Daily Bread for 2.17.16

Good morning.

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.”

Recommended for reading in full —

➤ Sarah Grant, Quinta Jurecic, Matthew Kahn, Matt Tait, and Benjamin Wittes write of the Russian Influence Campaign: What’s in the Latest Mueller Indictment:

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 . 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,  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  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.

➤ Ari Berman writes Russians Tried to Suppress Minority Turnout, Spread Lies About Voter Fraud:

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.”

➤ Ashley Parker and John Wagner report ‘Go Donald!’: Inside the Russian shadow campaign to elect Trump:

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.

➤ Philip Rucker observes Trump’s Russia ‘hoax’ turns out to be real:

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.

➤ Here’s How All Best Picture Oscar Nominees Are Connected:

How to Build a Better Candidate Forum

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.

Friday Catblogging: Cougar sighting verified in Washington County

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.

Via Cougar sighting verified in Washington County.

Daily Bread for 2.16.18

Good morning.

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.”

Recommended for reading in full —

➤ Ashley Luthern and John Diedrich report Former commander, 2 staffers charged in dehydration death of Terrill Thomas in Milwaukee County Jail:

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.

➤ Natasha Bertrand writes of The President’s Power to Hide Secret Details About the Russia Investigation (“Executive power means Donald Trump can classify or declassify memos that may implicate him”):

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.”

➤ Lisa Rein reports Veterans Affairs chief Shulkin, staff misled ethics officials about European trip, report finds:

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.

➤ Maggie Haberman and Kenneth P. Vogel report Trump’s Inaugural Committee Paid $26 Million to Firm of First Lady’s Adviser:

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.

➤ Here’s The Curious Case of the Fruit That Transforms Sour to Sweet:

Daily Bread for 2.15.18

Good morning.

Thursday in Whitewater will be cloudy with a high of forty-one. Sunrise is 6:50 AM and sunset 5:27 PM, for 10h 36m 54s of daytime. The moon is new. Today is the four hundred sixty-second day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

On this day in 1564, Galileo Galilei is born in Pisa. On this day in 1865, the 12th Wisconsin Light Artillery participates in the Union victory at Congaree Creek outside of Columbia, South Carolina.

Recommended for reading in full —

➤ The New York Times editorial board asks Why Does Trump Ignore Top Officials’ Warnings on Russia?:

The phalanx of intelligence chiefs who testified on Capitol Hill delivered a chilling message: Not only did Russia interfere in the 2016 election, it is already meddling in the 2018 election by using a digital strategy to exacerbate the country’s political and social divisions.

No one knows more about the threats to the United States than these six officials, so when they all agree, it would be derelict to ignore their concerns. Yet President Trump continues to refuse to even acknowledge the malevolent Russian role.

It’s particularly striking that four of the men who gave this warning to the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday — the C.I.A. director, Mike Pompeo; the director of national intelligence, Dan Coats; the F.B.I. director, Christopher Wray; and the Defense Intelligence Agency director, Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley — were all appointed by Mr. Trump.

They testified that the president has never asked them to take measures to combat Russian interference and protect democratic processes.

➤ Mike Rogers and Rick Ledgett propose Four steps to fight foreign interference in U.S. elections:

First, the administration should issue a declaration: “The United States views any foreign attempt to influence our election processes through covert or clandestine means as an attack on the fundamental underpinnings of our system of government. We will not tolerate such activity and reserve the right to respond to such activities.”

We need to establish a clear line that delineates unacceptable behavior and puts others on notice that we will act as needed to defend ourselves. The Trump administration might emulate the actions of our allies France and Germany. In 2017, Jean-Marc Ayrault, France’s foreign minister at the time, announced prior to its elections that France would not tolerate any Russian or other foreign interference, a stance adopted by now-President Emmanuel Macron. French government agencies also quickly alerted political parties to the threat of Russian hacking during the campaign. In Germany, the government took a strong stance against interference, and companies helped raise awareness of Russian meddling by publicly debunking a Russian disinformation campaign that sought to inflame anti-migrant sentiments.

Second, Congress should pass legislation, such as the bipartisan Secure Elections Act, to provide sufficient resources for evaluating the cybersecurity of our states’ disparate electoral infrastructure and addressing shortfalls. The Department of Homeland Security’s pledge to complete assessments of states’ electoral vulnerabilities by April was a good step. But legislation, particularly with resources attached, can improve upon bureaucratic inefficiencies. Congress should also consider codifying the Obama administration’s designation of election systems as critical infrastructure.

Third, the U.S. government should establish an interagency task force to combat foreign attempts to influence our democratic institutions and processes. This task force would be entirely removed from the ongoing investigations into the 2016 elections; instead, it would focus on preventing future attempts to infiltrate and influence our democracy.

Such a task force should combine U.S. policymaking and intelligence communities, including the Departments of Homeland Security, Justice, Commerce, Defense, State and Treasury, as well as relevant intelligence agencies. It should also coordinate with nonpartisan private-sector entities — such as privacy and civil liberty organizations and social media and technology companies — to bring specialized expertise and unique insights. Private companies provide voting machines, aggregate voter data and operate much of the nation’s critical infrastructure. Better coordination among these companies and federal and state governments can only improve security.

Finally, the Trump administration should ensure that the U.S. government has the authorities needed to deter foreign actors engaged in malign influence campaigns and cybe roperations against U.S. elections. Countermeasures would include diplomacy, economic tools such as sanctions, covert action and military action. Many of these authorities already exist, but some need further strengthening or clarification to be used in the context of election security.

(Of their backgrounds, “Mike Rogers, a Republican from Michigan, served in the House from 2001 to 2015 and was chairman of the Intelligence Committee from 2011 to 2015. Rick Ledgett was deputy director of the National Security Agency from 2014 to 2017. Both are members of the Advisory Council of the Alliance for Securing Democracy.”)

➤ Director of National Intelligence Coats testifies on threats to U.S. elections:

— NBC News (@NBCNews) February 13, 2018

➤ Ben Popken of NBC reports Twitter deleted 200,000 Russian troll tweets. Read them here (“Twitter doesn’t make it easy to track Russian propaganda efforts — this database can help”):

NBC News is publishing its database of more than 200,000 tweets that Twitter has tied to “malicious activity” from Russia-linked accounts during the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

These accounts, working in concert as part of large networks, pushed hundreds of thousands of inflammatory tweets, from fictitious tales of Democrats practicing witchcraft to hardline posts from users masquerading as Black Lives Matter activists. Investigators have traced the accounts to a Kremlin-linked propaganda outfit founded in 2013 known as the Internet Research Association (IRA). The organization has been assessed by the U.S. Intelligence Community to be part of a Russian state-run effort to influence the outcome of the 2016 U.S. presidential race. And they’re not done.

“There should be no doubt that Russia perceives its past efforts as successful and views the 2018 US midterm elections as a potential target for Russian influence operations,” Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats told the Senate Intelligence Committee Tuesday.

“The Russians utilize this tool because it’s relatively cheap, it’s low risk, it offers what they perceive as plausible deniability and it’s proven to be effective at sowing division,” he told the annual hearing on worldwide threats. “We expect Russia to continue using propaganda, social media, false flag personas, sympathetic spokesmen, and other means of influence to try to build on its wide range of operations and exacerbate social and political fissures in the United States.”

“Frankly, the United States is under attack,” he said.


➤ So, Why Is Caviar So Expensive?:

Jennifer Rubin Writes of Enablers in Washington (and in Small Towns, Too)

Jennifer Rubin considers the views of Colbie Holderness, a domestic abuse survivor during her marriage to Rob Porter, an accused serial abuser:

Her hope that women would be better than that may be well-founded in the aggregate. Trump is hemorrhaging support from women, both college- and non-college-educated ones.

Yet Rubin reflects on human nature, and acknowledges a dark truth:

However, in the particular case of those women — Conway, Sanders, Concerned Women for America, Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel, the Fox News female hosts — who work for, rationalize and sacrifice integrity to defend the indefensible, we should expect them to be just as clueless, disingenuous and morally vacant as the men who have chosen to tie themselves to Trump’s mast.

The same is true of Trump’s Jewish advisers. We realize in retrospect that we should not have expected Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and senior adviser Gary Cohn to behave any more admirably in the context of Trump’s responses to Charlottesville neo-Nazis than Trump’s non-Jewish advisers. Sure, as a group American Jews are overwhelmingly Democratic and anti-Trump, but if you’ve gone to work for a man who called Mexican immigrants murderers, bragged about sexually assaulting women, sought to demonize an entire religion and ridiculed Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) for being a POW during the Vietnam War, you probably don’t place social justice and Torah-based values at the top of your concerns. You have rejected or been oblivious to a slew of principles in order to go work for him in the first place.

It’s human nature to think that those from the same groups whom Trump insults and abuses would identify with the victims, or that members of any minority group with a history of persecution would feel the sting of bigotry and spot the dangers of destroying democratic norms. And in general, that is true. But lest we think all women, Jews and minorities are angels, one need only look at the cringe-worthy, daily performances of press secretary Sanders, the toadyism of Mnuchin and the presence of Ben Carson in Trump’s Cabinet. What we should expect is that anyone who has sacrificed principle, integrity and humanity to defend this president will keep on defending him, no matter how horrendous his rhetoric and his actions.

Via Don’t expect the women who enable Trump to be better than the men.

Among all groups there are those who will betray others, including – and sometimes especially – their own. If there should be a group with not a single quisling, then one has never heard of it.

Most people are not like this, of course, but no group is free of those who support the victimization of people like themselves. That support is sometimes implicit and soft, but at other times explicit and hard.

Washington, Whitewater, and countless other places are, sadly, no different in this regard: a nearness to an unprincipled authority sometimes wrongly requires the mistreatment of one’s own kind situated farther from that authority.

Cooperation is humiliation, collaboration is degradation.

Daily Bread for 2.14.18

Good morning.

Ash Wednesday &  Valentine’s Day in Whitewater will be sunny with a high of forty-one. Sunrise is 6:51 AM and sunset 5:26 PM, for 10h 34m 11s of daytime. The moon is a waning crescent with 1.5% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the four hundred sixty-first day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

On this day in 1819, the typewriter inventor is born: “On this date the inventor of the modern typewriter, C. Latham Sholes, was born. Sholes moved to Wisconsin as a child and lived in Green Bay, Kenosha, and Milwaukee. In 1867, in Milwaukee, he presented his first model for the modern typewriter and patents for the device were taken out in 1868. Sholes took the advice of many mechanical experts, including Thomas Edison, and so claims that he was the sole inventor of the typewriter have often been disputed. [Source: Badger Saints and Sinners by Fred L. Homes, pg 316-328]”

Recommended for reading in full —

➤ Michael A. Cohen writes John Kelly was supposed to be ‘the adult in the room.’ He’s anything but:

This is hardly the first time that Kelly, in his mere six and half months as chief of staff, has done and said bad things. In the fall, Kelly slandered congresswoman Frederica Wilson with an accusation of publicly grandstanding at an event opening a federal office building in Miami in 2015. When confronted with evidence that his claims against Wilson were untrue, Kelly said he would never apologize for his comments. He referred to a traitorous Confederate general, Robert E. Lee, as an “honorable” man, and, echoing his boss’s language about neo-Nazis who marched this summer in Charlottesville, Va., said, about a civil war fought over slavery, “men and women of good faith on both sides made their stand where their conscience had them make their stand.”Just this week, he attacked so-called Dreamers who had failed to register for the DACA program as being “too lazy to get off their asses.”

From a policy standpoint, Kelly, as secretary of Homeland Security, was the point man for both the Trump administration’s so-called Muslim ban and its increasingly cruel and sadistic efforts to deport law-abiding undocumented immigrants. Under his short tenure at DHS, there was a 40 percent increase in deportation arrests.

In his public speeches, Kelly eagerly adopted the public line, pushed by Trump, that immigrants represent an existential threat to American security, suggesting in April that the nation is “under attack from criminals who think their greed justifies raping young girls at knifepoint, dealing poison to our youth, or killing just for fun.” Last month, he appears to have played a crucial role in torpedoing a possible deal on DACA because of his own hard-line and racist views toward nonwhite immigrants.

➤ Mary Ann Georgantopoulos asks Having Trouble Following The Alleged Rob Porter Wife Abuse Scandal? This Timeline Will Help (“President Trump’s top aides have struggled to clearly explain their response to questions about Rob Porter, making it confusing for the American people. Here’s what the public learned in chronological order”):

A week after former White House staff secretary Rob Porter resigned amid domestic abuse allegations, the White House is still struggling to provide clear answers on who knew what and when. The scandal has rare longevity for the Trump administration, which is used to bouncing from one controversy to the next.

Last week, the Daily Mail reported that Porter’s two ex-wives said he was physically and emotionally abusive to them. His first wife, Colbie Holderness, alleged to the Daily Mail that he had punched her during a trip to Florence, Italy, in the early 2000s, and his second wife, Jennifer Willoughby, said she had obtained a temporary protective order against Porter after he allegedly violated their separation agreement.

Porter — whose job required him to handle sensitive and confidential information read by the president — denied the allegations and resigned before he was ever granted permanent security clearance from the FBI or White House. The White House has suggested it learned all about the allegations in the past week — but the FBI said it related issues in Porter’s background investigation to White House officials at least three times, twice in 2017 and once in January.

What has emerged is a timeline in which White House officials offer contradictory information, leading to a confusing narrative and dribs and drabs of information from the news media. Here’s what the public learned about the scandal, in order [detailed chronology follows]…

➤ Laura King and Michael Finnegan report Fate of Trump’s chief of staff hangs in balance as White House weathers fallout from spouse abuse scandal:

More than a dozen women have publicly accused Trump of sexual harassment or assault over a period of many years. He says they are all lying and has dismissed a 2005 audio recording from the TV show “Access Hollywood” that captured him boasting in vulgar terms about such behavior as “locker room” talk.

The Porter controversy has brought intense scrutiny of Kelly’s role in protecting him, but Conway said on ABC’s “This Week” that Trump “is not actively searching for replacements” for the retired Marine four-star general, who has sought to impose discipline on a chaotic West Wing.

Conway said Trump also has full confidence in Hope Hicks, a former campaign aide who became White House communications director. News reports have said Hicks was romantically involved with Porter and helped craft an initial forceful White House statement defending him.

A person close to the White House, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the president had not authorized him to characterize their private conversations, said he expects Trump to keep Kelly rather than choose a third chief of staff. Kelly replaced Reince Priebus, who served in the White House for only six months.

(Kelly is unfit, so a suitable fate would be – indeed would already have been – dismissal.)

➤ Aaron Blake asks Is Trump scaring away officials who would stand in his way?:

What we can say with some clarity at this point is that people who would stand in Trump’s way do have a tendency to step aside. Trump’s most vocal critics in the Senate just happen to have been the first two GOP senators to announce their retirements, Sens. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.). Political pressure applied by Trump may also have contributed to Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe’s decision to step down months earlier than he had been planning. Trump has made Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s life so miserable over his recusal in the Russia probe that Sessions offered to quit.

(Better to leave than be a party to wrongdoing: cooperation is humiliation, collaboration is degradation.)

➤ A Boston Dynamics robots asks another, Hey Buddy, Can You Give Me a Hand?:

The Man Behind the Foxconn Project

Embed from Getty Images

You may have read, recently, of a public official who came to Whitewater to talk about the Foxconn project. Why settle for the tired claims of a mid-level state-government operative when one can hear about Foxconn from the one man behind the entire project?

Matthew DeFour reports on the real force behind these multi-billion dollar taxpayer subsidies:

“Everybody wanted Foxconn,” Trump said. “Frankly, they weren’t going to come to this country. I hate to say it, if I didn’t get elected, they wouldn’t be in this country. They would not have done this in this country. I think you know that very well.”

Walker spokeswoman Amy Hasenberg said: “President Trump’s leadership and pro-manufacturing agenda set the stage and the tone for this project and for companies looking to move and expand into the United States.

Via Donald Trump lavishes praise on Scott Walker, takes credit for Foxconn.

Even Gov. Walker’s spokeswoman gives Trump credit for ‘leadership [to] set the stage and tone for this project‘.

On this point, today, there’s no need to disagree with Walker and Trump. Let us agree that Foxconn is, first and foremost, Trump’s project.

Those visiting Whitewater to talk about Foxconn, and those inviting them here to do so, have by the very declarations of the highest officials in Wisconsin and Washington done so in support of a Trump project.

Fair enough, of course, but better still if everyone else involved would be as candid about Trump’s role as Trump and Walker are.

See also 10 Key Articles About Foxconn.

Daily Bread for 2.13.18

Good morning.

Tuesday in Whitewater will be sunny with a high of thirty-two. Sunrise is 6:53 AM and sunset 5:24 PM, for 10h 31m 29s of daytime. The moon is a waning crescent with 4.7% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the four hundred sixtieth day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

On this day in 1935, Wisconsin intervenes in the gasoline market: “in an effort to stop gasoline price wars, the state of Wisconsin established a minimum price of 16 cents per gallon for gasoline.”

Recommended for reading in full —

➤ Katelyn Polantz and Marshall Cohen report Senator seeking admin records on Trump’s sale of Palm Beach mansion to Russian:

A senator is asking the Treasury Department to turn over records of a lucrative real estate sale Donald Trump made to a Russian billionaire as the Senate Finance Committee looks into Trump’s ties to Russians.

Sen. Ron Wyden, the committee’s ranking member, on Friday requested the financial records of the sale of Trump’s former estate in Palm Beach to Dmitry Rybolovlev.

Wyden’s letter outlined how Donald Trump bought a 6.3-acre property in Florida for $41.35 million in 2004 and then sold that property to a company owned by the businessman four years later. The sale price to Rybolovlev more than doubled Trump’s initial investment, to $95 million. The property’s appraisal in 2008 fell short of that sale price by $30 million, Wyden said.

“In the context of the President’s then-precarious financial position, I believe that the Palm Beach property sale warrants further scrutiny,” the Oregon Democrat wrote. “It is imperative that Congress follow the money and conduct a thorough investigation into any potential money laundering or other illicit financial dealings between the President, his associates, and Russia.”

➤ Chris Massie reports Wisconsin GOP Senate candidate’s parents max out donations to primary campaign of Democrat he hopes to unseat:

Just months after Republican Kevin Nicholson announced his bid to unseat incumbent Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin in 2018, his own parents donated the legal maximum to her primary campaign.

Nicholson announced last July that he would seek the Republican nomination for US Senate in Wisconsin. A Federal Election Commission filing by Baldwin’s campaign dated February 5 and available online shows that each of Nicholson’s parents, Donna and Michael, donated $2,700 to Baldwin in December 2017. FEC rules stipulate that those donations are the maximumNicholson’s parents can donate to Baldwin during the primary election. They can donate up to that amount again during the general election.

Their donations are not necessarily out of character: Nicholson has said on the campaign trail that he comes from a Democratic family and, as the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported in November, his mother has donated thousands of dollars over the years to Democratic organizations and candidates, including hundreds to Baldwin.

However, the contributions are the first his parents have given to Baldwin since Nicholson announced his candidacy to try to oust the senator.

➤ Harry Litman contends Trump’s obstruction of justice is far more extensive than Nixon’s:

We won’t know for some time what Mueller’s probe will uncover, but we already know that the Trump campaign had extensive contacts with Russians — The Post has reported more than 30 — and that Trump flatly lied in claiming there were none. More damning, the president himself insisted on drafting a false account of the famous June 9, 2016, meeting between a Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer and senior campaign members, including Donald Trump Jr.

But even if none of that were true, there are plenty of reasons a defendant plausibly could act with corrupt intent to scuttle an investigation that had yet to bear fruit. The defendant could fear political embarrassment; or liability for an associate or family member; or uncovering of other crimes, such as financial or tax violations; or exposure of civil liability.

Or he might be Donald Trump. Because turning the argument around, the evidence appears overwhelming that Trump has been rabid to shut down the investigation and savage anyone involved with it. Trump also tried to hide his motives behind a series of particularly ham-handed lies, including the claim that Mueller should be fired because of a distant dispute about golf fees at the Trump National Golf Club in Virginia. In other words, his corrupt intent fairly jumps out of the evidence, regardless of whether he separately colluded with Russia.

The argument becomes even weaker if the president’s defenders argue that Trump was unaware of any of the campaign’s extensive involvement with Russia. That’s exactly what happened with President Richard Nixon, who claimed at the time that he was ignorant of the Watergate break-in, and yet we know he acted with corrupt intent to squelch the resulting investigation, ordering others to try to persuade the FBI to halt its investigation into the break-in.

Congressional Republicans are all in on defense of party over country. They are determined for temporary political gain to prop up a leader who is a rogue, a constitutional menace, and yes, a criminal no less than Nixon. They have lost all sense of constitutional duty. If they do not find a way to regain it, history will judge them harshly.

➤ Michael D. Shear and Matthew Rosenberg report Accusations Against Aide Renew Attention on White House Security Clearances:

WASHINGTON — One week after the 2016 election, President-elect Donald J. Trump tweeted that he was “not trying to get ‘top level security clearance’ for my children,” calling such claims “a typically false news story.” But he said nothing at the time about his son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

Nearly 15 months later, Mr. Kushner, now a senior White House adviser with a broad foreign policy portfolio that requires access to some of the intelligence community’s most closely guarded secrets, still has not succeeded in securing a permanent security clearance. The delay has left him operating on an interim status that allows him access to classified material while the F.B.I. continues working on his full background investigation.

Mr. Kushner’s status was similar to the status of others in the White House, including Rob Porter, the staff secretary who resigned last week after his two former wives alleged that he physically and emotionally abused them during their marriages.

People familiar with the security clearance process in Mr. Trump’s White House said it was widely acknowledged among senior aides that raising questions about unresolved vetting issues in a staff member’s background would implicitly reflect on Mr. Kushner’s status, as well — a situation made more awkward because Mr. Kushner is married to the president’s daughter Ivanka.

➤ The Kentucky All-State Choir performs a stunning rendition of the Star Spangled Banner on the floors of a large, open hotel:

Before Devin Nunes, in Whitewater & Small Towns Across America…

One reads that GOP Congressman Devin Nunes of California has launched his own news site:

LOS ANGELES — House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, a relentless critic of the media, has found a way around the often unflattering coverage of his role in the Trump-Russia investigation — by operating his own partisan news outlet.

Resembling a local, conservative news site, “The California Republican” is classified on Facebook as a “media/news company” and claims to deliver “the best of US, California, and Central Valley news, sports, and analysis.”

But the website is paid for by Nunes’ campaign committee, according to small print at the bottom of the site. Leading the home page most recently: a photograph of Nunes over the headline, “Understanding the process behind #ReleaseTheMemo.”

The story, like many others on carepublican.com, largely excerpts other publications, including both conservative and mainstream sources. Headlines include “CNN busted for peddling fake news AGAIN!,” “California’s budget future isn’t as good as it looks” and “Billions of dollars later, Democrats and the LA Times start to see the light on high-speed rail.”

Via Devin Nunes creates his own alternative news site @ POLITICO.

(His the website seems down now, with only the Facebook page remaining.)

To millions of Americans, the idea of an incumbent politician with his or her own news site seems – rightly – absurd. It’s an abject conflict of interest.

And yet, and yet, for four thousand, one hundred eighty-five days Whitewater had a similar conflict of interest, where news included great heaps of why big-ticket government projects were the right course, with emphasis on those the politician-publisher himself supported from committees on which he was seated.

Devin Nunes may – and for many reasons does – transgress basic ethical principles, but in small town across America countless others paved the way for Nunes’s degradation of standards.

Film: Tuesday, February 13th, 12:30 PM @ Seniors in the Park, The Big Sick

This Tuesday, February 13th at 12:30 PM, there will be a showing of The Big Sick @ Seniors in the Park, in the Starin community building.

Michael Showalter directs the two-hour film. The Big Sick recounts how “Pakistani-born stand-up comedian Kumail Nanjiani and grad student Emily Gardner fall in love but struggle as their cultures clash. When Emily contracts a mysterious illness, Kumail finds himself forced to face her feisty parents (played by Holly Hunter and Ray Romano), his Pakistani family’s expectations for an arranged marriage and his true feelings. This is Kumail’s awkward true story.”

The movie carries a rating of R from the MPAA (for language).

One can find more information about The Big Sick at the Internet Movie Database.


Daily Bread for 2.12.18

Good morning.

Monday in Whitewater will be sunny and cold, with a high of nineteen. Sunrise is 6:54 AM and sunset 5:23 PM, for 10h 28m 47s of daytime. The moon is a waning crescent with 10.3% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the four hundred fifty-ninth day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

Whitewater’s Finance Committee meets at 7 AM, and her Planning Commission at 6:30 PM.

It’s Lincoln’s birthday. Every tradition has its fringe, and among some who call themselves libertarian, there’s opposition to Lincoln. They could not be more wrong; Lincoln is exceptional and canonical to our politics the way Shakespeare is to the English language. See Elesha Coffman, A Libertarian’s Lincoln (reviewing Thomas Krannawitter’s Vindicating Lincoln) and Nick Gillespie’s A Libertarian Lincoln? (reviewing The Last Best Hope of Earth: Abraham Lincoln and the Promise of America).

  Recommended for reading in full —

➤ Kyle Swenson reports Rob Porter ex Jennie Willoughby: ‘The truth exists whether the President accepts it or not’:

When Jennie Willoughby went public with the physical and emotional abuse she allegedly suffered in her marriage to former White House aid Rob Porter, the ex-schoolteacher found herself catapulted into a media and political storm.

Following a Feb. 6 Daily Mail article recounting allegations of abuse against Porter by both Willoughby and his first ex-wife Colbie Holderness, the 40-year-old White House staffer resigned from his position as staff secretary. Willoughby did not hide from the ensuing public conversation. In cable interviews and her own writing, she tackled the messy emotional fallout of domestic violence, a candor that planted her on the front lines of the #MeToo movement and won her heartfelt supporters.

The publicity also attracted angry detractors — including figures at the top rung of the current administration.

On Saturday, President Trump snapped out a tweet obliquely addressing the Porter scandal. Although Axios has reported the president has privately said he believes Porter’s ex-wives, on Twitter the president cast skepticism on both the current White House intrigue as well as the larger movement.

➤ Damian Paletta reports In big reversal, new Trump budget will give up on longtime Republican goal of eliminating deficit:

President Trump on Monday will offer a budget plan that falls far short of eliminating the government’s deficit over 10 years, conceding that huge tax cuts and new spending increases make this goal unattainable, three people familiar with the proposal said.

Eliminating the budget deficit over 10 years has been a North Star for the Republican Party for several decades, and GOP lawmakers took the government to the brink of default in 2011 when they demanded a vote on a amendment to the Constitution that would prohibit the federal government from spending more than it takes in through revenues.

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.), when he used to chair the House Budget Committee, routinely proposed tax and spending outlines that would eliminate the deficit over 10 years, even though critics said his changes would lead to a severe curtailment in government programs.

In 2013, Ryan proposed $4.6 trillion in cuts over 10 years, an amount he said was sufficient to eliminating the deficit. Those changes were not adopted by Congress or supported by the Obama administration.

The White House and GOP leaders have largely jettisoned goals like this since Trump took office last year. Trump’s budget plan will call for a range of spending cuts that reduces the growth of the deficit by $3 trillion over 10 years, but it would not eliminate the deficit entirely, said the people familiar with the proposal, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the plans before they’re publicly unveiled.

➤ Eliot Cohen writes The Truth About Military Parades:

Victory parades are easy enough to figure out. The Grand Review of the Armies in May 1865 included 145,000 troops from three Union armies—of the Potomac, Tennessee, and Georgia—marching past cheering throngs of onlookers. There were some uncomfortable moments. General William Tecumseh Sherman, still bristling over what he regarded as unwarranted and brusque orders from Secretary of War Stanton, refused to shake the latter’s hand. But overall, the mood was joyous, albeit still shadowed by the assassination of President Lincoln little more than a month before. The armies marched down Washington streets for two days, and then quietly, almost instantly, melted away to their homes.

Americans don’t goose step. But they are not immune to an adolescent fascination with weaponry, and a celebration of raw strength. Hence the unseemly pronouncements in the current case by pundits and politicians, most of them remarkably devoid of military experience themselves or among their children. One thing they may miss is that a military parade would show off some really old pieces of hardware, first designed and deployed (if modernized since) over 30 years ago—M-1 Abrams tanks, Bradley Fighting Vehicles, F-15 jets. One thinks of the aging alpha male baboon who attempts to intimidate the rest of the troop by baring his teeth, but has failed to notice that some of his fangs have dropped out. The Chinese colonels taking careful notes might be less impressed than the talking heads of Fox News.

What parades do not do is adequately celebrate today’s soldier and his or her spirit. What they do not show is the personal appreciation Americans should appropriately offer men and women who have repeatedly left family behind for danger and boredom, often leaving pieces of who they once were on the battlefield. What they do not do is replace the barbecue or the beer, the patience with the far-away look and sudden irritability, the long walk and the arm around the shoulder, the welcoming smile and the attentive ear.

Thirty-five years ago, during my own brief and inglorious Army reserve career, I went to an officer’s basic course with D. J. Reyes, who unlike me, later spent nearly 34 years doing hard work in hard places, including serving as then Major General David Petraeus’s intelligence officer for the 101st Airborne Division in Iraq. “Quiet warrior, quiet professional is the motto,” he recently reminded me. We should respect that spirit, realizing that Orwell was right, and that parades say more about those who order and watch them, than those who participate in them.

➤ Ezra Klein writes Donald Trump, Fox News, and the logic of alternative facts (“The Nunes memo and the FBI texts gave Trump the alternative story he needed”):

Watching all this play out, I’ve been thinking about a profile Molly Ball wrote of Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway, limning her peculiar talent for cheerfully denying the towering masses of factual evidence against her boss’s statements. “She figured out that she doesn’t need to win the argument,” Ball wrote of Conway. “All she has to do is craft a semi-plausible (if not entirely coherent) counternarrative, so that those who don’t want to look past the facade of Trump’s Potemkin village don’t have to.”

We like to imagine American politics as a kind of scored debate, with political actors acting as the debaters, the media acting as the judge, and the public acting as the audience. Much of cable news is based, implicitly or explicitly, on this metaphor. Panelists from different sides of issues are introduced to “debate” an issue; shows sell themselves as “no-spin zones”; networks brag that they’re “fair and balanced” or place “facts first.” Under this conception of American politics, a memo that proves a fraud, an argument that proves a bust, a politician who is seen to lie — all of it is revealed and punished, the system self-regulates.

But that metaphor is often wrong, and it’s particularly wrong in the ecosystem driven by Fox News and Trump’s Twitter account. What Conway and others understand is that if you’re just trying to activate your tribe, you don’t have to win the argument, you just need to have an argument; you need to give your side something to say, something to believe. Something like the Nunes memo or the various out-of-context texts aren’t part of a search for truth — they’re an ammo drop, or, to go back to the way Ball put it, “a semi-plausible (if not entirely coherent) counternarrative.”

Charlie Sykes, a conservative talk radio host turned Trump critic, put it well. “The essence of propaganda is not necessarily to convince you of a certain set of facts. It is to overwhelm your critical sensibilities. It’s to make you doubt the existence of a knowable truth. The conservative media is a giant fog machine designed to confuse and disorient people.”

How AI Could Revolutionize Coffee:

(The market price is the fair price, but more information about production is useful to buyers and sellers.)