Daily Bread for 3.27.17

Good morning.

Monday in Whitewater will be cloudy with a high of fifty-one. Sunrise is 6:43 AM and sunset 7:16 PM, for 12h 32m 44s of daytime. The moon is new, with .4% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the one hundred thirty-ninth day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

Whitewater’s Community Development Authority is scheduled to meet this afternon at 5:30 PM.

On this day in 1513, Juan Ponce de León spots what he believes is an island, but was likely his first sighting of Florida. On this day in 1865, the 8th, 11th, 14th, 20th, 23rd, 27th, 28th, 29th, 33rd and 35th Wisconsin Infantry regiments join in the Battle of Spanish Fort began on the Gulf Coast of Alabama.

Recommended for reading in full —

John Schmid and Kevin Crowe report on An intractable problem (for the last half-century, Milwaukee has been caught in a relentless social and economic spiral): “At the start of the 1970s, Milwaukee’s industrial heyday, just 17% of the city’s population lived in census tracts in which 20% to 40% of the residents lived below the federal poverty line. That’s a level labeled “concentrated poverty,” and social scientists consider it the combustion point for social toxins like crime, teen pregnancies, dropping out of school. (A Milwaukee census tract averages about 3,000 people.) Milwaukee’s rate was far healthier than other industrial cities like Detroit (25%), Philadelphia (21%) or Chicago (20%). By the end of that watershed decade, amid the first wave of industrial shutdowns, 22% of the city lived in 20%-40% poverty tracts, and there was a proliferation of “extreme poverty” tracts, where 40% or more lived below the line. Then came the booming ’80s and the greatest bull market on Wall Street since the 1920s. The aphorism is that a rising economic tide lifts all boats, but Milwaukee missed out. By the end of the decade, the percentage of people living in tracts with 20%-plus poverty rose to 43.5% — including both concentrated and extreme poverty. During the tech-driven ’90s, as the internet minted new fortunes and Google was born, the number of 20%-40% tracts increased from 48 to 74. By the end of the decade, the percentage of city residents in 20%-plus tracts was 47.2%, almost half the city’s population. By 2014, 145 of the city’s 209 census tracts — home to almost three-quarters of the city’s population — had at least 20% of the population living in poverty, and more than one out of four Milwaukeeans lived in neighborhoods of extreme poverty.”

Margaret Sullivan notes that Scott Pelley is pulling no punches on the nightly news — and people are taking notice: “Pelley, of CBS Evening News, has set himself apart — especially in recent weeks — with a spate of such assessments, night after night. Perhaps the most notable one, on Feb. 7, went like this: “It has been a busy day for presidential statements divorced from reality. Mr. Trump said this morning that any polls that show disapproval of his immigration ban are fake. He singled out a federal judge for ridicule after the judge suspended his ban, and Mr. Trump said that the ruling now means that anyone can enter the country. The president’s fictitious claims, whether imaginary or fabricated, are now worrying even his backers, particularly after he insisted that millions of people voted illegally, giving Hillary Clinton her popular-vote victory.” And then Pelley added a reality-check kicker: “There is not one state election official, Democrat or Republican, who supports that claim.” There are plenty of other examples: One evening last month, he described Trump aide Kellyanne Conway as “a fearless fabulist.” Another night, he referred to the president as having had “another Twitter tantrum.” Far more than his competitors — Lester Holt on NBC and David Muir on ABC — Pelley is using words and approaches that pull no punches. It’s not that the others don’t provide fact-checks or report on criticism; they do. But Pelley, 59, despite his calm delivery, is dogged, night after night — and far blunter.”

Colbert King contends It’s time for the feds to follow the Russian money: “There’s plenty of ground for federal agencies to plow. The Financial Times reported in October that an investigation that it conducted had turned up evidence of ties between one Trump venture and an alleged international money-laundering network. Title deeds, bank records and correspondence showed that a Kazakh family accused of laundering hundreds of millions of dollars bought apartments in a Manhattan building part-owned by Trump and pursued business ventures with one of his partners. This week, ABC News reported that from 2011 to 2013, the FBI had a warrant to eavesdrop on a Russian money-laundering network that operated out of Trump Tower in New York. “The FBI investigation led to a federal grand jury indictment of more than 30 people, including one of the world’s most notorious Russian mafia bosses, Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov,” ABC’s Brian Ross and Matthew Mosk reported. “He was the only target to slip away, and he remains a fugitive from American justice.” Bloomberg Businessweek reported this month: “Two months before Trump broke ground in New York in October 1998, Russia defaulted on $40 billion in domestic debt, and some of the biggest banks started to collapse. Millionaires scrambled to get their money out and into New York. Real estate provides a safe haven for overseas investors. It has few reporting requirements and is a preferred way to move cash of questionable provenance. Amid the turmoil, buyers found a dearth of available projects. Trump World Tower, opened in 2001, became a prominent depository of Russian money.”

Conor Dougherty reports that the Push for Internet Privacy Rules Moves to Statehouses: “California and Connecticut, for instance, recently updated laws that restrict government access to online communications like email, and New Mexico could follow soon. Last year, Nebraska and West Virginia passed laws that limit how companies can monitor employees’ social media accounts, while legislators in Hawaii, Missouri and elsewhere are pushing similar bills for employees, as well as for students and tenants. “More and more, states have taken the position that, if Congress is not willing or able to enact strong privacy laws, their legislatures will no longer sit on their hands,” said Chad Marlow, a lawyer at the American Civil Liberties Union. Online privacy is the rare issue that draws together legislators from the left and the far right. At the state level, anyway, some of the progress has come from a marriage between progressive Democrats and libertarian-minded Republicans, who see privacy as a bedrock principle, Mr. Marlow said.”

Daily Bread for 3.26.17

Good morning.

Whitewater will have a rainy Sunday, with a high of fifty-seven. Sunrise is 6:45 AM and sunset is 7:15 PM, for 12h 29m 49s of daytime. The moon is a waning crescent with 3.4% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the one hundred thirty-eighth day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

On this day in 1881, famous Civil War mascot Old Abe dies from injuries he sustained during a fire at the State Capitol. He was the mascot for Company C, an Eau Claire infantry unit that was part of the Wisconsin 8th Regiment. His fame continued after the war:

After Wisconsin took possession of Old Abe, state officials classified him as a “War Relic” and created an “Eagle Department” in the Capitol building, which included a two-room “apartment,” a custom bathtub for the eagle, and a caretaker. Later John Hill served in this capacity.[23] Old Abe became a nationally known celebrity, whose presence at events was requested by individuals and organizations from the state and the country. Old Abe appeared at the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and the 1880 Grand Army of the Republic National Convention. Other events were fundraisers for charities, which included: the 1865 Northwest Sanitary Fair in Illinois, Soldiers’ Home Fair, Soldier’s Orphan’s Home, Harvey Hospital, and Ladies Aid Society of Chippewa Falls.[3] In February 1881, a small fire broke out in the basement of the Capitol. After Old Abe raised an alarm, the fire was quickly put out. However, the eagle inhaled a large amount of thick black smoke, and about a month later, lost strength and began to decline. On March 26, 1881, in spite of the efforts of numerous doctors, Old Abe died in the arms of caretaker George Gilles.[23]

On September 17, 1881, Old Abe’s stuffed remains were placed in a glass display case located in the rotunda of the Capitol. Four years later, Old Abe was moved, within the Capitol, from the rotunda to the G.A.R. Memorial Hall. In 1900, his remains were transferred to the new building of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin. However, pressure from veterans convinced Governor Robert M. Lafollette to return Old Abe to the Capitol building in 1903. That year, President Theodore Roosevelt viewed the remains and expressed his pleasure at being able to see the eagle he had studied in school as a child. In 1904, Old Abe’s remains and the glass case were destroyed in a fire that razed the Capitol building.[23]

Since 1915, a replica of Old Abe has presided over the Wisconsin State Assembly Chamber in the Capitol, and another is on display at the Wisconsin Veterans Museum in Madison.[24] A stone sculpture of the eagle is at the top of the Camp Randall Arch.[11]

 

Recommended for reading in full — 

Tim Alberta describes events from Inside the GOP’s Health Care Debacle: “Donald Trump had heard enough about policy and process. It was Thursday afternoon and members of the House Freedom Caucus were peppering the president with wonkish concerns about the American Health Care Act—the language that would leave Obamacare’s “essential health benefits” in place, the community rating provision that limited what insurers could charge certain patients, and whether the next two steps of Speaker Paul Ryan’s master plan were even feasible—when Trump decided to cut them off. “Forget about the little shit,” Trump said, according to multiple sources in the room. “Let’s focus on the big picture here.” The group of roughly 30 House conservatives, gathered around a mammoth, oval-shaped conference table in the Cabinet Room of the White House, exchanged disapproving looks. Trump wanted to emphasize the political ramifications of the bill’s defeat; specifically, he said, it would derail his first-term agenda and imperil his prospects for reelection in 2020. The lawmakers nodded and said they understood. And yet they were disturbed by his dismissiveness. For many of the members, the “little shit” meant the policy details that could make or break their support for the bill—and have far-reaching implications for their constituents and the country.”

Matt Flegenheimer and  Thomas Kaplan contend that Paul Ryan Emerges From Health Care Defeat Badly Damaged: “Less than 18 months after being elected speaker, Mr. Ryan has emerged from the defeat of the health care bill badly damaged, retaining a grip on the job but left to confront the realities of his failure — imperiling the odd-couple partnership that was supposed to sustain a new era of conservative government under unified Republican rule.”

Graydon Carter contends that the Trump Presidency is Already a Joke (But It’s No laughing Matter): “Trump’s one brief moment of acting presidential—when he read off a teleprompter for 60 minutes and 10 seconds during his address to Congress—served only to show just how low the bar for presidential behavior has plummeted since January. Watching TV commentators applaud him for containing himself for a little over an hour was like hearing a parent praise a difficult child for not pooping in his pants during a pre-school interview. Besides, vintage Trump is not going anywhere anytime soon. A couple of weeks earlier, during a visit by the Japanese prime minister, Shinz? Abe, the president told an acquaintance that he was obsessed with the translator’s breasts—although he expressed this in his own, fragrant fashion.”

Hannah Levintova outlines The Long, Twisted, and Bizarre History of the Trump-Russia Scandal: “The Trump-Russia scandal—with all its bizarre and troubling twists and turns—has become a controversy that is defining the Trump presidency. The FBI recently disclosed that since July it has been conducting a counterintelligence investigation into possible coordination between Trump associates and Russia, as part of its probe of Moscow’s meddling in the 2016 election. Citing “US officials,” CNN reported that the bureau has gathered information suggesting coordination between Trump campaign officials and suspected Russian operatives. Each day seems to bring a new revelation—and a new Trump administration denial or deflection. It’s tough to keep track of all the relevant events, pertinent ties, key statements, and unraveling claims. So we’ve compiled what we know so far into the timeline below, which covers Trump’s 30-year history with Russia.  We will continue to update the timeline regularly as events unfold. (Click here to go directly to the most recent entry.) Please email us at scoop@motherjones.com if you have a tip or we’ve left anything out.”

People on Twitter are mocking Trump for pretending to drive a big rig truck (instead of reading and comprehending the details of health care legislation that he dismissively described as “the little shit“):

A Reminder on Dealmaking

David Frum, writing about Trump’s failure to advance health care legislation, observes the truth about Trump:


That’s right, and cannot be said enough: Trump’s a confidence man, and he preys on the unwary, desperate, or gullible.

There’s a local angle in all this: although Whitewater’s policymakers and town notables want to portray themselves as advancing sophisticated (often tech-oriented programs), their plans rest mostly on false claims and third-tier work hawked to an economically struggling community. They claim job gains without describing them in detail, they claim economic benefits without enumerating them in detail, and they hide costs and setbacks that would place in context any benefits they hazily claim.

The few, self-described ‘Whitewater Advocates’ who push these policies aren’t selling community betterment: they’re selling their own social advancement at the cost of the disproportionately large number of indigent and struggling residents in this city. And Like Trump, when they meet capable counter-parties, their scheming fares poorly.

They’ve had over the years, from their own perspective one supposes, public-relations success with dodgy proposal after dodgy proposal. I’d guess the high watermark for them was several years ago, around 2010-2012. They should have quit then, while the tide was still high. The water’s receding now, and one sees how much waste litters the shore.

Daily Bread for 3.25.17

Good morning.

Saturday in Whitewater will be cloudy, with a high of forty-none, and periods of rain. Sunrise is 6:46 AM and sunset is 7:13 PM, for 12h 26m 55s of daytime. The moon is a waning crescent with 8.4% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the one hundred thirty-seventh day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

On this day in 1911, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire claims the lives of one hundred forty-six workers, most of whom were Jewish and Italian immigrant women aged 16 to 23. On this day in 1865, the 36th and 38th Wisconsin Infantry regiments participate in the Battle of Fort Stedman, Virginia, during the Siege of Petersburg.

Recommended for reading in full —

David Graham observes that for Trump, It’s Never Trump’s Fault: “Trump was very clear about who was not to blame: himself. “I worked as a team player,” the president of the United States said, demoting himself to bit-player status. He wanted to do tax reform first, after all, and it was still early. “I’ve been in office, what, 64 days? I’ve never said repeal and replace Obamacare within 64 days. I have a long time. I want to have a great health-care bill and plan and we will.” Strictly speaking, it is true that Trump didn’t promise to repeal Obamacare on day 64 of his administration. What he told voters, over and over during the campaign, was that he’d do it immediately. On some occasions he or top allies even promised to do it on day 1. Now he and his allies are planning to drop the bill for the foreseeable future….Trump’s quick disavowal of any role in the collapse fits with an emerging pattern: The president never takes the blame for anything that goes wrong….Assuming the public accepts it, this choice has both upsides and downsides. On the one hand, it means that Trump is never to blame for anything. On the other, if he’s so irrelevant, why should anyone pay attention to him or take his proposals and ideas seriously?”

Robert Costa, Ashley Parker and Philip Rucker report on ‘The closer’? The inside story of how Trump tried — and failed — to make a deal on health care: “For Trump, it was never supposed to be this hard. As a real estate mogul on the rise, he wrote “The Art of the Deal,” and as a political candidate, he boasted that nobody could make deals as beautifully as he could. Replacing Obamacare, a Republican bogeyman since the day it was enacted seven years ago, was Trump’s first chance to prove that he had the magic touch that he claimed eluded Washington. But Trump’s effort was plagued from the beginning. The bill itself would have violated a number of Trump’s campaign promises, driving up premiums for millions of citizens and throwing millions more off health insurance — including many of the working-class voters who gravitated to his call to “make America great again.” Trump was unsure about the American Health Care Act, though he ultimately dug in for the win, as he put it. There were other problems, too. Trump never made a real effort to reach out to Democrats, and he was unable to pressure enough of his fellow Republicans. He did not speak fluently about the bill’s details and focused his pitch in purely transactional terms. And he failed to appreciate the importance of replacing Obamacare to the Republican base; for the president, it was an obstacle to move past to get to taxes, trade and the rest of his agenda.”

Tim Mak reports that Devin Nunes Vanished the Night Before He Made Trump Surveillance Claims: “Hours before the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee announced his shocking claims about surveillance of the Trump transition team on Wednesday morning, he practically disappeared. Rep. Devin Nunes was traveling with a senior committee staffer in an Uber on Tuesday evening when he received a communication on his phone, three committee officials and a former national security official with ties to the committee told The Daily Beast. After the message, Nunes left the car abruptly, leaving his own staffer in the dark about his whereabouts. By the next morning, Nunes hastily announced a press conference. His own aides, up to the most senior level, did not know what their boss planned to say next. Nunes’ choice to keep senior staff out of the loop was highly unusual.”

Travis Dorman reports that Tennessee bills teen to replace guardrail that killed her: “LENOIR CITY, Tenn. — The state of Tennessee erroneously has billed a dead teen nearly $3,000 to replace the guardrail that killed her in a car crash in November. Her flabbergasted father said that he not only would not pay but also contends that the model of guardrail that struck his daughter was poorly designed and dangerous. Around 5:44 a.m. ET Nov. 1, Hannah Eimers, 17, was driving her father’s 2000 Volvo S80 on Interstate 75 northbound near Niota, Tenn., when the car left the road, traveled into the median and hit the end of a guardrail with the driver’s side door, according to a Tennessee Highway Patrol crash report. Instead of deflecting the car or buckling to absorb the impact, the guardrail end impaled the vehicle, striking the teen in the head and chest and pushing her into the back seat, according to the report. She died instantly.”

Opera? No, something even better: subway opera —

Elevating the Underground: Subway Opera from Great Big Story on Vimeo.

Heroic Cat Saves Wisconsin Family from Poisoning

A fluffy brown tabby cat is being hailed as a hero after she alerted her human family to dangerously high levels of carbon monoxide in their home last month.

Annette Shanahan of Reedsburg, Wisconsin, told Madison.com this week that around 1 a.m. on Feb. 4, she felt weak, ill and disoriented and wandered out of bed, collapsing into a chair in the bedroom.

Her husband, Kevin, said he would have slept through it if it weren’t for the family cat, Gracie.

American heroine. Via CBS.

”All of the sudden Gracie, I heard she was pounding, knocking, knocking, knocking at the door,” he told local news channel WREG. “And so I got out of bed and to stop her from pounding at the door, and I looked to my left and Annette was there in the chair.”

Gracie doesn’t usually try to get into the bedroom, so the pounding was out of the ordinary for her, the couple said.

They were barely able to call 911 to tell them they couldn’t breathe. When help arrived, firefighters discovered deadly carbon monoxide levels in their home, which was later attributed to a hot water heater malfunction.

Via Huffington Post.

Daily Bread for 3.24.17

Good morning.

Friday in Whitewater will be warm, with a high of seventy, and an even chance of afternoon thunder showers. Sunrise is 6:48 AM and sunset 7:12 PM, for 12h 23m 59s of daytime. The moon is a waning crescent with 15.7% of its visible disk illuminated.Today is the one hundred thirty-sixth day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

On this day in 1989, the oil tanker Exxon Valdez strikes Prince William Sound’s Bligh Reef at and spills 10.8 million US gallons of crude oil over the next few days. On this day in 1874, legendary magician Harry Houdini (who claimed to be born in Appleton and actually lived there for a bit) is born in Budapest.

Recommended for reading in full — 

Andrew Roth and Natalie Gryvnyak report that Days before his death, Putin critic said in interview he knew he was in danger: “ In the plush, crimson-decked lobby bar of Kiev’s five-star Premier Palace Hotel, Denis Voronenkov, a Russian lawmaker who had defected to Ukraine, knew he was in danger. “For our personal safety, we can’t let them know where we are,” he said Monday evening as he sat with his wife for an interview with The Washington Post. Less than 72 hours later, he was dead, shot twice in the head in broad daylight outside the same lobby bar. It was a particularly brazen assassination that recalled the post-Soviet gangland violence of the 1990s. His wife, dressed in black, sobbed as she stooped down to identify Voronenkov’s body, which lay beneath a black tarp in a pool of blood. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, just hours later, called the attack an “act of state terrorism by Russia.” As of Thursday evening, police had not identified the assailant, who died in police custody after being shot by Voronenkov’s bodyguard. Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin, called the accusation a “fabrication.” In the weeks before his death, Voronenkov, a former member of Russia’s pliant Communist Party, had told friends he was being targeted. Hackers had been trying to pry into his Twitter account and his wife’s email. He had received threatening text messages, and the police had recently assigned him a bodyguard. There were rumors he was under surveillance.”

James B. Stewart observes that Pages From Trump’s Tax Returns Raise a Decade’s Worth of Questions: “But scratch the surface, and a far more complicated and troubling picture emerges. On the line for “other income,” the Trumps reported negative $103 million. Tax experts told me that is almost certainly what was left of the $916 million loss reported on the 1995 returns reported by The Times, an amount that could be carried over and used to offset income in future years.  “That’s my assumption,” said Leonard C. Green, a certified public accountant who is president of the Green Group, a tax and accounting advisory firm, and author of “The Entrepreneur’s Playbook.” That means that in the years between 1996 and 2005, Mr. Trump was able to use the enormous loss to offset $813 million in income. It’s possible, though unlikely, that some of those tax-loss carry-forwards, as they’re known, expired unused. In 1995 they could be used for up to 18 years, which means any of the losses incurred before 1987 would have expired by 2005. But there’s no evidence Mr. Trump had losses of anywhere near that magnitude that early in his career. Most of the losses are presumed to date from the problems his casino operations ran into in the early 1990s.”

Mark Sommerhauser reports concerning Wisconsin’s Fiscal bureau: Scott Walker’s budget leaves $1.1 billion hole starting in 2019: “Gov. Scott Walker’s proposal for the state’s next budget creates a larger structural deficit than previously thought, nearly $1.1 billion, in the ensuing budget cycle beginning in 2019, the state’s nonpartisan fiscal office said Thursday. The Legislative Fiscal Bureau released the findings in a memo made public late Thursday. It shows Walker’s plan for the 2017-19 budget, which back-loads spending and tax cuts into its second fiscal year, leaves a structural deficit of $1.1 billion that lawmakers would have to erase in crafting the 2019-21 budget. A previous estimate from Walker’s office pegged the number at about $740 million. The structural deficit figure compares projected revenue to expenditures if Walker’s plan were enacted this year as-is, and if no changes were made to its revenue or spending levels in the following budget in 2019. Both are unlikely to happen, but the figure gives policymakers “an indication of the beginning point for the budget of the succeeding biennium” under Walker’s plan, according to the memo.”

Michael D. Shear explains What Trump’s Time [Magazine] Interview Shows About His Thinking: “Just Quoting. ‘Why do you say that I have to apologize? I’m just quoting the newspaper, just like I quoted the judge the other day, Judge Napolitano. I quoted Judge Napolitano, just like I quoted Bret Baier. I mean Bret Baier mentioned the word wiretap. Now he can now deny it, or whatever he is doing, you know. But I watched Bret Baier, and he used that term. I have a lot of respect for Judge Napolitano, and he said that three sources have told him things that would make me right. I don’t know where he has gone with it since then. But I’m quoting highly respected people from highly respected television networks.’President Trump Among Mr. Trump’s more bizarre assertions in recent days — and repeated in the Time interview — is the idea that he should not be held accountable for merely quoting someone who makes a controversial, even unproven, claim or allegation.”

Sometimes there are alligators in the sewer:

Under the Gazette‘s Reasoning, Rosa Parks Should Have Stayed at the Back of the Bus

Over at the Gazette, there’s an editorial about whether a local school superintendent should have sent a message about immigration to residents without consulting his school board. See, Our Views: Superintendent sends the wrong message.

I’ll set aside the issue of immigration, and address the deeper issue of the Gazette‘s reasoning on obedience to the law. Here’s what the publication contends:

We’re certainly willing to concede problems with current immigration law, but we cannot support breaking laws we don’t like. That’s not how our democracy works.

Under this view, the law – indeed any law passed with a majority in its community – must be obeyed. There’s no room for civil disobedience here, so Parks should have stayed at the back of the bus, and King should not have marched in communities where a majority insisted against marches.

The Gazette may truly believe this, of course: that one must live with majoritarian rule, no matter how unjust, with no measures of civil disobedience. There’s something selfish, however, about men who (presumably) would claim a right of their forefathers to use military means to secure independence from a British majority who would now deny to living residents on this continent the right even to use the peaceful measures of civil disobedience.

It’s worth observing that the editorialist doesn’t confine the paper’s view to immigration only, but to all political and legal matters without qualification (“we cannot support breaking laws we don’t like”). That the paper ties support of the law not to justice but to the rule of the whole population begs the question of how the Gazette would object – if at all – to majority rule by legislation in places that oppress political, ethnic, or religious minorities. Shh, hush, hush: you mustn’t make a fuss, it just won’t do!

My forefathers fought in support of the Revolution centuries ago to establish the American Republic, and my family today recognizes a natural right of civil disobedience within the Republic for people, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, or gender.

I’ve written before that most local publications are useful now not in themselves, but for what they tell about how local insiders think (however poorly) about political or social issues. The Gazette’s editorial is one more example of how shallow that thinking truly is.

How Foreign Powers Could Try to Buy Trump

Donald Trump is an unprecedentedly wealthy president, who owns or licenses his name to buildings, casinos, and luxury hotels around the world. An ethics watchdog group has already brought a lawsuit against him for violating the Constitution’s “Emoluments Clause,” which prohibits government officials from receiving gifts from foreign states. Trump has taken few steps to distance himself from his organization, and foreign governments could use the President’s business interests as bargaining chips to influence his policymaking. Atlantic writer Jeremy Venook has been monitoring the President’s growing list of conflicts of interests since November 2016, and breaks down some of the most alarming ones in this video.

There’s a local angle in all this: Whitewater is rife with possible conflicts of interest (although not of the same magnitude or kind as Trump’s, of course): from news sites that publishers claim have not simply advertisers but ‘sponsors’, dual roles as politicians and news people, and a general insider’s desire to boost well-positioned friends (even if the policy in question is, to use the technical term, a dog-crap policy).

Funnier still is the self-exonerating way that some try to avoid these conflict-of-interest problems (1) by insisting that they are immune from the psychological biases that would naturally beset billions of others on this planet or (2) by finding their way onto an ethics committee. (This latter way is not unique to Whitewater. After all, Saudia Arabia found her way onto the United Nations Human Rights Council.)

This is a way in which longstanding local mediocrity and the new national mediocrity present challenges in their respective venues. See, along these lines, The National-Local Mix (Part 2).

Preliminaries to a Discussion on Class

One finds a significant amount of information, in both lay publications and (of course) the careful studies on which they rely that working class Americans are faring poorly.

There are two broad aspects to this: (1) how working class Americans are faring, and (2) what this says about economic and fiscal policy at the federal, state, or local level.

A few recent accounts and studies come to mind (and these are only a few of a far larger number): New research identifies a ‘sea of despair’ among white, working-class Americans (Mortality and morbidity in the 21st century @ Brookings), The biggest beneficiaries of the government safety net: working-class whites (Poverty Reduction Programs Help Adults Lacking College Degrees the Most, @ Center on Budget and Policy Priorities), or Katherine J. Cramer’s Politics of Resentment: Rural Consciousness in Wisconsin and the Rise of Scott Walker.

On the first aspect (how some are faring), evidence from any credible source, including of the left, is worth evaluating: reason compels that one address studies and their data dispassionately, analytically. In a place like Whitewater, or nearby towns, there’s much too much ‘can’t read this,’ ‘can’t read that,’ based on the idea that it’s too far left or too far right.

On the second aspect (economic or fiscal policy), ample evidence of hard times does nothing to excuse a retreat into nativism, bigotry, or the daily chumming of lies that Trump, for example, spills into the water to attract struggling Americans.

Nor does it excuse the third-tier boosterism that politicians and local publications like the Gazette, Daily Union, Register, or Banner use to hawk any project, at any public expense, on the theory that it just has to be done. The longer one considers economic & fiscal policy in a town like Whitewater, the more one comes to see that not one of these publications offers anything more than empty cheerleading. They might as well be working a long con on their communities, with their own self-promotion as a good part of the game.

There are obvious similarities between failed local strategies and national ones. SeeThe National-Local Mix (Part 2).

However difficult the times, there are useful works yet to be finished about how local notables push destructive projects (waste-to-energy), empty economic development plans (millions in Whitewater with mostly headlines to show for it), and how desperate communities fall victim to weak reasoning in the place of careful consideration.

All of this is a spur to work harder.

Daily Bread for 3.23.17

Good morning.

Thursday in Whitewater will be cloudy with a high of forty-five. Sunrise is 6:50 AM and sunset is 7:11 PM, for 12h 21m 04s of daytime. The moon is a waning crescent with 23.7% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the one hundred thirty-fifth day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

Whitewater’s Community Development Authority meets today at 5:30 PM.

On this day in 1775, Patrick Henry argues in Virginia’s House of Burgesses for mobilization against Britain : “Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death!” On this day in 1865, the Campaign of the Carolinas ends victoriously for Wisconsin defenders of the Union: “the 21st Wisconsin Infantry, made up mostly of soldiers from the Oshkosh area, finished fighting their way through the South during Sherman’s March to the Sea and reached Goldsboro, N.C., where the campaign in the Carolinas ended.”

Recommended for reading in full — 

Sickness and early death in the white working class could be rooted in poor job prospects for less-educated young people as they first enter the labor market, a situation that compounds over time through family dysfunction, social isolation, addiction, obesity and other pathologies, according to a study published Thursday by two prominent economists. Anne Case and Angus Deaton garnered national headlines in 2015 when they reported that the death rate of midlife non-Hispanic white Americans had risen steadily since 1999 in contrast with the death rates of blacks, Hispanics and Europeans. Their new study extends the data by two years and shows that whatever is driving the mortality spike is not easing up. The two Princeton professors say the trend affects whites of both sexes and is happening nearly everywhere in the country. Education level is significant: People with a college degree report better health and happiness than those with only some college, who in turn are doing much better than those who never went. Offering what they call a tentative but “plausible” explanation, they write that less-educated white Americans who struggle in the job market in early adulthood are likely to experience a “cumulative disadvantage” over time, with health and personal problems that often lead to drug overdoses, alcohol-related liver disease and suicide.”

Christopher Mele reports that Art Supply Sales Jumped in January, Thanks to Protest Signs, Report Says: “The week before the Women’s March on Jan. 21 in cities across the United States, protesters who were making signs helped fuel increased sales of poster boards by 33 percent and foam boards by 42 percent compared with the same week last year, the consumer research group NPD reported recently. Poster and foam board sales from Jan. 15 to 21 totaled $4.1 million. More than 6.5 million poster boards were sold in January, with nearly one-third sold during the week of the march. Sales of easel pads and flip charts grew by 28 percent, Leen Nsouli, an office supplies industry analyst at NPD, said in a blog post. Sales of the materials used to make the messages on the posters also increased that week: Specialty markers were up by 24 percent; permanent markers, 12 percent; glue, 27 percent; and scissors, 6 percent.”

James B. Nelson reports that Amazon brings one-hour delivery to Milwaukee: “It might be easier – and faster – to get a socket wrench set from Amazon than from Sears. The online retailer announced Wednesday that customers in Milwaukee can receive one-hour deliveries from the Amazon Prime Now service. This comes as Sears warned investors that it has “substantial doubts” about its ability to stay in business because of a cash crisis. In January, Sears said it planned to close 150 stores. Amazon Prime Now delivery is $7.99 for one hour and free for two hours or later. The site was offering a $10 first time delivery credit code (10PRIMENOW) in the Milwaukee area Wednesday morning. A minimum order amount of $25 is required for the service. An Amazon press release said the Prime Now deliveries would be available for Milwaukee. It didn’t state which suburbs were included, but a spokeswoman said that customers could enter their zip code in their account and see if Prime Now is available. The service is available from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week. Amazon said it was possible to use the Alexa voice service to place the orders, saying: “Alexa, order (product) from Prime Now”.

Tech Insider contends that this mini-camper runs on retro vibes:

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.