Daily Bread for 7.2.17

Good morning.

Sunday in Whitewater will be partly cloudy with a high of eighty-three, and a likelihood of scattered afternoon thundershowers. Sunrise is 5:21 AM and sunset 8:36 PM, for 15h 15m 23s of daytime. The moon is a waxing gibbous with 64.8% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the two hundred thirty-fifth day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

Map by Hal Jespersen, www.posix.com/CW

On this day in 1863, Union and Confederate forces fight for a second day at the Battle of Gettysburg:

On the second day of battle, most of both armies had assembled. The Union line was laid out in a defensive formation resembling a fishhook. In the late afternoon of July 2, Lee launched a heavy assault on the Union left flank, and fierce fighting raged at Little Round Top, the Wheatfield, Devil’s Den, and the Peach Orchard. On the Union right, Confederate demonstrations escalated into full-scale assaults on Culp’s Hill and Cemetery Hill. All across the battlefield, despite significant losses, the Union defenders held their lines.

On the night of July 2nd, “Union Major General George Meade held a council of leaders to decide what to do next. Lieutenant Frank Haskell, of Madison, was present when they voted to “allow the Rebel to come up and smash his head against [their position] to any reasonable extent he desired, as he had to-day. After some two hours the council dissolved, and the officers went their several ways.”

Recommended for reading in full — 

Jeremy Kryt reveals Inside Trump’s Disastrous ‘Secret’ Drug War Plans for Central America:

Gang violence is one of the driving factors behind the Central American migrant crisis, which has sent hundreds of thousands fleeing northward, many of them children.

All that mayhem finally caught the attention of the Trump regime. But, as usual when it comes to narcotics interdiction efforts under Trump, the proffered solution seems to be more show than substance—all at the expense of American taxpayers.

A shadowy summit last month in Miami brought together Vice President Mike Pence, high-powered cabinet members like Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the leaders of all three Triangle nations, and officials from at least nine other countries. The plan they espoused? Spend untold millions more dollars on a strategy that, according to experts, is guaranteed to fail. So what’s not to like about that?

Krishnadev Calumar describes How Russian Journalists Dealt With Fake News:

Alexey Kovalev, a Russian journalist who was also at the Aspen panel, said he didn’t like the term “fake news.” It’s a problem, he said, but it’s not the whole problem.

“Fake news is completely made up pieces of information, concocted with a clear intention to deceive,” he said. “It’s not so much a problem as genuine news that has no informational value at all: endless repetition of every nonsensical statement.”

He said part of the problem in Russia is that few publications can afford full-time fact-checkers. “It’s extremely easy to put out anything you want because there will be no one to challenge you,” he said. “Very few people will care and speak out publicly.”

Russian state TV often broadcast segments of completely fake news—such as stories on Russian military operations against the U.S., he said. These events are then discussed on TV as if they happened. Part of the problem, he said, is that independent media organizations like his are “competing against a state-owned industry funded to the tune of $1.5 billion a year.”

“I’ll never in my life be able to commit one-tenth” of that, he said.

Christopher Paul and Miriam Matthews of the Rand Corporation outline The Russian “Firehose of Falsehood” Propaganda Model:

Gregory S. Schneider and Alex Horton report on how Von Spakovsky riled Fairfax with voter fraud efforts; Trump just elevated him:

From pursuing voter fraud in the George W. Bush Justice Department to policing polling places on the Fairfax County Electoral Board, Hans von Spakovsky has been a national lightning rod on the issue of voter integrity.

Now that President Trump has named the Virginia lawyer to the new Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, the man the New Yorker magazine called the source of “the voter-fraud myth” has perhaps his greatest chance to influence Americans’ access to the polls….

Over the years, von Spakovsky has been accused of masterminding widespread efforts to suppress voting by marginalized populations, particularly African Americans and immigrants, who tend to vote for Democrats.

Von Spakovsky argued against renewing the Voting Rights Act while serving in Bush’s Justice Department. Bush later named him to the Federal Election Commission with a recess appointment, but so many senators objected that von Spakovsky eventually withdrew.

Similarly, after he served as vice chairman of the three-member Fairfax County Electoral Board between 2010 and 2012, Democrats objected to his reappointment. Local judges, who name the panel based on recommendations from the party of the current governor — who at the time was Republican Robert F. McDonnell — took the unusual step of not renewing von Spakovsky’s appointment.

Renata Flores is Saving an Ancient Language Through Pop Music:

Saving an Ancient Language Through Pop Music from Great Big Story on Vimeo.

Renata Flores is a 16-year-old singer from Peru who is using her voice to save an ancient Incan language. Though Quechua is the second-most spoken language in Peru, native speakers have suffered from discrimination and social stigma for generations, and today, many young people aren’t learning the language at all. But with her powerful vocals to covers of pop songs by Michael Jackson and Alicia Keys in her native tongue, Flores is sparking a renewed celebration of Quechuan language and culture.

Daily Bread for 7.1.17

Good morning.

A new month begins for Whitewater with partly cloudy skies and a high of seventy-eight. Sunrise is 5:20 AM and sunset 8:37 PM, for 15h 16m 09s of daytime. The moon is a waxing gibbous with 55% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the two hundred thirty-fourth day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

On this day in 1863, the Battle of Gettysburg begins:

After his success at Chancellorsville in Virginia in May 1863, Lee led his army through the Shenandoah Valley to begin his second invasion of the North—the Gettysburg Campaign. With his army in high spirits, Lee intended to shift the focus of the summer campaign from war-ravaged northern Virginia and hoped to influence Northern politicians to give up their prosecution of the war by penetrating as far as Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, or even Philadelphia. Prodded by PresidentAbraham Lincoln, Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker moved his army in pursuit, but was relieved of command just three days before the battle and replaced by Meade.

Elements of the two armies initially collided at Gettysburg on July 1, 1863, as Lee urgently concentrated his forces there, his objective being to engage the Union army and destroy it. Low ridges to the northwest of town were defended initially by a Union cavalry division under Brig. Gen. John Buford, and soon reinforced with two corps of Union infantry. However, two large Confederate corps assaulted them from the northwest and north, collapsing the hastily developed Union lines, sending the defenders retreating through the streets of the town to the hills just to the south.[14]

Recommended for reading in full —

Two days ago, I posted a story from Dan Friedman describing how, as a matter of law, collusion with Russia could be a crime: Sorry, Fox News: Legal Experts Say Trump Collusion With Russia Could Be a Crime. Yesterday, I posted Shane Harris’s  of the Wall Street Journal’s story that  GOP Operative Sought Clinton Emails From Hackers, Implied a Connection to Flynn. Another story from Harris and a post from Matt Tait now advance one’s understanding of possible election-related collusion with Russia.

Sean Harris follows up with GOP Activist Who Sought Clinton Emails Cited Trump Campaign Officials:

WASHINGTON—A longtime Republican activist who led an operation hoping to obtain Hillary Clinton emails from hackers listed senior members of the Trump campaign, including some who now serve as top aides in the White House, in a recruitment document for his effort.

The activist, Peter W. Smith, named the officials in a section of the document marked “Trump Campaign.” The document was dated Sept. 7, 2016. That was around the time Mr. Smith said he started his search for 33,000 emails Mrs. Clinton deleted from the private server she used for official business while secretary of state. She said the deleted emails concerned personal matters. She turned over tens of thousands of other emails to the State Department.

As reported Thursday by The Wall Street Journal, Mr. Smith and people he recruited to his effort theorized the deleted emails might have been stolen by hackers and might contain matters that were politically damaging. He and his associates said they were in touch with several groups of hackers, including two from Russia they suspected were tied to the Moscow government, in a bid to find any stolen emails and potentially hurt Mrs. Clinton’s prospects.

Matt Tait describes The Time I Got Recruited to Collude with the Russians:

I read the Wall Street Journal’s article yesterday on attempts by a GOP operative to recover missing Hillary Clinton emails with more than usual interest. I was involved in the events that reporter Shane Harris described, and I was an unnamed source for the initial story. What’s more, I was named in, and provided the documents to Harris that formed the basis of, this evening’s follow-up story, which reported that “A longtime Republican activist who led an operation hoping to obtain Hillary Clinton emails from hackers listed senior members of the Trump campaign, including some who now serve as top aides in the White House, in a recruitment document for his effort”….

Over the course of our conversations, one thing struck me as particularly disturbing. Smith [the GOP operative] and I talked several times about the DNC hack, and I expressed my view that the hack had likely been orchestrated by Russia and that the Kremlin was using the stolen documents as part of an influence campaign against the United States. I explained that if someone had contacted him via the “Dark Web” with Clinton’s personal emails, he should take very seriously the possibility that this may have been part of a wider Russian campaign against the United States. And I said he need not take my word for it, pointing to a number of occasions where US officials had made it clear that this was the view of the U.S. intelligence community as well.

Smith, however, didn’t seem to care. From his perspective it didn’t matter who had taken the emails, or their motives for doing so. He never expressed to me any discomfort with the possibility that the emails he was seeking were potentially from a Russian front, a likelihood he was happy to acknowledge. If they were genuine, they would hurt Clinton’s chances, and therefore help Trump.

Peter Beinart contends that Trump’s Grudges Are His Agenda:

On policy, Trump is inattentive and inconsistent. Where he’s attentive and consistent is in his personal attacks on his adversaries. Trump’s presidency will have vast and frightening policy implications, most which he doesn’t understand. But Trump’s primary goal as president does not appear to be enacting a set of policies; his behavior suggests that his real goal is feeding his ego and vanquishing his enemies. He’s only truly interested in his presidency’s impact on himself. Calling Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky a diversion made sense because Clinton was genuinely committed to certain policy goals, which he undermined by his personal recklessness. With Trump, personal recklessness is all there is.

That’s why Trump will launch attacks like the one he launched against Mika Brzezinski for as long as he’s president, and likely after that. Saying he attacks people viciously because he lacks impulse control is like saying a professional boxer lacks impulse control because he punches people in the ring. For Trump, this is the true purpose of politics, if not life itself.

Jack Shafer writes of Pravda on the Checkout Line:

All the hallmarks of classic propaganda appear in the newly politicized tabloids. First, there is the pure volume of the malicious bunk they churn out. The tabs construct wild story after wild story that “entertains, confuses, and overwhelms the audience,” as one recent report described modern Russian propaganda technique. Like the Enquirer, propagandists are rarely content to push a single fabrication. The greater the number, the greater likelihood one will take root. The Enquirer’s harping on Clinton’s health is a good example. Had she suffered from half of the conditions and ailments the Enquirer had claimed, she would have been in intensive care instead of on the campaign trail. But classic propaganda makes little attempt to be consistent with observable facts, relying instead on volume and insistence to overwhelm its subjects and on their willingness to believe what’s spread.

Like propagandists, tabs make up bizarre yet plausible stuff faster than the fact-checkers can knock it down—assuming that the fact-checkers care about tracking tabloid outrageousness in the first place. In a Rand Corporation study of Russian propaganda published last year, Christopher Paul and Miriam Matthews write about the “rapid, continuous and repetitive” quality of the propaganda, which is a good descriptor of the kinds of bogus campaign stories the Enquirer and Globe published. Effective propaganda, they tell us, drowns out other messages, and repeated exposure increases the acceptance among the receptive over time.

Kif Leswing describes the upcoming iOS 11 in I’ve been using the new iOS on my iPhone — here’s what I think:

Daily Bread for 6.30.17

Good morning.

Friday in Whitewater will see afternoon thunderstorms and a high of seventy-nine. Sunrise is 5:20 AM and sunset 8:37 PM, for 15h 16m 52s of daytime. The moon is a waxing crescent with 45.1% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the two hundred thirty-third day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

On the morning of this day in 1908, the Tunguska event, a large explosion near Stony Tunguska River, in Yeniseysk Governorate (now Krasnoyarsk Krai) in Russia takes place:

The explosion over the sparsely populated Eastern Siberian Taiga flattened 2,000 km2 (770 sq mi) of forest yet caused no known human casualties. The explosion is generally attributed to the air burst of a meteoroid. It is classified as an impact event, even though no impact crater has been found; the object is thought to have disintegrated at an altitude of 5 to 10 kilometres (3 to 6 miles) rather than hit the surface of the Earth.[3]

The Tunguska event is the largest impact event on Earth in recorded history. Studies have yielded different estimates of the meteoroid’s size, on the order of 60 to 190 metres (200 to 620 feet), depending on whether the body was a comet or a denser asteroid.[4]

Recommended for reading in full — 

Shane Harris reports that GOP Operative Sought Clinton Emails From Hackers, Implied a Connection to Flynn:

WASHINGTON—Before the 2016 presidential election, a longtime Republican opposition researcher mounted an independent campaign to obtain emails he believed were stolen from Hillary Clinton’s private server, likely by Russian hackers.

In conversations with members of his circle and with others he tried to recruit to help him, the GOP operative, Peter W. Smith, implied he was working with retired Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn, at the time a senior adviser to then-candidate Donald Trump.

“He said, ‘I’m talking to Michael Flynn about this—if you find anything, can you let me know?’” said Eric York, a computer-security expert from Atlanta who searched hacker forums on Mr. Smith’s behalf for people who might have access to the emails.

Shane Harris, national security reporter for the Wall Street Journal, talked with Rachel Maddow “about his new reporting about Peter Smith, a Republican activist who sought the help of Russian hackers who may have found Hillary Clinton’s e-mails, and implied he was working with Donald Trump aide Mike Flynn”:

Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough state the obvious when they write that Donald Trump is not well:

More significant is Mr. Trump’s continued mistreatment of women. It is disturbing that the president of the United States keeps up his unrelenting assault on women. From his menstruation musings about Megyn Kelly, to his fat-shaming treatment of a former Miss Universe, to his braggadocio claims about grabbing women’s genitalia, the 45th president is setting the poorest of standards for our children. We were heartened to hear a number of Republican lawmakers call out Mr. Trump for his offensive words and can only hope that the women who are closest to him will follow their examples. It would be the height of hypocrisy to claim the mantle of women’s empowerment while allowing a family member to continue such abusive conduct.

We have known Mr. Trump for more than a decade and have some fond memories of our relationship together. But that hasn’t stopped us from criticizing his abhorrent behavior or worrying about his fitness. During the height of the 2016 presidential campaign, Joe often listened to Trump staff members complain about their boss’s erratic behavior, including a top campaign official who was as close to the Republican candidate as anyone.

We, too, have noticed a change in his behavior over the past few years. Perhaps that is why we were neither shocked nor insulted by the president’s personal attack. The Donald Trump we knew before the campaign was a flawed character but one who still seemed capable of keeping his worst instincts in check.

The Washington Post editorial board writes that Trump clearly won’t change. Here’s what the rest of us can do:

We’ve given this some thought in the context of international relations, because the world had become accustomed to looking to the United States as a defender of democracy, human rights and liberal values. Admittedly the nation has played this role imperfectly, with dollops of hypocrisy and inconsistency along the way. But from World War II until now, the United States had not been led by anyone espousing selfishness as a lodestar. And that has made it crucial for others to fill the gap — crucial for Congress, civil society and citizens across the nation to stand up for freedom and for the United States remaining a beacon of freedom across the globe.

We’d say the same now about plain old courtesy and decorum. It may be beyond the power of any other politician to change Mr. Trump’s behavior. But all of us can model a different way of acting and interacting.

What gives us hope is the conviction that the American people are better than the misogyny and rudeness we see spewing from the White House. Our politics have always been rough-and-tumble, but most of us don’t want to see this kind of ugliness become the dominant trait. We should all be focused on preserving a little flame of decency so that, whenever the Trump era ends, that flame can be rekindled into the kind of discourse that would make the country proud again.

Practical Engineering asks How Do Sinkholes Form?

Daily Bread for 6.29.17

Good morning.

Thursday in Whitewater will be partly cloudy, with a high of eighty-five, and a likelihood of evening thunderstorms. Sunrise is 5:19 AM and sunset 8:37 PM, for 15h 17m 31s of daytime. The moon is a waxing crescent with 34.3% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the two hundred thirty-third day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

The Downtown Whitewater Board meets at 8:00 AM, the CDA Board at 5:30 PM, and the Parks & Recreation Board at 6:30 PM.

On this day in 2007, the iPhone first went on sale. On this day in 1862, the 5th Wisconsin Infantry and Co. G of the 1st U.S. Sharpshooters take part in the Battle of Savage’s Station, Virginia.

Recommended for reading in full —

Dan Friedman writes Sorry, Fox News: Legal Experts Say Trump Collusion With Russia Could Be a Crime:

In recent weeks, President Donald Trump’s defenders have been pushing a curious new line: Even if Trump and his presidential campaign colluded with Russia’s secret operation to subvert the 2016 campaign, that would not be illegal. Fox News senior political analyst Brit Hume made this argument during a panel Sunday, saying, “Collusion, while it obviously would be alarming and highly inappropriate for the Trump campaign…it’s not a crime.” He added, “Can anyone identify the crime?”

Well, yes, somebody can. Ten lawyers queried, including academics, former prosecutors, and defense attorneys familiar with federal election and hacking laws, cite more than a dozen federal statutes that prosecutors could use to charge someone who collaborated with Russian intelligence to influence the 2016 election.

“There is a whole plethora of areas of potential criminal liability,” says Tor Ekeland, a defense attorney who has represented clients in high-profile hacking cases in federal and New York courts. “To say that there is none is just willful ignorance in the service of propaganda.”

Kevin Delaney writes that Sally Yates says the US needs more than a special counsel to get to the bottom of the Trump-Russia affair:

Sally Yates, the former acting US attorney general, says she has deep confidence in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into ties between president Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia. But she cautions that Mueller’s team has a narrow remit.

“Bob Mueller is going to be deciding whether or not crimes were committed, to be used for prosecution or impeachment,” Yates said onstage at the Aspen Ideas Festival today. “Surely that’s not our bar. That’s not the standard of conduct we’re looking for from our president or our administration. It shouldn’t just be whether you committed a felony or not. It should also be whether or not you’re observing the kind of norms that we’ve been talking about that are so essential to really the fabric of the rule of law.”

Philip Bump reports that Trump’s pledge to keep the world from laughing at us hits another setback:

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross was supposed to attend this week’s Economic Council of the Christian Democratic Union meeting in Berlin, but suddenly canceled his travel plans on Tuesday. Ross was scheduled to give an address at the conference immediately before German Chancellor Angela Merkel, so he instead gave his remarks by teleconference from Washington.

Ross was allotted 10 minutes to speak. After he spoke for more than 20, the conference organizers cut his feed mid-sentence. The audience “laughed and clapped” in response, according to Bloomberg News. Merkel then rose and, during her remarks, disagreed with one of Ross’s points….

Nicole Perlroth and David Sanger report that Hacks Raise Fear Over N.S.A.’s Hold on Cyberweapons:

Twice in the past month, National Security Agency cyberweapons stolen from its arsenal have been turned against two very different partners of the United States — Britain and Ukraine.

The N.S.A. has kept quiet, not acknowledging its role in developing the weapons. White House officials have deflected many questions, and responded to others by arguing that the focus should be on the attackers themselves, not the manufacturer of their weapons.

But the silence is wearing thin for victims of the assaults, as a series of escalating attacks using N.S.A. cyberweapons have hit hospitals, a nuclear site and American businesses. Now there is growing concern that United States intelligence agencies have rushed to create digital weapons that they cannot keep safe from adversaries or disable once they fall into the wrong hands.

Here’s an answer to the odd but intriguing question Does the UK Really Experience Massive Power Surges When Soap Operas Finish from People Making Tea?

Daily Bread for 6.28.17

Good morning.

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

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

Recommended for reading in full:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Daily Bread for 6.27.17

Good morning.

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

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

Recommended for reading in full —

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Daily Bread for 6.26.17

Good morning.

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

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

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

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

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

Recommended for reading in full —

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sonia Saraiya describes NBC’s Megyn Kelly Problem:

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

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

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

Astonishing creatures live deep below:

Daily Bread for 6.25.17

Good morning.

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

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

Recommended for reading in full — 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Red pandas dig in:

Daily Bread for 6.24.17

Good morning.

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

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

Recommended for reading in full —

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Great Big Story reveals The Alien Beauty of Socotra Island:

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


Daily Bread for 6.23.17

Good morning.

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

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

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

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

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

Recommended for reading in full — 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He was wrong.

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

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

That wasn’t the only type of attack….

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

Daily Bread for 6.22.17

Good morning.

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

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

Recommended for reading in full — 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amy Siskind describes how Trump is steering us to authoritarianism:

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

Daily Bread for 6.21.17

Good morning.

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

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

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

Recommended for reading in full — 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Adult elephants spring into action to save a calf:

Daily Bread for 6.20.17

Good morning.

Tuesday in Whitewater will see scattered afternoon thunderstorms with a high of seventy-three. Sunrise is 5:16 AM and sunset 8:36 PM, for 15h 20m 25s of daytime. The moon is a waning crescent with 18% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the two hundred twenty-fourth day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

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

On this day in 1893, a jury acquits Lizze Borden of the ax murders of her parents. On this day in 1911, laborers in Madison express displeasure with their working conditions: “On this date Italian working men, employed by Andrus Asphalt Company in Madison, went on strike and threatened to kill their foreman if they did not receive an increase in wages for laying pavement. The men demanded a 25-cent (a day) raise, from $1.75 to $2.00.”

Recommended for reading in full —

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Daily Bread for 6.19.17

Good morning.

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

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

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

Recommended for reading in full —

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Adrienne LaFrance describes The Normalization of Conspiracy Culture:

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

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

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

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

Daily Bread for 6.18.17

Good morning.

Father’s Day in Whitewater will be partly cloudy with a high of seventy-four. Sunrise is 5:16 AM and sunset 8:36 PM, for 15h 20m 19s of daytime. The moon is a waning crescent with 39.4% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the two hundred twenty-second day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

On this day in 1815, French dictator and military imperialist Napoleon meets his waterloo at…Waterloo:

Waterloo was the decisive engagement of the Waterloo Campaign and Napoleon’s last. According to Wellington, the battle was “the nearest-run thing you ever saw in your life”.[10]Napoleon abdicated four days later, and on 7 July coalition forces entered Paris. The defeat at Waterloo ended Napoleon’s rule as Emperor of the French, and marked the end of his Hundred Days return from exile. This ended the First French Empire, and set a chronological milestone between serial European wars and decades of relative peace.

The battlefield is located in the municipalities of Braine-l’Alleud and Lasne,[11] about 15 kilometres (9.3 mi) south of Brussels, and about 2 kilometres (1.2 mi) from the town of Waterloo. The site of the battlefield today is dominated by a large monument, the Lion’s Mound. As this mound was constructed from earth taken from the battlefield itself, the contemporary topography of the battlefield near the mound has not been preserved.

Recommended for reading in full —

Yashar Ali reports that Unedited Putin Interview Reveals A Missed Opportunity For Megyn Kelly and America (“The footage obtained by HuffPost shows a nervous Kelly who failed to press Putin on obvious issues”):

The last question Kelly asked Putin, which was not aired, was startling in its pandering. “We have been here in St. Petersburg for about a week now. And virtually every person we have met on the street says what they respect about you is they feel that you have returned dignity to Russia, that you’ve returned Russia to a place of respect. You’ve been in the leadership of this country for 17 years now. Has it taken any sort of personal toll on you?”

A former CIA Russia analyst who spoke to HuffPost was taken aback by the last question Kelly asked. “I can’t begin to tell you what this did for Putin’s ego, and I wouldn’t put it past the Kremlin to use it for propaganda purposes. Putin’s obsession is, by his definition, making Russia great again. He’s obsessed with the idea that he has returned the country to what he sees as the glory days of the USSR. He feels that since the breakup of the USSR, Russia has too often ceded ground where it shouldn’t have. And he’s obsessed with people seeing him as the one who brought dignity back to Russia.”

Michelle Liu reports that Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke says he withdrew from for Homeland Security post:

At least publicly, the job had never been offered. And as of Friday, Clarke had not resigned from his sheriff’s post.

Clarke had said then he would work in the department’s Office of Partnership and Engagement as a liaison with state, local and tribal law enforcement and governments. It would be an extension of the role Clarke has already taken on as a defender of police on media outlets like Fox News and would follow the campaigning he did for Trump around the country last year.

But when Clarke put out the news of his appointment on his own last month, it quickly drew a rebuke in an agency tweet that said “no such announcement” had been made. Agency spokeswoman Jenny Burke repeated the language of the tweet almost word for word Friday, the Journal Sentinel reported Saturday.

“The position mentioned is a secretarial appointment. Such senior positions are announced by the department when made official by the secretary,” Burke said in an email. “No such announcement with regard to the Office of Partnership and Engagement has been made.”

Clarke was expected to start a job with the department at the end of June. But a source close to the administration told the Washington Post that Clarke’s appointment was subject to delays that spurred his withdrawal.

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

The idea that the NRA speaks with one voice for America’s 100 million gun owners has never really been credible. The organization claims to have 5 million members, a figure that can’t be independently verified and that doesn’t jibe with its magazine circulation. That tally also includes people like me: intermittent NRA members who joined as a prerequisite for something else. (Local gun clubs, certain insurance policies and even some employers require NRA membership or subsidize it as a benefit.) In any case, the political agenda of the organization doesn’t necessarily reflect the will of rank-and-file members. Of the 76 directors who lead the NRA, annual-dues-paying members elect only one. A small committee nominates candidates to fill the other 75 positions, for which only lifetime members may cast votes.

Callum Borchers offers the Three prongs of the Russia investigation, explained (with details of each prong):

As special counsel Robert S. Mueller III widens his inquiry of Russia’s role in the 2016 presidential campaign, it can be difficult to keep track of who is under investigation for what. The Fix is here to help.

The law enforcement investigation led by Mueller now has three known prongs, after The Washington Post reported Wednesday night that Mueller will interview senior intelligence officials to help determine whether President Trump attempted to obstruct justice.

I’ve broken down each of the three prongs below. Keep in mind that congressional committees are conducting investigations of their own: This post covers only the special counsel investigation. To better understand the others, check out Amber Phillips’s guide….

Russian election meddling and possible collusion with the Trump campaign….

Possible attempts to obstruct justice….

Possible financial crimes….

Caitlin Dewey writes of The surprising number of American adults who think chocolate milk comes from brown cows:

Seven percent of all American adults believe that chocolate milk comes from brown cows, according to a nationally representative online survey commissioned by the Innovation Center of U.S. Dairy.

If you do the math, that works out to 16.4 million misinformed, milk-drinking people. The equivalent of the population of Pennsylvania (and then some!) does not know that chocolate milk is milk, cocoa and sugar.

Daily Bread for 6.17.17

Good morning.

Saturday in Whitewater will be mostly cloudy with afternoon thunderstorms and a high of eighty-four. Sunrise is 5:15 AM and sunset 8:36 PM, for 15h 20m 10s of daytime. The moon is in its third quarter, with 49.8% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the two hundred twenty-first day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

On this day in 1972, Virgilio González, Bernard Barker, James McCord, Eugenio Martínez, and Frank Sturgis, who were charged with attempted burglary and attempted interception of telephone and other communications at the Democratic National Committee’s headquarters at the Watergate office building. On this day in 1673, Marquette & Joliet reach the Mississippi:

“Here we are, then, on this so renowned river, all of whose peculiar features I have endeavored to note carefully.” It’s important to recall that Marquette and Joliet did not discover the Mississippi: Indians had been using it for 10,000 years, Spanish conquistador Hernan De Soto had crossed it in 1541, and fur traders Groseilliers and Radisson may have reached it in the 1650s. But Marquette and Joliet left the first detailed reports and proved that the Mississippi flowed into the Gulf of Mexico, which opened the heart of the continent to French traders, missionaries, and soldiers. View a Map of Marquette & Joliet’s route.

Recommended for reading in full — 

John Taschler reports that Mosquitoes have been scarce so far, but signs point to bumper crop ahead (and ticks, too):

“Usually a week or two weeks after you get a lot of rain, you’d get a lot of mosquitoes,” said Edward Blumenthal, who is an associate professor of biological sciences at Marquette University. “There doesn’t seem to be as many as you’d expect.”

But just wait. Wisconsin’s mosquito season is just beginning, and businesses that deal with the pesky critters are bracing for clouds of them to erupt in the next couple weeks.

“Mosquitoes, they are going to go off full blast here in probably, I’m guessing, the next week,” said John Esser, owner of The Mosquito Guy, a bug control company based in Waukesha. “They’re coming. I think once the mosquitoes kick off, it’s going to get pretty crazy. That’s my guess, just from what I’m seeing.”

Part of that forecast is based on the types of mosquitoes Esser and his crews are encountering.

“We’re seeing plenty of male mosquitoes out there, and we haven’t seen a lot of males the last five or six years,” Esser said. “So they were out early fertilizing eggs.”

The main hatch of mosquitoes usually goes off around July 4, he added.

Although the mosquitoes have been scarce, ticks have been abundant, Esser said.

“I’ve had plenty of customers telling me about their kids coming in with ticks on them,” Esser said.

McKay Coppins describes Evan McMullin’s War:

And yet, for all his time spent studying authoritarianism overseas, he says, “I didn’t expect to see [it] here in the United States in my lifetime.” Now that he believes American democracy is at risk, McMullin says he’s less fixated than he once was on the ideological debates that have dominated partisan politics. “When authoritarians come to power,” he told me, “it can reshuffle the political spectrum. Instead of having the traditional right versus left, you end up with a dynamic in which there are those who decide they are supporting the authoritarian regime, and then you have a group that opposes them.” What’s needed, he argues, is for antiauthoritarians of all ideological persuasions to set aside their disagreements and link arms in defense of core democratic principles.

Stephanie Kirchgaessner reports that a Lobbyist for Russian interests says he attended dinners hosted by Sessions:

An American lobbyist for Russian interests who helped craft an important foreign policy speech for Donald Trump has confirmed that he attended two dinners hosted by Jeff Sessions during the 2016 campaign, apparently contradicting the attorney general’s sworn testimony given this week.

Sessions testified under oath on Tuesday that he did not believe he had any contacts with lobbyists working for Russian interests over the course of Trump’s campaign. But Richard Burt, a former ambassador to Germany during the Reagan administration, who has represented Russian interests in Washington, told the Guardian that he could confirm previous media reports that stated he had contacts with Sessions at the time.

“I did attend two dinners with groups of former Republican foreign policy officials and Senator Sessions,” Burt said.

Jason Grotto describes The Tax Divide: Cook County failed to value homes accurately for years. The result: a property tax system that harmed the poor and helped the rich:

An unprecedented analysis by the Tribune reveals that for years the county’s property tax system created an unequal burden on residents, handing huge financial breaks to homeowners who are well-off while punishing those who have the least, particularly people living in minority communities.

The problem lies with the fundamentally flawed way the county assessor’s office values property.

The valuations are a crucial factor when it comes to calculating property tax bills, a burden that for many determines whether they can afford to stay in their homes. Done well, these estimates should be fair, transparent and stand up to scrutiny.

But that’s not how it works in Cook County, where Assessor Joseph Berrios has resisted reforms and ignored industry standards while his office churned out inaccurate values. The result is a staggering pattern of inequality.

For Caturday, a Tiny House Cat Squares Up To A Lion:

Daily Bread for 6.16.17

Good morning.

Friday in Whitewater will be partly cloudy, with a four-in-ten chance of afternoon thunderstorms, and a high of eighty-six. Sunrise is 5:15 AM and sunset 8:35 PM, for 15h 19m 56s. The moon is a waning gibbous with 60% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the two hundred twentieth day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

On this day in 1911, the Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company, the predecessor company to IBM, incorporates in New York. (IBM’s Watson technology is named after Thomas J. Watson Sr., president of the company, and successor IBM, from 1915-1956.) On this day in 1832, Henry Dodge and twenty-nine soldiers engage the Kickapoo in the Battle of Pecatonica.

Recommended for reading in full — 

Haley Hansen reports that Body cam video shows 1.69 seconds between shots in Sherman Park [Milwaukee] police shooting:

Body camera footage exhibited in court Thursday shows former Milwaukee police officer Dominique Heaggan-Brown sitting in a squad car after he fatally shot Sylville Smith last August.

“It happened so quick,” he said, snapping his fingers.

During the eight minutes the body camera is running, Heaggan-Brown never asked about Smith’s condition.

According to court testimony from Thursday, 1.69 seconds separated Heaggan-Brown’s first shot that hit Smith in the arm and his second shot that hit the 23-year-old in the chest.

Heaggan-Brown, 25, is on trial on a charge of first-degree reckless homicide in the August 2016 incident that sparked two days of violent unrest in parts of the Sherman Park neighborhood.

Heaggan-Brown was fired from the Milwaukee Police Department in October after he was charged in an unrelated sexual assault.

Sari Horwitz, Matt Zapotosky and Adam Entous report that Special counsel is investigating Jared Kushner’s business dealings:

Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III is investigating the finances and business dealings of Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, as part of the investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election, according to U.S. officials familiar with the matter.

FBI agents and federal prosecutors have also been examining the financial dealings of other Trump associates, including former national security adviser Michael Flynn, former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and Carter Page, who was listed as a foreign-policy adviser for the campaign.

The Washington Post previously reported that investigators were scrutinizing meetings that Kushner held with Russians in December — first with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak, and then with Sergey Gorkov, the head of a state-owned Russian development bank. At the time of that report, it was not clear that the FBI was investigating Kushner’s business dealings.

Jonathan Chait writes that Trump’s Cover-up May Be Worse Than the Crime, But the Crime Seems Pretty Bad:

Trump’s defense has begun to emphasize the unfairness of the process. “They made up a phony collusion with the Russians story, found zero proof, so now they go for obstruction of justice on the phony story,” tweeted the president. The supposed lack of evidence for any underlying crime for Trump to obstruct has become an article of faith on the right. Andrew McCarthy’s column in the Journal of American Greatness, large portions of which are italicized for emphasis, sarcastically notes, “All that was lacking was—wait for it—actual evidence of collusion.”

What, you might wonder, would count as evidence of Trump colluding with Russian election interference? How about one of his campaign advisers having advance knowledge of the Russian hacking operation? Because that exists. If that’s not enough to count as evidence, what if I told you Donald Trump asked Russia to hack his opponent’s email system and publicize the results in order to help Trump, and it was on video? Because that exists, too.

So the evidence for collusion in the email hacking lies right out in the open — just like evidence that Trump fired James Comey to obstruct the Russia investigation, which the president confessed to in an NBC News interview. (Sometimes it seems like this investigation doesn’t even need a special counsel, just a video-montage editor.) But the collusion is almost surely not limited to the planning of the email hack. It seems to run much deeper, into a web of financial ties between Vladimir Putin’s regime and Trump and his closest advisers.

Sarah Kendzior writes that Trump is reportedly under investigation. Does that signal his end? Not so fast:

On Donald Trump’s 71st birthday on Wednesday, he received a special gift: a news report that he was under investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller for possible obstruction of justice. The Washington Post reports that after a year of FBI inquiry into whether Mr. Trump’s associates co-ordinated with the Kremlin, Mr. Trump himself was now the subject of a special council probe for possibly obstructing the investigation by firing FBI director James Comey in May….

But does this mean Mr. Trump’s reign is reaching its end? Not so fast. It is possible that the President will fire Mr. Mueller, much as he fired Mr. Comey, even though this will be perceived as further admission of guilt and possibly open up yet another obstruction of justice investigation.

Pundits who speculate that the optics of this decision will hold Mr. Trump back are still mired in the presumption that the President respects democratic norms and rule of law, which he does not. The optics Mr. Trump favours are those of an autocrat: blatant demonstrations of power that proclaim, “We know that you know what we did, and there’s nothing you can do about it.”

In other words, Mr. Trump does not care if firing Mr. Mueller makes him look guilty, as long as he continues to get away with his crimes. Last week, Attorney-General Jeff Sessions made it clear he will protect Mr. Trump at any cost, claiming blanket ignorance of the Russian interference case (in which he’s implicated to the point of recusal) and reducing Mr. Comey’s firing to the need for “a fresh start.” One can easily envision Mr. Trump and Mr. Sessions deciding that Mr. Mueller needs a fresh start as well.

In Los Angeles, the city displayed a bat signal in honor of the late Adam West. Clever, kind:

Daily Bread for 6.15.17

Good morning.

Thursday in Whitewater will be sunny with a high of eighty-nine. Sunrise is 5:15 AM and sunset 8:35 PM, for 15h 19m 40s of daytime. The moon is a waning gibbous with 69.4% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the two hundred nineteen day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

Whitewater’s Finance Committee is scheduled to meet at 7 AM.

On this day in 1775, the Second Continental Congress unanimously appoints George Washington commander-in-chief of the Continental Army.  On this day in 1832, Gen. Winfield Scott assumes command in the Black Hawk War.

Recommended for reading in full —

Edward Fishman reports that The Senate Just Passed a Monumental New Russia Sanctions Bill—Here’s What’s In It:

…the Senate overwhelmingly approved a bill that would fortify existing sanctions on Russia and add new restrictions. If the bill becomes law, it would mark the most significant step taken by Congress on Russia policy in recent history. Though not perfect, the bill would substantially strengthen the West’s negotiating position vis-à-vis Russia on the conflict in Ukraine and send a strong message to Moscow that efforts to undermine US elections carry costly consequences.

It is not yet a sure thing that the bill will become law. While the legislation has bipartisan support in the Senate, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson signaled on June 13 that the Trump administration might oppose it. The White House’s opposition could give House Republicans cold feet about voting on the bill.

But for now, it is worth examining the contents of the bill and explaining what it would mean for US policy toward Russia….[items follow]

Heidi Blake, Jason Leopold, Jane Bradley, Richard Holmes, Tom Warren, and Alex Campbell write of Poison in the System:

When a financier dropped dead in Britain shortly after exposing a vast Russian crime, police said it was not suspicious. But with his inquest now underway, BuzzFeed News has uncovered explosive evidence of a suspected Kremlin assassination plot – and a secret assignation in Paris on the eve of his death – that the British authorities have sidelined….

Ben Schreckinger describes How Russia Targets the U.S. Military (With hacks, pro-Putin trolls and fake news, the Kremlin is ratcheting up its efforts to turn American servicemembers and veterans into a fifth column):

In the fall of 2013, Veterans Today, a fringe American news site that also offers former service members help finding jobs and paying medical bills, struck up a new partnership. It began posting content from New Eastern Outlook, a geopolitical journal published by the government-chartered Russian Academy of Sciences, and running headlines like “Ukraine’s Ku Klux Klan — NATO’s New Ally.” As the United States confronted Russian ally Bashar Assad for using chemical weapons against Syrian children this spring, the site trumpeted, “Proof: Turkey Did 2013 Sarin Attack and Did This One Too” and “Exclusive: Trump Apologized to Russia for Syria Attack.”

In recent years, intelligence experts say, Russia has dramatically increased its “active measures” — a form of political warfare that includes disinformation, propaganda and compromising leaders with bribes and blackmail — against the United States. Thus far, congressional committees, law enforcement investigations and press scrutiny have focused on Kremlin leader Vladimir Putin’s successful efforts to disrupt the American political process. But a review of the available evidence and the accounts of Kremlin watchers make clear that the Russian government is using the same playbook against other pillars of American society, foremost among them the military. Experts warn that effort, which has received far less attention, has the potential to hobble the ability of the armed forces to clearly assess Putin’s intentions and effectively counter future Russian aggression.

Jonathan Alter foresees Trump’s Coming Constitutional Crisis:

The best analogy to today’s madness is also the most recent—Watergate. In 1973, in what became known as the “Saturday Night Massacre,” President Nixon fired Attorney General Elliott Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William D. Ruckelshaus when they wouldn’t fire Archibald Cox, the Watergate special prosecutor.

The questions raised so far by Trumpgate are similar: How much power does the president have over the executive branch? Is it obstruction of justice if the president does it? Can the president be indicted?

As several former federal prosecutors confirmed this week, former FBI Director James Comey’s testimony on Thursday was a roadmap for special counsel Robert Mueller to follow as he builds an obstruction of justice case against President Trump. The two men, friends and former colleagues, view the law in similar terms. Mueller is unlikely to believe the word of an habitual liar over that of a Boy Scout. It’s unlikely that juries will, either.

At the Philadelphia Zoo, a baby gorilla was born, with the help of both veterinary and medical doctors. Ed Yong explains How a Philly Ob-Gyn Ended Up Delivering a Baby Gorilla:

Last Friday, at 10:30 a.m., ob-gyn Rebekah McCurdy was seeing patients in her office when she got the call. Hello, said the voice on the line. It’s us. We’re thinking of doing a C-section, and we’re ready to put her under anesthesia. Weird, thought McCurdy. She wasn’t covering deliveries that morning, and in any case, she didn’t have any C-sections scheduled. “Who is this?” she said.

“It’s the zoo,” said the voice. “It’s for Kira.”

McCurdy dropped everything and ran to her car. A few hours later, she was delivering a baby gorilla into the world.

Daily Bread for 6.14.17

Good morning.

Flag Day in Whitewater will see a probability of scattered thunderstorms and a high of eighty-five. Sunrise is 5:15 AM and sunset 8:35 PM, for 15h 19m 19s of daytime. The moon is a waning gibbous with 78.4% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the two hundred eighteenth day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

On this day in 1777, the Second Continental Congress chooses a flag for America: “Resolved, That the flag of the thirteen United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation.” On this day in 1855, Fighting Bob La Follette is born.

Recommended for reading in full — 

Jonathan Chait observes that Kamala Harris Pummels Jeff Sessions So Badly That John McCain Has to Stop Her:

Harris: And you referred to a long-standing DOJ policy. Can you tell us what policy it is you’re talking about?

Sessions: Well, I think most cabinet people as the witnesses you had before you earlier, those individuals declined to comment. Because we were all about conversations with the president.

Harris: Sir, I’m just asking you about …

Sessions: Because that’s a long-standing policy …

Harris: the DOJ policy you referred to …

Sessions: a policy that goes beyond just the attorney general.

Harris: Is that policy in writing somewhere?

Sessions: I think so.

Harris: So did you not consult it before you came this committee knowing we’d ask questions about it?

Sessions: Well, we talked about it. The policy is based …

Harris: Did you asked that it would be shown to you?

Sessions: The policy is based on the principle that the president …

Harris: Sir, I’m not asking about the principle. I am asking when you knew …

Sessions: Well I am unable to answer the …

Harris: that you would be asked these …

Sessions: question.

Harris: questions and you would rely on that policy.

McCain: Chairman [inaudible].

[thumping noise]

Harris: Did you not ask your staff to show you the policy that would be the basis for your refusing to answer the …

McCain: Chairman, the witness …

Harris: majority of questions that have been asked of you.

McCain: should be allowed to answer the question.

[Sessions laughs. Harris is not amused.]

Chairman Burr: Senators will allow the chair to control the hearing. Senator Harris, let him answer.

Harris [to Sessions]: Please do. [To Burr]: Thank you.

Sessions: We talked about it. And we talked about the real principle at stake is one that I have some appreciation towards, having spent 15 years in the Department of Justice, 12 as United States attorney, and that principle is that the Constitution provides the head of the executive branch certain privileges. And that members — one of them is, confidentiality of communications — and it is improper for agents of any of the departments in the executive branch to waive that privilege without a clear approval …

Harris: Mr. Chairman …

Sessions: of the president.

Harris: I have asked …

Sessions: And that’s the situation we are in.

Harris: Mr. Sessions for a yes or no. Did you ask …

Sessions: Though the answer is yes.

Harris: …your staff to see the policy.

Sessions: I consulted …

Harris: Did you ask your staff to see the policy?

Burr: The senator’s time has expired.

Harris: Apparently not.

Burr: Senator Cornyn.

(If one is looking for competent lawyering in this exchange, it will be found with Harris, not Sessions, who’s embarrassingly weak. Hard to believe (for more than one reason) that Sessions is the Attorney General of the United States.)

Indeed, Sessions is so weak that he begs off that he can’t keep up with Harris, and that she makes him – a grown man with a lengthy career behind him — nervous:

Julia Ioffe asks Why Did Jeff Sessions Really Meet With [Russian Ambassador] Sergey Kislyak?:

Sessions called a press conference and publicly recused himself from the Russia investigation. “I did meet with this one Russian official a couple of times,” he said, referring to his encounters with Kislyak. But he insisted on the fine distinction he and Flores had drawn the previous day, saying he had “never had meetings with Russian operatives or government intermediaries about the Trump campaign.” That is, he claimed that when he met with Kislyak, he did so as a senator on the Armed Services Committee, not a Trump surrogate.

But an examination of Sessions’s activities in 2016 calls this defense of his testimony into question. It shows a significant spike in the frequency of his contacts with foreign officials after he joined the Trump campaign as a foreign-policy adviser in March. That was when the longtime member of the Armed Services Committee embarked on an intensive program of meetings and dinners with ambassadors and members of Washington’s foreign-policy establishment. His meeting with Kislyak took place during those months. And some of those who met with Sessions said they sought him out not because he was a senator, but precisely because of his role as a Trump campaign surrogate, tasked with advising the campaign on matters of national security.

Former Congressman Bob Inglis writes I helped draft Clinton’s impeachment articles. The charges against Trump are more serious:

I was on the House Judiciary Committee that began the consideration of impeaching of President Bill Clinton. Armed with information from independent counsel Kenneth Starr, we were convinced the president had lied under oath. We drafted articles of impeachment, and a majority of the House concurred with our assessment. The Senate subsequently determined that there wasn’t sufficient cause to remove him from office. In retrospect, a public censure or reprimand may have been more advisable.

Regardless, Clinton was impeached for charges less serious than the ones before us now. In the current case, Comey was exploring the possibility of American involvement in the Russian plot, a treasonous offense. While it’s not time to start drafting articles of impeachment, it is time to pursue this investigation into Russian meddling in our presidential election with vigor, without friends to reward and without enemies to punish.

Here’s why white noise helps us sleep:

Daily Bread for 6.13.17

Good morning.

Tuesday in Whitewater will be partly cloudy with a high of eighty-nine. Sunrise is 5:15 AM and sunset 8:34 PM, for 15h 18m 53s of daytime. The moon is a waning gibbous with 85.7% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the two hundred seventeenth day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

At 6:30 PM, the Library Board will hold a meeting.

On this day in 1967, Pres. Johnson nominates Thurgood Marshall to the U.S. Supreme Court (“the right thing to do, the right time to do it, the right man and the right place”).

On this day in 1863, Wisconsinites defending the Union continued their engagement at the Seige of Vicksburg (” The 8th, 11th, 12th, 14th, 15th, 16th, 17th, 18th, 20th, 23rd, 25th,27th, 29th and 33rd Wisconsin Infantry regiments, the 1st, 6th, 7th and 12th Wisconsin Light Artillery batteries and the 2nd Wisconsin Cavalry were among Union forces surrounding the city”).

Recommended for reading in full —

Michael Shear and Maggie Haberman report that Friend Says Trump Is Considering Firing Mueller as Special Counsel:

WASHINGTON — A longtime friend of President Trump said on Monday that Mr. Trump was considering whether to fire Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel investigating possible ties between the president’s campaign and Russian officials.

The startling assertion comes as some of Mr. Trump’s conservative allies, who initially praised Mr. Mueller’s selection as special counsel, have begun trying to attack his credibility.

The friend, Christopher Ruddy, the chief executive of Newsmax Media, who was at the White House on Monday, said on PBS’s “NewsHour” that Mr. Trump was “considering, perhaps, terminating the special counsel.”

“I think he’s weighing that option,” Mr. Ruddy said.

His comments appeared to take the White House by surprise.

“Mr. Ruddy never spoke to the president regarding this issue,” Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, said in a statement hours later. “With respect to this subject, only the president or his attorneys are authorized to comment.”

(I’m with Sarah Kendzior @sarahkendzior on this: it’s only a matter of time until Trump pressures the Justice Department to fire Mueller; if they resist that pressure, he’ll fire Justice Department officials until he finds someone to fire Mueller. Kendzior observes: “As I’ve been saying, they enjoy the flagrancy. Autocrat logic: “We know that you know what we did, and there’s nothing you can do about it.”)

Ellen Nakashima reports that Russia has developed a cyberweapon that can disrupt power grids, according to new research:

Hackers allied with the Russian government have devised a cyberweapon that has the potential to be the most disruptive yet against electric systems that Americans depend on for daily life, according to U.S. researchers.

The malware, which researchers have dubbed CrashOverride, is known to have disrupted only one energy system — in Ukraine in December. In that incident, the hackers briefly shut down one-fifth of the electric power generated in Kiev.

But with modifications, it could be deployed against U.S. electric transmission and distribution systems to devastating effect, said Sergio Caltagirone, director of threat intelligence for Dragos, a cybersecurity firm that studied the malware and issued a report Monday.

And Russian government hackers have shown their interest in targeting U.S. energy and other utility systems, researchers said.

Ron Brownstein asks Are Demographics Really Destiny for the GOP?:

Despite President Trump’s magnetic appeal for working-class whites, those fiercely contested voters continued their long-term decline as a share of the national electorate in 2016, a new analysis of recent Census Bureau data shows.

That continued erosion underscores the gamble Trump is taking by aligning the GOP ever more closely with the hopes and fears of a volatile constituency that, while still large, has been irreversibly shrinking for decades as a share of the total vote. The data analysis on 2016 voting, conducted for The Atlantic by Robert Griffin and Ruy Teixeira of the Center for American Progress’s States of Change project, found that non-college-educated whites declined as a share of the electorate even in the key Midwestern states that tipped the election to Trump.

“This is a good example of just how hard it is to reverse an ongoing trend like this,” said Teixeira, a co-founder of the project, which studies how demographic change affects politics and policy. “It says to Republicans: ‘You have intrinsically placed your bets on a political group that under almost any conceivable circumstances will continue to decline as a share not only of eligible voters, but [of actual] voters going forward.’ If that didn’t [reverse] in this election, you have to say it’s not going to happen.”

(Even in an election that she lost, It’s official: Clinton swamps Trump in popular vote: “The Democrat outpaced President-elect Donald Trump by almost 2.9 million votes, with 65,844,954 (48.2%) to his 62,979,879 (46.1%), according to revised and certified final election results from all 50 states and the District of Columbia.”)

John Wagner reports on Praise for the chief: Trump’s Cabinet tells him it’s an ‘honor’ and ‘blessing’ to serve:

(Part perverse, part heretical: Priebus is nothing more than a groveling supplicant.)

What does an airliner look like when recorded from a weather balloon at 38,000 feet? It looks like this: