JOHN ADAMS | FREE WHITEWATER
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Steve Nass: Troll-King in Autumn

For many years, Steve Nass, as a state representative (now a state senator) was a notable farthest-to-the-right Wisconsin politician. The bête noire of liberals and universities, he was the state’s unmatched troll, criticizing the center-left time and again.

Nass was a right-wing populist long before Trump.  He was the great troll-king of Wisconsin, firing florid press releases to the media to promote right-wing issues.

Now, after Trump’s rise, he’s merely one more right-wing populist in a crowded ecosystem. Others are younger, more energetic, and purely and exclusively Trump-backing.

A recent press release from Nass shows how hard it is to keep pace with other populists: he can still get attention, but he’s rhetorically indistinguishable – if not inferior – to hundreds of younger, social-media-savvy populists in Wisconsin.

Nass proposes in a press release to use his claimed legislative authority over rule-making to prevent the UW System from issuing coronavirus protocols without his, Nass’s, approval. (A WISGOP effort to pass a bill against required System protocols was garnering limited support, so Nass decided instead to assert authority over the UW System’s rule-making.)

Here’s now Nass describes his effort:

“Unfortunately, some chancellors in the UW System consider themselves mini-Andrea Palms not beholden to following state law and moving quickly to take advantage of the Delta-variant hysteria to enact excessive Covid-19 mandates. The legislature should not drag its feet in utilizing the powers we have to prevent state agencies from abusing the statutory and constitutional rights of citizens as was done in 2020,” Nass said.

That’s weak rhetorical tea. Nass begins with a complaint about… “mini-Andrea Palms.” A press release like this is too inwardly focused. Fewer people in Wisconsin know who Andrea Palm is (former state health-services designee now deputy secretary of the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services) than would grasp a description like “health czar” or “health secretary run amok” (to write from Nass’s point of view).

There are a hundred garden-variety Trumpists in Wisconsin, however wrong on the facts, who would have known how to write better than this. Nass picks up the pace later on in the release, but he’s racing in a crowded field of right-wingers now.

It was easier for Nass to be a troll-king when there were few other would-be monarchs. Now Nass faces more rivals to the throne than one can shake a stick at.

It used to be: can you believe what he said? Now it’s: yeah, they all say that.

And so, and so… Steve Nass the Troll-King finds himself in the autumn of his reign.

Daily Bread for 7.30.21

Good morning.

Friday in Whitewater will be partly sunny with a high of 76. Sunrise is 5:45 AM and sunset 8:17 PM, for 14h 31m 34s of daytime.  The moon is a waning gibbous with 60.3% of its visible disk illuminated.

On this day in 1932, Walt Disney’s Flowers and Trees, the first cartoon short to use Technicolor and the first Academy Award-winning cartoon short, premieres.

Recommended for reading in full — 

 Isaac Stanley-Becker reports Charlie Kirk’s pro-Trump youth group stokes vaccine resistance as covid surges again:

Text messages announcing Kirk as their author warn that President Biden is “sending goons DOOR-TO-DOOR to make you take a covid-19 vaccine.” Facebook ads from Kirk’s tax-exempt nonprofit insist the government has “NO RIGHT to force you to inject yourself with an experimental vaccine,” and say the best response to outreach about the shots is to, “LOCK YOUR DOORS, KIDS!!”

These statements stand on a slew of falsehoods and mischaracterizations, according to vaccine experts. At least 400 people 18 and under have died of covid-19 in the United States, making the virus more lethal than the flu, said Paul Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. The coronavirus also carries the risk of an inflammatory syndrome that can affect the lungs, heart, and kidneys of children and young adults. Federal health authorities recommend the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children as young as 12. “Any reasonable person who looks at the data would conclude the safer choice is to get the vaccine,” Offit said.

But the communications by Turning Point USA and its affiliate, Turning Point Action, reflect the increasingly hard line taken by the group, which describes itself as the “largest and fastest-growing youth organization in America” and claims a presence on more than 2,500 college and high school campuses. Its dire warnings about a government-backed inoculation program — now a major theme of its Facebook ads, which have been viewed millions of times — illustrate how the Trump-allied group is capitalizing on the stark polarization around vaccine policy.

Adam Gabbatt reports Firm leading Arizona audit received millions from Trump supporters:

The firm leading a widely criticized, Republican-backed audit of election ballots in Arizona has received $5.7m in donations, the majority from supporters of Donald Trump, it revealed on Wednesday.

Cyber Ninjas, a Florida-based company with no prior experience in election audits, said it had received $3.25m from Patrick Byrne, the CEO of the furniture sales company Overstock, who has falsely described the 2020 election as “rigged”, with more money pouring in from figures who have peddled lies about the legitimacy of the vote.

The firm was hired by Arizona’s GOP-led senate to review the 2020 election in Maricopa county, home to Phoenix and most of the state’s registered voters.

Doug Logan, Cyber Ninjas’ CEO, released the detail on the company’s donors after the congressional House oversight and reform committee demandedthe information, citing the Cyber Ninjas’ “lack of experience in conducting election-related audits” and “sloppy and insecure audit practices”.

The Arizona senate allowed Cyber Ninjas to collect private donations even though the company was being paid $150,000 for the audit.

….

The ballot review has been derided as a “sham audit” by Democrats, and even criticized by GOP leaders in Maricopa county. It has been condemned by election experts, who have said that officials are not using a reliable methodology.

On Wednesday the review was subjected to further scrutiny when Ken Bennett, the former Republican secretary of state and the senate’s unpaid liaison to Logan and the audit contractors, said he planned to quit.

Bennett is the only audit leader with substantial experience in elections, and his departure threatened to even further erode any legitimacy the unprecedented partisan post-election review claimed to have.

Disney’s Flowers and Trees:

Wise Words for Whitewater from Steak-umm

There’s a thread on Twitter from Steak-umm (an American brand of thin-sliced frozen steaks) that does a better job (truly) discussing the role of science and skepticism about the pandemic than much of what’s published online. The full thread is available at Twitter, and excerpts are imediately below.

It’s spot-on for Whitewater.

(Note: the thread intentionally uses homophones related to food, e.g. steak for stake and meat for meet.)

ok it’s time to talk about societal distrust in experts and institutions, the rise of misinformation, cultural polarization, and how to work toward some semblance of mutually agreed upon information before we splinter into irreconcilable realities

….

science the *term* has been politicized—not the *process* of it. as that process has evolved on issues, both public and private institutions have taken inspiration from it, but those decisions are still driven by economic and political interests which muddy how the term is used

….

distrust in institutions is complex. it’s accelerated by people’s access to infinite information, credible sources being paywalled, corruption, honest misteaks, or propaganda, but underneath it all is a cultural polarization dating back decades that won’t be solved overnight

….

experts need to earn trust back by acknowledging misteaks and being transparent about their processes, what’s known, and what’s still being learned. they need to address valid concerns. they need to meat people where they are and deliver tangible benefits to improve their lives

….

laypeople need to hold both their skepticism and trust of experts in an open hand. they need to acknowledge their limitations in accessing or interpreting fields or resources outside their expertise. they need to keep learning media literacy and grappling with empirical evidence

….

the shortcomings within experts and institutions don’t make fringe sources equally credible or trustworthy. if a doctor gets something wrong, you try another doctor, not a plumber. if a study gets something wrong, you don’t rely on anecdotes for truth, you rely on better studies

….

the usefulness of skepticism in experts and institutions is strongest within competing experts and institutions, not outsiders. an outsider may have certain insights worth engaging, but they can’t be weighed as equally credentialed as a relevant expert or institutional consensus

….

an institution may have structural biases that need to be acknowledged, but alternative sources in media are littered with their own biases and have little to no accountability, so no matter where you get information from you’re still extending a degree of trust in something

….

you can maintain healthy levels of skepticism while also extending trust where it’s earned by empirical evidence and expertise. use critical thinking. work toward solutions with one another. and remember, this whole thread was an ad so please buy our frozen meat

steak-umm bless

See also Whitewater’s Local Politics 2021 — COVID-19: Skepticism and Rhetoric.

Daily Bread for 7.29.21

Good morning.

Thursday in Whitewater will be partly sunny with scattered showers and a high of 86. Sunrise is 5:44 AM and sunset 8:18 PM, for 14h 33m 43s of daytime.  The moon is a waning gibbous with 69.4% of its visible disk illuminated.

The Whitewater Unified School Board’s Policy Review Committee meets at 9 AM.

On this day in 1958, President Eisenhower signs into law the National Aeronautics and Space Act, which creates the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Recommended for reading in full — 

Michael Wilson reports How a Respected N.Y.P.D. Officer Became the Accused Capitol Riot #EyeGouger:

The F.B.I. agents showed Thomas Webster a wanted flier with a picture taken during the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol. In the photograph, a middle-aged man is shouting angrily across a metal barricade with a pole in his raised right hand.

“That’s a picture of you, right, Mr. Webster?” an agent asked, according to a transcript of the interview.

He was a former New York City police officer, a decorated member of the force who once worked as an instructor at the firing range and with a detail that protected the mayor at public appearances and at Gracie Mansion. But on this afternoon in February, sitting across from two agents in an interrogation room in Lower Manhattan, he found himself on the other side of the law.

He looked at the picture. “Yeah,” he said, and tried to explain how it all began.

“I kept on saying to myself, ‘All right, Tom, this is your first protest’ — I’ve never been to one before,” he told the agents. “I said, ‘Stay behind the freakin’ barrier, don’t threaten anyone and keep the flagpole away from everyone.’”

This plan would not last long — not more than a minute or two. Mr. Webster, in fact, quickly did the opposite, prosecutors said — starting a brawl that stood out, even amid the many hours of video from that day. Then he drove back home, to his wife and three children and his landscaping business in Florida, N.Y.

Over the weeks that followed, a manhunt for the protester with the flagpole played out — the authorities did not know his name, but had plenty of pictures, and Twitter gave him a nickname based on what he appeared to be doing to a Capitol Police officer who had been knocked to the ground: #EyeGouger.

The New York Times editorial board writes Trump and His Allies Still Aren’t Telling the Truth About Jan. 6:

There are two stories about Jan. 6, 2021. One is based on the facts and events that the world saw at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. The other is a sprawling work of collaborative fiction by supporters of former President Donald Trump who refuse to admit what happened.

Despite the arrest of nearly 600 people allegedly involved in the attack, a poll taken earlier this year found that 73 percent of Republican respondents placed at least some blame on “left-wing protesters trying to make Trump look bad.” That kind of collective mythmaking would not be possible to sustain without powerful public figures insisting that up is down and convincing others of the same.

The chasm between facts and mythology couldn’t have been deeper on Tuesday when the House of Representatives held a hearing into the realities of what transpired.

Is this the world’s oldest animal fossil?:

Aside


IF PUBLIC OFFICIALS DON’T WANT TO READ DISCUSSIONS ABOUT PUBLIC HEALTH POLICY, THEN THEY SHOULDN’T RUN FOR PUBLIC OFFICE.

 

Jane Jacobs with Useful Advice on Responsibility (for Whitewater, Richmond Township, Delavan, Etc.)

In Jane Jacobs’s Death and Life of Great American Cities (describing large cities, not small towns), she writes of business owners’ sense of responsibility for the sidewalks near their shops:

First, there must be a clear demarcation between what is public space and what is private space. Public and private spaces cannot ooze into each other as they do typically in suburban settings or in projects.

Second, there must be eyes on the street, belonging to those we might call the natural proprietors of the street. The buildings on a street equipped to handle strangers and to insure the safety of both residents and strangers, must be oriented to the street. They cannot turn their backs or blank sides on it and leave it blind.

….

storekeepers and others small businessmen are typically strong proponents of peace and order themselves; they hate broken windows and holdups; they hate having customers made nervous about safety. They are great street watchers and sidewalk guardians if present in sufficient numbers.

Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities 35, 37 (Vintage Books ed. 1992).

Jacobs here addresses large cities, from a time long passed.

Still, there is a lesson to learn about matters closer and dearer than city sidewalks: if an able-bodied, gainfully-employed businessperson can watch a mere street, then shouldn’t able-bodied, gainfully-employed parents assume at least as much responsibility for raising their own children?

In Whitewater and other small towns, bold and brash populists sometimes talk about private liberty only moments later to insist that public institutions owe them and their children the teaching of virtues and habits (hard work, personal responsibility, fortitude) these very parents have sadly left untaught.

To mention this simple truth is more than these right-wing populists can bear, and throws them into fits: arms raised, heads shaking, crying out what, what, what? 

(This could be a dance number, if they had the desire: raise arms, shake heads, sing out what, what, what? Repeat to a catchy melody.)

Conservatives weren’t always like this; too many are like this now.

Daily Bread for 7.28.21

Good morning.

Wednesday in Whitewater will be partly cloudy with a high of 89. Sunrise is 5:43 AM and sunset 8:19 PM, for 14h 35m 51s of daytime.  The moon is a waning gibbous with 78.6% of its visible disk illuminated.

Whitewater’s Pedestrian and Bicycle Committee meets at 5 PM.

On this day in 1854, USS Constellation (1854), the last all-sail warship built by the United States Navy and now a museum ship in Baltimore Harbor, is commissioned.

Recommended for reading in full — 

Shane Goldmacher reports Hooked on Trump: How the G.O.P. Still Banks on His Brand for Cash (‘Trump pint glasses. Trump T-shirts. Trump memberships’):

Even in defeat, nothing sells in the Republican Party quite like Donald J. Trump.

The Republican National Committee has been dangling a “Trump Life Membership” to entice small contributors to give online. The party’s Senate campaign arm has been hawking an “Official Trump Majority Membership.” And the committee devoted to winning back the House has been touting Mr. Trump’s nearly every public utterance, talking up a nonexistent Trump social media network and urging donations to “retake Trump’s Majority.”

Six months after Mr. Trump left office, the key to online fund-raising success for the Republican Party in 2021 can largely be summed up in the three words it used to identify the sender of a recent email solicitation: “Trump! Trump! Trump!”

The fund-raising language of party committees is among the most finely tuned messaging in politics, with every word designed to motivate more people to give more money online. And all that testing has yielded Trump-themed gimmicks and giveaways including Trump pint glasses, Trump-signed pictures, Trump event tickets and Trump T-shirts — just from the National Republican Senatorial Committee in the month of July.

 Nate Blakeslee reports ‘An abomination’: the story of the massacre that killed 216 wolves:

The woods were full of the sounds of snowmobiles and baying hounds. A group of perhaps a dozen hunters had gathered to give chase to big game along a frozen creek in north-eastern Wisconsin.

Hound hunting, chiefly for black bear and coyote, is a popular pastime in this part of the state. But the houndsman who emerged from the hemlocks onto a snowy road around twilight held a different kind of trophy.

Flanked by a half-dozen of his buddies clad in ball caps and snow boots, the man hugged an enormous gray wolf to his chest, its head lolling against one shoulder and its tail nearly touching the ground.

….

As it happened, the hunt earned far more attention than either the houndsmen or their nemesis could have anticipated. State regulators set a quota of 119 wolves out of an estimated statewide population of 1,000, but they issued an unusually high number of permits – 1,548 of them – and allowed hound hunters to participate on the first day, rather than requiring them to wait until the far less efficient rifle hunters and trappers had taken their share.

The result was astounding. After just two and a half days, hunters were already approaching the limit. Before regulators could shut down the hunt, 216 wolves had been killed – overshooting the quota by 83%.

The unprecedented media coverage and public outcry that followed not only called into question the state’s ability to properly regulate its wolf population, it has also drawn attention to the practice of hounding, a traditional method of hunting celebrated by an insular subculture in the northern Great Lakes region that has lately become hi-tech – and far more deadly.

Walter:

Thin-Skinned in Whitefish Bay (and Places Nearer and Farther)

There’s a story in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel about complaints against public speech in Whitefish Bay that’s illustrative of threats to free speech in small towns, including Whitewater. In Whitefish Bay, a group called Bay Bridge placed an anti-racism sign in a designated space at the public library.

The sign drew the ire of some Whitefish Bay residents, including former Bucks player and current Bucks analyst Steve Novak:

WHITEFISH BAY – A sign addressing systemic racism was recently removed from the Whitefish Bay Public Library grounds following vocal criticism from some in the community — including former Milwaukee Bucks player Steve Novak.

The sign, which was placed in a rock garden display outside the library by Bay Bridge Wisconsin — a group that focuses on “raising awareness of racial and cultural bias in our community” — described its vision for the North Shore suburb.

“Whitefish Bay will be a welcoming community that recognizes systemic racism, and actively works to address and dismantle it,” the sign read. “How will you be a bridge in helping to repair and build a more equitable community?”

Emails sent to library staff, which were obtained by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel through a public records request, show some residents were offended by the sign and its message. About a half-dozen residents, including one who said she was a library benefactor, wrote to complain. Others complained in person at the library, records show.

….

“There is an offensive sign posted in front of the public library that incorrectly generalizes our community. It says that Whitefish Bay recognizes systemic racism,” Novak, who works as an analyst for the Bucks on Bally Sports Wisconsin (formerly Fox Sports Wisconsin), wrote in a June 8 email to Nyama Reed, the library’s director. “What group has taken the liberty of speaking for our community in such a hateful, damaging and inaccurate way?”

One can leave aside the overwrought – absurd, really – contention that the sign is somehow ‘hateful.’ (If Novak thinks the Bay Bridge Wisconsin message is hateful, he either thinks anything is hateful or knows nothing of the meaning of the word.)

Novak’s particular politics don’t matter here, but his response exemplifies how many traditional conservatives and how almost all right-wing populists see the world. It’s not the same. The populists are even more extreme.

The small-town traditional conservatives (among others) often want to use government to limit speech they don’t like. They’re quick to argue that something shouldn’t be said, and that the government should stop it from being said. When I began publishing FREE WHITEWATER, traditional conservatives predominated, and had this sort of view: isn’t there some way to stop this speech?

Time has been cruel to the traditional conservatives in Whitewater – they’re mostly old, tired, spent.

There’s a more vigorous conservatism that has supplanted these traditionalists in places across America, including Whitewater – right-wing populism. Their views on speech depart from the traditional conservatives’ views, and are more restrictive: they’d prefer government stop private publishers’ speech that they don’t like, but also demand government insist that private publishers carry the speech that they, the right-wing populists, want.

Note well: if the conservative populists want to express themselves, they can do so with their own sites. They have no rights in others’ private property.

The conservative populists advance no doctrine of law, and show no understanding of legal precedent; they show every sign of discarding any law or right that runs counter to their own appetites.

In these conditions, council members, school board members, city officials, and school district administrators superintendents will be pressured to discard individual rights to mollify a rightwing horde.

There are times one thinks that places like Whitefish Bay or Whitewater would have been better off without any officials than with appeasing, placating ones.

Daily Bread for 7.27.21

Good morning.

Tuesday in Whitewater will be partly sunny with a high of 91. Sunrise is 5:42 AM and sunset 8:20 PM, for 14h 37m 56s of daytime.  The moon is a waning gibbous with 86.5% of its visible disk illuminated.

Whitewater’s Finance Committee meets at 4:30 PM and the city’s Police and Fire Commission meets at 6:30 PM.

On this day in  1894, a fire destroys Phillips: “On the afternoon of this day, a forest fire swept over the Price Co. town of Phillips from the west, destroying nearly all the buildings and forcing 2,000 people to flee for their lives. When the sun came up the next morning, 13 people had been killed, the entire downtown was in ashes, and exhausted survivors were wandering through the ruins in a daze. The fire ultimately consumed more than 100,000 acres in Price County. Much of the town was rebuilt within a year.”

Recommended for reading in full — 

Heather Long and Andrew Van Dam report States that cut unemployment early aren’t seeing a hiring boom, but who gets hired is changing:

The 20 Republican-led states that reduced unemployment benefits in June did not see an immediate spike in overall hiring, but early evidence suggests something did change: The teen hiring boom slowed in those states, and workers 25 and older returned to work more quickly.

A new analysis by payroll processor Gusto, conducted for The Washington Post, found that small restaurants and hospitality businesses in states such as Missouri, which ended the extra unemployment benefits early, saw a jump in hiring of workers over age 25. The uptick in hiring of older workers was roughly offset by the slower hiring of teens in these states. In contrast, restaurants and hospitality businesses in states such as Kansas, where the full benefits remain, have been hiring a lot more teenagers who are less experienced and less likely to qualify for unemployment aid.

The findings suggest hiring is likely to remain difficult for some time, especially in the lower-paying hospitality sector. The analysis also adds perspective to the teen hiring boom, revealing that more generous unemployment payments played a role in keeping more experienced workers on the sidelines, forcing employers to turn to younger workers. It indicates teen hiring could slow further in September, as unemployment benefits are reduced across the country and young people return to school.

Luke Broadwater reports Shunned by G.O.P., Cheney and Kinzinger Seek Answers on Jan. 6 Riot

It was only months ago that Mr. McCarthy himself said that President Donald J. Trump “bears responsibility” for the mob violence; Senator Mitch McConnell, the top Republican, warned that following Mr. Trump’s lies about a stolen election would lead democracy into a “death spiral”; and scores of Republicans called for an investigation of what had happened on Jan. 6.

But despite the injuries, blood and death of that day, which threatened to end the United States’ streak of peaceful transfers of presidential power, Republicans quickly fell into line behind Mr. Trump. Some denied or downplayed the violence, others embraced conspiracy theories about who was to blame and many simply pushed to stop talking about the riot.

Republican lawmakers who had once demanded answers voted against forming an independent bipartisan commission to investigate, with only 35 in the House supporting its creation. Even the 10 Republicans who voted to impeach Mr. Trump have mostly stayed silent.

Only Ms. Cheney and Mr. Kinzinger, who have continued to be vocal in denouncing the former president and the violence he inspired, supported the creation of the select committee. It is to hold its first hearing on Tuesday, when several police officers who battled the mob are scheduled to testify.

Newborn Babies Wear Hand-Crocheted Olympic ‘Uniforms’:

A Private Insurance Response to Vaccine Refusal

Over at the subscription-based Bulwark, Jonathan V. Last writes about a hospital patient in Louisiana who, despite nearly dying from COVID-19, insists he would do it all over again without vaccination:

The reporter asks this very fine, high-IQ citizen if, knowing what he knows now, he could go back in time to take the vaccine and avoid getting sick, being hospitalized, and almost dying—would he get the vaccine?

Dude does not even hesitate for a second.

Hearing that, I wondered: Who is paying for the costs of his hospitalization? I hope he has health insurance. And if he does, he’ll pay some out-of-pocket minimum to meet his deductible. Then the insurer will reach a negotiated settlement with the hospital. And then, next year, the insurance company will pass on the costs of that large payment to the rest of its customers.

The people in the insurance pool who got the vaccine will pick up the tab for the treatment of the people who got sick after refusing to get the vaccine.

That’s conservative, rugged individualism, circa 2021.

And it’s a pretty sweet deal, too. You can make whatever damn fool choices you want, and someone else — the hospital, your insurance company, your neighbors paying into the insurance pool—will pick up the tab.

Why would these people ever change?

Here’s the news account that inspired Last’s commentary (obstinate patient’s remarks begin @ 1:55):

What should be done about ordinary people who refuse vaccination, then require expensive coronavirus-related medical care and hospitalization? They’ve chosen against vaccination, thereby draining resources away from others (including non-COVID patients who find themselves competing for intensive-care rooms).

Private insurers, without government prohibition, should be able to write policies to exclude coverage for unvaccinated insureds who contract COVID-19. Insurance policies should, if they do not already, have exclusions of coverage, and the law should recognize the validity of these exclusions in every state. Adult patients privately excluded on this basis should also be ineligible for public subsidies for their care, as should routine recipients of public subsidies.)

Under this arrangement, ordinary people could refuse vaccination, but they would pay the economic costs of their refusal.

As a matter of public health, after a few hundred people nationally found themselves in this position, and as news reports made their self-created economic hardships widely known, vaccine hesitancy might significantly decline.

A sensible person would choose vaccination at the earliest opportunity; even many foolish people, however, will adjust their behavior after learning that insurers will not cover their their foolishness.

Those who choose otherwise should pay the costs of that choice.