Daily Bread for 8.2.17

Good morning.

Midweek in Whitewater will see a likelihood of afternoon thundershowers and a high of eighty-one. Sunrise is 5:48 AM and sunset 8:13 PM, for 14h 24m 59s of daytime. The moon is a waxing gibbous with 76.6% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the two hundred sixty-sixth day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

On this day in 1939, Leó Szilárd and Albert Einstein send a letter to Pres. Roosevelt urging Roosevelt to consider an atomic bomb project in response to possible Nazi work along those lines:

On July 12, 1939, Szilárd and [Hungarian physicist Eugene] Wigner drove in Wigner’s car to Cutchogue on New York’s Long Island, where Einstein was staying.[9] When they explained about the possibility of atomic bombs, Einstein replied: Daran habe ich gar nicht gedacht (I did not even think about that).[10] Szilárd dictated a letter in German to the Belgian Ambassador to the United States. Wigner wrote it down, and Einstein signed it. At Wigner’s suggestion, they also prepared a letter for the State Departmentexplaining what they were doing and why, giving it two weeks to respond if it had any objections.[9]

This still left the problem of getting government support for uranium research. Another friend of Szilárd’s, the Austrian economist Gustav Stolper, suggested approaching Alexander Sachs, who had access to PresidentFranklin D. Roosevelt. Sachs told Szilárd that he had already spoken to the President about uranium, but that Fermi and Pegram had reported that the prospects for building an atomic bomb were remote. He told Szilárd that he would deliver the letter, but suggested that it come from someone more prestigious. For Szilárd, Einstein was again the obvious choice.[6] Sachs and Szilárd drafted a letter riddled with spelling errors and mailed it to Einstein.[11]

Szilárd set out for Long Island again on August 2. Wigner was unavailable, so this time Szilárd co-opted another Hungarian physicist, Edward Teller, to do the driving. Einstein dictated the letter in German. On returning to Columbia University, Szilárd dictated the letter in English to a young departmental stenographer, Janet Coatesworth. She later recalled that when Szilárd mentioned extremely powerful bombs, she “was sure she was working for a nut”.[12] Ending the letter with “Yours truly, Albert Einstein” did nothing to alter this impression. Both the letter and a longer explanatory letter were then posted to Einstein.[12]

Recommended for reading in full:

Yascha Mounk writes that The Past Week Proves That Trump Is Destroying Our Democracy:

Over just a few days last week, President Trump and his allies stepped up attacks on Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating the campaign’s connections to Russia. They tried to push Attorney General Jeff Sessions out of office. They thought out loud about whether the president can pardon himself.

This all points to the same conclusion: Mr. Trump is willing to deal a major blow to the rule of law — and the American Republic — in order to end an independent investigation into his Russia ties.

It is tempting to picture the demise of democracy as a Manichaean drama in which the stakes are clear from the start and the main actors fully understand their roles: Would-be dictators rail against democracy, hire violent thugs to do their bidding and vow to destroy the opposition. When they demand expanded powers or attack independent institutions, their supporters and opponents alike realize that authoritarianism has arrived.

There have, in fact, been a few times and places when the villains were quite as villainous, and the heroes quite as heroic. (Think Germany in the 1930s.) But in most cases, the demise of democracy has been far more gradual and far easier to overlook….

(Dark those these times are, yet one can still reasonably believe that there are in America enough who see this, and from among them enough who will resist.)

Philip Bump has for readers A timeline of the explosive lawsuit alleging a White House link in the Seth Rich conspiracy:

NPR’s David Folkenflik reported Tuesday morning on a lawsuit filed by a man named Rod Wheeler that makes a remarkable claim: The Trump White House — or President Trump personally — may have been aware of or involved in a discredited Fox News story about the killing of a Democratic National Committee staffer last July.

It’s a complicated story that, we hasten to add, is based on allegations in a lawsuit filed by a person whose quotes in that discredited story were themselves discredited. But the lawsuit includes documentary evidence (like text messages), and Folkenflik was given access to recorded calls that bolster the story as presented. What’s more, the lawsuit is predicated on Wheeler’s assertion that he never said the quotes attributed to him.

Given the complexity of the story, we’ve taken the details in the lawsuit and arranged them as a timeline. First, though, it’s important to understand the cast of characters [charcaters and timeline follow]…

Margaret Sullivan observes that You don’t have to believe everything in that Seth Rich lawsuit. What’s been confirmed is bad enough:

Now, though, we know that Spicer [despite his denial on 5.16.17] was indeed aware that Fox News was cooking up a story that would eventually be amplified and twisted into a huge, baseless conspiracy theory.

And — if you choose to believe everything in the lawsuit by former police investigator and Fox contributor Rod Wheeler — President Trump himself encouraged the bogus story in advance. (Wheeler’s suit claims he was misquoted by the network.)

At its most outrageous, the conspiracy theory that grew out of that initial Fox story suggested that Hillary Clinton arranged to have Rich assassinated after he betrayed the DNC by sending internal information to WikiLeaks during the campaign. All of this was based on the idea that an internal mole betrayed the DNC and that Russian hackers had nothing to do with it.

Let’s be clear: There’s no basis for that craziness and never has been. Although the killing remains unsolved, D.C. police continue to view the shooting of 27-year-old Rich as part of a botched robbery attempt.

Garrison Keillor reassuringly believes that We will survive this:

So. We have a vulgar, unstable yo-yo with a toxic ego and an attention-deficit problem in the White House, and now we can see that government by Twitter is like trying to steer a ship by firing a pistol at the waves — not really useful — but what does it all add up to? Not that much, if you ask me, which you didn’t, but I’ll say it anyway.

 We will survive this. He will do what damage he can, like a man burning books out of anger that he can’t read, but there will still be plenty of books left….
(I’d say that Keillor’s right that we’ll prevail in this, but not – as he believes – by thinking of other, better things. We’ll prevail when Trump meets his political demise, as he will through the efforts of millions of Americans committed to defending our constitutional order in active opposition to Trumpism.)

Adam [Conover] Ruins Everything takes on the Myers-Briggs test:

(Obvious point: Conover’s is a comedy program, not a scholarly analysis. It’s clever as it is, taken the way it’s offered.)