Considering Janesville: An American Story (Part 13 of 14)

This is the thirteenth in a series of posts considering Amy Goldstein’s Janesville: An American Story. In this post, I’ll cover one chapter of Part Six (2013) of Janesville (Chapter 54, A Glass More Than Half Full).

Goldstein’s 54th chapter describes a 2013 dinner of Forward Janesville (a local “business alliance hell-bent on reviving the city’s economy”). Someone at Forward Janesville, it turns out, must have read Sinclair Lewis’s Babbitt and thought he or she were reading scripture, so sure do they seem to be in their boosterism:

Each table is covered with a heavy sand-colored tablecloth, and at each place setting is prime rib with hollandaise and, as a party favor, a clear tumbler with green printing that says, “We See the Glass More than Half Full.”

While some in town scoffed at the slogan that [banker] Mary [Willmer] came up with early in Janesville’s economic crisis—that everyone needs to become ambassadors of optimism—Forward Janesville embraced it. Exuding optimism has become central to Forward Janesville’s credo and its strategy. The organization now has a cadre of volunteer “good-will ambassadors,” who attend ribbon cuttings and visit every Forward Janesville member at work at least once a year.

John Beckord, leader of Forward Janesville, shows a video during the dinner, so very precious that it’s delightful:

To begin this evening’s program, before Paul [Ryan] speaks, John Beckord, Forward Janesville’s president, takes the stage and introduces a video. The video was made for this occasion, and its purpose is to deride what John calls “um, a pervasive, negative attitude in the community, especially anonymous online commentators.”

“The Crabby Bloggers” is the video’s title. It juxtaposes upbeat statistics about Janesville’s economy with a cartoon that features furious typing and grumbling by blogging nay-sayers. It celebrates “a resurgence in employment opportunities,” showing that 1,924 jobs have been created in Rock County by forty-one companies since the start of 2010.

Goldstein quickly sets the record straight: “neither the video nor John mentions that the county still has 4,500 fewer jobs than when GM announced it was closing the plant. And when the video highlights the opening this month of the Janesville Innovation Center, built with a federal grant and city money to provide office and manufacturing space to nurture start-ups, it gives no hint of the scant interest so far among fledgling companies in renting space in the center.”

Imagine someone so dense that he would think that the video would be persuasive to anyone not already committed; indeed, imagine those already committed who would be so dense to remain committed after seeing the video.

Voltaire is credited with once contending that he prayed to God that his enemies should be ridiculous, and God granted the request. (“I always made one prayer to God, a very short one. Here it is: ‘O Lord, make our enemies quite ridiculous!’ God granted it.”)

(I’d not describe Beckord as the enemy of bloggers or blogging, but one sees the point. Beckord’s just perfect for the role of not-quite-up-to-it adversary. It’s almost as though a blogger in Janesville secretly picked Forward Janesville’s president for the role.)

Goldstein explains:

If John and the “Crabby Bloggers” video and Mary herself attest to certain headway in Janesville since the depths of the Great Recession, they attest to something else, too: an optimism gap that divides these crusaders for economic development with the experiences of many other people in town….

And here is another glimpse at the gap between Mary and her fellow optimists versus the rest of town: a survey has shown that nearly six in ten people think that Rock County will never again be a place in which workers feel secure in their jobs, or in which good jobs at good pay are available for people who want to work. Most of the rest think that returning to such a place will take many years. Just one in fifty believes that Rock County has returned to the job security—or to the good jobs at good pay—that it used to provide.

Overall, just over half say that their household’s financial situation is worse than when the recession began. Yet among people who lost a job—or live with someone who did—nearly three fourths now say that they are worse off.

As it turns out, even the matter-of-fact style Goldstein uses to great effect seems polemical when the truth is so plain:

Tonight, the job losers and the pay losers are not in the banquet room, tucking into tulip glasses of strawberry and chocolate mousse for dessert as Mary is onstage, saying that, since the dark, stunning days right after the plant closed, sales tax receipts have been rising and industrial vacancy rates falling. The progress this community has made, she says, is phenomenal….

Previously: Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 78, 9, 10 11, and 12.

Tomorrow: Considering Janesville: An American Story (Part 14 of 14).

Daily Bread for 5.15.17

Good morning.

Monday in Whitewater will be fair in the morning with an even chance of afternoon thunderstorms, and a high of eighty-one. Sunrise is 5:30 AM and sunset 8:11 PM, for 14h 40m 54s of daytime. The moon is a waning gibbous with 82% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the one hundred eighty-eighth day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

Whitewater’s Library Board meets tonight at 6:30 PM.

On this day in 1930, Ellen Church becomes the first female flight attendant, when “she embark[s] on a Boeing 80A for a 20-hour flight from Oakland/San Francisco to Chicago with 13 stops and 14 passengers. According to one source, the pilot was another aviation pioneer, Elrey Borge Jeppesen.”  On this day in 1911, Janesville, WI proposes “ordinances banning fortune tellers and prohibiting breweries from operating bars in the city. ”

Recommended for reading in full — 

Greg Miller observes that Political chaos in Washington is a return on investment for Moscow:

…the Kremlin has collected a different return on its effort to help elect Trump in last year’s election: chaos in Washington.

The president’s decision to fire FBI Director James B. Comey last week was the latest destabilizing jolt to a core institution of the U.S. government. The nation’s top law enforcement agency joined a list of entities that Trump has targeted, including federal judges, U.S. spy services, news organizations and military alliances.

The instability, although driven by Trump, has in some ways extended and amplified the effect Russia sought to achieve with its unprecedented campaign to undermine the 2016 presidential race.

In a declassified report released this year, U.S. spy agencies described destabilization as one of Russian President Vladi­mir Putin’s objectives.

“The Kremlin sought to advance its longstanding desire to undermine the U.S.-led liberal democratic order,” it said.

Thomas Erdbrink reports that Iranians See Little Hope Elections Will Alleviate Economic Strain:

TEHRAN — As a college student studying mechanics, Hamidreza Faraji had expected after graduation to land a steady job with a fixed salary, a pension plan and the occasional bonus. He envisioned coming home at 6 p.m. to his family and vacationing at a resort on the Caspian Sea.

But Mr. Faraji, 34, has long since given up on all that. These days, he said, the only people who lead such predictable lives are government employees. Their jobs are well paid and offer security, but are hard to get in part because older employees stay on well past retirement age, limiting opportunities for the next generation.

So millions of Iranians, particularly younger ones, find themselves caught like Mr. Faraji in a vicious cycle of hidden poverty, an exhausting hustle to stay afloat, working multiple jobs and running moneymaking schemes just to keep up. The youth unemployment rate is 30 percent.

Anna Fifield reports that Experts fear North Korea getting closer to developing intercontinental ballistic missile:

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un celebrated a test of the “perfect weapon system” ­after his engineers launched what they said was a new kind of intermediate-range ballistic missile system capable of carrying “a large-size heavy nuclear warhead.”

The missile, launched Sunday morning, appeared to show substantial progress toward developing an intercontinental ballistic missile that can reach the mainland United States, U.S. rocket scientists said.

“North Korea’s latest successful missile test represents a level of performance never before seen from a North Korean missile,” said John Schilling, an aerospace engineer who specializes in rockets. This means North Korea might be only one year, rather than the expected five, from having an ICBM, he said.

Laura Vozzella reports that White nationalist Richard Spencer leads torch-bearing protesters defending Lee statue:

“What brings us together is that we are white, we are a people, we will not be replaced,” Spencer said at an afternoon protest, the first of two rallies he led in the town where he once attended the University of Virginia.

At the second rally, dozens of torch-bearing protesters gathered in a city park Saturday evening and chanted “You will not replace us” and “Russia is our friend,” local television footage shows. Spencer was not shown addressing that gathering, but he tweeted a photo of himself standing in the crowd carrying what appeared to be a bamboo tiki torch.

The evening protest was short-lived. About 10 minutes in, an altercation between Spencer’s group and counterprotesters drew police to the scene, and the crowd quickly dispersed, the Charlottesville Daily Progress reported.

Sometimes beekeepers make serious mistakes, and when they do, Honey bees attack!:

Considering Janesville: An American Story (Part 12 of 14)

This is the twelfth in a series of posts considering Amy Goldstein’s Janesville: An American Story. In this post, I’ll cover one chapter of Part Six (2013) of Janesville (Chapter 50, Two Janesvilles).

Amy Goldstein is not, by style of writing, a polemicist (something that might be said, for example, of a blogger). Yet, for it all, she knows how, by contrasts within a chapter, to make devastating point.

Goldstein does so in Chapter 50. In 2013, banker Mary Willmer is doing quite nicely, thank you very much:

In one Janesville, Mary Willmer is in a whirlwind. She is in good spirits. The initial work of converting her corner of M&I bank into BMO Harris is starting to ease, even as her responsibilities at the bank are about to expand. Next month, she will become BMO Harris’s manager in charge of developing teams of “premier bankers” and financial advisors through a swath of Wisconsin that stretches nearly two hundred miles from Green Bay down through Madison and Janesville and into Beloit. Premier banking is offered to BMO Harris customers “in the mass affluent sector,” with savings in the range of $250,000 to $1 million.

Goldstein tells us that Mary’s also personally preoccupied:

Mary’s life is evolving. She is falling in love. Her long marriage to a mortgage banker has ended, and she has just met a new guy, an architect in Madison. She recently was asking her Facebook friends to recommend their favorite all-inclusive resorts for a January trip to Mexico, and they are planning a week in California’s Napa Valley later in the year. “Couldn’t be happier,” Mary posts on Facebook the day that she helps her youngest, Connor, celebrate his eighteenth birthday—and that she books the wine country trip.

Meanwhile, to help support their family, the high-school-aged Whiteaker girls are taking online high-school classes so that they will have more time to work:

For making car payments or helping out with families’ bills, Virtual Academy has a benefit: Its students are exempt from Wisconsin’s limits on how many hours teenagers are allowed to work. The online courses available seven days a week, day or night, its students are trusted to get their studies done on their own schedule and work as much as they want. This has become the main draw. Alyssa figured that maybe she can bump up the hours at one of her three jobs—the one at the same car dealer as her mom—from fifteen hours a week to twenty-four, if she can go in at 1 p.m. a couple of weekdays.

So, earlier this month, she took a test to assess whether she would be a good fit for Virtual Academy. The results showed that she is self-motivated, efficient at time management, hardworking, optimistic. Quite a good fit. So at 8:30 a.m. on Thursday, January 24, mere hours before Mary will introduce Forward Janesville’s 2013 lifetime achievement winner, Alyssa is not at Parker. She is sitting on the living room couch at home, with a black ASUS laptop that she bought herself….

(In Goldstein’s Epilogue, one learns that Mary has literally moved away, if not entirely having moved on: “Mary Willmer continues to work at BMO Harris Bank. She has remarried and moved to a Madison suburb. She remains involved in Rock County 5.0 and other volunteer activities, including the YWCA’s Circle of Women fundraiser…”)

Previously: Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 78, 9, 10 and 11.

Tomorrow: Considering Janesville: An American Story (Part 13 of 14).

Daily Bread for 5.14.17

Good morning.

Mother’s Day in Whitewater will be sunny with a high of seventy-four. Sunrise is 5:31 AM and sunset 8:10 PM, for 14h 38m 51s of daytime. The moon is a waning gibbous with 89% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the one hundred eighty-seventh day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

On this day in 1796, English physician and scientist Edward Jenner successfully tests a smallpox vaccine. On this day in 1953, Milwaukee brewery workers begin a ten-week strike.

Recommended for reading in full — 

Philip Rucker observes that White House ‘systems failed’ with Comey firing, but Trump pushed the buttons:

In deciding to abruptly fire FBI Director James B. Comey, President Trump characteristically let himself be guided by his own instincts — fueled by his creeping anger and sense of victimhood about a probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 election that he considers a “witch hunt.”

The aftermath is a presidency rocked by its most serious self-inflicted crisis yet, exposing dysfunction and distrust within his West Wing and imperiling his agenda. The momentum for the health-care bill that passed the House is gone, and a week scheduled to be devoted to Trump’s preparations for a high-stakes foreign trip was overtaken by distractions and fury…

Conservative Max Boot wonders When Will Republicans Stand Up to Trump?:

If the controversy over the firing of James Comey, the F.B.I. director, has done anything, it has confirmed my decision on Nov. 9 to leave the Republican Party after a lifetime as a loyal member.

The Republican Party was once the party of small government, free trade, traditional values, principled foreign policy leadership and, most important of all, adherence to the Constitution. Republicans spent decades fulminating against activist judges like Earl Warren and activist politicians like Barack Obama, claiming they were undermining the founders’ vision of limited government.

And then, the party sold its soul to the soulless charlatan who now occupies the Oval Office and makes a mockery of every one of the party’s principles…

(I’d answer Boot by contending that they won’t stand up to him, or abandon him, regardless of what he does.)

James Fallows gives Five Reasons the Comey Affair Is Worse Than Watergate (“A journalist who covered Nixon’s fall 45 years ago explains why the current challenge to America may be more severe—and the democratic system less capable of handling it.):

So I’ve been thinking about comparisons between Watergate and the murky, fast-changing Comey-Russia-Flynn-Trump affair. As with anything involving Donald Trump, we have no idea where this will lead, what is “true,” and when the next bombshell will go off.

But based simply on what is known so far, this scandal looks worse than Watergate. Worse for and about the president. Worse for the overall national interest. Worse in what it suggests about the American democratic system’s ability to defend itself. Here is a summary of some reasons why….

Karin Bruillard writes of the path From death row to adoption: Saving animals by car, van, bus and even plane:

SAN FERNANDO, Calif. — May was supposed to be dead by now. The charcoal-and-white pit bull mix had languished for more than two months at a high-kill animal shelter in east Los Angeles County, and though she’d passed one “temperament test” required for adoption, she failed a second. That essentially put her on death row at the facility.

But a small rescue group got to May first and reserved her a spot on a school bus that would take her 840 miles north to Eugene, Ore.; there, another rescue had pledged to find her a home. And so on a sunny Saturday morning, she bounded up the steps of the red bus and quickly settled into a large crate near the back.

She had plenty of company as the wheels rolled along the highway: 105 other dogs and cats collected from crowded shelters in California and destined for the Pacific Northwest, where euthanasia rates are lower and pets are in greater demand…

Tech Insider shows how astronauts carry out simple, every day tasks in space:

Daily Bread for 5.13.17

Good morning.

Saturday in Whitewater will be cloudy with a high of seventy-eight. Sunrise is 5:32 AM and sunset 8:09 PM, for 14h 36m 46s of daytime. The moon is a waning gibbous with 94% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the one hundred eighty-sixth day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

Quick note: the next post in my Janesville series will be Sunday, May 14th (post 12 in the series).

On this day in 1918, the Lusk murder trial begins: “On this day Grace Lusk, a Waukesha high school teacher, began her trial for the murder of Mary Roberts. Prosecutors alleged a tragic love triangle had resulted in the murder after Lusk’s pleas for Roberts to give up her husband were rebuffed. The trial, a national sensation in the early days of mass media, resulted in a guilty verdict on May 29, 1918. Lusk was sentenced to 19 years in prison but served only five before being pardoned by the Governor. After her release she jealously guarded her privacy; the identity of her husband, known only as “Mr. Brown,” was never determined. [Source: Capital Times 5/13/1918, p.1]”

Recommended for reading in full —

Benjamin Mullins reports that Mother Jones is raising $500,000 to go after the Trump-Russia story:

To raise money for the project, which Mother Jones is calling “Trumpocracy: The Russia Connection,” the bimonthly magazine is trying to sign up at least 1,000 new sustaining donors at $15 per month. They’ve already lined up a $200,000 grant from The Glaser Progress Foundation, and the foundation is set to kick in an additional $50,000 once they reach their goal.

Mother Jones will use the money to hire fact-checkers, editors, researchers and staffers who will conduct legal reviews, said Monika Bauerlein, Mother Jones’ CEO. They’ve already lined up one investigative reporting heavy hitter for the team: Bill Buzenberg, the former executive director of the Center for Public Integrity, who will be writing a weekly newsletter on the story.

Mother Jones has been on this story since before the election. In October, Mother Jones Washington Bureau Chief David Corn reported that a veteran spy had given the FBI information alleging a Russian operation to compromise Donald Trump. That story has since been matched by CNN, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and other outlets, Bauerlein said, and ballooned into a storyline that touches nearly every corner of D.C. politics.

(A description of their project is available online @ Now It’s About Much More Than Trump and Russia. Disclosure: I’m a donor to the project. One can make a one-time contribution or monthly contributions. Private investigative efforts will assure that significant questions are explored. Mother Jones, by the way, is named for Mary Harris “Mother” Jones.)

David A. Graham observes that If There Are White House Recordings, They Could Be Subpoenaed:

Maybe there are recordings from the Trump White House; maybe there aren’t. On the one hand, President Trump seemed to threaten the former FBI director in a tweet Friday morning, writing, “James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!” Later on Friday, Press Secretary Sean Spicer repeatedly refused to comment on the tweet and whether or not tapes exist….

The first important fact about recordings is that if they did exist, post-Nixon, an administration would be required to preserve them as a public record, in accordance with the 1978 Presidential Records Act. The recordings would theoretically become subject to Freedom of Information requests five years after a president left office, though that can be staved off to as much as 12 years. The entire recordings wouldn’t necessarily become available, because there are carve-outs for personal information about the president’s life, as well as “political” activities. If recordings did exist, it would be a crime to destroy them.

(It’s worth noting, relatedly, that Trump has a long history of secretly recording calls, according to former associates.)

Peter Whoriskey writes that The labels said ‘organic.’ But these massive imports of corn and soybeans weren’t:

A shipment of 36 million pounds of soybeans sailed late last year from Ukraine to Turkey to California. Along the way, it underwent a remarkable transformation.

The cargo began as ordinary soybeans, according to documents obtained by The Washington Post. Like ordinary soybeans, they were fumigated with a pesticide. They were priced like ordinary soybeans, too.

But by the time the 600-foot cargo ship carrying them to Stockton, Calif., arrived in December, the soybeans had been labeled “organic,” according to receipts, invoices and other shipping records. That switch — the addition of the “USDA Organic” designation — boosted their value by approximately $4 million, creating a windfall for at least one company in the supply chain.

Jim Robbins reports that a Rare White Wolf Killed in Yellowstone Park Was Shot Illegally:

             Photo: Courtesy of Yellowstone National Park

A rare white female wolf that hikers found as she lay dying last month on the north side of Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming was shot illegally, officials have determined.

The wolf had to be euthanized by park officials because of the severity of her wound.

She was the only white wolf living in the park, though there had been two others before her. She was 12 years old when she was killed, twice the average age of wolves in Yellowstone.

Great Big Story tells of Barn Owls: The Secret Saviors of Napa Valley’s Vineyards:

Barn Owls: The Secret Saviors of Napa Valley’s Vineyards from Great Big Story on Vimeo.

Friday Catblogging: Google Photos Makes Movies from People’s Cat Photos

Hilary Hanson writes that Google Is Surreptitiously Making Amazing Movies From People’s Cat Photos:

If you use Google Photos, you’ve probably experienced the app’s “assistant” feature taking the liberty of creating suggested collages, stories or mini-movies out of your pictures.

If you’re like most people, you usually ignore these suggestions.

If you’re a cat lover, however, you may be getting a suggestion soon that you definitely won’t want to ignore. That’s because Google may be making you a “Meow Movie.”

“I got a notification on my phone last night,” writer Courtney Gillette told HuffPost in an email. “It was from my Google Photos app, and it said, ‘Your Meow Movie is ready.’” The notification included a happy cat face emoji, she said.

Daily Bread for 5.12.17

Good morning.

Friday in Whitewater will be partly cloudy, with a high of sixty-nine. Sunrise is 5:33 AM and sunset 8:08 PM, for 14h 34m 38s of daytime. The moon is a waning gibbous with 98% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the one hundred eighty-fifth day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

Florence Nightingale, English social reformer and statistician, and the founder of modern nursing, is born this day in 1820. On this day in 1864, the 2nd, 5th, 6th and 7th Wisconsin Infantry regiments fight during the  Spotsylvania Campaign (May 8-21,1864); the 36th Infantry fights at Spotsylvania from May 18-21,1864 (“The fiercest fighting in the Battle of Spotsylvania occurred in pouring rain on May 12, 1864. For 23 hours the two sides fought hand-to-hand along lines known as the Bloody Angle. When the battle ended, the trenches were filled with bodies. Colonel Rufus Dawes of the 6th Wisconsin Infantry left a vivid memoir of this day’s fighting.”)

Recommended for reading in full —

Rick Rommel reports that Retail just keeps getting tougher, as Kohl’s, Macy’s show:

The department store blues continued Thursday, with investors punishing Kohl’s, Macy’s and their competitors amid yet another round of downbeat financial results.

Even with a nearly four-fold increase in first-quarter profit that easily bested Wall Street expectations, Kohl’s stock shares fell 7.8%.

Compared with some, that was a good day. Macy’s stock plunged 17%. The stock of Dillard’s, a 293-store chain based in Little Rock, Ark., dropped 17.5%.

One reason: Ongoing erosion in sales at existing stores, a key measure of retailer health.

Same-store sales fell 2.7% at Kohl’s, 5.2% at Macy’s and 4% at Dillard’s.

It was further evidence of the continuing troubles of mainline department store retailers, which have suffered as discounters and internet giant Amazon thrive.

Rebecca Ruiz reports that the Attorney General Orders Tougher Sentences, Rolling Back Obama Policy:

WASHINGTON — Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered federal prosecutors late Thursday to pursue the toughest possible charges and sentences against crime suspects, reversing Obama administration efforts to ease penalties for some nonviolent drug violations.

The dramatic shift in criminal justice policy, foreshadowed during recent weeks, is Mr. Sessions’s first major stamp on the Justice Department, and it telegraphs his priorities to target drug dealing, gun crime and gang violence. The Justice Department released the new directives on Friday.

In an eight-paragraph memo to the nation’s prosecutors, Mr. Sessions returned to the guidance of President George W. Bush’s administration by calling for more uniform punishments — including mandatory minimum sentences — and directing prosecutors to pursue the strictest possible charges. Mr. Sessions’s policy, however, is broader than that of the Bush administration, and will be more reliant on the judgments of United States attorneys and assistant attorneys general.

(No drug warrior like an old drug warrior.)

Matt Zapotosky and Karoun Demirjian write that the Acting FBI director contradicts Trump White House on Comey, Russia probe:

Acting FBI director Andrew McCabe on Thursday rejected the Trump White House’s characterization of the Russian meddling probe as a low priority and delivered a passionate defense of former director James B. Comey — putting himself squarely at odds with the president while the bureau’s future hangs in the balance.

McCabe, who had been the No. 2 official in the FBI until President Trump fired Comey this week, said that the bureau considered the probe of possible coordination between the Kremlin and the Trump team during the 2016 election campaign a “highly significant investigation” and that it would not be derailed because of a change in leadership.

“You cannot stop the men and women of the FBI from doing the right thing, protecting the American people and upholding the Constitution,” McCabe said.

(One will have to wait – and it may not be a long wait – to see if McCabe keeps his job.)

Michael Schmidt reports that In a Private Dinner, Trump Demanded Loyalty. Comey Demurred:

As they ate, the president and Mr. Comey made small talk about the election and the crowd sizes at Mr. Trump’s rallies. The president then turned the conversation to whether Mr. Comey would pledge his loyalty to him.

Mr. Comey declined to make that pledge. Instead, Mr. Comey has recounted to others, he told Mr. Trump that he would always be honest with him, but that he was not “reliable” in the conventional political sense….

Mr. Comey described details of his refusal to pledge his loyalty to Mr. Trump to several people close to him on the condition that they not discuss it publicly while he was F.B.I. director. But now that Mr. Comey has been fired, they felt free to discuss it on the condition of anonymity.

(Trump’s expectation of loyalty, seen in this account but in others, too, is more like that of a third-world autocrat or mafia boss.)

In Orange County, the sheriff’s department found itself with the task of telling swimmers that there were about fifteen great white sharks nearby. The announcement comes at about 3:50 on the video:

Considering Janesville: An American Story (Part 11 of 14)

This is the eleventh in a series of posts considering Amy Goldstein’s Janesville: An American Story. In this post, I’ll cover one chapter of Part Five (2012) of Janesville (Chapter 47, First Vote).

Amy Goldstein’s chapter about the November 2012 presidential election is a study in contrasts, between the polling-place experiences of first-time voter and vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan. Goldstein’s subtle, but makes her point.

Kayzia Whiteaker (and with her sister) casts her first vote:

But before their school day begins, they first meet a mile from their house at Madison Elementary School. This is their neighborhood’s polling place….

When they arrive at 8 a.m., Madison has a line out the door—a big turnout, because of the presidential election. They get in the line. When they finally are handed ballots to fill out with black markers, they vote for the reelection of President Obama and for every other Democrat on the list, none of whom they have ever heard of before, including a Democrat named Rob Zerban from Kenosha who is challenging Paul Ryan for his seat in Congress.

After filling out their paper ballots, Kayzia is nervous about whether they are feeding them into the machine the right way for their votes to be counted. They manage to get the thick paper fed properly. It is a big moment on the day that they come of age. Alyssa remembers that their parents have taught them that people can’t complain about any outcome if they haven’t done their part. They have now done their part. Kayzia updates her Facebook page: “Only took a half-hour to vote today. A great way to start this chapter of my life!”

Paul Ryan arrives at his polling place a bit later:

a caravan of shiny black SUVs pulls up to the curb alongside Hedberg Public Library on Main Street. Secret Service officers emerge and scout the sidewalk. And then, from the third of the SUVs, Paul Ryan hops out in a dark suit and pale silver tie and helps his three kids step down to the ground. Paul, with Janna and the kids and the Secret Service in tow, shakes a few hands and greets reporters and camera crews waiting inside the library entrance.

This little entourage Paul is leading walks past the line of people waiting to vote that snakes through the library’s first floor. The entourage walks right up to the front, and the Secret Service hangs back a few yards, scanning the crowd for anything untoward, in the unlikely event that anything untoward would happen inside the public library in downtown Janesville, while Paul and Janna give their names to poll workers and are handed their ballots.

I’m sure I’ll long remember Goldstein’s contrasting descriptions.

Previously: Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 78, 9, and 10.

[Corrected] Next on Sunday: Considering Janesville: An American Story (Part 12 of 14).

Daily Bread for 5.11.17

Good morning.

Thursday in Whitewater will be partly cloudy with a high of sixty-eight. Sunrise is 5:34 AM and sunset 8:07 PM, for 14h 32m 27s of daytime. The moon is full with 99.6% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the one hundred eighty-fourth day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

On this day in 1888, composer and lyricist Irving Berlin is born. On this day in 1955, the NBA approves the transfer of the Milwaukee Hawks to St. Louis.

Recommended for reading in full —

Jeremy Venook reminds readers that Trump’s Been Talking About His Business Interests in Russia for 30 Years: “Trump’s desire to move on from the Russia investigation, which has plagued his administration in its early days, is understandable. Unfortunately for the president, one big obstacle to doing so will likely be his own words: He has spent decades pursuing—and publicly discussing—business ties in Russia, meaning that his claims to currently have “no connections to” the country strain credulity.

Trump’s references to Russia go back at least as far as his 1987 book The Art of the Deal, in which he wrote that he was in talks with the Soviet ambassador Yuri Dubinin “about building a large luxury hotel across the street from the Kremlin in partnership with the Soviet government.” He attempted, ultimately unsuccessfully, to seal the deal with a visit to Moscow, during which, according to The Washington Post, Trump “met with a lot of economic and financial advisers in the Politburo,” the Soviet Union’s chief political body….”

Julian Sanchez runs through Some Obvious Thoughts about the Comey Firing: “We are asked to believe that the decision to fire the FBI director — so abruptly he learned about it from a cable news chyron while out of D.C. — was based on a dashed off memo, and a response from the Attorney General, both issued the same day. We are asked to believe that it was motivated by Comey’s breaches of FBI protocol: First, in publicly criticizing Hillary Clinton, rather than letting Attorney General Loretta Lynch announce the decision that the former Secretary would not be indicted, and then in informing Congress that he had (fruitlessly, as it turned out) reopened the investigation into her e-mails. These are breaches both Trump and Sessions praised effusively at the time, with Sessions even declaring that Comey had an “absolute duty” to act as he did. All of them, of course, were well known long before Trump took office and chose to retain Comey.

The most charitable thing one can say about this narrative is that it is not even intended as a serious attempt to advance a genuine rationale. It is an attempt to be cute. Having been directed to concoct a reason to eliminate Comey, the Attorney General ran with a slapdash pastiche of Democrats’ complaints. Anyone who’s been on a long car trip with a sibling knows this gag: “Stop hitting yourself! Stop hitting yourself!” The only people even pretending to take this explanation seriously are those paid for the indignity.”

Meg Jones writes that a Critically ill bonobo needed life-saving care from Children’s Hospital staff: “When [respiratory therapist Khris] O’Brien arrived at the zoo last November she learned Noelle, a 3-year-old bonobo was listless and appeared blue, which meant she was not getting enough oxygen. While it may seem odd to call Children’s Hospital staff to help with an ill primate, it actually made a lot of sense.

Because bonobos are very similar to humans, and treating a sick 3-year-old bonobo is not much different from treating a sick 3-year-old child. They’re just hairier.

“I have treated children for 35 years so it wasn’t that big of a stretch,” said O’Brien, respiratory clinical program coordinator at Children’s. “Honestly, when I saw this poor, sick, basically, child lying on the gurney, I went into ‘I’ve got to help her’ mode. That was my only thought.”

Bonobos share close to 98% of their genomes with humans. They’re extremely sensitive to human illnesses such as whooping cough, chicken pox, colds and influenza, which is why the zoo’s troop of 23 bonobos get flu shots every year. In fact, they get the exact same flu shot as humans.”

Lee Bergquist reports that Disease takes ‘catastrophic’ toll on Wisconsin bats: “White-nose syndrome was first discovered at a single site in Grant County in southwestern Wisconsin in 2014 and has now spread to 14 counties, according to the DNR.

Wisconsin has one of the largest hibernating bat populations in the Midwest. Two years ago, DNR officials estimated the population at 350,000 to 500,000 bats. In the spring, many migrate to neighboring states.

The disease has major repercussions for agriculture because bats pollinate, disperse seeds and consume massive volumes of insects.

According to the DNR, researchers have estimated that Wisconsin farmers save $600 million to $1.5 billion on pesticides annually because of bats.”

Now one can explore the ocean in this personal submarine:

Considering Janesville: An American Story (Part 10 of 14)

This is the tenth in a series of posts considering Amy Goldstein’s Janesville: An American Story. In this post, I’ll cover one chapter of Part Five (2012) of Janesville.

Goldstein writes of the broader events of 2012 (the Recall election, Ryan running for vice president) and others that are more intensely individual (a graduate of a retraining program takes her own life following a personal controversy). Of the year, though, Janesville’s desire to attract a high-tech venture stands out for its lingering uncertainty (as it’s still not established): Chapter 37’s SHINE.

SHINE Medical Technologies is a start-up company in Madison that has devised a novel method for producing a medical isotope from uranium. The isotope in question is needed in hospitals for stress tests to detect heart disease, bone scans to detect cancer metastases, and twenty-eight other diagnostic imaging purposes. The global supply of this isotope, molybdenum-99, is running low, and SHINE is one of four companies that have received $25 million, early-phase matching grants from the U.S. Department of Energy to try to develop commercially viable manufacturing methods to keep enough Moly-99 (or Mo-99), as it is known for short…

But there are challenges with SHINE, that the head of the Job Center (whose insight seems doubtful elsewhere) sees:

SHINE would not bring many jobs. [CEO] Piefer has been saying that he’d need 125 employees—a tiny fraction of the jobs that went away. And the soonest those jobs would arrive is three years from now, and it could be later, unless all goes smoothly with investment capital and the federal reviews. And whenever he’s been asked, Piefer has side-stepped the question of how many of those jobs could be filled by people from Janesville, instead of people from elsewhere with greater scientific expertise. “What are the skills he is looking for?” Bob Borremans, over at the Job Center, has been wondering. And if SHINE is going to need to import people with master’s degrees and doctorates in nuclear engineering, Bob wonders, too, what makes Piefer so confident that he can attract those people to what has essentially been a blue-collar town?

Two members of the Janesville City Council speak on opposite sides of funding SHINE (with $9 million at stake from Janesville):

One speech is by Russ Steeber, who, in addition to being the Council’s president, works as a captain in the Janesville Sheriff’s Department. Russ begins with the very words that Mary often uses. A game changer is what SHINE will be. His argument unfolds: “The city of Janesville, for almost 100 years, produced automobiles. . . . Unfortunately, those days are done, and that stream has dried up. Although we can hope that that plant someday opens its doors again, the reality is, we have to redefine what the city of Janesville is. This is one of those opportunities that can really take and define where we are for the next century. . . . And I truly believe that sometimes, when you look at making a decision like this, you have to be bold. I understand that the money the city of Janesville is about to possibly expend can be fairly extensive, but we are looking beyond SHINE. . . . We are looking at other technical type jobs that could come in, other medical research that could come in. We are looking at developing a region for the future.”

…the opposing view comes from Yuri Rashkin. Yuri is the Council’s most colorful member—born in Moscow, emigrated with his parents as a teenager, and arrived in Janesville eight years ago. He is a musician, a Russian interpreter, and a talk radio host….Yuri takes his Council work seriously, and he has concluded that the cost of the SHINE opportunity is too steep, the gamble too big, and the opportunity for public input too slim. The core of Yuri’s soliloquy is a long metaphor: “I feel like we maybe are looking to cross a river that we really need to cross, because we need the economic development, and we have a great company with people I’ve been really impressed with, who are looking to build a bridge, and they got an awesome plan, because we really need to get across the river . . . but this material has never been used, and the bridge has never been built with this stuff.”

Goldstein describes the vote succinctly: “By the time the Council members vote, two hours and twenty-one minutes have passed….But four vote yes, one abstains, and Yuri alone votes against SHINE.”

SHINE won, but (even now) one can’t be sure about Janesville.

Previously: Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 78, 9.

Tomorrow: Considering Janesville: An American Story (Part 11 of 14).

Daily Bread for 5.10.17

Good morning.

Midweek in Whitewater will be mostly cloudy with a high of seventy-three. Sunrise is 5:36 AM and sunset 8:06 PM, for 14h 30m 16s of daytime. The moon is full today, with 99.9% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the one hundred eighty-third day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

On this day in 1933, Nazi-inspired students and others in Berlin burned 25,000 supposedly ‘un-German’ books (with other book burings take place thereafter). On this day in 1865, the 1st Wisconsin Cavalry was sent to search for Confederate President Jefferson Davis. Along with a Michigan unit, they captured the Confederate president in Irwinville, Georgia.

Recommended for reading (or re-reading) in full —

Jennifer Rubin asks key questions around The one thing we know for sure about Comey’s firing:

“If Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation, how and why did he make the recommendation to fire Comey?

Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein laid out a convincing case as to why Comey acted improperly and unfairly to Clinton last July. However, Trump thought Comey should have prosecuted her, so why would Trump now object that Comey had been unfair to his nemesis?

How is Trump to select the person who will be investigating whether his campaign colluded with Russia during the campaign without invalidating the entire process?

When was the decision to fire Comey made: before or after this week’s testimony?

Will Comey be able to preserve evidence he collected so as to defuse suspicion this is a giant coverup?

Will Comey testify about the status of his investigation as of Tuesday?

….The only thing we can say with any confidence is that this will never be a “normal” presidency without controversy, scandal and a fair amount of mayhem.”

Sarah Kendzior, via sarahkendzior.com and @sarahkendziorfor her work on authoritarianism, both for a general audience (sarahkendzior.com/opinion) and for her academic publications (sarahkendzior.com/scholarly_publications).

Brendan Nyhan, via brendan-nyhan.comdartmouth.edu/~nyhanand @BrendanNyhan, for his work for a general audience (brendan-nyhan.com) and for his academic publications (dartmouth.edu/~nyhan/).

David Frum, How to Build an Autocracy.

Sometimes courage makes the difference, as when a Dog Chases a Large Bear:

Considering Janesville: An American Story (Part 9 of 14)

This is the ninth in a series of posts considering Amy Goldstein’s Janesville: An American Story. In this post, I’ll cover remaining chapters from Part Four (2011) of Janesville.

Part of this story is well-known to Wisconsinites: Gov. Walker introduces a Budget Repair Bill (since its enactment into law now-universally called Act 10 by Wisconsinites), Democratic senators leave the state to deny a quorum, Republicans pass the bill by changing it so that a smaller quorum (17 senators) is sufficient, Walker signing the legislation that the two chambers deliver to him.

Goldstein returns in this section of the book to the local program of job retraining. Mike Vaughn, having finished twenty-three courses at Blackhawk Technical College, with strong grades throughout, is justifiably proud, but surprised:

Two months ago, Mike began to apply for jobs. Dozens of jobs. He figured that his résumé might get noticed, with his near-perfect grades and his decade on the union side of human resources work, including five years as the shop chairman of an eight-hundred-person factory. He would get noticed, he figured, because of the contracts that he negotiated, the grievances he handled, the employee contract language he interpreted, the Kronos workforce management system that he already knows how to use. Union side or management side, he figured, the work is similar, and companies would surely notice that he had been doing it for years.

Mike is surprised that all he has gotten are rejection letters, when he has heard anything at all.

But Vaughn hears good news, fortunately and after all:

This pride-fear combination will linger inside Mike for precisely two more weeks. Two Wednesdays from now, he will go for an interview at Seneca Foods Corporation, a vegetable processing plant in Janesville that happens to have an entry-level position in its human resources department. That Friday, he will get a call to come in on Monday for a pre-employment physical. On Tuesday, he will be told that he can start work the next day. And so, on June 1, Mike will not be thinking much about the fact that he has to work the overnight shift, or that he will be dealing with workers and interpreting labor contract language from the corporate side and not the union side, or that he and Barb will, between them, be earning just over half the money they had made at Lear.

Mike will be thanking his lucky stars that, after twenty-eight months without a job, he is starting a new career.

Yet Mike’s luckier than many others:

Counterintuitive as it may seem, the out-of-a-job workers who went to Blackhawk are working less than the others. Nearly two thousand laid-off people in and around Janesville have studied at Blackhawk. Only about one in three has a steady job—getting at least some pay every season of the year—compared with about half the laid-off people who did not go back to school.

Besides, the people who went to Blackhawk are not earning as much money. Before the recession, their wages had been about the same as for other local workers. By this summer, the people who have found a new job without retraining are being paid, on average, about 8 percent less than they were paid before. But those who went to Blackhawk are being paid, on average, one third less than before.

At the Job Center, through which so much federal money has flowed in support of the job-training gospel, Bob Borremans has been noticing that not everyone who went to Blackhawk has emerged with a job with good pay. Or with a job. This is not what he expected. He has a mystery on his hands.

A student at Parker High, meanwhile, to her own surprise and relief, discovers the Parker Closet Closet:

When Mrs. Venuti unlocks the door, Kayzia can’t believe what she sees: shelves filled with jeans and shoes and school supplies, and open cabinets stocked with food and body washes and toothpastes. The Parker Closet. What amazes Kayzia is not just that this room exists. What amazes her most is the avalanche of a realization she is having that, if this room exists behind the door that Mrs. Venuti has unlocked for her, that must mean that other kids at Parker are from families whose situations are not the greatest either….

Previously: Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8.

Tomorrow: Considering Janesville: An American Story (Part 9 of 14).

Daily Bread for 5.9.17

Good morning.

Tuesday in Whitewater will be cloudy with a high of fifty-eight. Sunrise is 5:37 AM and sunset 8:05 PM, for 14h 28m 02s of daytime. The moon is a waxing gibbous with 98% of its visible disk illuminated.. Today is the one hundred eighty-second day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

On this day in 1950, the first sporting event is held at the Milwaukee Arena: “Rocky Graziano scored a fourth-round TKO over Vinnie Cidone in a middleweight fight that drew 12,813 fans. The new Milwaukee Arena actually opened on April 9, 1950, but with a civic celebration rather than a sports event.”

Recommended for reading in full —

Yamiche Alcindor and Charlie Savage write that Trump Walks Back Threat to Defund Black Colleges: “WASHINGTON — When President Trump signed a $1.1 trillion spending bill on Friday, he zeroed in on a tiny sliver of it, suggesting that he might disregard $20 million in funding for loan subsidies and other aid to historically black universities. Two nights later, after a storm of criticism, the White House walked back the threat in a statement that declared the president’s “unwavering support” for such schools. But the two days in between left some African-American educators feeling used, many black politicians enraged and some demanding that Mr. Trump back his “unwavering support” with a show of budgetary support. It also, once again, revealed a White House where one team does not necessarily know what another team is up to.”

(One might as easily say it reveals that Trump likes to threaten minorities.)

Eric Lipton and Jesse Drucker report that the Kushner Family Stands to Gain From Visa Rules in Trump’s First Major Law: “WASHINGTON — It was the first major piece of legislation that President Trump signed into law, and buried on Page 734 was one sentence that brought a potential benefit to the president’s extended family: renewal of a program offering permanent residence in the United States to affluent foreigners investing money in real estate projects here. Just hours after the appropriations measure was signed on Friday, the company run until January by Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and top adviser, Jared Kushner, was urging wealthy Chinese in Beijing to consider investing $500,000 each in a pair of Jersey City luxury apartment towers the family-owned Kushner Companies plans to build. Mr. Kushner was even cited at a marketing presentation by his sister Nicole Meyer, who was on her way to China even before the bill was signed. The project “means a lot to me and my entire family,” she told the prospective investors.”

Peter Elkind reports that Comey’s Testimony on Huma Abedin Forwarding Emails Was Inaccurate: “Perhaps Comey’s most surprising revelation was that Huma Abedin — Weiner’s wife and a top Clinton deputy — had made “a regular practice” of forwarding “hundreds and thousands” of Clinton messages to her husband, “some of which contain classified information.” Comey testified that Abedin had done this so that the disgraced former congressman could print them out for her boss. (Weiner’s laptop was seized after he came under criminal investigation for sex crimes, following a media report about his online relationship with a teenager.)….The problem: Much of what Comey said about this was inaccurate. Now the FBI is trying to figure out what to do about it. FBI officials have privately acknowledged that Comey misstated what Abedin did and what the FBI investigators found. On Monday, the FBI was said to be preparing to correct the record by sending a letter to Congress later this week. But that plan now appears on hold, with the bureau undecided about what to do.”

Greg Bluestein reports on A U.S. House record: Georgia’s 6th race costs $30M and counting: “There are so many ads in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District race that they are creating the news. Literally. The tidal wave of spending led a local television broadcaster, WXIA, to temporarily add a 7 p.m. newscast on its sister station. Fans of “The Andy Griffith Show” repeats will have to look elsewhere for the next few weeks. It’s only the latest way the barrage of outside cash and national attention has transformed the race to represent the suburban Atlanta district. Once thought to be a sleepy special election, it is now poised to be the most expensive U.S. House contest in the nation’s history.”

A mountain biker in Slovakia recently had an especially memorable ride after a bear showed up:

Considering Janesville: An American Story (Part 8 of 14)

This is the eighth in a series of posts considering Amy Goldstein’s Janesville: An American Story. In this post, I’ll cover one chapter from Part Four (2011) of Janesville (The Ambassador of Optimism). I’ll cover the chapter in detail because it’s so perfect in its account of boosterism, as though Sinclair Lewis’s protagonist George F. Babbitt overtook a Janesville resident and spoke through her.

Goldstein’s account of banker Mary Willmer (co-founder of Rock County 5.0) is utterly devastating. Willmer’s sure that sunny optimism will lift Janesville’s condition from that of a near-depression:

On the first Tuesday of the year, Mary Willmer is in a cheerful mood. This morning, the Gazette has published a guest column she has written in hope of setting the proper tone in Janesville for 2011. The column is featured in the upper right corner of the newspaper’s Opinion page. It reminds people of the efforts Rock County 5.0 has been making to lift the local economy, but the message is less about strategy than about state of mind. “We need to be proud of our community,” Mary has written, “and we need to all be ‘Ambassadors of Optimism.’?” This mantra about being an ambassador of optimism is an idea that Mary came up with during the early weeks of Rock County 5.0’s existence.

Willmer’s also excited about her new-found friend, rightwing billionaire Diane Hendricks:

Seeing her words in print is not the only reason that Mary is pleased. She got home late last night from downtown Madison, where she was because Diane Hendricks snagged her a ticket to the inaugural ball of a governor who is, Mary can see, as determined to set a new tone for Wisconsin as she is for Janesville.

Predictably, those in Janesville who are struggling feel they need more than an ‘ambasssador of optimism’:

The anger that rises against Mary is local. It rises because she has neglected to notice a basic fact: talking up a town to people who can still afford to go out to eat, to travelers checking into the Hampton Inn or the Holiday Inn Express, is not quite the same as telling everyone who reads the Gazette that the only thing they need to do for the economy to recover is to become an optimist. And telling them this near the start of a month during which Rock County’s unemployment rate, even two years after the assembly plant shut down, stands at 11.2 percent. Not the same at all.

(Astonishingly, and cluelessly, Willmer is “slow to sense the anger rising against her.”)

Meanwhile, Mary Willmer’s new pal takes a moment before a meeting to ask recently-inaugurated Gov. Walker a question:

Diane [Hendricks] asks, could they talk for two seconds about some concerns that are best not to raise in front of the group? “Okay, sure,” the governor says. Diane stands close and looks him straight in the eye. “Any chance we’ll ever get to be a completely red state and work on these unions and become a right-to-work? What can we do to help you?” “Oh yeah,” Walker replies. “Well, we’re going to start in a couple weeks with our budget adjustment bill. The first step is, we’re going to deal with collective bargaining for all public employee unions, because you use divide and conquer.” “You’re right on target,” Diane says, as Mary looks on.”

Goldstein saves the best for the end of the chapter: “Mary types on her BlackBerry a message that she posts on her Facebook page: “Great morning with Gov. Walker. We are so lucky to have him.”

It’s familiar: the insistence on optimism (the myopic role of boosters), the reliance on a local, poorly written but ever-so-obliging publication to carry water for the effort, and the search for a few well-placed pals to reassure that one has arrived….

Goldstein’s accounts in the chapter are, of course, all from 2011. They’re striking. Yesteryear’s mirage of arrival (for one never arrives) seems, from our later date, less arrogant than it is impossibly sad.

Previously: Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7.

Tomorrow: Considering Janesville: An American Story (Part 9 of 14).

Film: Tuesday, May 9th, 12:30 PM @ Seniors in the Park: La La Land

This Tuesday, May 9th at 12:30 PM, there will be a showing of La La Land @ Seniors in the Park, in the Starin community building.

La La Land (2016) is a romantic musical comedy-drama about a jazz musician and an aspiring actress who meet and fall in love in Los Angeles. Damien Chazelle directs the two hour, eight minute film, starring Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, and Rosemarie DeWitt. La La Land won six 2017 Academy Awards (Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role for Emma Stone, Best Achievement in Directing for Damien Chazelle, Best Achievement in Cinematography, Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures Original Score, Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures Original Song, and Best Achievement in Production Design). The film carries a PG-13 rating from the MPAA.

One can find more information about La La Land at the Internet Movie Database.

Enjoy.

Daily Bread for 5.8.17

Good morning.

Monday in Whitewater will be sunny with a high of sixty-two. Sunrise is 5:38 AM and sunset 8:04 PM, for 14h 25m 46s of daytime. The moon is a waxing gibbous with 95.1% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the one hundred eighty-first day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

Whitewater’s Planning Commission meets at 6:30 PM.

Harry S. Truman is born on this day in 1884. On this day in 1864, the 1st, 15th, 21st, 22nd, 24th and 26th Wisconsin Infantry regiments along with the 1st Wisconsin Cavalry take part in Battle of Rocky Face Ridge, Georgia.

Recommended for reading in full —

Cynthia Littleton reports that Sinclair Sets $3.9 Billion Deal to Acquire Tribune Media: “For Sinclair, the expansion with Tribune will increase its market clout in TV but it will also extend its geographic footprint in a way that is vital to the company’s vision of using the broadcast TV bandwidth of its stations to provide data services and interactivity on a scale designed to compete with wireless and digital media heavyweights. Sinclair chairman David Smith, son of company founder Julian Sinclair Smith, is known for his engineering acumen. He’s long had a vision of revamping the technical architecture of broadcast TV to make local stations more competitive. “Television broadcasting is even more relevant today, especially when it comes to serving our local communities,” Smith said. “Tribune’s stations allow Sinclair to strengthen our commitment to serving local communities and to advance the Next Generation Broadcast Platform.  This acquisition will be a turning point for Sinclair, allowing us to better serve our viewers and advertisers while creating value for our shareholders.”

Carolyn Y. Johnson reports that Free-standing ERs offer care without the wait. But patients can still pay $6,800 to treat a cut: “Across 32 states, more than 400 free-standing ERs provide quick and easy access to care. But they also are prompting complaints from a growing number of people who feel burned by ­hospital-size bills, like $6,856 for a cut that didn’t require a stitch or $4,025 for an antibiotic for a sinus infection. Emergency care requires costly imaging and laboratory equipment and facilities that are open 24 hours a day and staffed round the clock by a physician — and the costs reflect that. Prices for an average free-standing ER visit have grown and are now similar to hospital ERs, but patients with the same diagnosis rack up bills 10 times higher than at an urgent care, according to an analysis of one insurer’s Texas data by Rice University economist Vivian Ho. She found use of the facilities in Texas more than tripled between 2012 and 2015.”

Matt Apuzzo and Emmarie Huetteman report that today a Hearing May Shed Light on What White House Knew About Flynn: “WASHINGTON — Sally Q. Yates, the former acting attorney general, is scheduled to testify at 2:30 p.m. Monday before a Senate subcommittee. Here’s what to watch for:

Her testimony could raise new questions about how President Trump responded to concerns that his first national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, had lied.

Mr. Trump pre-empted the hearing with Twitter posts suggesting that Ms. Yates leaked information to reporters and that the Obama administration was to blame for the troubles surrounding Mr. Flynn.

Ms. Yates can tell a dramatic story — a rarity in congressional hearings — of a brewing crisis in the early days of the Trump administration.

Democrats who hope Ms. Yates will reveal new information about the investigation into Mr. Trump’s campaign and Russia are likely to be disappointed.

James R. Clapper Jr., the former director of national intelligence, is also testifying and is likely to be asked whether he stands by his prior statements on wiretapping.”

Krishnadev Calamur explains What Macron’s Victory in France Means for the European Union: “Three elections across Europe in the past week have given the European Union reasons for joy, optimism, schadenfreude—and also plenty of cause for worry. The joy came from Emmanuel Macron’s victory in Sunday’s second round presidential election in France. Although the independent centrist’s win was never really in doubt, the margin of victory—65 percent versus 35 percent for Marine Le Pen, the candidate of the far right—will buoy an EU that has been buffeted by waves of populism since the 2008 economic crisis, culminating last summer with Brexit, the U.K.’s stunning decision to leave the bloc. The EU establishment had all but publicly endorsed Macron over his rival, who had vowed a Brexit-style referendum should she win; nor did a hack late Friday of documents purportedly from Macron’s campaign—some genuine, others not—derail his campaign….”

Great Big Story looks at Spying on Wildlife With Animal Robots:

Spying on Wildlife With Animal Robots from Great Big Story on Vimeo.

How do you record the most intimate moments in the animal kingdom? If you’re a clever English bloke, you build lookalike “spy creatures.” Filmmaker John Downer has spent much of his life capturing footage of wildlife, but it wasn’t until he and his team created robotic animals with built-in spy cameras that he was able to record rare footage of animal behavior in the wild, essentially from the perspective of the animal. Step inside his workshop to see how his mechanical menagerie spies on nature’s actors.