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Archive for May 12th, 2017

Et Tu Rod? Why The Deputy Attorney General Must Resign

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Benjamin Wittes writes at LawFare:

“He made—he made a recommendation,” Donald Trump said yesterday of his Deputy Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein in an interview with NBC News. “He’s highly respected, very good guy, very smart guy. The Democrats like him; the Republicans like him. He made a recommendation, but regardless of the recommendation, I was going to fire Comey.”

There it is, directly from the presidential mouth: Trump happily traded the reputation of Rosenstein, who began the week as a well-respected career prosecutor, for barely 24 hours of laughably transparent talking points in the news cycle. The White House sent out person after person—including the Vice President—to insist that Rosenstein’s memo constituted the basis for the President’s action against the FBI director. The White House described a bottoms-up dissatisfaction with Comey’s leadership, which Rosenstein’s memo encapsulated and to which the President acceded. And then, just as casually as Trump and his people set Rosenstein up as the bad guy for what was obviously a presidential decision into whose service Rosenstein had been enlisted, Trump revealed that Rosenstein was, after all, nothing more than a set piece.

Here’s the entire exchange between Trump and NBC:

LESTER HOLT: Monday you met with the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosen—Rosenstein

DONALD TRUMP: Right.

LESTER HOLT: Did you ask for a recommendation?

DONALD TRUMP: Uh what I did is I was going to fire Comey—my decision, it was not [OVER TALK]

LESTER HOLT: You had made the decision before they came in the room?

DONALD TRUMP: I—I was going to fire Comey. Uh I—there’s no good time to do it by the way. Uh they—they were [OVER TALK]

LESTER HOLT: Because you letter you said I—I, I accepted their recommendation, so you had already made the decision.

DONALD TRUMP: Oh I was gonna fire regardless of recommendation.

LESTER HOLT: So there was [OVER TALK]

DONALD TRUMP: He made—he made a recommendation, he’s highly respected, very good guy, very smart guy, uh the Democrats like him, the Republicans like him, uh he made a recommendation but regardless of recommendation I was going to fire Comey knowing, there was no good time to do it. And in fact when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story, it’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won.

Note that Trump did not merely reveal Rosenstein as a set piece here; he revealed him as a set piece in Trump’s own effort to frustrate the Russia investigation. The story as told by the president to NBC now is that Trump decided to fire Comey in connection with saying to himself that the Russia investigation was a made up story, and that it was in that context that he got Rosenstein to write a pretextual memo.

Rosenstein appears to know he has been used. The Washington Post reports that he threatened to resign, as the Post puts it, “after the narrative emerging from the White House on Tuesday evening cast him as a prime mover of the decision to fire Comey and that the president acted only on his recommendation.” Rosenstein yesterday denied that he had threatened to resign, and the Wall Street Journal offers a slightly more modest version, in which Rosenstein “pressed White House counsel Don McGahn to correct what he felt was an inaccurate White House depiction of the events surrounding” Comey’s firing. He “left the impression he couldn’t work in an environment where facts weren’t accurately portrayed.”

And Rosenstein got what he wanted: The White House, and Trump himself, have come clean. The firing of Comey had nothing to do with Rosenstein’s memo. As the White House has now made clear, in a timeline released Wednesday, there were other reasons. As the Journal reports: . . .

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Written by LeisureGuy

12 May 2017 at 7:16 pm

A Law Professor Explains Why You Should Never Talk to Police

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Harry Cheadle writes at Vice:

James Duane doesn’t think you should ever talk to the police. Not just, “Don’t talk to the police if you’re accused of a crime,” or, “Don’t talk to the police in an interrogation setting”—never talk to the cops, period. If you are found doing something suspicious by an officer (say, breaking into your own house because you locked yourself outside), you are legally obligated to tell the cop your name and what you’re doing at that very moment.

Other than that, Duane says, you should fall back on four short words: “I want a lawyer.”

In 2008, Duane, a professor at Virginia’s Regent Law School, gave a lecture about the risks of talking to police that was filmed and posted to YouTube. It’s since been viewed millions of times, enjoying a new viral boost after the Netflix documentary Making a Murderer spurred interest in false confessions. His argument, which he’s since expanded into a new book called You Have the Right to Remain Innocent, is that even if you haven’t committed a crime, it’s dangerous to tell the police any information. You might make mistakes when explaining where you were at the time of a crime that the police interpret as lies; the officer talking to you could misremember what you say much later; you may be tricked into saying the wrong things by cops under no obligation to tell you the truth; and your statements to police could, in combination with faulty eyewitness accounts, shoddy “expert” testimony, and sheer bad luck, lead to you being convicted of a serious crime.

Duane’s book details several outrageous incidents just like that around the country, clearly showing the many ways the system is stacked against suspects. These include a proliferation of poorly written laws that make nearly anything a potential crime, rules that allow prosecutors to cherry-pick only the most damning parts of police interrogations at trials, and a little-known 2013 Supreme Court ruling allowing prosecutors to tell juries that defendants had invoked the Fifth Amendment—in other words, telling an officer you are making use of your right to remain silent could wind up being used as evidence against you. For that reason, Duane thinks that you shouldn’t even tell the police that you are refusing to talk. Your safest course, he says, is to ask in no uncertain terms for a lawyer, and keep on asking until the police stop talking to you. . .

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Written by LeisureGuy

12 May 2017 at 6:55 pm

Posted in Law, Law Enforcement

“Winners and Losers of the Recent Nuclear Holocaust”

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Dan Cluchey in McSweeney’s:

The nation was recently rocked by retaliatory nuclear blasts that have turned much of America into a barren wasteland, decimating the population, triggering the rise of firestorms and supervolcanoes, and generally bringing civilization to the brink of collapse. Let’s take a look at the political fallout.

Winners

  • Congressional Republicans: Widespread destruction aside, this was a kumbaya moment for a caucus that has had its share of family spats of late. For the first time since coming together to narrowly pass the American Health Care Act in May, Speaker Paul Ryan wonkily persuaded the House GOP’s version of the Hatfields and McCoys — the principled hardliners of the Freedom Caucus on one hand, and the reasonable moderates of the Tuesday Group on the other — to set their bickering aside just long enough to squeak through a resolution in support of President Trump’s plan, tweeted out at 3:29 a.m. on Thursday morning, to “FRANCE IS LOOKING FOR TROUBLE. Sick country that won’t solve its own problems. Maybe nucluar?” Concerns that a more deliberative Senate would splash cold water on a rare show of Republican unity proved unfounded when Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), the human fulcrum perched stoically at the precise center of American politics, revealed in a nationally televised special that she would vote to authorize nuclear war to balance out the fact that she had recently broken ranks with her party on an agriculture appropriations bill.
  • CNN: . . .

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Written by LeisureGuy

12 May 2017 at 5:06 pm

The Last Person You’d Expect to Die in Childbirth

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Nina Martin, ProPublica, and Renee Montagne, NPR, report in ProPublica:

The U.S. has the worst rate of maternal deaths in the developed world, and 60 percent are preventable. The death of Lauren Bloomstein, a neonatal nurse, in the hospital where she worked illustrates a profound disparity: The health care system focuses on babies but often ignores their mothers.

AS A NEONATAL INTENSIVE CARE NURSE, Lauren Bloomstein had been taking care of other people’s babies for years. Finally, at 33, she was expecting one of her own. The prospect of becoming a mother made her giddy, her husband Larry recalled recently — “the happiest and most alive I’d ever seen her.” When Lauren was 13, her own mother had died of a massive heart attack. Lauren had lived with her older brother for a while, then with a neighbor in Hazlet, New Jersey, who was like a surrogate mom, but in important ways she’d grown up mostly alone. The chance to create her own family, to be the mother she didn’t have, touched a place deep inside her. “All she wanted to do was be loved,” said Frankie Hedges, who took Lauren in as a teenager and thought of her as her daughter. “I think everybody loved her, but nobody loved her the way she wanted to be loved.”

Other than some nausea in her first trimester, the pregnancy went smoothly. Lauren was “tired in the beginning, achy in the end,” said Jackie Ennis, her best friend since high school, who talked to her at least once a day. “She gained what she’s supposed to. She looked great, she felt good, she worked as much as she could” — at least three 12-hour shifts a week until late into her ninth month. Larry, a doctor, helped monitor her blood pressure at home, and all was normal.

On her days off she got organized, picking out strollers and car seats, stocking up on diapers and onesies. After one last pre-baby vacation to the Caribbean, she and Larry went hunting for their forever home, settling on a brick colonial with black shutters and a big yard in Moorestown, not far from his new job as an orthopedic trauma surgeon in Camden. Lauren wanted the baby’s gender to be a surprise, so when she set up the nursery she left the walls unpainted — she figured she’d have plenty of time to choose colors later. Despite all she knew about what could go wrong, she seemed untroubled by the normal expectant-mom anxieties. Her only real worry was going into labor prematurely. “You have to stay in there at least until 32 weeks,” she would tell her belly. “I see how the babies do before 32. Just don’t come out too soon.”

When she reached 39 weeks and six days — Friday, Sept. 30, 2011 — Larry and Lauren drove to Monmouth Medical Center in Long Branch, the hospital where the two of them had met in 2004 and where she’d spent virtually her entire career. If anyone would watch out for her and her baby, Lauren figured, it would be the doctors and nurses she worked with on a daily basis. She was especially fond of her obstetrician-gynecologist, who had trained as a resident at Monmouth at the same time as Larry. Lauren wasn’t having contractions, but she and the OB-GYN agreed to schedule an induction of labor — he was on call that weekend and would be sure to handle the delivery himself.

Inductions often go slowly, and Lauren’s labor stretched well into the next day. Ennis talked to her on the phone several times: “She said she was feeling okay, she was just really uncomfortable.” At one point, Lauren was overcome by a sudden, sharp pain in her back near her kidneys or liver, but the nurses bumped up her epidural and the stabbing stopped. . .

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Written by LeisureGuy

12 May 2017 at 4:37 pm

Five Reasons Why the Comey Affair Is Worse than Watergate

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James Fallows writes in the Atlantic:

The tangled affair now known as Watergate began 45 years ago, before most of today’s U.S. population had even been born. (The median age of Americans is about 38, so most people in the country were born in 1979 or thereafter.) Thus for most people “Watergate” is a historical allusion—obviously negative in its implications, since it led to the only presidential resignation in American history, but probably hazy in its details.

For me, Watergate is anything but hazy. I’d left graduate school and begun my first magazine job, with The Washington Monthly, in the fall of 1972, as news of the scandal emerged. Over the next two years, until Richard Nixon’s resignation, I was living in D.C. and tracking the daily progress in clue-following and domino-toppling via stories in The Washington Post and elsewhere—and then the riveting, televised Watergate hearings that made national celebrities of politicians like Senators Howard Baker and Sam Ervin, and of White House aides like Alexander Butterfield (who revealed the existence of Nixon’s secret system for taping White House conservations) and John Dean (who as White House counsel had told Nixon, “there is a cancer on the presidency”). Anyone of conscious age in that time can probably remember the jolts to national sentiment that the near-daily revelations evoked.

So I’ve been thinking about comparisons between Watergate and the tangled, fast-changing Comey-Russia-Flynn-Trump affair. As with anything involving Donald Trump, we have no idea where this will lead, what is “true,” and when the next bombshell will go off.

But based simply on what is known so far, this scandal looks worse than Watergate. Worse for and about the president. Worse for the overall national interest. Worse in what it suggests about the American democratic system’s ability to defend itself. Here is a summary of some reasons why:

The underlying offense

At some point in the coverage of every scandal you’ll hear the chestnut, “It’s always the cover-up, never the crime.” This refers of course to the historical reality that scandal-bound figures make more problems by denying or lying about their misdeeds than they would if they had come clean from the start.

This saying first became really popular in the Watergate era—which is significant for what it suggests about the gravity of the underlying crime in that case. Richard Nixon’s beleaguered press secretary Ron Ziegler, a Sean Spicer-like figure of that era, oversold the point when he dismissed the break-in at Democratic National Committee headquarters as a “third-rate burglary.” But the worst version of what Nixon and his allies were attempting to do—namely, to find incriminating or embarrassing information about political adversaries ranging from the Democratic party chairman Lawrence O’Brien to Pentagon Papers-whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg—was not as bad as what came afterwards. Those later efforts included efforts to derail investigations by the FBI, the police, various grand juries and congressional committees, which collectively amounted to obstruction of justice.

And what is alleged this time? Nothing less than attacks by an authoritarian foreign government on the fundamentals of American democracy, by interfering with an election—and doing so as part of a sustained effort that included parallel interference in the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and elsewhere. At worst, such efforts might actually have changed the election results. At least, they were meant to destroy trust in democracy. Not much of this is fully understood or proven, but the potential stakes are incomparably greater than what happened during Watergate, crime and cover-up alike.

The blatancy of the interference

A climactic event of the Watergate saga, the
“Saturday Night Massacre” of October, 1973, is too complex to lay out in full. (More here.) Its essence was a nearly-last-gasp attempt by Nixon to prevent a special prosecutor from getting full access to the Oval Office tapes whose existence had recently become known.

But even in his stonewalling, Nixon paid lip-service to the concept of due process and checks-and-balances. (His proferred solution was something called the “Stennis compromise,” in which the very conservative Senator John Stennis, from Mississippi, would “listen” personally to the tapes and summarize their content. As it happens, Stennis was famous for being practically deaf.) Nixon wanted to survive and win, but he wanted to act as if he was doing so while sticking to some recognizable rules.

Nothing Donald Trump has done, on the campaign trail or in office, has expressed awareness of, or respect for, established rules. Nixon’s private comments could be vile, but nothing he said in public is comparable to Trump’s dismissing James Comey as a “showboat,” or the thuggishly menacing tweet that Trump sent out today: . . .

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Written by LeisureGuy

12 May 2017 at 10:30 am

Vie-Long horsehair brush, Barrister & Mann Leviathan, and the Rockwell R4

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I have two of these horsehair brushes, handles very slightly different. This is the smaller, but it works just fine: horsehair brushes generate lather easily and release it without complaint. They do require the same sort of pre-soak as does boar.

The brush did a fine job with Barrister & Mann’s Leviathan: lovely lather, fine fragrance, great glide. With the R4 plate on my Rockwell 6S, the shave was a snap: three passes, BBS result, no nicks or other problems. The Rockwell 6S is a redoubtable razor.

A splash of Leviathan aftershave, and we wrap up the week—and what a week it has been.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 May 2017 at 8:11 am

Posted in Shaving

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