Frontline: Supreme Revenge: Battle for the Supreme Court

With the confirmation of Justice Amy Coney Barrett days before the 2020 presidential election, conservatives solidified a 6-3 majority on the Supreme Court — and the chance to shape American life and policy for a generation.

Behind it all was a powerful Republican from Kentucky: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, for whom Barrett’s confirmation was a crowning achievement in a hard-fought, decades-long effort to transform the nation’s highest court.

“Supreme Revenge: Battle for the Court” tells the inside story of that effort, and how it was sparked in part by a 30-year-old grievance. With McConnell elected to another six year term and President-elect Joe Biden preparing to take office in January, the film offers both a gripping political narrative and critical context on the state of America’s judiciary at the dawning of the Biden administration.

Wisconsin Republicans Mean Nearly Nothing To Trump

Here in Wisconsin, there’s an election recount in two counties, and there are repeated Republican objections to the recount there. This is a curious turn, as Patrick Marley accurately reports that The Wisconsin voting system Donald Trump is attacking was built by Republicans:

MADISON – In his move to overturn Wisconsin’s election results, President Donald Trump is attacking a voting system built entirely by Republicans.

The state’s voting laws and procedures were overhauled repeatedly during eight years of GOP control of state government.

Republicans dissolved the body that oversees elections and replaced it with one equally divided by Republicans and Democrats. They put in place a voter ID law, shortened the early voting period to two weeks, eliminated straight-ticket voting and barred voter registration drives.

Truly, these recount objections are not Republican objections but Trumpist ones.

The party is less an independent political organization with a platform (in fact, they had no updated platform for the 2020 race) than it is an oversized coat for the oversized Donald J. Trump. The party goes where Trump goes: men wear coats, but coats do not wear men.

Wisconsin Republicans did design the system about which Trump now complains. Trump and his followers care not at all about this plain truth (a truth that would muffle the objections of anyone who believed in accountability for prior actions).

Trump (and so Trumpism) rejects accountability: there is only what the man wants in the moment, divorced from past actions or future obligations.

Daily Bread for 11.25.20

Good morning.

Wednesday in Whitewater will see light rain with a high of forty-four.  Sunrise is 7:00 AM and sunset 4:23 PM, for 9h 23m 21s of daytime.  The moon is a waxing gibbous with 80.1% of its visible disk illuminated.

Today is both the one thousand four hundred seventy-eighth day and the nineteenth day. 

On this day in 1863, at the Battle of Missionary Ridge in Tennessee, Union forces led by General Grant break the Siege of Chattanooga by routing Confederate troops under General Braxton Bragg.

Recommended for reading in full — 

Salvador Rizzo reports Trump tweets string of falsehoods about Wisconsin absentee voters:

“ ‘In Wisconsin, somebody has to be indefinitely confined in order to vote absentee. In the past there were 20,000 people. This past election there were 120,000…and Republicans were locked out of the vote counting process.’ @VicToensing @newsmax”

— President Trump, in a tweet, Nov. 24, 2020


Let’s debunk these claims one by one.

“In Wisconsin, somebody has to be indefinitely confined in order to vote absentee.”

False. Wisconsin law allows any registered voter to request an absentee ballot, and no excuse has been required since 2000.

“Under Wisconsin law, voters do not need a reason or excuse, such as being out of town on Election Day, to vote absentee,” the state’s election website says. “Any voter who prefers to vote by absentee ballot may request one.”

“In the past there were 20,000 people. This past election there were 120,000.”

Under Wisconsin law: “Voters who are indefinitely confined due to age, illness, infirmity, or disability may request that a ballot be automatically sent to them for each election. Indefinitely confined voters do not need to provide a photo ID with their absentee ballot request.”

This is an accommodation for voters who cannot physically go to the polls. They have the option of receiving mail ballots automatically for each election and don’t need to provide a photo ID with their request. The requirements are stricter for other Wisconsin absentee voters, who must request ballots for specific elections or years.

The suggestion here is that the number of indefinitely confined voters in Wisconsin grew suspiciously this year. But these numbers from Trump and Toensing are inaccurate, contradicted by the state’s official statistics. The real numbers tell a different story, and Reid Magney, a spokesman for the Wisconsin Elections Commission, told us “we have seen no evidence of fraud.”

Magney said that in November 2016, the state recorded 56,978 indefinitely confined absentee voters out of 144,802 absentee-by-mail voters. (That’s 39 percent.)For November 2020, Wisconsin’s preliminary figures show 215,713 indefinitely confined absentee voters out of approximately 1.32 million absentee-by-mail voters, or 16 percent. (Final figures will not be available until mid-December.)

“Republicans were locked out of the vote counting process.”

Republican observers have been present throughout Wisconsin’s counting process, during the initial count and now during the recount. In fact, local election officials say that Trump’s observers are seeking to gum up the works, “in some instances by objecting to every ballot tabulators pulled to count,” according to the Associated Press.

Maggie Haberman and reports Trump Is Said to Plan Pardon of Flynn:

President Trump has told aides that he plans to pardon his former national security adviser Michael T. Flynn and that it is one of a string of pardons he plans to issue before leaving office, a person familiar with the discussions said on Tuesday.

Mr. Flynn, a retired Army lieutenant general, twice pleaded guilty to lying to the F.B.I. about his conversations with a Russian diplomat during the presidential transition in late 2016 and early 2017. He was the only former White House official to plead guilty in the inquiry led by Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel investigating Russia’s election interference.

Hundreds of Rural Hospitals in Danger of Closing:

Whitewater School Board Meeting, 11.23.20: 6 Points

Monday night’s school board meeting saw a majority of the board adopt a mostly virtual instructional model, to run through 1.17.21 (with exceptions for students 4K, early childhood, and perhaps other vulnerable populations).

The full agenda for the meeting is available. (Items 9A, 12A, and 15F were omitted from the agenda by consent.) Updated afternoon of 11.24.20 with meeting video.

A few remarks —

 1. Maps, Terrain.  There have been, in this area, guidance recommendations from three health departments – for Jefferson, Rock, and Walworth counties – each arriving at a different time, and often with modifications having been made during the course of the pandemic. The district’s administrator offered a review of these respective recommendations, and perhaps they swayed some board members to support a mostly virtual instructional model.

But not decisively – one board member expressly based his vote on the number of students or staff now in quarantine – that is, on an actual condition rather than a policy recommendation. This reminds loosely of the distinction between a map and terrain: one is a mere description of the other. It is a critical distinction: as a map is only useful when it accurately depicts a landscape, so a guidance is only useful if it describes what is happening or what soon will.

It’s perfectly possible to say that ‘Informed by Counties’ Health Dept guidance, WUSD Board votes to pause in-person instruction,’ but this would be a superficial grasp of what the board members likely believe, as any among the majority could reasonably assert that the guidance was, in the end, simply a reflection of difficult, actual conditions. Maps do not create mountains; weather reports do not cause rain.

The board’s majority might be wrong about actual conditions, but it is a better grasp of their thinking to say that Under Their Assessment of Actual Conditions, WUSD Board Majority Votes to Pause In-Person Instruction.

(As it turns out, one of that majority expressly grounded his opinion this way.)

 2. Emotion.  It’s understandable that many would approach these matters with concern and worry (and while doing so, sometimes insist that those of opposing views are approaching these matters with excessive concern and worry). A sound maxim: the hotter the subject, the colder the man. An assessment of the district’s conduct now, with months of a pandemic yet ahead, would be premature. See A Fair, Thorough Assessment of Whitewater’s Schools and the Pandemic Awaits (at the End of the School Year).

 3. Public Comment. Up to an hour of public comment for specific agenda topics seems reasonable, and there’s nothing under Wisconsin law that prevents commenters from also asking questions. There is, however, always the risk that questions will slip outside the bounds of that agenda topic. (That didn’t happen last night, but it is why many public bodies offer public comment without questions, and also without remarks from board members in immediate reply.)

 4. Engagement. This isn’t a district, and this isn’t a board, that typically attracts much political engagement. The pandemic has changed all that, and so many who are unfamiliar with public meetings are now – understandably – interested in these proceedings. It’s useful now – truly always a good idea – to explain to attendees that a motion precedes discussion. (A motion in favor or against an action isn’t a prejudgment; it’s a simple precondition of discussion. The motion is typically worded in the way the one proposing it wishes.

5. Homeless Outreach. A problem of homelessness demands a solution, and the district has hired a grant-funded homeless outreach coordinator. The first step toward a better community is an honest community.

6. Asides.

Will increased community engagement with the board outlast the pandemic? One can’t now be sure.

Does the Whitewater district describe itself accurately – as a place with different and often conflicting values among residents – to incoming leaders and faculty?… Continue reading

Daily Bread for 11.24.20

Good morning.

Tuesday in Whitewater will see morning snow with a high of forty.  Sunrise is 6:59 AM and sunset 4:24 PM, for 9h 25m 01s of daytime.  The moon is a waxing gibbous with 72.1% of its visible disk illuminated.

Today is both the one thousand four hundred seventy-seventh day and the eighteenth day. 

On this day in 1859, Charles Darwin publishes On the Origin of Species.

Recommended for reading in full — 

reports How Misinformation ‘Superspreaders’ Seed False Election Theories:

New research from Avaaz, a global human rights group, the Elections Integrity Partnership and The New York Times shows how a small group of people — mostly right-wing personalities with outsized influence on social media — helped spread the false voter-fraud narrative that led to those rallies.

That group, like the guests of a large wedding held during the pandemic, were “superspreaders” of misinformation around voter fraud, seeding falsehoods that include the claims that dead people voted, voting machines had technical glitches, and mail-in ballots were not correctly counted.

“Because of how Facebook’s algorithm functions, these superspreaders are capable of priming a discourse,” said Fadi Quran, a director at Avaaz. “There is often this assumption that misinformation or rumors just catch on. These superspreaders show that there is an intentional effort to redefine the public narrative.”

Across Facebook, there were roughly 3.5 million interactions — including likes, comments and shares — on public posts referencing “Stop the Steal” during the week of Nov. 3, according to the research. Of those, the profiles of Eric Trump, Diamond and Silk and Mr. Straka accounted for a disproportionate share — roughly 6 percent, or 200,000, of those interactions.

While the group’s impact was notable, it did not come close to the spread of misinformation promoted by President Trump since then. Of the 20 most-engaged Facebook posts over the last week containing the word “election,” all were from Mr. Trump, according to Crowdtangle, a Facebook-owned analytics tool. All of those claims were found to be false or misleading by independent fact checkers.

The baseless election fraud claims have been used by the president and his supporters to challenge the vote in a number of states. Reports that malfunctioning voting machines, intentionally miscounted mail-in votes and other irregularities affected the vote were investigated by election officials and journalists who found no evidence of widespread voter fraud.

 Annette McGivney reports Trump officials rush to mine desert haven native tribes consider holy:

Last month tribes discovered that the date for the completion of a crucial environmental review process has suddenly been moved forward by a full year, to December 2020, even as the tribes are struggling with a Covid outbreak that has stifled their ability to respond. If the environmental review is completed before Trump leaves office, the tribes may be unable to stop the mine.

In a meeting with environmental groups, local officials said that the push was occurring because “we are getting pressure from the highest level at the Department of Agriculture,” according to notes from the meeting seen by the Guardian. The department oversees the US Forest Service, which is in charge of Oak Flat.

As the curtain closes on the Trump era, officials are hurrying through a host of environmentally destructive projects that will benefit corporate interests. These include opening the Arctic national wildlife refuge to oil and gas drilling and rolling back protections on endangered gray wolves.

In Oak Flat, the beneficiaries will be a company called Resolution Copper and its two Anglo-Australian parent firms, the mining conglomerates Rio Tinto and BHP.

Italy’s hospital relief: Hotels repurposed to accommodate coronavirus patients:

They’ve Become What They Once Despised

The greatest tragedies are injuries inflicted on the innocent. There are, however, other sad moments of our time, among them the collapse of responsibile conservatism into Trumpian irresponsibility & dishonesty. So many conservatives have become what they once despised.

A local example would be proud conservatives who now insist, nationally or locally, that government is needed on the border and in their communities. They’re now quite sure that government will work just fine when it takes care of them.

Tim Miller writes of this in They Are What They Say They Hate (‘Trump is a triggered loser who embodies every trait conservatives spent decades decrying’):

Donald Trump is a snowflake who cares only about his feelings not the facts.

He’s a pampered millennial child who can’t handle losing and wants a participation trophy.

He’s a coddled, out-of-touch elite who cares more about what his media friends say about him than the struggles of forgotten Americans.


He is everything that they ever said their “evil” opponents were. And worse.


They do it [embody Trump’s outlook] because their crusade stopped being about anything other than causing their opponents pain a long time ago. They came to the crossroads and struck a deal to make a human troll the president of the United States, because he put Obama in his (birth) place and made all the right people mad. He was their vehicle to give the finger to half of the country.

Their end of that deal paid off in spades the past four years.

Well, yes. Conservatives who once (rightly) insisted upon personal responsibility, hard work, honesty, and individual rights now wheedle and whine that simple tasks are too hard, facts are mere alternatives, that they need government support (now, damnit!), and proudly identify as a majoritarian, nativist volk.

This transformation is no faraway change – it’s present in every corner of the country. Pretending it hasn’t happened won’t make it go away; head down and eyes averted is no posture for a worthy man or woman.

Daily Bread for 11.23.20

Good morning.

Monday in Whitewater will be partly cloudy with a high of thirty-nine.  Sunrise is 6:58 AM and sunset 4:25 PM, for 9h 26m 45s of daytime.  The moon is a waxing gibbous with 62.6% of its visible disk illuminated.

Today is both the one thousand four hundred seventy-sixth day and the seventeenth day. 

The Whitewater Schools’ board will meet in closed session at 6:15 PM, and in open session via audiovisual conferencing at 7 PM

On this day in 1992, the first smartphone, the IBM Simon, is introduced at COMDEX in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Recommended for reading in full — 

Rosalind S. Helderman and Dan Simmons report In last-gasp maneuver, Trump campaign tries to invalidate thousands of votes as Wisconsin recount gets underway:

President Trump’s campaign is seeking to use a recount of the presidential election in Wisconsin to attempt to invalidate tens of thousands of votes in the state, making sweeping challenges to whole categories of ballots cast in the state’s two Democratic-leaning counties in his last-gasp effort to reverse President-elect Joe Biden’s win.

As a recount began on Friday in Dane and Milwaukee counties — home to the cities of Madison and Milwaukee — Trump lawyers argued that officials should not merely retabulate all the votes cast in the Nov. 3 election to reconfirm they’d been counted properly.

Instead, they argued that large batches of ballots had been improperly accepted and counted in the first place. In both Dane and Milwaukee, they sought to disqualify all absentee ballots that had been cast before Election Day in person, rather than by mail.


Rick Esenberg, a conservative election law expert and president of the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, said he did not believe the Trump campaign would fare better on the issue in court.

While he said there are “legitimate” questions about the state’s rules for people to declare themselves indefinitely confined that the state might examine in the future, he did not believe a court would be inclined to throw out the ballots given that it would be difficult to determine quickly whether any specific voters had unfairly taken advantage of the provision.

“I think it’s highly unlikely that the issue could result in a change in the outcome,” he said.

Jim Rutenberg and Nick Corasaniti report Republicans Rewrite an Old Playbook on Disenfranchising Black Americans
(‘As they try to somehow reverse Joe Biden’s victory, President Trump and his allies have targeted heavily Black cities, painting them as corrupt and trying to throw out huge numbers of votes’):

In Pennsylvania, President Trump and Republicans loyal to him have sought to overturn his defeat by making false claims about widespread voting fraud in Philadelphia.

In Georgia, they have sought to reverse his loss by leveling similar accusations against Atlanta.

In Michigan, Republicans have zeroed in on Detroit, whose elections system the president has falsely portrayed as so flawed that its entire vote should be thrown out.

Lost on no one in those cities is what they have in common: large populations of Black voters.

And there is little ambiguity in the way Mr. Trump and his allies are falsely depicting them as bastions of corruption.

“‘Democrat-led city’ — that’s code for Black,” said the Rev. William J. Barber II, the president of the civil rights group Repairers of the Breach. “They’re coupling ‘city’ and ‘fraud,’ and those two words have been used throughout the years. This is an old playbook being used in the modern time, and people should be aware of that.”

Big Tech, Vaccine Winners, Black Friday: 3 Things in Markets:

Daily Bread for 11.22.20

Good morning.

Sunday in Whitewater will be mostly cloudy with a high of forty-five.  Sunrise is 6:57 AM and sunset 4:25 PM, for 9h 28m 32s of daytime.  The moon is a waxing gibbous with 53.5% of its visible disk illuminated.

Today is both the one thousand four hundred seventy-fifth day and the sixteenth day. 

At 10 AM, Whitewater will conduct an audit, as a random selection of the Wisconsin Elections Commission, of Ward 12, Jefferson County, Wisconsin.

On this day in 1963, President Kennedy is assassinated and Texas Governor John Connally is seriously wounded by Lee Harvey Oswald, who also kills Dallas Police officer J. D. Tippit after fleeing the scene.

Recommended for reading in full — 

Danny Hakim, Mike McIntire, William K. Rashbaum, and Ben Protess report Trump Tax Write-Offs Are Ensnared in 2 New York Fraud Investigations:

Two separate New York State fraud investigations into President Trump and his businesses, one criminal and one civil, have expanded to include tax write-offs on millions of dollars in consulting fees, some of which appear to have gone to Ivanka Trump, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

The inquiries — a criminal investigation by the Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., and a civil one by the state attorney general, Letitia James — are being conducted independently. But both offices issued subpoenas to the Trump Organization in recent weeks for records related to the fees, the people said.

The subpoenas were the latest steps in the two investigations of the Trump Organization, and underscore the legal challenges awaiting the president when he leaves office in January. There is no indication that his daughter is a focus of either inquiry, which the Trump Organization has derided as politically motivated.

The development follows a recent New York Times examination of more than two decades of Mr. Trump’s tax records, which found that he had paid little or no federal income taxes in most years, largely because of his chronic business losses.

Adam Winkler writes Trump’s wildest claims are going nowhere in court. Thank legal ethics:

Trump’s legal strategy has run aground — in no small part because of legal ethics. While lawyers are often cast as unscrupulous and immoral, they are required to follow a strict code of professional responsibility established by state bars. The famous duty of lawyers to keep a client’s confidences, for instance, comes from these ethical codes. Law students must take a course in legal ethics, the bar exam includes a section on ethical rules, and continuing-education requirements emphasize lawyers’ duties to clients and to the courts.

Two ethical rules have been fatal to Trump’s election lawsuits in state after state: the lawyer’s duty of candor to a court and the lawyer’s duty to avoid frivolous claims. The president can spew all the theories he wants, and his advocates can say whatever they like on television, but because of these two ethical duties, Trump’s lawyers can make claims before courts only if they can back them up with actual evidence.


The duty of lawyers to avoid making frivolous claims has also hurt Trump’s efforts to use the courts to overturn the election. Lawyers are prohibited from making assertions in court or in their filings “unless there is a basis in law and fact for doing so that is not frivolous,” in the words of the ABA’s Model Rules. Lawyers have to be especially careful about this one, because judges can impose monetary sanctions against them on the spot. A whole section of the rules of federal civil proceedings specifies the duties lawyers have to ensure that the factual claims they’re making are supported by evidence and that the legal ones have a sound basis, too.

Animal Stories You Might’ve Missed During Election Week:

Film: Tuesday, November 24th, 1 PM @ Seniors in the Park, Give Me Liberty

This Tuesday, November 24th at 1 PM,  there will be a showing of Give Me Liberty @ Seniors in the Park, in the Starin Community Building:

Rated PG

1 hour, 50 minutes (2019)

An Independent film to be thankful for! Vic, a young Russian American, drives a handicapped van in Milwaukee, where he shares an apartment with his grandfather. Already running late on a day when street protests break out, Vic reluctantly agrees to ferry his grandfather and a dozen elderly Russians to a funeral, but they’re upset when he stops first in a Black Milwaukee neighborhood to pick up Tracy, a Black woman with ALS. On the verge of being fired, Vic’s hectic day goes from bad to worse. Filmed entirely in Milwaukee, this film was the winner of the prestigious 2020 John Cassavetes Award/Independent Spirit Award, presented to a creative team of a film budgeted at less than $500,000.

Masks are required and you must register for a seat either by calling, emailing or going online at There will be a limit of 10 people for the  time slot. No walk-ins.

One can find more information about Give Me Liberty at the Internet Movie Database.


Daily Bread for 11.21.20

Good morning.

Saturday in Whitewater will be partly cloudy with a high of forty-four.  Sunrise is 6:55 AM and sunset 4:26 PM, for 9h 30m 22s of daytime.  The moon is a waxing crescent with 43.6% of its visible disk illuminated.

Today is both the one thousand four hundred seventy-fourth day and the fifteenth day. 

On this day in 1969, the first permanent ARPANET link is established between UCLA and SRI.

Recommended for reading in full — 

Richard Fausset, Nick Corasaniti, and Maggie Haberman report Georgia and Michigan Deliver Blows to Trump’s Efforts to Undo the Election:

President Trump’s attempt to undo the election results was undercut twice by fellow Republicans on Friday, as Georgia became the first contested state to certify Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory and Michigan lawmakers — after meeting with the president — said they would not intervene in their state’s election certification process.

After steady complaints by Mr. Trump about the Georgia vote count and a methodical hand recount, Georgia’s secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, bluntly declared on Friday, “I live by the motto that numbers don’t lie,” and made official the final tally showing Mr. Biden had defeated Mr. Trump by 12,670 votes, out of roughly five million cast. Gov. Brian Kemp, also a Republican, tersely stated that he would sign the certification.

Hours later, a delegation of seven Michigan Republicans, who had met with Mr. Trump at the White House at his request, said they had no information “that would change the outcome of the election in Michigan.” Mr. Biden beat Mr. Trump in the state by nearly three percentage points.

“We will follow the law and follow the normal process regarding Michigan’s electors, just as we have said throughout this election,” the state’s top two Republican leaders said in a statement issued by the State Legislature.

“The candidates who win the most votes win elections and Michigan’s electoral votes,” the statement said. Mr. Trump’s outreach to state Republicans amid the ongoing vote certification process was condemned by Democrats and election law experts as a dangerous intrusion into the election process.

White House aides declined to respond to questions about the meeting.

 Kyle Swenson reports ‘Can’t eat a gift card’: Rural food banks fight to put turkeys on the table:

Like similar organizations anchored in cities and suburbs, food banks in rural areas have seen a spike in demand since the pandemic hit in March. But rural pantries run into their own unique challenges, according to Blue Ridge’s [chief executive Michael] McKee.

“The pantries we are working with are in rural areas, so they’re smaller and they rely entirely on volunteers mostly in their 60s and 70s, so when the pandemic hit, we were quite concerned about the ability of our partner agencies to stay open,” he said. “A lot of these areas, they are 40 minutes or more away from the nearest towns. Therefore, for the people in these communities, there are no other pantries nearby. They may have nothing else.”

Blue Ridge’s distribution jumped from 106,000 individuals in February to 141,000 in May, McKee said. But despite the demand coupled with the pandemic, few of Blue Ridge’s partner agencies closed down during the virus’s first wave, mainly because the volunteers recognized they were all that was standing between their clients and hunger. “We had no more than 7 percent of our network closed, whereas in other cities your pantry closure rates were at 30 or 40 percent,” he said.

Is it getting crowded on the space station with SpaceX Crew-1 arrival?:

A Fair, Thorough Assessment of Whitewater’s Schools and the Pandemic Awaits (at the End of the School Year)

The pandemic, having gripped Wisconsin beginning late last winter, seems likely to last well into the coming spring. There have been numerous district meetings, declarations, assessments, positions, and revisions of policy over the last several months; there are likely to be more before next June.

Through it all, one sound truth: it is not on any of these (often shifting) statements – or on any temporary closures – that one should base an assessment of the district’s management of the pandemic.

See September Arrives: Consequences Will Settle Claims (‘A reminder that, for a thousand discussions, predictions, warnings, or assurances — what has been predicted about the pandemic & economy will prove true or false as against daily events and their consequences.’) and Whitewater School Board Meeting, 9.23.20: 5 Points (‘Once the novel coronavirus became widespread in communities across America, specific predictions about particular institutions’ ability to carry on were destined to be unreliable. The level of overconfidence about particular outcomes was always ridiculously unsound’).

Patience in an assessment is an affirmation of responsibility: that one weighs the fullest amount of evidence against the many claims & contentions made along the way.

The story, so to speak, yet waits to be told.