Daily Bread for 12.3.16

Good morning.

Saturday in Whitewater will be mostly cloudy with a high of thirty-five. Sunrise is 7:09 AM and sunset 4:21 PM, for 9h 11m 58s of daytime. The moon is a waxing crescent with 14.9% of its visible disk illuminated.

On this day in 1967, the  20th Century Limited makes its final run from New York to Chicago.  On this day in 1947, Wisconsin’s first television station, WTMJ-TV, is established.

Worth reading in full —

Bill Glauber writes that an Embattled Tomah VA dentist resigns: “Officials at the troubled Tomah Veterans Affairs Medical Center said Friday that the dentist responsible for possibly infecting nearly 600 veterans has resigned. The dentist has not been named. The announcement came after House Speaker Paul Ryan of Janesville and Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson expressed outrage that the dentist was still working at the facility. On Tuesday, Victoria Brahm, acting medical director at the center, announced that the VA was in the process of notifying 592 veterans treated by the dentist that they may be infected with hepatitis B, hepatitis C, or HIV because he did not follow proper sterilization procedures.”

Patrick Marley and Jason Stein report that a Federal judge denies quick halt to recount: “Madison — A federal judge Friday denied an emergency halt to the recount of the presidential vote in Wisconsin, allowing the process to continue until a Dec. 9 court hearing at least. There is no need to halt the recount just yet because it will not do any immediate harm to Republican President-elect Donald Trump or his supporters, U.S. District Judge James Peterson wrote in a three-page order that called for both sides in the case to lay out written arguments before he takes any action.”

Russ Choma exclaims Holy Conflict of Interest! The Firm Holding Much of Trump’s Debt May Be Up for Sale: “Coming to an auction block near you: Donald Trump’s $100 million mortgage on Trump Tower? As Mother Jones has detailed for months, Trump owes hundreds of millions of dollars to a variety of lenders, giving his bankers a huge amount of potential leverage over the man who will soon occupy the most powerful office in the world. Already there are concerns about Trump’s biggest lender, the troubled Deutsche Bank, which he owes at least $364 million. On Friday, Reuters reported that his second-biggest lender, a small Wall Street firm called Ladder Capital Strategies, may be putting itself up for sale to the highest bidder. Public records show Trump owes the firm at least $282 million, on four lines of credit. This means that other big money players—Wall Street firms, American banks, overseas banks, financial institutions partly owned by foreign governments—could move to buy up the debts of a US president and create a host of conflicts of interest.”

The Wisconsin State Journal reports that Donations top $87,700 for children’s Christmas toys: “Since 1918, the Empty Stocking Club has provided Christmas toys to needy children in the greater Madison area. You can help again this year. Send your gift online at emptystockingclub.com or mail it to: The Empty Stocking Club, Wisconsin State Journal, Box 8056 Madison, WI 53708″

A big holiday sometimes brings frustration as well as happiness. That was true in Maryland, after a beaver trashes dollar store after finding only artificial Christmas trees:  “A beaver in Maryland apparently tried to get into the Christmas spirit at a dollar store in Charlotte Hall. But after discovering the store only offered artificial trees, it made like a crazed Black Friday shopper and trashed the place….The St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Office joked that the “suspect attempted to flee the area,” but it was safely rescued by animal control. The office tweeted that the beaver was released to wildlife rehabilitation, and it included an adorable GIF for proof.”


How Much, and What Kind, of Military Spending?

Analysts from five Washington policy institutes[1] have published a joint report asking (1) what should American defense strategy be? (2) what capabilities, investments, and force structure might that strategy require? and (3) what would such a military cost?  (The five institutes are not of the same views, with the Cato Institute’s Benjamin H. Friedman notable for advocating fiscal and strategic restraint.)

Here’s the report:

Download (PDF, 4.41MB)

[1] The Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA), The American Enterprise Institute (AEI), The Cato Institute, The Center for a New American Security (CNAS), and The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

Friday Catblogging: ‘Semi-Domesticated’

 Unlike dogs, domestic cats exhibit traits expected of wild animals, raising a question about what their level of domestication:

Dog lovers will find it baffling that cats are the world’s most popular pet. After all, they’re passive-aggressive, emotionally unavailable, and known for their chilly independence—traits that at most qualify felines for the role of “man’s best frenemy.”

It turns out, though, there’s an evolutionary reason for this tense relationship. That is, cats are in many ways still wild.

“Cats, unlike dogs, are really only semi-domesticated,” says Wes Warren, professor of genetics Washington University and co-author of the first complete mapping (paywall) of the house cat genome—specifically, that of an Abyssinian named Cinnamon….

So why have kitties stayed wilder? The genome-mappers theorize it’s because house cat populations have continued to interbreed with wild cats. Also, humans’ “cat fancy”—meaning, our fanaticism about creating weird cat breeds—only began in the last 200 or so years.

Via Why You Shouldn’t Trust Your Cat @ The Atlantic.

Daily Bread for 12.2.16

Good  morning.

Friday in Whitewater will be partly cloudy with a high of thirty-seven.  Sunrise is 7:08 AM and sunset 4:21 PM, for 9h 13m 12s of daytime.  The moon is a waxing crescent with 8% of its visible disk illuminated.

Whitewater will hold holiday events, including a parade, this evening in her downtown.  The events begin at 5 PM, and the parade at 6 PM.

On this day in 1942, at Chicago Pile-1, first human-made self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction took place under Enrico Fermi‘s supervision; Fermi described the reactor as “a crude pile of black bricks and wooden timbers”.  On December 2, 1804, Napoleon crowns himself emperor of France.

Worth reading in full — 

Milwaukee’s medical examiner contends that the county sheriff, David Clarke, threatened him in a tantrum: “Brian Peterson, Milwaukee County chief medical examiner, said Thursday that the sheriff called him on Oct. 28 and “verbally pummeled” and “threatened” him over information that Peterson’s office made public regarding the deaths of two inmates at the jail earlier this year. Peterson said his office followed appropriate protocol in the cases cited by the sheriff….Clarke, who is under consideration for a high-level post in President-elect Donald Trump’s administration, declined to comment on his conversation with Peterson or to make available a copy of his recording of the conversation. “No, thanks,” Clarke said via email.”

Jason Horowitz writes that With Populist Anger Rising, Italy May Be Next Domino to Fall: “TURIN, Italy — Italy’s prime minister, Matteo Renzi, only 41, once seemed to have solved the riddle of how to survive Europe’s populist, anti-establishment tempest. But with a critical national referendum on Sunday, the populist wave is now threatening to crush him and plunge Italy into a political crisis when the European Union is already reeling.From Washington to Brussels to Berlin, fears are rising that Italy may be stumbling into its own “Brexit” moment. What should be an inward-looking referendum on whether to overhaul Italy’s ossified political and electoral system has taken on much broader import. Financial analysts warn of a potential banking crisis, and pro-Europe supporters fear that a “no” vote in the referendum could accelerate the populist movement across the European bloc.”

Matt Turner considers The state of the US consumer: “A large chunk of Americans report that their income falls below or barely covers their expenses. There has been a hollowing out of middle-skill jobs, which has disproportionately affected men lacking a four-year college degree. Those with only a high-school diploma or less are much more likely to say their financial position is deteriorating. Close to half (46%) of Americans would struggle to cover an unexpected $400 expense. Real wages are stagnating, especially for those who are 40 or over. Healthcare costs, which have been increasing, are a key concern for many Americans. One in five has had to go without a trip to the dentist, and one in nine a visit to the doctor.”

Karla Adam writes that overseas, Child sex abuse allegations widen against British soccer clubs: “An investigation into claims of child sexual abuse involving British soccer clubs has grown to about 350 alleged cases, a police group said Thursday, as the sport’s overseer opened its own inquiry into possible coverups spanning decades. The widening investigations have rocked Britain’s most popular sport and its affiliated clubs, including systems of youth camps. Over the past two weeks, several former professional soccer players have come forward to recount harrowing tales of abuse that they said they suffered as children and had been kept secret for decades. The publicity brought a “significant number of calls” to authorities, “both reporting further allegations and offering information,” the organization said in a statement.

Here’s a look at the new campus Apple’s building:

Ineffectual, Wasteful Infrastructure Ambitions

Randal O’Toole takes a look at a key part of the incoming administration’s economic policy, and sees the Trouble with Trump’s Infrastructure Ambitions.  There are, simply expressed, four problems:

  1. Not all spending of this kind is equally valuable: “Many advocates of infrastructure spending assume that all infrastructure contributes equally to economic vitality, but this is far from true. Digging a hole and filling it up may create a few jobs but no long-term economic growth. Transportation projects, for example, produce growth only if they generate new passenger and freight movement that would not have taken place without them.”
  2. New transportation infrastructure is less useful than properly-repaired, existing infrastructure: “Today, few areas need new transportation infrastructure. The nation has 2.7 million miles of paved roads, 140,000 miles of railroads, and more than 5,000 airports with paved runways…We have crumbling infrastructure because politicians would rather fund new projects than maintain existing ones. We build projects that fail to contribute to the economy because those same politicians follow fads rather than make sure taxpayers’ money is well spent.”
  3. Project spending often produces little additional revenue: “Traditionally, when a state or local government builds new infrastructure, it sells bonds, uses the revenues to pay for the infrastructure, then repays the bonds with local tax revenues. Since local tax revenues will be about the same whether the infrastructure is productive or a white elephant, officials have little reason to discriminate between good and bad projects.”
  4. The Trump plan cleverly circumvents existing, democratically-enacted debt limits to allow big spending: “Trump’s method of tax credits gets around these debt limits. Private contractors borrow money and build the infrastructure, and state or local governments would contract to pay the contractors, sometimes millions of dollars per month. Since the contractors, not the government agencies, borrowed the money, it doesn’t count against the democratically set debt limits, but local taxpayers are obligated to repay the debt anyway.”

Schemes like these don’t #DraintheSwamp; they breed stronger, and more numerous, crocodiles.

(In a small rural town like Whitewater, a full generation’s worth of big projects has not improved the community’s economic well being.  The percentage of all residents in poverty in 1999 was 27.4%, and of families was 10.6%. The percentage of all residents in poverty in 2014 was 36.7% and of families was 15.2%.)

Daily Bread for 12.1.16

Good morning.

December begins in Whitewater with a morning mix of rain and light snow and an afternoon high of forty degrees.  Sunrise is 7:07 AM and sunset 4:21 PM, for 9h 14m 28s of daytime.  The moon is a waxing crescent with 3.6% of its visible disk illuminated.

Whitewater’s Landmarks Commission meets at 6 PM, and the Fire Department will hold a business meeting at 7 PM.

James Pethokoukis writes about The bad economics of Trump’s Carrier deal: “more broadly, this is all terrible for a nation’s economic vitality if businesses make decisions to please politicians rather than customers and shareholders. Yet America’s private sector has just been sent a strong signal that playing ball with Trump might be part of what it now means to run an American company. Imagine business after business, year after year, making decisions based partly on pleasing the Trump White House. In addition, Trump’s hectoring on trade and offshoring distracts from the economic reality that automation poses the critical challenge for the American workforce going forward….Of course it wasn’t so long ago that Republicans were attacking the Obama White House for its “crony capitalism,” including the auto bailouts and clean energy investments in firms like Solyndra. Republicans, on the other hand, were supposedly stalwarts for competitive capitalism and vehemently against government “picking winners and losers.” Some even said they were “pro-market” rather than “pro-business.” Now, not so much.”

Paul Waldman thinks that Trump has already defeated the news media. And it’s unclear what we can do about it (linked yesterday)but Melody Kramer offers 28 ideas for covering President-elect Donald Trump: “Pick an issue, any issue. Collect everything the president-elect says about that issue in one place. It’s hard to keep track of all of the nuances related to a single issue — say, climate change or the Supreme Court. It’s easier to follow along when they’re all in the same place. The Connecticut Mirror does this well with their Citizen’s Toolbox….”

As it turns out, safe spaces aren’t just refuges for the left, as Amanda Hess discovers that The Far Right Has a New Digital Safe Space: “When the white nationalist leader Richard B. Spencer was suspended from Twitter recently, he hopped over to YouTube to address his supporters. “Digitally speaking,” he said, Twitter had sent “execution squads across the alt-right.” He accused Twitter of “purging people on the basis of their views,” calling it “corporate Stalinism.” Then he mapped out a path forward. “There’s obviously Gab, which is an interesting medium,” he said. “I think that will be the place where we go next”….You can’t sell a social destination where conservatives are free from liberal pestering and expect the pitch to resonate across the spectrum. Even the idea that harassment rules are oppressive — instead of protective of the vulnerable — is itself a pointed worldview. I suspect that any concern about inclusion will be assuaged by the comfort of chatting with people who think and talk the same way. It’s the next logical step after all the blocking and muting on Twitter and filtering and unfollowing on Facebook split America into two social media realities. Where there once was a bubble, now there’s a wall.”

Gina Barton and Ashley Luthern report that an MPD officer appeals demotion for mishandling sexual assault case: “A Milwaukee police detective demoted after a sexual assault suspect was left free to sexually assault an 82-year-old woman at a bus stop in July 2015 told a panel of Fire and Police Commissioners Wednesday that while he made some mistakes, he did thoroughly follow up on the case. Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn demoted Brendan M. Dolan to the rank of officer in April, saying he violated the department’s core value of competency for failure to properly investigate an earlier sexual assault by the same man. A hearing on Dolan’s appeal of that discipline began Wednesday.”

Great Big Story recounts the work of The Lone Man Building a Cathedral By Hand: “For 53 years, Justo Gallego has been building a cathedral by hand on the outskirts of Madrid almost entirely by himself. Gallego has no formal architecture or construction training, but that hasn’t stopped him from toiling on this herculean task. At 90 years old, Gallego knows that he will not be able to finish the project in his lifetime. But he keeps at it anyway, day after day, driven by his faith.”

The Lone Man Building a Cathedral By Hand from Great Big Story on Vimeo.

 

Lindsey Graham and Jennifer Rubin are Right About Healthcare

There’s a difference between disliking – strongly – a federal intrusion into the marketplace like the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the policy & politics of a replacement (if any).

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham outlines the policy problem with changes to the ACA:

“Once you say that everybody should be covered, can’t be denied coverage because they are sick – which most Americans would agree with that – you put yourself in a box. Insurance is about young people who are healthy buying insurance like you all to pay for me and him,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said, pointing to the oldest reporter in the scrum. “If you don’t have to buy insurance until you get sick, most people won’t. That’s where the mandate becomes important.”

Graham added: “Somebody’s got to work through this problem. If we’re going to accept the proposition that you can never be denied coverage because you’ve been sick, then somebody’s got to create a system where people participate.”

The political problem is on conservative Jennifer Rubin’s mind:

If the GOP votes to end Obamacare with no concrete plan in place, it will freak out millions of people, the very working-class voters who chose President-elect Donald Trump, and hand the Democrats the perfect vehicle for regaining majorities. Indeed, it is remarkable that Hillary Clinton did not tell voters over and over again — in response to Trump’s “What do you have to lose?” argument — that one thing they risked losing was health care.

For many Republicans, the Republican House and Senate majorities’ failure to pass a comprehensive alternative to Obamacare was a never-ending source of frustration. In truth, that alternative, as a political matter, is rather difficult to achieve.

That doesn’t mean that the ACA shouldn’t be changed, or replaced. It means that for those who voted for repeal but also want key provisions of the law to continue, there’s either going to be a sacrifice of some of their desires or a lot of creative work to be done.  Promising an easy repeal and an acceptable replacement was easy only in the promising; there’s no legislative solution that won’t disappoint many.

For a look at some solutions (although ones that neither conservatives nor liberals may ever accept), see Replacing Obamacare: The Cato Institute on Health Care Reform (2012) and Cato’s more recent writings on the subject.

It has been easier to turn away from the marketplace for Democrats (2010) and Republicans (now) than it has been to find a legislative plan that won’t upset millions of people whose expectations are very high.

Daily Bread for 11.30.16

Good morning, Whitewater.

Midweek in town will be mostly cloudy with a high of thirty-nine. Sunrise is 7:06 AM and sunset 4:21 PM, for 9h 15m 50s of daytime. The moon is a waxing crescent with just .9% of its visible disk illuminated.

On this day in 1835, Mark Twain was born Samuel Langhorne Clemens in Florida, Mo. On this day in 1874, Winston Churchill was born at Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire.

Worth reading in full —

In Wisconsin, a Judge rejects Stein’s request for hand recount: “Madison — Green Party candidate Jill Stein paid $3.5 million Tuesday to clear the way for Wisconsin’s presidential vote recount but had a judge reject her lawsuit to require all Wisconsin counties to do the recount by hand. Dane County Circuit Judge Valerie Bailey-Rihn said the effort to force the hand recount — which was backed by Democrat Hillary Clinton’s campaign — did not meet the state’s legal standard for prohibiting the use of machines in the recount, saying that the two campaigns did not show a hand recount, though more thorough, was necessary or show there was a clear and convincing evidence of fraud or other problems. Bailey-Rihn said there were good reasons to do a hand recount but no legal basis for her to mandate it.”

Paul Smith reports that the state’s Deer kill, license sales drop to lowest levels in more than 30 years: “Hunters registered 196,785 deer during the 2016 Wisconsin gun deer season, the lowest total in 34 years, according to preliminary data released Tuesday by the Department of Natural Resources. Notably, hunter participation also was down. The agency sold 598,867 gun licenses, a 40-year low and the first time the number has dipped below 600,000 since 1976. Five non-fatal shooting incidents were reported during the season, which ran Nov. 19 to 27. The 2016 deer kill was down despite a statewide herd that was likely larger this year, according to DNR preseason forecasts.”

Reporter Paul Waldman observes, of his profession, that Trump has already defeated the news media. And it’s unclear what we can do about it: “First, Trump says something outrageously false, but which his supporters either believe already or would like to believe. Then Trump gets criticized in the media for it, and his supporters say, “There they go again, the liberal anti-Trump media.” Instead of convincing everyone that the claim was false, the criticism only reinforces for Trump’s fans the idea that nothing the media says can be believed, which further undermines their ability to act as neutral arbiters in any debate. The more outrageous his claim, the more coverage it gets. At first, a disturbing amount of that coverage just passes along what Trump is saying, particularly in headlines and brief mentions on television, which often take the form of “Trump says world is flat.” Then the news media find their footing a bit and begin explicitly calling him out for the falsehood. But the more it ends up looking like an argument between Trump and the media, the more that even Republicans who are skeptical of Trump will get pulled to his side, because they’ve long been invested in the idea that the media are hopelessly infected with liberal bias. The entire sequence of events enables Trump to create a meta-message, which is that there’s no such thing as truth and no such thing as genuine authority. Think about it: the president-elect is claiming that an election that he won was beset by fraud, because he heard it from a lunatic radio host who thinks that the Sandy Hook massacre was staged using child actors and the 9/11 attacks were carried out by the U.S. government.”

As for the presidential election, Jessica Huseman and Scott Klein report that There’s No Evidence Our Election Was Rigged: “ProPublica was an organizing partner in Electionland, a project run by a coalition of organizations including Google News Lab, Univision, WNYC, the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism and the USA Today Network. We monitored the vote with a team of more than 1,000 people, including about 600 journalism school students poring over social media reports and more than 400 local journalists who signed up to receive tips on what we found. We had access to a database of thousands of calls made to a nonpartisan legal hotline. We had four of the nation’s leading voting experts in the room with us and election sources across the country. Thousands of people texted us to tell us about their voting experience. We had an unprecedented real-time understanding of voting in the United States, and while we saw many types of problems, we did not see mass voter fraud of any kind — especially of the sort Donald Trump alleges.”

Catherine King and Wayne Adams don’t just have a home, they’ve a homemade island

Off the Grid on a Homemade Island from Great Big Story on Vimeo.

 

Plain-Spoken in a Small Town? Not Most Leaders

localThere’s a quaint – but false – notion that people in small towns are uncommonly plain-spoken, even blunt.  One sometimes sees examples of this in films or books, where residents are depicted as folksy straight-talkers (“shucks, I don’t cotton to no one abusing nobody,” etc.).  I’ve never heard anyone in Whitewater speak so colorfully, and I’ve doubts that anyone not on a Hollywood set actually speaks like this.

Most people – and certainly most leaders – in this small town don’t often speak bluntly and openly.  On the contrary, there’s bias against mentioning problems publicly, even if they stem from intentional, grievous misconduct.

Now, and in the years ahead, one can expect that a multi-ethic community such as this one will see heightened slurs and abuse, overuse of force against a few, and (much) official quiescence in the face of it. (Some will even encourage this, convinced that pressure is justified against others and feeling that it is cathartic for themselves.)

Early on, perhaps a few officials will try to stress the positive, hiding others’ wrongful conduct from view, on the theory that the worst of all this will go away.

It won’t.  Those who keep their heads down may later find that they’ve no longer the strength to lift them up again.  A difficult near-term for Whitewater is likely to get worse.  These actions will prove wrong in-and-of themselves, and secondarily will prove an effective retardant against discerning, prosperous newcomers. Such newcomers – much sought by local development officials – will go elsewhere.

No matter, sadly: most locally will carry on as they have been.

For communities choosing the quieter response, including this one, the die is cast.

That From Which Dreams Are Made

local Wisconsin, like most states, publishes sets of scorecards measuring students’ progress. (The overwhelming majority of school districts – 91% – at least meet expectations. Our local district falls within this common group; a few particular schools are admirably above it.)

Yesterday, the district announced the latest results, after the state’s Department of Public Instruction made them public twelve days earlier. The district announcement brings two points to mind, one small and one large.

First the small: an obvious coordination in the announcement on the same day (district news release, district automated calls announcing the release, and school board member’s use of his ersatz news site to promote uncritically that same release) offers yet another example supporting my view from yesterday on conflicts of interest (seeConflicts of Interest Don’t Explode, They Corrode).  I almost feel as though I should offer my thanks to all concerned.

And yet, and yet, there’s a second, larger point: these state scores are not the substantive learning – often immeasurable – on which hopeful adventure and exploration depend.  Last month, I wrote about James Fallows’ Eleven Signs a City Will Succeed, and his eighth sign seems especially relevant:

8. They have unusual schools. Early in our stay, we would ask what was the most distinctive school to visit at the K–12 level. If four or five answers came quickly to mind, that was a good sign.

The examples people suggested ranged widely. Some were “normal” public schools. Some were charters. Some emphasized career and technical training, like Camden County High School, in Georgia. Some were statewide public boarding schools, like the South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities, and the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Sciences. Some were religious or private schools. The common theme was intensity of experimentation.

(See, from this website, James Fallows on ‘Eleven Signs a City Will Succeed’ (Part 1) and (Part 2).)

There it is, honest to goodness: success for students – and so for a community – comes from distinctive programs and distinctive study, from which particular scores are merely imperfect (sometimes misleading) measurements.

This community – like countless misguided communities – mistakes the map for the terrain. People don’t walk through a map, of course: they walk, variously, through woods, fields, mountains, or beaches.

Scholastic scores like these are touted in communities either through ignorance, a pandering to the ignorance of others, or for futile competitive advantage (which often combines the first two reasons).   Whitewater’s been using this public-relations approach for years, to no clear advantage for students or the community.

There are so many subjects, considered so many times, that are more important than a few charts from a state agency.

The academic exploration that underlies a mere chart is that from which dreams are, truly, made.

Daily Bread for 11.29.16

Good morning.

Whitewater’s Tuesday will be mostly sunny with a high of fifty-three.  Sunrise is 7:05 AM and sunset is 4:22 PM, for 9h 17m 13s of daytime.  The moon is new, with none of its visible disk illuminated.

On this day in 1961, Enos the Chimpanzee becomes the second chimp launched into space, and the first to orbit the planet.  On this day in 1848, the first opera house opens in Milwaukee. 

Worth reading in full — 

A style guide from the Associated Press cautions about Writing about the ‘alt-right’: “The “alt-right” or “alternative right” is a name currently embraced by some white supremacists and white nationalists to refer to themselves and their ideology, which emphasizes preserving and protecting the white race in the United States….“Alt-right” (quotation marks, hyphen and lower case) may be used in quotes or modified as in the “self-described” or “so-called alt-right” in stories discussing what the movement says about itself.  Avoid using the term generically and without definition, however, because it is not well known and the term may exist primarily as a public-relations device to make its supporters’ actual beliefs less clear and more acceptable to a broader audience. In the past we have called such beliefs racist, neo-Nazi or white supremacist.”

Along these same lines, Erin Schrode writes (of herself) that This Filthy Jewess Is Done With ‘Alt-Right’ Bullsh*t: “I am done with the term “Alt-Right” for those who are effectively modern-day Nazis and Ku Klux Klan, for those who attack me personally with unspeakable, unabating venom, for those who brutally and inexcusably denigrate Jews, women, people of color, LGBT, immigrants, Muslims, the list goes on.”

Yale’s Timothy Snyder offers A Yale history professor’s powerful, 20-point guide to defending democracy…: “Americans are no wiser than the Europeans who saw democracy yield to fascism, Nazism, or communism. Our one advantage is that we might learn from their experience. Now is a good time to do so. Here are twenty lessons from the twentieth century, adapted to the circumstances of today:  1. Do not obey in advance.  Much of the power of authoritarianism is freely given. In times like these, individuals think ahead about what a more repressive government will want, and then start to do it without being asked. You’ve already done this, haven’t you? Stop. Anticipatory obedience teaches authorities what is possible and accelerates unfreedom….”

Melissa Lantsman writes that Millennials [are] looking to be insulated from scary ideas: ““Trigger warnings” and “safe spaces” and denying invitations to those whose views are different is undeniably ridiculous.  And it simply doesn’t exist outside the walls of any university.  For everyone else: I’m talking about the utter disregard for free speech and the comfortable rise in censorship on our university campuses.  This isn’t new.  Safe spaces or trigger warnings are attempts to make everything on university campuses inclusive.  But unfortunately they do that by excluding unwanted people, real facts, or challenging ideas.  This is turning learning institutions intended at preparing young adults for the real world into very expensive private kindergartens.  Take for example the headlines after President-elect Donald Trump’s victory at campuses across the United States. Cancelled classes, postponed exams and grieving circles — all because students absolutely could not go on knowing they will have to live in a world where the president was not the president they wanted.  I wouldn’t vote for him if I could [Ms. Lantsman is Canadian], but I still went to work the next day.”

North Korea’s totalitarian government severely limits the Internet.  Here’s how severely:

Conflicts of Interest Don’t Explode, They Corrode

local Akin to fake news at the local level are myriad conflicts of interest tolerated in struggling communities. Like fake news, they often take their toll slowly.

Conflicts of interest, in small towns as elsewhere, seldom lead to sudden fiscal or economic changes. Neither government (fiscal) nor a community (economic) is immediately touched. Local conflicts of interest, for example, don’t cause explosions; they cause a slow corrosion of quality, leading to an equally slow decline in fiscal policy and of a community’s economy.

A house fire, a flood, or a violent crime is sudden, with immediately obvious and tragic results. That’s not true for conflicts of interest – they degrade slowly, as rust relentlessly eats through even the strongest iron.

Consider the following example, from Whitewater’s local school district. The district administration wanted a referendum, and in support of that referendum, placed links on its website to local sources of information where one might learn about the proposal. One of those links was to a self-described local news site (whitewaterbanner.com) whose publisher is a very member of the school board that voted unanimously for the referendum:

referendum-2016-whitewater-unified-school-district
Via http://www.wwusd.org/page/3039.

The district might as well have simply linked to its own referendum materials, over which its school board member had responsibility, rather than to his publication.

There is this difference, though: had the district used its own site, it would have presented these materials honestly, at the institutional site that created them.  Using additionally a school board member’s site gains nothing in original content, and offers only a false pretense of independent, conflict-free publication. (Other, nearby publications are little better, but at least their ‘correspondents’ are not simultaneously officeholders.)

I’m sometimes asked if this sort of conflict concerns me. When I am so asked, I’ll answer that it does concern me, but not in its immediacy. The damage from conflicts is like corrosion, leading to a stagnating economy, and to a relative decline.

That’s where Whitewater now is, and the acceptance of lesser standards is one reason for it.

Film: Tuesday, 12:30 PM @ Seniors in the Park, In the Heart of the Sea

local

This Tuesday, November 29th at 12:30 PM, there will be a showing of In the Heart of the Sea @ Seniors in the Park, in the Starin community building.

In the Heart of the Sea, from 2015, is a “recounting of a New England whaling ship’s sinking by a giant whale in 1820, an experience that later inspired the great novel Moby-Dick.”  (The movie is based on Nathaniel Philbrick‘s historical account of a whale’s sinking of the American whaler EssexPhilbrick’s book was the winner of the 2000 National Book Award for Nonfiction.)

The film is directed by Ron Howard, and stars Chris Hemsworth, Benjamin Walker, Cillian Murphy, and Brendan Gleeson, with a run time of two hours, two minutes. The film carries a PG-13 rating from the Motion Picture Association of America.

One can find more information about In the Heart of the Sea at the Internet Movie Database.

Enjoy.

Daily Bread for 11.28.16

Good morning.

Whitewater’s work week begins with a rainy day, and a high of forty-eight. Sunrise is 7:03 AM, and sunset 4:22 PM, for 9h 18m 41s of daytime. The moon is new today, with just .9% of its visible disk illuminated.

The city’s Urban Forestry Commission meets today at 4:30 PM.

On this day in 1520, Ferdinand Magellan’s expedition reaches the Pacific. On this day in 1901, UW football has its first undefeated season (9-0), following a win over the University of Chicago (35-0).

Worth reading in full —

The Journal Sentinel‘s Dave Umhoefer writes that For unions in Wisconsin, [it’s been] a fast and hard fall since Act 10: “But the scene in the basement of the MTEA [Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association] complex, five years after the passage of Act 10, was a reminder of the hard and fast fall organized labor has taken in Wisconsin. Even as one of the stronger locals in the state, MTEA membership is down by about 30% since Act 10. Nationally, no state has lost more of its labor union identity than Wisconsin since 2011, a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel analysis found. Union members made up 14.2% of workers before Act 10, but just 8.3% in 2015. That was nearly double the drop of Alaska, the runner up. The bottom line: 132,000 fewer union members, mostly teachers and other public workers — enough to fill Lambeau Field and Miller Park, with thousands more tailgating outside. The decline has put Wisconsin, the birthplace of public-employee unions, near the bottom third of states for unionized workforce. Southern and western states make up most of the lowest tier.”

Scott Bauer of the Associated Press writes that politicians can find No easy answers to Wisconsin road funding problem: “Just in case anyone thought solving Wisconsin’s $1 billion transportation budget deficit was going to be as simple as throwing some asphalt over a pothole, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos has a reality check: “No Easy Answers.”  That’s the title of a 27-page document Vos distributed to Republican Assembly members in advance of the next legislative session, laying out possible solutions to the funding shortfall. Figuring out what to do about Wisconsin’s crumbling roads, and massive ongoing highway projects in the most populated parts of the state, is expected to be one of the most difficult issues the Legislature faces next year.  The fight is also revealing tensions among Republicans who control state government.”

Daniel Drezner writes that Trump likes to be ‘unpredictable.’ That won’t work so well in diplomacy:  “The search for meaning in Trump’s word salads won’t be easy. Indeed, an adviser to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told Reuters that Trump’s aides informed him that “we don’t have to take each word that Mr. Trump said publicly literally.”  Trump’s short fuse could win him some near-term foreign policy accomplishments. And the ambiguity of a president who contradicts himself frequently could sow confusion among rivals of the United States. The problem is that it will also sow confusion among key allies and partners. Ultimately, Trump’s bluster and impulsiveness will hurt our national interest. If allies — or enemies — stop believing what they hear from the White House, Trump is likely to blunder into conflicts that are not of his own choosing.  Part of the problem with trying to identify the meaning of Trump’s words is that Trump himself does not put too much stock in them. From his very first book — which he didn’t write — Trump proclaimed his faith in “truthful hyperbole.” His rise to political prominence came from lying about President Obama’s citizenship status. During his presidential campaign, Trump and his aides gaslighted on a regular basis: In one debate, Trump flatly denied that he had called global warming a Chinese hoax — when he very clearly had . According to every reputable fact-checker, Trump lied far more frequently than Hillary Clinton.”

Amber Phillips explains Why down-ballot Democrats could be in the minority for years to come: “….their efforts may come too late for this next redistricting battle. They have got only two election cycles — 2018, 2020 — to catch up before it is time to redraw the maps for the next 10 years. And Democrats are in such a big hole that it may take even more time to rebuild their majorities in state chambers, which means they could be locked out of the redistricting process in some key states for another decade.”

Some techniques are useful across centuries, in new contexts. Turns out, there are things ancient mariners had techniques in common with NASA scientists:

Daily Bread for 11.27.16

Good morning.

Sunday in Whitewater will be cloudy with a likelihood of light rain tis afternoon, and a high of forty-eight.  Sunrise is 7:02 AM and sunset 4:23 PM, for 9h 20m 11s of daytime.  The moon is a waning crescent with 3.4% of its visible disk illuminated.

On this day in 1942, the French scuttle dozens of warships and submarines in Toulon to prevent their capture by Nazi Germany.  On this day in 1903, legendary football halfback and coach John McNally (Johnny Blood) is born.

Worth reading in full — 

John Avalon writes that Fidel Castro Finally Dies, But His Apologists Live On: “Cuba’s communist dictator Fidel Castro certainly enjoyed a cult of personality courtesy of self-styled humanists who still contort themselves to overlook his horrific record of human rights abuses, murder and repression.  But his detractors almost always had more direct experience in dealing with his radius of damage than his defenders. History will not absolve Castro for repeated assaults on freedom clothed in populist garb. Whether it was torturing and executing political opponents, rounding up homosexuals, creating neighborhood networks to spy on fellow citizens, or encouraging the Soviet Union to nuke the United States, he was a bully and a thug: the latest in a long line of self-interested opportunists who rule through fear and pretend that it is love.”

Cleve Wootson writes that [Justin] Trudeau called Castro a ‘remarkable leader.’ Twitter imagined what he would say about Stalin: “Trudeau’s positive statements about Castro met with an instant backlash in Canada and elsewhere. Political scientist Ian Bremmer, the president of Eurasia Group, tweeted, “Cubans deserve better.” Maxime Bernier, a Canadian politician, suggested Trudeau didn’t know the difference between “longest serving president” and “dictator”….Trudeau’s statement even sparked the hashtag #trudeaueulogies, as people chimed in with positive things about historically evil people…

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In a lengthy story, Times reporters Paddock, Lipton, Barry, Nordland, Hakim, and Romero find that Trump partnered with the grandson of Brazil’s last dictator. Their Rio hotel is now a target of a graft investigation: “The examination of the project by Mr. Lopes, the federal prosecutor, has already found a series of “highly suspicious” potential irregularities warranting a criminal investigation, according to court documents. “It is necessary to verify if the favoritism shown by the pension funds to LSH and the Trump Organization was due to the payment of illicit commissions and bribes,” Mr. Lopes said in documents filed in October. In his filings, Mr. Lopes said the size of the hotel investments relative to the overall holdings of the small pension funds reflected a highly unusual level of risk, especially for an unfinished venture that failed to capitalize fully on the demand for accommodations during the Olympics. Going further, Mr. Lopes positioned the inquiry within a broader investigation of public pension funds, pillars of the Brazilian economy that often work in tandem with large state-controlled banks and energy companies. Mr. Trump first took interest in a Rio hotel venture in 2012, when Ivanka Trump was having lunch in Florida with Paulo Figueiredo Filho, a businessman who is a grandson of João Figueiredo, the last autocrat of Brazil’s 21-year military dictatorship, which ended in 1985. The younger Mr. Figueiredo spearheaded the hotel venture until recently.”

i24 News reports that the Wife of Putin’s spokesman draws ire for Holocaust themed ice dance show: “A pair of Russian ice skaters caused a social media firestorm after performing a choreographed piece dressed as Jewish concentration camp prisoners. The pair, Andrew Burkovsjy and Tatiana Navka, who is the wife of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesperson, donned black and white striped jumpsuit with yellow star of David patches and completed the look with make up making them appear gaunt and malnourished.”

Anthony Bourdain contends that for scrambled eggs, simple is better: