Trump’s Ex-National Security Adviser Flynn Paid Tens of Thousands by Russian Companies

Putin takes care of his useful friends. March 16, 2017 12:00 p.m. CT – Documents obtained by a congressional oversight committee reveal business interests that were previously undisclosed:

President Trump’s former national security adviser, Mike Flynn, was paid tens of thousands of dollars by Russian companies shortly before he became a formal adviser to the then-candidate, according to documents obtained by a congressional oversight committee that revealed business interests that hadn’t been previously known.

Mr. Flynn was paid $11,250 each by a Russian air cargo company that had been suspended as a vendor to the United Nations following a corruption scandal, and by a Russian cybersecurity company that was then trying to expand its business with the U.S. government.

Those engagements took place in the summer and fall of 2015, a year after he had been fired as the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency and while he continued to maintain a top-secret level security clearance.

In December 2015, the Kremlin-backed news organization RT also paid Mr. Flynn $33,750 to speak about U.S. foreign policy and intelligence matters at a conference in Moscow.

Via Mike Flynn Worked for Other Russian Companies Besides RT: documents @ Wall Street Journal.

Daily Bread for 3.16.17

Good morning.

Whitewater’s Thursday will be sunny with a high of thirty-seven. Sunrise is 7:02 AM and sunset 5:03 PM, for 12h 00m 35s of daytime. The moon is a waning gibbous with 86% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the one hundred twenty-eighth third day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

Whitewater’s Fire Department has a scheduled business meeting at 7 PM.

James Madison is born on this day in 1751. On this day in 1926, Dr. Robert Goddard successfully tests the world’s first liquid-fuelled rocket.

Recommended for reading in full —

Derek Hawkins reports that Trump’s talk — ‘Muslim ban,’ ‘Islam hates us’ — comes back to bite him in court again: “in his blistering opinion Wednesday freezing Trump’s the new travel ban, U.S. District Judge Derrick K. Watson said statements by Trump and his senior advisers were precisely what called its legality into question. “These plainly-worded statements, made in the months leading up to and contemporaneous with the signing of the Executive Order, and, in many cases, made by the Executive himself, betray the Executive Order’s stated secular purpose,” Watson wrote. And early Thursday morning, a federal judge ruling in a related case in Maryland said the order was “the realization of the long-envisioned Muslim ban,” as The Washington Post reported. Though U.S. District Judge Theodore D. Chuang’s opinion was narrower in scope than Watsons, he still found room to take aim at statements by Trump and his advisers, saying they showed “animus toward Muslims and intention to impose a ban on Muslims entering the United States.” In short, Trump’s loose talk had come back to bite him yet again. Only this time the criticism was coming straight from a federal judge.”

Charles Blow considers the Disciples of a False Prophet: “The con Donald Trump committed on his voters is slowly coming undone. He is not honest. He is not a brilliant deal maker. He is not even competent. His entire life, Trump has sold shimmer and called it silver. It was and is all an illusion, a brand built on selling banality with braggadocio. He shaped vapors into dreams and delivered them to those hungry for a taste of the showy, hollow form of the high life he came to represent. He was successful at exploiting those with an ostentatious appetite for the air of success. Trump’s life story is a pyramid scheme of ambitions. He took that history to a people struggling through a drought of opportunity and he exploited their weaknesses: a shrinking sense of economic security and growing nativist tendencies. But Trump doesn’t speak so much from facts as from feelings. For him, the truth is malleable and a lie is valuable. He creates his own reality rather than living in the reality of others. Deception is just a tool; betrayal is just an inconvenience.”

Peter Baker reports that In Trump Budget, More for Military, as His Supporters May Lose Out: “But in his first spending blueprint since taking office, Mr. Trump also made choices demonstrating that parts of America will be more first than others — and some of the budget losers, it turns out, may be some of the very constituencies that have been most supportive of the new president during his improbable rise to power. While border guards will have more prisons to lock up unauthorized immigrants, rural communities will lose grants and loans to build water facilities and financing to keep their airports open. As charter schools are bolstered, after-school and summer programs will lose money. As law enforcement agents get more help to fight the opioid epidemic, lower-income Americans will have less access to home energy aid, job training programs and legal services.”

Alex Isenstadt and Kenneth P. Vogel describes how Paranoia seizes Trump’s White House: “A culture of paranoia is consuming the Trump administration, with staffers increasingly preoccupied with perceived enemies—inside their own government. In interviews, nearly a dozen White House aides and federal agency staffers described a litany of suspicions: that rival factions in the administration are trying to embarrass them, that civil servants opposed to President Donald Trump are trying to undermine him, and even that a “deep state” of career military and intelligence officials is out to destroy them. Aides are going to great lengths to protect themselves. They’re turning off work-issued smartphones and putting them in drawers when they arrive home from work out of fear that they could be used to eavesdrop. They’re staying mum in meetings out of concern that their comments could be leaked to the press by foes. Many are using encrypted apps that automatically delete messages once they’ve been read, or are leaving their personal cell phones at home in case their bosses initiate phone checks of the sort that press secretary Sean Spicer deployed last month to identify leakers on his team. It’s an environment of fear that has hamstrung the routine functioning of the executive branch. Senior advisers are spending much of their time trying to protect turf, key positions have remained vacant due to a reluctance to hire people deemed insufficiently loyal, and Trump’s ambitious agenda has been eclipsed by headlines surrounding his unproven claim that former President Barack Obama tapped his phone lines. One senior administration aide, who like most others interviewed for this story spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the degree of suspicion had created a toxicity that was unsustainable.”

The Slam Poets of Istanbul are worthy examples for anyone:

Every week, a group of young people meet in Taksim Square to perform spoken-word poems. They are led by a woman named Merve Pehlivan, who is profiled in this short film. “As a Turkish person myself, I feel the extent to which we have been divided as a society and we have stopped talking with each other,” she says. “I’m a very strong supporter of freedom of expression and of diversity of opinion.” This documentary was filmed by Tara Milutis three days after the Reina nightclub attack, which killed 39 people.

U.S. indicts Russian spies in breach of 500 million Yahoo accounts

Ellen Nakashima reports on U.S. Justice Department’s charges against agents of the Putin regime – whose leader Trump only recently praised (“I always knew he was very smart!“) – for a vast hacking of American business (Yahoo & realated entities) and consumers:

The Justice Department announced Wednesday the indictments of two Russian spies and two criminal hackers in connection with the heist of 500 million Yahoo user accounts in 2014, marking the first U.S. criminal cyber charges ever against Russian government officials.The indictments target two members of the Russian intelligence agency FSB, and two hackers hired by the Russians.

The charges include hacking, wire fraud, trade secret theft and economic espionage, according to officials. The indictments are part of the largest hacking case brought by the United States.

On Rumors

Whitewater is a small town, with a population under fifteen thousand, approximately half of whom are college students. One of the advantages of being far smaller than Los Angeles or Atlanta should be the ease with which municipal leaders and law enforcement can meet and talk to residents. A person of average health and energy could walk the town easily, talking with residents along the way.

How odd, then to hear some city’s officials bemoaning rumors about possible federal law enforcement actions. If there are rumors among residents, city officials have only themselves to blame: if they were closer to their own residents, and even partly knowledgeable about those residents’ day-to-day experiences, they’d have a better ability to manage these matters.

Ice cream socials at a senior citizen facility (honest to goodness – the softest audience on the planet) are not enough. Admittedly, officials burn very few calories driving to a retirement home, sitting & talking, but that energy savings is an underuse of a taxpayer-funded salary.

If it should be true that “the rumors have truly been disheartening and harmful,” then it’s time for officials to work harder – connecting through true community-based enforcement – to dispel what so disheartens and hurts. All the servile commission cronies in the world, and their conniving boosters, can’t do what publicly-paid officials should be doing each day.

After so very long, after over twenty-six years, one should have expected better results than this. But people choose variously well or poorly, and Whitewater has so many times chosen poorly, and consigned herself to a weak, short-sighted, addled leadership. She’ll stay stagnant, and so decline relatively, until she chooses another course.

In the meantime, these failings may yet prove a useful lesson to other communities, so that they might avoid the same mistakes.

Daily Bread for 3.15.17

Good morning.

Wednesday in this small Midwestern town will be mostly sunny with a high of thirty-three. Sunrise is 7:04 AM and sunset 5:02 PM, for 11h 57m 39s of daytime. The moon is a waning gibbous with 91.9% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the one hundred twenty-seventh day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

Whitewater’s Park & Rec Board meets at 6:30 PM.

On this day in 44 B.C., Caesar meets his end.  On this day in 1862, the 17th and 18th Wisconsin Infantry regiments muster in at Madison and Milwaukee, respectively.

Recommended for reading in full — 

Stand Up Republic has a new video online, entitled Sunshine, on Trump’s ties to Vladimir Putin:

Charles V. Bagli and Michael Forsythe report Kushners, Trump In-Laws, Weigh $400 Million Deal with Chinese Firm: “A New York real estate company owned by the family of President Trump’s son-in-law has been negotiating to sell a $400 million stake in its Fifth Avenue flagship skyscraper to a Chinese insurance company with ties to leading families of the Communist Party. The Chinese company, Anbang Insurance Group, would pay to get a high-profile piece of Manhattan real estate and would commit to spending billions more to completely transform the 60-year-old tower into a chic condominium and retail citadel. If signed, the potential agreement would create a financial marriage of two politically powerful families in the world’s two biggest economies, but it would also present the possibility of glaring conflicts of interest. The Kushner family, owners of the tower, would reap a financial windfall courtesy of a Chinese company, even as Jared Kushner, a senior adviser to Mr. Trump as well as his son-in-law, helps oversee American foreign policy. News of the negotiations surfaced as President Trump and the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, were preparing for their first meeting, to be held next month.”

Evgeniy M. Bogachev. The F.B.I. has offered a $3 million bounty for his capture, the most ever for a cybercriminal. Credit FBI via NYT

Michael Schwirtz and Joseph Goldstein describe how Russian Espionage Piggybacks on a Cybercriminal’s Hacking: “To the F.B.I., Evgeniy M. Bogachev is the most wanted cybercriminal in the world. The bureau has announced a $3 million bounty for his capture, the most ever for computer crimes, and has been trying to track his movements in hopes of grabbing him if he strays outside his home turf in Russia. He has been indicted in the United States, accused of creating a sprawling network of virus-infected computers to siphon hundreds of millions of dollars from bank accounts around the world, targeting anyone with enough money worth stealing — from a pest control company in North Carolina to a police department in Massachusetts to a Native American tribe in Washington. In December, the Obama administration announced sanctions against Mr. Bogachev and five others in response to intelligence agencies’ conclusions that Russia had meddled in the presidential election. Publicly, law enforcement officials said it was his criminal exploits that landed Mr. Bogachev on the sanctions list, not any specific role in the hacking of the Democratic National Committee. But it is clear that for Russia, he is more than just a criminal. At one point, Mr. Bogachev had control over as many as a million computers in multiple countries, with possible access to everything from family vacation photographs and term papers to business proposals and highly confidential personal information. It is almost certain that computers belonging to government officials and contractors in a number of countries were among the infected devices. For Russia’s surveillance-obsessed intelligence community, Mr. Bogachev’s exploits may have created an irresistible opportunity for espionage.”

Matthew Fay, addressing Trump’s proposed military spending increase, asks $54 Billion for What?: “As noted above, America is already relatively immune to conventional military threats. So unless he is serious about deterring threats against American allies—whom he has accused of being “obsolete” free riders—the idea that additional defense spending is necessary for deterrence seems like overkill. It also comes at the expense of complementary “soft power” measures in the form of diplomacy and foreign aid. But for someone who reports suggested thought his inauguration should include rocket launchers as part of a military parade, the forty-fifth president might be thinking about a military build-up in symbolic, rather than strategic, terms.”

Tech Insider tells What you need to know about world’s largest telescope:

So Much for the ‘Master Race’

I’m white. (I’ll joke and say that, in fact, I’ve been white for as long as I can remember). It’s simply a natural characteristic for me. (It’s easier, unquestionably, to describe matters this way – as though without a social context – if one has not experienced discrimination).

One can’t say the same about Richard Spencer, white nationalist and Trump supporter. He is

a leader in the so-called “alt-right” movement, which has been energized by President Donald Trump’s victory in the 2016 election. He has said that the United States “at the end of the day, belongs to white men,” and at a November conference in Washington, D.C., he received Nazi salutes from supporters.

He’s also too indifferent or too ignorant to comply with the existing tax laws of the country that he believes belongs to his – and only his – race and gender:

The Internal Revenue Service has stripped prominent white nationalist Richard Spencer’s nonprofit of its tax-exempt status because the group failed to file tax returns, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times….He runs the National Policy Institute, an Arlington, Va.-based think tank which bills itself as “dedicated to the heritage, identity, and future of people of European descent in the United States.”

The group stopped filing tax returns with the IRS after 2012. Failing to file for three consecutive years results in an automatic loss of tax-exempt status. There are also questions about whether Spencer, a vocal supporter of Mr. Trump, violated rules that prohibit nonprofits from supporting any particular candidates or campaigns….

“I don’t know what to say. I don’t want to make a comment because I don’t understand this stuff,” Spencer said. “It’s a bit embarrassing, but it’s not good. We’ll figure it out.”

Via IRS strips Richard Spencer’s nonprofit of its tax-exempt status @ CBS News.

If a similar failure had happened to a racial minority, one could be sure that Spencer would attribute the failure to some sort of intellectual or moral inferiority. When Spencer commits the same act, however, he contends that he doesn’t “understand this stuff” and shrugs it off with how “it’s a bit embarrassing.”

This repulsive, racist failure, who washed out of Duke with the lame excuse that he left to pursue a life of “thought-crime” (although speech alone has never been criminal), begs off that it’s all a muddle, isn’t it?

We are taught – and I do not dispute the teaching – that we are to love even our enemies. I will, however, candidly confess of how deeply one can despise men like Spencer, how their words are a spur to action and opposition, how much one might wish to see the utter ruin of their racist band.

Spencer’s followers – pustulous every one of them – want the command of this continent, forever. They claim this through blut und boden, that their race (as they see it) should command this territory.

They disingenuously tell others to stand down so that they might march on. They tell others to speak softly so that they might shout. They dismiss others’ legitimate concerns so that they might advance their own unchecked lies. They now bring challenges to us, but we will return far worse to them.

So many of us are of Spencer’s race (united truly with vast millions of all races, ethnicities, faiths), are also on this continent, and are equally committed to oppose his false teaching. His claims are not simply ‘offensive’ to us, not simply ‘hurtful,’ they are instead the animating and motivating force for a relentless, increasing opposition until Spencer comes to see the loss of all he professes.

We in opposition seek the preservation and growth of a free, diverse society of individual liberty and equal rights. These are principles worth defending, and we find ourselves now, against our hopes for amity with others, in a fight for the defense of that free society. It’s a long path ahead, with many hardships to come, but for it all we will see it through.

On the Whitewater League of Women Voters Questionnaire (Spring 2017)

At its website, the Whitewater Area League of Women Voters has posted a questionnaire for the upcoming local election. For all the good work that the League does (and the national organization does admirable work in many communities), the questionnaire reveals an unsupported, narrow view of Whitewater’s local economy.

Consider the 7th question in the survey (http://www.lwvwhitewater.org/elections.html):

Q7. As University students move into available housing rentals in Whitewater, there is a chilling effect on single-family housing. What can be done to encourage more development of single-family homes and therefore an increase in that population?

A few remarks:

1. An assumption of negative effects. The question simply assumes a “chilling effect,” without even the slightest proof of one. (One can leave aside the misplaced use of chilling effect, normally a legal term applied to actions that stifle speech or lawful exercise of one’s rights.) If there should be a deterring effect in this case, can anyone at the Whitewater Area League quantify that effect? If not, then what makes this supposed effect more than any number of unfounded claims (e.g., four-leaf clovers, laetrile, Carrot Top as actually funny).

2. Whitewater’s economy. The questionnaire assumes, necessarily, the demand for rental housing makes single-family housing scarce. That’s most certainly not true of all college towns, many of which have large, well-cared-for single family residences. In those communities, single-family homes are desirable near a university (and so more of them are built). If there is no necessary connection, then the League has claimed one without evidence, and neglected other causes for the lack (in their minds) of single-family housing.

This is the key issue for Whitewater: When will policymakers stop blaming student housing for a lack of single-family housing, and start considering other causes for a (in their minds) a weak single-family housing market? (One could include among those other causes weak community relations – a lack of real engagement before enforcement)

3. Why only a negative effects? The questionnaire states effects in only one direction: negative, from student residents to non-student single-family home buyers. Even if one assumes some negative effects (and there’s no quantification of this), is there anyone who thinks that effects run only one way (that is, anyone outside of the League representative who drafted this questionnaire)? If so, those others have a paltry grasp of economic effects.

4. Why pick sides? An organization’s self-focused membership might assume that what they want is what (1) all others want or (2) what the community should have. These are market decisions among freely selling and purchasing adults, and those voluntary transactions prove that this community – in whole – wants and needs a robust student rental market.

5. Poor formation. The League’s seventh question isn’t even formulated correctly:  “As University students move into available housing rentals in Whitewater, there is a chilling effect on single-family housing” (my emphasis). No, a properly-formulated claim would not be about students moving into available housing rentals, it would be about single-family homes being converted into rentals.

6. Not a politician’s job. Why is it the task – as the League questionnaire assumes – that Whitewater’s common council should intervene in the housing market to advance an outcome that some (but not most actual buyers & sellers) prefer?

If government feels the need to act, it would do better to improve community-based enforcement, make basic municipal repairs, or care for the neediest members of the community: all these projects would be better than trying to rig the local housing market.

The most unfortunate aspect of the League’s question is that, for too many among this town’s policymakers, the Question 7 actually seems reasonable, indeed, obvious.

It’s nothing of the kind.

Daily Bread for 3.14.17

Good morning.

Tuesday in Whitewater will be mostly cloudy with a high of twenty-five. Sunrise is 7:06 AM and sunset 5:01 PM, for 11h 54m 43s of daytime. The moon is a waning gibbous with 96.6% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the one hundred twenty-sixth day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

On this day in 1879, Albert Einstein is born in Ulm, Germany. On this day in 1794, Eli Whitney receives a patent for the cotton gin. On this day in 1854, the Baraboo River floods: “”On the night of March 14, 1859, the Baraboo River, greatly swollen by spring rains and melting snow, went on a rampage, taking out a dam that supplied power for the flour mill of Bassett and Pratt. The flour mill was then the ‘largest institution of its kind for many miles around and about it centered the interest of the entire community’. Nearly 500 men responded to the catastrophe. The progress of the water was checked by the felling of trees. The flour in the mill was hauled to safety with team and wagons. The flood caused damage to the lower Maxwell Dam.”

Recommended for reading in full — 

Jim Dwyer and William Rashbaum report that a Federal Inquiry of Fox News Moves to a Grand Jury, but Without Preet Bharara: “A federal grand jury sitting in Manhattan is expected to soon hear testimony from at least two witnesses to testify in coming days about business practices at Fox News when it was led by Mr. Ailes, according to two people with knowledge of the matter. Mr. Ailes, who was forced out in July amid revelations of multiple accusations of sexual harassment, has denied those charges. The current inquiry, which began in September and appears to be in an early stage, may be focused, at least in part, on settlement payments, a person with knowledge of the matter said. One of those subpoenaed, according to the two people, is Mark Kranz, the former chief financial officer for Fox News who oversaw the network’s finances when it paid millions of dollars in settlements. Mr. Kranz was appointed to his position by Mr. Ailes in 2004, and resigned last year, a week after Mr. Ailes had done so.”

Jeremy Diamond has the headline of the day in Spicer: Trump didn’t mean wiretapping when he tweeted about wiretapping: “The White House on Monday walked back a key point of President Donald Trump’s unsubstantiated allegation that President Barack Obama wiretapped his phones in Trump Tower during the 2016 election. Namely, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Trump wasn’t referring to wiretapping when he tweeted about wiretapping.”

David A. Graham asks How Did Michael Flynn Ever Get Hired as National Security Adviser?: “Flynn’s lobbying on behalf of Turkey was not the only potentially disqualifying problem. For example, the retired general had shared bogus news items on several occasions, and his son was fired from the Trump transition effort for pumping a preposterous conspiracy theory about Clinton aides running a child-prostitution ring out of a D.C. pizzeria. Flynn’s tenure at the Defense Intelligence Agency should probably have given Trump some pause about appointing him. His brief and hectic stint directing DIA ended with his firing by the Obama administration, which probably made him a more alluring hire for Trump but should have given pause instead. ….Finally, there was the matter of Flynn’s ties to Russia, which ultimately caused his firing. In 2013, while still in uniform, he met with Russian intelligence officials, despite skepticism of many American officials. In November 2015, he traveled there for a celebration of RT, the Kremlin-backed news channel, against the advice of friends and colleagues. And during the presidential transition, Flynn spoke with the Russian ambassador to the United States, discussing sanctions levied on the Russian government by the Obama administration. Flynn then lied about those conversations, both to the public and to Pence, who repeated the denial in a CBS News interview before the election. Trump reportedly learned that Flynn had lied to Pence on January  26, but Flynn was not forced to resign until that became public knowledge.”

Zach Putnam’s film describes Coming to America as Refugees, in Children’s Words:

After several of his journalist colleagues were killed in Iraq, Ahmed Al-Zubidi applied for refugee status in the United States. After waiting seven years for approval, he was resettled in Oregon with his family. In this short film by Zach Putnam, we hear his children, 4-year-old Almas and 10-year-old Mustafa, explain what it was like to leave Iraq for Beaverton, Oregon. “When we came to America, I thought America was a dream,” says Mustafa in one of the more poignant opening scenes. “Now I’ve got my own room so I don’t have to share everything.” You can find more of Putnam’s work on his website. He is a master’s student in Multimedia Journalism at the University of Oregon.

Olly the Jack Russell runs with wild abandon at Crufts:

Film: Tuesday, March 14th, 12:30 PM @ Seniors in the Park: Manchester by the Sea

This Tuesday, March 14th at 12:30 PM, there will be a showing of Manchester by the Sea @ Seniors in the Park, in the Starin community building.

Manchester by the Sea is the story of an uncle who is asked to take care of his teenage nephew after the boy’s father dies.

The 2017 film won two Academy Awards (Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role to
Casey Affleck and Best Original Screenplay to Kenneth Lonergan). Lonergan also directs the two hour, seventeen-minute film, starring Affleck, Michelle Williams, and Kyle Chandler. The movie carries a rating of R from the MPAA.

One can find more information about Manchester by the Sea at the Internet Movie Database.

Enjoy.

Daily Bread for 3.13.17

Good morning.

Whitewater will see snowfall through the day, on a Monday with a high of thirty-three. Sunrise is 7:08 AM and sunset 6:59 PM, for 11h 51m 48s of daytime. The moon is full, with 99.3% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the one hundred twenty-fifth day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

On this day in 1781, British astronomer William Herschel discovers the planet Uranus. On this day in 1862, the 8th and 15th Wisconsin Infantry regiments and the 5th, 6th and 7th Wisconsin Light Artillery batteries fight in the Battle of New Madrid, Missouri.

Recommended for reading in full — 

James B. Nelson writes that Gov. Scott Walker’s promise to create 250,000 jobs in Wisconsin remains elusive: “More than six years ago as a candidate for governor, Republican Scott Walker promised that if he was elected, the state would add 250,000 private-sector jobs in four years. That goal continues to be elusive. A report issued Thursday by the state Department of Workforce Development includes the final job creation tally for 2016, allowing a look at six complete years under Walker. The latest report showed that the state lost 4,000 jobs in December, putting total state private-sector employment at 2,516,100. For all of 2016, state reports show that employers added 17,200 jobs, by far the lowest annual tally since Walker took office in January 2011. The total number of jobs created since Walker took office is 185,208, or 64,792 short of Walker’s goal of 250,000.”

The New York Times describes the Man Without an ISIS Plan: “On the campaign trail, no foreign policy issue seized Donald Trump more than the fight against the Islamic State. Once president, he signed an executive order giving his generals 30 days to produce a plan to defeat the terrorist group, and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis gave him options on Feb. 27. Yet if Mr. Trump has decided on a new plan for defeating ISIS, it isn’t obvious. The missions underway in Iraq and Syria were set in motion by President Barack Obama. While they have achieved some tactical successes, they point to a deepening American military involvement in both countries. The question now is whether Mr. Trump will continue, or accelerate, that trend.”

Kelsey Snell reports that Trump said no Americans would lose coverage under Obamacare repeal. Paul Ryan won’t make that promise: “House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) said Sunday that he doesn’t know how many Americans would lose coverage under his proposal to revise the Affordable Care Act, which is under fire from fellow Republicans, AARP and virtually every sector of the U.S. health-care industry. “I can’t answer that question,” Ryan said in an appearance on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

Margaret Sullivan observes that the Pro-Trump media sets the agenda with lies. Here’s how traditional media can take it back: “A major new study, published in Columbia Journalism Review, detailed just how influential the new media ecosystem has become, calling it a determining factor in Trump’s election….You can’t fight propaganda with standard journalism, [editor of the CJR Kyle] Pope told me. Watchdogging the fake-news machinery and fact-checking relentlessly is part of his prescription. Rosenstiel has suggested other measures: being more transparent about how we gather and verify the news; covering what’s important (not “barking at every car”); and using clearer labels to distinguish news from opinion. I would add that news organizations have to acknowledge their own biases internally, and constantly report against them. The CJR study concludes on a hopeful note: that a renaissance of legitimate journalism may be the result of everything that’s happened. I’d love to think that, but it’s going to take hard work, the kind that doesn’t come easy to journalists: more openness to criticism, continued self-examination and willingness to change.”

Anatomy of a Scene takes a look at ‘Kong: Skull Island’:

Sunshine Week in Wisconsin

Sunshine Week: a project of the American Society of News Editors and Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.

The USA Today Network of Gannett papers in Wisconsin (including the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) asks How open is your government? Tell us:

They’re entrusted with important responsibilities to keep people safe, educate kids, maintain roads and enforce rules fairly. Taxpayers fund their salaries. But just how public are public officials?

That’s what we want to know.

As part of Sunshine Week — a celebration in March commemorating the public’s right to government records and proceedings — USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin is looking for people in central Wisconsin to share their experiences with accessing government information.

Maybe you’ve tussled for records or information from city hall, a state agency or the federal government.

Or maybe you have a positive story — an experience with a government official who helped you connect to information or otherwise demonstrated the virtues of transparency in government.

Whatever the case, we’d like to know.

To share your story, contact reporter Jonathan Anderson at 715-898-7010 or jonathan.anderson@gannettwisconsin.com. You can also find him on Twitter at @jonathanderson.

Daily Bread for 3.12.17

Good morning.

Sunday in Whitewater will be mostly cloudy with a high of thirty-four. Sunrise is 7:09 AM and sunset 6:58 PM, for 11h 48m 52s of daytime. The moon is full today. Today is the one hundred twenty-fourth day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

On this day in 2009, notorious swindler Bernie Madoff pled guilty to 11 federal felonies, including securities fraud, wire fraud, mail fraud, money laundering, making false statements, perjury, theft from an employee benefit plan, and making false filings with the SEC. On this day in 1862, 2nd Wisconsin Cavalry musters in at Milwaukee. The regiment would lose 312 men during service in defense of the Union.

Recommended for reading in full —

Jason Stein reports for Sunshine Week: Secretive software doing more state of Wisconsin work: “Government is using private computer models to scrutinize most Wisconsinites in some way, from criminals to income taxpayers. State officials generally know the information being fed into these programs but often don’t know how the firms analyze the data. Companies guard these methods closely since this “special sauce” represents the basis for their business. That creates potential pitfalls because these computer models can make mistakes, said Cathy O’Neil, a Harvard-trained mathematician and author of the 2016 book “Weapons of Math Destruction.” “The problem is we have a blind trust mindset with the data,” O’Neil said. “We need to demand evidence that big data is accurate, fair and legal.” Bill Lueders agreed, saying the public has a right to know how government works. “The state of Wisconsin should not be using outside contractors if it means less transparency,” said Lueders, president of the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council.”

David Filipov writes that A film about a slain Putin critic gets a screening — just off Red Square: “It takes about 700 steps at a leisurely pace to stroll from the lavish mall along Red Square to the bridge over the Moscow River where, more than 740 days ago , Russia’s most prominent opposition leader was gunned down as he made that walk with his girlfriend. There, in the shadow of the red brick Kremlin walls, an informal shrine marks the spot and the memory of Boris Nemtsov, a former deputy prime minister and President Vladi­mir Putin’s loudest critic. A neat row of flowers, candles and portraits is guarded in shifts around the clock by pro-democracy activists, who frequently find themselves targeted by police. It’s truly a makeshift memorial: When its guardians are hauled away, city workers remove the flowers and portraits, and it’s up to the next shift to remake it. Against this tense backdrop, something remarkable is happening in a small, luxurious movie theater inside that opulent mall. A film is showing that recounts, in unflinching detail, the rise and fall of Russian democracy through the story of Nemtsov’s political career, from a whiz-kid regional governor considered presidential material to the political margins of an illiberal society dominated by Putin. That the film “The Man Who Was Too Free,” was allowed to be made, much less shown across Red Square from the Kremlin, came as a shock to its creators, Mikhail Fishman and Vera Krichevskaya. Told entirely through monologues by Nemtsov’s associates, interviews with him and video footage of his public speeches, the documentary focuses on the missed chances and miscalculations that led to Putin’s unchallenged rule. The Russian leader, whose intolerance of criticism is legendary, does not come off in a flattering light.”

Robert O’Harrow Jr. and Shawn Boburg report that During his political rise, Stephen K. Bannon was a man with no fixed address: “In the digital age, when most Americans leave a clear footprint of their whereabouts, Bannon left a meandering trail filled with ambiguity, contradictions and questions. The Post found that Bannon left a negligible footprint in Florida. He did not get a Florida driver’s license or register a car in the state. He never voted in Florida, and neighbors near two homes he leased in Miami said they never saw him. His rent and utility bills were sent to his business manager in California. Bannon’s former wife occupied the premises, according to a landlord and neighbors. At the same time Bannon said he was living with his ex-wife, she was under investigation for involvement in a plot to smuggle drugs and a cellphone into a Miami jail, a law enforcement document obtained by The Post shows. The Post learned that state prosecutors in Miami have an active investigation into Bannon’s assertions that he was a Florida resident and qualified to vote in the state from 2014 to 2016. In late August, investigators subpoenaed Bannon’s lease of a Coconut Grove home and other documents. They also contacted the landlords of that home and another that Bannon leased nearby, and sought information from a gardener and handyman who worked at one of the homes, according to documents and interviews.”

Hunter Walker describes How the ACLU is gearing up to take on Trump, one city at a time: “And along with the lobbying and legal work that is typically the ACLU’s bread and butter, the organization is trying something new as it pushes the Freedom Cities agenda. The ACLU is providing supporters with a blueprint for activism to apply pressure on local authorities to adopt the plan. It’s a clear departure for the organization. For nearly a century, the ACLU has been nonpartisan and focused on legal battles. The organization’s foray into grassroots organizing and activism is the brainchild of Faiz Shakir, a 37-year-old former Senate aide who was hired in January as the group’s national political director. “People have known us for, ‘See you in court,’” Shakir said in the Freedom Cities memo. “I hope now they’ll also know us for, ‘See you in the streets.’” The ACLU’s Freedom Cities campaign will begin with a “Resistance Training” live-streamed from Miami, Fla., on Saturday afternoon. Supporters will be given materials instructing them on how to get meetings with local officials who are “key pressure points.” The ACLU is also advising activists on specific arguments to make in order to pressure them to adopt the policies. These initial meetings are just the beginning. The ACLU has also launched a website, People Power, which will feature maps highlighting future Freedom Cities meetings and other events. In addition to keeping people involved in the immigration policy effort, Shakir said the site will allow supporters to suggest ideas for future efforts.” (Disclosure: I am a longtime member of the ACLU.)

Great Big Story tells of Found Sounds: Making Instruments From Trash

Found Sounds: Making Instruments From Trash from Great Big Story on Vimeo.

Ken Butler is a Brooklyn-based artist and musician who has built over 400 musical instruments. But these aren’t just any custom-built instruments. Butler builds his pieces from discarded items he finds on the streets of New York City. Hockey sticks, tennis rackets, brooms, golf clubs, pieces of furniture, styrofoam, toothbrushes: all are fair game for his masterpieces. It’s musique concrète … jungle.

Daily Bread for 3.11.17

Good morning.

Saturday in Whitewater will be sunny with a high of twenty-nine. Sunrise is 6:11 AM and sunset 5:57 PM, for 11h 46m 04s of daytime. The moon is a waxing gibbous with 98.7% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the one hundred twenty-third day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

On this day in 1941, Pres. Roosevelt signs the Lend-Lease policy “(An Act to Promote the Defense of the United States”, (Pub.L. 77–11, H.R. 1776, 55 Stat. 31, enacted March 11, 1941)  under which the United States supplied Free France, the United Kingdom, the Republic of China, and later the Soviet Union and other Allied nations with food, oil, and materiel between 1941 and August 1945.” On this day in 1839, the Territorial Legislature passes an act that officially recognizing Dane County and calling for the election of county officers on the first Monday of May, 1839.

Recommended for reading in full — 

Peter Baker and Matthew Rosenberg report that Michael Flynn Was Paid to Represent Turkey’s Interests During Trump Campaign: “WASHINGTON — The candidate he was advising last fall was running on a platform of America First. The client he was working for last fall was paying him more than $500,000 to put Turkey first. Michael T. Flynn, who went from the campaign trail to the White House as President Trump’s first national security adviser, filed papers this week acknowledging that he worked as a foreign agent last year representing the interests of the Turkish government in a dispute with the United States. His surprising admission, coming more than four months after the election, raised further questions about the rise and fall of a presidential confidant who was forced to resign after 24 days in office for withholding the full story of his communications with Russia’s ambassador. Even now, out of government and out of favor, Mr. Flynn and his contact with foreign figures presented a new headache for a White House eager to move on.”

Ronald Klain describes The winning argument Democrats have against Trump [and not only Democrats, of course] : “Most of the country is divided between those who love Trump for the cultural war he is waging, no matter what else he does, and those who loathe him for his divisiveness, even if he somehow produces results on other issues. As a consequence, the future of Trump’s coalition — and the success of his presidency — turns on voters caught between the two groups, voters who were troubled by Trump’s outrageous behavior and statements, but “held their noses” to support him out of a belief that he would produce change on health care, jobs, trade and incomes. These “in spite of the outrages” voters are looking for results on bread-and-butter issues. Trump is not delivering for them, his claims to the contrary notwithstanding.  Democrats need to point this out — relentlessly. Take health care. During the campaign, Trump promised immediate action to repeal and replace Obamacare. In the world according to Trump, everyone was “going to end up with great health care for a fraction of the price”  that would “take place immediately after we go in.” Now, 122 days [as of 3.10.17] after the election, Trump’s laughable promise to call a special session of Congress to repeal Obamacare has evaporated. The plan circulated this week by House Republicans is under fire from conservatives and liberals. And Trump has still failed to put forward any approach of his own. About that “great health care for a fraction of the price”? Don’t hold your breath.”

James Poniewozik describes Sean Spicer’s Briefings, Cringe TV for an Audience of One: “As long as you don’t care too much about facts, you can learn a lot from a Sean Spicer daily briefing. The White House press secretary has said that whatever your lying eyes told you, President Trump’s swearing-in had “the largest audience to witness an inauguration, period.” He has insisted that the president’s travel ban against majority-Muslim countries, which the president called a “ban,” was not a ban. He has claimed, falsely, that former President Obama tapped a Fox News reporter’s phones. But Mr. Spicer’s performance — strident, defensive, stressed-out — carries a wealth of information: about Mr. Trump’s image obsession, about what the president expects of his underlings, about the impossibility of contorting one’s self into a human bridge between reality and Mr. Trump’s agitated mindspace. The real story, every briefing, is what Mr. Spicer can’t say and how he doesn’t say it.”

Jeff Potrykus reports on UW 70, Indiana 60: Balanced scoring, defense lead way: “Second-seeded UW overcame early rebounding issues in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten tournament Friday night at the Verizon Center but gradually took control on both ends en route to a 70-60 over the 10th-seeded Hoosiers. “I think our system…they want to get up and down,” said senior guard Zak Showalter, one of five UW players who scored in double figures. “They load their team with shooters and guys who can get ’em up in a hurry. “If we can get a good look on the offensive end and set our defense…I think that is to our advantage. I think that’s why we handle them so well.” Save for brief stretches, UW (24-8) handled the white-hot Hoosiers on both ends of the court to advance to the semifinals, set for 2:30 p.m. (Central) Saturday. UW will face No. 6 Northwestern (23-10), a 72-64 winner over No. 3 Maryland in the final game Friday.”

Taichi Kitamura of Sushi Kappo Tamura describes process of making the best dang sushi rice you’ve ever had:

Daily Bread for 3.10.17

Good morning.

Friday in Whitewater will be suny with a high of twenty-five. Sunrise is 6:13 AM and sunset 5:56 PM, for 11h 43m 09s of daytime. The moon is a waxing gibbous with 95% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the One hundred twenty-second day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

On this day in 1864, U.S. Grant takes command of all Union armies, and makes his headquarters with the Army of the Potomac. On this day in 1949, Mildred Elizabeth Gillars is convicted of treason for her role as an American broadcaster employed by the Third Reich in Nazi Germany to proliferate propaganda during World War II.

Recommended for reading in full — 

Alan Rappeport reports that the White House Casts Pre-emptive Doubt on Congressional Budget Office: “Now, with Mr. Trump’s administration aggressively pitching the House Republican plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, Capitol Hill’s official scorekeeper — the Congressional Budget Office — is coming under intense fire. As it prepares to render its judgment on the cost and impact of the bill, the nonpartisan agency of economists and statisticians has become a political piñata — and the latest example of Mr. Trump’s team casting doubt on benchmarks accepted as trustworthy for decades.”

Rappeport also addresses the question Will a Leak Reveal Trump’s Tax Returns? Don’t Hold Your Breath: “I think an I.R.S. leak is extremely unlikely,” said Fred Goldberg, who served as I.R.S. commissioner from 1989 to 1992. “It’s a combination of the culture, the legal framework, the logistics and the risks.” Although the I.R.S. has nearly 80,000 employees, the agency uses strict safeguards when it comes to privacy. The number of people with access to returns is limited, and improper browsing of taxpayer files is automatically flagged. Hard copies of presidential returns historically have been kept in a safe outside of the commissioner’s office, tax experts say. Returns of celebrities are protected even more carefully than those of regular taxpayers. “I would never say never, because it has happened in the past,” said Lawrence B. Gibbs, another former I.R.S. commissioner who was its chief counsel when Mr. Nixon’s tax information was made public. “But people are probably going to have to look elsewhere than the I.R.S. for the president’s tax returns if that’s what they want.”

Marc Fisher explains The [six] terms Trump and Bannon use: a glossary: “President Trump and his chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon, have introduced a new political language to Washington — a populist and nationalist rhetoric that cuts across traditional Republican vs. Democratic divisions. Some of the words and phrases the administration has injected into Washington’s political vocabulary previously thrived on the far reaches of both left and right. Here is a glossary of terms that Trump and Bannon have been using, with some background on where the language came from and how it’s been deployed….”

Greg Sargent contends that Trumpism is now getting exposed as a monumental fraud: “little by little, as Trump seeks to make good on his promises, Trumpism — as sold by the man himself — is being revealed as fraudulent to its core. NBC News reports that health-care experts across the political spectrum agree that the new House GOP health-care plan, which Trump has now endorsed, falls short of his promises: The bill, experts said, falls far short of the goals President Donald Trump laid out: Affordable coverage for everyone; lower deductibles and health care costs; better care; and zero cuts to Medicaid. Instead, the bill is almost certain to reduce overall coverage, result in deductibles increasing, and will phase out Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion.”

One photographer knows what it’s like to Film Up Close And Personal With A Rhino:

Far Less Than 10.7%

Whitewater’s residents may have recently read (3.7.17) another City of Whitewater press release from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) – this time concerning more public spending on selected businesses.  (For remarks on a prior release, please see The Simplest Condition for a ‘Shovel-Ready’ Site is an Empty Lot.)

There are few better ways to argue against WEDC’s approach than by publishing press releases in full from that organization and its boosters.  (I have done so again with the latest release, at the bottom of this post.)

1. A tiny fraction of the award. On its face, there is something sadly desperate in saying Whitewater received only 10.7% of something: of the $700,000 awarded, 89.3% went elsewhere.

2. Tens of millions in public money has poured into Whitewater (state money, federal money, adding into the mix municipal bond debt) over the last decade. Even excluding the vast public sums supporting our local campus, this $75,000 is small compared to prior public spending in the city. If it’s 10.7% of the current totals, it’s far less than 1% of all that’s already come Whitewater’s way.

3. Alternative uses. These public funds are meant to be spurs to business development, but far greater sums have produced only paltry results – just about any allocation would be better than still more of the same.

4. ‘Technology-based, early stage companies.’ All of this is meant to awe and impress, but a level-headed person should be neither awed nor impressed. Public policy is more than a manufactured, unrealistic sense of astonishment.

Butterflies are amazing (truly); public allocations are practical decisions among many alternatives.

The best opportunity for a critic of these spending programs would be for the municipal government to put the full releases on giant billboards around the city. The more one hears of this, the less realistic it is.

Admittedly, we’d not be any richer for a billboard campaign…unless becoming an example of an unsound municipal economic policy somehow, itself, proved lucrative.

WEDC press release follows:

Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation Press Release: Organizations in Milwaukee, Oshkosh, Whitewater to match state’s investment in technology-based early-stage companies

MADISON, WI. March 7, 2017 – Three economic development organizations have been awarded a total of $700,000 in matching grants from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) to be used to provide seed funding for technology-based startups and early-stage companies.

The Milwaukee Development Corporation has received a $500,000 grant under WEDC’s Capital Catalyst Program for the creation of a $1 million seed fund to support companies in advanced manufacturing and other technology sectors. The fund will target seed-stage ventures, including graduates of local accelerator programs such as The BREW, WERCBench Labs, FaBCAP and Gener8tor to provide additional capital for activities leading to investment readiness or revenue generation.

The fund also aims to support growth-focused projects of existing tech companies, as well as other eligible seed-stage businesses with technologies outside the scope of existing area accelerators. The Milwaukee Development Corporation is the operating entity of the Milwaukee 7 economic development organization, which in January received a $60,000 Entrepreneurship Support Grant from WEDC to support its efforts to increase collaboration and develop common strategies to optimize Milwaukee’s entrepreneurship climate.

“Finding and filling gaps in funding for these growing companies – especially those in our most promising cluster industries – is critical to the success of individual businesses and the entire Milwaukee 7 Region,” said Pat O’Brien, Milwaukee 7 executive director. “We are grateful to WEDC for recognizing this need and providing a needed boost to these efforts.”

The Greater Oshkosh Economic Development Corporation has been awarded a $125,000 Capital Catalyst grant to fund a $250,000 program that will provide seed capital to local technology-based businesses likely to scale and grow to benefit the area workforce and economy. The seed fund will focus on sectors including aviation/aerospace, advanced manufacturing, information systems, agriculture/food processing and medical devices.

“This fund is the first of its kind in Winnebago County, the I-41 Corridor and northeastern Wisconsin,” said Jason White, CEO of the Greater Oshkosh Economic Development Corporation. “Greater Oshkosh’s economic development success is predicated on helping our existing businesses grow and showing our entrepreneurs that they are well-supported here in the Fox Valley.”

The Whitewater Community Development Authority has received a $75,000 grant for a seed fund that will provide a diversified portfolio of micro-investments and grants aimed at increasing the number of startups in the city and supporting emerging growth companies.

This marks that the fourth year that WEDC has awarded Capital Catalyst grants to the organization, which has provided capital to 21 technology-based companies to date. Those businesses have successfully raised $4.9 million in additional capital, have achieved over $2.4 million in revenue and employ more than 100 workers.

“I’d like to thank WEDC for this additional investment, which will help ensure that Whitewater continues to be a hotbed of entrepreneurial spirit,” said Jeff Knight, chairman of the Whitewater Community Development Authority. “The many startups that this program has already assisted is truly amazing. We’ve supported many new innovative businesses that would not have had a chance to get started without this very timely help.”

“These three organizations are playing a critical role in facilitating the development of high-growth business ventures in their communities,” said Aaron Hagar, WEDC’s vice president of entrepreneurship and innovation. “The Capital Catalyst Program has a proven track record of results, and we’re looking forward to continued success as we collaborate with these organizations to support next-generation companies.”

Since its inception in 2012, the Capital Catalyst Program has helped organizations and communities provide $3.5 million in seed funding to more than 100 businesses statewide that employ nearly 500 full-time workers. Those companies have generated $127 million in additional investment and revenue.

The program provides matching grants to seed funds managed by local communities or other organizations dedicated to stimulating entrepreneurship. These funds provide grants, loans and/or investments in startups or early-stage, innovative small businesses that operate in their region. Loan repayments and returns on investment stay within the fund to assist additional startups and create a supportive environment for entrepreneurs.

The Capital Catalyst Program is one component of WEDC’s suite of entrepreneurship resources, which includes support for startup accelerators, investor tax credits and technology loans. In addition, WEDC supports and engages an existing statewide network of partners that offers business training, mentorship and financing to aspiring entrepreneurs.

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About the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) leads economic development efforts for the state by advancing and maximizing opportunities in Wisconsin for businesses, communities and people to thrive in a globally competitive environment. Working with more than 600 regional and local partners, WEDC develops and delivers solutions representative of a highly responsive and coordinated economic development network. Visit www.inwisconsin.com or follow WEDC on Twitter @_InWisconsin to learn more.

Via http://www.whitewater-wi.gov/residents/recent-news/3270-wedc-awards-700-000-in-grants-to-support-local-efforts-to-provide-seed-funding-for-startups.