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Daily Bread for 10.10.18

Good morning.

Wednesday in Whitewater will see scattered thunderstorms with a high of seventy-one.  Sunrise is 7:03 AM and sunset 6:19 PM, for 11h 16m 27s of daytime.  The moon is a waxing crescent with 2.6% of its visible disk illuminated.

Today is the seven hundred first day.

Whitewater’s Finance Committee is scheduled to meet at 6:00 PM.

On this day in 1973, Vice President Agnew resigns:

Under increasing pressure to resign, Agnew took the position that a sitting vice president could not be indicted and met with Speaker of the House Carl Albert on September 25, asking for an investigation. He cited as precedent an 1826 House investigation of Vice President John C. Calhoun, who was alleged to have taken improper payments while a cabinet member. Albert, second in line to the presidency under Agnew, responded that it would be improper for the House to act in a matter before the courts.[171] Agnew also filed a motion to block any indictment on the grounds that he had been prejudiced by improper leaks from the Justice Department, and tried to rally public opinion, giving a speech before a friendly audience in Los Angeles asserting his innocence and attacking the prosecution.[172] Nevertheless, Agnew entered into negotiations for a plea bargain, and wrote in his memoirs that he did so because he was worn out from the extended crisis, to protect his family, and because he feared he could not get a fair trial.[173] He made his decision on October 5, and plea negotiations took place over the following days. On October 9, Agnew visited Nixon at the White House and informed the President of his impending resignation.[174]

Recommended for reading in full —  An update on connections between a Russian bank and the Trump Organization, Putin’s popularity plummets, civility has its limits, Trump campaign official sought online manipulation plans from an Isreali firm, and video of a priest at Marquette who offers online music lessons in a folk instrument —

Readers may recall Franklin Foer’s October 31, 2016 story on possible connections between a Russian bank’s server and the Trump Organization (Was a Trump Server Communicating With Russia?). Now Dexter Filkins has a compelling update on computer scientists’ assessment of that electronic traffic in Was There a Connection Between a Russian Bank and the Trump Campaign? (“A team of computer scientists sifted through records of unusual Web traffic in search of answers”):

In June, 2016, after news broke that the Democratic National Committee had been hacked, a group of prominent computer scientists went on alert. Reports said that the infiltrators were probably Russian, which suggested to most members of the group that one of the country’s intelligence agencies had been involved. They speculated that if the Russians were hacking the Democrats they must be hacking the Republicans, too. “We thought there was no way in the world the Russians would just attack the Democrats,” one of the computer scientists, who asked to be identified only as Max [one of the computer researchers] told me.

As Max and his colleagues searched D.N.S. logs for domains associated with Republican candidates, they were perplexed by what they encountered. “We went looking for fingerprints similar to what was on the D.N.C. computers, but we didn’t find what we were looking for,” Max told me. “We found something totally different—something unique.” In the small town of Lititz, Pennsylvania, a domain linked to the Trump Organization (mail1.trump-email.com) seemed to be behaving in a peculiar way. The server that housed the domain belonged to a company called Listrak, which mostly helped deliver mass-marketing e-mails: blasts of messages advertising spa treatments, Las Vegas weekends, and other enticements. Some Trump Organization domains sent mass e-mail blasts, but the one that Max and his colleagues spotted appeared not to be sending anything. At the same time, though, a very small group of companies seemed to be trying to communicate with it.

Examining records for the Trump domain, Max’s group discovered D.N.S. lookups from a pair of servers owned by Alfa Bank, one of the largest banks in Russia. Alfa Bank’s computers were looking up the address of the Trump server nearly every day. There were dozens of lookups on some days and far fewer on others, but the total number was notable: between May and September, Alfa Bank looked up the Trump Organization’s domain more than two thousand times. “We were watching this happen in real time—it was like watching an airplane fly by,” Max said. “And we thought, Why the hell is a Russian bank communicating with a server that belongs to the Trump Organization, and at such a rate?”

Only one other entity seemed to be reaching out to the Trump Organization’s domain with any frequency: Spectrum Health, of Grand Rapids, Michigan. Spectrum Health is closely linked to the DeVos family; Richard DeVos, Jr., is the chairman of the board, and one of its hospitals is named after his mother. His wife, Betsy DeVos, was appointed Secretary of Education by Donald Trump. Her brother, Erik Prince, is a Trump associate who has attracted the scrutiny of Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating Trump’s ties to Russia. Mueller has been looking into Prince’s meeting, following the election, with a Russian official in the Seychelles, at which he reportedly discussed setting up a back channel between Trump and the Russian President, Vladimir Putin. (Prince maintains that the meeting was “incidental.”) In the summer of 2016, Max and the others weren’t aware of any of this. “We didn’t know who DeVos was,” Max said.

The D.N.S. records raised vexing questions. Why was the Trump Organization’s domain, set up to send mass-marketing e-mails, conducting such meagre activity? And why were computers at Alfa Bank and Spectrum Health trying to reach a server that didn’t seem to be doing anything? After analyzing the data, Max said, “We decided this was a covert communication channel.”

(Detailed assessment follows in the full story.)

Anna Nemtsova reports As Vladimir Putin Celebrates His Birthday, Bad News Pours In (“His popularity is plummeting, and the hits keep coming’):
Mark Mazzetti, Ronen Bergman, David D. Kirkpatrick, and Maggie Haberman report Rick Gates Sought Online Manipulation Plans From Israeli Intelligence Firm for Trump Campaign:

A top Trump campaign official requested proposals in 2016 from an Israeli company to create fake online identities, to use social media manipulation and to gather intelligence to help defeat Republican primary race opponents and Hillary Clinton, according to interviews and copies of the proposals.

The Trump campaign’s interest in the work began as Russians were escalating their effort to aid Donald J. Trump. Though the Israeli company’s pitches were narrower than Moscow’s interference campaign and appear unconnected, the documents show that a senior Trump aide saw the promise of a disruption effort to swing voters in Mr. Trump’s favor.

The campaign official, Rick Gates, sought one proposal to use bogus personas to target and sway 5,000 delegates to the 2016 Republican National Convention by attacking Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, Mr. Trump’s main opponent at the time. Another proposal describes opposition research and “complementary intelligence activities” about Mrs. Clinton and people close to her, according to copies of the proposals obtained by The New York Times and interviews with four people involved in creating the documents.

Peter Beinart observes Civility Has Its Limits (“The conflict over Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination centered not on tribalism, but on a lack of justice”):

Describing Democrats and Republicans as warring tribes has become a political cliché, but it’s wrong. If tribal implies unthinking or inherited group loyalty, then Democrats and Republicans were actually more tribal in the mid-20th century. Back then, when being a Democrat or a Republican signified less about your view of the world, party identity was more a function of regional or ancestral ties. Whether or not they supported civil rights or higher taxes or the Korean War, Irish Catholics from Boston were mostly Democrats; Presbyterians from Kansas were mostly Republicans. Today, party identity is more a function of what you believe. The parties are so bitterly polarized not because they’ve become more tribal but because they’ve become more ideological.

But for [David] Brooks, depicting the supporters of Kavanaugh and Ford as tribes is useful because it doesn’t only suggest moral equivalence, it also implies an equivalence of power. The “tribalization” of American politics, Brooks argues, “leads to an epidemic of bigotry. Bigotry involves creating a stereotype about a disfavored group and then applying that stereotype to an individual you’ve never met. It was bigotry against Jews that got Alfred Dreyfus convicted in 1894. It was bigotry against young black males that got the Central Park Five convicted in 1990. It was bigotry against preppy lacrosse players that led to the bogus Duke lacrosse scandal.”

This is misleading. There is no equivalence between the “bigotry” faced by preppy lacrosse players and that faced by black males. There’s no equivalence, because preppy lacrosse players, in general, enjoy far more privilege and power and thus, the stereotypes people hold of them don’t generally land them in jail or dead. Similarly, there is no equivalence between the “bigotry” faced by men accused of sexual assault and the “bigotry” faced by women who suffer it. There’s no equivalence, because men wield far more power. If you don’t think that matters, try imagining Kavanaugh getting confirmed by a Senate composed of 79 women.

The Republican Party’s Trumpization is complete. It’s not a conservative party, or a small government party or an anti-authoritarian party (to the contrary!). It has become the caricature of the left from days gone by — all power, no principle, dismissive of courtesy and reasoned persuasion. Anger, not ideas, is its animating force. We have a nativist party that views America not as a creedal nation, but as a white Christian nation that is diminished by immigrants and is threatened by outsiders. If it possesses any coherent philosophy, it is one of victimhood — which in turn justifies any and all bad behavior.

A Jesuit priest at Marquette gets millions of YouTube hits for his music lessons:

This all started simply as a way to help Rev. Ryan Duns’ music students practice their tin whistles. Beginning in 2006, he posted instructional videos on YouTube.

You know how we sometimes underestimate the internet’s ability to spread stuff around? That happened to Duns. Suddenly the planet was digging his way with a whistle.

“I started to receive messages from people from all over the world, sometimes in languages I didn’t understand or couldn’t read. I had to go to Google translate to figure it out. I didn’t realize they would be available to everyone, so people in Vietnam, in Germany, in Ireland, in Canada, in Australia,” Duns said.

2 comments for “Daily Bread for 10.10.18

  1. joe
    10/10/2018 at 12:29 PM

    Max Boot, clutching his pearls with both hands and typing with a chopstick clamped in his teeth, tapped out a poignant mea culpa in the WaPo yesterday:

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-partisan/wp/2018/10/08/the-dark-side-of-american-conservatism-has-taken-over/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.a02e4562a218

    Boot, no pointy-headed hippie, has finally come to understand the obvious, and he is sincerely sorry for his part in enabling it. A hearty welcome to Max, even though it took him 54 years to wake up.

    What Max finally groked is that the Republican party has been a white identity klan ever since LBJ rammed thru the civil rights act in 1964. In the intervening 54 years the party has, like multiply distilled gin, only become a more pure shade of white. That gets us to where we are today, with the party five nines pure.

    Trump and his overtly rancid racism is not an aberration that the party will get over. It is the logical progression of the Republican party from Nixon’s time to now. It will not reverse anytime soon. Without the racists, there is no functional Republican party. It is certainly not fair to say that all Republicans are racists. It is completely fair to say that all racists are republicans and that they completely control the current party.

    There has been a lot of pixie-dust scattered around by the R-team in the last half-century about being patriotic, fiscally responsible, family value, law-n-order voters. It was bullshit, clearly, or Trump would not be president. Trump just made all of that depressingly clear. White fear, resentment, and anger are all that motivate the party.

    Maybe that isn’t completely accurate… As we have seen lately, there is a generous dollop of misogyny in the party to go along with the racism.

    • JOHN ADAMS
      10/10/2018 at 1:42 PM

      True about Boot: he’s a late arrival to the battle, so to speak. (If he’s going to be advocating for a battle, so much better this one than the Iraq War, a foreign policy mistake – because it was a human and financial tragedy – of the first order.)

      But here he is, and we face a greater foe in ethnic nationalism than we would in mere economic or even foreign policy disagreement. Many of those swept up in Trumpism will be lost to reason and morality forever: defeated in time, but thereafter silent foes of the democratic tradition’s commitment to liberty and equality.

      Of Trump’s hardcore (of which Boot was not, himself, part), I’d doubt more than a few will recant. Most will be implacable to the end.

      Boot is tardy, but our situation is dire: we will need every last person we can gather to win this conflict.

      Yes, on how you’ve closed, about Trumpism: not just ethnicity, but the certain ethnicity of a certain sort of men.

      One thing about these Trumpists: they hunger for this, they savor the taste of this conflict, and for every morsel, they crave yet more.

      We’ll not be able to strike a bargain with them. This conflict will only end with their political ruin.