The Myth of the Adult in the Room

National stories – about national principles – apply to places big and small, including Whitewater, Wisconsin.

Monica Hesse’s John Kelly and the myth of the ‘adult in the room’ summarizes about a national figure a myth that’s common locally, too:

If you can remember back to Kelly’s appointment, six thousand years ago in 2017, the event was met with hopefulness bordering on fan fiction. “The kind of discipline he’s going to bring is important,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) told CNN. “He will bring some plain-spoken discipline,” The Washington Post offered. It quoted an anonymous friend of Kelly’s who heralded the appointment as “the end of the chaos.” He would be — as Washington’s most favored way of describing non-Trumpish White House employees would have it — the adult in the room.


Amid tumult and partisanship, Kelly was appointed, and here was an upstanding father-figure for us all, ready to take on rancor, sloppiness and general ineptitude. He could fix things. He had epaulets.

As his tenure progressed, of course, he couldn’t bring discipline. Nobody could. There’s simply no way to enforce structure on a commander in chief who apparently abhors it.

And as Kelly’s tenure progressed, it also became clear that he couldn’t bring an end to rancor and controversy either. Because, it turns out, he brought controversy with him.

Yes: supposed maturity means nothing without principle, and principle requires reading, observation, and reasoning that mere age does not assure.

Years are only meaningful for policymakers if they produce and then sustain sound judgment.… Continue reading

Daily Bread for 12.14.18

Good morning.

Friday in Whitewater will be mostly cloudy with a high of thirty-nine.  Sunrise is 7:18 AM and sunset 4:21 PM, for 9h 03m 11s of daytime.  The moon is a waxing crescent with 41.7% of its visible disk illuminated.

Today is the seven hundred sixty-fifth day.


On this day in 1911, Roald Amundsen and his expedition become the first people to reach the South Pole.




Recommended for reading in full:

Norm Eisen responds to Trump’s claim that Trump relied on his lawyer’s advice:

Here’s the flaw in Trump’s reasoning. If you know something is illegal and then you do it thru a lawyer, that doesn’t excuse you. Otherwise every mobster would do what Trump did here.

@realDonald Trump: I never directed Michael Cohen to break the law. He was a lawyer and he is supposed to know the law. It is called “advice of counsel,” and a lawyer has great liability if a mistake is made. That is why they get paid. Despite that many campaign finance lawyers have strongly……

  Morgan Chalfant reports Intel panel expects to refer more cases of suspected lying to Mueller:

Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) said Thursday that the Senate Intelligence Committee has made “quite a few referrals” to special counsel Robert Mueller of cases where witnesses questioned in the panel’s Russia probe were suspected of lying, adding he expects there will be more.

“We’ve made quite a few referrals,” Burr, who chairs the Senate panel, told The Hill on Thursday afternoon. “I won’t get into the numbers, but where we have found criminality, we have made those referrals, and I’m sure that they’re not the last.”

  Sarah Grant and Chuck Rosenberg write The Steele Dossier: A Retrospective:

The dossier is, quite simply and by design, raw reporting, not a finished intelligence product.


With that in mind, we thought it would be worthwhile to look back at the dossier and to assess, to the extent possible, how the substance of Steele’s reporting holds up over time. In this effort, we considered only information in the public domain from trustworthy and official government sources, including documents released by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office in connection with the criminal cases brought against Paul Manafort, the 12 Russian intelligence officers, the Internet Research Agency trolling operation and associated entities, Michael Cohen, Michael Flynn and George Papadopoulos. We also considered the draft statement of offense released by author Jerome Corsi, a memorandum released by House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Ranking Member Adam Schiff related to the Carter Page FISA applications and admissions directly from certain speakers.

These materials buttress some of Steele’s reporting, both specifically and thematically. The dossier holds up well over time, and none of it, to our knowledge, has been disproven.

(I’ve not spent much time thinking about the Steele Dossier, but Grant & Rosenberg have published a serious review worth reading and pondering.)

  Here’s the Evolution of Spider-Man’s Classic Costume:

Reported Family Poverty in Whitewater Increased Over the Last Decade

Over the last ten years, while Wisconsin and America recovered from the Great Recession, in Whitewater poverty among families with children actually increased.

The Great Recession – deep and painful for many, lasted from December 2007 to June 2009.

Afterward, most parts of America saw recovery, sometimes slow, sometimes rapid, but recovery by either definition.  That’s why for most Wisconsinites and most Americans, the new U.S. Census data released last Thursday show reductions in their communities’ levels of poverty.  See Census: Wisconsin incomes up, poverty down.  That makes sense – the further in time from the recession, the greater the time for recovery.

The five year period from 2013 to 2017 should look better for families’ prospects than the five year period from 2008-2012 (part of which was during the Great Recession).

For Whitewater, however, that’s not true – poverty among families with related children shows an increase:

2008-12 2013-17
All families 13.1% 16.1%
     With related children under 18 16.4% 26.6%
     With related children under 5 18.5% 28.2%

2013-2017 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates and 2008-2012 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates Poverty Status in the last twelve months (as measured over the period).

A few remarks:

 Students.  Although there has been an increase in the student population over the period from 2008 to 2017, these data do not reflect that increase – these are families and families with related children under eighteen (or even five years of age) within Whitewater.

 Data.  These data are from the same methods applied to other communities; most of those communities show improvements against poverty, but rural communities in our area are notably weaker.  Although smaller communities will have greater margins of error in data collection, cities of a similar size beyond our area have lower family poverty levels than Whitewater using the same data collection methods. (The same federal bureau, the United States Census Bureau, is reporting all these results.)

 Situations.  I don’t write from personal deprivation or want; by any measure, I’ve been fortunate and privileged.

More significantly, however one looks at this data, they reveal to us (as our own eyes should, too) that we live in a city with many struggling neighbors.

One should define struggling for it means: hunger, threadbare garments, and dilapidated homes (sometimes unheated or unelectrified).

Boosterism and babbittry (and endless press releases of supposed success through big-ticket projects and junk capital catalyst programs) in Whitewater have been worse than false – they have been morally and ethically perverse diversions from actual needs.… Continue reading

Daily Bread for 12.13.18

Good morning.

Thursday in Whitewater will be cloudy with a high of thirty-nine.  Sunrise is 7:17 AM and sunset 4:21 PM, for 9h 03m 41s of daytime.  The moon is a waxing crescent with 32.7% of its visible disk illuminated.

Today is the seven hundred sixty-fourth day.


On this day in 2000, Al Gore concedes the presidential election to George W. Bush following a United States Supreme Court ruling of the previous day.



Recommended for reading in full:

  Charles Dunst and Krishnadev Calamur report Trump Moves to Deport Vietnam War Refugees:

The Trump administration is resuming its efforts to deport certain protected Vietnamese immigrants who have lived in the United States for decades—many of them having fled the country during the Vietnam War.

This is the latest move in the president’s long record of prioritizing harsh immigration and asylum restrictions, and one that’s sure to raise eyebrows—the White House had hesitantly backed off the plan in August before reversing course. In essence, the administration has now decided that Vietnamese immigrants who arrived in the country before the establishment of diplomatic ties between the United States and Vietnam are subject to standard immigration law—meaning they are all eligible for deportation.


Many pre-1995 arrivals, all of whom were previously protected under the 2008 agreement by both the administrations of Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, were refugees from the Vietnam War. Some are the children of those who once allied with American and South Vietnamese forces, an attribute that renders them undesirable to the current regime in Hanoi, which imputes anti-regime beliefs to the children of those who opposed North Vietnam. This anti-Communist constituency includes minorities such as the children of the American-allied Montagnards, who are persecuted in Vietnam for both their ethnicity and Christian religion.

  Elizabeth Williamson reports Troubled by Lapses, Government’s Voice to the World Braces for New Trump Management:

TV Martí, which aims broadcasts at Cuba, aired a segment in May that called the financier and Democratic donor George Soros, a longtime opponent of authoritarianism, “a nonbelieving Jew of flexible morals.”


Mr. Trump’s nominee as chief executive of the global government media agency is Michael Pack, who runs a conservative filmmaking business out of his house in suburban Washington. He declined to be interviewed.

Mr. Pack would join a couple of other Trump loyalists in the operation who some employees say have already shown a clear political tilt in their approach to broadcasting. Among those working in the Cuba office, for example, is Jeffrey Shapiro, a former Breitbart News writer who played a prominent role in a politically charged battle over the agency’s direction this year. Mr. Shapiro, an acolyte of Stephen K. Bannon, Mr. Trump’s former strategist, did not respond to a request to be interviewed for this article.

  When to see the 2018 Geminid meteor shower:

Campaign of Fraud

NBC reports on a deal between prosecutors in the federal Southern District of New York and AMI, the publisher of the pro-Trump National Enquirer:

AMI, National Enquirer’s parent company, admitted it made $150,000 Cohen payment “in concert” with “a candidate’s presidential campaign” in order to “ensure that the woman did not publicize damaging allegations about the candidate before” 2016 election.

Trump’s 2016 campaign was one of lies and fraud, using foreign and domestic operatives to deceive the public and enrich himself.… Continue reading

Weak Underneath

The was an armed robbery in Whitewater this week. Robbery is wrong and armed robbery especially so.  There’s neither justification nor excuse for the crime.

Radio station WFAW reported the crime in a straightforward way, but the Daily Union on Facebook crudely described the suspects not as black males (as would be conventional) but rather as male blacks.  (Obvious point: there are probably people at the DU who don’t even understand the difference between the two descriptions.)

I don’t know, and so am not contending, that the awkward description is intentionally bigoted; it’s enough to know that at these local newspapers, and at local institutions, there’s often a weak staff that receives little or no training and oversight.  Workers with limited still and narrow perspectives are hired and then left to their own limitations.

Genuine mentoring (rather than a press release about mentoring) is deficient in all these small rural towns.  If the top level’s weak (and it sometimes is), one can guess that’s what’s below is often weaker still.… Continue reading

Daily Bread for 12.12.18

Good morning.

Wednesday in Whitewater will be cloudy with morning flurries and a high of thirty-five.  Sunrise is 7:16 AM and sunset 4:21 PM, for 9h 04m 15s of daytime.  The moon is a waxing crescent with 24.1% of its visible disk illuminated.

Today is the seven hundred sixty-third day.

Whitewater’s Tech Park Board meets at 8 AM, the CDA Board at 5:30 PM, and there is a scheduled Community Meeting for the Lakes Drawdown Project at 6 PM.

On this day in 1913, the Mona Lisa is recovered after it was stolen over two years earlier:

Louvre employee Vincenzo Peruggia had stolen the Mona Lisa by entering the building during regular hours, hiding in a broom closet, and walking out with it hidden under his coat after the museum had closed.


Recommended for reading in full:

  Lisa Rein and Josh Dawsey report Trump loyalist at VA forced out after collecting pay but doing little work:

Peter O’Rourke’s departure marks an unceremonious fall for a Trump loyalist once seen as a rising star at VA, where he nonetheless had a rocky tenure, first leading a high-profile office handling whistleblower complaints, next as chief of staff and then, for two months, as the agency’s acting secretary.

Since August he has held the nebulous role of senior adviser, with an uncertain portfolio and a senior executive salary as high as $161,000. VA Secretary Robert Wilkie asked for his resignation Friday, O’Rourke said.


Asked why he was getting paid not to work, O’Rourke said he was “available for anything the secretary asked me to do” and acknowledged that “there were times I didn’t have a lot to do.”

  Jennifer Rubin writes For Trump, it’s all downhill from here:

The intensity of his [Trump’s] disapproval (44 strongly disapprove, while only 30 percent strongly approve) remains a consistent problem for him and those who will appear on the ballot with him in 2020.

Republicans who have thrown their lot in with Trump, by smearing the FBI and attacking Mueller, may please the hardcore base but, overall, they are on the wrong side of public opinion — even before the public knows more than a fraction of what Mueller does.

  LZ Granderson observes Michigan, Wisconsin GOP power grabs are like ‘Breaking Bad’:

“Breaking Bad,” season four, episode six:

Skyler White, in an argument with her husband, Walter, tells him he’s in over his head and expresses concern for his safety. Walter turns and responds with one of the most chilling lines in television history:

“I am not in danger Skyler, I am the danger.”

That scene, that quote, is what I thought about when I learned Republican state leaders in Wisconsin and Michigan called emergency sessions in an attempt to pass a number of measures that will limit the executive power of the newly elected incoming Democratic governors (who unseated Republicans) and attorneys general while increasing their own.

  How High-Speed Photography Unlocked the Mechanics of Motion:

Continue reading

The ‘Real’ Residents

Emily Badger reports Are Rural Voters the ‘Real’ Voters? Wisconsin Republicans Seem to Think So:

In much of Wisconsin, “Madison and Milwaukee” are code words (to some, dog whistles) for the parts of the state that are nonwhite, elite, different: The cities are where people don’t have to work hard with their hands, because they’re collecting welfare or public-sector paychecks.


Wisconsin Republicans amplified that idea this week, arguing that the legislature is the more representative branch of government, and then voting to limit the power of the incoming Democratic governor. The legislature speaks for the people in all corners of the state, they seemed to be saying, and statewide offices like governor merely reflect the will of those urban mobs.


That argument is particularly debatable in Wisconsin, where the legislature has been heavily gerrymandered.

There’s a version of this argument common in small-town Whitewater: older white residents who are a minority of the whole city mostly consider themselves the true voices of the community.  One can find this view among middle-aged and elderly whites of both left and right: that they ‘live here’ (as though college-aged residents somehow don’t live here).

The actual demographics of the city show how narrow is the cohort that presumes it represents the whole community. From the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, 2013-2017 averages: an absolute majority of this city is under 24 years of age.  Many of those over 24 are almost certainly Latino.  The city’s leadership and insiders, however, are white and skewed older.

Newspapers in this area (and the Banner for almost its whole run until this year) have had conservative, big-government-favoring, white senior citizen publishers while claiming to speak for the ‘community.’  The community – and what it means to be community-minded – is more than a few buddies, pals, and mutual back-patters.

(I have never claimed to be demographically representative, and have always contended that I am, so to speak, an emissary of one — of my own views and of the political tradition on which they rest.  These others have unctuously wrapped themselves in a community cloak that is ill-fitting on their shoulders.)

The policies of this city have been mostly ineffectual, and she remains a low-income community despite the crowing of self-promoting community development men.  The true market of the city far exceeds officials’ narrow focus.

Neither in these last eleven years nor even in the next eleven-hundred could state or crony capitalism achieve a positive effect for this city.

The real residents of this community are those people who reside here, each and every last one of them.… Continue reading

Daily Bread for 12.11.18

Good morning.

Tuesday in Whitewater will be partly sunny with a high of thirty-two.  Sunrise is 7:16 AM and sunset 4:20 PM, for 9h 04m 54s of daytime.  The moon is a waxing crescent with 16.6% of its visible disk illuminated.

Today is the seven hundred sixty-second day.

Whitewater’s Public Works Committee meets at 6 PM, and the Finance Committee at 7 PM.


On this day in 1833, Wisconsin’s first newspaper, the Green Bay Intelligencer, begins publication.



Recommended for reading in full:

  Byron York contends that there’s been a “[s]udden shift in get-Trump talk; now it’s campaign finance, not Russia,” but Natasha Bertrand sets him straight:

nope, it’s still Russia

(Trump has many grievous faults, not merely one.)

  Pete Madden, Katherine Faulders, and Matthew Mosk report Maria Butina, accused Russian agent, reaches plea deal with prosecutors that includes cooperation:

  Philip Bump observes It’s not just the number of Trump-Russia contacts. It’s the timing:

There are two facets of the Russia-Trumpworld points of contact that are interesting. The first is the volume: More than a dozen people who worked with Trump’s campaign or who were close to him personally had meetings, emails or calls with Russians over the year-long span from the end of 2015 to the end of 2016. But the timing is also interesting. The bulk of those contacts happened in the spring and summer of 2016, a period when it looked increasingly like Trump would be the Republican nominee for president.

  Franklin Foer reports The Mysterious Return of Manafort’s ‘Russian Brain’:

In the Collected Works of Robert Mueller, there are Russian names that come and go. But there’s only one of these figures who provides a recurring presence in this oeuvre. He is a diminutive man, whom Mueller has called an “asset” of Russian intelligence. His presence is either the sort of distracting irrelevance that Alfred Hitchcock described as a MacGuffin, or he is the shadowy character who steps into the frame to foreshadow an ominous return.

Konstantin Kilimnik trained in Russian military intelligence as a linguist; he spent decades by Paul Manafort’s side, serving as a translator and then rising through the ranks of his organization. Eventually, Manafort would come to describe Kilimnik—also known as K.K. or Kostya—as “My Russian Brain.” He would travel with Manafort to Moscow to meet with their client, the Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska. When Kostya worked with Americans, they suspected him as some sort of spook. (Last June, I wrote this profile of him.)

  Why is Snow White Given Snowflakes are Clear?:

Continue reading

On Trump-Russia, Right from the Very Beginning

Virginia Heffernan reports Early on, Trump-Russia obsessives were marginalized; they’re prophets now:

“I felt like the guy in ‘Rear Window,’ ” David Corn, the coauthor of “Russian Roulette,” told me this week.

Corn was referring to his affinity for James Stewart’s character, L.B. “Jeff” Jefferies, in Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece film. Jeff witnesses a crime across the courtyard from his New York City apartment. But when he talks about it no one believes him.

Corn, likewise, had a period in 2016 when he saw a massive global crime going on right outside his window. The Kremlin was waging war on America. And that November, it captured the White House. But for an agonizingly long time, as the media critic Liz Spayd put it at the time, “the majority view [was] that there wasn’t enough proof of a link between Trump and the Kremlin to write a hard-hitting story” during the campaign.


Corn says he felt “lonely,” even as his stories about the Russia affair gained traction. Others who reported early about curious Trump connections in Moscow — Franklin Foer in Slate, for example — have said the same thing.

But they’re not lonely now. And this is mostly because even while some media organizations sidelined, or cautiously framed, the Trump-Russia story, a much more important group of commenters were far less timid. Let’s give a round of retweets for the concerned citizens of the United States.

Take one look at Twitter: swelling numbers — initially thousands, then tens and perhaps even hundreds of thousands — gather now to raise their voices to undo Trump’s constant gaslighting about the Mueller investigation, which is decidedly not a witch hunt.

From all quarters, these citizens have kept the Trump-Russia story front and center for the electorate, and provided analysis and even scoops that clarify and help to remedy the global catastrophe that is Trump’s presidency.

Millions of concerned citizens of the United States knew from reading and observing – of politics, history, economics, law, and philosophy, of what they teach about human nature and human behavior – that known connections between Trump and foreign nationals suggested venality and betrayal.

These last two years of scrutiny have confirmed our concerns.

On Trump-Russia, regrettably and tragically (for we never wanted America under a foreign dictator’s heel), those who have been concerned have been proved right from the very beginning.

 … Continue reading

Daily Bread for 12.10.18

Good morning.

Monday in Whitewater will be sunny with a high of thirty-three.  Sunrise is 7:15 AM and sunset 4:20 PM, for 9h 05m 38s of daytime.  The moon is a waxing crescent with 10.2% of its visible disk illuminated.

Today is the seven hundred sixty-first day.

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

On this day in 1864, the 3rd Wisconsin Infantry reaches Savannah, Georgia:

The Wisconsin 3rd Infantry arrived at the front lines for the Battle of Savannah, Georgia. After marching from Atlanta under General William T. Sherman, Wisconsin troops assembled outside the coastal city of Savannah and laid siege to it.


Recommended for reading in full:

  Rosalind S. Helderman, Tom Hamburger, and Carol D. Leonnig report Russians interacted with at least 14 Trump associates during the campaign and transition:

The Russian ambassador. A deputy prime minister. A pop star, a weightlifter, a lawyer, a Soviet army veteran with alleged intelligence ties.

Again and again and again, over the course of Donald Trump’s 18-month campaign for the presidency, Russian citizens made contact with his closest family members and friends, as well as figures on the periphery of his orbit.

Some offered to help his campaign and his real estate business. Some offered dirt on his Democratic opponent. Repeatedly, Russian nationals suggested Trump should hold a peacemaking sit-down with Vladi­mir Putin — and offered to broker such a summit.

In all, Russians interacted with at least 14 Trump associates during the campaign and presidential transition, public records and interviews show.

  Andrew Cohen of the Marshall Project summarizes the latest on The unindicted co-conspirator:

Federal prosecutors allege that President Trump and his former lawyer Michael Cohen conspired to commit campaign finance crimes involving hush money to women. THE NEW YORK TIMES They recommend “a substantial term of imprisonment” for Cohen, who pleaded guilty this summer to tax evasion, false statements, and other crimes. CNN And they say his separate cooperation with Mueller’s Russia investigation should not warrant “extraordinary leniency” given his “pattern of deception that permeated his professional life.” USA TODAY Mueller’s own sentencing memo, meanwhile, chronicles broader collusion and conspiracy evidence extending into Trump’s presidency. POLITICO Finally: A running tally of charges from Mueller’s investigation. NPR

  Tony Newmyer reports U.S.-China trade standoff means no reprieve for rattled investors:

“As far as I’m concerned it’s a hard deadline,” U.S. Trade Representative Robert E. Lighthizer said in a rare interview on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

Offered a chance to reassure markets, Lighthizer (whose name has also surfaced in speculation about who will replace outgoing White House chief of staff John Kelly) instead gave some cold comfort. He said, in essence, the United States will only agree to forgo more tariffs if the Chinese agree to major structural changes in their economic approach. “It is a very important matter, and there’s a long history of having things not work out.”

Meet The Woman Teaching Tokyo’s Mascots: