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Would You Want to be Trump’s Chief of Staff?

Some Reflections on the Latest Casualty of the Trump Administration

So after just six months, Reince Priebus is out as Trump’s Chief of Staff . When you think about it, it is not a huge surprise. He and Trump were not well suited for one another.  Priebus is not a “red meat” kind of guy. And Trump is a raw red meat sort of dude. And Priebus was part of the gang that pushed Trump to play ball with Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell to make health care reform a priority in Trump’s first year  Using hindsight, that was a  really, really bad political move.   There will be political fallout from that, and I will get back to that point in a minute.

Before I do, we might wonder, who would want the Chief of Staff job anyway? The Chief of Staff is supposed to keep things in order. But “in order” is a phrase that doesn’t resonate with Trump unless it is everyone else obeying his orders — no matter how silly they may be. In a political system of checks and balances based on the rule of law, Trump is a bull in a china shop with lit dynamite sticks strapped to its horns.   Would you want to be riding that bull? Not me, thank you.

So what next? My guess is that Trump will play ball less with the GOP and play to his hard right base. He may have no other political options. That may have been the “thinking” behind his latest weird speech where he suggested that police rough up detainees more.  HeeHeee! And you thought his speech to the boy scouts was weird!  Here is an excerpt from his latest deep thinking

“When you see these towns and when you see these thugs being thrown into the back of a paddy wagon, you just see them thrown in, rough, I said, please don’t be too nice. Like when you guys put somebody in the car and you’re protecting their head, you know, the way you put their hand over. Like, don’t hit their head and they’ve just killed somebody. Don’t hit their head. I said, you can take the hand away, okay?

If that is indeed the way things will go, Republicans in Congress will have to scratch their heads. The midterm elections are a little over one year away. And what will be the main issue? I  am not a genius, but I would guess the health care fiasco will be on the agenda. Someone will have to take the blame for thinking that taking away health insurance from millions of Americans. was a good idea.

If he stays true to form — and there is no reason to believe this pony knows any other tricks — Trump will blame Congress for the failure. He will pretend that he had nothing to do with it, and actually wanted to do other “great” things. But he was held back. Indeed, he is disguetsed by Washington’s corrupt, even criminal ways. You get the idea.  Amd of course, he will want to investigate Hillary Clinton.

So who will take the blame for the health care fiasco? Congressional Republicans will. Of Course, they deserve it.  But deserving it will not stop them from trying to figure out how to blame someone else or to change the subject. There is no one else to blame. That means changing the subject might have some strategic value. Hmmm … by taking the Russia investigations more seriously?   Whether they take this step or not, I am confident that they are considering it. Or they may be considering some other way to capitalize on Trump’s lack of populatity with the mainstream. Conflicts of interest? Lying? Obstruciton of justice? Bad judgment? Poor leadership? Bad hair?

The problem is that changing course in this way would require a modicum of courage. Looking at that bunch, I do not detect that particular character trait in abundance.

The plot thickens.

You May Not Have Noticed but the Finns are Going Wild!

Thanks to my bro for catching this one!

The words “wild” and “Finns” are not generally found in the same sentence. Finns are usually thought of as the opposite of wild. And yet, they have their eccentricities and those eccentricities are on the wild side.

One of the eccentric sides of the Finnish character comes out in sport. The Finns were dedicated to performing well in international competitions. But that was long ago. They have gravitated to other games that they make up. Like swamp football. And wife carrying. And invisible guitar competitions. Of course, games like these dannot be played when you are sober.  Need more to persuade you that this is on the eccentric side?

Just look at swamp soccer in Hyrynsalmi, a place where Jetta can achieve a small level of celebrity over the years. Jetta is a stuffed badger ensconced in a bird cage. She acts as a mascot of sorts for a team of 12 friends who make the seven-hour drive each year from Vihti, near Helsinki, for the competition. They bought the doll seven years ago from a junk store at a highway rest stop, and her fame around the swamp has grown ever since. A couple of years ago, she was interviewed by a local newspaper.

Check out this article if you dare read more!

Swamp football? Yikes!

Image result for Finns swamp football

Could Trump Pardon Himself?

Reports are that this is one option being considered by the presdient in  the face of the Russia investigation.

Could he do this? There is no precedent for it, but the Constitution does confer upon the president broad powers to pardon.  Here is the relevant text from Article 2 section 2 – the president has the power

‘to grant reprieves and pardons for offences against the United States, except in cases of impeachment,’”

The only express limit on the president’s power is that it does not apply to impeachment.  Some argue that the absence of a limit would mean Trump could pardon anyone, including himself, whether charged or not with a crime. Precedent suggests that Trump could preemptively pardon his family and staff and anyone else. If he attempted to pardon himself, that matter could go to the US Supreme Court for an interpretation of Article 2, Section 2. If it does, keep in imind that the absence of text would not prohinit the Court form reading text into the clause in order for it to make sense.

So, for example, would the absence of this sort of limit put th president above the law? There is precedent that the presiden tis not above the law (for example, the Nixon case, and the decidsion that litigation against President Clinton could proceed while he was in office). On the other hand, the Supreme Court could find that even if the president pardoning himself endangers the rule of law, impeachment is the only remedy.

Moreover, any action by Trump to pardon anyone could constitute in itself an obstruction of justice. That is an impeachable offense and  Trump has no powers to stop impeachment based on that.

Will this happen? It is too early to tell. But the fact that the president is considering these options shows how seriously he takes Muelle’s investigation. That is not the attitude one would expect of an innocent bystander. Moreover, pressuring and then firing Jim Comey already may have been obstruction of justice. The open question would be whether it was done with the intention to obstruct. The fact that Trump is considering further impediments to this investigation adds to the sense that obstruction was and is his main intention.

I leave open the obvious question whether Republicans in Congress would take steps to impeach under the above circumstances.

Stay tuned.

BTW, here is an interesting wrinkle to this area of the law. In order for a pardon to be effective, the pardoned person must accept it. Accepting a pardon constitutes an admission of guilt. My own guess is that Trump himself would not admit guilt, except in the most dire circomstances. If soo, we may see a full court press to quash Mueller’s investigation first, and an orgy of pardoning later, as needed and possible, if that effort fails.

Books: Forgotten Paradise

I was truly delighted yesterday when I received word that two Folio books had arrived in`TArtu via the post. One is “Cider with Rosie” by Laurie Lee.  The second is an illustrated version of the Hobbit. We all know who wrote that one.

Cider with Rosie is the firstt book of a trilogy about what village life in the Cotswolds was like before the motor car. The last chapter starts off this way

The last days of my childhood were also the last days of the village. I belonged to that generation wich saw, by chance, the end of a thousand years’ life. The change came late to our Cotswold valley, didn’t really show itself till the 1920’s; I was twelve by then, but during that handful of years I witnessed the whole thing happen.

That period  captures my imagination. Not because I would personally like to go back and actually live in those times. But because  the stories that I can enjoy from the period are so different than our own.

BTW, as I was walking thruogh the food store with my books in hand, my mobile phone rang. It was the central office of a different food store. The nice lady said that I had won a prize for shopping there – a free bicycle. Would I drive over over to pick it  up? Of course!

You see what I mean? A sort of magical day!

Remembering Martin Landau

Landau was a great actor who loved his craft. He played many roles, but I will always remember him as Leonard in Hitchcock’s “North By Norwest”.

James Mason plays the main bad guy in the film, and Landau is his “secretary”. Mason is the sophisticate — a role that he plays wonderfully — and Landau is does the dirty work.  There is a delightful balance to Landau’s character on the screen. You notice him, but in no way does he take your attention from the main actors, Mason and Cary Grant. The perfect compliment.

Vox has a send-off article (Landau just passed on at the ripe old age of 89) with a clip from North by Northwest.

And if you are into Landau, check out this 2012 interview he did for the Guardian. Did you know that he was James Dean’s buddy? And that he dated Marilyn Monroe, albeit briefly?


Legal Tech as Facilitation

Legal Skills in an Open Source Environment

This ad for a kjob with a Silicon Valley based firm tells us something about the future of legal service markets.

The Office of the General Counsel of this industry leader based in Silicon Valley seeks to expand its Software, Cloud & Open Source (SCOS) team with the addition of a newly created Legal Counsel position. As a member of the SCOS team, you will support business clients responsible for generating at least 50% of the company’s revenues.  The focus of the work will be on technology transaction matters and include: negotiating and drafting sales contracts and licensing agreements as well as SaaS, MSA’s and professional service agreements. Additional duties will include advising on the legal and business risks of commercial operations and processes, as well as customer license compliance and related disputes.

The technology transactions, however, are not limited to traditional sales.

Critical skills required include the ability to work collaboratively with other business unit attorneys across the company; willingness to share your expertise on e-commerce and web-based contracting matters; and advise on the legal and business risks of commercial operations and processes, as well as customer license compliance and disputes.  Valued intangible skills include rigorous analytical and problem-solving skills; the ability to balance legal risks and business opportunities; executive presentation skills; and the ability to advise and influence senior business leaders and other stakeholders.

Willingness to share? Advice on legal and business risks?  Ability to advice and influence senior bueinsss leaders?

Open source tech ecologies are emerging.

Volvo is First to Ditch the Combustion Engine

Well, not exactly. Volvo made an announcement that as of 2019, it will stop designing combustion only engines. It will still make the old ones. But still, they are the first car company to take this step.  And keep in imnd that Volvo previously said it would sell 1,000,000 electrified vehicles by 2025.  This is a step in that direction.

Not too long ago, this would have sounded very radical. Now it is a “what’s the big deal`?” sort of thing. Electric cars are already mainstream.