Marquette Law Poll, March 2017 (First Marquette Poll Since 2016 Election)

Selected results below, from among Wisconsin registered voters; full results are available online.


Trump Approval


Trump Disappproval


Trump’s Judgment


Trump’s Concern


Congressional Health Care Legislation


How Description of Law Influences Respondents’ Views


Undocumented Immigrants


Mexican Border Wall


Daily Bread for 3.22.17

Good morning.

Midweek in Whitewater will be sunny with a high of forty. Sunrise is 6:52 AM and sunset 7:10 PM, for 12h 18m 09s of daytime. The moon is a waning crescent with 32.7% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the one hundred thirty-fourth day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

On this day in 1765, Britain passes the Stamp Act, an Act of the Parliament imposing a direct tax on the colonies of British America and requiring that many printed materials in the colonies be produced on stamped paper produced in London, carrying an embossed revenue stamp. On this day in 1854, Eugene Shepard, father of the Hodag, is born: “Although he made his career in the lumbering business near Rhinelander, he was best known for his story-telling and practical jokes. He told many tales of Paul Bunyan, the mythical lumberjack, and drew pictures of the giant at work that became famous. Shepard also started a new legend about a prehistoric monster that roamed the woods of Wisconsin – the hodag. Shepard built the mythical monster out of wood and bull’s horns. He fooled everyone into believing it was alive, allowing it to be viewed only inside a dark tent. The beast was displayed at the Wausau and Antigo county fairs before Shepard admitted it was all a hoax.”

Recommended for reading in full:

Jose DelReal reports that Trump’s budget targets rural development programs that provide a quiet lifeline: “ — Chad Trador was, like many people here, a onetime coal miner struggling to find work. He, his three children and his wife had stayed afloat in a tough economy for years, but after he was laid off from his job managing a convenience store, the unemployment epidemic in this region appeared to have finally reached him, too. “The best opportunities I had were another convenience store, maybe as a clerk, making minimum wage,” said Trador, 43, reflecting on last year. “And then I heard that radio ad.” The intensive 33-week job training program being advertised — TechHire Eastern Kentucky — promised to teach him computer coding from scratch. It would even pay him decent money while he learned. Trador signed up, and he is on track to complete the training in April, when he will emerge with a job as an Apple iOS developer. Like many such programs and infrastructure projects here in Eastern Kentucky and across Appalachia, the job training course has the federal government’s fingerprints all over it. The Appalachian Regional Commission, an independent federal agency, helped jump-start it last year with a multiagency $2.75 million grant to a state organization that developed it. But after decades of work, the commission’s future is in doubt, with the Trump administration’s 2018 budget proposal threatening to eliminate funding for the commissions and other rural development endeavors. Voters in this part of the country, which overwhelmingly supports President Trump, could be disproportionately affected if that happens.”

Marc Fisher reports that Labor nominee Acosta cut deal with billionaire guilty in sex abuse case: “There was once a time — before the investigations, before the sexual abuse conviction — when rich and famous men loved to hang around with Jeffrey Epstein, a billionaire money manager who loved to party. They visited his mansion in Palm Beach, Fla. They flew on his jet to join him at his private estate on the Caribbean island of Little Saint James. They even joked about his taste in younger women. President Trump called Epstein a “terrific guy” back in 2002, saying that “he’s a lot of fun to be with. It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side.” Now, Trump is on the witness list in a Florida court battle over how federal prosecutors handled allegations that Epstein, 64, sexually abused more than 40 minor girls, most of them between the ages of 13 and 17. The lawsuit questions why Trump’s nominee for labor secretary, former Miami U.S. attorney Alexander Acosta, whose confirmation hearing is scheduled to begin Wednesday, cut a non-prosecution deal with Epstein a decade ago rather than pursuing a federal indictment that Acosta’s staff had advocated.”

Ryan Lizza describes How the White House Got James Comey Wrong: “Early on Monday morning, a couple of hours before the start of the first House Intelligence Committee hearing on Russia’s involvement in the Presidential election, one of Donald Trump’s closest White House advisers made a startling—and completely erroneous—prediction: James Comey, the F.B.I. director, would testify that there was no collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. “The Russian collusion thing has always been bullshit,” the official said. “I think Comey will come down and say there absolutely was no contact, collusion, or anything like that with the campaign”….the larger takeaway from the White House’s spin is that the top people around Trump may have no idea how much exposure the President has on the issue of Russian collusion. Two hours after the White House official confidently predicted Comey would vindicate the Administration, Comey did the opposite, saying: ‘I have been authorized by the Department of Justice to confirm that the F.B.I., as part of our counterintelligence mission, is investigating the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 Presidential election, and that includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coördination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts. As with any counterintelligence investigation, this will also include an assessment of whether any crimes were committed.’ ”

Andrew Roth reports that New documents show Trump aide [his former campaign manager] laundered payments from party with Moscow ties, lawmaker alleges: “ A Ukrainian lawmaker released new financial documents Tuesday allegedly showing that a former campaign chairman for President Trump laundered payments from the party of a disgraced ex-leader of Ukraine using offshore accounts in Belize and Kyrgyzstan. The new documents, if legitimate, stem from business ties between the Trump aide, Paul Manafort, and the party of former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych, who enjoyed Moscow’s backing while he was in power. He has been in hiding in Russia since being overthrown by pro-Western protesters in 2014, and is wanted in Ukraine on corruption charges. The latest documents were released just hours after the House Intelligence Committee questioned FBI Director James B. Comey about possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Moscow. The hearing that also touched on Manafort’s work for Yanukovych’s party in Ukraine. Comey declined to say whether the FBI is coordinating with Ukraine on an investigation of the alleged payments to Manafort.”

So how did tech become so male-dominated?

Since computing began in the 1940s, women have led major developments in programming and software development. In 1984, 37 percent of computer-science majors were women. What happened? The tech industry’s image shifted rapidly in the 1980s and ’90s, and society began to associate programming with men. Today, only one in four computing jobs is held by a woman. This short, animated history of women in tech explains how women—not just men—developed computer science. Programming isn’t a male or female job, and remembering that is necessary to fix the tech industry’s gender gap. Read more in The Atlantic’s April 2017 cover story, “Why Is Silicon Valley So Awful to Women?

The Upcoming Spring Election in Whitewater

One, but only one, of Whitewater’s Common Council races is contested. Some readers have asked me, variously, if I would comment on the candidates in the contested race, and where one might find the candidate statements submitted to the local League of Women Voters chapter.

I’ll leave residents to consider the candidates (including the contested race between incumbent Patrick Wellnitz and challenger Carol McCormick in District 1) without comment.

For those who would like to see the statements that some candidates have submitted, they may be found at http://www.lwvwhitewater.org/elections.html.

It’s fair to say that I have conflicting views on the League of Women Voters: the national organization has done much good work, but the local chapter betrays some shopworn biases (probably without grasping that they’re biases at all).  The local chapter also has a skewed-old problem that leads to, and exacerbates, their declining influence. For a discussion of the local chapter’s unfounded assumptions, see On the Whitewater League of Women Voters Questionnaire (Spring 2017).

The best approach for any candidate will always be to prepare his or her own statement, apart from any organization, and have it at the ready for distribution to residents.

Daily Bread for 3.21.17

Good morning.

Tuesday in Whitewater will be partly cloudy with a high of forty-six. Sunrise is 6:54 AM and sunset 7:09 PM, for 12h 15m 13s of daytime. The moon is a waning crescent with 42.3% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the one hundred thirty-third-third day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

Whitewater’s Common Council meets tonight at 6:30 PM.

On this day in 1965, the third of three civil rights marches begins “[p]rotected by 1,900 members of the Alabama National Guard under federal command, and many FBI agents and Federal Marshals, the marchers averaged 10 miles (16 km) a day along U.S. Route 80, known in Alabama as the “Jefferson Davis Highway“. The marchers arrived in Montgomery on March 24 and at the Alabama State Capitol on March 25.[11] With thousands having joined the campaign, 25,000 people entered the capital city that day in support of voting rights. The route is memorialized as the “Selma To Montgomery Voting Rights Trail,” and is designated as a U.S. National Historic Trail.” On this day in 1865, the 21st, 22nd and 25th Wisconsin Infantry regiments take part as three Union armies totaling 100,000 men capture the city of Goldsborough, North Carolina and its railroad facilities.

Recommended for reading in full — 

Benjamin Wittes explains How to Read What Comey Said Today [3.20.17]: “First off, the scope of the investigation explicitly includes not merely the Russian government’s hacking and attempts to interfere in the U.S. election. It also includes both “the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government” and “whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts.” These are framed as active investigative questions, not—as White House and Republican officials have repeatedly suggested in recent weeks—matters of investigative conclusion. Comey offered the White House no solace of any time of time frame for resolution. Indeed, he announced that there was no time frame. Second, Comey specifically included the fact that the investigation “will also include an assessment of whether any crimes were committed.” This is an interesting point for him to include, and it may (or may not) be a signal.”

Peter Stone and Greg Gordon report that FBI’s Russian-influence probe includes a look at far-right news sites: “Federal investigators are examining whether far-right news sites played any role last year in a Russian cyber operation that dramatically widened the reach of news stories — some fictional — that favored Donald Trump’s presidential bid, two people familiar with the inquiry say. Operatives for Russia appear to have strategically timed the computer commands, known as “bots,” to blitz social media with links to the pro-Trump stories at times when the billionaire businessman was on the defensive in his race against Democrat Hillary Clinton, these sources said. The bots’ end products were largely millions of Twitter and Facebook posts carrying links to stories on conservative internet sites such as Breitbart News and InfoWars, as well as on the Kremlin-backed RT News and Sputnik News, the sources said. Some of the stories were false or mixed fact and fiction, said the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the bot attacks are part of an FBI-led investigation into a multifaceted Russian operation to influence last year’s elections. Investigators examining the bot attacks are exploring whether the far-right news operations took any actions to assist Russia’s operatives. Their participation, however, wasn’t necessary for the bots to amplify their news through Twitter and Facebook.”

Richard Cohen writes that Bannon’s origin story doesn’t add up: “It is a story oft-repeated and, at first, quite moving. It is the story of Marty Bannon, father of the White House chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon, and how he lost much of his nest egg when the financial system cratered in 2008. He had worked for AT&T for 50?years, buying the stock when it was as safe as gold (only gold paid no dividend) and was now watching it go south at such an alarming rate that he decided to sell it. In a flash, the system turned on Marty and a lifetime of savings was gone. For his son Steve, it was an unforgettable lesson. It made him the revolutionary he is today….I have heard too many people in business and finance complain about excessive regulation not to think there is something of a problem there. Maybe Dodd-Frank is too burdensome. Maybe class-action suits need to be limited. Maybe Obamacare really was a fiasco. Maybe. Maybe. Maybe. But Bannon’s “administrative state” boogeyman is not what flattened his father’s nest egg. It was not excessive regulation that fleeced his father or, for that matter, changed AT&T from Ma Bell into just another business behemoth. Go home, Steve. You need to think.”

David Leonhardt ponders All the President’s Lies: “The ninth week of Donald Trump’s presidency began with the F.B.I. director calling him a liar. The director, the very complicated James Comey, didn’t use the L-word in his congressional testimony Monday. Comey serves at the pleasure of the president, after all. But his meaning was clear as could be. Trump has repeatedly accused Barack Obama of wiretapping his phones, and Comey explained there is “no information that supports” the claim. I’ve previously argued that not every untruth deserves to be branded with the L-word, because it implies intent and somebody can state an untruth without doing so knowingly. George W. Bush didn’t lie when he said Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, and Obama didn’t lie when he said people who liked their current health insurance could keep it. They made careless statements that proved false (and they deserved much of the criticism they got). But the current president of the United States lies. He lies in ways that no American politician ever has before. He has lied about — among many other things — Obama’s birthplace, John F. Kennedy’s assassination, Sept. 11, the Iraq War, ISIS, NATO, military veterans, Mexican immigrants, Muslim immigrants, anti-Semitic attacks, the unemployment rate, the murder rate, the Electoral College, voter fraud and his groping of women. He tells so many untruths that it’s time to leave behind the textual parsing over which are unwitting and which are deliberate — as well as the condescending notion that most of Trump’s supporters enjoy his lies.”

How would humans size up compared to dinosaurs? Like this —

Rep. Adam Schiff’s Opening Statement Outlining Basis of Russia Investigation

Prepared text of the statement that Rep. Schiff delivered in the video embedded above:

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I want to thank Director Comey and Admiral Rogers for appearing before us today as the committee holds this first open hearing into the interference campaign waged against our 2016 Presidential election.

Last summer, at the height of a bitterly contested and hugely consequential Presidential campaign, a foreign, adversarial power intervened in an effort to weaken our democracy, and to influence the outcome for one candidate and against the other. That foreign adversary was, of course, Russia, and it acted through its intelligence agencies and upon the direct instructions of its autocratic ruler, Vladimir Putin, in order to help Donald J. Trump become the 45th President of the United States.

The Russian “active measures” campaign may have begun as early as 2015, when Russian intelligence services launched a series of spearphishing attacks designed to penetrate the computers of a broad array of Washington-based Democratic and Republican party organizations, think tanks and other entities. This continued at least through winter of 2016.

While at first, the hacking may have been intended solely for the collection of foreign intelligence, in mid-2016, the Russians “weaponized” the stolen data and used platforms established by their intel services, such as DC Leaks and existing third party channels like Wikileaks, to dump the documents.

The stolen documents were almost uniformly damaging to the candidate Putin despised, Hillary Clinton and, by forcing her campaign to constantly respond to the daily drip of disclosures, the releases greatly benefited Donald Trump’s campaign.

None of these facts is seriously in question and they are reflected in the consensus conclusions of all our intelligence agencies.

We will never know whether the Russian intervention was determinative in such a close election. Indeed, it is unknowable in a campaign in which so many small changes could have dictated a different result. More importantly, and for the purposes of our investigation, it simply does not matter. What does matter is this: the Russians successfully meddled in our democracy, and our intelligence agencies have concluded that they will do so again.

Ours is not the first democracy to be attacked by the Russians in this way. Russian intelligence has been similarly interfering in the internal and political affairs of our European and other allies for decades. What is striking here is the degree to which the Russians were willing to undertake such an audacious and risky action against the most powerful nation on earth. That ought to be a warning to us, that if we thought that the Russians would not dare to so blatantly interfere in our affairs, we were wrong. And if we do not do our very best to understand how the Russians accomplished this unprecedented attack on our democracy and what we need to do to protect ourselves in the future, we will have only ourselves to blame.

We know a lot about the Russian operation, about the way they amplified the damage their hacking and dumping of stolen documents was causing through the use of slick propaganda like RT, the Kremlin’s media arm. But there is also a lot we do not know.

Most important, we do not yet know whether the Russians had the help of U.S. citizens, including people associated with the Trump campaign. Many of Trump’s campaign personnel, including the President himself, have ties to Russia and Russian interests. This is, of course, no crime. On the other hand, if the Trump campaign, or anybody associated with it, aided or abetted the Russians, it would not only be a serious crime, it would also represent one of the most shocking betrayals of our democracy in history.

In Europe, where the Russians have a much longer history of political interference, they have used a variety of techniques to undermine democracy. They have employed the hacking and dumping of documents and slick propaganda as they clearly did here, but they have also used bribery, blackmail, compromising material, and financial entanglement to secure needed cooperation from individual citizens of targeted countries.

The issue of U.S. person involvement is only one of the important matters that the Chairman and I have agreed to investigate and which is memorialized in the detailed and bipartisan scope of investigation we have signed. We will also examine whether the intelligence community’s public assessment of the Russian operation is supported by the raw intelligence, whether the U.S. Government responded properly or missed the opportunity to stop this Russian attack much earlier, and whether the leak of information about Michael Flynn or others is indicative of a systemic problem. We have also reviewed whether there was any evidence to support President Trump’s claim that he was wiretapped by President Obama in Trump Tower – and found no evidence whatsoever to support that slanderous accusation – and we hope that Director Comey can now put that matter permanently to rest.

Today, most of my Democratic colleagues will be exploring with you the potential involvement of U.S. persons in the Russian attack on our democracy. It is not that we feel the other issues are not important – they are very important – but rather because this issue is least understood by the public. We realize, of course, that you may not be able to answer many of our questions in open session. You may or may not be willing to disclose even whether there is any investigation. But we hope to present to you and the public why we believe this matter is of such gravity that it demands a thorough investigation, not only by us, as we intend to do, but by the FBI as well.

Let me give you a little preview of what I expect you will be asked by our members.

Whether the Russian active measures campaign began as nothing more than an attempt to gather intelligence, or was always intended to be more than that, we do not know, and is one of the questions we hope to answer. But we do know this: the months of July and August 2016 appear to have been pivotal. It was at this time that the Russians began using the information they had stolen to help Donald Trump and harm Hillary Clinton. And so the question is why? What was happening in July/August of last year? And were U.S. persons involved?

Here are some of the matters, drawn from public sources alone, since that is all we can discuss in this setting, that concern us and should concern all Americans.

In early July, Carter Page, someone candidate Trump identified as one of his national security advisors, travels to Moscow on a trip approved by the Trump campaign. While in Moscow, he gives a speech critical of the United States and other western countries for what he believes is a hypocritical focus on democratization and efforts to fight corruption.

According to Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence officer who is reportedly held in high regard by U.S. Intelligence, Russian sources tell him that Page has also had a secret meeting with Igor Sechin (SEH-CHIN), CEO of Russian gas giant Rosneft. Sechin is reported to be a former KGB agent and close friend of Putin’s. According to Steele’s Russian sources, Page is offered brokerage fees by Sechin on a deal involving a 19 percent share of the company. According to Reuters, the sale of a 19.5 percent share in Rosneft later takes place, with unknown purchasers and unknown brokerage fees.

Also, according to Steele’s Russian sources, the Trump campaign is offered documents damaging to Hillary Clinton, which the Russians would publish through an outlet that gives them deniability, like Wikileaks. The hacked documents would be in exchange for a Trump Administration policy that de-emphasizes Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and instead focuses on criticizing NATO countries for not paying their fare share – policies which, even as recently as the President’s meeting last week with Angela Merkel, have now presciently come to pass.

In the middle of July, Paul Manafort, the Trump campaign manager and someone who was long on the payroll of Pro-Russian Ukrainian interests, attends the Republican Party convention. Carter Page, back from Moscow, also attends the convention. According to Steele, it was Manafort who chose Page to serve as a go-between for the Trump campaign and Russian interests. Ambassador Kislyak, who presides over a Russian embassy in which diplomatic personnel would later be expelled as likely spies, also attends the Republican Party convention and meets with Carter Page and additional Trump Advisors JD Gordon and Walid Phares. It was JD Gordon who approved Page’s trip to Moscow. Ambassador Kislyak also meets with Trump campaign national security chair and now Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Sessions would later deny meeting with Russian officials during his Senate confirmation hearing.

Just prior to the convention, the Republican Party platform is changed, removing a section that supports the provision of “lethal defensive weapons” to Ukraine, an action that would be contrary to Russian interests. Manafort categorically denies involvement by the Trump campaign in altering the platform. But the Republican Party delegate who offered the language in support of providing defensive weapons to Ukraine states that it was removed at the insistence of the Trump campaign. Later, JD Gordon admits opposing the inclusion of the provision at the time it was being debated and prior to its being removed.

Later in July, and after the convention, the first stolen emails detrimental to Hillary Clinton appear on Wikileaks. A hacker who goes by the moniker Guccifer 2.0 claims responsibility for hacking the DNC and giving the documents to Wikileaks. But leading private cyber security firms including CrowdStrike, Mandiant, and ThreatConnect review the evidence of the hack and conclude with high certainty that it was the work of APT28 and APT29, who were known to be Russian intelligence services. The U.S. Intelligence community also later confirms that the documents were in fact stolen by Russian intelligence and Guccifer 2.0 acted as a front. Also in late July, candidate Trump praises Wikileaks, says he loves them, and openly appeals to the Russians to hack his opponents’ emails, telling them that they will be richly rewarded by the press.

On August 8th, Roger Stone, a longtime Trump political advisor and self-proclaimed political dirty trickster, boasts in a speech that he “has communicated with Assange,” and that more documents would be coming, including an “October surprise.” In the middle of August, he also communicates with the Russian cutout Guccifer 2.0, and authors a Breitbart piece denying Guccifer’s links to Russian intelligence. Then, later in August, Stone does something truly remarkable, when he predicts that John Podesta’s personal emails will soon be published. “Trust me, it will soon be Podesta’s time in the barrel. #Crooked Hillary.”

In the weeks that follow, Stone shows a remarkable prescience: “I have total confidence that @wikileaks and my hero Julian Assange will educate the American people soon. #Lockherup. “Payload coming,” he predicts, and two days later, it does. Wikileaks releases its first batch of Podesta emails. The release of John Podesta’s emails would then continue on a daily basis up to election day.

On Election Day in November, Donald Trump wins. Donald Trump appoints one of his high profile surrogates, Michael Flynn, to be his national security advisor. Michael Flynn has been paid by the Kremlin’s propaganda outfit, RT, and other Russian entities in the past. In December, Michael Flynn has a secret conversation with Ambassador Kislyak about sanctions imposed by President Obama on Russia over its hacking designed to help the Trump campaign. Michael Flynn lies about this secret conversation. The Vice President, unknowingly, then assures the country that no such conversation ever happened. The President is informed Flynn has lied, and Pence has misled the country. The President does nothing. Two weeks later, the press reveals that Flynn has lied and the President is forced to fire Mr. Flynn. The President then praises the man who lied, Flynn, and castigates the press for exposing the lie.

Now, is it possible that the removal of the Ukraine provision from the GOP platform was a coincidence? Is it a coincidence that Jeff Sessions failed to tell the Senate about his meetings with the Russian Ambassador, not only at the convention, but a more private meeting in his office and at a time when the U.S. election was under attack by the Russians? Is it a coincidence that Michael Flynn would lie about a conversation he had with the same Russian Ambassador Kislyak about the most pressing issue facing both countries at the time they spoke – the U.S. imposition of sanctions over Russian hacking of our election designed to help Donald Trump? Is it a coincidence that the Russian gas company Rosneft sold a 19 percent share after former British Intelligence Officer Steele was told by Russian sources that Carter Page was offered fees on a deal of just that size? Is it a coincidence that Steele’s Russian sources also affirmed that Russia had stolen documents hurtful to Secretary Clinton that it would utilize in exchange for pro-Russian policies that would later come to pass? Is it a coincidence that Roger Stone predicted that John Podesta would be the victim of a Russian hack and have his private emails published, and did so even before Mr. Podesta himself was fully aware that his private emails would be exposed?

Is it possible that all of these events and reports are completely unrelated, and nothing more than an entirely unhappy coincidence? Yes, it is possible. But it is also possible, maybe more than possible, that they are not coincidental, not disconnected and not unrelated, and that the Russians used the same techniques to corrupt U.S. persons that they have employed in Europe and elsewhere. We simply don’t know, not yet, and we owe it to the country to find out.

Director Comey, what you see on the dais in front of you, in the form of this small number of members and staff is all we have to commit to this investigation. This is it. We are not supported by hundreds or thousands of agents and investigators, with offices around the world. It is just us and our Senate counterparts. And in addition to this investigation, we still have our day job, which involves overseeing some of the largest and most important agencies in the country, agencies, which, by the way, are trained to keep secrets.

I point this out for two reasons: First, because we cannot do this work alone. Nor should we. We believe these issues are so important that the FBI must devote its resources to investigating each of them thoroughly; to do any less would be negligent in the protection of our country. We also need your full cooperation with our own investigation, so that we have the benefit of what you may know, and so that we may coordinate our efforts in the discharge of both our responsibilities. And second, I raise this because I believe that we would benefit from the work of an independent commission that can devote the staff and resources to this investigation that we do not have, and that can be completely removed from any political considerations. This should not be a substitute for the work that we, in the intelligence committees should and must do, but as an important complement to our efforts, just as was the case after 9/11.

The stakes are nothing less than the future of liberal democracy.

We are engaged in a new war of ideas, not communism versus capitalism, but authoritarianism versus democracy and representative government. And in this struggle, our adversary sees our political process as a legitimate field of battle.

Only by understanding what the Russians did can we inoculate ourselves from the further Russian interference we know is coming. Only then can we help protect our European allies who are, as we speak, enduring similar Russian interference in their own elections.

Finally, I want to say a word about our own committee investigation. You will undoubtedly observe in the questions and comments that our members make during today’s hearing, that the members of both parties share a common concern over the Russian attack on our democracy, but bring a different perspective on the significance of certain issues, or the quantum of evidence we have seen in the earliest stages of this investigation. That is to be expected. The question most people have is whether we can really conduct this investigation in the kind of thorough and nonpartisan manner that the seriousness of the issues merit, or whether the enormous political consequences of our work will make that impossible. The truth is, I don’t know the answer. But I do know this: If this committee can do its work properly, if we can pursue the facts wherever they lead, unafraid to compel witnesses to testify, to hear what they have to say, to learn what we will and, after exhaustive work, reach a common conclusion, it would be a tremendous public service and one that is very much in the national interest.

So let us try. Thank you Mr. Chairman, I yield back.

Via Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Schiff Opening Statement During Hearing on Russian Active Measures @ U.S. House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence website.

Daily Bread for 3.20.17

Good morning.

The first day of spring in Whitewater will be partly cloudy with a high of sixty. Sunrise is 6:55 AM and sunset 7:08 PM, for 12h 12m 18s of daytime. The moon is a waning gibbous with 52% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the one hundred thirty-second day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

On this day in 1815, Napoleon, having escaped from Elba, arrives in Paris, and the Hundred Days begin. On this day in 1958, an angry mob burns down serial killer Ed Gein’s house in Plainfield, Wisconsin.

Recommended for reading in full — 

James Kirchick writes that The Road to a Free Europe Goes Through MoscowThe Kremlin wants to destroy the trans-Atlantic alliance. Does Trump want to save it?): “As Europe’s political stability, social cohesion, economic prosperity and security are more threatened today than at any point since the Cold War, Russia is destabilizing the Continent on every front. Indigenous factors – whether long-extant nationalism, design flaws in the Eurozone lack of a common foreign policy, or incapability at assimilating immigrants – certainly lie at the root of these crises. But all are exploited by Moscow and exacerbated by its malign influence. Fomenting European disintegration from within, Russia also threatens Europe from without through its massive military buildup, frequent intimidation of NATO members and efforts to overturn the continent’s security architecture by weakening the transatlantic link with America. If a prosperous and democratic Europe is a core national security interest of the United States, as it has been for the past 80 years, then the Russian regime is one to be resisted, contained and ultimately dethroned. For none of the existential problems Europe faces will dissipate until the menace to its East is subdued. The road to a Europe whole, free and at peace, in other words, goes through Moscow.”

Jennifer Rubin thinks that Paul Ryan’s health-care ordeal probably won’t end well: “Ryan desperately wants the bill to pass the House to get the weight off his shoulders and be able to blame the Senate. Democrats would love a straight up-or-down vote, getting as many Republicans on record as voting for an unpopular bill. The TV ads for 2018 write themselves. A good number of moderate Republicans in the House don’t want to vote for this (for the very same reason Democrats want a recorded vote) — but frankly, aside from the Freedom Caucus, they would have a hard time passing something that takes away Medicaid benefits or hurts people in their own state (in other words, they cannot really support any GOP bill). The Freedom Caucus Republicans won’t vote for it knowing their Senate fellow hard-liners won’t vote for it. In sum, maybe Ryan pulls out 216 votes, but after that, the prospects for passing something Republicans can call “repealing Obamacare” look dim.”

Simon Denyer reports that In China debut, Tillerson appears to hand Beijing a diplomatic victory: “But some critics say Tillerson has bent too far, handing Beijing what Chinese news media reports are calling a “diplomatic victory.” The phrase “mutual respect” is key: In Beijing, that is taken to mean each side should respect the other’s “core interests.” In other words: The United States should stay away from issues such as Taiwan, Tibet and Hong Kong — and in principle almost anything China’s Communist Party deems a vital national security concern. Increasingly, that also appears to include China’s territorial claims in the contested waters of the South China Sea. Several Chinese foreign policy experts called the comments “very positive” and in line with a concept Beijing has long advocated — what it calls “a new model of great power relationships,” which would put the two nations on a roughly equal footing. Jin Canrong, a Sino-U.S. relations expert at Renmin University of China in Beijing, said Tillerson’s comments came as a surprise. “China has long been advocating this, but the United States has been reluctant to accept the point of ‘mutual respect,’?” Jin said. “Tillerson’s comment will be very warmly welcomed by China.” After meeting China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Saturday, Tillerson voiced Chinese catchphrases about the relationship, including the avoidance of conflict and confrontation and the need to build “mutual respect” and strive for “win-win” cooperation.”

Jeff Potrykus observes that Losing 5 of 6 games steeled UW for March: “Did the players see the turnaround coming? “Yes,” Hayes said emphatically. “Because we know how good we can be. All the film we watch … we told you guys a million times that if we just do the little things better and played more complete games that we’d be able to compete with anybody in the country. “That’s what we said before the season. That’s what we said during the losing streak. That is what we said during the winning streaks. “If we play disciplined basketball, we can win games.” Defeating a Villanova team with key players back from the team that won the national title last season offered proof.”

Four skateboarders in Norway are Northbound:

NORTHBOUND | Skateboarding on Frozen Sand 4K from Turbin Film on Vimeo.

Ice, driftwood, foamy waves and … skateboards? Four skaters head north to the cold Norwegian coast, applying their urban skills to a wild canvas of beach flotsam, frozen sand and pastel skies. The result is a beautiful mashup — biting winds and short days, ollies and one ephemeral miniramp.

A Fold Apart: Origamist Robert Lang’s Incredible Paper Creations

A Fold Apart: Origamist Robert Lang’s Incredible Paper Creations from Great Big Story on Vimeo.

Twenty five years ago, physicist Robert Lang worked at NASA. Shortly after that, he researched lasers and garnered 46 patents on optoelectronics. He even wrote a Ph.D. thesis called “Semiconductor Lasers: New Geometries and Spectral Properties.” But in 2001, Lang left his job in order to pursue a passion he’s had since childhood: origami. In the origami world, Lang is now a legend, and it’s not just his eye-catching, intricate designs that have taken the craft by storm. Some of his work has helped pioneer new ways of applying origami principles to complex real-world engineering problems.

Daily Bread for 3.19.17

Good morning.

Sunday in Whitewater will be mostly sunny with a high of fifty-three. Sunrise is 6:57 AM and sunset 5:06 PM, for 12h 09m 23s of daytime. The moon is a waning gibbous with 60.6% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the one hundred thirty-first day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

On this day in 2003, and American-led coalition invades Iraq. On this day in 1865, the 21st, 22nd and 25th Wisconsin Infantry regiments take part in the battle at Goldsborough, North Carolina, during the Campaign of the Carolinas.

Recommended for reading in full —

Craig Gilbert reports that Rural Wisconsin takes hit in GOP health plan after backing Donald Trump“No congressional district in Wisconsin delivered a bigger victory margin for Donald Trump last fall (20 points) than the rural northern one represented by Republican Sean Duffy. But by one key measure, no district in Wisconsin would lose more health care aid under the GOP plan to replace Obamacare. Wisconsin is part of a national pattern in which the Obamacare enrollees who appear to be hit the hardest by the Republican plan fit the demographic and geographic profile of Trump’s political base. These enrollees are in their 50s and early 60s. Trump won that group by 15 points in Wisconsin, according to exit polling. And they disproportionately live in rural areas that voted for Trump and are represented by Republicans in Congress….The biggest losses in tax credits in Wisconsin would occur in two mostly rural congressional districts, the northern seat held by Duffy and the western seat held by Democrat Ron Kind. Duffy’s district has the highest number of Obamacare enrollees in the state (more than 35,000 last year) and Kind’s has the third highest. Both areas were carried by Trump last fall. They are also the two congressional districts in Wisconsin that saw the biggest swings toward the GOP in 2016. In both districts, a 60-year-old making $30,000 would lose an average of more than $5,500 a year in health care tax credits under the GOP plan, based on a Journal Sentinel analysis of the Kaiser data [from a Kaiser Family Foundation study].

Jon Parles reports that Chuck Berry Dies at 90; Helped Define Rock ’n’ Roll: “While Elvis Presley was rock’s first pop star and teenage heartthrob, Mr. Berry was its master theorist and conceptual genius, the songwriter who understood what the kids wanted before they knew themselves. With songs like “Johnny B. Goode” and “Roll Over Beethoven,” he gave his listeners more than they knew they were getting from jukebox entertainment. His guitar lines wired the lean twang of country and the bite of the blues into phrases with both a streamlined trajectory and a long memory. And tucked into the lighthearted, telegraphic narratives that he sang with such clear enunciation was a sly defiance, upending convention to claim the pleasures of the moment.”

Kevin Sack reports that Door-Busting Drug Raids Leave a Trail of Blood – Using SWAT officers to storm into homes to execute search warrants has led time and again to avoidable deaths, gruesome injuries and costly legal settlements: “As policing has militarized to fight a faltering war on drugs, few tactics have proved as dangerous as the use of forcible-entry raids to serve narcotics search warrants, which regularly introduce staggering levels of violence into missions that might be accomplished through patient stakeouts or simple knocks at the door. Thousands of times a year, these “dynamic entry” raids exploit the element of surprise to effect seizures and arrests of neighborhood drug dealers. But they have also led time and again to avoidable deaths, gruesome injuries, demolished property, enduring trauma, blackened reputations and multimillion-dollar legal settlements at taxpayer expense, an investigation by The New York Times found. For the most part, governments at all levels have chosen not to quantify the toll by requiring reporting on SWAT operations. But The Times’s investigation, which relied on dozens of open-record requests and thousands of pages from police and court files, found that at least 81 civilians and 13 law enforcement officers died in such raids from 2010 through 2016. Scores of others were maimed or wounded.”

Monopoly has three new tokens, one of which is a dinosaur:

What’s a Boxersled? It’s a Subaru WRX STI on an Olympic bobsled run:

Daily Bread for 3.18.17

Good morning.

Whitewater’s Saturday will be cloudy with a high of forty-four. Sunrise is 6:59 AM and sunset 7:05 PM, for 12h 06m 26s of daytime. The moon is a waning gibbous with 69.6% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the one hundred thirtieth day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

On this day in 1963, the U.S. Supreme Court hands down a decision in Gideon v. Wainwright, holding that the right of an indigent defendant in a criminal trial to have the assistance of counsel is a fundamental right essential to a fair trial, and petitioner’s trial and conviction without the assistance of counsel violated the Fourteenth Amendment (Betts v. Brady, 316 U.S. 455, overruled). On this day in 1954, Parker Pen employees in Janesville, Wisconsin win a wage increase (“a 5-cent-an-hour wage increase in contract negotiations. After the raise, male employees made a base pay of $1.95 an hour while their female counterparts were paid $1.62 an hour”).

Recommended for reading in full —

Matea Gold describes How the Mercer family’s partnership with Stephen Bannon shaped the populist climate: “The Mercers, Republican mega-donors who had spent millions on the failed presidential bid of Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, and Bannon, then executive chairman of Breitbart News Network, were still weeks from formally aligning with Donald Trump’s campaign. But the festivities that balmy evening aboard the Sea Owl, the Mercers’ luxurious yacht, marked the growing influence of their financial and political partnership in shaping the 2016 campaign — and in encouraging the populist surge now reverberating around the world. The Mercers’ approach is far different from that of other big donors. While better-known players such as the Koch brothers on the right and George Soros on the left focus on mobilizing activists and voters, the Mercers have exerted pressure on the political system by helping erect an alternative media ecosystem, whose storylines dominated the 2016 race. Their alliance with Bannon provided fuel for the narrative that drove Trump’s victory: that dangerous immigrants are ruining the country and corrupt power brokers are sabotaging Washington.”

Louise Mensch explains What to Ask About Russian Hacking: “The framing of the committee’s questions matters immensely. Legally, witnesses cannot confirm or deny even the existence of a current national security investigation. The very mention of a “FISA warrant” would allow Mr. Sessions to avoid the substance by excusing himself from commenting. Committee members must therefore word their questions without reference to any case. I would simply ask Mr. Sessions this: “Was the president’s tweet about a wiretap at Trump Tower, to your knowledge, illegal? If so, to whom have you reported this offense? “To your knowledge, did any person illegally inform the president that there was a wiretap at Trump Tower?” The president’s unwillingness to answer questions about contacts between his campaign team and Russian officials, and the pattern of contradictory and misleading statements on those contacts, are toxic. Never in American history has a president been suspected of collaborating with a hostile foreign power to win an election. The founders provided three equal branches of government to protect the republic. The American people now depend on the House committee to do its job and uncover the truth.”

Consider how hippos almost became a common American food:

Trump White House Posts Satirical Essay That Actually Ridicules Trump Budget Plan

Hard to believe but true: the official White House Daily 1600 (a daily briefing @ https://www.whitehouse.gov/1600daily) touts a Washington Post satirical essay mocking Trump’s budget approach as though the essay were favorable (as of 11:37 AM ET).

           Screenshot from MARCH 17, 2017 AT 11:37 AM ET BY 1600DAILY  @ https://www.whitehouse.gov/1600daily

Alexandra Petri’s Trump’s budget makes perfect sense and will fix America, and I will tell you why must have been attractive to a White House staff that saw the headline, but did not bother to read the essay.

Anyone who bothers actually to read the essay – anyone able to read English – would know that Petri’s work is a joke, and mocks the Trump budget plan.

Consider just a few sections from her slam of Trump’s budget:

This budget will make America a lean, mean fighting machine with bulging, rippling muscles and not an ounce of fat. America has been weak and soft for too long. BUT HOW WILL I SURVIVE ON THIS BUDGET? you may be wondering. I AM A HUMAN CHILD, NOT A COSTLY FIGHTER JET. You may not survive, but that is because you are SOFT and WEAK, something this budget is designed to eliminate….

Agriculture Department: NO MORE OF THIS NAMBY-PAMBY “GATHERING” NONSENSE. We will be HUNTERS again. This is also why we are cutting the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children: Let them FIGHT for their meat or have NONE…

AMERICA WILL BE STRONGER THAN IT HAS EVER BEEN! Anyone who survives will be a gun covered in the fur of a rare mammal, capable of fighting disease with a single muscular flex. RAW POWER! HARD RAW POWER GRRRRRR HISSS POW!

It will be great.

Imagine hiring a White House staff so lazy or so incompetent that it places on the executive office’s own website paragraph after paragraph deriding the chief executive’s plans. They’ll take it down, to be sure; their problem is that they put it up in the first place. Trump declared that upon taking office he was “going to surround [himself] only with the best and most serious people.”

We’ve a kakistocracy instead.

Daily Bread for 3.17.17

Good morning.

St. Patrick’s Day in Whitewater will be rainy with a high of forty-three. Sunrise is 7:01 AM and sunset 5:04 PM, for 12h 03m 31s of daytime. The moon is a waning gibbous with 78.8% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the one hundred twenty-ninth day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

Whitewater’s Landmarks Commission is scheduled to meet today at 5 PM.

On this day in 1776, the Siege of Boston ends, with 120 British ships evacuating Boston Harbor. On this day in 1941, Milwaukee’s airport is named for air-power pioneer General William Mitchell.

Recommended for reading in full — 

Mary Spicuzza reports that Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett mocks Sheriff David Clarke for ‘fighting crime’ on cable shows: “I think he’s got a great gig going right now. He’s fightin’ crime one conservative cable TV show at a time,” Barrett said Wednesday during an interview with Wisconsin Eye and the Journal Sentinel. “He’s made a great name for himself, I think, as the darling of the conservative cable network. I think he can make a ton of money doing that.” When asked if Clarke was doing TV appearances at the expense of doing his job as sheriff, Barrett said, “I think if you were to ask people who know what’s going on here, they would say that he rode his horse out of town a long time ago.”

Michael Gerson observes that Trump has picked a deeply disturbing hero: “But Jackson’s vices were not merely personal. Many of the Founders had been internally conflicted slaveholders. Jackson was not one for psychic struggle. Meacham recounts that Jackson once authored an “Advertisement for Runaway Slave” that offered $50 for the return of the slave “and ten dollars extra, for every hundred lashes any person will give him.” Such attitudes were not disqualifying in Jackson’s America. And much of Jackson’s reputation depended on being a frontier Indian fighter. This was a president who once earned the Indian nickname “Sharp Knife.” In a battle against the Red Stick Creeks, Jackson set about to “exterminate them” (his words). Hundreds of fighters and civilians were killed trying to flee across the Tallapoosa River. By one account, “the river ran red with blood.” A sharp knife indeed….Why discuss this ancient history (which is not really so ancient to the Cherokee)? Because Trump, in visiting Jackson’s Hermitage, has invited us. Jackson was wrong — badly, culpably wrong — on the largest issue of his time: the dignity and value of people of color. “The tragedy of Jackson’s life,” admits Meacham, “is that a man dedicated to freedom failed to see liberty as a universal, not a particular, gift.” There is no refuge in the argument that Jackson merely reflected the values of his time. Jackson’s opponent in two elections, John Quincy Adams, viewed slavery as “the great and foul stain upon the North American Union.” Henry Clay called Indian expulsion “a foul and lasting stain upon the good faith, humanity and character of the nation.” And Jackson’s reputation will always bear those indelible marks.”

David Sanger reports that Tillerson Says No Negotiations With North Korea on Nuclear Program: “SEOUL, South Korea — Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson ruled out on Friday opening any negotiation with North Korea to freeze its nuclear and missile programs and said for the first time that the Trump administration might be forced to take pre-emptive action “if they elevate the threat of their weapons program” to an unacceptable level. Mr. Tillerson’s comments in Seoul, a day before he travels to Beijing to meet Chinese leaders, explicitly rejected any return to the bargaining table in an effort to buy time by halting North Korea’s accelerating testing program, which the country’s leader, Kim Jong-un, said on New Year’s Day was in the “final stages” of preparation for the first launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile that could reach the United States. The secretary of state’s comments were the Trump administration’s first public hint at the options being considered, and made clear that none involved a negotiated settlement or waiting for the North Korean government to collapse.”

Karoline Kan asks Tai Chi Encourages Calm. So Why Are Its Chinese Fans Stressing Out?: “Last year, Indian yoga made Unesco’s list. In 2011, South Korea’s taekkyeon became the first martial art so honored. So why can’t Chinese tai chi win similar international recognition? That is the question on Yan Shuangjun’s mind as the annual deadline approaches for nominations to Unesco’s Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity list, established by the United Nations agency to celebrate and protect the world’s cultural diversity. For the past decade, Mr. Yan has lobbied for the inclusion of tai chi, a centuries-old martial art that combines flowing movements with deep breathing and meditation. “Through tai chi, one can understand Chinese culture, from medicine to literature, from philosophy to art,” said Mr. Yan, who heads the Tai Chi Unesco Heritage Application Group in Wen County, Henan Province, widely thought to be the martial art’s birthplace. As much as tai chi advocates and fans insist that it embodies unique aspects of Chinese culture, they fear that if China does not secure it a Unesco listing, other countries might move ahead with their own variants. It would not be the first time, they say.”

What lies beneath?  A harvest:

Trump’s Ex-National Security Adviser Flynn Paid Tens of Thousands by Russian Companies

Putin takes care of his useful friends. March 16, 2017 12:00 p.m. CT – Documents obtained by a congressional oversight committee reveal business interests that were previously undisclosed:

President Trump’s former national security adviser, Mike Flynn, was paid tens of thousands of dollars by Russian companies shortly before he became a formal adviser to the then-candidate, according to documents obtained by a congressional oversight committee that revealed business interests that hadn’t been previously known.

Mr. Flynn was paid $11,250 each by a Russian air cargo company that had been suspended as a vendor to the United Nations following a corruption scandal, and by a Russian cybersecurity company that was then trying to expand its business with the U.S. government.

Those engagements took place in the summer and fall of 2015, a year after he had been fired as the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency and while he continued to maintain a top-secret level security clearance.

In December 2015, the Kremlin-backed news organization RT also paid Mr. Flynn $33,750 to speak about U.S. foreign policy and intelligence matters at a conference in Moscow.

Via Mike Flynn Worked for Other Russian Companies Besides RT: documents @ Wall Street Journal.

Daily Bread for 3.16.17

Good morning.

Whitewater’s Thursday will be sunny with a high of thirty-seven. Sunrise is 7:02 AM and sunset 5:03 PM, for 12h 00m 35s of daytime. The moon is a waning gibbous with 86% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the one hundred twenty-eighth third day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

Whitewater’s Fire Department has a scheduled business meeting at 7 PM.

James Madison is born on this day in 1751. On this day in 1926, Dr. Robert Goddard successfully tests the world’s first liquid-fuelled rocket.

Recommended for reading in full —

Derek Hawkins reports that Trump’s talk — ‘Muslim ban,’ ‘Islam hates us’ — comes back to bite him in court again: “in his blistering opinion Wednesday freezing Trump’s the new travel ban, U.S. District Judge Derrick K. Watson said statements by Trump and his senior advisers were precisely what called its legality into question. “These plainly-worded statements, made in the months leading up to and contemporaneous with the signing of the Executive Order, and, in many cases, made by the Executive himself, betray the Executive Order’s stated secular purpose,” Watson wrote. And early Thursday morning, a federal judge ruling in a related case in Maryland said the order was “the realization of the long-envisioned Muslim ban,” as The Washington Post reported. Though U.S. District Judge Theodore D. Chuang’s opinion was narrower in scope than Watsons, he still found room to take aim at statements by Trump and his advisers, saying they showed “animus toward Muslims and intention to impose a ban on Muslims entering the United States.” In short, Trump’s loose talk had come back to bite him yet again. Only this time the criticism was coming straight from a federal judge.”

Charles Blow considers the Disciples of a False Prophet: “The con Donald Trump committed on his voters is slowly coming undone. He is not honest. He is not a brilliant deal maker. He is not even competent. His entire life, Trump has sold shimmer and called it silver. It was and is all an illusion, a brand built on selling banality with braggadocio. He shaped vapors into dreams and delivered them to those hungry for a taste of the showy, hollow form of the high life he came to represent. He was successful at exploiting those with an ostentatious appetite for the air of success. Trump’s life story is a pyramid scheme of ambitions. He took that history to a people struggling through a drought of opportunity and he exploited their weaknesses: a shrinking sense of economic security and growing nativist tendencies. But Trump doesn’t speak so much from facts as from feelings. For him, the truth is malleable and a lie is valuable. He creates his own reality rather than living in the reality of others. Deception is just a tool; betrayal is just an inconvenience.”

Peter Baker reports that In Trump Budget, More for Military, as His Supporters May Lose Out: “But in his first spending blueprint since taking office, Mr. Trump also made choices demonstrating that parts of America will be more first than others — and some of the budget losers, it turns out, may be some of the very constituencies that have been most supportive of the new president during his improbable rise to power. While border guards will have more prisons to lock up unauthorized immigrants, rural communities will lose grants and loans to build water facilities and financing to keep their airports open. As charter schools are bolstered, after-school and summer programs will lose money. As law enforcement agents get more help to fight the opioid epidemic, lower-income Americans will have less access to home energy aid, job training programs and legal services.”

Alex Isenstadt and Kenneth P. Vogel describes how Paranoia seizes Trump’s White House: “A culture of paranoia is consuming the Trump administration, with staffers increasingly preoccupied with perceived enemies—inside their own government. In interviews, nearly a dozen White House aides and federal agency staffers described a litany of suspicions: that rival factions in the administration are trying to embarrass them, that civil servants opposed to President Donald Trump are trying to undermine him, and even that a “deep state” of career military and intelligence officials is out to destroy them. Aides are going to great lengths to protect themselves. They’re turning off work-issued smartphones and putting them in drawers when they arrive home from work out of fear that they could be used to eavesdrop. They’re staying mum in meetings out of concern that their comments could be leaked to the press by foes. Many are using encrypted apps that automatically delete messages once they’ve been read, or are leaving their personal cell phones at home in case their bosses initiate phone checks of the sort that press secretary Sean Spicer deployed last month to identify leakers on his team. It’s an environment of fear that has hamstrung the routine functioning of the executive branch. Senior advisers are spending much of their time trying to protect turf, key positions have remained vacant due to a reluctance to hire people deemed insufficiently loyal, and Trump’s ambitious agenda has been eclipsed by headlines surrounding his unproven claim that former President Barack Obama tapped his phone lines. One senior administration aide, who like most others interviewed for this story spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the degree of suspicion had created a toxicity that was unsustainable.”

The Slam Poets of Istanbul are worthy examples for anyone:

Every week, a group of young people meet in Taksim Square to perform spoken-word poems. They are led by a woman named Merve Pehlivan, who is profiled in this short film. “As a Turkish person myself, I feel the extent to which we have been divided as a society and we have stopped talking with each other,” she says. “I’m a very strong supporter of freedom of expression and of diversity of opinion.” This documentary was filmed by Tara Milutis three days after the Reina nightclub attack, which killed 39 people.

U.S. indicts Russian spies in breach of 500 million Yahoo accounts

Ellen Nakashima reports on U.S. Justice Department’s charges against agents of the Putin regime – whose leader Trump only recently praised (“I always knew he was very smart!“) – for a vast hacking of American business (Yahoo & realated entities) and consumers:

The Justice Department announced Wednesday the indictments of two Russian spies and two criminal hackers in connection with the heist of 500 million Yahoo user accounts in 2014, marking the first U.S. criminal cyber charges ever against Russian government officials.The indictments target two members of the Russian intelligence agency FSB, and two hackers hired by the Russians.

The charges include hacking, wire fraud, trade secret theft and economic espionage, according to officials. The indictments are part of the largest hacking case brought by the United States.

On Rumors

Whitewater is a small town, with a population under fifteen thousand, approximately half of whom are college students. One of the advantages of being far smaller than Los Angeles or Atlanta should be the ease with which municipal leaders and law enforcement can meet and talk to residents. A person of average health and energy could walk the town easily, talking with residents along the way.

How odd, then to hear some city’s officials bemoaning rumors about possible federal law enforcement actions. If there are rumors among residents, city officials have only themselves to blame: if they were closer to their own residents, and even partly knowledgeable about those residents’ day-to-day experiences, they’d have a better ability to manage these matters.

Ice cream socials at a senior citizen facility (honest to goodness – the softest audience on the planet) are not enough. Admittedly, officials burn very few calories driving to a retirement home, sitting & talking, but that energy savings is an underuse of a taxpayer-funded salary.

If it should be true that “the rumors have truly been disheartening and harmful,” then it’s time for officials to work harder – connecting through true community-based enforcement – to dispel what so disheartens and hurts. All the servile commission cronies in the world, and their conniving boosters, can’t do what publicly-paid officials should be doing each day.

After so very long, after over twenty-six years, one should have expected better results than this. But people choose variously well or poorly, and Whitewater has so many times chosen poorly, and consigned herself to a weak, short-sighted, addled leadership. She’ll stay stagnant, and so decline relatively, until she chooses another course.

In the meantime, these failings may yet prove a useful lesson to other communities, so that they might avoid the same mistakes.

Daily Bread for 3.15.17

Good morning.

Wednesday in this small Midwestern town will be mostly sunny with a high of thirty-three. Sunrise is 7:04 AM and sunset 5:02 PM, for 11h 57m 39s of daytime. The moon is a waning gibbous with 91.9% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the one hundred twenty-seventh day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

Whitewater’s Park & Rec Board meets at 6:30 PM.

On this day in 44 B.C., Caesar meets his end.  On this day in 1862, the 17th and 18th Wisconsin Infantry regiments muster in at Madison and Milwaukee, respectively.

Recommended for reading in full — 

Stand Up Republic has a new video online, entitled Sunshine, on Trump’s ties to Vladimir Putin:

Charles V. Bagli and Michael Forsythe report Kushners, Trump In-Laws, Weigh $400 Million Deal with Chinese Firm: “A New York real estate company owned by the family of President Trump’s son-in-law has been negotiating to sell a $400 million stake in its Fifth Avenue flagship skyscraper to a Chinese insurance company with ties to leading families of the Communist Party. The Chinese company, Anbang Insurance Group, would pay to get a high-profile piece of Manhattan real estate and would commit to spending billions more to completely transform the 60-year-old tower into a chic condominium and retail citadel. If signed, the potential agreement would create a financial marriage of two politically powerful families in the world’s two biggest economies, but it would also present the possibility of glaring conflicts of interest. The Kushner family, owners of the tower, would reap a financial windfall courtesy of a Chinese company, even as Jared Kushner, a senior adviser to Mr. Trump as well as his son-in-law, helps oversee American foreign policy. News of the negotiations surfaced as President Trump and the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, were preparing for their first meeting, to be held next month.”

Evgeniy M. Bogachev. The F.B.I. has offered a $3 million bounty for his capture, the most ever for a cybercriminal. Credit FBI via NYT

Michael Schwirtz and Joseph Goldstein describe how Russian Espionage Piggybacks on a Cybercriminal’s Hacking: “To the F.B.I., Evgeniy M. Bogachev is the most wanted cybercriminal in the world. The bureau has announced a $3 million bounty for his capture, the most ever for computer crimes, and has been trying to track his movements in hopes of grabbing him if he strays outside his home turf in Russia. He has been indicted in the United States, accused of creating a sprawling network of virus-infected computers to siphon hundreds of millions of dollars from bank accounts around the world, targeting anyone with enough money worth stealing — from a pest control company in North Carolina to a police department in Massachusetts to a Native American tribe in Washington. In December, the Obama administration announced sanctions against Mr. Bogachev and five others in response to intelligence agencies’ conclusions that Russia had meddled in the presidential election. Publicly, law enforcement officials said it was his criminal exploits that landed Mr. Bogachev on the sanctions list, not any specific role in the hacking of the Democratic National Committee. But it is clear that for Russia, he is more than just a criminal. At one point, Mr. Bogachev had control over as many as a million computers in multiple countries, with possible access to everything from family vacation photographs and term papers to business proposals and highly confidential personal information. It is almost certain that computers belonging to government officials and contractors in a number of countries were among the infected devices. For Russia’s surveillance-obsessed intelligence community, Mr. Bogachev’s exploits may have created an irresistible opportunity for espionage.”

Matthew Fay, addressing Trump’s proposed military spending increase, asks $54 Billion for What?: “As noted above, America is already relatively immune to conventional military threats. So unless he is serious about deterring threats against American allies—whom he has accused of being “obsolete” free riders—the idea that additional defense spending is necessary for deterrence seems like overkill. It also comes at the expense of complementary “soft power” measures in the form of diplomacy and foreign aid. But for someone who reports suggested thought his inauguration should include rocket launchers as part of a military parade, the forty-fifth president might be thinking about a military build-up in symbolic, rather than strategic, terms.”

Tech Insider tells What you need to know about world’s largest telescope:

So Much for the ‘Master Race’

I’m white. (I’ll joke and say that, in fact, I’ve been white for as long as I can remember). It’s simply a natural characteristic for me. (It’s easier, unquestionably, to describe matters this way – as though without a social context – if one has not experienced discrimination).

One can’t say the same about Richard Spencer, white nationalist and Trump supporter. He is

a leader in the so-called “alt-right” movement, which has been energized by President Donald Trump’s victory in the 2016 election. He has said that the United States “at the end of the day, belongs to white men,” and at a November conference in Washington, D.C., he received Nazi salutes from supporters.

He’s also too indifferent or too ignorant to comply with the existing tax laws of the country that he believes belongs to his – and only his – race and gender:

The Internal Revenue Service has stripped prominent white nationalist Richard Spencer’s nonprofit of its tax-exempt status because the group failed to file tax returns, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times….He runs the National Policy Institute, an Arlington, Va.-based think tank which bills itself as “dedicated to the heritage, identity, and future of people of European descent in the United States.”

The group stopped filing tax returns with the IRS after 2012. Failing to file for three consecutive years results in an automatic loss of tax-exempt status. There are also questions about whether Spencer, a vocal supporter of Mr. Trump, violated rules that prohibit nonprofits from supporting any particular candidates or campaigns….

“I don’t know what to say. I don’t want to make a comment because I don’t understand this stuff,” Spencer said. “It’s a bit embarrassing, but it’s not good. We’ll figure it out.”

Via IRS strips Richard Spencer’s nonprofit of its tax-exempt status @ CBS News.

If a similar failure had happened to a racial minority, one could be sure that Spencer would attribute the failure to some sort of intellectual or moral inferiority. When Spencer commits the same act, however, he contends that he doesn’t “understand this stuff” and shrugs it off with how “it’s a bit embarrassing.”

This repulsive, racist failure, who washed out of Duke with the lame excuse that he left to pursue a life of “thought-crime” (although speech alone has never been criminal), begs off that it’s all a muddle, isn’t it?

We are taught – and I do not dispute the teaching – that we are to love even our enemies. I will, however, candidly confess of how deeply one can despise men like Spencer, how their words are a spur to action and opposition, how much one might wish to see the utter ruin of their racist band.

Spencer’s followers – pustulous every one of them – want the command of this continent, forever. They claim this through blut und boden, that their race (as they see it) should command this territory.

They disingenuously tell others to stand down so that they might march on. They tell others to speak softly so that they might shout. They dismiss others’ legitimate concerns so that they might advance their own unchecked lies. They now bring challenges to us, but we will return far worse to them.

So many of us are of Spencer’s race (united truly with vast millions of all races, ethnicities, faiths), are also on this continent, and are equally committed to oppose his false teaching. His claims are not simply ‘offensive’ to us, not simply ‘hurtful,’ they are instead the animating and motivating force for a relentless, increasing opposition until Spencer comes to see the loss of all he professes.

We in opposition seek the preservation and growth of a free, diverse society of individual liberty and equal rights. These are principles worth defending, and we find ourselves now, against our hopes for amity with others, in a fight for the defense of that free society. It’s a long path ahead, with many hardships to come, but for it all we will see it through.