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Friday Catblogging: Cats’ Facial Expressions

Karin Brulliard reports on a study of cats’ facial expressions in Cats do have facial expressions, but you probably can’t read them:

Cats have a reputation for being “inscrutable,” the researchers say, and their results mostly back up this notion. More than 6,000 study participants in 85 countries, the vast majority of them cat owners, watched brief cat videos and then judged the animals’ moods. The average score was just under 60 percent correct — an F, if cat videos were a school subject.

However, 13 percent of participants did quite well, scoring 75 percent or above. The researchers dubbed these achievers “cat whisperers” — and said their results are important.

“Cats are telling us things with their faces, and if you’re really skilled, you can spot it,” said author Georgia Mason, a behavioral biologist at the University of Guelph in Ontario. “Some people can do it — that means there’s something there. That means that cats are hard to read,” but not wholly inscrutable, she said.

Women, who made up three-fourths of participants, scored better than men, but not by much. Younger people did better than older people. But the most skilled diviners of feline feelings were people with professional experience involving cats, including veterinarians. (You can take a shortened version of the survey here.)

Daily Bread for 12.6.19

Good morning.

Friday in Whitewater will be partly sunny with a high of thirty-six.  Sunrise is 7:11 AM and sunset 4:20 PM, for 9h 09m 27s of daytime.  The moon is a waxing gibbous with 70.3% of its visible disk illuminated.

Today is the one thousand one hundred twenty-third day.

On this day in 1884, workers complete the Washington Monument with a 100-ounce (2.83 kg) aluminum apex/lightning-rod being in place.

Recommended for reading in full:

Yesterday — Katelyn Ferral reports Wisconsin National Guard’s response to sexual-assault allegations ‘an absolute train wreck,’ federal investigator says.

 Today — Katelyn Ferral, Molly Beck, and Patrick Marley report Email shows former DOJ leaders coordinated with Wisconsin National Guard to keep feds out of sexual assault investigations:

“I’m hoping if I keep doing him favors, I’ll get a ride on an F-35,” Delanie Breuer, former chief of staff to former Attorney General Brad Schimel, joked about Adjutant General Donald Dunbar in a Sept. 13, 2018 email to her boss.

The email was obtained by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and the Cap Times just after federal investigators completed an investigation into whether the Wisconsin National Guard was properly handling allegations of sexual misconduct — a review called for by Gov. Tony Evers and U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin.

The DOJ in October 2018 agreed to make available investigators to the Wisconsin National Guard to review such allegations. Earlier this year, a guard spokesman said all reports made by victims who want an investigation are first referred to the DOJ or local law enforcement.

But in the 2018 email, Breuer said the purpose of the agreement was to keep the National Guard Bureau out of state investigations and would not add any new responsibilities to the department.

“The purpose of the (agreement) is mainly to get the federal National Guard Bureau off the back of (Dunbar) – (the National Guard Bureau) is currently stepping in on all investigations that don’t otherwise have a neutral third party,” Breuer wrote. “It basically spells out what (Division of Criminal Investigations) would already do. … It’s just putting it in writing for (Dunbar).”

(Emphasis added.)

 Molly Beck, Katelyn Ferral, and Patrick Marley also report in a separate story Sweeping investigation into sexual misconduct in Wisconsin National Guard could trigger overhaul:

Federal investigators have completed a sweeping investigation into how the Wisconsin National Guard handles allegations of sexual assault and harassment among its ranks — a review that will soon be made public and could trigger major changes within the Guard.

Gov. Tony Evers said Thursday that within days he will make public the findings of a seven-month investigation by National Guard Bureau’s Office of Complex Investigations into whether the Guard allowed sexual predators to go unchecked and retaliated against victims.

The governor said he will then announce next steps to “ensure that our men and women in uniform work in an environment free from sexual assault, sexual harassment and retaliation.”

The results of the investigation, called for by Evers and U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldin in April, come just days after The Capital Times revealed federal investigators conducting the review believe guard officials’ response to sexual assault allegations were “an absolute train wreck.”

SpaceX CRS-19 Dragon launch & Falcon 9 first stage landing:

Local Government’s Failure to Speak Independently and Effectively

There’s a story at the Janesville Gazette that illustrates the inability of Whitewater, Wisconsin’s local government to communicate effectively on its own.  The story, primarily, is about the ongoing search for a stand-alone grocery store to come to Whitewater.  See Whitewater city manager remains ‘optimistic’ city will get a grocery store (Beleckis, reporter; Schwartz, editor).

Routine, periodic. In some respects, the story is the same as others published periodically in which officials predict a grocery in the relatively near future. There’s no reason to doubt that city officials want a grocery store; it’s simply false – and silly, really – to contend otherwise. Indeed, it’s probable that officials would incline to any deal, however profligate, than to no deal.

Business rumors. There will always be occasional rumors in Whitewater (and every other city) about businesses that might be coming or going. Business journals, for example, sometimes mix accurate reporting with analysis of low quality. Part of the Gazette story allows Whitewater’s city manager, Cameron Clapper, to reply to a speculative report of that kind.   

Failure of independence and effectiveness. Underlying all this, a key point: local government in Whitewater displays weakness and misunderstanding when it relies on an out-of-town chain paper to relay its message. A city using social media & an official website should neither need nor want messaging from a decrepit newspaper with a young reporter. The paper undoubtedly skews to an elderly readership. Whitewater’s own publicly-paid officials would be ahead of stories like this, ahead of rumors like this, if they’d only developed a better bond with the city’s residents.

The Gazette is interesting to me because I grew up in a newspaper-respecting family, and the gap between good work and the Gazette’s reporting is evident. As a practical matter, however, stories in the Gazette about Whitewater’s government are mostly inconsequential for Whitewater – the paper has a skewed demographic and low quality. Most people are reasonable and sharp; for that majority, these stories are easily dissected and dismissed.

It’s not this libertarian’s role – and it never will be – to represent local government. And yet, and yet — it should be obvious that local government should be able to speak directly and effectively to the residents from whom it receives authority.

Catch-up, let-me-explain stories like this show how poorly government communicates on its own.

Daily Bread for 12.5.19

Good morning.

Thursday in Whitewater will be partly sunny with a high of forty-one.  Sunrise is 7:10 AM and sunset 4:20 PM, for 9h 10m 31s of daytime.  The moon is a waxing gibbous with 61.7% of its visible disk illuminated.

Today is the one thousand one hundred twenty-second day.

On this day in 1848, President Polk, in an address to Congress, confirms the discovery of gold in California.

Recommended for reading in full:

Katelyn Ferral reports Wisconsin National Guard’s response to sexual-assault allegations ‘an absolute train wreck,’ federal investigator says:

The investigator, who made the comment while interviewing the victim in the case, said that the state’s attempt to prosecute a soldier for sexual assault through its military justice process was “not the only case that was a train wreck in the Wisconsin National Guard,” according to an audio recording of the interview obtained by the Cap Times.

“The governor and Senator (Tammy) Baldwin will know that your case was a train wreck … they will know that one or more members of the Wisconsin National Guard completely f—– up,” the investigator said.

The comments offer a rare glimpse behind a seven-month long investigation into whether Wisconsin’s National Guard — which includes Army and Air Force units with about 10,000 total members — adequately investigates allegations of sexual assault and whether it follows federal regulations on how to treat victims and perpetrators.

The Wisconsin National Guard, led by longtime Adjutant General Donald Dunbar, has been under scrutiny for months with one of its own internal reports detailing a “culture of sexual misconduct” in one Army unit, and an Air Force officer who says he continues to face retribution for reporting numerous allegations of sexual assault in units there.

….

The botched court martial discussed in the audio recording came after a sexual assault at a Guard-sponsored party in 2015. After a night of Guard-authorized drinking, soldiers were required to spend the night in their unit’s armory, according to sworn statements of those present. As they slept on the floor, one soldier sexually assaulted another by placing his finger and tongue in her vaginal area and groping her, according to the charge sheet in the case. Other soldiers in the room at the time said they heard the victim say “no” several times, according to their sworn statements obtained by the Cap Times.

The alleged perpetrator was later charged with four sexual assault violations of the Wisconsin Code of Military Justice, which governs military judicial proceedings in the state.

The state’s military prosecutor missed several administrative deadlines and eventually failed to advance the case. The state then tried to re-open the court martial and eventually settled the case by offering the alleged perpetrator a plea deal. The soldier pled guilty to one charge of “indecent conduct” in August. It is a charge levied by the state for having consensual sex with the victim rather than assaulting her.

Russian Pilots Bombed Syrian Civilians, We Have Evidence:

America’s Allies Know that Trump’s a Destructive Fool

Via Trump to Leave NATO Summit Early After World Leaders Are Caught Laughing at Him:

Daily Bread for 12.4.19

Good morning.

Wednesday in Whitewater will be cloudy with a high of thirty-eight.  Sunrise is 7:09 AM and sunset 4:21 PM, for 9h 11m 40s of daytime.  The moon is a waxing gibbous with 52% of its visible disk illuminated.

Today is the one thousand one hundred twenty-first day.

On this day in 1864, the Wisconsin 10th Light Artillery fights in the Battle of Waynesborough, Georgia.

Recommended for reading in full:

Aaron Blake writes John Kennedy vs. Vladimir Putin: How Trump defenders’ Ukraine talking points compare to what Russians say:

On Sunday, for the second time in two weekends, Republican Sen. John Neely Kennedy (La.) spouted what U.S. officials have characterized as Russian propaganda about 2016 election interference. After suggesting that Ukraine rather than Russia might have hacked the Democrats in 2016 — and then recanting — he took to another show this weekend and said that he believes “both Russia and Ukraine meddled in the 2016 election.”

David Corn writes How the Republicans Are Trying to Gaslight America With Their Impeachment Report:

In a slapdash fashion, staffers for Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, who has been implicated himself in the Trump-Ukraine scandal, and two other Republican ranking members—Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio and Michael McCaul of Texas—have cobbled together a report on the impeachment inquiry that unshockingly proclaims Donald Trump innocent of…everything. This document was released on Monday ahead of the committee’s 300-page, highly detailed summary of its investigation and hearings that was unveiled on Tuesday and forwarded to the judiciary committee for that panel’s impeachment deliberations.

See also The GOP’s impeachment report is a series of red herrings.

Margaret Sullivan writes ‘I don’t know what to believe’ is an unpatriotic cop-out. Do better, Americans:

The New York Times published a story Monday with this headline: “ ‘No one believes anything’: Voters Worn Out by a Fog of Political News.” The reporters quoted a Wisconsin woman who said she didn’t know what to think of the various conflicting claims she’d heard about President Trump’s apparent abuse of power.

“You have to go in and really research it,” she said, and she doubted that many people cared enough to do that.

….

If every American did any two of the following things, the “who knows?” club could be swiftly disbanded.

Subscribe to a national newspaper and go beyond the headlines into the substance of the main articles; subscribe to your local newspaper and read it thoroughly — in print, if possible; watch the top of “PBS NewsHour” every night; watch the first 15 minutes of the half-hour broadcast nightly news; tune in to a public-radio news broadcast; do a simple fact-check search when you hear conflicting claims.

For those who can’t afford to subscribe to newspapers, almost all public libraries can provide access.

“Whatever the president wants us to believe, there are tested and reliable news sources,” [chief operating officer of PEN America Dru] Menaker noted. “There are even more firsthand sources than ever where you can judge yourself — links to documents, video clips, hours of televised testimony.”

What Is Inside a Black Hole?:

Sen. Harris and the Fight Ahead

Sen. Kamala Harris of California suspended her campaign today, and has effectively left the 2020 presidential race. I’ve been a supporter of hers, and so consider her departure from the race unfortunate for her party (of which I am not a member) and for the country.

There are those who will now say – as I have heard some say to me directly – that Harris was not moderate enough, conventional enough, or familiar enough. What I said in reply then remains my view now: moderate enough, conventional enough, and familiar enough have failed this society. They’ve brought us to the lamentable present.

One cannot say what twists lie ahead to find a major-party candidate to oppose Trump. Needless to say, it is that opposition on which this republic depends. There is no circumstance in which another major-party candidate would not be superior to Trump. I will, of course, support that opposing candidate.

Doubtless Harris will play a role in the fight ahead, and so many others – even in small and rural places – will do our part in that difficult yet noble effort.

Forget the Tender Feelings of a Pernicious Faction

Over at the Journal Sentinel, Craig Gilbert writes about the political divide in For voters in this purple part of Wisconsin [Richland Center], the impeachment fight is a symbol of broken politics. The story establishes a false equivalence between those who support impeachment and those who oppose it, as though the conflict between these views were an irresolvable dispute over flavors or colors.

Gilbert writes that “[f]or voters on both sides, the impeachment fight is kind of an all-purpose symbol of broken politics, whether it’s the polarization of the electorate, the partisanship of the political class or the legislative impasse in Congress.”

In Gilbert’s telling, everyone’s upset, they’re all frustrated, and the conflict is all one big sad point of contention.

The views of these two sides – one seeking impeachment as a defense of accountability under the rule of law, the other pushing conspiracy theories to defend a bigoted autocrat – are nothing alike. These tired ‘we’re all divided’ stories imply an equivalence between the sides, and leave the cause of the division unspoken.

Consider: should the supposed concerns of Know Nothings, Confederates, Copperheads, Klan, and Bund be weighed as heavily as those who sought to defend a liberal democratic order?

(Prof. Jay Rosen of NYU is right: “My current rule is that all discussions and news stories framed as, “Why are we so divided? America can’t even agree on common facts…” should be framed instead as: how did the Republican Party arrive at this place?”)

A reasonable person committed to democracy under the rule of law need not – and should not – give equal weight to the views and feelings of those who peddle lies and autocracy. On the contrary, a reasonable person committed to democracy under the rule of law should consider such people his or her political adversaries, to be defeated as our forefathers defeated the Know Nothings, Confederates, Copperheads, Klan, and Bund.

Concern for the tender feelings of adherents to those vile movements scarcely mattered; it was most important that they were defeated. (After the Civil War, they should have been kept in a century-long period of Reconstruction to render them innocuous to others’ rights and well-being.)

The main focus of opposition is best kept on Trump, His Inner Circle, Principal Surrogates, and Media Defenders and that includes Trumpism Down to the Local Level.  

(Admittedly and sadly, the local boosterism of the pre-Trump years is now in retrospect worse than one might have initially believed: “across America boosters who peddled false descriptions & junk solutions during the economic hardship of the Great Recession contributed, knowingly or unknowingly, to the erosion of reason and honesty. They were at first forgettable for their absurdities, later annoying for them, and how having contributed to our present degradation they are politically unforgivable.”)

This national conflict will one day end, but it will only end when the foundations of this republic are again secure.

An unmerited sympathy for liberal democracy’s adversaries only prolongs the arrival of that better day.

 

Daily Bread for 12.3.19

Good morning.

Tuesday in Whitewater will be partly sunny with a high of forty-one.  Sunrise is 7:08 AM and sunset 4:21 PM, for 9h 12m 52s of daytime.  The moon is a waxing crescent with 42.7% of its visible disk illuminated.

Today is the one thousand one hundred twentieth day.

On this day in 1947, WTMJ-TV in Milwaukee becomes Wisconsin’s first television station.

Recommended for reading in full:

Bob Bauer writes Trump Is the Founders’ Worst Nightmare (‘Once in the Oval Office, a demagogue can easily stay there’):

Donald Trump’s Republican congressional allies are throwing up different defenses against impeachment and hoping that something may sell. They say that he didn’t seek a corrupt political bargain with Ukraine, but that if he did, he failed, and the mere attempt is not impeachable. Or that it is not clear that he did it, because the evidence against him is unreliable “hearsay.”

It’s all been very confusing. But the larger story — the crucial constitutional story — is not the incoherence of the president’s defense. It is more that he and his party are exposing limits of impeachment as a response to the presidency of a demagogue.

The founders feared the demagogue, who figures prominently in the Federalist Papers as the politician who, possessing “perverted ambition,” pursues relentless self-aggrandizement “by the confusions of their country.” The last of the papers, Federalist No. 85, linked demagogy to its threat to the constitutional order — to the “despotism” that may be expected from the “victorious demagogue.” This “despotism” is achieved through systematic lying to the public, vilification of the opposition and, as James Fenimore Cooper wrote in an essay on demagogues, a claimed right to disregard “the Constitution and the laws” in pursuing what the demagogue judges to be the “interests of the people.”

Should the demagogue succeed in winning the presidency, impeachment in theory provides the fail-safe protection. And yet the demagogue’s political tool kit, it turns out, may be his most effective defense. It is a constitutional paradox: The very behaviors that necessitate impeachment supply the means for the demagogue to escape it.

Catherine Rampell writes The more love Always Trumpers show, the more dangerous Trump becomes:

You’ve heard of the Never Trumpers. That’s the president’s catchall slur for anyone who criticizes him or at least accurately attests to something unsavory he’s done.

But let’s talk instead for a moment about the true risk to our democracy: the Always Trumpers. These are people such as Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), Sen. John Neely Kennedy (R-La.) and even the once-reasonable-sounding Rep. Will Hurd (R-Tex.), who excuse away any evidence of impeachment-worthy misdeeds no matter how damning.

The Always Trumpers represent a sprawling group of lackeys and co-conspirators, willing to aid, abet and (most importantly) adore President Trump no matter what he’s credibly accused of. Come hell or high crimes, Always Trumpers always truckle to Trump.

It doesn’t matter whether he’s extorting a desperate ally into announcing a fake investigation into a domestic political rival, compromising both that ally’s national security and ours. The Always Trumpers, many of whom were once Russia hawks, will stand by their man.

Trekking Through the Appalachian Mountains: