Daily Bread for 2.5.18

Good morning.

Monday in Whitewater will bring afternoon snowfall with a high of fifteen. Sunrise is 7:03 AM and sunset 5:14 PM, for 10h 10m 33s of daytime. The moon is a waning gibbous with 71.2% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the four hundred fifty-second day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

On this day in 1849, the University of Wisconsin opens: “the University of Wisconsin began with 20 students led by Professor John W. Sterling. The first class was organized as a preparatory school in the first department of the University: a department of science, literature, and the arts. The university was initially housed at the Madison Female Academy building, which had been provided free of charge by the city. The course of study was English grammar; arithmetic; ancient and modern geography; elements of history; algebra; Caesar’s Commentaries; the Aeneid of Virgil (six books); Sallust; select orations of Cicero; Greek; the Anabasis of Xenophon; antiquities of Greece and Rome; penmanship, reading, composition and declamation. Also offered were book-keeping, geometry, and surveying. Tuition was “twenty dollars per scholar, per annum.” For a detailed recollection of early UW-Madison life, see the memoirs of Mrs. W.F. Allen [Source: History of the University of Wisconsin, Reuben Gold Thwaites, 1900]”

Recommended for reading in full —

➤ Alan Blinder reports What It May Take to Strike a Segregationist’s Name From a Georgia Bridge: Hundreds of Girl Scouts:

SAVANNAH, Ga. — The bridge that carries Highway 17 into Savannah is hard to miss: Its H-shaped towers are among the tallest structures for miles. But many people in the city would like never to lay eyes again on the green and white signs that say the span honors the segregationist former Gov. Eugene Talmadge.

“We would never take the worst parts of his speeches and put them up on big billboards over the bridge and say, ‘Well, welcome to Savannah, here’s what we stand for,’ ” said Stan Deaton, senior historian at the Georgia Historical Society, which is based here. “But having his name on that bridge is tantamount to doing so.”

Residents of Savannah have been trying for decades to get the state to rename it, only to see their efforts sputter and die in the back rooms and boardrooms of Atlanta, the capital.

But this year is different, and state lawmakers could vote in the coming weeks to give the bridge a less controversial name. And it all may be because of two new factors in the equation: a bit of legal detective work and the Girl Scouts, hundreds of whom are planning to descend on the Capitol this week to argue that the bridge should celebrate Juliette Gordon Low, the Savannah native who founded their organization.

➤ Charles Davis reports ‘Grassroots’ Media Company Admits Kremlin Ties After The Daily Beast Exposé:

A new media startup that billed itself as a “radical,” “grassroots” collective has admitted to being a wholly owned subsidiary of the Russian government following an exposé by The Daily Beast. Redfish, launched last fall, initially presented itself as an independent, community-based news organization, producing short video features on topics such as the economic crisis in Venezuela and the push for independence in Catalonia. Its work, however, soon began airing on RT, Moscow’s English-language news network, and a Daily Beast investigation revealed that the majority of its staff were longtime employees of the Russian government’s propaganda apparatus. In a statement following that investigation, Redfish conceded that it is in fact “a subsidiary of Ruptly, RT’s video agency.”

(Longtime employees of the Russian government’s propaganda apparatus – that’s a job not worth having, and a degraded & degrading life.)

➤ E.J. Dionne writes Nunes paves Trump’s road to autocracy:

Washington • The autocratic leader lies and then falsely charges his opponents with lying. He politicizes institutions that are supposed to be free of politics by falsely accusing his foes of politicizing them. He victimizes others by falsely claiming they are victimizing him.

The autocrat also counts on spineless politicians to cave in to his demands. And as they destroy governmental institutions at his bidding, they insist they are defending them.

In her classic 1951 book, “The Origins of Totalitarianism,” the philosopher Hannah Arendt offered two observations that help us understand the assumptions and purposes behind the memo created by the staff of Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., the chair of the House Intelligence Committee turned propagandist for President Trump.

The totalitarian method of the 1920s and 30s, she noted, was to “dissolve every statement of fact into a declaration of purpose.”

She also said this: “Mass propaganda discovered that its audience was ready at all times to believe the worst, no matter how absurd, and did not particularly object to being deceived because it held every statement to be a lie anyhow.”

Bear Arendt’s warnings in mind in pondering the Nunes screed whose sole purpose is to discredit an investigation that appears to be getting closer and closer to Trump.

A blatant McCarthyite hit piece that breaks little new ground, it cherry-picks from troves of information to feed a dangerous narrative: Even if special counsel Robert Mueller gets the goods on Trump — on Russian collusion, money laundering, obstruction of justice, or all three — the facts won’t matter because the inquiry was driven by partisanship.

The memo pretends that the most important actor in the case is Carter Page, a Trump adviser who had left the campaign by the time the events it describes transpired. The memo’s core assertion is that in a request to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court to authorize surveillance on Page, the FBI relied the findings of former British intelligence official Christopher Steele without informing the court that Fusion GPS, the firm that hired Steele, was paid by Democrats to collect bad stuff on Trump.

Actually, Page is a side player in the story, and his engagement with Russian spies was on the radar of intelligence agencies long before Steele prepared his now-famous dossier. Among the document’s many volumes of convenient omissions is that Fusion GPS was hired first by conservative foes of Trump.

➤ Philip Rucker and Robert Costa write Once the party of law and order, Republicans are now challenging it:

Republican leaders’ open defiance last week of the FBI over the release of a hotly disputed memo revealed how the GOP, which has long positioned itself as the party of law and order, has become an adversary of federal law enforcement as the party continues its quest to protect President Trump from the Russia investigation.

The FBI, the Justice Department and other agencies are now under concerted assault by Republicans, facing allegations of corruption and conspiracy that have quickly moved from the fringes of the right into the mainstream of the GOP.

Republicans in Congress insist that their efforts are meant to fulfill their duty to provide oversight of the executive branch and root out suspected bias. But critics say their campaign — to “cleanse” the FBI, in the words of House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) — has been clearly orchestrated to safeguard the president and undercut the Russia probe, which includes an examination of whether Trump or his associates have sought to obstruct justice.

“It’s an extraordinary moment,” said Steve Schmidt, a strategist on George W. Bush’s and John McCain’s presidential campaigns who opposes Trump. “The party has become completely unmoored from things that it held as close to sacred until very recently, including a fidelity to the country’s security institutions.”

(Trump sees law as his whim, and order as his advantage.)

➤ Charlie Sykes is The Conservative Radio Host Urging People to Break Out of Their Bubbles:

Wisconsinites know Sykes well – one can expect opinions are formed on his past work; for today it’s enough that he’s right about our present situation.