Sunshine Week 2018 (City, District, and State)

Local readers may have heard, as I have heard, that area officials know that there are ways around municipal ordinances and school district policies on open government. There’s no surprise in hearing this: there is no human construct that cannot be circumvented; there are few professing a public interest who do not simultaneously feel the pull of self-interest.

Imagine how unfortunate it must be, for some, to see open government as a burden, obstacle, or threat. On the contrary, like a church or library, an environment of open government should, properly, comfort and inspire.

For today, it’s useful to list in full the City of Whitewater’s Municipal Code, Chapter 2.62 (Whitewater Transparency Enhancement Ordinance) & Municipal Code, Chapter 2.66 (Public Records), the Whitewater Unified School District’s policies on open government, and state statutes on open meetings and public records.

Policies, ordinances, and statues are different, of course. That’s a subject for another day. In any event, digital publishing affords nearly unlimited space, so one can, easily, be methodical and thorough.

More tomorrow.

City of Whitewater’s Municipal Code, Chapter 2.62 (Whitewater Transparency Enhancement Ordinance):

2.62.010 – Purpose.
The purpose of this chapter is to maximize public awareness and participation in City of Whitewater Government. (Ord. No. 1804A, § 1, 10-5-2010)

2.62.020 – Posting requirements.
(a) Agenda notices for all council, committee, commission and board meetings, requiring legal notice, shall be posted seventy-two hours in advance. If an agenda item is added between twenty-four and seventy-two hours prior to the meeting, it shall require an affirmative vote of a majority of the members voting to take up the matter. (b) All council, committee, commission and board agendas shall be posted online on the city website seventy-two hours in advance of the meeting. (c) All council, committee, commission and board packet materials, that can be reasonably scanned, shall be posted online twenty-four hours in advance of the meeting. The city shall provide an electronic notification feed alert, indicating that new information is available regarding an upcoming council, committee, commission or board meeting, to any party that has subscribed to the feed (requested notice from the city of the updated information). (d) All requests for proposals and requests for bids shall be posted online as soon as is practicable. (e) The council and all committee, commission and board meeting minutes shall be posted online within thirty days of the meeting. If the body does not meet within thirty days of the meeting, the minutes shall be posted within fourteen days of the next meeting. (Ord. No. 1804A, § 1, 10-5-2010)

2.62.030 – Information technology requirements.
Beginning December 1, 2010, city council, community development authority, plan commission and police commission meetings shall be videotaped, and the video shall be posted online. (Ord. No. 1804A, § 1, 10-5-2010)

2.62.040 – Meeting procedures.
(a) All council, committee, commission and board meetings shall have a public input agenda item to allow citizens to make statements on matters that are not on the agenda. (b) All council, committee, commission and boards shall allow the public an opportunity to comment on substantive items on the meeting agenda. The council, committee, commission or board shall have the discretion to impose time limits and other reasonable procedural rules concerning the public comment. (c) If the agenda for a council, committee, commission or board meeting includes staff reports or other reports, a specific description of the item to be reported on shall be listed on the agenda and said report(s) shall be limited to the specific items listed in the agenda. (Ord. No. 1804A, § 1, 10-5-2010)

2.62.050 – Failure to abide by chapter provisions does not cause actions to be invalid.
The failure by any council, committee, commission or board to adhere to the provisions of this chapter shall not cause any action by said council, committee, commission or board to be invalid. (Ord. No. 1804A, § 1, 10-5-2010)

City of Whitewater’s Municipal Code, Chapter 2.66 (Public Records):

Chapter 2.66 – Public Records

2.66.010 – Definitions.
[The following words, terms and phrases, when used in this chapter, shall have the meanings ascribed to them in this section, except where the context clearly indicates a different meaning:]

“Authority” means any of the following city entities having custody of a city record: an office, elected official, agency, board, commission, committee, council, department or public body corporate and politic created by constitution, law, ordinance, rule or order, or a formally constituted subunit of the foregoing.

“Custodian” means that officer, department head, division head, or employee of the city designated under Section 2.66.030 or otherwise responsible by law to keep and preserve any city records or file, deposit or keep such records in his or her office, or who is lawfully in possession or entitled to possession of such public records and who is required by this section to respond to requests for access to such records.

“Record” means any material on which written, drawn, printed, spoken, visual or electromagnetic information is recorded or preserved, regardless of physical form or characteristics, which has been created or is being kept by an authority. Record includes, but is not limited to, handwritten, typed or printed pages, maps, charts, photographs, films, recordings, tapes (including computer tapes), and computer printouts. Record does not include drafts, notes, preliminary computations and like materials prepared for the originator’s personal use or prepared by the originator in the name of a person for whom the originator is working; materials which are purely the personal property of the custodian and have no relation to his or her office; materials to which access is limited by copyright, patent or bequest; and published materials in the possession of an authority other than a public library which are available for sale, or which are available for inspection at a public library. (Ord. No. 1782A, 5-4-2010)

(a) Except as provided under Section 2.66.070, each officer and employee of the city shall safely keep and preserve all records received from his or her predecessor or other persons and required by law to be filed, deposited or kept in his or her office or which are in the lawful possession or control of the officer or employee or his or her deputies, or to the possession or control of which he or she or they may be lawfully entitled as such officers or employees. (b) Upon the expiration of an officer’s term of office or an employee’s term of employment, or whenever the office or position of employment becomes vacant, each such officer or employee shall deliver to his or her successor all records then in his or her custody and the successor shall receipt therefore to the officer or employee, who shall file the receipt with the city clerk. If a vacancy occurs before a successor is selected or qualifies, such records shall be delivered to and receipted for by the clerk, on behalf of the successor, to be delivered to such successor upon the latter’s receipt.
(Ord. No. 1782A, 5-4-2010)

2.66.030 – Legal custodian(s).
(a) Each elected official is the legal custodian of his or her records and the records of his or her office, but the official may designate an employee of his or her staff to act as the legal custodian. (b) Unless otherwise prohibited by law, the city clerk or the clerk’s designee shall act as legal custodian for the common council and for any committees, commissions, boards, or other authorities created by ordinance or resolution of the common council. (c) For every authority not specified in subsections (a) or (b) of this section, the authority’s chief administrative officer is the legal custodian for the authority, but the officer may designate an employee of his or her staff to act as the legal custodian. (d) Each legal custodian shall name a person to act as legal custodian in his or her absence or the absence of his or her designee. (e) The legal custodian shall have full legal power to render decisions and to carry out the duties of an authority under Subchapter 11 of Chapter 19 of the Wisconsin Statutes and this section. The designation of a legal custodian does not affect the powers and duties of an authority under this section.
(Ord. No. 1782A, 5-4-2010)

2.66.040 – Public access to records.
(a) Except as provided in Section 2.66.060, any person has a right to inspect a record and to make or receive a copy of any record as provided in Wis. Stats. § 19.35(1). (b) Records will be available for inspection and copying during all regular office hours. (c) A requester shall be permitted to use facilities comparable to those available to city employees to inspect, copy or abstract a record. (d) The legal custodian may require supervision during inspection or may impose other reasonable restrictions on the manner of access to an original record if the record is irreplaceable or easily damaged. (e) A requester shall be charged a fee to defray the cost of locating and copying records as follows: (1) The cost of photocopying each page shall be set by the city clerk and set forth on a schedule which shall be kept in the clerk’s office. Any increase as determined by the clerk shall be subject to the approval of the common council. The cost will be calculated not to exceed the actual, necessary and direct cost of reproduction. (2) If the form of a written record does not permit copying, the actual and necessary cost of photographing and photographic processing shall be charged. (3) The actual full cost of providing a copy of other records not in printed form on paper, such as films, computer printouts and audiotapes or videotapes, shall be charged. (4) If mailing or shipping is necessary, the actual cost thereof shall also be charged. (5) There shall be no charge for locating a record unless the actual cost therefor exceeds fifty dollars, in which case the actual cost shall be determined by the legal custodian and billed to the requester. (6) The legal custodian shall estimate the cost of all applicable fees and may require a cash deposit adequate to assure payment, if such estimate exceeds five dollars. (7) Elected and appointed officials of the city shall not be required to pay for public records they may reasonably require for the proper performance of their official duties. (8) The legal custodian may provide copies of a record without charge or at a reduced charge where he or she determines that waiver or reduction of the fee is in the public interest. (f) Pursuant to Wis. Stats. § 19.34, and the guidelines therein listed, each authority shall adopt, prominently display and make available for inspection and copying at its offices, for the guidance of the public, a notice containing a description of its organization and the established times and places at which, the legal custodian from whom, and the methods whereby, the public may obtain information and access to records in its custody, make requests for records, or obtain copies of records, and costs thereof.
(Ord. No. 1782A, 5-4-2010)

2.66.050 – Access procedures.
(a) A request to inspect or copy a record shall be made to the legal custodian. A request shall be deemed sufficient if it reasonably describes the requested record or the information requested. However, a request for a record without a reasonable limitation as to subject matter or length of time represented by the record does not constitute a sufficient request. A request may be made orally, but a request must be in writing before an action to enforce the request is commenced under Wis. Stats § 19.37. Except as provided below, no request may be refused because the person making the request is unwilling to be identified or to state the purpose of the request. No request may be refused because the request is received by mail, unless prepayment of a fee is required under Subsection 2.66.040(e)(6). A requester may be required to show acceptable identification whenever the requested record is kept at a private residence or whenever security reasons or federal law or regulations so require. (b) Each custodian, upon request for any record, shall as soon as practicable and without delay, either fill the request or notify the requester of the authority’s determination to deny the request in whole or in part and the reasons therefore. If the legal custodian, after conferring with the city attorney, determines that a written request is so general as to be unduly time consuming, the party making the request may first be required to itemize his or her request in a manner which would permit reasonable compliance. (c) A request for a record may be denied as provided in Section 2.66.060. If a request is made orally, the request may be denied orally unless a demand for a written statement of the reasons denying the request is made by the requester within five business days of the oral denial. If a written request is denied in whole or in part, the requester shall receive a written statement of the reasons, for denying the request. Every written denial of a request shall inform the requester that if the request for the record was made in writing, then the determination is subject to review upon petition for a writ of mandamus under Wis. Stats. § 19.37(1), or upon application to the attorney general or a district attorney. (Ord. No. 1782A, 5-4-2010)

2.66.060 – Limitations on right to access.
(a) As provided by Wis. Stats. § 19.36, the following records are exempt from inspection under this section: (1) Records specifically exempted from disclosure by state or federal law or authorized to be exempted from disclosure by state law; (2) Any record relating to investigative information obtained for law enforcement purposes if federal law or regulations require exemption from disclosure or if exemption from disclosure is a condition to receipt of aids by the state; (3) Computer programs, although the material used as input for a computer program or the material produced as a product of the computer program is subject to inspection; and (4) A record of any portion of a record containing information qualifying as a common law trade secret. (b) As provided by Wis. Stats. § 43.30, public library circulation records are exempt from inspection under this section. (c) In responding to a request for inspection or copying of a record which is not specifically exempt from disclosure, the legal custodian, after conferring with the city attorney, may deny the request, in whole or in part, only if he or she determines that the harm to the public interest resulting from disclosure would outweigh the public interest in full access to the requested record. Examples of matters for which disclosure may be refused include, but are not limited to, the following: (1) Records obtained under official pledges of confidentiality which were necessary and given in order to obtain the information contained in them; (2) Records of current deliberations after a quasi-judicial hearing; (3) Records of current deliberations concerning employment, dismissal, promotion, demotion, compensation, performance, or discipline or any city officer or employee, or the investigation of charges against a city officer or employee, unless such officer or employee consents to such disclosure; (4) Records concerning current strategy for crime detection or prevention; (5) Records of current deliberations or negotiations on the purchase of city property, investing of city funds, or other city business whenever competitive or bargaining reasons require nondisclosure; (6) Financial, medical, social or personal histories or disciplinary data of specific persons which, if disclosed, would be likely to have a substantial adverse effect upon the reputation of any person referred to in such history or data; (7) Communications between legal counsel for the city and any officer, agent or employee of the city, when advice is being rendered concerning strategy with respect to current litigation in which the city or any of its officers, agents or employees is or is likely to become involved, or communications which are privileged under Wis. Stats. § 905.03. (d) If a record contains information that may be made public and information that may not be made public, the custodian of the record shall provide the information that may be made public and delete the information that may not be made public from the record before release. The custodian shall confer with the city attorney prior to releasing any such record and shall follow the guidance of the city attorney when separating out the exempt material. If, in the judgment of the custodian and the city attorney, there is no feasible way to separate the exempt material from the nonexempt material without unreasonably jeopardizing nondisclosure of the exempt material, the entire record shall be withheld from disclosure.
(Ord. No. 1782A, 5-4-2010)

2.66.070 – Destruction of public records.
City officers may destroy records of which they are the legal custodians and which are considered obsolete but not less than seven years after the record was effective unless a specific period of time is provided by the Wisconsin Statutes.

(1) Prior to the destruction of any public records, at least sixty days’ notice in writing shall be given the State Historical Society of Wisconsin. The historical society may upon application, waive such notice. (2) Notwithstanding any minimum period of time for retention set forth above, any taped recording of a meeting, as defined in Wis. Stats. § 19.82(2), by any governmental body, as defined under Wis. Stats. § 19.82(1), of the city may be destroyed no sooner than one year after the minutes have been approved and published if the purpose of the recording was to make minutes of the meeting. (3) Transcripts of Tape Recordings of Municipal Court Trials. Audio tape recordings of trials or juvenile matters in municipal court shall be kept until the time has expired for taking an appeal of such matters to the Circuit Court of Walworth County or Jefferson County. Upon the expiration of such period, city officers are empowered to dispose of, erase, destroy or reuse any such audio tapes; and to destroy any written duplicate copies of transcripts made from such tapes. (4) Municipal Court, Traffic, Juvenile or Ordinance Violation Case Files. All court papers or written court records in the possession of the municipal court or the city police department in proceedings commenced by the issuance of municipal court citations or pleadings shall be kept for six years after the entry of final judgment. (5) All police dispatch audio tapes shall be kept for thirty days except those tapes that cover significant incidents. Tapes covering significant incidents will be retained seven years after the incident is closed. (Ord. No. 1782A, 5-4-2010)

2.66.080 – Preservation through microfilm.
Any city officer, or the director of any department or division of city government may, subject to the approval of the common council, keep and preserve public records in his or her possession by means of microfilm or other photographic reproduction method. Such records shall meet the standards for photographic reproduction set forth in Wis. Stats. §§ 16.61(7)(a) and (b) and shall be considered original records for all purposes. Such records shall be preserved along with other files of the department or division and shall be open to public inspection and copying according to the provisions of state law and of Sections 2.66.040 through 2.66.060 of this chapter. (Ord. No. 1782A, 5-4-2010)

Policies of the Whitewater Unified School District, from 800 – School Community Relations – Reviewed by Policy Review Committee in 2015-16:

822.1 Broadcasting and Taping of Board Meeting

Regular and special School Board meetings shall be broadcast live to community residents, when possible. Videotapes of these meetings will be made available to the Whitewater Public Library. They shall also be accessible to the public in accordance with state law and Board policy.

Adopted by School Board: September 26, 1988

Revisions Adopted by School Board: December 18, 2000

823 Access to Public Records

The School Board shall allow persons to have access to District records in accordance with this policy, established District procedures and state and federal laws.

The District Administrator is designated as the legal custodian of records for any District authority, except that the building principal is designated legal custodian for records of students in each individual school attendance center. The legal custodian shall safely keep and preserve records of the authority and shall have full legal power to render decisions and carry out duties related to those public records maintained by any District authority. The legal custodian may deny access to records only in accordance with state and federal law.

Public records may be inspected, copied and/or abstracted at any time during established District office hours. The legal custodian may establish fees in accordance with state and federal law. A list of such fees shall be made available at the District office.

823-Exhibit, Notice to the Public Regarding Access to Records


The School Board has designated the District Administrator as the legal custodian for all Whitewater Unified School District records, which include all records of the School Board, Board officers, and any committees or other authorities created by resolution of the Board. Building principals shall serve as the legal custodians of student records in their assigned schools.

The public may obtain information and access to records, make requests for records, or obtain copies of records in the custody of the District at the following places and times:

Central Office
419 South Elizabeth Street
Whitewater, WI 53190
Regular office hours are 7:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, or as otherwise posted. There are no office hours on holidays that are scheduled school vacation days.

School Buildings
Lakeview Elementary School
W8363 R & W Townline Road

Lincoln Inquiry Charter School
242 South Prince St.

Washington Elementary School
506 East Main St.
Whitewater Middle School
401 South Elizabeth St.

Whitewater High School
534 South Elizabeth St.

Regular office hours are 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, or as otherwise posted. There are no office hours on holidays that are scheduled school vacation days.

If the District Administrator is not present, information and access to records may be obtained from the Director of Business Services, who is authorized to act as legal custodian in the District Administrator’s absence.

Record requests shall be reviewed and acted upon in accordance with state law.

In applying the provisions of the public records law, the positions identified as “Local Public Offices “ within the District include: School Board members, District Administrator, Building Principals, Director of Business Services, and Director of Pupil Services.

A fee will be imposed upon a record requestor for the actual, necessary and direct cost of:
• Reproduction of the record – 5 cents per copy and $20 per hour,
• Mailing or shipping of the record to the requestor, and
• Locating a record if the actual, necessary and direct cost of locating the record exceeds $50.00.

The legal custodian of records may waive the fee or reduce the fee when it is determined to be in the public interest.

Adopted by School Board: December 19, 2011

➤ Wisconsin’s Public Records Law Wis. Stats. §§ 19.31 – 19.39 and Wisconsin’s Open Meetings Law Wis. Stats. §§ 19.81 – 19.98:

Daily Bread for 3.15.18

Good morning.

Thursday in Whitewater will be sunny with a high of forty-four. Sunrise is 7:05 AM and sunset 7:01 PM, for 11h 56m 57s of daytime. The moon is a waning crescent with 3.8% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the four hundred ninetieth day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

Whitewater’s Finance Committee meets at 7 AM, her Police & Fire Commission at 5:15 PM, and the Whitewater Fire Department will hold a business meeting in closed session at 6:30 PM.

On this day in 44 B.C., Julius Caesar is assassinated. On this day in 1862, the 17th and 18th Wisconsin Infantry Regiments muster in: “The 17th and 18th Wisconsin Infantry regiments mustered in at Madison and Milwaukee, respectively. Both regiments would move from the lower Mississippi Valley into Tennessee and Georgia, participate in Sherman’s March to the Sea, and converge on Virginia at the end of the war. Before they mustered out, the 17th would lose 269 men and the 18th, 225.”

Recommended for reading in full —

➤ Juliet Eilperin and Brady Dennis report  Trump Cabinet members accused of living large at taxpayer expense:

At least a half-dozen current or former Trump Cabinet officials have been mired in federal investigations over everything from high-end travel and spending on items such as a soundproof phone booth to the role of family members weighing in on official business. On Wednesday alone, newly disclosed documents revealed fresh details about spending scandals at both the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The controversies surrounding members of Trump’s Cabinet have caused upheaval within the administration, prompting White House officials to scramble in an effort to avert any further political fallout and to summon agency leaders for face-to-face ethics meetings.

Revelations about repeated use of chartered airplanes forced the resignation of Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price in September. More recently, Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin has continued to wrestle with the fallout of news that taxpayers covered the expenses for his wife during a 10-day trip to Europe last year — and more recently that his chief of staff doctored an email and made false statements to justify the payments.

(Birds of a feather…)

➤ Josh Dawsey, Damian Paletta, and Erica Werner report In fundraising speech, Trump says he made up facts in meeting with Justin Trudeau:

President Trump boasted in a fundraising speech Wednesday that he made up facts in a meeting with the leader of a top U.S ally, saying he insisted to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that the United States runs a trade deficit with its neighbor to the north without knowing whether or not that was the case.

“Trudeau came to see me. He’s a good guy, Justin. He said, ‘No, no, we have no trade deficit with you, we have none. Donald, please,’” Trump said, mimicking Trudeau, according to audio obtained by The Washington Post. “Nice guy, good-looking guy, comes in – ‘Donald we have no trade deficit.’ He’s very proud because everybody else, you know, we’re getting killed. …

“So he’s proud. I said, ‘Wrong Justin, you do.’ I didn’t even know. … I had no idea. I just said ‘You’re wrong.’ You know why? Because we’re so stupid. … And I thought they were smart. I said, ‘You’re wrong Justin.’ He said, ‘Nope we have no trade deficit.’ I said, ‘Well in that case I feel differently,’ I said ‘but I don’t believe it.’ I sent one of our guys out, his guy, my  guy, they went out,  I said ‘check because I can’t  believe it.’

(Trump isn’t merely a bluffer, he’s a bluffer so vain he tells people that’s what he is.)

➤ Peter Baker reports Trump, Pressured to Criticize Russia for Poisoning, Leaves Comment to Aides:

“Where Prime Minister May has taken bold and decisive initial action to combat Russian aggression, our own president has waffled and demurred,” said Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic minority leader. “Prime Minister May’s decision to expel the Russian diplomats is the level of response that many Americans have been craving from our own administration.”

Other critics noted that, under the NATO charter, an attack on one member is considered an attack on all.

“Judgment day for Donald Trump,” R. Nicholas Burns, a former ambassador to NATO and an under secretary of state under President George W. Bush, wrote on Twitter. Referring to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, he added: “Will he support Britain unequivocally on the nerve agent attack? Back #NATO sanctions? Finally criticize Putin? Act like a leader of the West?”

(Whether figuratively or almost literally, Putin owns Trump. It’s leaves irradicable stain to live one’s life as the Russian dictator’s dancing monkey.)

➤ Eliot A. Cohen describes a Team of Sycophants (“Tillerson’s dismissal leaves the White House more than ever the conniving and dishonest court of an erratic, ill-informed, and willful monarch”):

The replacement of Tillerson by CIA Director Mike Pompeo has obvious consequences: a more hawkish disposition on Iran and probably North Korea; a possible diminution of the influence of the lone pillar of integrity in the administration, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. But it also means something much more important, which is that if you hope to influence Trump or gain access to his inner circle, you have to go full Mnuchin. The Secretary of the Treasury is shameless in his flattery of the president. One suspects that his sycophancy is matched by his cynicism. Pompeo may be more subtle, but the bonding between the president and his secretary-designate seems much more a result of his careful cultivation of Trump during his regular intelligence briefings than any record of managerial or diplomatic accomplishment. The president may like his subordinates to fight with each other—but they had better show unflagging harmony with his instincts, including his worst instincts. That is the price of admission, and these ambitious officials know and accept it.

The upshot of such an environment in the White House is that—again, with the honorable and quite possibly heroic exception of Mattis—it will become more than ever the conniving and dishonest court of an unpredictable, ill-informed, and willful monarch. The president will hear no forceful disagreements; he will not be contradicted; he will believe that his instincts and whims are invariably correct. Those around him may not be quite as honest in admitting their lack of integrity as Peter Navarro, the economic adviser who recently described his job as finding the data to support Trump’s instincts. To stay in favor, however, they will have to do as he does—and hope that the president will forget his really stupid or dangerous decisions while they undo the damage. The dangers of an executive branch run this way, with public groveling and private deceit the order of the day, are evident.

➤ Jesse Garza reports Ridiculously adorable baby red fox dubbed Clover admitted to Wisconsin Humane Society:

A baby red fox, otherwise called a “kit,” is the newest addition to the Wisconsin Humane Society.

The ridiculously adorable creature — a male — was found in the middle of a busy road and faces an uphill battle to fight sarcoptic mange and an upper respiratory infection, according to a post on the Humane Society’s Facebook page.

“The cuteness factor is off the charts,” Humane Society spokeswoman Angela Speed said.

Staff are calling the fox Clover, as a St. Patrick’s Day nod to the lucky four-leaf variety.

The organization suspects his maladies may have led to his abandonment, and the pint-sized pup is currently on quarantine as staff watch for signs of canine distemper virus, officials said.

Sunshine Week 2018 (Some Years Ago, in Whitewater)

In 2010, the City of Whitewater considered an ordinance to publish video recordings of principal public meetings. The first reading of the proposal was in August, and a second reading led to its approval in September. One may find the ordinance at Whitewater, Wisconsin, Municipal Code, Chapter 2.62 (Whitewater Transparency Enhancement Ordinance).

This ordinance did not (and could not) supersede Wisconsin’s Open Meetings Law Wis. Stats. §§ 19.81 – 19.98. Instead, it advanced Whitewater farther in the direction of open government. The ordinance’s adoption was a good, in and of itself. (The ordinance applied to the city, not to our school district, but it set the right example for all the area.)

Adoption of the ordinance was not without opposition, sadly. Indeed, some local notables came forward with any number of weak excuses why televised meetings were a bad idea. See Municipal Openness and Transparency, and Their Alternatives and Municipal Openness and Transparency, and Their Alternatives (Update).

Now, you’ll excuse me if I’ll not adopt the self-serving, typically false practice of claiming to speak for the community as some others in Whitewater do. On the contrary, I’ve been clear from the beginning: I am an emissary of one, so to speak.

Why would I speak this way? Because rights, whether natural or under positive law, work this way: they are rights of people as persons, as individuals.

Each person, as an individual, can benefit from open government, and the benefit comes in awareness of the conduct of those who serve in public roles that are merely instrumental, merely contingent, merely provisional in the authority conferred upon them.

Whether few or many take advantage of the provisions of open government neither expands nor restricts the right of access: it is a right for any and all, of whatever number.

It was good – truly – for Whitewater to expand upon Wisconsin’s open government provisions, but had she not done so, one might have alone relied on the provisions of Wisconsin law – in full – no matter what others in Whitewater thought on the subject. Had our city not done the right thing, one might have exercised one’s rights, albeit with more effort, through state law.

For these years since 2010, we have enjoyed (mostly) good practices in the city and from the public school district in this area.

When a public institution, having long done the right thing, retreats from doing so, it presents to each person, as resident and citizen, both a provocation and a dare. The provocation is the retreat to a lesser standard. The dare seeing what, if anything, someone will do about the imposition of the lesser standard.

Officials must think much of themselves, or little of others, to believe that there will be no reply to significant provocations and dares. Retreat from open government is a significant matter.

Some readers have mentioned this to me, in disappointment. (Thank you for your concerns, sincerely expressed and, one may be sure, attentively heard.)  These concerns prompted a November 2017 inquiry, and three-part FW series from December:  Twilight, Midnight, and Daylight.

One may be concerned yet confident in reply: in all circumstances, it’s best to proceed deliberately, with sangfroid, and in a particular sequence. See Steps for Blogging on a Policy or Proposal.

More tomorrow.

Daily Bread for 3.14.18

Good morning.

Wednesday in Whitewater will be sunny with a high of forty-eight. Sunrise is 7:06 AM and sunset 7:00 PM, for 11h 54m 01s of daytime. The moon is a waning crescent with 8.6% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the four hundred eighty-ninth day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

Whitewater’s Birge Fountain Committee meets at 6:30 PM.

On this day in 1794, Eli Whitney receives a patent for the cotton gin. On this day in 1854, the Baraboo River floods: “On the night of March 14, 1859, the Baraboo River, greatly swollen by spring rains and melting snow, went on a rampage, taking out a dam that supplied power for the flour mill of Bassett and Pratt. The flour mill was then the ‘largest institution of its kind for many miles around and about it centered the interest of the entire community’. Nearly 500 men responded to the catastrophe. The progress of the water was checked by the felling of trees. The flour in the mill was hauled to safety with team and wagons. The flood caused damage to the lower Maxwell Dam.” To see what life was like then in Baraboo — and throughout much of southern Wisconsin at the time — read this letter by settler Charles Abbott to his family in New Hampshire.”

Recommended for reading in full —

➤ Heather Hurlburt describes The Mess Rex Tillerson Is Leaving Behind:

Tillerson will leave a legacy, for sure. First, in the diminishment of his office — something which was not entirely his fault. Trump wasn’t the first president who couldn’t resist the temptation to be his own secretary of State, or to undercut his secretary to prevent him from gaining international stature that could rival his own. And as the National Security Council has grown in size and influence, and modern communications have allowed anyone to connect across national lines, State’s influence has been declining over the decades. But, with Trump’s gratuitous cruelty added to Tillerson’s missteps, Pompeo will get to Foggy Bottom with the prestige and clout of his office at its lowest ever. (It’s a long way down from Thomas Jefferson.) He may find that he misses the CIA.

Second, the State Department itself is — there’s no kind word for it — a mess.  Tillerson achieved something that diplomatic geeks had tried and failed for 20 years — getting reporters, members of Congress, and even voters to care about State Department personnel policy. Not because he succeeded in reforming the Department to his vision, but because his ideas went so publicly awry. His plan to reform and restructure the State Department produced a steady leak of embarrassing PowerPoint slides and memos. Just last week a Politico reporter tweeted his deputy’s “Strategic Hiring Initiative” line by line, with commentary pointing out how much it seemed to presage further staff cuts. His ideas on personnel reforms — prevent spouses from working in embassies overseas, shut the pipeline of super-talented fellows entering the State Department out of graduate school, run every decision through a tiny team — produced headlines and outrage among people who had never cared much about State before.

More than 100 senior diplomats have resigned since Tillerson took office, leaving top ranks understaffed. At the same time, Tillerson canceled, delayed, or shrunk entire classes of new junior diplomats. As of last month, more than 100 ambassadorial positions were unfilled, as were many higher-level positions back in Washington. Not only is the department smaller, but most of its senior women, and officers of color, are gone — meaning that the service looks less like our country and less like the rest of the world with which it must interact. Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley, one of the senior ambassadors who chose to leave during Tillerson’s tenure, said: “No doubt we are as disappointed as he.”

➤ Michael Tomasky contends Why Mike Pompeo as Secretary of State Should Scare You More Than Rex Tillerson reports (“A bumbler who disagrees with Trump from time to time is better than a yes man as America’s chief diplomat”):

Pompeo? By all accounts he admires Trump; and is for the most part on the same page. He’s been briefing the president daily. They have, as Trump said himself Tuesday morning, “chemistry.” When I think about what kind of man it takes to develop “chemistry” with Donald Trump, and realize that that man is about to be the United States’ top diplomat, it somehow leaves me less than reassured.

Pompeo will be, in all likelihood, a better manager of the department than Tillerson. He’s been a congressman and he’s been running the CIA. Of course, Tillerson hailed from one of the biggest private companies in the world, but Pompeo also knows his way around Washington better than Tillerson did. He’ll fill posts. I’d bet we’ll have an ambassador in Seoul now—one of the more glaring empty diplomatic seats—fairly soon. This is where the positive stories will come in two months from now.

But he’ll be filling those posts with hard-liners and Trump loyalists. So now we are likely to see, in a way we did not see for these first 14 months, the president being able to execute his foreign-policy, well, vision.

So look for the administration to cancel the Iran deal. Pompeo has been a big critic of it. Look for a harder line, if such is possible, on Israel and the Palestinians. On Russia, Pompeo has taken a far more anti-Putin line than Trump; after all, he heads an agency that is part of the consensus view that Russia meddled in the election to help Trump. Just this past weekend, Pompeo challenged Putin’s dismissal of meddling claims as “false.” Will Pompeo try to: persuade the president of this view, or spend the next few months trying to make his boss forget he ever held it? Count me among those skeptical that the potentially new secretary of State won’t learn the lessons from the just axed secretary of State—that fealty to Trump is the key currency.

➤ Peter Baker and Michael D. Shear report Strong Performance by Democrat Conor Lamb in Pennsylvania Shakes Trump and G.O.P.:

While the president hobnobbed with wealthy donors in the exclusive enclave of Beverly Park, the voters in the suburbs south of Pittsburgh were in revolt, giving the Democratic candidate a narrow lead in a special election in Pennsylvania that was taking on outsize proportions.

Just as they did outside Birmingham and Montgomery, Ala., in December, and Richmond, Va., and Washington, D.C., in November, energized and angry suburban voters were swamping the Trump stalwarts in the more rural parts of those regions, sending a clear message to Republicans around the country.

While Republican turnout in a district that Mr. Trump won by 20 percentage points was healthy, Democrats showed once again that they could tap unions and other traditionally friendly groups to get their voters out in droves. The N.A.A.C.P. helped win Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ Alabama Senate seat for Doug Jones in December. Organized labor, once seen as fractured and feckless in the Trump era, gave the Democrat Conor Lamb his lead in Pennsylvania overnight.

Rick Saccone, the Republican candidate who wrapped himself in Mr. Trump’s cloak and drew the president to his district last weekend in a bid to rescue a faltering campaign, trailed Mr. Lamb, a former Marine seeking to show his party can compete even in red territory. Mr. Lamb held a lead of just 641 votes early Wednesday, with some absentee ballots still to be counted, but Democrats went ahead and claimed victory.

➤ Karoun Demirjian reports Intel panel Republicans seem to back away from finding that Russia was not trying to help Trump:

The leader of the House Intelligence Committee’s Russia investigation seemed to back off Tuesday from the most surprising finding in the GOP’s report that Russia was not trying to help President Trump, as the panel’s top Democrat trashed the product as a political gift to the White House.

Rep. K. Michael Conaway (R-Tex.) told reporters Tuesday that “it’s clear [Russian officials] were trying to hurt Hillary [Clinton]” by interfering in the 2016 election and that “everybody gets to make up their own mind whether they were trying to hurt Hillary, help Trump, it’s kind of glass half full, glass half empty.”

That equivalence stands in sharp contrast to the conclusions of a 150-page GOP-drafted report Conaway announced to the news media on Monday that concludes that the intelligence community “didn’t meet the standards” of proof necessary to determine that Russia meddled in the 2016 election with the aim of helping Trump.

His comments came after other panel Republicans, including Reps. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) and Thomas J. Rooney (R-Fla.) gave interviews in which they stressed that there was evidence that Russia had tried to damage Clinton’s candidacy.

Meet the Man Protecting Venezuela’s Eagles:

Alexander Blanco Márquez is a veterinary doctor going to great heights to save the harpy eagles of Venezuela. As victims of poaching and deforestation, these beautiful birds have been diminishing in numbers over the years. Watching their species destroyed in the wild, Márquez decided to take matters into his own hands. Now, he’s going to extremes to protect these eagles, oftentimes putting his own life on the line.

Sunshine Week 2018 (The Bad Example Nearby)

Just as one would prefer a beautiful neighborhood, so too would a sensible person prefer that nearby towns were well-ordered and successful. And yet, and yet, one cannot choose for those other towns: they will choose for themselves, sometimes well, sometimes poorly. When they do choose poorly, the best one can do is to guard against similar mistakes in one’s own town. Others’ mistakes need not become ours.

The Milton School District offers, sad to say, plenty of open government mistakes and transgressions. They’re an example to avoid:

A Poorly Distributed District Survey:

Not all residents got the survey after Superintendent Tim Schigur suggested everyone’s voice was critical. Worse, the district and its survey company used postal ZIP codes for distribution. That meant some nonresidents got the survey, further offending residents who didn’t get it.

Inferior Selection Method for a Community Committee:

The board then asked residents to volunteer for a facilities advisory community team dubbed FACT. An unwieldy number of 48 lined up. Rather than choose a balance from among those who favor facility improvements or even a new school and those most concerned about taxes, the board asked the volunteers to anonymously nominate others among the 48. On Monday, the board approved the 22 getting the most nominations.

But wait: Couldn’t volunteers desiring a new high school stack the FACT deck by voting for each other?

Refusing to Allow Lawful Recording of a Public Meeting:

Before the meeting, Milton School District resident Lance Fena set up a large video camera on a table pointed at where the school board would be sitting.

Fena is a vocal and active member of the community, often attending school board and Milton City Council meetings. He’s expressed disapproval of how board meetings are conducted.

Before the meeting, Superintendent Tim Schigur told Fena, who was seated in the front row, he couldn’t tape the meeting.

Fena asked why and invoked state statute 19.90, which states, “Whenever a governmental body holds a meeting in open session, the body shall make a reasonable effort to accommodate any person desiring to record, film or photograph the meeting. This section does not permit recording, filming or photographing such a meeting in a manner that interferes with the conduct of the meeting or the rights of the participants.”

“We don’t video tape our meetings,” Schigur said.”

(Schigur’s views, or those of the Milton School Board, cannot trump state law. Milton relented, yet Schigur’s not, after all, young. Years of serving as superintendent, and still he didn’t know even a clear provision of Wisconsin’s Open Meetings Law.)

➤ One finds the Milton School Board arriving late on issue of recording meetings:

Superintendent Tim Schigur told Fena he couldn’t tape the meeting.


[Resident Lance] Fena rightly cited a statute that says a government body should “make a reasonable effort to accommodate” anyone wanting to film, as long as it doesn’t interfere “with the conduct of the meeting or the rights of the participants.”

An hour into the meeting, board member Rob Roy announced he was uncomfortable with the video recording, that he didn’t trust Fena and that, because the recording might change board behavior, he thought it wasn’t permitted under statute.

Wrong again.

Bill Lueders, president of the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council, told reporter Jake Magee in Thursday’s Gazette that recordings might actually improve behavior.

Roy also suggested someone could twist or clip parts of the recording, post them on social media and make the board or district look bad.

Strike three.

“The law requires citizens be able to make a tape,” Lueders says. “It doesn’t matter what they want to use it for. It doesn’t matter if the public officials like them. They need to get with the program.”

➤ Although Milton promised to record meetings, they’ve moved backwards on live-streaming, and Milton’s live-streaming solution helps nobody:

Imagine if the Milton School Board were to close all meetings to the public on grounds that some people for whatever reason couldn’t attend or understand the proceedings. It’s an absurd proposition, of course. Such a policy would violate open meeting laws, for one thing. So why is ending live streaming under the same rationale any less absurd?

Yes, a school district should be aware of ADA issues and take steps to improve access to its facilities, whether physical or virtual. The disabilities crusader in Michigan filing dozens of complaints is doing good by holding government accountable.”

➤ Even this month, one reads that the winner of the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council (WFIC)’s Citizens Openness Award found himself losing out due to an improperly noticed meeting:

Earlier that evening, as has been his practice for nearly three years, Fena checked the district’s website looking for meeting agendas. He found two: one for a training session at 4:30 p.m., and a second for an executive session at 5:30 p.m. He chose not to attend either, saying of the second: “I can’t attend an executive session meeting. I didn’t see a need to sit in the hallway.”

Phone calls, describing a process by which the meeting had gone from closed session to open, came through friends about an hour after the meeting was over, Fena said in a recent telephone interview.

Would he have gone if he knew the meeting had changed from closed to open? “Yes …. I guess if I’m being talked about I’d like to be there,” he added.”

Daily Bread for 3.13.18

Good morning.

Tuesday in Whitewater will be partly sunny and thirty-four. Sunrise is 7:08 AM and sunset 6:59 PM, for 11h 51m 05s of daytime. The moon is a waning crescent with 14.8% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the four hundred eighty-eighth day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

Whitewater’s Public Works Committee meets at 6 PM, her Police and Fire Commission at 6:30 PM, and there is a scheduled special Common Council meeting at 7 PM.

On this day in 1781, William Herschel discovers the planet Uranus, which he names ‘Georgium Sidus,’ in honor of King George III. On this day in 1862, the Battle of New Madrid, Missouri, ends: “After 10 days of shelling, Confederate troops evacuated New Madrid, Missouri. They retreated to Island No. 10 in the Mississippi River and fortifications on the eastern bank at Tiptonville, Tennessee. The 8th and 15th Wisconsin Infantry regiments and the 5th, 6th and 7th Wisconsin Light Artillery batteries fought in this battle.”

Recommended for reading in full —

➤ Jeremy Stahl contends The White House Is Already Walking Back the North Korea Summit. Because It Was a PR Stunt:

By Friday afternoon, the press quietly learned that “for now” should be considered a major caveat for this White House. Press secretary Sarah Sanders repeatedly told reporters that the meeting would not take place without “concrete actions” from North Korea. When pressed on what that would look like, Sanders said they would have to denuclearize.

Sanders: The understanding, the message from the South Korean delegation is that they would denuclearize. And that is what our ultimate goal has always been, and that will have to be part of the actions that we see them take.

Reporter: Is that before or after the meeting?

 Sanders: We’d have to see concrete and verifiable actions take place.

Reporter: Before the meeting?

Sanders: Yes. Yeah.

So the meeting—agreed to by Trump to take place by May—won’t take place until North Korea shows verifiable and concrete proof that it is doing the thing that it has promised to do on repeated occasions and never done.

Sanders was pressed further on what those concrete steps might look like. “That’s something that is going to be determined by the intelligence community, the national security team, and not something that I would relay from the podium to all of you,” she said. Of course, there is a system in place in Iran for determining that a rogue regime is not building a nuclear arsenal—a system the current president has repeatedly rebuked and threatened to undo—so it’s entirely possible to publicly outline such concrete steps.

➤ Meagan Flynn reports ICE spokesman resigns, citing fabrications by agency chief, Sessions, about Calif. immigrant arrests:

The now-former spokesman, James Schwab, told news outlets late Monday that his resignation stemmed from statements by Homan and Sessions that potentially hundreds of “criminal aliens” evaded ICE during a Northern California raid in February because Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf warned the immigrant community in advance.

Schwab said he pushed back on that characterization  — but said ICE instructed him to “deflect” questions from the press.

“I quit because I didn’t want to perpetuate misleading facts,” he told the San Francisco Chronicle, which broke the story. “I asked them to change the information. I told them that the information was wrong, they asked me to deflect, and I didn’t agree with that. Then I took some time and I quit.”

ICE officials and Sessions — and at one point President Trump — criticized Schaaf for tipping off immigrants about the raid, which netted 232 suspected undocumented immigrants.

Homan said in a statement that “864 criminal aliens and public safety threats remain at large in the community, and I have to believe that some of them were able to elude us thanks to the mayor’s irresponsible decision. Unlike the politicians who attempt to undermine ICE’s critical mission, our officers will continue to fulfill their sworn duty to protect public safety.”

➤ Keith Humphreys reports The government has been undercounting opioid overdose deaths up to 35 percent, study says:

Federal government estimates of opioid overdose deaths have been rising year after horrifying year. But the crisis is even worse than it looks: A new study reveals that the government has been undercounting opioid overdose deaths by 20 percent to 35 percent.

To estimate national trends in opioid overdose, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention aggregates data from more than 3,000 coroner’s offices around the country. Coroners function independently and vary widely in their available resources and reporting practices. University of Virginia professor Christopher Ruhm noticed that many coroners did not record a specific drug when documenting a fatal overdose, implying that many opioid overdose deaths were not being counted in official figures.

By studying the records of coroners who did record specific drugs for overdose deaths, Ruhm was able to impute a corrected count of opioid overdoses. According to Ruhm’s research, if all coroners accurately reported opioid overdose deaths, official counts would be substantially higher. For example, the CDC figure for 2016 was 42,249 opioid overdose deaths nationwide, but with accurate data the count would have been 49,562, Ruhm said.

➤ Alex Smith reports Opioids Don’t Beat Other Medications For Chronic Pain:

For many people who live with chronic pain, opioids can seem like the difference between a full life or one lived in agony. Over the past few decades, they have become go-to drugs for acute pain, but Dr. Erin Krebs, with the Minneapolis Veteran’s Administration Health Care System and the University of Minnesota, says the science about the effectiveness of opioids for chronic, or long-term, pain has been lacking.

“The studies that we had out there were short-term studies and mostly compared opioids to placebo medications,” she says. “From those studies, we knew that opioids can improve pain a little bit more than a placebo, or sugar pill, in the short term, but that’s all we knew.”

But Krebs is changing that. She is the author of a new study that looks at the effectiveness of opioids for treating chronic pain over 12 months, published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The study involved 240 veterans with chronic back pain or pain from osteoarthritis of the knee or hip. They also all had pain that was ongoing and intense. Half were treated with opioids and half with nonopioid medications — either common over-the-counter drugs like acetaminophen or naproxen, or prescription drugs like topical lidocaine or meloxicam.

➤ So what are Cosmic Bow Shocks?

Sunshine Week 2018 (Introduction)

March 11 to 17 is Sunshine Week in America, an ‘annual nationwide celebration of access to public information and what it means for you and your community.’ If the country, then the state, if the state, then the city, if the city, then Whitewater.

So here we are. Although Sunshine Week is seven days, open government is – and should be – equally important throughout the year. That’s true not only for the professional press, but just as much Americans across country (including bloggers).

For today, one begins with Lata Nott’s article on a report card for First Amendment freedom of the press:

Awarding a grade to a concept like press freedom might seem like an impossible task, but here at the First Amendment Center we give it our best shot.

In April of last year, we began compiling quarterly First Amendment report cards, relying on a panel of 15 experts from across the political spectrum — academics, activists, journalists and lawyers — to evaluate the state of each of our core freedoms.

In our latest report card , which came out in January, freedom of the press earned a C grade, making it the most delinquent of the five freedoms protected by the First Amendment (speech, press, religion, assembly and petition).

This grade reflects the contentious relationship that the press has with the current presidential administration. In the past few months, President Trump has called for the firing of specific journalists, threatened to revoke NBC’s FCC license and taken legal action against Buzzfeed, Fusion GPS, and Fire and Fury author Michael Wolff.

“President Trump’s attacks on the press took on a new level of toxicity,” said Stephen Solomon, one of the panelists and a professor of First Amendment law at NYU. “The move from rhetoric to specific threats and lawsuits is a dangerous escalation.”

But the outlook for freedom of the press isn’t entirely gloomy. Many of our panelists pointed out that despite these challenges, the press continues to fulfill its watchdog role and is engaged in more vigorous and effective reporting than ever before.

Other panelists, like Brett Scharffs, professor of law at BYU, took an altogether different view of the conflict.

“The Trump administration has presented an unprecedented challenge to the press, and the press has done a remarkable job of discrediting itself,” he said.

He said it’s difficult to read a story from any press source without taking into account the outlet’s perceived biases.

“The problem is not that the press is not free,” Scharffs said. “The press is free, but it has become much more difficult to trust.”

Whether or not the press has discredited itself, it’s undeniable that the issue of trust in the media has loomed large this past year.

The 2017 State of the First Amendment survey revealed that less than half of Americans believe the news media try to report the news without bias. (Interestingly, more than half of respondents expressed a preference for news that aligns with their own views, demonstrating that many Americans may not view “biased” news in a negative light).

The specter of fake news also has affected the public’s ability to believe what they read. About one-third reported a decrease in trust in news obtained from social media.

If there’s a silver lining to be found here, it might be that a recent follow-up survey revealed that Americans have been coping with this uncertain atmosphere by becoming savvier news consumers.

About 30 percent of Americans engage with news every day of the week, and almost three out of four do something to verify the news they receive — 72 percent of Americans said they check what they read by looking for additional information in other news sources. Virtually the same number said they also test the validity of what they have read or seen by talking with others.

This is indeed good news for the news business, since the power of the press largely depends on the good judgment of the audience.

Via Perceived biases, attacks erode trust in the press @

Film: Tuesday, March 13th, 12:30 PM @ Seniors in the Park, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

This Tuesday, March 13th at 12:30 PM, there will be a showing of Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri @ Seniors in the Park, in the Starin community building.

Martin McDonagh directs the one-hour, fifty-five minute film. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is a crime drama about a mother who personally challenges the local authorities to solve her daughter’s murder when they fail to catch the culprit.

Frances McDormand won Best Leading Actress at the 2018 Academy Awards for her role as Mildred, and Sam Rockwell won as Best Supporting Actor for his role as a sheriff’s deputy. The movie carries a rating of R from the MPAA.

One can find more information about Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri at the Internet Movie Database.


Daily Bread for 3.12.18

Good morning.

Monday in Whitewater will be partly cloudy with a high of forty. Sunrise is 7:10 AM and sunset 6:58 PM, for 11h 48m 10s of daytime. The moon is a waning crescent with 22.2% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the four hundred eighty-seventh day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

Whitewater’s Planning Commission meets at 6:30 PM.

On this day in 1933, Pres. Roosevelt gives his first fireside chat. On this day in 1862, the 2nd Wisconsin Cavalry musters in: “It would go on to participate in the Battle of Prairie Grove, Arkansas, on December 7, 1862, and in the siege of Vicksburg, Mississippi, the following year. The regiment would lose 312 men during service. Twenty-four enlisted men were killed in combat, and four officers and 284 enlisted men died from disease.”

Recommended for reading in full —

➤ Jordan Kyle and Yascha Mounk explain Why it’s so difficult to kill a populist movement:

But why do so many citizens give populists a second chance, even when their flaws are well-known? One answer has to do with the depth of disenchantment with democratic institutions that usually precedes the populists. Since some populists experience a meteoric rise, breaking onto the political scene suddenly, it is tempting to think of the causes of their success as ephemeral. Yet populists in virtually every country have exploited deep social divisions (such as fears about immigration in Europe) and long-standing economic frustrations (such as the vast differences in prosperity between town and country in Thailand). Since these underlying causes are rarely remedied after populists are deposed, it’s not surprising that the same kind of politics can live on.

Another answer has to do with the way populists destroy the most basic rules and norms of the political system. Leaders’ willingness to signal that their adversaries are legitimate participants in the system, and to respect the sanctity of institutions instead of pressing their partisan advantage to the limit, is largely dependent on the premise that voters would punish them for such transgressions. Italians before Berlusconi and Americans before 2015 assumed that a candidate who attacked the independent judiciary or called for his opponent to be jailed could never garner mass support. Once a ruthless and talented political leader demonstrates that this assumption is mistaken, it becomes more tempting for future politicians to break norms with abandon.

The experiences of countries like Peru, Italy and Thailand are a warning for Americans not to underestimate Trump’s staying power. To vanquish the broader style he represents will require more than voting him out of office. It will require healing the disease — fixing the reasons for Americans’ growing disenchantment with democratic institutions and reestablishing their commitment to the country’s most fundamental norms — not merely managing the symptoms.

➤ Maria Sacchetti reports Defiance, resistance: The front lines of California’s war against the Trump administration:

SAN FRANCISCO – In the nerve center of the Trump resistance, some volunteers staff 24-hour hotlines in case immigration agents strike in the middle of the night. Others flood neighborhoods to film arrests and interview witnesses. Local governments are teaming with donors to hire lawyers for those facing expulsion hearings.

California and the Trump administration are engaged in an all-out war over immigration enforcement, the president’s signature issue on the campaign trail and in the White House. It is a deeply personal battle in the nation’s most populous and economically powerful state, where 27 percent of the 39 million residents are foreign-born.

“Local governments and state government have stepped up in a way to protect immigrants like never before in my lifetime,” said Eric Cohen, the 57-year-old executive director of the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, a national nonprofit headquartered in the Mission district of San Francisco.

The stakes are high for the Trump administration because if California defies the White House on sanctuary cities, then others can, too, jeopardizing Trump’s main campaign promise to deport many of the nation’s 11 million illegal immigrants.

(Conditions in a blue state like California may seem more favorable for resistance and opposition than a red state like Wisconsin, but one does not choose where one is called. In any event, there’s no better place to be in all the world than tiny Whitewater, and from this city to contend confidently, come what may.)

➤ Robinson Meyer reports The Grim Conclusions of the Largest-Ever Study of Fake News
(“Falsehoods almost always beat out the truth on Twitter, penetrating further, faster, and deeper into the social network than accurate information”):

“Falsehood flies, and the Truth comes limping after it,” Jonathan Swift once wrote.

It was hyperbole three centuries ago. But it is a factual description of social media, according to an ambitious and first-of-its-kind study published Thursday in Science.

The massive new study analyzes every major contested news story in English across the span of Twitter’s existence—some 126,000 stories, tweeted by 3 million users, over more than 10 years—and finds that the truth simply cannot compete with hoax and rumor. By every common metric, falsehood consistently dominates the truth on Twitter, the study finds: Fake news and false rumors reach more people, penetrate deeper into the social network, and spread much faster than accurate stories.

“It seems to be pretty clear [from our study] that false information outperforms true information,” said Soroush Vosoughi, a data scientist at MIT who has studied fake news since 2013 and who led this study. “And that is not just because of bots. It might have something to do with human nature.”

(See The spread of true and false news online. Twitter is one medium only, of course, and the rapid spread of lies is an incentive to work harder in opposition to them.)

➤ GOP consultant and author Stuart Stevens observes that

(Stevens’s remark is in response to another’s observation that one should not call poor white opioid addicts privileged. Whatever one calls them, Stevens is right that their circumstances do not – cannot – excuse racial and anti-immigrant prejudice. If they think it does, then they’re either ignorant or claiming an entitlement to malice. Misery doesn’t justify malevolence toward others.)

➤ So, Why Don’t Birds’ Legs Freeze?:

Daily Bread for 3.11.18

Good morning.

Sunday in Whitewater will be partly sunny with a high of forty-two. Sunrise is 7:11 AM and sunset 6:57 PM, for 11h 45m 14s of daytime. The moon is a waning crescent with 31.1% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the four hundred eighty-sixth day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

On this day in 1941, Pres. Roosevelt signs the Lend-Lease Act (formally: An Act to Promote the Defense of the United States). On this day in 1865, the 3rd Wisconsin Cavalry takes part in a skirmish in Clear Lake, Arkansas.

Recommended for reading in full —

➤ Maggie Haberman and Michael S. Schmidt report Trump Talks With Clinton Impeachment Lawyer About Aiding in Mueller Response:

The lawyer, Emmet T. Flood, met with Mr. Trump in the Oval Office this past week to discuss the possibility, according to the people. No final decision has been made, according to two of the people.

Should Mr. Flood come on board, the two people said, his main duties would be a day-to-day role helping the president navigate his dealings with the Justice Department.

Two people close to the president said that the overture to Mr. Flood did not indicate any new concerns about the inquiry. Still, it appears, at the least, to be an acknowledgment that the investigation is unlikely to end anytime soon.

Mr. Flood would not replace Ty Cobb, the White House lawyer who since the summer has taken the lead role in dealing with the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III. But Mr. Cobb has told friends for weeks that he views his position as temporary and does not expect to remain in the job for much longer.

(A lawyer familiar with impeachment proceedings would only be significant if one thought that the investigation would not merely last longer, but would produce even more damning findings, in conditions under which the House might take up impeachment.)

➤ Seung Min Kim, Jenna Johnson and Philip Rucker report At Pennsylvania rally, Trump again calls for the death penalty for drug dealers:

Trump said that allowing prosecutors to seek the death penalty for drug dealers — an idea he said he got from Chinese President Xi Jinping — is “a discussion we have to start thinking about. I don’t know if this country’s ready for it.”

“Do you think the drug dealers who kill thousands of people during their lifetime, do you think they care who’s on a blue-ribbon committee?” Trump asked. “The only way to solve the drug problem is through toughness. When you catch a drug dealer, you’ve got to put him away for a long time.”

It was not the first time Trump had suggested executing drug dealers. Earlier this month, he described it as a way to fight the opioid epidemic. And on Friday, The Washington Post reported that the Trump administration was considering policy changes to allow prosecutors to seek the death penalty.

(Most people are very sharp, but imagine being part of a crowd so ignorant – or stupid – that the death penalty would seem like an effective solution to opioid addiction, or any other kind of addiction. The people at these Trump’s rallies are both individually deplorable and collectively confirmation that whites cannot possibly be better than others. Supportive presence at a Trump rally is prima facie evidence that one resides in the bottom quartile of understanding or ability.)

➤ Rebecca Moss reports Injured Nuclear Workers Finally Had Support. The Trump Administration Has Mothballed It:

Nearly three years ago, President Barack Obama responded to long-standing concerns that workers exposed to toxic chemicals at the country’s nuclear weapons labs were not receiving proper compensation.

Obama created an advisory board to be composed of scientists, doctors and worker advocates. Their recommendations have led to significant changes, including the repeal of a rule that made it more difficult for workers who’d been injured in the last two decades to get compensation.

President Donald Trump and his administration have taken a different approach: His Labor Department has let nearly all of the board member’s terms expire — and so far hasn’t nominated new ones.

“For two years our board put a lot of brain power and cutting-edge expertise into developing recommendations,” said Ken Silver, an occupational health professor at Eastern Tennessee State University, who until last month was a board member. “Without appointing another board, those recommendations may disappear into the ether.”

Silver was one of 14 members on the Advisory Board on Toxic Substances and Worker Health whose terms expired in February. The remaining member’s term expires in the middle of this month. The Department of Labor has kept silent on when it will appoint a new board. Meetings have been put on hold until further notice, according to the Labor Department’s website.

➤ Mark Ebner reports ‘Picked Apart by Vultures’: The Last Days of Stan Lee (“Months after losing his wife, the 95-year-old comic book legend is surrounded by charlatans and mountebanks”):

You might expect Stan Lee, at age 95, to be enjoying the fruits of his many labors: Marvel Comics, the company he served as the former president and chairman of, dominates popular culture. Characters he co-created — among them Spider-Man, Iron Man, X-Men, and the Avengers — are household names. He’s a comics legend, with his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. When Marvel sold to Disney in 2010 for $4 billion, he personally pocketed a cool $10 million, and tours the world as its ambassador emeritus. And midway through his tenth decade, Black Panther, based on a character he and Jack Kirby first envisioned in 1966, currently sits atop the global box office charts, and carries a Rotten Tomatoes score of 97%.

Instead, seven months after the death of Joan, his wife of almost 70 years, beset with pneumonia, the apparent victim of gross financial malfeasance and surrounded by a panoply of Hollywood charlatans and mountebanks, he may be facing his greatest challenge, every bit the equal of any of the psychologically flawed superheroes he helped shepherd into being. According to one insider with working knowledge of Lee’s current situation, “It’s a real fucking mess over there. I think his money will be gone in a few weeks… Stan and [his daughter] JC are literally being picked apart by vultures.”

In just over two months, there have been published reports of an unauthorized check for $300,000 written from Lee’s business account without his knowledge to Hands of Respect, a “merchandising company” and ersatz charity formed by Lee and Jerry Olivarez, a former business associate of his daughter’s. The word “loan” is inscribed on the face of the check.

Other red flags included the purchase in the fall of 2017 of an $850,000 condo in West Hollywood a short distance from Lee’s home in the Hollywood Hills; and $1.4 million that mysteriously disappeared in a complicated wire-transfer transaction. Most dramatically—and according to published reports— police on February 16th were called to Lee’s home to remove long-time bodyguard Mac “Max” Anderson, often seen accompanying Lee at his lucrative live appearances, after he allegedly threatened Lee and his daughter. Anderson’s attorney declined to comment for this story.

Taste Hawaii’s Famous Mochi:

Japan’s favorite, mochi, has become a Hawaii treat—at least in Nora Uchida’s kitchen. Uchida, a third-generation Japanese-American living in Hilo, Hawaii, inherited her grandmother’s mochi recipe and evolved it to include the colors and eclectic tastes of her beloved state. For the past 25 years, she and her family have owned and operated Hilo’s last mochi storefront, Two Ladies Kitchen. If you can beat the line running out the door on weekends, you’re in for a delicious, only-in-Hawaii treat.

Daily Bread for 3.10.18

Good morning.

Saturday in Whitewater will be sunny with a high of forty-one. Sunrise is 6:13 AM and sunset 5:56 PM, for 11h 42m 26s of daytime. The moon is a waning crescent with 40% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the four hundred eighty-fifth day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

On this day in 1876, “three days after his patent was issued, [Alexander Graham] Bell succeeded in getting his telephone to work, using a liquid transmitter similar to Gray’s design. Vibration of the diaphragm caused a needle to vibrate in the water, varying the electrical resistance in the circuit. When Bell spoke the sentence “Mr. Watson—Come here—I want to see you” into the liquid transmitter,[84] Watson, listening at the receiving end in an adjoining room, heard the words clearly.[85]”

Recommended for reading in full —

➤ Jennifer Rubin asks Will Kim Jong Un — like every other dictator — sucker Trump?:

Is Trump now to glad-hand with Kim, treating him as just another world leader? Will Trump even bring up human rights? (You will recall that, in 2008, then-candidate Barack Obama was ridiculed for suggesting he’d sit down with the North Korean dictator; he prudently backed off that idea.)

John McLaughlin, former acting director of the CIA, pointed to other concerns — namely Trump’s team: “These people have never been in a real negotiation … and have no idea how complicated this will be.” If there is no progress before a May meeting, what is the point of a face-to-face discussion between Trump and a recalcitrant dictator? “May seems too soon,” observed McLaughlin, although he noted the meeting could be delayed.

And that is really the rub: Is Trump or anyone else in the administration, including the intelligence community, really prepared to have such a high-stakes negotiation? With Trump — who cannot even follow his lawyers’ advice to not incriminate himself — the chance of going off-script is exceptionally high, with potentially disastrous results. Initial indications were far from encouraging.

(The meeting might never take place, but if does happen, one can safely predict that Trump’s past history of business failures and profound ignorance will lead Kim, or any other leader, to sucker Trump easily. Even the announcement of the meeting is a victory of recognition, of sorts, for Kim.)

➤ Ben Collins and Spencer Ackerman report Exclusive: Reddit Says It’s Cooperating With Russia Investigations. They’ve Handed Over Zero Documents (“Reddit’s CEO said the ‘front page of the Internet’ is working with Congress to uncover Russian propaganda. But it’s turned over no material to investigators”):

After a long public silence, the Internet giant Reddit has finally acknowledged the presence of Russian propaganda on its platform—and indicated it’s working with the Congressional probes into Russia’s 2016 election interference.

“While I know it’s frustrating that we don’t share everything we know publicly, I want to reiterate that we take these matters very seriously, and we are cooperating with congressional inquiries,” Reddit CEO Steve Huffman wrote to the Reddit community in a blog post on Monday.

“We’ve been taking action for a long time,” Huffman added in a follow-up comment.

But The Daily Beast has learned that the cooperation Reddit is providing is, at most, precursory. Knowledgeable sources tell The Daily Beast that Reddit has not, for instance, produced any documents to the House or Senate committees shedding light on how Russian propaganda hijacked a site that bills itself as the “front page of the internet.”

➤ Nico Hines, Adam Rawnsley, and Tanya Basu report What Was the Mysterious WMD an Assassin Used on a Russian Spy? The Answer Could Lead to Vladimir Putin (“Forensic detectives and military scientists have embarked on a complex trail of clues that could lead all the way from a quiet city in southwest England to Vladimir Putin:

Poisoning a Russian double agent exiled in Britain with a lab-made substance? Well, that’s usually an assassination ordered by the Kremlin.

Britain’s police detectives and security services now need to prove it.

Scotland Yard’s counterterrorism detectives are deep into a sophisticated version of classic murder weapon analysis with the help of Ministry of Defence biological weapons experts at the  Porton Down military research facility.

This weapon of mass destruction was deployed against a Russian father and his daughter who were spending a leisurely Sunday afternoon in the picturesque cathedral city of Salisbury. The WMD was so powerful that 21 people have been treated for its effects.

The Porton Down facility has been home to Britain’s defense and technology research since reports emerged from First World War battlefields that the Germans had killed 140 British soldiers with chlorine gas in January 1915. Coincidentally, the highly secretive facility is located on the outskirts of Salisbury, just seven miles from where former Russian military intelligence colonel Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, were found on Sunday.

➤ Peter Beinart explains What Trump Means When He Calls Gary Cohn a ‘Globalist’:

The term “globalist” is a bit like the term “thug.” It’s an epithet that is disproportionately directed at a particular minority group. Just as “thug” is often used to invoke the stereotype that African Americans are violent, “globalist” can play on the stereotype that Jews are disloyal. Used that way, it becomes a modern-day vessel for an ancient slur: that Jews—whether loyal to international Judaism or international capitalism or international communism or international Zionism—aren’t loyal to the countries in which they live.

That slur has a long, dark history. The infamous 1903 forgery, The Protocols of the Elders of Zionwarns that, “The nations of the West are being brought under international control”—by Jews. In 1935, Nazi Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels railed against “the absolute destruction of all economic, social, state, cultural, and civilizing advances made by western civilization for the benefit of a rootless and nomadic international clique of conspirators”: Jews. David Duke called Brexit a triumph over the “Jewish globalist agenda.”

It’s possible to use the term “globalist”—even about a Jew—innocently, just like it’s possible to use the term “thug” about an African American with no racist intent. And perhaps that’s what Trump was doing when he applied it to Cohn. The problem is that this requires giving Donald Trump a benefit of the doubt that he forfeited long ago.

When Trump uses anti-Semitic language, his defenders often counter that his daughter, son-in-law, and grandchildren are Orthodox Jews. Sure, but even bigots contain multitudes. Trump may feel genuine affection for Jared Kushner, and likely Gary Cohn too. But that doesn’t change the fact that he employs anti-Semitic tropes in ways that make him almost unique among contemporary American politicians. After all, history is filled with politicians who fomented anti-Semitism yet enjoyed warm relationships with individual Jews.

For Cohn, there’s a sad irony here. He reportedly considered resigning after Trump’s equivocal response to last August’s outbreak of white supremacism in Charlottesville, but stuck it out, and instead resigned over Trump’s tariff policy. What thanks did he get? A presidential tribute using language that would have made the Charlottesville marchers smile.

Embed from Getty Images

They’re out there, watching, waiting…

➤ Anna Fifield reports Japanese towns struggle to deal with an influx of new arrivals: wild boars:

HIRAIZUMI, Japan—  Rapidly shrinking towns and cities across Japan are experiencing a population explosion. Not an explosion of humans, though. An explosion in wild boar numbers.

Across the country, wild boars are moving in as Japan’s rapidly aging population either moves out or dies out. The boars come for the untended rice paddies and stay for the abandoned shelters.

“Thirty years ago, crows were the biggest problem around here,” said Hideo Numata, a farmer in Hiraizumi, human population 7,803, precise boar population unknown.

“But now we have these animals and not enough people to scare them away,” he said, sitting in a hut with a wood stove and two farmer friends. At 67, Numata is a relative youngster around here. His friends, Etsuro Sugawa and Shoichi Chiba, are 69 and 70 respectively. One of their farmer neighbors is 83.

Southern parts of Japan have had a wild boar problem for some years. The papers are full of reports of boars in train stations and parking garages, around school dormitories and even in the sea, swimming out to islands.