Friday Catblogging: Eight cheetah cubs born at the Saint Louis Zoo

For the first time in Saint Louis Zoo history, a cheetah has given birth to eight cheetah cubs. The cubs, three males and five females, were born at the Saint Louis Zoo River’s Edge Cheetah Breeding Center on November 26, 2017. Mother and cubs are doing well and will remain in their private, indoor maternity den behind the scenes at River’s Edge for the next several months.

In over 430 litters documented by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), this is the first time a female cheetah has produced and reared on her own a litter of eight cubs at a zoo. The average litter size is three to four cubs.

Via Meet Our New Cheetah Cubs.

Daily Bread for 1.5.18

Good morning.

Friday in Whitewater will be party cloudy with a high of nine. Sunrise is 7:25 AM and sunset is 4:36 PM, for 9h 10m 43s of daytime. The moon is a waning gibbous with 83% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the four hundred twenty-first day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

On this day in 1855, King Camp Gillette is born: “On this date King Camp Gillette was born in Fond du Lac. He worked for many years as a traveling salesman. After much experimentation, he developed a disposable steel blade and razor. He established the Gillette Safety Razor Company in 1901. Sales for his product skyrocketed. Gillette remained president of his company until 1931 and was a director until his death the following year.”

Recommended for reading in full —

James Fallows writes It’s Been an Open Secret All Along (“The scandal of Michael Wolff’s new book isn’t its salacious details—it’s that everyone in Washington has known its key themes, and refused to act”):

The details in Michael Wolff’s new book Fire and Fury make it unforgettable, and potentially historic. We’ll see how many of them fully stand up, and in what particulars, but even at a heavy discount, it’s a remarkable tale.

But what Wolff is describing is an open secret.

Based on the excerpts now available, Fire and Fury presents a man in the White House who is profoundly ignorant of politics, policy, and anything resembling the substance of perhaps the world’s most demanding job. He is temperamentally unstable. Most of what he says in public is at odds with provable fact, from “biggest inaugural crowd in history” onward. Whether he is aware of it or not, much of what he asserts is a lie. His functional vocabulary is markedly smaller than it was 20 years ago; the oldest person ever to begin service in the White House, he is increasingly prone to repeat anecdotes and phrases. He is aswirl in foreign and financial complications. He has ignored countless norms of modern governance, from the expectation of financial disclosure to the importance of remaining separate from law-enforcement activities. He relies on immediate family members to an unusual degree; he has an exceptionally thin roster of experienced advisers and assistants; his White House staff operations have more in common with an episode of The Apprentice than with any real-world counterpart. He has a shallower reserve of historical or functional information than previous presidents, and a more restricted supply of ongoing information than many citizens. He views all events through the prism of whether they make him look strong and famous, and thus he is laughably susceptible to flattering treatment from the likes of Putin and Xi Jinping abroad or courtiers at home.

And, as Wolff emphasizes, everyone around him considers him unfit for the duties of this office….

Joe Scarborough writes I asked Trump a blunt question: Do you read?:

Mika Brzezinski and I had a tense meeting with Trump following what I considered to be a bumbling debate performance in September 2015. I asked the candidate a blunt question.

“Can you read?”

Awkward silence.

“I’m serious, Donald. Do you read?” I continued. “If someone wrote you a one-page paper on a policy, could you read it?”

Taken aback, Trump quietly responded that he could while holding up a Bible given to him by his mother. He then joked that he read it all the time.

I am apparently not the only one who has questioned the president’s ability to focus on the written word. “Trump didn’t read,” Wolff writes. “He didn’t really even skim. If it was print, it might as well not exist. Some believed that for all practical purposes he was no more than semiliterate. Others concluded that he didn’t read because he didn’t have to …. He was postliterate — total television.” But “Fire and Fury” reveals that White House staff and Cabinet members believed Trump’s intellectual challenges went well beyond having a limited reading list: Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin called him an “idiot,” Cohn dismissed him as “dumb,” national security adviser H.R. McMaster considered him a “dope,” and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson infamously concluded that the commander in chief was a “moron”….

(There are problems either of character or cognition that might make reading difficult.)

Brian Stelter writes This is bigger than Trump vs. Bannon; it’s about Trump’s capability:

Some commentators raised doubts about Trump’s competency even before Election Day. But there’s been a palpable change as of late. Media conversations about Trump’s competency are certainly more common than, say, six months ago.

Jake Tapper said on CNN’s “The Lead” on Thursday that “this new book and the new tweet about his big and powerful button” are “renewing talk about the 25th Amendment and lawmakers’ fears about President Trump’s mental health.” He asked: “Is this all below board?”

Related: Wolff’s Trump book going on sale four days early amid furor

White House aides and pro-Trump hosts on Fox News say that it is completely inappropriate to be questioning his stability.

But Republican Senator Bob Corker has broached the subject several times in recent months. Last October he called the White House “an adult day care center.”

On Thursday it was reported that a Yale psychiatrist briefed a dozen members of Congress — mainly Democrats — last month on Trump’s mental fitness.

The meeting was kept private at the time. These questions about fitness are more frequently whispered than shouted.

On MSNBC on Thursday, anchor Katy Tur, who covered the Trump campaign, recalled that a former Trump staffer asked her a couple of months ago, “Do you think he’s lost a step since the campaign?”

“This,” she said, “is a pervasive view among those who know him. That should not be surprising”….

Steve Vladeck explains The Fatal (Procedural) Flaw In the New Manafort Suit:

For the second time in as many months, “Younger abstention” is in the news. Last month, it was as a legal concept sufficiently foreign to one of President Trump’s district court nominees so as to turn him into a viral internet meme (and, ultimately, lead him to withdraw from consideration). Now, it’s because of the… odd… lawsuit filed on Wednesday by Paul Manafort, seeking to invalidate the authority of Special Counsel Mueller to prosecute him. I already tweeted about why, on the merits, there’s very little to Manafort’s substantive claim until and unless the Supreme Court actually wants to revisit Morrison v. Olson—and perhaps not even then….

the doctrine of “equitable restraint” precludes collateral attacks on ongoing criminal proceedings absent some showing that there is no adequate remedy available to the plaintiff within the ongoing criminal proceeding (e.g., a motion to dismiss the indictment or disqualify the prosecutor). And there is no dispute that equitable restraint applies with equal force to suits to enjoin ongoing federalcriminal proceedingswhere there will often be far less of a concern about the availability of an adequate remedy within the criminal process.

In that regard, what is striking about the complaint in Manafort v. U.S. Dep’t of Justiceis what it has to say about the absence of a meaningful remedy for Manafort’s claims within his ongoing criminal proceeding: Absolutely nothing. Instead, Manafort is asking a different judge of the same district court to provide relief that is unquestionably available to him, if appropriate, from the trial judge, without any allegation of the type of bad faith or misconduct by that court (to say nothing of irreparable harm stemming from the same) that would justify an exception….

(Manafort has nothing here except a public-relations angle.)

Iguanas are falling out of trees in Florida:

One of the strongest winter storms on the East Coast in modern history has pummeled cities with snow and sleet, forcing schools and businesses to close while grounding thousands of flights.
And in South Florida, it is “raining iguanas.”

Green iguanas, like all reptiles, are coldblooded animals, so they become immobile when the temperature falls to a certain level, said Kristen Sommers of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Under 50 degrees Fahrenheit, they become sluggish. Under 40 degrees, their blood stops moving as much, Sommers said.

They like to sit in trees, and “it’s become cold enough that they fall out.”

This is not a new phenomenon — there were similar reports in 2008 and 2010 — though it is not typical.

Thanks, City of Jefferson!

The Scene from Whitewater, Wisconsin There’s something funny, and something sad, about the City of Jefferson’s decision to host for five more years a Harry Potter festival with the same mediocre promotional leadership the festival’s had while in Edgerton and (more recently) in Jefferson.

See Attack of the Dirty Dogs (“If vast numbers are disappointed, it matters not at all that [Jefferson City Manager] Freitag thinks the event exceeded his middling hopes. The only benefit in knowing what he thinks is to learn that he doesn’t understand the instrumental role of government and that he’s too undiscerning to know the difference between a good and bad time.” It’s worth noting also that I am not writing from personal disappointment; I found the many accounts of patrons who wasted hundreds traveling to Jefferson and buying tickets for this shabby event truly moving. They deserved better.)

What does this mean for Whitewater? It’s an assurance of years without even the possibility of this dirty-dog-run festival befouling our city. One always hopes for more than merely avoiding the bad, but avoiding the bad is a good start.

For the town blogger, specifically, this means an opportunity for me to concentrate on more important matters (e.g., use of force against peaceful residents, whether immigrants or non-immigrants, matters concerning ongoing assaults on and off campus, defending principles of open government, and digging in as hard as one can against every last aspect of Trumpism).

It’s wrong to continue a shabby festival, but if that shabby festival stays away from Whitewater’s city limits, one can be satisfied. There are better matters to occupy our attention in Whitewater.

Thanks, City of Jefferson —  my best to you all, from the very deepest place in my heart.

For Ramona Flanagan, Edgerton City Administrator? I’ve never met Ms. Flanagan, but from everything I’ve read she’s smart, professional, and capable. Her city hosted the event for two years before wisely passing on more (after which the promoters decamped to Jefferson).

Note to Edgerton: You need to consider a promotion for Flanagan. She’s served you well. I’m not up on all the titles available in your city, but if baroness or duchess are untaken, I’d say that’s a start. Good sense deserves a good reward.

Note to Flanagan: If you’re ever in Whitewater, feel free to drop me a line. Lunch is on me. My pleasure, I’m sure.

For the press? Coverage of the festival is proof of how weak the local press really is. The Daily Union ran a fine investigation into the festival’s bad showing in Edgerton, and gave Jefferson a forewarning of the debacle that was to come. The DU even reported on this year’s mess, until someone apparently got cold feet and coverage shifted into overdrive in support of city officials and promoters who were behind it all.

All of these local papers are afraid of municipal officials (and far more afraid of hyper-cautions advertisers). If an advertiser gets the sniffles, the publisher comes down with double pneumonia.

There are probably many reasons that neither America nor any other country has selected the scaredy cat as a national symbol. That’s just no way to be.

Daily Bread for 1.4.18

Good morning.

Thursday in Whitewater will be partly cloudy with a high of ten. Sunrise is 7:25 AM and sunset 4:35 PM, for 9h 09m 38s of daytime. The moon is a waning gibbous with 90.7% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the four hundred twentieth day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

Whitewater’s Fire Department will hold a business tonight at 6:30 PM.

On this day in 1923, Milton College takes a stand against dancing: “Milton College president A.E. Whitford banned dancing by students in off-campus, semi-public places such as confectionery stores.”

Recommended for reading in full —

Michael Wolff reports “You Can’t Make This S— Up”: My Year Inside Trump’s Insane White House:

….There was, after the abrupt Scaramucci meltdown, hardly any effort inside the West Wing to disguise the sense of ludicrousness and anger felt by every member of the senior staff toward Trump’s family and Trump himself. It became almost a kind of competition to demystify Trump. For Rex Tillerson, he was a moron. For Gary Cohn, he was dumb as shit. For H.R. McMaster, he was a hopeless idiot. For Steve Bannon, he had lost his mind.

Most succinctly, no one expected him to survive Mueller. Whatever the substance of the Russia “collusion,” Trump, in the estimation of his senior staff, did not have the discipline to navigate a tough investigation, nor the credibility to attract the caliber of lawyers he would need to help him. (At least nine major law firms had turned down an invitation to represent the president.)

There was more: Everybody was painfully aware of the increasing pace of his repetitions. It used to be inside of 30 minutes he’d repeat, word-for-word and expression-for-expression, the same three stories — now it was within 10 minutes. Indeed, many of his tweets were the product of his repetitions — he just couldn’t stop saying something….

(Everywhere, in public and from private accounts, Trump shows evidence of cognitive decline, approaching in seriousness his long-existing moral and ethical deficiencies.)

Josh Dawsey and Ashley Parker report Trump lawyer seeks to block insider book on White House:

A lawyer representing President Trump sought Thursday to stop the publication of a new behind-the-scenes book about the White House that has already led Trump to angrily decry his former chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon.

The legal notice — addressed to author Michael Wolff and the president of the book’s publisher — said Trump’s lawyers were pursuing possible charges including libel in connection with the forthcoming book, “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House.”

The letter by Beverly Hills-based attorney Charles J. Harder demanded the publisher, Henry Holt and Co., “immediately cease and desist from any further publication, release or dissemination of the book” or excerpts and summaries of its contents. The lawyers also seek a full copy of the book as part of their investigation….

(Cease and desist on behalf of the most public figure on the planet…good luck with that.)

Josh Marshall sees The End of the Beginning:

One of the things we will be focusing on on the Russia front in 2018 is not simply breaking a lot of news but on narrating the bigger picture. It can be a difficult story to make sense of because it has so many tentacles. There are so many disparate and far-flung parts to keep track of and make sense of. One of the top themes of Glenn Simpson’s and Peter Fritsch’s must-read oped published yesterday in The New York Times is that the focus on conspiracy during the 2016 campaign cycle has almost totally eclipsed examination of Donald Trump’s longstanding involvement with the Russian criminal underworld and money laundering which laid the basis of what happened in 2016. (That has always seemed to be Trump’s greatest fear.) We’ll come back to that.

So where are we now in this story? A series of revelations in the final weeks of 2017 placed us at what we should think not as the beginning or the end but the end of the beginning. We are still only at the front end of this investigation. We still know only the outlines of what happened and how. But we are past any serious question about whether there was collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign. There was. It’s no longer a matter of probability, even high probability. We know it from either undisputed facts or sworn statements from Trump associates now cooperating with the Mueller investigation.

As I wrote a week ago, the entire ‘controversy’ over the Steele Dossier is meaningless in any substantive sense. Even if it were literally propaganda from the DNC comms office it wouldn’t change the facts about what the FBI and then Mueller investigations have already uncovered. It is classic misdirection and mendacity in its most direct form. Steele wasn’t some oppo researcher. He was one of his country’s top Russia spies, very well-placed to conduct such an investigation. He was and is trusted and held in high repute by the FBI, in part because of his work in the FIFA scandal. But the storm of abuse and misinformation from Trump supporters have nonetheless cast his work under some public taint. The aforementioned OpEd by the men who run Fusion GPS, I think, finally sets the matter straight. The dossier wasn’t the origin of the investigation. But it added to US counter-intelligence concerns (perhaps more like alarm bells) because as Simpson puts it, “our sources said the dossier … corroborated reports the bureau had received from other sources, including one inside the Trump camp. The intelligence committees have known for months that credible allegations of collusion between the Trump camp and Russia were pouring in from independent sources during the campaign”….

(The case against Trump grows stronger each day. Much more to be done, but it will be done.)

Ben Schreckinger reports Vladimir Putin’s Worst Enemies Are Hosting a Summit in His Honor (“Organizers of the first-ever “PutinCon” are assembling the Russian president’s fiercest critics to discuss everything from Putin’s finances to his unraveling. Here, an exclusive sneak peek at what’s in store”):

….Imagine Vladimir Putin’s most vocal critics and dogged enemies all getting together in one room to, among other things, discuss his downfall. Well, that’s more or less what organizers of the first-ever “PutinCon” have in mind.

(Good for them – free people should know their enemies.)

These ‘Looping Towers’ Have A Running Track On The Roof:

Candidates and Candidacies

The Scene from Whitewater, Wisconsin Small towns have reputations for being plain-speaking places, but the less so, in fact, than reputation suggests. One will hear much about who’s running, who’s in, who’s out, but not as much – if anything – about what candidates believe.

Longtime readers know that I comment on politics, but know also that I’m opposed to mixing a publisher’s and a candidate’s roles in a small town. Indeed, one may say that completely opposed fits my view accurately. They’re separate roles to my mind, each valuable, each belonging within a larger civic life of which they are parts. (In any event, this bleeding-heart libertarian blogger does not, and would not, represent government; officials are more than capable of speaking for themselves.)

But that’s a critical role for a candidate, isn’t, it? Good candidates with worthy candidacies say what they believe, what they’d like to see, what they hope to accomplish. They stand for something, and say so.

(This is another reason that key meetings should be recorded for public viewing. The December 11th Whitewater Unified Schools meeting that heard prospective appointees answer questions – in full – would have been valuable to this community. It has been our past practice to record these meetings, and it should be our continuing practice. I posted a bit on this general topic in December, and will have more to write after finishing a longer series. From December, see Twilight, Midnight, and Daylight. No one should settle for less; it’s a challenge to a better practice to expect that anyone would.)

If one had any advice for a candidate, it would be this: tell people what you believe, and what you hope to do. Say so plainly and clearly, so that all the community might know your views.

Daily Bread for 1.3.18

Good morning.

Wednesday in Whitewater will be increasingly sunny with a high of fourteen. Sunrise is 7:25 AM and sunset is 4:34 PM, for 9h 08m 36s of daytime. The moon is a waning gibbous with 96.5% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the four hundred nineteenth day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

On this day in 1777, Gen. Washington and the cOntinental Army are victorious at the Battle of Princeton.

Recommended for reading in full —

Glenn R. Simpson and Peter Fritsch describe The Republicans’ Fake Investigations:

In the year since the publication of the so-called Steele dossier — the collection of intelligence reports we commissioned about Donald Trump’s ties to Russia — the president has repeatedly attacked us on Twitter. His allies in Congress have dug through our bank records and sought to tarnish our firm to punish us for highlighting his links to Russia. Conservative news outlets and even our former employer, The Wall Street Journal, have spun a succession of mendacious conspiracy theories about our motives and backers.

We are happy to correct the record. In fact, we already have.

Three congressional committees have heard over 21 hours of testimony from our firm, Fusion GPS. In those sessions, we toppled the far right’s conspiracy theories and explained how The Washington Free Beacon and the Clinton campaign — the Republican and Democratic funders of our Trump research — separately came to hire us in the first place.

We walked investigators through our yearlong effort to decipher Mr. Trump’s complex business past, of which the Steele dossier is but one chapter. And we handed over our relevant bank records — while drawing the line at a fishing expedition for the records of companies we work for that have nothing to do with the Trump case.

Republicans have refused to release full transcripts of our firm’s testimony, even as they selectively leak details to media outlets on the far right. It’s time to share what our company told investigators….

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

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

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

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

(Who, if anyone, owns Lindsey Graham?)

Anna Nemtsova reports A Russian Blackwater? Putin’s Secret Soldiers in Ukraine and Syria (“While Ukraine’s military has many honored volunteers fighting to defend their border, Russia’s expeditionary forces often are contractors fighting for pay, and dying in silence”):

RUSSIAN VETERANS of modern wars serving abroad do not see much public support, nor do they receive much help from independent civil groups, simply because their participation in the conflicts abroad often is a state secret.

At his annual press conference earlier this month President Vladimir Putin admitted for the first time since the first days of the war that there are members of the Russian military in Ukraine, but denied that they were the same as regular troops. “We never said there were not people there who carried out certain tasks including in the military sphere,” Putin said.

Ruslan Leviyev and his Conflict Intelligence Team are a unique non-commercial group based in Moscow and investigating real stories of Russian soldiers fighting in foreign countries. “If in Ukraine soldiers are treated as national heroes, Russian recruits often die anonymously,” Leviyev told The Daily Beast. “The society feels indifferent to the numbers of casualties in the Russian military, to how many soldiers are wounded.”

(Putin pays for Russian adventurism in others’ blood and others’ money.)

From an August poll and story, Gary Langer reports 1 in 10 say it’s acceptable to hold neo-Nazi views:

….9 percent in a new ABC News/Washington Post poll call it acceptable to hold neo-Nazi or white supremacist views, equivalent to about 22 million Americans. A similar number, 10 percent, say they support the so-called alt-right movement, while 50 percent oppose it.

See PDF with full results here….

(One in one hundred would be too many.)

With Turtle Treadmills, a Novel Test For Stamina:

Kylo Ren as an Alt-Right Villain?

Marykate Jasper argues Why Kylo Ren Is the Perfect Villain for the Age of the Alt-Right (some movie spoilers in her observations):

Kylo is incredibly powerful, but he is also incredibly childish. When the Rebels escape him in The Force Awakens, he throws a ludicrous temper tantrum with his lightsaber. In The Last Jedi, Luke goads him by appearing via projection, and the Resistance goads him with the Millennium Falcon, because they all know his personal, childish desire to destroy those things will distract him from the First Order’s strategic goals. Even Snoke calls him “a child in a mask,” mocking the pretensions of his pseudo-Vader mask and voice modulator. He is a boy’s unintentional parody of the imaginary, long-lost manhood he wants to emulate. Like the “alpha males” of the MRA movement, he makes himself ridiculous by emulating something that never existed as he imagines it did.

But perhaps the most damning and crucial part of Kylo’s characterization is that the good guys really, really want to believe in Kylo, even though they shouldn’t. Just as we see scores and score of sympathetic portraits of Trump voters, and unconscionably gentle write-ups of alt-right bigots from outlets like Mother Jones and The New York Timeswe also see Rey desperately trying to believe that if she just reaches out, if she can just understand the pain and anger that motivate Kylo, then she can convince him to make the right decision….

A few quick comments:

1. Star Wars. The harder right one goes – and it goes farther right than the MRA (men’s rights activists) – the more one sees of contempt for the character diversity in Star Wars. In this way, there’s something apt about Jasper identifying Ren, a leader of a fascist dictatorship, with the alt-right. (How much farther right does the alt-right go? The Daily Stormer and other similar sites believe in so-called white sharia.)

2. Dangerous Fanaticism. These are dangerous and repulsive fanatics, who hear Trump dog-whistling to them. They’re formerly small figures who find comfort in the words and actions of the most powerful man in all the world.

Their ideology is one of vile lies.

3. The New York Times and Mother Jones. Jasper’s right to call out publications that glamorize racists, but I’d suggest that for Mother Jones, the example she cites was an unfortunate misstep by that magazine. For the Times, there’s a more troublesome history of failing to see the alt-right clearly.

4. Desperately trying to believe… Jasper’s spot-on, however, when she criticizes Star Wars heroine “Rey [for] desperately trying to believe that if she just reaches out, if she can just understand the pain and anger that motivate Kylo, then she can convince him to make the right decision.”

Yes, there’s a desperation to that false optimism.  Although it is true that sometimes a very good man can turn around a bad one, that’s rare, sadly too rare.

Embed from Getty Images

More often, it’s more like an antelope trying to understand a hyena: even if the antelope could understand the hyena, all that would be learned is that the hyena would like to chew off the antelope’s leg.

It is a dream – often a progressive one – to hope that through understanding the malevolent will become better, perhaps much better. It’s a noble dream, but if grounded properly this hope depends not merely on understanding those who are dangerous, but as much on those who are dangerous understanding and wishing to be otherwise.

In Star Wars, Rey’s time is better spent, at a minimum, driving Kylo Ren away. Our time is better spent defending against, driving away, and then everywhere overcoming the malevolent.

Embed from Getty Images

Conservatism & Trump

So will Trump fundamentally alter American conservatism, or is he a mere phase in a longer, unchanging tradition? Three American conservatives, and Britain’s George Orwell, have something to interesting say on the matter.

1. Charles C.W. Cooke:

Whatever its shortcomings—and they are many—the American Right is too complicated and too interesting a force to be ruined or consumed by a single preposterous president. Conservatism in this country long predated Trump; for now, it is tied up with Trump; soon, it will have survived Trump.

Via Jennifer Rubin Is Everything She Hates about Trump Worshippers

2. David Frum:

The most revealing thought in Cooke’s essay is his explanation for why he feels it is safe to go with the Trumpian flow: “Conservatism in this country long predated Trump; for now, it is tied up with Trump; soon, it will have survived Trump.”

This is something many conservatives tell themselves, but it’s not even slightly true. Trump is changing conservatism into something different. We can all observe that. Will it snap back afterward?

You can believe this only if you imagine that ideologies exist independently of the human beings who espouse them—and that they can continue unchanged and unchanging despite the flux of their adherents. In this view, millions of American conservatives may build their political identities on enthusiastic support for Donald Trump, but American conservatism will continue humming in the background as if none of those human commitments mattered at all.

This is simply not true. Ideas are not artifacts, especially the kind of collective ideas we know as ideologies. Conservatives in 1964 opposed civil-rights laws. Conservatives in 1974 opposed tax cuts unless paid for by spending cuts. Conservatives in 1984 opposed same-sex marriage. Conservatives in 1994 opposed trade protectionism. Conservatives in 2004 opposed people who equated the FBI and Soviet Union’s KGB. All those statements of conservative ideology have gone by the boards, and one could easily write a similar list of amended views for liberals.

Conservatism is what conservatives think, say, and do. As conservatives change—as much through the harsh fact of death and birth as by the fluctuations of opinion—so does what it means to be a conservative.

Via Conservatism Can’t Survive Donald Trump Intact.

3. Rod Dreher:

This is why I just shake my head at conservatives who think Trump is an aberration, a Cromwellian interregnum before the Restoration of the monarchy, so to speak. It is certainly true, at least right now, that Trump is cultivating no heirs apparent. But the idea that right-of-center voters will have learned their lesson by voting for Trump, and will come home to the traditional GOP — that’s bonkers.

Think of how Trump (and to a much lesser extent, Roy Moore) is changing what it means to be an Evangelical. American Evangelicalism, like American conservatism, is a broad and durable movement that was here a long time before Donald Trump showed up, and will be here after he leaves. But the way so many white Evangelicals have embraced Trump really is changing Evangelicalism — this, even though Trump is not even an Evangelical! It is impossible to see how white Evangelicalism can return to the status quo ante after Trump leaves office….

My basic point is that whatever calls itself “conservatism” will not have survived Trump, if by “survive” one means emerges from him relatively unchanged. It’s not so much the substantive changes Trump will have made (there may not be many) as it is the role he played in knocking off the GOP’s and the conservative movement’s traditional elites. The definition of “conservatism” is going to be fluid for a long time after Trump, in part because of Trump, and in part because of the intensification of the broader cultural and technological forces that brought Trump to the presidency.

4. George Orwell.

I’ll risk application of Godwin’s Law to include a powerful insight from George Orwell. Orwell wrote to critique H.G. Wells (a socialist, not a conservative) on Wells’s view of the war. Wells held – in 1941 – “that the Blitzkrieg is spent,” etc. That was wildly false, of course: the war stretched on years longer, at vast cost. To contend that the Third Reich was spent in 1941 is to give no meaning to the word spent.

Orwell understood that Wells’s complacent optimism was false, profoundly so:

He [Wells] was, and still is, quite incapable of understanding that nationalism, religious bigotry and feudal loyalty are far more powerful forces than what he himself would describe as sanity. Creatures out of the Dark Ages have come marching into the present, and if they are ghosts they are at any rate ghosts which need a strong magic to lay them. The people who have shown the best understanding of Fascism are either those who have suffered under it or those who have a Fascist streak in themselves. A crude book like The Iron Heel, written nearly thirty years ago, is a truer prophecy of the future than either Brave New World or The Shape of Things to Come.

If one had to choose among Wells’s own contemporaries a writer who could stand towards him as a corrective, one might choose Kipling, who was not deaf to the evil voices of power and military “glory”. Kipling would have understood the appeal of Hitler, or for that matter of Stalin, whatever his attitude towards them might be. Wells is too sane to understand the modern world. The succession of lower-middle-class novels which are his greatest achievement stopped short at the other war and never really began again, and since 1920 he has squandered his talents in slaying paper dragons….

Via Wells, Hitler and the World State.

I’ve long admired this essay of Orwell’s, for its moral and practical clarity. It’s a reminder of how clever men (Wells then, Cooke now) sometimes are – in the most important matters – also obtuse men.

Frum and Dreher are right that conservatism will not be able to outlast Trump unaffected. Cooke’s complacency is at best a false hope, and also a self-serving one (justifying diffidence in the face of Trump’s transgressions). Conservatives like Rubin, Wilson, and McMullin see this and so fight on, but most conservatives are now transformed in to something unworthy (they’re either Trumpists or timid).

I’m quite sure – even in the small town from which I write – that there are self-styled conservatives who believe (as with Cooke) that they’ve no need to oppose Trump wholeheartedly, as our present circumstances are a mere phase before a restoration of the prominent position they’ve long enjoyed.

Trump will meet his political ruin, but it will come through the efforts of those in opposition and resistance who actively opposed him.  The complacent and entitled men who sat on the sidelines of this fight won’t escape the truth of their inaction: head down and eyes averted is a disgraceful memorial.

Daily Bread for 1.2.18

Good morning.

Tuesday in Whitewater will be mostly sunny with a high of twelve. Sunrise is 7:25 AM and sunset 4:33 PM, for 9h 07m 39s of daytime. The moon is nearly full, with 99.7% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the four hundred eighteenth day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

On this day in 1918, Wisconsin troops depart for Europe: “On this date the Wisconsin 127th and 128th Infantries departed for France from their training facility at Camp Arthur in Waco, Texas. Initially, these divisions were assigned to construct depots and facilities for troops that would follow. On May 18, they were assigned to the frontline at Belmont in the Alsace where they faced three German divisions. In the following months, 368 troops were killed, wounded or missing. Ironically, their enemy, native Alsatians, spoke German and the Wisconsin troops were better able to communicate with them than their French allies.”

Recommended for reading in full — 

Jared Yates Sexton considers The Toxic Loyalty of Trump’s Hardcore Zealots (“They’ve excused his winking at neo-Nazis and his support of an accused child molester. Is there anything—anything—that would make Trump’s die-hards leave his personality cult?”):

….They had stayed with him through an unthinkable gauntlet: frequent criticism of war heroes, racist rhetoric, video of him admitting to disgusting conduct, and a deluge of women charging him with sexual assault. So by the time he assumed the role of president in early 2017, his base was fairly immune to any criticism or story dealing with something as mundane as bureaucratic appointments or legislation.

While he stocked his administration cabinet with lobbyists and billionaires, people worth billions of dollars, including multiple staffers who’d worked at high profile banks like Goldman Sachs, his supporters continued to parrot his intention to drain the swamp even while he filled it with every pen stroke. He told them he was the president of the working people even while he promoted bills that would take away their health insurance his and the GOP’s legislative agenda set its sights on the Affordable Care Act that provided them healthcare and his cabinet stripped nearly every regulation that protected the food they ate, the water they drank, and the schools where their children learned.

As the rest of the country turned on Trump and his approval ratings plummeted, his diehard base stayed firm. Roughly 30% of the voting public continued to support him, seemingly proving his assertion that they were so loyal he could “stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody.” They’d weathered one scandal after another, watched Trump undermine journalists, threaten NBC’s broadcast license, trade barbs with the unpredictable head of a rogue nuclear state, and yet, they still seemed unwavering loyal….

(True enough, and so to succeed against Trump, one’s main focus should be on Trump, His Inner Circle, Principal Surrogates, and Media Defenders.)

Rick Wilson writes How Donald Trump ate the nation: The President has inserted his toxic brand of politics into every last corner of American life:

….Some people like to say our nation is more divided than ever. Obviously that’s a laughable notion for a country that lost over a half-million of her sons in a bloody Civil War.

Still, there are sweeping, powerful forces pushing our society into Balkanized camps. The catalyst of today’s division isn’t royalists vs. patriots, freedom vs. slavery, or big government vs. small, or hippies vs. squares. Today’s cultural and political divisions are driven now by more potent forces: celebrity, and rage.

Trump hasn’t just infused every single aspect of our politics, but, like some Japanese movie-monster kaiju he’s furiously, inexorably consuming our culture, from entertainment to business to education and every other institution in between….

(This infusion is a consequence of Trump’s authoritarian character – he seeks to influence both political and cultural life, including even mundane matters. He’s without normal restraint.)

Maura Ewing reports A Judicial Pact to Cut Court Costs for the Poor (“The consensus that we would do this, that we would all do it, gives us cover that we wouldn’t be labeled as liberal or too soft on defendants”):

In North Carolina, it costs inmates $10 a day to stay in jail before they’re even found guilty of a crime. Yet most people jailed pretrial are there because they can’t afford bail. It’s a predicament Mecklenburg County Public Defender Kevin Tully points out time and again to judges: that those who can’t buy their own freedom are charged for their own confinement.

In North Carolina, as in other states, judges have the discretion to reduce or waive some fines and fees. But there, as elsewhere, they don’t often use it—thanks in part to legislation that makes doing so difficult. Now, district-court judges in Mecklenburg County, which includes Charlotte, are banding together to change how the courts impose fines and fees.

Starting last month, they committed to consulting a “bench card” during every case—a piece of paper they use to remind themselves to thoroughly assess a defendant’s ability to pay before setting a fine or fee, as well as which ones are waivable or can be reduced on a sliding scale. It’s a simple act, but one that could have significant consequences for low-income defendants and their families….

The judicial pact in Mecklenburg County was born of a working group; judges, public defenders, district attorneys, and court clerks had been strategizing since the spring of 2015 on how to reduce the county’s jail population. An analysis revealed that 18 percent were there because they failed to pay court costs, fines, or fees; and they stayed for roughly four to seven days, said district-court judge Becky Tin, who’s part of the working group. “A lot of these [legal financial obligations] that defendants were being arrested for not paying were set … without ever conducting an ability-to-pay hearing,” she said….

Amber Phillips lists 12 things we can definitively say the Russia investigation has uncovered so far:

To review everything we’ve learned about Russia this year, let’s rewind to May. That was a big month President Trump, who fired his FBI director because he thought “this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story.

His own administration didn’t see it that way. A few weeks later, the No. 2 at the Justice Department, Rod J. Rosenstein, appointed a special counsel to ramp up the FBI’s existing investigation into “this Russia thing.”

Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s mission: Look into how Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential election, whether it colluded with Trump’s campaign, and investigate anything else he sees fit to investigate….

So what have all these ongoing Russia investigations found so far?

A lot, but at the same time, no one big thing we can point to that indicates a sure direction of the investigation. “What we can take away is we are in the midst of a major investigation with foreign policy ramifications,” said Jeffrey Jacobovitz, a white-collar lawyer who has defended Clinton administration officials.

Here are all the things we know about the Russia investigation to date, ranked in order of their perceived magnitude [list follows]….

These 10 Robots Make Life A Lot Easier:

Whitewater’s Outlook for 2018

The Scene from Whitewater, Wisconsin

An explorer comes to a forest, one he’s not seen before. He’s been in forests before, but not one as dense and dark as this one. He could stop, and make predictions about what it might be like, but however long he takes, the forest yet stands before him. Our national outlook is like this, overcoming even the smallest, most distant places.

The delusional will deny there’s a dark forest, the fearful will sit still, and the faint-hearted will go around.

Americans are neither delusional nor fearful nor faint-hearted.

Predicting, however, is not exploring.

If an explorer, then an exploration: one either goes in or abandons the effort to more intrepid men and women.

Better to rely on past experiences, present understanding, and ongoing observations, walking cautiously but confidently into the forest.

On the other side: something better, either discovered or, if necessary, created.

Daily Bread for 1.1.18

Good morning.

A new year begins for Whitewater under partly cloudy skies and a high of six degrees. Sunrise is 7:25 AM and sunset 4L:32 PM, for 9h 06m 46s of daytime. The moon is full. Today is the four hundred seventh day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

On this day in 1863, Abraham Lincoln issues the Emancipation Proclamation. On this day in 1836, an act of the Michigan legislature forms the Wisconsin Territory.

Recommended for reading in full — 

In September, Lawrence Tabak wrote Why Foxconn’s Wisconsin Promise Of 13,000 Quality Jobs Is An Empty One:

Proponents of the deal, which include President Donald Trump, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, and House Speaker Paul Ryan, are blinded by the political windfall that would come with Foxconn’s promise of 13,000 jobs at the $10 billion Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) factory and assembly complex planned for southeast Wisconsin (Ryan’s home district). These politicians are so eager to score a political win that much of Wisconsin’s promise of $3 billion in tax incentives to Foxconn would be paid in cash.

But careful study of Foxconn’s past dealings shows that the number and quality of jobs promised for Wisconsin are highly suspect. Back in 2007, when Foxconn announced plans for the facility in Plainfield, they said the plant would employ 1,400 people. The fact that the facility has matured to a workforce of 900 gives some indication of their prowess, or perhaps lack of honesty, when it comes to job prediction. (The same percentage shortfall would take the promised 13,000 jobs in Wisconsin down to 8,357.)

Foxconn’s original proposal to Wisconsin is also telling. Before the jobs number swelled to 13,000, Foxconn initially proposed 2,000 jobs — incidentally, the same number of workers currently employed at Foxconn’s LCD factory complex in Sakai, Japan, the largest and most advanced LCD factory in the world. The LCD plant itself was up and running with 1,000 workers. Boosters of the Wisconsin deal have visions of the working lines at the old Chrysler and GM factories in Kenosha and Janesville, where motivated high school graduates could make a living wage. But the few images and inside descriptions we have of the Sakai plant, by far the best model for what the Wisconsin factory will look like, show engineers and technicians behind computer terminals overseeing the work of giant robotic machines.

In addition to the numbers, the quality of jobs promised Wisconsin is also in question. In their written testimony in support of the Foxconn legislation, the heads of the Wisconsin Department of Administration and the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation used the term “family-supporting 13,000 jobs” eight times. Much has been made of Foxconn’s estimate that the average salary will be $54,000, but there is no written guarantee regarding it. Furthermore, pay the top Taiwanese management team tens of millions each and the average is so skewed as to be meaningless. There is a welcome provision in the legislation that Wisconsin’s generous contribution of 17 percent of payroll be limited to jobs paying $30,000 to $100,000, which will certainly incentivize Foxconn to meet that mark. But Foxconn is relentless in cost management and if an unsubsidized job can be filled at a wage producing a lower cost to the company than a subsidized $30,000 job, history shows they’ll do so. And the modest constraints of the legislation give Foxconn enormous flexibility to spread those subsidies beyond native Wisconsinites. For instance, the company is known for traveling efficiency teams that roam the globe imposing the company’s latest assembly improvements. These teams have to have a home base somewhere—why not Wisconsin, where their wages would be subsidized by the state?

(It’s worth noting that the 13,000 jobs estimate is from Walker, not Foxconn. Foxconn hasn’t promised anything like 13,000.)

Julia Ioffe reports What Russian Journalists Uncovered About Russian Election Meddling:

Here’s a rundown of what we learned from the Russian press this year:

In an updated edition of their book, The Red Web, Russian journalists Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan—veteran reporters on the Russian secret services—revealed how and when Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the attack on the American election. It happened, according to Soldatov and Borogan, at a meeting in April between Putin and a small inner circle of his national security advisors, most of them former KGB officers. Putin’s decision was also reportedly an emotional, knee-jerk one, in retaliation to the release of the Panama Papers, which implicated him. Because of Putin’s highly conspirological mindset, he apparently blamed Goldman Sachs and Hillary Clinton for the release of the embarrassing information, Soldatov and Borogan reported.

An October report from the Russian business media outlet RBC explained in great detail how the St. Petersburg-based Internet Research Agency, also known as the “troll factory,” operated during the 2016 election. The report, authored by two Russian journalists, detailed the funding, budget, operating methods, and tactics, of the 100 trolls who spent 2016 populating American social media sites with divisive commentary and imitating civil rights groups. The report showed how the Agency was financed through its owner, Putin’s court caterer Yevgeny Prigozhin. It also detailed the reach of various politically inflammatory posts. It showed, for example, how the Agency produced over 20 Facebook posts that gathered over a million unique views each.

That same month, TVRain, Russia’s last independent television network, interviewed “Maxim,” a man who had worked as a troll at this factory. He revealed that the factory was largely staffed by college students from the prestigious St. Petersburg State University, Russia’s #2 university; their majors included international relations, linguistics, and journalism. They were, in other words, young, educated, worldly, and urban—the very cohort Americans imagine would rise up against someone like Putin. Instead, they worked in the factory, making nearly double the average Russian’s salary, sowing discord on Twitter, Facebook, and in the comments sections of various websites. They were instructed not to mention Russia, but instead to focus on issues that divided Americans, like guns and race. They learned their subject matter by reading Americans’ social media posts and by watching House of Cards, effectively weaponizing American culture and openness.

Last week, TVRain ran a written interview with Konstantin Kozlovsky, who is currently in a Russian prison for hacking into various Russian banks. He confessed to hacking the DNC and to creating the viruses Lurk and Wanna Cry, the latter of which is responsible for a ransomware attack that paralyzed computer networks across the world. Kozlovsky told the journalists how he had been entrapped and blackmailed into working for the FSB, the main Russian security agency, nearly a decade ago. He said that when he hacked into the servers of the DNC, he purposely left behind a calling card: a data file with the number of his visa to the Caribbean Island of St. Martin, as well as his passport number. Kozlovsky also said that he was arrested now because the FSB wanted “to hide the digital traces” of what he did. (It’s worth noting that many of these claims are unverified.)

Earlier this month, the Bell, a scrappy upstart website based outside of Russia, published a detailed exposé by the legendary Russian investigative journalist Svetlana Reiter about the four Russian men—two of them high-ranking FSB cyber warriors—arrested in Moscow last December in connection with the 2016 election hack. Reiter delved into the mystery of why the men were charged with, of all things, passing information to the CIA about the Russian cyber-attack. According to Reiter, they had been set up by a rival faction in Russian military intelligence, the GRU. The rivalry, which Soldatov and Borogan had also reported on, centered on securing both the prestige and budgetary funds that came with penetrating U.S. government cyber-defenses. This had previously been the exclusive domain of the FSB—once run by Putin—and the GRU was trying to muscle in on the FSB’s territory and money. A side effect of this internal rivalry, Reiter concluded, was how the Americans discovered the hack….

(These Russian journalists take huge risks to report these stories, as Ioffe notes: “many of Russia’s journalists—many of them among the country’s best—either left home or abandoned the profession altogether. This is apparently the case with the journalists who published the RBC report on the troll factory: After receiving threats, they left journalism. ” They are brave men and women who have risked much for the truth. Trump wishes to reduce our own press to the same perilous condition.)

Taylor Hosking catalogues The Rise of the Alt-Right (“Selections from The Atlantic’s coverage of 2017, when the right-wing movement gained momentum”):

Shortly after Donald Trump was elected, white nationalists gathered in Washington, D.C. for an annual conference, where The Atlantic captured the audience offering cheers and enthusiastic Nazi salutes. At the helm was Richard Spencer, the leader of the “alt-right,” a term he popularized. “Hail Trump, hail our people, hail victory!” they exclaimed. Spencer would go on to set up a “hub” for the alt-right movement in the Washington area. But fractures within the the movement were emerging at the Deploraball, an event held in January, where figures of the alt-right celebrated Trump’s victory.

Steve Bannon, the former chairman of Breitbart News who once described the site as “the platform for the alt-right,” served as Trump’s chief strategist in the White House. Over the course of the year, the resurgence of white nationalism would play out on the national stage….

In The Atlantic’s September cover story, “The First White President,” Ta-Nehisi Coates argued that race propelled Trump to the White House. Chloé Valdary countered that there’s no single explanation for Trump’s election. Vann R. Newkirk II called for the need to define white supremacy, claiming that giving it too narrow of a definition allows it to flourish. And Adam Serwer argued that efforts to highlight non-racial explanations for Trump’s glaringly racial appeal is a long-standing political tradition in “The Nationalist’s Delusion.”

Anne Applebaum writes of The euphemisms I refuse to use in 2018:

In columns or commentary, one sometimes needs to simplify in order to save space. But here’s my New Year’s resolution: In the coming 12 months, I will try to avoid the expressions “far-right” and “populist” whenever possible. They are catch-all adjectives, useful in describing a general phenomenon. But they are also euphemisms, and they disguise what’s at stake.

The terms “right” and “left,” not to mention “far-right” and “far-left,” have long been due for a rethink. They date from the French Revolution of 1789, when the nobility sat on the right side of the National Assembly, and the revolutionaries sat on the left. Since most Western “right-wing” parties aren’t seeking to conserve aristocracy anymore, and many of the “left-wing” parties stopped being revolutionary a long time ago, the metaphor has grown stale.

As for “far-right,” it doesn’t really belong on that scale, because the modern European “far-right” isn’t conservative in any sense at all. Nor does it have much in common with parties of the so-called center-right, many of which favor free markets and global trade and are happy to participate in international institutions and treaties. The “far-right,” by contrast, is anti-trade and anti-market, favoring instead a greater role for the national state or, in Hungary for example, for oligarchs close to the ruling party. More important, many favor a greater role for those ruling parties, treating with suspicion journalists, courts, civil servants, universities and even police forces that question their compliance with existing law….

(Applebaum finds no easy solution, and there isn’t one: we lack clear terms as no description seems wholly adequate.)

Here are Highlights of the January 2018 Sky:

Review: Whitewater’s Outlook for 2017

On January 4th, I posted Whitewater’s Outlook for 2017. Here’s a review of that post. Original from 1.4.17, with comments from 12.31.17 in blue italics, paragraph by paragraph —

A year like 2016 – nationally – should leave a prudent person cautious about making predictions. I’ll not overlook the lesson from last year’s national scene, and I’ll apply it to 2017’s local outlook. Rather than predictions, I’ll offer a few observations on the likely direction of local affairs.

This was the right approach; extreme circumstances make predictions especially difficult, and worse, they become wishful distractions from actual work. 

Local politics. Trump’s election completes what amounts to a nationalization of politics, in a state like Wisconsin that’s already seen (these last six years) the triumph of statewide concerns over purely local ones. There are still local issues – and they’ll need to be addressed. The adage that all politics is local, however, has never be so wrong as it is now. National issues will stop being conflicts between Republicans and Democrats (and millions of people, of which I am only one, are neither); the fundamental national divide will come to be between radical populism and democratic republican government. See, Evan McMullin’s Ten Points for Principled Opposition to Authoritarianism and In a Principled Opposition, the Basis for a Grand Coalition.

Honest to goodness, the Whitewater area is clock-a-block with aging town figures and publishers (Gazette, Daily Union, Banner) who think they can ride out Trumpism by ignoring it, escaping blame for its many excesses (and quietly savoring some of those excesses, to be honest).  No, and no again: there’s no waiting out Trump, getting around Trump, carrying on as usual. Better, of course, that Trump had never come on the scene, but an ostrich with its head in the sand looks like ostrich with its head in the sand. 

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Economy. There’s talk of another national stimulus program, although neither the late Bush Administration’s nor the early Obama Administration’s efforts did much for Whitewater’s economy except generate headlines for the local Daily Union. What Trump will do is unclear, but this small town has been saturated in public funds to without altering a trend of increasing poverty. See, The Local Economic Context of It All and  The way out in the near term would be a break with past practice of trying to guide the local economy, but that break isn’t likely to happen in 2017. See, How Big Averts Bad (where big isn’t a project but a break from control). The alternative is continued relative decline until a time years from now of gentrification.

Whitewater’s economy is stagnant; stagnation is relative decline. 

Fiscal policy. Expect local government to try to consolidate a few staff positions, while simultaneously asking for as many big ticket items as possible, and pursuing revenue-generation schemes that either cost too much, achieve too little, and perhaps degrade the environment and quality of life while doing so.

It’s been less troublesome in this regard than one might have feared; part of that is simply because there’s not much left at the bottom of officials’ wishing well.  

University life. The last chancellor was supposed to be the bridge between town and university life, a longstanding town notable who would run the university the way city insiders wanted. If there’s anything to learn from this, it’s that Whitewater’s town notables are unsuited to run a modern American university. The future for UW-Whitewater lies in a more geographically diverse student population, but that population will bring higher expectations on and off campus.

Whitewater has a choice: meet those expectations, at the price of discarding traditional local standards, or frustrate those expectations, and watch the leading economic force in the city decline. Expect attempts to split the difference between competing views, in a way that satisfies few, and gains Whitewater nothing.

Whitewater’s campus administration has had an easy year – the challenges from consolidation with UW-Rock are yet to come, the problem of recruitment elsewhere will only get worse, and this chancellor and her predecessor have never faced a serious critique of the campus culture. 

School district. Aside from assuring safety, construction will never replace instruction, and grandiose marketing will never replace unique and admirable individual accomplishments presented in a lively way. It’s an easy pose to say that no one else understands education except a marketing-mad few; it would be more believable if they made their work more than cut-and-paste presentations. All around, this community is filled with smart, well-read residents.

It’s an ill-fitting crutch to say that anyone who offers a critique is anti-education or opposed to children’s futures.

A combination of condescension to rural residents, and yet fear of their complaints, leaves the district’s full-time leadership mired in reactionary public relations that neither instructs nor uplifts nor attracts. Rationalizing that some aren’t ‘our population’ consigns all the community to the condition of the under-served.

The most important work happens inside the building. True yesterday, true today, true tomorrow. 

Green shoots. Here’s what’s hopeful. In this city, the best ideas – private restaurants, a brewery, community events, charitable efforts, and a nearly-all-year city market, etc. – are successful not because city government guides them, but because talented, private individuals need no political guidance. See, An Oasis Strategy.

Whitewater will not be a prosperous city until her some of her residents stop deferring to local government as a solution (or, more commonly, stop using government as a brake on anything that they don’t like). Government as an overbearing father is politics-as-bad-parenting.

There are national political challenges that cannot – and must not – wait. The resolution of those challenges will assure a better life for all, across this continent. Yet for those matters unique to this small city, it is in the local apolitical work of so many talented people that Whitewater’s particular hope for 2017 rests.

Here we are, at the end of a long year. Our national politics is troubled, our state politics is troubled, and our local politics has not been worse (and injurious of constructive private life) only through restraint of the worst of national and state impulses within this city.  One could hope, of course, that 2018 will see a similar forbearance, but in a conflict no prudent person would place his or her hope merely in others’ forbearance. Someone in Africa might hope not to be devoured by a hyena, but resting that hope on the hyena never becoming hungry would be, at a minimum, unrealistic.

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Tomorrow: Whitewater’s Outlook for 2018.

Daily Bread for 12.31.17

Good morning.

The year ends for Whitewater with mostly sunny skies and a high of nine degrees. Sunrise is 7:26 AM and sunset 4:31 PM, for 9:05:11 of daylight. The moon is a waxing gibbous with 96.2% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the four hundred sixteenth day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

On this day in 1879, Thomas Edison holds a successful public demonstration of an electric light bulb (after successful private tests months earlier). On this day in 1967, Green Bay Packers triumph in the ‘Ice Bowl’: “On this date the Green Bay Packers and Dallas Cowboys played in what many consider to be the greatest game in NFL history – The Ice Bowl. With the thermometer dipping to a shocking 13 below zero and a wind chill of minus 46, Bart Starr scored the winning touchdown from the 1-yard line with 13 seconds remaining, sealing a record third straight championship for the Packers, their fifth in seven years. Green Bay defeated Dallas, 21-17, to win the NFL Championship.”

Recommended for reading in full —

Sharon LaFraniere, Mark Mazzetti, and Matt Apuzzo report How the Russia Inquiry Began: A Campaign Aide, Drinks and Talk of Political Dirt:

WASHINGTON — During a night of heavy drinking at an upscale London bar in May 2016, George Papadopoulos, a young foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign, made a startling revelation to Australia’s top diplomat in Britain: Russia had political dirt on Hillary Clinton.

About three weeks earlier, Mr. Papadopoulos had been told that Moscow had thousands of emails that would embarrass Mrs. Clinton, apparently stolen in an effort to try to damage her campaign.

Exactly how much Mr. Papadopoulos said that night at the Kensington Wine Rooms with the Australian, Alexander Downer, is unclear. But two months later, when leaked Democratic emails began appearing online, Australian officials passed the information about Mr. Papadopoulos to their American counterparts, according to four current and former American and foreign officials with direct knowledge of the Australians’ role.

The hacking and the revelation that a member of the Trump campaign may have had inside information about it were driving factors that led the F.B.I. to open an investigation in July 2016 into Russia’s attempts to disrupt the election and whether any of President Trump’s associates conspired.

If Mr. Papadopoulos, who pleaded guilty to lying to the F.B.I. and is now a cooperating witness, was the improbable match that set off a blaze that has consumed the first year of the Trump administration, his saga is also a tale of the Trump campaign in miniature. He was brash, boastful and underqualified, yet he exceeded expectations. And, like the campaign itself, he proved to be a tantalizing target for a Russian influence operation….

(It wasn’t the Steele dossier, it was a talkative Trump aide with knowledge of Russian hacking, that motivated the FBI.)

Julian Sanchez states plainly what this means:

Adam K. Raymond reports Mueller Probing Whether Trump Digital Team Aided Russian Disinformation Campaign:

Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s influence on the 2016 election has begun to zero in on the joint digital operation that got Donald Trump elected, Yahoo News reports.

Mueller’s team is trying to determine if members of the Trump campaign and Republican National Committee, who worked together on the digital arm of Trump’s campaign, provided assistance to Russian trolls attempting to influence voters. It’s the latest scare for Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, who managed the digital campaign and has already come under scrutiny by the special counsel for his foreign contacts.

Mueller’s move appears to concern the disproportionate targeting of swing districts by Russian trolls during the presidential campaign. CNN reported in October that ads placed by Russia-linked Facebook accounts targeted Michigan and Wisconsin in particular, with many “geared at swaying public opinion in the most heavily contested battlegrounds.”

Experts don’t think the trolls behind Russian Facebook accounts could have determined who to target on their own, but the question is whether the help they got came from Trump’s orbit. The leading suspects at this point are Kushner and Brad Parscale, the campaign’s digital media director….

(To cooperate with America’s enemies – and Putin is an enemy of America – is to be a fifth columnist.)

Nusrat Choudhury writes Jeff Sessions Takes a Stand for Debtors’ Prisons:

During the holiday season, many of us think about what we can do to help people struggling with poverty. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, on the other hand, decided just before Christmas to rescind a guidance meant to protect low-income Americans.

The 2016 guidance, issued by former President Obama’s Justice Department, urged state and local courts nationwide to abide by constitutional principles prohibiting the jailing of poor people who cannot afford to pay court fines and fees. Jeff Sessions’ action makes clear that he and his Justice Department are unconcerned by courts trampling on the rights of poor people.

The Obama Justice Department issued the 2016 letter after reports and lawsuits by the ACLU and other groups revealed how modern-day debtors’ prisons function in more than a dozen states, despite the fact that the U.S. two centuries ago formally outlawed jailing people simply because they have unpaid debts.

These efforts revealed that poor people were being locked up in GeorgiaWashingtonMississippi, and elsewhere without court hearings or legal representation when they could not pay fines and fees for traffic tickets or other civil infractions or criminal offenses. These efforts also show that modern-day debtors’ prisons result from state laws allowing or requiring the suspension of driver’s licenses for unpaid court fines or fees without first requiring confirmation that the person could actually pay….

(Sessions is among the most consistent advocates for the most punitive measures – a patient, persistent reactionary.)

What about That Time People Put Frogs in Unrefrigerated Milk to Keep it From Spoiling?

Daily Bread for 12.30.17

Good morning.

Saturday in Whitewater will be partly cloudy with a high of three. Sunrise is 7:25 AM and sunset 4:30 PM, for 9h 05m 11s of daytime. The moon is a waxing gibbous with 90.6% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the four hundred fifteenth day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

On this day in 1936, the Flint sit-down strike against General Motors begins.

Recommended for reading in full —

The New York Times has published Excerpts From Trump’s Interview With The Times:

President Trump spoke on Thursday with a reporter from The New York Times, Michael S. Schmidt. The interview took place in the Grill Room of his golf club in West Palm Beach, Fla., whose noise made some portions at times hard to hear.

The following are excerpts from that conversation, transcribed by The Times. They have been lightly edited for content and clarity, and omit several off-the-record comments and asides….

TRUMP: Yeah. Virtually every Democrat has said there is no collusion. There is no collusion. And even these committees that have been set up. If you look at what’s going on — and in fact, what it’s done is, it’s really angered the base and made the base stronger. My base is stronger than it’s ever been. Great congressmen, in particular, some of the congressmen have been unbelievable in pointing out what a witch hunt the whole thing is. So, I think it’s been proven that there is no collusion….

TRUMP: What I’ve done is, I have absolute right to do what I want to do with the Justice Department. But for purposes of hopefully thinking I’m going to be treated fairly, I’ve stayed uninvolved with this particular matter….

TRUMP: Yeah, China. … China’s been. … I like very much President Xi. He treated me better than anybody’s ever been treated in the history of China. You know that. The presentations. … One of the great two days of anybody’s life and memory having to do with China. He’s a friend of mine, he likes me, I like him, we have a great chemistry together. He’s [inaudible] of the United States. …[Inaudible.] China’s hurting us very badly on trade, but I have been soft on China because the only thing more important to me than trade is war. O.K.?…

Ezra Klein contends Incoherent, authoritarian, uninformed: Trump’s New York Times interview is a scary read:

The president of the United States is not well. That is an uncomfortable thing to say, but it is an even worse thing to ignore.

Consider the interview Trump gave to the New York Times on Thursday. It begins with a string of falsehoods that make it difficult to tell whether the leader of the free world is lying or delusional. Remember, these are President Donald Trump’s words, after being told a recording device is on:

Virtually every Democrat has said there is no collusion. There is no collusion. And even these committees that have been set up. If you look at what’s going on — and in fact, what it’s done is, it’s really angered the base and made the base stronger. My base is stronger than it’s ever been. Great congressmen, in particular, some of the congressmen have been unbelievable in pointing out what a witch hunt the whole thing is. So, I think it’s been proven that there is no collusion.

It almost goes without saying that literally zero congressional Democrats have said that there was no collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign during the 2016 election. Zero.

What key Democrats are actually saying is closer to the opposite. On December 20, for instance, Sen. Mark Warner, the vice chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee and thus the Senate Democrat leading the investigation into collusion, said, “despite the initial denials of any Russian contacts during the election, this Committee’s efforts have helped uncover numerous and troubling high-level engagements between the Trump campaign and Russian affiliates — many of which have only been revealed in recent months.”

Nor is Trump’s base strengthening, or even holding steady. In a detailed analysis of Trump’s poll numbers, FiveThirtyEight’s Harry Enten concluded that the president is losing the most ground in the reddest states:

In states where Trump won by at least 10 points, his net approval rating is down 18 percentage points, on average, compared to his margin last November. In states that were decided by 10 points or less in November, it’s down only 13 points. And it’s down 8 points in states Clinton carried by at least 10 points.

The fact that Trump has lost the greatest number of supporters in red states is perhaps the clearest indication yet that he is losing ground among some form of his base, if you think of his base as those who voted for him in November….

Jennifer Rubin contends Trump is as unfit and ignorant as ever:

He tweeted, “In the East, it could be the COLDEST New Year’s Eve on record. Perhaps we could use a little bit of that good old Global Warming that our Country, but not other countries, was going to pay TRILLIONS OF DOLLARS to protect against. Bundle up!”

Trump either was again playing dumb or evidencing his inability to distinguish between “weather” and “climate.” (“Man-made global warming, as the name suggests, refers to the steady rise of average temperature of Earth’s climate system because of the buildup of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere. Indeed, at the moment much of the rest of world is warmer than normal even if a portion of the United States is chilly.”)

His response was greeted by a tweet storm of ridicule from elected Democrats, scientists and ordinary social media users who continue to marvel at his willful contempt for scientific knowledge. His missive was a timely year-end reminder that this president refuses to educate himself on the most basic aspects of key policy issues.

Guy Faulconbridge, Jonathan Saul, Polina Nikolskaya report Exclusive: Russian tankers fueled North Korea via transfers at sea – sources:

LONDON/MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russian tankers have supplied fuel to North Korea on at least three occasions in recent months by transferring cargoes at sea, according to two senior Western European security sources, providing an economic lifeline to the secretive Communist state.

The sales of oil or oil products from Russia, the world’s second biggest oil exporter and a veto-wielding member of the United Nations Security Council, breach U.N. sanctions, the security sources said.

The transfers in October and November indicate that smuggling from Russia to North Korea has evolved to loading cargoes at sea since Reuters reported in September that North Korean ships were sailing directly from Russia to their homeland.

“The Russian vessels made transfers at sea to the North Koreans,” the first security source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Reuters. The source said the transfers of oil or oil products took place on several occasions and were a breach of sanctions….

Here’s How the Animal Kingdom Sleeps:

Sleep is universal in the animal kingdom, but each species slumbers in a different — and often mysterious — way. Some animals snooze with half their brain, while others sleep for just two hours a day (without suffering sleep deprivation). In this episode of Animalism, Ed Yong guides us through the latest research on how creatures catch their z’s.

Daily Bread for 12.29.17

Good morning.

Friday in Whitewater will be cloudy, with a high of fourteen, and an even chance of afternoon snow showers. Sunrise is 7:25 AM and sunset 4:29 PM, for 9h 04m 31s of daytime. The moon is a waxing gibbous with 82.2% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the four hundred fourteenth day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

On this day in 1879, General William “Billy” Mitchell is born:

On this date aviation pioneer Billy Mitchell was born in Nice, France. Mitchell grew up in Milwaukee and attended Racine College. During World War I, Mitchell was the first American airman to fly over enemy lines.  He also led many air attacks in France and Germany. Upon return to the U.S., he advocated the creation of a separate Air Force.

Much to the dislike of A.T. Mahan, Theodore Roosevelt, and other contemporaries, Mitchell asserted that the airplane had rendered the battleship obsolete, and attention should be shifted to developing military air power. Mitchell’s out-spokenness resulted in his being court martialed for insubordination. He was sentenced to five years suspension of rank without pay. General Douglas MacArthur — an old Milwaukee friend — was a judge in Mitchell’s case and voted against his court martial. Mitchell’s ideas for developing military air power were not implemented until long after his death. In 1946 Congress created a medal in his honor, the General “Billy” Mitchell Award. Milwaukee’s airport, General Mitchell International Airport, is named after him.

Recommended for reading in full — 

Chris Isidore and Julia Horowitz report Foxconn got a really good deal from Wisconsin. And it’s getting better [for Foxconn]:

The $3 billion incentive package used to lure Foxconn to Wisconsin to build a giant factory was only the beginning.

Associated sweeteners have now grown to more than $4 billion — adding in the cost of local government incentives and various infrastructure projects, like roads and highways, sewer and power lines.

Foxconn is also being allowed to skip state environmental rules and oversight it would otherwise have had to follow….

The Village of Mount Pleasant and Racine County, where the plant is to be built, have also agreed to provide $764 million in tax incentives to help get the facility constructed, including buying the land and giving it to Foxconn for free.

The state expects to spend about $400 million on road improvements, including adding two lanes to the nearby Interstate 94. And it’s seeking $246 million more in federal money to help pay for the interstate expansion.

In addition, the local electric utility is upgrading its lines and adding substations to provide the necessary power that will be used by the plant, at a cost of $140 million. The cost of those projects will be paid by 5 million customers in the area.

About half the state’s tax breaks depend upon how many workers Foxconn hires. While the state touts Foxconn’s plans for 13,000 workers, the company has only committed to hiring 3,000 at this point.

(Foxconn is everything wrong with state-subsidized capitalism and WEDC, made manifest and plain for all America. Three billion or four billion, whatever. Thirteen thousand or three thousand, whatever. Walker never graduated from Marquette, and that’s to Marquette’s advantage – if they had given him a degree, they’d have to explain how he got one every day until the end of time.)

Evan Osnos reports Why the 2018 Midterms Are So Vulnerable to Hackers:

The first primary of the 2018 midterm elections, in Texas, is barely eight weeks away. It’s time to ask: Will the Russian government deploy “active measures” of the kind it used in 2016? Is it possible that a wave of disinformation on Facebook and Twitter could nudge the results of a tight congressional race in, say, Virginia or Nevada? Will hackers infiltrate? low-budget campaigns in Pennsylvania and Nebraska, and leak their e-mails to the public? Will the news media and voters take the bait?

By most accounts, the answer is likely to be yes—and, for several reasons, the election may prove to be as vulnerable, or more so, than the 2016 race that brought Donald Trump to the White House….

“An attacker who wants to affect the national outcome could try targeting all of those races, find the states where the election systems are most weakly protected, and strike there,” J. Alex Halderman, the director of the Center for Computer Security and Society at the University of Michigan, told me. In the language of hacking and cyber-defense, the 2018 midterms present an unusually large “attack surface,” because of the sheer number of competitive races. “About a dozen states still rely on obsolete paperless voting machines, and most states fail to routinely conduct rigorous post-election audits,” he said.

On a technical level, the American election system is almost as vulnerable as it was in 2016. According to U.S. intelligence, Russian hackers tested the vulnerabilities of registration rolls in twenty-one states, but did not alter the vote tallies. Halderman, who testified recently in Congress about gaps in election defenses, told me, “Unfortunately, there haven’t been widespread security improvements so far. We can be sure that our adversaries have been paying attention, and so they may be more likely to try attacking election systems in November.” At the Def Con hackers’ conference in July, attendees demonstrated that they could break into thirty voting machines of multiple types, some in as little as ninety minutes. Without altering the results, hackers could sow doubt about the outcome by shutting down or disrupting voting machines on Election Day….

(Trump has no incentive to encourage better security if he assumes – as is true – that Putin will do whatever he can to aid Trump-supporting GOP results.)

Aaron David Miller and Richard Sokolsky ask ‘America first’? So far, Trump’s foreign policy mostly puts America last:

Concluding the national security strategy address that he delivered earlier this month, President Trump described his foreign policy aim “to celebrate American greatness as a shining example to the world.”

Not exactly.

At the end of his first year in office, the president’s approach to foreign affairs doesn’t fit the platitude-ridden narrative laid out in that speech as much as it lines up with six key components that define the Trumpian way abroad: America first, politics over policy, ego, deconstruction, risk aversion and dictators over democrats. They don’t make a neatly defined doctrine, but these components have a certain cohesion — at least in Trump’s mind — that hints at how he’ll operate for the rest of his tenure….

the yardstick for judging Trump’s foreign policy isn’t whether his administration solves the world’s toughest problems. The question is whether his approach to foreign policy can manage the challenges the United States cannot resolve in a way that strengthens our interests while avoiding international crises, such as an escalation of conflict with Iran or, particularly, North Korea, that might irreparably harm those interests. A year in, the record does not inspire confidence. His worldview isn’t one that carefully calibrates means and ends or clearly defines true U.S. national interests and makes them a priority. Instead, it is one that will likely end up putting America last, not first, on a range of issues critical to its long-term prosperity and security.

Mekela Panditharatne writes FEMA says most of Puerto Rico has potable water. That can’t be true:

The weeks after Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico brought remarkable images of people desperate to find clean water, drinking from hazardous Superfund sites and thrusting containers under makeshift spigots on the sides of mountains.

According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, this particular problem has subsided now, more than three months after the storm: FEMA’s official statistics on Puerto Rico, which rely on data provided by the territory, suggest that 95 percent of Puerto Ricans now have access to potable water.

That just isn’t possible.

I’m a lawyer at the Natural Resources Defense Council, where I specialize in toxics and drinking water. Before Hurricane Maria, I worked with local groups in Puerto Rico on drinking-water contamination on the island. We put out a report in May showing that in 2015, 99.5 percent of Puerto Ricans — virtually all residents — were served by water sources that violated the Safe Drinking Water Act. These violations included contamination, failure to properly treat the water, and failure to conduct water testing or to report as required by federal rules. A substantial majority, 69.4 percent of the population, was drawing tap water that had unlawfully high levels of contaminants such as coliform bacteria, disinfection byproducts and volatile organic compounds, or that had not been treated in accordance with federal standards.

Even as mainland coverage of water access and quality issues in Puerto Rico has receded, overshadowed by chatter about the latest political crises and tax breaks in Washington, the hurricane has made an already bad water situation far worse. And by veiling the true extent of the damage, FEMA’s misleading statistics on water are exacerbating the problems.

(Bad before, worse now, and no incentive for an agency to speak truthfully when Trump, himself, lies daily.)

‘These Paper Puppets Are Like Origami But Better’:

(My late father loved origami, and he would have, I think, understood these clever paper toys as a kind of origami, not a separate art as the video’s title suggests. Beautiful, however one describes them.)

Care at the Point of Injury

The Scene from Whitewater, Wisconsin A post from early December – ‘Don’t worry about them – the rest of us feel great!’ – outlined the problem of boosterism & babbittry: it urges people to look away from real injuries and to gaze instead on delightful distractions.

First the problem summarized, then the better, ethical response –

The problem:

A doctor walks into a town of one-hundred people, and finds that half of them are pale, feverish, and vomiting blood. The physician calls out to a community leader, “Send for help, you have an epidemic on your hands.” The community leader replies, “Oh no, don’t worry about them – the rest of us feel great!”

There one sees the self-regard and self-promotion of some, while ignoring the condition of others.

A response to injury like this entices others to do anything except ponder the injury. There may even be an acknowledgement of the problem (‘yes, yes, of course we know that many are pale, feverish, and vomiting’) but then comes the selfish entreaty to spend not a moment more on the problem, but to look away to a new building, bridge, celebration, or parade. Indeed, this foul boosterism & babbittry is sometimes so distinctive that it’s as though one could see or smell it even from a great distance.

The better, ethical response:

Upon seeing an undeniable injury – those pale, feverish, and vomiting – the ethical response of those in authority is to describe – then and there – the care that is being provided at the point of injury. Perhaps that care will prove enough, perhaps no care could be enough, but there is a moral obligation to state plainly what is being done about manifest suffering. In describing what is being done, there is both a moral acknowledgement of the most important concerns, and simultaneously a practical invitation of others’ assistance and suggestions.

The simplest truth is that many in authority in Whitewater, and places elsewhere, have spent entire careers – entire lives – urging others to gaze instead on delightful distractions.

The simplest solution for those in authority is the ethical one: acknowledge injury and describe what one is doing on behalf of the injured.

Daily Bread for 12.28.17

Good morning.

Thursday in Whitewater will see cloudy skies, an even chance of flurries, and a high of fourteen. Sunrise is 7:25 AM and sunset 4:28 PM, for 9h 03m 54s of daytime. The moon is a waxing gibbous with 72.8% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the four hundred thirteenth day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

On this day in 1895, Auguste and Louis Lumière give the first paid public screening of a film: “[t]his history-making presentation featured 10 short films, including their first film, Sortie des Usines Lumière à Lyon (Workers Leaving the Lumière Factory).”

Recommended for reading in full —

Michael Morell and Mike Rogers write Russia never stopped its cyberattacks on the United States:

Every first-year international-relations student learns about the importance of deterrence: It prevented a Soviet invasion of Western Europe during the height of the Cold War. It prevented North Korea from invading South Korea in the same time frame. Today, it keeps Iran from starting a hot war in the Middle East or other nations from initiating cyberattacks against our infrastructure.

And yet, the United States has failed to establish deterrence in the aftermath of Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. We know we failed because Russia continues to aggressively employ the most significant aspect of its 2016 tool kit: the use of social media as a platform to disseminate propaganda designed to weaken our nation.

There is a perception among the media and general public that Russia ended its social-media operations following last year’s election and that we need worry only about future elections. But that perception is wrong. Russia’s information operations in the United States continued after the election and they continue to this day.

This should alarm everyone — Republicans, Democrats and independents alike. Foreign governments, overtly or covertly, should not be allowed to play with our democracy.

Russia’s information operations tactics since the election are more numerous than can be listed here. But to get a sense of the breadth of Russian activity, consider the messaging spread by Kremlin-oriented accounts on Twitter, which cybersecurity and disinformation experts have tracked as part of the German Marshall Fund’s Alliance for Securing Democracy.

In a single week this month, Moscow used these accounts to discredit the FBI after it was revealed that an agent had been demoted for sending anti-Donald Trump texts; to attack ABC News for an erroneous report involving President Trump and Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser; to critique the Obama administration for allegedly “green lighting” the communication between Flynn and then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak; and to warn about violence by immigrants after a jury acquitted an undocumented Mexican accused of murdering a San Francisco woman….

(This should alarm everyone, but it does not alarm Trump: he benefits from Putin’s support. Putin is an organ grinder to Trump’s dancing monkey; the organ grinder variously plays a tune, offers a piece of fruit, or tugs on the tiny primate’s leash.)

Asawin Suebsaeng and Sam Stein contend The #NeverTrump Movement Has Been Neutered (“Conservative opposition to Trump is splintered and more than a bit pessimistic about what comes next”):

President Donald Trump is ending his first year in office in a worse political position than when he entered.

Republicans have lost statehouse seats, been trounced in the two marquee gubernatorial elections, and squandered their Alabama Senate stronghold. Trump himself has seen his popularity drop, including among conservatives and even watchers of Fox News, a Trumpian media bullhorn if there ever was one.

And yet, even at this particular nadir, the conservative intellectual forces rallying against the president remain dispirited and divided. There is dispute within the ranks, not just over how best to make the case against Trump but whether there is a coherent case at all. Looking forward, they don’t see salvation. It is an article of faith among the ranks that Trump will be challenged by a Republican in the 2020 presidential election….

By contrast, conservative Conor Friedersdorf contends ‘Never Trump’ Will Be the Only Faction Still Standing When He’s Gone (“When the Republican Party’s current coalition falls apart, those who stood up to bigotry will be the only ones with the credibility to rebuild”):

And the most important and damning traits that distinguish Trump from his predecessors are his willingness to stoke animus against minority groups for political gain; the energy he has given to white supremacists; the indiscipline of his public statements; the frequency with which he blatantly lies to the public; and the unsavory characters that he brought with him into the federal government—including Stephen Bannon, Stephen Miller, and Sebastian Gorka, for starters.

Only Never Trumpers can credibly claim to stand against the moral abominations that suffused Trump’s political rise and the first year of his presidency. They alone are conserving a faction on the right that stands against deplorability in the face of a president who remains a cruelmendacious egomaniac. They alone can credibly claim to oppose racial demagoguery.

Insofar as most Republicans celebrate Trump as a success story, rather than repudiating him as an affront to basic standards of decency, they transgress against the Founding belief in the importance of character in leaders while disgracing themselves and doing shortsighted violence to the GOP’s long term prospects. To the question, “Did you oppose the man who repeatedly stoked hatred of us?” they will have to tell Hispanics, Muslims, and African Americans, “No.”

In fact, Pro-Trumpers are sullying the fiscally laissez faire party for a generation, a tragedy for those who believe in free-market economics and small government. Neither George W. Bush nor John McCain nor Mitt Romney deserved criticism they got from some quarters for alleged racial animus. But I don’t blame voters who are rooting for Republicans to be routed in Election 2018: The GOP no longer passes the threshold test of opposing open bigotry….

(One can reconcile the apparent contradiction. Suebsaeng, Stein, and Friedersdorf are all discussing an intra-conservative, intra-GOP #NeverTrump position. Suebsaeng & Stein doubt that inside-the-tent GOP opposition to Trump will be able to stop him. They’re right – it won’t be enough. Trump and Trumpism’s political end will come from a broad, majority coalition of opposition and resistance. Afterward, and only afteward, there will come some sort of responsible, second political party – whether called Republican or something else – and the #NeverTrumpers will probably find a role there, as they’ll not have been tainted and disgraced by association with Trumpism. Suebsaeng & Stein are right to contend that #NeverTrump has almost no traction now; Friedersdorf’s right to see that the conservative & GOP members of #NeverTrump will find greater influence after – but only after – a much broader opposition ruins Trump.)

Betsy Woodruff reports Robert Mueller May Indict Paul Manafort Again (“The charges against the former Trump campaign boss appear to have been only an opening salvo in a legal barrage on the president’s confidants, informed observers say”):

From its inception, two things about special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation were clear: first, the White House’s biggest concern was that Mueller would follow the money; and second, Mueller is following the money.

It’s been seven months since Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein ordered Bob Mueller to take over the FBI’s counterintelligence probe into possible links between the Kremlin and people associated with the Trump campaign. Trump’s lawyers have long said they expected the probe to stay focused and end quickly. Instead, Mueller has assembled a team of prosecutors with expertise in handling financial investigations and white-collar crime, and obtained guilty pleas for crimes that weren’t committed during the election year.

And, most importantly, he’s sent a thinly veiled warning to the White House: No one’s finances are off limits. If 2017 had the president’s inner circle sweating, 2018 could feel like a sauna.

And no one may feel more heat than Paul Manafort. In Washington legal circles, there’s a broad expectation that Mueller will file what’s called a superseding indictment of Manafort and Rick Gates, his erstwhile business partner—and alleged partner in crime. Gates and Manafort both pleaded not guilty when Mueller’s team filed their indictment on Oct. 30. Legal experts say there may be more charges to come.

“I would expect a superseding indictment to come down relatively soon,” said Jonathan Turley, a professor at George Washington University’s law school.

“There was much in the narrative of the indictment that referenced crimes not charged,” he added. “Prosecutors will often issue a superseding indictment as the grand jury continues its work. There’s also a tactical reason for this, that superseding indictments tend to grind defendants a bit more over time”….

So, How Do Bass Suck in Their Prey?

First Serving

The Scene from Whitewater, Wisconsin
Whitewater’s longtime politician, current school board member, and ersatz newsman Jim Stewart has published an update on candidacies for upcoming school board, city council, and county board races.

A few quick comments:

1. Stewart’s Update on Compensation. Stewart has an update to his post, or rather UPDATED, on the compensation for each office. Why he thinks that matters he doesn’t say. If the sums he lists are an enticement to run, then he’s enticing the wrong candidates. No one should be running for the money. If Stewart thinks these sums are high, well, they’re not half so high as the millions that Stewart authorized for wasteful projects while on Whitewater’s city council: TID 4, an ‘Innovation Center,’ etc.

If Stewart had voted for even one fewer failed project while in office, he might have saved enough to fund politicians’ salaries for decades.

2. County Board. One reads from Stewart’s website that Whitewater resident Jerry Grant is running for the Walworth County Board of Supervisors: “Jerry has the desire to return to the County Board and continue to serve the constituents of District 4, which is most of the City of Whitewater.” No other candidate Stewart lists – there are over a half dozen – receives this positive explanation of desire. It’s not quoted, it’s simply stated. That’s why Stewart’s not a newsman, never was, never will be. He can’t distinguish between his views and objective, indisputable fact.

3. School Board. Stewart spent many years on the board, left over a decade ago, tried to return but lost a competitive race in 2015, and then returned to the board in 2016 after submitting his name as the only interested candidate. Whitewater has a school board that is established on a principle of collective governance, but a single board member who speaks as though he were all the board, all the administration, all the district, as an official spokesperson. Whitewater’s common council endured a similar situation during Stewart’s tenure there.

These are among the weak local practices, as one finds in other small towns, that have preceded the worse national ones that now beset us.

Because the community’s politics is weak and poorly ordered, these collective bodies lack the strength to reject a conflict-riddled approach from even one striving politician.

There’s a saying that to serve slices of a pie fairly, one should make the server take the last piece. Whitewater’s situation represents the opposite approach, where one politician out of several takes first, leaving what’s left on the plate for the rest.

Embed from Getty Images

Daily Bread for 12.27.17

Good morning.

Wednesday in Whitewater will be clear and cold, with a high of nine. Sunrise is 7:24 AM and sunset 4:28 PM, for 9h 03m 22s of daytime. The moon is a waxing gibbous with 63.1% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the four hundred twelfth day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

On this day in 1968, Apollo 8 splashes down at night in the Pacific after becoming “the first manned spacecraft to leave Earth orbit, reach the Earth’s Moon, orbit it and return safely to Earth. The three-astronaut crew — Commander Frank Borman, Command Module Pilot James Lovell, and Lunar Module Pilot William Anders — became the first humans to: travel beyond low Earth orbit; see Earth as a whole planet; enter the gravity well of another celestial body (Earth’s moon); orbit another celestial body (Earth’s moon); directly see the far side of the Moon with their own eyes; witness an Earthrise; escape the gravity of another celestial body (Earth’s moon); and re-enter the gravitational well of Earth.”

Recommended for reading in full —

Chris Hamby reports FBI Software For Analyzing Fingerprints Contains Russian-Made Code, Whistleblowers Say (“In a secret deal, a French company purchased code from a Kremlin-connected firm, incorporated it into its own software, and hid its existence from the FBI, according to documents and two whistleblowers. The allegations raise concerns that Russian hackers could compromise law enforcement computer systems”):

The fingerprint-analysis software used by the FBI and more than 18,000 other US law enforcement agencies contains code created by a Russian firm with close ties to the Kremlin, according to documents and two whistleblowers. The allegations raise concerns that Russian hackers could gain backdoor access to sensitive biometric information on millions of Americans, or even compromise wider national security and law enforcement computer systems.

The Russian code was inserted into the fingerprint-analysis software by a French company, said the two whistleblowers, who are former employees of that company. The firm — then a subsidiary of the massive Paris-based conglomerate Safran — deliberately concealed from the FBI the fact that it had purchased the Russian code in a secret deal, they said.

In recent years, Russian hackers have gained access to everything from the Democratic National Committee’s email servers to the systems of nuclear power companies to the unclassified computers of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, according to US authorities.

This September, the Department of Homeland Security ordered all federal agencies to stop using products made by the Moscow-based company Kaspersky Lab, including its popular antivirus software, and media outlets reportedthat Russian hackers had exploited it to steal sensitive information on US intelligence programs. The department later clarified that the order didn’t apply to “Kaspersky code embedded in the products of other companies.” The company’s founder, Eugene V. Kaspersky, has denied any involvement in or knowledge of the hack….

Maggie Astor reports Mike Huckabee Says Trump Is Like Churchill. Historians Disagree:

“Sure. Churchill served his country 55 years in parliament, 31 years as a minister and 9 as pm,” Kristian Tonning Riise, a member of Norway’s Parliament, wrote in a tweet liked more than 19,000 times. “He was present in 15 battles and received 14 medals of bravery. He was one of history’s most gifted orators and won the Nobel Literature Prize for his writing. Totally same thing.”

(Trump’s defenders will declare anything – however absurd – about him, knowing that ignorant supporters will repeat these claims, and knowledgeable opponents will be left stunned. Indeed, Roy Moore’s supporters heard that Moore was like St. Joseph, so nutty comparisons between Trump and Churchill should not surprise. They’ll say anything.)

Marina Koren writes of A Triumphant Year for SpaceX (“The company’s record-breaking 2017 and what it means for the science and business of rocketry”):

The year 2017 has turned out to be a good one for rocket science in the United States.

American companies made 29 successful rocket launches into orbit, the highest figure since 1999, which saw 31 launches, according to a comprehensive database maintained by Gunter Krebs, a spaceflight historian in Germany. The final launch of the year, by a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying a cache of commercial communications satellites, took place Friday night at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

SpaceX, Elon Musk’s private spaceflight company, is responsible for most of this year’s launches. After a brief hiatus following an explosion in September 2016 that destroyed a Falcon 9 and its $200 million commercial payload, SpaceXreturned to the launchpad in mid-January. At the time, the success of the launch was imperative; SpaceX had lost another rocket in June 2015, about two minutes after takeoff, and its rocket-fueling process was receiving intense scrutiny by a nasa safety advisory group. nasa was entering its fifth year of using SpaceX rockets for resupply missions to the International Space Station, and future deals were on the line….


SpaceX Falcon 9 Rocket Launch from Jesse Watson on Vimeo.
Dani Deahl reports A photographer shot an awesome time-lapse of SpaceX’s recent rocket launch:

Last Friday, SpaceX launched its 18th and final mission of 2017, sending a Falcon 9 rocket out of Vandenberg Air Force Base and into the California sky. The white tail of the rocket was an unusual sight, leaving many in Southern California who did not know a rocket launch was occurring confused, with some even speculating it was a UFO. Now, a spectacular 40-second time-lapse of the Falcon 9 has been posted by photographer Jesse Watson.

Watson lives in Yuma, Arizona, and according to PetaPixel had been following SpaceX launches for some time. Though this latest launch was held at Vandenberg Air Force Base, 400 miles away, he says it was “perfectly viewable” from where he lives in Yuma.

He had never shot a rocket before, but used The Photographer’s Ephemeris, a map-centric sun and moon calculator, as well as Google Maps to figure out where to set up his shots. Because he was working on estimated knowledge, Watson used four cameras and five lenses at four different locations, with three of the cameras rolling time-lapse and one rolling telephoto video….

Nicholas Casey, Ben C. Solomon, and Taige Jensen report on The Last Man to Speak His Language: