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Monday, July 24, 2017

Another Misspelling

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Self-Pardon

Jessica Levinson at Vox:
As is the case with a number of important constitutional issues, the answer to the question here of whether or not the president can pardon himself exists in gray area. Or put more bluntly, the answer is, "Who the heck knows?" This is partly because this is simply not a question we ask ourselves very often.

Let's take a step back and remember the unique reality we all now inhabit. This is not an issue which the courts have been asked to answer. Why? Because a president is rarely in the position of asking whether he will pardon himself.

The Constitution means whatever the courts say it means. If the US Supreme Court decided tomorrow that the word "emolument" actually means "sunglasses," then that is the law of the land. Congress would have to ratify an amendment to the Constitution to change or override that interpretation. Article II, Section II of the Constitution provides that the president "shall have Power to Grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment."

Shortly before President Nixon resigned from office, the Office of Legal Counsel issued an opinion in which they cautioned that no one may be a judge in his own case. (This is also a principle of so-called "natural law.") This meant, the OLC said, that the president cannot pardon himself.

In addition, the language of the clause and Supreme Court case law seems to assume that there is someone giving the pardon (let's call this person Mr. President) and someone receiving the pardon (let's call this person Mr. Not President). Put another way, the language seems to assume there is a grantor and a recipient who are two different people.

But a conclusion based on natural law and an assertion that the language "seems to assume" something is hardly a conclusion you want to take to the proverbial bank.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Intelligence Agencies and Oaths

Mike Levine reports at ABC:
“We are not about particular viewpoints. We are not about particular parties. We just can’t work that way,” National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers said at the Aspen Security Forum in Aspen, Colorado.
Rogers added that the U.S. intelligence community owes U.S. citizens “honesty and integrity.”

Saturday’s remarks come only months after Rogers and at least two other senior U.S. officials were personally asked by President Trump to publicly rebut news reports laying out details of the federal government’s probe into Russia’s alleged efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election.
Although Rogers has refused to publicly discuss his private conversations with Trump, he has previously vowed to keep politics out of his agency’s work. But his remarks today at the annual gathering of senior officials, reporters and others tied to the U.S. intelligence community were noteworthy in their intensity and passion.
Punctuating each word -- one by one -- the U.S. Navy admiral said, “I will not violate the oath that I have taken in the 36 years as a commission officer.”
Rogers’ face hardened and his voice cracked as he added: “I won’t do that.”
He went on to say that he often relays this message to his workforce: “We are intelligence professionals. We raise our right hand and we take an oath to defend the citizens of this nation and the values that are embodied in the Constitution …” he said. “Your integrity isn’t worth the price of me or anybody else. You stand up and you remember that oath that we take.”

Friday, July 21, 2017

News Deserts

Lots of newsworthy things happen in this city of nearly 30,000, located in the heart of Silicon Valley. It’s just that many of them don’t make the local news.
Last fall, for example, voters went to the polls to elect a new city council and to weigh in on three ballot measures, including two that would raise local taxes. The issues were “critical” to the city’s immediate future, Mayor Larry Moody said. But without even a weekly newspaper in town, it was hard to find out.
The nearby Palo Alto Daily News mentioned the council race just once before Election Day; the rival Palo Alto Daily Post listed the candidates’ names in August — and then didn’t report another word until after Election Day.
“We do the same things in this city that everyone else does,” says Moody. “We just don’t seem to get the same attention.”
In many respects, East Palo Alto is a news “desert,” a community overlooked, if not entirely ignored, by the media. It’s one of thousands of towns across America in which community reporting is shrinking and sometimes disappearing. The biggest factor, according to a University of North Carolina study of the phenomenon: cutbacks, consolidation and closures of daily and weekly newspapers, the traditional lifeblood of local reporting in America since before its founding.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

What Trump Does Not Know

At New York, Jonathan Chait:
In his bizarre New York Times interview, Donald Trump expresses his characteristic assortment of fever-dream assertions. The president believes Hillary Clinton “was totally opposed to any sanctions for Russia,” that a properly amortized health-insurance plan would cost “$12 a year,” that Napoleon’s “one problem is he didn’t go to Russia that night because he had extracurricular activities,” and that Trump has somehow either carried out or reversed sweeping land reforms (“I’ve given the farmers back their farms. I’ve given the builders back their land to build houses and to build other things”). Yet a consistent idea manages to poke through the delirious rambling. Trump repeatedly affirmed his conviction that the entire federal government ought to be operated for his personal benefit.
Sarah Kliff at Vox:
Of course, anyone who has purchased health coverage, let alone studied the health insurance market, knows that a $12 monthly premium is unheard of. The numbers Trump cites seem to come from the universe of life insurance rather than that of health insurance. Life insurance premiums are significantly lower and a completely different benefit program than health coverage.
This isn’t the first time Trump has so dramatically underestimated the costs of health insurance. In a May interview with the Economist, he estimated that health coverage ought to cost $15 per month.
“Insurance is, you’re 20 years old, you just graduated from college, and you start paying $15 a month for the rest of your life and you really need it, you’re still paying the same amount and that’s really insurance,” Trump told the magazine.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Sessions Expands Asset Forfeiture

Christopher Ingraham reports that Sessions wants to seize property of people not convicted of any crime:
Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Monday said he'd be issuing a new directive this week aimed at increasing police seizures of cash and property.
“We hope to issue this week a new directive on asset forfeiture — especially for drug traffickers,” Sessions said in his prepared remarks for a speech to the National District Attorney's Association in Minneapolis. "With care and professionalism, we plan to develop policies to increase forfeitures. No criminal should be allowed to keep the proceeds of their crime. Adoptive forfeitures are appropriate as is sharing with our partners."
Asset forfeiture is a disputed practice that allows law enforcement officials to permanently take money and goods from individuals suspected of crime. There is little disagreement among lawmakers, authorities and criminal justice reformers that “no criminal should be allowed to keep the proceeds of their crime.” But in many cases, neither a criminal conviction nor even a criminal charge is necessary — under forfeiture laws in most states and at the federal level, mere suspicion of wrongdoing is enough to allow police to seize items permanently.

Additionally, many states allow law enforcement agencies to keep cash that they seize, creating what critics characterize as a profit motive. The practice is widespread: In 2014, federal law enforcement officers took more property from citizens than burglars did. State and local authorities seized untold millions more.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Governors and Health Care Reform

Today, a bipartisan group of governors issued this statement in the wake of Trumpcare's collapse:
Congress should work to make health insurance more affordable by controlling costs and stabilizing the market, and we are pleased to see a growing number of senators stand up for this approach. The Senate should immediately reject efforts to ‘repeal’ the current system and replace sometime later. This could leave millions of Americans without coverage. The best next step is for both parties to come together and do what we can all agree on: fix our unstable insurance markets. Going forward, it is critically important that governors are brought to the table to provide input, and we stand ready to work with lawmakers in an open, bipartisan way to provide better insurance for all Americans.
The list of the eleven governors who joined this statement is below.
  • Bill Walker, Governor of Alaska
  • John W. Hickenlooper, Governor of Colorado
  • John Bel Edwards. Governor of Louisiana
  • Larry Hogan, Governor of Maryland
  • Charles D. Baker, Governor of Massachusetts
  • Steve Bullock, Governor of Montana
  • Brian Sandoval, Governor of Nevada
  • John R. Kasich, Governor of Ohio
  • Tom Wolf, Governor of Pennsylvania
  • Phil Scott, Governor of Vermont
  • Terry McAuliffe, Governor of Virginia
The best next step is for members of both parties to ignore the fear of criticism that can come from reaching across the aisle and put pencil to pad on these and other ideas that repair health care in real, sustainable ways. America needs it, and I know that a bipartisan group of governors, including myself, stands ready to help in any way we can to provide an affordable, sustainable and responsible system of health care for the American people.