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Trump is being sued for defamation by one of the women he allegedly assaulted

[ 139 ] January 18, 2017 |

I’m not putting “allegedly” in scare quotes because I love the Rule of Law like that.


A former contestant on “The Apprentice” who previously accused Donald Trump of making unwelcome sexual advances toward her, kissing her on the lips and groping her in a Beverly Hills hotel filed a defamation lawsuit Tuesday against the president-elect over his denials of her allegations, CBS Los Angeles reported.

Summer Zervos announced the lawsuit at a Los Angeles news conference with her attorney, Gloria Allred, who represents multiple women who have made allegations of sexual misconduct by Mr. Trump. Mr. Trump has vehemently denied the allegations, and he specifically rebuffed Zervos’ accusations.

Zervos and Allred said they called on Mr. Trump in November in retract statements calling Zervos a “liar” and referring to her allegations as “fiction” and “fabrications.”

“I also called up on him to state that what I said about his behavior toward me was true,” Zervos said. “More than two months have gone by and he has not issued that retraction. I wanted to give Mr. Trump the opportunity to retract his false statements about me and the other women who came forward. Mr. Trump has not issued a retraction as I requested, he has therefore left me with no alternative other than to sue him in order to vindicate my reputation.”

“I want Mr. Trump to know that I will still be willing to dismiss my case against him immediately for no monetary compensation if he would simply retract his false and defamatory statements about me and acknowledge that I told the truth about him,” she added.

I wonder if there’s any relevant precedent regarding whether a sitting president can be sued for something he “allegedly” did unrelated to the performance of his office?


Leaving aside the snark for a moment:

(1) Summer Zervos accuses Trump of groping her and kissing her without her consent.  That’s sexual assault.  Sexual assault is a crime which is very hard to prosecute for all sorts of reasons, one of the biggest being that the state has to meet a standard of proof of beyond a reasonable doubt.  Here, Zervos must merely prove that it’s more likely than not that Trump was lying when he claimed that Zervos was lying.

(2) This case is a reversal of the standard New York Times v. Sullivan situation, because it’s the public figure that’s being sued for defamation.  (I doubt that Zervos is even a limited purpose public figure in this context, and even if she is the Sullivan standard seems irrelevant, since Trump actually knows whether his claims about her statements about him are true or not).

(3) Using a million-watt megaphone to lie about having sexually assaulted somebody is, independent of the assault itself, a horrible act that should be punished ruthlessly by the legal system, especially since the criminal law so often fails to punish sexual assault itself.

I hope and trust that we see several more of these in the coming months.


Obama commutes Chelsea Manning’s 35-year sentence

[ 211 ] January 17, 2017 |

President Obama on Tuesday largely commuted the remaining prison sentence of Chelsea Manning, the army intelligence analyst convicted of an enormous 2010 leak that revealed American military and diplomatic activities across the world, disrupted the administration, and made WikiLeaks, the recipient of those disclosures, famous.

The decision by Mr. Obama rescued Ms. Manning, who twice tried to commit suicide last year, from an uncertain future as a transgender woman incarcerated at the male military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kan. She has been jailed for nearly seven years, and her 35-year sentence was by far the longest punishment ever imposed in the United States for a leak conviction.

Now, under the terms of Mr. Obama’s commutation announced by the White House on Tuesday, Ms. Manning is set to be freed in five months, on May 17 of this year, rather than in 2045.

[EL]: Hmmmm:

Working for Trump

[ 122 ] January 16, 2017 |

David Schizer, until recently dean of Columbia Law School, has just interviewed for the position of Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Tax Policy in the Trump administration.

I don’t know Schizer, and I don’t exactly have a starry-eyed view of Columbia Law School, but I’ll confess this still sort of shocks me.

I spoke with a friend who had a career rather than a political appointment with a a federal agency, and who quit after Ronald Reagan put a particularly noxious (but not utterly unqualified — how far we’ve fallen!) fellow at the head of the operation, and he turned out to be every bit as terrible as people feared he would be. I asked my friend what he thought of people taking political appointments in the Trump administration.  His view is that this is OK as long as the person goes in ready to resign if necessary (Since my friend actually quit a great federal job on principle I’m inclined to have considerable respect for his views on such matters).

His argument is that you can’t just have completely incompetent hacks running everything, so voluntarily taking a mid-level political appointment under Trump, as Schizer is trying to do, is at least defensible, as long as you realize you may well have to quit.

Whether or not you agree with this view, should it apply downward to at least fairly high-level career appointments? (obviously condemning the average federal employee for keeping his or her job is untenable).  For instance if you’re already an AUSA or a federal public defender should you quit rather than work for Trump?

What about people who don’t currently work for the feds? If your dream is to be an AUSA or the like should it be held against you that you took a job in the Trump administration?  (FWIW I will definitely be holding this against such people, should they in the future try to get any job where I get a say in the matter. This includes people who clerk for judges appointed by Trump, etc).

In hypothetical fantasy land at least, you can apply this logic upward as well. Is it OK to take an actual cabinet-level position as an act of self-sacrificing triage?  (I assume this is how Mitt Romney rationalized his participation in a little humiliation ritual that didn’t end up working out, as they say in the Mafia).

Trump to appoint solid gold calf as new poet laureate

[ 136 ] January 13, 2017 |


In a sharp turn of events, President-elect Donald Trump is expected to name Philip Bilden, a private equity investment firm executive with no military or government experience, to be his first secretary of the Navy. The appointment would be the latest sign that Trump wants wealthy businessmen rather than military, policy or political leaders to run the military service agencies.

Bilden has now “moved to the front of the pack and is expected to be named as early as next week,” one transition official, who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak about internal deliberations, told me. A second transition official confirmed that Bilden is now the likely choice, although nothing is final until announced. For months until recently, former Republican congressman Randy Forbes was widely expected to be named Navy secretary. Forbes had visited Trump Tower multiple times and was approved by top Trump transition officials.

But over the past couple of weeks, Bilden has emerged as Trump’s choice. His appointment would follow the appointment of another wealthy businessman, Vincent Viola, to be secretary of the Army. Trump’s defense secretary nominee, retired Gen. James N. Mattis, was furious about the Viola appointment, mostly because he wasn’t in the loop. But transition sources told me Mattis has signed off on Bilden.

Remember when people spoke of the plutocracy in the new gilded age and it was kinda-sorta-maybe hyperbolic?

Those were the days my friend.

. . . I guess Operation Valkyrie will have to wait:


In a bizarre move, Donald Trump has demanded that the commanding officer of the Washington, D.C. National Guard resign from his post in the middle of the Inauguration ceremony, even though the general will be in the middle of helping oversee the event’s security, the Washington Post reported on Friday.

Maj. Gen. Errol R. Schwartz will be removed from his post at 12:01 p.m. on Inauguration Day, just after Trump is sworn in but before the Inaugural parade begins, according to a memo obtained by the Washington Post.

Schwartz has helped plan the security for Inauguration weekend, and he will be charged with overseeing the D.C. National Guard as well as an additional 5,000 troops sent in for the weekend. But he will have to hand over commend to an interim officer in the middle of Inauguration Day.

“The timing is extremely unusual,” Schwartz told the Washington Post on Friday.

“My troops will be on the street,” he added. “I’ll see them off but I won’t be able to welcome them back to the armory.”

Schwartz told the Post that he was not informed why he must step down abruptly on Inauguration Day.

“I’m a soldier,” he said. “I’m a presidential appointee, therefore the president has the power to remove me.”

Seriously this isn’t going to end well.

A little story about talking about race and racism

[ 129 ] January 13, 2017 |

A sports message board on which I’ve hung out for 20 years now has gradually degenerated into a place where people post as least as much about politics as about sports.  The site has become badly split between right and left wingers (in the context of a sports message board a left winger is somebody who doesn’t want to abolish capital gains taxes), and the right wingers are feeling very frisky these days.

One thing the right wing posters absolutely despise is being called racists, which of course none of them are (just ask them).  In fact they love to point out that “PC” accusations of racism, demands for safe spaces and transgender rights, etc.– you know the drill — are what got Trump elected president, and even though Trump is pretty awful he’s still better than that crook Hillary.  One of these people posted this after Joe Biden got the Presidential Medal of Freedom:


Growing up, I used to think Martin was the brain behind their act Lewis showed up for shooting and clowned in front of the camera, Actually it was other way around Lewis was the brain and Martin was a derelict.

People think Obama was the brain and Biden was just clowning. Actually Biden was the brain behind the presidency. He worked with Dem special interest groups an pollsters and set the agenda for Obama’s presidency. Obama’s role was to give soaring speeches using teleprompters and then go play golf.

Biden totally deserved the medal he received yesterday. He has been the de facto President.

I don’t know anything about Martin & Lewis so I have no idea whether what this guy is saying about them has any basis in reality, but the claim about Obama and Biden is of course comically absurd, based on all available evidence.

I admire Joe Biden as a politician, but nothing in either his academic record (he finished near the bottom of his class at Delaware and Syracuse as an undergrad and law student respectively) or, more pertinently, his very long public career has ever given anyone the impression that he is some sort of heavy lifter, intellectually speaking.

Both academically and professionally, the contrast with Obama’s resume couldn’t appear to be greater.  Of  course to your standard right winger none of this apparent evidence is real, because Obama’s sterling academic record is a product of Affirmative Action, and his books were written by Bill Ayers, and he just reads a teleprompter and then goes to play golf while the Svengali behind the whole business does the hard work of governance.  (I will admit that picking Joe Biden, of all people, as the brains behind the operation, seems innovative, but the rest of of the narrative about the shiftless black man who has cheated his way through life so that he can crash a country club sport in his copious spare time is standard right wing rhetorical fare).

Now what interests me about this is the contrast between the incredibly obvious racism that fuels this narrative, and especially something like the bizarre elevation of Joe Biden to behind the scenes mastermind status, and the ferocity with which the people who believe and repeat this narrative deny — quite sincerely, to all appearances — any racist motivation for their beliefs.

If I were to sum up in eight words the social forces that have led to the fact that Donald Trump will be president of the United States a week from today, those words would be: racists don’t like to be told they’re racists.



Top Five

[ 294 ] January 12, 2017 |

Top Five is a potentially ongoing new feature here at LGM.*  Instead of beginning with something more obviously topical, such as Top Five Fascist Dictators, or Top Five Stolen Elections, let us turn today to the calmer and more lyrical waters of Top Five Songs About Adultery.

(1)  Billy Paul, Me and Mrs. Jones

(2) Dolly Parton, Jolene

(3) Amazing Rhythm Aces, Third Rate Romance

(4) Steely Dan, Dirty Work

(5) Cheri Knight, If Wishes Were Horses


*H/T Nick Hornby

People worry about kids playing with guns, and teenagers watching violent videos; we are scared that some sort of culture of violence will take them over. Nobody worries about kids listening to thousands, literally thousands, of songs about broken hearts and rejection and pain and misery and loss. The unhappiest people I know, romantically speaking, are the ones who like pop music the most; and I don’t know whether pop music has caused this unhappiness, but I do know that they’ve been listening to the sad songs longer than they’ve been living the unhappy lives.

The cops are also in your head

[ 101 ] January 11, 2017 |

I am his Highess’ dog at Kew;

Pray tell me, Sir, whose dog are you?

Epigram engraved on the collar of a dog which Alexander Pope gave to Frederick, Prince of Wales.


Recently,  a law firm sent a couple of letters to my administrative superiors.  The second one is below:


(202) 628-7401

902 Prince Street

Alexandria, Virginia 22314

(202) 628-7400

\August 16, 2016

Via FedEx and E-Mail

Confidential Settlement Communication

James Anaya

Dean and Charles Inglis Thomson Professor

The University of Colorado School of Law

401 UCB

2450 Kittredge Loop Road

Wolf Law Building, Office 323C

Boulder, CO 80309

Dear Dean Anaya:

We are counsel to The InfiLaw System, the parent company of Florida Coastal School of Law and Arizona Summit Law School. My clients were the principal subjects of two articles authored by Professor Paul Campos and published in The Atlantic in September 2014 and October 2015, entitled The Law School Scam and The Law School Scam Continues. My clients are also apparently the target of ongoing investigations by Mr. Campos.

We request a meeting with you (and the University’s counsel if you wish) regarding disturbing information that has recently come to light regarding unethical, unprofessional, and potentially unlawful conduct by Mr. Campos during his ongoing investigation of my clients.

We sent a similar letter to your predecessor, Dean Weiser, in May (see attached).

Please let me know if you are willing to meet and, if so, your availability to meet during the next several weeks. We look forward to your prompt response.

Very truly yours,

Thomas A. Clare

The purpose of this sort of thing is about as subtle as a firing squad: to shut me up via legal intimidation tactics.

These letters give the recipients no clues regarding exactly what sorts of “unethical, unprofessional, and potentially unlawful” things I’ve been doing.  There’s a good reason for this, since these claims are simply lies.  But of course my bosses don’t know that, and Infilaw and Sterling Partners know that I know that my bosses don’t know that, so they’re hoping that causing me some degree of hassle at my job will get me to STFU as the kids say.

Ever since I started critiquing the economic and pedagogic structure of law school six years ago, various people inside the legal academy have been trying to get me fired, so this latest little missive is not exactly a shock. And indeed such efforts make good economic sense, from a strictly utilitarian point of view.  Law school tuition revenues are down by around $1.3 billion per year since the law school reform movement really got going in 2011 or so.  Of course my work is probably responsible for only a small part of this series of unfortunate fiscal events, but even a small part of $1.3 billion per year can add up to some real money.  (For example, Charlotte Law School, one of the prime targets of the Atlantic piece referenced above by Thomas A. Clare, Esq., seems on the verge of imminent collapse).

Now by itself the professional fate of one law professor doesn’t add up to a hill of beans in this crazy world, and indeed at the moment the crisis of the American law school, or even of American higher education in general, seems considerably less momentous than it did even a few months ago.  But we must all cultivate our gardens, or so I have read.

Speaking of which, someone close to me sent me an email this morning, expressing concern about my writing on this blog.   “You trust that there is freedom of expression and that such freedom entails immunity or invulnerability. What you write is kept written and the political winds may change and you may be sorry. Be cautious.”  This was written by someone who has first-hand experience of life under a fascist regime, so for that and other reasons I take their words seriously.   And I would be lying if I were to deny that, over the past two months, it hasn’t occurred to me that public political dissent could become vastly more dangerous in the months and years ahead.  (I’ve reassured myself and those closest to me that there would be several thousand names ahead of mine on any list of enemies of the state who would first be silenced, pour encourager les autres).

Both of these little events are in their own way examples of how dissent is most readily and easily quashed via “encouraging” self-censorship.  We can only guess how often these tactics work.  And of course the most subtle and invidious tactics of all are those ubiquitous social strategies that produce the kinds of academics and journalist who never even consider the possibility of engaging in any sort of dissent that could ruffle the placid waters upon which their brilliant careers continue to float.

Because if there’s one thing you can say about Nazi Germany

[ 68 ] January 11, 2017 |

. . . it’s that Hitler’s intelligence services allowed and even encouraged the publication of scandalous claims about the Fuhrer:


Intelligence agencies should never have allowed this fake news to “leak” into the public. One last shot at me.Are we living in Nazi Germany?

This idiot is going to be president of the United States in eight days.

Trump “not aware” that he is now a wholly-owned subsidiary of Vladimir Putin and the Russian Federation

[ 112 ] January 11, 2017 |






As an “American citizen” regardless of political party, Conway said, “we should be concerned that intelligence officials leak to the press and won’t go and tell the president-elect or the president of the United States himself now, Mr. Obama, what the information is. They’d rather go tell the press.”

At that point, Meyers cut her off, saying, “But the report was about them going to the president.” When she pushed back, he added, “I believe it said they did brief him on it.”

The first sentence of CNN’s report reads, “Classified documents presented last week to President Obama and President-elect Trump included allegations that Russian operatives claim to have compromising personal and financial information about Mr. Trump, multiple US officials with direct knowledge of the briefings tell CNN.”

“He has said he’s not aware of that,” Conway replied of her boss, to which Meyers said, “That concerns me.”


Bishop to King 7

[ 129 ] January 9, 2017 |

Trump has criticized: Republicans, Democrats, the Pope, US elections, CIA, FBI, NATO, Meryl Streep. Trump hasn’t criticized: Vladimir Putin.


[ 90 ] January 8, 2017 |

For all you PC types who claim America is a “racist” country, check out these apples:

In August, officers were called to [Santiago’s] home but had no cause for arrest, Tolley said. In October they were called about allegations of strangulation and domestic violence, but again “no probable cause was established for arrest”.

On 7 November, Tolley said, Santiago arrived at the Anchorage police station to tell officers he was “having terroristic thoughts and believed he was being influenced by Isis”.

He also spoke about manipulation by an “intelligence agency”, Tolley said, and had a loaded magazine on his person. He left a firearm in his car, along with his newborn child.

Tolley said police called the FBI, which found no links to terrorism, and that Santiago was admitted into a mental health facility. On 8 December, by which point Santiago was outside the facility, his weapon was released back to him.

It’s nice to know that a person of color* can be suffering from a full-blown paranoid psychosis, and our federal law enforcement agencies will still give him his guns back right quick, once they’ve established he has “no links to terrorism.”  (Other than the whole “these voices in my head are telling me to commit terrorism” thing, apparently.]

*Offer may not be available to black people, Muslims, and women. Check with your local authorities.

Donald Trump’s latest fun-filled 24 hours of tweeting

[ 56 ] January 6, 2017 |
  1. being a movie star-and that was season 1 compared to season 14. Now compare him to my season 1. But who cares, he supported Kasich & Hillary

  2. Wow, the ratings are in and Arnold Schwarzenegger got “swamped” (or destroyed) by comparison to the ratings machine, DJT. So much for….

  3. Hopefully, all supporters, and those who want to MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN, will go to D.C. on January 20th. It will be a GREAT SHOW!

  4. and knew they were in big trouble – which is why they cancelled their big fireworks at the last minute.THEY SAW A MOVEMENT LIKE NEVER BEFORE

  5. Hillary and the Dems were never going to beat the PASSION of my voters. They saw what was happening in the last two weeks before the……

  6. The dishonest media does not report that any money spent on building the Great Wall (for sake of speed), will be paid back by Mexico later!

  7. So how and why are they so sure about hacking if they never even requested an examination of the computer servers? What is going on?

  8. The Democratic National Committee would not allow the FBI to study or see its computer info after it was supposedly hacked by Russia……

  9. How did NBC get “an exclusive look into the top secret report he (Obama) was presented?” Who gave them this report and why? Politics!

  10. Toyota Motor said will build a new plant in Baja, Mexico, to build Corolla cars for U.S. NO WAY! Build plant in U.S. or pay big border tax.

This all reminds me vaguely of Nassim Taleb’s argument in The Black Swan that social science is basically useless because the most important events are by their nature neither predictable nor foreseeable.

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