An Interesting Question

Former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti asks a simple, interesting question:

Dail Bread for 4.19.18

Good morning.

Thursday in Whitewater will be sunny with a high of thirty-seven. Sunrise is 6:05 AM and sunset 7:42 PM, for 13h 37m 12s of daytime. The moon is a waxing crescent with 15.4% of its visible disk illuminated.

Today is the five hundred twenty-fifth day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

On this day in 1775, the Revolutionary War begins with the Battles of Lexington and Concord.

Recommended for reading in full —

➤ Jennifer Rubin observes Mitch McConnell is inviting a constitutional crisis:

Let’s cut through all this: Republicans are petrified of provoking Trump (“the bear”), whom they treat as their supervisor and not as an equal branch of government. The notion that Congress should not take out an insurance policy to head off a potential constitutional crisis when the president has repeatedly considered firing special counsel Robert S. Mueller III and Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein defies logic. By speaking up in such fashion, McConnell is effectively tempting Trump to fire one or both of them. That will set off a firestorm and bring calls for the president’s impeachment.

“There is evidently no limit on the complicity [McConnell] is willing to shoulder,” argued Norman Eisen, a former White House ethics counsel during the Obama administration. “Even as bipartisan support for the legislation is emerging in both houses of Congress — or perhaps because it is emerging — he stands in the way.” He added: “It is a betrayal of the rule of law for McConnell to take this position when the president has reportedly tried twice to fire Mueller, and discussed it frequently, and is now agitated over the Michael Cohen developments. McConnell will be fully as responsible as Trump if the special counsel is fired.”

At critical points during this saga, McConnell has put party over country, and fidelity to the executive branch over the concerns of an equal legislative branch. Remember, according to multiple news reports, McConnell is the one who, before the 2016 election, wanted to water down a bipartisan warning to the country about Russian interference. It was McConnell, together with Speaker of the House Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), who refused to set up a select committee or an independent commission to address possible Russian collusion. It was McConnell who pushed through the confirmation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, despite ample evidence that he had not been truthful with the Senate Judiciary Committee regarding his contacts with Russians. His refusal to consider legislation that might head off a crisis is remarkably reckless.

➤ WNYC reports on The Company Michael Cohen Kept:

If you’ve seen video or images of Michael Cohen, President Trump’s personal attorney, they’ve probably been set in locations that exude power and importance: Cohen berating a CNN anchor in a TV studio, for example, or striding across the sleek marbled interior of Trump Tower, or more recently, smoking cigars in front of Cohen’s temporary residence, the Loews Regency Hotel on Manhattan’s Park Avenue.

But to understand how Michael Cohen arrived in those precincts, you need to venture across New York City’s East River. There, in a Queens warehouse district in the shadows of an elevated No. 7 subway line, is a taxi garage that used to house his law practice. The office area in the front is painted a garish taxi-cab-yellow, with posters of hockey players on the wall and a framed photo of the late Hasidic rabbi, Menachem Schneerson. Cohen practiced law there and invested in the once-lucrative medallions that grant New York cabs the right to operate.

Or you could drive 45 minutes deep into Brooklyn, near where Gravesend turns into Brighton Beach. There, in a desolate stretch near a shuttered podiatrist’s office, you’d find a medical office. According to previously unexamined records, Cohen incorporated a business there in 2002 that was involved in large quantities of medical claims. Separately, he represented more than 100 plaintiffs who claimed they were injured in auto collisions.

At the same time, in Brooklyn and Long Island, New York prosecutors were investigating what Fortune magazine called possibly “the largest organized insurance-fraud ring in U.S. history.” That fraud resulted in hundreds of criminal prosecutions for staging car accidents to collect insurance payments. Cohen was not implicated in the fraud.

A distinctive pattern emerged early in Cohen’s career, according to an examination by WNYC and ProPublica for the Trump, Inc. podcast: Many of the people who crossed paths with Cohen when he worked in Queens and Brooklyn were disciplined, disbarred, accused or convicted of crimes.

➤ Kelly Weill contends Less Than a Year After Charlottesville, the Alt-Right Is Self-Destructing (“Less than a year after its deadly rally in Charlottesville, the American alt-right is splintering in dramatic fashion as its leaders turn on each other or quit altogether”):

Some have turned federal informant. Others are facing prison time. More are named in looming lawsuits. All of them are fighting.

Last summer, the American alt-right was presenting itself as a threatening, unified front, gaining national attention with a deadly rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. The collection of far-right and white nationalist groups proclaimed victory after President Donald Trump hesitated to directly condemn them and instead blamed “both sides” and the “alt left” for the violence. But less than a year after Charlottesville, the alt-right is splintering in dramatic fashion as its leaders turn on each other or quit altogether.

Matthew Heimbach’s arrest in a March trailer park brawl with members of his neo-Nazi group—some of whom he was allegedly screwing—felt like a too-obvious metaphor. Heimbach was the head of the Traditionalist Worker Party, a youth-focused white supremacist group that floated to the front of media coverage and hate rallies in the run-up to Donald Trump’s election.

But by March, Heimbach and the TWP had spent the previous months embroiled in a series of online spats with other alt-right factions. On March 14, police in his Indiana hometown arrested Heimbach after he allegedly assaulted TWP spokesperson Matthew Parrott during a fight over their wives, both of whom Heimbach was allegedly sleeping with. Heimbach’s wife is Parrott’s stepdaughter.

The high-profile bust was an accelerant in what had been a slow-burning feud among the alt-right. Heidi Beirich, director of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Project, said the schism started after Unite the Right, a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, last August. The rally turned deadly after a man affiliated with a white supremacist group plowed a car into a crowd of counterprotesters, killing one and injuring more.

(This is all good news, of course, for democratic norms, but there’s still more to be done to bring these all of these lumpen men to their political demise.)

➤ Josh Marshall reports Trump: If Farmers Get Hit, They’ll Understand:

“When we do a deal with China – which probably we will, if we don’t they’ll have to pay pretty high taxes to do business with our country. That’s a possibility. But if we do a deal with China, if during the course of a negotiation they want to hit the farmers, because they think that hits me, I wouldn’t say that’s nice, but I tell you, our farmers are great patriots. These are great patriots. They understand that they’re doing this for the country. And we’ll make it up to them. In the end they’re going to be much stronger than they are right now.”

(Emphasis in original.)

➤ One cannot help but admire A ‘Poisoned’ City’s Spirit of Resilience:

“They poisoned the whole city and left us to fend for ourselves,” says Leon El-Alamin, a resident of Flint, Michigan, in Brian Schulz’s documentary, For Flint. “We feel like we’ve been placed in a position to die slowly.”

But die slowly Flint has not. Even as the city, which faces an ongoing water crisis, recedes from national headlines, its residents display an indomitable spirit. For Flint serves as a microcosm of this resiliency, despite the health concerns, multiple economic downturns, and dizzying crime rates that plague the city. “You would expect something like this in a third-world county, not in the United States of America,” says Valorie Horton, who parlayed a 33-year General Motors career into a second calling as an advocate for arts-deprived youth. The film profiles Horton and two other residents who are inspiring positive change in what many reports have deemed one of the “worst places to live” in America.

“Almost all of the coverage surrounding Flint focused on the hardships the city faced,” Schulz told The Atlantic, “so I wanted to give the community a positive voice that had not yet been heard. Like the many great athletes who call Flint home, the city’s residents possess the determination and grit that will push them past the hardships that they continue to face.”

Daily Bread for 4.18.18

Good morning.

Wednesday in Whitewater will be cloudy with a likelihood of snow this evening, and a high of thirty-seven. Sunrise is 6:06 AM and sunset 7:41 PM, for 13h 34m 28s of daytime. The moon is a waxing crescent with 8% of its visible disk illuminated.

Today is the five hundred twenty-fourth day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

Whitewater’s Parks & Rec Board meets at 5:30 PM.

On this day in 1938, eighty years ago today, Superman makes his debut in Action Comics #1:

(During the Depression, with Europe and Asia facing encroaching tyranny, Americans still had optimism, hope in the face of adversity (with far worse to come). These present times are difficult for us, of course, but as they were resilient then, we are resilient now.)

More about Action Comics #1 is available at Wikipedia:

Cover of Action Comics 1 (June 1938). Art by Joe Shuster. Via Wikipedia.

Published on April 18, 1938 (cover-dated June),[4] by National Allied Publications,[5] a corporate predecessor of DC Comics, it is considered the first true superhero comic; and though today Action Comics is a monthly title devoted to Superman, it began, like many early comics, as an anthology.[6]

Action Comics was started by publisher Jack Liebowitz. The first issue had a print run of 200,000 copies, which promptly sold out, although it took some time for National to realize that the “Superman” strip was responsible[7] for sales of the series that would soon approach 1,000,000 a month.[8] Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster were paid $10 per page, for a total of $130 for their work on this issue. Liebowitz would later say that selecting Superman to run in Action Comics #1 was “pure accident” based on deadline pressure and that he selected a “thrilling” cover, depicting Superman lifting a car over his head.[9]

Recommended for reading in full —

➤ Robert Costa, Sarah Ellison and Josh Dawsey report Hannity’s rising role in Trump’s world: ‘He basically has a desk in the place’:

The phone calls between President Trump and Sean Hannity come early in the morning or late at night, after the Fox News host goes off the air. They discuss ideas for Hannity’s show, Trump’s frustration with the ongoing special counsel probe and even, at times, what the president should tweet, according to people familiar with the conversations. When he’s off the phone, Trump is known to cite Hannity when he talks with White House advisers.

The revelation this week that the two men share an attorney is just the latest sign of how Hannity is intertwined with Trump’s world — an increasingly powerful confidant who offers the ­media-driven president a sympathetic ear and shared grievances. The conservative commentator is so close to Trump that some White House aides have dubbed him the unofficial chief of staff.

This portrait of the interactions between the president and the talk-show host is based on interviews with more than a dozen friends, advisers and associates of the two men, some of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe private conversations.

➤ Nicholas Confessore and David Gelles report Facebook Fallout Deals Blow to Mercers’ Political Clout:

Last month, a friend of the wealthy conservative donor Rebekah Mercer arrived at Facebook’s Silicon Valley headquarters. His task: Find out what — if anything — could repair relations between Facebook, the world’s biggest social media company, and Cambridge Analytica, the voter-profiling firm co-founded by her father and used by the Trump campaign.

The revelation last month that Cambridge Analytica improperly acquired the private Facebook data of millions of users has set off government inquiries in Washington and London, plunging Facebook into crisis. But it has also battered the nascent political network overseen by Ms. Mercer, 44, and financed by her father, Robert Mercer, 71, a hard-line conservative billionaire.

Ms. Mercer’s standing in Mr. Trump’s circle had already declined following the departure last year of Stephen K. Bannon, her family’s former adviser and President Trump’s former chief strategist, according to Republicans with close ties to the president’s political operation. A pro-Trump advocacy group controlled by Ms. Mercer has gone silent following strategic disputes between her and other top donors. Plans to wage a civil war against the Republican establishment in the 2018 midterms have been derailed.

➤ Ken White considers Why the F.B.I. Raid Is Perilous for Michael Cohen — and Trump:

What does this tell us? First, it reflects that numerous officials — not just Mr. Mueller — concluded that there was probable cause to believe that Mr. Cohen’s law office, home and hotel room contained evidence of a federal crime. A search warrant for a lawyer’s office implicates the attorney-client privilege and core constitutional rights, so the Department of Justice requires unusual levels of approval to seek one. Prosecutors must seek the approval of the United States attorney of the district — in this case the office of Geoffrey Berman, the interim United States attorney appointed by President Trump.

Prosecutors must also consult with the criminal division of the Justice Department in Washington. Finally, prosecutors must convince a United States magistrate judge that there’s probable cause to support the search. Faced with a warrant application destined for immediate worldwide publicity, the judge surely took unusual pains to examine it. This search was not the result of Mr. Mueller or his staff “going rogue.”

Second, the search demonstrates that federal prosecutors and supervisors in the Justice Department concluded that Mr. Cohen could not be trusted to preserve and turn over documents voluntarily. The same regulations that require prosecutors to seek high-level approval for a warrant to search a law office also instruct them to use the least intrusive means to obtain evidence from a lawyer, and to consider requesting voluntary cooperation or serving a subpoena. Mr. Cohen’s lawyer has loudly protested that he had been cooperating. This search warrant means that prosecutors — including the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York, and the criminal division at the Justice Department — believed that Mr. Cohen could not be trusted to respond fully to a subpoena or might destroy documents.

Third, the search suggests that prosecutors most likely believe that Mr. Cohen’s clients used his legal services for the purpose of engaging in crime or fraud. Attorney-client communications are privileged, which is why it’s so unusual and difficult for prosecutors to get approval to search a law office. Justice Department regulations require federal prosecutors to set up a system to have a separate group — a so-called dirty team — review the files and separate out attorney-client communications so that the investigators and prosecutors won’t see anything protected by the privilege.

➤ Zach Epstein has 10 hidden tricks that’ll make life with your iPhone X so much easier:

Apple’s iPhone X represents a massive departure from the company’s earlier smartphone models. The tenth-anniversary iPhone is a reimagining of Apple’s smartphone in so many ways, from the look and feel of the hardware to the new gesture-based navigation users must learn in order to use an iPhone with no home button. It takes a bit of getting used to, but most Apple fans seem to enjoy the new user experience a great deal. Of course, there’s more to the iPhone X then just a few new gestures, and most users seem to be unaware of all the nifty hidden tricks that make using the iPhone X so much easier.

In this post, we’ve collected 10 lesser-known tricks that are going to be big eye-openers for many iPhone X users out there. iPhone newcomers are going to be wowed, but even advanced users are going to learn something in this post. [List of tips follows in article.]

➤ This is Taking Birdwatching to the Extreme:

In 2016, Arjan Dwarshuis took his love for birdwatching to extreme lengths. He boarded over 140 flights to 40 different countries, journeying through jungles and forests in search of the birds of the world. During his 366-day trip, he smashed the world record, observing 6,856 species of birds—that’s 65% of the global bird population. Now, he’s using his epic adventure as a way to raise awareness for conservation efforts via http://arjandwarshuis.com/donate/..

A Better Alternative for Whitewater

 Local readers may have heard, as I have, that Whitewater’s Community Development Authority chairman recently thanked Congressman F. James Sensenbrenner for federal legislation. Sensenbrenner, for those unfamiliar, is a career office-holding septuagenarian multi-millionaire situated far from the city, serving in a gerrymandered district. (Sensenbrenner, whose only time is behind-the-times, once responded to concerns about online privacy by observing that ‘Nobody’s got to use the Internet’.)

There are surely people on this planet with a worse feel for Whitewater, but most of them probably speak Afrikaans. Sensenbrenner’s almost a parody of a candidate unsuited to our city.

(It’s funny, although I’m sure unintentionally so, that anyone on the Whitewater CDA would think dropping Sensenbrenner’s name was somehow impressive or endearing.)

I’m neither a Republican nor a Democrat (nor now a member of any party). It’s enough, I think, to have clear convictions and follow them to good candidates.

Whitewater can do better. Tom Palzewicz is, so to speak, that better —

Daily Bread for 4.17.18

Good morning.

Tuesday in Whitewater will be partly sunny with a high of forty. Sunrise is 6:08 AM and sunset 7:40 PM, for 13h 31m 44s of daytime. The moon is a waxing crescent with 2.9% of its visible disk illuminated.

Today is the five hundred twenty-third day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

Whitewater’s Public Works Committee meets at 6 PM, and her Common Council at 6:30 PM.

On this day in 1937, Daffy Duck first appears, as a character in the animated short Porky’s Duck Hunt.

Recommended for reading in full —

➤ Olga Khazan reports How France Cut Heroin Overdoses by 79 Percent in 4 Years (“And the United States could, too”):

In the 1980s, France went through a heroin epidemic in which hundreds of thousands became addicted. Mohamed Mechmache, a community activist, described the scene in the poor banlieues back then: “To begin with, they would disappear to shoot up. But after a bit we’d see them all over the place, in the stairwells and halls, the bike shed, up on the roof with the washing lines. We used to collect the syringes on the football pitch before starting to play,” he told The Guardian in 2014.

The rate of overdose deaths was rising 10 percent a year, yet treatment was mostly limited to counseling at special substance-abuse clinics.

In 1995, France made it so any doctor could prescribe buprenorphine without any special licensing or training. Buprenorphine, a first-line treatment for opioid addiction, is a medication that reduces cravings for opioids without becoming addictive itself.

With the change in policy, the majority of buprenorphine prescribers in France became primary-care doctors, rather than addiction specialists or psychiatrists. Suddenly, about 10 times as many addicted patients began receiving medication-assisted treatment, and half the country’s heroin users were being treated. Within four years, overdose deaths had declined by 79 percent.

➤ Zane Anthony, Kathryn Sanders and David A. Fahrenthold report Whatever happened to Trump neckties? They’re over. So is most of Trump’s merchandising empire:

Before he ran for office, Donald Trump made millions by selling his name to adorn other people’s products. There was Trump deodorant. Trump ties . Trump steaks. Trump underwear. Trump furniture. At one time, there was even a Trump-branded urine test.

Now, almost all of them are gone.

In 2015, Trump listed 19 com­panies that were paying him to produce or distribute Trump-branded consumer goods.

In recent weeks, only two said that they are still selling Trump-branded goods. One is a Panamanian company selling Trump bed linens and home goods. The other is a Turkish company selling Trump furniture.

Of the rest, some Trump partners quit in reaction to campaign-trail rhetoric on immigrants and Muslims. Others said their licensing agreements had expired. Others said nothing beyond confirming that they’d stopped working with Trump. Their last Trump goods are being sold off, often at a discount: One cologne is marked down to $9.99 from $42 for a one-ounce bottle.

➤ Lisa Friedman and Kenneth P. Vogel report Scott Pruitt’s Idea to Update an E.P.A. Keepsake: Less E.P.A., More Pruitt:

When Scott Pruitt wanted to refashion the Environmental Protection Agency’s “challenge coin” — a type of souvenir medallion with military origins that has become a status symbol among civilians — he proposed an unusual design: Make it bigger, and delete the E.P.A. logo.

Mr. Pruitt instead wanted the coin to feature some combination of symbols more reflective of himself and the Trump administration. Among the possibilities: a buffalo, to evoke Mr. Pruitt’s home state, Oklahoma, and aBible verse to reflect his faith.

Other ideas included using the Great Seal of the United States — a design similar to the presidential seal — and putting Mr. Pruitt’s name around the rim in large letters, according to Ronald Slotkin, a career E.P.A. employee who retired this year, and two people familiar with the proposals who asked to remain anonymous because they said they feared retribution.

➤ Stephen Colbert of The Late Show has a bit of fun with Sean Hannity’s embarrassing conflicts of interest:

➤ Here’s How NASA’s TESS Spacecraft Will Hunt Exoplanets:

The Price of Trumpism is Ruin

Craig Gilbert looks at the careers of Priebus, Ryan, and Walker:

They led the “Cheesehead Revolution,” the GOP’s audacious conquest of Wisconsin. They offered a model for bridging Republican frictions between establishment and base. They became national figures. They ran into Donald Trump. They suffered. They bent to his rise.

Now one (Priebus) has left the stage. Another (Ryan) says he’ll never run for office again. And the third, Walker, faces the headwinds of a Trump presidency with negative approval ratings.

Via Remember GOP’s Cheesehead Revolution? As Ryan leaves, Wisconsin’s national influence wanes @ Journal Sentinel.

These men came to cooperate and collaborate with Trump. Cooperation is humiliation, collaboration is degradation. Whether their assistance came from weak principles or unprincipled ambition, to draw close to Trump is to draw close to wrongdoing. Thousands of years – literally – of moral and ethical teaching make this clear.

Nationally, the focus should be on Trump, His Inner Circle, Principal Surrogates, and Media Defenders.

State and local officials (no matter how proud, entitled, and presumptuous) shouldn’t be exempt from the same necessary critique of their connection to Trumpism. See A Local Problem Before It Became a National One. These scheming few, with their empty rhetoric and jargon, were part of that which paved the way.

They chose this path freely; one has no reason to be sympathetic.

Daily Bread for 4.16.18

Good morning.

Monday in Whitewater will see flurries with a high of thirty-six. Sunrise is 6:09 AM and sunset 7:38 PM, for 13h 28m 59s of daytime.

Today is the five hundred twenty-second day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

Whitewater’s Library Board is scheduled to meet at 6:30 PM.

On this day in 1944, the USS Wisconsin is commissioned.

Recommended for reading in full —

➤ The New York Times editorial board writes The President Is Not Above The Law:

Mr. Mueller’s investigation has already yielded great benefit to the country, including the indictments of 13 Russians and three companies for trying to undermine the presidential election. None of us can know if prosecutors will eventually point the finger at the president himself. But should Mr. Trump move to hobble or kill the investigation, he would darken rather than dispel the cloud of suspicion around him. Far worse, he would free future presidents to politicize American justice. That would be a danger to every American, of whatever political leaning.

The president is not a king but a citizen, deserving of the presumption of innocence and other protections, yet also vulnerable to lawful scrutiny. We hope Mr. Trump recognizes this. If he doesn’t, how Republican lawmakers respond will shape the future not only of this presidency and of one of the country’s great political parties, but of the American experiment itself.

➤ Michelle Ye Hee Lee and Anu Narayanswamy report Trump’s reelection committee has spent more than $1 out of every $5 on legal fees this year:

President Trump’s reelection campaign spent more than $1 out of every $5 on attorney fees this year as the president contended with the ongoing special counsel investigation and a new legal challenge from an adult-film star.

Of the $3.9 million that Trump’s committee spent in the first quarter of 2018, more than $834,000 went to eight law firms and the Trump Corp. for legal fees, according to new Federal Election Commission records filed Sunday.

The latest figures bring the Trump campaign’s total spending on legal fees to nearly $4 million since the president took office, records show. In the last quarter of 2017, Trump’s campaign committee spent $1.1 million in legal fees.

➤ Nicole Cobler reports Trump nominee for federal judgeship had rejected Texas lawsuit against Trump University:

An Austin lawyer who dropped the state of Texas’ investigation of Trump University in 2010 may get a lifetime post as a federal judge.

President Donald Trump named former Texas Deputy Attorney General David Morales on Tuesday to a trial bench in Corpus Christi. Morales had been recommended to the White House by Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz.

Morales made headlines during the presidential campaign when news outlets learned that in May 2010 the state’s consumer protection division had sought permission to pursue what it believed was a strong case against Trump and Trump University. Investigators asserted that Texas taxpayers had been bilked out of more than $2.6 million, and sought to file a $5.4 million lawsuit.

Morales rejected the recommendation. Texas dropped its investigation. Trump University voluntarily ceased operations in Texas.

➤ Adam Davidson sees Michael Cohen and the End Stage of the Trump Presidency:

➤ Watch as a Hungry, Cranky Croc Destroys Watermelon With Powerful Jaw:

Daily Bread for 4.15.18

Good morning.

Sunday in Whitewater will see sleet and snow with a high of thirty-five. Sunrise is 6:11 AM and sunset 7:37 PM, for 13h 26m 14s of daytime. The moon is new with .3% of its visible disk illuminated.

Today is the five hundred twenty-first day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

On this day in 1861, Wisconsin receives the call: “On this date Governor Alexander W. Randall received a telegram from Washington requesting one regiment of 780 men to serve the Union for three months in the Civil War. Within a week ten companies, from Kenosha, Beloit, Horicon, Fond du Lac, Madison, and Milwaukee were ready. [Source: The History of Wisconsin, Vol. II by Richard N. Current]”

Recommended for reading in full —

➤ Peter Stone and Greg Gordon report Sources: Mueller has evidence Cohen was in Prague in 2016, confirming part of dossier:

The Justice Department special counsel has evidence that Donald Trump’s personal lawyer and confidant, Michael Cohen, secretly made a late-summer trip to Prague during the 2016 presidential campaign, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

Confirmation of the trip would lend credence to a retired British spy’s report that Cohen strategized there with a powerful Kremlin figure about Russian meddling in the U.S. election.

It would also be one of the most significant developments thus far in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of whether the Trump campaign and the Kremlin worked together to help Trump win the White House. Undercutting Trump’s repeated pronouncements that “there is no evidence of collusion,” it also could ratchet up the stakes if the president tries, as he has intimated he might for months, to order Mueller’s firing.

➤ Norman Eisen and Richard Painter contend Donald Trump’s 5 reasons to fire Rod Rosenstein reveal true aim: Obstructing Robert Mueller:

President Trump reportedly is considering firing Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general who appointed special counsel Robert Mueller and supervises his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. To prepare the way, Trump has by our count floated five rationales internally and externally for doing so. The briefest scrutiny of these purported justifications shows that they are baseless, and makes apparent the president’s true motivation: to obstruct the investigation that Rosenstein oversees.

Trump has reportedly complained about Rosenstein being a Democrat and coming from heavily Democratic Baltimore. In fact, Rosenstein is a decades-long registered Republican who worked as a federal prosecutor in Baltimore. That was part of a long career at the Justice Department devoted to the rule of law under both Republican and Democratic presidents. He was selected from a pool of Republican lawyers and nominated by Trump for his position as deputy attorney general. [Attys. Eisen and Painter then consider remaining five of Trump’s thin bases.]

➤ Nicole Lewis and Maurice Chammah write Seven Years Behind Bars for Two Joints — And Now He’s Free (“Bernard Noble, whose case became a symbol of harsh drug laws, walks out of a Louisiana prison”):

(One shouldn’t have to smoke anything – I don’t – to grasp that these sentences are disgracefully high. Yet for it all, there’s a lumpen lobby that screams for sentences like this, as long as they are visited on a different demographic.)

➤ Judy Newman reports State of Wisconsin Investment Board employees to take home $11.6 million in bonuses:

Employees of the State of Wisconsin Investment Board — the agency that manages retirement funds for more than 600,000 current and former public workers — will share in bonuses totaling $11.6 million, the agency said Friday.

It is the fourth-highest bonus pot in the past five years.

The incentive payments, approved by the SWIB board of trustees, are based on the five-year investment earnings that exceed general market returns. That amounted to $759 million for the past five years ending in December.

Of this year’s $11.6 million pot, two of SWIB’s high-level employees will each get bonuses topping $500,000.

(These bonuses aren’t high for private work of a similar kind – the obvious concern is that this isn’t private work of a similar kind; these funds could be managed well by those no longer seeking career earnings, as a true public service.)

➤ Take a Tour of the Moon in 4K (courtesy of NASA):

Daily Bread for 4.14.18

Good morning.

Saturday in Whitewater will see a mix of rain and sleet with a high of thirty-eight. Sunrise is 6:13 AM and sunset 7:36 PM, for 13h 23m 27s of daytime. The moon is a waning crescent with 2.74% of its visible disk illuminated.

Today is the five hundred twentieth day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

On this day in 1865, President Lincoln is shot and mortally wounded by John Wilkes Booth during a performance of “Our American Cousin” at Ford’s Theater in Washington.

Recommended for reading in full —

➤ Scott Clement and Emily Guskin report Post-ABC poll: Majority of Americans support Mueller’s probe of Russia, Trump campaign:

A clear majority of Americans support special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election and alleged collusion with President Trump’s campaign, a new Washington Post-ABC News poll finds.

The results show backing for inquiries into Trump’s orbit on several fronts.

Nearly 7 in 10 adults say they support Mueller’s focus on possible collusion with Russia. Sixty-four percent say they want the special counsel investigating Trump’s business activities. And a 58 percent majority supports investigating alleged payments by Trump associates to silence women who say they had affairs with him.

➤ Prof. of Law Randall D. Eliason writes Mueller doesn’t need to talk to Trump:

So how could Mueller make his obstruction case, whether in an indictment or — as appears more likely — in a report? The key to obstruction of justice is proving corrupt intent, and Mueller would prove it the same way prosecutors typically do: through circumstantial evidence. This could include the suspicious timing of events; evidence of the president’s actions and their likely consequences; lies and conflicting explanations for the president’s behavior; testimony of those who had conversations with the president, witnessed his behavior, or who were otherwise involved; the president’s own contemporaneous statements about such things as his decision to fire FBI Director James B. Comey; and any notes, emails, or other contemporaneous records that might shed light on the president’s state of mind.

No single piece of evidence makes the case, but prosecutors would string them together until there was no longer any reasonable doubt about the corrupt intent behind the president’s actions.

There is no doubt Mueller would like to interview the president. In addition to the questions about obstruction, prosecutors would love to hear what the president has to say about possible conspiracy with Russians to influence the election, as well as about other allegations swirling around his campaign and administration. But if Mueller thinks he has an argument for obstruction, he doesn’t need an interview with Trump to make that case.

➤ Ashley Parker, Carol D. Leonnig, Josh Dawsey and Tom Hamburger report Trump’s allies worry that federal investigators may have seized recordings made by his attorney:

President Trump’s personal attorney Michael D. Cohen sometimes taped conversations with associates, according to three people familiar with his practice, and allies of the president are worried that the recordings were seized by federal investigators in a raid of Cohen’s office and residences this week.

Cohen, who served for a decade as a lawyer at the Trump Organization and is a close confidant of Trump’s, was known to store the conversations using digital files and then replay them for colleagues, according to people who have interacted with him.

“We heard he had some proclivity to make tapes,” said one Trump adviser, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigation. “Now we are wondering, who did he tape? Did he store those someplace where they were actually seized? … Did they find his recordings?”

Cohen did not respond to requests for comment. Stephen Ryan, an attorney for Cohen, declined to comment. A White House spokeswoman referred a request for comment to Cohen and his attorney.

(It’s hard to overstate how recklessly aberrant Cohen’s conduct would be to tape conversations with clients or others in his orbit.)

➤ Krishnadvev Calamur contends The Syrian War Is Actually Many Wars:

(The complexity of this conflict doesn’t excuse Assad – he merits charges as a murder and war criminal, and belongs at The Hague for trial on those charges. The question for America is how to respond effectively, and whether Trump has the needed grasp that would underlie a genuinely effective response.)

➤ See Farol de Leça da Palmeira with a Mavic Air

Friday Catblogging: Former State Trooper Accused of Harassing People, Killing Cats

A sad story today, about a former state trooper accused of killing cats and using the dead animals to harass a former neighbor:

PORTAGE, Wis. — A retired Wisconsin state trooper is accused of killing neighborhood cats that were stalking his bird feeder and dumping the carcasses in the yard of a former neighbor.

Portage police said Paul Griener, 73, was fed up with neighborhood cats killing birds.

“He didn’t like the fact that they were in his bird feeders and took matters into his own hands and trapped these cats,” Portage police Detective Dan Garrigan said.

After serving a search warrant Wednesday, investigators now believe Greiner was drawing birds to the house with bird feeders, which in turn was luring the cats that he was catching in traps.

“We got a complaint of some dead cats that were starting to show up on someone’s property,” Brandner said.

Investigators said Greiner was dumping the cats in a yard 20 minutes away, near his former home, to harass the owner.

“What was really so frightening about it was the expression it had on its face, almost like it was screaming with its eyes open,” said Liz Masterson, who lives at the house where the cats were dumped.

I’m a cat guy, and of course I think it’s wrong to kill cats. Worse, however, is that Greiner may have used the dead cats to harass a person, a former neighbor.

Daily Bread for 4.13.18

Good morning.

Friday in Whitewater will be rainy with a high of forty-eight. Sunrise is 6:14 AM and sunset 7:35 PM, for 13h 20m 41s of daytime. The moon is a waning crescent with 7.4% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the five hundred nineteenth day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

Thomas Jefferson is born on this day in 1743.

Recommended for reading in full —

➤ Molly Beck reports State employee discipline for sexual harassment ranged from reprimands to termination:

➤ William G. Gale writes The fiscal picture is worse than it looks—and it looks bad:

On the surface, CBO’s new projections of the federal debt and deficits over the next 10 years paint a troubling picture. But, dig deeper and the story gets … more dire. The Federal government is not only running enormous deficits, but we are doing so at a time of full-employment. When the inevitable recession comes, we will be in deep trouble.

Here’s the bad part:  Under current law, CBO projects that the debt—currently 77 percent as large as annual GDP—will rise to 96 percent of GDP by 2028. And that’s if Congress does nothing. If instead, Congress votes to extend expiring tax provisions—such as the many temporary tax cuts in the 2017 tax overhaul—and maintain spending levels enacted in the budget deal (which is called the “current policy” baseline), debt is projected to rise to 105 percent of GDP by 2028, the highest level ever except for one year during World War II (when it was 106 percent).

Here’s the worse part: The conventional comparison is misleading. The projected budget deficits in the coming decade are essentially “full-employment” deficits. This is significant because, while budget deficits can be helpful in recessions by providing an economic stimulus, there are good reasons we should be retrenching during good economic times, including the one we are in now. In fact, CBO projects that, over the 2018-2028 period, actual and potential GDP will be equal. As President Kennedy once said “the time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining.”  Instead, we are punching more holes in the fiscal roof.

➤ Susan Hennessey, Matthew Kahn, Benjamin Wittes offer Seven Takeaways From Trump’s Threats Against Rod Rosenstein:

In short, it is not only unclear whether Rosenstein will be fired, it is also unclear what precisely the consequences would be—at least in immediate legal terms—if he is fired.

With those caveats, here are seven observations about the possible firing of Rosenstein:

First, firing Rosenstein is not the same as firing Mueller, but it would be borne of the same corrupt purpose.

Second, there is no non-corrupt reason to fire Rosenstein. Rosenstein is, to be sure, a complicated figure. His tenure as deputy attorney general has been marked by some ugly incidents, most significantly when he authored the memo designed to provide the president with a pretext for firing Comey as FBI director. But whatever criticisms of Rosenstein may be valid, none of them is related to the reason Trump wants to fire him.

Third, it would be no better for Trump to force Rosenstein’s recusal than to remove him from office entirely. Trump  Wednesday encouraging people to watch Sean Hannity’s show on Fox News that evening.  was largely dedicated to advocating that Rosenstein be fired. Alan Dershowitz, who has  to the president, argued that rather than directly fire Rosenstein, he would “do it differently”—perhaps sidelining him from the investigation by insisting on his recusal. CNN has reported that the White House is  in line with Dershowitz’s message, arguing that Rosenstein’s involvement in Comey’s firing makes him too conflicted to continue overseeing the investigation. [Additional observations in full article.]

➤ Noted book critic Michiko Kakutani writes James Comey Has a Story to Tell. It’s Very Persuasive:

In his absorbing new book, “A Higher Loyalty,” the former F.B.I. director James B. Comey calls the Trump presidency a “forest fire” that is doing serious damage to the country’s norms and traditions.

“This president is unethical, and untethered to truth and institutional values,” Comey writes. “His leadership is transactional, ego driven and about personal loyalty.”

Decades before he led the F.B.I.’s investigation into whether members of Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia to influence the 2016 election, Comey was a career prosecutor who helped dismantle the Gambino crime family; and he doesn’t hesitate in these pages to draw a direct analogy between the Mafia bosses he helped pack off to prison years ago and the current occupant of the Oval Office.

The central themes that Comey returns to throughout this impassioned book are the toxic consequences of lying; and the corrosive effects of choosing loyalty to an individual over truth and the rule of law. Dishonesty, he writes, was central “to the entire enterprise of organized crime on both sides of the Atlantic,” and so, too, were bullying, peer pressure and groupthink — repellent traits shared by Trump and company, he suggests, and now infecting our culture.

➤ There’s a Microscale Robot on This Penny That Can Travel Through Your Body:

Trump Nominee Non-Committal on School Integration

Alternative title: Why We Resist and Oppose.

Consider the remarks of Wendy Vitter, Trump’s judicial nominee for the Eastern District of Louisiana:

[Vitter] refused to say whether she supported the Supreme Court’s 1954 ruling that struck down school segregation. And yes, this is 2018. Appearing at her Senate confirmation hearing on Wednesday, Wendy Vitter was plainly asked by Sen. Richard Blumenthal: “Do you believe that Brown v. Board of Education was correctly decided?” Her initial response raised an immediate red flag: “I don’t mean to be coy,” she began, before continuing: “I think I get into a difficult area when I start commenting on Supreme Court decisions—which are correctly decided and which I may disagree with. Again, my personal, political, or religious views I would set aside. That is Supreme Court precedent. It is binding. If I were honored to be confirmed I would be bound by it and of course I would uphold it.” Asked again by a befuddled Blumenthal whether she supported the ruling, Vitter replied: “Again, I would respectfully not comment on what could be my bosses ruling—the Supreme Court—I would be bound by it, and if I start commenting on ‘I agree with this case’ or ‘don’t agree with this case’ I think we get into a slippery slope.”

For nominee Vitter, the unanimous 1954 decision is Brown v Board of Education (“We conclude that, in the field of public education, the doctrine of “separate but equal” has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal. Therefore, we hold that the plaintiffs and others similarly situated for whom the actions have been brought are, by reason of the segregation complained of, deprived of the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment”) is a matter of evasion.

Her lack of a direct answer makes her unfit to serve, makes those who nominated her unfit to govern, and makes those who would defend her rightly designated as deplorable.

Daily Bread for 4.12.18

Good morning.

Thursday in Whitewater will be variably cloudy, with a high of sixty-three. Sunrise is 6:16 AM and sunset 7:34 PM, for 13h 17m 53s of daytime. The moon is a waning crescent with 13.3% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the five hundred eighteenth day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

On this day in 1961, the Civil War begins with the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter.

Recommended for reading in full —

➤ Conservative Erick Erickson describes an Epic rant from a GOP member of Congress:

(There’s little on which Erickson and I would agree, but I’ve never known him to be dishonest – the conversation is almost certainly genuine.)

➤ Patrick Marley and Jason Stein report Wisconsin Rep. Dale Kooyenga says he will cover $30,000 settlement for taking protester’s sign as video is released:

Rep. Dale Kooyenga said Wednesday he would reimburse taxpayers $30,000 to settle a lawsuit, just as the state released video footage showing Kooyenga removing a protest sign critical of Republicans from a public area of the Capitol.

Kooyenga, a Brookfield Republican running for the state Senate, has given various explanations at different times for taking the sign last year, saying that he did so as a joke, that he thought the sign was inappropriate and that he believed it created a safety hazard because it could have hidden something dangerous.

In May, Donald Johnson of Madison placed a sign in the Capitol that criticized Republican President Donald Trump, without naming him, as “corrupt” and “a serial groper.” It said Republicans backed the president, “we the people be damned.”

Johnson had a state permit to display the sign in the Capitol, and he said he taped a copy of it to the back of the sign.

That month, Kooyenga removed the sign and put it in his office as a joke and because he thought it was inappropriate, according to what he told Capitol Police at the time. After Johnson complained about the missing sign, the Capitol Police saw on security video that Kooyenga had taken the sign and recovered it from him.

Gov. Scott Walker’s administration initially declined to release a copy of the video of Kooyenga taking the sign to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and other media outlets. But the administration released it Wednesday after the Journal Sentinel and others requested it for a second time, saying that the settlement made the video a record of interest to the public.

 

Kooyenga has also said he took the sign because his military training had taught him that signs against curved walls create “clear risks” to the public because they could conceal something dangerous. The video shows the sign is on an easel and it appears it would be difficult to hide something behind it.

His critics have called Kooyenga’s claims about safety laughable.

“How does he even get through an intersection? Because there are a lot of signs at intersections,” Sen. Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton) said.

➤ Brian Chen writes that I Downloaded the Information That Facebook Has on Me. Yikes:

When I downloaded a copy of my Facebook data last week, I didn’t expect to see much. My profile is sparse, I rarely post anything on the site, and I seldom click on ads. (I’m what some call a Facebook “lurker.”)

But when I opened my file, it was like opening Pandora’s box.

With a few clicks, I learned that about 500 advertisers — many that I had never heard of, like Bad Dad, a motorcycle parts store, and Space Jesus, an electronica band — had my contact information, which could include my email address, phone number and full name. Facebook also had my entire phone book, including the number to ring my apartment buzzer. The social network had even kept a permanent record of the roughly 100 people I had deleted from my friends list over the last 14 years, including my exes.

There was so much that Facebook knew about me — more than I wanted to know. But after looking at the totality of what the Silicon Valley company had obtained about yours truly, I decided to try to better understand how and why my data was collected and stored. I also sought to find out how much of my data could be removed.

➤ Matt Velazquez writes 76ers 130, Bucks 95: With plenty on the line, the Bucks flop into the postseason:

PHILADELPHIA – The Milwaukee Bucks saved their worst for last.

With playoff seeding and a first-round draft pick hanging in the balance, the Bucks put forth an atrocious display at the Wells Fargo Center on Wednesday night, falling 130-95, to the Philadelphia 76ers. The 35-point margin represents Milwaukee’s biggest blowout loss of the season.

“We didn’t finish strong and we didn’t play well and that’s very disappointing,” Bucks coach Joe Prunty said. “Hopefully it’s a learning lesson for us.”

The 76ers played without all-star Joel Embiid (fractured orbital bone) and sharpshooter J.J. Redick, who was scratched from the starting lineup due to back tightness moments before the game.

➤ Bonsai!!!: