How Trump’s lawyers lost their minds

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It is a well-established fact that many of Donald Trump’s associates are lowlives and crooks. But I’ve long felt that a special kind of attention need be paid to his collection of personal lawyers, who collectively make up some of the most depraved, unethical, and generally repulsive characters to have ever claimed the title of “Attorney.”

The blueprint is provided by Roy Cohn, his first personal attorney, who was a Joseph McCarthy-staffer turned mob lawyer, disbarred in the 1980s after attempting to defraud a dying client of his fortune. (The documentary on his life is fantastic). But his two main successors, Michael Cohen (also disbarred) and Rudolph Giuliani, have been no less spectacular in their disregard for ethics and, in recent years, increasingly frivolous and insane legal strategies. There are major law firms in this mix, including Jones Day (despite recent denials) and special mention must be made of Alan Dershowitz and the Sekulow family. Adding to the bizarreness are recent additions L. …

We seem to forget how many are actually Asian-American

A consensus verdict on the 2020 election has been that suburban voters did Trump in. In the public mind’s eye, what really decided the election was a Carol Brady-like figure, the white suburban mom, who, alarmed by Trump’s indifference to public health and his general vulgarity, went with good old Joe Biden.

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The imagined voter

What complicates this picture and seems grossly overlooked is how much of the American suburban population is now Asian-American (Korean, Indian, Vietnamese, Filipino and Chinese-American especially). That’s not just true of the country, but also of Atlanta, Philadelphia, Houston and Las Vegas — the major cities in swing states. …

In which the Kool-Aid gets stirred

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Credit Ben Thompson, usage via 17 USC 107

I was impressed by, and enjoyed, the first two-thirds of Ben Thompson’s response to my critique of his work related to tech platforms and the Google antitrust case. (The last third is more regrettable, but I’ll address that, too.) I’ve enjoyed most of the exchange, and it has helped me clarify my thoughts. In particular, I’ve come to feel that Google’s spending $30 billion on traffic acquisition feels too much like the kind of thing Net Neutrality was trying to prevent back in the 2000s. But more on that later.

Overall I’d say Thompson’s response hasn’t done much to counter my core critique. He is too quick to jump from model to reality, too quick to assume that one important source of advantage represents something close to the full picture. As I said, his work is insightful for understanding tech business models, but when it comes to antitrust, it is on much shakier ground. And the hardest part for him to defend is the assertion that various costs, including switching costs, are zero or near zero. For doing so assumes away the costs that could be critical in determining strategic advantage, winners and losers, and at some point, liability in a lawsuit. …

Biden leads in polls; Trump leads the lawns — does it mean anything?

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Back in the Fall of 2016, when I was working in the White House, it was safe to say that (as the proverb goes) the curtains were being prematurely measured. Everyone had long and foolishly assumed that Clinton was going to win; the question was how to manage the handoff.

Occasionally while making plans, someone would pause say “but, if the unthinkable happens…” the way you’d refer to the possibility of a fire or a hurricane.

During that period I remember chatting with a Florida cousin, who was then a teenager. To my great chagrin and surprise she informed me that Trump was going to win the election. “Silly girl,” I thought to myself, “have you seen the polls?” I asked why she thought that. She said, “His signs are everywhere! …

Smart, but a little too much Kool-Aid

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Photo: Nordiske Mediedager

Ben Thompson is the author of Stratechery, a popular newsletter that “provides analysis of the strategy and business side of technology and media.” Thompson, who has an MBA, is a former tech industry worker who has spent time at various tech firms, including Apple and Microsoft. He is a smart and thoughtful guy who has interesting and insightful things to say about tech strategy, which is an endlessly interesting topic. I appreciate his work and admire his effort to set up his own shop and do his own thing.

[Part 2 of this series is here, and Thompson responds here]

However, Thompson has more recently begun to pronounce and analyze in the field of tech antitrust, and here he is on less solid ground. I appreciate that deep industry expertise is important in his area, especially, say, when designing remedies that make sense. Nonetheless, I’d say Thompson’s readers are at risk of being misled if they rely too much on what he has to say about tech antitrust. For, as we shall see, his analysis relies too much on an idiosyncratic “digital markets are fundamentally different” thesis that really doesn’t hold up too well. …

An Explanation and Evaluation for Non-Lawyers

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photo credit Simon Law

This post is meant to explain the Google lawsuit for non-lawyers (and lawyers too), and then give a rough evaluation of the merits, based only what is known publicly. A basic knowledge of the facts is assumed.

Google is accused of violating Section 2 of the Sherman Act, a law passed in 1890 that makes it illegal to “monopolize, or attempt to monopolize” a market or industry.

That law makes it illegal to either obtain a new monopoly, or maintain an existing monopoly, through “exclusionary” or anticompetitive conduct. …

Hint: it is about democratic checks and balances, and turning the question around.

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Over the last few weeks even the most charitable supporter would have to admit that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have both dodged the “court packing” question. Harris, when asked about it, launched into a discussion of Lincoln’s appointment practices. Biden recently suggested that he’d give his opinion “when the election is over.”

The campaign seems to have decided that no answer is the best answer. And maybe it is — having spent some time in politics myself, I know the tolerance for answers that require any thought is next to nothing. …

To unite the country, follow the rule of the supermajority

At some point, hopefully by January, the United States will be run by someone whose avowed goal is not the widening of political division and fawning the fires of culture war. But what happens next? The next President and Congress will face an extraordinarily divided nation. What will it mean to govern under such circumstances?

My belief is that the next Democratic administration — which I hope is the Biden administration — will follow the rule of the supermajority. …

When it comes to economic matters — a different story than the culture war

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In my last post on a 6–3 conservative Court (in which, yes, Brett Kavanaugh may well be the swing justice) I suggested that, when it comes to the highly divisive social and “culture war” issues, like abortion, school prayer, that at least in the short term, the 6–3 court will have the result of dividing the country even further. That can be different than some imagine: overruling Roe will not illegalize abortion everywhere, but rather lead to it being banned in most of the South, much of the Middle West, but not the east and West Coasts or Illinois.

But what about economic matters? Might the 6–3 Court recreate the jurisprudence of the Lochner era; that is, make much present economic regulation unconstitutional? Is it so long to the administrative state? What about the Affordable Care Act? …

Because victory is never achieved; the struggle must continue

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While the mainstream media has described Judge Barrett as a “conservative darling” with a “perfect combination” of attributes, I’ve noticed that the further right is much more suspect.

In the Breitbart comments sections, a kind of barometer of far right opinion, Judge Barrett is widely, if not uniformly, derided as a “swamp choice.” Another far right news site, if that’s the right description, notes that “Judge Amy Coney Barrett Recently Approved Democrat COVID-19 Lockdown Policies” and accuses her of “roll[ing] over to the far left.” …


Tim Wu

Professor at Columbia University; author of “The Curse of Bigness,” “The Attention Merchants,” and “The Master Switch;” veteran of Silicon Valley & Obama Admin.

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