Daily Bread for 8.11.17

Good morning.

Friday in Whitewater will be increasingly sunny with a high of seventy-two. Sunrise is 5:58 AM and sunset 8:01 PM, for 14h 03m 28s of daytime. The moon is a waning gibbous with 84.8% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the two hundred seventy-fifth day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary began accepting prisoners on this day in 1934 (it remained in operation until 1963). On this day in 1919, when “a score or more of young athletes, called together by Curly Lambeau and George Calhoun, gather[ed] in the editorial room [of the local newspaper] on Cherry Street and organized a football team,” the Green Bay Packers are founded.

Recommended for reading in full —

Jennifer Rubin observes that As Trump debases the presidency, the religious right looks away:

No group has been as blindly loyal to President Trump as Christian conservatives. They have not let religion or values get in the way of their support. Consider the “Access Hollywood” tape, the attack on a Gold Star family, a mass of inexplicable ties between Trump’s campaign and Russian officials (and the president’s open invitation to Russia to continue hacking), the firing of the FBI director, the humiliation of evangelical-favorite Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the politicization of the Boy Scouts, the threats to the special counsel and now an interview with Trump’s out-of-control, potty-mouthed communications director. What about Trump, exactly, reflects their values? (Taking Medicaid away from millions and separating families to deport law-abiding immigrants?) The Trump administration is a clown show — but it’s the evangelicals who supplied the tent, the red noses and the floppy shoes. Each day presents a new insult to the office of the presidency and a repudiation of civilized behavior….

Cumulatively — let’s not forget the erratic, impulsive declaration that he was throwing transgender military personnel out of the armed services — it is not clear whether Trump has reached a tipping point when Republicans decide he actually has to leave office. Yet if Trump nevertheless proceeds to fire Sessions and then order Justice Department officials to fire Mueller (or fire them if they won’t), Republicans will have no remedy at their disposal other than impeachment; they may very well choose not to use it, but then we have the makings of a constitutional crisis on our hands.

And the religious right, which intones “Judge Gorsuch, Judge Gorsuch!” when confronted with the series of Trump abominations, should do some soul-searching. Was this trashing of the White House, assault on civil language and conduct and contempt for the Constitution (the one the religious right thinks is so important that the new Supreme Court justice must protect it) worth it? And if it gets worse, is there any point at which the religious might put country above tribe, morality above partisanship? No, I don’t think it will do so ever.

Pema Levy reports that The Justice Department’s New Civil Rights Chief Has Defended States Accused of Racial Gerrymandering:

There’s a new boss at the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, the office at the center of politically fraught battles over enforcement of the nation’s civil rights laws, including laws that protect the right to vote. John Gore, a Republican attorney who has represented states accused of racial gerrymandering and Florida’s governor in a voter purge case, will take over the division until a permanent replacement is confirmed by the Senate, according to an NPR report Friday.

In private practice, Gore developed an expertise in redistricting cases, defending states against charges of racial gerrymandering. There are currently major cases before the courts across the country over whether states illegally used race to draw legislative districts. This fall, the Supreme Court will hear a case on the question of whether the Constitution puts a limit on political gerrymandering as well.

Gore, who joined the division in January as deputy assistant attorney general, has already played a key role in the administration’s activity on voting rights cases. According to ProPublica, Gore drafted a brief in the case over Texas’ voter ID law that announced the Trump administration’s withdrawal of key discrimination claims against the state. Several career attorneys refused to sign it.

Philip Bump contends that The White House isn’t at war with leaks. It’s at war with basic transparency:

Trump has bashed “leakers” on his official communications channel (i.e., Twitter) dozens of times since taking office, using the term broadly to refer to anyone releasing information that he’s not happy about. That’s how Scaramucci used it, too. Trump, like Scaramucci, has also used the threat of access to federal prosecution as a means of impugning critics. Trump suggested that former FBI director James B. Comey violated the law by giving a memo to a friend to give to the press, though there’s no indication that doing so was illegal. To keep people in line, Trump’s team looks for the biggest cudgel available; as president, that’s the Justice Department.

What Trump wants isn’t solely an end to unauthorized information dripping out the White House windows (though he certainly wants that). He wants, more broadly, for no negative information about him or anyone he likes to be released at all, regardless of past practice and expectations. His frustration with the media isn’t really that the media makes things up, it’s that the media has the gall to tell the truth. He loves “Fox and Friends” (praising it yet again on Twitter on Thursday morning) and he loves Sean Hannity because neither has shown any interest in critical, objective coverage of his presidency. That’s the sort of information-sharing Trump supports.

President Trump and his core allies want you to know only what President Trump wants you to know. Everything else is leaks or “fake news.” Or, somehow, both.

Bill Buzenberg writes that Russia Is Continuing Its Cyberattack on America Right Now:

President Donald Trump trashed the Russia investigation once again last week at a rally in West Virginia, saying that “there were no Russians in our campaign” and denouncing “a total fabrication” to enthralled supporters. “Have you seen any Russians in West Virginia or Ohio or Pennsylvania?” he asked mockingly. “Are there any Russians here tonight? Any Russians?”

There may well have been, for anyone in the crowd scrolling through a smartphone.

As Trump spoke, Russian-linked social-media networks were busy attacking Trump’s national security adviser, Gen. H.R. McMaster, using the same type of digital operations that the Kremlin deployed against the 2016 presidential election. Russian-linked Twitter accounts had for days been piling onto a growing campaign by the so-called alt-right to purge Trump’s national security adviser—who is viewed by some of the president’s base as a “globalist tool” and a threat to their hardline nationalist agenda. Meanwhile, recent content from Russian state media RT and Sputnik has included stories such as “What’s Behind Trump’s Striking Back at Washington’s ‘Russophobes’”—a piece that went on at length about McMaster “falling out of favor with Trump.”

August will be A Big Month for Astronomy: