Thursday, April 26, 2018

Suit up in your longest pair of waders, kiddies. We’re off for a slosh through Donald Trump’s swamp, in search of the fearsome Jelly-Spined Lawyer.

Image swiped from Sierra Trading Post. Order your pair from them 
before your next trip to Washington
Get yourself some chest-high waders, if you can. The Trumpian swamp is mighty deep and fearsomely thick with muck that’ll come gurgling and sucking and swishing in over your head in unpredictable waves if you’re not careful. 

Oh, you’ll need a flashlight, too. And a face net, to protect yourself against that terrifying in-your-face bird, the Midnight Tweeter.

You there, are you all set? Are you sure your flashlight works? Good. 

Now let me caution you that we’re not taking a comprehensive tour today. We’re just going to search of the Jelly-Spined Fix Lawyer, a curious critter that somehow survives by lining the nests of other swamp critters with money, while pretending it has no money because it can't get paid. It also pretends it doesn’t eat.

"Hey Crank, kill 
the metaphor!"

Okay, okay, before I drown myself in this Big Muddy of a swampy metaphor, let me get off it and say flat out that I’m talking about one of  Donald Trump’s many lawyers, Michael Cohen.

Oh, and before I continue, here’s a shoutout to all the other lawyers named Michael Cohen who now have to live with everything from suspicion to guffaws every time they show up in court. Sorry guys: I didn’t hand out the names. I simply comment on the news.

Anyway, the particular Michael Cohen in question is said to have paid a porn actress named Stormy Daniels (aka Stephanie Clifford) $130,000 to sign a contract (under a pseudonym that is neither Stormy, nor Stephanie, nor Daniels, nor Clifford ) not to blab about a sexual encounter with Trump, who was also mentioned in the contract under a pseudonym. I know, I know, you’ve heard this complicated yarn a million times before. The thing is, each time you hear it, it gets a new twist that makes it better.

The twists, they keep a-coming

Next thing I remember happening, Stormy Stephanie, or whatever her name is, hires a lawyer of her own, who claims the contract is invalid because Trump never signed it. Twist.

And then attorney Michael Cohen claimed that he himself paid Stormy the money by borrowing from his own home equity line of credit. In other words, he went into debt to pay his client’s bills, which is the exact opposite of what can happen when you or I get involved with a lawyer. Twist.

Oh, and then Trump denies he paid any money at all to Stormy at all and has no idea where the $130,000 came from. 


Also, recently, attorney Michael Cohen claimed that his practice only has three law clients: the Donald; a Republican fundraiser named Elliot Broidy, who allegedly paid $1.6 million so that a former Playboy model would shut up about Broidy getting her knocked up; and a third “mystery client.” 


But then the mystery client turns out to be Sean Hannity, the Fox, umm, shall we charitably call him a personality? Except that Hannity vehemently denies he is a client, and equally vehemently denies that he ever retained Cohen, ever received an invoice from Cohen, or ever paid any legal fees to Cohen. 


And then the FBI raids Cohen’s home, office, and temporary digs at a nice hotel at Park Avenue and East 62nd Street in Manhattan — very expensive digs if your law practice isn’t making any money and is, in fact, shelling out $130,000 in unreimbursed funds to keep a client out of trouble. The FBI evidently took a lot of evidence of something-or-other. Cohen wants it back. And furthermore, Cohen is refusing to testify, invoking his Fifth Amendment rights. Twistidy, twistidy, twist.

So now, all these twists raise a question. If poor lawyer Cohen practices law for only three clients, two of whom pay him nothing, and one of whom has put the lawyer in debt via the lawyer’s home equity line, how does the lawyer make a living? Or keep a roof over his head?

A remarkable one-man 
McKinsey & Company

Well, along comes Attorney Cohen again, saying he has seven other clients. I gather they're not really law clients. They get serviced with “strategic advice and business consulting.” 

Listen,  I don’t know about you, but if I were after strategic advice for my business, I’d hire a business consultant like Accenture, or Arthur D. Little, or even (remember these guys?) Bain & Company. Or BDO. Or McKinsey & Company.

But buying business and strategic advice from some schnook of a lawyer best known for saving rich guys who get their dicks caught in the wrong ringer and then don’t even get legal bills from Cohen? I don’t think so.

So here’s what I wonder. Mind you, it’s not an accusation. I’m not even alleging anything. I’m simply wondering.

I wonder— only wonder, mind you — if maybe some of Michael Cohen’s seven mysterious advice-and-consulting clients are actually giving money to Cohen to pay the fees and hush money for one or more of Cohen’s real legal clients like Donald Trump. 

I also wonder if these could be Republican donors who support Trump? Or if not that, could they be shadow corporations set up as fronts by some Trump affiliate? 

In addition I  wonder if a “consulting” session goes something like this:

“Hey Michael, it’s raining outside. D’ya think I can sell any umbrellas in this weather?”

“I can never guarantee it, but in my opinion as an expert business consultant, selling umbrellas in the rain is probably a good strategic bet.”

“Thanks, Michael, you’re a prince. What do I owe you?”

“That will be $130,000. Oh, plus certain other fees and expenses.”

“Great. I’ll have  a check flown right up to you from the Bahamas in the morning. Oh, and give Donald my kindest regards.”

Again, I’m not saying any of this happened. I’m merely imagining that it might have happened. But such a setup, if it ever happened, might be a possible explanation of why the FBI raided Attorney Cohen’s office. And why Attorney Cohen has taken the Fifth to maintain his own silence.

Power up the washing
machine, boys!

Do I smell soap? You know, money laundry soap? 


Speaking of taking the Fifth, I’ll leave the last word to Donald Trump. Verbatim:

“The mob takes the Fifth Amendment. If you’re innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?

Thursday, April 19, 2018

If robots assembled Ikea furniture like people do

The melting temperature of steel is about 2500 degrees
Fahrenheit — but that doesn't mean a robot can't melt down.

From the New York Times:
"...researchers in Singapore say they have trained one to perform another task known to confound humans: figuring out how to assemble furniture from Ikea.  
"A team from Nanyang Technological University programmed a robot to create and execute a plan to piece together most of Ikea’s $25 solid-pine Stefan chair on its own, calling on a medley of human skills to do so. The researchers explained their work in a study published on Wednesday in the journal Science Robotics."
Well, it's not as good as it sounds. Mr. Robot had trouble getting the screws in. A tube of glue didn't hold several pieces together as well as it should, but dripped glue on the new Ikea carpet causing a permanent and three-dimensional stain.
Mrs. Robot at one point suggested that Mr. Robot work on one the chair's arms instead of doing the next leg first. Mr. Robot said, "Goddamn it, Gloria, I know what the hell I'm doing. Stop trying to micro-manage me. I'm not one of the  jerks you supervise at your office."
Mrs. Robot furiously replied, "You always were jealous of my career, Stanley. Stop taking it out on me — and on the chair. You're wrecking that poor thing!"
"Oh shut up!" Mr. Robot countered. 
"Don't you tell me to shut up," Mrs. Robot growled. "We ought to be able to assemble a chair without my taking all this abuse."
"It's always all about you, isn't it!" Mr. Robot hissed.
"No, it's about having you put a simple chair together without having a meltdown, Stanley. Sometimes I wonder why I put up with all this..."
"Now look what you made me do," Mr. Robot interrupted. "You made me lose my damn wrench. Where's my damn wrench?"
"It's part of your hand," Mrs. Robot replied, icily.

Monday, April 16, 2018

The curious case of the lawyer who had no clients

Free legal representation for the rich — what a concept!
What are we to think of Michael Cohen? 

First he tells us, he paid $130,000 out of his own pocket for the silence of porn star Stormy Daniels regarding a certain bedroom tryst with Donald Trump.

Next Donald Trump tells us he has no knowledge of any such payment for omertà that Cohen may have arranged with Stormy.

Then along comes a raid on Cohen’s office, home, and temporary hotel residence — and whaddaya know? It turns out that another of Cohen’s clients is the Fox News commentator Sean Hannity. 

Then, according to the New York Times, Hannity declares, “Michael Cohen has never represented me in any matter. I never retained him, received an invoice, or paid legal fees. I have occasionally had brief discussions with him about legal questions about which I wanted his input and perspective.”

The Times burbles on, “In a follow-up tweet, Mr. Hannity added, ‘I assumed those conversations were confidential, but to be absolutely clear they never involved any matter between me and a third-party.’”

Third party? He couldn't mean a female third party, could he? Nah!

Then the name of yet another client emerges: Elliott Broidy, a former Republican fund raiser. The Times reports, “Last week, it came to light that Mr. Cohen had arranged for Mr. Broidy to pay $1.6 million to a former Playboy model, Shera Bechard, who became pregnant during an affair with Mr. Broidy. After the confidential deal became public, Mr. Broidy resigned from his post as a deputy finance chairman of the Republican Party.”

The same remarkable article tells us that Cohen insists he has only worked for ten clients since 2017, and for seven of those what he was providing was “strategic advice and business consulting.” Whatever that is.

Which left Cohen only three clients to represent on legal matters. Moreover, it would seem — although I'm the first to admit there's no proof I'm aware of — that those matters relate primarily to his clients’ inability to keep their pants zipped, and to the expensive consequences of said inability.

Except, as I’ve already mentioned, there are denials from clients Trump and Hannity that they ever paid Cohen for any such representation — even though there are also attempts to enforce confidentiality agreements for which, if I’m counting on my fingers correctly, Cohen paid out a combined total of $1,730,000 for which he was never reimbursed. Or at least $1,730,000 that we've heard about.

What a fabulous attorney! He takes no payment from his clients. They won't even acknowledge he represents them. But he generously pays out million of dollars in hush money from his own pocket on their behalf, fully expecting, I imagine, that his reward will be in heaven. 

No income, no clients, oodles of outgo. It’s a business model that I’ll bet millions of lawyers have never even guessed could be profitable.

I suspect that attorney Cohen has given the term “pro bono” a whole new meaning.

Monday, April 09, 2018

When America was "great" the first time around, we didn't like it so much

Below, some recent headlines resulting from actions by the Trump administration.

Below that, a song of satire (circa 1965) showing how much American citizens didn't enjoy being great when it came to things that the Trumpsters and TLO's (Trump-like objects) are bringing back today.

Read the headlines. Then enjoy the song by satirist Tom Lehrer.

A mining firm executive griped to Zinke about federal pollution rules. The secretary apologized.

Michigan will end Flint's free bottled water program

Trump caps off a long day by letting coal companies dump waste into streams

Calling Car Pollution Standards ‘Too High,’ E.P.A. Sets Up Fight With California

Oil Was Central in Decision to Shrink Bears Ears Monument, Emails Show