Daily Bread for 5.30.20

Good morning.

Saturday in Whitewater will be partly sunny with a high of sixty-eight.  Sunrise is 5:19 AM and sunset 8:25 PM, for 15h 06m 42s of daytime.  The moon is a waxing gibbous with 54.4% of its visible disk illuminated.

Today is the one thousand two hundred ninety-ninth day.

 On this day in 1922, the Lincoln Memorial is dedicated in Washington, D.C..

Recommended for reading in full —

Laurence H. Tribe and Joshua A. Geltzer write Trump is doubly wrong about Twitter:

On Tuesday, President Trump claimed — on Twitter, no less — that Twitter is “stifling FREE SPEECH,” thus suggesting that Twitter is violating the First Amendment. As usual, Trump is wrong on the law, but this time he’s even more wrong than usual. There is someone violating the First Amendment on Twitter, but it’s not Twitter — it’s Trump. What’s more, his threat on Wednesday to shut down Twitter altogether would mean violating the First Amendment in new ways.

Trump is utterly mistaken in claiming that Twitter is violating the First Amendment — or even that Twitter can violate the First Amendment. Prompting Trump’s outburst was the platform’s first-ever attachment of warnings to two of Trump’s tweets encouraging users to “get the facts about mail-in ballots.” Clicking the warning leads to a news story indicating that “Trump makes unsubstantiated claim that mail-in ballots will lead to voter fraud.” Attaching these warnings, Trump claimed, was Twitter’s First Amendment sin.

But it’s no constitutional violation. To begin with, the First Amendment applies to the government — not to private actors like Twitter. So, when the company adds warnings to tweets or even — going a step further for users other than Trump — removes tweets, it can’t possibly violate the First Amendment, because it simply isn’t a governmental entity. You can love or hate how Twitter is regulating its own private platform — but you can’t call it a First Amendment violation.

Furthermore, when Twitter attaches a warning to a tweet, that constitutes speech of Twitter’s own, which is generally protected under the First Amendment from governmental censorship. Far from violating the First Amendment by speaking on top of Trump’s own speech, Twitter was exercising its First Amendment rights.

 Oliver Darcy reports Trump says right-wing voices are being censored. The data say something else:

President Donald Trump has angrily complained this week about social media companies, repeatedly accusing them of censoring conservative voices and going as far as to sign an executive orderThursday seeking to limit their power.

But data from Facebook, the world’s largest social media company, pours cold water on the assertion that conservative voices are being silenced.

In fact, according to CrowdTangle, a data-analytics firm owned by Facebook, content from conservative news organizations dominates Facebook and often outperforms content from straightforward news organizations.

 Film: How ‘The Vast of Night’ Builds Tension With a Strange Sound:

Twitter’s (Perhaps Momentary) Advantage Over Trump

Trump, furious at a private company for exercising its right under the law to establish and enforce terms of service, now finds that Twitter has again placed warnings on another of his tweets, and also on his attempt to retweet that same message from the White House account.

The recent Twitter response to a Trump tweet is that Twitter hides Donald Trump tweet for ‘glorifying violence’:

The US president’s tweet, posted on Thursday night Washington time, warned people in Minneapolis protesting against the killing of a black man, George Floyd, by a white police officer that he would send the military to intervene if there was “any difficulty”.

“When the looting starts, the shooting starts,” Trump wrote, apparently quoting the former Miami police chief Walter Headley, who in December 1967 promised violent reprisals to protests over stop-and-frisk tactics.

Two hours later, Twitter added a notice to the tweet: “This tweet violated the Twitter Rules about glorifying violence. However, Twitter has determined that it may be in the public’s interest for the tweet to remain accessible.”

The warning was accompanied by a link to its policies about public interest exceptions.

For people visiting Trump’s Twitter timeline, or seeing the tweet retweeted on their feed, the warning obscures the content unless they tap to view it.

Trump’s difficulty is that while he can issue executive orders in an attempt to chill private companies’ responses to his terms of service violations, if those companies continue to enforce their lawful service terms, then Trump looks ineffectual. Trump can rail, but Twitter can (and apparently will) continue to flag his violative content when he does so.

As Trump is an impulsive man, he’s easily provoked by the legitimate, imposed consequences of his own misdeeds (he’s never chagrinned).

Twitter has the advantage now, as it can act methodically while Trump will respond  hysterically but ineffectually.

Twitter’s advantage, however, is perhaps a momentary one. If Trump should be re-elected or refuse to leave office, then all America will face a free speech crisis.

America may find she has a far worse crisis ahead than Trump’s recent executive order. On the other side of his unjust rule Trump risks federal & state criminal actions, and civil suits from countless defrauded parties.  It grows harder each day for an authoritarian to relinquish the security of immunity in office to face the consequences of his grave offenses.

There’s reason to doubt this will end without a heavy price.

Daily Bread for 5.29.20

Good morning.

Friday in Whitewater will be mostly sunny with a high of sixty-nine.  Sunrise is 5:19 AM and sunset 8:25 PM, for 15h 05m 23s of daytime.  The moon is a waxing crescent with 42.4% of its visible disk illuminated.

Today is the one thousand two hundred ninety-eighth day.

 On this day in 1848, Wisconsin became the 30th state to enter the Union with an area of 56,154 square miles, comprising 1/56 of the United States at the time.

Recommended for reading in full —

 Sara Morrison offers a primer on Section 230, the internet free speech law Trump wants to change:

You may have never heard of it, but Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act is the legal backbone of the internet. The law was created almost 30 years ago to protect internet platforms from liability [under U.S. law] for many of the things third parties say or do on them. And now it’s under threat by one of its biggest beneficiaries: President Trump, who hopes to use it to fight back against the social media platforms he believes are unfairly censoring him and other conservative voices.

Section 230 says that internet platforms that host third-party content — think of tweets on Twitter, posts on Facebook, photos on Instagram, reviews on Yelp, or a news outlet’s reader comments — are not liable for what those third parties post (with a few exceptions). For instance, if a Yelp reviewer were to post something defamatory about a business, the business could sue the reviewer for libel, but it couldn’t sue Yelp. Without Section 230’s protections, the internet as we know it today would not exist. If the law were taken away, many websites driven by user-generated content would likely go dark.

The gravity of the situation might be lost on the president. Trump is using this threat to bully social media platforms like Twitter into letting him post whatever he wants after Twitter put a warning label that links to a fact-checking site on two of his recent tweets. To illustrate why there’s much more at stake than Trump’s tweets, here’s a look at how Section 230 went from an amendment to a law about internet porn to the pillar of internet free speech to Trump’s latest weapon against perceived anti-conservative bias in the media.

 Scott Nover writes Why Trump Can’t Claim Twitter Is Violating His Free Speech:

Critics have long said Trump consistently violates Twitter’s community standards by promoting misinformation and tweeting hateful statements. Naturally, Trump didn’t take the platform’s fact-check well and continued his tirade Wednesday morning, tweeting a threat to “strongly regulate, or close” down social media platforms that “silence conservative voices.” He later boastedthat he will take “big action” against Twitter.

However, Twitter is a private company and can do what it wants with speech on its platform. It can put any label on the president’s tweets or otherwise warn users that his words words may be misleading. It can even delete them.

“If there is a First Amendment issue here at all, it’s the issue of threatening the use of presidential authority to compel a private platform to speak or to refrain from speaking,” said Frank LoMonte, director of the Brechner Center for Freedom of Information at the University of Florida. “Nobody has a ‘free speech right’ to insist on using a non-governmental platform to convey his message.”

Twitter can also ban users who may be in violation of its code of conduct, such as conspiracy theorist Alex Jones of Infowars, who was banned in 2018 after he livestreamed himself insulting a CNN reporter on Twitter-owned Periscope, and former Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos, who got the boot in 2016 for harassing actress Leslie Jones.

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UW System President Ray Cross’s Overreach

Outgoing UW System President Ray Cross claims he has a long-range plan for the System, and he’s insistent that now is the time for its implementation. Henry Redman of the Wisconsin Examiner reports on the reasonable concern that Cross’s rush to implementation presents in UW faculty worry about ‘power grab’ by Cross at budget listening sessions.

Redman reports that

Cross’ “Blueprint for the University of Wisconsin System Beyond COVID-19” faced an immediate backlash from faculty, staff, students and politicians who say that they have been burned before by what they see as top-down decision making from Cross and the UW-System. Cross’ plan was compared to the sudden consolidation of the state’s two-year colleges in 2018 and even the controversial Act 10, which mostly eliminated the union rights of public employees.

The plan calls for cutting programs from campuses, centralizing campus support operations and offering online degrees through UW Extended Campus.

Tweets, blog posts, op-eds and letters poured in from across the state, with criticism of Cross’ plan arriving from every conceivable angle. Critics said it was a power grab by the UW System, that it doesn’t even address the COVID-19 budget shortfalls, that its announcement ignores shared governance — the decision making process by which universities operate — and that it will ultimately do more harm than good to the state’s public university system.

It’s true that the UW System faces many challenges, but those challenges need not – and should not – all be addressed at once. Many of the problems the System schools face have grown worse during Cross’s tenure, leaving Cross and the Walker-appointeed regents who made those changes looking much like pyromaniacs who now claim to be firefighters.

(From a market-based perspective, freezing tuition, for example, has disrupted the System schools’ ability to respond, however imperfectly, to demand over these several years. Some of these regents talk volubly about making universities more like businesses, but they’re taciturn about changes that might make universities more like cooperative, free markets.)

Redman quotes UW-Whitewater professor Eric Compas about the sensible priority for addressing UW System concerns:

“System needs to focus on getting the comprehensives through the next six to twelve months and keep students safe,” says Eric Compas, a professor at UW-Whitewater. “Figure out how to do face-to-face if possible and how to do that safely. How to support some programs that need to be moved online. There’s so many obvious things that need to be focused on. It’s not that they can’t do two things at once, but it’s distracting from what we need to focus on for this fall.”

Yes. Conditions during this pandemic require a triage that addresses public health concerns and their immediate budgetary consequences. Longer-range issues should be addressed only after a restoration of ordinary public health.

An astute long-term analysis is difficult and susceptible of being clouded by immediate concerns, in any event.

A rush to do too much is at best ignorant, and at worst a bad-faith effort to impose ideologically-driven changes under the guise of supposed necessity.

Daily Bread for 5.28.20

Good morning.

Thursday in Whitewater will see scattered thundershowers with a high of seventy-five.  Sunrise is 5:20 AM and sunset 8:24 PM, for 15h 04m 00s of daytime.  The moon is a waxing crescent with 31.7% of its visible disk illuminated.

Today is the one thousand two hundred ninety-seventh day.

 Whitewater’s Community Development Authority meets via audiovisual conferencing at 5:30 PM.

 On this day in 1892, John Muir organizes the Sierra Club.

Recommended for reading in full —

Megan McArdle writes Conservatives who refuse to wear masks undercut a central claim of their beliefs:

Even the most hard-core conservatives and libertarians have always recognized that all liberties have some limits — your right to roam ends at my property line. For years, conservatives have explained that public health efforts are a legitimate exercise of government power.

Sure, this was usually a prelude to complaining that public health authorities such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were neglecting this vital mission in favor of paternalistic nannying. But given the CDC’s many boneheaded errors over the past six months, conservatives were in a position to score some political points by shouting: “CDC, you had one job!”

Instead, far too many Republicans are suddenly arguing that public health efforts are not a legitimate exercise of power. The government, they complain, has no right to tell them what they can do, even if what they plan to do comes with some risk that a deadly disease will spread.

I’m not talking about the people who simply make the reasonable, indeed indisputable, argument that we cannot shut down the whole economy until a vaccine is developed. I’m talking about the ones who refuse to make even small compromises for public safety, such as wearing a mask — and especially conservatives who complain when store owners exercise their right to require them on store property.

This doesn’t just eviscerate generations’ worth of arguments about public health. It also undercuts a more central claim of conservatism: that big, coercive government programs are unnecessary because private institutions could provide many benefits that we think of as “public goods.” For that to be true, the civic culture would have to be such that individuals are willing to make serious sacrifices for the common good, and especially to protect the most vulnerable among us.

(McArdle is a libertarian, as I am, but she’s too forgiving of what pro-Trump conservatism represents. This atavistic horde isn’t pondering claims; they’re dreaming of a herrenvolk state. They’re following instincts not principles.)

 Marlow Stern interviews Soledad O’Brien on Why the New York Times Is Failing Us Under Trump:

(Stern): It seems like you’re referring to The New York Times’ headlines, which have become just a laughably poor display of false equivalence, both sides-ing, and normalizing when it comes to Trump’s aberrant behavior.

(O’Brien): Oh my god! I wish I could just go and buy a soft blanket for whoever the poor headline writer is who’s screwing it up pretty regularly, because it’s such a mess! You want to say, how did that happen? How did you get a headline like this? And then they fix it, and they’re not particularly transparent about why they’re fixing it or how they got it wrong. It’s very disheartening. And the answer is, their digital subscriptions are up, so the response is: Have you seen our numbers? Well, OK, if that’s how you’re going to judge your worth.

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Local Government Before a Flood

Imagine that, during flooding near a small town, the town’s levees are about to fail. How might local officials respond to this impending calamity?

1. They might deny that there is a flood.
2. They might admit that there is a flood, but deny that the levees are failing.
3. They might admit that there is a flood, and that the levees are failing, but take no action.
4. They might take action, but not the kind that reinforces the levees or otherwise mitigates the flooding.
5. They might reinforce the levees and find other ways to mitigate the flooding (moving to higher ground, sandbags elsewhere, evacuating vulnerable people, et cetera).

In many – if not most – of the communities near Whitewater, Wisconsin one can expect from officials (and like-minded boosters) some combination of responses 1 – 4 during this pandemic.

Few – if any – of these communities are united enough, with officials strong enough, to take response 5’s course of action. Even most county governments, stretching respectively over many small communities, have proved too weak to adopt temporary, limited, county-wide public health measures.  Local officials may style themselves (however vaingloriously) as movers and shakers, but when it would truly matter one finds they’ve only limited moving and shaking to offer.

Daily Bread for 5.27.20

Good morning.

Wednesday in Whitewater will see scattered afternoon thundershowers with a high of eighty-three.  Sunrise is 5:20 AM and sunset 8:23 PM, for 15h 02m 33s of daytime.  The moon is a waxing crescent with 21.9% of its visible disk illuminated.

Today is the one thousand two hundred ninety-sixth day.

 On this day in 1673, Marquette & Joliet reach Green Bay.

Recommended for reading in full —

 Gabriel Sherman reports “This Is So Unfair to Me”: Trump Whines About His COVID-19 Victimhood as Campaign Flails:

As he headed into Memorial Day weekend, Donald Trump complained that he was COVID-19’s biggest victim. “He was just in a fucking rage,” said a person who spoke with Trump late last week. “He was saying, ‘This is so unfair to me! Everything was going great. We were cruising to reelection!” Even as the death toll neared 100,000 and unemployment ranks swelled to over 38 million, Trump couldn’t see the pandemic as anything other than something that had happened to him. “The problem is he has no empathy,” the adviser said. Trump complained that he should have been warned about the virus sooner. “The intelligence community let me down!” he said.

The White House declined to comment.

Trump’s outburst reflected his growing frustration that, at this stage of the race, he is losing to Joe Biden. According to a Republican briefed on the campaign’s internal polls, Trump is trailing Biden by double digits among women over 50 in six swing states. “Trump knows the numbers are bad. It’s why he’s thrashing about,” the Republican said.

Even those closest to Trump have been privately worried the election is slipping away.

Peter Wehner writes The Malignant Cruelty of Donald Trump:

A lot of human casualties result from the cruelty of malignant narcissists like Donald Trump—casualties, it should be said, that his supporters in the Republican Party, on various pro-Trump websites and news outlets, and on talk radio are willing to tolerate or even defend. Their philosophy seems to be that you need to break a few eggs to make an omelet. If putting up with Trump’s indecency is the price of maintaining power, so be it. Will Trump’s white evangelical supporters—Franklin Graham Jr., Robert Jeffress, Eric Metaxas, Mike Huckabee, Ralph Reed—defend his behavior as the perfect embodiment of the New Testament ethic, the credo of Jesus, the message from the Sermon on the Mount? “Blessed are the brutal, for they shall inherit the Earth.”

Some people will argue that Trump’s promotion of this conspiracy theory is just his latest distraction, a shiny object to pull our focus away from the human and economic cost of COVID-19. Maybe. But I’m not at all convinced that this will help Trump politically.

Remember, Trump’s approval rating was often well under 50 percent even when the economy was doing well and America was at relative peace abroad. There’s plenty of evidence, including the 2018 midterm elections, that Trump’s dehumanizing tactics erode his support, especially among white suburban women. And I rather doubt that people will have forgotten Trump’s reckless handling of the pandemic by November; defaming the memory of a woman who died nearly two decades ago and causing renewed grief for her family isn’t likely to help him with most voters, either.

(No one should be surprised when a jackal acts like a jackal.)

 What Happens to Unspent Gift Cards?:

Rep. Justin Amash Learns There Are Only Two Significant Sides in This Conflict

Rep. Justin Amash, who toyed with running for president as a third-party candidate, has decided against doing so. Amash has come – however slowly – to see that, in his words, “circumstances don’t lend themselves to my success as a candidate for president this year.”

His candidacy was always a bad idea. See Only a Grand Coalition Will Prevail.  There are two significant sides in America’s ongoing national conflict: a monochromatic minority and a grand, diverse coalition in opposition and resistance. There is no third way (save indifference or diffidence).

It was the Trumpists (in 2016) who falsely insisted that the presidential election was an existential choice, but it is their unworthy exercise of federal power since then that truly represents an existential threat. A third way will not end this conflict; this conflict will end when Trumpism is cast into the gutter. It will not end a moment sooner.

Daily Bread for 5.26.20

Good morning.

Tuesday in Whitewater will see scattered afternoon thundershowers with a high of eighty-six.  Sunrise is 5:21 AM and sunset 8:22 PM, for 15h 01m 03s of daytime.  The moon is a waxing crescent with 14.1% of its visible disk illuminated.

Today is the one thousand two hundred ninety-fifth day.

The Whitewater Unified School District’s board meets via audiovisual conferencing in closed session at 6 PM and in open session at 7 PM, and Whitewater’s Finance Committee meets via audiovisual conferencing at 6:30 PM.

 On this day in 1897, Irish author Bram Stoker‘s Dracula is published.

Recommended for reading in full —

Jesse Drucker, Jessica Silver-Greenberg, and Sarah Kliff report Wealthiest Hospitals Got Billions in Coronavirus Bailout:

A multibillion-dollar institution in the Seattle area invests in hedge funds, runs a pair of venture capital funds and works with elite private equity firms like the Carlyle Group.

But it is not just another deep-pocketed investor hunting for high returns. It is the Providence Health System, one of the country’s largest and richest hospital chains. It is sitting on nearly $12 billion in cash, which it invests, Wall Street-style, in a good year generating more than $1 billion in profits.<

And this spring, Providence received at least $509 million in government funds, one of many wealthy beneficiaries of a federal program that is supposed to prevent health care providers from capsizing during the coronavirus pandemic.

With states restricting hospitals from performing elective surgery and other nonessential services, their revenue has shriveled. The Department of Health and Human Services has disbursed $72 billion in grants since April to hospitals and other health care providers through the bailout program, which was part of the CARES Act economic stimulus package. The department plans to eventually distribute more than $100 billion more.

Ed Kilgore writes There’s Only One Way the ‘Enthusiasm Gap’ Matters:

That is, an unexcited Biden vote counts exactly as much as an excited Trump vote. Yes, enthusiasm matters up to the point that it exists sufficiently to get the voter to the polls. But unenthusiastic voters trudge to presidential elections every year – the bar for whether one will cast a vote for a candidate is considerably lower than whether someone will profess to be enthusiastic about said candidate in a poll.

In downballot or even presidential nomination races, “enthusiasm” is valuable in producing campaign contributions and volunteer signups. “Enthusiasm” is legal tender in the Iowa Caucuses, but not so much in a presidential general election in which money is largely not that significant and both candidates have near-universal name ID and vast armies of partisans at their disposal.

 The power of plants when producing vaccines:

Daily Bread for 5.25.20

Good morning.

Memorial Day in Whitewater will see morning thundershowers with a high of eighty-three.  Sunrise is 5:22 AM and sunset 8:21 PM, for 14h 59m 31s of daytime.  The moon is a waxing crescent with 7.6% of its visible disk illuminated.

Today is the one thousand two hundred ninety-fourth day.

 On this day in 1655, Saturn‘s largest moon, Titan, is discovered by Christiaan Huygens.

Recommended for reading in full —

Reis Thebault and Abigail Hauslohner report A deadly ‘checkerboard’: Covid-19’s new surge across rural America:

The novel coronavirus arrived in an Indiana farm town mid-planting season and took root faster than the fields of seed corn, infecting hundreds and killing dozens. It tore though a pork processing plant and spread outward in a desolate stretch of the Oklahoma Panhandle. And in Colorado’s sparsely populated eastern plains, the virus erupted in a nursing home and a pair of factories, burning through the crowded quarters of immigrant workers and a vulnerable elderly population.

As the death toll nears 100,000, the disease caused by the virus has made a fundamental shift in who it touches and where it reaches in America, according to a Washington Post analysis of case data and interviews with public health professionals in several states. The pandemic that first struck in major metropolises is now increasingly finding its front line in the country’s rural areas; counties with acres of farmland, cramped meatpacking plants, out-of-the-way prisons and few hospital beds.

In these areas, where 60 million Americans live, populations are poorer, older and more prone to health problems such as diabetes and obesity than those of urban areas. They include immigrants and the undocumented — the “essential” workers who have kept the country’s sprawling food industry running, but who rarely have the luxury of taking time off for illness.

Many of these communities are isolated and hard to reach. They were largely spared from the disease shutting down their states — until, suddenly, they weren’t. Rural counties now have some of the highest rates of covid-19 cases and deaths in the country, topping even the hardest-hit New York City boroughs and signaling a new phase of the pandemic — one of halting, scattered outbreaks that could devastate still more of America’s most vulnerable towns as states lift stay-at-home orders.

“It is coming, and it’s going to be more of a checkerboard,” said Tara Smith, a professor of epidemiology at Kent State University in Ohio. “It’s not going to be a wave that spreads out uniformly over all of rural America; it’s going to be hot spots that come and go. And I don’t know how well they’re going to be managed.”

Russ Choma writes Trump Brag-Tweets that COVID-19 “Numbers” Are Declining. The Numbers Don’t Say That:

According to data compiled by the Washington Post, while some moderation of new cases is being reported, numbers have remained fairly flat for the past two weeks, with the seven-day average number of new cases remaining well over 20,000. Yesterday, for instance, there were 22,520 new cases, which is lower than the previous two days, but more than other days in the last two weeks. And according to the Post’s numbers, there were 1,071 new COVID deaths yesterday, which is less than the previous days, but slightly more than the previous Saturday.

Unsold wine could be converted to hand sanitizing gel:

To The Surface

Like most things, Covid-19 wreaked havoc on the RI seafood industry. We wanted to explore this topic to raise awareness to the struggles and try to find some common sense solutions to the challenges (while being mindful of safety and social distancing). Our DP Tyler Murgo grew up seeing his family harvest seafood from wild places. As everything falls apart, it feels urgent to capture the wisdom and perspectives of local fishermen during this historical moment. Some close to home, with Tyler’s brother Kenny Murgo, and others who have been fighting for change in RI for years like Jason Jarvis. Huge thanks to them for trusting us to tell their story.

During production, on May 1st 2020, an emergency action passed, temporarily allowing fishermen in Rhode Island to sell finned fish directly off the boat to consumers. The hope is to make this emergency regulation permanent. Here are few steps to move further towards developing a local market for the wild food that lives in our backyards.