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.
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. 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. 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. 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.
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’):
Bad news has rained on Putin’s head lately. The leader of the pro-Russian Donetsk People’s Republic, the capital of Putin’s “Russkiy Mir,” died in a bombing attack in a restaurant. The Netherlands accused Russia of a cyber attack and expelled four officers from GRU, the Russia’s military intelligence agency. Great Britain had earlier found evidence that the two Salisbury suspects were state assassins from this same agency. Even Russia’s old friend, Greece expelled two Russian diplomats and banned two more from entry for undermining state security. Somebody drilled a hole in the Russian module of the International Space Station Even Cossacks, Putin’s previously reliable allies in United Russia have quit his party and condemned the Kremlin’s policy in a new video.
Russians are convinced that the “galley’s slave,” as Putin once described himself, is one of the world’s richest men and already has everything he needs. And yet, every year on his birthday the state television, news agencies and even independent media tell stories about Putin’s admirers giving him exotic or dull presents – puppets, swords, dachas or palaces. Earlier this year, the Chinese leader, Xi Jinping, presented Putin with a harp made thousands of years ago and a wooden statue with Putin’s face. On Sunday, among the first to greet Putin with tokens of appreciation and congratulations were leaders of Belarus, Serbia, Azerbaijan, China and Republica Srpska, all still convinced Russia can serve as a reliable ally.
Meanwhile in Moscow, analysts said that Putin had more bad than good news on this day. “Putin has given himself two big presents this year: an unpopular pension reform, causing the loss of his popularity, and a complete failure in foreign policy,” a Moscow politician, Dmitry Gudkov, told The Daily Beast.
“This year the world witnessed a complete failure of Putin’s secret services, his secret agents shamed the nation in several countries, his lies became obvious during the investigation of MH-17 downing over Donbas – his own lies and actions are his worst birthday presents.”
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.
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.