Ken Starr makes irony look easy


My hands are clean…

❝ On CNN’s “New Day” Friday morning, former independent counsel Ken Starr raised questions about whether current special counsel Bob Mueller might be over-stepping the bounds of his mandate in investigating Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election.

❝ Here’s the key part:

“I think the gravamen of the original complaint was, was there collusion, to the extent you’re moving beyond collusion with Russian operatives or Russian interests or the Russian government itself, and into that which doesn’t seem to have a direct tie to Russia, then these questions are in fact raised. It becomes a litigable question that people are going to sidewalk about and disagree about it. I don’t think it’s clear one way or the other, but i do think it is a certainly a serious matter.”

❝ First of all, Ken Starr is the most prominent — and controversial — independent counsel ever. If you asked a person on the street to name an independent counsel not named Bob Mueller, Ken Starr would be the only one anyone would come up with…

Second, Starr is the reason that all presidents — Trump included — are extremely leery of independent or special prosecutors. He is the definitional example of an investigation starting small and growing huge.

❝ Remember that Starr took over the Whitewater investigation, an examination into an Arkansas land deal gone bad, in 1994. By the time Starr released the eponymous report of his findings on Sept. 11, 1998, his investigation had turned its focus to Bill Clinton’s extramarital affair with a White House intern. It took four years and cost roughly $40 million.

While Starr succeeded in initiating Clinton’s impeachment, he also knew [or should have] it wasn’t going to succeed. But, he managed to waste even more taxpayer dollar$ on his crusade against the Clintons. Fact-based legal decisions sometimes seem as rare as Trump keeping promises.

Oklahoma limits oil and gas wells to fight quakes

Facing a six-year barrage of increasingly large earthquakes, Oklahoma regulators are effectively ordering the state’s powerful oil-and-gas industry to substantially cut back the underground disposal of industry wastes that have caused the tremors across the state.

…The state Corporation Commission asked well operators in a Connecticut-size patch of central Oklahoma to reduce by 40 percent the amount of oil and gas wastes they are injecting deep into the earth. The directive covers 411 injection wells in a rough circle that includes Oklahoma City and points northeast…

The directives were phrased as requests, because the Corporation Commission’s legal authority to order cutbacks over such broad areas is unclear. The commission has come close to legal battles over the issue twice this year, and a third challenge would not be a surprise. The commission has pledged to take to court any operator that refuses to carry out the reductions…

The new orders come after three of the largest quakes in the state’s history, 4.7, 4.8 and 5.1-magnitude shocks that rocked a major oil field this year.

In 2010, when the tremors began, Oklahoma recorded three earthquakes at or above a magnitude of 3. Last year, it had 907. So far in 2016, it has had nearly 160.

Although critics contend that earthquakes have caused millions of dollars of damage, Oklahoma’s political leaders have long been reluctant to impose restrictions on an industry that dominates the state’s economy. Until last spring, Gov. Mary Fallin, a Republican, maintained that the cause of the tremors was unclear, and the state Legislature refused to consider legislation addressing the issue

Seismologists have long warned that the rise in the number of earthquakes in Oklahoma could presage a temblor that could cause extensive damage.

Corrupt politics still tend to be described in terms avoiding depicting the crooks and politicians involved as the source of corruption. Somehow, they create a milieu that mysteriously condemns a whole state to environmental disaster, an economic swamp wholly dependent on the profit system of a monoculture. Hogwash.

BTW, here’s another “feel sorry for the bastards who aren’t making millions this week” article from Bloomberg. We’re supposed to feel sorry for politicians who live in one of the posh communities now affected by the quakes. They bought those homes with their share of criminal profits. They condemned the state of Oklahoma to a monocultural economy — part of the swath of oil fiefdoms stretching from Louisiana to New Mexico.

They should be forced to take up pick and shovel and do the grunt work of sealing the wastewater wells. Do a little honest work for a change.

North Sea cod stocks back on the road to sustainability

North Sea cod stocks are on the road to sustainability, according to Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) research.

The body, which certifies whether fish are caught through good practice, says it is too soon to tell exactly when the North Sea fishery will meet its mark.

But a spokesman said on current trends, it would be ready for certification within years rather than decades.

Stocks would still be in recovery then, James Simpson said, but they would have passed an acceptable level.

MSC certification is determined by the state of the stocks, the environmental impact of the fishery, and if there is a management system in place to maintain sustainability if circumstances change.

The latter two were already in place, Mr Simpson said…

The recovery was thanks to strict catch limits aided by a massive public campaign for sustainable fish, he said.

Barrie Deas, the chief executive of the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations, which represents fisherman in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, told Radio 4’s Today programme it was a “dramatic turnaround”.

“I think a major part of it is there are fewer vessels out there. There have been big decommissioning schemes.

There’s also been a change in the mindset in the industry. We work very closely with the scientists now.”

The article adds in some blather of worries about overfishing alternative species. Any journalist who just discovered that possibility knows nothing about fishing – or consumers. Dealing with that additional problem was always pretty much inevitable.

Juror surfs for info beyond courtroom – gets 8 months to reflect

The first juror to be prosecuted for contempt of court for using the internet has been sentenced to eight months in jail.

Joanne Fraill, 40, admitted at London’s high court using Facebook to exchange messages with Jamie Sewart, 34, a defendant already acquitted in a multimillion-pound drug trial in Manchester last year.

Fraill, from Blackley, Manchester, also admitted conducting an internet search into Sewart’s boyfriend, Gary Knox, a co-defendant, while the jury was still deliberating…

When the lord chief justice, Lord Judge, announced her eight-month sentence, Fraill said “eight months!” and put her head on the table in front of her and cried…

Sentencing Fraill, the judge said in a written ruling: “Her conduct in visiting the internet repeatedly was directly contrary to her oath as a juror, and her contact with the acquitted defendant, as well as her repeated searches on the internet, constituted flagrant breaches of the orders made by the judge for the proper conduct of the trial…”

Knox, Sewart’s 35-year-old partner, is applying for his conviction to be overturned on the basis of alleged jury misconduct. He was jailed for six years after being found guilty of paying a police officer to disclose information on drug dealers…

Fraill admitted emailing Sewart while the jury was still deliberating in the drugs trail in August last year because she felt “empathetic” and saw “considerable parallels” between their lives…

The lord chief justice, discussing the reasons for the sentence in the high court, acknowledged that Fraill was “a woman of good character” and was not involved in an attempt to pervert the course of justice. But “misuse of the internet by a juror” was always “a most serious irregularity and contempt”.

He warned that a custodial sentence for any juror committing similar contempts “is virtually inevitable”.

He added: “The sentence is intended to ensure the continuing integrity of trial by jury.”

The solicitor general made the relevant point: “Long before social networks, the courts have been in no doubt that discussions inside the jury room must stay there. The internet doesn’t make judges’ warnings not to talk about a case or research it any less important.”

Google to cooperate with newspaper access limits

Newspaper publishers will now be able to set a limit on the number of free news articles people can read through Google.

The concession follows claims from some media companies that the search engine is profiting from online news pages.

Under the First Click Free programme, publishers can now prevent unrestricted access to subscription websites. Users who click on more than five articles in a day may be routed to payment or registration pages…

Google users may start seeing registration pages appear when they click for a sixth time on any given day at websites of publishers using the programme.

This will only affect websites that currently charge for content.

RTFA. Lots of woolgathering and foggy crystal ball-gazing. I think all the media sites have missed the point that Google just established:

They have further covered their buns against allegations of Restraint of Trade made by fogies like Rupert Murdoch. But, they allow the decision to cut off readers’ access to lie entirely within the decision-making apparatus put online by media publishers. It ain’t Google’s fault if you click a link to Financial Times and are greeted with a request to register and pay to read the whole article.

You can still press the Back Button and return to your original search page – and click on to another media site offering their own take on the same content, no charge!

Could sharing the catch save fisheries?

Amid the collapse of once-rich fisheries around the world, policymakers, fishermen and environmentalists have been debating a controversial question: Can a fishery be saved by giving those who harvest the sea a guaranteed share of its bounty, rather than having them compete to see who can extract the most the fastest?

A study published in the journal Science, conducted by two economists and an ecologist, suggests that the answer is yes. The authors — two from the University of California at Santa Barbara and one from the University of Hawaii — surveyed 121 fisheries worldwide where individuals receive a predetermined portion of a fishery’s catch limit and found that they were half as likely to have collapsed as those without a “catch share” system. In addition, the researchers found that when a fishery that had relied on traditional methods — such as seasonal limits or overall catch restrictions — was converted to using catch shares, the change did not just slow the fishery’s decline; it stopped it.

Once people are given a fixed share in a fishery, said lead author Christopher Costello, they are less likely to overfish, because they have a financial interest in having the species thrive

“We’ve moved well beyond theory into the realm of real experience and hard science that demonstrates the benefits” of an individual quota system, said James L. Connaughton… “This changes all the bad incentives to good incentives,” he added. “When fishermen own their share of the stock, they become partners in enforcement rather than bystanders.”

This is a problem I grew up with. The usual governmental response – when there is any response to good science at all – is to put all the energy into orders and telling fisherfolk what to do. Participation in regulation as well as harvesting is almost too sensible to believe that many governments will adopt the plan. I have a bit more faith in organized seafarers.

Saying that – this sounds like a sensible beginning.