Whitewater Common Council Meeting, 9.9.20: 5 Points

Evening of 9.10.20: Updated with full session video. As always, the best record is a recording. Original post follows —

Last night, at a special meeting of the Whitewater Common Council, that public body voted 5-1 against consideration of a municipal ordinance to regulate mass gatherings during the pandemic. (The agenda packet, with the ordinance that has now been set aside, is available online.) The city manager and staff will, however, try to craft a proposal (although likely not a revised mass-gatherings ordinance) concerning public health now that our local campus is in session.

That’s a simple description of the meeting, but there were revealing moments last night (and from trends building before the meeting) that deserve separate and detailed consideration. Those will be presented on their own, with accompanying video clips and transcriptions of those clips, next week.

A few remarks —

1. Ripe to Rotten. The last FREE WHITEWATER post on the Whitewater Common Council mentioned that a mass-gathering ordinance was not yet ready (ripe) for commentary. A week later, that ordinance proposal has gone from not-yet-ripe to rotten. Local politics and culture always made that specific proposal a hard sell. Reacting too quickly to a proposal is something like walking toward an illusory oasis in the desert: it disappears by the time one arrives at its supposed location. See Whitewater Common Council Meeting, 9.1.20: Culture & Prohibitions.

There will be something next proposed; it’s unlikely to be the same thing.

2The Interim Chancellor. The interim chancellor at UW-Whitewater, Dr. Greg Cook, spoke a few times during the session in favor of an ordinance regulating mass gatherings off campus. He alternated during the meeting between an insistence that his hands were tied without an ordinance, to appeals to economic dependency, to public health, or to acknowledgment of campus planning failures. He didn’t take a single tack, but several, each at a different point in the meeting. Part brow-beating, part conciliatory, part lamentation, but nothing to advance the ordinance.

(In fact, the ordinance wasn’t about to pass, and the early 5-1 straw poll vote against confirmed as much. There’s a problem university administrations in Whitewater have had, for many years, understanding how non-student residents perceive them. It’s a small town, and that understanding should not be hard, but it has bedeviled more than one chancellor, interim or permanent.)

3. The Amateur Epidemiologist. Whitewater’s common council president has advanced himself as something of an amateur epidemiologist, where he both recites statistics and offers presumptions about them. He’s free to presume, but he has no training whatever to undergird those presumptions. When he’s speaking in council or writing as an ersatz reporter, he’s providing his untutored assessment of communicable disease metrics.

He’d do better simply to read the metrics without comment, as his own views only incite criticism from those whose training is no less than his (that is, whose training is equally inadequate).

(In the case of the school district, he has twice now – on 9.1.20 and 9.9.20 –  cited as a district measure one that is no longer the school board’s adopted metric for coronavirus spread. For the school board change, see Whitewater School Board Meeting, 8.24.20: 5 Points.)

 4. Municipal Prohibition. Banning gatherings was always going to be problematic in Whitewater, with concerns about freedom of activity, favoritism, and a need for the university to establish what it had done in detail before a municipal ban. I’ve supported a mask ordinance, but have had considerable doubts about the ability of the community to enforce stringent measures in a time of cultural and political division. As before: “And yet, a draft ordinance, an adopted ordinance, or a litigated ordinance will never matter more than a culture that doesn’t believe in the aims of the ordinance.”Continue reading

Michele Norris: He Knew







Daily Bread for 9.10.20

Good morning.

Thursday in Whitewater will be rainy with a high of fifty-nine.  Sunrise is 6:30 AM and sunset 7:11 PM, for 12h 41m 08s of daytime.  The moon is in its third quarter with 49.5% of its visible disk illuminated.

Today is the one thousand four hundred second day. 

 Whitewater’s Landmarks Commission meets via audiovisual conferencing at 3:30 PM.

 On this day in 1846, Elias Howe is granted a patent for the sewing machine.

Recommended for reading in full — 

Shane Harris, Nick Miroff, and Ellen Nakashima report Senior DHS official alleges in whistleblower complaint that he was told to stop providing intelligence analysis on threat of Russian interference:

A senior Department of Homeland Security official alleges that he was told to stop providing intelligence reports on the threat of Russian interference in the 2020 election, in part because it “made the President look bad,” an instruction he believed would jeopardize national security.

The official, Brian Murphy, who until recently was in charge of intelligence and analysis at DHS, said in a whistleblower complaint that on two occasions he was told to stand down on reporting about the Russian threat and alleged that senior officials told him to modify other intelligence reports, including about white supremacists, to bring them in line with President Trump’s public comments, directions he said he refused.

On July 8, Murphy said in the complaint, acting homeland security secretary Chad Wolf told him that an “intelligence notification” regarding Russian disinformation efforts should be “held” because it was unflattering to Trump, who has long derided the Kremlin’s interference as a “hoax” that was concocted by his opponents to delegitimize his victory in 2016.

 Sarah Owermohle reports Emails show HHS official trying to muzzle Fauci:

A Trump administration appointee at the Department of Health and Human Services is trying to prevent Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert, from speaking about the risks that coronavirus poses to children.

Emails obtained by POLITICO show Paul Alexander — a senior adviser to Michael Caputo, HHS’s assistant secretary for public affairs — instructing press officers and others at the National Institutes of Health about what Fauci should say during media interviews. The Trump adviser weighed in on Fauci’s planned responses to outlets including Bloomberg News, BuzzFeed, Huffington Post and the science journal Cell.

Walter Olson writes Never Trump, Now More Than Ever:

A high degree of social trust is needed both for a dynamic economy and for the rule of law. But as legal scholar Orin Kerr puts it, “the president’s signature move is to attack the legitimacy of everyone and every institution who is not in lockstep with him.”

Why Americans Eat So Much Cheese:

Frontline: Growing Up Poor in America (Full Film)

The documentary, “Growing Up Poor in America,” follows three children and their families in the battleground state of Ohio as the COVID-19 pandemic amplifies their struggle to stay afloat.

In early 2020, it was estimated that almost 12 million children in America were living in poverty — a burden disproportionately borne by Black and Latino kids. Then came the coronavirus. Director Jezza Neumann, who made 2012’s “Poor Kids,” once again delves into how poverty impacts children.

As the pandemic continues, the presidential election approaches and America reckons with racism, FRONTLINE offers a powerful look at child poverty in the time of COVID-19 — told from the perspective of the children themselves. The film is supported by the WNET “Chasing the Dream” initiative.

See also Whitewater & Walworth County’s Working Poor, 2020 ALICE® Report.

Daily Bread for 9.9.20

Good morning.

Wednesday in Whitewater will be rainy with a high of fifty-nine.  Sunrise is 6:29 AM and sunset 7:13 PM, for 12h 43m 59s of daytime.  The moon is a waning gibbous with 58.8% of its visible disk illuminated.

Today is the one thousand four hundred first day. 

 Whitewater’s Police and Fire Commission meets via audiovisual conferencing at 6 PM, and the Whitewater Common Council meets via audiovisual conferencing at 6:30 PM.

 On this day in 1839, John Herschel takes the first glass plate photograph.

Recommended for reading in full — 

Lara Takenaga and Jonathan Wolfe report Coronavirus Briefing: A Summer of Lost Opportunity:

As summer comes to a close, the United States is averaging about 40,000 new cases a day, down from a horrifying peak in late July. But in many ways, the country is worse off now than at the beginning of the season: On Memorial Day weekend, the United States averaged 22,000 cases a day.

The Memorial Day and Labor Day holidays bookend a summer of lost opportunity. The United States failed to stamp out the virus before the fall, which is expected to bring new dangers with the start of the school year, flu season and cooler weather that will drive people indoors.

Michael Scherer writes Trump employs images of violence as political fuel for reelection fight:

President Trump has reverted to using graphic depictions of violence as a centerpiece of his reelection campaign strategy, using his Twitter account, his stump speech and even the White House podium as platforms for amplifying domestic conflict.

His 2016 focus on radical Islamist terrorism and undocumented-immigrant crime, which he credited with helping him win the Republican nomination, has been replaced by warnings of new threats as he elevates gruesome images of Black-on-White crime, street fights involving his supporters and police-misconduct unrest nationwide.

The pattern continued over the holiday weekend, when he tweeted video of a melee in Texas between protesters and security officers during an event for a Trump-affiliated group and two celebratory videos of a protester in Portland, Ore., with his feet on fire. One of the videos was scored to the Kenny Loggins song “Footloose,” and the second featured mocking play-by-play commentary by a mixed-martial-arts announcer.

A.B. Stoddard writes It’s Still All About Russia—and It’s Outrageous:

At every turn Trump has not only helped Putin but thwarted the examination of Russia’s attack on the 2016 election. Trump told White House counsel Don McGahn to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller and likely obstructed justice in many other ways all recounted in the Mueller report. Even before there was a special counsel investigation, Trump welcomed Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian ambassador to the United States Sergey Kislyak to the Oval Office by boasting that firing FBI Director James Comey had relieved “great pressure.”

For weeks now, more alarming revelations about Russia have seeped into the news, making even more clear the disturbing picture of how Trump seeks to retain his hold on power and continues to undermine U.S. national security with Putin’s assistance. The Russia news has been drowned out by headlines about the national party conventions, the pandemic, and clashes in Kenosha and Portland—but it is equally consequential.

 Belarus crisis: Opposition activist resists efforts to deport her to Ukraine:

Daily Bread for 9.8.20

Good morning.

Tuesday in Whitewater will be rainy with a high of sixty-one.  Sunrise is 6:28 AM and sunset 7:15 PM, for 12h 46m 50s of daytime.  The moon is a waning gibbous with 68.3% of its visible disk illuminated.

Today is the one thousand four hundredth day. 

 The Whitewater School Board’s Policy Review Committee meets via audiovisual conferencing at 10 AM, and the city’s Public Works Committee meets via audiovisual conferencing at 6 PM.

 On this day in 1930, 3M begins marketing Scotch transparent tape.

Recommended for reading in full — 

Molly Blackall reports Vice-presidential candidates launch campaign season in Wisconsin:

Kamala Harris and Mike Pence, the vice-president, kicked off this year’s campaign season with a visit to Wisconsin, which Donald Trump won in 2016 by less than a percentage point. In her first visit to a battleground state as the Democratic vice-presidential nominee, Harris met privately with the family and legal team of Jacob Blake, who was left paralysed after being shot repeatedly by police. Blake’s lawyer described the meeting as “inspirational and uplifting”.

On the other side of the state, Pence delivered a speech to power workers, taking the opportunity to praise Trump and his response to the coronavirus pandemic, and promise a vaccine by the end of the year.

 Margaret Sullivan writes Here’s what the media must do to fend off an election-night disaster:

This time, with the stakes of the election so high, news organizations need to get it right. They need to do two things, primarily, and do them extraordinarily well.

First, in every way possible, they must prepare the public for uncertainty, and start doing this now. Granted, the audience doesn’t really show up in force until election night itself, but news reports, pundit panels and special programming can help plow the ground for public understanding of the unpredictability — or even chaos — to come.

Second, on election night and in the days (weeks? months?) to follow, news organizations will need to do the near-impossible: reject their ingrained instincts to find a clear narrative — including the answer to the question “who won?” — and stay with the uncertainty, if that’s indeed what’s happening.

Shane Goldmacher and Maggie Haberman report How Trump’s Billion-Dollar Campaign Lost Its Cash Advantage:

Money was supposed to have been one of the great advantages of incumbency for President Trump, much as it was for President Barack Obama in 2012 and George W. Bush in 2004. After getting outspent in 2016, Mr. Trump filed for re-election on the day of his inauguration — earlier than any other modern president — betting that the head start would deliver him a decisive financial advantage this year.

It seemed to have worked. His rival, Joseph R. Biden Jr., was relatively broke when he emerged as the presumptive Democratic nominee this spring, and Mr. Trump and the Republican National Committee had a nearly $200 million cash advantage.

Five months later, Mr. Trump’s financial supremacy has evaporated. Of the $1.1 billon his campaign and the party raised from the beginning of 2019 through July, more than $800 million has already been spent. Now some people inside the campaign are forecasting what was once unthinkable: a cash crunch with less than 60 days until the election, according to Republican officials briefed on the matter.

The weird physics of upside down buoyancy:

Daily Bread for 9.7.20

Good morning.

Labor Day in Whitewater will be cloudy with a high of seventy-four.  Sunrise is 6:27 AM and sunset 7:17 PM, for 12h 49m 40s of daytime.  The moon is a waning gibbous with 76.2% of its visible disk illuminated.

Today is the one thousand three hundred ninety-ninth day. 

 On this day in 1776, according to American colonial reports, Ezra Lee makes the world’s first submarine attack in the Turtle, attempting to attach a time bomb to the hull of HMS Eagle in New York Harbor.

Recommended for reading in full — 

 Michael Kranish reports Trump, under fire for alleged comments about veterans, has a long history of disparaging military service:

Long before Trump’s views of the military would emerge as a flash point in his 2020 reelection campaign — before he would shock the political world with the more widely seen 2015 attack on McCain, in which he said the senator was “not a war hero” and declared, “I like people who weren’t captured” — Trump had a long track record of incendiary and disparaging remarks about veterans and military service.<

Many of his remarks are memorialized in television interviews and the tapes of radio conversations with shock jocks, dating to his years as a private citizen and businessman.

Trump, who avoided military service by citing a bone spur in his foot, has disparaged veterans who were wounded or captured or went missing in action and even compared his fear of sexually transmitted diseases to the experience of a soldier, saying in 1993, “if you’re young, and in this era, and if you have any guilt about not having gone to Vietnam, we have our own Vietnam. It’s called the dating game.”

It is a history filled with contradictions, of a man who denigrates his handpicked generals while saying no one supports the military more than he does, and of a commander in chief who questions the bravery of some soldiers even as he reversed disciplinary action against a Navy SEAL over the objections of Pentagon officials. He was raised in a family that criticized the value of military service, according to niece Mary L. Trump, but nonetheless he was sent to a military academy for most of his teenage years.

Catherine Rampell writes Standard metrics won’t suffice. Here’s how to measure Trump’s failures so they register:

Maybe what’s needed are different units for measuring the Trump administration’s failures and scandals, since the standard metrics aren’t registering. His record should be quantified in scales that a Fox News viewer might be more familiar with: not body counts or dollars, but Benghazis and Solyndras.

For instance, sometimes pundits try to put the 183,000 covid-19 deaths in context by noting that cumulative deaths per capita in the United States are double those of Canada, quintuple those of Germany, 20 times those of Australia, 90 times those of South Korea, and so on.

But let’s be real: Lots of Americans don’t care about international comparisons. So here’s a different way to contextualize this national trauma: The number of lives lost to covid-19 is roughly equal to the death toll of 60 9/11 attacks.

Or, if you’d prefer a more recent ghoulish reference for quantifying mortality, the coronavirus death toll is about 46,000 Benghazis. Somehow, for years, the four tragic deaths in Benghazi consumed the agenda of six GOP-controlled congressional committees and the programming of the most-watched cable news channel. But today, a deadly shock magnified by government ineptitude that has led to 46,000 times as many lives lost “is what it is.

Why Amazon Has A Fake Review Problem:

Film: Tuesday, September 8th, 10 AM or 1 PM @ Seniors in the Park, Parasite

This Tuesday, September 8th at 10 AM or 1 PM,  there will be a showing of Parasite @ Seniors in the Park, in the Starin Community Building:

Rated R (Sex/Violence/Profanity)

2 hours; 12 minutes (2019)

In South Korea, a poor family, the Kims, con their way into becoming the servants of a rich family, the Parks. But their easy life gets complicated when their deception is threatened with exposure. This film was the winner in Best Motion Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, and Best International/Foreign Film, for both the Oscars and the Golden Globes. It is a devastating portrayal of social inequality and the psychology of wealth. This film can only be shown in South Korean dialogue and will be shown entirely with English subtitles.

Masks are required and you must register for a seat either by calling, emailing or going online at There will be a limit of 10 people per movie time slot. No walk-ins.

One can find more information about Parasite at the Internet Movie Database.


Daily Bread for 9.6.20

Good morning.

Sunday in Whitewater will be rainy with a high of seventy-nine.  Sunrise is 6:26 AM and sunset 7:18 PM, for 12h 52m 31s of daytime.  The moon is a waning gibbous with 83.9% of its visible disk illuminated.

Today is the one thousand three hundred ninety-eighth day. 

 On this day in 1803, British scientist John Dalton begins using symbols to represent the atoms of different elements.

Recommended for reading in full — 

Holmes Lybrand, Tara Subramaniam, and Kevin Liptak report In denying disrespect of soldiers, Trump cites call to Melania. There’s just one problem:

President Donald Trump has vehemently denied reports that he skipped a 2018 visit to a World War I memorial in France because he was concerned about his hair and considered the cemetery “filled with losers,” as the Atlantic first reported.

Trump told reporters Thursday that he “called home” to Melania Trump at the time and told her how upset he was about not being able to visit the cemetery. At the time, the White House said he had to cancel the visit because of bad weather.

Trump said: “I called home, I spoke to my wife and I said, ‘I hate this. I came here to go to that ceremony.’ And to the one that was the following day, which I did go to. I said I feel terribly. And that was the end of it.”

But Melania Trump was not at “home” — she was on the trip with the president and was also scheduled to visit the cemetery.

A readout from the first lady’s office at the time said, “Due to inclement weather, the First Lady and President were unable to visit the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery and Memorial in Belleau, France.”

That evening, Trump and Melania went to a dinner hosted by French President Emmanuel Macron.

 Shane Harris and Ellen Nakashima report Russia is working to undermine confidence in voting by mail, DHS warns:

Russia is seeking “to undermine public trust in the electoral process” by spreading false claims that mail-in ballots are riddled with fraud and susceptible to manipulation, according to a new intelligence bulletin by the Department of Homeland Security.

Many of the claims made by Russian sources are identical to repeated, unsupported public statements aired by President Trump and Attorney General William P. Barr, who have said that mailed ballots aren’t trustworthy while warning of the potential for rampant fraud in November’s elections.

Homeland Security’s intelligence office has assessed that Russian actors “are likely to promote allegations of corruption, system failure, and foreign malign interference to sow distrust in Democratic institutions and election outcomes,” the bulletin states. Russia spreads these claims through a network of state-controlled media, proxy websites and social media trolls, it adds.

(Attorney General William Barr: translator of Russian propaganda into Trump talking points.)

Jacob Gursky and Samuel Woolley report How hate and misinformation go viral: A case study of a Trump retweet:

On Sunday night, President Donald Trump retweeted a video of a violent incident on a New York City subway platform. The video shows a Black man pushing a white woman into a train car and is captioned “Black Lives Matter / Antifa.” The problem? It is over a year old and has nothing to do with either Black Lives Matter or Antifa. It, in fact, shows the actions of a mentally ill man with no known ties to either group.

The NASA Engineer Making STEM Sing:

Daily Bread for 9.5.20

Good morning.

Saturday in Whitewater will be sunny with a high of seventy-six.  Sunrise is 6:25 AM and sunset 7:20 PM, for 12h 55m 20s of daytime.  The moon is a waning gibbous with 90.1% of its visible disk illuminated.

Today is the one thousand three hundred ninety-seventh day. 

 On this day in 1882, the first United States Labor Day parade takes place in New York City.

Recommended for reading in full — 

 Deneen Smith reports Militia members face gun charges, alleged to have come to Kenosha “to pick people off”:

Karmo, Smith

Two Missouri men affiliated with a militia group that celebrates Kyle Rittenhouse as a hero on social media are facing federal charges after a witness told law enforcement the men came to Kenosha to loot and “pick people off.”

Michael M. Karmo, 40, and Cody E. Smith, 33, both of Hartville, Mo., are facing federal charges of illegal possession of firearms after being arrested Tuesday at a hotel in Pleasant Prairie.

Both Smith and Karmo are barred from possessing firearms because of past criminal convictions.

According to the criminal complaint, Kenosha Police informed the FBI that the department had received a tip that Karmo and an unidentified man were traveling from Missouri to Kenosha “to loot and possibly ‘pick people off.’”

The witness told investigators “Karmo told (him) he was going to Kenosha with the intention of possibly using the firearms on people. (The witness) feared that with Karmo’s increase in conspiracy theory talks and other ‘crazy’ political talk he was not in the right mindset to have a firearm.”

Smith and Karmo were taken into custody at the La Quinta Hotel, 7540 118th Ave. in Pleasant Prairie.

In the men’s vehicle and hotel room, FBI agents found body armor, tactical gear, an AR-15 rifle, a 12-gauge shotgun, a homemade silencer and two handguns, along with ammunition for the weapons.

Lauren Gambino reports Biden warns Trump ‘legitimizes dark side of human nature’ in Kenosha visit:

Joe Biden on Thursday warned that Donald Trump’s behavior “legitimizes the dark side of human nature”. He made the remarks during a visit to Wisconsin, where he spoke by phone to Jacob Blake, a Black man whose shooting by a white police officer renewed nationwide protests against systemic racism.

For nearly 90 minutes after landing in the state, Biden and his wife, Jill, met privately with Blake’s father, Jacob Blake Sr, his mother, Julia Jackson, his siblings, and some members of his legal team in a room at the Milwaukee airport.

Blake, who Biden said was released from the ICU, joined the conversation for nearly 15 minutes from the hospital. Blake’s family said he is paralyzed from the waist down after being struck seven times in the back by police as they tried to arrest him last month in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

“He talked about how nothing was going to defeat him – how whether he walked again or not, he was not going to give up,” Biden said of their conversation during a listening session with community leaders, and two members of law enforcement, at Grace Lutheran church in Kenosha.

Video from Space – Weekly Highlights for the Week of Aug. 30th: 

Videos featured: Asteroid 2011 ES4 gives Earth a close shave, a full-size Space Launch System rocket booster was test fired, a triple-star system is warping its planet-forming disk, Arianespace launched a Vega rocket, SpaceX launched 60 new Starlink satellites and their Starship SN6 prototype took a 150 meter hop.

Friday Catblogging: Woman Accidentally Dyes Her Cat Yellow with Turmeric Treatment

Morgan Smith reports that Thammapa Supamas, a woman living in Thailand, accidentally dyed her cat yellow while treating a fungal infection on the pet’s limbs:

Supamas applied a turmeric scrub to heal a red, irritated patch of skin on the white cat’s leg, she shared on Facebook.

The plant extract has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties and is widely considered to be an effective antifungal treatment. Turmeric powder, however, is a strong natural dye yielding a vibrant gold color.

It’s no surprise, then, that Supamas’s white cat became a ball of bright yellow fur after getting coated in turmeric.

Supamas said on Sunday that the yellow hue had not faded quite yet but her cat’s infection was noticeably healing. “Thank you for your kindness and concern,” she added.

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Posted by ?????????????????&???????????????? on Sunday, August 23, 2020