Daily Bread for 8.9.17

Good morning.

Midweek in Whitewater will be partly cloudy with a high of eighty. Sunrise is 5:55 AM and sunset 8:04 PM, for 14h 08m 25s of daytime. The moon is a waning gibbous with 96.6% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the two hundred seventy-third day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

On this day in 1945, the United States dropped a second atomic bomb on Imperial Japan. On this day in 1793, Milwaukee pioneer Solomon Juneau is born: “Known as the founder of Milwaukee, Juneau was a fur trader with John Jacob Astor’s American Fur Company. He built the first log house in Milwaukee in 1822 and followed with the first frame house in 1824. In October 1833 he formed a partnership with Morgan L. Martin to develop a village on the east side of the Milwaukee River. Juneau was elected commissioner of roads and director of the poor in September 1835. He was also appointed postmaster, a position he held until 1843. In 1837 he began publishing the Milwaukee Sentinel. He was elected first mayor of Milwaukee in 1846. Juneau died on November 14, 1856. [Source: Dictionary of Wisconsin Biography, p.198]”

Recommended for reading in full — 

Matt Boot observes that Fox News Has Completed Its Transformation Into Trump TV (“Who needs state-owned propaganda when the president has friends like these?”):

You would be forgiven for thinking — hoping — that Fox News Channel would improve after the ouster of Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly, its late founding CEO and biggest star, respectively, in a massive sexual harassment scandal. It’s true that Fox now takes such allegations more seriously — host Eric Bolling was just suspended after being accused of emailing pictures of his penis to female colleagues.

So perhaps Fox is becoming a less hostile environment for women. But its programming is, if anything, more egregious than ever.

Fox is ever more firmly entrenched in the official echo chamber of Trump Nation — and ever more divorced from reality. The National Enquirer, owned by Trump friend David Pecker, is Trump’s Pravda (its recent cover story: “Hillary Framed Trump Family! How she set up Donald’s son with dirt file emails!”). Breitbart, once chaired by Trump aide Stephen Bannon, is his Sputnik. Fox is the jewel in the crown — Trump’s own version of RT. “A lot of people wish President Trump was a dictator,” Fox host Jesse Watters said on July 27. Perhaps at Fox “News.”

Emily Yoffe writes that, contrary to our legal tradition, sadly sometimes injustices mean that Innocence Is Irrelevant (“This is the age of the plea bargain—and millions of Americans are suffering the consequences”):

This is the age of the plea bargain. Most people adjudicated in the criminal-justice system today waive the right to a trial and the host of protections that go along with one, including the right to appeal. Instead, they plead guilty. The vast majority of felony convictions are now the result of plea bargains—some 94 percent at the state level, and some 97 percent at the federal level. Estimates for misdemeanor convictions run even higher. These are astonishing statistics, and they reveal a stark new truth about the American criminal-justice system: Very few cases go to trial. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy acknowledged this reality in 2012, writing for the majority in Missouri v. Frye, a case that helped establish the right to competent counsel for defendants who are offered a plea bargain. Quoting a law-review article, Kennedy wrote, “?‘Horse trading [between prosecutor and defense counsel] determines who goes to jail and for how long. That is what plea bargaining is. It is not some adjunct to the criminal justice system; it is the criminal justice system.’?”

Ideally, plea bargains work like this: Defendants for whom there is clear evidence of guilt accept responsibility for their actions; in exchange, they get leniency. A time-consuming and costly trial is avoided, and everybody benefits. But in recent decades, American legislators have criminalized so many behaviors that police are arresting millions of people annually—almost 11 million in 2015, the most recent year for which figures are available. Taking to trial even a significant proportion of those who are charged would grind proceedings to a halt. According to Stephanos Bibas, a professor of law and criminology at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, the criminal-justice system has become a “capacious, onerous machinery that sweeps everyone in,” and plea bargains, with their swift finality, are what keep that machinery running smoothly.

Because of plea bargains, the system can quickly handle the criminal cases of millions of Americans each year, involving everything from petty violations to violent crimes. But plea bargains make it easy for prosecutors to convict defendants who may not be guilty, who don’t present a danger to society, or whose “crime” may primarily be a matter of suffering from poverty, mental illness, or addiction. And plea bargains are intrinsically tied up with race, of course, especially in our era of mass incarceration.

Keith Humphreys writes that Most drunken-driving programs focus on driving. This one worked because it focused on booze:

The criminal justice system often responds to drunk drivers by focusing on their driving, for example, by taking away driver’s licenses, restricting driving to daylight hours, or installing a breathalyzer that locks the ignition if the would-be driver has been drinking. But new research indicates that a highly effective approach to alcohol-involved crime is more direct and simple: Take away the offender’s access to alcohol.

24/7 Sobriety” was invented more than a decade ago in South Dakota by an innovative county prosecutor (and future state attorney general) named Larry Long. Long concluded that the best use of the power of the criminal justice system was to attack the role of alcohol in offenders’ lives directly by mandating them to abstain. Many judges across the country order abstinence as part of parole or probation, but Long decided to actually enforce it. Offenders’ drinking was monitored every single day, typically by in-person breath tests in the morning and evening. In contrast to the typically slow and unpredictable ways of the criminal justice system, anyone caught drinking faced a 100 percent chance of arrest and an immediate consequence — typically 12 to 36 hours in jail.

The approach is working, according to an evaluation of the 24/7 Sobriety program by RAND researchers Greg Midgette and Beau Kilmer….

The results were impressive, with 24/7 Sobriety participants showing up and passing more than 99 percent of scheduled breathalyzer tests. With alcohol removed from their lives, 24/7 Sobriety participants were less likely to be re-arrested for any offense one year, two years and three years after their initial arrest. The latter two periods are particularly impressive in that individuals were typically on 24/7 Sobriety for less than a year, indicating that the benefits persisted after the program stopped. This is a favorable contrast to alcohol ignition interlocks, which typically reduce drunken driving only for the limited time they are in place on an offender’s vehicle.

Jason Leopold reports that ‘Everyone thinks he was whacked’ (“The US government ruled Mikhail Lesin’s death an accident, but multiple intelligence and law enforcement officials suspect it was a Russian hit. The government is withholding information so today BuzzFeed News has filed a lawsuit to pry the records loose”):

Vladimir Putin’s former media czar was murdered in Washington, DC, on the eve of a planned meeting with the US Justice Department, according to two FBI agents whose assertions cast new doubts on the US government’s official explanation of his death.

Mikhail Lesin’s battered body was discovered in his Dupont Circle hotel room on the morning of Nov. 5, 2015, with blunt-force injuries to the head, neck, and torso. After an almost yearlong “comprehensive investigation,” a federal prosecutor announced last October that Lesin died alone in his room due to a series of drunken falls “after days of excessive consumption of alcohol.” His death was ruled an “accident,” and prosecutors closed the case.

But the two FBI agents — as well as a third agent and a serving US intelligence officer — said Lesin was actually bludgeoned to death. None of these officials were directly involved in the government’s investigation, but they said they learned about it from colleagues who were.

Here’s the NASA Curiosity rover’s 5-year time-lapse: