Monday, November 25, 2019


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Not a selfie
Hello Everyone:

Yours Truly is in a particularly good mood at the moment because she is back on the blog, it is a lovely day, a new phone, and a recent birthday. You know what else makes Yours Truly happy?  Being able to work in her pajamas.  Since, this is not the case, at least right now, why not take a look at the ways telecommuting has changed real estate

Wireless technology is ubiquitous as air and has radically changed the way and place where people work.  Think about it for a moment.  A solid WiFi connection makes it possible for a working parent to stay home with a sick child or newborn and work without missing a beat.  Lisa Prevost reports, "Remote workers still represent a minority of the work force.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of last year about 24 percent of employed persons worked at least part of the time at home; among those with advanced degrees, it was 42 percent" (; Sept. 20, 2019; date accessed Nov. 12, 2019).  As further evidence of this trend, "In a survey last year of 23,000 new home shoppers, John Burns Real Estate Consulting,..., found that roughly 30 percent worked at home between one and four days a week; 13 percent worked at home full time" (Ibid), and the numbers have grown.

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Not Blogger's work space
Be that as it may, the growing trend in telecommuting has got the real estate industry wondering about the long term impact, according to Zach Aarons, the co-founder of MetaPop, a New York City venture capital firm focused on real estate technology (Ibid).  Some NYC-based investors consider the trend toward telecommuting as potential threat: remote workers exiting the city for less expensive locales.  The big question is: Do people live in in the city because they like the community, or just because it's convenient to their job? (Ibid)

Brad Hargreaves, the founder and chief executive of Common, which operates urban co-living communities, told The Times, "while he believed the trend away from daily in-office work would continue, he didn't believe it would result in an exodus out of major cities."  He said,

I still think there's a lot of benefit for people living in an urban center, both personally and professionally,... What will be needed is more flexibility for residential spaces (Ibid).

Very true.  The most obvious place to start is home design.

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Home office idea
Once upon a time, a home office meant a corner in the living room or a spare bedroom.  No more.  A separate office space has become a much sought after amenity, rivaling a professional grade kitchen.  Robin Kencel, an associate broker with Compass in Greenwich, Connecticut said,

Where they will work is on nearly every buyer's mind (Ibid)

While some people prefer a comfortable corner to curl up with their laptops, others--like Yours Truly--prefer a room of one's own.  Ms. Kencel said,

Now, people are looking for more of a textured, comfortable feeling--natural light, doors to a private terrace, and great wall and floor finishes (Ibid)

 Alison Bernstein, the president of the NYC-based Suburban Jungle real estate agency, has also noticed that clients are highly focused on, how do we functionally work at home? (Ibid)  This focus extends to a designated work space for their children (yes).  She enthused, Dedicated homework areas are very, very popular (Ibid).

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Is the home media room a thing of the past?
Still crave a media room?  Sorry #TeamNutmeg.  Come join the rest of us in the age of streaming services where episodes of The Crown or your favorite movie can be viewed on your device, anywhere, anytime.  A designated space for wide-screen, surround sound movie watching is passe, according to Ms. Bernstein.

Robert Dietz, the chief economist for the National Association of Home Builders, added "New home sizes are trending downward, and buyers are looking for spaces that can serve more than one purpose..." (Ibid)  Giving over a space for a media room has fallen out of favor (Ibid).

After spending how ever many hours at home, anchored to a laptop, do you really want to spend your leisure time there as well?  No, of course not.  Martin Eiden, an associate broker with the New York City branch of Compass said, "People who spend a lot of time working at home frequently don't want spend most of their leisure hours there as well, especially in the city" (Ibid).  Mr. Eiden told The New York Times, 

They are usually dying to go and meet people,...The home entertainment factor has gone down (Ibid)

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Avora on the Hudson River
Weehawken, New Jersey

Lounge spaces for residents, like the one Yours Truly works in, are typical for new residential developments in New York City.  However, developers are reconstituting apartment layouts to make it easier for tenants to set up a home office.  One example of a new development is Avora on the Hudson River.

The new 184-unit condominium in Weehawken, New Jersey offers prospective buyers a range of floor plans that include an alcove space.  The alcoves measure "11 feet square, provide a dedicated space for work at home, buy they've also been used as an art studio for a child or a place to display an art collection, according to Jill Preschell, vice president of sales and marketing for the New York Metro Division for the California-based Landsea Homes" (; Sept. 20, 2019).

Breaking Blogger Candidate Forum news: in a set back for the Trump administration, U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson of Washington ruled that there was no basis for the White House claim that former counsel Donald McGahan is absolutely immune from compelled congressional testimony.  This ruling means that Mr. McGahan and other White House officials must comply with congressional demands for information and testimony.  It will likely set up a historic separation of powers battle between the  federal executive and legislative (; date accessed Nov. 25, 2019)

At the brand new Rose Hill, an 45-story luxury condominium tower in Manhattan, about half of the 123 units feature flex room that can be shut off from the rest of the unit with sliding glass doors.  This gives buyers with additional work space without having to pay for a unit with an extra bedroom.  Practical idea.  Regional development officer and senior vice president for the Rockefeller Group Meg Brod told the The New York Times, You're only paying for what you need, but it's extra room you can really appreciate (; Sept. 20, 2019).

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Co-living apartment plan

Another trend in multi-unit residential development are co-living spaces.  "Co-living developments now account for more than 3,000 beds in cities across the country, with at least 9,000 in the pipeline, according to a recent report from Cushman & Wakefield [; May 20, 2019; date accessed Nov. 25, 2019]" (; Sept. 20, 2019).  Co-living spaces offer residents private or private-sh bedrooms in suites with a common area.  The benefit of these suites is that they are less expensive than traditional rental units and have more flexible lease terms.  The shared common areas are ideal for socializing and work.

Susan Tjarksen, a managing director at Cushman, told The Times.

The trend toward co-living is very closely correlated with the rise in remote-work--it's that desire for flexibility, and to be able to move from job to job, city to city, without there being huge ramifications in getting out of leases... (Ibid).

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Interior of co-living space in Los Angeles

Brad Hargreaves of Common, which operates urban co-living communities, including the one in Los Angeles, told The Times "a double-digit percentage of the company's tenants work remotely.  Tenants can transfer within the Common network at any time, which is a perk for independent contractors" (Ibid).  Mr. Hargreaves said,

If they're working in New York, but they get a gig in San Francisco or Chicago, members can transfer without breaking their lease... (Ibid)

Here is an interesting fact, Americans are moving less often.  According to data from John Burns Real Estate Consulting, "The average household move every nine years, compare to every six years in the 1980s [; date accessed Nov. 5, 2019]" (; Sept. 20, 2019).  Robert Dietz of the NAHB cited an aging population as the primary reason why Americans are not moving as frequently.  He said,

You've got more people who've moved up to their final house on the ladder,... (Ibid)

Additionally, "...many people who bought or refinanced their mortgages when interest rates reached lows have chosen not to move and risk paying a higher rate" (Ibid).

However Rick Palacios Jr., the director of research at John Burns, postulates that the dropping mobility rate may also be connected to the rise of telecommuting.  He said,

If you work at home, you don't necessarily have to move if your job moves,... And many companies, ours included, view e-commuting as a competitive advantage that allows us to attract the best and the brightest, regardless of geography (Ibid)

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Trend Coffee & Tea House
Montclair, New Jersey

Alison Bernstein of Suburban Jungle noted that nearly all of her clients have the capability to work at home at least one day a week.  However, when deciding what town to live in, they stress not wanting to feel isolated.  She said,

They want coffee shops and cafes with free Wi-Fi, co-working spaces, places to find community,... And some towns are developing real personalities for that (Ibid)

Ms. Bernstein cites Montclair, New Jersey; Pleasantville and White Plains, New York; Greenwich and and Westport, Connecticut as places in the New York region where telecommuters are moving to in greater numbers (Ibid)

In 2017 New Yorkers composed the largest number of new Florida residents, at almost 64,000 people, compared with 53,000 in 2012, according to most recent census data (Ibid).  One reason being changes in the federal tax laws that sharply limited deductions for state and local income taxes created new incentives for New Yorkers to head south.  Jay Phillip, chief executive of Douglas Elliman's Florida brokerage said, "And people who can work remotely are feeling especially free to do so,..." (Ibid).  He said,

There are people that might have delayed their relocation to Florida, but because they can work remotely, it's enhanced their ability to move sooner,... And it's easy for them to fly in and out of New York City--there seems to be so many people hopping back and forth (Ibid)

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Telecommuter in Vermont

Derrick Buckspan, co-owner of Re/Max Shoreline in Portland Maine, said that they the housing market has been tremendously impacted by remote work,..." (Ibid).  East Coast telecommuters can easily get to meetings in Boston or New York on Amtrak trains or Concord Coach Lines with direct service to either city.

The state of Vermont overs a program that will cover up to $10,000 in moving and other expenses as an incentive for remote workers willing to relocate.  "Since January, the sate has approved 56 applicants to the program, nine of whom were from the New York metropolitan area," according to Nate Formalarie, the director of communications for the Agency of Commerce and Community Development (Ibid).  Other applicants were from major Midwestern and West Coast cities.  He said,

Most are in their 30s, and are bringing a spouse and/or kids with them,... Altogether, we've got about 140 new residents (Ibid)

Once upon a time telecommuting was the exception to the working world norm.  Going to work meant getting dressed and going to an office or wherever.  The Digital Revolution has made work possible anywhere, even in your bed.  Blogger's own experience in a co-work space is mostly positive because of the friendships and one romantic relationship.  The downside is Your Truly's collaborative work skills have remained dormant.  The upside is Yours Truly tends to be more productive, something born out in recent studies of remote workers.  Regardless, as the popularity of telecommuting grows, the real estate industry is responding with developments that accommodate telecommuters. 

Friday, November 22, 2019

Blogger Candidate Forum: The Public Phase Is Over

Hello Everyone:

Welcome to an impeach inquiry weekend edition of Blogger Candidate Forum. The good news, we are done, at least for now, with inquiry hearings until after the Thanksgiving holiday break.  The bad news, the bad news is, if you are the president, the most damaging testimony was delivered by women and immigrants. The women and immigrants former American Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch and White House expert on Russia and Ukraine Dr. Fiona Hill, testified about the smear campaigns and shadow Ukrainian diplomacy.

If you remember last week, Ambassador Yovanovitch, a child immigrant from Ukraine, testified how shocked she was when she learned that the president considered her an obstacle to the White House’s pressure campaign to get the Ukrainian government  to investigate former VPOTUS Joe Biden and his son Hunter. This week, we had Lt. Col Alexander Vindman, also a child immigrant from Ukraine, testified what he heard on that infamous July phone call. Finally, British immigrant Dr. Hill testified how she came to realize there was an official and back channel diplomacy program from European Union Ambassador and son of Nazi refugees Gordon Sondland.  Dr. Hill pointedly told the House of Representatives Foreign Intelligence Committee members that it was Russia, not Ukraine, interfered with the 2016 elections and was preparing to do it again.  This aligns with information that the Intelligence  community has shared with the Senate Ambassador Sondland is the the problematic witness because he previously testified that he had no recollections of conversations and events surrounding an April phone call with the president.  If you noticed, The Candidate Forum deliberately pointed out the immigrant ancestry of the star witnesses. Immigrants and women are two of the groups that have been demonized by the president.  This struck The Candidate Forum as very interesting and makes The Forum want to see what happens next.

Speaking of what happens next, an associate of Mr. Giuliani signaled that he is prepared to tell investigators that the ranking member of the House of Representative Foreign Intelligence Committee Devin Nunes (R-CA). Representative Nunes distinguished himself during the hearings as one of the president’s staunchest defenders.  Really what comes next is a report summarizing the testimony for the public. Make sure you check out “The Latest,” a great podcast from The New York Times. Like Congress, the Blogger Candidate Forum will be off for the Thanksgiving Day holiday unless current events say otherwise.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Blogger Candidate Forum: The Sixth Amendment

Hello Everyone:

It is a damp Wednesday and time for Blogger Candidate Forum.  Blogger also wanted to let you all know that she is back after a very brief period of incommunicado due to mobile phone data migration chaos.  Nevertheless she persists.

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Lt. Col Alexander Vindman to you
Before we get going on today's subject, the constitutional mechanics of impeachment, a brief word on yesterday and today's blockbuster testimony from Lt. Col Alexander Vindman and European Union Ambassador Gordon Sondland.  

Highly inappropriate and quid pro quo were two phrases that described the now infamous July phone.  Lt. Col Vindman testified that he was shocked at the what Mr. Donald Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky to do, announce an  corruption investigation into a potential political in exchange for an already approved military aide package and a White House meeting with the president.  Perhaps the most stunning visual of that hearing was Lt. Col Vindman dressed in his uniform, medals pinned to his chest.  It was the ultimate power move, daring Republican House of Representatives Foreign Intelligence Committee to question his credibility.  Never one to miss an opportunity to insert his foot in their mouths, ranking member Representative Devin Nunes (R-CA) asked about concerns centering around Lt. Col Vindman's judgement.  Lt. Col Vindman clapped back with a total Jedi move, pulling out his most recent laudatory job evaluation.  Ohio Republican Jim Jordan made the mistake of calling Lt. Col Vindman "Mr."  It is Lieutenant Colonel Alexander S. Vindman, thank you very much.

In today's hearing, E.U. Ambassador Sondland employed the "save yourself" strategy testifying that he did hear the president discuss a quid pro quo arrangement over dinner in April.  Ambassdor Sondland's testimony comes after questions surrounding the veracity of his closed door testimony about a month ago and implicates VPOTUS Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and Trump personal attorney Rudy Giuliani.  The is more testimony to come as House Intelligence Committee members try to wrap up hearings before the Thanksgiving Day holiday.  For all the latest news and analysis, The Candidate Forum suggests you check out the podcast "The Latest" presented by The New York Times.  You can find it on Spotify and Apple podcasts.  Shall we change the subject?

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The Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

  There are few constitutional legal questions that require debate.  For example, the right to due process (the 14th Amendment) or does the president have to really be 35-years old when he (or she) is sworn in--yes.  In fact, for its complexities and contradictions, the United States Constitution is a fairly straightforward document that leave little room for doubt.  Be that as it may, you could be forgiven for not understanding just how little room there is for legal arguments from the legal machinations by the president's defenders to the ongoing impeachment inquiry.  The biggest argument posited by the White House is the president's is being denied his Sixth Amendment right to confront his accuser, i.e. the whistleblower who made the original complaint (; Nov. 6, 2019; date accessed Nov. 20, 2019).

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Senator Rand Paul (R-KY)
In a recent opinion piece for the political online publication The Hill, Kentucky Republican Senator Rand Paul writes that the whistleblower was not some dedicated employee who wanted to report some egregious act committed by his supervisor, rather,

The information revealed by the "whistleblower" was of a political nature and was known to dozens of people who came to a different conclusion that the "whistleblower"... (Ibid)

Senator Paul argues,

Anonymity is not an option when your accusations trigger criminal penalties.  The Sixth Amendment guarantees the right to confront one's accusers... The ability to confront and cross-examine one's accuser's is a key component of our judicial process, critical to finding the truth... (Ibid)

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The Fifth Amendment of The Constitution
Senator Paul is partly correct when he writes that confronting and questioning the accuser, by the accused, is a critical part of the legal system, but the Gentleman from Kentucky is only referencing the criminal legal system.  This means, for example, an immigrant facing deportation would not be granted the right to legal counsel because the penalty, removal, is civil.  A parent facing possible removal of a child from the home cannot invoke the right to confront witnesses against because, again, termination of custodial rights is a civil penalty (; Nov. 15, 2019; date accessed Nov. 20, 2019).  In civil proceedings, both parties are still afforded their Fifth Amendment rights, which includes less stringent due process protections (Ibid).  This should give you some context to the argument being made that the whistle blower should testify in public.

This was the argument being made, in part, by some of the legal conservative establishment in a column by Northwestern University law professor Steve Calabresi (; Nov. 13, 2019; date accessed Nov. 20, 2019).  Professor Calabresi makes the following arguments: First, impeachment is not a criminal matter, period full stop.  If anything comes close to a criminal matter, it is a trial in the Senate where the penalty is removal from office.  The second argument is that the "trial" itself is not a criminal matter.  The Constitution is very specific on this point,

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...As Article I, Section 3, Clause 7 makes clear, "Judgment in Cases of Impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Offices, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States...(; Nov. 15, 2019)

Thus, a member of the executive branch or federal judiciary who is removed from office is still liable for federal and state civil and criminal penalties once out of office.  Thus,

Someone who is removed from office "shall nevertheless be liable and subject to Indictment, Trial, Judgment and Punishment, according to the Law.. (Ibid).

This is a separate matter but suffice it to say if were otherwise, "being removed by the Senate would mean a subsequent criminal trial would violate the Constitution's ban on double jeopardy" (Ibid).

Third, we can stipulate that the right to confront and question one's accuser is not an absolute right confront every single person that was remotely involved with the case.  The Sixth Amendment only applies to a defendant's right to confront those directly offering evidence introduced at trial (Ibid).  This means that if someone called an anonymous tip line to report a person engaging in unlawful conduct, the defendant would only be allowed to confront the arresting officer who search the home and found the evidence.

If we accept Professor Steven Calabresi's arguments, then we run the risk of venturing into far more politically dangerous territory.  The president has used the phrase "witch hunt" to describe not only the impeachment inquiry but also the special counsel's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.  This buzz word, along with the word "hoax," is used to rally the president's base and delegitimize a process that already provides more protection to the president that what is constitutionally required (Ibid).  Politicians say a lot of things--true, half true, exaggerations, and outright lie--to rally their supporters but for a lawyer to make dubious arguments public is quite another matter.

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Fred T. Korematsu
Professor Calabresi't arguments are similar to the central criticism made in Justice Robert Jackson's dissent in Korematsu v. United States.  In Korematsu, the Supreme Court sustained the lower court conviction of Fred Korematsu for refusing to comply with Executive Order 9066, ordering the internment of all Japanese American citizens during World War II.  Justice Jackson writes,

...if the military commander had reasonable military grounds from promulgating the orders, they are constitutional, and become law, and the Court is required to enforce them... a commander, in temporarily focusing the life of a community on defense, is carrying out a military program; he is not making law in the sense the courts know the term... In the very nature of things, military decisions are not susceptible of intelligent judicial appraisal... (; Dec. 18, 1944; date accessed Nov. 20, 2019)

Justice Robert Jackson was objecting to a military commander overstep the bounds of constitutionality, this was incident.  The real objection was the Supreme Court reviewed and approved it thus making it a doctrine of the Constitution.  From a legal standpoint, it was the legality of the internment of Japanese American citizens that made it a dark stain on America.

Therefore, we should not be surprised when the president's defenders use constitutionally dubious arguments to delegitimize the impeachment inquiry.  While the Constitution does give White House lawyers the right to present a vigorous defense, we as critically thinking intelligent human beings should evaluate the arguments in favor of protecting the rule of law.