to manipulate us,” Mr. Albright said. “Facebook, essentially, gave them everything they needed.” He added that many of the tools that the Russians used, including those that allow ads to be targeted and that show how widespread an ad becomes, still pervade Facebook.
Saturday in Whitewater will be mostly cloudy with an afternoon snow shower and a high of thirty-four. Sunrise is 6:47 AM and sunset 5:29 PM, for 10h 42m 23s of daytime. The moon is a waxing crescent, with 2.6% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the four hundred sixty-fourth day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.
On this day in 2002, a Wisconsin skater takes gold: “West Allis native Chris Witty won a gold medal in speed skating’s 1000 meter at the Salt Lake City Olympic Winter Games. She broke the world record with a time of 1:13.82, even though she was recovering from mononucleosis. Before Witty competed in ice skating, she was a professional bicyclist.”
None of the defendants indicted Friday for their alleged influence operation against the U.S. political system is likely to ever see the inside of an American courtroom. None is in custody. None is likely to surrender to U.S. authorities. And Vladimir Putin will probably not race to extradite them.
Nevertheless, the grand jury’s charges against the 13 Russians and three organizations mark a significant moment in the investigation of L’Affaire Russe. President Trump has spent the year since his victory casting doubt on the very premise that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election. Yet here is the Justice Department on the record declaring that the Russia investigation isn’t, in fact, a witch hunt. It isn’t a hoax. It isn’t just a “phony Democrat excuse for losing the election,” as the president has tweeted. There really was, the Justice Department is saying, a Russian influence operation to interfere in the U.S. political system during the 2016 presidential election, and it really was at the expense of Hillary Clinton and in favor of Donald Trump.
The U.S. intelligence community, of course, already knew this. It has already shouted it from the rooftops about as loudly as the intelligence community announces its conclusions. The intelligence community, after all, assessed in January 2017 that it had “high confidence” that “President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016” targeting the U.S. presidential election. Before that, it had warned in October 2016 that the Russian government was behind the hacking and distribution of emails belonging to the Democratic National Committee and Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta. None of these public conclusions stopped Trump from publicly casting doubt on Russian interference.
But the indictments on Friday reflect a different level of certainty, confidence and evidence. Here the special counsel is stating not merely that he has “high confidence” that the interference happened. He is stating that he can prove the existence of the Russian operation in court beyond a reasonable doubt, using only admissible evidence, and that the operation violated U.S. federal criminal law. And he is laying out an astonishingly specific set of forensic conclusions that reflect an impressive intelligence operation against the very operation on which the indictment reports. Even if the special counsel never gets the chance to prove his allegations in court by bringing any of the indictees before a federal judge, the formal statement that he is prepared and able to do so represents a remarkable rebuke of the president’s claims.
Russian nationals tried to suppress minority turnout in the 2016 election and spread false claims about voter fraud in an effort to harm Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and help Donald Trump, according to an indictment announced today by the Justice Department.
The indictment says that a St. Petersburg-based company called Internet Research Agency LLC began in the second half of 2016 to “encourage U.S. minority groups not to vote in the 2016 U.S. presidential election or to vote for a third-party U.S. presidential candidate.”
From the indictment:
a. On or about October 16, 2016, Defendants and their co-conspirators used the Instagram account “Woke Blacks” to post the following message: “[A] particular hype and hatred for Trump is misleading the people and forcing Blacks to vote Killary. We cannot resort to the lesser of two devils. Then we’d surely be better off without voting AT ALL.”
b. On or about November 3, 2016, Defendants and their co-conspirators purchased an advertisement to promote a post on the Instagram account “Blacktivist” that read in part: “Choose peace and vote for Jill Stein. Trust me, it’s not a wasted vote.”
c. By in or around early November 2016, Defendants and their co-conspirators used the “United Muslims of America” social media accounts to post anti-vote messages such as: “American Muslims [are] boycotting elections today, most of the American Muslim voters refuse to vote for Hillary Clinton because she wants to continue the war on Muslims in the middle east and voted yes for invading Iraq.”
The Russians also pushed debunked claims about voter fraud, including that Clinton stole the Iowa caucus and received thousands of ineligible votes in Florida. From the indictment:
Starting in or around the summer of 2016, Defendants and their co-conspirators also began to promote allegations of voter fraud by the Democratic Party through their fictitious U.S. personas and groups on social media. Defendants and their co-conspirators purchased advertisements on Facebook to further promote the allegations.
a. On or about August 4, 2016, Defendants and their co-conspirators began purchasing advertisements that promoted a post on the Facebook account “Stop A.I.” The post alleged that “Hillary Clinton has already committed voter fraud during the Democrat Iowa Caucus.”
b. On or about August 11, 2016, Defendants and their co-conspirators posted that allegations of voter fraud were being investigated in North Carolina on the Twitter account @TEN_GOP.
c. On or about November 2, 2016, Defendants and their co-conspirators used the same account to post allegations of “#VoterFraud by counting tens of thousands of ineligible mail in Hillary votes being reported in Broward County, Florida.”
The third Saturday of August 2016 seemed like a big day for Donald Trump in Florida.
A group called “Being Patriotic” had organized more than a dozen “Florida Goes Trump” rallies throughout the state — from Clearwater to Jacksonville to Miami. They bought Facebook advertisements for the occasion and hyped a “patriotic flash mob” for him. They even paid someone to build a large cage on a flatbed truck that could hold a costumed Hillary Clinton impersonator in prison garb.
“Go Donald!” concluded a Facebook post, outlining the day’s festivities.
But the effort was not part of the official Trump campaign.
Instead, the pro-Trump rallies were just a small piece of an expansive shadow campaign engineered thousands of miles away by Russians who gained what prosecutors said Friday was a keen understanding of the fault lines of U.S. politics. From staging events on the ground in political battlegrounds to spreading misinformation across social media, the operation functioned in effect as a third party injecting itself into the hotly contested 2016 presidential race — exploiting the vulnerabilities of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and stoking ethnic tensions to help Trump become president.
The hackers, he suggested, may have been Chinese. Or some 400-pound guy sitting on his bed. Again and again, he insisted, Russian interference was a hoax — a fiction created by Democrats as an excuse for losing an election they should have won.
When Donald Trump finally acknowledged publicly that Russians had hacked Democratic emails and interfered in the 2016 presidential election, the then-president-elect immediately regretted it. He confided to advisers that he did not believe the intelligence. The last thing Trump wanted to do was to endorse the notion that his victory may have been caused by any force other than his own strategy, message and charisma.
“Russia talk is FAKE NEWS put out by the Dems, and played up by the media, in order to mask the big election defeat and the illegal leaks!” Trump tweeted last Feb. 26.
Another tweet, this one from May 2017: “The Russia-Trump collusion story is a total hoax, when will this taxpayer funded charade end?”
But Trump’s own Justice Department has concluded otherwise. A 37-page federal indictment released Friday afternoon spells out in exhaustive detail a three-year Russian plot to disrupt America’s democracy and boost Trump’s campaign, dealing a fatal blow to one of the president’s favorite talking points.
A private local organization, in the habit of hosting candidate debates forums, may freely follow its national organization’s practices. Fair enough.
Whitewater, however, would do better if she adopted better standards. There are two easy ways that Whitewater can make her candidate forums much better.
➤ Release Candidate Statements Before the Forum Takes Place. It’s a poor practice to hold a forum on March 10th, for example, but post candidates’ completed questionnaires “by the end of the day, Monday, March 12.”
Those attending a forum should be able to read, and ask questions based on, the candidates’ prepared statements. Releasing statements after the forum deprives residents of an informative written statement of a candidate’s positions before he or she speaks.
Releasing candidates’ statements before the forum is useful in a second way. If statements are released before a forum, then there can be no possibility – even as a suspicion – that candidates’ written answers might be altered at a candidate’s behest to adjust for political advantage after the forum.
Statements released before the forum assure those asking questions will be better informed, and prevent the possibility of pressure for alteration afterward.
➤ Hold the Forum Even if Some Candidates Cancel. A policy that requires cancellation of an entire event if one candidate in a single contested race cancels favors gamesmanship from a better-know candidate and short-changes the community on information about every other candidate.
If a better-known candidate in a contested race knows that by canceling (for whatever reason) he or she can prevent a lesser-known candidate from speaking, that familiar candidate has an incentive to cancel. In this way, the familiar candidate could deny a needed forum to a lesser-known one, and to all the community.
Worse – and stranger still – is the absurd claim that if a candidate in a contested race cancels, then the entire forum should be canceled, including for candidates in other races:
“Although only the Councilmember at Large seat is contested, the League invited the uncontested candidates to share their views as well. However, should either one of the two candidates running for the At Large seat choose not to participate, the forum will be cancelled. The League has a long tradition of not supporting “empty-chair” debates or forums because any candidate in a contested race, who appears alone, has the distinct advantage of presenting partisan views and comments without challenge.”
Were those invited candidates in uncontested races able legitimately to speak? If so, then there’s nothing about the absence of candidates in different races that would make the invited, uncontested candidates’ remarks more or less legitimate. If the invited candidates in uncontested races were not able legitimately to speak in the first place, they never should have been invited.
(Needless to say, a properly organized forum of sound principles would have found each candidate’s participation legitimate.)
Finally, the use of partisan here is odd (to the point of silliness). First, Whitewater’s local races are, by law, non-partisan.
Second, in the ordinary definition of the term – as support for a party, cause, faction, person, or idea – all candidates in all cases are partisan. Honest to goodness, they’re all supporting some discernible thing, aren’t they? Even if they’re supporting their own sense of entitlement (!), that’s a kind of partisan view.
Worse, of course, is a policy that rewards a candidate who cancels by allowing him or her to stifle everyone else of information. If the worry is uncontested views, it’s the canceling candidate who creates that situation, to everyone else’s detriment. Candidates declining a forum shouldn’t have the power to cancel all other presentations.
A better practice would issue candidate statements before a forum, and would hold a forum for any and all candidates (and residents) wishing to attend.
Contact(s): Scott Walter, DNR Large Carnivore Specialist, 608-267-7865 or Dianne Robinson, Wildlife Biologist, 262-424-9827
MADISON- Video footage of a large cat submitted by landowners in Washington County has been verified by Department of Natural Resources biologists as a cougar.
The animal was recorded on a security camera during the early morning hours of Feb. 7 as it crossed a walkway in front of the residence. While there is no evidence of a breeding population in Wisconsin, individual cougars do move through Wisconsin periodically.
“A cougar’s ability to cover ground is very impressive,” said Scott Walter, DNR large carnivore specialist. “As an example of their range, DNR staff collected genetic samples from a cougar in Oconto County in 2010, and this cat was subsequently killed by a vehicle in Connecticut, roughly 70 miles from New York City, after travelling over 1,100 miles.”
A cougar was confirmed Jan. 8 on a trail camera photo in Fond du Lac County, while four photos taken in Lincoln and Langlade counties in mid-December 2017 were also confirmed to feature a cougar. Without genetic samples, it is impossible to determine if this is the same animal confirmed in Washington County. Dispersing cougars are known to travel significant distances and it is possible these confirmed photos recorded a single cougar.
It is likely that the cougar recently confirmed in Washington County is passing through the area, and is now out of the area.
Friday in Whitewater will be partly sunny with a high of twenty-six. Sunrise is 6:48 AM and sunset 5:28 PM, for 10h 39m 38s of daytime. The moon is new, with .4% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the four hundred sixty-third day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.
On this day in 1968, America has her first 911 emergency telephone system: “the nation’s first 911 emergency telephone system was inaugurated in Haleyville, Alabama, as the speaker of the Alabama House, Rankin Fite, placed a call from the mayor’s office in City Hall to a red telephone at the police station (also located in City Hall) that was answered by U.S. Rep. Tom Bevill.” On this day in 1943, the Nazis execute Milwaukee native Mildred Harnack: “Harnack was born in Milwaukee and studied and lectured at the University of Wisconsin. She and her husband, Arvid Harnack, were key members of a German resistance group which assisted German Jews and political dissidents, circulated illegal literature, met secretly with prisoners of war, and worked to document Nazi atrocities in Europe. Known by the Nazis as the “Red Orchestra,” Harnack’s companions were arrested, tortured, and tried for their activities. Mildred Harnack was guillotined in Berlin on the personal orders of Adolf Hitler.”
The former commander of the Milwaukee County Jail and two other jail staffers were charged Monday in connection with the April 2016 dehydration death of Terrill Thomas, with the complaint saying guards “abandoned” him to die.
Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Maj. Nancy Evans, 48, is charged with felony misconduct in office and obstructing an officer. Jail Lt. Kashka Meadors, 40, and correctional officer James Ramsey-Guy, 38, are each charged with neglecting an inmate, a felony offense.
Meadors gave the order to shut off the water, Ramsey-Guy physically cut all water to Thomas’ cell, and Evans lied about the subsequent investigation, the complaint says.
The practice of cutting off water to an inmate is against the jail’s written regulations, the complaint says, but Ramsey-Guy said it was common practice. Within three weeks of Thomas’ death, water was cut to two other inmates’ cells, according to the complaint.
“The incidents demonstrate an institutional practice of punitively shutting off water to unruly inmates,” it said.
President Trump has been receiving classified information about the Russia investigation from the House Intelligence Committee as he reviews and declassifies evidence being used in a probe that could implicate him and his campaign team, raising concerns about a potential conflict of interest.
In their attempts to either chide or defend the Justice Department’s handling of the investigation, the House panel’s majority and minority members have written two separate memos describing a highly classified application submitted by the FBI to obtain a surveillance warrant targeting early Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. The Republicans’ memo claims the FBI misled the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court when applying for a warrant in October 2016 to surveil Page. The Democrats’ memo insists the bureau acted properly.
The memos were sent to the White House to declassify, in effect putting Trump, who is a subject of the ongoing investigation, in charge of evidence that could potentially be used against him—further blurring a line between the White House and the Justice Department that previous administrations have been wary of crossing.
“The situation is, as far as I know, unprecedented,” said Paul Rosenzweig, a former Department of Homeland Security official who founded Red Branch Consulting and serves as a senior fellow at the conservative R Street Institute. “Never before has a president been tied to a FISA warrant application. In fact, as far as I know, no president has ever been tied to any warrant application—not FISA, not a search warrant and not a Title III wiretap. So this is unique.”
Veterans Affairs Secretary David J. Shulkin’s chief of staff doctored an email and made false statements to create a pretext for taxpayers to cover expenses for the secretary’s wife on a 10-day trip to Europe last summer, the agency’s inspector general has found.
Vivieca Wright Simpson, VA’s third-most-senior official, altered language in an email from an aide coordinating the trip to make it appear that Shulkin was receiving an award from the Danish government, then used the award to justify paying for his wife’s travel, Inspector General Michael J. Missal said in a report released Wednesday. VA paid more than $4,300 for her airfare.
The account of how the government paid travel expenses for the secretary’s wife is one finding in an unsparing investigation that concluded that Shulkin and his staff misled agency ethics officials and the public about key details of the trip. Shulkin also improperly accepted a gift of sought-after tickets to a Wimbledon tennis match, the investigation found, and directed an aide to act as what the report called a “personal travel concierge” to him and his wife.
WASHINGTON — President Trump’s inaugural committee paid nearly $26 million to an event planning firm started by an adviser to the first lady, Melania Trump, while donating $5 million — less than expected — to charity, according to tax filings released on Thursday.
The nonprofit group that oversaw Mr. Trump’s inauguration and surrounding events in January 2017, the 58th Presidential Inaugural Committee, had been under pressure from liberal government watchdog groups to reveal how it spent the record $107 million it had raised largely from wealthy donors and corporations.
Its chairman, Thomas J. Barrack Jr., a longtime friend of Mr. Trump’s, had pledged that the committee would be thrifty with its spending, and would donate leftover funds to charity. In a statement released by the committee, he praised it for carrying out the inauguration and more than 20 related events with “elegance and seamless excellence without incident or interruption, befitting the legacy and tradition that has preceded us.”
But the mandatory tax return it filed with the Internal Revenue Service revealed heavy spending on administrative and logistical expenses associated with planning and executing several days’ worth of events for donors and supporters around Mr. Trump’s inaugural ceremonies.
By contrast, the return showed that the group’s charitable donations included only a previously publicized $3 million for hurricane relief, as well as a total of $1.75 million to groups involved in decorating and maintaining the White House and the vice president’s residence, and $250,000 for the Smithsonian Institution.