The walls are crumbling

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It’s in the Enquirer.  It must be true.

Trump lawyer Michael Cohen’s sentencing got most of the attention yesterday, but this information released by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York might be even more significant:

The Office also announced today that it has previously reached a non-prosecution agreement with AMI, in connection with AMI’s role in making the above-described $150,000 payment before the 2016 presidential election.  As a part of the agreement, AMI admitted that it made the $150,000 payment in concert with a candidate’s presidential campaign, and in order to ensure that the woman did not publicize damaging allegations about the candidate before the 2016 presidential election.  AMI further admitted that its principal purpose in making the payment was to suppress the woman’s story so as to prevent it from influencing the election.

Assuming AMI’s continued compliance with the agreement, the Office has agreed not to prosecute AMI for its role in that payment.  The agreement also acknowledges, among other things, AMI’s acceptance of responsibility, its substantial and important assistance in this investigation, and its agreement to provide cooperation in the future and implement specific improvements to its internal compliance to prevent future violations of the federal campaign finance laws.  These improvements include distributing written standards regarding federal election laws to its employees and conducting annual training concerning these standards.

Emphasis added.  AMI, parent company of the National Enquirer, is free to support whichever candidate it wants.  But paying off someone to suppress a damaging story, with the express intent of helping that candidate, looks like a serious campaign-finance violation.

Trump-skeptical conservative Allahpundit explains how this could be big trouble for the President:

…It’s legal to pay people off to benefit political candidates; it’s not legal to do it without reporting it to the FEC and it’s not legal to exceed the federal cap on contributions. The key question in analyzing whether the payment qualified as a campaign contribution was whether it was made for the purpose of influencing an election, rather than, say, for the purpose of sparing an adulterer’s family from embarrassment. The latter is what got John Edwards off the hook from this same sort of problem a few years ago. In the end, the feds couldn’t prove that his mistress was being hushed up to protect his presidential candidacy rather than to protect Mrs. Edwards from some personal pain.

Which brings us to today’s news. “AMI has not paid people to kill damaging stories about Mr. Trump,” said the company to the WSJ in a statement for its original story about this in November 2016. Two years later, AMI’s now saying something different. And suddenly the president’s in real trouble.

[…]

AMI just shredded Trump’s “Edwards defense.” The payment wasn’t made to spare Melania Trump or the Trump children from the embarrassment of learning about the affair. It was made to influence the election — that is, it was a campaign contribution. And it wasn’t reported. And it exceeded the statutory cap. And it was made in concert with the campaign. The DOJ has crept right up to the point of accusing the president of conspiring with AMI to make an illegal contribution. This is why I thought it was silly on Monday for Republican senators to be shrugging off last Friday’s court filings about Cohen on grounds that he’s a sleazeball and a liar whom no one should take seriously. He is a sleazeball and a liar, to be sure, but the feds never would have gone as far as to implicate Trump unless they had evidence beyond Cohen’s say-so. Today it’s implied that they do have more: They have AMI, not just Cohen, confirming that the law was intentionally broken and that “the campaign” knew about it. What does AMI know about Trump’s personal involvement in this?

Trump’s defense now (and maybe it’s the only defense left) will be that he didn’t know….

Good luck with that, considering that Cohen made a recording of him discussing this very issue with Trump in 2016:

Presidential candidate Donald Trump is heard on tape discussing with his attorney Michael Cohen how they would buy the rights to a Playboy model’s story about an alleged affair Trump had with her years earlier, according to the audio recording of the conversation aired exclusively on CNN’s “Cuomo Prime Time.”

The recording offers the public a glimpse at the confidential discussions between Trump and Cohen, and it confirms the man who now occupies the Oval Office had contemporaneous knowledge of a proposal to buy the rights to the story of Karen McDougal, a woman who has alleged she had an extramarital affair with Trump about a decade ago.

Cohen told Trump about his plans to set up a company and finance the purchase of the rights from American Media, which publishes the National Enquirer. The recording captures what appears to be a routine business conversation of several matters on their agenda. The audio is muddled and the meaning of Trump’s use of the word “cash” is disputed by the two sides.

“I need to open up a company for the transfer of all of that info regarding our friend David,” Cohen said in the recording, likely a reference to American Media head David Pecker.

When financing comes up again later in the conversation, Trump interrupts Cohen asking, “What financing?” according to the recording. When Cohen tells Trump, “We’ll have to pay,” Trump is heard saying “pay with cash” but the audio is muddled and it’s unclear whether he suggests paying with cash or not paying. Cohen says, “no, no” but it is not clear what is said next.

It’s been a long two years since Trump’s shocking election, but it really feels like something has changed in the past few weeks.  I’m calling it now: Trump will not be running for re-election in 2020.  Assuming he isn’t removed from office before his term runs out, I think he’ll deem himself the most successful President in history, declare victory and avoid a humiliating defeat by choosing not to run again.

(Because my predictions are always so accurate, you know.)

Your old tweets can and will be held against you

 

Growing up in the late eighties and early nineties, did I use anti-gay slurs as insults?  Yes, I did.  So did pretty much all of my classmates.  And, I’ll bet, so did you.

Gay rights have come a long way in a short time, and that’s a wonderful thing.  But if we’re going back through everyone’s old social media profiles to call them out for attitudes they held years ago – often when they were teenagers, and by definition irresponsible – count me out.

Kevin Hart withdrew from hosting the Oscars after people discovered his homophobic tweets from 2011.  I’m not sure the punishment fit the crime, any more than James Gunn’s off-color jokes should have cost him his job directing the Guardians of the Galaxy movies, but he was an adult when he wrote them.  What’s the excuse for going after Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray because of what he tweeted when he fifteen years old?

Newly minted Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray is apologizing for anti-gay tweets posted to his Twitter account several years ago, when he was 14 and 15.

The Oklahoma quarterback tweeted: “I apologize for the tweets that have come to light tonight from when I was 14 and 15. I used a poor choice of word that doesn’t reflect who I am or what I believe. I did not intend to single out any individual or group.”

The tweets have since been deleted from the account of Murray, 21, who won college football’s most prestigious individual award Saturday night over Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa and Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins.

Robby Soave on the new outrage industry:

I said it after Roseanne, I said it after Sarah Jeong, I said it after James Gunn, and I said it after Kevin Hart: It’s time to declare an end to the practice of mining people’s past social media comments for fire-able offenses. This holds especially true for comments made by minors. Murray was 14 and 15-years-old at the time he made these ill-advised remarks. People my age and older are very lucky that Twitter didn’t exist when we were adolescents. I guarantee that the various authors of these Kyler Murray stories all said something crude or offensive—or at the very least, something they would not want “resurfaced”—when they were in high school.

Unfortunately, modern America is increasingly a place that does not allow children to make mistakes. A schoolyard scuffle is a reason to call the cops and taser the teens involved. A messy romance merits sexual exploitation charges and sex offender status. A bad tweet is front page news.

Murray is going to be fine—he apologized swiftly, and it appears that a backlash of sorts is already forming. Next time, maybe the media could simply skip the step of trying to make everybody angry about such a stupid thing.

In the meantime, if Bradley Cooper wins an Academy Award for A Star is Born, he’d better be prepared to profusely apologize for this scene from The Hangover:

The Churchill Falls curse

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This is basically all Newfoundland and Labrador got out of the deal.

Today the Supreme Court of Canada made it clear: Newfoundland and Labrador is stuck with one of the one-sided business deals in history for the foreseeable future.

The Supreme Court of Canada will not force Hydro-Québec to renegotiate a 65-year contract to buy low-cost electricity from the Churchill Falls power station in Labrador.

The decision means Quebec’s power utility will continue to reap enormous profits from the Churchill Falls deal. But it’s a blow for Newfoundland and Labrador, which has seen a small fraction of the benefits from the project.

The price of electricity dramatically increased after the agreement was signed in 1969 but Hydro-Québec has refused to alter the terms of the contract to account for the changed market.

The Churchill Falls Corporation took the utility to court in 2010 to force a renegotiation, arguing that Quebec’s Civil Code meant that both parties had to treat each other in “good faith.”

In the decision released Friday, the Supreme Court upheld two lower court decisions in favor of Hydro-Québec, with seven justices in agreement and only one, Justice Malcolm Rowe, a Newfoundland native, dissenting.

The court said Hydro-Québec had no legal obligation to renegotiate the deal.

“The duty of good faith does not negate a party’s right to rely on the words of the contract unless insistence on the right constitutes unreasonable conduct in the circumstances.”

The court rejected Churchill Falls Corporation’s claim that the original contract was akin to a joint venture, with both sides sharing the risks and rewards. And the court found there was nothing implicit in the contract to suggest it would be renegotiated if the market changed.

The deal finally expires in 2041.  With Newfoundland’s luck, they’ll probably have perfected cold fusion or something by then.

Barrie McKenna explains what the Churchill Falls fiasco means to Newfoundland and Labrador, and how the provincial government tried to avoid repeating that big mistake by making another big mistake:

The obvious lesson in the latest failed lawsuit is that Newfoundlanders should move on. This should be the end of the story.

Unfortunately, the Supreme Court ruling hasn’t erased deep financial and psychological scars. Newfoundland unknowingly blundered once by agreeing to the 1969 contract. And it doubled down a generation later by blindly forging ahead on its own with the high-risk Muskrat Falls megaproject on the Lower Churchill River, which is slated to begin producing hydroelectric power in 2020.

For former Newfoundland premier Danny Williams, developing Muskrat Falls was never just about generating hydro power. It was about sticking it to Quebec, and righting the perceived wrongs of the Churchill Falls contract. Never again, he vowed, would Newfoundlanders let themselves be exploited by Quebec. So instead of selling the power from Muskrat Falls to the most obvious customer – Quebec – the province opted to go it alone, with all the inherent risks. It will repatriate the power to Newfoundland and finance a circuitous underwater transmission line to Nova Scotia.

The unfortunate consequence of this energy hubris is that instead of being cheated by its neighbour, Newfoundlanders are fleecing themselves. Delays and cost overruns on the $12.7-billion megaproject will cause residential hydro rates to more than double across Newfoundland by 2022 and could eventually bankrupt the tiny province. A provincial inquiry, charged with uncovering what went wrong and whom to blame, is slated to release its final report late next year.

[…]

As the Supreme Court pointed out in its decision, the contract was specifically structured “to have Hydro-Québec assume a risk that CFLCo did not want to assume.” The low fixed price and the long term were Hydro-Québec’s compensation for taking on that risk, the court concluded.

The court did point out that the province stands to get back full rights to Churchill Falls and its cheap power in 2041, reaping the windfall gains in the decades beyond.

That won’t help Newfoundland in the short-term. The province is caught in an economic, fiscal and demographic trap. The federal Parliamentary Budget Officer has warned that the small and slow-growing province must either slash spending or dramatically raise taxes to avoid a debt trap, and bankruptcy.

It’s Trump, but not just Trump

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That’s not a MAGA hat.

Has President Trump contributed toward the mainstreaming of antisemitism and bigotry?  Put it this way: a GOP candidate in Connecticut had no qualms about sending out a mailer showing his Jewish opponent grasping for money.

I don’t know if Trump is himself antisemitic – as his defenders point out, his daughter is a convert to Judaism – but he’s certainly indifferent to it among his supporters.  And as we saw in Pittsburgh this past weekend, it’s a short journey from antisemitic hatred to the mass murder of Jews.

But it’s called “the oldest hatred” for a reason.  As Philip Klein points out, antisemitism was prevalent long before Trump ran for President, and unfortunately it likely won’t go away even after he’s perp-walked out of the White House.

The reality is that anti-Semitism is an evil that has been with us for thousands of years and, despite the great blessings of freedom and religious liberty enjoyed by Jews here, it existed in America long before Trump entered the political scene. If we only talk about anti-Semitism within the limited context of Trump, we will fail to understand and combat it.

Since the FBI started keeping data in 1996 and through 2016 (the most recent year for which statistics were available and the year prior to Trump’s presidency), there were 19,023 anti-Jewish hate crimes recorded. That represented about two-thirds of all religious hate crimes in the U.S. — a shocking statistic considering that Jews only make up about 2 percent of the population. Those crimes occurred under both Democratic and Republican presidents.

It’s common for Jews to navigate armed guards, police, and metal detectors when going to worship at synagogues, drop their children off at Jewish daycare centers, or attend activities at local Jewish community centers.

The Pittsburgh shooting was the worst anti-Semitic attack in American history, but for many of us, something like it has felt inevitable for a long time. There were were shootings at a JCC in Los Angeles in 1999; at the Seattle Jewish Federation in 2006; at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2009; and the Overland Park, Kan., JCC in 2014. Bomb plots have also been thwarted. Those were fortunately less successful for various reasons, including heroic efforts of security and law enforcement personnel.

As somebody who has spent a long time raising alarms about anti-Semitism, it’s frustrating to see that people who have ignored the festering problem for so long only care about it when they can weaponize it against Trump.

Anti-Semitism comes in many shapes and is not confined to Right or Left, either in the U.S. or throughout the world. It thrives among those who are completely ignorant and among educated elites. In recent decades, it’s often been cloaked as opposition to Israel.

Even as the bodies of Jews murdered at prayer were being removed from the Tree of Life Synagogue, serial plagiarist C.J. Werleman was ensuring his Twitter followers that Hamas, whose Charter  cites The Protocols of the Elders of Zion to justify a war against the Jews, isn’t really antisemitic because something something Israel:

It is remarkable, how antisemitism ceases to be antisemitism when you substitute the word “Zionist” for “Jew.”  And also how people who insist Israel doesn’t really represent the Jews are quick to bring up Israel whenever Jews anywhere else in the world are attacked.

Meanwhile, here in Halifax, James Petras is still listed as a faculty member at St. Mary’s University.

The proto-Beto

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While Democrats convince themselves that Beto O’Rourke can knock off Ted Cruz next month, Jim Geraghty  notes that we’ve been here before:

Way back in 1996, a little-known high-school teacher named Victor Morales won the Texas Demo­cratic Senate primary. He beat two better-known and better-funded members of Congress, John Bryant and Jim Chapman Jr., and Morales was the first non-white candidate for Senate to win the nomination of either party in state history. The media were enraptured with the tale of a humble teacher who put 60,000 miles onto the odometer of his dented white pickup, crisscrossing Texas, taking on incumbent GOP senator Phil Gramm.

Richard Estrada of the Dallas Morning News wrote that “Morales fairly oozes sincerity. He is the consummate outsider. In truth, Morales is not just a viable candidate, the enthusiastic re­sponse he is receiving signals that he is a political phenomenon.” The New York Times declared that Morales “could energize Hispanic Democrats to turn out for him this November, maybe even providing major help for President Clinton here or for other Democrats.”

Texas Monthly tracked how Morales had become a media phenomenon: “Morales has been profiled in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, USA Today, and the Miami Herald and on the Today show, Dateline, and CNN. Perhaps most important, he has sat for the obligatory, underdog-championing portrait in People.”

Despite all the hype about Morales, the race was never all that competitive; Gramm went on to win by eleven points, one of the early chapters of a long, painful stretch for Texas Democrats…

Ted Cruz briefly showed flashes of courage when he wouldn’t endorse Trump at the 2016 Republican National Convention, and then promptly returned to form.  If O’Rourke beats him I won’t want anything else for Christmas.

It’s not impossible – FiveThirtyEight gives Beto a one-in-five chance – but I still wouldn’t bet on it.

 

Where to buy your weed

Cannabis will be sold legally in NSLC stores starting at 12:01AM on Wednesday.  I never thought I’d see the day.  And I’ll give credit where it’s due: after Justin Trudeau’s Liberals were elected I said marijuana legalization was probably the only thing I agreed with them about, and the Dauphin actually kept his promise.  (Supporters of electoral reform weren’t so lucky.)

Of course they won’t have a full supply ready for October 17, because government.  Private dispensaries, meanwhile, are being raided.

Tomorrow twelve NSLC stores will be selling cannabis: two in Halifax and one each in Amherst, Dartmouth, Lower Sackville, New Glasgow, Sydney River, Truro, Yarmouth, New Minas, Bridgewater and Antigonish.  Online sales through the NSLC will also be available.

According to NovaNewsNow, you the legal aid for buying and possessing up to 30 grams of marijuana in Nova Scotia will be the same as the drinking age: 19 years.  If you’re 18 or under, or if you provide the demon weed to a minor, you can still face criminal charges.   Smoke-free rules apply to marijuana just like tobacco, so bad news for Haligonians looking to toke in public.

And if you want to enter the United States, admitting your marijuana use could get you barred from the country.   Eight states and Washington, DC beat Canada to legalizing it for recreational use, but the drug war continues on a federal level.

I’m not going to encourage people to go out and smoke marijuana, but in my two decades or practicing law I haven’t seen it destroy lives the way alcohol does.  I think regulating it and taxing it makes much more sense than waging a futile war against it.

And now, some celebratory music:

Jaguar’s all-electric future

In an age where Tesla outsells Mercedes-Benz in the United States, and with Jaguar trying to differentiate itself from other luxury car brands, I think this is an intriguing idea:

According to Autocar, company product planners have laid out a yet-unapproved strategy that would see the marque shed all gas-powered vehicles within the next decade. The inspiration for this plan is rooted in anger — specifically, that of Tata, JLR’s Indian owner. Tata doesn’t like how sales are trending, especially in light of its recent investments.

Reportedly, planning is at a fairly advanced stage. The outline of the strategy would see the flagship XJ convert to a full EV in the next couple of years (a plan already well advertised), with the XE and XF sedans bowing out in 2023. Their replacement would be an electric crossover slightly larger than Audi’s E-Tron, which would show up around 2025 — the same time as the phase-out of the F-Pace and E-Pace crossovers. There’ll also be a new I-Pace EV crossover (due in the U.S. this fall) appearing at this time. A new range-topping utility vehicle, the J-Pace, will launch for 2021 and enter retirement around 2027.

As for the F-Type sports coupe and convertible, it won’t make it halfway through the coming decade. No direct replacement is planned. Just to reiterate, this plan has not received a go signal from JLR.

Were JLR to pull the trigger, execs imagine a near future where Jaguar, with four or five models available, captures a large slice of Europe’s burgeoning premium EV segment. Other markets, China being at the top, could prove receptive as well.

Might work, as long as the Prince of Darkness isn’t involved.

Literally Hitler

Der Fuehrer never had any children that we know of, but he does have some great-nephews now living in the United States.  And the oldest of them is a Never-Trumper:

Alexander Stuart-Houston, 68, is the great-nephew of Adolf Hitler. He was born in Long Island in New York State.

[…]

During the interview, Mr Stuart-Houston — whose middle name is Adolf — revealed he was a Republican voter, but that he was not a fan of the current President.

“The last person I would say I admire is Donald Trump. He is definitely not one of my favourites,” he told Bild.

“Some things that Trump says are all right … It’s his manner that annoys me. And I just don’t like liars.”

Everybody, and I mean everybody, has at some point been compared to Hitler during an online argument.  When it happens to Stuart-Houston he can respond, “you have no idea.”

(via The Daily Chrenk)