Daily Bread for 1.7.18

Good morning.

Sunday in Whitewater will be partly cloudy with a high of twenty-seven. Sunrise is 7:24 AM and sunset is 4:38 PM, for 9h 13m 06s of daytime. The moon is a waning gibbous with 63.7% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the four hundred twenty-third day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

On this day in 1610, Galileo Galilei observes three of Jupiter’s moons, although he was mistaken at first about what he was seeing: “three fixed stars, totally invisible[111] by their smallness”, all close to Jupiter, and lying on a straight line through it.[112] Observations on subsequent nights showed that the positions of these “stars” relative to Jupiter were changing in a way that would have been inexplicable if they had really been fixed stars. On 10 January, Galileo noted that one of them had disappeared, an observation which he attributed to its being hidden behind Jupiter. Within a few days, he concluded that they were orbiting Jupiter:[113] he had discovered three of Jupiter’s four largest moons. He discovered the fourth on 13 January. Galileo named the group of four the Medicean stars, in honour of his future patron, Cosimo II de’ Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, and Cosimo’s three brothers.[114] Later astronomers, however, renamed them Galilean satellites in honour of their discoverer. These satellites are now called IoEuropaGanymede, and Callisto.”

On this day in 1901, Robert Marion La Follette becomes governor: “On this date Robert M. La Follette was inaugurated as governor after winning the November 6, 1900 election. La Follette was born in Dane County in 1855. A Wisconsin Law School graduate and three-term member of congress, La Follette was renowned for his oratorical style. He was the first Wisconsin-born individual to serve as governor.”

Recommended for reading in full — 

James Fallows writes of How Actual Smart People Talk About Themselves (“Hint: not by discussing IQ”):

Grace Hopper, American computer scientist and United States Navy rear admiral.

….In short (as Lloyd Bentsen might once have put it): I’ve known some very smart people. Some very smart people have been friends of mine. And Donald Trump…

Here are three traits I would report from a long trail of meeting and interviewing people who by any reckoning are very intelligent.

They all know it. A lifetime of quietly comparing their ease in handling intellectual challenges—at the chess board, in the classroom, in the debating or writing arena—with the efforts of other people gave them the message.

Virtually none of them (need to) say it. There are a few prominent exceptions, of talented people who annoyingly go out of their way to announce that fact. Muhammad Ali is the charming extreme exception illustrating the rule: he said he was The Greatest, and was. Most greats don’t need to say so.* It would be like Roger Federer introducing himself with, “You know, I’m quite graceful and gifted.” Or Meryl Streep asking, “Have you seen my awards?”

They know what they don’t know. This to me is the most consistent marker of real intelligence. The more acute someone’s ability to perceive and assess, the more likely that person is to recognize his or her limits. These include the unevenness of any one person’s talents; the specific areas of weakness—social awkwardness, musical tin ear, being stronger with numbers than with words, or vice versa; and the incomparable vastness of what any individual person can never know. To read books seriously is to be staggered by the knowledge of how many more books will remain beyond your ken. It’s like looking up at the star-filled sky….

Paul Waldman explains Why Jeff Sessions’s marijuana crackdown is going to make legalization more likely:

Jeff Sessions hates marijuana. Hates it, with a passion that has animated almost nothing else in his career. “Good people don’t smoke marijuana,” he has said. He even once said about the Ku Klux Klan, “I thought those guys were okay until I learned they smoked pot.”

He says that was a joke, but even so, it still says something about where he’s coming from….

the Trump administration has sent a clear message to the public that it wants to turn back the clock on our nation’s drug laws. There’s no doubt that Sessions is sincere in his desire to do so, but politically it could be a disaster. According to the latest Gallup poll, 64 percent of Americans favor legalization, including a majority of Republicans. There could be a dozen more states considering some form of legalization this year, either in their legislatures or through ballot initiatives, which will only bring more attention to the issue and set people’s own states against the administration. Just yesterday, the Vermont House of Representatives voted to legalize personal possession and cultivation of marijuana, and the bill is expected to pass the state Senate and be signed by the governor. They won’t be the last.

That the Trump administration is doing something so unpopular will put a lot of Republicans in a very awkward position, particularly if they come from a state like Colorado or California — precisely the representatives who are going to be most vulnerable in this November’s elections. Many of them have released outraged statements condemning the decision, but it might not be enough to persuade voters not to punish President Trump by voting them out. A member such as Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (whose California district was won by Hillary Clinton in 2016) can cry to his constituents that he opposed the marijuana crackdown and the tax bill (which cut back their deduction for state and local taxes), and they might listen. But in a year of a Democratic wave, they might also just decide to sweep him out with the rest of the GOP.

So the end result of this policy could well be to accelerate the liberalization of the nation’s marijuana laws. A backlash could help more Democrats get elected, and push elected Democrats to more unambiguously support legalization. Don’t be surprised if every Democrat running for president in 2020 favors ending the federal prohibition on marijuana and returning the question to the states. One potential candidate, Sen. Cory Booker, has already introduced a bill to do just that….

(I don’t smoke – anything – but advocate treating marijuana like wine. That’s where America’s heading, and Trump won’t meaningfully change that direction. Sessions, in particular, is the distillation of every reactionary idea into one tiny southern politician.)

Jared Yates Sexton contends Steve Bannon sees the writing on the wall for Trump:

Mr. Bannon’s quote and sudden posturing against Mr. Trump and his inner circle seems self-interested only because that’s exactly what it is. He, like a growing number of Trump supporters, can see the writing on the wall and knows it’s time to put as much daylight between himself and the President. Their transactional relationship, it seems, has reached its point of diminishing returns.

In past cases, whether it was Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan or Bill Clinton, a president caught in the midst of a scandal can at least count on the loyalty of those around them that shared their worldview or had weathered hard times with them, thus creating a sense of intimacy and trust. In those cases, the presidents maintained an inner circle of dedicated true believers who stayed to the bitter end.


We might be seeing the fall of a captain devoid of followers, and the rats might already be preparing to abandon ship….

(I’d contend that there are, in fact, a core of operatives with an ideology: autocratic white nationalism, sometimes softly, sometimes more loudly, expressed. There are, in fact, ideas that Trump supports, and they are uniformly detestable to the democratic order.)

Adam Goldman and Matt Apuzzo report Amid Calls from Trump, F.B.I. Renews Questions Over Clinton Foundation:

WASHINGTON — F.B.I. agents have renewed asking questions about the dealings of the Clinton Foundation amid calls from President Trump and top Republicans for the Justice Department to take a fresh look at politically charged accusations of corruption.

People familiar with the F.B.I.’s steps said on Friday that agents have interviewed people connected to the foundation about whether any donations were made in exchange for political favors while Hillary Clinton was secretary of state from 2009 to 2013. Career prosecutors shut down that investigation in 2016 for lack of evidence.

During the presidential campaign, Mr. Trump branded his rival “Crooked Hillary” and promised to send her to jail if he won. He struck a more magnanimous tone after the election, however, and said he had no interest in pushing for a prosecution.

That has changed as Mr. Trump’s legal problems have mounted. With four former aides facing federal charges and a special prosecutor investigating him and his campaign, Mr. Trump has resumed his attack on his favorite target. He has openly called for Mrs. Clinton to be investigated and one of her top aides to be imprisoned….

(Trump wields power like a dirty Central American autocrat, but he knows his audience: aged, ignorant Fox News addicts.)

The federal government needn’t be in the egg-ranking business, but as it is in that business, one might as well understand the rankings: