Daily Bread for 12.14.17

Good morning.

Thursday in Whitewater will be sunny with a high of twenty-seven. Sunrise is 7:18 AM and sunset 4:21 PM, for 9h 03m 04s of daytime. The moon is a waning crescent with 11.5% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the four hundredth day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

Whitewater’s Police & Fire Commission meets at 6:30 PM.

On this day in 1911, Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen and his team become the first people to reach the South Pole. On this day in 1893, historian Frederick Jackson Turner delivers his address on the “Significance of the Frontier in American History” at the forty-first annual meeting of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin.

Recommended for reading in full —

Trump’s started a trend for the autocratic – Meet the Strongmen Who’ve Started Blaming ‘Fake News’ Too:

Sarah Kendzior contends With Trump, The GOP Is Playing A Game Of Diminishing Returns:

In December 2016, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham emerged as one of the strongest Republican critics of Donald Trump, and particularly, of his ties with Russia. Graham called for a bipartisan investigation, warning that while the Kremlin had targeted the Democrats this time, it could be the Republicans next. He noted that Russians had hacked his email, and proclaimed: “Russian hacking during the U.S. presidential election is not a Republican or Democrat issue. It’s an American issue. We must stand together.”

One year later, Lindsey Graham is taking a different stand–alongside Donald Trump at his golf course, which Graham deemed “spectacular” in his latest bout of gushing sycophancy toward the POTUS he once rejected. On November 30, Graham slammed the press for characterizing Trump as “some kind of kook not fit to be president,” directly contradicting his own words from 2016, when he said: “I think he’s a kook. I think he’s crazy. I think he’s unfit for office”….

Given that some of Graham’s worst fears about Trump’s Kremlin ties and mental state have been legitimized, what accounts for the senator’s changed attitude toward the president? There are a variety of possible rationales available for conjecture, many of which apply to the GOP at large. Opportunism may play a role, as Graham complies with Trump in order to pursue right-wing extremist economic policies and war. Blackmail may also be an issue, given that Graham has admitted his email was hacked, as was the RNC’s, by Russia. Trump has derided and threatened members of Congress and private citizens, and it’s not a stretch to imagine him unleashing his fire– publicly or privately–on Graham.

Graham’s radical change in rhetoric is reminiscent of the behavior one sees in autocratic regimes when potential political opponents are mollified or threatened into compliance. But the truly troubling question is not what is driving his changed behavior, but what it means for the rest of the GOP, especially as speculation mounts that the Trump administration could end Mueller’s investigation and propagandists recast Republicans like James Comey and Mueller as enemies of the state. In 2016, Graham initiated the call for an investigation into Trump’s Kremlin ties. In 2018, judging by his recent actions, Graham may lead the way in ensuring there are no consequences for what investigators have discovered….

Kelly Weill reports Alt-Right Hyped Anti-Schumer Forgery That Plagiarized Conyers Complaint:

A forged document accusing the top Democrat in the Senate of sexual harassment copied language verbatim from a real sexual-harassment complaint filed against Rep. John Conyers.

On Tuesday afternoon, right-wing social media personalities Charles Johnson and Mike Cernovich boasted of obtaining a document that would put a senator out of a job….

The senator was Minority Leader Charles Schumer of New York, Axios first reported.

But the document was fake. A copy of the document obtained by The Daily Beast purports to be draft lawsuit complaint against Schumer by a former staffer, accusing him of sexual harassment. Schumer’s office told The Daily Beast the document and her signature are forgeries. Schumer’s office said the senator was not in Washington, D.C. or the United States during several dates in the document when he is said to have harassed the staffer.

“The document is a forged document and every allegation is false,” Schumer spokesperson Matt House told The Daily Beast. “We have turned it over to the Capitol Police and asked them to investigate and pursue criminal charges because it is clear the law has been broken. We believe the individual responsible for forging the document should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law to prevent other malicious actors from doing the same”….

The Conyers complaint references “House Rule 23” and a “mediation” process between Conyers and his accuser. The fake Schumer complaint also describes allegations as falling under “House Rule 23,” which of course does not exist in the Senate. The “mediation” process in the Schumer document was never mentioned again.

(White nationalists – and that’s the alt-right most simply defined – are perverse, but imitatively so. Copying another document must have seemed clever to them, even when using a term for a House procedure that would be inapplicable in the Senate.)

Sarah Pulliam Bailey describes ‘A spiritual battle:’ How Roy Moore tested white evangelical allegiance to the Republican Party:

Roy Moore’s failed run for Alabama’s Senate seat tested white evangelicals’ allegiance to the Republican Party. Would they vote for a candidate who shares their conservative views on social issues even though he was accused of sexual misconduct by multiple women?

Exit polls suggest they did just that, with 80 percent of white evangelicals who voted selecting Moore in Tuesday’s special election, which was narrowly won by Doug Jones, the Democratic candidate.

Part of Moore’s campaign strategy was to appeal to Christian nationalism — the belief that God has a uniquely Christian purpose for the United States. It has long made him a polarizing figure nationwide but has also kept him popular in his own state.

Andrew Whitehead, a sociologist at Clemson University in South Carolina who studies Christian nationalism, said evangelicals are the religious group most likely to identify with Christian nationalism. Alabama has one of the highest percentages of white evangelicals, and, he said, more than half of Southerners identify with a Christian nationalist narrative.

“The view is that God can use anybody as long as they’re promoting Christian nationalist or ideals or values,” Whitehead said. “It’s all about a quest for power and what serves the purpose in the political moment”….

(Trumpist evangelicals push this false – and indeed heretical – ideology, and dare other religious people to challenge it. So be it – act utilitarianism is not a Christian tenet, and never was, never will be.)

Ross Douthat contends As Goes Moore, So Goes Trumpism:

….But who are we kidding [about a Trump course correction]? The Obama White House considered a course correction [after Republican Scott Brown’s election in Massachusetts] because for all its flaws it was a rational and functional place, capable of doing cost-benefit analyses and changing strategies as the political situation altered. And team Obama decided to stay the course for what were debatable but also rational reasons — the theory that a sweeping health care bill would be simply worth the political pain and midterm election losses required to get it passed.

No such rationality exists in the Trump White House, no such cost-benefit analyses are conducted, no such vision for what the president wants as his legacy exists. You can’t change course without a map; you can’t change your plan when you don’t have one to begin with. Maybe we’ll get a new and “presidential” Trump for a few days or even a couple of weeks after this debacle; maybe there will be talk of reaching out beyond the Hannity demographic and trying to act like the president of all Americans for a while. But none of it should be taken seriously. Trump can control himself for a short time here and there, but tomorrow is always another day. And Twitter is always waiting — filled with liberals asking for a triggering, all the haters and losers waiting to get owned.

No, there will be no course correction — only the Trump we’ve seen so far, the Trump who would rather have the G.O.P. fall in ruins around him than give up on his feuds and insults and absurd behavior, the Trump who made Senator Doug Jones our strange reality, and the Trump who is also responsible for the larger wave that’s building, building, for next fall.

How ’bout an Incredible NASA Simulated Flight Through Jupiter’s Great Red Spot?

Daily Bread for 12.13.17

Good morning.

Midweek in Whitewater will see afternoon snow showers with a high of thirty-four. Sunrise is 7:17 AM and 4:21 PM, for 9h 03m 33s of daytime. The moon is a waning crescent with 18.8% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the three hundred ninety-ninth day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

Whitewater’s University Tech Park Board meets at 8 A.M.

On this day in 1864, the 3rd Wisconsin Light Artillery reaches the front lines of Savannah, Georgia.

Recommended for reading in full —

McKay Coppins writes The Alabama Election Is a Referendum on the GOP’s Future:

For all the national attention that’s been paid to the grisly particulars of Alabama’s special election over the past few weeks—the lurid details of the sexual-abuse accusations against Roy Moore; the performative shrieks of “Fake News!” from the candidate and his defenders—the true political consequences of the race will likely reach well beyond a single Senate race in 2017.

In fact, many Republicans in Washington believe the voters who are heading to the polls on Tuesday could end up playing a pivotal role in the fight for the soul of the GOP.

Republican leaders have been keeping an especially wary eye on Alabama ever since former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon announced his intention to recruit primary challengers for (virtually) every Republican senator up for reelection in 2018.

“There’s a time and season for everything,” Bannon said in a speech at the Values Voters Summit in October, “and right now it’s a season of war against the GOP establishment.”

(I’m neither a Republic nor a Democrat, and remain convinced that if there’s a metaphorical war to be fought it’s one against Trumpism, and those politicians and operatives who advance that autocratic, bigoted view. Still, better that a defective candidate like Moore lost, in an of itself: he was unfit.)

Aaron Blake assesses Winners and losers from the Alabama special election [full list in original article):

The race to replace Attorney General Jeff Sessions in the Senate featured votes spanning nearly four full months, with one bizarre turn after another, and ended Tuesday night with Democrat Doug Jones pulling off the upset over Republican Roy Moore, who faced allegations that he had sexually harassed and assaulted teenage girls while he was in his 30s.

Let’s break down the whole thing via winners and losers.

WINNERS
Democrats’ Senate majority hopes

At the start of the cycle, the math for Democrats winning the Senate majority in 2018 — even in a very good environment — appeared prohibitive. They had only two bona fide pickup opportunities, they needed three pickups, and they had to defend 10 swing and red states that President Trump won. The map was just brutal.

But since then, they’ve gotten the news they need to at least put the Senate in play. Potential takeovers in Arizona and Nevada look increasingly promising. An open seat has popped up in Tennessee, where last week Democrats landed popular former governor Phil Bredesen as a candidate, and now they’ve nabbed one of the three pickups they needed a year early in Alabama. The math is still tough, but it’s clearly within the realm of possibility now. And with Democrats claiming a double-digit lead on the generic ballot, things are very much looking up….

(I expected Moore to win; his defeat is a welcome surprise. As for the rest, one has no reason to relent, locally or elsewhere, until every last part of Trumpism meets its political ruin.)

Sara Hsu reports IMF Warnings Of China’s Financial Fragility Come As No Surprise:

The IMF warned, in its recent Financial Sector Assessment Report, of China’s financial fragility, pointing to high levels of corporate debt and funding through wealth management products. The report found growing risks within the banking system, particularly outside of the Big Four state-owned banks. Although China’s central bank brushed aside the warning tone of the report, these cautions should ring true with analysts who have been closely monitoring the debt pileup across multiple sectors.

The report and China’s response

The IMF report states, “the near-term prioritization of social stability appears to rely on credit expansion to continue financing firms even when they are not viable, and on stabilizing asset markets to prevent losses for households. Microprudential regulation and supervision will struggle to mitigate risks and deliver financial sector stability if the macroeconomic context—notably, monetary, fiscal, and development policies—is not supportive.” In other words, China’s attempt to stabilize the economy through the use of credit has created risks that cannot be resolved by imposing regulation alone; wider government policies must be supportive.

In response to the report, China’s central bank has stated that the IMF description did not entirely reflect the results of the stress tests, and that the banking system is well capitalized. This contradicts the IMF account that covered stress tests on 33 banks with RMB 171 trillion in total assets and RMB 20 trillion in off-balance sheet WMPs. The results of these tests found potentially vast under capitalization of joint stock and city commercial banks, given an economic shock. These banks have been responsible for much of the growth in the banking sector since 2011, the report states….

(State capitalism is failed capitalism.)

Jack Jenkins writes Nobody is laughing at the Religious Left in 2017:

There’s a well-worn joke that has circulated among religion writers for at least the past decade: every year, someone publishes a piece prophesying the “rise” of the Religious Left. And every year, the prediction turns out to be laughably overblown.

And then 2017 happened. These days, nobody’s laughing at the Religious Left.

Granted, the core catalyst for this shift was something few expected: the election of Donald Trump. His rise caught many by surprise, and sparked innumerable signal fires within activist spheres—a metaphorical call to arms against an enemy who threatens virtually every progressive cause at once….

To be fair, the Religious Left was never exactly napping. Aspects of the movement—which constitutes an amorphous group of interfaith activists that goes by many names and takes many forms—have operated since America’s founding, marching and praying in support of abolition, labor reform, and civil rights. Recent years have seen their public influence eclipsed by the rising influence of the Religious Right, however, even as they continued to fight for immigrants, gun violence prevention, and LGBTQ rights—often as a crucial component of larger progressive campaigns.

But Trump’s rise gave progressive people of faith a powerful reason to coalesce, forging unusual alliances while offering a moral counterweight to the president’s rhetoric and policies. The presence of religion among the “resistance,” broadly defined, was almost immediate: when a Republican member of the Electoral College in Texas declared in late 2016 he would not cast his ballot for Donald Trump, he cited his Catholic faith as a core driver of his decision….

In Captivity, Orangutans Unlock Greater Curiosity and Intelligence:

Daily Bread for 12.12.17

Good morning.

Tuesday in Whitewater will be sunny with a high of twenty-two. Sunrise is 7:17 AM and sunset is 4:21 PM, for 9h 04m 07s of daytime. The moon is a waning crescent with 27% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the three hundred ninety-eighth day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

On this day in 1925, the first motel in the world, the Motel Inn (originally known as the Milestone Mo-Tel) opens in San Luis Obispo, California.

Recommended for reading in full —

Karen Yourish asks Confused by all the news about Russia and the 2016 presidential election? We are here to help [illustrations include additional detail in text]:

Jennifer Rubin writes Even without Roy Moore, the GOP is in a downward spiral:

The GOP has a bunch of problems, including these: Its signature bill is a dud, it is shedding voters and it is led by someone who, in the midst of a cultural revolution regarding sexual assault, is widely believed to be a serial sexual predator.

USA Today reports:

“A new USA TODAY/Suffolk University Poll finds just 32% support the GOP tax plan; 48% oppose it. That’s the lowest level of public support for any major piece of legislation enacted in the past three decades, including the Affordable Care Act …

Americans are skeptical of the fundamental arguments Republicans have made in selling the bill: A 53% majority of those surveyed predict their own families won’t pay lower taxes as a result of the measure, and an equal 53% say it won’t help the economy in a major way. … Overall, only 35% believe that the bill will boost the economy, and 31% that their own families’ tax bills will be lowered as a result. Nearly two-thirds, 64%, say the wealthy will get the most benefits; just 17% say the middle-class will.

Republicans, however, remain enthusiastic about the bill, supporting it by a wide margin, 71 percent to 12 percent.”

The poll also shows that while sentiment about the economy is very positive (56 percent), voters’ opinion of President Trump continues to deteriorate. (“Trump now has a favorable-unfavorable rating of 34%-58%, a net negative of 24 percentage points. His standing has worsened through the year, from a net negative of just 2 points in March and 15 points in June.”) The Republican Party as a whole has a dreadful favorable-unfavorable rating of 24 percent/61 percent; almost as bad as Congress overall (17 percent favorable to 64 percent unfavorable). Democrats do somewhat better (36 percent to 47 percent)….

Lena H. Sun and Alice Crites report New CDC head faces questions about financial conflicts of interest:

ATLANTA — After five months in office, President Trump’s new director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been unable to divest financial holdings that pose potential conflicts of interest, hindering her ability to fully perform her job.

Brenda Fitzgerald, 71, who served as the Georgia public health commissioner until her appointment to the CDC post in July, said she has divested from many stock holdings. But she and her husband are legally obligated to maintain other investments in cancer detection and health information technology, according to her ethics agreement, requiring Fitzgerald to pledge to avoid government business that might affect those interests. Fitzgerald provided The Post with a copy of her agreement.

Last week, Sen. Patty Murray (Wash.), the senior Democrat on the Senate committee that oversees CDC, wrote that Fitzgerald is raising questions about her ability to function effectively.

“I am concerned that you cannot perform the role of CDC director while being largely recused from matters pertaining to cancer and opioids, two of the most pervasive and urgent health challenges we face as a country,” Murray wrote….

Michael Gerson writes It’s America’s turn to ‘fight on the beaches’:

….From Churchill, we learn to resist pessimistic extrapolation. May 1940 was terrible, but not permanent. We learn the power of unreasonable optimism — the value of planning for revival in the midst of defeat. We see the possibility of leadership that can not only ride the tide but summon it.

Many of us view this example, not only with appreciation, but with longing. The problem of our time is not only arrogance without accomplishment or swagger without success. These are common enough in politics. Rather, it is the arrival of leadership that survives by feeding resentment, hatred and disorienting flux. Leadership urging us — at angry rallies, in ethnic stereotyping, through religious bigotry — to forget who we really are as a people. Leadership that has ceased to believe in the miracle at our country’s heart — the inclusive, unifying power of American ideals.

One needs a map when Searching for Copenhagen’s Hidden Giants:

Daily Bread for 12.11.17

Good morning.

Monday brings snow showers to Whitewater, with a high of thirty-five. Sunrise is 7:16 AM and sunset 4:20 PM, for 9h 04m 44s of daytime. The moon is a waning crescent with 36.6% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the three hundred ninety-seventh day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

Updated: The Whitewater Unified School Board is scheduled to meet at 6 P.M. Whitewater’s Planning Commission is scheduled to meet today at 6:30 P.M.

On this day in 1946, the United Nations establishes UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Fund. On this day in 1901, the Morris Pratt Institute is incorporated: ” Morris Pratt gained incorporation for his school of spiritualism located in Whitewater, Wisconsin. Many people of this time embraced spiritualism to try to reach friends and family who had died in the Civil War. As a result, Whitewater became known as the “mecca of modern spiritualism.” Pratt built his institute in 1888, which was initially used as a meeting place for public seances. Pratt decided to turn his institution into an educational school for spiritualists, focusing on science, literature, morality, and communication, as well as spiritualistic instruction. The institute was closed for a few years during the Depression, and then in 1977 relocated to Waukesha…”

Recommended for reading in full —

Andrew Kaczynski reports on statements from Roy Moore in 2011: Getting rid of amendments after 10th would ‘eliminate many problems’:

Alabama Republican Senate nominee Roy Moore appeared on a conspiracy-driven radio show twice in 2011, where he told the hosts in an interview that getting rid of constitutional amendments after the Tenth Amendment would ‘eliminate many problems’ in the way the US government is structured….

In Moore’s June appearance, one of the hosts says he would like to see an amendment that would void all the amendments after the Tenth.

“That would eliminate many problems,” Moore replied. “You know people don’t understand how some of these amendments have completely tried to wreck the form of government that our forefathers intended.”

Moore cited the 17th Amendment, which calls for the direct election of senators by voters rather than state legislatures, as one he particularly found troublesome.

The host agreed with Moore, before turning his attention to the 14th Amendment, which was passed during the Reconstruction period following the Civil War and guaranteed citizenship and equal rights and protection to former slaves and has been used in landmark Supreme Court cases such as Brown v. Board of Education and Obergefell v. Hodges.

“People also don’t understand, and being from the South I bet you get it, the 14th Amendment was only approved at the point of the gun,” the host said.

“Yeah, it had very serious problems with its approval by the states,” Moore replied. “The danger in the 14th Amendment, which was to restrict, it has been a restriction on the states using the first Ten Amendments by and through the 14th Amendment. To restrict the states from doing something that the federal government was restricted from doing and allowing the federal government to do something which the first Ten Amendments prevented them from doing. If you understand the incorporation doctrine used by the courts and what it meant. You’d understand what I’m talking about.”

…Besides the 14th and 17th Amendments, amendments adopted after the Bill of Rights include the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery, the 15th Amendment which prohibited the federal and state governments from denying citizens the right to vote based on that person’s “race, color, or previous condition of servitude,” and the 19th Amendment, which extended the right to vote to women….

Bella DePaulo writes I study liars. I’ve never seen one like President Trump:

I spent the first two decades of my career as a social scientist studying liars and their lies. I thought I had developed a sense of what to expect from them. Then along came President Trump. His lies are both more frequent and more malicious than ordinary people’s.

In research beginning in the mid-1990s, when I was a professor at the University of Virginia, my colleagues and I asked 77 college students and 70 people from the nearby community to keep diaries of all the lies they told every day for a week. They handed them in to us with no names attached. We calculated participants’ rates of lying and categorized each lie as either self-serving (told to advantage the liar or protect the liar from embarrassment, blame or other undesired outcomes) or kind (told to advantage, flatter or protect someone else)….

The sheer frequency of Trump’s lies appears to be having an effect, and it may not be the one he is going for. A Politico/Morning Consult poll from late October showed that only 35 percent of voters believed that Trump was honest, while 51 percent said he was not honest. (The others said they didn’t know or had no opinion.) Results of a Quinnipiac University poll from November were similar: Thirty-seven percent of voters thought Trump was honest, compared with 58 percent who thought he was not.

For fewer than 40 percent of American voters to see the president as honest is truly remarkable. Most humans, most of the time, believe other people. That’s our default setting. Usually, we need a reason to disbelieve….

Rebecca Ruiz explains Why Russia Tried to Cheat Its Way to Glory:

Russia’s two subversions, of global sports and American democracy, have more in common than you may think. Both involve intelligence agents, Russia’s will to win and the same cyberespionage team. Both have prompted millions of dollars of investigations and challenged public confidence — in the purity of sport and in the strength of democracy.

The two breaches are at the heart of how President Vladimir Putin has suggested he wants to reclaim Russia’s past: by weakening Western democracy and dominating world sports….

(See also Report Shows Vast Reach of Russian Doping: 1,000 Athletes, 30 Sports.)

Matthew DeFour reports Foxconn won $3 billion tax credit battle, but the public relations campaign continues:

….Foxconn’s public relations effort is being overseen by Platform Communications, a company owned by Walker campaign political adviser Keith Gilkes. A Platform spokeswoman declined to discuss the group’s communications strategy.

Foxconn provided a statement saying over the coming weeks and months, it will continue to engage with business leaders and the public as the company builds its campus in Racine County and grows an “extensive Wisconsin-based supply chain that will support this facility.”

Polls from Marquette Law School and Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling suggested the deal isn’t wildly popular. The Marquette Poll was limited to southeastern Wisconsin but found 38 percent saying it was worth the $3 billion state investment and 48 percent saying it wasn’t. The PPP poll found statewide 41 percent opposed the Foxconn deal, 34 percent supported it and 26 percent weren’t sure….

These Robots Could Be Coming To An Airport Near You:

Daily Bread for 12.10.17

Good morning.

Sunday in Whitewater will be partly cloudy with a high of thirty-four. Sunrise is 7:15 AM and sunset 4:20 PM, for 9h 05m 27s of daytime. The moon is a waning crescent with 47% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the three hundred ninety-sixth day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

On this day in 1864, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. accepts the Nobel Peace Prize is Oslo, Norway.  On this day in 1864, the 3rd Wisconsin Infantry reaches Savannah, Georgia: “The Wisconsin 3rd Infantry arrived at the front lines for the Battle of Savannah, Georgia. After marching from Atlanta under General William T. Sherman, Wisconsin troops assembled outside the coastal city of Savannah and laid siege to it.”

Recommended for reading in full — 

Conservative Christian Peter Wehner writes Why I Can No Longer Call Myself an Evangelical Republican:

Just the other day I received a note from a friend of mine, a pastor, who told me he no longer uses the label “evangelical” to describe himself, even though he meets every element of its historical definition, “because the term is now so stained as to ruin my ability to be what evangelicalism was supposed to be.”

Another pastor who is a lifelong friend told me, “Evangelical is no longer a word we can use.” The reason, he explained, is that it’s become not a religious identification so much as a political one. A third person, who heads a Christian organization, told me the term evangelical “is now a tribal rather than a creedal description.” In October, the Princeton Evangelical Fellowship, a campus ministry for more than 80 years, changed its name to the Princeton Christian Fellowship. “We’re interested in being people who are defined by our faith and by our faith commitments and not by any sort of political agenda,” according to Bill Boyce, who has led the campus group for decades.

There are of course a great many honorable individuals in the Republican Party and the evangelical movement. Those who hold different views than I do lead exemplary lives. Yet I cannot help believing that the events of the past few years — and the past few weeks — have shown us that the Republican Party and the evangelical movement (or large parts of them, at least), have become what I once would have thought of as liberal caricatures….

In the latest example of this, a rising number of Republicans are attempting to delegitimize the special counsel’s investigation into whether there were links between Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign and Mr. Putin’s Russia because they quake at what he may find. Prominent evangelical leaders, rather than challenging the president to become a man of integrity, have become courtiers. What’s happening with Mr. Moore in Alabama — with the president, the Republican National Committee, the state party and many white evangelicals rallying around him — is a bridge too far for many of us. Where exactly is the bottom? And at what point do you pull back from associating yourself with a political party and a religious term you once took pride in but that are now doing harm to the things you treasure?

Institutional renewal and regeneration are possible, and I’m going to continue to push for them. But for now a solid majority of Republicans and self-described evangelicals are firmly aboard the Trump train, which is doing its utmost to give a seat of privilege to Mr. Moore. So for those of us who still think of ourselves as conservative and Christian, it’s enough already.

(Better for Wehner to preserve his fundamental religious and political principles than debase himself within Trumpism’s autocratic and perverse ideology.)

Rebecca Ruiz writes Report Shows Vast Reach of Russian Doping: 1,000 Athletes, 30 Sports:

LONDON — International sports’ antidoping watchdog on Friday laid out mountainous evidence that for years Russian officials orchestrated a doping program at the Olympics and other competitions that involved or benefited 1,000 athletes in 30 sports. The findings intensified pressure on the International Olympic Committee to reassess Russia’s medals from the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi and penalize the nation ahead of the 2018 Winter Games.

The evidence, published by the World Anti-Doping Agency, was the coda to a set of investigations led by the Canadian lawyer Richard McLaren, who issued a damning report in July that prompted more than 100 Russian athletes to be barred from the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

The follow-up report outlined competitions that had been tainted by years of extraordinary preparations, ensuring Russia’s dominance at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, the 2013 track and field world championships in Moscow and the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi — the “apex” of Russia’s cheating, the report said, because as the host of the event it controlled drug testing.

The subterfuge included using table salt and Nescafé instantcoffee granules to help conceal tainted urine and bypass controls, according to the inquiry. Some samples were clearly fraudulent: Urine provided by two female hockey players at the Sochi Games contained male DNA.

Yet Mr. McLaren suggested that the full extent of the cheating might never be known.

“It is impossible to know just how deep and how far back this conspiracy goes,” he said on Friday, calling the “immutable facts” of his report clear but far from comprehensive. “For years, international sports competitions have unknowingly been hijacked by the Russians”….

(Putin’s Russia, like the former Soviet Union, is a state of lies and corruption.)

Agence France-Press reports on Putin’s cult of personality:

(Even – and especially – in the face of international censure, the Russian state – and these displays would not happen without the approval of the Russian state – bolsters its dictator. To critics of Putin, of course, this will all seem like parody, both inside and outside Russia.)

The New York Times reports from Inside Trump’s Hour-By-Hour Battle for Self-Preservation:

Before taking office, Mr. Trump told top aides to think of each presidential day as an episode in a television show in which he vanquishes rivals. People close to him estimate that Mr. Trump spends at least four hours a day, and sometimes as much as twice that, in front of a television, sometimes with the volume muted, marinating in the no-holds-barred wars of cable news and eager to fire back….

Mr. Kelly is trying, quietly and respectfully, to reduce the amount of free time the president has for fiery tweets by accelerating the start of his workday. Mr. Priebus also tried, with only modest success, to encourage Mr. Trump to arrive by 9 or 9:30 a.m….

(He may be the most powerful – but at least there is the advantage – that Trump is the laziest nativist in all America. Our situation would be far worse if he put in a full day’s work.)

NASA believes that the 2017 Geminids Will Be Dazzling:

Daily Bread for 12.9.17

Good morning, Whitewater.

Saturday in town will be partly cloudy with a high of thirty-one. Sunrise is 7:14 AM and sunset 4:20 PM, for 9h 06m 13s of daytime. The moon is a waning gibbous with 56.9% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the three hundred ninety-fifth day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

On this day in 1844, Milwaukee’s first daily newspaper, The Daily Sentinel, begins publication. On this day in 1861, Wisconsin’s first heavy artillery troops muster in: “The 1st Wisconsin Heavy Artillery, Battery A mustered in on this day in 1861. It remained Wisconsin’s only heavy artillery battery until 1863. Its entire service was spent in Washington, D.C., defending against Confederate attacks on the capital.”

Recommended for reading in full —

Adam Goldman and Matt Apuzzo report F.B.I. Warned Hope Hicks About Emails From Russian Operatives:

WASHINGTON — F.B.I. officials warned one of President Trump’s top advisers, Hope Hicks, earlier this year about repeated attempts by Russian operatives to make contact with her during the presidential transition, according to people familiar with the events.

The Russian outreach efforts show that, even after American intelligence agencies publicly accused Moscow of trying to influence the outcome of last year’s presidential election, Russian operatives were undaunted in their efforts to establish contacts with Mr. Trump’s advisers.

There is no evidence that Ms. Hicks did anything improper. According to former officials, American intelligence and law enforcement agencies became alarmed by introductory emails that Ms. Hicks received from Russian government addresses in the weeks after Mr. Trump’s election.

After he took office, senior F.B.I. counterintelligence agents met with Ms. Hicks in the White House Situation Room at least twice, gave her the names of the Russians who had contacted her, and said that they were not who they claimed to be. The F.B.I. was concerned that the emails to Ms. Hicks may have been part of a Russian intelligence operation, and they urged Ms. Hicks to be cautious….

(The news is significant, among other reasons, because the meeting prevents Hicks from responding – truthfully – to Special Counsel Mueller’s team that she was unaware of the extent of Russian outreach efforts.)

Russell Berman has The 2018 Congressional Retirement Tracker:

If you want to see a political wave forming a year before an election, watch the retirements.

They’re often a leading indicator for which direction a party is headed, and so far, 2018 is shaping up ominously for Republicans. In the last few months, two GOP senators, Bob Corker of Tennessee and Jeff Flake of Arizona, and four Republican committee chairmen in the House have announced they won’t seek reelection next year. Several other veterans in competitive districts are also calling it quits, depriving the GOP of the advantage of incumbency in races that could determine control of the House in 2019. And more retirements are probably on the way between now and the end of the year, when lawmakers head home to discuss future plans with their families.

At the same time, a wave of allegations of sexual harassment and other inappropriate behavior has scrambled the retirement picture in both parties in recent weeks, and it’s forced several lawmakers to leave Congress early. Scandals have already taken down Democratic Senator Al Franken and long-serving Representative John Conyers among Democrats, as well as GOP Representatives Trent Franks and Tim Murphy. More could be on the way as new allegations come to light.

As for those getting out in 2018, President Trump’s low approval rating and Congress’s meager legislative output may be contributing to the decisions of some Republicans to retire, including moderate Representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania, Frank LoBiondo of New Jersey, and Dave Reichert of Washington state. But there are other factors at play. Unlike Democrats, Republicans have rules limiting the terms of their committee chairmen to ensure turnover and give younger members a chance to advance in the House. Congress isn’t as fun with less power, and all four of the retiring GOP committee leaders would be forced out of their roles and to the back bench in 2019….

Ariel Bogle asks Has the Google of South Korea Found a Way to Save Struggling News Outlets?:

Walk into the headquarters of South Korea’s biggest search engine, Naver, and you could be in Silicon Valley. Like Google and Facebook, the company has an affection for bean bags and primary colors. There are oversized toys in the shape of emoji from Naver’s messaging app, Line. A green wall is lined with ferns, and there’s an immaculately designed library.

Also like Google and Facebook, Naver has a tense relationship with journalists. Though the company produces no journalism itself, Naver’s desktop and mobile news portal is South Korea’s most popular news site. (The second is another local portal, Daum.) Naver hosts stories by various outlets, somewhat similar to news-aggregation apps like Apple News. In a country where around 83 percent of the population accesses news online, the company has outsize control over what Koreans read and see….

This hold that internet companies now have over digital advertising has left news outlets around the world in search of a sustainable business model. Some are doubling down on subscriptions; others rely on philanthropy. But Naver has an unusual model for working with Korean news publishers: The company directly pays 124 outlets as “Naver News in-link partners.” The outlets’ stories are published on Naver’s portal, making the site a one-stop source of articles and video and eliminating the need for readers to leave and visit the original news site. All the better for Naver’s own shopping platform and its own ads. (Another 500 or so news outlets are unpaid “search partners.” The site links to the publishers’ articles, much like Google News.) The total payout comes to more than $40 million per year.

For “in-link partners,” Naver’s model offers an alternative to relying on traffic from an aggregator like Google News, or schemes like Facebook’s Instant Articles that aim to share ad revenue. The partners have a negotiable relationship with the company that wants their work—a company that needs new content for readers each time they log on. Whether Naver’s compensation to publishers is sufficient, however, remains controversial. And like some of its fellow technology giants overseas, Naver’s news practices are under increasing scrutiny….

Barbara McQuade contends After Michael Flynn, Robert Mueller’s Next Targets Are in This Document:

The Statement of the Offense makes it clear that when Flynn spoke to Russia, he was not acting on his own as some rogue player. The Statement of Offense sets out a timeline indicating that Flynn’s conversations with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak were being discussed in real time with a “senior member of President-elect Trump’s Transition Team” and a “very senior member of the Presidential Transition Team.” The document notes that the “senior member” was with other transition officials at the Mar-A-Lago resort in Florida, where President-elect Trump was staying at the time. Some reports indicate that the “senior member” is Flynn’s former deputy K.T. McFarland and the “very senior member” is Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner.

Regardless, Flynn knows who they are and is prepared to testify about them, according to the plea agreement. This disclosure sheds new light on the reports that Kushner sought a back channel for communication with Russia during the transition. Flynn likely can confirm or refute this report and explain why any back channel for communicating with Russia might have been sought. (Kushner denied it was a “secret back channel” and said communications were to be about Syria)….

The Statement of Offense is not a document that Mueller is required to file. Why, then, did he file it? In part, no doubt, he wants to lock Flynn into what he will testify to if necessary at any trial. But if locking in Flynn’s statement was Mueller’s goal, he could do that by having Flynn testify under oath and in private before the grand jury. So why make it public? The “senior member” and “very senior member” of the transition team mentioned in the documents know who they are. Including this language in a public document sends a message to them that if they want to cooperate, now is the time, and perhaps, they, too, can get a good deal….

Trey Griffith is Stacking His Way to the Top:

When Trey Griffith found his first set of stacking cups, his life was changed forever. He began training himself to rack and stack cups at lightning speed, competing in tournaments around the globe. Trey’s father eventually took up stacking himself as an opportunity to bond and compete alongside his son. Today, at age 14, Trey is already the fastest stacker in the state of Texas. Now, he’s ready to take on the world.

Daily Bread for 12.8.17

Good afternoon.

Friday in Whitewater will see a probability of evening snow showers, and an evening low of twenty-two. Sunrise is 7:13 AM and 4:20 PM, for 9h 07m 03s of daytime. The moon is a waning gibbous with 65.2% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the three hundred ninety-fourth day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

On this day in 1941, Congress declares war on Imperial Japan. On this day in 1864, the Wisconsin 2nd Cavalry is assigned to scout Memphis, Tennessee.

Recommended for reading in full — 

The Poynter Institute releases a new study examining trust in the media:

The Poynter Institute released original public opinion research today that indicates overall trust and confidence in the media has increased since President Trump took office to the highest levels observed since the 2001 terrorist attacks, though the president’s war of words on the press appear to have exacerbated partisan divisions in attitudes toward the press.

Based on responses from 2,100 survey participants whose news consumption habits were tracked in November, Republicans have vastly more negative views of the press than do Democrats, and are more likely to support restrictions on press freedom. While Democrats with high political knowledge say they have the most faith in the press, Republicans with high political knowledge are the most distrustful of the media — more so than Republicans with low political knowledge.

Republicans and Trump supporters are also far more likely to endorse extreme claims about media fabrication, to describe journalists as an “enemy of the people,” and to support restrictions on press freedom….

Max Fisher, Eric Schmitt, Audrey Carlsen, and  Malachy Browne ask Did American Missile Defense Fail in Saudi Arabia?:

The official story was clear: Saudi forces shot down a ballistic missile fired by Yemen’s Houthi rebel group last month at Saudi Arabia’s capital, Riyadh. It was a victory for the Saudis and for the United States, which supplied the Patriot missile defense system.

“Our system knocked the missile out of the air,” President Trump said the next day from Air Force One en route to Japan, one of the 14 countries that use the system. “That’s how good we are. Nobody makes what we make, and now we’re selling it all over the world.”

But an analysis of photos and videos of the strike posted to social media suggests that story may be wrong.

Instead, evidence analyzed by a research team of missile experts appears to show the missile’s warhead flew unimpeded over Saudi defenses and nearly hit its target, Riyadh’s airport. The warhead detonated so close to the domestic terminal that customers jumped out of their seats….

Rosalind S. Helderman and Tom Hamburger report Email pointed Trump campaign to WikiLeaks documents that were already public:

A 2016 email sent to candidate Donald Trump and top aides pointed the campaign to hacked documents from the Democratic National Committee that had already been made public by the group WikiLeaks a day earlier.

The email — sent the afternoon of Sept. 14, 2016 — noted that “Wikileaks has uploaded another (huge 678 mb) archive of files from the DNC” and included a link and a “decryption key,” according to a copy obtained by The Washington Post.

The writer, who said his name was Michael J. Erickson and described himself as the president of an aviation management company, sent the message to the then-Republican nominee as well as his eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., and other top advisers.

The day before, WikiLeaks had tweeted links to what the group said was 678.4 megabytes of DNC documents.

The full email — which was first described to CNN as being sent on Sept. 4, 10 days earlier — indicates that the writer may have simply been flagging information that was already widely available. CNN later corrected its story to note the email had been sent Sept. 14.

The message also noted that information from former secretary of state Colin Powell’s inbox was available “on DCLeaks.com.” That development, too, had been publicly reported earlier that day….

Frances Robles, Kenan Davis, Sheri Fink, and Sarah Almukhtar report Official Toll in Puerto Rico: 62. Actual Deaths May Be 1,052:

A review by The New York Times of daily mortality data from Puerto Rico’s vital statistics bureau indicates a significantly higher death toll after the hurricane than the government there has acknowledged.

The Times’s analysis found that in the 42 days after Hurricane Maria made landfall on Sept. 20 as a Category 4 storm, 1,052 more people than usual died across the island. The analysis compared the number of deaths for each day in 2017 with the average of the number of deaths for the same days in 2015 and 2016.

Officially, just 62 people died as a result of the storm that ravaged the island with nearly 150-mile-an-hour winds, cutting off power to 3.4 million Puerto Ricans. The last four fatalities were added to the death toll on Dec. 2.

“Before the hurricane, I had an average of 82 deaths daily. That changes from Sept. 20 to 30th. Now I have an average of 118 deaths daily,” Wanda Llovet, the director of the Demographic Registry in Puerto Rico, said in a mid-November interview. Since then, she said on Thursday, both figures have increased by one….

Here’s How NASA, SpaceX, and Blue Origin’s Monster Rockets Compare:

Daily Bread for 12.7.17

Good morning.

Thursday in Whitewater will be increasingly sunny with a high of twenty-seven. Sunrise is 7:12 AM and sunset 4:20 PM, for 9h 07m 58s of daytime. The moon is a waning gibbous with 78.4% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the three hundred ninety-third day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

Whitewater’s Community Development Authority is scheduled to meet at 5:30 PM, and her Landmarks Commission at 6 PM.

Seventy-six years ago, the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service attacks the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor. Wisconsinite Russ Warriner was among the survivors that day:

Russ Warriner, a 25-year-old first class seaman on the USS Arizona, miraculously survived the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The explosions ripped apart the Arizona and killed nearly all his mates. At the time of the attack, Warriner was on the sky control platform, where his job was to spot enemy ships and planes. The bomb that struck the Arizona sliced through the steel deck and exploded into a fuel tank. Fire flared for seven seconds before it ignited 1.7 million pounds of explosives held in the ship’s magazine. More than 1,000 sailors died instantly, including many on the lookout platform with Warriner. Warriner lost his balance and fell onto the platform. His hands swept through fiery magnesium remaining from incendiary bombs and were nearly burned off. He was knocked off the ship, pulled aboard a small motor boat, and eventually made his way to shore. Warriner was treated at Great Lakes Naval Base in Illinois, where plastic surgeons were able to repair his hands. Warriner settled in Wisconsin, married and raised two children. In the late 90s, Warriner was a retired piano tuner living in Beloit Township.

Recommended for reading in full —

Josh Gerstein reports Russian oligarch Deripaska drops libel suit against Associated Press:

A Russian oligarch whose business dealings have come under scrutiny by investigators probing Russian influence in the 2016 presidential election has dropped a libel suit against The Associated Press.

Lawyers for aluminum magnate Oleg Deripaska, who worked closely with indicted former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort several years ago, joined with the news service Tuesday in a joint court filing dismissing appeals of a judge’s decision in October tossing out the defamation lawsuit.

Deripaska’s suit, filed in May, alleged that an AP story published two months earlier falsely implied that Deripaska was paying Manafort for work aimed at advancing the goals of the Russian government and Russian president Vladimir Putin….

U.S. District Court Judge Ellen Huvelle dismissed the lawsuit, finding that the Russian businessman was “a limited purpose public figure” under U.S. libel law. That determination meant Deripaska needed to plausibly assert that the AP knew its story was false at the time it published it, something the judge found the complaint in the case failed to lay out….

Avi Selk reports Chirps, hums and phantom noises — how bizarre events in Cuba changed embassy workers’ brains:

They would sometimes wake in the night to hear a disembodied chirping somewhere in the room, or a strange, low hum, or the sound of scraping metal.

Sometimes they felt a phantom flutter of air pass by as they listened. Others in the room would often not notice a thing, the Associated Press reported, and the noises would cease if the person moved just a few feet away.

And then, usually within 24 hours of these bizarre events, bad things happened to those who heard the noises.

What exactly two dozen Americans experienced at the U.S. Embassy in Cuba — in incidents last year and then again in August — remains a mystery to science and the FBI. They have alternately been blamed on a high-tech sonic weapon or a mysterious disease, and have caused a diplomatic crisis because U.S. officials blame Cuba for the attacks….

Jennifer Rubin contends The anti-Trump Republicans can cripple the GOP:

So nearly 20 percent have checked out of the Trump GOP and 23 percent are leaning that way, for a total of 41 percent. This, of course, does not account for the loss of many voters who won’t even identify as Republican because of the Trump phenomenon….

Well, we’ve got a long way to go, and the collapse of the Trump presidency, if it comes, might either shatter the party or help unify it around Vice President Pence (although his proximity to Michael Flynn, Jared Kusher and, of course, Trump might be disqualifying for lots of voters). In any case, Trump enablers may dominate the GOP, but the rest of the party may choose to cripple the Trump GOP by leaving for greener pastures. The more the GOP regulars and Trump sycophants rail against the Never Trump contingent, the more likely the latter is to leave. And if Democrats play their cards right, they might even win some of these voters over.

(Even small defections from Trumpism might tip some Congressional contests. Well worth encouraging.)

Maura Judkis writes Behold, the latest wait-in-line, Instagram-your-purchase status food: Cheese tea:

We’ve nearly made it through 2017, a year that gave us the unicorn frappuccino, pea milk, the gummy bear juice cleanse, pumpkin spice deodorant, and its greatest (worst) gift, microwaveable mug cakes for one.

But just when you thought we were out of the woods, along comes 2017’s final salvo: cheese tea.

[Blue wine is a thing because your Instagram doesn’t have taste buds]

You are thinking: Those are two words that do not go together. Cheese! In tea! But we’re not talking Humboldt Fog or Camembert here. The cheese used in cheese tea is usually a cream cheese — sometimes sweet, sometimes salty — combined with condensed milk. It forms a tall, frothy head at the top of the beverage, sort of like whipped cream in a frappuccino. The teas are often matcha, oolong, jasmine and black, and you can customize them with fruits and other flavor infusions. They’re kind of like bubble tea, which has made its way into mall food courts across America.

CHEESE TEA EXISTS. And it’s delicious. Link in biooooo ?? #cheesetea @littlefluffyhead

A post shared by john warder (@biscuitpancakes) on

(I’ve not yet tried it, but will search for some.)

Incredible Footage of the Deepstaria Jellyfish:

Daily Bread for 12.6.17

Good morning.

Midweek in Whitewater will be mostly sunny with a high of thirty-two. Sunrise is 7:11 AM and sunset 4:20 PM, for 9h 08m 57s of daytime. The moon is a waning gibbous with 87.2% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the three hundred ninety-second day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

Whitewater’s Public Works Committee is scheduled to meet at 6 PM.

On this day in 1865, the Thirteenth Amendment is ratified by the required number of states. On this day in 1864, the 30th Wisconsin Infantry arrives in Louisville, Kentucky.

Recommended for reading in full — 

Callum Borchers reports Time’s Person of the Year isn’t Trump. It’s basically the opposite of Trump:

President Trump claimed in a tweet last month that Time magazine told him he would likely be named Person of the Year. But the magazine’s selection turned out to be, essentially, the opposite of Trump: The women and men speaking out about sexual misconduct.

Time dubbed these people “silence breakers” on a cover unveiled Wednesday, and some attributed their silence breaking to the president.

“I have real doubts about whether we’d be going through this if Hillary Clinton had won, because I think that President Trump’s election, in many ways, was a setback for women,” said NBC’s Megyn Kelly, the former Fox News host who last year accused former Fox chairman Roger Ailes of sexual harassment in a book. She added that “the overall message” of Trump’s victory “was that we don’t really matter.”

Trump, of course, won the presidency last fall, despite having been accused of groping and kissing women without consent — and bragging about getting away with such behavior on the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape published by The Washington Post….

Megan Twohey, Jodi Kantor, Susan Dominus, Jim Rutenberg, and Steve Eder report on
Weinstein’s Complicity Machine (“The producer Harvey Weinstein relied on powerful relationships across industries to provide him with cover as accusations of sexual misconduct piled up for decades”):

Harvey Weinsten built his complicity machine out of the witting, the unwitting and those in between. He commanded enablers, silencers and spies, warning others who discovered his secrets to say nothing. He courted those who could provide the money or prestige to enhance his reputation as well as his power to intimidate.

In the weeks and months before allegations of his methodical abuse of women were exposed in October, Mr. Weinstein, the Hollywood producer, pulled on all the levers of his carefully constructed apparatus.

He gathered ammunition, sometimes helped by the editor of The National Enquirer, who had dispatched reporters to find information that could undermine accusers. He turned to old allies, asking a partner in Creative Artists Agency, one of Hollywood’s premier talent shops, to broker a meeting with a C.A.A. client, Ronan Farrow, who was reporting on Mr. Weinstein. He tried to dispense favors: While seeking to stop the actress Rose McGowan from writing in a memoir that he had sexually assaulted her, he tried to arrange a $50,000 payment to her former manager and throw new business to a literary agent advising Ms. McGowan. The agent, Lacy Lynch, replied to him in an email: “No one understands smart, intellectual and commercial like HW.”

Mr. Weinstein’s final, failed round of manipulations shows how he operated for more than three decades: by trying to turn others into instruments or shields for his behavior, according to nearly 200 interviews, internal company records and previously undisclosed emails. Some aided his actions without realizing what he was doing. Many knew something or detected hints, though few understood the scale of his sexual misconduct. Almost everyone had incentives to look the other way or reasons to stay silent. Now, even as the tally of Mr. Weinstein’s alleged misdeeds is still emerging, so is a debate about collective failure and the apportioning of blame….

(Note for Whitewater: In institutions, organizations, corporations, and government, misconduct thrives on willing enablers, often men and woman who rationalize their role aiding misconduct in one way or another. Indeed, repeated abuse of individuals – discarding those injured in the name of some supposed, greater good – often requires carefully-placed help.)

Monika Bauerlein reports It’s a Perfect Storm for Destroying Journalism (“Economic threats or political attacks are bad enough by themselves. But together they are incredibly dangerous”):

We’ve known for a while that the news business is in trouble. Long before Google and Facebook started gobbling up advertising revenue, newsroom hiring froze and investigative teams were dissolved as corporate and hedge-fund owners sought ever fatter quarterly returns. Eric Klinenberg laid it all out in MoJo in 2007: As far back as the 1980s, he notes, corporate owners had begun to “buy up local newspapers, crush the competition, jack up ad rates, downsize the editorial staff (and, if required, break the union), then watch earnings soar.”

And we can fast-forward through the history of digital publishing in no time: Blogging (and layoffs), search engine optimization (and “rightsizing”), social-media optimization (and layoffs), pivot to video (did we mention layoffs?), rinse and repeat—and suddenly it’s late 2017, and here’s another round of, you guessed it, layoffs and revenue implosion. And the timing, at a moment when pursuing the truth about those in power feels like a matter of life and death for democracy, could not be worse….

(Note for Whitewater: Bloggers aren’t journalists, nor should they wish to be. The decline of local journalism has come about not merely for economic reasons, but lack of will: weak newspapers have led to even weaker imitations.)

Jonathan Berr writes The Kochs’ Investment In Time Doesn’t Make Much Business Sense:

It’s a good thing that Charles and David Koch don’t have to answer to shareholders because they would be livid over the billionaire brothers’ decision to invest $650 million in Meredith’s $2.8 billion acquisition of magazine publisher Time Inc.

Under the terms of the deal, the Kochs would become passive investors in the new company through preferred equity they will receive. Iowa-based Meredith has taken pains to note that the conservative-leaning Kochs would have no say over any editorial matters. I will believe it when I see it. Media mogul Rupert Murdoch has made similar promises but has repeatedly meddled in the editorial affairs of his various media properties, such as the New York Post.

But even if you accept the Kochs at their word, it’s hard to see the appeal of the Meredith-Time Inc. merger for any investors because Time Inc. has been a financial basket case for years. Before Time Warner spun off the corporate home of People, Sports Illustrated and Time magazines in 2013, revenue at Time Inc. had plunged in 22 out of the past 24 quarters. The company’s fortunes haven’t improved much since then. Total revenue barely budged from 2013 to 2016 and is expected to plunge in 2017 to $2.78 billion. To top it off, Time Inc. is saddled with more than $1.2 billion in debt from the Time Warner spin-off, an amount that Time Inc. itself has warned is “substantial”….

(There’s speculation that they have a political angle, but it may be instead, as Berr notes, that “[w]hether the Koch Brothers will get an expensive education in a sector they know little about remains to be seen.”)

So, Why Can’t You Put Pineapple in Jello?:

Daily Bread for 12.5.17

Good morning.

Tuesday in Whitewater will be partly cloudy with a high of thirty-five. Sunrise is 7:10 AM and sunset is 4:20 PM, for 9h 10m 00s of daytime. The moon is a waning gibbous with 94.1% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the three hundred ninety-first day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

The Whitewater Common Council meets at 6:30 PM.

On this day in 1952, the Great Smog of London overcomes that city:

A period of cold weather, combined with an anticyclone and windless conditions, collected airborne pollutants – mostly arising from the use of coal – to form a thick layer of smog over the city. It lasted from Friday, 5 December to Tuesday, 9 December 1952 and then dispersed quickly when the weather changed.

It caused major disruption by reducing visibility and even penetrating indoor areas, far more severe than previous smog events experienced in the past, called “pea-soupers”. Government medical reports in the following weeks, however, estimated that up until 8 December, 4,000 people had died as a direct result of the smog and 100,000 more were made ill by the smog’s effects on the human respiratory tract. More recent research suggests that the total number of fatalities was considerably greater, about 12,000.

On this day in 1879, the Humane Society of Wisconsin is organized:

On this date the Humane Society of Wisconsin was organized in Milwaukee. Inspired by Henry Bergh, a New York City philanthropist, and his Humane Movement, the state Humane Society was formed to protect both animals and children. However, with the formation of child protection laws in the early 1900s, the Humane Society of Wisconsin began to focus primarily on animal protection.

Recommended for reading in full —

Dan Friedman reports Paul Manafort Just Tried to Secretly Collaborate With a Colleague Linked to Russian Intelligence, Feds Say:

Following his October 30 indictment on federal charges, Paul Manafort worsened his legal woes by secretly drafting an editorial defending his work on behalf of a former Ukrainian president—cowriting the piece with a “long-time Russian colleague” who is “assessed to have ties to a Russian intelligence service”— according to a motion filed Monday by federal prosecutors. The alleged stunning move by Manafort has torpedoed the $11-million bail package that special counsel Robert Mueller’s team tentatively agreed upon with Manafort’s lawyers last week.

Manafort and his longtime colleague Rick Gates face trial on charges including money laundering and tax evasion for over tens of millions of dollars received for political work on behalf of the political party headed by Viktor Yanukovich, a pro-Russian former Ukrainian president ousted in 2014. Manafort also faces charges related to his failure to register as a foreign lobbyist.

Mueller’s team alleges that with Manafort awaiting trial on those charges: “As late as November 30, 2017, Manafort and a colleague were ghostwriting an editorial in English regarding his political work for Ukraine. Manafort worked on the draft with a long-time Russian colleague of Manafort’s, who is currently based in Russia and assessed to have ties to a Russian intelligence service.”

The filing does not contain additional details but says that the US government will file a separate sealed motion including evidence support their claim….

(Leopards, spots…)

Michael S. Schmidt and Sharon LaFraniere report McFarland Contradicted Herself on Russia Contacts, Congressional Testimony Shows:

WASHINGTON — An email sent during the transition by President Trump’s former deputy national security adviser, K.T. McFarland, appears to contradict the testimony she gave to Congress over the summer about contacts between the Russian ambassador and Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn.

Ms. McFarland had told lawmakers that she did not discuss or know anything about interactions between Sergey I. Kislyak, who had been Moscow’s ambassador to the United States, and Mr. Flynn, according to Senate documents.

But emails obtained by The New York Times appear to undermine those statements. In a Dec. 29 message about newly imposed Obama administration sanctions against Russia for its election interference, Ms. McFarland, then serving on Mr. Trump’s transition team, told another transition official that Mr. Flynn would be talking to the Russian ambassador that evening….

(If Russian contacts were truly innocuous, why conceal or lie about them?)

John Schmid reports Wisconsin childhood trauma data explodes myth of ‘not in my small town’:

The drug crisis in Rock County reflects another epidemic, one that preceded it, sometimes by a full generation or more — and statistically was invisible until only recently.

It’s an epidemic of abuse, neglect and maltreatment of children. It can mean an environment in which adults are alcoholic, mentally unwell, incarcerated or violent — or too stressed by lack of time or money to have any emotional capacity left for children.

A new body of data shows that childhood trauma can lead to lifelong afflictions, both physical and behavioral, including post-traumatic stress disorders. Too often, it leads to neurological impairment. It can precede depression, unemployment and even homelessness and suicide. In high-trauma communities, the workforce can become incapacitated.

The same data also shows a crippling ripple effect: trauma and economic decline are interrelated and self-reinforcing, and frequently transfer from generation to generation, and neighborhood to neighborhood. The same downward dynamic can be found in rural areas and smaller towns as well as the nation’s aging urban centers like Milwaukee….

Emily Hanford and Alex Baumhardt write of Rural America’s Neglected Higher-Education Problem (“A podcast explores the parts of the U.S. being ignored as the nation tries to ramp up degree completion”):

Only 59 percent of rural high-school graduates enroll in college the subsequent fall, according to the National Student Clearinghouse. That’s a lower proportion than students from urban and suburban areas.

“It was amazing to me as a journalist—and embarrassing” to realize that college-going is less common among students in rural America, says Jon Marcus, the higher-education editor for The Hechinger Report who wrote an article about the rural higher-education crisis for The Atlantic. “We haven’t covered this.”

He says colleges have failed to pay attention to the needs of rural students, too….

(There’s more than one issue: how many students attend college, and how many students have a strong, well-rounded education even if they don’t attend college.)

The deepest-ever fish has been recovered for the first time:

Scientists finally have an up-close look at the deepest-dwelling fish in the world. Several samples of the fish have been brought to the surface for study. Following is the transcript of the video.

Scientists finally have an up-close look at the deepest-dwelling fish. The fish was found nearly 5 miles underwater. It’s the first time scientists have retrieved one for study. This CT scan shows the fish’s skeleton and its lunch.

Researchers have named the fish the “Mariana Snailfish” AKA “Pseudoliparis swirei.” It was found 26,200 feet below the surface, in the Mariana Trench. The pressure is 1,000X greater than at the surface. Researchers say the pressure there is so intense, it’s “similar to an elephant standing on your thumb.”

In August, Japanese researchers saw the same fish even deeper, at a depth of 26,830 feet. Scientists didn’t know for sure if such life could exist at this depth. It’s thought that after 26,902 feet, cells cease to function normally.

Scientists caught this fish with a camera-enabled trap. They hope the samples will help them understand how something could survive such incredible pressure. One advantage to their depth is a lack of natural predators, except for the occasional scientist with a trap!

Daily Bread for 12.4.17

Good morning.

Monday in Whitewater will see scattered thunderstorms with a high of sixty. Sunrise is 7:09 AM and sunset 4:21 PM, for 9h 11m 06s of daytime. The moon is a waning gibbous with 98.6% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the three hundred ninetieth day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

On this day in 1842, a Civil War hero from Waukesha is born: “On this date William B. Cushing was born in Delafield. In October, 1864 Cushing led a small group of soldiers in the sinking of the Confederate ironclad ram, the Albermarle. The crew exploded a torpedo beneath the ship and then attempted to escape. The Albermarle imposed a blockade near Plymouth, North Carolina and sunk or removed many Union vessels while on the watch. Cushing’s plan was a success, although his ship sank and most of the crew either surrendered or drowned. Cushing and one other man swam to shore and hid in the swamps to evade Confederate capture. Cushing received a “vote of thanks” from the U.S. Congress and was promoted to Lieutenant Commander. He died in 1874 of ill health and is buried in the Naval Cemetery at Annapolis, Maryland. [Source: Badger Saints and Sinnersby Fred L. Holmes, p.274-285]”

Recommended for reading in full — 

Carol D. Leonnig, John Wagner and Ellen Nakashima report Trump lawyer says president knew Flynn had given FBI the same account he gave to vice president:

….Trump’s Saturday tweets had stoked controversy, as he wrote that “I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI.” Previously, the White House had cited only the false statements to Pence as a rationale for dismissing Flynn.

[Trump lawyer John] Dowd confirmed Sunday that he had drafted the tweet for Trump and acknowledged that it was sloppily worded. He said it was inaccurate to say the president was told that Flynn had lied to the FBI. Dowd said Sunday that Trump knew only what acting attorney general Sally Yates had told the White House counsel: that Flynn’s accounts to the agents interviewing him were the same as those Flynn gave Pence, and “that the [Justice] Department was not accusing him of lying”….

Dowd played down the significance of Trump’s tweet, saying he did not intend to make news and declared, “I’m out of the tweeting business.”

But several legal experts said the tweet, and some of Dowd’s comments about what the president may have known, could increase the president’s legal exposure.

If Trump knew that Flynn might not have been accurate with the FBI, it could provide motivation for any alleged effort to obstruct justice, said Barak Cohen, a former federal prosecutor who does white-collar defense work at Perkins Coie law firm. “It bolsters the intent for committing obstruction,” he said….

(One would have to accept that Dowd – of all people – actually drafted Trump’s tweets, and also contend that in any event that Trump’s publication of those words did not constitute an adoption of them.)

Mike Allen of Axios floats the latest theory from Dowd, that Trump lawyer claims the “President cannot obstruct justice”:

John Dowd, President Trump’s outside lawyer, outlined to me a new and highly controversial defense/theory in the Russia probe: A president cannot be guilty of obstruction of justice.

The “President cannot obstruct justice because he is the chief law enforcement officer under [the Constitution’s Article II] and has every right to express his view of any case,” Dowd claims.

Dowd says he drafted this weekend’s Trump tweet that many thought strengthened the case for obstruction: The tweet suggested Trump knew Flynn had lied to the FBI when he was fired, raising new questions about the later firing of FBI Director James Comey….

(This comes close to l’etat, c’est moi, dressed as mere commentary on events. One can expect Trump’s base, relatively ignorant as they are, to accept this unflinchingly when Hannity ladles it to them.)

Craig Silverman writes Social Platforms Promised A Level Playing Field For All. The Russian Trolls Showed That Was Never True:

….If you can’t tell whether a Facebook or Twitter account is run by an American, a Macedonian spammer, or a Russian troll, then that’s great news for the Macedonians and Russians, or others seeking to push false information on social media. The fact that so much attention could be harvested on social media by fostering division, confusion, and conflict speaks volumes about American politics and society — but also about these massive platforms that cloak themselves in the values and talk of liberal democracies.

One of the unintended consequences of the so-called “flattening” effect of platforms is that, by ostensibly putting everyone on the same level, you empower those who become experts at gaming the system. By democratizing media on platforms that reward pure attention capture, you enable manipulation on a profound scale.

Thanks to the internet, the marketplace of ideas is more open and more democratized than ever before. Yet thanks to social platforms, it’s also been rigged to reward those who can manipulate human emotion and cognition to trigger the almighty algorithms that pick winners and losers….

Billy Bush writes Yes, Donald Trump, You Said That:

He said it. “Grab ’em by the pussy.”

Of course he said it. And we laughed along, without a single doubt that this was hypothetical hot air from America’s highest-rated bloviator. Along with Donald Trump and me, there were seven other guys present on the bus at the time, and every single one of us assumed we were listening to a crass standup act. He was performing. Surely, we thought, none of this was real.

We now know better.

Recently I sat down and read an article dating from October of 2016; it was published days after my departure from NBC, a time when I wasn’t processing anything productively. In it, the author reviewed the various firsthand accounts about Mr. Trump that, at that point, had come from 20 women.

Some of what Natasha Stoynoff, Rachel Crooks, Jessica Leeds and Jill Harth alleged involved forceful kissing. Ms. Harth said he pushed her up against a wall, with his hands all over her, trying to kiss her.

“He was relentless,” she said. “I didn’t know how to handle it.” Her story makes the whole “better use some Tic Tacs” and “just start kissing them” routine real. I believe her….

An omelette? No, a 10,000 egg omelette:

Daily Bread for 12.3.17

Good morning.

Sunday in Whitewater will be mostly sunny with a high of fifty-five. Sunrise is 7:08 AM and sunset 4:21 PM, for 9h 12m 16s of daytime. The moon is full today. Today is the three hundred eighty-ninth day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

On this day in 1992, British engineer Neil Papworth sends the first SMS text message (“Merry Christmas”) from his work computer in Newbury, Berkshire, to Vodafone executive Richard Jarvis’ mobile phone. On this day in 1947, WTMJ-TV becomes the first television station in Wisconsin.

Recommended for reading in full —

Nicholas Fandos reports Operative Offered Trump Campaign ‘Kremlin Connection’ Using N.R.A. Ties:

WASHINGTON — A conservative operative trumpeting his close ties to the National Rifle Association and Russia told a Trump campaign adviser last year that he could arrange a back-channel meeting between Donald J. Trump and Vladimir V. Putin, the Russian president, according to an email sent to the Trump campaign.

A May 2016 email to the campaign adviser, Rick Dearborn, bore the subject line “Kremlin Connection.” In it, the N.R.A. member said he wanted the advice of Mr. Dearborn and Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, then a foreign policy adviser to Mr. Trump and Mr. Dearborn’s longtime boss, about how to proceed in connecting the two leaders.

Russia, he wrote, was “quietly but actively seeking a dialogue with the U.S.” and would attempt to use the N.R.A.’s annual convention in Louisville, Ky., to make “‘first contact.’” The email, which was among a trove of campaign-related documents turned over to investigators on Capitol Hill, was described in detail to The New York Times….

(History will look back on the National Rifle Association both for its support of Trump and Putin, leaving national a dual loyalty.)

Michael S. Schmidt, Sharon LaFraniere, and Scott Shane report Emails Dispute White House Claims That Flynn Acted Independently on Russia:

WASHINGTON — When President Trump fired his national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, in February, White House officials portrayed him as a renegade who had acted independently in his discussions with a Russian official during the presidential transition and then lied to his colleagues about the interactions.

But emails among top transition officials, provided or described to The New York Times, suggest that Mr. Flynn was far from a rogue actor. In fact, the emails, coupled with interviews and court documents filed on Friday, showed that Mr. Flynn was in close touch with other senior members of the Trump transition team both before and after he spoke with the Russian ambassador, Sergey I. Kislyak, about American sanctions against Russia.

While Mr. Trump has disparaged as a Democratic “hoax” any claims that he or his aides had unusual interactions with Russian officials, the records suggest that the Trump transition team was intensely focused on improving relations with Moscow and was willing to intervene to pursue that goal despite a request from the Obama administration that it not sow confusion about official American policy before Mr. Trump took office….

Adam Roston and Joel Anderson report He Spent Almost 20 Years Funding The Racist Right. It Finally Paid Off (“William Regnery II, a man who inherited millions but struggled in business, tried for 15 years to ignite a racist political movement — and failed. Then an unforeseen phenomenon named Donald Trump gave legitimacy to what Regnery had seeded long before: the alt-right. Now, the press-shy white separatist breaks his silence”):

How did explicit racism move from a taboo to an open, unabashed force in American politics? A loose but sprawling internet army, often called the alt-right, gave white supremacy a massive megaphone. And with the rise of Donald Trump’s candidacy, it suddenly seemed to be everywhere at once.

In fact, that movement had an infrastructure — organizations, journals, conferences, money — that had been laid down years before. It was in large part funded by one person: a secretive and aging multimillionaire named William H. Regnery II, the most influential racist you’ve never heard of.

Despite inheriting immense wealth, having grown up in a prominent family in the conservative movement, he had managed to chalk up virtually no public success in his first six decades of life. He never graduated from college, and he floundered in his attempt at running the family business.

But starting in 1999 — when he convened a dozen other middle-aged white nationalists at an ornate seaside hotel nicknamed the Pink Palace — he has poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into the quest to transform America and create what he calls a white “ethnostate.”

His traceable donations have gone chiefly to two organizations, both of which he established and led as founding president. The first was the secretive Charles Martel Society, named for a leading figure of the European Middle Ages who fought off Muslim invaders. That organization helped create the second: the innocuously named National Policy Institute, which became a nerve center of the alt-right. In 2011, Regnery hired Richard Spencer, the charismatic speaker widely credited with coining that term, to be the NPI’s president and director….

Steve Dorsey reports Uzbekistan incident raises suspicions of Russian involvement in Cuba attacks:

A newly revealed incident reported by a USAID officer who is based at the American embassy in Uzbekistan is raising suspicions Russia may have been involved and could have had a hand in bizarre attacks targeting U.S. diplomats in Cuba, according to American sources.

In September, the officer and his wife reported, according to one source familiar with the incident, what may have been at least one acoustic attack similar to those experienced by the diplomats in Havana.

[Investigation into mysterious Cuba attacks “back to square one”]

The first Cuba attacks began in November 2016, and the last report of an attack was in August 2017. Victims of the attacks in Cuba describe hearing a loud, high-pitched sound often described like a hiss of cicadas or crickets in unusual places—often in their homes.

The State Department declined to describe in detail the incident in Tashkent….

NASA describes A Supermoon Trilogy:

A series of three supermoons will appear on the celestial stage on December 3, 2017, January 1, 2018, and January 31, 2018.

Daily Bread for 12.2.17

Good morning.

Saturday in Whitewater will be mostly sunny with a high of fifty-two. Sunrise is 7:07 AM and sunset 4:21 PM, for 9h 13m 30s of daytime. The moon is a waxing gibbous with 98.3% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the three hundred eighty-eighth day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

On this day in 1804, French imperialist and dictator Napoleon is coronated Emperor of France:

“A keen observer of Bonaparte’s rise to absolute power, Madame de Rémusat, explains that “men worn out by the turmoil of the Revolution … looked for the domination of an able ruler” and that “people believed quite sincerely that Bonaparte, whether as consul or emperor, would exert his authority and save [them] from the perils of anarchy.[100]”

Napoleon’s coronation took place on 2 December 1804. Two separate crowns were brought for the ceremony: a golden laurel wreath recalling the Roman Empire and a replica of Charlemagne’s crown.[101] Napoleon entered the ceremony wearing the laurel wreath and kept it on his head throughout the proceedings.[101] For the official coronation, he raised the Charlemagne crown over his own head in a symbolic gesture, but never placed it on top because he was already wearing the golden wreath.[101] Instead he placed the crown on Josephine’s head, the event commemorated in the officially sanctioned painting by Jacques-Louis David.[101] Napoleon was also crowned King of Italy, with the Iron Crown of Lombardy, at the Cathedral of Milan on 26 May 1805. He created eighteen Marshals of the Empire from amongst his top generals to secure the allegiance of the army.”

Recommended for reading in full — 

Susan Hennessey, Matthew Kahn, Vanessa Sauter, Shannon Togawa Mercer, Benjamin Wittes offer The Flynn Plea: A Quick and Dirty Analysis:

The news that former national security adviser Michael Flynn has reached a cooperation and plea deal with Special Counsel Robert Mueller could not come as less of a surprise. Reports of Flynn’s bizarre behavior across a wide spectrum of areas began trickling out even before his tenure as national security adviser ended after only 24 days. These behaviors raised a raft of substantial criminal law questions that have been a matter of open speculation and reporting for months. His problems include, among other things, an alleged kidnapping plot, a plan to build nuclear power plants all over the Middle East, alleged violations of the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) involving at least two different countries, and apparent false statements to the FBI. In light of the scope and range of the activity that reputable news organizations have attributed to Flynn, it is no surprise that he has agreed to cooperate with Mueller in exchange for leniency.

The surprising thing about the plea agreement and the stipulated facts underlying it is how narrow they are. There’s no whiff of the alleged Fethullah Gulen kidnapping talks. Flynn has escaped FARA and influence-peddling charges. And he has been allowed to plead to a single count of lying to the FBI. The factual stipulation is also narrow. It involves lies to the FBI on two broad matters and lies on Flynn’s belated FARA filings on another issue. If a tenth of the allegations against Flynn are true and provable, he has gotten a very good deal from Mueller.

The narrowness gives a superficial plausibility to the White House’s reaction to the plea. Ty Cobb, the president’s ever-confident attorney, said in a statement: “The false statements involved mirror the false statements [by Flynn] to White House officials which resulted in his resignation in February of this year. Nothing about the guilty plea or the charge implicates anyone other than Mr. Flynn.” Cobb reads Friday’s events as an indication that Mueller is “moving with all deliberate speed and clears the way for a prompt and reasonable conclusion” of the investigation

This is very likely not an accurate assessment of the situation. If Mueller were prepared to settle the Flynn matter on the basis of single-count plea to a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1001, he was almost certainly prepared to charge a great deal more. Moreover, we can infer from the fact that Flynn accepted the plea deal that he and his counsel were concerned about the degree of jeopardy, both for Flynn and for his son, related to other charges. The deal, in other words, reflects the strength of Mueller’s hand against Flynn….

Ari Berman lists challenges to democracy, all of which Trumpism presents:

Reuters reports Wisconsin county’s credit rating cut over Foxconn financial aid:

(Reuters) – A decision by Wisconsin’s Racine County to give financial assistance to Taiwan-based Foxconn to build a massive liquid-crystal display plant has led to a credit rating downgrade for the county.

Moody’s Investor Service on Wednesday dropped the rating one notch to Aa2 from Aa1, citing anticipated growth in the county’s debt burden after it authorized up to $764 million in financial incentives to support the $10 billion plant.

(As for whether the plant will be even half so large as touted…)

Aram Roston reports The Trump Administration Is Mulling A Pitch For A Private “Rendition” And Spy Network:

WASHINGTON — The White House and CIA have been considering a package of secret proposals to allow former US intelligence officers to run privatized covert actions, intelligence gathering, and propaganda missions, according to three sources who’ve been briefed on or have direct knowledge of the proposals.

One of the proposals would involve hiring a private company, Amyntor Group, for millions of dollars to set up a large intelligence network and run counterterrorist propaganda efforts, according to the sources. Amyntor’s officials and employees include veterans of a variety of US covert operations, ranging from the Reagan-era Iran–Contra affair to more recent actions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Amyntor declined to discuss the proposals, but a lawyer for the company said in a statement to BuzzFeed News that the type of contract being contemplated would be legal “with direction and control by the proper government authority.”

Another proposal presented to US officials would allow individuals affiliated with the company to help capture wanted terrorists on behalf of the United States. In keeping with that proposal, people close to the company are tracking two specific suspects in a Middle Eastern country, the sources said, for possible “rendition” to the United States.

Explore the Majestic Sandstone of Vermilion Cliffs:

Vermilion Cliffs National Monument contains nearly 300,000 acres of public land on America’s Utah-Arizona border. Relatively unknown to many tourists, this remote desert wilderness is home to some of the most stunning landscapes on the planet. It is best known for the vivid, undulating sandstone formation known as “The Wave,” but travel deeper into the desert and you’ll find another spectacular spot called “White Pocket.” This hidden gem is special to Bureau of Land Management employee Rachel Carnahan, who helps protect this otherworldly landscape.

Daily Bread for 12.1.17

Good morning.

Whitewater’s December begins with partly cloudy skies and a high of fifty-two. Sunrise is 7:06 AM and sunset 4:21 PM, for 9h 14m 48s of daytime. The moon is a waximng gibbous with 93.8% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the three hundred eighty-seventh day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

Whitewater will hold a Parade of Lights tonight, under the theme I’m Dreaming of a Whitewater Christmas. The parade begins at 6 PM, but there are events beforehand.

On this day in 1862, Pres. Lincoln delivered his Second Annual Message to Congress. In that message, he concluded in part:

Fellow-citizens, we can not escape history. We of this Congress and this Administration will be remembered in spite of ourselves. No personal significance or insignificance can spare one or another of us. The fiery trial through which we pass will light us down in honor or dishonor to the latest generation. We say we are for the Union. The world will not forget that we say this. We know how to save the Union. The world knows we do know how to save it. We, even we here, hold the power and bear the responsibility….

Lincoln refers here to ending slavery, but these words apply equally well to our present national challenges. Every event, day, season, and year will be better when these challenges are swept from our nation.

Recommended for reading in full —

Josh Dawsey and Devlin Barrett report Michael Flynn scheduled to plead guilty to lying to FBI:

Former national security adviser Michael Flynn has agreed to plead guilty Friday to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, marking another monumental development in the wide-ranging probe of Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III.

Flynn was expected to enter a plea at 10:30 a.m. Eastern time, according to the special counsel’s office. The charge relates to false statements Flynn made to the FBI on January 24, four days after President Trump was inaugurated, about his conversations with Kislyak during the transition.

Flynn is accused of making false statements to the FBI about asking the ambassador in late December to “refrain from escalating the situation in response to sanctions that the United States had imposed on Russia that same day.” Flynn also told authorities he did not recall the ambassador saying the Russians would moderate their response to the Obama administration sanctions after the conversation….

(Matthew Miller’s likely right about this: “With all his exposure, if this is all he’s pleading to, he has given something pretty important to Mueller in return.”)

Jonathan Martin, Maggie Haberman, and Alexander Burns report Trump Pressed Top Republicans to End Senate Russia Inquiry:

WASHINGTON — President Trump over the summer repeatedly urged senior Senate Republicans, including the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, to end the panel’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, according to a half dozen lawmakers and aides. Mr. Trump’s requests were a highly unusual intervention from a president into a legislative inquiry involving his family and close aides.

Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina, the intelligence committee chairman, said in an interview this week that Mr. Trump told him that he was eager to see an investigation that has overshadowed much of the first year of his presidency come to an end.

“It was something along the lines of, ‘I hope you can conclude this as quickly as possible,’” Mr. Burr said. He said he replied to Mr. Trump that “when we have exhausted everybody we need to talk to, we will finish.”

In addition, according to lawmakers and aides, Mr. Trump told Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, and Senator Roy Blunt, Republican of Missouri and a member of the intelligence committee, to end the investigation swiftly….

(Unsurprising: where an honest official would want a full inquiry, Trump seeks a rushed and incomplete one.)

The Washington Post Editorial Board calls to Rename the block in front of the Russian Embassy:

In 1984, Congress voted to name a stretch of 16th Street immediately outside the then-Soviet Embassy “Andrei Sakharov Plaza,” in honor of the Soviet Union’s best-known dissident. The move infuriated Moscow, whose diplomats were confronted with Sakharov’s name every time they entered or left the building or received a piece of mail. But the tactic raised awareness of Sakharov’s courage and, according to his family, contributed to his release from internal exile two years later.

The D.C. Council is now to consider a new renaming that would be equally worthy. A measure sponsored by Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) and Ward 3 member Mary M. Cheh (D) would name a block of Wisconsin Avenue, outside the current Russian Embassy compound, “Boris Nemtsov Plaza,” in honor of the opposition leader who was gunned down in February 2015. Nemtsov dedicated his life to the cause of Russian democracy and had a large public following, making him a prime target for the regime of Vladi­mir Putin. The Kremlin, which has never identified or held responsible those who ordered his murder, deserves a constant reminder of his case.

Nemtsov’s career flourished during the 1990s, when Russia experimented with democracy: He was elected to parliament and to the governorship of the Nizhny Novgorod region, then served as deputy prime minister under President Boris Yeltsin. When Mr. Putin rose to power and began dismantling the country’s fragile new institutions, Nemtsov became a determined opponent. He persisted even after Mr. Putin consolidated power and eliminated fair elections, and after a series of Kremlin opponents were murdered. One of his final acts was to denounce Mr. Putin’s invasion of Ukraine….

Trump wanted to have a contest to see which network would win a ‘fake news’ contest. Conservative pollster Rasmussen decided to take a poll. The results weren’t what Trump would have wanted or expected:

There is such beauty in creation. Consider How Animals See the World:

Daily Bread for 11.30.17

Good morning.

Thursday in Whitewater is sunny with a high of forty-nine. Sunrise is 7:05 AM and sunset 4:22 PM, for 9h 16m 09s of daytime. The moon is a waxing gibbous with 87.1% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the three hundred eighty-sixth day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

On this day in 1835, Mark Twain (Samuel Langhorne Clemens) is born. On this day in 1864, the 24th Wisconsin Infantry takes part in the Battle of Franklin, Tennessee: “Major Arthur McArthur was wounded at Franklin as the 24th Infantry fought several hours in fierce combat that left seven of its soldiers dead or wounded.”

Recommended for reading in full — 

David Graham writes It’s Not an Act (“It’s no longer possible to pretend that President Trump is simply playing at bigotry, hypocrisy, and detachment from reality”):

Over the past 24 hours, President Trump has delivered a concentrated dose of misinformation, self-sabotage, hypocrisy, and bigotry that stands out even by the standards of his short and eventful political career….

Taken together, however, they offer yet another display of poor judgment and divisive leadership from the putative leader of the free world, and they again cast doubt on his fitness for his office. They are also further evidence that Trump’s hypocrisy, bigotry, and dishonesty are not an act. He means it all.

….the president has repeatedly demonstrated that he’s not just posturing, and it’s not simply a cynical ploy. Trump isn’t being hypocritical simply for sport or political gain. His bigotry isn’t just an act to win over a certain segment of the population. Of course it wasn’t: Trump has been demonstrating that since he arrived in the news, settling a case alleging that he had kept African Americans out of his apartment buildings, up through his demand to execute the Central Park Five. He isn’t spreading misinformation just to twist the political discourse—though he may be doing that—but because he can’t or won’t assess it. It is not an act.

All of this has been clear to anyone willing to see it for a long time, yet some people have convinced themselves it’s merely an act. That includes the Republican members of Congress who shake their heads but try to ignore the tweets. It includes the senator who chuckles at Trump’s enduring birtherism. And it includes the White House staffers who, according to The Times, are “stunned” to hear their boss denying the Access Hollywood tape. It’s stunning that they’re still stunned.

(Trump is, and always has been, what we who oppose him correctly understood him to be. We will oppose him unrelentingly until he meets his political ruin.)

Greg Jaffe, Carol D. Leonnig, Michael Kranish and Tom Hamburger report Inside the White House, Michael Flynn pushed proposal from company he said he had advised:

The week after President Trump’s inauguration, national security adviser Michael Flynn forwarded a memo written by a former business associate and told his staff to fashion it into a policy for President Trump’s approval, according to two people familiar with the exchange.

The proposal — to develop a “Marshall Plan” of investment in the Middle East — was being pushed by a company that Flynn said he had advised during the 2016 campaign and transition. The firm was seeking to build nuclear power plants in the region.

His advocacy for the project in the White House surprised some administration officials and raised concerns that Flynn had a conflict of interest. From August to December 2016, he said he served as an adviser to the company, IP3, reporting later on his disclosure forms that he ended his association with the firm just weeks before joining the administration….

(Of course it’s a conflict of interest. For it all, Flynn’s one brazen grifter in an administration of grifters, schemers, and self-promoters.)

Beth Reinhard, Aaron C. Davis and Andrew Ba Tran report Woman’s effort to infiltrate The Washington Post dated back months:

The failed effort by conservative activists to plant a false story about Senate candidate Roy Moore in The Washington Post was part of a months-long campaign to infiltrate The Post and other media outlets in Washington and New York, according to interviews, text messages and social media posts that have since been deleted.

Starting in July, Jaime Phillips, an operative with the organization Project Veritas, which purports to expose media bias, joined two dozen networking groups related to either journalism or left-leaning politics. She signed up to attend 15 related events, often accompanied by a male companion, and appeared at least twice at gatherings for departing Post staffers.

Phillips, 41, presented herself to journalists variously as the owner of a start-up looking to recruit writers, a graduate student studying national security or a contractor new to the area. This summer, she tweeted posts in support of gun control and critical of Trump’s crackdown on illegal immigrants — a departure from the spring when, on accounts that have since been deleted, she used the #MAGA hashtag and mocked the Women’s March on Washington that followed Trump’s inauguration as the “Midol March”….

(Money donated to James O’Keefe and Project Veritas is wasted money; if dim-witted donors want to waste their money on a reactionary mediocrity, one would hope they spend even more.)

Natasha Bertrand reports A key witness in the Russia probe had a ‘lengthy conversation’ with Trump at Mar-a-Lago:

Former CIA Director James Woolsey dined with President Donald Trump last weekend at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida — where, a report said, they had a “lengthy conversation” at the main dining table surrounded by several of Trump’s friends, associates, and political allies.

A tipster told Politico’s Playbook about the conversation, which raised eyebrows given Woolsey’s centrality to the special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser.

Woolsey, who served on the board of Flynn’s lobbying firm, Flynn Intel Group, was at a meeting on September 19, 2016, with Flynn and Turkish government ministers in which they discussed removing the controversial Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen from US soil, Woolsey has said.

Woolsey apparently notified Vice President Joe Biden through a mutual friend about the meeting, which he thought could have been an illegal discussion, Woolsey’s spokesman, Jonathan Franks, said earlier this year.

Franks confirmed late last month that Mueller’s team had interviewed Woolsey about the meeting. He said Woolsey and his wife had been in touch with the FBI since before Mueller began overseeing the bureau’s Russia investigation in May….

(Curious…)

Hallie Detrick writes 2017’s Only Supermoon Is Happening This Weekend. Here’s How to See It:

The only supermoon of 2017 is coming to a night sky near you.

Sunday Dec. 3 is the only time this year that we’ll have a supermoon that is visible to the naked eye. The moon will actually be at its closest point to Earth at 4 a.m. ET on the morning of Dec. 4, but the best time to view it will be just after sunset on Sunday evening, when the ‘moon illusion’ will make it easier to see the difference.

Dec. 3 kicks off a three-cycle streak of the celestial phenomenon. The full moons on Jan. 2 and 31, 2018, will also be supermoons. The phenomenon is technically called perigee syzygy and occurs when the moon is at the closest point in its Earth orbit at the same time as the Earth, moon, and sun are aligned, creating a full moon.

Daily Bread for 11.29.17

Good morning.

Wednesday in Whitewater will be partly cloudy with a high of forty-five. Sunrise is 7:04 AM and sunset 4:22 PM, for 9h 17m 34s of daytime. The moon is a waxing gibbous with 78.8% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the three hundred eighty-fifth day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

On this day in 1961, Enos the Chimpanzee orbits Earth:

He was the first chimpanzee, and third hominid after cosmonautsYuri Gagarin and Gherman Titov, to achieve Earth orbit. Enos’ flight occurred on November 29, 1961.

Enos was brought from the Miami Rare Bird Farm on April 3, 1960. He completed more than 1,250 training hours at the University of Kentucky and Holloman Air Force Base. Training was more intense for him than for his predecessor Ham, because Enos was exposed to weightlessness and higher gs for longer periods of time. His training included psychomotor instruction and aircraft flights.

Enos was selected for flight only three days before launch. Two months prior, NASA launched Mercury Atlas 4 on September 13, 1961, to conduct an identical mission with a “crewman simulator” on board. Enos flew into space aboard Mercury Atlas 5 on November 29, 1961. He completed his first orbit in 1 hour and 28.5 minutes.[1]

Recommended for reading in full —

Maggie Haberman and Jonathan Martin report Trump Once Said the ‘Access Hollywood’ Tape Was Real. Now He’s Not Sure:

Mr. Trump’s falsehoods about the “Access Hollywood” tape are part of his lifelong habit of attempting to create and sell his own version of reality. Advisers say he continues to privately harbor a handful of conspiracy theories that have no grounding in fact.

In recent months, they say, Mr. Trump has used closed-door conversations to question the authenticity of President Barack Obama’s birth certificate. He has also repeatedly claimed that he lost the popular vote last year because of widespread voter fraud, according to advisers and lawmakers….

Mr. Trump’s friends did not bother denying that the president was creating an alternative version of events. One Republican lawmaker, who asked not to be identified, said that Mr. Trump’s false statements had become familiar to people over time. The president continues to boast of winning districts that he did not in fact win, the lawmaker said, and of receiving 52 percent of the women’s vote, even though exit polls show that 42 percent of women supported him….

(Trump’s serial lying makes him harder to overcome, but once overcome, will contribute to a legacy as a freakish misfit.)

Justin Glawe reports Trump Is Selling New Merchandise Made in China and Bangladesh:

President Donald Trump’s company started selling a new line of Trump-branded merchandise this month and some of the products are manufactured overseas, The Daily Beast found.

The Trump Organization launched Trumpstore.com and sells a $32 Trump Golf hat made in Bangladesh and a $25 faux gold bouillion “TRUMP” coin bank made in China. The Trump Organization is still owned by the president and is managed by his sons, Eric and Donald Jr. (who promoted the opening on his Facebook page). It appears then that Trump is profiting off of foreign-made goods despite his promise to put “America first” when it comes to manufacturing.

The Trump Organization and the White House did not respond to requests for comment.

“Even though he’s taken some steps to separate himself from his business, we know that he can still receive reports about the Trump Organization and that he can directly profit from the sale of those goods,” said Larry Noble of the Campaign Legal Center, an ethics watchdog group in Washington, D.C.

Trump was criticized during the presidential campaign for bashing Mexico and China for “stealing” U.S. jobs even though his ties were made in Mexico and he applied for trademarks in China….

(Trump’s cheap trinkets, crudely designed and poorly made, are appealing only to the aesthetically stunted.)

Ari Berman reports Kris Kobach Wants to Make It Harder to Vote Nationwide—But He’s Already Failing Back Home in Kansas:

….To hunt for double voting, Kobach’s office administers the Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program, which is used by 30 states to compare their voter rolls to flag any voters who are registered in multiple states and might be voting illegally. Kobach has cited the program as a model for Trump’s fraud commission. Crosscheck “illustrates how a successful multistate effort can be in enhancing the integrity of our elections and in keeping our voter rolls accurate,” he said at the first meeting of the commission in July.

But Crosscheck has been found to produce false matches 99 percent of the time. Academics from universities including Stanford, Harvard, Yale, and the University of Pennsylvania who studied Crosscheck found that purging the voter rolls based on the program “would eliminate more than 300 registrations used to cast a seemingly legitimate vote for every double vote prevented.” Because the program searches for double voting using only voters’ first and last names and dates of birth, it generates thousands of false matches, which make double voting seem far more common than it is and can cause people to be incorrectly taken off voter rolls and even wrongly prosecuted for illegal voting.

In addition to the program’s inaccuracy, Crosscheck has serious security flaws. It could easily be hacked because states are uploading voter data using a non-secure server, and election officials are exchanging the usernames and passwords to access the server over unsecured emails. “It’s completely vulnerable and wide open,” one security expert told me last month….

(Kobach, the Kansas Secretary of State and vice chair of Trump’s ‘voter fraud’ commission fits well with Trump: as Trump pushes to fables about Obama’s birthplace, Kobach pushes fables about voter fraud. These tales are appealing to ignorant nativists.)

Rebecca Ruiz reports Olympic Doping Diaries: Chemist’s Notes Bolster Case Against Russia:

The chemist has kept a diary most of his life. His daily habit is to record where he went, whom he talked to and what he ate. At the top of each entry, he scrawls his blood pressure.

Two of his hardback journals, each embossed with the calendar year and filled with handwritten notes from a Waterman pen, are now among the critical pieces of evidence that could result in Russia being absent from the next Olympic Games.

The chemist is Grigory Rodchenkov, who spent years helping Russia’s athletes gain an edge by using banned substances. His diaries cataloging 2014 and 2015 — his final years as Russia’s antidoping lab chief before he fled to the United States — provide a new level of detail about Russia’s elaborate cheating at the last Winter Games and the extent to which, he says, the nation’s government and Olympic officials were involved.

His contemporaneous notes, seen by The New York Times and previously unreported, speak to a key issue for Olympic officials: the state’s involvement in the massive sports fraud. In recent days, it has become clear that the International Olympic Committee is convinced of the authenticity of the notes and that they are likely to contribute to the group’s decision to issue severe penalties….

(Putin’s Russia, like Trump’s part of America, rests on a foundation of falsehoods.)

Josh Marshall observes Flynn’s Deeds Are Much Worse Than We Thought:

….Flynn looks like a man who was desperate to make money fast and seemingly willing to contemplate almost anything to get it. Think about it – being paid by a foreign government to kidnap a legal American resident and send them to another country? Or consider, as now seems to be the case, that he was discussing taking payments to protect an indicted sanctions buster while he was serving as the head of the National Security Council – the person in the US government who has access to more secret information than anyone save the President.

I don’t have any illusions that the highest echelons of the US officer corps are untouched by greed and corruption. There is a well-tended path that top generals can and often do take sitting on corporate boards of defense contractors or operating as consultants where they can make very good money after they retire. In Flynn’s case, two years running the NSC would have set him up for putting up a private sector shingle that could have netted him a small fortune in just a few short years. Clearly, there’s more going on here than the desire to make a lot of money, at least money that could have been scooped up over three or four years rather than seven or eight months.

It is very hard not to reach the conclusion that something happened to Flynn, some clear break or event that put him on the course he was on by 2015, only months after he left the DIA.

So, Could Robotic Birds Lead to Safer Air Travel?

Birds and planes don’t mix — so some airports are testing whether drones (with flapping wings) can scare flocks away. We take you inside a trial program in Alberta, Canada.

Daily Bread for 11.28.17

Good morning.

Tuesday in Whitewater will be mostly cloudy with a high of fifty-three. Sunrise is 7:03 AM and sunset 4:22 PM, for 9h 19m 03s of daytime. The moon is a waxing gibbous with 69.2% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the three hundred eighty-fourth day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

On this day in 1942, the deadliest nightclub fire in American history kills hundreds:  “The Cocoanut Grove Fire was a nightclub fire in the United States. The Cocoanut Grove was a premier nightclub during the post-Prohibition 1930s and 1940s in Boston, Massachusetts. On November 28, 1942, it was the scene of the deadliest nightclub fire in history, killing 492 people (which was 32 more than the building’s authorized capacity) and injuring hundreds more. The scale of the tragedy shocked the nation and briefly replaced the events of World War II in newspaper headlines. It led to a reform of safety standards and codes across the US, and to major changes in the treatment and rehabilitation of burn victims internationally.”

On this day in 1901, UW football goes undefeated: “On this date the University of Wisconsin defeated the University of Chicago, 35-0, to finish its first undefeated football season in school history with a 9-0 record.”

Recommended for reading in full — 

Andrew Van Dam writes Donald Trump is going to build a big, beautiful deficit and rely on China to help pay for it:

Republicans’ tax plans are going to clash headfirst with President Trump’s anti-China, anti-trade-deficit rhetoric. It’s just simple economics.

Assuming they pass, Republican tax plans are forecast to increase the federal debt by about $1.3 trillion to $1.6 trillion over the coming decade, though scoring and specifics vary. This is the same debt that, campaigning in Ohio, Trump called “a weight around the future of every young person in this country.” As the debt grew under his predecessor, Trump didn’t mince words:

And he didn’t stop once he was elected:

But now that it’s time to pass a tax plan that nonpartisan observers agree will require deficit spending, Republicans are on board with growing the federal debt. Large-scale borrowing will help make up the gap in lower tax revenue while avoiding some painful cuts to government programs.

To cover that shortfall, Trump’s government and its successors will be issuing additional Treasury bonds for decades to come, with Eric Toder, co-director of the Tax Policy Center, posting that one version of the bill would grow the debt as a share of the economy by 6 percentage points by 2017, and 10.1 percentage points by 2037….

(Trump is variously con man and ignoramus.)

Michelle Goldberg writes that Odds Are, Russia Owns Trump:

But three months feels like three decades in Trump years, and I mostly forgot about these reports [of collusion] until I read Luke Harding’s new book, “Collusion: Secret Meetings, Dirty Money, and How Russia Helped Donald Trump Win.” One uncanny aspect of the investigations into Trump’s Russia connections is that instead of too little evidence there’s too much. It’s impossible to keep it straight without the kind of chaotic wall charts that Carrie Mathison of “Homeland” assembled during her manic episodes. Incidents that would be major scandals in a normal administration — like the mere fact of Trump’s connection to Sater — become minor subplots in this one.

That’s why “Collusion” is so essential, and why I wish everyone who is skeptical that Russia has leverage over Trump would read it. This country — at least the parts not wholly under the sway of right-wing propaganda — needs to come to terms with substantial evidence that the president is in thrall to a foreign power.

Harding, the former Moscow bureau chief of The Guardian, has been reporting on shady characters like Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman who was indicted last month, long before Trump announced his candidacy. He was able to interview Christopher Steele, the former British spy who wrote the dossier attempting to detail Trump’s relationship with the Kremlin, and who describes the conspiracy between the American president and the Russians as “massive — absolutely massive”….

(Harding’s book is available at Amazon: Collusion: Secret Meetings, Dirty Money, and How Russia Helped Donald Trump Win.)

Michael M. Grynbaum reports Trump and Russia Seem to Find Common Foe: The American Press:

President Trump attacks CNN on a regular basis. But he usually focuses on the domestic side of the network — his least favorite cable news station — making his post on Twitter this weekend about CNN’s international arm something of a rarity.

“@FoxNews is MUCH more important in the United States than CNN, but outside of the U.S., CNN International is still a major source of (Fake) news, and they represent our Nation to the WORLD very poorly,” Mr. Trump wrote on Saturday. “The outside world does not see the truth from them!”….

“Trump’s eagerness to win the favor of autocrats remains one of the most concerning aspects of his presidency,” said Alex Conant, a Republican strategist and communications director for Senator Marco Rubio’s presidential bid. “If the leader of the free world does not champion the free press, then who will?”

For months, press freedom groups have warned that Mr. Trump’s escalating attacks on the news media could inspire foreign governments to follow his lead, particularly in countries that lack the robust speech protections of the United States. In many other countries, journalists can face prosecution, jail time, and violence for reporting critically on the government.

On Sunday, a day after Mr. Trump’s tweet, the spokesman for Egypt’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs used Twitter to denounce CNN as “deplorable” for its coverage of a terrorist attack in Sinai….

(Trump and Putin see a common foe because they have common interests.)

Shawn Boburg, Aaron C. Davis and Alice Crites report A woman approached The Post with dramatic — and false — tale about Roy Moore. She appears to be part of undercover sting operation:

A woman who falsely claimed to The Washington Post that Roy Moore, the Republican U.S. Senate candidate in Alabama, impregnated her as a teenager appears to work with an organization that uses deceptive tactics to secretly record conversations in an effort to embarrass its targets.

In a series of interviews over two weeks, the woman shared a dramatic story about an alleged sexual relationship with Moore in 1992 that led to an abortion when she was 15. During the interviews, she repeatedly pressed Post reporters to give their opinions on the effects that her claims could have on Moore’s candidacy if she went public.

The Post did not publish an article based on her unsubstantiated account. When Post reporters confronted her with inconsistencies in her story and an Internet posting that raised doubts about her motivations, she insisted that she was not working with any organization that targets journalists.

But on Monday morning, Post reporters saw her walking into the New York offices of Project Veritas, an organization that targets the mainstream news media and left-leaning groups. The organization sets up undercover “stings” that involve using false cover stories and covert video recordings meant to expose what the group says is media bias….

(James O’Keefe, head of Project Veritas, reveals himself: (1) he’s a mediocre plotter, easily caught, and – far worse –  (2) he thought having a woman impersonate an assault survivor was a legitimate technique to boost Roy Moore’s candidacy by trying to discredit actual accounts of Moore’s conduct with underage women.)

So, why do screws tighten clockwise?

Daily Bread for 11.27.17

Good morning.

Monday in Whitewater will be partly cloudy with a high of fifty-five. Sunrise is 7:02 AM and sunset 4:23 PM, for 9h 20m 35s of daytime. The moon is a waxing gibbous with 59.3% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the three hundred eighty-third day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

Whitewater’s Urban Forestry Commission meets at 4:30 PM.

On this day in 1903, Green Bay Packer Johnny Blood is born: “Johnny Blood (aka John McNally) was born in New Richmond. Blood was an early NFL halfback playing for Green Bay from 1929 to 1933 and 1935 to 1936. He also played for the Milwaukee Badgers, Duluth Eskimos, Pottsville Maroons, and the Pittsburgh Pirates. An elusive runner and gifted pass receiver, he played a major role in the Packers’ drive to the first three championships in 1929, 1930 and 1931. Johnny Blood died on November 28, 1985, at the age of 82. Titletown Brewing Co. in Green Bay named their brew Johnny “Blood” Red Ale after the famed halfback.”

Recommended for reading in full — 

Paul Schwartzman reports Why a historically conservative county in Virginia is making national Republicans nervous:

….Until Gov.-elect Ralph Northam (D) won Chesterfield County three weeks ago, the stretch of suburban and rural communities southwest of Richmond had been considered reliably Republican.

Democrat Ralph Northam won the Virginia governor’s race over Republican Ed Gillespie on Nov. 7. Here are some other takeaways from the state’s election.

Yet voters infuriated by Trump, many of them women and Hispanics who have migrated to the county in recent years, are redefining Chesterfield and alarming Virginia Republicans who have depended on the area to make up for the support the party lacks in urban areas.

The results in Chesterfield are also a potential harbinger of what looms beyond Virginia, in suburbs where anger toward Trump is motivating voters bent on defeating Republican candidates in next year’s midterm elections….

(National Republicans’ nervousness comes from their support of Trumpism, and it’s not nervousness but shame they should be feeling.)

Rick Wilson writes Roy Moore Is Deplorable, and Donald Trump Condoning His Sins Is Unforgivable:

A society where nothing is forgivable is as untenable as one where every transgression is hand-waved away. The things we forgive in the name of compassion should be many. The things we forgive in the name of comity should be large. That said, the things we forgive in service to partisan tribalism should be tightly constrained.

The things we should forgive for a child-molesting, law-breaking, edge-case whackjob who will stain the Senate and the Republican party with his creepy sexual predilections, his contempt for the rule of law, his thinly-veiled racial animus, and his role in the firmament of Bannonite political arsonists? Pretty much nothing.

The judge’s behavior is unforgivable, no matter what your ideological leanings and party identification may be. That hasn’t stopped President Trump and Steve Bannon from continuing to back Roy Moore. The only people in Washington with even vaguely clean hands are in the hated Establishment, which dropped Moore like a radioactive potato after his grotesque behavior with teenage girls made the news….

(Forgiveness would require a confession of wrongdoing, but Trump admits none.)

Raphael Satter, Jeff Donn, and Desmond Butler report FBI gave heads-up to fraction of Russian hackers’ US targets:

WASHINGTON (AP) — The FBI failed to notify scores of U.S. officials that Russian hackers were trying to break into their personal Gmail accounts despite having evidence for at least a year that the targets were in the Kremlin’s crosshairs, The Associated Press has found.

Nearly 80 interviews with Americans targeted by Fancy Bear, a Russian government-aligned cyberespionage group, turned up only two cases in which the FBI had provided a heads-up. Even senior policymakers discovered they were targets only when the AP told them, a situation some described as bizarre and dispiriting.

“It’s utterly confounding,” said Philip Reiner, a former senior director at the National Security Council, who was notified by the AP that he was targeted in 2015. “You’ve got to tell your people. You’ve got to protect your people”….

(Silence is injury.)

Yoni Applebaum considers The Banality of White Nationalism:

The New York Times reporter Richard Faussett recently sat down to dinner with Tony Hovater [a white nationalist], and his wife, Maria, at an Applebee’s in Huber Heights. Faussett was struck by how ordinary Hovater seemed. “His Midwestern manners would please anyone’s mother,” he wrote, calling him “polite and low key.” They had turkey sandwiches at a Panera Bread. Faussett had come to Ohio, “amid the row crops and rolling hills, the Olive Gardens and Steak ’n Shakes,” to solve a riddle, as he later reflected: “Why did this man—intelligent, socially adroit and raised middle class amid the relatively well-integrated environments of United States military bases—gravitate toward the furthest extremes of American political discourse?”

….Faussett went to Ohio, he wrote, determined to find Hovater’s “Rosebud,” the extraordinary, radicalizing experience that set him on a path to extremism. His reporting contrasts the “quotidian” details of Hovater’s life with the virulence of his beliefs. Ultimately, he conceded, “there is a hole at the heart of my story,” which “would have to serve as both feature and defect,” the inability to explain a white nationalist growing out of an ordinary suburban landscape.

But if Faussett was asking the right question, he may have been looking in the wrong places for answers. Faussett was looking for a radical disjuncture to explain Hovater. But the disjuncture in America’s history is not the emergence of virulent racism, it’s the uneven, often halting progress the nation has made toward greater equality, enlarged tolerance, and defensible rights. It’s a complicated story. It requires understanding what made a man like [black Air Force captain Ed] Dwight hold the nation to its articulated ideals, despite the risks. Or what made a man like Fuller, a mason who laid the bricks for many of his neighbor’s homes, insist that he, too, had the right to live in such a house….

(‘Greater equality, enlarged tolerance, and defensible rights’: a worthy, ongoing effort.)

Fiona the Hippo, of the Cincinnati Zoo, is ready for a nap:

Daily Bread for 11.26.17

Good morning.

Sunday in Whitewater will be mostly sunny with a high of fifty. Sunrise is 7:01 AM and sunset 4:23 PM, for 9h 22m 10s of daytime. The moon is a waxing crescent with 48.9% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the three hundred eighty-second day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

On this day in 1838, the Wisconsin Legislature assembles in Madison for the first time: “after moving from the temporary capital in Burlington, Iowa, the Wisconsin Territorial Legislature assembled in Madison for the first time. Two years earlier, when the territorial legislature had met for the first time in Belmont, many cities were mentioned as possibilities for the permanent capital — Cassville, Fond du Lac, Milwaukee, Platteville, Mineral Point, Racine, Belmont, Koshkonong, Wisconsinapolis, Peru, and Wisconsin City. Madison won the vote, and funds were authorized to erect a suitable building in which lawmakers would conduct the people’s business. Progress went so slowly, however, that some lawmakers wanted to relocate the seat of government to Milwaukee, where they also thought they would find better accomodations than in the wilds of Dane Co. When the legislature finally met in Madison in November 1838 there was only an outside shell to the new Capitol. The interior was not completed until 1845, more than six years after it was supposed to be finished. On November 26, 1838, Governor Henry Dodge delivered his first speech in the new seat of government. [Source: Wiskonsan Enquirer, Nov. 24 and Dec. 8, 1838]”

Recommended for reading in full —

Michael Gerson, a religious conservative, considers The Religious Right’s Scary, Judgmental Old Men:

….On sexual harassment, our country is now in a much better ethical place. And how we got here is instructive. Conservatives have sometimes predicted that moral relativism would render Americans broadly incapable of moral judgment. But people, at some deep level, know that rules and norms are needed. They understand that character — rooted in empathy and respect for the rights and dignity of others — is essential in every realm of life, including the workplace.

And where did this urgent assertion of moral principle come from? Not from the advocates of “family values.” On the contrary, James Dobson, the founder of Focus on the Family (now under much better management), chose to side with GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore of Alabama against his highly credible accusers. “I have been dismayed and troubled,” Dobson said, “about the way he and his wife Kayla have been personally attacked by the Washington establishment.”

It is as if Dobson set out to justify every feminist critique of the religious right. Instead of standing against injustice and exploitation — as the Christian gospel demands — Dobson sided with patriarchal oppression in the cause of political power. This is beyond hypocrisy. It is the solidarity of scary, judgmental old men. It is the ideology of white male dominance dressed up as religion.

This is how low some religious conservatives have sunk: They have left me sounding like an English professor at Sarah Lawrence College.

Conservatives need to be clear and honest in this circumstance. The strong, moral commitment to the dignity of women and children recently asserting itself in our common life has mainly come from feminism, not the “family values” movement. In this case, religious conservatives have largely been bystanders or obstacles. This indicates a group of people for whom the dignity of girls and women has become secondary to other political goals.

We are a nation with vast resources of moral renewal. It is a shame and a scandal that so many religious conservatives have made themselves irrelevant to that task.

(These religious conservatives may have abandoned their responsibilities; there are many others of us who are religious, in opposition and in resistance, who will hold fast.)

Jim McDermott contends (rightly, to my mind) There’s no problem with praying after a mass shooting—but what does that prayer look like?:

….When we offer “thoughts and prayers,” the commitment we are making is both to ask God to help and to take some time to listen for his suggestions as how we might contribute to that, or his point of view on what is going on.

If I say I will offer thoughts and prayers but my own thoughts don’t change or grow in any way, if the process of prayer over time leads to nothing new, no fresh choices or insight, the fact is that I am missing something. Prayer is not supposed to be a substitute for action, but a means by which we learn the right actions to take.

(We are called to action.)

Sharon LaFraniere, Maggie Haberman, and Peter Baker report Jared Kushner’s Vast Duties, and Visibility in White House, Shrink:

WASHINGTON — At a senior staff meeting early in President Trump’s tenure, Reince Priebus, then the White House chief of staff, posed a simple question to Jared Kushner: What would his newly created Office of American Innovation do?

Mr. Kushner brushed him off, according to people privy to the exchange. Given that he and his top lieutenants were paid little or nothing, Mr. Kushner asked, “What do you care?” He emphasized his point with an expletive.

“O.K.,” Mr. Priebus replied. “You do whatever you want.”

Few in the opening days of the Trump administration dared to challenge Mr. Kushner’s power to design his job or steer the direction of the White House as he saw fit. But 10 months after being given free rein to tackle everything from the federal government’s outdated technology to peace in the Middle East, the do-whatever-you-want stage of Mr. Kushner’s tenure is over.

Mr. Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, who had been in seemingly every meeting and every photograph, has lately disappeared from public view and, according to some colleagues, taken on a more limited role behind the scenes. He is still forging ahead on a plan to end the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, a goal that has eluded presidents and diplomats for generations, and he has been credited with focusing attention on the government’s technological needs. But he is no longer seen as the primary presidential consigliere with the limitless portfolio….

(A funny exchange between Priebus and Kushner: Priebus is stupid enough to think his question would matter within the Trump Administration, and Kushner arrogant enough to think it wouldn’t matter outside the Trump Administration.)

Christopher Ingraham writes How Americans lost the stars and how we might be able to get them back:

The United States is poised to get its first Dark Sky Reserve under the pristine nighttime skies of central Idaho. Pending approval from the International Dark-Sky Association, the designation would recognize the region’s clear skies, virtually untouched by light pollution, as “possessing an exceptional or distinguished quality of starry nights and nocturnal environment.”

If you’ve lived in or near cities most of your life and have never seen a truly dark sky you may not understand why anyone would bother with this. The night is dark, and dark is dark wherever you are, right?

Not exactly. The best way to explain what the Idaho Dark Sky Reserve backers want to preserve is to show it visually. Below are two photographs: on the left, a shot of the night skies in Washington, D.C. On the right, the sky above Idaho’s White Cloud mountains, which would make up part of the proposed reserve.

Lost in Light shows how light pollution affects one’s view of the night sky:

Daily Bread for 11.25.17

Good morning.

Saturday in Whitewater will be sunny with a high of forty-two. Sunrise is 7 AM and sunset 4:24 PM, for 9h 23m 48s of daytime. The moon is a waxing crescent with 39% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the three hundred eighty-first day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

Title: “Evacuation Day” and Washington’s Triumphal Entry in New York City, Nov. 25th, 1783 Related Names: Restein, Edmund P., 1837-1891 , lithographer; Restein, Ludwig, b. ca. 1838 , lithographer Date Created/Published: Phil., PA : Pub. [E.P.] & L. Restein, [1879]. Via Wikipedia.
On this day in 1783, the British evacuate New York City after the end of the Revolution: “Evacuation Day on November 25 marks the day in 1783 when British troops departed from New York City on Manhattan Island, after the end of the American Revolutionary War. After this British Army evacuation, General George Washington triumphantly led the Continental Army from his former headquarters, north of the city, across the Harlem River south down Manhattan through the town to The Battery at the foot of Broadway.”

On this day in 1863, at the Battle of Missionary Ridge at Chattanooga, Tennessee, “[f]ourteen Wisconsin units — seven Wisconsin Infantry regiments and seven Wisconsin Light Artillery batteries participated in breaking the siege at Chattanooga. The 15th and 24th Wisconsin Infantry regiments were among the forces that charged up Missionary Ridge, broke through the Confederate ranks, and seized the strategic location on November 25.”

Recommended for reading in full — 

Ryan Lizza reports A Russian Journalist Explains How the Kremlin Instructed Him to Cover the 2016 Election:

On a recent Saturday in November, Dimitri Skorobutov, a former editor at Russia’s largest state media company, sat in a bar in Maastricht, a college town in the Netherlands, with journalists from around the world and discussed covering Donald Trump. Skorobutov opened a packet of documents and explained that they were planning guides from Russian state media that showed how the Kremlin wanted the 2016 U.S. Presidential election covered.

Among the journalists, Skorobutov’s perspective was unique. Aside from Fox News, no network worked as hard as Rossiya, as Russian state TV is called, to boost Donald Trump and denigrate Hillary Clinton. Skorobutov, who was fired from his job after a dispute with a colleague that ended in a physical altercation, went public with his story of how Russian state media works, in June, talking to the U.S. government-funded broadcaster Radio Liberty. The organizers of the Maastricht conference learned of his story and invited him to speak. He flipped through his pages and pointed to the coverage guide for August 9, 2016, when Clinton stumbled while climbing some steps. The Kremlin wanted to play the story up big….

As is often the case with state censorship, the workings of Kremlin-controlled media, as Skorobutov described them, were far more subtle than is popularly imagined. He described a system that depended on a news staff that knew what issues to avoid and what issues to highlight rather than one that had every decision dictated to it. “We knew what is allowed or forbidden to broadcast,” he explained. Any event that included Putin or the Russian Prime Minister “must be broadcast,” while events such as “terroristic attacks, airplane crashes, arrests of politicians and officials” had to be approved by the news director or his deputy. He offered a list of embargoed subjects: “critique of the State, coming from inside or outside of Russia; all kinds of social protests, strikes, discontent of people and so on; political protests and opposition leaders, especially Alexey Navalny,” an anti-corruption figure despised by the Kremlin. Skorobutov said that he overcame censorship rules and convinced his network to cover stories only twice: for a story about a protest against the construction of a Siberian chemical plant and for one about the food poisoning of children at a kindergarten….

Tom Phillips and James Ball report Twitter Has Suspended Another 45 Suspected Propaganda Accounts After They Were Flagged By BuzzFeed News:

BuzzFeed News has uncovered a new network of suspected Twitter propaganda accounts – sharing messages about Brexit, Donald Trump, and Angela Merkel – that have close connections to the Russian-linked bot accounts identified by the social media platform in its evidence to the US Congress.

The 45 suspect accounts were uncovered through basic analysis of those that interacted or retweeted accounts cited by Twitter to Congress, yet none of them appeared on the company’s list.

The relative ease of discovery raises serious questions as to just how many Russian-linked bots may still be active on Twitter, how the company identifies and removes such accounts, and whether its process for identifying accounts for its evidence was inadequate.

Until BuzzFeed News approached Twitter on Tuesday afternoon with details of the accounts, they all remained active on the platform, though dormant. But within 24 hours, all 45 had been suspended….

Monika Bauerlein reports Journalism Is Imploding Just When We Need It Most (“But we may have one last shot at a reset”):

One of the few bright spots this past year was supposed to be the revival of journalism. And to be sure, it’s been a great time for muckraking, with newsrooms bringing home scoop after scoop on the Trump administration. Subscriptions to everything from the New York Times to Mother Jones are up. And for the first time in decades, trust in news media is rising too: Today, 54 percent of the public have confidence in journalists to tell the truth, while only 36 percent trust the president.

So: Will Donald Trump, perhaps the most anti-journalism president in modern times, actually end up saving journalism?

Here’s where the story turns more complicated. Look at this picture of newspaper circulation nationwide:


Newspapers' circulation revenue climbs steadily even as advertising declines

No “Trump bump” there. As a regional newspaper editor recently told me, “I showed that graph to our newsroom and said: If that line keeps going, there’s no one left working here in 10 years.” Right after that I watched a presentation on news robots—algorithms that can put together credible stories with stunningly little help from humans. It’s not at all hard to imagine newsrooms populated largely by artificial intelligence a few years hence.

And it’s not just legacy shops that are imploding. Virtually every news organization in America has seen its audience decline (and in some cases crater) since the record numbers of last winter. Some blame the Google and Facebook algorithms (could real news getting caught up in the fight against the fake stuff?). Others speculate that readers and viewers are simply tiring of the 24/7 onslaught of crazy….

But then Donald Trump came along and did the one thing that could reverse this spiral: He redrew the battle lines. He brutally humiliated reporters (especially women) who covered the campaign. He cheered his surrogates as they insisted on “alternative facts” and cast the press as “the enemy of the people.” He joked with Vladimir Putin, under whose government journalists keep mysteriously dying, about journalists being spies. Like authoritarian figures the world over, the only kind of coverage he tolerated was Hannity-style fawning.

When Trump lashed out at “fake news,” when Steve Bannon called reporters “the enemy of the people,” when a Congressional candidate body-slammed a reporter, they asked Americans to take sides—with them, or with a free, fact-oriented press. And, remarkably, a majority is coming down on the side of journalism….

(Note for Whitewater : Journalism, professional or its crude imitation, fails locally when it’s no more than stenography or boosterism. It has no future.)

Gardiner Harris reports Diplomats Sound the Alarm as They Are Pushed Out in Droves:

WASHINGTON — Of all the State Department employees who might have been vulnerable in the staff reductions that Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson has initiated as he reshapes the department, the one person who seemed least likely to be a target was the chief of security, Bill A. Miller.

Republicans pilloried Hillary Clinton for what they claimed was her inadequate attention to security as secretary of state in the months before the deadly 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya. Congress even passed legislation mandating that the department’s top security official have unrestricted access to the secretary of state.

But in his first nine months in office, Mr. Tillerson turned down repeated and sometimes urgent requests from the department’s security staff to brief him, according to several former top officials in the Bureau of Diplomatic Security. Finally, Mr. Miller, the acting assistant secretary for diplomatic security, was forced to cite the law’s requirement that he be allowed to speak to Mr. Tillerson.

Mr. Miller got just five minutes with the secretary of state, the former officials said. Afterward, Mr. Miller, a career Foreign Service officer, was pushed out, joining a parade of dismissals and early retirements that has decimated the State Department’s senior ranks. Mr. Miller declined to comment….

Frontline considers Child Hunger in America:

(Note for Whitewater : No glad-handing, no boosterism, no strutting about proclaiming false successes will change the truth that Whitewater has high levels of child poverty.)