December 4, 2017

Posted by orrinj at 7:22 PM


Sessions argued in Clinton impeachment that presidents can obstruct justice (KYLE CHENEY, 12/04/2017, pOLITICO)

In 1999, Sessions - then an Alabama senator - laid out an impassioned case for President Bill Clinton to be removed from office based on the argument that Clinton obstructed justice amid the investigation into his affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

"The facts are disturbing and compelling on the President's intent to obstruct justice," he said, according to remarks in the congressional record.

Sessions isn't alone. More than 40 current GOP members of Congress voted for the impeachment or removal of Clinton from office for obstruction of justice. They include Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell - who mounted his own passionate appeal to remove Clinton from office for obstruction of justice - Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley and Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr, who was a House member at the time.

Posted by orrinj at 7:12 PM


Remembering Stalin's Hunger : Review: 'Red Famine' by Anne Applebaum (Joseph Bottum, December 2, 2017, Free Beacon)

Just as starvation follows a familiar course in each individual, so food shortages all follow a recognizable pattern. As Amartya Sen showed in his classic 1981 study, Poverty and Famines, government is a primary cause of scarcity. Modern famines aren't acts of God so much as acts of politics: born of the actions and inactions of distant officials, the incompetence and cupidity of local administrators, and, perhaps most of all, the imposition of bad policy at the highest reaches of power.

Here in 2017, the centennial of the Russian Revolution, Applebaum insists that we look again at how the Ukrainian famine was allowed to begin and how it was allowed to continue. The particulars she relates are fascinating, but, as Sen would have predicted, the overall story traces a murderous arc that ought to be familiar: the death of millions in the exercise of tyrannical power. When we forget what Communist tyranny did, we forget why we must always resist its return.

In the battles that followed the Bolshevik revolution, the system of Soviet  republics slowly emerged in part as Lenin's way to coopt the peasants and tie them to the Russian government that was determined to keep the breadbasket of Ukrainian territory within the new Communist territory. Stalin began his own rule by expanding the policy, allowing Ukraine to keep some distinctive national elements.

By 1927, however, Stalin felt the political situation had become both more secure and more fragile. International threats loomed large in the Russian mind, even while greater controls over the population allowed large-scale attempts to modernize the Soviet republics. The peasants as a class, especially the richer peasants known as kulaks, resisted Communist efforts and thereby seemed in league with foreign powers. So Stalin began confiscating land to form collective farms.

It was, in conception, a political masterstroke, aimed at solving all his problems at once. Forcing the peasants to join collective farms would disempower the kulaks and thereby weaken Ukrainian identity. Collectivization promised a uniform modernizing of agriculture, which would increase yields across the Soviet empire. Even more, it would allow greater state control of agriculture--providing Moscow with Ukrainian food to distribute to less treasonous Soviet areas, ensuring their loyalty to Moscow. The collective farms would even provide grain that could be sold abroad, bringing in the cash necessary for Stalin's radical plans to build a modern industrial base for the Soviet Union.

Unfortunately, the farming population resisted, which Stalin took as sedition. Brutal police enforcers from the cities were sent in to punish the peasants, killing anyone they suspected of hiding grain and confiscating even the seed they needed for the next planting. And so the familiar tale of modern famine began to march toward its inevitable conclusion. "Starvation," Applebaum points out, "was the result of the forcible removal of food from peoples' home; roadblocks that prevented peasants seeing work or food; blacklists imposed on farms and villages."

Posted by orrinj at 7:02 PM


McFarland Contradicted Herself on Russia Contacts, Congressional Testimony Shows (Michael S. Schmidt and Sharon LaFraniere, Dec. 4, 2017, NY Times)

An email sent during the transition by President Trump's former deputy national security adviser, K.T. McFarland, appears to contradict the testimony she gave to Congress over the summer about contacts between the Russian ambassador and Mr. Trump's former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn.

Ms. McFarland had told lawmakers that she did not discuss or know anything about interactions between Sergey I. Kislyak, who had been Moscow's ambassador to the United States, and Mr. Flynn, according to Senate documents.

But emails obtained by The New York Times appear to undermine those statements. In a Dec. 29 message about newly imposed Obama administration sanctions against Russia for its election interference, Ms. McFarland, then serving on Mr. Trump's transition team, told another transition official that Mr. Flynn would be talking to the Russian ambassador that evening.

Emails Dispute White House Claims That Flynn Acted Independently on Russia (Michael S. Schmidt, Sharon LaFraniere and Scott Shane, Dec. 2, 2017, NY Times)

On Dec. 29, a transition adviser to Mr. Trump, K. T. McFarland, wrote in an email to a colleague that sanctions announced hours before by the Obama administration in retaliation for Russian election meddling were aimed at discrediting Mr. Trump's victory. The sanctions could also make it much harder for Mr. Trump to ease tensions with Russia, "which has just thrown the U.S.A. election to him," she wrote in the emails obtained by The Times.

Posted by orrinj at 6:00 PM


Posted by orrinj at 5:19 PM


Why Trump's Lawyer is Dead Wrong on Obstruction of Justice (Daniel Hemel, December 4, 2017, JustSecurity)

President Donald Trump's personal lawyer, John Dowd, now claims that the president "cannot obstruct justice because he is the chief law enforcement officer" under Article II of the Constitution. Dowd's remarks, reported Monday morning by Axios, have little basis in text or history, and they fly in the face of a decades-old bipartisan consensus: the obstruction of justice statutes indeed apply to the president.

As Eric Posner and I note in a forthcoming California Law Review article, obstruction of justice is a crime with roots in the nation's founding. The Declaration of Independence charged King George III with "obstruct[ing] the administration of justice, by refusing his assent to the laws for establishing judiciary powers." That alone is evidence that the founding generation did not believe that heads of state were immune from obstruction charges. And while Article II instructs the president to "take care that the laws be faithfully executed," that does not give him carte blanche to wield his law enforcement powers any way he chooses. [...]

While the Clinton impeachment was controversial, the claim that the obstruction statutes applied to the president was not. The House Judiciary Committee's report said that the first article of impeachment against Nixon had established a "clear precedent" that a president who used his position of power to obstruct the administration of justice committed an impeachable offense. Clinton's defenders quickly conceded that the obstruction statutes applied to the president. A group of more than 400 law professors sent a letter to Congress opposing impeachment but acknowledging that "[a] President who corruptly used the Federal Bureau of Investigation to obstruct an investigation would have criminally exercised his presidential powers."

Posted by orrinj at 9:34 AM


Trump's Lawyer Claims the President Is Above the Law (Jonathan Chait, 12/04/17, New York)

[T]rump continues to make it chillingly clear that his unceasing attacks upon the system are neither accidental nor a mistake borne of naïvete. Trump believes he commands the government with the same totality he commands his business. His lawyer, John Dowd, has elevated this assumption to official presidential doctrine in an explosive interview with Mike Allen. A "president cannot obstruct justice because he is the chief law enforcement officer under [the Constitution's Article II] and has every right to express his view of any case," he says.

It is easy to hyperventilate about various Trumpian offenses, but Dowd is claiming on Trump's behalf virtual immunity from the law. The powers he is asserting, and the dangers it would bring, have almost no limit.

...but obviously wrong as regards impeachment.

Posted by orrinj at 7:59 AM


Office holiday parties get another look as scandals continue (MARLEY JAY, 12/04/17, AP) 

With a series of high-profile workplace sex scandals on their minds, employers are making sure their holiday office parties don't become part of the problem.

There will be less booze at many. An independent business organization has renewed its annual warning not to hang mistletoe. [...]

"As soon as you introduce alcohol at an off-site activity, peoples' guards are dropped," said Ed Yost, manager of employee relations and development for the Society for Human Resource Management based in Alexandria, Virginia. "It's presumed to be a less formal, more social environment. Some people will drink more than they typically would on a Friday night or a Saturday because it's an open bar or a free cocktail hour."


Posted by orrinj at 6:31 AM


Posted by orrinj at 5:31 AM


THE URBAN REVIVAL IS AN URBAN MYTH, AND THE SUBURBS ARE SURGING (Joel Kotkin and Alan Berger 12/04/2017, New Geography)

Cities are about people. Where they move suggests their reasonable aspirations.

Even when Levittown was being built 70 years ago, there has always been a portion of the population -- particularly the young, well-educated, affluent and often childless -- that craves the density and excitement of downtown (CBD) life. But this group -- heavy with members of the media -- consequently attracts vastly outsized attention.

In fact, 151 million people live in America's suburbs and exurbs, more than six times the 25 million people who live in the urban cores (defined as CBDs with employment density of 20,000+ people per square mile, or places with a population density of 7,500+ people per square mile--the urban norm before the advent of the automobile) of the 53 metropolitan areas with populations over one million.

In fact, ten of those 53 metropolitan areas (including Charlotte, Orlando, Phoenix and San Antonio) have no urban core at all by this measure, according to demographer Wendell Cox. The New York City metropolitan area is America's only one where more people live in the urban core than in the suburbs -- and it's about an even split there.

In the last decade, about 90% of U.S. population growth has been in suburbs and exurbs, with CBDs accounting for .8% of growth and the entire urban corps for roughly 10%. In this span, population growth of some of the most alluring core cities -- New York, Chicago, Philadelphia--- has declined considerably. Manhattan and Brooklyn, have both seen their rate of growth decline by more than 85% since 2011. Nationally, core counties lost over 300,000 net domestic migrants In 2016 (with immigrants replacing some some of those departees), while their suburbs gained nearly 250,000.

Three key groups -- seniors, minorities and millennials -- all prefer the suburbs.