The C.E.O. Who Stood Up to President Trump: Ken Frazier Speaks Out – The New York Times

DL:  This is a good story. Mr. Ken Frazier’s grandfather was a slave, and his father was a janitor.

Oddly, I have a personal connection to a part small part of the story below. When my mother died, in 2005, of a stroke, we learned she had been taking Vioxx, and discussed suing Merck, but decided that there were too many other factors, to blame the company that supplied one of her medications.

“Mr. Frazier attended Pennsylvania State University. After earning a degree from Harvard Law School, he went to work Drinker Biddle & Reath, a law firm in Philadelphia. While there, he began representing Merck, and also took on pro bono work.

He spent several summers in South Africa teaching black law students. And he took on the case of James Willie “Bo” Cochran, a black inmate on death row who had been convicted of killing a white store manager.

After looking at the evidence, Mr. Frazier and his colleagues became convinced of Mr. Cochran’s innocence. They eventually secured him a new trial, and he was acquitted in 1997.

“It was by far the most important thing that I’ve ever done in my life, full stop, professionally,” Mr. Frazier said. “This is a man who was facing an execution date for a crime he did not commit.”  Mr. Frazier joined Merck 1992 and rose through the ranks, overseeing the company’s defense against lawsuits related to the anti-inflammatory drug Vioxx, and, as chief executive since 2011, prioritizing the development of drugs to treat cancer.”

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Giffords Gun Control PAC Spends Most Money on Fundraising- Operating Costs

The gun control advocacy group founded by former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords spends more of its money on fundraising and operating expenses than campaign activity, Federal Election Commission documents show.The Americans for Responsible Solutions PAC has raised just over $11 million in the 2016 campaign cycle, according to FEC filings. The group has spent just over $9 million of that money thus far. Fifty-three percent of that spending went towards things other than campaign activity.

Source: Gun Control PAC Spends Most Money on Fundraising, Operating Costs

‘I’m Just More Afraid of Climate Change Than I Am of Prison’ – The New York Times

“On Oct. 11, 2016, Michael Foster and two companions rose before dawn, left their budget hotel in Grand Forks, N.D., and drove a white rental sedan toward the Canadian border, diligently minding the speed limit. The day was cold and overcast, and Foster, his diminutive frame wrapped in a down jacket, had prepared for a morning outdoors. As the driver, Sam Jessup, followed a succession of laser-straight farm roads through the sugar-beet fields, and a documentary filmmaker, Deia Schlosberg, recorded events from the back seat, Foster sat hunched in the passenger seat, mentally rehearsing his plan.

When Jessup pulled over next to a windbreak of cottonwood trees, Foster felt the seconds stretch and slow. For months, he’d imagined his next actions: He would get out of the car, put on a hard hat and safety vest, retrieve a pair of bolt cutters from the trunk and walk to the fenced enclosure about 100 feet away. He would snip the padlock that secured the gate and approach the blunt length of vertical pipe in the center of the enclosure — the stem of a shut-off valve for the 2,700-mile-long Keystone Pipeline, which carries crude oil from the tar sands of Alberta to refineries on the Texas coast. He would cut the chain on the steel wheel attached to the stem, and turn the wheel clockwise until it stopped.

What Foster didn’t expect was that once he’d broken through the chain-link fence, he would be briefly overwhelmed by the magnitude of what he was about to do. He faced away from the biting wind, and allowed himself to cry. He then put a gloved hand on the steel wheel, which was almost three feet across and mounted vertically as if on the helm of a ship, and began to turn it. For long minutes it spun easily, but then both the wheel and the ground below his feet began to shake. Foster had been told to expect this, but still he hesitated. When he resumed turning, he had to throw his body into the task, at times dangling from the wheel to coax it downward. Finally, he could wrestle it no farther, and the shaking stopped. He felt a profound sense of relief. He replaced the lock on the wheel with a new padlock, sat down and, breathing heavily, began to record himself on his phone. “Hey, I’ve never shot video for grandkids that I don’t have yet,” he told the camera, “but I want any grandkids, or grandnephews and nieces or whatever, anybody in any family tree of mine, to know that once upon a time people burned oil, and they put it in these underground pipes, and they burned enough, fast enough, to almost cook you guys out of existence, and we had to stop it — any way we could think of.”

Ten minutes before Foster entered the enclosure, Jessup and another supporter each called the operations center of the pipeline’s owner, the TransCanada Corporation, and described what Foster was about to do. The company called the sheriff. About half an hour after Foster walked away from the valve station, an officer arrived and arrested Foster, Jessup and Schlosberg.What neither the sheriff’s department nor TransCanada knew, however, was that while Foster was closing off the Keystone Pipeline, four other cross-border pipelines — in Washington, Montana and Minnesota — were being shut down, too. Together, the pipelines carry nearly 70 percent of the crude oil imported to the United States from Canada.”

DL: This is a fascinating and complex story. While I care deeply about climate change, and I am impressed that by getting into small boats and blocking oil or coal ships, some polical progress has been made. But attacking the oil pipeline hardware, or turning the valves, doesn’t seem to me to be the most effective way to convince Americans that climate change is a serious problem, and that we need to accelerate our involvement in environmental  awareness and political change. That the main character lost his wife and children, suggests that he was a bit self-absorbed in rightous cause, to detriment of his familial relations.  In terms of political tactics, there appears to be real difference between an illegal but peaceful protest march, as practiced by Ghandi and Martin Luther King, and tresspassing to sabotoge private property, as practiced by these eco protesters.

Judges Say Throw Out the Map. Lawmakers Say Throw Out the Judges. – The New York Times

“WASHINGTON — In Pennsylvania, a Republican lawmaker unhappy with a State Supreme Court ruling on gerrymandering wants to impeach the Democratic justices who authored it.

In Iowa, a running dispute over allowing firearms in courthouses has prompted bills by Republican sponsors to slash judges’ pay and require them to personally pay rent for courtrooms that are gun-free.

In North Carolina, the Republican Party is working on sweeping changes to rein in state courts that have repeatedly undercut or blocked laws passed by the legislature.

Rather than simply fighting judicial rulings, elected officials in some states across the country — largely Republicans, but Democrats as well — are increasingly seeking to punish or restrain judges who hand down unfavorable decisions, accusing them of making law instead of interpreting it.

Civil liberties advocates and other critics have a different take: The real law-flouting, they say, is by politicians who want to punish justices whose decisions offend their own ideological leanings.”

DL: This is how democracies slide into facist dictatorships.

Trump Doesn’t Give a Dam – by Paul Krugman – NYT

“Donald Trump doesn’t give a dam. Or a bridge. Or a road. Or a sewer system. Or any of the other things we talk about when we talk about infrastructure.But how can that be when he just announced a $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan? That’s easy: It’s not a plan, it’s a scam. The $1.5 trillion number is just made up; he’s only proposing federal spending of $200 billion, which is somehow supposed to magically induce a vastly bigger overall increase in infrastructure investment, mainly paid for either by state and local governments (which are not exactly rolling in cash, but whatever) or by the private sector.

And even the $200 billion is essentially fraudulent: The budget proposal announced the same day doesn’t just impose savage cuts on the poor, it includes sharp cuts for the Department of Transportation, the Department of Energy and other agencies that would be crucially involved in any real infrastructure plan. Realistically, Trump’s offer on infrastructure is this: nothing.”

Yes, yes, yes. Here is the most recommended comment, which I liked:

Socrates is a trusted commenter Downtown Verona. NJ 19 hours ago

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) says the US needs to invest $4.59 trillion by 2025 in the nation’s infrastructure, according to its Infrastructure Report Card.

The ASCE gave the America’s infrastructure an overall grade of D+.

The ASCE says that the current low level of government investment makes trillions in GDP losses and job losses inevitable due to America’s 3rd world infrastructure.

America’s infrastructure grades:

Aviation: D
Bridges: C+
Dams: D
Drinking Water: D
Energy: D+
Hazardous Waste: D+
Inland Waterways: D
Levees: D
Parks and Recreation: D+
Ports: C+
Rail: B
Roads: D
Schools: D
Solid Waste: C+
Transit: D-
Wastewater: D+

https://www.infrastructurereportcard.org/

America is a D student when it comes to infrastructure, and as a reminder for our dumb, deplorable Donald, infrastructure costs real dollars, not fake dollars.

In Donald’s defense, he’s probably confused, because he’s used to stiffing contractors and people – not paying them – so he underestimated the real cost by a trillion or two….an honest crook’s mistake.

Of course just over a month ago, we had an extra $1.5 trillion to spend on infrastructure, BUT there was an urgent emergency renovation of the giant levee systems in 50,000 of the country’s millionaire/billionaire bank accounts that required immediate attention and a rapid response.

Infrastructure represents the common good: Donald Trump and Greed Over People will be having none of that.

Three cheers for Dumb D+onald.

FlagReply 1229 Recommended

What Every Indie Author Needs to Know About E-Books -Publishersweekly.com

“Manuscript to E-Book

While the manuscript is getting a final proof, an author can begin taking steps to actually turn it into an e-book. The text must be formatted so it wraps and resizes as readers zoom in or out or toggle between devices, the table of contents needs to be made clickable, and in a format that works for every retailer. Authors can do this themselves with a few hours of technical self-education, or pay for a service to take care of it.

For those going the DIY route, the manuscript will need to be converted into two documents (assuming you are looking to publish across all major e-book platforms): A MOBI file for Amazon Kindle; and an EPUB file for other e-book retailers, including Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, Sony, and Apple iBooks.Authors can utilize Smashwords Direct to upload their EPUB or Word document onto the Smashwords platform, following the company’s particular style guide. While just doing this could allow authors to distribute their book to every major retailer beyond Amazon, the Smashwords “meatgrinder” automated conversion technology gives authors limited choice in how their final layout looks.

“I want my e-books to look the way I want them to look,” says LJ Cohen, author of several self-published novels as well as detailed guides on e-book formatting. “So I send the Word document to the meatgrinder, and once it gets approved in the catalog, then I upload my hand-coded EPUB file on top of that.”

To do this for EPUB and MOBI, first use a word processor program that allows for cleaning up formatting and creating custom fonts, paragraphs, and headings. A number of software programs are available for converting documents into EPUB and MOBI files. These include free tools PressBooks, Leanpub, and Jutoh (which has a for-purchase version offering more functions) for both EPUB and MOBI, or Sigil for EPUB files. The programs Scrivener and Apple Pages can export EPUB files but cost money.But perhaps the most popular conversion program in the industry remains Calibre, which converts documents to both MOBI and EPUB. It is free, versatile, and works for both Mac and PC as more than a simple e-book converter.”

Source: What Every Indie Author Needs to Know About E-Books

Is Devin Nunes Obstructing Justice? – By NORMAN L. EISEN- CAROLINE FREDRICKSON and LAURENCE H. TRIBE

“As public scrutiny exposes deep flaws in the memo from the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Devin Nunes, about alleged F.B.I. surveillance abuses, the committee’s Republicans are increasingly downplaying its significance. Mr. Nunes’s colleagues are right to seek some distance from this caper — not to mention other similar memos he has hinted at releasing. That’s because by writing and releasing the memo, the chairman may just have landed himself, and his staff members, in the middle of Robert Mueller’s obstruction of justice investigation.

This risk emerged when Repesentative Mike Quigley, a Democrat on the committee, asked Mr. Nunes whether he or his staff coordinated the memo with the White House. Mr. Nunes said he had not — but refused to answer the same question about his staff. Facing a second round of questions on this issue during a committee meeting last week, Mr. Nunes again demurred, except to read a narrow statement that the White House was not involved in the actual drafting.In additional comments to the press, the committee staff director noted the memo was a “‘team effort’ that involved investigators who had access to source material.”

The Problem With Parole – The New York Times

“Gov. Andrew Cuomo has called on the State Legislature to make changes that would help those in custody for parole violations, such as abolishing money bail for people accused of misdemeanors, eliminating state supervision fees for people on parole and reviewing how child support is calculated for people incarcerated for more than six months.

But the Columbia study calls on the Legislature to do a lot more. It recommends that the state adopt several common-sense reforms, most of which have already shown promise in other states. These include: adopting a system of graduated sanctions and rewards, instead of automatically dumping people into jail for minor infractions; capping jail terms for minor parole violations; requiring a judicial hearing before parole officers can jail people accused of technical violations; shortening parole terms for people who stay out of trouble for specified periods of time; and using the savings reaped from cutting the prison population to expand education, substance abuse and housing opportunities for parolees, who need considerably more help than they’re getting to forge stable lives in their communities.”

David Lindsay Jr. Hamden, CT Pending Approval
Young men going back to jail for small infractions of probation is also a serious problem in Connecticut. I allowed a 30 year old ex con, black man to become my handyman. He had spent 6 years in jail for breaking and entering when he was about 20. Two years ago, a friend of his convinced him he could skip his parol meeting, which was onerous, and he was dumb enough to take the bad advice. He was back to jail for 17 months, for not showing up for his parole meeting. I was shocked. This appears to be a form of jim crow. It also interrupted the young man’s attempt to succeed in society with a variety of part time jobs. Most of his time in back in jail he watched TV and worked out a little. He got no job training or education.
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David Lindsay Jr. is the author of “The Tay Son Rebellion,” and blogs at TheTaySonRebellion.com and InconvenientNews.wordpress.com

Big Republican Advantages Are Eroding in the Race for House Control – by Nate Cohn – NYT

By Nate Cohn, Feb. 12, 2018
“The Democratic advantage on the generic congressional ballot has slipped over the last few weeks. But Republicans have gradually lost advantages of their own.Slowly but surely, the considerable structural advantages — like incumbency, geography and gerrymandering — that give the Republicans a chance to survive a so-called wave election are fading, giving Democrats a clearer path to a House majority in November.”