Daily Bread for 7.21.18

Good morning.

Saturday in Whitewater will be variably cloudy, with a couple of showers, and a high of seventy-five.  Sunrise is 5:36 AM and sunset 8:26 PM, for 14h 50m 10s of daytime.  The moon is a waxing gibbous with 67.5% of its visible disk illuminated.

Today is the six hundred fifteenth day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.


On this day in 1861, the First Battle of Bull Run takes place in northern Virginia:

The First Battle of Bull Run (the name used by Union forces), also known as the First Battle of Manassas[1] (the name used by Confederate forces), was fought on July 21, 1861 in Prince William County, Virginia, just north of the city of Manassas and about 25 miles west-southwest of Washington, D.C. It was the first major battle of the American Civil War. The Union’s forces were slow in positioning themselves, allowing Confederate reinforcements time to arrive by rail. Each side had about 18,000 poorly trained and poorly led troops in their first battle. It was a Confederate victory, followed by a disorganized retreat of the Union forces.


Both armies were sobered by the fierce fighting and many casualties, and realized that the war was going to be much longer and bloodier than either had anticipated. The Battle of First Bull Run highlighted many of the problems and deficiencies that were typical of the first year of the war. Units were committed piecemeal, attacks were frontal, infantry failed to protect exposed artillery, tactical intelligence was nil, and neither commander was able to employ his whole force effectively. McDowell, with 35,000 men, was only able to commit about 18,000, and the combined Confederate forces, with about 32,000 men, committed only 18,000.[12]

Recommended for reading in full — 

  Blake Hounsell writes Why I’m No Longer a Russiagate Skeptic (“Facts are piling up, and it’s getting harder to deny what’s staring us in the face”):

Politically speaking, Trump’s devotion to his pro-Putin line doesn’t make sense. Yes, the GOP base is impressionable, and perhaps Republican voters would accept it if Trump came out and said, “You bet, Russia helped get me elected, and wasn’t that a good thing? We couldn’t let Crooked Hillary win!” But nobody would say his odd solicitousness toward the Kremlin leader is a political winner, and it certainly causes an unnecessary amount of friction with Republicans in Congress. He’s kept it up at great political cost to himself, and that suggests either that he is possessed by an anomalous level of conviction on this one issue, despite his extraordinary malleability on everything else—or that he’s beholden to Putin in some way.

You don’t have to buy Jonathan Chait’s sleeper agent theory of Trump to believe that something is deeply weird about all this. Nor do you need to be convinced that Putin is hanging onto a recording of something untoward that may have taken place in a certain Moscow hotel room. You don’t even have to buy the theory that Trump’s business is overly dependent on illicit flows of Russia money, giving Putin leverage. As Julia Ioffe posits, the kompromat could well be the mere fact of the Russian election meddling itself.

As for my argument that Trump’s collection of misfit toys was too incompetent, and too riven by infighting, to collaborate with Russia, this one might still be true. There were certainly sporadic, repeated attempts by some on or around the campaign to collaborate, but we don’t know if, or how, those flirtations were consummated. But certainly, the intent was there, as Donald Trump, Jr. has said publicly. They were all too happy to accept Russian help, even if they weren’t sure they would be enough to win in the end.

  Anne Applebaum asks Did Putin share stolen election data with Trump?:

Now we need to ask a new question: Was data also at the heart of the relationship between the Trump campaign and Russia? Nearly a year ago, I speculated that the Trump campaign might have shared data with the Russian Internet Research Agency, the team that created fake personas and put up fake Facebook pages with the goal of spreading false stories about Hillary Clinton. The Russians certainly seemed to know what they were doing. On the one hand, the Russian team targeted people who they thought might be moved to support Trump by anti-immigration slogans and messages; on the other hand, they targeted black voters with messages designed to discourage them from voting at all.

The latest indictment produced by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation, together with President Trump’s strange performance in Helsinki, suggests a different hypothesis: that Russia shared data with the Trump campaign, and not vice versa. The indictment explains that the Russian hackers who broke into the servers of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the Democratic National Committee not only stole the now- infamous emails but also stole data. “The Conspirators,” reads the indictment, “searched for and identified computers within the DCCC and DNC networks that stored information related to the 2016 U.S. presidential election.” They then “gathered data by creating backups, or ‘snapshots,’ of the DNC’s cloud-based systems” and “moved the snapshots to cloud-based accounts they had registered with the same service thereby stealing the data from the DNC.”


Did they share this information with the Trump campaign? If so, the timing is interesting. In October, a few weeks after the hackers broke into the DNC servers, New York Times journalist Maggie Haberman observeda major shift in the way the Trump campaign was spending its advertising budget. Access to Democratic Party data would, of course, have been useful in redirecting that spending. At about the same time, Trump also began using a curious set of conspiratorial slogans and messages, all lifted directly from Russian state television and websites. From Barack Obama “founded ISIS” to Hillary Clinton will start “World War III,” Trump repeated them at his rallies and on his Twitter feed. It was as if he had some reason to believe they would work.

  Paul Waldman contends The entire Republican Party is becoming a Russian asset:

  • In 2016, the campaign of the Republican nominee for president was approached multiple times by representatives of the Russian government offering to help them win the election. These offers were welcomed with enthusiasm. The campaign was also led for a time by a political consultant with deep financial and personal ties to a Russian oligarch and a Kremlin puppet in Ukraine.
  • Multiple members of the Trump team had contacts with the Russian government that they later lied to conceal.
  • As part of its attack on the American electoral system, Russian intelligence hacked into Democratic Party systems. Some of the information it found there was released publicly and promoted gleefully by Republicans at all levels in order to help the Trump campaign; information relating to down-ballot campaigns was passed to Republicans, who used it in order to maintain their hold on the House of Representatives.
  • Amid the insistence from the intelligence community that in 2018 Russia will likely attempt to once again penetrate the computer systems of state election agencies, Republicans this week killed an effortto provide funding to states to bolster the security of their election systems.
  • As part of a lengthy effort to infiltrate the National Rifle Association, an important Republican interest group, an alleged Russian spy began a romance with a Republican activist, met multiple Republican leaders and fostered a relationship between American gun advocates and Russians. On the night of Trump’s victory, she messaged “I am ready for further orders” to her handler, a Russian banker named Alexander Torshin who is close to Putin.
  • The NRA dramatically increased its spending on the 2016 presidential campaign from past years, pouring $30 million into their effort to elect Trump. The FBI is investigating whether that money may have illegally come from Russia, funneled to the organization by Torshin.
  • The Trump administration has announced a change to IRS rules so that groups like the NRA will no longer have to identify their donors on their tax forms, making such money almost impossible to trace in the future.
  • Over the last few years, the Christian right, another key part of the GOP coalition, has grown increasingly close to Putin, whom they see as an ally in a global clash of civilizations between Christianity and Islam.
  • In Congress, Republicans have undertaken an aggressive campaign to discredit and, many of them plainly hope, shut down the probe into the Russian attack on America. Though they mounted seven separate investigations of Benghazi, they are nearly united in their position that no further investigation into a hostile foreign power’s attempt to manipulate the American electoral system is necessary.
  • Fox News, which functions as the propaganda arm of the Republican Party, has aired relentless attacks on the Russia investigation and calls for it to be shut down.
  • Despite the mountain of unambiguous evidence of the Russian attack in 2016, the overwhelming majority of Republican voters continue to say no such attack occurred.
  • Hard-core Trump supporters are beginning to argue that even if Russia did attack the American electoral system, it was actually a good thing because it helped Donald Trump get elected.
  Natan Sharansky remembers The Essay That Helped Bring Down the Soviet Union (“It championed an idea at grave risk today: that those of us lucky enough to live in open societies should fight for the freedom of those born into closed ones”):

Fifty years ago this Sunday, this paper devoted three broadsheet pages to an essay that had been circulating secretly in the Soviet Union for weeks. The manifesto, written by Andrei Sakharov, championed an essential idea at grave risk today: that those of us lucky enough to live in open societies should fight for the freedom of those born into closed ones. This radical argument changed the course of history.

Sakharov’s essay carried a mild title — “Thoughts on Progress, Peaceful Coexistence and Intellectual Freedom” — but it was explosive. “Freedom of thought is the only guarantee against an infection of mankind by mass myths, which, in the hands of treacherous hypocrites and demagogues, can be transformed into bloody dictatorships,” he wrote. Suddenly the Soviet Union’s most decorated physicist became its most prominent dissident.

Read Sakharov’s Original Essay. Fifty years ago The Times published an excerpt of the Soviet dissident’s manifesto.

For this work and other “thought crimes” the Soviet authorities stripped Sakharov of his honors, imprisoned many of his associates and, eventually, exiled him to Gorky.

In 1968, when this work was published, I was a 20-year-old mathematician studying at the Moscow equivalent of M.I.T. Although we dared not discuss it, my peers and I lived a life of double-think: toeing the Communist Party line in public, thinking independently in private. Like so many others, I read Sakharov’s essay in samizdat — a typewritten copy duplicated secretly, spread informally and read hungrily.

Its message was unsettling and liberating: You cannot be a good scientist or a free person while living a double life. Knowing the truth while collaborating in the regime’s lies only produces bad science and broken souls.


This Man Plays Piano For Blind Elephants:

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