FREE WHITEWATER

Author Archive for JOHN ADAMS

What the New Dealers Got Right – What Whitewater’s Local Notables Got Wrong

There’s sound reason to doubt that the New Dealers’ economic solutions to the Great Depression were effective, but there’s no doubt that Roosevelt’s Brain Trust was hard-working, smart, and candid in its description of America’s economic problems. For a critical assessment of the New Deal, written accessibly, see The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression.

It’s nearly impossible to overstate how admirable one finds the vigor and commitment of those advising Roosevelt, however much one doubts the effectiveness of their solutions. (Not all New Deal legislation came at the same time – there were proposals now broadly lumped together as New Deal legislation that came at different times, with varying objectives.)

What’s most commendable about that group is that they did not deny America’s problems, try to wish them away, or to simply accentuate the positive in the face of economic hardship. That is, they did not resort to boosterism and babbittry in the face of others’ suffering.

They were candid, knowing that candor is the foundation of worthy remedial efforts.

When one reads something like the Janesville Gazette’s Rock County economic indicators point positive (Gavan, reporter; Schwartz, editor), one reads another story in a long line of local, Panglossian tales.

The reporter relies on cherry-picked data to say that unemployment in Rock County is low, but neglects to report that unemployment in all 72 Wisconsin counties has been rising year over year:

In more than 1,000 counties, or about one in three, the unemployment rate is higher than it was a year ago. That includes all 72 counties in Wisconsin and all 10 in New Hampshire, as well as most in Michigan, Minnesota and North Carolina. The numbers can be volatile from month to month, but this trend remains even if you look at entire quarters or years.

See Unemployment is climbing in key swing states, including Michigan and Wisconsin.

I’ve previously asked if anyone at the Janesville Gazette has a dictionary; perhaps one should ask if anyone at the Gazette has an abacus.

Note well: In Whitewater, when the Great Recession began, and long afterward during our present stagnation, a whole class of local officials and hangers-on stuck with accentuating the positive and pretending all was well.

In 1922, when conditions were good, Sinclair Lewis satirized this outlook in Babbitt; he likely could not have imagined that someone would adopt that sugary outlook even when seeing undeniable, widespread economic hardship in every direction. And yet, and yet — that was the official outlook in Whitewater during the Great Recession and beyond. The men of that time – the city manager, the website publisher and councilman, the chancellor, the landlords and their public-relations man, among others – all talked this way. Free market, progressive, traditional conservative, etc. – almost anything would have been better than their babbittry, small-town state-capitalism, and insiders’ myopia.

Admittedly, neither they (nor I) were personally disadvantaged. That should not have mattered – boosterism and babbittry should have been anathema to them as it was – and always will be – to any sensible person.

The Gazette has a right to push a dishonest outlook; they cannot expect to do so without reply.

Daily Bread for 11.5.19

Good morning.

Tuesday in Whitewater will be partly sunny with a high of thirty-eight.  Sunrise is 6:34 AM and sunset 4:41 PM, for 10h 07m 00s of daytime.  The moon is a waxing gibbous with 60.4% of its visible disk illuminated.

Today is the one thousand ninety-second day.

The Whitewater Common Council meets at 6:30 PM.

On this day in 1862, Pres. Lincoln removes Gen. McClellan from command of the Army of the Potomac.

Recommended for reading in full:

 Rachael Bade and Karoun Demirjian report Transcripts show Republicans’ scattershot strategy in early days of impeachment inquiry:

Republicans have complained for weeks about the secret House impeachment inquiry, accusing Democrats of rigging the process and interviewing witnesses behind closed doors — at one point storming the hearing room and chanting, “Let us in!”

But inside the secure room in the Capitol basement where the proceedings are taking place, Republicans have used their time to complain that testimony has become public, going after their colleagues who were quoted in media reports commenting on witness appearances, and quizzing witnesses themselves on how their statements had been released.

The efforts by GOP lawmakers to shape the Democrats’ inquiry emerged in full view for the first time Monday with the release of hundreds of pages of transcripts from two early witnesses: Marie Yovanovitch, former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, and Michael McKinley, a former senior adviser to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
….

Meadows was among the most assertive Republican inquisitors, the transcripts show. He stuck largely to questioning the legitimacy of the process and trying to ferret out whether [former Ambassador Marie] Yovanovitch or her sources harbored anti-Trump bias. He asked about the origins of her nickname “Masha,” querying, “Where did you get that name from?”

“Well, despite my posting to Ukraine, I’m actually half Russian, and it’s a Russian nickname,” said Yovanovitch.

Meadows then abruptly completed his round of questioning. “I yield back,” he said.

(In all of this, he’s asking her about her nickname? There are middle schoolers who’d ask more material and relevant questions than that one. Honest to goodness.)

Gary Langer reports A year from Election Day, Democratic presidential contenders extend leads over Donald Trump:

While former Vice President Joe Biden now leads Trump by 17 percentage points, other Democratic contenders show the most improvement: Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ advantage vs. Trump has gone from a non-significant 6 points in July to 12 in September to 17 now. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s has gone from 7 to 11 to 15 points.

Impeachment is not the only factor, since the trend dates to early September. Among Trump’s broader challenges, six in 10 Americans or more say he’s not honest and trustworthy, lacks the kind of personality and temperament it takes to serve effectively and doesn’t understand their problems. Slightly smaller majorities doubt his deal-making, delivery of “needed change” to Washington and leadership generally.

Further, as reported last week, half support Trump’s impeachment and removal from office, 54% say his policies have made the United States less respected globally, 58% disapprove of his overall job performance and 66% say he’s acted unpresidentially since taking office.

Continue reading

The Greatest Trick Trump Ever Pulled

Of all the thousands of lies that Trump has told since becoming president, perhaps the most fundamental lie is his insistence that he somehow represents a majority of his fellow citizens.

The opposite is true: he lost the popular vote by three million, and he’s even less popular now than when he was elected. John Harwood reports on the latest WSJ/NBC poll results:

In the survey, 49% back Trump’s impeachment and removal while 46% oppose it. In the NBC/WSJ poll a month ago, a 49% plurality opposed impeachment and removal while 43% favored it.

….

In addition, Trump faces entrenched opposition significantly larger than his hard-core base. A 46% plurality of Americans said they were almost certain to vote against the president next November, compared to 34% almost certain to vote for him.

The sheltered, insulated, cosseted, and cocooned viewers of Fox News are led astray when they hear that Trump is wildly popular. In fact, only about a third of Americans say that they’re sure to vote for him. The number adamantly opposed to Trump is far larger.

One has often heard the expression that the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing people that he does not exist; the greatest trick Trump ever pulled was convincing a fanatical minority that he speaks for an American majority.

Daily Bread for 11.4.19

Good morning.

Monday in Whitewater will see showers yielding to partly sunny skies with a high of forty-six.  Sunrise is 6:33 AM and sunset 4:43 PM, for 10h 09m 29s of daytime.  The moon is in its first quarter with 50.4% of its visible disk illuminated.

Today is the one thousand ninety-first day.

On this day in 1956, Soviet troops intervene to suppress the Hungarian popular revolution against communist rule.

Recommended for reading in full:

Garry Kasparov writes This Soviet dissident knew why finding common ground with dictators can’t work:

Former Soviet dissident Vladimir Bukovsky died in Cambridge, England, on Sunday night. He was 76, an age far greater than he expected to reach back when he was in and out of Soviet prisons and going on the hunger strikes that made him a potent symbol of resistance to Communist oppression.

For so many of us in the Soviet Union in the 1980s, Bukovsky’s name had the air of a legend, since he had been forcibly ejected from the Soviet Union in 1976. Soviet authorities had grown afraid of his ability to organize the prisoners wherever he was jailed, but turning him into a martyr was also unattractive. Remember that this was the 1970s, when there were still strong voices in Europe and on both sides of the U.S. political aisle in support of holding the Soviets accountable for their treatment of dissidents such as Bukovsky, Andrei Sakharov and Alexander Solzhenitsyn.

In his writings and public statements, Bukovsky remained steadfastly in favor of direct opposition to the Soviet Union, condemning for collaboration and collusion those such as Henry Kissinger who favored amoral realpolitik. Bukovsky saw clearly that the “peaceful coexistence” touted by Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev and his successors was a sham. No nation capable of imprisoning and torturing its citizens the way the Soviet Union did, Bukovsky said, could ever be a part of a civilized world of human rights and individual liberty.

Simone Weichselbaum explains Why Some Police Departments Are Leaving Federal Task Forces (‘Cities say the feds won’t follow their rules about using force, body cams’):

Clashes are erupting between local and federal officials over the hundreds of joint task forces that operate around the country, specializing in missions such as finding fugitives, fighting drug dealers or tracking potential terrorists.

Washington provides money, expertise and weaponry. Local law enforcement agencies provide much of the manpower. Their officers are deputized as federal agents, which among other things means that the Justice Department can shield them from litigation and local oversight.

At least five cities, including Atlanta, have pulled out of task forces since 2017, and Houston, the nation’s fourth largest, has threatened to follow.

The problem, police officials say, is that local cops assigned to joint task forces are not bound by department rules, such as wearing body cameras, which the feds have prohibited. The FBI and U.S. Marshals allow the use of deadly force if a person poses an “imminent danger,” using a definition that is less strict than many police departments’. California recently adopted a law stating that deadly force may be used only when “necessary.” Task-force members are also immune to civilian lawsuits in a way that regular officers are not.

Continue reading

House Resolution on Impeachment and Fact Sheet

Molly E. Reynolds and Margaret Taylor offer a useful description of What’s in the House Resolution on Impeachment?:

First, the resolution directs all six committees instructed by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi to participate in the inquiry—Intelligence, Financial Services, Foreign Affairs, Judiciary, Oversight and Reform, and Ways and Means—to “continue their ongoing investigations as part of the existing House of Representatives inquiry.” This posture—directing a continuation of work rather than authorizing the inquiry—reflects House Democrats’ long-standing assertion that the impeachment inquiry need not be specifically authorized by the full House to be valid. In addition, it would seem the scope of the inquiry, at least for now, is not strictly limited to issues related to President Trump’s conduct with respect to Ukraine. It is hard to say whether issues being investigated in other committees will eventually find their way into articles of impeachment, but this resolution certainly leaves that possibility open.

(Reynolds and Taylor continue with a thorough description.)

Embedded below, the resolution and a fact sheet from the House Committee on Rules:

 

Daily Bread for 11.3.19

Good morning.

Sunday in Whitewater will be cloudy with a high of forty-five.  Sunrise is 6:32 AM and sunset 4:44 PM, for 10h 11m 59s of daytime.  The moon is a waxing crescent with 40.5% of its visible disk illuminated.

Today is the one thousand ninetieth day.

On this day in 2014, One World Trade Center (Freedom Tower) opens as the principal building on the former World Trade Center site.

Recommended for reading in full:

 The Racine Journal Times reports Union Grove woman allegedly drunk during parent-teacher conference, tries to flee deputy:

According to the criminal complaint:

A Racine County Sheriff’s Office deputy was dispatched to Union Grove Elementary School, 1745 Mildrum St., on Thursday for a report of an intoxicated parent trying to leave the school with children. The deputy located Raboine’s vehicle on Main Street and 15th Avenue (the intersection of highways 11 and 45) and activated the police squad’s emergency lights and sirens.

The deputy reported that the vehicle did not slow down or pull over but continued to maneuver around other vehicles that had. The driver pulled into a driveway in the 700 block of 9th Avenue, exited the vehicle and ran towards the back of the residence. The deputy pursued on foot, found the driver attempting to unlock the back door and asked her to stop. She opened the back door and allegedly attempted to close it on the pursing deputy. The driver was identified as Raboine and she was taken into custody.

….

According to court records, Raboine was arrested for operating while intoxicated earlier this month in a similar incident. On Oct. 16, the principal had summoned law enforcement because Raboine had not picked up her children from school. Raboine called the school from the parking lot, asking that the children be sent to the car; she was allegedly slurring her words. She was told she needed to enter the building to collect her children and was reportedly stumbling while walking and slurring her speech. The principal then called the Sheriff’s Office.

At her initial appearance on Thursday, bail for Raboine was set at $1,000. Her preliminary hearing is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. on Nov. 6.

(Assuming these allegations are true, Raboine would be a danger to her children, to others, and to herself. Restrictions on the number of taverns – something I oppose – aren’t what serial over-drinkers need most. They, and we, need a criminal law with a therapeutic approach that acts quickly to prevent and then treat cases of alcohol abuse. Wisconsin is lax in this regard, and modern-day temperance warriors who focus on sales rather than over-consumption are simply ignoring the problems of addiction. Addicts will find – or improvise – the substances of their craving; they’ll sometimes risk others’ safety while doing so. If all the taverns and gin joints in Wisconsin disappeared tomorrow, we’d still have significant alcoholism and numerous drunk drivers. Along the way to a healthier community, members of the Tavern League who over-sell to patrons should be held to account by a repeal of Wis. Stat. § 125.035 ‘Civil liability exemption: furnishing alcohol beverages.’)

The Fine Art of Fish Prints:

Daily Bread for 11.2.19

Good morning.

Saturday in Whitewater will be partly sunny with a high of thirty-eight.  Sunrise is 7:31 AM and sunset 5:45 PM, for 10h 14m 36s of daytime.  The moon is a waxing crescent with 31.5% of its visible disk illuminated.

Today is the one thousand eighty-ninth day.

On this day in 1889, North Dakota and South Dakota are admitted to the Union.

Recommended for reading in full:

 David Ignatius writes In Ukraine, the quid pro quo may have started long before the phone call:

What led to Trump’s first meeting on June 20, 2017, with Ukraine’s then-President Petro Poroshenko? Ukraine had hired the lobbying firm BGR Group in January 2017 to foster contact with Trump, but nothing had happened .?.?. and then the door opened. Why?

On June 7, less than two weeks before Poroshenko’s White House meeting, Trump’s lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, had visited Kyiv to give a speech for the Victor Pinchuk Foundation, headed by a prominent Ukrainian oligarch. While Giuliani was there, he also met with Poroshenko and his prosecutor general, Yuriy Lutsenko, according a news release issued by the foundation.

Just after Giuliani’s visit, Ukraine’s investigation of the so-called black ledger that listed alleged illicit payments to former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was transferred from an anti-corruption bureau, known as NABU , to Poroshenko’s prosecutor general, according to a June 15, 2017, report in the Kyiv Post. The paper quoted Viktor Trepak, former deputy head of the country’s security service, saying: “It is clear for me that somebody gave an order to bury the black ledger.”

The New York Times reported in May 2018 that Ukraine had “halted cooperation” with Mueller’s investigation. The paper quoted Volodymyr Ariev, a parliament ally of Poroshenko, explaining: “In every possible way, we will avoid irritating the top American officials.”

Was there any implicit understanding that Poroshenko’s government would curb its cooperation with the U.S. Justice Department’s investigation of Manafort, who would later be indicted by Mueller?

  Molly Beck reports Wisconsin again has the worst gap in academic achievement between its black and white students:

Wisconsin also again bears the distinction of having the worst gap between black and white academic success of any state, according to new results of the National Assessment of Education Progress — known as the Nation’s Report Card.

Wisconsin has the highest percentage of black students exhibiting skills considered below a basic level, according to the assessment, taken by fourth and eighth graders earlier this year.

State superintendent Carolyn Stanford Taylor, the first African American leader of the Department of Public Instruction, said the results indicate a “crisis.”

“We have work ahead to achieve our rigorous expectations,” she said in a statement. “Our persistent achievement gaps are a crisis. Closing these gaps is not only the right thing to do, it is imperative for our state.”

The new test results underscore the hurdles facing the black children in Wisconsin — 82% of whom are considered to be economically disadvantaged by the state DPI.

Meet the 2019 MacArthur Fellow transforming Chicago’s South Side:

Memo’s Three Two Things

In a cluttered world of boutique fitness studios and high-end gear, Guillermo Piñeda Morales reminds us that we don’t actually need much to be our best.

Daily Bread for 11.1.19

Good morning.

November in Whitewater begins with rain and a high of thirty-nine.  Sunrise is 7:29 AM and sunset 5:46 PM, for 10h 17m 09s of daytime.  The moon is a waxing crescent with 22.1% of its visible disk illuminated.

Today is the one thousand eighty-eighth day.

On this day in 1863, George Safford Parker, founder of the Parker Pen Company, is born.

Recommended for reading in full:

 Greg Ip writes Trump’s Tax Cut Underdelivers, Which Could Embolden Democrats Who Want It Reversed:

The cornerstone of President Trump’s domestic economic agenda is the tax cut he signed into law in late 2017. It would, he said, lift U.S. sustained annual economic growth to 3%, or even as high as 6%. His advisers said it would boost average household incomes by at least $4,000 a year. His Treasury secretary said it would pay for itself.

Nearly two years later, none of those things have happened, and there is scant sign they will. The U.S. economy did enjoy a burst of 3% annualized growth after the tax cut first took effect at the start of 2018. But it has since slipped. It grew at a 1.9% annual rate in the third quarter. In the past 12 months, the economy grew 2%, about the same as it averaged from 2011 through 2017.

This should not come as a surprise. The administration’s claims rested on the belief that cutting the corporate tax rate to 21% from 35% and allowing companies to immediately write off the cost of new equipment would boost business investment and thus worker productivity and wages. Yet numerous other advanced countries had already cut their corporate rates in the prior two decades without experiencing anywhere near the growth boost the Trump administration promised. Many experienced no boost at all.

….

Macroeconomic Advisers, a private forecasting firm, compared what it thought in 2017 the economy would do without a tax cut to what actually happened through the second quarter. Business investment on buildings and other structures significantly underperformed the projections while investment in intellectual property outperformed. This was despite the tax law treating structures most favorably and intellectual property least. “The patterns of investment growth were inconsistent with changes in investment incentives” in the tax law, Jane Gravelle, a tax expert at the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service, told Congress in July.

(Emphasis added. The tax bill was discernibly bad to anyone not drunk, comatose, or deluded.)

  Reis Thebault reports Trump is changing his residence from NYC to Florida. ‘Good riddance,’ New Yorkers say:

As news of the change spread, some of those city and state leaders, all Democrats, endorsed Trump’s decision.

“Good riddance,” Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo tweeted. “It’s not like @realDonaldTrump paid taxes here anyway … He’s all yours, Florida.”

Corey Johnson, New York’s city council speaker, agreed: “GOOD RIDDANCE!!,” he bade Trump in a tweet.

“Don’t let the door hit you on the way out or whatever,” quipped Mayor Bill de Blasio.

In the declaration, Trump refers to Trump Tower — his home since the early 1980s, the place where he launched his presidential campaign — in the past tense: “I formerly resided at 721 Fifth Avenue.”

Tonight’s Sky for November 2019:

Boo! Scariest Things in Whitewater, 2019

Here’s the thirteenth annual FREE WHITEWATER list of the scariest things in Whitewater. (The 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 20142015, 20162017, and 2018 editions are available for comparison.)

The list runs in reverse order, from mildly scary to truly frightening.

10. Meeting Videos. There must be something intimidating about meeting videos, because it takes local government days to publish them online, as though someone has to work up the courage to upload a document to Vimeo. Be strong, publicly-paid officials, be strong.

9. Details. A nearby local newspaper can’t seem to find a reporter who can keep up with simple details of a meeting.  Keep looking, editor Sid Schwartz – there simply has to be someone in a bus station, flop house, or parole-board hearing who’s looking for work.

8. Innovation Centers.  Like poltergeists, Foxconn’s ‘innovation centers’ are eerily invisible.

7.  Potholes.  We have new paving going in on Milwaukee Street, but for months a popular thoroughfare like Walworth Avenue was so pothole-riddled it looked like a U.S. Air Force bombing range.

6. Good Writing. Does Anyone at the Janesville Gazette Have a Dictionary?

5. Confidence. Officials with good plans should confidently share them in every agenda packet and online. Fear not!

4. Witches. So you thought stories about witches in Whitewater were disturbing? These recent years we’ve had something far worse walking around this city.

3. Means to Ends. UW-Whitewater’s last two administrations (Telfer, Kopper) both ended badly – meeting with justified local, statewide, and even national criticism. UW-Whitewater’s Media Relations team defended both these leaders right up to the point when their defenses weren’t worth a damn. Media talking points won’t help this new chancellor by falsely insisting systemic problems are situational ones, or by debasing academic standards by flacking junk studies as serious work. No one worthily serves the noble end of diversity and outreach by the ignoble means of lying and condescending to the communities one hopes to attract. 

2. Cravath.  I warned last year about what might lie under the waters of Cravath. Draining that lake is ecologically necessary, but risky. FREE WHITEWATER has obtained exclusive underwater photographs of the aquatic creatures that have dwelled these recent years beneath Cravath’s murky surface. Our city government may be too skittish to publish these photos, but I’ve not that same timid disposition. Now, for the first time, look – if you dare – on a gallery of the hideous things that lurk below:

1. Bad Goes to Worse. Gerrymandered, septuagenarian multimillionaire F. James Sensenbrenner is retiring. State senator Scott Fitzgerald wants to replace Sensenbrenner as the representative of the Fifth Congressional Distinct, in which Whitewater is absurdly located. It’s true that, as a member of Congress, Fitzgerald is likely to be in the minority, and safely far from Wisconsin.  And yet, if he should return now and again, we’ll likely have to endure another round of his singing

As always, best wishes for a Happy Halloween.

Daily Bread for 10.31.19

Good morning.

Halloween in Whitewater will be snowy with a high of thirty-three.  Sunrise is 7:28 AM and sunset 5:48 PM, for 10h 19m 43s of daytime.  The moon is a waxing crescent with 14.5% of its visible disk illuminated.

Today is the one thousand eighty-seventh day.

On this day in 1940, the Battle of Britain ends in victory over the Luftwaffe.

Recommended for reading in full:

 The AP reports Wisconsin GOP leader Robin Vos says climate change is ‘probably’ real.  Alternative headlines: GOP leader Robin Vos says world probably round, water probably wet, and apple pie might taste good.

Craig Gilbert and Christal Hayes report Ron Johnson says his involvement in Ukraine will not cause him to recuse himself from a Senate impeachment trial:

The senior senator from Wisconsin has taken on a unique role in the impeachment saga, largely because of his own close involvement with Ukraine issues, as chair of the foreign relations subcommittee on Europe and as a member of the Senate’s bipartisan Ukraine Caucus. That placed him in conversations and meetings that are being scrutinized by House investigators. As a senator, he has also looked into unproven claims that Ukraine assisted Democrats in the 2016 election.

House Democrats on the three investigative committees (Oversight, Intelligence and Foreign Affairs) say they are open to hearing from Johnson, though they were cautious about how to request the testimony of a fellow member of Congress.

“Let’s put it this way, it would be nice to have more explanation from and about Ron Johnson’s activities with respect to Ukraine,” said Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., a member of the House Oversight Committee. “What was his role? What did he see as his role? And what did he do? And why did he do it?”

(Accomplices aren’t supposed to be jurors.)

Kate Brannen reports White House Ignored Pentagon Warning on Ukraine Funding:

As the summer wore on, and President Donald Trump would not budge on his decision to withhold almost $400 million in military aid for Ukraine, the Pentagon warned the White House: If its portion of the money wasn’t released quickly, the Defense Department would not be able to spend it before the fiscal year ended on September 30.

The Pentagon even gave the White House a deadline. In late July, as panic spread within the administration over the president’s worrisome decision, the National Security Council led a series of interagency meetings to discuss what to do about the military assistance to Ukraine. At one of these meetings, Defense Department officials told the White House that if the $250 million in security assistance was not released by August 6, it would not be able to spend it all by the end of the fiscal year, according to two sources familiar with the deliberations.

….

And the Pentagon was also clear that providing Ukraine the security assistance was in the national security interests of the United States, on that point Trump’s Cabinet agreed.

 Dominating the $67 Billion Art World: