It’s good that this week is finally ending.
1. Case dismissed! Today I learned that motion to dismiss the $100,000 defamation suit against me by a banned Ethics Alarms commenter had been granted. I wish I could claim that my brilliant massing of precedent and irrefutable legal advocacy carried the day, but I’m pretty sure it was because the complaint was absurd and frivolous on its face. The plaintiff’s spot-on Captain Queeg impression at the hearing didn’t hurt.
I’m pretty sure he’ll appeal. They always do.
2. Wisdom from Althouse. I’ve been a bit worried about blogger Ann Althouse, who has been increasingly going off on trivial tangents in posts about important topics. She still is capable of perceptive analysis that cuts through the crap, however. Recalling her response when a friend asked her what her views were on “the constitutional crisis” as a former professor in the field, Ann wrote in part,
What “constitutional crisis”? It seems to me the Constitution is in place, working as usual. There are some legal issues in play, but what’s constitutional other than that some of the various actors in the drama have positions defined in the Constitution and obtained by normal constitutional procedures? It was assumed that I would excitedly spring into action because of this assumed “constitutional crisis,” but my response was that I felt distanced from all the ugly divisions, though I thought some good might ultimately come from the crumbling of the 2 political parties….as I walked on, I thought, What constitutional crisis? It isn’t a constitutional crisis. It’s emotional politics, a national nervous breakdown.
Your friends on social media breathlessly blathering on about a constitutional crisis a) want there to be a constitutional crisis and b) don’t know what the hell they are talking about.
You can tell them I said so.
3. One reason why our schools stink. The New York Times recently published some sample questions from New York City’s admissions test for its selective high schools, known as the SHSAT and administered by Pearson, the same company that runs the GMATs and many other tests. Here was the very first question:
It’s essentially impossible. In his column in today’s Times, James Stewart analyzes his approach to the question, and gives his answer. It was graded as wrong. The supposedly correct answer was D, which is obviously wrong: the original sentence gave no number of people interviewed, so how could the addition of “three” be more precise?
This is an incompetent question, pointing to an incompetent test administered by incompetent educators, of which there are far, far too many in today’s schools, colleges, and through-out the education profession.
4. And the hype goes on. Conservative columnist John Hawkins did an excellent job clarifying what the news media is blurring regarding the Michael Cohen plea deal. He’s not a lawyer, but I was writing essentially the same thing when I stumbled over his analysis, and to save time, here is the gist of it, in a post he calls “The Media’s Latest Scam: Trump’s Going to Be Impeached Because of the Michael Cohen Plea.” (Good title!) I was especially proud of the John Edwards reference in my unfinished post, but Hawkins beat me to it.
The latest story of this sort is Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen pleading guilty to a number of crimes, all of them unrelated to Trump except for a campaign finance violation. Cohen paid off the porn stars Trump slept with and Trump paid him back.
First of all, is this a campaign finance violation at all? That is arguable because campaign finance laws, beyond the basics, are a murky, byzantine mess that only highly specialized lawyers can navigate and even they only get definitive answers when a judge rules.
Trump’s argument will probably be something akin to, “My personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, paid off those women I slept with and I reimbursed him. No campaign funds were used. Michael Cohen told me it was legally fine and I did it because I didn’t want to cause any embarrassment to my family.” Is this true? We can’t know for sure at this point, but it certainly seems to be an extremely plausible argument. That is doubly so because Trump has a history of setting up nondisclosure agreements and paying out what could be considered “hush money.”
Cohen claimed that this was done to influence the election, likely because he was promised less time in jail on his other charges if he’d be willing to agree to something that could be used to implicate Trump. If this were to go further, you’d be likely to see a he said/she said argument. Cohen, who’s just been convicted of numerous crimes, will claim his client knew he was breaking the law, did it specifically for purposes of influencing the election, and told him to do this. Trump will say that isn’t true and that he had no reason to believe anything illegal was going on because his lawyer, whose advice he trusted, told him it was perfectly fine.
All of this is on top of the fact that whether this is even a campaign finance issue is extremely dubious. Apparently, no campaign funds were used. Cohen was paid back and using your own lawyer to coordinate that kind of payoff seems reasonable. Pretty clearly, no married man would want that kind of information out there, so you can’t even definitively say it was done for the sake of the campaign.
That being said, some people might compare this to payoffs to a mistress from a John Edwards donor, but it’s not really the same thing. Trump ultimately used his own money to pay off the women via his lawyer. Edwards didn’t pay back his political donor, which made it much easier to argue that it was a backdoor campaign contribution. Yet and still, Edwards wasn’t convicted in court over that allegation and Obama’s Justice Department dropped the case.