April 12, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 8:05 PM


Trump, Mueller teams prepare to move forward without presidential interview (Carol E. Lee, Julia Ainsley, Kristen Welker and Hallie Jackson,  Apr.12.2018, NBC News)

Three sources familiar with the investigation said the findings Mueller has collected on Trump's attempts to obstruct justice include: His intent to fire former FBI Director James Comey; his role in the crafting of a misleading public statement on the nature of a June 2016 Trump Tower meeting between his son and Russians; Trump's dangling of pardons before grand jury witnesses who might testify against him; and pressuring Attorney General Jeff Sessions not to recuse himself from the Russia investigation.

Mueller would then likely send a confidential report to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who is overseeing the Russia investigation. Rosenstein could decide whether to make the report public and send its findings to Congress. From there, Congress would then decide whether to begin impeachment proceedings against the president, said two of the sources.

James Comey Has a Story to Tell. It's Very Persuasive. (MICHIKO KAKUTANIAPRIL 12, 2018, NY Times)

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.

A February 2017 meeting in the White House with Trump and then chief of staff Reince Priebus left Comey recalling his days as a federal prosecutor facing off against the Mob: "The silent circle of assent. The boss in complete control. The loyalty oaths. The us-versus-them worldview. The lying about all things, large and small, in service to some code of loyalty that put the organization above morality and above the truth." An earlier visit to Trump Tower in January made Comey think about the New York Mafia social clubs he knew as a Manhattan prosecutor in the 1980s and 1990s -- "The Ravenite. The Palma Boys. Café Giardino."

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.

Posted by orrinj at 6:05 PM


A Proposal To Split California Could Make The November Ballot (EMILY ZANOTTI, April 12, 2018, Daily Wire)

A proposal to split California into three states, effectively separating the state's northern and southern regions from its far more liberal middle, has enough signatures to make it onto the November ballot.

The "CAL 3" proposal would split off San Diego and southern regions into a separate state, quarantine Sacramento with Los Angeles and much of the Bay Area, and give northern Californians their own self-government. The three new states, according to the petition, would select their own capitals and elect their own legislatures.

This proposal is separate from two others, which are asking for complete secession -- one liberal, which would separate the full state of California from the rest of the union, and one conservative, which would break off the Orange County area into its own self-governing state. 

California is too large to be an effective nation.

Posted by orrinj at 1:52 PM


10 Lawmakers In Louisiana Vote AGAINST Law To Ban Sex With Animals (JOSEPH CURL, April 12, 2018, Daily Wire)

The vote was 25-10 on Senate Bill 236, which will now be sent to the House for consideration.

Posted by orrinj at 4:50 AM


Posted by orrinj at 4:45 AM


Trump Discussed Firing Rosenstein But Denies Bid to Oust Mueller  (Jennifer Jacobs, Joshua Green & Shannon Pettypiece, April 12, 2018, Bloomberg)

President Donald Trump discussed firing Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein with White House aides on Wednesday, a person familiar with the matter said, as a chorus of Trump's advisers and allies urged him to thwart the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election. [...]

Steve Bannon, Trump's former strategist, said he has told White House officials that the president should fire both his lawyer Ty Cobb and Rosenstein to cripple Mueller's inquiry.

Bannon said that Trump should stop cooperating with Mueller and assert executive privilege to silence aides who might speak with the special counsel -- even retroactively, for those who've already been interviewed.

...they are at least being honest that the sole purpose of any of Donald's actions at this point is obstruction.  But I think I missed the section on retroactive privilege in law school....

Posted by orrinj at 4:44 AM


California's governor agrees to deploy 400 National Guard troops at Trump's request (KCRA,  Apr 11, 2018)

Dear Secretary Nielsen and Secretary Mattis:

Pursuant to your request, the California National Guard will accept federal funding to add approximately 400 Guard members statewide to supplement the staffing of its ongoing program to combat transnational crime. This program is currently staffed by 250 personnel statewide, including 55 at the California border.

Your funding for new staffing will allow the Guard to do what it does best: support operations targeting transnational criminal gangs, human traffickers and illegal firearm and drug smugglers along the border, the coast and throughout the state. Combating these criminal threats are priorities for all Americans - Republicans and Democrats. That's why the state and the Guard have long supported this important work and agreed to similar targeted assistance in 2006 under President Bush and in 2010 under President Obama.

But let's be crystal clear on the scope of this mission. This will not be a mission to build a new wall. It will not be a mission to round up women and children or detain people escaping violence and seeking a better life. And the California National Guard will not be enforcing federal immigration laws.

Here are the facts: there is no massive wave of migrants pouring into California. Overall immigrant apprehensions on the border last year were as low as they've been in nearly 50 years (and 85 percent of the apprehensions occurred outside of California).

I agree with the Catholic Bishops who have said that local, state and federal officials should "work collaboratively and prudently in the implementation of this deployment, ensuring that the presence of the National Guard is measured and not disruptive to community life."

I look forward to working with you on this important effort.


Edmund G. Brown Jr.

Posted by orrinj at 4:40 AM


Why, as an Indian American, the Apu Simpsons Controversy Bothers Me (PRADHEEP J. SHANKER, April 11, 2018, National Review)

On the show, Apu is a strongly accented, traditional Indian immigrant. As such, he is the owner of a convenience store (obviously a nod to the many 7-11s and other small businesses owned by Indians throughout the northeastern United States), who later gets an arranged marriage, has octuplets, and is shown as a fantastic father and husband. He is also, among other things, a gun owner who is extremely religious and devoted to his Hindu culture.

Now . . . what in the above paragraph is insulting or demeaning? Literally nothing, to anyone with an ounce of common sense or perspective on reality. It takes a fantastic amount of intellectual gymnastics to blame such a character for any racial slights any of us Indians have experienced in our day-to-day lives. To be sure, Apu, like all of the characters on the show, has his moments of buffoonery, but none of it amounts in any significant way to racial animus.

Kondabolu's complaints about the repercussions of Apu's entrance into popular society abound. For example, he points to the fact that people yell catchphrases from the TV show at him during his comedy bits. He has even complained that Apu's most famous catchphrase -- "Thank you! Come again!" -- has been yelled at him at times by drunks on the street.

This is absurd.

For anyone who grew up in the U.S. as a minority, such supposed atrocities are the most minimalist racial affronts one could think of. I can just picture my African-American friends, who grew up being called the N-word on a regular basis, guffawing at the supposed outrage that Indians feel at having quotes from an American cartoon show shouted at them.

That isn't to say there isn't and wasn't racism against Indian Americans. I grew up in a mostly white, Protestant town, with almost no minorities (where the population of Indians in my school numbered exactly one: me). That said, I grew up largely before The Simpsons ever aired. Was I exempt from the random racial epithet? Of course not. And this is where Kondabolu's complaints are so ridiculous. Racists and bigots will find something to use to denigrate the ones they hate, regardless of the available source material. If Apu had never existed, would Kondabolu and his cohorts have gone through life exempt from any racial comments and insults? I think not.

Kondabolu compounds the ludicrousness of his complaints by saying that because The Simpsons was largely written by white Americans, and Apu was voiced by someone who is white (Hank Azaria), the character cannot be taken seriously. This adds to the hysteria; the portrayal of Apu, in and of itself, is what is relevant, regardless of who is writing or voicing the character. Is Kondabolu's argument that if I, as an Indian, had been chosen as the voice of Apu, using my even worse interpretation of an Indian accent instead of Azaria's, somehow that would have cleaned the slate?

To the credit of the writers of The Simpsons, they confronted this with comedy and nuance. In the scene that drew the ire of many liberals, Marge, speaking to Lisa, has rewritten an entire book, in order to make it inoffensive. In response, Lisa is largely left speechless:

"It's hard to say," Lisa responds. "Something that started decades ago and was applauded and inoffensive is now politically incorrect. What can you do?"

(With that last rhetorical line, Lisa glances at a picture of Apu, which rests on her nightstand. "Don't have a cow," the autographed photo reads.)

"Some things will be dealt with at a later date," Marge then says.

In many ways, that clip nails it. Apu, like many of the characters on a show that is largely built on stereotypes, has himself grown from a single-dimensional character into one that is fleshed out with a family, profession, and personal desires and needs. What more can you ask for, in a storytelling venture?


Indian-Americans Pay a Price for Running Convenience Stores (Diaspora | Indo-Asian News Service,  September 01, 2014)

Back in 2006, Joe Biden, then a Senate candidate ran into trouble for a remark that "you cannot go to a 7-Eleven or a Dunkin' Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent."

Gaffe-prone Biden got away by explaining that it wasn't a racial slur but "was meant as a compliment" for the "vibrant Indian-American community" making "a significant contribution to the national economy as well."

A spin or not, Biden who went on become vice president in 2008, was speaking a home truth as according to the Asian-American Convenience Store Owners Association its 50,000 members own over 80,000 convenience stores.

That's more than half the US convenience store count of 151,282 as of Dec 31, 2013.

Posted by orrinj at 4:31 AM


Brutus, the Noble Conspirator: A meticulously researched, beautifully written biography of Julius Caesar's high-minded assassin. (Matthew Leigh, 4/11/18, History Today)

Roman aristocrats of this period were acutely aware of the virtues of their ancestors. Brutus himself claimed descent on his father's side from Lucius Junius Brutus, who expelled Tarquin the Proud in 509 BC and was one of the two consuls for the first year of the Roman republic. Tracing the lineage of his mother, Servilia, Brutus could point to Servilius Ahala, who in 439 BC killed Spurius Maelius on the grounds that he was aspiring to tyranny. Yet in Brutus' own time it was not always so easy to decide who represented the better cause. When civil war broke out in 49 BC, Brutus was an instinctive supporter of the senate in its opposition to the demands of Julius Caesar. Yet to do so meant serving under a man - Pompeius Magnus - who had murdered Brutus' father when Brutus was no more than five and whom Brutus had openly attacked for his subversion of the republican constitution. If Caesar represented a worse cause still, he was also so close an intimate of Servilia that rumours circulated in antiquity that he was Brutus' true father.

After Pompey's defeat at the battle of Pharsalus in 48 BC, Brutus was among the first to make his peace with Caesar. He worked to secure reconciliation between the warring parties and in 46 BC accepted the governorship of Cisalpine Gaul. By 44 BC he was serving as urban praetor, a magistracy second in authority only to the consulship, and he must have seemed to Caesar a reliable friend and associate. Yet Caesar's ever more nakedly monarchical mode of government and pretensions to divinity could not but alienate those who had hoped that he would restore the old order after years of chaos. Brutus, Cassius and their fellow conspirators could see only one way forward: assassination. They styled themselves liberators but others saw them as traitors and parricides. Either way, their success was shortlived and their hopes died with them.

Kathryn Tempest's life of Brutus is both meticulously researched and elegantly constructed. This is no hagiography nor is it a desecration. Brutus' high-minded philosophy and determination to treat his fellow Romans justly are as much in evidence as his dubious financial dealings on Cyprus and his brutal subjection of the people of Xanthus. Incisively analytical when confronted with contradictions in the ancient sources, Tempest nevertheless avoids the temptation to present too univocal a picture of her subject. She recognises the complexity of his personality and his actions and shows how they relate to the confusion of the times in which he lived.

How far a republican must go to stop a tyrant is always a fascinating question.

Posted by orrinj at 4:26 AM


Now You're Free, Paul Ryan. Fire Devin Nunes.: There's still time for the House speaker to redeem himself on Russiagate. (MIEKE EOYANG, April 11, 2018, Politico)

HPSCI is one of the few remaining "select" Committees in Congress, meaning the speaker alone picks the committee chair and the membership for the Republicans. (The minority leader does the same for the Democrats.) Under House rules, the speaker may, at any time, remove any member of a select committee at his or her discretion. In the past, members have been stripped of their committee assignments for causing problems for the leadership. Thus, unlike other committees, where the caucus or a steering committee has a say in the committee leadership, HPSCI is effectively under Ryan's thumb. So he owns Nunes' shameful handling of the Russia probe, and his hijinks on behalf of the White House.

Nunes wasn't always a bad egg. After Speaker John Boehner announced that he was relinquishing the job, he appointed the Fresno congressman to chair HPSCI. Nunes was known as a loyal partisan and a Ryan ally, but at the time he seemed like a traditional Republican when it came to intelligence oversight and had a good relationship with the members of his committee.

Unfortunately, something changed dramatically after Donald Trump won theelection. During the weeks before Trump took office, Chris Christie was removed as head of the transition team and with him, former Michigan Rep. Mike Rogers, a respected ex-chair of HPSCI who ran the committee in a serious, bipartisan fashion. In came Nunes, who helped select national security appointees and set up the administration's national security agenda. Unlike many who serve on transition teams, however, Nunes didn't enter the administration, but returned to HPSCI to run the committee and conduct oversight over the national security foundations that he had laid.

Then, three months after the inauguration, after Trump claimed that his predecessor had "wiretapped" Trump Tower during the election, Nunes dashed off to the White House in the middle the night and the next day, called two bizarre news conferences during which he accused President Barack Obama's team of improperly "unmasking" the identities of Trump associates. The claim never withstood close scrutiny...

Nor distant.

Trump Ordered DOJ to Hire Controversial Former Aide, Sources Say (Chris Strohm & Jennifer Jacobs, Apr. 11th, 2018, Bloomberg)

President Donald Trump personally ordered the Department of Justice to hire a former White House official who departed after he was caught up in a controversy over the release of intelligence material to a member of Congress, according to people familiar with the matter.

Ezra Cohen-Watnick, who was forced out of the National Security Council last year, will advise Attorney General Jeff Sessions on national security matters. He left the White House in August for a job at Oracle Corp. following reports that he had shown House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes classified documents.

Posted by orrinj at 4:17 AM


Parkland teacher faces charge after his gun is fired in public bathroom: Deputies report that it's fortunate nobody was hurt in mishap (Bob Norman, April 11, 2018, Local 10)

A pistol-packing Marjory Stoneman Douglas teacher who said he'd be willing to be trained to carry a gun to protect the high school faces a criminal charge after he left his Glock 9mm in a public restroom where it was later fired by an drunk homeless man, according to the Broward Sheriff's Office. 

Posted by orrinj at 4:15 AM


The Manger, The Cross and The Resurrection: A Christian Interpretation of Our Time (Paul Ramsey, April 12, 2018, Providence)

In Christ, it has been said, are met in one man's ideal of what God ought to be, and God's ideal of what man ought to be. Christ is a revelation of the nature of God's love, and, at the same time, an ideal for human devotion and ethical endeavor. The Cross, moreover, is a disclosure of the fact that man who nailed Christ there is a sinner, and a revelation of the magnitude of human sin. At the Cross we know that man is a sinner, and that he is a great sinner. But we also receive through the Cross a profound insight into the nature of human sin when we hear Jesus saying, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." (Luke 23: 34)

His next insight was even more profound for Him.

Posted by orrinj at 4:10 AM



Now, pitchers have a surfeit of options at hand to fight back. There's FlightScope, a device that uses multifrequency 3D radar technology to track pitches and that 12 Major League teams were using in 2017, according to Fangraphs, a baseball website. PitchGrader uses a Doppler radar to gather pitch data. RevFire, which, like Rapsodo, launched a portable system that records data after every pitch, is coming up with an upgraded avatar. And Rapsodo -- which first started with a golf launch monitor in 2010 -- rolled out its pitching tool to MLB teams in 2017 and had 17 of the 30 big league organizations signed up on Opening Day this year. Three other MLB organizations are in negotiations.

While high-tech methods still earn a skeptical eye from some in the game who preach feel over numbers, many pitchers say pitch tracking gives them a chance to keep their competitive advantage. It allows them to change their grip, or change the pressure they put on the seams of the baseball, with instant analysis in a manner never seen in the sport before. "It's feedback right away," says Blair Lakso, 23, a minor league pitcher with the Minnesota Twins, speaking of Rapsodo. "You translate it right to the playing of the game. It's absolutely awesome."

For sure, tech in baseball isn't new. Stadiums across the country offer fans ball velocities on giant screens during games. In 2006, Sportvision devised PITCHf/x to measure spin -- this technology too is now available at most MLB stadiums. Two years later, Trackman, another firm, launched technology that uses a military-grade Doppler radar -- placed behind home plate -- to measure the location, spin, break, velocity and trajectory of pitches.

But the introduction of pitch-tracking technology in baseball is no longer incremental. There's a bouquet of options that has landed at the doorstep of teams, tailored not for fans but for training. "These are powerful tools that are giving meaningful data to the teams and players," says Dr. Glenn Fleisig, the research director for the American Sports Medicine Institute and a consultant to Major League Baseball. "It gives teams another tool for instruction and scouting, and that is all good for baseball."

At spring training this year, Rapsodo appeared the technology pitchers and coaches were most excited about. The data it churns out is not a labyrinth of numbers. The screen is straightforward and the data manageable. Many teams have added player-development personnel who specialize in performance science, which helps with the machine learning.

"It can show what works and doesn't work, as long as you know what the numbers mean," says Adam McCreery, a minor league pitcher with the Atlanta Braves. "You may think, 'Hey, my stuff is really good', but the machine might say, 'No, it's not as good as you think.'"

Posted by orrinj at 4:04 AM


$30,000 rumor? Tabloid paid for, spiked, salacious Trump tip (JAKE PEARSON and JEFF HORWITZ, 4/12/18, AP)

The Associated Press confirmed the details of the Enquirer's payment through a review of a confidential contract and interviews with dozens of current and former employees of the Enquirer and its parent company, American Media Inc. Sajudin got $30,000 in exchange for signing over the rights, "in perpetuity," to a rumor he'd heard about Trump's sex life -- that the president had fathered an illegitimate child with an employee at Trump World Tower, a skyscraper he owns near the United Nations. The contract subjected Sajudin to a $1 million penalty if he disclosed either the rumor or the terms of the deal to anyone.

Cohen, the longtime Trump attorney, acknowledged to the AP that he had discussed Sajudin's story with the magazine when the tabloid was working on it. He said he was acting as a Trump spokesman when he did so and denied knowing anything beforehand about the Enquirer payment to the ex-doorman.

The parallel between the ex-Playmate's and the ex-doorman's dealings with the Enquirer raises new questions about the roles that the Enquirer and Cohen may have played in protecting Trump's image during a hard-fought presidential election. Prosecutors are probing whether Cohen broke banking or campaign laws in connection with AMI's payment to McDougal and a $130,000 payment to porn star Stormy Daniels that Cohen said he paid out of his own pocket.

Posted by orrinj at 3:50 AM


High stakes for Macron as France weighs up Syria strikes (AFP, 12 April 2018)

In laying his integrity on the line over Syria's suspected use of chemical weapons, French President Emmanuel Macron might be playing for even higher stakes -- maintaining the landmark Iran nuclear accord, analysts say.

The 40-year-old leader, weighing the first foreign military operation on his own initiative, has made clear he considers Damascus behind a suspected chemical attack in the rebel-held Syrian town of Douma last weekend that killed at least 40 people.

Macron's response is expected to be high on the agenda during a TV interview Thursday afternoon, only his third since the centrist swept to power
last year.

For many experts, he has no choice but to enforce his "red line" on the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime, which would prompt French military strikes.