Daily Bread for 1.31.18

Good morning.

The Scene from Whitewater, WisconsinWednesday in Whitewater will be partly cloudy with a high of thirty-nine. Sunrise is 7:09 AM and sunset 5:07 PM, for 9h 58m 16s of daytime. The moon is full. Today is the four hundred forty-seventh day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

On this day in 1958, the United States enters the Space Age with the launch of Explorer 1 (after the launches in 1957 of two Soviet satellites). On this day in 1862, the 16th Wisconsin Infantry musters in: “It would go on to fight in the battles of Shiloh, Corinth, Kennesaw Mountain, and Atlanta, and then participate in Sherman’s March to the Sea. About half of its members would die in the South.”

Recommended for reading in full —

➤ Mira Rapp-Hooper describes The Cataclysm That Would Follow a ‘Bloody Nose’ Strike in North Korea (“H.R. McMaster’s broken rationale for confronting Kim Jong Un”):

Now that Kim has acquired nuclear weapons, a first strike by America against his regime should be a total non-starter. Yet the Trump administration has reportedly considered a “bloody nose” strike on North Korea’s military facilities to coerce Pyongyang, in hopes of punishing the regime with attacks on discrete defense facilities or platforms while blunting its military response. But it makes little sense for American war planners to assume a “limited” strike like this would stay limited. A U.S. operation may not achieve its objectives, and even if it does, it would still leave the decision of whether or not to retaliate up to Kim. The North Korean leader would make that decision based on his own beliefs about the strike once it took place, not based on American wishes for his response. If he did decide to hit back, the result could be the most calamitous U.S. conflict since World War II.

As a result, American alliances would likely suffer irreparable damage. Competitors like Russia and China would capitalize on the blunder to advance their own interests, and U.S. foreign policy would be consumed by the task of reconstruction for years. Jeffrey failed to acknowledge this horrific toll.

In addition to the ruinous human, financial, and political costs of U.S. military action against the North, it’s hard to see how Kim Jong Un could take the South and live to rule it. With America’s heavy troop presence and longstanding security guarantees with countries across the region, his expansive objectives would undermine his most central one—survival. He simply cannot take the South while holding the North.

➤ Nyshka Chandran reports The man who almost became ambassador to South Korea just warned about US plans for North Korea:

Reports first emerged last June that Cha, currently a Georgetown University professor and senior advisor at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, was set to be the U.S. ambassador to South Korea — a post that’s been vacant since Trump took office.

But over the weekend, the White House notified Cha that he was no longer being considered, the Financial Times reported this week. Trump’s team stopped returning Cha’s calls in December after the strategist made his concerns known about attacking the North, the FT continued, noting that Cha was reportedly asked whether he could help manage the evacuation of American citizens from South Korea.

➤ Stephen Stromberg describes Trump’s night of intense gaslighting:

“We have sought to restore the bonds of trust between our citizens and their government,” President Trump said Tuesday night in his first State of the Union address. Was this sarcasm?

This is the president who has fueled a hysterical smear campaign against the FBI for personal gain. He wants to and may soon release a memo with cherry-picked information alleging misconduct in the Justice Department in order to discredit a federal investigation into his associates. He singles out individual FBI officials for accusation and abuse on Twitter. He on a practically daily basis insists that the Russia investigation is based on a hoax, despite the intelligence community’s unanimous conclusion that Russia attempted to sway the 2016 election. He insists he respects the professionals in the law enforcement and intelligence communities, until their professionalism clashes with his wishes.

This is the president who alleged, without evidence, that he really won the popular vote because millions of illegal immigrants voted for Hillary Clinton in California. He empaneled a commission designed to find “evidence” of widespread voter fraud — which only benefits Democrats, of course. To the chagrin of state officials across the country, the message was that Americans cannot trust their voting system.

➤ Greg Sargent writes Trump’s speech exposed Trumpism’s biggest and ugliest lies:

The first required Trump to make a deeply misleading case that the economy is doing far better now than when he took office. Trump hailed the jobs created on his watch, the companies that credited his tax plan with new jobs, the soaring stock market. But as Michael Grunwald shows, Trump cherry-picked good company announcements while conveniently forgetting about the ones that went bad (Carrier, anyone?); misrepresented who actually benefits from his tax cuts; and unleashed a whole string of distortions rooted in a refusal to acknowledge the actual state of the economy he inherited.

Even Trump’s efforts to tout his economic record as a boon to minorities, to show that the race mongers are falsely depicting his presidency as polarizing, accomplished the opposite goal. Trump boasted that the unemployment rate among African Americans is at a record low, but taking credit for this required airbrushing away its huge drop under Obama, thus furthering his racially-divisive narrative that his predecessor was a full-blown disaster for them. Similarly, when Trump talked about the American flag as a unifying symbol, he immediately undercut it by reminding us of his polarizing attacks on African American football players who protest racism.

On the second goal: Trump didn’t back off his immigration agenda, or the toxic ideas and rhetoric undergirding it, in the slightest. He merely tried to repackage those things as conciliatory. Trump called for a deal protecting the “dreamers” that would, he said, give concessions to both sides. But he reiterated his demand for large cuts to legal immigration, even as he rehashed his ugliest demagoguery about undocumented immigrants by blaming fictional open borders for crime and dissembling reprehensibly about the diversity visa lottery program and “chain migration.”

Climb to the Top of Sri Lanka’s Fortress in the Sky:

In order to explore one of Sri Lanka’s most unique and ancient sites you will have to climb up—way up. Perched atop a rock plateau, 660 feet in the air, are the ruins of the 5th century fortress of King Kasyapa, known as Sigiriya. The large rock it sits on was formed from hardened volcanic lava dating back to prehistoric times, while the fortress is entirely surrounded by what are believed to be the world’s oldest landscape gardens. Today, Sigiriya is distinguished as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and remains the most visited attraction in Sri Lanka.