Daily Bread for 6.28.17

Good morning.

Wednesday in Whitewater will be rainy, with scattered thunderstorms, and a high of seventy-eight. Sunrise is 5:19 AM and sunset 8:37 PM, for 15h 18m 07s of daytime. The moon is a waxing crescent with 24.2% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the two hundred thirty-second day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

On this day in 1914, an assassin kills Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, whose death leads to a spiraling of war declarations plunging the world into a global conflict. On this day in 1832, Gen. Atkinson and his Second Army travel into Wisconsin in a campaign against Black Hawk.

Recommended for reading in full:

I’m a subscriber to both the Washington Post and the New York Times, and Sarah Kendzior’s reply to a Trump tweet rings true. (Indeed, beyond the NYT, there’s a well-circulated theory that Trump is most aggressive against publications that give him partially favorable coverarge or allow his mendacious surrogates more access – that Trump pushes against those who have already yielded in part.)

Kevin Urmacher reports that Half of Trump’s major federal agencies still only have one Senate-confirmed appointee:

President Trump has a major staffing problem. He has been president for five months, and yet his agencies are severely understaffed at the highest levels. And, no, it’s not all Senate Democrats’ fault.

In the all-important State Department, the Senate has confirmed only one-third of positions that President Barack Obama had at the same point in his presidency. And that’s not because, as Trump claims, Senate Democrats are blocking his nominees. (Democrats can slow-walk committee hearings, but they can’t actually block votes.) Trump is way behind other recent presidents in nominating people for the Senate to vote on.

Russ Choma explains Here’s What Trump’s Latest Failure Tells Us About His Business Empire:

Toronto has had enough of Donald Trump. After more than a decade of drama, Trump’s name is being stripped from a 65-story hotel and condo building in downtown Toronto, following years of financial failure and lawsuits. In the end, the Trump International Hotel and Tower in Toronto has become yet another symbol of the flaws of the Trump business empire: construction setbacks, strange financing, angry investors, and empty hotel rooms….

The Toronto tower he leased his name to never lived up to the hype. On Tuesday morning, the Trump Organization and the building’s current owner announced that the president’s name will be removed from the hotel.

Trump spent years promoting the property as a total success and an extension of his brand. His original partners in the project were two Russian-Canadian businessmen, neither of whom had any experience with building a skyscraper. As the building went up, construction delays and other problems—including pieces of the building falling off—set the project back.

Aaron C. Davis and Shawn Boburg report that Trump attorney Jay Sekulow’s family has been paid millions from charities they control:

Before Trump hired him, Sekulow had built a powerful charity empire, leading a team of ACLJ attorneys who jump into high-profile court battles over such hot-button conservative issues as religious liberties and abortion. The ACLJ [American Center for Law and Justice] promotes its work zealously, noting that its representation is free of charge and dependent on the donations of supporters.

That brought in nearly $230 million in charitable donations from 2011 to 2015 — and millions of those dollars ended up going to the members of the Sekulow family or their companies, a Washington Post analysis of IRS tax filings and business records in five states and the District found.

David Welsford explains The Pros and Cons of Living on a Sailboat in the Caribbean:

About the 2017 William F. Buckley Jr. Award for Media Excellence to…Sean Hannity

Lachlan Markay reports that pro-Trump Sean Hannity will receive the 2017 William F. Buckley Jr. Award for Media Excellence from the conservative Media Research Center (see the announcement, below).

That’s risible for a few reasons: (1) Hannity’s not an example of media excellence if either media or excellence are to have any meaning, (2) Hannity’s nothing like Buckley in intellect or erudition (no matter what one might think of Buckley, anyone should see this), and (3) Buckley was deeply critical of Trump.

See, from William F. Buckley, excerpts drawn from an essay by William F. Buckley Jr. that appeared in the March/April 2000 issue of Cigar Aficionado, and since republished at National Review:

Look for the narcissist. The most obvious target in today’s lineup is, of course, Donald Trump. When he looks at a glass, he is mesmerized by its reflection. If Donald Trump were shaped a little differently, he would compete for Miss America. But whatever the depths of self-enchantment, the demagogue has to say something. So what does Trump say? That he is a successful businessman and that that is what America needs in the Oval Office. There is some plausibility in this, though not much. The greatest deeds of American Presidents — midwifing the new republic; freeing the slaves; harnessing the energies and vision needed to win the Cold War — had little to do with a bottom line.

Here’s that announcement —

Daily Bread for 6.27.17

Good morning.

Tuesday in Whitewater will be mostly sunny with a high of seventy-six. Sunrise is 5:18 AM and sunset is 8:37 PM, for 15h 18m 37s of daytime. The moon is a waxing crescent with 16.4% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the two hundred thirty-first day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

On this day in 1950, in response the communist invasion of South Korea, the United Nations Security Council adopts “S/RES/83: Complaint of aggression upon the Republic of Korea and decided the formation and dispatch of the UN Forces in Korea. Twenty-one countries of the United Nations eventually contributed to the UN force, with the United States providing 88% of the UN’s military personnel.” On this day in 1837, Solomon Juneau founds the Milwaukee Sentinel.

Recommended for reading in full —

Molly McKew urges readers to Forget Comey. The Real Story Is Russia’s War on America:

Since the January intelligence report, the public’s understanding of the threat has not expanded. OK, Russia meddled in the election — but so what? Increasingly, responsibility for this is borne by the White House, which in seeking to minimize the political damage of “Trump/Russia” is failing to craft a response to the greatest threat the United States and its allies have ever faced.

Even if the president and his team were correct, and the Comey testimony definitively cleared the president of potential obstruction of justice or collusion charges — even if that were true, that does not also exonerate Russia. Nonetheless, this is a line the president seems to want drawn.

So here are the real issues — about Russia; about the brutal facts we have yet to face; and about some hard questions we need to ask ourselves, and our political leaders, and our president….[listing in detail three key points…1. No matter what is true or not, we have moved toward the fractured, inward-looking, weakened America that President Putin wants to see…2. Russia has altered American policies, our relationships with our allies and our view of our place in the world…3. It will happen again; it is still happening now.

(Even considering Cold War setbacks against the Soviets, Putin’s success against America in 2016 – and dependent as it is on fellow travelers within America – is persuasively the most significant Russian victory over the United States in history.)

Ali Watkins reports that Intelligence officials worry State Dept. going easy on Russian diplomats:

Intelligence officials and lawmakers are concerned that the State Department is dragging its feet in implementing a crackdown on Russian diplomats’ travel within the U.S., despite evidence that Moscow is using lax restrictions to conduct intelligence operations.

The frustration comes amid bipartisan concern that the Trump administration is trying to slow down other congressional efforts to get tough on Russia. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told a House committee last week that a new Senate sanctions package designed to punish Russia for its interference in the 2016 election would limit Trump’s “flexibility” and impede possible U.S. “dialogue” with Moscow.

At issue separately is a provision already signed into law, as part of Congress’ annual Intelligence Authorization Act, approved in May, which requires the State Department to more rigorously enforce travel rules for Russian diplomats inside the U.S. The Kremlin’s U.S.-based diplomatic corps, according to several U.S. intelligence sources, has been known to skip notification rules and use the lax restrictions to roam around the country, likely engaging in surveillance activities.

Elias Grol writes that House Speaker Ryan Punts on Tough Senate Sanctions Bill:

On Tuesday [6.20] Ryan fell back on a constitutional technicality to stall the measure. The bill, which significantly ratchets up sanctions on both Russia and Iran, violates the origination clause of the Constitution, he argued, referring to the requirement that any bill raising revenue originate in the House.

AshLee Strong, a spokeswoman for Ryan, told Foreign Policy that the bill cannot be considered by the House in its current form and that the speaker will “determine the next course of action” after consulting with the Senate.

Sarah Kendzior writes, mocking Trump’s grandiose style of speech, that Trump is the best autocrat. The best. Nobody has a better autocrat than we do:

The administration’s mix of brazenly thwarting laws and maintaining opaqueness on policy was predictable. It mirrors the structure of Trump’s campaign, which vacillated between spectacle (the rallies, the insults) and secrets (the long trail of financial and personal misdeeds left under-covered by reporters due to a mix of NDAs and reporter apathy.) In his first four months, this dynamic persisted as the Trump administration pulled the US toward autocracy through abuse of executive power.

That is, until May, when Trump fired FBI Director James Comey. The President’s firing of the man investigating the President’s campaign set forth a chain of events culminating in an investigation into obstruction of justice – and raising the troubling question of whether, in an administration this corrupt, evidence of obstruction of justice will even result in repercussions.

The issues at the heart of the Russian interference crisis go beyond the standard uncertainty that arises when democracy declines. Never before has “to which country does the greatest loyalty of the president lie?” been the central question of a US federal investigation.

It is clear that the greatest loyalties of Trump’s team lie not with the constitution, but with Trump, as Attorney General Jeff Sessions made clear in a hearing in which he danced around perjury. The same holds for the rest of the GOP, who have failed to function as a check on Trump’s autocratic impulses or investigate his foreign ties.

What’s the carbon footprint of one sandwich? Adam Cole explains:

‘So soft I want to put them in a pillowcase’

Dave Weigel (@daveweigel), on Twitter, describes nicely the kind of questions that Trump gets from Fox & Friends: “The questions from the Fox and Friends exclusive with Trump are so soft I want to put them in a pillowcase.”

I’ve added Weigel’s transcription of questions, below. Residents of Whitewater would be familiar with a local version of these questions. Indeed, a national program like Fox & Friends now offers questions no more challenging than questions that a local newspaper or the Banner might direct to a town politician. Where once one hoped that better national standards might inspire weak local coverage, one now finds that a national program (among many others) is as soft & supine as these local publications are.

Film: Tuesday, June 27st, 12:30 PM @ Seniors in the Park: Lion

This Tuesday, June 27th at 12:30 PM, there will be a showing of Lion @ Seniors in the Park, in the Starin community building.

Lion (2016) is the story of Saroo, who “years after he got separated from his family, at a train station in India, and long since adopted by an Australian couple, decides to go searching for his birth family.”

Garth Davis directs the one hour, fifty-eight minute film, starring Dev Patel, Rooney Mara, David Wenham and Nicole Kidman. Lion received 6 Oscars nominations, including nominations for Best Picture, Supporting Actor (Patel), and Supporting Actress (Kidman). Lion carries a PG-13 rating from the MPAA.

One can find more information about Lion at the Internet Movie Database.


Daily Bread for 6.26.17

Good morning.

Monday in Whitewater will be partly cloudy with a forty-percent chance of afternoon showers and a high of sixty-eight. Sunrise is 5:18 AM and sunset 8:37 PM, for 15h 19m 05s of daytime. The moon is a waxing crescent with 8.7% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the two hundred thirtieth day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

Whitewater’s school board meets tonight, in closed session at 6:30 PM, thereafter to continue in open session beginning at about 7 PM.

Miller Center: June 26, 1963: “Ich bin ein Berliner” Speech

On this day in 1963, Pres. Kennedy delivers his Ich bin ein Berliner speech to the people of West Berlin, in the face of Soviet & East German construction of a wall to prevent free emigration into the West:

Two thousand years ago, the proudest boast was civis romanus sum [“I am a Roman citizen”]. Today, in the world of freedom, the proudest boast is “Ich bin ein Berliner!”… All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin, and therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words “Ich bin ein Berliner!”

Recommended for reading in full —

Jack Balkin of Yale Law School recently wrote of Trumping the Constitution (from notes he talk he gave):

Trump is a demagogue. We might even say that he is straight out of central casting for demagogues: unruly, uncouth, mendacious, dishonest and cunning. His rise is a symptom of constitutional rot and constitutional dysfunction. Constitutional rot not only allowed Trump to rise to power; he also has incentives to increase and exacerbate constitutional rot to stay in power. Many of his actions as president—and his media strategy—make sense from this perspective.

Polarization helps keep Trump in power, because it binds his supporters to him. He exacerbates polarization by fomenting outrage and internal division. He also confuses and distracts people, keeping them off balance and in a state of emotional upheaval. Emotional upheaval, in turn increases fear and fear enhances mutual distrust.

Trump doesn’t care if his opponents hate him, as long as his base hates and fears his political opponents more. Because his supporters hate and fear his enemies, they are more likely to cling to him, because they are quite certain that his enemies are even worse.

Polarization also helps keeps most professional politicians in his party from abandoning him. Many Republican politicians do not trust Trump and many regard him as unqualified. But if Republican politicians turn on Trump, they will be unable to achieve anything during a period in which they control both Congress and the White House. This will infuriate the base and anger the wealthy group of donors who help keep Republicans in power. Republican politicians who oppose Trump may face primary challenges. Finally, Republican politicians can’t be sure that enough of their fellow politicians will follow them if they stick their necks out. In fact, they may provoke a civil war within the Republican Party, in which Trump’s supporters accuse them of stabbing Trump (and the party) in the back.

John Hudson reports that Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak Is Going Home To Russia:

Ending one the most turbulent tenures of a Washington-based ambassador in recent memory, the Kremlin has decided to recall Ambassador to the United States Sergey Kislyak, three individuals familiar with the decision told BuzzFeed News.

The decision to bring Kislyak back to Russia rather than appoint him to a senior position at the United Nations in New York, as several outlets previously reported, comes amid investigations by the FBI and Congress into the 66-year-old diplomat’s contacts with President Donald Trump’s top aides during the 2016 presidential campaign….

As Kislyak’s associations came under intensifying scrutiny in recent weeks, an array of politicians in both parties tripped over themselves in trying to deny any past contacts with Kislyak, whose meetings with Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and former national security adviser Michael Flynn have become a central source of intrigue in the broader Russia probe. All three men failed to report their meetings or conversations with the Russian ambassador at various times. At one point, the intrigue spread beyond the Trump camp — in late April, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi claimed she’d never met Kislyak shortly before photos surfaced of her meeting with him alongside other lawmakers in 2010.

As a result, Kislyak has been labeled everything from “spymaster,” to “typhoid Mary,” to “the most radioactive man in Washington.”

Dana Priest and Michael Birnbaum report that Europe has been working to expose Russian meddling for years:

As the United States grapples with the implications of Kremlin interference in American politics, European countries are deploying a variety of bold tactics and tools to expose Russian attempts to sway voters and weaken European unity.

Across the continent, counterintelligence officials, legislators, researchers and journalists have devoted years — in some cases, decades — to the development of ways to counter Russian disinformation, hacking and trolling. And they are putting them to use as never before.

Four dozen officials and researchers interviewed recently sounded uniformly more confident about the results of their efforts to counter Russian influence than officials grappling with it in the United States, which one European cyber-official described as “like watching ‘House of Cards.’?”

“The response here has been very practical,” observed a senior U.S. intelligence official stationed in Europe. “Everybody’s looking at it.”

Sonia Saraiya describes NBC’s Megyn Kelly Problem:

By all measures, her “Sunday Night” effort been a disaster: Her interviews have been either ridiculed or loathed by the rest of the press, and the ratings reflect a distinct lack of interest. To be sure, newsmagazines around one anchor have a high failure rate, even for respected names like Bryant Gumbel, Connie Chung, and Jane Pauley. But Kelly’s problems go beyond ratings. Her June 18 episode, an interview with InfoWars’ Alex Jones, began as a problematic decision and snowballed into a PR nightmare. Kelly couldn’t handle either the interview or its fallout….

Kelly’s cachet is that she is a thoughtful conservative woman — a kind of unicorn. Her demeanor carries with it a lot of posh worldliness; she’s tony and she knows it. On Fox News, her maternal concern about this newfangled world aligned her with her peers. But at the same time, her reasonably fair-minded consideration stood out; she offered a veneer of respectability in opposition to the at times crass politicking of its conservative pundits. She was centrist enough that some of the network’s most faithful despised her; her skepticism about Trump further alienated her from the network’s bread-and-butter base. Even colleague Sean Hannity got into a spat with her — a spat later mended, cheekily, on Twitter. But the division between her and her former colleagues was clear — enough that for liberal viewers peering at Fox News in frustration, Kelly became an occasional hero.

But outside of that context — a context which magnified her strengths and talents, because of how different she was from the network that nurtured her — Kelly has to rely not on the power of contrast but on her own resources. And so far, what we’re seeing is disappointing. On NBC, Kelly is didactic without being trustworthy; patronizing without being impressive. Her voiceover suggests doom without really proving it; there’s a scare-mongering side to her reportage. And, most importantly: She’s alienated everyone….

Astonishing creatures live deep below:

Daily Bread for 6.25.17

Good morning.

Sunday in Whitewater will be partly cloudy with a high of sixty-nine. Sunrise is 5:18 AM and sunset 8:37 PM, for 15h 19m 28s of daytime. The moon is a waxing crescent with 2.9% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the two hundred twenty-ninth day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

On this day in 1950, the Korean War begins as communist North Korea invades South Korea. Millions died during the three-year-long conflict. Over 132,000 Wisconsinites served during the war.

Recommended for reading in full — 

David Lieb reports that an AP Analysis indicates partisan gerrymandering has benefited GOP:

The AP scrutinized the outcomes of all 435 U.S. House races and about 4,700 state House and Assembly seats up for election last year using a new statistical method of calculating partisan advantage. It’s designed to detect cases in which one party may have won, widened or retained its grip on power through political gerrymandering.

The analysis found four times as many states with Republican-skewed state House or Assembly districts than Democratic ones. Among the two dozen most populated states that determine the vast majority of Congress, there were nearly three times as many with Republican-tilted U.S. House districts.

Traditional battlegrounds such as Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Florida and Virginia were among those with significant Republican advantages in their U.S. or state House races. All had districts drawn by Republicans after the last Census in 2010.

The AP analysis also found that Republicans won as many as 22 additional U.S. House seats over what would have been expected based on the average vote share in congressional districts across the country. That helped provide the GOP with a comfortable majority over Democrats instead of a narrow one.

Nada Bakos writes that This is what foreign spies see when they read President Trump’s tweets:

Every time President Trump tweets, journalists and Twitter followers attempt to analyze what he means. Intelligence agencies around the world do, too: They’re trying to determine what vulnerabilities the president of the United States may have. And he’s giving them a lot to work with….

Trump’s tweets offer plenty of material for analysis. His frequent strong statements in reaction to news coverage or events make it appear as if he lacks impulse control. In building a profile of Trump, an analyst would offer suggestions on how foreign nations could instigate stress or deescalate situations, depending on what type of influence they may want to have over the president.

Sonam Sheth and Natasha Bertrand report that Evidence is mounting that Russia took 4 clear paths to meddle in the US election:

Now, as FBI special counsel Robert Mueller and congressional intelligence committees continue to investigate Russia’s election interference, evidence is emerging that the hacking and disinformation campaign waged at the direction of Russian President Vladimir Putin took at least four separate but related paths.

The first involved establishing personal contact with Americans perceived as sympathetic to Moscow — such as former Defense Intelligence Agency chief Michael Flynn, former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, and early Trump foreign-policy adviser Carter Page — and using them as a means to further Russia’s foreign-policy goals.

The second involved hacking the Democratic National Committee email servers and then giving the material to WikiLeaks, which leaked the emails in batches throughout the second half of 2016.

The third was to amplify the propaganda value of the leaked emails with a disinformation campaign waged predominantly on Facebook and Twitter, in an effort to use automated bots to spread fake news and pro-Trump agitprop.

And the fourth was to breach US voting systems in as many as 39 states leading up to the election, in an effort to steal registration data that officials say could be used to target and manipulate voters in future elections.

Timothy O’Brien exhorts Hey, Mueller, You Should Check Out Iceland:

Earlier this week I wrote about the Bayrock Group, a property developer that did business deals for a decade with President Donald Trump.

Felix Sater — a Bayrock principal who was a career criminal with American and Russian mob ties and who has remained in the Trump orbit — helped reel in funds of murky origin that Bayrock and Trump used for projects such as the Trump Soho hotel in Manhattan. And one of Bayrock’s biggest financial backers was an Icelandic investment bank, the FL Group.

Iceland would seem like an unlikely place for U.S. Justice Department investigators to look as they probe Trump connections with Russia and related matters. Yet there are trails to pursue there.

When Sater convinced FL to invest in Bayrock in 2007, Iceland was a font of easy money caught up in a financial binge so frenzied that it would cause the country’s economy to implode in 2008.

Red pandas dig in:

Daily Bread for 6.24.17

Good morning.

Saturday in Whitewater will be partly cloudy with a high of seventy-one. Sunrise is 5:17 AM and sunset 8:37 PM, for 15h 19m 48s of daytime. The moon is new, with .3% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the two hundred twenty-eighth day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

On this day in 1948, the Soviets begin the Berlin Blockade of access to West Berlin (those portions of the city under Allied control). June 24th, 1948 sets a Wisconsin record for the most precipitation: “Mellen, Wisconsin received 11.72 inches of rain within a single day. This set a record for Wisconsin for precipitation received within 24 hours.”

Recommended for reading in full —

Patrick Marley reports on federal litigation over Lincoln Hills in Judge: ‘Ted Kaczynski has less restrictive confinement’ than Lincoln Hills teen inmates:

MADISON – A federal judge on Friday issued a sweeping decision to curb the use of solitary confinement, pepper spray and use of restraints at Wisconsin’s teen prison complex, saying some substantial changes would need to be made quickly.

U.S. District Judge James Peterson said the use of isolation as a form of punishment at Lincoln Hills School for Boys and Copper Lake School for Girls is “acute, immediate and enduring.”

“Ted Kaczynski has less restrictive confinement than the youth at Lincoln Hills,” Peterson said, referring to the Unabomber who is held at a federal supermax prison in Colorado.

Peterson, who questioned the abilities of top leaders at Lincoln Hills, made his ruling from the bench on the second day of a hearing in a lawsuit brought by teen inmates over operations at Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake, which share a campus 30 miles north of Wausau. The inmates are represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin and the Juvenile Law Center.

Greg Miller reports that Putin denied meddling in the U.S. election. The CIA caught him doing just that:

Russian President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly — and often tauntingly — denied that his government interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential race. Earlier this month he said that the cyber campaign might have been the work of “patriotically minded” Russian hackers he likened to “artists” who take to canvases to express their moods and political views.

New details reported Friday by The Post reveal the extent to which the Russian meddling bore Putin’s own signature and brushstrokes.

U.S. intelligence officials have been pointing at Putin since October, when the Obama administration released a statement declaring that the stream of embarrassing emails and other material being posted online by WikiLeaks and other sites were tied to Russian hacking efforts that “only Russia’s senior-most officials could have authorized.”

….The latest revelations center on a critical piece of evidence that led U.S. intelligence agencies to that conclusion. In particular, the CIA had obtained intelligence from sources inside the Russian government by early August that captured the Russian leader’s specific instructions to subordinates on the operation’s objectives: disparage and seek to defeat the Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton while helping to deliver the White House to Trump.

Neera Tanden contends that The Kremlin’s Investment in Trump Is Paying Off:

Fifty-four years ago this month, former President John F. Kennedy delivered the “Strategy of Peace,” a powerful address that captured America’s indispensable leadership at the height of the Cold War. Kennedy knew that our country could not guard against the Soviet Union alone, for he believed that “genuine peace must be the product of many nations, the sum of many acts.”

Incredibly, the man who now leads the United States seems to find himself locked in an alarming and perilous embrace with the Russian government. These ties threaten to weaken a system of alliances that have held Russia—and countless other threats to the international community—at bay since the conclusion of the Second World War.

David Frum asks What Happens When a Presidency Loses Its Legitimacy?:

Day by day, revelation after revelation, the legitimacy of the Trump presidency is seeping away. The question of what to do about this loss is becoming ever more urgent and frightening.

The already thick cloud of discredit over the Trump presidency thickened deeper Friday, June 23. The Washington Post reported that the CIA told President Obama last year that Vladimir Putin had personally and specifically instructed his intelligence agencies to intervene in the U.S. presidential election to hurt Hillary Clinton and help Donald Trump….

The U.S. government is already osmotically working around the presidency, a process enabled by the president’s visible distaste for the work of governance….

In their way, these workarounds are almost as dangerous to the American system of government as the Trump presidency itself. They tend to reduce the president to the status of an absentee emperor while promoting his subordinates into shoguns who exercise power in his name. Maybe that is the least-bad practicable solution to the unprecedented threat of a presidency-under-suspicion. But what a terrible price for the failure of so many American institutions—not least the voters!—to protect the country in 2016 from Russia’s attack on its election and its democracy.

Great Big Story reveals The Alien Beauty of Socotra Island:

The Alien Beauty of Socotra Island from Great Big Story on Vimeo.


Daily Bread for 6.23.17

Good morning.

Friday in Whitewater will be partly cloudy with a high of eighty. Sunrise is 5:17 AM and sunset 8:37 PM, for 15h 20m 03s of daytime. The moon is new today, with just .5% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the two hundred twenty-seventh day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

On this day in 1868, Christopher Latham Sholes and colleagues are granted a patent for a type-writer:

The Scientific American article (unillustrated) had figuratively used the phrase “literary piano”; the first model that the trio built had a keyboard literally resembling a piano. It had black keys and white keys, laid out in two rows. It did not contain keys for the numerals 0 or 1 because the letters O and I were deemed sufficient:

  3 5 7 9 N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
 2 4 6 8 . A B C D E F G H I J K L M

The first row was made of ivory and the second of ebony, the rest of the framework was wooden. It was in this form that Sholes, Glidden and Soule were granted patents for their invention on June 23, 1868[15] and July 14.[16]The first document to be produced on a typewriter was a contract that Sholes had written, in his capacity as the Comptroller for the city of Milwaukee. Machines similar to Sholes’s had been previously used by the blind for embossing, but by Sholes’s time the inked ribbon had been invented, which made typewriting in its current form possible.[13]

Recommended for reading in full — 

A Washington Post exclusive reports on Obama’s secret struggle to punish Russia for Putin’s election assault, with reporting that the federal government knew of Putin’s direct orders to interfere against Clinton & on Trump’s behalf (emphasis added):

Early last August, an envelope with extraordinary handling restrictions arrived at the White House. Sent by courier from the CIA, it carried “eyes only” instructions that its contents be shown to just four people: President Barack Obama and three senior aides.

Inside was an intelligence bombshell, a report drawn from sourcing deep inside the Russian government that detailed Russian President Vladi­mir Putin’s direct involvement in a cyber campaign to disrupt and discredit the U.S. presidential race.

But it went further. The intelligence captured Putin’s specific instructions on the operation’s audacious objectives — defeat or at least damage the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, and help elect her opponent, Donald Trump.

At that point, the outlines of the Russian assault on the U.S. election were increasingly apparent. Hackers with ties to Russian intelligence services had been rummaging through Democratic Party computer networks, as well as some Republican systems, for more than a year. In July, the FBI had opened an investigation of contacts between Russian officials and Trump associates. And on July 22, nearly 20,000 emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee were dumped online by WikiLeaks.

David Frum considers The Lasting Damage of Trump’s ‘Tapes’ Bluff:

First, it confirms America’s adversaries in their intensifying suspicion that the president’s tough words are hollow talk. The rulers of North Korea will remember the menacing April 4 statement from the Department of State that the United States had spoken enough about missile tests, implying that decisive actions lay ahead—and the lack of actions and deluge of further statements that actually followed.

The Chinese will remember Trump’s retreat from his “two China” messaging during the transition. They will have noted that Trump has entirely retreated from his insistence that they restrain North Korea or pay some price—seeing instead his “At least I know China tried!” tweet of June 20.

The Russians have buzzed American aircraft and severed the deconfliction hot line over Syria. They have paid no real price for their attack on the integrity of the 2016 election—indeed, the president continues to exonerate them and to argue for relaxed sanctions….

Brian Whitmore asks What is the point of Putin’s flagrant lies?:

Greg Gordon, Ben Wieder, and Kevin G. Hall report that Elections officials outgunned in Russia’s cyberwar against America:

Local officials consistently play down suspicions about the long lines at polling places on Election Day 2016 that led some discouraged voters in heavily Democratic Durham County, N.C., to leave without casting a ballot.

Minor glitches in the way new electronic poll books were put to use had simply gummed things up, according to local elections officials there. Elections Board Chairman William Brian Jr. assured Durham residents that “an extensive investigation” showed there was nothing to worry about with the county’s new registration software.

He was wrong.

What Brian and other election officials across eight states didn’t know until the leak of a classified intelligence is that Russian operatives hacked into the Florida headquarters of VR Systems, Inc., the vendor that sold them digital products to manage voter registrations.

A week before the election, the hackers sent emails using a VR Systems address to 122 state and local election officials across the country, inviting them to open an attachment wired with malicious software that spoofed “legitimate elections-related services,” the report said. The malware was designed to retrieve enough additional information to set the stage for serious mischief, said the National Security Agency report disclosed by the Intercept, an investigative web site.

That wasn’t the only type of attack….

Why not end the work week with Zola the Dancing Gorilla?

Daily Bread for 6.22.17

Good morning.

Thursday in Whitewater will be mostly cloudy with a high of eighty-nine. Sunrise is 5:16 AM and sunset is 8:37 PM, for 15h 20m 14s of daytime. The moon is a waning crescent with 3.5% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the two hundred twenty-sixth day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

On this day in 1815, French dictator and imperialist Napoleon abdicates for the second time.  On this day in 1943, future senator Joseph McCarthy “broke his leg during a drunken Marine Corps initiation ceremony, despite a press release and other claims that he was hurt in “military action.” Although nicknamed “Tail Gunner Joe”, McCarthy never was a tail gunner, but instead served at a desk as an intelligence officer. In 1951 he applied for medals, including the Distinguished Flying Cross, awarded to those who had flown at least 25 combat missions. The Marine Corps has records of only 11 combat flights McCarthy flew on, and those were described as local “milk run” flights. Many of McCarthy’s claims were disputed by political opponents as well as journalists.”

Recommended for reading in full — 

Bruce Vielmetti reports that Jury finds ex-cop not guilty in fatal Sherman Park shooting that sparked violent unrest:

Former Milwaukee Police Officer Dominique Heaggan-Brown was found not guilty Wednesday in the on-duty fatal shooting of Sylville Smith that set off two days of violent unrest last year in parts of the Sherman Park neighborhood.

The verdict drew an emotional reaction in the courtroom, prompting the judge to clear the jury from the courtroom as deputies escorted members of the gallery outside.

Smith’s father, Patrick Smith, immediately called for calm in the wake of the verdict.

“I want the community to calm down and come together,” he said.

Smith’s sister, Sherelle Smith, also made an emotional appeal while speaking with reporters.

“Don’t give them a reason to take your life,” she said. “Do something different in the community, try as hard as you can to be peaceful and form unity with each other … black or white. Because we all bleed the same, we all hurt the same.”

Earlier Wednesday, Smith’s family filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against Heaggan-Brown and the City of Milwaukee.

The verdict was just the latest of many acquittals in police shootings around the country, including one in Minnesota last week of the officer who fatally shot Philando Castile. Like that case, it involved suspects with guns, split-second decisions about self-defense and video evidence.

William Wan reports that America’s new tobacco crisis: The rich stopped smoking, the poor didn’t:

— After decades of lawsuits, public campaigns and painful struggles, Americans have finally done what once seemed impossible: Most of the country has quit smoking, saving millions of lives and leading to massive reductions in cancer.

That is, unless those Americans are poor, uneducated or live in a rural area.

Hidden among the steady declines in recent years is the stark reality that cigarettes are becoming a habit of the poor. The national smoking rate has fallen to historic lows, with just 15?percent of adults still smoking. But the socioeconomic gap has never been bigger.

Among the nation’s less-educated people — those with a high-school-equivalency diploma — the smoking rate remains more than 40?percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Today, rural residents are diagnosed with lung cancer at rates 18 to 20 percent above those of city dwellers. By nearly every statistical measure, researchers say, America’s lower class now smokes more and dies more from cigarettes than other Americans.

George Will urges his fellow citizens to Let America plunge toward our fast-unfolding future:

This is a profound truth: The interacting processes that propel the world produce outcomes that no one intends. The fatal conceit — fatal to the fecundity of spontaneous order — is the belief that anyone, or any group of savants, is clever and farsighted enough to forecast the outcomes of complex systems. Who really wants to live in a society where outcomes are “meant,” meaning planned and unsurprising?

….Soon America will be 241. It is too young to flinch from the frictions — and the more than compensating blessings — of a fast-unfolding future.

Amy Siskind describes how Trump is steering us to authoritarianism:

Adam Cole wonders What Would We Lose If We Wiped Out Vampire Bats?:

Daily Bread for 6.21.17

Good morning.

Midweek in Whitewater will be mostly sunny with a high of seventy-nine. Sunrise is at 5:16 AM and sunset at 8:37 PM, for 15h 20m 21s of daytime. The moon is a waning crescent with 9.4% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the two hundred twenty-fifth day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

Whitewater’s Fire Department will hold a business meeting at 6 PM.

On this day in 1788, New Hampshire becomes the ninth state to ratify the Constitution, thereby establishing it (dates for the first meeting of the new federal government were set later). On this day in 1944, German POWs assist with Janesville’s harvest: “Camp Janesville was established when 250 German POWs arrived in Rock County to help pick and can peas, tomatoes, and sweet corn. The camp was a small town of tents that housed guards and the POWs, many of them from the defeated Afrika Corps led by the “Desert Fox”, Field Marshall Rommel. Another 150 prisoners were assigned to a similar camp in Jefferson. The German POWs were primarily in their mid-20s. They were eventually transferred to an undisclosed camp on September 25, 1944. [Source: Stalag Wisconsin by Betty Cowley, p. 165].”

Recommended for reading in full — 

David Frum correctly observes It’s Trump’s Party Now (“The Republican triumph in an affluent, educated Georgia congressional district showed GOP voters standing by their president):

It’s impossible to read the result in Georgia’s Sixth—the most expensive congressional race in U.S. history—as anything but a huge Republican victory. Notwithstanding national polls suggesting about 39 percent approval for the Republican president, a more-or-less standard-issue Republican candidate won by about 4 percentage points in exactly the kind of affluent, educated district supposedly most at risk in the Trump era. Whatever distaste they may inwardly feel for President Trump’s antics, when it comes time to vote, the Republicans of Cobb, DeKalb, and Fulton Counties did not express it at the ballot box.

But a big win is not the same thing as good news. The special elections of May and June 2017 offered Republicans a last chance for a course correction before the 2018 election cycle starts in earnest. A loss in Georgia would have sent a message of caution. The victory discredits that argument, and empowers those who want Trumpism without restraint, starting with the president himself.

Timothy O’Brien writes of Trump, Russia and a Shadowy Business Partnership (“An insider describes the Bayrock Group, its links to the Trump family and its mysterious access to funds. It isn’t pretty”):

In May, Trump told NBC that he has no property or investments in Russia. “I am not involved in Russia,” he said.

But that doesn’t address national security and other problems that might arise for the president if Russia is involved in Trump, either through potentially compromising U.S. business relationships or through funds that flowed into his wallet years ago. In that context, a troubling history of Trump’s dealings with Russians exists outside of Russia: in a dormant real-estate development firm, the Bayrock Group, which once operated just two floors beneath the president’s own office in Trump Tower.

Bayrock partnered with the future president and his two eldest children, Donald Jr. and Ivanka, on a series of real-estate deals between 2002 and about 2011, the most prominent being the troubled Trump Soho hotel and condominium in Manhattan.

During the years that Bayrock and Trump did deals together, the company was also a bridge between murky European funding and a number of projects in the U.S. to which the president once lent his name in exchange for handsome fees. Icelandic banks that dealt with Bayrock, for example, were easy marks for money launderers and foreign influence, according to interviews with government investigators, legislators, and others in Reykjavik, Brussels, Paris and London. Trump testified under oath in a 2007 deposition that Bayrock brought Russian investors to his Trump Tower office to discuss deals in Moscow, and said he was pondering investing there.

Tim Cullen and Dale Schultz write of their careers that We led the Wisconsin Senate. Now we’re fighting gerrymandering in our state:

Nothing epitomizes the problem more than the extreme partisan gerrymandering that has taken hold in Wisconsin and other states, where politicians and special interests have rigged the system, manipulating voting maps to keep their own political party in power with little regard for the will of the voters.

That’s why we are supporting the lawsuit from Wisconsin the Supreme Court just agreed to hear that would limit gerrymandering no matter which party does it. In our view — as the old saying goes — absolute power corrupts absolutely. Fighting gerrymandering is about fighting abuse of power, no matter who does it. If our side wins the lawsuit, we will establish a principle that reins in not only Republicans in states such as Wisconsin and North Carolina but also Democrats in states such as Maryland and Illinois.

Ben Lindbergh describes The Brilliance of the Brewers’ Unconventional Rebuild (“Instead of following the Astros’ and Cubs’ blueprint, Milwaukee’s trying to get back to the top without ever bottoming out. Here’s how”):

…the Brewers are still narrowly fending off the defending-champion Cubs, who were expected to have one of the easiest paths to the playoffs but have thus far peaked at four games over .500 en route to a 35–34 current record. The Brewers, who are lucky to have outplayed their more middling underlying stats for this long, almost certainly can’t maintain their 86-win pace or keep the Cubs at bay for three and a half more months, but neither is necessary for their season to be deemed a success. Whereas other recent rebuilds have taught us that the most direct route to contention runs through years of terrible teams, the Brewers are sailing right through a needle that the Astros and Cubs never attempted to thread. They’re trying to get back to the top without ever bottoming out, and thus far they’ve done it not just by building from within, but by casting an extra-wide net for nontraditional talent plucked from rival organizations and distant leagues.

Adult elephants spring into action to save a calf:

Whitewater, Cultures & Communications, June 2017 (Part 13: That Which Paved the Way)

This is the thirteenth and final post in a series considering related local topics of cultures & communications within the city.

Some months ago, I wrote a post that described my thinking about Whitewater’s current situation: her weak, superficial, conflict-riddled politics, and that of so many other places, was that which paved the way for Trumpism —

More than a few town notables in places like Whitewater paved the way for Trumpism. They made this possible. See, along these lines, The National-Local Mix (Part 2). Those of us in an implacable resistance have much work hard work, and likely many hard losses, before we prevail in opposition.

When we do, Trump will go, and Trumpism with him. More than that, however: the causes of Trumpism in places like Whitewater will go, too.

About eighteen months ago, thinking only of these earlier causes, I wrote in reply to a prominent social & political figure in town, predicting that ‘not one of those practices will endure to this city’s next generation.’

Whether she believed this, I don’t know, and candidly it matters not at all what either of us believes.

The prediction will prove true nonetheless.

This is where the city is, where the state is, where the country is, in a continental conflict that will grow yet worse before it ends.

There are local matters to address, but now in the context of the cumulative damage from many localities’ wrong choices.

The series: Parts 1 (introductory assumptions), 2 (population), 3 (oasis), 4 (demographics), 5 (working age), 6 (divided), 7 (how it was supposed to be), 8 (nearby), and 9 (small-town harvards), 10 (mailers), 11 (fiestas and apple orchards), 12 (messaging), and 13 (that which paved the way).

Daily Bread for 6.20.17

Good morning.

Tuesday in Whitewater will see scattered afternoon thunderstorms with a high of seventy-three. Sunrise is 5:16 AM and sunset 8:36 PM, for 15h 20m 25s of daytime. The moon is a waning crescent with 18% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the two hundred twenty-fourth 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 1893, a jury acquits Lizze Borden of the ax murders of her parents. On this day in 1911, laborers in Madison express displeasure with their working conditions: “On this date Italian working men, employed by Andrus Asphalt Company in Madison, went on strike and threatened to kill their foreman if they did not receive an increase in wages for laying pavement. The men demanded a 25-cent (a day) raise, from $1.75 to $2.00.”

Recommended for reading in full —

Philip Rucker and Ed O’Keefe report that In Trump’s Washington, public business increasingly handled behind closed doors:

The Senate bill to scale back the health-care law known as Obamacare is being written in secret by a single senator, Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and a clutch of his senior aides.

Officials at numerous agencies of the Trump administration have stonewalled friendly Republicans in Congress — not to mention Democrats — by declining to share internal documents on sensitive matters or refusing to answer questions.

President Trump, meanwhile, is still forbidding the release of his tax returns, his aides have stopped releasing logs of visitors to the White House and his media aides have started banning cameras at otherwise routine news briefings, as happened Monday.

Trump even refuses to acknowledge to the public that he plays golf during his frequent weekend visits to his private golf courses.

More and more in the Trump era, business in Washington is happening behind closed doors. The federal government’s leaders are hiding from public scrutiny — and their penchant for secrecy represents a stark departure from the campaign promises of Trump and his fellow Republicans to usher in newfound transparency.

Jared Yates Sexton explains Why Trump Doesn’t Need Fox News Anymore:

In the past, when interacting with conservatives or overhearing their conversations, I’d always heard Fox News talking points, the same ones that former head Roger Ailes famously used to send out every morning in an effort to determine the country’s narrative. But in the past year something had changed: Conservatives were receiving their cues directly from Trump and his family, or else from alternative media companies like Infowars and Breitbart.

In my forthcoming book about the 2016 presidential election, The People Are Going to Rise Like the Waters Upon Your Shore, I chronicle how Donald Trump effectively replaced Fox News as the center of information for Republicans, starting with his brief but disturbing feud with former Fox News host Megyn Kelly after the first Republican primary debate. This allowed Trump to cast Fox News in the same “crooked media” pool as its competitors, a move that eventually inoculated him from his myriad of scandals as his supporters no longer trusted anyone who reported negative stories about their candidate.

Joe Davidson writes that Report finds sloppy handling of sexual misconduct cases in Justice Department:

Everything wasn’t civil within the Civil Division of the Justice Department.

For an agency filled with lawyers familiar with handling evidence and detailing investigations, the agency’s management of sexual harassment and misconduct cases was surprisingly sloppy, according to the department’s Office of Inspector General (OIG).

While the number of documented harassment cases is not great, “we identified significant weaknesses in the Civil Division’s tracking, reporting, and investigating of the 11 sexual harassment and misconduct allegations that we reviewed” during fiscal 2011-2016, the report said, “as well as inconsistencies among penalties imposed for substantiated allegations.”

In one case, a male attorney allegedly spied on two female lawyers while they pumped breast milk. “The investigation into the allegation consisted of the male attorney’s supervisor speaking with him,” according to the report. “Thereafter, his supervisor accepted the male attorney’s explanation of the incident as an honest mistake and imposed on him an informal disciplinary action of oral counseling.”

Daviod Mack considers an exchange between Chris Wallace and one of Trump’s lawyers, Jay Sekulow:

Here’s a look at the world’s fastest animals:

Whitewater, Cultures & Communications, June 2017 (Part 12: Messaging)

This is the twelfth post in a series considering related local topics of cultures & communications within the city.

There are several news (or news-release dependent) publications in Whitewater: the Daily Union, Gazette, and Banner. Add to that over a dozen Facebook pages, and a few local government websites (city, school district, university in particular), and one might expect a diversity of opinion. (I’d certainly favor that diversity.)

It’s not yet here, however. These publications share a similar point of view: touting the local (or hyper-local) as exceptional, from an almost uniformly right-leaning direction. (Right-leaning as they see it: support for government intervention in the marketplace and cultural conservatism everywhere else. There’s much talk about businesses, but almost none about the free markets that make business and labor transactions efficient.  Nor is there even one of these publications that’s introspective; indeed, on this last point, their publishers would probably mistake their own views for the natural order of the universe.

(I don’t know how many people on the planet treat municipal emblems with the kind of reverence that one might show for a holy icon, but if there’s a sociologist who’d like to study that outlook, Whitewater’s coördinates are 42°50’6″ N 88°44’10” W. )

Into this environment comes a public relations and media manager for the city of Whitewater. A sharp, long-time reader pointed out the problem with a public-relations manager for city government: the Banner’s politician-publisher now does that job for free. Not as stylishly as a media manager could, to be sure, but with a thrall to authority that never fails.  The advantages of a private publication are lost when its publisher has spent decades holding public offices.

Most of these publications have an elderly readership; the rest have elderly publishers or (for organizations with Facebook pages) an elderly membership. Those wondering what happened to the bobby soxers will find the answer at the city manager’s annual state of the city update, where senior citizen attendees turn out for autographs to listen appreciatively.

The real gap is a demographic one: Whitewater’s residents in their 70s & 80s don’t look like residents in their 20s and 30s. (For that matter, I don’t look like residents in their 20s and 30s, but then I don’t claim to hold anything other than a single perspective, as an emissary of one, so to speak.)

Whitewater’s mostly churning the same cream through similar churns, and finding that the butter all tastes the same.

Previously: Parts 1 (introductory assumptions), 2 (population), 3 (oasis), 4 (demographics), 5 (working age), 6 (divided), 7 (how it was supposed to be), 8 (nearby), and 9 (small-town harvards), 10 (mailers), and 11 (fiestas and apple orchards).

Tomorrow: Part 13.

Film: Wednesday, June 21st, 12:30 PM @ Seniors in the Park: A Man Called Ove

This Wednesday, June 21st at 12:30 PM, there will be a showing of A Man Called Ove @ Seniors in the Park, in the Starin community building.

A Man Called Ove (2015) is a comedy-drama about “Ove, an ill-tempered, isolated retiree who spends his days enforcing block association rules and visiting his wife’s grave, [who] has finally given up on life just as an unlikely friendship develops with his boisterous new neighbors.”

Rolf Lassgård stars in the one hour, fifty-six minute film, in Swedish with English subtitles, also starring Bahar Pars and Filip Berg. The movie was an Oscar nominee for Best Foreign Film, and received an AARP Movies for Grownups Award. One can find more information about A Man Called Ove at the Internet Movie Database.

Please note: this film is being shown on Wednesday, June 21st.


Daily Bread for 6.19.17

Good morning.

Monday in Whitewater will see scattered thunderstorms this afternoon, with a high of seventy-two on an otherwise mostly cloudy day. Sunrise is 5:16 AM and sunset 8:36 PM, for 15h 20m 23s of daytime. The moon is a waning crescent with 27.7% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the two hundred twenty-third day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

Whitewater’s Planning Commission meets at 5:30 PM today, and her Library Board at 6:30 PM.

Baseball’s Iron Horse, Lou Gehrig, is born on this day in 1903. On this day in 1864, and for the next ten months, the 4th Wisconsin Light Artillery and 5th, 6th, 7th, 19th, 36th, 37th and 38th Wisconsin Infantry regiments serve at the Siege of Petersburg, Virginia.

Recommended for reading in full —

Patrick Marley writes that the U.S. Supreme Court will hear Wisconsin’s redistricting case with national implications:

MADISON —  In brief order Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court said it would hold a hearing on a lower court decision that found Wisconsin Republicans overreached in 2011 by drawing legislative districts that were so favorable to them that they violated the U.S. Constitution.

The case has been watched nationally because it could resolve a question that has long eluded courts — can maps of lawmakers’ districts be so one-sided that they violate the constitutional rights of voters?

A panel of three federal judges ruled 2-1 last fall that Wisconsin lawmakers had drawn maps for the state Assembly that were so heavily skewed for Republicans as to violate the voting rights of Democrats. The judges ordered the state to develop new maps by November.

Jonathan Rauch writes that Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey is a new form of American politics known as a cover-up in public view:

In an interview with Lester Holt of NBC News, he declared, “I was gonna fire [Comey] regardless of [DOJ’s] recommendation.”

Still more astonishingly, he added: “And in fact when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story.”

So there he was, right out in the open, volunteering that he had fired an FBI director partly because that director was investigating him. It was as if Richard Nixon, in 1974, had gone on TV, after all his aides’ denials, and said, “Sure, I told the CIA to quash an FBI investigation. When I decided to do it, I said to myself, You know, this Watergate thing with Nixon is a made-up story.”

….What Trump seems to have figured out is that people quickly adjust to behavior that is open and legal, even if it is unprecedented, antisocial, and sinister. Instead, they focus on what’s secret and illegal, assuming that secretive criminal behavior must be worse.

Matt Valentine writes that The NRA is pushing policies that gun owners like me don’t want:

Having won battles against universal background checks and the federal assault weapons ban, the group has moved on to champion less-popular causes. Here in Texas, affiliates of the NRA have voiced support for the right to carry guns in college classrooms, courthouses, mental hospitals and zoos , and the right to carry a gun with no license or training whatsoever.

 But who really wants this stuff? In August 2016, a young man identified himself to the New York Times as the only remaining member of Students for Campus Carry at the University of Texas at Austin (where about 40,000 undergraduates are enrolled). I’ve observed half a dozen open-carry demonstrations in the vicinity of the Texas State Capitol — the clusters of men with semiautomatic rifles slung across their chests are conspicuous but not numerous. A 2015 University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll found that only 32 percent of Texans wanted looser gun laws; a 2016 poll in Utah found that only 24 percent of Utahns supported legalizing permitless carrying. These are policies in search of a constituency.

Sarah Kendzior is fittingly part of St. Louis Magazine‘s A-List Awards for 2017:

Kendzior is a journalist living in Trump country, a Wash. U. Ph.D. focusing on authoritarian states who’s fluent in Russian. “The niche is pretty weird and unfortunate,” she jokes. Her unique perspective is in high demand by national news outlets, and she’s even been quoted by Hillary Clinton. Yet Kendzior plans to stay here in St. Louis—at least for now. “I’m not making long-term plans under the Trump administration,” she laughs. “I don’t think that’s a wise idea.”

Adrienne LaFrance describes The Normalization of Conspiracy Culture:

Pushing conspiracy theories helped win Trump the presidency, and he’s now banking on the idea that they’ll help him as president. He’s casting himself as the victim of a new conspiracy—a “witch hunt” perpetrated by the forces that want to see him fail.

“Donald Trump communicates through conspiracy theories,” Uscinski says. “You can win the presidency on conspiracy theories, but it’s very difficult to govern on them. Because conspiracy theories are for losers, and now he’s a winner.”

What he means is, conspiracy theories are often a way of expressing an imbalance of power by those who perceive themselves to be the underdog. “But if you control the Supreme Court, the Senate, the House, and the White House, you can’t pull that,” Uscinski says. “Just like how Hillary Clinton can’t, in 1998, say her husband’s troubles are due to a vast right-wing conspiracy.”

Which animals mostly commonly kill their own kind? (Among animals, I wouldn’t describe this as murder, but Ed Yong’s data are still interesting.)